Labor Day, and I'm not at work, but I'm working, along with a lot of
other people at Mudd, I suspect.
I'm excused from the convocation, where M is right now, but I still
have to get the account-request form sorted out. Shouldn't be too
difficult, I hope, since I gave up on getting the web form working for
this semester and decided to just go with paper.
I did get the computing
support site up and running, which is cool for a couple of
- I finally figured out how to indicate when a reader is within
a subsection on the navigation bar while keeping it as a link—which
was easy, only took a couple of lines of code and a few minutes
- I got my
publish script sorted out so I could update
this site—I had stuff I'd written that never made it to
the site because the behavior of
wget, which I use to
extract the site into a flat-file format, changed
Another cool thing I wanted to write about earlier but didn't: After
various positive comments about TechTV's Big
Thinkers program, and generally positive feelings about TechTV
from their airings of Max Headroom and
Thunderbirds, we gave it a try.
The show is generally good, but I was struck by how much it reminded
me of Errol Morris's First Person, which we watch on IFC. In particular, the shows tend to have a bunch of
weirdly apropos black & white footage from 1940s and 1950s
It turns out that the archive footage comes from The Internet Archive, home of the WayBack Machine that archives the web. They've done a
deal with Rick Prelinger,
who's been collecting these ephemeral films for years, and who had
released some of them on CD-ROMs titled “Our Secret Century”. I
couldn't afford them when they were available, and now they're out of
But now many of them are available for download and viewing from The Internet Moving Images Archive. Scary fun....
Somewhat related, I was always a bit confused about why Douglas
Coupland, who's a few years older than I am and grew up in Vancouver,
BC, is so obsessed and was so traumatized by the prospect of nuclear
As a longtime pessimist, I've been aware of the threat hanging over
all our heads for many years. But I never really worried about it—after all, what's the point? When it happens, it happens, and chances
are pretty good you'll be vaporized or die not long after an attack,
anyway. Since you, as an ordinary citizen, can't really affect
whether or not such an attack occurs, why ruin your life worrying
(Besides, it's more likely that we'll all die from some new influenza
variant carried around the world by international air travellers, and
that hasn't happened yet.)
Anyway, while I was tracking down Robert Bringhurst's books on Haida
mythology, I happened across an announcement of Coupland's latest
book, Souvenir of Canada, which sounded like a
pan-Canadian version of his Vancouver-oriented City of
Glass. So when I found that the UBC Bookstore not only had
A Story as Sharp as a Knife but Souvenir of
Canada on sale, I ordered them both.
It turned out to be pretty much what I expected. It's way fun, and
made me feel really homesick for Canada, where I lived for four years
and left only a bit over a year ago. The immigration stuff was a pain
in the ass, but the country was great, and Vancouver, especiall, was
beautiful, fun, and sophisticated in a way that southern California
has yet to even approach, let alone beat. Not only that, but the copy
I got was signed, which is a really nice extra.
Oh, yeah, my point... So, Coupland, growing up in Vancouver, is
obsessed with atomic war, and so are many of his characters. It turns
out that when he was in school, they were drenched in information
about NATO, the DEWline, and Canada's precarious place on the ICBMs'
path between Russia and the U.S. They were told of the need for
constant vigilance, and that the war could start at any moment. They
hung on the news about U.S.-Soviet relations. He built model ICBMs
Now I get it....