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Thursday, August 10, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

(I must make this quick, before the DHCP server recovers consciousness and notices that I have purloined one of its addresses for my own!)

Spent most of today poking around at these here Netscape Java security bugs (Wired, Sun). They're real, and they're pretty ugly. I've turned off Java in Netscape for the moment, just because the exploit is so simple and so widely-publicized (but Netscape's still IMHO more secure than IE).

Remember kids, when Java says "protected" it means "protected against anyone but subclasses of me". But if you're not a final class, anyone can create a subclass of you, and that subclass may be In the Thrall of the Dark Side!!

From Apathy, The Adventures of the Boy with Immovable Hair! Very strange ASCII-art cartoons.

From Pursed lips: Dick Cheney's daughter is apparently non-traditional, sexual-preference-wise. This is IMHO very cool, as it suggests he will not be an utterly flaming whacko on the subject if by some unhappy chance he ends up in An Important Government Post again.

While Mary Cheney has never held a press conference to discuss her orientation, she has been considered "out" by the gay and lesbian community for some time. Some speculate that her very presence in Dick Cheney's campaign can only help advance the acceptance of gay issues within the Republican party.

On yesterday's fears of the Greens, a reader writes:

Does the BBC count as government (controlled/subsidised) media?

I don't know much about the BBC; does it? How much of its funding depends on the government? To what extent would you trust it to tell you truths that the government didn't want you to hear? Tell me, and I'll put it in the log!

Pennsylvania law against spreading computer viruses (at least to people who don't want them).

More smart stuff from that Joel guy: Microsoft Goes Bonkers:

And if you go too far up, abstraction-wise, you run out of oxygen. Sometimes smart thinkers just don't know when to stop, and they create these absurd, all-encompassing, high-level pictures of the universe that are all good and fine, but don't actually mean anything at all.

Nice to see one's own feelings shared by someone who seems to know what he's talking about. When I come away from a talk, or a whitepaper, or a website, thinking "They weren't saying anything at all, were they?", I often wonder if I'm just missing something important. I suspect I'm usually not. He said modestly.

Wednesday, August 9, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Infinite regresses are interesting. There are all sorts of things that we usually expect to be justified by something else, but of course that can't go on forever! Or rather, it can. You have to either stop eventually at something that isn't justified by anything else, or find a loop (where two or more things all jutsify each other, directly or indirectly), or keep going forever.

I have no big problem with getting to a loop (a big complex loop, more like a net) in questions of factual knowledge. In moral questions (something I haven't thought about as much as I have about factual knowledge), I think I eventually get to something non-moral, some taste or preference that's not (exactly?) a moral thing itself, but that justifies (or perhaps merely explains; the difference is important) some basic moral things.

What about in motivation? Why are you doing X? Because you want to be able to do Y. Why do you want to do Y? Because it will help get Z. Why do you want Z? What happens when you get to the bottom of that? (This is, perhaps, the Big Midlife Question; I will try to continue putting it off...)

Yet another new Notes and Recommendations from Phil Agre. Some very deep stuff, about the nature and status of public reason and the rise of various irrationalities, about the nature and status of Place, and so on. Give yourself some quiet time to read it. I'm doubtful about his condemnation of Hayek as fundamentally anti-rationalist; but do I actually know Hayek well enough to refute it?

Here's a book Agre cited recently that I really want to read! Someday?

Mark C. Taylor, ed, Deconstruction in Context: Literature and Philosophy, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. Derrida was such a huge success in the United States (as opposed to France, where he was merely a well-known outsider) because Americans were generally not familiar with the long line of philosophers and social theorists that he evolved from. This anthology provides a striking fast-forward through the intellectual history.

Here's a little security homily, from my intranet weblog: Some good things to ask yourself when designing a system, especially a Web-based system:

To use this system most conveniently, will my users be required (or even just sorely tempted) to reduce the security level of their systems? To use this system most conveniently, will my users be required or sorely tempted to do anything else that might as a side-effect allow an attacker to more easily access their systems? In using this system, will the users tend to develop any bad security habits (like reflexively answering "Yes" to "Should mumble be permitted to do mumble mumble?" prompts)?

It's definitely important to get all the security details right; but it's also important to ask these mushy sociopsychological questions as well.

Some interesting concrete numbers in Steve Albini's The Problem With Music:

The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 million dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11, but they got to ride in a tour bus for a month.

I am surrounded by air.

Tuesday, August 8, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Netscape says it will kill the nasty SmartDownload tracking stuff that we logged the other day; it was really just there by accident anyway ("Ooops! Didn't mean to write all that code, just a slip of the fingers!"):

"The featured issue was included in the software in part for technology support purposes, but we've never used or accessed any information about SmartDownload users or files and we plan to take it out of future versions of the product."

Speaking of Netscape, the world is abuzz about this reported exploit of some bugs in Netscape's Java. I've looked at the code, and I have to admit I don't see what's going on. I wish people would actually write up the bugs they find, not just post exploits that you have to fiddle with to figure out. (Laziness, or efficiency? You decide!)

Very odd weblog. I like the name! And some of the text has that certain tainted-fire energy to it:

What if the truth is exactly inverse? What if, instead of our minds forming slowly and we misunderstanding these seperate voices as gods... what if they were gods? What if the reason the pagan dieties fell into disrepute is that we subconsciously knew that they weren't going to be answering any of our prayers, because we tore them apart and used them as mortar to connect our minds? And what if it is this very subconscious understanding that leads to the Frazerian concept of eating the god?

I'm against Campaign Finance Reform as usually defined. I think there's really no way to prevent people from spending money to advance their political opinions, without trampling unacceptably on the people's rights. We're just going to have to solve the bribery problem some other way. On the other hand, when I read that, for instance two-thirds of the Republican soft-money collection comes from just 739 people, I understand where people who believe otherwise are coming from. It's a hard problem!

Cafepress stores I'd most like to see (this hour): Flux Redux, Alamut, Jane Duvall, and you.

It turns out the Good Experience piece that I logged the other day, on Jakob Nielsen's latest screed, does have its own URL.

brown green

Speaking of party platforms, a reader sends in a pointer to the Green one. The Greens sort of scare me, I have to admit; they trust the government with so much money and power. Given the track record of governments in general, I'm not really comfortable with the idea. (Is there really a practical differrence, for instance, between "government subsidized media" and "government controlled media"?)

Bill points to this FeedMag article on machine translation and Babelfish and translating to and fro to stability ("How many loved your moments of glad grace" goes to "How much its moments of grace land on water content"; very nice!). I posted a note on that subject to alt.hackers many moons ago (see also this column from a 1999 issue of "Server Workstation Expert").

Numerous reader letters! (Then we'll do Nomic down below.)

Think different.

You mention web pages with dates without years, so check this: http://www2.cybercities.com/e/ehud/elist/info.txt

(Editor's note: that host seems inaccessible at the moment.)

In all fairness you possibly should have mentioned the NAV update of 6/16 -- quite a fiasco, it cost a lot of users a lot of time and in some cases data.

I just bought a root beer, and didn't realize it was a diet root beer until after I had opened it. Ugh.

The Bicycle Pedaling Frog is a Sikh.

Supresses your craving for smoking, AND Eating!

Hey, wait a minute... why are you cutting the fruit flies out of this?!

You're in a weird mood today. (That's merely an observation, not a criticism.)

You think that's weird...!   *8)

Similar, yet different, to your poll, I've always wondered about the song "One-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater." Is this a) a one-eyed one-horned flying purple thing that eats people; b) a one-eyed one-horned flying thing that eats purple people; c) a one-eyed one-horned thing that eats flying purple people; d) a one-eyed thing that eats one-horned flying purple people; or e) just something that eats one-eyed one-horned flying purple people.

What is it that's itsy-bitsy? What is it that's teeny-weeny?

"Shakespeare's Plays Weren't Written By Him, But By Someone Else with the Same Name" (Doug Hofstadter)

There is a Lyme vaccine: Charlie and I were in the 2-year vaccine trial study, which ended successfully a month before we moved to CA (sigh). Tick checks are just a fact of life in the northeast, I'm afraid. (Oh yeah, and shouldn't that be "ticks"? "Deer tics" are those involuntary movements they make when someone's pointing a gun in their general direction, I think.

Yeah, I can't spell! Last time I looked, the Lyme vaccine still wasn't approved for kids, and it's the kids that cause us the most worry.

Congratulations to lucky July Draw winner: Rachel of Forest City, Iowa - She and her companion are on their way to beautiful Sydney Australia this September staying 7 days in first class accommodation and seeing the Olympics first hand.

If you didn't pray the prayer above, I hope you will reconsider. God gives many chances throughout a person's life to accept him, but there is a day in which you will have your last chance. This could be that day.

I'm not Entirely Certain those last two were actually from readers, but we'll let it pass.

Nomic! I'm not applying a couple of attempted mapping modifications that tried to change more than one element at a time, because that wasn't legal at the time I got them (but see later). I'm not applying this:

I suggest the following change(s) to the Rules: All changes to the rules must give a name for that rule. The Scribe may name the existing rules at his discretion.

primarily because I'm being pedantic: all changes to the rules must give a name for what rule? Does it mean each rule that's modified at all (including deleted ones?)? Or is the intent only to require names for newly-created rules?

I'm undecided about (and not applying at the moment):

I suggest the following change(s) to the Rules: Any entity proposing changes to the rules must give a unique name for themselves. Any entity may not take anotherr entity's name.

as it seems to contain an important and substantive rule that I'd have no way whatever of enforcing. Is that OK?

I am applying:

I suggest the following change(s) to the Rules: That the wording of Rule 15 be changed as follows: the words "exact replica" changed to "exact monochrome replica". (I think they were in color, and you don't really want this game to be infinite / add color to the mapping, do you?)

I suggest the following change(s) to the Rules: Any Rule Change Suggestion submitted on a Monday is assumed to be flawed. Accordingly, any such Suggestion may be applied only if the suggested rule is first negated, e.g. by replacing "shall" with "shall not" and vice versa, et cetera.

I suggest the following change(s) to the Rules: Any Rule Change Suggestion submitted on a Friday is assumed to be perfect. Accordingly, any rule created or amended by any such Suggestion shall be designated a "Friday Rule" and may later be amended or repealed only by another Rule Change Suggestion submitted on a Friday.

I suggest the following change(s) to the Rules: Change Rule 14 to read: A Mapping Modification Suggestion consists of the string "I suggest the following modification(s) to the Mapping" (or reasonable equivalent), followed by a description clearly and unambiguously picking out one or more members of the Official Domain, and specifying a new member of the Official Range to which each of those members of the Official Domain should be mapped.

all of which seem to be Good Fun. Note that the rule about Monday suggestions is somewhat problematic; as I read it, it doesn't actually authorize anyone to do the required negating, and it doesn't apply well to suggestions that don't suggest creating a new rule. In its present form I interpret it as making it impossible for the Scribe to apply any Rule Change Suggestion submitted on a Monday (since the rules now require, but do not permit, someone to negate something first). If someone would like to change it a bit so that it's a bit clearer on just what's negated (only newly-created rules? all newly-created rules? all rules touched?), and giving someone (probably the Scribe!) permission to do the negating, I'd gladly consider suggestions. Just not on Monday!

I'm also applying:

I suggest the following modification(s) to the Mapping D(4,11) = 1

presumably from some symmetry-fan.   *8)

Status, as usual, is here, and don't forget to brush and floss every morning and night!

Monday, August 7, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Your red scarf matches your eyes,
You always close cover before striking
Your father had the shipfitter's blues, and
Loving you has made me bananas!

Would you believe I can't find a decent copy of that on the Web anywhere? Contributions (besides this "fun song titles" page) more than welcome!

So I have Nomic moves and lots of reader letters queued up, but I think I'll just (what's the word I'm looking for?) woolgather about the weekend and stuff instead. We'll do that other stuff maybe tomorrow.

We spent the weekend in Concord MA (which has a painfully designed homepage) for M's sister's daughter's third birthday. She's extremely cute, especially when saying "You siwwy, unca Dabe!". But I'll try not to make anyone ill (while I love children and am even rather fond of Milne, I'm also in love with Dorothy Parker).

I wrote a joke in the car on the way down. It's still sort of a rough draft. Not ethnic enough to offend anyone, I hope (I considered making the characters Catholic, but somehow that doesn't work as well).

Rachel is a lovely young lady, but getting to an age where, at least in her parents' opinion, she should be finding herself a nice Jewish boy and settling down.

But Rachel is also very much a Modern Woman, and her standards are high: she wants someone who will share her life, be sensitive to her needs, do half the housework, and not sit around in the evening, as she has seen all too many husbands do, watching television.

So Rachel has rejected many very promising suitors, and her parents are worried.

Then one day Rachel comes in and announces that she has Found Someone. Someone, she says, with whom she wants to spend the rest of her life, who is sensitive to her needs, will do half the housework, and will not sit around at night staring at the TV.

"That's wonderful," her parents say, "but is there something you are not telling us? You seem a little, what, uncertain?"

"It's true," replied Rachel, "there is one thing. You see, she's not Jewish."

A scene from the weekend: standing around with M's sister's husband and the Daddy of one of the little girls at the birthday party, watching our kids and talking about Website design, XML Schemas, database interchange formats, and how difficult it can be to convince a customer that Apache is as credible a Web server as IIS; this while the Daddy swings his little girl in the swing and makes silly faces and noises at her until she's giggling hysterically. Fatherhood in the XXIst, I suppose! I'd rather have been talking about the nature of knowledge and the puzzle of joy, but those are harder subjects to start up cold.

My geegaw T-shirt came! It's very nice; almost enough to tempt me into spending a few hours making something nicer-looking than my mere face (although in some sense what could be more appropriate than my face for the official T-shirt of my website, which is in some sense another face, a face that I spend at least as much care, in fact considerably more care, in preparing and maintaining for the world, a face across which my moods and emotions pass perhaps as eloquently and certainly less ephemerally than this face here with the two eyes and two nostrils and one mouth, a sunburned forehead, a hint of uncertainty in the eyes, but I like to think a welcoming look, the same sort of welcoming look that I hope the website has, saying that you're welcome regardless, but most welcome if you'd like to sit and talk awhile, and especially welcome if you can bolster me up a bit as we do it, and reassure me of my value and my social skills, which I'm theoretically quite confident of but in fact pretty shy, at least in person, and perhaps in some deeper sense on the website as well) for my own cafepress store.

bad cow pun

My forehead's sunburned (as I mentioned in the last paragraph, the one that you skipped over most of to get here) because we stopped on Sunday at Davis' Farmland, a little petting-zoo and spending-store sort of place somewhere in the wilds of Massachusetts. Animals to pet and feed, water-tables to play with and get all wet, a small bush-maze and an up-and-down maze (more on that below) to walk through, icecream and cheap souveniers to buy, and so on. The huge cornfield maze across the street looked pretty interesting also, but we didn't mention it to the kids as we only wanted to Do One Thing right then.

On the way home we stopped at a store by the side of the road that had a huge "BOOKS" sign on the front wall, and a smaller sign saying "Five cents" propped by the door. Man carrying books in and out said that it was the last weekend but one that he'd be open. "Only a few thousand left," he said, "the selection's not like it was." And the ones that were left were the ones that no one before us had been willing to pay even five cents for; so we only bought a couple dozen. I would have liked to have talked to him about how long he'd been in business there, what it was like, why he was leaving; the sort of conversation that Catherine seems to be so good at. But I didn't; we were just friendly to each other, without actually touching.

On the way up to Boston, we stopped at the Travellers' Restaurant ("Food and Books"), for which I also can't find a URL this morning (hmph), but which is Extremely Memorable, for having a good used-book store in the basement, and for giving out one free book to every diner (each additional book twenty-five cents). They also have boxed and packaged bunches of books sitting around all over the dining room; I bought twelve old three-in-one book club mystery volumes for five dollars: heaven! (For years we'd seen the big "Food and Books" sign by the side of the Interstate, but only recently did we actually stop there; the food and books are both good, and I hope we manage to make stopping a tradition now.)

Up and Down Maze: The Up and Down Maze at Davis's Farmland is a set of overlapping rectangles of plywood sitting on the ground. You have to get from the one with the start arrow to the one with the end sign. The hard part is that you have to alternate up-moves and down-moves: if you got to this square by stepping down from the previous square, then you have to leave this one by stepping up onto another. The maze is designed so that you have to visit a few of the squares twice (once uply and once downly), and realizing that you have to do that, and why, is nicely mind-stretching. Me and the little boy did it over and over once we got the hang; it was fun!

In danger, keep moving.
In safety, rest.

From Sean Colbath, a very funny segment from CarTalk (which I have to admit I can't usually stand for more than about thirty seconds) including a graphic real-life audio showing why it's bad to drive while talking on your cellphone. A keeper!

I have to admit also that, despite my deep underlying belief that everyone is really valuable in some signficant way, I've found myself now and then tempted to say "That's quite alright, I'm sure you'd do the same for me if you had any useful skills." I'm confessing this to you, because I know you'll forgive me.

Question of the Day: Is there any difference (denotative or connotative) between "It isn't" and "It's not"? Maybe I should take a poll. (Note that there's still time to take part in the last one!)

Friday, August 4, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

According to this Reuters story, the Republican party has nominated someone named "George Bush" as their Presidential candidate. Now of course we've already had someone named "George Bush" as President, but apparently this is a different guy with the same name! Now is that a big coincidence, or what? Man, if I was Yahoo, I would have filed this one under Oddly Enough, eh?


In the song "Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini", what is it that's yellow? Make your opinion count: Take the poll!

"Yeah, I'm surprised my talk was so well attended!"

"Well, not everybody was actually there for the talk."


"We have sort of an office shortage right now, and some people just hang out in the auditorium because there are LAN and power sockets there for their laptops."

"You're kidding. Like, how much of the audience?"

"Maybe half?"

"Maybe like almost everyone?"

"Well, I doubt that."

We took nine deer tics off of the little daughter yesterday after she got back from Nature Camp. Yuck! I mean, I love the Northeast and all, but can we get that vaccine done in a hurry, please?

In other news, many residents report spotting a giant ball of flaming gas in the sky this morning. Fortunately, scientists say that it is currently almost a hundred million miles from Earth, and a collision is unlikely. Sales of protective eyewear are up in many areas.

Talking to Steve about something completely unrelated, I was reminded of this really cool copy of Robert's Rules of Order (Revised) that I found in my parents' books when I was little. It was spiral-bound, with a set of tabs down the side and another set across the top, lots of numbered rules and lists and cross-references, and it smelled wonderful. I remember sitting on the floor (in the living-room of the house, I think it was), arranging a bunch of army men and stuffed animals into a Meeting, and having them elect officers and make motions and lay things on the table and stuff.

It was great! Every kind of thing you can do has a priority, and low-priority things can't happen while higher ones are pending, but vice-versa can, unless one of the motions if privileged, and... and it was all very rational and ordered and perfect. I guess that's how I ended up a programmer (and a Nomic player, for that matter).   *8)


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