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Thursday, September 7, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

A few (more) privacy-related links today.

Richard Smith (in his new guise as "The Privacy Foundation") reports on Microsoft Word Documents that "Phone Home":

These tracking abilities might be used in any number of ways. In most cases, the reader of a particular document will not know that the document is bugged, or that the Web bug is surreptitiously sending identifying information back through the Internet.

Microsoft's response is a little odd, or perhaps disingenuous: they say "lots of other software can snoop on your in the same way, and besides you can always turn cookies off", whereas in fact the problem has very little to do with cookies, and the real crux of the issue is that most people don't consider themselves to be running untrusted code when they just open a document (echos of the macro-virus problem here).

On a related note, a page about how various Microsoft-owned sites arrange to share cookie data between themselves.

And on an only-vaguely-related note, how much is your cellphone telling the world about you?

This is SnapTrack the fastest, most accurate, and most cost-effective wireless device location technology on the market today.

Webloggery: Rebecca Blood has just posted "Welogs: a History and Perspective". Interesting and insightful (I hope to find the time to read it more thoroughly!).

Thanks and apologies: There's nothing nicer than getting reader letters like these:

Glad that you are back, I've been sorely missing your log.

Glad to see you had a good holiday, and happy birthday to the log!

On the other hand, there's nothing worse than suddenly realizing, on the edge of sleep, that the reason you've (a) not gotten any responses to the poll you put up the other day, and (b) gotten a number of mysterious blank submissions lately, is that (z) the stupid poll form is broken, and all the wonderful and useful things your readers have been typing into it have been lost! Arg!

So my sincerest apologies to everyone who filled out the poll. I won't ask you to do it again, but I will mention that the form is fixed now, so whether or not you tried previously, you should feel free to fill it out now. You can use the original form, or this here copy of it:

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

What do you like least?

Don't'cha hate suddenly realizing stuff like that?

Wednesday, September 6, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

First day of the school year! Well, half-day actually. The little boy's starting first grade. He's always been less interested in impressing teachers and doing the Expected Things than is the little daughter, and we're (probably irrationally) somewhat more worried that he won't like school (especially now that it's a Whole Day). So, very "don't think about elephants" style, we're trying hard not to act like we're trying hard to make him feel good about school.   *8)   I didn't stay home this morning or anything (vague feelings of guilt).

WinAmp, skinned

Today's addiction: skins for Winamp (currently running the very cool Chemical GOLD). I know, everyone else went through this stage a couple of years ago. Bleeding edge I'm not!

Ian and apparently everyone else has already logged the new Amazon privacy notice. I don't know what the old one looked like; I suspect the interesting part of the new one includes:

As we continue to develop our business, we might sell or buy stores or assets. In such transactions, customer information generally is one of the transferred business assets.

which is intended to mean "if we sell off the Widgets store, we will probably sell the Widgets customer list and stuff along with it", but as worded seems to say "we can sell off information about you to whoever we want at any time". Ah, well...

From RandomWalks, a Dungeons and Dragons weblog!

I've got a working version of the forked-fiction editor CGI script (although I haven't yet used it to add anything to the published version of the Forked Stick). I'll probably put it on the TOYS page soon. I'm not sure if I'll put up a live copy. Collaborative forked fiction authored by everyone on the Web? Sounds like Metababy, and I'm not sure I'm up to owning anything like that!

TFBW points out that there is a new Bob the Angry Flower strip out: The Time Looker-Forward Tube. Deep questions about free will and pancakes.

Dad recently gave a sermon on Ralph Waldo Emerson's Harvard Divinity School Address. It's good stuff:

What am I? and What is? asks the human spirit with a curiosity new-kindled, but never to be quenched. Behold these outrunning laws, which our imperfect apprehension can see tend this way and that, but not come full circle. Behold these infinite relations, so like, so unlike; many, yet one. I would study, I would know, I would admire forever. These works of thought have been the entertainments of the human spirit in all ages.

I'd love to be able to print out a copy, sit by the edge of the meadow at sunset reading it slowly, deciding which parts had aged the best, which particular pearls I should take from it. Of course, that just means I wish I were more or less constantly on vacation...   *8)

Tuesday, September 5, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

I dreamed the other night that the party conventions were further subdivided by religion: the Catholic Republican Convention, the Jewish Republican Convention, the Muslim Democratic Convention, the Lutheran Democratic Convention. Apparently the religious part wasn't actually enforced, though, and I was attending a Catholic convention (not sure which party, although I kinda think Republican) with a bunch of fellow non-Catholics.

One of the speakers was strolling around working the crowd (who seemed to be mostly lying on blankets in a slightly muddy field), more like a Protestant televangelist than a Catholic anything. He was performing various strange miracles, including (ugh!) putting a long metal rod with a microphone on one end into an audience member's mouth all the way (i.e. three or four feet in) and withdrawing it pristine and glistening with the victim unharmed. He came over to us and asked us if we were Catholic (he was doing miracles only on believers) and we said that we weren't, and I murmured "pantheist" under my breath. Someone (not the speaker) said "what?", and I said "pantheist" a little louder, and the speaker say "Kill Satan!" as he walked away. I put out my tongue at him, then it occurred to me that what he'd said was ambiguous between "Kill Satan, whom you vile Pantheists actually worship" and "Kill Satan, our common enemy".

Then various nature-worshippers formed a ring around the little tree that the speaker had given us as a present, and started singing an Earth hymn. I joined them, faking the words, but found the ceremony unsatisfying. The trouble with these modern New Age religions, I said to myself in the dream, is that they don't have enough edge, enough paradox.

So we're successfully back from vacation, the weather is crisp and cool, and I'm trying to remember (once again) just what it is that I do here at home, and there at work. Normal activity (so to speak) should resume here at the Log in the next few days.

The log's ANNIVERSARY EDITION, a long rambling entry written while on vacation, is now on the site also, in the guise of last week's log page. So you can read that while I think of more stuff to say tomorrow...


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