Previous month:
September 1999
Next month:
November 1999

When Nothing's Going On

I rehearse every Wednesday night (well, almost every Wednesday night) with the Contra Costa Wind Symphony, playing second tenor sax. I take private sax lessons almost every Friday from Ben Renwick at Campana music. My personal trainer comes in once a week and keeps me honest on my exercise program. I walk for an hour every Saturday and Sunday with Vicki and her friends. As a French philosopher once reportedly said, Life is not one damn thing after another, it is the same damn thing over and over. One's happiness, I find, correlates with how one accepts this truism. I like routine.

Microsoft Antitrust

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson is quite likely to release his findings of fact in the Microsoft antitrust case on Friday at 6:30 eastern/3:30 pacific. Getting ready for that is what's keeping the newsletter so short this week. Come and listen if you have RealAudio; you'll find the links live (if the judge decides to go this week; he could decide to go next Friday) at TechWeb Today (defunct link).

Website of the Week: Encyclopedia Britannica

Encyclopedia Britannica

The Encyclopedia Britannica: free on the Internet (which is to say, advertiser supported). Wow. Didn't happen without a few bumps on the way. A tip o' the PSACOT hat to Craig Reynolds, without whom I would have missed the whole story behind the story.

I had missed the news yesterday [10/19/99] that Encyclopedia Britannica put its full content on the the web, for free (advertisement supported); but the news today [10/20/99] was that its servers were swamped by the 12 to 15 million hits it got on Tuesday. The EB web site says that they will be back on the air ASAP:


I was signing the receipt for my credit card purchase when the clerk noticed that I had never signed my name on the back of the credit card. She informed me that she could not complete the transaction unless the card was signed. When I asked why, she explained that it was necessary to compare the signature on the credit card with the signature I just signed on the receipt. So I signed the credit card in front of her. She carefully compared that signature to the one I signed on the receipt. As luck would have it, they matched.


I live in a semi-rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the Deer Crossing sign on our road. The reason: Many deer were being hit by cars and he no longer wanted them to cross there.


My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the individual behind the counter for "minimal lettuce." He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg.

Lucie Arbac

Go to the Internet Movie Database if you want the facts.

Vicki and I spent a lovely night Saturday at the Hotel Triton in downtown in San Francisco. They say it is in the French Quarter. I didn't know SF had a French quarter. There is a French church and several French shops and restaurants in the neighborhood, and we heard people speaking French, so maybe the corner of Bush and Grant--opposite the gates of Chinatown--really is a French quarter.

Anyway, Vicki and I ate at the Blue Muse in Polk Gulch near the Opera House, then caught the French-subtitled flick, Lucie Arbac, based on the true story of a women who helped save her French resistance fighter husband from death. I thought it was a fascinating character portrait, superbly acted and directed. Vicki thought it was dull, draggy and that nothing happened. I am surprised she didn't like it :-)

New York Restaurants and More on the Art controversy

Barry Surman chimes in again this week, this time on my comments about where Marlow and I ate when we were in New York:

I wrote: Le Monde (113 and Broadway), the very nicest restaurant within walking distance of the Columbia campus.

Barry responded:

I suppose The Terrace, on top of Butler Hall at 119th and Morningside Drive, doesn't count because it is ON the Columbia campus?
You are awfully assertive in your opinions of New York restaurants for a guy from the Left Coast.

Well, yes I am. Marlow says she knew about the place, but that we didn't eat there because she didn't know we could.

In a similar, but more fulsome-in-its-praise-first kind of way, this from Joe Brancatelli, native New Yorker:

1) You've been doing this a year. Just amazing. You are to be congratulated for sticking with it. I've rarely found personal satisfaction something I can use to maintain discipline. You're a better man than I.

2) I fall in with Steve Allen when it comes to sleep deprivation. I can go a couple of days straight on deadline with no sleep--we're trained to do it, right?--but a regular diet of 3,4, hours. Ick. Eight is great. Nine is better.

3) Haven't been to the restaurant up near Columnia you mention. But I thought the best joint was that fancy place atop Butler Hall. Smashing views, as I recall.

4) I cringed when I read your excerpt of my letter re: Giuliani. I hope it idn't sound like I was endorsing his actions. I just figured that since it was political suicide to do it, that he must have had a philosophical reason. That doesn't mean I think he's right.

5) Mr. Pournelle's comments that Giuliani was within his rights to pull the sudsidy because there's no consititutional right to artistic subsidies is absolutely correct, but totally specious.

He's right: as a country, we never signed up constitutionally for subsidies. In fact, as a rule, I'm against subsidizing the arts. But when, as a society, we decide to subsidize, we'd damned well better do it in a way that DOES NOT look to influence the creative process. If we start getting the government involved in what people create, then we end up with the Nazi system, where all artists worked for the state and they all ended up creating that weird, sterile, ubermensch stuff of the 1930s. Every other picture was a painting of the Furher.

I mean, I'd rather have some dung on a religious icon than a society of artists turning out canvases of New Yorkers who all look like Giuliani.

Which takes us back to the SensAtion exhibit, with a coda from my most classically educated reader, Jerry Pournelle:

In other words, any time you open a museum you are now inviting all comers/ Or if you hire a bunch of madmen as governors of your museum you can't fire them? This is certainly not true if I open an art gallery. Or if you do. Why is it true if the city does? You are saying, in essence, that any city that opens a public art gallery has now lost control and must give the allocation of its resources to a non-elected board of some kind? Best argument against spending public money on art I ever heard, but you know, in Athens they allocated that public money for plays by votes of the citizens. Were they fascists?

My trip to Poughkeepsie for the Rugby game brought this essay from Ross Snyder. Now I know two things I will do next time I am there: call Joe Brancatelli, who lives nearby and visit the FDR estate.

Only a few miles from Poughkeepsie is Hyde Park. The F. D. Roosevelt estate there, overlooking the Hudson, is a federal property, open to the public for a fee. On April 14 each year it is waived, observing the anniversary of his death. Traditionally, luminaries from his administration, acquaintances and admirers gather there on that day. On one such visit I saw two Supreme Court justices and his biographer. Contemporaries, by now, are few. It is a silent day; no one talks much. On the grounds is the library, laden with displays, artifacts of his life: the Ford V8 touring car he drove, fitted with hand controls...bizarre gifts from heads of state...front pages of newspapers reporting great occasions... His office in the private home, although sealed, can be seen through a window, exactly as he left it. One can enter the home, even climb the narrow stairs and enter his little bedroom, with its narrow, single bed; he, of course, used an elevator. His abbreviated wheelchair is there. The gatehouse still houses a family carriage. Beyond is a small, lawn-covered hillock with two white marble sarcophagi.