Borges’ Number


I discovered it while looking for his famous classification of animals. The number is the population of books in the Library of Babel – a universe which contains every possible 410 page book using 25 characters and with 40 lines per page, 80 characters per line. Your complete life story (including the parts that have not happened yet) is in there – the trick is finding it.

The original search – for the classification – turned up an additional connection. The title of the essay containing Borges’ list is ‘The Analytical language of John Wilkins‘. Wilkins, mathmatician, cryptographer, founder of the Royal Society, figures into Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle and Wilkins did in fact try to create an a-priori language.

Two thoughts… First, I really need to find a copy of Eco’s The Search for the Perfect Language. Second – Argentina looks better and better as a place to relocate to. Big sky, Buenos Aires, tango, horse culture, grills, and they produced Borges. Yow.

Third thought (later) – Artur C. Clarke’s Nine Billion Names of God.

Killer app for sysadmin types

VMWare server. I’ve been using Workstation for a while to test things – I ‘discovered’ it at a Novell ATT class more than a couple years ago – but the Server product is wonderful. I’m setting up a Win2003 server as a host that will run an NT4 server (legacy domain), at least one NetWare 6.5 server and will have horsepower left over for other things, although the other things will also run as virtual machines – I want to keep the host OS as clean as possible. I no longer have to worry about drivers for Netware, etc. and as I get more Linux literate, swapping to RH or Suse as a host OS might be a possibility.

The Maronites

See bullet #1 under my ‘wish for a pony’ post below – the NYT reports:

In an event that would have been unthinkable a few months ago, in this country where politics is locked into religious lines, the Maronite Catholic patriarch — the spiritual leader of the most pro-Western populace — convened a meeting this week of religious leaders of other communities, Shiite and Sunni Muslims and several varieties of Christians, resulting in a statement of solidarity and photographs in Wednesday’s newspapers. Their joint statement, condemning the Israeli “aggression,” hailed “the resistance, mainly led by Hezbollah, which represents one of the sections of society.”

Looks like that plan to turn the Lebanese population against Hezbollah through the indiscriminate use of air power is working not so well. Is Preznit Pendejo’s stupidity contagious?

Grow your own greenhouse.

A very interesting plant from one of my favorite places on earth (the high places of Asia) – the Noble rhubarb. This plant grows at high altitude (4000m) and one of it’s adaptations to the extreme conditions in the alpine zone it inhabits is a mini-greenhouse formed of translucent leaves.

A picture of a few in a mountain valley (Nepal?):

And a wonderful plate from 1855 (via BibliOdyssey):

While you’re at it, wish for a pony.

Another radio-inspired post… I listened to Talk of the Nation this afternoon – the topic: A Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon: Can It Work? I’ve been scratching my head about this idea since I first heard it – after listening to Col. Gary Anderson (U.S.M.C. Ret.), I don’t feel so alone. Some key turns of speech employed by Col. Anderson in response to some of the obvious considerations: “thats the $64,00 question”, “not sanguine about that”, etc. I got the impression he was doing his best to inform folks, though not in so many words, that this whole concept had a snowball’s chance in hell. Here’s a short list of what I see as obstacles to deployment of ‘aggressive peacekeepers’ (we’ve seen how well standard issue peacekeepers do in the area):

  • Hezbollah. If they are not on board with the peacekeeping mission, it will be a nightmare. Hezbollah have already surprised the IDF with their fighting ability – I’m not sure why anyone thinks a different force (with a longer logistic ‘tail’) will be orders of magnitude more effective. Why would Hezbollah want to be disarmed now? They are winning – at least on the public relations and recruiting front (one blogger suggested that it would not be long before there was a Maronite Christian wing of Hezbollah, given Israel’s strategy of holding all of Lebanon hostage).
  • Who? NATO? *crickets chirping* One of the Arab states? Israel will be comfortable with that I’m sure. A possibility that seems to be getting some play is Turkey (a NATO member, I know) , but I wonder if they may want to keep their troops close at hand for ‘pacification’ of Iraqi Kurdistan when the next phase of the Iraqi civil war gets under way.
  • A corollary to the ‘who?’ question – assuming we can find a couple battalions with the requisite capabilities and without local baggage (not likely, but play along for a minute) – how willing will the supplying country be to take casualties? For how long?
  • The logistic ‘tail’ – how would one supply these peacekeepers? Supply routes are vulnerable in a guerrilla war situation and Hezbollah are masters of what’s now known as IEDs.

It sure doesn’t seem like a bet I’d be willing to make…

The title of the post comes from here. The short form: “It’s like when you can’t decide whether to daydream about being a famous Hollywood star or having amazing magical powers. Why not — be a famous Hollywood star with amazing magical powers! Along these lines, John has developed an infallible way to improve any public policy wishes. You just wish for the thing, plus, wish that everyone would have their own pony!”

update 7/27 AM: The ‘who’ is getting a little clearer – some European countries (France, Italy) are indicating a willingness to participate in peacekeeping. The ‘how/what’ remains unclear – will this force attempt to disarm Hezbollah? enforce an already agreed-upon cease-fire? will they shoot in self-defense only or will this be the aggressive force that has been suggested? For really high-quality Middle East blogging, read Juan Cole’s Informed Comment.

“Unaware of local obstacles and hazards.”

Up for a massive dose of educational schadenfreude? Pay a visit to the Navy Safety Center for pictures of people doing things they really should think twice about or the aftermath of same.

A whole lot of Darwin Award competitors are documented. Apropos of a couple of pictures – kids, if a foreman asks, “Do you climb?” the default answer is “No!” (Really. I mean it.). via BoingBoing

Pee-pee pants conservatives

Driving home from work yesterday listening to the radio, I heard tape of ace toady Pat Roberts (R-Lickspittle), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, emitting his infamous quote, “I would only point out that you really don’t have any civil liberties if you’re dead.” As I came to instant boil, I thought of some of the folks that would disagree with Mr. Roberts’ outlook if they were here – probably not respectfully – Patrick Henry comes to mind. Then I looked at the license plate on the car ahead of me. I’ve always thought that our state motto was a little over the top; I no longer feel that way. John Stark’s full toast is: “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” It would be nice if some of the bozos currently selling our institutions down the river in order to provide themselves ass-cover should something bad happen again could keep this in mind, but given the evidence they have provided over the past five years – ain’t going to happen.