log (2005/06/03 to 2005/06/09)

Can anyone recommend a 'podcast' that I might actually like listening to? The other day I thought I'd give it Another Try, and I listened to Dave Winer expressing at great length some complicated and self-absorbed complaint against some other dude, and then to that day's podcast by the other dude. Clearly I'm not in their target audience.

Is there a podcast (a Real Live Modern Style Podcast, not just an mp3 sitting somewhere) that's (oh, heck, I don't know how to describe this) likely to be interesting to someone who writes a weblog like this one? Or should I just wait and try again in a couple more years?

(I used to think that a bad thing about podcasts was that they didn't have text and so didn't get indexed, but at the moment based on my scanty evidence I have to say that it's not such a bad thing at all. I know: I'm being cruel.)

Oh, and speaking of Dave Winer, ntk mentioned his name in the context of the very cool platypus. Compare the idea of platypus with Dave Winer's fascinating position that "modifying" content by giving users tools to mess with their local copies of it is the moral equivalent of "modifying" content by using the police power of the state to prevent it from being distributed in the first place. Mmm-kay.

From Tony Rall, a cool-looking piece (which I really need to actually read) on the science of NASCAR (also linked from my thrilling del.icio.us feed, fwiw).

From MeFi, the very amazing Rapid Afterimage Optical Illusion. Whoa!

And to close on something serious and lovely, that really deserves better company than optical illusions and Web silliness,

I had wanted the song to be nothing but bridge. I had wanted my life to be a series of long walks in greenhouses, days spent reading and writing, driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula.

Today those things scare me a little, like a vacuum in which something might shatter.

-- Miranda

Me too. Oh, me too...

Caterina took the bait! Good books she reads.

(A link from Caterina is worth a significant number of hits! Welcome all readers of Caterina.net, and we hope you enjoy our ongoing discussions of Constitutional law and cheese.)

Ian who used to have a weblog points out a SlashDot comment-fest about a New Scientist piece about simulating brains, which is especially cool from my point of view because Chad Peck ("IBM's lead researcher on the project") works for Steve who used to have a weblog, who I also work for. It is indeed cool stuff.

A reader expresses amusement and/or skepticism about our shower-door timetable the other day:

"Two weeks." Hahahahahaha!

While "two weeks" is in general the default amount of time it takes to do anything, it was in fact just two weeks and a day (or two?) before the shower door arrived and was installed. So now the bathroom is all lovely and shiny and new. (Does the rest of the house look shabby in comparison? Will we begin replacing more and more bits of it? Stay tuned for the answers!)

A very nice summary of this year's Hugo nominees (lots of good stuff there that I should read) links to one of our Book Notes (which is always gratifyin').

There is just too much interesting stuff to read! (It would help, I know, if I read less uninteresting stuff.) Schneier has (pointers to) all sorts of worthwhile stuff recently, including

From Amptoons, the memorable slogan "Health at Every Size", expanded upon at this unfortunately purple site and of course elsewhere.

From the reflog, something unusual:

This "bra punishment" information is definitely "cutting edge." Whenever you want to come back to this fun "bra punishment" site just click here and you'll be blown away by what happens next. Whenever you need some more quick facts about "bra punishment" you'll know you can come right back here instead of having to type long searches into hard-to-work search engines. And don't get lost by forgetting why you started searching for "bra punishment" to begin with, and start randomly looking for various "bra punishment" sites.

(I put a "nofollow" on the link above, because I'm sure this site is some kind of pagerank-related scam or something. But it does have a certain je ne sais qua...)


product testi standard requirement

Large sheep.

Certainly llamas. Yes, just so.

Bird. Duck.

The word llamas looks Welsh, but it isn't. At least, I know it isn't, but there might be a Welsh word spelled llamas that I have to go look up now in the Geridaur Prifysgol Cymru.

Indeed! Although I'm not sure what standard equipment for testing llamas would look like. As with "cheese monkeys", the word "Llamas" made it into the prompt line because the little boy was chanting it over and over for no apparent reason the other day. (So does it mean anything in Welsh?)


are unique among mammals in that they have a long, elliptical blood cells rather than the normal saucer-shaped cell.

Fascinating! I'll (try to remember to) tell the little boy.

His fingers flicked through the card index; llamas. Leg-irons, Limpet mines, Litigation . . . Llamas. There it was on the card. He looked down the list of cross-references: Buddhism confusion, Monty Python, alt.rock, and right at the bottom in pencil, Iris Chacon, and the number 6931. He took the card over to the screen. The guy was still at the counter, waiting patiently. "We may just have something for you, dude." Guy took off his glasses and polished them - displacement activity, hiding his excitement probably. The screen fired up and he typed "6931" into the box. There it was, Handy Andy in the Andes III: Cum Ride with Me. The synopsis read: Another fudged mish-mash of badly shot sex that passes for a Handy Andy movie, momentarily relieved by a tender scene involving Patti (Iris Chacon) and a llama. He went over to the wall of pigeonholes, ran his hand along to 6931: empty. "Sorry," he said to the guy at the counter, "Outa luck, it's on loan." To his surprise, the man almost smiled. Pulled up a stool to the counter and sat down, chin propped on his hands. "Don't worry", he said. "Don't worry: I'll wait."

Also fascinating. (A Mark Aster pointer seems appropriate here, somehow.)

[Ms. Chacon's lawyers should note that this website presents all reader input as fictional, and that in particular we most certainly do not claim that Ms. Chacon has ever appeared in any pornogrphic film, whether or not including llamas.]

And finally three less directly llama-related missives:

Tea is not bitter, though that's a common misconception. It's tannic rather than bitter. Grapefruit is bitter. Beer is bitter. Coffee, God save us all, is bitter. Tea is tannic, as is red wine. So remember kids, bitter: bad; tannic: good. Thank you.

winamp really whips the ass

halle barry

Tannin involves the sense of touch or feel, rather than taste.

Halle Barry!

Briefly noted: Gonzales v. Raich, in which the Supremes vote 6-3 that the Feds can still bust you for pot even if you have a doctor's note and you're complying with your State's medical-pot laws and all. I've skimmed the decision, and am therefore eminently qualified to discuss it.

The Opinion of the Court held that the Feds can regulate whatever the heck they want under the Commerce Clause, as long as it has something to do with something which, when viewed in the aggregate ("lovely aggregate tonight, isn't it darling?") substantially affects interstate commerce.

Scalia, in a concurring opinion which he modestly described as "more nuanced" than the Opinion of the Court, said no, no, you mean that the Feds can regulate whatever they heck they want under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause (great name for a clause, that), as long as it's because if they didn't regulate it it'd be hard to regulate something that affects interstate commerce.

(One can picture the other five squirming in their seats and thinking "fine, Tony, fine, whatever", and looking at the clock and hoping the period will end soon.)

The dissent, on the other hand, said if the Feds can regulate whatever the heck they want on such lame excuses, then what the heck can't they regulate?

One searches the Court's opinion in vain for any hint of what aspect of American life is reserved to the States.

Feds r00l ok! Let's hear it for unbridled central government power!

(I personally take a completely principled stand on issues like this: whichever law I like the best should always take precedence. Failing that exacting standard, though, it does seem like the Commerce Clause gets stretched awfully wide when the Feds want to regulate stuff. I wonder if this bothers some Originalists? Not that it seems principally a Denotation vs. Connotation issue, at least to the shallow depth that I've thought about it.)

Much more all over Scotus Blog (those three and many other interesting recent posts).

Coolly, it appears that one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case, Randy E. Barnett, is one of the co-contributors to the Volokh Conspiracy. I wonder if he'll post about it.

(Much more to write down and about, but not tonight, not tonight...)

What is so rare as a day in June?

This was one of those boringly lovely June weekends again. On Saturday me (the Lake Association President) and Mike next door (the Person Who Knows How To Actually Do Things) went down to the Lake and put out the floating dock. There was one other helpful person down there, just in from fishing with his son, and he lent us himself and his rowboat, and it went very nicely. Great to be out on the water.

Then today was the Spring Meeting of the Lake Association, and although we didn't quite have a quorum we came close. Practically all those leaves that we decided not to bother raking back in November had been blown away by the wind or decomposed or whatever, so there was just a small amount of raking to do (and cleaning of the bathrooms, and sweeping out the pavillion, and picking up litter, and a few etcs). After that the little boy and I went down to the dock with our tubes and floated around in the water for a few hours.

It was amazingly lovely; barely cool or even warm near the surface, deliciously chilly four or five feet down. And here and there upwellings of chilly water all the way to the surface, and here and there pockets of warm water down to your toes, and the sun bright but not glaring in a sky-blue sky with big benign scattered white clouds up above. We didn't want to get out.

When we (well, I) decided that we had to get out, there was the little problem that Mike and Dan and I had taken the dock ladder away yesterday when we put out the float, because all the steps were broken; and since the lake is low right now neither of us could just pull ourselves up onto the dock. So I stood on the big submerged rock (just at standing depth) under one corner of the dock, and the little boy climbed up my back and my shoulders and onto the dock, and then I paddled and waded in through the weeds (not all that muddy, really) to where it was shallow enough that I could basically just step up onto the walkway part of the dock.

And then we came home.

And boy am I sleepy!

Noah considers. "Isn't there some kind of animal that lives mostly on the brains of dead people?"


Noah shakes his head. "Besides those."

"Cranium beavers?"

"Yeah," says Noah. "Those. We can eat those."

And that's why there are no cranium beavers anymore. (You should go read everything on Hitherby that you haven't read yet, really. I wish I had time.)

My reference to the So and So's the other day came from neon epiphany, who was infected by a meme at the time. That meme has now mutated from music to books, and it's come down to me formally or informally from more than one source. So here we are.

Total number of books I've owned: whoa, how should I know? *8) I vaguely remember having counted a few (many?) years ago, and having come up just short of two thousand (on a subset of the books). Extrapolating from the current condition of the library and the attic, I'm gonna say 2,500, and I imagine there's probably some setting of "books" and "owned" for which that's even true.

Last book I bought: for what sense of "bought"? The last book I acquired was probably a nice dog-eared copy of Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus: and Other Essays" that I picked up from the Book Exchange Rack in the lobby at the lab. It's great, both in the very personal underlinings of various Key Words and Phrases, and in the content. Reading Camus just after (or while) reading various Zen texts is fascinating; they both critically concern what happens when our concepts and words fall away and we are left immersed in actual reality. But Zen sees this as a desirable (or beyond desirable) state, whereas Camus sees it as absurdity, as an illness, as something that (while not necessarily to be avoided) needs to be recovered from. Lots to think about there.

On the other hand, the last book that I spent money on was probably Donaldson's "Daughter of Regals"; see my notes thereon.

Last book I read: probably Shelby Steele's "The Content of Our Character" (also from the Book Exchange Rack). (Don't expect any comments on that really soon; so far I'm keeping it at work and only reading a few pages now and then. If it comes home eventually, I might finish it sooner.)

Last book I finished: C. A. Haddad, "Caught in the Shadows"; see notes. Nice routine lightweight reading.

Five books that mean a lot to me: well, a book should not mean, but be. *8) But here are five books:

  • Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. Good deep stuff, part of my self-definition (see notes).
  • The Wind in the Willows. Similarly. You've probably read it, but if you haven't read it recently you should read it again; and if you haven't at all you should do so at once.
  • Crystal Express. So cyberpunk is becoming nostalgia; these things happen. This is very good SF, and helped shape my ideas about wild futures. (See notes).
  • A Fire Upon the Deep. Similarly.
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I'm not a Christian, and Lewis is nothing if not a Christian apologist, but he's just so good that it doesn't matter. I read this sometime in my childhood, and the flavor and smell of it has stuck with me undiminished. (See related notes on "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"; but Dawn Treader is the first one I read, and it's still my favorite.)

Whew! I'm sure I've forgotten some incredibly meaningful or self-shaping book (or a dozen of them), but there you are.

Oh, right, now I have to pass it on.

Five people I'd like to see do this as well: George Bush, Stephen Hawking -- (oh, all right) --, Miranda (even thought she already did the music one), Sharp Blue, and Daze (even though, or because, e never talks about emself). And to make up for those first two silly ones, Debra and Jessamyn. If they haven't already done it (I'm not keeping up even with my favorite weblogs these days). OMG and Hitherby. And Caterina (who also already did the music one). And Susie Bright. And, and, and...

(And of course you; I wouldn't forget you!)

Something I've learned from doing this: these specifically-targetted viral memes are interesting. (Compared to the usual general-dispersal meme like the Page 23 one from last April.) I wonder how they compare, spread-wise?