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: We got a draft of the Thoughtcrime Experiments book but the outer margins were slightly too small, so I had to spend a bunch of time fixing it and now we're going to go through the whole review process again.

[Comments] (1) : OK, let's do some damn writing.

[Comments] (2) Nothing But Fun: My mother still shows up in my dreams. About a month ago I had one which had a recording of her instead of her being alive, which I guess is progress. (Over time, something similar happened with my father in dreams.) I wanted to tell you about it on the anniversary of her death.

The recording was from my mother's perspective. She was at a fair with Susanna. They were sitting in a Ferris wheel, dangling their feet in the air. The fair was noisy. My mother held some fair food in her left hand. I'm going to guess it was deep-fried cheesecake, because she liked cheesecake, and because of what she said to Susanna a few seconds after the recording started: "Nothing but rides, nothing but cheesecake, nothing but fun."

A couple seconds later she repeated it, and turned to look at Susanna. That's when the recording stopped.

Part of it is the fake realness that rubs off from a dream, but that seems like a right thing for my mother to say. If I were one who interprets dreams I'd say that that line constituted some kind of advice from my mother. But it was just the part of her that I remember coming out when the rest of me was asleep. And I can already feel that part start to fade.

[Comments] (6) : The margins are wider and Thoughtcrime Experiments is now available as a print-on-demand book from CreateSpace. It costs $5.09, which is the lowest price they'll sell it to you. We can order them for $3.05, and Sumana will be getting some of the cheap ones and selling them at WisCon for less, WisCon rules about the dealer's room and whatnot permitting. But $5 is the cost of an F&SF, so it's pretty cheap anyway.

[Comments] (1) : I don't know if I mentioned this or not, but when we went to Per Se late last year, some of the courses were paired with delicious grape juice. I remembered Jason Scott talking about ordering grape juice from Navarro Vineyards, the same place the Per Se juice came from. About a week ago, after we determined we wouldn't be moving for at least a few months, I ordered a case of grape juice. It arrived yesterday and it's as good as I remember it. But it costs $11 a bottle, so gotta make it last.

Sumana says of the white, "Astoundingly flavorful." and "Tastes more like a grape than any grape juice I've ever had." The red is less sweet and goes better with food. They're both amazing. I really dislike wine, and it's a shame that there's no Two-Buck Chuck of grape juice, a cheap grape juice that tastes like real grapes. (You can get decent grape juice at the Greenmarket but it's adulterated with apple juice, that universal donor of juices.)

I also ordered a bottle of the acidic green "Verjus", which is supposed to be good for cooking. I'll post about it once I use it.

[Comments] (5) Star Trek: Sumana and I went to see it this afternoon. I'm still letting it sit in my consciousness but this definitely sorts with the "good" Trek movies and I might end up thinking it was about as good as First Contact. I'm cautiously optimistic. It had serious problems but almost all of them were problems with Star Trek in general. Every time I try to formulate a complaint I come up with something from preexisting canon that's ten times worse. All in all, it was a fun time, and I'm anxious for the sequels to resolve the plot threads, and hopefully not hit the reset button you just know they're gonna hit.

I am gonna mention two problems that I think are summer movie problems not Star Trek problems, so if you don't like spoilers or complaining, turn back.

Problem #1 has to do with the relationship between Scotty and his alien co-worker on Hoth. Scotty's always yelling at him, shoving him around, generally treating him like Igor. I don't terribly mind that Scotty was made the comic relief (it's Simon Pegg, after all), but this seemed cruel and even kind of racist of Scotty. There's only room for one racist on the Enterprise, and that's McCoy!

After the film I had writing group, and I told Andrew about this. He mentioned an interview he'd read in which Simon Pegg said Scotty and his co-worker had gone stir crazy being assigned to Hoth for so long. Sure, but stir crazy is a double-edged phaser. The alien should have shoved back.

Problem #2 is reliance on ungodly coincidences. I'm sure I'm overlooking something but I can't think of another Trek movie where major plot points just happened by coincidence. This shows up at its worst on Hoth. Kirk gets marooned there, he wanders around for a while and finds Future-Spock. Then the two of them wander a bit more and run into Scotty! If Kirk had found a guy (Scotty) who went on to play an major role in his life, that would be contigency, not coincidence. But Kirk meeting Future-Spock and then Future-Spock meeting Scotty was too much to bear, somehow.

PS: John Cho is terribly miscast as Sulu, but if someone says "We want you to play Sulu in a Star Trek movie" how can you turn them down?

[Comments] (1) Schooljailhouse Rock:

Number forty-seven said to number three
"Hey, we're both prime!"

[Comments] (2) Felt Food: A while back Susanna made some awesome felt food for Maggie and her friend to play with. There are lots of parts you can mix and match: cheese, vegetables, bread, etc. It's great to play with and something I wish I'd had when I was a kid.

I took some photos, but Susanna imposed a press embargo so that I wouldn't spoil the present surprise. Well, now the surprise has happened and I've got nothing to post tonight, so check it out. Susanna's entry on the topic has sewing instructions for all the food.

[Comments] (1) : Birds: nature's car alarm.

[Comments] (5) The Remake Of Khan: Sumana and I watched The Wrath of Khan as part of my plan to get her to watch pre-TNG Star Trek movies. In the context of having just watched the 11th Trek movie, it was very enlightening. The new movie is pretty close to being a remake of The Wrath of Khan. Which explains why it's good but also why it's not that good. Almost all the callbacks to older Trek movies were callbacks to Khan, including callbacks I didn't notice, like Kirk eating an apple during the Kobayashi Maru. And then I realized that a lot of the bad Star Trek movies are bad because they're trying to remake The Wrath of Khan.

Here's what I mean. By normal standards, Khan is a really bad Star Trek villain. Star Trek villains generally have some self-justifying line of BS that makes them the hero. The Borg want to unify all life forms and cultures, the Cardassians are imperialists spreading civilization, the Xindi think they're acting in self-defense. Admiral Leyton is trying to stop the Federation from becoming soft. Harry Mudd is a Willy Loman type who's just trying to shift product. Etc. Their actions make sense given their worldview. Even TOS-era Khan assumes what he does is right by virtue of his innate superiority.

But Khan in Khan is Captain Ahab, a character defined by his obsession and his need for revenge. He no longer cares whether he's doing the right thing. With Khan it made sense, because he's the superman who's been humiliated by Kirk, a normal person. But the people who make Star Trek movies keep making the villain into Captain Ahab as if that'll make the movie good.

Check out the lousy Trek movie villians. Soran: obsessed with the Nexus. Ru'afo: wants revenge on the Son'a. (Yeah, I had to look those names up.) Shinzon: wants revenge on Picard, which doesn't even make sense. Nero: wants revenge on Spock (also makes no sense). Obsession. Revenge. They're all trying to be Khan.

Some of the Trek films don't have villains at all, which I always enjoy, but look at the good villains. General Chang: afraid of change. Borg Queen: is a freaking Borg. Even Sybok (religious fanatic) is a decent villain. I don't think you can get a big-budget SF movie made these days with no villain, but maybe if Khan hadn't been such a good movie the other Trek movies would have been better.

PS: Anyone complaining about red matter, rewatch Khan and try to explain how Genesis works.

[Comments] (4) : I'm in the Zurich airport. At last, I understand the true meaning of Kraftwerk.

[Comments] (1) Infernokrusher!: Sumana reports that she was talking at WisCon to Jed Hartman about the story I sold to Strange Horizons (to be published in just a couple months). At one point Jed said "Ah! It's infernokrusher!" I thought this would be obvious from the title alone, but when I went searching for other infernokrusher stories online, I couldn't find any. Only jokes about hypothetical works. So you might reasonably not recognize a submitted infernokrusher story as such.

Is mine the first infernokrusher story to be sold? That can't be right. Prove me wrong. Examples predating the invention of infernokrusher grudgingly accepted. By browsing LibraryThing tags I've determined that John Varley's "Steel Beach" may be genuine infernokrusher, but most other things given that tag look like regular slipstream. Hey, if I don't have the expertise to slice music into sub-subgenres, I'll settle for fiction.

PS: I know infernokrusher is just a joke. Jokes are meant to be told.

[Comments] (2) Radio Download: I didn't post last week because I was at a Canonical all-hands meeting. We listened to a lot of talks and then they gave us Chumbies. While I was there I learned something really cool I wanted to share with you. I know you'll be interested because I already talked about East German computers at length and you're still reading this weblog.

I met a guy, I'm pretty sure it was Mirco Müller, who grew up in East Germany. He'd never heard of the PolyPlay (which I'd forgotten the name of at the time), but he was conversant with the home computers of the time, and he mentioned that radio stations would broadcast programs for kids to record. They'd count down and then send a game or some other program over the air. You'd record it on a cassette tape and then use it in your computer's tape reader.

This is such an awesome idea and I'd never thought of it because it's so damn socialist. At the point on the technology curve where computer cassette drives make sense, you need to have private ownership of computers, but government ownership of radio stations and a government policy encouraging kids to mess around with computers (see previous entry for contrasting policies).

Otherwise the people who run the radio station won't want to make a timeslot to broadcast data, and the people who wrote the software will want to sell it instead of broadcasting it. You could have this scenario in a world with very primitive but very cheap computers, where such a show could be popular, but that brings us into the realm of science fiction--where I intend to milk this idea for all it's worth.

[Comments] (6) Dada Chess: It's no secret that I admire Marcel Duchamp. The mad genius who cackled "I'll destroy them all!" from his bell tower, and then went ahead and destroyed them all. But only today did I create the ultimate tribute to Duchamp: Dada Chess! The latest addition to the crummy.com family of dada toys is an infinite series of chess games in which both players play at random.

I thought this project would take me days to realize, but thanks to Will McGugan's great Python chess library it only took a few hours. I did find a few bugs w/r/t what the chess library considers to be "check" and "checkmate", but I fixed them and sent in a patch.

While I was at it I fixed Dada Maps and Spurious, whose bits had rotted.

[Comments] (1) One Town's Very Like Another When Your Head's Down Over Your Keyboard, Brother: Version 2 of Dada Chess features textual representations of the games for those with chessless browsers, highlighting of the piece that just moved, and improved stalemate rules so the game ends instead of the kings chasing each other all over the board.

I also heard back from the original ChessPy author, who for complex reasons invited me to make my bug fixes public by forking the project. So here you go. It's also got unit tests for the stuff I changed. It's really easy to use, and recommended if you have some Dada Chess-like project that needs to run simulated chess games that don't require an AI.

Roll Out The Barrel (Of Rolls): K. Tempest Bradford and I came up with a restaurant that only serves food in spring roll form. So if you ordered a chicken dinner you'd get a chicken spring roll, a mashed potato spring roll, and a green bean spring roll, with gravy to dip it in. Of course the possibilities are limitless, especially for dessert spring rolls.

Brendan had a similar restaurant called "We'll Fry It!"

: I'm reading Volume II of David Eugene Smith's History of Mathematics. It was published in the early 20th century so 1) volume I is a Project Gutenberg book[0] and there's no reason why some version of volume II shouldn't also be a PG book someday, and 2) it predates the Incompleteness Theorem and the theory of computation. I thought you might enjoy 1925's perspective on the difference engine, from a section on "modern calculating machines".

It was not, however, until the 19th century that any great advance [in modern calculating machines] was made. In 1820 Charles Babbage began the construction of a machine for calculating mathematical tables, and in 1823 the Royal Society secured aid from the British government to enable him to continue his work. Babbage's progress not being satisfactory, this aid was soon withdrawn, but the work continued until 1856, when it was abandoned. From the time when Babbage began to the present, however, the modern calculating machine has been constantly improved, first by Thomas de Colmar (1820), and various types are now in extensive use.

[0] But that book is only 75 pages long, which makes me think that the history was greatly expanded, possibly in the post-public domain era. That would explain why no one ever scanned Volume II.

[Comments] (1) Abridged Search History: I haven't cleaned out my browser search history in years, and every once in a while something bizarre turns up in the autocomplete. I went looking to see where the search data was so I could go through it properly. It turns out the browser search history for Firefox is kept along with other form autocomplete data, in [your profile directory]/formhistory.sqlite. I wrote a script (below) to dump the search history and went through it looking for fun. I found a lot of interesting stuff I'd forgotten about and stuff that's funny out of context, doing my part to add to other peoples' stock of Disturbing Search Requests. I thought I'd present some highlights, in the traditional Internet meme presentation of "one for every letter of the alphabet". Plus one number and one non-alphanumeric character.

Update: in case you were wondering, there were 4834 distinct search strings in my history.

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