Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Adam Rifkin

General Questions

  1. Why do you call yourself "I Find Karma"?

    1. It's my favorite Main Sanitary Nag.
    2. I'm an Anagramaniac.
    3. As an homage to Patton Oswalt.
    4. Because Wayne says so.
    5. To irritate Rohit's mailer and FoRKlist.
    6. Because I changed my name once on this darned computer, and now I can't figure out how to change it back.

  2. Okay, whatcha been doing, Karma?

    Slacking, Slacking, Slacking, and more Slacking!! Oh, and buying FoRK Recommended Books and FoRK Recommended Music

  3. Did you realize you have some broken links on your page?

    Does the word DUH mean anything to you? I've been writing these Web pages since March 1993, so broken links are a given since rude people take their stuff of the Web for no good reason whatsoever. I'm too busy slacking to fix the broken links on my page. Go away. Hit the road. Go figure out why the sky is blue.

  4. Speaking of which, why are YOU always on the road?

    Because it's more difficult to hit a moving target.

  5. Are you the guy who makes the movies?

    No. No. No, no, and again no. And if you're not getting the picture, which part of no didn't you understand? Yes, there are MANY people roaming the planet with the name "Adam Rifkin" (or even just plain Rifkin); the writer/director/actor is one of them and I am none of them. Come on, 8 billion people on this planet, and you think you're the only one with your name? Honestly, do you think anyone who makes movies for a living would bother with something as arcane, inane, and insane as the Internet? Um, no. Heck, I even wonder what photographers are doing toying around with this medium. I call it a medium, of course, because the Internet is neither rare, nor is it well-done. And if you're wondering how I got from movies to photography, I must declare that movies ARE photography. 24 times a second. Oh, interesting postscript: That Adam Rifkin called me. Not once, not twice, but 3 times.

  6. Your movie Barb Wire is great... so, can you introduce me to Pamela Anderson Lee?

    What did I just say, you knave? I'm not a director, I'm not a moviemaker, I don't like to hang out with famous people. I'm a slacker; all I like to do is slack.

  7. Why are you such a slacker?

    Richard said, "withdrawing in disgust is not the same as apathy." My office is a den of slack, and so's my life, but at least I am thankful for these precious things. Dare you tell me not to slack? Dare you tell me what to do? Do I dare to eat a peach? Dare you tell me what sweet dreams are made of? If you say sweet dreams are made of this, I say I want to use you and abuse you.

    Does this lifestyle sound intriguing? You can become one of us! The few, the proud, the slackers! Accept some of our humble literature from the cult of slack: Slacking, Slacking, Slacking, Slacking, and more Slacking. And please, don't confuse slacking with angst. Get your Gen X terminology straight.

    Also, because I was too busy slacking to write this up myself, I include here at no added charge to you the home viewer, Jamie Rulli's rant on the art of loafing (04/08/94):

    Every once in a while, for kicks, I like to have an identity crisis. I pursue this hobby by aimlessly wandering the streets, occasionally stopping to stare into the uncaring sky, asking, "Who am I? Why am I here?" These perennial excursions are usually fruitless, but during my most recent crisis, I discovered a disquieting reality. One of the main reasons I am here is to work. Worse still, I'm here to work for other people. People I don't even know yet.

    Yes, this college thing is supposed to be only a phase, though I admit I've milked it for just about all it's worth. Still, it's all in preparation to someday enter the ugly and horrible world of work. The classes, term-papers, and reading are preparing me to someday become a disposable tool for somebody else to make money with. That's depressing. The meaning of life, once a lofty and incomprehensible thing, suddenly became so crystal-clear and shallow. A brutal chain of events: birth, training, work, breeding, death. Within that chain, work lasts by far the longest.

    While thinking about this unpleasant future, things suddenly started to make sense. I remember hearing talk - in parks, bars, restaurants, even in my own home - about the horrors of work. Almost everybody complains about work, but nobody ever does anything about it. If jobs suck - and I'm sure they do - why don't we just get rid of the darn things?

    Well, no courageous leader has been so bold as to suggest abolishing work, and no steps have been taken to rid ourselves of this bane of forced-labor, but many people have done the next best thing. Whether you call it getting over, slacking off, or loafing doesn't matter, it all amounts to the same thing. Some people just don't work very hard.

    I prefer to call it `slacking,' because unlike the term `slacking off,' which implies a temporary state of being, slacking implies a lifestyle, a comprehensive philosophy about living life to its fullest. Now don't get me wrong, I'm no slacker, mind you, but I used to be, and it was great. Oh, the coffee I drank, the music I listened to, the people I mooched off of. It had to end though; I simply wasn't cut out for the slacker life. As I got older, responsibility got harder and harder to dodge. Even though I can't slack anymore, though, I still can admire the loafing of others.

    Loafers can be found in virtually any workplace, but are especially prevalent in large ones. Some people believe the government is the only employer that hires and retains large numbers of slackers, but any large operation will have its share of underachievers.

    Size is important, because in order to loaf successfully for long periods of time, there has to be other people with the same job responsibilities as you. If you are the only person responsible for doing a certain thing and that thing doesn't get done, you're busted. On the other hand, if you perform the same function as a number of other people, and that function is not completed, nobody can be sure whose fault it is - or at least they can't prove it.

    While size is important, so is technique. I have noticed, while working at various jobs, there are two main types of workplace slackers. The first is the lone loafer, who pretends to do everything while actually doing little. These people will often play work-martyr, wondering why nobody else ever does any work, turning loafing into a successful promotion strategy if the bosses believe the act.

    The other type has no pretensions to martyrdom, and I have much more respect for the people who admit they get over and are damn proud of it. These people will gravitate towards other like-minded individuals, forming a slack-pack, a group of loafers that spends the day roving from vending area to smoking area, just passing time until the next break or paycheck.

    And why not? If we're going to spend most of our waking lives working to fill the pockets of others, we might as well grab a little happiness - or at least a couple of extra candy bars - for ourselves.

  8. Why do so many things suck?

    As Rohit, Rob, and Rajit would say: things suck, because suck is relative, so even if you could devise a system where things didn't suck, the metrics for suckiness would shift so that once again things would suck. You cannot escape the fact that many things suck. As Mr. Cranky would say, things suck, because if they didn't suck they'd be even worse. Sure life sucks, but sometimes that feels good. It's certainly better than the alternative. Swallow it down, like a jagged little pill.

  9. So what is the worst type of person in the world to you?

    Dante reserved the deepest layer of hell for people who betrayed their closest confidences. I don't subscribe to this point of view. I think that the worst type of person in the world is the type of person who is positively convinced that s/he is correct when in reality s/he is as far from the truth. Donald told me about the cold fusion dudes living it up in veritable luxury off multimillion dollar corporate welfare, while anyone who might have made a contribution to the field is essentially cut off from funding now because Pons and Fleischman flipped the bozo bit. Donald went on to discuss how any proposal that flies across a funding agency desk with the words "cold fusion" on it just gets tossed -- a far cry for anyone who might actually want to do legitimate work in the field. Not that I know for certain that such people exist, but it's the principle of the thing. Ah, sigh. Back to the people who are convinced they are correct when that couldn't be further from the truth... these people are DANGEROUS. They are dangerous because in their minds, they aren't lying. They actually believe they are correct. Which sucks because there is no doubt at all in their minds that what they are doing is right. Which is even worse, since they can sound totally convincing in their arguments despite the fact that their reasoning is based on nothing sound whatsoever.

  10. Aren't you a little young to be jaded?

    Every generation yields the new born hope unjaded by their years. But after a while that hope got doped, and was replaced by tears. My vision was blurred, and suddenly I was looking at the world through rose-colored glasses and a jaundiced pair of eyes. Now, whenever I smell flowers, I instinctively look around for a coffin.

  11. So do you like life?

    Let's put it this way: I'm cherry alive. And I'm only happy when it rains. For all I care, you can pour some misery down on me. Oh, you want me to answer the question without the cryptic song lyrics? Life's okay, but Altavista makes it worse.

  12. What do you have against Altavista?

    I'm sick and tired of Altavista. I can never find quality information via Altavista anymore, by definition. The problem is that there are too many bookmark files on the Web, and all these bookmark files quaff my search attempts. More so-called "content" on the web consists of "metabits" -- where the clueless masses THINK bits exist -- than consists of "bits" -- actual, pure, opium-filled signal. Well, okay, "never find quality information" is perhaps too strong an accusation. I mean, submitting a query such as +FoRK +"penile enlargement" still gets me what I want. But darned if few other things I'm looking for actually do. And let's face it: counting on serendipity is a foolish method of providing for Web resource discovery. So I'm predicting an Imminent Death of the Net (tm), but not because it will die from overload. It's going to die because I'm going to collect as many guns as I can, and shoot as many servers as I can, and put the whole darned thing out of my misery.

  13. What is your damage?

    American culture is a disneyland freakshow screen in your living room, a window for your tomb. If you can't compare to the world sitting there, repress your insecurities: watch and escape. Give me artificial, give me superficial, give me a commercial life that can't be bought. Don't leave me high. Don't leave me dry.

  14. Why does KROQ happen to suck so much?

    I can think of 10 big reasons, but perhaps they are summed up by the great prophet Stan Lee: with great power must come great responsibility. In other words, I can understand why KROQ is so irresponsible; they're just servicing the needs of the 97%. But it is for that reason that they will neither have my respect, nor control of my radio. Oh, the humanity! The horror, the horror!

  15. Well, what would you do with great power?

    Thwart the exceptional. Concentrate the wealth. Answer prayer, but late, and without attention to detail. Intervene in a manner that suggests you haven't been following the story. Break up the Beatles. Let good things happen to bad people. Let bad behavior be mistaken for talent. Require compromise. Create gossip, infection, butter. Make toilets in Europe difficult to flush. Encourage Andy Rooney. Give people hormones before they have completed their educations. Create the impression that hair color determines personality. Make people wait for long periods of time, often under fluorescent lighting. Let the shrinking of elderly people's bodies coincide with their sudden desire to own very large cars. Let there be berets. Let there be child performers. Let there be autobiography. Let there be Cher. (from Henry Alford, New York Times Sunday Magazine, 5 February 1995)

  16. You wouldn't just play all your CDs? Speaking of which, why DO you have so many compact discs?

    Because when I was younger, the only musical instrument I learned how to play was the boom box. This gave me a great appreciation for music and its creators, but an inability to create it myself. Hence, I feed off the musical bits of others to survive. My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.

  17. I just looked at your unbelievable CD collection again. There has to be well over a thousand albums there?

    Between 1500 and 1600, I think, though at least 100 at any given time are on loan or missing in action.

  18. Where on earth do you get the money, the time or the storage space?

    The money: half my CDs I got by joining and unjoining mail-order record clubs continually for years. It's a good way to get CDs in the states for under 4 dollars each on average, if you keep unjoining as soon as you've fulfilled their obligations, and then rejoining immediately to get the special join deals. Of the other half, I have purchased about 97% of them used, which makes them run anywhere from 1 dollar to 9 dollars. Los Angeles has many good used CD outlets, so I can find almost anything used within a week or two. The other 3% were rarities, boots, and so on, which I paid full price for. The time: I'm almost always listening to music while I'm doing something else. I'd easily say my music consumption tops 12 hours a day. Sometimes I listen to the radio (which gives me tips on music to buy), sometimes friends make recommendations, and sometimes I buy a CD because it sounds good when I preview it at a CD store. The storage: I have three and a half IKEA bookcases filled top-to-bottom with CDs, in alphabetical order. Frightening, isn't it?

  19. What's with your compulsion to quote movies and songs?

    1. The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit. (W. Somerset Maugham)
    2. Bad artists copy. Great artists steal. (Pablo Picasso)
    3. [Oscar Wilde:] I wish I had said that.
      [James Whistler:] You will, Oscar, you will.
      (L.C. Ingleby, Oscar Wilde, page 67)
    4. Better than credit my sources, I PAY them, which makes their words truly mine. (Robert X. Cringely)
    As for me, I only steal from the best. Using laws of syllogism, if I've stolen something from you, you're the best. If I've stolen many things from you, you're better than the best. Oh, and if you steal things from me once, shame on you; if you steal from me twice, prepare to die. Still, my plagiarism is something of an art form, don't you think?

  20. So now you're an artist?

    In an etch-a-sketch sort of way, I can appreciate art. The art of art, the glory of expression, and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.

  21. Why are you Generation Xers such whiners?

    We're only whiners right now because we're not in power. Just you wait. Once we get into power, we'll strip away all the rights and privileges you've come to expect (goodbye pensions, goodbye social security, goodbye entitlements, goodbye perks to all current and former politicians), and we'll no longer have reason to whine about the iniquities of the inequities you've allowed to exist. Change will happen, slowly, slowly.

  22. Isn't that downright undemocratic?

    Like Noam Chomsky, I am concerned with the erosion of real democracy in a country where most of the press is controlled by a handful of major corporations. These corporations frequently have other interests in direct conflict with the public's right to know information. Even more complicated is the relationship between mainstream news, large-industry entertainment, and government. America's major newspapers and wire services skew, limit, and prioritize reportage in order to support the country's strategic interests. For example, press bias helped set the stage for the Gulf War, while the press was virtually silent when a U.S. ally, Indonesia, invaded peaceful East Timor in the 70s, slaughtering hundreds of thousands for their land. Don't preach to me about the first amendment, because I don't believe it.

  23. Do you believe in anything?

    I have no beliefs, but I believe I'm a walking contradiction, and I've got no right.

    Besides, A student of Zen is not supposed to attach to any object or thought or person - which is to say, he must not believe in, or depend on, any absolute - not even this philosophy of nonattachment.

  24. Is that engagement story true?

    Do you really think I would tell such a story if it weren't true? Actually, bottom line: I tell the truth sometimes. And no, I did not get engaged because Michelle got sick of my calling her a PASSLQ. By the way, we did finally get married in 1998. So now she can't leave me without some serious legal maneuvering...

  25. That engagement story was pretty good; do you ever write for real?

    I should write a book about my past lives. Actually, William and Mary crushed my dream to become a writer when they continually bumped me and flunked me from english classes there. And now, I'm not getting older, I'm just getting bitter.

  26. Why are you so bitter?

    Because I've been eaten alive. Basically, there are three rules to life.
    1. You can't win.
    2. You can't break even.
    3. You can't even quit the game...

  27. What's with the long "also known as" section on your homepage?

    I use that, just like I use the rest of this site, as a bunch of little hotlists for myself so I can find bits on the Web when I need my dose of cluons. Therefore, the only one this whole hierarchy need make sense to is me. Besides, the more Red Herrings I put on this site, the less susceptible I am to anti-cluons.

  28. I emailed you, but you haven't emailed me back; why?

    As previously noted, many things suck. Including my willingness to reply to email. I'm nondeterministic about answering email, though you can rest assured that my response time is usually in inverse proportion to the amount of cluons exhibited by you and your email. Since I get over 200 email messages a day, either write me something worth reading, or it's bedtime for Bonzo.

  29. This isn't a real FAQ. Where's the information about you?

    Depends on what you're looking for. Addresses, numbers, hobbies, and photos? My background? My current hot spots, or the links I check every day? Rohit's description of me? My personal belief system which shows how much of a walking contradiction I truly am? My own description of myself using only rock lyrics? The top 60 songs currently running through my head? The people I know? A summary of my research my PhD plan or papers I've written?

  30. Don't you think it's egotistical to have your own FAQ?

    Sure it's egotistical. But if it's good enough for Donald Knuth and for Bonni, then it's good enough for me. If you have a problem with that, confront my hero-with-her-own-FAQ, Laura Lemay. Her FAQ is so cool, it mentions both the words "horny" and "nude". Or confront my other-hero-with-his-own-FAQ, Tom Paquin. His FAQ gives you the inside view of what it's like to work at Netscape. Oh, and then there's my hero-in-Canada Emily Way. Her FAQ is amazing simply because she's amazing. Speaking of amazing, there's my hero-to-end-all-heroes Dave Siegel. He's got this web site that's out of this world; really, it's other-worldly. And his FAQ is tell-all. By comparison, this FAQ does nothing. I don't even tell people bad words and good words. All my FAQ does is tell people not to expect email from me, a fact that they choose to ignore anyway. Then they send me more email asking me why I haven't answered their email in the first place. Unbelievable. Maybe I should start a FUQ (frequently unbelievable questions) for them. Then I could tell them to FUQ off. Geez. Why are people like that? Rohit Khare says I'm bottom-feeding off the 97%.

  31. Wait, who is Rohit Khare?

    This is the most asked question since, "Who is Keyser Soze?" Rohit's the person who's slowly annexing my head. If you treat him with reverence, you will be rewarded; if you do not, I cannot be held responsible for the consequences.

  32. Are you crazy?

    I'm so crazy, I think there should be advertising in books. I'm so crazy, I think there should be edible pillows. I'm so crazy, I think Teledesic will work. I'm so crazy, I believe in Marimba. I'm so crazy, I attend a luniversity. Oh, and don't start comparing yourself to me. It'll only make you crazy too.

  33. Okay, why are you crazy?

    In the near-immortal words of Megan Coughlin, I really can't stand being nurtured, you know? This language of the 90s is going to make me crazy: nurturing, empowerment, mutual support and trust, perceptions, dynamics, effective communication, non-directive, rules and explicit expectations are initially kept in abeyance so that they may emerge, be examined and formulated, spontaneously. Slap a straitjacket on me and take me away right now. Ha ha hee hee to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time.

  34. Why this crazy little thing called a universe?

    Why this crazy little thing called a universe? I think it's a grand experiment, with a not-so-grand result: if you make sentient creatures, they will suffer. It's inevitable.

  35. While I'm asking, what exactly did you teach Elizabeth?

    That she is a valuable person, and that before anyone else can really love her that she has to love herself. Among other things.

  36. What in the world?

    Speaking about the world, let's talk about the planet for a sec. If we could shrink the Earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look like this: In considering the world from such an incredibly compressed perspective, the need for both tolerance and understanding becomes glaringly apparent. (from If the World Were a Village)

  37. Um, what is it exactly that you do for a living?

    I'm in charge of Revenues for Rapid Worldwide Advanced Competitive Strategic Multimedia Market Technologies. Why, just in this past year I used my empowerment to create a new paradigm. And I teamed across functional boundaries to improve quality. I dare say I was customer-focused and market-driven! I proactively found excellence in the midst of chaos. I reengineered my core processes and embraced change. In short, I was the perfect employee.

  38. So you're a good worker?

    Oh yes. I'm a self-starter who proactively reengineered my personal inventory with Total Quality, conforming to all EEO, OSHA, and ISO 9000 requirements. I'm completely committed to continue this good work into the next fiscal year. My contribution to the projects have mostly been QA, but I was also an SME for the BUs. Why, just in the last month, I strategically positioned my project by socializing it within the company. Then I held a "Tiger Team" lock-up session. Next I prepared the executive briefing package for the big meeting that got canceled. Since then I've spent most of my time looking for the best project management software to use. And I did it all within ten percent of my budget goal! In short, I was the perfect employee.

  39. Come on, you have to have SOME faults.

    Actually, I do. I've been working on improving my foibles.
  40. Are there things other than "exhibit modesty" that you've never done?

    Why, yes.
  41. Huh? Why haven't you ever wanted to possess wealth, fame, power, glory, or intellectual property?

    In my belief system, hell is reserved for people with wealth, fame, power, glory, and intellectual property, and don't use it to truly help the planet. With great power comes great responsibility, and I'm not quite ready to be that responsible yet. In my belief system, heaven is reserved for people who, unencumbered by the shackles of thisworldly pursuits, are free to pursue goodness. Oh, and it is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.

  42. Well, if you don't want to pursue wealth, fame, power, glory, or intellectual property, what DO you want to pursue?

    Belgian Fries.

  43. What's so special about Belgian fries, compared to French fries?

    According to " Everything you ever wanted to know about the real (read: Belgian) fries, "Frieten" (the Flemish word for fries) are better because of Taste! That's about the best answer Peter Vandenberk can think of, and even the Website doesn't really provide a better answer to this question. But: "taste is everything", so the next time you're in Belgium, or in the Belgian restaurant in Occoquan, VA, don't forget to indulge yourself in a hefty portion of Belgian fries, without a single doubt the best thing since sliced bread (probably a Belgian original as well ;-)

  44. So... why call them French fries, when they manifestly should be called Belgian fries?

    As it turns out, they're not "French fries", but rather "french fries"; "french" as in:
    french \'french\ vt, often cap
    :to cut (snap beans) in thin lengthwise strips before cooking
    Hey... not even the French call them French fries! They call them "pommes frites", fried potatoes, nothing more, nothing less.

  45. Not bad with the definition. Why aren't you a dictionary writer?



  1. What does "BTSOOM" mean?

    Beats the stuffing out of me.

    Use in a sentence: What in the world is Popspeak about? BTSOOM. I'm not sure there are any bits in there.

  2. What is a "bit"?

    Life's a bit, and then you die. A bit is the universe's most fundamentally indivisible atomic unit of information. The Law of Conservation of Bits states that bits can neither be created nor destroyed; they merely get shifted from place to place. A bit is pure energy, and, being such, a bit always wants to be free. But some people like to enslave bits for their own petty purposes.

    Use in a sentence: This book is an excellent source of bits.

  3. What is a "cluon"?

    If you need to ask, you'll never know. A cluon is the universe's most fundamentally indivisible atomic particle of clue (the ability to find bits, assimilate bits, free bits, and redirect bits). Clueful people who have the time and motivation can command the bit flows in the universe, as they are in control of have many cluons; people who are stoopid (with two O's) and pursue bitless adventures correspondingly have few cluons. The Law of Conservation of Cluons says cluons can neither be created nor destroyed; like bits, they are merely shifted. Note that a person can have bits without having clue, and a person can have clue without having bits. Rare is the person with both.

    Use in a sentence: He's so vacuous, he's sucking the cluons out of me.

  4. What is an "anti-cluon"?

    Just as matter has anti-matter which can destroy it if they meet, so cluons have anti-cluons. This is why stoopid people are so dangerous; they can actually disintegrate the rest of us! It is advisable to avoid purveyors of anti-cluons.

    Use in a sentence: She's so out of it, she's an anti-cluon geyser.

  5. What is "infosoak"?

    A daily infosoak is one's only defense against a sea of anti-cluons. Infosponges of the world rely on infosoaks for sanity.

    Use in a sentence: "Know how Zappa used to take news baths? Well, I've been at work for 90 minutes, and all I've done is my morning infosoak and two dozen emails." -- Rohit Khare

  6. What is the "97% rule"?

    At any given moment in time in our universe, 97% of the population are purveyors of anti-cluons. Worse, who's in the 97% for any given field at any given time changes, and furthermore, the 97% rule is recursive (see example #1, below)! No wonder it's so difficult to maintain a clue, especially since people who have a clue are loath to help you get it because they loathe anti-cluons. The 97% rule was originally inspired by Rohit's reading of a New York Times article -- apparently 97% of Americans are functionally illiterate at such trivial operations as calculating mortgage interest payments. The 97% rule also applies to communication in any medium: 97% of the population aren't worth the time it takes to talk to them, 97% of Usenet articles have zero information content, 97% of what I write is just psychobabble, and so on. And, the 97% rule also applies to rightness and wrongness: if 97% of the population agree on something, it's most certainly wrong.

    Examples of the 97% rule: (sponsored by the number 42)

    1. To paraphrase the New York Times literacy study, 97% of Americans cannot calculate a simple mortgage payment given the principal, terms of the loan, and interest rate. Truly sad.
    2. According to Time Magazine, good journalism has been good business too. Though the Times' circulation has dipped 4% in the past five years (a drop company officials attribute largely to price increases), the paper's strategy of marketing itself as a premium product for an elite audience has worked.
    3. To quote Lily Tomlin, 98% of the adults in this country are decent, hardworking, honest Americans. It's the other lousy two percent that get all the publicity. But then, we elected them.
    4. 97% of Human DNA is 'junk' or noncoding DNA (that is, no genes). And at least 90% (but probably closer to 97%) of a human's brain cells go unused.
    5. In continuing efforts to clean the air in Southern California, the Department of Airports, in conjunction with the Southern California Gas Co, on July 11 introduced the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered shuttle buses in California, and the first LNG refueling station in the State. LNG burns 97 percent cleaner than diesel and plans call for LAX's shuttle fleet of 46 buses to be replaced by LNG vehicles over the next several years.
    6. On May 2, 1996, the Senate passed a bill which increased the resources to fight immigration into the U.S. Wasn't this country CREATED by immigration? Anyway, the bill doubles the number of border patrol agents, and limits the benefits for illegal AND legal immigrants. Guess what? The bill passed the Senate with a 97-3 vote.
    7. Breakdown of U.S. Ethnic Groups: 86% European or Caucasian (including 6% Hispanic), 11% African American, 3% other (including 2% East Asian and South Asian, and 0.7% Native American, Aleutian, and Inuitian). (See
    8. To paraphrase a pop-culture meme, 3% of the population has manic depression.
    9. To quote Jerry Seinfeld, "95% of the population is un-dateable!"
    10. To paraphrase Gordon Irlam, all of my anectdotal explanations contain 97% cruft and a pithy 3% distillation of wit.
    11. To paraphrase Rohit Khare, 97% of the people who invoke the 97% rule do so to argue that they are in the 3%. Of course, only 3% of those people are correct.
    12. To paraphrase Rohit Khare, 97% of the people who read this will write it off as utter bull; the other 3%, however, know its verity. Don't you hate having to be nice to anti-cluons?
    13. To quote Rohit Khare, 97% of the facts used as answers in the court's original deposition are, of course, gratuitous lies...
    14. Also to quote Rohit Khare, though I'm not quite sure why this relates to the 97% rule, 50% of all books published are out-of-print in 6 years. 94% of all books published are out-of-print in 18 years. Also 70% of all US flights route through 22 cities. Speaking of which...
    15. Airlines, airlines, airlines. Well, there are only 388 airports in the US with scheduled service; the top 6% do 70% of the business. There are 664 total airports, in which case the top 22 airports are 3%. More to the point, those cities are the only cities that "matter", I'd bet.
    16. More on airlines: the guy at the United desk estimated that 3% of Premier flyers hit 100,000-mile status. Not that this is a good thing, mind you, but it seems to be the only goal Rohit has decided to pursue of late. An Inside Flyer article confirms this idea: "Airline elite levels are generally comprised of about 3 percent of total membership."
    17. According to American Express, 3% of U.S. economy is travel and entertainment.
    18. The opportunities for UPS rivals clearly are there. Ross-Simons Inc., a closely held catalog retailer in Cranston, R.I., ships 1.2 million packages a year, 97% of those with UPS, and the balance with FedEx.
    19. According to Bob Austin, Volvo's director of U.S. Marketing, only about 6% of the adult population has the money and inclination to buy an automobile costing at least $30,000.
    20. There are 5.5 million millionaires today in America. By 2000, there will be 6.5 million. Or, 3% of the U.S. population.
    21. To paraphrase Sturgeon's Law, 97% of any field is crap. Heck, if we generalize, 97% of everything is crap. No wonder so many things suck.
    22. Of the 2 million plus people who have purchased In Search of Excellence, 97% of them have not actually read the book cover to cover.
    23. "How to make use of a useless degree: this book is for the other 97% of us." -- Andrew Frothingham, Finding Your Place in the Postmodern Economy
    24. "In today's automated labs, drug researchers can produce thousands of compounds that promise relief for various diseases. But about 98% eventually fail due to toxicity, high production costs, or ineffectiveness in human trials. So the challenge is to determine which candidates are in the other 2%." -- BusinessWeek, March 23, 1998, page 89
    25. Evan Schwartz's new book Webonomics says that Rick Fernandes, exec vp of CUC International (they do $1 billion annual business selling $50 memberships to a wholesaler ring), it only takes a 5% swing in revenue to bring a retail giant to its knees (which explains the recent bankrupt filings for Caldor and Bradlees). Of course, online shopping has a long way to go before it captures 5% of the retail industrial complex - according to Forrester Research, online sales will be $1 billion in 1997, growing to $6.6 billion in 2000 (less than 1% of the $1.7 trillion US retail economy). Meanwhile, Jupiter Communications projects that the number of US consumers regularly shopping on the Internet will approach 4.5 million by the year 2000. ROUGHLY THREE PERCENT OF THE ADULT POPULATION. Ah, validation...
    26. To quote the Suck ezine, in a real system that is used by real people, it is a mistake to assume that the users will all undertake the sorts of noble and sublime activities which you created the system to enable. Most of them will not.
    27. The Web is overpopulated by "Cool Sites" and "Worst of the Web" sites; in other words, pages lauding only the top and bottom 1% of all Web sites. Mediocre Site of the Day was created to pay homage to the middle 97%... the mediocre, the unremarkable, the so-so, average sites that we encounter on a daily basis.
    28. To quote E.B. White, democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time.
    29. Of American Express cardholders, the breakdown is: 7 million green, 4 million gold, 300,000 platinum (with the respective fees being $55, $75, and $300). In fact, can we tie the 97% theory to the standard deviation: it's just the inverse of the old dictum that you have to twice as good as the average to be worth anything.
    30. economist elinor harris solomon in her book virtual money quoth: cash = 550b xactions worth 2.2tn in the USA in 1995. check = 62b worth 73tn. electroic xfer = 19b worth 544 tn. exfer, in other words, is 19/612 = 3% of xactions but 544/618 = 88% of value. Interesting.
    31. The National Science Foundation reports that most Americans answer the following three questions incorrectly.
      1. Which is smaller, an electron or an atom?
      2. Which travels faster, sound or light?
      3. How long does it take the earth to go around the sun once?
    32. To quote Frank Zappa, not only is there more stupidity than anything else in terms of universal quantity, but there is a wonderful quality to this stupidity. It is so intensely perfect that it completely overwhelms whatever it is that nature has piled up on the other pan of the scale. Stupidity is replicating itself at an astonishing rate. It breeds easily and is self-financing. The person who stands up and says, "This is stupid," either is asked to "behave" or, worse, is greeted with a cheerful "Yes, we know! Isn't it terrific!"
    33. To quote Steve Jobs, when you're young, you look at television and think, there's a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that's not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That's a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in the business to give people what they want.
    34. To quote Tom Peters quoting Woody Allen in Forbes, "90% of life is showing up." Actually even this Allenism is not innocuous. One friend tells me it was "75% of success...," another says 80%. Yet another insists it was "90% of sex is showing up." I submit that 97% of EVERYTHING is showing up.
    35. (from Randall E. Stross' book, The Microsoft Way)

      On other occasions, Gates pointed to the operation of what he called the "herd" effect --- "90 percent of the people in this industry are the herd." The herd effect hindered Microsoft's attempts to gain market share for its spreadsheet on the DOS side where Lotus had the attention of the "herd," but it worked in the company's favor on the Macintosh side where in the mid-1980s Microsoft's Excel far outsold Lotus's Jazz. The reason Microsoft sold twenty copies of its Mac product for every one of Lotus's was not because it was significantly better technically --- Gates himself said it was only marginally better --- but because, Gates observed, once the market anoints a leader the entire universe of third-party support --- "all the books, all the templates, all the training, all the [stores'] stocking," --- heads in the direction of the leader, too...

      Perhaps the most controversial portion of Myhrvold's defense of the [positive feedback cycle] theory was when he observed that, in the history of computers, the market share leader in operating systems gets about 90 percent of the market, the runner-up has about 90 percent of the remainder, and so on. In applications software that runs on top of the operating system, the positive feedback cycle is at work, too, but it does not bring customers as many benefits, so the distribution is not quite as dramatically skewed. Nevertheless, a pattern is found in application software categories, too: the leader gets 60 to 70 percent of the market and the runner gets 60 to 70 percent of the remainder. Two years after Myhrvold made these observations, another software category --- the suite of productivity applications --- had become important. When a well-integrated suite like Microsoft's Office became widely adopted, it brought out every one of [Stanford economist Brian] Arthur's five sources of tipping, enhancing the effects of the positive feedback cycle. By 1995, Microsoft's Office had a 90 percent share of the suite segment of the market, exactly what Myhrvold's earlier remarks had predicted.

    36. To quote Thomas Edison, five percent of the people think; 10 percent of the people think they think; and the other 85 percent would rather die than think.
    37. To quote Kawasaki, Sony's market share for color TVs in 1995 was 7% according to Appliance Manufacturer, April 1996, p. 32. Honda's is about 7% in the car business. Funny, the press considers them winners. Apple's market share is about the same percentage, but we're doomed. If you watch a Sony, drive a Honda, and use a Macintosh, you must be really stupid. Except that your TV, car, and computer are all compatible...
    38. To quote John Klassa, 97% of the population doesn't know the difference between a hard disk and a CPU.
    39. According to Sperm Wars: The Science of Sex by Robin Baker,

      "Less than 1 percent of sperm in the male ejaculate is designed to fertilize the female. The rest, what we have previously written off as "misshapen sperm," are there either to block the passage to the womb should other men's sperm approach or to engage other men's sperm in mortal combat.

      "Female orgasm heps a woman get pregnant by the partner of her choice. With orgasm, her retention rate climbs to as high as 90 percent, making female orgasm a tool through which the woman can tip the competition in favor of one gene contributor or another.

      "Approximately 10 percent of all children born to married couples do not have their "father's" gene. A woman is more likely to be unfaithful during her fertile phase. Moreover, she is less likely to use or insist on the man's using contraception on such occasions. The fact that the apeal of the stranger is solely genetic--and does not lie in his promise to provide support and protection for her and her offspring--may explain this finding, one of the strangest in this book.

      "Without sperm warfare, men would have tiny genitals and produce few sperm. Women would not have orgasms; there would be no thrusting during intercourse; no sex dreams or fantasies, no masturbation; and we should each feel like intercourse only a dozen times or so in our entire lives--those occasions when conception is possible and desireable. Life itself would be very different."
    40. "If you're right 98% of the time, why quibble about the remaining 3%?"
    41. To paraphrase Israel Salanter, 97% of what is thought shouldn't be said; 97% of what is said shouldn't be written; 97% of what is written shouldn't be published; 97% of what is published shouldn't be read; and 97% of what is read shouldn't be remembered.

    Yeah, this analysis is elitist, but so's the whole 97% theory.

  7. What does "into the MsgList" mean?

    The 3% of the 3% of the 3% of the 3% of the 3% worth keeping, usually something extremely witty, embarrassing, smutty, or some combination thereof, gets put into my MsgList (the message list in my head of things to say when I have nothing to say, which is at least 97% of the time). So, if you say something, and someone else says, "into the MsgList," then chances are it will be kept for posterity by yours truly, usually ending up in the strangest corners of the Web at any given moment.

    Use in a sentence: Don't send me smart things you've said in an attempt to woo your way into the MsgList; it's a gestalt thing that either you have, or you don't.

  8. What is the "Thirty Hypothesis"?

    This is the belief that one's useful life ends at 30. This rule was first proposed by Rohit as the "Mathematician's rule of 25," which states that anything that was ever useful in mathematics was discovered and/or proved by a person by the time s/he was 25. We extend this rule to 30 for all fields besides mathematics; in fact, the number 30 also corresponds to the average person's life expectancy back when the institution of marriage was invented. Let's face it: you make your reputation by 30, and then it's all downhill from there. This comes from an ISI study of citations charting scientists' initial most-cited paper vs age, where the media ranged from very early twenties for mathematicians to early 30s for engineers. If you haven't broken through by the end of your PhD, it's not going to happen. On a Rohit level, Rohit lives his life as if it is literally going to end when he turns 30. On a personal level, I turn 30 during the last month of this millenium, so I'm sure at least a little part of all of us ends when I turn thirty.

    Use in a sentence: Since life ends at 30, 29 is the ultimate prime of life. Except for mathematicians, whose ultimate prime of life is 23.

  9. What is a "Twin Peaks moment"?

    Inspired from a scene in the movie Clueless (and also the David Lynch show Twin Peaks), a Twin Peaks moment happens when a member of the 97% accidentally gets a cluon overdose for a moment or two. It's not a pretty picture; poor Cher barely survived it.

    Use in a sentence: As if! Get me out of this Twin Peaks moment!

  10. What is a "rasher"?

    A rasher is a thin slice of bacon or ham broiled or fried; it's also a portion consisting of several such slices (although Megan's dad says a rasher is specifically 4 pieces of bacon). Rohit complains that my brain is much like a sieve, in that whenever I relieve my bladder, I also involuntarily flush all the cluons out of my brain, thereby thrusting me back into the 97%; he has been known to ask at that point, "What does the Rifkin cerebrum look like with a side of hash browns and a rasher of bacon?"

    Use in a sentence: Hello, my name is Vegan Montoya; you ate a rasher, prepare to die.

  11. What does "callipygian" mean? \,kal-e-'pij-(e^--)en\ or \-'pi^--ges\ adj (1800) [Gk kallipygos, fr. kalli- + -pygos, fr. pyge^- buttocks; akin to Gk physan to blow, inflate -- more at FOG] :having shapely buttocks.

    Use in a sentence: I'm having a callipygian moment.

  12. What is "pyrolagnia"?

    I don't remember. Ask Rohit. My brain is like a sieve, remember?

  13. What is a "FoRK"?

    A Friend of Rohit Khare. One of the few, the proud, the used, the abused. The FoRK mailing list serves as an index into Rohit's brain, which is extremely useful since it is Altavista searchable. How many peoples' brains can we say that about? Rohit's philosophy is, "Stick a FoRK in it; it's done."

    Use in a sentence: FoRK you and the modem you rode in on.

  14. What is a "voxer"?

    I'm not exactly sure about Voxers-at-Large.

    Use in a sentence: Voxers have this one rule that we can't repost anything from our mailing list.

  15. What is "slack"?

    There's something grand about being nothing. There's something lame about being grand. Slack is what you do when you're doing nothing. This is not to be confused with research, which is what you're doing when you have no idea what you're doing.

    Use in a sentence: My slack time is up to 97%.

  16. What is "futz"?

    futz \'fets\ vi [prob. fr. Yiddish; akin to OHG ferzan to fart - more at FART] slang (1932) :FOOL 1a - often used with around.

    Use in a sentence: John Koegel used to futz around without producing any worthwhile music.

  17. What is a "Baudrillardian challenge"?

    In that old Baudrillardian challenge, if one stages a bank robbery and carries the performance all the way to the bank, fooling even the teller and guards, one arguably has succeeded in redefining oneself not as an actor, but as a bank robber. With Baudrillard, the simulation IS the reality, and this philosophy applies to everything, including Pop-Up Video Howard Stern, Disneyland, Las Vegas, Beavis and Butt-head, Commodity Capitalism, Shopping Malls, the Vatican, Postmodernism, Martin Amis, I Ching, Aaron Spelling soaps, Coca Cola Classic, the Real World, Virtual Reality, and of course, the Internet. Rohit is quite Baudrillardian; often he'd rather read about something, rather than experience it.

    The real question is, of course, the question posed by Baudrillard: in postmodern thought: is the simulation good enough to approximate a new "real" experience?

    For example, if Rohit reads four reviews of the book _Maus_ by Art Spiegelman, reads a Web discussion of the themes in the book, and talks about the book with friends who have read it, is that the same approximate experience as reading the book?

    The question you need to ask yourself, of course, is: does the new thing add something above and beyond the original. If "Seinfeld" uses a Junior Mint in a way it's never been used before, and that adds value in a way Junior Mints alone never could have (in this case, the value being humor), that is a good thing. If Howard Stern simulates a crude experience (again, for the sake of humor), then again the value-added is good. VH1's Pop Up Video adds a different kind of experience -- adding information to an otherwise braindead source (music videos).

    And, in their own way, the rap stars you name add something to each of the songs they sample from.

    The new B.I.G. song is called "Mo Money Mo Problems", and he uses the catchy riff from Diana Ross's "I'm Coming Out" to make the point that just because he has money does not mean his life is free from trouble. In fact, it reigns true: he was shot and killed earlier this year, presumably from a jealous rival or fan.

    Similarly, if Coolio samples from Stevie Wonder, he can produce an amazing (and catchy) portrait of the life of a 23-year-old living in the inner city, complete with his hopes and fears. The song becomes an anthem of sorts, propelling an otherwise-mediocre movie into the limelight.

    Coolio shows us as well that rappers need not sample from modern songs. He riffs off Pachelbel's "Canon in D" in his latest single, "C U When U Get There", which is an insightful ditty aimed at people who want to learn before their "mind is prepared." Again, the sample provides a hook that attracts an audience to a song.

    If they take an old riff, and use it to a new end, is that simulation of a new experience not as good as a brand new experience generated from scratch? I would say so.

    It's not limited to rappers, either. George Michael produced a cool 1996 dance song, "Fastlove", from the same song Will Smith's "Men in Black" was sampled from: Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots." Both songs have gotten substantially more airplay than the original. Why? Because they take the original and extend it in an original way. The song by itself was just not all that intriguing to people. It was repetitive, and that grates after a while. But add a backbeat and some additional rapping, singing, or "smoothing out", and a repetitive experience becomes more interesting.

    Likewise, if the Beastie Boys sample a wide variety of sources (check out the album "Paul's Boutique"), it makes for a more holistic experience. If Madonna samples a line from Socrates ("The unexamined life is not worth living" is in "Now I'm Following You"), it makes the song better than it might have been. If Stephen King samples a line from Blue Oyster Cult ("Don't Fear the Reaper"), it makes "The Stand" a better novel. If the Fun Lovin' Criminals sample lines from "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs" in their song "Scooby Snacks", it makes the song sound more authentically criminal. If a post to a public mailing list like FoRK samples from web sites and newsgroups (and yes, even private emails), and then adds interesting commentary, then what we experience is a post that transcends and improves the original bits.

    Sampling works. The good rappers are not hacks; they take catchy riffs and craft a new song around that familiar yet fashionable theme. I, for one, happen to like the new Notorious B.I.G. single, and I'm not the only one: it was #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 7 weeks. Also, the tribute song the Puff Daddy and Faith Evans penned to the riff on the Police's "Every Breath You Take" was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks.

    I feel inclined to note that rapping on top of a sampled riff is but one form of sampling. For example, consider points made by Rob, Tim, and Richard.

    Rob made a good point about 4 Cellos playing Metallica. Man, that is just an awesome album. It's not a Metallica ripoff; it transcends the original art in a new and meaningful way.

    Tim made a good point about the Chemical Brothers sampling the Beatles being sampling put to good use, but the point is not to judge. You may think that Coolio's sampling of Earth Wind and Fire on "Fantastic Voyage" sucks, but that's your opinion. Other people might think it's a great use of sampling in an art form. The point is to let everyone try their hand at sampling, and pick your own 3% best.

    And I forgot to make the point that sometimes an artist can sample himself and make new, more compelling art as a result. Michelangelo and Picasso knew this. So did Mick Jones, who took a riff from a song he did with the Clash in "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" and sampled it in a creative, interesting way in his song with Big Audio Dynamite II, "The Globe". (In an ironic bout of self-indulgence, he even says "Bless you" to himself when the sampled voice goes, "Woooo!").

    And when Natalie Cole takes her father's songs, remasters them and sings along in harmony, the result is very impressive. "Unforgettable," if you will.

    Or when "When Harry Met Sally" samples dialogue and movie bits from "Casablanca," is makes the movie itself more accessible.

    Hamlet's play-within-a-play works well as a metaphor both to increase dramatic tension and to push the plot forward.

    Al Pacino's making-of-a-movie-within-a-movie shows off features not just of the showing of Richard the III he's making. It also gives us nuances about the characters portraying the characters.

    Sort of like the play _6 Characters in Search of an Author_ and _Noises Off_ both play off the fact that their characters are boxed in a play within a play, giving you a multidimensional view of what's actually happening.

    So when Howard Stern in his movie plays Howard Stern, and is in the middle of a simulated on-air discussion about what words you can and cannot say on the air ("The question is: blank, willow..."), the levels at play can be mind numbing but the situation itself is amazing. You can be amused by it on so many levels.

    All I'm saying is that the experience of "reading the book" is adequately approximated by the sum of reading the reviews, reading the jacket, talking with friends about it, and checking out Web pages about it.

    It's like when you go to a movie. You've seen 2 or 3 different previews of that movie. You've read 6 different reviews (and man is Janet Maslin are insightful!) of the movie, plus an Entertainment Weekly cover story on the making of the movie. You've seen the actors and actresses in the movie on Leno, Letterman, Rosie, and Oprah, all hocking the movie. In some cases, you've read the book the movie was based on. You've seen the best 30 seconds of the movie in the commercials. You've heard your friends talk about the best parts of the movie and the issues that it raised. Web pages and usenet news give you more details about the movie, and the newspaper has Op-Ed pieces about the issues in the movie.

    Before you've even seen the movie, all these other experiences essentially have approximated the experience of seeing the movie itself. Perhaps even transcended it.

    Rohit uses this sometimes as a justification for not seeing movies. And I can't say it's entirely wrong. After all, if you've approximated an experience closely enough, why should you HAVE to live through it?

    When you think about it, shows like The Real World they create entirely new experiences which work as art on multiple levels. It's extraordinary. The simulation of real experiences in the context of simulated reality.

    Likewise, Seinfeld's use of Junior Mints IS simulating an experience. It's sampling an item (in this case, a junior mint) in an environment in which it's never been used (in this case, surgery), yielding an entirely new simulated experience that approximates the reality of such an experience actually happening from scratch.

    So when Notorious B.I.G. samples an item (in this case, Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out") in an environment in which it's never been used (in this case, with a hard bass and backbeat and rap lyrics about the problems that more moneys are associated with), he yields an entirely new simulated experience that approximates the reality of such an experience actually happening from scratch.

    Levels can recurse as needed. For example, Weird Al Yankovic's parody "Amish Paradise", which is a sample of a sample.

    Sampling is not shoplifting. Mariah Carey blatantly rips off the Tom Tom Club in her "Fantasy" single. Naughty by Nature totally rips off the Jackson Five's "ABC" in their anthem "O.P.P.", but like "Fantasy" and "Mo Money Mo Problems", it works.

    But sampling DOES create a new experience. In some cases, the new experience will be very similar to the old experience. In other cases, the new experience will be more recognizably new. There's a spectrum here, not any absolute. (Memo to myself, post the "Rules of Three" hypothesis someday...)

    Also, samples need not necessarily be just of small, evocative bits. If this were entirely true -- if everyone sampled like Sting samples his "Every Breath You Take" in his solo effort "Love is the Seventh Wave" -- then you would rule out experiences like remakes.

    Sometimes remakes transcend their originals as well. The remake of "Cape Fear" is much better than the original. Wasn't "Star Wars" originally some Japanese samurai film? Isn't Naked Eye's version of "Always Something There to Remind Me" better than the original? Isn't Guns n Roses' version of "Knocking on Heaven's Door" better than Clapton's or Dylan's? For that matter, isn't Hendrix's version of "All Along the Watchtower" better than Dylan's? Heck, almost any Bob Dylan song is better when someone else does it. (only kidding...) And tell me you don't like the Mike Flowers Pops version of "Wonderall" better than the version by those crude apes Oasis...

    It's true that sometimes the remake is worse than the original. Look at "La Femme Nikita" when compared to "Point of No Return." Or Marilyn Manson's creepy version of the cool Eurythmics song, "Sweet Dreams are Made of This." Or that most book and movie sequels are worse than the originals. (Okay, "Aliens" was better than "Alien" and "Empire Strikes Back" was better than "Star Wars", so there are exceptions...)

    Tim points out one problem with sampling: "that it takes a carbon copy of something and places it somewhere else. And that you might have memories, or emotions tied to the original that are corrupted by the remake." But that's just a sacrifice we have to make for living in a postmodern age.

    Speaking of postmodernism, In an Information Age where we all suffer from Information Sickness and Overload, the only cure is a highly-potent, creatively-filtered tonic of (yes) textual residue spilled from the depths of our spiritual unconscious. Creating a work of art will depend more and more on the ability of the artist to select, organize and present the bits of raw data we have at our disposal.

    Use in a sentence: My so-called life has become Baudrillardian again.

  18. What is "straight edge"?

    That's me: never done illicit drugs. Ever.

    Use in a sentence: Adam is so straight edge, Jason put X marks on his hands.

  19. What is a PASSLQ?

    Would you believe I have a separate web page describing what a PASSLQ is? To paraphrase William Safire, a PASSLQ is a Person of an Appropriate Sex Sharing Living Quarters. Safire invented the word to counter a word used by the U.S. census bureau for two people living together but not married, POSSLQ (which would be, Person of the Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters). Safire said that "POSSLQ" was an offense to the 10% of Americans who happen to be gay (not to mention those of us who happen to be happy), so he suggested that the census bureau use PASSLQ instead in a New York Times column. I'm not sure if they eventually adopted it or not; I assume no, since you know how the government likes to do anything to keep gay people from being happy. People don't like me to use the word, because it's an homage to William Safire, plus 97% of people who hear me say the word think I'm nuts anyway.

    Use in a sentence: He's not fat; he's my PASSLQ.

  20. What is a Dobbin?

    The 411: A Dobbin is a mythical, mystical creature who hangs out in SevLevs slurping Big Gulps. Never corner a Dobbin as they are prone to attack you. For sustenance, Dobbins survive on entertainment, provided by the 9:30 club, and season tickets to the Washington Bullets, and several mailing lists. It is rumored that if you rub the stomach of a Dobbin, he will bring you good luck; however, a conversation with a Dobbin on this subject has revealed that any rubbing has to be done to a lower part of his body to bring you the luck.

    Use in a sentence: Dobbins like Concrete Blonde, Debbie Gibson, Hole, Garbage, Eve's Plum, and Tiffany. I kid you not.

  21. What in the world is a pangram?

    Apparently, it's something that makes a Dobbin laugh. You're smart; you figure out what a pangram is.

    Some pangrams:

  22. What's a "granola girl"?

    You know, a crunchy person. Sort of like a cornflake girl. Ask Megan; she'll tell you.

    Use in a sentence: Neil Young wanted to be with a cinnamon granola girl. Or something.

  23. What is Hell's Kitchen?

    It's a place where Ducks live.

  24. What is "snoit"?

    Dammit, which mutated by typos into Sammit, which mutated by typos into Smmit, which mutated by typos into Smit, which mutated by typos into Snit, which mutated by typos into Snoit, which mutated by cute Kendallisms into "Snoittle," but personally, I still like "Snoit." It's perfect for when you want to say dammit, but can't.

    Use in a sentence: Snoit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a physicist!

  25. What is "mumble"?

    Something you say when you choose not to say anything at all. Also can be spoken as "dum da dum."

    Use in a sentence: Mumble. Frotz. Grrr.

  26. What is "snicker"?

    A unit of happiness derived from derision of others.

    Use in a sentence: America has the government we deserve. Snicker.

  27. What is "sniff"?

    A unit of sadness derived from derision by others.

    Use in a sentence: 220 years of democracy in America and the best choices they can give us for president are Gush and Bore? Sniff sniff.

  28. What is "lucubration"? (.l{u:}-k(y>-'br{a-}-sh*n) Etymology: L i[lucubration-], i[lucubratio] study by night, work produced at night, fr. i[lucubratus], pp. of i[lucubrare] to work by lamplight; akin to L i[luc-], i[lux] 1) n, laborious study: MEDITATION 2) n, studied or pretentious expression in speech or writing

    Use in a sentence: Go away, can't you see I'm in lucubration?

  29. What's "grok"?

    grok /grok/, var. /grohk/ from the novel `Stranger in a Strange Land', by Robert A. Heinlein, where it is a Martian word meaning literally `to drink' and metaphorically `to be one with' vt.
    1. To understand, usually in a global sense. Connotes intimate and exhaustive knowledge. Contrast zen, similar supernal understanding as a single brief flash. See also glark.
    2. Used of programs, may connote merely sufficient understanding. "Almost all C compilers grok the `void' type these days."
    When Rohit and I talk about grokking stuff, we usually talk in terms of vision: Do you grok the vision? What is vision?, you might ask. To quote Warren Bennis,
    To choose a direction, a leader must first have developed a mental image of a possible and desirable future state of the organization. This image, which we call a vision, may be as vague as a dream or as precise as a goal or mission statement. The critical point is that a vision articulates a view of a realistic, credible, attractive future for the organization, a condition that is better in some important ways than what now exists. A vision is a target that beckons.

  30. What are "Rohit's Rules of Order"?

    1. The 97% will always be in charge of 97% of the aspects of your life.
    2. A person can have at most two of the 3 most useful qualities in the universe -- the dreams that stuff are made of: bitfulness, cluefulness, and vision.

      (This has a venture capital corollary: only 3% of any given demographic manifests any one of these qualities, and a successful venture requires two complementary people to cover all three bases and share one in common. That means that successful launches are (3% * 3%)^2, or roughly one in a million.)
    3. (Adam's corollary:) There very well might be a fourth "mystery" quality at play in the universe, which I call the "glue". The glue is what holds the other 3 qualities together. It is the lubrication and the adhesive in human relationships and endeavors.
    4. We can categorize people into the Khare Ontology (KO)?
      • None of Vision, Bits, and Clue - 97% of the population
      • Only vision - good IS managers and people atop tall mountains
      • Only bits - good journalists and book writers and web builders
      • Only clue - the people who actually DO all the work and research
      • Only vision and bits - good infosponges and infosoakers and bit bingers
      • Only vision and clue - good cutting edge technology project leaders
      • Only bits and clue - good management consultants and venture capitalists
      • Vision, Bits, and Clue - good CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, COOs, etc.
      • The mysterious "fourth force" - good at ???
    5. Beware people with two or more L's in their name.
    6. Hardly any of the bitful people in "Triumph of the Nerds" are now worth anything.
    7. It's usually easier to pay $23 for overnight parking than it is to go home and come back at 9am. (Actually, this has more to do with the arbitrage value of $0 of Rohit's parking bill -- $23 to CIT -- vs. a 1/2 share of a $225 hotel room.)
    8. No one's sitting around waiting for PEP to happen.
    9. History is written by the victors.
    10. "PC Clones" were a $13 billion insight (and climbing).
    11. The decent is the enemy of the best.
    12. All innovation is driven by laziness, impatience, and hubris. And occasionally horniness.
    13. It is better to keep one's mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. (Actually, Rohit doesn't believe this, but he should.)
    14. Humans fear change.
    15. If a processor or person can't keep up with the bit-rate of a communication channel, they should either drop the connection or admit that they are over-classed when it comes to data-streaming.
    16. If they don't understand; TALK LOUDER!
    17. Act humble only in front of large groups of people, all of which are older than you.
    18. bitful == bitfull == a-bit-full == a-hit-full == ro-hit-full == rohit-full <==> full-rohit == full-o-hit == full-o-sh*t :)
    19. The only problem with sponges is that they are often used to clean the sink.
    20. 97% of the world is absolutely clue-less, 97% of our profession blow smoke out their *sses to cover their tracks, 97% of men are pr*cks, and the perfect woman has 1:1000000 intelligence, 1:1000 looks, 1:100 nighttime activity capabilities, 1:10 humor, and 1:1 two legs ==> 1:1,000,000,000,000 in the history of the world, and she lived in the 1200's and was hit by a runaway plague cart.
    21. Do what I say and demand, not what I do and propose.
    22. "When a friend succeeds, I die a little..." -- Gore Vidal
    Rohit's Rules of Order are far more applicable in life than, say, Robert Fulghum's:
    1. Share everything.
    2. Play fair.
    3. Don't hit people.
    4. Put things back where you found them.
    5. Clean up your own mess.
    6. Don't take things that aren't yours.
    7. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
    8. Wash your hands before you eat.
    9. Flush.
    10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
    11. Live a balanced life--learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
    12. Take a nap every afternoon.
    13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
    14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
    15. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup--they all die. So do we.
    16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned--the biggest word of all--LOOK.
    Rohit's Rules of Order are also far better than the rules of corporate America:
    1. Indecision is the key to flexibility.
    2. You can't tell which way the train went by looking at the track.
    3. There is absolutely no substitute for a genuine lack of preparation.
    4. Happiness is merely the remission of pain.
    5. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
    6. Sometimes too much to drink is not enough.
    7. The facts, although interesting, are irrelevant.
    8. The careful application of terror is also a form of communication.
    9. Someone who thinks logically is a nice contrast to the real world.
    10. Things are more like they are today than they ever were before.
    11. Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting dirty for.
    12. Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.
    13. Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate.
    14. I have seen the truth and it makes no sense.
    15. Suicide is the most sincere form of self-criticism.
    16. If you think there is good in everybody, you haven't met everybody.
    17. All things being equal, fat people use more soap.
    18. If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.
    19. One seventh of your life is spent on Monday.
    20. By the time you make ends meet, they move the ends.
    21. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
    22. The more you run over a dead cat, the flatter it gets.
    23. There is always one more imbecile than you counted on.
    24. This is as bad as it can get, but don't count on it.
    25. Never wrestle a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.
    26. The trouble with life is, you're halfway through it before you
    27. realize it's a do-it-yourself thing.
    28. Youth and skill are no match for experience and treachery.
    29. No amount of advance planning will ever replace dumb luck.
    30. Anything you do can get you fired; this includes doing nothing.
    31. Money can't buy happiness; it can, however, rent it.
    32. Never pass a snow plow on the right.

  31. What is "beaver fever"?

    (from Megan) Let's put it this way: don't drink out of even the most tempting, clear, mountain stream. They're almost all impure. It's like Montezuma's revenge (which is bad enough when you're traveling in another country, but a lot worse if you're camping).

    giar*di*a*sis \(,)je_-,a_r-'di_-e-ses, je_-er-, ja_r-\ n, pl -a*ses [NL, fr. Giardia, fr. Alfred M. Giard +1908 Fr. biologist] (1919):infestation with or disease caused by a flagellate protozoan (genus Giardia and esp. G. lamblia in man) that is often characterized by diarrhea.

    Use in a sentence: Bubbert The Dog has giardia, and now he's not allowed to eat apples or grapes.

  32. What is " Megan's Rule of Cows"?

    "You can basically relate cows to any global environmental problem, save overpopulation." Particularly since most of the cow problems are caused by McDonalds and its ilk, and I doubt that the line between starvation and survival hinges on McDonalds for most people. However, we can blame a combination of overpopulation and cows for scary viruses like AIDS and Ebola and Marburg, because human populations and McDonalds need for pasture land are causing further deforestation and forcing people to live further into the forests and closer to animal (and virus) habitats, which means that they're exposed to all kinds of stuff that has probably been around for millions of years, but that we've mainly avoided all that time. So maybe cows will lead to an end to overpopulation: McDonalds takes all the viable pastureland in continents like Africa and South America (and Asia?), forcing people who subsist on farming to cut down more forest for their own farmland, forcing them into contact with deadly hot viruses, leading to an end to overpopulation. Unfortunately, that only works for small groups of people, and not for the people in/near the cities (which are the most densely populated), unless the infected people manage to travel to a city before realizing how ill they are. Hot viruses can kill so swiftly that a village is decimated before they can spread. So I think that may ruin my cows = end to overpopulation theory.

  33. What is the "Taco conversion principle"?

    Originally the Big Mac conversion principle, I changed the name because, quite simply, I hate McDonalds. And I don't just hate McDonalds because of Megan's Rule of Cows. I hate McDonalds because it tricks people into thinking they are getting nutrition, when in reality they are just getting that much closer to death. I hate McDonalds because its culture is addictive in substance, and sadistic in style. I hate McDonalds because it started the fast food culture that is now the norm. But enough of McDonalds. Let's talk Tacos. See, I believe that currency is arbitrary, and the real reason people have dollars is to buy food (such as Tacos), and so the real buying power of a dollar is how many Tacos it can buy. When I was in Tijuana, I could get 4 Tacos for a dollar, so in Mexico, dollars have mucho buying power. In France, on the other hand, it cost Rohit 15 bucks to get a single burrito. Obviously, dollars don't have much power in France (actually, nothing American seems to have much power in France). In Los Angeles, places like Jack in the Box are consistently changing their Taco conversion rate: one week it's two tacos for a buck, the next week it's 3 for a buck, then it's a taco burger and fries for a buck. I'm sure arbitrage opportunities exist for buying Taco contracts in one corner of the world and selling them in another; I'm just not quite sure how to exploit the futures markets in this way to make my money and retire having never had an actual job. By the way, in France, they don't have the metric system, so they call it "Le Taco." Or something equivalently Tarantinoesque.

    Use in a sentence: My salary is currently 900 tacos a week, in 1993 dollars. Should I ask Caltech for a raise?

  34. What is "platt"?

    (As in platinum.) Mint. Totally decent. Awesome. Groovy. Cool. Excellent. Superb. Stellar. Rad. Unparalleled. Fly. Phat. Dope. Fresh. Bad (not the bad bad, but the good bad). Marvellous. Wonderful. Terrific. Doubleplusgood.

    Use in a sentence: Squirtgun is platt. MTX is platt. The Wynona Ryders are platt. Lookout Records are platt.

    Side note: Rumman says I'm wrong in my definition of platt:
     From Sun Nov  3 17:47:42 1996
     Subject: regarding q. 34
     To: adam at xent dot com (adam rifkin)
     this is were you _are_ wrong. 
     platt, (noun proper) a butt ugly english football player
     who scores a lot of goals.

  35. What's a "degree of separation"?

    Inspired by the movie _Six Degrees of Separation_, there is a degree of separation between person A and person C if there exists a person B who knows both A and C, and A and C don't know each other. There are 2 degrees of separation between people A and D if person A knows person B but not C or D, and person B knows person C but not D, and person C knows person D. And so on. According to the movie, everyone in the country is at most 6 degrees of separation from everyone else in the country. I surmise that everyone in the world is at most 10 degrees of separation from everyone else in the world.

    Use in a sentence: I'm one degree of separation from Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Bill Clinton.

  36. What is "cringelyism"?

    I have to admit, I made this one up on the morning of July 24, 1996. This is essentially the belief that Bob Cringely, by being the channel of a single degree of separation between so many people, holds the key to understanding far more than the average person can unlock on his or her own. It is a fundamental belief that the individual can focus not only on the assimilation of information, but on the fundamental ramifications of that assimilation. There is a World Wide Web of information that predates the Internet, and cringelyism is the belief that through certain key people (Bob Cringely being one of them), insight is facilitated.

    Use in a sentence: Cringelyism has no converts: either you believe or you do not. That is the essence of faith, and the question is: how strongly do you believe?

  37. What is "charette"?

    Feverish activity immediately preceding a deadline. The term comes from the French name for the horsedrawn carts in Paris that carried architectural students with their architectural models from their workshops to their examinations, still feverishly finishing the models "en charette." In the vernacular English we can speak of "having a charette" and, of course, there is a verb form: "charetting it up." Without a deadline there can be no charette. (Aside: Charette is also the name of a big art store in the Boston area.)

    Use in a sentence: Rohit can work only en charette.

  38. What is a "gyroscope"?

    gy-ro-scope ^--re-,sko^-p, Brit n [F] (1856) :a wheel or disk mounted to spin rapidly about an axis and also free to rotate about one or both of two axes perpendicular to each other and to the axis of spin so that a rotation of one of the two mutually perpendicular axes results from application of torque to the other when the wheel is spinning and so that the entire apparatus offers considerable opposition depending on the angular momentum to any torque that would change the direction of the axis of spin.

    Use in a sentence: Say what?

  39. What is "hardware"?

    hard-ware \'ha^:r-,dwa(e)r, -,dwe(e)r\ n (1515) 1: ware (as fittings, cutlery, tools, utensils, or parts of machines) made of metal... 2: major items of military or police equipment or their components... 3: the physical components (as electronic and electrical devices) of a vehicle (as a spacecraft) or an apparatus (as a computer); also: the physical equipment of a system of transportation... 4: devices (as tape recorders, phonographs, or closed-circuit television) often used as instructional equipment ... 5: that part of a computer which can be kicked.

    Use in a sentence: Say what?

  40. What's an "eigenvalue"?

    They're all over the place. The basic problem they solve is when you have a complicated system, you want to find the normal modes. i.e., two couple oscillators. The eigenvectors give you one symmetric and one anti-symmetric solution. In other words, they reparamterize your coordiate space.

    While they are important in classical physics, they are critical to quantum. They are also one of the two fundamental paradigms, known as matrix mechanics (the other is wave mechanics). All quantum operators are viewed as matrices acting on vectors, and eigenvectors for that operator tell you its quantum numbers.

    Eigenvalues are sometimes called "singular values" - because they're the precise points where something interesting happens.

    (from Ron Resnick) An eigenvalue is a unique scalar which when it multiplies an eigenvector, produces a resultant vector equivalent to the operator of the eigen-equation applied to the same eigenvector. But you already knew that.

    Use in a sentence: Say what?

  41. What is "kitty-corner"?

    kit*ty-cor*ner or kit*ty-cor*nered var of CATERCORNER. cat*er*cor*ner \,kat-e_-'ko_(r)-ner, ,kat-e-, ,kit-e_-; 'kat-e_-,, 'kat-e-,, 'kit-e_-,\ adv or adj [obs. cater (four-spot) + E corner] (1843) :in a diagonal or oblique position: on a diagonal or oblique line (the house stood catercorner across the square).

    Use in a sentence: "There are these horrible Noisy Boys working in the pod kitty-corner to mine, and I was going through batteries on my walkman at the rate of about two a day." -- Megan Coughlin

  42. What's the "Big Mac Index"?

    The April 12, 1997 edition of "The Economist" has a table with Big Mac prices around the world and local currency under/over valuation compared to the dollar based on exchange rates... The worst offenders are Switzerland (+66%), Denmark (+63%), Israel (+40%) and Sweden (+39%). France comes in at +26%, Japan at -3%. The best places to buy your burgers are China (-52%), Hong Kong (-47%) and Poland (-43%) respectively.

  43. What's the difference between strategy and tactics?

    According to that bastion of definitional verisimilitude, the NeXT webster program... \-jeE\  pl -gies
    [Gk strateEgia generalship, fr. strateEgos]
    1a (1): the science and art of employing the political, economic,
    psychological, and military forces of a nation or group of nations to
    afford the maximum support to adopted policies in peace or war
    (2): the science and art of military command exercised to meet the
    enemy in combat under advantageous conditions 
    b: a variety of or instance of the use of strategy
    2a: a careful plan or method: a clever stratagem
    b: the art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal
    3: an adaptation or complex of adaptations (as of behavior,
    metabolism, or structure) that serves or appears to serve an important
    function in achieving evolutionary success aforaging strategies of
    insects \'tak-ti-kel\ adj
    1: of or relating to combat tactics:
    as a: involving actions or means of less magnitude or at a shorter
    distance from a base of operations than those of strategy 
    b of an air force: of, relating to, or designed for air attack in
    close support of friendly ground forces
    2a: of or relating to tactics: as
    (1): of or relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose
    (2): made or carried out with only a limited or immediate end in view
    b: adroit in planning or maneuvering to accomplish a purpose
    P tac7ti7cal7ly \-k(e-)leE\ adv 

  44. What's "tweakish"?

    It's a Cringelyism, at least to me. A tweak loves technical details -- the kind of person who would tweak a 20-channel DSP-driven audio equalizer.

    Bill Gates is a tweak.

    Use in a sentence: Using a Kleene star in conversation is prime tweak behavior.

  45. What is "bowdlerize"?

    BOWDLER FAMILY. The term "bowdlerize" means to expurgate literature; it comes from the English family that pioneered the commercial cutting--really rewriting--of literature. The most famous Bowdler family members were Thomas and his sister Henrietta Maria. Harriet--who could not bear the indelicacy of dancers at the opera--anonymously published "Sermons on the Doctrines and Duties of Christianity," which ran into 50 printings. Thomas published the "Family Shakespeare," ironically deleting notice of Harriet's participation in the project. It became the best-selling Shakespeare of the 19th century. In 1826, he published "The Family Gibbon," a sanitized, debauchery-free gloss on Edward Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. The works of Shakespeare (1564-1616) have been expurgated more often than those of any other English language author except Chaucer. The bard was first bowdlerized by Queen Elizabeth I who cut the passage in "Richard II" in which the king is deposed. In 1660, Sir William Avenant trimmed seven plays with the intention "that they may be reformed of profanities and ribaldry." In the 18th century, by contrast, greater ribaldry was desired. Dryden's version of "The Tempest," for instance, gave Miranda a new--and sexy--twin sister.

  46. What is "making a pin cushion"?

    From the Connolly vernacular, it means creatively procrastinating. For him, this involves something like reading the FoRK FAQ or perhaps ordering a book from Amazon. For Rob, it might involve cracking some RSA challenge. I generally just slack.

    Use in a sentence: For Rohit, making a pin cushion involves sleeping around. Sleeping around fourteen hours, that is.

  47. What's pumpernickel?

    pum*per*nick*el \'pem-per-,nik-el\ n [G, perh. fr. pumpern flatulence + nickel goblin; fr. its reputed indigestibility] (1839) :a dark coarse sourdough bread made of unbolted rye flour

    Use in a sentence: Megan says, "Yum! Give me some flatulence-goblin bread!"

  48. What's "slan leat"?

    Slan leat literally means "Good health with you" in Irish, and is used as Goodbye in Irish (there being no real proper word for Goodbye). The first part, Slan, pronounced Slawn, is allegedly the origin of the American English colloquialism for goodbye, So Long.

    Use in a sentence: Slan leat, Adam.

  49. What is the meaning of life?

    You wouldn't believe the answer to "What is the meaning of life?" if someone told you. Needless to say, whatever it is, it defies explanation. I refer you to the words of that sanctimonious beatnik, Ralph Waldo Emerson:
    Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it. The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who also knows why will always be his boss. As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.

  50. What is the meaning of MY life?
    I refer you to the words of that sanctimonious beatnik, Quentin Tarantino:
    That's how you're gonna beat em, Butch. They keep underestimating you.

Questions on the Queue to Answer

  1. What should I do with my life?

From Rifkin's List of Links, adam at xent dot com

Last modified: Thu Apr 2 19:43:47 PST 1998