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: After School Special is rocketing up the charts! Payola really works!

: Strangely, my nails are in much worse shape since I stopped biting them and started cutting them.

: In the wake of my mini-vacation I had a bit of trouble earlier grasping the concept of programming. "Wait a minute... the things I type have well-defined semantics and must conform to a particular syntax!"

: Spam: New Parental Control Software. Control your parents!

: Sumana (whom--now it can be told--I am dating) and I have gradually amassed a list of disturbing slash concepts. It's a common enough trope that I'm starting up a new occasional feature, augmenting Disturbing Search Requests with Disturbing Slash Concepts (note that there is overlap between the two). Sumana sent me a partial list of such DSC we've accumulated:

I hope you sleep well tonight.

: I've got spellcasting working in my game. Another big improvement of my system over the example one that comes with Inform is that saying CAST [SPELL] doesn't automatically remove that spell from your memory.

Now, in an Enchanter-type spellcasting system there are three kinds of result you can get from CAST [SPELL]. There's the "That's so obviously stupid/counterproductive that I'm not even going to let you do that" message, the "You cast the spell but it doesn't do anything" message, and the "You cast the spell and it does something" message, which is the only message that changes game state (the other two are only good for funny messages). Note that in the first case you didn't actually cast the spell; but the example Inform magic system will remove the spell from your memory as though you actually had cast it. In Inform terms, what I added was sort of a 'before' rule for spells (there's a before rule in the example code, but you forget the spell before it's called so it can't do this).

: The Making Of After School Special: First In A Series Of One

"The swim meet failed when the something something jailed. Who got jailed?"
"The assistant coach."
"The cheerleaders."
"Yeah! Like in that movie!"
"There was some movie where a bunch of cheerleaders went to jail."
"Did you find this movie in the regular part of the video store, or the part behind the little curtain?"

: The past few days have been days of narrow defeats. As noted in other people's weblogs, I lost two games of Scrabble by a margin of three points. I also lost a game of Illuminati to Susanna, though I won the rematch.

: Pictures from LA are up. 11 and 12 are for the upcoming Guess the Verb! tour; don't pay any heed to them yet.

Camille wrote to tell me that she finds Kris "quite attractive...or maybe it is just photogenic". Well, check this out! Sorry, Camille, but Kris is taken.

I have a habit of putting my arms around people's shoulders in pictures (1 2), which I get some guff for. I just do it to add to the camaraderie. Is that so wrong?

: Sumana says that there actually is an Oprah/Tom/Julia slash story. Must...make...witty...unrelated...observation...

The expiration date on my milk is "May 2 1833". There must be a wraparound on expiration dates or something, because it still tastes good.

: Oh, crap!

You have your trader pick up the phone and say you need a bid on 500,000 shares of Crummy.com. Crummy is trading at 7, down from 120. It has been down in a straight line. You need money. It is a place to get money. The trader on the other end, from the sell side, has no interest in buying any Crummy.com. None whatsoever. In fact, he has watched this stock go down every day. Like everybody else. He says he will bid 5 for all 500,000. But Jacobs has never ever seen a bear market. He doesn't know that's a fair bid. That's a great bid! He thinks the sell-side guy is ripping him off. So he passes. And he sells off some more of his winners to finance the loser, Crummy.com.

: Features I Want But Will Never Have: First In A Series

What I Want: Google has a 'relatedness' algorithm that, presumably, assigns a number to every pair of web pages depending on how similar those web pages are. I'm not interested for the moment in the workings of the algorithm or how accurate it is. What I wantTM is an interface to the other end of this algorithm; I want to see which pages are least similar to other pages.

Feasibility Study That Ignores The Real Problems: The web is, for all intents and purposes, connected (I don't think there are, eg., two large groups of pages such that you can't get from one group to another via hypertext links), so even if your algorithm goes by links you can get a nonzero relatedness number for any two pages. The chaotic nature of the web would ensure that most sites would not have thousands of ties for 'least relevant site' (I think this undesirable outcome is more likely for bigger sites; standard deviation of the mean distance to a site is much smaller for larger sites: any given site is about as relevant to Yahoo as is any other site. But more complex algorithms would reduce the importance of mere link distance.)

Why I'll Never Have It: The problems are threefold: first, you probably don't have infinite precision, so thousands of sites would get rounded down to zero relevance. Second, it's a lot faster to find close nodes in a graph than it is to find far nodes, so the algorithm would have to use a lot of extra index space or take a long time to run. Third, this idea is completely useless (I could be wrong; come up with a good use for this feature and win a valueless crummy.com prize!).

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