13 May 2001 taj   » (Master)

Last week of work at my current job. Hopefully they will accept my offer to remain a remote consultant while I'm travelling. I'm getting quite psyched about going back home now, but I'm already missing Australia.

The free time I'm able to spend hacking is going to drop to nil for a month, until I get to Delhi. Then there will be the problem of locating and procuring hack infrastructure over there, somehow I doubt my brother and father are going to let me wipe their machines and install linux on them. Almost time to purchase a laptop.

Meanwhile finans is going well now that I've overcome my issues with adding/deleting rows in a table-neutral way (lots of primary-key fudging, what fun!) so I should be able to have a preview release available before I go.

Somehow I found the time to read a collection of short stories by Jorge Luis Borges, called Labyrinths. It's a surprisingly good book (translated to english from the spanish) combining bits of sci-fi, metaphysics and ... hmm... hard to put a finger on it. I see elements of Poe and Umberto Eco in there, and perhaps some Kafka. Three years ago I would have laughed at anyone suggesting I would enjoy a book like this but it's a great read.

An example: in one story he imagines a world that is in the form of a great library, arranged in seemingly infinite floors and hexagonal sections, each section containing a number of books of exactly the same dimensions and number of pages. The books are marked and arranged by an unknown (to the library-dwellers) code and seem to contain random text. Over the course of the story the narrator explains that each book in the library is unique and contains one possible permutation of letters in a fixed language (consisting of 23 letters and two punctuation characters). This means that every book that it is possible to write is contained in there, in any language that conforms to that alphabet (eg one contains your entire life story, your entire life story with some details incorrect, your life story as seen by someone else... and so on). The problem is that as nobody knows the code behind the arrangement of the books, searching for a particular book or even verifying its correctness is basically impossible. Of course logically, one of the books in the library explains the cataloguing system for the library... but which one? The person able to find and identify this book is akin to God, as he has the key to all knowledge.

This is one of the stories that grabbed me (is there a meta-catalogue book that explains how to find the catalogue book?), but there are others that are of equal or better inventiveness. I will have to read this one several times over.

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