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Thusday, February 6, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

So is the AC adapter for this laptop here supposed to make a faint buzzing noise, that modulates into a quiet zapping sound when I like scroll large windows?

I'm guessing not.

I spent a little while searching around for that Dolly Parton CD that I bought from Amazon back in September, but couldn't find it anywhere. Then I went back and read the entry and found that I hadn't actually ordered it at all, just put it on my wishlist. So I went to my wishlist, but it wasn't there either (maybe I removed it, thinking that I'd already bought it). So I ordered it, just to reduce the confusion.

On our amazing whistling abilities a reader writes:

"Out of sync?" What you're describing sounds like "out of tune."

Well, yeah. Out of sync in frequency-space. And in time-space, a bit, too. Richens the effect.

On yesterday's triumph over email, a reader writes:

Finally! Someone who deals with mail like I do! <hug>

And a large Platonic hug to you, too! Today we managed to push the date back to 19 Nov 2002. I'm hoping to finish off November tonight. And I still have time to go to meetings! Now as long as no one wants me to actually accomplish any work...

Also on Monday we speculated that just perhaps the Lisp Machine OS would be better than Unix, and just perhaps a radish would be a worse President than Bush. A reader opines that

The radish would be better. Much, much better.

And I have to agree. Latest in the Administration Follies: John Ashcroft, noting that there are inequities in the rates at which the Federal Government kills people in various parts of the country, has decided to do something about it by upping the rate of Federal killing in those areas that are lagging behind. Presumably he and Shrub wish the whole country was like good old Texas ("execute 'em all, let the Blessed Savior sort 'em out").

Some days it's really hard to stay amused; every time I hear a news story starting "Today, Attorney General John Ashcroft..." or "Today, President Bush...", I wonder what new freedoms have been eroded, or what new cruelties are going to be committed with my tax dollars. Is this what it feels like in the decade leading up to totalitarianism? Or am I just whining because people I don't happen to like are in power?

I really hope I'm just whining.

Wednesday, February 5, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

So little much, so time to do.

Early this morning, full of pep and vigor for some reason (got enough sleep? did or didn't drink some amount of coffee or eat some amount of fat?), I started attacking the "normal" section of my work email inbox. This section of the inbox contains maybe three thousand or so pieces of mail, only one of which dates back to 1997.

My usual habit (obviously) is to open each new piece of mail that arrives in the inbox, read it, think "oh, yeah, I should do something about that sometime" and then leave it there for a day, or a week, or a month, or forever (sometimes reading it again, much later, and feeling guilty about it). I don't do this with all mail, or even anything like all mail, but I do it with far too many.

But this morning I decided to start my way down the inbox, newest first, and do something about every piece of mail, in order (as many as I could get to). I would either delete them, file them away, reply to them and then file them away, write myself a to-do on my to-do list and then file them away, or whatever.

I am pleased as punch to report that as of the end of the day, I had no mail from 2003 in (that part of) my inbox.

I'm so proud.

Beth is logging again, which is a Good Thing. She's also working for the IRS, into which we get a peek. But don't ask her to glance into your tax records for you. *8)

As usual, my precious bibliophilic readers know more about the books I read than I do:

If you found 'Eon' confusing in that way, try 'Eternity' (sequel) and 'Legacy' (prequel -- well, kinda). I found them much more so...

Even more confusing! Sounds good!

"Only 3 of this incredibly useful and important device exist" - How many 'incredibly useful and important' shuttles do we have ? 'Shuttles' just happens to be in my mind at the moment for obvious reasons - the reason for the lack of shuttles are mostly those of cost I'm guessing and the fact that missions themselves are less common and so those that exist suffice for the task - I would have thought that the ... tool whose name I've forgotten and my copy of Eon went walkies ... was difficult to construct and, as Eon tries to put across the politics of the modern world are still present within its future universe. IIRC (and it's a while since I read Eon), they don't open new gates very often because of the Jart war and the danger of hostile environments. However, I can agree with your sentiments that it seems odd that they treat both the Engineer and his creation with such almost magical reverence.

Yeah, it coulda been that the devices (I think they're called "clavicles" oddly enough) were just hard and expensive to make. But the way it was presented in the book was more the flavor of "only three Magic Orbs exist in the world, my child, and all but one are buried deep in the Cave of the Wombat".

Internal Memo Subject Line o' the Week:

Partial Vacuum, December 27, Building 801, All Floors

Now building 801 is really a rather large building, and the idea of partial vacuum on all of its floors is pretty mind-bending.

(What the memo actually meant, of course, is that due to physical plant maintenance, the lines that usually carry reasonably hard vacuum to the various labs would have only a partial vacuum on that December day, and people should be careful with their experiments. But that wasn't the first thing that sprang to mind.)

Did you know the Internet had been nationalized? The National Communications System.

On that awful marijuana verdict noted yesterday, a reader writes:

The jurors in this case did NOT have a choice. The judge refused to allow any defense statements regarding his status as a medical marijuana official and only allowed Federal evidence saying he was growing a lot of pot. The judge further forbade the jurors from any news accounts, so they didn't know until after the verdict that he was not a dealer, he was a California-approved pot grower. Breyer Number Two rigged the proceedings so the jury couldn't acquit. It's a travesty.

I certainly agree that it was a travesty, and that the jury was ill-used and deceived; I didn't mean to be blaming the verdict on the jury when I said yesterday that the jury always has a choice. What I meant was that, if they had had sufficient information and will to decide that it was the right thing to do, they could have walked into the courtroom and said "Your Honor, we find the defendant not guilty on all counts". And there wouldn't have been a (legal) thing the judge could have done about it.

Maybe the next jury will do that.

And on (heh heh) another subject entirely, the somewhat over the top but still worth a look Vote to Impeach Dot Org.

Tuesday, February 4, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

So I finished Eon. It was pretty good, although slowmoving in spots, and confusing in other spots. The ideas were mostly good and sometimes grand and impressive, and the personalities were reasonably well developed and interesting (although the one character who was built up as superhumanly intense and eerie turned out to be just a very good physicist). At the end the science devolved slightly into magic, of the "only three of this incredibly useful and important device exist" (for unexplained reasons) variety. And toward the end I definitely started to lose track of which faction was trying to do what, and which alternate universe copy N of character K was currently in.

But it was fun all told.

My used copy of There are Doors arrived today, but I want to finish (or at least get a little farther into) Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom" before starting any new books.

A couple of readers know more about Harry Mathews than I did, including that the Googling that I bragged about the other day wasn't quite as effective as I thought:

As a somewhat more than occasional reader of your weblog (OK, I should get out more) I thought I'd mention that your entry on Harry Mathews had me hunting out my copy of a collection of his short stories whose title (I think) is "The Way Home", published by Atlas Press. I couldn't find it - it must be on the bookshelf behind the other bookshelf in the spare room, so I'm working from memory here: it contains an extended recipe called "[French?] Country Cooking" which is one of the funniest things I've ever read. Of course you may already know this.

Nope, didn't know that at all. I hope and expect that that very funny story will be in the similarly-named collection that I'm expecting in the mail Any Day Now.

The Human Country: New and Selected Stories is not out of print. It was just published in 2002. There is no need to look for Country Cooking in the used book market, unless you feel the need to own it.

So I could have gotten at least that "Dialect" story new and shiny from Amazon if it had occurred to me to Google a little deeper and see if there was more than one book that contained it. But that's okay; I like used books anyway.

More chilling idiocy from the Administration (from amptoons to here to) this story:

The "Guernica" work by Pablo Picasso at the entrance of the Security Council of the United Nations has been covered with a curtain.

Why? Because it might be harder to argue for the virtues of a "preemptive" war with an image of the horrors of war staring you in the face.

Another reason not to gather too much information; someone will steal it:

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- University of Kansas officials discovered Wednesday that a computer hacker downloaded personal information gathered on 1,450 of its international students. The information was collected as part of new homeland security measures.

Another virus writer has been jailed in the UK. Interestingly, his website is still there, carrying messages and updates from his friends. I know nothing about this particular case, but it will certainly be interesting to see what happens as more and more prisoners are represented by Web pages giving their side of the story.

From Bill, Nigerian Spam Collection, in "from:" alphabetical order. (Man, I wish I had a fifth that much spare time.)

Amusing story about a coalition of whitehats chasing down a network of compromised machines:

The FBI group usually worked alone or with a few select federal officials and private sector consultants. But even Gerber's top-flight team was daunted by Leaves. It was time to call in help. Only a public-private posse of America's best hacker trackers could gut this worm.

As an ancillary member of that "posse", I can say that it was in fact pretty cool, but not nearly as polished and "cloak and dagger and mirrorshades" as the article makes it sound (surprise, surprise).

And speaking of the Feds, they're working on getting their PKI act together:

The federal CIO Council this month approved a proposal to create a single policy that all agencies would use to authenticate electronic messages, documents and users themselves.

Government efficiency is always a two-edged sword.

And finally from Morton, the very encouraging story "Network Associates can't ban benchmarks". The obvious question now being, can Microsoft? (If anyone has or can find a link to the actual text of this decision, please send; I wasn't able to dig it up.)

Monday, February 3, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

[The site was down for a bit due to a power hit at the box-farm, but if you're reading this it's probably back up now, heh heh.]

This is what I can do: I can put the tip of my tongue between my lips, and then whistle two tones simultaneously, one out each side of my mouth. I can control something like the average tone, but not the two tones separately; so I can't whistle two different tunes at once, but I can sound like two people whistling the same tune somewhat out of sync.

Sometimes when I do this idly in the presence of someone who doesn't know me very well, they'll do a doubletake of one kind or another, and then look at me all puzzled, and say "how are you doing that?"

This is what I live for.

Well, part of what I live for.

Now free on the net: the PDF version of the out-of-print (but still diverting) UNIX-HATERS Handbook. And in a similar vein, the rather ingenuously named "Institute for Public Accuracy"'s responses to the Shrub's 2003 State of the Union Address. Both are rather strident and completely unbalanced commentary on a popular subject.

For whatever reason, I like "The UNIX-HATERS Handbook" more than the IPA's commentary, even though I agree with the general sentiments of the latter more than the former. (I think that Unix is a pretty good OS given the alternatives, although I've never used a Lisp Machine and maybe it'd be vastly better. I think that Bush is a pretty awful President given the alternatives, although I've never actually seen a radish serving as President and maybe it'd somehow be even worse.)


WASHINGTON, D.C., JANUARY 23, 2003 - A broad-based alliance of consumer groups, think tanks, taxpayer organizations and businesses united today to launch an alliance that opposes government-designed and mandated technology to solve the problem of digital piracy.

These people are clearly digital terrorists.

A reader reassures us that we're not entirely unique in our anti-pedant pedantry:

Subject:   on uniqueness

You might find my buddy Seth's page to be a fun corroboration:
Steve Bogart

Another reader spins a variation on the face commentary from last week:

I hate airbrush on women's faces

I certainly resonate with the reader's fondness for unPhotoshopped faces. On the other hand, digital face alteration (like digital image manipulation of any kind) can produce interesting and sometimes attractive artworks. *8)

Recent spam subject lines of note:

<!--#rotate> Random word of digits with length 1 to 17 22818121371

Null Houses for sale from $10,000-Foreclosures,HUD,Vas...

Your Null Coat of Arms

Might be interesting, living in a null house, eh?

And speaking of nullity, here's the most striking argument for jury nullification that I've seen in awhile. Medical pot advocate found guilty:

In a final twist to the trial, the jury foreman said he hoped Rosenthal would win his appeal.

"I am for the use of medical marijuana, as a number of jurors were," Charles Sackett, 51, a construction contractor from Sebastopol, told reporters.

"We just couldn't base our decision on that... We followed the letter of the law."

Later, another juror called the verdict an injustice.

"We were made to feel like we had no choice, even though we were residents of a state that has legalized medical marijuana," said Marney Craig, 58, a property manager from Novato. "It seems like we made a horrible mistake. I should have stood up and said, 'I'm not convicting.' "

The jury always has a choice.

Saturday, February 1, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Space Shuttle Columbia

The Crew

In Memoriam

(Lower image courtesy of nowthis, via medley.)


earlier entries