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Flu Spam #2: Continuing my public service exposé of spam's response to the flu vaccine debacle. About a week ago I got Traditional remedy to flu available. Hey, I can make soup too.

Then on October 28 I got flu, Cancer, SARS and HIV! (well, I got a spam that said that). As you can see, spammers are still on the SARS scaremongering bandwagon when even BoingBoing is tired of SARS. What's next, alar in apples? The Ford Pinto menace?

[Comments] (3) More Spamthropology: You know all that mortgage spam? I couldn't figure it out. How did it work? What spammer could finance mortgages and stick around to get them paid off, or would be able to foist people off onto a real bank and take a cut? Why would the most expensive purchase the average person makes in their life be advertised via spam? Why would this business be so successful that spam for it would multiply over time?

Then I went to one of the mortgage spam websites and it all fell into place. It's a phishing scam. They just want your personal information for some other purpose. Not nearly as interesting as I'd hoped.

[Comments] (5) How To Exercise Political Power Part 1: IF you'll recall, in our last seminar on politics I mentioned that in a representative democracy, politics is the fusion of two separate professions: campaigning and governing. The art of scheming to acquire power and the art of wielding power.

Also mentioned before were the weirdos who make careers out of politics (they are actually no weirder than computer programmers, though their personality disorders tend toward more the extroverted end of the Table of Mental Abberation). These people are trying to gain political power, almost certainly at your expense. But they're working on it full time and you're not. What they know is that political power is a pyramid scheme, and that while you almost certainly cannot get as much as you want, you can get more than you deserve. There is a secret, but not a hidden one. The secret is voting.

"Yeah, right, get real," you say. "Voting? There's no way my vote will count!" Yes, this is true. Even if you live in Ohio or Florida, your vote tomorrow will count so little as to be negligible. Some people in my rhetorical position would counter this argument by bringing up obscure Alaskan elections decided by a margin of one vote. I think this does a disservice to democracy so I prefer to stipulate the point and lure you into a false sense of complacency.

The reason your vote counts for so little is that you're not the only person in the country. You're just one person and there are hundreds of millions of other people who could vote if they wanted to. Many of them do! We each think of life as a narrative where we are the star, but the surest way to shatter that illusion, besides looking up at the night sky, is to look at election results.

If you live, like me, in a state like California or Texas, you have seen this happen in many presidential elections. The people of most states have such similar demographics that their electoral votes are taken for granted and nobody pays attention to them. Sure, their votes are important in the aggragate. Without their electoral votes--the accumulated votes of you, the New Yorkers and Tennesseeans--the campaign taking those electoral votes for granted would surely falter. But your vote? No.

A standard response to the my-vote-is-meaningless complaint is that you should make sure your vote reflects an informed decision on your part. This almost makes sense but not quite. Obviously you should decide how to vote via some rational or at least emotional process. Flipping a coin to decide your vote is about the same as not voting at all--the only thing your vote has going for it is that it's yours and not some lousy coin's[0]. Even voting based on a last-minute gut instinct (which is what I do when I can't decide) is better than voting randomly. But the system of elections won't treat a coin-flip vote any differently from a well-considered vote.

However it does treat two votes differently from one vote. What you need to do is create or take advantage of a vote multiplier. Once you reach your decision, you need to somehow convince more people to vote the same way. Then in a sense you'll all share that block of n votes. Your own vote will still count for basically nothing, but mentally you'll take credit for all n of the votes. You'll feel better, and in a real sense you'll have more power.

Before the Internet this meant convincing other people in your state to vote with you, and most such attempts were crushed into dust by large margins of victory and the Electoral College[1]. But now, thanks to HTTP and SMTP, you can reach people in the states over which the Demographics Fairy has waved her swing-state wand. Assuming you can afford it, it's even easy to even go to such exotic locales and help run get-out-the-vote operations, where you get people who were already sympathetic to your cause to actually go into the dang voting booth already. And thanks to a polarized electorate, your efforts might actually make enough of a difference to satisfy your average-citizen-level lust for raw power!

This feels like you're gaming the system, but it is actually how the system is supposed to work. People aren't supposed to be furtive about voting, as though it were an annual bout of flatulence. You're supposed to argue and convince other people. I don't do this because I am really really shy, but that's how you do it if you want to do more than just pull the lever. Working for a campaign, or running for office yourself, is just an attempt to get a bigger vote multiplier. A good campaign uses vote multipliers to best advantage and helps people create their own vote multipliers.

I have made out amazingly well on this score with respect to this presidential election. I spent three months working for a political campaign which ultimately failed but had some long-term effects on the race. Some software I wrote for that campaign got picked up by one of the major campaigns (thanks to Josh Hendler) and provided vote multipliers to lots of other people. My totally random estimate is that I've had as much effect on the political campaign as maybe 100 or 1000 people actually casting votes in Ohio, which is huge and way more than I expected. That plus the California vote I'm going to cast tomorrow, which would be useless even if I weren't going to vote along with most of California. But I'm not complaining, because I now understand why my vote is useless and I know what I can do in the future to feel like I made a real contribution to an election cycle.

The other way to get a bigger vote multiplier is to lower your scope. Stop obsessing over the national election! That's where everyone is paying attention. Look at a state or local election. Because fewer people are interested, your vote counts for proportionally more and any vote multipliers you get are automatically increased.

Unfortunately, the reason people aren't as interested in local politics is because usually, local politics are incredibly boring (this is eg. why Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor of California). Some say that lowering your scope is not for them precisely because local politics are incredibly boring. What they do not realize is that all forms of politics are incredibly boring. A major political technique is making your opponents so bored that they give up. Anything exciting is probably a distraction put up by one faction, or something that hundreds of people are already working on and that you can't get close to unless you want to make a career out of it (I don't say this to denigrate making a career out of such things, but it's not for me). This can have a real effect on your life, though often more than portions of politics that get orders of magnitude more attention.

I wanted to get this one out now, but soon I will do a companion piece to this one talking about the other half of politics and how to get the most out of your government dollar. The election is tomorrow, but the government we will always have with us.

Also, go vote tomorrow if you're American. I trust you to be reasonable, and I don't know any of you who live in swing states, so I'm not going to lecture you about who to vote for. But think about this for next time. I don't want you to think that you are powerless, because it's not true. You just don't have as much power as you need to set everything right. You need to get some other people on your side.

[0] Anyway, coins have previous presidents on them, which opens them up to bias. If you flip a quarter you're likely to find yourself voting a straight Federalist ticket.

[1] Let me state for the record that I think the Electoral College is a bad idea and that I will still think it's a bad idea even if it gives me a result I like, say, tomorrow.

PS: There is a whole darker side to get-out-the-vote operations, where you run the vote multiplier equation in reverse and try schemes to get your opponent's supporters to not vote. I know from experience there can be a huge temptation to think "Man, if only the other guy's supporters would just not vote, we'd have it made" (I had similar thoughts during the Feb. 2 primaries, and I was trying really hard not to). There's a big gap between thinking this, though, and saying it, and another big gap between saying it and doing something about it.

I could go on and on about this and the anatomy of GOTV pathologies (even on the non-darker side) in general, but this piece is already long enough. I can go into more detail if you want. For now, I will end on a partisan note by pointing out that one of the major American political parties benefits, on average, when one more person votes; the other one benefits, on average, when one fewer person votes. Even with my cynical view of human nature I would rather align myself with the first party or, if I couldn't bring myself to do that, try to make the second party more like the first in this regard.

[Comments] (3) Curse of the well-meaning tourist: Seth is encountering the same problem I did in Brussels, where you brush up on the local language and think you're hot stuff and everyone just speaks English to you because it's faster.

: No more election junk mail in my mailbox! Just regular junk mail! I could get used to this. Also a tax refund from the state of Arkansas. Apparently they were just kidding about their special "fleece the outsider" income tax.

: How much of a sucker's game is it to be browsing through a used bookstore or antique shop and say "I think this is seriously undervalued; I could perform arbitrage and sell it on eBay for marginally more money than this"? I'm pretty sure it's completely a sucker's game, but I keep hoping, but my test objects turn out to have really small eBay markup margins. Obviously I'm becoming one of these people.

[Comments] (4) : It wasn't intended to be, but HTMLer almost makes a good double feature with Beautiful Soup. The one creates bad HTML and the other parses bad HTML. Only problem is its idea of 'bad' HTML is HTML with lots of hexadecimal junk in it, instead of just being poorly formed. Is there anything that generates bad HTML a person might create instead of bad HTML that tries to find buffer overflows?

[Comments] (7) : Because Sumana wanted them, I am putting up a directory of cute animal pictures I've acquired over the years. I was going to try to hack on Nethack tonight, but it turns out people got invited over to my house so I'm making dinner instead. At least I'm finally making those rotten bananas into banana bread.

[Comments] (3) Nethack Dinosaur Patch: At last I got some time to mess around with Nethack. But what to do? Something simple to start with. What is Nethack missing, I asked myself? The obvious answer was dinosaurs. It's got all sorts of fantastical creatures, but none of the truly fearsome beasts from Earth's own past. That was my internal sales pitch, anyway.

Study of the sources and this helpful document showed me the way to creating new Nethack monsters, and I was ready to zap my wand of meta-create monster. But which dinosaurs to pick? I thought about that old AD&D monster manual table that lists about 50 kinds of dinosaurs in great detail and somehow manages to make dinosaurs boring. No, I would only pick a representative sample of dinosaurs.

My patch provides but three painstakingly selected lizard-beasts: the fastest dinosaur ever, the smartest dinosaur ever, and the most popular dinosaur ever. The balance is probably off and there's a lot more that could be added (treatment of the fact that, while many dinosaurs have hands, they can't really do much with them; also, I guess you could saddle and ride the smaller dinosaurs), but it makes me happy.

[Comments] (4) Cheese: Trader Joe's has a great cheese for relatively cheap. It's Brie made from goat's milk. It's great on bread because it has more flavor than regular Brie. Just thought you might like to know.

: Back in 1999 I transcribed Mark Twain's The Late Benjamin Franklin because it wasn't up on the web. Well, that just proves that 1999 was some kind of Dark Age of the Web, because now there's about a jillion of Twain's newspaper articles online. In addition to the same piece I spent valuable time typing up, highlights include How I Edited An Agricultural Paper Once, his analysis of why such ludicrous satires inevitably fool people, and the shaggy-dog dead media joke that is his map of beseiged Paris.

[Comments] (2) The goose is getting fat: People who grew up with me or are married to those who did: what do you want for Christmas? Send me email. I am also having trouble finding stuff for peoples' stockings, so also let me know about your trivial troubles resolvable with trivial trinkets.

[Comments] (3) When In Los Angeles: Visit the La Brea Tar Pits. Motto: "The el lugar place for the la brea tar." The museum has (or had, last I was there) an ingenious carnival game type exhibit that lets you be a Smilodon trying to escape the tar. But there is no escape!

Underpackaging: Lots of stuff is overpackaged, but for some reason flour is underpackaged and it has always been. I've lived for a while and lots of things have changed but one thing I can remember all the way back to childhood is the flour shelf in the supermarket being dusted with spillage from flimsy paper bags of flour that have grown leaks or rips. Flour's pretty cheap so I guess the supermarket and the flour mill can afford to lose merchandise. But really how much would it hurt to use the next thicker grade of paper? Also, apparently I'm Pat from Achewood.

[Comments] (2) The Coffinfish Returns!: Based on an offhand comment I made to Sumana, I'm pleased to announce that you can now pre-order your very own Holiday Singing Coffinfish! Would make a great gift if it really existed!

PS: if you're new, the coffinfish is one of NYCB's most beloved and least marketable creations. Reminds me a little of Bill the Cat, actually.

[Comments] (1) : Speaking of pictures of animals, a few new ones added to the cute animal picture proto-weblog, including one magical picture that has both a rhino and a shipping container. Clearly that needs to turn into a real weblog, but I've got other things to do, and I'm not even doing them.

: Wow, I got a surprising amount done tonight. Anyway, check out this book about John Law, the eighteenth-century con man destined soon to figure in a Eco/Pears/Stephenson story near you. (Actually I think he's already been mentioned by one of those authors, but not nearly enough as his character warrants). He's also got a big chunk in Extraordinary Popular Delusions, which I haven't plugged recently. All this is a fancy way of saying: I don't have anything for you tonight! Go read old public domain stuff instead!

[Comments] (1) Jason Update: I know you've been wondering what's up with Jason Robbins. He has once again left acadamia and started a software methodology company called Method Labs. I always knew he'd end up running a meth lab.

[Comments] (1) Not Enough Spam?: Noticed that I haven't been writing as much about spam recently? That's because I've been posting it all over at Spam As Folk Art. So have Kevan and Sumana.

[Comments] (5) Eclair Cake Dissection: Susanna posted the secret family recipe for eclair cake, which I threatened to post over a year ago. Now's a good time to dissect it a little.

It's not just called an eclair cake to make it sound fancy. The crust is made of choux paste, the same stuff you use to make eclairs. Except instead of pastry-bagging it into eclairs, you spread it onto a baking sheet and bake it into one big quadrilateral eclair. Then most of the other stuff is cheap versions of the stuff that goes into eclairs (cream filling, chocolate, etc). It is like a big splayed-open eclair. Anyway, it's very tasty and I recommend you try it.

[Comments] (4) Persimmon Cookies: Some people grow persimmons; some buy persimmons; others have persimmons thrust upon them. I count myself firmly in the latter camp. I don't like persimmons but Sumana gets the Planet Organics produce delivery every other week, and lately it's been persimmon after persimmon. Some sort of persimmon marketing scheme, I understand.

So what to do with the persimmons? The only thing I can think of, apart from weird things like persimmon chutney and hollowed-out persimmons filled with tuna, is persimmon cookies. Now, I tell all kinds of lies in my songs but one of the biggest whoppers is in Confectioner's Sugar where I say I like persimmon cookies. I don't.

Fortunately I have a good recipe from my great grandmother Jesse Clark that other people like, which means I can foist my cookies off onto others. Also fortunately, Zack and The Poor Man and The Claw have somehow been invited to dinner tonight, so I can make them take cookies home. If you find yourself with persimmons, make these cookies and you'll soon be rid of them.

Ingredients

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mash up the persimmons or puree them in the food processor. Sprinkle the baking soda over them. I don't know how it happens but somehow the persimmon puree absorbs the baking soda and turns into a perfectly smooth gelatinous mass. For all I know you are not supposed to do this, but I like doing it because it is the only time I ever say "Persimmons! Awesome!"

Sift together the dry ingredients.

Cream the shortening. Add the sugar and cream the sugar. Add the egg and beat some more. Add the persimmons and beat some more. At this point the dough will look like extremely soft granite. Now's the time to incorporate the dry ingredients. After that's all done, incorporate the nuts and raisins.

Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Flatten the cookies slightly with a fork (I always forget this part). Bake for 10 to 15 minutes--that's what the recipe says, but I always end up baking them for 15 minutes and sometimes on to 20. But then, I don't eat the cookies, so I'm just going by looks.

[Comments] (1) Sunday at the Zoo: Went to the zoo with Sumana. The new savanna habitat was great, very atmospheric with lots of room for the zebras to run around. One of the giraffes took a shine to the wood of the giraffe barn, and began gnawing and licking it, probably trying to get some kind of giraffe high. We came in on the end of penguin feeding time, and one of the zoo workers tickled one of the penguins, which made the cutest noise you could ever imagine a penguin making. Apropos alliteration announcements, an anteater ate an avocado.

[Comments] (4) Best Company Names: My pick: Spectrum Holobyte. No name does a better job connoting both "It's the future" and "It's the 80s". Which names do you like?

[Comments] (2) Putting the Bull in "Bull Market": You know how the example application for every new mobile device, web service framework, and toasted-pita sandwich is a stock quote web service? Did anyone ever actually write one of those? Bizarrely, I need one for a project. I'm scraping Yahoo Finance but it would be nice not to have to scrape. This hypothetical application needs to have all the obscure stocks (in fact, I'd prefer it only have the obscure stocks, but that seems unlikely).

[Comments] (2) Stock Spam Effectiveness Monitor: I am a novelty vampire. I can have a cool idea but if it starts eating up all my nights and weekends I think it's not so cool anymore. This felt like it was taking forever, but it only ate three of my nights and now it's more or less done: the fearsome Stock Spam Effectiveness Monitor.

Said monitor tries to get a picture of how people respond to spam by graphically correlating spam that advertises a stock with the price of that stock. I chose this because stock spam isn't as obscure as other spam, due to a gentleman's agreement with the spamees, a greater need for verisimilitude, or some nearly-toothless SEC rule (a la "The publisher of this newsletter discloses the receipt of ten thousand dollars from a third party... for the circulation of this report."). Also because it's the only kind of spam I know of where the sales numbers during a certain time period are public knowledge.

So far the results are not very enlightening, but I'll keep watch over it for a while and eventually we'll figure out just what happens when someone sends out stock spam. Maybe nothing happens! I bet those third parties would like to know that, before they continue shelling out ten thousand dollars a pop for the circulation of this report. Yes, I think they'd indeed be interested third parties.

: A while ago I told you about "pride" as a sexual orientation. The other day I got spam touting "Diversity Owned Businesses". Yes, "diversity" is now an ethnicity.

Send me some links to post so this doesn't turn into my spam obsession weblog.

[Comments] (1) An Underwater Sensation: At last, there's a band called "mola-mola"!

[Comments] (1) I'll Write Your Weblog: Thanks to Mike Popovic for sending me some links to write about.

Activity Book: If you're bored today, learn how to do something. I'll be hanging out with Sumana's mother and driving everyone all around the Bay Area.

[Comments] (2) : New England has great place names:

That reminds me of the town I found in New Hampshire called Sandwich Landing, which brought to mind The Young Ones.

[Comments] (4) : I went to Riana's birthday party yesterday and made her the previously mentioned pirate cake, just to prove it could be done. We burned the cake and it turned out all right, though I should have used whole milk instead of skim in the cake recipe.

To increase the interactivity of this site I have provided an interaction for you. If you didn't go to Riana's party, never fear. You can digitally insert your mug shot into one of the pictures, with only marginally less effort than it would take to insert your mug shot into any other picture.

Show Me The Mix: The cookbook I'm going to write will have as one of its underpinnings the idea that you can make a lot of baked-goods-oriented food ahead of time as a mix. To that end I'm going to find good lowest-common-denominator mixes that can be put to multiple use. Well, common denominators don't get much lower than Missouri Mix, with about twenty associated recipes that run the gamut from waffles to gingerbread. I'm skeptical about the quality of, eg. the cake made from Missouri Mix, but if you can only make one mix this is is a solid contender. There's always the nearby rival Nebraska Master Mix.

That page has all sorts of other mixes and looks like, but is much more interesting than, the fake phobia web site. I think there's a whole mix-making subculture I'm not in on.

I must draw the line at the raspberry cocoa mix that's store-bought cocoa mix plus raspberry Kool-Aid. I've made my own cocoa mix and it's awesome and that's not it. That site has good recipes for cocoa mix and they're not it either. Even the Kool-Aid Man won't touch that one.

End-Of-Year Calendar Blowout: A while ago I speculated about the calendar industry and how they always seem to make too many calendars. Among my speculations was that near the end of the year, the used bookstores at the end of the calendar food chain would be so desparate to sell their calendars for that year that you could pick them up as cheap poster material.

This entry is to let you know that it's true. I went to Bookbuyers in Mountain View a couple weeks ago and they had 2004 calendars for a dollar (it would be an even better deal if they had 2004 2004 calendars for a dollar). Some pretty good ones, too. So if you want cheap, square posters with convenient holes for tacking them to your wall, now's the time to act.

[Comments] (2) : I, Monster is a fox-and-geese game in roguelike garb, where you control the monsters going after an adventurer and his dog. Unfortunately you're pretty badly outgunned and always lose, which I suppose is the point. Double-bill with What Fools These Mortals for a roguelike-alternate-perspective gamefest. All that's missing now is a capitalism simulator where you run a Nethack shop.

Come On Baby Light My Game Roundup: Cast your mind back to the very first Game Roundup. The year: 1627, give or take a couple billion years. Puritan settlers, facing a dull winter, look to the natives for help in rounding up classic games such as "throw me the ball; okay, now I throw you the ball" and "not starving to death". In these more prosperous times, a plethora of fun Linux games awaits, if we will but bother to download and compile them. Today, let's give thanks for the stereotypical hackers who spend all their time writing these games, and the dashing millionaire playboys who stay up past their bedtimes playing and reviewing them.

Twig's In Space faithfully reproduces the look of an '80s arcade Asteroids-like game being emulated with MAME. Written by a CS professor partly as a computer graphics demonstration, partly to tweak a rival professor at the same university, making the game a more sophisticated, less directly insulting version of the old standby Spray Steve's Cooties (one of the most obscure computer games in history, if Google is any judge).

Barrage is kind of a disturbing game, and it's mouse-based to boot, so I can't even play it very well. Soldiers and tanks file past you and you try to blow them up with your artillery piece. They're not even trying to attack you! It's like blowing up a parade! It's got a sort of shooting gallery theme, but it should have little wooden ducks and clowns instead.

Speaking of which, look at Chickens For Linux, which offers the same kind of game but you're destroying chickens hell-bent on destruction, unlike the perfectly harmless military units of Barrage. I couldn't get it to compile because of some Allegro thing, but I didn't try very hard because I don't really like this kind of game anyway.

Chromium B.S.U. is a very nice-looking infinite-powerup shooter. Very difficult--more difficult than my skill or patience can handle--but it's designed for those who like a challenge. Maybe it would be more to my liking if it were called Chromium B.T.U. instead.

neverball is like a big Labyrinth puzzle that you tilt to move a ball around. I used to crave a Labyrinth puzzle when they were a mid-level prize in those magazine-selling schemes advertised in the back of Boys Life, but now I can't be bothered. There's a putting-based variant called Neverputt which is better.

Robohack is an ingenious ASCII version of arcade favorite Robotron 2064, with all the flashing colors and obnoxiousness you've come to expect from such games. But it's all in ASCII and ncurses. It takes a special breed of madman to take ncurses in this direction, and I'm behind it all the way. Greg Naughton, I salute you.

Nazghul (I guess that's a Nazgul plus a ghoul) is a tile-based game engine that's being scripted to clone Ultima 5, but which can of course be scripted to clone other games. Wins major points for agreeing with me that the first-person Ultima dungeons are entirely pointless.

I haven't played it, but balder is based on the zero-gravity combat training game featured in Ender's Game. Character development presumably not included.

Transcend is a board-based shooter with smoothly morphing vector graphics, in which you assemble a weapon out of space flowers to help you battle a big "anti-glyph". The thing is that everything in the game world corresponds to some facet of a piece of music which gets constructed as you solve the level. I would really love to experience this aspect of the game but I couldn't get the sound to work. This one is quite the high-concept piece, let me say. Fun, too.

Obsessive Beautiful Soup Press Watch: Beautiful Soup got a footnote link in this PyZine tutorial about retrieving web pages in Python, and the 1.2 release was linked to from the Daily Python-URL. The 1.2 release is pretty old, actually, but it just got added to the prestigous Vaults of Parnassus so they probably picked it up from there.

I'm actually a little frightened of the mysterious way Daily Python-URL chooses what to link to. For instance they linked to this back in January even though it was just a random observation about Python and not, in my opinion, worthy of being linked to. I feel like I should put disclaimers in my non-weighty Python entries ahead of time. Don't link to this entry, Daily Python-URL! Link to that PyZine tutorial instead. It's cooler than this rather obsessive post.

Special Thanksgiving Photo Zeitgeist Search Request Thing: I have to go to sleep because tomorrow I'm chauffering everyone all around San Francisco, but I thought I'd share with you the most popular Thanksgiving images on crummy.com, as determined by Eurovision Song Contest voters using Google image search. By a wide margin the most Thanksgiving-ish picture is this sideways one of Rachel eating, possibly because of the colorful flowers in frame. A distant second place goes to this lovely spread, marred only by the presence of canned cranberry sauce.

There's probably a third place, but already I tire of this conceit. Today I had Thanksgiving dinner at my uncle's house, which was good but IMO not as good as last year's blowout. Of course last year at this time I was desperate for home-cooked meals. I played a lot of games with Susanna and Rachel today, and it was fun. I hope your day went well also.

Tourist For A Day: Walked the Golden Gate Bridge with Susanna and John, then went to Fisherman's Wharf with them and Rachel and my mother, and mistook an lousy expensive restaurant for the good expensive restaurant my mother wanted to take us to. Then other stuff happened and I wandered around with Rachel and now I'm home and my feet are tired. I have described these events in unadored, hard-hitting style so that YOU ARE THERE. The New York Times says "A triumph!", but not in relation to this.

I Get Letters: Which save me from having to think of my own things to post. This one's from Patrick Tufts, of the maddeningly familiar name, proctor of the Quicksilver Metaweb and probably maestro of something else due to the maddeningly familiarity of his name. He took issue with my earlier statement that the Metaweb had the grandiose goal of replacing Wikipedia. Says he:

One of the reasons we did the Metaweb as a separate site, and not part of the Wikipedia, is that we want users to be able to express their personal point of view, if they wish, and also to be able to create authored content. Neither of these is possible on the Wikipedia.

Most likely I misleadingly took the "replace Wikipedia" thing out of context from someone's list of goals for Metaweb. Unlike the mainstream media, I am willing to take responsibility for my attempt to take things out of context and sensationalize. Unfortunately, I have yet to progress beyond couching my taking of responsibility in self-aggrandizing rhetoric, rendering the whole exercise useless.

Interesting that that old NYCB entry should come up today, because I just got to the part of The System of the World with the remote-control garotte. (Well, more or less.)

[Comments] (2) : NewsBruiser CVS now has an implementation of one of the most-requested features in NewsBruiser history (I think I got two requests for it). You can now receive an email every single time someone posts a comment to an entry in your weblog. Go ahead, post a comment. I double-canid dare you. It's as good as spamming me, except that the world can see your shame.

[Comments] (3) : I don't know why I could find no Python library equivalent of The Demoronizer, but today I got fed up with not just Microsoft smart quotes but with ISO-Latin-1 in general, and I wrote ASCII, Dammit, which will remove those characters from your string once and for all, replacing them with HTML encoded entities or with my lame guess at a plain-ASCII rendering.

I'm sure there's something you're supposed to do ahead of time to prevent Python from choking on those characters, and that I'll hear all about it soon, but this is still useful because you can use it to get rid of the Microsoft smart quotes. Everyone hates Microsoft smart quotes, right?

[Comments] (3) Public Service Announcement: On behalf of Kevin. Attention, West Coast and chain restaurants! We know you think you know the recipe for biscuit gravy. You think it goes like this:

  1. Make white sauce
  2. Fry some crappy sausage
  3. Put some crumbled sausage in the white sauce

Unfortunately white sauce is not biscuit gravy. White sauce is made from butter, and biscuit gravy is made from sausage grease, verily, the same sausage grease you created while frying the crappy sausage and then dumped into the grease pan or whatever happens to grease in restaurants. Contrary to popular opinion it is not neccessary to be a lovable Southern stereotype to make good biscuits and gravy. It is simply neccessary to not start off with a dang white sauce.

[Comments] (5) Word Of The Day: "Timepass". One of India's most recent contributions to the English language. It seems to mean "the ability to distract you enjoyably but without making you accomplish anything", as with Tetris. It's all over the place but I saw it in an ad for an Indian movie that claimed to be "Full of family timepass" and also "A laugh-packed rib-tickler". You can tell it's a rib-tickler because it features the only comedic actor in all of Bollywood, making faces of surprise. You know who I mean. The chubby guy.

[Comments] (1) It's Not Food--But I Ate It!: Sumana is sick and was watching TV today when she saw a commercial where someone said "It's not a get-rich-quick scheme--but I did!"

Master of Molas: Jake Berendes, who's been making stuffed animals, made a mola mola stuffed animal--before I asked him to!

All Politics Is Google: I realize this revalation comes a bit late, but I've discovered we can use sophisticated search technology to determine people's relative political preferences. Judging from these search results, the new political dream ticket is a goat, teamed up with a dog.

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