April 20, 2001



How Bits Are Built: Bits aren't like atoms. They don't really exist. And that's why the Web is ours.
Our Web: Have I mentioned that the Web is ours?
Misc.: Google tricks, over-guarded email, and flattering insults.
Bush: Dontcha just hate him?
Walking the Walk: Shell Oil of all things.
Cool Tool: Digitizing tablets of all things.
Internetcetera: Wireless hype.
Links to Love: Where you think we ought to go, you minxes you.
Who Wants to Stay a Millionaire?: How you're donating your cash, hard-earned or not.
Email, Grumblings, and Howls of Derision: Your usual fabulous email.
Bogus contest: Future Spam



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How Bits Are Built

Bits are fictitious, At best they are "based on a true story." The same bit — say one that's put together with another 23 to determine the color of a particular pixel of a photo of Aunt Agnes — may be a pinch of magnetized iron on a hard drive, a pit in a CD, or a hole in a punch tape. (In fact, a bit may be the lack of a hole in a punch tape.) When sent over the Net, the bit may then become a pulse of energy on a wire — or the lack of a pulse. But I have a toolbox full of electrical wires that lack a pulse, and not one of those lacks-of-a-pulse is a bit. All these things only become bits if a machine takes them as bits. Bits, unlike atoms, require an act of interpretation, just as marks in the sand can only become words as part of an interpretive context.

It's the duality of bits that make them useful. On the one hand, they are instantiated in physical, measurable ways so they can be manipulated by machines. On the other, they carry meanings we impose upon them, as when we determine that this bit will be part of the description of the color of a pixel in Aunt Agnes' lovely smile.

I recently spoke with Mike O'Dell who until recently was Sr. VP and Chief Scientist at UUNet. When I say "spoke," I mean "asked him a bunch of damn fool questions." I was particularly interested in how the machinery of the Internet — say, a router — recognizes a bit as a bit. [Mike is not responsible for the ways I've misunderstood him in the following.]

When a computer reads a bit off of an analog device such as the surface of a hard drive, it makes a "decision" about how whether that bit is on or off based on whether it's crossed a particular threshold value; that's the nature of the analog to digital conversion. Let's say we've accomplished that feat and now have the bits assembled and ready to march out. The bits get packed up into packets with the appropriate header information (e.g., where it's going, where it's coming from, how long it is), but beneath this level there's another packaging going on. The packets get "framed" according to a protocol such as HDLC (High-level Data Link Control). This frame is now sent out over a wire and hits its first router. Before the router can look at the address to which it's being sent, it has to first recognize the frame as a frame. With HDLC, the rule is that if you see a zero, six ones, and then another zero, a frame has just begun or ended. The router looks past that framing flag and takes the ensuing bits as constituting a packet of data.

[Ah, but suppose you want to send a 01111110 as data inside the packet. The router would take that as a flag that the frame has ended. Mike points out that this is exactly the same problem with trying to encode a control code as data; for example, how do you get HTML to print a "<"? (Hint: Try "&lt;".) With HDLC, whenever there's data that has a zero and six ones, an extra zero is inserted after the fifth consecutive one-bit so the string of them won't look like a flag; the receiving system then knows to ignore the extra zero when it's looking at the data.]

Before a router can recognize a pattern as a flag, it has to recognize an energy pulse as a bit. Synchronous devices such as routers do this differently than asynchronous ones such asmodems. With a modem, the UART chip samples the state of the modem 16 times faster than the actual data transmission rate. When the UART notes a difference in state between two of its samples, it knows it has a bit and from then on it counts to sixteen and takes the state of the modem at that point as the next bit. With a router, a non-optical transmission wire carrying bits works in synch with a second wire that carries a clock signal. When the clock line gets a pulse of energy, the hardware reads the state of the signal line. As a result, a transmission wire is, at any moment, filled with multiple bits. How many depends on how long the wire is. One stretching from Boston LA might have three megabytes of bits in it, all moving at the speed of light.*

So, we have a system of wires and fibers twitching to the beat of clocks shaving time into slices so thin you can see through them, and we have devices that measure the energy state of a line. But what about the bit? The bit of Aunt Agnes' photo still sits on your hard drive. The magnetized iron (or whatever) hasn't been copied, but its state has been. That state has been interpreted according to rules burned into the physical machinery of your computer: the property being evaluated (presence or a magnetic field?) and the meaning of the threshold (does the presence of a magnetic field indicate a 0 or a 1?) have been agreed upon by human engineers and the machinery has been devised to act upon those interpretations. The bits themselves exist as bits only because we take them as such. These fundamental building blocks of the Web world are more like words than like atoms. They are what they are — in all their utility and occasional beauty — because we take them that way. The Web is human down to its bits.

*Here's Mike's calculation of how many bits may be in transit at any one moment in a transcontinental line:

2500 statue miles is .0134 light seconds. if we take 10 gigabits/sec (OC192C) as a gigabyte/sec (rounding) we get 13.4 megabytes in flight at 2.5 gigabits/sec (OC48C) divide by 4 and get 3 megabytes in flight

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Our Web

You don't have to believe in God to recognize the power of the notion of the world as a gift. Even atheists like me wake up many days amazed to be here. We ask not only Leibniz's "metaphysical question" — Why is there something rather than nothing? — but, beyond that, why is what there is so damn interesting? Even if you can't see your way to believing in a Giver, the world can show itself in a magnificent gratuitousness.

But there is another side to the gift of the world. That it's a gift also means it's a given. It's a fact. It is the datum (a word which means "something given"). We didn't ask to be born into it. No "opt-in" Permission Marketing here. We can't change our parents, our physical limitations, the basics of our culture. We can't change what's happened and can only have a tiny influence on the cosmic hill of beans. The worst-off among us face short days of grinding labor and even the best-off are confined to the skin of a planet that flicks them off with a twitch less noticeable than the grumble of an overfed stomach.

It gets worse. Because the world is given, it fundamentally isn't ours. The earth fundamentally doesn't care about us. We don't take it personally when the snow falls or when an asteroid has us in its sights. We have brief lives of consciousness and then we turn back to ashes and dust. The soil we become is so vastly unlike what we are that we can only get there by dying.

Between the two moods — embracing the plenitude, feeling alienated from cold, unknowable matter — we build our lives. Civilizations form where the rivers meet. Cultures develop in isolation because of the fact of distance. There is nothing we take for granted more than the fact that we are thrown into the gift of the world.

The world that we've carved for ourselves out of the rock and ice of the earth has always been a social world, one in which we share interests and presuppositions, and, most of all, a language. The sociality of the world has always been hemmed in by the fact of distance, a type of enforced intimacy that we take for granted. But there's no matter on the Web and thus no distance. It is a purely social realm; all we have are one another and what we've written. And what we've written has been written for others. The Web is a public place that we've built by doing public things.

It is, unlike the world that was given to us, thoroughly ours. I don't mean "ours" in the sense of a possession. The normal model of possession doesn't hold on the Web, for there is no *matter* to be divvied up and defended. Rather, the Web is ours in the sense that language is ours. It is of us. It is drenched in that which makes us human: consciousness, sociality, meaning, intention, interest. As with anything human, the nature of those intentions vary from the noble to the base to the perverse. But the Web is *our* world, a world that we're building for ourselves out of the truly human "stuff" of language and passion.

This is why the Web matters to us. We once had a chance to live large in the abundance that was given to us and we chose instead to listen to the serpent who showed us the harsh fact that the world isn't all mangoes and rum. Ever since we have built our world huddled within the sharp-edged crannies that protect us from the wind. Now we have our first opportunity to build a world out of nothing but our passion to be together.

The Web is our place.

Our Bad Ideas

Gary Turner shamelessly contributes to our request for domain names we've taken in support of what in the light of day turned out to be a really bad business idea.

MrEshopper.com - a 'mystery shopper' service for web stores. This is a biggie in waiting, for when web-shopping service levels need to be monitored secretly, although this is where my plan starts to become (more) vague. Certainly memorable though, its only redeeming feature. Likely to be confused for a male shopping thing and jumped on from great height by equal opportunists!!!

Surely you have less shame than Gary! Contribute your own! Be chagrined in public! [Note: In the first posting of this newsletter, I attributed this to a different Gary. You know, all those Garies look alike. Sorry, Mr. Turner!]


Google Tricks

Gary Stock, too knowledgeable and clever for his own good, and an excellent contributor to http://tbtf.com, one of my favorite zines, writes about a discovery about Google, the Web search site that's too knowledgeable and clever for its own good:

Provide Google a 'firstname lastname state-abbr':

Watch for the small print atop the listing...

Details: http://www.google.com/help/features.html#wp

Spoiler: It finds your address and phone number and prints out a map to your house. If you find this disconcerting, Gary tells us how to remove your listing: http://www.google.com/help/pbremoval.html

Here's another hidden Google feature, albeit not nearly as unsettling as the one Gary found. When you enter a string to search for, Google hyperlinks from your search terms to dictionary definitions of those terms (if any). For example, search for "pornography Pamela Anderson" and in the blue stripe at the top it says: "Searched the web for pornography pamela anderson" with "pornography" and "anderson" underlined. (Hint for power users: On the Web, underlining often indicates a hyperlink.)

Over-guarded Email

In Interactive Week (Mar. 12, Todd Spangler) is an article about companies cracking down on incoming email jokes. One of the corporate administrators it cites says: "Email is the property of the company, and we maintain the right to stop anything." His name? Chuck Overgaard.

Mini-Bogus Contest: Our Oddly Appropriate Names Department is always open for business.

Flattery, Insult ... You Be the Judge

The April/May issue of Pix: The Magazine for Visual Creatives runs a nice sidebar by Grame Browning on "New York-based artist and multimedia" Joshua Davis who believes in the bread-upon-the-waters theory of IP protection: "The way I look at it ... if I come up with one good idea a month and I put it up on my site and a million people take, it comes back to me 50 times over." The article says that when he discovered that a site had ripped off his design, he "sent the site owner an email saying he was flattered that the person liked his work and requesting that link be posted to PrayStation.com, where all the files are open source"

Nine pages later there's a sidebar about Eddie Pak a "New York-based designer" who has a different attitude when he discovers a site using one of his images. "It's flattering to a certain extent, but more annoying. And eventually, it's insulting."

On the other hand, Davis keeps his "real" artistic expressions at www.once-upon-a-forest.com where they are not downloadable. On the fourth hand, when the Cluetrain authors discovered that a Dutch rave-up is marketing itself under the name "The Clue Train" we decided not to sue the bastards, in part because our Boston-based agent agent said we'd lose. But if you're not going to sue because of legal reasons you might as well decide not to sue out for open-source-y reasons. Or, as New York-based artist Joshua Davis says: "It's really the movement, the perpetuation of storytelling and narrative that's the most important on the Web. So I say, 'Yeah, man, take it, keep it moving.'"

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We continue to receive mail from fellow Disparagers of Bush. We continue to recognize that this is off-topic for JOHO and thus provide you with a skip-me button.

Much of the mail comes from the assiduous Chip Yost, including http://members.aol.com/kgar41/horror.html which merely lists the official misdeeds of our "president."

Chip also forwards the following conspiracy theory about The Federalist Society: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2000/0003.landay.html

She also urges us to vote in the Name the President contest put on by The Nation:


O yeah, and you'll want an new tee for summer http://www.thenation.com/special/alfredw.mhtml Order early, supplies are limited...:)

Finally, Chip has published what she calls a "lil article" at an interesting anti-Bush site called "The Smirking Chimp": http://www.smirkingchimp.com/article.php?sid=981&mode=&order=0&thold=0

Miriam Lawrence, who is not Chip, writes:

In case you're feeling particularly optimistic and in need of something freshly depressing:

"I suspect that had my dad not been president, he'd be asking the same questions: How'd your meeting go with so-and-so? … How did you feel when you stood up in front of the people for the State of the Union Address—state of the budget address, whatever you call it."
GWB—Interview with the Washington Post, March 9, 2001

Gary Stock, omnipresent in this issue, writes:

I wander back into this site every coupla months. In case you've missed it:


Thought you'd like, in particular, 'Behind the Bushes":


This site aggregates news from multiple progressive sources.

Chris Worth comments on the fact that Shrub for Brains has publicly announced he is forswearing email (http://www.nytimes.com/2001/03/17/politics/17FRIE.html)

George W Bush's email habits confirm many suspicions about the man. My favourite bit: "His emails were usually of one line, unpunctuated in lower case, with dashes between thoughts".

Based on this evidence, I hereby reproduce a typical W email below.

"— — — — — — — — — — "


Middle World Resources

Walking the Walk  

Mother Jones is your basic progressive magazine and it is with some surprise then that one notices that it's running banner ads from Shell Oil, a company not famous for respecting the environment or human rights in, say, Nigeria. MoJo has an editor's note explaining why they accept the ads (short version: they want the money), as well as links to their reportage on Shell. But on the Shell site you get to what is truly remarkable: an unmoderated board in which people post their most vociferous anti-Shell flames, with responses that seem unscripted and generally from the heart from what appear to be Shell employees. For example, check the messages at their social issues forum. Here you'll find, for example. a message that accuses Shell of murdering the writer's father and leveling his village. Not your ordinary consumer complaint.

Cool Tool For the Hyperlinked Organization 

This is very old news for many of you, but have you heard about digitizing tablets? Yeah, me too, but it wasn't until I went to the Seybold Conference in Boston that I finally bought one: a low-end Wacom that plugs into a USB port. You draw on it as if you're drawing on a piece of paper and your graphics program translates it into beautiful works of art (or random dreck in my case). So, now instead of using the PowerPoint bean people who, in 8 illustrations, encompass the full range of human emotion and expression, you can sketch your own pathetic stick people.

The odd thing about these tablets is that they map to your screen pixel to pixel so you have to break your mouse-bred habit of sliding, lifting up and sliding some more.

This particular model - the Graphire - comes with a bunch o' graphics software (light versions of a Corel painting/ drawing program and Adobe Photoshop) all for $99 list.


Graeme Thickens attended The Industry Standard's conference on wireless technology and reports on it in his excellent email newsletter (www.gtamarketing.com). Here are just some of the facts he gathered, in his own words:

- The number of wireless shoppers will climb to 373 million by 2004, says Ovum Research.

- Only 1 in 70 Americans is on the wireless web now, but by
2005 the number will be 1 in 3, said The Standard's chairman in opening the event.

- Cingular Wireless says 84% of the U.S. population will have cell phones by 2006; already, half of its 20 million customers have phones that access the web.

- By 2005, 45% of e-commerce will be done wirelessly, according to Vignette; and, by 2002, the wireless data market will reach 1.3 billion subscribers.

- Wireless ad spending, only $4 million in 2000, will grow to somewhere between $890 million and $6.1 billion by 2005,
depending on which of three large research firms you care to believe.

Sure. And attending the conference were between 200 and 300,000,000 people.

Links to Love

First a couple of manifestos to start us off.

Jonathan Fagence and Jim Montgomery (editor of ZDNet's Small Business Advisor zine) point us to quite a funny, irate proclamation: http://www.ecst.csuchico.edu/~atman/attention-fat-bastards.html

Next, Chris Pirillo, editor, publisher and main writer of Lockergnome has created his own screed: the Libera Manifesto. It's a heartfelt plea from a guy who's been delivering a high-quality newsletter every frigging day for the past four years: http://www.lockergnome.com/manifesto.html. (Chris is the opposite of a fat bastard.)

Chris also recommends: http://come.to/hatten/. It's got a Flash music video that has something to do with a hat. It's a multi-ethnic experience all in one. (As the brainless star in Singing in the Rain says: "He has more money than Herbert Hoover put together.") We are accepting all translations and theories. Thank you.

Nitin Varshney reminds us of an old chestnut: http://www.shibumi.org/eoti.htm

Greg "LinuxMan" Cavanagh sends us to a site about a project to put Linux in the BIOS: http://www.users.bigpond.com/brian0029.

For those who can't get enough, I'd recommend the book Rebel Code by Glyn Moody. It's not the most elegantly writing I've ever read, but it does a great job telling the story of the Open Source movement. Linus as a combination of the Buddha and James Dean.

Faithful reader David Stephenson had an op-ed piece in the Christian Science Monitor recently that gets at much of what makes the Web so durn special:

...I argue that the Internet allows several significant changes in corporate and social behavior (closing the loop, empowering the individual, and linking everything) that are both rooted in the Internet's technology and history, and which are profoundly humane and ennobling principles).


Madanmohan Rao has a book out and a new article:

I've just released my first book, "The Internet Economy of India, 2001" (see http://www.inomy.com/bookofinomy/book.htm for table of contents, sales info, etc.).

David Wolfe, Marketing Guru, responds to our article on "schizophrenic truth" (www.hyperorg.com/backissues/joho-mar21-01.html#truth):

Are you familiar with Pierre Levy's Collective Intelligence? In case you aren't, he's a French philosopher, anthropologist, sociologist, etc. (obviously a real brainy type) who writes about the impact of cyberspace on human consciousness. He says people are generally becoming more subjective in their conscious interaction with the world outside their brains.

Actually, for different reasons, I predicted the coming of a more subjectively oriented society nearly 15 years ago — well before the Internet became a household term. So, Levy and I end up at the same place, but for different reasons.

...Levy and I agree that information technology is assuming more of a prosthetic character than that of an arms-length artifact. In other words, we are becoming one with our technology in ways that under the old consciousness could only be called weird.

It's safe to say that this cognitive shift is virtually unknown in marketing.

I don't know Levy. He enters my "Should Read Pile," AKA my posthumous to-do list. As for the prosthetic nature of technology, this sounds akin to Marshall McLuhan's notion that media are extensions of our body, although I think that David's right that it's getting weirder than even he imagined. Merged, multi-sensory bodies, the Web as orgy...

George Kakatsakis sends us to http://www.psychoexgirlfriend.com/voicemails.html where you can hear about 50 different phone messages left by the site owner's "psycho ex-girlfriend." Intrusive if real, aggravating if phony. And not nearly as funny as the voicemail scene in the movie Swingers.

I'm afraid I'm not hip enough for www.gazm.org. It's a discussion site with hyper-cool graphics and tiny tiny print too small for my bifocal granny glasses (next step: tie-dyed, hemp Depends — it's a million dollar idea!). But it's got a whole lot of creativity and heart. And everything on the site can be rated by visitors, including the ads. It's a labor of love by the site owner, Jacob Schwirz, and it shows.

Jon Fagence sends us to http://www.gzigzag.org, an open source project for storing and linking information in an n-dimensional space. Any set of things can be linked to any other. It comes with a viewer that lets you browse the information in a 2D representation of a 3D space. If this sounds confusing to you, keep in mind that it's an implementation of ideas pioneered by Ted Nelson who is to hypertext what Ted Nugent is to hunting: aiming at too much with a scary seriousness. I couldn't figure it out, but I have an (n - infinity) dimensional brain.

Bill Zoellick, author and consultant, has an article on "The B2B Horserace:
Understanding Buyer Motivations in eMarkets" at: www.fastwater.com/Library/B2BEconomy/Horserace/eMktBuyers1.php3.

Peter Merholz, with whom I 've corresponded for what must be years now, showed up in the flesh in Boston where we had a chance to meet for lunch. I was limited to the Scared-Atheist Passover Diet which consists of feeding on microparticles through my gills while he gorged on Piglet Parboiled in Its Mother's Milk. Yum. He informed me of the postmodern deconstruction of The Family Circus that's been occurring within Amazon's reviews:


and on and on...

[Family Circus] has long been a target of internet parody: http://www.mediainfo.com/ephome/news/newshtm/stop/st092299.htm http://www.cyberverse.com/~rotten/i/f/fc.html

Mark Dionne sends us a press release from www.satirewire.com where you can read the full report:


Atlanta, Ga. (SatireWire.com) - Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Symantec's AntiVirus Research Center today confirmed that foot-and-mouth disease cannot be spread by Microsoft's Outlook email application, believed to be the first time the program has ever failed to propagate a major virus.

"Frankly, we've never heard of a virus that couldn't spread through Microsoft Outlook, so our findings were, to say the least, unexpected," said Clive Sarnow, director of the CDC's infectious disease unit...

Chris Worth has found an unusual book:


Here's the spoiler: "How to Good-Bye Depression : If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way?" by Hiroyuki Nishigaki. The readers' reviews are pretty durn funny too.


Who Wants to Stay a Millionaire?

Jonathan Vinson, after much pleading, agreed to recommend one of the charities he likes:

Okay, I will bite then. I contributed to a local social organization for drug and alcohol treatment. They don't have their own web site, but they are described at www.communityresources.net/peerservicesinc.html. This is something that is of particular importance to me, but I think the work they do is quite valuable to the local community.

How about you? Are you giving your money to anyone who's doing something useful with it, or are you continuing to fritter away the last of your dot-com dollars on high octane gas for your Ferrari SUV? Let us know...

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Email, Grumblings, and Howls of Derision

Saphire Martini (the pseudonym of Boone Applewine) writes about our needlessly hostile reaction to "Accenture" as Andersen's new name:

Did you consider that perhaps Anderson's new name is a way of saying hello to the new Bush administration? I mean, doesn't "Accenture" have a Bush-esque ring to it? Somewhat like "Strategery" or "misunderestimated"? ... "They provide much accecture to the consulting market." (whatever THAT may mean)...

I don't know, it's just a thought. It explains the name Accenture as well as anything else I can think of.

Are we leaving out the bone-headed-highly-paid-marketing-consultants theory?

John Luke also thinks the new name is risible:

My wife, Ann, suggests a slogan: "Accenturate the positive, decenturate the negative." I'm sure folks will find places to go with this.

Could it be that Andersen was just plain old PO'ed that one of their main competitors has a name that sounds like their folks are "Earnest and Young"? I mean, it must have been like trying to compete for the promotion to VP of Marketing against a guy named Happy Schmoozer. Who can blame 'em?

Paul Schatzkin, aka The Perfesser, goes beyond nominalism:

It ain't just the name that sucks.... it's the company.   When I saw the first "Accenture" ads during the Stuporbowl, I chortled aloud for anyone who cared to listen, "yeah, hire Andersen, and they'll send in a squad of consultants who will help you run your company into the ground...."

Because, you see, that's exactly what happened with MY company.  We sold Songs.com to Gaylord Entertainment at the end of 1999 (the top!) and then watched as their Andersen-consulted young management ran it and three other business units into an inglorious death at the end of 2000. 

You can read all about it:


or get the more vitriolic version:

—and that's the abridged version.

Andersen should spend less time with their "branding" and more time with their service....

Andersen's lawyers should contact The Perfesser directly. Thank you.

The redoubtable Glenn Fleishman chastises me for writing: "The domain name isn't propagated yet, so for now use..."

Domain names don't propagate. Master zone files are updated by registrars. Local DNS server administrations records are filed. Other DNS servers consult the zone files and then the local files.

They do not propagate! Say it! Say it! I'll give you an Indian burn if you don't.

You know, it was the Native Americans' reliance on "Indian burns" that cost them much of the West. They didn't stand a chance against the colonist's heartless use of "Cowboy noogies" on them, especially after the widespread deployment of early — but effective — headlock technology.

I wrote "Jason Gollan has found a palindrome too huge to check," so of course Paul Dupuy responded with : http://www.net1plus.com/users/pammett/JavaApplets/Palindrome/Palindrome.html. Jason's palindrome is now declared 100% Authenticized!

Skelly writes about our talking about the persistence of contacts thanks to the permanent record being compiled on our hard drives:

I feel much better about the death of the computer with my life on it last week (yes it was backed up, yes the backup was corrupted). Instead of thoughts of suicide, I'm thinking of all the new opportunities that have been opened. I realise this wasn't the point of your article, pretty much the opposite in fact, but I don't want to think of all the "intermittent friendships? Lifelong?" I may have lost.

Finally, after decades of bad movies, we can get a new twist on the old "Protagonists Gets Amnesia" theme! Quick, someone trademark "Johnny BlueScreen" for me and get Keanu's agent on the line!

Jack Vinson responds to our comments about the palindromic 404 with a link to the always amusing Annals of Improbable Research:http://www.improbable.com/airchives/miniair/twenty-first-century/MINI2000-1

Charles Forsmo would like to extend our article on professionals vs. craftspeople:

... As a guy who served a four-year apprenticeship as a printer, I know that there was something there that's disappeared in today's society. That something's something I'd like to get back. And if a person could somehow apply the principles of apprenticeship to the modern-day world, where people learned from people who had no hidden agendas and were spending their time with another person to teach them how to do a job; that would be a good thing. I've brought up the idea of apprenticeship a couple of times in meetings and people's eyes kind of glass over as if I'm talking about some ancient, dark craft not based in reality; alchemy or something.

If you were to talk about "mentoring," maybe people wouldn't sigh and glaze over. ("Intern" gets a different type of rise these days.) These are how apprenticeships happen these days, right? Having someone designated formally as an apprentice maybe would remove some pressure from that person so that s/he could explicitly be in "learning mode" and we could be more forgiving of them. Maybe we should just issue big "Student Driver" stickers instead.

(At a conference the other day a guy said he heard some guys talking about someone as a "pure" only to find out a few weeks later that it stood "Previously Unrecognized Recruitment Error.")

Kevin Jones agrees with our article about "Ginger" that we're desperate for a technological fix to non-technological problems. He writes:

My best example was remote controls, arguably narrowly beating the personal computer as the invention of the eighties. At home, I have 7 remotes, 3 of which are the "all-in-one" type. None of them control all of the different systems I have.

Chris Worth apparently finds ambiguous the following sentence in the previous issue: "...when we kiss our spouse, we are actually kissing our spouse, not kissing the sensation of our spouse ..."

Must say it's very philanthropic of your spouse to offer to kiss the entire readership of JOHO. Do I have to come there, or will she fly to Tokyo?


(Immobile after a fall down stone steps caused by a celebratory bottle of wine after a 28-pill a day course of drugs finished, and who is now taking a surprisingly close number of painkillers as a result)

Maybe if you focused a little more on where you're walking instead of on your sick fantasies about my wife you could finally kick your drug habit! (Chris's lawyers should contact The Perfesser directly.)

Gary Stock, updates us on a site mentioned in the previous example:

... as though you care, godhatesfags is back on line...

Care?? I've been waiting for the day they'd be back on line so I can not link to them! Thanks!

John Erickson wants to "put in a good word for objectivity" in response to some negative comments of mine:

...In a previous professional reincarnation, I was a hard-rock exploration geologist, and hung out in places like Northern Canada and the Ecuadorian Andes. Often enough in the course of fieldwork we'd be stymied by one or another question that seemed to boil down to one of statistics – perhaps lack of outcrop but presence of float, or the possibility of mineralization varying across a rock face according to a yet unknown variable. We would concoct a cartoon sort of study that would nauseate a professional statistician ("Okay, I'll make five equally spaced, east-west passes across the clearing and identify any piece of float at each tenth pace that I can, uh, reach with my right foot without bending the other knee, you come behind and mark down the rock types as I call them out!") And amazingly enough, we would usually come up with fairly replicable findings that had some predictive value. So it appears that statistics, a forced variety of objectivity, is valuable, even when it is bad statistics.

A second point is, that subjectivity would have resulted in a guess little more defensible than that of someone who had never visited the area. As such, it would have been open to endless dispute, for example from colleagues wanting my next year's exploration funds for their project. Similarly, without at least an attempt at objectivity we're left with "Everyone has a different truth, man," at the don’t-bother-me extreme, and the Taliban, or at least Rush Limbaugh and the Seattle WTO anarchists, at the revealed-truth, other end of the spectrum, all of them claiming an opinion at least as valuable as yours.

Finally, even pretended objectivity forces at least a token acknowledgment of other positions and points of view, which is never bad. With luck, lightning may strike and at least some such pretenders might fall into the habit of questioning their own assertions.

As for "an attempt to control thought by putting it in the hands of the Authorities," yeah, right. Perhaps that might have been the case once, but as in Thurber's retelling of the fairy tale, where Little Red Riding Hood pulls out a pistol and dispatches the wolf straight away, "It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be." ...

Your thoroughly enjoyable (and nicely written, btw) account of your life as a hard-as-a-rock geologist I think is closer to supporting my point than yours, although the truth is that we probably don't actually disagree at all. I have no problem with science (in general, of course), research, measurement, and the rigid application of criteria. Couldn't close my car door without 'em. That's not the type of objectivity I was "arguing" against in the Feb. 26 issue. The context was an explanation of why I make my politics manifest in a zine ostensibly about the Web and business. My viewpoint on the Web and business isn't objective and is influenced by my politics (and my religion, etc.); as *commentator* I have no pretense to objectivity.

 The article in the March 21 issue provides a broader point of view that does include objective science, even though I don't make the argument explicit. It acknowledges that there's a world of stuff that we didn't make and that we can be right or wrong about; in fact, I say that denying this is insane. I have no issues with the scientific method and processes: float is either present or it's not (whatever that means). But I absolutely do *not* believe that science or scientists can be abstracted from their social context. The scientific method may help us shake off many cultural biases (but not all, as per Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man) but, even so, the pursuit of science by a scientist is a profoundly personal and subjective act. That is the sense in which even objective science is subjective. http://www.hyperorg.com/backissues/joho-oct20-00.html#tribal may be relevant here.

Rebecca Wettemann has truly embarrassed me. She refers to my writing" We are starting to see the constellations in the flashing of the fireflies.

Did you check with Novell before using this?  It's probably trademarked; if not, you should consider trademarking it and selling it to them for a healthy sum (God knows they paid a lot for the commercial).

Apparently there's a Novell ad that uses the same image. Oh, is my face red! I've gotta start watching more TV! In any case, I've removed that line — which was pretty damn treacly anyway — from the Web version of this newsletter. If you'd kindly send me back your email versions, I will make the correction and send it back to you. As a token of my chagrin, I'll even vacuum the contents and apply a coat of Turtle Wax.

Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson responds to our citing a King's home page as egotistical:

So if this guy wrote part of this himself, would it be acceptable? Just trying to figure out where the "egotism" label starts and ends. Most blogger sites seem to be slightly less flashy versions of this, no?

I think there's a difference between thinking that other people might be interested in hearing your point of view and building a site devoted to self-adoration. Or, maybe one's just subtler than the other.

Ralph Ashbrook refers to our article on the new friendships and social worlds being forged by email:

In the '50's this virus-like connect took the form of fanzines for science fiction readers. Much as you describe today, the web of sort-of-friends was vaster than the forests, but more slow.

The time between a thought and a counter-thought was usually 6 months. As Terrence McKenna suggested, each wave is a little faster. And as wish-fulfillments go, these same science fiction readers and writers were discussing via mimeograph the very instantaneous web that then came about.

This type of reminiscence is what makes me feel that the Web *returns* to us some of what we believe is rightfully ours: voice, connection.

All well and good, you may say, but if all understanding is reminiscence, then how do we explain the point that Asaf Bartov raises?

I...was dismayed to see you quoting Plato without credit to the translator. As a lover of literature and amateur translator myself, I'm sensitive to the issue of quoting foreign texts without crediting the translator. I'll save you my long spiel on the translator's public image problem, and just ask you to mention the translator (and edition
details, where relevant) of foreign texts you quote in JOHO.

If I don't tell you, will you assume it was my own translation? (Actually, you can tell it's not mine. Not enough "Ums" in it. Also, I don't read Greek.)

Ok, ok, here it is: Plato. Phaedrus, translated by R. Hackforth, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Actually, of course, I was quoting a high school student who cited this passage in some homework assignment he posted on the Web, which was actually probably bought from someone at www.sparknotes.com.

Adeline Chan responds to my writing my citing Toshiyuki Sawaguchi, a professor of neurobiology who said that reliance on Net memory is making us stupid:

.....and here I was blaming childbearing and rearing for my brainlessness.

Those are accelerants. As are aging, relaxing and breathing.

dividing line

Bogus contest: Future Spam

Here's some spam we have not yet received.

1,048,576 YOUs in TWO WEEKS!!! AT HOME!!!! GUARANTEED!

Look, we know you've gotten offers like this in the mail before. But we don't want to waste your time our ours. This one is different. Just ask NORLEEN DAVIS of Shrevesport LA who received 131,072 Norleens in just 24 days without it costing her a cent and only the time it takes to reply to this mail. Or ask SAMUEL K. LIPPERON of Melville SD who received 262,144 perfect Samuels in just 28 days. Or ask BARTON LLEWLYN HAMSTER who was amazed when UPS trucks backed up to his house and unloaded an astounding 1,048,576 molecule-by-molecule perfect — and perfectly collectible — Barton's. FOR FREE!!! FOR UNDER TEN MINUTES OF WORK.

These clones come ready to work. Shovel the snow. Fetch you a beer. Lie to you about your looks. They'll even service your life partner. Amass enough of them and you will have a personal militia that will be devoted to you because they ARE YOU! Will they unquestioningly lay down their lives to protect you from the marauding bands of evil clones? Heck YES ... and THEY'LL THANK YOU FOR IT!!!

Too good to be true? Well go ask Norleen, Samuel and Barton again. They'll tell you the same thing. It REALLY REALLY WORKS!!! Thousands of others like them will tell you the same thing! NO RISK!!!

Here's all you do: Take some of your UNWANTED genetic material, something you were going to get rid of anyway, like a nose hair, a mucus-filled kleenex, or a used bandaid. Send it to the person at the top of the list below. Then remove that person's name from the top, add yours to the bottom, and send it to TEN FRIENDS who have genetic replicating equipment in their garage, basement or rec room. Heck, it can even be in their RV! When you start receiving genetic material, run it through your cloner and send the clones on their way with just a farewell and a sack of PB&J sandwiches. That's ALL there is to it!! It's really THAT EASY!!!! Within two weeks, your clones should start pouring in! (Be sure to give your real address and not just your email address since many clones initially are confused and sign up for AOL which doesn't handle clone attachments.)


Consider the future not as an arena of hope but as an opportunity for new sleazy marketing opps. How about sending us your own Future Spam?

Contest Results

Jonathan Vinson responds to our request for auto-translations of common phrases or tag lines using http://www.telalink.net/~carl/multibabel/:

Here are two phrases. You get to figure out which was the original and which the babble.

Building Trust. Building Growth.
Secret of the construction. Development of the construction.

Nothing fits like a Ritz.
Nothing writings as the cut.
But I like the fourth version: It swims writings as the cut.


Greg Carter delivers an octet of mistranslations:

1. Its superficial lower whole number is belongs to us

2. Darmi the freedom or darvi inoperative I them women

3. The duration inhales, then you them you mark

4. The shrub of the president obvious thinks

5. Hé, you go, drain of the cloud of the mine

6. A duration is buoa, if it is not debilitated

7. The truth is those, those, if you to stop to believe not gone

8. Shaken ignition for the blue ascent of the one


  1. All your base are belong to us
  2. Give me liberty or give me death
  3. Life sucks, then you die
  4. President Bush thinks clearly
  5. Hey, you, get off of my cloud
  6. It's a great life if you don't weaken
  7. Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away (Phillip K. Dick)
  8. Tangled Up In Blue (Bob Dylan)

Give yourself one point for every correct answer, and then subtract two for pretending to know what a "buoa" is. And now go get some rest comforted that Darmi and Darvi are looking out for you.

Editorial Lint

JOHO is a free, independent newsletter written and produced by David Weinberger. If you write him with corrections or criticisms, it will probably turn out to have been your fault.

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