log (2000/10/13 to 2000/10/19)

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Thursday, October 19, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

One of the fun things about being a baby...
  You learn something new every day!"

Today's Concept: "Angel of Repose". Cute and multi-purpose, I thought, and hardly been used at all (unless you count all the misspellings of the Stegner novel).

Lookee! Cafepress.com now has a wider range of items in its stores! So what shall I put on the grey T-shirt, the sweatshirt, and so on, in the davidchess.com store?

Steve now has an input box, too! The meme spreads. Go type something strange in there (after, of course, telling us what you can't live without in our input box).

A reader writes:

Reading someone else's diary a little while back they mentioned that having the diary can kill some conversations; because people know what you've been doing, you sometimes don't have anything to talk about, because they know already. I've found a similar thing with my diary - my parents actually read it to find out how I'm getting on! Do you find the same thing ? Or is the circle of people that read your log very different to your day-to-day friends ?

Some of the people I have lunch with every day read the log; a couple of them have their own logs, for that matter! It may kill the occasional conversation, and it may nip some unbudded ("should I say this now, or should I save it for the log?"); on the other hand I think it starts as many as it stops ("say, I notice you said in your log the other day that..."). I can sometimes reply to people who ask (especially if they ask in email) "how've you been" by just giving them the URL. This saves time.   *8)

On cream and chocolate, Doug Chatham writes:

Perhaps you're thinking of the Woody Allen movie Sleeper. See the "video description" on this page.

Various reader replies on the political impressions from yesterday. Diane Reese points us to a funny debate summary that's making the rounds. I also notice to my chagrin that there are two Green Parties, owning amazingly similar domain names, and that they have platforms of differing degrees of radicalness. How confusing!

seated bather, detail

Another reader writes, presumably apropos of the Bushgore poster,

thats not a very sexy picture on your sidebar

I certainly agree! The implication, though, is that I'm supposed to have sexy picutes in the sidebar; something I hadn't hithertofore realized. But vox populi, vox dei you know, so let's see. Something sexy, but without actually pandering to any baser instincts (not that I have anything against baser instincts)... Ah, this is very nice! Is it OK if I'm a little pretentious?

Next Week: more things we can't live without (get your votes in now!), hopefully Nomic, possibly long rambling essays about (not) separating content from presentation, lists of weblogs that have cafepress stores, and so on and so on. Keep those cards and letters coming!

Wednesday, October 18, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

I will not obsessively watch the IBM stock price, I will not obsessively watch the IBM stock price, I will not obsessively watch the IBM stock price...

Originally seen on BoingBoing, and now making the rounds, some wonderfully imaginative art. See especially "ISPs" (pornographic images with the bodies Photoshopped out) and "Screenshots" (historical events as computer game scenes).

Coming out of the shower at the Club after Lifting Heavy Things, especially if I've been thinking about something entirely else while showering, I sometimes get a Really Urgent Message from my subconscious, pointing out that I'm about to walk naked into a room full of strangers. Sort of like one of those dreams. You know! Those dreams.

From abuddhas memes, The division of labor in the construction of social reality:

entire societies, political parties, governments, universities, the military and transnational corporations hire producers, directors, stage managers, actors, writers, and editors to fashion whatever image of social life and social meaning serves the purposes of those who purchase the reality-construction process as commodity.

Latest IE security hole: a Java applet on any page you visit can read any file on your system. Ooops!

I've been struggling with the question of whether or not to log nakednews.com, and I think I really must: NakedNews.com. There are various profound or pseudo-profound things I could say about it, but basically it's some naked people (naked female people) doing a streaming newscast. And the anchor has a great Canadian accent. (From Russia with love, eh?)

Now for the rest of this log entry I will self-indulgently say things about the U. S. Presidential race. For anyone who's sick to death of the subject: see you tomorrow!   *8)


I find myself not believing anything Bush says. His campaign's record of meta-lies against Gore is pretty well documented, and in general I get the impression that he will say whatever it takes to get elected and to make Gore look bad, and whether or not it's true simply isn't a consideration. During the debates (this last one in particular), this odd little smirk kept appearing on his face. "Hah," he seems to be thinking, "I'll bet they believed that one, too!"

If Bush were elected, me and mine would probably do just fine, at least in the short to medium term, since we're in the affluent part of society that he seems most allied to. He doesn't know diddly about foreign policy, but he could probably assemble a competent team to handle it. But in the long run I think the cynicism and corruption that he'd bring to the Presidency would be a Bad Thing.

Gore seems more sincere; he seems to believe at least some of what he's saying (although you have to wonder about the famous zinc mine; just another Bush lie?). Unfortunately a lot of what Gore is saying makes me nervous! He has great faith in the ability of himself and other smart people in the Federal government to twiddle in productive ways with the country. I'd rather he kept his hands off.

If Gore were elected, me and mine would probably also do well. Gore is mostly technology friendly, and we're in technology. Gore would probably keep the economy going fine (to the extent that a President has much to do with that), and he has a better grasp of foreign policy than Bush. If one of these men has to win, I'd prefer Gore. But I doubt I'll vote for him.

Nader is a more radical version of Gore (and the Green party, at least as described in their platform, is even moreso), in the sense that they think they have answers to lots of problems, if only they were in charge and able to tell people what to do. They dream of a communitarian society where individual interests are subordinate to a common good, the health of the planet, and so on. In practice, of course, this ends up meaning that individual interests are subordinate to whoever happens to have leveraged themselves into power this year. No thanks.

Buchanan is, of course, just a vile loony.

The Libertarians aren't perfect by any means. Their principles tend to be somewhat too simple and abstract, and they tend to shove under the rug the ugly (and the lovely) complexities of reality. But at least they have principles! The basic message, that coercion is bad and that people should be allowed to do what they like as long as they violate no one's reasonable rights, is one that I'd like the politicians who actually get elected to hear. So (although I think I'd rather Neil Smith were on my ballot), I'm probably going to vote for Browne. You should, too!   *8)

Tuesday, October 17, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Finished London's South Sea Tales, posted this to Amazon:

Good solid 1900's sea stories (four stars)

Eight good stories by Jack London, about the people and places of the south Pacific in 1908. Also a good long introduction by A. Grove Day which should (like all too many "introductions") only be read after reading the stories.

Most of the people in these stories are, of course, either victims or perpetrators (or both) of one of those long painful Western exploitations of a less civilized ("less civilized") part of the world. London knows that that's what's going on, and he writes with sympathy for all concerned, but without the more self-conscious bemoaning that would be expected of a XXIst century writer. To the modern reader, then, he can sometimes seem cold-blooded, but seldom disturbingly so.

The prose is fine and spare most of the time, and never gets in the way of the tale. The places and the tales are memorable. There is not a great variety of character and setting; the eight stories together could almost be a single novel. His voyage on the Snark (which inspired these stories) clearly left him with a strong and single impression of this place and these people, and he conveys that impression skillfully along to us.

Definitely worth reading.

One vague thought I had: is it a sign that the 19-oughts were a less commercial time than ours, a time in which more opportunities for making money were missed, that London's ketch the Snark was simply stripped and sold as a utility ship when the Londons had to abort their trip due to illness? I suspect that nowadays if some Famous Writer was making a Much-Hyped Adventure Trip aboard a Romantic Vehicle, that that vehicle would not be stripped and sold cheap if the trip foundered. Surely some rich patron or advertising firm or museum would be at hand to snap it up? But maybe I overestimate our modern efficiency...


From Ethel, a module that allows writing Perl in Latin. What a wonderful idea!

Hashes represent something of a difficulty in Perligata, as Latin lacks an obvious way of distinguishing these "plural" variables from arrays. The solution that has been adopted is to depart from the second declension and represent hashes as masculine plural nouns of the fourth declension.

Eek, another pretty face in the margin! Dunno 'oo keeps bringin' 'em in 'ere. I did very much like whatsername in Emma. (Jane Austen, of course, Rules OK. The best illustration I know that things like "show, don't tell" aren't rules but just, um, things.)

From the mildly sleezy SexReporter.com, Designer's Gaffe Results in Nudes on Phone Directory. Oops! Hee hee.

The Southern Baptist-affiliated school distributed thousands of the 100-page directory last week. Sharp-eyed students quickly told school officials that the cover contained pornography.

And I'll bet not one single person's head exploded...

From Geegaw (from BoingBoing), make your Palm Pilot into an autonomous mobile robot!

OK, so it turns out that salt isn't bad unless you already have really high blood pressure, so we should just ignore all that stuff about how awful American salty diets are, and yeah egg yolks have Bad Cholesterol but they have more than enough good stuff to compensate so we should ignore that old anti-egg advice too, and now it turns out that a high fiber diet can increase your risk of tumors. I'm eagerly awaiting the announcement that chocolate and cream are good for you. (Link from somewhere I forget.)

U.S. Senate repeals a tax levied to help pay for the Spanish American War. Now there's a Peace Dividend for you!

Monday, October 16, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

So there was a big Community Tag Sale down at the Lake over the weekend. M and I (mostly M!) spent hours picking stuff to sell, worrying about how to price it, making sure that (since it was mostly toys) the kids didn't mind selling it. Our kids are odd (and rather like their parents, come to think of it) in that they tend not to break toys. So we had lots of brightly-colored plastic things more or less undamaged sitting around wanting to be bought. The most important part, of course, was getting all that stuff out of the house, but we also made a certain amount of cash, which we've turned mostly over to the kids. With that and saved up allowances, they each have enough for (oh, just picking an example at random) a new Nintendo 64 cartridge.

Is it something about the XXIst century, or just about growing up, that's symbolized (implemented?) by exchanging several cubic feet of brightly-colored plastic toys for a couple of tiny cartridges holding many many bits of essentially volumeless information?

Ms Portman, serious

From the rude PigDog, we have Natalie Portman in Lego (well, actually Queen Amidala). Also, Audrey Hepburn in Lego.

(I don't know why my sidebar has been so cluttered with pretty faces lately. I'll try to stop! Or not...)

Bush blames the Internet for the Columbine tragedy:

a child can walk in and have their heart turn dark as a result of being on the Internet

I'd seriously like to hear from anyone halfway rational who thinks that this is a reasonable thing to say. Sheesh! What about all those children who have had their hearts turn dark as a result of, say, living on the Earth?

Cybervandal 'Edits' Orange County Register's Web Site. And saved copies of the as-hacked pages. I have to admit that I am not as Worried and Upset as I ought to be that the cybervandals are starting to us a little imagination in the content of their hacks... *8)

A long time ago, we were talking about whether there's a significant difference between government-supported media and government-controlled media. I exchanged some words with Michael Norrish on the subject, but then (as I so often do in email!) rather dropped the ball. I think his last note to me on the subject is worth reprinting entirely, though; here it is. (The most-indented paragraphs, with the obvious exception, are me talking; the other ones are Michael.)

... to the extent that the BBC has an advantage over its competitors (because it gets unearned government funds) it will tend to drive out those competitors (out of business, or into other niches) ...

I'm not sure that this is observable. The mainstream BBC and commercial channels look pretty similar, so they seem to be coexisting in the same niche. Moreover, the commercial channels are doing well enough to be able to outbid the BBC for various sporting rights, so the BBC's presence is not driving competitors out of business.

... if the government is funding the media, there may not be obvious control, but the resulting media will (pretty inevitably?) be one that says only things that the government really doesn't mind very much. Further rebuttals welcome!

Because the main BBC TV channel is watched by more than its fair share of viewers (and because the mainstream BBC radio stations are listened to by equally many listeners), I think it's in a stronger situation than the American arts organisations you mentioned. The BBC can get away with being critical of the government because it would be political suicide for the government to attempt to shut it down. It gains extra political strength from its long-standing position as a national institution (founded in 1922).

Its situation does preclude it from having an opinion though. It's allowed to report the news, but unlike the newspapers it's not allowed to put forward editorial views. Thus the BBC must ensure that its programmes

treat controversial subjects with due accuracy and impartiality, both in the Corporation's news services and in the more general field of programmes dealing with matters of public policy or of political or industrial controversy, and do not contain any material expressing the opinion of the Corporation on current affairs or matters of public policy other than broadcasting ...

(from clause 5.1(c) of its Agreement with the state)

So, when I said that it can be critical of the government, it might have been more accurate to say that it is free to report on matters that are damaging to the government's position. Maybe the "government really doesn't mind very much", but there have been plenty of occasions when various politicians have been made to seem complete idiots and/or sleazy liars on BBC TV and radio. One interviewer famously asked a senior minister exactly the same question 17 times on a TV news programme because he wasn't getting a reasonable answer.

It's not perfect, and in the absence of a First Amendment, even the commercial media here are not as unhindered as in the US. Nonetheless, my conclusion is that state-funded media are not necessarily a bad thing, on the grounds that the presence of the BBC has not prevented good media from flourishing in Britain, and has arguably contributed to that situation.

Interesting comments! My own frothing-Libertarian impulse is to conclude that while government funded media are in fact government controlled, the fact doesn't make itself felt, and doesn't cause any harm, as long as the government is (as it is in the UK) relatively benign. But I'm clearly reading a pre-existing theory into the evidence there!

Things we can't live without so far (there's still time to get your votes in for the next list!):



batteries, apparently

sporadic shocks from the electrical discharge unit

Natalie Portman

a Lay's potato chip

a Lay's potato chip

Apparently you really can't eat just one! (Ever wonder why?) I'm not sure if "Natalie Portman" is a wild coincidence, or if I found her in Lego after a casual websearch after seeing her named as vital in reader mail. Who knows?

Friday, October 13, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Geez. It's Friday the 13TH, the Middle East is ablaze, they've bombed one of our ships, and the Stock Market is tanking. I think this will be an "All Sins and Dwarves" issue.

A reader writes:

OK, here's my mapping: Doc-Pride (Doctors, having seeming power over life and death, often believe themselves to be gods); Grumpy-Wrath; Bashful-Envy (this is why he is so bashful--he believes himself inferior to the other dwarfs); Sleepy-Sloth; Dopey-Lust (not Happy--did you see SWatSD? Dopey getting multiple kisses from SW as they leave for work, IIRC); Happy-Avarice (I never bought the adage about money not buying happiness, and I don't think Happy does either); Sneezy-Gluttony (you see, he eats everything he can get his hands on, but he also has several food allergies, hence the constant sneezing). OK, maybe those last two were a stretch.

So I went down to the cafeteria and found that the stack of strange drawings and random doodles from yesterday was still there (the cafeteria has these great little memo-pad holders with pencils and blank memo pads, and if you leave your written-on sheets in the holder they can sometimes stay there for weeks). Our list was: Pride - Doc; Sloth - Sleepy; Lust - Happy; Gluttony - Bashful; Wrath - Grumpy; Envy - Dopey; Greed - Sneezy. I take the reader's points about Dopey and Lust, and Happy and Avarice.

So the suggestions so far:

Dwarf Lunch Sin Reader Sin
Bashful Gluttony Envy
Doc Pride Pride
Dopey Envy Lust
Grumpy Wrath Wrath
Happy Lust Avarice
Sleepy Sloth Sloth
Sneezy Avarice Gluttony

I am pleased to note that the lists agree on three of the dwarfs, and form a single 4-orbit on the others. Also that, with the dwarfs (dwarves?) in alphabetical order, the easy ones are spaced evenly, at the even-numbered positions. Man, Disney really does think ahead, don't they?

And long may the Sons
Of Anacreon intwine
The Myrtle of Venus
With Bacchus's Vine!


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