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Paradise is a kind of:
Thursday, August 24, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

There's some nominally pro-Nader spam infesting the newsgroups lately (see a bunch of postings replying to it, although the spam itself seems to be mostly not recorded by DejaNews). Different instances of it claim to be from different people, mostly U.S. Senators and reporters and things. The text is a copy of this pro-Nader piece in JunkBusters Magazine. Does anyone know what's actually going on there? I haven't seen anything in news.admin.* about it. Is this JunkBusters people doing culture jamming? Seems awfully unsubtle for them. Is it Republicans trying to make the Greens look like clueless spammers? Is it very subtle Naderites trying to make it look like the Republicans are trying to make them look like clueless spammers?

The Mind Boggles.

Ask Dr. Laura:

Now I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself? Then, Lev. 25:44 states that I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify?

After careful consideration of all the subtle issues and the diverse concerns and interests of all the stakeholders involved, I have concluded that UCITA is evil. So can we just get rid of it, please?

UCITA will write into state law some of the most egregious excesses contained in shrink-wrap software licenses. These include statements that disclaim liability for any damages caused by the software, regardless of how irresponsible the software manufacturer might have been. Shrink-wrap licenses may forbid reverse engineering, even to fix bugs. Manufacturers may prohibit the non-approved use of proprietary formats. They can prohibit the publication of benchmarking results. By contrast, software vendors may modify the terms of the license, with only email notification. They may remotely disable the software if they decide that the terms of the license have been violated.

(Note that I have no idea what the views of my employer are in this matter, and that I am speaking here purely as a private citizen; see section 11.)

Paradise is a kind of...

...mucous membrane which has regal qualities. Picture if you will a metabolizing piece of irrelevant protoplasm.

Paradise is a kind of park, of course, from the Greek paradeisos, literally, "enclosed park." Honest!

Paradise is also, I think, a kind of floating, as a disembodied blue light that comes down slowly from the sky, and everyone looks up without fear watching it come down, and when it settles silently just a few feet off the ground and hovers there, when I settle silently just a few feet off the ground and hover there, rootless and without responsibility, the light shines on the people as they walk by.

Wednesday, August 23, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Got a lovely package in the mail on Monday, which I suspect vaguely of being from Calamondin: one piece of postcard art, one printout of the "One (1) Human Soul" auction on eBay, one National Geographic Society map of South Asia with Afghanistan and Myanmar, one Picasso postcard, one ancient sepia portrait of someone with an old fashioned mustache (802 Idaho Street, Boise, Idaho), one balsa-wood shape, a whole bunch of little plastic icons, and one wonderful bag of tea which scented the whole lot prefectly. I consider offering free bags of house and office clutter to all comers myself, but decide that I'm probably too attached to my clutter.

Researchers make pulses that travel faster than light -- sort of: Scientific American on this whole "superliminal" hoo-ha.

There's no entry for Thursday August 17 2000 in last week's log! Didn't I write an entry that day? I thought I did (although I have no memory what it was about). Did I lose it somehow? Horrible to think that something I wrote might not be preserved forever!!   *8)

Gregory Benford wrote the first computer virus? First I'd heard of it.

Dad writes, apropos of some of my recent rants on computer security:

It brought me back to when you were in high school and working with the "BOCES" computer. You guys decided that why should the teacher be the only one who could log on.

So you wrote a basic program to pretend that the computer was in ready mode. Then you got the teacher to log on, and of course captured all the logon information, including password.

I guess that's where you got your early start in studying computer security.

It's a fair cop, but society is to blame! We just didn't want to have to bother the poor math teacher every time a bird lighted on the wire and we got disconnected, honest. The main thing I remember about the password-capturing program is that when it was done it printed out the password on the paper-tape punch, just so if anyone else saw it it wouldn't be obvious what we'd done (that, and we were showing off, heh heh).

flying fungus

What are you doing?

Trying to write my thesis, on a Palmpilot, in a canoe, in Connecticut

Masturb- -ahem- -nothing!

Smoking crack. Oh - wait! No! I mean, um, watching TV.

Paradise is a kind of...

Paradise is a kind of software.

Paradise is a kind of physical-spiritual milieu wherein spontaneous emission and stimulated emission come together.



Thanks to the reader who pointed out that "haitus" isn't strictly speaking a word; I have retconned it away.

And also:

The problem with the "Natural Law" party is that they tend to take the most shallow of man-made inventions and refer to them as "Natural Law". Destined to take a nosedive into the jagged posterior of historical oblivion. Which is, I might add, exactly where they should be. I still maintain that the only sound system of psuedo democracy is one in which members of the populace are elected at random, without any such irrational dequalifiers such as age or criminal history.

Want to win a million dollars for your intellect rather than your ability to outwit nitwits on a tropical island? Go here.

Finally. A web service for the 60s generation.

I think it's really nice that Al Gore is writing secret messages to the info-insiders in the HTML of this web site. I think we should endeavour to suggest campaign strategies to him in the source code of our own Web sites. Perhaps we can form a whole underground communications network using HTML.

Love the Dolphins, write by View Source.

FYI. Like Colleen from the TV show "Survivor", I have insect larvae in my legs. In case you wanted to know.

Couple name baby after Web site. What's the Net coming to?

Zinc? Nay, nay, saith the Bicycle Pedaling Frog! Neodymium!

Looks like the British are *already* reading all of your email.

Someone also filled in the form on a really old log page, replying to "What do you know?" with "turing". I like that...

Tuesday, August 22, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Certainly I have seldom wished the conversation of strangers or the sight of strange faces. I believe rather than when I was alone I felt I had in some fashion lost my individuality; to the thrush and the rabbit I had been not Severian, but Man. The many people who like to be utterly alone in a wilderness, do so, I believe, because they enjoy playing that part. But I wanted to be a particular person again, and so I sought the mirror of other persons, which would show me that I was not as they were.

That's from Gene Wolfe, Sword of the Lictor. I started reading the Book of the New Sun series months ago, but sort of tailed off until this week. It's fascinating stuff, but not a page-turner; at the moment, it's a bunch of not overtly connected adventures one after another, and I can't seem to take too many in a row. The prose is sometimes striking, though.

I also took out my treasured copy of the Codex Seraphinianus yesterday, and leafed deliciously through the rest of Volume One (that is, up to the point where what is apparently the page number resets to what is apparently the numeral One). It continues to be amazing; I'm glad I managed to forget about it for months, so I can still turn to a fresh page. I think the odd pictures I draw at lunch are inspired by the Codex, or by the same part of my brain that likes the Codex so much.

Turns out that IE has a version of one of the Java security bugs that were found in Netscape the other day. Apparently there's a way that an applet can read a URL that it shouldn't be able to read, although it doesn't apply to "file" URLs. So an applet in IE can suck your entire intranet out through the firewall, but at least it can't steal your personal files!   *8)   To Microsoft's credit, they were much quicker than Netscape to respond to this (Microsoft Security Bulletin). On the other hand, they've had more practice!

More reasons IBM is a good company (we got an award from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).


OK, so I have a Power Puff Girls calendar in my office, so I suppose I'm a fan. I do think it's pretty cool they have their own airplane. How do I get Delta to put my picture on one of their airplanes?

From LarkFarm, Armored Fighting Vehicle Interiors! Man, everything's on the Web...

So I like to do serendipitous exploration of vast logical spaces; I've hacked together programs that randomly generate short pieces of music, Doom levels, URLs, poems, cellular automata, web pages, and whatnot. I hadn't thought about national flags, but it's an obvious field! Now TBTF logs someone who has systematized the space of typical national flags, and it should be possible to have a random-flag generator based on the system. I can't find a URL for one, though...

Widely logged: Free Riding in Gnutella. I have to admit I don't entirely See the Problem. The paper says things like:

As we show below, a large proportion of the user population, upwards of 70%, enjoy the benefits of the system without contributing to its content.

Well, duh! I guess this is surprising if you buy the "Gnutella makes everyone equal" hype (does such hype actually exist?). But in general why is this a surprise? What would the figure be for the Web as a whole? What percentage of Web users also provide Web content? Probably something like one-half of one percent? Does anyone conclude from this that the Web is Doomed?

The authors say that if only a small percentage of Gnutella users are actually providing content, then the "safety in numbers" argument for Gnutella's lawsuit-resistance doesn't work. But that's not exactly true: if Gnutella has millions of users, a small percentage of them still constitutes too many people to sue.

In general I think free-ridership isn't a terrible thing, and is in fact a decent way for a culture to work. People who start out as free riders may eventually develop into contributors, and even if they don't what's the harm? The best contributors contribute because they like contributing, and if a culture of contributors who do so because they enjoy it, and enjoy interacting with other contributors, also supports a bunch of free riders on the side, who suffers?

The paper also says:

In the "old days" of the modem based bulletin board services (BBS), users were required to upload files to the bulletin board before they were able to download.

In my experience of BBS's, the good ones weren't set up like that at all. You certainly didn't have to upload before you could download; at worst, your uploading privileges would be suspended if you downloaded, say, 100 times has many things as you uploaded. But the boards I liked the best didn't even have that sort of restriction; people uploaded stuff for the pleasure of sharing and the prestige that uploading good stuff brought, not to get a good upload ratio.

On the other hand, I may be incredibly naive!   *8)

Monday, August 21, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Going for maximum contrast with the last few weeks, the weather lately has been utterly perfect, the air cool and dry, the kind of air that flows directly over the pleasure centers of the brain, the sun bright and warm and yellow, the sky unrealistically blue with artful disingenuous white clouds. I shepherded the little daughter and three of her friends up our favorite local mountain (a tall rocky hill, to those of you who live where the mountains are younger), and got to spend an hour or so just lying on my back enjoying my neurons while the girls did whatever little girls do. Ahhhh!

11. HIGH RISK ACTIVITIES. The Product is not fault-tolerant and is not designed, manufactured or intended for use or resale as on-line control equipment in hazardous environments requiring fail-safe performance, such as in the operation of nuclear facilities, aircraft navigation or communication systems, air traffic control, direct life support machines, or weapons systems, in which the failure of the Product could lead directly to death, personal injury, or severe physical or environmental damage ("High Risk Activities"). Accordingly, Licensor and its suppliers specifically disclaim any express or implied warranty of fitness for High Risk Activities. Licensee agrees that Licensor and its suppliers will not be liable for any claims or damages arising from the use of the Product in such applications.

Jane Duvall does nothing, expertly.

I've been thinking about doing nothing. There on that mountaintop, and recently a couple of times when the kids have been otherwise occupied and nothing in the house seemed vitally in need of cutting up or cooking or straightening up or pushing over or putting out or counting or reading or paying, and no deadline loomed, I've come upon a little piece of stillness. It's kind of neat.

It always feels, when I have nothing to do for say a half an hour, that (I'm not going to express this well, I'm afraid) that given sufficient time with nothing do to, I would start to do something. Something, that is, new or different, or something that other things have gotten in the way of my doing for years. Something, maybe, more basic to me, or more valuable in some long run, or more important than what I usually do. Not that I know what that something might be, but there's that feeling. Given a whole week of nothing to do, say, what might I end up doing?

It's sort of an exciting thought! Of course sometimes I fall asleep.

Maybe given enough time in which to sleep, I would find myself coming through the other side of sleep, to... What?

Democrats take strong stand against self-pleasure; suggest voters get soused instead. (From Medley). So at least one lefty agrees with me that, at least, there are worse things than Playboy.

what's that on his shoulder?

According to this ABCnews story, the Democrats have nominated someone named "Al Gore" as their candidate for President. Now I thought that this was another amazing coincidence (since of course the current Vice-President is named "Al Gore"), but it turns out that in this case it's the same guy. But still, small world, eh?

From geegaw (who is doing one of those "on hiatus while figuring out how to update less often but with more substance" things that I sometimes find myself tempted by), the rather odd Links2Go.com, which indexes sites according to a to-my-mind rather opaque scheme involving lots of arrows and things. This here very log is in their index, apparently in categories like "Web", "people and families", "food and nutrition" and stuff. I can't really figure out how the site is generated or used, though, so I can't tell how gratified I should be about being included there!

Catherine has put up a new photo gallery which is well worth the eyeball time, and also opened a Flux Redux store on cafepress.com. Now I'll have three weblog T-shirts.

The technology to add sponsor logos to politicians' clothing in real time (as revealed by Ian the other day) is definitely doable. Lying With Pixels:

"Imagine you are the government of a hypothetical country that wants more international financial assistance," says George Washington University’s Livingston. "You might send video of a remote area with people starving to death and it may never have happened," he says.

Haseltine agrees. "I'm amazed that we have not seen phony video," he says, before backpedaling a bit: "Maybe we have. Who would know?"

In other cleverness news, we spent a lunch walk the other day thinking of even more ways to find the height of a building using a barometer; ways not mentioned in the usual usual tellings of the tale. We got quite a few; the most mundane was probably hitting the barometer against the roof and listening for the echo to come back from the street below. One of my favorites was using the Web browser in the barometer to go to the building's website, and find the height data there. Using the barometer to level the building (and thereby coming to know that the height is zero) suggests a whole new class of answers to the problem, and is therefore also noteworthy.

Hm, I seem to be blathering a bit today! I'll stop now, and blather more tomorrow. Or not.

Friday, August 18, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Internet: Only Weeks to Live?

Over the years the server, which until recently provided "top-level IMP protocol negotiation" for the Internet, passed from hand to hand, always on an informal basis. Last Wednesday the most recent owner of the machine, a fifty-two year-old graduate student named Dabny Neumann, disconnected it while cleaning up his office.

From the mysterious "HTML O' The Day" list, Britney's Guide to Semiconductor Physics:

band structures

Britney Spears is one of the most popular singers of all time. With her enormous hits, such as 'Baby, One More Time' and 'Somtimes' , less attention has been paid to her ability as a semiconductor physicist.

From Michael Travers, a pithy excert from the Kaplan ruling in the DeCSS case (pdf):

Computer code is expressive. To that extent, it is a matter of First Amendment concern. But computer code is not purely expressive any more than the assassination of a political figure is purely a political statement. Code causes computers to perform desired functions. Its expressive element no more immunizes its functional aspects from regulation than the expressive motives of an assassin immunize the assassin's action.

In an era in which the transmission of computer viruses -- which, like DeCSS, are simply computer code and thus to some degree expressive -- can disable systems upon which the nation depends and in which other computer code also is capable of inflicting other harm, society must be able to regulate the use and dissemination of code in appropriate circumstances. The Constitution, after all, is a framework for building a just and democratic society. It is not a suicide pact.

(Not that I necessarily support the ruling or anything; but the "Suicide pact" line is a great sound-byte.)

Phil Agre has sent out yet another Notes and Recommendations, and since my Dad's plane was like four hours late yesterday and I hadn't brought along a computer (but I had brought a hardcopy of the Agre) I had a chance to read it. Lots of brilliant stuff, as always, on the professionalization of education (a whole new and provocative model for how to do education from third grade on up), on the Death of Distance (a pithy satirical argument against any such thing having happened), and so on. Read at once.

bootstrap.org: what the inventor of hypermedia is doing these days.

Hardly any Nomic moves this week! Have I been too picky as a Scribe? Anyway, I'm applying just this:

I suggest the following modification(s) to the Mapping: d(11,6-9)=1, d(10,5)=1, d(10,10)= 1

which makes the Tableau rather amusing and is the first move to exploit the recent change to Rule 14. Status, as always, here, and don't forget Rule 9!


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