wafting your way along the slipstreams of the Info Highway

from Bubbles = Tom Digby



Issue #29

New Moon of May 6, 1997

Contents copyright 1997 by Thomas G. Digby, with a liberal definition of "fair use". In other words, feel free to quote excerpts elsewhere (with proper attribution), post the entire zine (verbatim, including this notice) on other boards that don't charge specifically for reading the zine, link my Web page, and so on, but if something from here forms a substantial part of something you make money from, it's only fair that I get a cut of the profits.

For more background info, details of how the mailing list works, etc., look at issue #Zero.

If you email me a reply or comment, please make clear whether or not it's for publication.

As I first-draft this paragraph on April 22, near Full Moon, I have Silicon Soapware coming up in about two weeks. Once you have Full Moon, New Moon (with Silicon Soapware) follows. And there's not much that can be done about it. We don't at present have the technology to delay it, and even if we did, people might object to moving the Moon around in its orbit just because some zine is late. Once you start doing that, where would it end? Full Moon rituals always on weekends? Eclipses rescheduled around the weather? Tides planned for the convenience of beach-goers? And think of all the conflicting requests. Who would resolve the inevitable disputes? And don't forget the Environmental Impact Reports. Where would we get funding for the staff to read them all? So maybe it's a good thing we don't have the technology to reschedule the Moon.

I'm starting to index Silicon Soapware. Once each plain ASCII text issue is out, I'll copy it to a HTML file, with suitable formatting changes, but with the same content. Then I'll go through and manually mark each individual item as the possible target of a link. Once that's done I can do up an index page of links to those sections, perhaps arranged by subject, and also link selected items so they can be accessed from my main Scenic Route. Even if Sturgeon's Law applies to most of most issues of SS, there are occasional nuggets of things worth further attention, and this will help make them more easily accessible.

Both files, the plain ASCII and the HTML versions, will be available in my Web area. The plain text version will appear first, and will be the one emailed to subscribers and posted on various boards. The HTML version will come later, depending on how long it takes me to do each issue. At present I'm still working on the backlog and don't have any of the HTML versions up yet. Expect them in the near future. But HTML or no HTML, the plain ASCII versions will remain up.

In other news, I've gradually been getting more and more annoyed by the term "surfing" the net. Usually writers try to switch around synonyms of commonly used words to add variety. But here I don't see alternative verbs being used much. It's almost always "surfing".

And I'm not sure it's the best word. In real surfing, you wait for a wave, then try to catch it and ride it in to shore. You have some ability to maneuver, but basically the wave is going where it's going and you're just a passenger along for the ride. Your role is a rather passive one.

But on the Web, which is the part of the Net most people are familiar with, you don't just sit there and wait for something to come along and sweep you away. You go looking. It's more like prowling or rummaging or beachcombing than surfing. And indeed, the thing most people "surf" the Net with is called a "browser", not a "surfer".

So why don't more writers speak of people "browsing" or "prowling" or "beachcombing" the Net?

A letter poured in (body verbatim except for reformatting):

You seem to be assuming that "roller coasters for cats" might be the sort of ride a cat didn't like rather than ralizing that -- by definition -- it would be the sort of experience a cat enjoyed. The coasters would resemble coaches or chairs, possibly equipped with dummy human beings in whose laps one could sit (or perhaps even real humans). The ride would be no more scary than a cat would like which might mean a totally different sort of track.

Is there an experience a cat would warmly enjoy that would scare&thrill humans? Maybe the ride would be a flight simulator geared to give the rider something of the sensation a cat gets leaping about hither and yon in the dark. I suspect the 3D effects wouldn't bother the cats but would hit any humans who'd insisted on taking the ride, especially if they didn't have a cat along to comfort them.

Would a cat enjoy a film of chasing a dog up a tree? Shrinking mouse-size so it could get into a mouse hole and chase the vermin it found there? Jumping up into the stars to run through the Milky Way?

Or perhaps a cat-style roller coaster wouldn't move at all, just sit there and let people bask in the sunlight until the ride was over. Perhaps cats ride a roller coaster through time and space all the day without our even noticing it.

(Yes, you have my permission to post portions of this.)

--Lee Gold

Sometimes I feel like I'm wasting time. Is there a dump for wasted time somewhere? Or is it recycled? Does some other universe get our second- hand, used-up, and wasted time? And what would life be like there? Say somebody is building a house, using bits and pieces of time whiled away in airport waiting rooms. Would the act of building the house feel like waiting for one's flight? Would the builder feel a constant urge to look at some non-existent monitor screen showing arrivals and departures and delays? And would he know why he felt that way? It would be especially strange if airplanes hadn't been invented in that universe yet.

And is all our time really new? Is it guaranteed to be virgin material, freshly mined or grown or whatever they do to make time, or is some of it in fact recycled, perhaps from some totally alien universe? That would explain the occasional strange thoughts I get, things that don't quite match what's actually going on.

Too bad there's no way to label time. I'd like to know how much, if any, of my time is post-consumer recycled material.

The May calendar has a picture of an almost-full moon, in contrast to two shots of a Space Shuttle takeoff for April. Free-associating leads me to wonder: Should I moo at the moon? Should cows moo at the moon? Should mooing at the moon be limited to cows? Who checks? Could I pretend to be bovine enough to get away with mooing at the moon? If the only people who check for credentials to moo at the moon are cows, they may not be smart enough to notice human impostors joining in the moon-mooing. So I should be OK, so long as some farmer doesn't try to milk me. Why should wolves and such have a monopoly? If wolves can howl at the moon, then cows should be able to moo at the moon too. And if cows can do it, what's to stop humans? So let's start a moon-mooing movement. Move it!

The wind seems to be setting off car alarms. But I doubt car alarms will ever replace wind chimes.

Something got me to thinking about authentication. It's becoming a science in the computer world, what with passwords and PGP signatures and such. But what of the spirit realm? When you pray, you don't ask the god you're praying to for ID. You just assume your prayers get to the right place. Someone has a vision of Jesus or the Virgin Mary, and they just sort of take it on faith that it's them. They don't seem to worry about it being some spirit-world equivalent of computer hackers. When you listen for that still small voice inside, you don't ask God for His password. And even if you tried to, any impostor that could see into your soul could easily get it. So there's not much ordinary mortals can do. The chief gods could perhaps enforce security among themselves and lesser spirits, but that's not for us to know. We just have to more or less take it on faith that the gods are who they say they are.

And now what? I have no hat. But I don't feel much of a need for one, so I don't see the lack as a problem. It's just that I asked "Now what?" and noticed that a "w" shortage would leave me with "No hat." But shortages of specific letters are pretty much a thing of the past, gone the way of hand-set metal type. So I probably shouldn't worry.

There's a short story titled "X-ing a Paragrab" by, I believe, Poe. In it a newspaper editor back in the days of hand-set type writes a paragraph using many more of the letter "o" than usual, but there are none available in the typecase. So the typesetter substitutes "x", much to the bewilderment of the readers.

That was probably quite vexing for the author and whoever first typeset the story, because you have a paragraph full of letter combinations readers of English aren't used to, and you'd need to check it all carefully. And you might well run out of "x" and need to send out for more.

It's very easy to X a paragraph nowadays: Changing every "o" in a block of text to "x" is only a few keystrokes in most editors. Thing is, there's practically never any need to do it.

One of my childhood fantasies has been to invent antigravity or a reactionless space drive or something like that. It's probably a standard daydream of readers of science fiction. I'll probably never do it, but what if I did? And what if I did it while I'm staying here? What if I somehow were to actually build a working unit here, in this condo? Then suppose I got it patented and such and made billions of dollars from it.

We (me and the person I'm staying with) would probably both move, as much to escape public attention as anything else. Then what? Would the city or somebody want to buy this unit and make a museum or Historical Site or something out of it? I think the owner would be willing to sell.

But what of the neighbors? How would they feel about people tramping up and down the stairs to a museum in one second-floor unit in their building? Or would the city (or whoever) buy them out also? And what of other units in other buildings in the complex?

Or has this been anticipated? If I look at the fine print in the rules, will I find "No inventing antigravity or reactionless drives or getting elected President or doing anything else that will make the resident famous enough to have their unit turned into a museum"? I'm guessing they failed to anticipate that, but you never know. You never know.

I've noticed that two people can be more creative together than either can be alone. And sometimes I think my real best job-type function is as a sort of catalyst, just being part of discussions so that everybody in the group seems to come up with more ideas, even if nobody's sure how or why. Nobody seems to be hiring for that, but it would be good if they were. How can I get into it? And how would it work? Face-to-face meetings? Email? Other? Probably a mixture. But it's a field that isn't normally looked at by itself. It's usually bundled with other job functions, so it's not noticed. But if there were some way to bring it out, I think that would be one of my Dream Jobs.

I happened upon a metaphysical shop not too far away. But it isn't for me. From the looks of the decor and the types of seminars and classes they're holding and what they're charging for them, I'd say the place is designed for beings who have evolved to a higher economic plane.

There's a flap in L.A. over charging business tax for home-based businesses. Problem is, there are various kinds and degrees of being in business, and some of them don't feel like they ought to be taxed. Writing comes to mind as one. Someone sets out to write the Great American Novel, and starts typing away. Are they a home-based business? If so, at what point do they become one? When they start thinking about the plot? When they start typing the actual text? When they start submitting it to publishers? When and if it sells? When they start work on the sequel?

And what of people who work mainly at an office somewhere, but bring work home? If the owner of a business brings work home, is that different from an employee who's working for someone else and brings work home?

How would a sensible law be set up? Perhaps by something like the amount of traffic generated, noise, and so on, basically how much it disturbs the neighbors? No limit on "business" as such, but a very strict limit on "disturbing the peace" and "public nuisance"? Maybe.

Or maybe when a "business" gets to the point of putting up a sign, or advertising its street address with the expectation that customers will drop in? There are all kinds of possibilities.

I wonder how much of the problem is due to lawmaker mentality, putting things into pigeonholes even when they don't fit, and regulating things for the sake of regulating them?

So here we are, somewhere or other, even if we don't know where. Wherever we are is just "here" with the rest of the universe defined relative to it. Isn't that the way it always is? At least it's that way "now". But isn't "now" defined as subjectively as "here"? People in ancient Egypt defined "here" as Egypt and "now" as several thousand years ago. And look where that got them. Almost everybody I know of who defined "now" as several thousand years ago is dead now, at least as I define "now". But who am "I"? Would defining "now" as several thousand years ago make "me" be somebody else? And would that somebody else know how to get back to being the "me" "I" feel "I" am "now", perhaps by redefining "now" and "here"? Sounds kind of risky to "me".

                       Incident Along Fantasy Way 
                               Where am I?

As I entered the market I made the mistake of asking a clerk
If I was here.

"No," she said, pointing to a tall building a mile or so distant,
"You are in those offices over there."

After thanking her I took the elevator down to the street
And began the long walk back
To the market.

                                        Thomas G. Digby
                                        written 0415 hr  7/28/74
                                        entered 2222 hr  4/12/92

                                -- END --

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