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Thursday, March 1, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

I finished Paul Cook's "The Engines of Dawn"; it was pretty crummy (why isn't that "crumby"?). Review posted to Amazon:

Weak (two stars)

The basic premise of this novel is promising, and could form the core of a well-crafted and absorbing book. Unfortunately, "The Engines of Dawn" is not that book.

The writing is often awkward and cliche-ridden ("He sported a black mustache of military smartness, and his snappy gray tunic had nary a crease"), and the characters are largely cardboard cut-outs, their actions and emotions changing from moment to moment according to the demands of the plot rather than any plausible inner motivation.

The editors seem to have skipped the continuity-checking phase, and problems abound. In the book's first pages we are told that the characters' clothing is a smart nanotech construct that can be made to flow on and off of their bodies at will. But that fact is never mentioned again, and by the end of the book we have someone in "a torn tunic". While orbiting a planet, someone mentions casually that because of the topography there are probably "surface winds in excess of two hundred miles an hour"; but when they go down to the surface they take no precautions against such winds, there are in fact no such winds, and no one comments on the fact. On one page we are told that there are only four known Earthlike planets; later we are told that a particular kind of ivy is found on "a number of worlds". And so on. Much of the technology is quite implausible also.

More seriously, the book's basic plot device is equally shaky: a Good Alien has an important secret that the humans must know, so he concocts an elaborate, dangerous, and utterly implausible plot to strand their ship in space in hopes that they will take refuge on and explore a word that contains vague hints about the truth (hints that, as far as the alien could have known, were utterly unlikely to actually reveal the truth to the humans). Rather than, say, writing the secret down and slipping it under someone's door.

Which isn't to say that it's a totally awful book. The awkward writing was only irritating, and I was interested enough in what the big secret was that I stayed up late last night to finish it. But there are lots and lots of better books out there...

I dunno why it's such fun to write scathing reviews; I guess it lets me feel smug and superior, without actually having to do anything hard (this is why authors hate critics).

We have here, it occurs to me, an example of the limitations of Amazon's simple review system: the average review of "The Engines of Dawn" gives it three and a half stars (and I thought it was crummy) whereas "Bloom", which I thought was pretty good, averages only three stars. (One of the worst books I've ever read, "Legal Briefs", also averages three and a half stars.) Some of the lowest ratings for Bloom were from people who are frightened by mathematical symbols, and don't like too much science in their science fiction. How do I avoid having those people's opinions counted when Amazon computes the ratings I should use to pick a book? It's an interesting problem.

The Player of Games

Anyway, now I'm reading Iain Banks' "Player of Games", for which I have much higher expectations. Speaking of that and Bryce, the little daughter and I have been noticing Bryce-generated (or at least Bryce-flavored) images in various commercial settings lately. The packaging for a pair of swim goggles I bought her at the Club the other month bore a standard Brycian sky and ocean with a bunch of Bryce eyeballs (the same one I used in Air Raid Warden) floating around. Some Pokémon cards also have very Brycian-looking backgrounds (with little cartoon monsters pasted on top). And on the cover of my copy of the trade press Player of Games there are a random assortment of playing card backs, blocks, an arch, a cannon, and other things, many / most of which are made from very familiar-looking materials. Small world!

Segueing (is that a word?) now to Bill, who with Ian introducted me to Iain Banks in the first place, we find that ("we find that") he has sent along two very high-quality links:

First, the DeCSS code as haiku (and not just a mechanical translation of the source, either; this is actual creative literature here!).

Then, this page of counters to a large number of the usual creationist complaints about evolution is well worth bookmarking. In a way it's sad that smart people have to spend so much time responding to the "three thousand year old nomadic folktales are the source of indubitable knowledge" theory of the universe; on the other hand, it's probably good mental exercise.

There's lots of good stuff here; I didn't know, for instance, that speciation had actually been observed both in the lab and in the field:

4.15: There is no evidence for the rapid development of new species in nature. 3,500 years ago, a small lake was separated from Lake Victoria by a sandbar. There are now five species endemic to the new lake; they have evolved from the original species in a geological instant (McGowan, 1984, 29). A population of Nereis acuminata that was isolated in 1964 was no longer able to interbreed with its ancestors by 1992 (Weinberg et al., 1992). New species certainly can emerge quickly.

Continuing our segue, Brett Watson points out his recent rant about a hax0ring tool that would like us to think of it as a peer-to-peer file-sharing system: Share Sniffer. (The main problem with it IMHO is that at the moment the vast majority of people taking part in this "file sharing" system don't realize they're doing so!)

And also in the P2P arena, a reader points out a recent piece in Stating The Obvious, which echoes my observation that Usenet is "P2P" under most definitions. TheObvious thinks that Usenet will fade away to be replaced by some modern shiny RSS-based thing; I wouldn't put my money there, myself.

Now abandoning any pretense at continuity and segue, we do Nomic! Making sure I'm not wearing a special ceremonial hat (Rule XXIV), I'm applying:

avocado The official spelling of the word "avocado" shall be "avocado." All Rules containing one or more misspellings of the word "avocado" (defined as a spelling of the word "avocado" that begins with the letter "a" and contains exactly three consonants (which must include at least two of the following: {v,c,d}) separated by single vowels) shall be deemed invalid.

Let's see now. This creates a new Rule LX, adds "avocado" to the Official Set, gives me another VII points, and (for the moment) Rule LVI is deemed invalid, since it contains a misspelling of the word "avocado" as defined by Rule LX. However, Rule LX also contains such a misspelling (since by the definition in Rule LX, "avocado" itself is a misspelling of the word "avocado"), and now it deems itself invalid, which presumably means Rule LVI becomes valid again, but so does LX, and so...

Oh, dear! Rules LVI and LX seem to be fluctuating (with, I suppose, infinite frequency) between valid and invalid. Whatever shall we do?

Is the Nomic now emitting a high-pitched hum?

Wednesday, February 28, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

It's the day of Wotan! And how are you enjoying your time as a Bodhisattva?

Doing the bicycle-thing at the Club this morning, on one of the ones that has a Web browser, and as I was following one of Steve's Mia links, the browser crashed. Now the NetPulse interface is apparently configured reasonably securely; a momentary blue screen announcing "application error; windows will now restart" was followed by a BIOS boot sequence and the whole Windows Startup Thing. I resisted clicking around with the touchscreen during the most vulnerable moments; there's no keyboard, and hacking into a machine with only the mouse would be sort of strange (if challenging). But I was polite. Eventually the whole thing restarted and I was online and peddling again. Funny things, computers.

It'd be kind of nice to put up a "click here if you're in a secure kiosk, and this page will crash IE into Windows Explorer" page somewhere. But I suppose it would be Wrong.   *8)

GRID and P2P: So I've finally figured out why P2P (Napster/Gnutella) and ad-hoc distributed computing ("GRID", distributed.net, YETI@Home) tend to get mushed together in people's minds. People tend to use "P2P" to mean both, even though the "peers" in the major ad-hoc distributed computing systems never talk to each other at all. And it's not decentralization, because Napster involves a central server, as do distributed.net et al. I think it's a combination of things.

Instead of having a single client doing stuff, or a single server that does stuff for a client, you have a whole bunch of clients that are doing whatever random stuff their owners want, and in the background are also co-operating to do some other thing. And a central server, if there's one involved at all, is just doing co-ordination (of metadata in the case of Napster, of processing tasks in distributed.net). So communication between the peers isn't the key thing, serverlessness and decentralization isn't the key thing. The key thing is offloading work (computation or file storage) onto computers that are also doing something else. The scavenging of free cycles. So "P2P" isn't the right blanket term at all.

Anyway, here's a slightly New Age piece about "P2P" systems:

They're faery infrastructure, networks whose maps form weird n-dimensional topologies of surpassing beauty and chaos; mad technological hairballs run by ad-hocracies whose members each act in their own best interests.

In a nutshell, peer-to-peer technology is goddamn wicked. It's esoteric. It's unstoppable. It's way, way cool.

That piece is by a founder of OpenCOLA, which is especially noteworthy for the Open Source Soft Drink Recipe. I'm sure they're doing other stuff, too.   *8)

Here's the Tim O'Reilly piece about why Intel's approach to P2P standardization is wrong (referenced in the article quoted above). And here's a piece about the 2000 "O'Reilly P2P Summit", which is especially noteworthy for having been written on my birthday.

The P2P enthusiasts tend to say some slightly weird things:

What thread winds itself around all these developments? In various ways they return content, choice, and control to ordinary users. Tiny end points on the Internet, sometimes without even knowing each other, exchange information and form communities.

So P2P is like, uhhh, Usenet?   *8)   I'm not sure how opening up my mp3 files to random passerby from Sicily, or donating CPU cycles voluntarily to cancer research (or involuntarily to Juno) is "return[ing] content, choice, and control to ordinary users." But it's kinda neat anyway...

Claude Shannon

Farewell Claude Shannon: A good piece of information swirls back into Mother Noise.

New pricing at CafePress! Which probably means that prices in the davidchess.com store will be going up, or something. I suppose I ought to figure out if this requires any action on my part...

Doug Chatham kindly sends this page about the blue-eye / brown-eye experiment that I mentioned on Monday. Very interesting stuff, simultaneously depressing and heartening.

The exercise is based on the division of a group of people on the basis of eye color: brown and non-brown. The blue eyed people are seen and treated the same way as non-white non Christians have been traditionally treated in this society. All the negative stereotypes which are applied in society are applied to the blue eyed people. Blue eyed people are seen as inferior and treated as inferior. As a result they start acting as inferior people, confirming the stereotype.

I'd like to take this opportunity to twit Steve for being too shy to give a link to a very funny grammar lesson that uses naughty examples. Whatcha gonna do on Fuck Day, eh Steve? I thought it was pretty cute, myself.

CORRECT: After laying her in the hay loft, I went inside and laid her sister too. (This is grammatically correct, but it may constitute a social faux pas.)

Everyone talks about metaphysics, but no one ever does anything about it!

Tuesday, February 27, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Whoosh! The last time I logged one of those "wide awake with the brain spinning 'round" nights was in November 1999. Now today's another one. I woke up at around 02:30 for no obvious reason, and started thinking. The thinking rev'ed quickly up, producing that lovely intellectual rush that makes it too late to quit almost the instant you start. Soon I was wide awake but entirely happy, composing lucid and cutting arguments against certain silly things, writing absorbing technical descriptions of new research ideas, and so on. Then before long I was trying and failing to go back to sleep.

Sounds. I kept thinking I heard sounds. M likes having the white-noise generator going at night, and sometimes I seem to hear things happening under (in?) the noise. The cat meowing (but the cat wasn't meowing). Very faint, but insistent and aperiodic, barely noticable but impossible to ignore, the sound of someone a mile away, or smothered by blankets, taking a small car apart, slowly, with a chain saw. Not a sound so much as a vibration, a pressure against my skin. Coming from the outside wall? Or is the cat snoring?

I woke up bleery this morning (I'm still bleery), thinking I still heard the sound. I went outside and stood there in the pleasant morning chill in my bare feet and nightshirt, and the only sounds were the birds and the highway off in the distance. Maybe, with my brain spinning so fast, I was just hearing the highway? But I should be utterly used to that by now, and it's so far away anyway...

So this morning I stumbled in to work barely able to write a coherent sentence, much less set to paper the insights I'd had during the night. I remembered their substance pretty well, but the 3am eloquence was gone. I attacked one of the documents, and I think it came out pretty well. But now my brain hurts!

Anyway, today's actual topic is algorithmic texture generation. I've been playing with the Deep Texture Editor in Bryce, and I think I'm finally starting to understand it. I made some cool alien bowling-balls and acid-eaten mirrors yesterday, building up from scratch rather than just fiddling randomly with an existing material. I should make some pictures for the site, eh?

The DTE is so complicated! Each material has about a dozen channels, and up to four textures. Each channel (things like transparency, reflectivity, ambient color, diffuse color, and so on) can be set to a number, a color, or a combination of up to three of the material's textures. Each texture consists of up to four components, combined in any of a couple dozen ways, and each component consists: of two different noise signals picked from a menu of like eighty (with all sorts of adjustable and tweakable parameters), and three colors blended in one of a dozen ways, and a filter layed over all that, and at pretty much every point in the process you can apply any affine transform you like, changing the scale and position and rotation of whatever bit of the signal you have in hand.

It's incredible! Of course, if you use all the stuff at once the material will take ages to render. But I was able to make some really cool stuff using only one texture with one component, and that was before I found the button that turns the colors on (the interface is a bit, umm, challenging)

Enough about Bryce. The whole noise-based texture thing that the DTE uses was apparently invented by a feller name of Ken Perlin (whose site some kind reader pointed me to back in April but I'd never really looked at until last weekend). Perlin seems to have invented the whole field of using space-filling noise to produce natural-looking stuff on screens, back in the 1980's; see this talk by him about the whole bit.

It's used so much nowadays in the movies, in fact, that Perlin got an Academy Award for it (that page has interesting stuff besides the Oscar). He has some cool toys on the Web, also: a planet that you can zoom way way way way in on (forty steps, in fact; is that a reference to Cosmic View?), and an animated face made more realistic by careful addition of noise.

On the general subject, here's a book on texture and modeling that Perlin co-authored, a page with various interesting links to texture synthesis, a very simple (even simplistic) explanation of some aspects of Perlin noise, and finally a whole site and project devoted to virtual terrains (including surveys of clouds, lighting, and so on).

nice round computer

And a final link to a different guy in the same area (still bleery, I'm wandering a bit), the Etchapad project, an exploration of "informal interfaces": computers that are rounded and scribbly, rather than square and perfect. Small world: I've been doodling things like his cool organic-looking "concept picture" on random bits of paper for years now. Nice to be reminded I'm not the only loony in the bin...

Monday, February 26, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

delicate ugly girl
  do you use wax in bed
    will you sing for me   --

(Weekday readers note: once again we had two entries over the weekend, so you may want to scroll down below this one for a bread recipe, a new Bryce image, and comments on inebriation.)

All your base are belong to us! Continuing the meme, a reader points out another copy of the amazing Flash movie, and other readers comment "ALL YOUR GRAMMARCHECK ARE BELONG TO US", and "CSS has juice. Detractors will be bracketed. All your base are belong to us!". And thanks to Ian we're now listening to Ace of Base on the speakers. A little squishy, but not bad.

Half an ounce of pot: just how much taxpayer money should be spent to hassle someone caught with half an ounce of maryjane? "Apparently Whitney Houston isn't out of the woods yet when it comes to her Hawaiian pot bust." Sheesh.

that story is really just an excuse for another pretty picture in the margin

Maybe all this hassle of a popular entertainer will help remind people how dumb all this is. On the other hand, we expect our entertainers to steer close to the edge, so the impact on Consensus Reality will probably be minimal. Pity.

Ordinary people behaving badly: Steve was talking at lunch the other day about the famous lesson where a teacher announced to the class that blue-eyed people are better than brown-eyed people, and then the next day corrected herself and said it was really the other way around, with scary and memorable results (I don't have a link for that; suggestions welcome). Recently Medley linked to the similarly very scary Stanford Prison Experiment: A Simulation Study of the Psychology of Imprisonment. Ordinary people put into roles, even nasty roles and even in a fictional context, are capable of all sorts of unpleasantness.

But we love them anyway.

Microsoft exec clarifies his bizarro statements from the other day: actually it's only the GPL that's a Communist plot. Well, he's not entirely alone in that opinion.

Various: what I suspect is a single reader, or possibly two, on a bit of a roll writes as follows, apparently inspired by various Log entries earlier this month. For each quotation or odd phrase that you can link to the bit of Log that inspired it, you win one unit of self-satisfaction!

Pity the dishonest man, covered only by awful, thin walls.
McPhee. McPhi. McPho. McPhum.
What is Harras doing while I am on the telephone?
I'm Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy!

The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters.

We were lying in the moonlight by the edge of a forest. We wanted to rest a while during our trip back and we especially wanted to embrace and stare at Marcelle. "But who is the Cardinal?" Simone asked her. "The man who locked me in the wardrobe," said Marcelle. "But why is he a cardinal?" I cried. She replied: "Because he is the priest of the guillotine."

Angelo D. was training hard. This challenger, Kid Gullet, would be no pushover. In fact, the Kid hit him right where he lived: he was worried. He'd been champ for thirty-seven years and all that time his records had stood like Mount Rushmore--and now this Kid was eating them up. Fretful, he pushed his plate away.

For many years now, Taylor has spent most of his time trying to effect improvements in the protection of certain nuclear materials that could be stolen or "diverted" from companies that handle nuclear fuel.

For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one.

Above the seal, where he expected to see the words STATE POLICE, he saw the words BRAND INSPECTOR.

Oh gosh, very sorry, the Kafka quote was actually "Zwei Herren machten einander Mittheilungen, der eine hielt die Hände mit der innern Fläche nach oben und bewegte sie gleichmäßig als halte er eine Last in Schwebe."

My fifteen minutes of fame as a rabid enemy of all that is good in Web technology seems to be tailing off (at least according to the referer log). A cordial welcome to anyone linking through from PixelMedius or BlueRobot or Toast and Tea. (Aren't domain names great?) I'm afraid we don't normally talk all that much about CSS hereabouts, but you're welcome to hang around anyway.

Nomic! First I'm applying:

I suggest the following change(s) to the Rules:
It just isn't fair
for the scribe and John Conway
to hog all the points

As such, create the following rule: I am the avacado rule. Whenever a mapping modification suggestion is applied, I am awarded I point for each occurance of the word avacado in the rules.

So now Rules can have points! Cool. And I get VII points, per Rule LIV.

Various people suggested messing with the use and meaning of "haiku" in the Rules; I sort of had to choose between them. So I'm applying:

I suggest the following change(s) to the Rules:
haiku is defined
to be any word not in
the official set

I was going to interpret it as an amendment to Rule L, but Rule L is a Friday Rule, and this suggestion wasn't sent in on a Friday. So I'll implement it as a new Rule LVIII, which gives me VII more points (for a total of XIV), as well as showing a back-door technique for ordinary suggestions to modify the effect of Friday Rules.

So now any change to the Rules below Rule L must begin with a word not in the official set.

I'm not applying two other "haiku" related suggestions, only because I can't figure out how I'd interpret them in light of Rule LVIII.

Status here, as always; keep those cards and letters coming!

Sunday, February 25, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Therefore send not to ask for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for y'all.

So I got ambitious yesterday and used a Different Computer to upload Log and Bryce stuff, and then later I (re)installed Socks on the Usual Computer and against all expectation it worked. I'll try to publish ("publish") this from the Usual Computer later on, and we'll see if it continues to work.


I think I'll skip making bread today; it's an extremely lazy rainy chilly Sunday (an ideal day to make bread, actually, except for the "lazy" part). In partial atonement for this laziness, I'll give you a recipe. I can't give you the original Golden Bread recipe, because I'm sworn to secrecy, but what I actually make these days is significantly different anyway, so I figure I'm not violating even the spirit of my oath.

The Chesses' Golden Bread

(with thanks to the Joneses' Golden Bread, the Tassajara Bread Book, etc.)

One pkg (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
Roughly 6 cups white flour
1/2 cup butter at room temperature

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water with a dash of sugar. Let sit for a few minutes, then add milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Gradually add about half the flour, stirring continuously, until the mixture is thick and muddy. Beat thoroughly, mixing in air, about 100 strokes. Cover with a wet towel and let sit in a warm non-drafty place for an hour or two.

Mix in more flour, until it begins to be dough. Turn out onto a rolling board and start to knead. Slice off slivers of the butter, incorporating them into the dough as you knead it. Add flour as needed (heh heh, "needed", "kneaded", get it?). If things get too buttery before all the butter is incorporated, stop incorporating it (use it on some popcorn instead). Knead thoroughly. Lightly butter (or PAM) the bottom of the bowl, put the dough into the bowl, and lightly butter (or PAM) the top of the dough. Cover with a wet towel and let sit in a warm non-drafty place for an hour or two.

Punch down, knead two or three times, shape into a loaf, and put into a buttered (or PAMmed) bread pan. Cover with a wet towel and let rest for 15 minutes or until the oven has heated to 350°F. Cook 45-60 minutes, until loaf is bread-colored and sounds hollow when tipped out and tapped on the bottom and generally seems to be done.

Extremely yummy; it always vanishes quickly.

Saturday, February 24, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Man, do I have a low tolerance for alcohol these days! I had one (count 'em: one) measly bottle of Sam Adams' Boston Ale (the which we keep in the refrigerator sometimes for making beer-batter breads), and now I'm staggering around the house and finding it hard not to do and say silly things (even more than usual). Or at least I feel as though I am, or at least I'm writing in my log that I am, either of which are at least as bad. I seem to still be able to type, though.

I read a book once for a sociology class in college; I think it (the book) was called "Drunken Comportment" (it's probably a classic that I could find in Google, but it's the weekend). It was a short but interesting and lucid book. The main thing I remember from it is that alcohol affects people in a given society in whatever way the people in that society think alcohol affects people. So in societies where people think alcohol makes you rowdy, you have rowdy drunks. In societies where people think alcohol makes you solemn, you get circles of men sitting around drinking and getting solemner and solemner until they pass out.

This is plausible from first-person experience also. There are certain genuine physiological effects (dizziness, slightly slowed reactions), and in my case those effects remind me of nights with the Gang in college, being silly and sometimes rowdy (in a safe nerdy way, of course). So now I have an excuse, and even perhaps a duty, to act that way. But if the effects reminded me of my solemn indoctrination into the solemnity of the Men's Solemn Drinking Circle, I'd probably come over all solemn. Eh, what?

Anyway, there's a new Bryce image (made before the ingestion of the alcohol) available from the PICTURES page; it's called "Snips and Snails", for a rather tenuous reason that you can read in the Notes.

I really like Bryce: you can just sit down and make a beautiful realistically-rendered image of whatever the heck (within reasonably broad limits) springs to mind. What I really want, though, is a programmatic API to it, so that I could write a program that would create little worlds (with skies and oceans and mountains and objects and textures and light-sources) and give them to Bryce to wonderfully render. That would be bliss, indeed.

I wonder if you're reading this today? The laptop here is currently all confused about things related to the network and dialups and things. So this may not get up until Monday. But I thought I'd write it now anyway. Type type type type type...

Friday, February 23, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

I'd like to point out (to, for instance, any of the gazillions of readers who have clicked through from this Metafilter thread on Web standards) that my little essay about CSS yesterday was meant primarily as humor, not as a Serious Statement About Important Issues of Web Standardization. I think HTML4 and CSS are in fact reasonably hoopy, I know that in some cases they really do produce smaller files than the Traditional Approach, and I may even use them on some pages sometime soon.

(On the other hand, I do think it's sort of a bummer that even Zeldman couldn't figure out how to do a simple three-panel layout in CSS2, and I do think some of the claims made about CSS's enabling of accessibilty and repurposing are often overstated. Remind me to rant sometime about how unlikely I think it is that any device will be based around a grainy four-line monochrome screen a few years from now.)

So to this eloquent bit of reader feedback:

external css files get cashed so you load them once only (that saves a lot) you won't be using <font> and its attributes, save a LOT more, instead of <div class=".."> define any predefined html construct, mh how'bout <h5> and that's cheaper than <center> then substract all need for <table><tr><th><td><caption> and closing tags, and your argument against CSS looks so ridiculous now.

I will just point out that (a) I know external stylesheets get "cashed", that was included in the calculations, (b) I know that CSS doesn't always use more characters than old-style HTML (the essay was humor), (c) I really doubt that redefining the "h5" tag to mean "ironic comment about elves" is really what the standards people have in mind for the future of the Semantic Web, and (d) what argument against CSS? The essay is about why CSS is so wonderful! *8)

But that's already entirely too much about that.

Poll input is flowing in, but I'll wait for a bit more before posting results; make your voice heard if'n you ain't yet.

Meme Patrol! A reader writes:

All your base are belong to us.

What you say!!

HA HA HA HA ....

Readers unacquainted with this latest Mind Craze might want to start with the animated GIF, and then move on to the amazing Flash movie (if the server's not overloaded), and then to the gift shop. Readers desiring actual facts rather than raw experience can check out the Register article; readers desiring FAQs can check out the FAQ.

I wonder if Japanese memesmiths make stuff out of stuff that gets badly translated from English to Japanese? I'm not sure if that culture is sufficiently saturated with irony yet, though.

Pic o' the week: I strive to make every day a productive one.

I finished Noir. It was pretty good; a little long and bleak for my taste, but with some very novel and pleasantly over-the-top tech and soc speculation. The hero (who I never really got to like, or even admire, unlike the archetypal hard-boiled detective, who always has a heart of gold), makes his living vivisecting and torturing copyright violators, and he has a long bulleted list of rationalizations for why that's OK. The "About the Author" page in the back claims that "an essay on the copyright issues raised in his novel NOIR can be located at http://www.europa.com/~jeter/copyrights.html". Well, maybe it can be located there, but apparently it isn't. Pity!

For one of the other sides of the Copyright Question, I recommend this transcript of an interview with Eben Moglen (author of Anarchism Triumphant: Free Software and the Death of Copyright). Yeah, it's not exactly a new viewpoint, but this guy is a scholar of legal history, not an open-source geek. (Ref from lorem ipsum).

WORTHINGTON: Won't some kinds of cultural production simply fall by the wayside in a world of free distribution?

MOGLEN: Of course, but look, the same is true with respect to pyramids. Without hydraulic despotism and the divine right kingship of the pharaoh, we will underproduce pyramids. Now, we've been underproducing pyramids for three thousand years, and pyramids are beautiful but it isn't hurting us. ...

We are going to a society which is not this one. We are always aiming at a moving target. The problem with analysis based on where we are now is that we are standing in the middle of tidal wave and trying to figure out how wet we are around the ankles. It just doesn't matter very much.

Title o' the day: Murphy's law, the fitness of evolving species, and the limits of software reliability.

I was never sure if I believed the Register when they accused IBM of being out to put copy-protection on every hard drive, but now they say "IBM withdraws CPRM for hard drives proposal", so perhaps All is Forgiven in any case.

A confessed reader of this here Log gives us some personal micro-reviews of a few of the books she recommended the other week (as well as a memory of Jean (Jean?) Shepherd that sounds a lot like mine).

Sylloge has stopped using them (uh) unique Finnish dates on his entries. Will I now go there more often, because I'll be able to tell how fresh the words are?

And last but by no means least, The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices Online.


earlier entries