log (2004/06/11 to 2004/06/17)

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Looking over the accumulated links here, they don't all reflect terribly well on the cluedness of the human race. But we forge ahead despite.

First, with reference to this NYT article (apparently mirrored here in case the Magical NYT Registration Bypassing URL doesn't work for you), which we found on Amptoons, we can play "Spot the Actual Scientist":

Dr. Friedman points to careful statistical analyses of the changes in Americans' body weights from 1991 to today by Dr. Katherine Flegal of the National Center for Health Statistics. At the lower end of the weight distribution, nothing has changed, not even by a few pounds. As you move up the scale, a few additional pounds start to show up, but even at midrange, people today are just 6 or 7 pounds heavier than they were in 1991. Only with the massively obese, the very top of the distribution, is there a substantial increase in weight, about 25 to 30 pounds, Dr. Flegal reported.
"It's one thing to talk about statistics and another to talk about what's happening to individuals," said Dr. Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. "Everyone notices that there are more overweight people now."

Yeah, who cares about them complicated statistics; it's personal anecdotes and 90 second spots on Good Morning America where the real truth lies!

(In fairness to Dr. Nestle, this could of course be a complete misquotation; I hope it is. The article as a whole is worth reading, as antidote to the current Obesity Panic in the media.)

This next one speaks for itself:

Apparently most of the adult population of St. Louis doesn't have the faintest idea how evaporation works, most of the adults think the water gets sucked into the hair dryer.

The water doesn't get sucked into the hair dryer?

According to this story from the latest Reason, and confirmed by some other data, the Sierra Club and like-minded groups are apparently surprised to find that the "campaign finance reform" laws that they were so happy about awhile back may be used against them, rather than just against people they dislike.

For years, newspaper editorial boards and other avowed friends of the First Amendment have scoffed at the argument that restricting political spending would restrict speech. In 2004 McCain-Feingold enthusiasts are discovering that the logic of prohibition can come around and bite them right in the bank account.

Apparently if you give those in power the means to stifle political activities, they'll use it to stifle their opponents' political activities, rather than their own.

Who would've thought?

Medley points (directly or indirectly) to a really really large number of articles (and discussions) about how the inscrutable Dave Winer has suddenly and without warning turned off all three-thousand-odd weblogs hosted by the free hosting service at weblogs.com, apparently because DNS resolution is Hard.

The DNS service provider just can't handle the number of different domains under weblogs.com. We had to put them all in one place, and they had to be on one of my servers.

Yeah, wow, three thousand A-records might take up like hundreds of thousands of bytes of data. Whew!

Another reason to congratulate myself on having home-brewed all my weblog infrastructure, and hosted it on some space that I'm actually paying for. (Not that that's any guarantee of anything.) And for that matter that I don't have server hosted discussion threads. *8)

One comment in the extended discussions of the Winerian Crisis (one that I can't find right now, of course) said something to the effect that we need to provide tools and systems that enable the non-technical to be less dependent on us technical people for stuff.

I have to disagree with that: the non-technical people must remain dependent on us techies, or how will we finance our our Giant Gorilla-Shaped Laser Satellite Systems? MU ha ha ha ha ha!

Going from clueless to fascinatingly clued, abuddha points us to some stuff about Gaviotas, and Google points us to more stuff.

Gaviotas is a village of about 200 people in Colombia, South America. For three decades, Gaviotans - peasants, scientists, artists, and former street kids - have struggled to build an oasis of imagination and sustainability in the remote, barren savannas of eastern Colombia, an area ravaged by political terror. They have planted millions of trees, thus regenerating an indigenous rainforest. They farm organically and use wind and solar power. Every family enjoys free housing, community meals, and schooling. There are no weapons, no police, no jail. There is no mayor.

Imagine if everyone spent their energies on stuff like this, rather than on blowing each other up and fighting about whose imaginary friend can pee further. Sheesh!

Along vaguely related lines, our good buddy Bruce writes:

I just published an essay where I try to untangle the allegations that the NSA has been reading Iranian codes, and that Chilabi informed the Iranians. The weirdest angle to this story is that the Iranians knew that the NSA had been doing this for years.


I'm not sure what the real story is here, and I don't believe I ever will. Too much cloak and dagger.

But I would very much like this to get some wider distribution. I haven't seen it anywhere in the press.

So spread that around; it's an intersting bit.

And remember, Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

Speeding up the link dumpage:

Oh, and I was worrying the other day that with all the good in-warranty repair and customer service we were getting from Apple, they weren't making a decent profit off of us? I'm not really worried about that anymore. We sent in the little daughter's iPod Mini when it stopped working after a mild dropping, and they say that the hard disk was trashed in circumstances not covered by the warranty, and they'd be glad to fix it for roughly twice the cost of buying a new one. Sigh!

So now the little daughter is thinking about what to have engraved on the replacement, and we're thinking about how to spend that much less money over the next few months (can hardly refuse to replace her graduation present).

And all those people on the ads who are break-dancing with their iPods? They'd better be real careful not to drop them...

Monday, June 14, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

The installation was, ideally, a hundred ropes, made from loosely-knotted bedsheets, tied around the rafters of the room and dangling to the ground, with more sheets on the walls and the floor, and the sound of the sea playing loudly and sourcelessly.

In this particular room in this particular gallery, there were no rafters, so he'd strung some thick wooden dowels on wires from the ceiling, and tied the ropes to those. The result wasn't what he had in his mind, because the dowels would swing sometimes, and if someone fell against a rope or tugged too hard (people always want to play with installations) the wire would pop off, and he'd have to get the ladder out from behind one of the sheets and spend five minutes repairing it.

But an installation is whatever happens in it. Cage taught us that.

("Cage taught us that," he thought. "Damn, I'd love to have a name like 'Cage'.")

He'd put his boom-box in one corner, under another pile of sheets, with the CD of sea sounds on repeat and turned way up. All the hanging and piled cloth tried to muffle the sound, but ultimately failed, and the result was as abstract and directionless as he could have hoped. He was standing now against one draped wall of the room, listening to the surf and looking at the dangling sheets.

The installation was called "Ways Out". It was in a room in one corner of the show, and the show was in the back rooms of the gallery. There wasn't alot of traffic, but that didn't bother him. He liked standing against the wall, looking at the sheets and listening to the CD. He felt as if he might be part of the installation himself.

He hoped that someone would come up to him and ask him that question on the way through the room: "So, are you part of the installation?"

A bunch of teenagers, probably an art class or something he thought, moved through the room, innocent and loud and dangerous. They pulled down one of the sheet-ropes, and then almost immediately another one, and their teacher (or guide, or shepherd) scolded them quickly out.

He got out the ladder and put things right. Then he put the ladder away and settled against the wall, into the sound. A long time later, a woman came into the room and walked among the dangling ropes.

She had short black hair and a ribbed olive-green tank top, baggy black pants, and heavy black laced-up boots. He was wearing essentially the same boots. They were impractical for climbing the ladder, but he liked them.

The woman looked up at the ceiling, and then down and into his eyes for a moment, and then away. I wonder, he thought, if she'll ask me if I'm part of the installation.

But without looking at him again, she walked through the room, vanishing and reappearing predictably between the lines of cloth, and toward the door.

"Hey," he said, over the sound of the waves.


"I'm the artist."

She turned. "Prince?"

"Prince? What?"

"You know, the Artist. The Artist Formerly Known As --"

"Oh, no, no, I mean I'm the artist of this. This is my installation."

"Oh." She looked around again, at what he had built, at the ceiling, the pile of sheets hiding the boom-box in the corner, back at him where he still leaned against the wall behind the sheet, down at his boots. "So are you, like, part of the art?"

He smiled.

Sunday, June 13, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Opening up the Big Tub of Water, cleaning out (some of) the garage (including finally getting rid of the decaying heap of flattened cardboard boxes that the Big Tub of Water came in all those years ago), touching up more of the peeling painted places on the house, having a meeting of the Lake Board to prepare for the membership meeting next weekend (figuring out if we can actually afford to hire a lifeguard this summer, for instance), picking up children from places and dropping them off in other places, and so on and so on.

Not that I'm complaining or anything! *8) It just doesn't leave much time for idle (or even energetic and dedicated) log-writing.

Ian writes: "Slashdotted, but so good I had to draw attention to it: [link]." A whole new (well, not entirely new) paradigm in user interfaces.

And someone else points at a rather different (and less boringly commerce-related) kind of town: Tillyville dot com (stories for kids and grownups of all ages). I was never very good at making up stories on the fly for my kids; singing the usual three or four songs for the thousandth time was more my style. *8)

Stories are so important.

A reader intent on psychological warfare writes in an old input box:

Holy Crap dude! Look how awesome this weeks log is compared to your new ones. You should get your act back together.

That was a reasonably awesome week, for sure, although not all that many sigma above the mean I would have thought; not particularly superior to last week's insightful essay on sweat for instance.

But I suppose we all have our own standards. Consider it a buffet. Or a mountain range. Or a bucketful of oranges. Or a diner, just after dawn.


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