I wanted a mission...

John (john@syd.dit.csiro.au)
Fri, 3 May 91 10:09:07 +1000

[A note on the typography: using _..._ to indicate emphasis, I adopt
/.../ to indicate italics.]

I must take up Philip's last point before beginning in earnest:

Don't bother replying to this publicly. I'm sure we have
exceeded whatever entertainment value (if any) this conversation
might have held for the non-rabid readers of this list.

As a Rhetorical Device To Get the Last Word, I am afraid this is asymptotic
to being embarrassingly unsophisticated, and I can assure you, Philip, that
I have no intention of complying. (Indeed, as the immortal Mark V. Shaney
once observed, `Policemen can be very effective rhetorical devices.' -- and
I certainly think a policeman would be more effective than that one.)

That said, on we go. I have a general comment to make in the
first instance: I want all those who are actually interested in the
argument here to note that in _no case_ did Philip _address the issues_
I raised in the second referenced message. He raised some straw men,
quoted me to great excess, produced (astonishingly enough -- but I will
return to that point later) a nice piece of linguistic play, and blew
some smoke: but he absolutely failed to address the issues.

Philip, I am asking you again about the _issues_. Flame away (I know _I_
will), but please include some _content_, or people might think you have no
content to include.

And I kill you... (see face)

Shameless aping of another's style is not usually a good way to score
points. Now, if you simply must ape someone else's style, you picked a
fine model: Shand has more style than a lot of other people. I
nevertheless contend that one's own style is the best (but again, I
will write about that at length later on). As to the specific use of
the sentence fragment `And I kill you', while it (and its variations,
typically either the replacement of "And" with another Boolean
operator, most often "Xor", or changing the object into a relative of
the target person, often "your brother") is not a trade or service mark
of any person or organisation to the best of my knowledge and belief,
it is, notwithstanding that, /in esse/ the informal linguistic property
of a relatively small group of people. Shand is one of them. You
aren't, Philip. Hence, the phrase rings poorly when you use it, not
unlike a royal `we' does in the mouth of a commoner.

Well, you aren't doing a very good job of separating a few things
here, namely: control vs. data information [...] and between data
that is destined to be viewed [...] and that which is not.
Certainly and 822 header is meant to be seen by the user, and in
most cases (except perhaps on a Mac) the user sees (for example)
FTP control commands. In fact, he even types them himself

Binary files are typically not meant to be viewed. They are to be
executed or post-processed.

Let me see if I can manage to make any sense of this in the context of the
argument, before taking a side-issue up. The original claim Philip made was
to the effect that we could not put a compressed face in finger output (see
the first referenced message). He advanced three reasons for this. The
first was that the format of finger output was defined by a new RFC, perhaps
as yet unpublished. Well, I have checked the index, and I can say that if
this alleged RFC does indeed exist, it certainly has not yet been issued
by the NIC.

The second was that ``certain spooks consider this to be a security breach''.
This is definitely true, and would greatly limit the utility of Steve's idea
(but I don't have time now to discuss Steve's idea /per se/). For my part,
I consider it a great pity that so many sites choose not to serve finger.
I am willing to entertain the idea that there are some finger servers that
are too free with the information they distribute, but all that means is that
one should run a finger server that gives less information, not that
one should not run a finger server at all.

I did not take umbrage at either of these issues; it was the third one that
stuck in my craw. At the risk of labouring the point, I'll save you looking
at the first referenced message, and quote it again:

Lastly, finger follows the Internet protocols philosophy of having
all data be human-readable.

So, I ask myself, what is the meaning of Philip's above-quoted statements
_in this context_? OK, we distinguish between control and data. That's fine,
absolutely no problem there at all. Then, there is data that is ``destined
to be viewed'' and that which is not. What can Philip mean? I am afraid he
just isn't making sense. How does this distinction, not too bad in itself,
match up with the claim that there exists an ``Internet protocols philosophy
of having all data be human-readable''? The only way I can comprehend this at
all is to assume that what Philip really means is that all data that is
destined to be viewed should be human-readable, and that there is an Internet
philosophy to this effect.

This last statement is skating the edges of correctness, in my view.
Unfortunately, it contains a terrible semantic time-bomb. How do we tell
what is and isn't ``destined to be viewed''? Leaving aside the issue of
RFC822 headers for a moment, let's consider the body part of a piece of
Internet mail. Surely, that's ``destined to be viewed''. But then again,
maybe not; see, as I mentioned previously, RFC1154 (which describes the
Encoding: header, for those of you too lazy to look it up). It could
well be that the body isn't destined to be viewed at all. It gets worse
if we consider headers. Philip says that ``Certainly and [sic] 822 header
is meant to be seen by the user''. Well, there are a lot of user-agent
implementors out there who happen not to agree with that, and only present
a subset of the headers for the user's perusal. So, really, it's unclear
what's ``destined to be viewed'' and what isn't, when it comes to mail.

The original comment, though, was about finger. In that case, RFC1196
leaves no room for doubt; the output of finger is intended to be looked at
by a human. That certainly does not preclude the inclusion of a compressed
face image in such output. (RFC1196 cannot be the RFC Philip refers to
above, since it does _not_ prescribe the format of the returned information.)

Where does this leave us? Apparently, in limbo. Philip is saying something,
but I'm not sure even he knows what it is. All this talk about ``destiny,''
though, makes it essential for me to give the last word on this part of
the argument to my good friend Bruce Ellis, who once said ``I reckon we're
vegined to dest.''

> The logic here is airtight, [...]

Airtight... or vacuous?

Very clever. Unfortunately it also completely fails to address the issues.
The logic _is_ airtight. Do you have a refutation to offer as well as a quip?

Philip then descends to the /ad hominem/, usually an unmistakable indicator
that the argument is otherwise devoid of merit, by calling me ``misguided''.
I may be misguided. Then again, I may not. Most likely, there are some
things about which my thinking is misguided, and others about which it is
not. One which _damn_ sure falls into the latter category is the distinction
between RFC821 and RFC822. I made it clear in the second referenced message
that I was _trying to imagine what Philip might have meant_. Come on, Philip.
I know damn well you didn't bring up SMTP. I did, in an attempt to make
sense out of your babblings. If that's not what you were talking about,
please do tell us all what you _were_ talking about: we'd love to know.
You seem to be a bit confused yourself, in any case, about these matters,
since you write:

SMTP [...] is not seen by users, but rather by their sponsors
(typically User Agents).

`sponsor' seems a very odd word to choose here, but I won't quibble about that,
not when you're claiming user agents do SMTP. That's just wrong. SMTP is
done between what are variously called delivery agents or transport agents.
User agents are responsible for presenting the mail, allowing for composition
of replies, and so forth; _not_ for the movement of mail between Hosts.

[Please pardon the long quote; I feel the rest of these issues are best
addressed as a unit, and the context is essential.]

My twisted view of the ARM was sufficient to contribute two new protocol
definitions to it, RFCs 1048 and 1051. A third is on the way. I'm also
on a number of IETF working groups (and have been since 1988).

> I hear a rumour that, in France, it is illegal to send encrypted
> mail. I don't know if this is true. If it is, perhaps it is
> fascism such as this that has led Philippe into confusion. If that
> is the case, Philippe, allow me to suggest that you ought not to
> confuse the jackbooted tactics of your government with the Arpanet
> Reference Model.

That's probably true -- but you should ask someone french to confirm.
You see, I'm American (you know, where the ARPAnet came from?). In
any case, my jackbooted government invented the ARM. So they should

You should be careful about jumping to conclusions, mate. Especially
about names (for that matter, try to get mine right: it's either
Philip or Philippe-Andre). `What's in a name?' (Shakespeare said that,
you've heard of him, haven't you?) I'll refuse the impluse to take a
swing at Aussies -- any slurs are probably cliches by now anyway.

Well. Where to begin? Let's start with the denominated RFCs. Only a very
loose approach to terminology (about which, more in a moment) or a rather
overinflated ego could call either of them a ``new protocol definition'';
one is an extension to, the other is an encapsulation for, _existing_
protocols. Now, skipping ahead for a moment, you insist on dissociating
yourself from the French government, and claim American nationality.
I'll stipulate the correctness of that. You berate me for ``jumping
to conclusions''. Now, really, I _do_ consider myself slapped on the
wrist! What a _huge_ jump it was, indeed, from a person with a French
name sending mail from a machine in France, to the assumption of French
descent and nationality! Jump? Seems more like a dainty step across a
mossy woodland stream to me. `Jump', forsooth.

Still, it would seem that anywhere I can daintily step, Philip is one jump
ahead; he makes the assumption, based on the fact that I am sending mail
from a machine in Australia, that I am Australian. That assumption is not
warranted. My nationality is not germane here, but as it happens, I am not
Australian. I consider myself a citizen of the planet. So have as many
swings at Aussies, or indeed at any national group, as you wish; it won't
bother me.

Now, at last, we come to the issue of _language_, a crucial one in this
matter. I don't have to assume, since I have taken the trouble to find out,
that English is indeed your native language. Astounding. Here I was,
cutting you all this slack on the assumption that you learned English as
an adult -- and I was wrong. Then, when you mentioned those RFCs, I thought:
``Hell, maybe he's like some people I know who consider e-mail a throwaway
communications medium, and don't think it's important to spend the time
composing it that I think is needed to communicate effectively, regardless
of medium.'' So I read the RFCs. Nope. They were as full of execrable
spelling, grammar and usage as are your postings to the list.

If you want to be taken seriously, be understood, and be effective in this
medium, I would suggest that you clean up your act. Proofreading and
learning something about sentence construction would be a good start.

Now back to matters of fact. To state that the US Government invented the
ARM is, once again, lamentably ignorant -- or are you _intentionally_
claiming that the ARPANET Network Working Group was, at the time, the
Government of the United States of America? If so, I can only say that
communication works by and through consensus on reality, and your reality
is so far from consensus that you should perhaps retire to somewhere
secluded and meditate, or at the very least, stop advancing views on
intercomputer networking, which is very much a consensual activity.

And now I would like to turn my attention to the issue of forms of address.
Don't think, because I live in Australia, that you are licensed to call
me `mate'. There are very clearly defined social conditions in which this
form of address is used; one set, and the only one in which I can interpret
the above, implies not-so-mild aggressive intent. Perhaps, Philip, you
have never lived in Australia (I don't know, and do not care to assume)
and are not familiar with the niceties involved in the use of this
word. In that case, I would suggest that you refrain from employing

On the issue of names. Those of you that know me know that this is a very
important issue in my view of the world. Don't think, Philip, that I didn't
notice that you signed your missives ``Philip'' while the forename given in
your From: header was ``Philippe-Andre''. I did notice, and thought it meant
you didn't really care what you were called, so I picked something. Since
you have let me know your preference, I am using it, as you can see.
I am, however, a touch puzzled. You quote `What's in a name?' (and then
impugn my literacy, but I'll let that pass knowing full well I am well in
excess of semi-literate), clearly intending to adduce support for your
argument that names are important -- that it matters what things and persons
are called. It so happens that I agree with that argument; indeed, one of
the little sayings that I have that some of my friends are tired of hearing
by now is: `The root of all power is in naming.' (Compare, for example,
E. Fuller Torrey in /Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists/ for a discussion of
the importance of the process of denomination in mental health.) But it
seems odd to me that you should choose that quote in an attempt to adduce
such support, since Juliet is saying _the exact opposite_ -- that names
do _not_ matter, and that the nature of a thing or person _does not depend
on its name._ For those of you who need reminding, /Romeo and Juliet/,

Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy --
Thou art thyself though, not a Montague.
What's a Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part,
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes,
Without that title; Romeo, quit thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

Usually, when one appeals to literature, one looks for literature that supports
the view one is trying to advance, rather than contradicting that view. A
simple device, perhaps, Philip, but your rhetoric will improve if you adopt

Just so that there may be no misunderstanding, let me reiterate that in
_my_ personal view, names are _very_ important. While we're looking to
literature, I think Lewis Carroll, in /Through the Looking-Glass/, has
something for us:

`Don't stand chattering to yourself like that,' Humpty Dumpty said,
looking at her for the first time, `but tell me your name and your business.'

`My name is Alice, but --'

`It's a stupid name enough!' Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently.
`What does it mean?'

`Must a name mean something?' Alice asked doubtfully.

`Of course it must,' Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: `my name
means the shape I am -- and a good handsome shape it is too. With a name
like yours, you might be any shape, almost.'

I'm very much afraid, Philip, that with expression like yours, you might mean
anything, almost.

> I trust I have made myself as clear as an azure sky of deepest summer.

Appropriate image -- got your club out and your jockstrap on, druggie?

Well now. Certainly there are at least two scenes in the film where we see
Alex wearing a jockstrap; we may assume that it is his habitual type of
underwear. You will find, Philip, that you mean `codpiece', since the fact
that he wears a jockstrap certainly can't be considered worthy of comment.
I do not have, and hence am not wearing, such a piece of clothing; neither do
I have a club or nightstick (or walking-cane) similar to those seen in the
film. Should the need arise, however, I do happen to have an Iron Bar
that could be pressed into service.

I am glad, though, that you found the image appropriate. So did I, which I
why I used it.

As to the appellation ``druggie'', I can only assume that you've forgotten
your written Nadsat (or perhaps never read the book), and that this is a
misspelling of ``droogie''. If so, my response is simple: I'm no droog of
thine. If not, then you are merely engaging in unprofitable onomastics,
since you have no evidence whatsoever relating to what drugs I may or
may not take, in what dosages or at what intervals.

In sum: Learn the language -- only _then_ use it.