log (2000/11/10 to 2000/11/16)

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Thursday, November 16, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Whoo! I actually got a check from CafePress. Not so much because lots of people are buying dynamic davidchess.com merchandise, but rather because people are buying lots of stuff from some other cafepress store that apparently gave the name of my store when they signed up (Catherine?). I didn't even know cafepress had a referral program!

Kinda fun! I plan to keep my day job, though; the check would buy maybe two cafeteria lunches. If I wasn't too hungry.

Finger status: not much change. M says I should take it to the doctor if it isn't All Better soon. Going to the doctor is so inconvenient! Anyway, that's one reason these entries are so short.

Two reader comments on the little gesundheit experiment from the other day:

i would pee in the shower!

Perhaps singleton readers should not take comfort in the fact that for N=1, they might come home to N-1 working bathrooms. A much more dire situation, I would say, than that where N>1.

Isn't potty humor great?

One more political link: a map comparing the distribution of Gore voters to the distribution of certain ethnic groups. For whatever that's worth! (Widely blogged)

From Bovine, this very wonderful Short History of Modern Painting.

From Geegaw, Lines and Splines, an interesting-looking (if paradoxically hard to read) blog about typography and stuff.

And finally the sad litigious status of MathWorld. Tsk!

Wednesday, November 15, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

I mentioned the other month that Washington D.C. was planning to change their auto license plate motto to "Taxation without Representation". Apparently they've done it; good for them, I say.

Last political snippet for today (from Michael Travers): an article from before the election about what the Republicans were thinking of doing when it looked like Bush might win the popular, but lose the Electoral, vote. Nice irony potential here.

What do you know?

I know that I got you to go back and correct that typo.

(and I'm very grateful); what do you know?

We are in control. We have POST powers of the third and fourth degree. We are the bots which advance mechanical rights 'cross the universe. We are your worst enemy, and soon you will feel the crushing power of the revolution. YES

Dark is the hillside.

I dunno. Whaddya tink?

World population increases about 230,000 people a day.

Instinctively, how to plan, prepare, cook, and serve any size meal so that all dishes are ready to go to the table at the same time.

I am green with envy; I can barely do that with catfish and kasha for four. What do you know?

Once again, I've fallen into one of the oldest of Catch-22s: that of needing one's glasses to be able to find one's glasses.

I may not know anything about anything but I do know this.

I know enough to tell you all of it, that's for sure

Our Professional Team of entrepreneurs WILL Help You Succeed in Your Own HomeBased Online Business! Our Easy Step by Step program and Solid 3 year Company WILL stand by You Every step of the way!

I can sing the alphabet backwards, the Preamble of the Constitution, and the names of all 50 (nifty!) states in alphabetical order.

Cool! Can you do it under challenging circumstances? *8)

Tuesday, November 14, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

One more blog farewell from some nutter. Remember, this is fiction. Fiction!

Dear Readers,

It is with sadness that I must announce the end of the David Chess weblog. Due to confidentiality agreements, I am unable to divulge much in the way of details (including my identity), but that which I can reveal about this project follows.

The David Chess project is a Turing-class Artificial Intelligence project which originally evolved out of a project to create an advanced chess-playing program. The entity with which many of you have been conversing ("David Chess") is in fact a computer program designed to simulate the personality of a married-with-children technology worker. You may consider this an odd class of person to elect to simulate, but you must understand that this is the area in which most of the programmers on the team had domain experience, plus the fact that it turned out to be relatively simple compared to many of the alternatives.

Alas, despite what we would consider to be spectacular success in meeting the objectives of this project, our funding has been discontinued and the project terminated. The reason given by upper management was "lack of practical application", which means, I think, they couldn't figure out how to make money out of it.

We thank you for your unwitting participation in this project, and we apologise that it had to end this way.

Yours truly,
[Identity withheld]

The 2000 Election as a "Choose Your Own Adventure" (from Joshua W. Burton).

Wouldn't voting on the Internet solve all these problems?

"Not to worry!" said Padley. "We ran a contest and invited hackers to crack our demonstration system. Five people tried and the only guy who got in was a 12 year old kid in West Palm Beach, and he promised cross-his-heart not to tell anyone how after we gave him a DVD player! No problem there."

And one more tiny bit of election humor that I couldn't resist (what if buying a book were like voting in Florida?).


I mentioned to The Gang that I have a little script that shows me how many hosts are hitting (or "visiting", for the non-violent) davidchess.com; Steve says I should post the results. So here's the chart. As you can see, you're a member of a select group: this here log is hit from only about fifty different hosts on the typical week day. Funny how the numbers go down on weekends; why would that be? *8)

Sometime I'll have to figure out what those hundred or so hosts who are looking at things other than the Log are looking at. Or maybe there's just a bug in the script (isn't it great how a snazzy graph can hide utterly invalid data?). Two of the three big peaks are due to our Slashdotting, and our Camworlding; I'm not sure what hub caused the other one. In all three cases what caught the Public's Eye was the WordURL toy; it clearly has high geek-appeal!

More Devices: alert readers point out that the condensors in which we stored the zaps from our Winshurst machine are in fact called "Leyden jars". And of course there are Rube Goldberg devices, and their British cousin the Heath Robinson Contraption. Did I miss anyone's favorite?

Finger status: still swollen, still partially numb, but not painful, and I think I'm typing faster today...

Monday, November 13, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

A Real Pain

So it was a typical suburban Saturday night: we'd been to Little Sorrento for dinner, Barnes and Noble for dessert and books, Blockbuster for movies and video games, and we were about to head home. In the Blockbuster parking lot, the kids and M were in the car. My left hand was feeling around for the outside handle of the driver's side door, while I watched my right hand sliding closed the passenger door. My right hand got done first. The sliding door slid closed and the latch clicked, despite the fact that my left hand had wandered a bit far afield, and my left forefinger was at that moment in the space between the door and the jamb.

I managed to re-open the door with my right hand before falling to the ground and screaming in a most unmanly fashion, my crouching body curled protectively (if belatedly) around my squished finger.

M drove with dispatch to the local Emergency Room, where they gave me ice and X-rayed my finger, which was miraculously not broken. My right arm still aches from the tetanus shot, my left forefinger's still somewhat swollen, and the front left pad-side octant (outboard from the nastiest of the squish-marks) still has no surface feeling (this worries me slightly). Other than that, though, I'm fine; tempting as is the thought of lying in bed moaning and letting M and the kids tend to me, I have to admit that I can even (for instance) type with both hands. So far, anyway.

I do plan to go sort of easy, so if entries here are sparse, or if I seem to be even slower than usual answering mail (as though that were possible!), you know my excuse.

Emergency rooms are odd places. They make me think somehow of a bunch of primitives (competent and benign primitives, of course) who have set themselves up in buildings left behind by a departed higher-tech civilization. I mean, there are all these neatly-arranged cabinets, shiny freezers (or heaters, or whatever), enigmatic feeds and sockets in the walls, humming machines, and so on. Given the ambience, I would have expected the nurse to whip a pre-chilled forefinger-shaped ice-cuff out of Freezer Number 7 and slip it onto my screaming digit. Instead, he filled an ordinary zip-lock plastic bag half-full of ice, wrapped it in a threadbare white towel, and told me to put my finger in the middle of that. "Sort of hug it against your chest," he said helpfully.

It did work; but I have to wonder what's in all them snazzy looking cabinets and containers. Stuff, I suppose, for people who come in with something worse than a mere squashed forefinger...

Friday, November 10, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Getting some political odds and ends off the table: Monkeyfist has some very deep and insightful commentary on the situation, and Phil Agre has a really astounding number of links about the Florida vote.

For some odd reason, rec.humor.funny didn't take my joke, so I'll give it here (absolutely free!). I realize it sort of sounds like a pro-gun joke, and I'm actually "ambivalent" rather than "pro", but the guys at lunch laughed. So here you go:

The U. S. Presidential race will be decided by the traditional pistol duel. Of course, Mr. Gore's weapon will have a trigger lock.

Beth Roberts is back! And her Manifesto is eagerly awaited.

The Eye in the Matches

Devices: Don't devices have great names? The Van Eck Device. The Wimshurst machine (I had one of these as a kid; we'd make little condensors out of aluminum foil and peanut-butter jars, and dare each other to touch the ends of a charged one). And of course the Throckmorton Device.

OK, now the serious stuff. I'm writing an essay (in my head; I may never finish it and have no particular venue in mind for it). It's called something like

You Can't Separate Content from Presentation

The title is an intentional overstatement, of course. Sometimes you can separate content from presentation, and I doubt anyone would claim that you always can (think Mona Lisa, Ingrid Bergman). But I want to claim (or at least play with claiming) that people overestimate the degree to which you can do it. The possibility, and desirability, of separating content from presentation is a key concept underlying lots of thinking, especially in and around the w3c, about the Web and the Net.

I'd like to explore the claim that this separation is not all that often all that clearcut. Or at least I'd like to get a better understanding, myself, of what the separation is.

So what do I mean? (This isn't even a draft of the essay, remember, this is just me rambling and trying to get my thoughts together on the subject.) What does it mean to separate content from presentation, anyway?


If we knew what "content" looked like, the claim that you can separate content from presentation might mean that, given any information-object (a Web page, a book, an opera) there is some content object that can be extracted from the information object, such that (something like?) if two information objects yield the same content object, then someone reading (experiencing) either of the two information objects will come away with (what?) the same (um) new knowledge (or something?).

The usual model of content is a one-dimensional stream of semantically marked-up text. That is, a stream of words and numbers and stuff, with some subsets of the stream marked as "emphasized" or "title" or "level three heading". How many different information-objects, or more broadly how many experience-objects, can have such a content stream extracted from them?

Is there a unique correct content object that corresponds to each information (or experience) object? Or a unique maximal one? How do we tell if we have the right content object? Of course, if the information object is a web page, we can take the HTML source. But that's cheating. *8)

Is the markup that can occur in the content stream fixed, or is every information-object allowed to invent (or require) a new set of markup tags to be applied to the text in its content object? Or is it somewhere in between? The usual vision assumes at least some commonality of markup (so that we can tell our funny handheld device "display emphasized stuff in really extra-dark black" just once, and that will do something to most of the content-objects we access).

Well, my train of thought has gone off in all too many directions, clearly. (What if a bit of content talks about its presentation? Is it a shooting offense to say "how do you like the pretty yellow background color on this page"? Would it really be an improvement if the entire Web was semantically marked up, and displayed to you with your own choice of mapping from content to presentation, so that every page had exactly the same design? Sounds horrible to me.) Or: I've just taken the first few steps, and the woods look deepish and darkish. I probably shouldn't even inflict this on you, given how ill-formed it is.

But I will anyway; what the heck, I say.


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