So ("So") last Saturday I gave my usual annual talk on
computer viruses and stuff ("Is That Safe? Computer
viruses and related threats in 2006") to the usual
bunch of beautiful High School kids in the Honors
Math and Science program at the lab.
That's always lots of fun, because I get to see
all those innocent faces, and because I don't
actually have to do anything much:
I spend a little while updating the slides
the week before with the Latest Events, and then
on the Saturday I just turn the reins over to the one
of us that gives talks, and I can sort of sit
back and admire him in action.
I don't know; I think if I had to give these various
talks that I give myself, I'd like have stage-fright
But fortunately I have someone else in here who does
it for me.
If he has stage fright or anything, he certainly
doesn't show it.
(He does talk pretty fast, like most of us do,
but he sort of makes
a joke of it, and the audience seems to be able
Then this afternoon I was sitting in the cafeteria in
the lab up north doing email,
and Steve who used to have a weblog pinged me over the
network, and when I said I was in the lab up north he
called me on my Cellular Phone.
He had sort of half of an idea that he wanted to talk
about, to see if I might be able to suggest another
fraction of an idea to go with it.
I don't have a name for the one who gives the
talks, but the one that answers questions like the one
Steve asked me I sometimes think of as the Oracle.
I roused up the Oracle, sitting there at the table,
and it (he?) reluctantly
(or mock-reluctantly, like a pretend-grouchy Uncle)
came up with a piece of an
idea that I could describe, and Steve and I kicked
it around a little, and Steve liked it quite a bit,
and it might eventually make a difference in the world,
or get patented, or whatever.
Now I'm not saying that the rest of us are lame,
or aren't able to do some pretty useful things, but it's the
Oracle that really pays the bills.
It's a demanding and reluctant creature,
moaning and groaning and bringing to bear huge
behemoths of procrastination rather than actually
producing anything, and demanding to be fed
constantly even when it's asleep (I mean, I do
enjoy reading weblogs and playing computer games and
stuff, but always while I'm doing it I know it's
partly to feed the Oracle).
But when it does eventually deign (manage?) to speak, what
it says sometimes fits into the world in certain
ways that, well, among other things, that people are
willing to pay for.
Not that everything it says is wonderful or deep or
valuable: by no means.
Sometimes it says things and those things get taken
up and admired to a greater or lesser degree,
but other times they get misinterpreted
or (more often) just ignored.
And I can't see any intrinsic difference, myself, between the
ones that get taken up and the ones that get ignored.
(The Oracle sleepily suggests that, given food and time
(lots and lots of time) it could suggest ways to tell
the difference; but it's always saying stuff like that,
and you can't believe everything it says.)
There are various projects at work that I've been
gathering Oracle-food on for awhile now, wondering
what the heck they're actually about and what the
way forward will turn out to look like.
Figuring that out (if "figuring out" is the right
word for whatever mysterious internal processes
it uses) is the Oracle's job, and and I've
been prodding at it a bit, reminding it that
it needs to pull its weight, and we can't
I hope it's paying some attention.
(I don't know why it's so reluctant to wake up, and why
having it awake is so (what?) uncomfortable.
Does it suffer when prodded into motion?
Or does it enjoy its dreams so much more that
it begrudges the time away from them?
Are there other fields of endeavor, or other
habits of life or mind, in which it would be eager
to wake up and work?
I'm not sure I know what that would be like.
It may be that while awake it burns energy (what kind
of energy?) so fast that the long sleeps in between
wakings are of necessity, not of choice or preference.)
But it's not quite the same thing.
I do various public things myself; it's just me (I think!) that
writes the weblog here, and that
and that asks silly questions in
meetings (although the answers are more Oracle-feed),
and that plays with the family and eats bagels and
lox in the big bed on Sunday mornings.
It's just me, mostly, that chats with people before and after my
talks (although the one who gives the talks is always
hovering nearby, and can take over as required).
But then there's the one who gives the talks,
and there's the Oracle.
And there's the one that writes the NaNoWriMo novels:
I admire that one greatly, not for the overall quality
of the novels so much as for those occasional perfect
moments where art opens into the world.
I have no idea how he does that.
There isn't, and wow hey come to think of it that
really explains alot doesn't it, one of us that
specializes in smalltalk and socialization with
I have to do that all by myself, and boy am I
lousy at it.
Occasionally the one who gives the talks, or even
one of the others, tries to take over in those
situations; they're even worse.
Rereading this I'm not sure I'm quite happy with it,
or that it's quite what I meant, or that it's particularly
Maybe I should have let one of the others do it.
But hey, there it is.
It'll do for now.
So I was listening to NPR like yesterday, and this Oil
Industry Spokesman was saying that sure, they made a
ten billion dollar profit last quarter, and they made more
money last year than any company in the world has ever made
in one year before, but that we shouldn't really make a big
deal about it, and that if you look at how huge and wealthy
the oil industry is, they only really made like nine cents
on the dollar, and that's not unusual.
The message is, that is: "Don't be annoyed because we made
ten billion dollars last quarter; when you're as incredibly
rich as we are, that's just peanuts!
Excuse me while I light my cigar from this thousand
Way to go, Oil Industry PR Department!
Any feelings of envy or lustful desires for
windfall profits taxes that I might have felt
have melted away like the morning dew under
the comforting warmth of this explanation.
Other than that,
we find a large number of tattered fragments
tastefully arranged on our plate (with a side of
Church copyrights divine will, asks 3-5% cut or will sue.
(From an interesting if Latin-jargon-dense weblog recently made famous by
car discovered in Australia via Google satellites.
Security for browser cookies:
it doesn't work.
Which is sort of too bad.
Important Life Skills Department:
from Michael Turyn, an
Essay on talking dirty in Esperanto.
- 4 for "helen naked pictures"
- 4 for "mia"
- 3 for "naked helen pictures"
- 2 for "free tanya harding sex tape"
- 2 for "naked pictures of helen"
- 2 for "stretches infinitely in both directions"
- 1 for "bed rest"
- 1 for "buckle"
- 1 for "hdcp"
- 1 for "naked nigerian women"
A kind and generous reader writes:
I feel I must take exception to your statement
"Language cannot express truth". Sometimes in the hands of a
master it comes razor-blade close. Case in point
Especially the part about the water. I loved the part about the water.
We liked that part too.
More generally, a reader writes:
On one of our favorite subjects,
The spam just keeps coming....
... and I am getting some very lovely subject lines these days.
Hiltraud Hackbarth writes to me Re: snowmobile betrayal
Dima Braun writes to me Re: armpit pleurisy
Pru Findlay writes to me Re: semifinal scrape
(armpit pleurisy, ick)
A long time ago, Steve who used to have a weblog pointed
out the rather amazing
gapminder dot org.
Excruciatingly well-presented information.
is like a weblog, except that it's all audio and video,
which means that (well) you can watch it and listen to it,
but it doesn't get like indexed in Google and stuff.
A story about
playboy and a maid, and
house full of babies.
Two important How To essays:
that I'd read if I had time to read any more weblogs
(so maybe you folks could read them for me, and let me
know if they say anything interesting?).
Congress Mandating Secret Technology:
The Digital Transition Content Security Act (H.R.4569) -
or Analog Hole bill - would force every video digitizing
device in America to watch for and obey a VEIL watermark,
a proprietary signal embedded in video broadcasts. But how
would such a detector work? What would be its cost? And how
secure is the watermark? Security researchers don't know -
because the company behind VEIL won't let them look at the
technology without first obtaining a "license." A license to
examine the VEIL specification costs $10,000 and requires
signing a non-disclosure agreement that forbids revealing
the details of the technology to others. Congress is choosing
a technology that must be built into your systems, and it's not
giving non-entertainment industry experts the opportunity to
check out the technology first to make sure it doesn't break
your systems, or, even worse, leave those systems vulnerable
Man, the Consortium is even more (something) than
Note, though, that the fact that VEIL is
secret isn't the Biggest Problem here; even if it were
public and open, it'd still be unacceptable to require that
it be stuck into every device in the universe.
(Don't get distracted by the fact that the prison
bars are a tacky color.)
The president hasn't fired
Noel Hillman, the chief prosecutor in the Jack Abramoff case,
but he has managed to achieve the same result: Bush nominated
Hillman for a seat on the federal bench this week, and Hillman
immediately resigned from his job as chief of the Justice
Department's public integrity division.
Adding to Democrats' suspicions: An investigation into Abramoff's
activities in Guam ended abruptly in 2002, when Bush replaced the
longtime acting U.S. attorney who was running it.
I opened a piece of spam at random, and it turns out that one
recent spam algorithm is trying its hand at poetry again.
Here are a couple:
Is do fit
was send sleep
open sign finish
As clean wakeup
no say hear
Which spell start
To hurt start
Which shut cough
I borrow sleep
do shut learn
to drink bring
it forget tell
evening fill believe
she begin fly
use give travel
incredible sign speak
night need fall
don't start spell
evening wakeup allow
Is try find
english take fly
evening swim organise
Ooh, somehow "organise" is so Wrong.
(And I don't mean the spelling; that's just indicative.)
given every employee holy water and a machete; past that,
it's up to the individual to stay alert in their work environment."
A reader writes:
Dude! The Rosicrucian Museum is right down the street in San Jose:
Another datapoint for estimating our world-wide fame! Not only
do we have at least two assistant professors of mathematics,
we also have someone down the street from a randomly-chosen
Look out, Tatum O'Neal!
found that 53 percent of Americans approved of Mr. Bush's
authorizing eavesdropping without prior court approval
"in order to reduce the threat of terrorism"; 46 percent
disapproved. When the question was asked stripped of any
mention of terrorism, 46 percent of those respondents
approved, and 50 percent said they disapproved.
In a related story, 87% of those surveyed sort of wondered
about that "without prior court approval" part, but were in
too much of a hurry to get rid of the pollster to say
AMERICAVILLE -- Mayor Bush today defended his
administration's use of police cars without brakes, saying
that the cars were necessary in the fight against crime.
"Criminals have cars,"
the Mayor said at a Town Hall press conference today,
"so the police need cars.
If the police are forced to run after the criminals on foot,
they'll never catch up!
Other administration officials stressed the importance
of police cars in combatting crime.
One mayoral spokesman said that brakes would be a "cumbersome"
addition to the city's police cars.
"Brakes slow cars down.
In the war on crime, it is vital that our city's
police cars not slow down!"
Questioned about Mayor Bush's statement in 2004, two
years after the no-brake policy was secretly instituted, that
for safety reasons all police cars would be equipped
with state-of-the-art brakes, the spokesman explained
that "Mayor Bush in that instance was talking about
some other police cars."
"Look!" the spokesman continued, "It's Halley's Comet!"
A traffic safety expert contacted for this story sat
wordlessly at his desk, repeatedly bashing his forehead
against the wood.
(I know, I know,
Fafblog did it
At least twice.
But we couldn't resist.)