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Words to live by:

Best American Erotica 2000
Thursday, March 14, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

Special Sex Issue!

Well, maybe not entirely. But a reader sends these Words to Live By:

when in doubt, fuck

which seem too true, and too false, to ignore.

I was thinking about setting aside some space in the library for erotica (which is currently mixed in with everything else). (I'm not sure why I was thinking this; partly out of frustration with not remembering whether I have any of Susie Bright's "Best American Erotica" anthologies (now that I've found the page with all the covers I recall that I have the 2000 one), but having an Erotica section wouldn't really help there, in that if I were organized in the first place it'd be under "Bright".) But I decided it'd be too hard to populate. "Best American Erotica" would go there, and "From Porn to Poetry", sure, and "Electric", and "Switch Hitters".

But what about, say, "Lolita"? Nah, that's General Literature. "Delta of Venus"? Well, sure, that was written to appeal to the prurient interest. "Mantissa"? I mean, Fowles writes mostly General Literature, but, well... What about Barthelme's "Paradise"? Or "Vox"?

So I gave up that idea. It doesn't seem nice, all things considered, to try to pry the sexy stuff away from the rest of life.

And besides it'd be work.

A spammer writes:

Meet Other Single Adults Just Like You!

Nice to see spammers targetting the homosexual communities.

(Speaking of homosexuality, you can join an effort to get Florida to be less stupid. Future generations will thank you.)

Awhile back we obsessed for some time about pornography and the law. It turns out that there are two things that get an exception from the First Amendment: pornography, and cruelty to animals:

Today I have signed into law H.R. 1887, a bill that would establish Federal criminal penalties for the "creation, sale, or possession" of "a depiction of animal cruelty" with the intent to distribute such a depiction in interstate or foreign commerce, except when the depiction has "serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value."

That last bit sound familiar? Here's a copy of the bill itself. (Thanks to Ed for bringing this up at lunch and for finding some pointers.)

Well, we say to ourself, animal cruelty is bad and all, but does that outlaw, say, duck-hunting videos? Not to worry! The President under whom it was enacted promises to construe the Act in a Certain Way:

So construed, the Act would prohibit the types of depictions, described in the statute's legislative history, of wanton cruelty to animals designed to appeal to a prurient interest in sex. I will direct the Department of Justice to enforce the Act accordingly.

So it's okay, because depictions of animal cruelty are only outlawed if they're done as pornography.

Cruelty is fine; it's sex we can't tolerate.

On a more upbeat note, Boing Boing points us to the very cool Pop Cult Mag, where we find not only the elegantly sleazy Gallery of Forgotten Girlie Mags, but also some old phonograph album covers (ref another collection blogged some time back).

What's in your pocket? Only one reader leapt directly to the sort of answer most appropriate for a Special Sex Issue (all links mine):

Nothing, I've just been thinking about Belinda Carlisle.

Other readers are Tom Sawyer, readers of other blogs, and/or people who have broken free of the spell of material goods and/or need to do their laundry more often:

Frog, yo-yo, slingshot, used bubble gum.
Lint, mostly.
String, or nothing!
A multitude of sins.
Lint-I keep my keys and wallet in my coat.
my pocketwatch

And other readers wax lyrical and/or philosophical:

a Chaotic Evil Elvish Bard Mage, apparently. That's what the test said I was. (Is that a Chaotic Evil Elvin Bard Mage in your pocket, or are you really pissed off?)

The lint of centuries past, of everything that has been or seeks to be, the fibres of Truth, of Being, of Gawd Awful Botox Procedures, the detrius of trivial games, a rock, some paper (but no scissors, as this would be risky), but a tic, and sometimes a tac. That's what.

What is a pocket, but a blonde inversion of the usual knee pads, putting the brakes on, a sip here, a sip there, calling it a night, a knight, not having to lie about where you are tonight, not having to lie about her tonight, not having, not having. A hand, a look, a sigh. Having to go, and thanks for a lovely evening, really. The clack of shoes on cobblestones.

what is in your pocket if it's turned inside out?

What isn't, son, what isn't?

Wednesday, March 13, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

Real software engineers don't like users. Users always seem to have the wrong idea about what the implementation and verifiation of algorithms is all about.

A real, real, real long time ago, way back in 1982, feller name of Feirstein wrote a book called "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche", poking fun at (or admiring, or something) various stereotypes of tough masculinity. Not too long thereafter, a piece appeared called "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal"; it was apparently a letter to the editor of Datamation in 1983, but it quickly became something that you got in email from several friends every day.

At around that time, dwl and I were officemates at the Lab, and we got a copy of this, and we rang some variations on it. dwl wrote "Real Computer Scientists Don't Write Code", and I wrote something similar about "Real Software Engineers". We wrote them, and admired ourselves for having written them, and then we did something with them (I forget what) that we hoped might cause them to live on in the Net, and then we (or at least I) forgot all about them.

I found a copy of all three on a dialup BBS a couple of years later, and I thought that was neat, but the BBS was run by like the son of someone at the Lab, so it wasn't evidence for really Universal Spread.

For some reason I remembered these things the other day, and was very gratified to see that they are all over over the Web. There are about twenty times (at a rough Google guess) as many copies of the original as of our variations, but I find those couple hundred copies of my thoughts pretty darn gratifying.

I'm also amused to note that both dwl's and my piece invariably show up unattributed. As I recall, he initially distributed his with his name on it, and I initially distributed mine anonymously; but it turned out not to matter.

(I'm also amused to note that I've blogged this before, a couple of years ago, and had forgotten all about it! I wonder if that's the first time I've done that by accident? I spent many fewer words on it back then...)

The aforementioned dwl has, by the way, dropped off a bag of licorice scooped from a bin at Stew Leonard's. It's not bad at all, perhaps as good as the Panda stuff; maybe a little thinner-walled, but rather soft and strongly flavored.

Code geeking. When I wrote that "real software engineers don't comment their code; the identifiers are so mnemonic they don't have to", I was thinking of Pascal. Today, of course, we have Java.

I've been writing lots of Java, and Java that deals with XML at that, and it's been fun. I like programming, I like object-oriented programming, and while I'd rather do it in Perl, Java isn't awful.

However, I am somewhat concerned. The evidence at hand suggests to me that Java programming may cause brain damage. There was this new library I wanted to use, and it came with some sample programs, and when I looked at them I realized that not only were they almost utterly incomprehensible, but they were almost utterly incomprehensible in a way that many other Java sample programs I've looked at have been.

Rather than just writing a simple class that exercises the core functions of the library, the author of the sample program created a new package, produced an abstract interface to a "wrapper" function that subtly distorted the behavior of the core functions of the library, produced an implementation of that abstract interface in a sub-package of the package that he'd created, and then wrote a program that would by default use that wrapper implementation to do something.

I say "by default" because if you specified an explicit class name on the command line, you could cause the program to use any other class you could name to attempt to accomplish the function. You could have the program try to accomplish the function (a particular sort of XML parsing) by calling, say, java.lang.String, or com.froboz.dishwasher.Explode. For all the good it would have done you.

Is this just because most people who've learned Java learned it pretty recently, and aren't out of the "showing off" stage yet? Or is there something subtle in the structure of the language (ref Babel 17) that warps the brains of its users, so that their idea of the simplest and clearest way to write an example program really is to write two levels of package, an abstract interface to a wrapper class, and a runtime specification of what class to actually run?

Gosh, I hope not.

(Use your Frequent Flyer Miles to get into space!)

Tuesday, March 12, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

Ex ovi putamine spectat
enixus bis alas reflectat,
    plumatus rubore,
    pulcherior flore,
Hic pullus, qui alas pertractat.

Earlier today I passed John going down the stairs with three laptops under his arm. I only thought of this when it was too late, but I hereby pretend that I quipped: "That must be a really dull meeting you're headed for".

When Stevie Wonder sat down at the keyboard center stage, President Bush in the front row got very excited. He smiled and started waving at Wonder, who understandably did not respond.

The Risk of Programs That Update Automatically (some of the risk, anyway).

The House rejected a resolution declaring Saturday to be "Frozen Dead Guy Day" in a 35-27 vote on Tuesday.

A spammer writes:

Where Do You Keep Your 'Bacteria Spreading' Plunger ? We have Best Solution Ever !

Try our new Bacteria Spreading Plunger Belt Clip!

Seen in Book Magazine, the very cool Book Crossing: Read and Release! (I don't know why I think this is so cool, but it clearly is. There is supposedly a 1000 Journals journal headed toward me; that's also cool.)

(In case you were looking for all the stuff related to DOOM and suchlike that used to be on cdrom.com's ftp site, it now appears to be here.)

Findlaw piece on Eldred v. Ashcroft, a Supreme Court case that might just put some sanity back into copyright law. Good reading.

What do you suspect?

Ashcroft's intentions towards calico cats.

I suspect that everyone else suspects me of things I really haven't done.

I suspect you should go look at Bovine Inversus, that's what.

I suspect that without the benefit of DSL speed I will never be able to fully enjoy the cut and thrust of online tic tac toe games

...mons veneris... hehe... labia majora,vagina dentata, pubic symphysis! VULVA VULVA VULA!!!

I suspect that other people have far more sex than I do.

I suspect that you will completely love being untethered yet connected, once DSL and wireless networking take hold in your home. Join the expectant crowd, now gathering in beautiful <This Area>.

I suspect the butler did it.

That Ansible is still the best fanzine in sf.

hypermodern connect-4

That it's all just a joke.

...and by the way, I suspect that you haven't even played my little game yet.

Well, Mr. Furschneieder, we all have our... little games... don't we?

Monday, March 11, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

A bit of a false alarm over the weekend, as one of the people at the DSL place said on Friday that the line should be working (even though it wasn't officially scheduled to be until 18 March) and if it wasn't (and it wasn't) we should call Technical Support, and someone at Technical Support had us disconnect all of our phones, and take surge protectors out of the circuit, and reinstall the Ethernet drivers and stuff, only to say that he couldn't figure out what was wrong but we should try again Saturday. And then on Saturday we called Technical Support again, and they said that there was a Ticket open with Networking, and they'd call Networking and call us back.

And then, predictably enough, they called us back and said that Networking had apparently closed the Ticket saying "this line won't be working until the 21st" (perhaps having added three days as punishment for having bothered them).

But hey, the scanner is working, and we went to Office Max and bought a little folding table to hold all the New Toys, and the playroom now looks geekier than ever, and the mug and totebag from the International Center for Tic Tac Toe came, and they look very nice. And now hopefully things will stop coming in such a steady stream, because things that come in the mail do, in my experience, often cost money.

Also it was a really nice day for awhile on Saturday, and we went for a walk around the neighborhood, and just as we were getting close to home on the way back, it got all grey and dark and windy.

It was pretty neat.

Friday, March 8, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

So I had this dream last night, and in the dream I was watching like this 70's detective show, maybe "Mannix" or something, and there was this very 70's sex-kitten type (vinyl miniskirt sort of thing, you know), and she was singing this song to the hero, and the main lyric of the song was "I don't want you, I just want your ass".

Isn't that offensive?

Speaking of offensive, dwl mentioned at lunch that he'd heard that our own dear Attorney General had apparently given a very memorable speech recently to some Christian Broadcasting group. Having my trusty laptop at hand due to the approach of a 1pm meeting, I poked around on the web, and it is indeed a hum-dinger. Some selected excerpts from the Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, Nashville, Tennessee, February 19, 2002:

... Civilized people -- Muslims, Christians and Jews -- all understand that the source of freedom and human dignity is the Creator. ...
... For people of all faiths -- be they Christians, Jews or Muslims -- it is impossible not to see the stark difference between the way of God and the way of the terrorists. ...

Words fail yet again. Has Ashcroft only ever heard of three religions? Or is he trying to alienate half the population of the world?

(On exactly the same subject, it is instructive to note that "National Religious Broadcasters" describes itself as "an association representing more than 1300 evangelical Christian radio and television stations, program producers, multimedia developers, and related organizations". What, after all, could "religious" possibly mean besides "Christian"?)

Redmond, WA - Bill Gates announced today that as part of the "Trustworthy Computing Initiative" that Whippy the Giant Invisible Pink Bunny would become the company's security Czar. A move viewed essential if Microsoft expects to build confidence in its .NET strategy.

Rogue, that's me

Overlooked scientific breakthrough o' the day: Gravity Shielding! link link link link

Autogynophilia: What X-Men character are you? I'm Rogue. And I'm completely okay with that. (link from Considered Harmful.)

And finally we return to the actual reason you all read this log: tic tac toe theory! Responding to my note about notation the other day, a reader writes:

You've neglected to mention another disadvantage of the traditional notation: it's precisely because it ignores reflections and rotations, that it is inadequate to fully convey the nature of the game! Oh sure, the four [EDGE] openings may all be mathematically equivalent, but tic-tac-toe is not some dry mathematical game to be played only by computers! No, only by using algebraic notation can you differentiate the psychological nature of these four opening moves: the unambitious but solid c2, the aggressive a2!?, the double-edged b3?!, and the inscrutable b1. (The nature of the four [CORNER] openings are more complex still, and in the interests of length I won't go into those here, except to mention that novices often find themselves in over their heads after playing the subtle c1 opening.) Since masters often choose one or the other based on the psychological effect they expect the move to have against a particular opponent, it hardly seems fair to eliminate! that aspect of the game with a simple notation of [EDGE].

And another reader of the same school:

In the european style, where X is seated at the "A" edge and O is seated at the "C" edge, the difference in opening a1 or c3 is immense. a1 is a passive opening, whereas c3 is agressive, trying to intimidate the opponent by threatening his territory, Observe Simon v Carbuncle (a1 - c2; a2 - a3; b1 - c1; c3 - b2; DRAW). Contrast with Agali v DeBeer (c3 - c2; b3 - a3; b2 - RESIGNS) In the second game, the same corner-then-adjacent-edge attack suceeds against the same c2 defense because X captured the initiative with the agressive c3 opening.

Now I have to admit to a personal blindspot here. Just as I've never been able to appreciate how the keys of f-sharp and g-flat can be different (although I've been assured by music lovers that they are), I've never really grokked the differences between the various [EDGE] or the various [CORNER] openings. I mean, I've seen the statistics on games won and all, and I acknowledge that in some sense they are different, but I haven't really internalized it.

This is at least partly because (very much as in my philosophical training) I grew up in a very analytical American style. The first tic tac toe theory book that really drew me in was a weatherbeaten copy of Forester's "Nine Squares, Two Symbols" in the public library; Forester has, of course, a purely mathematical approach to the game, and it's about page eight where he casually introduces reflection and rotation invariance.

Recent North American tournament tradition also encourages this, of course; when the board is mounted on a turntable, and each player can view it from any angle he likes, the psychological flavor of the game changes. (And as the big froo-fraw in Vienna last year suggests, the change is big enough to bother some people very much!)

I think I was going to say something else significant, but I've forgotten what it was. My first shipment of ICTTT merchandise is said to be on the way; oh, boy!

Another reader, on another neglected game:

We would play multiplayer Age of Empires after work, and while waiting for people to join, would play RPS in the chat window. One time, a contestant typed in "ham sandwich" against the other's "rock." We decided that rock beat ham sandwich. But this opened the gates for "freeform RPS," which we still periodically enjoy to this day. You need to have a good judge.

Sounds like you'd enjoy FRC.

Oh, and did I mention that the scanner and the DSL modem have arrived? So I may be On Line from the livingroom sofa at just any moment. Or not! It's In The Hands of the Gods...


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