Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   color and the hierarchy of ideas
Monday, March 22 2004

be careful what you practice, you might get good at it

Much of what I say these days is directed at either dogs or cats, and so is spoken in an "oh my God, you're so cute!" falsetto. I think that in the process I've inadvertently trained myself to speak in a higher-pitched voice even when I'm not using a falsetto, because every time I answer the phone, people on the other end (unless they know me very well) always immediately assume that I'm Gretchen. This didn't use to happen, so I have to surmise that the pitch of my voice has become higher in recent months.

color and the hierarchy of ideas

I've been thinking again a lot lately about the organization of information that underlies human verbal capability. On the one hand it's a web of interconnected conceptual peers. But superimposed on this basic structure, in our brains we boil things down into a hierarchy of abstractional layers, where large stretches of detail can be summarized as a central truth, which in turn (in great quantites) can be summarized further as a more essential truth.
Color is good at both expressing a local characteristic and at summing up a bunch of subcharacteristics. If all that is cold is green and all that is warm is red, then all that has a temperature is yellow. Color's ability to stand-in as a compromise reality is why everyone was so excited to learn the color of the Universe. But nobody seemed to care much when this color was changed from a greenish to a beige; they just wanted to stay in the know.
I had an idea tonight that maybe text could be presented with a background color coding to convey the nature of what is being said. Perhaps these color codings could be dynamically altered to represent different parametric spectra, and then (when viewing the text at different resolutions) the color of these smaller sections could be summed into other colors representing higher hierarchies of information. This might sound like a mess, but it's possible a system like this could better simulate the way information is stored in a brain.

diverse voices waiting to be heard

Later I [REDACTED] flipped through page after page of my website, settling (as I often do) on my satirical letters to the editor. Reading them, I could hear myself speaking in another voice, the voice of an older, superstitious, scientifically unschooled religious nut, one willing to put the full weight of his faith on the carpet of Christianity, particularly in places where it covers wide gaps of absurdity in the underlying logical floorboards. This got me to thinking that I might want to experiment more with a range of voices in my daily writing. By that, I mean the writing that goes onto these web pages.

bloatware among compression programs

I was installing StuffIt Expander on an older beige G3 Macintosh today and I happened to notice the size of the StuffIt Classic package is over nine megabytes in size. (StuffIt Classic is supposedly a "stripped-down" version of its big brother, StuffIt Deluxe.) This got me to thinking: what exactly does StuffIt Classic do that requires nine megabytes of stuff? I know that much of the installation bulk is probably taken up with annoying sound effects, training movies, and pretty pictures, but there's got to be lots of code in there too. And all of that code is just there to compress files to a smaller size and then expand them back again. Sure, there are fancy features like encryption and what not, but StuffIt is not a broad application. Compare what it does to something like Mozilla, whose installation on a Macintosh comes to about 15 Megabytes. That's less than twice as big, but Mozilla does an enormous number of things, including standards-compliant web browsing and authoring, script interpretation and execution in several languages, basic FTP functionality, email presentation and composition, news reading, and ICQ. As a footnote to all of these things, Mozilla also must know how to encrypt and decrypt data using a variety of algorithms.
The only conclusion you can reach about StuffIt is that it's suffering from a freakish case of software bloat, an elephantisis of the bytes and bits. All you have to do is look at the alternatives to see what I mean. WinZip's installation is 1.7 Megabytes, while WinRAR's installation is 2.7 Megabytes. Back in the early 1990s I used a capable, user-frendly compression program called CompactPro. Its installation was never more than 170 K, one fifty-third of StuffIt Classic's current size.

the prison capitalism of Get It Now

Capitalism is the effect of scarcity and surplus within a closed or semi-closed economic system. It's an inevitable result of the rules defining an economy, and as such it even existed in Soviet Russia. It's possible to construct alternative economies where the price and scarcity of items bears no relationship to the prices and scarcities familiar to us in our economy. One such alternative economy is the Moon, where water and air are not free for the taking. Another is the prison system, where a pack of cigarettes can be worth many times what it would cost in a corner store. To a lesser degree, every economy is somewhat artificial, affected in various ways by laws, concepts of ownership, and border restrictions.
I encountered a fresh new alternative economy today when I waded into my cell phone's "Get It Now" functionality. Get It Now allows a user to borrow software and ringtones on his phone for what amounts to a rental price. The prices in the Get It Now universe seem absurd - one is expected to pay $1.99 to use a fancy ringtone one time. Your phone rings, you hear the tone, and then it's over and you're $2 poorer for the privilege. The only circumstance I can imagine that would justify this cost is if the call came while trying to impress some other very important person, and that person actually was impressed.
For a phone to enforce such an absurd economy, it must contain its own prison walls, walls made primarily of technological hurdles. My guess (and I could be wrong) is that it's impossible for me to upload fancy ringtones to my phone over its USB port. I would have never bought a phone with these handicaps had I known about them up front.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next