Robot Wisdom WebLog for August 1998 (waning)

Fri, Aug 21, 1998 (New Moon at 21:04 CDT)

Switchboard knows uncanny amounts about your neighborhood: [Coppersky]

Joseph Banks's 1769 account of South Sea islanders: [multipage] [Messy URL]

I shall now mention their method of Painting their bodies or Tattow as it is calld in their language. This they do by inlaying the colour of Black under their skins in such a manner as to be indelible; every one is markd thus in different parts of his body according may be to his humour or different circumstances of his life. Some have ill designd figures of men, birds or dogs, but they more generaly have this figure Z eitheir simply, as the women are generaly marked with it, on every Joint of their fingers and toes and often round the outside of their feet, or in different figures of it as square, circles, crescents &c. which both sexes have on their arms and leggs; in short they have an infinite diversity of figures in which they place this mark and some of them we were told had significations but this we never learnt to our satisfaction.

Besides this they dance especialy the young girls whenever they can collect 8 or 10 together, singing most indecent words using most indecent actions and setting their mouths askew in a most extrordinary manner, in the practise of which they are brought up from their earlyest childhood; in doing this they keep time to a surprizing nicety, I might almost say as true as any dancers I have seen in Europe tho their time is certainly much more simple.

Their Language appeard to me to be very soft and tuneable, it abounds much with vowels and was very easily pronounc'd by us when ours was to them absolutely impracticable.

      Poe             Beads
      Poe Matawewwe   Pearl
      Aporema         the hand
      Manneow         the fingers
      Miti            good
      Eno             Bad
      A               Yes
      ima             no
      Nenenne         sweet
      Mahanna         the Sun
      Malama          the Moon

Their Preists however have not Ideas sufficiently enlarg'd to adopt that of Creation: that this world should have been originaly created from nothing far surpasses their comprehension. They observd however that every animal and every plant producd new ones by procreation and adopted the Idea; hence it is necessary to suppose two original beings one of whom they call Ettoomoo and the other which they say was a rock Tepapa; these at some very remote period of time, and by the common means allowd to us males and females their children, begat all that is seen or known of by us; some things however they imagine have increasd among themselves, as the Stars, the different species of plants, and even the different divisions of Time; the Years say they producd the Months who intermingling with each other produc'd the days.

Marriage is [in] these Islands no more than an agreement between the man and the woman totaly independent of the preist, it is in general I beleive pretty well kept unless they agree to seperate, which is done with as little trouble as they came together. Few people however enter this state but rather chuse freedom in their Amours, tho bought at the inhuman expence of murthering their children, whose fate is in that case intirely dependant on the father; who if he does not chuse to acknowledge both them and the woman and engage to contribute his part towards their support, orders them to be strangled which is instantly put in execution.

[Blurry] Thomas Pynchon got photographed:

Pynchon was agitated. He looked forlorn. For a flash, I recalled the expression on the faces of peasant women in poor counties when a tourist from a richer land snaps their portrait to take back home. I extended my hand to placate him, a gesture of reassurance. At last, the great novelist spoke: "Get your f___ing hand away from me," he bellowed. "I don't like people taking my picture!"

New Science News looks at ice ages

Participate in the Harris Poll and win valuable prizes:

The Gallup Poll site: [Feed]

      ...Still thinking about Clinton's speech last night, in
      general, do you think:
      He was completely open and honest about the
      Monica Lewinsky matter                           29%
      He told the truth on some matters, but tried to
      mislead the public on other matters              61

How people used to spend their travel time:

One man who traveled extensively during the summer of 1856 polled 2,886 people during his trips through the Northeast. All twenty-three of the individual votes taken during his train rides were published by The New York Times.

Cool Science: traffic physics: [NTK]

But notice an interesting thing: even though the CARS THEMSELVES are moving from right to left, the "wave of evaporation" moves in the opposite direction. It moves leftwards as it eats into the traffic jam.

A new long truelife adventure from Doctress Neutopia:

...I so much wanted to give him a copy of the manuscript I had compiled from our email correspondence and the story of censorship I had experienced at the Global Ecovillages Listserv "Ecobalance." During the reception, I contemplated walking up to him to give him a copy of our correspondence. But I just couldn't get my nerve up even after drinking three glasses of wine! When I tried to get closer to him, I realized my heart started to soften and say that maybe if he read the manuscript, he would love me...

Mr. Wik bent down and whispered something into the moderator's ear. The moderator interrupted by saying that what was going on between us was personal and that Mr. Wik would be willing to talk with me after the panel was over.

Roger Doudna, a member of the ecovillage network, an American living at the Findhorn Community, asked if I would join him for a beer. I agreed and he sat beside me asking me how I was feeling about what had happened to me during the conference. I was having to hold back my tears because my heart was in so much pain.

I recalled the words of Albert during my visit at The Farm while we were walking through the organic garden. It was the most romantic setting after just picking vegetables from the garden in the moonlight before the first frost, and I said, "Albert, I would like to make the ecovillage my home." He responded curtly, "Then, build your own ecovillage!"

...He explained that when the kibbutz movement first began everything was egalitarian, even the smallest details about daily life such as shirts. When workers would come in from the fields, they would take off their dirty shirt and pick up a new one from the pile of clean ones. It didn't matter if the shirt was too big or too small, you picked up the one on top.

...He announced to me that his relationship with his daughter came first and if she wanted to sleep with him, then she got want she wanted even if I didn't like it though I was paying for the whole establishment. So you can see that his loyalty was to his daughter, not with me, his peer. When I insisted Ashaya not sleep with us, Nancy, his common-law wife heard about it from the child and told me that Adam could never see his child again unless I left the island.

Ivan was interested in hearing my opinion about prostitution. Looking at the young women in the store-front windows made me feel so vulnerable. If it had not been for the financial support from my mother, it could have been me sitting in the windows objectifying my sex in order to make money to survive.

Eventually he wanted me to be his dominatrix, gag him and tie him to the bed post. ... One day when this performance occurred, I got the impulse to strangle him. It would have been so easy to have just put a necktie around his neck since he would have not been able to fight back. I was overcome with Thanatos.

Ivan asked me if I would be at the next Communal Studies Conference three years from now. Wait a minute! Last year, I had heard that same line from good old boy, Albert! Once a year he wanted me to meet him at different utopian conferences...

Walking through the hallways of the palace I came to the balcony. It was there that I wanted to break open the windows, climb onto the balcony and give a speech to the people on Dam Square about the insurrection that needs to happen if we are going to ever be free.

US ex-slaves recall their treatment: [Explorator]

The print interviews were part of the Federal Writers' Project, a Works Progress Administration effort to employ Depression-era writers. Participants interviewed thousands of former slaves between 1936 and 1938.

[Andrea Martin] manages to be continually funny thru pure nostalgia:

So many of you guys seem to have the hots for Edith Prickley. I must admit, she's a role model for me of sorts. I loved the one where she looked at herself in the mirror, makes a face of revulsion and says "Open up the kennels, Clarence, I'm comin' in tonight!" Since then I've said that many a night before going out, when I've been working on myself for hours and still don't like the way I look. [Pic source]

Kibo deconstructs a FREE Classic Science Fiction Book [Deja URL]

And! I! WONDER! Why! This! BOOK! Was! REJECTED! By! All! Those! EDITORS! CAPITAL! Letters! Courtesy! JACK!!! PALANCE!!!

...Also I was not lying when I said I didn't have sex with Monica Lewinsky, and I had sex with Monica Lewinsky, and I am not perjuring myself because I am telling the truth now while I am lying.

Somewhere came the distant thunder of a paragraph coming to a close with a wet thud. I ducked behind a five-dimensional pricker bush as another paragraph opened up beneath me.

My loins exploded with space delight. THE END!

Yikes: Has The Onion managed to fool PC Mag?

Last weekend I headed for the heart of New York's financial district, where the local Burger King (at Broadway and John St.) is now offering 20 minutes of Web access with any burger purchase of $4.99 or more. ... The first thing I found out was that you get Web access whether you ask for it or not. Along with your receipt, the cashier hands you a slip of paper with a six-letter password.

Before you can start surfing, you have to read and agree with Burger King's terms of service, which basically assert that Burger King is a family restaurant, and you should keep that in mind as you prowl the Web.

Don't miss: this Russian Mir parody: [NASA Watch]

Baturin: (spluttering) Actually, I came to do um... to do... a whole series of office-related experiments - you know, the ah, the effect of weightlessness on triplicate carbon forms... the use of white-out in a gravity-free environment... the effectiveness of the inter-module memo...

Pirate utopias, for yuppies?

The ResidenSea (which begins construction this year) is to be 958 feet long with gross tonnage of 86,000 tonnes. It is certified to accommodate 1100 residents/guests and 500 crew members. ... Contrast this with the planned Freedom Ship which is to be 4,320 feet (1.32km) long with gross tonnage of 2.7 million tonnes and capacity for 70,000 residents/guests (in 20,000 apartments) and 15,000 staff.

Somewhat incoherent account of rebuilding a daVinci automaton: [RealVid helps a little]

Thu, Aug 20, 1998

New The Nation featuring MonicaGate includes much honorable hand-wringing, plus this righteous Cockburnian schadenfreude:

With any luck, Bill Clinton's impeachment will be our caviar. How I yearn for it! To watch Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde and Orrin Hatch pacing the battlements of moral rectitude will be as heady a tonic as was the French Revolution to young Wordsworth. Bliss it is in this dawn to be alive! It could be as great a carnival of hypocrisy as this nation has ever seen.

Salon compares the Rat Pack to "The View":

Like the Rat Pack, it's all about freedom in an uptight world. Vieira, Walters, et al., have confessed to a lot of things on the show that women are supposed to feel guilty about: forgetting to vote, being too lazy to exercise, hating skinny models, letting the kids watch too much TV, admiring Hollywood's latest hunk. And, apparently, they don't care what people think.

Did the Avengers create the Sixties?

Certainly "The Avengers" influenced me. The show's irony, style and sophisticated flippancy -- and the teasing, indefinable chemistry between Macnee and Rigg -- planted ideas that I believe in to this day. That equal friendships are possible between men and women without either denying their sexuality. That style is a form of ethics. That work should be play. That tradition and innovation can be integrated.

[Color credits w/gun] Diana Rigg bio:

Macnee found out much later that Rigg believed she had only two friends on the set: him, and the driver who took her to the studio every morning. [Pic source]

An old page of excellent Wired tidbits just turned up on NewsTracker:

The complex task of comparing healthy and sick genes is simplified by studying the DNA of the Icelandic natives, whose genes have been free from major outside influences since the Vikings settled the isolated nation 1,000 years ago.

A different truth about Lolita: [Deja URL]

I remembered being left in the care of an old couple, when I was 11 years old, when my parents went out one night. I remember being friendly, smiling, and then having the old man put his hand on my thigh and look at me. I instantly recoiled in absolute horror and quickly ran upstairs. That's all there was to it, but I quaked with dread. Kisses from uncles and older boy-cousins can create the same sensation of being faced with the unspeakable.

How the one-percent live: [multipage] [OSRR]

Once you've got your housing and wine supply squared away, you can attend to the real point of becoming wretchedly wealthy: satisfying your every desire. ... "Our economy has created so much wealth that people can ask for service on a silver platter. If you've got $100 million and want to play, we'll help you."

Wed, Aug 19, 1998

TV 2nite: Rufus Wainwright on Conan

Michael Milken is quietly trying to corner the education market:

Very soon now, Knowledge Universe hopes to offer a full spectrum of educational products and services aimed at every age group -- a so-called cradle-to-grave approach. And across that spectrum the company has identified 31 industry segments it wants to get into, from publishing to training to toys.

TrendWatch: math is hot:

Irresistable stuff: an algebraic breakthough, Professor Borcherds helpfully explained, allowed him to "prove the moonshine conjectures of the monster simple group".

An amazing sweet story of marriage renewed:

She and Lou had to reclaim the house. They both understood this. Holding her hand, he stepped into the hallway first. He had always been braver than she was.

(Take an extra minute to ponder the title!)

New New Scientist looks at quantum randomness

The NY Post has a good summary of MonicaGate blurbs: and another of world press reactions: (agc)

"This is a country where a dual morality, hypocrisy and nonsense have been allowed to dominate politics and the mass media for years, and this doesn't make it look so reliable as a world policeman," the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet said.

DC Dave rewrites Clinton's speech: [Deja URL]

And I'm not sure the plump little vixen didn't know that that Tripp woman was taping their phone conversations from the beginning. I think both of them might have been spooked when Monica's former-intern friend, Caity Mahoney, got whacked at the Georgetown Starbucks last summer. Getting it all down on tape and spread around was almost as clever a way of protecting herself as hiding that stained dress away. You know the taping started at about the same time as the Starbucks murders, don't you?

An appalling expose by CJR on how the news magazines sell their souls for a good interview, or 'get':

Since Ginsburg had made it clear that anyone who said something he didn't like would be frozen out, most news operations were excessively nice to him when he was Monica's lawyer.

Barbara Walters, who finally got the Powell "get," wrote the general an offer he couldn't refuse: "I hope that the book is coming along well and that we might start thinking about when we might do an interview based on your book. We would give it an enormous amount of time and attention, as well as a huge audience. I promise it will be a wonderful send-off for the book."

And a GREAT issue of their Darts and Laurels bits:

The Times's description of that still-at-large suspect ranged from gender, height, and weight to baseball cap, sweatshirt, jacket, clothing labels, and manner of speech. Although it gave readers no clue as to the suspect's race, it did manage to inform them about the condition of his nails.

Tue, Aug 18, 1998

Fantasia live, underwater; plus a native American dance troupe:

...some of Twist's most inspired creations -- a school of fabric minnows with tiny lights for heads appears when bright notes dart above the "Dies Irae"'s somber death call -- make you see more deeply into the music.

And funny reviews of midseason TV:

If a fig leaf of quaintness is what's required to get teenage doping alluded to without censoriousness, I'm not about to complain; still, the best reason to catch That '70s Show before it's canceled is so you can say you were onto Laura Prepon early. Playing Topher's best pal, she's got more amused poise and presence than the scripts know what to do with. She also actually does remind me of the girls I went to high school with, another reason she's slightly out of place here.

A Luddite transcribes a Ziff-Davis techno-porn video: [Deja URL]

...even making allowances for the fact that it is intended for promotional purposes, this video is meant in all seriousness as a reasonable statement of reasonable beliefs. As such, it is a truly HIGH CAMP document of our time and our current madness.

...shifting clouds in black and white, clouds turn technicolor and shift much more rapidly, music reaches utter climax, against clouds we see the words: BELIEVE IN TECHNOLOGY, followed by "Ziff-Davis, a Soft Bank Company"

New Village Voice includes a detailed profile of the suspected African bomber:

The 17th of 52 children sired by Saudi Arabia's wealthiest construction magnate, Osama controls $250 million of the $5 billion Bin Ladin family kitty -- money made largely by building homes, offices, and mosques for the House of Saud. But since the age of 16, when he became involved with radical religious groups, Bin Ladin has been less interested in making money than using it in defense of his concept of Islam.

During his five years in Sudan, Bin Ladin's camps trained hundreds of recruits from places like Algeria, Bosnia, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Somalia. The course of instruction, says the ex-agent, focused on three major areas. One was the fabrication of travel documents. The second was low-tech covert communications -- from basic encryption to use of invisible ink. In light of recent events, however, it is the third area that may be most interesting: the use of small arms and explosives.

In the meantime, national security expert Armstrong offers a suggestion: "The CIA might do better to figure out what the U.S. could do to support our friends without making regimes so ostentatiously corrupt that they end up giving credence to Bin Ladin."

HotBot's Electric Library certainly gives a different set of replies to my standard "James Joyce" test query: [30 day free sample w/registration]

New Progressive Review offers a cluster-bomb of pre- and post-mortem quotes:

"He had sex with Monica, but it wasn't memorable sex." -- Arriana Huffington on how Clinton might have gotten out of his mess

Request: My.Excite's Doonesbury link is now two weeks behind. Does anyone have an URL that gets you today's, without foofarah?

Email anecdote from Coyote:

I read somewhere that an object moving randomly will tend to gravitate around a single point, like "a drunk wandering around a lamppost". One night, several years ago, a friend and I decided to test this idea while we were driving around with nothing to do. We tossed a coin and let it decide our next move. If it came up heads, we'd take the next right; if tails, the next left. We drove over all, down country roads I never knew existed, but after only 30-some tosses of the coin, we were right back where we started. Considering how far we'd gone, we decided to quit while we still had a good story to tell...

One of my favorite writers, Blanche McCrary Boyd, has put the first three chapters of her latest novel online. It shares her amazing, apparently true adventures in a subculture most people never knew existed: [multipage, frames, RealAudio too] [via Nerve] [noframes version]

In 1970 I realized that the Sixties were passing me by. I had never even smoked a joint or slept with anyone besides my husband. A year later I had left Nicky, changed my name from Ellen to Rain, and moved to a radical lesbian commune in California named Red Moon Rising, where I was playing the Ten of Hearts in an outdoor production of 'Alice in Wonderland' when two FBI agents arrived to arrest the Red Queen...

An alternate intro to Boyd, c1978:

We reached the last cakra, and after three days of chanting, there was finally silence. The leader said Om, and I felt as if two hinged flaps on the top of my head opened upward. A white light poured out. The release was unexpected and surprisingly gentle. My mind felt like a countertop that had been wiped clean. For several days I initiated no conversations, and when spoken to, I would sometimes forget to reply.

Noise and falling, scientists say, are the only fears we're born with; all our others are learned, acquired. Maybe my choice of Esalen workshops indicated a personality pattern, because, in the past four months, since I have returned to live in the town where I grew up, I have developed two new interests: skydiving and stock-car racing. Falling and noise.

Recently a New York friend came to visit me here in Charleston. We went to a Rites of Spring party on a magnificent plantation on the Ashley River. In the evening there was an oyster roast in a grove of dogwoods, camellias, azaleas. Two young women began to wrestle on the ground and everyone gathered around them chanting, "Rut, rut, rut." My friend said, "I never saw anything quite like it."

I had never experienced noise and speed straight up before, like bourbon. My chest cavity was vibrating. So were the bleachers. I began to feel oddly happy. "IT'S LIKE A RAMONES CONCERT WITHOUT THE MUSIC!" There was a twelve-car wreck. "YAAAAAAYYYYYYY," sang the kids in front of the bleachers.

Then came the parade of tow trucks. Eight of them. I ate a piece of chicken and popped my fifth beer. I was not so much bored now as bewildered. "Why did they bring the tow trucks by?" I asked. No one answered.

The noise ran up my arms, through my shoulders, past my neck, into my head. It ran down my chest, through my waist and hips, down my legs. It came up through my feet. I felt like a tuning fork. I lasted about ten seconds. When I got back to my seat, I felt wonderful.

We had gotten away from the Darlington traffic arteries, and the crowd at Shoney's were on their way home from Sunday-evening church. They held their forks furtively over slices of strawberry pie. "Look how guilty they act," my sister whispered. "They're even afraid to eat."

WPost post-mortem: (they phoned all the players for comments) [OSRR]

Dick Morris: "...The staff are like blockers in a football game. Their job is to get beaten up. And any of them who were dumb enough to actually believe Clinton's stories deserve what happens to them." ... "He literally, in my judgment, thought about his capacity to truthfully deny a sexual relationship while he was having sex."

Dee Dee Myers: "He has a history of explaining. ... He believes that character is an evolving thing."

Carville: "I have a hard time blaming somebody for something I've been tempted to do myself. I'm not in an awkward position. I'm a Frenchman, man. I don't see any crime here..."

(Primary Colors opens with Carville exposing himself to a 'muffin' aka campaign volunteer.)

Question for Clinton defenders: If he's basically trying to do the best he can within the system ...where was this last night? I saw a lying worm, and a bully on his last legs.

Surreal: Ibiza fashion tips: [Messy URL]

The Ibiza look mixes rich hippy with traveller chic. Boys and girls, hair matted by the sea, display their piercings and tattoos (Chinese dragons are fast replacing tribal markings).

Neo-Woodstock review:

He dedicated "Behind Blue Eyes" to the late political activist Abbie Hoffman, whom Townshend had booted off the stage at Woodstock during the Who's set. Calling Hoffman a "Chicago revolutionist who could go off a little--like me..."

Mon, Aug 17, 1998

TV 2nite: Michael Moore on Politically Incorrect

A 12th C argument against non-het sex, using a grammatical metaphor:

"In addition to this ... the conjugations should restrict themselves entirely to ... the transitive and should not admit intransitive, reflexive or passive forms..."

Feed has a nice multimedia tribute to the great shots of movie history: [multipage, QuickTime]

We focus on our main characters, not talking much, while outside, a young girl gets out of a van, grabs her things, and walks out of frame. The camera pans to the door and stays. The girl however does not come in. Instead, she gets in the car of the main characters who are sitting in the cafe. They don't know she has hopped in their car, and in fact, they don't even know her. The shot reflects the deadpan, non-judgmental tone of the film and its characters as well as the incongruous way young people on the road in the '60s and early '70s ended up in each other's lives.

Lots more great Progressive Review:

DEBORAH ORIN: What do you think the bottom line will be?
LUCIANNE GOLDBERG: I think an irrevocably damaged presidency. I think he will probably sort of be like O.J. Simpson in the White House - all golf, no dating.

Brinkley did not name the previous presidents who have had so many associates convicted, so many witnesses against them die suddenly, and so many other witnesses take the Fifth Amendment or flee the country.

Sun, Aug 16, 1998

Tom Tomorrow's Presidential Truman Show:

Lisa Rea's picked a stage name, for if she ever takes up the blues: [Deja URL]

Constipated Muskmelon Nixon

All about robot dogs:

"It looks much smarter than it really is," Miller of the KISS Institute said after playing with a prototype. "It looks like it was made primarily out of Sony camcorder components." Sony officials said a robotic dog could be ready for market by 2000.

Poverty and micro-lending:

In their workplace/home, Myrna and her husband work all day cutting the cloth into different shapes and sizes. Their only cutting tool is a well-worn 9-year-old pair of scissors they take turns using. Because the scissors are old, they can only cut a few layers of fabric at a time.

Sat, Aug 15, 1998

Heh: My big gamble on Castro's health (19 July below) hasn't yet undone me, and my heavy betting against Dow10k has rocketed me into 30th place at the Foresight Exchange:

[Joni] Saturday's Woodstock reunion lineup: Melanie, Donovan, Richie Havens, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell (brilliant!), Pete Townsend: [RealPlayer, live]

10am-noon CDT: This is Hell funny progressive radio show: [RealAudio, live]

(Interviews with Gary Webb and April Oliver scheduled for next week!)

Sex on the cutting edge:

Open for just 14 weeks through the summer, it drew well over 100,000 youngsters from across Europe; most are from Britain, and many come to Ibiza just to go to Manumission. The club runs its own holiday company, owns two bars on the island, has its own motel just for DJs and dancers, and prints its own magazine. It employs up to 200 staff for the summer, and around it flitters a glittery circle of the fashionable and infatuated. It is generally agreed to be the most famous club in the world.

Finally, the Unabomber speaks: [Deja URL]

By concealing their intentions from me and discouraging me from finding another attorney before it was too late, my attorneys have done me very great harm: they have forced me to sacrifice my right to an appeal that might have led to my release; they have already made public the opinions of supposed experts who portray me as crazy; and they have caused me to lose my opportunity to be represented by a distinguished attorney who would have portrayed me in a very different light.

Lycos spineless before enviro-backlash:,25,25297,00.html?

Earlier this month, Off-Road, a site dedicated to off-road racing, posted a scathing critique of EnviroLink and its relationship with Lycos, entitled "Search Engine Giant Sides with Radical Environmental Web Haven--May Soon Find Itself Searching For Customers."

Snider of Lycos said that the portal still links to EnviroLink's sites but no longer features the site on its front door.

Online gaming gets addictive:

Nolan estimates he spends about $150 to $300 per month playing WarBirds with his friends in the 901st Immortals... The game charges about $2 per hour.

A good short piece on banner-ad skepticism:

In between speakers, various panels argued about whether the average $20 CPM for web ads was overpriced. The reluctant conclusion was that it is. John Costello, head of marketing for Sears, predicted that the CPM model would be dead for online within five years. "Return On Investment" - the deepest fear of the ad industry - would eventually become the model. When the tracking tools are developed.

Fri, Aug 14, 1998 (Last Quarter)

Ooh! Great interface upgrade for Deja's results page:

A nice vivid interview about Back Orifice: [short]

It does not take advantage of any bugs in the operating system or use any undocumented or internal APIs. It uses documented calls built into Windows to do such things as:

- Make itself mostly invisible. Back Orifice does not appear in the control-alt-delete list of running programs, and can only be killed by a low level process viewer which Windows95 does not ship with. To their credit, Windows98 does ship with a process viewer, but it is not installed by default.

Thu, Aug 13, 1998

This Day in Joyce History: In 1903, May Joyce died. In 1904, The Sisters was published. In 1928, Stannie (brother) was wed.

A great issue of Risks Digest looks wryly at many recent snafus, and reviews Yourdon's latest Y2K book:

So, can we trust Giffin's account? I doubt strongly that the "Remote Data Base Manager" program has a singular "data field" and I don't think there's any such thing as a "LAN console". More to the point, I don't know what could possibly be meant by "caus[ing] the database to overflow"; or how any sort of DBMS "overflow" could bring down a network server; or how a network crash could disable a ship's propulsion system (although that may be precisely the problem).

The subtitle of Born Magazine makes me realise, with shock, that good lit on the web demands good design: (gulp!) [Feed]

Born Magazine: a showcase of design and literature

Meta: Risking certain RSI, I spent the day calculating total-elvis ratings for the big media conglomerates by summing the figures from all their tiny newspaper sites, and rearranging media.literate to reflect these totals: [still a big mess in some ways]

Sam Smith has posted a charming new episode of his memoirs, covering his career in radio news in 1957-63 DC: [long]

Since WWDC paid $1 to $5 for every newstip it aired, I would be regularly inundated with accounts of fallen limbs and fender benders as I struggled to write three newscasts in an hour and a half.

It had, after all, only been twelve years since the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell arrived to take his seat in the House of Representatives. Stepping into his office for the first time he found a memo on his desk headed "Dos and Don'ts for Negro Congressmen." One was "Don't eat in the House dining room."

Everything in American culture seemed to point in one direction. The political apex of that direction was Washington, symbolized by its political cathedrals -- the Capitol and the White House. You not only were happy to live and work in their vicinity, you were honored and a bit awed.

So you watched the older reporters carefully and learned how to be indifferent to the right things at the right time, how not to be swayed by public words, and how to talk sardonically about events later in the House and Senate radio-TV galleries.

You didn't analyze society much in those days, unless you were Vance Packard or William Whyte.

At the time, I saw these stories as separate events but it seems now that maybe it wasn't a bunch of stories I covered back then, but rather the end of one big story, a story that Americans such as I had been raised to believe, a story about perfectibility and how close we were to it and how easy it would be to go the rest of the way. At the end of the story was not what we had been told to expect

Great Progressive Review points out that the rocket that exploded yesterday was the same class as last year's Cassini launch, and also cites this WSJ quote:

"There is no reason to believe that Sidney Blumenthal is a wife beater. There is every reason to believe he is a raving hypocrite, a partisan with no scruple or principle, and a disgrace to his former profession."

[Boom] A newspage about the explosion: [multipage]

The 10,000-pound craft [would have] utilize[d] a powerful antenna about the size of football field to intercept a wide variety of electronic signals. It [is] parked in an orbit 22,500 miles high, and runs on solar power. Among its key targets would have been India and Pakistan...

The Vortex lost today would have joined a constellation of similar satellites that have been operating since the early 1990s, Pike said.

(What I want to know is how you fit a billion dollars into a package the size of a small truck? Eg, 100,000 laptops at $10k each? What costs $100k per pound, $60k/ounce, $2000/gram???)

Vortex leads back to Echelon:

They operate scores of systems for collecting data, including the main spy satellite system for monitoring Europe and Asia, codenamed Vortex. At any one time three Vortex satellites, positioned over the Equator, are in operation.

"Within Europe, all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the NSA, transferring all target information to Fort Meade in Maryland..."

Silly domain names department: and

Wed, Aug 12, 1998

TV 2nite: Kibo's predicting wonders from "Blade Squad" (Fox); Liz Phair on Dave

Meta: YAY! Here's a much better approach to comparing visibility, using AltaVista's Usenet search, with the domain name:            8693 1739           7306             3393      2782  2475           2159 233         1800         1782      1672           1635           1565 652      1382 (!)         1250         1126    1097 (!!)              994              937         937        775            755         745       664 (?)           592    561           541        499 (lower than i thought)    451              380           363          350     320      303           247       234     224            234          223              198           194      183        170 170             167        166       163    157          154        140         137            130     128 53           126    117        106       97
       nytsyn                82             82 (!?!)      79           73          57       53        53   33    24       24           23
       p.prorev              17 (progressive review)               16     15               14             14        14     12       11   9

(Although there are various possible forms of skewing, these numbers seem generally very close to my subjective estimates.)

Everything I know about German philosophy I leaned from (today's) Zippy the Pinhead:

Tue, Aug 11, 1998

Bump newspage has been back for a good while:

150 years of improvements on the pronouns 'she' and 'he':

ca. 1850 ne, nis, nim; hiser NY Commercial Advertiser, 7 August 1884

From Cybersleaze via agc:

[Prince] has announced that he has found God and become a Jehovah's Witness. Apparently the CREAM hitmaker found his new faith after the death of his week-old son GREGORY two years ago. ... He has also reportedly given up swearing and can regularly be spotted at KINGDOM HALL CHURCH in Navarre, nearby his Minnesota mansion.

Upgrade your Windows box and lose all your preference settings:

Your Word custom dictionary, all those frustrating settings you F-I-N-A-L-L-Y G-O-T R-I-G-H-T in Excel and PageMaker and Eudora and Approach and Quicken and Norton and Corel, ad infinitum. All that stuff gone, down the drain, just because you had the temerity to buy a new computer.

(I suffered thru something like this last winter, upgrading my 68k Mac to PowerPC.)

Digital map plans:

NTT said it plans to use this software to develop a 1-to-2,500-scale map of Japan with street-level resolution, showing every house. It aims to have this map completed by next March.

For example, by clicking on a position on the digital map, NTT employees could retrieve the phone numbers of homes and [live?] images of nearby telephone poles.

Tom Tomorrow's worthy take on Webb - Chiquita - Tailwind:

Great new Village Voice looks at Echelon's imminent big-splash:

Indeed, a soon-to-be finalized European Parliament report on ECHELON has created quite a stir on the other side of the Atlantic. The report's revelations are so serious that it strongly recommends an intensive investigation of NSA operations.

While the Central Intelligence Agency -- responsible for covert operations and human-gathered intelligence, or HUMINT -- is the spy agency most people think of, the NSA is, in many respects, the more powerful and important of the U.S. intelligence organizations. Though its most egregious excesses of 20 years ago are believed to have been curbed, in addition to monitoring all foreign communications, it still has the legal authority to intercept any communication that begins or ends in the U.S., as well as use American citizens' private communications as fodder for trainee spies.

Its first component targets international phone company telecommunications satellites (or Intelsats) from a series of five ground intercept stations located at Yakima, Washington; Sugar Grove, West Virginia; Morwenstow in Cornwall, England; Waihopai, New Zealand; and Geraldton, Australia.

"Consider that anyone can type a keyword into a Net search engine and get back tens of thousands of hits in a few seconds." A pause. "Assume that people working on the outer edges have capabilities far in excess of what you do."

"The use of intelligence services in these cases had nothing to do with national security, but everything to do with keeping tabs on critics."

On April 21, 1996, Chechnyen rebel leader Dzokhar Dudayev was killed when a Russian fighter fired two missiles into his headquarters. At the time of the attack, Dudayev had been talking on his cellular phone to Russian officials in Moscow about possible peace negotiations. According to electronics experts, getting a lock on Dudayev's cell phone signal would not have been difficult, but as Martin Streetly, editor of Jane's Radar and Electronic Warfare Systems, noted at the time, the Russian military was so under-equipped and poorly maintained, it was doubtful a radar intercept plane could have honed in on the signal without help.

And Clinton ignores African slavery:

The fifth-grade abolitionists in Denver became involved with liberating slaves when their teacher, Barbara Vogel, noticed a photograph in The Rocky Mountain News of February 9. "I saw," she says, "a beautiful black girl who had been freed after seven years of slavery. I had no idea slavery still existed. The next day, as I read the story to the boys and girls sitting on the floor, many began to cry. The boys too... "

And indies versus studios:

"I guess some NC-17 films are more NC-17 than others," says Solondz.

An intelligent look at multipath DVD movies:

The interactive films, produced by a local company called Interfilm (now bust), were initially released theatrically back in 1993 in 42 movie theaters across the country.

In 1979, Bantam published the first (and most successful) title in its Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) series, The Cave of Time.

And Christgau on Liz Phair:

And though most of us can happily live without these guys, Phair's tone is friendly, curious, bemused. How could we never have noticed how detached she is?

What's more, she rocked a far harder set than there was any reason to expect of a notoriously stiff live performer...

She's cool in the existential rather than scenester sense -- as anti confessional as Randy Newman himself.

And an experimental theater marathon:

He eschews both caffeine and junk food during the event, explaining, "I need to stay awake on natural sugars"--such as those found in the Power Bars, vitamins, and fruit juices the aggressively healthy cast swears by. The production's action can continue incessantly because Ionesco's script loops, ending where it began.

A long, complex report by George V Higgins on some Boston mob informants:

The agents were telling their sorry history for the simple reason that this time the Rifleman had screwed up. Warned to run before indictment, he sneaked back into town to help his son, Stephen Hussey, tidy up a failing family restaurant business, and got busted by state cops.

In turn, the Bureau used those tips when the government sought judicial warrants to employ "roving bugs" to bag 21 mobsters. The issue that has been raised is, in some lights, delicious: Judges are famously reluctant to grant permission for these bugs because they are extremely intrusive....

He didn't need to steal -- his family was intact, and his father was steadily employed in a meat market -- but being cheap, he hooked his chewing gum to save the nickel.

"...So you give him the money and he does the job and comes back with your cut, and now what have you got? A happy customer, along with your piece of the action, but also information where to find some stolen furs. You can give that to a cop. And then you have a happy cop who got an easy bust and now owes you something -- without it costing you a thing except some other warehouse guy that you don't even know."

It had begun as a roguish partnership. The agents would look the other way in exchange for murmurs that would make the other hoods think that they were telepaths, and the two daredevil outlaws would sandbag either friend or foe if a dollar was involved.

That October date has been infamous now for almost a decade in Mafia lore: Some of the heaviest hitters in the Mob looked on that Sunday, as the trigger fingers were pricked and the holy cards were burned, and 20 of them went to jail for being there as made guys.

Wolf has his own investment in this case. He has been justifiably proud of his roving bug decision; his reasoning has been adopted by other federal courts. But does that professional triumph turn to ashes because it was based on, ahem, an incomplete affidavit that failed to disclose just who the government's informants were?

Lilith in Pittsburgh:

Still, Merchant's onstage antics were as befuddling as ever -- she twirled a pink streamer, wore a Mexican party dress, talked incoherently about Judy Garland and Patti Smith and sang part of a Sunday School gospel song a cappella to no one in particular.

Mon, Aug 10, 1998

TV 2nite: Boys on the Side (NBC) Very nice. Kudos to Hollywood for once.

When JD Salinger read this article in 1972, he wrote the 18yo author a fan letter that led to a love affair:

by Joyce Maynard
Originally published April 23, 1972 New York Times Magazine

...When my friends and I were little, we had big plans. I would be a famous actress and singer, dancing on the side. I would paint my own sets and compose my own music, writing the script and the lyrics and reviewing the performance for The New York Times.

New Scientific American features weightlessness, and ADD, and how to purify DNA in your own kitchen:

And a detailed piece on the rewritable electric 'Gyricon' paper:

For certain applications, such as large commercial signs, the technology appears to be only a few years from market.

The New Internationalist's one-page review of 1997 gives a great State-of-the-World snapshot:

[February] ECUADOR Two million march against President Abdala Bucaram's Government during a 48-hour national strike, prompting Congress to vote him out of office. Bucaram had been pushing through neo-liberal economic reforms with US approval but his administration was blatantly corrupt.

(I love their paper magazine, and expect this site to grow into a great resource, eg this factsheet on landmines. They also have a world atlas with unflinching capsule political analyses like this, for Oman that should eventually be online.)

This page looks like any other list of magazines, but they're Utne Reader's highly selective best-of-1997 nominees, and they almost all have obscure websites:

New Internationalist, The
The people, the ideas, the action in the fight for world development
http:/ /
subject: International Affairs

There's also an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies that offers a 'weblog' of the week's best stories: [unannotated, alas-- mostly local muckraking]

[Clouds] If you could see her thru my eyes: 8th graders shoot Philly: [multipage] [OSRR]

Don't miss this tragicomic investigation of how the Hardy Boys books were written:

"Stratemeyer wants me to do another book. ... I always said I would never do another of the cursed things but the offer always comes when we need cash. I said I would do it but asked for more than $85, a disgraceful price for 45,000 words."

The message was clear. These were not McFarlane's books. They belonged to men named Edward Stratemeyer, who wanted bilge, and Franklin W. Dixon, who did not exist.

McFarlane made you turn the page. And as you turn, you notice something else. After page upon page of dreary writing, there is an all-too-brief moment in which the writer seems suddenly engaged. You stumble on a passage of unmistakable quality.

Enthusiastic installation-art review:

One San Antonio artist, Ana Portela, whose CAM installation "Andy's Room" created the illusion of a roommate through fragments of physical evidence, says, "It's about our assumptions and perceptions."

The fuzzy roof tops, blurred streets and smoothly bouncing movement makes the image so mysterious and unreal that it seems a fabricated model until you're let in on the secret. You'll have to discover it for yourself but, when you do, the surprise will enhance the work even more.

Sun, Aug 9, 1998

Searchtip from Daniel Farinha: (cis)

I noticed how good the word 'links' is when searching for a number of pages on any subject.

This might sound trivial, but it's interesting to see that getting pages like 'Other links to blah...' is the best way to start a search. ... I've now been using the '+links' string in all my queries in Altavista ... Could 'links' be the search magic word?

New MicroTimes updates Jerry Pournelle's post-Byte web strategy:

Some years ago in the early days of Web fever, he and John Dvorak launched a site called on EarthLink, based on the expectations that micropayment-enabling technology was imminent. It wasn't, and while the two still own the domain name, the site itself is cryonically suspended until the advent of enabling technology.

Microsoft Investor: the only non-adult web site with a 'terms of use' shrinkwrap?

Sam Smith is steamed about safe-surf filters, in today's Progressive Review. (Robot Wisdom design suggestion: Configuring the software should require that the family sit down together and agree on the limits-- what will be locked out, what buffered with a warning, and what will be logged.)

I'd skipped over Sam's Jesuitical interpretation of Clinton's definition of lying:

"In the strict mental reservation the speaker mentally adds some qualification to the words which he utters, and the words together with the mental qualification make a true assertion in accordance with fact. On the other hand, in a wide mental reservation, the qualification comes from the ambiguity of the words themselves, or from the circumstances of time, place, or person in which they are uttered."

Meta: I've been trying to define an Internet Visibility Index for content-publishers. The perfect query would be AltaVista's "+link:salonmagazine" syntax, applied to their netnews archive... but they don't index links there! So I spent some time doing DejaNews queries to see how often certain sources were named. For some reason, they almost all come out as "about 700" (or 1000?):

        AP           730,000 (associated press 700)
        yahoo        520,000
        abc          390,000 (abcnews 3,600; abc news 700)
        bbc          370,000 (bbc news 1000)
        cnn          270,000
        nbc          210,000 (nbc news 700)
        cbs          210,000 (cbs news 700)
        wired        180,000 (wired magazine 700)
        reuters      160,000
        pbs          130,000
        AFP          110,000
        salon         63,000 (salon magazine 700)
        UPI           57,000
        newsweek      53,000
        npr           53,000
        slate         48,000 (slate magazine 200)
        msnbc         41,000
        pathfinder    38,000 (pathfinder AND NOT mars 1206) 
        cnbc          23,000
        nando         16,000
        wsj           16,000 (wall street journal 700)
        mercury news   2,700 (san jose mercury 2,700
                              mercury-news     1,000)

700 each: village voice, foxnews, fox news, usa today, la times, washington post, boston globe, yahoo! internet life, time magazine, tv guide, london times, ny post, new york post, ny times, us news, washington times, chicago tribune, chicago trib

But it's not just rounding errors, because: new york times 432, feed magazine 57, nerve magazine 13

Sat, Aug 8, 1998

They may have paid $3M, but they haven't taken delivery:

[Fish] China's own Yahoo: (The multimedia gallery is cool!)

Zapata is nuts:

Because of the overwhelming response to our "ZAP WILL BUY YOUR WEBSITE" ad in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other publications... we need as much information as possible to fully evaluate your website for acquisition. Please provide the following information: ...

Meta: I did a little experiment with NewsHub, going over a full 24-hr period and counting how long it took to read the headlines (45 min, omitting a couple of categories) and how many looked worth reading (66) or linking (just the three above, but another dozen might have passed muster on a quieter day).

If you have limited connect-time, there's a very efficient way to do this using a Mac shareware called "LinkPad", that lets you drag'n'drop the NewsHub links-- offline-- and then go online with a stack of empty Netscape windows, and fill them from LinkPad, rapid fire.

Avengers worst film of 1998?

Uma is just plain silly trying to be an upper-class British scientist.

10am-noon CDT: This is Hell funny progressive radio show: [RealAudio, live]

From little Dickie Nixon's personnel file, interviewing to be a G-Man: [OSRR]

      1-C. Features: Refined. [Ordinary.] Coarse. Dissipated.

Corporate money can't buy

After going to the trouble of setting up my own user name and password at Tampax's TLounge, I discovered only one lonely post waiting for me on the message boards:

      Independence Messages 1 - 1 of 1
      This is stupid!!!!
      07/30/98 07:40:12 Arrie
      ...End of messages... 


His new company, Travelman Publishing, is putting out classic, crime, comedy and adventure short stories in pocket-sized editions that fold like maps for easy reading on the subway. Stories by the likes of D.H. Lawrence, H.G. Wells, Ambrose Bierce and a host of other authors sell for a pound each -- about $1.65 -- and soon will also be available in vending machines.

Fri, Aug 7, 1998 (Full Moon 21:11 CDT)

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SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: The Robot Wisdom Pages include far more text than anyone could be expected to read online, so within the next few months we hope to offer most of it in a $20 hardcopy edition-- some two megabytes of text in a 240-page, large-size format, divided four ways between James Joyce, artificial intelligence, internet culture/ hypertext design, and miscellaneous topics. If you'd like to be informed by email when this becomes available, please send me email with the words 'hardcopy list' as the subject or in the body. [More on the hardcopy edition]