The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Freedonian Feminists and Knitting Society Web Ring

For more than two years, a sizable group of internet users were caught up in the story of Kaycee Nicole. She was an attractive High School/College student dying from leukemia and she kept users updated via her online diary. Eventually her mom also started a companion diary to express the feelings associated with caring for a child with cancer. Many people became close friends with Kaycee Nicole through email, chatroom, and even phone conversations. When Kaycee finally succumbed, her online friends grieved like they had lost members of their own families. Well, there is one problem. Kaycee Nicole never existed.

Via The Gus, the Kaycee Nicole (Swenson) FAQ

This is an interesting case here. Fictional journals and diaries are nothing new to literature (for instance, Bram Stoker's Dracula or even to the web. But books (such as Dracula) are sold as fiction, and those that exist on the web (such as The Gus' Bobby the Eight-Year-Old Spanking Victim) can be determined to be fake (or works of satire) if you care to look closely enough and usually they're fairly static works, meaning that the author rarely interacts with the audience. But in this case, “Kaycee” did indeed interact with several people via email and over the phone so the author did go to a somewhat extreme measure in the fictional account of a 19 year old cancer victim.

The web is an interesting medium to work in, and one that I still feel hasn't been fully exploited yet (to its full artistic measure, not economically) and we probably won't see it coming unto its own for another ten to twenty years yet. For instance, movies and television.

At first, both movies and television were nothing more than recording (or broadcasting) of theater and it took awhile for artists to view the medium as something other than a play or vaudvillian show. Movies were the first to break away (in the “time from first use imitating an existing medium to standing on its own as a new medium” sense) to its own conventions since the filmmakers didn't immediately need an audience. Television took longer since most of the early television broadcasts were done in front of a live studio audience and all the televesion was used for was broadcasting the entertainment to a larger audience than could normally be held in a theater or sports arena.

It's odd that even though both mediums started from the same premise (theater) and still use the same basics (to a degree) the two mediums are now percieved to be different. Movies are more remote, more expressive (if you've never seen Blade Runner on a movie screen, you're missing a lot!) than television. Television is more intimate, warmer than movies are (due to the amount of space available to show an image), immediate (it's easier to record and edit on videotape than on film since there's no develop stage, or cutting and splicing in the physical sense), and until recently, a lesser medium than movies (it used to be that actors who started out in television and went to movies were moving up, while going from movies to television was a sign of a spiralling career). Movies are as distinct from television as it is from theater.

We're still working out the new means of expressions and asthetics that are available on the web. Is Kaycee pointing us toward a direction where taking on a new identity or persona can be an artistic expression? (Much like Andy Kaufman did with Tony Clifton). Can we expect to see several interacting journals for a whole community of non-existant people? (Freedonian Feminists and Knitting Society anyone?)

Is anyone still reading this at all?

Duck Soup

In case you are wondering about the Freedonian Feminists and Knitting Society, you might want to read up on Duck Soup. And here's more information on the making of Duck Soup.

They never learn …

According to SlashDot, there's a new OS called, appropriately enough, NewOS. Okay, I have an interest in these things, and, unlike some others, this one seems to actually be in a working state.

I download the code and peruse it.

Not five minutes and already I find a horrible bug:

void aquire_spinlock(int *lock)
    if(smp_num_cpus > 1) {
        while(1) {
            while(*lock != 0)
            if(test_and_set(lock, 1) == 0)

void release_spinlock(int *lock)
    *lock = 0;


It works if you have more than one CPU, but on your typical single-CPU system, this fails to do The Right Thing and you end up with very hard to track down bugs. Also, the code for test_and_set() is needlessly complicated:

    movl     4(%esp),%edx     /* load address of variable into edx */

    movl     8(%esp),%ecx    /* load the value to set the lock to */
    movl     (%edx),%eax      /* load the value of variable into eax */

    cmpl     $0, %eax         /* see if someone else got it */
    jnz      _test_and_set2   /* if so, bail out */

    cmpxchg  %ecx,(%edx)

    jnz      _test_and_set1   /* if zf = 0, cmpxchng failed so redo it */



Sigh. It's not hard or complicated.

Hold quotas

Nice. I just got an automated call from a computerized telemarketer. It made its pitch then put me on hold. I have trouble wrapping my brain around the concept. What? The company is below its quota of customers on hold? It has to call up random people and put them on hold? There's money to be made in putting people on hold?

My God, what are we devolving to?

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