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: Computational semiotics is not what I would like a field called "computational semiotics" to be, but I've decided that I can't complain since it's by strict analogy with "computational math". Oh well.

: My mother sent me pictures to go along with her home improvement travail article. I should probably put them up, but I'm too lazy.

: Laziness notwithstanding, some pictures are up.


There are plenty of ersatz Hawaiian shirts out there - fine for a backyard luau, we suppose, but impractical and faintly ridiculous under real tropical conditions. We present the genuine article.

None of this can change the fact that they want $60 for a Hawaiian shirt.

: Just got back from Berkeley, where I'd been to meet with Lia. We watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail at Shattuck Theatre. I recommend it. There were a couple scenes that hadn't been remastered and were kind of grainy, and a couple scenes started without audio, but the latter was probably a projection booth glitch.

: I'm wondering, in my idle moments, whether or not the translation of Eco's Baudolino will keep the title Baudolino, or whether there's some English equivalent of that word. It doesn't seem to have a literal translation, and I can't find any references to the word which are not references to the book.

This page says it's a person's name and also says English translation by the end of the year.

: Me to Jake:

Have you seen (pictures of) that installation piece with the wax effigy of the Pope having been hit by a meteorite? There's some broken glass on the ground nearby and I can only conclude that the meteorite hit the Pope and then, in an unrelated event, some glass broke, because the meteorite sure as hell didn't come in from that direction.

Jake to me:

after much searching (everyone links to the picture on the christies page, which is no longer) i finally found a picture and made the conclusion that the meteroite came in through the roof, and the shaking caused a nearby skylight to break.

I think Jake has lost it here, because, had the meteorite come through the roof, it would have brought some roof material with it, yet all we see is the glass. I'm starting to think that the meteorite was pitched as a beanball from within the gallery, and that His Holiness should take a base.

: Kevin always gets much more interesting spam than I do. He sent me this one with the note "At first I thought this was spam from Stack."

This is only funny to about five people, but fortunately most of those five read this weblog. The reference is to Michael Stack, a senior software developer at CollabNet who lives the very life of Riley, and who famously calls everyone "boss".

I accidentally deleted a "stack" directory on my laptop this weekend because I thought it was a CVS checkout of stack's famous intranet homepage, but it wasn't. Oh well.

: Just one week until my birthday!

: On days like today when I don't shower until noon and my hair is greasy and my skin is greasy and I'm still wearing the horribly mismatched T-shirt and pajama bottoms in which I slept, I think to myself, This is what the 70s were like..

: She regaled you with tales of her new house; now, my mother weighs in (literally (literally)) on the meteorite controversy.

: Amazing new addition to Crummy coming soon (probably tonight).

: Here's the new addition I was alluding to earlier: Jabberwocky, my mother's brand new weblog! No longer will her voice on the Web be mediated through me!

In addition to putting up some old travelogues of my mother's, I moved Home Improvement Horrors over to Jabberwocky, where it belongs. That article is by far the most sustainable source of hits for this site (though for some reason, one of Jeremey Bruce's MP3s was downloaded 550 times today), outdrawing even the homepage.

I am slowly expanding the NewsBruiser installed base. I need more relatives.

: I just finished rereading A Canticle For Leibowitz, which I'd read in fifth grade, but I'm not sure how much of it I read in fifth grade. I vividly remember some scenes from Fiat Homo, and the passage written in second person at the beginning of Fiat Lux (the first time I'd ever encountered second person, apart from text adventures). The rest of the book was completely unknown to me while I was rereading it. I don't remember the third section at all, and I now know that I'd been conflating the aforementioned second person passage with a completely different passage in a completely different science fiction book I'd also read in middle school (I don't know which book, or when), which described using stream-of-consciousness the bizarre psychological effects of hyperspatial travel.

Tangentially, Peter Hodgson has sent me a brief sci-fi opus of his own design, requesting that I vet it for accuracy as regards computers. I'm planning to allow him considerable artistic license on the weighty issues, but nitpick on little things, like the fact that you don't need a virus scanner for your Linux box. More details may be forthcoming if he consents to publication.

: I bought a book for Kris the other day, and it's in an envelope, but I haven't mailed the envelope yet.

This is Envelope Watch: Day One!

: I had a note here talking about the new version of NewsBruiser I'm working on. Fittingly, it was accidentally mangled by the new version of NewsBruiser I'm working on.

: Went outside last night to look at fireworks. I saw exactly one firework (green) due to the fog, although I heard about a million fireworks. The exact opposite of my dictum that fireworks be seen and not heard.

: Kris' mighty guitar puts my pathetic guitar to shame. I can only take solace in the fact that, unlike Kris, I actually know how to play the guitar. But with a guitar like that, and dedication like Kris's, that state of affairs can't obtain for much longer.

: So. Yesterday I redid the NewsBruiser infrastructure, getting rid of stuff that wasn't being used, and I also got the list and add CGIs working. This evening I'm going to be working on view and possibly even search (woohoo).

: For Christmas I gave Susanna a gift certificate to Target, her favorite store. Today in the mail I got a thank-you note she sent me, listing all the things she got with the gift certificate over the course of 17 trips to Target. Definitely the best thank-you note I've ever received.

NewsBruiser 1.0 is coming along quite nicely. The view cgi with its cool navigation header is working great.


<josht> Hey, the donut penguin came by! left some in the kitchen..
<josht> and boy, talk about a fat penguin!! waddle waddle waddle

: Envelope Watch: Day Four!

I mailed the envelope.

: I won a game of Illuminati with lousy cards, and lost one with really good cards. C'est la Via Appia.

: I have decided that, however much the problem of printing date navigation bars for various levels of date navigation (eg. by year, month, day, etc) may look like a problem easily solvable by one uber-abstraction, it's not. The problem is that "by year" means something different when you're viewing a whole year of entries at once (eg. "show me the next year") than it does when you're viewing a month's worth of entries at once (eg. "show me this month in the next year"). The fact that I was also trying to have the same abstraction handle both "next" and "previous" didn't help.

That said, I have now a set of abstractions which should work, once I finish writing them.

: I miss strong typing.

: This entry is stored in the file nycb/2001/7/7-3 (because it's my fourth entry today). The problem with this scheme is that sorting the filenames, which Python can do relatively quickly, doesn't sort the entries. I've changed it in new NewsBruiser to be nycb/2001/07/07-3, but that still won't sort properly if there are more than ten entries in any given day (which has happened for NYCB eight times in the past three years). I have a custom sort which will sort that properly, but even optimized it's 20 times slower than a straight filename sort. I'm going to leave it at that for now, but would it make more sense to violate the zero-one-infinity rule and make it nycb/2001/07/07-03? Then I could use the filename sort, but if for some reason a notbook got more than 100 entries in a day, it would break.

: Da-da-da-da-da-dada! Newsbruiser Search! The code is ugly, but I'll revisit it after I do the editor.

: It's all over but the shouting. The new NewsBruiser can do almost everything the old version can, and more (if that makes sense). It's 1000 more lines of code, but it feels like less. Tomorrow I'll be putting the finishing touches on it, and hopefully writing the docs as well.

: Oops, it's only 400 more lines of code. My mistake.

Going to sleep now before I start making more serious mistakes.

: Gads! Actual critical analysis of Degneracy!

: The only new NewsBruiser functionality I have still to write is the "this day in history" SSI script. Apart from that it's just testing, code cleanup, and doc writing.

: Well, as you can see, I've written the "this day in history" script, though I'm not sure where on the page it should go.

Also, I just noticed that the Degeneracy literary analysis page plays a funny Degeneracy-esque trick on you. Try it!

: Just some more documentation and code cleanup to go. You can look at the NewsBruiser web page, even though none of the links work. I need a snappy slogan for the web page. I've been thinking up riffs on "hard-hitting news" but so far they're all pretty clumsy.

: Thanks to all those who wished me a happy birthday today. I am in fact having a happy birthday, since I had some time to get rid of a lot of cruft that had built up in Helm.

: Also, tomorrow is my first year anniversary at CollabNet, whereupon my stock options become (partially) vested.

: So, Josh and Elise took me to an Italian restaurant for my birthday (Emmy's, which Elise recently mentioned in her weblog). It was pretty good, albeit the service was slow. Also unfortunate is the splitting headache I developed this afternoon. However, let me speak of happier things, viz. the two things I got in the mail today. I will be opening them now, live, on the Web.

The first is a card from Susanna. It has a cartoon of Piglet of Winnie the Pooh fame sliding down a wooden slide, and it says:

Whee! You're 3 22!

Very touching, you'll agree.

The second is a package from my mother, which cost *exactly* as much to send to me as it cost me to mail the Envelope Watch envelope (the exciting (no lie) and knee-slapping (still no lie) conclusion to Envelope Watch coming tomorrow, so stay tuned). I open it and find... a book! Not just any book. The Best From Fantasy and Science Fiction, Eighth Series, published in 1957.

Today's Fiction -- Tomorrow's Facts

LIFE Magazine says there are more than TWO MILLION science fiction fans in this country. From all corners of the nation comes the resounding proof that science fiction has established itself as an exciting and imaginative NEW FORM OF LITERATURE that is attracting literally tens of thousands of new readers every year!

Not a bad haul for my birthday, especially considering I get free food from other people from work for the rest of the week at least.

I'm going to try and sleep off this headache now. Most people would have a headache waking up the day after their birthday, but not I. Hopefully not I, anyway.

: So, obviously I didn't sleep as much as I might have. What's worse, in my fitful dreams I was writing Python code for what seemed like hours. I don't know what it was for, but there was a lot of string manipulation involved.

Apart from my headache and fever, I feel pretty good; I'm not tired or anything.

: Envelope Watch: The Conclusion

The envelope I sent to Kris contained the purported Arabic Necronomicon I found in Berkeley. Last night, Kris sent me this cryptic (but not cryptonomic) message.

My dear colleague Dr. Richardson,

The package you posted last week has arrived at my study in good condition. The script is disturbingly clear, given the date of the medium. (Perhaps Drs. Charles, Dexter, &c. from the records department would be interested in the ancient preservation technique that must have been used on the original manuscripts!)

Even my brother -- whom I believe you met at the linguistics department conference last August, if you recall -- has had difficulty even beginning the translation, though he has come across several words and phrases at random scattered about the pages. He spoke to me rather excitedly this morning about a late night in the study with the Al-Azif, having found a section where the word "al-ab-so-urikyya," or "immortality," occurs no less than thirty-three times. He strongly believes this chapter details a recipe for immortality, though I remain pragmatic. He seems to spend an inordinate amount of time in the study, now... even at the expense of his classes. I feel sorry for his students; a passion for work fuels new discoveries, but I fear their teacher is a bit too devoted to the material.

Well, I must be finishing up now. Work continues and I'll let you know what comes of it, if anything. My sincere thanks to you and your department for donating this fascinating text to our archives.

Fond wishes,
Dr. Kristofer Straub.
Miskatonic University
June 9th, 1927.

P.S. Aaagh, I emptied my revolver into it and yet it keeps coming, don't know how long I can hold out, must write these words of warning, that damned book, I welcome oblivion, yadda yadda yadda.

: As long as I'm cleaning out the Necronomicon bin, allow me to point you to this fake picture done by Pete Peterson II.

: I'm switching between writing my performance self-evaluation and reading A Field Study of the Software Design Process For Large Systems, which we're going to be studying tomorrow evening. Actual quote from disgruntled customer representative quoted in the report:

They didn't have enough people who understood warfare to assess what a war actually meant. When we say we're going to use this system to ... search areas ... [they] thought you do it with a fixed geometric method. Whereas I had to explain you don't... it's always relative to the kind of force you are protecting. Suddenly, that becomes a whole different problem.

I'm glad our clients don't file bug reports like that.

: Got tickets to Utah last night. I'll be there from the night of the 18th to the morning of the 23rd. The occasion is the 80th birthday of my great-aunt Lejeune, which will apparantly be quite the bash. I am signed up to bring tortillas and paper plates.

: NewsBruiser release will be delayed due to sickness. I've got it on the run, but I've still got 5-10 hours of work to do on it; more if I want to do the XML format entries and config in 1.0.

Example of my delirium: I was playing Nethack and interpreting the foibles of the random number generator as the surrealism of a sentient being, eg. "Why was that jackal carrying around eggs?"

: The NewsBruiser system is now exactly 1812 lines of code. I've cleaned up all the classes (except for one hack which I haven't yet figured out how to get rid of), so there's just the documentation to do.


"Math documents, for example, should run through a math compiler that not only verified that the documents can run but that they are true..."


: My coworker Stephane is part of IBM's Linux campaign. This is a sweet deal for IBM; it doesn't sound like they paid her anything.

: Leonardonics bonanza! Includes "x, gix", "The X Council", and many more.

: NewsBruiser 1.0 is good enough that I've started using it on the live site. All the crummy.com weblogs are now running on 1.0. I'll be tarring it up now so that the masses can download it.

: It's up. 21K compressed, 140K uncompressed. It comes with documentation.

: In celebration of the NewsBruiser release (candidate), I totally redid the devel page, limiting the scope to programs that somebody else might actually find useful or interesting; adding the McSweenifier, eCow, and Helm to the list; adding dates to everything; and rewriting many of the program descriptions.

: I wrote the technical document, so all the docs I was planning to write, I've written. I've made some changes but they're too minor to go into a release candidate. I'm waiting for Josh's experiences getting NewsBruiser set up and using it before I call it done.

: Leonardonics mini-bonanza! Includes "Dude, Where's My X?" and "Tonight's Episode". That should do it for a while.

: Where do I go for an online store which is like Amazon, yet which is not evil like Amazon?

: Also, what are the chances of obtaining a DVD player which, once I purchase it, becomes my faithful servant and does not mantain secret sympathies with the people who make the DVDs? (eg. by playing the region coding switcheroo on me or disabling my fast-forward button at inopportune moments) If I were going to buy a DVD player, should I buy now before said sympathies in new units become stronger?

: I saw Don Hopkins' pie menu stuff years ago and I thought at the time that it was a good idea which would never be implemented anywhere people would use it. But I'd forgotten about the game as introducer of new UI concepts, and it turns out that Hopkins was paid to implement pie menus for The Sims. Way to go! I am serious in my felicitations; I for one know that if I'd spent fifteen years pushing some new concept and finally gotten it into something as popular as The Sims, I'd be real happy.

Don also has a Stanislaus Lem page.

: Lovely. Kris gets to use his comic to get greater exposure for jokes which, while they are years old, were never heard by anyone but himself and myself.

: I was really cranky last night and I took it out on my friends, which I should not have done. I'm sorry.

That makes it sound like I hit someone, which I did not do. Can't one apologize for little social infractions without arousing suspicion?

: False Advertising: A Case Study

The front cover of my videocassette of Jackie Chan's The Young Master shows Jackie in jeans and a tank top. The video capture on the back shows Jackie in some sort of mechanic getup with the Mitsubishi logo on it, in front of what appears to be a fireworks stand. He's standing next to a Mediterranean-looking guy in slacks and a partially unbuttoned dress shirt.

The box cover copy says, in part, "While trying to help a friend avoid a life of crime, Jackie repeatedly runs into villians and police, all of whom want him out of their business."

Nowhere does the box cover copy mention that The Young Master is set entirely in imperial China, with no time travel excursions of any kind and therefore no Mitsubishi logos, fireworks stands, or Mediterranean-looking guys in slacks and unbuttoned dress shirts. In fact, I dare say that the video capture is from an entirely different movie.

I cannot imagine why the designers of the box cover felt the need to cover up this rather fundamental fact about The Young Master, especially since it is probably five times better than the firework stand movie. Whatever the motive, though, the crime is clear: false advertising. And murder. No, just kidding.

: Song lyric for which I will probably never find a song:

Two thousand miles in her seven league boots

: I'm packed for Utah, though I have yet to choose books to bring along. I'm working on the biography of Franklin my mother got me for Christmas, which is okay though so far it is mainly retreading ground already covered in Franklin's autobiography (though what did I expect, I guess). So that, and a couple paperbacks.

I packed shorts and no cold-weather clothes (I really, really dislike checking bags and doing the baggage claim dance, so even for long trips I try to pack only enough to carry on the plane) because the weather forecast said the temperature would range from the 60s to the mid-90s. I am suspicious of this because all my memories of Utah involve intense cold. However, I'm fairly sure that this is because I've only ever been before in the winter. Also, I have a mental image of Utah as being made up entirely of mountainous crags, which is prima facie untrue as that would leave no place for the Great Salt Lake.

: I thought my camera was broken, but it's not. I almost wish it were broken, since that would give me an excuse to buy a new one. The zoom is broken and the battery case needs to be taped into place, but so long as it can still take pictures and transfer them onto my computer (1436 so far), I feel I must stick with it.

: So, the result of my camera cleaning-out: Manoj at the IHOP, Kevin as you've never seen him before (smiling, clean-shaven, and wearing a T-shirt), and a bunch of pictures from Pat and Alan's wedding anniversary.

: I signed up for a chair massage from 4:00 to 4:15. I think the massage is actually of me, and that a chair is merely somehow involved. It better be of me, since I'm not paying $15 just to help some chair relax. Or am I?

My neck and back are still sort of sore from my recent illness, and I'm hoping that the massage will help. I feel odd buying massage on the open market, as up until now I have merely availed myself of friends for such things.

: Chair massage was pretty good. Now it's back to cleaning up BaseHelmServlet until Kevin's ready to take me to the airport.

: Back of the book blurb for Signal To Noise:

...and hostile takeovers are just as common across light years as they are across boardroom tables.

I actually think they would be slightly less common.

Signal To Noise looks like the mainstream American SF version of His Master's Voice.

: This may be the last NYCB entry for a while. I don't know what the computer situation is in Utah.

: I'm in Utah, staying with Susanna at the moment. I'm writing this from a BYU computer lab. My mother will allegedly be here later today.

I had my picture taken with a large plexiglass dinosaur replica.

Unrelatedly (oddly enough): "It says DINOSAUR, not PICTURE OF DINOSAUR." -- Me to Susanna

: robotfindskitten: the Java applet!

: Also, another McSweenifier case study.

: The mad scientists of the Utah area have concocted a syrup called "fry sauce" which consists of blended ketchup and mayonnaise. A bottle of it was placed on our table in the restaurant at which we ate. Susanna says that she creates it for the denizens of her cafeteria. She says that if a Utahn runs out of fry sauce he or she does not know how to make more (though I have yet to verify this). She says that there is branded fry sauce sold in the supermarkets (ditto, but more believable).

Don't they know that when you do anything distinctive involving mayonnaise it makes your state a laughingstock? My advice to states and their inhabitants: stay far, far away from mayonnaise.

: Back from Utah. At work. Trying to figure out how this web browser thing works.

: Correction (to this entry); the actual rank achieved by my great-aunt Lejeune during her service in the Army Air Corps was that of lieutenant.

: By the way, I was right about the nature of Signal To Noise, though conceivably wrong about the relative frequency of hostile takeovers.

: I heard someone breathing. They were really close. I turned around. No one. I turned back around. The breathing resumed.

It turned out I was the one who was breathing.

: Out-of-context IRC quote:

<leonardr> what if dogs walked on their hind legs and wore funny hats?
<jrobbins> that would simplify and make things more consistent

: Utah pictures are up; do to a freak of camera weirdness the first five pictures are actually the last five pictures I took. My recommendations: fry sauce, the funniest inadvertent math joke ever, not the funniest, but one of the funniest advertent physics jokes ever, preposition-buzzword form in the wild, Susanna the 1988 BYU Homecoming Queen. I need to learn not to make stupid faces in pictures. They never turn out very funny.

Also of historical interest is this picture which, as Susanna mentioned, I used to find my way back to her house. It's actually very simple. Since the picture was taken at about 9 in the morning, I'm obviously facing south. I also know that I'm facing towards Susanna's house, so to find her house later all I have to do is find south and go there.

: Books I read on my vacation: The First American (finished it), Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (I think there should be a book called Damn, You're A Jerk, Mr. Feynman! (even though I really like Feynman, it would be funny)), The Boilerplate Rhino (not very good, but did expose the extent of the artistic license taken by Norfolk in The Pope's Rhinoceros), most of Signal To Noise, and two others which will remain secret for now, because they are gifts for someone else.

A good illustration between the difference between intellectual property and real property is that if I buy someone some candy as a gift and then suffer a lapse of willpower and eat the candy myself, there's no more gift. But if I buy someone a book as a gift and then read it myself, I can still use it as a gift (assuming the recipient won't mind that the book has already been read, which is certainly not the case in this instance).

: In a reverse of the usual pattern, the lacklusterness of Signal To Noise was lessened by a decent ending, decent enough that I might even read the sequel. One funny thing is that the copyright page at the front contains copyright notices for excerpts from several books... including Signal To Noise itself! I couldn't figure this out until I finished the book and found a little advertising supplement in the back with excerpts from other books from the same publisher, including a reprint of the beginning of Signal To Noise. They put the same advertising supplement in all their books, even in a book which is featured in the advertising supplement.

: Things I Compulsively Do To Be Funny Even Though They Are Not At All Funny
Second In A Series

When someone grows a goatee who did not previously wear a goatee, I allege that they are actually the 'evil' version of themselves, as per the Star Trek episode Mirror, Mirror.

: In Utah I played three games of Illuminati with Susanna, but none with my mother or any members of my non-immediate family due to time constraints.

: Jake informs me that he and his friends sang Susie's Mother's Tamales as a round on the way home from a party. I experimented with it, and while I didn't actually record myself and try to sing on top of it (my usual decision procedure for roundness), it looks like that song does indeed make a good round.

: Got My First XML-RPC Call (TM) working today. Kevin and I are digging a tunnel from opposite directions and when we meet, Issuezilla will get its permission information from Helm instead of Helm having to constantly be synchronizing its information with Issuezilla. We're going to do something similar with CVS as well. I sincerely hope that the days of having six implementations of the permission checking algorithm in five different languages are over; all we should have after this are the two (optimized in different ways) Java implementations.

Also, Seth sent word that robotfindskitten will be making an appearance in the LNX-BBC bootable business card image. They'll let any sort of junk into that distro, apparantly. It's worse than Debian.

: Two things.

: "Make the call, and the permission check is free!"

: So, woohoo, Kevin is making Issuezilla use Helm's permission server, and today I finished rewriting the CVS permission checker to use it. I got rid of about 200 lines of Perl; the value to society is enormous!

I choked on my water a while ago. Jeff said "Are you okay? Do you need a beer?" Jeff, I can't even handle my water.

: So, Steve was the only other inhabitant of my performance review, but apart from that it went according to plan.

: Downloading pictures from last night as I type this. After they go up, it's off to Berkeley. What a jet-setting lifestyle I lead.

: Here you go. My favorites are the "Free Dmitry" ones (1 2) There are many other great ones, however. Also of note is the fact that, after four years, I finally got the Nerth Pork t-shirt which was my prize for winning the robotfindskitten contest.

Ok, that's it for now. I'm off.


Cops don't like my profile
'Cause Mix-A-Lot kicks much style

Those are some petty, petty cops.

: "The user would not have to decide which license they are using it under until (if) they are taken to court." Talk about late binding!

: "We need to elevate bugs to the state of gossip so that news of their fixing will spread more quickly."

: On Sunday I bought a little Lego set ("Com-Link Cruiser"). Some of the translations of the name of the set make certain assumptions not present in the English name: "Nave de Rastreo Lunar".

I attempted with almost complete success to reverse-engineer it by building it without looking at the instructions. Then I took it apart and built this really asymmetrical thing. Then I took that apart and built a vehicle designed to operate either right side up or upside-down. My whole Lego design sensibility is radically different from what it used to be; I used to be all about symmetry. This is also the first Lego thing I've ever built where it's okay to have the underside of the bricks facing up. I must admit that the stuff I did as a kid looked a lot nicer, but that's probably just because I had more than 58 pieces to work with.

Somewhere along the line, Lego's space sets stopped being spaceships and manned planetside vehicles, and became the terrestrial appendages of some space agency. I guess they don't want to cannibalize sales from their Star Wars line. Also, need I even point out the deleterious effect of giving a unique face to every single Lego person in every single set?

: Brian has to autograph 80 copies of Open Sources for use as survey prizes. "I'm doing the part I can't outsource, which is to sign my own name."

: Congratulations to the Popovics on the birth of their daughter Zoe!

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