log (2001/04/27 to 2001/05/03)

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Thursday, May 3, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

"After returning home from Europe, I got back on my meds, and guess what? I've been doing well ever since. For so many years I was searching for happiness in athletic achievement, when all I had to do was focus on my health."

That's track star Derrick Adkins, writing in the latest Newsweek; it's a thought-provoking piece. His track career, he says, was in some important way just an attempt to escape from depression. It didn't work very well, and it turns out that a new antidepressant drug works much better. So he's happier now; but he's not breaking any more track records.

How many of what we regard as great and noteworthy human acheivements similarly spring from attempts to escape, or rechannel, or otherwise deal with conditions that we can now help more efficiently with drugs? Monet, Picasso, Phil Dick. What kind of world would it be (will it be) when more of these kinds of problems, struggles, angsts, can be twiddled away without going near the extremes?

Note that I'm not saying it'll be a worse world, or that Adkins or anyone else ought in any sense to take the harder way out rather than the easier way. I just wonder how things will change. What great works will we lose? What great works will we gain? Will the ones we gain be different in systematic ways from the ones we lose? Will we lose some angst and edge, gain some wisdom and calm?

Sounds a little like growing up...   *8)

John Ashcroft holds morning prayer meetings in his office. Sheesh! How can that even be constitutional? I know if a manager at IBM were to start holding prayer breakfasts in the office, he'd find himself having a Serious Talk with Human Resources and a few layers of management above him.

Although the morning prayers are Christian, the small RAMP gatherings ("Reading, Argument, Memorize and Prayer") are "relaxed" and "extremely educational," said Shamon Stein, a regular attendee and Orthodox Jew.

I wonder what impact this has on the career potential of non-Christian Justice Department employees who don't consider Christian prayer meetings to be "extremely educational"? Gad...

Newsweek's "Cyberscope" is keeping an eye on the Meme front. Their pick for a successor to All Your Base is the martial-arts stick-figure Flash movies from Sohu.com. I'm not entirely convinced; sure it's a meme in that you can send the URL to all your friends, but it doesn't have that "useful in common conversation" hook that All Your Base benefits so much from.


Faces in the Margin: Today an image about which I have no qualms at all! Dad took a couple of pictures of Gramma (my mother's mother), and they came out so well I just had to ask permission to post them here. Gramma has a great face; I hope I have that same look when I'm a Grampa. (Given the genes involved, I probably I have a crack at it if I live the right life.)

Be glad you don't run an IIS server. Ouch! Hope your credit card number isn't on too many of them, either...

Microsoft says "Open source is an awful idea, and besides we're already doing it anyway." (As usual, use "fubar" for username and password if the Times asks for one.) My favorite IBM quote from that article:

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, an I.B.M. vice president, said, "If we thought this was a trap, we wouldn't be doing it, and as you know, we have a lot of lawyers."

Eric Raymond wrote a response to the Microsoft statements before he'd even seen them. His predictions about what they'd say were pretty accurate!

Equal time: having relayed two unfortunate things about Microsoft, I'm happy to be able to relay a positive one:

Thank you for contacting Microsoft Update Support. My name is Tom and I will be assisting you with your case.

We have located a problem concerning the March 29 and Feb 27 part #1 Critical Updates, that if installed out of order, will cause the Feb 27th update to fail. The March 29th Critical Update has been temporarily removed from the Windows Update Site and will be reposted when the package has been redesigned to prevent this from occurring in the future. However, as you are already seeing a failure for the February 27th Critical Update #1, we have some troubleshooting steps that will allow this patch to be installed, and eliminate the problem for you.

It took me awhile to find the right place to report the Critical Update problems that I mentioned Tuesday, but once I did it took them only about a day to get back to me with a solution. The solution instructions weren't perfect, but they were enough that I could solve the problem. Real technical support with a real human attached! Good stuff.

Internet commerce: I've given money to two webby things in the last few days: I signed up for Salon's Premium Service (it was cheap), and I registered Opera (no more ad banner). Gosh, I feel so XXIst Century!   *8)

"To illustrate my point, I've "adjusted" a few comics from my morning newspaper, and transformed them into comix. Or funnyz. What was once mainstream is now Art House."

Abortion and speech: Salon piece on a hopeful-looking Congressional attempt to get rid of the gag order that prevents any U.S. funded international organization from even mentioning abortion (putting the gag order into place was Bush Jr's first act as President de jure). See also "How Med Students Put Abortion Back In The Classroom", about reversing the disturbing trend toward there simply being no doctors who know how to perform the procedure.

And finally, a JanesGuide interview with Susie Bright, about her new book "How to Read / Write a Dirty Story" and all sortsa other stuff.

Notary Sojac!

Wednesday, May 2, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

I are a poet! My (untitled) poem got an Honorable Mention in the recent Geegaw poetry contest. What fun!

Also, markpasc linked to the other day's wet dog story with pretty much the best possible praise: "Good web writing", he said. In celebration of which I will spend another day just sort of spouting links at random, without any serious writing in evidence.   *8)

Friendly greetings to the rest of the referer log as well, including at random: the counters-down at Electromagnetic (mysteriously also known as LessCrack), and Generosity and Caterina and Beth and Hans and even that old PHP article by Doug Sheppard. And of course my favorite referer of all: "bookmarks"...

(I'm not linking to these places simply out of some incestuous content-free "let's all link to each other" spirit; if you like reading me, there's a better-than-average chance you'll like reading at least some of these also. For more of that, of course, see also the list.)

A new CERT advisory, "Statistical Weaknesses in TCP/IP Initial Sequence Numbers" is notable in that it's not all that common for computer security advisories to mention the Central Limit Theorem. Can anyone think of a good security hole based on, say, the Four Color Map Theorem? Or Cantor's Continuum Problem?


So I finished Antonioni's "That Bowling Alley on the Tiber", and it was very cool, and now I want to see one of his movies or something. "Blow Up" is famous; has anyone (here) seen it? Is it good? Or maybe I can see (if I can find) "Beyond the Clouds", his most recent (yes?) movie, which is apparently based on some of the scenarios laid out in the book. Has anyone seen that?

Thoughtful piece in The Nation by Bill Moyers, about journalism and stuff.

One of those Salon pieces that are really funny but you feel sort of ashamed of having read:

As a polyorgasmic bisexual porn star stripper, I can't claim to be an arbiter of taste, but even a low-class broad like me could see that Jay was a well-educated 30-year-old whose vulgarity quotient exceeded that of third-generation adolescent high-school-dropout trailer park inhabitants. Could I manage to overlook this? It was going to be tough.

(The article that it's a response to isn't nearly as spirited; I'm not sure why it was published.)

Not about sex, a Salon article about Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico, and how stupid the War on Drugs is.

A great "life in the city" story from Sylloge.

Complicated fusses III: Philip Greenspun and DigitalMass on the big Ars Digita broo-ha-ha.

So if a police officer arrests you for a trivial infraction and takes you down to the station and they throw you into a cell, you can try to get the officer fired, you can make a stink at the next Town Council meeting, but don't bother trying to sue on Fourth Amendment grounds.

Petitioner Atwater drove her truck in Lago Vista, Texas, with her small children in the front seat. None of them was wearing a seatbelt. Respondent Turek, then a Lago Vista policeman, observed the seatbelt violations, pulled Atwater over, verbally berated her, handcuffed her, placed her in his squad car, and drove her to the local police station, where she was made to remove her shoes, jewelry, and eyeglasses, and empty her pockets. Officers took her "mug shot" and placed her, alone, in a jail cell for about an hour, after which she was taken before a magistrate and released on bond.

I've been reading the actual Court decision in the case, and it's pretty interesting. I haven't gotten to the dissents yet. The basic issues and principles at stake, though, are pretty well laid-out, and very cogently discussed. It's incredibly neat that all these SCOTUS decisions are on the Web; I suspect that just reading them regularly would both make one a better citizen and significantly increase the I.Q..

(Isn't it annoying when a sentence ends with an abbreviation like that? What does the Manual of Style say?)

Tuesday, May 1, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Hooray, hooray,
It's the first of May!
Outdoor fucking
Starts today!

Reader input, and a zillion unsorted links. Hope you don't mind incoherence and disorganization...

A reader writes:

Joke : What is red and invisible?

and then perhaps the same reader gives what is perhaps the answer:

Joke : No tomatoes!

Various approaches to the Hovercraft. Several readers took the standard approach: My hovercraft is...

filled with eels. (That's way too easy.)
full of eels.
full of eels

and some spun variations: My hovercraft is...

running nicely now. It was full of eels for the longest time, but, as it turns out, de-eeling comes relatively cheap.


exploding with delight

full, so flee!

Extra points for figuring out that last one without the hint that was typed into the box but that I'm heartlessly withholding from you.

My hovercraft is...


belong to me

double parked.

named Tom.

poised to take me past Larry Fine's grave next time I'm in Glendale CA. (I guess I was a Woman Who Ran With The Stooges, although it never occurred to me that I wasn't supposed to like them because I was a girl).



bare bones with a holographic image of Tori Amos on the bottom but then I fly mostly upside down.

the kind that runs between seconds, sort of like the way ghosts work, so you can't really see it unless you blink your eyes just right, or unless you're a ghost.

in my other jacket.

Well, you know about the eels already. Why do you have qualms about promoting talented musicians in your left-hand column? Would a picture of Tori Amos tickling a rat be okay? What about vice versa? Anyway, dammit, it's 2001 and I want the hovercraft that I was promised. Or at least a jet-pack for short trips. Oh well, Daddy said he might get me a picture phone. It's something, anyway.

Those qualms: they're becoming increasingly vague. They have (had) something to do with fearing that, by putting only pictures of pretty (pretty female) talented musicians (and so on) in my left-hand column, I might be supporting a cultural system that tells females that they must be pretty (and pretty by a morally and aesthetically suspect standard) if they are to be valuable; see many paragraphs of self-absorbed pondering in the last few weeks. But I'm concluding (I think, for the time being) that I can more or less trust my intuitions here, and that someone who's pretty because they're happy, or wise, or strong, or even just healthy, is a fine subject for a margin thumbnail. See for instance Asia Carrera yesterday.

(Attempting to check that link, I notice that AsiaCarrera.com isn't accessible this morning. My apologies to Ms. Carrera if my linking to her site in my log has caused her server to be overwhelmed with requests. Hee hee hee hee hee hee!)

From Geegaw, an utterly marvelous story from the Leviathan comic strip. The Surprise Ending has for some reason put me in a much better mood than I started out the morning.

Ogg Vorbis, an open-source and patent-free audio encoding and streaming technology. With a funny name!

Andrew A. Gill points out that the Register points out that Google now has the entire DejaNews archive online! So everything back to 1995 is now there again. Hurrah!

Moving a million-pound turbine.

"It's quite a surprising mistake to make to be honest, because the website says things like how to get there from places like London, which may suggest to some people that it's not actually in Guangzhou."

Remember back when people would joke about being able to order pizza on the Web? Well, to quote this flyer that came in the mail, The Future is Here!. ("Order History! Complete Online Menu!") Of course part of the future is that you have to sign up and tell them stuff about yourself.

I mentioned the other day that the Windows Critical Update thing wasn't telling me about a recent security hole, and I'd installed the patches myself. This was perhaps a mistake: now once a day Windows tells me that there's a critical update I should really install, and when I go and try to install it, it says that the installation "failed", and I should use the back button to go try again. Trying again doesn't work any better. Sigh!

Concerned about the influence of the Internet on the young? In one jurisdiction, regulations were just enacted to keep "Internet Cafés" off of main thoroughfares, and away from schools and government offices. An official was quoted as saying "We cannot neglect the influence of the Internet on teenagers' growth and social development," and noting that scores of teenagers are addicted to the Internet, "indulging" themselves in online games, chatrooms and pornography.

John Ashcroft, perhaps? Nope! Wu Jichuan, Chinese Information Industry Minister! And the regulations were promulgated after a bank economist was sentenced to four years in prison for posting "subversive" pro-democracy writings to overseas websites. (Nando Times article)

So next time they talk about Internet restrictions "to protect the young" in your country, think about what a law like that would actually be used to restrict.

What does the U. S. Postal Service do with mail it can't deliver? Maybe it should sell it on eBay, ha ha ha!

Oh! It does? It does.

Whew, what a lot of stuff! There's still more stuff in the "consider logging" file, but I flag. Be good!

Monday, April 30, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

We went up to Boston over the weekend, for a birthday party and general visiting. On the way up, we stopped yet again at the Traveller's Food and Books for dinner. I took a copy of Allen Drury's "Decision", and (for an extra quarter) Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart".

I spent lots of days (and nights) in college studying in the library of my eating club, and in that library was a whole row of Drury. During study breaks, I read at least three of the novels in his most famous series: "Advise and Consent", "Capable of Honor", "Preserve and Protect". I remember them, vaguely, as readable, interesting, sometimes straightforwardly propagandizing for various conservative ideas, but in a mostly honest way, a way that let me weigh my own ideas against them rationally and come out knowing more than I started with.

"Decision" is about the Supreme Court, and the tension between the personal interests and affairs of the Justices, and the interests of the country and the law. Very relevant in these post "Bush v. Gore" days! I've just started reading it. Not much about it on the Web, the few pages I've been able to find about Drury don't mention this book, and the one review on the Amazon page doesn't seem amazingly credible.

Similarly, many (many!) of the reviews of "Things Fall Apart" on its Amazon page seem to be by reluctant students forced to read and over-analyze it, and venting their wrath on the Web. More interesting fodder for the issue of rating and reputation in an open worldwide community...

In Boston, I borrowed my hosts' DVD of Princess Mononoke. In the unlikely event that I'm not the last clued person on the planet who hadn't seen it yet, I'll urge anyone who hasn't to immediately do so. It's lush and lovely, powerfully drawn characters in complex and realistic interaction in a highly involving world. The ending is strong but not simplistic; the good guys don't win, because there weren't obvious good guys and bad guys, nor any obvious winners (or losers). Probably too gory for kids (severed heads and limbs, buckets of blood, that sort of thing), but recommended for all adults.

After I watched the main English feature on the disc (half up north on a really cute little dedicated DVD player and half at home on the playroom PC, where the sound wasn't nearly as good), I watched the last two sequences ("chapters") again in Japanese (to get some feeling for the tones and rhythms of the speech as originally written). Then I looked up which character Gillian Anderson did the voice for (having been too caught up during my first viewing to remember anything as external as that), and went back and replayed the chapter where that character has the most dialogue. Anderson was the perfect choice for that particular sultry, dangerous voice.

Not having used very many DVDs, I'm still amazed at being able to do stuff like that! What a world...

Ms. Carrera

On the way back home, we made very good time until the traffic came to a complete stop on I84 for half an hour while the fire trucks put out the bus that was on fire (big red-brown flames and lots of black sooty smoke) on the shoulder a few hundred feet ahead of us. Didn't see any ambulances, so hopefully this was an empty bus, and the driver got well clear before things got bad (the fire was mostly in the back, at least from the brief glimpse of the charred remains we got when we finally drove by). Sobering, still.

On a lighter note, I can't resist making this today's morally uplifting image: renowned porn star Asia Carrera shows off her pussy.   *8)

Friday, April 27, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

On swimming dogs, a reader points out:

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I've also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.   --

People keep saying "You are the weakest link; goodbye!" in my hearing. Some friend of the little daughters said (to the little daughter, not to me) that I look like "the Dad on Stepsister from Planet Weird". Some New York Times article referred offhandedly to "Montgomery Burns". This morning the TV in the kitchen said something about there being only three people left on "Survivor", and I said "Is that 'Survivor' thing still on?", and M teased me.

"You're out of touch," she said.

Indeed! Is there like a Website somewhere that I could go to keep up with the memes and scenes of TV culture, without having to like watch it or anything?

I've been downloading old saved mail from the mainframe VM/CMS system where I more or less lived for like fifteen years but have now almost entirely moved off of except for a couple of automatic processes that I haven't gotten around to porting elsewhere yet. It's a strange feeling; like going back to a place where you used to (actually) live and still own, and realizing how long it's been since you opened that window, flushed that toilet, looked at the books on those shelves.

And of course the 2,000-odd files and 60-odd megabytes that was filling up pretty much all my mailframe disk space now fits into a small corner of the laptop's hard drive. (Hardly a novel observation, I know.) Have I told you about driving across country the summer after I undergradutated, and seeing the house that I spent the first five years of my life in, and how tiny it was?

Arizona is apparently contemplating repealing their laws against sexual activities not intended to produce children (I can't find a link, or even remember where I heard it; tsk!). NPR this morning also had a piece on the controversy over flouridation of drinking water in Arizona (ref precious bodily fluids).

Thinking about it, it's sorta nice from a cultural-diversity angle to have places where recreational sex is illegal and flouridation is considered a Commie plot. Kinda of a bummer for the people who actually live there, though.

One of the links above is to a group that gets the Organization Name of the Week award: the Alliance of Sodomy Supporters. They have a very good database on the various stoopid anti-sex laws that still litter the lawbooks. (I'm glad to see that although New York has a law against "Consensual Sodomy", the courts have found it unconstitutional.)

The fascist slimeballs at the RIAA have prevented some research scientists from presenting a paper on how lame their music encryption scheme is. Fortunately, both the paper and the relevant correspondance are on the Web.

And speaking of lawyers, find the amusing Freudian slip on this page!

Hovercraft coming soon...


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