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What's underneath?
Tuesday, February 1, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

You know what would be fun? It would be fun, I think, to take some biggish piece of English text, and some biggish piece of Japanese text (in Romanji), and append one to the other, and then run the resulting biggish thing through a "dissociated press" sort of algorithm, with the (what's it called?) correlation length set at like 3 or 4.

This should produce some randomish text with 3-gram or 4-gram statistics that are halfway between those of English and those of Japanese.

That would be fun.

So if any of you out there have some free time...


Sunday, January 30, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

So today we had bagels in the morning, and I changed the oil in the snow-thrower (woo woo! although the Handy Neighboor says that he doesn't think I used the right weight of oil and maybe I should change it again), and I did the groceries (and the bookstore, sheesh), and played The Sims, and now we're all sitting around the house reading and playing video games and writing in our weblogs (well, me) and stuff.

Tonight I'm going to write down all of the books that are in this pile by the bed, where I don't usually have a pile of books but for some reason now I do.

Just because.

And in no particular order.

And without Amazon or Google links or anything because you can do that yourself no problem.

Alan Watts, "The Joyous Cosmology". Watts in the early 60's, talking about the joys of LSD and mescaline and so forth. Forward by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. Imagine a world in which this book had not become politically incorrect!

Thich Nhat Hanh, "The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion". His translation of, and extensive commentary on, what is popularly called the Diamond Sutra. As a result of some complex conversations in alt.zen and environs, I'm now reading this Sutra and seeing if it causes any changes to my practice ("my practice"); I bought this edition at the book store on my way to the groceries today. I'm not going to read the commentaries until I've read (various translations of) the Sutra and thought about it. So far I like the Sutra itself; it's very Zennish.

Brian Greene, "The Elegant Universe". A popularization of modern physics, focusing on string theory. At least nominally focusing on string theory; so far it's been explaining Newtonian physics, basic relativity, what "frequency" and "amplitude" mean, and other advanced stuff. (Why aren't there books in the gap between "full of really hard math for the professional" and "starting from the assumption that the reader knows nothing at all about physics"?)

Haruki Murakami, "Kafka on the Shore" and "Sputnik Sweetheart". M read them both recently (she reads lots of good books, not having a weblog), and recommended them to me. Hope to get to them someday.

The "Film" issue of Granta. We got a free trial subscription to Granta via Salon Premium or something. Great stuff in them, no doubt, but I never seem to get around to them, either.

Ioanna Salajan, "Zen Comics". A great funny little book; comics illustrating various classic Koans and Zen stories. I had one a long time ago and gave it to someone as a gift. The other week I thought "I can get another one from the Web!". So I did.

Shunryu Suzuki's "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind". That's all read (and written up), so I can put it on the shelf. Then the piles will be smaller!

Thich Nhat Hanh, "Being Peace". His equivalent of "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind", more or less. All about practice, and peace, and the world and humanity and stuff. I've finished reading it; I'd like to write it up.

Robert Heinlein, "Between Planets". What's that doing here?

"Thirty-three Sardonics which Tiffany Thayer can't forget -- nor will you!". A very odd little book that was on the back of the toilet in the child bathroom for the longest time, and I recently rescued. I think I got it at Traveller's Food and Books or somewhere. It's a collection of short stories and maybe essays and stuff. It has an introduction that probably made sense in its original cultural context in 1946, but that I recall finding utterly opaque and mysterious.

Banana Yoshimoto, "Lizard". Since I was stopping at the book store anyway to look for Diamond Sutras, M asked me to stop and look for Yoshimoto novels for her. I called her on my cell phone and told her that they only had "Kitchen" and "Lizard". She asked me to buy "Kitchen". "Lizard is short stories," she said, "so you might like it". So I bought it too, fool that I am.

Barrington J. Bayley, "The Zen Gun". Questionable-looking 80's paperback SF, with the front cover missing. Picked up, I think, in a used-book store in Middlebury VT or somewhere like that. Not sure why it's by the bed.

Susie Bright (ed.), "The Best American Erotica 2003". I'm pretty sure I've finished this; maybe it's waiting to be written up.

John Blaine, "The Lost City (A Rick Brant Electronic Adventiure)". Inscription on a front endpaper: "To Michael from Randy 1955". Bliss.

Vladimir Nabokov, "Tyrants Destroyed and Other Stories". So many stories, so little time.

Paul Reps, "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones" (in that lovely little boxed edition I mentioned the other week). I'm absorbing this one slowly, I love it so much. I'm in the last section now, "Centering".

Michele Karlsberg and Karen X. Tulchinsky, "To be continued..."; a collection of short stories with lesbian themes. I always enjoy lesbian fiction. (I have this fear that deep down I'm one of those guys who wear "I support gay marriage, but only if both chicks are hot" T-shirts.)

Lao-Tzu, "Te-Tao Ching: A New Translation Based on the Recently Discovered Ma-wang-tui Texts". Very scholarly and stuff, and a very nice edition, discovered in the Religion and Philosophy section upstairs, although I have no memory of having acquired it.

Colson Whitehead, "The Intuitionist". An interesting-sounding novel. Bought in a moment of weakness (and nostalgia for old-fashioned hardcopy catalogs), along with "To be continued...", from some discount book catalog that came in the mail.

Paula Huntley, "The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo"; oh yeah, this one also came from that catalog. Sounds vaguely like "Reading Lolita in Teheran".

Gene Wolfe, "The Book of the Short Sun". Heh heh, also from that catalog order. I like Gene Wolfe sometimes, and the price was right.

Jisho Warner (ed.), "Nothing is Hidden: Zen Master Dogen's Instructions for the Cook"; also from that catalog (sheesh!). Sounds cool, but I haven't even glanced inside yet. (Too busy writing silly lists in the weblog!)

Robert A. Metzger, "Picoverse". The last thing (I think) from that book order (it was a pretty heavy box). Science fiction, I'm guessing.

Herk Harvey, "Carnival of Souls". Not strictly a book, actually; more a DVD. Found in the very discount box in the local video store. Another classic that I've never seen. Hope to watch soon.

Doris Lessing, "Love Again". M passed this on to me; I think she bought it because I was praising Lessing's short stories. But M doesn't read short stories, so she got this novel. I read short stories more often than novels (fits my attention span better?), so we'll see if I get around to this one.

Whew, and that's pretty much the botton of the pile! Except for some stray bits of paper, my Gameboy Advance SP (currently holding "Urbz: Sims in the City"), the Kleenex™, and of course all those books on the little shelf under the nightstand, but they aren't in piles exactly, so I'm not going to list them.

Maybe I'll go do some reading now!   *8)

Good night...

Friday, January 28, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

What's in the box?

a goat

ungathered wool


these words

Who's in the house?



brightly colored machine tools


2004 07 23



20040723 htm



Hey, I got that same "soft magazine" spam!

The teacher grabbed a hand of marbles, putting some inside, and the rest on the carpet, and asked of the students "Which marbles are near the box?"


A goat, wool, hope, words, madness, and thought. Just your typical box, then!

So whaddya think that passerby was looking for from last July? Think e ever found the archives? And will e ever find the "l" in "html"?

And if the brightly colored machine tools are in the box, what's in the bathtub?

How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?

Two: one to hold the giraffe, and one to fill the bathtub with brightly-colored machine tools.

-- author unknown because I'm lazy

I got some new spam! Well actually, I got tons and tons of new spam; but one had this subject line:

Subject: E-Card from Gloria muscle fiasco

From ntk to here to here:

ZetaTalk leads you through the vast amount of information being relayed by the Zetas in answer to questions posed to their emissary, Nancy.

Just in case it comes up in conversation.

Ego feed: ambiguous writes "David Chess has written simply the finest of geek koans". That koan seems quite popular, in fact, not only from the reflog, but from having gotten actual email in praise of it.

It was fun to see ambiguous.org in the reflog. I first encountered that site 'way 'way back in the early days of the WordURL toy. www dot ambiguous dot org came up in the list, and I went there and found this cool quirky site that had (this was before everything was a weblog) a forum where people could say things, and I posted saying "you are a random site!" or something like that and pointing to WordURL, and someone flamed me mildly for being an idiot or whatever, and I replied and we had a fun little dharma duel, and then I read the rest of the site and it was cool. Still is, and now it's got a weblog too!

From (believe it or not) WebCollage, the Futile Quiz o' the Day: What intentional tort are you?.

From Bruce Schneier, we find that the very wonderful Matt Blaze has written a very wonderful paper "Safecracking for the computer scientist". Everyone should read it; it's majorly clued.

Also from Schneier, a story about Cory Doctorow's encounter with airport screening, including an actual apology from the screening bureaucracy, and the screened's reaction to it. (Note also that this is from a weblog called Secondary Screening, which is a whack name, assuming I know what "whack" means.)

The new Secretary of Education is, sadly, an idiot.


"The secretary's first act in office denies children an education about the diversity of American families," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg.

Go here if you want to complain about it; I did. (Next, the Secretary of Education denounces children's programming that includes mixed-race couples, women working outside the home, and virtuous non-Christians.)

From Daze, a bold move to reduce prison overcrowding in Virginia:

The state Supreme Court yesterday struck down as unconstitutional a 19th-century Virginia law making it a crime for unmarried couples to have sex.

(Well okay, it hasn't been enforced for 150 years and it didn't actually involve jail time, but I couldn't resist the gloss.)

Also from Daze (and Daze), interesting judicial developments on the obscenity exception to the first amendement:

Judge Calls Obscenity Laws Unconstitutional, Derails Key Federal Anti-Pornography Case

On the same day that President Bush was inaugurated for his second term, a federal court in Pittsburgh was handing him a major legal defeat on one of those "moral value" issues that helped return him to office. In what could be a crushing blow to his administration's stated goal of ramping up prosecutions of those who traffic in extreme pornography, a federal judge declared the government's anti-obscenity laws unconstitutional.

More analysis here: What You Need to Know About the Extreme Associates Case (porn-ad warning):

Again, note the key words, "as applied to these defendants and the facts of this case." There are still plenty of possible scenarios where federal obscenity laws would still apply, and adult business owners should remain wary of that fact. That said, however, the mail-order aspect of Ashcroft v. Extreme Associates, where a postal inspector or other governmental official affirmatively finds and orders a specific video feature from a mail-order provider and receives it in the privacy of his/her own home, is the classic government sting operation; one which has resulted in scores of convictions over the years, and one which, if this case is upheld, they will no longer be able to do.

(And note that Volokh doubts the opinion will stand.)

Finally from NewsBites, we have "ID theft mastermind gets 14 years". We join NewsBites in recommending that everyone read the full complaint. This guy wasn't the "mastermind" at all; he was a dude on the help desk at a company that makes software that credit issuers use to access people's credit reports at the three big credit agencies. Bizarrely, this random help desk dude apparently knew all the passwords used by users of the software to access people's credit reports (information that's very useful to identity thieves).

Which is utterly insane. It's like a random help desk person at IBM knowing the user names and passwords of everyone that logs onto anything from an IBM-made computer.



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