log (2003/11/07 to 2003/11/13>

older log
newer log


site news
talking place

Lost and Found:
Thursday, November 13, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Whew! Windy, isn't it?

And the words that are used
For to get the ship confused
Will not be understood as they're spoken.
For the chains of the sea
Will have busted in the night
And will be buried at the bottom of the ocean.

That's Dylan; I bought that album on iTunes last night. Inneresting song; no clue what he's talking about

gorjuss points out the rather odd fact that a site devoted to fighting "blog spam" seems to be advertising itself by spamming blogs. (Or so someone would like us to think.)

Steve keeps taking these "What thingie are you?" sorts of tests, and sometimes I can't resist one myself.

Unlike Steve (who will apparently be playing lots of Doom in the afterlife), I get to spend eternity with a bunch of old pagans and philosophers, which could be good fun. Of course I may have interpreted questions like "Have you been attending religious worship lately?" and "Do you believe in God?" a bit more broadly than your average XIVth century Italian (to sleep, to eat, to scratch: to do any of these is to worship the Goddess).

So everyone's all happy about Roy Moore being given the old heave-ho. And certainly it's a victory for Our Side in the immediate victory sort of sense.

It makes me nervous, though, I have to admit. I mean, when Moore talks about how it's hypocritical to have judges and politicians take oaths on Bibles and start sessions by asking for God's favor and then go on to run a secular government that won't let Roy put his favorite Bible verses on a huge granite block in the lobby, he's right, to first order. Of course he thinks the right solution is to turn up the Bible part (including, presumably, stoning adulterers to death, banning tuna, and so on), whereas I think we ought to turn up the secular part, and boot all of our imaginary friends out of the statehouse.

But is this the right time, from the rationalist viewpoint, for the issue to come to a head? For a long time now we've had this functional but uneasy truce, with a certain component of hypocrisy, between the old Imaginary Friend meme complex that ruled the world for so long (doing vast amounts of good and bad and shaping the history of humanity in rich and peculiar ways, but ultimately turning out to be wrong) and that other idea that says that everyone should have whatever imaginary friends they want, but you shouldn't build your government on top of them.

There are still lots and lots and lots and lots of people caught up in the old meme, and while they're generally content to let the new meme run the place as long as lip service is paid to the old one (since, I suspect, most of them realize subconsciously that it wasn't the old meme that got them democracy and central heating and Britney Spears), if you really rub their faces in it, and stand up and say "are we serious about getting God out of Government, or not?", they're still sufficiently infected to stir out of their usual comfortable repose and say "oh, no, can't do that, evil sinful burn in hell nasty nasty", and vote the wrong way in droves on things that could actually have consequences.

So I dunno.

Just a little "serendipity from spam" today. One nice one from the Subject Line Source (with the little bug apparently fixed for now):

Re: CL, against some illuminated

and one from a spam body:

Fsbt xtw nruthg He had fastened one end of the strap to a wheel of the buggy, and now he let the line dangle over the side of the house They either belong in this city or have come to capture it, so I can tell better what to dance when I find out what the band plays

which is from two texts by L. Frank Baum: "Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz", and "The Master Key" (both free on the Web, which is presumably where the spammer got them). This reminds me of bibliomancy, and of some site (not that one linked there, which just uses the traditional religious texts) that I know I've mentioned here in the log before but can't find right now, that lets you choose from a wide variety of texts, and then gives you a random paragraph from one in answer to your question.

Anyone recall that site? It was rad.

Linux kernel attack thwarted:

An unknown attacker tired to plant a Trojan virus in the Linux kernel ... McVoy didn't consider the attack to be significant because the exploit was quickly identified and because the site in question is used by such a small number of developers.

Which is good. This page has all the gory prop-head details, including the actual line of rather subtly evil code:

if ((options == (__WCLONE|__WALL)) && (current->uid = 0))

Juicy, eh?

About our question the other day, a reader writes:

"Talk to the hand" - one of the Austin Powers movies

Ah, indeed! Apparently The Spy Who Shagged Me (listen). Now is that a cause, or a symptom?

(So is the opposite of "talk to the hand", "talk to the face"? Meaning "I'm very interested"?)

Another reader writes on two subjects at once:

I'm told that "Talk to the hand" comes from lowbrow talk shows, somewhere in the region of Oprah, Rosie and Jerry.

In standard (Florentine) Italian you say "my sister" but "the my neighbor". Use of articles with place names in English is governed partly by grammar and partly by history.

Inneresting. So maybe we could some up with halfway sensible rules for "the" in English if we left out place names? Not tonight, though; I'm too the sleepy.

(The wind can stop now. Really. It's made it's point.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Asking only workman's wages
  I come looking for a job.

Today that same voice in my head is complaining about that line, too. "Only workman's wages," she exclaims, "ooh, how noble! Rather than asking for the much higher wages that he could ask for if he wasn't so good and pure."

I don't know why she's got such a Thing against Simon.

Honoring All Who Served

"Talk to the hand", they say. Does anyone know the origin of this amusing phrase? Is it just general street-slang? Was there some particular meme-spreading event or two that got it out into the public vocabulary?

Group that worships Norse gods to become officially accepted religious community:

Under Danish law, the state Evangelical Lutheran Church has sole authority to recognize other religious communities.

Well, if you're gonna have a State Religion, it's good to choose one that's willing to permit rivals. But best not to have one.

(Or you could have one in a purely ceremonial role. Hey, that's a thought! State Bird, State Fish, State Tree, State God. "In Trenton this week, the legislature declared J. R. 'Bob' Dobbs the State God of New Jersey. New postage stamps will be issued.")

On the way to lunch today we were talking about how to get some mildly complex data structure through a protocol that only (reliably) passes strings and ints. I said that we could encode it as a really big int, and everyone laughed (I was kidding). Then someone else said that we could encode it as a comma-delimited string or XML or something and pass it as a string, and everyone nodded.

Note how much we've all bought into the myth of representation! Strings and ints are both identically just lines of bits (just states of bistable systems) inside the computer; but we think of them as different enough that it's funny to think about using one and perfectly ordinary to think about using the other.

(We're randomly carroming between topics this evening. But then you're used to that.)

I've been reading some drafts of documents lately, some by people for whom English isn't a first language, and it's brought home to me how irrational and complicated language is (learning another language would also no doubt bring that home to me, but I'm an American, and we don't do that).

Even something as simple as "the" has wildly complex rules. I was thinking of writing down some rules about where to use "the" (it seems especially difficult to get right if your first language was Russian), but I realized that I couldn't. There are a few sites that try to explain it, but even though they go on for pages, they leave out lots of important cases. And in the end it just makes no sense.

We say "the clock" and "the red clock" but "your clock" and "Fred's clock" (not "the Fred's clock"). We say "the Apache Project", but "Project Apache". We say "Texas", but "the South". "The Philippines", but "Ashbury Heights". "Brooklyn", but "the Bronx".

(It's hard to imagine any rational theory that explains the last two pairs there.)

Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], having slept until
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], some reason felt
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], with eagle feathers
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], such an interesting
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], stolen my overcoat!
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], second floor slammed
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], obeying the gestures

Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], here the professor
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], most peculiar specimen
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], of his poem
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], she was very
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], to for some
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], to that white
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], woland began after

I like "obeying the gestures". Otherwise I fear the quality is down somewhat. Or maybe my expectations have swollen.

Monday, November 10, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

I hafta say that not writing a novel this month has been very nice so far. In that I'm going crazy with stuff to do, but now and then I can think "well, at least I don't have to find time to sit down and write two thousand words!". And I can still read the amusing updates from the NaNoWriMo web site and feel warm fellow-feeling, for last year and the year before. And heck maybe next year.

I finished another book, another quick lightweight read in between forays into "Psychohistorical Crisis", which is still somewhat interesting and engaging, but also  r e a l  s l o w moving. And I can't quite tell all the characters apart or keep track of what they're doing (it doesn't help that the author is doing the "two different time-tracks at once" thing).

So the little daughter and the little boy have both taken up the guitar (acoustic, thankfully), and the little daughter has been playing (and singing) "The Boxer" over and over and over and over. (They learned it at camp, but without the line about the whores on Seventh Avenue, so I told her what that line was supposed to be when she complained that it sounded like part was missing.)

And now I keep getting these pictures in my head, of these two or three whores sex workers standing around, and the song is playing, and one of them is all like "Ooooh, poor baaaaby, he was sooooo lonely that he had to go to a nasty skanky old whoooore for some comfort; awwwww!" and making a face (and saying "and I hope he paid for that comfort he took"), and the other one is saying c'mon, she likes that song, and he sounds like a nice guy and probably a good customer.

Today's bit of wisdom from spam:

Myde rjwbb jqvjy "I never go to the river in the daytime."

which may or may not be from the interestingly odd Story of Tangalimlibo.

In a similar vein, I am water:

You are water. You're not really organic; you're
neither acidic nor basic, yet you're an acid
and a base at the same time. You're strong
willed and opinionated, but relaxed and ready
to flow. So while you often seem worthless,
without you, everything would just not work.
People should definitely drink more of you
every day.

Darn tootin'.

Saturday, November 8, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Doing more cleaning up in the library, I found a box of books. Not unusual in itself, but this particular box of books seems to have arrived from a used-book mailorder place sometime in 1996, and to never quite have been unpacked. Great fun!

A number of random classic Heinleins (some of which are probably duplicates; I suspect this order included a "ten reading quality paperbacks of our choice for only two dollars"), an Ace Double or two, a few short story collections (one from 1959), and one book ("House of Stairs") that was on my Amazon Wish List. I love serendipity.

One of the books was Pournelle and Green "Storms of Victory: Janissaries III", with macho-looking soldiers on the cover. That one's going straight to the book-exchange rack at work; straight military SF (not to mention books with "III" in the title) have never been favorites of mine.

Other recent contributions to the book exchange rack included "The Kundalini Equation" (of which I had two identical copies), Greg Egan's "Quarantine" (of which I had two identical copies), and Le Guin's "Eye of the Heron" (of which I had two identical copies, and one copy of "Millennial Women", the collection it originally appeared in). In return, I took a copy of Gardner's "Grendel" (which I don't think is a duplicate), and a Signet paperback of assorted Dostoevsky.

A pretty fair exchange, I think.

That spammer again writes in subject lines:

Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], and the lights
Re: SRZ, give him paper
Re: USV, i wouldn't want
Re: CERFD, the street that
Re: PKJX, they would presently
Re: DPZLNKO, though smoothed with
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], then well take
Re: FPH, tenrouble gold pieces
Re: XKQK, a bitter wrinkle
Re: XAXRF, the bills were

Which is some decent poetry, as well as some hints as to the underlying program (our failure modes always reveal our secrets). Googling on "a better wrinkle" leads to this page of automatically generated nonsense which, while mostly the expected doggerel, contains at least one gem:

Are you solid, I mean, dying between closed trees?

Are you solid, I mean, dying between closed trees?

More of the same gives us a bit of biographical verse:

Re: NDRER, novelist leronym poprikhin
Re: ABUMT, send some leeches
Re: HHYWYN, has just passed
Re: PQXTXN, the northwest road
Re: %RND_UC_CHAR[2-8], whistling moonlight bathed
Re: JFBDFP, will not take

Novelist Leronym Poprikhin (send some leeches) has just passed the northwest road.

From the body of some spam:

Tvh eh nb Then the bird said: "Please don't kill me, and I will make some milk for you to eat."

And finally a bit of humor:


Whoa! Anyone working on their novel is invited to add a character named Mrs. Susan Gumbo Robertson (of Zimbabwe, or otherwise).

Relatedly, Arrest over 'Nigerian' email scam; more reminder that these people actually make money doing this stuff. How odd.

On to more serious stuff: "Aussies Do It Right: E-Voting" shows how high-tech voting might work in a smaller country, less riddled with acrimony and corruption. Rather chilling last phrase in this paragraph:

The issues of voter-verifiable receipts and secret voting systems could be resolved in the United States by a bill introduced to the House of Representatives last May by Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey). The bill would force voting-machine makers nationwide to provide receipts and make the source code for voting machines open to the public. The bill has 50 co-sponsors so far, all of them Democrats.

(the bill)

Just to clear up our backlog of corruption stories: Halliburton Contract Extension Cancelled Amid Allegations of Overcharging Taxpayers.

In a very old input box, a reader reveals that e can't live without

nudes showering

A reader after my own heart. (Say, the "C" on the "C" key of this keyboard has now entirely rubbed off. I clearly write "C" (and/or "c") too much.)

Another reader sends us this, unprompted:

moustache wax

And then I said:

You know what? Those gears really annoy me.

I happen to feel that those gears are annoying.

Those gears suck, and, by the way, Mr. Bean is dead sexy!

Sometimes I say "You know what?" to signal that I don't want what else I'm saying taken seriously

brandy is dandy, and just as quick as liquor

By the way, I happen to feel ...you know what? Of course you knew you were going to get this from at least a few thousand listeners didn't you?

"Look, Mother, it's my life! If I want to live on a beach and walk around naked..."


yes, but what do I do with the eel?

I'm mildly confused as to why the President of the United States can legislate (that means to make law, right ?) a top level domain. Have I missed something ? Do the independant, international bodies merely bow to the word of the President of a nation that doesn't even recognise the UN's views in international matters (hmm... a little strong) ? Obviously I am missing something, 'cos I've never heard of .kids...

midnight for hitler and germany

your spam poetry is lovely.

your refridgerator poetry is also quite beautiful

greg egan

sometimes i mistake this box for a search box. i'm probably not the only one

Re: madame belomuts grief zcsej

false impression

I have no owl

ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz ......

Why do you think Microsoft doesnít fix all the shit wrong with its software? Itís because if they did all those people who fix it would be out of work. Maybe itís the same with plumbing.

Sucky Bed!

whyee? Whyeeee? WHYEEEEEE?

You think that's bad: sometimes I mistake that box for a search box. (Did you mean "springtime", rather than "midnight", perhaps?)


earlier entries