2008 — 24 Mar: Monday — expecting a flurry of activity

It's 08:43 and I'm already munching brekkie as, during the threatened temporary gap of relatively good weather in between the ghastly bits, we're off to walk in the New Forest for the first time in a long time. Haven't been walking since the day the no longer feel as if I can fully trust it PC died on me, in fact.

Also spoken to Junior as he had to change passwords on our server and he left me email and text messages to that effect while I was out enjoying myself last night (with my mobile safely locked in my anorak pocket, and miles [in the audible sense] away from the DTS soundtrack1 enveloping me for much of the evening).

When I got home last night / this morning at about 01:20 or so, I then spent a moderately frustrating further two hours fighting with Windows Media Player to stuff its "Library" full of all my higher bitrate MP3 files. There's currently a discrepancy of several thousand between the total I expected to see (as reported, for example, by iTunes on the Mac) and the number that seem to have made it across this latest digital hurdle in my life. The problem is, the total was sometimes higher, and sometimes lower. I had to dig around to find all the places Windows was looking for media files and try to point it in just the one direction.

Dirty intellectuals... dept.

This tickled me:

Jacoby complains that conservatives "have turned the word intellectual into a dirty word," particularly conservative intellectuals like Tom Wolfe who once quipped that "an intellectual is a person knowledgeable in one field who only speaks out in others," or Richard Posner who said that "a successful academic may be able to use his success to reach the general public on matters about which he is an idiot."

Of course, the word is good enough in and of itself. It is rather the clowns who masquerade as public intellectuals — the Chomskys, the Naomi Kleins, the Gore Vidals — who have dragged a perfectly fine word through the muck.

Christopher Orlet in his review ("I'm OK — you're a Half-Wit") of Susan Jacoby's book The Age of American Unreason in The American Spectator

I didn't realise the Chomskys and Gore Vidals came, as it were, in multiples. I liked this, too:

And so it has come to this: a Web site called Meme-orandum.com, which brags, in its mission statement, that it "auto-generates a news summary every 5 minutes, drawing on experts and pundits, insiders and outsiders, media professionals and amateur bloggers." Driven by algorithm, largely unimpeded by the human mind, this information-aggregating Web site offers an obsessively updated menu of hyperlinks to hundreds of morsels of political news and commentary, many of which lead to dozens more of the same, creating a bottomless pyramid of punditry, a tessellated spider work of interconnected news and opinion that canvasses virtually everything that is being publicly written or uttered minute by minute on every subject everywhere by everyone.

Gene Weingarten in his article ("Cruel and Usual Punishment") in The Washington Post

My emphasis, by the way.2 Oh well, time to get dressed and ready for the great (cold!) outdoors.

Later that day... dept.

It's 16:58 and the mighty walkers are long since safely back in their respective lairs. A late snack lunch has been lunched, the playlist on the new MediaPC has been discarded and then rebuilt more effectively. Today's walk, by the way, was a repeat of the route on 12th January which was, in turn, a repeat of the very first walk Mike kindly took me on, the week poor Christa died. I note many harbingers of Spring though it was still rather cold and drizzly for the first two thirds, and a hail shower took potshots at us for the last few metres before getting back to the car. The time out was extended before and after by the need to do some maintenance on Bob's new PC to restore its behaviour to some semblance of normalcy. (His previous one, which was about eight years old and ripe for replacement, was comprehensively trashed by a very nasty Trojan picked up from an Italian holiday-booking website.)

Idly following links relating to Trojans (and leaving to one side their association with the trade name of a prophylactic) I found a PDF of the 1983 Turing Award lecture given by Ken Thompson — if you have to ask, I suspect you won't be terribly interested — here. It is crying out for a tiny snippet to be reproduced here. Published, by the way, in the August 1984 Communications of the ACM, page 761. And, of course ©ACM.

In college, before video games, we would amuse ourselves by posing programming exercises. One of the favorites was to write the shortest self-reproducing program. Since this is an exercise divorced from reality, the usual vehicle was FORTRAN. Actually, FORTRAN was the language of choice for the same reason that three-legged races are popular.

Ken Thompson in his 1983 Turing Award paper ("Reflections on trusting trust")

FORTRAN was my second language after Algol 60. Heavens, that dates me. Staying with a computing theme, this is too good not to pass on:

Candy buttons as a Turing machine

Evening entertainment

I'm doing some artwork scanning to try out various options before going wild with image galleries for viewing downstairs on the new mini MediaPC. This could be a long hill to climb, but it helps stop me brooding; trust me! I shall also make sure one of the PVRs is kind enough to watch The Frost Report returns for me, just in case I fancy a nostalgic binge in due course. But I suspect I'll be sticking with the live REM concert from the Royal Albert Hall on Radio 2. The more I think about it, by the way, the more impressed I am with last night's film Control. Recommend it.



1  From the excellent film Control about the all too short life of Ian Curtis of "Joy Division".
2  So like the "Car Talk" brothers (Klick and Klack) and their bumper sticker: "Unimpeded by the thought process".