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January 2001

Tuesday 1-31
The saga of my keys brings to mind that optimistic philosophy about lost objects I got out of Radix by A. A. Attanasio -- They're not lost, just on their way back. I should read more of his books -- I got that one because mid-90s Usenet postings placed it on lists of 'cyberpunk,' a classification which seems a tad simplistic.
Tuesday 1-30
The mighty Tercel is in the shop for an engine overhaul -- it's been drinking oil and acting sluggish for a while, probably needs new piston rings, will cost over $2K -- yikes! Of course I could get a rental for the duration but will instead attempt a week-long return to my car-free ways of the late 70s, relying on bicycle and public transport only. There was some good news today: I got my lost keys back. They never made it off-base, apparently; and the numbers on the two stamped "U.S. Government -- Do Not Duplicate" provided the requisite identification leading to their return. However, somewhere during their journey, the "Tinker" Swiss Army knife I bought in Zürich was removed from the key-ring.
Monday 1-29
Spent the weekend showing a special visitor around town; finally attended a show at the Audium and found the experience quite enjoyable. Also, returned to the Exploratorium in the Palace of Fine Arts. During my first extended tour of San Francisco, in 1976, the trip to this hands-on science museum and educational space was quite memorable, this time less so and rather exhausting -- a lot of the exhibits show their age, and are frankly kinda beat up -- it's obvious that a LOT of people have visited, many of them kids who don't really understand what's going on... but the Tactile Dome was great.

"Chad" -- added to the popular vocabulary late last year; I already knew what it was, had occasionally harvested quantities from those hoppers in a keypunch machine, even before I'd used the cards to program. Later I learned how using it as confetti was discouraged, because the sharp corners of the chads could cause eye-damage. Loved the Hollerith cards, continue using them for notecards they became obsolete. Lost track of my IBM Green Card ages ago, so had no reference when wondering recently about the specifics of the card code, punches to characters -- only have a couple actually punched in my stash, and only one of those was "interpreted" -- not enough to decode. Bebop Bytes, has enough info, including a blurry GIF of a 'key' card (like I'd punched in the past and wish I'd retained) -- but even better, Jonathon of UCLA has created an online substitute, input a string and it instantly creates a picture of its card in a .facx image format. If you want some blank cards, see Jef's Web Page -- says he'll mail you a bunch in a SASE.

Thursday 1-25
One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

The Delai Lama slams the prosletyzers:

"Whether Hindu or Muslim or Christian, whoever tries to convert, it's wrong, not good... I always believe it's safer and better and reasonable to keep one's own tradition or belief," the Dalai Lama, a winner of the Nobel peace prize, said. He spoke after the Hindu Council's general secretary, Ashok Singhal, had said, "Buddhism, Hinduism and other non-aggressive religions have to unite to douse Islam ... an aggressive religion."
(He was quoted while attending the Kumbh Mela.)

One of the oldest pages on this site is the Howard Johnson's Restaurant Guide, inspired, in part, by their tradition of superior nut ice cream flavors: real Pistachio (as opposed to the common, bogus pistachio-flavored Pistachio-Almond), and Chocolate Almond made with the crunchier roasted almonds. Regretfully, my tribute is based on memory rather than any recent visits to the few extant restaurants, and the Hojomaniac's Under the Orange Roof reports that

So many restaurants are closing that it is doubtful that Howard Johnson's will survive the year 2001.
(His site maintains a more up-to-date Guide.)

Wednesday 1-24
From the Washington Post: Intruder Shook Bush's Hand -- the very idea!
The police and the SS would confirm only that a man had obtained what they termed an "unscheduled handshake" with Bush.
And they're outraged, because the same guy did it, again without proper clearance, with President Clinton at his inauguration, in '96.

What sounds like a fascinating new book: Constantine's Sword by James Carroll -- before becoming a writer, he was a Catholic priest; he's wrestling with the Church's policies of anti-semitism. It opens with his on-site contemplation of the cross(es) installed at Auschwitz, which provoked bitter conflict over the past two decades. This review includes the first chapter.
(Thanks Follow Me Here)

An American CD case is a big, fast-loading GIF of instructions for folding a slick square envelope from an 8½ by 11 sheet of paper. Got the link off Bifurcated Rivets; Lindsay calls it origami but since the source sheet isn't square I beg to differ. (Always use the plastic jewel cases myself -- if the disk comes in something cardboard I swap it out.)

Monday 1-22
Quote for the Day:
If you are in an interesting area, in a place where you have never been before, and you have twenty bucks in your pocket -- you own the world.
It's from Highway Hokkaido Blues, the best travel book about Japan I've ever read. Too bad the publication of a paperback edition seems unlikely. More information about it here.

Seeking new weblogs I found the excellent All About George, who remembers

participating in a mock election in the third grade, 20 years ago, in a Montgomery County elementary school about a week before the 1980 election. I think Reagan trounced Carter by 3-to-1 among my classmates. When the results were announced over the school loudspeaker, I put my head down on my desk, genuinely shocked at the margin. It was disquieting to realize that the cheering kids around me saw the world differently, even if they were just parrotting their parents' opinions.
It really is discouraging, how effective their propaganda campaign has been... Anyway, he used that story as prelude to excerpts from Conservative Rage vs Liberal Guilt, an essay by David Morris which echoes the same "rage" theme articulated by Jon Carroll earlier this month.

Sunday 1-21
Prudie tackles the problem of prosletyzing grandparents in Slate:
It is sad, but true, that much damage has been done in the name of religion. As one sage put it, "Religious wars are basically people killing each other over who has the better imaginary friend."
The Babylon of Tiki Cities:
The tikiroom.com crew arrived at closing time, so they only got a five-minute tour of Oceanic Arts in Whittier, but they took lots of pictures. It's the place to go when you're furnishing a Polynesian restaurant.
Friday 1-19
The Lexicon section of the Urban Geekosphere isn't as volumnious and technical as the Hacker Dictionary, but it has a refreshing gamer and Japanese/anime perspective; seems a little more contemporary. Examples: infonesia and its subset, internesia.

While walking in Palo Alto the other day, a Sparrow whizzed past. Intriguing -- an enclosed, three-wheeled electric vehicle, runs about $15,000; they're manufactured by a Hollister, California company called Corbin Motors (that link's annoying, their top-level insists on Javascript and some of the site's images are tarted up with that silly Java reflective-water effect). The Sparrow is classified as a motorcycle; Hollister, after all, is biker country -- lots of cycle shops, with history -- it's where the 1947 riot occurred, inspiraton for "The Wild One." For more information about three-wheeled vehicles (some quite radical) check Jim's page.

Wednesday 1-17
Attention homeowners:
Join the Arbor Day Foundation and get ten saplings -- free! (Well, almost -- just for the price of a $10 donation -- a dollar a tree!)
(Thanks GirlHacker)
Monday 1-15
Riding my bike home from work today, it seems my keys fell out of my pocket, somehow. Retraced my route, but couln't find -- sometimes it feels as if my system's just falling apart.

Scared about the meat we eat? If not, read this and you will be.

Very long article (my eyes glazed over after a couple pages), How Not to Teach Values, detailing the fascist indoctrination going on in our public schools today:

On an enormous wall near the cafeteria, professionally painted Peanuts characters instruct children: "Never talk in line."
I wonder, which characters? Lucy, the obvious choice, or perhaps the submissive Marcie; but coming from Linus it would be a matter for debate, and from Charlie Brown (or in a Snoopy thought balloon), almost an invitation for horseplay. Who better? Superman? Ned Flanders or Hank Hill? Sergeant Schulz?

Sunday 1-14
While searching on something entirely unrelated, came across this Byrds FAQ -- it's about as legitimate as they come -- compiled and edited by Roger McGuinn.
Why did Jim McGuinn change his name to Roger?

Jim was born James Joseph McGuinn III. He changed his name in 1967 because a guru in Indonesia said that a new name would vibrate better with the universe. The guru sent Jim the letter "R" and asked him to send back ten names starting with that letter. Because Jim was into gadgets and Sci-Fi, he sent names like "Rocket" and "Ramjet." He included the name Roger only because they use it for radio messages to indicate "OKAY." Roger was the only "real" name in the bunch and the guru picked it.

  Good Dilbert today. "That sounds like a fancy way of saying Randy is an idiot." (When did they abandon their thirty-day delay?) Bad Dilbert yesterday, when I opened my mailbox to find him on the cover of the latest Lands' End catalog.

At the comics store, the latest issue of Too Much Coffee Man, #10 -- says it's the last. In a response on the letters page, Shannon asks the right questions:

What's going on with our post office? They've become an advertising platform for Hollywood. When did we vote on that? If they sell ads, then why don't they lower the postage rate? Can I advertise at the post office? Is it only limited to crappy movies?

Thursday 1-12
Over the past few days the weblogs have been all abuzz about Ginger, or "IT" (the big eye-tee!) -- a Dean Kamen invention which is seemingly half a scooter stabilized with miniature gyroscopes. Check Boing Boing's entry for Wednesday, he's got a bunch of links and verbiage; or just jump right into the diagram section of this (legitimate?) technical document -- two wheels, or just one. Quite frankly, I'm skeptical -- this may be a hoax, or at least some kind of ruse.

Over time I've grown to despise the Grinch. Sure, initially he was fun -- that was before the book -- others are probably more familiar with him in that format, but in the early years my beloved, frugal Mom would pull out the tattered newsprint where he'd first appeared (a special supplement to the Sunday funnies) and read us the story each holiday season. Then came the TV special, with its bad music -- oh, I know some people like it, and the Who-song is okay, but Thurl "Tony the Tiger" Ravenscroft's singing makes me cringe. And now this new movie, how they got the Post Office to advertise it (excessively) is beyond me, just evil. But a new version has just appeared, which is excellent: How the Grinch stole America (with apologies to Dr. Seuss), by Salman Rushdie.
(Thanks whump.com)

Thursday 1-11
Stephen's Guide to the Logical Fallacies -- although quite enlightening, especially its illustrative examples, the guide doesn't seem to include the Pathetic Fallacy, a term of which I recently became aware -- it means reading human attributes into the inhuman, like both personification or anthropomorphization, but is a lot more fun to use.

Thoughtful Feed essay by Erik Davis, triggered by his unsettling experience with the new OnStar system in a rental Impala:

For a few seconds, I had entered Philip K. Dick land: my radio suddenly and pointedly spoke directly to me. Moreover, the voice knew exactly where I was... In a beat, reality seemed to fold inside out, the general became particular. This is what paranoid schizophrenics might feel like at the beginning of an episode.
He also mentions those little antisocial wormholes that cell phones open up in the midst of public space -- sometimes they irritate me so much I position myself directly in front of the guilty party, moving in slightly, violating their personal space, glaring, even clenching my fists. Still they prattle on, oblivious.

Tuesday 1-9
While searching for information about specific family crests, or kamon, I came across this great page about Investigating Patterns -- seems like a teaching aid, probably for some class; but it's a perfect example of what a web page should be like -- simple HTML, interesting content (with links to more info), and small images. Nowadays it seems very archaic.

Lileks confronts his geekiness via "Battlestar Galactica" reflection and critique in today's Bleat, which segues into more 1980 musings on "The Black Hole."

Vegemite Rules!

Sunday 1-7
Fascinating report about abandoned NSA listening post near Asheville.
(Thanks Jorn)
Saturday 1-6
Although the data is still being analyzed, and its closest approach was just a couple days ago, the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory of Operations released this image gallery of the Jovian fly-by on Christmas. Imagine we'll be hearing a lot more from CICLOPS when the spacecraft finally reaches Saturn in 2004. For a quick view of its Jupiter encounter see the Astro Pic of the Day for last Tuesday.
Thursday 1-4
Slate has posted a fascinating report, an introverted consumer's test of Paxil, the new mood-altering drug being marketed as a cure for shyness: Was a smoother, suaver Seth just 20 milligrams away? Conclusion: sorta, although it was transforming him into an alcoholic -- his main focus is an insight into why those boozey people in bars get along so well. The "zaps" Seth experienced during withdrawal sound terrifying.

Check the product line from Fuzhou Nine Stars Group. (The site's design is mildly annoying, but the text has that flowery but slightly inept oriental translation style which can be amusing.) Their "Mighty Healer" adds an electric jolt to the traditional acupuncture needle -- would you submit to such a treatment? I sure wouldn't. But I would like to play with an Electronic Mosquito Swatter -- sounds like a Tom Swift invention. Upon reflection, however, I can't see how it would work -- the whole problem with skeeters is they're stealthy, you don't notice 'em until it's too late; but maybe their attributes are more like flies, in China?
(Thanks Lindsay)

Tuesday 1-2
Ray's List of Weird and Disgusting Foods (inspired by the durian). Amazing compendium of the vile, and our own culture is not spared.

Speaking of food, The Atlantic has an eye-opening article, Why McDonald's Fries Taste So Good -- delves into Artifical and Natural Flavor ingredients, and why they're both manufactured in New Jersey. Includes this little factoid:

On average, Americans now eat about four servings of french fries every week.
Too weird -- seems like I only have pommes frittes about four times a year. To each his own, I guess -- but then, I'm probably a certified 'health nut' to the great unwashed.

New Notes and Recommendations starts out with fascinating musings about the computer newbie's mental processes:

The underlying problem, evidently, is that the feeling of not-knowing-what-to-do is intolerable. They think they ought to know what to do, and they feel stupid because they don't, so they guess.

What's worse, in many people this great fear of not-knowing-what-to-do is combined with an equally great fear of breaking something.

If I'd read this first, that Maximize Screens study Ember was passing around a couple years back wouldn't have been so perplexing to me.

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