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Thursday, January 30, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Now, look. I'm a language pedant myself: I get annoyed when people use "comprise" to mean "compose", or "begs the question" to mean "raises the question", or say "I could care less" to mean the opposite.

But more annoying than any of those things is when someone else is being a language pedant, and they do it wrong.

On the radio this morning on the way to work, I heard someone doing the sad and tired quasi-pedant rant about "unique". As usual, they (yeah, I use "they" as a singular neuter pronoun; but I do it on purpose) claimed that something either is unique, or isn't, and that "more unique" or "very unique" are (therefore) improper and never to be used.

This is just wrong, and I wish pedant wannabes would give it up.

Every person is unique, if only because they have different fingerprints, different DNA, than anyone else. (In fact every object is unique, if only because it is situated in different space-time coordinates than any other object.) So I'm unique because I have my DNA, but a guy who plays the bass viol with his nose is unique because he has his DNA and because he plays the bass viol with his nose.

So I'm slightly unique by virtue of my DNA, he's very unique by virtue of his bass viol playing, and he's more unique than I am. I've just used three of the constructs that these pedant pretenders denounce, and every use was entirely proper and correct.

So tell them annoying folks to lay off "unique", okay?

A reader gets right to the heart, or perhaps the spleen, of yesterday's entry:

I hate makeup on women's faces. Could you show us some real, actual, natural female faces, instead of those clownish ones? Thank you.

We used to have an across the street neighbor who I'll call Jamie because that was her name, and she was (still is, for all I know, but she isn't our across the street neighbor since she moved away so I'll talk about her in the past tense) sort of pretty, but she wore so much makeup that you couldn't really tell, and in fact she was sort of funny looking because of that.

One morning on the way to work as I pulled out of the driveway I saw across the street there was this pretty woman standing in the yard, and she waved at me, and I waved back, and I thought, "hm, I wonder who that was; Jamie's younger sister must be staying with them or something; she's pretty."

And as I imagine you've guessed by now I realized a few minutes later that it had actually been Jamie, and I'd just never seen her early in the morning before, before she had her makeup on.

So I certainly resonate with the reader's fondness for unmadeup faces. On the other hand, face painting (like body decoration of any kind) can produce interesting and sometimes attractive artworks. Readers should not necessarily assume that yesterday's entry was a straightforward bit of decoration.

It occurs to me that I don't think I'd be nearly as comfortable putting up the faces of five unmadeup strangers. Interesting.

Another reader points us at the very worthwhile "A Mathematician Looks at Wolfram's New Kind of Science", which points out some errors in various parts of the Wolfram book (which I still haven't finished, tsk tsk), and includes the very pithy phrase "Computer experiments cannot be trusted." Which, being obviously correct in context, is a lovely little rebuke to pretty much Wolfram's entire tome. (It also has pointers to eight other reviews of the tome, which might also be worth reading.)

Spam Subject Line o' the Day:

zimmyyummy, Immediate Help Needed

Pet names will get you nowhere.

- 2 for "iris chacon"
- 2 for "mia"
- 2 for "stetsko"
- 2 for "webcam"
- 2 for "yahoo hack"
- 1 for "bowers"
- 1 for "chessfamilies"
- 1 for "enema"
- 1 for "gay"
- 1 for "hack webcams"

From harrumph, it's (it was) Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day!

From quite far afield, an interesting bit of irony:

Facing its most chronic shortage in oil stocks for 27 years, the US has this month turned to an unlikely source of help - Iraq.

Weeks before a prospective invasion of Iraq, the oil-rich state has doubled its exports of oil to America, helping US refineries cope with a debilitating strike in Venezuela.

From AIR:

The GRBs originate only within distant galaxies as far as we know. This is easily explained, since extragalactic travel is either out of the question (even for advanced societies) because of the great distances involved, or else intergalactic space is so empty that it is common practice to leave your headlights off when traveling between galaxies.

As well as the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists™ people of the year.

Good rant about the sex biz and cultural attitudes, from Jane Duvall.

And is Sara Beard famous yet? (Check for yourself.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

a face a face
a face a face
a face

Tuesday, January 28, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Language Hat (yet another log that I should read daily, as if I had time available to read more logs) had an item quoting a description in very attractive terms of a story called "Dialect of the Tribe" by one "Harry Mathew". Despite the fact that it's actually "Harry Mathews" and the story doesn't seem to be in print anymore, it took only a bit of creative googling to find that the out-of-print book it's in is called "Country Cooking and Other Stories", to find that Amazon has a bunch of first editions and stuff for more than I'm willing to pay, Powell's knows about it but doesn't have it, and Alibris has (or had, heh heh) one for an amount that I'm (just barely) willing to pay.

So I'll have the book in my hot little hands soon, and this is definitely not the world that I recall from earlier on.

Similarly, looking through some bright feller's pile of books, I came across a description of Gene Wolfe's There are Doors (which I now want to read and which may belong in the vasty houses list), and Amazon wants entirely too much (see what a cheapskate I am?) for a new one, but has used ones for acceptably little (even including shipping and handling).

This "used paperback science fiction on Amazon" thing is dangerous. It's a good thing they don't discount shipping and handling if you order lots at once, or I'd be in real trouble.

So the world has made it much easier to get hold of books, lots of books, random books, particular books, any books at all. On the other hand I hardly (or barely) have time to actually read books. I'm currently bogged down in Greg Bear's Eon, in a long (or at least long-feeling) battle section, where every bit of equipment and every wound and every rushing from one bit of cover to another is described in pointless detail. Maybe I just have a low tolerance for that kind of thing.

(Also, the huge disaster the averting of which was I thought going to be the main focus of the book seems to have just happened, so I'm feeling a bit lost, and don't have much forward momentuum (momentum) to carry me through the combat details.)

How to Launch Your Personal Water Craft; this had me in hysterics this evening, and I'm still not sure quite why.

There's no such thing as bad publicity.

Okay, so maybe the "safe for work" ness of my WebCollage experience yesterday was something of an anomaly. Today both Ian and Bill were compelled to walk over to the server and supress the display, due to particularly prominent genital images (one of each). It's still really cool, though.

What's more, instead of diesel fumes, the engine gave off a rather pleasing odour - like frying time at the local chippy.

Speaking of genital images, today's "coolest domain name for an anti-porn site" award goes to Fires of Darkness Dot Com: "reaching out to pornography addicts and the people who love them".

In contrast, here is our Genderbend o' the Day (I didn't write "genderfuck", because I didn't want to offend anyone).

Inefficient use of resources:

Only about 2 percent of the 152 million queries received by the root server in California on Oct. 4 were legitimate, while 98 percent were classified as unnecessary.

I've wondered for a long time whether "the skyrocketing cost of health care" means that the same procedures are costing more and more, or whether we're just buying more and more health-related stuff because we're very interested in being healthy. This Atlantic article suggests that we are in fact buying more and more health-related services, but that we aren't getting any healthier as a result. An interesting claim; I'd like to see more on this.

From gorjuss, a site with lots and lots (and lots) of nursery rhymes. (Apparently, quality control standards for nursery rhymes were considerably lower in former times.)

Britain is not an island.



Sample, and corresponding memewatch.

Interesting chart showing (until it scrolls off) the growth (and death) curve of that worm over the weekend.

Lord of the Ringers:

The Count as Sauron. Vun, too, trrreeee rrrings for Elven kings under ze sky! Vun rrring to rule them all! Vun! Vun rrring to bind them! Vun!

Belatedly blogging the National Geographic Swimsuit Issue.

Three from How Appealing:

  • "20 Questions for Circuit Judge Jerry E. Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit",
  • "Are grapes more like nectarines, plums, and peaches, or are they more like mushrooms? Insofar as the First Amendment is concerned, today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that grapes are more like mushrooms",
  • "Sharply divided en banc Tenth Circuit, by vote of 6-4, rules that a Kansas appellate court could hold defendants guilty of crime for which they were not charged, tried, or convicted." (And it's slightly less outrageous than it sounds.)

Isn't Nature Wonderful?

From Skimble, a buncha south on top (and otherwise alternative) world maps. The thing that impresses me most is how huge and empty the Pacific is; pushing it out to the sides as canonical maps do hides this.

Also from Skimble, the very amusing Republican Babes, which has the nerve to link to Capitalist Chicks, as though "capitalist" was somehow similar to "Republican".

"The President considers this nation to be at war," a White House source says, "and, as such, considers any opposition to his policies to be no less than an act of treason."

Or "a high white-horse souse". We're sure that there's no truth in that report, aren't we? (See also this piece on Norman Schwarzkopf and his views on war, Rumsfeld, and like that.)

(Sheesh, I complain about having so little time, and then I spend the evening writing mile-high log entries. I must really enjoy this.)

Monday, January 27, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Lotsa miscellany today, so let's get right to it.

In a vast outpouring of generosity, about thirty-leven of y'all readers suggested "deasil" or "deosil" or both in reply to my trying to recall the other day a word like "winwiddershins" to mean "clockwise". One sums it up nicely:

The opposite of widdershins is "deasil" and/or "deosil." (I think this would be preferable to clockwise/counterclockwise because the very different words would make them less confusable.) Anyway, Merriam-Webster prefers deasil, while the web, led primarily by pagan sites, prefers deosil, 7880 to 1170.

All of which is very helpful. On the other hand, I still distinctly remember that the word I'm trying to recall was like "winwiddershins", which "deasil" (and "deosil") definitely isn't (aren't).


Smart feller just down the hall (or maybe upstairs, I forget) writes (last October) a good essay about the TCPA (the crypto-chip standard that's come under some fire from the anti-DRM people over the months), which agrees with what I said on the subject last July, except that he actually knows what he's talking about.

Over in the talking place, a reader writes:

Are you being here when no writing? Iric Chacon not here. There is odor.

Are you sure that's not Esther Williams?

And along a similar vein, a meme-mixer writes:

Iris Chacon has a yahoo webcam!

Judicial Quote o' the Day: "The parties are advised to chill." (This from Bill having brought to my attention that the Supremes have rejected considering Mattel's final attempt to get MCA Records in trouble for publishing a song parodying good old Barbie.)

Spam SUbject Line o' the Day: "Yes THose Are My Breasts".

I mentioned the online WebCollage in passing just the other day, but somehow I hadn't realized its amazing loveliness until today. Given how much I like getting the random images from that nasty old Klez virus, this thing is hog heaven for me. Lots more images, no viruses involved, and while it's not exactly the same set of images (from random websites rather than random harddrives) it has just that same feeling of representative shards of the ordinary that I love.

There's porn, hardcore and softcore, now and then, but in fact not nearly as often as I'd expected (and sometimes there are pictures of Sophia Loren). It's usually Safe For Work, and I had it on the display of my office server all afternoon (I only had to turn it off for a few minutes twice due to particularly unfortunate crotch shots).

The implementation is wonderful; the barely-transparent layering gives the right feeling of infinite unseen depths, and the ability to click to (sometimes) find out what the heck that thing is, are real Enhancements to the Experience. As is the F11 key in Opera, and presumably full screen mode in your browser of choice (although telling Windows XP to use it as the desktop itself didn't work very well at all; that feature seems designed for something else).

An influential Christian radio host, best known for his failed predictions of the second coming of Christ, has run into more derision and criticism for telling listeners to abandon church.

Harold Camping says his Bible studies have revealed that what he calls "the church age" has ended. He has told his worldwide radio audience that Satan has taken over all churches.

For the past two years, Camping has been teaching that God wants people to worship privately in their homes instead -- with no leaders, no baptism and no communion.

And no influential radio hosts? Or would that be too radical? (Link from amptoons.)

Also from amptoons, a nice piece about fat people (or their absence) on the Tube.

Somewhat relatedly, a reader writes:

Is interactivity really the salient property involved in the "play much computer games" rule? It seems related to the "watch meaningless drivel on tv instead of reading a book" rule that I often fall prey to.

Well, I dunno. The "watch meaningless drivel on tv" thing seems to have lost its power over me these years, replaced by computer games and (come to think of it) "read meaningless drivel on the web", which is (come to think of it) more interactive in some sense. Definitely more research needed. Order some grad students.

Runner-up Spam Subject Line o' the Day: "Never Get Lost For Under $20". I always insist on at least $27.50 to get lost, myself.

Lipsum dot com; for all your lorem ipsum dolor needs.

Here's a link to the Apparatus of Lies, just in case we need it later.

So on Saturday I was standing on the stage at Yorktown, giving my usual "viruses and stuff" talk to a bunch of beautiful high school juniors, when one of the organizers of the program walks up on the stage and asks me if I know anything about the worm that's destroying the Internet.

I don't, so I say I don't, and he says that someone said that it was some "sql thing", so I talk about the recent SQL server "bad guys can do anything they want" hole and exploit, and speculate that maybe someone wrote a worm around that, and it was taking off, and that if that was it the high school kids probably didn't have much to worry about directly, but it might slow things down for awhile.

Turns out I was right in most respects, which is always gratifying. Here's some techie stuff about the worm, and a less technical piece about the impact on a buncha ATMs, and the CERT Advisory.

It's a pretty amazing little thing; a 376-byte sequence that, when it arrives on port 1434 of a machine running the vulnerable version of Microsoft SQL Server (and perhaps Microsoft Desktop Engine, something that's apparently installed by various other programs), causes that machine to start spewing out copies of the sequence toward port 1434 on random IP addresses, just as fast as its TCP/IP stack will let it. And when one of those happens to arrive at a machine running a vulnerable server...

But despite the quick and massive spread and flood, it was all pretty much over by lunchtime.

For some people, buying Freyer's castoffs was a life-altering experience. Ashley Frazier of Chester Springs says his Great Old Empty Box, which she got for $20.50, "changed my life."

From geegaw, the magic words Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas. Anyone care to do this in English?

Last night there was a piece of JavaScript spewing untold numbers of identical pages with random names onto Metababy. When I noticed it I threw together a 'bot to remove them, but the server was already overloaded, and it was barely working by the time I got bored and went to bed.

This morning Metababy just says "Metababy is sleeping it off".

Lucky thing.

In possibly related news, at the moment Greg Knauss's site contains only a letter of surrender to life, dated 2003/01/16. Fascinating.

Metafilter thread about an interactive version of The Waste Land. Another thing I wish I had the time to absorb.

Also the other day, I used Nabokov's "Invitation to a Beheading" in a microfiction. I've never read it; I just found it in a random browse through Amazon and I liked the title. Now today I read an entry on Alamut where one of his readers recommends that exact same book (which I don't think I've ever heard of before) in the line of escapology. So it's on the wishlist, and synchronicity gets another point.

Digital Medievalist has an item expanding on my note on Torpenhow Hill; it's not just Hill Hill Hill Hill, but something deeper and more mysterious.

More things to read and wonder at: the Physics FAQ, and the speed of gravity.

Sunday, January 26, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Folder: sent messages
Newsgroup: alt.hardware.kitchen.toasters
Thread: Toast won't go in


I've got this toaster that I've been using for months now without any trouble, but for some reason this morning when I try to put in a piece of bread, it won't go in. Any ideas would be appreciated; gotta have my morning toast!


Thanx for the ideas. I'm sure that I'm putting it into the right slot, though; like I said I've been using this toaster for months without any trouble. And I'm definitely sure it's plugged in. Even if it wasn't plugged in, that would just make it not get hot; it wouldn't keep me from putting in the toast! So I'm still toastless; please help!


okay, I apologize, I didn't know there were "fail shut" toasters that close something over the bread slot when the power is off; no need to get al snooty about it! But anyway I don't thikn this is one of those, and anyway I made sure it was plugged in. Benny, are you sure it's safe to try putting in a cracker? I mean, if it did go in there'd be a cracker down inside my toaster, and then it would burtn, wouldn't it?


Thanks for the suggestions. It's a "Rowenta Electronic", and on the bottom it says "TA-55". I went to their web sight, but it doesn't say anything about not being able to get the toast in. I decided i'd try a cracker like benny said (it can't work any worse than it does now, right?), and once I wiggled it around a little it slipped right in, so now I have a cracker down in the toaster, but I still can't get the toast in.


hey, I'm sorry I'm not the worlds best speller! jeez. if it bothers someone they can just skip my postings,m you know? anyway, I tried other pieces of toast, and they don't do in either, and I took one of them next door and it worked in my neighbor's toaster just fine (so at least I got one piece of toast out of this!). Klara, is it safe to stick something in and poke around? All I can think of to poke with is like a fork, and I remember someone said never to stick a fork into a taoster.


whoopee! i found a wooden chopstick (and I also unplugged the box like benny suggested) and I poked around in side, and it turns out that a copy of "To Kill A mockingbord" had somehow slipped into the bread slot and was keeping the bread from going in! some of the cracker was cuaght between the pages, too, so hopefully I won't get too much burning when I make toast. My breakfast thanks you!


Well, so with everybodys help I got my toaster working gain (although theres a little burning from the bits of cracker that's stuck down there, but i guess it'll all be bruned soon). but i notice that the toaster isn't popping up the toast until its pretty dark. it used to pop up lighter like I like it, and I think maybe I messed something up when I was poking around with the fork. anyone know how to adjust the pop-up setting on one of these things?

Inspired by my attempts to figure out why the little daughter couldn't burn herself a mix CD from iTunes on the iBook. Still don't know why she couldn't, but we managed to burn one from the Windows machine (which won't rip to MP3, so we have a Jack and Mrs. Sprat combination there), and eventually I found that it also worked from my account on the iBook. Very mysterious. (Anyone know how to adjust the pop-up setting on one of these things?)


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