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Electronic Paper Cuts

Part 3

Five Diamonds: It was fun to play bridge again. Over the course of several hours it all started coming back to me ... I could even cue bid pretty well by the end of it. Of course, having others pick up on my cues was a bit more difficult. This will remedy itself over time, though. I was the only one (of the 4 of us) who had actually played bridge (with real people at least) before. So much time was devoted to explaining stuff, etc. Eventually we realized it was perhaps best if we simply started playing. I managed at one point to get stuck with 2-Hearts when my partner had no hearts (at all)—my partner just wanted to be dummy so she could go use the restroom. Needless to say, we—I?—got slaughtered. However I redeemed myself shortly thereafter. I was dealt the ace, king, queen, jack and ten of diamonds. Add two more diamonds, the ace and king of hearts, and doubles in the two black suits, and you could say that I had a pretty stacked hand. I had nine guaranteed tricks and a shitload of points. My partner reluctantly upped my bid; I say reluctantly because it was obvious she had points—she just didn’t know what to call. That was all I needed, though. I felt I only really needed one trick from her because I did have top cards in my off-suits— just not the aces. I ended up jumping to 5 dimonds. After all, it was game and we weren’t vulnerable. My luck: my partner had the other two aces and the queen of hearts. I couldn’t pull one high card, but the result was still that I took 12. Anyway, enough of bridge.

In other news, not only has catalyst been updated, but I have more or less gotten up-to-date with my other web projects. Those are:

At least I don’t have any CVs to update (would that be curriculums vitae, curricula vitae, or curriculum vitaes?). I am done (I hope) with the Germn Day site. I’m sure I’ll have to update it some more at some point. The same with the CTP site, even though I only contracted to build it, not maintain it. I haven’t ever had to go back to the Polish site I did a while ago. At least there were other people to maintain the Slavic, German and IBS sites when I gave them up. I’ve sort of had a desire to work on websites recently ... I had taken a long break from my site, etc. Now I sort of feel the “creative urge” to get back to it and others. We’ll see ... after all, there are other things I should be working on. Plus, I have lots of lines to learn for Squentz.

Note: In the process of “organizing” my data (an on-going process, let me tell you, or “toi” as we might say in Attic Greek ... oh, nevermind) I’ve had to answer the question, “what format should I store things in?” Previously, that is, when I first started doing this a few years ago, I decided on using HTML. The reasoning was pretty clear: HTML is just text with mark-up, and it’s cross-platform. Furthermore, since it is “hypertext” it can be more useful than plain text. Document formats like Microsoft’s .doc are not an option since 1) they’re bloated 2) they’re proprietary and 3) they’re not cross-platform. For documents Word Perfect is an option, since it exists in Linux; however, it would basically just be a transitional format for me—if all my documents were in Word Perfect format, I could then convert them to other formats using Linux (rather than Windows). Word Perfect, while proprietary, has several advantages over Word. First, it is less-bloated than .doc (based on samples / experience). Furthermore Word Perfect itself has the nifty view codes option. However, it turns out that RTF (Rich Text Format) is in many cases an even better option. It is relatively open, so implementations exists on a variety of platforms. It is essentially just plain text with mark-up; in that regard, it resembles HTML. Furthermore, it is, despite what seem to be extraneous codes, less bloated than Word Perfect (6/7/8) format, based again on my own experience. Naturally, a nice XML doctype would be nice, but it would more or less be isomorphic to HTML for my uses. Hence, since binary formats are 1) bloated and 2) proprietary, it comes down to either a) plain text or 2) text with mark-up. For non-complicated documents I am now leaning towards plain text. It is easy to archive and compress. It is cross-platform. It can be transmitted easily, quickly and reliably over the Internet, and it can be either transformed or embedded into more complex document formats (HTML, TeX, PDF, PS, etc.). I expect (although I have no experience in this realm) that plain text documents are also nearly trivial to insert into databases.

So it is that this evening I have been transforming some documents that I downloaded from HTML to plain text. For simple documents this saves only a few bytes. A 2K document on Doom cheats stayed a 2K document. A 44K Myst walkthrough became 42K. However, a 20+K Wolfenstein 3D document became 1.37K— the rest had been javascript, font tags, menus, advertising, etc.

The only problem that I shall encounter will be with more complex documents (multiple columns, footnotes, even bold and italics) since plain text does not implement any extra features. WPD (Word Perfect Document) format or RTF will be my transitional form, I suppose; perhaps HTML will serve that purpose, but I get the feeling that TeX is what I really want to be using. After all, wouldn’t my papers look better typeset? Also, TeX can be converted easily to HTML or other formats. Enough of my rambling.

The question is: go to the AC/DC concert or not?

—March 12, 2001

Spring Cleaning: I’m also “cleaning” out a lot of files/data/junk. For example ... think of all the crap that ICQ saves. Message logs. Chat logs. I’ve just trashed a couple megabytes of them. I’m sort of sad to see them go. Reading through some of them brought back memories. And with others I could at least say “oh yeah, it was that annoying single-mom-hair-stylist-living-in-a-trailer ...” Well, perhaps not, given that there were so many of those. Others I remember more fondly, such as the Croatian-moved-to-Canada who was sort of a graphic designer and into city planning; I ended up “discussing” The Matrix with her one evening. I don’t usually recall their first names. A long time ago I chatted a woman from up in Canada who plays volleyball One can’t forget the South African rower, the Austrian former au pair, or the New Yorker, who also plays volleyball. Then there was the annoying teen from somewhere who mistook me for someone else. And some 15 year old, who visited my website and said “yeah your not that bad looking for a 25 year old. you look younger,” followed by “are you single or married?”

So, instead of deleting all my chat logs and such, I’ve decided to post some of them here. You’ll find the Spanish psychology student; the girl in St Johns, Canada; Meaghan at Wilfred Laurier University; “ginger,” who works with deaf children; Kashmi from India, who wanted to chat with my brother; the New Zealander who doesn’t like McDonalds apricot pies; the woman who thought I was a computer; another Canadian (having problems with her history paper); Lisa from San Francisco; the track athlete starting at LSU; the gossip-monger; yet another Canadian (this one wants to be a writer); the New Zealand graduate student; the Bulgarian who worked in Illinois last summer; the anthropology major in Kansas; and the Canadian of Ukranian descent. Chats with Terra, Sally, Elaine, Andrew, Lara, Merryl and Leena won’t find their way onto this site. However, you can read a short chat I had with other former Rotary exchangees. My conversations with numerous Turks, Russians, Brazilians and Australians have been lost to the world. I didn’t bother preserving chats/messages with “cherry”; numerous single mothers (from: Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, eastern Canada); or the Brit-living-in-Fullerton-California who 1) is now getting it on with “Willie” and 2) (supposedly) had a problem with some 50 year old she met online who was coming over to her place and sexually molesting her. However, you can read the most idiotic and stupid messages that I had kept on file: casper, chook, eagleboy and jessica. If you bother to look at these files, you’ll notice that I have—more or less—edited myself out of the scene.

—March 13, 2001

It’s Thursday: I figured I would provide a short little entry for today. It will include a short “book review” of sorts, a few comments on websites, and perhaps some miscellaneous commentary.

Lawrence Watt-Evens praised Stuart Hopen’s Warp Angel (1995) as “perhaps the strangest science fiction novel I’ve ever read.” Strange it may be, but that does not make it very good. By “not good” I mean: it is not good science fiction; it is not good writing; it is not a good novel in general. Warp Angel seems to be the story of Magen, a young woman in search of her lost husband, Adam. All this takes place in a far distant future in a star system far removed from Earth. The society there is decadent, lawless and immoral, and Magen must fight against the Slavers “Bod” to find Adam. Along the way she meets Amelia, Chev, Veil and others, and we are “treated” to acid duels, intrigue and a variety of curious worlds. The problem here is not so much concept as it is execution. The story has its own array of twists and turns; it is part space opera, part philosophical meditation and part New Wave. However, it doesn’t do anything well.

The writing is abysmal and the dialogues are less than inspired. Nearly every conversation contains a singular “yes,” “no,” “really” or “I believe you.” The most inspired line is perhaps “You look like a killer whore.” Hopen embarks upon interesting images and descriptions; the beginning of the book and its starship graveyeard is promising. However, from that point on most descriptions are lazy; there is opportunity to take advantage of the strangeness of it all and describe it in new, exciting and sensual ways, but Hopen rarely delivers.

In terms of plot there is a story, and perhaps there is a point to it all. Perhaps the main thread is that Magen is looking for her lost husband, Adam. To that end we have assassination attempts, dog-fights, conspiracies gone wrong and battles galore. A variety of scenes to develop Chev and Amelia as characters overshadow Magen’s story and leave us wishing for more. Alas, most everything comes across as a plot device, and it’s hard to tell if Hopen wishes to tell a larger tale or if he wants to give us smaller vingettes. The gaps that are left open further lead to my disappointment.

The book attempts to be philosophical but rarely carries through with its ideas. Several people reviewing the book at Amazon.com were fascinated by the book’s treatment of Judaism, but the sprinkling of tidbits and facts does not an educated discussion make. There is little follow-through with the ideas introduced. Watt-Evans stated that “this story [...] has more compelling ideas and images in the first few chapters than you’ll find in a dozen ordinary SF novels.” This might possibly true, though I rather doubt it; it is mostly glitz and glammer. Very little here is truly new. Hopen could have contributed something worthwhile if he had been more interested in following through rather than sprinkling ideas here and there.

Finally, the book cannot satisfy fans of hard-SF. Star Wars appears rational and well-reasoned by comparison. Although the world is a sort of “future-history,” the treatment is essentially mystical fantasy. Terms such as “gene-splicing” are thrown around liberally, but as in the philosophical realm, Hopen rarely explains enough to deliver. Hopen tries to follow in the tracks of New Wave and Cyberpunk writers; the style reminds one vaguely of someone like Dick, but whereas Dick was a piss-poor writer with great ideas, Hopen is a mediocre writer with derivative concepts and no follow-through. I’ll take Dick any day.

Now for some websites.

A lot has been done with the /. format since the days when /. itself came online. Some sites have become mere portals; none get the traffic of /. Others have failed, such as Bruce Perens’ Technocrat.net. Only a few have come to have any significance; one such site is kuro5hin. However, K5 is not the topic of discussion today. During a /. discussion yesterday I came across geeks4christ; the merging of geeks with Jesus-freaks (Gospel for Geeks. God matters—how cute). They even have some of the same icons as /. since it’s a port of Slashcode to PHP. I’ll take The Secular Web any day, though.

Comment: dcresource.com seems like an interesting site. However, as I have no digital camera, it’s completely useless to me. But if you have one or are interested in one, it looks to be a good place to go. It has reviews and news and all that jazz. Now for something else.

Someone on ICQ also recommends www.sleazydream.com; it looks like a porn-portal, but if that’s your sort of thing. It’s supposedly rather amusing: “it’s all tied to this service called the ‘Adult Friend Finder,’ which evidently tries to act as a sort of matchmaking service for swingers.” Furthermore, regarding the stories that accompany the pictures, “every story is ridden with grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.”

Let’s try the Research Randomizer. I just picked the URL at random. The site seems to want to help students and researchers with their random samples. Something like that. It has a cool graphic on the main page.

I like to throw random addresses out there to see what sites actually exist. For example, I looked over at my brother’s DVD collection, saw Notting Hill and tried www.notting.org and www.notting.com. Notting there, I’m afraid to say. There is, however, amadeus.net, which has to do with travel websites. While I’m at it I should point out Bare-Faced Messiah: the True Story of L. Ron Hubbard; the text is online. Finally, let me throw in HOBBITON.org, where you can get a free shell account.

I suppose I’ve written enough for today. I need some food. I also need to clean up around here and scan some more photos. It is kind of fun—but slow—to scan wallet-sized pictures at 600dpi.

—March 15, 2001

Time for bed: I may be an atheist, but I can still appreciate christian-themed websites; at least at times. After all, one religion is like another ... an interesting set of beliefs and myths [and then there is the Co$ ... let’s not go there]. A lot of relgions have interesting texts that have made it into the literary canon; the Bible being the prime example. So it is that for two entries in a row I get to post something related to religion. Today’s links is as follows: The Electronic King James Bible. I think it’s pretty cool. The guy wrote an Apache module so that you can easily call up bible verses in a web-browser; and you can easily manipulate the URL to give you a specific verse, a range of verses, a chapter or even chapters. Pretty nifty use of technology. This could pretty easily be extended to other well-indexed texts. Perhaps someone has already done so. So, take a stroll on over and see hot it works.

—March 15, 2001

Pure Evil: There are a number of things in this world that I really don’t like. Just as a note, I have been getting over my hatred of mushrooms. I still don’t like brussel sprouts, but I can stand sour cream again. That took years. In the realm of organizations, I’ve posted many things on a separate page. One thing I dislike above all, though, is the Co$ [Church of Scientology]. I dislike Microsoft because 1) they slow innovation, 2) they have harmed consumers and their competitors through unfair business practices and 3) they produce shitty software. I think most Republicans are 1) fools, 2) conservative bastards, and 3) maintainers of scary, dehumanizing beliefs. I think the RIAA and MPAA are mega-meta-corporations that 1) are out to harm consumers, 2) have no respect for fair use, 3) are abusing copyright law to their own ends and 4) have little to no respect for real artists and art. But the Co$ has them all beat because not only are its followers 1) mindless 2) fools, and 3) idiots, the organization itself is truly evil. The KKK, Aryan Nations and large consulting firms are also evil, but usually in a more limited way. The Co$ is 1) actively evil, 2) trying to spread everywhere and 3) has no redeemable social or moral values. These claims are supported by the facts that it 1) is responsible for the deaths of numerous people, 2) brainwashes people and 3) sues the pants of people who disagree with it.

One of the most recent targets of the Co$ was /. Someone had posted some text to which the Co$ claimed to have the copyright; calling upon the DMCA they orderd /. to remove the post, and /.—not wishing to fight a costly legal battle—complied. Luckily they not only removed the post; they replaced it with tons of links to 1) the original material and 2) to other anti-Co$ links. I would link to the stuf at /. except that I expect the links will go dead after a few months. Instead, let me just provide a few useful links to other sites with info on the Co$. This way you don’t have to take my word for how evil they are; you can judge for yourself.

Of course, to be fair, I should also point out some “pro” Co$ sites. You can always check out L. Ron’s amazing, beautiful and praise-worthy poetry at Ron, The Poet. More links can be found here.

—March 16, 20001

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