Tuesday 12 November 2002
What Tino Reads
I have had a ‘links’ page (called ‘Reading’) here since day one, but it’s getting long in the tooth. Since I’ve come up with nothing else to write this morning, I thought I’d update that, and add to it.
The point is to publicize some of the more obscure sites I like — and explain what’s special about them — rather than to provide substantively the same list of links everyone else has.
Big Fun Glossary
A true work of art. I first found this in 1997, while working at NASA. I read the whole thing over a few days on the U.S. taxpayer’s dime. The glossary was created by one Gus Mueller to chronicle “state-of-the art youth hedonism as it exists in Central Virginia in the late 1990s”, and it succeeds. You’re really reading a narrative as told through the form of a glossary; it’s very effective, and makes very good use of the nature of the web (i.e. it’s extensively cross-referenced).
The glossary hasn’t been updated (at least in any serious way) in several years; since then, Gus has moved from Virginia to San Diego, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn, and has currently settled in rural upstate New York. While his adventures since leaving Charlottesville have not been as interesting for the reader as the almost daily drug- and vodka-fueled mayhem there, Gus has never fallen into the habit of most keepers of online journals — that of making the reader feel an outsider. Whether Gus is totally honest and open with his readers is irrelevant; in any case, he does not obviously tease the reader with veiled references and coy in-jokes. Overall, his diary ranks somewhere not far below Pepys’.
Speaking of Pepys. Samuel Pepys was the architect of the navy with which Britain went on to rule the waves. He also kept a comprehensive diary from 1660 to 1669. a diary which he wrote without pretense or thought of publication; thus it’s a fantastic look into the world of the 1660s, and the world of an extraordinary man. Diaries and memoirs of this kind of person today are written with an eye toward their eventually being read, and thus they are designed to make the writer look good. Compare tarted-up official White House papers and presidential diaries to the raw Nixon Oval Office tapes to see the difference.
Anyway, I occasionally read Jerry Pournelle’s website for much the same reason. To begin with, he’s fairly entertaining in a way that I don’t think he quite intends. For an example, he’s a fan of really odd, dodgy, and old computer hardware and software, and a lot of his writing is about his attempts to get all this stuff to work. It’s an interesting view into the life of a slightly loopy and famous science-fiction writer — less interesting now that he does more ranting on the war (which other people do better) than complaining about how computers (at which he is unmatched), but still worth an occasional peek.
More on the Pepys theme. John Patrick was vice president of Internet Technology at IBM until 2001, when he retired. I gather that he now writes books and does consulting. The appeal of the site is, again, that it’s a personal website of a person of a type who typically does not have a personal website. He’s even got a weblog, which contains things like this:
Particularly refreshing is that the site is largely free of PR-flack puffery that normally characterizes the websites of famous or rich people. (For an example of how bad that can get, I can think of no better example than this.)
And particularly Dan Bricklin’s weblog, where more of the action seems to take place. Dan Bricklin invented Visicalc, the first computer spreadsheet program, in 1979. The site is more of the same: a weblog — more of a journal, really — and essays from a person of a type whose thoughts are usually warped by PR flacks, editors, and commercial concerns before you get to read them.
Guardian Notes and Queries
The newspaper business in the UK is vastly different from in the USA; for one, there’s actual competition. In most cities in the USA, you can buy one local paper (or two local papers, in which case they’re almost diamatrically opposed politically) in addition to the New York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal — all of which are aimed at such different readers as to not be competition for one another. In Britain, on the other hand, you can buy a number of national newspapers from pretty much any newsagent in the country, and the market is much more competitive.
One of the ways they do this is by offering more and better content that’s not at all what you’d call ‘news’. (This might also apply to what you would call ‘news’, the standards of reliability in even very good British newspapers not being anything like what they are in the United States.) The Sun has topless women on page 3, for instance, while the Guardian, being aimed at lefty intellectuals, has things like Notes and Queries. Briefly explained: readers submit questions, both of a serious and a joking nature. Other readers write in, supplying answers ditto. Joking answers are not necessarily submitted for joking questions, nor serious for serious. It’s funny and informative, and while I can’t be entirely sure, there seems to be an enormous amount of information there.
Posted by tino at 13:21 12.11.02
We arrived at our destination for the night and unloaded the car. When I removed the key from the ignition switch, the car beeped to warn me that the headlights were still turned on. It was my wife’s car and I am not as familiar with things as with my own car and I wondered if the lights would go off automatically after a minute or two like many other cars. I decided to find out so I shut the door and went inside and sat down. Then I decided to turn on my ThinkPad and since WiFi instantly came to life I was soon checking email and soon thereafter had forgotten my experiment. The next morning the car was as dead as a doornail. I felt stupid. Ok, it was a stupid mistake. (Webster: stupid = “given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner”). Things went downhill from there.
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