First weekend update in a while.

Oct 15, 2007

For the past couple of weeks, my weekends have been busy enough that there hasn't been much of interest to write about. Not that they weren't interesting interesting, but to be frank talking about driving around all over the place running errands, going to appointments, and things like that doesn't make for terribly gripping reading. This weekend, however, stands out in memory because it was the first really laid back weekend that we'd had in a long while.

On Friday night Lyssa and I went shopping to get the stuff to make a lamb stew, some of which we'd be bringing to the cookout over at the house of Hasufin and Mika that Saturday. Jarin came over that night and we wound up talking about the merits of various virtual machine applications (namely, Vmware and the beta release of the native MacOS port of same) and walking a couple of blocks to pick up dinner at Five Guys for the three of us. Along the way a discussion about the potential of a complex data system to spontaneously become self-aware started, and I started to wonder out loud if the first spontaneously generated machine intelligence would not be a search engine like Google reaching a flash point, but instead a massively distributed processing network, like the Storm worm botnet. The reason that I think that such a thing would come out of a malware network is because the Storm worm agent is not centrally controlled, relying upon a modified peer-to-peer networking protocol to disseminate code updates and commands, as well as the fact that the agent in question is updated periodically with new code modules... right now the Storm worm network is used primarily for carpet bombing the Net with spam, with a side order of DDoSing the networks of some researchers who capture samples for analysis and publish the results.

The thing about such a malware agent is this: Hypothetically speaking, it doesn't have to just do those things. Modules could be written analyze data of an unspecified type, in the same fashion as Seti @home or some genetic algorithms, or implement a number cruncher suited to parallelization on a massive scale, such as If anyone gets around to using such a malware network for things other than spamming, the sky is literally the limit for what it could accomplish. For years, people have been speculating about a virus or worm that silently cracks crypto keys in the background, but as far as anyone knows, no one's done it yet. Later that night Jarin and I went off on the tangent of weird and esoteric programming languages that are more silly than useful, such as LOLCODE, which is one of those projects that pops up because someone takes a like LOLcats and makes something bizarrely sort-of useful out of it. A quick search for esoteric programming languages then sent us off on the topic of a horrible language called L33t, which is a novelty programming language based upon the dialect common to certain net.subcultures that was designed with the capacity to self-modify and make communication with other systems possible with a minimum of development overhead. When you read the specification for this language, it becomes apparent that theoretically any text converted into l33tspeak (by way of one of the many open source English-to-l33t translation programs out there) is a valid program... and then I realized that I have a collection of medieval grimoires in my electronic library (such as The Lesser Key of Solomon).

Yes, I considered exactly what you're thinking. If I ever get sleep deprived enough to consider actually running such a text through a l33t speak translator and then a l33tcode interpreter to see what will happen, rest assured that I'll be calling numerous people in the hopes that they'll talk me out of actually doing so. Of such things are cautionary tales written.

I went to bed around midnight on Friday night, pretty much wiped out from the work-week, and blessedly slept clear through until 1100 EST5EDT on Saturday morning. For the first time in quite a few days, I woke up feeling refreshed and clear headed. Of course, it's only after sleeping for ten hours that I wake up with dark circles under my eyes...

Lyssa and I had to do some running around on Saturday to get ready for the cookout at Hasufin and Mika's place on Saturday afternoon to finish up the dishes we'd be bringing for everyone, and to stop off to get a special gift for a friend of ours...

A couple of weeks ago, Hummingwolf remarked in passing that she hadn't had Legos to play with in years, and for various reasons she wasn't in a position to stop at the Lego store (yes, they have stores devoted to Lego toys these days), so Lyssa and I headed out to Tyson's Corner Mall to hit up the Lego store.. we wound up leaving with an armload of Lego building blocks (one basic kit with storage box and two canisters of loose Lego blocks to round things out) for Hummingwolf.

Definitely an interesting day to be shopping - not only was it the first 'real' day of Autumn in DC (and by 'real' day I mean days in which the ambient air temperature wasn't in the 90's Fahrenheit) but the parking lots were packed, and there were people driving in cars following us as we left the mall in the hopes of grabbing our parking space when we pulled out. Not a bit disturbing, let me tell you.

All things considered, we arrived fashionably late and with a carload of stuff. The lamb stew went over well, as did the bratwurst. Most of the people there we knew already, Hasufin and Mika aside, though there were a few new faces added to the mix. Hasufin and I drove to the local Metro station later in the afternoon to pick up Butterfly, and then set about lounging in the back yard enjoying the company, munching on everything in sight (neither Lyssa nor I had eaten much all day, knowing that there would be a veritable feast waiting for us), and generally relaxing for the first time in a while. Lyssa made quite a bit of progress on a knitting project that she's had in the works for weeks now, and I somehow wound up in a discussion involving transhumanism, epidemiology, and changing one's career path over a glass of cider.. unfortunately, I didn't get to finish that conversation, but would like to at some point in the future.

At some point during the evening we wound up packed into the living room watching the Ah! Megami-sama movie. Lyssa headed home around 1900 EST5EDT to take care of something that had come up, and I got back around 2230 EST5EDT on Saturday night, worn out and ready to relax with a good book.

Sunday started off in a similar fashion, with sleeping in and taking a leisurely approach to the day. Lyssa and I went to South of the Border for lunch, and then picked up some pet supplies. Lucy was out of food and we picked up some betta water (nothing terribly special, it's dechlorinated water that just has more oxygen than normal dissolved in it) for Ruby, who doesn't seem to be doing very well these days. He's evidencing the same symptoms that Ghost did last year, namely, not eating and floating tail-downward perpendicular to the bottom of the bowl. Lyssa's pretty sure that it's an internal blockage, and I'm inclined to agree with her. While out, we picked up another betta, a deep, deep red and black crowntail with white pectoral fins that we haven't named yet ('Alucard' and 'Manchu' are still in the running). Photographs to come, whenever I have a chance to take pictures.

The rest of the day was spent sprawling around the living room watching recordings of Torchwood and working on our respective projects. I wish that I had more to add to what went on this weekend, but it was a blessedly slow and relaxing couple of days. No running around going to appointments; no fighting crowds (well, there were crowds but we weren't fighting them); no running around all over to find stuff (just the DC area); and lots of butt sitting. This week, however, is shaping up to be a busy one... more as time permits.