All Wright!

In the latest attempt to break the work-home-work-home Worm Oroborous cycle was my and my wife’s trip to Manhattan’s equivalent of Springfield’s South Street Squidport to listen to John C. Wright read from his latest book. The book, which I already pre-ordered from Amazon seems very promising, despite the fact that I hate the whole degenerate genre of Fantasy. You can find my previous rants about Mr. Wright (and assorted other Wrights) here.

We listened to the Wright’s reading of the first two chapters, talked to him for a little while and got a copy of the Phoenix Trilogy signed.

If you want to understand why I am so excited about this author, get a copy of Year’s Best SF 3 which sells for as little as one cent on Amazon and read Wright’s short story “Guest Law”. Then you’ll just have to read everything else that he’s written.

After the reading we went to explore my favorite skyscraper and the SquidSeaport itself (I haven’t been there in years).

Good Stuff

I recently purchased “Looking at Photographs : 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art“. This is another outstanding book recommended to me by the inhuman intelligence of Amazon’s engine.

I can only imagine the torturous process that the author of this book must have gone through. I mean, how do you select 100 important photographs from Museum of Modern Art’s collection? And then write an article about the author, the photograph, the historical context and significance, the camera and photographic process used – all on one page? That must have been pure agony.

This book made me think a lot about photography and photographers. I need to write more about that.

In other news I only recently noticed how good ‘s photography is. Excessive lj-cuts + infrequent posting = people will not notice the good stuff.

TT: Though Tally : Linkage Galore

* “iTimeMachine – a mere $5 let you travel back into the heady days of the end of last century” or “Office party like it’s 1995”.

* God is a member of AAA

* Doesn’t this picture from Cassini Imaging Team’s website just give you a major case of heebie-jeebies (turns out this technical term was invented by the author of the original Google)?

* After reading Kitchen Confidential I though that the wild life was typical only of cooks in New York’s fancy-pants restaurants. Nope, I was wrong. The same sort of stuff is routinely happening at IHOPs in the middle of nowhere. Well, not to say that is doesn’t continue happening in Manhattan’s restaurants. Yep, right through the pants.

And Then There Were None

I have been hunting for Henry Kuttner’s autograph for a very long time. Henry Kuttner is one of my favorite sci-fi writers of all time (see my article about Kuttner). Kuttner died early and his signatures are very rare, fetching upward of $500. I keep a request for a book signed by Kuttner in hope that some ignorant bookseller might sell a signed copy cheaply. A few days ago abebooks wishlist emailed me a really weird item:

“henry kuttner
His personal baby book
his very first book starts on april 7th 1915 and includes his first photograph, mother’s as well as his nurses’ signature, and documents his first 3 words (please nobody take offense) nigger, nigger, nigger. It was in the possesion of author C.L. Moore but now it could be y
Bookseller Inventory #22224
Price: US$ 2500.00 “

I hope nothing bad happened to Kuttner’s wife and co-author, C.L. Moore. Why would a thing like that end up on the market?

Now, that’s a rather weird choice of first words for a baby. But the year being 1915 and everything, my guess is that little Henry must have been rather fond of the nursery rhyme that Agatha Christie used for her whodunit masterwork. Here’s a write-up from Rosetta Books, and eBook publisher:

.. A note about the title — Christie originally called the novel Ten Little Niggers, a reference to an old nursery rhyme that she places, framed, in the guest rooms of the ten characters in the story. Each dies in the manner described in a verse of the sing-song rhyme — e.g., “Ten little nigger boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there nine.” The rhyme ends with the words, “… and then there were none.” The offensive word, which carries an extra dimension of ugliness in American culture, was replaced with “Indians” for American publication. Ironically, “Indian” is now also a politically incorrect term, so the novel has officially been retitled And Then There None. As Charles Osborne points out in his delightful and indispensable study The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie, the shift in the old American title creates a bit of confusion. For Americans think it refers to another nursery rhyme that begins, “One little, two little, three little Indians …” The nature of the original title reflects the time in which the novel it was written and the world in which Christie became an adult and a writer, one shaped largely by the British Empire and the racist thinking of the past. The cosmetic change of title to And Then There Were None is merely that, however. It erases a troubling shadow from an extraordinary, hugely entertaining achievement.

Some somewhat related links:

Straight Dope : In whodunits, it’s “the butler did it.” Who did it first?

A complaint to Canadian Broadcast Standards Council :

This case is, in the experience of the CBSC, unique; it marks the first occasion on which a Regional Council has been asked to review the title, as opposed to the content, of a television program. The broadcast in question is a cooking show entitled Gwai Lo Cooking which is aired by CFMT-TV (Toronto). The source of the complaint is the historic Cantonese expression “gwai lo” which is used as a material component of the show’s title. In its etymological background, “gwai lo” translates as “foreign devil” or “ghostly fellow” and it continues to be used by some Chinese to refer to “pale-skinned” Westerners. In the context of the title in question, “gwai lo” refers to the show’s host, who, although of Caucasian, rather than Oriental, much less Chinese, descent, speaks Cantonese and is able to offer North Amercian and European cooking recipes to the Cantonese-speaking Chinese Canadian community. …

The Last Martian

Dr. Ede Teller is dead.

Just a few days ago I was reading an article in the Bulletin which badmouthed Teller and praised Ulam as the true inventor of the Big One. I hope the author feels bad now.

Tom Jennings, the inventor of Fidonet, drew this great portrait of Dr. Teller.

“He is rendered here in materials befitting his life; water color on lead; ground electron tubes frame and pockmark his face, the whole embalmed in layers and layers of yellowing shellac. The materials used should last 10,000 years, hopefully longer than his effects. “

Avoiding the cliché of mentioning Dr. Strangelove, Jennings compared him to Dr. William Haber of “Lathe of Heaven” and Thufir Hawat of “Dune“.

I always liked both of these characters, and thought that I would have tried to do what they did in their position. Even if the odds are bad and your actions might make the situation even worse, something needs to be done.

Now, may I point your attention to an article by “Democrats = mediocrity; Republicans = lottery ticket”. It seems to me that Democrats favor a tactic used by Pirx the Pilot in “Pilot Pirx Tested ” – inaction for the fear that all actions will only make the matters worse. They always assume that it’s a Zugzwang.

Oooh, I want this poster.

No Lunch For Deadprogrammer

I haven’t lost much weight in the last few months on the Atkins diet and I am still nowhere near my target weight. And I am not cheating, really. So the three pronged approach must be tried.

A) Forcing myself to eat breakfast, late lunch and having no dinner
B) Cutting down on coffee and artificial sweeteners
C) Going to gym more often than once every two weeks.

So, instead of lunch today I’ll do a little post. I need to come up with a good name for this kind of a post. Slashdot calls it “Slashback”. I can’t come up with something witty. Little help?

In any case, here goes:

Very talented brings us The Matrix and Terminator in the Russian lubok style. He’s also the one who placed Cheburashka, the Soviet Pokemon in the world of Star Wars and The Matrix. I’ve seen the images floating around in journals for a while, but they never revealed the author. Don’t you hate that?

Nobody expects the Mozilla developers! Mozilla is rather nice right now. Two features really make the difference – tabs and popup blocking. And favicon.ico rendering that isn’t broken. Three features. And NT challenge/response support. Four. And proper keyboard shortcuts. Five.

Tabbed browsing is absolutely perfect for journal reading. Unfortunately from time to time the browser window doesn’t refresh and becomes a jumble of screen layers forcing me to restart the browser. The same thing happens to Trillian sometimes. Does anybody know how to fix that?

I am listening a lot to Kora music. Djelika by Toumani Diabate is oh so amazing. You really, really got to get it. This is the best coding music ever. What’s a bit funny is that Mr. Diabate quotes the theme from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” in the title piece. It’s just so awesome! Just listen to the sample at Amazon. Don’t even listen, just buy the damn CD. Did I ever recommend anything bad?

got me interested in the Chapman Stick. At first I though it was a kind of a Theremin. I tried listening to a classical recording of Theremin, but didn’t like it.

But it turned out that the Stick is something very different. And also hella cool:

“… One piece, Backyard, that appears on the album was used in the film Dune. The director’s cut of the film shows a decorated Stick painted gold playing the role of the mythical “baliset” instrument described in Frank Herbert’s novel. Emmett’s recording is what we hear when we see Patrick Stewart play the baliset.”

I really want to get a cd of “Parallel Galaxy”, but can’t seem to find one for sale.

Lunch is over.

Rantosourus Rex – Part I

Here I sit, in my favorite seat on the Q train facing the window, writing this post on my Blackberry TM.

Remember, I promised to write a long and involved post about pen computing, mind mapping, memex and electronic books? Well, I don’t think I can cram all of my thoughts on the subject into a well organized linear article. Instead, I think I’ll write a series of hyperlinked rants. I think that will be even more appropriate. So here goes.

Joel Spolsky likes to refer to “future so bright, you’ll need sunglasses”. Most of the people I know, are wearing Mylar goggles. But that future is not bright enough right now, so it only seems like eternal night with a few sparks here and there. That future is electronic books and pen computing.

So, I sit on this train with a copy of the New York Times. And I’ve just read an article about a woman with a Masters degree from Columbia who sells her short stories for two bucks a piece from a cardboard box in a subway station. There is so much wrongness here. And a parallel : me, struggling with turning pages of a gigantic broadsheet that is the NYT, in a cramped subway seat, my hand filthy with newsprint by the time I found something interesting among the piles of information that the editors and advertisers thought I should read; and her, crouched on the cold cement floor, with a pathetic cardboard box, selling her information that way because nobody wants to publish it.

This is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG!

The first thing that is wrong is that the NYT is published in broadsheet (as opposed to tabloid) format. Which means that to read it you need to use some weird folding read them on a train. This is something that I might enjoy, but I am absolutely not typical. I enjoy practical applications of the science of topology. I can tie many nautical and surgical knots, and I fold and stack my t-shirts in a way so that the design of the shirt always shows up on the same edge. And I learned how to fold broadsheets from my High School Economics teacher. And even I am annoyed.

So dead tree newspapers are not ergonomic. But that’s not all. I can’t get only the information that I want to purchase. If I were rich, I could employ the services of newspaper clipping service. I would gladly pay to read ‘s articles if they were clipped from Ediot Achronot and translated into English somehow. Even right now I pay 10 dollars a year to get newspaper and online comics from

Unfortunately most information providers want to lump together everything that they’ve got and sell it as a whole. Out of a couple of hundreds of cable channels that I pay for, I am interested in maybe 15 – 20 shows that run on a few channels. But to get only those channels would cost me just a few dollars less than the whole deal. And that sucks! I am subsidizing a whole lot of stupid no talent shows at the same time when shows that I crave are being canceled. Firefly, Futurama, The $treet – gone. I’d give up 180 channels just to get those three shows back. And so would many, many people.

Sirius satellite radio has two things that I like immensely – a good jazz channel and their hypnotic callsign. Everything else I don’t care about. But to get that I would also have to pay for every other channel they provide. And I am not gonna.

This is socialism, people. Few talented information creators feed hundreds of no-talent parasites. What is even worse, there is a certain threshold that is equally hard to overcome to both talented and non-talented people. That threshold is the editors. They are a proxy, a layer that is supposed to filter out crap. But the filtered stuff has the same proportion of crap in it (governed by Sturgeon’s law).

For instance, a few years ago I picked up a book called Year’s Best SF. I was reading crappy story after crappy story. But one of the stories, “Guest Law” by John C. Wright, Esq. was definitely not crappy. In fact, it was so good that I tracked down every single piece of Mr. Wright’s prose. In fact, after sending money to some two bit sci-fi rag that published one of the stories, through almost half a year I had to send a few dozen emails to the publisher just to get that one magazine with the story. And it was worth it. To me, but not to Mr. Wright. What is very upsetting, is that instead of paying the author directly, I had to pay the derelict editors and all the other authors I don’t care about.

All of these problems can be solved with technology, and I’ll write about that in the next post.

The Legend Of How Much Crap Michael Can Buy on Ebay

Pull this cool emergency shutoff button from an Amdahl mainframe that I’ve got on Ebay. Come on, pull it.

I think I’ll replace the power button on my computer with it.

Some time ago I purchased a book about Amdahl, called The Legend of Amdahl. Turned out that the book is one in a series of books by Jeffrey L. RodengenJeffrey L. Rodengen. It looks like the dude was given access to many a company archive, but the prose is pretty much dry and many important (mostly negative ) things are omitted. I can’t say it better than this reviewer at Amazon: “.. the author gives a lifeless, through-the-gauze-lens account that reads like a compilation of Amdahl PR releases and internal newsletters.” Indeed most pages read like press releases.

In any case, it looks like that was the only book ever written about Amdahl. And there are some pretty cool photos in the book. And some interesting moments can be found.

There is an interesting anecdote about Gene Amdahl in the book. One of the first Amdahl mainframes was delivered to some Texas university. When it was installed, the college officials were horrified. You see, the official color of Amdahl, maroon, is also the official color of that college’s bitter rival, Texas A&M. Instead of repainting Gene suggested a more cost effective solution – adding a sign that would say “Property of Texas A&M” or “Stolen From Texas A&M”. The officials instead sent the panels to a nearby car dealership to be repainted. But it looks like Mr. Amdahl has taken a part in a college prank or two in his day :)

I’ve also got “The Spirit of Amd: The Legend of Advanced Micro Devices “, “The Legend of Ingersoll-Rand ” and “The Microage Way”. I think that I will collect all the books in the series at some point. “Legend of Halliburton” and “The History of American Standard” are next.

Aye, Mr Starbuck. Ai-ai-ai-ya-i.

I’ve pretty much settled into a way of working with dead tree books. It works as follows: I carry a pack of tiny little post-its in my pocket. When I find an interesting quote I put a postit on the edge of the page. Later I scan the text of interest to me with my c-pen.
I’ll be posting interesting snippets in my journal for your amusement.

Right now I am reading a books about Starbucks Coffee Corp. called “Pour Your Heart into It : How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time“.

The author, Howard Schultz tells his rags to riches story. He talks about his father not being a good provider when he was little and how he made it big. He puts the emphasis on how he tried to make Starbucks a company that would treat people like his father better. I also have to cringe every time he mentions coffee quality and “romance” of Starbucks stores.

But sometimes it gets just really hilarious:

About his wife :
“Sheri was on the rise in her career, working for an Italian furniture maker as a designer and marketer. She painted our walls light salmon and began to use her professional skills to create a home in our loft-style space. “

About his friend:
“We had a great life, A few years later, Harold introduced me to his nephew, a rising jazz saxophonist known as Kenny G. We were two young men, each aspiring to make a mark in different fields, and our friendship grew as we faced similar kinds of challenges. Kenny eventually invested in the business, too, and even played at employee events and per- formed benefit concerts at our plant and market openings. His music became a part of the culture of the company. “

Also interesting is that William H. Gates II, William H. Gates III’s dad, helped Schultz fight some legal battles.

Where’s a librarian when you need one?

There is a book that I can’t find for a long time. I’ve seen its author on one of the late night shows many years ago.

The dude specializes in hand training. He trains surgeons, pianists and athletes. He showed some really neat tricks – like doing a horizontal wave with just the tips of his fingers. He was hawking a book that he wrote. And I’d like to have that book. But I don’t remember what it was called and keyword searches don’t bring anything.