Tue, 30 Sep 2003

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time travelin'

(I am thinking of the song by Common [lyrics][iTMS]. Not that it has anything to do with anything.)

I read Sunday's entry on Incidental Findings (no permalinks, so scroll down to 9/29 or look in the archives) and once again, I find it crazy that some aspects of my life parallel this author's experience.

I think I have come to grips with the fact that I am going to be alone for the rest of my life (which, as I've mentioned before, might in fact be brief if any of my dreams come true.) While I have been given to wallowing in my own patheticness in the past, this recent resolution is more because I have realized my limitations. Given the fact that I can't seem to trust anybody, there is no way anything is going to happen. Simple as that. Cause and effect. No need to wail about destiny or karma or sheer bad luck. God didn't dick me. I dicked myself.

By the way, I finally made it back to the Bay Area. I haven't really come to grips with all the changes that have occurred in my life in the last five years. It's almost like a dream. I'm such a different person, in good ways and in bad ways. It's really weird to try to trace the thread of my life, and realize that there's no way to separate the bad from the good.

But I have a long commute (which, as I've mentioned before, gives me way too much time to think) and all these memories from my undergrad days come flooding back. What is interesting is that I only sense the sadness and the pain intellectually. It no longer drives a figurative stake through my heart, sending me reeling into self-pity. I feel disoriented by it, like it's some other person's memories that I've inherited. I can dissect them from a distance, think about them in a relatively objective manner. I suppose I just realize that I wouldn't be who I am today (for better or for worse) if I hadn't suffered the way I did.

So, at least, I have my career. I have my friends. I have my family. On one level, these are just the rationalizations of a lonely man trying to justify his existence. On another level, I am counting my blessings (because, in the end, I am afraid of losing even what little I have, a phenomenon once described by Oscar Zeta Acosta.) Is it a fair exchange? Career vs. family. To never know what it is to come home to my beloved wife and children. I'm coming to grips with it. You've got to play the cards you've been dealt, I suppose.

Feh. You dig deep enough, eventually you're going to draw blood. It still hurts. But too many things need to happen for things to turn out the way I want. I really just need to focus on what I've got, and go from there. Because nothing in this life is ever certain, and it's better to be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Yeah, I wish life were better. I suppose, at least life isn't worse. At least that's what I tell myself to help me sleep at night.

20:09:02 30 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 3 comments

Sat, 27 Sep 2003

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i swear i'm not crazy

I don't know about this (see the second to the last paragraph.) I think that, over time, irrational behavior is increasingly irrational, and rational behavior becomes irrational. (Entropy always wins.) In the end, it's all meaningless chaos. Or as Douglas Adams put it (in my quite oblique interpretation of his quote):

It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination. (my emphasis added) —from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

But I digress.

You wanna know something completely hilarious? I have been advised by many a female that I would probably attract more chicks if I were more of an asshole.

Wonderful.

I am a bitter, bitter man.

I really like that quote: Unanswered phone rings are the sound of rejection.

Rejection. You would think that at this point in time, I would be completely used to it. But instead, it belies my whole belief that human beings can get used to anything. Although, as they say (I have no idea what it means, really), that the exception proves the rule.

I, sir, am rambling. Whatever. Who the hell cares?

Also: closure is overrated. Sometimes it's better to just pick yourself up from the impact crater [1][2], dust yourself off, and make a clean start. I may be pessimistic, but I can't help but feel that for every loose end you tie off, at least five to seven more will come unraveled. Fucked up situations are like a hydra. Lop one head off, and more come to grow in their place. Sometimes the only thing you can realistically do is to cut your losses and move on.

To quote Chris Rock (again, another tangential reference): "They say life is short. No it's not. Life is long. Especially if you choose the wrong person."

I'm sure we'd all like to have clean consciences, but a lot of people withhold forgiveness for ridiculous reasons. And, believe me, it's much easier to deal with your own insanity and your own guilty conscience than to have to deal with someone else's insanity, and trying to plead for forgiveness from them.

And sometimes, just because they say they've forgiven you, doesn't mean that they have. These are the anvils that people will hold over you, just for some measure of control. The veritable sword of Damocles, hanging by a thread. And then when the going gets rough, all sorts of neuroses and psychoses take to the field.

Not that I advocate giving up on reconciliation. But, just like everything, it becomes a cost-benefit analysis.

Somethings are just not meant to be.

We hurt the ones we love the most.

But I can't seem to convince myself that there's more to life than love.

To quote Charles Bukowski (I keep having these loose associations in my head):

if you don't have much soul left and you know it, you still got soul.—from "A Dollar and 20 Cents"

As I've said before (though rather unconvincingly), there are worse things in life than being alone.

That's what I tell myself so I can sleep at night, at least.

08:40:37 27 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 25 Sep 2003

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insomnia

I just can't get to sleep. As I was walking home from Y and R's place, I felt kind of drowsy and I was pretty sure I'd be able to get to bed OK, but of course, the phone rings, first M, then N. (And why is my life filled with all these people, and yet I feel so horribly, so irredeemably alone?)

The conversations I had were relatively benign. There was no heartache, no metaphoric knife digging deep into my chest. (It's just that I often reflect on my inability to connect.... OK I promise to stop harping about this eventually....) I'm yawning, but I just can't make my brain stop from going around and around in circles.

Today was a really bad day, in terms of how little work I got done, and in terms of the emotional nadir I experienced for no good reason. I just had this overpowering sense of everything going wrong, of me being paralyzed and unable to do anything to alleviate my misery. I can't avoid it, nor can I accept it. (It is the vast nothingness of oblivion, the endless emptiness of non-existence, clawing for my soul.) I can't just suck it up, and try to rise above it.

But, for no good reason, it leveled off at the end of the day. (Normally, I get really depressed when the sun begins to set.) While I couldn't say that I was happy, I wasn't despondent. Things were OK, as long as I didn't think too far ahead of the present.

Maybe all these thoughts are neurotoxic. Maybe I am just caught by an overvalent idea. So that my only relief is to spew them out somehow, whether to a psychiatrist or to the mindless ether that is the Internet.

I don't know. Maybe I can sleep after all.

23:07:34 25 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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maybe god doesn't like you

I've come to hate my own creation. Now I know how God feels. —Homer Simpson

21:26:32 25 Sep 2003 > /quotes > permalink > 3 comments

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i don't buy it

While the author of this blog post about how it is difficult to write clean XHTML in a corporate environment makes very valid points (e.g., you can't control the output of the CMS, and most WYSIWYG editors emit borked code), I still can't stomach the fact that you have to compromise your professional integrity in order to satisfy the corporate master.

True, I have yet to earn a serious wage, and, while I fantasize about staying free from the corporate task master, chances are, I will be 0wn3d. (In fact, I probably am already 0wn3d, considering how much debt I have.) So if it's your job on the line, you just might have to cut corners. I can understand that.

But the thing is, there are advantages to properly coding, in terms of semantic correctness, and you throw these advantages away by using kludges and hacks like tables. Ultimately, I really think that content should be king, that content must be accessible, meaning being able to be read by XML parsers, being viewable on non-standard browsers such as cel phones and handheld computers, being transformable to PDF, and providing all the interop niceties that well-formed markup gives you, and if you can't get that layout perfectly right, a redesign may very well be a good idea. After all, all the content should still be right there, accessible, and self-describing. And if your corporate task master throws a fit that it doesn't fit the specs to the exact pixel, you should point out the fact that these intact interop niceties will save a lot of time and effort (and money) in the long run, while that piece of eye candy really isn't going to do much other than tax the patience of the next guy who has to maintain this slop (and possibly crash the browsers of their prospective clients.)

Sure, you shouldn't have to bear stigmata for using transitional code. There's no need to wear a scarlet letter. But I think that some of this criticism is necessary and bears hearing out.

As Internet Explorer grows obsolescent, as Mozilla and other Gecko-based browsers take the lead, as novel rendering engines like KHTML (which drives Konqueror and Safari) become more ubiquitous, as we move away from the personal computer as the only pardigm for displaying content from the Web, there is going to be a lot of breakage going on. And, while, perhaps, in the short term, it may be beneficial to web developers, as they'll have jobs fixing these sites, in terms of the big picture, it's just a big waste. If you tried your best, and got caught by the 11th hour, that's one thing, but to just blithely ignore these recommendations because this how you've always done it, it renders fine on all the major browsers, is extraordinarily short-sighted.

21:19:00 25 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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ass monkey disease

My winters are spent simply ENDURING. Distracting. Hurrying to the next warm spot. Driving through sludge and muck and sleet with my head down. In NYC I spent my winters standing on the above-ground Queensboro number 7 platform. Grinning maniacally into that horizontal sleet that seems to fall only when there's a slow down in train service and you know you'll be there for 45 minutes.
I want blistering fucking heat. Blazing sunshine that burns my bones. Long drives with the window wide open and bugs exploding against my windshield. Exposed midrifts. Feet up, light breeze, birds chirping. Call it seasonal affective disorder or call it "ass monkey 2000", I don't care.

A fellow sufferer of seasonal affective disorder. I've been bitching and moaning about SAD since I've had a blog [1][2][3][4] Yeah, the part that causes serious damage to my mental health begins in March (because surviving February is not an easy task for me) and often extends all the way to May. December and January are endurable only because of the holidays. Of course, the build-up is taxing as well. The waning sunlight absolute kills me. By the winter solstice, I am pining for sunlight the way a drowning man gasps for air.

I'm hoping that by taking pre-emptive action, and high-tailing it to California this winter, it won't be as bad. So I'm crossing my fingers.

15:37:36 25 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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genius and insanity

Hah! I knew there was something to my style of planned chaos! This interview with theoretical physicist David Deutsch perfectly illustrates the kind of lifestyle I like to lead, much to the chagrin of my mother, my sister, and my ex-girlfriend (not to mention my roommates, past and present.)

On the other hand, there is always that fine line between genius and insanity, and it would be quite presumptious of me to claim genius, considering I have yet to produce anything of substance. But we will not dwell on such things.

I am reminded of this quote (which I originally mentioned in an entirely different context):

often, the state of the kitchen is the state of the mind, confused and unsure men, pliable men are the thinkers. their kitchens are like their minds, cluttered with garbage, dirty ware, impurity, but they are aware of their mind-state and find some humor in it. at times, with a violent burst of fire they defy the eternal duties and come up with a lot of shining that we sometimes call creation; just as at times they will get half drunk and clean up their kitchens. but soon again all falls into disorder and they are in the darkness again, in need of BABO, pills, prayer, sex, luck and salvation. the man with ever-orderly kitchen is the freak, however. beware of him. his kitchen-state is his mind-state: all in order, settled, he has let life condition him quickly to a basened and hardened complex of defensive and soothing thought-order. if you listen to him for ten minnutes you will know that anything he says in a lifetime will be essentially meaningless and always dull. he is a cement man. there are more cement men than other kinds of men. so if you are looking for a living man, first check his kitchen and save yourself time." —from "Too Sensitive" by Charles Bukowski

09:45:13 25 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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the matrix has you

An article advocating using CSS over <table>s, written as a "Matrix" parody.

(Incidentally, does the IMDb have an API a la Google or Amazon? Because, if not, I just thought of another reason to write my blog entries in well-formed XML. I could write a Perl script that would rip out all the <a> tags with hrefs pointing to the IMDb and create my own local hash of IMDb IDs to movie titles, as I link to the IMDb a lot, so that I wouldn't keep on having to visit the actual site.)

(Even more incidentally, another reason is so I could use a Perl script to figure out what sites I link to a lot. And even more incidentally and trivially, I could figure out which of my <a> tags don't have title attributes. The possibilities are endless. And maybe ridiculous, but everyone needs a hobby.)

06:43:09 25 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

Wed, 24 Sep 2003

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i think there's something wrong with me

(I am thinking of Dr. Gonzo from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," a raving caricature of Oscar Zeta Acosta, the renowned Chicano lawyer.)

...you have demonstrated your ability to achieve excellent grades and evaluations in a most demanding curriculum. Equally important, you are recognized as being someone who sets high standards, who is compassionate toward others and someone who is of high moral character. Given these qualities, we sincerely believe that you will be a leader in your chosen profession and in the community you serve.

You would think that hearing something like that, I'd at least be somewhat happy. I mean, sure, it has tweaked my perspective a bit towards the positive side of things, but I'm not ecstatic. All I can dwell upon is the fact that it's not a sure thing, it may very well be ephemeral, and it may not mean anything.

I can't seem to hold on to even a tiny spark of joy. Everything drifts away in this mournful, howling wind that is, perhaps, my soul screaming.

I can't seem to get over this tired feeling, this feeling of being beat down, beat up, kicked in the chest, and then being left to lie down on a rock. There's absolutely no reason for it, but I'm flailing hopelessly like a dying small animal impaled on a spike.

I can't seem to swim out of the deep. There's an undercurrent that keeps pulling me down.

Honestly, though, I can't seem to break out of this. I feel like I'm trapped in layers upon layers of cellophane. I can see to the outside, and I can move around all I want, but I can't get out, and I'm eventually going to run out of air.

Whatever.

So this week I have resigned myself to the sad fact that I am going to be alone for a long, long time, because there doesn't seem to be anyway out of this morass I'm in. Every time I step forward, the wind and the waves just blast me back to where I started, and the only thing that keeps me going is the fact that sooner or later there won't be anything to run back to.

The only thing I can see is oblivion in every direction. This sheer blank nothingness.

I just can't get outside of myself. I've got myself locked up in a trap real good, and the only way out seems to be to give up and die.

I just want to lie still right now.

Man. Autumn just really gets me down. All I can really do is hope that something outside of me changes. All I can really hope for is someone to reach out a hand. I clearly cannot do this by myself.

20:53:07 24 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Tue, 23 Sep 2003

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galileo and the last day of summer

As I was wandering through Walgreens, I caught "Galileo" by the Indigo Girls [lyrics][iTMS] (off of "Rites of Passage") and immediately, I thought of the demise of the unmanned space craft Galileo, which met its fate in the atmosphere of Jupiter on Sunday. NASA made sure to sacrifice Galileo for fear of contaminating Europa's surface with terrestrial microbes, bringing to mind the warning from Arthur C. Clarke's 2010: "All these worlds are yours—except Europa. Attempt no landings there."

How long till my soul gets it right? Can any human being ever reach that kind of light? —"Galileo" by the Indigo Girls

Of course, this also brought to mind the Cure song "Jupiter Crash"[lyrics][iTMS] (off of "Wild Mood Swings") This song is really about the comet Shoemaker-Levy slamming into Jupiter in 1995 but it's still appropriate.

Yeah that was it That was the Jupiter crash Drawn too close and gone in a flash Just a few bruises in the region of the splash...
She left to the sound of the sea She just drifted away from me So much for gravity... —"Jupiter Crash" by the Cure

And thinking of the Cure made me realize that summer is finally over. The autumn equinox is upon us. "The last day of summer always seems so cold." (From, appropriately enough, "The Last Day of Summer" by the Cure [lyrics][iTMS]) There is something about this time of year that just makes me sad and makes me aware of how lonely I am. (Then there is that poem "Spring and Fall: To a Young Child" by Gerard Manley Hopkins that I read in high school.) I mean, I have a lot of sad memories from this time of year (including great, grave things from long before I started keeping a blog) so maybe it's understandable. Ah, hell.

You now, though, last year wasn't so bad. What is it that changed?

18:40:42 23 Sep 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 1 comments

Mon, 22 Sep 2003

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adventures in print serving

As I noted previously, I had purchased a Hawking Technology 2 USB + 1 Parallel Port Internet Print Server, for use with my Canon i850 Photo Printer. Lo and behold, the i850 does not play all that well with network printing, at least not with the MacOSX drivers provider. A quick search on Google yielded that there were in fact Linux printer drivers (on Canon's Japanese site) that allow network printing (via CUPS.) Thus, I am using the driver for the Canon BJC-7004 (using the bjc800 PPD.) It also took me a while to figure out how to set the PS12U's IP address. You have to assign one with arp (arp -s IP address print server's MAC address XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX) as the instructions suggest. Once you've set the IP address, you can either use tftp as outlined in the instructions, or you can simply telnet to the print server, which has a menu-driven console interface. Enabling DHCP led to some confusion, as my router quickly assigned an IP address. (I forgot exactly how I found it again.)

The next trick was to get CUPS on MacOSX to print to the Canon i850 via the PS12U. This required GIMP-Print and the instructions outlined in LinuxPrinting's CUPS Quick Start. Just for the record, GIMP-Print 4.2.6-pre1 for MacOSX wants its filters in /usr/libexec/cups/filter/, so change the symlink for foomatic-rip accordingly. Finally, I couldn't figure out how to use Print Center to set it up, so I resorted to using CUPS' web interface (point your browser to http://localhost:631/admin), added the PPD and restarted the CUPS daemon. Works like a charm, though, as has been mentioned by other people, it's a little off. But it's close enough, and if I want to print something really nice, then I can always cart off my iBook and park it in front of the printer so the USB cable will reach. (I know, I'm a lazy bastard. I got the print server just so I wouldn't have to do that.)

15:11:32 22 Sep 2003 > /computers > permalink > 0 comments

Sun, 21 Sep 2003

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"underworld" and neverwhere

I watched "Underworld" last night. (Between this and "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" I've completely lost track of how much gunfire I've witnessed.) It was not the best movie I've watched. (Although, I must say, Kate Beckinsale. Mmmmm.) But it was definitely highly entertaining. (Again, the massive amount of violence and bloodshed was very cool, particularly one final, very wonderfully grotesque death scene.) It's sort of "The Matrix" meets "Blade" (with, according to J, a little "West Side Story" thrown in.) A lot of the shots were quite picturesque and atmospheric, beginning with the opening gun-battle in a crowded subway station.

But back to Kate Beckinsale. (I promise I won't drool too much.) She was honestly mesmerizing as vampire-warrior Selene. What struck me the most was that her character makes me completely think of the character Door in Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. (I have not watched the miniseries, as I've heard that, while admirable in its faithfulness to the source, it might still be disappointing because of the inherent difficulty of transferring the contents of a book to film.) In fact, "Underworld" as a whole made me think of Neverwhere (and, perhaps, the final chapters of Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams, involving the St. Pancras Underground Station in London, but that is neither here nor there.) While "Underworld" was heavy on gore and ammunition rounds, Neverwhere (though true of Gaiman's other works) emphasizes wonder and fantasy. Obviously, it's difficult to compare the 24 frame-per-second pace of a movie reel with page-turning, so that probably accounts for the slower feel to the book, because the circumstances are just as shadowy and violent in Neverwhere as it is in "Underworld." While not as gruesome and action-packed, Neverwhere is definitely just as dark and surreal—with worlds and entire civilizations hidden from humans, despite the fact that it's all right there in our midst (a theme that "Men in Black" made blindingly obvious)

So I've got to read Neverwhere and perhaps even brave the mini-series (if I can find it somewhere.)

07:20:20 21 Sep 2003 > /movies > permalink > 1 comments

Sat, 20 Sep 2003

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amazon_buybox

amazon_buybox is a plugin that generates code for items at Amazon.com, creating a link to the description, pulling the image file, and creating a "buy" button.

The following element <blosxom:amazon-buybox asin="ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number)">description</blosxom:amazon-buybox> will be turned into:

<div class="amazon-desc">description</div> <div class="amazon-image"> <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000003RGY/ref=nosim/associate ID"< <img src="http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B000003RGY.01.TZZZZZZZ.jpg" alt="picture of description" /> </a> </div> <form method="POST" action="http://www.amazon.com/o/dt/assoc/handle-buy-box=B000003RGY"> <input type="hidden" name="asin.B000003RGY" value="1" \> <input type="hidden" name="tag-value" value="associate ID" \> <input type="hidden" name="tag_value" value="associate ID" \> <input type="submit" name="submit.add-to-cart" value="Buy from Amazon.com" \> </form>

You can customize the elements that contain the description, the image, and the whole thing.

See this entry for an example.

14:04:26 20 Sep 2003 > /computers/www/blosxom > permalink > 0 comments

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buying stuff

(I know this will come off as sexist, but...) Despite having a Y chromosome, whenever I feel stressed out and unhappy with my life, I tend to buy stuff. (See, capitalism does work. Who cares if everyone is living a life of unremitting misery? At least we're helping the economy!)

So yesterday I dropped down money that I don't really have to purchase a Marware SportSuit Convertible for my iPod, a Keyspan Presentation Remote, a U.S. Robotics SoundLink Wireless Audio Delivery System, and a Hawking Technology 2 USB + 1 Parallel Port Internet Print Server.

While I have been screwing around with Romeo, which turns a Bluetooth-enabled phone (such as the Sony Ericsson T610) into a remote control for your Macintosh running OS X, the range of Bluetooth isn't as far as I hoped for. And besides, what with the UNIX mantra of "the right tool for the task" (as opposed to "all-in-one" creeping featurism), I figure it might be worth having a dedicated remote. (Ah, I love my rationalizations. Besides, I will have to do presentations when I'm a resident physician.)

Man, I can't wait until I start earning a paycheck.


Marware SportSuit Convertible for iPod(<3G)

Keyspan Presentation Remote

U.S. Robotics Soundlink Wireless Audio Delivery System

Hawking Technology 2 USB + 1 Parallel Port Internet Print Server

Sony Ericsson T616

12:12:01 20 Sep 2003 > /computers > permalink > 0 comments

Fri, 19 Sep 2003

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blogging: a retrospective

Somehow I stumbled onto this essay by Rebecca Blood (author of The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog and We've Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture) about the history of blogs. And this led me to the eatonweb portal which led to some really random blogs:

(Sorry, just a random list of places I clicked-through. No commentary as of yet.)

Then, somehow I ended up at the website of the esteemed science fiction writer Harlan Ellison, where I learned about the game "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream," which is based on a collection of short-stories by Mr. Ellison (and which sounds very "Matrix"-like.) Which made me immediately think of the meme "Hello Kitty Has No Mouth" (and she must scream....)

The web is a random, random place.

23:14:31 19 Sep 2003 > /via-trails > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 18 Sep 2003

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the simpsons go to africa

bart and lisa: are we insane yet? are we insane yet? are we insane yet? homer: i told you, yes!!

15:32:07 18 Sep 2003 > /quotes > permalink > 0 comments

Wed, 17 Sep 2003

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the xhtml 2 debate

I don't know how I stumbled upon the debate raging over XHTML 2 on my web travels, but I found it really intriguing. Very soap-operatic.

Now, I am not a professional web-developer. (Clearly not, if this page is any gauge.) But I have been playing around with markup and with code that reads markup for a while now (I've been messing around with Perl and XSLT for nearly three years) and I have come to appreciate the importance of separating content from style. Because code doesn't care about style at all, it just wants to find content, and it's a lot easier to parse unique tags than it is to use XPath to try and get you the right non-unique element with a particular style tag. Plus, it's completely non-intuitive to do this. Why are we trying to parse an element whose only unique characteristic is "font-family: sans"? If you had marked it up as <quote>, for example, it would at least give the programmer an idea of what they're trying to parse.

Also, I am a big believer in the idea that the user should get to decide how things look, not the developer. This is why I think the style attribute should die. If I don't want that headline in Verdana 18 pt, then I should be able to override it, and that's difficult if you've got style attributes lying around all over the place. More importantly, if I've got bad vision, I'd like to be able to change that 6 pt font that you insist I try to read your page in.

Getting rid of the style attribute is especially important now that it is getting commonplace to browse the web with such things as cel phones and handheld computers, things which typically don't have access to 3,000 fonts and don't always have access to all the billions of color that a desktop or notebook computer does (and don't have a lot of bandwidth or memory to retrieve/store tons and tons of style declaration.) Then there are the more esoteric but equally important (from an accessibility standpoint) cases such as reading markup out loud to the blind. In this case, the style attribute is just useless cruft that obscures what should be done to make a particular segment of text standout.

The thing that I don't get about the debate is how people who want to keep all this cruft in XHTML 2 (most notably the line-break <br /> and the aforementioned style attribute) is that they are screaming bloody murder at people who want to get rid of it. Hell, if you don't want to use XHTML2, keep using XHTML 1.1 then. Or HTML 4. Or HTML 3.2. No one is stopping you, and these things will probably always be supported.

Anyway, I think Hixie makes sense. I've been dying to find some sensible way to markup poetry that didn't involve <span class="line"> or, God-forbid, <br>. I mean, maybe this is esoteric, but I think it would be completely legitimate to use an XML parser or XPath expression to search for, oh, let's say, lines where Anchises is mentioned in The Aeneid. This is feasible if every line is enclosed in <l> elements. This is down-right painful and ugly if you use <br />. In fact, you couldn't do this reasonably if all you had at your disposal was XSLT. And, while <span class="line"> is also parseable, that's a serious pain to have to type when compared to <l>. The same ideas apply with regards to code listings.

Anyway. I am such a geek.

11:17:14 17 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

Tue, 16 Sep 2003

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r kelly has a way with words

Osama bin Laden is the only one who knows exactly what I'm going through.—R. Kelly

Found in A journal of a Hip-Hop DJ, linked from littleyellowdifferent.

My. Homicidal religious zealots. Pedophiles. (And sometimes it all intersects...) Not to be judgemental and cast the first stone or anything, but, I must say, I think they have the same social acceptability quotient.

19:59:22 16 Sep 2003 > /quotes > permalink > 0 comments

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chrono_nav

A new plugin that gives you links to entries that immediately precede or suceed the current post, chronologically speaking (although a tweak to the sort routine will change that.) I shamelessly stole the code from the tree plugin by Ryan Schram, the behavior of which is more sophisticated, because it descends and ascends into and out of your category hierarchy. I hacked out a few bits here, grafted on a few bits there.

Read the documentation for more information or download chrono_nav and just dig in.

chrono_nav is not very aesthetically pleasing unless you use it in conjunction with interpolate_fancy (or interpolate_pseudoxml if you like verbosity like I do.) Without being able to do conditionals, chrono_nav will pollute your index files with bogus "prev" and "next" links. With interpolate_fancy, you can show links conditionally, depending on whether you are at the first post, the last post, in an index.

For example:

<?$chrono_nav::prev unlike="^bogus_ante$"><a href="$chrono_nav::prev">&lt;&lt;reverse</a> |</?> <a href="http://blog.fatoprofugus.net">home</a> <?$chrono_nav::next unlike="^bogus_post$">| <a href="$chrono_nav::next">forward>></a></?>

This will generate home | forward>> on the first post, <<reverse | home on the last post, and <<reverse | home | forward>> on every post in between. (Notice the kludgery with the bogus tags. I can't seem to make $chrono_nav::prev and $chrono_nav::next return undef.)

10:57:54 16 Sep 2003 > /computers/www/blosxom > permalink > 3 comments

Mon, 15 Sep 2003

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outkast "hey ya"

I was listening to the radio after dropping S off and I came across "Hey Ya" by Outkast, which has a wonderful catch phrase: "Shake it like a Polaroid picture!" I admit. It took me a while to figure out what the hell they were talking about. (Just think of the opening sequence of the movie "Memento")

23:09:38 15 Sep 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 0 comments

Sun, 14 Sep 2003

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27: third time pays for all

It really sucks that after 25, birthdays aren't nearly as good. The big 3-0 just looms a little too close, and you're not old, but you're a little too old for the club (to steal a line from Chris Rock.) When the age difference between you and a Playboy centerfold approaches a decade, you know things have got to change.

I am a bitter, bitter man.

But at least i have energy. ('cause once you get tired, you will get sucked down into the vortex of hopelessness. It's like a treadmill. Or trying to outrun a crumbling bridge, Indiana Jones-style. You've just got to keep moving even if all your muscles are turning your blood into battery acid.

I will not bitch too much about the fact that (despite the sincere apologies and excuses) three different women declined the invitation to hang out on my birthday.

I give up. There is no use swimming against the current. I might as well enjoy the ride.

I must say that dinner was pretty good. You can't really go wrong with sangria. But we hit the liquor a little too early, and by 1:00am we were mostly non-functional. It was a good thing that we went home when we did, because the remainder of the evening included a good number of blank spots. Like, I don't remember how i got into bed. The last thing I remember clearly is throwing down a throwpillow onto my hard wood floors and lying down because the floor was so cool and I felt like I was burning up. Oh, and drinking out of a Pyrex measuring cup. I think I was honestly trying to read Perl documentation in my drunken stupor. When I woke up this morning, I found at least thirty webpages open in my browser.

To help me get to sleep, I do remember putting "Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)" by Nine Inch Nails on repeat. "Nothing can stop me now, 'cause I don't care anymore."

The red hot anger and bitterness has dissolved into morbid apathy and brooding self-loathing. None of this matters, really, and all I'm doing is torturing myself.

As my oldest friend once advised me: Fuck it.

There are things I need to take care of, and while, it's true, my future does rest upon me getting these things done, if I don't, I don't.

I feel all stretched and thin, and there ain't any more slack left to pull on. Times like this, if you don't want to snap in half, something has got to give. You've got to let go, and fall, and pray to God that you'll hit the ground running.

Only hope can keep me together. Love can mend your life, but love can break your heart. (Thank you, Gordon Sumner.)

Whatever. There are worse things in life than being alone. I guess.

22:31:51 14 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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gorillaz "m1 a1"

I'm not the only one, apparently, but the beginning of this song totally makes me think of the opening sequences of "28 Days Later." I mean, the lyrics do talk about zombies.

15:16:28 14 Sep 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 0 comments

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retrograde consolidation revisited

Yeah, maybe I need a better name. I really didn't give it much thought. Hell, maybe there's already a name for it. I'm trying to think of a term for the phenomenon of returning to an older technology because it's actually better than whatever we got. And it's not mere regression into the past. The old technology gets adapted to whatever new challenges we face. Often times, the old technology is merely a shell, a vehicle, for what really is new technlogy. It looks like an Apollo Command Module, but it's designed with 21st century technology. Sometimes the "old" technology only continues to exist in an abstract (though still palpable) sense, although the real nitty-gritty is all new stuff. (I am thinking of UNIX, which, on one hand doesn't really exist, but on the other hand, is proliferating everywhere.)

Probably because I'm using Blosxom, the power of plain-text is on my mind, as I mentioned previously. And so I spotted this quote:

The problem is, once we store data in a non-transparent, inaccessible format, then we need code to read it, and that code disappears. Code is disappearing all the time. You probably can't go to a store and ask for a copy of Word 1, or whatever the first version of Word was called. So we are losing vast quantities of information, because we can no longer read the files.
One of the reasons we advocate using plain text is so information doesn't get lost when the program goes away. Even though a program has gone away, you can still extract information from a plain text document. You may not be able to make the information look like the original program would, but you can get the information out. The process is made even easier if the format of the plain text file is self-describing, such that you have metadata inside the file that you can use to extract out the actual semantic meaning of the data in the file. XML is not a particularly good way to do this, but it's currently the plain text transmission medium du jour.
Another reason for using plain text is it allows you to write individual chunks of code that cooperate with each other. One of the classic examples of this is the Unix toolset: a set of small sharp tools that you can join together. You join them by feeding the plain text output of one into the plain text input of the next. There's no concept of trying to make sure the word count program outputs things in a format that's compatible with the next tool in the chain. It's just plain text to plain text, and that's a very powerful way to do it.
—Dave Thomas Plain Text and XML

The mention of UNIX has me thinking about the evolution of operating systems, too. UNIX as a concept has been present for 30+ years. Maybe because I went to UC Berkeley, in the mid-to-late '90's, most of the computers still ran some variant of UNIX. (Although, ironically, they didn't run BSD.) I remember the sense of incredulity I had when Windows 3.0 came out in 1990, and everyone was excited, as if a windowing system had never existed before, when I had known for a fact that they were already deployed and quite powerful (I ran GEOS on a Commodore 64, and I remember playing around with Workbench on my friend's dad's Amiga. I never saw a Macintosh until I was in college, and that was when I was already an x86 chauvinist. Although, I did run Linux briefly even before Windows 95 came out.) Obviously, Microsoft had much at stake with trying to spread the FUD that UNIX was dead, despite the fact that it or some of its genetic and symbolic offspring ran almost all of the Internet. But in the past few years, the OS world seems to have come full-circle, with Apple deciding to build MacOS X on top of BSD. The only remaining (quite significant) hold-out is the Microsoft World, and even there, UNIX toolsets have established a foothold.

One OS to rule them all.

15:07:31 14 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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scattered thoughts

Random things I found on the web:

How to read a scalar line by line in perl.

Corroborating my own feelings about blogging and my recent inability to write anything of serious substance, William Gibson is going on hiatus and trying to get serious writing done.

How to make a string all lower case with XSLT.

The Web is a procrastination apparatus: It can absorb as much time as is required to ensure that you won't get any real work done. Sites overflow with either low-value stream-of-consciousness postings or bland corporatese. —Jakob Nielsen

The quote is from a page of quotes about XML. It's kind of interesting. It's somewhat philosophical, and definitely touches upon epistemology. Knowing how we know what we know should define how we structure information, just because it would be the path of least resistance, I think.

Parsing iTunes Music Library.xml.

14:41:27 14 Sep 2003 > > permalink > 52 comments

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itunes_playlist

What I did on my birthday weekend (besides the requisite alcoholic binging) was write a script to list the last 5 songs I've listened to on iTunes. (I guess I'm just an irresolute geek.)

In the process, I managed to learn how to use XML::LibXML. So my XPath skills aren't going to go to waste.

My first attempt involved trying to parse the iTunes Music Library XML file. Unfortunately, this is a rather large file (5.2M with over 4,000 songs) and Apple's plist format is a pretty bad implementation of XML (you have use some rather arcane XPath to get the value of the key you're interested in, because the key name and the value are siblings instead of parent-child, which would make more sense), and maybe I wasn't using the most efficient way to do it (with two XSL transform), but it was taking forever to pull a playlist out.

So I went with Applescript. (Applescript for extracting playlists by Kimbra Staken) Even this is a little slow, but nowhere near as horribly so as my Perl script. I ended up embedding the Applescript in Perl anyway (using Mac::Applescript) because I wanted to use XML::LibXML.

The Applescript just parses a smart playlist I set up to give back the last five songs I've played.

Now, what I wanted as output was an HTML fragment that I could include into my template with Blosxom's file plugin. I wanted a link to lyrics (via Google), a link to search the iTunes Music Store, and a link to Amazon.com.

For the Google link, all I did was escape the artist name and the song name, concatenate them together with the word "lyrics" and then stick it all into a URI that will feed it to Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" mode.

For the iTMS link, I formatted the escaped parameters to adhere to the iTMS search URI syntax

The trickiest part was getting the Amazon links. You have to figure out the ASIN identifier for whatever you're looking for in order to have a usable URI. Luckily, Amazon.com has exposed their API for public consumption. You have to register as a developer, and then you can send queries to Amazon's database. Amazon.com will send back an XML file, which you can then parse for the ASIN.

So basically I execute this perl script before I generate static pages with Blosxom and rsync with my webhost.

[Source code for itunes_playlist]

13:51:29 14 Sep 2003 > /computers/www/blosxom > permalink > 0 comments

Sat, 13 Sep 2003

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27 - Part II

God only knows why I woke up early this morning (around 9-9:30am) It's funny how birthdays after the age of 25 just don't have the same zing and zest to them. It's more like, oh God, I'm 27. What the hell am I doing with my life?

What is even funnier is that despite being on a pretty fixed path careening towards a rather secure career, I still have no idea where I'm going. Not even just in a philosophical sense. Quite literally in the physical sense.

Seriously. I marvel at the paradoxic nature of it all. I know what sort of work I'll be doing a year from now (plus or minus a few details) but I have no idea where. I'm confident that I'll have a decent job once I'm done with my training, but who knows what exactly I'll be doing.

I mean, sure, this is pretty normal. No one ever knows the specific details of their future. (If we could predict the future, then there's no point to any of this. We'd know everything already.) But the thing that astounds me is that people keep thinking that I have it all laid out and planned, when in fact, while I have a destination in mind, my course having been set a long time ago, the amount of things I know about my future are vastly outnumbered by the things I have no idea. (The more you know, the more you realize you don't. The smartest people in the world also probably feel the most stupid, because they are smart enough to recognize the magnitude of what they don't know. As Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes and Cypher from "The Matrix" have pointed out, ignorance is bliss.)

Incredibly, I've been theoretically an adult for nine years now. Now, spending almost all of that time in school, you can understand how I don't really feel that way. But, as I approach the event horizon of the big 3-0, it is becoming increasingly clear that I am no longer a kid. Despite all my desire to stay a kid.

All my life, I've felt like I've had responsibility thrust upon me. It has never been anything that I've sought out. At the same time, I've never been able to, in good conscience, reject this responsibility.

I hear the voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader: "It is your destiny." (A nuclear medicine physician I worked under made fun of me this way, laughing at the fact that there was probably no way I could avoid the path I've taken.)

Who was it that said that the trick to happiness is not getting what you want, but wanting what you get?

Sometimes I can't help but feel trapped. The loop is closed, the path is set, the window is open, there's nothing left but to de-orbit, hit the thrusters, and fall through the sky.

This is what it must feel like when a Schroedinger wave function collapses.

Nothing like the taste of fear and dread mixed with my morning coffee.

09:44:53 13 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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27 - Part I

Another year come and gone, and I want to feel sorry for myself, and yet I feel like a bastard, considering how well things are going.

You can't have everything. There is no such thing as perfect in this world.

I mean, I could be happier.

I am tired. In that last, final sprint to the finish line after a marathon run, it becomes a test of will. I can feel my spirit falter, quivering like a flickering candle flame. There are no guarantees from here until the finish, only that I so very much want to reach the finish line, to attain the culmination of more than two decades of education.

Nothing in this world is ever certain. Those who believe otherwise are a menace to society and should be locked up.

At this age, it starts feeling less and less like it matters, although the big 3-0 still looms up ahead. If I feel like this now, what will happen then?

I don't really want to find out.

But, like all good birthdays, I am writing all of this shit while I am drunk.

Yipeekayay.

Nothing can stop me now, I just don't care anymore. (With apologies to Trent Reznor.)

01:35:47 13 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Fri, 12 Sep 2003

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blessings in disguise

The law is such a double-edged thing. On one hand, the unremitting greed of some people is making our current system of justice unworkable. On the other hand, the law is the only thing that keeps our society from degrading into utter despotism.

Sometimes, the law can have surprising results. Hundreds, if not thousands of years of principles and precedents can interact in interesting ways (emergent behavior again) when coming into contact with scientific and technological advances.

For example, the failure of Microsoft's appeal of the patent ruling in favor of Eolas. (Eolas won a ruling that states that the seamless running of plugins in Internet Explorer infringes on their patent.) This might just cement the importance of portable, light, web standards, specifically, CSS and the DOM. (What used to require .GIFs and scripting—sometimes even server-side—back in 1993 requires only well-formed markup now. I seriously doubt we will get sucked into a WWW timewarp as some authors fear.)

Then there is the RIAA's rampage against 12 year old schoolgirls. While in the short run, they might survive this way, I feel like this is the death knell to the old way of distributing music. While Kazaa is outright infringement of copyright, DMCA or no, and while the iTunes Music Store is everything I've always wanted, it is still somewhat modeled on the old system (i.e., essentially holding the creator's works ransom, and taking 80 cents out of every dollar) and the whole system might just completely implode, leading to something completely new and unexpected.

(But back to the idea of the ability to buy just singles, a la iTMS. This will hopefully lead to the trend that all albums will have more and more good songs. The free market, the principles of supply and demand, in action. The cream will float to the top, the shit will sink to the bottom. This is what laissez-faire is supposed to accomplish, but what we call free-market is not really free-market.)

16:46:31 12 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 1 comments

Tue, 09 Sep 2003

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the tower of babble

A script that translates a phrase through several different languages before retranslating it back into English: "Lost in Translation"

If you're fortunate enough to be running MacOS X, a standalone (well, not really, since you still need access to Babelfish) application is available: Babelizer for OSX. OK, it's not exactly the same thing. This just translates a phrase back and forth between English and a language of your choice until the phrase stops mutating.

17:39:09 9 Sep 2003 > /computers/AI > permalink > 0 comments

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more about retrograde consolidation

More thoughts that just occurred to me. A follow up to retrograde consolidation:

Ironically, what makes regressing to older software technologies feasible is because hardware technology is advancing so rapidly. This is what makes it cheap (again, in terms of CPU cycles and memory capacity) to process markup that is otherwise plain text. So because computers are getting faster and faster, and have more and more memory and storage capacity, you don't need precompiled binaries as much. The efficiency gained versus the pain-in-the-ass factor of writing supremely optimized code will become less and less worth it as long as Moore's Law holds, except for some mission-critical applications that require realtime operation (like gaming, for example.) And because you don't need precompiled binaries so much, completely cross-platform, interpreted languages such as Perl and Java can flourish. (Interpreted languages! And you thought BASIC was obsolete!) You can write config files in XML, in a plain text editor. (Much of MacOS X's configuration files are in plist files, that is, XML property lists.) And cross-platform APIs like XUL will become more and more practical as well.

Another reason is expanding bandwidth. If broadband continues to become more and more accessible, and wi-fi continues to become more ubiquitous, it becomes more feasible to transmit things in simpler but more inefficient (in terms of byte-count) formats. For example, perhaps there will come a day when it will be worth downloading WAVs instead of mp3s. (Though, except for the audiophile aspect of it, it may be unnecessary since processor speed will also continue to increase, making the additional load of decoding an mp3 minimal.)

But, I think, more importantly than simplicity (however you want to define it) is openness. A lot of these tools and formats that would've been prohibitive (again, in terms of CPU cycles and memory) in days gone by are somewhat transparent. (Sure, we don't come out of the womb being able to parse XML, but it's a lot easier to understand than straight up machine language.) More importantly, the specs are accessible. With a little effort, you too can write XML documents and write Perl scripts and develop Java applications. You don't need to drop hard cash on some secretive software company to be able to do some rather remarkable things with your computer.

17:34:07 9 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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retrograde consolidation

A followup to the disjointed thoughts I set out in my elliptical comments on mass amateurisation, which was written after pondering Tom Coates' entry "(Weblogs and) The Mass Amatuerisation of (Nearly) Everything" on plasticbag.org:

I started noticing how a lot of technology (specifically, software), instead of getting more and more complicated and esoteric and requiring an IQ greater than 120 to understand, is actually regressing to older, simpler, tried and true technologies.

I find it interesting that, for the most part, blogs are pretty much just plain text. Sure, it's technically HTML (or XHTML), but thanks to CSS, it is less necessary to screw around with graphics files in order to implement neat little tricks like rollovers (and as Mozilla and its many offspring begin to catch on, mostly due to the fact that IE is becoming more and more obsolete, and there will be no upgrades to it without having to buy a new version of Windows that will probably cost as much as the computer that you will be running it on, deploying SVG to implement more complex graphical behavior will become more feasible....) Sure, there are pics blogs, and legendary cam sites, but these are more the exception than the rule. Mostly, this is probably because Blogger is the blog tool with the lowest barrier to entry—you don't need your own webhost, and you don't need to know how to code, but if you therefore host on Blogspot exclusively, then you pretty much can't use graphics files.

While software technologies such as Flash have their definite place, they aren't going to take over the Net anytime soon (as I used to see some developers claim.) Who knew? ASCII (in its new incarnation as UTF-8) still reigns.

The advantages of plain text (or at least of being able to degrade gracefully into plain text) are that your content is extraordinarily portable. Content can be browsed by a cel phone, or it can be stuffed onto your iPod. Hell, maybe even your watch can be used to browse content. More over, dealing with plain text is (usually) cheap, in terms of CPU cycles, and especially in terms of memory requirements. You can fit a hell of a lot more text files onto your PDA than PDF files or Word Documents.

Then take the advent of cel phones that support polyphonic ringtones. The most common format for polyphonic ringtones is the MIDI sequence. How ironic, that in 2003, I am all of the sudden once again searching the Net for MIDI files. Back in the day, before mp3s ever existed, when 56K modems were a fantasy, hell, when sound cards didn't come standard with computers, this is how I got my music fix. Purely instrumental files that sounded really crappy unless you had a kick-ass sound card (which I didn't.) But now MIDIs are back in style. Hilarious.

(And finally, the article that made my apophenia-seeking brain put it all together.) And now, get this, NASA is thinking about resurrecting the Apollo space capsule (link from Slashdot). (OK, not really, but sort of.)

17:09:42 9 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

Sun, 07 Sep 2003

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star raiders

I don't know what put this game into my head, but "Star Raiders" was one of the first games we got for our Atari 400 (the other being Pac-Man), perhaps explaining my early fascination with space and science fiction.

10:54:43 7 Sep 2003 > /computers/games > permalink > 4 comments

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mp3s and spam

Links from a kuro5hin.org article with Links to Tens of Thousands of Legal Music Downloads.

iRATE radio (What is it with the "i" in front of everything these days?) This is a collaborative filter (think Slashdot-style moderation, except applied to mp3s instead of articles) that spiders legally free mp3s, tailoring things to your taste using statistical analysis.

spamgourmet, offering self-destructing e-mail addresses, to prevent the accumulation of spam.

10:04:47 7 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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lists and positioning

A couple of CSS bits: Listamatic, with examples of how to use CSS to radically change the display of lists, and "Making the Absolute, Relative" on stopdesign, on how to use CSS for positioning objects.

09:16:53 7 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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the man in the high castle

Another link I found on popdex.com: Neu-York, featuring an imaginary map of New York had the Axis won WWII (A topic that Philip K Dick covered quite interestingly in his book The Man in the High Castle, although he focused on the West Coast.) All the streets have been accordingly renamed in German. Now someone has to make a map of San Francisco under Japanese rule.

And some day I have to post my map of Unreal City (apologies to T.S. Eliot), which was inspired by some bizarre recurring dreams I've had where L.A., Chicago, and New York were one gigantic city (and which also inspired this poem).

Ah, alternate realities. I also wonder what would've happened if Mexico had maintained its territorial integrity during the Mexican-American War. Would it have been strong enough to wrest control of the Philippines from the Spanish? (Which wouldn't be off the wall since the galleon trade necessarily passed through Mexico when it was still part of Nuevo Spain) What would've happened during the World Wars if the Confederacy had survived the Civil War? What about if California had maintained its independence? (Again, not completely off the wall, considering that in present times, California's own economy is larger than many nations, even many developed nations, their current $38 billion debt nonwithstanding.) What if California ended up partitioned into two, or even three states? (There was a drive by northernmost Californians—north of Sacramento to the Oregon border—to establish the state of Jefferson.)

What if. What if. Heh.

08:40:40 7 Sep 2003 > /unrealcity > permalink > 0 comments

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elliptical comments on mass amateurisation

(This entry is a very rough draft which I will post anyway, and perhaps will never revise, but, you were warned.)

I stumbled upon this entry from plasticbag.org on popdex. "(Weblogs and) The Mass Amateurisation of (Nearly) Everything"

My comments are more ruminations than criticisms. But it always strikes me how rarefied the blogosphere is in terms of socioeconomics. A lot of people make it sound like the cost of hardware is not a huge barrier to access. While the approximately $200 it costs to buy the most minimal computer and the $39.95/mo to hook it up to the Internet may indeed by trivial for the average citizen of a developed nation, one might wonder just how exactly this translates in the developing world.

Perhaps my ideas are outdated though. Because of my cultural heritage, the Philippines is always my baseline for a developing nation. Perhaps because it exists in the ecosystem of Asia, and despite not booming extraordinarily during the infamous bubble that burst in 1997, the nation nonetheless was impacted somewhat by the technological developments in neighboring countries and therefore can't really be used as a model the developing nations of Africa and South America. The last time I was out in the Philippines, in 1999, what struck me was the disparity in infrastructure. For example, some places may not have had running water or paved roads, but they had an Internet cafe, a cel phone tower, and satellite TV. They might not have had copper-wire land lines, but many people were incredibly proficient with SMS. (And, now, four years later, SMS is just beginning to breakthrough in the U.S.)

If you google the TLD .ph, you will find quite a few sites, and many of them are in fact blogs. So long as a nation is rich enough to afford some way to have a big fat pipe out to the Internet, this process of democratization and amateurization can hold true. (Of course, without this, the idea is moot. You don't really see anyway blogging out of Afghanistan, for example, and clearly, now that it is occupied by the U.S. and theoretically is now a free nation, this is not simply because of the repressive policies in force there. But that is a subject of another rant.)

To me, the impressive thing about blogging is that you don't even need to have your own computer or your own remote hosting account. What is most distinctive between maintaining a home page and maintaining a blog has a lot to do with the hardware and services available, though. In the aftermath of the revolution that NCSA Mosaic spawned, while there have been things such as Tripod for quite a while now, that is, free home page hosting, they did not offer the necessary flexibility. In times past, it would not be trivial to host a blog-like site at one of these sites. (In contrast, these days, Tripod is offering a blog builder.) Most people who were serious about their home pages needed to have at least FTP access to make it reasonable. To have to upload things through forms was excruciatingly painful. (Particularly since this was the era where the 56k modem was top-of-the-line.) Compare this to setting up a blog. All you have to do is sign up with Blogger, and you are good to go. 56k is the absolute minimum with which people access the Internet these days. If you are fortunate enough to own your own computer and a nice pipe, you're all set. Let's say that you don't have access to broadband, but have a notebook. Well, just pop in a $50-or-less 802.11b card and head to your local Starbucks. Don't have a computer at all? You could reasonably blog at your local library, or at an Internet cafe. (And many do in the developing nations.)

Not to say that Tom Coates is ignoring the reality of the hardware required, as that is not the point of his post, but I think it is a good parallel train of thought to ponder.

We are at the point where, for a lot of people, the operating system costs as much or more than the actual hardware. If Microsoft had continued to have a stranglehold on the OS market, none of these innovations might have spread to developing nations. But, thanks to Open Source, the software infrastructure is now economically trivial to those nations that can afford the hardware. You can have cheap servers running Linux or BSD, essentially halving the cost of entry these days. Furthermore, you have free, reliable software to run on top of the OS. Would the web really have taken off if Apache never existed?

True, the barrier to hardware access is eroding rapidly, at a pace prophesied by Moore that remains unabated. What is impressive is not the multi-gigahertz figurative behemoths that one can buy for their home (what would've the guy who said that computers would weigh no more than 1.5 tons have to say about that?), but the tiny plastic pieces of crap used for children's toys that have more computing power than my first personal computer had, which, frighteningly, you may very well be able to shove a stripped down version of Linux onto. So the hardware is extremely cheap, the software is essentially free. The only thing that is lacking is the pipe.

The takeoff of wi-fi has the possibility of changing this as well. Public hotspots, ubiquitous wireless routers, cel phone service that is as cheap if not cheaper than copper-wire landline service. The Internet will literally exist invisible in the air between us.

But none of this is a reality yet even in the developed nations. Obviously, the blogosphere is a self-selected sample population. Without delving into the real world, we have no idea how this affects people who are completely off the Internet. (Even now, the mass media has us believing that everyone owns a computer, when in fact this is not the case, anymore than the idea that everyone owns a television is true.)

What is illustrative is that breakthrough innovations always happen from the bottom-up, from the grassroots level, if you will. This is probably the reason why Apple has never become a massive player, because, as innovative as they are, all their innovations have been at the high-end. (Although, if the slide in hardware costs continue unabated, the iPod will change that conventional wisdom. iPods are rapidly becoming ubiquitous. The repeated comparison to the Sony Walkman is apt.) In contrast, this completely describes how the Open Source movement exploded, in that the innovation was not the technology itself, but in the methods of distribution and creation. Similarly, the technology that is changing our society are not those aforementioned multi-gigahertz PCs, but cel phones, which are in fact based on a technology first envisioned in the WWII era, and utilize very inexpensive hardware components. (Why do you think cel phone companies can give these things away for free?) I can imagine that everyone will have a cel phone long before everyone has a PC.

Similarly, what is somewhat ironic is that blogging has brought us back to our text roots. Many blogs, particularly the ones that are maintained sans-PC and sans-paid hosting, are simply text wrapped in HTML and CSS (which itself is nothing more than text) While there is place for Flash and Quicktime and other rich media, as Coates mentioned, the pipes aren't yet big enough, and, well, you can convey quite a bit with just text. (Which argues against the development of a completely post-literal world, but that is another topic.)

Again it is not the technology that is revolutionary, it is the way it is used to create.

It is really democracy in action. Because text is so portable, ubiquitous, and cheap in terms of resources needed to support it, everyone has access to it. You don't need a computer at all. You could use your cel phone, and their increasingly more and more public venues to reach the Internet.

Still, the revolution is in progress, and its completion is still beyond the horizon. Still, it is an interesting step for freedom.

08:18:56 7 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 4 comments

Sat, 06 Sep 2003

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stackable iPods

Let me write this down before I forget about it, but you know what would be really cool? Stackable iPods. An option to daisy chain multiple iPods via Firewire and have the firmware regard them as a single unit. So that you could walk around with iPods strapped to your belt like so many packages of C4, with enough music to let you walk from NYC to L.A. without having to hear a single track twice. What's the URL to Apple's suggestion box, now?

On a related note, instead of Firewire, maybe they could just build in 802.11g or something like that. So you don't have to wear the aforementioned belt of iPods when you just wanted to stroll around or something, but then when you got into your car, with an iPod network sitting in your trunk, you could have all 3 million of your songs at your disposal.

Of course, I have no idea what sort of latency this would impose. I mean, sometimes my 2nd generation completely full 20GB iPod stalls when trying to scan for the next mp3 to play, so who knows what sort of delays you might have to deal with if you had 10 iPods networked together. But then again, people are willing to deal with the delays involved with a CD changer, so how bad could it be?

With the 802.11g option, though, I imagine we'd be dealing with a hell of a lot of RF interference. Maybe you'd have to use Bluetooth?

Well, I am not an engineer. Go to it, boys and girls.

08:42:21 6 Sep 2003 > /computers/macosx/ipod > permalink > 0 comments

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for fuck's sake by robert lasner

I just finished reading For Fuck's Sake by Robert Lasner. It has generally been lauded. I thought it was OK. Maybe I'm unnecessarily critical, since one of my fantasies has been to write a book of my own, and whenever I read the work of one of my alleged peers who has been critically acclaimed, I always unjustifiably think to myself that I could do better, or at least just as good. (Ask me just exactly how much I've written. Go on.)

Anyway, it was somewhat refreshing, though a little disturbing, to find a guy writing about the absurd neuroses that fill his mind while pursuing a woman romantically. This is the kind of shit that I've always been told impugns my manhood. That real men don't think about this shit, that I've got to get a hold of my balls and take charge. Right.

Still, this machismatic message (holy crap, maybe my mind is really scrambled, but I had a tough time deciding whether I should write machismo or masochism. Although, in any culture imbued with Catholicism, they somehow amount to the same thing...) has etched itself into my brain, assimilated into my superego, recorded onto my "parent" tapes. Resulting in the catastrophe that is my love life, no doubt.

For Fuck's Sake is disturbingly, depressingly too much like my life, except that I don't have any of the sex. (In the same way that The House of God is like my career, except that I don't have any of the sex.)

So yeah, ladies, guys actually do think about this kind of crap. Unfortunately, if I'm any barometer on the issue, these same guys are usually very undatable.

07:12:03 6 Sep 2003 > /books > permalink > 0 comments

Fri, 05 Sep 2003

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processing

Ftrain discusses Processing, which is a layer above Java. Why does this make me think of Logo?

Does anyone remember Logowriter? This is what they taught us with in 7th grade, although I had discovered Terrapin Logo earlier. I used it on an Apple IIC at school, but was able to obtain a copy for my Commodore 64 at home. I remember trying to implement some of the things Logowriter could do in Terrapin Logo, without succeeding.

Strangely, I grew jaded with the turtle, and started trying to exploit Logo's Lisp-like text handling capabilities, and bizarrely, trying to write an adventure game, using the turtle graphics for some primitive CG, but alas, it was beyond my ken. And I never did get into Lisp. (The C bigots got to me first, and I learned to despise interpreted languages. Ironically, I'm most comfortable with Perl these days.)

I should've been a computer nerd. But then I'd probably be out of job right about now, too.

23:04:15 5 Sep 2003 > /computers > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 04 Sep 2003

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september

Yeah. This part of the year still makes me sad. You try and pretend that it's still summer, but it's not. Especially not here in Chicago. Over Labor Day weekend the temperature must have dropped 10 degrees.

The thing is, nearly three months of my 4th year of school has been eaten up already. In the time between the conception of an embryo and the delivery of a fetus, I will somehow (1) figure out what I want to do with my life (2) get all the requisite bits and pieces I need to complete my application so that I can match to a residency program (this is where I am completely stuck, and I know that it is going to be a long and painful journey) (3) interview (and I hate interviewing) (4) figure out where I want to go.

I am guaranteed to not have any piece of mind until March. And maybe not even then.

Bah. September always depresses the hell out of me.

17:12:28 4 Sep 2003 > > permalink > 0 comments

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google is god reprised

For some reason, this article entitled "Blogs: Hanging dirty laundry on-line" makes me think of a recently circulating meme "Google is God." Link from littleyellowdifferent. Maybe it's the whole confessional aspect of it. Google as priest.

There is something cathartic about blogging, but there is something disturbing about people suddenly accosting you with things you have blogged. (I'm sure you know what I mean, R. Heh. They aren't kidding about how blogs sometimes degenerate into private messages to people....)

Then there is the anonymity factor. In some professions, this is actually crucial. For example, in medicine, you can't really blog about your patients, not without making yourself anonymous. (Because, believe me, if a patient looked at your blog and found out you were spewing their personal details throughout the net, it wouldn't matter if you didn't use their actual names.) Or, as another example, this soldier who is stranded in Iraq—it might be very detrimental for him to have his identity exposed.

The other thing is that, well, the better you know your audience, the less cavalier you are about spewing certain thoughts. I mean, if I knew that a girl I liked was reading this, you could be sure I would elide all mention of my thoughts about her.

So. The private journal is definitely not obsolete.

That's all I have to say for now.

17:03:07 4 Sep 2003 > /via-trails > permalink > 3 comments

Wed, 03 Sep 2003

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sick in the head

Let me just blog this crap before I go to sleep, get it out of my mind. Make me stop feeling sorry for myself.

But first, let me preface this by saying that I have a lot of really good friends who are always looking out for me, and I know that in some platonic shape and form, I am loved. Let it be known that I am seriously grateful for your friendship. You guys know who you are.

But, yeah, I got to do a procedure today, my first spinal tap, and I got in my first shot, which was pretty cool, and, yeah, I mean, we all have to do them eventually, it's a skill, meaning you can learn it, and sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't, it's a lot of luck, but I still felt pretty slick.

The thing that is sad and pathetic is that a little part of me is sad that there really isn't anyone I can convey my little triumph to. I mean, sure, there is this blog. Hah. Sure, there are my friends. But, honestly, while the ones who are in health care might be momentarily impressed (and the ones who aren't will have no idea what I'm talking about), it's not the same. There is a difference between listening because you're a good friend and caring because you're a good friend, and actually, truly caring about whatever bullshit I'm talking about.

Like I've said time and time again, I need someone who has a stake in title="another old blog entry">what I have to say.

But, still. If only life could be like this. Little triumphs and successes here and there. They're like fuel for the soul. I need this small baby steps like I need oxygen.

Times like this, I wonder what it would be like if only I didn't know what I was missing.

But as they say, I guess you can't put the shit back into the horse.

22:09:44 3 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 4 comments

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a7 "piece of heaven (central seven remix)"

I'm not even really sure that I have the whole song. I wonder what kind of music we'll be listening to once we have private spacecraft. You know, when we're all flying around in a Ford Focus with fusion engines, or a Honda Civic that gets 5 AU per gram of antimatter. (OK, this kind of fantasy requires that there is actually somewhere to go, and somehow to get there without having to traverse all the empty light years of space between star systems. But this is not my point.)

Are you allowed to play music when you're in a fighter plane? (Because by extension, would you be allowed to have play when you're in a fighter starship?) I remember when we were in high school, me and B would play "Wing Commander" (Hmmm, what's the proper way to cite a computer game? With quotes or italics?) It was pretty cool. He would do most of the flying, but I would take care of the weaponry. (Like making sure that we had enough missiles, and cycling through so that he had the right weapon on.) Hmmm. I forget how we divvied up the controls so that we both had to be involved. Anyway, our soundtrack as we flew missions was The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry," some Soft Cell (I especially remember listening to "Sex Dwarf" while blowing away some Kilrathi starfighters), and maybe even some Front 242.

But. My point. If you could have a soundtrack while you were in a starfighter (or, more likely, if you were watching a movie involving a starship battle sequence) this remix of "Piece of Heaven" would be the way to go. (You know, I could actually see a practical use for music inside of combat craft. They pointed it out in this anime, "Neon Genesis Evangelion," where they would synchronize the actions of a battlegroup by training them while listening to the same music. Anyway.)

The mix starts out with what sound like klaxons, probably announcing an enemy attack. "Battlestations!" Then the sirens drop out, leaving a low frequency alternating rhythm that I swear comes straight out of Robotech, like when they're dodging missiles or getting a lock on their target. This plays, I imagine, as the starfighters launch from the capital ship. Then, as the ships hit deep space, the mix launches into a frenetic twisting turning, mimicking the s-curves, twists, and dives that the ships make as they try to evade the enemy missiles. Finally, the sounds fall back to the low-frequency rhythm as the fighter craft close in on the last target, with the song ending as the last enemy ship is blown to smithereens.

Man, I'm whacked. I imagined all this without even taking mind-altering substances.

19:58:52 3 Sep 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 2 comments

Tue, 02 Sep 2003

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brain excrement

Some random thoughts emanating from my brain.

Posting your e-mail address on the Web is worse than writing your phone number in a public bathroom stall.

You know you're a nerd when you see the last name Gibson and immediately think of William Gibson of Neuromancer fame instead of Mel Gibson or of the guitar.

I've got nothing else right now.

14:59:39 2 Sep 2003 > > permalink > 1 comments

Mon, 01 Sep 2003

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targetted advertising

Now, I don't know if this is really targeted advertising, but the ads on amazon.com do tend to shadow whatever it is I have purchased or I have searched for, for example Basic Flight Physiology, given my recent obsession with space medicine.

But then, the second ad on my home page is for the Anna Kournikova Molded Multiway Sports Bra. First off, I was shocked (in a ha-ha funny way) that the tagline for this ad is "Because the only thing that should bounce is the ball." Besides mixing borderline transgendered metaphors (boobs? balls?!), it made me ponder just exactly the kind of in-roads Fox TV has made in our culture. It is now perfectly OK to say things like "ass" and "piss" in cartoons, much less prime time. You can refer to the penis as a "wiener." You can make jokes about clitorises (hmmm, is this Latin? Should it be clitores?)

But back to the point. I was secondly insulted. What is Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com trying to tell me? That I need a bra? That I'm a fucking fat ass with (to steal a phrase from Chuck Palahniuk) "bitch tits"? That I'm a raging alcoholic with severe cirrhosis to the point that I have gynecomastia? Bastards!! (OK, OK, maybe I should cut down on the cimetidine. And the Stoli martinis. Damn. Now I'm really self-conscious.)

At least amazon.com doesn't sell dildoes. (Not "your dildo." "A dildo." Anyway. That's from "Fight Club" [entry on imdb.com][Project Mayhem])

14:07:58 1 Sep 2003 > /computers/AI > permalink > 0 comments

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movie watch

Ah. "Gigli." Joining the ranks (no pun intended) of those fantastic cinematic disasters, like "Ishtar" and "Howard the Duck," comes this wondrous flick starring J Lo and Ben Affleck. I remember gazing up at a billboard riding westbound on the Santa Monica Freeway, wondering aloud what the hell this could possibly be. I don't mean to be sexist in any way, but, seriously, "Gigli" makes me think of something soft and effeminate. I was not thinking of a gangster movie.

Anyway, on with the "Gigli" bashing: Thoughts while watching "Gigli" on allaboutgeorge.com. (Link from littleyellowdifferent.com.)

Changing gears entirely, I caught bits and pieces of "Excess Baggage" last night. Now I had heard that it was a pretty bad movie, and despite warnings from my sister that Benicio del Toro's character seems unnecessarily, ah, cognitively delayed (the current politically correct term for mental retardation), I couldn't resist. Benicio del Toro is one of my heroes. Now, maybe the chemistry between Benicio and Alicia Silverstone is perhaps a little unbelievable. Maybe that's just my bias. But seriously, a movie with not just Benicio del Toro, but Christopher Walken! They needed more onscreen time together, damnit!

I am, of course, now searching futiley for that Car's song "All Mixed Up," which was both in the film and in the closing credits. I don't know. I guess I'm in a sappy sentimental mood.

13:45:11 1 Sep 2003 > /movies > permalink > 0 comments

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end stage soul disease

I decided to recategorize some of the entries of this blog, now accessible through http://blog.fatoprofugus.net/soul. This is basically a continuation of my old blog, congestive soul failure (I tried to emulate the stylesheet), covering my love life, or more accurately, my lack thereof, as well as my struggle with depression. Of course, you can continue to read about all that here as well, except it will be occasionally punctuated by nerdy computer stuff.

10:45:12 1 Sep 2003 > /meta > permalink > 0 comments