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Once upon a time:
Thursday, April 4, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

So I know us technical types are supposed to be socially inept and all, but really! Sometimes I'm socially inept enough that it interferes with discovering the secrets of the universe and making cool frobs.

This guy comes into my office yesterday, a bright guy, a guy that I vaguely know because he like works (or worked?) for someone that also works for the person that I work for, or something like that, but anyway I've seen him around.

And he says that his boss suggested that he talk to me about this thing he's working on, because his thing might be useful to this other thing, that I'm working on.

"Cool," I say, "but today and tomorrow are really busy, can we maybe do it on Friday?", and as I say this I'm trying to remember, like, what his name is and who his boss is, and I'm looking casually at his ID badge but of course it's flipped around the wrong way, and all I learn is RETURN POSTAGE GUARANTEED.

"Okay," he says, "I guess that'd be okay, send me an invitation," and he starts to leave, and I still don't know who he actually is. Thinking fast, I say "we can do it in your office; where's your office?", thinking that if he tells me the office number I can do a reverse lookup in the phone book and find out his name.

"Just over in the next hall," he says.

I don't really relish the thought of pacing the hallway looking at nameplates and trying to figure out which one might be his, so I glance at my watch and say in desparation "Oh, what the heck, I have a little time, let's do it now."

Fortunately, he got interrupted by a phone call after we'd talked for like ten minutes, so I still had time to prepare for my next meeting.

And on the way out of his office, I looked at his nameplate and got his name...

Wednesday, April 3, 2002  permanent URL for this entry


Another link on the CIPA trial: ACLU Fighting Government Plan to Censor Internet in Libraries. (Does the ACLU strike anyone else as sort of annoyingly self-aggrandizing lately?)

Amazon Title o' the Day: Cooking with Porn Stars.

So there's this cool site called Ad Farm where you can go and make a little textual thing, and pay them a little money via like PayPal, and check off some sites where you'd like it to appear, and then like four thousand people (or whatever) will see your text-thing and click on it and stuff. So I made a little text-thing called "Yob Sleezle Nopi!" (this is just a picture of it here; the real thing is made with fancy CSS and JavaScript and stuff, and you can actually click on it), and already it's appeared on the Web like 1500 times (29 of them on the Mirror Project), and 11 whole times someone's actually clicked through to this here log.

Who says advertising on the Web doesn't work?

I write because I like how it makes me feel. It reminds me of floating in a big black lake, face up of course, looking at the stars and into the infinity of it all.

(Note that you should really start at the beginning.)

Songs of the I.B.M.

/usr/bin/girl has found a complete copy of The IBM Songbook! We should get, like, Tori Amos to do a cover of "Ever Onward I.B.M.".

(Why, I wonder, is it "Songs of the I.B.M."?)

A spammer writes in a subject line:

Amateur Adults (ADULT)

I discarded that unopened, of course; around here, we're interested only in professional adults (ADULT).

Speaking of which, we note with approval that this is the second day of blogging for labia! Everyone loves labia. I myself am very fond of labia. Are you also fond of labia?

Ian reminds us that this time of year tends to bring a spate of innovative and out-of-the-box thinking in the Internet community. Recently released, for instance, are RFC 3251, Electricity over IP, and RFC 3252, reformulating IP, TCP, and UDP as XML applications.

Combining the two, it should now be possible to encode electricity as XML. What will they think of next?

I hope everyone had a good Equinox or Easter or Ostara or Alban Eilir or Passover or Rebirth or whatever. We had guests over and lots of eggs to search for and entirely too much Dinner.

(Note to self: remember that guests who are leaving the same day as the meal will not consume their fair share of leftovers. Plan accordingly, or you'll have a whole refrigerator full of leftover Equinox Ham.)

The little daughter has been growing up again. Just the other day she decided to clean off the door of her room, throwing away all sorts of adorable little kid stuff that sentimental father-types would tend to save forever. I managed to pluck from the garbage the square of pink paper saying "You have come to see the great scuba diver"; she had me write that and tape it to her door when she was very tiny, for no immediately obvious reason, and I've always loved it.

From tom matrullo, a story about ancient manuscripts being recovered (or not) by modern technology (and about how the big bad mass media aren't adequately covering it). I hope they find the money they need to recover lots of neat old stuff. (This is, I think, the same story as this story that I logged in 2001 sometime.)

Very Silly Moving Thing o' the Day.

(Today's Cover Credit: Ineffectual)

Tuesday, April 2, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

On the singular behavior of the Lion in the daytime, a reader writes:

Why, when your readers are about to misinterpret your witty statements, do you show just a hint of your intentions to just me, when I'm not sure enough of what you meant to insist that everyone go that way?

That would be because:

  • I'm not omniscient, and fail to realize that I have not expressed my intentions strongly enough, or perhaps
  • I'm a nasty so-and-so, and get a perverse pleasure out of misleading my loyal readers.

Neither of these explanations, presumably, applies to the all-knowing and beneficent Lion. Aslan might use the excuse that he's teaching Lucy a lesson, so that in the future she will be more willing to throw herself whole-heartedly at any hint of his presence. But in the case of the Creator-God for whom Aslan is a furry symbol, we then have to ask why he didn't simply make Lucy a bit more credulous (er, um) steadfast in the first place.

"But I say, Lu --"


"I wouldn't have felt very safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we'd met them without Aslan."

"I should think not," said Lucy.

One of the reasons Lewis is such an effective writer is that he mixes lots of truth, and deep truth, with his allegory. Bacchus is indeed not safe without Aslan; or, as an Ariadnite might put it, it is Theseus who delivers us from the Minotaur, and takes us to Dionysus. Dynamism, wildness, and chaos are (at least arguably) safe and productive and joyful only when tempered by civilization, by reason, by justice.

But Lewis' Aslan isn't (isn't only) civilization and reason and justice; he is also the God of Christianity, which is a meme complex that contains all sorts of other stuff, including (perhaps most perniciously) the omnipotent omniscient benevolent Big Daddy who will take care of us if only we Believe. Which runs us smack into the Problem of Evil, as summarized in the very memorable MacLeish:

If God is God, He is not good;
If God is good, he is not God...

An omniscient omnipotent creator must have intended the world to be exactly how it is; he / she / it / they therefore can't be good in the usual sense of the word.

Civilization, reason, justice, on the other hand, construed as human activities, make no claims to omniscience or omnipotence. Human civilization, human reason, and human justice are good, almost by definition, but they are not God; they are only Us. No Big Daddy is going to come down from the sky and save us. Things will be only and exactly as good as we are willing and able to make them.

And if that's not an important lesson, I don't know what is.

Monday, April 1, 2002  permanent URL for this entry


Isn't tradition wonderful?

"But do you really mean, Sir," said Peter, "that there could be other worlds -- all over the place, just round the corner -- like that?"

"Nothing is more probable," said the Professor, taking off his spectacles and beginning to polish them, as he muttered to himself, "I wonder what they do teach them at these schools."

-- Lewis

I seem to be rereading The Chronicles of Narnia; I finished The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe over the weekend. It was fun and nostalgic; I read all the Chronicles years ago (starting with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, for some reason), and Lewis is a great storyteller.

On the other hand the story suffered somewhat from age; my age, that is. The extent to which it's the basic Christian meme in a different protein-coat, and also the extent to which the story just doesn't make sense, got in the way this time as they didn't (or didn't so much) when I was littler.

Here we go 'round the Christ-figure...

If Aslan is so big and wonderful and powerful, and able to defeat the White Witch and save Narnia by basically just showing up, why did he stay away for a thousand years (or whatever it was) and let the inhabitants suffer?

If Aslan knew all about the Deeper Magic from Even Before the Dawn of Time, and that he'd be back the next day, why did he seem so sad and lonely on the way to the Stone Table?

Aslan's Dad, the Emperor from Over the Sea, seems to be a bit of a jerk, having made various dumb magical laws way back at the dawn of time. Why does Aslan get dangerously angry whenever anyone suggests that the laws might be sort of dumb? What's up with that?

Aslan knows the children (and everything else in the world, apparently) very well, much better than they know themselves. So why (okay, this is in "Prince Caspian", not "Lion, Witch") when the children are about to go down the wrong side of the gorge, does he show just a hint of his face to just Lucy, who isn't sure enough of what she saw to insist that they all go that way? He must have known it wouldn't work as a guide. Was he just trying to make Lucy feel bad?

Okay, so these are obviously the Narnian versions of the obvious rationalist questions about the whole Deity and Salvation Thing. No big surprises there.

From Daze Reader: the Nine Billions Names of Britney, also the Seven(ty) Dirty Magazines You Can't Buy in the PX.

By collecting flocks of pigeons in dense clusters, Google is able to process search queries at speeds superior to traditional search engines, which typically rely on birds of prey, brooding hens or slow-moving waterfowl to do their relevance rankings.

From Jessamyn, an early argument against the postal monopoly from a rather cool collection of century-old anarchist writings.

(And from another bit of Jessamyn, the soon-to-be classic librarian vibrator ad.)

Libertarians often polyamorous (and hope you are too) but also somewhat out of shape, which takes a lot of the fun out of it.

(Note that's "libertarians", not "librarians".)

Never take sides -- remember that your goal is not to win an argument, rather it is to provoke a futile one that runs forever.

From Inexplicably Fancy Trash, a long and indeed deep-looking essay on child pornography laws.

And speaking of child pornography, here's a Mouth Organ thread on the terrible problem of, um, well, something that would be child pornography except that it isn't actually pornography. Or something.

Those little buggers are like mice: they are absolutely adorable until you wind up with a bunch in your pants.

(Note that these blockquotes and these normal paragraphs are interspersed more or less randomly today, with no thought for the morrow, or even common decency.)

But how long must we infantilize the very people we're building sites for? Why must we make these blanket judgements about the way all users read, based on the dimmest bulbs in the pack? Can we not acknowledge that the web is now a pretty big place, and generalizing about user behavior is pretty sketchy? Where is the room to say, if I treat my readers like adults, perhaps they're more likely to act like adults?

I'm Feewing Wucky.

Unless you buy my Sacred Atlantean No-Stick Talisman, you will suffer from arachibutyrophobia, a fear of peanut butter adhering to the roof of your mouth! If you refuse to order my Ancient Egyptian Hemp Dream-Catcher, you will contract myxophobia, a fear of slime!

Remember BBSs? Remember FidoNet?

Friday, March 29, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

On the speakers: Space Radio at mp3.com. Easy listening with a bit of high edge.

That's what was on the speakers at work, anyway. Here at home, I haven't tried filling the house with mp3.com music; it might really suck up the DSL bandwidth.

DSL bandwidth, you ask? Do I mean that the DSL connection is finally working? Oh, did I forget to mention that? In fact


it is. We are quietly pleased. *8)

The modem came yesterday, and we plugged the router into it, and plugged the PC into that, and that worked. And then we plugged the radio card into the laptop, and that worked. And we tried some streaming audio that had been really really bad and chopped up over the phone line, and it was smooth and sweet.

Then I went to Shields Up and Sygate Tech and had them port-scan me, and they both agreed that it looked like I didn't exist at all; and that was good.

Various speed tests say that were getting like 450Mbps down and 130 up, which is fine for now. Eventually I may get tired of a mere tenfold speed increase and start diddling with things and dreaming of cable modems, but for now we're in Hog Heaven.

It's really going to take getting used to, being able to get to arbitrary things on the Net from home without having to go to the playroom computer, or get out wires for the laptop, and log onto AOL or the IBM thing, and worry about telephone and/or AOL timed fees, and...

I'm sure I'll have more on that later.

Gadget Annoyance o' the Day: the Rio 600 MP3 player here has developed a bad habit. Maybe the rechargable battery that I put into is a few microns shorter than normal AAs or something, but it's taken to turning off now and then. Which isn't a problem in itself, since it turns right back on, but when it turns back on it's forgotten that it's already played stuff, and it starts playing the current thing from the last checkpoint (last bookmark, last time I hit STOP, whatever).

And the heck of it is that the Rio doesn't seem to have any kind of Fast Forward thing. So I have to listen to George Carlin doing his silly prescriptivist grammarian rant or whatever all over again if I want to get to the part beyond it. Boring!

Anyone know how to Fast Forward on a Rio mp3 player?


More of my undying fame: Steve discovers that Alan Hauck has put some of his cool artwork and cartooning on the Web, including two images that I have hanging on the wall at the office. Rather a flattering likeness, I think.

(And on discovering this, does Steve actually tell me about it? No, he merely posts it in his weblog, blithely (and entirely correctly) assuming that I'll see it there! Hmph.)

Man, that was like almost twenty years ago. Sheesh!

(And I will point out that while it's true that Steve was in fact running the Game forum at the time of the Wombat incident, I was running the entire conferencing shootin' match of which the Game forum was just one small part. So Alan's contributions to my worldwide fame are entirely justified.)

But Enough About Me: Debra Hyde reminds us that the CIPA trial is going on (the first court challenge to a law requiring all federally-funded institutions to install filters preventing anyone from accessing sites with information about chicken breasts or pussy willows). This is one to keep an eye on; the censors never give up...

(Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Chicken Breasts.)


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