Older blog entries for schoen (starting at number 236)


(Chinese restaurant) fortunes: "Now is the time to try something new." "Now is the time to try something new."

If only we'd had three people at dinner -- then it would be certain.

Life is unbelievably complicated!

I had a nice time with Zack this weekend and got to talk to him a bunch, have dinner, and do some errands.

I found my CueCat and scanned a bunch of books. (I hadn't scanned anything since moving, because I misplaced the CueCat when I moved, so that's quite a few books already.) I still haven't published my scripts, just because I'm ashamed of how ad hoc they are. No great elegance, generality, modularity; just quick hacks. And they work really well, but I'm still ashamed to publish them.

I talked to Zack a bit about computer chess, and he showed me a really excellent chess-playing program called Crafty. We're curious whether we could make this run on a Mosix cluster (say) and do deeper or faster game tree searches. I wish we had some extremely strong players to make Crafty play against in case we managed to make that work.

I'm planning to see my cousin Ronnie on Monday night.

I wrote a poem called "Infandum: for March 26".


We met our new landlord, signed a lease, and are now officially tenants here. Our first rent check is due by April Fool's Day.

Maybe I should have a housewarming party.

I had a great time at the Anarchist Book Fair with Anirvan. I bought several books (and a t-shirt which said "Free speech is for everybody"; I passed up the Proudhon "to be governed" shirt, but I did get a copy of Proudhon's What is Property?). Afterward, we went to the three bookstores in the 9th and Irving area until dark, and then we spent a while chatting afterward. It's really hard to resist buying books: I ended up buying at least one book everywhere I went that was selling them today.

Chelsea Books was my source for the very interesting Computer Chess Compendium, edited by David Levy -- a very large collection of technical papers on the problems encountered in trying to write chess-playing AI programs. There are all sorts of discussions of position evaluation functions, heuristics, and game tree pruning. I'm sure that some good work has been done since the book was published, but I've never seen any of this material explained in print beyond basic game tree material.

The new Linux Journal came in the mail.

American Amusement

James Tyre pointed out American Amusement v. Kendrick. (This isn't a final opinion; the case was remanded to District Court for further proceedings.)

It was very surprising to learn there that American laws regulate sexually explicit material because it's (considered) offensive rather than because it's (considered) harmful. But such is the view of CA7.

The main worry about obscenity, the main reason for its proscription, is not that it is harmful, which is the worry behind the Indianapolis ordinance, but that it is offensive. A work is classified as obscene not upon proof that it is likely to affect anyone's conduct, but upon proof that it violates community norms regarding the permissible scope of depictions of sexual or sex-related activity. [Citations omitted.] Obscenity is to many people disgusting, embarrassing, degrading, disturbing, outrageous, and insulting, but it generally is not believed to inflict temporal (as distinct from spiritual) harm; or at least the evidence that it does is not generally considered as persuasive as the evidence that other speech that can be regulated on the basis of its content [...]. There are people who believe that some forms of graphically sexual expression, not necessarily obscene in the conventional legal sense, may incite men to commit rape, or to disvalue women in the workplace or elsewhere, see, e.g., Catharine A. MacKinnon, Only Words (1993); but that is not the basis on which obscenity has traditionally been punished. No proof that obscenity is harmful is required either to defend an obscenity statute against being invalidated on constitutional grounds or to uphold a prosecution for obscenity. Offensiveness is the offense.

This is surprising to me. I don't believe other courts would generally agree. (The famous judge Richard Posner wrote this decision; it's interesting to compare it with an earlier decision of his that nude dancing is protected by the first amendment.)

There's something happening here

I speculated in a message to Wolfgang about an emerging political movement with a nexus around free speech, free software, and transparency in technology. I keep running into the same people over and over again in different issues (I made a list); somehow there almost seems to be a consensus in certain circles on a whole range of seemingly not-quite-connected issues. I'd like to write some more about that.

I don't want to make the overreaching speculations that people have come to associate with Jon Katz. He's not a bad writer, but everything with him, but everything, seems to be a revolutionary social paradigm shift. And I just don't think that's right. That's where Wired has often run into trouble: they look for a vast significance in everything. And I don't blame them; I look for a vast significance in everything, and I always suspect that everything has a vast significance. But Wired, say, or Jon Katz, is always telling you they've found it: every month, or every week, they've got the key.

Well, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar; and sometimes a technology is just a technology, a technologist just a technologist.

Still, I think there's an interesting and somewhat concrete pattern. I don't know just what it is. I keep running into the same people.


There were some meetings and conversations at Linuxcare relating to the merger with Turbolinux.

I felt a little sick in the afternoon and mostly better. We're still poking at the BBC kernel.

Tomorrow we sign a lease with our new landlord.


I followed the Mir re-entry with various people on the OpenProjects #mir channel. It was a lot of fun.

One local radio station played "It's The End of The World As We Know It" right before the impact. That was very amusing.


I seem to be all better, but my arms hurt a bunch again.

Other recent topics

I worked more on the BBC with Andrew, I talked to lilo, I met Zack's parents, and I decided not to participate in the IBM ad campaign.

Sors Vergiliana:

neu populum antiqua sub relligione tueri


I think I'm almost better now. But my right arm is sore again.


I talked for a while with Andrew about the BBC and tried to get him oriented to work on updating the kernel. He made a lot of contributions to the released 1.5 but has never yet built a BBC by himself. I hope that will change now!

I also wrote to Dunc about getting BBC development on a machine on the public Internet, not behind Linuxcare's firewall.


Wolfgang told me I should read a book called Personal Knowledge, so I ordered it.

I also got a shipment of books I ordered from Dover. Yay! These included several Gardner titles. I'm now missing only 44 of 111 Gardner titles on my bibliography, and I have about 10 or 12 "Gardner-interest" books (Festschrift for Gardner or introduction by him or acknowledgment to him or dedication to him).


She glanced at the book which she knew of course and said to Cynthia in a low voice, 'Have you read the Religio Medici?'. The last word she spoke as though it were the name of a great Italian family. Now it happened that Cynthia had read the book, and possessed it, for the title together perhaps with some stray word or portrait had charmed her when she was first beginning to read.

For long the divine properties of that strange volume acted only in a curious and tantalising fashion. She could not have told you what the writing was about; often she laid it down in distress and fatigue; but the words lured her on, with a promise distinct though not definable, of wondrous caverns, and vast luminous vistas concealed below them, and in time they came to undermine her visible world with a labyrinth of dark channels, and to expand her heaven. Even now that she was a grown woman she could start herself on some whimsical flight infinitely pleasant to her, by reading certain words.

"Yes," she answered, "I know it."

(From the earliest existing fragment of Melymbrosia, the early version of Virginia Woolf's first novel The Voyage Out. This is from Extant Draft A, Appendix B, p. 267 of the published version of Melymbrosia, edited by Louise A. DeSalvo. Thanks, mom.)


I'm still sick.


We had one of those rolling blackouts here, and took advantage of the opportunity to get some hardware onto UPSes.

There was also something of the sense of carrying fire from one place to another: several models of APC UPS won't turn on (even if the battery inside is charged) unless they are actually plugged in and receiving AC power. That can make it hard to turn a UPS on in a blackout! So I had one UPS that was on, and two that were charged, unplugged, and off.

I plugged the Office into the squealing 600, and turned the former on. It came right up and started beeping. I carried it over and plugged the 420 into the Office, which had begun to supply AC power. Now the 420, too, could be turned on. :-)

I guess this is actually like "intellectual property":

He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

Speaking of which:


Please tell dmarti what you think about his ideas for reforming the U.S. patent system.

Are you a free software developer who has been or felt threatened by a software or business method patent? Please tell Don; detailed, specific examples can help him.

I don't think it's good to circulate this too far while this is still a draft.

Kernel Traffic

I poked at some KT stuff, like writing an HTTP client as a Bourne shell script. This can tell you whether a particular mirror is up. (It's amazingly hard to use a standard client to check a specific mirror from a round-robin DNS list, because the client will probably connect to a randomly chosen host from that list. And if you try to connect by IP address, you will probably not see the results of the right virtual host! So you really seem to need a custom client.)

Aha, but I'm wrong there: curl has a "-H" option which will let you specify arbitrary HTTP headers. That's extremely useful and would have solved the problem if we'd had curl installed. Once again, bagder, nice work.


I think this MSM is doing some good for my arms.


Phil Agre notes these defenses of the Taliban's destruction of the statues at Bamiyan:


Alas, I am the latest Advogato diarist to get sick. I feel pretty unwell (I think I used that phrase to describe the last time I was sick, unless that was "really unwell"), and this messes up a bunch of nice plans (BayFF, CalLUG, and more).

Last time, I felt sicker than this, and I got better in two days. Maybe I'll be so lucky again.

I was writing a diary entry about the IBM ads and dmarti's nice work to show IBM some meaningful commitments it can make to support free software. I'm very impressed with how things are going. But I can't reach that diary entry draft because zork is unreachable from here at the moment.

Coffee and wrist pain

sangr, practically every medical professional or expert I've talked to says that caffeine is bad for repetitive strain injuries and inflamations. If I remember correctly, it reduces your circulation. If you have RSI problems, you might want to ask a doctor whether reducing your coffee intake could help.

In the mountains, there you feel free

At the IBM casting event (where much of interest happened), I ran into Sam Ockman, who took me out to Muir Woods, where we walked through the ancient redwood forest for several hours. That was really nice.

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