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Finished "Invisible Monsters" last night while watching Withnail &
I again.

Another truly quality book. I recommend this more than Survivor. There's
a whole lot more surprises in store. Great case of an unreliable author,
who eventually gets round to surprising even herself.

Only thing that seems weird is that the book doesn't feel like it's
written by a girl [it's written in the first person]. I can't put my
finger on it, but I didn't realise for a long time into the book [a few
pages, at least] that this is written from the perspective of a female.
And even then, it never quite felt like a female author. Not sure if
that's just me, but that's somehow the way it seemed.

As an aside, here, the more of ESR's book I read, the better it gets. As a
technical guy and author, he's great. His problem is just a narrow-minded
thing. He does a case study on why unix RPC is bad, but then says that
Windows RPC is the epitome of bad. Bleh.


In response already:
1) I don't imagine I'm hurting ESR's book sales any more than the fact
  that he's already made them freely available online.
2) I don't not believe in ghosts. I'm just sitting on the fence until
  someone [or thing] convinces me either way. Or I die, at which point
  I expect it'll become reasonably obvious.


It's just not been my week. So far, my sinks have flooded and my whole
appartment stank of next-door's shit for a few days, and now my car's
thrown a rod. Gnuh. And I'm forcing myself to read The Art of UNIX

I can't help myself. I just can't stay away from this man.

Don't pick on windows ini files, while saying that record-jars are


Passes for EXACTLY the same thing as

Section: General
Foo: Bar
This: That

If you're parsing. Except that the windows ini file is in some ways
easier, as you can garauntee the ordering of at least the section name,
when you're going from start to finish in the config file.

A topic closely related to this is that not once, in the whole section on
parsing config files, does he use the term "state machine". Something I
consider important and useful when talking about config files that are
anything more complex than a single line. Guh.

Especially since the windows ini file fits into a state machine way more
tidily than a record-jar.

OK. Gotta say something positive. It's only polite. So:
The purely technical stuff about the relative merits of textual protocols
and data formats, that you can't possibly have an opinion on, is good.

I find that he's saying a lot of things that I already know, but it hasn't
ever occurred to me that a lot of this implicit knowlege I seem to have
can be formalised and justified within a reasonable technical text.

For example, it's simply never occurred to me to justify the fact that
textual formats are better for stuff like most configuration. They just
are, everyone knows this, it seems self-evident to me.

Remarkably, I enjoyed the whole chapter on protocols, as it simply didn't
leave much room for him to bitch about NT - most of the protocols
out there are either unix-friendly originally, and most of the NT-based
protocols require so much binary-data-like-work that it just doesn't
leave much room for debate.

Other books, I finished "Survivor" by Palahniuk. Good fun. Not up to either
of "Choke" or "Fight Club", but still good reading.

See, my way of buying books often boils down to walking around the store,
looking at authors I like, and buying anything I've not read. My steady
influx of fresh authors comes from people lending me books they enjoyed,
or mum buying me books whenever she's around. Works out well.

All of which means I'm now reading another book by Palahniuk, "Invisible
Monsters". So far it's been great. I thought the picture on the front
cover was just weird until I found out what it meant, and now it makes
me kinda feel sick to look at. Sometimes that's just the way it goes.

Finally some thoughts on dead people. Not my usual fare, but it just
put my back up last night.

See, I'm reserving judgment on whether or not there are dead people
around us all the time, present and accounted for.

I, personally, have never seen a ghost [to the best of my knowlege],
but then again, there are people that say they have [personal friends
of mine included]. I don't want to be narrow-minded, so I'm not closing
off the possibility.

But there's something that really riles me. And that's people that talk
to dead people, in a manner that's no more or less convincing than I,
personally, can talk to dead people. John Edwards and Shaun Valentine,
you know who I'm talking about.

There's a whole load of people out there that dearly want, possibly even
need, to be able to give their last farewells to someone, to know that
whoever-it-is is doing OK. And this is not a problem to me. Feel free,
be my guest.

But so far I've watched and listened to these two specific examples
of people talk with dead people, with a patter that comes out of a
textbook. Whether or not they actually talk to dead people, I'm not
sure. Not my place to say. But I truly believe that they're con-men.

Last night I was listening [I can't be bothered to re-tune the radio by
my bed], and the ONE thing that came out of Valentine's mouth that
had any kind of concrete value to it [that some baby was a boy] was
actually wrong. Good recovery, but no better a blag than I could have

I turned the radio off after that. [This was about the second or third
angel that I'd listened to that was apparently "in waiting" in the Kost
103.5 studio last night.]

As I said. There may be dead people around us [quite possible], and
John Edwards may talk to them [somewhat less likely]. But there are
people out there who are giving money to these people, with a patter
that comes from a book, because they believe it. All of which just seems
like a really easy con to pull.

It's just not a problem because in a way people are paying relatively
little money for a complete exercise in peace of mind. I guess that in
terms of bang for your buck, they're providing much better services than
your average head shrink. [Because I've not yet been incendiary enough]


As promised, some thoughts on the History section of the Art of UNIX

First, off the obvious - there's just way too much RMS-bitching and
self-evangelisation. While I may think that RMS is obsessive and does
some things that work out negatively, he clearly has brought an awful
lot of unixy stuff to where it is today - without him there wouldn't
be a GNU/Linux, in my opinion. The kernel's not a whole world of use
without the crap around it.

Now I may be mistaken, but I thought that RMS started his crusade over
a print driver. No mention is made of this in the book. Hmmm. I'm
probably mistaken.

He takes massive opportunities to promote himself, for eg pointing
out that he wrote the CATB, and so far he's the only person in the whole
wide world to come up with a coherent argument for the fact that I,
Chunky Kibbles, like open source software. He also slips in other
references that, if someone makes the effort to look stuff up, will also
lead back to him - the whole open-sourcing-of-mozilla thing immediately
springs to mind. In CATB, he explicitly points out that was his
doing. Here, it's more of a hint that you need to look up... to find
out it was his doing.

He comes up with a list of things that you could do to create an
anti-unix. This, in and of itself, isn't too bad. But I don't like the
single-minded approach that an anti-unix is a Bad Thing.

You know... a lot of people just don't want a unix. For a variety of
reasons, they don't like unices. I have several friends who, having had
sufficient experience with both unices and NT, have chosen NT. Not my
choice, but whatever.

The implication just seems to be that if it's not unix, it
sucks. Personally, it's my humble opinion that he's mostly right. But
that's based on my own experience and requirements.

With the exceptions of Apple [notably, the Interface guidelines and
another point I'm going to come to] and Be [as an academic interest
and a toy, not a real OS], he simply never claims that any other OS
has any merits, Which just seems narrow-minded.

The book is not presenting a fair and unbiased opinion on this topic.

Throughout the whole history, it seems that Linux takes up half of
it. That Linux was the first truly uniting force to create a proper unix
[after the first, which he implies was never popular enough to become
a force in and of itself, and lost all interest when it became commercial].

It seems that, according to him, unix was badly fragmenting for the whole
period of time between the original AT&T/MIT commercialisation up until
the advent of a working Linux kernel, 92-93.

Well, goddammit. Make your mind up. Is unix a thing that you can rely
on between vendors, systems, platforms, etc, etc, that everything is a
variant on a single theme, and that unix is a Good Thing?
Or is it a stupid, fragmented, non-portable system that Sun, DEC, HP, and
IBM all conspired apart to try and destroy in the interests of creating
a commercial, different, OS? If it is, then 25 years of unix's 35-year
history gathers together to make something that's not unix. Something
just doesn't gel, in my head.

He also seems to contradict himself. Metadata on files and elseplaces
in the OS is a good thing or a bad thing, take your pick. But please,
pick one.

According to my reading of this book, Metadata is cool when it's extended
attributes in Linux 2.5, or your filesystem is a database when you're on
Be. Metadata in the form of a registry [or anything else NT uses] blows,
and we're all pretty ambivalent about Mac's Resource Forks. I understand
these are all different things, but in the book they're all linked under
the nebulous idea of metadata.

Make your damn mind up.

Of course, if you're reading this particular book, I'm guessing that
you either side with his rantings, don't care about them, or are against
them. Any of these ways, it's a bit like me sounding off about whatever
I usually sound off about in #i.o - no-one's actually basing their
judgement on it alone, and if they are, they shouldn't be.

Finally, a quote from someone's slashdot .sig:

For those concerned about the "virality" of the GPL, a suggestion:
  Write Your Own Damn Code.

Just made me laugh.


Forgot to mention two books:
Sidney Sheldon's "The Sky is Falling". Thorough mindless trash. I read it
in about two hours on the airplane, as time-fodder. The story was good
all the way through, as I've come to expect from him, but the ending
simply cleaned up one loose end. Just one.
And there were many many ends that weren't cleaned up. The book kinda
just stopped. c.f. Eaters of the Dead.

The other book, actually the first one I read this holday, was
incredible. One of the best books I've read in a long time.
"The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold. It's written from the perspective
of a girl who's killed, rather unpleasantly, while she's still really
young. I'm happy to confess that I'm a complete wuss and that violence
doesn't really do it for me. I nearly put the book down at the end of the
first chapter, but since it was apparent the rest of the book wouldn't
be like that, I carried on.

The whole book is written from her perspective, sitting up in Heaven. As
it goes, once you die and go there. From there, she can do pretty much
whatever she pleases, except go back. Including reading people's minds
and instantly knowing what's going on wherever she wants. Normally my
mind rebels and simply refuses to accept stuff like that, but this was
written in a way that just never seemed a problem to me. And I REALLY
enjoyed this book. It's about how a bunch of people deal with a little
girl's death. And for anyone who reads it, Ruthie can be my new hero.

Currently, I'm reading "Survivor" by Chuck Palahniuk,
Something-not-yet-published by Gwyneth Jones [but I need to read it's
predecessor first - I simply don't understand a lot of it, clearly
because it's a continuation], and the Art of UNIX Programming.

Look forward to a bitchy review of the History section of ESR's book
when I remember to bring my notes with me. I've not yet started the
technical bits, but so far there's been an awful lot of RMS-bashing and
self-masturbation, pretty much everything you'd expect from ESR.


I just read "The Reader" today, by Bernard Schlink, or however-you-spell-it.

Fantastic book.

I really enjoyed the whole affair parts of it. The romantic interest,
all that. But the whole thing where it's a book about the holocaust is
a problem for me.

See, I always hated history. And if I hate something, you can be assured
I will go out of my way not to learn it, even if it's an interesting thing
[I mostly hated it because I was forced to do it, IIRC]. So I'm reading
this book, and I didn't:
1) know much about this before I started
2) grow up in Germany

It's really hard for me to grasp a lot of the finer
Germany-and-or-Holocaust parts of the book, because he spends a lot of
time alluding to, floating generally around, and pretty much avoiding
the exact topic he's talking about. If you know stuff about it, then
I'm sure that he's putting an incredible spin on the whole thing,
and extracting new-and-unexperienced emotions from the astute reader.

I, being the backward an uneducated sod that I am, simply didn't grasp
the finer points of the Germany-related stuff, or of what I'm sure were
parallels between the long-running affair and the Holocaust.

Even after all that, it was a fantastic book. I really recommend that
anyone who gets much in the way of reading done reads this.

His other book I've read, "Flights of Love", is also fantastic.

Other books I've read this holiday include "Prey" by Michael Crichton,
and "Dead Air" by Iain Banks.

You know, I never realise quite what a depth there is to Michael
Crichton's books until I see the movie and am so offensively
disappointed. All of his books I've ever read, with the exception of the
Great Train Robbery, I've been able to blast through in a couple of hours
[three at the outside] the first time, and about an hour and a half the
second and subsequent times. Doesn't ever seem like long enough to really
get some good content in. I always really enjoy the book, but after I've
read it I've never felt I read what might qualify as a truly great piece
of writing or a literary classic. Great read, good fun, fabulous stories.

The Great Train Robbery was written in a different style, for good reason
[just read it]

Just by the way: Congo, Jurassic Park [/et al/], Sphere, TimeLine, Great
Train Robbery, Eaters of the Dead [the movie "The Thirteenth Warrior"],
Andromeda Strain, and probably others - all really good reading, and
completely disappointing movies. Notably, the Eaters of the Dead, which
missed out the WHOLE point of the book, IMHO. But also the rest for just
losing out all depth.

"Prey" was a really good read. I recommend that one. Hope they don't
turn it into a movie, because whoever does it will undoubtedly overdo
the special effects and give completely the wrong impression of the
intelligence of the swarm. But that's just my humble opinion, having
read every other one of his books, and watched all the movies where
they're availble.

And now for the disappointment. I hate to say it, but I didn't get a
whole lot out of "Dead Air". Usually Iain Bank's books [and most of his
SF stuff, under Iain M Banks], is really good all the way through. In
fact, his book "The Bridge" is possibly one of my favorite books ever,
with pretty much all of his others high up in my list.

Dead Air has a really good ending. It's gripping for about the last 3 or
4 chapters, had me completely sitting on the edge of my proverbial seat,
for the 15 mins it took me to read them.
Unfortunately, the build up was easy reading but generally dull. Some
guy, who spends a lot of time talking on the radio, having various
bits of illicit sex, and doing drugs. Oh - and does it with a Scottish
accent. Woohoo.

Worth reading for the ending, I guess, but since his
ending-to-end-all-endings in the "Wasp Factory" [incredibly
good book. Seemed humdrum until you got to the end the first time,
and suddenly everything changes], I've been vaguely disappointed with
the endings of many other books.

When this .plan was written: 2004-01-13 12:33:51
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