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Thursday, June 7, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Gimme another o' them:

you didn't finish the first one!

cogs in an efficient and effective machine: the barnraising in the film, Witness.

sinful ol' janx spirit

"Gimme another o'them" thingamajigs

A huge Orson Scott Card fan writes:

As a huge Orson Scott Card fan, I truly believe that Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide are great books. Stop by the www.hatrack.com forums sometimes too, cuz it's a great community

I dunno, it's a very long time since I read "Speaker for the Dead", and I don't know if I've ever read "Xenocide". What I remember of "Speaker" is a sort of heavy self-absorbedness. Maybe if I read them again I'd like them better. In general I probably have an irrational bias against long novel serieses ("serieses"?).

Someone who's not a fan of huge female breasts writes:

I, myself, am not a fan of huge female breasts. Not specifically. The bare part and the breast part, well of course, who could avoid being a fan? But the huge part ... I mean, not that that's bad necessarily, it's just not necessary. That is, cans need not be Family Size in order to develop a sizable following. Do you follow me?

I follow you up to the part about cans developing followings. Then I get sort of lost.

G. Anderson, her face

Speaking of beauty, I have to agree with the reader who recommended this image to Steve (and not just for the sake of self-consistency). This is not a "sex toy of the patriarchy" image. This is a "woman as simultaneously terrifying and entrancing force of nature" image. If I had this face on my desktop wallpaper, I'd never get any work done. In fact simply having this face exist on the Web may keep me from ever getting any more work done.

On the speakers: Tamil Stream; which has, again, the advantage of being both human-voice and incomprehensible (to me). No source of incomprehensible spoken-word streams has appeared, but the music is actually pretty nice.

Steve (again) wonders about stereotypes and stereotypes; relatedly, Medley points to this very memorable satire on gender-neutral language. I waffle enormously in my opinion about gender-neutral language; this page makes the case for one side pretty pointedly!

Publicity stunt, nefarious plot, or uncommon sense? You decide:

SurfControl - one of the world's largest manufacturers of Internet filtering and monitoring products - this week said it openly opposes an effort in Massachusetts to force libraries to use filtering technology.

Group Sues to Publish Flaws Found in Anti-Piracy Technology:

A team of computer scientists yesterday filed suit against the music industry, asserting its right to publish information about potential flaws in new technology that is intended to prevent digital songs from being copied illegally.

Go fer it!

The above link, and various other ones over the weeks and months ahead and behind, from the very excellant Gigalaw, which has (among lots and lots of other stuff) an interesting (if very brief) article on the legal issues involved in libraries using filtering software. (The offical davidchess.com party line is of course that this is a Very Bad Idea. So watch yourselves!)

Wednesday, June 6, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Ain't no doubt about it
We were doubly blessed;
'Cause we were barely seventeen
And we were barely dressed   --

On the speakers: Bat Out of Hell (remastered). I remember being barely seventeen and barely dressed. Nostalgic sigh...

These record clubs are a real cheat; we ordered three CDs for only $9.98 each, free shipping and handling, and when they came the invoice was for almost thirty dollars! Can you imagine?

Speaking of cheats, a reader writes regarding our whining about lame class-action settlements:

You always have the option not to agree to the class-action settlement, and then you retain the right to sue EvilCorp for their transgression on your own.

Quite true. And in fact according to the very long receipt I can object to the settlement (since it's not final yet) even if I stay in the class. But I don't want to do any of that; if I've actually been cheated out of any late fees by Blockbuster, the amount is orders of magnitude smaller than the effort it would take to figure out what form to fill out and where to send it.

So I still don't know just what Blockbuster is accused of. At the Gym this morning (Simulated Cross-Country Skiing Builds Strength! Strength Crushes Enemies!), I looked up at the TV just too late (tsk!) to see a couple of Guys in Ties talking about it. I didn't see anything significant about it amid the random "my local store manager is a jerk" rantings at ihateblockbuster.com.

The only relevant thing I found in a Google search was some interesting but brief stuff at the bottom of this page about upgrades to a video-store cash register software package. Apparently some states think it's unreasonable to have the late fee be larger than the basic cost of the rental, even if the rental was a promo for a dollar. Phht! Thanks, but I don't really need the government micromanaging my local video store.

Eerie synchronicity: Rebecca Blood and I have both noticed that J. Peterman is back (there's some very funny stuff in the paper catalog; I should bring it in and scan it), and we've both been called for jury duty. Mine isn't until July 2nd, though.

The Web site for jurors in New York is NyJuror.com; what the heck is that doing in dot-com? Wurra wurra wurra. I should report this to Steve.

"You -- you were once Anna Kilgannon!"

The great being turned its head slowly toward him, trails of glory flowing from its enormous mane out into the glowing vastnesses of space.

It seemed to smile.

"If that meant anything, Dr. Jansen," the immense voice sang, "it would be true."

Become Posthuman! I'm on one of my periodic transcendence kicks, and I've been investigating various Extropian and Transhumanist and generally trippy stuff along those lines. It's good fun.

Last night while putting little boy to bed I did a little meditation, which I haven't done seriously in years (I have this "falling asleep" problem that I need to work on), but then he wanted me to sing him songs, so that was the end of Evolution Through Quieting the Inner Voices for awhile. I've never tried smart drugs; I'm very happy to let someone else play with those.

At the same time, the persistent curiosity of psychonauts and the endless potential for pharmacological novelty may have created a perpetually expanding zone of gray-market psychedelia. "Humans are going to keep inventing these things faster than the government's going to make them illegal," says Scotto, pointing out that the efflorescence of esoteric synthetic compounds mocks the "logic" of the war on drugs. "Are we going to reach the point where I can be imprisoned for doing twenty milligrams of 4-acetoxy diisopropyltryptamine in my bathtub, when nobody even knows what that fucking is? What kind of culture is that?"

That's Adventures through Inner Space, by Erik Davis, who has a rather trippy website himself.

I've also just subscribed to an Extropians list and a Transhumanists list. Both in digest form, and no traffic received yet. It'll probably be full of whackos, and I'll drop out next week. But it's worth a shot!

Transcendance really sounds like fun! Sometimes, anyway.

(Maybe it has something to do with no longer being barely seventeen (or barely dressed). Or maybe not...)

Tuesday, June 5, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Game Two of CEOLN Nomic is over! Actually it was over on Friday, but I forgot to mention it. Assuming, of course, that when Rule XXX says that the Game is "complete" it means that it's over. Which seems reasonable.

I'm not presently interested in doing a Game Three in the same style as Games One and Two, but I would like to do something sort of semi-structured. Maybe I'll revive the Quest in a slightly more focused form. Or maybe we could write silly stories in some collaborative mode. Or maybe we could do some flavor of my Completely Formal Nomic idea. Suggestions welcome!

Class Action Suits: (What I really need to have here is some clever pun on the phrase, as it's really begging for it; but instead I'm just going to say things relevant to the exoteric meaning.) Has anyone else noticed that the "settlements" in consumer Class Action suits tend to be incredibly lame? There was some Class Action Suit against some airline the other year, and I was apparently one of the victimized Class, and after filling out some form or other what I got in the mail from the airline was a couple of coupons good for a free upgrade or a discount fare or something, if I flew on a prime-numbered Thursday in Spring from an airport in the southwestern corner of the state, if I gave them six months advance notice, and if it was on a flight that wasn't very full anyway.

Similarly, when I rented "Ghost in the Shell" the other day at my local Blockbuster, the cash register receipt was about three feet long, most of it covered with densely-packed legalese. Deciphered, the legalese says that if the subject Class Action Suit is settled as they expect it will be settled, and I fill out some form, then in return for having cheated their customers on "extended viewing or nonreturn fees" for nine years, they will send me 'some or all of (1) $1.00 off any rental or non-food purchase; (2) free "Blockbuster Favorites" and five-day rentals; and (3) "rent one get one free" rentals.' If I paid lots and lots of "extended viewing or nonreturn fees", I can get even more valuable coupons.

Isn't that wonderful? The criminal justice system has spent acres of money and employed barnloads to lawyers to force Blockbuster to atone for its crimes by sending me in the mail exactly the same stuff that they send me in the mail several times a month anyway. Woo-woo!

Anyone who knows any more about this is urged to chime in. I couldn't help commenting on the surface irony...

Ghost in the Shell was pretty good. Very nice cinematography (or whatever you call it when it's animated!), acceptable dialogue (as opposed to "horribly painful dialogue" in all too many animated and/or SF works), good music, reasonably interesting characters. Basic premise won't be new to regular readers of modern SF, but the treatment is good. The art suffers slightly from a rather embarassing fascination with (huge, bare) female breasts, but we must all make some sacrifices.

The guy at the counter in the video store said "Good choice, that's one of my favorite movies!". So we talked about anime (animé?) a little, and about a "10 Must-See Anime" story I'd seen in some magazine, and he agreed I ought to see "Akira", but he'd never heard of "Perfect Blue". I forgot to mention "My Neighbor Totoro", which I also mean to see someday. And "Serial Experiments Lain". And...

(We all liked "Kiki's Delivery Service" way back in 1999, although I didn't think it really needed the exploding blimp.)

Good animated stories for grownups without egregious breasts or superfluous explosions are something that I pine for. Breasts and explosions that are valuable to the plot or narrative flow or effect are fine, of course. Although I'm sorta tired of works where the plot or narrative flow or effect are primarily involved with explosions. And, to a lesser extent, with breasts. Is that all we ever think about?

(Oh, hush up and go watch "My Dinner with André" or something.)

Run away! There's a whole Yahoo group about the various (eccentric) theories as to why the U.S. Income Tax is unconstitutional, or why you don't actually have to pay it, and so on. These people are deluded, as I've said before: if you want to reform the tax system, reform the tax system, don't claim that it doesn't really exist due to a typo back in 1702! But there is absolutely no reason for me to ever post anything to that group pointing out the fact. Never, never, never, never.

Speaking of constitutional things, Exploring Constitutional Conflicts is a nicely-organized site about various constitutional issues and the laws and controversies surrounding them, including relevant Supreme Court cases. A good resource for my Supreme Court decision reading (which has now spread from obscenity cases to cases on discrimination against homosexuals, sex laws in general, miscegenation, and separation of Church and State; tons of interesting stuff in there!).

Weblogs in odd places: okay, so it's not quite a weblog, but the "vanity cards" that are apparently flashed on the screen after each episode of "Dharma and Greg" (a television program?) definitely have the same flavor. A little background, and the official site.

Monday, June 4, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

What is so rare as a day in June? Readers write:

Swoon, swoon! It's the first of June! Outdoor weddings start real soon!

the best of all possible months, the annual celebration of hope and indulgence, the fulfillment of the broken promises of winter.

And in the interest of keeping me honest, someone that I suspect is Ian writes:

I beg to report that it was me that started patent/pattern...

So that's cleared up.

All sortsa stuff I could natter on about, but I decided to get some actual work done for a change, so there's not much time to natter in. The highlight of the weekend was probably showing the little daughter around the innards of Firestone Library (after finding out that my access card, which is older than she is, was still valid to get me past the turnstiles).

It's indescribably heartening to see one's own offspring just as entranced by miles and miles and miles of books, some of them huge dusty old things in Spanish with ornate bindings and full of illustrations of Central American coffee plantations, as one was (is!) oneself.

Tiananmen -- 12 years

What else shall we mention? Ah, yes...

"So did you find a protractor?"

"Yep! And, oh, I stopped at the Lions' Club tag sale on the way home, and..."


"Well, they had some books."

"You didn't!"

It was only seven books, and they were only a dollar (total). And worth every penny!

Eric van Lustbader, "The Miko"; looks like a fun potboiler, with lots of sex and lies and videotape and Tokyo street names.

Ayn Rand, "We the Living", because my current copy's spine is so broken that pages threaten to fall out, and I hate reading books like that. Now maybe I'll actually finish it!

Arthur Hailey, "Overload", also a potboiler, this time about (hey!) a serious electricity crisis threatening the U.S.; I've seen it cited once or twice on the Web in reference to the current fun in California.

John Norman, "Fighting Slave of Gor"; hey, it's a Gor book! Sex and aliens and Thud and Blunder. I read lots of Gor books as a (hormone-saturated) kid, but I'm always running across ones I missed. Needless to say, I don't consider Norman's sexual philosophy particularly realistic or desirable! *8)

Robert Ludlum, "The Icarus Agenda"; I dunno why I buy Ludlum books (even seven for a dollar). I always regret reading them. There must be some subconscious appeal of some kind. (I'm amused to note that Amazon says I can buy a used copy of "The Icarus Agenda" for one cent; cool!)

Tacitus's "Agricola" and "Germania", for some reason bundled under the title "On Britain and Germany". It had a nice scholarly-looking cover, and I harbor fantasies of someday being a scholarly fellow myself...

Orson Scott Card, "The Abyss"; they sure loved it on Amazon! I've never seen the movie, and I think Card should have stopped the series after "Ender's Game" (or at least no more than about four novels after it), but still; worth the fifteen cents, I thought.

And that's all we have time for right now, folks. Thanks for tuning in, and be sure to join us next fneazle, for more "Kubbema of the Norshti'i"!

Friday, June 1, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

So last night I went to the Authentic Science Research Symposium at a local high school, to see the young man I'm mentoring give his talk and generally to see what-all the kids are doing.

My mentee (is that a word?) was one of the three Featured Senior Speakers. One of the other ones was presenting research entitled "Non-circadian Activating Effects of Extraocular Light Exposure on Cognitive Performance and Electroencephalography in Humans", which means "Are you smarter when there's light shining on your skin?".

Turns out there's been some research on this, mostly involving the backs of the knees. The backs of the knees are called "popliteal" in Snooty Science Jargon, and if you search on "extraocular light popliteal" you can find various stories and opinions on this stuff.

In the question period I asked her about proposed mechanisms. As the Web confirms, the leading theory (such as it is) seems to be that there's something photosensitive in the blood, and when your blood (which almost always means your skin, of course) sees light, something in it changes, and that can lead to shifts in circadian rhythms, possibly increased alertness, and so on. Or it may be a completely whacko theory based entirely on statistical accidents in the data from a few careless studies. Who knows!

(The particular pretty high-school girl in this case didn't seem to be presenting any numbers on the statistical significance of her results, and at least one set of numbers suggested an effect opposite to what she'd hypothesized, so I dunno if what she presented was actually evidence one way or the other.)

Stop Clown Porn Now!

Stop Clown Porn Now! (link indirectly from Debra Hyde, to whom since I still owe a letter I will mention here how pleased I was to be referred to as as a friend the other day.)

One problem with not watching much TV is that you can't tell when something's a joke. Is that a joke?

A long time ago we had a thread about fictional weblog goodbyes, and I started thinking about a page on which to store both the fictional ones, and perhaps real ones also, but that page never got beyond the back of my mind. Now here's a page recording the goodbyes (and haitus messages) of various real-live weblogs. A good archival idea in general; I'm not sure that the "fucked" theme adds to the scholarly legitimacy of the endeavor, though.

Paul Ford writes really well, even when he sucks.

Weeks ago at lunch John was telling us this story about how someone was planning to build this like forty-mile tunnel under the Hudson River and Westchester County and maybe Long Island Sound, to connect like northern New Jersey to Long Island. Now we don't always believe absolutely all the stories that John tells us at lunch, and this one came in for a bit of polite and modestly expressed scepticism, but it turns out that it's more or less true! Dunno where John gets these things.

A spontaneous Angel Angle from the lunchtime walk today: Patent / Pattern. Mostly works only in one direction, but it's fun. Bill started it by accidentally saying "There are patents everywhere" (Words to Live By!). I thought of "Patent recognition" and "Quilt patents". Come to think of it, "U.S. Pattern Office" has a nice ring to it...


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