^zhurnal - v.0.14

This is Volume 0.14 of the ^zhurnal --- musings on mind, method, metaphor, and matters miscellaneous ... a rather cluttered set of sporadic Good Mistakes. What's it all about? Maybe "... to create moments of philosophy --- that is, to pass from opinion to thought ...." It's also the journal of ^z = Mark Zimmermann. See the ZhurnalyWiki on zhurnaly.com for a parallel "live" Wiki experiment. For back issues of the ^zhurnal see Volumes 0.01, 0.02, ... 0.40, 0.41, ... Current Volume. Send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com". Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2004 by Mark Zimmermann.)


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- Saturday, June 16, 2001 at 06:31:51 (EDT)


History is a set of fables we tell ourselves --- tall tales about why things turned out the way they did.

Some stories are more convincing than others; some have great popularity for a while, then are "seen through" and discarded in favor of other explanations; some never catch on. Factual accuracy is less important than coherence, style, and simplicity. It also helps to have strong individuals to focus emotion on: villains and heroes, knaves and knights, sinners and saints. A complex, open-ended, long-range, multidimensional, subtle-shades-of-gray explanation doesn't appeal, regardless of its objective truth. Give me a ripping yarn, to go, please!

- Friday, June 15, 2001 at 05:34:14 (EDT)

Life/Time Management (i/ii)

Seneca wrote "On the Shortness of Life" circa 49 A.D. (C.E.). Some excerpts:
    "It is a general complaint among mankind, Paulinus, that Nature is niggardly: our alloted span is brief, and the term granted us flies by with such dizzy speed that all but a few exhaust it just when they are beginning to live. ... It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. Life is long enough and our allotted portion generous enough for our most ambitious projects if we invest it all carefully. But when it is squandered through luxury and indifference, and spent for no good end, we realize it has gone, under the pressure of the ultimate necessity, before we were aware it was going.
    "It is universally agreed, moreover, that no pursuit, neither eloquence nor the liberal arts, can be followed by a man preoccupied, for the mind can take nothing in deeply when its interests are fragmented, but spews back everything that is crammed into it. The least concern of the preoccupied man is life; it is the hardest science of all. Experts in other disciplines are numerous and common; some of them mere boys have been able to master so thoroughly that they could even play the teacher. But the science of life requires a whole lifetime, and the science of dying, which you may find more surprising, requires a whole lifetime. Many fine people have abandoned all their encumbrances, have renounced riches and business and pleasure, and have made it their one object, during the remainder of their span, to learn how to live. Even so, the greater number died confessing that they had not yet learned the art --- still less have those others learned it.
    "Life falls into three divisions --- past, present, and future. Of these, the present is transitory, the future uncertain, the past unalterable. This is the part over which Fortune has lost her power, which cannot be subjected to any man's control. But this part men preoccupied lose, for they have no leisure to look back on the past, and if they had there would be no pleasure in recollecting a regrettable episode. They are unwilling to call to mind time badly spent, therefore, and have no stomach for traversing again passages whose faults are obvious in retrospect though they were disguised at the time by the pander pleasure. No one willingly turns his mind back to the past unless his acts have all passed the censorship of his own conscience, which is never deceived; a man who has coveted much in his ambition, behaved arrogantly in his pride, used his victory without restraint, overreached by treachery, plundered out of avarice, squandered out of prodigality, must inevitably be afraid of his own memory. And yet that is the part of our time which is hallowed and sacrosanct, above the reach of human vicissitudes and beyond the sway of Fortune, impregnable to the vexations of want and fear and the assaults of disease; it is the part which is not subject to turmoil or looting; its possession is everlasting and free from anxiety. The days of our present come one by one, and each day minute by minute; but all the days of the past will appear at your bidding and allow you to examine them and linger over them at your will. Busy men have no time for this. Excursions into all the parts of its past are the privilege of a serene and untroubled mind; but the minds of the preoccupied cannot turn or look back, as if constricted by a yoke. And so their life vanishes into an abyss. However much water your pour on will do no good if there is no vessel ready to receive and hold it; and similarly it makes no difference how much time is given you if there is no place for it to settle and it passes through the cracks and holes of the mind. The present is fleeting, to the degree that to some it seems non-existent. It is always in motion, it flows on headlong; it ceases to be before it has come, and will no more brook delay than the firmament or the stars, whose incessant drive never allows them to remain stationary. It is only with the present that busy men are concerned, and the present is so transitory that it cannot be grasped; but because their attention is distracted in many directions they are deprived of even this little."
(From The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca, translated by Moses Hadas (1900-1966), W. W. Norton & Company, 1958. Cf. ^zhurnal 29 April 1999 and 12 June 1999.)

- Wednesday, June 13, 2001 at 21:55:17 (EDT)

Paradise Lost & Found

One Sunday afternoon at the local public library last month I was browsing in the poetry section when I overhead a teenage girl complaining to her mother, "It's just not here, and I don't know where to look!"

I gathered my courage and asked what she needed, which turned out to be Milton's Paradise Lost for a high school assignment. (Judging from her tone of voice, this was a last-minute panic situation. Her mom was wise enough not to over-react.) We scanned the shelves around the area without luck. I checked the online catalog and found the precise Dewey Decimal System number; Milton wasn't there either. But hmmm ... given that this is for school, maybe it's in the separate "Reading List" area? Good guess: we went there and indeed discovered quite a number of Cliff Notes for the book, but no Paradise Lost itself. (R.I.P.: the eponymous Cliff died recently.)

Dead end? Not quite ... there's one last chance: the library charity used-book sale in the basement. We descended the stairs, looked in the "M" section of poets, and voila! --- two copies, one old hardback in a loose binding for 50 cents, the other a newer paperback priced $1. I left mother and daughter there to decide between then.

Moral of this miniature tale? Libraries are nice places; when faced with a problem, don't give up at the first failure, but pursue alternative paths; it's fun to help people; and don't get mad at your mother if you've waited until the day before your homework is due.

- Monday, June 11, 2001 at 05:45:30 (EDT)

Writing Rewards

It takes about an hour for me to compose what I consider a decent page of prose ... and it seems to always have taken that long, for as far back as I can remember. (But perhaps my standards of decency have changed?) It takes less than a minute on the average to read a page of prose. So do there have to be ~100 readers for a writer to break even in terms of time invested?

Maybe not. Writing often pays for itself; the act of sorting out thoughts and putting them into words clarifies ideas immensely. And many members of the target audience can be your own future selves, especially when you're recording memories in a journal for later reverie and enjoyment. Finally, even if a note is only seen a handful of times, one of those viewings could be a crucial event that literally saves the world. (At least I can dream!) So perhaps it's OK not to demand throngs of readers for every product of one's pen.

(Cf. ^zhurnal 19 March 2001)

- Saturday, June 09, 2001 at 19:05:27 (EDT)

Cooking the Books

Sometimes you gotta let "theory" trump "fact". Example: in modern weather forecasting, before actual observations can be put into numerical models and used to make predictions, the measurements have to be adjusted, smoothed, and corrected until they're consistent with the equations. Otherwise, tiny errors result in ridiculous physical instabilities --- artificial sonic booms that propagate around the globe, or abrupt discontinuities in other parameters. Even if perfect readings of humidity, temperature, pressure, etc. were somehow possible, they couldn't be used in models. Observations have to be bent to fit the discrete computational process.

When a theory is good enough, in other words, for some purposes it takes over reality. We know that the theoretical situation is "wrong" in one sense --- but it's so convenient that we prefer to live with the error. Maybe it's like our system of justice. In order to have clean, consistent rules, we accept less-than-perfect fairness ... and then add further escape-clause inconsistencies (e.g., executive pardons) to break out of the troubles that result.

(Cf. Lewis Richardson's 1922 vision of a meteorological Forecast Factory, and ^zhurnal 12 October 1999 or 6 October 1999.)

- Friday, June 08, 2001 at 06:00:23 (EDT)

Threads of History

Stories and software tend to be single-threaded, mostly-linear chains of cause and effect. That makes for a good narrative, as plot elements unfold and characters develop; that makes for a good computer program, understandable, controllable, predictable. But real life is extraordinarily nonlinear and multithreaded: a web of people and events that defies simplistic analysis, and that exhibits infinite strength and resilience.

Single-threaded software crashes at the slightest error, as all of us have too-frequently experienced. Single-threaded stories unravel and lose credibility at every oversight. ("Didn't the author know that Mercury rotates?" ... "Why wouldn't the detective have smelled the decaying corpse after two weeks?" ... "Going back to him, after what he did to her, was totally outside her character!") Software and stories are fragile.

History isn't like that; there are always networks of forces that drive large-scale developments. Geography, technology, resources, demographics, economics, cultural factors --- all work together in feedback loops, constantly interacting and influencing one another. Push on one, and the others change to compensate. That's why embargos so rarely work; that's why price controls fail; and that's what dooms legislative attempts to change human nature.

Beware of attempts to explain world events in terms of simple stories. Beware of attempts to model complex systems via simple simulations. Instead, explore alternatives ... demand error estimates ... and maintain a strong skepticism, even (or especially!) when dealing with seemingly-well-validated predictions.

(Cf. ^zhurnal 8 May 1999)

- Wednesday, June 06, 2001 at 06:09:22 (EDT)

Peeping Sam

Samuel Pepys, as revealed in his diary, is such a marvelous character! Witness: But perhaps most striking of all: in the glimpses we have of him Pepys shows a delightful contentedness. He's a happy fellow, working long hours and balancing that with recreation. He's not greedy or envious, but pleased in a mature fashion with what he's doing and where his life is going. In many ways, not a bad example to follow ....

- Tuesday, June 05, 2001 at 05:45:11 (EDT)


Kenneth Slowak taught a master class at the Levine School of Music on 22 May 2001. A master class, for those who haven't witnessed one, is a chance for music students to perform a piece and get immediate feedback from an expert. Sometimes the criticism is scathing, a flamethrower blast crafted to show who's the master and who isn't. In the best of cases, however, a master class is a high-bandwidth learning opportunity for the performers and for everyone who has a chance to listen in. Slowak's was such a class --- gentle, fun-filled, productive, and inspirational. Among his remarks: Near the end of his final commentary, on a Beethoven trio for violin, cello, and piano, Kenneth Slowak told a story about how Beethoven and a rival used to meet for competitive improvisational duels. At one such encounter, Ludwig took his opponent's cello music, ostentatiously turned it upside down, and proceeded on the spot to build a brilliant piece from it. "That's the kind of humor, wit --- almost vulgarity --- that you need to put into this piece!" Slowak suggested.

And that was how he taught the class ... with humor and wit, that is. Masterfully.

- Monday, June 04, 2001 at 05:47:37 (EDT)

WebLog Analysis

Taking a look at one's web page access records can be both fun and instructive. (Many ISPs offer free log service, sometimes "raw", in other cases via an automatic analyzer, e.g. http://www.his.com/analog.html.) Here, for example, the first fortnight of May 2001 saw hundreds of page hits on http://www.his.com/~z/ and its associated pages from one or more individuals at "bellglobal.com" ... similar activity coming via various AOL proxies ... dozens of visits by search engine robots such as "fast-search.net", "googlebot.com", and "inktomi.com" ... international stop-overs from "utaonline.at" (Austria), "avantel.net.mx" (Mexico), "time.net.my" (Malaysia), "haifa6.actcom.co.il" (Israel), "ecolint.ch" (China), "labs.itu.edu.tr" (Turkey), etc.

The local page that got by far the most visits was http://www.his.com/~z/gibbon.html with a count of several thousand. (I fear that most of these hits were by students seeking quick quotations for their term papers ... but perhaps a few came from more voluntary seekers of knowledge.) The late Eugene Ho's essay on Edward Gibbon (http://www.his.com/~z/gibho1.html) attracted many hundreds of looks, as did the HIS.COM Gibbonic quotation "Fortune Cookie" service http://www.his.com/cgi-bin/fortune.gibbon. The Montgomery County Coin Club (cf. http://www.money.org/club_mccc.html) has its monthly newsletter and other pages hosted at the American Numismatic Association, but since those pages load an image (typically one of my 1852 large cents) stored on HIS.COM, their hits also register on the web logs here; there were a few hundred of them. The next most popular pages were a set of favorite Gibbon quotes that Eugene Ho assembled (http://www.his.com/~z/passage.html) followed by the (in)famous ^zhurnal formerly in a "guestbook" directory, now at http://zhurnaly.com/ --- where this item itself appears.

The little program that I use to analyze HIS.COM web logs is an elementary example of Perl. The guts of it are three loops, which respectively use associative arrays to count hits by looker and by page looked at, to sort and print the lookers, and to sort and print the page hit counts. For the record:

# analyze HIS.COM web logs - ^z - 20010218
# assumes format:
# client_addr day month year time 0 /~z/page.html
# to run try:
# perl zweban <infile >results
# count lookers and mypages that they look at
while ($line = <STDIN>) {
  @fields = split(" ", $line);
print " *** Lookers at web pages ***\n";
# sort into descending order and print lookers
foreach $key (sort { $looker{$b} <=> $looker{$a} } keys %looker) {
  print $looker{$key}, " ---- ", $key, "\n";
print "\n *** Mypages being looked at ***\n";
# sort into descending order and print mypages
foreach $key (sort { $mypage{$b} <=> $mypage{$a} } keys %mypage) {
  print $mypage{$key}, " ---- ", $key, "\n";

Straightforward stuff, which could be extended to do a more detailed analysis of who's looking at what and when. Maybe some day!

- Saturday, June 02, 2001 at 05:33:38 (EDT)

Deep Sympathies

A thoughtful, moving letter of condolence:
"In expressing my sympathy, I would like to leave you with three thoughts: a merciful fate spared Walter further suffering, your love and devotion made his last weeks bearable, and he made the most of the time he had left."
(from a note by Betsy Carpenter of Los Altos, California, to the New York Times "Science Times" of 29 May 2001. Cf. http://www.his.com/~z/johnson.html for a kind letter by Samuel Johnson, 25 September 1750, to a friend whose mother had recently died.)

- Wednesday, May 30, 2001 at 08:09:58 (EDT)

No Time For That!

In "Finding Time to Write" Peter Davison tells about the author of Ship of Fools:
"... Katherine Anne Porter spent a lifetime writing floods of letters on blue paper, to anyone who would listen, about the outrages visited upon her by visitors and interrupters. Nearly every letter complained that nobody would leave her alone to write. Once the letters were written, she would escape to the next party, the next interruption...."

Along similar lines, Thomas Jefferson complains in a note to Charles Thomson (9 January 1816):

" ... My greatest oppression is a correspondence afflictingly laborious, the extent of which I have been long endeavoring to curtail. This keeps me at the drudgery of the writing-table all the prime hours of the day, leaving for the gratification of my appetite for reading, only what I can steal from the hours of sleep. Could I reduce this epistolary corvée within the limits of my friends and affairs, and give the time redeemed from it to reading and reflection, to history, ethics, mathematics, my life would be as happy as the infirmities of age would admit ..."

Maybe the answer can be found in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, early in Chapter II when Bilbo suddenly discovers that he is late:

"That leaves you just ten minutes. You will have to run," said Gandalf.
"But ---," said Bilbo.
"No time for it," said the wizard.
"But ---," said Bilbo again.
"No time for that either! Off you go!"
Good advice for commencing any difficult and important adventure in life.

(Davison's essay appears in the Phi Beta Kappa newsletter "The Key Reporter", Vol. 66, No. 3 (Spring 2001); cf. http://www.pbk.org. And cf. http://www.loc.gov for the collection of Thomas Jefferson's papers at the Library of Congress; this one is in Paul Leicester Ford's "Works of Thomas Jefferson". Also cf. ^zhurnal 12 March 2001, 3 March 2001, 6 Feb 2001, 8 Dec 2000, 30 Nov 2000, 5 May 2000, 23 Aug 1999, etc.)

- Tuesday, May 29, 2001 at 05:54:27 (EDT)

Summa Cum Laude

The local two-year school, Montgomery College, is affectionately nicknamed "Harvard-on-the-Pike" by some and "M. K." by others. At a recent end-of-the-semester honors ceremony the audience is splendidly diverse: little boys in striped T-shirts ... little girls clutching plastic dolls ... grandparents dressed in their Sunday finery ... mothers holding bouquets for their beloved ... fathers with disposable cameras. Conversations take place in Portuguese, Korean, Hindi, Vietnamese, Spanish, Chinese, and less-recognizable languages.

This is a community college. It's attended by folks who choose to come here and who study hard to improve themselves --- not to party, delay going to work, or make connections with other wealthy drones, and not because their parents forced them to go. Many of the students are already holding down one, maybe two jobs, plus taking care of a family. Some are kids with spikey hair dyed in streaks of red and blue; some are gray or balding; some are overweight, handicapped, or uncosmetic in appearance; some are nervous new immigrants. Some goofed off, weren't focused during high school, made stupid mistakes, got into trouble, and only belatedly have figured out what they want to learn.

But when they cross that stage! Their friends whistle and whoop, the crowd applauds, they shake the hand of a professor, grin, nod ... they've done a good job, and are being recognized for it. Phi Theta Kappa, the junior college scholastic society, inducts a block of kids with strong grades. Others get departmental awards for hard work in math, drama, chemistry, French, physics, sports, business, and a host of other subjects. Some say a few words; the philosophy honoree is told "Don't talk, or we'll be here all night!", so she refrains. Nevertheless, the conclave runs late.

Finally, two are called forward for highest honors. One is a whisp of an Asian girl, smile bigger than she is, who came to this country six years ago. In accented but excellent English she thanks her teachers and her new friends. The other is a tall young man with a shining scalp, totally hairless. He trembles a bit as he comes to the podium and tells his tale: had fun in high school, served in the Marine Corps, then was a lifeguard on the Chesapeake Bay at a state park ... saved some people from drowning but couldn't rescue one eight-year-old boy ... realized that he needed to get back to school ... did so a couple of years ago ... met a nice girl, was getting ready to marry ... and then was diagnosed with acute leukemia.

His cancer is in remission now but he's still hospitalized for more treatment. The doctors are letting him out for a few hours to attend this ceremony, but he can't hug anybody --- too much risk of infection. His voice catches; he seizes the lectern and gets a grip on his emotions, then goes on to finish his brief speech. He's still working on a degree in electronics. The marriage is rescheduled for September. He's confident that he'll make it there.

The audience rises to give him a genuine standing ovation --- proud of him, and of the hundreds of other real people who have been applauded this evening. What a wonderful investment of a community's resources. Bravo to all!

- Sunday, May 27, 2001 at 19:03:15 (EDT)

Out of My Way

From page 3 of Perl in a Nutshell by Siever, Spainhour, and Patwardhan:
Computer languages differ not so much in what they make possible, but in what they make easy. Perl is designed to make the easy jobs easy, without making the hard jobs impossible.
The same principle applies in many other arenas. Systems should be built to make commonplace tasks fast and straightforward to do. Difficult tasks should be at least feasible. Like the Einstein aphorism, "Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler." (Cf. ^zhurnal 3 May 1999)

- Thursday, May 24, 2001 at 05:44:55 (EDT)

Ages of Work

Youth is a time of random data gathering, long-shot experimentation, out-and-out play: gamboling & gambling, in other words. That can be a great good for society --- wild exploration into odd corners of possibility-space may lead to radical new discoveries.

But as one matures and the clock of life ticks away, with major investments already made in learning one set of tricks, it becomes less appropriate to frisk about coltishly. Middle-age is a time to dig in, sharpen one's tools, build upon the foundations laid in earlier years, and deliver results: persistance & performance, one might say.

Then, necessarily, comes old(er) age. The mainspring begins to wind down, and the gears start to get a bit rusty. Time to pull threads together, tie off loose ends, and prepare to hand the work over to another generation of hands: synthesis & sharing, perhaps.

(Cf. ^zhurnal 29 Dec 1999)

- Wednesday, May 23, 2001 at 05:44:04 (EDT)

L + O + L + A = Lola

Felix came to mind again the other day: he's the college roommate three decades ago who owned the first waterbed I ever saw. Felix was a Kinks fan, and one of his favorite songs was "Lola". He loved it for its ambiguity: was Lola male or female? The lyrics were inscrutable. Similarly, in Robert Browning's dramatic monologue "My Last Duchess" it's never quite clear what happened to that infamously too-quick-to-smile lady: did the Duke have her murdered? Who can say? That's part of what makes the poem so captivating.

- Tuesday, May 22, 2001 at 06:01:09 (EDT)

Money Wisdom

Some financial advice addressed to young girls appeared in Harper's Bazar magazine of 31 October 1885:
.... The moral is that no woman's property is safe, even in the hands of a saint, unless he is also careful and prudent; and no woman can ever form an opinion as to a man's care and prudence unless she herself cultivates common-sense, and takes pains to know something about business affairs.

This is needful for a woman of large property, and still more for one who has but a trifle. If it lies in real estate, she should know something about the value of real estate and its laws. If it lies in stocks of any kind, she should know what they represent, and watch for herself their rise and fall. It is not necessary that she should manage her property in person, any more than it is necessary that a man should build his own house; but as the wise man visits his house frequently while building, and does not leave all to even his treasure of a master-carpenter, so a woman at least needs to know how the house of her own fortunes is to be built and kept in order. Most fathers now recognize this in the abstract in the case of their own daughters; but when the daughter actually asks a question, it is much easier to reply, hurriedly, "Don't trouble your little head about that, dear," than to spare a moment to explain to her how a bank is carried on, or a joint-stock company organized. Years ago I read an admirable address by a Boston merchant, then eminent, in which he strongly urged the training of women in business habits, and the value to a husband of a wife who could understand his affairs. When I reminded his daughter the other day of this address of forty years ago, she said, with regret, "I wish he had given that instruction in his own family, but he never did."

The mysteries of the Stock Exchange may not be needful to master, but the general principles which govern investment and income are within the reach of all. The commonplaces of this knowledge --- that something can not usually be obtained for nothing --- that a low and certain income is better than one dangerously high --- that people can not afford to play a game they do not understand with opponents who know every move of it --- that the investment of even a small property should be made in a variety of directions, so as not to have all one's eggs in one basket, as the saying is --- these things are not so hard to learn. If those who yearn for a tempting speculation could once comprehend that if you lend a man $1000 at exorbitant interest, he can easily pay you that interest for a year or two out of your own money if he can then be allowed to abscond or go into bankruptcy with the rest of it, then it would not be so easy to allure women into worthless "Women's Banks." The folly is not confined to women, as the victims of Grant & Ward proved, but probably those sufferers were less innocent, and therefore less the subjects of pity.

In our public schools girls are, on the whole, the best mathematicians. They know the difference between principal and interest in the arithmetic-book, and can rattle off the problem on the blackboard very quickly. What they need is, whether they are supporting themselves or not, to be encouraged to keep their own accounts, and ....

Here the page is cut off. This advice is simply brilliant, especially (as is worth repeating): All still true today, and particularly relevant given the stock market mania of the past several years. Who wrote this essay? It was spotted by my wife (Paulette Dickerson --- thank you!) on the back of a beautiful engraving of a woman gardening. The page was torn out for sale by a modern merchant out to make a few dollars, who little realized what a treasure existed on the other side of the artwork. Amazing....

(Cf. ^zhurnal 19 October 2000, 8 April 2000, and 19 May 1999)

- Sunday, May 20, 2001 at 06:19:39 (EDT)

Ruddy Gore

The other evening we saw some young teenagers perform Gilbert & Sullivan's Ruddigore: Or, the Witch's Curse on a makeshift stage in the hot gymnasium of a local Middle School. They were superb! The play was hilarious and the kids really got into their parts --- especially the girl who played Mad Margaret kabuki style. As Shakespeare wrote (MidSummerNight's Dream, act V, scene i):
HIPPOLYTA. This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.
THESEUS. The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.

- Friday, May 18, 2001 at 21:16:31 (EDT)


Whenever I drive past a certain bus stop in my neighborhood, I think of the Ruy Lopez opening in the game of chess. Five years ago I waited there for a ride, and while standing by the road I studied the Ruy from a book I happened to have with me. The pattern got locked in ... not (alas!) the moves in the opening, but rather the association between that place and that topic. Much the same happens in other areas --- including drug addiction and various obsessions, as well as pleasant and productive contexts of work, friendship, family, etc. And it's more than geospatial association. "That's our song, dear." Human brains are strange ....

- Thursday, May 17, 2001 at 05:52:22 (EDT)


What's all this timewasting chatter about using nanotechnology and/or genetic engineering to build supercomputers, tiny intelligent robots, or other nerdy toys? Get unreal! Think about something Rumpelstiltskin-magic-like to weave straw into gold --- or more plausibly, turn cheap cloth into fancier material. Talk about mini-pseudo-silkworms that eat rayon/polyester and spin it out as the same pattern of fine fiber. But hey, as long as we're ignoring all the (quite serious) problems of physics and information theory, why not go a step farther and postulate sub-nuclear-sized micromanipulators? Rearrange protons and neutrons to turn lead into platinum, alchemist-fashion. (But beware of the runaway sorcerer's apprentice effect.)

Sounds silly --- but is it any more silly than today's breathless fantasy essays on the wonders of nanotech/biotech? Will those writings seem as unreal, a few centuries from now, as fairy tales and medieval pseudoscience of past centuries seem to us now? (Cf. ^zhurnal 5 October 1999)

- Tuesday, May 15, 2001 at 18:36:45 (EDT)

Air Flow

The ventilation system in the original Volkswagen "Beetle" wasn't good, and later models didn't get much better. I still remember the similie that an honest car salesman used in describing it to my Mother when she bought a VW from him, ca. 1966: "It feels like somebody is blowing at you through a straw with a bug stuck in it!"

- Sunday, May 13, 2001 at 16:00:46 (EDT)

Uncloseted Skeletons

At a recent alumni association field trip (cf. ^zhurnal 9 May 2001) I met "GR", grad student from the University of Maryland --- a funny, pretty young woman, who grew up in the Washington DC area, went away to study in the Pacific Northwest, and recently returned to this region. We talked a bit at the luncheon afterwards and the conversation turned from geology to geneology, especially the risks of discovering less-than-savory characters in one's background. GR mentioned a "Sally Hemmings" type event in her North Carolina ancestral past, and described some of the detective work that she had undertaken to learn more about it. We exchanged stories about crazy uncles who either killed themselves or somebody else, criminal forefathers, and so forth. Both of us were lucky to have had somebody in a previous generation who cared enough (and had the time and resources) to trace back at least some branches of the family tree.

Another lunch-table conversation that day was with a Caltech grad from half a century ago, Class of ~1950. He had been a member of Dabney House, one of the original four 'Tech undergraduate dorms, but somehow never ventured into the steam tunnels that penetrated the underside of campus. And back then, as far as he knew, the graffiti "DEI" (= "Dabney Eats It") and "FEIF" (= "Fleming Eats It Faster") weren't yet in use. Both are now ubiquitous, and have appeared as in-jokes in such movies as Real Genius.

- Friday, May 11, 2001 at 06:10:26 (EDT)

Zen Geology

On 3 May 2001 the Caltech Alumni Association sponsored a field trip to Great Falls National Park on the Potomac River upstream from Washington, DC. Retired geologist E-an Zen gave a brisk walking commentary:

Those logs? The flood of 1996
Left them as driftwood way up on that cliff.
The valley was submerged. Just think,
When 30 inches of snow melted, all
Within a day or two, the runoff had
To make it through this gorge. The crest
Rose 70 feet or more and moved
Those meter-sized boulders. Amazing, yes?

And potholes! Let me show you how the stream
Made vortices against the side of this
Formation. Alcoves here were cut so fast ---
An inch a year --- that you could almost watch
Them form if you were patient. Fingernails
Grow just as rapidly. A big pothole
Develops in a human life. That's quick!

If you come back here in 10,000 years
You'll see something quite different. The land
Is lowering about a millimeter
Every century. This boulder that
We're standing on came down the river in
A flood about a quarter million years
Ago; it moved some fifty miles. And see
The patch of lichen here? It grows so slow
That by its size you know it's centuries
Old now. So we can tell this rock has not
Been much disturbed; beryllium that's formed
By cosmic rays which hit the surfaces
Provide us with a measure of its age.

And note this mica schist: it must have been
Pressed under 10 kilometers at most
Of overburden, 900 Centigrade,
To partly melt the crystals. That suggests
A geothermal gradient far more
Than anything that's normal nowadays
In Appalachian land. We're looking at
A half a billion years of history.

Kinda puts today's problems into a slightly larger perspective. (Many thanks also to Alumni Association Deputy Director Arlana Silver and to Dr. Dallas Peck, for organizing and running the expedition.)

- Wednesday, May 09, 2001 at 05:47:38 (EDT)


It's sometimes hilarious when people borrow from the world of literature without knowing what the original means. A recent book on peaceful life outside the city is titled Country Matters, in reference to a phrase from Hamlet. But do the author, editor, publisher, and reviewers realize that Shakespeare was using those words as a bawdy double entendre? In The Friendly Shakespeare (1993) Norrie Epstein notes "When Hamlet, with his head on Ophelia's lap, tells her he is thinking of 'country matters,' he pointedly stresses the first syllable." Not exactly the rustic image that the new book's title was meant to evoke.

Similarly, a wealthy New Yorker calls his suburban mansion "a fine and private place" for when he feels the need to escape from town. The source of that phrase, Andrew Marvell's poem "To His Coy Mistress", reads:

The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Not quite as apropos to a rural retreat as someone now apparently thinks.

- Tuesday, May 08, 2001 at 05:57:35 (EDT)

Iambic Honesty (III/III)

Some closing remarks by Judson Jerome in The Poet's Handbook (cf. ^zhurnal 23 April 2001 and 27 April 2001 for parts I & II)...

On long-term issues:

"This is cocktail-party culture. The resulting poetry does not reach and has no concern with ordinary readers. In this book I have tried to ignore all that, and I hope you have the strength to ignore it as a poet. Rather, I am concerned with durable goods, with the qualities that characterize the excellent poetry of the ancient Greeks as much as that of today. It wasn't until modern times that the word modern was used as a term of approval or praise. Its sense was closer to modish, implying merely fashionable, temporary, of no lasting interest or value, as when the 'Justice' is described in Shakespeare's As You Like It as being 'Full of wise saws and modern instances.' As a poet or a person, you can't help being modern. That is an accident of birth. The question is, can you be anything else? I hope this book helps you, as it has helped me, at least to aim at goals of more enduring value." (Chap. 14, "Into the Maelstrom")

On fame:

"Next to zucchini squash, poetry must be the most overproduced commodity in the world. ... There simply is no market to speak of. ... The currency of a poetic career is not cash but reputation --- and that, too, is a mixed bag in regard to its merits. At any given time in the United States there are about two hundred 'known' poets. (How many can you name?) These mostly know or know of one another. They show up on the committees to grant awards and prizes, give readings at colleges and elsewhere, appear regularly in the respectable literary journals .... Often they not only give but get the grants. ... Getting into that circle of two hundred requires a lot more politics and pull and personality than it does poetic talent. Given the whimsicality of taste in our culture, there is no way of saying which poets are actually 'best,' or even which are likely to be read twenty years from now. (A list from twenty years ago would be almost totally obscure to us today.) I am not sure I would recommend to any poet that he or she play the game of trying to become one of the 'known' poets under these circumstances. I played it for some twenty years, with some success, but I found it corrupting, and decided I had better things to do with my remaining years." (Chap. 15, "In and Out of the Closet")

On why to write poetry:

"Like virtue, poetry is its own reward. ... The immortality game, like that of getting into the circle of the two hundred, can be wicked and delusionary. ... That leaves you with perhaps the most important reward of all: personal satisfaction. ... You are more likely to succeed at poetry, as in love, if you get success out of your head. Concentrate on quality. Learn the joy of creating excellence --- whether or not anyone else recognizes it." (Chap. 15, "In and Out of the Closet")

- Sunday, May 06, 2001 at 05:43:58 (EDT)

Greek Eagles

Viktor Akylas was a Caltech grad student in experimental physics, back in the 1970's when I was also working toward a Ph.D. there in Pasadena. Viktor was fun and crazy, but I hadn't thought much about him until last week when I attended a talk by an MIT math professor named Triantaphyllos R. Akylas. After his presentation I spoke with him, and of course (small world!) he turned out to be Viktor's younger brother whom I had met in passing a quarter century ago. Triantaphyllos and Viktor shared an off-campus student house then, and I remember Viktor remarking, "We never talk; we only shout political slogans at one another!" A good brotherly relationship, in other words.

Viktor and I went on some long car trips to Death Valley, Berkeley, and other western US sites. He was a fan of Tom Lehrer songs, so we sang our favorites a capella on the road. Most memorable was a 1976 junket to Las Vegas. We had studied Edward Thorp's book Beat the Dealer and were primed to play Blackjack ... or at least, knew enough not to lose too much. We went to some cheap casinos, rendezvoused with my brother Keith who had come from Texas, played many hundreds of hands of cards, and asked the pretty ladies who offered us drinks to bring us milk. To save money we slept in Viktor's car on the street --- in front of a building which, when the sun rose, we discovered was a police station. When the dust settled we were maybe $40 ahead, not counting the cost of gasoline or the value of our time. But we had fun. Thanks, Viktor!

- Friday, May 04, 2001 at 18:47:55 (EDT)

Our Stonehenge

In his 1869 essay On the Subjection of Women, John Stuart Mill uses a striking image to highlight an anomaly in the legal and moral structure of his world:
"... The social subordination of women thus stands out an isolated fact in modern social institutions; a solitary breach of what has become their fundamental law; a single relic of an old world of thought and practice exploded in everything else, but retained in the one thing of most universal interest; as if a gigantic dolmen, or a vast temple of Jupiter Olympius, occupied the site of St. Paul's and received daily worship, while the surrounding Christian churches were only resorted to on fasts and festivals. This entire discrepancy between one social fact and all those which accompany it, and the radical opposition between its nature and the progressive movement which is the boast of the modern world, and which has successively swept away everything else of an analogous character, surely affords, to a conscientious observer of human tendencies, serious matter for reflection. ..."
Are there other such colossal artifacts of injustice in our midst today, invisible to us by force of habit? (Cf. perhaps ^zhurnal 31 December 2000, 11 June 2000, and 24 November 1999)

- Thursday, May 03, 2001 at 05:57:36 (EDT)


Architects and builders are a lot like programmers. They spend huge amounts of effort on things that are rarely used ... obscure frills and hidden facets of their structures which, truth be told, actual customers spend much less time on than it took to develop.

But on the other hand, that sort of quietly focused mental energy pays big dividends in ensuring that the visible parts of a building, or a piece of software, get designed and implemented properly, gracefully. And on the rare occasions when a hidden feature is needed, there it is --- like a reserve parachute, an emergency brake, a safety net ... or, in less critical circumstances, simply as a delightful signal that somebody cared enough to do the right thing without thinking of recognition or reward.

(cf. ^zhurnal 18 December 1999 and the early musing of 15 April 1999)

- Tuesday, May 01, 2001 at 20:32:13 (EDT)


"You need a favor? Ask a busy person!"
My Mother always said that. Thanks for coming
Here to call on me; I'm all the envy
Of the others when I get your visits.
Nobody ever comes for them. They're old ---
They spend the day asleep in the front lobby.
I'm slowing down, but I still get around.

See that picture of my grand-daughter?
And there, next to it, that's my son when he
Was just a baby. Yes, I sold the house,
Got rid of almost everything. These rooms
Hold all that's left. The management wants me
To move along so they can rent this suite
To someone weak who needs assisted care;
That way they'll make more money. Maybe
Chicago where my son and daughter-in-law live
Would be a place for me to settle down.

But I don't know. Can I give you a drink?
I think that there's some grape juice in the 'fridge.
Just help yourself. If you can take me out
Some time next week to go down to the bank
I'd really like it. Sorry if I repeat
Myself, but as my Mother told me, "Ask
A busy person, when you want a favor!"
And I know that you're busy. My dear friend
Is in her eighties now and she still drives,
But I don't think she's safe, and anyway
She doesn't want to help. And she's not busy.

Now let me find my teeth, and I'll come down
To the main door with you to see you out.
You have to walk home now before sunset?
How far? Two miles! I'm lucky if I can
Make it two hundred feet. I'm slowing down.
They don't want me to help them any more
At the Museum or the Library.
So now I'm starting up a reading group
With some of the old ladies in this house.
(Do you have any books to recommend?)
And thanks again for coming by to see
Me here. You know, you're very nice. Thank you!

- Sunday, April 29, 2001 at 18:11:27 (EDT)

Tidy Time

Funny coincidence: while cleaning the cellar and boxing old books a few days ago, my wife handed me an abridged Pepys' Diary. I opened it at random --- the entry dated 31 December 1664 --- and my eye fell upon:
"... I bless God I never have been in so good plight as to my health. But I am at a great losse to know whether it be my hare's foote, or taking every morning of a pill of turpentine, or my having left off the wearing of a gowne. This Christmas I judged it fit to look over all my papers and books; and to tear all that I found either boyish or not to be worth keeping, or fit to be seen, if it should please God to take me away suddenly. ..."
So, 337 years ago, Samuel Pepys was working on clearing out his clutter too! (^_^)

- Saturday, April 28, 2001 at 15:57:33 (EDT)

Iambic Honesty (II/III)

More thoughts from Judson Jerome's The Poet's Handbook (cf. ^zhurnal 23 April 2001 for part I) ...

On rhyme and its risks:

"Much poor writing gets by as free verse. Ineptitudes or obscurities may be attributed to creativity by editors of generous mind. But sloppiness shows more quickly in rhymed verse. Some poets seem to think that if they can just get lines to rhyme, their job is done. The truth is quite the opposite. Rhyme has such a powerful effect in poetry that it immediately stands out when awkwardly used. Use it with caution and caring, toning it down, smoothing it over, keeping it from embarrassing you like a show-off child." (Chap. 8, "The Sculp of Rhyme")

On sonnets:

"The sonnet form has become so universal in European and American culture since its invention in thirteenth-century Italy that it seems almost to be some mysterious embodiment of the shape of human thought. Studying it will help you understand that writing poetry is not a matter of following rules, for the fascination of the sonnet, like the fascination of meter, results from the strain of content against the form. Nothing is fixed. There are no rules. Yet there is enough consistency in the way poets return and return to the form that one can discern beneath the infinite variation some inalterable essence, 'a something white, uncertain,' one might say. I will come back to that quotation." (Chap. 10, "The Shape of Human Thought")

On "sensationalism" in modern poetry:

"That is the cultural climate you must cope with as a poet. It is a cultural climate in which people grow accustomed to walking by examples of modern painting or sculpture, or to hearing modern music without looking for or expecting any human connection, any relevance to their lives. It is not polite to ask what art is about or to ask that it be melodic or moving or memorable. The same sophisticated indifference carries over to poetry. One simply accepts incomprehensibility as though it were an indication of quality. Art thus becomes decoration, a kind of screaming wallpaper. Music becomes blended into the background noise of industrial society. And poetry is, like particle physics, or graphs, or economic indices, a gray blur, intended, presumably, for specialists." (Chap. 14, "Into the Maelstrom")

- Friday, April 27, 2001 at 05:48:02 (EDT)


In the "Introductory" section to How Does a Poem Mean? John Ciardi thanks a circle of colleagues:
In 1951 when I was teaching at Harvard, a number of friends --- all of them valued poets --- organized a small group that met irregularly to talk about the poems each brought with him. That group continued to meet for two years or so through a number of memorable evenings. The regular core of that group consisted of Richard Eberhart, John Holmes, Archibald MacLeish, Richard Wilbur, and myself. I am indebted to those meetings for some of the happiest and best poet's talk I have ever heard. I have no doubt that I have worked into this book many ideas that were touched on in those meetings, but in expressing my gratitude to these good men, I must make it clear that they are in no way responsible for what I have said here. I simply confess that I have stolen from them, and that I wish I might have stolen more. Could I be sure of exactly what I have stolen, I would acknowledge my thefts in detail. My most gratitude to them is that they are rich enough to be worth stealing from.
The sentiment applies to every one of us (esp. me!) --- we're all idea thieves, who take from local friends and from distant antiquity. The best robbers, like Ciardi, leave a little something new behind. (Cf. ^zhurnal 9 July 1999.)

- Wednesday, April 25, 2001 at 05:44:51 (EDT)


Memories found in a drawer of faded, worn-out, souvenir T-shirts:

- Tuesday, April 24, 2001 at 05:47:51 (EDT)

Iambic Honesty (I/III)

The late Judson Jerome wrote an iconoclastic little book, The Poet's Handbook (1980), that contains a lot of general wisdom in addition to good specific counsel ...

On poetry as metrical writing:

"Metrical means measured. A measure, or predetermined form, forces a poet to pick and choose, polish, twist, to manage these contortions with grace. It is the tug-of-war between form and content that makes the art of the poem. Prose lies flat on the page. Poetry (good poetry, that is) stands up off it, rounded like a piece of sculpture, because of its imposed form." (Introduction, "How to Use This Book")

On who is a poet:

"It helps to stop worrying about what you are and concentrate on what you do. If you think of a poet as a person with some special qualifications that come by nature (or divine favor), you are likely to make one of two mistakes about yourself. If you think you've got what it takes, you may fail to learn what you need to know in order to use whatever qualities you may have. On the other hand, if you think you do not have what it takes, you may give up too easily, thinking it is useless to try. A poet is someone --- you, me, anyone --- who writes poems. That question out of the way, now we can learn to write poems better." (Chap. 1, "From Sighs and Groans to Art")

On accentual syllabic meter:

"This book cannot teach you how to write great poetry: that's up to you. But it can help you write competent poetry, and there is no greatness without at least minimal competence. Shakespeare's contemporaries, many of them excellent dramatists and moving poets, lacked his greatness. But perhaps even more critically, they lacked his competence --- precisely in such relatively neutral passages as the one quoted above. They did not have the mastery of meter to get through such necessary material with sustained dramatic power and music. Ponder those pyrrhics, those theoretical accents. They may liberate your tongue." (Chap. 5, "Lisping in Numbers")

On stylistic freedom versus anarchy:

"Our problem as poets is to reawaken a sensitivity to the forms of poetry, and this may require a more conservative practice than that of the great poets who broke new metrical ground in our century. For readers to catch subtleties, they first have to hear the obvious. We have to find a compromise between stiff artificiality and careless conversational ease. ... Freedom itself is a meaningless and empty concept. ... Modernist poets, for all their freedom, no longer speak to a wide audience; they seem to have drifted away from the music of language and not to have developed modes that can sustain narrative and dramatic poetry or deal comprehensibly and effectively with major themes. It is a challenge I hope you will respond to with creative force." (Chap. 6, "Getting the Beat")

Happy Shakespeare's Birthday today!

- Monday, April 23, 2001 at 05:59:19 (EDT)

Silly Seminars of '75

The weekly Seminar Calendar was a fixture of the Caltech Physics Department. It showed up in professors' mail boxes and on hallway bulletin boards every Friday ... a boring but useful tool for spreading the news of talks to be given during the following week. One Friday in October 1975, however, a rather different Calendar appeared. Most of the recipients thought it was riddled with typographical errors when they first glanced over it; a few are rumored to have called the departmental office to complain --- until they looked more closely.

See http://www.his.com/~z/images/citcalendar.jpg for a scanned image, courtesy Cosmas Zachos, a grad student who may or may not have been involved. Carl Caves and Sandor Kovacs similarly may or may not have led the conspiracy to compose, copy, and distribute the spurious calendar. Among the presentations ostensibly scheduled for the week of 20-24 October 1975 were several that perhaps could use explanation to those more distant in space and time from the event:

... plus some obvious wordplay and mild sophomoric double entendres --- adding up to an entertaining distraction for some overworked students and their teachers.

- Saturday, April 21, 2001 at 08:44:00 (EDT)


On 24 July 1996 I responded to a friend (TA) who posted an enthusiastic and futuristic speech ("The Birth of the Chaordic Century", by Dee Hock) re the need for violent large-scale organizational change. I disagreed: My note five years ago concluded with some gentle ^z notions for how a healthy outfit might start moving into a productive future:

(slightly edited from the original; cf. ^zhurnal 15 April 2000)

- Thursday, April 19, 2001 at 20:28:48 (EDT)

Encounter in the Music Library

"My name's Larisa --- that's a Russian name.
I'm nine years old. My brother's not as tall
As I am. He's eleven now. I'm five
Foot one. My music teacher, Mr. Hill,
Was wrong about how this piece ends. See here?
The book shows that I'm right. I'll check it out
And take it to him. My parents are divorced.
We don't have Internet at home. I live
With Mom and visit Dad. Our Macintosh
Is old! Did you see in the newspaper
When we were protesting? The County wants
To close my school and make us move. I went
To Shakespeare Summer Camp the last two years.
We played some scenes from MidSummer Night's Dream.
I was Hippolyta, Theseus's wife.
Our class met in the basement of a church.
We did some Hamlet and some Cymbeline.
Titus Andronochus too --- a parody
I mean. (We used red streamers for the blood.)
Piano practice? I don't have the time!
They give me too much homework every day.
... OK ... I'll play for you. This Bach Two-Part
Invention is the piece I'm learning now.
It needs some work. And here's a Joplin Rag,
Called 'Peacherine' I think. I really should
Find time to practice it more too. And did
You know I'm learning clarinet? We built
Web pages at our school in NotePad. Yeah,
I know HTML --- do you? Bye now!"

- Wednesday, April 18, 2001 at 05:34:02 (EDT)

Wet KnowledgeBasements

Back on 25 July 1996 a friend (CA) and I were having an online conversation about how easy it is to propose, and hard it is to actually implement, a "knowledgebase" --- a then-popular buzzword for a shared repository of community wisdom. My comrade had pointed out how much expert work has to be done in order to build and maintain such a repository. In violent agreement, I noted:
"Most of the promising db (sorry, I can't say "knowledgebase" today!) projects I've seen have run aground on several shoals:
Five years later, are there ways around these problems? I hope so --- the computer tools have arguably improved --- but without considerable human expert help, it's still a tough nut. For some aspects of the problem space I'm beginning to think that Wiki concepts can perhaps help ... see The Wiki Way and/or WikiWikiWeb for starting points. More on that another time!

(slightly edited from the original; cf. ^zhurnal 11 February 2000)

- Tuesday, April 17, 2001 at 05:58:57 (EDT)


"Comparative Advantage" has been called the only non-obvious concept in elementary economics. It's rather straightforward to describe: consider two people who have two jobs to accomplish. Even if one person is better at both tasks, if they're allowed to trade then the most efficient division of labor is for each to work at the task on which s/he is relatively better. (This holds true even without economies of scale or skill improvements due to specialization, which would make the advantages even greater.) Suppose we have to perform both gardening and video-game testing, and that you're twice as good as I am at gardening but three times better at gaming. Then (work out the math!) we are both better off by letting me do the garden full-time while you exclusively attack the joystick.

The idea of "comparative advantage" extends to larger situations involving whole nations --- again, as long as trade between participants is allowed. And as I recently advised a young neighbor who's a college freshman, it's also a good thing to think about when choosing your Major. Other things being equal, pick the area where you have the greatest relative edge (or the least disadvantage) --- even if it's hard for you. You'll do better in the long run, and (via higher global productivity) so will Society writ large.

- Sunday, April 15, 2001 at 15:10:10 (EDT)

Cosmic Chaos

For those concerned about nanotech/biotech armageddon scenarios (e.g., runaway experiments that eradicate Life As We Know It and leave the surface of the Earth a mass of gray goo), consider a worse nightmare: a transformation that destroys all preexisting physical structures throughout an entire universe. The horror! The horror!

But of course, that's precisely what has already happened to us --- yes, our very own cosmos --- and more than once. Early on in the Big Bang, temperatures and densities were so high that all matter was a sea of quarks and gluons and photons (oh my!). As the expansion proceeded and things began to cool, protons and neutrons began to form and then coagulate into nuclei. An æon later, when the thermometer fell below 10,000 degrees, electrons at last were able to stick to the nuclei --- and so atoms took shape. Still later and cooler, those atoms began to stick together to form molecules ... dust ... planets ... stars ... galaxies ....

Each of those transitions was a cosmological change of state --- far more radical than a mere freezing of the oceans or other terrestrial shift. Without them, we wouldn't be here; with them, countless other possibilities never happened.

- Saturday, April 14, 2001 at 13:34:14 (EDT)


About three years ago, Bob Buckman (of Bulab Holdings) gave a talk about how his company operates. Buckman's mannerisms and delivery were low-key, but his content was striking. Some tidbits: Bob Buckman's conclusion: culture is paramount. He estimated that "... ~90% of your effort is culture change ... ~5% is technology ... and ~5% is magic that comes out of the woodwork." He counseled that to succeed, "You must translate this into new voluntary behavior, or else it's just talk. ... You have to work out new procedures; you have to make it real. ... You need to protect pioneers who stick their necks out. ... Command and Control is a philosophy of management; to give it up seems to be giving up power ... but you surprisingly gain power [when you release the reins]. ... [People] need to have the freedom to contribute ... [you have to] make heroes out of those who do neat stuff ... give them opportunities ... things they don't expect to receive."

His final advice: "Start simply!"

- Friday, April 13, 2001 at 05:51:33 (EDT)

This is Volume 0.14 of the journal of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... musings on mind, matter, method, and metaphor ... new posts every few days, since April 1999. See ZhurnalyWiki on zhurnaly.com for a parallel "live" Wiki experiment in shared thought. For back issues of the ^zhurnal see Volumes v.01 (April-May 1999), v.02 (May-July 1999), v.03 (July-September 1999), v.04 (September-November 1999), v.05 (November 1999 - January 2000), v.06 (January-March 2000), v.07 (March-May 2000), v.08 (May-June 2000), v.09 (June-July 2000), v.10 (August-October 2000), v.11 (October-December 2000), v.12 (December 2000 - February 2001), v.13 (February-April 2001), v.14 (April-June 2001), 0.15 (June-August 2001), 0.16 (August-September 2001), 0.17 (September-November 2001), 0.18 (November-December 2001), 0.19 (December 2001 - February 2002), 0.20 (February-April 2002), 0.21 (April-May 2002), 0.22 (May-July 2002), 0.23 (July-September 2002), 0.24 (September-October 2002), 0.25 (October-November 2002), 0.26 (November 2002 - January 2003), 0.27 (January-February 2003), 0.28 (February-April 2003), 0.29 (April-June 2003), 0.30 (June-July 2003), 0.31 (July-September 2003), 0.32 (September-October 2003), 0.33 (October-November 2003), 0.34 (November 2003 - January 2004), 0.35 (January-February 2004), 0.36 (February-March 2004), 0.37 (March-April 2004), 0.38 (April-June 2004), 0.39 (June-July 2004), 0.40 (July-August 2004), 0.41 (August-September 2004), 0.42 (September-November 2004), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you!