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Thursday, November 27, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

A frog writes, most appropriately,

The Bicycle Pedaling Frog wishes you and yours a Very Hoppy Pantsgiving.

And we similarly extend Hoppy wishes to all our readers, and their readers, and so on to the transitive closure of readership.

The turkey is in the oven stuffed with stuffing, the chocolate pie is in the fridge (I forgot to let the crust cool very much before pouring in the Stuff; dunno what that's going to do; but the kids got to lick off the blender paddles so they're happy), the other things on the menu (the pumpkin pie, asparagus, rolls, cranberry sauce, other cranberry sauce, corn, Annie's, etc) don't need any attention for another hour or so. Dinner tentatively scheduled for 14:30.

I am thankful for the universe, and for having such a comfortable place in it that I can be abstractly (and concretely) thankful for the whole thing.

Sunday, November 23, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

A long time ago, I picked up a copy of "Details (Style Matters)" from the magazine racks of some random store, just because something about the cover design or something caught my eye.

It was an interesting vaguely-urban, vaguely-edgy magazine about things in general. The letter column was full of angry letters about how it had betrayed its reader base; apparently until a few issues ago it was all about "the Manhattan Club Scene" or something like that, and various readers were up in arms about the broadening or morphing.

The other day in some local book store I picked up a copy of "While You Were Sleeping" (aka WYWS), largely because of the cover design (I picked it up for the cover design, but bought it for that and the contents, which also looked slightly urban, slightly edgy). Turned out that the letter column was full of angry letters about how it had betrayed its reader base; apparently until a few issues ago it was "a graff zine" (that included sections like "stupid photographs found on the Net" and "naked photos of people's sisters"), and various readers were up in arms about the broadening or morphing.

Is there something that attracts me to magazines that have recently broadened their niches? Maybe when magazines do this they often do a publicity push at the same time, and get themselves into racks that they wouldn't have been in before, and that means I'm more likely to see them, and something in me is attracted by the (fading?) scent of the subculture that spawned them.

Right now I'm reading a copy of "The Believer" (November 2003 issue). I'm halfway through an article by a mathematician and part-time fiction writer about the Reimann Hypothesis and some recent books about it. It's interesting stuff. I haven't read the letter column yet; maybe this used to be a magazine dedicated to Extreme Naked Skateboarding or something.

From Pursed Lips (who is also worried about backlash against various recent sane court decisions), a lovely collection of classic naughty books, available for electronic purchase. "Whip Angels", anyone?

Web servers of the presidential candidates.

Browsing the referer log leads here, and thence to a Funny Joke:

An ion walks into a bar and says "I think a left an electron here last night", and the bartender says "Are you positve?"

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Isn't that great?

When I ran the usual numbers on the referer log, there were quite a few more different hosts hitting the site than usual (that's my usual measure of activity). "Cool," I thought, "maybe I've been mentioned somewhere Prominent, and my inevitable rise to fame is closer than ever."

Disappointingly, though, it turned out that actually some gamer in the Netherlands (or "Holland") had decided to use an old log picture of Volvagia (the fire-breathing dragon boss in Ocarina of Time) as his forum avatar, and he (I'm assuming it's a he) posts to some very popular threads on the Hollandish gamer forums.

Now as long-time readers may remember, I don't think there's anything morally objectionable about this kind of remote linking; since it's relatively easy to prevent at the server side, anyone who doesn't prevent it is implicitly giving permission. On the other hand it's rather dangerous for the remote linker.

In the case of this Netherlandish ("Dutch") gamer, for instance, some (ehem) routine maintenance of the website here has caused the URL he's using for his avatar to change from this image to this one. So at least until he notices the event, he's posting as a rather smudgy Hello Kitty.

Heh heh heh.

I know, I know; this is not something a grown man should be spending his attention on. Tell it to my brain.

(Really I was only annoyed because he was remote-linking my image from such busy pages, accounting for a large fraction of the random hits on the site. I've taken no action regarding, and am in fact rather flattered by, the couple of people who have used my "last leaf" picture to illustrate their poetry or whatever. I'm still undecided about the various people remote linking the samples from my random dot stereogram page. All completely unattributed, of course. It's very tempting.)

Friday, November 21, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Today's nuggets of spam include two subject lines from the usual lyrical series:

Re: KO, lodgers in other
Re: ELCOO, as the door

and one entire enigmatic note:

Subject:   i happen to sleep with a hair dryer

so, it's a valid label.

I'm not actually positive that latter one was spam, and I apologize if it was some inspired reader sending a gift. (It did come "return receipt requested", which is always suspicious.) But in either case a gift it surely is.

Use the damn trick, Neo!

So we went and saw this "Matrix: Revolutions" movie that's out. I'd read lots of pans on the Web, so my expectations weren't very high, but it was mostly fun. There were some pretty nifty visuals and stuff that were fun to watch, and like that.

All the stuff that people are saying is dumb was pretty dumb. Near the end I put together a rational reconstruction for myself, in which the fact that the machines didn't use any of the dozens of obvious ways they had to destroy Zion is explained by the fact that destroying Zion wasn't really all that important to them (assuming, that is, that from the machines' point of view the whole War, the Matrix, and the humans in general were just a minor annoyance assigned to some inept minor subsystem, not worth throwing much resource against), but I'm not sure that that was the authors' intent.

The thing that I think bothered me the most about it is something that I haven't noticed anyone else mention, so I'll write it down here.

The movie ends with another one of these huge battles in the Matrix, similar in various ways to the other huge battles in the Matrix in the first two movies, with lots of punching and kicking and flying and breaking glass and extremely cool (or, frankly, really dumb) looking Kung Fu moves. And then the battle ends (roughly) when Neo realizes due to some quasi-divine inspiration that he should do something that's clearly a bad idea, and he does it, and (roughly) he wins.

Now the Matrix is supposed to be this big simulated virtual digital computational world. And the reason that some of us like big simulated virtual digital computational worlds is that they are absolutely nothing like that. The way you do well in the digital world isn't by hitting harder or kicking faster than someone else, or throwing someone out a window, or for that matter by relying on ineffable arational signs to tell you what to do.

In the ideal digital (and I don't exactly mean "digital" here; I don't know exactly what word I do mean but I hope you get the idea) world, your success depends on how correct you are, how insightful, how well you understand the environment you're in and the resources available to you, how well you can work with others on common goals. Even in the non-ideal version of that world, it's more about how well you can speak, how good your reasons are, how much clue you have, and certainly not at all about how well you punch.

Like, you remember how in the first movie Neo discovered that he could see through the virtualization, into the underlying code, the laws of virtual physics, the infrastructure of the Matrix simulation? And he used that to change the speed of time and stop bullets and stuff? And then in the second movie he used it to save Trinity's life by reaching into her bit-stream and patching it in realtime? That was cool. I wanted more of that.

Then in the third movie he's completely forgotten that trick, and he's all like POW and BAM and BIF and flying through the air and stuff. And as he's lying there in the mud with his lip bleeding, I'm all like "okay, do the trick now Neo, do the freaking trick, show your real powers". And he doesn't.


So this isn't really a science fiction movie at all, in the Asimovian "literature of ideas" sense, or the "how people interact with technology" sense, or even the "using ideas and technologies to shed light on human nature" sense. This is just the five thousand year old "heros fight the bad guys and sacrifice themselves for the good of the tribe" story, decorated with some neat giant robots and lightning-guns and explosions and stuff.

Not that that's really a problem.

But I think I would have liked the other movie better.


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