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Respond to today's log:
Thursday, January 20, 2000

I'll briefly mention here that the reason the little daughter didn't have any math homework last night is that the math homework was to go over all the problems you'd missed on the test on Tuesday, and she didn't miss any problems. The only 100% in the class! (I'm reporting this unbiasedly, of course, as a matter of general global interest; I'm not inordinately proud or anything.)

You remember I was whining the other day about how sites that use the extreme-dm.com stat-gatherers sometimes cause Netscape to lock up solid for seconds or even minutes? Well, the stat-gatherers at nedstatbasic.net are just as bad. Yucch! (If anyone knows how I can get Netscape to just give up if one of these sites doesn't answer within like 10 seconds, without messing up anything else, do let me know...)

Snow this morning, schools on a two-hour delay, the little boy's kindergarten cancelled entirely. Unfortunately the radio didn't tell us this until we adults were out of bed; otherwise M could have slept late. The snow is pretty, and the roads weren't bad, although traffic was very slow. The guy at the gas station admired my (old, battered, bandless) felt hat, and told me I shouldn't let it get all snowy. Funny! Must be a hat-fan. Or maybe he was flirting.   *8)

Looks to be a quiet day here at the lab, also. Various talks and things have been cancelled or postponed. Snow is so peaceful.

Joshu asked Nansen, "What is the Tao?"
Nansen replied, "The Tao is your everyday mind."

There's this project I'd like to do someday, to render each chapter of the Tao Te Ching as a Haiku (not a real Haiku, just an English poem with a 5-7-5 structure). I did Chapter One a long time ago:

How can I say it?
The blooming, buzzing world
Silent in the void

The link above is to Charles Muller's translation, which is one of the closest Web versions that I know of to the book as I read it as a youth (I'm not sure whose translation that was, but things that depart too far from it always sound Wrong to me). There are lots of different translations on the Web. A way-cool site for studying the actual text (even if you don't read any Chinese) is here.

I can tell pretty quickly if I'm going to like a translation or not, by how it renders two key lines in Chapter One. Muller gives them as

Therefore, always desireless, you see the mystery,
Ever desiring, you see the manifestations.
which is pretty good. When a translation says something like this:
Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.
it turns me off. For me, Chapter One of Lao Tzu is saying (in part) "the universe has many aspects; it can be seen as a single uncarved block, or as a million swirling forms -- this is cool"; it is not saying "being free from desire is good, because it lets you see the One True Aspect of the world, as a single uncarved block; those poor simpletons who are not free from desire see the world as a million manifestations, and that's bad." The latter reading strikes me as smug and superficial, or at least not nearly as rich and interesting as the former. (The second pair of lines above is from Stephen Mitchell's translation, which is really not bad, but does have this particular problem.)

On the CD player: Paula Abdul's Forever Your Girl.


Wednesday, January 19, 2000

Gad, January 19th already; where does the time go?

"And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever."
-- the Gospel according to Mark, 11:13-14

Art made of words: go immediately to ftrain and read things there; it's very good (today he has a vaguely WordURL-like toy; bit of a change of pace!). The Elephant at Bovine is also coming along; up to chapter 14 now and worth much more than the time it'll take you to read.

Bigger than viruses, smaller than cells: Nanobes are the latest attempt by the universe to prove that little sticky-labels reading "life" and "not life" are pointless. The New York Times had a piece on them the other day; here is a page about them at University of Queensland. Some memorable images! It'd probably take quite a lot of them to make a good pot of soup, though.

Search Terms: a big davidchess.com welcome to the visitors who found us by Yahoo searches on "www. girls and toys. com" and "www. adult toys.com". A couple of hints: if you want to go to a particular Web site, just type it right into the browser rather than searching for the name in Yahoo; and URLs don't have embedded blanks.

In a related story, searchterms.com claims to list the most popular words used in searches on an unnamed "major search engine". The top two are the expected "mp3" and "sex", but numbers three and four are "hotmail" and "yahoo". Why would anyone search for "hotmail" or "yahoo"? I guess it's the same people who search for "www. adult toys.com". Isn't nature wonderful?

Edit me, baby: Openlog got fixed shortly after I complained about it the other day, and this time I've saved the URL of the edit page, so I can fix it myself if someone breaks it again. Openlog is great fun; I can never resist the urge to make little twiddles to the page layout. gLog is also open for business (the password is still "swordfish"), if you want another place to post random links.

Of course, you should really just start your own Weblog.


Tuesday, January 18, 2000

"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

"Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

"But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

"In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

"But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

"We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

"It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

"But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: in the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

"And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, 'When will you be satisfied?'

"We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating 'for whites only.' We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

"I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

"I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

"I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

"I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of 'interposition' and 'nullification,' one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

"This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning 'My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrimís pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!'

"And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

"Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that: Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

"And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

"Free at last! Free at last!

"Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Washington D.C.
28 August 1963


Monday, January 17, 2000

No links to speak of over the weekend, so I'll probably link you to death today (we're about due for one of those randomly boldfaced days anyway!).

I've always admired Thomas Paine, and it looks like the website in his name is also pretty admirable: TomPaine.com is an eloquent and well-designed political site, apparently not beholden to any particular party or viewpoint, which "seeks to enrich the national debate on controversial public issues by featuring the ideas, opinions, and analyses too often overlooked by the mainstream media." A good idea! Drop by and read things (and let me know if the site turns out to be run by the Illuminati or anything).

I got the TomPaine.com pointer from Phil Agre's latest RRE link-list: here's the eGroups version of it. As usual, Phil delivers enough content in one posting for several weeks of Weblogging!

Did the Holocaust happen? See this Red Rock Eaters message for information on, and pointers to coverage of, a trial in Britain on just this subject.

How to pack a hippo: this was posted to rec.humor.funny, so you've probably already seen it, but I couldn't resist logging it, it being on an official government site and all.

More cool images! LarkFarm recently carried a link to Ad*Access, a collection of lotsa old advertising images. Great fodder for the student of semiotics, or even just the splash-page of Theogeny. See also the collection of images from U.S. Political History that I mentioned the other day.

A dart-throwing monkey managed a 200% return on investment by picking stocks at random (from a press-release from Internet Stock Review, who won't let you in unless you register). Basically just another endorsement of index funds, eh?

Ever wonder who all these Webloggers are? The current thread on the weblogs-social list at eGroups has a number of amusing, and possibly factual micro-biographies for your reading pleasure. Odd bunch of ducks, about as one would expect!


Sunday, January 16, 2000

I took the little boy to a birthday party today, and on the way home he was sitting there in the passenger seat beside me, looking out the windows and blowing the little blowing-toy that he'd gotten in his goody-bag, over and over again.

I reached over and patted his leg. "Kid," I said, "you have no idea how well off you are." He blew the blowing-toy again, oblivious (Daddy says these weird things pretty often). "Enjoy it while you can!"

We got home, and I walked down the driveway to get the trash can, which the wind had blown across the street. The moon was out, bright and cold and lovely, and clouds scuddered across the translucent sky.

It occurred to me, for some reason, that there might be some entity somewhere looking down at me and saying "You have no idea how well off you are, kid; enjoy it while you can!".

That wind sure sounds cold.


Saturday, January 15, 2000

Among those few who knew of its existence then, it was sometimes referred to as "God's Mitsubishi".
This "Book of Virtues" cartoon was on the television-thing. It's certainly teaching children various important life lessons! Today, the life-lessons included:
  • If you're ever lost in the woods with a sprained ankle, just wait for the magical talking hawk to come find you.
  • If you ever have one of those tough moral problems associated with growing up, and you need someone to talk to, look for a buffalo in the woods near your house,
  • Before setting out on a sea voyage, always remember to make the proper sacrifices to the Greek Gods.

Whatever has William Bennett been smoking? One lesson clearly taught by the program was more the sort of thing that I'd expect from him:

  • If your skin can't be pink, at least be sure to have obviously Caucasian features.

Can you tell I'm not a real big William Bennett fan? I'm probably even spelling him wrong.

Went to the local educational-toy store this evening. The kids each wanted a pair of highly-styled "night vision goggles". Heh, I said to myself, surely not infrared goggles, in the toy store at that price? And of course they aren't; they're plastic goggles with little flashlights built into the sides. I suppose that counts as "night vision goggles" in the same sense that a flashlight is a "night vision rod"!

Ah, well, the kids are enjoying them. I got myself a realistic plastic turtle for my "realistic plastic reptiles" collection. Only US$2.50!

(More progress on the Problems of Consciousness pages, but I'm still not quite ready to show you any more than the Skeptic page. Soon, I hope!)

Thanks to the reader who suggested a slight modification to the TV spot on the Advertising Non-consumption page. Creative has decided that while the alligators would add a certain element of excitement to the spot, they would not really fit with the overall program of the campaign. But keep those ideas coming!   *8)


Friday, January 14, 2000

So, talking about exploiting the media to cause social change of various sorts...

The adbusters people have some nice edgy parodies of various kinds of ads, and some biting issue-based "uncommercials" that address various pressing social issues. The Viridian folks have some good ideas about co-opting the media and all (although in practice what they're mostly doing is producing strange art objects).

I thought it would be fun to play with this notion: what if we (were filthy rich, and we) were to seriously develop and deploy an advertising campaign designed to actually change people's behavior in non-consumption directions? What if we didn't mind using all the existing exploitative media tactics, advertising tricks, semiotic hacks, and so on to do that. What would it look like?

I've started something with that idea in mind. It's probably not all that good, but it's kinda fun! Feedback sought, as usual.

Do all you folks that use them little free page-stats dinguses from extreme-dm.com realize that, at least for me, they sometimes cause Netscape to hang completely (no active STOP button, no window refreshing) for 30 seconds to a couple of minutes? This does not make me eager to re-visit those pages.   *8)

How many stories are not about love?

Online comic of the day: Waiting for Bob. Which sort of reminds me of Jane's World, which sort of reminds me of Leigh Dunlap's "Morgan Calabrese" comics (which I once picked up a collection of at a random used-book store on a trip somewhere, and loved), which sort of reminds me of Dykes to Watch Out For, which is often good. All of those but Waiting for Bob are of course lesbian strips; why should a random het male such as meself like these lesbian strips so much? Dunno. Something about the ambiance. Very (what?) friendly, or constructive, or something.

So are you all telling all your friends about the new toys? I'm expecting these to catapult me to fame and fortune, you know! Just any minute now...


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