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8 November 2005 to 13 October 2005
Today my brain seems to have cross-wired déjà vu and short-term memory, so that everything I try to remember recedes infinitely and incomprehensibly.  

I am trying more coffee, only because I can't think how to try less.
Just a handful of things from early in Franz Kafka's The Blue Octavo Notebooks, which is currently causing me to beam wickedly every few seconds while riding the train:  

Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony.  

The unfitness of the object may cause one to overlook the unfitness of the means.  

Anyone who does miracles says: I cannot let go of the earth.  

He runs after facts like a beginner learning to skate, who, furthermore, practices somewhere where it is forbidden.  

The crows maintain that a single crow could destroy the heavens. There is no doubt of that, but it proves nothing against the heavens, for heaven simply means: the impossibility of crows.  

One cannot pay Evil in installments -- and one always keeps on trying to.  

They were given the choice of becoming kings or the kings' messengers. As is the way with children, they all wanted to be messngers.  

He gobbles up the leavings and crumbs that fall from his own table; in this way he is, of course, for a little while more thoroughly sated than all the rest, but he forgets how to eat from the table itself. In this way, however, there cease to be any crumbs and leavings.  

On the pretext of going hunting he leaves thehouse, on the pretext of wanting to keep an eye on the house he climbs the most unscalable heights, if we did not know that he was going hunting we should hold him back.  

The voices of the world becoming quieter and fewer.
Darkwell: Fate Prisoner (2.3M mp3)  

Another one for an introduction to Angel Metal.
I can tell from the way he puts the empty potato-chip bag down beside him that he's going to leave it there when he gets up. He has too deliberately kept it beside him, not stuffed it under the seats. It's an in-house convenience-store brand, which probably shouldn't exist to begin with, and between it and the newspaper, surely he could have afforded something less idiotic for breakfast. The old woman across from us is watching him, too.  

The train pulls into the final station. He gets up, without the bag, and starts to go. "Oh, come on, take your trash with you", I say. "Sorry," he mutters before even turning, trying to flinch away from me but kind of bouncing back off the rubber edge of the doorway as he does. He retrieves the bag. There's a trash can on the platform, exactly where this door opened. He drops the bag in the trash and lingers there a moment, carefully looking away from me. The old woman walks around to the other side of the can and stops right across from him. He looks up at her. I'm behind him, and can't see his face. She puts on her reading glasses, inspects him sourly, and then nods. To him, to me, to herself.
There are good mistakes and bad mistakes. For a good example, watch New England Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst on this goal by Youri Djorkaeff. Parkhurst demonstrates excellent awareness, anticipation, positioning and self-confidence. He also misses the ball, springing Djorkaeff on an unimpeded run to goal. He recovers instantly and nearly catches him (but doesn't), avoids fouling to give Matt Reis a chance to make the breakaway save (which in this case he doesn't) and does not get red-carded to force his team to play the rest of the game and a potential decisive overtime (which doesn't turn out to happen) shorthanded. Although Parkhurst's initial decision did result in an opponents' goal, it was still right, as were his subsequent failed attempts to recover. Every defensive play has risks, and if he tried the same things on a hundred repetitions of this one, I doubt the Metrostars score on any other of them.  

For contrast, watch goalkeeper Nick Rimando on Jack Stewart's opening goal in DC United's collapse against the Chicago Fire. It gets funnier with every replay. Rimando is nearly at the back post (otherwise ungarded, you'll note) when the corner kick is struck, with two players almost directly in front of him. As the ball swings in, he charges wildly across the goal mouth, flinging himself uncontrollably into the air in apparent anticipation of a Jim Curtin header that doesn't come that close to happening and he'd have been wildly lucky to touch if it had. This not only puts him yards out of position for the ensuing shot, but since he'd assumed personal responsibility for the back post, opens the exact space into which the shot goes. This is dismal individual decision-making, woeful defensive organization, obliviously self-destructive team play, and probably even flawed coaching. Repeat this one a hundred times and although Chicago won't always score, it will almost never be Rimando's actions that prevent them.  

DC is now in the off-season. The Revs host the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday, and Michael Parkhurst just won Rookie of the Year.
I consider Jagged Little Pill a landmark album, both subjectively and objectively, and maybe more significantly for the way subjectivity and objectivity (and private and public) interrelate, so I'm actually pretty thrilled by the idea that its tenth anniversary is even worth noticing, never mind celebrating.  

But how many times over the last ten years has anybody said "Man, if only those songs on Jagged Little Pill were slower and quieter!" Jagged Little Pill Acoustic is elegant and interesting on its own terms, but if Jagged Little Pill itself had sounded like this, a whole decade never would have happened.
Excellent scientists are lining up to play the admittedly entertaining game of seeing who can think up the cleverest way to explain what's wrong with "Intelligent Design" to other excellent scientists. This is not only pointless, but reinforces the companionably inane idea that scientists find "Intelligent Design" threatening, which of course they do not, since anybody actually teaching high-school biology will naturally dispose of non-scientific objections in the process of explaining the whole concept of science to begin with. Scientists object to "Intelligent Design" not because it is threatening, but because it is insulting.  

Here is an attempt, then, to explain both what's wrong with the idea, and why intelligent (as opposed to "Intelligent") people hate that there even needs to be a discussion over it.  

1. Reading a statement about "Intelligent Design" at the beginning of a high-school biology class is like reading a statement about Scientology at the beginning of a Catholic mass.  

2. The government requiring high-school biology teachers to read a statement about "Intelligent Design" at the beginning of their classes is like the government requiring Catholic priests to read a statement about Scientology at the beginning of their masses.  

3. More precisely, because high-school biology is hard enough to teach to begin with, the government requiring high-school biology teachers to read a statement about "Intelligent Design" at the beginning of their classes is like the government requiring Catholic priests to read a statement about Scientology, in English, at the beginning of a Latin mass.  

If you can find an actual person who thinks "Intelligent Design" belongs in schools, try that on them, and let me know if it helps.
Looking out the window of my new office, you can see my old office. This sounds symmetric, but my old office had no windows. The new windows don't open, so there's still something to dream about, but they're eight floors up, pointed west along the curves that the commuter rail and route 2 follow out of Cambridge and over the hills into Lexington and Concord. Toy trains hum past, below, and in between them I can watch people furtively scurry across the tracks through surreptitious holes in the fences. On the other side of the tracks, cranes are either building or destroying something, and I'm never sure which. Later in the day the sun arcs down from over the building itself and glows in at me. On the good days, when I can accept that my company is paying me to learn, without obsessing too much on the lack of obvious ways in which they seem prepared to help me do anything with what I learn, this is a pleasant scenario.  

The old office was across the street from a pond, around which loops the paved path on which I'd been doing most of my running. The new office is just around the corner from a paved bikepath that runs eastward into Cambridge or westward into Arlington. The pond loop had the logistical virtue of being uninterrupted, but the section of the bikepath I run has only one intersection that requires waiting for traffic. The pond loop runs through trees, around water. The bikepath runs through neighborhoods.  

The new office is a short walk from a subway station. My house is a short walk from another station on the same line. It was possible to reach the old office via public transportation, too, but not expediently, so for nine years I mostly drove to work. Now I ride the train. This is cheaper for me, since the company pays for passes if you waive parking, which I assume is also cheaper for them. I hope it's cheaper for society, too, although it's a government-run subway system, so it's hard to guess. My car is a slightly better music-listening environment in acoustic terms, but on the train I can also read. Some kinds of routine daytime errands were easier to run with a car, but several are a great deal easier without having to park one. Mostly it's less stressful. From inside a car, the roads are an obstacle course and their occupants an anonymous enemy. From outside, in it, the city is a place filled with people.  

So from driving to and from a windowless room, and running in woods, I have switched to walking and riding the train to a watchpost, and running past homes and schools. My days are not necessarily more beautiful, and certainly no more natural, but they are clearly more humane. I am more a part of the city I live in. And although I'm not sure it's the place I should be living in, if it makes questionable sense to live here it makes no sense to live here and not be here.
I press Play, and the first song on the new Gamma Ray album starts.  

This could be fairly simple. Although there are a number of moral routes I could have taken to this moment, for my own reasons I have purchased the digital encoding of this album on a compact disc. I have a compact disc player, and it has a Play button.  

The disc, however, is sitting on a shelf in my study at home, several feet away from the player. The player is only connected to speakers in my house, anyway, which are not loud enough to reach me here in my office, a few miles away.  

This still could be fairly simple. I've ripped the CD into iTunes on my PowerBook at home. The PowerBook is up, and iTunes is running. iTunes is running here on the Windows PC in my office, too, and iTunes has an inherent gladness to share music.  

Sadly, Apple succumbed to myopic pressure and limited iTunes-sharing to computers on the same local network. But the fix for this is again fairly simple: Rendezvous Proxy, a little piece of software that runs on the PC, pretending to be another machine on the PC's local network, while actually just forwarding all requests to some other destination.  

This isn't quite enough. iTunes Sharing runs over port 3689, but my employer's corporate firewall blocks that port. In fact, it blocks just about everything, with the grudging exceptions of ports 80 (normal web-browsing) and 443 (secure browsing, i.e. https: sites). The fix for this is SSH Tunneling, a technique by which an SSH (Secure SHell, i.e. secure remote command-line login) client on the work PC intercepts messages intended for some blocked port, tags them with their intended destination, and re-routes them through an SSH connection to an SSH server on the other end, which reads the tags and re-re-routes the messages back to the path on which they originally set out. OS X has an SSH server built in, and there's a free SSH client for Windows called PuTTY.  

Of course, SSH normally accomplishes this magic over port 22, which is itself blocked here. And, for that matter, my PowerBook is behind an AirPort wireless router at home and thus not directly accessible to outside connections to begin with. Happily, these two problems can be solved at once: PuTTY can be switched to send SSH messages over any port, so I have it using 443. On the other end, the AirPort can forward incoming traffic on a given port (like 443) to any other port (like 22) on another computer on the home network (like my PowerBook).  

So here is only a semi-complete list of all the tweaks and contortions necessary to get this to work:  

- SSH server running on the PowerBook (built into OS X)  

- iTunes running on the PowerBook, with Sharing enabled in iTunes Preferences  

- Remote Login (i.e. SSH) enabled in the PowerBook's Firewall (in System Preferences under Sharing/Firewall; I have iTunes Sharing enabled there, too, but that isn't necessary for this, since the SSH Tunnel terminates inside the firewall)  

- Port Mapping on the AirPort set to send router port 443 to port 22 at the PowerBook's internal network IP address (10.0.1.x; look this up in System Preferences under Network/AirPort)  

- SSH client (PuTTY) running on the work PC, sending SSH over port 443 to the public IP address of the AirPort (look this up in AirPort Admin/Config/Internet at home)  

- SSH Tunnel set up in the PC SSH client, forwarding port 3689 on the PC to (this part confused me for two days before I understood that the destination IP address of a Tunnel is a forwarding instruction to the SSH server, so is the PowerBook's IP address for itself; also, in SSH vocabulary this tunnel is Local, which means the data starts here at the PC end, rather than Remote, which would be a reverse tunnel for getting to the PC from home)  

- Rendezvous Proxy running on the PC with a host proxy defined for IP address, port 3689 (this time the address is the PC's address for itself, i.e. the PC end of the port-3689 SSH Tunnel from the above step)  

- iTunes running on the PC, set to look for shared music  

For extra credit:  

- a second host proxy defined in Rendezvous Beacon for  

- a second SSH tunnel defined in PuTTY routing 3690 to 10.0.1.x:3689, using the internal network IP-address for our second PowerBook at home  

- sharing enabled in iTunes on the second PowerBook  

- iTunes Sharing enabled in the Firewall on both PowerBooks  

That gets me access from work to either of our iTunes libraries at home.  

For extra extra credit:  

- VNC server running on the first PowerBook (OSXvnc), using display 0 (port 5900)  

- a third SSH tunnel routing 5900 to  

- VNC client (TightVNC) running on the PC, connecting to localhost (i.e., the PC end of the port-5900 tunnel, as with Rendezvous Beacon above)  

This gives me remote control over the PowerBook at home, including (since the AirPort Express is connected to our home stereo) the ability to wirelessly stream music from the home PowerBook (actually, either of the home PowerBooks, since the second one's library is now wirelessly available to the first one via iTunes Sharing) into the home speakers. For maximum drain on worldwide network resources, I can then start an audio chat from my home PowerBook back to my office PC, and use that to listen to the music playing in our house. I suspect this signal-path exceeds the total complexity and throughput of the internet as of twenty years ago.  

PS: Note that order of operation is critical. All the home stuff must be set up first, and at work the SSH connection (with all the tunnels) must be established before anything else will operate. Security-wise, both the SSH and VNC connections require passwords (and iTunes sharing can optionally require a password, as well), and all these traffic streams are passed in encrypted form (through SSH) over a port that would normally be carrying encrypted traffic anyway (443, https). The value of this last detail I will leave as an exercise for the reader.  

PPS: The crowning caveat, at the end of this whole fantastic process, is that I carry my iPod to work with me every day, anyway, since I listen to it while commuting on the train, and it has the exact same music library as my PowerBook, so mostly what I really do is just plug it into my desk speakers, accomplishing the same Gamma Ray effusion in rather simpler fashion. (But if simplicity were an invariant goal, I wouldn't be listening to Gamma Ray to begin with.)  

PPPS: Great album.
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