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4 August 1999

Famous enough to have my phone calls returned is about as famous as I want to be.
-- Neil Gaiman

This is the piece most linked to by the most logs in recent memory, but that's because it's got some fine verbiage:

  • Attention, Fat Corporate Bastards! [@man]
    Guess what? We already have all the things we want. As soon as we're ready for something new, we get it -- for free. Why? Because the traditional consumer/producer relationship doesn't exist on the Internet. Don't you think that if we really wanted the things you think we want, we would have already developed them some time in the past 20 years for free?

Pair that with this:

  • Amy Wohl on Instant Messaging [Userland Discussion Group]
    ...we could get away from the idea (which has nearly destroyed television) that everything on the Internet is about making money. We seem to have forgotten that lots of things people want to exchange information for have nothing to do with making money and shouldn't.

Somewhere in the last couple of years there's been a silent shift in the conversation (or maybe everybody noticed it but me?): News regarding the Internet is now almost exclusively about the companies trying to make money (usually big money) off of fairly uninteresting uses of technology. It was much more interesting and fun when the big news was about using technology to do interesting things without worrying so loudly about making ridiculous amounts of money.

Profit is nice, but it's not one of the primary tasks of a human being. There's more to life, there's more to report, than how much money can be made or has been made by doing something.

I remember scouring Yahoo and the NCSA What's New pages way back when for interesting new collections of information and cool new services. Now the Web is three-fourths marketing "content" [anecdotal estimate, not supported by research]. As a culture we've let the conversation be taken over by paid chatterers and professional handwavers.

Or maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places?

Duh...: From some Ameritech junk mail (paper spam?):

For one affordable payment of $109.99 you get:
  • free paging for one full year
  • ...

That must be free-as-in-speech.

Prompted/inspired by comments by Bill Humphries and Dave Winer ("It would be great if every person leading a development team would ... narrate their work as they go along. Then software development becomes a teaching environment, people don't have to relearn the lessons if people are open about the lessons they've learned. "), I'm going to start posting some journal entries regarding my current design & programming projects.

These will probably be of interest only to me months from now, just so I can look back and ponder what went wrong, but I will be making them publicly available for the curious and/or bored.

The first will show up in a few days.

A new DaveNet on the AOL/Microsoft Instant Messaging squall (the AOL-related content is further down):

  • Why Should AOL Open Up? [DaveNet]
    This time around Microsoft wants to force AOL to open up their Instant Messaging service ... [A]mazingly Microsoft isn't willing to force the question by doing it themselves. It's as if, playing chess, you run a press release saying your opponent should give up their queen, and somehow you expect this to happen?

Seen on Windowseat, a fine Neil Gaiman interview, including details on his next book, from (of all places) The Onion:

  • Neil Gaiman [The Onion's A.V. Club]
    It's going to be my big weird American novel. It has a working title of American Gods. I've been vaguely working on it while I've been on the road, along with some short stories. It's about how, when people came to America, they brought their gods with them. And then they just weren't very interested in them anymore. So these gods are now wandering America, unemployed, unloved, depressed. Odin pumping gas, that sort of thing.

Speaking of The Onion, their current issue has some nice stuff:
  • The Onion | 4 August 1999
    Ritalin Cures Next Picasso
    Castellano's parents reported that the cured child no longer tries to draw on everything in sight, calming down enough to show an interest in television.

    Planet Explodes
    All Earth lifeforms are feared dead in Monday's explosion of the four-billion-year-old planet, sources report. ... A research mishap at Long Island's Brookhaven National Laboratories is believed responsible for the catastrophic explosion.

And speaking of the Brookhaven heavy-ion collider, here's more reassuring stuff from the folks involved:

  • Letters to the Editors: July 1999 [Scientific American]
    The energy densities and volumes that will be produced at RHIC are nowhere near large enough to produce strong gravitational fields.

    On the other hand, there is a speculative but quite respectable possibility that subatomic chunks of a new stable form of matter called strangelets might be produced (this would be an extraordinary discovery). One might be concerned about an "ice-9"-type transition, wherein a strangelet grows by incorporating and transforming the ordinary matter in its surroundings. But strangelets, if they exist at all, are not aggressive, and they will start out very, very small. So here again a doomsday scenario is not plausible.

I love the fact that "ice-9" gets cited now and then.

And, here's a somewhat-illuminating Slashdot discussion of it:

  • New Heavy Ion Collider could "destroy the earth" [Slashdot]
    Strange quarks have been produced in accelerators since the fifties. The notion that strange quarks could start a chain reaction converting things into strange matter is absolutely absurd. For the curious, I direct you to the Particle Adventure, and the RHIC Homepage which will hopefully be more enlightening than the drivel that the Sunday Times spouts.

    Just to make things clear, I'm a grad student in physics, working on the BaBar experiment (at SLAC in SanFran). My analysis involves kaons, which are bound states of strange quarks and up/down quarks. And yes, physics has produced many, many kaons over the years. So I think I know what I'm talking about.

And before I completely lose my train of thought: Also of note on Windowseat today, Laurel points to several sources of free fonts. (In the future, you'll find the listing in the early August 1999 portion of her archive.) I'll have to check them out...

And that's it! I'm outta here, see you Friday.

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