I'm discombobulated

I wrote today's Glob offline, typing away on the laptop in the ice-cold Bunker. I put the floppy in the drive (yes, there is still an occasional dinosaur who uses a floppy drive), but didn't actually save the text file there.

I'm discombobulated because the Serbian Roomate has brought his family up. They're moving into their house sometime soon. What's taking so long I don't know. Perhaps everything has to be put away, the last little bits of strapping tape safely in a garbage bag in the basement, before she can sleep in the new place. I don't know.

The Serbian Roomate grabbed all the great stuff when we moved in. I ended up with the small room beside the kitchen, the hard bed, and one small bedside lamp, obviously purchased for $1 at a garage sale. He ended up with two floor lamps, the comfy bed, and the big room.

I really could have used the comfy bed. I do a lot of writing sitting in bed. Whether I'll continue that pattern in the new place I don't know. It has a couple of couches out in the seedy den area.

It's not seedy. It's like the basements we slept and caroused in when we were kids, remember? Unfinished, the joists and flooring nails plainly visible. This place has joists from Northwood Mills, long since absorbed by Weyerhauser. The grading stamp says 1975.

You know what it's like? it's like the basement in That 70's Show.

Hollywood Denizens Kiss Each Other's Bums

Know what would be cool? If some other director won Best Director, and up he goes, then says "Ah, come on! We all know who deserves this," and calls Pete up to the podium and gives the award to him to thunderous applause.

Then all the actors and actors with breasts (can't call them 'actresses' any more) come up in long line, ignoring the officious little dweeb whose job it is to notify people that their time is up, and pile their little bald statuettes at Pete's feet, bowing down to worship him. He looks sort of like a short, hairy Joan of Arc waiting to be burned at the stake with all those gold testaments to Hollywood's self-absorption piled around him.

So then Pete gathers up the trophies and staggers back to his seat, laden with several hundred pounds of gold-filled symbols of something-or-other. He arrays them around his feet, like so many hobbits, and waits for the awarding of Best Picture.

Once again, the award goes to someone else, maybe Cold Mountain. The producers leap up onto the stage, but the trophy-babe (heh) refuses to give it up. The producers gather as a mass to one side of the podium, their faces wracked with conflicting emotions on national televisions. Greed and selfishness wrestle with the desire for public approval, and their political sense finally wins the fight.

"Come and get it, Peter," they say, the tears in their eyes possibly due to all the sappy melodrama, worthy of any movie-of-the-week in which a crowd chants 'USA! USA!'. Or it might possibly be caused by the sudden realization that they won't be able to lay claim to the title of 'Oscar winning', and they will thus never be as good or worthy as Bugs Bunny.

Pete gathers up his army of figurines, accidentally including Elijah Wood in the process, and heads for the stage. Elijah is trapped in Pete's armpit, smothering to death during the acceptance speech, and becomes Oscar's first martyr.

After, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger get into a catfight over who is going to play Bilbo in 'The Hobbit'. J. Lo gets into the act, announcing that her left buttock will play Bifur, and her right will play Bombur. The entire audience is outraged. They line up to kick her ass, and find that this actually goes fairly quickly, as they can line up eight wide and still all get a clear shot.

Elijah Wood is declared to be St. Elijah of the Kiwi Armpit, and a new memorial award is created, to be given to the Actor or Actor With Breasts that most exemplifies the Hollywood creed of Suffering for the Art. Jack Nicholson falls on his Viagra bottle in an early bid to be the first recipient. Ben Affleck points to Lopez, then himself, in HIS bid for the trophy.

Spelling, cont.

For my trials with 'ie' and 'ei', see below. I really should take the time to stick some anchors in, shouldn't I?

I have another word that I consistently spell wrong: surreptitious. I get the first U and the E reversed, every time.

Dr. Gwynne Dyer

I was googling around this morning, looking for interviews with Dr. Gwynne Dyer. He said, before the Iraq invasion, that there were no WMD. He said that the world intelligence community were silent because nobody wanted to call the president of the United States a liar.

At the time, he was promoting his book Ignorant Armies: Sliding into War in Iraq. I have yet to read the book, having little time and less money these days (maybe I'll drop by Chapters later and see if they have a copy), but Dyer's comments and the reviews the book has received speak volumes.

I've written about Dyer before. He's no peacenik. His position is not that of an automatic gainsayer of US foreign policy. Instead, he is an altogether more valuable sort: a frank commentator on things relating to war, something he is qualified to speak on.

I was looking because both David Kay and Kenneth Pollack maintained in recent days that 'almost everyone' (both used the same term) that Iraq had WMD. And yet I distinctly remember Dyer saying before the war (and he is a man whose opinion on these matters I value) that 'almost everyone' agreed that the Iraq was not an imminent threat.

Is not the fact that Russia, Germany, France, and Canada (particularly Canada) were unconvinced an indicator of something?

I am unsure how to resolve this contradiction.

The web and the structure of information

In the beginning, the web was generally thought of as a sort of library, where you could go to any shelf and pull a piece of paper down and look at it. In its simplest form, that is what it still is: type in a URL, get a document.

However, that form of web is all but useless. If you don't know the URL for something, you have no way of getting to it short of trying random URLs hoping to stumble across it by chance. That's where indexes come in.

Indexes arrange web content in some meaningful way, and provide a user with a method of searching for and finding specific content. The best known is Google, but there are others. Time was, there were probably ten different ones. Some have disappeared, while others have changed forms and now use Google to power their searches.

What indexes provide is an entry point. Most websites are not single pages, but are rather collections of pages with internal and external links. But you need an entry point, and you get it either from a link provided elsewhere, or by searching an index such as Google.

Once you're in, you can follow the links around. If there are links out, you can follow those into other linked webs of information. This is powerful technology, the more powerful because it is simple.

There is a tendency to think that everything that exists has been indexed by Google. This is not true, but it might as well be. There are estimates for the amount of unindexed space that is floating around, all the personal websites people have built that Google doesn't know about, and they vary, but smart people guess that less than half of the web is indexed.

That's a lot of information that, effectively, doesn't exist. I'll be the first to admit that well over 90% of it is probably puerile, but that's not the point, is it? Well over 90% of the indexed space is, as well. But it's all useful to somebody. That is isn't indexed isn't Google's fault, because Google has no way of knowing about content without some form of reference to it. Google follows links, and Google will index a site that you submit to it, but if there aren't any links from a site Google has indexed and the site hasn't been submitted, Google has no way of finding it.

This, in itself, isn't a problem. The problem occurs when it is assumed that the indexed space is all there is. The conclusion is that if a thing doesn't exist on Google, then it doesn't exist at all. Those of use who have been around from the beginning remember when you would search with several search engines: you might not find something on the first two you tried, but it might be there on the third. With Google's resurgence (Google was around for quite a while as a not-very-good engine), the others are disappearing. I think AltaVista, long the first choice, now uses Google to power its searches. Lycos is probably similiar.

The problem isn't search engines, though. It's the structure of information and systems of information. The web is a vast unordered sea of info-chaos (this is a good thing, BTW), in many ways the ultimate in democracy. It is no longer the exclusive playground of the privileged. A used computer and a dialup account can be had for less than the cost of cable television. If I had to choose between them, I know which I'd choose. I can get Survivor results on the CBS site.

As information systems go (which is what the web is, really), the web has little structure. Pretty much anyone can add content to it at any time: blog comments, for example. We (the web community as a whole) depend on search engines to organize that content for us. Increasingly, and now almost overwhelmingly, that engine is Google.

I hold that the dangers of Google are real. Having one world search engine carries with it more risk than having one world supplier of operating systems.

That's a provocative statement.

  • Suppose Google were to log the IP of any machine that requested, say, 'kiddie porn'. That's not too bad, we could all get behind that one. What if it were to log requests for information to do with bombs and airlines? Student radical organizations? Left-wing pressure groups? Militia organizations? Note: Google probably already does this. And if they don't, it could be added with minimal, and I mean minimal, effort.

  • Suppose that, instead of merely tracking requests, Google restricted some kinds of content. It is possible that they do this already, although if they do, they don't talk about it. For obvious reasons, I guess. Again, we would all agree that restricting access to child porn is a good thing, but what if it extended to left- or right-wing groups? Or groups critical of the government?

  • Google includes a news index. It's a very useful service. You just go to it and it provides multiple links to news stories. I don't know how it decides which of those stories are most important, possibly by the numbers of stories it finds that reference the same subject. If you spend a little time reading, you'll generally get a more balanced view of whatever the story is about, because you can read stories from North American, European, Asian, and Australian sources.

    But what if Google were to tweak the algorithm so that stories critical of the government were to either rise or fall in the rankings? Or to leave some stories out altogether?
I'll have to stop there for now. As a way of wrapping this entry up, however, let me say that I don't think that Google is doing anything untoward right now. I'm just saying that they could, and that's the danger.

Gah. I started this as writing practice. I've done reasonably well, most days, managing to write a coherent piece. This particular one blows chunks. My apologies. 1000 words, unordered, and I still didn't say everything I wanted to say. I'll do better tomorrow.

(But hey, that's the beauty of this exercise: you get to see everything. I include the failures.)


I aquired a second-hand copy of Esquire's November 2002 issue. It has Britney Spears on the cover in homage to a fairly famous image of Angie Dickinson.

Britney is wearing a white sweater, pulled down at the front, and white shoes. That's all.

But that's not the attractive part of the magazine. The story that I found interesting was 'The Women We've Loved: 70 Years of the American Female". Their list of 'favorite peacherinos', and my own rather expert take:
  • Madonna: Ugh. I'm on the record as not being one of Ms. Ciccione's fans. I think her only real talent is marketing. And I don't think she's good looking.

  • Rita Hayworth: The real goods. Rita would be hot in any era. Good choice.

  • Barbara Stanwyck: In her youth, a very attractive woman. Not pretty, but handsome. However, I saw too many episodes of 'The Big Valley' and whatever that primetime soap she was on, in both of which she overacted shamelessly.

  • Janet Blair: Sweet.

  • Cameron Diaz: Killer bod. Killer. I have a feeling she's not going to age well, though.

  • Pamela Anderson: Ugh II. Silicone is a major turnoff.

  • Sophia Loren, 1955: I have to put the year in because Sophia Loren 2004 still turns heads. In 1955? Whoa. Hot. HOT.

  • Marilyn Monroe: She's sort of obligatory. She did have something, though. An indefinable sort of a something.

  • Janet Leigh: My favourite Janet Leigh is from Gone With the Wind. I think she was less than 20 then. Gorgeous she was.

  • Marilyn Chambers: I probably wouldn't have included a porn star in this list, myself. I guess that if you asked her out you'd have a reasonably good idea that she wasn't a virgin.

  • Faye Dunaway: I've never figured out the attraction.

  • Ann-Margaret: I wonder if she has (had?) a last name? She was pretty hot in the 70s.

  • Catherine Zeta-Jones: She's gained weight, and she never had the body type that I, personally, favor, but her face is almost unearthly.

  • Sharon Stone: I've always been ambivalent about Sharon. Attractive, sure. But she isn't on my list of all-time beauties.

  • Darryl Hannah: Here's another one I never got. She's tall and blonde, maybe that's why she was 'it' for a while.

  • Jamie Lee Curtis: Jamie isn't pretty. She's handsome, and she's very hot. Was then, is now.

  • Cindy Crawford: I'd love to photograph her. She's got a tremendously beautiful face, a sort of beautiful everywoman.
All in all, not a bad list.

In a related vein: celebrated women I'd love to photograph:
  • Winona Ryder: I'd put her in a dark coat, with a dark hood or a large dark hat. I'd find somewhere like a garage door or an overpass or something so that all you'd see would be her face and her hands. She'd have large, liquid catchlights in her eyes.

  • Charlize Theron: I'd like to photograph her nude (ok, so who wouldn't?). Not for the prurient thrill of doing so, but because she's absolutely gorgeous, really stunningly beautiful, nude. And that's not often true. Charlize is that rare beautiful creation.

  • Shakira: She has a beautiful, elfin face that is yet quite Latina.
There are a few more (only a few) but I'm tired.

There are far more uncelebrated women that I'd love to photograph. Maybe I'll make a list of them one day. I see them all around me.


In the fiction biz, you're supposed to avoid the 'infodump'. An 'infodump' is a chunk of text where you lay out background information that the reader needs in order to understand the world that you have created. Mostly, it refers to an inelegantly crafted method of doing this. A prologue, for example, or having one character tell another one.

"As you know, Tom, the cyborgs rampage on Tuesdays. They will seize anything and everything they can get their genetically altered six-fingered hands on. You've doubtless been told to stay indoors behind the ionic barriers on Tuesdays."

"Yes, but could you go over it again?" replied Tom.

"The ionic barrier scrambles a cyborg's neural connection net, which, as you know, is what connects their human brain to their robot body. If a cyborg tries to come through the ionic barrier, he'll collapse and be unable to move."

Another form is what I call the 'had storm'.

Billy had gone to the store the previous day, and had made sure that he took his meagre purchases through Stefanie's checkout. She had, as previously, given him a warm smile, and he had asked her out. To his delight, she had agreed, and they had agreed on dinner and a movie.

It's more common in fantasy and science fiction, because you're moving your reader to a world that is at least somewhat different, otherwise it wouldn't be fantasy/scifi.

The way you're supposed to do it is to reveal the information gradually, showing it rather than telling it. This is, as are all things, easier said than done, particularly in a short story, and so I'm always on the lookout for better methods of providing an info dump.

Diary entry - having a character make an entry in a diary is a good way to create an info dump, and provide some characterization at the same time.

A rant - this is probably a perfect info dump if you can work it in, because of the very nature of rants. Someone ranting isn't going to give a crap whether or not those in listening range know anything about the subject. Rants are pure output. A character going off on a rant spews stuff out, and you can provide an info dump quite plausibly.

Normal conversation - I think it quite reasonable to have information come out in a conversation. For example, if our hero winds up in a parallel universe, it seems to me quite plausible that he'd discuss the state of things with the woman he picks up in a bar. Or whatever. I mean, you just don't go switching universes without it becoming a topic of conversation at some point. Right? The trick is to make sure that it's plausible, not the transparent "author needs to get this info out so character will have a thoroughly unlikely conversation" method.

21 Grams

I haven't seen the movie. The trailers, however, have a voiceover something like "They say we all lose 21 grams at the moment of our death..."

This piece of misinformation is going to become something everyone knows. It is, of course, completely false, and the movie weasels around this by adding 'they say'. Who says? Clearly, if a single dipshit somewhere says it, then the movie can claim 'they say', without actually telling a lie.

Saddam - Al Quaeda

No link, admits Powell. Surprise, surprise, surprise. On the same day that the Carnagie Foundation reports in their study that US/British claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction were dramatically overstated.

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