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Thursday, August 16, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Long-time readers may have noticed that in my comments on Bruce Sterling's blog yesterday I violated at least the spirit of one of my very first rants about how all this stuff should work. So let me rephrase that...

Bruce Sterling has a weblog! That's great; everyone should have a weblog. I do have a few suggestions for Mr. Sterling, though.

  • Sterling is a master content creator; I suspect I'd enjoy a "what I'm thinking today, with occasional supporting and related links where appropriate" blog from him more than a "list of links with a few sentences about each" blog, which is what he has there now.
  • It'd be nice to have a single URL that takes you directly to the latest entry, like most blogs have. The link above is to the "intro" page, and to find the latest entry you have to scroll to the bottom of it and select the most recent-looking blog section, which is extra work.
  • I'd be happier if the entries (or at least the "week"s) were dated; as it is, I'm not sure how old the stuff I'm looking at is, or whether it's worth checking for updates. In fact, it may be that my first sentence above should be "Bruce Sterling had a weblog, briefly, for two weeks in mid-2000 sometime". Dated entries would remove that uncertainty.

Ah, much better. I feel cleansed!

We were at an Enormous Mall today, and in the Enormous Mall there were a bunch of Big Fat Wow! consoles: screens and keyboards and trackballs with some Web browser or other and what seemed to be a very fast connection to the Net. Entirely free! I can't imagine what their revenue model is; it all seems very 1998 somehow.

We went back past the Big Fat Wow! area on the way out, and someone had taken all the balls out of the trackballs. Geez! On the other hand, most or all of the systems were in use anyway; everyone was moving the mouse by sticking their fingers into the empty ball-wells and manually rotating the sensors, Etch-a-Sketch-like. The shame and the glory of being human...

Wednesday, August 15, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

I don't like responsibilities that involve getting the attention of people who don't respond to e-mail.

Not that I always respond to e-mail.

Ray Davis also doodles.

Bruce Sterling has a weblog! And it's amazing the extent to which, despite having a very cool picture of rebecca blood, he gets it wrong. I mean, if there's anyone who should have a "what I've thought today" blog rather than a "list of links with little comments" blog, it's Sterling. And the blog doesn't even have a URL! The link I give above is to the "Intro" page. If you want the Latest Update (which is what you want 99.9% of the time, with a blog), you have to like go to the "Intro" page, scroll to the bottom, and look for the most recent-looking link there. And it's all completely undated, so for all I know my first sentence above should have been "Bruce Sterling had a weblog, briefly, for two weeks in mid-2000 sometime". Phht.

From Alamut, "Does the 'many-worlds' interpretation of quantum mechanics imply immortality?" And if not, why not?


Retrocrush! For anyone who remembers long hours in a dusty attic looking through Dad's old Playboys. I had a bit of a crush on Ann-Margret. Among others. A long time ago, of course! (Warning: the site is a bit close to the edge of sleaze pornsite space, so if you wander onward from it you may get to the Magic Land of Undismissable JavaScript PopUps and Ads for Live Streaming Teen Gay Sex Shows.)

From gorjuss, "The African Internet - A Status Report (May 2001)".

Neti Pots!

Way-cool pranks.

Everyone else has already blogged The Learning Machine Challenge, but now I have too. Sounds incredibly cool at first glance; these guys have abstracted out nearly everything from the concept of a "game" (there are moves; sometimes other people make moves; sometimes you make moves; sometimes you get a score; sometimes the game ends), and solicited programs that can play them, without knowing anything about the rules.

Talking about this at lunch, though, I can't really imagine an approach that would work better than simply saving up all the previous game-state and score events, and then running as many correlations as you have the time and space to manage. If the game you're playing happens to display a correlation that you've included in your arsenal, you do well; otherwise you do less well. Is it possible to do anything much cleverer than that (without real AI at a level we don't know how to do)?

Tuesday, August 14, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

When she came home, through the quiet white door into the apartment after a long afternoon in front of the screen, he was on the terrace, looking down at the city and the brown canal, his pad on his knee.

"The trouble with narrative," he said, "is that the only things strong enough to motivate a story are sex and death."

She smiled.

"I don't have the heart to write about death. And it's entirely too easy to write about sex."

There used to be a little Italian deli on the corner near our house, sharing a tiny commercial island by a traffic light with a hair-styling place, surrounded by blocks and blocks of houses. The Italian deli appeared a few years after we moved in; we've forgotten what it was before that. It closed a few months ago, and just recently "The Lunch Box" opened in the same place.

Breakfast special, two eggs any style, ham bacon or sausage, on a roll, with small coffee, only $2.75.

Having forgotten to buy any interesting cereal at the grocery on Sunday, I stopped at The Lunch Box this morning and had the breakfast special and bought a Times (that is, the New York Times; not the London or Rome or Saskatoon Times). They have three little glass-topped tables with metal chairs, where the Italian deli had shelves with mysterious Italian canned goods and Kraft macaroni and cheese. The whole time I was sitting there eating and reading about sleeping judges, the only other customer was a guy in a baseball cap and a hurry, buying a large coffee.

How can these places possibly make enough money to stay in business? While I was there, they were certainly running a mounting loss (two salaries, rent on the building, aging of inventory; against $3.50 from me and maybe a buck from the guy in the hat). Probably they depend on the Rush. But I'm not sure that particular spot has a Rush; it's not really between anywhere and anywhere important. I wonder if they did a Market Survey before they opened up?

On the speakers: Japanese Trance Station.

So M was at the Dentist, and it occurred to her that she hadn't had to bug me about going to the Dentist recently, so she asked the Dentist (not the dentist, but the Dentist as a corporate entity) how long it'd been since I'd Been, and it turns out I haven't Been since 1998. Ooops. So now I have to go get poked at sometime in September, with sharp metal objects.

Readers respond:


Nothing sucks like Electrolux.

It was too hot. Too hot by half, I say. Too hot to move from the billowing skirt of the great kirche, no matter how they looked, the sides of their eyes lancing at me, St. Stephen in the shadows, St. Stephen of the shadows. Let them look, those who do not live in cardboard houses. Let them cleanse themselves. Let them come to me.

How many technology phrases DON'T sound silly if you're not used to them?

"Hypertext" sounds kinda silly even though I am used to it. Dunno why, really. "Hyper" has a sort of comic-book ring to it, outside of extremely Latinate medical jargon ("hypertrophy of the whatsit").

You missed the "wax tadpole" triplet, I'm sorry to say. Please try again. A good story can be found.

I liked the story I found just fine, thanks! The Coke Name Story is there, too, but everyone knows that one, eh? If you mean some other story, you'll have to post it in your own weblog. Heh heh.

Maybe you should fill the Big Tub with Coke. You know, to save you from that awful DHMO.

Little-known fact: Coke contains large quantities of DHMO. Unless you mean that other kind of Coke...


You are being a bit negative.

Monday, August 13, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Sometimes when it's a busy day and I'm buried in things that I ought to be doing, I think to myself "should I bother writing anything in that there old weblog?". And then I answer to myself "Yes"!

'cause, hey, it's easy! And it doesn't have to be especially well thought out.

Geegaw pays us the Ultimate Compliment by referring to us as "my personal favorite crock o' leibnitz", and then links to Eclogues, another Thing Worth Reading. My favorite blogs (as I'm sure I've said before) tend to be the ones that are stories of people's daily thoughts, rather than say daily events, or just lists of links.

I like thoughts.

WWF v, WWF! The score so far: WWF 1, WWF 0.

In other Namespace News, some feller named Anand Ramnath Mani gets to keep armani.com, and Giorgio is stuck with the two-name version.

Jonathan Rauch is an interesting guy. He's a libertarian conservative type, and he's also gay, and an atheist. Takes guts! I personally refuse to identify with the "conservative" movement unless and until it stops pandering to the Religious Right, "Family Values" homophobes, and other nogoodniks. I mean, having reasonable economic opinions doesn't excuse all that other stuff.

Anyway, Rauch writes various interesting things in a debate about same-sex marriage (and that stupid Constitutional Amendment). There are also comments from people on the other side.

It's funny and/or sad that even someone as comparatively enlightened as Rauch has to say "oh, same-sex marriage wouldn't open any doors to polygamy or anything disgusting and perverted like that". Sigh!

Journal Title o' the Day: The Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation.

mystery doodles

Steve doodles! (I also doodle. Do you doodle?)

Steve also notes that rebeccablood has posted some very good flying shoe spam. I'm amazed to see that after the Ball Bearing spam from Friday I now have a followup, viz:

Subject:   Re: Business

Hello! Do you receive our e-mail? I trust you can see it. We know competition is fierce at a time, in order to improve competitivement and sell successfully. So we can give you competitive quotation upon receipt of your detailed requirements.

For example: 608 at only USD 0.08 per set

So you will find our prices very attractive . Should any of the ball bearings be of interest to you, please feel free to let us know.

We hope our mutual business will start soon.

Thanks & Best Regards

Oliver Pan

China Cixi Xinghe Bearing Factory

Tel:0086-574-63021302   Fax:0086-574-63027302

email:oliver@public.cx.nbptt.zj.cn or chunchao66@hotmail.com

Shall I write these folks and tell them that I don't really need any ball bearings? Or does that just encourage them?

Two quicky legal links (via Gigalaw): new cases on porn (virtual, child and otherwise), and law.com's Supreme Court Monitor pages.

I'm finding the SCOTUS decisions on private discrimination considerably less involving than the ones on pornography, separation of church and state, and homosexuality (i.e. I keep like falling asleep). Is this because I don't have a settled opinion on the matter myself (but that should make them more interesting!), or just because I need to get more sleep?

Friday, August 10, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

A descriptivist reader writes:

Your grammar maven needs to get with the times. "Their" and "they" are becoming perfectly acceptable gender-neutral singular pronouns in American English -- a VASTLY superior solution than the utterly icky "his/her" suggested. Though I think that's what you meant

That is indeed what I meant; in fact I have retroactively corrected the offending sentence, so it is now also what I said. *8) While I'm nothing like consistent, I tend toward a rather radical descriptivism in my grammar: as long as the Target Audience gets the right message without having to scratch their heads unduly, people should say what they like, and grammar mavens should just sit back and marvel.

But on other days I'm much less tolerant. I don't care if everyone reading "it has a pencil up it's nose" can tell exactly what it means; it's still wrong! Wurra wurra wurra!

On one of yesterday's burning questions, Dad writes:

Carrgeenan, derived from the seaweed "Irish Moss" is used in ice cream as a "stabilizer". It prevents the separation of the ingredients and ensures a smooth ice cream.

Irish Moss! I like that.

PaintTheMoon dot com:

The Goal:
To unite millions of people in an effort to 'paint' a red spot on the dark portion of a first-quarter moon using common laser pointers during a five-minute period this autumn.

The Economist nicely outlines the case for drug legalization in "The case for legalisation / Time for a puff of sanity". And they do it in an amusing British accent, too. "Drugs legalisation"; how cute! Tally-ho! Pip-pip! Other patronizing Colonial stereotypes!

Girl Genius

Do you think a little daughter would like a "Girl Genius" T-shirt?

In the spirit of "this item seagate hard disk 20GB" and that guy who wanted to sell gravel to Steve, we present "the exporter of ball bearing":

Subject: re: ball bearings

China Cixi Xinghe Bearing Factory
TEL:0086-574-63021302 FAX:0086-574-63027302
E-MAIL: oliver@public.cx.nbptt.zj.cn or chunchao66@hotmail.com

Dear Sir,

As the exporter of ball bearing having many years experience in this particular line of business, We are glad to have this opportunity to approach you for the establishment of trade relations with you.

Our factory located at Cixi City of ZheJiang province, the town of bearing in china. Our factory is a specialty manufacturer of miniature ball bearing with deep channel in a range of 3mm-25mm, and we manufacture all kinds of ball bearing seals, the output of sea over 1000million pieces.

The factory features in strong technology, fine equipment, advanced process , complete inspection facilities and stable and reliable product quality. Nonstandard custom-made bearing design and manufacture is available.

Should any of the kinds be of interest to you, please let us know. We shall be glad to give you our lowest quotations upon receipt of your detailed requirements. We also may send you sample of our products.

In our trade with merchants of various countries, we always adhere to the principle of equality and mutual benefit. It is our hope to promote, by joint efforts, both trade and friendship to our mutual advantage. If you have interest in any product in this line ,please send E-mail or FAX to me as soon as possible.

We are looking forward to receiving your enquiries soon.

Yours sincerely/Oliver Pan

I wonder how often these emails actually reach people with significant ball-bearing requirements? It's a funny world.

Sloe-eyed productions presents Debbie Does Dallas -- The Play!

And for that matter, Biography's Top Ten People of the Millennium Sing Their Favorite Kurt Weill Songs.

Probably a joke: Microsoft Bundles Worm with IIS.

In response to Steve's friendly chiding, we follow a reverse link to Cane Toads. We also pass along this next bit; whether or not it's a reverse link is left as an exercise for the reader:

Huhn, do the ticket holes;
huhn, to the ricket moles.
Sometimes I feel like I'm drying.

Judges: Don't Monitor Our PCs.

On insulting intelligence, brilliant readers write:

There may not be a reason to insult other people's intelligence, but it sure can be fun!

there's nothing you can do to insult the intelligence of America worse than the Jerry Springer show already does. And American Gladiators, COPS, most of Hollywood's major studio output, etc. etc. etc.

Isn't all that apparently-awful TV and Hollywood stuff intentionally bad, as a kind of deep ironic commentary on the state of contemporary culture? Of course it is contemporary culture. The joys of post-modernism!

And finally some nice juicy content, from a reader who perhaps wants to remind us that we once thought about more serious things:

http://www.best.com/~ddfr/laws_order/index.shtml --- really really good stuff here

A whole freaking book about the Law and Economics school of thought! For consideration: exactly when is the question "Is this law economically efficient?" the right question to ask?


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