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Thursday, December 14, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Cannabis and the size of the web: Why is "420" associated with pot smoking? Why, it's because that's the product number of the cupboard you keep it in (in attractive pine!). See also, of course, the cow's distal limb (note the URL).

Now contra our observations the other day about how there's only one "Abel's trees" on the Web, these two things suggest that the Web is pretty big: at least two links where "pot" and "420" appear together entirely by coincidence.

(At least, they'd like you to believe it's entirely by coincidence.)

What really happens when you say, "Let Me Talk to a Supervisor!"

Brian takes calls with his head on the desktop and his eyes closed. "Click on Edit, select Preferences, click on Servers," he mumbles.

How did we get from a world where someone might once in awhile call someone up to ask a question, to one where this kind of institution exists? It's all computers' fault, I suppose: they're incredibly complex, and they allow lots of fast and dense things to happen. So of course you get fast and dense confusion about how computers (don't) work.

Iridium Lives!

Ice and Yucch this morning. The school district closed, so everyone but me got to sleep late. I had a reporter calling and bunches of meetings at the lab, though, so I forged intrepidly out. No problems, really, going south: lots of rain and water and some slow drivers. North of us (where for instance Ian lives) it was I think somewhat icier and nastier.

So today is my last day of work for Y2K! We'll see if this nice looooong vacation leads to more (or less) creative output... *8)

Next week: What's up?

Wednesday, December 13, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

So I guess you can't fire Supreme Court Justices for dereliction of duty?

Megalomania: I had an odd thought last night, standing in the dark singing the little boy to sleep. What would it be like not to be a uniquely admirable and gifted individual? Not to know, deep down in your heart, that (if you weren't busy with other things) you would make an exemplary Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a novelist whose works would echo down the ages, a sought-after advisor to Presidents and Kings, a benign universal monarch presiding over the cosmos from one's golden throne? Not to have (for instance) a Weblog that's respected, admired, constantly consulted, by those few people in the world that really matter? Not to expect, any year now, that the ones who left you behind here all those years ago will return and reveal your true destiny to the world? Not to be, unlikely as it sounds, an avatar of the Creator God?

A strange thought, I know.

Paraphilia: Autogynephilia is "the propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of oneself as a woman". (Presumably this is more noteworthy in men than in women.) The converse (inverse?) ought to be something like "Autoandrophilia", but the only references to that on the Web seem to be people on the trans-theory list wondering if the word exists. Women have better taste? Or am I just spelling it wrong?

Tuesday, December 12, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

So one annoying thing about (pay) Webzines is that you can't give arbitrary friends links to them. So if I want to talk about this neat article in Pyramid about the history of lighter-than-air transport, all I can point you to is the rather annoying teaser page, with the first couple of paragraphs from the story. (Of course with atom-based publications I can't point you at all; so this is a case of Rising Expectations.)

My favorite part of role-playing games (Dungeons and Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, Over the Edge, etc) has always been the rules. Reading the rules, fiddling with the rules, making up my (our) own rules from scratch. The actual playing is sort of a side-benefit, to be fit in if time is available. *8)

I think this has something to do with the level at which game rules model the world. It's a level where there's a certain amount of understanding, of fitting things into a conceptual structure, without getting into all the messy and fiddly details. Which, as a lifetime dilettante, is just about the level at which I enjoy understanding (most) things...

My weekday readers may have overlooked the fact that we finally had a round of Nomic over the weekend: see Sunday's entry.

IBM is a company very concerned with its ethics and integrity. Which is a good thing! Once a year or so, everyone has to certify that they've read and understood the Business Conduct Guidelines, a reasonably succinct tome (there's an oxymoron for you) that outlines what the Company considers to be right and wrong. I would normally assume that such a document would be legalistic cruft (and I have to admit that a paragraph or two of the BCG does sort of read that way), but in fact most of it is surprisingly good. Here are some Words to Live By, courtesy of IBM:

Never make misrepresentations or dishonest statements to anyone. If you believe that the other person may have misunderstood you, promptly correct any misunderstanding. Honesty based on clear communication is integral to ethical behavior. The resulting trustworthiness is essential to forming and maintaining sound, lasting relationships.

Blind link of the day: Five-Card Nancy


I have to confess, I find Dave Barry really funny. His stuff is the epitome of cheap laughs and bathroom humor, but, well, it's bl--ding hysterical. From Jym Dyer, here is Barry's Holiday Gift Guide, rightly described as

a collection of very special gift ideas that you will not find anywhere else in the world that has even the tiniest shred of good taste.

On the speakers: MP3.com's Arabic channel

Monday, December 11, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

I've actually subscribed (paying money and everything!) to a Web-based magazine. I'd resisted until now. It may be significant that this is the Web evolution of a magazine that I subscribed to back when it was made of atoms: Pyramid Magazine from Steve Jackson Games. (As I've mentioned in passing before, I used to play various odd games; Pyramid was at one point the best magazine of that culture (probably still is).)


It's a fun mag; my favorite column is "Suppressed Transmission". Here's a sample paragraph from a recent one, about Urban Fantasy in roleplaying games (a pullquote from part of it that you can't see without a subscription: "Gods gain power from belief -- or, as we say now, market share").

I should maunder on and on about roleplaying games and universe creation sometime. I should also think about what a Web magazine would have to do, short of publishing a hardcopy version for a few years, to get me to pay money to subscribe to it...

One of my favorite rational irrationalists is G. K. Chesterton. Here's a nice passage from Christmas and the First Games:

It is obvious that any number of these legends could be launched with ease and grace and general gratification. It would be urged, to eagerly assenting little boys, that catapults are really older and more majestic than windows. Windows were merely targets set up for catapults, clear and fragile that such archaic archers might be rewarded with a crash and sparkle of crystal; that it was only after the oppressive priesthood of the Middle Paleolithic had ruthlessly suppressed the Catapult Culture, that people had gradually come to use the now useless glass targets for purposes of light or ventilation.

If you read the whole thing you may start to suspect that he's trying to undermine your faith in human knowledge in general, so as to gradually open your mind to the possibility that the world really is only 6K years old, we're all sinners from the get-go, and we'll be eternally punished in horrible torment by an infinitely loving and compassionate God unless we accept his Son as our Savior; and you'll be quite right. Chesteron and Lewis are both great fun that way. *8)

From Geegaw, a nice (if too brief) story about Purple Moon (a former computer game company):

Throughout my then-twenty years in the computer game business, I had ached for a chance to create alternatives to the chasing, shooting, fighting, exploding, hyper-male world of games. Why weren’t there any computer games for girls? And why did I end up losing my job every time I suggested it?

Screen Saver Bypass

Why would I need this?
If your [sic] a computer technician/consultant, this program is a major time-saver over hunting down users to type in their password for you. Be more productive, get more done, maybe even get a raise! Then again, maybe your [sic] just someone who'd like to have some fun with their friends or co-workers!

From Ian, an extremely minimalist Weblog Farewell (although perhaps a temporary one) from rebekah. The entire content of most of the site has been replaced with the string "we're not going to do this for a while.". Certainly gets the message across!

From Steve, a whole page about Zombies (or various kinds), that I really ought to mention somewhere on the Problems of Consciousness pages (maybe I'll find some time to work on that whole area over the Solstice Holidays, he said hopefully).

Speaking of Web magazines, Pursed Lips points out that there's now a Good Vibrations Webzine. What a good idea!

And speaking of sex *8) , Jane Duvall's gone and gotten married! We will all be very happy for her, and not say anything at all silly (so there).

Sunday, December 10, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Actually it's still the 9th at the moment, but having some long peaceful mostly unoccupied minutes after having put up the Christmas lights, I thought I'd tackle these here Nomic moves. I see it's been nearly three months since I did this; no wonder the rate of incoming moves has dropped off a bit! *8)

As you no doubt recall from last time, we were in a state where Rule 20 required new Rules to be numbered with the smallest unused positive integer (if not otherwise specified), which was one, whereas Rule 42 required Rule numbers to be even (which one isn't). So all new Rules would have to have an even number specified with them. Needless to say, players didn't often use this simple gambit!

There being no Rule requiring me to Apply the Moves in any particular order, I've tried to shuffle them around so as to be able to Apply as many as possible. We'll see how well I did.

First I'm applying:

The text of rule 10 is replaced with: Should there exist a conflict, paradox, or other such conundrum caused by two or more rules, that conflict is resolved by giving precedence to higher numbered rules over lower numbered rules.

which is fine, giving in true Nomic tradition a way to resolve conflicts. I could interpret it as meaning that Rule 10's requirement to use the lowest unused positive integer is trumped by Rule 42's requirement for evenness, but fortunately I won't have to...

Next I apply this, which is just an amendment and not a new Rule, so no trouble with numbers (I don't know exactly what it means, but that's OK):

The sentence "Any action taken by the scribe which is not correct is definitively incorrect." is appended to rule 16.

Next I'm applying:

The phrase "whilst whether" shall not be replaced by the phrase "whilst deciding whether" wherever it appears in the rules.

Since this was submitted on a Monday, Rule 32 requires (and Rule 38 allows) negating it before application, so rather than not doing the described replacement, we shall do it. Ha-ha! A certain eerie comprehensibility now clings to Rule 24.

I'm not applying:

Rule 5 to be renumbered rule 16, and Rule 16 to be renumbered rule 5

both because there is no Rule 5 (or so they would have you believe), and because renumbering Rule 16 to Rule 5 would violate Rule 42 (which requires even numbers for Rules).

I am applying these two rather similar suggestions:

The text of rule 20 shall be deleted, and in its place, the following text inserted: Whenever a new rule is created, it shall be assigned the smallest positive integer allowable by the rules, unless it is created as the result of a Rule Change Suggestion that explicitly specifies a different number, in which case it shall be assigned the number specified in the Suggestion. No two rules may have the same rule number.

The text of rule 20 shall be deleted, and in its place, the following text inserted: Whenever a new rule is created, it shall be assigned the smallest positive integer allowable by the rules, unless it is created as the result of a Rule Change Suggestion that explicitly specifies a different number, in which case it shall be assigned the number specified in the Suggestion. No two rules may have the same rule number.

which resolves our complexity, since the new Rule 20 defers gracefully to Rule 42, and allows us to use the smallest positive even unused number for new Rules.

Now I'm applying another Monday submission:

There shall not be established an official set. The official set shall not be a set of strings. The official set shall not initially be {official, set}. Whenever a new rule is created, the official set shall not be changed to the union of the official set and the set of the first word of the new rule. This rule shall repeal itself whenever the official set is the empty set. Any new rule resulting from this suggestion shall not be given rule numer 74.

Now there's a subtle point here: Rule 32 requires negating the Rule, whereas Rule 38 allows me to negate the entire suggestion. I will do so; so we get a new Rule, and it gets numbered 74. The official set is {official,set}.

I'm applying

Should the Scribe be unable or unwilling to apply valid moves, e may select any other entity to perform this duty instead.

which creates a new Rule (umm) 44, and two suggestions which create Rules 46 and 48, both Friday rules:

No Rule Change Suggestion submitted on a holiday may be applied, unless the suggestion contains a phrase appropriate to the holiday.
There are no holidays not explicitly defined in the rules.
These are holidays:
01/29 - Old Ceolnn Independence Day
04/01 - April Fools' Day
07/14 - Ceolnn Independence Day
10/01 - Palindrome Day
10/24 - David Chess Day
11/13 - Paradox of Self-Amendment Day

No animal shall sleep on a bed with sheets

Next, and perhaps against my better judgement, I'm applying this:

Roman numerals shall be accepted as the official numbering system of this nomic. All numbers currently used or subsequently introduced into this nomic shall be expressed in Roman numerals, except in such cases as this rule does not have the power to affect them. This rule shall be given rule number XC.

It's not entirely clear what it means for a number to be "used" in the Nomic, nor is it clear that Rule numbers (and the system in which they are expressed) are parts of their Rules for the purposes of Rule 34 (XXXIV). And there's no Roman numeral for zero that I know of. So I have done my best, and in particular I have left even the numbers of the Friday Rules unchanged and in the original notation. But the rest of the Ruleset now looks kinda quaint. *8)

Note that this creates a Rule numbered XC, which is divisible by V, so by Rule 36 (not XXXVI), the Official Mapping / Tableau gets a generation of Conway's Life run.

The Tableau

Lastly I'm applying the interestingly restrictive:

All changes to the Rules from here on must begin with a haiku. All modifications to the mapping must end with a couplet.

Now this was submitted on a Friday, so it creates a Friday Rule. On the other hand, it operates in the context of Rule XC, so I judge that the Rule it creates is L (rather than 50). Another Conway turn occurs, resulting in a very stable tableau! If I did it right (desk-running Life isn't a job for the sleepy).

Now what does "from here on" mean in Rule L? Does it mean "from now on"? But what does "now" mean in a Rule? Does it mean "from this point in the Rules onward", that is something like "modifications to any Rules numbered higher than this one"? Or something? Suggestions that would clarify this are welcome (safest if they begin with a haiku); otherwise I will wing it...

Man, if I did all that right it's a miracle! I think I changed my mind about the numbering of the Official Set rule (currently LXXIV) at least twice. Status, as always, is here.

Saturday, December 9, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

(Just a decorative applet today; click on it if it gets dull...)

Friday, December 8, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

More Cambric Tea experiments (I should rename this Cambric Tealog). Finding that the grocery on the way home from work doesn't carry unsweetened condensed milk, I tried adding hot water to just a smallish dollop of sweetened condensed milk. This worked! Pretty much. Same wonderful secure childhood smell, and not too sweet to drink. A little sweeter than I'd make it if I were in full control, but that's probably just because I'm older and my body isn't as hot for sugars.

Man, this is like a sure-fire cure for insomnia (What the Big Drug Companies Don't Want You To Know!). Having had two mugs of it, I'm sitting here drowzy and semi-incoherent ("Yeah, right," my readers think in eerie unision, "like anyone could tell the difference"). Whew!

An astute reader writes about Cambric Tea and orange juice:

Not too surprising, since powdered milk reconstituted also tastes noticeably different from milk.

True! For some period of time when I was a lad, we used reconstituted Nonfat Dry Milk as milk (I don't remember why). It seemed perfectly normal to me at the time; nowadays, though, even normal skim milk seems like just bluish water, and reconstituted NFD milk is no more interesting. (NFD milk powder, on the other hand, makes a nice richener for bread dough.)

On the same subject, another (I suspect another) reader writes:

The same thing happens with people, in my experience. Removing all of the water from them, then adding water back in, produces something perceptibly different from the original person. Curious, isn't it?

Perhaps you're not doing it right? Check chapter fourteen again, paying particular attention to footnote 8. And the bit about molecular fixation.

you talkin' to me?

Riffing onward, It happened again,

Must I keep stepping into the same damn river?

In some good serious work of literature somewhere (Borges?) the author refers to moments of insight that everyone has, but that always feel original when they strike; like realizing that the reason you can't go down to the same river twice isn't (so much) that the river's changed, but that you have changed.

It happened again,

And again. And again. And again! Someone make it stop! AAaaiiieee!

As a child (I'm doing that alot tonight; of course lots of important things happen when you're a child) I would sometimes get fevers. Usually without any other symptoms (as I recall), but sometimes rather high fevers. Once in awhile (I don't know how many times; memories of childhood blur together) the fever would come with a kind of delerium. I remember things feeling (or looking) very far away, and being scared for no concrete reason. But also thinking, after it was all over, that it had been sort of fun, and wishing I could make it happen on purpose. Sort of.

It happened again,

And again I missed it.

Third time's the charm...

It happened again,

The Bicycle Pedaling Frog submitted a semisurreal comment to David Chess's log, and then helped himself to a fine selection of Belgian serendipities.

The Frog is always welcome! *8)

It happened again.

Once again I type, and once again the world ignores the wisdom of my words. Awaken, eaters of ideas.

"Eaters of ideas"; I like that. Awaken, eaters of ideas; arise, gourmands of the conceptual. Throw off the heavy sheets of lethargy, diners on the infolded textures of abstract relations. Come ye and feast.

Just as "Oldie's Bread" is ageist, "Oaties Bread" is grainist. Shame on you!

Yeah, well...

Medley logged our comments the other day about naughty words. She even pullquoted us! Maybe the naughty-word meme will flow through the blogging community. We could have a day on which everyone uses the word "fuck" in their blogs. We could call it "Fuck Day"!

Or would that be silly?


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