log (2002/02/08 to 2002/02/14)

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Thursday, February 14, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

Happy Valentine's Day! Whilst I do love you all deeply and profoundly, I'm saving my tenderest sentiments for Someone Else. I know this comes as a shock, but try to be brave.

dha terikita dha tuna kat
tete kata gadi ghena
dha dhin dha kata dha

On the Speakers: Ancient Future, "Incandescence". Very odd, but catchy.

Windows 2000 Command o' the Day: find out your Secret Code Number by typing the very memorable "mountvol c:\ /L" on the W2K command line. Astounding, eh?

A reader writes, apropos no doubt of our little poem the other day:

You forgot DO NOT EAT, the ever-popular DO NOT REMOVE TAG UNDER PENALTY OF LAW, and maybe we shouldn't even get started with those funky little pictures of a person getting crushed to death by a vending machine.

Indeed! (Bill likes the one with the lightning bolts coming out of the little box and electrocuting bystanders.) Not to mention "This product not intended for use as a dental drill", "Never use hair dryer while sleeping", and for that matter "Handle with Extreme Care: This Product Contains Minute Electrically Charged Particles Moving at Velocities in Excess of Five Hundred Million Miles per Hour", as well as a host of others.

So the other night I went outside to put out the trash or something, and my mind was like "it's like a sauna out here," and I was like "whaddya mean, like a sauna; it's cold", but my mind didn't answer. After a second, I worked out what it had meant: it was windless and dry, and if you hold real still and don't breathe everything seems pretty much normal, but then if you move around, or let the air into your body, suddenly you notice that the world is cold, utterly cold, so cold as to be actively dangerous. Just like a sauna. Except for the whole cold/hot thing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

On our Maine vacation last summer we took a couple rolls of pictures (with the analog smart-matter-film camera, not the digital one), but when we got home we couldn't find them. This made us Sad; I was especially unhappy not to have the pictures of various of us sitting out on the porch wearing hats and writing poetry like some old classic hat-wearing poem-writers or other from the Age of Lawn Tennis. Then the other day M found them! (They were in some obscure place in the house that they had no good excuse at all for being in.)

So we sent them off to Mystic (who we still use out of long habit despite various readers having assured me we can get a better deal elsewhere), and not only did they send me email when they got the film, they also sent me email when they put it in the mail back, and they gave me a URL to get digital versions right off the web. Is that cool, or what?


Speaking of pictures, we all know about The Mirror Project; now on Life Through a Lens (some very nice pictures; I like the abstracts the best), I find that waferbaby (who seems to have converted to a font large enough for me to actually read sometime in the last few years, unless I'm thinking of some other formerly-illegible site), has the Eye Project, the Head Project, and the Sex Project (not quite as culturally challenging as it sounds). How projecty! Who's doing The Foot Project?

Apropos those cool 32MB memory keys I mentioned the other day, various readers have pointed out a recent register article (widely copied) about a virus that somehow snuck onto the boot records thereof. Given that no machine that anyone knows of can boot from a USB Memory Key, no one's getting infected from this, but it is annoying when the anti-virus software starts sounding alarms. Fortunately IBM has clever anti-virus experts who can help make sure that the right thing is done when these little problems arise. *8)

Segueing gracefully into other security-related things, note the very serious problems recently discovered in all sorts of SNMP implementations, and the very amusing co-optation of Microsoft's new "Trustworthy Computing" buzzphrase at TrustworthyComputing.com.

And I can't resist another little bit of Microsoft-bashing: if you use Outlook, Microsoft suggests that you ask everyone who writes to you to avoid the word "begin": 'Use a different word such as "start" or "commence"'.

Vatican: Cluelessness is caused by wearing funny hats (or other words to that effect).

Someone using the name of Bovine Inversus suggests that I should tell y'all about a game that pretends to be running on an Atari 2600 despite being written in Java. Fortunately, the name is "Indiana Jones and the Robots from Pluto", so we're covered. Give it a try! Be unexpectedly killed in very low resolution!

Turning briefly geekward, we note with glee that A List Apart has a piece on how to make a website search engine in Perl. Perl is, of course, a very Right Language, and I'm often impressed by how often otherwise intelligent seeming people on the Web use Other Things.

What else we got here? Ah. We found some Callard and Bowser Licorice Toffee at the grocery. It's pretty good, but less licoricy (and more toffee-y) than the Panda Licorice. (I'm amused to note that Anita Rowland mentioned it years ago; small universe.) I didn't find licorice extract at the grocery, but I did find some anise ("anise") extract. There's at least one recipe on the web that claims to make Licorice Caramels without using any licorice, only anise. Maybe we'll give it a try.

And I finished "Cosmonaut Keep", but I'm reserving judgement on it until I read "Dark Light". I'm still struggling through both the Rorty book (almost done), and "The Castle" (it's endless).

Huge amounts of reader mail and stuff queued up and getting dusty in the mailbox; don't give up, though, the mailbox is big...

Tuesday, February 12, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

hearing protection required



























Monday, February 11, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

"It doesn't really seem to have anything to do with your characters. I mean... all that about the town cemetary? All the headstones, and their inscriptions, and the bones and bodies underneath them? And the part about their different guns in the cabinet of the old house? And the genealogies of their horses? And--"

That's from Michael Chabon's "Wonder Boys" (which contains a never-quite-finished novel called "Wonder Boys"). Reminds me somehow of a certain other novel. *8)

Over the weekend I finished two books. "Wonder Boys" was well-written and funny in spots, but rather too painful and self-indulgent. It's basically a train-wreck, with the message "writers are walking disaster areas, careless obsessed eccentrics who betray their loved ones and leave a trail of (amusing) calamity in their wakes, but women want to sleep with them anyway." If short-order cooking involved producing narrative, much of it would probably be about what sexually irresistable heartbreakers short-order cooks are.

M says "The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay" is much better, content-wise. It's in the pile.

Looks like Stanley Schmidt does indeed have different taste in science fiction than I do. I finished Starplex, the novel I bought on his recommendation, and it was sort of so-so. Here's a pseudo-Amazon review that I might actually post to Amazon sometime.


This book was recommended to me at a book signing by Stanley Schmidt, so maybe I came to it with overly high expectations. It's basically run-of-the-mill hard SF, a mix of various stock plot-elements, reasonably well written but with no attempt to push any boundaries.

Time-travel is a key part of the plot, but paradox is mentioned (and basically dismissed) in maybe three paragraphs of incoherent hand-waving. There's a huge exploration ship with over a thousand people aboard, but it has neither external armaments nor an internal security or police force. There's a species that mates monogamously and has a five-to-one male to female ratio, but no attempt to explain how this can be evolutionarily stable (a gene for having females a bit more often should spread very well). There's a big space battle, but all the suspense is drained out of it by a prefatory flash-forward that assures you that no one important came to harm. There's a very odd bit of orbital mechanics, where a body is "stuck" in orbit around a star, because "the gravity is too strong". There's a quick mention of nanotechnology, but it seems to have had little or no effect on society or culture. There's a quick mention of true AI, but only to say that it's been "outlawed" (yeah, that'd work). There's these million year old creatures made out of dark matter, but they seem to have no culture or characteristics not explicitly required by the plot. There's a nod in the direction of squishy human stuff in the form of a husband-wife midlife crisis thread, but it's resolved when a future version of the husband comes back and basically implants a post-hypnotic suggestion in his former self to be faithful to his wife (there's insightful character development for you!).

It was a very quick read, and not entirely a waste of time, but I didn't find anything especially new or noteworthy, and I'm not sure what Schmidt sees in it. Even if you want for some reason to stick to pre-cyberpunk technology and themes, there's surely more exciting stuff out there.

So what'll I read next?

Hey look, I never finished "Cosmonaut Keep"...

Friday, February 8, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

It's really not fair to Thursday entries that they only get to be on the main log page here for one day, whereas Friday entries get a whole week. I ought to automate things so that the main page is always the last week's worth of entries, or the last seven entries, or something. But that would involve work...

A reader writes:

Problem: Customer (Pepperidge Farms) didn't receive their mailbag today. Resolution: Customer didn't receive any MAIL today.

which is rather puzzling.

Another reader (and I must warn you that one of the URLs in the rest of this paragraph seems to cause some annoying persistant pop-under things trying to scare you about viruses and get you to buy various things) reminds us of licorice resource licorice.org. A reader from a foreign country says that it ought to be "liquorice" in any case; amusingly, liquorice.org is the "e-marketplace" arm of the same (or apparently the same) organization ("organization"). liquorice.co.uk, on the other hand, is one of those amusing "this is the home page of your new web site, now FTP the real files here" pages.

I have one of those pages on the new Leenooks machine sitting behind me, in fact; I got Apache running, but ftpd has suddenly starting shunning me, so I haven't copied over the new index.html that I wrote to replace it.

Apropos of which, a reader writes:

But about time you got Linux - what virgin? What window manager? Oh so curious? Put up an anonymous ftp site and I'll upload (anonymously) the 6Mb of Eterm backgrounds that I talked about when I grabbed your pics ... I had thunk you had Linux when you SSH/SCPed your web site as Windoze has pud for ssh but indeed - caught you OS/2 has an SSH/SCP client - I know it as I run OS/2 (very infrequently on one of my partitions)

Lesee. This is the locally-customized virgin of Red Hat 7.1. I'm running KDE at the moment; when I try to run Gnome it snorfs right back to the login screen. I've installed Leenooks once or twice before, but never done anything serious with it; this time mebbe I will. Windows has a decent (or at least functional) port of OpenSSH (including OpenSCP) which I got from "Network Simplicity" or something like that. My ancient laptop (the one I bought with my very own money a long time ago, and that had a name ending in "C" to show that it had a color display) still dual-boots OS/2 and DOS 7 (I think), but it hasn't done that in a very long time.

You know what's nice? What's nice is on a cold sunny day when you get into your car, and you put on the sunglasses that have been lying on the dashboard all day, and they're all toasty and warm. That's what's nice. (Well, that and other stuff.)

Security Bug O Rama!

An error exists in mIRC's handling of certain messages from the server, making it possible to overflow a static buffer. With carefully constructed messages arbitary code can be executed.

There is a flaw in how the System Attendant makes these Registry configuration changes. This flaw could allow an unprivileged user to remotely access configuration information on the server. Specifically, this flaw inappropriately gives the "Everyone" group privileges to the WinReg key.

Unchecked Buffer in Telnet Server Could Lead to Arbitrary Code Execution

Man, busy day...

Good quote from Caterina (whose permalinks seem to have vanished in the last couple days):

The idea that "low self-esteem" can be fixed by reassuring oneself that one is a good person over and over again is ludicrous.

She's talking about a New York Times piece that basically says that low self-esteem isn't as bad, and high self-esteem not as good, as Conventional Wisdom has lately held. Myself, I think high self-esteem is very important, but it's got to be deserved. People who have low self-esteem for no good reason suffer. And, as the article points out, people who have high self-esteem for no good reason can be pretty obnoxious...

Indirectly via Steve, "R'lyeh Consulting can provide skilled technicians, gifted sorcerers, gibbering madmen, and ancient priests to suit whatever staffing or project needs you may have."

Just so you know.


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