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Thusrday, May 15, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Just a little programmer humor, from some code I was reading today:

/* Set debug mode to WARNING, CONSOLE */

A knee-slapper, eh? Reminds me of the classic:

/* Set X to zero */
x = 1;

A slightly amusing spammer writes:


          Re-Mesh Sponge and Bath Massage Glove

Dear Importing Manager,

We are a specialist in producing Mesh Bath sponge, nylon bathing glove, loofah and sisal products in Hong Kong

Since we know that your company import a lot of bathing products , so we would like to introduce ourselves as a potential supplier for your reference and eager to provide more information and sample to you if you need.

I'm not sure that IBM really does import a lot of bathing products. Although it's possible; it's a big company.

No offense or anything, but I'm going to go read Jane Eyre now. Good night!

Wednesday, May 14, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

So, a question for y'all Java and Design Pattern wonks. Is there a name for the pattern where, instead of just doing

Foo foo = new Foo(stuff);

and having Foo do

Bar bar = new Bar(more_stuff);

and then having Bar do

Qux qux = new Qux(further_stuff);

instead you do, at the outer level:

QuxInterface qux = new SpecificQux(futher_stuff);
BarInterface bar = new SpecificBar(qux,more_stuff);
FooInterface foo = new Foo(bar,stuff);

That is, the top level makes the various pieces, and passes them to each other as appropriate to make the final thing. It makes the classes more flexible in a sense (since you can give them whatever QuxInterfaces and so on you want), but less flexible in a sense (because they have to include in their contracts the fact that they use these other things and how).

So is there a name for that?

What if there were a truly viral and virulent meme complex; not just one that rational people thought sort of stupid and dangerous, but one that actually (say) turned anyone who heard it advocated for more than three consecutive days into a rabid axe-murderer? What would be the right thing to do? Could we ban any speech-acts that advocated it? Should we?

That is, is our belief in freedom of speech predicated on the assumption that there are no such meme complexes, or (what may be the same thing) that our belief has an implicit "unless and until a meme-complex like this shows up" attached? Or would it be a bad thing to supress speech even in this very extreme case?

If it would be okay (or even required) in the very extreme case, what about cases that aren't quite as extreme? What if the meme complex only turned eighty percent of its listeners into axe murderers? Forty percent? Five percent? One in ten thousand? What if it took six days instead of three? Or a month? Or five years?

Viewed with Alarm: "He's Watching You", moralists behaving badly (old news, I know), and U.S. administration behaving badly (also old news).

Surprising facts:

Science is possible. As opposed to the universe and time and suchlike being entirely chaotic and without simple explanation. Well, it surprises me, anyway, despite the anthropomorphic principle, which says it shouldn't. But it does.

I was thinking about that the other day. The anthropic principle tells us (in a weak sense) why the universe has been friendly to intelligence up until now, but it doesn't say anything about the next five minutes. I think it's deeply and inescapably surprising that the laws of physics haven't begun to break down since I started typing this paragraph, and that explanation remains possible. Why is that? (That's an inherently rhetorial question.)

Roosters can be very disturbing!

i am not wearing any chainmail


Whoa, that is surprising!

Jane Eyre, aka Attack of the Red-haired She-devil

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is Jane Eyre from the pov of the madwoman in Mr Rochester's attic, and is very fine.

I finished my Historical Investigation on time. (Also, you should definitely read Jane Eyre, though perhaps you should wait until you get over the Eddie Anderson thing - I can imagine how that might make for a slightly surreal experience.)

I'm now reading Jane Eyre, and it's quite good. Rochester himself hasn't yet appeared, but at the moment I don't think Eddie Anderson's going to be a problem. I've read reviews of Wide Sargasso Sea (NYT Book Review, I think; sheesh I wish I had time to sit around reading that), and it sounded intriguing; maybe someday.

And congratulations on finishing the Historical Investigation! Time travel can be so tiring.

Rats feel no pain when you clip their misgrown teeth off: just use a nail-clipper to trim them up weekly!

Did you know that some cats can live for up to 150 years?

In Ireland, summer starts on May 1. see straightdope.com

Horses are native to Europe, not the Americas. Or vice versa. When I first learnt it, it was very surprising, but it's become less so over the years, to the point where I think I reverse it now to try to keep it surprising (but obviously less factful).

Not quite as surprising as "portland", but still quite nice. Good to see my readers have not cut back on quality even in these challenging market conditions. (What?)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

So let's see. I bought a bunch of sour candy at the candy store, and discovered, probably not for the first time, that my tongue gets tired of sour candy pretty fast (unlike chocolate, which no part of me seems to get tired of without really intense saturation).

I made what I assume were endearing little unconscious sighing noises while looking at some iPod related pixels, and M suggested (in response to my complaining about the price) that if I wanted to buy myself one (and really, buying anything but the biggest one just doesn't make sense) it could be my main Father's Day and Anniversary and Birthday presents this year, if that would salve my conscience.

Do I really want to spend that much for a gussied-up mp3 player, cool and multi-functional and beautifully designed though it is? I dunno.

I also feel a bit like I'm letting down the side being so interested in all this Apple stuff. IBM and Apple should get together and make, I dunno, a Thinkpad that runs OS X; the Ultimate Laptop for the busy executive. (I'm sure they both think they already make that.) At the very least, an iBook with a TrackPoint...

Click through Flutterby to an interesting story about a real live visit to North Korea. Mostly only the parts they let foreigners see, but still worth a read.

And see the Shifted Librarian for the cool fact that nearly 300 public libraries (or things that are with some high probability public libraries) have Amazon wish lists. "Self-organizing charity".

Dead Journal dot com; if it didn't exist, one would have had to invent it.


"Into The Woods", "Les Miserables", "The Mousetrap", "Vagina Monologues"

The Postal Service 'Give Up'

Manu Chao, Manu Chao, Manu Chao Chao Chao

Stuart Davis

Hm, I feel like this writing tonight has come out rather flat and uninspired. On the other hand, I've been doing some mad wizard coding at work. Two sides of the same coin? Mutually exclusive cognitive states?

Saturday, May 10, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

On the "patenting living things" thread from last week, one reader writes:

Comment from a patent searcher: No, you can't legally patent the SARS genome as such. What you can do is patent use of the SARS genome to do certain things. E.g., use of the SARS genome to create a vaccine against SARS. So what people do is apply for patents on the use of the SARS genome to do W, X, Y, and Z, where W, X, Y, and Z are broad enough to cover just about everything you would ever want to do with the SARS genome. So you're not technically patenting the genome itself, only certain uses of the genome, but the uses are so broad that it's de facto just about the same as if you had patented the genome itself, and that's how the popular media reports it. The question then becomes, where do we draw the line between certain uses of the SARS genome (which may be a legitimately patentable invention) and uses so broad that it's effectively the same as patenting the organism itself. Congress hasn't come up with a good answer to that yet, and I don't have any good suggestions either.

which is about what I would have thought, too; but then another writes:

Oh? I thought that company that was sequencing the human genome was also busy patenting pieces of it, even though they didn't "invent" them in any rational sense.

And indeed if we look at one of the relevant patents for instance, it looks like although the patent does talk about uses considerably, what's actually claimed in Claim 1 is "an isolated nucleic acid molecule" (and, in particular, one that happens to encode a particular chemokine receptor). Not a way of making that molecule, or a thing that you might use the molecule for, or a way to use that molecule (some of those are covered in later claims), but the molecule, the gene, itself.


Comments / explanations, anyone?

So I thought I'd record a few recent "living in the future" moments here, just so that a decade from now we can read back over them with our friends (natural and artificial) and be amazed at the primitive things that we were impressed by back in 2003 (all this while zooming around in our flying cars).

The little boy decided to use his saved up birthday and so on money on a certain cool toy, so we went to the toy store and bought one, and when we got it home all the pieces were there but there was no instruction manual.

So I went up on the web and found the pdf file and printed it out. In full color. In like ten minutes elapsed time between "uh-oh" and "problem solved."

We were out for Chinese food the other week, and I stopped at the Radio Shack next door to look at cables (I like cables) and I bought one that has a male stereo mini-plug at one end, and twin male (oh, what are they called?) phono plugs at the other, intending to maybe plug the output of the computers into the input of the house stereo system.

Then night before last I felt like playing the CD I cut from my first Music Store playlist on the house speakers, but I realized that I'd left it at work. Then I thought "hey", and I plugged that cable into the back of the stereo, and plugged the other end into the iBook, and fired up iTunes, and we were enmusiced for the rest of the evening.

(Little anachronisms: when I close the iBook it thinks "oh, he's closing the cover, so he won't be able to see the screen, so he must not be using me for anything, so I'll go to sleep", not realizing that playing music is an important thing to do even when the cover is closed. So I had to leave the screen open the whole time it was playing music, which was silly. Is there a preference setting for that?)

Then today the little daughter revealed that for Spanish she had to record herself talking in Spanish, and she had to record this talking on one of them old-fashioned "cassette tapes". I suggested that maybe the Spanish teacher would accept a CD, but she doubted it.

We couldn't find anything in the house that would record from a microphone to a cassette tape, and I was about to go out and canvas the local antique stores in search of one, when I remembered that the house stereo does have a cassette recorder in it, so we fired up iMovie, she recorded her sentences digitally, she fiddled around a bit to get them timed just right, and then I used that cable again, told the stereo to record from AUX IN to tape, and there we were.

And then, just for fun, she made a digital sound file that included not only her saying things in Spanish, but her arriving on an elephant beforehand and coming through a squeaky door, and wild cheering afterwards. She decided not to give that one to her Spanish teacher though, despite my encouragement.

Later on M was flipping channels on the TV, and there were Dick van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore playing a couple of feisty seniors in a drama on PBS. Neither of us knew what it was, but I had a laptop and Google, and forty seconds later we knew it was The Gin Game.

And most recently I downloaded 36 songs (around 114 MB, around 2 hours of music), all of them remixes of Louise "Madonna" Ciccone saying "What the fuck do you think you're doing?". I'm listening to them now, as I type this on the ThinkPad, through nice Jensen headphones plugged into the iBook, said iBook busily engaged in producing vivid and mesmerizing synchronized images just beyond my right knee. Definitely special, and cheaper than drugs.

"Ha ha!" we say to our friend (a colony of carbon-fiber nanobots) sitting beside us in the flying car, "Remember when we thought computers were impressive? Do they still make computers anymore?"


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