Ex Bibliotheca

The life and times of Zack Weinberg.

Tuesday, 26 March 2002

# 11 PM

Once again I put off doing dishes until they're all dirty, then can't fit them all into the drying rack at once.

# 8:30 PM

I just said "m3 t00" on the gcc mailing list.

# 8 PM

Spent the past two hours or so dealing with various bureaucratic chores, such as getting my car smog-checked, paying a bunch of bills, and so on. Disappointed to discover that the auto shop I liked (Bay Auto, in front of Bing Wong Wash Center on Telegraph) has gone out of business, but there was someone onsite who recommended me to a competent gas station and service center down on Claremont, so that was okay.

social exception handling

Another thing I did was mail a letter of notice to the landlord, informing them that they had better pull their corporate finger out and clean the damn basement on a regular basis. This causes me to reflect on just how much general social infrastructure we have, as a species, for dealing with what might plausibly be described as error conditions. The situation with my landlord is common enough that there's an entire website (run by the Rent Stabilization Board) detailing the legal ritual to follow when it happens. First you do this; if that doesn't work, you escalate to doing that; etc. etc. until in extremis one winds up in court.

Then there's the infrastructure which exists purely to support the error handling rituals. For instance, certified mail. Certified mail exists to provide nonrepudiation: the sender gets positive confirmation that the recipient got the letter, and is presumed to have read it. This can be used as evidence if they later deny having ever seen the letter. Which is just what you want when trying to negotiate with a landlord who may not be above "accidentally" losing things.

To give another example, one of the bills I paid was the quarterly car insurance renewal. The whole concept of insurance is about error recovery. If you distill the core out of an insurance policy it reads something like "You give me a relatively small amount of money on a regular basis, and I promise that I will give you a large amount of money if something unlikely and bad happens." Neither party to the agreement wants or expects the something-bad ever to happen, but we (collectively) recognize the need for a defensive measure.

# 2:45 PM

Debian now has crypto in the main archive.

# 2 AM

The web version of TurboTax refuses to work with Mozilla for Linux. I was a bit leery of the whole notion of having my personal financial info stored on some web server somewhere; on the other hand, it would have been nice not to have to go to the hassle of getting the traditional edition, dusting off the Windows partition that exists solely for doing taxes, etc. etc.

Wonder if it's worth complaining at them. Probably not.

Behold: very funny semi-blog of one man's experiences with MacOS X. Lots of instructive criticism of user interface.