log (2000/04/28 to 2000/05/04)

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Thursday, May 4, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

"Accordingly, I call on all scientists in all countries to cease and desist from work creating, developing, improving and manufacturing further nuclear weapons; and, for that matter, other weapons of potential mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons."
-- Hans Bethe

Why there's not much in the log today. (Somehow reporters tend to print only the most simple-minded parts of what I say!) More tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 3, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

One is the most common digit. Sounds silly, but it's true: gorjuss just cited this recent piece on 'Benford's Law', and that reminded me how cool and nonintuitive the whole thing is. (The basic idea is that if you take a bunch of numbers from some real-world source, rather than a random-number generator, more of them will start with the digit '1' than any other digit.) A more rigorous page, with citations, is here. New Scientist did a piece about it awhile back: The Power of One. They got lots of letters about it, some less clueless than others. There is of course more on the Web.

(I think I'm not going to do Nomic today, since I'm not up to facing the Great Dimensionality Puzzle at the moment, and no one's sent in a move that would clear it up. Also I'm lazy. Maybe tomorrow.)

Cynthia Stewart: Todd at Mouth Organ points me at this Apbnews item, which describes more coherently the development that I mentioned on Friday. Apparently Ms. Stewart won't be prosecuted for taking pictures of her daughter in the bathtub as long as she is willing to give up the two (two!) photos that the prosecutor thought were too naughty, and to "complete six months of counseling on adolescent sexuality".

Could have been worse. I feel like I should have some more coherent comment on this, but all I notice is that it makes me think, perhaps for no good reason, of Soviet mental hospitals. "The accused has been found unfit to stand trial, and will be enrolled in a counselling program until such time as he demonstrates a proper understanding of the need to pay his taxes."

Steve was complaining about how hard a time he'd had getting some GUI editor or other to do what he wanted, and I commented "to get a real feel for the expressive power of the GUI paradigm, spend a day communicating by pointing and grunting." I continue to think that keyboards are higher bandwidth.

Planetary alignment spells doom for us all! Unfortunately, they're going to be aligned on the other side of the sun, so it'll be hard to see.

The Quest continues yet again!

You walk toward the shed, or small house. There is a bang, like a door closing. In the darkness, all you can see is that it is a building, small and wooden. There is a window, loosely shuttered and showing a dim light. There is probably a door. There is space by the door enough for you to stretch out and sleep. It is getting dark...

ForumOne.com claims that there are over 300,000 web-based forums around, and that their engine can search them all. It turns out that by "forum" they really mean "thread" (hence the enormous number); still, if people are actually using the silly things it's nice to have a search engine for them.

Let's look at the mail. Some random things that need no replies:

"There's only one way of life, and that's your own"

Help, Help, I'm stuck in a time warp and I can't get out!

The jewels in the carriage glimmered, and against the baby's hair they looked like pieces of a shattered rainbow, ready to burst into light, celebrating the end of the rain and the return of the shining sun.

What is status?

The little stream in my backyard steadily, firmly, presses against the rocks around it every day when I come home from work at McDonald's, like a welcome. And when I see my dog, Rudolph, come bounding down the steps to meet me, I realize how wonderful my life really is.

"In a healthy society, most of the low-status tasks are performed by younger members of the same socioeconomic and cultural groups that perform most of the high-status tasks later in life." Rubbish. I offer as a counter-example, dot-coms. Of course, these are not indicative of a healthy society...

Yeah, that was sort of the point, wasn't it? One or two of those, by the way, are apparently from the little daughter, who thought it'd be fun to type things into the input box in Daddy's weblog. Have I mentioned lately how proud we are of the little daughter?   *8)  

The little grey-on-black mottos seem to have disappeared from your home page. Pity.

No, they're still there. They move from side to side, and once in awhile I think there's a blank one, but they're there. Suggestions for new pithy profundities are, by the way, always welcome. Make the reader think, I say.

I haven't looked at Scarleteen or Oxygen yet. I don't even know what the issue is. But I can't help but comment on the statement "If you disagree with its content, do nothing. But if you care about access to accurate information, please show your support." Sorry, you can't have your cake and eat it too.

Well, I was just quoting Debra, and I can't really speak for her, but I suspect she meant that Heather was already getting enough negative feedback, and she wanted to urge people to submit positive feedback. This seems perfectly legitimate to me. Sort of like "if you're tempted to vote for Bush, please just stay home!"   *8)  

Jessamyn has a wonderful Barthelme page. I love Barthelme.

I saw a famous angel on television; his garments glistened as if with light. He talked about the situation of angels now. Angels, he said are like men in some ways. The problem of adoration is felt to be central. He said that for a time the angels had tried adoring each other, as we do, but had found it, finally, "not enough." He said they are continuing to search for a new principle.

Tuesday, May 2, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Yesterday, walking down some broad street in Boston, and the T station still hadn't appeared on the left; maybe the doorman had been wrong, and I could miss it.

So I asked a random person walking next to me. "Excuse me, is there a T station near here?" He just looked puzzled. I made a T with my hands, said "Train?". He looked even more puzzled, so I smiled and made what I hoped was a universal "don't worry about it" gesture, but just at the same moment he said, "Oh, train!", and waved that I should follow him.

"You American?" he asked as we trotted along, "Boston, California, New York?"

"Yes, New York."

"Ah. Costa Rica!" pointing to himself.


"America good!"

"Yes. Costa Rica good?"

"Yes. America numero uno, Costa Rica numero dos. America, mucho dinero. Costa Rica -- ah..." And then a sort of a sigh and a gesture that I didn't quite understand, regret that Costa Rica isn't as good as it should be, or maybe that its goodness wasn't expressible through the very narrow pipe we were talking through.

And then we were at the door to the T station, and we shook hands.

A new Notes and Recommendations from Phil Agre; looks very worthwhile, as usual.

One of the founding documents of the Internet is Cerf and Kahn's "A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication" (IEEE Transactions on Communication, May 1974). The only online copy I've been able to find is this set of JPG scans (ick!).

One the current state of the Internet, Telegeography Inc seems to be doing some interesting work. They want you to pay for most of it (hmph, how old-fashioned!), but there are some interesting free PDFs on the site as well.

They sparkle, they bubble
Gonna get you in a whole lotta trouble
Ooh baby, them there eyes

Playing on the speakers today: the Jazz channel at Spinner.com. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe we'll do that Nomic thing again.

Sunday, April 30, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

In a healthy society, most of the low-status tasks are performed by younger members of the same socioeconomic and cultural groups that perform most of the high-status tasks later in life.

Discuss. Do you agree or disagree? Support your arguments with specific examples. Show your work. Write on both sides of the paper.

Walking idly around the prosperous, and mostly sidewalkless, streets of residential Concord Massachusetts, between reading reviews for the program committee meeting in Boston tomorrow. Particularly captivated by the watercourses, the little streams that flow through the narrow woodlands between the backyards, that burrow under the streets, and that now and then widen and slow, so that beyond the curb here the ground slopes down to a quiet marsh, and the swingsets and playhouses of the next set of backyards are almost hidden behind the trees at the other side.

I'd like to be a naturalist, to be able to think "ah, the skunk-cabbage is out early; they must have had a wet spring", or "something's been nibbling that stand of foxglove; probably deer", or "hole in the bank: fox? probably just hedgehog", or "no tisiflora in that stream; what's mangling the pH? Maybe a leaky bag of lime in a garden-shed somewhere on that hill."

I can tell you all sorts of things about mobile agent systems and security models for active documents. But somehow in this time and place, it doesn't seem as important.

Friday, April 28, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deed and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems like idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

-- The Builders

What, Longfellow again? There's a great Unitarian hymn that uses these lyrics; sometimes I sing it to one or the other of the kids as a lullabye. It's the best sort of moral poetry; simultaneously comforting ("you are important") and challenging ("you are important").

So I'm asking you to check out Scarleteen. If you disagree with its content, do nothing. But if you do care about access to accurate information, please show your support. Write to Oprah's Oxygen Network. Tell them you were glad to see Heather's article there and that you're grateful that Oxygen is covering teen sexuality topics in a frank and honest way.

That's from today's Pursed Lips. I myself think Scarleteen is great, and I've written a little to Oxygen about it, and am about to write to Heather also. Your turn!   *8)


That is from the online docket in the Cynthia Stewart case; the woman who's been indicted for taking pictures of her child in the bathtub. I'm not sure what it means; she doesn't have to go to trial as long as she writes "I will not take pictures that disturb the prosecutor" ten times a day?

Am I being too serious today? Just in case, here's something (um) different. I should probably give an ADULT CONTENT WARNING, but, well, it's, well...

Ohbytheway I'll be out of town until Tuesday, so I may or may not be posting things here less (or more) frequently than usual (or unusual).

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our todays and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.


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