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[Comments] (1) Cleaning the grotch cages: One of my recipes contains fake Hitchhiker's Guide swear words. I just went back to it and edited it to contain fake Planetfall swear words instead.

That can't be a good use of my time.

Repurposed Art: Here's one I call "The Founding of the Federation"

: robotfindskitten now exists as a Google Maps add-on.

[Comments] (2) : Speaking of Google Maps add-ons, here's one that shows the sea level rising. Still looking for what I'd really like: something that can also show what happens when the sea level falls due to ice age.

[Comments] (5) : Sorry for no NYCB. Very busy editing book. Despite many peoples' help, still no progress on finding that time-and-consciousness paper. I'll probably take the reference out. Unrelatedly, has anyone seen this movie?

You Won't Believe The Cardinality Of The Set Of Twists: I'm getting pretty good at figuring out the twist in Hitchcock movies (except I don't remember North by Northwest really having a twist). The only problem is that the movie is never as long as Tivo says it is, so I'm second-guessing myself right until I see "The End", whether the twist happened for real, or whether it will be reversed by another twist before the end of the movie. So even when I guess correctly, modern technology enforces Hitchcock's idea of suspense: that you know the Titanic will sink, but you don't know when. Hmm, maybe the twist gets reversed after the end of the movie. That would be... quite the twist!

: I just saw a spam weblog that takes incoming search requests, reproduces the search to get some results, and chops up one of the results to create a weblog entry. I think there must be a non-spam possibility in there. Also a pony.

Also, I think this is the first review of my music not written by someone who knows me.

There are some twisted songs out on the net, and if you search for the good stuff, you're bound to come across a couple that, bad as they are, they're really catchy, and you laugh everytime you even think about the song.

Bad but catchy: that's me.

Incidentally, my gee-tars were delivered the other day, so once the book is done and I'm in the post-book era I can resume recording my new album.

: Hypnotic lists of TLAs.

QOTD: "Nagaland. Snake land. Snakes in a land!"

[Comments] (2) Zardoz: Andy came over and we watched Zardoz. Sumana left after the first ten minutes. We watched the whole thing apart from some Tivo-skipping during two extremely long repetitive scenes. I think people get distracted by the visuals of that movie because the plot is not that complicated. Some of the visuals are great and some (ie. Sean Connery's costume) are terrible. I liked it better than Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Save your breath, Jake.

Fission Cuisine: I was thinking about Indian desserts. I've never had much in the way of Indian desserts because they're way too sweet. They all seem to have the normal sugar you'd put into an American dessert, plus a simple syrup, plus sweetened condensed milk. I haven't tried it yet but I'd like to figure out a way to do, say, galub jamun, at a sweetness level I can tolerate.

Ominous Agency Names: The Committee of Public Safety. I should start collecting these.

[Comments] (2) Whee!: I've completed my editing pass through the Ruby Cookbook. Now I just have to incorporate about 60K of feedback.

[Comments] (2) Limerick:

There once was a man from Peru
This limerick ends on page 2.

It's in the book. I've got all kinds of silly stuff in this book. I had an earlier limerick and cut it, but this one's in there.

: Apparently my Stock Spam Effectiveness Monitor was the dataset used in some German guys' talk on the topic. Even my name was Germanized to Leonhard. Their number-crunching actually answers the question on which my graphs are ambiguous:

In the first two to three days of a stick Spam wave therefore the applied shares rise over up to two per cent. Afterwards the course consolidates, in order to sink in the consequence strongly. Apparently this is in all rule frequently the case if those coat the Spam clients their profit. This behavior is statistically significant in each case, avowed Rainer Boehme.

He avows it! It must be a real effect! But not drastic enough to see just by looking at graphs.

Actually I just gave the stock spam code to another German guy (a Ph.D student), but he's not one of the ones who did this report. And last July I gave the data to yet another researcher, but he was at U Penn. So this is a previously unknown use of my data.

Worthwhile Ruby Library: The HighLine library needs some publicity. I didn't know about this until people reviewing the Cookbook pointed me to it. It's a library that makes it really easy to write cross-platform line-based console applications, with ANSI color. It doesn't do cursor positioning, so it's not the second (or third) coming of curses, but it's really cool. It's the highline gem. It doesn't really have a web page: just the Ruby Quiz entry that gave it birth.

: Okay, the Cookbook is basically done. Yay! I went through my mail looking for old feedback and cleared out about 100 messages pertaining to the book. What's left? Mostly Beautiful Soup stuff I haven't really looked at. Hopefully it's 50 people all saying how great Beautiful Soup is and reporting the same three bugs. Somehow I doubt it.

: This is really cool: gerrymandering can be quantified. My new Congressional district features "moderate gerrymandering". Also it seems to include Central Park.

[Comments] (1) Local Science: A decent heuristic for seeing whether something is real science is to check whether other places have it too. This is probably the flip side of Jared Diamond's idea about why China's early lead in science and exploration died out (more on this later, actually).

Everyone has relativity and genetics and evolutionary biology and quantum physics and plate tectonics, but only the US has creationism (similarly for intelligent design, or as I call it, c******nism). Only the USSR under Stalin has Lysenko-style evolutionary biology. Everyone has astrology and alchemy, but everyone's astrology and alchemy is different. And only the UK has this special newspaper-based "formula for the perfect x" branch of science.

This is where you take something vague, dissect it into a bunch of vague contributing factors, assemble them back into a vague equation, and claim that it represents perfection. This gets you in all the papers and nowadays the weblogs as well. As far as I know only one article two years ago has ever dared to point out the ridiculousness, and it's still going on.

Oddly, NYCB has previously encountered Len Fisher, unwitting founder of this particular branch of pseudoscience. He's the one who started it with his measurements of liquid absorption in biscuits, and his use of a real, preexisting equation to describe it. I think he deserves some kind of meta-Ignobel for the monster he's created.

: Sumana just mentioned levels of referentiality. Among people who weren't deliberately aiming to maximize levels of referentiality, who has achieved the most levels and how?

Dangerously Low-Budget Search Requests: clorox bottle easter baskets. Alert MAKE Magazine!

[Comments] (5) : I realize that this is my third entry on the topic, but the Cookbook is now 100% done and submitted.

: Rainer Böhme sent me a copy of his stock spam paper, which is really interesting (I'll link to it when it's put up publicly). It demonstrates two results I found interesting: on average, stock spam does increase the price of a stock, but the effect decays and after four days the stock price is lower than before. Second, the greater the volume of spam you send, the bigger the effect.

Entering the realm of speculation, there's also an indication that stock spam actually destroys wealth by reducing the capitalization of the spammed companies over the long-term (though maybe the wealth just leaves the stock market and goes into the spammers' pockets). Also includes a movie-plot scenario where spammers use the techniques of stock spam to start runs on banks. An entertaining paper. And it mentions me, which is awesome.

Teeth crock, clipped less clumps sal: The Eater of Meaning can now eat poetry as well as prose, with the new "chew rhythmically" feature. It replaces each word with another word of the same number of syllables. It rips off Danny O'Brien's haiku finder, which in turn rips off of someone else's syllable counter.

Inspired by Kevan. The stress of the replaced words is often wrong, and sometimes the result just doesn't scan, but it's sufficient for the secret also-Kevan-inspired project for which I wrote it. It works especially well on cadences that have been drummed into your head for years.

SAFA Crosspost: Not the best one ever, but some funny stuff in there.

[Comments] (2) A Coney Island of the Body: Today I went to Coney Island. I saw a horseshoe crab.

PSA Search Requests: Q: What should i do with my rabbit because my rabbit cannot walk on his hind legs?

A: Leave your rabbit alone!

: BibliOdyssey is awesome. Check out this old engraving of Ganesha. Or, as they used to call him, Quenavady.

Not only does it find great pictures but it links to things like this summary of really old travel books (summary contains durian), a genre that has always fascinated me. As you travel further, your reports back home get less accurate.

Beautiful Soup Poll: Would people rather that Beautiful Soup automatically converted documents to UTF-8 (including modifying the declarations and META tags)? Or would they rather have Beautiful Soup leave the encoding alone, but detect it and automatically convert specific strings to UTF-8 on command?

[Comments] (1) Less Cat, Less Girl: I finally did a Cat and Girl comic using Kevan's constraints. It's not that good, but fortunately quality was not one of the constraints. The constraints were:

[Comments] (31) :


We see love between others thousands of times but only participate in it a few times. Can we hope to find a new kind of love? How would we know it if we did? The best we can do is to explore the deeps of one great love, always finding new aspects of it.

Five years ago I stumbled upon a vast love which my lamp and map have still not charted. This is where I want to live, Sumana, among the crystals, the faraway noise of an underground city, the glimmering lights in the ceiling, with you. Marry me, Sumana.

Well, Nobody's Going to Top That: But today O'Reilly said they were interested in my book proposal, which is awesome. I have to go back to Bakersfield for a while to take care of my mother, so I'm probably going to write that book while I'm there.

[Comments] (15) : I've been thinking about the best way to tell people about voting machine fraud without sounding crazy. I have had success in telling people about it, but only with people who were themselves kind of crazy.

But the success of 24 proves that you can get people to incorporate crazy political ideas into their worldview by presenting those ideas in story form. So I had an idea for a political thriller TV show. The elevator pitch is 24 meets the last season of The West Wing. It starts with a third party senator (like Jesse Ventura, but more politically savvy) who decides to run for president. He starts out wanting to act as a spoiler, but then he meets a programmer who works for the company that makes the voting machines, and he decides to win.

At the end of the pilot, you've got got two overlapping stories. The senator tries to make his spoiler campaign look like something that could really win the election, and the programmer works to form a conspiracy within the voting machine company. Not only does the conspiracy have to cover their tracks, they must form an ad hoc political organization, changing their voting machine hacks to deal with downticket races and otherwise make the voting results look realistic, without having any contact with the real campaign.

This can go for half a season or a full season. There are twists and turns but the two teams win/steal the election. Then the real fun begins. The conspiracy is discovered and publicised, but it's too late.

This will never be made into a TV show, mainly because nothing I ever say will be made into a TV show, but also because all American TV shows seem to have a premise that can extend, in theory, for five seasons. I don't see any way to make a presidential election and a constitutional crisis run more than two seasons.

[Comments] (7) Bridezilla and Groomera: Yesterday Sumana and I got married! Yes, we did. Here are all the details.

We got married in the Shakespeare Garden in Central Park. Nandini, Andy, and Camille were there. The officiant was the Reverend Tony Johnson. We read our weblog proposals to each other, and also poems. I read Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, and Sumana read Yevgeny Yevtushenko's "Colors".

Then we were married! It was awesome. We devoured snacks that I brought: pears, pear-based muffins, and brownies. Camille left to go to work, but Nandini, Andy, Sumana and I went to Belvedere Castle and looked down at the turtles in the turtle pond.

So far we've gotten two gifts! (But don't send us more gifts; see below). Andy's family gave us a great new Shun knife with a caricature of Alton Brown's face on it--a knife that claims to be dishwasher safe! And Brendan and Maria sent us a bamboo steamer, in reference to when they were in New York and I went with them and a friend to Joe's Shanghai in Flushing and ate juicy dumplings.

So, instead of gifts, we would like you to send us advice about marriage. And nice letters. Sumana says that if you want to spend money, you should give to one of the charities Steve and Alice listed when they got married, starting here. Also, Sumana needs a new Brita pitcher and a bookcase that folds up--but don't tell her I said so!

Nandini and Camille took pictures, so soon you'll be able to see pictures.

[Comments] (2) Wedding Pictures: From Camille. Try this one and also this one, where I'm on the phone with Sumana's mother.

[Comments] (10) Beautiful Soup 3.0 Beta: For your delectability. The major new feature is that Beautiful Soup 3.0 takes XML or HTML documents in any encoding and turns them into UTF-8; in most cases you don't have to know the current encoding. I wrote this without really knowing anything about encodings: most of the code is stolen from Mark Pilgrim's Universal Feed Parser. But I am able to write tests, and the tests work.

The other major new feature is that you can now rip out a chunk from the parse tree with the extract method. You can use the chunk and abandon the rest of the tree, or vice versa. This is especially useful because the data structures you abandoned can now be garbage-collected: in current Beautiful Soup, the whole tree stays in memory forever because every Tag and NavigableText is connected to every other Tag and NavigableText through an intricate web of lies. And by "lies", I mean "instance variables".

There are some more new features, but I have to take a shower now to go and meet Pete Peterson II for dinner. Test it out; I'll be rewriting the documentation over the next month or so, and hopefully by then I'll have gotten enough feedback to release it.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Not Look At Cute Baby Elephant Pictures: Cute baby elephant picture!

[Comments] (5) : OK, the Beautiful Soup beta now stores everything internally as Unicode. You specify an encoding when you turn part of the tree into a string. Now I'm definitely going to work on my book outline.

: Going to California pretty soon. Good news: according to the O'Reilly web site, the Ruby Cookbook will be released in July, not August.

[Comments] (2) : The stock spam paper is online.

[Comments] (2) : Buncha page scans of old sci-fi books, with great titles like "The Cosmic Computer" and "Edison's Conquest of Mars". I always get disappointed by these books, though "Cosmic Computer" does mention "the collapsium-shield death-to-people area". Now that's quality technobabble.

[Comments] (2) : I am in Bakersfield taking care of my mother and it is stressful. Today I got a little freelance work done though.

I heard from Michael that the Ruby cookbook is in the neighborhood of 900 pages. That's as big as the second editions of the Perl and Python Cookbooks, which makes sense because it's got about as many recipes. We just didn't know before because the wiki doesn't automatically generate the Docbook output that gets printed on pages.

900 pages! I wrote a Neal Stephenson book! (Sumana: "Does it have an ending?" Me: "No, it just kind of ends." Sumana: "Yup.")

: The I Ching calculator from Dirk Gently--online! I always pictured the error message as being displayed in the same font as the rest of the calculator output instead of a wacky Comic Sans-meets-Dingbats font, but Marvin in the Hitchhiker's Guide movie didn't look like I expected either, so I'm accustomed to the bitter Arcturan Mega-gin of disappointment.

: Most book reviews are only in passing about the books they're reviewing. Usually I find this annoying but this "review" of three books on evolutionary development is a good introduction to a topic I didn't know the first thing about. Now I know the first thing but not the second.

[Comments] (4) A People Kill B People: Last ninja: 'Be able to kill your students'. Wouldn't that result in a strictly decreasing quality of ninja over time?

: Newest Beautiful Soup beta solves everyone's problems that I know of. Except my problem of having to rewrite the documentation.

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