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Tuesday, 05/28/02

I've never been a smoker, but I imagine that quitting smoking is about as difficult as learning to stop putting two spaces after a period. 05:16PM «

Tuesday, 05/21/02

When I was a younger lad my favorite made-up number was "umpteen". In recent years it's taken on a faintly sanctimonious tone, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. My current favorite is "eleventy-seven". 11:29AM «

Sunday, 05/19/02

A convenience store in west Seattle recently picked up some free media when it debuted its new fingerprint reader. The idea is that you'll set up an account with a credit card and a fingerprint scan, and after that, you can purchase your pickles and beer with the safe, secure jab of a digit. Doesn't that sound grand? Grand, as in the larceny anyone could effect by beating the biometrics with a plastic mold and a few cents worth of gelatin? Bruce Schneier offers a delightful writeup of a Japanese cryptographer's successful attempts to bamboozle the best the biometric industry has to offer. "The results are enough to scrap the systems completely, and to send the various fingerprint biometric companies packing."

Schneier also links to the breathlessly reported Seattle story, which includes the unironic reassurance that "Wary customers still will be able to pay the old-fashioned way if they want".

(Schneier's Crypto-gram is a monthly newsletter on security topics with a slant toward computers and cryptography; I usually read it the day it comes out.) 12:48AM «

A few weeks ago I fell passionately in love with the gorgeous thread map in mutt, a command line email client. (Nicholas has a screenshot.) Mutt's thread map has sliced bread beaten coming and going, as I have lots of tools around the house that can slice bread, but very few that can competently thread email.

I read dozens to hundreds of email messages a day in mutt. The thread map does wonderful things for my ability to put up with list traffic, because keeping topics and subtopics grouped together means I stay focused on a single thing longer. I can also choose to stop reading an entire topic at one go without having to constantly revisit the decision as I run across more related messages.

There's a side effect. On every mailing list, often several times a day, somebody starts a new thread by replying to a recent message, changing the Subject, and writing about something unrelated, all as a shortcut to re-entering the list address. These gyrations aside, the headers in the new message declare exactly the message to which they replied, and a good thread map sorts their message as if it were a reply.

On most technical lists, even those aimed at beginners, there's a pretty strong ethic to refrain from asking questions that will be perceived as under-researched, or like the poster might be trying to find someone to complete a homework assignment. The overwhelming majority of these replies-that-are-not-replies pose questions and ask for help. There's often a good deal of preening to get a question noticed, and yet the questioners are oblivious to having just announced the fact that they were too lazy to use copy and paste. 12:46AM «

Wednesday, 05/15/02

One of the the things I dislike about where I live is having a mailbox that's across the street and down the block a bit. Most of the time my housemate is the one who checks it. When I check it and I find three issues of The New Yorker sitting there, it pretty much means he's in debt again. 04:51PM «

Friday, 05/10/02

The Red Sox are in town over the weekend playing the Mariners, and I'm reminded that after living here for two years I've still never been to Safeco Field. I wonder what a six-dollar seat actually buys. Saturday and Sunday still have tickets available, so maybe I'll find out. 03:39PM «

Tuesday, 05/07/02

The first time I remember being struck by background music was in The Sopranos second season opener, the first episode I saw. It opens with that pretty montage over "It Was A Very Good Year", but later there's a club scene where the principals get to talk over Alejandro Escovedo's masterpiece "Guilty". "That's Alejandro Escovedo!" I exclaimed, before a stern shushing.

Since then, it happens all the damn time. It's like I got bit by a radioactive music supervisor. Smallville used Puracane songs twice in the last month or so, almost inaudibly. The Shield last week had the Magnetic Fields' "All My Little Words" coming out of the murdered schlub's widow's house when Dutch first dropped by (more prominently at the end). CSI scored a lot of points with me when I noticed a David Holmes song, off Bow Down To The Exit Sign, scoring a party. Buffy closed last week with an Alison Krauss song I hadn't heard before. I'm looking forward to seeing if Spiderman uses the Curve song, "Hell Above Water", that's turned up in some of the ads.

It makes me happy to recognize a tune lurking in a corner. I feel on top of things when somebody's getting paid to pick something I got to first. It pulls me right out of engagement with whatever I'm watching, though, because I'd always rather focus on the music, in what it says about the music director, or the production, or the performer's bottom line.

If I recognize it but can't place it, I get antsy. 09:28AM «

Thursday, 05/02/02

Until this evening when I found myself eye level with People magazine in a checkout line, I had absolutely no idea why celebrity murder indictee du jour Robert Blake was ostensibly famous. Turns out he was in a TV show called Baretta, which I have never seen, and would not have spelled like that if left to my own devices. 11:32PM «

The first Bond movie saddled with Pierce Brosnan came out around Thanksgiving my first year in college. I went to see it with a gaggle of people and emerged unhappy across the board, but reserving special outrage for the moment where Bond, sitting calmly in M's office, misprounounces the word "nuclear" like Ronald Reagan. I'm still mad about it, six years later. Do real Brits even make that mistake?

So I'm watching The West Wing last night when the key scene comes along near the end -- the new Russian president sends a sneaky back-channel message indicating he's not a bad guy on nuclear proliferation. Everybody pronounces the word "nuclear" right, but then the Rob Lowe character, who has the most overachieving diction on television, earnestly quotes from the Russion memo, "together in partnership, we must stem the tide of nuclear poliferation". And if that's not bad enough, the Nobel prize-winning POTUS, smartest man in the room, follows up ten seconds later with "we've been trying to get non-pleriferation on the agenda since forever".

I couldn't decide if these were goofs or a subtle shout-out to tonguetied presidents; Jen, to her decisive credit, had no doubts it was intentional. 11:31PM «

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