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Send your name to the Moon

May. 6th, 2008 | 05:26 pm

NASA page

In the 1970s I used to say that my dream job would be
Director of the Computing Center at the University
of the Moon.  A great place to retire, I thought.
Low gravity, no strain on the heart, if you fall you
won't break your hip. 

I guess I missed my chance to go.  And now everybody is
his own Computing Center Director, so the job pays low.
But every time they launch a rocket I feel left behind.

That was before I read Small Is Beautiful. Now I fear that
living on the Moon would not be sustainable.  I wouldn't
want to live in a place that depended on rocket deliveries
of air, water, and food from Earth.

There is a Van Vleck Crater on the Moon, named after a
mathematician cousin, John Monroe Van Vleck.  I used to
point out the moon to my little boy and tell him there
was part of it with his name on it.  And I have sent my
name so it will be there too.

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We'll Pay For This

Jan. 20th, 2006 | 03:59 pm

One sparkly winter morning in 1980 I went into the Atlantic Market in Reading, Mass, and said to the checkout clerk, "Isn't it a beautiful day!"

"We'll pay for this," she said.

(Now, that's the difference between New England and other places. Hawthorne, guilt, all that. In California, when it's a nice day, people think, "Well, of course it's a nice day. We're nice people. We deserve nice weather.")

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The Paris Review

Jan. 13th, 2006 | 04:32 pm

In the mid 70s, The Paris Review offered subscriptions for 5 or 10 dollars a year, and also said "$125 for life." That was a lot of money at the time, but I subscribed, and I have enjoyed reading it since. Now George Plimpton has passed away, and there is a new editor -- who sent me a letter saying that my life subscription would expire with the current issue. Is this a THREAT?

My theory is that a deal's a deal. Suppose I signed up for 24 issues and they sent two, and then a letter saying my sub was canceled?

I wrote the editor a polite letter saying I wasn't dead yet, and please keep sending the magazine.

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old question answered

Jan. 10th, 2006 | 09:52 am

Thanks to Peter Evans, I have finally tracked down an obscure reference to the Goon Show.

GRAMS: Horse gallops pulling carriage, screech of brakes, chicken noises
GRYTPYPE: Coachman! Coachman, why have we stopped?
SINGHIZ: Chickens are tired, sir

I hve been wondering which episode this was from. Asked about it on Usenet more than 10 years ago. Nobody knew. Then some goonery came up on a computer security mailing list, and I asked Peter, who responded:

Series 9, episode 3 The 1000000 pound penny, 17th Nov 1958

He runs an FTP site at with MP3s of all of the Goon Show, so you can listen to the whole episode.

(Quick, nurse, the screens!)

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an e-mail request

Jan. 10th, 2006 | 09:17 am

Got mail today, sent to me as editor of

Respected editor,
We wish to do project on timesharing system in unix.
Please give guidence for accomplishing our project.
Yours truely,

I get about one of these a month, mostly from India. These folks probably sent mail to everybody whose pages contained the word "timesharing".

I haven't decided how to respond. Should I criticize the message for vagueness, or point out that asking others to do your homework is not a good way of learning?

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something beautiful

Dec. 18th, 2005 | 08:53 am

We went for a walk on the beach the other night. Cold but still, nearly full moon, Orion prominent. Not a creature was stirring... except overhead we could hear birds quacking as they flew south. Then we looked up, and saw the birds, illuminated from below by the reflected moonlight, crossing the stars. They weren't in sharp V's, but rather in smooth lines, each with many birds, calling to each other as they flew.

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Jul. 12th, 2005 | 02:51 pm

We went to a concert last night at the Music Pier. Featured attraction was Beausoleil, led by Michael Doucette. They were great, as always. "Les Flammes d'Enfer" was my favorite of the ones they did. (Actually Michael has a great song he did with Cajun Brew some years back, "Was She A Woman or a Man," incredible.)

The warmup act was a Canadian band called The Duhks. Wow. Fiddle, banjo, guitar, drums, vocals. French and English folk songs ranging from Sting covers to traditional gospel to original songs. They performed a "True Religion" that reminded me of hearing Odetta sing it 40 years ago. If you have a chance to hear them, do! I bought their latest CD (produced by Bela Fleck).

We had dinner at our house with friends before the concert, and got a ride with them. Afterward we decided to walk home: the 100 degree heat had abated and it was a clear night with no wind; we ended up riding the Ferris wheel, which we do once every year.

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Jan. 16th, 2005 | 09:12 am

Went down to Rockville for meetings on Monday & Tuesday. They said, "stick around for the surprise 3:00 all hands meeting." Grumble grumble, OK. The news was that (the rest of) McAfee Research will be sold to Sparta. Deal becomes final in 30 to 60 days, press releases are out.

"Founded in 1979, SPARTA is a systems engineering and advanced technology company. We are dedicated to serving our nation's needs within our core business areas of strategic defense and offense systems, tactical weapons systems, space systems, and information systems."

Network Associates was created by joining multiple companies, bought TIS for its firewall and then never used it. Sparta does a lot of classified stuff, 15 or so ex-labs folk there already, shd be a good fit.

I will continue to work by wire; Sparta's offices are in Columbia MD instead of Rockville, no more DC Beltway, hurrah. They have told us, "keep working on what you were working on," so, OK. Lilli likes it because the McAfee medical plan was CIGNA, few doctors out here take it.

Better than layoffs, anyways.

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Dell doesn't want my business

Sep. 15th, 2004 | 08:56 pm

Grrr. My Dell laptop's hard drive is busted.
Their website doesn't even acknowledge that my
machine model (Latitude C650) exists.
"Customer Care" doesn't: they suggest I call
a sales rep on the phone. When I do, the
recorded voice says that they are having such
heavy call volumes that they suggest I call back.
I have tried twice. I'll try once more, and then
I quit. They don't need me; they don't need my
dollar; so I'll take my dirty old bucks elsewhere.

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Aug. 11th, 2004 | 11:21 am

I hate it.
I never hit it on purpose.
It's a waste of a perfectly good key.
I wish I could redefine it as another TAB key, for
What about the light on the key, can I use that for Morse code?

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