Mon Sep 01 2003 10:44:
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":
- FIRST COURSE
- Two Potages.
- Good Woman's Soup, dite flamande, white and thick.
- Soup a la beauveau, brown and clear.
- Two Fishes.
- Turbot with lobster sauce.
- Slices of crimped salmon, boiled, with same sauce.
- Two Removes.
- Turkey a la perigeaux, puree of chestnut.
- Leg of mutton roasted.
- Six Entrees.
- Cutlets of mutton braised with soubise suace.
- Salmi of young partridges a la Espagnole.
- Vol a vent of salt fish a la maitre d'hotel.
- Casserole of rice with puree of game.
- Saute of fillets of fowl a la lucullus, with truffles.
- Fillets of young rabbits a la orlies, white sharp sauce.
- SECOND COURSE
- Two Roasts.
- Three partridges roasted.
- Three woodcocks.
- Six Entrements.
- Spinach with consomme, garnished with fried bread.
- Whole truffles with champaign [sic].
- Jelly of marasquino.
- Buisson of gateau a la polonaise.
- Charlotte of apples with apricot.
- Two Removes of the Roast.
- Biscuit a la creme.
More gems from the past coming soon. (What is a "remove"?)
Mon Sep 01 2003 12:56 PST Pictures from EuroPython:
Here they stand, 83 in number, your EuroPython/Belgium/Amsterdam pictures! My favorites:
- A good picture of
PrustiTaina and Jarno, and Jarno plotting something in Amsterdam.
- My hotel room was about twice the size of my cubicle at work. At first I thought this was way too small, but over time I began to sympathize with my Belgian captors.
- My attempt at duplicating from memory the picture of Rachel by the Manikin Pis. Prusti took a picture of me attempting to duplicate Rachel's other picture from Brussels, the "scarfing down a waffle" picture", but I don't have it yet.
- For Danny, some surreptitiously-taken NTK T-shirt sightings: 1 2
- My attempt at nature photography: a spiderweb on a footbridge in Amsterdam.
- Signs: a dinosaur, the world's most confusing road sign, a woman who should just put the fish down, a great store name, and a liquid tot. (I hate to spoil this by telling you, but that last sign actually says "Liquidation Totale" and part of it is covered up by the graffitti-ridden corrogated metal anti-theft device.)
- Remember that one-inch square of text in Time magazine about the Dutch-designed urinal that had a fly painted on it to encourage good aim? Well, the urinals in the conference center in Charleroi had that fly.
- At around 2 AM on Belgian TV, they broadcast Missile Command-esque typing games. Why don't they just play the national anthem and call it a night?
Mon Sep 01 2003 14:10 The Spam Of Nations: Part IV:
Subject: Free PPV
Tue Sep 02 2003 11:26 You Might Be A Redneck Game Designer If:
Cranky, domain-specific Game Development Truisms.
Tue Sep 02 2003 18:23 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.
Tue Sep 02 2003 22:38:
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.
Wed Sep 03 2003 07:50:
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.
Wed Sep 03 2003 08:45 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.
Thu Sep 04 2003 22:17:
Help! I'm trapped at the CollabNet retreat in Santa Cruz! I have to go on a corporate retreat and do work!
Thu Sep 04 2003 23:06:
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.
Fri Sep 05 2003 18:19 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.
Sat Sep 06 2003 17:16 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:
- Discard it
- Play it over AH or 5S to get two pair.
- Play it over 9D to work on a flush.
- I already have 9D, so I can play 9H on my opponent's hand. Playing it on 7C would ruin their flush and make it harder for them to get a straight.
- My opponent has 9C, so I can swap 9H for a card in my opponent's hand. Swapping it for 4C would ruin their flush and then I could get three of a kind by playing 4C on 5H or 9D.
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!
Sun Sep 07 2003 07:41:
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.
Sun Sep 07 2003 07:42 Rebuttal:
Sumana says: "imisspell is not useless, since you can use it to think of misspellings of
your domain name and register those too."
Sun Sep 07 2003 07:44 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.
Sun Sep 07 2003 08:32:
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.
Sun Sep 07 2003 12:48 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".
Mon Sep 08 2003 13:03:
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.
Mon Sep 08 2003 21:39 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?)
Tue Sep 09 2003 08:31 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".
Tue Sep 09 2003 11:56 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
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
Tue Sep 09 2003 20:16:
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!
Tue Sep 09 2003 20:22 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.)
Wed Sep 10 2003 15:26 Killer Spam #I Don't Know:
Subject: make her spine tingle expdqgnhzeotgozqovp
(From Kevan, of course.)
Wed Sep 10 2003 15:41 Everyone Wants A Piece Of The Action:
From: SUSAN SHABANGU
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
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.
Wed Sep 10 2003 20:01 I can never forget those policemen that saved my life.:
Life is easy when you have a phrasebook.
Thu Sep 11 2003 16:33:
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.
Fri Sep 12 2003 09:42 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!
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.
 I actually asked Sumana for advice, but her advice confirmed what I thought was right, so technically I still did it from first principles.
Sat Sep 13 2003 20:53 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.
Sun Sep 14 2003 22:40 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).
Mon Sep 15 2003 10:26:
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
And so he has. Thanks, Aaron. The Eater Of Meaning: your trivial text transformation testbed!
Mon Sep 15 2003 10:55 Truth In Advertising:
My coworker Dan Rall has found a mechanic that offers "Some Day Service".
Mon Sep 15 2003 18:12 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.
Mon Sep 15 2003 21:25:
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.
Tue Sep 16 2003 10:07 Words That Sound Like Newslang But Aren't:
Tue Sep 16 2003 18:15 Wedding Picture Bonanza #2:
56 pictures from the time of Susana's actual wedding, as well as some LA goofiness.
Tue Sep 16 2003 18:27:
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.
Wed Sep 17 2003 10:48 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.
Wed Sep 17 2003 13:04 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]
Thu Sep 18 2003 08:05 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...).
Thu Sep 18 2003 08:46 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.
Fri Sep 19 2003 11:37:
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 attracting undue attention from the
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.
 Due to concerns about the importation of endangered parrots,
all ecologically conscious pirates carry myna birds instead.
Sat Sep 20 2003 20:12 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.)
Sat Sep 20 2003 20:36 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).
Sun Sep 21 2003 18:57 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.
Sun Sep 21 2003 20:40 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.
- You know what was really cool? The old-school Norton Utilities hex editor. I stopped using a hex editor around the same time I stopped using DOS, because for the stuff I did, having source code priced having a hex editor out of the market. But bdump gives a Norton-esque ASCII and hex rendition of a file. It can't simulate the cool raw-disk view that Norton did, but maybe there's something you can run as root which does. Anyone?
- If your weblog entries are scribbled into dated HTML files, like Seth's, then the Advogato poster will post all those files to your Advogato account. Will probably also work with NewsBruiser!
- spamtest is a web interface to SpamAssassin which lets you probe SpamAssassin for weaknesses. I mean, it lets you make sure that your legitimate, non-spam newsletter won't trigger SpamAssassin. Sorry, but maybe you should consider the possibility that your newsletter actually is spam.
- SQL Profiler
tries to find places where you could add SQL indexes to your database tables. Requires that you be using JDBC.
- I've heard good things about Jext as a source code editor/light
IDE. Unlike other source code editors, Jext lets you put
hot chicks in the background of your code windows, possibly as
some sort of motivational tool.
- Principia Mathematica II is a
predicate logic proof system and a hyperlink-aware way of representing
such proofs. The goal is to build a large distributed archive of
mathematical knowledge, each proof being reducible to the basic
axioms. Unfortunately, Godel proved that due to limitations of HTTP,
there will always exist URLs containing true statements that PMII will
not be able to access.
- TEAPOT is a
prim, three-dimensional ncurses spreadsheet. A
three-dimensional spreadsheet?! Why not? I'll quote from the web page:
In traditional flat spread sheets, you have to have the
ability of hiding columns or rows to hide intermediate results. This
indicates that two dimensions are not enough...
But why stop there? I'd like a spreadsheet of n, nay,
even n+1 dimensions!
- Eurobill calculates the checksums on Euro bills. This is pretty cool, but I gave all my Euros to Rachel.
- The Hunting of the Snark Project is what Project Gutenberg should have been called. Instead, it is a hackable Java BitTorrent client. Nice version numbering system.
- ft is a template engine for PHP. You may know PHP as a popular template language.
- Rnews is a server-side
aggregator like, but not as good as Feed On Feeds. I don't like the
way the interface only displays the titles. However, it's another
server-side aggregator, so take a look at it.
- For every successful X, someone is undergoing a quixotic quest to
redesign X. The author of NewSQL noticed that "Nobody
is trying to clean up the SQL grammar" and sprung into action,
creating a language that will either look like a bunch of methods on
table objects, or will look like SQL without the "FROM" and "ON" and
"INTO" that look friendly until you can't remember which one of them
to use to list a table's indexes.
displays the locations of satellites you have in orbit. If you're not a
supervillain, a space agency, or a communications company, it lets you
track the satellites other people have in orbit. Ported from OS/2!
- The HP Labs
Semantic Web Research page links to Semantic Web toolkits like Jena2 and Joseki, while inadvertently
demonstrating that the only people who really use the Semantic Web
right now are the people who think acronyms like "HP" should be
provided with mouseover expansions.
- ReadySET is Jason
Robbins' latest project; a set of
HTML templates for documenting development over the lifetime of a
piece of software.
- I am still a sucker for map software. Thuban is a GIS map viewer
which lets you do TIGER-like
things to any GIS data. Thuban links to freegis.org, a bunch of links to map
software which deserves a roundup all to itself. I know there's a
science fiction story in here somewhere, but do I look like Cory
Doctorow to you? Hm, I guess I have to think
of another excuse. PS: another pirate joke to complete Seth's
"pirate Constitution" series of jokes, two days late and two dollars
short for TLAPD:
Q: What was the precursor to the pirate Constitution?
A: The Arrrrticles of Confederation.
- memaid is a
memorization aid that works with question/answer pairs you provide,
using a neural network to predict how best to get you to memorize
claims to be a configuration framework, but loyal readers of my paper on configuration frameworks will
note that in terms of the terminology of that paper, it is a
configuration store capable of supporting multiple formats.
- You know how sometimes in science fiction stories, person A has
to do exposition to person B with respect to scientific phenomenon C
because at the spaceman academy, person B spent too much time in the
class about C thinking about cute classmate D? Well, that's why I
don't understand error-correcting codes very well. But David MacKay
has a cool site, sponsored by the Gatsby foundation, containing software
for generating and analyzing error-correcting and error-detecting
codes. According to the website, there are some codes discovered
in 1962 which are much better than the ones you learn in class, so
maybe I was just engaging in a form of unconscious protest.
- With Read It
To Me, you can turn your RSS feed into MP3s for your iPod and
achieve ultimate post-dot-com crash hipsterdom. Only works on texts
that may be read aloud.
If you do not have UnicodeChecker, you will likely have
some unicode characters read to you. For example, it will say "and
number eight thousand two hundred and seventeen" instead of "'".
Pretty cool that it can say "'".
- doclite is a simple
HTML preprocessor for adding just enough structure to a document that
you can keep multiple related documents in one file and add sections
to the documents which are linked and grouped into a table of
contents. The multiple-document thing is something I'd like to see
introduced into reST.
- Abeni makes it easier
to create Gentoo ebuilds. Sounds really useful.
Mon Sep 22 2003 13:28 Anything That Can Be Written About Murphy's Law, Will:
Behold AIR's True History Of The Murphy Law (from cl)
Mon Sep 22 2003 14:21 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.
Mon Sep 22 2003 18:44 Spambiosis?:
Subject: Can you get the phone firstname.lastname@example.org? It's for you and it costs
One prong of a spam/telemarketing dual effort?
Tue Sep 23 2003 22:17:
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.
Wed Sep 24 2003 09:41 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 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!
Actually, Patrick Tufts probably set it up on his behalf.
Wed Sep 24 2003 10:05 Anti-Spam Countermeasures Render Spam Ineffective #2.71:
Subject: Satisfy your lover with your penis deflater
Wed Sep 24 2003 10:06 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.
Wed Sep 24 2003 11:07 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!
Wed Sep 24 2003 16:57 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.
Wed Sep 24 2003 19:20 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.
Wed Sep 24 2003 23:23 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.
Thu Sep 25 2003 11:17 PST 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!"
- 2 pears, peeled, cored, sliced in half
- 1/4 cup brown sugar plus a little more
- 1 cup cream
- 1 cup milk
- Orange or tangerine juice
- Maple syrup
- Vanilla (optional)
- Lemon oil or juice (optional)
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.
Fri Sep 26 2003 09:15 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!
Fri Sep 26 2003 09:28 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.
Fri Sep 26 2003 13:35 MoreSensationalistExaminer.com:
A couple days ago I saw "San Francisco Worships 'Idol'". C'mon, just lose the quotes!
Sat Sep 27 2003 18:59 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.
Sun Sep 28 2003 20:19 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.
Mon Sep 29 2003 14:12 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.
Mon Sep 29 2003 20:55 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.
Tue Sep 30 2003 10:33 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.)
- 1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
- 2 small ginger roots, peeled and grated
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup cream
- 1/8 cup orange or tangerine juice
- Lemon juice (probably optional)
- Large pinch salt
- Almond flakes or almond extract
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.
Tue Sep 30 2003 15:41 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, 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.
 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.
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