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: Geez, what is it with Hitler? It's not even V-E day or anything.

Actually, Diesel Sweeties sort of explains it. As usual, Kris was ahead of his time (about four days ahead of his time, but still).

Incidentally, that comic that Kris linked to. Would it have been funny with Hitler? No, it wouldn't have--not even the nervous kind of funny. Would it have been funny in 1945 with Hitler? I don't know. Why is Milosevic funny in a way Hitler isn't? This bothers me.

When this came up earlier between Sumana and myself, Sumana suggested that we are socialized to think that Hitler was qualitatively more evil than anyone else. Possibly the only Hitler jokes we find funny in this postmodern age are the ones that use him as a symbol of pure evil trapped within the body of a historical figure (which is what happened in CN, and what happens in DS and most of the comics linked to by it). In wartime it was different, as this cartoon reminds us--it was funny just to whomp on Hitler. I'm overanalyzing here.

: As Dave suggested re the pizza tipping disaster (and as was my plan even had Dave not interfered), I ordered another pizza from the pizza place and tipped really well.

: Let me point once again to the fabulous NYT article. The last part of the story is picked up and run away with by Ali Dean, an Iranian-American satirist who may be the bravest comedian since Petronius. It's hilarious. Read it--Sumana didn't and then she did and she told me to link to the story again to get across the point that people really should read it.

''You be a reporter from The New York Times,'' he says.

''But I am a reporter for The New York Times,'' I say.

''Even better!'' he says. ''The reporter from The New York Times has come to interview Hajji about affairs in Iran. We do it improv.''

''But . . . ,'' I say. I'm thinking: I have no talent for improv. I have no taste for death threats.

: Now preparing for my brief trip to Bakersfield.

I had a dream about a cool machine into which you put milk and any sweet stuff (like Cocoa Krispies) and it would turn it into ice cream. You could also add ice cream to milk and it would extend the ice cream. Thirdly, once you had the ice cream you could freeze-dry it and turn it into astronaut ice cream. A good machine to have.

: Shouldn't the Muppet Babies version of Kermit the Frog be a tadpole?

: Okay, I'm off.

: I'm in Bakersfield. Whee!

: And... I'm off in the other direction. I have pictures which I'll upload when I get back to SF.

: And once again, I'm back.

: Check out the photos from Garry's wedding. I'm working on the photos from Kristin's wedding.

: Epic nation-building games have grand names like "Civilization", "Empire Earth", "Age of Empires". How about "Guns and Butter"?

: I've been getting lots of mail from people I haven't talked to in a long time: Campbell Chiang, Sara Geer, Peter Hodgson, Mark Fasheh. I'm gradually answering everyone's email, so if you're on that list please be patient.

: Dave Griffith is somewhere in this Narbonic cartoon. I'm pretty sure he's in the back, third from the left (the model was this picture). Dave, this is the surprise I mentioned earlier.

: Bakersfield silliness: Oildale winemakers bottle up White Trash.

: While in Bakersfield I obtained a videotape of The Muppet Show. When I got back I watched it with Sumana. The tape features an incredibly bizarre and very funny musical number featuring two pink tubelike remora Muppets and a mangy humanoid Muppet.

The premise of the song is that the humanoid muppet sings "Manahmanah." and the remora Muppets respond with "Do boo be doo boo." Occasionally the humanoid Muppet will go wild and do some scat which bears only a passing resemblance to "Manahmanah.". The remora Muppets don't like this very much, and silently give each other disapproving looks while the humanoid Muppet goes off on his scat rampage. But he always comes back to "Manahmanah." and the remora Muppets immediately resume singing "Do boo be doo boo."

We were fascinated by this skit, easily the most bizarre I've ever seen on The Muppet Show. Sumana hypothesized that the remoralike creatures were alien overlords who had enthralled or enslaved the humanoid to do their "Manahmanah." bidding. But the humanoid Muppet could do whatever he wanted--he could move freely and jump around, he could sing louder or softer, he even left the set and phoned in his final "Manahmanah." with no objection from the remoras. They just didn't like it when he said anything but "Manahmanah."

It seems to me more likely that the remoras had entered into a "Manahmanah." contract with the humanoid for a specified number of "Manahmanah."s and they'd just rather he stick to the terms of the contract. Or possibly, as befits their Bauplan, the creatures are symbiotic on the humanoid and derive sustenance from his "Manahmanah."s. Something odd is going on, at any rate--there's no direct coercion in either direction, but there's a lot unstated in that skit (in fact, everything is unstated in that skit, except for the part at the end where Kermit answers the phone).

The song is quite famous, and I knew of it before, though not where it came from. The creatures are apparently called Snowths, and if you go here you can see screen captures and (a link to) a video of the skit! Huzzah! Or should I say, Manahmanahzah! No, actually, I should say, Huzzah!

There's even an ACM-contest-style programming problem involving the Snowths.

: Sumana has another hypothesis, which is that the remoras represent the artistic establishment and the humanoid is a hippy type who wants to work outside the system, as symbolized by his scatting and whatnot. This explains why they don't object to the humanoid leaving, which the symbiosis explanation doesn't explain.

: Yesterday I played Catan with Kathy Allen and Elise. I won my first game of Catan! I had a shot at winning the rematch as well, but I made a horrible mistake and my game slid downhill and Kathy won. Oh well. Manahmanah. <--I still am thinking about that skit. It's so perfect and minimalist, except at the end.

: Mini-Photo Wire Roundup:

: Sumana got the Nigerian scam spam mail, but it's not like any other one I've ever seen--there are no Sierra Leone diamonds or blood money or anything, and the sender of the spam does not mention the spotty human rights record of the Nigerian politician he's proxying for. The whole offer looks almost on-the-level (except for the fact that it's a scam). I guess they figure they can get more suckers for something that looks like it might be slightly outside the law than for outright aiding and abetting human rights abuses.

The Salon article on this scam may have answered this question, but I don't remember. Why is it always Nigeria? Are the scammers actually based in Nigeria?

: (Finally) new stuff in mail/: my mother forwards a pretty funny in-jokey piece on the Mormolympics, and Adam Kaplan seconds Sumana's "Manahamanah." hypothesis.

: The Man who was Thursday is quite funny:

"The history of the thing might amuse you," he said. "When first I became one of the New Anarchists I tried all kinds of respectable disguises. I dressed up as a bishop. I read up all about bishops in our anarchist pamphlets, in Superstition the Vampire and Priests of Prey. I certainly understood from them that bishops are strange and terrible old men keeping a cruel secret from mankind. I was misinformed. When on my first appearing in episcopal gaiters in a drawing-room I cried out in a voice of thunder, 'Down! down! presumptuous human reason!' they found out in some way that I was not a bishop at all. I was nabbed at once. Then I made up as a millionaire; but I defended Capital with so much intelligence that a fool could see that I was quite poor. Then I tried being a major. Now I am a humanitarian myself, but I have, I hope, enough intellectual breadth to understand the position of those who, like Nietzsche, admire violence-the proud, mad war of Nature and all that, you know. I threw myself into the major. I drew my sword and waved it constantly. I called out 'Blood!' abstractedly, like a man calling for wine. I often said, 'Let the weak perish; it is the Law.' Well, well, it seems majors don't do this. I was nabbed again."

: Kris weighs in on Manahmania:

I can't believe you guys haven't seen that sketch. Granted, I only saw it once, but it never left me. It is always with me... the chanting... that infernal chanting! "Mahnamahna," it seems to say -- BECAUSE IT DOES! AAAAH!

HE'S GOT YOU!! (Then jump at a friend.)

: Don't worry, Seth, it's just TradeWars 2002.

: I personally can't stand Flash, but Johnathan Gay, who created Flash, also created Dark Castle (?!), and he seems like a really interesting guy, so no hard feelings.

: At last, a comic to Kevin's taste.

: Yesterday I made a wager with Michael Stack, which I lost. He refused to take my money, saying that if he'd lost we would have found some pretext not to pay me. A true gentleman.

: Argh! Me too!

: Pictures from Kristin's wedding, and beyond!

: I see your new weblog, Josh, you can't hide from me!

: I went to Bach's Mass in B Minor last night with Seth and Sumana. Extrapolating from the past two weeks, one might think that I attend mass every Saturday night, but this is not true.

The first Kyrie is by far my favorite part of the mass, and it was slow going near the end as I was pretty tired. But I recommend it nonetheless.

: According to the program for the Mass in B Minor, the solo mezzosoprano once performed the lead in a musical called The W of Bablylon. This I found very funny--it's something a more acerbic Bertie Wooster would say.

I poked the bean through the study door and Aunt Dahlia caught sight.

"Hallo, Bertie, you blot on the landscape," she said cheerfully.

"What ho, old W. of Babylon," replied I.

: Wow! I found a great site containing information about how to listen to streaming audio of various semi-popular public radio programs: Allegro!. Thanks to John Rabold, who lives in Oakland and compiled the information, and to vsound, which works flawlessly to turn RealAudio streams into .WAVs, I recorded my first new My Word! episode this century. No My Music! because I missed the timeframe, but next week. I can record Schickele Mix this way as well.

Thanks are also due to Dean Morrell, who wrote me an email over a year ago informing me that his local station in Iowa broadcasts My x! over streaming audio. Thanks, Dean.

Yes, that message is still in my inbox.

: Planned downtime: Crummy will be down from Tuesday, March 19th until Friday, March 22nd. For that duration please see the backup site.

: Yesterday Sumana and I prepared and partook of a feast. The feast consisted of the following: asparagus and Hollandaise sauce; also pitas stuffed with falafel, cucumber, tomato, and tahini. "That tasted great, and there's a lot left." (of the pita stuff, not the asparagus). Oh, and ginger ale.

: The Green Bank Lego Telescope.

: Woohoo! My Frank Muir autobiography is in!

: I tried to find a particular funny picture of Colin Powell I'd seen yesterday on the AP photo wire, which would have been captioned "Osama bin Laden used to be seven feet tall... until I shrank him!" Only about five people on the planet would get that joke, so it's probably just as well that for some reason Yahoo removed it from the ticker and while looking for it I found this other funny Colin Powell picture: You got a little there...

: You've heard of 'wrapping oneself in the flag', but this is wrapping oneself in the World Trade Center. (From a spam mail Sumana got)

: I thought of two New Yorker cartoons recently. Various people find the two funny to varying extents. I personally think they're about as good as any given mediocre New Yorker cartoon. I will reprint (well, re-describe) them here.

  1. Scene: the New Yorker cocktail party that's completely blank space except for two people holding drinks and talking. In this cartoon, the person on the right is an Army general in uniform and the person on the left is a civilian in a suit. The caption:
    "Frankly, General, I don't think much of the way you're running this war."

  2. Scene: an underground bunker. Some militia types are clustered around a table in their camoflauge gear; perhaps some are smoking. All are giving strange looks to their leader, who is standing at the head of the table, leaning towards them, decked out in a ridiculous Mussolini-type outfit. The caption:
    "We've been crypto-fascists too long. It's time for some real fascism."

I call this new feature The Medi-Yorker. More cartoons as I think them up.

: A couple days ago Sumana and I discussed Snow Crash, which has for some time been a bit of a sticking point between us. She really enjoys it, and I really unenjoy it. (Throughout this discussion, keep in mind that I could never bring myself to finish Snow Crash, which of course is unfair to Snow Crash.)

My main problem with Snow Crash is its manifestation of what I once called the Fundamental Cyberpunk Error: the FreeCiv-ish idea that civilization consists of a Fisher-Price hammer-and-peg playset with a bunch of discrete technologies and social constructs sticking up, and that you can tap on one with a hammer and push it down without it having any effect on any of the others. "Of course there will be sports in the future... [tap, tap, tap] DEATH SPORTS!" And you have Rollerball.

Example: setting completely aside the usability problems of virtual reality, how can a fully immersive high-bandwidth world-wide virtual reality universe continue to exist in a world without the rule of law or the sanctity of contract? Who mantains the servers (or other electronics)? Who manufactures the servers (or other electronics)? Who mines the raw materials and how do the raw materials get to the fabrication plant without being stolen by bandits? Who grows enough food to feed all these people working on assembly lines instead of hunting and gathering? Who maintains the microwave stations and transatlantic fiber optic cable, or launches new sattelites into space to replace broken ones? How does each party to this operation afford the cost of the private army required to avoid getting ripped off or blown up by rivals? It's to solve these problems that people form states[0], but once you've tapped down the little "State" peg with your little cyberpunk hammer you don't have that option.

Anyway. My point here is not to carp on particular problems, but to discuss this sort of inconsistency in general. I carp not on particular problems because Sumana convinced me that microlevel inconsistencies can happen in a cultural artifact even if the long-term cultural shift in that artifact's universe is in a particular direction ("The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent."), so it's not prima facie evidence of poor craftsmanship to include such inconsistencies. I find myself much more favorably disposed towards Snow Crash, and I think it does the book more justice, when it's regarded as a snapshot of a civilization seventy-five years into a four-hundred-year decline into tribalism and anarchy rather than (as I regarded it until recently) as a picture of a civilization already completely collapsed into tribalism and anarchy.

The thing is that this exact same sort of inconsistency happens in cultural artifacts which are generally agreed to be awful: for instance, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which nobody except Jake thinks is great.[1] (Paraphrase: Jake: "all my friends think mad max beyond thunderdome is a terrible movie." Leonard: "Has it ever occured to you that there might be an empirical basis for such a belief?" Jake: "that is impossible.") It happens in Signal to Noise, a book which may well have merit (though I didn't like it) but in which all the characters act as though the American government still has power, even though voters stupidly passed a poorly-written Constitutional amendment which has as a trivial side effect the total emasculation of government (perhaps the case that will establish this is still awaiting certiorari).

I am ill-disposed towards inconsistency in general (I once rewrote a song because it contained an inaccurate statement about evolution), but I think I can now distinguish the good kind of inconsistency (forms of archaic rituals from the modern era preserved through inertia and other microlevel eddies flowing against the macrolevel, enhancing the richness of a story) from the bad kind (consequences of authorial decisions not properly thought out, causing gaping plot holes and annoying me). It comes down, I think, to judging an inconsistency against the gestalt of the book. For instance, A Canticle for Leibowitz has some of these inconsistencies, but they seem to me like the good kind, and I really like A Canticle for Leibowitz. I haven't read The Postman, but from what I've read about it it seems the very embodiment of the good kind of inconsistency, and I've a feeling I would like it as well (though apparently the movie is horrible).

[0] I know, Locke was wrong, people don't 'decide' to form states to solve particular problems--but once you have states, it's things like the rule of law that distinguish states whose citizens can create things like the Internet from states whose citizens can't. And any cyberpunk-esque mutual defense venture created to get around the lack of a state is in fact a Lockean state of the sort that people don't decide to form. This is actually one of the premises of Snow Crash, which means I'm arguing in circles--wheels within wheels, Jeeves. My point is that to mantain the civilizational infrastructure neccessary for an reliable virtual reality Internet, your de facto state must have power and agreements with other de facto states consumnate with the power of and mutual agreements between today's nation-states, so why not put the microstate idea in another book so as to do it justice?

[1] In British radio programmes this is known as "the sort of statement that gets us letters".

: My mother got her angry letter printed in the Bakersfield Californian, so in celebration I will point her to this Steven Jay Gould article.

: Also: today is Rachel's birthday, which she shares with L. Ron Hubbard. Happy birthday, Rachel!

: Unsurprisingly, I didn't win an XYZZY award.

: Noodle lives!

: From a conversation with Seth:

"You're a propagandist!"
"I prefer the term 'semiotic warrior'."
"Well, I prefer the term 'propagandist'!"

: I'm having an oddly branded breakfast. First there was the orange juice. I got it out of the drinks fridge at work and it's orange juice in a can, which orange juice should not be, but we didn't have any in bottles so I tried it. It's Tree Top orange juice, and the aluminum can has the Tree Top logo on it, which is two apples. There are two apples on the front of my can of orange juice! Above the apples it says "Washington's Best"--the first time I've ever heard it intimated that Washington state grows a variety of oranges so vast that some oranges are better than others.

The orange juice is awful. Beaten and bruised by the mispackaging and misbranding and acidic aftertaste of my orange juice, I staggered back into the kitchen for some pepper for my scrambled eggs. I got a little packet of Morton Pepper. There is a picture on the packet of a girl holding a canister of Morton salt. There is a picture of salt on my pepper packet!

This is why new logos nowadays are so vague and swooshy. The same logo that propelled you to fame as an e-business solutions firm will serve you just as well when you remake yourself as a provider of e-solutions for business.

: I have no complaints about my muffin, which contains no branding.

: By the way, I found four copies of Karl Fogel's CVS book filed under "Advanced Topics" at Half-Price Books in Houston.

: Kris sent me this hilarious picture of Yasser Arafat with Demon Dog.

: Mike Popovic sent me some lovely "Powered by NewsBruiser" buttons, which I put into CVS: [eye] [girl] [typewriter]. Enjoy! I personally prefer the Spartan grace of a subtle text link like the one on CES, but if you prefer buttons, we've now got 'em.

: I saw a bumper sticker today which Kevin would like, and now that his car has a new bumper he could get one:

Those who can, do.
Those who can't, Duchamp

: "I really love this tea. It's a digital tea." -- Prairie Home Companion mocking bobos

: Rrrr! Rrrr!

: Scott says:

Played with Degeneracy at least.[sic] You're evil.

I wonder how long I can coast on Degeneracy?

: Sumana reports that there's a store called "Photo Hutt". "Photo Hutt".

: As Above, the weblog that raved about Guess the Verb! a while back (wow, a lot of links in that phrase), has a thing called the Blog Twinning Project in which people link weblogs they consider similar. The only weblog considered similar to Crummy is Inside Joke, which is amazingly similar to the Crummy of two or three years ago, though less so the Crummy of the present (which makes sense, since the protagonist of Inside Joke seems to be two or three years younger than me).

: Another dispatch from Sumana:

"Olde Tyme Burritos"
"Le Spud"

The mall she's in also has a person in an Easter Bunny costume and apparently kids are supposed to sit on his lap, like Santa Claus. "What do you want for Easter, little boy or girl?" "I want an Army Rangers Commando Barbie!" "Sorry, kid, I only do eggs. Here's your egg." It's as though kids became proportionally more skeptical of the Easter Bunny's existance when confronted with the many documented mall sightings of Santa, and so the Easter Bunny had to launch a PR offensive.

: "Busy old fool! Unruly Sun!"

: Spam: "Sick of losing commissions on your hard to place life cases?"

Am I a lawyer? A stockbroker? An insurance salesman? Doctor? Indian chief?

: There's stuff I promised to do for Jake that I still haven't done. Argh. If only I could buy some time by faking a Crummy outage. But wait! There's an outage tomorrow through Friday! (wink, wink)

: Wow, my room is really clean. (Ha! I bet you never thought I'd say that!)

: The Nitpicking Entry On the way home from the grocery store I saw a billboard for some local radio DJ which said: "[Local DJ] sucks... you in!". you in! was supposed to look like graffiti, which is totally wrong on two levels:

  1. Graffiti is not generally employed to make the subject of advertising look better. To pick a random example, people do not draw pencil moustaches on people who would look good with pencil moustaches.
  2. The ellipses make it clear that the person writing the 'billboard' was anticipating the person doing the 'graffiti' (qv.) which is absurd unless they're the same person, which is exactly the impression you're trying to avoid when you deface your own billboard. It's like burning down your restaurant for the insurance money using a matchbook from your restaurant! Using so much gasoline that the insurance money won't cover the cost of it all! Arguing your case in court using an extremely belabored analogy!

That complaint was not the main point of this entry. The main point of this entry is that Kris thought up the "x sucks [you in]" joke in 1997, to refer to Smart Guy, and I used it on the cover of Bad Stupid Delerious. My vindictive and petty noticing when other people use the jokes used many years previous by myself and my friends, as though jokes could never be independently discovered by multiple people, continues!

: I was thinking earlier today about the idea of evil twins. If you could come up with n factors which could be weighted to describe a person's personality (which I don't think is possible, though I suppose you could get a decent approximation) and treated as a vector, then you could find their evil twin by multiplying their personality vector by a vector of -1s.

I bring this up because today I was thinking about Drew Kaplan. I originally thought that he was my evil twin, but that's not quite correct. His personality vector is mine multiplied by a vector in which each element is either 1 or -1. It's this combination of total similarity in some aspects and total dissimilarity in others that makes Kaplan so interesting to me in ways that an evil twin would not be interesting.

Yesterday Sumana gave me an Amar Chitra Katha telling the story of Annapati Suyya, a Kashmiri engineer of the ninth century who she considers in many ways an analog to myself. Suyya's behavior in the ACK is rather me-ish, as is the following dialogue:

Maharaj: You have done it! You have tamed the Vitasta [river]!
Suyya: With two chests of gold and a touch of madness!

Suyya is similar to me, and ethical in ways in which I like to think I'm also ethical. It's touching that Sumana made the comparison.

If I were an early-twentieth-century crackpot I would use this personality vector idea to come up with a system by which people could measure their vectors and come up with translation vectors between their personalities and others'. I would claim that these vectors were the keys to truth, containing within them the secrets of the of the universe, the way to achieve peace between nations, the true nature of the pyramids, and the exact date of Christ's return. It would be a pack of lies, but a hundred years later I would have a sympathetic biographer who, caught between sympathy for me and dedication to the actual facts, would suggest that perhaps I can be seen as grasping some deeper truth, that my Vectorosophy might be a metaphor for man's struggle to comprehend his universe, the optimism and faith in a comprehensible cosmos that was to be shattered in 1914 by the dull thump of bullets over the trenches of France, etc. etc.

I am not an early twentieth-century crackpot, so it merits only a passing reference in my weblog.

: This will probably be the last entry here til Friday. Don't forget to check the old school backup site for uninterrupted bruising of news.

: Hm, we're still up. Well, that can't last long.

: New mail: Joe Mahoney on the Arafat/Demon Dog connection, and Kris on the misuse of his joke.

Kris, it was quite definitely "Coo-Coo Lou sucks... you in!" But I'm glad you got sucked into this conversation. Oh, it never stops.

: Out, out, brief server!

And so it begins: Thanks, I'm here all week (until Friday). I just realized that leonardr@segfault won't work to contact me, so please use leonardr@linux.ucla.edu (nice of them to let me keep my account, huh?)

Photo roundup:

  1. Red vs. Blue vs. White
  2. Tonight's Episode: Dial M For Merger
  3. I took this same picture when I was in Houston! (it's not funny; I just thought it interesting that I took the same picture).
  4. "My opponent has been known to use ad hominem arguments!"

QOTD, and IOTD: "It's actually pretty fun to be really tall in the Far East, because you feel a little like Godzilla." -- Robert Bennefield, our 7'-ish director of Ops.


There's software that will determine whether two pieces of code are similar, for purposes of detecting plagiarism in class assignments. But let's say you had software that could detect 'similarity' between two pieces of software. You could also run it on two different parts of the same program to automatically find places where you could benefit from factorization. Shazam! It's like a reduce-to-the-halting-problem proof, only it gives you something good instead of something bad!

Of course, 'similar' for purposes of detecting plagiarism is a much easier concept than 'similar' for purposes of detecting factorability, so you probably can't use existing software similarity software for this purpose. But software to do that would be a very useful tool, especially if you're like me and find it boring to inspect code for factorability.

Conrad's Revenge, or, My Dinner With Andre: So, Jason Robbins and I planned to have dinner with Andre Stechert, a friend of Jason's from UCLA. We went to the BART station to go into Frisco, but the BART station was closed due to an anthrax scare. So we had to arrange other means and we had a lowbrow but fun-conversation-filled dinner at Lyons. BART is open again now, and I recommend Andre Stechert for your next dinner party. He has interesting ideas for and insights into new hardware.

Update: Sumana says that everyone who has dinner with Andre Stechert probably writes about it as "My Dinner With Andre". "No one wants to have breakfast or lunch or any other meal with him," she hypothesises.

That's as may be, but during my dinner with Andre, Jason said that my factorization-detection software has already been written. It's called CloneDR, and it looks pretty good.

Also, Andre pointed out that Tolkien likes to end chapters of Lord of the Rings with "And that was the last time they ever saw x."

'Render' unto Caesar: When the real world looks like a screenshot from Myst, something is wrong.

Wow!: Thanks, Kris! Unfortunately, the link doesn't work right now.

Just when you thought it was safe: Behold the Terrordactyl!

Just one of the many bizarre, bizarre photographs on that site.

Bertie Wooster, Genteel Misogynist: Second in a Series: "Oh, Bertie, you're here," gushed Madeline.

I tipped my hat. "What ho, old weaker v."

Make your avocation your vocation: The SF Weekly, like the other BIGNUM free weekly rags in the Bay Area, has a back page devoted to eye-catching classified ads. The ads are usually the same every week, so they become old standbys in my mind. There's one that begins "SMOKE POT - GET PAID!" and one that begins "GET PAID FOR WATCHING TV!". All that's missing is "EAT FRITOS - GET PAID!"

Once upon a time: There were four struggling companies, individually unable to afford a banner ad. However, they pooled their resources and purchased the services of a demented graphic designer, and everyone was happy except the people who actually saw the ad. The end.

The willies: I'm very nervous because in a little while I'm going to the orthodontist for the first of my two braces appointments. I must wear braces for two years! And a retainer for a year after that! The prospect is greatly disturbing to me. People I know say it's not a big deal, you get used to it, etc, but this is of little comfort. I'm also a little aggravated that the regular site isn't up yet, though not very much as I know how these things go.

Braces: Day 0.5: I've already caused a bracket to come unglued from a tooth, I think by eating toast. Upon searching the literature I was given, I discover that toast is mentioned on one of the four lists of 'foodstuffs to avoid'. I should have guessed. The cheap melt-in-your-mouth Gummy Bread sold in the bread aisle next to the Hostess Snack Cakes would probably denature into toast I could eat, but the day I buy that stuff is... well, sometime this week probably. There's a really good bakery by the orthodontist, and out of habit I went in to get some bread, only realizing afterwards that I wouldn't be able to eat the bread! I have a French baguette and a beautiful ring of tasty cornbread which I can't eat. Bah! It took me 15 minutes to floss my teeth. Bah! I couldn't find many braces-friendly recipes on the Web. Bah! I'm probably going to start my own list of recipes. The machine hosting Crummy is back up, but Crummy itself is not. Not sure whether it's a nameserver thing or an Apache configuration thing; either way, it's still out of my control AFAICT.

todo: Frank Muir his Autobiography Strike Up The Band!

More Complaints About Buildings And Food: I have a feeling I'll be losing a lot of weight over the next two years, since braces make eating (and cleaning up after eating) such a big hassle that unless you're really hungry it's a lot easier just to not eat. Dan says "You could do what flies do and throw up on your food to sort of pre-digest it." Of course, I need to lose weight anyway, so why not raise the barriers to entry--into my mouth, that is!

In other news, Pakistan is apparently now CNNistan.

Congratulations: are in order for Sumana, who has passed her driving test! Three quarks for her!

Webmasters Use Lens Flare Effect To Report Story: Scientists use radiation to cure flatulence. Next week: Scientists use flatulence to cure radiation.

Weeping and wailing and brushing of teeth: From the cafeteria in the Hitachi building I bought a huge baked potato with all sorts of stuff dumped on top of it: chili, broccoli (but not Erin Broccoli), mushrooms, cheese sauce, sour cream, etc, etc. For the first time in what seems like a long time (but was actually less than a week), I ate a meal that filled me up and didn't make my teeth hurt. You'd think my life would be really boring right now that mere satiation is newsworthy. It's not boring; I simply haven't written about the many exciting things I've been experiencing.

Whee!: Ok, the real site is back up. You know what the next entry on this site will say... but when will it be posted? Stay tuned.

: Ok, we're back up (with a couple minor fixes still to be made). NewsBruiser works again, which means that people (like me) can start updating their weblogs. I'll be posting all my previous editthispage entries in here so as to mantain history, and then I'll go to sleep.

PS: the time on this entry is East Coast time. I'll have to add time zone compensation code to NewsBruiser to handle a server in a different time zone.

: And so it begins 3/19/02; 10:29:54 AM

Thanks, I'm here all week (until Friday). I just realized that leonardr@segfault won't work to contact me, so please use leonardr@linux.ucla.edu (nice of them to let me keep my account, huh?)

: Photo roundup 3/19/02; 10:38:12 AM

  1. Red vs. Blue vs. White

  2. Tonight's Episode: Dial M For Merger

  3. I took this same picture when I was in Houston! (it's not funny; I just thought it interesting that I took the same picture).

  4. "My opponent has been known to use ad hominem arguments!"

: QOTD, and IOTD 3/19/02; 3:15:37 PM

"It's actually pretty fun to be really tall in the Far East, because you feel a little like Godzilla." -- Robert Bennefield, our 7'-ish director of Ops.


There's software that will determine whether two pieces of code are similar, for purposes of detecting plagiarism in class assignments. But let's say you had software that could detect 'similarity' between two pieces of software. You could also run it on two different parts of the same program to automatically find places where you could benefit from factorization. Shazam! It's like a reduce-to-the-halting-problem proof, only it gives you something good instead of something bad!

Of course, 'similar' for purposes of detecting plagiarism is a much easier concept than 'similar' for purposes of detecting factorability, so you probably can't use existing software similarity software for this purpose. But software to do that would be a very useful tool, especially if you're like me and find it boring to inspect code for factorability.

: Conrad's Revenge, or, My Dinner With Andre 3/19/02; 10:43:48 PM

So, Jason Robbins and I planned to have dinner with Andre Stechert, a friend of Jason's from UCLA. We went to the BART station to go into Frisco, but the BART station was closed due to an anthrax scare. So we had to arrange other means and we had a lowbrow but fun-conversation-filled dinner at Lyons. BART is open again now, and I recommend Andre Stechert for your next dinner party. He has interesting ideas for and insights into new hardware.

Update: Sumana says that everyone who has dinner with Andre Stechert probably writes about it as "My Dinner With Andre". "No one wants to have breakfast or lunch or any other meal with him," she hypothesises.

That's as may be, but during my dinner with Andre, Jason said that my factorization-detection software has already been written. It's called CloneDR, and it looks pretty good.

Also, Andre pointed out that Tolkien likes to end chapters of Lord of the Rings with "And that was the last time they ever saw x."

: 'Render' unto Caesar 3/20/02; 2:20:21 PM

When the real world looks like a screenshot from Myst, something is wrong.

: Wow! 3/20/02; 4:11:10 PM

Thanks, Kris! Unfortunately, the link doesn't work right now.

: Just when you thought it was safe 3/21/02; 9:05:32 AM

Behold the Terrordactyl!

Just one of the many bizarre, bizarre photographs on that site.

: Bertie Wooster, Genteel Misogynist: Second in a Series 3/22/02; 9:40:17 AM

"Oh, Bertie, you're here," gushed Madeline.

I tipped my hat. "What ho, old weaker v."

: Make your avocation your vocation 3/24/02; 9:32:18 AM

The SF Weekly, like the other BIGNUM free weekly rags in the Bay Area, has a back page devoted to eye-catching classified ads. The ads are usually the same every week, so they become old standbys in my mind. There's one that begins "SMOKE POT - GET PAID!" and one that begins "GET PAID FOR WATCHING TV!". All that's missing is "EAT FRITOS - GET PAID!"

: Once upon a time 3/24/02; 11:12:34 AM

There were four struggling companies, individually unable to afford a banner ad. However, they pooled their resources and purchased the services of a demented graphic designer, and everyone was happy except the people who actually saw the ad. The end.

: The willies 3/25/02; 11:58:32 AM

I'm very nervous because in a little while I'm going to the orthodontist for the first of my two braces appointments. I must wear braces for two years! And a retainer for a year after that! The prospect is greatly disturbing to me. People I know say it's not a big deal, you get used to it, etc, but this is of little comfort.

I'm also a little aggravated that the regular site isn't up yet, though not very much as I know how these things go.

: Braces: Day 0.5 3/26/02; 6:18:55 AM

I've already caused a bracket to come unglued from a tooth, I think by eating toast. Upon searching the literature I was given, I discover that toast is mentioned on one of the four lists of 'foodstuffs to avoid'. I should have guessed. The cheap melt-in-your-mouth Gummy Bread sold in the bread aisle next to the Hostess Snack Cakes would probably denature into toast I could eat, but the day I buy that stuff is... well, sometime this week probably.

There's a really good bakery by the orthodontist, and out of habit I went in to get some bread, only realizing afterwards that I wouldn't be able to eat the bread! I have a French baguette and a beautiful ring of tasty cornbread which I can't eat. Bah!

It took me 15 minutes to floss my teeth. Bah!

I couldn't find many braces-friendly recipes on the Web. Bah! I'm probably going to start my own list of recipes.

The machine hosting Crummy is back up, but Crummy itself is not. Not sure whether it's a nameserver thing or an Apache configuration thing; either way, it's still out of my control AFAICT.

: More Complaints About Buildings And Food 3/26/02; 12:16:15 PM

I have a feeling I'll be losing a lot of weight over the next two years, since braces make eating (and cleaning up after eating) such a big hassle that unless you're really hungry it's a lot easier just to not eat. Dan says "You could do what flies do and throw up on your food to sort of pre-digest it." Of course, I need to lose weight anyway, so why not raise the barriers to entry--into my mouth, that is!

In other news, Pakistan is apparently now CNNistan.

: Congratulations 3/27/02; 11:31:46 AM

are in order for Sumana, who has passed her driving test! Three quarks for her!

: Webmasters Use Lens Flare Effect To Report Story 3/27/02; 2:39:02 PM

Scientists use radiation to cure flatulence. Next week: Scientists use flatulence to cure radiation.

: Weeping and wailing and brushing of teeth 3/29/02; 1:15:22 PM

From the cafeteria in the Hitachi building I bought a huge baked potato with all sorts of stuff dumped on top of it: chili, broccoli (but not Erin Broccoli), mushrooms, cheese sauce, sour cream, etc, etc. For the first time in what seems like a long time (but was actually less than a week), I ate a meal that filled me up and didn't make my teeth hurt.

You'd think my life would be really boring right now that mere satiation is newsworthy. It's not boring; I simply haven't written about the many exciting things I've been experiencing.

: Okay, that brings us up to date with editthispage, though not up to date in general. Coming soon: Frank Muir His Autobiography, Strike up the Band, very tasty tiramisu, and possibly more!

: I bought a used copy of A Kentish Lad online, and read it, and it's great. What is it about, you ask? None other than Frank Muir, world-famous comedian and raconteur (and 1/4, or 1/8, or something, of My x!). I like it for that reason and also because the subtitle is "Frank Muir: His Autobiography" but it's printed on the front cover as "FRANK MUIR HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY", the strange syntax of which I really like because it reminds me of John Baptist Porta's recipe for sympathetic powder, quoted by me in Degeneracy:

Take of the Moss growing on a dead man's skull, which has laid unburied, two ounces. As much of the fat of a man. Half an ounce of Mummy, and Frank Muir his autobiography.

Frank talks about his boyhood, his cushy yet very uncomfortable stint in the RAF, and his distinguished many-decade career in comedy. Being the rabid My x! fan I am, I'd heard him tell several of the anecdotes before on the air, but most of them were new, and of course his life is not just a sequence of anecdotes; he just can't resist throwing in a funny aside whenever he remembers one. Actually, the last chapter is just a sequence of Seinfeld-esque anecdotes, possibly the ones he couldn't think to put anywhere else. But that's fine!

My only disappointment was at the end; he ends the book with a mutated quote, as though the book were a very long My Word! monologue, and I suppose this is supposed to be touching, but I didn't find it so; nor was it funny. Oh well. According to the afterward by his son Jamie, he wasn't doing too well near the end of the book, and died shortly thereafter. :(

Anyway--the book is good booze, and I will lend it to people. It's out of print, so you have to find it used or borrow it from me. Yes, those are your only two options.

: So, Strike up the Band!, the blockbuster Gershwin/Gershwin/Kaufman musical. Sumana and I went to see it last Friday. It was pretty good, thought not great. A lot of the songs were great, but their influence was mitigated by others which fell flat such that I couldn't wait for them to be over. And a couple were okay but seemed slavish, mediocre copies of the Gilbert and Sullivan style. I've got no complaints about Kaufman's writing, though; the farcical causus belli and battle scenes were very funny, and predated Duck Soup by over a decade.

I have it on good authority that they put on the wrong version of Strike up the Band!! They put on the 1927 version, but there was a 1930 version which apparantly had much better songs. Perhaps, in a misguided quest for authenticity, the producers ignored the revision.

Oh yeah, that reminds me. The dynamic of theatah -- high class, this, not your we'll-use-the-old-barn-I'll-paint-the-sets-and-we'll-save-the-school stuff -- is that of authenticity vs. relevance. Authenticity derives from the idea that if the 'author' of the 'primary text' put down a 'line of dialogue' or a 'stage direction', then when you're putting on the play you have some sort of obligation to make sure that 'line of dialogue' or 'stage direction' somehow figures in your production, even if the play was written hundreds of years ago in an entirely different part of the world! Relevance, the yang to authenticity's yin, is the idea that people will not pay to see your production unless you make it obvious that the play is applicable to this modern age of Enron bin Anthrax. Relevance is why I see Petruchio talking on a cell phone and Macbeth's men dressed in camoflauge gear (but still armed with swords; remember authenticity!). Relevance is a leading cause of those essays in theater programs exulting in the fact that fifty, a hundred, even 400 years is not enough time to make the actions of our predecessors completely dissimilar to our own actions. Relevance costs me money! Wait, no, it doesn't; I was thinking of that IBM commercial.

Because of this tension between authenticity and relevance, plays that negate the tension by being authentically relevant (such as Homebody/Kabul) are in great demand, as are plays that are relevantly authentic (like--wait, I'm not even sure what that means). Due to its extreme relevance, Strike up the Band! was performed with a minimum of relevance boosting, which is good for my blood pressure. The cast subjected us to a brief summary of the play, with special emphasis on its continued relevance (Actually, for all I know that little speech, about how the play is today more relevant than ever, is actually part of the play! George S. Kaufman, you nut!), then mercifully went into character and treated us to an authentic, all-too-authentic performance.

: And finally, the tale of tiramisu. But not just tiramisu! (Incidentally, "tiramisu" has got to be the most Japanese word in Italian.) On Friday night, after Sumana took the GRE, I met up with her and we went to The Steps of Rome in North Beach. I had some tasty ravioli which I cut up into little pieces so I wouldn't have to chew it, Sumana had some tasty pasta with eggplant, and we splurged by ordering a dessert each, which we shared.

One of the desserts was a custard thing with fruit syrup on it. Innovative, yet not very good. The other was tiramisu. Non-innovative, yet extremely tasty! The tiramisu was the best I've ever had. That's not saying a whole lot, since most tiramisu I've had was pretty bad; there was available to me, many years ago, some tiramisu made by Ellina Poulson which was probably as outstanding as everything else Ellina Poulson makes, but I don't think I actually ate any of it. My point is that I've suffered through bad tiramisu, and as such can recognize good tiramisu, such as the tiramisu served at the Steps of Rome.

But that's not all! Sumana then took my to the City Lights bookstore, where I nosed around and considered buying a copy of a Lovecraft anthology, but did not for three reasons:

  1. There are already too many books on the 'to read' portion of my bookshelf, some of which have been languishing there for over a year.
  2. Lovecraft seems like the sort of thing I can find online.
  3. I did not want to be seen in the hip City Lights bookstore doing something so gauche as paying for goods with money!

Moderate that I am, I felt positively counter-revolutionary in the hard-left atmosphere of City Lights (and Lectures, I always want to add). However, it has a really good sci-fi section which is all the better for being incredibly small; despite devoting only two shelves to sci-fi and related genre ghettoes, they had more Lovecraft than I've ever seen outside of a non-specialty bookstore, and more Lem than I've ever seen outside of the UCLA library (or outside of my room after I checked all the Lem out of the UCLA library). Thus, by my patented Stanislaus Lem Bookstore Quality Index, City Lights is the greatest bookstore ever! Hmm, I may need to recalibrate that index.

Sumana: [pointing to book titled "Against Empire"] Where's "Pro-Empire?"
Leonard: [in stage whisper] They don't stock it here! Keep your voice down!

: The braces have already had a noticable (to me) effect on my teeth; some gaps between teeth are now a lot easier to floss.

New (and fun) song: I Sing for my Supper. Jake should like it; maybe it will distract him from the fact that I still haven't dealt with his problems.

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