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Thursday, June 22, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

How 'bout them toad suckers,
ain't they bawg?
Settin' there suckin' them
green toady-frogs.

Suckin' them hop-toads,
Suckin' them chunkers,
Suckin' them leapy types,
Suckin' them clunkers.

Lookit them toad-suckers,
ain't they snappy?
Suckin' them bog frogs
sure makes 'em happy.

There's hugger-mugger toad-suckers
way down south,
Stickin' them sucky-toads
in they mouth.

How to be a toad-sucker,
no way to duck it,
Git yerself a toad, rare, ripe,
and suck it!

I found that on the cover of the June 1989 issue of "Netmonth", an early e-zine that billed itself as "The independent guide to BITNET". (I stumbled on a hardcopy while looking for a nineteen-year-old document that someone (correctly) suspected I might still have a copy of).

In Netmonth, the verse was labelled "A Folk Chant from the Ozarks". But it's also one of the "Them Poems" by Mason Williams (with very slightly different words; I actually prefer Netmonth's version). Maybe Netmonth was misinformed, or maybe Williams got his inspiration for the "Them Poems" from traditional chant, or maybe the chanters in the Ozarks adopted the words from Williams. Who knows? Ferment, ferment, ferment.

BITNET was, of course, one of the early networks that eventually (converted over to TCP/IP and) merged to form the Internet. Bopping casually around wondering if any sign of Bitnet still existed on the Web, I came across this very interesting and nostalgic "NetHistory" site, run by the long-time editor of Netmonth itself. Give it a look! Lotsa wonderful stuff, include an extensive archive that contains all sortsa interesting Internet history, and lots of back issues of Netmonth (so you can see that cover yourself!).

Speaking of nostalgic forms of communication, LarkFarm cited A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press, the site of a print publication by the same name that tracks zines and the alternative press and stuff. Looking through that reminded me of APAs, Amateur Press Associations, which are, well, it's best explained by those who do it. APAs are yet another subculture that I've always found fascinating (gad, how many reincarnations am I signed up for now, anyway? Nirvana will have to wait.). See also amateurpress.org and the Amateur Press Association webring. (apa.org is something else entirely!)

I like to think that weblogs and personal sites are in the same spirit as the underground press and APAs. They are of course much easier to do! Has that helped, or hurt, or just changed, the quality of the content?

ribbit ribbit

But back to toad sucking. I asked some friends who are in fact from "way down south" and quite aware of (at least some version of) southern (U.S.) culture, and they'd never heard that verse, or heard of toad-sucking in general. There are of course various reasons that one might want to suck, or at least lick, a toad, but it's not clear that even the apparently-nonfictional one is really well-founded. I wonder: was this just Mason Williams being silly, or is there really a toad-sucking tradition (whether or not based on the psychoactive effects) somewhere in the American South (or elsewhere)? Anyone know?

Wednesday, June 21, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Ya Te Buckety,
Rum Ting Too,
Ni Ni Ni,

Although myself I always thought it was more like:

Yum Dim Bukany,
Rampling Thooo!
Ni Ni Ni,


I want to complain ("You want to complain! Look at these shoes. I've only had them three weeks and the heels are worn right through"). I want to complain, in particular, about the word "tout". It's a fine piece of horseracing jargon and all, and it has a perfectly good meaning something like "to solicit aggressively or persistently; importune". But the press seems determined to use it to mean "mention in a positive context", or "say nice things about". Which is IMHO a regrettable dilution of the meaning of a perfectly good English word. So pffffft! And that's all I have to say about that.

I stumbled across the wonderful "Did you ever think you could be this happy again?" image that Jessamyn was the other week wondering about the origin of. Zeldman has a story about it, and a nice big image.

Ideas in collision: the Halfbakery seems like a Very Neat Idea, at least for those of us that can avoid thinking "but maybe I can patent this and become filthy stinking rich!" (Cited I forget where.)

Someone that doesn't like WAP:

In this article we will show that WAP is entirely unfit for the purpose being claimed for it. We will show that it is handicapped as a result of the processes the WAP Forum has used to develop it, and that it includes numerous serious technical design errors. Our conclusion will be that the WAP specification is essentially a marketing construct, rather than an engineering one. It is designed to provide short-term financial benefit to a minority of the WAP Forum members, rather than providing long-term benefit to the industry at large and the consumer.

I've always thought that if you're going to intentionally misdirect a whole parade of people (attractively-dressed people, I might add, as though they'd just stepped fresh-scrubbed from a commercial for toothpaste or multi-ton Sport Utility Vehicles with infrared headsets and a separate audio channel for each passenger, with a red-and-white logo on all the windows) into your former paramour's bedroom at, say, three o'clock in the morning (a moonless night full of the sound of tires, sirens, the mindless crooning of two drunken specialists who have been in the same room for all too many hours, car keys lost under the sofa) in order to, perhaps, draw his (her) attention back to you, in whatever form, you should hardly be surprised when (snaking through the city, or along a country road, unsurprised not to see its own tail in the throng) one of them raises her (his) hand and, taking a good hard look at the patterns of folds in the palm (a lifetime spent on the warm and all-too-mortal folds of the palm would, I sometimes think, be a lifetime more than well-spent), exclaims, in a voice unexpectedly pleased, that (something in Latin) the heart is now entirely satisfied, but a little something in the way of lunch (perhaps just a sandwich) would be most appreciated. Now I am thirsty. Press Y to continue.

Tuesday, June 20, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

How much of what we do is arbitrary, accidental? Looking at human institutions, practices, with an ignorant eye, it seems (maybe naively) that there are so many other ways we could have arranged things. We send our children off, more or less en masse, into the care of other people chosen in certain ways, starting at a certain age and ending at a certain age, for certain times of day and year. We live in certain-size groups, we share some things and assume private ownership of others.

Are the ways we do things primarily because human nature more or less requires those ways? Or are they contingent choices, locked in by ancient historical accident? If we lived in wildly different ways, would that have strong effects on human nature; would we be (become) different? Or (and/or) are there lots of other ways we could live and still be (in some interesting sense) the same as we are now?

Fiction, literature, science fiction, utopian movements, have thought about this stuff at great length, of course. Usually, though, (and for obvious reasons) we think about people doing things differently in a world where most people still do things the same. I'm wondering, I guess, about a whole planet or an alternate universe where we came to do things in other ways, taking them for granted the whole time just like we take this stuff for granted now. You know?

Is, for instance, a world in which children are brought up communally, or by the State, or by a group of five to twelve adults some of which may or may not be the biological parents, necessarily an unhappy world, or an unstable world (for Darwinian or other reasons), or could it be a world just as potentially happy and fulfilling as this one? Same questions for voluntary and culturally-supported communal property of other kinds, workers' control of the means of production, education of children in the home, euthanasia at forty, and so on. I know, I should just write some SF stories and get it off my chest.   *8)

Some utterly random links on the above ranting: Utopia index, Cohousing, home schooling, Intentional Communities, Alternative Sexualities in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Have nearly finished Bridget Jones's Diary (suggested to self by M). Temptation to write paragraph in same style (no articles, no pers prons, various abbrevs) too strong to resist, and anyway what good is weblog if not for indulgence of self?

Book is v.g.; must consider reading sequel, which M says also g. but suspects written with film version in mind. Hmmph!

From Nick FitzGerald, a story that's almost certainly wrong in particulars, but at least amusingly so: NATO creates computer virus that reveals its secrets.

From segfault, Amazon Granted Patents on Books, Selling:

Supporters of the Open Source Initiative, on the other hand, are busily transcribing their own lyric poetry onto clay tablets, which are then licensed to other participants under incomprehensible shared ownership schemes.

Ian's weblog is now available for general public viewing! Stop by and exercise his CGI script.

Catherine has morphed her sites around again; now the photographs are the most obvious thing (she takes Really Good photographs), and the book the next (she's writing a Really Good book). Her daily musings and rantings (also Really Good, needless to say) are now somewhat harder to find, but well worth the effort.

boing boing!

Toys: everyone apparently logged the constructor toy at sodaplay months ago, but I just found it, and I think it's neat (it needs a save button). Other favorite toys include of course the shortcut and B A S E, as well as my own stuff (I'm so vain, I'll bet I think this song is about me!).

And finally, a very interesting-looking page of papers on things like "The Psychology of Cyberspace", none of which I've found time to do more than the briefest skimming of, and that as a Responsible Content Provider I therefore shouldn't even be mentioning, but there you go...

Monday, June 19, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Father's Day weekend was idyllic; M didn't seem disturbed to discover that her husband's idea of an ideal celebration involves lounging around the house in his nightshirt, playing video games, and eating mushroom-and-onion pizza for dinner. I guess, actually, she's known that for some time!   *8)


She even gave me (a box of Godiva truffles and) my very own Atomic Purple Gameboy (that's the mostly-transparent one, where you can see all the dinguses inside), so I can stop borrowing the kids' when I want to play my Pokémon Red game (I've just arrived on Cinnabar Island, having caught my Articuno).

Is there anyone else sufficiently into both Billy Joel and the Pokémon game that the lyric "we're living here in Pallet Town" sometimes gets stuck in your head? Or is it just me?

A new issue of Crypto-Gram is out, with notes on (in)security in SOAP, viruses in Java, and other potentially interesting stuff.

Heard on the radio this morning (but can't find a link for): the District of Columbia is trying to change the motto on its automobile license plates from "Celebrate and Discover" to "Taxation without Representation". This seems admirably ballsy; can you imagine having the U. S. Congress in charge of your local government, with no hope of voting them out? <shudder>

Definitely a Monday sort of morning: Lifting Heavy Things was more exhausting than usual, and my mind is still insisting that it will wake up just any minute now...

Friday, June 16, 2000  permanent URL for this entry

Very funny 'review' of The Matrix:

The Matrix is a remake of the 17th century play isolée la fleur, in which a man becomes trapped inside a massive computer simulation, and must fight to free himself and his fellow man.

Ed opines that the FAQ on that site is very funny as well. I modestly point out that I had the same humorous idea myself sometime back.

Stuck in my head: Tori Amos, "Cruel".

So this little boy's Dad gets bored telling the same old stories over and over, and sometimes he plays around with them a little, just to keep things interesting.

The little boy starts school, and one day the teacher is reading the class "The Three Little Pigs".

"The first little pig met a man with a bundle of sticks, and he said to the man, 'Man, will you give me those sticks so that I may build myself a house?'. And the man said --"

At this point the little boy raised his hand and said "I know, I know what the man said! I know!"

And the teacher said "Very good, what did the man say?"

And the little boy said, "He said 'Holy shit, a talking pig!'"

House Passes E-signature Legislation:

The legislation makes one's name typed into a computer as legally binding as that scribbled on a piece of paper.

The bill would also allow businesses, with the consent of consumers, to provide contracts and other legal documents to their customers electronically, rather than on paper through the mail.

So now I can, like, buy books over the web? Duh? I should probably research this a little more; just what does this legislation allow that we're not already doing? Maybe it's only credit cards that work this way now, and the bill extends that to other stuff?

www. .com

t byfield (I think it was) notes this interesting thread, in which Pat Metheny's cutting remarks about Kenny G turn out to have wings. A couple of interesting excerpts:

(no, folks, i won't be hitting anyone in the head with my guitar, despite the fact that "El Kabong" WAS probably my first major guitar influence as a kid)...

i have to admit that i underestimated the impact/interest that a "negative" public comment even on an obscure corner of the web can manifest.

(Note that the page above is actually on www.patmethenygroup.com, but if you use that form of the name in the URL, it magically doesn't work! The Web is so cool...)

Random good blog of the day: Follow Me Here.

Noteworthy stuff that y'all have written in the "Enter words here" box from last week, or otherwise brought to my attention:



Intentional typo: Fuckypo.

Wait, some people still *don't* use the term "cow-orker" these days? (Though most people I know use just a space, not a hyphen.)

I thought "cervixen" was just the plural of "cervix". --TFBW

Come in. It's open. Be in me now.

Follow the simple instructions EXACTLY, and in less than three months you should receive MORE THAN $800,000.00 IN COLD HARD CASH!

Odd, the train thing that is. I had a friend who was fascinated by trains - memorized all of the railway lines in the US, plus all of the train models, what they carried, where, etc. Kept it all in little notebooks - I was convinced that he was secretly a terrorist and was planning to blow a few crucial train lines thus bringing the US economy to its knees. -bovine

Indeed, one of the few splash page teasers I'd actually follow up on. "Enter, words here!"

A brochure written on a leaf: pamphlettuce!



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