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TopTen First Names at Google award I've given to myself.

The Speech I Want to Hear


How to survive a nuclear war with just a hat

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Friday, November 30, 2001

Update on the Hunt for Cheney

Al Qaeda spokesman Muhammed Qadir today said at a press conference that the hunt for American terrorist mastermind Dick Cheney is making "slow but steady progress." Vowed Qadir, "Whatever suburban hellhole Cheney is hiding in, we will find him and smoke him out."

Cheney is thought to have retreated deep into one of the hundreds of small towns within 100 miles of Washington, DC, with communication equipment and enough food and water to keep him and his entourage alive for an indefinite period. He was last heard from in taped comments a week ago in which he urged his countryman to "Fight the aggressor to the death in every corner of the world if necessary, including southwest Newport News, right across from Carl's Sports 'n' Stuff store." Al Qaeda believes that the remarks contained a coded message their cryptographers have deciphered as: "Send fabric softener; my shorts itch."

"We are pursuing every possible lead," said Qadir, refusing to reply to rumors that have placed Cheney in a basement rec room in Silver Springs, MD and in a converted garage in Roanoke, VA. Qadir said that the hunt would continue through the unpleasantly moist rainy season. "Make no mistake, Dick Cheney: no bumper pool table is large enough to hide you."
11/30/2001 04:41:51 PM | PermaLink

Correspondingly true

Mike Sanders yesterday responded to Doc Searls' response to Thomas Friedman's column in the NY Times with a blog entry that asks some of the basic questions about truth. Mike asks:

Is it true that the only truth is that there is no truth?
Is there such a thing as truth? If yes, where does it apply?
Is the truth what a given person believes?
When Is it important to determine truths?
How can we go about determining the truth in a given area?

Today he posts a bunch of responses. I'm a day late because I was on the road, but here goes.

I want to pursue this along two tracks.

First, Mike's questions are so damn hard because the reigning theory of truth is problematic. We think of truth as a correspondence between a statement and state of affairs. This has gotten mixed up with a representational view of consciousness, that is, the view that we know the world by creating an inner representation of it. There are millions of examples of this way of thinking, starting with our view of insanity as having ideas in your head that don't correspond to the world, but I happened upon some just yesterday in the book about Douglas Englebart, called Boostrapping by Thierry Bardin. Englebart wrote that language is "the way in which the individual parcels out the picture of his world into the concepts that his mind uses to model the world..." (p. 36). This view of consciousness and of our relation to our world is - IMO - insanely wrong, but it is the basis of our theory of truth.

Second, Friedman's column says that the great world religions have to accept that none has the one and only truth. In particular, he chastises Islam for not yet accepting the validity of other religions. But Friedman is wrong, I believe, in lumping Christianity and Judaism together on this issue. Becoming Christian means accepting a body of beliefs as true. Becoming a Jew means having a Jewish mother. Jews are a people. That's why Jews traditionally have not proselytized; suggesting that you ought to become a Jew is akin to suggesting that you ought to become Italian. And that's why Jews have not maintained that their scripture needs to be accepted by everyone and that everyone needs to keep kosher. Thus, the "truths" of Judaism are different in type than the "truths" of Christianity and Islam: they are a set of practices more than a set of beliefs, and they are practices required only of those born as Jews. (I'm over-simplifying, of course. There are some practices - not killing, not lying, etc. - that Jews do hold are required of all.) Further, Judaism is thoroughly hermeneutic; it's baked into the religion that scripture always needs to be interpreted. In fact, it needs to be interpreted not by individuals who randomly proclaim the Truth as they see it but by an historical community of thinkers and talkers. This multi-thousand year conversation among learned and thoughtful Jews is one of the truly distinctive marks of this religion.

So, where does this leave us with regard to truth? I'm going to state a position and not argue for it because: the argument is too long and complex for a blog and it's too long and complex for the likes of me. Nevertheless, it strikes me as obvious. (Note: I didn't make this up. I'm summarizing and interpreting a clump of thinkers that are generally called Continental Philosophers.) Truth is a way of uncovering the world. "Uncovering" is a good word to use because it implies that you are seeing what was there all along even though you weren't aware of it. There are lots of ways of uncovering the world. Not all are equally good. Some are just plain stupid or loony. There are some tests that work for some types of uncoverings; science works real good as one way of uncovering the world. But there isn't one killer test that can ride roughshod over all others: science works, but so does poetry. It's important to recognize that we are not alone in our uncovering of the world. We do it together on the basis of a history of thought and art and stories and language that we cannot escape. Truth is not simply what anyone happens to believe. It is the way we - our culture and our history - have uncovered the world. It is not something in our head; it is the way our language allows the world to show itself to us.

Or, like, anyway, that's my truth. Whatever. Dude.

Response from and to Tom Matrullo

The always insightful Tom Matrullo has responded to the above on his estimable site. After saying some nice things about my post, he concludes with:

..."the way our language allows the world to show itself to us" appears to remain, as they say, "inscribed" entirely within the realm of the eye, a system that seems ineluctably to entail a notion of truth as the relationship between a representational model and an underlying something that is real.

Or am I missing something here, David?

Is the problem that "show" sounds like it refers only the visual? My bad. The world shows itself to us through touch, sounds, and smells as well as through sight. But even if it were confined to sight, that wouldn't mean that the model has to be representational. The Continental philosophers - more precisely, the phenomenologists - started from the insight (there's that "sight" word again!) that the attempt to discern what was certain and knowable had led our philosophical tradition to over-emphasize raw perception. When you consider your relationship to the world in terms of perception, you are stripping out what's meaningful in that relationship. We normally are not in the world as perceivers but as act-ers and care-ers. So, while we can seem to achieve a state in which we are forming mental images of an external world, that state is the exception and shouldn't be taken as indicating the truth (there's that word again!) of our relation to the world.

Tom, have I missed your point?
11/30/2001 12:41:04 PM | PermaLink


Thursday, November 29, 2001

The Web vs. Computers

Please allow me to state the obvious: the Age of the Web is succeeding in part because it is undoing the excesses of the Age of Computers. With the introduction of the PC, we spent our days staring into a screen, manipulating data and composing words in clicking silence. With the Web, we spend our days staring into a screen looking at other people, or at least looking at how other people choose to present themselves.

But the Web runs through and on computers. The way computers have changed us persists in our online selves. Just as we can manipulate symbols and words with computers, we can manipulate our selves on the Web, if only because Web conversations are mediated through written language and thus can be drafted and revised. Even the immediate conversations - chat, IM - occur through keyboards, allowing us to compose ourselves as we compose our words.

We are writing ourselves into existence on the Web. Together.


Here's a site I like: tinyapps.org.It aggregates small, humble, useful apps. [Thanks to those of you who wrote to tell me I had the link wrong for most of the day. Damn!]

Mark Dionne points us to KurzweilAI.com, a site about developments in AI. Glitzy but useful, even for those of us who are hugely skeptical about the claims made on behalf of AI. Even for those of us who are hugely skeptical about books like Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines.
11/29/2001 11:58:36 AM | PermaLink


Wednesday, November 28, 2001


Gilbert Cattoire points us to a sad, sad blog that monitors free services becoming fee services: The End of Free.

Something weird and possibly wonderful is happening at Gazm.org, which, despite its name, is not a sex site. Not that there would be anything wrong with it if it were. Instead, it's an experiment in open uploading with a revolutionary's commitment to messiness. Perfect for poking around.

CNet has an excellent article by Stefanie Olsen and Evan Hansen on Google the Good's latest experiment. In beta, they are letting users give a thumbs up or down on a page, which will help position the page in its listings. Currently Google uses a variety of techniques, most famously, using the number of links to a page to help determine how far up the search results page it should be.
11/28/2001 09:27:19 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Slumping the Shark

The always insightful Scott Kirsner devoted his column in the Boston Globe yesterday to the phenomenon of "jumping the shark" as applied to business. Here's Scott's explanation of "jumping the shark" a phrase promulgated by www.jumptheshark.com:

In pop culture, jumping the shark is when something that was once very good - it could be a TV show, a band, or a series of movie sequels - makes a desperate attempt to remain fresh and relevant, and instead goes bad.

The origin of the phrase comes from the long-running TV show ''Happy Days,'' which immediately went south following a gimmicky episode in which Fonzie, wearing water skis and his trademark leather jacket, jumped over a shark

Scott suggests CMGI's paying $120M to get a football field named after it as a case of a business jumping the shark. That strikes me as apt. But, he next asks: "Did Lycos jump the shark when Wetherell killed a deal for the company to be acquired by Barry Diller's USA Networks?" He also lists EMC's founder leaving to become the ill-tempered ambassador to Ireland and DEC's overspending on developing the Alpha chip. None of these are desperate attempts to stay fresh and relevant.

The problem is that most companies don't get fresh, relevant, creative or silly when they get desperate. They get mean and conservative. They retreat to what they perceive as safe ground. Or, to follow the metaphor, they lower their center of gravity and let themselves be dragged around in the wake of the boat, heading as far away from sharks as they can. Slumping the shark? Humping the shark? Jumping the lark? Stumping the shark? Jumping at shadows? Mini-Bogus Contest: Come up with your own clever pun 'cause I can't.

Whatever you call it, there's no shortage of examples: Blue Mountain Arts moving from a funky and personal site to a typical Browsable Taxonomy of Sentiment. Ford backing off its pledge to provide every employee with a free computer and an almost-free Net connection. ThirdVoice reinventing itself a supplier of third-party links (and then completely de-inventing itself in April of this year). Zaplet moving from providing way cool mail applets to the public to becoming a boring "enterprise software and services company." Gator moving from helpful sidekick to obnoxious, rude betrayer. Just about every company when it hits the 150-employee mark, and again when it nears $100M in revenues.

Sitcoms become outlandish when they're frightened because entertainment depends upon grabbing our attention. Businesses become boring when they're frightened because they prefer the risks they know over the unpredictable risk of being original. Different phenomena. Same tedious, self-defeating outcome.

* * *

Scott has replied via email that the phrase "jumping the shark" is broader than I'm crediting; it's "being used to describe the moment at which things started going wrong." More important, he nails the name for the counter-phenomenon of making a business go all boring when its original formula starts to fail: Jumping the Slug. Mark this mini-Bogus contest closed! We've got a winnah.
11/27/2001 08:44:14 AM | PermaLink


Monday, November 26, 2001


Screw B2B. Hell, screw B2C. It's C2C - customer to customer - that's actually making the difference.

Oh, I forgot that you know that already.

In case you're looking for examples to show to your thick-as-a-board boss who's insisting that you put up a site that trumpets your company's wonderfulness in a blare that causes users to run away with their hands over their ears, here are some sites that are doing at least something right.

VolvoSpy is disappointing only because there's no real spying going on there. Instead, Volvo owners (prospective and self-actualized) post questions and answers. Some of these folks know a whole lot about Volvos. At least one of them is a dealer who is willing to the tell the truth about everything including prices. And when one owner reports an odd burning smell, you can be sure that if it's a problem of any girth, other owners will come forward also, thus turning a discussion group into a political action committee.

If you're thinking of buying an appliance, garden tool or sofa, check in at ThatHomeSite where you will find out - from other customers - exactly why frontloaders produce less lint and how long it takes the particle board in IKEA furniture to chip.

Is it permitted to say a good word about Microsoft? Their online forums are really sort of great. You are very likely to get an honest answer to your flaming email about "WHY WORD SUXXXXXX!!!!!!!" It helps that the answers come from experts from outside of Microsoft, Inc. Many of them are "Microsoft MVPs", a group of volunteers not officially associated with Microsoft. The frankness of their answers bears this out.

These C2C sites are everything the typical corporate site is not: honest, friendly, helpful, truly one-to-one.
11/26/2001 02:03:16 PM | PermaLink


Sunday, November 25, 2001

Is the Open Source movement being suckered by the SSSCA?

There are many reasons the proposed SSSCA is an astoundingly bad idea. But would it kill the open source movement? It's not obvious. In fact, it's possible we're being played for fools.

SSSCA is apparently aimed at providing a technological fix to the problem of copyright violation. It's so easy to reproduce protected digits, however, that the fix requires taking a wrench to the very gonads of computing. This has raised fears that the SSSCA would have the unintended consequence of killing Linux and other open source software. Here are the fears I've found. (If you have more, please let me know.)

1. Slashdot:

"This legislation would make:
a) Building your own computer from commodity parts illegal.
b) Building your own OS illegal.
c) Programming your computer/hardware illegal unless: you only use the officially accepted libraries and agree not to even attempt reverse engineering any of them. "

2. Buzzcut:

"By making it a crime to reverse-engineer software to develop compatible open-source products, free software and access to source code may be in dire straits."

3. Redhat

"Essentially, all devices and software that fall into this vague definition of digital interactive technology will have to include encryption so it can't be copied. This could include VCR tapes, compact discs, and the devices that run them, as well as computers and open source software."

Thus the argument goes. The Open Source folks argue against the SSSCA by pointing to deleterious consequences (see the ACM's letter to Hollings for more consequences) while the entertainment industry says pish-tosh, the bill only aims at stopping the pirating of protected works. The language of the bill is astoundingly vague; according to an article in the The Register by Jack Bryar, Hollings isn't answering questions as simple as "What's a digital device?" and I couldn't find anything on Hollings' site about the SSSCA. But the bill is vague on purpose: it requires the owners of copyrighted digital content and the manufacturers of digital devices to hammer out a solution within 12 months (with a possible 12 month extension); all ties are broken by the Dept. of Commerce. Thus, the bill can fall back on its Noble Intentions, waving its little hands in denial when someone says that it will make it illegal to send a photo of Aunt Tilly to cousin Mark.

And that's how we're being suckered. We get in a lather about consequences the bill does not intend. The government and the Committee of Homeland Stranglehold the SSSCA establishes back off of the ludicrously stupid consequences. We shout and rejoice because we won ... and meanwhile every frigging disk drive, CPU and piece of carbon paper gets a SSSCA Copyright Validator lock put in it.

There's almost no chance that the SSSCA will shut down the Open Source movement in a way that the courts will uphold. Yes, we should be alert. Yes, we should write the letters and sign the petitions. But we should not let the SSSCA through even if it made Linux the 51st state.
11/25/2001 09:46:31 AM | PermaLink


Saturday, November 24, 2001


WordWays has about 250 subscribers. I am one of them and have been, off and on, for fifteen years. It is among the Odd Journals of the World. (I'd send you to www.wordways.com to sample it, but the site is usually down.)

The front cover says that WordWays is "The Journal of Recreational Linguistics," as unlikely a topic as "amateur surgery." Inside, however, you discover that it is a therapeutic for obsessive-compulsives who perseverate on words. Anagrams (deus ex machina = a man hid excuse, purchasing = ungrip cash) and palindromes (Was Islam in an ode, Kramer remarked, on animals I saw?) are as nothing to these folks. Susan Thorpe of Great Missenden in the UK imagines a 3x5 grid like the ones used to spell out numbers on an LCD display. Can she fill the grid with letters so that each number spells out a word? Why, yes she can, although she needs to resort to words such as "acropigments," "terps," pertuisan" and "piestrocranum." Howard Bergerson of Sweet Home, Oregon, looks for words that approximate pi. He sums the value of the letters (A=1, Z=26) for the denominator; for the numerator, he takes the product of the letter values, factors the result into primes, and writes them as a product of prime numbers. Whatever. His "extensive research" shows that the word "universe" is English's best approximation of pi. And Fred Crane proudly reports "I have a card file of bibliographies of bibliographies of bibliographies..." Talk about a guy it'd be fun to sit next to on a long flight!

For your four issues a year, send US$27 to Faith Eckler, Spring Valley Road, Morristown, NJ 07960.

If you'd like something a little less taxing (and less disturbing), sign up for Michael Quinion's weekly newsletter, World Wide Words. He covers quirky words and the quirky origins of non-quirky words. I always look forward to it.

Disclosure: Not only am I a delighted reader of WordWays, I've actually been published there. But, believe me, I am not in their league.
11/24/2001 10:42:50 AM | PermaLink


Friday, November 23, 2001

If you can't read this, let me know

A persistent reader - oh, what the hell, it's Mike O'Dell again, lord love him - informs me that on several browsers, this page - the one you're reading - is a mess. It's supposed to be a simple page with a white background and a three-column table in various shades of light yellowy-orangey-brown, reminiscent perhaps of a dusty popsicle left to melt on the dirty welcome mat of an adobe house. Something like that. Dark brown text. Red hyperlinks. That's what it looks like in Dreamweaver where I design it, and that's what it looks like in MS Internet Explorer. It is definitely not intended to be a blotch of blood red with text the same color but slightly more anemic.

But, while (according to Mike) Mozilla 5.0/0.9.4 does a good job, as does Galeon 0.12.1 which uses the same rendering enging, Netscape 4.7 seems to have an aesthetic sense that runs towards a far muddier mix. KDE Konquerer 2.1 (by far the most popular browser among Mongols) turns all hyperlinks invisible. Opera 5.0 doesn't know when to end the red background of the headlines. Don't you wish that by this point in the Web's history we'd be past these incompatibilities? I know it will turn out to have been my fault, but it still stinks.

I'm not doing anything fancy here, folks, except using CSS. And I'm not going to stop, for declarative markup is a personal religion of mine. So, if you can't read this, you have my deepest, most sincere-sounding apologies.
11/23/2001 09:05:31 PM | PermaLink


Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Straining the Ol' Credulity

1. If this site is to be believed, John Freyer used eBay to auction everything he owned, and then set out on a trip to visit the items in their new homes. (Another list says that this is "way stale" since it was on memepool a while ago.)

2. Mike O'Dell forwards a site devoted to his favorite 70s cop show, Kresky. (If you want to learn the seamy truth behind the show, click here.)
11/21/2001 04:29:36 PM | PermaLink

Why I Don't Write Like Dan Bricklin

Dan B. replied to a recent email with a friendly note that ended by suggesting that I help readers skim my articles by using typography to flag the most important ideas. Dan is one of the computing industry's Good Guys: brilliant, thoughtful, innovative, ethical, human. And I'm not saying this just because he gave this blog a nice plug in his own weblog. Really. But, this is not the first time Dan has stared at the endless, gray cliffs of my verbiage and begged for a handhold. I'm not relenting.

I think Dan's advice is good. It certainly works for Dan. He puts key ideas in bold and generally keeps his entries short. Trellix - Dan's company's product - is well set up to help authors do so. But he and I seem to be writing weblogs for different reasons. Dan's interest in making his writing skimmable indicates, I assume, that he sees his writing as a way of conveying information. The reader wants to take in that information as efficiently as possible and thus benefits from font variations that pull the eye towards the key points. I, unfortunately, have no information to convey. I want to draw readers in and pull them through. I suffer from author's arrogance; Dan is far more considerate of his readers.

Or perhaps it comes down to something simpler and less interesting: Dan's use of typography helps readers find what they want to read in depth. I happen to write in longer chunks, so I use headlines and opening paragraphs to let the reader make a go-no-go decision. Once a reader is in, my job is to entice the reader all the way to the end. Eruptions of boldface makes that job harder.

Dan isn't suggesting that Anna Karenina could have been improved by the judicious use of bold face. The issue is the nature of weblogs. Purveyor of information? Writing that generates interest in what otherwise would go unnoticed? Or something else? There's no one answer to this.

Believe me, If I had salient points to make, I'd make them in boldface. But my aim is not to make it easier for readers to get the information they need and get going, but to pull them through ... best of all, against their will.

Note to e-merchants: If you want to make your sites "sticky," write better.

Some links:
Dan on skimming
Dan's site on writing well for the Web
Jakob Nielsen on writing for the Web

11/21/2001 08:36:41 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, November 20, 2001


Reuters Photo

"What does a turkey have to do to get pardoned around here?"

From http://dailynews.yahoo.com/

Forwarded to me by Gary "Unblinking" Stock.
11/20/2001 06:02:45 PM | PermaLink


Monday, November 19, 2001

Oppose the SSSCA

The Security Systems Standards and Certification Act to be proposed by Senators Hollings and Stevens would mandate that computers have "policeware" built in to enforce the content industry's stranglehold on creative works. Uninstall the policeware and face five years in jail. StopPoliceware.com has links and a petition for your signing delectation. And the EFF has some information up about it as well.
11/19/2001 12:15:27 PM | PermaLink

Conference Report: High Tech Lives

Graeme Thickens reports that the high tech investment world isn't as moribund as it's often made out. He's back from Red Herring's NDA conference and has sent out his observations via an email newsletter that expands on the coverage he provides at www.conferenza.com. (You can sign up for his newsletter here.)

Among his positive observations (each of which I've whittled down):

$45 billion is now sitting in VC coffers waiting to be invested, just from funds raised last year...

Security technology is suddenly mega-hot...

Nanotechnology, a growing new area of VC investment, will provide major advancements in a whole raft of industries...

Internet usage is still doubling every year...

The portable computing device market will continue to grow rapidly...

Neurogenomics, which addresses the causes of central nervous system disorders, is one of the hottest new drug therapy sectors in biotechnology...

Graeme's reports mix reportage, analysis and personal observation. They're often better than being there. Thanks, Graeme.
11/19/2001 10:54:24 AM | PermaLink


Sunday, November 18, 2001

NYTimes Exposes Nuclear Taliban Hoax

The NY Times on November 17 ran an article about the media's declaration that Al Qaeda is building nuclear weapons. It turns out out that the papers on which the media report was based are in fact a parody article written in 1979. As reported in The Daily Rotten (Nov. 16) and this blog (among others).
11/18/2001 01:27:42 PM | PermaLink

Send a Fax to Support Your Liberties

The American Civil Liberties Union makes it reeaaal easy to send a fax to your US representatives to oppose the creation of secret kangaroo courts. It just takes a couple of clicks.
11/18/2001 01:15:37 PM | PermaLink

Links and Horizons

This is a weblog, right? So I can surface ideas half-baked at best? Ideas under development? Ideas that may not make it through their difficult teen years? Well, here goes...

The word "horizon" became important to some philosophers in the second half of the 20th century. "Horizonal this" and "the horizonality of that" are sure signs that you're dealing with a so-called Continental philosopher. They're also the ones talking about silence, gestures, and, occasionally, nothingness. There's a reason for this. It's a reaction against a traditional ontology that equates "real" with "present" - "present" in both the sense of what exists now and in the sense of being present and not absent. Reality in the traditional ontology is what's here now, a big clump of matter.

The problem isn't that what's here now isn't real; the problem is that this definition excludes too many things that either aren't now or aren't matter. It's not just fluffy stuff like dreams and emotions that the traditional understanding of reality excludes, it's also things like potential (future) and tradition (past). Continental philosophers such as Martin Heidegger say that we can't understand our experience of the world without seeing that it is imbued with a sense of future possibilities and potentialities. We can't even understand a simple hammer without taking it as something that can be used to accomplish some project; we understand things in terms of their future, potential use to us.

Horizon becomes an important term to these Continental philosophers because - although they don't always put it this way - the horizon is not only the limit of what we can see, it indicates that there is more beyond it. The horizon isn't simply where the sky meets the earth; it also points beyond itself to the hidden rest of the world. (Gesturing does the same thing. So does language. Different topics.)

So, does the Web world have an horizon? Since it's not a physical world, it well might not have a structure analogous to the horizon. But I think it does: hyperlinks. Hyperlinks point to a page beyond itself. They are a quite explicit gesture - far more explicit than the real world horizon in suggesting what lies beyond.

So, who cares? Maybe no one. But I think one - tenuous - result is the Web helps make clear (Heideggerians would say "uncover") the true nature of the real world. The real world isn't really a big clump of matter. It's a context of signficance, the present illuminated by its possible futures in light of the language that comes from the past. The real world is horizonal not just where the sky meets the earth but also in every thing that is understood by reference to the context and its possibilities that are beyond the thing itself. We can ignore that fact in the real world - and traditional philosophy has made a career of ignoring it - but we can't ignore it on the Web, for at the heart of the Web's nature are horizonal hyperlinks.

Or something like that.
11/18/2001 11:14:52 AM | PermaLink

FBI Profiles Anthraxian

According to today's Boston Globe, based on a careful analysis of the letters' content and handwriting style:

FBI behavior scientists have said they believe the person sending the letters is a reclusive adult male with a tendency to hold grudges.

Stop the presses! This just in: FBI announces its analysis of the writer's handwriting indicates that he does not have hooks for hands. Repeat: No hooks for hands.

Also, there's evidence that the writer was probably subject to the law of gravity at the time he wrote it. More details as they develop...

11/18/2001 10:55:04 AM | PermaLink


Saturday, November 17, 2001

The Colonoscopy Channel - America Rulz!

Gaspar Torriero writes from Italy in response to my saying "showing people what I'd written but not revised made me feel as good as getting a rectal exam in a Macy's store window." (Nov. 15). (Count on Rageboy to have picked up on this particular image of mine. Sigh.) Gaspar writes:

You may will not believe this, but on Swiss television this Friday, during the evening live medicine show, a guy from the public had a colonoscopy in front of the cameras. He seemed to enjoy the attention, being interviewed and all. Very nice live video of his rectum and colon.

Katie Couric's better side It is with great pride that I inform you that America is once again providing the world with the leadership it so desperately needs. A few months ago, Katie Couric, the cute-as-a-button co-anchor of the leading morning news talk show, broadcast her own colonoscopy. Her husband died of cancer, so this both Informed the Public and may have been some type of weird, psychological expiation.
11/17/2001 06:40:53 PM | PermaLink

Zombie Songs

How many Harry Potter reviews are we going to read that are based on some pun about "Wild about Harry"? And how many reviews of "Legally Blonde" twisted "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" in one way or another? I have nothing against writers (including headline writers) taking the easy way out. In fact, I'm all in favor of it. But - and here's the point - no one has heard the songs these puns are based on in fifty years or more. The songs live on now only in punning headlines.

Mini-Bogus Contest: Send me headlines that refer to zombie songs. I'll run the list here and in my newsletter. The prize: A lovely bunch o' coconuts.
11/17/2001 05:33:47 PM | PermaLink

Flash: Nitpicking Continues!

Whoix.com, the Thinking Person's Alternative to Whois, responds to malformed queries with the following error message:

Bitte geben Sie den Domain-Namen ohne "www." an

Ach, ist jetzt die Sprache vom der Internet Deutsch ? Ausgezeichnet!

Besides, if Whoix is smart enough to see that the name I entered begins with "www." why isn't it smart enough to remove the "www." and do the lookup I requested? "To dial the number you requested you must first dial 1." If you know what I did wrong, why don't you dial the one, you a-hole!

General category of this picked nit: The Petty Revenge of Resentful Robots.

Yes, I know my German is schrecklich. Thank you for reminding me.
11/17/2001 02:36:11 PM | PermaLink

Hoaxing of Taliban No Hoax

Or so it seems. The BBC video report features a quick glimpse of the document that supports the claim that Al Qaeda is building nuclear weapons. The few words visible do indeed seem to come from the parody document. It also seems that CNN has been taken in.

Hey, Osama, time to start rehearsing for your IG Noble Prize acceptance speech next year!

These links came from a discussion list to which I'd posted the original info. Thanks, folks.
11/17/2001 10:41:10 AM | PermaLink


Friday, November 16, 2001

Atomic Parody Fools Taliban

According to The Daily Rotten, the instructions for building nuclear weapons found in the deserted Taliban headquarters actually are a parody from The Annals of Improbable Research. The parody has been circulating on the Web since the 1980s and was written in 1979.

The alarmist report was filed by Anthony Loyd of The Times of London. In it he reads from the paper he found:

The device basically works when the detonated TNT compresses the Plutonium into a critical mass. The critical mass then produces a nuclear chain recation similar to the domino chain reaction (discussed in this column, "Dominos on the March", March, 1968). The chain reaction then promptly produces a big thermonuclear reaction. And there you have it, a 10 megaton explosion!

Says The Daily Rotten:

To find these joke atomic bomb plans, do a web search for "The device basically works" and look for mentions of "Let's Build an Atomic Bomb!". It gives us pause and joy to know the Taliban are wasting their time downloading what amounts to joke mail and spending time trying to discern the facts therein.

Comforting. Unless, of course, The Daily Rotten is the one playing the joke...
11/16/2001 07:38:00 PM | PermaLink

Winer on Weblogs

Personal Web Publishing Communities. Four very key words. Let's go through them one by one...

So says Dave. No argument here. Dave nails it.

Of course, there's more to say about weblogs; that's why they're hard to reduce to a definition, even with the expansion Dave provides for each of the terms. Weblogs are a rich phenomenon.

For example: Weblog communities are different than communities formed around discussion boards or mailing lists. The nature of the conversational bonds is different. Even weblog time is different - the fact that blogs have a daily feel isn't incidental to what they are and what they're becoming.

And, they hit a middle ground in terms of their publicness. For some of us - me - that's been an inhibitor, since in the 2x2 matrix (I've gotta stop writing Powerpoints) of publicness and formality, emails are in the lower left (small, intimate group and highly informal), zines are in the top right (large group, formal/reviewed/drafted writing) and blogs are in the upper left (potentially a lot of readers, but generally pretty informal because they're so timely). Some of us, because of our own neuroses, find the upper left an uncomfortable place.

Well, another 8-10 drafts and I'll be ready to post this message. No! Be a blogger! Do it now! Do it!
11/16/2001 03:45:25 PM | PermaLink

Reading Machines Back in Business

The makers of Kurzweil reading machines for the blind and learning disabled have managed to avoid being taken down by the felonious bastards at Lernout & Hauspie. The management team of the reading machine company (Kurzweil Educational Systems) has bought it back from L&H. Thank goodness. The reading machines folks are Good Guys. For example, their CTO, Steve Baum, is not only an excellent engineer, but is also truly committed to making life better for others. And there's no one I have more respect for than my cousin-in-law Mark Dionne who is a senior engineer there. More or less the opposite of Leg-Irons Lernout and Handcuff Hauspie.
11/16/2001 08:55:10 AM | PermaLink

Our First Award!

Our blog has only been up for 8 hours and it's already won it's first award!

Well, we haven't quite won it yet. We've been nominated, but that itself is the real award, isn't it? Yes, we are proud to announce that our site has been nominated for the prestigious Deco-Website Awards!

The exciting news arrived be email just minutes ago. At first we thought it might be spam, but at the bottom it said explicitly:


And it was all in caps! They couldn't do that if it weren't true!

The fact that we received the message twice and it doesn't quite mention which of our web sites has been nominated also made us a bit suspicious, as did the fact that the mail was addressed to "[email protected]" While I own the domain name evident.com, I don't actually have a site up. So, I'm sure they mean the award to go to this blog. After all, although I'm normally quite humble, it's clear that I deserve it. Well, not me alone, but the team of people who labored over the past 2 hours to build this site. I dedicate this award to the little people.

Paranoid me, I still thought it might be a scam or maybe some of my "friends" (you know who you are) pulling my leg. But the Deco Website Awards site tells you just who the Evaluators are. These three folks are Web heavys ("heavies" just reads too funny)!:

David Collinson
David is working as a freelance web designer in Japan and has an extensive experience in web design, HTML and Java programming As of his education, he is the post graduate in computers/ graphic design of a Tokyo collage and he is the Webmaster of this web site and the Award program.

John Roberts
John is an office worker as a Senior Programmer Analyst, but his important interest is the internet and web site design. He has excellent skill in HTML, Java, He has a very good experience by working in several countries like England, Holland, Japan, and right now living in Paris, France
He is a graduate in computer graphics and has more than 8 years of experience in Web Design and Programming.

Mary Richards
Is a graphics designer. The Deco Website Awards is a part time job for her, And in the new year planing to go to japan to study more.

(Keep it up, Mary. You're going to make it after all!)

Another couple of signs that these guys are the real deal: First, look at their URL: http://www.deco-websiteawards.co-inc.com. You can't get much more legally incorporated than to be both a Co. and an Inc. ... these guys must be rock solid! Also, when you go to the site, not one but three popup ads appear, each a vote of confidence.

Best of all, if I win, they're going to allow me to buy a trophy! Do you think I should put it on top of my monitor, or is that too ostentatious? Maybe I should just put it on a bookshelf and half hide it behind some old paperbacks so that when people notice it, I can be all humble like.

I owe it all to you, my readers. Without you, this blog would be nothing. This Deco Website Award is really for you.
11/16/2001 08:39:01 AM | PermaLink


Thursday, November 15, 2001

Our first post in a while

I'm probably overdue to update this weblog since the last update was, let's see, November 20, 1999!

Yeah, I tried this weblogging thing two years ago. But it's not how I like to write. I like to let things sit before I show them to people. Yes, I recently finished writing a book in public, posting each day's draft at a public web site (www.smallpieces.com). But I was very uncomfortable doing it. The feedback made it worthwhile, but showing people what I'd written but not revised made me feel as good as getting a rectal exam in a Macy's store window. So, we'll see how this second attempt at blogging goes.

Let's try this. Here's the beginning of a column that should be showing up tomorrow in Darwin Online.

So, You Go

So, you can already tell I'm a webby type of guy. The giveaway was in the very first word of this paragraph. "So," I began, thus taking up an affectation of speech that is to web entrepreneurs what "what-ev-er" is to Valley girls and "On the other hand" is to philosophers.

It began on the West Coast, in Silicon Valley, but now is thoroughly transcontinental. Here in Boston, if you ask one of my neighbors — a software guy — if he's going to the kid's soccer game, he'll say, "So, I'm going to drive Rosie and Mark..." Ask him if he's read any good books lately and he'll reply, "So, I was reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay..." Ask him what he's going to do about the button hanging from his shirt by a thread, and he'll say, "So ... sew."

So, what are we to make of this, of this fake continuity as if your reply is picking up a thread already being sewn? There's a reason that some affectations propagate themselves and others don't. I know about this first hand. Nobody believes me, but it is the Lord's honest truth that I'm the one who started the ironic gesture of twice slapping the back of one's hand against the palm of another. I made this gesture up in 1986 ... more

11/15/2001 10:06:26 PM | PermaLink

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