Blog: 2004-06

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I think they should have (: and :) as delimiters. It would cheer me up.

—[fnord], Freenode #scheme, 29-Jun-2004

Scheme facilitates happiness:

(define-syntax :
  (syntax-rules (:)
    ((: x ... :) (x ...))
    ((: x ...)   (x ...))))
(: sqrt 69 :) ⇒ 8.306623862918075

We saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" tonight. The 6:40pm in Harvard Square appeared sold out, and there was lengthy applause at the end before the sudden mass exodus to the restrooms. If you've followed the real news on the election, attack, and wars, then most of the facts conveyed in the film will be familiar. But Moore does a good job of packaging it all into a single dose, with good editing and some surprising footage. Sometimes subtle, occasionally a little corny. I did think his argument on the Patriot Act wasn't as strong as it could've been, and I'd probably rather he left it out entirely, since I feel like he's sacrificing on that issue to avoid diluting his primary messages. I suspect the predominantly Cambridge intelligentsia at that venue were more interested in analysis of the art, and in knowing what the masses were seeing. It'll be interesting to see the reactions of the real target audience: how many voters does it swing, and how much class awareness does it raise?

Forwarded to Jim (who perhaps is sometimes unsettled by my unsolicited veneration of Minsky) this quote I just saw in a fortune file:

[...] in three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being [...] The machine will begin to educate itself with fantastic speed. In a few months it will be at genius level and a few months after that its powers will be incalculable [...]

—Marvin Minsky, Life Magazine, 20-Nov-1970

Jim's immediate response:

What you're not seeing is that latter-day Marvin IS that machine.

The Web site of The Flint Journal (, Michael Moore's hometown paper, seems to be down.

Bruce Shapiro, "Rehnquist, Cambodia & Abu Ghraib," The Nation, 25-Jun-2004

The LaserJet 5N works, and has been christened alyssa. On the lookout for four 2MB-16MB SIMMs.

Eggplant is hit-and-miss, but had an excellent roasted eggplant panini at City Girl Café in Inman Square. For reasons unclear, Yahoo Travel Guides has City Girl under "Entertainment" rather than "Restaurants," and further classifies it "Category: Gay & Lesbian."

Iraq's New Flag

We saw "Napoleon Dynamite" last night. I liked it well enough. Some of the antics I found kinda dumb, but not annoyingly so, and they were balanced out by bits of subtle humor. Random quirkiness for its own sake holds little amusement value for me, but quirkiness with a story behind it can be intriguing.

Representing parsed URI paths backwards saves space and time.

(let ((base (string->uripath "/a/b/c/index.html")))
  (map (lambda (n)
         (resolved-uripath (string->uripath n) base))
       '("x.html" "y/y.html" "../z/z.html")))
(("x.html" . #0=("c" . #1=("b" "a")))
 ("y.html" "y" . #0#)
 ("z.html" "z" . #1#))

Trying out these Emacs bindings for Scheme sexp operations:

(global-set-key [(meta left)]      'backward-sexp)
(global-set-key [(meta right)]     'forward-sexp)
(global-set-key [(meta backspace)] 'backward-kill-sexp)
(global-set-key [(meta delete)]    'kill-sexp)
(global-set-key [(meta up)]        'backward-up-list)
(global-set-key [(meta down)]      'down-list)

Added a SISC compiled htmlprag.scc file for HtmlPrag.

Woods said they should — among other things — be accurate, have a strong voice, have a distinct point of view, be clear, be informative, tell a story well, periodically surprise readers, quote from people who don't usually get quoted, and be fair even when critical.

—Dave Astor, "What Makes a Pulitzer-Winning Column?," Boston Globe, 17-Jun-2004

Some weblogs are often intentionally cryptic. Unlike Pulitzer-track columns, we aren't writing for everyone.

At 9:49 a.m., for example, 13 minutes after the FAA's Cleveland Center had suggested scrambling military fighters to intercept the hijacked Flight 93, a taped exchange between FAA officials show that the agency's command center was still waiting for headquarters to decide whether to do so:
FAA command center: "Uh, do we want to think about, uh, scrambling the aircraft?"
FAA headquarters: "Uh, God, I don't know."
Command center: "Uh, that's a decision somebody's gonna have to make probably in the next 10 minutes."
Headquarters: "Uh, you know, everybody just left the room."

—Charlie Savage, "Sept. 11 panel portrays a chaotic US response," Boston Globe, 18-Jun-2004

The NYT finally gets serious:

It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11. [...] No serious intelligence analyst believed the connection existed; Richard Clarke, the former antiterrorism chief, wrote in his book that Mr. Bush had been told just that. [...] This is not just a matter of the president's diminishing credibility, although that's disturbing enough. [...] There are two unpleasant alternatives: either Mr. Bush knew he was not telling the truth, or he has a capacity for politically motivated self-deception that is terrifying in the post-9/11 world.

—editorial, "The Plain Truth," New York Times, 17-Jun-2004

Nicholas Xenos, "Leo Strauss and the Rhetoric of the War on Terror," Logos vol. 3, issue 2, spring 2004

"The Cell" is not nearly as bad a film as I'd assumed when I saw it in the video rental place last week and passed it by. (Coincidentally, roommate had it, and I was bored late Sunday night.) Many of the visuals were good, the pacing was OK, and Lopez' acting was bearable. A couple of the initial scenes in which Lopez appears are comical, however, due to the uninspired delivery of uninspiring lines accompanying the shameless framing of her physical features. The graphics demos when the FBI agent goes under are a little cheesey. The climax could be interpreted as having religious overtones, but you could disregard the references and still get a similar story. Overall it had the flavor of an SF B-movie with decent CGI. Nothing wrong with that, and I don't regret watching it.

Daniel Orkent, "An Electrician From the Ukrainian Town of Lutsk," New York Times, 13-Jun-2004

Yimou Zhang's "The Road Home" ("Wo de fu qin mu qin") is sappy and predictable but good.

One of my colleagues at Princeton said recently that if one went to Google and typed in the word "waffle," Kerry's name would come up. I haven't checked it out, but [...]

—Mickey Edwards, "This JFK is not that JFK," Boston Globe, 12-Jun-2004

The Globe gives a column to someone who can't be bothered to type even a single word into Google? If that was a joke, it was a poor one, when political Googlejacking is commonplace. So here's the backbreaking shoe-leather journalism: just now, typing "waffle" into Google, I could find no reference to Kerry in the first ten pages of results; however, was at the top of the second results page, as the 11th site hit.

"The Hustler" was pretty good. But it didn't tell how he got his salad dressing.

What kind of article lead is this? A jury acquitted the defendant; how is that a "stinging defeat" in the US government's "war on terror"? On second thought, I think I agree — we still try to have an enlightened standard of law and justice in the US, despite the best efforts of a rogue administration of right-wing extremists.

BOISE, Idaho — Handing the government a stinging defeat in its war on terror, a jury acquitted a Saudi graduate student yesterday of charges that he used his computer expertise to help Muslim terrorists raise money and recruit followers.

—Bob Fick, "Saudi grad student cleared of terror charges in Idaho," Associated Press via Boston Globe, 11-Jun-2004

"Dirty Pretty Things" is good.

Dear spammer, how about a FREE plug in my weblog, and FREE placement in my Privoxy actions file:

From: "David Karandish" <>
To: <>
Subject: advertising on
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 2004 16:33:14 -0700

How much for a family-friendly text link on your homepage?
David Karandish

Felix L. Winkelmann made a Chicken Scheme csv.egg for csv.scm.

But he's our freedom-hating cowardly terrorist!

Iyad Allawi, now the designated prime minister of Iraq, ran an exile organization intent on deposing Saddam Hussein that sent agents into Baghdad in the early 1990's to plant bombs and sabotage government facilities under the direction of the C.I.A., several former intelligence officials say.

—Joel Brinkley, "Ex-C.I.A. Aides Say Iraq Leader Helped Agency in 90's Attacks," New York Times, 9-Jun-2004

At 5:02 p.m. on Saturday, when the news of President Reagan's death flashed over the Associated Press newswire, many of the nation's top obituary editors and writers were far from their newsrooms, and largely out of reach of their editors — attending the annual Great Obituary Writers' International conference at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, N.M. [...] Rumors that Reagan was at death's door had been circulating for several days, but it still came as a shock when two conference participants burst through the doors crying, "Stop the presses! Stop the presses!" A number of the approximately 45 assembled obituary professionals from America and Britain raced for the single payphone in the hotel lobby, [...] "I felt shock and disbelief," Ms. Baxter recalled. "I couldn't imagine a worse scenario. This was my biggest project."

—Stephen Miller, "When Reagan Died, the Nation's Obituary Writers Were in the Desert - and Out in the Cold," New York Sun, 9-Jun-2004

I also surmise that Neil has beefier hardware than I do :-)

—person on a Scheme developers list

Well, I don't know about that. And anyway, size isn't as important as how you use it, just like computers.

We continue to build police-state infrastructure and conditioning that's ripe for abuse by some future fascist administration:

Next month, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will become the first transit agency in the nation to institute a permanent policy of randomly inspecting passenger bags and packages on subway and commuter trains, [...]

—Raphael Lewis, "T to check packages, bags at random," Boston Globe, 8-Jun-2004

This is really unfortunate, because it puts people who are normally supportive of police into the difficult position of having to choose whether to comply with unreasonable search conducted without probable cause, or to invoke patriotic principle and refuse to cooperate. Most people don't want to be in an adversarial relationship with police, nor do they want to be an ACLU test case.

Quote Of The Day (I'd waited years to hear this from a credible source, and had about given up):

Java for the speed critical bits

—Scott G. Miller

Spent much of the day waiting for a friend in the ER (nothing too serious), and amused myself briefly by snapshotting Play From The Bottom.

Two sets of curves from MIT Commencement day. Because camera's zoom is still broken, and I wasn't going to wake her to ask her to model, had to crop a third set of curves (a sleeping young lady's).

I've had a Web agent program, written in PLT Scheme using HtmlPrag (and using Httper and UriFrame, both of which will probably soon be replaced by newer libraries of mine), running for over a year. Some quick multiplication indicates the program has made approximately 1E+9 (one US billion) successful HTTP requests.

Roger Cohen, "France Says, Love the U.S., Hate Its Chief," New York Times, 6-Jun-2004

Watched much of the remainder of "American Movie" last night. A few subtlely funny parts, but I didn't really buy in to the characters. Perhaps I'd be more sympathetic if they were just unknown guys toiling away in Heisenbergian uncertainty, without documentary observation that by its nature elevates them to fame. Independent filmmakers might be more receptive because it shines the light on their own craft and myths. Media people like media about media, but it wasn't my media.

"Atomic Cafe" was good.

Several varieties of Tofutti Cuties are on sale at Harvest Co-op for $1.89 a box. Sadly, the 99-cent avocado special has ended.

Apparently, Judith Miller can:

You can't make this stuff up.

—Greg Mitchell, "Judith Miller returns to 'NY Times'," Editor & Publisher, 2-Jun-2004

After getting tired of spammers using throwaway .us domains, and discovering the latest one is registered to an address in Latvia, made my Privoxy actions file block all .us domains except those under the old state second-level subdomains. Also found this interesting page:

The author collects data about all known .US registrations, analyzing their registration patterns and usage. Certain registrants are found to register more than 2,000 domains each; [...] large registrants (with ten or more .US domains) jointly hold a total of 46.4% of .US registrations to date.

—Ben Edelman, "Survey of Usage of the .US TLD," Web page dated 20-Sep-2002.

csv.scm 0.2 released. Fixes a strange portability bug discovered by Grzegorz Chrupala.

Earlier to... 2004-05

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