log (2000/08/25 to 2000/08/31)

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Thursday, August 31, 2000  permanent URL for this entry


I'm writing this in the same house on the same bay in Maine, by the same window with for all I know the same birds singing outside, and with certainly the same waves (what does "the same wave" mean?) plashing on the same rocks down below, as when I first designed the site. That vacation last year was idyllic and blissful; this one this year has been also.

I've just about finished the first releasable draft of one CGI script (this one for work, so I won't post it here), and I've just finished the design phase on another (which I will post here if I finish coding it), and I've been reading through all the old NEWS and logs on this site, enjoying my own voice as usual, and noticing that most of the most interesting stuff I've done here seems to have been done some months ago. Have I fallen into ruts?

At least they're comfortable and nicely-furnished ruts.
Actually those are the worst kind, aren't they?

The little daughter and I have been taking our daily swims off the dock. The water's cold again, but either it's not quite as cold (merely cold, not like swimming in ice), or we've gotten tougher over the last twelve months. The water is beautifully bouyant; I can paddle around and tread water for what seems like hours without getting tired, in water way over my head. On Tuesday (was it?) there was a strong wind coming up from the mouth of the bay, and the waves made the swimming harder. All the other days the water's been like silk, with only small ripples and broad flat swells.

We haven't seen the enormous million-fish school that I wrote about last year; it's presumably writhing somewhere else. The last day I was at work before vacation, I went to a talk on artificial animals, including fish schools, by these guys. They've done some pretty amazing stuff! Far beyond that fish-simulator that the little daughter and I never quite got around to writing any more of.   *8)   I told her about it for her Something Interesting the other day.

One impression I'm getting reading through the logs is that they've gotten less visually-busy over the months; fewer font changes and margin changes and embedded hr's and inline forms and stuff. Another symptom of falling into ruts, perhaps, or maybe I'm taking seriously the one reader who wrote that the log had too many fonts on the same page. (Or maybe the impression's mistaken!)

This is going to be an unusual Log page, isn't it? Just one long rambling entry to represent the entire week, and it's not going to be posted at all (unless I get real ambitious sometime today, which seems unlikely) during the week that it covers. Very appropriate for an anniversary issue!

One thing I notice in reading through the old logs is that there are lots of typos.   *8)   I'm so far resisting the urge to fix them.

I also notice certain themes running through the words, some more explicit than others. The Quest (remember the Quest?), the problems of consciousness, the function of the media, the hows of visual design, validation, Cynthia Stewart, the Tao Te Ching, Wikis and the like, hypercomputation, children, the Codex Seraphinianus, Phil Agre, reader mail, and so on. It might be fun to have a "Themes" page with pointers into the relevant places in the Log, grouped by theme. Some blogs, of course (and I can't give you pointers to examples because I haven't been connected to the Web for days, hurrah!) have a category system where each entry is in one or more categories and you can select entries to read based on category. A Themes page would be the same sort of thing, only less formal and with the categories only noticed and catalogued after the fact, not at posting time.

Anniversary poll:
What do you like best about this site?

What do you like least?

a boat; vroom!

So Monday and Tuesday I stayed home with most of the kids (the boys and the little daughter on Monday, the boys and the tiny niece on Tuesday) while the other adults (in the thrall of the Consumptive Society) went out and (ucch) shopped. Yesterday morning I got out the Boothbay Harbor Guide and called around a little and found us the Squirrel Island Ferry, and we all trooped into town and got lunch-boxes at Dunton's Dog House (two hot dogs, two grilled-cheese sandwiches, three clam rolls and one large clam fritter plate) and took them down to Pier 8 for the 12:30 departure of the Novelty. It was great; we cruised around the bay in the bright sun and chilly wind for an hour, stopping halfway through at Squirrel Island (a smallish island with a few dozen houses, a library, a church, but no stores) just long enough for a few locals and adventurous tourists to get on and off, eating our lunches on the top deck of the little boat, listening to the cap'n's occasional comments that that was the West Bay over there, and we're now passing Mouse Island, owned by a family from Michigan.

Just before (and just after) docking at Squirrel Island, we were able to see around the end of Spruce Point up into Linekin Bay, and see the house that we're staying in. That was fun! From where I'm sitting right now, in the window niche in the livingroom of that house, I can see Squirrel Island sitting calmly on the water, girdled by a ring of rocks and seaweed exposed by the low tide.

The pretty young woman behind the counter at the little ice cream store has a cup next to the register marked "Tips for College Fund". "Is it your college fund?" I asked. "Yep," she said. "Do you know what field you're going to study?" "Nope," she said, "my father's a lawyer and my mother's a microbiologist so...".

Does that mean Boothbay Harbor is a healthy society?

Dunno what we're going to do today. Apparently it's been raining in New York, but the weather has been utterly perfect here, just like it was last year.

(I would express the opinion right about now that no one but me will ever read this far down this page, but I say the same thing on the site's ABOUT page, and several people have told me that they did in fact read that paragraph.)

One thing I wanted to do, or at least assumed I would do, on this vacation is make more progress on the Forked Stick. I haven't so far. I've decided that part of the problem is that there's so much clerical work involved, switching from file to file, trying to remember which file is which, running the script that puts the standard HTML headers and footers on all the files, and so on. The CGI script that I've just finished designing and hope to get a good start on writing today (I wake up in the morning earlier than anyone but M's sister and the tiny niece, and this (not to mention watching the kids while the other grownups shop!) gives me considerable time to read and ramble and code) is intended to make it much simpler to write a certain kind of forking fiction; we'll see if it actually helps.

(That's another theme that's come up several times: how much easier it is, for incompletely-known reasons, to sit around and write significant code than it is to sit around and write significant prose.)

Small world or Illuminati Conspiracy? I picked a random pulp paperback out of the house's bookshelves on Sunday or Monday, Gregory McDonald "Fletch's Fortune". It was a fun if shallow read. One character is named "Freddy Arbuthnot", and the name plays a small role in the plot. Then on Tuesday I finished that and picked up a volume of Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey stories, and one of the occasional characters in that series is named Freddy Arbuthnot. Boing!

I'm willing to grant that McDonald may have named his character in tribute to Sayers. But that I would happen to pick up the one just after the other? It challenges credulity, it does indeed.

Later, when we got back from the Owl Head Transportation Museum and the beach, the bay was swathed in fog, the opposite shore invisible. Now, after dinner, as the lights start to come on in the various towns and cottages ("cottages"), the fog seems to be lifting, or blowing away; or maybe it's just more transparent after sunset. The bay is quiet and empty, except for one crazy guy waterskiing through the fog, the boat cutting a grey wake through the grey evening.

The Museum of Transportation was cool; a couple of big rooms in some converted hangars by an airfield, with original and reconstructed engines and cars and airplanes, and one of the space suits that Neal Armstrong trained in. We watched a couple of planes take off and land, and I told the kids that the guy mentioned on this sign here, Henry Leland, is their great great great grandfather; and that the guy mentioned on this sign, Thomas J. Watson Jr., is one of the founders of Daddy's work. Then we went to the beach for awhile and played in the bay-waves and climbed around on the rocks.

Books and stuff on the floor here: (oh, I just know you're going to be fascinated by this bit!) I brought along Gene Wolf's Sword and Citadel (which I'm still slowly working through), Delany's "Nova" (which I started some months back and seem to have bogged down in), "Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design" (which I've been struggling with since back in January), "The Idler's Companion: An Anthology of Lazy Literature" (very appropriate), the two latest issues of Science News, the latest "Civilization" and "Wired", three or four research reports from work, the John C. H. Wu translation of the Tao Te Ching, one marvelous thick quadrille-ruled blank book that M got me last year, one of the classy notepads that I splurged on from the Levenger catalog, and three CDs full of images and clipart and stuff that I enjoyed ruffling through when creating the site last year.

On the way up, we stopped again at Travellers' Food and Books (bliss!), and I took as my free book Ron Carlson's "News of the World". This turned out to be some very good short stories; I'll have to look this guy up and see if I should have recognized his name. (The little boy steadfastly refused to choose a free book, so we took a copy of Werfel's "The Song of Bernadette" for good measure.)

And finally, after the boat trip yesterday we walked around in Boothbay a bit, and stopped at "Enchantments", the kind of New Age, Crystals and T-shirts, Tarot and Incense place that I scoff at in cynical moods and wander around bemused in my "sorry I missed out on the 60's" moods. I was in the latter yesterday: I picked up "Secrets of Sacred Space" (on the design and analysis of places of power; an interesting concept, if as far as I can tell pretty much void in this particular actual universe), "Thank You and OK! An American Zen Failure in Japan" (which I don't think I already have), and the CD "Prayer" by Uttara-Kuru (which I admit I bought mostly because of the cute gimmick of enclosing four incense-sticks in a secret compartment in the case, but the sounds are pretty good). The little daughter bought a cool scarf and five incense sticks (we're burning the second one now).

And so of course, as I mentioned above, what I've actually been reading has been mostly pulp detective novels and Dorothy Sayers stories.   *8)   I have been reading some / most of the above books on and off also, but not finished any of them. Maybe I should replace "avid reader" in my self-image with, say, "avid book-piler"...

Now it's full dark, the fog slowly vanishing into the night, the boys running around in their nightclothes making mouth noises, the little niece getting a bath in the downstairs shower, and tennis on the TV. The water plashes the same way against the rocks, and somewhere out there a boat motor is thrumming.

Ah, life is sweet! I'm going to go off and do other things more now. If I don't get back to this page again before today ends, I'll see you next week...


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