Since 1996

May 15, 2001

Douglas Adams has passed away.

Disappointingly, this hasn’t received much press. In the most recent Newsweek, for instance, he has a sentence underneath the notice of Perry Como’s death (which, admittedly, is also a sentence). Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places; I imagine the science fiction sites have all mentioned it by now. Perhaps a lifetime spent around science fiction fans have caused me to overestimate his fame. I guess it doesn’t really matter.

They’ve created an entry for him at the online hitchhiker’s guide linking to several obituaries, tributes, his work at the guide and elsewhere, and a discussion area. (I found all this, by the way, through another discussion area that was referenced by Doc Searls.)

It’s funny how these things work. When I first heard the news (at church, strangely enough) I was saddened but not strongly affected. Writing this up, though, has been surprisingly difficult. I have a physical sensation of loss that surprises me, since I’ve known about this for two days and all I’m doing is writing about it. I guess that makes it real.

Sfstory, of course, was greatly influenced by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as can be seen in the occasional encyclopedia entries, the brief cameo appearance of Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, and the endless variants of “Space is big.” I’m sure he never heard of it, but nevertheless it stands as a tribute to his best-known work. #

New life

Since I last wrote, the young finches on our porch have grown feathers and flown away. I did manage to get some pictures, and I may eventually post them. While our porch does seem quiet and empty now that they’re gone, this does give us a chance to take down the wreath, which was fading fast, and clean up all the finch droppings. We’ll have to see what happens next year. #

Gloriously pointless

Speaking of birds, you may recall RFC 1149, which proposes a protocol for distributing internet packets via carrier pigeons. It took eleven years, but a group of hackers has taken the April Fools joke to the next level and implemented it. Strangely, the day after I came across that site, Salon ran an article about it, saving me the trouble of doing a lot of background research to try and explain it.

Techie humor is a strange thing. Some people might not see the point in determining how to transport IP packets over carrier pigeon networks, and especially not for actually getting a bunch of pigeons and tying printed out packets to their legs. For me, these things are worth doing because they're pointless: that’s what makes them funny. Roger Ebert once described humor as taking something silly and treating it with complete seriousness, and this is a perfect example.

And, in a weird way this demonstrates how truly flexible the internet protocols are. Granted, the latency is high—a ping took six million milliseconds—but the wonder is that it works at all. Still, I don’t think the wireless networking folks have much reason for concern. #


iCab has been updated recently. The most important new feature (for me, at least) is the partial CSS support. As usual, iCab has gone the extra 1.6 kilometers and included a way to specify user stylesheets. That’s right, sheets. As in, plural. You pick which one you want (if any) from the View menu. Better yet, iCab manages not to horribly screw up pages that use CSS features it doesn’t support, unlike certain popular browsers that start with “N”. #