The All-Thing

All stick and no carrot, since ought-three.


漁翁 (柳宗元)


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William's Aggregated Feeds

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Sun, 30 Nov 2003

On the Death of Lisp

"In the case of AOLserver [...] Jim Davidson and Doug McKee had only a few months to build the whole server from scratch. They wanted users to be able to write small programs that ran inside the server process. They therefore needed a safe interpreted language so that a programming error by one user didn't crash the server and bring down all the Web services for an organization.

Tcl was available. Tcl was easy to download and designed to fit inside larger application programs. Doug and Jim [could] read through the Tcl source code and modify it to be thread safe. So it was critically important for them that Tcl was open-source and simple enough so as to not require months or years of study to understand the whole system.

Compare this to Lisp. Some of the best and brightest computer scientists raised money to build commercial Lisp implementations that they then went out and hawked in an indifferent and confused marketplace. They succeeded only in breaking their hearts and their investors' wallets. A handful of academics produced free open-source implementations, notably CMU Common Lisp and various versions of Scheme. But these multi-megabyte monsters weren't designed to fit neatly into someone else's program. Nor was there any document explaining how to do it.

Lisp developers have the satisfaction of knowing that they got it right 30 years before anyone else. But that's about all they have to show for 40 years of hard work and hundreds of millions of dollars in government and private funding. These days, most former Lisp programmers are stuck using Unix and Microsoft programming environments and, not only do they have to put up with these inferior environments, but they're saddled with the mournful knowledge that these environments are inferior."

 — Phil Greenspun in TCL for Web Nerds

Something or someone pointed me to this quote a few months ago, and I forgot about it, but it came back to my head recently in the context of some or other discussion. Probably about the Sisyphean struggle I had in using Guile as a scripting language.

I keep coming back to Guile because I think that they, of everyone, may actually have a chance at building a stable, usable Scheme interpreter. Maybe Lisp (shut up, Scheme is Lisp, especially to a C hax0r like me) isn't so dead. But the important point to take away from this is that in the real world—sorry, that's a little harsh—outside of academic contexts, what determines the success of a particular programming language is everything except the actual programming aspect of it.

Posted at 07:37 | /computing | (leave a comment) | permalink

Fri, 28 Nov 2003

Deep-fried Turkey

Finally had a chance to taste the ambrosiac delicacy known as deep-fried turkey. I have been dying to try it ever since reading a Washington Post article a few years ago about how every year on Thanksgiving some number of houses are burned down in giant deep-fried-turkey-related fireballs. I don't know about you, but any food that regularly destroys houses is a food I want to try. (If the bird is not fully defrosted, then apparently it just explodes.) Plus everyone who's tasted it swears by it.

It was delicious. Not greasy at all—well-done and completely cooked, but consistently moist and oh-so tender. It looked a little scary coming out of the fryer, extremely golden brown and slightly dessicated, but it tasted fantastic. Juicy.

Now I just need to combine this with some durian and fugu to make a tasty, man-killing meal.

Posted at 08:11 | /mortal/ingestion | (leave a comment) | permalink

Wed, 26 Nov 2003

Moral Certainty

Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on I am not too sure.

                                    — H.L. Mencken.

I am, once again, awe-struck by Mencken. It seems like every quote of his I stumble across takes something I've kind of half-formedly pondered before and crystallizes it into a pithy, poignant expression.

I have often felt that it's extremism, in some form, that's at the heart of 99% of the world's problems. It's people who believe something to be absolutely, indubitably true that are the ones willing to take any measure, no matter how Procrustean, to accomplish their goal. And that inevitably ends with someone else getting hurt.

And people are constantly fooling themselves into thinking that their system of morality, especially when compared to that of their ancestors, is finally right and finally complete. This generation despises the previous generation for interning Japanese Americans during WWII. "We'd never succumb to that kind of horrible behavior! We'd never think that was right!" But what of ours will future generations look back and despise, swearing they've finally got it right?

Posted at 15:23 | /society | 1 comment | permalink

Tue, 25 Nov 2003

Chinese Blogs

Have been stumbling across a whole bunch of blogs from foreigners living in Chinese-speaking countries. Some of them make for fascinating reading, especially to the extent that they mirror my own experiences.

There's a big list at (The beige entries are blocked in China.)

Apparently there is some bluegrass in Taiwan:

The finer points of fuck in Mandarin: (particularly in the comments). Reminds me of my motorcycle accident and subsequent non-stoppage of the offending parties. Must be a Chinese tradition.

A retro-blog, transcribed from a decade-old journal:

I also enjoyed this one, Mainly, I think, because it basically describes William's life in a parallel universe where he made a only a few different choices.

Posted at 14:19 | /chinese | (leave a comment) | permalink

Don't hate me LiveJournal

Sorry lj folks. I finally moved the RSS feed to 1.0 and this is what the lj aggregator decides to do. I can only offer my humble apologies and the small consolation that, as summer leads to fall, and fall inevitably gives way to winter, this too shall pass.

Posted at 11:03 | /meta | (leave a comment) | permalink

Mon, 24 Nov 2003

The horse killing the chicken

  1. Went out for sushi yesterday.
  2. Chatted up waitress in Mandarin.
  3. She's studying to be a masseuse.
  4. Date Wednesday.

Posted at 23:29 | /mortal | (leave a comment) | permalink


Looks like Ashcroft is at it again:

"The MATRIX (which stands for 'Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange') creates dossiers about individuals from government databases and private-sector information companies that compile files on Americans' activities for profit. It then makes those dossiers available for search by federal and state law enforcement officers. In addition, Matrix workers comb through the millions of files in a search for 'anomalies' that may be indicative of terrorist or other criminal activity."

Christ. The MATRIX? What are these guys thinking? As in, the giant evil computer-controlled false reality that ENSLAVES ALL OF MANKIND? It wouldn't be THAT Matrix, would it?

I find it pretty funny, in an extremely morbid and pant-shittingly terrified way, that Ashcroft and company don't even bother to hide their evil Orwellian motives any more. First Total Information Awareness, and now The Matrix. What does it matter that the very name of the program is met with fear, indignation, anger, and rejection by the American public? It's not like they have a say, ho ho ho, the potential terrorists.

"Raising even more issues, the Matrix is operated by a private company, Seisint Inc. of Boca Raton, Florida. Ironically, the company's founder was forced to resign after information about his own past came to light: according to Florida police, he was formerly a drug smuggler who had piloted multiple planeloads of cocaine from Colombia to the U.S."

Tee hee!

Posted at 10:15 | /news | (leave a comment) | permalink

Fri, 21 Nov 2003

Gateway ECDT

It turns out that the ACPI support on the Gateway laptop is all fux0red under Linux because Gateway ships these machines with a fux0red BIOS. Of course, they also ship compensating Windows drivers, effectively rendering the power-management, battery monitoring, etc. capabilities of the machine Windows-only. Thanks guys.

Specifically, the BIOS lacks an ECDT, so parsing the DSDT during ACPI setup time dies violently as there's no way to access the embedded controller region. I have been hax0ring the kernel trying to fake an ECDT but without too much success: I have (what I believe to be) a fake ECDT that I plug in, but the kernel rejects it with:

 tbget-0292: * Info: Table [ECDT] replaced by host OS
tbrsdt-0227: * Error: Invalid signature where RSDP indicates RSDT/XSDT should be located

which I really understand. And unfortunately the acpi-devel list is only sporadically useful—though I can't say I blame them, as this is a hardware issue.

But it sure would be awfully nice to be able to see how much battery juice was remaining....

UPDATE 1/30/2004: I've created a wiki page for this:

Posted at 22:37 | /computing | 4 comments | permalink


Well well. Various pressures that have been brewing for several years now have come to a head (really, I am not trying to make some kind of strained (ack!) sexual metaphor here) and I have begun studying Japanese.

I'm on day two and it's still fun. That's a good sign. Usually if something lasts till day two with me, it will last a while.

I suspect Japanese will be a little easier for me than for most, as I've already been exposed fairly extensively to the sound of the language, and already have more kanji than you can shake a stick at under my belt. But we shall see how day three goes.

The nice thing about having no real friends is that I can hold a full-time job, study Chinese, Japanese, and bluegrass fiddle, and still have time left over to drink (by myself, obviously) and play Xbox all weekend long.

Posted at 22:25 | /misc | 2 comments | permalink

Thu, 20 Nov 2003

Internet Radio

This is like five-year-old news, but internet radio just rox0rs. I now have, much like the Rastafarian spacemen in their orbital colonies in Neuromancer, a constant stream of dub pumping through the sound system of my spaceship/office twenty-four hours a day, mixing with the wreaths of ganja smoke/climate-controlled air as I hover/sit in front of the Founders of Zion/my computer.

Posted at 13:00 | /media/music | (leave a comment) | permalink

Wed, 19 Nov 2003

King Wilkie

Saw King Wilkie at the Cantab last night. I really like these guys. I know I've seen them a couple times before but for some reason they didn't really make an impression until tonight.

It was great. Very tight harmonies, great instrumental talent, and a strong sense of the traditional flow and feel of bluegrass. The genre as a whole has plenty of young blood, but mostly it's stuff I don't really appreciate—bands like Nickel Creek, who try to push the boundaries forward but give the distinct impression that forward means more like tasteless pop to them. The local scene has a lot of the hyper-talented young musicians who push the bluegrass grenzen forward by being very jazzy and very hip, which is cool and sophisticated, but I never end up actually enjoying listening to them. (Nor, I suspect, does anyone else.)

So I really appreciate the fact that King Wilkie stays, by and large, within the traditional context, keeping you interested and satisfied, while still managing to seem new and fresh. Being successful in a type of music which places as heavy a weight on the traditional sound as bluegrass, replete with apotheosized founder and all, does, involves a delicate balancing act between stagnating and losing touch with your audience. I feel like King Wilkie is right on that edge. It's musicianship that combines taste with talent.

Posted at 16:17 | /media/music | (leave a comment) | permalink

Mon, 17 Nov 2003

The Model Church

Wow. Read this linux-kernel thread. Like a fucking adventure novel. (From Cryptogram. )

Posted at 10:52 | /computing | (leave a comment) | permalink


How fucked up is it that I find myself enraged on a daily basis by the doings of the RIAA, the MPAA, and the congressholes they have in their pockets, while I feel nothing but a dull acceptance of the political decisions that are getting Americans my age killed in shithole backwater countries across the globe?

I mean, the RIAA et. al. are obviously pure evil, and what they're doing is harmful to the very fabric of our society, and if I were a vengeful God, every employee and lawyer of theirs would be target #1 on my "let's bring back the Old Testament" list, but shit. Politic bits and I get angry; politic blood and I don't seem to feel a thing.

Maybe it's just that I've been watching Band of Brothers recently (recorded in a physical form the MPAA would strenuously object to, tee hee)....

Posted at 10:02 | /politics | (leave a comment) | permalink

I got tha blahs


Posted at 07:54 | /misc | (leave a comment) | permalink

Wed, 12 Nov 2003


I'm back. Uneventful flight. Must been downhill this way because it took about three hours less.

Arrive home, drop off my shizzle and wander over, unshaven and very smelly, to the Cantab where holy shit it's the Kruger brothers. Goddamn. Chill with the homies, leave and hit some late night Punjabi Dhaba and it's back to the house to play a little Xbox and admire my new teapot.

I must be getting old or womanly because I can't help thinking how nice it is to be sleeping on a bed again.

One last picture:


Posted at 11:20 | /travel | (leave a comment) | permalink

Sun, 09 Nov 2003

Further adventures in Chaoxian

Eventful day today. Went to the big electronics market, where four years ago I was run over by some crazy Korean lady (but unharmed) and bought:

  1. An AC adapter for my Neuros (even though I have but two days here, it was $5 and I realized I will desperately need my music on the plane). The battery is rated at 800mA and I'm feeding it 850mA; hope that's not going to fuck it up.
  2. The Matrix 3 on DVD. (Fuck Hollywood, amen). Jesus CHRIST does this movie suck! I may put up a Bittorrent link or something so that other people can save themselves some money by not seeing it at the theater. Seriously. So. Fucking. Bad. They should pay you to sit through this shit.

Next came the Molotov cocktail part of the trip. On the way back home from the electronics market we realized that all the roads were blocked off and there was some kind of massive protest going on. Luckily it was not an anti-American protest (it was some kind of labor union thing, I think) so we felt more or less safe until we saw the regiments of hooded guys with big iron poles, getting ready to beat the shit out of the police.

It's pretty clear that every male in this country undergoes military training. These guys were very organized. First they sat in rows on the street, holding the poles upright. Then they started marching double-time, in formation behind someone with a flag. They would stop every one in a while, beat the poles on the ground in unison while chanting some kind of Klingon battle dirge, then continue moving closer to the police while dragging the poles on the street to create a mass scraping sound, foreshadowing, no doubt, the scraping of human flesh from the poles that they would be doing at the end of the day.

The whole effect was pretty fucking scary, fo shizzle, but I was somewhat mollified by the fact that everyone not in the protest was treating it was a fairly common event—building guards were nonchalantly cordoning off the entrances with red tape, people were having dinner on the side of the street, etc.

Anyways, we fled the scene before the Molotov cocktails actually started flying and happened upon a tea shop with a decent selection of teapots and shit. We went in and chatted with the owner for a bit (old Korean guy) who made some tea for us. He overheard us conversing in Chinese and lo! it turns out he speaks Mandarin and that he studied calligraphy and art in Taiwan for twelve years—at the same university we had all been to. Pretty amazing. He had been so enthused by the Taiwanese tea stores that when he came back to Korea he opened one of his own.

So we stayed and chatted with him for a long time in Chinese about tea and Buddhism and his time in Taiwan and whatnot and I ended up with yet another teapot. Then we ate a lot of intestines for dinner (at my behest) and came home, the end.

Posted at 10:50 | /travel | (leave a comment) | permalink

Wed, 05 Nov 2003

More Korea

This laptop is the best investment ever. I'm getting a ton of stuff done.

Some pics of Korea:

Secret Garden

Posted at 23:45 | /travel | (leave a comment) | permalink

XML what now?

Why does everyone claim their shit is an XML parser when, in fact, they are just XML tokenizers?

Man, XML is such a pita. It's so ugly and clunky and verbose and all the libraries for tokenizing it just seems flaky... is there really a reason for me to use it in place of something application-specific? Je pense que non. I know it's the old new thing and all, but really, I'm just not convinced it's a good general-purpose solution.

Incidentally, I know I've arrived at, in the dark ages long gone, the concept of Wall complexity —kind of the data format analog to Kolmogorov complexity. The Wall complexity of a particular format is measured by the the size of the smallest Perl script that can parse it.

Thus, XML sucks.

Posted at 23:43 | /computing | (leave a comment) | permalink

Tue, 04 Nov 2003

Misc Korea Notes

As I remember from the last time I was here, the guys are, by and large, large and tough and (if they're young) angrily anti-America. This is important to keep in mind as you watch them standing in front of the mirror at the subway station fixing their hair, a Gucci purse clutched under one arm. Bizarre, but apparently that's the fashion and it's ok here. At least the "extremely long pointy elf-shoe" look has died down in the past four years, replaced by more normal shoes, though you still see a few here and there.


If you see it from above, the most striking thing about Seoul at night is the prevalence of glowing red neon crosses, spread like glistening salmon roe across the grey backdrop of the buildings. The Christian sect here is apparently quite aggressive and evil, and, like Sith disciples naturally gravitating towards red lightsabers, they instinctively choose the most evil color possible for their crucifixes.

We came across a little protest the other day on behalf of the Buddhists who had their temples and statues etc. defaced by enraged Christians. Club Anti, they're called. Many photos of statues with their faces torn off or defaced by spray-paint crosses (red) and ransacked temples. Very Crusades.

Posted at 17:33 | /travel | (leave a comment) | permalink

Sun, 02 Nov 2003


Welcome to Korea, where all the food is spicy, all the women are beautiful, and all the weather is just great. After being in the land of the Puritans for so long, I almost forgot what it's like to be in a civilized country again—you can smoke in bars, buy liquor on Sundays (in the convenience stores, even), and walk outside to find food, drink, and lots of people milling about, even past (gasp) 10pm.

The women make people-watching ever so worthwhile. Ever girl under 18 walks around in a schoolgirl outfit. The next two decades are the "sexy business suit and high heels" era, aka William's Ideal Outfit, and I'd say about 90% of the women in this category would classify as head-turners back home, meaning I've now become inured to beauty to the point that the women who DO turn my head are just stunning. The only disconcerting thing is that come age 40, every single woman seems to immediately transition to a short, pear-shaped, perm-haired old ladies with an exaggerated willingness to shove you aside in pursuit of their subway seat, cabbage, or what have you, making me wonder if there is some kind of large-scale hormonal synchronization thing going on here.

Despite my enthusiasm for the women, I have determined that there is no bluegrass in the entire country, meaning I could never live here. I do miss my fiddle.

Anyways, we've been doing the usual thing; visiting temples, eating lots of red stuff, drinking weird liquors (there's a traditional rice wine here that's kind of like an unfiltered, slightly carbonated sake, which is delicious—the name escapes me now but I will ask tomorrow). I am so exteremely jet-lagged that I can only sleep between the hours of 8am and noon, which is making things a little difficult, but it's kinda cool to always be up for going out at night.

Gate Ceremony

It's now about 1am so I will try to get some sleep.

Posted at 10:37 | /travel | (leave a comment) | permalink


In the first place, God made idiots; this was for practice; then he made school boards. -- Mark Twain