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: I changed NewsBruiser to get rid of the sudden ceasing of entries at the start of a new month, which always struck me as a little abrupt, seeing as how my life does not change significantly just because it's a new month. It will now always display at least the ten most recent entries. It was that or arrange my life so that every month ended in a cliffhanger which was resolved on the first of the next month. Will Leonard's hastily committed patch break the build? Tune in next time and find out!

: Via Seth, I must point out "an extremely worthwhile explanation of the difference between the use of cryptography for privacy (confidentiality) and the use of cryptography for copy protection." It's exactly the sort of snarky thing I wish I could write (and, notwithstanding that wish, occasionally do write).

: Funny Names For Things: First In A Series

A lingierie store targeted to geeks could be called "Victoria's Private Key".

Also, an open source clone of the Windows solitaire game could be called FreeFreeCell.

: Sumana and I came up with a workable partial mapping from Sesame Street to Lord of the Rings: Big Bird as Gandalf, Cookie Monster as Gollum, Oscar and Slimy as Saruman and Wormtongue, and of course the Count as Sauron. "One! One Ring to rule them all! Ah ah ah!" [thunderclap]

: Wowsers! Doc Searls (who must be in some sense the plural of philosopher of consciousness John Searle) points to a fascinating editorial on venture capitalists, the group whom engineers as a whole regard with that particular brand of contempt in which Marxism holds capitalists in general. It was better than Cats. I'm going to read it again and again.

I just commited a tiny bug fix to the Apache XML-RPC server. I have little bits of code in about 5 different projects now.

: Today I started a new component called Picayune (Bloom County reference) to hold Helm's news item functionality. Earlier I'd finished all the component UI integration framework (at least, all the integration that was neccessary to completely separate the document component from Helm instead of halfway separating it the way Jason did; more may be neccessary for other components). So now I can start moving code for creating software artifacts out of Helm and into components, where such code belongs.

: Sumana told me that the VC article I linked to was posted on Slashdot previously. I said "I need to start reading Slashdot just so I know what not to post to NYCB."

: People complain about the price of gas. Not my gas! Come on down to Boyle's Gas Farm! We've got all types of gas! Gas at all temperatures! Gas at all pressures! People ask me: how do I make money with such low prices? I tell them: VOLUME!

: I have that peculiar form of headache which makes me think that at some point I inadvertently held my breath for a really long time and that as a result part of my brain is now deprived of oxygen.

: Thanks to Seth, I have a bunch of the bootable business cards with robotfindskitten on them. While I was playing it I found, as an NKI, a Nethack message I'd never seen before ("For a moment, you feel something in your hands, but it disappears!"). After much deliberation I correctly identified the source of that message, which is below (rot13ed in case you want to figure it out yourself).

Lbh trg gung zrffntr vs lbh znxr n jvfu gung'f vzcbffvoyr (sbe na negvsnpg nyernql trarengrq) be gbb nzovgvbhf (sbe n cyhf rvtug terl qentba fpnyr znvy).

But the point of this entry is to thank Seth for the bounty of BBCs he gave me, and to celebrate my newfound having been published on a Linux distribution's CD.

: Tomorrow is Unix 1 billion second day! (qv.) Seth is hosting a celebratory dinner, which I may or may not attend due to my mother and sister being in town.

: So we've *finally* tagged the 1.2 release. It always seems like the head of the tree, which I work on is great and clean, and the branch, which I have to visit to backport bug fixes, is ugly and old. This is just a reflection of the fact that the code is always improving, because as 1.2 approached tagging I became acutely aware of all the things that are still wrong with it (not nearly as many as last time, though) and that I'm going to have to be backporting fixes for for forever (how about that alliteration!).

: Oh. The other day Seth was telling Sumana and myself about a Shakespearean programming language (which has apparently had a run on Slashdot). My joke was, "But then it turns out that your program was actually written by Bacon."

: Rachel and I were in the supermarket yesterday and couldn't help noticing the World Weekly News, which blared from its front page: "PRESIDENT BUSH CLONED!... & an imposter is in the White House, insiders say!" Note that these are actually two unrelated stories.

: Went with Sumana yesterday to Golden Gate Park so as to celebrate the 1 billionth second. We were looking for Seth, but by the time we got there (after a harrowing ride in a bus with a driver who seemed about to go on a killing spree at any moment) the only relevant people present were EFF people packing up from the Share-InTM, and Seth was not among them. Nobody knew where Seth had gone, so we celebrated the 1 billionth second by walking around a bit and looking in a bookstore. Seth's side of the story.

: Some have complained that Crummy's "Tonight's Episode" feature is a bit lowbrow, and not up to the same educated standards as the rest of the site. So to rectify this situation, this week is a special Modern Fiction week of Tonight's Episode. We start off with Michael Chabon's The Amazing Murders Of Kavalier And Clay.

: I went to work only to learn that I should go home because of our proximity to SFO. Craig very graciously gave me a ride home. What a mess.

: Everyone I know in New York is all right. I don't know anyone who would be in DC. I feel the way I used to feel when I was a kid thinking about nuclear war, a magnified version of what I felt when the horror was far away or kept in check by a balance of power.

As a rare concession to good taste, Tonight's Episode has been put on hiatus. I follow Kris' example on this.


I've rolled up my sleeves and gone to work. I've been writing a tool configuration architecture all this week and the work has given me the "working with my hands" feeling. It's the feeling that makes me wish I could do carpentry so that I could experience it with the same intensity but more viscerally and more often.

Also this week I have been helping Frederic Faure with a NewsBruiser setup, and he sent me a note of sympathy yesterday which made me feel less shaken.

One of the things I hear from abroad is that Americans now have firsthand experience of a thing that goes on in many countries all the time. It's true, and maybe now we will have more incentive to address the causes. However, I am not optimistic. This past week has not done much for my misanthropy.

Google searches that hit this page:
Wednesday 12
Today 13

: Multiple Meaning Headline Watch: WTC wreckage guards buried treasure of COMEX gold

: I'm getting the same story submitted to Segfault over and over again. Different people are writing the story, but it's the same story. You can probably derive the story from first principles, which is good since I'm not going to publish it.

: Sumana has alerted me to a brewing and unsolvable problem in computer science: the off-by-zero error.

: Also: you hear about exclusive OR, but you don't hear about really exclusive OR, where you have to be a WASP and wear a tie to get a truth value.

: I started reading my biography of William Lloyd Garrison, mainly because I'm in a mood to tackle weighty issues but also because I've been wondering recently whether anyone ever used a Fifth Amendment "just compensation" argument against the abolition of slavery.

Well, it took me about a minute with Google to answer that in the affirmative, so I'm back to my primary reason for reading the biography.

: Leonard's Minor Obsession Watch: Guns, Germs, and Steel-type biogeographical economics.

I should enumerate my minor obsessions so that 1) I'll finally have an order-of-magnitude estimate as to how many there are, and 2) I'll be able to refer to them by number.

: Kris is bitter, and I don't blame him.

: Today I attended meetings and hacked on Lucene, the Java search API which always makes me think of the "obscure polearms" section of the old Unearthed Arcana AD&D book, which contained a weapon called the lucerne hammer.

Lucene is great. I wrote a proposal for cross-component search for Helm, blithely assuming that there was only one rational way to design a search engine; then panicked when I discovered that all the open source search engines were basically single-purpose scripts designed to crawl a web site and index the Web content; then looked at Lucene and rejoyced at its flexibility. It's designed as if implementing my ideas on the one rational way to design a search engine. How could I not love a piece of software that caters to my prejudices to such an extent?

It's also pretty fast at indexing, especially the way I plan to split up the indexes.

: Sumana and I came up with a little song for the cross-component search:

One search to search them all
One search to array them
One search to rank them all
And on the page display them

: Yeeeeeah!

: "People make the fundamental attribution error 'cause they're stupid."

: Yesterday I went to a taping of West Coast Live with Sumana. I saw Douglas Coupland and Garrison Keillor (I even spoke briefly with Keillor)! Plus, Sumana's Audience True StoryTM was read on the air!

Unrelatedly, I've always felt that the comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For should have been called Dykes For Whom To Watch Out.

: Kevin asks the very perceptive question, "How do charms work?"

: I've found that I have a lot more fun playing FreeCiv if I don't have any AI players to worry about. The selling point of FreeCiv for me has always been that you can build cities and connect them with roads. Sometimes I think I might be happier playing a different game.

Down again: Oh well.

I made up an Onion headline in my sleep this morning: Good-Natured Readers Charm Cynical Onion With Offbeat Letters. Sumana tells me they don't have a letters-to-the-editor section, though.

Next: The Even Newer Economy

The Even Newer Economy: Sometimes I try to get a mental picture of the economy, and of course I fail because it's too huge. But in general it goes something like [sunlight, natural resources, goods, information, labor] ==> [goods, services, information]. Now, I have this subterranean fear that the entire world economy actually does nothing but move things around, which is obviously bogus for the entire economy but which I think can be true for huge subsets of the economy, like the banner ad companies who stayed afloat selling banner ads to other companies whose only source of revenue was banner ads on their sites.

I was therefore disturbed by my discovery of a new toy known as Rokenbok, which is sort of Lego but not, and which has exactly this sort of economy. The pieces are much larger and more complex than Lego pieces (even the newer decadent Lego pieces which should properly be made of three or four small pieces or not exist at all), and all the sets have an industrial or construction theme: RC Tower Crane, Construction World, Piston Plant, Motorized Conveyer, etc. There are remote-controlled vehicles which you manipulate through Nintendo-like controllers. If you buy enough sets you can have this huge industrial plant/construction site setup with monorails and vehicles buzzing around.

The Rokenbok economy is based on the circulation of small plastic balls. The balls come in red and blue, and the blue ones are slightly smaller: this provides the raison d'etre for the Action Sorter and Conveyor. A few sets also contain small plastic barrels, but these are of only passing interest since they probably only contain more balls.

My mind boggles as to why the little plastic Rokenbok people would create so much infrastructure and devote so much labor to the sole purpose of sorting little balls and moving them around. The plastic balls are not any kind of storehouse of value, they're not valuable in and of themselves, and they're certainly not neccessary on a construction site.

I also don't see how driving the vehicles around could be fun for any length of time. Rokenbok takes the construction metaphor from Lego, but despite all the apparatus there's no construction (whereas with Lego there is a lot of construction even though you are the extent of the apparatus). It's not even cool the way Rube Goldberg devices which carry things around endlessly (like the penguin stair climbers sold in airport gift shops) are cool, because one of the big selling points is your constant supervision of the process through your waldos, the vehicles.

Maybe I just don't like the way they suggest you set up the sets. But it really seems like the vehicles are where the action is, and I don't understand the action.

Dialogue Cut From The Big Lebowski:

Is this your toe, Larry?

Walter, we know it's not his toe!

Is this your toe, Larry?

Walter, it's not his fucking toe! It has fucking nail polish on it!

Happy Jam Day: I went to Seth's birthday party which is probably the best party I've ever attended. Among other things, I met Don Marti, and told to Seth Sumana's joke about Steven Jay Gould wanting people to say "Gould/Evolution". Sumana and I gave Seth a new Richard Dawkins shirt and a set of Selfish Socks.

Seth has the best library in the world; it's better than huge libraries which contain millions of books, in the sense that almost every book in it is a book I would want to borrow. I borrowed Kernighan and Pike's Effective Programming Practices, which I wanted to read but couldn't afford when it first came out. I suspect that by now I've learned everything in the book the hard way, but hopefully not.

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