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Thursday, December 5, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

A reader writes with reference to the end of our whine yesterday:

I don't know, but the exact same thing with the battery icon happened on my 15-year-old's laptop today! Coincidence? Or ... ?

Could definitely be those Ukrainian teenagers. I did eventually find out how to restore the familiar green battery percent bar: open "Battery Maximizer Wizard" by pressing the correct one of the two battery-related icons in the Thinkpad Configuration doo-jah, then press "Next" until you get the panel that shows the percent bar and has a mysteriously not-checked checkbox next to it, and check that.

Needless to say, I'm absolutely certain that I didn't go into that Wizard and uncheck that box yesterday; even I would have remembered that.

The deeper MDAC and SP3 mysteries from yesterday remain unsolved.

One of our most devoted readers sends this


Pretty fun; pop culture (the real pop culture reacting to the fake pop culture), preserved on the Web. Just think: someday you'll be able to bring up an image of any public surface whatever, in the state that it was on any given time and date in the past (at least back to the Age of Preservation).

Various readers on our Mulholland Drive entry:

Actually, there is a story, it's just out of order and rather badly tied up. But most of it is a dream sequence, and the only thing that really pricked the hairs on the chin (Graves's old test for if its poetry, you know, and for poetry read "art"), was the gorgeously liminal interlude in Club Silencio. Wow.

I don't think I'd agree that there is a story; there are all sorts of possible stories that you could put together out of the images and sounds of the film. I don't think any of them (aside from trivial "it was all just a dream" ones) are actually consistent with themselves and every image and sound in the film and physical reality, but that's okay.

I'm tempted to put together a narrative reconstruction of the story of Mulholland Drive as happening in a circular loop of time; I think something like that is required to make the film self-consistent (watch the blue key, for instance). But it's probably too far down my to-do list to ever actually get done.

no hay banda

The Club Silencio bit (no hay banda) was indeed pretty cool. (On the other hand, the very last moment of the film, with the strange blue-haired person from the Club whispering a single word at the audience, seemed to be Lynch saying "don't forget we're over the top here!"; not that that's a bad thing.)

Nota - "key changes in precise & conventional order" are much more a characteristic of sonata (etc. etc. etc.) form, not program (narrative) music, which is nearly always (especially when "plain old") less predictable and (musically) coherent than the Forms. I see the point you're getting at, but it's not served well by the metaphor.

Hey, if you got the point, it was served just fine by the metaphor. *8) You're right, though, it was far from perfect. Mostly I wanted to point out that we have no problem with non-representational music, but for whatever reason we expect film to be representational. It's hard to make the metaphor perfect because we don't really have much representational music.


I followed your link to Amazon's 'Mulholland Drive' and was mildly amused by the recommendation heading - "Customers who wear clothes also buy :". Makes me wonder a) how they decide that their customers wear clothes, and b) what the Amazon customers who don't wear clothes would buy.

Yeah, Amazon's been getting considerable ribbing lately about those. They're a joke, intended I suspect both to get people to click through to the new Amazon clothing store, and to get people talking about the joke. The latter, at least, seems to be working!

Spam subject line o' the day:

We pay you daily, and back it with a ,000.00 cash guarantee!

Yes folks, that's not no dollars, or even no hundred dollars, but no thousand dollars! And we guarantee it!!

From the referer log, to whatever this is, to ravenlike, and finally to an interesting piece about the history of NaNoWriMo (written last year).

"I was avidly following all of these things with my mouth agape," says Baty. "I would go to all these clubs where people were talking about NaNoWriMo and I was like, 'These people are talking about it like it's a real thing.' Then I realized, 'Oh my God, it's become a real thing.'"

Must have been quite a shock.

Wednesday, December 4, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

So most of y'all readership was less inspired by Intermission (perhaps everyone was out getting little plastic cups of orange juice in the lobby, or fighting the crowds for the rest rooms):

transmission, remission, emission, fission, fusion, confusion, damnation



Dunno what the link has to do with anything, but it does reveal how to say ROTFLMAO in German. The reference to licorice may be due to our brief obsession the other month. The obsession seems to have passed; I think I overdosed a bit, and the taste was beginning to pall.

Now for some whining about computers!

There's this relatively new Microsoft Security Bulletin about how some bug in MDAC lets any 14 year old boy in the Ukraine take over any Windows machine in the world, and everyone ought to install the new patched version of MDAC.

(MDAC stands for "Microsoft Data Access Cruft", and is one of the many Windows components that perform the important function of making the data on your computer accessible to the entire world. Every once in awhile someone decides that this isn't such a good idea in specific cases, and a patch is issued.

In fact the reason that Windows is so large is that it contains roughly five million lines of security patches more or less of the form "if requestor.age == 14 and requestor.sex == male and requestor.location == Ukraine then crash obscurely rather than giving requestor complete control over the machine".)

So I went to install the security update, but a little ways in I got a fascinating but very obscure popup, telling me that there was something wrong with "Exception Package", and the installation had failed.

Undaunted, I downloaded the latest version of MDAC (2.7) by hand from Microsoft, and tried to install it manually. Same popup, same failure.

A little poking around on the Web found me a Microsoft tool specifically designed to figure out what sort of horrible tangle MDAC has gotten itself into. That tool said that I had MDAC 2.5 SP2 installed, but a couple of dozen files were missing. So I downloaded MDAC 2.5 from microsoft.com and tried to install that, but it told me that it was already installed.

I looked around for a way to uninstall MDAC entirely (figuring that I could manage without the entire world being able to access my data for a few days at least), but found Microsoft web pages claiming that MDAC is an integral part of Windows 2000, and can't be removed.

A bit more Googling found advice about how to remove various registry keys when Windows becomes confused about things called "Exception Package", but when I went into my registry those keys weren't there to remove.

Okay, I figure, Windows 2000 SP3 has been out for a long time now, so maybe if I just install SP3 the MDAC files will get fixed up as a side effect. I go to install SP3, and after some time I get the very entertaining popup shown here:

interesting popup

Note the amusing irony: the message says that if I want to use reliable software, I should use software from Microsoft, rather than this lame "Microsoft Windows Installer" thing that I'm currently trying to run.

The "More Info" button gets me a terse popup saying essentially "stuff wasn't signed right or something", and pressing "OK" gets me a message that installation failed.

Still more poking around on the Web reveals that there's a known bug in (among other things) Windows 2000 SP2 that sometimes causes this erroneous popup, and that the workaround is to go into an obscure security policy thing in the depths of Windows, and temporarily change a couple of settings from (roughly) "forbid" to "permit".

Unfortunately, on my machine those settings are already set to "permit", and in fact it won't let me set them to "forbid" even if I wanted to.

So that's where I'm currently stuck. I'm hoping that the lack of those couple dozen files from MDAC 2.5 is enough to keep the laptop safe from fourteen year olds, but it's probably a vain hope. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow.

In fact I don't actually expect computers to work any better than this. I think what's really befuddled me in this incident isn't so much that stuff doesn't work, but that the most recent iterations of Windows seem to be even more silent than their ancestors about why things don't work.

In an attempt to be ultra-friendly and non-scary, the XP generation of Microsoft cruft seems to have eliminated the slightest hint of diagnostic information from all messages. There are no error codes, no detailed technical messages with filenames or anything that one could look up in a manual or on the Web. There's just "the update failed; click here to try again", or "a valid digital signature was not found".

Whatever happened to Guru Meditation Numbers?

P.S. sometime as I was writing this, the little battery icon in the task bar (or system tray or whatever the heck that is) that usually shows me what percent I have remaining on my battery(s), went away. Instead of the wide green bar with "48%" or whatever written in it, there's this little picture of a battery whose bottom half is blue. Maybe someone in the Ukraine likes that icon better.

Tuesday, December 3, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

Before we get to today's batch of NaNoWriMo reader input, we must note with glee that due to our learned and convincing discussions the other year, the Supreme Court is going to reconsider the principle laid out in the horrible Bowers decision (basically "if a certain right has been violated for a really long time, it's okay to keep violating it").

See coverage by Pursed Lips, CNN, the New York Times, UPI, and really detailed stuff from Lambda Legal.

This is good, if also scary. With this particular court, you have to wonder if they're maybe doing it just so they can emphasize their previous bad decision. But I'm trying to be optimistic.

Chapter One:

Buckle Your Thumb
webcam hack
The Larch.
In which much time is wasted before settling down to NaNoWriMo.
It was a dark and stormy night.
stealing neopets passwords

Nice selection, eh? "3" would be a very original name for the first chapter of a book. As would most of the others.

Monday, December 2, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

In celebration of the finishing of the Novel, we will look at novel-month reading input, starting today with Working Title:

Grounded in the Future
Come and sit by my side if you love me
Iris Chacon's Last and First Men
Blue Harvest
Yes, sleepy, twice used 'which is a good thing'
Songs of the Innernesses
It's not the hydraulic nuts, silly. It's the stud tensioners.

Any of which would be fine working titles indeed. Or not.

More extendedly:

Thanks for the pointer to Shonen Jump, now a chunk of my younger son's Christmas haul is taken care of!

Our first issue (Issue #1, with the exclusive ultra-rare Yu-gi-oh card) just came today, in fact. It seems pretty neat, although I haven't gotten it away from assorted kids long enough to look at very much of it.

in your spare time, you might read nicola griffith's ammonite, also a bit of a alien lesbian love story.

As was Mulholland Drive in a way, come to think of it.

Isn't it fascinating how our stories tell themselves to us? I am stunned! I love this process and wish that "work" thing didn't have to get in the way so much.

I'm pretty stunned, too, as well as exhausted. I'm glad next November's still eleven months off.   *8)   But I do think I'll do it again.

Mozilla riddled with security holes

Oh, right, that was me, writing in my own input box while on some other computer somewhere away from my "things to log" file. Anyway, chalk another one up in the "it's not just Microsoft" column (although this is a rather old story; I forget where I stumbled over it).

(In the warm glow of November being over, I forgot all about World AIDS Day. I will belatedly suggest that y'all readers go over to Link and Think, and see what notable things the participants did on Sunday.)

Good night, all!

Saturday, November 30, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

So my prediction from yesterday was wrong. Not only have I not read through the novel from start to finish twiddling little things, I haven't read a single word of it.

Maybe later.

Instead I watched Mulholland Drive. Yowp! You've probably already seen it (I'm always the last to know), but if you haven't you should. Just don't expect it to make any sense.

(The title "Twin Peaks 90210" springs for some reason to mind.)

I have this theory about David Lynch. It's not a Definitive Theory, but I like it.

Imagine that, up until now, all music had been narrative music, telling a precise and well defined story; like Peter and the Wolf, or (hm) maybe The Sorceror's Apprentice, but even moreso: key changes coming in a precise and conventional order, themes carefully laid out and explicit. Now David Lynch comes along and writes a plain old fugue, or a sonata, or something.

"Hold on now! We started out in C (remember the strong tonic establishment in measure 24?), but now we've got a cadence in F. What's going on? And that five-note motif that just went by; how did that get here? It was originally on the tonic, and how it's at double the tempo and it's on the fifth! What the heck is Lynch trying to do??"

"Mulholland Drive" is a sequence of sounds and images and characters and dialog that produce a certain effect on the viewer. But looking for a coherent story with a beginning and a resolution and everything is just beside the point.

(Of course since people these days do generally expect a beginning and a resolution, not having one is itself part of the film's overall effect, just like the scary subsonics in the music.)

So that's my amateur film criticism for today.

(For the sake of full disclosure, I should also note that the scenes involving lovely semi-nude women moaning with desire may have also influenced my attitude toward this film.)

Log-wise, there's tons of witty and printable reader input queued up, and perhaps now that November is done I will once again be surfing around enough to find interesting links to pass along. Or maybe I'll decide to just log my own profound and fascinating thoughts for a few months.

You never know.

Friday, November 29, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

And still later, when Ot was resting with Ha To in the house, Torcel had gone back down the other path, deep into the works, to the place in the bright cavern where the water flowed pure and light in a torrent below the walkway, and she had brought the tears to her eyes and let them fall, tear after tear, into the water, each tear with its load of the tiny animals and machines that filled her, and that had spread from her into Ot.

Then, when her tears would come no more, she went back up the path to the house, and rested and ate with Ot, and after awhile the two of them went back into the sweet hot searing Innerness, to swim with their bodies twined together, and to wait for me to begin opening a way out into life.

End of day 29: 50,433

It's Done!!

NaNoWriMo Winner!

Well, it's at 50,000 words, anyway, and it ends with "the end", and the story is finished. In a few minutes, I'll upload it and verify it on the NaNoWriMo site, and get officially declared a Winner.

I like the premise of this year's novel better than last year's, and I like the fact that it almost has a plot, and the plot almost leads to a resolution at the end. (It doesn't quite do these things, but it comes closer than last year's.)

On the other hand I don't think I like the execution quite as much, the individual words and scenes. I was very very fond of the "strange random substories" gimmick(s) from last year, and there was nothing like that in this one, no peculiar conceptual hook like that (well, unless you count the whole "world-sized lizard floating comatose in interstellar space" thing; but that's different).

The general trend of NaNoWriMoers is to talk boldly of things like NaNoEdMo (Novel Editing Month), and how they're now going to spend lots of time taking the raw creative stuff of the November novel and pounding it into a more acceptable shape.

I don't think I'm going to do that, for whatever reason. I might try to read it from start to finish tomorrow, and twiddle with any obvious local flaws.

But mostly I consider it Done, just like I considered last year's done last year. Maybe after the kids are in college I'll get the novels out (along with the ten or so others I'll have written by then, heh heh) and polish them up and get them published and become famous.

But for now I think I'm going to bed...


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