Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts published in August, 2003

Just before our trip to Buenos Aires I read Wired‘s report on artificial diamonds: The New Diamond Age. I remember, as a child, reading about the failed efforts to make large diamonds; however, very small diamond and boron nitride crystals were coming into use as industrial abrasives. It’s a gripping story.

At the airport on the way back I picked up the print version of Wired 11.09, which has that as a cover article (starting at page 096); with a great cover photo, yet. As an aside, Wired is the only print magazine I still buy every month, down from about 30 magazines a decade ago – not only is all the interesting stuff on the net, but the mass (or perhaps mess) of old magazines was becoming too large to handle. However, I still find interesting things in the print version – strange and/or great advertisements, for instance.

Paging through the magazine reminded me of many other things besides my boyhood fascination with weird industrial processes. For instance, on page 025, Josh McHugh exhorts Sony to buy Apple; a little over 19 years ago, flying to California on my first US trip, I read in the paper that Apple should be acquired by General Electric. Emphasis has shifted, however; now, Apple is regarded as so good that it should be bought by a larger company; then, Apple was “beleaguered” and should be bought to avoid closing down. Hmm…

On page 040, the “Jargon Watch” section mentions the new term “bright”, about which I’d written previously. Coming home, #4 of the “The Brights’ Bulletin” was in my e-mail.

On pages 044/045, there’s an ad for the Mazda RX-8 sports car. Mazda is the sole remaining car manufacturer to use Dr. Felix Wankel‘s rotary Wankel engine, whose development I’d followed assiduously in the same magazine that reported on the invention of boron nitride. That was in 1958, if memory serves.

1958 also was when I first read a translation of Bulwer-Lytton’s “Last Days of Pompeii”. Despite the turgid prose, I was impressed by the description of Greek customs. And sure enough, on page 049, Wired reports on the efforts to build a complete 3D computer model of the Pompeii ruins.

Starting on page 076, Wired has it usual tech toys review section, albeit in a new layout. They kept the Splurge/Best Buy/Overrated format, though; and on page 077, the PowerBook G4 appears. It’s the first time I actually bought something rated as “splurge”, and even before it appeared in Wired… 😉

On page 081, one of my favorite authors, Bruce Sterling, writes about “Freedom’s Dark Side”. Of course, Sterling was on the cover of Wired 1.01 – I think I have a nearly complete set of issues, by the way – and also was present on the Buenos Aires trip, as I took two of his books with me: the 1988 “Islands in the Net” and the 1998 “Distraction”.

“Island in the Net” is still a gripping read but oddly quaint and old-fashioned in a futuristic way; the “Net” mentioned in the title means the international phone and TV networks; I think there’s some passing mention of e-mail. On the other hand, Third World-based “data havens” and “data pirates” feature prominently, the latter selling bootleg copies of audio and video, as well as lists of addresses for marketeers and illegally obtained personal data. While I was posting this, I happened upon James Lilek‘s article Why the Record Industry Doesn’t Stand a Chance, commenting on the activities of the EarthStation 5 music pirates, operating in the Jenin refugee camp on the Palestinian West Bank. Wow.

Finally, on page 147 there’s one my favorite Wired features, “Artifacts from the Future”. This one shows a “Melanoma Removal Gel”. As I’m just back from an appointment with my dermatologist, I’m very happy to report that none of my assorted moles, spots or other skin markings are melanomas… she also assured me that the recurring scales and fissures on my fingers weren’t psoriasis but rather the milder, and more easily controlled, Dyshidrosis. Whew.

Venerable net curmudgeon Uncle Al‘s learned alter ego, Dr. Schund, waxes poetically on this subject:

…The human mind is expansively more than the sum of it physical anatomy. The four pounds of its 100 billion neurons and their trillions of synapses, supporting astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, blood vessels and whatnot, are far too coarse a fabric to contain its obvious contents. The warp and weft of its weave are deeply fractal. At its base there flutters quantum mechanical indeterminacy gushing unending stochastic input into a spiraling ascent. Passing through virtual and physical anatomical filters the raw stuff of human awareness, randomness, is shaped and selected. The idiot noise of creation itself is sculpted into the pleasure of a cool summer night shared with a mate and the vague uneasiness that led a primitive ancestor to grasp a rock when its own fist proved insufficient to conquer a planet.

Well said.

Re: Off again…

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We’re back from our trip to Buenos Aires, having arrived shortly before 1 AM. Everything went well; I’m downloading several hundred e-mails and checking out what (if anything) happened while we were away. Hopefully some of the 200+ photos I took will be fit for publication…

Posted by Rainer Brockerhoff (away):
I´m writing this in a very small Internet Café in Buenos Aires (three PCs and five phone booths). Amazingly, there´s a lot of those here in the city center, the average seems to be about one or two per block. And it costs between 1 and 1.50 pesos per hour (30 to 50 US cents).

This post will have to be very short as we´re due to leave for yet another tour in half an hour. Buenos Aires is a very interesting city – wide avenues, many old buildings, great restaurants, sophisticated shopping. However, the streets are dirty and many historical buildings are either abandoned or in terrible disrepair. I´ve taken lots of pictures and will post them as soon as we get back, in a couple of days.

Re: Service interruption

Posted by AcronymBOY:

Rainer Brockerhoff wrote:

Several modern browsers seem to be dropping the “www.” in front of domain names under certain circumstances (like auto-completion), so I was getting a certain volume of complaints that while worked, / fell through into my provider’s default page instead of redirecting or providing a 404, as is customary.

Yesterday I finally got through to support, and they promptly misunderstood, taking completely off the air (but making / work correctly).

Due to several circumstances I was off the net until today in the morning, when I was shocked to see what happened, and am now trying to have them fix it ASAP. If you’re seeing the “www.” in front of the URL, this has been fixed.

My apologies for the mixup…

Why would people even use the www prefix? It’s typing out a subdomain that is not needed at all. It’s just as silly as having or having your mail server be It’s extra DNS work that could have been avoided had subdomains been used as what they were intended to be used for (mainly pointing to different physical machines all serving the same domain, useful for large insistutions like colleges, businesses, and such).

But I do like what you’ve done here with the blog and phpBB and including the entire trackback thing. I like it.

Posted by Renate:

I took this “original” IQ test some weeks back. Hark, my result was:

Congratulations, Renate!

Your IQ score is 129

This number … blah blah bla……. we can tell your Intellectual Type is an Insightful Linguist.

This means you are highly intelligent and have the natural fluency of a writer and the visual and spatial strengths of an artist. Those skills contribute to your creative and expressive mind. And that’s just some of what we know about you from your test results.

Well, I’m just insightful enough to not want to shell out the asked price.

However, I gave my e-mail address and have been swamped – until I unsubscribed – with all kind of invitations to take other tests. ….


Posted by taliesin’s log:
taliesin’s log linked to this post

Women’s words, Wagner … and who are you?

Clare Short’s real resignation this week and her statement (published in Tuesday’s Independent) restored some of my regard for the woman, almost lost when she proved me wrong just before the war.

Re: Off again…

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Posted by Rafael Fischmann:

Rainer Brockerhoff wrote:

We’re packing for another trip… this time a short one, to Buenos Aires (Argentina). We’re leaving tomorrow (Friday, Aug.15th) very early in the morning and return next Tuesday (Aug.19th) around midnight.

Chances to get to an Internet Café are low, as Monday is a national holiday. But expect some nice photos to be posted later next week.

Enjoy and relax! icon_wink.gif

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