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Thursday, February 21, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

On the other hand, by the clear light of day, those cold congealed somewhat slimy boiled peanuts are not things you'd dream of eating, unless it was a very bad dream. Whose idea was it to boil perfectly good peanuts, anyway?

Unlike vengeance, then, boiled peanuts are un plat qui se mange chaud.

So my spammer-baiting formmail scripts got hit the other day by "formmailantispamtester" at yahoo.com. I wrote them saying hello and asking them what they were going to do with the list of open formmail scripts they got. No reply so far. Maybe it was a spammer with a cleverly selected anti-anti-spammer address.

I dreamed last night (arg, another one of those, you say) that a law had been passed that gradually raised the value of the penny, and that this was the year they become worth five cents. In the long term, all coins would eventually be worth a dollar. The first thing I thought when I woke up was that this would have all sorts of wild effects on the demand for currency.

Speaking of the demand for currency, Richard M. Koolish points out that the U. S. Treasury would like to exploit your irrationality, if you're up for it.

On a certain item the other day, a reader writes:

That oil tank quote is from the XXth century, you know.

That's true; I just thought it had a certain XXIst century flavor. Maybe not, though (heck, the skies are still not dark with flying cars). Suggestions for more appropriate XXIst century quotes are most welcome: pick them from the news media, or make 'em up yourself. Don't feel obliged to be dark and depressing. *8)

Hot news: WordURL reveals that the hostnames HippyBot.com and CarewornColonel.com are both still available. Act now, before it's too late!

And finally, today's licorice update: the candy sold as "Black Licorice Bites" at Cracker Barrel has no discernable licorice taste whatever. I wonder if there's a shop around here that carries the Panda kind?

Wednesday, February 20, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

So what you do is, on the way back from somewhere you stop at a roadside stand and you buy five tomatoes and two bags of Jumbo Boiled Peanuts (one bag regular, one bag Cajun) from the two silver-haired black guys with smooth Southern voices like my Grampa Proc's, and at home you slice up two of the tomatoes into a frying pan and sprinkle them with sugar and salt (just a little sugar and salt), and you open up the bags of boiled peanuts, and you eat fried tomatoes on thick slices of soft white Italian sandwich bread from the deli at Publix, and you crack (although crack is too sharp a word for the rather squishy thing that happens) open some of the boiled peanuts and you eat those, too. They're strange and soft and salty, sort of like pinto beans only peanut-shaped, and the Cajun ones don't taste all that spicy until twenty seconds after you eat one.

That's what you do.

From onlinejournalism.com (and probably everyone else in the world, and you've probably read it a dozen other places today), the end of an era: Limits On Media Ownership Voided:

A federal appeals court yesterday nullified two long-standing government rules limiting the size of the world's largest media companies, opening the door to a new wave of mergers among cable television conglomerates and broadcast companies.

If we didn't mind their taking hundreds of years to arrive at their destination, could we build a starship today? Some people are thinking seriously about the details. Interstellar travellers should be "motivated, tolerant and nice".

A spammer writes:

Is there pornography on your computer? Are you sure?

I'm quite positive, thanks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

Man, being able to sit in an easy chair in someone's living room, with the laptop in my lap not connected to any wires at all, but still able to get to the Net, and not having to worry about being charged for the time, is quite a nice thing! I may yet be persuaded to upgrade our house from using the one phone line to dial up AOL or the lab (but not both), to a DSL or cable modem connection coming in through a NAT box to an 802.11 unit and thence out to the various and sundry computers. Even though it would mean Work...

Did you hear a noise?

What I hear, dear boy, is not noise, but the sweet chittering of the legs of innumerable insects as they feed upon the tongues of the unborn.

Yes. It's David Duchovny. Nude.

No. The ambiguous asparagus, cloistered in velvet and denials, waits quietly behind the seventh pew. It will be found tomorrow by a slender woman with short gray hair, but by then it will be too late.

refrigerator hum


Just the heating system. Stupid white noise.

The spinning of my 2Gig External SCSI (used for swap and source), the muted trumpets of a local jazz station on the radio, the sounds of a roof (behind me across the street), an old cat howling as part of his grieving for an old cat of ours who has passed on, the sounds of potato chips crunching (my lunch) the creaking of my chair as I turn to pet the grieving cat and I suppose if I turn it all off I'd hear birds chirping, perhaps the sound of my breath and the beating of my heart and then I'd hear the spiders spinning their webs ... all pretty innocuous and innocent but what else on a dotgoners Monday noon


I think it's Rob Tyner shouting, "He was a hard man, he was hardly a man..."

It's the sound of one clap sanding.

Do you have enough to eat? Do you have big, smelly feet? Do you have a bird in hand? Do you have a loud brass band? Yes, I have a flute of jute. Yes, I have a lunch to boot. Yes, I have a chilling loss. Yes, I have a thrilling floss.

nude feet

What does a roof sound like? What would David Duchovny (or Duchovnu) sound like, nude? As soothing as refrigerator hum? As big and smelly as feet?

(Feet only get smelly when people wear stuff on them all the time. Feet kept properly bare aren't smelly at all.)

A reader who is AJL writes (enabling us to indirectly plug another whole part of the site):

I'm delighted to say that we have discovered: The Weblibs module is sloppily tailorable, giving you the plantmaster hard control over the HTML that it produces. But if you're beautiful, Weblibs' warm defaults mean that it works cleanly right "out of the cup" - which we think should form the basis for any healthy lifestyle. We have noted this here -AJL

A web searcher finds us by searching for:

reassessments OR vanishes OR spider OR dishonesty OR breaking

which is impressive and/or very puzzling.

This is a very funny picture.

Gretchen Lieberum writes that she's signed a deal with Lakeshore Entertainment, and that her long awaited new CD is expected out in March.

Essential Site o' the Day from Ben Hyde: The Condiment Packet Museum.

XXIst Century Quote o' the Day: "The retiree that owned the tank knew nothing about the auto-dialer, and said she was very sorry that her oil tank was making crank calls."

And finally we'd like to note that our favorite Eccentric Chess Player, Sam Sloan, once argued a case against the SEC before the Supreme Court, and won. So never doubt that, however unlikely it may seem, that guy in the bar offering to bet with you might really be able to make flaming reindeer fly out of his nose.

Monday, February 18, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

We're on the road in various senses this week, and updates may be sporadic.

So near the end of this book Rorty goes too far even for me (see previous Rorty discussion). In "Unger, Castoriadis, and a National Future", he stretches various interesting and plausible ideas about Wittgensteinian language games, Kuhnian processes of (scientific) revolution, and even Freudian psychoanalysis, into a mostly unconvincing claim about the role of reason in social and political change.

Revolutionary political changes, he says, are necessarily leaps into the darkness. Reason can play no role in predicting their outcomes, and rational argument can play no role in their progression. This seems entirely wrong to me, and the wrongness seems obvious even in the examples that Rorty gives in support of it.

"'Reason'", Rorty says, "usually means 'working according to the rules of some familiar language-game, some familiar way of describing the current situation'." This seems an odd thing to say; "reason", after all, actually means working according to the rules of one of a particular set of language games: those that make use of concepts like deduction and induction, that go in certain ways from premises to conclusions, that have certain notions of validity and fallacy. There are all sorts of language-games where we would not use the word "reason" to describe working according to their rules: language games, for instance, involving automatic deference to certain ancient authorities, or drawing conclusions from the flights of swallows.

But we will grant to Rorty that reason does refer to working according to the rules of some particular language game. He then narrows this claim, and seems to be saying that since reason means working within the rules of a language-game, reason is irrelevant to any attempt to change anything about that game.

... such familiar language games... serve to legitimate, and make seem inevitable, precisely the forms of social life... from which we desparately hope to break free.

This seems correct (or at least plausible) at first glance, the way that much of Plato seems correct at first glance, or a statement like "the rules of a game don't tell you how to change the rules" seems correct at first glance. But of course much of Plato is wrong once you give it much thought, and the rules of some games do in fact tell you how to change the rules.

It is impossible, Rorty says, to give a reasoned argument for a revolutionary social experiment. He gives the example of Madison and the separation of powers, and says

The only "argument" such people can give for such experiments is "Let's give it a try; nothing else seems to work."

Now this is just silly! Madison and friends had lots of reasons, and conducted lots of arguments, about issues just like the separation of powers. The idea was not plucked out of the air, seized upon just because it hadn't been tried before. Madison's thought processes, in particular, did not look anything like this:

Nothing that we've tried has worked, so we must try something new! I will flip this coin: heads means we set up a government in which essential powers are separated between balanced branches, and tails means we require everyone to hop around on one foot and cluck like a chicken.

This is funny exactly because separation of powers is reasonable, and clucking like a chicken is not; exactly because we can use reason to predict (not with certainty, but with some confidence) that separation of powers will have desirable consequences, whereas hopping on one foot would not.

It is an interesting and useful observation that the language we currently speak, and the language games that we currently play, shape the way we see the world and the way we imagine possible changes. But its a mistake to stretch this observation off into the distance, to a claim that our current language can never let us reason at all about changes to itself, and that revolutionary political change is therefore inherently beyond the compass of reasoned debate.

Not only does this not follow from the premises (it suddenly occurs to me), but it's also dangerous. If you can't get important political changes by way of reasoned argument, how can you get them? The alternatives tend to be violent and bloody, and not to lead to the changes that you wanted after all.


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