log (2000/10/27 to 2000/11/02)

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Thursday, November 2, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Shuffle, duffle, muzzle, muff.
Fista, wista, mista-cuff.
We are men of groans and howls,
mystic men who eat boiled owls.

Tell us what you wish, oh King,
Our magic can do anything.

-- Dr. Seuss

Are we all magic people, who eat boiled owls? Who is it that you keep distant with secrets, who is it that you offer to communicate with the Other World, to perform unique miracles, for?

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you can sell him lots of tackle.

For whoever was looking for the amazing picture of the elk and the fire, I logged it here (look for "freaking").

Using Quake for architectural modeling:

the lifts were a bit dangerous because "if you get in while it's upstairs, it comes down and hits you on the head, and you die."

We've talked once or twice before about famous and/or smart people, and what their weblogs would have been like. Turns out that Edsger Dijkstra (the famous brilliant and curmudgeonly computing scientist) was given to writing (typing, or handwriting) short pieces on whatever he felt like writing about, and distributing them to his friends (neatly numbered for later reference). Very bloggish, I thought.

These Dijktraisms have (all?) survived, and been scanned in, and are (of course) on the Web: In Pursuit of Simplicity; the manuscripts of Edsger W. Dijkstra. I recommend them highly; not only are they brilliant and fun, they're a chance to read some handwriting. For instance, the scanned PDF manuscript of "On the cruelty of really teaching computing science" has all the same words as the HTML version, but the feeling of reading it is very different.

After reading the manuscript for quite a few minutes, I looked away into a window full of text in some typical computer display font, and it looked really strange.

So I was thinking about what I'd say if I stopped writing my log. Not that I plan to! It was just fun to think about. I can picture a big collection of (fictional and nonfictional) Weblog Farewells...

While the experience of keeping a log on the Web has been rewarding, I feel like it's now become just another rut; solving some of the problems involved, making the design and content decisions, the style decisions has required creative thought. But now the decisions have been made and the problems solved, and I feel that I'm no longer growing in the medium. So, with some regret, this will be my last entry.

Or perhaps...

Going over my annual Progress Report with my boss, I realize that I didn't get a darn thing done this year! Thinking about the amount of time I've spent randomly surfing the Web with my eyes glazed over, I can hardly believe it! I can't blame this log, of course, but if I'm really going to drastically cut out needless Web surfing, I think honesty demands that I cut out the main end-product of that surfing as well. So this is goodbye!


Dear "Readers": har har! I've won my bet, so now I can reveal all: this "weblog" has been entirely a scam from the get-go. I am not really the lead web-designer at a Fortune 500 company, I have never had lunch with Sharon Stone, and I don't even own a ball-gag. Every single "link" on this stupid site was pulled off of "LinkWatcher" by a dumb Perl script, and the "commentary" was randomly copied from other weblogs. My brother Ben bet me I couldn't keep it up for a month, and I did it for six! Thanks for all the "hits", suckers!!!

Hm, this would make a good contest! Write your best (or worst) Weblog Farewell below; winning (and losing) entries will be posted somewhere around here sometime around later.

Pointers to noteworthy actual blog or journal farewells are also welcome; we're easy...

Wednesday, November 1, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Now it's November. This keeps happening: yesterday it was Hallowe'en, today it's November. It keeps being things..

Mr. Allen

Sad: by now you've probably all heard that Steve Allen died yesterday. They say he was tired after carving pumpkins with his grandchildren, lay down to rest, and never got up. A nice peaceful way to go, if maybe sort of tough on the grandchildren.

I have very fond early memories of Steve Allen. Or actually not memories, since I don't remember anything concrete at all, but an inchoate fond childhood association; his name and his face and his laugh remind me of good feelings that aren't attached to any particular memory. I imagine I probably saw him on television, but I don't actually remember it. There were always some of his books lying around the house, but I don't know that I ever read one. Maybe now I will.

So! Books, reading, fiction. I was thinking this morning about why we do fiction at all, what if anything it's for. Surely it's in part validating: we read about people doing the same sorts of things we do, so the things we do must be OK. It's also indirectly validating: if I like reading about someone painting their toes, and some book publisher has gone to the trouble of publishing a book about it, there must be lots of other people who also want to read about it, so wanting to read about it must be OK. (How does on-demand printing and micropublishing change that aspect?)

Fiction is also time-binding (if that's the word I'm looking for). One of the reasons humans are good at stuff is that they can think about hypothetical futures and counterfactual alternatives. Which is what fiction (most blatantly science fiction, but fiction in general) does. From another angle: if experts become experts by having at hand a vast host of examples that they can do pattern-recognition on when faced by a new problem, we become more expert at living the more lives (factual or fictional) we have stored up in our brains to recognize.

"Oh, I see; so he's sort of a Ulysses, eh?"

"More like an Elmer Gantry."

But my Real Deep Down Feeling is that doing fiction, reading and writing fiction, are primarily ends in themselves, or as close to that as us contingent and material creatures ever get.

From some random mailing list I'm on: "In the 69 years that the pitch has been dripping no-one has ever seen the drop fall." (RealVideo feed included if you'd like to try your luck.)

Even more importantly, Scully is pregnant! I've been so out of touch. Where do we send cards?

Tuesday, October 31, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

If you enjoyed yesterday's bathypharygeal Ronald McDonalds, you may also enjoy Bovine Inversus.

And if you enjoyed
you may also enjoy

Don't worry, I'm just going through one of those "isn't absolute narrative freedom amazing!?" phases; one can only hope it will eventually be followed by one of those "content quality matters" phases. Otherwise we'll never get all that oregano off.


Hey look it's Hallowe'en! Happy Hallowe'en! And I forgot to wear my big silly polka-dot bowtie...

What's that, Prunella? You say we have some actual content for today? Well, paint me orange and call me a taxi.

A problem with public-key systems is that if someone gets hold of your private key, all bets are off unless there's a working key-revocation system in place, and in practice there isn't a working key-revocation system in place. Sun (very properly and bravely) admit that a couple of their private keys got away.

The SIP guys at Princeton have done some good technical work on the SDMI stuff (a proposed digital-music anti-piracy system that the Big Evil Record Companies were controversially inviting clever people to break). They now have up a very good FAQ that cuts with marvelous clarity through all the political silly-stuff surrounding the whole thing.

Monday, October 30, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

"The board has voted to commission a thousand bathypharyngeal Ronald McDonalds, which will clean the harbor floor by repeatedly licking with their long pink tongue."

"I see. Was that really the optimal solution?"

"Optimal by what metric?"

So this was one of those utterly freaking idyllic Autumn weekends. Made the first pumpkin pie (and realized that although the recipe calls for evaporated skim milk, I usually use evaporated "low fat milk", or even just "milk"; using actual evaporated skim milk seems to result in a just slightly not rich enough pie) and pecan pie and baked apples (with cinammon and raisins leaking out the bottom; how do you core an apple and "leave the bottom half-inch intact"?) and fudge for the Hallowe'en Potluck.

Given that it was thirty-odd °F and snowing lightly when the Potluck was supposed to start, M thought I was crazy to even bother taking the kids down, but enough other people were equally crazy that we had a good time, eating random things and standing around the bonfire talking and watching the kids play and contemplating the mist blowing around on the lake. We were the last to leave, me and Dad and the little daughter and one of her friends (the little boy having drifted off to a friend's house), and it was just getting dark as we poured water on the fire (the girls running through the clouds of steam) and started home.

From Geegaw to pulpo petrificado to Slow Wave, a fascinating (or at least different) collection of dream diaries rendered as comic strips. See of course the archives.

"I was the best salesman at the magazine. This was because I had somehow acquired the powers of Superman."

The latest Notes and Recommendations from Phil Agre has some interesting thoughts about hacker jargon, including a pointer to this very early version of what became the Jargon File / New Hacker's Dictionary and so on. Good stuff both historical and linguistic.

If you'd rather not mung the file yourself, send your definitions to DON @ SAIL, GLS @ MIT-AI, and/or MRC @ SAIL.

From Gorjuss, Tim Berners-Lee, the man behind the World Wide Web, talks about the next cyberspace development ("the semantic Web").

If you had interviewed me 10 years ago and I tried to explain a hypertext space, I might have said: "There is a space of documents, each one has an address and the text on one can be linked by having the address encoded behind it so you just click on it when you get there." You would not have said, "Wow, this is going to revolutionize commerce."

Naughty people have been distributing Trojan horses that force other people's computers to run the distributed.net client, and (potentially) rack up credits for the attackers. Naughty people!

Friday, October 27, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Repulsive random banner ad of the day:

There are two kinds of people in the world:
those who have DSL
and those who want it.

Ick! Bleah. Yucch. How bleak and depressing! Let's see what we can do to get that taste out of our minds.

There are two kinds of people in the world:
those who have a fire to sit by, a warm place to sleep, a moment of silence,
and those who some day will.

Or maybe

There are two kinds of people in the world:
those with tawny ears,
and those with sorghum.

Now that's a banner ad I'd buy! Or simply

There aren't two kinds of people in the world.

(Of course the old joke: "There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who know better.")

Kook site of the day: Future Vision Group. Note the macho scary-military image (if they haven't changed it yet).

Implemented using a new agile address/channel hopping spread spectrum over IP tunneling protocol, with communication channels dynamically encrypted via thirty different algorithms, these agents maneuver collectively as an invisible network-centric fleet whose mission is to thwart the most intractable and costly of network security challenges...

K00L! These guys were around a couple of years ago, and managed to get their press release about their magical computer security system that used quantum mechanics and got around Godel's incompleteness theorem (or something like that) published in various quasi-respectable places. The always-amusing Rob Rosenberger has a detailed writeup of the history and nature of this particular bit of kookiness.

Silent voices from last week:

That was Zen. This is Tao.


(Warning: that link is sort of -- um -- disturbing...)

They're telling me to go to bed.

Speed Everything Up.



autumn afternoon
the mild tang of fresh decay
raining silently

(Oh, very nice. Here, too.)

The Bicycle Pedaling Frog observes the blue dog suspiciously, from a distance.

Fourth-party candidates

I can't hear you, I've got a banana in my pocket.

And finally, the obvious but quite lovely:


Happy Friday to all, and to all a good contingency!


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