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: Profiles In Spambots: Part One

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: I just realized that if I take Human Growth Hormone, it will greatly reduce my chances of being killed for food by alien bobos.

: Pete Peterson II Presents Slashdot Ambiguous Headline Watch:

Science: Sewage To Be Turned Into H

Much more email-from-readers goodness coming later today. I keep wishing NYCB had more reader-supplied material in it, like Plurp, but when I have a bevy of reader-supplied material I'm too rushed to edit and comment on it properly.

: Mysterious Search Requests: astronomy may 14 2002 wolfram

: "If Wired says I'm going to be at a party, I better show up." -- Brian

: Andrew Holloway and a co-conspirator recently did some trolling for a DSR mention. He claims he was only trolling for a mention that someone was trolling for a DSR mention, but posession is nine-tenths of the law, and recursion is not the other tenth.

: Recorded a ten-second song on the four-track for a project of Jake's. Veteran NYCB readers have seen the lyrics before, but beyond that it lies shrouded in mystery. Jake, do you want me to wait before putting it up publicly?

: Another reader-submitted Ambiguous Headline, this time from Sumana:

'The Osbournes' will return, Sharon says

Take that, Arafat!

: Jake says to put the song up for everyone, so here it is: Android Assassin From Vega XV, The. (lyrics)

: Pathetic Search Requests:

: Ganjasaurus Rex, the only movie to be IMDB categorized under both "dinosaur" and "cannabis".

: There can be only one... Singleton, that is!

: Another from Andy (as the NYCB style guide now has him) Holloway, a classic Katzdot: Giving Thanks For Perverts. "Where would we be without them?", asks Andy.

: My mother sends the latest addition to the /abominations/ directory (which, now that I've read A Confederacy of Dunces, I realize to be a very Ignatius P. Riley-esque directory name): Why dogs kill their owners.

:

Porn spam: "PLUS Live Dungeons and cams"
Leonard: (thinks) "What sort of stupid RPG is that?"

: So, I heard from Josh and hooked him up with the guy what was looking for him. He's in lovely San Luis Obispo, the plan to jump ship to Canada not having worked out. He has a story about being stuck in Souix Falls, South Dakota. He probably doesn't consider it a story, but when he mentions it I become an ACK character drawn against a blank pastel background: 'story sense... tingling!'. Maybe he'll put it up on his nonexistant web site.

: Decline Of Civilization Search Requests: funny picture of a cucumber

Not even the most decadent Roman emperor in the midst of his most drunken bacchanal would have called out "A cucumber! I demand a picture of a cucumber! And by Jove, it had better be funny!"

I'm starting to think I shouldn't have read A Confederacy of Dunces.

: Batteries don't work the way I thought they did, so I have to seriously rethink the opening of my game. If only I'd paid more attention in Physics 8C!

: Word Replacement Headline Watch: Sun Linux boss quits would be funnier as "Sun Linux box quits".

: Andy (Schile) is such a modest fellow; I can't ever recall hearing him toot his own horn about his critically acllaimed avant-garde film cycle on frog gastrulation. It was the talk of Cannes!

: Sumana, Adam and I went to the Exploratorium today. It was a lot of fun! And (though it leaves tomorrow) they have the old math exhibit from the Los Angeles Museum of Science and Industry, with the bell curve demonstration and the Mobius train track and the multiplication with light bulbs and the gravity well and the timeline that goes from 1100 to 1966. Turns out the math exhibit is by Eames, designers of the Eames chair and espousers of the 1960s fulleresque (not to be confused with fullerene) using-technology-to-solve-social-problems idea I find so seductive.

There was also a 'mathematical film festival' of sorts, though the connections to mathematics were only rarely non-stretched. The best film was the Oskar Fischinger 1935 film "Composition in Blue", which played like a Vorticist Art Clokey version of the 1939 World's Fair. Gumby: this is the future! It was filmed in GASPARVISION, the amazing filming technique which survives the death of the filmmaker!

Honorable mention, for being a really cool hack, goes to "Synchromy", a 1972 film by Norman McLaren. The soundtrack for a film is stored in graphical form in a little bar to the right of the film frames. McLaren had the idea of using the same shapes as both the graphics and the soundtrack. So you hear Atari-esque sounds corresponding to how the sound interpreter interprets the blocks you see on the screen. Also, the film is Canadian and so everything has to be in both English and French: the title card says "Synchromy" and is replaced a couple seconds later with "Synchromie".

Finally: in the gift shop of the Exploratorium I bought three packages of astronaut ice cream, something which, when I was a kid, I was either not allowed to buy at museum gift shops, or I was allowed but it was too expensive for its purchase to be feasible. It's certainly not cheap, but now that I can afford it, why not the best, for "the best" equals "three packages of astronaut ice cream"?

: Crummy Reader-Submitted Material Indeterminant Time Period continues as Andy H. tries to pawn off a silly story about Romans and cucumbers as historical fact. I think he's been reading that Bruce Sterling speech.

: And unless I missed something, which I probably did, I'm bringing CRSMITP to a close for now with stuff from Xorph's Brendan Adkins. He sent me an Ambiguous Headline which he promptly put up on his own weblog so I can't use it, but earlier he responded to my discussion of least-relatedness, which I can and will use.

The least-relatedness Google feature would be GREAT, assuming it was in any way related to content (which I don't think it could help but be). You could search for, say, Cartoons by Gaspirtz, and then get whatever sites were least related to it, and you'd have a Best of the Web list right there!

He marks this in <easy-jab> tags, but since I am pedantic to the point of aggrevation I must point out that relatedness is orthogonal to quality. A good comic like Brendan's is more related to Gaspritz's work than is the boring web page about my cat (it's so boring, I don't even have a cat).

He also claims that you could find the worst path of a graph by having a greedy algorithm grab the longest edges instead of the shortest edges, but 1) that doesn't work when all the edges are the same length because they merely represent links between sites, which was my working assumption, and 2) it doesn't work anyway, for the same reason a greedy lowest-cost-path algorithm doesn't work.

A--(1)-->B--(1000)-->D
|                    ^
+--(2)-->C----(1)----+

A greedy algorithm chooses ACD, but ABD is much better. Brendan says "I suck at discrete", so a tip: it's usually easy to come up with counterexamples using extreme cases like the one above.

: As long as I'm drawing block diagrams, I'll explain the mux and demux here.

A mux is a black box which takes multiple inputs and lets you control which of those inputs you want to be the output. A n-bit mux takes as its inputs n real input bits and log2(n) additional selection bits. Out of the mux comes one of the input bits, and its value at any point in time corresponds to the value of the input designated by the selection bits.

Here's a 4-bit mux. It has two selection bits and one output bit.

          +---+
 input00->|MUX|-->output0
 input01->|   |
 input10->|   |
 input11->|   |
          +---+
 selector0-^ ^-selector1
If selector0 is 1 and selector1 is 0, then the mux will tie input10 to output0.

Most pieces of equipment I can think of that use mux technology actualy use demuxes. A demux is the opposite of a mux. It takes one input and sends it off to one of n places. Here's a four-bit demux.

          +---+
 input0-->|DE |-->output00
          |MUX|-->output01
          |   |-->output10
          |   |-->output11
          +---+
 selector0-^ ^-selector1

If selector0 is 0 and selector1 is 1, then the sole input bit will go to output01, and all the other outputs will be left alone.

My four-track is basically a tape recorder, some mixer stuff, and two demuxes:

          +---+
    Mic-->|   |-->Track 1
          |   |-->Track 3
          +---+
            ^-Track selector

          +---+
 Guitar-->|   |-->Track 2
 (or other|   |-->Track 4
  input)  +---+
            ^-Track selector

The "A/B box" you buy to connect two printers or two monitors to the same computer (but only one at a time) is also a demux:

          +---+
Computer->|   |->Printer1
          |   |->Printer2
          +---+
            ^-A/B switch

If you care about truth tables, here's a truth table for a two-bit mux.

In0 In1 Sel | Out
------------+----
 0   0   0  |  0
 0   0   1  |  0
 0   1   0  |  0
 0   1   1  |  1
 1   0   0  |  1
 1   0   1  |  0
 1   1   0  |  1
 1   1   1  |  1

You can chain muxes and demuxes to ridiculous extents, and in doing so sink into a delusion that your muxes and demuxes form a system of aqueducts and that you are a Sumerian tyrant who controls the flow of water throughout your land. Be careful!

: More cleaning out my inbox: Seth is the author of the CGI->law interface I mentioned a while back but couldn't find. "I haven't maintained this code in a long time, and it is ugly," he says. He sent me a copy of the code, but I've yet to set it up and see how/whether it works.

: Joe writes (or wrote, a long time ago):

Leonard, are you aware that the website known as Builder.com has been revamped and moved to a new url? It is now at builder.com.com

Given that you've written about the pronuciation and spelling of "dot com" a number of times, I'd keen to read your thoughts on builder dot com dot com.

I have no particular beef with "com.com", but I think that once you control the com.com domain there's no reason to stop at com.com. Since you can create subdomains, why not com.com.com, com.com.com.com, or even com.com.com.com.com.com.com.com? Import some singing Vikings, make good. A family-friendly website. Community! Why not make it interactive? Flash introduction! Viral marketing! Socially conscious! First to market advantage: leverage, disintermediate, revolutionize! Supply chain, old economy, new economy, innovation business model open source change! It's peer-to-peer! Sand Hill Road! Close to the Spiritual Machine: One Hacker's Travels with the Selfish MAME. The Coming Crisis In Design: Giving Thanks For Virtual Sexbots. Identity Over IP. Queueing Theory. The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.

This is a Muppet News Flash! Scientists at Muppet Labs have created a conceptual singularity! In one test, incredibly high concentrations of the '.com' meme somehow fragmented the structure of meaning itself, causing seemingly thoughtful discussion to degenerate into buzzword-laced Joycean rambling. More research on this topic will have to wait until construction of the Semiotic Supercollider is completed in 2004, but the future of high-energy textual analysis is bright. We anticipate eventually being able to reduce all attempts at communication to meaningless sounds and nonsensical scribbles.

: I'm feeling bold today, like a fine barbecue sauce, so I'm going to clear out an email I've been sitting on since October 2000. This one's from Daniel Gast (I don't know if that email address still works), and it explains the mystery of Xfest '89!

I have reasonable confidence that this stems from a song by the name of "Gutfest '89" by Digital Underground (On the CD "Sex Packets"). If the artist Digital Underground sounds familiar to you (or even if it doesn't, for that matter) they had moderate success with a song by the name of "The Humpty Dance" that has since become something of a cult classic among dance club attendees (in the "ok it's stupid but it gets you on the dance floor and moving" genre).

Are you still here, Daniel? If so (or even if not), a much belated thanks.

"The Sex Packets" could have been the '90s's Internet-enabled answer to "The Sex Pistols", but they weren't.

: At the Exploratorium, at one point I misinterpreted something Sumana said as "the meme exhibit". "Let's all go to the meme exhibit!", said Adam. "Have you heard about the meme exhibit?"

: DSC: Jack Horkheimer, Star Hustler

: Spam: INSTANT ACCESS to a LARGER MANHOOD!"

Access?

: More ancient (Chinese) NYCB history: in response to this call for science fiction stories on the legal effects of relativistic time dilation, Sean Neakums once wrote:

I recently read Stephen Baxter's "Space", in which a character is induced to undertake a dangerous mission by the promise of riches generated via compound interest. This character did a few more trips, and returned after one such trip to discover that the banks had undertaken to appropriate the bank accounts of star travellers. I forget exactly why; I read fast with a retention rate of close to zero.

"Space" is a follow-on to "Time", also a good book.

If you liked Time, you'll love Space! Coming soon: Mass!

: I was wondering when this would happen. Fortunately, it appears to be a joke, and hopefully its existence as a joke will preempt someone taking up the cause for real.

: I just had a brief, pleasant chat with Seth, during the course of which we came up with an idea for a sitcom in which the characters are forever finding themselves reenacting various thought experiments and logical puzzles. "Wait a minute, why are we suddenly in this lifeboat?" "I want to eat, but you have my left chopstick and you have my right chopstick!" "I find it very strange that half of these people always lie and the other half always tell the truth!"

: While searching on Sumana's behalf for this Atlantic article on Saddam Hussein, I discovered The Life of Antonius Heliogabalus, an account of the excesses of one of the later Roman emperors. He's one of the ones who comes in around the time the author of the history of Rome is getting really tired of writing a history of Rome, and just wants to get it over with so they can write the chapter about The Continuing Roman Influence and have a beer.

As such, Heliogabalus usually rates a mere mention in a list of bad emperors, and it's not generally known (or was not least to me) the virtuoso and inventive ways in which he expressed his total insuitability for power (though I'm not convinced he was much worse than your average bad Roman emperor in this regard). The Life is chock-full of interesting anecdotes, of which my favorite is this one, near the end:

The prophecy had been made to him by some Syrian priests that he would die a violent death. And so he had prepared cords entwined with purple and scarlet silk, in order that, if need arose, he could put an end to his life by the noose. He had gold swords, too, in readiness, with which to stab himself, should any violence impend. He also had poisons ready, in ceraunites and sapphires and emeralds, with which to kill himself if destruction threatened. And he also built a very high tower from which to throw himself down, constructed of boards gilded and jeweled in his own presence, for even his death, he declared, should be costly and marked by luxury.

: Seth David Schoen presents Heliogabalus: The Time-Constrained Neil Gaiman Comic. Covers much the same ground as the Life I linked to yesterday, only in comic book format, with odd digressions that connect smoothly back to the narrative (actually, now that I think about it, the Life has odd digressions that don't connect smoothly back to the narrative, thanks to the interpolations of later scribes), and lettered so small you can barely read it (or maybe that's just my monitor).

That same page says that American Gods is now out in paperback. "If you've avoided American Gods because of the high price of hardcovers, grab yourself the paperback now." Why, that's exactly why I was avoiding American Gods! I always feel bad buying books in hardcover. I bought The Years of Rice and Salt in hardcover; I used my gift certificate but I still feel bad about it.

Hm, "Not buying some information you are interested in, in favor of waiting for it to be available in a lower-cost medium" sounds like a New Copyright Crime. After all, it's a slippery slope towards wanting to download it off the Internet for free.

PS: Page 13 of the comic has a cool drawing of a crocodile.

: Something something happened that I don't know about; I'm getting a zillion (1 metric zillion == 14) search requests for "song from the big sombrero", "big sombrero song", and variants. They could be referring to this movie, but I don't know why. It started suddenly at 3:30 in the morning and continues unabated.

: From the Land Of The Philosophical Thought Experiments (formerly the United Kingdom, soon to be SethAndLeonardSitcomistan) comes Battleground God, the online quiz that probes your position vis-a-vis theism for inconsistencies (Sumana, who pointed me to it, humorously misremembered the title as "Battlefield God"). I love these philosophers.co.uk quizzes (a previous one) because they allow me to wallow in the internal consistency of my various philosophical stances. One day I'll get my comeuppance, I know. And when that happens, I'll... have to modify some of my philosophical stances.

: This just might be the web diary of Pete Peterson II.

: From a discussion between Kevin and I about spam we've both received: "We'll never be safe so long as the earth and sun conspire to bring us SPRING, the unholy season of hellish violence and lust!"

: My mother, a bit defensively, writes:

You have TOO been to the exploratorium. Probably several times. Your Uncle Leonard and I took you one specific time that I remember. I think Robert was with us too. Then we went at least one time with Dad.

I say 'a bit defensively' since, although I don't remember ever going to the Exploratorium before, I certainly never claimed that I hadn't been before.

: Seth pointed out a bug in NewsBruiser's handling of leap years. I have no real excuse, but I can try to make up a funny fake excuse: I was too cheap to pay for isitleapyearornot.com's Isitleapyearornot Premium service.

: False Advertising: A Case Study (second in a series)

100% Yarn Dyed Cotton: wrapper of ultra-cheap boxer shorts

65% Polyester, 35% Cotton: tag of ultra-cheap boxer shorts

: Sugar may not be the best placebo here.

: That sound you hear is Josh Parson going into conniptions.

: All Heliogabalus, All The Time: Jake swoops in and points out that the Momus entity had a song about Heliogabalus on its latest album. "actually it's the only song i like on the latest momus album", confesses Jake. Catty Jake-o Slams Momus In Beantown Boutique! "I'll Fight For Custody!" Vows Bejeweled Berendes.

: When The UNIX Philosophy Goes Too Far: Second In A Series

ksirtet makes you enter your high score nickname ahead of time so that it can automatically file your scores under that nickname.

: Forward from Sumana, hereby forwarded to my mother: Green Eggs and Lembas

: I wonder if Osama bin Laden ever thinks: "If x, then I win!"

: I reread The Martian Chronicles; the last time I read it was in that dark stretch between fourth and seventh grade, so my memory of it was a palimpsest. I don't think I read it with very high comprehension the first time; I remember reading the ending and not understanding it, finally deciding that the Martians were underwater. I guess I wanted Martians, damn it.

Bradbury writes purple prose, as always, and gets away with it, except near the end. It's pretty coherent for a bunch of short stories strung together by exposition. I recommend it, despite the occasional clunker.

I got my copy in a used bookstore and it's a promotional version released in conjunction with a 1970s NBC made-for-TV movie. The back of the book praises Bradbury's "blending of... terror and tenderness, wonder and contempt." Yes, that magical mixture of wonder and contempt.

: I forgot to mention that when Susanna and I went to Target we bought two rubber duckies for my mother to use in her hot tub.

: Ssh! If Seth finds out about pyDDR, he might explode! If I spend too much time at the PyGame page, I might explode!

: Kevin keeps telling everyone, Slashdot-style, that Apple To Release Rack-Mounted Macs. And, whenever he does, I keep making the Segfault-esque joke that New Rack-Mounted Macs Mountable Only In Special Apple Racks.

: I re-recorded Android Assassin From Vega XV, The at its proper speed (faster). The old version is now the "slow dance mix", and I no longer recommend it. I also recorded Sand Bar, my second contribution to Jake's compilation. It cleverly squeezes twenty seconds of song into ten seconds (a ten second length is one of the constraints on the songs in the compilation) by playing both verses simultaneously.

Yogurt Flavors I Like That I Feel As Though I Shouldn't Like:

Yogurt Flavors I Was Afraid I Would Like, But Which I Don't (Whew):

I Was Meaning To Search For That Myself Search Requests: pimps ahoy. They were probably actually looking for Pimps at Sea, a joke webpage for a nonexistent Bungie game which I'd been meaning for a while to re-find and link to. I forgot where I saw it first, which gives me license to mention it on NYCB without crediting anyone.

: Uninspiring Movie Taglines: First In A Series

They could have gotten away, but they kept putting it off and now there is NO ESCAPE!

: I re-recorded Sand Bar in a higher key (it's a little low for me at the very end), and Jake has agreed to turn the two WAVs into a proper MP3 (the first verse is supposed to play in the left channel, the second verse in the right, so that you can properly separate them). I'm pretty sure my cable is to blame in turning the lovely stereo sound coming out of my four-track into the mono sound present in recordings.

: The main map for my game has been implemented in Inform, though the rooms don't have descriptions yet. I also grafted in the fiendish puzzle.

Map-wise (and, I now suspect, in other respects), the game owes something to Planetfall, the first Infocom game I played (and still my favorite). I realized this upon noticing that I was giving my rooms Planetfall-homage names like "Dull Art-Laden Hallway West".

I've got until the end of September if I want to enter this game into the 2002 competition. I might be able to do it, though it would be close. It's probably going to be a bit long for the competition, anyway.

: I was Weak from hunger, and, not wanting to start Fainting and getting beat up by the jackals, I made some pasta and dumped canned soup onto it and ate almost all of it. I'm still starving! Do I have a tapeworm? Did I inadvertently discover the recipe for Subtraction Stew? Or (the anticlimactic, 'likely' explanation) am I now simply craving a sweet dessert-like food item to complete my meal? I could really go for that blob of Planetfall red goo right about now.

I didn't even try to make all those nerdy references.

: I grabbed the missing Nowhere Standard Time tracks from a backup of the master (I can't find the actual master at the moment, which bothers me; I saw it mere days ago). I'll MP3 them eventually, but first I'm going to a party.

: Back from the party. It was fun. I played Devil Bunny Needs A Ham with Zack. Other stuff ensued which I need to find URLs so that I can properly link my description of it (a peculiar hypertextual disease: linker's block), and I'm too tired to find those URLs. I will mention that I went to Berkeley Bowl and bowled a couple frames. No, just kidding. Berkeley Bowl is a supermarket and they sell a line of very tasty soups under the "Turtle Island" brand. When I say these are tasty soups I am quite serious. This has nothing to do with the party, but before I went to the party I stopped to get some ginger beer (it turns out that everyone who brought any drink at all brought ginger beer; is it the new hip drink among teetotaling nerds?) and I also bought 6 boxes of the delicious soup. Dystopian Soup Slogan: "So good, it's thoughtcrime!"

The soup's gimmick is that it comes with a goofy little bottle of Tabasco which you can use to spice up the soup. It's really good with Tabasco (even though Daniel Rall hates Tabasco, and the Spice Weasel I got for Kevin that we use on our burritos is convincing me of the evils of Tabasco), but I haven't tried it with my generic Louisiana pepper sauce; will keep informed.

I got sidetracked again. What I meant to do was thank Shweta for hosting the party, and Zack for providing the venue, and also for providing the thing that I will talk about that I'm too tired and rambling to find the link for, and as such I will do it later today after I wake up from the sleep that will be mine once I run my nightly dental hygeine/yoga gauntlet.

: Party, Part II: Zack, like Seth, has a great library, though his is a lot heavier on the fantasy and science fiction. I borrowed The Star Fraction by Ken McCleod, and Zack wrote his name on the cover page, making it Ex Bibliotheca Zack! Yes, the link to Zack's homepage to facilitate the bad joke was the link I needed to find very early this morning and didn't have the energy for. I could write three long rambling paragraphs but not find an easy-to-find link, because writing and link-finding are two different things, and I only had energy for one.

There was a bit of singing at the party. Unbenownst to ASCAP, we sang "Happy Birthday" to Nathaniel, and it was so bad that we changed key after almost every line; I think the more people you have singing "Happy Birthday", the worse it is. We also all joined in in singing TMBG's "Kiss Me, Son Of God", probably in homage to discussion earlier of Scott McCloud and his family singing "Birdhouse in Your Soul" at a comic convention and the entirety of the comic convention joining in.

We had pizza from Zachary's (the Berkeley pizza place, not the home of Zack), which was good and which people at work have been bothering me to try. I've tried it! It's good! Stop bothering me! (Note: it's not that bad (the bothering, I mean)).

: Dialogue from our game of Devil Bunny Needs A Ham:

"I'm beginning to think that obtaining a ham is secondary among Devil Bunny's priorities."
"It never really was about the ham with Devil Bunny."

Also, the trailer for the sequel game, Devil Bunny Hates The Earth:

First, he needed a ham! Now, he hates the earth! And only 2-5 players can stop him!

: I've MP3ed all the remaining NST MP3s and am currently hunting through through the 2000 programs listed on Freshmeat for automatically writing the ID tag of MP3s.

: glark looks really cool, and (in a move sure to infuriate Kevin) has an appropriate name.

Uploading tagged NST MP3s now.

: FHW: SFgate's front-page headline for this story is "What A Downward-Facing Dog". (from Sumana)

: OK, they're up. My picks (among the new ones):

: Surprise! I spent the day at the four-track, going through old tapes, and I can now bring you the long-overdue mass of 1999-era recordings that comprise Are You An Organism?. 16 new tracks are up, and 15 of them are actually worth listening to! (Rewind is my homage to Jake's end-of-tape loops, and will probably be of interest only to him). If you're pressed for time, I recommend Underdrive, lowercase, Get Down Or Die, and Kleptomania.

: A question for Seth about the EFF shirt. Is that thing attached to the scales a price tag (indicating that online freedom comes at a price?), or a mouse (indicating that the freedom is, in fact, online)?

: A New Kind of Science to finally be released on Tuesday. I'm interested, but Crackpot Sense... tingling!

: Cool domain name I thought of last night: samiz.com. The site behind it is pretty cool, and reminds me of Kevin's. The current cover story is sure to be a hit with Jake. (Yes, all this recent content is a transparent attempt to keep Jake using the web.)

: Speaking of Kevin, a missive from him involving something he heard on NPR:

"The upcoming Star Wars film has the awful inevitability of a soviet election" - don't know why, but that precisely summed up my feelings on the matter.

: A sudden panic seized me. What if all the warning labels on innocuous products like mops and bathrugs, all the "use at your own risk" notices on paper cutters and THIS SOFTWARE COMES WITH ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY announcements on roguelike games, what if all of this phony riskmongering has desensitized me to actual risk, so that I shrug off impending doom even when it is clearly labeled as such, and go to a horrible fate because of the lack of a THIS STUFF IS ACTUALLY DANGEROUS AND WE'RE NOT JUST SAYING THAT BECAUSE WE'RE AFRAID YOU'LL SUE US BECAUSE YOU INJURED YOUR FINGER sticker?

: Boilerplate from the Mozilla release notes:

This source code is subject to the U.S. Export Administration Regulations and other U.S. law, and may not be exported or re-exported to certain countries (currently Afghanistan (Taliban controlled areas)...

Let's hunt down the remaining Taliban by exporting Mozilla to every square mile of Afghanistan and seeing where it's illegal!

: Construction of the Huge, Grossly Misproportioned, Geographically Dispersed Ozymandius-esque Statue On Mars continues apace!

: The reviews of AYAO are in (some of them, anyway)! Kevin offers up a humorous review here (note his mondegreen; I still need to tell the story of the other mondegreen!), and Adam reminisces about old times on a very special episode of Mail You Can Bruise.

: I just realized that you could never make any kind of behind-the-scenes documentary for Planet of the Apes, because any such documentary would have a title (Behind the Planet of the Apes, The Making of the Planet of the Apes, etc.) that would force it to be a de facto full-fledged member of the Planet of the Apes family.

: Oh, wow. UCLA computer scientist Judea Pearl is the father of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered in Pakistan. This stunned me, more than I was stunned the day they announced he'd been killed. The connection is more personal now. (I discovered this via Instapundit).

: Aaah! Earthquake!

: A sub-5 near Gilroy, says Sumana.

: Joe doesn't like the idea of the Weblog Foundation, but maybe he'll like Weblog Foundation And Empire, Second Weblog Foundation, Weblog Foundation's Edge, Weblog Foundation And Earth, Prelude to Weblog Foundation, or Forward The Weblog Foundation.

: Reader Brian D. Hicks writes:

As long as you stay away from the Second Weblog Foundation Trilogy which was written by some people who were not Asimov a few years back, I'd say you're golden.

I'd forgotten about those! And for good reason; the one by David Brin is okay but the others are not so good, Al.

: Gregory Baumgardner alleges that I'm "being funded by wealthy investors looking to promote sheer insanity. Issues doesn't cover it with this one." It's twue, it's twue. Except for the funding part.

PS: Does "It's twue, it's twue" originate with Blazing Saddles, or is it (as I mantain) Blazing Saddles' tribute to Elmer Fudd cartoons? I'm almost positive I've heard Elmer Fudd say that in some 1950s short. I picture him pounding his fists on the ground, bawling "Oh, it's twue! It's twue! I kiwwed a cute widdle wabbit!"

: That Gives Me An Idea Search Requests: most money contest "nigerian scam"

Have you received a spam scam soliciting your money laundering services on behalf of a war criminal or other malcontent? Crummy.com wants to know! Send mail to "money-laundering-scam-contest at crummy dot com" with your name, the name and checkered biography of the malcontent (and his/her pandering intermediary, if sufficiently sordid), the amount of money in question, and the percentage of that money designated as your cut. Valueless crummy.com prizes will be awarded in the following categories:

All qualifying solicitations, even those received previous to announcement of this contest, are eligible. Writing your own spam scams for purposes of this contest is strictly prohibited (but funny). Contest will end when I have enough entries.

: DSR:

: What a cad! (1 2)

Update: First picture link fixed. Doh.

Update #2: Tag in first update notification fixed. Doh. Doh.

: Kevin is upset about the newfangled Star Wars movies, which he claims have ruined an icon of his childhood enjoyment. He's decided to voice his grievance directly: by blackmailing George Lucas. "What do you suppose we could get for threatening to reveal who Luke's father is?", he muses.

: Working on my game. I've got the fifteen puzzle working. Yes, there is a fifteen puzzle in my game. Yes, I know what I'm doing.

: So hilarious it sounds fake (from Sumana):

Roeper: And there's this whole "Crouching Yoda, Hidden Dragon" thing that's just...

Ebert: You like the fact that Yoda turns into an action figure now with his light saber?

Roeper: I think that that is a scene [with Yoda] that "Star Wars" fans are going to absolutely love, I loved it.

Ebert: It's totally out of character for him.

Roeper: It's not totally out of character for him! That's part of his skills. He's not just this brilliant philosopher, he's also a Jedi warrior!

Ebert: Listen, if you're Yoda and you have the Force. ...

Roeper: He's a Jedi master.

Ebert: ...If you encompass the Force, you don't need no lightsaber!

Roeper: You do when you're going up against another Jedi dude who's also got super-duper mind powers!

Ebert: You've just got to go like this [makes a mind-reading gesture]. You're Yoda, nobody can stop you.

: DSR/DSC Blowout

: You've heard of the anthropic principle, but what about the lycanthropic principle?

: Wolfram mania obtained via HTP:

: Tonight's Episode: The Deadly Cure (thanks to Jason Robbins, the only person I know who still thinks up TEs on a regular basis).

: Wine, women, song: pick two.

: I forgot where I saw this, but it's pretty funny, in a looking-at-a-big-Illuminati-layout way, and it reminds me of the stick-figures-on-graph-paper thing I did in high school: the Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory (I think that's also what it was called by the site where I found it, which is a clue to where I found it). Caution: huge (~1 megabyte) image.

: I held my nose I closed my eyes, I read A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius. My mother read it when she was visiting me last year, and left it in my book pile. "You should read this," she said. So I did. It's okay. Not much need for me to review it since I mainly agree with the self-review in the introduction (I suppose I'm supposed to be suspicious of the self-review, but why? Is published self-analysis of a work automatically invalid?). The funny parts were pretty funny, but it had a tendency to turn into the boring parts of Microserfs. Is it a personal failing that I can only appreciate fiction in which things happen?

: Mike Popovic's secret project revealed!

: On Friday I went to a graduation party for Sumana. Happy graduation, Sumana! (even though you're not done with your finals... I never understood that) We played Taboo. I always start out not liking Taboo but eventually I warm to it. There were enough geeks present that we could effectively describe appropriate words ("throne", "leprechaun", "wish") in terms of Nethack; that was pretty funny.

I also concocted punch with Nandini, Sumana's sister. Everyone loved the punch. We are wizards of punch!

I told Seth about my game. "Your text adventures are better than any other text adventures," he said. Wow! He wasn't even drunk!

: Joe Barr's frontier attitude has clearly been rubbing off on Nick Petreley:

It should be against the law to use POP3 for e-mail, and in anticipation of that law, I've used IMAP4 for many years.

: Jason's worst-case scenario: "Imagine debugging a genetic algorithm on a buggy quantum computer running a Microsoft webserver."

: Oh no! Steven Jay Gould dead at 60! (Seth brings the tragic news)

: The mundane follows the tragic: I changed the front page to display the most recent 20 entries, since the old practice of displaying the current month's entries got a little bandwidth-intensive around the end of the month.

More game work. I discovered that one of my features is of the class of "Wow, this is a lot more difficult/tedious to implement than I thought." This is basically the state in which I spent the entire Degeneracy development process, and for a while I was fighting off despair, having subconsciously decided that IF programming was inherently as tedious as writing Degeneracy had been. That's not the case, though; this game is orders of magnitude less tedious to write than Degeneracy.

The default Inform magic system is so procedural! If you cast a spell on an object, the object never actually finds out about it; all the logic for handling the magic is inside the spell! I changed it to do dispatch to the object.

: Wow, the meaningless option poll is so meaningless that COPOUT can't accurately display the results.

: Early entrants in the spam scam contest:

From me:

From Sumana:

From my mother ("The syntax does appear to be from a Nigerian English language learner," she says):

For some reason I get the feeling that people think this contest is not a real contest. Well, it is! Right down to the valueless prizes! Send in your incitements to fraud today!

I have a feeling that the new scams are a bit toned down compared to the old-school ones, in terms of the unsavoriness of the characters and activities involved.

: I find it amusing that this fellow had the following to say about ZoŽ:

"Don't be put off by the awkwardly phrased manifesto, download it, and try it out."

And I like that the author of ZoŽ used that quote to head up said manifesto. Two defining features of computer geeks are 1) that sort of self-awareness, and 2) that even our awkwardly phrased manifestos are eminently practical.

ZoŽ is a email client. It's also a email server. And a long term archive. And a search engine. And an application server. All that at once on your desktop. Or server. Or both. Or it doesn't matter because client and server are the same.

It's not "Workers of the world, unite!", but the workers of the world have yet to unite, whereas by all accounts ZoŽ is both client and server. (That reminds me, I need to talk about The Star Fraction.)

I had all this in my head yesterday, but it didn't really fit in with the silly in-joke I had for the ZoŽ link so I didn't write it, which is a shame because last night my page was visited by the author of ZoŽ (he uses a stats service which shows up in my referer log); and he probably won't be back to read my equally silly but lengthier analysis. I still haven't tried Zoe, though (it's proprietary and there are warnings about problems running on Linux and in non-IE browsers).

: A Mike-ish way to deny something:

I can neither confirm nor neither confirm nor deny.

: Tonight's Episode: None Dare Call It Murder

: The San Francisco Examiner has gone over to a tabloid layout, in a seeming attempt to showcase their sensationalist tabloid-quality reporting. Tonight's Episode, I mean, Today's Top Story: D.C.'s Death Merchants.

Correction: It's the Examiner, not the Chronicle.

: From Manoj:

[A] decision that is sure to... bring smiles to the face of Internet radio executives nationwide.

Not to mention to the face of ACTUAL DAMN PEOPLE!

: Scientist Creates Hideously Deformed Dinosaur.

Good thing he used wholesome selective breeding techniques instead of evil genetic modification!

: I'm aghast! Daniel Gast wrote me back relatively soon, despite my having waited 1.5 years to answer his email about XFest '89! He points out an error in my etymological note; "Sex Packets" was the name of the album on which "Gutfest '89" appeared, and "Digital Underground" was the name of the band, not vice versa (or verce visa).

: Six arrested over 'Nigerian e-mail' fraud (from Sumana). Does this portend an early end for the scam contest? More importantly, does it portend a much-delayed end to the scam mails themselves? I'm inclined to think not; it seems to work too well not to be imitated like crazy.

: My First Mondegreen: The mother of A. Holloway humorously mistook the title lyric of Interesting Places to Die for "Interesting Places to Dine". I hereby dub this the name of the previously nameless Crummy Restaurant Review recurring feature (examples: 1 2).

My First Filk: Said A. Holloway then went and wrote a filk/parody of IPtD with that title. The lyrics are available for your delectability.

: A rubber ducky update from Susanna:

Mommy really likes her rubber duckies. When we're in the hot tub she goes "oh no! the ducky is going to the filter! hurry catch it!" and etc. And she sings to them. =)

: After a long romance and a lengthy engagement, Adam and Kim are to be married in July! I recently recieved my invitation, addressed to "Mr. Leonard Richardson and Guest". I get to take the anonymous SourceCast user to the wedding! The invitation is hand-made by Kim, and very lovely.

: Sumana's now using the new NewsBruiser. Huzzah!

Busy day--I got a bunch of issues dumped in my lap and had to tease out the actual requirements.

: Kevan sends a link to the Spam Scam Contest's first non-Nigerian entry.

Kevan hopes this will win the audaciousness award, and it probably will, not only for the bad light in which it seems determined to cast our boys, but for its obsessive use of military beuracratese and terrorism button pushing. "dreaded Taleban AlQeada terrorist network dot com!"

: The Enterprise cliff-hanger last night was quite exciting! Also, Daniels (the agent from the future) looks a lot like my co-worker Jason Brittain. The obvious conclusion: Jason is also from the future! He's come back in time to revamp our build system!

: Spam: "Receive great offers!" I just did!

: The tricky game feature now works, not perfectly, but well enough that I can come back to it later when I'm in the mood for rewriting and debugging. For a while today I despaired, multiplying beyond count all the possibilities I would have to support. Not only would it be impossible for me to implement all the cases, there would be too many slightly different options for the player to specify in text exactly what it was they wanted to do.

Then I calmed down. Between the start of the game and the activation of the feature, the player must make three lateral thinking breakthroughs, and by the time they do so there's no longer any point in playing dumb and pretending you don't know what they're trying to do. Much better to reward them by making it easy to express the actions that, by the time they get to it, will be obvious to them.

And, of course, any other useless cases implied by the small subset of useful cases can be dealt with by the game designer's favorite trick: the arbitrary "you can't/don't want to do that" restriction.

: Ever wanted to be surfing the worldwide markets like the hipsters in your favorite anarcho-capitalist cyberpunk thriller, looking for tiny inefficiencies on which to capitalize? You poor, deluded sap. What you don't realize is that that is incredibly boring. You can read press releases all day if you want to get a feel for it, but it's boring and it's going to be boring even when there's virtual reality involved.

: In a shameless, yet funny bid to use News You Can Bruise as a soapbox from which to spout his deranged mutterings, Pete Peterson II writes:

So... is there such a thing as "altogether ooky action at a distance?"

: Actually, you can read interesting press releases all day, but the same features that make them interesting also make them financially useless.

: Mike Popovic fact-checks my stupid mistakes with such wit that I don't even care that he sent me the fact-check email a day after I'd corrected the mistake:

also, i think it is the Examiner and not the Chronicle that went to a tabloid format (and i don't even live there :)

: In a shameless, yet implausible bid to spin the motivations of his former self, Pete Peterson II writes:

> In a shameless, yet funny bid to use News You Can Bruise as a
> soapbox from which to spout his deranged mutterings...

Who, me?!?

: Mike is an evil genius (this is from a brainstorming email relating to the game):

apply the principles of judo: if your problem is coming up with an AI system for a team of magicians, you should throw more magiciains at the problem. If you had a team of, say, five magicians, you would have to deal with a lot of collaboration, dialog, and eventualy team spellcasting. if you had say, sixty magicians per team, they would of course be following a set of rules, regulations an procedures that evolved/mutated from something useful into a beuracratic nightmare that ensures very little ever gets done. In other words, you would be the United States Senate. Now you can simply deflect user interaction into a bunch of procedural red herrings, and not have to worry about writing and AI system, because no Intelligence will come into play.

: Axis of Pasta update: consensus is that cheese is the missing third ingredient, though this has yet to be verified in field tests.

By the way, here is another Crummy.com pasta recipe:

Ad Hoc Pasta Working Group

Ingredients:

Instructions: Boil water and cook pasta. Heat up soup in microwave or on stove. Drain pasta and put into big bowl. Dump soup over pasta. Serves one, for two meals.

Note: do not make this for other people or they will think you are a slob.

: "...a picture is worth a thousand databases." What about a database that contains pictures?

: Crummy mini-features collide with Disturbing Photo Op Photo Wire Roundup!

:

Game

Got a lot of really good game work done yesterday.

Formatting

This entry is formatted like Seth's diary.

Seth's Diary

Seth has a long and interesting discussion of nth-ary liability in his diary today. However, I think he should have treated at more length the slight-of-hand involved in the "tools for circumventing copy control are like tools for breaking into houses" argument. Here's how I see that slight-of-hand: by making that argument you admit to a belief that something you've sold to someone else is analagous to your house, and that the person who bought it and wants to use it is analagous to someone trying to break in. (cf.) Of course, it's no big secret that most organizations which put out cultural artifacts don't consider you as having anything other than circumscribed viewing rights once you "own" "it" "on" "DVD", but it's a less well-known position than it should be, and it's doubtful that other people who accept this argument would accept it if they saw that axiom.

: I'm sort of ashamed that I didn't know that there was a Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic. This makes many things clearer, including why 1 is not considered a prime number (as I suspected from various hemming-and-hawing explanations I've gotten over the years, there's no real reason--it just makes the FTA a lot uglier).

However, this revelation increases my forboding feeling that algebra is in some bizarre sense the derivative of calculus, and arithmetic the second derivative.

: Camille's entry:

: Tonight's Episode: Online Murder Doesn't Just Happen

: Bunnies And Burrows: 2nd Edition (also out of print)

: Wondering what was behind that parade of elephants and dinosaurs down Shattuck yesterday in Berkeley? It was to celebrate Sumana's graduation! The Berkeley City Council itself took time from debating a vital measure that would ban all eating utensils except for chopsticks and drinking straws, to congratulate her on obtaining her degree. And so I add my voice to the multitude: congratulations, Sumana!

: I have a problem: I hate advertising. Under most circumstances I would not consider this a problem, but I'm starting to think that my hatred of advertising is neurotic. I will go out of my way to avoid doing things that I want to do because of advertising.

Example the first: I need to get a credit card. For most purchases I use a debit card hooked up to my checking account, but my debit card has a limit of about $500, so I can't buy expensive things like computers on it; for such things I need a credit card. I am apparently in the prime credit-card-getting demographic, and as such I have spent the past five years being deluged with gimmicky offers for credit cards. I get at least one such offer in the mail every week. I doubt it will ever get to the point where my seething rage at credit card companies subsides enough that I can bear to apply for a credit card.

Example the second: I'd like to get a cell phone (ironically, one of the reasons I want a cell phone is so I'll no longer have to answer the phone at my house hoping it's for me, when most of the time it's a telemarketer). But I also get offers for cell phones in the mail all the time! And what's worse--should I ever go to a mall, there's inevitably a cell phone salesbooth in the middle of the floor populated by postadolescent male sirens in ties, holding out cell phones and trying to get my attention. I will seriously hide behind other people as I enter the mall so that the salespeople will be distracted trying to sell those people cell phones and they won't notice me. There's no possible way I could go up to those people and say "Hi, I want a cell phone." It's like saying "Your film cycle on Lithuanian autocannibalism was transgressive and intertextual! I'd like to give you a grant!" It encourages behavior I don't want to encourage.

Example the third: anything that sounds like advertising or a prelude to a sales pitch makes me grit my teeth and seethe. When I walk into a Radio Shack or other store and the salesperson asks if they can help me find anything, I say "No", even if they really could help me find something! I resent them for trying to be helpful, because I'm afraid it'll turn into a sales pitch!

Example the fourth: this is where it goes beyond my self-centered world of electronic gadgets. I love the charity Heifer International. I want to give them a lot of money. But they keep sending me stuff in the mail, and just as with the credit cards and the cell phones that stuff triggers seething rage inside me! I know they're trying to push my buttons with the case study sob stories and whatnot, and I automatically decide on a visceral level that my buttons will not be pushed, that these people will not get my money.

It's as though every commercial and other piece of advertising I've ever seen has secretly wreaked its Hidden Persuaders doing on my helpless mind, but that rather than a plethora of tiny messages I've taken away a lowest common denominator message of "advertising is evil and its practitioners will not by me be rewarded", which is activated with the knee-jerk reliability by which the brainwashed-by-advertising drone of comic hyperbole feels an urge to purchase FooBar products after seeing the appropriate commercial.

I don't really have a solution for this, though the obvious first step is to somehow get off Heifer's mailing list so that I'll be able to keep sending them money.

: Addendum: I don't feel that way about broadcast advertising, only about advertising that's addressed to me personally (even if it was part of a mass mailing). Broadcast advertising I don't like but I can deal with.

: On a brighter note, I present the Food Circus: "Direct your attention to the center ring, where we will prepare roast duck in mushroom gravy!"

: A crawler crawled my site and spammed many addresses (including, humorously, qpoeta@roma.antiqua.it) with a spam scam, but Kris was the first to claim it:

And one more old-school from Kevan Davis: he says he was "actually disappointed at how piffling $15 million seemed".

: Whale meeting ends in fury; "It's payback time!", say world's whales

: Wow! Danny O'Brien was just in my room! He and a friend, Quinn Norton, brought Seth up from San Jose, where the three of them had been attending BayCon. Seth was meeting Sumana at my house for a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, so I got to meet and talk to (and have a photo op with) Danny. Seth and I showed him the Latin spam and he promised to send me a Yoda spam he has.

I'm still in Danny O'Brien shock. The only thing that could make this better would be if Brian Behlendorf (the world's biggest NTK fan) were also to meet Danny O'Brien, and if in the course of conversation Danny were to casually mention his acquaintance with me (in continuation of my longstanding plan to flummox Brian).

I have the vague feeling that I somehow let Danny O'Brien "get away" by not going with Sumana and Seth to the bridge (Danny and Quinn were going to drive them part of the way). However, that is silly. In addition, the bridge was from the beginning a Sumana/Seth joint venture in on which I'm loath to butt, and there's a lot of game work to do (Seth previewed my game; I think I need to make the prelude shorter).

: No funny comment, it's just cool: Astronomers Find Jupiter-Like Weather On Brown Dwarfs

: My mother sent me a bunch of engineer jokes, of which two I hadn't heard before:

  1. To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half-empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
  2. What is the difference between Mechanical Engineers and Civil Engineers?

    Mechanical Engineers build weapons. Civil Engineers build targets.

: Do I dare to register breadedclams.com?

: Oh, I forgot to mention that Sumana and I went to Kevin's new (and awesome) house yesterday and helped him move stuff. We also ate pizza, which was delicious. And Sumana got a bike. The end.

: Disturbing Spam Subject Lines: Stop begging lenders. Have them beg you!

: Behold the Yoda spam! (Thanks, Danny)

: Spam scam contest update: my mother, who also received the Angolan spam, said, "This one sorta tickles my fancy, as it is mining and prospecting." Two new entries, the second entries from Sumana and Camille:

Sumana's entry:

Camille's entry:

: Adam, who makes this sort of observation by sending out email rather than keeping a weblog, says "I prefer my beer in a bottle."

: Are there any tools for doing unit testing with Inform? This discussion is the only thing I could find, and it rapidly becomes theoretical and useless to me. I'll probably find an interpreter capable of playing back scripts and use that.

: From a catalog: "His steaks are a work of art, so why shouldn't he sign them?" Because they're freaking steaks, that's why!

: Dupont to launch soybeans into space; soybeans to pay $20 million apiece for privilege

: Segfault-ish headline inspired by the "The Future of Panel Discussions" panel discussion the other day:

Mars Probe Finds Signs of Water Ice, Smirnoff Ice

: Must... write... something... retain readers... from O'Brien overflow...

I like cats!

: If Batman were a hacker he'd use metasyntactic variables batFoo, batBar, etc. Instead of the bash shell, he'd use the Bat-Shell. Instead of cat, he'd use bat.

Okay, I'm done.

Addendum: But Pete's not; he dubs the system "Bruce Waynix" and says:

And somewhat obviously, "batman".

: Kevin's on to the manufacturers of the branding iron for steaks previously referred to. They wink and say it's for "your" steaks, just like CD burners are for "your" music, but Kevin knows better. He plans to obtain one and use it as the basis for a brief but flamboyant career in steak rustling, sneaking into barbecues and branding all the steaks as his. An aging sheriff will be called to duty one last time to bring Kevin to justice.

: Sketchy-Sounding Number Crunching Press Release Watch: Sales of Counterfeit Products to Rise to 18% of World Trade in Two Years. The solution: impose tariffs on counterfeit products! Tariffs always keep down that pesky trade.

(It's unfair to mock PRWeb press releases merely for being poorly written; the whole point of PRWeb is to enable people to put out a press release despite not having a PR department that can jazz things up for you. So I'll only be calling attention to press releases which are superlatively odd in some other way. Press releases written by professionals, on the other hand, are fair game for nitpicking.)

: I find it relaxing to watch television in a language I don't know. My favorite is Chinese television (I guess it's Mandarin). As far as I can tell, there are four shows on Chinese television: the modern show, the medieval show, the news, and the commercials. The modern show has the awesome name of "Meteor Garden", but my favorite is the medieval show, since as far as I can tell it's just kung fu movies without any subtitles. Or subtleties, for that matter.

Peter Hodgson once told me that the best way to passively learn a language is to listen to the radio in that language every morning. The language I most wanted to learn at the time he told me that was Latin, and apart from Nuntii Latini there's no radio broadcast in Latin.

: Spam: "Hi dan, A Tax Deduction even Mr. Jones doesnt know about!" Ha ha! At last, my chance to enlist the IRS in my proxy war against Mr. Jones!

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