Thu Apr 01 2004 09:18 World Famous Leonard #2:
Salon ran an article about CollabNet and I am quoted. Admittedly, all I'm quoted for is to set up Kevin's joke. It's a good joke!
Thing I've learned from talking to reporters: they will get you to talk their ear off and then use one sentence of what you said. It's not their fault. They're just bored. They're hoping you'll say "You know what I hate? Cute puppies!", because that's a story. Not your lame software whatever.
Thu Apr 01 2004 10:48 The April Fool:
The Eater of Meaning provides a great tool for other people's April Fool's Day jokes, so I should be excused forever from having to come up with them, right? I think that's how it works.
Anyway, Sumana suggested I could make an April fool as a dessert today. As far as I can tell no one has ever thought of doing this before, though there are lots of April Fool's Day themed recipes for tormenting your kids with. I don't have any specific April ingredients, but there were key limes at the grocery store yesterday, which there usually aren't, so unless they've started selling the runts as key limes those are probably seasonal.
This was my thinking way back this morning, when I thought a fool was a kind of sponge cake or something. It turns out it's just cream whipped with flavored syrup. Now it doesn't sound like much of a dessert. Sounds like the thing Brendan got in the Sizzler clone in Illinois that he thought was pudding but turned out to be Cool Whip and Oreos. Wait, that was hilarious! If I could somehow harness the power of that incident, I'd have the perfect April fool April Fool!
Thu Apr 01 2004 18:55 NewsBruiser Review is Here!:
Previously, on News You Can Bruise...
Joe says that there was a glowing review of NewsBruiser in the UK magazine Linux Format.
Joe is sending me the magazine and I'm gonna type it up.
Just another way in which my life is less exciting than Pepys': fewer random onstage beatings.
[Nb. I guess that's the subplot?]
And now, the continuation...
Got the package in the mail today. I thought "Huh, this looks like a magazine. I didn't order a magazine! Huh, this looks like overseas mail. Who would send me a magazine... from another country?" I forgot that my life has continuity. Anyway, the article is as glowing as Joe said it was, and as promised I've typed up the review and plan to shamelessly exploit it for promotional purposes. Some choice quotes from the review:
"[O]ne of the best blogging utilities doing the rounds."
"Installation is brilliantly simple..."
"[T]he whole system runs like clockwork."
"Friendly, organised, versatile and great to use."
How do you like that bookending? Thanks, Joe!
(2) Sat Apr 03 2004 15:23 The Uses of Enchantment:
Seth and I saw Good Bye, Lenin! last night. Sumana was supposed to come as well, but I messed up the planning and scheduled the movie night while Sumana was at a concert with Zack. The movie was great-- a touching, beautiful film about propaganda and its effects on its makers and consumers. Who could have thought such a thing possible? It even cheated, Kobayashi Maru-style, by stealing a gag from The Big Lebowski, so what can I say? Go see it! is what I can say.
PS: Confidential to everyone. Who do you and I both know who looks exactly like Florian Lukas?
PS Update: Jarno, was it the guy from Denmark we met at EuroPython whose name I don't remember?
(2) Sun Apr 04 2004 13:11 "Do you have a problem defending your country?":
Salon has an interview with Eugene Jarvis, creator of Defender and Robotron. He's as cranky as I could hope any HotEA programmer to be, and he loves making up random numbers to prove a point:
[Now] you look at the PlayStation 2 or Xbox controller and there's, like, 27 buttons on the thing and three or four joysticks.
"Madden 2004" is a hell of a lot like "Madden 1004."
There's 3,000 channels of everything out there and there's just a million games where you're running around in tights with a sword and you're playing in 1542.
Really, what it's about is the five people that actually send the 3 million letters to their congressman.
It sounds like he wouldn't approve of Burrell Smith's Defender strategy. Incidentally, how does Smash TV fit into your anti-amoral gaming philosophy? Smash TV fascinated me and my pre-adolescent peers precisely because it presented such an amoral world. Does Defender somehow cancel out Smash TV? Are you going to reach for the 'heavy-handed satire' excuse? Answer me, dammit!
Wait, I'm not the one interviewing him.
(1) Mon Apr 05 2004 20:11 A Very Interesting Story, Sir!:
Hey, remember the giant lizard in Cryptonomicon? I was thinking/hoping it was a godzillasaurus, but the semiofficial word has it that it was just an ordinary extinct Megalania prisca. Why, Wiki technology? Why do you shatter my fantasies?
Tue Apr 06 2004 16:32 Blaaaaaah:
Did you know that certain crustaceans will crawl into a fish's mouth and replace its tongue? Unfortunately, "[t]ongue biters do not eat scraps of the fish's food" -- the obvious business model for such a creature. I forsee a future in the fish economy for custom parasites that eat the mother-in-law's food that you, the discerning fish, think is gross. It's like having a dog under the table--in your mouth!
(2) Wed Apr 07 2004 08:42 Chocolate Fountains:
They came into my life and won't leave. Chocolate fountains. Maybe I read too many of those junky free magazines whose ad revenue all comes from wedding catering services, but every plucky service industry small business has got a chocolate fountain these days. Not sure what the big deal is. It's just chocolate fondue, and chocolate fondue is just ganache, and ganache is just a bunch of molecules. You all know about molecules, right? I think the allure comes from a temptation unique to women to stick your head in the chocolate fountain, similar to the constant masculine temptation to turn pirate or (if working on a political campaign in an Amtrak station) to turn Amtrak hobo.
Wed Apr 07 2004 18:23 Hello, I'm Calling From Schwab's Damage Control Department...:
The company that keeps my 401(k) money so I don't have to pay tax on it chose to automatically put certain of their clients into their "We Charge You More" program, a system that applies a light private-sector tax to your money year after year so it doesn't suffer from tax shock when you cash out. It seems I am too poor for my money to be of interest, so I'm still being charged the regular amount. But that article (which Sumana sent me) is as great an example as I've seen of the opt-out mentality at work.
My experience is that every time you encounter an opt-out system in real life, it is because there is a weasel who won out over someone who wanted to do the right thing. In a given situation there might not be anyone who wants to do the right thing, but the decision to create an opt-out system can only be made by a weasel. I know some such people and I'm sorry to say this: you can be a great person in other respects and at other times, but when you choose an opt-out system your head briefly turns into that of a flesh-ripping weasel, just as it briefly turns into a big lollipop when you fall for the old Bugs-Bunny-in-drag trick.
Why? Because if the thing you're letting people opt out of was so great, people would opt in after you told them about it. It would be what we call a 'service' that you could 'offer'. Opt-out is a way of turning a 1-10% positive response rate into a 50-75% negative nonresponse rate. There will be maybe 5-10% of people who would like the service, yet who wouldn't have opted in. That's who you'll point to to justify your behavior, but all the time you'll be thinking about the 30-40% of people who won't use the thing and won't opt out. That, to me, is the mark of the weasel.
When cornered, the common North American Opt-Out River Weasel will employ its traditional defense: weasel words. It may try to dig its way out of a hole, but its webbed feet are not effective digging tools.
By Tuesday, however, Mathison had adopted a more conciliatory tone. He said Schwab is following up on the letters by calling every single recipient and explaining the contents in detail.
Good job! A hidden charge and a phone call to explain it! Now they'll really love you!
PS: if you must use opt-out, here are some less weasely ways to do it:
- Let people out of reversible things, ie. things that don't cost money or result in you giving other people information about them.
- Sound sort of apologetic when you bring up the fact that there's opt-out involved in something. People love this.
- If you have one of those web signup forms that has an opt-out box, say up front what the opt-out means instead of being so vague that it looks like you yourself have no idea what you want to do with the information you collect.
- Come up with an idea so brilliant, so useful, so pure, that everyone on the planet must have it, that screaming mobs rip off their clothes rather than go without it. Then market it and charge money for it. Ha! You're rich, and not a weasel! What? You say it's no fun that way? There, there.
PPS: A couple years back there were little online brouhahas about some web signup form with a checked-by-default "I love having my data shared!" checkbox. If you entered invalid data into the form and unchecked the checkbox and submitted the form, it would redisplay the form with errors highlighted and the checkbox would be magically checked again. If you wanted to opt out you'd have to be sure to uncheck it every time you submitted the form. This is not because the designers of the form are weasels; it's because HTML checkboxes don't work the way a lot of people think they do.
(2) Wed Apr 07 2004 20:01 Rebranding:
Sumana wanted me to pick her up some tortillas at the store. I was looking and looking and all I could find were these weird 'Low Carb' tortillas. Dang spinoff products! Where were the real tortillas?
Then I realized: these were the real tortillas. Tortillas are now the designated low[er]-carb alternative to bread. It's only a matter of time until someone sees Dr. Atkins' face scorched into a tortilla.
(1) Thu Apr 08 2004 19:20 Suddenly, out of nowhere, an abjurer!:
Inspired by Brendan's inadvertent discovery that "Furby" turns into "Sheol" when ROT13ed, I thought I'd write a little script to find words that turn into other words. Of course, now that I've written it all I have to do is search for some of those words to find people who've done the same thing. So, a whole TEN MINUTES wasted! Some interesting potential names for fictional characters discovered, though: Cheryl Purely, Glen Tyra, Barny O'Neal, Ryan Elna, Penny Craal, Eben Rora, Anil Navy, Terryl Greely, and Ivan Vina the Pyrex clerk. My favorite combinations: tang/gnat and green/terra.
Silver Lining Department: the SCOWL Word List seems to have a very high percentage of real words, as opposed to strings found in trusted pieces of text. Maybe I'll grab it for the Eater.
Sour Grapes Department: Who cares what words yield other words when ROT13ed? The real question is, what words are composed of a string concatenated to its ROT13 equivalent? There are five common words that fit this vital criteria, not counting proper nouns:
Also the abbreviations "Re", "PC", and "SF", and the editor "vi".
(2) Fri Apr 09 2004 10:29 Or madly squeeze a right-hand foot into a left-hand shoe:
Pepys' diary should be a Livejournal, not a Moveable Type installation.
Fri Apr 09 2004 15:21 Dead Spammer #1 (for certain values of 1):
Before the explosion buy at any price qfrlcbg el sbskp
(1) Sat Apr 10 2004 20:48:
What's the modern day equivalent of this? Don't say weblogs (even though that's probably the answer).
(2) Sun Apr 11 2004 21:26 Do You Fondue?:
Recently I've been experimenting with fondue. Tonight I achieved the level of competency required to start experimenting and not need a recipe, and also discovered the ultimate fondue dip vegetable--artichokes! Other vegetables have failed for me in fondue, but I tried boiled artichokes tonight and it was great.
Give it a try. It's easy and artichokes are cheap right now. You don't need a special set--just make it in a saucepan and dip the bread or whatever in with forks. Cheap non-trendy fondue!
Next time: hearty ad hoc soup that inevitably makes my housemate say "this is squash?". Like I would lie about squash, and it's really caramel.
Mon Apr 12 2004 21:44 Junk Now More Accessible:
I finally got off my duff and did something about the awful performance of crummy.com (mainly caused by my brazen sacrifice of performance for convenience and UI tweakability, running everything through a Noodle-esque wrapper script). I've now got everything except the actual CGIs being rendered from my abstract source files with their dislike of headers and footers to static HTML files, The more dynamic files (people's weblogs) are re-rendered once a minute. It's still a hack, but at least it's no longer a slow hack.
Let me know if you see anything I missed.
Tue Apr 13 2004 09:18:
Kevan's latest project is a syndicated weblog of Victorian satire Diary of a Nobody. It uses NewsBruiser, and in doing so exposes all the warts of the portal page that for some reason I never really anticipated being used as the front page of a website. Gotta get busy.
PS: Coming soon: more Kevan mania. Wait til you see the link he sent me! You won't believe the twist! Because it's based on a counterfactual!
PPS: Already here but not actually released: mine and Peter's weblog-ish hypertext versions of Gogol's Diary of a Madman. There's also fifty contemporary weblogs with the same title, most probably named after the Ozzy Osbourne song rather than directly after the story. Find the next trend before it happens!
Tue Apr 13 2004 16:08:
Gripping psychological expose (via Sumana) of the fourteen habits of highly effective embezzlers. No need to read the whole thing--I've already read it and I'll tell you the good bits.
6. Volunteers to take care of details that you should handle. Picking up signature cards when you open a new bank account, for example. The more details the bookkeeper handles, the more theft opportunities, and the easier it is to cover things up.
Pretty useful, no?
Uh, I gotta go.
(8) Tue Apr 13 2004 19:55 They're Playing Sports!:
OK, I've kept you waiting long enough. Remember that Game Roundup where I speculated that many games could be improved by replacing humans with cars, a la "Soccar"? Well, Kevan has upped the ante with his discovery that you can improve any game even more by replacing the humans with dinosaurs! Witness Football-o-saurus, a shareware Windows game in which dinosaurs play football (they are British dinosaurs). Brilliant execution; only one thing bothers me, Holmes. The spectators seem to be human. Why?
Now that the scales have been lifted from my eyes I see that all those stale game genres can be revitalized by refocusing them on their rightful subject. Imagine a first-person shooter that's actually a first-person mauler--you are a dinosaur biting or clobbering other dinosaurs. A real-time strategy game in which you deploy your herd of dinosaurs against a rival herd. Even, say, a Monopoly clone in which everything has some strained connection to dinosaurs!
Since the pure, eternal "idea" portion of a project is the hard part, and since the implementation work and will to see it through to completion pales in comparison, I expect these games to start coming out next week now that I've done all the heavy lifting. Hey, I'll even help you out. Look--I started a SourceForge page! It's as good as done already!
Update: despite their British origin, Kevan assures me in comments that the dinosaurs are playing American football. I was kind of wondering where the goalie was in that screenshot. This conclusively identifies the dinosaurs as Paralitian stromeri.
Wed Apr 14 2004 08:26 Pretty Neat:
I'm sure this was on Slashdot two years ago, but check it out: You can include tiny images inline in HTML by encoding them in base64. Found via Andy McKay, who provides the all-important Python implementation and a working example. RFC 2397 makes it all possible.
(5) Wed Apr 14 2004 18:55 I Pie:
The Pie Of The Month Club combines recipes and collage like no previous Of The Month Club. It's full of bizarre, inventive pie recipes like chocoholic Dirt and Worms Pie, tart Amish Saurkraut Custard Pie and portable Pie on a Stick. There's even the arbitrarily large Stack Pie. I showed that last pie recipe to Michael Stack, who said:
I think there's a resemblance (I used to think I looked like a concrete pillar).
This relieves me of the need to come up with an awesome dessert named after Stack for my "dishes named after programmers" diner menu.
Incidentally, if you're a Yankee in the South and you see "fried pie" on a menu, you might think that it's an eccentric dish made by this particular restaurant where they take slices of pie and deep-fry them. If you find this idea simultaneously repulsive and compelling, you might dare to order a fried pie, hoping and fearing to see a golden pie wedge breaded like a shrimp and plopped onto your plate with some whipped cream. If this is what you are expecting, you will be simultaneously relieved and disappointed. Fried pie is actually a completely standard dish that is basically a better version of those inedible $0.25 Hostess fruit pies. I'm not saying don't order it, but know what you're getting.
(1) Thu Apr 15 2004 21:52:
Good primer covering programming-related skills that are technical in nature but not the sort of thing you learn in a class: How to be a Programmer. Learn how to debug, how to make design tradeoffs, how to estimate (always difficult, since it's only even possible in degenerate cases), how to work in a team, etc.
For programmers about to enter the real world (or otherwise about to take responsibility for software projects), it's a good technical companion to the more lifestyle-oriented Things I Wish I'd Been Told. Along with How to Build a Fort That Girls will Visit, these two documents form the essential post-college geek starter kit trilogy. (Thanks to Paul for looking in the Internet Archive when I was too lazy.)
 Supposedly you learn to work in a team in college, but it doesn't work. Working on an open source project is better preparation. You could pick up pair programming in college, if you went in determined to learn that way.
(7) Fri Apr 16 2004 13:18 The Problem Is:
The problem with splitting California into two culturally symbolic states, North and South, like you were planning to do in your post-cyberpunk novel, is that there's this great big valley running right down the middle of California. You can't really split it down the middle, nor can you split around it without creating a jigsaw puzzle. You're stuck!
This has been The Problem Is.
(1) Fri Apr 16 2004 14:23 WE CAN SNEAK IT INTO THE SUBMARINE:
From a meandering Salon article Sumana pointed me to, I found out about the ultra-decadent Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai, which I could never go to for fear the hotel would suddenly start sailing off into the Persian Gulf. It sure has a lot of stuff, but the bizarre all-caps style of the ad copy makes me think the person writing it is asking for my help smuggling money out of the country.
SPANNING 330 SQUARE METRES.. THE CLUB SUITE..
LOCATED ON THE 19TH AND 20TH FLOORS..IS THE PERFECT
ENTERTAINMENT SUITE.SPORTING A SNOOKER TABLE..
COCKTAIL BAR AND DINING TABLE FOR 6 PEOPLE WHILE CLEANING.. THIS GORGEOUS SUITE I DISCOVERED $20 MILLION IN US DOLLARS LEFT.. BY A PREVIOUS OCCUPANT BENEATH THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE WHICH LEADS UP TO AN ADDITIONAL LOFT COMPLETE WITH SITTING AREA CONTINUING INTO THE
BEDROOM WITH ITS KING SIZE BED.. I WRITE THIS FROM THE COMPLETE BUSINESS CENTER CONSISTING OF A WORK DESK..LAPTOP..PRINTER
PRIVATE FAX AND TELEPHONE SERVICES AND DATAPORT ..
Fri Apr 16 2004 17:10:
Incidentally, a fun game you can play is to search for
the name of a country and see at what position the CIA World
Factbook entry for that country comes up. Actually, now that I've
written it down, I don't really see why it's fun.
More fun to look through
the Factbook for tiny territories like Howland Island, which features tourist attractions like the historic Earhart Light beacon (named after Amelia Earhart, who was headed for the island when she disappeared) and... nothing else. The only thing on the island is a thing that helps you stay away from the island. Fortunately, "the laws of the US, where applicable, apply."
Fri Apr 16 2004 23:35:
I recorded a song ("Monochrome") for you tonight, but then I had to wrestle like Jacob with my sound card, and then it turned out the vocals were red at the beginning, and then Sumana said it was too long ("What is it, four verses?" "Uh, three."), and then I came up with a better solo for the pyrotechnic finish, and generally it needs to be rerecorded. I don't know what I can do about the length, though. It's a standard three minutes and by gum it's supposed to be the missing link between the peppy 2:30 grungefest and the half-hour two-sample techno club beat that makes you want to leave, to be anywhere but here, to listen to Donovan or something just to hear a chord progression. I guess the experience has made me bitter. I have passed through the Easy Bake crucible!
OK, starting to babble. Time to turn off the computer.
Sat Apr 17 2004 09:39 Conversation:
"I had that 'hip deer in the headlights' look."
"Yeah, I know that one. 'Oh, I'm too cool to--[whump] Aaah! My trucker hat!'"
(3) Mon Apr 19 2004 19:25 How Dead Will You Be?:
PBS used to have a morbid
web page that would show you the blast radii of various types of
nuclear weapon superimposed over a map of your hometown, provided by the aptly-named
MapBlast. Now it's just a bunch of static HTML with descriptions of
how you really don't want to be anywhere near a nuclear blast. The
sample map image is the only thing thing that proves I wasn't
hallucinating it all.
Kris figured they took down the interactive portion because of
9/11, which makes total sense. Previously, terrorists would only have
had to obtain a nuclear device if they wanted to blow up a city. Now,
they have to obtain a nuclear device and a map and compass! But
what about other methods of horrible destruction, as yet out of human
control? Are there convenient, non-terror-enabling online forms that
show you how dead you will be? I decided to do some searching and find
- Earthquake: You can find out when you
felt the tremors from past earthquakes, but that doesn't do you
much good. However, see Asteroid Strike below. Update!: If you live in the SF Bay Area, Adam Parrish has a deal for you! Maps and everything!.
- Volcano Eruption: All I could find was this distance
calculator to volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest. If you don't
mind doing a little web browsing, you can locate volcanoes in your
area at this Smithsonian site
or this USGS site, which
is less comprehensive but has maps and other volcano freebies.
- Tsunami: Nothing I could find.
- Asteroid Strike: Here's what I'm
talking about. Takes projectile characteristics and calculates all
types of damage: crater ejecta, shock wave, thermal radiation, etc.
Plus, since an asteroid strike causes an earthquake, you can work
out a rough correspondence of impact criteria to Richter
scale magnitude and simulate any kind of earthquake that way.
My only complaint: With the right asteroid you can create an impact
crater bigger than the earth. Indeed, you can specify an asteroid much
bigger than the earth and it doesn't, as it should, treat the
collision as a minor inconvenience to the asteroid.
- Tornado: Well, if you know the windspeed of a particular
tornado, you can plug it
in here and it will give you an index on the
meaningless-except-to-tornado-geeks "Fujita Scale". But it will also
give you wiseacre Midwestern comments, a decent proxy for "How dead
will you be?" (Eg. "Too late to head for the cellar!")
- Flood: Well, this is pretty interesting. It's not a calculator per se,
but a tutorial and
script for simulating flooding in a GIS system. The reason I say
it's interesting was I've been wondering how to do the same thing on a
grand scale: see what the world would look like if the sea level were
to rise or fall.
- Godzilla attack: Nothing. Not even a damage table you can roll on.
Well, I think that covers most of the SimCity disasters. Maybe the
raw power of a nuclear explosion or an asteroid strike are what let
you make a calculator that doesn't get hung up on the topography of
the landscape or the size of a particular volcano.
(3) Mon Apr 19 2004 23:02 Where was I on the night of the 19th?:
Way-ul, I was sitting in my chair, working on the new NewsBruiser website. It's got a big tour page that covers most of the major features, and a great new logo and button drawn by Brendan. Both logo and button feature the bruisin' yet friendly NewsBruiser pachycephalosaurus, as yet unnamed. Name him, and win a valueless prize!
If you're interested in the progress of the Brendan/Leonard logo collaboration, check out the Gallery of Rejected NewsBruiser Logos. The dimetrodon was my original idea, and in the face of all evidence I still think we could have gotten it to work out somehow.
Tue Apr 20 2004 11:02:
Check out The Religious Policeman, an relatively new English-language weblog written by a Saudi. Your average political complaining weblog, except he's complaining about the lack of elections in his country. Caution: contains pictures of public executions. I'm not kidding.
I'd love to find more English-language weblogs written by natives of non-English-speaking countries--please post your favorites in comments. I want English-language weblogs because I want to read them, not collect them, and unfortunately I don't speak all the world's languages. I'm a failure!
Tue Apr 20 2004 12:47:
In the court of The Sun King, cell phones are mandatory. (From Hart's Weblog via Sumana.)
Tue Apr 20 2004 17:19:
In college, Adam Kaplan and I had this running joke about Brian Kernighan as a sort of freelance Santa Claus. He'd break into your house on Christmas Eve and leave you UNIX source tapes or a Plan 9 installation. If you'd been bad, you'd get lumps of Windows NT.
Anyway, while we were having our little jokes, the real Brian Kernighan was riding high at Lucent, lording it over Kevin and giving interviews
to fans. Years later, Adam sends a pointer to me and Kris as a reminder... of what could have been. Ach, it's a sad story, and one told for no apparent reason.
PS: confidential to Adam et al. Is it okay if I link to your Livejournals? You don't really advertise them and I know Kris has his own non-Live journal, but sometimes I'd like to link to something you write and I don't know if that's okay or if you want to keep them semi-private or if you even know I know about them, in which case, oops.
(1) Tue Apr 20 2004 19:33 Arbitrarily Hearty Squash Soup:
This is an easy and tasty soup. I made it tonight to run some experiments before posting the recipe. To make it you stew ROASTED SQUASH AND THE LIKE in BROTH, blend it in the blender, and then add DAIRY and SEASONING. I didn't keep track of the time, but it probably took half an hour to 45 minutes.
ROASTED SQUASH AND THE LIKE
- 3 large squash or more than 3 smaller squash
- Brown sugar
This can be any kind of squash or any other vegetable that's stringy and fleshy and you didn't like when you were a kid. The more squash you use, the heartier the soup. Tonight I used a butternut squash, some other kind of squash I don't know what it's called (it's yellow and shaped like a Keystone Kop's billyclub; it might actually be a zucchini), and two sweet potatoes.
Peel the squash and bisect them so as to maximize the exposed surface area. Scoop out any seeds and sprinkle the squash with pepper and brown sugar. Bake them on a cookie sheet in the oven until they're hot and you're sick of waiting. If you don't peel the squash you'll just have to scoop out the flesh once you remove them from the oven, when they're hot enough to ignite human flesh. There's no need to bake the squash skin! Anyway, once the baking is done you are ready to chop up the squash and dump them into the simmering
- 3 cups of vegetable broth, more or less
I use two 14-ounce cans of vegetable broth. Using less broth is another way to increase the heartiness of the soup. I don't think any other kind of broth makes sense for this soup. While the squash cooks in the broth, mash it up with a potato masher. When it's good and mashed, transfer a few cups of it to the blender and blend it. Pour back into the soup pot and repeat until the soup is the consistency you want. If you're like Adam and Kim and you have one of those fancy hand blenders, by all means, use the fancy hand blender. Once you have a good thick soup you are ready to add the
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cheese rind or 1 cup shredded cheese or whatever (I use the heel of the Jarlsberg from the most recent time I made fondue).
The cream is a double-edged sword. It adds richness (because of the fat) at the expense of heartiness (because of the liquid). It's fine to use less cream, or none. I add the cheese because I like the flavor of a Swiss cheese in the soup, and I also like getting rid of old cheese.
- Grated ginger
I like a lot of different flavors, so every time I make this soup I add more stuff. Last time it was the cheese. This time I added toasted sesame seeds, which worked pretty well. Toasted squash seeds would have been more thematic. I bet you could also add garlic. (Side note to self: come up with dessert involving sesame seeds baked in brown sugar.)
Stir it all up, and you have soup! Serves 6, I guess (me + Sumana + Housemate 1TM + Housemate 2TM + me or Sumana having seconds + me or Sumana having a bowl for some other meal).
Next time: I am actually going to make Samoa Samosas. I have the ingredients and everything.
Wed Apr 21 2004 19:01 A Hard Day's Assimilation:
This is the first of two entries I will write today about the "Star Trek: The Experience" licensed entertainment experience in Las Vegas. Check out their casting call for the new "Borg Invasion" thrill ride.
Job responsibilities include assimilating humans into the BORG collective in order to gain their power and knowledge...Strong improvisational skills are necessary because BORG do not have minds of their own.
The whole site is great, in an over-the-top Ferengi-run kind of way. I'm curious about the employees' prosthetics--they have to be fairly realistic in a less forgiving setting than a sound stage, and not take hours or lots of skilled labor to apply.
(5) Wed Apr 21 2004 19:29 Hm, I Don't See A Betazoid Option:
If my previous entry on the topic wasn't enough excitement for you, you can up and get married at Star Trek: The Experience, surrounded by well-wishing Klingons and Ferengi (what, no Species 8472?). You might think this was a great idea, especially for a fanboy like me, but their implementation hits a lot of wrong notes.
This isn't like a drive-up Elvis chapel that you do on the spur of the moment. You have to schedule this thing. And if you're deranged enough to want a Star Trek wedding, you're deranged enough to go on and on with your nitpicking and ruin it. Little details like the fact that your Star Trek wedding is nothing like a Star Trek wedding. None of the long-suffering Starfleet officers attending your wedding are in their dress uniforms, and you're getting married on the bridge--not the best place on a starship for a wedding, since people tend to be there trying to get work done. The sample pictures have people in 21st-century wedding clothes standing in front of the putative Enterprise viewscreen, making it look like they're negotiating with the Romulans over mineral rights. What should be an immersive experience ends up making you feel like an anachronism in someone else's world.
Well, that's my preemptive review. When I actually get married there I'll let you know how it went.
Wed Apr 21 2004 22:33:
Sumana and I made Samoa Samosas. They are not insanely great but they're edible. They'd be more edible if instead of taking the premise literally and using real Samoa cookies I used flavors that resembled those found in Samoa cookies, like chocolate and coconut. Recipe coming tomorrow, for completeness.
(2) Thu Apr 22 2004 10:34 Samoa Samosas:
Sumana likes them, I think they are mediocre. I will concede they are very good for a food that combines two completely different culinary concepts solely for the sake of a funny name. Sumana took the leftovers to work for a taste test. Results to be published in an update.
- 6 Samoa Girl Scout Cookies
- 1.5 bananas
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon shredded coconut
- dash vanilla
- 3 sheets phyllo dough
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mash up the bananas. Chop up the cookies. Mush everything together.
Spread 3 sheets of the phyllo dough out on a cookie sheet. Brush each layer with melted butter and cut into 4 triangles. Distribute the filling between the triangles and fold into a vaguely samosoid shape with the filling in the middle. Brush top with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 10 minutes. Makes 4 samosas.
This is a scaled-down recipe. We actually made 6 samosas with 2 bananas and 8 cookies. We used 1 more sheet of phyllo dough to fashion the other 2 samosas. It's complicated so I didn't put it in the recipe. Just eat the other banana half.
I still have 14 sheets of phyllo dough, and it's not as hard as I'd feared to work with. Maybe I'll make some weird baklava or warbat (warbat!).
Fri Apr 23 2004 08:28 Fictional Legal Fictions:
While driving across the Missouri river, Brendan and I passed a riverboat casino. Except it wasn't a riverboat. It was a building built on a pier with molding on the outside that made it look like a riverboat. It was connected to an onshore parking structure. How can that possibly skirt any state regulation about gambling? Is onshore gambling actually legal in Kansas, with this casino merely trying to provide the experience of Old Tyme Riverboat Gambling?
(8) Fri Apr 23 2004 13:28 There's A Reason Why They Call It That:
Last night Sumana and I threw caution to the winds and went to Greens, a ritzy vegetarian restaurant in the Fort Mason center (where little corporations are housed in big boxy Army surplus buildings). Unlike our similar adventure at Millennium, it was great! It was hearty and rustic where Millennium was trendy and urban, open and sunny and Californian where Millennium was a dark, crowded bistro. Millennium was obsessed with meat substitutes, Greens with vegetables and grains. Both used the weird leafy vegetables you've never heard of--I don't remember what they were and I could just make up random-sounding vegetables like "erdile" and you'd believe me.
We shared two great appetizers; southwestern bean cakes and a "spring sampler" with walnut bread, bleu goat cheese, walnuts, and dates. I had a great polenta-in-soupy-stuff entree, and Sumana had shish kebobs which she didn't like as much. I ordered a chocolate mousse torte for dessert, which I haven't eaten yet. (I couldn't eat it yesterday due to my new "jam every other day" diet.)
Total cost of meal was $60, which I think is pretty good for an upscale dinner in San Francisco. That $60 does not include the enormously expensive cookbook I bought. I'm going to end up one of those people with a bookcase full of cookbooks. A cookbookcase.
Fri Apr 23 2004 14:38 Two Years Later:
Now's a good time to mention that sometime after this entry, Lego mad scientist Amy Hughes put the pictures of her awesome Lego church back online.
(1) Sat Apr 24 2004 11:02 Town Names:
Apropos Brendan: while on the campaign I found out about a town called Sandwich Landing in New Hampshire, which reminds me of The Young Ones.
(2) Sun Apr 25 2004 20:58:
I wonder if, in this mechanized age, superheroes ever fall victim to secret identity theft.
Mon Apr 26 2004 14:37:
On Saturday, a sadistic Kevin made me and Sanil (visiting from Chennai) hike up Wildcat Peak near Berkeley. Apart from the hellish ascent and the treacherous descent, it was nice. A Nike missile silo (q.v.) on the summit has been beaten into a plowshare of an observation deck from which you can see the entire San Francisco Bay. I have pictures but who knows whether you can see anything in them--I've only seen tiny thumbnails so far because I can't find my USB memory card reader.
There's a "Peace Grove" below the observation deck in which certain trees have been provided the local Rotary Club with plaques comemmorating peacemakers (from a Rotary Club point of view, I guess) like Desmond Tutu, Anwar Sadat, Adlai Stevenson, and Edward Teller. Kevin claims Henry Kissinger has a plaque, but we couldn't find it.
The Peace Grove is great because there's no trail through it, no list of plaques, and no guidebook references--just a marking on the trail map and the word of your (not particularly trustworthy) guide. I probably shouldn't even be talking about it, lest I spoil the fun of crunching through the brush looking for plaques. It's like a monument plus a geocache.
Mon Apr 26 2004 16:10:
Get this before the cool kids take them all: Spacebloom is a fancy coffee-table book from a future where bioengineered storage media/embedded system vegetables are grown in space. Why? Because it's the future. Are you against the future?
(1) Tue Apr 27 2004 09:05 Retraction Of Notice Of Intent to Mock: Wikipedia:
Salon has an article on Wikipedia, a site that is great even though I've mocked it in the past (I can't find where I mocked it; did a Wiki zealot delete that entry?). The article reminds me I should anti-mock Wikipedia. What can I say? It looks like it works, thanks to the hard-working people who obsessively mantain it. Since I am lazy and want things to work automatically, I tend to discount things that will only work if you make its maintenance your pet project. Thank you, obsessive Wikipedia mantainers.
Even so, I would only care in an academic sense, but sometime in the past Wikipedia surpassed the point where the articles were tedious clean-room implementations of preexisting encyclopedia entries. Now they tell me about interesting things like The Fundamental Theorem of Poker (which inspired me to seek out other fundamental theorems) and what the SysRq key is for.
In celebration of the article and the server-crushing load it will no doubt send Wikipedia's way, I declare today WikiDay on News You Can Bruise. I can think of two other Wiki-related things to write about, which should be good enough for a Day.
(7) Tue Apr 27 2004 14:16 Going Out In Midday Sun No Longer Top Indicator:
Distributed stereotype ranking self-evaluations for Great Britain. Food and monarchy head the list. Full list nowhere to be seen online, which is a shame as that sort of list would be a good air-clearer for finding out less-appreciated facets of a national psyche.
Unfortunately, WikiDay is on hiatus due to insufficient funding. How will I tell the children that WikiDay has been cancelled? Please, think of the children.
(3) Tue Apr 27 2004 17:37 PST Finger Wikin' Good:
Thanks to your PayPal generosity, we were able to raise approximately $0.00 for our WikiDay celebration. This was well short of the expectations I laid out at the beginning of the funding drive, but it turns out that no special funding is required to write weblog entries about Wikis, so the show can continue as planned.
Suppose you want the glory of Wiki contributorship, but you also crave the greater proportional glory that comes from contributing to a Wiki that lacks thousands of contributors. Check out the Wiki Cookbook, the most promising of the WikiBooks. It has few specific recipes, but as with Wikipedia the potential is there to focus our individual obsessions on a single semicanonical web site. Check out, for instance the Caesar salad recipe--they have the original recipe from Caesar's Bar along with a bastardized modern version. Completeness mania strikes again! Huzzah! A global namespace ensures that variants of recipes will be explored within the context of the larger dish rather than stuck somewhere else. I hope.
My only complaint: I can't find any way to get any of the special Wiki pages (random page, recent changes) for a particular book (ie. the cookbook). There's one big dataset of all the changes made to every WikiBook from which these pages take their orders.
Tue Apr 27 2004 20:50:
A more tech-oriented entry to close off WikiDay (unless you or I can think of something else). Let's say you really like buzzwords (specifically, the same buzzwords I really like). Well, check out my ex-co-worker Greg Stein (now at Google)'s SubWiki, which combines "Wiki", "Python", and "Subversion" in pleasing ways. Is there any interest, or indeed any conceivable need, for me hosting a Wiki on crummy.com?
PS: If you know of any cool Wikis, post them in comments.
(8) Wed Apr 28 2004 12:22 PST
Free Cheap Rider:
Today I sent a book to someone (who reads this weblog and will soon be pleasantly surprised). Book rate is so cheap! Why do we subsidize sending books through the mail?
(1) Thu Apr 29 2004 13:51 PST Dactyl Nightmare:
You all know my good friend Checkerboard Nightmare. But what about other things named "[Incongruent noun] Nightmare"? I believe I have found one.
There was an old VR game (that was what we called these games before we called them "first-person shooters") that ran on Amiga hardware, called Dactyl Nightmare. It had a sequel called (surprisingly) Dactyl Nightmare 2. The ad copy promises you will be "plunged into an ultrareal setting trying to avoid the menacing intentions of giant swooping pterodactyls in this game of unprecedented realism" and "You won't sleep through this nightmare."
Hey, wake up! Nightmare! C'mon! You're missing it!
OK, good. Here's a contemporaneous review of Dactyl Nightmare from an Amiga separatist site. The other thing I wanted to show you is this screenshot from Dactyl Nightmare 2, in which the pterodactyl has had big posters of herself printed up and hung in her nest. An egg theft countermeasure?
Man, what a great name. The trademark has been cancelled; does that mean I could write a completely different game with the same name and get away with it?
(6) Fri Apr 30 2004 10:25 PST Operator Overloading:
All sorts of things are possible with the click of a mouse, or, if you prefer, with a click of a mouse, or with a click of the mouse, or even with the click of the mouse.
Now, let me just publish this...
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