Leonard's Predictions: In 2003, mankind will put aside its differences and band together against the common enemy: the French.[0]

I don't know how the French figure into this.

[0] I really have nothing against the French, but it's fun to make fun of them.

: Via The Scene I found Charity Navigator, which runs charities' financials through a spreadsheet and comes up with a ranking which you can use to figure out where your contribution will do the most good. My ideal charity seems to be The Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development; it has zero fundraising expenses (Heifer's runs 20%) and 10% operational expenses. But like Kevan, I feel nervous when I give money to Heifer or similar charity. I feel that I should also be giving money to a charity which will prevent someone with a Kalashnikov from coming and taking away the cow I donated (possibly preventing this by including another Kalashnikov free with the cow).

: Belated question for you all: what was the best NYCB entry of 2002? My contender: this funny one. If you have the time and patience, read 'em all (~1M) and let me know, or just skip the reading bit, do a search for some random word, and choose whatever comes up.

: Did some NewsBruiser code cleanup, and added a MailImporter class which will take an email message and turn it into a NewsBruiser entry. It will handle attachments to the email as uploaded files. There's also a less-polished RSSImporter class which imports entries obtained through an RSS file (right now it only supports RSS 3.0). I'm making RSS the official import/export format of NewsBruiser; it works well for that and I don't want to come up with something else.

: Manoj is jealous of my Hiptop. He says, "I wish I could post to my nonexistent blog from my nonexistent phone."

: Jason Kottke presents a geographically accurate map of the London Underground. That should make Rachel happy.

Now whenever I see a map of the Underground I have a partial mapping of the stations onto memories, which is a nicely weird experience. If I were to go on another vacation to Washington DC and take the subway there I could observe the formation of this mapping in near-real time. As it is, I have only a couple vague memories from my trip when I was 6: being between stations underneath the Potomac, imagining humidity and dripping water; being told by my father that Foggy Bottom was called that because it was actually underwater, at the bottom of the Potomac; standing on the Triangle platform watching a train arrive.

Of course, I have memories of various kinds associated with over half of the BART stops. There must be a point at which you've used a subway system so much that the stops stop being useful as mnemonic devices for remembering things you did.

Bonus game: without looking at the source code, can you find the link to Crummy on kottke.org?

: There's a point at which you're so hungry that instant noodles start to sound good, but you should really eat before reaching that point.

: I heard from a guy who might want to use NewsBruiser on a Windows server, so I investigated the possibility. It's surprisingly portable, considering I never gave the idea a thought until a couple days ago. There are only three problems I can find:

  1. NewsBruiser uses the Unix-specific crypt module to encrypt passwords. Fortunately, there is a pure Python implementation. This is also good because crypt isn't included with the default Python package on Unix, so bundling my own crypt will increase portability on Unix.
  2. NewsBruiser uses the Unix-specific fcntl module to lock the list of pending index updates. On Windows it can use a method in the msvcrt module instead.
  3. I made the assumption in a bunch of places that the path separator character is '/'; I need to go through and fix those, or NewsBruiser will generate horribly broken URLs and have problems finding files.

Pretty good, I think. I'm also thinking seriously about a paper topic. I think I'll probably go with demonstrating the simple web interface to the configuration file, focusing on the technique rather than the specific tool (I think the specifics of web apps differ too much for such a tool to be both understandable and generally applicable, but I could be wrong).

Innovation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery: Last week I bought a bar of shampoo. It's shampoo stuff in a soap-like bar. Very useful for very short hair, since you don't have to worry about using too little shampoo; I just scrub my head with it a little bit and lather. It doesn't leave my hair feeling greasy like some shampoos, which is good because the whole psychological reason I use shampoo is to get rid of that awful feeling of greasy hair. But it doesn't leave my hair as stiff as when I wash my hair with soap (which is how I know it's not just rebranded soap).

: The light in my bathroom burnt out, and rather than go through the trouble of replacing the bulb I performed my ablutions by candlelight tonight. It was fun, but not neccessarily an experience I want to have every night. It reminded me of when we lived out in the country and had occasional lengthy power outages. It was like camping--inside!

Aaron Swarm Swartz presents Tonight's Episode Salutes Programming:

Update: Scott James Remnant adds Murder In A Nutshell

Great Katzdots In History: Giving Thanks For Democracy and Sex

: No entries yesterday (A gap! A gap in the calendar!), because I got up late, spent the whole day in meetings, then went with Sumana to a party at Taska's house (hmm, another placeholder page for my 'Co-workers past and present' links.shtml selection). I saw Taska again, which was great. I also caught up with Pete Peterson II (the real reason for my attending; he leaves tomorrow) and the newly-wed Nick Moffit, met Sean Neakums, etc. etc. etc. I met Mike non-Popovic, who works for Danger; and Jonathan, who uses a Sourcecast-hosted site, so at the party I represented both the demand and supply chain. I'm leaving out so much stuff and so many people it's not even funny. It was a lot of fun and I'll likely attend in the future (it's every Monday night). But the upshot is that at no point yesterday did I write any NYCB (or, indeed, much of anything).

: Hilarious (If you are a Mormon or ex-Mormon)! My aunt Anne's filk of "If You Could Hie To Kolob", "If You Could Hie To CollabNet".


Cracklib Rosie, get on board...

: Three choice pictures from last night:

  1. The mysterious Sean Neakums
  2. Me and Pete Peterson II showing off our hopelessly out-of-date driver's licenses.
  3. The game of Settlers of Catan

Anecdote: during the game of Settlers, Pete got a harbor that gave him two-for-one trades for sheep. The conceit throughout the game was that this was not a harbor for trading sheep for other things, but an offshore sheep rendering plant which produced sheep-fat brick, wooly wood, sheepwheat, and decidedly inferior sheepbone ore.

MoreSensationalistExaminer.com: "Cut your rent" should be "Cut your parent".

: Enoch Soames: A Memory of the Eighteen-nineties, by Max Beerbohm. A fictional sketch of an utterly forgettable fictional poet, said sketch to contain one (1) supernatural twist. Slow, but witty and with a hilarious unneccessary post-ending.

Story found via another weblog (why don't I write down the credit along with the link when I make notes to myself?!?!) There's a minor Baker Street Irregulars-ish subculture pertaining to Soames: Teller of Penn and Teller wrote an article about him for The Atlantic, and various bodies have produced appreciations of his work, or at least Web pages professing the existence of appreciations of his work. (Caution: big spoilers in all three, and not the kind of spoilers that don't really spoil the fun of the story)

: Greg on my Sherman Oaks despair (qv.):

I lived a half-mile from the site during the work, and they completely gutted it. Tore out everything, even the walls, and turned it into office space, mostly. There are a few restaurants and a movie theatre and a record store there now, but it's unrecognizable.

Before the work began, they stopped re-newing leases, so the number of stores kept dwindling. It was a ghost mall, with only the movie theatre open at the end. It had endless parking and you could show up just a few minutes before the show and if you didn't mind the possibility of being set upon by refugee Sunglasses Hut employees, it was great.

I was only there once, in my mid-teens, and it was utterly deserted. I remember my sisters and I getting running starts and sliding across the slippery tile floor on our stomachs in a mad act of pointless, consequenceless mall-hogging. It was like the mall in Rock 'n' Roll Rebellion after the humorless owner and his reactionary security guards abandon it to the plucky gang of high-school stereotypes.

Moses Went Down Into Nasr's Egyptian Cuisine: In the remaindered cookbook section at Cody's is a cookbook about preparing a Passover Seder, called Let My People Eat! I tried to think of other clever names for Seder cookbooks; the best I cam come up with is How Is This Cookbook Different From All Other Cookbooks?, and You Want You Should Starve? (this would have recipes for guilt trips as well as for food). Neither of those is very funny.

: Rachel disputes my Sherman Oaks Galleria story:

Susanna and I have discussed it, and we don't remember sliding through Sherman Oaks Galleria on our stomaches. She says that the one time she was there, she believes, was when we got picky at "pick a pet" and neither if us remember you being there. I say if you're not careful you'll end up turning into mom in terms of story telling!!!

Maybe I was there without my sisters, or maybe we were all there but only I body-surfed across the floor. Maybe I made up the whole thing for a jacket cover bio and then forgot about it (as, indeed, the people who were going to publish my putative book seem to have).

Update: I am beset upon! In a Senate hearing, my mother testified as follows:

I dispute both your and the girls stories. We got Picky at Fox Hills Mall. The only time I have ever been to the Sherman Oaks Galleria was once when you and I went with Andy and Nancy. You and Andy may well have slid on your stomachs, but I don't remember it.

Yeah, me and Andy. That's the ticket. If Andy disputes the story, I'll still have won (unlike the terrorists), because I'll have re-established contact with Andy.

: I put up 70 pictures from Christmas. Includes the kitsch creche, a dinosaur cookie fight, and lots of liquid nitrogen. Also categorized all the 2002 pictures, so you no longer have to go on directory names (now, file names, that's a different story).

Books You'll Never See: The Pit And The Pennjillette

2002: The Year That Existed: What can we say about 2002? For those of us still under NDA, not much. [That wasn't an NDA! It was a credit card receipt from the grocery store! -ed.]

OK, apparently I have to actually write this entry. 2002 was a bumper year for uninformed speculation and hysterical fearmongering. I admit that many of the predictions in my Weekly Standard article, "2002 Predictions for 2002 (Not That You'll Be Around Next Year To Verify Them)" were off the mark, and may even have irresponsibly contributed to the year-end rush to stockpile dog collars and refried water. My assertion that by May we would all be sweeping diamond dust in the gem mines of Aldebaran was clearly off by a couple of years, and I can no longer mantain with a straight face that hair lasers are only months away. However, according to Lexis-Nexis my predictions for the hottest buzzwords of 2002 ("if", "the", and "and") were spot on, and my tepid attempt at an Enron joke prediction remained trite and boring the entire year.

Longtime NYCB readers will not be surprised to learn that for another year my warnings against the dreaded giant clam went sadly unheeded by both parties in Washington. My Pulitzer Prize-winning article, The Sociology of The Continental Shelf proved invaluable for filling up that section of the Times-Picayune they print on Mondays even though it's only about four pages long, but its policy recommendations never reached the right ears. Admittedly, Congress passed several anti-bivalve bills last year, but none of them credited me for being the first to call the attention of the public to this vital issue. The only bright spot was the retirement of Senator Strom Thurmond, for many years notorious as the best friend in government of Big Clam.

2002 was surely the Year of the Blog. Turning now to my own prodigious output, I find over 1200 "entries", each crafted with the care and political acumen which an old hand like myself can draw upon. As the tumultuous events of 2002 unfolded, it was blogs like NYCB which brought you the voices of real people on the front lines. In 2003, as more print journalists discover the possibilities of the Web, will we see the democratization of media and a closer connection between author and audience? If this old dog can learn new tricks, then perhaps the best answer is... stay tuned.

Next: readers nominate the best NYCB entries of 2002.

: A. Holloway read the entire NYCB ouvre for 2002, and decided that his favorite entry was the very first one of the year, the one about Carmel. Runners-up: Smells Like Teen Circuit, The Two Saturns (aka "How Leonard Thinks"), The Weblog Foundation series, and the one where it gets weird.

My mother's favorite is the putative description of Kiss Me Kant.

That's it (unless you have an email on this subject that you've been holding off sending).

Software Roundup: A longer game roundup coming soon. Here are three interesting non-game programs I saw on Freshmeat:

Game Roundup: Some of these games I've actually played, others I've just looked at the screenshots. Just like real game reviewers, except I'm honest.

: I wrote a rough draft of an abstract for a presentation for the Python conference. The topic is the advantages of CGI-based configuration systems, and the implementation of same. I sent the abstract to Jason, who's published papers galore. Anyone else want to see it?

Comic Irish Songs Head On "My Music!": Second In A Series: Father O'Flynn

Previously, on Game Roundup...: I tried to do an Aaron Sorkin-type intro here, but my review of Rocks'n'Diamonds is notably deficient in characters running around saying pithy things that advance the plot. Indeed, it is deficient in scenes, characters, dialogue, or plot of any sort, because it's a review of a game, and not one of those fancy reviews that looks on the surface like a dialogue concerning two world systems. So let's take it as read that I earlier wrote a review of Rock'n'Diamonds.

One of my remarks in the review was that I wished people would come up with interesting puzzles combining objects from the different games cloned by Rocks'n'Diamonds. Well, a while ago I heard from a fellow who calls himself Equinox "Eq" Tetrachloride. He's written a bunch of R'n'D levels, and sent them to me to try out. They're the cleverest levels I've played yet, and they mix items from different games in interesting ways (in one exciting level, you must complete the first level of Sokoban while being chased by a butterfly monster from another game). Hopefully Eq will put up his R'n'D levels for general consumption.

Eq has this to say about the mysterious yellow gemstones into which you decompose when you die in R'n'D (Yellow gemstones are made from people! THEY'RE PEOPLE!):

It was originally a Boulder Dash thing, as you probably know. [I didn't. -ed. Me neither.] I suppose it's like Sonic the Hedgehog being hit and losing all the rings he collected. In R'n'D, the other coloured gems come from other things, like player 2 being killed or a mole being smashed.

Leonard's Life--Uncensored!: Yesterday I got a birthday present for Rachel. I usually don't get birthday presents for people because I forget that this has to be done before the birthday, but this time I remembered. I also got some delicious bread at the bakery right outside the Rock Ridge BART station (which bakery turns out to be a cleverly disguised franchise). I also saw Sumana, and made salad for her. Today I worked.

: So, Cory (I can call him Cory because I briefly met him, once, although he immediately forgot me) has released his novel for free download. I feel jealous of him. I put stuff up for free download all the time, and indeed that's my first impulse for everything I write or create, but that's because for me it's a simple choice: put it online, or no one will ever see it. Cory has the option of locking up his work in a book and cackling evilly as people line up to shell out $22.95 for his words of wisdom, yet he magnanimously decides to keep everything online. I doubt I will ever be put to the same test, since none of the stuff I write is good enough to publish. [Stop sulking! You can write! -ed. But not publishable stuff--only IF, weblog entries, and sassy editorial insertions. I resent that! -ed. He never breaks character, folks!]

: Got the second draft of my abstract done, and not much else. I can't find any real prior work on this, which is weird; can anyone help? I'm looking for frameworks which allow you to get this sort of interface by defining in a text file the options you want to be settable. The closest things I can find are Scarab and a feature of Zope. Both of those are oriented toward dynamically creating simple data gathering forms rather than letting the developer define a static set of settable configuration options with arbitrarily complex logic. There's also Intake, which lets you develop all your form interaction this way, sort of.

: Ow.

: One of the things that makes me think that my life is a nutty sitcom is that my nutty cubemate, Kevin, is always telling me that today is "[some stupid thing] Day", eg. "Teddy Bear Day" or "Hug Your Landlord Day". He gets this information from the radio. Today he said that it was the anniversary of the Boston Molasses Disaster. ("You would think a molasses disaster would be a unique event. However, another molasses disaster occurred in 1932 in Sucarnoochee, Mississippi.")

The other thing that makes me think that my life is a nutty sitcom is that today at lunch Kevin spilled coffee on me.

Everyone Should Own One: The latest non sequitur "Back off..." bumper sticker. I was thinking... what if it's any arbitrary facts about the universe that go on those bumper stickers? You might see BACK OFF... A HEXAGON HAS SIX SIDES or BACK OFF... THERE IS ICE ON MARS.

: What we at CollabNet have known for a long time: Never mind the economy, stupid -- it's the burritos

: Despite the hilarious cries of KatzDot ("American Kids: Fact Or Fiction?!" "The Spiritual Net Factor From Cyberspace!") I got rid of the high-profile random and/or seldom-updated junk between the intro and the weblog. This brings NYCB center stage, which is important because NYCB click-throughs (that's when you click the permalink) bring in a whopping 1000% of my profits from this site. Feel free to complain, but I just can't resist those, sweet, sweet profits.

: You know what would be a cool state quarter? One with a totally blank reverse side.

Well, it's cooler than the actual California quarter options. Though I do like the idea of putting concentric grooves on a quarter.

Maybe North Dakota could have the blank quarter.

: I submitted my abstract. Whew! I'm afraid of getting bonked on some procedural thing like providing examples of prior art instead of references to papers. I guess I'm more afraid of getting bonked because they think my idea is stupid. Should I put up the abstract so everone can read it? <--my gut reaction for everything, as noted below

Thanks to Jason for proofreading the abstract and giving me lots of help on how to write an abstract. Thanks to Kevin for making it all the way through the motivation before falling asleep.

Right now (or sometime around now), Sumana is introducing Bruce Sterling. I wonder how that's going.

: I like yesterday's APOD (too tired to link right now). All the moons are nicely lined up in the orbital plane, and I like that there are moons named after characters from Shakespeare. It was like looking at an X-ray of the universe.

Pickup Lines That Don't Work: "Hey, baby, you're more relevant than ever."

Ambiguous Headline Watch: Governor's budget cuts spare Legislature. Well, I guess California doesn't need a spare legislature...

What? I'm outraged!

Another NewsBruiser Competitor: Spyblog ("Simple Python blogger"). It's got comments!

: I like fancy cookbooks, with their pictures and their coherent themes, but what I really like is enormous collections of recipes in electronic form, thrown together by user-contribution serendipity and given form by desperate one-word categorizations[0]. In my BBS days I would scour BBSes for packages of Meal Master-readable recipes and hoard them on my BBS, possibly only ever preparing one or two recipes found in the whole corpus. Nowadays I cook a lot more, so I have more than an academic interest in lists of recipes. Here are a few sites, including a couple I found just now while researching this entry.

[0] Also, I really like the self-published cookbooks that you see in tourist traps and restaurant gift shops while on road trips. I've never bought one, though.

: The tomato-avocado pasta was delicious! I recommend it. We used penne instead of linguini, because I don't like the long hairlike pastas. We also added asiago cheese, which was successful. The recipe says it makes four servings, but between the two of us we licked the platter clean.

Shark Pre-Jumped For Your Convenience: First Ruben Bolling "Lucky Ducky" cartoon: hilarious. Second Ruben Bolling "Lucky Ducky" cartoon: not funny. Third Ruben Bolling "Lucky Ducky" cartoon: short but still not that funny. Sumana noticed this too, and says she sent this to be included in Punchline Prima Facie. I'm also curious: Kris, what gives?

Leo: I'm looking at Leo, an outline editor written in Python and Tk which is supposed to help you do literate programming. I saw people being fanatics about it on some wiki, and since for a while I've been looking for an outline editor I figured I'd give it a try. I'm using it to organize things like my to-do list and my start page. Time will tell whether it's useful for mantaining documents, but it looks like it will be: I imported a NewsBruiser code file and got a very coherent view of the code.

At the very least, Leo is the outline editor I've been looking for, and I can pretend to be one of those people, like Joseph Allen, who uses an editor named after them. At most, I will become one of those people who is a fanatic about Leo on wikis.

Note: I had to recompile Python to get Leo to work, because my preinstalled Python defined Py_UNICODE as wchar_t even though wchar_t on my system is 32 bits, in direct contradiction to what The Python/C API Reference Manual says. I mean, geez.

Motivational Search Requests: You Rock!

: I dreamed that Dar Williams played a cover of "Beef". I listened to it on tape, and was excited because I would be able to modestly add Dar Williams to the list of covers of my songs. She was having fun, which is the important thing about "Beef"; that Dar Williams the singer have fun singing it.

When Press Releases Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Issue Press Releases:

Links in the Meme Chain:

From clickolinko: Swappington's, a cultural-artifact-trading site with a minimalist interface, an interesting (and, I fear, exploitable) economics, and a goofy animated GIF demonstration. (Incidentally, if you decide to get an account there, list me [leonardr] as your referral, since referrals are the only action I can find that create money.)

From Boingboing: the passive-aggressive approach to protesting workplace patent requirements.

New NewsBruiser Installation: The world-famous [PEA] site is now running NewsBruiser. Andrew Newton, the webmaster, says "Very cool stuff...thanks for the good, free code."

: Mickey sez, "Don't mourn me, plagiarize!" I'm on it!

: Kris bows to popular demand and discusses Lucky Ducky.

: In Kuala Lumpur, a whale.

You got me!:

Does everyone name their first SimCity Funkytown? I have a suspicion that this is true. What if you run that city into the ground, creating a hell on Earth that subverts God's divine plan? When you wipe that town, do you name the new one New Funkytown? I'm just wondering how common this is.

That's exactly what I did in first FreeCiv game with Dan, way back when.

: I don't think there's a summary (of a television show, movie, performance of a play, novel, etc.) that couldn't be improved by tacking this onto the end:

It reaches a climax with a space battle high above the Atlantic, as Irish nationalists and Martian dissidents duke it out with laser pistols.

More Books You'll Never See: The Use-Case Scenario Handbook

Yet Another NewsBruiser Competitor: Vellum has some good organizational ideas that I might steal. (I like plugin architectures a lot.) Thanks to Josh for pointing it out to me.

: Last Wednesday, The West Wing was brought to you in part by GE. Yes, brought to you in part by the company that owns the company that broadcasts the dang thing in the first place. It must be hard to find a sponsor for a rerun.

What's The Difference Between A Tetris?: Quack is a Tetris clone in which your game is watched by an enormous raytraced duck who quacks when you complete a line. Benny Kramek, the author, says:

I never was a really big fan of tetris, so I'm not sure why I decided to create this.

This bolsters my "spontaneous generation" theory of Tetris clone creation.

: NewsBruiser 1.11.0, "Weasels Bruised My News", is out. It's got a million ways of importing entries: any version of RSS, email, or directly from Manila or Blogger. It also runs on Windows, and has the fun random entry functionality. To do all the importers, I ended up using two pieces of code each from Mark Pilgrim and Fredrik Lundh.

"To see the snowman is to dislike the snowman.": Roger Ebert is at his cranky best in his 1998 review of "Jack Frost". This is, I must stress, not the 1997 film called "Jack Frost", which makes me think that there must have been some experiment to keep making movies called "Jack Frost" just to see what would get a rise out of Roger Ebert.

The 1997 "Jack Frost" has had a sequel made of it; I don't know how that fits into the experiment hypothesis. Stomp Tokyo review (I should check Stomp Tokyo more often.)

Caution! Salad!: This is the standard Leonard/Sumana salad, which we call Caution! Salad!



Peel and chop cucumber. Cut tomato. Put spinach, cucumber, tomato, beans, and olives into a bowl. Dress and shake the bowl around to mix up dressing. Cut up avocado and put in (if you put it in before shaking the bowl the avocado will become part of the dressing). Put cheese on top, if you want cheese. Serve with rice pilaf.

: Just another proof of the Amiga's continued dominance: robotfindskitten is now available for the Amiga. The author: Peter Gordon.

More Excitement: The Amiga port was apparently the last straw, as Pete Peterson II has seen fit to update the robotfindskitten.org site.

I wrote a little CGI for NewsBruiser what implements the MetaWeblog and Blogger XML-RPC APIs. It needs a little refactoring before I commit, but it works. Soon you'll be able to... do various things. And the company that'll bring it to you: NewsBruiser, Inc.

: For many years, Google News went without a single mention of Sumana. But now, as we race toward the millenium, she has been mentioned at the end of an article about her UC Berkeley radio interview.

Me? Still nothing.

BTW, why does Google News only keep a 30-day window of news? To keep its sources from becoming angry? ("The news source seems to be getting angrier!") It already archives all that stuff on the web side of things.

: Committed the Blogger and MetaWeblog XML-RPC interfaces, and as a bonus I implemented the Advogato interface. Let me know if they work; I have no idea except that my little test script creates and edits entries like mad, without crashing. Next: the LiveJournal interface, or at least its intersection with the NewsBruiser feature set.

Spam Or Desperate Cry For Help?:

Pounds melt away jnkgjhr

Today's Underreported Story: "Celebration Goes Back In Time" (from the Chron, of course)

Now It's Cocotime: I've moved servers; this is Kevin's machine. I had a recent backup of the weblogs but not of the other content, so I'm waiting for the old machine to be available again before I can copy everything over. More as it develops. I guess I'll be fixing up random things, though what specifically I have no idea.

: Behold the Four Noble Truths of Python! "All that is not Python is Suffering."

Name-Dropping: I can't think of any hook on which to hang this story, so I'll just tell it and hope you'll be interested. On Wednesday afternoon the power went out in Brisbane, so we (Brian, Ed, Dan, and myself) decided to take a long lunch. We went to a restaurant in Burlingame (that reminds me; more amazing Burlingame restaurant stories coming up! Stay tuned!), and outside the restaurant Brian encountered some people he knew from Organic. Here comes the part I hope you'll be interested in: they were having lunch with Shawn Fanning from Napster. It sort of reminded me of a dot-com version of this old Doonesbury cartoon.

MoreSensationalistExaminer.com: "Sharpton Brings Show to S.F." should be "Sharpton Brings Snow To S.F."

: Gary Benson sent me a couple useful NewsBruiser patches. He also has good things to say about NewsBruiser on his weblog (which is not yet running NewsBruiser, but which I presume soon will be), namely that "NewsBruiser rocks" and "It really is an awesome piece of code".

: Havel Drunk As Skunk

: From The Google Weblog (which also picked up my silly Legalese Edge Case (check out the cool new link format!)), it's the voyeuristic escapades of The First Week at Google.

As with so many others, my dream job would be something for the United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center. My dream job that actually exists (again, as with many others) would be doing cool things for Google. (Today I actually thought of a cool thing to run against Google, of which possibly more anon, but it won't work without angering Google because it won't work within the rather limited Google API).

A Few Of My Favorite Things: Real Live Preacher, one of the best new blogs, thanks the Creator for The Big Lebowski. Just below that entry is a guide to tamales ("Do not eat the corn shuck wrapper, Yankee.").

: From PEA: the guy (one of them, anyway) who tries to sell you lunar real estate finally got what was coming to him. He's very contrite, which makes me more favorably disposed towards him. Next up (one hopes): the powerless-to-actually-name-stars star registry people.

My belief: we should homestead the moon and other heavenly bodies. You can own the land if and only if you terraform or otherwise do work on it. Very Lockean.

Durian Durian: The durian is a Malaysian fruit which apparently tastes good but stinks to high heaven. I've never had one, but Durian Online will tell you all about it. They even have fake durian!

Right now you're thinking "Leonard, why are you bringing up the durian? I already know all about the durian! I hit your site with my mondo RSS reader to read your witty comments on completely irrelevant topics, not to see you link to the durian site that's already #3 on Daypop!" But unless you've been reading NYCB since 1998 (or have read the archives), you don't know that I had a physics professor at UCLA whose name was Doug Durian. He was a good professor, but I did horribly (C+) in the class; this was entirely my fault.

In a bizarre turn of events, this NYCB entry is not the first time Doug Durian has been mentioned in conjunction with the durian fruit; it's been done before, in greater detail, here.

PS: I do untold amounts of research for each and every NYCB entry, except the ones clearly labeled with the blue triangle which means "completely unresearched". Reading my UCLA transcript to find my E&M grade I get the uncanny impression that as I progressed through my time at UCLA I actually got smarter. I don't know why I find this so uncanny as this is exactly what's supposed to happen when you go to college.

: I was skimming through The Book of Lost Tales, looking, for reasons which need not concern us at the moment, to find historical names that orcs might give their children. It turns out that The Book of Lost Tales contains no orcs and very few orc role models, so I'm using The Silmarillion instead. However, The Book of Lost Tales does contain a cool Lost Tale about an enormous whale named Uin, who is hitched up to a continent and tows the entire continent elsewhere, much like in this Penny Arcade cartoon. I tried to find out more about Uin but there is no more, except that Uin appears in a children's book Tolkien wrote called Roverandom.

No, I didn't either. It looks like a fun Phantom Tollbooth-ish yarn, and Uin's part in it is generally well-received by the critics. I'm thinking of getting it and reviewing it here.

Woohoo!: My PyCon presentation was accepted!

Brak's Comedy Gold Headline Watch: Microsoft secures delay. Well, at least they managed to secure something! Tip your waitresses!

Crummy Number One Prospect: Has ego-surfing lost its magic? Tired of learning about the lives of registered piano technicians and competitive Magic players with the same name as you? The Department of the Interior has forseen your need, and prepared the Geographic Names Information System for your searching pleasure. Browse a database of geographic and man-made features throughout the US, its territories, and Antarctica. Includes Terraserver links. My favorite ego-feature is the Richardson Glacier in Antarctica, but the Richardson Dam outside Rosebud, Montana is a close second.

: This is the historic first entry posted to NYCB from Jericho. Celebration!

The Dark Side Of Extreme Programming: BrutalSarcasm, ParkingLotTherapy, etc. Good thing I'm not a Time reporter, or I'd already be working on "Vendetta.com: How Programmers Conspire Online To Mock Your Ideas"

Fair And Balanced Reporting: Varied Views on Rampaging

: What does this mean? My only hypothesis: it's really long-term foreshadowing.

Slang You Don't Hear Much: "As if and only if!"

: You may have noticed something cool and new; if not, please notice it now. Crummy's NewsBruiser links are now run through a routine which gets rid of the .cgi cruft, leaving clean-looking urls like http://www.crummy.com/2003/02/06/1. Apache rewrite rules do the transformation in the other direction. This (the implementation is pluggable, so you can implement whatever transformations you want) is a new NewsBruiser feature, not quite ready for CVS yet, and inspired by Gary's implementation of the same thing.

Dueling Weblogs: toastedkitten and friedkitten. Fight!

: This evening the CollabNet engineers, with various degrees of excitedness and resignation, are going to a weekend retreat in Marin. There will be meetings, hiking, and I don't know what all. Internet access will be hoarded jealously, and all NYCB entries for the duration will be pecked out on the Hiptop at dead of night, as I hide in my sleeping bag with a flashlight. The Subversion team is down from Chicago, and they brought guitars. I'm bringing my guitar. There will probably be twenty or thirty guitars at this thing.

Let's Get This Party Over With: The #tron people keep trying to control my actions through clickolinko. Specifically they want me to link to The Advertising Slogan Generator[0] with the input "Seth David Schoen", forming hilarious output like "It Takes A Tough Man To Make A Tender Seth David Schoen." and "Ho Ho Ho, Green Seth David Schoen." Now I've linked, but at what cost? Next they'll want me to post links to CNN bloopers and Engrish captions from The Two Towers bootlegs[1]! What have I done? You've gone mad, me! Mad, I tell myself!

[0] First seen in Tales You Can Bruise, Issue #55.

[1] I found that one elsewhere and was going to link to it anyway, but this forms a useful framing device.

: Witty, gossippy, well-written, full of offbeat references. Yes, it's the AbiWord Weekly News. This week's best line: "St. Pacman's hospital", at the beginning.

: More geographical ego-surfing, from the incredibly famous Sumana: The World's Largest Corn Maze at Richardson Farms. Richardson Farms was, semicoincidentally, the name of my grandparents' old farm.

Unpopular Games: "Marble Sanity"

: On my way home. Tired. More later. Saw rabbit.

Rut Rut Rut: The unexplained. The surreal. The shadowy realms beyond the explanatory power of science. But enough of that. I finally got access to the old (> 1 week ago) Crummy data, and copied everything over, though a heavy dose of directives which could not be processed remain, and the NewsBruiser archives have yet to be brought up to date. I'm working on a slightly better infrastructure for the site, using my newfound knowledge of and access to Apache configuration. I'm generally distracting myself from the fact that I'm still (or maybe again) in a rut.

I want to get my game (which I last mentioned, let alone worked on, about 9 months ago) finished before the end of this year. I am somewhat distressed to, for the first time in my life, be thinking "Well, that's going to take more than a year," and even more distressed not to be feeling that that year represents a large chunk of my life.

My only hope for actually finishing the game on schedule, or at all, is that Leo will make Inform programming a non-hassle (I have a huge problem finding things and cross-referencing related parts of Inform code, and I think Leo will help), reinvigorating my jaded palate.

: The Mars Rover, in Lego. Really explores Mars![0]

[0] For purposes of exploration, Mars must also be made of Lego.

Incredibly Ambiguous Headline Watch: Hello! spoiler cost OK! dear

Dude, Where's My Lawyer?: I got spam with the subject:

Stoner says, "Call now, we're open" vmcgspgimrypn

I immediately thought, "What happened to Weedmon?! Bring back Weedmon!" But now it's obvious: "Weedmon" was clearly the alias of Omar Mendez, the dealer half of this transaction.

: Brilliant! Tim works around the nonexistence of a Hiptop SDK by hooking up to AIM a Unix implementation of the software he wanted to implement on the Hiptop. Specifically, you can now play IF games on your Hiptop.

(Found via referer logs thanks to Mike's tendency to mention GTV! and Degeneracy everywhere; thanks, Mike!)

: Sumana said "frog blog". I searched for frog blogs. Here are ten.

  1. Squished Frog Blog
  2. zen frog blog
  3. frog blog
  4. Electric Frogplate - Frog Blog
  5. frogBLOG
  6. Ribbity Blog
  7. The Boiled Frog Blog
  8. frog's blog
  9. Frog n' Blog
  10. A Frog in the Valley

Antisocial Butterfly: Sumana and I have (well, Sumana has) been invited to three separate anti-Valentine's Day parties. We're not going to any of them; we're seeing Russian Ark instead. However, I sort of want to host a Valentine's Day party out of contrariness, even though I hate parties in general and a Valentine's Day party in particular makes no sense.

: Some pictures from the Hiptop:

Mixed Metaphor: "They were just warming you up for the kill."

Fake Onion Editorial Headline: I Thought We Had A Suicide Pact

Caution! Contains Spoiler!: For a while now, my the little panel on my car that covers the gas tank cover panel hasn't been opening when I pull the gas tank cover panel release lever. I've needed someone else to hold the lever up while I pushed on the gas tank cover panel with my hand to get it to open (this was 1/2 tank of gas ago, having just gotten back from Bakersfield). Clearly the problem was with the gas tank cover latch hook. Yesterday I brought needle-nosed pliers with me when I drove into work. I got an accomplice (Kevin) to pull the gas tank cover panel release lever, opened the gas tank cover panel, bent the gas tank cover latch hook with the needle-nosed pliers, and it worked fine!

Today my car thought "That Leonard thinks he's pretty smart. He's fixed the gas tank cover latch hook, but now it's time for LEVEL TWO!" I went to the dentist this morning, missing the shuttle, so once again I drove into work. As I drove out of the parking lot this evening I heard a crunch. One of the little plastic connectors that keeps the front spoiler[0] attached to the car had busted off, and my spoiler was dragging on the ground. I retraced my steps, found the connector, and drove gingerly home where my tools[1] are. It turns out I didn't need my tools because the connector is an ingenious two-part assembly, and once you figure this out you can just reattach the spoiler to the car with your bare hands. Success again!

Tune in tomorrow, when my hubcaps fall off and must be replaced with dinner plates.

[0] This is the second time this spoiler thing has flaked out on me. The first time this happened I didn't realize it until the connector was long gone, so I had to take my car into the shop, and that's what the guy called the thing in the front of the car. I don't think "spoiler" is the right word for it, but that's what he called it. I'm just sayin'.

[1] These are computer- and minor-home-improvement-geek tools, not car tools.

Leonard Nitpicks The Folk Songs:

How often at night when the heavens are bright
With the light from the glittering stars,
Have I stood here amazed and asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds that of ours.

That doesn't even make sense! "If their glory exceeds that of ours?" What does that mean? "If their glory exceeds the glory of our glory?" How about "If their glory exceeds even ours."?

: Russian Ark was like being in a text adventure with particularly unobservant NPCs. For sheer audacity, ambition, and alliteration, I recommend it. Big chunks of it were boring; I can only hope they were neccessary pauses in the action to shuttle all the actors around the Hermitage, and not something the director thought would be a soul-shattering confrontation with mortality.

The previews included one for a film that looks cool, despite being called "a darkly comic masterpiece" on the webpage: Divine Intervention. It features an actor who looks like Siddig El Fadil, and a pink Yasser Arafat balloon. I thought Big Shot's Funeral looked good, though[0], so what do I know.

[0] I haven't actually seen Big Shot's Funeral, but every review I've read was either really negative or (worse for my prospects of wanting to see a film) damning with faint praise.

: I've written a musical about the Roman Empire exploiting western Europe for the imperial purple. I call it "Dyes and Gauls".

: On our way back from Bakersfield (speaking of which: we went to Bakersfield), Sumana and I ate at Colonel Lee's Mongolian BBQ in Mountain View. It wasn't as good as Mongol's BBQ in LA (there weren't sesame rolls, the noodles weren't as good, and there were fewer available types of vegetable), but on the plus side it's only 50 miles away instead of 400. Also, there's a soft serve machine, you get to choose your own sauces rather than being subject to the arbitrary whim of an employee, and it's generally cleaner.

For some reason, the closest Mongolian BBQ I could find to San Francisco is Colonel Lee's. Without knowing anything at all about why this is actually the case, I blame archaic health regulations against communal ingredient choosing and leaving frozen meat out in the open.

There's also a nice used-bookstore-that-tries-to-look-like-a-new-bookstore right across the street from Colonel Lee's.

Cute Penguin Pictures: 1 2 (From this human interest story.)

Honest Freshmeat Announcements: "Digital Girls is a dark theme that features hot chicks and computer references."

: I often find Jon Carroll too medium-sized-city-humorous-newspaper-columnist for my taste, but today's Presidents Day column is comedy gold.


The Scientologists, who have an office near Civic Center, were capitalizing on the march to sell Dianetics books.

--Zack's weblog

Scientologist Anti-War Slogans:

: Although he's snowed in, Seth continues to dispense pearls of wisdom. Today, he weighs in with a plausible explanation for that part of "Home On The Range":

Couldn't it be "of our star"?

"I looked at Public Knowledge's Internet connection, and I wondered whether its bitrate exceeds that of ours."

Signs of the Apocalypse: Seventh in a Series: The seas will turn to blood and the moon will turn to black bile, and robotfindskitten will be ported to Flash.

: In LA, on the way to the zoo, there's a stretch of freeway where you drive along the Los Angeles river. Some of the storm drain covers that exit into the river have cat faces painted on them. I seem to recall this portion of the road being referred to in our household as "the kitty freeway".

I told Kevin about the painted Los Angeles river cats. He didn't believe me. I showed him this web page. "I cannot believe the lengths you have gone to to pull this hoax off," said Kevin.

Great Moments in Demographics #2: Frito-Lay India's answer to those Apple laptop ads. (Sent me by Todd, who has his reasons)

"It is very exciting to be associated with a fun brand like Lay's. I am sure Saif-n-Kaif Hot & Sweet Chilly, Caribbean Style with its spicy, tangy taste is a flavour that will go down well with the younger generation," said Saif.

This reminds me that in Trader Joe's, Sumana and I saw some fliers for Tom's of Maine mouthwash. Only they weren't consumer-oriented fliers, they were fliers that tried to convince stores to carry the product. They said:

I was just thinking, "Ginger-flavored mouthwash, that's an interesting--gaaah!" If there's one thing us cultural creatives hate, it's to be identified as such.

Alternate Universe Glimpsed When Google News Strips Cultural Artifact Signifiers From Headline Watch: R. Kelly Calls Out Foes, Entices Fans To Join Him At Chocolate Factory

Another Book With The Same Title Would Be Even Cooler: Internet-Linked Sharks (Sumana sent this to me)

Also From Sumana: Ribbit! (This is the second Google result for "title")

: I'm doing work on my PyCon page. I think I'll move the work log over here, into a category.

H.R. Geiger: Geiger counter watch (from Manoj), would be cool if it cost $50 instead of $1500. Handhelds are in the $240-$330 range, though, so that seems unlikely. What is the Moore's Law curve for Geiger counters?

My dream useless 'convergence' machine would be a combination Geiger counter/GPS system/ham radio. Fearmongering use case used to sell this device: "Help, I'm trapped near an old Soviet test site in Kazakhstan!"

T-Shirt From The "Fashions You Can Bruise" Line: <--I'M WITH SETH DAVID SCHOEN

Joyless B-Movie Title: Creature From The Same Planet

: Crummy's been up and down for a while; the hosting machine has been hanging. Hopefully it won't happen anymore.

Anyway, I released NewsBruiser 1.12, "Remote Control Rhino". It's got the XML-RPC interfaces and many bug fixes and enhancements. In fact, I'll be using it right now to import my old editthispage entries.

Update: Success! Eg. "dinoflagellate", The Even Newer Economy.

Game Author Roundup: One of my favorite things on the web is the webpages of people who wrote famous pieces of software (usually games, as it turns out) back in the pre-web era. If they humor me by putting up a little page about what it was like to write the software, I'm happy. If they remain obsessed with the software that brought them transient fame, and can talk of nothing else, then I start to worry a little, but so far I don't think that's happened.

I've got several of these websites and I'm thinking of doing one every once in a while as an NYCB mini-feature (suggestions for mini-feature title welcomed). Today's entry is one I just found: Jeff Lee, one of the authors of Q*Bert, has a Q*Bert page. I have never been any good at Q*Bert, but I've always admired its sheer strangeness and eclectivity, and the page demonstrates how this occurred: it looks to have been designed by a committee of geeks with no management pressure to make it coherent and marketable. Other interesting fact: an early version of the Q*Bert code was equivalent to that OpenGL screensaver with the Slinkies.

: Because I live in a fantasy world, I like making up political systems. Here's one I call the "single transferable vote" system[0]. This is a direct democracy in which, for any electoral decision, you can either vote or designate another person as your proxy. A proxy gives up their right to a secret ballot in exchange for having their vote multiplied by the number of people who chose them as their proxy. If you want the participation of direct democracy you can vote on all decisions yourself, or you can designate as a proxy a politician whose stances approximate yours, and just keep an eye on that politician.

I know many noted political theorists read NYCB, and I'm interested in hearing what these people think of this system. Is it interesting at all? How vulnerable is it to attack (assuming it's implemented well)? The main problem I can see is coercion to designate someone as your proxy.

[0] Ha ha.

: Got some good work done on the configuration framework; I was able to move all the NewsBruiser-specific stuff into a helper class, and now I've got a generic framework that I can turn into something usable for my talk. The generic library is called "I Want Options".

: This has been unobtrusively hanging around on the front page for a while now, but I should mention it because I generally mention such things. You can now receive NYCB by email every night, thanks to Bloglet. This is the realization of the hosted email RSS aggregator I mentioned earlier. "I'll never need to visit Crummy again!", said Manoj. If this idea appeals to you, go to the bottom of the front page and sign up. Heck, you can do it here!

: Pete Peterson II reminds me of the Canadian army surplus Geiger counter that's long been a mainstay of the American Science and Surplus catalog. Since its power source is obscure and you could almost get a new Geiger counter for what they want for that one, it's not surprising that they haven't sold many--as they say, it's mainly useful for its retro cool.

I got my AS&S catalog in the mail yesterday, and I'm looking forward to another romp through the cheap but useless. I recommend signing up for the catalog; it's a lot of fun, and they don't seem to sell your address to other catalog companies.

Pete Peterson II is also in the enviable position of having the actual AS&S store "just down from the street" from where he lives. I used to imagine the AS&S store as an enormous warehouse in the middle of an Illinois cornfield, maybe next door to a pesticide reseller with a corrugated metal roof, but Pete says "it's just a medium sized store inside a strip mall that is wall to wall packed with stuff."

: Sometimes my brain comes up with alternate lyrics to a song. It's not a mondegreen because I know the real lyrics, and anyway the alternate lyrics bear only the slightest resemblance to the real ones. The lyrics my brain comes up with are generally more interesting than the dull, mundane actual lyrics; I think my subconscious thinks that if it comes up with better lyrics to the song, the actual lyrics will change.

Am I the only one this happens to? The only one who talks about it on their weblog?

Example (this happened to me just now):

Then I saw her face
Now I'm a subscriber!

: I did some useful (for my talk) work on NewsBruiser, and then I did some useless work on NewsBruiser, like adding support for the ESF syndication format. Down at the bottom top of the front page there are now TXT/XML/ESF buttons that I copied from Nick's weblog diary. In short: believe it, y'all.

: Cool ASCII art (found on clickolinko, probably only works in Mozilla and derivatives (standards compliance is a good value-added differentiator)): The Kitchen Sink. A daring blend of the old and new schools. Soon to be a major motion Easter egg!

The Game Roundup Your Mother Warned You About:

Spammer Killed By Own Product: Second In A Series:

#1 COLON CLEANSER LOSE 10-15 LBS PER WEEK gzgrhpjbi ncabj

"Bothered by unsightly internal organs?"

Taxonomy of Used Bookstores--Revealed!: Opening a Bricks-and-Clicks Used Bookstore. Via Sumana, via Anirvan, Via Appia.

You May Already Have Won: If you use NewsBruiser and want the town from which you blog immortalized in the NewsBruiser example time zone cities, send me mail with the city and the time zone.

Idle Thought: Remake classic 50s movies to be about punctuation marks, eg.

Update: Sumana says, "Semicolon Without A Clause!". Wah wah.

: Added mod_virgule import to NewsBruiser (coding! easy!). Bought tickets and made hotel reservations for PyCon (decision-making! agonizing!).

: A dictionary of rhetorical terms and devices. Read this, or a ten-year-old Roman kid will whup your ass!

Why Programmers Hate Government: Exhibit One.

: Anirvan points out that the ISBN space is being extended to 13 digits. It's the IPv6 of publishing.

Redundant Search Requests:

i need a girl(female version)

Not-So-Eternal Recurrence: Four years ago I wrote three programs in three different languages (Perl, Java, and awk, I think it was). Today I wrote the same program three different times, in progressively less hacky ways. I call this the "three stages of App", and it's the best lead-in I can think of to the topic of configuration interfaces.

Open Source Spam:

Your text 1 151 Name0230 Random word of digits with length 1 to 20 0868824163630871610 Random word of digits with length 1 to 17 664 Random word of small letters with length 1 to 16 uoy Random word of mixed symbols with length 1 to 27 7i0V8W1AG1rp1EFCKbm8O

There's more.

Registry of Births:

: A bunch of NewsBruiser cleanup. It's like cleaning the house, except it doesn't just immediately get dirty again. I added I Want Options to the Leonard Software Map, as well as the little HTML-generation module that comes with NewsBruiser, Leonard's Obsequious Markup Producer.

What Do We Want? Software Roundup!:

When Do We Want It? Game Roundup!:

: I think there's an untapped market for a talk show that features people who are neurotic or freakish, but not really neurotic or freakish enough to be featured on existing talk shows. This show would capture viewers who feel guilt or shame when watching existing talk shows. My proposed show would feature such minor deviants as:

Eventually the talk show would become desperate for ratings and go all sensationalist, but when it did it would only be as bad as a regular talk show is now.

The other thing I think talk shows could do is form a Talk Show Wrestling Federation like the WWE, have talk show hosts bad-mouth each other and every once in a while get into a ring and hit each other with folding chairs. They could orchestrate rivalries and make up story arcs about how host X had stolen host Y's guest, or whatever. I don't know whether this would help ratings, but I figure it's a good test case for this alleged superpower of mine, where I can trick arbitrary people into hitting each other with folding chairs.

Dead Spammer #3: Kevan sent this one in:

don't fall to destuctive viruses rcogosqmvwgoayc g

: I finished my song "The Whiskey Rebellion Activity Zone" (previously alluded to by Sumana). As far as I know it's the only song ever written in the Cory Doctorow/George Saunders/Ken MacLeod mode. It's also my first song for the banjo. Next stop: recording-it-ville.

: Hey, remember Grail?

Extreme Marketing!: I added an awesome new doc to NewsBruiser: NewsBruiser Notes From All Over. It contains radical tips about how to get the most out of your NewsBruiser. Right now there's a tip from Gary Benson on making your NewsBruiser installation a speed demon! Also, a silly tip of my own concoction about importing into NewsBruiser from an Advogato site which--surprise!--is also NewsBruiser!

I wanted to make NBNFAO a goofy-looking pseudotainment site like Cool 2B Real, so that the younger generation would be tricked into sampling hot NewsBruiser tips, not knowing that I was secretly underwriting the whole affair in hopes of boosting their NewsBruiser consumption. That fell through because I lack the neccessary design skills, so it's the same (admittedly icky green, which might play well with males 5-8) scheme as the rest of Tigris, and the NewsBruiser Flash hangman game will have to wait. Instead, I'm going the Astroturf route, like Dr. Pepper before me, recruiting key bloggers to discretely shill for NBNFAO on their sites. Unfortunately, that's not going too well either; I've only been able to convince one blogger to agree to the formatting and tone requirements that best reflect the sheer extremeness of the NewsBruiser brand.

: New NewsBruiser release: 1.12.1, "Rings of the Rattlesnake" (look, my news item got the pi database ID!). No amazing new feature in this release, unless you're wild about ESF or you've got an Advogato diary that you want to import into NewsBruiser, but it's got a lot of bugfixes and the code is more modular. It's a good interim release. Interim to what I don't know.

: Pete Peterson II made some obscure comment about a "Married By America"[0]. I asked him to elaborate. He did:

"Married By America" is a new reality show where a woman has "volunteered" to have her spouse selected via the viewers of the "reality television" program of the same name. At the end of the show, they'll get married. At least for a few blissful minutes.

I think that "Married By America" should be cancelled so that we can start using "by America" as a down-home oath like "by gum", as in "You two lovebirds should be married, by America!"

[0] Obscure comment follows: the inevitable sequel will be called "Married By America: With Children".

: Peering through the fog of the post-futuristic wasteland, I saw Bob, wearing a chemical suit and a jet pack. His titanium teeth gleamed like new.

"Leonard!", he said. "How did we get into this mess? Give me some facet of modern society whose negative features I can extrapolate into a source of blame for our current predicament!"

"We were too smart, Bob.", I said. "We were too smart to begin with and we kept making ourselves smarter. If we'd never figured out agriculture we wouldn't have these problems in the first place; we'd still be on the first set of problems. But now we're stuck in the loop."

"What do we do now?", asked Bob.

"Well," I said, "there's always post-futuristic death disco."

: Sweetcode comes through again: RottenFlesh is the Katzdot of Freshmeat. To say more would be to detract from the obvious suitability of the compound-word-laden comparison I just used.

Women Want Him, Men Want To Be Him, Inanimate Objects Want To Be Fixed By Him: My glasses fell apart today at the all hands meeting. I fixed them with a tiny screwdriver that Kevin has. Ha! Things: they live to annoy you. Fight back!

Weird: Look at this map of population density which was APOD a couple days ago. There's a big hollow egg of population in the western US and southwestern Canada; almost everyone who lives inside that egg is next to a river.

Instant Rebuttal: That only works because the top of the egg is itself a river. Nobody lives there because that whole area is desert.

We Are All Consumers Now: From PRWeb:

"Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside the U.S.," said Maria Cino, Assistant Secretary and Director General of the U.S. Commercial Service.

World Famous NewsBruiser: Buried in an appendix to Blogging: Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content, it's a link to the old NewsBruiser page! Woo hoo!

Supervillans: Working To Serve You Better: "I want the middleman... eliminated."

: There's a French hosting service (?) called Free, and every time I see its URLs ("free.fr"), I think that it's as opposed to "vichy.fr".

: While not really doing anything I found some 1981 Usenet archives. I found the NET.games group interesting; apparently the only games back then were Rogue and Pacman. One historical note is the original proposal (as far as I know) of a potion of hallucination.

There's also another for my collection of accumulated-through-serendipity lists of recipes.

: Packed full of useful hints and sarcasm, it's How To Write Unmaintainable Code

Remember X? #2: Remember gopher? Once it was the king of protocols; now it eats humble pie. gopher has always held a fascination for me: back then, the fascination of access to the Internet and its massive data stores; nowadays, the fascination engendered by relics of a simpler time one is not obliged to reenact.

The point of this little stroll down memory lane is to point you to an essay Rohit Khare wrote, called Who Killed Gopher? Gopher is still being developed, at a stately pre-bubble pace. It's like 1993, only with Subversion.

One Last Thing: Before I sleep, a funny line from this review of a Tolkien Roguelike game:

The author is very concerned with the poor realism of allowing humans to become mages...but does not bother to explain why hobbits and half-elves are shop-keepers in down-town Minas Morgul.

We Put The "Fun" In Functionality (And Vice Versa): It's Templating System Daze here in NewsBruiserville, home of the World's Most Deeply Nested Template. In celebration, the kids from the high school have painted the old barn and put on Template! The Musical. It's the NewsBruiser template interpolation system, now housed in an all-singing, all-dancing Python library. You can use it just about anywhere you've got a string containing embedded commands. What will they think of next?

"Read" "About" "It" "On" "Weblog": Sumana and I have been renting movies recently. Here are some reviews.

PS: The actor who played the gumshoe (Akira Emoto) was in Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla! I knew I recognized him from somewhere.

Now I'm All Excited: There's a new Godzilla/Mechagodzilla movie! They keep making worse and worse design decisions in building Mechagodzillas; this time, he's got "the skeleton of the original Godzilla that attacked Japan in 1954". Do they think Godzilla isn't tougher than his own fifty-year-old skeleton? Here's the official site, which includes photos from a press conference at which Godzilla wields a baseball bat for some reason.

What's more, last year there was another Godzilla movie that hasn't made it over here yet. The list of release dates for both movies stop abruptly in South Korea. Stop hogging Godzilla, South Korea! (Never mind that I'm so lazy that I haven't yet seen Godzilla 2000.)

Leonard's Irrelevant Storytime: Hey, kids. This is where I start telling a story that meanders off on odd tangents and doesn't have the conclusion I thought it would have.

Today's story is about Saudi Arabia's own Sheik Mohammed al-Fassi, who recently was posthumously slapped with an enormous divorce settlement. Actually, this story is about his old house. That CBS news article will tell you that al-Fassi had a house in Beverly Hills which was burned down in 1980. What it won't tell you is that there's still nothing there[0]. It's a vacant lot with some statuary lions or something near the Sunset sidewalk.

My mother said this was because the Beverly Hills zoning laws prohibit any new development whatsoever, but I don't think that's true. I admit that the inhabitants seem interested in turning any arbitrary piece of fire-scorched land into a park, but assuming the house is zoned R-1, I see no reason why you couldn't build a new gaudy mansion there if there was a gaudy mansion there before.

I think a more likely explanation is that the land has been a pawn in the divorce proceedings, and that now that a judgement has been rendered, something will be built there. If development is in fact being held up by the restless natives of Beverly Hills, it's surely only because of their superstition that anything built on that lot will be as tacky as al-Fassi's place was.

Incidentally, on my trip through the Beverly Hills Municipal Code I discovered that the city enforces a blanket ban on mining and severe restrictions on oil drilling, presumably in some sort of preemptive anti-Beverly-Hillbillies move.

[0] As of the last time I passed by that way, which admittedly was several years ago.

Arty French Film--It's Good For You!: Last night I watched the ambitiously obscene La Grande Bouffe (IMDBwhack: "antique-car"), which translates as "The Big Blow-out" but which I shall hilariously mistranslate as "The Big Beef". The brilliant conceit of this movie is that four Frenchmen[0] decide to commit suicide by eating themselves to death. I feel churlish complaining about such a gifted premise, but we're never given any clue as to their motivation for doing do. There are hints that this appetite for deadly overindulgence is born of some Fight Club-ish desire for the jaded modern soul to feel something real and true, no matter what the consequences. But what actually happened was the film made it look like any given Frenchman wants to commit suicide, and lacks only the resources to do so in truly spectacular fashion. This, I suppose, was the 70s.

If I, myself, were planning to commit suicide by eating myself to death, then I, like the characters in the film, would want the relevant food to be really good. Unfortunately, I would then feel guilty about putting the cooks (for such there would have to be) through all this trouble to make all this food that I was just going to use in a suicide attempt. The characters in the film cleverly sidestep this problem by enlisting among their number a gourmet chef, whom they all assist in preparing the food. I really like this idea, and to me it's the most touching part of the film. It's not a big, wasteful, impersonal catered bachanal like I was expecting: the characters are intimately involved in preparing the instruments of their suicide.

Oddly enough, the last half-hour, the climax of the film, is pretty boring. But there are some funny scenes near the beginning, and great French movie lines like "Le deluge universal... du merde."

There is lots of pointless French movie sex in this movie. Also, the characters die like Muppets (I don't think I'm giving away anything when I say that people die in this movie). They're living, living, living, then suddenly they sort of thrash around and stretch out, dead. This fits into my mental picture of Muppet death, in which the animating force, or "hand", leaves the Muppet body and lays out the Muppet prostrate on the nearest table.

To get into the spirit of the film, I gorged myself on the following food while watching it:

I was pretty full after that, but I survived.

[0] Three of the Frenchmen are actually played by Italians. Sure, why not. I couldn't tell.

Useless Unix Utilities: imisspell finds words in a document that appear in /usr/dict/words and suggests misspellings for them.


"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"The interrupting cow."
"The interrupting--"

I call this "When Jokes Collide".

The Easter Egg And I: Every once in a while someone puts an Easter egg into an open source application and people find out. If it ever gets mentioned on a web discussion board, then watch out. People will use the board to complain about it. Other people will pile on those people saying that they have no right to try to allocate other people's voluntary labor. It goes back and forth until the article scrolls off the front page of the web discussion board, at which point it abruptly stops.

This happened with the "kitchen sink" Mozilla example I linked to earlier, and I don't think that's even really an Easter egg; it's an interesting example of what you can do with Mozilla. It just looks like an Easter egg because it's not boring like the other Mozilla examples. Other cases of this I can think of: there was a rather lame Easter egg in the xclock application of Red Hat 4.2 or something, which caused a similar rash of complaints. A later version of Red Hat offered "Redneck" as a localization option, and I'm sure the same people complained about that. [0]

This is the point at which I cast aspersions on the amount of code the people who complain have committed to open source projects, but that's an ad hominem argument which doesn't address their actual argument, which is that open source programmers should optimize their actions to devote their energies to the next most important thing. Sure, if open source programmers were perfect utilitarians (and their idea of what is important were the same as yours), that's what they'd do. But they're not. They have the same desires as real people, and they have an additional weakness for cool-looking things like sinks implemented in XHTML and Javascript, and you have no right to try to allocate other people's voluntary labor, blah blah blah.

At the same time, I don't think putting Easter eggs into an open source application fulfills any psychological need. Most of the time I've seen this it's been a parody of feature catch-up ("Windows has Easter eggs, Red Hat 4.2 must have them too!"), or of an application's reknownedly robust feature set ("{Mozilla,Emacs,Nethack} has everything but the kitchen sink!").

Proprietary software programmers create Easter eggs are because it gives them an outlet for creativity they feel they're not expressing, or because it's the only way they can get their name into the software they wrote. If an open source programmer feels like they have leftover creativity, they can switch projects or work on a side project for a while. And of course open source programmers get their names all over their software. So the same dynamics don't apply.

I personally don't put Easter eggs in my code (except for my text adventures, which I sort of see as a command line interface to an enormous number of Easter eggs). In general, I'd rather implement the Easter egg idea as a separate program, or just write a NYCB entry about it. In lieu of Easter eggs, I give my projects silly names, and sometimes I put in silly comments where only other programmers will see them.

The silly project names make people who like catchy names remember the project, and where my software is in danger of being used by humorless people who think "catchy name = crappy software", there's invariably a marketing department conveniently placed between me and them, who will create boring aliases for my projects no matter what I call them.

I have no data to back this up, but I imagine most open source programmers who have the urge to Easter egg fritter away that energy in separate, more whimsical applications. The Unix philosophy, after all, is no friend to Easter eggs, and thanks to the Internet, your cool little program doesn't need to piggyback on your big boring program with an established delivery mechanism.

[0] Adding "Redneck" or some other bastardized version of your native language as a supported language is actually useful when you're adding localization support to an application, because it allows developers who only speak one language to use a "foreign" localization bundle that they can understand. That's probably not why Red Hat put it in, but I'm just saying.

PS: I left the Mozilla sink running in another tab while I wrote this entry, and when I switched back to the tab and noticed this, I momentarily panicked.

PPS: I forgot to mention that the whole reason I wrote this entry was to mention the following Easter Egg comment in Java Cracklib; it looks to be taken from the original C source:

  * alternative use for a boomerang, number 1: a standard throwing 
  * boomerang is an ideal thing to use to tuck the sheets under 
  * the mattress when making your bed. The streamlined shape of 
  * the boomerang allows it to slip easily 'twixt mattress and 
  * bedframe, and it's curve makes it very easy to hook sheets 
  * into the gap.

The Fifth RepublicFreedom: I have no way of knowing, but I think this is the first time a NYCB entry has inspired someone else to write software. Adam Parrish read my review of La Grande Bouffe, and had this to say:

It is possible... that the recent trend in congress [nb. he means this] will extend from fries and toast to film (France's other great export to the States); in which case, you should get on the bandwagon early and switch your "French film" references to "Freedom film" references. To facilitate this, I wasted the following time:


(I suggest trying it with the following URL: http://www.lambweston.com/company.asp?navid=29&chain=7,29 ... tee hee)

I think this proves that the marketplace of ideas has disintermediated our elected officials, whom we used to pay to think up this sort of picayune gesture of international chumship or saber-rattling. Perhaps someone should tell them... but they're having so much fun!

Coming soon: this.

Unexplored Datasets Now Accessible Through Rolling Google News Searches: On the other hand, not much changes over time.

A Footnote To History: Gary, who would know, says that my rationale for having a silly-language locale available doing localization work actually was the reason why Red Hat put in the Redneck locale.

: "But... but... you need us for your semiconductor fabrication plant! Well, fine! See if I care!"

: Rabbits rush to their doom. (This image cancels that one out.)

Update: Pete Peterson II says: "That's actually quite a bit like how my offshore sheep rendering plant worked!"

: Ever since When Jokes Collide I've been obsessed with meta-knock-knock jokes, especially ones that use "the interrupting x" to signal their meta-ness. Here's my current favorite:

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"The interrupting time traveller."
"The interrupting ti--"
"Knock knock."

Not as good, but more meta:

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"The who?"
"The punchline."

Dead Spammer's Society #4: Again from Kevan:

re: Don't get hacked nm mjgymckaeqewzk

A Hizouse Divided: "Government of the people, by the people, and part of this complete breakfast."

Did Ancient Astronauts Walk Around Aimlessly?: With GPS Drawing, you can visualize your wanderings from the air as an elephant, or a lattice of explodingdog-ish geometric shapes. If Conan Doyle were still around, Holmes could locate the jewels right where they appeared when you superimposed over a map of London the Punch cartoon depicting the theft, in an amazing feat of deduction and high-stakes geocaching. Maybe Stephenson will come through with something similar. Link from the abyss means...

: My birthday present to Rachel was an old '30s-ish snap purse, the kind the dame is wearing when she walks into the shamus' office. It's really nice, she likes it, and I got it at a yard sale for $3. Score! I just learned this trick, so pay attention: always be on the lookout for birthday presents for your sisters, so you don't have to go shopping especially for their birthdays and not know what to get.

: Here's Sushicam, a cool photo-heavy journal from Japan. This segues nicely into the thing which has almost nothing to do with that, which is that I've convinced Ed to bring me back those copies of those Godzilla movies when he returns from Japan. I have no way of watching the DVDs, and they probably won't have English subtitles, but I remain confident that Providence will... provide.

A KRUM News Special Report: Scaremongers: they could be coming to your town!

It's A Secret To Everybody: Hidden Mozilla Prefs. Also includes Secrets Of UserChrome.css, which among other things lets you change the Mozilla status animation. Live the excitement!

And It's Game Roundup Time Again:

The Bureau of NewsBruiser Statistics: I added a statistic-gathering framework to NewsBruiser; you can see the results here. Let me know if you have any ideas for additional statistics.

Messing With Texas: Part 1: Dangle Oklahoma just over Texas' head and then yank it back real fast.

: Submitted my Python paper. Thanks to Jason, Kevin, Josh, and Greg Stein for their comments on it.

: They took the Intraspect sign down today from the building where I work. I guess Intraspect wasn't paying their top-of-the-building sign rent. In this tragic photo, only the "ct" "ect" of the company's name remains. They were putting the letters into an enormous wooden box on the back of a crane. I wonder what's going to happen to them. eBay? Collecting dust in a junkyard somewhere?

Who might be interested in acquiring the letters? (assuming they're willing to use the Intraspect logo as an O)

: An Intraspect employee, who I make the unwarranted assumption wants to remain anonymous, writes in with "A slightly edited version of what's going around here..."

In light of industry-wide budget decreases: I.T. RENTS A PC

did you know we used to have the Intraspect VW Bug?: CAR? SPENT IT

Walking by some (nameless) colleagues' cubicles: A SCENT TRIP

on reviving the company: IN A CPR TEST

is this ?: PC NITE TSAR

on <married couples at work>: PART INCEST (oops, I meant "NICEST PART")

our spam problem: SEPTIC RANT

just because I liked these combos: PAST CRETIN, SPIT NECTAR

what you were hoping I wouldn't do when dressed as a Brownie: ENACT, STRIP

<employee>'s new "night club": TITS EN CRAP (sorry, but how could I not use it?)

and, finally, on the state of our sign: IN PARTS, ETC.

Cool Names For Weblogs Search Requests:

kathy's wild weblog

"x's wild weblog" is a good construction, and as far as I can tell it's never been used. Go to it!

Silly Sign Update: Here are the sign letters as they were this morning, and here they are after Intraspect people messed with them. My contact on the inside says, "We were playing around with those for a bit, but without the "ect" we were limited in the scope of our creativity."

The reason the "ect" is still up there is that to take it down they'd have to move their sign-changing apparatus, and they need it in its current position to put up the new sign.

Office scuttlebutt has it that the sign-on-building rent is $1.3 million over I don't know what time period.

You Probably Didn't Ask For It, You Got It: Well, here we go. Let's hope it's quick.

: From Josh: National guardman changed his name to [that of] a toy. "Optimus Prime is heading out to the Middle East with his guard unit on Wednesday to provide fire protection for airfields under combat." It goes on and on, gradually accustoming itself to the idea that when you legally change your name it actually is what you changed it to.

Aren't We All?:

Energy Brands, is looking for hip water drinkers
(From Sumana, who stresses that they must not only be hip, but "faucet free". No robots in bristling, rococo 1930s casings, please!)

: Also from Sumana: "Settlers of Canaan" and "Race to the Kabah" (registration required).

Silly Sign Update: We are no longer the "ect" building. We are now the "Wily Technology" building. Any day now, I expect Megaman to come charging through, one floor at a time, blowing up the armies of impractical zooform robots that have started to infest our offices. By the time he reaches the final battle on the roof, he'll have gained the ability to facilitate distance education, collaborate on software development, collaborate on knowledge management, perform some sort of charity work, and manage Java applications for the enterprise.

: I was bored waiting for a big compile, so for a while I was a code bandit. "Leonard, how do I get in on this code bandit action?", you ask? You take your handkerchief[0] and roll it up, and wrap it across your face so it covers your mouth. Hold it in place with headphones. Now you're a code bandit. Accost the compiler! "Stand and deliver... bytecode, that is!"

[0] You have a handkerchief because a gentleman should always carry a handkerchief. If you're a woman then you should also always carry a handkerchief.

Kids Say The Damnedest Things: My mother has a collection of old George Booth cartoons from the New Yorker. I used to read it in the later stages of learning to read. There's one cartoon which is something like the following: a little boy is holding a bowl of oatmeal rather despondently, as his father says something slice-of-lifey like "Oatmeal is oatmeal, son, and there's not a damned thing you can do about it." I'm making it sound more Charles Addams than it is, but it's something like that.

Like any language-learning neural network, I was able to incorporate the unfamiliar aspects of that sentence into my vocabulary without having to know the formal rules of what everything meant and how everything fit together. So a while later, maybe a couple months, I announced to my mother, "There's not a demand thing to eat in this house!"

She thought I learned it from my grandfather. For all I know she still thinks this. Hopefully this entry will clear my grandfather's good name.

Interesting Google Searches: "hacker's guide" turns up various pieces of hardware and software that have hacker's guides. Gems include The noweb Hacker's Guide, A Hacker's Guide to Ncurses Internals, and the justifiably-patronizing Manager FAQ ("Your manager probably doesn't have the same appreciation for meta-humor, recursion, and obscure technical puns that you do.").

Fierce HTML Character Entities: → ("&rarr;")

: I put up The Power of Greypoint, a tiny script I wrote to turn my ReST presentation file into HTML slides. Everything else I could find turned presentation definitions into images, which I'm not interested in.


  1. All my troubles seemed so far away.
  2. I went to see Seth.

At Seth's place I showed him my PyCon presentation. Then we went through my code. Both presentation and code were well-received. Seth complimented my use of object-oriented design, and we came up with some minor improvements to I Want Options (for instance, IntegerOption should be called CountingNumberOption).

Then Seth showed me the features of Movable Type he likes. I have all of them except for user accounts and permissions (which isn't going to happen anytime soon) and a clever entry list in edit mode. I also like the category list in edit mode.

I passed along to Seth the copy of The Bug, about which more later. I have to pack for DC.

: From various sources, so I'll just pick toastedkitten. The Smoking Gun used to do one-off exposes of the backstage riders of various musical groups. Now they've gone overboard with Backstage Pass, a collation of over 100 backstage riders, full of both universal "We need towels and fresh socks because we sweat like purebred hogs under the stage lights" moments, and artist-specific "this bad thing happened once and so help us we will WRITE ITS ABSENCE INTO THE CONTRACT so that it will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN" moments ("IF THERE IS AN ANIMAL BACKSTAGE, ALABAMA WILL NOT PERFORM."--a convenient general escape clause, since humans are animals).

TSG has their own commentary on each rider, and how can you not agree with the analysis "All hail Foo Fighters"? FF's rider is Berendian in parts: "**Dearest reader-This rider is comprised of the things that make the band rock you like a proverbial hurricane!".

The common-denominator corporate beneficiary of all these riders: the Solo Cup Company.

REPORT TERRORISM TIP LINE: At PyCon. Hard to hear keynote from way in the back. More breaking news as it breaks.

Day One: Hiptop still only connection to civilization. Entries cryptic, sentences short. Put finishing touches on presentation just now.

Today I talked with the author of PyCheck, who is a good guy. I may have volunteered to write an ncurses configuration interface for PyCheck's millions of options.

We're spending Saturday with my uncle and cousin. We're going to go to the National Cryptography Museum, which is I don't know where (not a joke).

Listened to many talks. Summaries when I get back to the big (key)board.

They're still working on the Pentagon repairs.

: What if instead of Daikatana, we had Daikon?

Today I realized that my hotel is practically across the street from the Saudi Arabian embassy. Gah!

: I skipped out of PyCon after lunch and did tourist stuff. I recommend the new Korean War memorial, and the Burgess Shale fossils in the Natural History Museum.

I forgot to mention my talk. It went well. I'll link to everything when I get back, and mention all the other interesting things seen at PyCon (including the presentation that compelled Guido van Rossum to say, "I don't think our insurance covers this.").

: Spending the day with my uncle Robert and cousin Brian. We were going to go to the National Cryptological Museum, but that's not open on alternate Saturdays, it's open first and third Saturday's. As a poor substitute we decided to go to the spy museum, but that had an hour-long wait. So we just ate lunch, and now we're off to Fredericksberg for some non-DC excitement.

: Back, at work. I have about 10 pages of PyCon notes to turn into a snappy, link-ridden PyCon Roundup.

On the plane ride back, the guy telling us to store smaller items underneath the seats in front of us sounded a lot like Peter Lorre. I envisioned Bogey responding, "Nobody tells me where to store shmaller items."

: Man, California smells really good.

: Today's Zippy is good (Hurry! It's going fast!)

"How do you define 'comics' in today's post-cyberistic infra-sequentialized media context?"

"By rejecting cyberistic sequentialization, that's how!"

: Milquetoast April 1 non-joke: I'm trying out the smooth lines of Gary's new "Orangery" NewsBruiser theme.

It's So Crazy, It Just Might Work: Time to enjoy 73 pictures from Washington DC. The best ones:

: I put up my PyCon paper and the sample applications. I'll put up the slides tomorrow (they're on my laptop, which is at work).

: Sumana alerted me to a depressing comic called They'll Do It Every Time, which is the opposite of Keith Knight's "Life's Little Victories" comics. It's been going since 1928, and style-wise it is currently stuck in the 1950s (my guess is that it's catering to the childhood memories of its oldest group of non-senile fans). There must be hundreds of syndicated comic strips like this that I've never heard of. Maybe at some point there are no papers carrying the script, but the contract stays in place and so the artist toils away forever, doing a one-panel daily visible only on the syndicate's website, lost to the winds of time after thirty days.

Wow, I think I got Kris' nightmare by mistake.

New From Crummy-Life Records: I'm working on an album of tributes to the lawgivers of antiquity. So far I've got "Solon, It's Been Good To Know You", and "Stop! Hammurabi Time!"

100% Pure Adrenaline!: Here are my PyCon slides.

BACK OFF, I'M INCONSISTENT: By some strange coincidence I saw the I'VE GOT FIRESTONES truck today. Two things: first, there's no American flag painted on the passenger side door. Second, it doesn't have Firestones. It has oversized Goodrich tires.

: It is colossal squid!

Divine Intervention: The movie is basically a collection of little skits bound together by incredibly boring filler. The skits are either low-key psychological humor or over-the-top manic anger and violence. Two of the skits (the balloon skit and the tank skit) are hilarious. The rest span the spectrum of not-hilarious funniness, most of them being moderately funny.

The pacing is off on those skits near the beginning, in which the same scene is repeated numerous times. There's also a weird Palestinian-nationalist fantasy sequence near the end which turned me off. The filler, as previously mentioned, is boring.

The trailer is much snappier and has almost everything that's really funny in the movie, except for the license plate skit and the tank skit, and the fact that the balloon skit goes on and on with James Bond music playing the whole time. My recommendation: just watch the trailer. It's great.

: Easibox looks to replace the little shell script I have written to tar up NewsBruiser releases. I'll have to hack it to pregenerate the template for the release message, though.

PyCon Talks I Wish Had Existed:

: Sumana told me that whereas most Lonely Planet guides to foreign countries have a teaser on the front cover saying something quaint like "The city of high spirits and high art" or "Where ancient history meets modern metropolis", the teaser for the Lonely Planet guide to Myanmar says "Should you go? See page 1". Possible alternative teaser: "Have you considered Kazakhstan instead?"

Two Great Tastes Dept.: Lucene got ported to Python.

Comic Irish Songs Head On "My Music!": Third In A Series: Dear Old Donegal

Panic Pasta: Ingredients:

Heat up water for pasta. Chop up onions. Chop up tomato. Chop up--aah! The mushrooms are rotten! They are deformed, twisted into mockeries of their former shapes! What kind of mold preys on a fungus? Shouldn't a fungus be able to hold its own? Uh-oh, the water is boiling! Quick, throw in the pasta! Now, quickly find

Open the can, drain the olives. Chop up half of the olives. Heat up the olive oil in a saucepan. Stir the pasta! What if you had just mushed up the remaining olives and used that instead of olive oil? Would it work? Would it taste better? If you made olive oil out of canned olives, would it cancel out the cannedness? For that matter, does store-bought olive oil count as "canned" food? Put the tomato, onions and olives into the olive oil and swish them around to cook them. Stir the pasta again. You forgot the garlic! Get

Chop them up and put them in the saucepan. Grate the cheese! The pasta is done! Drain it. Add a splash of vinegar to the pasta sauce and cook a little more. Serve the pasta with the sauce and cheese. Halfway through eating it, decide that it needs some basil.

Add the basil. Enjoy the remaining portion.

You've Never Bruised News Like This: Working on the final push towards getting rid of the manual-configuration setup step in NewsBruiser. You can now (in CVS) add, delete, and reorder notebooks through the NewsBruiser interface. I have to rewrite the documentation and add application cues for new users, but the heavy lifting is done. They said I was mad! And, frankly, I was mad. But that's neither here nor there.

Terror Of Origadzilla: Rawr!

I Know You Want Someone To Round Up Some Games:

[0] "Pseudo-RPG": TwenCen[1] Leonard/Andy term for computer games which have the trappings of traditional tabletop RPGs yet which are not actually RPGs. They're usually just tactical games. Not that there's anything wrong with that! There's no reason you couldn't implement an actual RPG in Agar, except for the inherent difficulty of doing role-playing with a software DM.

[1] Obvious nomenclature for this sort of stupid fake future slang, which I came up with last week while reading David Brin's Earth: "Newslang".

: Tim "Caps Lock" May writes in to tell me that the creature mentioned here is an eryops, not a thecodont or a euryops.

Eryops wasn't a thecodont, but a labyrinthodontid amphibian. Thecodonts, I gather, were reptiles.

Why did I think it was a euryops? Because of Trans-kingdom Speciation Through Typo Codon Insertion.

Software Roundup: Hm, maybe I should split out the programming-related software into a "Software Software Roundup", since that's most of the interesting software I'm finding nowadays. On the other hand, why not jumble everything together?

[0] This is not really a problem with Dia. It's a problem with having to drag boxes aroud.

Our Long National Nightmare Has Reached Intermission: Woohoo, now every part of NewsBruiser setup except actually unzipping the tarball and making sure the webserver can write to the directory is web-based. Gotta test it and rewrite the docs, and then it's time for a release to beat all previous releases.

: I sent a quick tarball of the new NewsBruiser to Brendan, who was having problems installing it due to not having shell access. Says he:

I fully believe that flowers spring from concrete wherever you walk. It totally works!


Start The Insanity!: For some reason, discussions of Unicode inevitably contain the phrase "This is madness!" (via Kevin)

A Small, Friendly Jackal: Hi, I am Hong Kong Tom. Have you seen the first and latest evolution of NewsBruiser that made in Hong Kong? You can also benefit by making extra income .

Most. Ambiguous. Headline. Ever. Watch: I think the MTV News website has one guy who writes all the headlines, because all the headlines are similar in form and impossible to decipher unless you already know about the hot stars of the moment. I am abysmally ignorant of the hot stars of the moment, so I found the headline I saw today, "Lloyd Banks Ready To Make His Classic; Recalls Liver Shot, 50 At #1", a masterpiece of unexplained jargon and abbreviations. It brightened my whole day, thinking of things that headline could mean.

Naming Brand Names: The bar shampoo I mentioned a while back is called J.R. Liggett's Old-Fashioned Bar Shampoo. I don't know if it's actually old-fashined. They have an "herbal formula" which smells weird and is disturbing, but the original formula is excellent.

: I put up 77 pictures from the CollabNet retreat back in February. The retreat was held in the lovely Marin mountains by the ocean, near old WWII Japanese-spotting bunkers and an old Nike missile site. Hence the dual themes of nature and old concrete.

Some samples:

Google MemeWatch 2003: "coalition of the" -willing

: I'm working on a wrapup of PyCon. In the meantime, here's a picture of me giving my talk. No, I don't actually think one picture of me can hold you off for long enough to finish my wrapup.

: PyCon wrapup about half done. As a further delaying tactic I give you my mother's pronouncement on the strata pictures I took for her:

I believe I saw those strata on a geology class field trip when I took geology at DeAnza. What's scary is there are more of them in the ocean, which only show at low tide. They make a dangerous reef if you were a Spanish galleon.

CrummyTone News Presents: The March Of PyCon: My PyCon report is up. It's got notes on all the talks I attended, a lot of links to useful software (it's basically a very verbose and Python-specific Software Roundup), and random ramblings about Washington D.C.

Random Restaurant Review: There's an incredible restaurant called "Heaven On Earth" about 100 miles into Oregon on I-5. I ate there back in 2000, and took some pictures there (they're near the beginning of the set). Actually I mainly have one picture, of the jam and peanut butter, all of which I'm pretty sure is made on the premises. You put the peanut butter and the jam on delicious biscuits. I don't even remember what they have besides biscuits and jam and peanut butter, but whatever I had was also really good. The restaurant is off of exit 86, the Quine's Creek exit. I recommend you stop by if you're passing through. Also, the people at the restaurant are very friendly

: Sean Neakums tries to confuse me with fancy talk about cameras and steep drops:

I have a feeling that the cause is that your camera has a very wide depth of field. If the stuff beyond the drop were out of focus, and the precipice itself in focus, then the precarioutiveness might thus be captured.

We're simple folk 'round these parts. We just point and shoot. Sometimes we zoom.

: I don't think I mentioned before that Jason Robbins left CollabNet to go back to teaching at UC Irvine. We were all very saddened by this development, and to get through the grieving process we (mainly stack) turned Jason's desk into a shrine. It had various Jason paraphenalia like the bag of potato chips he never opened, some notes for a presentation, etc. It lasted about two days.

Some call Jason the patron saint of UML users. I think that rather than being the patron saint of any particular thing, he should be canonized as the PatronSaint design pattern itself.

: Incidentally, the best image gallery program is Curator. It's in Python and it has no dependencies but ImageMagick. It doesn't do exactly what I want, but it's past the critical point where it's easier to hack it than to write my own script. Eventually my picture galleries will be driven by Curator, but other stuff takes precedence (like getting up the England pictures).

: I put up 51 miscellaneous pictures from England. I've got 550 more to put up. This set contains both my favorite London picture ever and the most stereotypical London picture ever. It also has my completely unsuccessful attempt at recreating from memory the cover of the Dover edition of The Ball and the Cross.

Straight Talk About Cameras: From Gary Benson:

The reason your precarious picture doesn't look precarious is perhaps a lack of context: you know that the drop is steep, but there is no non-steep stuff in the shot. If you had got the horizon in there it might have looked more precipitous.

Incidentally this is why everyone who stands at the bottom of a building and takes a shot up at it is disappointed with the lack of looming in the final image. You need some context.

Someone get this man a cable talk show!

Hey, Kris: "Pie Dome, it's the Pie Dome..."

World Famous Leonard: Mentioned in Linux Journal!

: Why is a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine called a tangelo? Because the grapefruit is a cross between an orange and something called a pomelo. I've never had a pomelo, but it must be just about the most citric acid-laden fruit in the world if you cross it with an orange and get a grapefruit, and then cross it with a tangerine and get a tangelo.

The Pitch!:

Members of Congress.
They've got powers.
They fight crime.

I call it "The Supermajority".

Sea Turtles Play Elaborate Practical Joke On Humanity: "Ha Ha", Say Turtles

World Famous NewsBruiser #2: I don't mention the silly animal-themed codenames I give to NewsBruiser releases in the Freshmeat announcements, both out of my general neurotic distaste for tall poppy self-promotion (notice how the 'get NYCB via email' box is way at the bottom of Crummy's front page, and how NewsBruiser didn't even have a Freshmeat entry for the first four years of its existence) and because I had a vague feeling that the Freshmeat team would just edit out such frivolity. My vague feeling was vaguely justified with the most recent NewsBruiser release, as the Freshmeat team changed "round out the release" at the end of my announcement to the blander "were also added in this release." Perhaps it was merely an attempt to rid Freshmeat announcements of cliches; but then why stop at the announcements? Why not reject entire software packages for being cliched?[0]

All of this is completely irrelevant to the fact that NewsBruiser now has an entry in the prestigious FSF/UNESCO Free Software Directory (UNESCO? They just got involved, apparently.)

[0] Actually, I am kidding. Before my initial NewsBruiser submission was approved, I was interrogated by the Freshmeat admins as to what was so great about NewsBruiser that they should put up another pointer to a weblog program. I think this is a good idea, and I think Freshmeat's reputation for being a repository of pointers to useless, unfinished software is mainly because they don't want to go back and deal with all the packages they added in pre-interrogation days. I check the new packages on Freshmeat every couple weeks for Software Roundup, and even the stuff I'm not interested in is pretty original. Compare SourceForge, which doesn't even care.

: I was never into G.I. Joe as a kid, so perhaps my outsider's perspective is what allows me to notice what no one else seems to see or care about, which is there are two completely different lines of G.I. Joe toys. There's the line of large dolls with realistic gear, a line depicting soldiers from the history of modern warfare. Then there's the line of unrealistic four-inch action figures with ridiculous names like Sgt. Hacker and Chief Torpedo, who fight the equally ridiculous Cobra Commander without ever having to answer to the brass or pesky Congressional subcomittees. Since to me, "same brand" == "officially compatible", I can't help but picture the scene in which Duke (the leader of the G.I. Joe team; there is no actual "G.I. Joe", which I suppose makes sense) is introducing some new recruits:

"Fellas, we've got some new Joes just out of boot camp. I'd like you to give a big G.I. Joe welcome to Blowtorch, who'll be heading up our pyrotechnics efforts.

"Also new to our team is Cross Hair, an expert sniper. He'll be working on disabling the COBRA network of spy satellites.

"And this is Private First Class Jimmy Hightower. He's eleven feet tall, and he speaks Navajo."

Software Roundup Roundup: People come up to me on the street and start to say something but before they can I say "Stop, person coming up to me on the street! How can we go on like this? You, asking me ludicrous and far-fetched questions. Me, using it as a segue into a News You Can Bruise entry. When will it end? Let's break the cycle. Instead of answering your question. I will tell you about some software directories I've found online."

Any that I missed? (I'm deliberately excluding Windows software sites like download.com.com because 1) I am a snob, and 2) I prefer linking to Linux software because that's what I use.)

[Addendum: I update this weblog entry as I remeber or discover more application directories. Do not let this disturb you. Just think of it as a Wiki that only I can edit.]

Software Roundup: Speaking of which...

Game Roundup:

: Funny thing from my mother: California's Velcro Crop Under Challenge

Sci-Fi Cliche Watch 2003: "much like your earth"

: Some more pictures from England: as part of her drama class, Rachel did a performance at the rebuilt Globe Theater. It's pretty tacky, but I suppose it was tacky originally. Originally it did not have the theme-restaurant title of "Shakespeare's Globe", though. Here's my favorite picture of the set.

: Why Guinea Pigs Kill Their Owners

Two Items On Brian:

  1. He now has a weblog.
    Still, Mike Godwin is not someone who exaggerates the seriousness of a situation. Slashdot does, though!
  2. He sent me and Kevin a link to reviews of a hot sauce written by people who have not yet recovered from the hot sauce.

    I envision Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf saying that about some wimpy Tabasco.

Mozilla Icon Or Newborn Chicken? Second In A Metaseries:

(Cf. the elephant.)

Static, Electric: Not a bad evening's work: I added a framework to NewsBruiser for writing static files containing entries and sets of entries. The result is that this most-recent-25 items comes from a file instead of a CGI call, as does any one random entry. Much faster. It's not usable unless you're a Python hacker, but it's in there and I'm using it. With the proper care, NewsBruiser can now be as aggravating as Movable Type and Blogger! Next up: adding writers for the RSS feeds.

Anti-Spam-Filter Countermeasures Undermine Sales Pitch Of Spam #4 or #5, I Forget: (Man, this series just keeps getting more and general)

May I help you with your cell phone axjtsizpfb uygt

Tinnedbeefeaters: From Sumana, a job opening at Buckingham Palace.

The candidates will need to be CORGI registered...

: Jason sent me a link to Programmers And Problems, a pedagogical card game developed by one of his colleagues to teach software engineering practices to college students. If you like games that nip the escapism aspect right in the bud, this one is for you. You play a project manager trying to get a software project developed. Will you go for broke, forgoing design and working your employees 16-hour days? Or will you carefully gather requirements, plan, and document, then realize that it's 5PM and make your employees work another 8 hours actually writing the code? Will you devote valuable time to code inspection, or leave all bugs unrevealed until the final showdown with the client? With Programmers And Problems, the schedule is yours to beat! My main beef: the structure of the game forces you to use the waterfall development methodology. It would be interesting to develop an XP variant in which programmers interacted more with each other, etc.

PS: PAP is the second game I know of in which feature creep is a bogeyman.

Wish I Were Here: On the road to Bakersfield, in an I-5 restaurant called The Apricot Tree which I've long intended to try out but have kept putting it off. I'm going down to meet Susanna's fiance.

The food here is okay; the decor, kitschy. I can't say how the apricot pie is, because it turns out I don't like apricot pie.

Back on the road.

: You know what would be cool would be a way of specifying multiple links for a single <a> tag. You would do this in a way similar to the way you put a <link rel="foo" href="..."> in a HEAD tag. (It would probably go inside the main <a>). Browsers would implement this by, for instance, putting the alternate links in the menu that shows up when you right-click a link. Among other things, I would use this to give myself a link to the entry edit functionality in a NewsBruiser permalink.

I have not looked into whether or not this actually exists, because the longer I put it off, the longer I can pretend it exists in some dusty section of the HTML spec. I assume it doesn't exist because I can already feel the people who are in charge of adding things to the HTML spec breathing down my neck, telling me to use one user-visible control per hyperlink destination. Don't make me use Javascript!

: I got rid of about half of my books at the Bakersfield used bookstore that always makes me feel like they think I'm trying to cheat them. They took all of the books, though, and my contributions will surely make the place a bit more highbrow. There is a used bookstore in Mountain View, right across the street from the Mongolian barbecue place, and I was going to take the books there tomorrow, on my way back home. They have a much better selection for me to use my store credit on, and don't make me feel like they think I'm trying to cheat them, but it turns out they only buy books on Friday and Saturday. Next time, Gadget...

Also gave a bunch of old stuff I don't need to the Salvation Army. It's Get Rid Of Stuff Daze here at Leonard's house, because I might be moving soon. More as the situation develops.

In Bed: My fortune cookie said, "You have a kind heart and are well admired." I am Gamera!

Inexplicably Unused Advertising Slogan For Pizza Or Bread Or Something:

"You'll like our crust!"

: Todd, who is always good for some quick NYCB material, comments on used books:

i was very, very well read in my youth, before i forgot everything. all of that reading did not prevent me from trading 10 or so ratty paperback editions for one fine hardbound, sewn-in-signatures, best translation/commentary extant version of a personal favorite, over and over again. i was ruthless and systematic.

the result is that i have a personal library reflecting well below 10% of the harder books i've read, mostly in immaculate editions that quite naturally show no sign of use. the ones i chose to get the immortal versions of tended to be the ones that spoke most to me at the time. i wish i had the scribbled-up profusion around to remind me of important things from time to time, now that i'm older.

I'm noticing the same sort of thing, except that I buy good copies of things, new or used, at random intervals, and the rest of my library is distilled at intervals from a large number of cheap paperbacks to a smaller number of different but equally cheap paperbacks. Most of the stuff I want to keep is well-known and public domain, hence already on the web, and I'm not sentimental about paper, so it can go. Exceptions for particular authors I'm collecting, like Chesterton, and my awesome hardcover copy of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, which is available Gutenberg-style but which I hang on to with the slim justification that there are woodcuts not reproduced in the ASCII edition.

Second, Todd on links with multiple targets:

there is a specification called xlink that matches your description for links across xml-based documents, including xhtml (1.1 and later) potentially: http://www.w3.org/TR/xlink/ . like most xml fabulousness, the existence of some how-to documentation, schema etc., does not imply the existence, much less wide deployment of software designed to support said fabulousness. mozilla does support some xlinkish stuff - not sure whether the bits you describe: http://www.mozilla.org/newlayout/xml/#linking . in the meantime, there's javascript. <shudder/>

I've barely played with Mozilla's XLink support, preferring to waste this evening writing a syndication feed file writer for NewsBruiser, but the functionality covered by Mozilla's single test case didn't fill me with confidence. Here's an article on XLink which I find only slightly opaque. Perhaps there's hope for me yet; it took me years to comprehend XML, but once I finally figured out the left angle bracket, the right angle bracket was easy.

Python Templating System Roundup:

[From time to time, "Software Roundup" will appear in a bonus edition, evaluating according to obscure criteria the members of an overly bifurcated software category. Only Crummy Premium subscribers ($24.95/year) will be spared this exclusive content.]

I'm investigating Python templating systems for use in NewsBruiser. TTM!'s functional approach is good for user-entered templates that fit into predefined control flow, but I'm looking to start doing the screens with templates, and it's no good for that.

By my side-of-the-envelope calculation, there are more Python templating systems than there are Rocks 'n' Diamonds levels. I've skimmed some web pages and tried to get a few of them to work, so I am now an expert on Python templating systems, at least as regards whether or not I can use them in NewsBruiser.

Here are my showstoppers for any module I might want to incorporate into NewsBruiser. The first two are born of my design goal of making NewsBruiser work for anyone whose hosting service has Python available and who can unzip a tarball. The last one is due to the unfortunate reality of software licensing. I've looked at the template systems with these showstoppers in mind, which means that often I'll simply dismiss a possibly deserving module without really looking at it; this is not a reflection on the module.

First, the ones I can't or won't use:

[STOP PRESS! Crummy Premium subscription now only $24.91/year! Such a deal!]

Now, the actual contenders:

So, unless I find something else that's better (do you know of any?), or I can get XYAPTU to work, I'm probably going to hack up AHTS or tinpy to fit my needs.

Speaking Of Templates: Amazon has a thing called "The Page You Made" where they show me stuff I've been looking at on Amazon, and other stuff that's related to that stuff in the unimaginative way Amazon thinks things are related to other things (ie. by being by the same person). This is fine, except for the tiny fact that I didn't make that page! It's a lie! I never made that page! My antifingerprints are all over it! Had I actually made that page, it would have fewer graphics and those graphics present would be of dinosaurs. It would also have more random stuff on it.

I wouldn't mind so much, except that I have photographic evidence that Amazon is showing this same page to everyone, and trying to pawn it off as my work. For shame!

Suffertime: I forgot to mention that another thing I don't like about template systems is when they add whitespace to my template as they interpolate it. I'm going to be using this templating system to generate RSS 3.0 feeds and other things that care about whitespace. I finally got XYAPTU to work in 1.5, but it introduces blank lines and extra spaces all over the place until I can't stand up. Bleah. Still hacking. Update: Got it to work.

: Sumana showed me a funny Cat and Girl. I laughed! I cried laughed! [I cried! -Ed.] Stop it!

Willpower Outage: This evening I worked on a little side project, the aim of which was to get me started writing unit tests. Things went pretty well until I reached the point where it was almost screenshot-worthy, then I threw my unit tests to the winds and started fixing things and adding tiny featurelets so I could show you something before I go to sleep. Here you go. I call it the Eater of Meaning.

: Karl Fogel on the Concorde retirement:

I was disappointed, because even though British and French taxpayers will no longer bleed billions of dollars per year, the rest of us lost a great shorthand for fallacious investments :).

: After much additional work, The Eater of Meaning is up. Enjoy its sudsy head, fine oak bouquet, and backbiting aftertaste.

Don't Start Collecting Things:

Usability Fun: (Oddly enough, not, I think, from Todd) A Heuristic Evaluation of the Usability of Infants, and some usability quotes. Includes a summary of what might be the fundamental problem of design: "We have our mouths full of users."

: Attention Tonight's Episode fans: Monday kicks off Tonight's Episode Sweeps Week, five days of sensationalist TEs designed to boost flagging ratings, courtesy of Jason Robbins. Jason also sent me an email titled "off the hook for spam":

Today I got the following spam:

Subject: Unless you have a PhD, READ THIS E-MAIL h zt b

Oh Kay.

Antislavery Song Misses The Point:

John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave
John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave
John Brown's body lies a-moulderin' in the grave
A-moulderin' in the grave


Moulderin', moulderin', moulderin' moulderin'
Moulderin', moulderin', moulderin' moulderin'

The Roundup of Eater of Meaning: Kevan and Seth enjoy EoM, and now it's even better. I implemented Kevan's suggestion for an Eater that changes a word to a different word that starts with the same three letters; this makes the text look less purely random and look more like something out of a dream. "I've done it for years with song lyrics, in my head," says Kevan (I quote that herebecause I need to reference it in a future NYCB entry no another topic). Seth just says, "The Eater of Meaning is _so_ great!"

TEoM reminds me of the Troll Book Club order forms I got once a month or so in grade school. My friends and I had great fun erasing or crossing out letters to turn "time" into "tie", etc. and making hash out of the descriptions of Caldecott winners. There is no EoM mode to do this, but I might write one and recapture those halcyon days.

They Have Blogs: He's a Python programmer. She's... also a Python programmer. They have blogs! Also available as one huge barely-differentiated group weblog.

(PS: format taken from They Have Blogs, a web toy of about a year ago).

But It's Transgressive! Yeah, Transgressive.: Rob Walker on Carrot Top:

Perhaps the real message of his work, then, is a critique that makes a mockery not just of the entertainment industry, but of the very notion of meritocracy in America—his success being the most damning evidence to date that the marketplace of talent is a sham.

Another Day, Another Eater of Meaning: 1.2 is up, thanks to some help from Todd and some good old-fashioned elbowgrase (sryy for typos, mt elbowf are slipoery),. It now correctly handles previously troublesome sites like oblomovka.com, zeldman.com, sites with meta redirects, sites with self-closing tags, sites with frames, etc. etc. There's also a new eater which turns a page into lorem ipsum. (Obligatory "meta overload" link)

Crud, it just got linked on MetaFilter. I was going to talk about unit tests but I should work on a cache instead.

Update: OK, much better.

PS: the name "Eater of Meaning" comes from a song I wrote called "Eaters of Meaning". I've had that song stuck in my head for the past 3 days.

The Unit Price: So, with that spot of unpleasantness out of the way, we're free to talk about the really exciting thing: unit tests! I wrote the Eater because I like writing that sort of thing, but also to get into the habit of writing unit tests. Here are my observations on the process:

Before you write code, you're supposed to write unit tests. It turns out I can bring myself to do this most of the time, but I do it grudgingly because I don't like writing the infrastructure for a new type of test. The way I generally do it is to write the tests but leave the expected value for the assertions blank (unless the expected value is really easy to figure out, or is actually defined and not just the result of applying some transform to some data I just made up). Then I write the code and all the assertions fail. I use the code I wrote to figure out what the asserted values should be, fixing bugs as I do, and paste in the final, correct values for later use.

Where unit tests are really great is when you find a bug in your code. If you've put in the work to write that infrastructure for that sort of bug, it's easy to record your finding of the bug in a way that will automatically notify you if it ever shows up again. This is lesson one: unit tests give you a place to codify the results of the debugging process. By putting in some incremental effort you can ensure that you're notified should the bug you're fixing ever recur. Usually it doesn't recur, but your real worry is not the bug recurring; it's the bug recurring without your knowledge. With unit tests, you know.

Sometimes when I refactor code I worry that some portion of the code I never exercise has broken due to refactoring. This is the worst thing about Python: unless you're using Leo (which I'm still not, despite my earlier touting of it), when you refactor the code the indentation changes, and when that happens you have to redo the indentation because the automatic indenter never works right, and all sorts of problems can crop up.[0] Unit tests find the problems, and if there are any you fix them and that's that. Lesson two: with unit tests, instead of worrying about code you broke while refactoring, your mind is free to worry about less rational things, like bloodthirsty packs of feral hamsters roaming the streets.

I have unit tests for all my Eaters, and some decent coverage for the HTML parser, but nothing yet for the user interface (even though I wrote the user interface to be drivable from Python code) or the thing that grabs URLs. This is because of lesson three: the closer a piece of code is to an actual user, a piece of hardware, or data from the outside world, the more aggravating it is to write unit tests for it. I am convinced this demonstrates a close affinity between unit tests and Lisp.

The big wrapper lesson is that unit tests are a way of creating a grammar with which to describe the behavior of the system so that you can offload to the computer the task of checking that behavior. Unit tests are easier to write when the elements of the grammar have simple APIs that you control, and harder to write when the elements are complex things with outside dependencies, like URLs and mouse movements. Even if you only write unit tests for the simple stuff, it means your agonizing over the more complicated stuff will be untroubled by the suspicion that the problem is something lower-level and simple (of course, then it turns out to actually be something lower-level and simple, and the code says "Gotcha!" like Lucky Ducky and struts off, but I can't help you there).

[0] Eventually I'm going to write my own autoindenting Emacs hook which operates on the very simple principle of moving the cursor line to where autoindent takes it, then moving every child line left or right the same number of spaces. I don't know why other indenters have these fancy algorithms that don't work, when that algorithm works fine. With my algorithm you have to go down arbitrarily many lines before moving the first line, to see how many lines are underneath the first one, then go back up to the top and go through all those lines again, but on the plus side it actually works.

Divide And Cucumber: For those bored to tears by my previous entry, I present Square Foot Gardening! (Gather 'round as I actually remember where I got a link; I got it indirectly from Unqualified Offerings, which also has a good original poem today). It's like regular gardening, except you recursively divide your garden into a myriad of tiny square plots and plant one thing in each plot. You can stagger your planting by time so that you have four fresh potatoes every week. You can weed one square at a time and keep a running total of your average time per square and estimated time to completion, thus distracting you from the dull monotony of weeding. Many leading scienticians believe that if you didn't have a lot of squares, you could weed one square every day and actually turn weeding into some sort of semi-pleasant ritual.

I sent the link to my mother and asked if the Square Foot Gardening guru was for real or some sort of gardening crackpot. She said "His book and methods are the ones I go by. Have for years." That settles it--he's a crackpot! When I was a kid I was always having to dig plots in my mother's garden or weed or rototill, or mow the lawn or wash the windows or some such thing. This fellow's claims of an end to workaday drudgery and washday blues are clearly nothing but hogwash oil!

Actually, I am (mostly) kidding. My mother doesn't do the grids but she does plant in wooden boxes, which now that I think about it makes things a lot more manageable than just planting things willy-nilly or in enormous garden-spanning rows. I think that if she planted grids it would become proportionately easier to manage. And it would look a lot cooler (but the boxes would be harder to move).

: A glowing review of the Eater over at Maccessibility.

┏━━━☎━┓: A few years ago I developed an interest in Unicode, and went over to unicode.org to see what I could see in the way of actual Unicode characters. I couldn't see very much, and I assumed they were trying to get you to buy the Unicode book I've never encountered anywhere. Since then applications that support Unicode have actually started existing, and unicode.org has bowed to the collective will of snoopy people like myself and put up little graphical Unicode character charts in PDF form. There's also a character name index, allowing you to answer burning questions like "Are there Unicode characters corresponding to the phases of the moon?" (Answer: yes, but only first and last quarter. I guess for a half moon you'd use one of the half-filled circles from Geometric Shapes ◖ ◗, and for a full moon the white circle from same ○, or a happy face ☺).

Of course, time has once again left unicode.org in the dust, as there are now websites that show you Unicode characters in your web browser. Take heart, though: I don't yet have a font for Byzantine Musical Symbols, so for that it's gotta be the PDF.

Cornbread!: It's well known that cornbread is the greatest thing ever. But exactly what makes it so great has eluded mankind for ages. Now, I believe I have the answer: it's corn, but it's also bread. I'm not sure why this trivial answer has eluded mankind for ages, but that's mankind for you.

: More Salam Pax. "Some idiots started firing their Kalashnikovs and guns and made my paranoid aunt totally believe that the American troops are in the street."

Tonight's Episodes: Tonight's Enterprise should have been called "Continuity Must Die!". And West Wing I didn't care about much. There's only so many times they can play the "this time, it's one of their own" card before it gets old. It's always one of their own. I wouldn't be one of their own if you paid me.

: From Russia, that land of enchantmentinfringement, comes Screenplays For You, a site with... a bunch of movie screenplays. No longer need you do a Google search on a remembered phrase to find a copy of a screenplay. Includes "From Dusk Til Down" [imdb: typo], and a new Charlie Kaufman project called Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which sounds like the title of a North Korean propaganda flick.

Update: Josh sent me a screenplay site in the good old U.S. of A.

One Last Thing Before I Quit: The Eater is at 1.3. Includes caching; better knowledge about what should be proxied; and three new eaters, including the obsessive-compulsive sort-the-letters-in-each-word eater, and a spooky new get-rid-of-all-content eater. I think I'm done with this for a while.

: Bizarre new jellyfish discovered. I actually got a preview of this jellyfish back in 2000; the professor of my Oceans class must have known the research team, because we got to watch a spooky, gruesome video in which a ROV was approached by an enormous jellyfish and ended up slicing off one of its arms into a sample tank. ("But the biologists... have collected tissue samples of the bell and the thick arms of one specimen.")

Hey, Future Leonard: Need to retroactively change a CVS commit message? Take a tip from Dan Rall:

cvs admin -m "#.##:`cat /path/to/new/commit/message`" path/to/affected/file

Where #.## is the version number for the file.

If you need to retroactively change a CVS commit message for a commit that affected more than one file, you are doomed to repeat that action for every file. A little utility script would be useful here.

That Explains It: Kevin got spam that said:

Did you know the Government gives away money for almost any reason?

: Broke my internal promise and worked more on the Eater tonight; I wrote an extension to the WordReplacingEater that lets you copy the content from one URL into the layout of another URL, but I don't think it's good enough to put up yet, and I need to make some dinner.

: Many years ago, I drew a calculus comic called The Adventures Of e. The derivative of The Adventures Of e is surely The Trouble With Otis, an algebra comic. Like The Adventures Of e, The Trouble With Otis has a not-as-funny sequel. Only now do I realize that the world of these comics is strangely roguelike, with characters and symbols moving around and talking.

Ehxcellent: The ten minutes I spent tweaking the Eater's definition of "word" so that the NTK line art would show up correctly, has paid off.

In Russian Federation, The North Pole Assesses Your Mineral Reserves!: Some Russian scientists are working on a floating polar station called North Pole-32 (the previous 31 were built during the Soviet era, and must have been where scientists were sent if they kept making trouble even in Siberia). The floating is not being done by some fancy tricked-out icebreaker ship or something; the camp is set up on an old-fashioned ice floe.

The best part, in that "'the best part' that's not actually the best part" sort of way, is that the expedition leader is named Artur Chilingarov, and his penchant for firing his pistol into the air could signal his future metamorphosis into a Bond villain. Unfortunately, his goal is insufficiently sinister:

"Let people dream not only of being managers, let's have as many people as possible becoming polar explorers," he said.

PS: for the "triumph of capitalism" file: not only has Pravda found its true calling as a Sun-type tabloid, but it now has a Cafepress store.

PPS: bonus links I was unable to fit in here anywhere: Polar Philately, a collection of postmarks from the north and south poles; and The Antarctican, a newsletter from Antarctica.

The Poisoned Feed: I buckled to popular demand (well, demand from Aaron SwatchSwartz, who's pretty popular), and created an RSS feed for Tonight's Episode.

: Kevin and I are on call all of today for an upgrade, so I'm going to his house and we're going to have an on call party. At any moment, we could be called upon to eat food or whoop it up.

Photo Gallery Program Roundup: Photo gallery generation programs are one of those classes of application where it's easier to write your own that does what you want than to use anyone else's, or at least that's what you think before you start writing your own. However, I am making a good faith effort to resist this impulse, so I've been looking at photo gallery generation programs written by others. I do this because I'm getting tired of the drab Apache directory lists that currently adorn my picture galleries, and I'd like something nicer-looking, with thumbnails.

Earlier, I mentioned that a program called Curator was the best of the lot, but after I wrote that the pangs of conscience began to eat at me. Had I really evaluated every damn image gallery program that fit my arbitrary requirements? Hadn't I just looked through Freshmeat and picked the first one that looked good? And what of Marsha? Will she love again? Etc.

So you know where I'm coming from, I will reprise my award-losing technique for reducing a cluttered field of programs to a manageable number, and present the criteria by which I decided which programs to even look at. I like image galleries with the following properties:

None of the programs I've reviewed do exactly what I want them to do, and in the rough-and-tumble world of photo album generators the approved way of doing configuration is to hack the generator. This brings up an interesting point about reviewing such software: it what point does it become fair for me to complain about the lack of a feature, when I could just add the feature? Obviously there's some cutoff point, or I would dump plaudits upon an empty file. I have chosen to review the default behavior, and talk about how easy it seems to make the program do what I want.

To complete this review I need your help. You, the NYCB reader, are also the consumer of my photo albums (there's also the people who come in through Google image search, but they're only going to look at one picture, which Google already found for them, so I don't need to make things easy for them). So let me know what you want my image galleries to look like.

  • curator is the defending champion. It's easy to hack and the galleries use CSS, have navigation, and look nice. It has per-image pages, but they look pretty good, and have navigation with cool thumbnails of the previous and next pictures.

    Curator has a comment file, in the form of a per-file attribute file. You can group files from different directories and it will generate an album for each group. I don't think I have the patience required to exercise that feature (all pictures of Rachel? All pictures of me making a stupid face? All pictures of dinosaurs?)

    Curator also has some completely ridiculous features, like two global indexes, available from every page, containing a thumbnail of every single picture on my site! That's pretty near 2000 pictures, daylight savings.

    Summary: Curator's navigation and presentation is great, but it's difficult for me to add a caption to a picture, which is a feature I think I'd use if I had it.

  • MT2 has the clever idea that a large photo album should be spread out over multiple Web pages. It's plugin-based for easier hacking. There are plugins that links directly to pictures and has no navigation, and a plugin that links to per-picture pages and has a "back" link.

    It's got a simple per-directory caption file, and also a per-directory group file that's easy to use and lets you override the regular ordering of pictures (which I currently control by putting numeric prefixes on the filenames).

    MT2 has a thumbnailless view, which I don't think I need. The only navigation was the ability to go down the hierarchy or to go one step up. I didn't like any of the default plugins, although dropshadow was okay. plainhtml was way too plain and ate up vertical space like nobody's business. brushedmetal was just tacky. I would go with something like dropshadow.

    The major things I'd like that I'm not sure I can implement in MT2 are navigation: full access to the hierarchy from every page, and (unless I link directly to images) being able to move from one image to the next or previous image. The per-directory comments file is great.

  • YAG is very bare-bones. It assumes that you only have one directory full of images, so it's got no navigation at all in its galleries. It generates a page for each image, and it has themes with a templating system. It doesn't have any way of captioning images.
  • Photoshrink also assumes that every image gallery is an island. It does image pages and has a per-image captioning file. It's themable with plugin Python classes. It's also got a mod_python interface that lets you generate pages from the web. Here's a site running Photoshrink.
  • Pyrite Template is a little templating system which has a bloxsom-type blog mode and a photo album mode. The photo album mode makes an album out of the pictures you specify on the command line, so there's no inter-album navigation going on there. There's also no intra-album navigation on the image pages, unless you use the frame-based index generator, which might actually be a good idea. Its themes are done with plugin Python classes and HTML/YAPTU templates. I had to hack Pyrite Template a fair bit to get it to work.
  • Apache::Gallery is written in Perl. but Pete Peterson II specifically told me to take a look at it. [UPDATE: He actually told me to take a look at a completely different program called Gallery. See correction.] I haven't actually installed it because I'm getting tired of doing this roundup and I don't want to have to figure out mod_perl right now when I can just go to Pete's installation and make comments based on what I see there.

    Apache::Gallery actually constructs the galleries dynamically, rather than generating HTML ahead of time. It lets you nest albums, so I assume it would accept my chronological nesting of albums. It has a mess of tiny NewsBruiser-esque templates in a templates/ directory, which are given life by some sinister force deep within the handler() subroutine. You can give a caption to an image or album, and random users can also submit their wiseacre comments to images. The navigation is good.

    As far as I know, of all the reviewed image gallery generators, only Apache::Gallery currently hosts a picture of Seth, but I have the power to change that. Will I use it responsibly, or plunge the world into chaos? I haven't decided yet.

  • Leonard's Advice/Food Column:

    Dear Leonard,

    I really like shredded coconut, but I feel strange eating it. It's as though it's fish-flake food for humans and there are powerful aliens sitting on their perches in another dimension watching me eat it. Can you help?

    Observed in Omaha

    Dear Observed:

    The aliens will lose interest if you stop eating the shredded coconut in big handfuls directly from the bag, and include it as an ingredient in food where they can't see it. Try my

    Chocolate Pudding a la Way Too Much Shredded Coconut

    Prepare the pudding as per the instructions on the box, but use less milk than it calls for. Instead of remaining milk, substitute coconut. Chill and serve. Serves n.

    It's Payback Time!: TEoM was linked to by a lot of weblogs. Here are some of the ones I liked, with links to the cool stuff I found via them that made me like them.

    : Let's talk about Mr. T. Better yet, let's just link to one of the many Paint Shop Pro-created skits starring Mr. T. In this episode, Mr. T discusses the ins and outs of weather forecasting. "We let computers hack at this stuff," says Mr. T, and you believe him. Britney's Guide to Semiconductor Physics just wishes it had these production values!

    : From The Volokh Conspiracy I found out that Salman Rushdie is probably the best-known author to have dabbled in Star Trek fan fiction.

    : Here's a great article on the implementation of VisiCalc (the first spreadsheet), article written by Bob Frankston, one of the original authors of VisiCalc. This article reveals all: as inevitably happens, they shipped the prototype.

    The other primary author of Visicalc, Dan Bricklin, has on his website a wealth of VisiCalc reference material, including a less technical history with photos, all with a really cool navigation system that makes it feel like the future. Dan has his own weblog, and he and Bob collaborate with some other folks on the popular SATN.org weblog, where they talk about telecommunications, copyright, and other curmudgeonly topics.

    [Note: this entry inaugurates "Heroes of the Elder Age", the new series of Crummy trading cards and weblog entries (trading cards not available). HotEA honors the authors of cool old pieces of software and does a sort of "where are they now" showcasing of their current web sites. There was a previous entry in this series, on Jeff Lee, one of the authors of Q*Bert, but the series hadn't been titled yet, so it doesn't count as inaugural.]

    : Everyone is linking to A Review of Contemporary Science Fiction (and for good reason), but I found another good, longer-term overview called A History of the History of the Future (my overview of modern science fiction, soon due out in paperback, will be called "A Retroactive History of the History of the Future: A Retrospective"). Includes the obvious-in-hindsight observation:

    This may be due to the collapse of Communism in the real world: hive minds can now be considered more objectively, rather than as crude political symbols.

    It's true; I always thought of hive minds as swarming embodiments of "Much like in your Earth Soviet Russia" didacticism, but that was all in the old stuff: starting with the Borg, that didn't really make sense.

    : Unused angle on a story about New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain (R.I.P.): what if the other state quarter symbols start disappearing under mysterious circumstances? How will humankind react to the news that we're living in a bizarre, geological-scale Agatha Christie novel? Keep a close eye on the Delaware river, the Charter Oak, the Maryland statehouse, the Statue of Liberty, the Wright Brothers' plane in the Air and Space museum, the Pell Bridge, Camel's Hump Mountain, Federal Hill, the entire Louisiana Purchase and city of Chicago, Pemaquid Point Light (be vigilant, Mike), and the Gateway Arch. Coming soon: my overactive imagination has to worry about still more things, including the possibility that the sun itself might vanish.

    Department Of Corrections Department: I got a bunch of emails saying that zork.net and tastytronic net have photo albums run by Gallery, not Apache:Gallery . So I reviewed a completely different program with almost exactly the same name! Gallery is written in PHP, which brings up the old chestnut: "Against which programming language is Leonard more prejudiced: PHP or Perl?" It's a tough call, but I think I'll have to go with Perl. So, Gallery: it's written in PHP, but at least it's not written in Perl! Actual, trying-not-to-be-biased review of Gallery coming eventually.

    Look On My Quarters, Ye Mighty, And Despair: Pete Peterson II writes:

    Leonard, I think you've stumbled onto something diabolical... the Charter Oak fell in a storm and died...

    ... in 1856.

    I think you might be on to something.

    We're doomed.

    : If it's enormous word lists you crave, try YAWL, a word list about 5 times the size of the one that comes with Red Hat. YAWL comes with Scrabble cheating help anagram and multi-word anagram finder multi, which according to the README "can provide some cheap thrills when a party gets dull." Maybe you should just adjourn the party early.

    More similar word lists at wordlist.sourceforge.net, including a list with part-of-speech data which made me waste time this evening writing an eater that replaces a word with another word of the same part of speech. It's not up yet because I'm not yet sure how good it is.

    The Cautious Mad Scientist: Fifth In A Series:


    : I like this sort of thing: Walking directions to Mordor. (from cl)

    Woohoo! La Deuxieme Partie: I'm going to give my configuration framework talk at EuroPython! It's in Charleroi, Belgium, and it looks like the easiest way to get there is to fly into Brussels and take the train. Charleroi is in the south of Belgium, so I should brush up my French (call me provincial, but I'm not going to learn DutchFlemish for a one-week trip to the part of Belgium where they don't speak DutchFlemish). What's the best way to regain lost fluency in a language?

    Here There Be Spoilers: Read from Quicksilver, if you dare. (I don't.)

    Get A Life!: An international team of losers has wasted countless man-hours drafting imaginary maps for a made-up planet. Thousands of population centers and geographical features have been named; elaborate cultures and complex political boundary rules devised; and no place on the planet has been neglected, from the polar regions to enormous cities right down to tiny islands ("BAY OF WRECKS (very dangerous)"). Ancient maps have been forged, as have all sorts of thematic and demographic maps. I don't know why I keep making stuff up the way I do. What I should have said is that there are lots of great maps of Earth at UT Austin's Perry-Castañeda collection.

    : Eating at "Fondue Fred" in Berkeley, with Sumana, Adam, and friends. The fondue is pretty good. Above Fondue Fred in this little shopping center is a little cafe that has hung up a New Zealand flag and serves Kiwi Pub Pies (today's special: curried vegetable). There are antique electric mixers all over the cafe; Joe, are there mixers in New Zealand pubs or is this a quirk of the cafe owner?

    Photo Wire Roundup: (Haven't had one of these for a while)

    WE 0WNZ J00CHE: Connect the dots:

    1. 20030512: N. Korea claims new drink for techies
    2. 20030516: N. Korea training hackers, Seoul says

    : Because today is apparently North Korea day here at NYCB, let me share an observation I made during my recent map obsession, on a nice map site I found via m14m. Among many other interesting maps, the Library of Congress has a very detailed 1969 map of the Korean DMZ and surrounding environment. It turns out there's a city called P'yonggang just on the north side of the DMZ, which makes me think it's some kind of decoy city.

    "Success! We've taken the capital!"

    "Wait, let me see that map. We went northeast? This is P'yonggang!"

    Fortunately, it turns out countermeasures have been in place for years.

    : I had a blast at Seth's party. Among other things, I got one of the new BBCs (check out the new BBC logo!), and I met Riana. Riana, Seth, and I told lots of pirate jokes. Here are three of Seth's:

    Q: Where do they keep the pirate Constitution?
    A: In the National Arrrrchives.
    Q: How do they protect the pirate Constitution from deterioration?
    A: Arrrrgon.
    Q: What's a pirate's favorite web portal?
    A: Yoho!.

    And two of mine:

    Q: What was an evolutionary precursor to the modern pirate?
    A: yo-ho-homo erectus.
    Q: What is a pirate's favorite physical constant?
    A: Plank's Constant.

    (Apparently I can't remember any of Riana's pirate jokes.)

    Also, when I came in, Zack mistook me for Cory Doctorow. Cory did not show up, leaving the nagging question in the back of my mind: could I have succesfully impersonated Cory Doctorow for the duration of the party? Maybe there's a story on the possibility.

    I showed Seth and Nick Moffitt my new game, and they laughed uproariously. Hopefully I'll finish the game tomorrow, and then you too can laugh uproariously or not get it.

    Thou art arrogant, mortal!: A million years ago, I made an offhand comment about the theology of Nethack. The thing I was thinking of was the weird conception Nethack has of atheism, which it doesn't distinguish from theism that doesn't want any divine intervention. But another part of it is a gameplay problem common to adventure games: your character has a powerful backer who has a lot invested in your success, yet who sometimes acts against that interest in the name of a less compelling interest, like greed or aggravation.

    The stereotypical example of this is the shopkeeper who wrings his hands and says "You must save Freedonia!" and then tries to nickel-and-dime you on the beef jerky you're trying to buy so you can freaking save Freedonia! I've often felt Nethack deities were acting the same way: look, do you want me to get the Amulet of Yendor or not? Then give me a hand, stop me from turning to stone!

    That's why I wrote this songgame: What Fools These Mortals. It lets you simulate being the deity in a game of Nethack. The unexpected thing was, while writing the game, I actually figured out why the Nethack gods are so capricious: it's a lot more fun to smite the player than to help them out, and they're probably just going to die anyway, so why not? This also explains the attitude of the shopkeeper: he's seen heroes come and go, and if he gave beef jerky discounts to everyone he'd go out of business (I don't know why the shopkeeper's financial affairs are persistent across games, when nothing else is, but maybe not all the heroes are you).

    Anyway, try out the game; it's got some fun stuff. The code is a mess, but it should be easy to hack if you're so inclined.

    : Belated catchy yet inexplicably unusable alternate title for What Fools These Mortals: "God Mode".

    Non-Meme Watch: "you found * way to go *"

    Speaking Of Memes: Leonard's Law Of Meetings: "An employee is a meeting's way of making more meetings."

    : A little while back I set up a CVS repository on the machine that hosts Crummy. Today I spent some time importing stuff and setting up ViewCVS, and the result is Leonard's Repository Of Fun. There's also anonymous CVS access; directions are on the RoF page. So far I've put up codebases for the following programs:

    More coming soon (don't worry, I won't list here every single one I add). I put some work into importing old backup codebases I had for my IF games, so if you're interested you can poke around in the history and find old design docs, like the stream-of-consciousness trancript which was the first thing I ever wrote for Guess The Verb!.

    Also, please let me know if I've made some horrible CVS-hosting mistake.

    : First, let me shill again for pyblagg, which helps me find so much cool stuff that I don't even care that I'm hopelessly behind on Software Roundup. First, a 1998 paper called on reuse called The Selfish Class, which tickles my buttons (the low-key version of "pushes my buttons"). I'm not sure how much of it is an eloquent statement of things I already knew and how much of it is actual new ideas that just sound very familiar; it seems each section starts with the latter and concludes with the former.

    Then there's the awesome ezPyCrypto, a GPLed (so beware)library which makes it incredibly easy to do crypto in Python. Encrypt everything, just because you can! Encrypt your own source code in some sort of obfuscation/trusted computing thing! Encrypt the very name of your program! Encrypt your cat!

    World Famous Seth David Schoen: Seth will be on The Linux Show!! tonight. Don't forget, that's The Linux Show!!. You can get The Linux Show!! in RealAudio or streaming OGG format. I won't be listening to Seth on The Linux Show!! live, because I'll be having dinner with Sumana to celebrate her new job (Hooray![!]).

    Slogans For The '90s [sic]: Live Fresh Or Die

    Story Won't Die, Sources Say: Nathaniel sent me a link to The curse of the quarter. Things were going so well, until The curse of the quarter. Questionable bonus: it's no longer an unused angle.

    : Topher Tune's Times linked to some mighty trick photography (the mightiest and trickiest is the second photo).

    Sparkling Water Symposium: Kevin got me started on drinking sparkling water. I don't know why I do this. I think sparkling water tastes awful, yet I'm drinking it. I asked Kevin, why does he drink this water that tastes so awful. Kevin said, "It's an adult beverage." Adult beverage, my eye. That's just a code phrase for "it tastes awful". What is the actual appeal of sparkling water?

    Update: Sumana's suggestions, in helpful outline form:

    1. You know that it has been through a factory at some point, and that it is not plain tap.
      1. prestige
      2. safety, quality of water (my hypothesis on why Russians want their bottled water carbonated)
    2. Costs more (prestige).
    3. Flavors. Like an Italian soda without the calories.
    4. More "festive" so teetotalers can fit in at a party.

    Update #2: A. Cairns writes on the topic "Why I drink sparkling water":

    It's like drinking deadly, alkaline poison -- without all the messy dying!

    It calms my fears of mortality.

    : Sumana pointed out that there is such a thing as a Ninja Camera Mount. Let's pretend it's not what it is, and explore some alternative possibilities.

    1. Kick-spinning tripod of death
    2. Technology enabling "Post-Feudal Ninja Industrialists" to be the first movie filmed in NINJA-VISION!
    3. Neighbor to the Temple Mount

    From Mars With Love: Mark Welch announced the First Picture of Earth from Mars. Take that, Mars!, uh, Earth!, wait, who is the scapegoat here? (cf.)

    Very Special Episode: A guy installed NewsBruiser and had all kinds of problems setting it up on his machine. I kept answering his questions and feeling bad, but in his most recent email he says "BTW, for what I am doing I still like NB the best," and it was the best Christmas ever.

    Question: I thought the term for a modifying filter (a filter which may remove data from a stream, like a regular filter, but may also pass data through in modified form) was "milter", but it looks like that is only used for a modifying filter whose job it is to modify or block email messages. What's the generic term for a modifying filter as opposed to a straining one? I need this for NewsBruiser.

    : So, I added a rudimentary plugin system to NewsBruiser. The minimal example plugin is a Gary-esque thing that automatically links any bare URLs you type (I can't demonstrate because I don't have it turned on here, but it turns http://www.crummy.com/ into http://www.crummy.com/). More plugin madness is surely on the way, including the migration of existing NewsBruiser features into plugins.

    Broken Pirate Joke:

    Q: How much does pirate corn cost?
    A: A buck an arrr!

    Economic Conundrums: If there were a company called "Moral Hazard, Inc.", what would it do?

    What would the game "Monopsony" be like?

    : This is more a VH1 Behind the Music type thing than a proper HotEA entry, but this history of the Commander Keen series of games is very comprehensive, and has lots of quotes and reminiscences by the authors.

    Mother Of All Software Roundups: This is going to be a huge roundup. Beware! I'm not even all the way caught up on the links I've been keeping, but I'm going to hang out with Sumana in a bit. Also a big Game Roundup following close on this entry's heels.

    Special Emacs Insert

    Hey there, Emacs fans. Here are some Emacs packages and resources.

    And now back to our show.

    Special Meta Insert

    Today we have two applications which put a thing in another thing of the same type. These were the days of the Special Meta Insert, when nested things ran arbitrarily free. Come back with us now to that lawless time--hey, my Palm Pilot!

    And now back to our show again.

    Game Roundup Is A Powerful Deceiver:

    Leonard, What Is The Best Pasta In The World?: The best pasta in the world is cavatappi (Italian for "corkscrew", apparently). It has a great texture that holds sauce well, and unlike some pastas it has its own taste, slightly nutty, so it's not just a vehicle for sauce. It also looks cool.

    The second best pasta in the world might be ziti, but I'm not sure.

    X-Men Question: I don't know anything about the X-Men or comics in general, so I want to know from you how the X-Men feel about people, like polydactyls or albinos, who are mutants but whose mutations don't confer upon them any special abilities. Do they "count" as mutants? Are they despised? Protected? Not worth caring about? How do normal humans in the X-Men universe feel about them? Is the whole idea unexplored territory because it's too boring to make it into a comic book?

    What Is A Wolphin?: Is it some sort of furry thing? No, it's a whale/dolphin hybrid. "Such a hybrid is impossible!", you might be tempted to say; well, Kekaimalu is here to demonstrate your incorrectness!

    PS: Danny speaks the truth.

    Sumana - protocol heb ei gofrestru: Mozilla messages, localized to Welsh. From Sumana.

    Aiee!: Nick Moffitt writes:

    You obviously didn't grow up in the Pacific NorthWest. A killer whale is not a whale. It is actually the largest member of the dolphin family. I still maintain that there is no such thing as a whale/dolphin hybrid, and challenge you to prove me wrong.

    Lousy killer whales! I knew there was a reason why I didn't like them! They're actually dolphins in disguise!

    Wolphin Of Shame: From Brendan:

    The father of Kekaimalu, the wholphin, is NOT a killer whale (orcinus orca), he's a FALSE killer whale (pseudorca crassidens)! That doesn't actually make a difference, since they're both dolphins, but I thought I'd chip in.

    I saw this but originally thought a false killer whale was some weird type of whale I'd never heard of. But of course it's not any kind of whale at all. Now I'm on a dolphin witch hunt! Belugas, narwhals, pilot whales--they all look like dolphins! I have in my hand a list of 200 dolphins working for the State Department!

    I thought the whole thing was a hoax at first anyway-- that top picture looks suspiciously like the back dolphin image with the false killer whale's skin photoshopped on.

    Seems pretty unlikely that someone would make a hoax about a dolphin interbreeding with another dolphin. I find it believable, given the liger (which I know exists).

    Equal Time: Actually, here at Be we love dolphins. Here are some positive portrayals of dolphins in the media.

    There's also Waters thick with ravenous fish, which is non-dolphin-safe, but I like the headline.

    Monstah!: Check out the incredible two-headed tortoise (picture #2).

    Figure 1: Relative Coolness Of Two-Headed Things
    Two-headed snake
    Two-headed tortoise

    (Inevitable reader response:)

    Dear Sir,

    It seems clear you've never spent any time in South Africa. The Wellington Garden Weasel, it is true, bears a strong resemblance to a two-headed tortoise. However, the secondary "head" is merely the weasel's fifth leg, which can be shed like a lizard's tail in a bid to escape from predators. The similarity between the weasel and many famous tortoises has led some zoologists to compromise by placing it with lampreys in the family Petromyzontidae.

    Hoping this finds you,
    Yours etc.,
    Brigadier General Macro Kowalski, O.B.E. (Ret.)

    Love The Domain Name, Dahling: foolofatook.com

    : Working on a thing. It's sort of cool, but not a very original idea. Should go to sleep.

    Downhill From Here: Here's the thing: Downhill. It's basically an Oracle of Bacon for weblogs. It uses the weblog ecosystem data to find the shortest path between any two weblogs, measured by outgoing and incoming links. I was surprised not to find a preexisting implementation of this, but now it's been done. Just my contribution to the LazyWeb.

    : If you need to jump-start your personal slang dictionary, try Kevan's Infinite Teen Slang Dictionary. Works especially well if you have catchphrases you use but you've been holding off writing a dictionary because the catchphrases have no meaning. Works not at all unless you're a high school student, and not the nerdy kind of high school student all of us reading this were, either.

    : Kevin passes along the happy news that the new season of The Wire is all about shipping containers. Apparently there are also some cops, but they just run around looking in shipping containers. "I suspect that in the season finale, it will be revealed that the shipping container did it," says Kevin.

    : New Downhill; the main new features are a much larger dataset and improved speed. Phil responded to my friendly email by putting up newer copies of the ecosystem data and mentioning me in his weblog, complete with link to embarrassing sophomore-year-in-college first NYCB entry. I've even got my own category now.

    Hey, everyone from New Zealand that I've met has been cool and friendly. Are there any right jerks in New Zealand at all? Do you keep them down on the farm where they can't harm nothin'? Or have I just been fortunate?

    Links You Can't Get Out Of Your Head: I know you've been wondering about Godzilla's Guitar. (Found via Incoming Signals.)

    There's also a Chinese Restaurant Name Generator which comes up with better names than the one I wrote for my PyCon paper, but it's some weird Javascript thing that only works once, like the guy's variety act in that Warner Brothers cartoon.

    One great use for Downhill is finding new weblogs. That's also a great use for writing Downhill and having people link to it. Once the buzz dies down, an Eater-style postmortem where I talk about new weblogs I found (also coming soon: the not-really-that-shocking results of an ad hoc experiment I ran against the readers of pyblagg). I hope the announcement that I'll do a postmortem won't affect the way people link to me.

    Get It Before It's Gone: Today Zippy is in an automat! (Long, rambling article about my obsession with the automat coming soon.) Yesterday Zippy was also in an automat, and it was funnier, but I forgot to mention it.

    Your Wish Is My Suggestion: hebig.org said Downhill should have an API. Well, now it does. It doubles as a weblog ecosystem API, since I couldn't find one anywhere.

    : From everyone: the California Coastal Records Project is a very well-designed site with gorgeous photographs of the California coastline (eg. 1 2 3 4 5; also note the location of the CollabNet retreat). The reason everyone's talking about this site is that Barbara Streisand is suing to get them to take down the picture of her earthquake-defying house (for those not in the know, Barbara Streisand is in the celebrity business). I'm not so socially conscious; I'm just talking about it because I love maps.

    : A while ago I said that a good simple name for a weblog would be "x's Wild Weblog". Well, now I present Jughead's Wild Weblog!. I love the un-self-conscious writing style. Reminds me of Adam.

    Cool Tool, Nice Name: StrangeBanana generates random CSS layouts that you can use for your web site. Similar to the thing that made pages random colors which I did (very briefly) for Crummy in 1999 (only previous NYCB mention), but more high-tech and less obnoxious. From effbot, which has actually started using the otherworldly designs.

    Fatal Error: Funny, Alphaman-esque screenshot from my day at work.

    Today's Downhill Feature: You can now exclude URLs from consideration in your Downhill search. I implemented this in response to Colin, who complained about the appearance in shortest paths of weblogs.com, blogdex, and other things that are not weblogs. Rather than volunteering to mantain in perpituity a list of non-weblogs that nonetheless show up in the ecosystem, I made it a do-it-yourself thing that also makes it possible to incrementally search a space of related weblogs.

    : Presenting the Microsimulation of road traffic. Lets you simulate the causes and easing of traffic jams. It would be great to modify it to let you experiment with antitraffic.

    J'irai au EuroPython: I've mentioned this before, but I want to bring it to the attention of more people, particularly pyblagg readers. I'm going to EuroPython later this month (to give my neighborhood-famous "Beyond The Config File" talk), and I want to hang out with people. Drop me a line if you're also going and you want to meet up.

    Je m'appele Leonard, je suis un informaticien américain: Adam Parrish's suggestion, that to get my French back I buy a French phrasebook and simply read it cover to cover, has been surprisingly helpful. However, the phrasebook is full of ridiculous phrases like "Where are the most beautiful landscapes?", which implies that Francophones have some device that measures the beauty of a landscape, and that they are keeping this information secret from the rest of us. Also, the phrasebook assumes you're going to France, and contains precious little information about Belgium other than an injunction to check out the fine linens and crystal, which I have no intention of doing.

    Finally, the vowels in my phrasebook have all sorts of weird lines on top of them, like sprigs of linguistic parsley. So Kevin and I are starting our own phrasebook, dealing with situations likely to occur specifically in Belgium, and with no funny accents on the characters to confuse things. The English phrases are Kevin's; the French, my half-assed translations.

    "Give me the large waffle with herring."
    "Je voudrais du grand gaufre des harengs."

    "Please place the kippers under my shoe in the morning."
    "S'il vous plait, mettez les kippers sous mes chausseures le matin."

    "You heard me; you know where the damn kippers go."
    "Tu m'entende; tu sait ou vont les kippers!"

    "Get out of my way; I'm heading to France."
    "Allez! Allez! Je vais au France!"

    Fictional Characters With Weblogs: I'm not talking about your mass-market weblogs for Dawson's Creek characters. I'm talking grass-roots weblogs for stuffed elephants.

    The stuffed elephant has been to Belgium, too.

    (Via AMAI, another in the endless series of weblogs found via Downhill browsing)

    Map Mania #N: The Alexandria Digital Library's Map Browser has an awesome interface that lets you find a spot on the world and search for maps and photos of that region, then indicates which parts of the selected region are actually covered by the maps. It's a shame that all the satellite photos are hard-to-decipher black-and-white things that look like the moon after a bit of terraforming.

    Incidentally, they built a new Library of Alexandria. Unfortunately, their website requires Flash.

    PS: Check out this cool, FreeCiv-esque map from medieval China.

    Regarding the foreign countries of the barbarians southeast of the South Sea, and northwest of Mongolia, there is no means of investigating them because of their great distance, although they are continually sending tribute to the court. Those who speak of them are unable to say anything definite, while those who say something definite cannot be trusted; hence I am compelled to omit them.


    Unfortunately, both of the authors were the ones who got stuck with fixing this problem. Also, because one of them is a big whiner, he kept complaining that `we knew this all along ­-- something really stank for iterations and now I'm stuck with fixing it.'

    --Recognizing and Responding to 'Bad Smells' in Extreme Programming (from Jeremy Hylton)

    Elevator Pitch For Slow Elevator: You might remember that a while ago the CollabNet engineers went on a retreat. As inevitably happens at corporate retreats, we engaged in team-building activities. One of the activities was this one; we were divided into teams and our group had to come up with a pitch for a television show destined to become a cult classic. I've been holding on to my page of notes, meaning to mention my idea in a NYCB entry, and since I'm cleaning my room now's as good a time as any.

    We audition for people with skills associated with how-to shows: cooking, home improvement, gardening, etc. Our ideal candidate is someone who thinks he or she is very good, but who by any objective measure is awful. We film a "pilot" with each candidate, which is broadcast as an episode of the actual show. For instance, we'd have a cooking show set where people would do their cooking show pilots. We'd have everything they might need, but they'd be done in by their lack of skills and/or imagination.

    The show is awful, both in a cruel way and in a campy way. The audience watches both to vicariously enjoy the victim's incompetence and to secretly hope that they'll actually do well and put one over on us. However, we use deceptive editing to eliminate any aspect of that.

    The other idea from our group I liked was Jason Brittain's "The Great Weiner Dog In The Sky Show", in which a troupe of trained dachshunds perform death-defying high-wire and trampoline acts.

    Reverse Want Ad: I'm going to Bakersfield tomorrow, and I'm going to take my trusty yet battered 5-string electric guitar to the Goodwill and get a fancy new one at Front Porch. If you live near me (or in Bakersfield) and you want to exchange for an electric guitar your right to be picky about the quality of the electric guitar, let me know by tomorrow.

    : How are you on the Wonders of the Ancient World?

    Just Two Guitars: I went a little guitar crazy at Front Porch. I now have a nice little hybrid acoustic/electric, and a gorgeous hollow-body electric. I wanted light guitars, and they're both pretty light. All the hybrids have a clever device built into the body that helps you tune the guitar. I don't know why this is on all the hybrids and only on the hybrids, but it's neat. Why not also add a metronome, and a PDA? And a clock, so it could be sold through the Sharper Image catalog. I'm envisioning an entire integrated sound production system/personal information manager/radiological cleanup kit.

    The old electric is still available; I'm going to give it to my grandmother to use in a garage sale, so in the unlikely event that anyone wants it, let me know and I'll rescue it.

    : Tomorrow begins the Tonight's Episode Beatles Anthology. This, the first part of a noncontiguous two-week series, covers the Beatles' early years as a group by making fun of their song titles. It started when I realized that somehow half of my remaining TEs were references to Beatles songs. Sumana helped, as did (involuntarily) Brendan.

    Leonard's Easy Guide To French Pronunciation: Don't pronounce the last letter.

    : Bothered by unsightly unit tests? Deal with the artifacts of your uptight pair-programming partner the Perl way[0]: by cheating to get around them! Acme::Handwave is here to help. The Acme package space also contains other, more interesting hacks, like Acme::Bleach and Acme::EyeDrops.

    [0] Also the "Kobayashi Maru" way.

    : The latest SourceCast site: java.net. (Random relevant news article)

    Amazing Spam Offers:

    Subject: We are giving away business cards.

    : It was a patio, fringed by a little lawn and with a swimming pool, bricked in by cinder block walls. It could have been the backyard of anyone in any LA suburb. It was quiet, like in the mountains, like when someone turns off a radio.

    "Why have you taken me here, spirit?" The hooded figure said nothing, just stared at the blossoms that floated across the pool in a fragrant scum.

    There was a grimy barbecue grill off to one side of the patio. A garden hose stretched halfway across the lawn like an exhausted snake. The sky was blue with a couple smears of clouds, looking as though they had been put there to distinguish the sky from other blue things. All these were facts about the area, but which one was the important one?

    I played it cool. I turned on the garden hose and watered the lawn for a little bit. There was a white metal gate to an unused side yard with lawn chairs stacked in it. I ran out of lawn and started spraying the cinder blocks with water, my thumb over the mouth of the hose.

    The figure turned and pointed a finger at me. The finger, the hand, the arm that held it up were shrouded in a darkness as deep as the void.

    "At the age of fifty," it said, "your fingernails stop growing."

    Now I knew the game. I dropped the hose and parried.

    "If the pancreas fails," I said, "the liver can take over some of its functionality."

    "Jellyfish are chordates, like tunicates," said the spirit.

    "Some wasps make honey, the way bees do," I said. "But you shouldn't eat it because it'll make you sick."

    "That's very interesting," said the spirit. "I never knew--". It shook from the bottom up, like a movie hologram. It fell, or leapt, into the swimming pool, which swallowed it whole. A slick remained on the surface, which I dispersed with the hose.

    Wasp honey. I'd have to look that up. I went into the house.

    You'll Be Perfect For My Experiments: Another for my collection: Thai spam.

    Inadvertent Endorsement: Kevin asked me what kind were my guitars (<--pictures!). I didn't know because I don't pay attention to that. Today I checked, and it turns out the electric is a Greg Bennett Design, and the hybrid is a Greg Bennett Desig, which is probably a misprint. So, evidently Greg Bennett makes guitars I really like that are in my price range.

    Level Three: My toilet broke. I fixed it. It's not as impressive as it sounds.

    In Medias Res: A very funny short film, for those steeped in the appropriate precursors: Eighties Ending. Available in various proprietary formats. Purists can wait until next Friday and then view the photo gallery.

    More Than Meets The IMDB: The Transformers could be coming to the big screen, partly courtesy of X-Men( [0-9]+)? screenwriter and producer Tom DeSanto. NYCB has the scoop, mainly due to our penchant for brazenly manufacturing entire interviews from whole cloth.

    News You Can Bruise: Is there any artifact of our youth for which you wouldn't write a treatment?

    Tom DeSanto: Well, there was already a He-Man movie, so that's out.

    NYCB: But the He-Man movie sucked.

    TDS: That's because it was made too early. It was made in the 80s, when only ten-year-old dorks would see it, so it was a dorky movie. Now those dorks are 25 and have disposable income, but the market's tapped out. He-Man is a joke.

    NYCB: So, would you write, say, a Gobots treatment?

    TDS: No, because the Gobots were a pathetic ripoff of the Transformers. Let me give you an example. You know how the boss of the good Gobots was a fighter jet named "Leader 1"? Well, one of the merchandising tie-ins for the Gobots was this Gobots activity book for kids. One of the activities in the activity book was a word search where you had to find the names of the Gobots. In the first place you have an activity book which is destined to show up at the Pic 'N' Save in six months. Second, that activity book contained a word search, which is simply busy work to gets kids to be quiet for a while. Finally, you'd look at this word search and there'd be all these random letters and right in one of the corners there was a numeral 1. And that's where Leader 1's name was.

    NYCB: Wow.

    TDS: Totally amateurish!

    NYCB: So, in a live-action context how do you plan to deal with the fact that there are effectively no humans in the Transformers universe?

    TDS: Well, there are humans, but nobody cares about them. They just fix things and get into trouble. So I'm going to introduce a new human character, Humie the Human. He's someone the audience can relate to.

    NYCB: Does he transform?

    TDS: Yes, he transforms into a tugboat. No, he doesn't transform. Ha!

    NYCB: Ha! What are the difficulties in doing a live-action treatment of something as essentially cartoonish as the Transformers?

    TDS: I don't understand the question.

    NYCB: Well, like so many cartoons of the 80s, the Transformers cartoon existed only to sell toys. The cartoons were basically renditions of what you might see in your imagination playing with the toys, and that's why you suspended disbelief. But if you see it as a live-action thing you're not going to see them as toys, and you're going to wonder why the Transformers were built in the first place.

    TDS: Uh-huh.

    NYCB: Like with X-Men you could suspend your disbelief because mutants don't have control over what abilities they have. There's not some Rawlsian preexistence where you decide what sort of mutations are good and then everyone is born and gets one of the ones you decided on. You take whatever your genes give you. But Transformers are constructed beings, and you gotta wonder why anyone would decide to build this combination bulldozer/battle robot, unless they were just making a toy. The X-Men had this super plane, but it was based on the SR-71 Blackbird. It didn't turn into a robot.

    TDS: Uh-huh.

    NYCB: So how do you plan to resolve this problem, of suspension of disbelief?

    TDS: Well, there are tricks of screenwriting you can use to induce the suspension of disbelief. For instance, for the first twenty minutes you can have it be a perfectly normal movie about a normal modern person's life, and then the first plot point happens and kablooie! It all goes to pot.

    NYCB: Wow! Has nobody ever told you how boring that is?

    TDS: Well, keep in mind that during the first twenty minutes of the movie a lot of people are still coming into the theater, or they go out to get popcorn, and if something weird is happening when they arrive you get a lot of talking in the theater, which nobody likes. But sometimes test audiences react negatively to this extended normalcy sequence, so the standard procedure is to put a flash-forward scene at the beginning and then treat most of the movie as a flashback.

    NYCB: But that's just a sop thrown to the audience to get them to sit through twenty minutes of boredom! You should start right in the middle of the action and not let up!

    TDS: Okay, but the other problem with that, and I probably shouldn't say this, is the musicians' union. You know how every movie has this wishy-washy opening music that's all heavy on the woodwinds? That's because there is otherwise no place for the flute and the piccolo in modern moviemaking, and the flautists and piccoleers become angry. That wishy-washy music requires a mundane introductory sequence over which to lay the credits.

    NYCB: There's a conflict I've felt goes to the very heart of the Transformers mythos, and that is Grimlock. Grimlock is a T-Rex, which is awesome, but he's also a Transformer that looks like a dinosaur, which is even stupider than one that looks like a bulldozer. So my question for you, is, do you want to improve on the rather simplistic notion of good and evil presented in the original Transformers series?

    TDS: Wow, you got me.

    NYCB: Yeah, you thought it was gonna be some lame fanboy question about Grimlock.

    TDS: Usually interviewers don't get so involved in the creative process.

    NYCB: I do because I care about the movies.

    TDS: Well, I don't think the Transformers have a simplistic morality at all. You have good Transformers, and you have bad Transformers.

    NYCB: Yeah, but take Magneto for example. He wasn't evil the way Megatron is evil. He did things that were evil, but they served towards a goal; he wasn't doing them just to be evil.

    TDS: But every single movie has that sort of villain nowadays. So if you have someone like Megatron who just wants to wreak havoc for no real reason, it's a refreshing twist. Because you have no idea as to his motivation, you never know what's coming next.

    NYCB: Bizarrely, you have a point.

    TDS: When reviewers say that a character is "mysterious" it just means that they liked the movie but this character had no motivation. It's completely independent of whether or not the movie is good. People who say that characters should have motivations are just exposing their inability to tolerate the mysterious.

    NYCB: What's the one thing you want moviegoers to take home from their live-action Transformers movie experience?

    TDS: I want people to leave the theater totally mystified and overwhelmed by Godzilla's invincibility.

    TDS: Wait a minute, I never said that. That was Shogo Tomiyama, producer of Godzilla 2000! Don't you do basic fact checking?

    NYCB: You never said any of the other stuff in this interview either.

    TDS: Fair enough.

    NYCB: It's been a pleasure, Tom.

    TDS: Well, I'm not sure what the ontological status of this conversation is, but if it had actually involved me the pleasure would have been all mine.

    Amazing Software Roundup: That is, the roundup is amazing as always, but some of the software is also amazing. This software roundup will take you to the depths of a star about to explode, to various abstract mathematical spaces, and to the Francophone region of your choice. Live the adventure! No refunds.

    Because the poem I came up with mentions a bunch of different programs from this week's roundup, the poem is not a prize. My favorites of the roundup are ep and FOF.

    While trying to get to the bar
    I got lost in the core of a star
    My GPS reads
    Only RSS feeds
    Which is useless when driving a car

    : Oh, that reminds me to tell you about the little test I ran on the readers of pyblagg. I kept track of how many people from pyblagg hit the May 26 Game Roundup versus the Software Roundup that immediately preceded it.

    Clearly, pyblagg readers preferred the great taste of Software Roundup by a hefty margin. This is a shame because the poem I wrote for Game Roundup was a lot better. SR had more stuff though.

    Aiee: I don't know if a European audience will get the jokes in my Europython configuration talk (not all jokes present in the online version). Eg. do Europeans know enough about Godzilla that they will realize my little Godzilla skit is a) a skit, and b) funny? I need new jokes. Maybe I should just do without jokes, or come up with them while in Belgium.

    Also, what has the same sort of semiarbitrary, dependency-ridden semantics as a ZIP code, but Europeans know what it is?

    Flee!: The Earth is doomed!

    In The Roadkill: I forgot to mention that the Tonight's Episode Beatles Anthology is going on so long partly in tribute to one of the previous non-anthology TE Beatles songs, "Eight Dies A Week"; but also because I have 16 Beatles-related TEs and if I do them in two sets of eight then there are no embarrassing leftovers. Tomorrow normal TE service will resume, until Saturday, when I leave for Belgium and the whole thing starts up again.

    : Yesterday: I assembled a computer desk, and Adam came over.

    Here Are The Questions And Here Are The Facts: Today: I finally recorded The Whiskey Rebellion Activity Zone (mp3). Played on the new hybrid rather than the banjo for easiability reasons. I hope you enjoy it. I played around a bit with the stuff Kris likes to do where you try to get rid of "noise", or "the sound of authenticity" as I call it. Let me know what you think, esp. if you think I should lose the harmony on the choruses.

    : Kevin said I'd be good at this, and he wouldn't let it drop, just kept bugging me about it, so here goes. You can send me your personal problems, or someone else's personal problems, or some funny personal problem you made up, and I will play the advice columnist on your behalf. Keep it clean. Your anonymity is ensured, except to me. My answers will not be as good as Ray's, but your letter is more likely to be answered.

    Disclaimers: Advice may not be helpful. I know nothing about interpersonal relationships, yet my pronouncements will be delivered with the cocksure air of authority. Your email may be published in full or in part. Not valid for US residents living underseas.

    "Then The Zombie Came Closer And Closer!": First, there was Dada Pokey. Now, Dada Garfield.

    : "It's the greatest thing ever, and you can't have it." (via Kevin)

    Location, Location, Location: Riana writes:

    Belgium, eh? What a dazzling array of people hovers nearby, just across the Channel. GBP14, return, sans taxes. Although it's a pain getting out to the not-really-in-Brussels airport, and into London from the slightly-outside-London airport. All the same, you should demand of all your contacts within a reasonable radius of Belgium that they come see you.

    Yes, scenic Belgium. Centrally located to... other countries.

    : Today I finished reading The Glory Game by Keith Laumer. It's sort of derivative of the Retief story pattern, but I enjoyed it. I enjoy that pattern. I also enjoy sci-fi stories in which governments are realistic governments rather than charicatures or adjectives; I think of it as just good characterization on the meta-person level. Laumer's non-Retief books do this pretty well. The Glory Game is the first book I've read that contains a Congressional hearing on an attempted alien invasion, which is something I've sort of been looking for. Any others like it?

    "Tea.": I don't know why in years of fanboyhood I never thought of this before. It must have been the Nightmare that finally made me realize how awful is the interface to the replicators in the TNG-timeframe Star Trek shows.

    Consider the archetypal replicator command: "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot." Captain Picard never orders anything else from the replicator, yet either there's no way for him to get the replicator to know that when he wants tea he wants hot Earl Grey; or there is such a way, he can't figure out how to set it up, and he's too proud to ask anyone for help.

    What's more, the captain's utterance implies that if he just asked for "Tea. Earl Grey.", either the replicator would give him iced Earl Grey or the ship's computer would ask "At what temperature do you want the Earl Grey?" like a text adventure parser. How come they had time to do a molecular scan of a cup of Earl Grey but not time to put into the 24th-century equivalent of Cyc that Earl Grey is the sort of tea you drink hot?

    This is not rocket science; it's the sort of thing that contemporary programmers use as fanciful examples in their EuroPython talks. "Let's take a hypothetical Person, Jean-Luc. Jean-Luc likes Tea, so he sets that as his default Drink, but there are many different kinds of Tea, so he can set a default for Tea as well..." It wouldn't be hard to do the interface either; after you got your elaborately specified tea you could say "Bookmark. Tea." and thereafter it would just be "Tea." Except for the inevitable wacky malfunction, where the attempt to bookmark tea would give you a tea-colored bookmark, you would be fine.

    Next time: I tackle the question of what happened to all the industrial designers between Enterprise and TOS.

    : Sumana pointed me to a sweet entry in Zoe's weblog.

    Waiter, There's A Bon In My Mot: Today at work I was in a meeting and I got really tired, stretching and yawning. Chris said "We're almost done." I said "I'm just practicing my jet lag."

    MoreSensationalistExaminer.com: It's been a while, but "BART flies" should be "BART lies".

    : Addendum to this conversation. The proper sobriquet for the "let everyone use corked bats" proposal was not discussed in that conversation. It is "the Slate way", either "the everyday economics way" or "the hey, wait a minute way".

    Teaser: Upcoming entries from EuroPython, and at some point my collective review of hot sauces where I try to impose my subjective tastes upon you. I'm meeting, or will try to meet, Jarno Virtanen in Brussels, and it makes me less apprehensive to know that it'll be just like the old days: the American agent meeting the Finnish agent at the dead drop in Brussels. So, for the next week, News You Can Bruise departs from its usual frenetic pace of posting to bring you only the occasional entry made of snatched bits of time, possibly consisting only of cryptic phrases I saw on signs.

    Hello: I'm at EuroPython, squandering my precious laptop battery power that I need for my presentation tomorrow. I bought a wide variety of adapters and power convertors but they're all useless because my laptop won't plug into them due to its grounding plug. Fortunately, I'm supposedly about to meet up with someone who has an IBM power cord with a European connector.

    I went to Amsterdam. I've been hanging out a lot with Jarno and his girlfriend PrustiTaina, because their travel plans have overlapped with mine to an unbelievable extent (eg. they planned to go to Amsterdam the same day I planned to, they chose the same hotels that I did, etc.) I also ate a waffle. My French is only good for reading and not for hearing what people are saying, nor for talking because when I try to talk to someone in French they just respond in English.

    EuroPython Day #2: My French is getting a little better; at least it seems that way now that I've met people whose English is worse than my French, such that it's most convenient to talk in French. I was able to ask for the check and to have a door opened, although the check was not forthcoming and the person I asked was powerless to open the door. My presentation went pretty well, but I'm very glad I omitted the jokes because the one I left in, thinking it had cross-cultural appeal, was not greeted with any hilarity at all.

    I talked with Moshe Zadka a bit after my talk. I talked to some other people as well but I bring up Moshe because there were several talks he was going to give yesterday but he didn't get here in time. These include his "text steganography" talk and his "Writing web clients in Python" talk. I've asked him for copies of the notes for each, and they'll be part of the inevitable EuroPython roundup, coming sometime next week to this space. I was able briefly to recharge my battery, but it's only at 50% and I want to write another rambling, incomprehensible entry tomorrow, so I'll sign off now.

    Best talk so far: a talk about PyPy, a Python interpreter written in Python, which is currently up to 20,000 times slower than the one written in C. Armin Rigo, author of PyPy, also wrote his own presentation softwareusing PyGame, which presented his presentation as a brainstorm diagram that he navigated as he gave his talk. It's only a matter of time until Steve Jobs steals that idea.

    EuroPython Day 3: Yesterday, Guido had a keynote which was different enough from his PyCon keynote that I stayed interested. I just came back from a talk on SQLObject, a simple object model/database layer. My head is spinning after a number of rapid-fire Twisted tutorials. Also I learned about empy, which I had previously not looked at due to it being GPLed. It looks very nice, so I may put effort into resolving the license incompatibility somehow. There was also a mention of Jeff Raskin's The Humane Editor (not The Human Editor), which does for commenting syntax what Python did for control flow syntax.

    At dinner last night I had an ice cream dessert, like a giant Mochi, called a "Tartouffe". I do not know anything about it or why it is named after a Moliere character, but it was tasty.

    Non-EuroPython-Related Entry: A lot of P.G. Wodehouse's early work is available from Project Gutenberg.

    : On the bus to work, nauseated but not tired. The fact that on my last night in Belgium it was completely impossible to sleep nipped my returning jet lag in the bud, I hope. The Belgians are a festive people, delighting in musical concerts, fireworks displays, honking their horns at each other for no reason, and on-road off-road racing, all right outside my hotel room.

    The last deserves some explanation. There are people who have big dirt bikes which they race down the twisting streets of Brussels. They avoid condemnation from the superstitious natives, who believe them to be the characters from Power Rangers Ninja Storm.

    : At last, a parody we can all agree on.

    It Was Ever Thus: "The character Mr. ZIP was designed to promote adoption of the new ZIP Code."

    : The entries are pretty thin on the ground these days because Leonard (my uncle) moved out of the house and took the DSL with him, so I must peck into the Hiptop or goldbrick from work. Coming soon, I hope: the meta-review of hot sauces which either tells you how to determine on sight whether a particular hot sauce is worth your money, or gratuitiously insults your taste if it's different from mine.

    While You Were Out, Damned Spot: The most depressing part of coming back from a vacation is catching up on all the depressing things that happened while you were away. At least having a news aggregator makes it easy.

    : For the impatient, Jarno has information about EuroPython and the surrounding vacation: 1 2 3

    Bonus Independence Day Tonight's Episode: We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Immolating

    Decision Procedure For Hot Sauce Quality: Kevin and I have tried hot sauces from all over this fair planet, and I'm here to tell you how to find a hot sauce that is worth your money without having to buy it. 99% of the time you can tell whether a hot sauce is good or not without trying it. I would say 100% of the time, because my decision procedure has never let me down, but I want to leave room for improvement. I've bought a lot of hot sauce in my day, and all the sauce that passed this decision procedure was good and all the sauce that failed it was not good.

    The bad news is that at that roadside stand in Gilroy or wherever that has a whole shelf of hot sauces, there are probably only a couple, if any, which will survive this decision procedure. The good news is that you won't waste your money on that shelf of hot sauce.

    To run this decision procedure, you must ignore the funny graphic on the front of the bottle and the "This is the hottest damn thing you've ever tasted in your life! Not for sissies! This will blister your tongue and the tongues of your ancestors!" bravado on the back of the bottle. Those things are a constant on every bottle of hot sauce, no matter how un-hot or foul-tasting it actually is. Instead you must look at the ingredient list on the side of the bottle, where by federal law an honest reckoning of the contents will be found, and answer the following questions:

    1. Is the first ingredient habanero peppers? The first ingredient should be habanero peppers, or be somehow based on habanero peppers. If it's some other kind of peppers but all other conditions are met, then it might still be good (if you like that kind of pepper), but it probably won't be as hot.
    2. Is the second ingredient some kind of vegetable matter? The second ingredient should be a non-pepper member of the vegetable kingdom, such as carrots, or mangoes. This is the 'base' of the sauce, a nonreactive substance which prevents it from being merely a habanero relish. Note that the base must be something you like: if you don't like mangoes, you won't like a mango-based sauce.

      "Why do you have this rule?", you might ask. "What non-member of the vegetable kingdom could possibly be the second ingredient of a hot sauce? Venison? Drywall? The set of all natural numbers?". No, I refer to that scourge of this decision procedure: vinegar. If the second ingredient of your hot sauce is vinegar, this means you have what we in the business call "a vinegar-based hot sauce", which is no good. Most hot sauces I've seen are vinegar-based, for some reason I cannot comprehend, so you need to be careful about this.

      Now, some of you may like vinegar-based hot sauces, and at this point you are probably seething with vinegary rage. "You'll get my vinegar-based hot sauce when you pry it from my cold dead hands!", you might be saying. Well, THAT'S JUST FINE, because NOBODY WANTS your lousy vinegar-based hot sauce, and if we did we could just BUY SOME FROM THE STORE, so stop being so touchy.

      It is okay for vinegar to show up later in the ingredient list. All hot sauces I've seen contain some vinegar. If you like incredibly hot sauces there might be no hope for you but to go with a vinegar-based sauce.

      NOTE: Sometimes the non-pepper member of the vegetable kingdom comes first in the ingredient list, and the pepper comes second. In my experience, this is fine. It just means that there's more base by weight than there are peppers. If there are a bunch of vegetables in the ingredient list, and then the pepper, then what you probably have is a salsa rather than a hot sauce, which is fine. In fact salsa is generally better than hot sauce because the vegetables are fresher.

    3. Does it contain the bonus ingredients? The bonus ingredients are garlic, lime juice, and onion. They are not neccessary for a good hot sauce, but they make it taste better.
    4. Does it not contain the malus ingredients? The malus ingredients are things like sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch, and drywall. Most of these are put into a vinegar-based sauce in the misguided hope of thickening it. This is misguided because 1) they should have given it a vegetable base in the first place, and 2) it just makes the sauce taste worse. If you have these ingredients you probably also have a vinegar-based sauce. If nothing else, try to find a vinegar-based sauce that doesn't have this junk in it.

    The following sauces are known to pass the decision procedure, and meet with the approval of Kevin and myself:

    : Amazing New "Second System" To Resolve Problems Of Original System

    : Jarno: "Stop Promoting Python" was a joke talk. The premise was that promoting Python would lead to the existence of more Python programmers, which would impair the abililty of the preexisting Python programmers to charge high fees for their services. The conclusion was that Python programmers should contrive to keep Python a secret so as to mantain a competitive advantage relative to Java programmers. This, you'll recall, is the strategy that has worked so well for Lisp.

    Which Is Funnier?: Two supervillains who are married and only know each other's mundane identities, or a superhero and a supervillain who are married and only know each other's mundane identities?

    This has been Which Is Funnier?

    The Pitch! #2: Wacky sitcom starring Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.

    John Jay plays the eccentric next-door neighbor.

    I call it "The Federalist Capers".

    Deep Sea Interviews: Inspired by these cool pictures. Today: the coffinfish.

    News You Can Bruise: Hello.

    Coffinfish: Hello.

    NYCB: Is it true that you can walk on the ocean floor using your fins?

    CF: You'd better believe it.

    NYCB: Where do you usually walk?

    CF: Just around.

    NYCB: But like where? Like to the store?

    CF: There are no stores in the depths of the ocean!

    NYCB: Well, have you ever thought about opening a store?

    CF: Why?

    NYCB: Because it's never been done before. The market is completely open. I think it would be a good business for you if you opened up a convenience store off the coast of Australia. You could sell to the other deep sea fish and to the squids and crabs and whatnot.

    CF: Look, do you know what fish use for money?

    NYCB: No, what?

    CF: Nothing! 'Cause we're fish! We have no economy! Our relationships with other fish are predator/prey relationships or mating relationships or rival relationships! So stop with the store idea!

    NYCB: Do you think that the ocean as a whole would be more productive if you had an economy?

    CF: No.

    NYCB: Why not? Humans have an economy.

    CF: Yeah, and what do you get out of it? You have to work all day to get your "money"!

    NYCB: But you have to work all day as well. All day you lure smaller fish to their doom with the glowing bait atop your head.

    CF: That's not work! I just sit back and the fish fall into my gaping maw! It's fun!

    NYCB: And then you have to evade predators.

    CF: To evade predators, I simply swallow an enormous amount of water! I bet that doesn't work for you!

    NYCB: No, but if a predator did get you, how would your family survive without you to provide for them?

    CF: That is a moot point because I don't provide for them now.

    NYCB: I'm saying that maybe it would be a good idea if you took out an insurance policy or something.

    CF: I have an insurance policy!

    NYCB: Really?

    CF: I am insured against theft, and damage from earthquake!

    NYCB: That's pretty useless.

    CF: We fish trade only in things that have no value! If we have something valuable, we keep it for ourselves.

    NYCB: But what about symbiosis?

    CF: Symbiosis is for sea anenomes!

    NYCB: You're a very unpredictable interview.

    CF: You are a very unpredictable interviewer. Why do you ask me about economic activity all the time? Why don't you ask me some more stupid human questions about how I walk, just like you do? Huh? How about anthropomorphizing me some more? Blaaah! I'm a coffinfish! Blaaah!

    NYCB: So, uh, when you walk, are you all walkin' down the street like this, or are you all walkin' down the street like this?

    CF: The first one.

    NYCB: 'Cause that one's cooler?

    CF: Yeah, whatever.

    NYCB: Look, you wanted more questions about the walking thing.

    CF: Why don't you ask me about my new book?

    NYCB: You have a book?

    CF: Yes, it's called "Passion and Power: The Political Houses of the Great Barrier Reef 1951-1956".

    NYCB: What's it about?

    CF: It's got it all: politics, food, sex, budding, intrigue, all set against the stunning backdrop of the postwar Great Barrier Reef.

    NYCB: So is it a history?

    CF: It's more of a fictionalized memoir. It takes place from the perspective of a young polyp who grows unobserved in the chambers of the ruling class of corals.

    NYCB: I'm intrigued.

    CF: It also has my favorite recipe for fish. I call it "Fish a la Fish".

    NYCB: Would you like to share the recipe?

    CF: Yes. First, you stay very still with your mouth open. Then, you eat the fish.

    NYCB: So, it's more a means of acquiring fish than a recipe.

    CF: It's both. The second part is the recipe.

    NYCB: Your book sounds very interesting. Do you have a publisher?

    CF: I was planning on disseminating it through oral tradition.

    NYCB: You should get a publisher.

    CF: Is that another economy thing?

    NYCB: Sort of. I think a lot of humans would pay good money for a book written by a coffinfish.

    CF: And what would I do with this "money"?

    NYCB: You could buy a bunch of really tacky knicknacks and scatter them over the ocean floor, and then show them to other fish.

    CF: Your human ways have corrupted me! Now I too must have these tacky knick-knacks!

    NYCB: Sorry.

    CF: Tell me where are the knick-knacks!

    NYCB: Like what do you want?

    CF: A little castle! I must have a little castle that gets algae in it! And a treasure chest that opens to reveal fake treasure!

    NYCB: That sounds like classic aquarium store material.

    CF: All right, I will try your aquarium "store".

    NYCB: Thanks for inaugurating this series, coffinfish.

    CF: Blaaah! [swims off]

    : Way to go, Pete Peterson II!

    : For no real reason, Kevin sent me some funny reminiscence essays on post-Communist Czech culture.

    Broken Joke: Inspired by a spam Sumana got:

    Q: What has four legs and is a dog?
    A: A dog.

    : Jason exceeds analysts' expectations in regards to Which Is Funnier?

    Definitely supervillain and superhero. Their marital problems could be expressed in their super activities or interpretations. E.g., "This diamond thief has no taste in jewelry, just like my husband. And, he rushed in with inadequate preparation, then once he was satisfied with the booty, he selfishly withdrew and rolled over to the dark side of the city. He's probably snoring away over there right now."

    It might also be funny to have a mother/daughter relationship. E.g., "What kind of a supervillian would pierce the noses of Mt. Rushmore? And, this villian is leaving clues all over, just like my daughter leaves her clothes on the floor." "Missy Mid-drift may be misguided, but why would she break Lex Loser out of prison? I don't know, but one thing is sure: Lex is going to be a bad influence on her." Missy Mid-drift: "When I block out the sun, curfews will be impossible."

    Menanggalan/Penanggalan Spelling Discrepancy Explained!: Old obsessions never die. Remember the menanggalan? Remember the penanggalan? Remember how they were the same gross Filipino undead monster, as evidenced by my usage of the same link for both just now? Well, I never figured that one out until today, 2.5 years after the [mp]enanggalan first reared its ugly, bile-dripping head in the pages of NYCB. Today's the day I saw this Kuro5hin story on the folklore of the Philippines and read it for [mp]enanngalan information. It introduces two more spellings of the monster's name, but makes up for it by explaining that the "p" spellings are the Malaysian names of the same monster. Whew! Pretty weird that the Malaysia spelling would be penanggalan and the Philippines spelling would be menanggalan, unless it's a "French letter"/"capot anglais" thing.

    The story also contains the hilarious sentence "They have a tube which comes out of their mouth to perform the feeding, like this (Warning: annoying midi music ahead)."

    : Brendan is now using NewsBruiser, and gushes about it a bit. Eg. "Switching my journal software was like walking into a dealership with a wheelbarrow and driving out with a red Ferrari." It's more grist for the NewsBruiser mill, which, as they say, bruises pretty quickly, and exceeding fine.

    Man, These Photo Wires Round Themselves Up:

    General Lego Entry: Brickshelf is great; it's got user folders in which people put up pictures of the things they hammered together on the Lego forge. It's also got scanned instruction booklets for a lot of the official Lego sets, but it's more interesting to see peoples' fire engines, Ferris wheels, large-scale reproductions of individual pieces, enormous, messy spacecraft cobbled together from the remains of other spacecraft, where the crew just sit around in vacuum while travelling at superluminal speeds, like in the really old sets, etc. etc.

    If I were doing an article on Brickshelf I would have to do stupid journalistic things like talk about how people were using Brickshelf to sell Lego paraphanelia. But since this is just a weblog entry, I can point you to the Lego trilobite and the Lego soccer game, complete with Lego soccer hooligans.

    Ray-Traced Lego Mania is also great; its glorious raytraces of retro Lego sets take me back to the days when I had to do a bunch of yardwork to get a really cool set. It's also got some funny joke sets: the Blacktron Ice Cream Disseminator and my favorite, the satirical BURP Adventure.

    : This is an "I'm bored and I have a Hiptop" entry, so bear with me. I'm at the hospital waiting to get blood tests. Deep sea cuttlefish sez: "it's boring!". Saturday night I made some potato salad, which turned out okay, and a lemon meringue pie which tasted great but was very messy and not like a pie at all.

    I have a book, so there's no reason to keep rambling on. See you later.

    PS: My mother called all in a panic. I'm just checking my cholesterol level and lipids and whatnot. Don't worry.

    But I Know What I Like #1: The Casual Tyrannosaurus at Home

    Mention It, Mentioning Boy!: I forgot to mention that when I met with Jarno, he gave me a cute refrigerator magnet shaped like a patriotic moose, with the Finnish flag painted on its abdomen. "We come in peace," he [Jarno] said. The moose was a mysterious wrapped gift, and I was planning to open it when I got home, but I had to open it up in the Brussels airport and show it to the security woman, lest she think it was a drug. A cute picture will arise with the dawning of a new era of Internet access at my home, an event which could be mere years away.

    Security Through Propriety: Whenever someone types in a phone number to make a phone call I have the urge to look away because I think they're typing in a password.

    : In case you haven't noticed, this is Tonight's Episode Palindrome Week (aka Tonight's Episode Barrel-Bottom Scrapefest), featuring broken and actual palindrome TEs from Jason.

    : via ftrain I found the Project Gutenberged works of Stephen Leacock, a sub-Twain, sub-Wodehouse humorist of the early part of the previous century. Some dross, some funny highbrow stuff, reminiscent of where MAD magazine would have been on its highbrowness inevitable-decline curve[0], had it existed when Leacock was writing. Example: this excerpt from Literary Lapses in which he describes everyday activities in terms of the rules of games; in this case, taking a trip by streetcar.

    "Should the player who controls the crank perceive a player upon the street desirous of joining in the game by entering the car, his object should be: primo, to run over him and kill him; secundo, to kill him by any other means in his power, tertio, to let him into the car, but to exact the usual philopena."

    Good stuff to read while you're waiting for me to update NYCB like I never do.

    [0] The inevitable-decline curve is the curve which quantifies the delta of quality over time reflected in the statements "I prefer his earlier work," "Things were better back in the day," etc. It generally looks like this:

    q |
    u | ---_
    a |     ~\
    l |       |
    i |        \
    t |         ~---__
    y |_________________

    The inflection point is precipitated by some event which you take to be the day everything started going to pot, eg. when Dylan went electric or when they started making different faces for different Lego people.

    : Sumana is getting weirder and weirder spam. Today she got one that said "Smoking is hazardous to your health." This reminded me of the enormous (1/4 of vertical space) cigarette warning labels they have in Europe, so large that when I was in England I walked past a cigarette billboard almost every day thinking it was an anti-smoking billboard because the largest text on the billboard was the warning. I only figured out it was a cigarette billboard after I saw another cigarette billboard that had been vandalized.

    Anyway, rather than making the warnings so big that no one can tell what brand of cigarette they're buying, I think anti-spam filter mechanisms could be employed to make more people read the warnings: SPAMMER GENERAL'S WARNING: leonardr, Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks To Your Health onkaecpjrmzddw

    Leggi online gratis: I once asked Seth how much of the literature of antiquity has been translated into English. He said, "About ten percent. I'm Seth David Schoen." But in actuality and not in my fevered imagination, he just said, "About ten percent." Why is this? Mainly because of Sturgeon's Law. It's not worth anyone's time to translate Porcellus' De Re Crapola. Another reason is more sinister: to ensure that students have an unending, cheatproof supply of translation exercises.

    Yeah, I've been dealing with the government a lot lately. A couple weeks ago I went to the DMV. The Latin Library and Perseus mainly have the original-language versions of the stuff that's been translated into English, but Intertext has more of the obscure stuff.

    What? You say that stand-up-comedy-style segues only work if they have some relationship to what comes afterwards? But if I can connect two irrelevant things with a segue that's only relevant to the second one, why shouldn't I be able to connect two mutually relevant things with a segue irrelevant to either? Sounds to me like you're in the pay of Big Comedy!

    Spoiler or Spoiled?: Hey, I never read that book, but I was wondering. So, did they ever figure out who moved the cheese?

    Dead Spammer Chronicles #N: Today, the spammer's boat capsizes and they succumb to the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

    I didn't want to struggle anymore! lp scg

    And one for the "tepid irony" department, "choked on a tin of spinach" subdepartment:

    I chose life instead of fat nhiwaxzgxpk lyhotz

    Those were from Sumana. Kevan sends in "Speech Therapy Spam"

    Do You Say: "I Wish I Knew How To Be A Seller On E B A Y" qybaygdswxhc m

    : Many of my ideas come to me in little moments of delusion in which I envision the world as other than it is (this is the real-life analogue of this). It is sort of like a game where you fish in a little pond and sometimes you get a fish and sometimes something comical like a boot. The big fish get turned into ideas like Downhill. The boots get turned into tasty NYCB entries, The Gold Rush-style.

    Here is a boot. Consider the encoding UTF-8. Now instead of an encoding, visualize it as a Japanese TV show, "Ultra Terra Force-8", with spaceship battles and dumb-looking aliens.

    That's it. It just sits there, like a sleeping alligator, planning to live off Google royalties (a hit for "japanese tv" here, a hit for "'gold rush' boot" there) for the rest of its life, not contributing a bit to the intellectual quality of this website. Well, out with it, I say! It has no place on my glamorous weblog! Now, if I could only work this electronic doohickey... there, "Publish". That should do it.

    : There is nothing new today, with the exception of the revelation that my blood chemistry is within normal limits (but my HDL should be higher).

    Mormon Tiramisu: As regular NYCB readers will know, I like tiramisu. But, I don't really like coffee. And I could do without the gallons of booze that go into restaurant tiramisu. So on Saturday I made

    Mormon Tiramisu

    The goal of this recipe is to make and then combine three things:

    1. Marscapone filling
    2. Shaved chocolate
    3. Soggy ladyfingers

    It is based on this recipe for root beer tiramisu by Mitchell Rohrbach, whose mother apparently lets him eat anything he wants for breakfast.

    Marscapone filling

    • 1 cup marscapone cheese (marscapone is named after Mars Capone, the space gangster)
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 2/3 cup of whipping cream, whipped up with powdered sugar and vanilla
    • An egg yolk
    • A whipped-up egg white

    Put the cheese, brown sugar, and egg yolk into a bowl. Mix it up. Mix in the whipped cream. Mix in the egg white.

    Shaved chocolate

    • 4 squares chocolate from a candy bar

    Shave the chocolate with a grater or zester.

    Soggy ladyfingers

    • 1.5 cups milk
    • 2 packages instant cocoa
    • 24 ladyfingers

    Heat up the milk. Add the cocoa and mix well. Pour the hot cocoa into a shallow dish and put ladyfingers into it. Turn them over to make them all soggy, but not so soggy that they fall apart when you try to pick them up.


    As you soak the ladyfingers, you will also be assembling the tiramisu, because there's nowhere to store soggy ladyfingers except in the actual tiramisu dish. I used a 9-inch circular dish and arranged the ladyfingers like so:

             |===| (top view)

    (Note that this arrangement will leave you with 3 leftover ladyfingers. Either cram an extra ladyfinger in there per layer, or dispose of the remaining ladyfingers safely at a recycling center. Ladyfingers are not good for anything except being turned into tiramisu, or possibly being fried in cheese sauce and turned into giant Cheetos (I have not tried this, but it should work). Under no circumstances should you eat a raw ladyfinger. Keep out of reach of children.)

    After arranging one layer of ladyfingers, apply the marscapone filling and shaved chocolate. Do two more layers. If you have leftover hot chocolate, dump it on top of the last layer of ladyfingers. Dust the top layer of marscapone with cocoa powder, because it looks cool. Chill for several hours. You now have tiramisu!

    "You've ruined the tiramisu!", you might say, clutching your opera glasses to your chest. That may be true, but how come almost all of my tiramisu is gone, and your tiramisu still sits under plastic wrap in a display case next to the fruit salad, a lonely gold leaf adorning each forlorn square slice? Because my tiramisu tastes better, that's why! Also, you made the mistake of trying to sell your tiramisu in a restaurant for $4.50 a slice, while I was giving mine away.

    Tiramisu is really just a trashy cake, like eclair cake (recipe for eclair cake, from Susanna, coming soon) which works by reappropriating some other, store-bought dessert (stipulating for the moment that ladyfingers can be considered a "dessert"). This fact is disguised by the fancy cheese, coffee and booze it contains. But once you look at tiramisu in this light, a wide range of variants become visible. For instance, if you wanted a specifically Rocky Mountain Mormon tiramisu rather than an ideologically-compatible Mormon tiramisu, you could use Nila wafers instead of ladyfingers, and, I don't know, cream cheese instead of marscapone.

    There are all sorts of store-bought junk foods with which you could replace the lady fingers, and many of these foods have flavor. For instance, I used to like dipping those Nutter Butter peanut butter cookies into hot chocolate. Why not use them as the soak base in a peanut butter tiramisu? Or those big Pepperidge Farm cookies. Put Twinkies in there for a surefire rich-uncle-killer. Or, and this is where it becomes too crazy to even contemplate: instead of buying, bake chocolate chip cookies, then include those same cookies in a tiramisu. Your refrigerator will explode![0]

    [0]With flavor.[1]

    [1]I hope.

    Live the Parody!: Behold the Shoggoth On The Roof, complete with secret, mysterious lawsuits; writs served on the blackest night of the new moon, etc.

    No Thanks: Spam: Refinance Leonardr

    Next Harry Potter Book: Harry Potter And The Secret Of DocumentFactory

    : From clickolinko, a page that mocks those crackpots with expensive stereo systems who are always going on about their audio cables and their vacuum tubes and the hey hey. Their behavior confuses and bewilders me, and so I'm comforted to see a big yellow web page that holds them up to ridicule. That page, in turn, links to Unique Audio Products, a gag page which includes the hilarious phrase "Keeps Oxygen out and Radioactivity in."

    : My ultimate triumph (by proxy): robotfindskitten ported to a can of Coke.

    : Minstrel, strum thy lyre and bring the strains of Model View Controller once more to this troubled court.

    Where Is He Now?: What have I been doing in the absence of Internet access at home? I wish I could say I've been working on something amazing that you'll see once broadband is restored, but apart from a new song and Belgium pictures that's not true. I've been working out, cooking (exciting new Iron Chef-esque recipe coming soon!), playing Zangband, all sorts of unproductive stuff. I thought it would be boring, like this entry, but it's not really.

    A link to keep you at bay: Muji Online, a company that sells stylish things made of recycled materials shaped into the wrong dimensions. At a Muji store in London I got a notebook for Sumana from a two-story Muji store, and the notebook paper was about two inches by six inches. It looked like Sir Humphrey Appleby's margin-shaped notebook paper from the Yes, Minister book. In fact, it looked like the Muji store itself, which was two stories high and about ten foot by thirty.

    : It looks like the movie Bad Boys 2 is so bad that at the end of Roger Ebert's review the context-sensitive ads tell you how to atone for having seen it. There are ads for the ARC, Peace Corps, etc.

    For weeks I've been meaning to make fun of the poster for Bad Boys 2 where Will Smith has his arms stretched out like Christ crucified, but I can't find a picture of it anywhere.

    Crummy.com Salute To Salutes: Google "salute to" and salute your troubles away! Here's to you, "Salute To x" web pages!

    Nutellamisu!: I gotta say, I am a culinary genius! (So is Nick Moffitt, who came up with this idea.) I present for your delectability the ultimate European dessert:


    This is like my Mormon Tiramisu, but instead of being tiramisu-flavored it will clobber you over the head with the great taste of hazelnut. As before, there are three main parts:

    1. The filling
    2. The soaked cookies
    3. The interlayer topping


    • 1 cup marscarpone cheese
    • 1/2 cup Nutella
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 2/3 cup heavy cream, whipped with powdered sugar and vanilla
    • 1 egg white, whipped

    Mix the cheese, Nutella, and egg yolk. Mix in the cream. Mix in the egg white. Add a little more Nutella because Nutella is tasty. Keep adding Nutella until it tastes like you want. The filling should have the consistency and color of chocolate mousse.

    Soaked cookies

    • 1.5 cups milk
    • 2 packages hazelnut-flavored instant cocoa
    • 24 dipping cookies (NOT ladyfingers!)

    As previously discussed, ladyfingers are tiramisu's own worst enemy. Instead of ladyfingers, use those Italian butter cookies that you're supposed to dip into your drink. You'll be dipping them into a drink, all right--a drink of nutellamisu! Those cookies would cost about $1.50 for two at a coffee shop, but I got a package of 24 for $3.50 at the grocery store. Maybe you could even use biscotti, if you can afford/make it. Before I found the Italian cookies, I was about to use some shortbread cookies which were much more expensive; that probably would have been good too.

    Heat up the milk and add the cocoa mix. Use an eggbeater to get it properly mixed up. Then pour some into a bowl on top of some cookies. Flip the cookies to get them soaked. Butter cookies soak faster than ladyfingers, so watch out.

    Interlayer topping

    • 1/8-1/4 cup hazelnuts
    • 3 squares chocolate from a candy bar

    Chop the hazelnuts very finely. If you want a crunchier nutellamisu, use more hazelnuts. Shave the chocolate with a chocolate shaver or cheese grater. Interosculate chocolate shavings and hazelnuts.


    You can assemble the nutellamisu as in my Mormon Tiramisu recipe, but this time I made two small bowls of nutellamisu using a base of 4 cookies each. This let me use all of the cookies, and the result is easier to transport. As before, assemble the nutellamisu with a layer of soggy cookies, then filling, then interlayer topping; then repeat that; then do another layer of cookies and filling.

    Topping the whole thing with cocoa powder is not a good idea from a presentation perspective, because the Nutella makes the filling brown and there's no contrast. So what I did was I chopped up some of those little spiky hazelnut chocolates that look like typewriter balls, and put that on top. You could instead top it with more chopped hazelnuts.

    "Beats any tiramisu I've had before." --Muthu Krishnan

    I was going to unveil this recipe this afternoon at a gala event at Seth's house, but I never heard from Seth or Nick, so I'm unveiling it now and I'm going to eat all the nutellamisu myself. (Actually I am giving some of it away at work.)

    Prior art: Hazelnut Tiramisu Parfaits and Tiramisu Alla Nutella, which according to Babelfish incorporates "a beautiful one manciata of the most fine tritate nocciole".

    : A nice Python interface to the timezone database. Requires Python 2.3.

    The Story Of 100 People Aged 25: I went to the insurance office with Sumana. And they had a tiny pamphlet with the Eggersesque title "The Story Of 100 People Aged 25". It was a really bad story, though, so I thought I'd try my hand at writing a better story with the same title and general theme.

    They went their separate ways, but the laws of statistics entwined their fates as tightly as if they knew each other. They formed an equation in one hundred variables, a cross-section of humanity sent on a rocket ship into the future, each filling a niche as surely as does the cold woman scientist who'd be beautiful if she only removed her zero-gee glasses. To look under the covers of causality and say, this hundred people, this one of the hundred people--this is the power that we want, forever out of our reach. For this reason I cannot tell you their names, or give you faces to put with the names; the group made sense only as a group.

    As spring became summer their numbers began to dwindle. The 25-year-olds celebrated birthdays and moved into other groups of a hundred, a thousand. By autumn the group was no longer statistically viable, and its members' behavior became erratic and unpredictable. And when March (or perhaps April) came around again, the group contained only a single unmodellable member, his behavior and circumstances defining the norm for the set containing only himself.

    It's not very good, but believe me, it's better than the story in the brochure.

    The Fizzland Station: There's a new drink in town: Leninade. On the scale of tastelessness it's somewhere between the Mozilla iconography (pretty harmless) and the "Uncle Saddam" DVD Sumana linked to (eeeeeh...). As part of my "buy weird soda" policy I bought a couple copies of it at Beverages 'n' More! (motto: "Beverages... 'n' More!"). I have not tasted it yet, but I'll let you know how it is. The soda is red, of course, and the label is covered with slogans in Russian and English ("Lenin drank, Lenin drinks, Lenin will drink," according to Sumana.) My favorite slogan, which both makes me laugh and feel bad for laughing, is "Our five-year plan: drink a bottle a day to be a hero of Socialist flavor!" With socialized dentistry, is no problem!

    Ai Cthulhu, Where Art Thou?: As sometimes happens, I'm just putting this dumb filk in NYCB to get it out of my head. (the original, which apparently depicts a world in which it's illegal to go to too many cabarets)

    I knew a man named Ramblin' Bob
    He saw a big green shamblin' blob
    Late at night out on the old flood plain
    Well, now he's beseiged by noises
    And horrible whispering voices
    In the Arkham Home for the Clinically Insane

    He's in the madhouse now
    He's in the madhouse now
    What a shame for one so young
    Just a-babblin' words in an ancient tongue
    He's in the madhouse now

    : One thing I'm planning to do when I have broadband again is start an Etext Roundup to go along with the parade of "X Roundup" NYCB series you've come to know and tolerate. Sure, you can look at The Online Books Page New Listings and subscribe to the Project Gutenberg mailing list to get deluged with notices of new 500k texts put up every day. But if the Web has taught us one thing it's that we need people to figure out which of the texts are interesting and which are the 19th-century equivalents of homepages for people's cats. Since I am by nature a sorter-through of data and a leaper-to of snap judgements, I might as well share you the trouble of finding the interesting texts, subtly indoctrinating you into my preferences as you become dependent on my selections.

    Anyway, here's a taste of Etext Roundup: The Moon Metal, a piece of early science fiction which attacks the gold standard. Since the very title reveals the secret of the story, I have no qualms about reproducing this portion of the climactic paragraph to give you the flavor:

    "I made up my mind as soon as I had penetrated Syx’s secret that he obtained the metal from those mystic white streaks which radiate from Tycho, and which have puzzled the astronomers ever since the invention of telescopes. I now believe those streaks to be composed of immense veins of the metal that Syx has most appropriately named artemisium, which you, of course, recognize as being derived from the name of the Greek goddess of the moon, Artemis, whom the Romans called Diana."

    Clearly, earlier eras had a more relaxed and open attitude toward spoilers.

    Am I That Predictable?: Sumana and my mother both pointed me to this cartoon.

    : Hey, J. Bradford Delong did my map.

    : I got a search request for "THE LIVING SOAP", but look on the bright side: at least I found this funny story because of it.

    Birth Of an Email Forward: Collated from IRC:

    Fitz and I [kfogel] were just speculating about what various programming languages sound like when you drop them.
    Fortran       crunch
    Perl          *thud* +bounce+ ~quiver~ (fading into silence)
    C++           loud and messy, like if you took everything in a
                  junkyard, connected it all together with cable, and
                  dropped the whole mess from a cliff.
    Lisp/Scheme   same sound as dropping a slinky
    Java          no sound, already been dropped

    The Inevitable Update: From Brendan.

    PHP            sproing sproing ("stupid blasted") sproing ("off my 
                   lawn") sproing
    Python         Just like anything else, if air was Jell-O
    Smalltalk      "Ouch!"
    Pascal         *Crash.*  Now, did you notice how that sounded?  If you 
                   were actually dropping something, it would have sounded 
                   a lot like that.  Let's try again.
    COBOL          (THUD)
    Visual Basic  "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you drop me."

    : A funny Python proposal. It drags a bit in the middle, but the payoff is good.

    Subescribe To KMDB Today: Kris' hypothetical plot summary for the prequel to Breakin' 2; Electric Boogaloo: "Neighborhood kids help a small business owner become a wealthy developer."

    Susanna's Marriage [0:27]:

    TEASER: Susanna: married? I have the story! After this!
    CONTENT: Susanna got married. I wore a tuxedo. So did John (ye groom), and a bunch of his young cousins. We all stood around at Tuxedo Junction and had pictures taken of us. It was jolly good fun. The next day there was a reception in Bakersfield. Everyone who was anyone was there, except for certain someones. Sumana looked glamorous in various dresses. Susanna looked glamorous in one dress. Life became a dizzying blend of cake, sliced fruit, and more pictures. Party followed the previous portion of the same party. Would it ever end? Yes, but not til pretty late.

    Next week: I head to Utah to attend a second reception there, and then to sneak up on some trilobites with a geologist's hammer. Try to hide in the sedimentary rock, will you, trilobites? Take that! Whap!

    : Maybe they sent me my DSL equipment today. I got the welcome email I was told would signal their sending the equipment, but the order status webpage says they haven't done squat for two weeks. Since DSL companies do everything in batch mode, my working belief is that the email was sent out with a batch of emails today, the order status database will be updated in a batch update at midnight tonight, and the actual equipment will be shipped as part of a big shipment in November, to beat the holiday rush.

    : Now, some laying of a foundation here for a conversational edifice covering topics Sumana has hinted at, the actual capstone to be placed in a future entry.

    I got a Tivo, and it is a lot of fun. Instead of a taskmaster determining the times I can do exercise without being bored, basic cable is now an obsequious chimpanzee offering me delicacies off a salver. Then I crack my whip and send it scurrying into the underbrush, and fifteen minutes later it comes back with a rabbit between its teeth. I don't know where I got a whip.

    When you buy a Tivo, it starts out completely unusable because its commercial-skipping functionality is crippled at the implicit behest of the broadcasting giants. Basically, you can fast-forward so slowly that you effectively see all the commercials without sound, or so quickly that instead of skipping commercials you skip the pesky intervals between commercial breaks. However, there's a secret cheat code, just like in the game "Contra", which lets you reinstate the famous 30-second skip functionality. There are lots of other cheat codes which aren't as useful, but some are cool.

    Originally I thought I'd like some way of doing a 10-second skip, because that's the way I would ideally watch TV: is this program more interesting 10 seconds from now? How about now? But after about two days Tivo had enough stuff recorded for me that now I can just pick something I'm pretty sure will be good. If it turns out to be boring I can just delete it and watch something else. I don't have time to watch everything it records, but who cares? I don't want to; I'd turn into a couch legume. Tivo is a prefetching cache, and when the thing being fetched costs a fixed amount, there's no need to complain about a prefetching cache.

    A lot of times people will say "I don't watch much TV, except..." then rattle off a list of about five or ten programs, their desire for accuracy trumping their need to seem hip and TV-illiterate. That used to be me, except for me it was just two programs, so I managed to avoid embarrassment. Now it's five or ten. The difference wasn't that I was purer before Tivo, but that I was lazy and couldn't be bothered to stay up 'til midnight to watch Space Ghost. Now it's in my queue and I don't have to

    I sort of wanted to be really cool and build my own PVR using off-the-Sourceforge-shelf technology, because then I could then 1) affect a superior attitude to nearly everyone, and 2) implement neat things like my ten-second skip and a smarter preference-guessing system (for some reason it thinks I like 1960s television Westerns, possibly overcompensating for the negative publicity caused by "My TiVo thinks I'm gay"). But it turns out I actually went and bought a Tivo; ostensibly to test the waters but actually because I couldn't justify spending all that time making a hacked-up free software PVR when I might not use a PVR at all.

    It turns out I will use a PVR, but with the 30-second skip in place the Tivo is good enough for now. Send me mail when your cool open-source PVR product costs less than $300, or when it costs more than $300 but Tivo does a 30-second-skip-crushing software update, and I'll look at it.

    PS: One thing I don't like about Tivo, but which is probably unavoidable due to the underlying technology: you can't record two programs simultaneously, and you can't watch one program while recording another.

    It Is To Laugh: Joke I heard from Sumana, who heard it from someone else, etc:

    The Canadian government wanted to create a province for the indigenous peoples of Canada, but they would have Nunavut.

    : Steve Minutillo has a Chinese word of the day feature which shows up in my aggregator and is pretty cool even though usually the details of the character and its meaning always slip right through my head. But the character for "concave" is so cool and obvious that I could actually remember it and use it if I am ever stranded in China.

    Leonard: 凹! 凹!
    Chinese Person #1: What is he saying?
    Chinese Person #2: It appears he is saying "Concave! Concave!"
    Chinese Person #1: Look, he is writing it down!
    Chinese Person #2: What brushwork!
    Leonard: 美国使馆在哪里是?

    : Welcome the latest addition to the NewsBruiser family: Timo Virkkala's WeeTee's Piece Of Mind, all the way from Finland. (Wow, I now know an amazing 0.00005% of the population of Finland! Only 5909239 to go!)

    Timo's installation story is pretty harrowing, but only one of his problems was directly caused by NewsBruiser (and it's been fixed in CVS), so I feel a little better. It's always painful setting up a web application on a machine you don't control; I tried to design NewsBruiser for that situation because I know the feeling. Anyway, I hope Timo has a great time with NewsBruiser.

    Incidentally, the download URL I gave Timo is this one, and here's the patch against nb/NewsBruiserCGIs.py which fixes the infinite loop problem in version 1.13.0. I guess I'll have to release a version as soon as I get Internet back:

    <         while not os.path.exists(dir):
    >         while dir and not os.path.exists(dir):

    When Gollum Spams:

    From: Your Resume Is Excellent (yourchance@togrow2.com)
    To: joboffer@believeuss.com

    You Got Your Microstate Politics In My Microstate!: Tell-all PDF slideshow Havenco: What Really Happened. Includes line "Informal and inconsistent restrictions were placed on Havenco's operations, but largely ignored, in the truest form of banana republic.", and plug for author's less-Cryptonomiconesque "you can't catch us, we're the gingerbread man" server hosting scheme.

    Update: Riana writes:

    Note amusing typo on p. 5 of the PDF that causes the phrase "the underling problems." I'm sure Prince Michael thought/thinks his underling ex-CTO is a problem :)

    Hey, RSS Reader People: I'm going to Utah for a week, so tune your readers here for guest weblog action.

    For All N, There's More Than N Ways To Do It: I was never able to get my programming language to work that would be able to interpret any arbitrary file as a valid program. Adding to the indignity was the fact that neither was I able to think of a cool name for it. Cliff Biffle's Beatnik is a much more clever idea than mine, has a cool name, and encourages the authorship of programs that read well, whereas mine would only have encouraged you to use random other programs as standard input. Pretty neat, even if Beatnik is limited to standard ASCII.

    Also check out HQ9+, from the same author.

    It Lives!: On my way to Bakersfield on the I-5, I passed two big container trucks from some fancy gardening store I never heard of. Then I passed another such container truck. Then I passed a pickup truck with a bed full of tacky nude statues. Then I passed a Webvan-sized truck from some "custom horticulture" store or some thing. I think someone should nip down to Beverly Hills and see what's going on at al-Fassi's old place.

    Leonard Nitpicks The Pop Songs:

    Will there be rainbows, day after day?

    No! There will not be rainbows, day after day! Que sera, sera, my eye!

    (Not originally a pop song, but there was a pop version on one of Rachel's CDs, so it is fair game.)

    It's A Madhouse!: The guest weblog was a big success, such a success that I've taken it off the front page to remove the temptation to not write anything in NYCB, instead cynically pretending the guest weblog is something I write somnambulically. I don't know whether to move it to a side spot on the front page like the BoingBoing guest weblog, causing the participants to lose interest as the novelty fades, or to just hide it until the next time I'm gone. Probably the latter, since I was unable to think of a downside for that option. Thanks to all participants for their great entries, especially to Brendan for putting up the first part of his semicanonical Jake Berendes West Covina graphic novel.

    More information about my trip coming soon. If you want a trilobite, talk to me. If you want pictures, wait until I get my DSL equipment (I called today and discovered that someone forgot to push the damn button that sends my equipment, so the guy filed a Request To Push Damn Button, and hopefully that will be the end of it), or check out Seth's cool pictures from Germany.

    : "Use in conjunction with the sound task to be killed by your own users and hung from a lamppost."

    : Sumana sent me cool fish pictures. It's all part of The Elkhorn Slough Foundation's nature photography fantasy.

    : From the author of PHP robotfindskitten (which solves in an interesting way the problem of being driven insane by having to move around a game board by clicking an HTML form button, except for the part where you go insane anyway) comes Letters Sent To The Council, which brazenly combines "Genuine" and "[source unknown]". Still not as funny as Funny Insurance Claims.

    PS: Carrot Cheesecake tries but cannot wrest the carrot crown away from Carrot Cake Soup (nice recipe format there, BTW; is it for some kind of Iron Chef home game?).

    : Time once again to check in with the bottom of the barrel (a regular feature here on NYCB) and see what it has in store for us. Ah, yes. It's Jason's TE license plate slogans. We did the obvious one (New Hampshire) the day I first saw Spirited Away, but there are seven more: as luck would have it, one for each day of this blessed week.

    : I know you want to beat down the doors to obtain the newly released Sourcecast 2.6! However, your enthusiasm is superfluous, as it is possible to obtain it without beating down a single door. It's got Project Tracker! (Also known by the sobriquet "Scarab".)

    As always, press release also available in InfoWorld flavor.

    Trilobite Travelogue: My mother posted a little Utah travelogue, so I thought I'd share with you my more detailed tale of trilobite hunting, based on an email I sent to Jim, a co-worker of Sumana's to whom I gave a trilobite and a chunk of fossilized lakebed containing many trilobites:

    The company that owns the trilobite quarry is U-Dig Fossils. They have no web site but there is a fan site which is probably better than their actual web site would be.

    The quarry is about 50 miles from Delta in central-west Utah. The whole area used to be a lake and it looks like the quarry is sort of near the north shore of the ancient lake; it's in the foothills of some small mountains.

    To get to the quarry you go about 30 miles down highway 6 from Delta (Delta itself is about 100 miles from Provo), then turn onto a dirt/gravel road. The road goes north about 20 miles with some twists and turns. On the way there and back we saw some deer and some penned-up cows.

    The actual approach into the quarry is pretty scary; it's a very steep downhill slope. We made it fine in my mother's SUV, and people on the website talk about making it in their rental cars.

    We were the only customers at the quarry. The guy in charge was working down in the quarry under a tent. He came up to the office (a shack), showed us some samples, gave us buckets and hammers, and made us sign waivers. My mother brought an old geologist's hammer but the ones they gave us were better. He then took us to a hill on the east side of the quarry, above where another man was working under another tent, showed us how to find the "bugs", and left us to dig.

    The modus operandi of the quarry seems to be to dig up a bunch of small rocks with a backhoe and leave them in huge piles. You then climb on a pile, pick out a likely rock, and split it open. Try to get as many slabs out of your rock as possible; every time you split a slab you have a new chance of finding trilobites. The quarry employees reserve especially rich trilobite veins for themselves; they have a sideline selling trilobites to rock shops (actually, their sideline is probably letting people come to the quarry and dig).

    The trilobite vein was very rich; I found some sort of fossil in perhaps half of the rocks I cracked. A lot of the fossils were the tiny Peronopsis interstricta which I eventually started ignoring because they're not as cool.

    Unfortunately, in my inexperience I ruined several trilobites and caused several others to become disloged from their stony homes. There are a lot of trilobites, so the loss to science is not great. When a trilobite is knocked out of its matrix, it skitters away into the pile of rock chips at your feet and becomes less valuable, like a comic book taken out of its wrapping. Sometimes I was able to recover the fleeing trilobite; other times I was left with only its impression in the rock. If you pick through the fragments you can find loose trilobites lost by others; my mother and sister started doing this when they got tired of wielding the hammer.

    The literature says to wear safety glasses but I found it was too hot, and the flying rock chips weren't getting anywhere near my eyes, so I got rid of them after I filled my first bucket. I wore garden gloves the whole time; that is definitely a good idea. I was wearing shorts but came to regret it. It's pretty hot, but it's more useful to wear pants so that you can kneel and lie down on the rock without getting scraped up. Also, bring lots of water--I went through two big squeeze bottles in 2 hours. We brought back 7 bags of trilobites. I had the most because I worked longer, by my mother's looked the best as she has more experience collecting rock samples. Total cost for 3 people: $36.

    After the dig we were dirty and exhausted. We are not cut out to be full-time trilobite diggers. We went back to Delta and crashed at the Best Western.

    Last night I cleaned the trilobites with my nonexistent trilobite cleaning tools. I used a hammer and screwdriver to chip away some excess rock where I could (I ruined the screwdriver; good thing it was just a dot-com giveaway), and wiped off some dirt with water and cloth. One trilobite negative dissolved when I tried to wash it; I wasn't expecting this and felt bad about it.

    I probably have a total of 20-25 non-Peronopsis trilobites, mostly Elrathia kingi. 15 of them are loose or in their own rock matrices, and the rest of them are hiding in two big chunks of fossilized lakebed.

    The trip was a lot of fun. I definitely recommend it if you want to go fossil hunting or have a day to spare on a Utah or cross-country vacation. If you were going from San Francisco through Salt Lake City on the 80 it would be a doable 1-day detour.

    : Brendan sent me to a rarely-updated Story Minute-ish comic The Grimbles, with special reference to the most recent episode. However, I like this one, and Sumana might like this one and definitely this one.

    Constitutional Monarchy Chess: Sumana asked me why a chess queen can move arbitrarily far in any direction. Does this correspond to some great political power held by queens in feudal Europe? Seems unlikely. I made a wild guess that perhaps in the original Indian version of chess, the "queen" piece was some sort of king's advisor which didn't translate well to European terms.

    Then I started thinking about all those stupid chess sets where the pieces look like Simpsons characters or Civil War soldiers or Wizard Of Oz commemorative plates and it doesn't make any sense. I thought, "I want in on this not-making-sense action!". So I decided to bring the game of chess into the modern world by changing the pieces to depict a political battle between two parties in a constitutional monarchy.

    The chessboard is a country with a thirty-member parliament. There are two parties, the Social Democrats (white) and the Democratic Socialists (black).

    The purpose of the game is to get the king to put his support behind your platform. Each side has a piece representing one of the positions the king could take, and you must corner your opponent's representation so that the king has no choice but to accept your side's position.

    Each player controls eight non-cabinet members of parliament (the Pawns) and a seven-member cabinet or shadow cabinet (depending on whether or not they are the party in power).

    The King, as previously discussed, is the king (more precisely, your party's wish as to the political position the king would take). The Queen is the prime minister or shadow prime minister. The cabinet positions are:

    If you have more pieces on the board than your opponent, your party is in power and your ministers are actual ministers; otherwise you are in opposition and your ministers are shadow ministers. In the event of a tie, as in the beginning of the game, the Social Democrats are in power. This is because the king breaks ties and he is a Social Democrat. Unfortunately, none of this has any direct effect on the game.

    Let's consider an example to see how Constitutional Monarchy Chess livens up the dull chess notation. "Qg7" would instead be "PMg7" or "SPMg7". The unspeakably boring "Bxe5" might become "SMfFAxe5". Now that's excitement!

    I also forsee doing a brisk business in my specialized Constitutional Monarchy Chess pieces, which depict people in black and gray suits and dresses who can only be told apart by the ministerial logos on their briefcases.

    BACK OFF #2:


    Probably not really a postal worker.

    Yeah, I'm Scared:

    root is not in the sudoers file. This incident will be reported.

    Dramatis Personae:

    Sumana: Can I come in? I promise not to talk about The Great Gatsby anymore.
    Leonard: Okay.
    Sumana: You know how sometimes you promise not to do X, and then all you can think about is X?

    No Kidding:

    Subject: Warning: E-Mail viruses detected

    : A gaming magazine recruits a former mobster to play and review various crime-themed video games. He can't figure them out and doesn't like them much, but the control non-crime game turns him into a coffinfish:

    HH: I will master this frickin' game! I gotta take this home.

    From 101-280 (our paths cross again, mysterious stranger).

    : From Sumana, the only four recipes you need. (Sorry, this breaks the streak of entries that use <blockquote>.)

    Obituary: Yesterday my mother's aunt LeJeune Whitney died. I don't remember losing my mother's parents but this is like losing a grandparent. I'm glad I got to see her at Susanna's reception, not glad that I spent almost the whole reception standing in the reception line and was unable to talk to her for long.

    : It's good to see that Greg is putting ink to paper again. Perhaps he will also invent the successor to the smiley.

    Duelling Auctions: "Who ever would have thought we would see a US president represented in a GI Joe like figure!!"

    Well, how about the John F. Kennedy actual GI Joe figure? Or the Dwight D. Eisenhower actual GI Joe figure? Or the George Washington actual GI Joe figure?

    Coming soon: Jimmy Carter Nuclear Sub Engineer action figure. Also the Zachary Taylor figure, with real annexing action.

    : My mother wrote her aunt's obituary.

    Teaser: Amazing meta-dessert recipe entry coming tomorrow. Don't miss it!

    Dead Spammer Part Aleph-Null:

    My friends were afraid I'd die uqszhngpit

    Amazing Meta-Dessert Recipe Entry As Promised: By now you have probably noticed that my fondness for the meta extendeds even to my culinary adventures. Dessert is the main playground of the meta in my cooking, because it's safer: the concept of "dessert" pretty much has transitive closure. You can take n desserts, apply some transformation to them, and you will probably still have a dessert. So I like to play with desserts that incorporate or are based on other desserts (eg. tiramisu or the world-famous Nutellamisu).

    A few days ago, I made Impulse Buy Cookies. They are like chocolate chip cookies, but instead of chocolate chips they use the equivalent amount of whatever junky candy stuff you want to buy when you're in the supermarket. I got a Kit Kat bar, a Nestle Crunch bar, and some little chocolate-covered balls of peanut butter.

    I must say that Impulse Buy Cookies are a great idea, so long as you can reliably yet impulsively buy chocolate chips. Otherwise, I have my doubts. Probably it's because I bought candy I don't actually like very much; I mainly bought the peanut butter candy because Sumana likes peanut butter candy, and the other stuff because it seemed suitably impulsive. The Kit Kat bar was a horrible idea; the heat of the oven made it tough and leathery. Plus, I forgot to put the egg in the cookies, so the dough was a little weird.

    However, last night I redeemed the meta-dessert world with Ganache Cookies. Why ganache? Because I like ganache. Ganache has panache. Also, I had purchased way too much whipping cream and way too much block chocolate for my disastrous Chocolate Mousse Cake meta-dessert, so what better way to use it than in a substance made entirely of whipping cream and block chocolate?

    For completeness, here is how you make ganache: take a half-pint of whipping cream and bring it to a boil. Add some flavorful thing like jam or vanilla or liquer. Chop up about 8 ounces of chocolate and put it in a bowl. Once the cream boils, take it off the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Mash everything together with a whisk and stir it. You now have ganache.

    To make your cookies into Ganache Cookies, just make whatever kind of cookies you like as you would normally make them. Do not put anything hard like chocolate chips in the cookies, as the cookies need to be refrigerated and it's not pleasant to eat cold hard things. After the cookies have cooled a little bit, take each one by the edge and dip the other edge in the ganache. Then let them cool on wax paper. Keep them refrigerated unless you want a mess. Note: you will get a mess whether or not you want one. However, the cookies are very good.

    Kevin and I speculated whether you could make an even more meta-dessert out of the cookies, the dessert equivalent of the turducken. Well, it's not that hard. Any time you have cookies you can use the cookies as the base of an ice cream cake or ice cream sandwiches. Then you can bake a regular cake, cut a hole in it, and put the ice cream cake inside like a file. Then you could use the entire thing to represent a single sugar molecule in a pecan pie the size of the earth, topped with moon-flavored ice cream (a tip: if you are pressed for time, you can substitute the actual moon).

    Question for ganache experts: is there something I can add to the ganache to make it harder when cool, so that the cookies don't need to be refrigerated?

    Update: Sumana says: "People who have snacked on your cookies uniformly pronounce them wonderful. You brought our receptionist to speechlessness."

    : My DSL equipment got sent, but it got sent to my home address (where I am not during the day) instead of my work address (where I am during the day; also, by sheer coincidence, the address to which I told them to send it). I am actually fairly pleased, as this is the smallest screw-up so far in the carnival of screw-ups that have marked my latest DSL adventure.

    I can either stay at home tomorrow and wait, or redirect the delivery to my work address. In either event I will not actually be able to use the DSL until Wednesday night, the day before I leave for Utah. Oh well. Not a big deal. Note my lack of rage; it's all part of the new kinder, gentler, less full of rage image I've been told to cultivate for my gubernatorial run.

    Amazing Meta-Dessert Recipe Entry Addendum: There needs to be a variety of ganache called "Ganesha Ganache".

    A Couple More Things About Star Trek: I guess this could become a semi-regular series. Anyway, these have been bugging me for a while. As always, I welcome nitpicking rebuttals from even more obsessive fanboys than I.

    1. The TNG-era Enterprise has three or four holodecks. I'm not saying they should have more; they take up a lot of space. But a lot of people like to use them in their off hours, yet somehow one is always free whenever a senior officer needs to run a holodeck simulation. I'd like to see the scene where Geordi has to kick some ensign out of the holodeck so he can test his pet theory.
    2. Every Star Trek show has exactly one M.D. I think they should have had more. Especially DS9, although they probably had private-sector doctors in addition to the Starfleet doctor. Voyager had one doctor who could be instantiated multiple times, which is a great idea, but unfortunately Voyager is not canon. I get the impression that the writers treated "doctor" as a role to be filled by a main character rather than figuring out how many doctors these people would actually need. The doctor on Enterprise doesn't even have any staff to help him. He has to get other crew members to help him, as a favor.
    3. Orion slave girls. Sometimes otherwise sympathetic Star Trek characters get a gleam in their eye when the topic of Orion slave girls comes up. Hey, we're talking about slavery here! You know, the bad thing? They should work on getting rid of it instead of drooling over the green women. (It does look like they got rid of it between TOS and TNG.)

    Worthwhile Salon Teaser:

    Of math and makeup tips Men are more logical, women more empathetic? So says Simon Baron-Cohen in his new book, "The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male and Female Brain"

    "That's Nice" Search Requests:

    i've been working on the railroad activity sheet

    The Medi-Yorker Returns!: Long has this Crummy mini-feature slumbered. But at last, I have come up with another incredible simulation of a mediocre New Yorker cartoon.

    The scene: a restaurant... on the moon! Inside, a waiter hovers with pad in hand over a customer, who looks up from his menu and says:

    "The lobster... is it fresh?"

    Thank you.

    : As has been recorded, I talked to Brendan last night. We talked about avocados, and proposed starting a band called "Underwater Avocado". The band would produce a song also called "Underwater Avocado". The cell phone battery died before we could complete the lyrics, but here's what I was thinking:

    Underwater avocado, yeah, yeah
    Underwater avocado, bleah, bleah

    Could be the big hit of the summer, assuming we could somehow declare it the big hit of the summer by fiat.


    Today's Accomplishment: I found and suggested the fix for a big performance problem in Torque.

    Hi. I've got Internet access at home now.

    Leonard's Roadside America: My favorite sign I saw on the driving trip to Utah was a sign seen when coming into Los Vegas that said "You will always remember Lance Burton, Master Magician." It's like someone named a Nethack incubus "Lance Burton, Master Magician".

    Sumana LaForge: Pictures from the Salon retreat; Sumana says "I'm the one who looks like Geordi."

    Speaking of which, keep those fanboy Star Trek rebuttals coming so I can keep justifying the delay in posting them.

    Also speaking of which, if you're a cheapskate you can get your Salon Premium subscription for only $23 instead of $35. You see, when you subscribe you can sign up for a free subscription to Wired. Wired then gives you a chance to revoke your subscription and get a $12 refund. You could probably also do this with the other magazine subscriptions as well, which would mean your Salon viewing was completely subsidized by other companies... wait, that's what most people already have.

    Away Put Your Weapon: I mean you no harm. I just want to link to this game site review of robotfindskitten. (from Pete Peterson II)

    : Sumana gave me an old book, The History Of Popular Culture Since 1815. It's one of those old Books Of Concern, or maybe it's a textbook (it has a UIUC bookstore sticker on it). There are a bunch of interesting essays in it, such as one called "Gargantuan Victorian Meals" which lays out the menu for "twelve to fourteen persons":

    More gems from the past coming soon. (What is a "remove"?)

    Pictures from EuroPython: Here they stand, 83 in number, your EuroPython/Belgium/Amsterdam pictures! My favorites:

    The Spam Of Nations: Part IV:

    Subject: Free PPV

    You Might Be A Redneck Game Designer If: Cranky, domain-specific Game Development Truisms.

    Bug Comedy Showcase: I fixed a funny bug today, which was caused by the fact that "pl" is both the extension for a Perl file and the language code for Polish. This has happened to others.

    : Did you know that white chocolate is not really chocolate? It's basically all the stuff that goes into a chocolate bar, but without the chocolate. It's like the American cheese of chocolate.

    : Once again my mother writes what I have a lot of trouble writing: an account of my great-aunt's funeral.

    As she says, I was a pallbearer. The VFW men did a twenty-one gun salute, played taps, folded up the flag and gave it to LeJeune's son. David Oman had brought a small flag, the kind that goes on a little stick except he'd removed it from the stick. He showed LeJeune's granddaughter how to fold the flag, then gave it to her. The pallbearers all got flowers for our suits and put them on the coffin at the end. Lots of ceremony.

    Another thing I didn't know about LeJeune: she invented a synthetic substance called Swistraw for use in crafts.

    Tiny Review: The Commissariat Of Enlightenment: a novel about a Russian filmmaker who ends up running the Soviet propaganda department. One of those novels where famous people show up for no reason but to let you say "Oh, the author has brought a famous person into the story." Not as bad as The Difference Engine in this respect. Great ending, and a funny set piece near the end where an attempt to film an assault on the tsarist Kremlin turns into an actual assault on the Soviet Kremlin. But the story consists almost entirely of foreshadowing, which gets boring. Makes the Lenin/Stalin relationship out to be like The Lockhorns, where Lenin burns the dinner and Stalin comes home drunk and crashes the car into the garage door. It was better than It's Hard To Be A Russian Spy, which I guess is an accomplishment because IHTBARS is by a Russian and TCOE is by an American.

    : Help! I'm trapped at the CollabNet retreat in Santa Cruz! I have to go on a corporate retreat and do work!

    : Geocaching variant: are there collect-them-all lists of coordinates bound together by a certain shared property? I keep thinking of stupid, unworkable sets like "coordinates of all green things", but you know what I mean (do you?). Like the coordinates to every embassy in a country's capital city, or to one country's embassies worldwide. There is nothing like this on geocaching.com, but that is still a cool site and is where I got the idea. Time for me to go to sleep, or at least stop typing.

    I Was Tech Support For James Gosling: He came to the retreat to talk. He had an incidental question about private projects in Sourcecast. I answered it. I was proud of this, which is probably pretty sad.

    Attack Poker: I went to Sumana's party last night, and learned how to play poker (more precisely, I learned why playing poker is fun). More of that anon. Right now I want to tell you about a game that Angel and I made up, which we call Attack Poker (possible alternate title: "Wittgenstein's Poker". I would rather come up with a different game for that name, though.)

    Angel and I were the only ones who played, but the game would be fun for more than two players. Each player is dealt a five-card poker hand face up in front of them. All remaining cards are put face down in the draw pile in the middle. There is also a discard pile which is initially empty. The goal is to improve your poker hand while ruining the hands of your opponents.

    A player's turn consists of drawing a card, from either the draw pile or the discard pile, and playing it. You always have the option of playing the card you drew face up onto the discard pile. You also always have the option of playing the card you drew face up on top of one of the cards in your hand. This changes your hand (hopefully for the better) and the card underneath the card you played is effectively removed from play.

    If you draw a card and you have a card of the same rank in your hand, you also have the option of playing the card you drew on top of an opponent's hand, hopefully reducing the quality of their hand.

    If you draw a card and an opponent has a card of the same rank in their hand, you have the option of taking one of their cards and replacing it with the card you drew. You can then play the card you stole onto your hand, or discard it.

    Once the draw pile is empty, the game is over and the player with the best poker hand wins.

    Those are the rules. Here's an example:

    I have 4H 4C 5H 9D AH. My opponent has 6C 8C 4C 9C 7C. I draw 9H. My viable options are:

    I was surprised at how replayable this game is. There are actually two strategies: go for of-a-kind hands (these make it more difficult for opponents to steal your cards, but also make it difficult to attack other players), or go for straights and flushes (these give you lots of opportunities to destroy opposing hands, but also give your opponents lots of opportunities to destroy yours). Neither strategy is obviously better. Sometimes you have to sabotage your own hand so that an opponent won't get a card that would help them a lot. Emergent behavior: nice!

    : I'm cleaning out my inbox today, or at least right now. If you can't wait years for the best or most bizarre Japanese TV programs to be mentioned in or ported to the Western media, the Internet is a boon (but what is the next boon on the Internet?). English language newspapers in Japan have summaries of the upcoming season (Link from Sumana). The best show mentioned in that article is an anti-quiz show, in which panelists are told documented facts and asked to register how surprised they are by each fact. The great thing is that each fact itself sounds like the premise for a Japanese TV show. I am not sure where the competition comes into play; maybe the panelists are also the sources of the facts.

    This is not mentioned in the article (I saw it in the New York Times), but there is also a cool-looking documentary show on Japanese television called "Project X", which has episode titles like "Battle For The Soul Of HONDA" and which talks about the engineers and managers who brought prosperity to postwar Japan and who now, presumably, sit around in karaoke bars watching "Project X". It looks like you could see Project X with English subtitles if you live in LA. It took me a while to find those links, because there are 2.1 jillion things in the universe called "Project X" and restricting the search to Japan doesn't help much.

    Rebuttal: Sumana says: "imisspell is not useless, since you can use it to think of misspellings of your domain name and register those too."

    Camera Man killed in duel, all future shots to be from Mega Man's perspective: Did you know that there was a Mega Man cartoon? According to one Amazon review, there is an episode in which "Dr. Wily uses [a shrinking ray] to shrink major cities and sell them to criminals." I guess there would be a big market for that among those criminals who turned to a life of crime because there weren't enough Franklin Mint collectible plates to hold their interest.

    : Some out-of-context reminiscence from my mother:

    I remember when Magic Markers were invented; the first ones my mother brought home were about 1956. They consisted of a small, chunky glass ampule filled with noxious ink and a thick felt wick. I tried them out on the living room walls and found them to be a satisfactory art medium. However, post-creation I abandoned them to the floor, where my father's big work boots trod upon one of them. Bye bye Magic Marker.

    Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla: I Tivoed this and ended up skipping through a lot of it because it thinks it's a spy movie (this was a common failing of Godzilla movies made in the 1970s). You could do a good spy movie involving Godzilla and Mechagodzilla, but it would be called "The Godzilla Operation" or "Code Name: Mechagodzilla", rather than having a title that implies that the movie is about Godzilla engaged in some sort of dispute or combat vis-a-vis Mechagodzilla. (That reminds me; I need to finish my serialized postmodern Godzilla fanfic so that I can implement my plan of running an installment each Saturday for three Saturdays.)

    There is a Godzilla/Mechagodzilla fight in the last twenty minutes, which is pretty good, albeit burdened with fake spurting Godzilla blood. On balance, I think that every other Mechagodzilla movie I've ever seen was better than this one. Heck, I think Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla was better than this movie, if only because Space Godzilla looked neat and had a cool mutant roar, and that movie contained Akira Emoto. For me, if there is to be a monster movie the monsters must have a lot of screen time, and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla came up short on this count.

    The other memorable thing about this movie is that the bad guys have a secret hideout and demand that you repeat a codephrase before entering so that they can keep girls and Interpol agents out of their fort. But the only times we see the challenge/response in use, it's being used by people who are infiltrating the hideout, so it's not a very good challenge/response. Maybe they should choose something harder to guess, like "Mecha/Godzilla".

    : I set up a wireless router in my room. It's all part of my plan to lure Cory Doctorow to my home. And also not to have to run Ethernet cable upstairs.

    Quit Your Day Job: Assuming, of course that your day job is the previously discussed one of traversing a huge virtual reality representation of world trade, looking for the tiny inefficiencies between the cogs of global capitalism. Just give it up already. The PRBop weblog regularly finds enormous inefficiencies between the cogs of global capitalism (like more useless stuff in the Metreon), and there's just no way to exploit them. (Link found via BoingBoing, in what is apparently phase II of the "lure Cory Doctorow to my home" scheme. Why am I doing that, anyway?)

    To Coin A Phrase: "for me, but not for thee" -"free speech"

    I Bet He Gets That A Lot: Greg has my shady Cory Doctorow-luring scheme all figured out:

    To cook and eat him is my theory.

    Probably mix him into cookie dough.

    I'd need a really big bowl. Another possibility: I'm going to try to recruit him into my SPECTRE-esque legion of archvillans, under the nom de archvillain of "Doctor Ow".

    Senritsu no Cardassia-seijin: Proving that other countries lack the uptight spoilerphobe attitudes of we provincial hicks here in the States (and that it's not just the metaphorical "other country" of the past), I give you Japanese translations of Star Trek episode titles and the more literally translated movie titles (from messy-78). A lot of them just flat-out give away the main plot point if not the whole premise of the episode, like "Man Become Computer" and "High-speed People on Planet Scalos", and some of them miss the point, like "Neuro Cure Expert Doctor Russell". Some of them are actually really good, though, like "Roving Bajorans", "Beyond Rancor", and "Alice In Wonder Space".

    Update: You could make the Enterprise theme song a lot more bearable by replacing key lyrics with old episode titles from these lists:

    'Cause I got dark side of heart
    Goin' gorgeous transfiguration
    I got Earth martial law
    I can Rom's mutiny
    I got terrible people-weapon
    No one's gonna stolen Spock's brain
    I can nature regression
    I got dark (I got dark)
    I got daaaaark...
    Dark side of heart

    : Let's clean out the Star Trek bin while we're at it. Sumana wrote an article on Enterprise for Salon, which is very good despite the too-flippant ending. Hooray for her!

    Now it's time for the Nitpicking Fanboy Roundup, with your host, Bob the Tholian.

    Today we take a look at the angry mob that descended upon your humble webmaster after he posted some random observations on Star Trek. A two-person mob can be pretty nasty, let me tell you. First up is everyone's favorite Kiwi fanboy, Joe Mahoney, self-described "owner of many a Star Trek reference book", who writes:

    TOS also had Dr M'Benga on the medical staff - a specialist in Vulcan physiology he appeared in two separate episodes so he's at least as legit a character as Yeoman Rand or barclay in TNG/Voyager

    Barclay was in Voyager? Did he get transferred and nobody noticed him for years and years? Seems about right.

    Then we have Brendan, whose weblog is currently broken and who writes:

    Actually, the doctor from Voyager showed up, albeit in a cameo, in First Contact. Crusher used him to distract some Borgs; he nervously asked if he could prescribe them some skin cream. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that movie is canon. The holodoc lives!

    I'm Bob the Tholian. Until next time, fear my mighty web!

    Tiny Cooking Tip: Do not use green onions in a pasta sauce. It will make the leftover pasta sauce inedible the next day because the onions will get slimy and taste gross. Use white or yellow onions instead, or the little brown ones. (I have not actually had the courage yet to try using the little brown ones, which is pretty silly, but you go ahead and use them.)

    Killer Spam #I Don't Know:

    Subject: make her spine tingle expdqgnhzeotgozqovp

    (From Kevan, of course.)

    Everyone Wants A Piece Of The Action:

    To: i-want-a-trilobite@crummy.com
    Subject: GOOD DAY
    From: Mrs. Susan Shabangu.
    Greetings to you,
    With warm heart I offer my friendship, and greetings,
    and I hope this mail meets you in good time. However
    strange or surprising this contact might seem to you
    as we have not met personally or had any dealings in
    the past, I humbly ask that you take due consideration
    of its importance and the immense benefit it will be
    to you.
    After careful consideration with my children, we
    resolved to contact you for your most needed
    assistance in this manner. I duly apologize
    for infringing on your privacy, if this contact is not
    acceptable to you, as I make this proposal to you as a
    person of integrity.
    I want a trilobite.

    I can never forget those policemen that saved my life.: Life is easy when you have a phrasebook.

    : A while ago I was waiting for the shuttle so I could go to work, and this Korean guy comes over and stands next to me waiting. He's about sixty years old and he's got big glasses and this goofy pompadour hairstyle. He starts reading a paperback.

    I'm looking at him through the corner of my eye because I've got my suspicions. He's wearing a plaid lumberjack shirt just like in my dream. He's a manager at walmart.com or a circuit designer for Hitachi or something. I know it's not true, but I think Wow, I finally made it into the good alternate universe.

    Stir-Fry From First Principles: Here in this universe, I wanted stir-fry. But, I had never before in my life made stir-fry. What's more, I was young and brash, and I felt it was foolish to make stir-fry from a bag of frozen vegetables, or indeed read instructions of any kind about how to stir-fry. No, I would derive a tasty stir-fry from first principles![0]

    What goes into a stir-fry? Two things: cooked rice and stir-fried vegetables. Cooking rice is easy enough if you have a rice cooker: just put x amount of rice and 2x+y amount of water in the rice cooker, and push the "cook" button. Because I have an obsession with putting more stuff in than is neccessary (qv. still-unwritten entry), I also added some salt and chopped parsley.

    That's easy enough. Now, the stir-fried vegetables. When other people make stir-fry they put in disgusting vegetables like water chestnuts, those loathsome pickpockets of the briny deep. Ships pick them up in ballast water off the coast of Hong Kong and they come as stowaways to the bustling port cities of the world, where they infiltrate bags of frozen stir-fry vegetables and lie in wait, seeking to trap unwary eaters with their fingernails-on-chalkboard texture. Because of this, and because I am cranky, there could be no bagged stir-fry vegetables for this stir-fry. I would do it with fresh vegetables.

    I could not find any baby corn (possibly my favorite vegetable of all time, and a great addition to stir-fry) at the store, so I did without. I got a bag of baby carrots, a head of broccoli, and some Chinese snap peas. I also got an onion and some ginger (the ginger cost only eight cents! Such a deal!).

    I grated the ginger and chopped up the onion, carrots and broccoli. Then I prepared the stir-fry sauce, not to be confused with fry sauce, which consisted of... olive oil. Wait! I'll get to the other stuff later. I dropped in the onion and the ginger, let that saute a bit, then put in the carrots. Carrots contain carrotene, a fibrous substance that makes the vegetable take forever to cook. This is why I chopped up the carrots very finely and put them in first. After a few minutes I put in the broccoli. You must constantly be swishing the food around the wok or skillet, or instead of "stir fry" you will have "leave alone fry".

    Then it was time to add my flavorings. I keep a variety of liquids on hand for just such an occasion. Today I used rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Just dump it in and let it form a puddle for the vegetables to pass through as you stir.

    This went on for maybe ten or fifteen minutes, until I tasted a carrot and it was acceptably tender. At the last minute I added the snap peas. The high surface area of snap peas means they cook very quickly. Also, I am just making all this stuff up. I dressed with some sesame seeds (courtesy of Sumana) and voila: great stir-fry!

    My only mistakes: the rice was a tiny bit undercooked because I was starving and unwilling to wait for it to finish cooking. I should have put in the ginger at the very end so the taste would be more noticeable. Also, despite hours of drudgery in my youth, I forgot that pea pods have to be peeled before they're cooked or you'll be stuck peeling them afterwards. This does, however, have the cool side effect that while cooking the pea pods fill with hot air and expand like Girl Genius-esque dirigible balloons.

    [0] I actually asked Sumana for advice, but her advice confirmed what I thought was right, so technically I still did it from first principles.

    Know When To Mold 'Em: For Sumana's birthday I made a chocolate raspberry ganache cake. It is also my birthday cake, since I didn't get one. It's very tasty and incredibly rich; my secret is to add neutron star matter to the genoise before baking.

    Very few people came to Sumana's birthday party yesterday, which is fine because it was not really her birthday party. Let me switch gears here and talk about poker.

    The best part of poker is that when you are the dealer, you have the opportunity to make up some bizarre variant of poker. One variant I came up with that I liked a lot, but which needs some refinement, is one in which instead of drawing cards you designate a rank of card to be wild. I have not playtested this, but I would like to try some combination of poker and blackjack in which you can combine two or more cards to get one virtual card of higher rank. I am sort of tempted to search for a big database of poker variants, but most of the fun is in coming up with the variants (and stupid names for them) during play, so I will abstain.

    Don't Tell Seth #2: Don't tell Seth about the Java applet version of Set.

    I thought I'd have a set of roundups for you by tonight, but I haven't even gotten all the way through the list of new projects on Freshmeat since the last time I checked (May).

    : Aaron Swap Swartz writes:

    Because this scrambling letters except for the first and last thing seems to be all the rage on the blogs, I thought I'd write a EoM add-on.
    And so he has. Thanks, Aaron. The Eater Of Meaning: your trivial text transformation testbed!

    Truth In Advertising: My coworker Dan Rall has found a mechanic that offers "Some Day Service".

    Dada Nancy: Brendan brought to my attention that Scott McCloud, possibly the only cartoonist to be lampooned in a Tonight's Episode (what, you're going to check?), has in an act of preemptive revenge gone back in time and ripped off Dada Pokey with Five Card Nancy. A non-Scott McCloud person implemented a nice CGI that lets you build a never-ending Nancy strip by selecting from randomly-presented panels. This would be a really good mode for Dada Pokey.

    I keep going to the Five Card Nancy CGI, building some stuff, then getting bored and quitting. It's like a game of FreeCiv, but much quicker. Here are my best ones so far: Short attention span Nancy, hyperactive Nancy.

    : 40 pictures from Utah. The ones from the trilobite hunt got corrupted, unfortunately. Mom, would you send me any of yours that you've scanned (esp. the one w/me and the shark)? As always, my favorites follow in a list.

    Words That Sound Like Newslang But Aren't:

    Wedding Picture Bonanza #2: 56 pictures from the time of Susana's actual wedding, as well as some LA goofiness.

    : One more set of pictures: the tiny CollabNet Burrito Run series demonstrates the uncanny ability of Kevin, Beril, Josh Lucas, and myself (not shown) to go and buy burritos at the burrito place. It also serves as photographic evidence that the walls of the burrito place were not always that ugly orange color, as Josh has asserted.

    There Once Was A UNION Made: MySQL 3.x doesn't implement the SQL UNION command, but you can fake it. This saved my life just now.

    Beware: I have mastered the use of the ice cream machine ("mastery", for me, being the level of skill at which I stop wanting the store-bought stuff, previously reached with eg. pasta sauce and non-ice cream desserts). Ere long, the skies will blacken with my bizarre ideas for ice cream-based foods. Whoooo! [spooky wind sound]

    Economy Still Not Improving, Unless You Are Sign Company: That didn't take long; the Wily Technology sign on our building is coming down. I wonder who's next (please, not us...).

    Soon-To-Be-Famous Last Words: Kevin and I came up with a set of snappy last words:

    Screw you, history!

    Feel free to use them if you're on your deathbed and can't think of any good last words.

    : The life of a pirate is a difficult one. Decks must be swabbed, flags hoisted, throats slit, and scurvy dogs avasted. We at walktheplank.net are constantly pressured by the day-to-day drudgery of piracy's infrastructure, even as we mantain our busy schedule of consulting gigs and speaking engagements.

    There are compensations. Piracy has become "hip" among the young Bay Area elite (source: some damn SFBG article or something). This means that occasionally a club will have a "pirate night" and our employees can go into town in their salt-encrusted clothes, without their peg legs and myna birds[0] attracting undue attention from the law.

    There is also a certain amount of glamour associated with piracy, especially for those such as ourselves who practice piracy as it was done on the high seas of old. Sensitive dewy-eyed chicks who visit our ship are charmed by our gleaming cutlasses and our innovative yet traditional methods for sustainable pillaging (we are the only piracy corporation to still keelhaul in the traditional old-world manner).

    But for those who must live the lifestyle rather than merely dabbling in it, a pirate's existence is a lonely morass of bad food, long hours, and daggers in the back. So on this Talk Like A Pirate Day, spare a moment to think of those brave souls who risk their lives to board ships in the dead of night and steal things.

    [0] Due to concerns about the importation of endangered parrots, all ecologically conscious pirates carry myna birds instead.

    Seth David Schoen and Trilobites: Together at last!

    PS: also a good advertisement for trilobites, if you want one. Many of the trilobites in these pictures are still up for adoption! (People who have already requested trilobites: you will get them, I promise.)

    America's Good Test Eats Kitchen: As Sumana says, on Thursday night we went to a cooking class taught by Christopher Kimball of America's Test Kitchen fame. I did not learn a whole lot because most of the material was rehashed from Kimball's (very good) book The Kitchen Detecive, but you always learn something watching someone cook who's really good at it. I took a lot of pictures, most of which are blurry and are mainly of interest because they have Sumana in the same frame as Christopher Kimball. Here are ones I like:

    While I was at it, I've made that picture directory a more general "celebrity chefs" directory by throwing in two pictures of the trip I took to San Mateo today (for some reason I always mistype that as "San Matero") to see Alton Brown of Good Eats at a book signing. In this rare picture, Alton listens patiently as I expound upon my theory of what constitutes good eats. Here's a more conventional person-with-celebrity photo. Putting our arms around each other was Alton's idea; my putting-my-arm-around-people-for-pictures impulse is fully under control. Fully, I tell you! I can walk! I also got advice from the eats-meister on the construction of an upcoming metadessert (cf. "Beware" passim).

    Metadessert After-Action Report: I wanted to get rid of the Nutella I had left over from when I made Nutellamisu. I figured it would be very good mixed into chocolate ice cream. I knew that Mondo Gelato had a Nutella-flavored gelato, so it should be possible.

    I assumed that if I put the Nutella in the ice cream maker after the ice cream had taken form, it would be formed into nice swirls like you find in the Ben and Jerry's that the kids like so much. But what actually happened was it stuck into a huge blob on the mixer blade and I had to sort of scrape it off and use it as a topping. Clearly there is some trick for getting swirls into ice cream that I don't know about (what is it? I don't want to have to buy a book).

    What I should have done was melted the Nutella in the microwave and added it to the chocolate before pouring in the hot cream. If I'd let it sit in the cream/milk mixture as it cooled, it probably would have bonded with the chocolate and the dairy, or something.

    Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Software Roundup: OK, here we go. This catches me up about halfway, not counting the inevitable Game Roundup.

    Anything That Can Be Written About Murphy's Law, Will: Behold AIR's True History Of The Murphy Law (from cl)

    Concave Horror Dragon: I know I've mentioned that Steve Minutillo's Chinese Word of the Day weblog-within-a-weblog is great. Today he talks about dinosaurs, and links to a list of dinosaur names in Chinese.

    PS: some people write a transliteration of their name in Chinese characters and think they're cool. I think I'm cool because Steve wrote a made-up translation of my website's name into Chinese.

    Dude, We Did Get So Wasted: "...and we did eat above 200 walnuts."


    Subject: Can you get the phone leonardr@segfault.org? It's for you and it costs Nothing

    One prong of a spam/telemarketing dual effort?


    "[T]he latest evidence shows that [gamma ray bursts] focus their energy along two narrow beams, like a lighthouse might do on Earth, rather than exploding in all directions like a bomb."

    Back to worrying about hamster invasion, I suppose.

    : Spent the evening working on NewsBruiser. Wrote the plugin system documentation, and made the changes neccessary to make the documentation honest. Leonard's Immutable Law Of Open Source Software: "Version 2.0 is always plugin-based".

    There were also a couple plugins I had seemingly abandoned in mid-change a long time ago, and I had to whip them into shape. I'll start testing on Crummy tomorrow and hopefully release version 2.0 next week.

    Leonard Gets Results!: I'm not entirely sure of the mechanism by which I get results, since to my knowledge I've never publicly announced that I think Cryptonomicon should be annotated by some well-meaning dupe. But somehow the word got through to Neal Stephenson, who has set up[0] a Wiki for his new novel, Quicksilver, complete with over-ambitious goal of replacing Wikipedia. Tying a Wiki to a popular book is a good way both to distribute the dupedom and to fight Wiki vandalism, since it ensures steady reader coverage of the footnotes (those relevant to the book, anyway) over time.

    I shouldn't complain about the over-ambitious goal, since a trivial corollary is to use the Wiki to annotate Cryptonomicon as well. Quicksilver sounds more annotation-worthy, though, like a cross between a history of science and those weird alternate-history and shadow-history books where Benjamin Franklin teams up with a young Antoine Lavoisier to stop an underground cabal of animal magnetists from Venus. Hmm, that's actually not a bad--glaaaah! Damn you, Thomas Paine, and your fiendish future-tech remote control garotte!

    [0]Actually, Patrick Tufts probably set it up on his behalf.

    Anti-Spam Countermeasures Render Spam Ineffective #2.71:

    Subject: Satisfy your lover with your penis  deflater

    How TV Works: Hey, kids! Would you like to know how TV works? Well, gather round and I'll tell you all about the internal workings of television! You see, first there is the "pitch season", where production companies try to get networks interested in their ideas. If the network bites, they film a pilot--

    What? You wanted to know how actual television broadcast works, with the antennas and the sets? Sorry, can't help you.

    Product Placement Search Requests?:

    See a Dream In Bed Tonight Of Going Grocery Shopping

    Is there a company that sells you the abililty to have specific dreams, with a free (boring) sample dream? The stories in my seventh grade English reader have begun to come to life! Aah!

    - - -

    Whew! It was just a dream!

    Not For The Faint Of Shark: Hey, you want to see a breaching great white shark? "Yeah, right, Leonard," you say. "Just like the wolphin, right?" No! This time it is what it says! Will you never let me live that down? This nature photographer guy has photos and everything! According to that page, the sharks "have undoubtedly breached for centuries", but since great white sharks have been around for about 11 million years, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say they have been doing this for up to millenia.

    There are also some cool photos of penguins, kept safely on a separate page. The photos are not terribly large, but at least the copyright notices are kept out of the actual images.

    Kaijuche: You may or may not know that Kim Jong Il, nutcase dictator of North Korea, is quite the cinema buff. (You just know he also ego-surfs. Bite me, Kim Jong Il!) Supposedly he loves James Bond movies, though not so much the latest one which actually had North Korea in it. That's irrelevant to the point that's not the main point but which is on the way to it, which is that at one point Kim Jong Il had South Korean director Shin Sang-Ok kidnapped to make films for him.

    That leads right into the main point, which I didn't know until Sumana sent me a link to this Salon Premium exclusive. The main point is that the last film Shin Sang-Ok made before escaping with his wife to the US was a Godzilla rip-off called Pulgasari. Not only that, but it featured a Godzilla alum in the monster suit and other imported monster movie talent from Japan.

    There's a capitalist distributor that will sell you a copy of the film, and Stomp Tokyo has the scoop on Pulgasari from a movie perspective. The film sounds okay: it's set in medieval Korea, but fortunately we still get the staple scene in which heavy weaponry is used ineffectively against the monster.

    One interesting thing about Pulgasari the movie is that it reenacts in reverse the decline and fall of a giant monster movie series, as the monster destroys the enemies of the main characters and then goes on to destroy everything else. That plot itself is just a slight variant on the standard mad scientist plot; maybe there's some deep insight into giant monster movies here.

    Meanwhile, south of the border, where people make films because they want to, South Korean monster Yongary continues to thrive in such films as Yonggary [sic], Yongary, Monster From the Deep, and Yongary Glen Ross.

    Just Whack It: On that note, we turn to food. (I'm posting a lot of entries today partly because I'm testing new NewsBruiser features that take effect when you post an entry.) I've tried a bunch of plastic devices that are supposed to help you crack the skin off garlic cloves. I say they are all useless.

    The worst ones are flat and you're supposed to wrap it around garlic and push down. This is really aggravating because it takes too long to set up. The better ones are cylindrical and you put the garlic inside and push down. This is better. But what you should actually do is just whack the garlic glove with the flat of your chef's knife. You're already using the chef's knife, and you'll have to wash it anyway. So save yourself some trouble.

    On cooking shows they place the flat of the knife against the clove of garlic and press down gently, putting their fingers in the most horrible danger. I do not know why they do this, because it can't help them avoid lawsuits. I was always afraid to follow their example, and to avoid doing so I kept buying garlic-clove-cracking devices, but now I say: just whack it.

    Poached Pear Ice Cream: "What I need for a dessert for my expensive theme restaurant," I told my chef, "is a combination of some chi-chi dish like poached pears, and a dish of the people like ice cream."

    My chef, who is also me, cried out, "You're mad! Mad, I tell you! You've never even had poached pears and you have only the vaguest idea of what a poached pear is! Also, what theme restaurant?"

    "I call it 'Foods You Can Bruise: The Interactive Restaurant Experience'," I told the chef. You know, I think of him as the son I almost had. "It will serve never-before-seen fusion cuisine, made with only the freshest ingredients, except where we can get away with it."

    "Maybe you should call it something like 'The Lowdown,'" said the chef.

    "Silence, chef-self! The longer the name, the longer the line out the door! The First Rule of Restauranteering never fails... to fail! Now, while I write the description for the menu, find a poached pear recipe on the Internet that can be turned into an ice cream!"



    Put a tiny bit of brown sugar in the pear seed cavities and put them cavity-down into a dish. Put a tiny bit of salt on each pear half, then spoon some maple syrup on top and put a little more brown sugar on top of that. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 8 minutes or until soft. (You could probably add cloves or something to the mix, but do I look like a clove-haver?)

    Your pears are now microwave-poached. While you were waiting for them to be poached you put the cream and the milk into a saucepan and heated it to almost boiling. Now chop up the pears, put them in a bowl, and pour the milk/cream mixture over it. Add the sugar and the cinnamon. Stir. Add a little tangerine or orange juice and stir some more. If it doesn't taste sweet enough, add some more maple syrup or be ready to add more honey. If you want, add a tiny bit of vanilla and/or lemon oil. Then cool it, daddy-o.

    Now it's ready to go in the ice cream machine. At some point during the ice cream making process, add some honey to the mixture. You now have poached pear ice cream!


    I made this last night and it's delicious, but I made it way too sweet, which overpowers the taste of pear; indeed, overpowers your very sense of taste. I don't know why I kept putting sugar into it when it already had so much of so many kinds of sugar. The delta between the published recipe and what I actually made was 1/4 cup of white sugar and maybe 1/8 cup of brown. The recipe as published should be sweet but not too sweet. Let me know if I actually removed too much sugar. Oh, also the stuff I made had no cinnamon because I forgot to get cinnamon.

    This is the metadessert recipe for which I asked Alton Brown's advice. For the record, he said that both honey and cinnamon would work well, but to be careful with the honey because it can affect the way the ice cream sets.

    Plugins: They Do A Body Of Code Good: Sometimes I think I don't need a plugin system for NewsBruiser. It's overkill! But it's not, because last night I implemented automatic email of new entries by writing two plugins ("send email on entry publication" and "render entry as email message") without touching the main codebase. Plugins let me effectively refactor a lot of NewsBruiser code into separate projects.

    Throughout my plugin adventure I've been bothered by Robert X. Cringeley's argument against refactoring. Was I refactoring to improve NewsBruiser or just futzing around with the code to give myself something to do? I kept reminding myself that I was doing this to make it easier to introduce new features that other people had written. Now that it's done, new features are easier to write and don't clutter up the main code. Lousy programming conscience! Take that, Robert X. Cringely!

    Yes, I Think Your Website Is Very Interesting: Are there any websites besides weblogs.com and blo.gs that want to be pinged when you update your weblog? Now that it's possible (with more plugin magic), I want NewsBruiser to be set up to be able to ping all of them.

    MoreSensationalistExaminer.com: A couple days ago I saw "San Francisco Worships 'Idol'". C'mon, just lose the quotes!

    Top Secret: You're invited, dogface!

    Stephenson's Readit: Sumana went to see Neal Stephenson on Thursday and got signed copies of Quicksilver for both of us. I should have told her to get my copy autographed with the dynamic autograph "To $USER", so that when I'm done I could sell it at a hefty markup to a bigger Stephenson fanboy than myself.

    I've read about 100 pages and it's pretty good. The "oh look, it's someone famous" device that I don't like got used a lot. It's still being used, in fact, but now the famous people are now real characters in the story instead of accessories. It also helps that it's no longer the particularly aggravating Paul Harvey "And that little boy grew up to be..." form of the device.

    This Time, For Sure: I added (outgoing) trackback to NewsBruiser. I did it entirely inside a plugin, which is why it took so long: I had to add display hooks and code hooks and output hooks and blah and blah. It works, though. Currently working on incoming trackback, which is equivalent to comments, which is equivalent to me giving in and admitting defeat: NewsBruiser will also have a comment system soon.

    A Romance Built On Trust: I'm sure you've all had fulfilling relationships with people you met by spying on them with your X-10 spy cam. But sometimes those relationships go sour, and when they do, you might find yourself in the market for Lover Spy.

    Through our service, you compose and send your lover a normal-looking "Greeting Card" saying "I Love you" or a similar message. Because the e-mail appears to be a regular greeting card, the recipient will open the e-card and LoverSpy will be automatically and silently installed!

    Ha ha! Sucker! Uh, dear.

    Festival Of Jake: Jake writes in, and he's got opinions! About sharks. And garlic.

    re: breaching sharks
    go to your library and have them order a documentary video entitled "air jaws". it totally delivers.
    re: garlic cracking
    i always keep a hammer in the kitchen for this purpose. well, i don't
    keep it there just for this purpose, but it suits this purpose fine.
    just give em a little tap. don't mess with garlic presses, even the
    purportedly self-cleaning ones- these things are for yuppies only.

    I hope you're keeping caught up on Brendan's Jake Berendes West Covina graphic novel. Embarrassing factoid: that blotch on Jake's nose on the bill is a slip of the Gimp pencil that I didn't notice for about a year. Then I was too lazy to do anything about it, and now it's being reprinted elsewhere. Let this be a lesson to you: never undertake any action!

    PS: here's Air Jaws, which definitely looks better than Air Bud. Quote from Amazon review: "For the first time, you can watch a huge 15-foot white shark flies [sic] in the air with a seal in its jaws!!" No seals were harmed in the making of Air Jaws.

    My, That Was A Yummy Mango Ice Cream: Time for the weekly (as in, there was one last week and there's one this week) ice cream recipe. The latest addition to the cookbook harnasses the great taste of mango for the most Roguelike ice cream yet (slime mold ice cream not forthcoming). If I had the Ben and Jerry's marketing sense I would call it "It Takes Two To Mango" or something, but instead I have a obsession with obscure nerdish in-jokes. (Note that my conception of having "marketing sense" is merely to be obsessed with obvious mainstream in-jokes.)



    Put the diced mango and the ginger into a bowl with 1/4 cup of the sugar. Cover it and let it macerate for an hour or two, then apply a couple squirts of lemon juice.

    Heat up the milk and the cream, blah blah blah. Stir up the mango/ginger concoction and pour in the dairy and the citrus juice. Add all of the other ingredients and stir. Let it cool, put it in the ice cream maker, and mango!


    I did not have any cardamom, saffron or almond because I have a bad habit of making up these ice creams when I'm in Trader Joe's and purchasing only the main ingredients, in this case mango and ginger (not that Trader Joe's is likely to have cardamom or saffron). However, Sumana's mother says they are mandatory.

    I heard from various sources that freezing ice cream makes it less sweet because the cold deadens your taste buds. Well, it must also do something else because the mixture for this recipe and even the freshly churned product tastes sort of bland, not like mangoes and with a weird aftertaste; but the frozen ice cream itself is very good and mangoey (still a tiny bit bland without the spices, though). I'm interested in hearing how this happens.

    Each mango conceals an enormous pit, ready to spring out at you. If you have never cooked with mangoes before, beware! Even experienced mango wrasslers are sometimes overcome by the size of the mango pit and thrown to the linoleum. OK, I just made that part up. But mangoes do have very large pits.

    Catapult Watch 2003: The catapult watch costs $60, but it's got a tiny catapult on top. "When they look around to see who's been pelting them with spitballs, you'll just be casually checking the time." Yeah, on your damn catapult watch! You think they won't know?

    Backyard Artillery also has other weapons of varying degrees of lethality, including suction cup crossbows, childhood favorite burp guns[0], and labor-saving hand-held bubble machines.

    If you're into the heavier stuff you can build or buy ancient siege machinery and revive the gentlemanly art of laying siege. (Siege defenses, hunger, privation, reduction to last extremity, traitor crushed by shields all sold separately.) Provided history of siege machinery includes amusing yet frustrating detail:

    Unfortuantely, we now know that most of [Ralph Payne Gallwey 's] sources are fiction. He even invented fake reference numbers for them at the Bibliothec National in Paris, France.

    All these links derived from cl links.

    [0] Susanna, I'm sorry I shot at you with the burp gun at our grandmother's house when you had no way to defend yourself.

    Give 'Em NULL, Harry: It is to laugh.

    Cave closing soon. All adventurers exit immediately through Main Office.: Send in your last-minute Tonight's Episodes, because it's time for it to go. Unless I get some good-quality contributed entries, next week will be Jason's mixed-metaphor series "Tonight's Episode Buys the Farm", and that will be the end of that. All things must pass, as TE has already given us many opportunities to learn. The past is dust, and the future but smart nanodust. So if you've been saving up your TEs, send them to me now.

    : From Sumana, a nice-sounding hot sauce reviewed by a man who understands the decision procedure.

    Also present: a few recipes, including one for potstickers ("When I overcook them, I usually announce to my wife that I have prepared them 'authentically', thus leading to our often using the word 'authentic' to mean 'screwed up'.").

    : Many of the daintier early personal computers required lace doilies to operate.

    : Incidentally, I just realized that Charlie Brown's teacher is a space alien, probably a Breen.

    A Ringing Endorsement: "Fedora is what Red Hat Linux was. Kind of the People's Republic of Myanmar to Burma."

    Icon V: I need someone to design a tiny icon for NewsBruiser that denotes "trackback", an icon no bigger than the existing permalink icon. I sort of want to use the MoinMoin globe icon, but MoinMoin is GPLed. If you have icon ability, let me know if you're interested.

    NewsBruiser has incoming trackback now, incidentally. The display is pretty ugly, but I've got all the neccessary templating in place. (I'm still looking for some general UI help with NewsBruiser, actually).

    Future Food: "Bragg Liquid Aminos is a tasty liquid protein containing essential and nonessential amino acids..."

    : Sumana and I went out to Millennium, an expensive vegan restaurant in San Francisco. I had the avocado/tomato salad, which was really delicious with lots of different types of tomatoes; and the zucchini cake, which was good but a little bland (they didn't even bring a little bottle of hot sauce to your table!). There was not enough zucchini cake for my taste; after you finished the zucchini cake you just had some cooked zucchini and some (admittedly tasty) beans.

    Sumana had a fennel and apple salad, and an entree composed primarily of tempeh. I will let her give her opinions of that once we fix her NewsBruiser install to keep up with the latest weird changes OCF has made to their hosting setup.

    For an appetizer there was free bread, with a tofu-based aioli. The bread was good, and the aioli tasted okay but had a really weird texture. I think they should have just mashed up some garlic in olive oil instead of putting tofu on every flat surface.

    There was a wide variety of desserts. I had a cannoli with a tapioca filling and a fig sauce, which was great. Sumana had a chocolate/tofu cake.

    Also, Millennium had these fruit juice drinks called "refreshing potions", and Sumana ordered one, so the receipt says:

    1 POTIONS                    6.95

    Sadly, Millennium would not accept payment in gold pieces. I don't recommend the potions anyway; get the hot chocolate instead.

    Request For Business Name Change Denied: Is this a real restaurant?

    Leonard's Analog To Brooks' Law: "Renaming a bad software product makes it worse."

    : In an academic sense I'm always interested in a new approach to the liar paradox, but I don't like fuzzy logic very much, and I still think the revision theory of truth is the best solution. The fuzzy logic approach seems only to yield a way of quantifying a sentence's properties under revision theory.

    Incidentally, I am trying to write a science fiction story about the revision theory of truth, a story I think you would love. Too bad I am not very good at writing stories.

    NewsBruiser 2.0: Get it while it's hot. Code name: "Master Planarian". Money screenshot.

    When The UNIX Philosophy Yada Yada: This morning I saw a van that said "mv Transportation". I wonder what cp Transporation would be like.

    Bigger Than M-x: Here's 15 minutes of fame for David Bradley, creator of the control-alt-delete key combination. The piece says he "discovered" it, as though it were a naturally occuring phenomenon or an emergent property of the IBM PC hardware. I especially like this piece because, as in many such articles, they give Bradley a soapbox of a couple summarized sentences at the end of the piece, presumably as the price for consenting to the interview.

    Bradley says the "strength of the country" is at stake because relatively few students go into science or technology. Further, he says, ordinary citizens need to understand science and technology better to make informed choices in the voting booth.

    : Hundreds of millions of years ago, these were legal tender.

    QOTD: "That would be funny. But unconstitutional."

    MoreSensationalistComputerTradePress.com: I'm branching out. Questions Dog Microsoft on Linux Studies should be "Dogs Question Microsoft On Linux Studies". Now that would be cool.

    : Degeneracy Part II: This Time It's Monetized! (from Sumana)

    The Classifies: Let's say you had a thing produced by someone, and you needed to classify it according to some arbitrary system. Well, you could use the North American Industry Classification System, which reads like the largest RPG treasure table ever. Except you couldn't, because you'd get distracted and start looking at totally unrelated stuff, never find what you were looking for, and the Japanese would take over with their more concise Pacific Rim Industry Classification System, which divides industries into "Stuff" and "More stuff". A random sampling from the NAICS list on the US Census web site:

    Canned vegetables, except hominy and mushrooms
    Receipts for contract and commission work on women's, misses', juniors', and girls' raincoats and other waterproof outergarments
    Hollowware (including toiletware, ecclesiastical ware, novelties, trophies, baby goods, and other platedware)
    Other burial caskets and coffins and metal vaults [plastics, fiberglass, foam, masonite, cardboard, fiberboard, etc., and all children's]
    Pattern publishing, including clothing patterns [exclude industrial patterns]

    (Foam coffins? For when your beer goes flat? Are they real coffins or not?)

    There must be a cool toy in here somewhere, but the only thing I can think of is a little simulation of an economy where people start companies dealing in producing and combining the products of various industries, and there'd be no room for you in that simulation. Those simulated people don't need your reductionist thinking about whether it's a good idea to turn letterpress printing inks and fiber optic cable into stamped and spun utensils, cooking and kitchen, aluminum.

    NewsBruiser Nepotism: Hey. I'm proud to announce the existence of two new weblogs hosted on crummy.com: A Day In The Life by my cousin Alyson Matkin of Texas travelogue fame; and Traffic by John Chadwick, Susanna's husband and my brother-in-law (man, that sounds weird). Both weblogs sort of look the same, because I am not the world's greatest web designer. Minimalism is a good trick, but by definition it only works once. If any of you good readers want to help them out (which seems a little unlikely, since nobody's bitten on the icon thing yet), I'm sure they'd love a nicer-looking front page than what I've made for them. It'll look better once I get their pictures.

    Incidentally, if you are related to me and you want a weblog, I'll host it here.

    "Shut down the ENIAC.": I thought this joke Python proposal was pretty funny. So funny, in fact, that I already linked to it. Note to self: replace this entry with something new.

    OK, here you go. Resign Patterns, including "Simpleton" and "Flypaper". From Ned Batchelder's weblog.

    Hello, World: Kevan made me a nice trackback icon [the icon], which I've added to NewsBruiser. Now if only someone would trackback me, it would show up. HINT! Whoops, I hit the "HINT!" key by mistake.

    Sorry: That was our (my and Scott's) project.

    : Sumana interviewed Christopher Kimball today for an article that might or might not happen. In celebration, may I present this funny The Fugitive parody starring Christopher Kimball, which opens up the intriguing possibility that Kimball's signature gesture is designed to taunt the one-armed man.

    One Man, One Slice: If you wanted to pretend it was the 19th century, you could do worse than by whipping up some Election Cake.

    : Hey, what is swallow's nest? Is it the actual nest of a swallow? It doesn't look like any kind of nest. I tried the web and the web was useless. I looked at the big impulse-buy book of cooking terms they keep near the register in cooking supply stores, and it wasn't listed. So I'm asking you, what's up with swallow's nest?

    As long as we're talking about odd food: the Roman emperors used to eat eg. fried flamingo tongues, and Romans of all classes enjoyed their lamprey. Special question for classicists: what's the source for the spine-chilling tale of Augustus' lamprey-keeping friend? (In old days, they would probably leave such gruesome passages untranslated, but nowadays we can just hide the gory details behind a link.)

    Four Turtles In Two: Remember the two-headed tortoise? Well, there's a two-headed turtle right here in the Bay Area. The pet store in the Serramonte Center in Colma has a two-headed turtle in a tank, along with a pair of Siamese-twin turtles. You can go in and gawk, and not pay a red cent. Pretty cool; there are also single-headed turtles, iguanas, guinea pigs etc., as in other pet stores.

    "You're all elephants!": Sometimes Sumana likes watching nature shows. I like watching them if they have cool animals like elephants or sea turtles. There are a couple shows which are probably aimed at kids and which all seem to be sponsored by Anheuser-Busch; one of these shows stars a chap named Jack Hanna, who tries to be the Crocodile Hunter without actually being Australian or doing anything dangerous. The setup is now complete; on with the story.

    There was a show where Jack Hanna was in Thailand at an elephant refuge. It was bath time for the elephants, so he rode an elephant into a river and scrubbed it and kept falling into the river. Fun. In the next scene the elephant was on land and Jack, surrounded by onlookers, rinsed off the elephant with a hose. Then he turned the hose on the onlookers and sprayed them with water for twenty or thirty seconds, laughing manaically the whole time!

    The onlookers were laughing, too, and it was supposed to be all in good fun, because of course Jack was already soaking wet from spending so much time in the river. But the scene went on way too long, and it got sort of creepy. It was as though Jack, sick of not quite being the Crocodile Hunter, had finally snapped. "You're all elephants! I know it! Ah ha ha ha ha!"

    : My mother explains swallow's nest:

    My understanding is that there is a Chinese swallow that sticks its nest together using its viscous saliva. This dries into a brittle mass. In Chinese cooking, the nest is boiled and reduced and whatever chemical makes the saliva gooey is used to thicken broth. "Bird's Nest Soup".

    I tasted some once on a CSF trip to San Francisco--I ate lunch with the Ho sisters in a dim little out of the way place they knew about. The menu was only in Chinese and the offerings were scary. The soup was nothing to write home about.

    Swallow's nest: the honey of the vertebrate world!

    Public Service Announcement: Also, please do not eat swallow's nest. If you must be ostentatious and wealthy, put gold dust in your coffee, like in Cryptonomicon. If you must make use of an ineffective aphrodisiac, I hardly need remind you that teens gone crazy for XXX sex await the man who avails himself of NEW! GENERIC *Vi@*gra* !!

    He Was Asking For It:

    <lucas> brian: how was FOO camp ?
    <brian> FOO-tastic!
    <lucas> doh

    Hot Topic: I made NewsBruiser capable of talking to the Internet Topic Exchange. Why? Because it's cool. I'm not sure whether ITE etiquette allows me to do my idea for a fully-automatic mapping, where you just turn it on and every NewsBruiser category gets munged to the name of an ITE topic, cluttering the ITE with weird topics like "whale", "mike_popovic", and "shipping_containers" (as opposed to the current, oh-so-orderly list of topics). So right now you have to make a manual mapping between a specific NewsBruiser category and a specific ITE topic. It works, though, and I got a new library out of it.

    Sumana: Is this a semantic web thing?
    Leonard: Nooo...
    Sumana: You know I can tell when you do something with the semantic web.
    Leonard: Yes, dear.

    "[T]he living have priority over the dead when it comes to picking up darts.": Patrol, the MIT-developed first-person shooter with an unbeatable framerate. Other good quote: the preemptive strike against rules lawyers: "All Gamemaster's decisions are final even if they contradict the letter of the rules." (from cl)

    Today's The Day The Trilobites Have Their Picnic: Alert: the bugs are en route to non-San Francisco residents.

    : I know I previously swore revenge on Ned Batchelder's weblog, but it's growing on me. On Monday he linked to a big list of historical documents from computer science, including the feelies of historical computer science, flowchart templates. My dad gave me a couple flowchart templates when I was a kid, and I drew with them, and I just now realized in a where-does-your-father-do-his-barnacles moment that not every child drew or draws pictures made of flowchart template shapes.

    Anyway, that's the software side of things, and on the hardware side there's the collection of old scanned computer manuals, truly a labor of love. A random skim through the manuals reveals, eg. the Hayes Stack Chronograph, which is an external system clock. I thought external CD-ROM drives were old school, but it turns out that that school was built on the ruins of an even older school.

    [Wait, under what circumstances did you swear revenge on Ned Batchelder's weblog? -Ed. Such questions are not productive in these times of transition, as we seek to reopen friendly relations with Ned Batchelder's weblog. How come I never heard about this? Is this one of those delusional things you make up as you type to make an entry more interesting? -Ed. You're a spy for Ned Batchelder's weblog, aren't you? Fie! This means war!]

    Jokes You Can Only Tell Once:

    "Why is this joke so funny?"
    "I give up, why?"
    "Because the punchline is completely novel!"

    You can only tell that joke once, but you could coast on this for a while:

    "Why is this joke so funny?"
    "I give up, why?"
    "Are you kidding? It's a classic!"

    But eventually you would have to switch to this one:

    "Why is this joke not so funny?"
    "Because the punchline is so stale."

    Lots Of Fun: Pity me like a fool, but I just realized that the lyrically clever comic Irish songs I sometimes link to are probably not really Irish. They're probably just American and English vaudeville songs written in an Irish idiom, possibly by emigreés. The songs' lack of anti-Cromwell vitriol should have tipped me off.

    I realized this while trying to find "Finnegan's Wake" (Google: 'Did you mean: "finnegans wake"'), the song that provides part of the the narrative structure for Finnegans Wake. It turns out to be a nineteenth-century American vaudeville song [Lyrics and music]. Even stack was surprised by this fact. Speaking of stack, here's his take on the matter:

    There's loads of 'comic' songs -- alot written recently... but their authenticity is questionable being paddies singing about an idealized paddy (loads of drinking, working the bog, afraid o the women)...

    Shaw has a character in john bull's other island that is a take on the 'stage Irishman'... There is an old irish novel, knocknagow, written by a man who was a member of an antecedant of the ira, the irb (should be the other way round says you) who took piss out of 'stage irish' mid 18th c (if i have my dates right).

    As for actual songs, stack says he can't think of any in English, but "I know there'd be a legion in original irish." This reinforces my hypothesis of immigrant authorship.

    Almost A Word: "Fictoral". Self-describing, too.

    : Do you have a weblog? Are you bothered by unsightly trackback spam and/or its sinister, tar-dripping companion, comment spam? I'd like to collect samples of these noxious materials for NewsBruiser work I'm doing. I can find lots of places where people *talk* about weblog spam, but by the time they start talking about it they've already gone in with a pitchfork and killed it all. So please mail me some weblog spam you've gotten, if it's convenient for you.

    Word To My Pepys: This fluffy BBC website about Samuel Pepys not only contains a goofy charicature of him pigging out on eel pie, it provides a possible insight into what a "remove" is: it looks like it could mean "tableful". Doesn't explain how one course could be a "remove" of another, unless it's a culinary closing bracket.

    I've complained in the past about the practice of including famous people in works of fiction (Sumana analyzed this as a projected Mary Sue impulse in reality fan fiction), but it turns out that, like all mankind, I am flawed. I think it is really cool that Samuel Pepys has a non-trivial part in Quicksilver. I thought I had a principled objection to this practice, but it was merely that no author had yet met my price. My price is apparently measured in some form of indie-cred economy units, since really famous people like Newton aggravate me when they show up, but I throw the door wide for less famous people like Pepys. Let's try some thought experiments. Robert E. Lee: blah. Hyman Rickover: sure, I'd read that. Einstein: waaay overdone. PGP author Phil Zimmerman: cool! Lewis Carroll: only if the story did not involve fairies.

    : Hoo, if I may, hah. I've got my nitro-burning NewsBruiser Bayesian spam detector working and into CVS, and it is sweet. Now that I've got it working, I can implement comments in NewsBruiser with a relatively clear conscience. It's still a way for people to automatically write on your website, but now there's a way to automatically stop them from writing crap. There might even be comments on NYCB in the relatively near future (shock, gasp, etc.).

    Other reasons why you should look at that screenshot: the first fake weblog name is really good, good enough for someone to use[0], and while making up fake spam for the sample Bayesian network I came up with the phrase "the set of all sluts".

    I think the lack of comments is the leading cause of people who might use NewsBruiser not using NewsBruiser. Every time people complain about Blogger or Moveable Type, I (along with every other penny-ante weblog software author) see an opportunity to plug our own software. I'm too shy to actually do it, though. I'm stuck in the naive hacker's world where if I make something better everyone will automatically use it.

    I still need weblog spam from you. I want to provide a starter Bayesian network with NewsBruiser, and I need me some data. The trackbacks and comments will share a Bayesian network, BTW; the datasets are undoubtedly similar, and that will cut down on training time.

    PS: I made Reverend work with Python 1.5, because I live in a cave. If you're interested, it's here.

    [0] Another weblog name I made up recently: "Commodius Vicus". You're welcome.

    Peach Ice Cream: The name's Derek Lask. It says "Private Eye" on the door, but I'm actually a gumshoe. On that particular day, I was peeling and pitting five peaches. A dame walked into my office just as I finished scraping the peels into the compost bucket.

    "I heard you were a gumshoe," she said, setting her purse on my Formica countertop. I started blending three of the peaches with a quarter-cup of lemon juice, and mashed up the other two with a potato masher.

    "You heard right, sister," I said, tossing my chewed-up cigar into the wastebasket. You can't chew cigars with a classy dame like that around--just one of the pillars underlying my general anti-classy-dame policy. "What can I help you with?"

    "It's about this slightly-more-than-a-cup of sugar," said the dame, opening her purse to reveal an overful measuring cup. "It's such an odd measurement; whatever can I do with it?"

    "Just leave it to me, babe," I said, stirring it into the mashed peaches and pouring the puree on top. "I'll use it as an ingredient in a peach-flavored ice cream that will melt your troubles away."

    "Then... that explains the two cups of milk and cream simmering on the stove," she said breathlessly, almost swooning over the counter.

    "You catch on quick, toots," I replied in a businesslike manner, picking the pot off the stove and pouring the mixture atop the peaches. "Care to help me stir?"

    "Only if I can add a couple drops of orange extract to the mix," purred the aforementioned dame.

    "Add orange juice if you want," I told her. "Just remember: it's a simple recipe. There's no need to dress it up."


    : If you're sick of my pointless recipes, try Cooking With LiveJournal, a group recipe log.

    Crummy Product Testing: For a while I've been using a different shampoo bar from the one I mentioned earlier. I don't remember the brand name, but it's not as good as Liggett's, and it's also harder to distinguish from the soap. Liggett's is still the way to go.

    Do not be alarmed--it is traditional rioting.: Kevin has a longstanding yet irrational fear that the final act of the HBO drama of his life will begin when he goes to Bolivia and is caught in a Cryptonomicon-style luggage sa-bo-tage. These people are not in as much trouble as Kevin will be in his hour of need, but I'll link to anything that makes him apprehensive. They're taking it pretty well, all things considered:

    "Bolivia is one of the last strongholds of indigenous values," Reimuller said. "It needs to be preserved in our world."

    leonardr@segfault.org, You Heartbreaker!: I was going to use this spam subject as a Crummy title like webmaster@crummy.com,tonight is going to be our night, but I just got two more spams in the same vein. I envision a spam program pining with unrequited love for an email address too aloof to respond, too uncaring to even click on the unsubscribe link.

    Crocodile Muncher: You know how movies are sometimes prefaced with the names of their control-freak auteurs, eg. "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" and "Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure"? Well, the practice has now spread to recipes, although presumably the motivations behind it are different. Exhibit A: Kim William's Crocodile Cake, guaranteed to have your young birthday party guests quarrelling over who gets the eyes. For some reason this fearsome reptilian cake is baked in a "Huggable Teddy Bear Pan". I still prefer the red armadillo roadkill cake, but maybe the two cakes could duke it out somehow in a ghastly food fight to the death, and I could use that as a basis for my preference.

    [Comments] (1) Monopoly Memewatch: Inspired by Kevan's "Giant Monster Monopoly" find, more of which anon: "go directly to" "do not pass" -jail

    : I still don't know what the set of all primes is into, but there are sets of primes which do bizarre things usually only associated with the declining years of the Weimar Republic. (thank you, cl)

    [Comments] (1) Unintended Consequences: When I added a NewsBruiser statistics gatherer that counts which words you use most frequently in your weblog entries, I did not envision this.

    [Comments] (22) It Lives!: NewsBruiser now has a rudimentary comment system with Bayesian spam filtering. Go ahead and try it out; if you break it I'll fix it. You know what this means: I need another icon. A speech bubble? A burst of flame? Well, I could probably draw a speech bubble myself.

    [Comments] (5) Then, Her Sari Flaps In The Wind!: I've been reading articles about how Bollywood is stuck in a formulaic rut and not making money, so I'm writing a spec script guaranteed to inject new blood into the industry. It's about a plucky singing-and-dancing cricket team, lead by a boisterous Sikh who falls in love with a mysterious village girl. They defeat the Pakistanis[0] and the British to win the World Cup. Then, there are dinosaurs. I haven't worked out all the details yet.

    [0] The test match against Pakistan is a separate one-hour chunk which can be deleted from the Pakistan release of the film.

    [Comments] (3) I'd Never Seen A Purple Frog: Sumana gave me a page from Smithsonian which has eight African frogs on it. I hung it up on my cube wall by my National Park Service flyer from the Lincoln Memorial. One of the frogs looks really weird, squat like a toad and a small head that makes it look like a turtle just coming out of its shell. Well, that frog was just staring at me and being mysterious until today, when I found out about a similar-looking but purple frog discovered in India. Now it still stares at me, but it's only half as mysterious as previously.

    [Comments] (3) : So when I was idly trying to find out what my weird frog is, I stumbled upon one of those template-driven sites that tries to pretend it knows all about what you're Googling for, by creating a bunch of pages for every possible variant of a general problem (possibly taking previous search requests into account) and claiming it has a customized solution for each one. In this case, it was The Phobia Clinic™ and their phobia-mastery program, Time Line Therapy™.

    Because there are so many silly phobias, the template is often amusing in its eagerness to accept you and act like your phobia is nothing unusual while not actually knowing anything about it. It makes out that there is a specialized Clinic for the study of each phobia on their list (eg. "The Fear Of Things To The Left Side Of The Body Clinic at The Phobia Clinic™"), and that they have a special interest in whatever phobia pertains to what you Googled for (in my case, Ranidaphobia, not to be confused with the more general Batrachophobia).

    I myself have a touch of acrophobia, and for me it's not so much the fear of falling so much as the fear of suddenly feeling compelled to hurl myself over the edge, which is how I manage to work on the sixth floor of a building without being gripped by fear all day. There's no edge, thus no acrophobia. Similarly, someone who suffers from Fear of Peanut Butter Sticking to the Roof of the Mouth is probably actually afraid of feeling compelled to scoop an entire eight-ounce jar of Jif into their mouth, but it's not that hard to just not open jars of peanut butter.

    Also, if peanut butter does stick to the roof of your mouth, you're not dead on the sidewalk or at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, you can just scrape it out with a napkin. So if you are morbidly afraid of peanut butter sticking to your mouth you are probably also afraid of everything else in the world, with an acute case of Googlephobia, so you'd never be able to find the web page that offers help.

    Anyway, some of the other funny values for x are: the vague Fear Of Certain Fabrics ("FEAR OF CERTAIN FABRICS THE MOVIE: The Directors Cut... starring Me!"); the overly-specific Fear of the Great Mole Rat, which makes the Great Mole Rat sound like a Lovecraft monster; Refund, which looks like a mistake in the database, Fear of Your Step Mother, which reads like low-grade satire, Phobiophobia, which actually circumnavigates satire, and Tyrannophobia, which seems to me more of a political problem than a "phobia" per se. That last complains that most tyrannophobia therapies "require the patient to be exposed repeatedly to tyrants over and over again", and asks you, "What's it worth to live free of Tyrannophobia ?" I guess the tree of liberty has been looking a little under-nourished lately.

    Sick of The Phobia Clinic™'s Google-trolling? Wish you'd never heard of their revolutionary anti-phobia technique? Well, What's it worth to live free of Time Line Therapy™ ?

    PS: One more. I can't resist. Caligynephobia: "most caligynephobia therapies take months or years and sometimes even require the patient to be exposed repeatedly to beautiful women over and over again." The horror!

    [Comments] (5) One Side Of The Paper, Please: Many new comment features now in place, including a goofy-looking icon I drew and does-what-you-want newline handling. I also made up a really simple XML representation of Bayesian classifications and made Newsbruiser export to it. I call it Cheatsheet, and I hope others will use it so that people can, eg. share a Bayesian spam corpus between NewsBruiser and SpamAssassin. If something like this already exists, let me know and I'll kill Cheatsheet.

    [Comments] (8) <mystery>: A mystery begins now. Details later.

    [Comments] (6) State Of The Comment System: OK, back to your regular, non-mysterious stuff. The comment system is coming along quite nicely. Here's the stuff I have to do next time I have free time (probably Thursday, as tonight is dinner and TV night with Sumana).

    Stuff you don't care about because it's internal:

    Of course, since basically all the comment stuff is in one file, you could hack on it yourself instead of waiting for me.

    In A World...: Bizarrely, John gets graded on decibels.

    The Parking Lot Is Full (Of Heads): I'm sure you know of the fiberglass dog head, San Francisco's goodwill ambassador and lackluster icon. Well, there's a trailer out in the marina parking lot, on which three of those fiberglass dog heads are lined up. I looked at them on and off all day, thinking they were jet skis or something, but once Brian pointed them out to me it was obvious that they were big fake dog heads wearing chef's hats.

    One of them is staring at me. Its fiberglass eyes bore into the back of my neck. Its... ah, who am I kidding. It's not scary. It's a fiberglass dog head. But that night, the fiberglass dog head snuck into Leonard's house and... yeah, how's it going to do that? It has to be dragged around on a trailer! Jabba the Hutt had a wider range of motion! But then, the owner of a San Francisco weenie stand threatened to remove the fiberglass dog head from its perch, and thousands of people got angry! Well, that's a little weird, but still not very scary. Better luck next time, fiberglass dog head scary storyteller.

    [Comments] (2) Broken Google Memewatch: "just like grandma used to" -make

    Doesn't quite work, but you wish it would.

    [Comments] (2) : Tired of reenacting the Civil War, time after time, long after your reenactment buddies have left you for the touring Renaissance Fair? Buy a book from Osprey Publishing and you'll be able to recreate any arbitrary moment in military history, from ancient Assyria to imperial China to the French Foreign Legion. Just add bad food.

    John Q. Coffinfish: Time to redraw those fish voting districts.

    [Comments] (7) Generic Star Trek Problem Solving:

    "We have problem x."
    "Couldn't we use solution y?"
    "No, because this instance of problem x is very complicated."
    "Solution y is a static solution. What if we used solution y, but made it dynamically respond to external events?"

    At some point you gotta wonder why no one thinks to add dynamic y ahead of time. I think there's something about this sort of problem-solving breakthrough that speaks deeply to Star Trek writers.

    [Comments] (4) Price Check On Colostomy Bags!: Uh... I need some help with JavaScript. I want to read a user cookie and populate some form fields based on the contents of the cookie. Email me if you can help, and try to be discreet.

    (Don't worry, NewsBruiser is not going to become a JavaScript monstrosity. I need JavaScript so that static entry pages can have the comment fields prepopulated with your remembered information. If you don't have JavaScript, the comment cookie stuff won't work on a site with static entry files; that's all.)

    Origami Mola Mola: Yeah, yeah.

    Other origami sea creatures include sperm whale and lobster.

    [Comments] (3) : Finally finished Quicksilver. In my opinion the ending was interesting enough to dispell the curse of boring Stephenson endings, but since the book jumps all over the place chronologically he might have just picked up an exciting set piece and put it at the end. The stuff leading up to the end was boring in a boring-Stephenson-ending kind of way. What do you think? Curse still intact?

    Feel free to talk about Quicksilver in general in the comment section, in fact. My take: it was really good, for a book with no friggin' plot! Can't wait for the next one. May reread Cryptonomicon, in fact, shovelling aside my overflowing shelf of unread books.

    Author-Specific Ebook Roundup: Three Men In A Boat is funny and sad. Haven't yet read the sequel, Three Men on the Bummel. Gutenberg has >30 works by Jerome K. Jerome, some of which look iffy, but try out Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow.

    Mystery Science Theater 1660: "...but it was so sillily writ, that we did nothing but laugh at it[.]"

    [Comments] (2) "No Whitespace No Cry": I'm working on an analogy: spam is to steganography what copy protection is to cryptography. I was inspired by The Spammer's Compendium, which lists the tricks spammers use to hide their message in filter-passing plaintext, complete with "what were they thinking" rationale (for instance, adding one long random word won't fool Bayesian filters much, but it will mess up CRC checkers).

    [Comments] (10) Comment Test Entry: I'm about to release NewsBruiser 2.1; I just want to make sure that the comment cookie/Javascript thing works.

    You Know The Drill And Set: Here you go: NewsBruiser 2.1.0, with real commenting action. This version's nickname is previous Crummy title and all-around piece of good advice "Release Early, Release The Hounds".

    Insult To Injury Search Requests:

    powerpoint presentation in wisdom tooth surgery

    [Comments] (12) </mystery>: Like the weather, politics is something that everybody complains about but nobody does anything about. I was no different in this regard, until recently, when I was given a chance to make a real difference. You see, I've purchased a share in a prototype weather control machine--no, wait. I've joined Wesley Clark's presidential campaign as a software architect. My goal is to build a large, resilient online community that can change the real world. I leave for Little Rock on Sunday and I come back when the campaign is over.

    "That's real great, Leonard, about the future of your country and all," you say. "But what about your weblog?!?!" Well, I'm not going to go on hiatus the way Cam did (Cam is the one who recruited me, BTW), but I'll be too busy to post much. I may reinstate the guest weblog, just to keep you coming back for more. Having a guest weblog on your site for up to a year is a little weird, but I've never been deterred by the slightly weird.

    [Comments] (2) Collect Them All: Check out the Wyoming cookie cutter.

    Where Were You On The Calends of July?: Anachronism-ridden, embarrassingly amateur attempt to recreate a Roman orgy.

    [Comments] (4) : Sumana said I need to post another entry about my going to Arkansas so people don't think the previous one was for Canadian April Fool's Day or something. So, let's talk about Arkansas. I remember being in Texarkana and then being in Tennessee on a road trip when I was younger, but I don't remember going through Arkansas, even though that's the only reasonable way it could have happened.

    What is there to do in Little Rock? Sumana and I were there last weekend and there was not much besides a farmer's market and a Red Bull promotional event. This makes me feel as though the people in charge of my Truman Show-style simulated life were caught unprepared by my sudden excursion, and that when I come back it will be bustling.

    Speaking Of States: A long time ago I saw a series of entries on someone's weblog, one entry for each U.S. state plus D.C., Puerto Rico, and the various islands labeled "(U.S.)" on maps. In the comments section people from that area were invited to talk about what makes that area great. I thought this was a really good idea, only slightly marred by the fact that the comment sections for the three states with Illuminati cards were full of bickering about how the rest of the U.S. would be better off without that state, and vice versa.

    Well, after a lot of Google trickery I was able to find the site, and I present it to you: What's Not To Like? It would be really neat to have sites like this for other countries.

    [Comments] (2) YOUARE=T(YOUEAT): At my going-away party, Seth talked about weird diets. The conversation came around, as it always does, to the USDA's National Nutrient Database. We talked about using the NND data to construct a diet navigator, something that would let you enter some wacky criteria and then create a solid in the 6661-dimensional space of diets, representing the diets that fit that criteria while providing all of your RDAs. This would, eg. allow you to scientifically determine once and for all whether it would be possible to do a vegetarian Atkins diet. Who are you going to believe, some hack on a message board, or linear algebra?

    We also talked about making Nethack trendier by adding an Atkins diet conduct. To keep this conduct you could eat all the animal corpses you wanted, but not vegetable-based foods, or potions of booze or fruit juice. Alternatively, there might be a vegetable timeout.

    Also check out newCROP, which has an enormous list of food crops, as well as the disturbing list of Famine Foods.

    Kevan Davis Presents Spam Noise Roundup:

    Kill those junk emails xf gswk

    Warning: Disable product before clicking "send".

    join the many Americans enlarging their penises! iop iop qweew

    With leaky bicycle pumps, by the sound of it.

    [Comments] (1) : Remember the days of wacky flowcharts? No, I don't either. But they existed, and for a time the writers of wacky flowcharts were given high esteem. They mingled with the likes of the guy who did the "You Want It When?" and "If You Think People Never Come Back From The Dead, You Should See This Place Around Closing Time!" posters, and did fearsome battle with the "Hang In There!" kitten. Their deeds were recorded on... extremely linear flowcharts, I guess.

    +-----------------------+   +---------------------------------------+
    | Wrote wacky flowchart |-->| Incorporated suggestions into version |
    +-----------------------+   | 2 of wacky flowchart                  | 
      +-----------------| Revealed 6 new flowcharts at company picnic |
      |                 +---------------------------------------------+
    | Came up with trendy Cabbage Patch Dolls flowchart, big hit |
       +-----| Cabbage Patch Doll market collapse |
       |     +------------------------------------+             
       |   +---------+    +---------------------------------------------+
       +-->| Despair |--->| Slashed wrists with own flowchart templates |
           +---------+    +---------------------------------------------+
                                         | NO PROBLEM! |

    As flowcharts became obsolete, a few of the surviving wacky flowchart writers managed to make the transition to wacky UML diagrams, but their audience ever shrinks and becomes more technical. Some of the old stuff is really good, though. For instance, today on Crooked Timber they posted a funny, multi-page Meta-Cosmology Theory Flowchart. That was actually the whole point of this entry, but it's sort of overshadowed by the graphic. HEY! LOOK OVER HERE! There, that should do it.

    Even today, flowcharts are sometimes funny, but it's usually unintentional.

    [Comments] (2) : Almost done moving all my stuff. Bleah.

    [Comments] (1) : Guest weblog is up. I'm out of here.

    Seth said I was courageous. I hope I am.

    Probably My Favorite Spam Headline: It's got it all: bad economics, rabid noise, and trilobite craving.

    I-want-a-trilobite Start Now The relatively new concept of giving away money is called the American Free Grant Giveaway . bwmuutizu e rgt nba fpfwjjmzjsviutf tsxvcovsspeszxrsmkqmrloyuanzfw wwfvch ksszs tdpt sg

    This Happened To Riker, Too: I forgot to pack my electric razor (I did pack the recharging cord!), so I am de facto growing a beard. My face's general attitude towards beards is that they are a silly fad which should not be encouraged. I anticipate the beard will stop growing in about a week, giving me the look of a crude farm hand or forty-niner.

    My Name Is Mario, And I'll Bake You One With Pesto! Yeah, I'll Bake You One With Pesto! Damn Good Pies!: They got some funny business names here in Little Rock. For instance, there's Catfish City, which has a great logo (no good image of same on web) and a water wheel in front which cost $4200. And there's a pizza place called Damn Good Pies, which I've been told is a good approximation to Super Pizza Hut Plus. But my favorite business name is "Tourism Research & Warehouse". It's a nondescript building in a strip mall of other nondescript buildings. That whole strip mall has to be a front for something. I know there's a Strategic Helium Reserve, but I'd think we'd have outsourced our Strategic Tourism Reserve to Japan.

    That reminds me of a joke Jason made up. "What do miners say when they strike helium?" [squeaky voice] "We're rich!"

    [Comments] (1) Well You Should Apologize: "Sorry, I've become your mail."

    [Comments] (5) : How are you doing? When I was in Utah I had the privilege of experiencing two chain restaurants I had never before attended. Unfortunately, neither of them was anything to write home about. Despite this fact, I am writing home about them.

    P.F. Chang's had delusions of grandeur, but it was actually just a good Chinese restaurant. They did offer brown rice as well as white, which is good because I greatly prefer brown rice. It was while I was eating the uninspired, chocolate-chip-laden P.F. Chang's chocolate cake that I realized it is a waste of time to buy chocolate cakes from restaurants because they are inevitably drier and much worse than any cake you might make yourself (even from a box mix), and they always have semisweet chocolate chips pushed into the side of the cake. This is supposed to make it more decadent, but it just makes it taste weird, like Cool Whip on caviar. Like a free ride, when you've already paid.

    P.F. Chang's had things going for it, like good entrees, but The Old Spaghetti Factory was just stuff to keep you from getting hungry for a few hours. They also brought me the wrong thing, although I can't remember what I ordered or what they brought me or how the two differed. Everybody had a plate containing a bunch of yellow-white stuff covered in red stuff and it was all pretty similar.

    Verdict: Old Spaghetti Factory: bleah. P.F. Chang's: should change name to P.F.C. Hang's, start serving down-home UGR-H&S chow.

    Oh No!: "Most astrologers would counsel that beginning new ventures with Mercury retrograde is not the best possible timing."

    [Comments] (1) Your Kitsch Is My Command: What more could you ask for?

    And more, if you have time.

    [Comments] (4) This Is Like The Wigs, Right?: Question Time is on C-SPAN right now, and all the MPs are wearing red-and-green shapes stuck to their lapels. I've never seen them before. What is their purpose?

    Update: Now I feel like a jerk. I apologize for the boorish joke, albeit a joke about my own boorishness.

    : There must be some Arkansas state law that says that urinals have to use the same amount of water per flush as toilets, 'cause when you flush a urinal here it runs for about a minute. A little excessive, I think.

    [Comments] (2) Day 8: Delirium Begins To Set In: I am way too excited by the discovery that I can turn my small change into larger change by putting it into the vending machine and hitting the coin return button. It's actually a win-win situation because giving the machine smaller change makes the "exact change required" light (I originally typed "link") go off.

    [Comments] (3) Diary Of A Madman: HTML forms, my life is consumed by HTML forms. I know Sumana already posted this to the guest weblog, but for NYCB consumption I should mention that I'm working on the Clark Community Network, a big Scoop site for the campaign. I have had to put aside both my hatred of Perl and my distaste for the word "blog". I am doing nothing but work and sleep.

    In my madness I have taken to imagining what dynamic data-driven websites would look like if ancient civilizations had dynamic data-driven websites. For instance, in ancient Greece, a user signup form would have a field for "City-State". If I had the time, I could actually do some mockups that would be pretty funny, but right now all such projects seem as insignificant as my project to come up with mass nouns for all the Nethack monsters (eg. a conglomorate of floating eyes, a loitering of trappers).

    : tallskinnikiwi linked to Downhill, but every time I look at the URL in referer logs I think it says "tallskinnywiki".

    [Comments] (2) Your Tax Dollars At The Job Interview: From seth-trips, I encourage you to petition for late(r)-night BART service.

    Update: Nick says the problem is mainly technological, so clearly what we need is to petition the laws of physics themselves.

    : While trying to look up a cocktail name for Sumana, I found the best name for a drink ever: I'm Busy, Drink This. I thought the narrator of the drink name was the uncaring lush mother placating her child with booze, but the prosaic reality is that it's the drinking equivalent of not being able to enter your initials for the high score before the timer runs out.

    [Comments] (3) Messing With Texas Is A Violation Of Texas State Law: Google image search: don't mess with texas. Includes the polite version.

    DSR: how to draw Cartoons that kill each other

    : Glowing Shrimp "Harmless", Say Naive Scientists

    Very Short Story Search Requests #2:

    i took my roommates goldfish and she found out now i'm scared!

    My, That Was A Yummy Spam:

    Subject: Get what you need today!kumquat

    [Comments] (5) Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch: Shipping containers plot their revenge.

    That Which Does Kill Me, Kills Me (Dead Spammers #Aleph-Aleph-Null):

    Re: murder can only s dbcnql n tpfs

    [Comments] (1) Or It Could Be Rockin' Pneumonia: I got a flu shot a couple days ago, and now I'm feeling a little under the weather. Of course, getting injected with dead viruses is probably the healthiest thing I've done all month, so I don't think I can blame the flu shot for it.

    : Yes, this will surely work.

    Fish Party: All my creativity is going into other things so I can't think of anything to say about this, but there's nothing greater than a fish party.

    Quick, Look Over There While I Distract You!: Patches to chess, which is funny but ignores the actual patches to chess, like the en passant rule.

    Llamatron 2004: What am I doing?

    [Comments] (6) The Pizza In Little Rock Is No Good:


    ACT I

    [The scene: a pizza store.]

    Proprietor: Good morrow to you, sir!
    Customer: The same to you, sir.
    Prop.: Welcome to my quality pizza-serving establishment. How may I assist you?
    Cust.: Your finest "pizza", if you would.
    Prop.: Certainly.

    ACT I

    [The same store, later. CUSTOMER is seated.]

    Proprietor: All right, who has the nachos?
    Customer: Nachos? You must have misheard me. I ordered a pizza!
    Prop.: Pizza? You must mean "nachos with tomato sauce and pizza toppings".
    Cust.: I shall never dine here again! [Arise and exit.]
    Prop.: [Calling out] Good luck with the take-out pizza you're planning to get instead! It has the same crappy crust!

    Disclaimer: I have not yet eaten at Damgoode Pies (sic), so there might still be hope for pizza in Little Rock.

    python sleep: "For [sic] hundred python sleep in this cage"

    : When I was in Bakersfield last, we went to see Bakersfield College's production of Richard III, which was really good. Instead of using the auditorium seating, they built a smaller stage on top of the real stage and put bleachers to three sides. This had the advantage that the audience as a whole surrounded the actors. The actors had to act like real people instead of people with a strange biological attraction towards the front of the stage.

    The play was good, the actors very competent, and the producers somehow managed to resist the urge to set the thing in the Old West. But the writing was so melodramatic that I find myself receptive to the revisionist history peddled by the first Google results for "richard iii", organizations set up to combat the negative image of Richard III formed by this play. Richard's monologues were all to the effect of "You know, I'm really evil. But what good is my being evil unless I do evil things? I know, I'll kill [x]!"

    I think we've found the perfect Shakesperean role for Seth: the Second Murderer from Act I Scene IV.

    Not to kill him, having a warrant for it; but to be
    damned for killing him, from which no warrant can defend us.
    I'm Seth David Schoen.

    [Comments] (4) Weird Bathroom Observation #2: Toilets in California are shorter, or nearer the floor, or something.

    Hey AbiWord Weekly News people: the referenced post is here.

    [Comments] (4) Strategic Imitation Limitation Treaty: There's lots of things I can't do, but one of the things I can do is imitate certain voices. Unfortunately most of the voices I can do really well scare Sumana, who has placed restrictions on when and how I can do them.

    I can also do a Steve Ballmer and a Bill Gates, but it honestly doesn't sound like them anymore. It's more fun to do charicatures of their voices that only denote them if you're in on the joke.

    What voices can you imitate well?

    [Comments] (1) Blackberry Cobbler: Last night I tried my hand at making blackberry cobbler. I just combined a couple recipes off the web (filling and buttermilk biscuit crust (ATK link requires registration)), so I won't give you a whole recipe, just some lessons learned.

    I think the cobbler turned out very well for a first attempt. Future cobblers will be more effective in their consistency and tastiness.

    : This is an Exclusive You Can Bruise! I asked Joe for his take on this Slate article, about the gala Return of the King opening in Wellington, New Zealand. Since I'm always proud to put up stuff on this site written by other people, here's his response:

    The article is actually a pretty good description. The local paper has talked of nothing else since NZ lost the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup three weeks ago. For the first movie it renamed itself the Middle Earth Post but didn't go that far this time.

    I do know more than a few people who worked on the films in some part, but the closest I get to actually knowing an actor would be that I used to work with someone who is in a band with the guy who played an elf in the Rivendell scene in the first movie (fans dubbed him Figwit).

    The only exaggeration in the Slate article is the decription of Wellington as "a collection of high rises at the foot of green mountains" - mountains my arse. They're hills and it's quite possible to ride a bike up them.

    I went down to the celebrations quite late. I missed the parade, but my gf Joanne saw it and thought it quite magical, especially the people dressed as elves and orcs. The makeup is apparently really good even in broad daylight.

    It's sort of a shame to see the Rings stuff finished, it was nice to have a common sense of purpose with others in the city. Then again apparently work on King Kong will start soon...


    [Comments] (5) For All Their Faults: I'd never heard of this: the Monty Python sketch "Wacky Queen", which was cut from the first episode of MPFC after it aired, presumably because... the queen... was too wacky... I guess...

    Why Programmers Hate Government: Exhibit Two: Le Calendrier Républicain.

    "This was an attempt to de-Christianize the calendar, but it was an unpopular move, because now there were 9 work days between each day of rest, whereas the Gregorian Calendar had only 6 work days between each Sunday."

    [Comments] (1) When Animals Are Cute!: Tonight: pandas... are cute!

    Outside Looking In-Joke: Abiword Weekly News, everyone's favorite gonzo open source status report, renamed to This Program Lets You Write Letters Weekly News in freak renaming non-accident.

    This Program Lets You Write Letters is crucial to the use of or coordinates with a number of full blown applications. Ok, I only know of, like, two. Well, there was that screen play thing, but that went straight out the window.

    [Comments] (4) : Went to the zoo today with Sumana. Great fun! The rain chased away the wimpy humans and animals, leading to a real bonding experience between those who toughed it out. Highlights: showboating caiman, graceful sting rays, loping lemurs, giant giant anteater.

    Why do peacocks have the run of every zoo I've ever been to? Are they good filler birds?

    Tivo Gems: KTSF is now broadcasting Project X on Saturday nights at 8. Last week's show covered the brave souls who dared to invent and perfect the LCD. KCSM, which as a channel is a cipher to me, recently broadcast a piece called "Masters of Russian Animation" at 3:00 in the morning. Sumana and I enjoyed MoRA, which had a really funny animal allegory (allegory for what I don't know) called "Journey of the Ant". It also had a whimsical first-contact sci-fi piece with a mimetic alien and Yellow Submarine-style animation. There was also another animal allegory, and a piece that I found unwatchable except on fast-forward but which had won some superlative award like "Best animated short of all time". It's a fix! Give it to the ant!

    [Comments] (1) Public Service Announcement: Don't Be Like Leonard: Go see the PDQ Bach concert on Friday. Don't be like me and miss it because you're working for a presidential campaign.

    [Comments] (7) Thanksgiving Leftover Cookies: I had a big bag of dried cranberries from the "I didn't get enough Thanksgiving food" post-Thanksgiving food preparation mania, which I think was a big failure which is why I haven't shared my recipes with you. Anyway, a few of these cranberries had gone into a stuffing (which would have been great if I knew how to make stuffing), but I had an enormous number of them left and was at a loss as to how to dispose of them. Then it occured to me to use them instead of raisins in chocolate chip cookies. And they are great; much better, I would say, than raisins. You'll never eat chocolate chip cookies the same way again!

    Update: The Crummy.com Test Kitchen You Can Bruise informs me that you eat these cookies the same way you ate cookies previously; they just taste different. My testers also add that you can alter the taste even more by partially rehydrating the cranberries in rum or other medicinal spirits.

    [Comments] (3) The Merriment Appropriations Bill: The Arkansas state capitol, right near the campaign office, is very stately and resembles the US Capitol building. Except they don't drape Christmas lights all over the US Capitol building. I'd probably be more receptive to the idea if they didn't do it with these tacky pinstripes of lights.

    Useless fact: the Arkansas state capitol was used to represent the Capitol building in a made-for-TV movie written by Bob Woodward.

    [Comments] (2) lost+found: I found my electric razor at the bottom of my suitcase, so my original reason for having the beard is now moot. However now the inertia reason has kicked in--why not go with the beard and see where it leads? I'm already finding it invaluable for forming psychological defense mechanisms that make my endless Perl-filled days more bearable. So long as I have the beard, I can pretend that this is not my real life; it's just fan fiction about me. Once the campaign is over I'll shave my beard and wake up like Rip Van Winkle. "Whew! It was all noncanonical!"

    Anyway. I was thinking that it would be nice if real life had a lost+found directory for everyone, where you could find socks and other things you thought you had lost, possibly scrambled. Someone should work on this.

    NewsBruiser Nepotism #2: My cousin Kristen Smith, Alyson's sister, now has a weblog on crummy.com. Man, this is turning into Livejournal! In a good way.

    Collect Them All: Yesterday I got spam that said 2003's Greatest j. Today I got spam that said 2003's Greatest i. I'm really excited to see what 2003's greatest h will look like. My guess: it will look like h.

    [Comments] (2) Recipes I Just Made Up: I made up a recipe for a college student (Rachel) to eat without having to leave her house. Unfortunately it did not work because yes, she has no bananas, but she did like the recipe. "you should be a CHEF with your own cooking show", says she. Well, I am a CHEF of sorts, but unfortunately my proposal for a cooking show was rejected by ESPN.

    I call this "Bisected Banana". Take a banana, peel it, and split it lengthwise. Spread creamy peanut butter on one of the banana halves and use it to glue the banana back together. Sprinkle the banana with a little sugar. The end.

    [Comments] (2) 404: Building Not Found: One of UCLA's monikers is "Under Construction Like Always". No sooner do they finish spending donor and taxpayer money on a new neurobiology building than the gym leaks, or the Orphan Studies building needs to be torn down to make way for another parking structure. This time the Engineering I building is getting the wrecking ball, which means that the maddest of UCLA's mad scientists are going to be on the streets for the next four years. Seriously; these guys build nanobots and nuclear reactors. The most havoc the computer science department ever wreaked was to create Scour (OK, and the Internet).

    From fellow alum Jason Robbins, whose favorite detail of the story is the smog production lab on the roof ("Was there not enough smog already?").

    Tiny Restaurant Reviews: I've complained enough about the food in Little Rock. Time for an overview of some of the good dining to be had.

    The pizza crust in Little Rock is still no good (still haven't tried Dammegoode Pies), but there's a restaurant called Bosco's (Oh, Bosco's!) that has good pizza on a really thin, but at least not crunchy crust. Good soup, too, though a little salty. We went right before they closed and they were out of a lot of stuff, which meant a lot of free food given in exchange for the food we'd ordered.

    Caper's is a fancy restaurant, too fancy for the likes of us, but they left price-fixe coupons in the campaign lunchroom so we figured they had to let us in. We dined well in an old house with fireplaces and everything, taking great care not to accidentally order the $150 bottle of wine. My only complaint: the "portobello potstickers" I ordered were not potstickers at all; they were turnovers. It was a little weird.

    The Purple Cow is a diner with great milkshakes and a funny menu. One of the few places I've been to where you can get a bleu cheeseburger; excellent if you want people to flee at your approach.

    Last night we went to an excellent Mexican restaurant called Señor Tequila's. They had sopapillas on the menu but I did not subject them to the real-sopapilla test. There were so many of us there that it took forever for the meal to end without me messing everything up by ordering dessert. This is in accordance with Leonard's Immutable Law of Restaurants: "Dinner for n takes O(n2) time." For more details, see my upcoming paper, "The Mythical Man-Meal".

    PS: A couple of times, such as today, we've had volunteers bring in big platters and tubs of home cooking. As always, that's the best stuff.

    At Last!: 2004 could be "The Year of Linux"

    [Comments] (7) More Dang Restaurant Reviews: Fried Okra Edition: I love fried okra. Says the South, "You came to the right place!" Here they deep-fry it instead of sauteeing it in butter like my father did, but it's still good. Anyway, the theme of today's restaurant reviews is places with fried okra.

    Cotham's in the City: A restaurant near the capitol where, I suppose, all the politicians and staffers eat lunch. The whole restaurant is decorated with signs from political campaigns, and they have a rotating "stereotypical dish of the day": chicken and dumplings on Tuesday, fried chicken on Wednesday, etc. It basically involves either chicken or frying or both. They also have a dessert called "Mississippi Mud" (not the same as a Mississippi mud pie), which sounded really good but which I found disappointing. I may try my hand at improving it.

    Dixie Cafe: This restaurant's entrees are nothing to write home about, but they have good sides (like fried okra) and a good fruit cobbler for dessert (they were the inspiration for my attempt at blackberry cobbler). They also have this whole little sub-restaurant inside the restaurant called "Polar Freeze" or something. It's an ice-cream parlor for kids. It's lit up all blue and it's a little scary, since we go there at night and there's never anyone there. It's like the Milkshake Research Laboratories or something.

    Popeye's Chicken: This is a nationwide chain, but I just wanted to give it a dishonorable mention because it used to have fried okra and now it doesn't. Boo!

    DSR False Alarms: For some reason, these both involve Martha Stewart.

    martha stewart living flan recipe april 2002

    Living flan?!?! Wait, never mind.

    martha stewart monkey cake

    Fortunately, monkey cake (aka monkey bread; caution: midi) containeth no monkey.

    [Comments] (1) Dude, Just Let Me Get My Stuff: On the Lam, Saddam Lived Life of Stoner

    It Doesn't Work That Way: Spam to blog@clark04.com: Blog, Meet h0rny swingers in your area! FVR7yVZAD1IY

    [Comments] (2) The Film Goes Ever On And On: Saw Return of the King today. Great stuff! (Despite the lack of all of my favorite scenes.) I felt sorry for the mumakil, though. They were only trying to have fun! Stomping on people.

    PS: Hey, Past Leonard, you saw The Two Towers with your family and Return of the King with the rest of the technical team from the presidential campaign where you work.

    Past Leonard: Yeah, right. Stop calling me here!

    Anyway, I see that Saruman has not been idle since the War of the Ring: his love of perverting all that is good and natural is surely the driving force behind Perlthon. Look at the author's name! "Manura"? An obvious anagram.

    Future Leonard: Hey, Present Leonard, you will watch the extended DVD version of LOTR to pass the time on your colony ship's voyage to Sirius.

    Stop wasting my time!

    : The poster for the movie Elf has the tagline "This holiday, discover your inner elf." They put a generic tagline on a Christmas movie, so that everyone could go see it! It's so special! At long last, I think I now understand the true meaning of Holiday.

    [Comments] (1) Still Coasting On My Trip To The Theater: Before ROTK I saw a preview for a time-travel movie, and I started thinking about the common time-travel trope that attempting to change the past will invariably make the present worse. Isn't this effectively the view that we inhabit the best of all possible worlds? And what does this say about our ability to make choices in the present? Why is it that the decision we make with no foreknowledge is always better than the alternatives? Answer: because we're trapped in a patronizing cultural artifact! This is probably the best nontrivial test I've thought of for being trapped in a cultural artifact.

    Sure, Why Not: Spam: Homeopathic HGH

    [Comments] (2) Why Programmers Hate Government: Exhibit 3: It's a Christmas miracle! In this episode, programmers and government put aside their differences and enjoy a cool comma-delimited file containing ZIP code information. What are those mysterious last two numbers after the latitude and longitude?

    [Comments] (1) Worrywart Hypothetical Spam:

    What if Santa left a real star under the tree?

    Yeah, let's try to watch out for that contigency. Geez, don't we trust Santa not to be incredibly stupid? What if Santa distributed Class III narcotics to little kids? What if Santa bypassed safety inspections before the sleigh launch and died in a harness accident 10,000 feet above Canada? Santa knows his stuff; he's not going to destroy the earth by twisting Mu Cassiopeiae into a black hole so's it'll fit into a gift box.

    [Comments] (2) : You can pay your San Francisco parking tickets online. This makes sense, as the general philosophy of the city of San Francisco is to make it easy for you to deal with the arbitrary aggravations they inflict upon you.

    "My car died 30 miles from destiny.": Another year, another Action Line Classics (origin story here). This year's column includes bonus disturbing 100 Years of Solitude-esque entry.

    [Comments] (1) Sounds like one for the Department of Dream Studies: My dreams have voiceovers and cuts, like a movie--at least that's how I interpret the sudden scene changes and voices out of nowhere I experience in dreams. Did the dreams of pre-movie man have these? From what I've read of old recounts of dreams, I would say so: "Then I saw... I heard a voice..." So what were the ancient metaphors for dreams? Just weird stuff happening for no reason?

    [Comments] (1) The Tennessee Compromise: Consider the Reagan Legacy Project, a group which will not rest until everything on earth is named after Ronald Reagan (Ronald Reagan himself to be renamed "Ronald 'R.R.' Ronaldreagan"). Their highest goal: putting Reagan on the ten-dollar bill and banishing Alexander Hamilton to currency oblivion. I'd rather Alexander Hamilton not be banished to currency oblivion, so let me propose a compromise: put Reagan on the twenty-dollar bill. That way we can get rid of Jackson. Now, how to deal with that pesky Coolidge Legacy Project?

    From: Kyung Pizzano: Sumana loves the made-up cross-cultural names of people from Alpha Centauri that show up in the From: subject lines of spam. Well, now there's a random name generator with an "obscurity factor" that you can crank up to 75 or so to get cool spam-like names. Soon, spam will be entirely obsolete! Wait, did I just say that?

    Post-Last-Minute Shopping: Do you need to buy a Christmas present for Christopher Kimball? Well, why is that, pray tell? You probably don't know him! So show off your superficial conceptions of what he might want by buying him a bow tie from Beau Ties Ltd. of Vermont. This discovery has me looking over my shoulder for the cliche mail-order ambassadors from the other 49 states.

    New Cooking Technology for the Third World: And everyone else. Instead of offering recipes in this entry I'm going to tell you about cooking techniques. Today: walnut candying and salad dressing manufacture, both Freeciv-esque prerequisites for my "I Can't Believe You Managed To Make Salad Unhealthy" salad, which I'll post later after I try a New Year's Eve variant tonight.

    Candied walnuts are great in salad, and they also are good for snacks. It takes no special ability to candy a walnut. Just put equal amounts sugar and water into a skillet and set it to boiling. Put walnuts on a cookie sheet and bake them for about 10 minutes, then dump them into the skillet and stir constantly until there's no liquid left. Butter the cookie sheet, dump the walnuts onto it, and spread them around. After they cool you have candied walnuts.

    Salad dressing is sold in stores by the bottle, and this very fact left my craven self intimidated and afraid to make my own. But there's seriously no reason not to. It's so easy! And you can do it with stuff you already have, thus saving space in the refrigerator. There are two steps: the everything else step and the olive oil step. In the everything else step, you put everything you want in the dressing that's not olive oil in a bowl. In the olive oil step, you whack the salad dressing with a whisk while slowly pouring in olive oil. That's it, except that the "everything else" has to include an emulsifier like mustard or raw egg, else your dressing will be a failure! Bitter failure! But otherwise you can't lose.

    Addendum To Previous Entry: That's probably my favorite spam. I love the steampunk nanotech idea of stuffing a plastic extrusion plant into a shipping container, raw materials fed in through a pipe connected to a nebulous "International Trade System". The only problem is that it appears not to exist except in spam.

    But I'll tell you what does exist is solar cookers, a real New Cooking Technology for the Third World. They are trivial to build, and you can use them to cook and to purify water. In the ultimate mockery of Mother Nature, there is even a solar refrigerator. Am I the only one who thinks there's a vast untapped market for science fiction about this kind of thing? Is this what's in all those Bruce Sterling books I've never read?

    : Lousy old year! Out with it, I say!



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