My Thoughts Exactly

A real-live (OK, real-mechanical) Turing Machine, and a real-live Hoosier locution.

For any of y’all sufficiently ungeekoid so as to not understand why this machine is only the coolest thing in the history of fuckall, first, Welcome to Wetmachine, and how the frack did you end up here? And second, please see this very helpful wikipedia article, which will get you up to speed.

As a special, special, bonus, right about the 4-minute mark into this video the narrator/machine-maker uses a locution (is there a name for it? pls ans) in which the words “to be” are omitted from the object-verb of the verb “to need”, and the naked past participle is used instead, viz, Each loop of the Turing program reads the current cell and uses the transition rules to determine if that cell needs changed. N.B. “needs changed”, not “needs *to be* changed”. About this idiomatic usage, Wiktionary says:

Rarely, with a past participle, as in “Something needs done”, which is synonymous with “Something needs to be done.” Note that many speakers do not find this construction to be acceptable.

Please note that *this* speaker, me, finds this construction perfectly acceptable. My Dear Wife, a native of Evansville, Indiana, uses it, and finds herself unable to change that habit after 30 years of effort to speak more “correctly” since I first pointed it out to her. I just think it’s charming when she speaks Southern-Indiana-style and will be heartbroken if she ever drops this usage.

But I doubt she will. After all, according to this source referenced by Wikipedia,

“ (If you’re a need/want+Ved speaker — ”The garden needs watered“ — you can go for decades without realizing that lots of other people don’t use this construction, ever.)”.

But I’ll bet Alan Turing would have noticed. That guy didn’t miss much. (I nearly said “That guy didn’t miss a trick”, but that would have opened a whole nother can ‘o worms.)

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My Thoughts Exactly

Sunset makes me think of Google teeth I coulda maybe shoulda bashed in

So today, depending on how you reckon such things, more or less marks the end of the legendary Silicon Valley company Sun Microsystems, where I worked from January 1986 until April 1994 (badge #1387). Here’s a photo (taken today) of me behind a giant-sized beer mug that I got from Sun on my 5th anniversary. It says, “In appreciation for five years of service in the Kingdom!”

photo of giant sun beer mug
In addition to this beer mug, Sun gave me a fantastic education in hardware, software, management and office politics; a chance to spend at least one night in every hotel on the entire length of El Camino Real from Sunnyvale to Burlingame; lots of good friends and fun times; money, and most of all an inspiration for Monty Meekman, the nastiest villain in the best. novel. evar written about Silicon Valley, my very own Acts of the Apostles.

Below the fold: The day I almost put (Google CEO) Eric Schmidt’s teeth down his throat.

UPDATE
My dear wife says this post makes me sound a whole lot angrier than I in fact am, and she’s right. I just thought it was funny that two of the most arrogant bigwigs I encountered at Sun went on to become bigwigs at Google, an outfit that’s known for its. . . arrogance. Most of my memories of Sun are of good friends and interesting challenges. (And a whole lot of airplane travel and hotel rooms.)


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My Thoughts Exactly

Be the Geekoid Novelist's Guest on Martha's Vineyard

Over on on Kickstarter, I’m seeking backers for my new project, a biotech thriller called Creation Science.

I’ve just added a new “reward”: You and a friend can be my guest for a weekend next spring or summer at my house on Martha’s Vineyard. Join me and my wife for three days and two nights at our tiny but friendly house in Vineyard Haven. You’ll stay in our guest room & we’ll provide breakfast; we’ll give you a guided tour of the island, lend you one of our cars for up to five hours, let you borrow our bikes, and you’ll be the guest of honor at a dinner party for which Dear Wife Betty will prepare a meal of at least 5 courses.

See the Creation Science page on Kickstarter for details.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Omnivorous Hippies

Last nnight I went, with Dear Wife, to a big-ole “slow food” pot luck dinner at the Ag Hall, which is a big-ole barn out in a field where they have the County Fair every summer and the Christmas pageant every winter.

Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, gave a talk afterwards. Then a string band played.

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My Thoughts Exactly

The FCC holds a hearing on Net Neutrality, and YOU! ARE! THERE!

So yesterday morning over coffee I was doing what most people do over their first daily cup o’ joe, which is bring up technorati and see if anybody’s talking about me. That process took me to Joho’s page, from which I learned that the FCC was to be holding an hearing on why Comcast sucks, I mean Net Neutrality broadband network management practices only hours thence. Now although to my surprise & delight, Wetmachine, thanks to the work of my fellow wetmechanics Harold Feld and Greg Rose has become quite the FCC policy site with a side-order of net neutrality, I had never been to an FCC hearing. A quick check of the boat and bus schedules showed that I could probably make it to Hahvahd in time for most of the festivities. I decided to go. So, after securing the blessings of Dear Wife and throwing a few things in a bag, off I set to lose my FCC-hearing virginity.

Below the fold, some totally subjective impressions of the day, told in that winsome wetmachine way that you’ve come to treasure, or if you haven’t yet, which you soon will. More sober-styled reports have surely appeared by now, and I’ll dig up some links & post them at the end for those of you who like a little conventional reportage to ballast what you get from me.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Waiting for the Operatic Hammer to Fall

Last week Dear Wife Betty & I were out in San Francisco where we took in, as they say, Dr. Atomic at the San Francisco Opera. It’s about the Manhattan Project on the eve of the test detonation of the first bomb in 1945; in particular it’s about the moral ambiguity of the bombmaking enterprise, layered on top of deep uncertainty about whether the thing would actually explode (and perhaps ignite the atmosphere and destroy the earth).

The composer is John Adams, and the musical style is modern quasi-minimalist. The director is Peter Sellars, and the staging is Sellarian, with giant stylized props representing the bomb-test tower, the remote dry mountains, the physics laboratories; even Mr. & Mrs. Oppenheimer’s marriage bed. During most of the opera, the characters Edward Teller, Robert Oppenheimer, Robert Wilson and Leslie Grove sing about bomb designs and yields, war strategy, sin, physics and whether lightning from a desert storm will accidentally set off the bomb before they can set if off on purpose. In the second act two women sing poetic nonsense over a crib; Kitty Oppenheimer the while holding a highball glass in one hand and a grasping the neck of a mostly empty bottle of rye with the other. Throughout both acts there is a large chorus dressed in Army fatigues frantically moving about hither and thither as Oppenheimer, dressed like David Bryne in an oversized zoot suit, broods metaphysically, spouting Baudelaire and John Donne.

Also there were dancers who appeared at random times and did balletic stuff like you used to see on shows like Solid Gold in the days before MTV. (Betty said that they looked like the Maoist dancers you used to see on the Ed Sullivan show, only without the long ribbons on sticks).

Despite many misgivings, I liked Dr. Atomic a lot.

After all, how often does one get to see a full dress, high, arch, 80-piece orchestra, operatic treatment of the heart-numbing dread that is the essence of technoparanoia?

More impressions (and some spoilers) below the fold.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Sunday profundities

I went to a wedding last Saturday. The bride (a native of North Carolina) and the groom (a long-time resident of Massachusetts) met in an online discussion group. I had met & had become friends with the groom through a different online group. Before and after the wedding, Dear Wife Betty and I stayed at the home of another friend, whom I also had met through an online discussion group. And at the wedding reception were other friends that I knew from Kuro5hin (or the K5 spinoff site HuSi). As a technoskeptic with strong technoparanoidish tendencies I find it odd that so many of my best friends are people that I met online, and I also note with raised eyebrow that the bride and groom, who were married in an ultra-traditional High Spook Episcopalian mass, are both introverted people. One is a fifty year old astrophysicist and the other is a thirty year old (former) instructor of English. It’s hard to imagine they would have found each other had it not been for teh Intarweb.

Some other time I will write about the notion of community as it relates to “online community.” I used to think that this subject was played out enough that there was little new to say about it. I’ve changed my mind about that, so Stay Tuned, as Harold says.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Rosa Barks and Samba M'Bodj

Dear Wife tells me that our veternarian finally came out and told her she was offended by the name of our dog, whom she’s had as a patient for ten years. Our dog’s name is Rosa Barks. She’s a black lab, and her name is obviously an allusion to Rosa Parks the great American patriot and legendary prime mover in the Civil Rights movement. We named our little puppy Rosa Barks twelve years ago, saying, “she’s a very dignified black lady, and she can sit wherever she wants.”

Obviously we knew this name was a little provocative when we chose it. Some people find it offensive. Our vet is sure that Ms. Parks herself would be offended, and perhaps she would be, given her recent lawsuit against the musical group Outkast over their use of her name in a song title.

Rosa Parks is a great hero of me and my wife; in fact, a copy of the very photo of her that adorns the Wikipedia page has also adorned our living room wall for years. But that does not mean I think she’s a god whose name cannot be taken in vain. And I think “Rosa Barks” is a great name for our pet.

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