log (2006/01/06 to 2006/01/12)

The cloud recalls no teacher.

I've got a quazillion "perhaps interesting things to log" saved up again, so this will be a pretty random and assorted log entry again.

(I'll also mention briefly that after my meetings up at the other lab were over this afternoon and I was done with the most important email, I looked out the big windows at the fog and the trees, and I remembered back when I used to work in that building and I'd go for long walks and fly kites and stuff at lunchtime, and I got up and put my bag on my shoulder and walked down the hill across the wet grass and into the trees, and eventually I sat down by the stream (actually on a big metal pipe through which the stream flows for a few feet) with my shoes for a zafu and my legs in a half lotus and my hands in a mudra and my bag sitting on the rocks, for about ten minutes, and very much enjoyed the rain until it started to get a little too heavy, and then I got up and went back inside.)

I wrote her back and asked how she had found out who we were. She googled "pants off in the subway".

The actual real-live author of that "Black Brillion" book that I posted some notes on the other day actually wrote me in actual email:

Hello, David:

I saw your comments while googling for reviews of Black Brillion. I will indeed be doing more of the same. I have a new Archonate novel under consideration at Penguin/Roc right now and I've signed to write three linked novels for Night Shade Books, the small press that brought out my short story collection a few months ago. There's a complete bibliography at http://www.archonate.com/bibliography.

I'm glad you like my work. Please tell your friends.



And I thought that was really cool, so I wrote him some stuff back, and he rereplied:

>(I'll have to remember when I get a novel published to make sure
>that the title is unique and easily googlable; did you do that
>on purpose?)

I wanted a unique title, but I didn't consider googlability. It was only when the book was in the works that I found out that there is a real-world place called Brillion.

>I'd be glad to say other things in my weblog; may I for instance
>quote your letter?

By all means. You might also be interested in something I posted on my web page's news section -- http://www.archonate.com/news Scroll down to the December 15 entry.

So here I am telling all my friends and stuff. Remind me to buy his next book (at least when it comes out in paperback).

And okay let's see while we're talking about science fiction authors, we went from here to A Few Notes on the Culture by Iain M Banks (which reminds me in various ways of our Ideal Communal State or whatever we're calling it this month, and which I may well have logged before), and also from there (or somewhere around there) we also got to Charles Stross's weblog, which is neat because we like Charles Stross's work very much and hope to have time to read that "Accelerando" book some day.

Also from that Omniorthogonal place, we got to the economics of religion:

Economics of religion is a line of scholarship that seeks to explain religious behavior from an economic (or "rational choice") perspective.

which contains many words.

A number (a non-zero number) of readers have pointed out some things that are on their mind:

that I'd better start using my real name to flame people [link]

Your web site is now illegal. [link]

(See also the much shorter url this).

Well, this web site isn't illegal as far as I can tell (since it's pretty much the opposite of anonymous, at least url-wise). But

"Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

Don't they understand?

I'm somewhat puzzled (if not surprised) by the various people who have been posting to weblogs and comments threads and stuff saying that this is all a big fuss over nothing, because although "annoy" isn't well-defined "abuse" and "threaten" and "harass" are (so that's okay), and that the government probably wouldn't use this law for anything bad anyway (that's a relief, eh?). Nice to know that such innocence still exists in the world, in a way. But still...

Don't they understand we're at war -- with an enemy?

And speaking of innocence and stuff, here's a list of launch points; places where Windows looks for instructions to run stuff when the system starts. Seventy-eight of them. Rather a large number, really.

A reader writes:

um... 48 quid at amazon for a second hand copy of "Marianne, the Madame, and the Momentary Gods" ? You have expensive taste :-) Oh, yeah, I remember the codex,,,

It took me awhile to figure out what a "quid" is (turns out to be the same as a "pound sterling", which turns out to be the same as a "pound", which is the British basic unit of currency; seven quid make one nevis, or 140 bob). Note, though, that I didn't pay 48 quid for anything, that's just (roughly) what some people on Amazon and eBay were asking. I paid I-forget (but probably less than one quid) for "M, the M, and the M Gs" some years ago, and I paid US$0.99, which is about 0.55 quid (plus shipping and handling), for "M, the M, and the M", which hasn't come yet but I have hopes. (Note the important decimal points in those last two numbers.)

I must ardently thank the reader, though (or also), for remembering the codex, because we had forgotten all about it. Turns out that "read just a few pages at a time, over a long period, in order to savor it" all too easily becomes "forget about it entirely". So this evening I took my copy of the Codex out of the neat locked glass-fronted cabinet that it lives in, and read (well, not "read") experienced quite a few pages of it. It was, again, amazingly wonderful.

From the mysterious HTML o' the Day:

This ad marks a return to the famous GUINNESS campaign endline, "Good things come to those who wait". It tells the story of mankind's 3 billion year wait for the perfect pint.

which is really quite cool. And also from the same source and also recommended: What is your dangerous idea?, and some recent Jack Handey.

And also let's see. I've posted some more Sims stories (although for the last few days the little boy has been playing Battle for Middle Earth on the machine where TS2 is installed, so I've been forced to find Other Things To Do), and also some notes on that "M, the M, and the M Gs" book.

And that's quite a number of column-inches under the bridge there already, so perhaps I'll (rather abruptly, I'm afraid) stop writing things. At least here. At least for now.

Good night! Pleasant dreams!

(Whew, listen to that rain!)

We'll start with the Main Theme of this weblog: Spam Subject Lines!

Those are the one-word ones. Noteworthy mostly for demonstrating that the spammers have a nice rich word-list that includes things like "boghead" and "rackwheel" and "hoopskirt".

The two-word collection is longer, and more amusing. Some of them look like just a pair of nouns from the noun list, although even just that can work sometimes ("excommunication dogger", "neckmold squeal", and especially "boxcar mortality"). Others seem to be a noun from the noun list following a verb or adjective. This often works quite well ("simple cesium", "awaken narrator", "suctorial phosphorus", and a cast of thousands). Brilliant novels, profound teachings, entire systems of thought could be founded on some / most / many / any of them.

Go talk a dither! I know the gland; I break no appraisal. Get relaxed by turning always zoophilic. The use is fantastic refinement.

We could start to write a BNF for these: thing1 verb thing2 nounphrase, where "thing1" is a pronoun or conjunction or preposition, and "thing2" is similar, and nounphrase is something from either of the two lists above. Very roughly. A few ("teapot looking for you", "order confirmation for admiration tortoise"?) may be from a different algorithm.

Speaking of different algorithms, we also have:

Re: Pharamaceuticabl
Re: Pharamaceutgical
Re: Pharamaceuticpal

where the theme is rather obvious, and

historian hello! how are you today?

hooks f r medals. ut th

snot costly yet effectiveo

litigant gunfire inductee thereupon swap cryptanalyst macmillan jute jesuit covet

A gleaming accessory is what you desire.

why did you tlel her i was a sult?

which is more miscellaneous.

There are also several dozen (several hundred?) semi-automated looking variants on "buy one of these watches" (the "gleaming accessory" above is probably one of those); but I haven't been collecting them systematically (they're a little too obvious).

And finally we have


which is Portuguese for "foo". *8)

I reread a book; it was good. It's the sequel to a book that I haven't read, as I mention in the note there, although it stands just fine by itself. Looking around the web for the book that it's a sequel to, I find that in fact it's the second book in a trilogy, and that all three of them are emphatically out of print and hard to get ahold of.

According to Amazon and eBay and Alibris, the first book in the series runs for about US$12, the second (the one that I have) for about US$25, and the third for like US$40. This is for small used SF paperbacks from the mid-1980's! What's up with that?

(News flash: when I went up to Amazon again to verify the prices for this log entry, I saw that a used copy of the first book in the series had appeared there for US$0.99 plus shipping and handling. I've attempted to snap it up; we'll see if I actually get it. Perhaps there are millions to be made in used-paperback arbitrage.)

Like I need to acquire more books...

Fight Mannequinism!

Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

Now Bush said that in like 2004, (I highly recommend the video to fully appreciate the attitude he exudes while saying it), and that was like two years after he authorized the NSA to conduct wiretaps without court orders. Some people have concluded from this that Bush is a liar. It's probably true that, technically speaking, he is a liar. But I think at a more nuanced level the case is more interesting, more complex (more dire, one might say) than that.

As I recall Harry Frankfurt saying roughly in On Bullshit, the liar at least has enough respect for the concept of truth to violate it: he has some idea what the truth is, and he intentionally says something different. I don't think Bush is a liar in this sense; I don't think he knows, or much cares, what the truth is. He says whatever sounds good, whatever his handlers tell him to say, whatever satisfies that little broken needy bewildered God-fearing thing that crouches and jibbers inside him. Might be true, might be false: that's not important. (See also "reality-based community".)

And that's sort of scary. (Bonus ACLU linkage)

Speaking of scary, Pat Robertson is of course all over the news for having said that Ariel Sharon's stroke is God's punishment for improper politics. This is because Robertson is a raving loony. It seems like a pity that the media covers him at all, really; on the other hand since he still has some number of followers (I assume) it's probably best that we don't lose track of him entirely. Maybe the media could report on him in the "People are Funny" segment or whatever.

Television evangelist Pat Robertson suggested Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for the Israeli withdrawl from Gaza.

In other News of the Weird, Biff Smithers of Newark, New Jersey today filed suit against Microsoft CEO Bill Gates for what he alleges are death-threats that the billionaire transmits directly into his brain using "alien hypersonic lasers".

More technical information on that WMF security hole. This is really a pretty serious one; it's the first time I haven't felt pretty confident that the Windows machines that I'm burdened with are uncompromised. (Note that Microsoft has now released an update that fixes it (it's also available from the usual Windows Update site). They released it considerably ahead of their original schedule; one cynically suspects that the original schedule was so slow just so that they could get in nicely ahead of it and look good. But maybe one is just cynical tonight. One is extremely sleepy.)

I was talking to An Important IBM Research Director or Something in the cafeteria yesterday, and he mentioned that someone had introduced him to sudoku recently and showed us the little pad of grids that he had in his pocket. I had vaguely heard of this somewhere before, and it was kind of interesting.

Then later yesterday M showed me this sudoku book that she'd just gotten after someone else told her about it, and she let me do one of the puzzles, and it was pretty neat. But then she wanted her book back, so I looked on the Web and there were lots and lots of things, and I tried this one, and two or three minutes later I looked up to find that an hour or two had passed.

Whew! So if both weblog postings and Sims Stories stop getting posted suddenly, you'll know what might have happened. (On the other hand next time I do it I might find it's become boring; you never know.) The first couple of dozen (some last night, more today) were very (what?) enjoyable, though. I could feel the new little neural programs getting compiled and optimized and stuff (and my brain always delivers little jolts of yum-juice when new programs get installed). Which is I imagine why it's so dangerous.

Greetings to American Invisible, who had the good taste to link (last September) to our NaNoWriMo foyer, as one of the rare places where someone's NaNoWriMo profile actually linked to their novel(s). I had the same frustrating experience: I wanted to read all these lovely sloppy novels that people were writing, but must of the links were absent or dead or pointed to something else entirely.

From HTML o' the Day: Are You Living In a Computer Simulation? Like, d'uh!

Also (indirectly) from H o' t D: Typeface anachronisms in movies. Another Vital Issue of Our Time!

Some clue from the judge in that video-game first amendment case:

The court found that stories of the kind told in books, art, movies, television, and more recently, video games, are essential to shaping children's understanding of the world. The court recognized that such stories often include violence, but "[t]o shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it."
In this country, the State lacks the authority to ban protected speech on the ground that it affects the listener's or observer's thoughts and attitudes.

Sing it, sister!

(The judge also notes that "[o]bscene speech is one of a few highly circumscribed areas in which the First Amendment permits content-based restrictions". Interesting wording; the First Amendment of course permits nothing of the kind, but the courts' traditional bizarre and irrational interpretation of the First Amendment does, for reasons that continue to baffle us.)

Speaking of creativity and the young, a certain young person of my acquaintance points me at this notable Livejournal community, where scads and scads (and scads) of people (I'm guessing primarily young people) take on the challenge of writing fifty sentences (fifty microfictions, basically), each based on a particular concept from a table of "themes", and each reflecting some aspect of a chosen pair of characters from a chosen realm of fanfiction. So, like, someone might sign up to write fifty sentences about a hypothetical relationship between Auron and Lulu from Final Fantasy X, and then sometime later post them all: one about "air", one about "apples", one about "beginning", one about "bugs", and so on until done.

Isn't that the Coolest Thing? This is definitely what the world gets to be like when Everyone's A Content Producer.

(I know, I know, some of you are agreeing with me with cynical shakes of the head. But it'll be great, really! I promise!)

Anyway so I'm about to keel over sound asleep on the floor here, so I'll manfully attempt to post this with my last few ergs of energy. If I said anything wrong or anything, you can assume it was a typo.