News from May 2000

(These are entries from my blog from 2000 and early 2001. They were originally hosted on a small server at Macquarie University. Most of the links are dead now, but I have kept them as they are here, for nostalgia’s sake.)

Wednesday, May 31, 2000

6:06 PM ~ Sometimes the whole is much better than the sum of its parts. Megnut supplies eminenya.mpg, which is very much more than the sum of its consistuents.
5:45 PM ~ There's a helpful discussion over at Metafilter on answering email. The question at issue is: What's a reasonable amount of time, for you, to expect someone to reply to an email? Good question. It really depends on the person, I think. But knowing what other people's expectations are helps me know how to treat the emails I get.

But remember: it's a person at the other end. It's a Good Thing to treat people with respect. (This is why I feel so bad when I'm such a Bad email correspondent sometimes. The emails languishing in my To Do boxes burn a hole in my conscience too.)

9:48 AM ~ Hmmm. Light might go faster than light through some substances. Three hundred times faster. Now to figure out what that experiment actually means.

Tuesday, May 30, 2000

10:35 PM ~ JC pointed me to this article on a reformed Christian perspective on logic. I'm a Christian (but not as "reformed" as many), and a logician (but not as "straight" as many), and I think I disagree with this article on both religious and logical grounds. Perhaps I will write something short up in response. But not tonight. Tonight I will relax.
10:12 PM ~ Found on Metafilter: Carfree is a manifesto for cities without cars. I like this, as I'm a fan of public transport and minimising car usage. The site has more information on how to construct a car-free city from scratch than on how to help transform your city into one which depends less on cars.

Alas, our rail network is in crisis, and the Olympics will not make things any easier.

3:29 PM ~ Crikey has a startlingly good article on the significance of the Corroboree 2000 bridge walk. Reconciliation between blackfellas and whitefellas is a long way off if we don't go on to tangible results and structural societal changes.

Monday, May 29, 2000

9:33 AM ~ I've collected some images of Corroboree 2000's bridge walk here. It was a stunning day.

Sunday, May 28, 2000

7:32 PM ~ According to SBS News tonight, it was at least 250,000 who walked across the bridge. That's pretty significant.
4:53 PM ~ [Tribal leader Uncle Max Eulo of Budgedi Tribe at the Opera House. Photo by DANIELLE SMITH, from the SMH website]Today, after church, a group of us (actually, most of the church) did the Walk for Reconciliation across the Harbour Bridge. It was exciting to be a part of a huge crowd, all in good spirits, all showing that we feel that it's important to be involved in reconciliation with the indigenous people of this country. I'll be interested to see the media reports of the size of the crowd. It was packed even when we went, at about 11:30am. I think that we exceeded the council for reconciliation's expectations of 100,000 for the day.

Let's hope and pray that this sends a message to our recalcitrant leaders who won't accept that we as a nation have to say sorry for the damage done, in order to set things right for our future together.

Saturday, May 27, 2000

2:38 PM ~ You can find a helpful repositry of news from Fiji on the web. This is useful.
1:00 PM ~ 20 of the 25 last visitors to this page have been searching for "Crimenet". If you're one of these visitors, go to the posts on crimenet which are found here, here and here.

I'm not actually an expert on this stuff, but it's interesting that people are looking for commentary and information on this social phenomenon.

Wednesday, May 24, 2000

12:32 PM ~ Mmmmm. Coffee. Very nice.
10:55 AM ~ I'm noticing people coming in to this log searching for Crimenet. This is because of my earlier two posts (here and here).

I heard on the radio yesterday that Crimenet is changing its access policy to make things more restrictive. So, I go and I look at the site and find no change to the policies yet. On the contrary, the search for criminal academics and I find two new things:

First, the search is zippy. They've thrown more server power at it. It's actually useable now.

Second, now there are only three criminal academics as opposed to the four I found last time. (But there's no information about why suspect number four dropped out of the database. Another thing to increase the suspicion.)

Oh, and one more thing. Why is the Unabomber (Ted Kaczynski) one of the three people they record as an academic with a criminal record? Were any of his crimes committed under Australian jurisdiction? Not necessarily. If you read the fine print on Crimenet's about page, you find that:

We have a team of dedicated staff gathering information on crime, criminals, con artists and tricksters from around Australia and around the world.
So now I get to not only know the names of who I should be possibly worried about, but I also have no idea of whether they're in Australia or not?

If I were of a suspicious mind, I would think that they've had to pad their database with as many entries as they can, whether relevant and in their remit or not.

Tuesday, May 23, 2000

4:50 PM ~ Why is it that my page comes up second on a Hotbot search for con air sountrack? I do know that as of now my page has 29 instances of the string "con" (none as a single word), two instances of "air" and none of "soundtrack" (though the webcrawler probably hit this entry when it was on the main page; and it's manifestly not about the Con Air sountrack).

Well, websurfer who got to my log page by way of a search for Con Air's sountrack, I hope you liked what you found!

This log item was brought to you by my ever enjoyable referer logs.

1:18 PM ~ This is scary. Sandline have a nice website with training information, white papers, and a company profile. Hire your own Private Military Company today.

I find this sort of corporatisation of military "services" scary. Not that it's a new thing. And not that governments use military force in particularly ethical ways.

To come to think of it: why do I find this scary? I think I'll need to worry about this some more if I'm to come to a considered view.

Monday, May 22, 2000

2:42 PM ~ [Sydney's international terminal rail station]Lots of fun working, and driving round and about Tasmania and thinking, but no time to browse the web. As a result, there's nothing interesting to link to today. (Not that I mind this at all.)

Instead, I have redrafted a paper, browsed through bookshops, enjoyed nice coffees, eaten at a great restaurant, watched too many Simpsons episodes, sat in front of a wood fire getting toasty, and enjoyed fine company. What more could I ask for?

The picture on the right is Sydney's new rail station at the international airport. I think I will be seeing more of this.

Saturday, May 20, 2000

3:43 PM ~ Today, after shopping at the Salamanca Place Markets (with heaps of Tasmanian timber in view, almost all of it exquisite, despite the tendency of half of the stall owners to cover it up with tacky add-ons) I've spent an hour or so fiddling with AppleScript. URL Access Scripting really is neat. I've got uploading to my web pages all automated now. Very neat.

For an example of what some scriptable applications can do, check Apple's demo of Stone Design's Create. Just beautiful.

Friday, May 19, 2000

9:08 PM ~ SuperTectonics got around to answering my question about the Olympics. (It's amazing what the threat of negative publicity will do for a motivation. Not that anyone reads this site or anything!) I'll leave the answer for you to read but here is an excerpt.
a shocking majority of sixty-two percent confessed that they were hoping to witness a stray javelin careen into the crowd and sink into the jellied flesh of a "lazy American tourist".
This is good to know.
9:06 PM ~ Today was fun. JC and I presented our paper to the UTas Philosophy Department, and I think it clarified our thoughts on paraconsistency and pluralism quite a bit.

Thursday, May 18, 2000

3:55 PM ~ Tectonics has moved (and upgraded) to SuperTectonics. Despite their tagline alleging to "Know Anything™", and despite my earlier claims to this effect, it appears that they do not.

I posted them a question on May 5, asking why people are stupid enough to want the Olympics in their own city. Apparently this was too difficult for them to answer.

Wednesday, May 17, 2000

12:12 PM ~ It's good to hear that Apple seem to be doing good things with MacOS X. The new Dock implementation seems more sensible to me.

I'm just hanging out for a reasonably easy to use, rock-solid (or relatively rock solid) system to use on my machines so I can keep concentrating on work, and not worry about what the computer is doing. One day this might happen.

Tuesday, May 16, 2000

8:40 PM ~ [Katrina and Tarski and Gödel]Yes, I still exist. I'm down in Hobart with JC and Katrina (and, of course, Tarski and Gödel). The weather is beautiful, cooler than Sydney, and crisp and fresh. The place is extremely dry, however, and bushfires seem like a constant possibility.

Updates on this page will be infrequent, as I'll be spending time working and talking, and eating and only occasionally browsing the web. But, your loss (whoever you are) is my gain. Any activity will probably be posted on our work log.

(JC wanted to know where I got my nice translucent menus on my PowerBook. Well, JC, Greg Landweber's PowerWindows does the trick.)

Hopefully, we'll get lots of work done while we are enjoying ourselves.

Monday, May 15, 2000

2:44 PM ~ Great. Now the ftp daemon is all there, but the http server on (and as a result, the virtual host, which is just a directory on is down. I can post here, but you can't read it.

[Added at 4pm. It's back up, as you can tell by reading this.]

2:41 PM ~ Well, the ftp daemon is back at last. I can update the log, and update my webpages.

Sunday, May 14, 2000

11:53 PM ~ I've finally finished Draft 1 of Constructive Logic for All but I can't put it up on my server, as it seems that its ftp daemon is hosed. But then, if this blog entry gets up, it isn't hosed, and the paper should be there very soon after this is posted. Hmmm...

I'm glad it got done, anyway.

Saturday, May 13, 2000

3:15 PM ~ I am not browsing the web while avoiding work. I just took a sideways glance at the new A List Apart issue, with a great Zeldman story on the 5k challenge. Go read it to find out about the web-design equivalent of haiku.
9:57 AM ~ The paper is not finished. No more interesting weblogging for me until it is. First, however, a game of squash with my friend, Brian.

Friday, May 12, 2000

8:47 AM ~ Inspiriation struck last night. My paper is sketched out, and today I fill in the details. I'll be back on the net when it's time to upload the first draft. I promise.

Now to find some appropriate writing music.

Thursday, May 11, 2000

10:41 PM ~ This is the document for reconciliation that our Prime Minister does not find acceptable. More details of the reconciliation movement and Corroboree 2000 can be found at

The ABC have a good new website profiling indigenous Australians. It's Black Telegraph.

5:43 PM ~ [Chagall inspired Poster]It's been a good day. Lots done on the list, and there are quite a few books ready to go back to the library. I just need one flash of inspiration and a solid day's work to complete the paper I'm working on. It would be good if flashes of inspiration were made to order.

On the other hand...

9:07 AM ~ I finally managed to complete my Crimenet search for academics with criminal records I mentioned last week. (To recap: Crimenet is a commercially maintained database of criminal activity in Australia. I was searching for academics with criminal records.) I was presented with a screen featuring three names: three names from the database marked as academics and people with criminal records. I would have had to pay a small fee to see the Crimenet files for these three individuals to see what the database records these individuals as having actually done. All I was presented with was three unannotated names. I declined forking over my cash to see the details.

After seeing it (I didn't recognise any of the individuals) I became convinced that this way of presenting the information is altogether reprehensible. I get for free an uninformed suspicion about named individuals. I have to pay to get this suspcion informed and clarified. For all I know, these charges could be anything, and most possibilities are completely harmless. Yet, knowing what I know, I cannot be sure. Paranoia comes for free.

This is no surprise, because creating a paranoid public is very much in the company's interest.

8:57 AM ~ The last few days has seen me build up a few important deadlines, after a long sabbatical almost completely deadline-free. I'm actually enjoying having my to-do list fill up, and having to plan to get everything done. I wonder how long this will last.

Wednesday, May 10, 2000

4:29 PM ~ More email from the kind folks at Nature:
This historic issue contains the Human Genome Project's latest success, the sequencing of human Chromosome 21 by a Japanese-German team. Chromosome 21 contains genes linked to illnesses including Alzheimer's, Down's Syndrome, epilepsy, and leukaemia, so its sequencing should open the gates to great advances in understanding and finding cures for these devastating conditions.

Don't miss this opportunity for a free copy of the Nature May 18 issue. To request a copy, please enter your home mailing address at:

Stocks are limited, so please enter your address as soon as possible. The last day that applications can be accepted is May 15th. Your free sample will be sent out before the end of May.

So, hop to it, if you want the free sample, and if you live in the Asia/Pacific region.
3:28 PM ~ Books, books, books.

I seem to be collecting more of them. I don't know where, or how, or why, but I have a pile of over 30 books on my desk, all not finished with. I think it's time to get off the net and to plow through a few more of them.

And to get my writing done.

But first, I must retrieve a ping-pong ball from under the sofa before Erasmus gets to it by scratching through the furniture.

9:11 AM ~ [Chagall inspired Poster]Context, context, context.

Yesterday, a package arrived at last. (One advantage of being antipodeal is that when you order from a large ecommerce firm and pay for surface delivery {because air delivery is rather expensive} then you have time for forget what you ordered by the time it arrives. It's like a present from your former self.) Anyway, yesterday's package was a present consisting of two books.

The first, Situations and Attitudes, I have already read. It's the groundbreaking work by Barwise and Perry. It proposes a new (well, it was new in the 1980's) semantic theory which takes situations and context as crucial, especially in the treatment of attitude reports, like belief and knowledge reports, and reports of perception. The reprint is cheap, and good for my bookshelf.

The second is the thousand page tome The Sociology of Philosophies. To quote the blurb

Through network diagrams and sustained narrative, sociologist Randall Collins traces the development of philosophical thought from ancient Greece to modern Europe. Collins provides a self-reflexive sociological philosophy of intellectual life that opens a new path beyond relativism and realism.
Well, I don't know if the right sort of contrast is between relativism and realism, but then, sociologists usually mean different things by these terms. What I want the book for is its encyclopedic sweep of philosophical history, and his analysis of how philosophical schools grow, develop, clash and die out. The data in the book is amazing, and there's lots of food for thought for me; because I'm trying to understand the context I work in.

Context, context, context.

Tuesday, May 09, 2000

11:54 AM ~ Erasmus is busy getting herself tangled in a ball of wool as I write this. She's done this before, and she's much better at untangling herself from it than I am at untangling the modem cord. Perhaps I can employ her as a professional cord untangler. There's one catch: she perfers playing to her own time over working to mine. She's very cute with it, of course.
8:32 AM ~ A Buran, a Russian Space Shuttle test vehicle has come to Sydney. It will be on display at the old harbour casino site for at least two years from Mid-June, according to my newspaper. More of the story can be found in this article, which includes this surprising tidbit:
Then, in 1998, the Buran 002 was offered for sale through websites such as Listed at $10 million, the shuttle was also posted at least once to the popular online auction site eBay, though no serious offers were received.
More photographs can be found here and more information about Buran and its place in the former Soviet space industry is here.

The Buran company website, from the Australians who bought the thing and will be showing it, seems to have a number of shortcomings. First, there's precious little content there, especially in the HTML version (don't get me started about the ridiculous shockwave animations). Second, it's all in that kitsch retro Soviet art style, which is to be expected, but shows little imagination. Third, the navigation window doesn't give you much of an idea of what the content is where (what precisely is the difference between the control tower, the communication room and the launch pad? ). Finally, the server doesn't seem to be particularly able to handle the load since the news broke some days ago.

Monday, May 08, 2000

10:32 AM ~ [Pictures of Erasmus]Talking of Erasmus, we now have some pictures of her online. These are her from the week before last. There she's 8 weeks old, and her shaved side from the desexing is clearly visible in the bottom picture. The hair is growing back quickly now.

In the central picture she's contemplating her prime adversary: the coloured ping-pong ball. Now she's adept at sneaking up on it, hiding behind things so it can't see her, and keeping her bell silent to it can't hear her. She's quite the hunter. The ping-pong ball still manages to get away from her grip, so the chase continues.

10:29 AM ~ Late last week, JC sent me a link to Why Cats Paint. Perhaps Erasmus should stop playing with ping-pong balls and take up paint.
10:27 AM ~ I find that Magnetic Poetry works much better on my fridge than it does on the web.
10:08 AM ~ Sydney based eclectic electric string quartet FourPlay will hopefully be touring Europe again from July to September. Let's hope that cellist Peter Hollo posts a blow-by-blow tour diary like he did last time. Peter's other claim to fame is tutoring in my critical thinking classes.

Saturday, May 06, 2000

7:55 PM ~ Use Nameboy to check for available domain names. It tells me that is taken (which I knew) but then it helpfully recommends available names, such as I'm not sure what I think of that advice.
10:30 AM ~ Further to the distributed nature of the net: Popular Power have taken this to heart. Download some software to use your spare processor cycles to help find an influenza vaccine, or other useful things. That's one of the good things made possible by the net.
10:21 AM ~ Wisdom from Wes Felter's Hack the Planet:
ZDNet Interactive Investor: "Napster's fundamental architecture has the potential to destabilize many of the accepted premises that underpin the Internet." Wrong! The Internet was never a client-server system, you just thought it was.
Too true. I'm not a user of Napster or any similar distributed software. But it's one of the joys of the internet that it is a radically distributed system. The server/client distinction here is not a hard-and-fast distinction of kind. Packets flow in all directions.

Friday, May 05, 2000

5:04 PM ~ Biz Stone is a genius. He proves it at Tectonics where he and his friends answer any question you ask.
2:48 PM ~ Some lunchtime browsing leads me to some helpful teaching and academic resources. My favourite today is A curmudgeon teaches statistics, with some insightful commentary, such as There are Dilberts in my Class! Also worth a browse are, and the stalwart Arts and Letters Daily.
9:24 AM ~ [night on earth]Crimenet is the world's first site to provide a complete information service on criminal records, stolen property, missing persons, wanted persons, con artists and unsolved crimes.

There's been lots of discussion about this site here in Australia in the last week, since its opening. The database behind the website is a collection of freely available information: court records, information about scams from the media (all checked for accuracy, according to the owners) and police informion about unsolved crimes. The information is all there in an easy to access form, some of it free, and some of it available for a small fee. You can access the criminal database and search for data on past crimes by all manner of relevant properties. (Location, Kind of Crime, or Name. Most odd, however is the search by `occupation': you can search for crimse committed by Bank Managers, Sportspeople, or Media Personalities, and even Academics.) It is a reasonably comprehensive database of crimes committed in Australia.

Now why do people have a problem with this? The information is all there on the public record anyway. Why should people be concerned about this database?

The answer should be clear. The information is publically available, for sure, but in nothing like this form. We make phone directories publically available, but we don't like it when people sell databases of phone numbers linked to addresses. It's all too easy to abuse this by searching for phone numbers attached to addresses, and to use this to do bad things: such as phoning down a street to see who's away from home to see which are the good places to break and enter. All this is well enough known. The mere fact that the information is publically available doesn't entail that it is permissible to make it available in any form. If people can track your criminal record with such ease, this will change your life in a way like nothing before.

The problem for us in the future is that information will become more and more manipulable in these ways. We will be confronted by new ways to use the information already available to us, and this will change the world we live in.

Of course, this database is so popular that I've never been able to access it successfully, and so I don't yet know which other academics I should be worrying about.

Thursday, May 04, 2000

12:11 PM ~ Last night's soundtrack: Benjamin Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb. The best lines:
For I will consider my cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant
of the living God,
duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East
he worships in his way.
For this is done
by wreathing his body
seven times round
with elegant quickness.
For he knows
that God is his saviour.
For God has bless'd him
in the variety
of his movements.
For there is nothing sweeter
than his peace when at rest.
For I am possessed of a cat,
surpassing in beauty,
from whom I take occasion
to bless Almighty God.
As Canon Hussey wrote in an introductory note to the first performance
The words of the Cantata are taken from a long poem of the same name. The writer was Christopher Smart, and eighteenth-century poet, deeply religious, but of a strange and unbalanced mind.
Sometimes in a crazy world it's appropriate to respond with a strange and unbalanced mind.
11:28 AM ~ Do you want to know what kind of work goes into constructing and maintaining a sense of corporate style?'s internal Standards Manual is available for the general public's viewing. (I snarfed this from Peterme.)
8:26 AM ~ This morning I received a letter from Bob Meyer thanking the Easter Bunny for the late present of the book. For your own taste of Bob's inimitable style glance at my book's comments page. CAPITALS are your friends.

Wednesday, May 03, 2000

9:53 PM ~ I've caved in and joined the aussieblogs webring. Now the other sites in that ring will benefit from the massive flow-through from this high-powered site!

Or not.

5:06 PM ~ Do you ever wonder what they're doing with their phones or PDAs in that meeting (or class)? It changes the face of people getting together, at least in large groups.
11:21 AM ~ I don't do this to belong to the "blogging community", but nonetheless, I've asked to be included in Joe Clark's list of Xenoblogs. That's a nice list of non-US views on the web and the world. Notice the inordinately high concentrations in Canada and the Netherlands.
10:09 AM ~ [Funky Bill Gates]More on Style can be found at

(That's not Bill Gates, by the way. The shot on the left is uncannily like him, though.)

9:51 AM ~ Well, yesterday I got a reasonable amount of work done. Most fun was sending off copies of my book to some colleagues and teachers who helped me in various ways during its preparation. I hope they like it!

Also fun was updating my computers (the office iMac and the home PowerBook) to MacOS 9. I spent too long playing with speakable items. It's fun, for a short while, to get your computer to check your email by telling it to "check my mail" but then it feels rather stupid.

12:20 AM ~ Check the Bill Gates Makeover. I found this courtesy of Bryan Boyer's insightful essay on what we think of Microsoft, and the function of style in this (what I seem to like to call, without much justification) late capitalist society.

Why no justification in calling this late capitalism? Simply because we might well not be near the end of it. Perish the thought.

Tuesday, May 02, 2000

10:49 PM ~ Well, JC tells me that some people can't get into the OED Word of the Day without having an account with the OED.

Hmmm. It worked for me this morning, but it doesn't work now. Curiouser and curiouser.

9:22 AM ~ [My Office]I'll be in my office today, and I'll be sorting office things out (clearing out the mailbox, sorting out my junk, replying to mails, filing, booking tickets) chatting with people, and generally doing work-like things.

I don't think that includes much web surfing, so updates here will be slow to nonexistent.

To keep you occupied, how about you try the OED's Word of the Day. (Today's seems to be "dictionary". Hmmm.)

Monday, May 01, 2000

5:17 PM ~ Do you want to jam sattelite communications? Here's a device for you. (The link is to a New Scientist article. When the next issue of the magazine comes out, this article will be available only to subscribers of the magazine.)
10:31 AM ~ [Jazz Gigs in Glebe]Fernando Gros (an Australian friend, residing in London) sends me information about these gigs in May in Glebe. They sound sweet!
10:03 AM ~ Phil Agre's Red Rock Eater mailing list provides regular food for thought. Phil's Networking on the Network is required reading (or re-reading) for students and academics who want to use the net and the academic network well.
9:53 AM ~ seems to be a good world-oriented news site. It's a pity that some of its pages have severe rendering problems in my browser.
9:47 AM ~ If you haven't done this already, do yourself a favour and read some Stanislaw Lem!


I’m Greg Restall, and this is my personal website. I am the Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, and the Director of the Arché Philosophical Research Centre for Logic, Language, Metaphysics and Epistemology I like thinking about – and helping other people think about – logic and philosophy and the many different ways they can inform each other.


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