Living in the Strange Loop

All six of you who have read my novels know that, among other things, I’m kind of obsessive about the Hofstadterian notion of the Strange Loop.

Yesterday in my internet voyaging looking for examples of Magic Eye pictures1 (of which I could not remember the name), I came upon Michael Bach’s wonderful website about optical and visual illusions, which led me to Goo-Shun Wang’s quite marvelous short animated movie Hallucii, about a guy (who quite resembles me, actually) who stumbles into a strange loop and, quite cleverly, (eventually, apparently), finds his way out.

Take a few minutes to watch, and see what it’s like to be me:

Below the fold: a footnote & a painful comment.
UPDATE The version on Goo-Shun Wang’s site doesn’t seem to be working today. Below the fold, I’ve embedded a youtube version.

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Self-destruction of a monster?

My cable company seems to be self-destructing. We can only hope.

Recently I wrote about my cableco cutting off my service, and not turning it back on until I answered questions about my and my wife’s social security numbers and download habits.

Last Monday I called to complain that despite the premium I was paying for 3Mb/s service, I was getting 300 Kb/s downloads and worse. They responded by cutting me off completely. I’ll spare you the dialog, but you can just substitute any page from Franz Kafka or Lewis Carroll. A guy came on Wednesday to replace my cable modem and splitter, and it appeared in his immediate testing to yield close to the expected 3000 Kb/s.

Over the next few days I found that I only got that speed immediately after rebooting the cable-modem. After a few minutes, it would drop to 1500, 600, 300, 150, and finally 30 Kb/s. Slower than an acoustic modem from before my children were born. All through the rest of the week, I would reboot, and watch as the speed fell off.

Charter stopped taking my calls altogether. They just hung up on me over and over again.

After one of these calls we ordered DSL from our local phone company. The modem arrived Friday. I plugged it in and it worked! 3.5 to 4 Mb/s. And it has stayed that way ever since. I’ve been trying to get my mail and Webpages copied off from Charter, but they won’t let me log in.

Since then, I’ve discovered two things I didn’t know or pay any attention to when things just worked:

  • Charter Communications is run by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. What an asshole.
  • Despite increasing their revenue from saps like me by more than 10% over this quarter last year, they announced this week that they’re losing even more money than ever, and their stock lost nearly 20% of it’s value. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving group.
  • Making a Living in Languages (Redux) part 1: What Do Buyers Want?

    In 2002 I gave an invited talk at a Lisp conference in San Francisco. I was scheduled while I was Technical Strategist at a hotshot Lisp-like company founded by Tim Berners-Lee. I gave the talk right after the strategy department was disolved and I was fired with it. (John was in the same department.)

    As I remember, it wasn’t well received. (But I was pretty grumpy at the time and considered myself to be not well received by the world in general.) The writing and speaking wasn’t great, and some of the ideas were marginal. But I think a lot of the ideas have stood up pretty well, and I still believe them. I’m going to serialize it here, so that I can reference it in future blogs.


    The last few years have seen a lot of new language development, but commercial success has eluded many good language companies. A framework for success is presented, in which language systems are recast as open platforms for some class of application. Multi-tier marketing is examined, in which a free or low cost application enlarges the platform’s community, while revenues are produced on an upper-tier product or service. The presentation will be followed by a fishbowl discussion, in which everyone is encouraged to join the conversation.

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    There's funny “ha ha” and there's funny “patheticly lame” . . . .

    As anyone who watches television or movies knows, some things are outrageously funny because they hit the comedy bone just right. Other things are unintentionally funny. They come accross as so lame, so sad, so pathetic, that you can’t help but laugh.

    Net Neutrality has produced some fine examples of both. No doubt I show my biases by finding many more examples of genuinely funny stuff in the pro-NN camp and many more examples of pathetically lame in the anti-NN camp. But two recent examplars absolutely stand out.

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