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Thursday, January 1, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Happy New Year!

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.


World Wide Web invented by English knight.

WordURL o' the day: doze dot com.

Oh, so I mentioned the other week that the wire on my iPod had an annoying intermittent break in one channel? I called up Apple and told them about it, and they sent me a new one. Didn't even want the old one back! Pretty neat, considering it's a part they charge US$40 for normally. Of course it probably costs them US$0.37. But still.

So what is life but a series of comfortable points, of places where you can relax and feel that everything (everything nearby) is (for the moment) good? Dozing on the bed after dumplings (we made 180 New Year's dumplings this year, more than usual, and for some reason we still had a good half or three-quarter pound of meat leftover to freeze when the dough ran out), sitting naked on a dock in Vermont with a bunch of naked Quakers, walking down to the lake with a kid and a frisbee, waking up in the morning in a quiet house with the sun in your eyes.

Do other lives feel this way? (Other lives lucky enough to have those moments.) Are there lots of other shapes to lives? I get the impression that many lives are lines, or are shot through with lines, of development and purpose and accomplishment. Or are networks, of people and companies and connections.

I sort of like this topology. This time around, anyway.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

The last day of the year. A time for reflection, for gathering together, for slowing down, for looking back, for contemplation.

Wouldn't that be nice?   *8)

Instead we've been ferrying children around, playing entirely too many video games, and hanging out for no apparent reason on Meatball Wiki.

I get this Wiki addiction every once in awhile, as longtime readers may know. The feeling is similar in some ways to the periodic Metababy addiction. In fact I stumbled into Meatball Wiki by typing "metababy" into Google, and noticing that the third hit down was a Wiki page about it, and going there, and getting sucked in.

Metababy and Wikis and video games all have the quality of interactivity. I've speculated before that interactivity is like sugar; that our brains are, probably as some side-effect of a useful adaptation, much more attracted to interactivity than they really ought to be. The obvious theory is that in evolutionary time there weren't many things that were very interactive (pretty much only other people, eh?), and interacting with those things as much as possible was good. There wasn't any need for an upper limit on the tendency, because supply was so constrained (time with the tribe and family stolen away from mammoth-hunting?) that overuse was never an issue.

Now that we can get all the sugar / interactivity we want, we don't know when to quit.

Or, alternately, the cap on interacting with the original interactive things (other people, the fact that they eventually need some personal time, the "too much in each other's pockets" effect) depends on mechanisms that video games and Wikis (the infinitely patient glass eye) don't have.

So we're sucked in.

Or at least I am.

Underlying principle:


Your belief that LotR was a good book. It always put me to sleep, I've never been able to finish it. The movies, on the other hand, captivated me. If they hadn't been made, I would never haver known the story.

pieces of earth, and good wills for men

Merry Christmas!

The underlying principle lies in conflict, or separation, or the distinction between one thing and another. Our greatest pleasures, agonies, stories and beliefs stem from differences. We are most intensely human, though, when these distinctions shift and blur: ignorance becomes enlightenment, beginnings become endings, two become one. We thrive on the energy of friction between states. We are interstitial beings.


Sturgeon's: 90% of _everything_ is crap.

thou shalt do no harm

Don't I have the best readers? Interstitiality, organic chocolate, a Merry Christmas, the Hippocratic Oath (and/or the Wiccan Rede)... What more could one want?

The FidoNet judicial philosophy can be summed up in two rules:
  1) Thou shalt not excessively annoy others.
  2) Thou shalt not be too easily annoyed.

Let's see, some random Web snippets.

Anybody know why the ancient Soap call that I used to do to tell weblogs.com that I'd updated isn't working anymore? Weblogs.com always says "Can't find a subtable named 'ping'.". Silly weblogs.com.

So Happy New Year to everyone! Tomorrow: 2004, and dumplings!!

(Don't overuse exclamation marks!!!)

Monday, December 29, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

"Yeah, that was a good paper. A little long, maybe."

"Just a little! I haven't had time to more than skim it yet; you've finished it?"

"I listened to it at the Club, working out."

"Where'd you get an audio copy? I still can't stand those text-to-speech things; the Swedish accent is really offputting."

"I use a human transcription service; they're on the web."

"Must be expensive."

"Not really; under a dollar a page."

"You're kidding!"

"Well, it's a little funny. They're an anticapitalist commune, and they offer cheap transcriptions of technical and business stuff, but they throw in these little communitarian lectures in the middle."


"Actually it's kind of interesting. They have some good ideas."


"No, really!"

Friday, December 26, 2003  permanent URL for this entry

Joyous Holiday Season to all! We had a nice idyllic Christmas Day; the only intrusion of reality was the guy from down the street who does things about houses coming by to look at the warping of the boards on the front porch (probably just some dampness; he'll take up those shingles and put down an ice shield to keep out the moisture) and the rot in the corner of the back room (could be more serious; that beam is structural, and the water might have gotten to it; but he can replace whatever turns out to need replacing once he opens it up to look).

All sorts of new objects now exist in the house, freshly out of their wrappings. The little daughter got me two books from my Amazon wishlist (Auster's "The New York Trilogy" and Amis's "Time's Arrow"), and M got me SSX 3 and this here Uru: Ages Beyond Myst game. The kids got piles of random stuff, and M got the things that she picked out for herself months ago, plus a few random small things. About as usual. *8)

Screenshots of imaginary places

Uru is pretty amazing, audiovisually speaking. Very much the Myst / Riven ambience, with wild detailed places and things and creatures and architecture, music beautifully matched to the atmosphere, and so on. And (as we advised in our famous memo to Atrus) the Ages aren't all just little islands surrounded by water, which is nice.

I was wandering around in this lovely little park, admiring the architecture of the pavilions and pathways and the odd behavior of the plant-life, when I that noticed it had gotten dark and the sky was heavy with clouds. There was a loud crash of thunder, and it started raining. It was all sufficiently convincing that I ran into one of the pavilions to wait out the storm, which was intense but pretty short.

Very nice.

And the enormous rotating buildings in the river valley...

But you should see it yourself.

Gameplay is an entirely other question. So far, there isn't any. Unlike the previous games in the series, where Atrus has gotten himself into trouble and one is under a certain amount of at least psychological pressure to help him out, the only premise here (at least as far in as I've gotten) is that you're basically a tourist, walking around and going oooh and aaah at the amazing scenery.

There are little devices to push on, sort of like night-watchman's checkpoints, apparently seven in every age, and some of them require the usual Dunnian sort of puzzle-solving to get to, and some of them require just looking at the back as well as the front of every boulder in the place, and apparently once you've pushed all seven devices in an Age you get access to the another Age, or something like that.

But there are linking books scattered around liberally anyway, and I've been to like eight or nine Ages without having pushed all seven devices in any except the very first, so it's not like there's a huge motivation to get it done.

Maybe some narrative structure will appear around the next corner and delight me. My fear, though, is that this is really just a lead-in to and setup for UruLive, Cyan's upcoming massively multiplayer online whatever. And that therefore the Millers and crew put more effort into making sure that the game would tend to make MMPOW fans sign up for the service (monthly fees, monthly fees!) than they did into making sure that it was actually fun and motivational to play itself.

Wanting to rope in MMPOW players and wanting to make the game fun in itself aren't entirely conflicting goals, of course. But they're not the same, either.

Which isn't to say that just a dozen Ages to wander around in going ooh and aah and looking for the checkpoints would be a bad thing! But I'll keep hoping some goal beyond that will turn up. (I can't tell how far into the game I am; it requires two Gig on the hard disk, but for all I know that's two hundred Meg of detailed wall-texture per Age.)

But enough about Stuff. We also had a good time Wednesday night, sitting around reading aloud "The Night Before Christmas" (Jan Brett's version), and also Brett's "The Hat", "The Mitten", and "The Christmas Trolls". Really really neat illustrations (sort of like Uru, in fact, although completely different). And then reading Luke 2:1-19 in the morning (between stocking unstuffing and the major present unwrapping), because that's what I always read.

I have some semichoate thought here about tradition, and stability, and the value that we place on being able to say things like "it's been in the family for years", or "this was your father's, and his father's before him", or touching a windowsill that similar people have touched in similar circumstances a thousand times before, or looking out over a square where people are doing what people have always ("always") done in that square, or reading the same thing Christmas morning that you always read Christmas morning.

Do we like this sort of tradition and stability because it suggests a similar continuing into the future? Because it suggests that things are being taken care of by others? Because it means that the things we're doing have been well tested in the past, and are therefore more likely to succeed? Or do only some of us like this, care about this, at all? Did I care about this at fifteen, or did tradition and stability feel oppressive, fuddy-duddy, actively stifling? Is it mostly us land-owning parents who care about this, and inculcate it more or less forcibly into our youth as part of the whole process?

Is that how everything works?


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