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[Comments] (1) I'll form an alliance with the crown. Not the king, just the crown!: We just re-watched Love and Death. Even funnier than when I saw it in college and didn't get it.

: We're having Backup Thanksgiving and playing Powerpoint Karaoke. Rachel Chalmers says, "Let's make an interactive blog!"

Claire's Powerpoint Karaoke review of Charlotte's Web: "The goose egg made a smelly smell." Jeremy suggested "Charlotte's Web 2.0".

[Comments] (1) Flag Patents: Did you know that you can patent the design for a flag? I discovered this doing research for The Future: A Retrospective and there's one jaw-dropping patented flag that I'm saving for the forthcoming entry, but I thought I'd share a few others with you.

This American flag shows the actual states instead of abstract stars. This flag has another flag on it. This one is like a See's Candy sampler of other flags. Nobody ever patents a simple design for a flag. Hopefully your flag patent also covers more competent renditions of the same image.

One popular theme is a "peace flag". Here's one from 1919 and here's one from 2003. Or if you prefer war there's a war on terrorism flag.

The Iowa state flag was patented in 1921, by Dixie Gebhardt, presumably a relative of Dick Gebhardt.

Maybe you'd like to texture-map flags onto non-flat surfaces? Like shoes? Here's one you can wear on your ponytail.

What happens to politicians' mandatory flag pins in times of national crisis? You need the half-staff flag label pin!

I've been drifting away from specific flag designs, so here are a few more. Why not put a comic strip on your flag? This guy filed a whole bunch of patents for new arrangements of the stars on the American flag.

Most of the patented flags are pretty bad, but these two are cool, and have birds on them: dove, eagle.

[Comments] (1) I Gotta Stop: One more: "United States of America shaped food product"

Update: Rachel reminded me of the Texas cheese. I think when we cleaned out my mother's freezer after she died that cheese was still in there.

[Comments] (3) : I guess today is Patent Madness Day. Incited by Sumana I searched the patent database for swear words and other phrases likely to turn up funny parts of patents. The former was fruitless except for funny puerile OCR errors (notable exception). The latter worked out well.

Strangely, "they mocked me" and "i'll show them all" never show up in patent applications. Ahmed El Dessouky does point out, sensibly, that "it would be impractical to show them all."

"Ridiculous" got a bunch of good results. A sample of my findings:

: Thanks to the miracle of self-selection, if you read my weblog you probably know aobut Nethack's database of quotes and literary references. What I didn't find out until today is that Aardy DeVarque has assembled a similar list of literary sources for first edition D&D. I had no idea so much of that stuff came from one Poul Anderson novel.

: I put up pictures from Backup Thanksgiving. Mostly pictures of us doing Powerpoint Karaoke.

Incidentally, the reason I haven't put up many pictures recently is that I stuck all my photos into F-Spot, which it turns out is really slow to load when there are 5000 pictures in its database. Should I use something else?

: I'm on a low-grade roll, and put up October's pictures from Viable Paradise. This one really shows the mechanics of how VP improves your writing..

[Comments] (3) : The roll continues, with pictures from Florida. Includes the Fawlty Towers Motel, and Atticus and Samuel trying to get us to play Ticket to Ride.

[Comments] (2) Send Resume: Neolithic job fair: "Join wheel economy!" "Our business on fire, selling fire." "Work on cutting edge making cutting edges."

: So around 1957 was the International Geophysical Year, which Arthur C. Clarke always wrote about as if it were a turning point in world history, and because of that I've long wanted to write a story about the kind of world where we can think back and say "Yes, it all started with the International Geophysical Year..."

My point is that right now we're in the middle of an International Polar Year! In celebration, the USGS has put a web interface on high-resolution photos of Antarctica. Via Google Sightseeing I also discovered that Google Maps also has high-res photos (but not medium-res photos) of Antarctica. I remember when the whole continent was just a smear of pixels on Google Maps. Of course, that was before the INTERNATIONAL POLAR YEAR. Coming soon: the International Polar Bear.

: An old edition of Hoyle's is online, but unlike today's fact-packed edition it covers very few card games, and has an unhealthy obsession with gambling. It's practically a manual for squandering the family estate!

This list of period game rules is more interesting from a ludology perspective, containing things like the 16th-century precursor to Blackjack.

[Comments] (2) Prodigy Undergrounds: I just wrote about Prodigy for The Future: A Retrospective and was reminded of a cool hack from my youth, possibly the first computer-related hack I participated in. TF:AR writing takes up most of my spare writing time, so a lot of my recent weblog entries flow ultimately from the trains of thought it christens and sends chugging off on poorly-subsidized rails.

I couldn't find this mentioned anywhere except Prodigy's Wikipedia page, and there not in much detail and anything on Wikipedia is written on water anyway. So here's a permanent description of Prodigy Undergrounds.

Once you passed a certain monthly threshold, Prodigy charged 25 cents to deliver a private email. This is especially onerous when you're a kid in 1991 and an unexpected $10 expense is cause for panic. But you can't have random chat in a public forum because 1) random people can see you chatting, and 2) it takes a long time for a message to show up in the forum. Because every message must be scoured by purple-lipped censors. Not only do messages take a long time to go through the queue, they're often rejected for arbitrary reasons. Like being random chatter instead of being directly related to the topic of the forum. What to do?

When you signed up with Prodigy you got, I believe, 5 accounts. Idea being that you could give one out to each family member. But someone had the idea of emailing their friends the password to one of the accounts and forming a private chat room. You'd go into the private email composition screen, write a message, and save it as a draft instead of sending it. (Wikipedia article says you "[sent] messages back to the same account", but I think the messages were never sent at all.) Once you were done on the UG (oh-so-hip slang for "Underground") you'd log off and someone else could have a turn, prepending (I think that was the convention) their reply to your draft. This way you could run AD&D games or write mushy notes to each other or just talk in private about being kids.

I picked up the UG idea from the AD&D boards and brought it over to the Hitchhiker's Guide boards. It was annoying but exciting to try to log into an UG and see that someone else was using it--it probably meant fresh messages when you managed to get on.

This was all unauthorized, of course. Person-to-person communication was a big cost sink for Prodigy as I found out reading Future Stuff, which focuses entirely on the online shopping aspect. Thus the 25 cent email charge in the first place. This left you with no recourse when—as happened in one high-profile incident[0]—a notorious villain befriended people under an alter-ego, gained access to several UGs, then hijacked the accounts to send a huge number of private emails. I was one of the hijacked and I think the charge was like $10, but see earlier note w/r/t $10 charges. These things loom larger when you're very young.

Some people I met through Prodigy I still talk to occasionally (Sara Geer) or frequently (Andy Schile). I occasionally search for people I knew back then, and sometimes I find something (one of my AD&D UG companions worked at a company designing role-playing games for a while), but other people don't show up anywhere; maybe they got married and changed their names, or they weren't using their real names to begin with (as if "Linnette the Psycho Elf" wasn't enough of an alias).

Recently I read a story about some extremists who'd reinvented the technique, using Hotmail or some other service as a dropbox to avoid sending mail through the SMTP forest. I don't think it ever made much sense from a security standpoint; HTTPS is surely more secure than email at the typical extremist level of expertise, but you're still storing the messages on someone's server. But it sure is good for saving money on email.

[0] By "high-profile incident" I mean "everyone on the AD&D Prodigy board at the time knew about this." Also, a few months later he tried it again with another alter-ego, but by this time I had sussed out his writing style and I didn't fall for it again.

Better Have Known A Game Roundup: People on the net are raving about Passage, a game by Jason Rohrer. It is a good game (yeah!), but in an Indie Rock Pete moment of triumph I'd like to point out that I discovered Jason Rohrer years ago, reviewing his previous innovative games Cultivation (review) and Transcend (review) in Game Roundup.

Gutenberg Gem: ""The Building of a Book" had its origin in the wish to give practical, non-technical information to readers and lovers of books." Wow. Includes heart-pounding "The Printer's Roller".

: I was putting off an entry about how many of the MST3K writer/actors are once again doing MST3K-related or MST3K-like projects, and I'm glad I put it off because I believe I have now collected them all. There are four of these projects.

Put those together and you've got everybody, except for Patrick Brantseg (who played Gypsy for a couple seasons), and Bridget Nelson, who shows up only peripherally in her husband's projects. I think it's great that all these people are producing fun in a style I enjoy, but it's also a little sad. It's not quite like skating on your previous accomplishments, since everyone's producing new stuff, but it's something similar: skating on the style of your previous accomplishments.

Joel left MST3K right at the time it was getting big, explaining (as I read in a newspaper at the time) that he didn't want to "end up signing pictures at an R.V. show." Later I found out that MST3K wasn't even the first time Joel walked away from a career that was going really well. This aspect of Joel's psychology is well-known to the extent that it made one fan call Cinematic Titanic a hoax. (Before pictures went up on the site of everyone holding props and working on the set, I'm guessing.)

I can empathize with Joel's walking away whever he's on the cusp of fame. "I want to get on to the NEXT weird show. I want to be an idea man." I had two great ideas, I can have three great ideas. But what if two great ideas is all you get? Why stop doing something if you're still having fun? On the Internet everyone is famous for fifteen people; that might be a number Joel can be happy with.

PS: If you're sick of my rambling and psychoanalysis, here's a straight news take on all these projects, which brings up the excellent point that there's now an experimental framework in place for Joel vs. Mike analysis.

: Atomic cake.

Silhouettes of men: Incidentally, if you're interested in how Cinematic Titanic will work, there's a little more information in the trademark application. "[O]ne of the figures is standing on a ladder and placing a DVD into a sylised time capsule hanging from a cable."

: For random Lego pictures it's hard to beat Brickshelf, but recently I discovered MOCPages, which tries to bring some top-down classification to the folksonomy.

There must be some web design class you can take that teaches you how not to make your website look like a domain squatter's placeholder page.

"You die. You are no longer bleeding.": I heard good things about radically-altered Angband variant Steamband, so I gave it a try. I really like the classic Jules Verne science fiction aesthetic, and Steamband mixes that well with Lost World stuff and imperialist pulp stuff. It's got a hilarious parody of the typical Angband race-selection menu, eg.:

[T]he British expand throughout the world sharing their superior way of life to [sic] those not fortunate enough to be born under the rule of Queen Victoria. They are the standard by which the rest of the world is judged.

Said menu also lets you play as a rakshasa.

The game mechanics are well-thought-out and intended to make it less of a slog than other Angband variants. Once you get firearms, the game really gives you the feeling of blasting Compsognathi in the face like Dick Cheney only wishes he could. So, overall, recommended.

Here's a big problem: in my inventory I've got a Device [spellbook], a Mechanism [scroll], a Generator (rod?), and a Tool (wand). In vanilla it's bad enough that there are rods, wands, and staffs, but they all do kind of the same thing. Giving half the objects in the game similar names is just crazy, especially when they're still activated with different keys. At least "mechanism" makes more sense as an alternate name for "scroll" than "floppy disk".

Here's another big problem: I still don't like Angband variants. I spent fifteen years getting good at Nethack and by my learning curve so far I can tell it's gonna take another five to get good at *band. However I am going to keep Steamband around on my disk drive because 1) the author has put thought into making less tedious the endless cycle of death and rebirth that is the Angband variant, and 2) I finally got one of these SOBs to compile, I'm not throwing that away easily.

[Comments] (6) : Sumana asked me if I'd ever kissed anyone underneath the mistletoe. I said I'd never even seen mistletoe. On reflection I have seen wild mistletoe, growing on trees in the Tehachapi Mountains when I was a kid. That's why it never seemed odd to me that First Edition druids were always going out and cutting mistletoe for spell components or whatever. But I've never seen it in someone's house around Christmas time, I guess because my family's not much for random kissing.

Where would you even get mistletoe? You can get it online now, but was there a span of about fifty years where people living in cities couldn't get it? Maybe it's a seasonal item in flower shops.

Does anyone of my generational cohort or the one before it 'do' mistletoe? It seems like something that died when office Christmas parties were toned down.

Hmm-hmm!: Cooking with Booze! And microformats!

: Selected clarifications of idioms in RESTful Web Services, from conversation with Collin, the guy doing the Chinese translation. Maybe I should put these on a webpage like Joel did.

What did the supernova metaphor mean here? Especially what do supernova and meme refer to here?

"Supernova" is being used as a verb similar to "explode". A meme is an idea. The same thing in simpler language might be:

The world of web services has gotten a lot of money and attention ever since the architects of bloated systems spotted another simple idea that they could make complicated and sell to big companies.

What does this metaphor mean? ["the Whoopee Cushion and Joy Buzzer of Internet protocols"]

The whoopie cushion and joy buzzer are cheap toys that you buy to play tricks on someone. The joy buzzer sends a vibration into someone's hand when you shake hands with them. The whoopie cushion is a bladder that's inflated and placed under a chair cushion; when someone sits in the chair it makes a fart noise. The implication is that HTTP and HTML are cheap and that to use them is to have a trick played on you.

Why did you say "That table looks kind of ridiculous"?

Because it has seems important but all it says is "DELETE deletes something. GET gets something."

What does "moving parts" mean, exactly?

The moving parts of a mechanism are the parts of it that do the job, as opposed to a piece of metal or plastic that holds them in place in relation to each other.

What does "plumbing about ..." mean?

Plumbing is the opposite of "moving parts". It's the structure that holds together the pieces that do the work. Here the built-in cryptographic functions are the moving parts, and the Ruby code I wrote is plumbing that makes them work in a certain way.

In chapter 4, there is a section titled "Resource-Oriented What Now?". I failed to figure out that "what now" means here. Can you explain the title?

It's an expression of incredulity. The idea is that I suddenly introduced a new buzzword without justifying its meaning or explaining why you should be excited about it (so I explain in that section). I walk up to you and say "Resource Oriented Architecture!!" and you might say "Resource oriented *what*, now?"

"Resource Oriented What?" would be similar and might be more familiar to you, except the implication would be of confusion. Here, it's not that the word "Architecture" is strange but that the whole phrase is strange.

What does it mean by "it doesn't know a username from an ostrich"? Does the "ostrich" here have any special meaning?

No, it's just a random thing that's not a username.

Why did you say the stock quote web service is a toy?

It's a common application that's used to demonstrate new devices, architectures, etc. But very few people really need or want real-time stock quotes for random stocks. And if you do actually need real-time stock quotes then you also need the ability to act on the information, or it's just a pretty thing to look at: a toy.

Does dissed here mean critized?

Yes, it's slang from "disrespected." The implication is that I just said [certain URIs] were bad rather than making a cogent argument against them.

Update: strangely (or not), nobody asked about "Don't Bogart the Benefits of REST."

Membrane-associated ring finger: As long as I'm talking about RWS, I'd like to pass along a service written by a reader. HGNC/wr is a bioinformatic web service that exposes every gene of the human genome as a resource. There are resources INSIDE YOU now.

: Basically tonight I'm trying to make a little progress on my inbox because I've got 750 messages in there, some from 2005. So I got this great spam last month about a new way of generating power from the sun even when the sun is on the other side of the earth. I wasn't sure how to bring it to your attention but now that some time has passed I can just link to it at a solar energy site. And here's the INVENTOR's response to a fellow INVENTOR's questions.

But I was intrigued by the audacity of the idea. Solar power at night! You could do it with a neutrino collector, since those just plow through the earth.

I like to think that if I invented something like that I would give it away for the good of humanity and not try to nickel-and-dime investors. Relatedly, one interesting thing about writing Mundane SF (tm) is that there's not much difference between a story idea and a real idea. I came up with a business idea for "Mallory" which (as you'll see if Futurismic ever publishes it) is similar to businesses that are starting up now. Things just got cheaper faster in the fictional world. I think this is a subtext of MSF: a farm for workable solutions to our problems. As RachelC put it once, not just escapism, but a map showing how to escape.

: Beautiful Soup 3.0.5 is out. Nothing to get excited about, unless you really like pickling and deep copying.

Two Things For REST Fans: I feel an Internet-Draft: URI Fragment Identifiers for the text/plain Media Type. Simple and long overdue.

A new kind of (SOA) Registry. In del.icio.us, that great sandbox for rhetorical questions, Mark Baker asked "So what's the difference between a RESTful SOA registry and a Wiki?". I'd say the main difference is that someone points at the RESTful SOA registry and says "Everyone should use this as a RESTful SOA registry." Also the registry will probably have rules about providing credentials to modify a registry entry. So, I think it's like the difference between my weblog and a wiki.

[Comments] (2) : Still on email cleanup duty (which tonight involves burning 3 DVDs of spam for a researcher). And I've got all these emails that I let sit around because I didn't have 5 spare minutes to reply and say "thanks" or whatever. Some of these emails are months old (haven't gotten to the year-old ones yet).

I feel self-conscious because I never seem to be on the receiving end of these emails. If I send email to someone and they don't respond within, say, a week, they never respond. And I know how it is, believe me. I've moved on with my life. (Still curious though; if you've got an ancient email from me in your inbox that you intend to address someday, feel free to confess in an anonymous comment.) But how do my repliands feel getting a response from me many months late? Does it even help them out? Do these people still have whatever little Beautiful Soup problem they emailed me about, or have they moved on too?


"Man, there are so many baseball players in this big ol' list."

"Yeah, that's Wikipedia for you."

Speaking of Baseball: I just finished The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop.. Wow. That's the book Giles Goat-Boy should have been, and at 1/3 the length.

[Comments] (4) Scientist and Penguin: Another sitcom day apparently. Sumana and I seem to have invented a role-playing game where we make up a sitcom and then act out an episode, plot further episodes, figure out when it jumps the shark, etc. Today the sitcom was called "Scientist and Penguin". I was the penguin.

One episode involved me having eaten the fish the scientist was saving for a research station party, and having to go catch more before six o'clock, when the other scientists showed up. Then there was a sort of body-swap episode where I got the skills and worldview of a scientist but none of the domain knowledge. The show jumped the shark when we introduced a spy (nosy neighbor) who was always trying to prove that I was in fact a penguin.

Oh yeah, the worst part was my catchphrase: "I'm a penguin!" This always got a huge (canned) laugh even though it's one of the worst catchphrases imaginable. And of course it didn't help the show's position w/r/t the shark that at least once an episode I flat-out announced the thing that the spy was always trying and failing to prove.

[Comments] (4) SR: is there a game that you can creare your own dinasaur with evry day problems No, but that's a great idea! Get to work, game designers!

: Amazon has a new schemaless database web service (remember, you can't spell "schemaless" without "shemales"), which is cool but has some serious problems from a REST and general web architecture perspective. The weird thing is that by my count this is the fourth time this has happened. (Here's last time.) This despite the following mitigating factors:

Reading the tea leaves it looks like Amazon has some internal framework that takes a set of functions, and generates code for a web service that handles calls to those functions through HTTP GET or SOAP. If people complain and an Amazon coder gets around to it, said coder can generate or write a proper resource-oriented interface to the same underlying code, but that's not what's generated by default. S3 and the web service that controls EC2 were done by different teams who didn't use or didn't know about this framework.

[Comments] (1) : Sumana has posted her promised Powerpoint Karaoke best practices.

[Comments] (9) Horrid Tragedy In Private Life: Oh, frabjous day. Short-time readers may recall back in July when I heard of an incomprehensible Punch cartoon drawn by W.M. Thackeray, a cartoon so bizarre that "[a] rival magazine helpfully offered five hundred pounds to anybody who could explain the drawing. Nobody could." Since then I've been on a cartoon-hunt (not really), and today I not only found the cartoon, I found out what it means!


Instead of telling you what the cartoon means right now, I thought it would be fun to do some information scarcity reenactment and invite unfounded speculation as to what it means. Leave your theories in comments. I'll post an explanation tomorrow.

If you don't like not knowing something, it's not hard to find the canonical explanation once you know the title. I must warn you that, in the "Cow Tools" tradition, the explanation is quite the anticlimax. Meanwhile, I'll be perfecting my time machine to collect that five hundred pounds.

: I forgot to mention that yesterday's sordid story of Vending Machine French Fries is one of my favorite episodes of The Future: A Retrospective.

[Comments] (6) And Now, The Conclusion: Previously, on News You Can Bruise:


We pick up the story with The History of "Punch", new to Project Gutenberg. They have a whole chapter on Thackeray, including the section "A Mysterious Picture", which describes the cartoon:

In 1847 (Volume XII., p. 59) Thackeray contributed a "social" picture which is to this day a wonder to all beholders. It is entitled "Horrid Tragedy in Private Life," and represents a room in which two ladies, or a lady and a servant, are in a state of the greatest alarm. [The maximum possible alarm was lower then -ed.] What the meaning of it all is there is nothing whatever to indicate (unless it be that something has fallen on the taller lady's dress); and on its appearance the "Man in the Moon" offered a reward of £500 and a free pardon to anyone who would publish an explanation. The reward was never claimed; and Thackeray's contribution remains one of Punch's Prize Puzzles, unsolved, and, apparently, unsolvable.

First, "Man in the Moon" is a great name for a magazine. Second, it's awesome that in those days magazines held the power of pardon. Truly it was a more, or possibly less, enlightened time.

Now, searching on the cartoon's name gets you to The Works of William Makepeace Thackeray with bibliographic commentary and nostalgia by his daughter, Anne Ritchie:

Is it too late to claim the £500? The room was my father's study, where two little girls were found by him dressed up in various tablecloths and curtains. One was enacting a queen, and was ordering the rival sovereign off to instant execution, when he came home unexepectedly, and drew them then and there.

Jake Berendes came closest to divining the purpose of the cartoon: 'i think the message is "there is a lot of nonsense you will have to put up with if you have children so don't bother".'

As The Hitherto Unidentified Contributions of W. M. Thackeray to "Punch", which I'd actually encountered on a previous cartoon hunt but given up on because I was looking for the wrong year, points out, "neither in drawing nor text is there any clue to the situation; nor, if there were, could the joke be considered a very funny one."

Indeed. This discovery opens up more questions, like, how did this cartoon get published?

[Comments] (2) 10 F#@king Years: Ten years ago today, I wrote what can now be considered the first entry in News You Can Bruise. I was eighteen years old. None of the stuff mentioned in that entry actually happened or is still around (including Leonard's Yummy Homepage, then the weblog's containing site), and I thought I was funnier than I actually was, but I think my enduring voice, such as it is, was present.

For those who would charge me with narcissism, I say this: I like going to people's homepages and looking at their pictures and seeing the cool things they've done.

Looking back through the archives I see no previous self-congratulatory anniversary basking; I guess I was saving it all for the ten-year mark. Bask!

: There's too much stuff here to absorb so these pages have been sitting in my browser tabs for a long time like kidney stones or something: University course lectures as podcasts, and "Ideas and culture" podcasts. Hey, I've got a great idea: culture! We'll paint some pots, weave some textiles and we'll raise enough money (after inventing the concept of money) to save this civilization!

The Frotzophone Considered: In my study I sat, looking through forbidden documents, researching the Frotzophone. It was said that this accursed invention of Adam al-Parrish, the Mad Mormon, took space-time itself as its score, and that its music resembled a cover version of Azathoth's more radio-friendly pipings. Judge for yourself.

As you know, Bob, a text adventure on the Z-machine is represented as an object graph. The Frotzophone keeps track of objects' movements through the graph as you play the game:

The Z-Machine interpreter sends an OSC message whenever such an attachment takes place, reporting both the parent object and the child object. The ChucK patch checks to see if the parent object has been seen before; if not, it associates that parent object with a note from a pre-determined scale. That note is then (and on subsequent appearances of that parent object) added to a list of notes for that child object. The ChucK patch plays the list of notes for each child object simultaneously and in a loop; the effect is sort of an aural history of how objects have been related to one another.

The instrument is pleasing but its name is not megalomaniacal enough; it should be named the Parrishophone. After all, Adolph Sax gave us the saxophone, John Phillip Sousa the sousaphone, Pierre-Auguste Sarrus (indirectly) the sarrusophone. Alexander Graham Bell invented the bellophone, and his evil twin Alexander Graham Cell the cellular bellophone. So why give Deveikis Frotz more credit than he deserves, just because he invented the virtual machine?

: I just realized that Droopy Dog's voice is Truman Capote's.

The Blue Strawberry Cookbook: One bit of conceptual continuity in my life that you may have picked up on is my interest in cookbooks that purport to teach you how to improvise instead of just listing a bunch of recipes. I think I've now collected all the books mentioned in that old entry except for the Anderson, and the Sindel/Splichal I think I got rid of when we moved to New York. The most recent acquisition was The Blue Strawberry Cookbook, via the always-recommended BookMooch, through which I was able to get rid of 62 books in 2007.

Like many books that claim to have no recipes, this book in fact has recipes, but they're not presented in the traditional Joy of Cooking form but in a narrative like you sometimes see when I write recipes, with many hooks for improvisation. The odd thing about this book is that it's a book from the mid-70s, which means it's stuck in the 70s and in a French culinary model that's very sauce-heavy. There is a trick for making sauces in the blender which is used to great effect throughout the book.

The author asserts that "if it's fresh it's nutritious", which unfortunately is not true! The Blue Strawberry Cookbook unflinchingly applies this logic to, eg. butter. Most of the sauce recipes start out "Melt a stick of butter." That's on top of a recipe that often has another half-stick or stick of butter in it.

To boil a potato and then mash it is insultingly mundane; but who doesn't like mashed potatoes? The next time you make them, bake the potatoes in their skins until soft, then scoop the meat out of the skins, add milk and butter and salt and pepper, and mash them that way. Much more taste and much better for you.

"Nooo!" "Nooo!" Mashed potatoes with butter are the vegetable equivalent of fudge. Interesting idea to bake them instead of boiling, though.

Basically there are lots of good ideas in this book, and an inspirational spirit of off-the-cuff invention, but now I think I know why the 70s were so greasy. I don't think it's true that any arbitrary flavor combinations will taste fine, as BSC claims, but this book has gotten me to do more experimentation when cooking and less a priori thinking about what might work well together.

Scientist and Penguin: The Essential Cut: In the unlikely event you were wondering how "Scientist and Penguin" goes, Sumana and I re-recorded the very end of a previously improvised episode (0:44) as one of our trademark non-podcast podcasts. The backstory is that the scientist took the penguin on a boat to an island to see if there were any other talking penguins on that island. There was one, owner of a bar, but he was really cranky and he was out of coconut cream. Then in a medieval bestiary twist it turned out the island was actually a giant coffinfish, so we fled.

Also somehow the name of the show changed to "Penguin and Scientist". That nutty penguin stole the top billing! He's a penguin!

Dream Hit Parade: In keeping with my longstanding rule about telling you my dreams, here are the good/funny bits from recent dreams.

: Cameleopards? Cameleopards!

: I heard Bizarro Johnny Cash once resuscitated a man just to watch him live.

: In Utah with Susanna and John and Maggie. We're working on having fun, and succeeding. The founder of JetBlue was on our flight; I'm guessing the December 24th flight from New York to Salt Lake gives you pretty good odds to see him.

[Comments] (1) Anacrusis #7 or whatever: I woke up this morning deciding to write an Anacrusis about Santa Claus, as my Christmas gift to you, my readers. I announced this plan to Sumana, who said "You know today's Anacrusis is about Santa, right?" Except she said it without the link.

I inquired how Sumana thought I might have known this, since like a magician preparing a trick I had booted up my laptop in full view of her and ostentatiously not looked at Anacrusis before telling her my idea. She said maybe I'd talked it over with Brendan beforehand.

Anyway, here is my totally different Anacrusish story. I like to call it...


"Ho ho ho," says Santa, "permanently."

"We're here to help, Santa," says Ogilvy. "Don't you miss your core identity?"

"I'll stuff your stocking—permanently!" Santa roars, but there's that flicker of doubt.

"You know what comes after 'beloved symbol reenvisioned as evil'? Semiotic nullity. You merge with the collective unconscious. This is the last stop, old man."

Santa busts a strap.

"Nurse, sedative," says Ogilvy. "We'll walk you back through modernity. Have you ever been a facile metaphor for quantum uncertainty?"

"I see it!" says Santa. "Naughty and Nice, superimposed in every soul."

"Treatment successful!" observes Ogilvy, just as Santa suddenly disappears.

: I've been wondering whether anyone reading this gave or received one of my books as a Holiday gift. It seems unlikely but hey, that's what idle curiosity is for. Send me email or leave a comment.

: TF:AR is getting some quality linkage (for instance from ValleyWag and Rob Walker's del.icio.us links), and it's been called "awesomely hilarious", which makes me happy. Today when filling in the backlog I encountered another Vending Machine French Fries-esque tale of corporate malfeasance, which you'll read about in a couple days.

The project is going to end in March, and not a moment too soon. I think I've mentioned before that TF:AR takes up all my non-work creativity, and it'll be nice to be able to think about writing scenarios other than weird predictions from the past. There's More Future Stuff, of course, but I can come back to that in maybe 5 years. Or someone else can pick up where I left off.

Laura J. Mixon: Look, I'm not any kind of science fiction expert. My inauspicious upbringing and my flailing attempts to catch up are matters of public record. Among my many unread books are about fifteen representative books from major genre writers that I've never read (current project: C. J. Cherryh). But when I applied to Viable Paradise I had never even heard of Laura Mixon, one of my instructors.

This entry is for anyone else currently in that boat, encouraging them to get out. I've now read Proxies and its very different sequel Burning the Ice (not in that order) and they're both great. I want to say "character-driven SF" but the labels we give invoke stereotypes, and there's a kind of inferior "character-driven SF" that's analogous to inferior space opera. It uses SF settings and characters but the basic dilemma of the story would work fine without them. What Laura/Mixon (not sure how informally to refer to her) does is exactly what that label should mean: she puts people with realistic psychology through situations that don't happen in real life.

There are a couple problems with the two books I've read. They both start off slow; if you get bored at the beginning you might want to skip fifty pages. Also, for brief periods Burning the Ice switches from believable hard SF to super-hardcore Hal Clement type stuff that makes my eyes glaze over. But they glaze over for a bit and then it's done, or maybe they don't and you learn something about orbital mechanics.

So, highly recommended, an author who had fallen through the cracks for me, and one who doesn't have many weblog entries written in praise of her work.

On apple bin at farmer's market:

: I hate jewelcases, even the really skinny ones. But I also hate giving or receiving data-discs without some kind of protection. When I mail n DVDs of spam to a researcher I don't want them scratching each other up. So I was cutting up paper and stapling it into paper cases.

Then today I discovered the ancient Eastern art of origami. Tom Hull devised instructions for folding an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper into a closable jewelcase, and there's a web application that lets you print customized cases with the folding lines marked so you don't have to guesstimate distances.

The Canadian national sport: Telling Americans which celebrities are Canadian.

: I'm running out of 2007. Can I borrow some?

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