Day: Mar 23

4 intervals from 23 Mar 2001 (Obliviousness Replaying Xenia Biomedical)

2:18 am

The height of the main unit is amazing, a pure spiral elegance which reaches a full mile into the air.

That such a device could be built - and then copied - but then, it built itself, and that's why it exceeds all human standards, all mortal proportion. It is a machine's image of the perfect machine, and as it was built larger and larger it spawned, from its steely skin, ever-smaller versions of itself to fill in the empty spaces, so that every atom could begin to work and think, and the interior of the entire cubic miles of conductive metals and fibers is solid, a swirling set of interacting, moving, shifting electronic sections, like a mix of oil paints, the thoughts travelling from the 400-foot neck through the massive platinum spine, down to the processors in the lowest sub-basement, and back up again, in a shimmer of water and light. No one understands it, or how it works. It's impossible to keep up; it understands itself and reports back.

The claw arm reaches out and grasps the smallest and weakest before they injure themselves; the same arm grabs the criminal as they race down the roadways with purses. It's an awesome sight to see it swoop, faster than sound, the boom cracking out across the city.

There were always, in the generations before us, those who protested the device. But now that the entire race of man remembers being saved from an oncoming car or angry man by the swift intervention of that claw, who can condemn such a benevolent force? And of course the planners made certain that the machine was only civic. We create the same art and the same literature we always did. And it is still human art. Does it lack the brutality and vivacious spill of blood of our predecessors? Not at all. For we need that scent of violence ever more, and our pleasure in it is guiltless, for we know that even were we to try to act as the characters in the film - who always find ways to ignore the machine, or to blow it up - we would be stopped long before we plant the dynamite or dig the guns up from the ruins of some long-destroyed armory. The machine has no concerns in this matter, and leaves us alone to rebel.

2:20 am

Epitaph for a Total Jackass

Paul Edmund Ford


"He enjoyed cheddar greatly."

2:21 am

Sex is like something in the sky these last few days, something distant and unreachable, far above me, available only to those who can afford airplane tickets. Sometimes it's like cancer, all through me and I just want it out but can't do anything about it but wait and hope for release, but right now it's nothing, a big bland blah.

5:12 am

It's been slow going for a while, but lately I feel I'm gathering speed. The goal is to be posting daily, and I'm nearly there if I count the journal (which has a lot of badly edited content, but building it was a step in the path to posting daily). In the last year I've built a framework with XML/XSLT that gives me the ability to let the narratives grow much more organically than any pure HTML or database-based system.

One problem I'm working on is that Ftrain is a nodal point for many different kinds of creative thinkers. Tech geeks, humanities types, publishers, editors, writers, Webloggers, musicians, academics, and a whole bunch of Dutch people. They really like the ethos of the site. As I've learned more and gotten smarter, my audience has grown to include very, very talented and bright people, and it's been great to have some street cred in that shared space. But I'm thinking that what I should really do is find a way to turn that process inside out, find ways to move the center of the site away from "Paul Ford" and create ways to let creative and intelligent people find one another via the site, without going through me. My general sense is that there are quite a few Ftrain readers who could benefit from contact with each other, and the site and the stories might be a good way to give individuals a shared platform for introducing themselves.

(For instance, people sometimes list Ftrain in their online personal ads, as a site that defines their personality.)

But forums bore the hell out of me. I don't want to build "community" on the Web site or create a big Ftrain-centric dialogue. I want to give people the ability to get in touch with one another, no strings attached.

I'm thinking that I might create a section of the site which is "reader profiles", where I ask folks to introduce themselves and explain the things they're looking for in life and the things they can give to others. Work-related, academic, personal, hobby-related, whatever. They can manage their own data via a database interface, and folks can get in touch with one another via a form on the site, or via email. If anything productive comes of it, they can drop me a line, if they'd like, and I'll share the story (or link to their project) on the site; otherwise it's none of my business. The profiles would be searchable, integrated into the site.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


There is a Facebook group.


You will regret following me on Twitter here.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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