February 2001 Notebook
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Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Got Ftwalk web site redesign working, and uploaded to Sourceforge: http://ftwalk.sourceforge.net. Banner and left link columns come out of PHP script, with a CSS file for style information. Color scheme is quirky, but presumably easy to change if/when I get a better graphics handle. Biggest improvement is that the User Guide is presented piecewise, is navigable, and searchable. This was done by adding some flags to fthelp, building on some prior work that I had never put to good use.

Saturday, February 24, 2001

Movie: You Can Count on Me. This could use some explaining. It comes together a bit at the end, but until then the sister/brother dysfunctions are arbitrary and impossible to correlate with the parents' death in the intro. Had we seen them before the accident, or after the accident, it might be possible to draw more sense out of the evolution. Instead, we don't pick up the thread until there is an 8-year-old to bond with, and otherwise steal the show. The actress got an Oscar nomination: I'm told that if I watched TV I'd be able to tell her from Helen Hunt. B

Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Missed a few days, but started to backfill. Worked on getting the notebook web pages working.

Added three records to the year-end list:

  • Fatboy Slim: Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars.
  • Amy Rigby: The Sugar Tree.
  • Erykah Badu: Mama's Gun.

Monday, February 19, 2001

Gave a presentation on "Introduction to Programming in C" to ACLUG. Spent most of the day polishing off notecards, then finding that I couldn't print them, then converting the notes into MS Word, which I could print but which behaved very strangely.

The presentation was not well attended (less than 2/3 normal attendance), and the concepts got thick and heavy. I wanted to tackle pointers right off the bat, but we never quite got there.

Sunday, February 18, 2001

Spent all day putting in new sink, faucet, garbage disposal. Looks great.

Saturday, February 17, 2001

Movie: Cast Away. One annoying thing was all of the product placements, but that's an old story with Zemeckis. The island set was plausible, reasonably authentic. The romance was less plausible before the crash. The crash was overdone, but if you got the budget why not blow it all up? B+

Thursday, February 15, 2001

Trying to graple with a lead-in for a review of the Heilemann and Auletta Microsoft antitrust trial books. Wrote two paragraphs, might work:

The appearance of a spate of books about the Microsoft antitrust trial marks a sort of half-time. The evidence has been heard. The findings of fact and law have been crafted. The judge found Microsoft guilty as charged, and ratified the Department of Justice's remedy proposal. Microsoft is trailing something like 28-3, and Bill Gates (better known as "the world's richest man") is reportedly feeling pretty optimistic.

The reason for this optimism is that the second half, the appeals process, takes place in other courts, under other rules, with a changed cast of characters. For instance, some people speculate that the new pro-business administration will just let the case drop. (Not likely, given that it was prominent Republicans ranging from Orin Hatch to Bob Dole to Robert Bork who prodded the reluctant Democrats into action. And not even all that relevant, given that the 19 states who joined in the suit will certainly continue to defend the conviction they've already won. But Microsoft has been busy hiring its own political clout, including former GOP Chairman Haley Barbour.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2001

The Village Voice's Pazz 'n' Jop poll came out today: 586 working rock critics vote for best record of 2000. I had predicted: 1. Eminem; 2. OutKast; then Radiohead, PJ Harvey, and U2 in no particular order. Actual order was: 1. OutKast; 2. PJ Harvey; 3. Radiohead; 4. Eminem; 5. Shelby Lynne; 6. D'Angelo; 7. U2. In the end, it looks like everyone who voted for Eminem also voted for OutKast, but OutKast voters included enough Eminem-haters to put it well over the top.

My own year-end list includes both Eminem (#3) and OutKast (#5). OutKast is the more consistent, less conflicted, more musical effort. Eminem makes unnecessary room for hangers on (Dre, D12) to promote their wares, and is full of shifty disclaimers, all the better to confound the controversy that it intends to stir up. Still, it's wickedly funny, not to mention outrageously wicked, edging OutKast on points.

The rest of the top seven, aside from the eminently listenable D'Angelo, have proven difficult to get a grip on. I've been playing these four records regularly. Thus far, the pecking order is:

  • Shelby Lynne: Heavy, its Alabama country soul choked under overdubs, rarely emerging in a stray ray of light, most uncountry-like. Heavy.
  • PJ Harvey: Utterly professional, yet whatever these stories may mean escapes my attention. She's conquered the spastic shrillness that I so hated on Rid of Me, but at the expense of the forcefulness that put To Bring You My Love across. This, too, could be a great album, if only one cares. Does one?
  • Radiohead: Shapeless at first, listless. Sad, or so I'm told. Slowly, bits do seem to firm up, transform, even flow a bit. Looks like a long road. Wonder why so many others found the reason to sort this out?
  • U2: Never a fan, I bought the early records out of Eno-devotion, and sampled later, especially hyped fare. This may be the best of the lot: almost every song has a strong, well hooked melody; none have lyrics that I have noticed, for worse or better. I can't remember last time I played Rattle and Hum, my previous pick. I doubt that in the end this will mean more.
In other words, inscrutability is the order of the day. Wonder when that became de rigeur, either for art or pop?

Tuesday, February 13, 2001

First entry in notebook. I made an earlier pass at an Advogato diary, but that seems only to be of interest to other programmers, and not many of them at that. I'll probably let that pass, except for the occasional (rare nowadays) posting of a free software doodad. In any case, Advogato seems to have passed its prime at a site of interest.

Got into a theological skirmish with a correspondent today. I have rather pat answers, which I am reluctant to fling at the believers. But, in a nutshell, God is ignorance: one's quest is to attain knowledge, vanquishing ignorance, freeing oneself from the tyranny of God. Perhaps this is indeed impossible, but that seems to matter little. I, for one, have pursued this quest for 35 years, and there is not only far to go, there is clearly more ground attainable.

But in my case, what gives this quest resonance is madness. At age 15, I was certifiably insane. (Can you say, catatonic schizophrenia?) Who knows what got me there? I came to be fond of Gregory Bateson's double-bind theory, the contradictions of trying to live all those lives prescribed for me. I floundered for years, dropping out of school, hiding in my room, reading all night and sleeping all day. Finally, I started forcing my way out of my dungeon. My tools were reason and will, even though at first I hardly believed in either.

At age 20, I enrolled in WSU. Next year I transferred to St. Louis (Washington University). I learned to typeset in St. Louis, and finally could support myself. In 1976 I moved to New York. There I learned to program. It's been a struggle at each stage, and I've never been far from the abyss. Reason and conscious will have held me together, and these in my mind are bulwarks against God.

I think about this now because I feel myself slipping. Not that I am in any eminent danger of giving myself to God in any conventional religious way, but that I do sometimes feel pulled toward the abyss -- the easy dissolution of self, the end of struggle.

Of course, L. just thinks I need to see a shrink.


   Mar 2001