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Wednesday, February 12, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

So of the many things that I could write here, which would particularly please you? Or, depending on my actual motivation (which is always obscure), which would particularly please me?

It's impossible to adequately describe how utterly inadequate the word "many" in that sentence there above is. Virtually any significant sentence I write here will never have been written, word for word and letter for letter, by anyone ever before. The number of possible sentences is unthinkably large. The number of meaningful sentences, while unthinkably smaller than that, is still unthinkably large.

Saying something no one's ever said before requires neither colorless green ideas, nor sipsipsipernip (Chomsky and Kierkegaard respectively, I think). Every one of us probably does it several times a day. (That last sentence may not be unique in history. You never know.)

Which gets us back near "very unique", but I'm not going there right now.

In fact I'm not going much of anywhere right now, just sitting on the floor at the foot of the big bed with the laptop on the quilt in front of me (not sure quite how I ended up here), with M and the little daughter in the bed (M reading, the little daughter sniffling from her cold and playing some Gameboy game with the headphones on).

Thinking about having some hot chocolate, or maybe just going to sleep.

And thinking about the incredible space of sentences, a space that of course a gazillion better minds than I have been boggled by before (ref The Library of Babel).

You wouldn't think there'd be so many things bigger than the universe.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Perhaps on yesterday's story fragment, a reader writes:

A lovely allegory, Master!

Thanks! I didn't consciously write it as an allegoy; it just sort of came to me. But reading it now in context I see what you mean. It's not entirely obvious what it would be saying allegorically. But of course that's the best kind.

A simple solution would avert the budget disaster facing California's schools: We should declare every public school to be a prison. The kids would understand.

Details need to be worked out, but I want every child in California to be given a 13-year prison sentence at age 5, with the possibility of a four-year extension.

That way, the $7,000 the state spends per student each year could immediately be raised to $27,000 -- what the state spends on each inmate annually. And our criminally under-funded schools would qualify for the only category in the governor's proposed budget that's slated to get more money this year.

Hm, since we've wandered into politics again, see this Spinsanity piece on the New York Sun's identification of dissent with treason; and some evidence that the New Yor City Police Department shares that opinion at least to the extent of having ceased to grant permits for protest marches.

Rice for Peace.

And to wrap up tonight's thoughts on war, I highly recommend Mark Twain's "The War Prayer", which I came across (indirectly enough) in the notes for the Babylon 5 episode of the same name. (The little boy has been wanting to watch the DVDs with me lately, which has resulted in my falling behind in reading the web analyses after watching the episodes; we're actually up to "Deathwalker" now.)

From geegaw's diablog:

Nothing much changes. Here, from Google's archives, are the top searches of 1895:

"dashed pretty young fillies"
"moustache wax"
"hottentot ladies"
"Madame X"

Janis Ian has a whole bunch of her MP3s available on the Web for free download. Some of them are pretty good; maybe I should buy a CD or two.

I've found that to be true myself; every time we make a few songs available on my website, sales of all the CDs go up. A lot.

The Spirit of America: "TwistedPeaches is an innovative web design and hosting company specializing in providing independent escorts with affordable access to advertising and marketing services on the web."

James Grimmelmann, for whom I have a great deal of respect, discusses the recent lawsuit brought by SearchKing against Google, and asks what seems to be a silly question:

A great deal may also hinge on whether you think that Google provides access to information or merely comments on it. SearchKing alleges the latter, and Google agrees, but maybe SearchKing should have brought its case by arguing that Google has become, in effect, a gatekeeper to Internet content. On that view, a low PageRank isn't just an opinion, it's also partly a factual statement that you don't exist in answer to certain questions, on the basis that low search results are never seen. When was the last time you looked for results beyond 200 on a search request returning 20,000 pages?

I find myself utterly opposed to the suggestion that Google "provides access to information" and is a "gatekeeper to Internet content". There are a zillion ways to get to things besides Google, and Google doesn't keep anyone from reading anything. In context, the idea seems to be that since so many people use Google, we should at least consider whether it should be nationalized, regulated, or otherwise treated as a "public utility". Maybe it's just my knee-jerk Libertoonianism, but I find the suggestion absurd.

"When was the last time you looked for results beyond 200 on a search request returning 20,000 pages?" is the wrong question, I think. The right question would be "When was the last time you went to a page that wasn't one of the first 200 results in a Google search?". That would be, I imagine, pretty recently!

I get to pages because they are put up by people I know, or someone sends me a link in email, or because the WebCollage spider puts up an enigmatic image from one, or because it's from a site I just know (does anyone get to eBay via Google?), or as part of a chain of twenty or thirty links leading outward from any of the above. I do lots of Google searches, too, but (as lots of people said in the comments on the Lawmeme page) if Google started behaving in ways I didn't like, I'd use some other search engine that behaved better.

But I probably shouldn't be reading "anything sufficiently successful should be confiscated by The People" into this anyway. I just read Reason too much. *8)

And speaking of ways people find things, here's a piece about power-law distributions, and how it's inevitable that a few blogs will get most of the traffic. Given that theme, it's amusing to note that of the dozen or so weblogs that the author cites as among those at the head of the distribution, those that supposedly get the lion's share of hits in the current weblog world, there are none that I read with any regularity, exactly one (Virginia Postrel's) that I can recall having read more than once, and only about three that I've even ever heard of before.

Which rather undercuts the message. Although one could always assume, with some justification, that I'm somewhere way out on the tail of the relevant distribution, and don't count.

(There are a couple of holes in the math as well. It's not true that any correlation at all between the habits of weblog readers will lead to a power-law distribution. It's only when the correlation is a network effect, when I'm more likely to visit the site because lots of other people have visited it, that the math works that way. Such effects certainly exist, but I don't think they're quite as inevitable as the author suggests.)

Monday, February 10, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

I was bought by the wizard when I was seven, bought from my Aunt in the shadows of an alley by a tall creature disguised as a man. In the Tower, my new master said that it was my fate to come to him, his fate to find me and buy me.

I later found that by "fate" he meant the vague intuitions that came to him in certain drugged trances, listening to certain wailings from the mouths of a golden orb. Arcane and impressive, but at least as likely to produce dangerous lies as dangerous truth.

I have been with my Master now for twenty years, and I am loyal to him because my interests are largely his interests, and because I am not yet skilled enough to throw off all the sorcellings he has cast around me. He has taught me some of what he knows. I have stared for too long into some of the darknesses he keeps, I have travelled to the rare conclaves where wizards send their apprentices, and heard his words come from my mouth.

He has taught me to tame the whirlwind and to ask questions that should not be asked, and on moonless nights I have touched the bones of the world. But from it all what I have learned is this: that the picture of the world in my Master's mind, his ideas of the innermost heart of the universe, are wrong; and he himself is, fundamentally, a fool.

On my worries Thursday, readers write:

I, too, really hope you're just whining.

I'm not sure it's whining; my days at the moment seem to be spent with long periods of coding interspersed with short periods of "oh my god, what are they doing" before returning to coding to take my mind off the general state of the world. Maybe you're just concerned and saying something; that's not whining :-)

For more fodder for whining and/or concern, see this writeup on the draft "Patriot Act II" which has been leaking around. My favorite part is that the government can revoke a citizen's citizenship if the citizen, like, gives money to some organization that the government decides is a "terrorist organization". So if this passes, all them Democrats'll have to watch out!

A pox on both their studios: I was watching the "news" on the rank of television sets hanging from the ceiling at the Club this morning (the Audible software that I use to put listenable things onto the Rio 600 stopped working awhile back for complicated computer configuration reasons, and I've been too lazy to reinstall it), and it was (predictably) horrible.

Fox "News" had a bunch of (really smug nasty looking) talking heads agreeing with each other about how great each other were and how stupid foreigners are, the prominent example being France. France, the talking heads said, has refused to help along the cause of war with Iraq despite the fact that the U.S. helped liberate them from the Nazis in WWII, and this is morally indefensible.

In their universe, the fact that young Americans lay down their lives to help France back then means that France is morally obliged to go along with anything the U.S. might want to do in the future (perhaps including especially laying down the lives of still more American youths).

On the other hand, the prominent feature on C"N"N was a story implying that Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. the other day was suspect because Powell referred to a U.K. report about Iraq, and in that report about Iraq the authors draw heavily on some research done by a private U.S. foundation, and they don't properly footnote it. Can you imagine?

The pretty anchor-lady interviewed the poor vicitimized author of the original not-footnoted report, and tried really really hard to get him to say something negative. "Were you surprised to see your data used in the U.K. report because it was do old?" (To which he replied that it wasn't really all that old at all.) He would not be baited, and she was reduced to a rather snarky "and he doesn't even have his Doctorate yet" after his camera was off.


Be nice if we could discuss these issues somewhere above the "people who disagree with me are stupid" level, eh? (Not that I've been doing alot of that myself.)

Anyway, get your Total Information Awareness merchandise today; show your patriotism! The thong and the baby-bib are particularly attractive.

Spam subject line o' the day (okay, this feature is getting a little old, but somehow I can't resist):

Live better, feel better olfsnb

Thanks, I'll try to do that pfqiij.

So whilst looking at a bankrupt Polish dotcom that's for sale (and that was advertised in some spam that I got back in September of 2002 (I'm back to 19 August 2002 in my email-processing quest!)), it occurred to me that the dot pea ell TLD has certain interesting characteristics; and sure enough, here's foo.pl.

Very nice.

What else we got here? Some amazing Etch-a-Sketch art (link courtesy of I forget where), the obvious Windows XP background (but I want a 1024 by 768 version), and an interesting confession from someone who faked his own website defacement, and started a rumor that the Slammer worm was written by would-be digital terrorists (for some complicated journalistic reason that I don't entirely follow perhaps because I'm just reading too fast).

And finally, lovely big golden ships with noise.


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