log (2003/03/28 to 2003/04/03)

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What are you reading?

Thursday, April 3, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

So over there on the iBook I've installed NetNewsWire (lite), and I've been looking around at RSS feeds of all kinds. Turns out lots of the logs that I read respond to autodiscovery (most commonly because they use MoveableType, which does that automatically); so I just paste the log URL into NetNewsWire, and it magically finds the RSS feed and adds it to its list. Very cool!

(I discovered that it doesn't correctly do autodiscovery on this very page, at least not on yesterday's version of it. So I submitted a bug report. I also changed the URL embedded in this page to an absolute URL, so with luck the bug will no longer matter wrt this here log thing.)

I don't know if I'm going to start using NetNewsWire religiously to follow logs or not; on the one hand it's pretty convenient, but on the other hand it's pretty convenient, and I might end up spending even more time that I don't have engrossed in other people's thoughts.

I've switched to Safari as my main browser on the iBook. It's pretty cool, and seems nice and stable. It's a bit low-function in some annoying ways: only a very few options available on context menus (where I'm used to Opera's lots and lots), no way (that I've found) to download an image or link target to a particular place (without going into preferences and repointing the download location), and a couple other things that I've forgotten. But not bad in general.

So anyway! I see a little better now why at least a few people were interested the other month in an RSS feed for the log that would include the full content of each entry, not just the date and the clever one-liner title.

For logs that consist of lots of short entries, it really is convenient to read them that way (and, conversely, rather inconvenient that MoveableType or whoever that is seems to truncate the content part at like 80 characters). But for this here log, which is (at most) one sometimes very long entry per day, I don't think it's quite as attractive in this case. And also I'm lazy.

But if any of y'all who read this via syndication would like to suggest any smaller changes to the RSS file, I'm happy to listen. Would it be better, for instance, if the "title" of each RSS item were the little one-liner, instead of having the one-liners in the content field? Or is there so little information there anyway that all the RSS feed tells you is whether or not I've updated at all since you last looked? (I suspect the latter.)

Okay, from geekiness to politics. Here's another one of the very scary people that the administration is so fond of (and full of). What is it that they have in common? Part of it is, perhaps, how much they seem to revel in the idea of Perpetual War.

I'm sure everyone's heard by now about Mike Hawash, a U.S. citizen who's being held as a "material witness", in solitary confinement, without having been charged with any crime, as the result of secret warrants.

This particular detainee has reasonably powerful friends, who are making a stink. What about the next dozen?

I think it's not impossible (unlikely, but not impossible) that Bush and Ashcroft and crew really are, consciously, intending to do away with many or most of the civil liberties that U.S.ians so take for granted. It's more likely that they're just deeply clueless and don't understand why everyone doesn't just trust them as they take unfortunate but necessary steps to defend the country against its enemies; but it's not impossible that they know exactly what they're doing, and that what they're doing is taking over the country, on behalf of themselves and their circle, and using the war as one of their tools to do it.

From their behavior, it seems more likely every day. Still pretty unlikely, but less unlikely every time something like this happens.

And for some reason the thought doesn't depress me very much tonight. Either my confidence in the ultimate wisdom of the American people and the defeat of the Bushies is especially robust, or I've just been programming enough today to be on an irrational high.   *8)

Blogshares! A very silly idea!

An interesting final exam.

From MeFi (hm, I'll bet they have an RSS feed too) a promising looking sexblog, condensing the news from a variety of sex-related blogish sites. (Just in case any of my readers are for some reason interested in sex.)

That "My New Filing Technique" guy goes into stridency and right back out the other side:

Does Bush even know who these motherfuckers are? Didn't he get suspicious when he saw Kissinger and John Poindexter licking the blood off each other's hands?

One of the reasons I loved (love) academic philosophy is that you get to write sentences like this one: "he doesn't realise it's analytic that French toast is cooked in dairy products".

From gorjuss (a really long time ago), "[a] nice story about airships as network providers". (Where "airship" means "one of those blimps or dirigibles or whatever".)

So now I've written lots of stuff, and I think I'll stop writing stuff for tonight, and maybe I'll write more stuff tomorrow.

(At work this afternoon I slipped my shoes back on, and there was this funny feeling under my right heel, so I slipped my right shoe back off again, and a rubber band fell out onto the floor. The rubber band had been in my shoe, and that's why there'd been a funny feeling under my heel.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

So this year let's just take the spiders on our noses for granted and move on, eh?

We'll move on, in particular, to Reader Input, because we haven't done that in a long time, and because we had some particuarly kind and flattering ones lately that I can't resist showing off. We'll break with tradition and write it down (roughly) newest first, rather than starting with the like six-month-old reader inputs that I haven't gotten to yet, and feel so guilty about that I'll probably put off until the kids are in college (natter, natter, natter).

A couple of readers said nice things about yesterday's entry. I kind of like it myself; I nearly didn't write anything, then I remembered the Messenger one from some woolgathering that I'd done earlier in the day, and then (after I'd composed that part of the entry and nearly but not quite posted it) I took out the garbage, and the rest is history.

not an answer to your question, just - yes! I know what you mean (about the landscapes). And, well, yeah....I like you and appreciate you. That's all.

What more could one want? I tell myself that I write this log just for myself, but y'know...

I am reading your painfully wonderful Monday entry. Thank you.

You're very welcome.

Another reader is very mobile, even while typing into little feedback boxes:

"I am walking towards the sink so I can what? Wash the what? The dishes."


Definite shades of Doug Adams in your 3/31 bit.

Interesting. I hadn't thought of it as having that flavor myself, but I've somehow never really grokked Adams.

On another collection of words (mentioned here the other day) a reader writes

I've tried to read "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" 3 times now, each time I get to about page 4 then I fall asleep! Gaaaack! I keep reading where people whose judgement I respect enjoy it, but I can't get myself into it! I am a failure. Or else I'm just too tired recently...

I think you're just too tired recently. Sleep really late on Saturday, then read it. It's very very short (the hardcopy book, which our local Barnes and Nob didn't have in stock) just be really thin. Or have very large type.

I had no trouble staying interested, although I will say that it reminded me a bit of "Distraction" (see previous comments) in that I would have liked to see more of the surrounding world, and a little less of the particular mess that this particular person is making of his life. Ultimately, though, I found the characters more satisfying and involving than those in "Distraction".

Another complementary reader (who is definitely free to call me "David") writes:

I do hope you'll read Ted Chiang's short story collection, _Stories of Your Life and Others_, as I'm curious to hear what you think of it. Chiang is the rare SF author who writes only short stories -- and then only sporadically. Of course, the few he publishes do appear in top-rate publications, and most win awards. Many describe his writing as hard SF, but although he takes care to get the science right, I think his stories are more concerned with the extrapolation of social science and philosophical themes. E.g., "Story of Your Life", my favorite in the collection, is a brilliant take on how worldview shapes language (and vice versa). Not all of his stories hold up as well as this one, but the collection is certainly worth reading.

Incidentally, I decided to read Banks' _Inversions_ on your recommendation after having read the wonderful _Feersum Endjinn_ a couple years ago. I've procured a copy, but it's still waiting on the shelf. Hopefully I'll get to it soon.

I really enjoy your log.

Thanks, and thanks! I'll add this Chiang feller to the list. I hope you enjoy "Inversions"; different people seem to have very different reactions to it. I definitely do recommend it (as well as anything else by Banks).

Keith (whose blog has lots of nice juicy entries about books; the sort of thing I'd like to do if I weren't so lazy so much of the time) writes:

In a recent log entry, you wrote: "...the kind of book that throws you into the jargon and the world without much explanation and lets, or makes, you figure it out for yourself; I like those"

And then later you mention coming across the name China Mieville. I recommend his two most recent books, _Perdido Street Station_ and _The Scar_. PSS in particular plunges you into a strange world without a lot of reference points.

My crappy notes on the two books are here: [link] [link]

And from there you can find my commentary on loads of other books, in case you want to calibrate against something you've read.

Thanks! When I was in B and N the other day failing to find either "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" or "Urth of the New Sun" in stock, I did run across "Perdido Street Station" (which I'd seen recommended in various places, most recently in that BookFilter thread about SF), and I bought it (even though the edition is a rather precious overlarge softcover with ragged-cut pages rather than a sensible standard paperback). And I've just started reading it; the prologue went just fine. *8)

What are you reading?

Too many stupid books on eugenics for my history project, and Mrs. Dalloway to keep me optimistic.

A good book, although my favorite Woolf is probably "To The Lighthouse". Where would we be without Woolf? Woolf and Austen.

An observant reader sends us this nice photo, for which we are grateful:

Lovers embracing by a fountain

Readers who don't instantly recognize why the phrase is relevant to the log here are invited to poke around the site until they find it. *8)

A puzzled reader writes:

Who _is_ Iris Chacon??

The reader is referred to a few Februaries ago (although the links seem to have broken over the years; I hate that), as well as the activity since.

And very appropriately a reader responds to the old question "What are you planning?" with:

iris chacon pic

Another reader, asked to define the universe, replies laconically:


And a final reader wishes for more:

tanya harding nude

The thing is, you know, it's "Tonya"...

Monday, March 31, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

"I am an Angel of the Lord," he said.

"Or no, wait, that's not it." He shook his head in irritation.

"I am a messenger --"

"A --"

He took a deep breath.

"I am a person, created by a vastly intelligent being from a nearby star system, sent here to Earth to communicate with you on that being's behalf."

He exhaled.

"That's almost completely false."

"I am," he said, "something between a sock puppet and the anonymous note you leave in your neighbor's mailbox asking him not to mow his lawn so early on Sunday morning."

He was silent for awhile, looking at the ground. He did not seem entirely sane, but there had been the whole 'descending from the sky on wings of fire' thing. And the fact that his feet were still not quite touching the ground.

Someone asked him, very politely, what the message was, if he did in fact have some message.

"The message!"

He sucked at his lower lip.

"Well," he said, "it's complicated, but basically the message is..."

He nodded to himself.

"It's 'stop doing that'."

I don't know what it is that makes some, that makes so many, random bits of landscape so heart-piercingly beautiful. The evening is so lovely tonight, the air still and cold, the sky clear and deep with a few enigmatic clouds. A fellow could die of beauty on the way to put out the garbage.

Maybe in a former life I had good experiences in landscapes like these, and I still carry the associations somewhere down in my inchoate soul.

That must have been one heck of a former life.

Saturday, March 29, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Primary new discovery, from I forget where: BookFilter, like MeFi, only about books (and using software that's at present slightly more primitive).

I've never been more than a casual member of the MeFi community; we'll see if BookFilter manages to draw me in more effectively.

And found on BookFilter (it's the first BookFilter Discussion Book), Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, a full-length novel (accepted by a real live publisher and everything) that you can download for free in a variety of soft open formats.

I'm currently halfway through Chapter Five of the PDF version; not a bad way to read after a surprisingly short time getting used to it. (A very good book so far, in the pre-posthuman genre, the kind of book that throws you into the jargon and the world without much explanation and lets, or makes, you figure it out for yourself; I like those.)

The biggest problem with reading a book on the laptop, maybe, is that the whole Net is available right there behind it, and if it lets my attention wander even for a second I'm off checking for BookFilter updates, or writing in my weblog, or something.

Also from BookFilter: The Internet Top 100 SF/Fantasy List, and this quote:

[T]here are people out there writing amazing things: Michael Swanwick, Charles Stross, Ted Chiang, China Mieville, Neal Stephenson are to my mind the five best writers in sf today...

Stephenson's the only one of those five that I've read; best get on the stick!

(Oh yeah, I remember; I found BookFilter via a link from gorjuss.)

From Long Story, Short Pier: Congress appeals to imaginary friends:

(2) calling on all people of the United States--
(A) to observe the day as a time of prayer and fasting;

(B) to seek guidance from God to achieve a greater understanding of our own failings and to learn how we can do better in our everyday activities; and

(C) to gain resolve in meeting the challenges that confront our Nation.

Actually it's a good sign they didn't call on God to smite the enemy in the traditional fashion; at least the imaginary friends have gotten somewhat mellower over the years. I'd certainly second the motion that everyone in general try to understand their own failings better, and not be so all-fired certain of the unquestionable rightness of their own opinions. (Naturally, I think this applies especially strongly to people whose views I disagree with.)

Madonna and Child

From NTK, someone charting product placements in the Billboard Top 100:

All we wanna do is party (WOO)
And buy everybody at the bar Bacardi (WOO)

Salon points out that, contrary to current loud protestations, the Administration did too claim that this was going to be a short and easy war.

And Kafkaesque points out that there are people who may need support even more than Our Troops do.

- 4 for "helen naked pictures"
- 3 for "naked helen pictures"
- 2 for "pointers of dungeon keeper 2"
- 1 for "asparagus"
- 1 for "broken koans"
- 1 for "clitoris"
- 1 for "eagles"
- 1 for "ibm"
- 1 for "iris chacon"
- 1 for "jellicle cats slash fiction"

Really! "jellicle cats slash fiction". It said it right there.


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