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Clams and Scallions:
Wednesday, October 6, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

So ("so") this morning at the Club, in the men's locker room, sitting in a little plastic stand on one of the sink counter tops, was this little sign. It had the Club logo on it, and a smiling cartoon man, and these words:

Please keep your 'privates' private!
Courtesy is contagious!

And I mean...

That's just weird on so many levels.

I mean, the basic obvious message of it is that they don't want you walking around naked in the locker room. Which is about the dumbest thing on Earth, but at least I understand it. Maybe some eccentric member ("member", ha ha ha!) complained about all the naked people in the locker room, and some unusually stupid staffy put up the sign. Or maybe it's not that they want you to cover up the 'privates' entirely, just refrain from waving them about or pointing at them; hard to tell!

But beyond the bizarre apparent meaning of the sign is the cheerful and slogan-like presentation. I mean, it doesn't say "Some members are upset by nudity, so please hold a towel in front of yourself at all times, thank you, the management". It says "Keep your privates private!". Just a cheerful little genitalia slogan, along the lines of "There's no 'I' in 'Team'", or "Clean hands, healthy life", or "When you ride alone, you're riding with Hitler".

Or, of course, "Big Brother is watching you".

And the third creepy thing about it is the second line: "Courtesy is contagious". Standard slogan pap, of course, but in context...

If it's contagious, are they suggesting that if you're not careful you can get it from someone's privates?


So I really have to wonder what's behind this. Were some of the guys having weiner-jousting contests in the locker room while I wasn't around? (Bummer I missed it.) Or organizing Longest Snake competitions? And someone got offended?

Or maybe it's a prank. One of the people laughing about the sign when I came back from pretending to bicycle this morning said "Next they'll have signs in the stalls saying 'Don't forget to wipe your ass!'".

Now that'd be a cool prank.

I was tempted to swipe the sign and bring it home to scan in, so I could show it to you (and maybe prepare variants, heh heh). But my conscience discouraged me, dang conscience...

Tuesday, October 5, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Last night and this morning I dove into my long-neglected feed-reader, and I've been reading weblogs and stuff, and now I return with various pointers for y'all.

First we have our Aphorism of the Day that I just made up, after reading somewhere (don't seem to have saved a link for this one) about the latest Hot Topic on how weblogs are, or aren't, superior to major media news sources. Aphorism of the Day coming up. Ready? Here we go:

Speculating about whether weblogs are the future of journalism is like speculating about whether love letters are the future of cash-register receipts.

So there you are, for what it's worth. Not that there aren't (or may not be) useful and important things that weblogs (or things shaped like weblogs) can do with and to and about the way citizens get their news. But when I read weblogs that isn't what I'm mostly looking for.

(Of course now in much of the rest of this entry I will do mostly the opposite of what I just said. Warning: numerous sudden swerves of topic ahead.)

Once more into the breach


Human flight took a significant step forward today as the privately built SpaceShipOne flew into suborbital space for the second time in five days, securing the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

As the blue squirrel (blue squirrel?) to the left there suggests, I've once again signed up for National Novel Writing Month (actually just signed onto my old account), and I'm looking forward with eagerness and trepedation to November. We'll see if I actually go through with it this year; I really do want to.

From Freedom to Tinker, we have a good startingpoint post for some recent discussion about the obscenity exception to the First Amendment and similar topics near to our hearts. Also the American Conservative Union's ad against the INDUCE act (the ACU not normally being real high on my list of people to agree with).

And also:

Yes, you read that right: critically important decisions about our national innovation policy need to be made, and a small group has been given a few hours to make them.

The result of this process will be yet another Induce Act draft. Doubtless it will take the same approach -- blanket bans on broad classes of behavior, with narrow carveouts to protect the present business plans of the groups in the room -- as the previous bad drafts.

How bad have these drafts been? Well, as far as I can tell, the now-current draft would appear to ban the manufacture and sale of photocopy machines by companies like Xerox.

From antipixel, the very fun Tokyo Metroblog, and thence to a random city. File metroblogging dot com under "if only I had more time"...

Also from antipixel, two new completely un-music-related addons for the iPod. Tech-o-riffic! Coming up next week, the iCod: a handy iPod attachment that you can use to gut fish!


A few of us can still play games at 30, I suppose. You cannot play games at 35 or 40 and seem like anything but an intellectually-stunted manchild, there in your sweater vest, the control pad tangled in your long, gray, drool-soaked beard.

Heh. Sez you, Bub. That site's a pointless waste of time anyway (ha ha!).

I think hitherby is one of the major writers of the early XXIst century, here. And I don't think I'm kidding. I mean, sure sometimes it's funny:

Saul is a man who stands and watches.

He is at the wall at the edge of the world. He has no social life. He has no hobbies. He scarcely sleeps.

He stands, and watches, lest the age of disco come again.

(not that there's anything wrong with funny), but some times...

Google on not being evil:

...On balance we believe that having a service with links that work and omits a fractional number is better than having a service that is not available at all. It was a difficult tradeoff for us to make, but the one we felt ultimately serves the best interests of our users located in China. We appreciate your feedback on this issue.

-- The Google Team

Some spammer, on the metaphysical quandry of being:

Subject: Re: shoulders were merry chimpanzees

From amptoons, a really big old mushroom:

Spanning 35 hectares (86 acres), the mostly underground fungus is believed to be 1,000 years old

From Jessamyn, an NPR story on why the Commission on Presidential Debates is evil. (Sad, if not surprising.)

Rebecca reminds us of Rebecca linking to How To Deconstruct Almost Anything; My Postmodern Adventure. I'm sure we've linked to it before also; it's a classic of hacker wisdom.

Afterward, however, I was left with a sense that I should try to actually understand what these people were saying, really. I figured that one of three cases must apply. It could be that there was truly some content there of value, once you learned the lingo. If this was the case, then I wanted to know what it was. On the other hand, perhaps there was actually content there but it was bogus (my working hypothesis), in which case I wanted to be able to respond to it credibly. On the third hand, maybe there was no content there after all, in which case I wanted to be able to write these clowns off without feeling guilty that I hadn't given them due consideration.

I often feel exactly that way after listening to marketing people, or executives. They've talked for an hour or two, they had lots of PowerPoint with words in it, but I afterwards I can't think of a single substantive thing they said. Is it me, or is it them? (Am I deaf, or is there silence?)

Also from Rebecca, a story about Trinity Broadcasting:

"Do you think God would have any trouble getting $1,000 extra to you somehow?" he asked during a "Praise-a-thon" broadcast from Trinity's studios in Costa Mesa.

The network's "prayer partners" came through once again, phoning in enough pledges in one evening to put Christian programming on 8,700 television stations across India.

TBN was not short on cash. In fact, it could have paid for the India expansion out of the interest on its investment portfolio. But at TBN, the appeals for money never stop. Nor does the flow of contributions.


The network, little known outside fundamentalist Christian circles, was buffeted by unwanted publicity last week, when The Times reported that Crouch had paid a former employee $425,000 to keep silent about an alleged homosexual tryst.


Paul, 70, collects a $403,700 salary as TBN's chairman and president. Jan, 67, is paid $361,000 as vice president and director of programming. Those are the highest salaries paid by any of the 12 major religious nonprofits whose finances are tracked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.


The Crouches travel the world in a $7.2-million, 19-seat Canadair Turbojet owned by TBN. They drive luxury cars. They have charged expensive dinners and furniture to TBN credit cards.


Olivia Foster, 52, of Westminster, sends the network $70 a month out of her $820 disability check.

I know I should just think of this as evolution in action. Or maybe I should be comforted that Olivia Foster feels that she is getting value for the money, and I shouldn't patronizingly assume that she's being taken. But this smells so much like a scam; if the victim never realizes he's been bilked, does that mean it wasn't a scam at all?

Until that story, my only association with Trinity Broadcasting Network was a rather humble-looking building sitting next to a local highway somewhere north of here. I hadn't realized they were a big fancy founder-enriching enterprise with private jets and all. I don't watch much Fundie TV.

I do listen to Fundie Radio now and then, though. Our local Family Radio station is WFME (94.7FM, no obvious web site) and I have a button on the car radio set to it. The music is really awful, but the programs are an interesting window into that particular meme complex. I don't get the impression that WFME's founders are sailing around in private yachts, but who knows?

Googling on "WFME" got me serendipitously to Paul Davidson, a weblog with some highly read-worthy stuff in it.

Caterina has been using Flickr tags to point to various (what?) meme-groups, and it looks like fun. So here are noses and chocolate, and naturally books (because the net is full of nerds), as well as bread and beards, and not currently bared (although some nice nudes).

Subject: It's cool to control your appetite airflow
Subject: The fashion models have a very slim figure.Here is HOW bolshoi
Subject: A try will make you understand our purpose carbonaceous
Subject: When he had changed, poured water over his head, and scented himself, ...
Subject: new antidote found in crocodile

(Favorites in there are the fortuitous placement of "Bolshoi" (accurate for only a small fraction of fashion models, of course), and the finding of the antidote in the crocodile.)

Medley points out the distressing pro-torture stance of the Current Administration. This is covered from a slightly different angle by fafblog:

Giblets is outraged! Congressional Republicans are trying to sneak provisions into the 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act of 2004 that would legalize the foul practice of "extraordinary rendition" - the transfer of suspected terrorists to other countries to be tortured for information. To pass the bill in this form would be inconceivable - for how can any red-blooded pro-torture Congressman justify outsourcing our nation's torture work when American torturers are losing their jobs every day?

From MeFi, the Scrotal Safety Commission: "An informed scrotum owner is a safe scrotum owner". (According to the MeFi thread, this is a tie-in to some TV show I don't watch.)

And also from MeFi, an intriguing story of possibly cthulhoid horror ("possibly" because it's unfinished; it's also pretty funny).

And, most appropriately, we will close with "Miss Susie Had a Steamboat: A Critical Analysis of a Schoolyard Rhyme".

Whew! Hope you find some of that stuff interesting. Now I must go to meetings and work on PowerPoint slides and think about my next novel ("my next novel"). Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, October 3, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

On the way back from the Classy Executive Conference Center, I passed this sign pointing the way I was intending to go in one direction, and "S. Nyack" in another direction, and on a whim I went the latter way. ("Two on-ramps diverged in a yellow wood...")

When I was little, growing up in Rockland County on the other side of the river (or, really, on the normal side of the river; where I live now is on the other side of the river), Nyack was this sort of mythical place, or not actually mythical because we went there sometimes, but not all that often (not that I remember), and it was always (that I remember) fun and cool.

Nyack had like theatres and playhouses, and antique stores and junk shops, and artsy people and used-book stores, and rich people and poor people, and the river, and events and protests and street fairs and all sortsa stuff like that. It still does, even.

I parked, on Friday, at a meter in front of the "Hello, Delly" deli, and walked in to the center of downtown at the corner of Broadway and Main. This took me by a bunch of interesting-looking restaurants and junk and antique stores, and Ace Hardware, and all sorts of people walking and sitting and talking to each other and carrying things.

I turned right onto Broadway, and there was Pickwick Bookshop. When I was tiny, it was (I think) right on the corner of Broadway and Main; now it's half a block down. But it's still got the boxes of nearly-free books on the front steps, and it's still teeteringly full of stacks and piles and boxes and shelves of books, most of them used, all just waiting for me to buy them someday.

I bought a (used) copy of Doris Lessing's "A Man and Two Women", and continued down Broadway past where the stores get a little more sparse, and then to where they dense-up again, in the little secondary downtown where I vaguely think a Playhouse used to be ages ago (might still be there and I just didn't notice it, even).

I had lunch and read my book at the Strawberry Place, which dates I think from not quite as ancient times. I remember once when the little daughter was little we were sitting at a tiny table in the Strawberry Place, and she had hot chocolate, and she put a straw in it and I started to say something to her but not quickly enough to stop her from learning firsthand why people don't drink hot chocolate through a straw.

This time I had the Grilled Health Sandwich and a cup of minestrone soup by myself, and read "One Off the Short List", and admired the people going in and out of the place, until I was done.

So that was lovely and idyllic.

I watched "The Dreamers" the other night, that I mentioned renting last week or so. It was beautiful and tender and artistic and funny and all that sort of thing. It was also NC-17 due to a couple of exquisitely done sex scenes and lots of nudity of both genders. (I wish yet again that our culture would allow good filmmakers to make a primarily erotic movie now and then, and porn production wasn't left entirely in enthusiastic but utterly unskilled hands.) Which was kinda funny because I just read somewhere that people try to avoid getting NC-17 ratings because video stores won't rent NC-17 movies; but I got it at Blockbuster right down the street.

It was all about youth and love and madness and vintage films and Paris, and what more could one want from a movie?

It may be unfair to say anything at all about the other disc that I rented at the same time as "The Dreamers"; the first few episodes of "Futurama" can't really stand the comparison. I mean it's sort of well done, and sort of funny, and sort of touching on the human condition; but so much of it is just cheap laughs and banal cynicism that it's just not in the same universe. When a phone call comes in about two strangers having been violently and tragically killed, and the main characters' first reaction is "is their apartment rent controlled?", that would fifteen years ago have been a biting comment on the heartlessness of materialistic society and man's inhumanity to man and all; but today it's just tired (and in a depressing way self-congratulatory) irony.

Then yesterday and today I watched "Paycheck" (thanks to M's NetFlix account; a great idea, NetFlix, especially when you have someone else in the house willing to take care of the mechanics for you). It was more fun than I expected, and I want to reread the Dick short story. It wasn't one of those "amazing how well they did it" films; there were dumb things and plot-reasons things (like when Our Heroes have snuck into the evil fortress and are about to destroy the evil machine that Our Hero damaged earlier, they stop and say "hey, let's repair it and try it out first!", and not only is that stupid, but the bad guy says "don't kill them until they've fixed it" before he has any reason to think they're going to), but it was lighter and funnier than I'd expected from the trailers, and less of a Thriller (I'm not fond of Thrillers unless they're really well done).

So that was nice, too.

And all of that makes it sound like I have lots more free time than I feel like I do, somehow...

Speaking of time, Paycheck brings up an interesting question about predicting and changing the future. There are lots of SF and fantasy stories about being able to see the future and act on what you see. But I don't see how that can actually work.

Say I see at time T "ah, if I do this now, then at time T+k things will be like this, but if I do this instead, then things will be like that". But that implies that, although I have a choice of what to do at T, for some reason at every point between T and T+k neither I nor anyone else has a choice; what happens during that period is entirely determined by what I do now. And why would that be?

It seems like, if we can have technological or magical future-seers at all, they'll be able to report only fixed points; they can only say that X is going to happen if their saying that X is going to happen will cause (or at least not prevent) X to happen. Which is, I know, the point of a particular subset of the relevant stories.

Randall stepped forward out of the knot of the undecided, and strode through the mists up to the dias.

"I am no slave of fate," he declared. "There is nothing that you can tell me of my future that I cannot make false. Indeed, there is nothing you can tell me of my future that I will not make false.

And he tossed his head in defiance.

The seer looked up from her cauldron of fog, her mirror into the divine realms, her humming computer display, and her eyes were deep and tired and horrifyingly alluring.

"You are right," she said, "you are entirely correct."

And then she was silent.

Since, of course, not all transforms have fixed points.

Friday, October 1, 2004  permanent URL for this entry

Woo, I'm sleepy!

So I'm sitting here at a Classy Executive Conference Center, at an Important Offsite Meeting, where I've been all yesterday and today. I just finished banging out a rewriting of a document chapter based on a new consensus among the other Important Folks here and sending it to all concerned, and now I'm resting.

It's funny how the part of my mind that writes down words and creates documents and stuff, and the part that gives talks for that matter, seem pretty distinct from the part of me that (hm, I recall saying this before and not being able to think of a good word at this point that time either) is talking to you right now (the part that I will, in an amusing kind of ego-centricity, briefly call "me").

See of course Borges' "Borges and Me", which I probably referred you to last time also, but am too sleepy to confirm. It's like, I dunno what it's like. It's like the fact that I'm all sleepy doesn't reflect directly or in the obvious way into the aspect of me that writes document. I had no trouble (in some sense) writing the document, although I know that in fact there's a greater likelihood than usual of typos and dangling words and so on. But there wasn't a subjective feeling of sleepiness about the writing.

(I have no idea what that last sentence there means.)

Once I start writing something, or giving a talk, or writing a piece of code, I'm generally pretty good at it. But sometimes it's real real hard to start. I wonder if this is where the narrative pattern comes from, where one summons (generally with considerable difficulty) various servitors to do complex and interesting things for one. The servitors have no trouble, but summoning them can be tough.

See of course "Aristoi".

Subject: Your good appetite shouldn't be a punching bag for your excess weight francisco

Hear that, francisco? And your vitality should never be a gilded cage for your cowlick.

30 Days to Becoming an Opera7 Lover

"Reporters and media critics are bored, bored, bored by the very sort of discourse they claim to support (a lesson I learned the hard way in 10 long years as the editor of Reason). They, and presumably their readers, want conflict, scandal, name-calling, and some sex and religion to heighten the combustible mix."

So was that debate intense and enlightening, or what? I hear that for the next debate, the two candidates will give simultaneous hour-long speeches.

In different states.


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