log (2004/04/09 to 2004/04/15)

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Does it still hurt?
Thursday, April 15, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Rather than posting any actual content today, I'm announcing an exciting new weblog feature over on the lefthand menu there: the "random" link will choose a random week from the archives, pick a random entry from within it (unless it's a really ancient week that doesn't have anchors on the entries), and redirect your browser there.

Marvelous, i'n't it?

So when I don't provide any actual content, you can easily go back and read random old content instead! Like today!

Wednesday, April 14, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

So often on the way home from work I'll be a bit pumped up (mentally), thinking about all that time I'll have in the evening with no meetings or phone calls, about the various things left over from the day at work that I can do, things I can write in my weblog, email I can write, and all like that.

And then I get home, and have dinner, and collapse onto a couch, and think "ah, I'm home". And once in awhile think about some of those things that that previous self, driving home in the car, ambitiously thought about doing this evening, and sort of smile sardonically at how innocent I was just a few hours ago.

This afternoon Tim Berners-Lee came to the Lab and gave a talk about the Semantic Web. It was nice to hear what he's thinking these days. Unfortunately it's pretty much indistinguishable from what he was thinking in 1999, at least at the level he chose to talk about it today. I'm sure Sir Tim has been in countless working-group meetings since 1999, but it's not clear that he's thought lots of big new thoughts.

(Not that he's obliged to, of course; having invented the Web, he can rest on his laurels for the next century for all of me. But it won't make for very interesting talks. (The little daughter was quite freaked out tonight when I mentioned that the Web was invented just about the same time she was born; having grown up with it, she felt like it'd been around forever.))

I'm still looking for the Killer App for the Semantic Web, and at least one compelling proof that the ideas behind RDF and so on are actually sound. The examples he gave weren't especially convincing (especially considering they were all hypothetical).

And speaking of the Web, my RSS reader took me today to this page and hence to a new W3 document which sounds mildly interesting, but which is in fact completely incomprehensible. I mean, whoa! I'm a reasonably bright guy, but at a quick reading of this thing I have no clue at all what it's actually about.

Which is typical for a w3c document, unfortunately.

More silliness about The Threat of GMail: some silly politician wants to ban it. (And see the Powazek response.)

Diane apparently stopped by, and we spread the meme some more. Nyah-ha-ha!

Spam subject line of the day:

Subject: Eliminate the christian way - no cost or obligation

Surprisingly, it wasn't about destroying Christianity or about biblically correct laxatives. It was, in fact, missing the word "debt" after "Eliminate".

From Caterina's side links:

A natural signal processor, the thoerhul is the workhorse of impromptu communication networks, although you would never suspect it from its chewy, ferocia-flavoured solpan.

I want this book.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

So I don't understand the big furor over Google's mail service. People are all upset that a mail server might be reading mail? Duh!

"I'm shocked to find that the computer that my mail is on can see my mail!"

Well, say the Concerned Citizens above, it's not just that the mail server can see the mail, it's that it's looking at the content of mail in order to decide what ads to show. Well, actually it's not that either (since it's hard to imagine how that would be a threat to anyone); it's that this is a Slippery Slope, and once Google breaks the barrier by doing ad placement, other web-mail services will be empowered to do it for Secret Evil reasons, like I dunno blackmail or something.

"Hey, Charlie! Good news! Google is looking at email in order to do ad-placement, so we can finally go ahead with that big webmail-based blackmail scheme!"

They're also concerned that Google doesn't promise to delete all your mail instantly and thoroughly if you terminate your account or whatever. This is presumably because it'd be impossible to promise that, accidental data retention in a big distributed system being what it is. It also shields them from nuisance lawsuits of the form "Google used some data from our client's email content in the development of their current statistical model of English text, so now that my client is no longer a Gmail user, Google must either pay a squillion dollars or throw their model away!".

They're also concerned that Google's privacy policy isn't a shining world-class example of consumer friendly privacy policies, with all sorts of features (like strict separation between parts of the business) that no other mainstream service's privacy policy has either.

So, they say, Google "must" stop that whole "scanning email text for ad placement" thing, and they "must" make their privacy policy more clean and detailed than any of their competitors.

Call me hard-hearted, but this strikes me as pure insufferable whining. If they don't like the ad-placement scanning, they shouldn't get gmail accounts; other people, who do like it, or at least who don't dislike it enough to outweigh the other features of the service, can get those accounts and benefit from them. If they don't like the privacy policy, they shouldn't sign up with the system; other people, who don't mind the privacy policy, can sign up with the system and benefit from it. That way everyone gets to decide who they trust to handle their mail, and under what terms.

This whole "well, I wouldn't buy that myself, so it must not be sold to anyone!" attitude is part of What's Wrong With The World Today.

And speaking of things that are beside the point, I'm philosophically tired of the whole 911 Commission rodeo. It seems almost completely off-topic: the main problem with the Bush administration isn't that they were soft on terrorism before September 11th. It's that they are, to first order, a bunch of filthy rich liars out to bankrupt the country and sell the smoking remains to their corporate buddies at a deep discount, in exchange for perpetual hegemony ensured by rigged voting machines.

Now of course the American People wouldn't believe that latter stuff if it came up and bit them on the leg, so tactically I can appreciate that harping on the "Bush isn't very good at preventing terrorism" theme might be an effective way to reduce the chances that he can buy his way into office again in November. But I'm tired of listening to it, myself; it's so tangential.

Caterina stopped by! We're so proud.

(On the other hand, an old Log page showed up pretty much in its entirety on Metababy the other day. "Proud" is not so much the word there.)

Motorbiking around the Chernobyl Dead Zone:

I have never had problems with the dosimeter guys, who man the checkpoints. They are experts, and if they find radiation on you vehicle, they give it a chemical shower. I don't count those couple of times when "experts" tried to invent an excuse to give me a shower, because those had a lot more to do with physical biology than biological physics.

Dad points us to "An Argument for Party Reform":

"Our politicians are so busy studying the local eddies of prejudice or interest that they allow the main channel of our national energies to be obstructed by dams for the grinding of private grist. Our leaders no longer lead, but are as skilful as Indians in following the faintest trail of public opinion. I find it generally admitted that our moral standard in politics has been lowered, and is every day going lower."
-- J. R. Lowell, 1888

La plus ça change, eh? (Modulo stereotyping of Native Americans.)

Spam subject lines o' the day:

Subject: sandbag footage
Subject: U Might Need This horsecloth

From the weblog of a part-time sex worker, we go to I'd Rather Be a Whore Than an Academic. (Yeah, I know: that topic again.)

NOTE: Using an alternate web browser may not mitigate this vulnerability. It may be possible for a web browser other than IE on a Windows system to invoke IE to handle ITS protocol URLs.

And finally, from bookslut, we have "Still surfing: the real Gidget". Who knew?

Sunday, April 11, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Happy Easter and all! We're sitting around listening to music, having slept late and had a nice ham dinner and eaten chocolate and dyed hard-boiled eggs and hidden them for each other to find and so on. Very traditional.

Yesterday was gorgeous and springlike, and I went outside and touched up some places on the house where the paint's peeling. We're thinking about spending a gazillion dollars putting up siding to replace the shingles, which are cool and stylish but also a million years old and rotting and/or mildewed in places, and hard to keep painted. But I thought before we did that I'd fiddle with the paint myself and get some feel for just what's going on.

Today was cloudier and cooler, and we stayed mostly inside (hid the eggs in the living room rather than the yard). I did go out and clean out the back of my car, just to honor the Spring. I brought in the decaying cardboard box full of cassettes, since I haven't been listening to cassettes much since the iPod came. They're probably mostly fried from sitting around in the back of the car for years anyway. Maybe I'll get some of the better ones digitally from iTunes (oops, or once the iBook comes back from the shop anyway).

I'm also reading Stephen Bury's (Neal Stephenson's) "Interface", and Abraham "Bram" Stoker's "Dracula"; more words about them when I finish them (ha ha, that's what I said about Revelation Space and the New York trilogy). And the little daughter and I just finished watching DVD one of "His and Hers Circumstances" together (very good; funny and touching and playing artfully with the genre).

All this car cleaning and ham cooking and house painting and watching DVDs with the family has somehow left me uninterested in surfing the web with my eyes glazed over, so not many links for y'all today. Not many deep thoughts, either; just a lazy April day with Spring in the air and the obvious thoughts of rebirth and renewal mixing with the colored eggs.

A paradox:

<hangs head in shame> I'd forgotten you had two kids until you mentioned the little boy today. Sorry :-(

*8) Given that I don't blather constantly about family stuff here (well, except today), readers are not actually required to know that I have any kids at all. I'm not offended.

been visiting here a long time but never tried this box

Works, eh?

I'm not sure if I know everything.

That's nothing! I believe that at least one of my beliefs is false.

There are ninety different ways to spell "father" in West Virginia: "brother", "uncle", "nephew"...

Don't let the Governor hear you say that. (Guess that "First Amendment" thing hasn't caught on in those parts either, hyeh hyeh hyeh.) (Apologies to any West Virginian readers.)

And some final responses to A paradox:

Blemish: The official language of Felgium.

Ah, wait, here's one link; it's a meme!

Found here, on its way to infecting the entire blogoverse:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

Okay, running this algorithm the other day at work, I get:

It is not that the idea is attributed to man's inordinate conceit (though this is sometimes done by the unreflecting); for, all said and done, a navvy who can walk into a public-house and order a pot of beer is an infinitely more wonderful thing than is the biggest lump of cooling mud that ever swam in the skies.

Which is from my copy of J. W. Dunne's "Experiment with Time", a book that also deserves some more words written about it. Maybe later.


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