log (2003/06/20 to 2003/06/26)

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Speak into the void:

The version that the virus sent me was much larger
Thursday, June 26, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

"Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled."

Wednesday, June 25, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

The little daughter wrote to us! And on her very first day at camp, too. So now I know that, at least as of a few hours after I left her, she hadn't been set upon by tigers. Or if she had she didn't think it worth writing about.

On the subject of iPod engravings, readers write:

"This side intentionally left blank."

"Severe Cognitive Dissonance" would look good on an iPod -- in fact, perhaps we should start a trend of naming (by engraving words on the back) iPods in the style of Banks ship names...

An interesting suggestion! Although I'm still quite fond of "Harmful or fatal if swallowed".

Well come to think of it, "Harmful or fatal if swallowed" is actually a quite plausible Banks ship name (as is "This side intentionally left blank", to some degree).

Man, are we obsessing about this iPod engraving issue, or what? Reminds me of that whole Cambric Tea thing. Hm, I haven't had any Cambric Tea lately, why is that?

(Oh yeah, duh, it's summer, and it's all hot outside. Haven't had a good roaring fire in the fireplace lately, either.)

Speaking of Banks, I finished "Against a Dark Background" the other day. In general it was very good; rich setting, interesting characters, wild ideas. It's not a Culture novel, but it's solid hard SF, with just hints of wild AI and transcendant mysteries at the very edges.

Banks uses the same sort of "intermingled flashbacks" method as in "Use of Weapons" (although without the extreme twist at the end, unless I just missed it) to build up the main character's character, and that works quite well; she remains (mostly) sympathetic despite her clearly drawn flaws.

The ending is a bit of a meat-grinder in various respects, including a rather long messy "nearly everyone dies" bit that reminded me of all too much of the draggy parts of "Consider Phlebas". And then at the very end, when Banks finally reveals who was Behind It All and what it was All About, my reaction was a headshaking "Wah?". I eventually gave up trying to figure out what was supposed to have happened and what the various bad-guy motivations were supposed to have been. There may be some consistent and plausible reconstruction, but I didn't find it. Which was sort of too bad.

At the very very end one character does make off with a couple of pieces of magical tech (one of which never got the chance to live up to the hype with which it was introduced), so maybe he was planning a sequel (ten years ago). Or maybe he just got tired near the end. Hardly anyone's really good at endings.

But overall it was fun, good enough not to be spoiled by a messy ending, and I'm glad I read it. Maybe I'll go back and reread some Culture book soon.

A reader writes:

I'm guessing that when you say "the Supremes" you don't mean the music group ?

Whatever suits your mood.

From Bill, a culturally significant job posting: MPAA seeks Internet Enforcement Administrator. Great job title.

Arm Wrestling Freud. (Also a good job title.)

From Phil Greenspun: a very funny recasting of Edward R. Tufte's anti-powerpoint "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint" in the form of, well...

I didn't know until today that Greenspun had a blog at Harvard Law. The blogs at Harvard Law in general seem to be run by Dave Winer (unless that's an elaborate joke); here are some other ones there (typical Winerian usability: the only way to get a list of sites hosted on the server is as a side effect of getting the popularity ordering).

A reader suggests:

Cthulhu Sex: Blood, Sex and Tentacles

Note the chilling "Parties" link in the nav menu.

From NTK or somewhere like that, another one of them clued people, writing about FANTASY EXOTIC TONGUES:

I pity C-3PO, kept as a slave translator for biochauvinist rebels in a society where everything understands English anyway

and anything else by this particular person.

And that's about all for the moment. Next book: "Out on Blue Six" (Ian McDonald's weakest book).

Tuesday, June 24, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

On the subject of those mysterious "cone concertos" that I was looking for yesterday (note my restraint in not making "yesterday" a link to yesterday), my unexcelled readers come through again:

Yes: Keith Jarrett -- The Koln Concerts. FABULOUS!! (PS: This is Diane.)

PS: Here's a link to a sound clip. This is one of my all-time ALL TIME favorite albums, by the way.

Keith Jarrett (the pianist). Get the Koln Concert. That's his best really. although there's an amazing 20 minute Green Dolphin Street that might be, um, around on the networks somewhere. The guy is goo, but way too prolific so some of the mud doesn't stick. seeya, bhikku :)

The Köln Concerto, the most-heard work of Keith Jarrett, who I suppose is the guy you've heard on the "radio". I don't like it, it makes me really queasy, but everybody else loves it, so.
Concerning iPod, this is a bit mean, but I had to laugh.

Thanks to all; the Apple Music Store doesn't seem to have the Köln Concerts, so it's now on my Amazon wish list. I downloaded a couple of random Jarrett tracks that the Music Store does have, for later listening when I have time to pay attention (definitely prolific!).

(Yesterday after ripping a few CDs I had lying around, the bottom of the window in my iTunes library started to say "1 Day". Took me a minute to realize that that's the total playing time of the library; a nice feeling! Currently playing on 'shuffle': Jefferson Airplane doing "White Rabbit".)

I suspect that "goo" above might supposed to have been "good", but "goo" went so well with "mud" that I left it. *8)

I also suspect that "Diane" is Diane, who just finished a freaking triathalon (having been sick a few days before, yet) and writes nice long entry about it that you should read.

The iPod picture is indeed cruel, and slightly funny (although not quite On, as Apple's problem isn't that what it makes is crap). We are still seriously considering a our own iPod here at CEOLN central, the main barrier still being what to get engraved on the back.

A reader points out some of the ground rules:

Ummm. The iPod engraving thingummy will let you have two lines, a max of 27 characters per line, and no ~*<>\ -- it's a little limiting, although groovy perl might still be an option. Hard to imagine any Java worth speaking of fitting into 54 characters, though. And you can't have 'what the fuck do you' (line 1), 'think you're doing' (line two) -- the prudish Apple store won't let you say bad words (well, not that particular bad word, anyway) -- 'f.ck' is okay, though. ('What the buggering hell' 'do you think you're doing?' is permitted).

"fsck" seems to be permitted as well. (What the flock does Apple think it's doing, really, censoring the engraving that way? Do they think that headlines in the Reg about naughty words engraved on iPods would have a negative impact on sales? Do they consider their target audience to consist of a significant number of prudish people? Very odd.)

So last night I fired up both the imagination and Familiar Quotations. Currently my leading candidates for the back of the iPod include:

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves

I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

May contain traces of nuts

Harmful or fatal if swallowed

Suggestions on the lunchtime walk also included "This side down", "Note: controls on other side", "DO NOT STEAL", and related.

I'm tending strongly toward "harmful or fatal if swallowed" at the moment, but I'm still open to inspiration.

From NTK, the amazingly isolated rock known (really) as Rockall. Cool, eh?

As you've probably heard on the news, the Supremes have carried on the tradition of the extremely confusing Bakke decision on affirmative action with a pair of new decisions which are well worth reading (not that I have yet, as carefully as they deserve), about when it's okay, and when it's not, to take race into account in University admissions and so on.

(I found one of the Scalia dissents noteworthy for the insights into his character. He has no patience at all with compromise and nuance here; either it's okay to discriminate or it isn't, and all this stuff about diversity and critical mass and stuff is just "mystical", a word he uses over and over like a mantra. I'm not even sure I disagree with his basic position (haven't read it all closely enough yet), but the way he puts it is very illustrative. He comes off very young and brash, or something like that, in contrast to the chin-rubbing deliberation of the decision of the court.)

The affirmative action decisions have rather overshadowed the library filtering one, which went the way I'd expected it would but hoped it wouldn't. The Feds can require libraries to install filtering software before they can get gov't grants, and it doesn't violate the rights of the library users, because adult library users can always ask the presiding librarian to turn it off. I'm sure this decision's worth reading in all sorts of ways, and I hope I get time to someday.

From librarian dot net, the hallucinatory "Patriot Act enhances our freedoms", by everyone's favorite Orrin. A choice quote:

what is perhaps our most important civil liberty: freedom from future terrorist attacks.

I am uncomfortable with the notion that security is a civil liberty. I much prefer Franklin's take on the subject; noting (in a line that's quoted in enough variants that I'm not comfortable choosing one) that giving up a little liberty for a little security is a bad idea. He took it for granted that they were different things. Certain People would like us to confuse them.

Spam nutters o' the day, the WSN Foundation:

WSN Foundation's goal is to offer free fiber with 10 billion web pages containing volumes of information, home and food to a billion families, and 7 billion in population around the world by 2025 by allocating 70% of 10 million WSN business profit and directing $10 trillion annually from local and national governments, electing politicians and officials who promote peace and FTTH throughout the democratic political process.

("FTTH" being "Fiber to the Home".) Thinking Big! I suspect there's some big scam behind it (they have a number of vaguely-related sites), but who knows? Maybe they're serious.

Do I offend? So it's nice to be reassured now and then that I'm keeping my edge, by having someone lodge an Official Complaint about me. This hadn't happened in some time, and I was beginning to worry. But the other month I posted (without thinking too hard about it) a casual link to my log in a certain Rather Respectable Place, and the other day (in particular the other day) someone clicked on that link, and saw certain pixels that caused him or her to fire off a quick missive to the Rather Respectable Place expressing shock and offense.

The Rather Respectable Place in turn wrote me advising me that I had been complained about, and should attend to the matter. Which was a nice reassuring feeling.

(The dangers of Shuffle: immediately following "White Rabbit" came Judy Collins "Cook with Honey". Severe Cognitive Dissonance ensues.)

(Hm, would "Severe Cognitive Dissonance" look good on the back of an iPod?)

Monday, June 23, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

So the little daughter is Away at Camp. And I'm handling it very well.

I mean, we can write her letters, and she'll probably write back, so we'll be in touch. Of course they have to be old-fashioned really slow "paper" letters, because there's no email for the campers, and they take days to arrive, and you're never really sure if you wrote the right address or whatever. And she'll probably forget to write back.

And we can't talk to her on the phone unless there's a Real Emergency (which there won't be), and while the camp has a website it doesn't have password-protected webcams dotted around the camp, so we parents can't watch to see what our children are doing, or talk to them, or keep tabs on them in any way, and in fact we have no idea what they're doing, and they could be sad, or angry, or set upon by tigers escaped from the zoo, or converted to Republicanism or even Christianity, or...!!! What were we thinking?????

Sorry. Got carried away for a minute there. I'm sure she's fine.

Kinda quiet around here, though.

We drove up just the two of us, and I drove back by myself, because the little boy came down with a virus on Friday so he and M stayed home. We stayed in a great little motel just around the corner from the camp (right near the Calvin Coolidge National Whatever, which makes up the entirety of Plymouth Notch, Vermont), in the next room to her friend and her friend's Dad, and on Sunday we all drove over to the camp and waved to all the friendly people and the girls were all happy because they were in the same cabin, and we met the cabin counselors (Amy (I think) and Caddy ("like the golf caddy"), and chatted with random smiling parents and heartbreakingly lovely young women, and did the Parent Orientation in the lodge while the girls were down at the lakefront doing their Six Laps (bet the water was cold), and generally had a fine old time.

And the little girl and I being who we are, we didn't get all weepy or anything when it was time for me to go.

Recommended for long drives to and from Vermont, the other Axiom of Choice album: "Niya Yesh". Recommended (for sentimental reasons) for pizza on the way through rural eastern New York: the tiny little Pizza and Subs place in Berlin.

So I think I really do want an iPod, but there's still the question of What To Get Engraved On It. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" would be a real obvious choice if I were going to put pirated (Madonna) songs on it, but given my slavish respect for copyright that probably won't happen. Some cute little (music-related) snippet of Perl? or Java? (Yes, we have a definite weakness for geek in-jokes.) Maybe I'll get out Familiar Quotations and look for something pithy and classic.

Speaking of music, I heard on WNYC (I think it was) the other Sunday (I think it was) part of an interview with somebody who (I think) did piano improvisation, and he played some that was really good, and I want to see if the Music Store has anything of his, but I haven't been able to figure out who he is. Clues: he wasn't a jazz improvisationist, but something more around classical and torch somewhere; and he was famous for doing a famous concert or set of concerts or something called "The Cone Concerts" or "The Cohn Performances" or something vaguely like that.

This ring any bells with anybody?

New datafeed: this Morford guy on sfgate.com (I signed up for his newsletter). Funny topical stuff.

From ann sterling: "George W. Bush, professional fascist".

From Nichael Cramer: Why I Take Good Care Of My Macintosh Computer (alternately the raw mp3). Very odd.

We were wondering the other day how much data them old 9-track tapes held. Turns out it was like 40 or 170 megabytes; whoa!

Amusing "spam in its entirety" o' the day (domain name masked):

Hello, chess@us.example.com from us.example.com
DATE0: Wed Jun 11 08:10:48 2003
DATE1: Wed Jun 11 08:10:50 2003
DATE2: Wed Jun 11 08:10:53 2003
random chars: dsqzbiieqczbsdweqbd
random nums: 3578

fromd h000094b6d3f0.ne.client2.attbi.com
fromd2 attbi.com

just %

I suppose I won't find incompetent spammers testing out their spamming software on the innocent public funny for very long, but at least today I still do...

Saturday, June 21, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

So where I was this time was in St. Louis, Missouri (that is, I was in St. Louis, Missouri, and so was the place where I was; heh). I've now touched the base of the Famous Arch, and I've even happened to have been standing right under the center of it at 10pm, the time (at least it was that day) when they turn on the big banks of searchlights that light it up at night.

That was cool.

Otherwise I've just seen the inside of the airport, indistinguishable from other airports, and the inside of the hotel, indistinguishable from other hotels. Also two restaurants, similarly.

Which is one reason I'm not all that fond of business travel.

No broadband in the rooms (sheesh, people, get with the program). Wireless broadband in the conference room, but with a network hack such that any attempt to fetch a web page was redirected to a visually confusing page that seemed to want you to sign up with something and perhaps pay them something. Various of us discovered that, at least sometimes, if you went to that confusing page and then ran the VPN software to tunnel into your home company intranet, everything would work (both Net and intranet) just fine, without actually signing up or paying or anything.

Opinions were mixed as to whether or not it was supposed to work that way.

Confirmation number:

1 + exp ($pi * sqrt(-1))
economic rights ARE civil rights
Scree! Scree!
How dare you let that go?

I'm not sure those are all strictly speaking numbers, but they're certainly interesting.

Another spammer bent on amusing us writes:

Offer valid untill 12 July, FREE everyone 490$, who had quest four matching digits, for old and new customers. This action from our company.
We could send you checks, e-gold, wire transfer.

We could send you strange dreams, the smell of cinammon, round bits of metal heated in the fire.


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