log (2005/03/25 to 2005/03/31)

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What's cool?
Thursday, March 31, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

So I'm in the kitchen waiting for the tea water (oh, all right, the hot chocolate water) to boil, and I turn on the TV. On the TV there's this lady with a sort of high squeaky voice, and she's talking to this man with a sort of lower and mumbly voice, and I can't understand anything that they're saying, but I think it must be funny because whenever either of them pauses there's this sound like a whole room full of people laughing.

But it's kind of strange, because there's only the two of them on the screen there. And if there was a whole room full of people laughing off to the side somewhere, off camera, you'd think the people talking would notice when all those people laugh. But they don't, they just keep talking.

Not very realistic.

With regard to yesterday, a reader writes:

Un, yeah, but you added the Ariadnite entry, didn't you?

Now there's a thought! I admit it hadn't even crossed my mind, but it does seem like the obvious explanation. The main hitch is that I have not even the vaguest memory of having done any such thing. But if the reader (or any other reader) has any evidence that I did, that'd be fascinating.

I wonder what else I've done and then forgotten about? Maybe I'll get readers writing things like:

How can you be so down on politicians when you yourself were a two-term state legislator in Wisconsin in the early 1980's?

That'd be unusual.

I did update the Ariadnite paragraph in the Uncyclopedia entry, so now it says

The Goddess loves your two cows, but you still have to milk them yourself.

What else do readers write? All sorts of things!


In http://www.davidchess.com/words/log.20050311.html you talked about using Opera for Gmail and their new simplified html-only interface.

Having been a fellow sufferer... I just want to point out that if you

* use the newest Opera 8 beta (which is very stable)
* after logging into Gmail, use http://gmail.google.com/gmail?nocheckbrowser as your url (I've just replaced my Gmail button on the personal bar; Wand my login and then press the button again to switch off the browser checking)

... you can actually use Opera+Gmail normally, all the various funky features included.


Which is cool. I'll have to try that there Opera 8 sometime (it took me like three years to switch to Opera 7 from 6, so it might turn out to be awhile).

A reader writecasts:

Subject: I'm lovin it


Thanks; we thought so too. *8)

In a very old box a reader writes:

I would like for you to make Douglas Adams books holy.

which seems rather unaccountable until you realize that on that page I myself in fact wrote:

I'm not applying a move that would have made the Douglas Adams books holy (although if there's enough demand I might reconsider)

It's probably a bit too late to reconsider now. (Hm, what would happen if a Nomic had rules that claimed to continue to have effect after the game had ended? Nothing, I guess.)

From Reason's weblog, a Reason Express story pointing to another story which reveals that the FEC isn't planning to regulate political speech on weblogs after all.

Whew! They're just going to regulate political speech on some other parts of the Net. So we can all rest easy.

Or at least we can rest easy until Britain conquers the world with its hordes of genetically clone troopers! But at least the U.S. will hold onto the moral high ground.

From the Medium Lobster, a bold move in defense of academic freedom:

The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative "serious academic theories" that may disagree with their personal views.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for "public ridicule" -- for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class -- would also be given the right to sue.

Remember: academic freedom means being free to sue your professor for making you uncomfortable!

From somewhere, an interesting article about "Googlesmears". When Vinge came and talked at the Lab the other year (have I mentioned I had lunch with him?), one of the things I remember he talked about was that he expected it to become increasingly important to be able to separate the truth from the lies on the Net. I thought at the time (this was before even Uncyclopedia) how funny it was that that hadn't started to be all that true yet (generally even very simple heuristics like the ability to form a coherent sentence still work decently); maybe this "GoogleSmear" thing is the start of that ramp.

Lesee. In geek news I've installed a Windows Hotfix to try to stop the new laptop here from saying Insufficient system resources exist to complete the API (clueless error popup o' the day) when I try to hibernate. And I've been using the NetCraft toolbar to report phishing sites to them.

The URL you recently submitted has been accepted as a phishing site by the Netcraft Anti-Phishing Team. In recognition of your vigilance, we would like to reward you with a small prize. Please reply to this mail with your postal address and we will send it to you (allow 28 days for delivery).

Oh boy, swag!

The silly toolbar only works in IE (isn't it ironic, don't you think?), so when I get a promising-looking phishing spam I fire up IE and go to the URL in the spam and report it to NetCraft (unless the toolbar blocks it first, which it often does). Gives me a sense of usefulness.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

So the You Have Two Cows meme is all over the Web, including on Uncyclopedia.

Pure Communism
You have two cows. Your neighbours help you take care of them, and you all share the milk.
Real World Communism
You share two cows with your neighbours. You and your neighbours bicker about who has the most "ability" and who has the most "need". Meanwhile, no one works, no one gets any milk, and the cows drop dead of starvation.
Enron Capitalism
You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank. He then executes a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by your CFO who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on six more. The public buys your bull.
You have two cows. You may only milk them every third Sunday, or be stoned to death by the other cow owners. You must brush them from left to right, or be stoned. If you do not milk the cows, you are also stoned to death. Failure to participate in stoning is grounds for stoning.
You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

Well, imagine my delight when I discovered this entry on the Uncyclopedia page (in the Religion section):

The Goddess loves your two cows.

I mean, w00t, eh?

I imagine this was a gift from one of y'all, in which case I am deeply grateful. Or if it got there some other way, it could mean anything. Maybe there are whole Ariadnite churches and sects of which I am unaware!

Uncyclopedia in general has something of an identity crisis. One might even say pretentiously that it's at a crossroads. Will it become just another humor site, albeit a collectively edited one where everyone in the world can jump in and say obviously silly things? Or will it live up to its full potential and become a real bastion of convincing-looking but false information, the bane of generations of lazy schoolkids putting too much faith in Google and writing reports about how Belgium is the capital of France, and Oscar Wilde was a famous trombonist?

Only Time Will Tell.

Popular songs in PowerPoint!

Transparent screens!

Designed for Windows!

I apologize for the few and widely-spaced entries lately. Busy busy busy! Not actually doing very much, but always busy!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

Looks like we're going to have some politics today, so I'm required by law to say what I think about the Schiavo case: very sad, none of our damn business, government full of boorish morons. (And as the lady said at the diner this morning, at least it's getting lots of people to write living wills).

And speaking of boorish morons, Bush has done his usual stellar job in choosing Kevin Martin to chair the FCC.

Martin has expressed sympathy to broadcasters and cable operators First Amendment rights, but says, "these rights are not without boundaries. They are limited by law. They also should be limited by good taste."

So there you go: Constitutional rights will now be limited by good taste. My gawd. (I got yer good taste right here, scumbag.)

There was a news story about genetically modified food on the TVs in the lunchroom the other day, and the logo behind the talking head had some abstract graphic and under it the words "Genetic Food". Yow, food with genes! I'll bet it has chemicals, too!

What next?? I wouldn't put it past them to try to sell us food with atoms in it!!

From amptoons and elsewhere, news that the editors of Scientific American have finally given in to the inevitable democratization of science: SciAm site (may want money to show you the whole piece), and a free copy.

Now that's good taste.

And speaking of good taste, someone with a username confusingly similar to mine has set up a Yahoo group to discuss how to further the awakening of all sentient beings from a technical support position. Which strikes me as both incredibly funny and a great idea. Tech Bodhisattvas.

Alamut points out the "Bollywood Costumes" category on ebay.in. And if that doesn't mean anything to you, you have only yourself to blame. *8)

Lesee, other random queued-up snippets. Lessig points out that Yahoo now has a Creative Commons search engine, so you can find stuff with useful CC licensing terms that you can re-use. And them Senate Democrats have an interesting use of Web technology.

And that's about the entire contents of the universe at the moment. I played my first game of Alpha Centauri in a long time. The other factions seemed unusually warlike. Lady Deidre was nominally Top Faction for the entire game, and she kept shaking me down for energy credits and randomly attacking me and stuff, but I won anyway (nyah-nyah), taking humanity yet again to the next stage of universal evolution. And it rained for two nights in a row and the snow's all melted and everything's all soggy.

Splersh splersh.

Saturday, March 26, 2005  permanent URL for this entry

So yesterday M gave me a copy of the new Tori Amos album as an early Easter present. I ripped it, put it on my iPod, and started listening to it during the evening but didn't get very far due to sounds and children and things.

So last night when the house was settling down and I was sitting down to zazen (I've been doing it pretty regularly since I got into the whole Zen Thing the other month), I thought, hey, maybe I'll listen to this music while sitting (I'm still very much in the experimental stages of zazen, trying out various things, and having some music in my ears sounded like a thing worth playing with).

I figured that I'd use the remaining length of the album to time my sitting. Usually I just intuit it, since it'd be all wrong to be looking at a clock while sitting and I don't have any nice twenty-minute chime timer or anything.

After quite awhile sitting there watching my thoughts going by, trying not to chase them down, hearing the music in my ears, it occurred to me that I'd been there for quite some time. I tried not to chase the thought (and tried not to chase the trying and...) but it did come up again, and with increasing frequency as my legs began aching more than usual and numerous tracks went by.

How long is this album, anyway?

But I really did want to sit unti it was over; it was obviously becoming an opportunity to practice practice, accepting and releasing distractions like pain and sleepiness and time. (And then to not chase the thought of that opportunity, and...)

Looking at the liner notes this morning, it looks like I was sitting for a bit over an hour. Which is about twice as long as I ever have before (as far as I know; I don't usually actually time it, but twenty or thirty minutes seems plausible). And which explains why my left leg was entirely numb and immobile afterwards. *8)

It was very worthwhile. The end of the sitting was of course full of thoughts like ouch my leg really hurts, and oh I wonder if this is the last song, and maybe I should just quit at the end of this song, and ooh look at me I didn't quit at the end of the last song I'm still sitting here aren't I good, and stuff like that. But it was very good practice in accepting things and letting them go.

(It's funny, both times I've had a leg fall entirely asleep in zazen, afterwards it hasn't had the usual "pins and needles" feeling at all in waking up again; just a warmth that comes and goes quickly and leaves the limb feeling entirely normal. Maybe it's a different kind of falling asleep than the pins and needles kind?)

Email update: Ian discovered that some large fraction of the mail coming into extremis.net (our webhost) was spam addressed to random-looking usernames on theogeny.com. So I gave him a list of the 100 or so theogeny usernames that I have a record of having used at some time in the past, and he set things up so that anything sent to any other username would bounce.

So note that mail sent to arbitrary string at theogeny dot com will no longer find its way to me like it used to; if you get a username bounce trying to send email to theogeny.com, just change the username to "chess", and it should get through. (Ian reports that since he made the change the system's been bouncing one email to an invalid theogeny username every two seconds, pretty regularly all day. Stupid spammers.)

Image frenzy: once again a generic image name on flickr got me looking around at random unrelated images on Google. Some are pretty amazing. Others are odd (and upside-down). Most of course have people (or giant mutant bugs) in them. Also mysterious eggs and Spanky Primavera. One image led me to this page, and now I have a couple of very nice peaceful desktop wallpapers of the "simple basket on a pure white background" variety.

On a whim I wrote back to some 419 scammer the other day, saying

Oh I am so sorry for you and your condition and ecited to help you out! It is nervous a little though and nI wonder if you could send me a picture photograph of yourself? It is always the face that we trust I think!

not really expecting an answer. But I got one!

In particular I got, embedded in four successive emails with no accompanying text:

  • a picture of a woman (probably something the scammer found in a trash barrel; I'm not going to post this or the next one, because they involve the image of probably some innocent person),
  • a scan of a Ghanian passport with a picture that looks like probably the same woman and the name crudely photoshopped to match the scam (except that, lol, the scammer claims to be Monica Roland daughter of Anderson Roland, but on the passport and once in the email it's spelled "Rolland" instead),
  • a PERSONAL DECLARATION (being basically the last will and testament of one Dr. Anderson Roland (one ell), and
  • a CERTIFICATE OF DEPOSIT from the Global Vault Security Company Ltd, apparently also known very memorably as the Afro-British American International Security Company Inc.; this proves the existence of the two metallic truck boxes, just stuffed with cash and waiting for me.

Fascinating, eh? I guess the 419ers are getting used to being asked for photos and stuff, and have them all handy. Although they aren't real careful with things like the spelling of last names (or maybe they make them crude and fake-looking on purpose, to weed out the discerning?). If I had the energy I'd try to waste more of their time by getting them to send me pictures of themselves holding up silly signs or whatever; but for now I'll leave that to the experts...


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