The saga of my keys brings to mind that optimistic
philosophy about lost objects I got out of
by A. A. Attanasio -- They're
not lost, just on their way back.
I should read more of his books -- I got
that one because mid-90s Usenet postings
placed it on lists of 'cyberpunk,' a classification
which seems a tad simplistic.
The mighty Tercel is in the shop for an
engine overhaul -- it's been drinking oil
and acting sluggish for a while, probably
needs new piston rings, will cost over
$2K -- yikes! Of course I could get a
rental for the duration but will instead
attempt a week-long return to my car-free
ways of the late 70s, relying on bicycle
and public transport only. There was
some good news today: I got my lost keys
back. They never made it off-base, apparently;
and the numbers on the two stamped "U.S.
Government -- Do Not Duplicate" provided
the requisite identification leading to
their return. However, somewhere during
their journey, the "Tinker" Swiss Army
knife I bought in Zürich was removed
from the key-ring.
Spent the weekend showing
a special visitor around town; finally
attended a show at the
and found the experience quite enjoyable. Also,
returned to the
in the Palace of Fine Arts. During my first extended
tour of San Francisco, in 1976, the trip to this hands-on
science museum and educational space was quite memorable,
this time less so and rather exhausting -- a lot of the
exhibits show their age, and are frankly kinda beat
up -- it's obvious that a LOT of people have visited,
many of them kids who don't really understand what's
going on... but the
Dome was great.
"Chad" -- added to the popular vocabulary late last
year; I already knew what it was, had occasionally
harvested quantities from those hoppers in a keypunch
machine, even before I'd used the cards to program. Later
I learned how using it as confetti was discouraged,
because the sharp corners of the chads could cause eye-damage.
Loved the Hollerith cards, continue using them for
notecards they became obsolete. Lost track of my IBM
Card ages ago, so had no reference when wondering recently
about the specifics of the card code, punches to
characters -- only have a couple actually punched in
my stash, and only one of those was "interpreted" -- not
enough to decode.
has enough info, including a blurry GIF of a 'key'
card (like I'd punched in the past and wish I'd
retained) -- but even better, Jonathon of UCLA
has created an online
input a string and it instantly creates a picture of its
card in a .facx image format. If you want some blank cards, see
Page -- says he'll mail you a bunch in a SASE.
One of these days these
boots are gonna walk all over you.
The Delai Lama
"Whether Hindu or Muslim or Christian, whoever tries
to convert, it's wrong, not good... I always believe
it's safer and better and reasonable to keep one's own
tradition or belief," the Dalai Lama, a winner of the
Nobel peace prize, said. He spoke after the Hindu
Council's general secretary, Ashok Singhal, had said,
"Buddhism, Hinduism and other non-aggressive
religions have to unite to douse Islam ... an
(He was quoted while attending the
One of the oldest pages on this site is the
Howard Johnson's Restaurant
Guide, inspired, in part, by their tradition
of superior nut ice cream flavors: real Pistachio
(as opposed to the common, bogus pistachio-flavored
Pistachio-Almond), and Chocolate Almond made
with the crunchier roasted almonds. Regretfully,
my tribute is based on memory rather than any
recent visits to the few extant restaurants, and
the Orange Roof reports that
So many restaurants are closing that it is doubtful
that Howard Johnson's will survive the year 2001.
(His site maintains a more up-to-date Guide.)
From the Washington Post:
Shook Bush's Hand -- the very idea!
The police and the SS would confirm only that
a man had obtained what they termed an "unscheduled
handshake" with Bush.
And they're outraged, because the same guy did
it, again without proper clearance, with President
Clinton at his inauguration, in '96.
What sounds like a fascinating new book:
Constantine's Sword by James
Carroll -- before becoming a writer, he
was a Catholic priest; he's wrestling with
the Church's policies of anti-semitism. It
opens with his on-site contemplation of the
cross(es) installed at Auschwitz, which provoked
bitter conflict over the past two decades. This
includes the first chapter.
An American CD case is
a big, fast-loading GIF of instructions for folding a slick
square envelope from an 8½ by 11 sheet of paper. Got
the link off Bifurcated
Rivets; Lindsay calls it origami but since the source
sheet isn't square I beg to differ. (Always use the plastic
jewel cases myself -- if the disk comes in something
cardboard I swap it out.)
Quote for the Day:
If you are in an interesting area, in a place
where you have never been before, and you have
twenty bucks in your pocket -- you own the
It's from Highway Hokkaido Blues, the
best travel book about Japan I've ever read.
Too bad the publication of a paperback edition
seems unlikely. More information about it
Seeking new weblogs I found the excellent
About George, who remembers
participating in a mock election in the third
grade, 20 years ago, in a Montgomery County
elementary school about a week before the 1980
election. I think Reagan trounced Carter by
3-to-1 among my classmates. When the results were
announced over the school loudspeaker, I put my head
down on my desk, genuinely shocked at the margin. It
was disquieting to realize that the cheering kids
around me saw the world differently, even if they
were just parrotting their parents' opinions.
It really is discouraging, how effective their
propaganda campaign has been... Anyway, he used that
story as prelude to excerpts from Conservative
Rage vs Liberal Guilt, an essay by David Morris
which echoes the same "rage" theme articulated by Jon
Prudie tackles the problem of
grandparents in Slate:
It is sad, but true, that much damage has been done
in the name of religion. As one sage put it, "Religious
wars are basically people killing each other over who
has the better imaginary friend."
The Babylon of Tiki Cities:
The tikiroom.com crew arrived
at closing time, so they only got a five-minute
Arts in Whittier, but they took lots of pictures.
It's the place to go when you're furnishing a
The Lexicon section of the
Geekosphere isn't as volumnious and technical as the
Dictionary, but it has a refreshing gamer
and Japanese/anime perspective; seems
a little more contemporary. Examples:
infonesia and its subset,
While walking in Palo Alto the other day, a
whizzed past. Intriguing -- an enclosed, three-wheeled
electric vehicle, runs about $15,000; they're
manufactured by a Hollister, California company called
Motors (that link's annoying, their top-level
tarted up with that silly Java reflective-water effect).
The Sparrow is classified as a motorcycle; Hollister,
after all, is biker country -- lots of cycle shops, with
history -- it's where the 1947 riot occurred,
for "The Wild One." For more information
about three-wheeled vehicles (some quite radical) check
Join the Arbor
Day Foundation and get ten
saplings -- free! (Well, almost -- just
for the price of a $10 donation -- a
dollar a tree!)
Riding my bike home from work today, it seems
my keys fell out of my pocket, somehow.
Retraced my route, but couln't find -- sometimes
it feels as if my system's just falling apart.
Scared about the meat we eat? If not, read
and you will be.
Very long article (my eyes glazed over after a
Not to Teach Values, detailing the fascist
indoctrination going on in our public schools today:
On an enormous wall near the cafeteria, professionally
painted Peanuts characters instruct children: "Never
talk in line."
I wonder, which characters? Lucy, the obvious choice,
or perhaps the submissive Marcie; but coming from Linus
it would be a matter for debate, and from Charlie Brown
(or in a Snoopy thought balloon), almost an invitation
for horseplay. Who better? Superman? Ned Flanders or
Hank Hill? Sergeant Schulz?
While searching on something entirely
unrelated, came across this
FAQ -- it's about as legitimate as they
come -- compiled and
edited by Roger McGuinn.
Why did Jim McGuinn change his name to Roger?
Jim was born James Joseph McGuinn III. He changed his
name in 1967 because a guru in Indonesia said that a
new name would vibrate better with the universe. The
guru sent Jim the letter "R" and asked him to send back
ten names starting with that letter. Because Jim was
into gadgets and Sci-Fi, he sent names like "Rocket"
and "Ramjet." He included the name Roger only because
they use it for radio messages to indicate "OKAY."
Roger was the only "real" name in the bunch and the
guru picked it.
today. "That sounds like a fancy way of
saying Randy is an idiot." (When did
they abandon their thirty-day delay?) Bad
Dilbert yesterday, when I opened
my mailbox to find him on the
cover of the latest Lands' End catalog.
At the comics store, the latest issue of
Much Coffee Man, #10 -- says it's the
last. In a response on the letters page,
Shannon asks the right questions:
What's going on with our post office? They've
become an advertising platform for Hollywood.
When did we vote on that? If they sell ads,
then why don't they lower the postage rate? Can
I advertise at the post office? Is it only
limited to crappy movies?
Over the past few days the weblogs have been all
abuzz about Ginger, or "IT" (the big eye-tee!) -- a
Kamen invention which is seemingly half a
scooter stabilized with miniature gyroscopes. Check
Boing's entry for Wednesday, he's got a bunch
of links and verbiage; or just jump right into the
diagram section of this (legitimate?) technical document --
one. Quite frankly, I'm skeptical -- this may be
a hoax, or at least some kind of ruse.
Over time I've grown to despise the Grinch. Sure,
initially he was fun -- that was before the
book -- others are probably more familiar with him
in that format, but in the early years my beloved,
frugal Mom would pull out the tattered newsprint
where he'd first appeared (a special supplement to
the Sunday funnies) and read us the story each holiday
season. Then came the TV special, with its bad
music -- oh, I know some people like it, and
the Who-song is okay, but Thurl "Tony the Tiger"
Ravenscroft's singing makes me cringe. And now this
new movie, how they got the Post Office to advertise
it (excessively) is beyond me, just evil. But a new
version has just appeared, which is excellent:
the Grinch stole America (with apologies to Dr. Seuss),
by Salman Rushdie.
Guide to the Logical Fallacies -- although quite
enlightening, especially its illustrative
examples, the guide doesn't seem to include the
Fallacy, a term of which I recently became
aware -- it means reading human attributes into
the inhuman, like both
but is a lot more fun to use.
Thoughtful Feed essay
by Erik Davis, triggered by his unsettling
experience with the new OnStar system in a rental Impala:
For a few seconds, I had entered Philip K. Dick land:
my radio suddenly and pointedly spoke directly to me.
Moreover, the voice knew exactly where I was... In a
beat, reality seemed to fold inside out, the general
became particular. This is what paranoid schizophrenics
might feel like at the beginning of an episode.
He also mentions those
little antisocial wormholes that cell phones open
up in the midst of public space --
sometimes they irritate me so much I position
myself directly in front of the guilty party,
moving in slightly, violating their personal
space, glaring, even clenching my fists. Still
they prattle on, oblivious.
While searching for information about specific
crests, or kamon, I came across
this great page about
Patterns -- seems like a teaching aid,
probably for some class; but it's a
perfect example of what a web page should
be like -- simple HTML, interesting content
(with links to more info), and small images.
Nowadays it seems very archaic.
Lileks confronts his geekiness via "Battlestar
Galactica" reflection and critique in
Bleat, which segues into more
1980 musings on "The Black Hole."
about abandoned NSA listening post
Although the data is still being analyzed, and its
closest approach was just a couple days ago, the
Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory of Operations
gallery of the Jovian fly-by on Christmas. Imagine
we'll be hearing a lot more from
when the spacecraft finally reaches Saturn in 2004.
For a quick view of its Jupiter encounter see the
Pic of the Day for last Tuesday.
Slate has posted a fascinating report, an
introverted consumer's test of Paxil, the new
mood-altering drug being marketed as a cure for shyness:
a smoother, suaver Seth just 20 milligrams away?
Conclusion: sorta, although it was transforming him
into an alcoholic -- his main focus is an insight
into why those boozey people in bars get along so
well. The "zaps" Seth experienced during withdrawal
Check the product line from Fuzhou
Nine Stars Group. (The site's design is mildly
annoying, but the text has that flowery but slightly
inept oriental translation style which can be amusing.)
Their "Mighty Healer" adds an electric jolt
to the traditional acupuncture needle -- would
you submit to such a treatment? I sure
wouldn't. But I would like to play with an
Mosquito Swatter -- sounds like a Tom Swift
invention. Upon reflection, however, I can't see
how it would work -- the whole problem with skeeters
is they're stealthy, you don't notice 'em until it's
too late; but maybe their attributes are more like
flies, in China?
of Weird and Disgusting Foods (inspired by the
Amazing compendium of the vile,
and our own culture is not spared.
Speaking of food, The Atlantic has an
McDonald's Fries Taste So Good -- delves into
Artifical and Natural Flavor ingredients, and why
they're both manufactured in New Jersey. Includes
this little factoid:
On average, Americans now eat about four
servings of french fries every week.
Too weird -- seems like I only have
pommes frittes about four times
a year. To each his own, I guess -- but
then, I'm probably a certified 'health nut' to
the great unwashed.
and Recommendations starts out with
fascinating musings about the computer
newbie's mental processes:
The underlying problem, evidently, is that the feeling
of not-knowing-what-to-do is intolerable. They think
they ought to know what to do, and they feel
stupid because they don't, so they guess.
If I'd read this first, that
Screens study Ember
was passing around a couple years back wouldn't have
been so perplexing to me.
What's worse, in many people this great fear of
not-knowing-what-to-do is combined with an equally
great fear of breaking something.
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