Digitized at last — as one day I still hope to be! Please enjoy and/or excuse these excesses of my youth, the zine Singularity, issues 1-4 (1989-1993).Singularity was a contemporary of the hardcopy zine bOING bOING (yes, that one), with whom we traded frequently, as was the quaint custom of the times. Most of our articles were "sharerighted" with a proto-Creative Commons license. Thanks to our contributors over the years, including Marty Hale-Evans, Jay O'Connell, Tycerium, Matt Wall, Stuart Moulthrop, John McDaid, Peter Breton, Art Delano, Glenn Grant, Diane Thome, Moses Klein, Walter Scott, H. Keith Henson, Arel Lucas, Eric Klien, Mark Plus, James "Kibo" Parry, and my numerous alter egos. Thanks also to 1dollarscan (n, not m) for such a beautiful scanning job. Now I can recycle the rest of these babies and get them out of my garage.
Folks may remember that I was involved in trying to start an alternative to November's annual National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in April, which I called PseudoNaNoWriMo. At one point we were up to four people who were going to "novel" together, each of us writing a novel in a month and supporting the others.Well, my three friends have bailed, all for good reasons (a sick child, a change of focus to nonfiction, and work commitments — the latter of which are the reason I couldn't do NaNo back in November myself). No hard feelings, but that's it. It's down to me. PseudoNaNoWriMo has become RonNoWriMo. Fortunately, I have the excellent No Plot, No Problem handbook by Chris Baty, NaNo founder, to guide me. I'm going to stick as close to the rules of the "real" NaNo as I can, although my novel will be somewhat unconventional. (It won't be exactly like the book I proposed at that link, but it will be broadly similar.) I ask (beg, really) that you, my friends and readers, please support me as I try to write an entire novel next month, starting in about a week. When you see me blog or microblog about my triumphs and tribulations, please don't be afraid to say hi and give me a pat on the back, or tweak my ear if I've been lazy. I'll need all the help I can get. In case you're not a writer and are not sure of the scale of this thing, writing a novel in a month is hard. Thank you. That is all.
I was called up recently for jury duty for the second time in about a year and a half. The first observation I’d like to make is that it shouldn’t have happened. We have lived in Pierce County, Washington about three and a half years, but my wife Marty has never been called up. Jury duty selection should use “shuffle mode”, like the shuffle mode on your MP3 player, which plays your songs randomly, but doesn’t skip any and doesn’t repeat any until all of them have been played. The county government apparently uses the cheapest, dumbest kind of lottery or “random mode” to select its jurors instead. I have little doubt that this is the norm across the country.From my snarling, you might think I hate jury duty and would like to shirk it. Actually, I do think jury duty is a duty, and I would be a juror if I could. Unfortunately, I am never permitted to serve on a jury because of my political views, so every couple of years, it seems, I must truck down to the courthouse and endure a series of questions over several days designed to expose people of my political bent and have us dismissed from the jury. You might think my claim that I’m being rejected from juries because of my political views is patent paranoid nonsense until I tell you what those views are. I support the right of jury nullification, which means that I refuse to check my conscience at the courtroom door, especially if it means convicting a person of an unjust law. Actual jury nullification, not just talk or theory, has a long and noble history in this country and others. For example, during the Civil War, many slaves who escaped and were recaptured were freed again by Abolitionist-leaning juries who refused to convict the slave even though the laws of the time plainly said the slave was guilty and must be returned to slavery. The law was unjust, and the jury simply ignored it, or nullified it. That is the right I carry with me into the courtroom — the right to reject unjust laws and refuse to convict my fellows of them. But that right and that opinion can’t be borne by judges and attorneys, especially prosecuting attorneys. Free thought has no place in their courtrooms; they’d prefer something slightly closer to the lynch-mob end of the spectrum. Just so you know, here is the question they ask in Pierce County to flush out the jury nullifiers: “Is there anyone here who might not be able to fulfill the judge’s instructions for any reason?” I may support jury nullification, but I also support telling the truth in court, so I raised my hand. Over the next five hours or so, over the course of two days, I was subjected to a flurry of questions, especially from the prosecuting attorney, who even said at one point, “Juror Number 20, I’m sorry if it seems I keep picking on you, but…” The prosecutor in this DUI case looked prosperous and dressed slickly. The defense attorney wore a rumpled, ill-fitting suit and had a bad haircut. He was Japanese-American (the reason I tell you this fact will become apparent shortly). He was probably a public defender; the elderly accused didn’t look as though he could hire a lawyer himself, and this was apparently his third time through the justice system on a similar charge. At one point, the prosecuting attorney asked me whether, if I thought a law was unjust, I would vote against conviction even after I had taken an oath to follow the judge’s instructions to the letter. I responded that I supposed I would. The prosecutor also asked me whether I thought DUI laws were unjust. I said that in general, I thought they were a good thing, but it depended on the consequences. If the punishment for a DUI conviction were the death penalty, that would probably be unjust. He asked me how I knew which were just laws and unjust laws. Airily, he added, “Is it just that you know it when you see it?” I almost agreed with him automatically, then shook it off. I responded “You need careful deliberation. You must judge the law as you would judge the person.” After each of these responses, I was asked to sit down. There was one glorious moment of the jury selection that made me glad I had come, and it paid for all the frustrations. The defense attorney asked us, “How many of you agree with Juror Number 20’s stance on jury nullification and would refuse to convict someone of an unjust law?” No hands were raised. He went on, “How many of you remember the internment camps for Japanese-Americans in World War II? If I were on trial and about to be sent to an internment camp, how many of you would refuse to convict me?” I was halfway back, but I counted 5 or 6 hands going up out of about 40; there may have been more hands raised behind me. I began to glow, and I looked down at my knees, smiling. I’ve been rejected as a juror on three jury trials now, every time for more or less the same reason. Never had I felt so good about it. Together, the defense attorney and I were spreading the meme of jury nullification. I felt more like an activist and less like someone who merely caused trouble in the courtroom and got filthy stares from the other jurors. Ballsy Mr. Defense Attorney, will you marry me? I’d say “God bless you,” but I’m a freethinker, which is how I get into this sort of trouble in the first place. Of course, later that day I was asked not to return to the courtroom. *** Wikipedia has a very good article on jury nullification with links for further exploration. I encourage you to check it out.
I was writing some Monte Carlo analysis software for the Alpha Word Game System tonight (Tim Schutz wants to maximize the word-making capability of AlphaDice) and I learned that there's a pretty good command-line anagram generator for GNU/Linux already. Even better, I can point it at a custom dictionary like SOWPODS.So I was reading the documentation (a man page) of 'an', the anagram generator, and I found it lists Julian Assange as one of the two coauthors . A quick search on his then-email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, shows that he was poking around the Cypherpunks lists et alia discussing occult knowledge related to password cracking, so his interest in anagrams makes perfect sense. To justify the title of this post, I'll point out that 'an' was written for the Free Software Foundation, and I used to know a few people in that org, meeting and corresponding (briefly) with Richard Stallman, among others. That's no big deal, surely; lots of people know those folks. But it feels cool to "bump into" Assange in this way. I realise that googlably claiming to be an acquaintance of an acquaintance of Julian Assange is possibly painting a bullseye on what Finnegans Wake would call my "big whide harse," so please don't throw me in a secret prison. For all that, I really admire Assange's work with Wikileaks, nyah.
I just finished reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Wind, Sand and Stars, a book I failed to penetrate on several previous attempts. Now I'm done, I enjoyed it, and I intend to reread it at some point, because I think there is much left to appreciate.Here are the passages I highlighted in the book, in approximate order of appearance, with brief comments.
Well, that's true.
A nice couple of metaphors, possibly reusable as kennings.
Reminded me of Teilhard de Chardin.
Moi aussi, Antoine!
I thought it was funny that I had just installed the font Averia and was this was the first passage I read in it. If you follow the link you might see why.
Reminded me of Buckminster Fuller.And finally, this passage seemed to me, along with the first passage quoted above, with which it's in tension, to be near the core of the book:
Watch this space for more passages from books I like.
My good friend Karl Erickson recently recommended a site called Project Euler (does not rhyme with "ruler") that promises endless fun. The site has hundreds of increasingly hard mathematical problems to solve. Most people solve them by writing and running a computer program that spits out the answer (although some do it with pencil and paper). You then plug your answer into the problem page (with a captcha). If you did everything right, you get a pat on the head. I solved Problem 1 in a few minutes with a 12-line Perl program and got a pat on the head in short order. It felt great. I can tell right away that this is going to be addictive. For the record, Problem 1 reads as follows:
If we list all the natural numbers below 10 that are multiples of 3 or 5, we get 3, 5, 6 and 9. The sum of these multiples is 23.
Find the sum of all the multiples of 3 or 5 below 1000.
193,925 people have solved this now, including me. The next solver has just appeared. It says she took two hours to solve it, but maybe she's, like, 12. (Project Euler must be great for gifted kids.)
The latest problem, 368, is too long to reproduce here, but the title is "A Kempner-like series" and only 117 people have solved it.
I've started with Problem 1 and will move straight ahead as far as possible, until I lose my will to live and start subscribing to antinatalist newsletters. However, Karl says he sometimes skips around, and he has solved quite a few, so I may do the same if I'm really stuck.
By the way, this is a great way to exercise the skills outlined in the "Engineer Your Results" hack in Mindhacker.