09 April, 2007
he is actually proposing the same sort of nepotistic cabal behind wikipedia become a moderating body for weblogs as a whole. He has to be either 100% ignorant of how wikipedia works, of the utter lack of integrity in the Wales Machine, or even that the simple act of moderating against content will draw attention to it.
Any way you slice this, it's entirely, utterly stupid. And useless. Although not without comedic value (if one can believe for a moment that it will be roundly rejected and has no possibility of being accepted).
Door's to your left, Mr. O'Reilly. Perhaps it's time for you to retire somewhere like Mercer Island and just be one of those "profited on the dot com generation" hermits. Your time on the innarwebs is now up.
08 April, 2007
The founders of our nation believed that all Americans should have the right to worship according to their own beliefs, or not to worship at all. So strong was their commitment to religious freedom that they enshrined it in the first sentence of the Bill of Rights.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
It's a reasonable concern. It's even a concern that I hold. I'm on record stating that I am a buddhist, belonging to the pure land section of buddhism (which holds somewhat different values and goals than most people equate buddhism with). And, in a state (the US), where christianity is in fact the majority religion, I do feel a little persecuted. Very much like I'm some sort of novelty. When people assume I have no faith because I do not talk about God, the implicit assumption is that I'd either be christian or atheist/agnostic. It doesn't occur to anyone that I might be pantheist, ambiguously deist, gnostic, or any other of the more subtle religious persuasions.
As such, it troubles me to see movements like the above. It seems that organizations want freedom from religion. I don't see religion as a problem at all. In fact, I think it provides people a stronger (you'll have to pardon the pun) constitution. There's always something behind them (even in nihilism) that explains, to some degree, how everything they're doing or being subjected to, is either relevant or entirely irrelevant, and as such provides us needed answers when there appear to be none.
To me, the freedom "from religion" is just as bad as the xtian hegemony trying to convert all of us to their cause.
No, religion in society and politics should be entirely moot. Religion is a very personal subject by its very nature. Unless god (note little g vs big G) speaks to others as it speaks to you, it's not possible for it to be a societal question. Whether they are deluded or they actually do hear the voice of god, because I cannot hear what they hear, and I cannot verify nor comment on it, it simply isn't a social question. It's anecdotes.
Here is where the anti-theocracy people actually have some convergence with "good ideas."
Theocracy is unstable. Theocracies are driven by mobs, which are notoriously unintelligent, murderous, and mercurial. One moment we can be discussing the virtues of marriage, and the next we can be hanging adulterers from the church tower (with a nod to Stross). The mob can appoint a new "spiritual leader" just about any time somebody with enough charisma or firepower (Hitler, the Spanish Inquisition, Henry VII, the list goes on) comes along to do so.
At this point, mob rule supplants or extends what is the normal rule of law (note I am not discussing the Caliphate or Sharia). In the United States right now, we have a President who is a self-professed evangelical christian, who claims to be motivated by God (big G again) and the bible. We have a constitution that defines the law of the country, and a man bound to uphold it, acting on the interpretation of a mob (the bible, leaders in the evangelical church, the pope, etc), in addition to his interpretation of constitutional law (through yet others – Gonzalez, et al – who are biased by religion).
This is a highly volatile situation. Because churches are subject to moral vicissitudes, and mobs of people tend to make snap judgments (such as lynching, witch-burnings, etc), we cannot tell today what a religion will do tomorrow. We cannot tell because we do not know who the leaders are, and what their values are, as they change with the winds. We cannot tell what the interpretations will be in the future, nor can we be sure "new works" (such as undiscovered religious texts, the virgin mary in a grilled cheese sandwich, etc) will not appear.
And so theocracy is an entirely dangerous proposition for any nation which claims to be governed by secular law. The sort of theocracy we have in America is particularly dangerous because it is not an official theocracy. Anyone asked whether they are performing actions because a burning bush told them to will be coy in answering, or outright dodge the subject. The actions are there, the truth is not. All we can be sure of is our leaders are acting on rationale they do not share with us.
Let me discuss another failure of theocracy, this time in a publicly acknowledged theocracy: Sharia law. While most would call Dore Gold a hate-monger (and perhaps rightfully so), he has a remarkably clear account of how islamic law works, and why islamists are so stridently opposed to America (and of course Americans) in his book, Hatred's Kingdom. The notion of what is "law" in a country ruled by muslim law is a fluid concept. A basis for laws are taken from the Quran, and those laws are then further interpreted as society evolves. In the time of Mohammed, for example, we did not have nuclear weapons or modern democracies. And so, when somebody asks a current muslim leader, "what does the Quran tell us about the west?" or "what does the Quran tell us about making war with the Americans?", it is invariably the subjective interpretation of somebody who is human, and therefore has an agenda.
I am not a Quranic scholar, so I can't get into details honestly. However, one thing that stuck with me through the book was the notion of the fatwa. As religious edicts are issued, they often contradict. One imam in Indonesia may consider it legal under islamic law to wage offensive war on American soil, and another may not. Consequently, those who wish to wage war will cite the fatwa they agree with, and others will state that those attacking are violating the fatwa (and thus islamic law, mind you). This is why people fly planes into buildings, claiming Islam requires it, and others claim just as correctly that Islam is a peaceful religion and does not condone such acts.
America is really not so far off from this corrupted nest of religious subtleties. An overwhelming majority of congressmen claim to be "religious," with the overwhelming majority thereof being christian, of some bent or another. It doesn't matter whether they are a democrat or a republican. Whatever agenda they follow is, in some part, governed by laws which are fluid and subject to vast interpretation, relating to everything from going to war with Iran to abortion.
Theocracy, when overtly expressed, is at least an enemy you can see. Our theocracy, this theocratic republic, is a far more dangerous animal, and has been loosed on the world to great tragedy. How ironic that religion itself loosed this great religious monster back in 2001.
07 April, 2007
Anyways, I put it to the taste test, running my tongue along it to see if I recognized it. Immediately. "That's not pred, that's klonopin! Cool!"
However, one does not simply start munching drugs found about the house. When I got to the new place and checked up on it, I discovered, sure enough, I had found klonopin in the house, and discerned it from Claritin or Prednisone, by taste.
Either very cool, or very sad. At any rate, I should be able to get some goddamn sleep now. :)
06 April, 2007
04 April, 2007
Interviews! Coming out of my ass! This is such a pain! I don't think I've ever had so many so close together. Certainly not in so many different locations! And this time, I don't really have any I don't want to take. Bunches of stuff I like! And, you know, moving, and having serious insomnia, too.
(it's good to be wanted, I guess)
03 April, 2007
Yes, I am. I don't even have a following. Let me add just a couple comments. First, I did throw a stone – I called somebody loathesome (and misspelled it, even) – and was subsequently called a "hack" and "jealous unpublished author."
I wish to qualify loathsome. I do not think that the relationship between a man and his – his words, not mine – special needs daughter is loathsome. I don't think that either of those people are. I don't even really find the weblog itself to be loathsome. I find the whole cryfest jerkoff itself to be loathsome. The opposite of this is also true. I've read enough goddamn stories of how somebody triumphed instead of having a cryfest jerkoff, and I'm not really interested in more. I find it especially disgusting that authors are being made from weblogs, and not the other way around.
Let me also address the "jealous unpublished author." As I do from time to time, I need to quote myself, to put this in perspective for people who "read a couple of [my] entries."
I haven't really been writing too much, except that in the last couple days I've started a short story and the "darker" book. I fully intend with Limits to kill thousands of people. No question. But they will seem to have died for a reason. I don't have a name for the darker book, but I am leaning towards Sharks. People will die, again, and again, and again, and again, in Sharks, and people will lose their sanity, piece by piece. Almost like, hmm, Resident Evil. Once the infection starts, the carnage begins, and just. doesn't. end. Add in a healthy dose of paranoia, and you have a book that is wholly unpleasant to read. And yet, I think it is a book that many will not be able to put down.So, I am probably a hack. I started writing a book because I realized that my job involved connecting the pointy end of the spear with the bad guys. I woke up one day in a car along the Potomac (GW Parkway for the locals) and I realized that I was writing software that delivered bombs to badguys. Whoa. A couple years later, I had another moment, when I realized that I had changed from actually getting the bombs onto the planes and getting the planes fueled and in the air to actually guiding cruise missiles to targets.
This means I am writing a book I like. I think this is a good thing. I am after all, writing the book for myself. But also, since I do read so much, I think this means I will have some broader appeal than myself. Maybe it will work commercially.
It's amazing what you can accomplish when you don't have a "day job." I wish I could afford to do this for another few months. It would be very sad if I stopped writing when I go back to work.
Strange. They don't know what I'm writing, other than it's fiction. And those that have said they'd like to read the book, well, depending on how well you know me, you might not like to read 120,000 words that came out of my head. I'm not writing this book for anyone but me. If it gets published, hooray, that's great. I'll never get rich, and you can't make a movie out of it because it is just so brooding, sullen, and mean. I can self-publish, and put a copy of my book on my shelf. And that will be good enough for me.
These are the two things that got my attention most directly. However, I think anyone with a reasonable IQ who works in defense has these moments from time to time. Because I'm a hack, I'll quote Dyson. After all, I could certainly choose worse people to steal from, right?
I began to look backward and ask myself how it had happened that I had let myself become involved in this crazy game of murder. Since the beginning of the war, I had been retreating, step by step, from one moral position to another, until at the end I had no moral position at all. At the beginning of the war, I believed fiercely in the brotherhood of man, called myself a follower of Ghandi, and was morally opposed to all violence. After a year of war, I retreated, and said, Unfortunately, nonviolent resistance against Hitler is impracticable, but I am still morally opposed to bombing. A few years later, I said Unfortunately, it seems that bombing is necessary to win the war, and so I am willing to go to work for Bomber Command, but I am still morally opposed to bombing cities indiscriminately. After I arrived at Bomber Command, I said, Unfortunately, it turns out we are bombing cities indiscriminately, but this is morally justified as it is helping to win the war. A year later, I said, Unfortunately, it seems our bombing is not really helping to win the war, but at least I am morally justified in working to save the lives of the bomber crews. In the last spring of the war, I could no longer find any excuses. ... I had surrendered one moral principle after another, and in the end, it was all for nothing.So I did what many sane men do: I took the death I could calculate in my head (a TLAM has a warhead how big, there are how many of them in the air, they have what level of accuracy, how many are used in a given strike, how many such strikes are used in a given conflict, what is the rate of replenishment for the weapons), and I put it to paper. Initially it was tattered pieces of data floating about my computer, just ideas I'd had. But I knew I was doing something important.
All the stuff that was deeply troubling me, all of Dyson's surrendered moral principles, were there in those pieces of data. And I began to collate them. Because one cannot say "I've seen what a metric ton of HE does to a building" without either addressing – or suppressing – how they feel about it. I firmly believe it is not possible to divorce, cognitively, that association. And so I began to write about death. I began to write about the industry. I began to write about $15,000 dinners and engineers who spent all day killing people without really realizing it (the pointy end of the sphere vis a vis the pointy heads, to paraphrase a dinner conversation with a friend).
I realized I knew all these people, all these events, all this technology. I didn't have to fudge anything to really say what I wanted to say: that it's a sickening, frightening industry. I, like many people in the business, am very good at what I do. So, I fit into this role easily. So did Dyson. So, too, did Dyson justify his involvement with the war in saving the "friendly" lives. So, too, with Dyson, did that ring hollow.
And so, my book is my penance. It's a book that, for me, is to get all the spooky shit out of my head. The only way to do it without getting people killed or hurting companies is to produce fiction that represents ideas and caricatures of people and places, without going into specifics. I assure you, this is enough for me.
So, what then? A cryfest jerkoff? If I had instead decided to publish some Bob Lazar "evil genius vaguely associated with the government tells all and sells the dirty womens' underpants" book, I suspect people would have been slavering to read all the gossipy details. They want to know what stupid Colonel said what completely insipid thing over dinner.
No, instead, I
Now, watch as I deftly compare myself to Dyson here: Suppose, for a second, that I write a book. A hack of a book, a cryfest jerkoff of a book, shrouded in sharks with lazerbeams on their heads, glittering space elevators, and references to every cockamamie idea in military science fiction. Let's even call it a John Birmingham quality military fiction book. But, let's say that one person: somebody like me, somebody who is "ready to turn their asses to glass" (I'm sorry, ...), fucking gets it. Do you think Dyson was actually writing Disturbing the Universe (or the pieces in The New Yorker) to jerk himself off, that he believed he had something really important to say? No, in fact, his prose is self-deprecating from start to finish:
Woe, what a fuckup I was. Smart guy, wrong path, killed people. Please, just realize that in all this cool physics and math talk, there's a HIDEOUS STORY OF FIREBOMBINGS IN DRESDEN.
It's not about being a fucking Hemingway or a Tanizaki. It's about catharsis, redemption, and maybe, teaching.
Back to the cryfest jerkoff. Let us suppose that I instead write a book about how engineers have a very high rate of suicide, have very high incidences of intractable depression, of bipolar disorder, psychosis, and other niceties, and that I wrote an Oliver Sachs book about An Engineer on Mars and Other Stories About All Them Put Upon Engineers. They've all got their own monsters, and really, it would be great if all the Lance Hornes of the world could read about the horrific shit they do to people in the field.
But what have you accomplished? Pricks will be pricks. Maybe you reform a Lance, or you reform a Mike Paynotta. Maybe they go forth in life with halos atop their heads and plumeria spouting from their asses. So fucking what? Furthermore, if you tell me that you started out with a weblog (hey, no complaints here, this is where the emokid and the gothfag roam, afterall), and then somebody thought that cryfest jerkoff was SO FUCKING POWERFUL that every post-partum mommy out there had to read about it, well, I'd probably vomit on the spot.
Not because your cause is invalid, or you have an image problem, or anything like that. Because frankly, I am cool with saving engineers from the Lances and Mikes out there. I'm cool with helping people on the fringes of society with neurological diseases (including BPD, ...). But for fuck's sake. It's been done.
Maybe, possibly, a Dyson will come along with a message that sticks (Dyson got to me. Eloquent and intelligent he may be, he didn't succeed because we're still bombing the fuck out of eachother). Why not push my effort (or theirs) out to the people likely to read whatever drivel I manage to commit to paper? Hell, even putting it to paper and reading it myself might convince me that I should quit the whole enchilada and teach for a living. In my book (heh), that's a win for the whole endeavor.
There's pity, and there's sociological commentary. I don't need to read anything more about Joseph Merrick. But I really think we all – humanity – can benefit from people like Dyson, people stuck in the war machine that propels so much of the world, speaking out and saying "hey, millions of people have died. millions more will. let's, maybe, you know, stop this."
Lastly, and I hate to tack this on to the above, but I started writing here (at Blogger vs Advogato) to keep track of my writing. And then it became why I wasn't writing. Things like, oh, having my lungs fill with fucking AIDS. Things like that. And then I realized, just fold in all the old advogato shit, have it all searchable and metatagged, and it's even more useful for me. So the fact that I haven't "got a following" doesn't bother me in the fucking least. This is for me. Because people say to me when they haven't seen me in a few weeks, "hey, what have you been up to." Now I don't have to roll my eyes and go into the schpiel that I already laid out here.
So, it's not for you. I'm a fucking hack. I don't write books for you, because they are good, because they are publishable, or even because I have some very sad story to tell about my life. I write for me. I write this journal for myself, and occasionally because I think things like gun ownership and the modern feudalism require a more public face (when was the last time you actually heard a renter speak up? a concealed carry permit holder?). And, again, that's all really just convenience for me. I don't have to howl from the treetops if I just sit here and... hack.
02 April, 2007
And yes, I think that's three posts today. Blame the Harney & Sons Irish Breakfast tea, which is really just Assam in disguise. Silly me, I thought I was monitoring my caffeine intake, and forgot that the tea itself is, you know, black tea.
(edit: fixed link, thanks to H&S!)
So, one of the things that comes up every time we move is guns. We are of course licensed to carry, legally own, and properly lock all our weapons, be they handgun, rifle, shotgun, etc. But there are some quasi-legal problems with this. So let us say that we legally own guns, and that we can legally (by way of permit) carry them in the trunk of our cars (or in the back seat, or whatever). And of course I can have them in my home. But what of the area between my home and my car?
If I live in an apartment, they can create terms within the lease (and they do) which state things like it is a violation of the lease to carry a firearm in an open or public area. It is a violation of the lease (and they will call the police, yada yada) for brandishing a firearm in a public or open area. So because I have a concealed carry permit, I can actually conceal the weapon, and carry it from my apartment to my car without violating their lease or the law. However, it seems to violate the spirit of the lease, if not the letter.
Of course, they can't actually tell me what to do in my apartment, despite their attempts to do so:
Thank you for your email.
Let me take this time to remind you that housing firearms in your apartment is a violation of your lease. As stated in item 17. of your lease titles Prohibited Conduct,
"Resident, the other occupants and Resident's guests or invitees may not engage in the following...displaying or possessing a gun, knife or other item which is intended to be used as a weapon."
Furthermore, on page 12 of the Resident Services Directory it states, "Carrying, displaying or discharging fireworks, guns, slingshots, or any type of firearm or weapon is strictly prohibited. Violation of this policy by any resident, occupant or guest will result in the immediate non-curable termination of the lease contract." Please make storage arrangements off-site to hold these items.
Michelle M. Levix
320 23rd Street South
Arlington, Virginia 22202
Right, yeah, actual email from Michelle, and yeah, they just grouped my wrist-rocket and my Remington 700 avec Nightforce scope together. So anyways. We again have this problem of transporting a number of firearms from somewhere I am legally allowed to possess them (my home) to somewhere I am legally allowed to possess them (my new home, my car, etc), but in the middle there's this sort of quasi-legal area (it is not legal to conceal a shotgun or rifle, for example, but is carrying it to my car actually brandishing or displaying it?).
We've had a number of instances where we were taking weapons to the range, and bumped into people in the elevator. It's about fifty-fifty. Half the time, we get somebody who wants to reminisce about when they went hunting as kids, the fun times they had in the woods, they want to know where we're going and what sort of guns we have. It's kind of nervous, because we know we're not supposed to be "displaying" the weapons (but then it's real clear what's under your arm when it's black bag that says GLOCK on it), but it's never gotten anyone yelled at.
The other half of the time, we get somebody who is very visibly nervous about the cases and bags we have with us. Like us, the two most suburban multiracial (note: only one asian person has ever gone on a rampage with a firearm, and that was in San Diego, and it was a middle-aged man, not my wife, who is adorable) couple you could imagine, are going to go killing people. HINT: not going to happen. Anyways, nobody ever gets bent out of shape, other than maybe a little uncomfortable being in the elevator with somebody who's heavily armed (on the way to the damn car, remember).
I've even had people insist that I register my guns or that I need a permit to own a gun. It's enough to make you want to remind people, hey, I can and do own a gun in Virginia, and it's entirely goddamn legal. Enough with the bitching and moaning already.
Anyways, the house is interesting. We haven't gone and bought a ton of shit since the house on Jeff Davis Hwy. So, we've been living like college students for the last six or seven years (the entire time we've been together, including two years of marriage, even). Odds and ends of furniture we don't like but tolerate because it's cheaper or easier than buying new furniture.
So in the new place, we have new appliances and stuff like that. The new appliances are being augmented with convenience items (see previous re: air pot, rice cooker). Everything is either being thrown out or integrated. Now we have mostly done what we wanted to do, you know, like years ago. Costs money, but it's, uh, investing in ourselves or something.
The real test will be whether we manage to actually continue in this whole "we care about our surroundings" bit or revert to dormdom.
Note that part of this is cataloguing all the books and music and such. I have more bitchings about Delicious Library, but they will wait until I've calmed down a little. That software gives me hives.
Anyways. The next part is that today is the day the Z begins its path back to the road. For everyone I haven't told, cars built in 1982 are now antiques in Virginia. This means they are no longer subject to emissions laws, nor safety inspection in our fine state. And so today, because I no longer have a finished garage and room for welders, etc., somebody else starts on the Z.
This means it probably does not get an alcohol burning RB26, at least not right now. Primarily because there aren't a lot of people in the area that can build one, and secondarily because the people that can build it for me won't give me the low, low labor rate I was getting from myself ($0).
So, I expect the Z to be on the road and under its own power soonish. And, hey, even registered in Virginia. Yowzers.
Lastly, it will be 81F today. Yay.
01 April, 2007
It's a happy sort of frown.
29 March, 2007
Thanks to Charles E. Smith (or, more correctly, Archstone Smith), I had sewage fill my kitchen last night. No, they wouldn't authorize a hotel because, well, my bedroom wasn't filled with sewage. So we slept here. Nobody's told us that there has been more than one class action suit against this company, even if you exclude the disabilities act suits. Turns out, it's unhealthy to live in buildings that are perpetually filled with sewage and moisture. People are having serious health problems due to mold and the general disrepair of the buildings.
At least CES/ASN is doing the right thing and suing their contractors rather than, you know, fixing the fucking buildings.
You might think that with eighty thousand apartments, and less than five percent vacancy, that even something seemingly inconsistent like a mold problem or a policy on solvents can quickly affect thousands of residents. If only one percent of their apartments are affected, that's over a thousand people.
Yet if we look at their ads, we see requirements as stringent as
Three years' experience might seem like a lot, except that these people are running a building of thousands of people, and that the original ads require "no experience necessary." So after you get into the position, with no experience (and twenty five years old!), three years later, you are managing a building of hundreds of people, even thousands. You're given eminent domain over the health of the people, and you have a vested interest in doing that which saves ASN/CES money at the expense of said people.
Sounds like a recipe for success.
27 March, 2007
Update: All prices upped by $.01. With all the memberships going to the same PayPal account, it's hard to sort these out for shipping. Adding a penny is an easy way to do it. Let us know if you want the penny back.
Something feels, you know, different about this attitude.
Today is an historic and exciting day for Speakeasy.
I am pleased to announce that Speakeasy has been acquired by Best Buy, an innovative and growing Fortune 100 company and the top consumer electronics retailer in North America. This is a significant milestone for our company as our new relationship will help us realize our goals of becoming the No. 1 provider of voice and data solutions to small businesses. It is important to note that though Speakeasy will now be a wholly owned subsidiary of Best Buy, we will continue to operate as a standalone, independent operating division with headquarters in Seattle.
For those of us who thought Speakeasy was that great ISP that understood that "the internet doesn't support linux" and "Mac's don't have IP addresses" and "you can't run a web server at home, you need business service for that" were all piss poor excuses for ISPs to offer, it's time to move on.
Years ago, we had Speakeasy (in fact, since 2001), because they understood that I have a clue or two, and that I might just be running Linux at home. Over time their support people moved on, and we had fewer and fewer encounters with people that were even close to understanding what Unix was. Eventually we got to the point where support with them never got anywhere. Words like "traceroute" and "dig" made no sense to the drones in their support group. Then, I canceled my account, and they continued to charge me for three months.
The days of Speakeasy being a great, geek-friendly ISP are over. In fact, the days of geek-friendly ISPs are over in general.
I suppose I can't expect to be running dedicated services out of my home, and I'll be paying some company to host my machines and services elsewhere. Appears Dreamhost is the way to go (thanks, Sungo).
And, for you Speakeasy people out there convinced it won't change: a) you weren't with them back in 2001, and b) welcome to the Geek Squad ISP. Enjoy your AIDS.
Disclaimer: This is actually more of a rant about software than an explanation of how we're cataloguing data during the move, but all the info is there if you care to wade through the rant.
I am moving this week. Part of this process is putting a huge fraction of the stuff that's built up into storage. We're going to do our best to throw out what we can (example: stuff still in boxes from the last time we moved...), but a lot of it can't go away.
As it happens, Sandy was looking at a piece of software she thought was interesting for cataloguing books, Delicious Library. I didn't remember the piece of software that I'd heard of, but Toby had mentioned it recently. Turns out Toby is referring to Library Thing and Sandy is referring to something completely different. Er, let me elaborate a little bit on "different." She and I are referring to two entirely separate pieces of software. Both very much contemporary software, both very "Web 2.0" (in the case of Delicious Library, perhaps a bit too "2.0"), and in fact both being very complementary.
So here's the difference between the two. Delicious Library (hereafter DL in the interest of brevity) actually allows me to scan in, by bar code (or – gasp – with the iSight!), all the books and music and movies, etc., that I have in the
Anyways, so it lets you go and scan everything. Terrific, right? Sure, it is terrific, if everything is in one place. I know what is in the library/study/etc. Now, what happens if I want to know what box in which storage unit that book or CD is actually in? It gets trickier. So DL has the ability to throw things into "sets," which it calls "shelves." Unfortunately, the assumption is that all shelves are actually part of a bigger library, and it isn't possible to make logical distinctions among them. If I delete a book, it's gone from all of them, no questions asked. Further – and this is just an amateur mistake – if I delete it, and then "undo" the delete, it doesn't actually restore the structures, it re-adds them. That is, they're all added back, but without the membership in their respective sets. Which is what you'd expect, if the software was designed for cataloguing and not organizing.
Initially, I thought to myself, well, I guess people don't generally have enough books that they have separate locations for each of them. Or, really, that if they have that many, that there's some sort of cataloguing system they're using, which inherently has organization to it.
But this is just entirely wrong. If anyone cares enough about books – right there we've cut out a huge portion of humanity in general – to catalogue all of their books and store them in XML, the very fact that they're doing that means they want them organized as well.
Well, this is where Library Thing comes in (hereafter LT, blah blah). LT is great in that it has a flickresque tagging setup, as well as sharing (again similar to flickr). The strength of LT is that it's an ads-based (essentially participation-based) revenue model. If it does well, it does well because it doesn't suck. It has all the organization you'd want, but it is missing one crucial point: the actual cataloguing. Because LT is web-based, the only way they can get data from your dead-tree store is by you uploading it. How you do that is kind of an open-ended question. They recommend a usb-powered barcode reader (more on this in a second), and they accept XML, etc (they mention DL by name, in fact). After you've done this, all your data is online, nirvana is attained, and so on.
This is a very attractive idea. Picture this. If you're at all like me (no, don't picture that...), you occasionally think, "my god! Eli Schleismann said that exact same thing in Palestine Reconsidered! I must go read that!" while you're reading a book (Dyson/Tipler, etc). Okay, so the problem with this is that it's very difficult for me to locate that book, and then to find the text in that book that I want to re-read. This leaves me with very few options.
At ACS, years ago, I helped them get all their printed media digitized, and it's all now online. And, hey, readable. That means if I have that a-ha moment while I'm reading Chemical and Engineering News, I can find what I need in the ACS Archives. In order to do that, we cut the spines off of three million pages of printed material, destroying the originals, and scanning at 600 dpi, running DejaVu and Adobe Capture for months on end, and storing many terabytes of data (in 2001 terabytes, not 2007 terabytes, remember...). I've often thought about doing this on my own, but it's not economically feasible.
Things have changed since 2001. Google now has full-text searching, as well as Amazon. By searching by author name, I can get a list of books they've written, and search through the text. Now that I have DL and LT, I can also see if I have that book. Ostensibly, I can even see where I have that book, which is really more important to me than if I have the book.
But where does this break down?
There are a couple of components here that don't work together. Worse, they intentionally don't work together. The one that bothers me most is that Delicious Library is $40 when it is missing functionality that is implemented by another application. That application, of course, being Library Thing. It's easy to say "oh, well, they'll have that functionality added at a later date," or other excuses. Actually, that's incorrect. It is not in their interest to complete this application. If they are able to produce as many sales as they can for the software in the state that it is in – very "Web 2.0", shiny, etc – somebody like Google (or Amazon, or ...) will buy them. If one has any question about their motives, one need look no further than the infamous Wil Shipley Talk. In particular,
I should also mention that if you look at the slides you'll see another picture of my Ardent Red Lotus Elise. This bears mentioning because I actually agonized about whether to show off my car at all, ever. I decided that, in this context, it was OK, because essentially the whole talk is about how if you follow your dream you'll not only be happy, but you'll also be financially secure, and it's easier to believe that kind of advice when it's given to you by someone not LIVING IN A SHACK DOWN BY THE RIVER. I asked some of the students afterwards if they thought the car thing was totally pretentious and they said no, it came off the right way.
Now, I am sure people will call me a communist for citing that. Okay. Then let's compare the bar code readers suggested by Delicious Library and that of Library Thing. The former, $150. The latter, $15. Who do you suppose is making money on the deal? Or, you could have a look at the strident Mac-only attitude of the former when compared to the latter. For those of you still scratching heads, let's quote Eric Raymond (add'l cite below; it's a fabulous paper):
So there are two reasons behind the software not quite fitting where it should. First, to do so would require cooperating with others (not Shipley's strong suite). Second, the software as it is now is entirely salable (it has terrific presence in search engines, and people such as myself link to it), so why would they bother to fix it? I remember years ago, it was commonplace for somebody to say that they had started a company, they had some great idea, and that while they were burning through cash like crazy, it was only a matter of time before somebody bigger bought them and they could cash out.
The "utility function" Linux hackers are maximizing is not classically economic, but is the intangible [product] of their own ego satisfaction and reputation among other hackers. (One may call their motivation "altruistic", but this ignores the fact that altruism is itself a form of ego satisfaction for the altruist). Voluntary cultures that work this way are not actually uncommon; one other in which I have long participated is science fiction fandom, which unlike hackerdom explicitly recognizes "egoboo" (the enhancement of one's reputation among other fans) as the basic drive behind volunteer activity.
Since then we've all kind of grown up and realized that this is the reason the whole industry imploded in the 2000 - 2003 timeframe. I still hear people saying they can do that these days, but the ones that really worry me are the ones that say they're actually interested in their product, and that they are performing some need for the community, that they value their users, etc. Just like a real company, like they intend to be in business as said company because to do otherwise would so obviously be screwing their customers, long-term. To say you're pre-IPO or pre-buyout is to say that you don't intend to support anyone, that you're in it for the cashout, and to indicate quite clearly that business with you is risky. So they don't. Instead it's this cockamamie pretense of stuff that's just shiny enough to make you think it works and that they have a personal stake in it (be it pride, or some part of the community... these things do still exist...).
Should you actually rely upon these companies or products, it may be possible to accomplish what you set out to accomplish (sharing photos online, cataloguing or organizing books, managing contacts or CRM, etc). However, the second the vendor decides they can get a better deal elsewhere (oh, somebody hires the head developer, somebody buys the company, the user database, etc), that's that. There wasn't any intention of actually producing a product, or to maintain a community; that was tertiary to the goal of producing revenue. No, instead we have companies (or, rather, a coffee shop with "development and operations") and products which are worse than useless. These new products and companies are utility disguised in a wrapper that is shiny and appears to be worth something, just enough to get you to use it, so that down the line, a Yahoo or whomever can screw you in a very (ahem) "Old School" way.
It's almost as if the product was a legacy application before you bought it. Most of us have cried "Why in the hell are we doing xyz this way? We could have written this for a tenth of what we've invested in this!" This idea of bar code tracking (or RFID or whichever) is not a very complicated one. People did it before Delicious Library, and had I not seen DL as a way of saving myself the few hundred lines of perl, I would have spent today writing software that I would be using now. Instead, I spent a day (and $40) figuring out how all this software does (not) work together, and realizing that it was just as bad as it is with Flickr (sure, I can administrate Apache, get a Dreamhost account, but why do that when there's this fancy interface for it? Well, because Flickr makes it hard to un-flickr everything, and now I have to deal with Yahoo because, well, the flickreenos are too busy watching their stock). Or, surprise surprise, I have to write software to pull my own content down from their servers, and write my own software, again, to host it. Like I should have done from the beginning. I have no idea what people who aren't capable of this actually do.
If you want to save me time, please just tell me that you're going to offer me a bait-and-switch, and that I can pay $40 to be screwed in two years, or I can pay $40 to write my own perl code and never see you again. I'll give you the $40 so that I don't for a moment think that you're worth my time. Honestly.
So the last thing to say here is that Library Thing (and smugmug) is really very cool. I can get a $15 USB barcode reader, scan everything into Excel (or to text, or whatever), and organize it on the web. They get paid for me using the software. Which means they have an interest in making their software not suck. And they've done an admirable job of doing it. Incidentally, while I worry deeply about what Google will do in three years when I have all my e-mail, etc., stored with them, for the last five years, they've done me no harm. The same is true of Amazon, and I've been doing business with them for a decade (well, except that recommending Neal Asher part). The important part is that their revenue model is inherently based upon their service not sucking (note: Seth Finkelstein and others would disagree here), or more correctly, sucking less than their competition. If you pay to buy in to a product, and it isn't easy to get out of it afterwards, there is no reason whatsoever for the vendor to support you. None.
This Web 2.0 stuff is nowhere near as shiny as it looks. I'll be over here, avec chapeau de clinquant bidon, coding my own shit, and waiting for Crash 2.0. My feeling is the notion of "Web 2.0" should include a concept of a revenue model that is based on merit, rather than being an oligopsony (or of course, oligopolies).
* Lancashire, David, Code, Culture, and Cash: The Fading Altruism of Open Source Development, August 2001. (also)
I also don't buy that the subject matter of Dyson's is less cerebral or inherently easier to understand. Sagan and Gleick both wrote books on cosmology (and entropy, which would seem to be harder to explain than the maximum number of quantum states possible for a sphere two meters in diameter...) without creating the paper equivalent of thorazine.
(Mr. Tipler, I liked your book very much. I'm not saying it wasn't a good book and that I wouldn't recommend it – I have – just that I'm surprised at the difference between your work and Mr. Dyson's)
25 March, 2007
And no, I don't know exactly what I want to do with it – or indeed whether I want to keep it. I'm going to see if I can find some happy medium between not shaving and yet still be presentable for customer-facing tasks.
I promise I'm not angry in that picture. It's just concentration: having to look at the camera, keep the head still, and use appendages to grab the image. That and the lighting was bad. The wall behind me was lit by low intensity light, and I was mostly lit by the screen.
The poultry industry had fled to the relatively safe harbor that is Minas'Tirith. Yet the ground trembled as they came. War paint on beaks, avant-garde patterns cut into their feathers. They grew closer, and the low rumble of 30,000 clucking soldiers began to build to a crescendo as the warbles and screeches got closer and louder.
The chickens were coming.
Saying the chickens are coming doesn't really feel right. It seems to me that the word "chicken" could be used as a plural form, in the same way we generally refer to large groups of fish (and their association being a "school") as just that: fish. But then there is the plural form of "goose," geese.
I would imagine there are rules for this, but if we also look at examples like crows (a murder of crows...), it almost seems like it'd have to be arbitrary.
I know at least two grammarians reading this, so now is the time to speak up.
oh yeah, if you're wondering, I am writing abut chicken(s).
19 March, 2007
The MD on duty told me that she couldn't give me anything because she "didn't know my history" and that she didn't know whether I'd "do well on" them. She recommended I "call my psychiatrist" and "get something phoned in by the oncall nurse." I explained that I was leaving town for a week or more and that this was simply not possible.
What, exactly, did she think would happen? That she'd give me Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata, or any of the new pseudo-benzos and I'd kill myself with it or something? Exactly how is this different from a psychiatrist giving them to me? I happened to have an Rx bottle on me showing that I had a prescription and was just out.
So I drove from Arlington to Norfolk (this is 3.5-4h, give or take) on no sleep. I also taught a class for DISA on no sleep. I revised the lesson plan, tested the labs, got my clothes to dry cleaning, etc. By the time I was done with the class, I'd lectured for six hours, driven 425 miles, eaten nothing but a chicken sandwich (Wendy's) and an Odwalla bar (banana nut for whatever thats worth), and had been awake for 27 hours.
Of course, immediately afterwards, I had to revise the lectures and labs again, and struggled to get 4 hours of sleep.
You know you're an insomniac when you keep the NyQuil in the fridge (it's easier to yack down). That's how serious this is. I take the benadryl because I can wake up more easily when I take that. If I go with the Seroquel or Zyprexa, I get sleep, but it's usually eight to twelve hours, and it's a complete nightmare to get me out of bed in the morning. Unfortunately, if I don't get sleep, it's as or more dangerous than getting sleep but being groggy in the morning. This is the stuff ruined careers and families are made of.
I wanted to tell that doctor she was a complete waste of oxygen, but it wouldn't have helped. She was determined that it was not safe or reasonable to give me drugs. I've used the word pharmocracy in the past. This is surely what's going on here. There is a drug-prescribing oligarchy that is self-selecting and unwilling to cede any power to the consumer for fear of losing their relevance.
I have no problem whatsoever finding the right drug for myself. I've been in some form of physician care my entire adult life (either because of external stressors or internal medical issues, such as all of last year), and I know what does and does not work. It seems reasonable to me that I'd have the option to decide my own path of treatment, and enlist the MDs as advisors, much in the way the DOD prefers to secure its own systems, but asks me to consult.
In this case, what's wrong with a 30-day supply of Halcyon or Xanax? It would be trivial to argue the exact opposite is true: to not give me the means to get a good night's sleep is to virtually guarantee that my performance will be lacking on the road, in class, etc.
People seem to believe it's okay that we have laws criminalizing illicit drug use (the definition of the term 'illicit' itself being open to broad interpretation). But nobody seems to want to discuss the simple fact that educated consumers are capable of making their own decisions with respect to medicine. If HMOs wanted to prevent people from self-diagnosing and charging up an enormous ta on expensive drugs (Seroquel being among them, also Ambien and Maxalt), why not only cover for drugs which are prescribed by a doctor? I'd be happy to pay out of pocket for migraine drugs, somnolents/soporifics, and various psychotropic drugs (SSRI's, etc) if it meant I got the damn drugs.
17 March, 2007
So, I generally teach in two areas, Information Warfare, and Information Assurance. I provide a set of links here for your edification, not as an endorsement to use them in your own environment. I discuss in the class what using them does, when it's okay and not okay to use them, etc. Please be careful. Even if you're tasked with making sure a network is secure, people don't often have a sense of humor when it comes to attacking a network or host.
Anyways, on with the links.
- Purdue's CERIAS. This is a useful site, in that it has links to a lot of software that's used in the class for demonstration. However, a lot of it is out of date (and they acknowledge this). They were also compromised in 2007, and the full extent of this is not quite known. So be careful. Note that they have removed software that was modified.
- Fyodor's insecure.org. Fyodor produces, with the help of the open source community, the network scanning tool nmap. It's good stuff to have around. Note that it tends to work better on Linux and some of the other open source operating systems than it does on, for example, Solaris or MacOS X.
- OpenBSD is an operating system that I lecture on for a number of reasons. Primarily that it is an example of how an operating system can (and must) be "secure by default." However, the corollary to this is that an operating system that is believed to be secure (as in the case of OpenBSD, SELinux, Trusted Solaris, etc) is often the source of a false sense of impenetrability by systems administrators.
- When I teach, people tend to ask me a lot of questions about Linux. It's a good operating system to teach on, although I don't especially recommend it for production usage. For personal usage, I recommend Fedora and Ubuntu. For professional, production usage, RHEL is a better choice.
- There are many IDSs out there. You really can't do much better than Snort.
- We go over password crackers in every class. You'll want John the Ripper.
- Lastly, we discuss Solaris a lot. You'll want a couple pieces of software in addition to Solaris. First, the Solaris operating system is available for download. Be aware that Solaris 10, which is current as of 2007, has substantial changes over Solaris 8 and 9. So while I teach on it, it will of course be somewhat different than what you're running back at the shop.
- You will need a compiler and programs like lsof for Solaris, and these are available on the Sun Software Companion CD, and the Sun GCC CD. The supplied links point to media for Solaris 10. If you're using a different version (we use 10 in class), you will need the appropriate disc. In the past, gcc came on the companion CD, so you may only need one image. With one exception, below, I recommend you do not use software from sunfreeware.com.
- http://cooltools.sunsource.net/gcc/index.html (gcc for SPARC)
- In order to build yourself a copy of gcc, you must first bootstrap your compiler. In this case, you will need the source for gcc, a compiled gcc, and the following link to a build process. This build process is complicated, and one of the reasons I recommend Linux both in the class and personally for "experimenting with" Unix.
- http://blogs.sun.com/sumitgaur/entry/compile_gcc_for_solaris_10 (compiling)
- http://gcc.gnu.org/ (the source)
- http://sunfreeware.com/programlistintel10.html#gcc33 (a precompiled gcc)
- The DISA STIGs. DISA used to provide these only to .gov and .mil TLD's, but it appears they are freely available now, as well as the "gold disk" or SRRs.
12 March, 2007
Key Phrases - Statistically Improbable Phrases (SIPs): (learn more)
dwarf nuns, neon markers, tattoo shop
Anyone who has read House of Leaves is encouraged to comment on whether a "post-post-modern" book is worth the effort. I have an enormous stack of reading, but am intrigued by the (rather unbelievable) claims about how important or innovative this book is. I'm curious, but not sure whether I should be devoting the time to read/figure out the book. At least right now.