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Eighth month


I am currently pondering how involved i want to get with on-line communities. Years ago, before the final September arrived, i spent (far too) much time on USENET. Mainly reading, but still. Now i find myself wanting to be able to have the same sort of casual community interactions on line as my spouse and a few other friends do. I've tried chatting on Delphi, but their chat java crashes my browser at home. I am logged on to AIM when I am at work, both as my work self and as fenxelaine. (Feel free to contact me.)

Tripod has lots of ways of interacting with other Tripod folks: I'm already a member of the Spirituality Pod. If you do a search for Phoenix in the Tripod member pages, you find the the identity of 'Phoenix' is very popular. Then vanity and excellence in procrastination led me to see who had linked to my pages. I'm honored by the few people who did link to me; they usually link to the Mandala page and are spiritual seekers.

My Memories of Usenet. I went searching through DejaNews (It will always be DejaNews, just like Philly's Delaware Ave will always be Delaware Ave.) for the end of USENET today. Something about the brisk breeze blowing that said, "September -- It's forever September on the 'net."

I wanted to find out who said that first, when had someone decided that that crush of newbies in USENET that occurred each September when arriving students got new accounts, that crush would never let up again. I did find a Netizen history, but haven't had time to read the entire document. In reviewing the seven stages of a poster i realize this exploration is the perfect seventh stage. I ran across posts from luminary Peter da Silva and the net.loon Archimedes Plutonium. I cant remember whether Lee Bumgarner was merely a gadfly or a loon -- i think i remember him from Usenet II. So here is a brief linkography on the Imminent Death of USENET:



And the musical selection to hack to today:
Living Colour: Time's Up.

We're finally getting rain here. It seems to come in the wee hours of the morning along with much thunder -- designed to wake one up at the worst possible moment, it seems. Thunder startles us awake, we get up, turn off computers, close windows, and then lie in bed trying to fall back asleep without the cats (who must run under something, somewhere). Waking up to a rain-freshened Philadelphia is wonderful, though. The garden has survived the pounding rains pretty well. The most certain of my sunflower plans is that if there are seeds -- because most of the sunflowers are 'Lion's Mane,' a variety that seems to be all petals -- i'll save them to plant again next year. I gathered these on the organic farm (and i could have sworn they were all from the same flower) last year, and the seeds didn't seem to be large enough to eat. One of the plants is a traditional looking sunflower, a throwback, possibly, so maybe it will have yummy seeds.


Another free web page, actually relevant as i occasionally post on Delphi.

One of the high amusements of the day was getting a response from the owner.

See yesterday's entry for my & JD's discussion about When i got this very lame reply, I went ahead and lodged a complaint with the FTC. If you have the gall to charge for sending a prayer, how dare you assert that the "transmission medium" doesn't matter.

My message to the FTC: I didn't purchase the service. However, it seems like this is a way to get $ from folks without offering the described service (radio broadcast of prayers to the origin of the universe'). If they are offering this service, i respect their right to offer it and consumer's right to pay for it. However, i have grave doubts as to whether the actual service is performed. In particular, when i asked for details about the transmitter & the actual location to which they were broadcasting I got this reply:

	From: netcenter@NewPrayer.Com
Subject: A Prayer has been sent on your behalf
Date: 26 Aug 1999 07:16:58 -0700 Please be advised that on 8/26/99, a Prayer on your behalf was sent to the last known location of GOD, by Crandall Stone.

Reason for sending prayer:
Pray that you understand that the power is in the prayer, not the transmission medium. (Microwave at a starcluster identified by NASA).

Details of how this program works can be found at our Website at HTTP:// We look forward to helping you with your Spiritual needs in the future. May all your prayers be answered!


I'm feeling old today although not exactly sorry for myself.

IM Session with JD started at 08/25/99 14:42 PM

  • JD: hello
  • Me: Hey there.
  • JD: How are you?
  • Me: Feeling kind of old. Tons of fan pages out there for Duran-Duran....
  • JD: :-)
  • JD: Could be worse, could be Loverboy
  • JD: ;-)
  • Me: Wait -- they were touring in Dec of '98 -- gack!
  • JD: {laughs}
  • Me: I don't remember them being mentioned after about '84.....
  • JD: me neither
  • Me:
  • JD: how frightening...........
  • Me: Listening to co0workers complain about the BackStreet Boys. The closest i could approximate was DuranDuran.
  • JD: what's even worse, I started surfing around the site....almost involuntarily. Blechh
  • Me: Yeah, well i keep getting microsnot errors.
  • Me: Microsoft VBScript runtime error '800a003e'
  • Me: Input past end of file
    /instantnews.asp, line 99
  • JD: How unusually descriptive.... {set sarcasm /off]
  • Me: Anyhow, how are *you*
  • JD: I am still kicking... much more than that, I am unwilling to commit to at this time....{grin}
  • JD: Ben a crappy couple weeks
  • JD: been
  • Me: 8(
  • JD: yeah
  • Me: Hopefully, the crap is confined, like just to work... something you can forget when you go home?
  • JD: sort of
  • JD: Then I am also taking a class, ostensibly in math, primarily in Chinese though.....
  • Me: (
  • Me: Ah, i know what that means.
  • Me: What sort of math? (At [STATE] i presume)
  • JD: Yes, it is PreCalc
  • JD:
  • JD: too funny
  • Me: So PreCalc is a service class so some first year grad student is stuck learning how US classes are run....
  • JD: and learing English at the expense of my ability to learn math.... grrrrr
  • Me: (giggle -- Create a prepaid account for 6 prayers $25 )
  • JD: :-) I love the fact that the parayers will go to the "last known good address for GOD" that cracks me up
  • Me: The *really* amusing thing about this is that all space was at the point of the Big Bang when the big bang occured, thus all space is, as they put it, the lask known location of god....)
  • Me: I want more details on the radio transmitter.
  • JD: ...if there is one....
  • Me: bingo
  • Me: Just wrote an email to annoy Them, whoever THEY are....
  • JD: :-) Let me know what they say
  • Me: Probably ought to reproth them to the FTC....
  • Me: report
  • JD: FTC ?
  • Me: Fed Trade Commission
  • Me: I think they're the ones who squish scams...
  • JD: Oh, I was think FCC
  • JD: Since they are misusing radio equip.....
  • Me: I think that's if they use the US Mail -- but then again... maybe so....
  • Me: *IF* they're using a radio transmitter...
  • JD: true

Another free web page:


Thinking about listening to more music at work:

The Who's Greatest Hits
Peter Gabriel: Us

Recently, I've been considering old timepieces. (It actually has to do with work.) It brings to mind Hourmaster, which i read earlier this summer. Very good.


M brought up salary as a degree justification while i was in Austin; it just fueled all my resentment at the lingering years i spent trying to convince myself to finish up. Salary (and the concomitant work-force perks) was essentially my only motivation, and it's one that has never had any meaning for me. It took me a long time to decide that i would allow my values to lead me, and that i could face the disapproval I'd receive from acquaintances (faculty members, distant family members, etc). I knew i could trust that my friends would understand.

So, i prepare myself for the arguments that i should finish because of X, where X always boils down to essentially a salary decision, arguments i get from DPB and others like him. There's no way to reason with those arguments because i reject the underlying values. I want approval from people like DPB, and i wish so much that i could show them my reasoning. These values are so unquestioned, though, all i can really do is just agree that what they're saying makes sense, but it isn't right for me.

It's hard for me to do because i want so much to be understood.

I've returned to find my sunflowers blooming and my garden is now visited by hummingbirds. We've had some rain (not enough to repair the drought damage) and cooler air. X and I are beginning to redo the apartment, starting with the attic studio. Over the first weekend in September we'll be going to NC with a trailer, to take things down for a massive yard sale and return with a bedroom suite. To get the old things out and the new things in, we essentially have to move everything in the entire house!


I spent a couple of years decorating a wreath every month and a half (corresponding to the seasonal wheel of the year). I realized that the act was like a physical, material prayer. Choosing the elements, whether bits of natural material i found while waling in West Philly or purchased decorations and ribbons, lead to a meditation upon what i wanted for that season, how the metaphor of that season worked with my life experience at the moment, and what i was thankful for.

For 50 dollars more than what i need to get a new battery for my Thinkpad 750C (antique), I can get a PALM III. It's got to be worth it. The Thinkpad weighs a ton, and i only intend to use DOS on it. (I've got emacs for DOS installed. That, along with ELM for parsing mail files, is all i need in a hotel room.) The palm III may be the most obsolete of the Palm Family, but it doesn't seem too bad when comparing the features. I guess the thing I'd miss that i have with the lap top is that, with the lap top, i can write email in the hotel room and save it to a floppy to use at conference terminals. Hmm. And the keyboard.


The trips were pretty rich with experience, and i feel it's going to take over a month to reflect on some of it. I've pretty much caught up with myself from all my travels-- i ended up sleeping the entire weekend. I've not traveled much like that: depending on lots of different people for rides and hospitality. I think it was stressful. I spent some time with my great aunts -- probably the first time i've really been able to sit and talk with them since i became an adult. Most of my visits would be whirlwind and crowded, with just enough time to say hello. This time I actually got to sit and listen -- one aunt is pretty hard of hearing now. I feel sad that i don't get to do this more often, that i haven't really had the opportunity. My mother's family would have so many gatherings, but the time was so filled with fixing meals, getting everyone situated, and everyone all together at the same time. The same people, of course, would have the spotlight. I guess I remember all the times far more for the dynamic between my parents than the chance to see other family members.

I did have an amazing day with M and her friend MT in Austin, TX MT did live north of Mo Paw, Mo Pac, whatever. Very suburby, but very close to where she and her spouse BT work. They've two dogs, very much their children, and a house they're renovating to be incredibly cool. It's a castle-like interior: tile floors, walls that look like stone or stucco, and lots of black wrought iron fixtures. Their reading room is going to be absolutely amazing.

M & MT took me to Celebrations and to BookWoman. We went to an empanadas place down town for lunch -- very good -- and then met my grandmother's friend Rainbow.

The most wonderful thing was where we went swimming -- Hamilton Pool. It's a good drive outside of town, but it's worth it. You're up in a rolling almost desert area, wandering past ranches. You park and start following a path down into a canyon, surrounded by the limestone cliffs. You pass a very large boulder and see cypress tress growing tall in a slow moving stream. Following the creek upstream you break out into a glade, filled with a green pool shielded by an almost perfect arc of overhanging cliff. You can follow a trail around the base of the cliff and look up and see swallows' nests and fossil shells embedded in the limestone. Large catfish patrol the shallows, and a domed rock -- perfect for seating two -- sits underneath sun-warmed creek-fed waterfall.

I don't think i can describe the perfection of the pool well enough -- i'm hoping at least some of my photos turn out (better than the ones available on line).

Apparently Austin has the largest colony of freetailed bats in the US. The live under a main bridge in town and have a mass departure every night at dusk. I got to see the bats that night very well, despite the Armstrong Tour de France celebration. Photos there too as, again, the braided flocks? herds? of bats were beyond words. Especially since i'm not familiar with the collective nown for bats.


The conference i attended in San Antonio was for physics education. There's an odd mix of high school physics teachers and academic physicists which suits me -- there's some brakes on the hubris train. One of the ideas i brought from the conference was to do an online experiment. I'm thinking about taking the code from Eliza -- an artificial artificial intelligence program. It simulates a conversation with a therapist using some very simple rules.

Eliza: How do you do? What brings you to see me?
Me:I need to describe your program to my friend.
ElizaWhy do you say you might want to describe?
Me:Because it will help her understand my project.
ElizaWhat makes you believe because it will help her understand your project?
Me:Demonstrations are often more revealing than descriptions.
ElizaEarlier you said you would like to describe?
Me:Well, yes, by demonstrating.
ElizaMaybe your plans have something to do with this.

I'd like to change the simple rules to have it ask about a predefined simple physics (mechanics) problem -- a block on an inclined plane, probably. The user would then describe how the system would behave, the program would be programmed to check for key terms & would prompt with different interpretations.....


Back to school? Next year, maybe? K and i talked over some courses i'd find useful. Lisp, for one. (Although i have to dig through that if i am to hack ELIZA.) An OS course. Drexel offers a Certificate of Advanced Study: a post masters classwork oriented program. Sounds just right.


Hacking Memes & The Great Slowdown are essays i read today as i looked about the net for some virtual opiate. I certainly became even more aware of how unengaged my behavior was as i read the essays, but I also found the point of view very similar to that of SG's. (There's a bad memory.) While i appreciate the cleverness of the cited Meme Hackers, and the academic fluency of the author, i find essays like this just push one more and more into the realm of simulated satisfaction and experience.

When i think of how moo-life at -- whatever that Univ of Va postmodern moo was -- was presented to me by SG, ...


Home, finally, and back into the swing of work. The AAPT conference has inspired me to consider a research topic -- one of my very own! No grants, no sponsoring institution needed (although if it starts working in an interesting manner i might be able to get my employer interested). My idea is going to involve a hack of Eliza or, perhaps (as i found while searching for eliza in the Debian packages), MegaHAL.

Well, looking at today's MegaHAL transcript, i see that an online program has the possible problem of intentional abuse in order to drive the program out of its tiny little mind. On the other hand, i don't *want* my program to retain its gained knowledge between sessions....


On the road and in the super wired home office of a dear friend in Austin TX. K has taken M to the air port for a much delayed (due to M getting ill) spontaneous trip to Panama. I watched as M went through the final check list: q-tips, gauze, rubbing alcohol, 16 rolls of film, addresses for friends..., and reflected on how stressed I was yesterday as i headed for the airport. My rush was to print out my conference schedule and itinerary on my Daytimer stationary with my antique dot matrix printer. (The printer was a donation from BB. I saw her while i was in Orlando & we visited a pawn shop where the same printer was for sale for around $90. Perhaps it was pawned years ago....)

I had lots of delays in the connection through Dallas. We left Philly late because one of the seats in the plane leaned too far _forward_ and wouldn't go to the upright, locked position. We made up that time, but there was 'weather' at Dallas so we circled a long time. It was a kiddie flight. I swear, in the 18 seats of my row & the two closest, there were 9 kids under ten.


Temporarily here and answering a question on PET scans, I ran across this wonderfully open narrative by Morris Friedell about developing Alzheimer's disease. I spent time with my great aunts while i was in Florida, one of whom is developing Alzheimer's. She had studied to be a chemist but, in the depression, all the jobs were going to men. My mind flickers over so many topics: I never knew she had studied to be a chemist -- my physics career illuminated in a new light; the injustice of sexism as she needed to support a her large family of brothers and sisters. She was the third of seven. Her two older sisters worked to support the family, too. I heard stories of times no one had ever mentioned before. I ache that i never had such good times talking with her, and that i am so distant now.