: Happy new year, folks. I saw a lot of fireworks last night; much better than on Independence Day.

Watched a little bit of TV last night; on the news there was a cop who was bitter because his day off was cancelled due to extra terrorism-prevention security in San Francisco. He alternated between talking to the interviewer and talking to a percieved miscreant on the other side of the television set. At one point he said (paraphrased):

"If you're one of those people whose idea of fun is to commit crimes, then you should go to Carmel, because if you come here, we're gonna put you in jail."

What does he have against Carmel? We may never know.

: 2001 Not in Review (280K)

: Good morning. I'm off to work soon, after the longest vacation by far since I graduated from college. It was very refreshing.

For some reason I haven't mentioned yet that I got a banjo for Christmas! It's an antique, and my mother bought it and my uncle Jon refurbished it. My current banjo repertoire is "Oh, Susanna" and the intro to "Michigan Militia" by Moxy Fruvous.

: Also among my Christmas presents was an all-in-one paperback copy of The Lord of the Rings. I remember thinking this was a great innovation when they first started appearing, but my mother (whose mighty 1965 hardback set was the one I'd used on my previous trips through the trilogy) said that the covers would curl like crazy. How right she was; it's worse in that respect than Cryptonomicon, and I'm going through it a lot faster than I did Cryptonomicon.

Anyway, I'm about halfway through and enjoying it a lot more than last time; the movie made clear a lot of previously fuzzy scenes (like all of book III). I mantain some irrational fear that people will see me reading my movie-branded copy and take me for one whose interest in the books stems entirely from seeing the movie. I don't know why I care what these putative people think, especially since such people would probably not care that this is my fourth time through the trilogy.

: A while ago I realized that a lot of people (myself included) say "sorting" to describe what is actually hashing, eg. "I'm sorting these books into four piles on some criteria". This should annoy me, but I don't think it does.

: Cool, the Second Great Interactive Fiction Excerpt Hunt has an excerpt from Degeneracy on its list. Yes, I read the entire list looking for quotes from my games.

: Today was Crummy Cleanup day. I totally revamped my personal start page, which was about two years old and not nearly as useful as it is now that I've revamped it. I also posted a quaintly pre-terrorist-attack article I wrote in early September called Behind the Firewall, which contains reaction to and discussion of the contemperaneous closing of the Helm source code. And who knows what the morrow will bring?

Unrelatedly, there's a very funny television ad for something, in which a guy types in a password, and his password -- displayed plaintext, mind you -- is "value". Preposition-buzzword form and horrible security in the same action! Not since Clinton used the name of his dog as his password has such a bad password been broadcast on television. How did that work, by the way? He used a digital signature to sign a law which gave digital signatures the force of real signatures. It was like Marbury v. Madison all over again!

: Sumana demands to know the relevance of Marbury v. Madison to my previous entry. Marbury v. Madison was the case which employed judicial review to establish the principle of judicial review. To understand recursion, you must first understand recursion, or so the joke goes; but for someone (me) on the outside looking in, sometimes it seems that that is no joke. The idea of invoking a procedure to justify itself (whether inferring from the law the power to infer from the law, or using a new technique to sign the law that enables that technique for things like signing laws) seems illegitimate to a technical person such as myself.

: A bit more cleanup before I hit the stain: pictures from the Dmitry Freedom Party on December 19. Seth, what is the name of the lawyer speaking forth in picture 6? Kim? I don't remember.

Update: Her name is Robin. Thanks, Seth!

: Making a virtue of neccessity.

: Here is a recipe for the dish which made up the majority of my diet for my last two years of college:

Super-Carbohydrate Trader Joe's Monopoly Pasta


  1. 1 bag Trader Joe's Amber Durum Wheat Cavatappi or Zini pasta (nb. apparently no longer sold)
  2. 1/4 bag Trader Joe's "Il Trio" shredded cheese
  3. 6 slices Trader Joe's Cracked Wheat Sourdough
  4. 1.5 Trader Joe's Roma tomatoes
  5. 1 tbsp Trader Joe's olive oil
  6. Trader Joe's basil (optional)

Boil water. Put pasta in water and cook. While cooking, dice tomatoes. Drain pasta and shake up with olive oil and tomatoes. As needed, put cheese on top and heat in microwave to melt cheese; also toast bread. Shake basil on top (optionally). Alternate between eating pasta on bread and eating pasta not on bread. Serves one, for about two days.

Another popular recipe 'round my place:

Very Cheap Three-Bean-And-One-Grain Salad


  1. 1 can kidney beans
  2. 1 can garbanzo beans
  3. 1 can green beans
  4. 1 can corn kernels
  5. 1/4 cup red vinegar
  6. 1/4 cup olive oil
  7. Dill to taste

Drain all canned items and put into big bowl. Use blender to blend vinegar and olive oil into makeshift vinaigrette. Pour makeshift vinaigrette onto hill of beans. Add dill and shake well. Serves one, for about a day and a half.

: Wow, what a deal! Crummy Cleanup day continues with cleanup of the pix directory. Many sets of pictures from 2000 and 2001, previously accessible only through hacking URLs or accessing NYCB archives, are now linked properly with descriptions. I also put up a few more pictures, such as this one of me finishing my coursework at UCLA. I've got more pictures to put up, so stay tuned, if you like that sort of thing.

: I'm having a gay old time, in the strict Flintstonian sense, with my new startpage. I'm rearranging and adding things like mad. It's the most computer-related fun I've had in a while.

: Ambiguity Watch:

Authorities may increase the reward money to $2 million for the person who mailed anthrax to various government and media outlets.

: Yesterday I went to Dr. Warren, the oral surgeon, for my appointment appointment. I watched a video on the horrible things that might happen as a side effect of wisdom tooth removal (fortunately none of them seem appropriate since my wisdom teeth do not border on the various nerves that could be damaged). I filled out consent forms and made my actual surgery appointment for February 1.

: You too can recreate the thrill of owning my illustrated directory of dinosaurs with the Natural History Museum's Dino Directory! It's even British! It doesn't cover non-dinosaur organisms at all, though.

: A couple test entries are coming up; Josh Lucas sent me some code to make NewsBruiser notify the weblogs.com aggregator when a new entry is added to a notebook. I properly productized it and am now in the testing stage.

: Test

: That worked; this should actually do the update.

: Woohoo! Now I have to doc it and do a new NB release. I wish I had a CVS tree here.

: OK, the official NewsBruiser 1.0 release is out! Enjoy it. I know I will.

Oh, I just noticed this on the weblogs.com site:

Welcome to the meeting place for blogging excellence on the Internet. Any weblog can participate.

That's a strange definition of 'excellence'.

: When the sun sets, Crummy Cleanup Day becomes Leonard's Hard Drive Cleanup Night, and as I clean I'm finding all sorts of interesting old stuff. For instance, I found (at long last) the original Nerth Pork robotfindskitten submission. I also found the sample transcript which was the first manifestation of Guess the Verb!. GTV trivia: the original verbs on the wheel were DEFOLIATE, EQUIP, PARTITION, FORGET ABOUT, REFUND, MISALIGN, and UNDO.

: More archive stuff, from a story fragment I wrote instead of working on my Wittgenstein paper back in 2000:

[G.E.] Moore was also a great traveller. In his visits to foreign lands he was often mistaken for someone from the moon. He never understood why this kept happening to him. (Little did he know that he was taking part in thought experiments created by the German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.)

: I uploaded a mess o' pictures, Andy. Pictures from the Sequim trip: July 3, 4, 5 and 6 2000; Thanksgiving 2001; Bakersfield trip 2001; Sumana stand-up at Blake's; several loose CollabNet photos; a few others here and there.

: Nethack quiz: when would you get the following message?

You hear a clank.

: Sumana says:

You would hear "you hear a clank" when you have inadvertently stepped into a game of Girl Genius.

: At long last, I finally have an interactive fiction idea that I actually know what to do with, and that I care enough about to actually write the corresponding game. Expect the game in six to eight months.

: I am having the most amazing Nethack game ever. I found a wand of wishing with two charges in a shop, and with it got a silver dragon scale mail which I used in conjunction with a ring of polymorph to rob other shops (including a ring shop). Now I'm diluting useless potions and so far I've unleashed 3 (!) water demons in quick succession, all of which have been greatful and given me wishes. My chances of that happening are less than one in ten million.

Ah, I just unleased an unfriendly water demon, which probably ends my stream of luck.

: Susan Kelley mocks CNN space reporting thusly: "Scienticians Take Picture of Shiny Thing"

: Aha!

: Argh. I thought air travel was supposed to be cheap, what with nobody flying and the government bailouts and all. Yet it's costing me $450 to go to Texas and back for my cousin's wedding. And I still have over 20 unmarried cousins! They'll bankrupt me! I'll have to mortgage Marvin Gardens and sell all my houses on the orange properties!

: QoS: The Banner Ad

: A while back I watched Lagaan with Sumana and she said "This movie has everything Indians like in a movie. Song and dance numbers, hating the British and loving them at the same time, and cricket." There's an hour of cricket in that movie, preceded by an hour of cricket practice!

: My trips to the densist are hardly worth mentioning anymore. Boring boring boring (which is really the best that a trip to the dentist can be). I have two more trips to fill cavities, with the horrible wisdom tooth extraction occuring between. Then my mouth will be all patched up and ready for the braces.

: Wait a minute! Captain Planet and the Planeteers was supposed to have one Planeteer from every continent, but they didn't have anyone from Australia! They should have treated Europe and Asia as the same continent, and added an Australian aborigine. I don't know what they should have done about Antarctica.

: I finished Lord of the Rings last night. I think I finally understand all of what happens; why Aragorn made that stupid march to the Morannon and so on.

Interestingly enough, Nethack orcs think lembas wafers are delicious. Most likely this is the result of an oversight.

: The CollabNet Apps-Dev slogan was ratified today:

!! >> IZ

[Aka "Put it in Issuezilla".]

Not all is well, however; I discovered last night that what I thought to be a complete dump of the Segfault database is actually only a dump of the story metainformation and the (pre-shutdown-of-comment-system) comments. I don't currently have copies of any of the Segfault stories. So much for me being complacent about VA dragging its heels on letting me into the old Segfault box. I can rewrite the code if I have to but there's no way I can recover all those stories without access to the box.

: Scott suggested using the Wayback Machine to retrieve Segfault stories; he also mentioned that he's been lobbying VA about once a week to Free The Segfault N, as it were. Sumana suggested using the Wayback Machine's cache of searches by author to get particular stories (such as my own). There's no way I'm going to get an appreciable number of stories from the Wayback Machine, though; it's just too slow and there are too many stories. Though I could make it a cooperative venture and put up a site with one-month slices of Segfault's history still to be recovered, if people are interested.

Also from Sumana, the second entry in the Virtue Is Its Own Reward bin (the first): "Protect a loved one and save!"

: If, like me, you make the latest from political cartoonist Paul Conrad a must-read each day, you'll like my approximation of his style.

: Let's talk about the online comic Penny Arcade, bay-bee. The untutored Philistine might think it merely another cartoon which coasts along on references to electronic games, but said Philistine would be wrong! (Mostly!) It coasts along on the quality of its writing, which is top-notch. This is evidenced by the fact that Penny Arcade is one of my favorite online comics, even though I care not a whit for the sorts of game discussed in the strip. (This is not a rare phenomenon, by the way; I religiously read Slate's Tuesday Morning Quarterback even though I hate football and will attempt to weasel my way out of any conversation involving it.)

I bring this up because Monday's comic on carrot cake was especially good--not just by itself, but in conjunction with the gonzo adventure essay that accompanies it. That's the great part--you get a comic and an essay! If that's not value, I don't know what is.

: I'm at Kevin's house waiting for the time to come when he takes me to the airport and I depart for Houston. I really dread going through airport security because I hate long lines. However, I have assorted books to enjoy in the interims.

: Well, I'm off. In omen-of-doom news, my flight arrives in Houston at 9:11 PM local time.

: Whee, I'm in San Antonio. I went to a Boy Scout court of honor at which my cousin David was made an Eagle Scout. Tomorrow I'm going back to Houston to see the Schiles. Apart from Kristin's wedding, not much has happened.

Texans take their irony restaurants seriously. There is a restaurant actually called "Eat at Joes". There's also a fake '50s diner which has fake '50s graffiti on the front windows.

Gee, I wish it were ten o'clock: I'm long back from Texas and Crummy is, once again, down. I've been writing NYCB entries about Texas and I figure I might as well put them here while I wait and then repost them on the main site. So stay tuned.

In The Ballad of Michigan J. I have some fun naming space aliens (Zcat and Grep) after Unix utilities. It turns out I'm not the only one to do this sort of thing; witness The Saga of Argc and Argv.

The undead hordes of Texas are upon you:

One thing that happened to me in Texas was that my uncle Robert showed me Diablo II. Whee! It's quite fun, and I got up to level 11 without much trouble (then I went back to San Francisco; that's not where trouble abruptly started). I went away thinking there was a Linux version of Diablo II and I could continue to play it, but I couldn't find any evidence of such a beast. Oh well. I'll just have to do productive things with my time.

Now, a famous article compares Diablo II to Nethack ("But what about the Amulet of Yendor?"). On the other hand, Diablo II's mechanical similarities to Angband have so far passed largely unnoticed. Until now!

Our secret weapon in the war against terrorism: This kid is perilously cute.

The 1996 Aesthetic: I Want My Banner Ad To Look Like A Web Form But It Never Occured To Me To Actually Create The HTML Mockup I Want And Take A Screenshot Of It So I Ended Up Doing A Half-Assed Job Of It In Visual Basic: First In A Series.

: Woohoo! We're back in style. As always, check out the backup site for stuff soon to be reposted here.


In The Ballad of Michigan J. I have some fun naming space aliens (Zcat and Grep) after Unix utilities. It turns out I'm not the only one to do this sort of thing; witness The Saga of Argc and Argv.


One thing that happened to me in Texas was that my uncle Robert showed me Diablo II. Whee! It's quite fun, and I got up to level 11 without much trouble (then I went back to San Francisco; that's not where trouble abruptly started). I went away thinking there was a Linux version of Diablo II and I could continue to play it, but I couldn't find any evidence of such a beast. Oh well. I'll just have to do productive things with my time.

Now, a famous article compares Diablo II to Nethack ("But what about the Amulet of Yendor?"). On the other hand, Diablo II's mechanical similarities to Angband have so far passed largely unnoticed. Until now!

In one of the bizarre twists that marks my life, Robert used to play the Palm game iRogue a lot. The author of iRogue, Bridget Spitznagel, also ported robotfindskitten to the Palm.

: This kid is perilously cute.

: I Wanted My Banner Ad To Look Like A Web Form But It Never Occured To Me To Actually Create The HTML Mockup I Want And Take A Screenshot Of It So I Ended Up Doing A Half-Assed Job Of It In Visual Basic: First In A Series.

: One of the projects I engaged in over the weekend was to properly arrange and name the tracks of My Dinner with Andre Nguyen and What do you call those Pork Things?, the two crup albums hosted on this site here (cf.). Previously available only as unnamed blobs of unordered tracks, now shiny and recognizable. I highly recommend (just off the top of my head) Dodge Reliant, Robotfindskitten (completely unassociated with robotfindskitten), Cap'n Ron, and Fiestaware.

Note that a couple tracks from Andre Nguyen, including the fabulous "6660 Minutes", are missing.

: Ambiguous Headline Watch: Danger pets warning

AHW is the new, much better title for the previous Crummy feature Multiple Meaning Headline Watch, which is itself a side project of Funny Headline Watch (more), a wholly owned subsidiary of Crummy Headline WatchCo (NYSE: HEAD), a figment of my fevered, headline-obsessed imagination.

: So, what else did I do in Texas, you ask? Well, in San Antonio I played RISK with my cousins and my uncle Robert. I did this the last time I was in San Antonio, with much the same people, though I did better this time (I died last, fighting to the bitter end with my valiant Australasian troops). It was pretty cool the way we did it; among the many games on Robert's laptop is a RISK game, so we ran it, hooked up his laptop to the huge TV in my aunt's living room, and took turns at the mouse. This was a lot of fun because it had the feel of a real situation room like you see in movies (except for the big dice on the screen). The game also moved a lot faster than it would have on the board. I can't say I think much of the game interface, though.

: Let me introduce to you the one and only Snowblind (nť "Sled or Die"), which as far as I know is the only robotfindskittenlike game (to coin a phrase) to not actually be robotfindskitten. Much like the relationship between Rogue and Diablo II in that I can't actually play Snowblind (it requires some fancy-schmancy graphics card that I don't have), but the brochure looks nice.

The name is intended to conjure images of hopelessly wandering through a barren, desolate wasteland full of strange objects and beings, much like the experience of trying to find useful information on OpenGL API extensions.

Caution: the download is huge and the authors probably never intended anyone else to see the game.

Also, some new rfk fan art.

: C'mon! I'll take you all on! I've been practicing!

: Got the last of my cavities filled today. Tomorrow is the big one; the removal of the impacted wisdom teeth. Aiee!

I'm communicating with Andy semi-regularly nowadays. It's great!

: Yesterday was a bit of a red-letter day for Michael Stack and myself. That was when we flipped the switch on the search system used in SourceCast. We used to use a horrible system based on Swish-E which could only index and search HTML content. The new system is of our own design, uses Lucene, and can index and search just about anything (it uses plug-ins) and integrate the results based on user permissions.

It's certainly one of the coolest pieces of software I've ever written, though I'm not sure how to quantify that. It can't be the coolest piece of software I've ever written, because it's a strict subset of the SourceCast component integration architecture, which is also very cool. It may be that it's the coolest software design I've ever come up with. I'm probably deluding myself into thinking that I could write a paper on its design and actually have something new to add to the field of computer science, but it's that sort of feeling.

: Argh. I'm hungry, but I can't eat before my surgery, and I sure won't be able to eat much after my surgery. My only hope is to somehow be able to eat during the surgery.

: US mulls Linux for world's biggest computer. Mmm, mulled Linux.

: Time to take my Valium!

: Well, I'm back. I feel okay so far, though my mouth is incredibly dry and I'm not supposed to rinse til tomorrow. My mother convinced me that Valium is for neurotics and that I didn't need to take it, and she was right (about me not needing it). I wasn't apprehensive (especially since in the past two months I've already had a root canal, eight fillings, and four extractions).

: For a long time I've been bothered by the fact that the election cycle in the The West Wing universe is two years out of sync with the election cycle in our universe. The only explanation Sumana and I could come up with was that there was some huge disaster or scandal that killed or caused most of an administration to resign, and a Constitutional amendment was passed to hold a new presidental election when such a thing happened.

This page has a similar idea, which I could accept.

: The last time I had oral surgery was in the mid-80s. I got stitches and about a week later I had to go in to have them snipped out. I've got stitches where my wisdom teeth used to be, but in this modern age these stitches will disintegrate in 5-10 days so I don't have to go in again. Now that's innovation!

The other thing that's innovation is the big wicker laundry hamper shaped like a frog with its mouth wide open.


Non-Kitten Items Explained Through Quoting Someone Else Who Noticed Them: First In A Series

In fact, I have proof that few people have ever heard of nautiloids at all, and therefore don't give a damn in the fulest sense. Recently, the World Weekly News, king of the shopping-mall tabloids, published unretouched photographs of a chambered nautilus labeled as a giant monster now on an earthbound path from Mars and scheduled to arrive well before the millenium.

--Steven Jay Gould, Eight Little Piggies

: My two best Googlewhacks so far (rot13ed so as not to add search results for them):

vagreangvbanyvmngvba ubrqbja (Score: 8,438,800,000)
onpxcbeg zheqref (Score: 53,118,800,000)

The second one is invalid under some rules because its first word is not found at dictionary.com (it should be, though).

I actually find the construction of three-word Googlewhacks more interesting than two-word ones, because they make you triangulate relative unrelatedness of words. Two-word ones are more impressive once constructed, though.

: Seth originally didn't notice that I'd rot13ed my Googlewhack words, and suggests that "vagreangvbanyvmngvba" be abbreviated "v18a".

: I'm pretty swollen today. Allegedly today will be my worst day, and it's not too bad.

I put up a navigable file tree over at Da Da Warren Memorial Memorial (which has now been running a year longer than Da Warren ran), and restored five of the file areas. A treasure trove of old DOS stuff.

: Mike Popovic has once again found gainful employement--he's the new webmaster for Tom's of Maine! Congratulations!

Gainful employment is not to be confused with lossy employment.

: I'm surprised Mike Sussman can get any work done what with giant storms duking it out on Jupiter all the time.

: Well, I've gone through all my antibiotics. I slept (well) last night without the ice pack, though I still need it in my waking hours.

Kevin has been waiting with poised schaudenfreude for the dental procedure which causes me intense pain. Unless something goes horribly wrong during the fitting of the braces, he's not going to get what he wants. He'll have to be satisfied with the medium-term discomfort caused by the braces.

: Sumana points to Jared Diamond's The Curse of QWERTY, "or, as I call it, 'Guns, Germs, and RSI'".

: Another comedy night last night. It was much more enjoyable than last time, mainly because the comedians were funny, their civilizations by this time having developed the Joke technology.

The headliner was a Jew from Texas, and he had a little bit on how bad his routine would be if he were confined to comedy about being a Texan Jew, which bit was strangely the best part of his act. There were two (!) other pro comedians who were also funny, and the show was MCed by Kenny Byerly, who resembles Campbell Chiang to a disturbing extent, but who is much funnier. And Sumana's open mic performance was also very funny, though it relied almost entirely on stereotype humor (this was intentional).

: This is horribly geeky, {yet, and} funny: The Angband Comic. This one is the best of the lot.

: The coolest AP ticker picture yet.

: Hey hey! We finally did a release of Eyebrowse!

: Envelope Watch II: Day One! I sent off an envelope to Mike's new place in Maine, containing a gift I've been meaning to give to him for over a year.

: Everyone at work is in a really good mood: we just had a great pep talk in the form of a conference call from an employee of a new client. For years, their software development had been done with little coordination or cross-department communication, and the resulting mess was recently exacerbated by an attempt to use Rational's suite of apps. They switched to SourceCast and cleaned up the mess within two months, and now they're ridin' high. It felt really good to hear about their success with software I helped write.

: Wow, my day stayed good. I implemented an awesome new feature (project and category tree display) which was much easier to implement than I'd thought it was going to be, and which gave me some good ideas for a redesign I need to do.

: "Someday soon I'm gonna tell the moon about the crying game." What the hell does the moon care about the crying game?


I have a couple souvenirs from my trip to Texas. I have a little beanbag-type penguin which my mother bought me. I have some books I bought at Half Price Books (more of which anon). I have a Nutra-Grain bar Andy's mother gave me which I still haven't eaten (not technically a souvenir). I have a garter which I caught at Kristin's wedding (it was the second garter they threw; they kept shucking garters off of Kristin's leg and throwing them into the crowd, which was pretty funny).

I also have a reciept from HEB (a Texas supermarket) which I've been hanging on to solely to mention it here. Our first day in Texas we were at a hotel which offered a not very impressive continental breakfast, so we went across the corner to HEB, bought a bunch of food, and invited the aunts and cousins over to partake. I fed about 10 people for $33, which was pretty good. Reproduced below is the list of food from the receipt:


In particular, I would like to draw your attention to this item:


It was a block of cheddar cheese. It cost $1.95. It was shaped like the state of Texas. My mother decided that she had to have it, so I bought it for her. For all I know she has it still.

Robert had earlier expounded his hypothesis that Texas is the only state in the union in which the citizens think of themselves primarily as citizens of their state (as opposed to American citizens or citizens of a particular city). He siezed upon the Texas cheese as evidence of this. Yup, everyone wants a piece of the Texas cheese to bolster his or her own personal argument. Not for any other reason, though--it's mild cheddar, and what fun is mild cheddar?

: Another Texas-related entry. At Half Price Books in Houston, I made quite a find: a copy of an old 1983 manual for Palladium, a role-playing game I'd vaguely heard of. It cost $10, which is a lot for a Half Price Book, but it was in good condition so I bought it.

Palladium has a lot of interesting features. It comes with a campaign setting which looks fun and full of variety. The alignment system is really great; it captures the way people act a lot better than the AD&D system does.

The book describes about five different magic systems; they're all pretty interesting, though most of them seem not to be very powerful. The main one (generic RPG wizard/priest magic) looks really well designed, and the instructions indulge in some great bashing of the annoying AD&D magic system:

Nor does the wizard forget a spell upon casting it. This is his life, spell magic and study... To forget a spell could mena his death and is a fairly ludicrous idea. This is his occupation, his livelihood, he is no longer an apprentice... To suggest that he would forget a spell is like saying a soldier might forget how to use his sword.

Most of my complaints have to do with the book itself rather than the game system. The sections are organized haphazardly, as though the book were written as hypertext and then the hypertext were automatically traversed to create a book.

The writing style is florid, sometimes, hilariously so, as in this masterpiece of redundancy:

"Generally, dwarves and elves treat each other with an air that is so cold that it could freeze an iceberg."

And the Tonight's Episode-y:

"The assassin, like the mercenary fighter, is a sword for hire; their specialty: death."

There's a new edition of the Palladium rulebook out, which allegedly fixes the stylistic problems; if that's so then my main complaints would be the paucity of supplied monsters and the seeming weakness of most of the magic systems. But no one's making you play a diabolist.

: Damn, Kris is funny.

: I have no idea how canon this is, but Sean Neakums has a very cool map of Springfield.

: Unlike most people, I do get paid to have ideas, though not all my ideas result in payment (these are known in the trade as "useless" ideas). So far today I've come up with two such ideas:

  1. I remember, but cannot find, an instance in which a CGI interface to the United States Code was used as an example in the code-as-speech debate. Now, some of the laws in the United States Code criminalize the distribution of certain types of information. I don't think these laws are automatically bad, though I think that most of them are. But since you could break one of those laws just by making an HTTP request and getting data in response, you could write a program which had the same CGI interface as the USC program, but instead of returning the text of a law, returned some data which would cause you to violate that law. It would only work for a very small subset of the US Code, though: it would be difficult indeed to violate Section 1821 just by making an HTTP request that said "section=1821" and getting data back.

  2. FreeCiv is played on a cylindrical projection of a planetary map. but surely the people in the FreeCiv world have the right to live on a round planet like the rest of us. So change FreeCiv so that the map wraps around on itself in all directions. I think this would drastically change the game for the better, though in general it would leave people more open to attack (since there would be more ways of approaching someone's city, such as across a pole).

: AP photo roundup:

  • A nice shot which looks quite a bit like a screenshot from a video game.
  • Fashion mini-roundup:
  • Which is more disturbing? This or this?

  • : New song, started and in honor of around this time last year: Three Years Ahead of the Japanese

    Game update: I have a title, plot and (lame) cosmology for my game. I know how a couple of the puzzles will work (because I already wrote code for them). I have an interesting main character for whom I will enjoy writing interior monologue. I'm feeling some ennui about the project in general but I think it will dissipate once a few more pieces fall into place and I start writing code.

    : Early yesterday morning I had an incredibly stupid idea (in fairness, I had it as part of a dream, but I've also had good ideas as parts of dreams): a breakfast cereal for kids which instead of (or by dint of) coming in different shapes, was associated with different point values. You would stand some distance away from the cereal bowl, throw cereal at it, and rack up points depending on how accurate your aim was.

    The sad thing is, someone working for General Mills probably thought of that in 1986 and it probably made it through one or two rounds of focus groups.

    : Hollywood lives and dies by Internet Movie Database made me stop dead in my scan of the Red Rock Eater digest because of the headline's sheer audacity, but the article makes a decent case--for the movie industry, it's probably as useful as Google is to the population at large.

    : For the first time in years I'm eating one of those cup-of-noodles things, mainly for nostalgia reasons--I used to eat them frequently when I was working at MAP in college. The last step in the cooking process is "[E]njoy from cup". I always have to look back at the instructions before eating because I can't remember whether I'm supposed to enjoy it or not.

    : Quick! Get the mammoth picture out!

    : From JOHO, here's a series of thought experiments to help ferret out to which theory of personal identity one hews. Few surprises for me, as I already knew I was a psychological reductionist; I waffled a bit on the answer to #1, but either answer is compatible with PR.

    The thing that disturbs me is that apparently 1/3 of the test-takers have an internally inconsistent idea of personal identity. I can only hold out hope that most of those were people trying different responses to questions to see what would happen.

    : Wow, I haven't worked a 12-hour day in quite a while.

    : My tiny hand is dwarfed by the huge hand of America's future, the youth of today!

    : Wow, I haven't worked a 17-hour day for nearly a year.

    : His supporters are all little kids?

    : How Leonard Prevents Himself From Buying Consumer Electronics

    "Hey, that is really cool!"

    "By the time you actually need something like that, there will be something ten times cooler available for half the price."

    "Oh yeah. I'll wait."

    : Today, in addition to (hopefully) fixing once and for all the horrible problem that caused me to work 17 hours yesterday, I (along with Michael Stack) came up with a really cool idea for a new UNIX utility which could be the next cut, nay, the next wc! Stack and I will jealously guard this idea until one of us implements it, so stay tuned.

    : The crisis, which I will discuss in my forthcoming tell-all book, for some reason caused the skin of my face to become flaky and red. I don't know why.

    Also: I also went to the dentist today for a cleaning. During the cleaning the dentist found a cavity that had previously escaped him. I have to go in on Friday and get it filled. Bah.

    : I woke up three times last night (the last time for good) and all three times I remember dreaming about debugging imaginary SourceCast problems. Aiee!

    Fortunately, and hopefully, today will not be insane as Monday and Tuesday were.


    Everything I do is more than it appears
    A coded message reaching out a hundred million years

    --Alien Nature Documentary

    : AP photo roundup:

    : Great Moments in Demographics: First in a Series

    I got junk mail from Time offering me "a special offer for senior citizens".

    : More crises at work, but while we're hardly out of the woods, we can at least see the way out of the woods.

    : Photo Roundup* (I love doing this!):

    * I just realized that it's not the AP photo ticker, it's Reuters. So unless "AP" is allowable as a general term for "news wire" in a way similar to kleenex or xerox, "AP Photo Roundup" is innacurate (though it sounds good).

    : In another triumph for NewsBruiser (not to mention COPOUT), Mike Popovic has started a new weblog called "mv * Vacationland". It's all about life in Maine. There's little so far, but more will surely be forthcoming.

    : There's a greasy spoon Chinese restaurant near the BART station, called "Tom's Restaurant", which I didn't try until recently, even though I love greasy spoon Chinese restaurants (this goes back to my youth; the only Chinese restaurant in Arvin was (and is) a greasy spoon called the Canton Cafe). Some chow mein, some fried rice--delicious. My only complaint is that Tom's of San Francisco likes to put water chestnuts in things, and I don't like water chestnut. They also like to use baby corn, though, which cancels it out.

    : I'd really like a recording of Ray Noble's version of Slumming on Park Avenue. Somehow I doubt even Napster in its heyday had that, though.

    : As you can see, I just added a new feature to NewsBruiser the absence of which has been bothering me for a while. It's been possible for at least 2 years to link to a particular NYCB entry, but figuring out what the link to a particular entry might look like required looking at the date on the entry or the name anchor in the HTML code. No more! There's now a nice little link icon to the left of the date of every entry, which you can click to be magically transported to a URL which will display on that entry. It shows up whenever a NewsBruiser entry is rendered, so you can use it to easily link to search results (something that's been annoying me ever since I added search functionality).

    I'm not cutting a release yet because 1) it's not 'productized', as we would say at work (you can't turn it off on a per-notebook basis and you can't choose what to display; it's always that little ball), and 2) it's a big pain for me to cut a NewsBruiser release, so I like to let changes add up.

    I'm uncertain about the ball, if only because it adds an element of graphicality to the previously austere NewsBruiser. I thought about having a linked "x" or other character, but I think the graphic looks better. I may change my mind.

    : I changed the ball to a link-colored triangle--I seem to remember that working well on Doc Searls' site.

    : Joe was sneaky and changed weblogs without telling anyone, but I hunted him down! His fatal mistake: mirroring the old site, complete with old comments, so that it showed up when I did a vanity search. And linking to me so that his site showed up in my referer logs.

    : In addition to the NewsBruiser changes, today I wrote a little script for Sumana that goes through (pre-downloaded) Kuro5hin diary entries and formats them more or less the way they're formatted here. I also worked a bit on my game; I've got most of the game worked out in my head but only half the intro (and, of course, that fiendish puzzle) actually written down to my satisfaction.

    : Yesterday I hung out with Adam and Sumana, and had fun. For some reason I acted a poor sport at our Scrabble game, even though I ended up winning. I need to think of my participation in games the way the panelists of My x! think of their participation on one panel or the other.

    I didn't know what a dream catcher did. Sumana told me and claimed that I should have known, since I'm part Native American. However, the dream catcher is of Lakota origin and I am not, so how could I be an expert on Lakota technology? Fallacious!

    : I should explain that "Fallacious!" is a Sumana bit. It takes off on the inevitable response of a lady in days gone by to unwelcome advances, which was to slap the offending man and announce "Fresh!". (I've never actually seen this happen, except possibly in old issues of Mad) If the lady is a logician (but not a tramp), she might instead say "Fallacious!"

    Sumana also came up with a great idea for my game. Thanks, Sumana!

    : Kris has a great insult on his page today: "I think it's written by Indie Rock Pete." And Airsick Moth has a bit of doggerel inspired by a particularly tasteless Paul Conrad cartoon.

    I should mention that Greg Knauss recently informed me that Paul Conrad is a stroke victim, so it's not really politically correct to take the sort of lime-and-salt pleasure in his cartoons that Kris/Leonard/Sumana take. Greg also passed along the following touching story:

    [Conrad came to] speak at my high-school, seven million years ago, when I was a freshman. After doing his spiel, he took questions, and someone asked where his ideas came from. He, of course, said everywhere -- the newspaper, conversations, even high-school kids. Did anybody in the audience have an idea?

    So I raised my hand, he liked it, and it was in the LA Times the next day. He framed the original and sent it to me.

    I thought that was pretty cool.

    Addendum: Ouch!

    : Wow, Degeneracy got an XYZZY nomination for Best Puzzles. I don't think it deserves it, though, and I say that without having played any of the other games. As I argue in my postmortem, the actual puzzles are either based on vague ideas or are standard adventure game puzzles that trick you by looking like completely different standard adventure game puzzles (a good idea, but probably not the best one of the year).

    Of course, the real puzzle is just figuring out what is going on, so maybe that's what they meant.

    : Jason said: "Do you think if a cop stopped one of those lunch trucks for speeding, he'd buy something from it?"

    : I need a haircut. You know who else needs a haircut? Glenn Reynolds!

    : Argh. Service industry disaster. My pizza cost $20. I gave the delivery person $25: $20 plus a $5 tip. He gave me $5 back in ones. I foolishly assumed that meant he was relenquishing his tip. Only later did I realize that he'd given me $5 back because he thought I wanted change for the five so that I could return to him some, but not all, of the money I'd given him and he'd just given back to me. Now he thinks I'm a jerk who doesn't tip.

    Next time I will use some non-changable amount like $24.

    : Every news article should have two parts: the news article proper, and an explanation of how this helps us find other solar systems.

    : While upstairs making pasta, I noticed on the dishwasher a little red lantern of the sort you might find at the beginning of a really cheap text adventure. Hopefully my life has not become a really cheap text adventure, so I will simply note that according to the text on the lantern container, the lantern is of "Excellente Quality". I think that "Excellente" is to "Excellent" as "Presidente" is to "President".

    : Hey hey! I moved NewsBruiser development over to tigris.org! Now it's got a CVS repository! Now it won't be a pain in the butt to do new versions! (and I won't need to do new versions as often because people can just get it from CVS). This is a new feeling; I've had the feeling of using SourceCast on itself for over a year, but this is the first time I've used it on anything else.

    : Chris saw the syringe I'm using to irrigate the gaping holes in my mouth where my wisdom teeth used to be, and said "There's probably a story behind that."

    There is, but it's not very interesting.

    : Looks like Jason's been doing some moonlighting.

    : The system date on this machine was set to 2036 briefly today, so the Today in History links showed what happened 35-38 years ago. Not only is this funny, but it demonstrates that the TiH actually works along very long periods of time (though not across long periods of time in which there was an entry on a particular day for every year--I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to get more than 10 entries, but I haven't tested that yet).

    Unfortunately, I can't change the little message up there until I can actually ssh in again, which won't be for a while because I'm farms? in Berkeley? and my ssh key is in San Francisco.

    : I got a lot of tech company swag when I was in college. Earlier today I was wondering how many of those companies are still around. This came up in my mind because I'm wearing a shirt I haven't worn in quite a while which turns out to be a double whammy. The main advertisement on the shirt is the very cool logo for magicbeanstalk, the defunct meta-startup. But the shirt itself was made by the equally defunct snacki, whose site makes its graceful exit with a Marx Brothers reference.

    The other thing that got me thinking about this is my realisation that for years I've been using this stuff, when all along I should have been saving it in airtight containers for later sale on eBay. Sure, right now it's just Enron swag that gets the big bucks, but how much would my eToys pen be worth in ten years if I hadn't been all along using, compulsively dis- and re-assembling, and losing it? This is the realization an earlier generation had about its Star Wars action figures.

    : It's the old moon switcheroo!

    Also, wouldn't it be faster and cheaper (and better, for that matter) to just bring some hydrobots along, just in case?

    : I heard from Mark Fasheh again a couple days ago. He recently revamped his website, which now has many sets of enjoyable photographs in addition to a newly often-updated weblog. I enjoy the photographs, anyway, but I know and haven't seen for a while a lot of the people in them.

    : Odd unintentional punchline similarities today between WIGU and Checkerboard Nightmare.

    : Leonard Nitpicks The Pop Songs: Second In A Series

    Tell me, did you sail across the sun
    Did you make it to the Milky Way?

    You're already in the Milky Way!

    : Here are reviews of various Inform utility libraries from Emily Short, who has written many very good games and who had nice things to say about Degeneracy.

    : This weekend I'm driving down to Bakersfield for yet another relative wedding. This time it's my uncle Garry.

    I never mentioned that the last time I was in Bakersfield (for Christmas) I took Sumana on a tour of Arvin, where I grew up, and also showed her the house way out in the grape fields where I used to live. That house is apparently now owned by one of Rachel's elementary school teachers.

    Rachel sent her immediate family an email detailing her current set of plans. As she says, "i seem to have a habit of throwing one complicated life plan out the window every other week in exchange for another, slightly more complicated". She still refuses to have a weblog, but one of the classes she's taking is Bio 30, Human Sexual Behavior, known to the student body as "Dirty 30".

    Fourthly in the list of items pertaining in some way to my family, my mother sent me a link to The Sugar Beet, a very funny Mormon satirical newspaper which achieves the ultimate Onion-alike goal of never making you want to click on a link to get more of a particular story.

    : Sumana gave me a set of hooks that screw into the wall and on which you hang things. I set this up in my room and it works much better than hanging all my shirts on a board outside the bathroom, which is what I had been doing. However, when I'm in bed and it's dark and I'm looking at the mass of overlapping shirts, it resembles a large leathery creature affixed to the wall, like a larger version of the unconvincing flying creatures from the original Star Trek series, or a new AD&D monster: the lurker to the side.

    : Sumana says that there should be a rap group called "Run DMCA".

    I'm the king of rock, there is none higher
    Sucka MCs should call me sire
    But should not circumvent my copy control mechanism
    Lest they face up to a $500,000 fine or up to five years imprisonment for a first offense, and up to a $1,000,000 fine or up to ten years imprisonment for subsequent offenses

    : On the 25th I undergo the first of two orthodontist appointments dedicated to getting braces on my teeth. The second one will be on the 28th. The braces will stay on for about two years. Once they come off, my teeth will presumably be straight instead of the jumble they are currently. The braces cost about $5500 and they're not covered by my insurance; bleah, but doable, especially on a payment plan.

    I'm pretty nervous about getting braces, especially this late in life, but two years is not that long a time, and my bad teeth have really started to bother me; it's not uncommon for me to cut my lip while chewing food, for instance.

    : Today I accomplished any number of useful real-world things in addition to setting up my braces appointment. One of those things was to order a new debit card because my current one has been partially demagnetized. While doing so I got the address on my debit card fixed so that I could buy stuff online. Having done this, I followed Luther's injunction to "sin boldly" and bought a bunch of stuff from amazon.com (which I really like in all respects other than their patent evilness; the site is more like a Google for physical objects than anything else i've ever seen).

    I bought a bunch of books, a CD of Morton Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna, which has haunted me ever since I heard it on KUSC back in the 1900s, and the Diablo II Battle Chest ("Buying proprietary software on amazon.com!" gasped a shocked Sumana), which I purchased because I'm still obsessed with Diablo II even though I don't really have any way to play it once I get it--my current thinking is that the Windows laptop upstairs that Leonard uses might be fast enough to run it.

    I'm quite excited about this. I can click on links and cause foolish people to send me packages containing objects! Of course, there is the exchange of money involved, but what good is money if you never spend it?

    That was a rhetorical question.

    : Photo wire roundup:

    : I almost had 9 issues assigned to me yesterday; that would have been the first time since we started doing issue tracking that my number of assigned issues would have been represented by a single-digit number. However, just as I completed issue #10, a new issue was filed and assigned to me. This morning I have 12 issues. I'm pretty sure I can get to 9 today, though.

    : Woohoo! I'm at 9!

    : Hey, all you Adam Kaplan fanboys and fangirls. Adam has up career-spanning reviews of the ouvres of Johnathan Richman and Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. Enjoy!

    : Poor Kevin:

    <leonardr> wait, i know what you could do
    <leonardr> use a strongly typed language!

    : CRAP. All the Segfault code and stories are probably gone. The hardware was recommissioned. The only hope is that it was archived by someone at VA before that happened. More as the story unfolds.

    Update: Chris DiBona is going to find out tomorrow.

    : Wow; an incredible story (NYT, so requires registration, but cpunks/cpunks still works) about the Iranian satellite television station broadcasting from LA; I'd known about this for quite a while but it had always been at the periphery of my consciousness, and now that I read about it it's great. Get those people some funding!

    : I'm back up to 13 issues. But I did achieve 9 earlier, so I'm not as uptight about it as I was yesterday.

    : Good thing I spent all that money while I felt like I had it; turns out I owe my dentist and Uncle Sam a cool grand each.

    : Yesterday Sumana came over and I made a dish for dinner which I like to call "The Axis of Pasta". You heat up frozen green-beans-with-garlic-sauce and you cook pasta and you dump the former over the latter. Sumana and I agreed that it needs a third ingredient, but we couldn't figure out what. I think bacon would work very well, but I'd like the Axis to be vegetarian.

    : Geez, what is it with Hitler? It's not even V-E day or anything.

    Actually, Diesel Sweeties sort of explains it. As usual, Kris was ahead of his time (about four days ahead of his time, but still).

    Incidentally, that comic that Kris linked to. Would it have been funny with Hitler? No, it wouldn't have--not even the nervous kind of funny. Would it have been funny in 1945 with Hitler? I don't know. Why is Milosevic funny in a way Hitler isn't? This bothers me.

    When this came up earlier between Sumana and myself, Sumana suggested that we are socialized to think that Hitler was qualitatively more evil than anyone else. Possibly the only Hitler jokes we find funny in this postmodern age are the ones that use him as a symbol of pure evil trapped within the body of a historical figure (which is what happened in CN, and what happens in DS and most of the comics linked to by it). In wartime it was different, as this cartoon reminds us--it was funny just to whomp on Hitler. I'm overanalyzing here.

    : As Dave suggested re the pizza tipping disaster (and as was my plan even had Dave not interfered), I ordered another pizza from the pizza place and tipped really well.

    : Let me point once again to the fabulous NYT article. The last part of the story is picked up and run away with by Ali Dean, an Iranian-American satirist who may be the bravest comedian since Petronius. It's hilarious. Read it--Sumana didn't and then she did and she told me to link to the story again to get across the point that people really should read it.

    ''You be a reporter from The New York Times,'' he says.

    ''But I am a reporter for The New York Times,'' I say.

    ''Even better!'' he says. ''The reporter from The New York Times has come to interview Hajji about affairs in Iran. We do it improv.''

    ''But . . . ,'' I say. I'm thinking: I have no talent for improv. I have no taste for death threats.

    : Now preparing for my brief trip to Bakersfield.

    I had a dream about a cool machine into which you put milk and any sweet stuff (like Cocoa Krispies) and it would turn it into ice cream. You could also add ice cream to milk and it would extend the ice cream. Thirdly, once you had the ice cream you could freeze-dry it and turn it into astronaut ice cream. A good machine to have.

    : Shouldn't the Muppet Babies version of Kermit the Frog be a tadpole?

    : Okay, I'm off.

    : I'm in Bakersfield. Whee!

    : And... I'm off in the other direction. I have pictures which I'll upload when I get back to SF.

    : And once again, I'm back.

    : Check out the photos from Garry's wedding. I'm working on the photos from Kristin's wedding.

    : Epic nation-building games have grand names like "Civilization", "Empire Earth", "Age of Empires". How about "Guns and Butter"?

    : I've been getting lots of mail from people I haven't talked to in a long time: Campbell Chiang, Sara Geer, Peter Hodgson, Mark Fasheh. I'm gradually answering everyone's email, so if you're on that list please be patient.

    : Dave Griffith is somewhere in this Narbonic cartoon. I'm pretty sure he's in the back, third from the left (the model was this picture). Dave, this is the surprise I mentioned earlier.

    : Bakersfield silliness: Oildale winemakers bottle up White Trash.

    : While in Bakersfield I obtained a videotape of The Muppet Show. When I got back I watched it with Sumana. The tape features an incredibly bizarre and very funny musical number featuring two pink tubelike remora Muppets and a mangy humanoid Muppet.

    The premise of the song is that the humanoid muppet sings "Manahmanah." and the remora Muppets respond with "Do boo be doo boo." Occasionally the humanoid Muppet will go wild and do some scat which bears only a passing resemblance to "Manahmanah.". The remora Muppets don't like this very much, and silently give each other disapproving looks while the humanoid Muppet goes off on his scat rampage. But he always comes back to "Manahmanah." and the remora Muppets immediately resume singing "Do boo be doo boo."

    We were fascinated by this skit, easily the most bizarre I've ever seen on The Muppet Show. Sumana hypothesized that the remoralike creatures were alien overlords who had enthralled or enslaved the humanoid to do their "Manahmanah." bidding. But the humanoid Muppet could do whatever he wanted--he could move freely and jump around, he could sing louder or softer, he even left the set and phoned in his final "Manahmanah." with no objection from the remoras. They just didn't like it when he said anything but "Manahmanah."

    It seems to me more likely that the remoras had entered into a "Manahmanah." contract with the humanoid for a specified number of "Manahmanah."s and they'd just rather he stick to the terms of the contract. Or possibly, as befits their Bauplan, the creatures are symbiotic on the humanoid and derive sustenance from his "Manahmanah."s. Something odd is going on, at any rate--there's no direct coercion in either direction, but there's a lot unstated in that skit (in fact, everything is unstated in that skit, except for the part at the end where Kermit answers the phone).

    The song is quite famous, and I knew of it before, though not where it came from. The creatures are apparently called Snowths, and if you go here you can see screen captures and (a link to) a video of the skit! Huzzah! Or should I say, Manahmanahzah! No, actually, I should say, Huzzah!

    There's even an ACM-contest-style programming problem involving the Snowths.

    : Sumana has another hypothesis, which is that the remoras represent the artistic establishment and the humanoid is a hippy type who wants to work outside the system, as symbolized by his scatting and whatnot. This explains why they don't object to the humanoid leaving, which the symbiosis explanation doesn't explain.

    : Yesterday I played Catan with Kathy Allen and Elise. I won my first game of Catan! I had a shot at winning the rematch as well, but I made a horrible mistake and my game slid downhill and Kathy won. Oh well. Manahmanah. <--I still am thinking about that skit. It's so perfect and minimalist, except at the end.

    : Mini-Photo Wire Roundup:

    : Sumana got the Nigerian scam spam mail, but it's not like any other one I've ever seen--there are no Sierra Leone diamonds or blood money or anything, and the sender of the spam does not mention the spotty human rights record of the Nigerian politician he's proxying for. The whole offer looks almost on-the-level (except for the fact that it's a scam). I guess they figure they can get more suckers for something that looks like it might be slightly outside the law than for outright aiding and abetting human rights abuses.

    The Salon article on this scam may have answered this question, but I don't remember. Why is it always Nigeria? Are the scammers actually based in Nigeria?

    : (Finally) new stuff in mail/: my mother forwards a pretty funny in-jokey piece on the Mormolympics, and Adam Kaplan seconds Sumana's "Manahamanah." hypothesis.

    : The Man who was Thursday is quite funny:

    "The history of the thing might amuse you," he said. "When first I became one of the New Anarchists I tried all kinds of respectable disguises. I dressed up as a bishop. I read up all about bishops in our anarchist pamphlets, in Superstition the Vampire and Priests of Prey. I certainly understood from them that bishops are strange and terrible old men keeping a cruel secret from mankind. I was misinformed. When on my first appearing in episcopal gaiters in a drawing-room I cried out in a voice of thunder, 'Down! down! presumptuous human reason!' they found out in some way that I was not a bishop at all. I was nabbed at once. Then I made up as a millionaire; but I defended Capital with so much intelligence that a fool could see that I was quite poor. Then I tried being a major. Now I am a humanitarian myself, but I have, I hope, enough intellectual breadth to understand the position of those who, like Nietzsche, admire violence-the proud, mad war of Nature and all that, you know. I threw myself into the major. I drew my sword and waved it constantly. I called out 'Blood!' abstractedly, like a man calling for wine. I often said, 'Let the weak perish; it is the Law.' Well, well, it seems majors don't do this. I was nabbed again."

    : Kris weighs in on Manahmania:

    I can't believe you guys haven't seen that sketch. Granted, I only saw it once, but it never left me. It is always with me... the chanting... that infernal chanting! "Mahnamahna," it seems to say -- BECAUSE IT DOES! AAAAH!

    HE'S GOT YOU!! (Then jump at a friend.)

    : Don't worry, Seth, it's just TradeWars 2002.

    : I personally can't stand Flash, but Johnathan Gay, who created Flash, also created Dark Castle (?!), and he seems like a really interesting guy, so no hard feelings.

    : At last, a comic to Kevin's taste.

    : Yesterday I made a wager with Michael Stack, which I lost. He refused to take my money, saying that if he'd lost we would have found some pretext not to pay me. A true gentleman.

    : Argh! Me too!

    : Pictures from Kristin's wedding, and beyond!

    : I see your new weblog, Josh, you can't hide from me!

    : I went to Bach's Mass in B Minor last night with Seth and Sumana. Extrapolating from the past two weeks, one might think that I attend mass every Saturday night, but this is not true.

    The first Kyrie is by far my favorite part of the mass, and it was slow going near the end as I was pretty tired. But I recommend it nonetheless.

    : According to the program for the Mass in B Minor, the solo mezzosoprano once performed the lead in a musical called The W of Bablylon. This I found very funny--it's something a more acerbic Bertie Wooster would say.

    I poked the bean through the study door and Aunt Dahlia caught sight.

    "Hallo, Bertie, you blot on the landscape," she said cheerfully.

    "What ho, old W. of Babylon," replied I.

    : Wow! I found a great site containing information about how to listen to streaming audio of various semi-popular public radio programs: Allegro!. Thanks to John Rabold, who lives in Oakland and compiled the information, and to vsound, which works flawlessly to turn RealAudio streams into .WAVs, I recorded my first new My Word! episode this century. No My Music! because I missed the timeframe, but next week. I can record Schickele Mix this way as well.

    Thanks are also due to Dean Morrell, who wrote me an email over a year ago informing me that his local station in Iowa broadcasts My x! over streaming audio. Thanks, Dean.

    Yes, that message is still in my inbox.

    : Planned downtime: Crummy will be down from Tuesday, March 19th until Friday, March 22nd. For that duration please see the backup site.

    : Yesterday Sumana and I prepared and partook of a feast. The feast consisted of the following: asparagus and Hollandaise sauce; also pitas stuffed with falafel, cucumber, tomato, and tahini. "That tasted great, and there's a lot left." (of the pita stuff, not the asparagus). Oh, and ginger ale.

    : The Green Bank Lego Telescope.

    : Woohoo! My Frank Muir autobiography is in!

    : I tried to find a particular funny picture of Colin Powell I'd seen yesterday on the AP photo wire, which would have been captioned "Osama bin Laden used to be seven feet tall... until I shrank him!" Only about five people on the planet would get that joke, so it's probably just as well that for some reason Yahoo removed it from the ticker and while looking for it I found this other funny Colin Powell picture: You got a little there...

    : You've heard of 'wrapping oneself in the flag', but this is wrapping oneself in the World Trade Center. (From a spam mail Sumana got)

    : I thought of two New Yorker cartoons recently. Various people find the two funny to varying extents. I personally think they're about as good as any given mediocre New Yorker cartoon. I will reprint (well, re-describe) them here.

    1. Scene: the New Yorker cocktail party that's completely blank space except for two people holding drinks and talking. In this cartoon, the person on the right is an Army general in uniform and the person on the left is a civilian in a suit. The caption:
      "Frankly, General, I don't think much of the way you're running this war."

    2. Scene: an underground bunker. Some militia types are clustered around a table in their camoflauge gear; perhaps some are smoking. All are giving strange looks to their leader, who is standing at the head of the table, leaning towards them, decked out in a ridiculous Mussolini-type outfit. The caption:
      "We've been crypto-fascists too long. It's time for some real fascism."

    I call this new feature The Medi-Yorker. More cartoons as I think them up.

    : A couple days ago Sumana and I discussed Snow Crash, which has for some time been a bit of a sticking point between us. She really enjoys it, and I really unenjoy it. (Throughout this discussion, keep in mind that I could never bring myself to finish Snow Crash, which of course is unfair to Snow Crash.)

    My main problem with Snow Crash is its manifestation of what I once called the Fundamental Cyberpunk Error: the FreeCiv-ish idea that civilization consists of a Fisher-Price hammer-and-peg playset with a bunch of discrete technologies and social constructs sticking up, and that you can tap on one with a hammer and push it down without it having any effect on any of the others. "Of course there will be sports in the future... [tap, tap, tap] DEATH SPORTS!" And you have Rollerball.

    Example: setting completely aside the usability problems of virtual reality, how can a fully immersive high-bandwidth world-wide virtual reality universe continue to exist in a world without the rule of law or the sanctity of contract? Who mantains the servers (or other electronics)? Who manufactures the servers (or other electronics)? Who mines the raw materials and how do the raw materials get to the fabrication plant without being stolen by bandits? Who grows enough food to feed all these people working on assembly lines instead of hunting and gathering? Who maintains the microwave stations and transatlantic fiber optic cable, or launches new sattelites into space to replace broken ones? How does each party to this operation afford the cost of the private army required to avoid getting ripped off or blown up by rivals? It's to solve these problems that people form states[0], but once you've tapped down the little "State" peg with your little cyberpunk hammer you don't have that option.

    Anyway. My point here is not to carp on particular problems, but to discuss this sort of inconsistency in general. I carp not on particular problems because Sumana convinced me that microlevel inconsistencies can happen in a cultural artifact even if the long-term cultural shift in that artifact's universe is in a particular direction ("The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent."), so it's not prima facie evidence of poor craftsmanship to include such inconsistencies. I find myself much more favorably disposed towards Snow Crash, and I think it does the book more justice, when it's regarded as a snapshot of a civilization seventy-five years into a four-hundred-year decline into tribalism and anarchy rather than (as I regarded it until recently) as a picture of a civilization already completely collapsed into tribalism and anarchy.

    The thing is that this exact same sort of inconsistency happens in cultural artifacts which are generally agreed to be awful: for instance, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which nobody except Jake thinks is great.[1] (Paraphrase: Jake: "all my friends think mad max beyond thunderdome is a terrible movie." Leonard: "Has it ever occured to you that there might be an empirical basis for such a belief?" Jake: "that is impossible.") It happens in Signal to Noise, a book which may well have merit (though I didn't like it) but in which all the characters act as though the American government still has power, even though voters stupidly passed a poorly-written Constitutional amendment which has as a trivial side effect the total emasculation of government (perhaps the case that will establish this is still awaiting certiorari).

    I am ill-disposed towards inconsistency in general (I once rewrote a song because it contained an inaccurate statement about evolution), but I think I can now distinguish the good kind of inconsistency (forms of archaic rituals from the modern era preserved through inertia and other microlevel eddies flowing against the macrolevel, enhancing the richness of a story) from the bad kind (consequences of authorial decisions not properly thought out, causing gaping plot holes and annoying me). It comes down, I think, to judging an inconsistency against the gestalt of the book. For instance, A Canticle for Leibowitz has some of these inconsistencies, but they seem to me like the good kind, and I really like A Canticle for Leibowitz. I haven't read The Postman, but from what I've read about it it seems the very embodiment of the good kind of inconsistency, and I've a feeling I would like it as well (though apparently the movie is horrible).

    [0] I know, Locke was wrong, people don't 'decide' to form states to solve particular problems--but once you have states, it's things like the rule of law that distinguish states whose citizens can create things like the Internet from states whose citizens can't. And any cyberpunk-esque mutual defense venture created to get around the lack of a state is in fact a Lockean state of the sort that people don't decide to form. This is actually one of the premises of Snow Crash, which means I'm arguing in circles--wheels within wheels, Jeeves. My point is that to mantain the civilizational infrastructure neccessary for an reliable virtual reality Internet, your de facto state must have power and agreements with other de facto states consumnate with the power of and mutual agreements between today's nation-states, so why not put the microstate idea in another book so as to do it justice?

    [1] In British radio programmes this is known as "the sort of statement that gets us letters".

    : My mother got her angry letter printed in the Bakersfield Californian, so in celebration I will point her to this Steven Jay Gould article.

    : Also: today is Rachel's birthday, which she shares with L. Ron Hubbard. Happy birthday, Rachel!

    : Unsurprisingly, I didn't win an XYZZY award.

    : Noodle lives!

    : From a conversation with Seth:

    "You're a propagandist!"
    "I prefer the term 'semiotic warrior'."
    "Well, I prefer the term 'propagandist'!"

    : I'm having an oddly branded breakfast. First there was the orange juice. I got it out of the drinks fridge at work and it's orange juice in a can, which orange juice should not be, but we didn't have any in bottles so I tried it. It's Tree Top orange juice, and the aluminum can has the Tree Top logo on it, which is two apples. There are two apples on the front of my can of orange juice! Above the apples it says "Washington's Best"--the first time I've ever heard it intimated that Washington state grows a variety of oranges so vast that some oranges are better than others.

    The orange juice is awful. Beaten and bruised by the mispackaging and misbranding and acidic aftertaste of my orange juice, I staggered back into the kitchen for some pepper for my scrambled eggs. I got a little packet of Morton Pepper. There is a picture on the packet of a girl holding a canister of Morton salt. There is a picture of salt on my pepper packet!

    This is why new logos nowadays are so vague and swooshy. The same logo that propelled you to fame as an e-business solutions firm will serve you just as well when you remake yourself as a provider of e-solutions for business.

    : I have no complaints about my muffin, which contains no branding.

    : By the way, I found four copies of Karl Fogel's CVS book filed under "Advanced Topics" at Half-Price Books in Houston.

    : Kris sent me this hilarious picture of Yasser Arafat with Demon Dog.

    : Mike Popovic sent me some lovely "Powered by NewsBruiser" buttons, which I put into CVS: [eye] [girl] [typewriter]. Enjoy! I personally prefer the Spartan grace of a subtle text link like the one on CES, but if you prefer buttons, we've now got 'em.

    : I saw a bumper sticker today which Kevin would like, and now that his car has a new bumper he could get one:

    Those who can, do.
    Those who can't, Duchamp

    : "I really love this tea. It's a digital tea." -- Prairie Home Companion mocking bobos

    : Rrrr! Rrrr!

    : Scott says:

    Played with Degeneracy at least.[sic] You're evil.

    I wonder how long I can coast on Degeneracy?

    : Sumana reports that there's a store called "Photo Hutt". "Photo Hutt".

    : As Above, the weblog that raved about Guess the Verb! a while back (wow, a lot of links in that phrase), has a thing called the Blog Twinning Project in which people link weblogs they consider similar. The only weblog considered similar to Crummy is Inside Joke, which is amazingly similar to the Crummy of two or three years ago, though less so the Crummy of the present (which makes sense, since the protagonist of Inside Joke seems to be two or three years younger than me).

    : Another dispatch from Sumana:

    "Olde Tyme Burritos"
    "Le Spud"

    The mall she's in also has a person in an Easter Bunny costume and apparently kids are supposed to sit on his lap, like Santa Claus. "What do you want for Easter, little boy or girl?" "I want an Army Rangers Commando Barbie!" "Sorry, kid, I only do eggs. Here's your egg." It's as though kids became proportionally more skeptical of the Easter Bunny's existance when confronted with the many documented mall sightings of Santa, and so the Easter Bunny had to launch a PR offensive.

    : "Busy old fool! Unruly Sun!"

    : Spam: "Sick of losing commissions on your hard to place life cases?"

    Am I a lawyer? A stockbroker? An insurance salesman? Doctor? Indian chief?

    : There's stuff I promised to do for Jake that I still haven't done. Argh. If only I could buy some time by faking a Crummy outage. But wait! There's an outage tomorrow through Friday! (wink, wink)

    : Wow, my room is really clean. (Ha! I bet you never thought I'd say that!)

    : The Nitpicking Entry On the way home from the grocery store I saw a billboard for some local radio DJ which said: "[Local DJ] sucks... you in!". you in! was supposed to look like graffiti, which is totally wrong on two levels:

    1. Graffiti is not generally employed to make the subject of advertising look better. To pick a random example, people do not draw pencil moustaches on people who would look good with pencil moustaches.
    2. The ellipses make it clear that the person writing the 'billboard' was anticipating the person doing the 'graffiti' (qv.) which is absurd unless they're the same person, which is exactly the impression you're trying to avoid when you deface your own billboard. It's like burning down your restaurant for the insurance money using a matchbook from your restaurant! Using so much gasoline that the insurance money won't cover the cost of it all! Arguing your case in court using an extremely belabored analogy!

    That complaint was not the main point of this entry. The main point of this entry is that Kris thought up the "x sucks [you in]" joke in 1997, to refer to Smart Guy, and I used it on the cover of Bad Stupid Delerious. My vindictive and petty noticing when other people use the jokes used many years previous by myself and my friends, as though jokes could never be independently discovered by multiple people, continues!

    : I was thinking earlier today about the idea of evil twins. If you could come up with n factors which could be weighted to describe a person's personality (which I don't think is possible, though I suppose you could get a decent approximation) and treated as a vector, then you could find their evil twin by multiplying their personality vector by a vector of -1s.

    I bring this up because today I was thinking about Drew Kaplan. I originally thought that he was my evil twin, but that's not quite correct. His personality vector is mine multiplied by a vector in which each element is either 1 or -1. It's this combination of total similarity in some aspects and total dissimilarity in others that makes Kaplan so interesting to me in ways that an evil twin would not be interesting.

    Yesterday Sumana gave me an Amar Chitra Katha telling the story of Annapati Suyya, a Kashmiri engineer of the ninth century who she considers in many ways an analog to myself. Suyya's behavior in the ACK is rather me-ish, as is the following dialogue:

    Maharaj: You have done it! You have tamed the Vitasta [river]!
    Suyya: With two chests of gold and a touch of madness!

    Suyya is similar to me, and ethical in ways in which I like to think I'm also ethical. It's touching that Sumana made the comparison.

    If I were an early-twentieth-century crackpot I would use this personality vector idea to come up with a system by which people could measure their vectors and come up with translation vectors between their personalities and others'. I would claim that these vectors were the keys to truth, containing within them the secrets of the of the universe, the way to achieve peace between nations, the true nature of the pyramids, and the exact date of Christ's return. It would be a pack of lies, but a hundred years later I would have a sympathetic biographer who, caught between sympathy for me and dedication to the actual facts, would suggest that perhaps I can be seen as grasping some deeper truth, that my Vectorosophy might be a metaphor for man's struggle to comprehend his universe, the optimism and faith in a comprehensible cosmos that was to be shattered in 1914 by the dull thump of bullets over the trenches of France, etc. etc.

    I am not an early twentieth-century crackpot, so it merits only a passing reference in my weblog.

    : This will probably be the last entry here til Friday. Don't forget to check the old school backup site for uninterrupted bruising of news.

    : Hm, we're still up. Well, that can't last long.

    : New mail: Joe Mahoney on the Arafat/Demon Dog connection, and Kris on the misuse of his joke.

    Kris, it was quite definitely "Coo-Coo Lou sucks... you in!" But I'm glad you got sucked into this conversation. Oh, it never stops.

    : Out, out, brief server!

    And so it begins: Thanks, I'm here all week (until Friday). I just realized that leonardr@segfault won't work to contact me, so please use leonardr@linux.ucla.edu (nice of them to let me keep my account, huh?)

    Photo roundup:

    1. Red vs. Blue vs. White
    2. Tonight's Episode: Dial M For Merger
    3. I took this same picture when I was in Houston! (it's not funny; I just thought it interesting that I took the same picture).
    4. "My opponent has been known to use ad hominem arguments!"

    QOTD, and IOTD: "It's actually pretty fun to be really tall in the Far East, because you feel a little like Godzilla." -- Robert Bennefield, our 7'-ish director of Ops.

    There's software that will determine whether two pieces of code are similar, for purposes of detecting plagiarism in class assignments. But let's say you had software that could detect 'similarity' between two pieces of software. You could also run it on two different parts of the same program to automatically find places where you could benefit from factorization. Shazam! It's like a reduce-to-the-halting-problem proof, only it gives you something good instead of something bad!

    Of course, 'similar' for purposes of detecting plagiarism is a much easier concept than 'similar' for purposes of detecting factorability, so you probably can't use existing software similarity software for this purpose. But software to do that would be a very useful tool, especially if you're like me and find it boring to inspect code for factorability.

    Conrad's Revenge, or, My Dinner With Andre: So, Jason Robbins and I planned to have dinner with Andre Stechert, a friend of Jason's from UCLA. We went to the BART station to go into Frisco, but the BART station was closed due to an anthrax scare. So we had to arrange other means and we had a lowbrow but fun-conversation-filled dinner at Lyons. BART is open again now, and I recommend Andre Stechert for your next dinner party. He has interesting ideas for and insights into new hardware.

    Update: Sumana says that everyone who has dinner with Andre Stechert probably writes about it as "My Dinner With Andre". "No one wants to have breakfast or lunch or any other meal with him," she hypothesises.

    That's as may be, but during my dinner with Andre, Jason said that my factorization-detection software has already been written. It's called CloneDR, and it looks pretty good.

    Also, Andre pointed out that Tolkien likes to end chapters of Lord of the Rings with "And that was the last time they ever saw x."

    'Render' unto Caesar: When the real world looks like a screenshot from Myst, something is wrong.

    Wow!: Thanks, Kris! Unfortunately, the link doesn't work right now.

    Just when you thought it was safe: Behold the Terrordactyl!

    Just one of the many bizarre, bizarre photographs on that site.

    Bertie Wooster, Genteel Misogynist: Second in a Series: "Oh, Bertie, you're here," gushed Madeline.

    I tipped my hat. "What ho, old weaker v."

    Make your avocation your vocation: The SF Weekly, like the other BIGNUM free weekly rags in the Bay Area, has a back page devoted to eye-catching classified ads. The ads are usually the same every week, so they become old standbys in my mind. There's one that begins "SMOKE POT - GET PAID!" and one that begins "GET PAID FOR WATCHING TV!". All that's missing is "EAT FRITOS - GET PAID!"

    Once upon a time: There were four struggling companies, individually unable to afford a banner ad. However, they pooled their resources and purchased the services of a demented graphic designer, and everyone was happy except the people who actually saw the ad. The end.

    The willies: I'm very nervous because in a little while I'm going to the orthodontist for the first of my two braces appointments. I must wear braces for two years! And a retainer for a year after that! The prospect is greatly disturbing to me. People I know say it's not a big deal, you get used to it, etc, but this is of little comfort. I'm also a little aggravated that the regular site isn't up yet, though not very much as I know how these things go.

    Braces: Day 0.5: I've already caused a bracket to come unglued from a tooth, I think by eating toast. Upon searching the literature I was given, I discover that toast is mentioned on one of the four lists of 'foodstuffs to avoid'. I should have guessed. The cheap melt-in-your-mouth Gummy Bread sold in the bread aisle next to the Hostess Snack Cakes would probably denature into toast I could eat, but the day I buy that stuff is... well, sometime this week probably. There's a really good bakery by the orthodontist, and out of habit I went in to get some bread, only realizing afterwards that I wouldn't be able to eat the bread! I have a French baguette and a beautiful ring of tasty cornbread which I can't eat. Bah! It took me 15 minutes to floss my teeth. Bah! I couldn't find many braces-friendly recipes on the Web. Bah! I'm probably going to start my own list of recipes. The machine hosting Crummy is back up, but Crummy itself is not. Not sure whether it's a nameserver thing or an Apache configuration thing; either way, it's still out of my control AFAICT.

    todo: Frank Muir his Autobiography Strike Up The Band!

    More Complaints About Buildings And Food: I have a feeling I'll be losing a lot of weight over the next two years, since braces make eating (and cleaning up after eating) such a big hassle that unless you're really hungry it's a lot easier just to not eat. Dan says "You could do what flies do and throw up on your food to sort of pre-digest it." Of course, I need to lose weight anyway, so why not raise the barriers to entry--into my mouth, that is!

    In other news, Pakistan is apparently now CNNistan.

    Congratulations: are in order for Sumana, who has passed her driving test! Three quarks for her!

    Webmasters Use Lens Flare Effect To Report Story: Scientists use radiation to cure flatulence. Next week: Scientists use flatulence to cure radiation.

    Weeping and wailing and brushing of teeth: From the cafeteria in the Hitachi building I bought a huge baked potato with all sorts of stuff dumped on top of it: chili, broccoli (but not Erin Broccoli), mushrooms, cheese sauce, sour cream, etc, etc. For the first time in what seems like a long time (but was actually less than a week), I ate a meal that filled me up and didn't make my teeth hurt. You'd think my life would be really boring right now that mere satiation is newsworthy. It's not boring; I simply haven't written about the many exciting things I've been experiencing.

    Whee!: Ok, the real site is back up. You know what the next entry on this site will say... but when will it be posted? Stay tuned.

    : Ok, we're back up (with a couple minor fixes still to be made). NewsBruiser works again, which means that people (like me) can start updating their weblogs. I'll be posting all my previous editthispage entries in here so as to mantain history, and then I'll go to sleep.

    PS: the time on this entry is East Coast time. I'll have to add time zone compensation code to NewsBruiser to handle a server in a different time zone.

    : And so it begins 3/19/02; 10:29:54 AM

    Thanks, I'm here all week (until Friday). I just realized that leonardr@segfault won't work to contact me, so please use leonardr@linux.ucla.edu (nice of them to let me keep my account, huh?)

    : Photo roundup 3/19/02; 10:38:12 AM

    1. Red vs. Blue vs. White

    2. Tonight's Episode: Dial M For Merger

    3. I took this same picture when I was in Houston! (it's not funny; I just thought it interesting that I took the same picture).

    4. "My opponent has been known to use ad hominem arguments!"

    : QOTD, and IOTD 3/19/02; 3:15:37 PM

    "It's actually pretty fun to be really tall in the Far East, because you feel a little like Godzilla." -- Robert Bennefield, our 7'-ish director of Ops.

    There's software that will determine whether two pieces of code are similar, for purposes of detecting plagiarism in class assignments. But let's say you had software that could detect 'similarity' between two pieces of software. You could also run it on two different parts of the same program to automatically find places where you could benefit from factorization. Shazam! It's like a reduce-to-the-halting-problem proof, only it gives you something good instead of something bad!

    Of course, 'similar' for purposes of detecting plagiarism is a much easier concept than 'similar' for purposes of detecting factorability, so you probably can't use existing software similarity software for this purpose. But software to do that would be a very useful tool, especially if you're like me and find it boring to inspect code for factorability.

    : Conrad's Revenge, or, My Dinner With Andre 3/19/02; 10:43:48 PM

    So, Jason Robbins and I planned to have dinner with Andre Stechert, a friend of Jason's from UCLA. We went to the BART station to go into Frisco, but the BART station was closed due to an anthrax scare. So we had to arrange other means and we had a lowbrow but fun-conversation-filled dinner at Lyons. BART is open again now, and I recommend Andre Stechert for your next dinner party. He has interesting ideas for and insights into new hardware.

    Update: Sumana says that everyone who has dinner with Andre Stechert probably writes about it as "My Dinner With Andre". "No one wants to have breakfast or lunch or any other meal with him," she hypothesises.

    That's as may be, but during my dinner with Andre, Jason said that my factorization-detection software has already been written. It's called CloneDR, and it looks pretty good.

    Also, Andre pointed out that Tolkien likes to end chapters of Lord of the Rings with "And that was the last time they ever saw x."

    : 'Render' unto Caesar 3/20/02; 2:20:21 PM

    When the real world looks like a screenshot from Myst, something is wrong.

    : Wow! 3/20/02; 4:11:10 PM

    Thanks, Kris! Unfortunately, the link doesn't work right now.

    : Just when you thought it was safe 3/21/02; 9:05:32 AM

    Behold the Terrordactyl!

    Just one of the many bizarre, bizarre photographs on that site.

    : Bertie Wooster, Genteel Misogynist: Second in a Series 3/22/02; 9:40:17 AM

    "Oh, Bertie, you're here," gushed Madeline.

    I tipped my hat. "What ho, old weaker v."

    : Make your avocation your vocation 3/24/02; 9:32:18 AM

    The SF Weekly, like the other BIGNUM free weekly rags in the Bay Area, has a back page devoted to eye-catching classified ads. The ads are usually the same every week, so they become old standbys in my mind. There's one that begins "SMOKE POT - GET PAID!" and one that begins "GET PAID FOR WATCHING TV!". All that's missing is "EAT FRITOS - GET PAID!"

    : Once upon a time 3/24/02; 11:12:34 AM

    There were four struggling companies, individually unable to afford a banner ad. However, they pooled their resources and purchased the services of a demented graphic designer, and everyone was happy except the people who actually saw the ad. The end.

    : The willies 3/25/02; 11:58:32 AM

    I'm very nervous because in a little while I'm going to the orthodontist for the first of my two braces appointments. I must wear braces for two years! And a retainer for a year after that! The prospect is greatly disturbing to me. People I know say it's not a big deal, you get used to it, etc, but this is of little comfort.

    I'm also a little aggravated that the regular site isn't up yet, though not very much as I know how these things go.

    : Braces: Day 0.5 3/26/02; 6:18:55 AM

    I've already caused a bracket to come unglued from a tooth, I think by eating toast. Upon searching the literature I was given, I discover that toast is mentioned on one of the four lists of 'foodstuffs to avoid'. I should have guessed. The cheap melt-in-your-mouth Gummy Bread sold in the bread aisle next to the Hostess Snack Cakes would probably denature into toast I could eat, but the day I buy that stuff is... well, sometime this week probably.

    There's a really good bakery by the orthodontist, and out of habit I went in to get some bread, only realizing afterwards that I wouldn't be able to eat the bread! I have a French baguette and a beautiful ring of tasty cornbread which I can't eat. Bah!

    It took me 15 minutes to floss my teeth. Bah!

    I couldn't find many braces-friendly recipes on the Web. Bah! I'm probably going to start my own list of recipes.

    The machine hosting Crummy is back up, but Crummy itself is not. Not sure whether it's a nameserver thing or an Apache configuration thing; either way, it's still out of my control AFAICT.

    : More Complaints About Buildings And Food 3/26/02; 12:16:15 PM

    I have a feeling I'll be losing a lot of weight over the next two years, since braces make eating (and cleaning up after eating) such a big hassle that unless you're really hungry it's a lot easier just to not eat. Dan says "You could do what flies do and throw up on your food to sort of pre-digest it." Of course, I need to lose weight anyway, so why not raise the barriers to entry--into my mouth, that is!

    In other news, Pakistan is apparently now CNNistan.

    : Congratulations 3/27/02; 11:31:46 AM

    are in order for Sumana, who has passed her driving test! Three quarks for her!

    : Webmasters Use Lens Flare Effect To Report Story 3/27/02; 2:39:02 PM

    Scientists use radiation to cure flatulence. Next week: Scientists use flatulence to cure radiation.

    : Weeping and wailing and brushing of teeth 3/29/02; 1:15:22 PM

    From the cafeteria in the Hitachi building I bought a huge baked potato with all sorts of stuff dumped on top of it: chili, broccoli (but not Erin Broccoli), mushrooms, cheese sauce, sour cream, etc, etc. For the first time in what seems like a long time (but was actually less than a week), I ate a meal that filled me up and didn't make my teeth hurt.

    You'd think my life would be really boring right now that mere satiation is newsworthy. It's not boring; I simply haven't written about the many exciting things I've been experiencing.

    : Okay, that brings us up to date with editthispage, though not up to date in general. Coming soon: Frank Muir His Autobiography, Strike up the Band, very tasty tiramisu, and possibly more!

    : I bought a used copy of A Kentish Lad online, and read it, and it's great. What is it about, you ask? None other than Frank Muir, world-famous comedian and raconteur (and 1/4, or 1/8, or something, of My x!). I like it for that reason and also because the subtitle is "Frank Muir: His Autobiography" but it's printed on the front cover as "FRANK MUIR HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY", the strange syntax of which I really like because it reminds me of John Baptist Porta's recipe for sympathetic powder, quoted by me in Degeneracy:

    Take of the Moss growing on a dead man's skull, which has laid unburied, two ounces. As much of the fat of a man. Half an ounce of Mummy, and Frank Muir his autobiography.

    Frank talks about his boyhood, his cushy yet very uncomfortable stint in the RAF, and his distinguished many-decade career in comedy. Being the rabid My x! fan I am, I'd heard him tell several of the anecdotes before on the air, but most of them were new, and of course his life is not just a sequence of anecdotes; he just can't resist throwing in a funny aside whenever he remembers one. Actually, the last chapter is just a sequence of Seinfeld-esque anecdotes, possibly the ones he couldn't think to put anywhere else. But that's fine!

    My only disappointment was at the end; he ends the book with a mutated quote, as though the book were a very long My Word! monologue, and I suppose this is supposed to be touching, but I didn't find it so; nor was it funny. Oh well. According to the afterward by his son Jamie, he wasn't doing too well near the end of the book, and died shortly thereafter. :(

    Anyway--the book is good booze, and I will lend it to people. It's out of print, so you have to find it used or borrow it from me. Yes, those are your only two options.

    : So, Strike up the Band!, the blockbuster Gershwin/Gershwin/Kaufman musical. Sumana and I went to see it last Friday. It was pretty good, thought not great. A lot of the songs were great, but their influence was mitigated by others which fell flat such that I couldn't wait for them to be over. And a couple were okay but seemed slavish, mediocre copies of the Gilbert and Sullivan style. I've got no complaints about Kaufman's writing, though; the farcical causus belli and battle scenes were very funny, and predated Duck Soup by over a decade.

    I have it on good authority that they put on the wrong version of Strike up the Band!! They put on the 1927 version, but there was a 1930 version which apparantly had much better songs. Perhaps, in a misguided quest for authenticity, the producers ignored the revision.

    Oh yeah, that reminds me. The dynamic of theatah -- high class, this, not your we'll-use-the-old-barn-I'll-paint-the-sets-and-we'll-save-the-school stuff -- is that of authenticity vs. relevance. Authenticity derives from the idea that if the 'author' of the 'primary text' put down a 'line of dialogue' or a 'stage direction', then when you're putting on the play you have some sort of obligation to make sure that 'line of dialogue' or 'stage direction' somehow figures in your production, even if the play was written hundreds of years ago in an entirely different part of the world! Relevance, the yang to authenticity's yin, is the idea that people will not pay to see your production unless you make it obvious that the play is applicable to this modern age of Enron bin Anthrax. Relevance is why I see Petruchio talking on a cell phone and Macbeth's men dressed in camoflauge gear (but still armed with swords; remember authenticity!). Relevance is a leading cause of those essays in theater programs exulting in the fact that fifty, a hundred, even 400 years is not enough time to make the actions of our predecessors completely dissimilar to our own actions. Relevance costs me money! Wait, no, it doesn't; I was thinking of that IBM commercial.

    Because of this tension between authenticity and relevance, plays that negate the tension by being authentically relevant (such as Homebody/Kabul) are in great demand, as are plays that are relevantly authentic (like--wait, I'm not even sure what that means). Due to its extreme relevance, Strike up the Band! was performed with a minimum of relevance boosting, which is good for my blood pressure. The cast subjected us to a brief summary of the play, with special emphasis on its continued relevance (Actually, for all I know that little speech, about how the play is today more relevant than ever, is actually part of the play! George S. Kaufman, you nut!), then mercifully went into character and treated us to an authentic, all-too-authentic performance.

    : And finally, the tale of tiramisu. But not just tiramisu! (Incidentally, "tiramisu" has got to be the most Japanese word in Italian.) On Friday night, after Sumana took the GRE, I met up with her and we went to The Steps of Rome in North Beach. I had some tasty ravioli which I cut up into little pieces so I wouldn't have to chew it, Sumana had some tasty pasta with eggplant, and we splurged by ordering a dessert each, which we shared.

    One of the desserts was a custard thing with fruit syrup on it. Innovative, yet not very good. The other was tiramisu. Non-innovative, yet extremely tasty! The tiramisu was the best I've ever had. That's not saying a whole lot, since most tiramisu I've had was pretty bad; there was available to me, many years ago, some tiramisu made by Ellina Poulson which was probably as outstanding as everything else Ellina Poulson makes, but I don't think I actually ate any of it. My point is that I've suffered through bad tiramisu, and as such can recognize good tiramisu, such as the tiramisu served at the Steps of Rome.

    But that's not all! Sumana then took my to the City Lights bookstore, where I nosed around and considered buying a copy of a Lovecraft anthology, but did not for three reasons:

    1. There are already too many books on the 'to read' portion of my bookshelf, some of which have been languishing there for over a year.
    2. Lovecraft seems like the sort of thing I can find online.
    3. I did not want to be seen in the hip City Lights bookstore doing something so gauche as paying for goods with money!

    Moderate that I am, I felt positively counter-revolutionary in the hard-left atmosphere of City Lights (and Lectures, I always want to add). However, it has a really good sci-fi section which is all the better for being incredibly small; despite devoting only two shelves to sci-fi and related genre ghettoes, they had more Lovecraft than I've ever seen outside of a non-specialty bookstore, and more Lem than I've ever seen outside of the UCLA library (or outside of my room after I checked all the Lem out of the UCLA library). Thus, by my patented Stanislaus Lem Bookstore Quality Index, City Lights is the greatest bookstore ever! Hmm, I may need to recalibrate that index.

    Sumana: [pointing to book titled "Against Empire"] Where's "Pro-Empire?"
    Leonard: [in stage whisper] They don't stock it here! Keep your voice down!

    : The braces have already had a noticable (to me) effect on my teeth; some gaps between teeth are now a lot easier to floss.

    New (and fun) song: I Sing for my Supper. Jake should like it; maybe it will distract him from the fact that I still haven't dealt with his problems.

    : In recent years I've had absolutely no energy for April Fool's Day jokes (there was contention on r.a.if that Degeneracy was an April Fool's Day joke, but it's not; like all my games, it just happens to have many of the properties of an April Fool's Day joke). This is weird because I've had lots of energy for lots of other things, even other things that I do on April first! I think it was watching the unfolding of Scott's gala 1999 joke, winner of the LinuxToday Joke d'Or, that killed it for me.

    Of course, immediately after making that revelation is the perfect time to spring my brilliant April Fool's Day joke on you all. Unfortuantely, I have no such joke.

    : What my mother did while Crummy was down:

    I've been boiling big pots of water trying to get the spa to heat up faster so I can soak in it.

    My mother is a genius!

    : Kevin tells me he used to do this sort of thing, way back when.

    : These braces have finally broken my awful habit of biting my nails, a habit I've had for about as long as I've had both fingernails and teeth. This therapy works by the astounding new principle of making it COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE for my teeth to cut keratin.

    : Most of the static content and CGIs should work now; there is still some stuff I haven't fixed, though. eCow took forever to fix; bleah.

    By the way, you can now email me at leonardr@crummy.com in addition to leonardr@segfault.org.

    : The ultimate in biometrics:

    we should take advantage of cartesian dualism and make computers out of non-physical stuff that we can access only through our pineal glands

    : I'm spending my idle moments making my log analysis software slice and dice data in more interesting ways. One thing I just added was analysis of 404 errors. I've discovered that I'm getting a surprising number of 404s of the following strange form:


    Now, I don't need this page to tell me someone's up to no good, started causing trouble 'round my neighborhood. There's a common CGI script called formmail.pl which lets you send mail through a web browser, and there are robots (the sinister Microsoft URL Control again) which scour the web looking for unprotected formmail.pls to use as spam relays.

    My question is, is there anyone interested in getting the output of a script I would write, called formmail.pl, which grabs information about anyone who accesses it? I don't care enough to actually wreak my own revenge, but I'm happy to provide information to those who enjoy such things. John Ashcroft, are you listening?

    : My latest triumph is code that extracts the query strings from search engine referers so that the same query string from different search engines will be counted as the same sort of referer. Coincidentally, this also makes it much easier to look for Disturbing Search Requests (TM), such as "not keeping passover fetish porn" ("More, more!", she cried. "More leavened bread!"), "pictures of actual pimps" (damn fake pimps!) and "free cam picture girl iran Iranian picture" (act now for hot sharia babes!). However, I think it's only fair to also highlight search requests for which Crummy was probably very helpful, such as "pictures of home appliances", "are hedgehogs illegal in california?", "random pokey", and "why is steven wolfram so crazy?".

    There's also an in-between category, where Crummy has something that is fun and which pertains to what you were looking for, but is not what you were really looking for. Examples of this include "michigan j. frog music full song", "mcsweeney's journal", "seinfeld music mp3", and by far the most popular search result run against Crummy: "captain planet". This is my favorite type of search result; it contains the right mixture of helpfulness and mischief.

    : More DSR:

    : Scott sent me this link, where you can hear User Friendly's Iliad talk about the infamous April Fool's Day joke. It's about halfway in; Scott says there are funny slides, and there's an implication of some sort on Iliad's part that there are slides, but the camera never shows them so you won't lose much by going audio-only instead of video. Mike: if you're desperate for cheap thrills you can listen to that and hear Iliad mention you in front of a large audience. I am not mentioned, which is only fair as I had nothing to do with it.

    : Incredibly mini photo wire roundup:

    : Countercounterpoint/Countercountercounterpoint: James Lileks vs. David Mehnert.


    [Stack drops his Walkman on the floor]
    Dan: "Breakin' stuff, huh?"
    Stack: "You're next!"

    : Another thing I learned from my referer logs: there's a new search engine called Teoma, and the first action of anyone on a new search engine is to search for their name. In this way I get glimpses of people I know (Mike Popovic), even people I haven't talked to for a long time (Darius Gandhi, Kym Taborn).

    : Leonard Ego Inflation Time: Camille says my songs are "lovely", especially Interesting Places to Die. Thank you, Camille!

    Also, wynand says I'm "still wildly amusing". I don't think I've ever heard of wynand (though he looks a bit like Dan Helfman), but his high opinion of me inflates my ego, which is the point of this entry.

    Finally, getting a bit desperate, robotfindskitten is vaguely alluded to in this review of BBC systems. Will I stop at nothing? Well, I stopped just short of nothing, there, so probably.

    : DSR: steve ballmer jew

    : Perhaps apropos the previous entry, today on Salon Premium:

    Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories -- many of them lunatic -- fill the pages of Egypt's government-run press.

    Oh, for the days of reasoned and dispassionate state-sponsored anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

    : DSR: what do you call a person who craves s*x? If you're going to search for it, search for the actual word!

    The other day I saw a truck of the "Steven Gould Corporation". They do packaging material, apparently.

    Steve Ballmer is Jewish, apparently. I didn't know that!

    : For some reason there are a lot of boats in the bay today. I don't know why. Maybe they're dredging for a body?

    : Multiple inheritance for Java. Motto: "The net interprets any arbitrary design decision as damage, and routes around it.", or possibly "Information wants to be subject to Nixon's triangle."

    : I fixed NewsBruiser searching, and added to the bottom of every page a site-wide search that uses Google. I'm not sure whether or not Google wants a logo or anything on all public-facing forms that use Google. I can't find anything on their site that says they do, and after all, they get to do whatever they want with the search results.

    I still haven't fixed the big thing, which is the rather obvious fact that these entries are timestamped EST and I'm on NST.

    : Test of timezone fix.

    : Test of better time zone system.

    : Excellent! NewsBruiser (my local copy; it's not in CVS yet) can now have a timezone set for each notebook. Can't really do anything about the SSI includes at the bottom, without using a timezone-setting wrapper script. Which I will now write.

    : OK, that takes care of the script. Funny how little things can annoy you for years and then you take a little time to fix them and they're gone and not annoying you anymore.

    : Java Class of the Day: BadKind

    : Sorry; there was a problem with the time zone code I added which I couldn't fix for a while.

    Jellyfish ahoy! Sumana wants me to talk about the jellyfish. There were seven or eight jellyfish we saw washed up on the beach, in varying stages of dissolving. I'd never seen a dead jellyfish before. I don't know whether these jellyfish beachings are a common occurrence, because I'd only been to that beach before in the evenings. Some of the specimens had organelles visible inside the dome, but none of them had their tentacles.

    In my Oceans class I learned that jellyfish decompose very rapidly. Next to one of the jellyfish we discovered some yellowish foam which didn't look like sea foam, and hypothesized that it was decomposed jellyfish.

    That is the jellyfish story.

    : DSR: dude where's my car slash fanfic

    : I took advantage of the new time zone code to change Susanna's diary to post Romanian timestamps. From her latest dispatch:

    Susie (in Romanian): Do you know the Hotel TiboTours?
    Stupid Lady: I don't speak English.
    Susie (still in Romanian): We speak Romanian. Can you tell us where the Hotel is?
    Stupid Lady: Sorry, I studied French and Russian.

    : There's a new version of gPhoto out. Too bad my camera is dead! Stupid camera!

    : Oh, and the other thing: the time zone code remembered about the time change on Sunday, even though I forgot all about it. It says something that I can write code that remembers things better than I do.

    : Office scuttlebutt has it that the boats are all fishing for flounder. Apparently it's flounder season. I've been out of the loop on these matters ever since my subscription to Flounder Season: The Quarterly Journal of Whether or Not It's Flounder Season lapsed.

    : Novel Ways to Burn the Flag: First in a Series

    : Woohoo! Big Lebowski Quote Machine! With often-from-the-same-part-of-the-movie-as-the-quotes-are-from screenshots!

    : Started up Daily Pokey again. Also restarted the weekly cron that gets Pokey from the archives, so your Dada Pokey experience will once again be kept up to date. Working on a cool log analysis program inspired by something I read on Boing Boing. Listening to my new (old) Foo Fighters CD. I didn't mention that I bought 6 CDs on Sunday, including a replacement for the Weezer CD that Susanna may or may not have stolen from me. The Presidents came out with a third album before breaking up; that was nice of them. And there's a new TMBG out.

    : Behold robotfindskitten on the iPaq!

    : Pete Peterson II informs the world:

    There are actually 4 presidents albums, one is live, and then they got back together to make a fourth one which was released some time last year, I think.

    I think I have the live one (haven't listened to it yet; I'm saving it for my trip to Bakersfield); it has the cheap-ass photo montage look that says "live album".

    : Kevin is back from Vegas (you didn't even know he was in Vegas, since he never updates his weblog), and claims to have won about $300 through the technique of playing every five-dollar slot exactly once. He brought back souvenirs for Stack, Dan, and myself: the newsletter of the Liberace Foundation, obtained from the very Liberace Museum!


    After construction is complete be sure to stop by the new Liberace Café. In the morning, you might want to try some of our specialty cofee with a muffin or bagel. During the lunch hour, treat yourself to a delicious sandwish or maybe a tasty salad. Then if time permits, in the afternoon you won't be able to resist a freshly baked cookie with milk or perhaps a soda. Needless to say, whatever time you may be passing through we will have an Epicurean delight waiting just for you!

    Be still, my heart.

    : Kevin also says that the casting company mentioned in I was a Teenage Punk Rock Extra is in fact the same one he used to work for, and passes along this funny sign he saw on the way to Vegas.

    Yes, I am now mantaining Kevin's weblog on his behalf!

    : Got mail from Chris DiBona. He can't find the Segfault data anywhere. I'm going to consider my options and write them up on the segfault.org home page.

    : Apparently there are people who think it's funny to use "(.*)@crummy\.com" as their email address when signing up for Yahoo accounts; ever since David started directing all crummy.com and segfault.org mail to me, I've been getting that Yahoo 'erring on the side of caution, we are resetting all your don't-spam-me preferences in case you didn't really mean to unset them the first time'. Since my email account is the one which would be getting all that spam, I'm not happy about this.

    : Got a Noodle design review today. I'm pretty sure it will go well.

    : It went well, because Noodle is great!

    : My mother on jellyfish:

    I read in the paper about some little unfortunate critters washing up-- not jellyfish but a relative. After I saw on your log that you had seen some, I tried to find the article so I could send it to you but no such luck. I looked through both Friday's and Saturday's Californian. I do remember that it said the stingers on their tentacles are not strong enough to penetrate human skin. Apparently they are an open ocean creature, where they are happy unless a freak wind causes them to drift ashore. I felt sorry for them.

    : Behold the /stats/ directory! Contains recent (updated every 6 hours) and all-time (updated every day) stats on accessed pages, query destinations (the BoingBoing idea), and an MP3 hit parade for the hosted MP3s. I have no idea why the two most popular MP3s on my site are "Jake's Birthday Party" and "Jake's Birthday Party Drum Loop".

    I now have grandiose dreams for, eg., an automatic DSR machine which learns from experience which search results are most disturbing.

    : Never used:

    Jake Berendes
    Simi Valley
    Jake Berendes
    With picante
    El Monte

    : Doh; the thing what decides on the filenames isn't timezoned, apparently.

    : Working a bit on Segfault recovery; I've transformed the database dump into Formats I Can Use (TM) and am currently trying to figure out a way to get stuff out of the Wayback Machine. It looks like most of the stories are in there, which is a good sign.

    1406 stories were published to Segfault over a span of slightly over three years.

    : OK, I've got it working and not bothering archive.org that much. Looks like about 90% of the stories are in the archive.

    Ah, the good old days:

    I'm going to start an Internet company. It sounds impressive, but it's really not difficult to do; the question "How do I start an Internet company?" reduces to the question "How do I figure out a way to lose a lot of money very quickly?", and it just so happens that I am an expert on losing money.

    --From "Calling All Investors", a 1999 story

    : Ok, I recovered 1170 stories and I know that 233 are missing, which means there are 3 stories that my code missed. Odd; more likely my original count was off. Anyway, the stories are mirrored here (caution: 130K list) as a temporary measure, and a list of missing stories is here.

    : A very dedicated bowler.

    : It would appear that my crons are not being run. I'll have to have a word with someone. The word will be "pickles".

    : Yay! New whale!

    : Interesting Search Requests:

    lembas recipe: There's a recipe?

    nethack quiz: A good idea, and there is one, but it's in Japanese.

    dead jellyfish: Indeed. There's finally news articles about them, though they seem to describe another, much smaller and more numerous organism which Sumana and I also saw on Saturday.

    : I cunningly recovered another 70 or so Segfault stories from the Internet archive. There are only 161 missing stories now, and that's not counting (well, falsely counting) the 6 or so I've received from the original authors and not put up yet.

    : If Reddish Purple vs. Bluish Purple is just too nonpartisan for you, why not try this version, which also has a better map?

    : DSR: DMV crosstitch, cross stitch astronomy pattern

    I get suprisingly many requests for cross-stitch patterns of various odd kinds; cross stitch scooby doo free patterns was another recent one. It makes me wonder whether the cross stitch community is actually a representational subset of the polity at large, such that you have lovers of smartass bumper stickers who want the same experience in a cross-stitch (I can't imagine a DMV cross-stitch saying anything complimentary about the DMV), cross-stitch/astronomy buffs, cross-stitching Cartoon Network-watching stoners, etc.

    My father, not the stereotypical cross-stitch producer, did cross-stitch as a hobby, but as far as I know it was always the sappy kind with roosters and inspirational messages. When did the market expand to such an extent? Was it the poster for Fargo that did it?

    I personally would love a cross-stitch of this so-unrealistic-it's-kitchy-yet-completely-real picture, but I doubt cross-stitch has a high enough resolution for it.

    : One Tim Stoop recommended PHP-Nuke for the Segfault rewrite. The author of PHP-Nuke lives in Venezuela and the current top story is on the current crisis there.

    : I'm not terribly excited about the new Google API because their Terms Of Service prohibit me from doing "meta-searches", and even though I'm not sure what "meta-searches" are, I hate being prohibited from doing meta-anything.

    : Googlewhack I found as someone else's search request: fgebhfgehc nagvonpgrevny (rot13ed as usual; contains a proper noun and as such is invalid under Hoyle's Rules of Googlewhacking (revised)).

    : Congratulations to the Subversion team on their latest triumph, by which I mean "milestone release".

    : Word Replacement Headline Watch (and Extraneous Quotation Marks Headline Watch; a double header!): 'Cracks' in China's Three Gorges dam should be "'Cracks' in China's Three Stooges dam".

    : New crocodile!

    "Other types of crocodile are much larger." Don't be so apologetic!

    : Thanks to my position on Cam's list of weblogs I found this nifty weblog watch, on which I am occasionally featured. Enterprising nanotechnologies are being sold by software piracy!


    Given this sorry lot, The Daily Californian wishes voters luck in choosing.

    : Wow, CSS is really cool! I got email from Rajarshi Guha, who set up a NewsBruiser installation and wanted to get it to work with CSS. I'm implementing that now (using CSS files he gave me) and it's a lot of fun.

    : I went a little CSS crazy, both in terms of abuse of CSS on Crummy and in terms of the customizability of NewsBruiser through of CSS. So far I've defined 10 CSS classes.

    : Aaaaand... the image link thing is productized. Time to commit to CVS and cut another release.

    : OK, new stuff is in CVS (commit message). I'll do a release tomorrow after I update all the docs.

    : Test.

    : NewsBruiser 1.1.0 is out. Get it while it's hot.

    : Unfortunately, this intruiging document is available only through Google cache.

    : Kevin: "I feel that solving a problem is more interesting than finding a name for the solution. I realize that I stand in the minority of the open source community on this."

    : I went through emails I've gotten and recovered 38 more Segfault stories. I think I'll do that once a week or so; it's pretty boring work.

    : C'mon! Ask the tough question!

    (The tough question being "If every time particular copyrights are about to expire Congress extends copyright terms, as happened throughout the 20th century, doesn't that violate the spirit of the 'limited time' clause?" The corollary question being: "Will there be a point at which your clients will say 'OK, that's enough' and stop lobbying for another extension?")

    I thought of that question as soon as I saw the headline of the article, and read the whole article hoping it would be asked, and it wasn't. Bah!

    : I wasn't planning on including this photo in a roundup, because it seemed like a really cheap shot, but after I found it, Mike Popovic also found it and told me about it, so why not?

    : Well, Uncle Sam and Uncle Gray have cashed my tax checks, so I'm the poorest I've been in a while. I don't understand why my witholdings were so far off from what I actually owed in taxes.

    : Went with Sumana to see a speech by Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct. It was pretty interesting; assuming one limits the universe of discourse to hour-long speeches about the past tense, it was one of the most interesting speeches one could possibly make. However, more interesting and fun was hanging out in a college cafe with Sumana, Adam Parrish, and Adam's friend Josh. I had more mediocre tiramisu. This is MEDIOCRE TIRAMISU WATCH, day 1,306! America held hostage... by mediocre tiramisu!

    : Playing Illuminati tonight with Jason and Manoj. Haven't done that for quite a while. I need to practice, as I'll probably be playing a lot of Illuminati next week with Susanna.

    : Sumana finds amusement in my pronunciation of the words "dinosaur", "whale", and "vegetable", so today I made some ASCII drawings of each to cheer her up:

                          / o_|
                         / /\ --Hello, Sumana! Rawr!
                        / /      . -  . -                _____
           ___----_____/ /      .   \. / .               \ / /
          -             /          __\/______________    /  /  
         /             /          /                  \  /  /
        / /  _____   _/          |   o                \/  /
       / /+ ||    | ||           |                       /
     _/ / | ||    | ||    Rawr!-- ========>            _/    v 
    (__/  `_oo    `_oo            \___________________/    oOo@()-- Rawr!

    : Manoj won the Illuminati game, despite the fact that I had by far the best set of cards. Oh well. This breaks my streak of about 10 wins in at-work Illuminati games.

    Due to various innovations I have developed, chief among them being tying the floss to the little plastic floss threader, I've been able to get my nightly flossing time down from 15 minutes to 4 minutes. This makes my daily tooth care routine much less onerous.

    : Pete Peterson II has oggs from a live performance of Last Transmission From Starbase XY003. I haven't listened to them yet, as I don't have an OGG player set up, but hey, it's Starbase XY003, so how can you go wrong? By not listening to it, that's how!

    Update: There are MP3s as well.

    : I don't know these people. I suspect that they are stock footage people, who live in poses of such generic applicability that their lives are completely devoid of semantics. ("Managing collaborative software development? I thought we were providing e-solutions for virtual business networks!")

    Also, their laptops are cooler than mine, so I'm jealous.

    : Thirdhand from my mother comes this interesting tidbit:

    There will be a visable pass tonight of the Space Shuttle and the Space Station. You will be able to see the Space Shuttle first rising in the northwest at about 7:55:33 PM followed by the Space Station about 30 seconds later. They will pass northeast of us at about 50 degrees of elevation from the northeastern horizon. Both will travel to the east southeast and disappear from sight about two and a half minutes after 8.

    That reading is apparently for Bakersfield; go here to see where and when to look if you don't live in Bakersfield.

    : I couldn't find either the space shuttle or the ISS. Bah! I saw Mars, though, and another planet (Jupiter?).

    : I'm getting help for NewsBruiser's CSS from world-famous CSS expert Todd Fahrner, who sits across the cube from me. He pointed me here, and, strangely, here. Meanwhile, Mike Sussman is pointing out the page of silly Subversion logos, most of which involve bananas for reasons I do not comprehend. And finally a DSR for you to puzzle over: file permissions penguin mints.

    : FHW: "U.S. stocks up on upbeat view of Microsoft results". Upbeat view of Microsoft results! Buy in bulk and save!

    : Instapundit discovers Paul Conrad, and it ain't pretty.

    : I'm writing this from the Internet kiosk at Berkeley. Sumana has a Java applet that runs SSH, so she was finally able to view Seth's (Cyberware-censored) diary from this kiosk. In a little while the two of us are going off to see Merrily We Roll Along; I'll let you know how it goes.

    : Merrily We Roll Along turned out not to be very interesting, so we left at intermission. I fear that I just watched Degeneracy: The Musical and that my reactions are similar to the reactions of others upon playing Degeneracy. However, there were several good things about the production. The main one was that the Dave Foley-esque guy who played Charlie stole the show. Charlie was my favorite character, and had by far the best song that we heard. There was also a guy who played a lawyer and who looked and dressed exactly like Seth, except that he was black. In other doppleganger news, the female lead looked and spoke exactly like my cousin Shannon, except that Shannon is a lot taller.

    Anyway... tomorrow afternoon I'm picking up Susanna from the airport. Welcome back, Susanna!

    : I spent the evening writing a magic system for the new game. I started out with the sample Enchanter-style magic system that comes with Inform and that I used in Guess the Verb!, but now there's almost none of it left. It has almost the same interface, but the implementation is completely different.

    The main change I had to make was to add support for NPCs who could learn and cast spells, the same as the player. The default system had two big things standing in the way of this:

    1. Every spell had an object containing the number of times the player had memorized it. I moved this into the object representing a spellcaster's memory.
    2. When you memorized a spell it would change the spell's location in the object tree, making it a child of your memory object. The location of the spell in its spellbook was a mere reference to the spell object. Now it's the other way around; spells are always located in the object tree underneath the spellbooks or whatever containing them, and people who memorize spells get references to the spell objects in their memories.

    I really like text adventures with spellcasting systems, and this one's going to be great; lots of spells, lots of fun magic toys, lots of incredibly evil puzzles. Mwahaha!

    : Joshua Barratt, if you read this please send me email. A friend of yours from UCLA is looking for you. Is it true that you have defected to Canada? Please advise.

    : I suppose I never realized it because he spends all his time messing with CSS, which to me has always seemed like the "square" activity that computer programming seems like to the public at large, but Todd Fahrner is a really funny guy. One of his recent commit messages:

    internal reorganization into functional modules to facilitate growth, change, overrides, etc

    : My mother hits the big 5-0 today.

    : FHW: Gates Takes Stand in Antitrust Case. He's against it.

    : Susanna is here and healthy.

    : Susanna's showing me her souvenirs from Romania, which I can't describe because many of them are gifts for people who read this weblog. For four months she's been using as a laundry bag the grocery bag from the time I took her grocery shopping just before she left.

    Also, I found this from WIGU: Amy Hughes makes amazing things out of Lego, and it's Lego-scale stuff, not hugely outsized Lego equivalents of bitmaps or whatever. Like Jeffrey Rowland before me, I make no apologies for loving this stuff, because 1) it is incredibly cool, and 2) I'm spending all my spare time writing a spellcasting system for Inform.

    : Photo roundup (I found that these links go stale after a month; I need to figure out what to do about it):

    : The megamouth (megachasma pelagios) is, by any objective measure, the most awesome shark in existence. Rawr! They're very rare; the one that was found recently is only about the 17th specimen found. I remember (as does Susanna) the preserved megamouth in the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History. It's in a big wooden box with a glass top, and if you're a little kid you don't know what's inside until you step up on the step and then there's this HUGE SHARK with a HUGE MOUTH looming beneath you! Quite an experience.

    There's a whole book about the megamouth, and various cute megamouth drawings on the web. Megamouth!

    The mighty megamouth will be your antidote to this picture. If you click, the Terrordactyls will have won!

    : DSR: quote on the power of the spoken word including reference to the animal penguin "If only I can make my writing stilted enough, this futuristic com-puting device will understand for what I seek!"

    : More megamouths: fossil megamouths, history of the finds (the one in the Natural History museum is the second one to be caught), and more news about the recent find. "I checked it out on the internet and it sure looked like a megamouth." The megamouth and the Internet--together at last! Hey, The Megamouth and the Internet would be a good book title.

    : Oh no! Amy Hughes took down her beautiful Lego church and all of her other Lego projects! Amy blames hostile "cretins" for overloading her site with too much traffic. To said cretins I say: bah!

    : Kris talks about his megamouth experience, and his preference for the basking shark.

    I bet just about every geek of my age or younger who grew up in LA has a megamouth memory. This would be a good subject for an anthology.

    Update: I now have a mental image of Robin Leach saying "Until next time, here's to megamouth memories and champagne dreams!"

    : I was working on a horribly Rube Goldberg-esque scheme I devised to have crons on one machine trigger activities on the machine that hosts Crummy, so as to compensate for the brokenness of crons on the machine that hosts Crummy. However, I've since discovered that David fixed crons, and they've been working since the 20th. Huzzah!

    [Comments] (1) : Boy, that Seth David Schoen. When he's not talking about the devious plans of The Man to reduce us all to digital chattel, he's complaining that his arms hurt. I tell ya, it's always arms and The Man with Seth.

    : Bill Griffith must have a really long lead time; today's cartoon is a plea to save the Musée Méchanique, which as everyone knows has already been saved.

    : Special AP Photo Wire Roundup: Gaaah!

    : The Knapsack Problem has a brief, polite, saying-bad-things-by-quoting-another-review-which-says-the-bad-things review over at a freeware/shareware/abandonware game site called The Underdogs. I'm not complaining, but (complain complain), why not review and link to one of my real games? But I kid The Underdogs.

    : Back from another orthodontist's appointment. I now have little plastic chains over my teeth to pull them back into the space left by the molar extractions. I hope my teeth aren't going to be sore tomorrow.

    : I'm in Bakersfield, and having fun. Among other things, I went to Barnes and Noble to cash in the gift certificates I got for Christmas. I got From Dawn to Decadence for $9.99. This is probably symbolic of something.

    When I get back to Frisco I will dispense with a liberal hand the gifts I've been acquring for people (mainly Sumana and Kevin). Stay tuned.

    : I neglected to mention my most mega purchase: I acquired a little four-track recorder for a mere $99. I've finally decided that waiting for the kind of recording software I want to hit Linux, or making idle plans for writing such software, is not a substitute for actually recording songs. Thus, the four-track. The cheapo four-track doesn't have manuals or anything, but how hard can it be to operate a four-track? It's just a cassete recorder and two muxes.

    Another advantage of the four-track: I can take it down to LA when I go today to visit Adam, and we can do some songs together.

    : I keep forgetting what I've mentioned and what I haven't. As I mentioned, I went down to LA yesterday and hung out with Adam, and now I'm back. Kris dropped by and the three of us wrote and recorded a great new song called "After School Special", which I'll put up once I mix it onto an MP3. I played it for Susanna, who likes it.

    I'm taking Susanna to Target and buying her, as a belated Christmas present, whatever she needs after coming back from Romania. We'll also be developing a roll of film containing the last of Susanna's Romania pictures as well as my LA pictures, including the Big Lebowski Extravaganza! I'll try to get those scanned and up tonight.

    Speaking of The Big Lebowski and those who took part in it, I was shocked and astounded during the weird West Wing marathon last week to see, in an old WW clip, a Senator played by David Huddleston.

    : I realized that I wouldn't be able to actually post my LA pictures to the real web site since I'm away from my private key, so I've posted some choice photos to the backup site. Leonard Photo Roundup:

    I haven't cropped these graphics yet, so be warned. Each is about 200K. Enjoy. More, and MP3, tomorrow.

    : Enjoy After School Special. Kris and Adam on vocals, me on guitar. Mostly written by me and Kris.

    Sumana wants me to explain muxes, which I will do eventually. I realized that a four-track uses demuxes, and not muxes, so I'll have to explain demuxes as well.

    : I think it's cool that "airline", "airplane", and "airspace" are all words.

    : Lyrics to After School Special. Try before you buy!

    : After School Special is rocketing up the charts! Payola really works!

    : Strangely, my nails are in much worse shape since I stopped biting them and started cutting them.

    : In the wake of my mini-vacation I had a bit of trouble earlier grasping the concept of programming. "Wait a minute... the things I type have well-defined semantics and must conform to a particular syntax!"

    : Spam: New Parental Control Software. Control your parents!

    : Sumana (whom--now it can be told--I am dating) and I have gradually amassed a list of disturbing slash concepts. It's a common enough trope that I'm starting up a new occasional feature, augmenting Disturbing Search Requests with Disturbing Slash Concepts (note that there is overlap between the two). Sumana sent me a partial list of such DSC we've accumulated:

    I hope you sleep well tonight.

    : I've got spellcasting working in my game. Another big improvement of my system over the example one that comes with Inform is that saying CAST [SPELL] doesn't automatically remove that spell from your memory.

    Now, in an Enchanter-type spellcasting system there are three kinds of result you can get from CAST [SPELL]. There's the "That's so obviously stupid/counterproductive that I'm not even going to let you do that" message, the "You cast the spell but it doesn't do anything" message, and the "You cast the spell and it does something" message, which is the only message that changes game state (the other two are only good for funny messages). Note that in the first case you didn't actually cast the spell; but the example Inform magic system will remove the spell from your memory as though you actually had cast it. In Inform terms, what I added was sort of a 'before' rule for spells (there's a before rule in the example code, but you forget the spell before it's called so it can't do this).

    : The Making Of After School Special: First In A Series Of One

    "The swim meet failed when the something something jailed. Who got jailed?"
    "The assistant coach."
    "The cheerleaders."
    "Yeah! Like in that movie!"
    "There was some movie where a bunch of cheerleaders went to jail."
    "Did you find this movie in the regular part of the video store, or the part behind the little curtain?"

    : The past few days have been days of narrow defeats. As noted in other people's weblogs, I lost two games of Scrabble by a margin of three points. I also lost a game of Illuminati to Susanna, though I won the rematch.

    : Pictures from LA are up. 11 and 12 are for the upcoming Guess the Verb! tour; don't pay any heed to them yet.

    Camille wrote to tell me that she finds Kris "quite attractive...or maybe it is just photogenic". Well, check this out! Sorry, Camille, but Kris is taken.

    I have a habit of putting my arms around people's shoulders in pictures (1 2), which I get some guff for. I just do it to add to the camaraderie. Is that so wrong?

    : Sumana says that there actually is an Oprah/Tom/Julia slash story. Must...make...witty...unrelated...observation...

    The expiration date on my milk is "May 2 1833". There must be a wraparound on expiration dates or something, because it still tastes good.

    : Oh, crap!

    You have your trader pick up the phone and say you need a bid on 500,000 shares of Crummy.com. Crummy is trading at 7, down from 120. It has been down in a straight line. You need money. It is a place to get money. The trader on the other end, from the sell side, has no interest in buying any Crummy.com. None whatsoever. In fact, he has watched this stock go down every day. Like everybody else. He says he will bid 5 for all 500,000. But Jacobs has never ever seen a bear market. He doesn't know that's a fair bid. That's a great bid! He thinks the sell-side guy is ripping him off. So he passes. And he sells off some more of his winners to finance the loser, Crummy.com.

    : Features I Want But Will Never Have: First In A Series

    What I Want: Google has a 'relatedness' algorithm that, presumably, assigns a number to every pair of web pages depending on how similar those web pages are. I'm not interested for the moment in the workings of the algorithm or how accurate it is. What I wantTM is an interface to the other end of this algorithm; I want to see which pages are least similar to other pages.

    Feasibility Study That Ignores The Real Problems: The web is, for all intents and purposes, connected (I don't think there are, eg., two large groups of pages such that you can't get from one group to another via hypertext links), so even if your algorithm goes by links you can get a nonzero relatedness number for any two pages. The chaotic nature of the web would ensure that most sites would not have thousands of ties for 'least relevant site' (I think this undesirable outcome is more likely for bigger sites; standard deviation of the mean distance to a site is much smaller for larger sites: any given site is about as relevant to Yahoo as is any other site. But more complex algorithms would reduce the importance of mere link distance.)

    Why I'll Never Have It: The problems are threefold: first, you probably don't have infinite precision, so thousands of sites would get rounded down to zero relevance. Second, it's a lot faster to find close nodes in a graph than it is to find far nodes, so the algorithm would have to use a lot of extra index space or take a long time to run. Third, this idea is completely useless (I could be wrong; come up with a good use for this feature and win a valueless crummy.com prize!).

    : From the Subversion team's status report:

    Greg Stein's in town -- we'll be closing the three fs-related M12 issues, and scheduling pre-alpha and Alpha. We'll also be gettin' some of "that Good Greg Luvin'". This is a direct quote.

    : I see the hand of Dan Helfman in this.

    : I was right.

    : One of Sumana's funnier jokes a while back was a parody of the Bruce Willis Hart's War movie poster called Hart's Bar: "Beyond caramel. Beyond peanut."

    : I got two (2) great presents for Kevin:

    : Profiles In Spambots: Part One

    enson,Order now to get one month supply of HGH!
    bishop,look younger HGH supplement.
    bking,Do you know HGH?
    ben,Order now to get one month supply of HGH!    
    bb,You Can Reverse the Aging Process 10-20 years with HGH.          
    adm,Your health is important, don't lose it!     
    adam,Order now to get one month supply of HGH!   
    gray,Your health is everything, don't miss it!   
    gw,Free 1 month supply of HGH!                   
    hermes,Feeling Old? We Can Help!                 
    dan,Order now to get one month supply of HGH!                   
    dean,Aging can be reversed with HGH
    dlewis,Register to get free HGH!
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    davidr,Register to get free HGH
    gregp,Order now to get one month supply of HGH!
    hayden,Feeling Old? We Can Help!
    alpha,You Can Reverse the Aging Process 10-20 years with HGH.
    david,Naturalh HGH: Make you look and feel 20 YEARS YOUNGER!
    dwayne,Order now to get one month supply of HGH!
    games,Your health is everything, don't miss it!
    gargoyle,FREE 30 day supply of HGH
    clay,Aging can be reversed with HGH
    erik,HGH - Human Growth Hormone Boosters, #1 in the Market!

    : I just realized that if I take Human Growth Hormone, it will greatly reduce my chances of being killed for food by alien bobos.

    : Pete Peterson II Presents Slashdot Ambiguous Headline Watch:

    Science: Sewage To Be Turned Into H

    Much more email-from-readers goodness coming later today. I keep wishing NYCB had more reader-supplied material in it, like Plurp, but when I have a bevy of reader-supplied material I'm too rushed to edit and comment on it properly.

    : Mysterious Search Requests: astronomy may 14 2002 wolfram

    : "If Wired says I'm going to be at a party, I better show up." -- Brian

    : Andrew Holloway and a co-conspirator recently did some trolling for a DSR mention. He claims he was only trolling for a mention that someone was trolling for a DSR mention, but posession is nine-tenths of the law, and recursion is not the other tenth.

    : Recorded a ten-second song on the four-track for a project of Jake's. Veteran NYCB readers have seen the lyrics before, but beyond that it lies shrouded in mystery. Jake, do you want me to wait before putting it up publicly?

    : Another reader-submitted Ambiguous Headline, this time from Sumana:

    'The Osbournes' will return, Sharon says

    Take that, Arafat!

    : Jake says to put the song up for everyone, so here it is: Android Assassin From Vega XV, The. (lyrics)

    : Pathetic Search Requests:

    : Ganjasaurus Rex, the only movie to be IMDB categorized under both "dinosaur" and "cannabis".

    : There can be only one... Singleton, that is!

    : Another from Andy (as the NYCB style guide now has him) Holloway, a classic Katzdot: Giving Thanks For Perverts. "Where would we be without them?", asks Andy.

    : My mother sends the latest addition to the /abominations/ directory (which, now that I've read A Confederacy of Dunces, I realize to be a very Ignatius P. Riley-esque directory name): Why dogs kill their owners.


    Porn spam: "PLUS Live Dungeons and cams"
    Leonard: (thinks) "What sort of stupid RPG is that?"

    : So, I heard from Josh and hooked him up with the guy what was looking for him. He's in lovely San Luis Obispo, the plan to jump ship to Canada not having worked out. He has a story about being stuck in Souix Falls, South Dakota. He probably doesn't consider it a story, but when he mentions it I become an ACK character drawn against a blank pastel background: 'story sense... tingling!'. Maybe he'll put it up on his nonexistant web site.

    : Decline Of Civilization Search Requests: funny picture of a cucumber

    Not even the most decadent Roman emperor in the midst of his most drunken bacchanal would have called out "A cucumber! I demand a picture of a cucumber! And by Jove, it had better be funny!"

    I'm starting to think I shouldn't have read A Confederacy of Dunces.

    : Batteries don't work the way I thought they did, so I have to seriously rethink the opening of my game. If only I'd paid more attention in Physics 8C!

    : Word Replacement Headline Watch: Sun Linux boss quits would be funnier as "Sun Linux box quits".

    : Andy (Schile) is such a modest fellow; I can't ever recall hearing him toot his own horn about his critically acllaimed avant-garde film cycle on frog gastrulation. It was the talk of Cannes!

    : Sumana, Adam and I went to the Exploratorium today. It was a lot of fun! And (though it leaves tomorrow) they have the old math exhibit from the Los Angeles Museum of Science and Industry, with the bell curve demonstration and the Mobius train track and the multiplication with light bulbs and the gravity well and the timeline that goes from 1100 to 1966. Turns out the math exhibit is by Eames, designers of the Eames chair and espousers of the 1960s fulleresque (not to be confused with fullerene) using-technology-to-solve-social-problems idea I find so seductive.

    There was also a 'mathematical film festival' of sorts, though the connections to mathematics were only rarely non-stretched. The best film was the Oskar Fischinger 1935 film "Composition in Blue", which played like a Vorticist Art Clokey version of the 1939 World's Fair. Gumby: this is the future! It was filmed in GASPARVISION, the amazing filming technique which survives the death of the filmmaker!

    Honorable mention, for being a really cool hack, goes to "Synchromy", a 1972 film by Norman McLaren. The soundtrack for a film is stored in graphical form in a little bar to the right of the film frames. McLaren had the idea of using the same shapes as both the graphics and the soundtrack. So you hear Atari-esque sounds corresponding to how the sound interpreter interprets the blocks you see on the screen. Also, the film is Canadian and so everything has to be in both English and French: the title card says "Synchromy" and is replaced a couple seconds later with "Synchromie".

    Finally: in the gift shop of the Exploratorium I bought three packages of astronaut ice cream, something which, when I was a kid, I was either not allowed to buy at museum gift shops, or I was allowed but it was too expensive for its purchase to be feasible. It's certainly not cheap, but now that I can afford it, why not the best, for "the best" equals "three packages of astronaut ice cream"?

    : Crummy Reader-Submitted Material Indeterminant Time Period continues as Andy H. tries to pawn off a silly story about Romans and cucumbers as historical fact. I think he's been reading that Bruce Sterling speech.

    : And unless I missed something, which I probably did, I'm bringing CRSMITP to a close for now with stuff from Xorph's Brendan Adkins. He sent me an Ambiguous Headline which he promptly put up on his own weblog so I can't use it, but earlier he responded to my discussion of least-relatedness, which I can and will use.

    The least-relatedness Google feature would be GREAT, assuming it was in any way related to content (which I don't think it could help but be). You could search for, say, Cartoons by Gaspirtz, and then get whatever sites were least related to it, and you'd have a Best of the Web list right there!

    He marks this in <easy-jab> tags, but since I am pedantic to the point of aggrevation I must point out that relatedness is orthogonal to quality. A good comic like Brendan's is more related to Gaspritz's work than is the boring web page about my cat (it's so boring, I don't even have a cat).

    He also claims that you could find the worst path of a graph by having a greedy algorithm grab the longest edges instead of the shortest edges, but 1) that doesn't work when all the edges are the same length because they merely represent links between sites, which was my working assumption, and 2) it doesn't work anyway, for the same reason a greedy lowest-cost-path algorithm doesn't work.

    |                    ^

    A greedy algorithm chooses ACD, but ABD is much better. Brendan says "I suck at discrete", so a tip: it's usually easy to come up with counterexamples using extreme cases like the one above.

    : As long as I'm drawing block diagrams, I'll explain the mux and demux here.

    A mux is a black box which takes multiple inputs and lets you control which of those inputs you want to be the output. A n-bit mux takes as its inputs n real input bits and log2(n) additional selection bits. Out of the mux comes one of the input bits, and its value at any point in time corresponds to the value of the input designated by the selection bits.

    Here's a 4-bit mux. It has two selection bits and one output bit.

     input01->|   |
     input10->|   |
     input11->|   |
     selector0-^ ^-selector1
    If selector0 is 1 and selector1 is 0, then the mux will tie input10 to output0.

    Most pieces of equipment I can think of that use mux technology actualy use demuxes. A demux is the opposite of a mux. It takes one input and sends it off to one of n places. Here's a four-bit demux.

     input0-->|DE |-->output00
              |   |-->output10
              |   |-->output11
     selector0-^ ^-selector1

    If selector0 is 0 and selector1 is 1, then the sole input bit will go to output01, and all the other outputs will be left alone.

    My four-track is basically a tape recorder, some mixer stuff, and two demuxes:

        Mic-->|   |-->Track 1
              |   |-->Track 3
                ^-Track selector
     Guitar-->|   |-->Track 2
     (or other|   |-->Track 4
      input)  +---+
                ^-Track selector

    The "A/B box" you buy to connect two printers or two monitors to the same computer (but only one at a time) is also a demux:

    Computer->|   |->Printer1
              |   |->Printer2
                ^-A/B switch

    If you care about truth tables, here's a truth table for a two-bit mux.

    In0 In1 Sel | Out
     0   0   0  |  0
     0   0   1  |  0
     0   1   0  |  0
     0   1   1  |  1
     1   0   0  |  1
     1   0   1  |  0
     1   1   0  |  1
     1   1   1  |  1

    You can chain muxes and demuxes to ridiculous extents, and in doing so sink into a delusion that your muxes and demuxes form a system of aqueducts and that you are a Sumerian tyrant who controls the flow of water throughout your land. Be careful!

    : More cleaning out my inbox: Seth is the author of the CGI->law interface I mentioned a while back but couldn't find. "I haven't maintained this code in a long time, and it is ugly," he says. He sent me a copy of the code, but I've yet to set it up and see how/whether it works.

    : Joe writes (or wrote, a long time ago):

    Leonard, are you aware that the website known as Builder.com has been revamped and moved to a new url? It is now at builder.com.com

    Given that you've written about the pronuciation and spelling of "dot com" a number of times, I'd keen to read your thoughts on builder dot com dot com.

    I have no particular beef with "com.com", but I think that once you control the com.com domain there's no reason to stop at com.com. Since you can create subdomains, why not com.com.com, com.com.com.com, or even com.com.com.com.com.com.com.com? Import some singing Vikings, make good. A family-friendly website. Community! Why not make it interactive? Flash introduction! Viral marketing! Socially conscious! First to market advantage: leverage, disintermediate, revolutionize! Supply chain, old economy, new economy, innovation business model open source change! It's peer-to-peer! Sand Hill Road! Close to the Spiritual Machine: One Hacker's Travels with the Selfish MAME. The Coming Crisis In Design: Giving Thanks For Virtual Sexbots. Identity Over IP. Queueing Theory. The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.

    This is a Muppet News Flash! Scientists at Muppet Labs have created a conceptual singularity! In one test, incredibly high concentrations of the '.com' meme somehow fragmented the structure of meaning itself, causing seemingly thoughtful discussion to degenerate into buzzword-laced Joycean rambling. More research on this topic will have to wait until construction of the Semiotic Supercollider is completed in 2004, but the future of high-energy textual analysis is bright. We anticipate eventually being able to reduce all attempts at communication to meaningless sounds and nonsensical scribbles.

    : I'm feeling bold today, like a fine barbecue sauce, so I'm going to clear out an email I've been sitting on since October 2000. This one's from Daniel Gast (I don't know if that email address still works), and it explains the mystery of Xfest '89!

    I have reasonable confidence that this stems from a song by the name of "Gutfest '89" by Digital Underground (On the CD "Sex Packets"). If the artist Digital Underground sounds familiar to you (or even if it doesn't, for that matter) they had moderate success with a song by the name of "The Humpty Dance" that has since become something of a cult classic among dance club attendees (in the "ok it's stupid but it gets you on the dance floor and moving" genre).

    Are you still here, Daniel? If so (or even if not), a much belated thanks.

    "The Sex Packets" could have been the '90s's Internet-enabled answer to "The Sex Pistols", but they weren't.

    : At the Exploratorium, at one point I misinterpreted something Sumana said as "the meme exhibit". "Let's all go to the meme exhibit!", said Adam. "Have you heard about the meme exhibit?"

    : DSC: Jack Horkheimer, Star Hustler



    : More ancient (Chinese) NYCB history: in response to this call for science fiction stories on the legal effects of relativistic time dilation, Sean Neakums once wrote:

    I recently read Stephen Baxter's "Space", in which a character is induced to undertake a dangerous mission by the promise of riches generated via compound interest. This character did a few more trips, and returned after one such trip to discover that the banks had undertaken to appropriate the bank accounts of star travellers. I forget exactly why; I read fast with a retention rate of close to zero.

    "Space" is a follow-on to "Time", also a good book.

    If you liked Time, you'll love Space! Coming soon: Mass!

    : I was wondering when this would happen. Fortunately, it appears to be a joke, and hopefully its existence as a joke will preempt someone taking up the cause for real.

    : I just had a brief, pleasant chat with Seth, during the course of which we came up with an idea for a sitcom in which the characters are forever finding themselves reenacting various thought experiments and logical puzzles. "Wait a minute, why are we suddenly in this lifeboat?" "I want to eat, but you have my left chopstick and you have my right chopstick!" "I find it very strange that half of these people always lie and the other half always tell the truth!"

    : While searching on Sumana's behalf for this Atlantic article on Saddam Hussein, I discovered The Life of Antonius Heliogabalus, an account of the excesses of one of the later Roman emperors. He's one of the ones who comes in around the time the author of the history of Rome is getting really tired of writing a history of Rome, and just wants to get it over with so they can write the chapter about The Continuing Roman Influence and have a beer.

    As such, Heliogabalus usually rates a mere mention in a list of bad emperors, and it's not generally known (or was not least to me) the virtuoso and inventive ways in which he expressed his total insuitability for power (though I'm not convinced he was much worse than your average bad Roman emperor in this regard). The Life is chock-full of interesting anecdotes, of which my favorite is this one, near the end:

    The prophecy had been made to him by some Syrian priests that he would die a violent death. And so he had prepared cords entwined with purple and scarlet silk, in order that, if need arose, he could put an end to his life by the noose. He had gold swords, too, in readiness, with which to stab himself, should any violence impend. He also had poisons ready, in ceraunites and sapphires and emeralds, with which to kill himself if destruction threatened. And he also built a very high tower from which to throw himself down, constructed of boards gilded and jeweled in his own presence, for even his death, he declared, should be costly and marked by luxury.

    : Seth David Schoen presents Heliogabalus: The Time-Constrained Neil Gaiman Comic. Covers much the same ground as the Life I linked to yesterday, only in comic book format, with odd digressions that connect smoothly back to the narrative (actually, now that I think about it, the Life has odd digressions that don't connect smoothly back to the narrative, thanks to the interpolations of later scribes), and lettered so small you can barely read it (or maybe that's just my monitor).

    That same page says that American Gods is now out in paperback. "If you've avoided American Gods because of the high price of hardcovers, grab yourself the paperback now." Why, that's exactly why I was avoiding American Gods! I always feel bad buying books in hardcover. I bought The Years of Rice and Salt in hardcover; I used my gift certificate but I still feel bad about it.

    Hm, "Not buying some information you are interested in, in favor of waiting for it to be available in a lower-cost medium" sounds like a New Copyright Crime. After all, it's a slippery slope towards wanting to download it off the Internet for free.

    PS: Page 13 of the comic has a cool drawing of a crocodile.

    : Something something happened that I don't know about; I'm getting a zillion (1 metric zillion == 14) search requests for "song from the big sombrero", "big sombrero song", and variants. They could be referring to this movie, but I don't know why. It started suddenly at 3:30 in the morning and continues unabated.

    : From the Land Of The Philosophical Thought Experiments (formerly the United Kingdom, soon to be SethAndLeonardSitcomistan) comes Battleground God, the online quiz that probes your position vis-a-vis theism for inconsistencies (Sumana, who pointed me to it, humorously misremembered the title as "Battlefield God"). I love these philosophers.co.uk quizzes (a previous one) because they allow me to wallow in the internal consistency of my various philosophical stances. One day I'll get my comeuppance, I know. And when that happens, I'll... have to modify some of my philosophical stances.

    : This just might be the web diary of Pete Peterson II.

    : From a discussion between Kevin and I about spam we've both received: "We'll never be safe so long as the earth and sun conspire to bring us SPRING, the unholy season of hellish violence and lust!"

    : My mother, a bit defensively, writes:

    You have TOO been to the exploratorium. Probably several times. Your Uncle Leonard and I took you one specific time that I remember. I think Robert was with us too. Then we went at least one time with Dad.

    I say 'a bit defensively' since, although I don't remember ever going to the Exploratorium before, I certainly never claimed that I hadn't been before.

    : Seth pointed out a bug in NewsBruiser's handling of leap years. I have no real excuse, but I can try to make up a funny fake excuse: I was too cheap to pay for isitleapyearornot.com's Isitleapyearornot Premium service.

    : False Advertising: A Case Study (second in a series)

    100% Yarn Dyed Cotton: wrapper of ultra-cheap boxer shorts

    65% Polyester, 35% Cotton: tag of ultra-cheap boxer shorts

    : Sugar may not be the best placebo here.

    : That sound you hear is Josh Parson going into conniptions.

    : All Heliogabalus, All The Time: Jake swoops in and points out that the Momus entity had a song about Heliogabalus on its latest album. "actually it's the only song i like on the latest momus album", confesses Jake. Catty Jake-o Slams Momus In Beantown Boutique! "I'll Fight For Custody!" Vows Bejeweled Berendes.

    : When The UNIX Philosophy Goes Too Far: Second In A Series

    ksirtet makes you enter your high score nickname ahead of time so that it can automatically file your scores under that nickname.

    : Forward from Sumana, hereby forwarded to my mother: Green Eggs and Lembas

    : I wonder if Osama bin Laden ever thinks: "If x, then I win!"

    : I reread The Martian Chronicles; the last time I read it was in that dark stretch between fourth and seventh grade, so my memory of it was a palimpsest. I don't think I read it with very high comprehension the first time; I remember reading the ending and not understanding it, finally deciding that the Martians were underwater. I guess I wanted Martians, damn it.

    Bradbury writes purple prose, as always, and gets away with it, except near the end. It's pretty coherent for a bunch of short stories strung together by exposition. I recommend it, despite the occasional clunker.

    I got my copy in a used bookstore and it's a promotional version released in conjunction with a 1970s NBC made-for-TV movie. The back of the book praises Bradbury's "blending of... terror and tenderness, wonder and contempt." Yes, that magical mixture of wonder and contempt.

    : I forgot to mention that when Susanna and I went to Target we bought two rubber duckies for my mother to use in her hot tub.

    : Ssh! If Seth finds out about pyDDR, he might explode! If I spend too much time at the PyGame page, I might explode!

    : Kevin keeps telling everyone, Slashdot-style, that Apple To Release Rack-Mounted Macs. And, whenever he does, I keep making the Segfault-esque joke that New Rack-Mounted Macs Mountable Only In Special Apple Racks.

    : I re-recorded Android Assassin From Vega XV, The at its proper speed (faster). The old version is now the "slow dance mix", and I no longer recommend it. I also recorded Sand Bar, my second contribution to Jake's compilation. It cleverly squeezes twenty seconds of song into ten seconds (a ten second length is one of the constraints on the songs in the compilation) by playing both verses simultaneously.

    Yogurt Flavors I Like That I Feel As Though I Shouldn't Like:

    Yogurt Flavors I Was Afraid I Would Like, But Which I Don't (Whew):

    I Was Meaning To Search For That Myself Search Requests: pimps ahoy. They were probably actually looking for Pimps at Sea, a joke webpage for a nonexistent Bungie game which I'd been meaning for a while to re-find and link to. I forgot where I saw it first, which gives me license to mention it on NYCB without crediting anyone.

    : Uninspiring Movie Taglines: First In A Series

    They could have gotten away, but they kept putting it off and now there is NO ESCAPE!

    : I re-recorded Sand Bar in a higher key (it's a little low for me at the very end), and Jake has agreed to turn the two WAVs into a proper MP3 (the first verse is supposed to play in the left channel, the second verse in the right, so that you can properly separate them). I'm pretty sure my cable is to blame in turning the lovely stereo sound coming out of my four-track into the mono sound present in recordings.

    : The main map for my game has been implemented in Inform, though the rooms don't have descriptions yet. I also grafted in the fiendish puzzle.

    Map-wise (and, I now suspect, in other respects), the game owes something to Planetfall, the first Infocom game I played (and still my favorite). I realized this upon noticing that I was giving my rooms Planetfall-homage names like "Dull Art-Laden Hallway West".

    I've got until the end of September if I want to enter this game into the 2002 competition. I might be able to do it, though it would be close. It's probably going to be a bit long for the competition, anyway.

    : I was Weak from hunger, and, not wanting to start Fainting and getting beat up by the jackals, I made some pasta and dumped canned soup onto it and ate almost all of it. I'm still starving! Do I have a tapeworm? Did I inadvertently discover the recipe for Subtraction Stew? Or (the anticlimactic, 'likely' explanation) am I now simply craving a sweet dessert-like food item to complete my meal? I could really go for that blob of Planetfall red goo right about now.

    I didn't even try to make all those nerdy references.

    : I grabbed the missing Nowhere Standard Time tracks from a backup of the master (I can't find the actual master at the moment, which bothers me; I saw it mere days ago). I'll MP3 them eventually, but first I'm going to a party.

    : Back from the party. It was fun. I played Devil Bunny Needs A Ham with Zack. Other stuff ensued which I need to find URLs so that I can properly link my description of it (a peculiar hypertextual disease: linker's block), and I'm too tired to find those URLs. I will mention that I went to Berkeley Bowl and bowled a couple frames. No, just kidding. Berkeley Bowl is a supermarket and they sell a line of very tasty soups under the "Turtle Island" brand. When I say these are tasty soups I am quite serious. This has nothing to do with the party, but before I went to the party I stopped to get some ginger beer (it turns out that everyone who brought any drink at all brought ginger beer; is it the new hip drink among teetotaling nerds?) and I also bought 6 boxes of the delicious soup. Dystopian Soup Slogan: "So good, it's thoughtcrime!"

    The soup's gimmick is that it comes with a goofy little bottle of Tabasco which you can use to spice up the soup. It's really good with Tabasco (even though Daniel Rall hates Tabasco, and the Spice Weasel I got for Kevin that we use on our burritos is convincing me of the evils of Tabasco), but I haven't tried it with my generic Louisiana pepper sauce; will keep informed.

    I got sidetracked again. What I meant to do was thank Shweta for hosting the party, and Zack for providing the venue, and also for providing the thing that I will talk about that I'm too tired and rambling to find the link for, and as such I will do it later today after I wake up from the sleep that will be mine once I run my nightly dental hygeine/yoga gauntlet.

    : Party, Part II: Zack, like Seth, has a great library, though his is a lot heavier on the fantasy and science fiction. I borrowed The Star Fraction by Ken McCleod, and Zack wrote his name on the cover page, making it Ex Bibliotheca Zack! Yes, the link to Zack's homepage to facilitate the bad joke was the link I needed to find very early this morning and didn't have the energy for. I could write three long rambling paragraphs but not find an easy-to-find link, because writing and link-finding are two different things, and I only had energy for one.

    There was a bit of singing at the party. Unbenownst to ASCAP, we sang "Happy Birthday" to Nathaniel, and it was so bad that we changed key after almost every line; I think the more people you have singing "Happy Birthday", the worse it is. We also all joined in in singing TMBG's "Kiss Me, Son Of God", probably in homage to discussion earlier of Scott McCloud and his family singing "Birdhouse in Your Soul" at a comic convention and the entirety of the comic convention joining in.

    We had pizza from Zachary's (the Berkeley pizza place, not the home of Zack), which was good and which people at work have been bothering me to try. I've tried it! It's good! Stop bothering me! (Note: it's not that bad (the bothering, I mean)).

    : Dialogue from our game of Devil Bunny Needs A Ham:

    "I'm beginning to think that obtaining a ham is secondary among Devil Bunny's priorities."
    "It never really was about the ham with Devil Bunny."

    Also, the trailer for the sequel game, Devil Bunny Hates The Earth:

    First, he needed a ham! Now, he hates the earth! And only 2-5 players can stop him!

    : I've MP3ed all the remaining NST MP3s and am currently hunting through through the 2000 programs listed on Freshmeat for automatically writing the ID tag of MP3s.

    : glark looks really cool, and (in a move sure to infuriate Kevin) has an appropriate name.

    Uploading tagged NST MP3s now.

    : FHW: SFgate's front-page headline for this story is "What A Downward-Facing Dog". (from Sumana)

    : OK, they're up. My picks (among the new ones):

    : Surprise! I spent the day at the four-track, going through old tapes, and I can now bring you the long-overdue mass of 1999-era recordings that comprise Are You An Organism?. 16 new tracks are up, and 15 of them are actually worth listening to! (Rewind is my homage to Jake's end-of-tape loops, and will probably be of interest only to him). If you're pressed for time, I recommend Underdrive, lowercase, Get Down Or Die, and Kleptomania.

    : A question for Seth about the EFF shirt. Is that thing attached to the scales a price tag (indicating that online freedom comes at a price?), or a mouse (indicating that the freedom is, in fact, online)?

    : A New Kind of Science to finally be released on Tuesday. I'm interested, but Crackpot Sense... tingling!

    : Cool domain name I thought of last night: samiz.com. The site behind it is pretty cool, and reminds me of Kevin's. The current cover story is sure to be a hit with Jake. (Yes, all this recent content is a transparent attempt to keep Jake using the web.)

    : Speaking of Kevin, a missive from him involving something he heard on NPR:

    "The upcoming Star Wars film has the awful inevitability of a soviet election" - don't know why, but that precisely summed up my feelings on the matter.

    : A sudden panic seized me. What if all the warning labels on innocuous products like mops and bathrugs, all the "use at your own risk" notices on paper cutters and THIS SOFTWARE COMES WITH ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY announcements on roguelike games, what if all of this phony riskmongering has desensitized me to actual risk, so that I shrug off impending doom even when it is clearly labeled as such, and go to a horrible fate because of the lack of a THIS STUFF IS ACTUALLY DANGEROUS AND WE'RE NOT JUST SAYING THAT BECAUSE WE'RE AFRAID YOU'LL SUE US BECAUSE YOU INJURED YOUR FINGER sticker?

    : Boilerplate from the Mozilla release notes:

    This source code is subject to the U.S. Export Administration Regulations and other U.S. law, and may not be exported or re-exported to certain countries (currently Afghanistan (Taliban controlled areas)...

    Let's hunt down the remaining Taliban by exporting Mozilla to every square mile of Afghanistan and seeing where it's illegal!

    : Construction of the Huge, Grossly Misproportioned, Geographically Dispersed Ozymandius-esque Statue On Mars continues apace!

    : The reviews of AYAO are in (some of them, anyway)! Kevin offers up a humorous review here (note his mondegreen; I still need to tell the story of the other mondegreen!), and Adam reminisces about old times on a very special episode of Mail You Can Bruise.

    : I just realized that you could never make any kind of behind-the-scenes documentary for Planet of the Apes, because any such documentary would have a title (Behind the Planet of the Apes, The Making of the Planet of the Apes, etc.) that would force it to be a de facto full-fledged member of the Planet of the Apes family.

    : Oh, wow. UCLA computer scientist Judea Pearl is the father of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered in Pakistan. This stunned me, more than I was stunned the day they announced he'd been killed. The connection is more personal now. (I discovered this via Instapundit).

    : Aaah! Earthquake!

    : A sub-5 near Gilroy, says Sumana.

    : Joe doesn't like the idea of the Weblog Foundation, but maybe he'll like Weblog Foundation And Empire, Second Weblog Foundation, Weblog Foundation's Edge, Weblog Foundation And Earth, Prelude to Weblog Foundation, or Forward The Weblog Foundation.

    : Reader Brian D. Hicks writes:

    As long as you stay away from the Second Weblog Foundation Trilogy which was written by some people who were not Asimov a few years back, I'd say you're golden.

    I'd forgotten about those! And for good reason; the one by David Brin is okay but the others are not so good, Al.

    : Gregory Baumgardner alleges that I'm "being funded by wealthy investors looking to promote sheer insanity. Issues doesn't cover it with this one." It's twue, it's twue. Except for the funding part.

    PS: Does "It's twue, it's twue" originate with Blazing Saddles, or is it (as I mantain) Blazing Saddles' tribute to Elmer Fudd cartoons? I'm almost positive I've heard Elmer Fudd say that in some 1950s short. I picture him pounding his fists on the ground, bawling "Oh, it's twue! It's twue! I kiwwed a cute widdle wabbit!"

    : That Gives Me An Idea Search Requests: most money contest "nigerian scam"

    Have you received a spam scam soliciting your money laundering services on behalf of a war criminal or other malcontent? Crummy.com wants to know! Send mail to "money-laundering-scam-contest at crummy dot com" with your name, the name and checkered biography of the malcontent (and his/her pandering intermediary, if sufficiently sordid), the amount of money in question, and the percentage of that money designated as your cut. Valueless crummy.com prizes will be awarded in the following categories:

    All qualifying solicitations, even those received previous to announcement of this contest, are eligible. Writing your own spam scams for purposes of this contest is strictly prohibited (but funny). Contest will end when I have enough entries.

    : DSR:

    : What a cad! (1 2)

    Update: First picture link fixed. Doh.

    Update #2: Tag in first update notification fixed. Doh. Doh.

    : Kevin is upset about the newfangled Star Wars movies, which he claims have ruined an icon of his childhood enjoyment. He's decided to voice his grievance directly: by blackmailing George Lucas. "What do you suppose we could get for threatening to reveal who Luke's father is?", he muses.

    : Working on my game. I've got the fifteen puzzle working. Yes, there is a fifteen puzzle in my game. Yes, I know what I'm doing.

    : So hilarious it sounds fake (from Sumana):

    Roeper: And there's this whole "Crouching Yoda, Hidden Dragon" thing that's just...

    Ebert: You like the fact that Yoda turns into an action figure now with his light saber?

    Roeper: I think that that is a scene [with Yoda] that "Star Wars" fans are going to absolutely love, I loved it.

    Ebert: It's totally out of character for him.

    Roeper: It's not totally out of character for him! That's part of his skills. He's not just this brilliant philosopher, he's also a Jedi warrior!

    Ebert: Listen, if you're Yoda and you have the Force. ...

    Roeper: He's a Jedi master.

    Ebert: ...If you encompass the Force, you don't need no lightsaber!

    Roeper: You do when you're going up against another Jedi dude who's also got super-duper mind powers!

    Ebert: You've just got to go like this [makes a mind-reading gesture]. You're Yoda, nobody can stop you.

    : DSR/DSC Blowout

    : You've heard of the anthropic principle, but what about the lycanthropic principle?

    : Wolfram mania obtained via HTP:

    : Tonight's Episode: The Deadly Cure (thanks to Jason Robbins, the only person I know who still thinks up TEs on a regular basis).

    : Wine, women, song: pick two.

    : I forgot where I saw this, but it's pretty funny, in a looking-at-a-big-Illuminati-layout way, and it reminds me of the stick-figures-on-graph-paper thing I did in high school: the Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory (I think that's also what it was called by the site where I found it, which is a clue to where I found it). Caution: huge (~1 megabyte) image.

    : I held my nose I closed my eyes, I read A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius. My mother read it when she was visiting me last year, and left it in my book pile. "You should read this," she said. So I did. It's okay. Not much need for me to review it since I mainly agree with the self-review in the introduction (I suppose I'm supposed to be suspicious of the self-review, but why? Is published self-analysis of a work automatically invalid?). The funny parts were pretty funny, but it had a tendency to turn into the boring parts of Microserfs. Is it a personal failing that I can only appreciate fiction in which things happen?

    : Mike Popovic's secret project revealed!

    : On Friday I went to a graduation party for Sumana. Happy graduation, Sumana! (even though you're not done with your finals... I never understood that) We played Taboo. I always start out not liking Taboo but eventually I warm to it. There were enough geeks present that we could effectively describe appropriate words ("throne", "leprechaun", "wish") in terms of Nethack; that was pretty funny.

    I also concocted punch with Nandini, Sumana's sister. Everyone loved the punch. We are wizards of punch!

    I told Seth about my game. "Your text adventures are better than any other text adventures," he said. Wow! He wasn't even drunk!

    : Joe Barr's frontier attitude has clearly been rubbing off on Nick Petreley:

    It should be against the law to use POP3 for e-mail, and in anticipation of that law, I've used IMAP4 for many years.

    : Jason's worst-case scenario: "Imagine debugging a genetic algorithm on a buggy quantum computer running a Microsoft webserver."

    : Oh no! Steven Jay Gould dead at 60! (Seth brings the tragic news)

    : The mundane follows the tragic: I changed the front page to display the most recent 20 entries, since the old practice of displaying the current month's entries got a little bandwidth-intensive around the end of the month.

    More game work. I discovered that one of my features is of the class of "Wow, this is a lot more difficult/tedious to implement than I thought." This is basically the state in which I spent the entire Degeneracy development process, and for a while I was fighting off despair, having subconsciously decided that IF programming was inherently as tedious as writing Degeneracy had been. That's not the case, though; this game is orders of magnitude less tedious to write than Degeneracy.

    The default Inform magic system is so procedural! If you cast a spell on an object, the object never actually finds out about it; all the logic for handling the magic is inside the spell! I changed it to do dispatch to the object.

    : Wow, the meaningless option poll is so meaningless that COPOUT can't accurately display the results.

    : Early entrants in the spam scam contest:

    From me:

    From Sumana:

    From my mother ("The syntax does appear to be from a Nigerian English language learner," she says):

    For some reason I get the feeling that people think this contest is not a real contest. Well, it is! Right down to the valueless prizes! Send in your incitements to fraud today!

    I have a feeling that the new scams are a bit toned down compared to the old-school ones, in terms of the unsavoriness of the characters and activities involved.

    : I find it amusing that this fellow had the following to say about ZoŽ:

    "Don't be put off by the awkwardly phrased manifesto, download it, and try it out."

    And I like that the author of ZoŽ used that quote to head up said manifesto. Two defining features of computer geeks are 1) that sort of self-awareness, and 2) that even our awkwardly phrased manifestos are eminently practical.

    ZoŽ is a email client. It's also a email server. And a long term archive. And a search engine. And an application server. All that at once on your desktop. Or server. Or both. Or it doesn't matter because client and server are the same.

    It's not "Workers of the world, unite!", but the workers of the world have yet to unite, whereas by all accounts ZoŽ is both client and server. (That reminds me, I need to talk about The Star Fraction.)

    I had all this in my head yesterday, but it didn't really fit in with the silly in-joke I had for the ZoŽ link so I didn't write it, which is a shame because last night my page was visited by the author of ZoŽ (he uses a stats service which shows up in my referer log); and he probably won't be back to read my equally silly but lengthier analysis. I still haven't tried Zoe, though (it's proprietary and there are warnings about problems running on Linux and in non-IE browsers).

    : A Mike-ish way to deny something:

    I can neither confirm nor neither confirm nor deny.

    : Tonight's Episode: None Dare Call It Murder

    : The San Francisco Examiner has gone over to a tabloid layout, in a seeming attempt to showcase their sensationalist tabloid-quality reporting. Tonight's Episode, I mean, Today's Top Story: D.C.'s Death Merchants.

    Correction: It's the Examiner, not the Chronicle.

    : From Manoj:

    [A] decision that is sure to... bring smiles to the face of Internet radio executives nationwide.

    Not to mention to the face of ACTUAL DAMN PEOPLE!

    : Scientist Creates Hideously Deformed Dinosaur.

    Good thing he used wholesome selective breeding techniques instead of evil genetic modification!

    : I'm aghast! Daniel Gast wrote me back relatively soon, despite my having waited 1.5 years to answer his email about XFest '89! He points out an error in my etymological note; "Sex Packets" was the name of the album on which "Gutfest '89" appeared, and "Digital Underground" was the name of the band, not vice versa (or verce visa).

    : Six arrested over 'Nigerian e-mail' fraud (from Sumana). Does this portend an early end for the scam contest? More importantly, does it portend a much-delayed end to the scam mails themselves? I'm inclined to think not; it seems to work too well not to be imitated like crazy.

    : My First Mondegreen: The mother of A. Holloway humorously mistook the title lyric of Interesting Places to Die for "Interesting Places to Dine". I hereby dub this the name of the previously nameless Crummy Restaurant Review recurring feature (examples: 1 2).

    My First Filk: Said A. Holloway then went and wrote a filk/parody of IPtD with that title. The lyrics are available for your delectability.

    : A rubber ducky update from Susanna:

    Mommy really likes her rubber duckies. When we're in the hot tub she goes "oh no! the ducky is going to the filter! hurry catch it!" and etc. And she sings to them. =)

    : After a long romance and a lengthy engagement, Adam and Kim are to be married in July! I recently recieved my invitation, addressed to "Mr. Leonard Richardson and Guest". I get to take the anonymous SourceCast user to the wedding! The invitation is hand-made by Kim, and very lovely.

    : Sumana's now using the new NewsBruiser. Huzzah!

    Busy day--I got a bunch of issues dumped in my lap and had to tease out the actual requirements.

    : Kevan sends a link to the Spam Scam Contest's first non-Nigerian entry.

    Kevan hopes this will win the audaciousness award, and it probably will, not only for the bad light in which it seems determined to cast our boys, but for its obsessive use of military beuracratese and terrorism button pushing. "dreaded Taleban AlQeada terrorist network dot com!"

    : The Enterprise cliff-hanger last night was quite exciting! Also, Daniels (the agent from the future) looks a lot like my co-worker Jason Brittain. The obvious conclusion: Jason is also from the future! He's come back in time to revamp our build system!

    : Spam: "Receive great offers!" I just did!

    : The tricky game feature now works, not perfectly, but well enough that I can come back to it later when I'm in the mood for rewriting and debugging. For a while today I despaired, multiplying beyond count all the possibilities I would have to support. Not only would it be impossible for me to implement all the cases, there would be too many slightly different options for the player to specify in text exactly what it was they wanted to do.

    Then I calmed down. Between the start of the game and the activation of the feature, the player must make three lateral thinking breakthroughs, and by the time they do so there's no longer any point in playing dumb and pretending you don't know what they're trying to do. Much better to reward them by making it easy to express the actions that, by the time they get to it, will be obvious to them.

    And, of course, any other useless cases implied by the small subset of useful cases can be dealt with by the game designer's favorite trick: the arbitrary "you can't/don't want to do that" restriction.

    : Ever wanted to be surfing the worldwide markets like the hipsters in your favorite anarcho-capitalist cyberpunk thriller, looking for tiny inefficiencies on which to capitalize? You poor, deluded sap. What you don't realize is that that is incredibly boring. You can read press releases all day if you want to get a feel for it, but it's boring and it's going to be boring even when there's virtual reality involved.

    : In a shameless, yet funny bid to use News You Can Bruise as a soapbox from which to spout his deranged mutterings, Pete Peterson II writes:

    So... is there such a thing as "altogether ooky action at a distance?"

    : Actually, you can read interesting press releases all day, but the same features that make them interesting also make them financially useless.

    : Mike Popovic fact-checks my stupid mistakes with such wit that I don't even care that he sent me the fact-check email a day after I'd corrected the mistake:

    also, i think it is the Examiner and not the Chronicle that went to a tabloid format (and i don't even live there :)

    : In a shameless, yet implausible bid to spin the motivations of his former self, Pete Peterson II writes:

    > In a shameless, yet funny bid to use News You Can Bruise as a
    > soapbox from which to spout his deranged mutterings...

    Who, me?!?

    : Mike is an evil genius (this is from a brainstorming email relating to the game):

    apply the principles of judo: if your problem is coming up with an AI system for a team of magicians, you should throw more magiciains at the problem. If you had a team of, say, five magicians, you would have to deal with a lot of collaboration, dialog, and eventualy team spellcasting. if you had say, sixty magicians per team, they would of course be following a set of rules, regulations an procedures that evolved/mutated from something useful into a beuracratic nightmare that ensures very little ever gets done. In other words, you would be the United States Senate. Now you can simply deflect user interaction into a bunch of procedural red herrings, and not have to worry about writing and AI system, because no Intelligence will come into play.

    : Axis of Pasta update: consensus is that cheese is the missing third ingredient, though this has yet to be verified in field tests.

    By the way, here is another Crummy.com pasta recipe:

    Ad Hoc Pasta Working Group


    Instructions: Boil water and cook pasta. Heat up soup in microwave or on stove. Drain pasta and put into big bowl. Dump soup over pasta. Serves one, for two meals.

    Note: do not make this for other people or they will think you are a slob.

    : "...a picture is worth a thousand databases." What about a database that contains pictures?

    : Crummy mini-features collide with Disturbing Photo Op Photo Wire Roundup!



    Got a lot of really good game work done yesterday.


    This entry is formatted like Seth's diary.

    Seth's Diary

    Seth has a long and interesting discussion of nth-ary liability in his diary today. However, I think he should have treated at more length the slight-of-hand involved in the "tools for circumventing copy control are like tools for breaking into houses" argument. Here's how I see that slight-of-hand: by making that argument you admit to a belief that something you've sold to someone else is analagous to your house, and that the person who bought it and wants to use it is analagous to someone trying to break in. (cf.) Of course, it's no big secret that most organizations which put out cultural artifacts don't consider you as having anything other than circumscribed viewing rights once you "own" "it" "on" "DVD", but it's a less well-known position than it should be, and it's doubtful that other people who accept this argument would accept it if they saw that axiom.

    : I'm sort of ashamed that I didn't know that there was a Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic. This makes many things clearer, including why 1 is not considered a prime number (as I suspected from various hemming-and-hawing explanations I've gotten over the years, there's no real reason--it just makes the FTA a lot uglier).

    However, this revelation increases my forboding feeling that algebra is in some bizarre sense the derivative of calculus, and arithmetic the second derivative.

    : Camille's entry:

    : Tonight's Episode: Online Murder Doesn't Just Happen

    : Bunnies And Burrows: 2nd Edition (also out of print)

    : Wondering what was behind that parade of elephants and dinosaurs down Shattuck yesterday in Berkeley? It was to celebrate Sumana's graduation! The Berkeley City Council itself took time from debating a vital measure that would ban all eating utensils except for chopsticks and drinking straws, to congratulate her on obtaining her degree. And so I add my voice to the multitude: congratulations, Sumana!

    : I have a problem: I hate advertising. Under most circumstances I would not consider this a problem, but I'm starting to think that my hatred of advertising is neurotic. I will go out of my way to avoid doing things that I want to do because of advertising.

    Example the first: I need to get a credit card. For most purchases I use a debit card hooked up to my checking account, but my debit card has a limit of about $500, so I can't buy expensive things like computers on it; for such things I need a credit card. I am apparently in the prime credit-card-getting demographic, and as such I have spent the past five years being deluged with gimmicky offers for credit cards. I get at least one such offer in the mail every week. I doubt it will ever get to the point where my seething rage at credit card companies subsides enough that I can bear to apply for a credit card.

    Example the second: I'd like to get a cell phone (ironically, one of the reasons I want a cell phone is so I'll no longer have to answer the phone at my house hoping it's for me, when most of the time it's a telemarketer). But I also get offers for cell phones in the mail all the time! And what's worse--should I ever go to a mall, there's inevitably a cell phone salesbooth in the middle of the floor populated by postadolescent male sirens in ties, holding out cell phones and trying to get my attention. I will seriously hide behind other people as I enter the mall so that the salespeople will be distracted trying to sell those people cell phones and they won't notice me. There's no possible way I could go up to those people and say "Hi, I want a cell phone." It's like saying "Your film cycle on Lithuanian autocannibalism was transgressive and intertextual! I'd like to give you a grant!" It encourages behavior I don't want to encourage.

    Example the third: anything that sounds like advertising or a prelude to a sales pitch makes me grit my teeth and seethe. When I walk into a Radio Shack or other store and the salesperson asks if they can help me find anything, I say "No", even if they really could help me find something! I resent them for trying to be helpful, because I'm afraid it'll turn into a sales pitch!

    Example the fourth: this is where it goes beyond my self-centered world of electronic gadgets. I love the charity Heifer International. I want to give them a lot of money. But they keep sending me stuff in the mail, and just as with the credit cards and the cell phones that stuff triggers seething rage inside me! I know they're trying to push my buttons with the case study sob stories and whatnot, and I automatically decide on a visceral level that my buttons will not be pushed, that these people will not get my money.

    It's as though every commercial and other piece of advertising I've ever seen has secretly wreaked its Hidden Persuaders doing on my helpless mind, but that rather than a plethora of tiny messages I've taken away a lowest common denominator message of "advertising is evil and its practitioners will not by me be rewarded", which is activated with the knee-jerk reliability by which the brainwashed-by-advertising drone of comic hyperbole feels an urge to purchase FooBar products after seeing the appropriate commercial.

    I don't really have a solution for this, though the obvious first step is to somehow get off Heifer's mailing list so that I'll be able to keep sending them money.

    : Addendum: I don't feel that way about broadcast advertising, only about advertising that's addressed to me personally (even if it was part of a mass mailing). Broadcast advertising I don't like but I can deal with.

    : On a brighter note, I present the Food Circus: "Direct your attention to the center ring, where we will prepare roast duck in mushroom gravy!"

    : A crawler crawled my site and spammed many addresses (including, humorously, qpoeta@roma.antiqua.it) with a spam scam, but Kris was the first to claim it:

    And one more old-school from Kevan Davis: he says he was "actually disappointed at how piffling $15 million seemed".

    : Whale meeting ends in fury; "It's payback time!", say world's whales

    : Wow! Danny O'Brien was just in my room! He and a friend, Quinn Norton, brought Seth up from San Jose, where the three of them had been attending BayCon. Seth was meeting Sumana at my house for a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, so I got to meet and talk to (and have a photo op with) Danny. Seth and I showed him the Latin spam and he promised to send me a Yoda spam he has.

    I'm still in Danny O'Brien shock. The only thing that could make this better would be if Brian Behlendorf (the world's biggest NTK fan) were also to meet Danny O'Brien, and if in the course of conversation Danny were to casually mention his acquaintance with me (in continuation of my longstanding plan to flummox Brian).

    I have the vague feeling that I somehow let Danny O'Brien "get away" by not going with Sumana and Seth to the bridge (Danny and Quinn were going to drive them part of the way). However, that is silly. In addition, the bridge was from the beginning a Sumana/Seth joint venture in on which I'm loath to butt, and there's a lot of game work to do (Seth previewed my game; I think I need to make the prelude shorter).

    : No funny comment, it's just cool: Astronomers Find Jupiter-Like Weather On Brown Dwarfs

    : My mother sent me a bunch of engineer jokes, of which two I hadn't heard before:

    1. To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half-empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
    2. What is the difference between Mechanical Engineers and Civil Engineers?

      Mechanical Engineers build weapons. Civil Engineers build targets.

    : Do I dare to register breadedclams.com?

    : Oh, I forgot to mention that Sumana and I went to Kevin's new (and awesome) house yesterday and helped him move stuff. We also ate pizza, which was delicious. And Sumana got a bike. The end.

    : Disturbing Spam Subject Lines: Stop begging lenders. Have them beg you!

    : Behold the Yoda spam! (Thanks, Danny)

    : Spam scam contest update: my mother, who also received the Angolan spam, said, "This one sorta tickles my fancy, as it is mining and prospecting." Two new entries, the second entries from Sumana and Camille:

    Sumana's entry:

    Camille's entry:

    : Adam, who makes this sort of observation by sending out email rather than keeping a weblog, says "I prefer my beer in a bottle."

    : Are there any tools for doing unit testing with Inform? This discussion is the only thing I could find, and it rapidly becomes theoretical and useless to me. I'll probably find an interpreter capable of playing back scripts and use that.

    : From a catalog: "His steaks are a work of art, so why shouldn't he sign them?" Because they're freaking steaks, that's why!

    : Dupont to launch soybeans into space; soybeans to pay $20 million apiece for privilege

    : Segfault-ish headline inspired by the "The Future of Panel Discussions" panel discussion the other day:

    Mars Probe Finds Signs of Water Ice, Smirnoff Ice

    : Must... write... something... retain readers... from O'Brien overflow...

    I like cats!

    : If Batman were a hacker he'd use metasyntactic variables batFoo, batBar, etc. Instead of the bash shell, he'd use the Bat-Shell. Instead of cat, he'd use bat.

    Okay, I'm done.

    Addendum: But Pete's not; he dubs the system "Bruce Waynix" and says:

    And somewhat obviously, "batman".

    : Kevin's on to the manufacturers of the branding iron for steaks previously referred to. They wink and say it's for "your" steaks, just like CD burners are for "your" music, but Kevin knows better. He plans to obtain one and use it as the basis for a brief but flamboyant career in steak rustling, sneaking into barbecues and branding all the steaks as his. An aging sheriff will be called to duty one last time to bring Kevin to justice.

    : Sketchy-Sounding Number Crunching Press Release Watch: Sales of Counterfeit Products to Rise to 18% of World Trade in Two Years. The solution: impose tariffs on counterfeit products! Tariffs always keep down that pesky trade.

    (It's unfair to mock PRWeb press releases merely for being poorly written; the whole point of PRWeb is to enable people to put out a press release despite not having a PR department that can jazz things up for you. So I'll only be calling attention to press releases which are superlatively odd in some other way. Press releases written by professionals, on the other hand, are fair game for nitpicking.)

    : I find it relaxing to watch television in a language I don't know. My favorite is Chinese television (I guess it's Mandarin). As far as I can tell, there are four shows on Chinese television: the modern show, the medieval show, the news, and the commercials. The modern show has the awesome name of "Meteor Garden", but my favorite is the medieval show, since as far as I can tell it's just kung fu movies without any subtitles. Or subtleties, for that matter.

    Peter Hodgson once told me that the best way to passively learn a language is to listen to the radio in that language every morning. The language I most wanted to learn at the time he told me that was Latin, and apart from Nuntii Latini there's no radio broadcast in Latin.

    : Spam: "Hi dan, A Tax Deduction even Mr. Jones doesnt know about!" Ha ha! At last, my chance to enlist the IRS in my proxy war against Mr. Jones!

    : Quite belatedly, A. Cairns offers the following strategy for Deadly Onion Super Go!

    To destroy planet deadly onion, shoot for section of red ball above turret foot in three strenghs. Press blue button to both attack either aim offscreen and fire to reload. Good lock! All up to yours!

    : Judge Dredd was not nearly so intimidating when he was merely District Attorney Dredd.

    : Sumana and I watched a very funny Japanese sketch comedy show on channel 26. It's got the un-euphonic title of A Laughing Dog's Discovery. It caught our attention with its dead-on caricature of Junichiro Koizumi (there was a less funny drag caricature of, I'm fairly sure, Makiko Tanaka). It had good premises for skits, insofar as we were able to deduce said premises; one skit appeared to center around a sumo stable for really scrawny sumo wrestlers. Also, the skits were usually no longer than they needed to be (the final one was only about ten seconds long).

    There was one extremely long skit, however, which seemed to be some sort of "Making the Band" type parody that only occasionally lapsed into actual parody. This appears to follow a ALDD tradition in which valiant attempts are made to parody genres immune to parody.

    : Sumana says it's time for an Australian to play James Bond. She nominates Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Crikey, Blofeld! You just pulled a gun on me! I'll have to wrestle you to the ground! "Mr. Bond, this is not how we fight!" Got you now, you little bugger! Now to radio in MI5 to finish the job!

    : If you were selling something made of felt, you could jazz it up by calling it "genuine Muppethide".

    : With the amazing turnaround of one who subscribes to the nonexistent NYCB RSS feed, Sean Neakums writes:

    I'm pretty sure George Lazenby was Australian.

    As Glenn Reynolds would say, he's right. However, the "No True Australian" fallacy may apply here; when was the last time you saw George Lazenby utter archaic Cockney colloquialisms and wrestle a twelve-foot croc? Apart from in Twin Sitters, I mean.

    : Regular readers know that I have an obsession with modifying nouns with themselves. It's less commonly known that I have a similar obsession with using output as input. It all started when I first learned about flip-flops. I thought... "Wait a minute! I could do this... to everything! Ah ha ha ha ha!

    If I were a package in Debian GNU/Linux, my package name would be:


    What's yours?

    I think this could be the next Babelfish.

    : Annoying things #3007: Java uses instanceOf, but Inform uses ofclass.

    : Born of game work, a correction to this old house entry:

    Data cannot 'erase itself'; when people say this they're referring to software which erases data. But software itself is nothing but a special type of data which is loaded and executed by a piece of hardware. So on a more fundamental level it's always the hardware that erases data. Indeed, with the right hardware (magnets or EMP bombs or whatever), you can erase data without using software at all, so it's incorrect to say that only software can erase data.

    This is even more tangentially related to my game than the original entry was tangentially related to DRM.

    : Novelty Song And XML Example: Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise (Novelty song, XML example)

    : CYA, or CYOA?

    : I had a dream last night involving a strange GUI feature. It was basically a bookmark feature for menu selections. There was a toolbar like the Mozilla toolbar, and to put an item on it you could check a checkbox on it that said "Bookmark my next menu selection", then make a menu selection. Instead of running whatever the menu selection was, it would create a button on the toolbar that looked like the menu selection (eg. if there was an indicator checkbox on the menu selection there would be one on the button as well; if the menu selection was greyed out the button would also be greyed out) and uncheck the original checkbox. Then you could access whatever the menu selection did by clicking on the button. It's merely an enabler for UI bloat, of course, but surprisingly coherent for something invented in a dream.

    I told Jason about the dream, expecting him to reply that Office had that feature, but he says that the closest analogue he knows of is the ability to, while browsing the Windows start menu, to copy a link from the start menu onto your desktop.

    : Words To Map Onto Words To Live By: First In A Series: if the IMDB featured review says "Not as bad as you'd think", it's probably still pretty bad.

    : Congratulations to the Mozilla team on their 1.0 release. I've been using Mozilla for a while and it's great; it really makes my life easier, which is all I ask of a web browser (also, it must retrieve and display web pages). Sometimes for very brief periods of time I think that I'm only a little older than Mozilla, and then I remember: that's not me, that's my weblog.

    : Bush To Protect North America By Painting Big-Ass Target On It

    : It's Kiss Me Kant, the new hit musical from the golden pen of Cole Porter that'll have you rolling meditatively in the aisles! Features the songs all of New York is humming, "Brush Up Your Refutation Of Material Idealism" and "Always True To You After The Categorical Imperative"!

    : Sumana's Obsession With The Chess Poem She Wrote. It's true what she says about my wanting to fulfil search requests, but I fear that if I begin doing so, people will start abusing my goodwill. I don't know why I have this fear, since I'm at perfect liberty to pick and choose which search requests to fulfil.

    Oh, that Edwin A. Abbott. His characters are so two-dimensional.

    : Disingenuous or Delusional? From the News.com review of Mozilla:

    A word of warning, though; this function doesn't discriminate, so it may disable pop-ups you actually want to see, such as the video pop-ups on the News.com front door.

    : I was sorely tempted to title that entry Disingenuous, Delusional, or Deity?, but the Trilemma really wasn't relevant.

    : Time for some old-school DSR:

    : Craig Newmark of Craig's List, plaintiff in the EFF's newly-filed lawsuit:

    "I want to give my nephews and nieces a break from the rampant consumerism on TV by using ReplayTV's commercial skipping feature."

    Hey, I've got an idea: how about not having them watch the damn TV? If you dislike rampant consumerism, the answer is not to purchase a specialized device for editing it out.

    : "Speaking at the World Pork Expo, Bush called for greater farm subsidies and construction of inland military bases in key districts."

    : From Adam's top-secret email:

    the permutations are endless!
    (actually there's only 3! of them)

    : Not to toot my own horn, but I said something funny today.

    : I put up two new songs (mp3 and ogg): Doob Doob, a silly a capella piece which has been around for a while (cf); and my new favorite song, which I just wrote, Attack Of The Good Ol' Boys From Planet Honky-Tonk (cf). Enjoy.

    : Kris, who sounds suspiciously like Jake in this message, writes:

    if i could play piano, i'd cover "good ol' boys from planet honky-tonk" in tom lehrer form. you had the whole lehrer delivery throughout. it needs the lehrer treatment. i demand the lehrer treatment.

    Jake warning signs:

    However, it was signed with Kris' eight-bit PGP key (we've learned from our mistakes), so it must be genuine.

    : I put up a page listing covers of my songs. If you haven't yet taken the Leonard Ego-Boosting Listening Tour, give it a whirl. Also let me point you to the 'Deliverables' mini-blog which I'll update whenever I add something new to Crummy (that's the idea, anyway).

    : Evidence of Strange Conservation Laws: 1, 2

    : Went to a party at Seth's last night. 'Twas fun. In keeping with tradition, I borrowed some Chesterton from Seth: this time, The Napoleon of Notting Hill. I also estimated that Seth's bookcases contain 1250 books. Only about 1000 more visits and I'll have borrowed and read every book of his that I haven't already read!

    Some friends of Seth drove me home and we came not terribly close, but fairly close to becoming the third car of an two-car pileup on the 280. I felt strange afterwards, as though the actual me had been in a car crash, possibly being killed, and that I was merely the hypothetical me riding in the car that evaded the crash. Of course, in actuality it was the other way around.

    : Today Sumana came over and we recorded "Frog/Antifrog". Available in Ogg and Antiogg.

    : At Seth's party we came up with a new EFF fundraising technique. If you donate enough to the EFF that they send you the EFF baseball cap with your membership kit, you could specify a 'paranoid' hat and the EFF would line your hat with tinfoil before sending it out.

    : I finished reading American Gods last night. I was thinking of how to rate it on my ending/rest-of-book system when I realized that it's not that I rate the ending separately; I rate each major twist separately. American Gods had a main-plot twist and a subplot twist. The subplot twist was seriously telegraphed, superfluous, and horror-y in a way that I don't like but that I accept I'll encounter if I pick up a Neil Gaiman book. The main-plot twist was not as telegraphed, original, and much more interesting. I was going to complain about various aspects of the book but the twist rendered them moot; I'm impressed! Gaiman set me up and knocked me down!

    The premise behind American Gods is a twist on an old favorite: it explores what happens to deities when humans stop worshipping them. Oddly enough, it seems to be an old favorite solely among British authors: the other two books on that topic I've read were by Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams (there's also a history book called God's Funeral, by a Brit, which touches upon it). The premise twist (as distinguished from the plot twists, mentioned earlier) was a good one. The characters were well-developed stereotypes, which makes sense.

    Conclusion: I liked it a lot, but I liked the middle most. Sumana tells me that Shweta really liked the end. I consider Shweta a better guide than myself to what parts of a book you will like because you, like Shweta, are a discerning reader who enjoys dramatic denouements, whereas I get sidetracked by little details that I think are cool.

    : Incredible looks-tacky-but-isn't APOD. Hope I get to see the eclipse and don't forget about it the way I forget about everything else.

    : From Brian: The UNIX Rosetta Stone.

    : Kevin: "I've noticed that the worse the economy gets, the more that porn spam tends toward the extremes."

    : Product Placement Search Requests: why mountain dew is now the talk of the teen circuit

    The "teen circuit"? The "teen circuit"??

    "I say, Topper, how are things on the old teen circuit, don't you know?"

    "Oh, simply smashing, Muffy, old sport. I say, you must try this 'Mountain Dew'. Absolutely top hole. Bertie discovered it whilst slumming in the Hamptons."

    Update: it's the headline of an old Wall Street Journal article, which just proves my point.

    : I saw the eclipse (which is to say, I saw the projection of the eclipse onto a piece of scratch paper). Go see it (if available in your area)!

    : Damage Control Not Going So Well: Caldera clarifies ''everybody-fired'' rumors

    : Interesting Places to Dine: On Sunday, Sumana and I had lunch at a diner in Millbrae called Peter's Cafe. I'd first eaten there recently, at the farewell lunch for Taska before she went on her leave of absence. The lunch was very good, so we decided to try their breakfast. We both had the veggie omelette, which wasn't too good. I also had some small pancakes on the side, which were good. The proprietor appears to be crazy, but not so crazy that it affects the menu. I recommend it for lunch, but not for breakfast.

    : Brendan was reading American Gods at about the same time I was. Coincidence... or coincidence?!

    : Spam: "Caution! Use of This Product Will Increase Productivity & Lower Legal Research Costs."

    Apparently you can prepend "Caution!" to any arbitrary sentence.

    : Caution! In the battle between mindless dreck and totalitarianism, back the dreck. The protagonists of Meteor Garden are also a Taiwanese boy band whose nonthreatening, shaggy-haired charm is giving the Chinese Communist Party fits. Good for them. The best quote:

    Some companies play a sly game, lobbying propaganda officials to ban competitors' shows for ideological reasons when the real reason is their popularity.

    (found on Brink Lindsey's weblog)

    : Oh, I forgot to mention that the other day I got a telemarketer call from CapitalOne. You know, the credit card company that runs those commercials in which people complain about telemarketers--the solution: CapitalOne! Apparently the telemarketers only stop once you buy their product. Or once you demand to be put on the no call list.

    : The new guy's not going to last very long.

    : Elise on Peter's:

    It seems that Leonard and Sumana aren't ordering the correct things at Peter's Cafe. Breakfast is a delightful meal there once you figure out that you must order either the Swedish pancakes, or the Apple Baby German pancake. And they are best eaten at 2 or 3 am.

    : What Is This 'Core Competency' Of Which You Speak?: From a spam (how'd you guess?):

    Printer Supplies
    Brand Name Perfumes

    "If it's particulate, we've got it!"

    : Science fiction writers David Brin, Greg Bear, and Gregory Benford are collectively known as the "killer Bs" (or so it was alleged on the inside back cover of one of those bizarre new Foundation trilogy novels). Well, A. Holloway and his friend A. Cairns are surely the "killer As". Now they're running NewsBruiser (Cairns, Holloway), and who knows where the carnage will end. NewsBruiser is a gateway drug, like a fine window cleaner.

    : Comparing and Replacing Strings:

    "This month we'll learn more ways to gain control over strings in your source document, as we see how to compare strings for equality and what kind of search-and-replace operations are possible in XSLT."

    But strings will never have equality so long as you can gain control over them!

    : Product Placement Search Results: Second In A Series I Never Anticipated Being A Series: oh yeah! ultimate aerosmith hits due to be released on june 25,2002

    : MoreSensationalistExaminer.com: "City Hall Gift Rift" from a few days ago should be "City Hall Grift Rift"

    : Funny new article coming this evening; stay tuned.

    : ACLU Congratulates People of North Dakota For Defending Their Privacy
    "We'll Be Congratulating Each Of You Personally," Vows ACLU Head

    : Am I crazy, or did the semantics of caps lock change? I used to think it changed the default case of letters you typed, such that if you had caps lock on and typed a letter with the shift key held down, it would be in lowercase. However, on my computer it makes all letters uppercase, regardless of modifiers. Since the name of the key says, pretty plainly, Caps Lock, I'm inclined to believe that it always worked that way and I never noticed. However, my num lock key behaves the opposite way, the way I thought caps lock worked: if you turn on num lock and hit shift-8, you get an up arrow key event. I can't speak for what scroll lock does when you use it in conjunction with the shift key, since the only thing I've ever used scroll lock for is to turn on running in the old DOS version of Rogue.

    I don't really want the old behavior back, since I don't make a habit of using caps lock. I just want to know whether I'm crazy, or, if not, whose idea it was to change the behavior.

    : Andre the Giant may have a posse, but Rachel Richardson has a weblog. Now every member of my immediate family has one.

    : You know the song that Frodo makes up in Lůrien to mourn Gandalf? It can be sung to the tune of the pre-chorus of Dar Williams' Are You Out There?.

    He stood upon the bridge alone
    and Fire and Shadow both defied;
    his staff was broken on the stone,
    in Khazad-dŻm his wis...dom...died!

    It's the self-filking song!

    : I'm amazed that (as far as I can tell) no one has done this before, but here it is. The first entry in my new series Doctor Virtual's Cyber-Couch, entitled Probing the New Collective Unconscious. In this episode, the good doctor brings his analytical skills to bear on a troubled patient indeed: the stream of search requests that constantly trickles into crummy.com.

    How do you reconcile some problems at home?

    "robots from hell"

    : The mysterious Tim May sounds off on caps lock. There's no standard at all, apparently.

    : Tonight's Episode: Murder Me Once, Shame On You; Murder Me Twice, Shame On Me.

    : Get it before it's gone: the wonderful nitpicking guest-authored Narbonic cartoon.

    This isn't even REAL de-evolution! You'd have to de-evolve BACK into a sarcopterygian and EVOLVE FORWARD into a lungfish!

    : Do yourself a favor and listen to Kris' awesome Pie Gnome, now in its first public release. He's also got a cool cover of a song I'd never heard before.

    : Weasel Words Ripped My Flesh:

    As the Cal baseball team may have learned this season, sometimes losses can lead to something good.

    (From The Daily Cal, via Sumana)

    : Like a dog with an old sock, A. Holloway presents Tonight's Episode: Interesting Places To Murder

    : A moment of silence, please for Slate's Scott Shuger, who died Saturday.

    : Seth: the one I have in my head is 'just too late and just no good', but I think any of them will work.

    : Before Consensus at Lawyerpoint, there was Consensus at Bikinipoint.

    : Also, behold Gertie the Dinosaur! (Poster)

    : The intersection of IMDB genres "football" and "hitler" has all the earmarks of being a fake entry.

    : I can no longer hold back. I must nitpick Star Wars: Episode II. The scope of my nitpicking will be limited to one point: "Resolved: that the members of the Senate in Star Wars: Episode II are really, really stupid."

    Observe this subplot among Episode II's subplots: the Republic, which has never had an army, nonetheless needs some way to coerce a separatist faction into not being so durn separatist anymore. Milquetoast condemnations have failed. Sanctions have failed. Even Sense-of-the-Senate resolutions have failed! Sen. Palpatine (I-Naboo), chairman of the Senate, is granted by his fellow senators emergency powers which give him authority to raise a clone army of about a million. This presumably will be sufficient to teach Greedo Reb a lesson.

    The argument against passing this resolution is the familiar creeping-fascism argument: the 'emergency' will become permanent, Palpatine will seize absolute power, the Republic will descend into Empire, and the clone army will be used as ineffective cannon fodder throughout the next four movies. This is, as we all know, exactly what happens. But what did you expect? It's a brainwashed clone army! You're going to breed people specifically for warfare and somehow demobilize them after the war? Perhaps I'm just old-fashioned, but to me "brainwashed clone army" has always meant "permanent standing army".

    The obvious alternative: there are ten thousand planets (my completely random guess) in the Republic. You could call up a hundred reservists from each planet and have a million-organism army, each member of which has a moisture farm to go back to after the war's over. Each planet would have to be politically capable of handling up to 100 body bags, and the logistics would be more difficult (each species would have to provide its own ships and equipment, and differing battle doctrines might hinder cross-species operations), but look on the bright side: you wouldn't all be crushed under the jackbooted heel of the Dark Lord Of The Sith! Isn't that worth considering?

    Also, an idle thought that occured to me. Wouldn't it be incredibly cool if, in Episode III, it turned out that Senator Palpatine wasn't Darth Sidious? I don't know how this could possibly happen, but I could probably think something up if George Lucas put me on the payroll. I'm not doin' your thinking for free, George.

    : Via Brendan, and also some weblog I don't remember which one: The Kraken Mumbles Something And Hits The Snooze Button.

    : Susanna sent me an email with the cute subject line hey! I'm an email! answer me!. I answered it.

    : If only registering your computer with the manufacturer were the same as registering it with a Spread group.

    : Nitpick of previous nitpick: is Palpatine from Naboo or from Corsucant? I never figured it out.

    Update: Scott writes:

    IIRC he was Senator for Naboo, that would suggest he was from Nabo originally.

    The Star Wars Databank concurs:


    >> Palpatine was the supreme ruler of the most powerful tyrannical
    >> regime the galaxy had ever witnessed, yet his roots are
    >> extremely humble, traced back to the peaceful world of Naboo.

    (which also sadly puts to rest your theory that Lucas might decide that Sidious != Palpatine).

    Actually it only proves that Sen. Palpatine == Emperor Palpatine, which I don't see any way around. But Darth Sidious could be someone completely different, who thought he was using Palpatine as a dupe... until Palpatine kicked his ass and took over! See how much more interesting that is?

    : Hey, it's good to be here. Did you know that the water in India is so bad ("How bad is it?"), so bad that they have a brand of mineral water called "Florida"? Don't go away--your headliner's coming up next!

    : Plausible Ken MacLeod Chapter Titles: First In A Series: The Peace Processor

    : Scott, who has no misgivings about doing George Lucas' thinking for free, rewrites Episode III in advance:

    Here's a theory...

    Jedi Master Sypher Dios(sp?) who we know from Ep2 ordered the clone army leaves the Jedi order (obvious discomfort from Yoda/Windu when claiming he "died") for practicing aspects of the dark side.

    Unbeknownst to the Jedi, Sypher Dios is also Darth Sidious, head of the Sith; who's just kicked off that whole trade federation kefaffle on Naboo.

    Much earlier, Sidious had a clone of himself made, that clone becomes Palpatine, in order to control the senate.

    The clone becomes more powerful than Sidious himself and kills him, taking his place as leader of the Sith (and of the Empire).

    This would give the series the interesting property that the three main villains would all have been born through asexual reproduction (Palpatine and Boba Fett through cloning, Anakin Skywalker through cheesy parthenogenesis). However, it's too much to hope for, as it would involve subtlety.

    : I used to think that those shipping containers that said "SEALAND" on them were bound for or somehow associated with Sealand, but I saw so many of them that this hypothesis soon became untenable. Sealand is actually the name of the company that makes the containers. Shipping containers are a great and very basic innovation, and if you're handy with the arc welder you can transform a couple of them into a house.

    : "The new extra-large soccer ball will ensure American dominance in future World Cups, promised Bush."

    : Apparently, each edition of Linux in the Enterprise must actually reuse the title of a Star Trek episode.

    : Tonight's Episode: Ninety-Nine Bottles Of Fear On The Wall. I may reinstate Tonight's Episode, at least temporarily, since Jason sent me a bunch of really good ones, including an epic fourteen-part series, the Ken Burns documentary of Tonight's Episode, entitled The Jury Did It.

    : Fry's Electronics sells electronics, but there should be a subsidiary company, Fry's Electrons, which sells the power that makes them run.

    : My mother has a Googlewhack (discovered via search results, rot13ed): zvahgvnr tebftenva

    : Catch of the Day: Today I'd like to tell you about the whale shark (rhincodon typus), the largest extant fish on Earth. It has a distinctive flat head which from the top looks like the head of the sperm whale. Like whales, it eats plankton and gives live birth (!), and is huge. In fact, the only thing keeping it from being a whale is that it's a shark. It lives in tropical waters, and is, if not friendly, at least indifferent to divers. Unfortunately, like many cool sharks, they are endangered.

    Whale shark links:

  • Elementary-school-level discussion of the whale shark
  • Awesome photos
  • One awesome photo
  • The "Whale Shark Trilogy", which is in Thai and I can't read it (though I can see the characters; thanks, Mozilla!)
  • Joe and the Whale Shark

  • : I can tell when Crummy comes back up after an absence by the re-opening of the spam floodgates that drench my crummy.com and segfault.org addresses.

    The Invisible Hand Buzzer: One thing I enjoy is exploring the neglected underbelly of mass production. Until the Internet came along I saw only the endpoint of the process, the ninety-nine-cent store or (for the more upscale items) dollar store which purchase wholesale the hopeful monsters of capitalism and try to sell them to you. But now the scales have been lifted from my eyes, and I can get a glimpse of the process by which cast-off merchandise gets from its warehouse on the edge of town to your local flea market. Some examples from Ioffer, a site I just discovered. The "Business and Commercial" section is the one I'm mainly interested in.

    I'm tempted to make inquiries and obtain insider information and wholesaler catalogs, but since I'm not an insider I fear the 'buy something or get out' vibe, and if it's in a catalog it seems too respectable, somehow, to be worth my time.

    PS: Both Ioffer and Ebay have a section called "Dolls and Bears". What, are stuffed bears not a type of doll? Also, "Dolls and Bears" would be an interesting title for a musical.

    : It's thrills and spills for the whole family when Danny O'Brien makes up Star Trek episodes corresponding to past editions of Linux in the Enterprise. Caution! It's funny.

    : Photo Wire Roundup:

    : Buzzword I just made up: Semantic Programming. Is it used? Yes, but not enough for someone to have registered the domain.

    : "C'mon, I Know It Was One Of You" Search Requests: who ordered the clone army

    : Got my hair cut yesterday. Feelin' aerodynamic.


    : Sumana pointed me to the ultimate alarmist Salon teaser, "But are they bowing to a false god?". It's great; you could use it as the alarmist teaser for any given Salon article. "President Bush says his new plan will create jobs and save the environment. But is he bowing to a false god?" "George Lucas says digital film will save moviemaking. But is he bowing to a false god?" "Each day, millions of Caananite-Americans offer burnt offerings to Baal. But are they bowing to a false god?" "If code is free, am I bowing to a false god?"

    : SourceCast 2: This time, it's internationalized! Once again (qv.), Infoworld basically copies our press release

    : A koan from rfk-dev:

    A robot and a kitten walk into a bar. The robot orders a plate of milk, the kitten a can of oil. At that moment, the robot was enlightened.

    : Went to see Sumana and Adam perform last night. Sumana was great! Her set was really polished and she got the best reception I've ever seen her get. Adam did battle with the sound system, as described on his weblog, and nonetheless sounded good. Among other things, Sumana does meta-stereotype humor which is very funny.

    : MoreSensationalistExaminer.com: Ara-spat should be Ara-splat.

    : In the manner of Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses, I'm inaugurating Conflations That Bother Me (which could be called the more succinct Disturbing Conflations, except they're not disturbing, just bothering of me, which would make the title itself contain a disturbing conflation, so no. But irony! I said no.)

    Today's conflation: "democratic" and "egalitarian"

    : Another moment of silence for my uncle Larry Richardson, who died this morning of a heart attack.

    : I'll probably be going to Bakersfield this weekend for the funeral.

    I'm going to sleep now, but for those wizards among you who stay up late, a my-heart's-not-really-in-it Photo Wire Roundup:

    : I learned a new yoga position yesterday, and realized that doing so is like finding a new transformation state for a Transformer, only you are the Transformer. Sumana suggests, "If you had a yoga weblog you could call it I Am A Transformer."

    : KQED was running (and probably still is running) little PSAs about Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Pride Month which make it look like "Pride" is a sexual orientation. "Dad, I can't hide this from you any more. I'm pride."

    : When The UNIX Philosophy Goes Too Far: Third In A Series:

    aardbei is a slightly modified photograph of a strawberry.

    : I've purchased about 10 CDs recently from various sources. My current favorite among my acquisitions is Juan Garcia Esquivel's Music From A Sparkling Planet. I thought I enjoyed Esquivel so much because it's like Jake Berendes without computers. Today I realized the other reason I enjoy Esquivel so much: every one of his songs reminds me of the Manahmanah song.

    : Rachel is in London!

    : Kevin has been turning me into a thermophile, and we've assembled on our shelves at work an array of exotic hot sauces for our burritos. Regular habenero sauce is great but I can't quite handle double hot habenero sauce. This implies that my Scoville tolerance is around 4000. Contrary to what is implied by irresponsible comparisons to the Richter scale, the Scoville scale is not a logarithmic scale but a linear one, measuring capsaicin in parts per million*15. I find capsaicin amazing; it's like a backdoor into your own endocrinological system!

    : "Wait a minute, this isn't right! Where am I?"

    : In FreeCiv I love to build cross-continental railroads that connect every one of my cities. However, I would be rapidly cured of this habit if these bizarre routes cost me huge amounts of money to maintain, the way Amtrak does.

    : Going to Bakersfield tomorrow and staying there for a week. My birthday party is apparently going to be huge: the Poulsons, among others, will be showing up (as will Ellina Poulson's amazing raspberry ganache chocolate cake).

    : Leonard the Monster, and his little sister Penny, who likes numbers.

    : A. Holloway sent me a link to some great Frog/Antifrog valentines he made. Assuming any of my readers are in grade school, which I doubt, you could print them out and give them instead of Scooby Doo valentines or Britney Spears valentines or whatever it is they give out nowadays.

    : From an eBook:

    Ice King loves his ice. In fact, he is only happy when alone with his ice palace, ice floors and even his ice throne. What he doesn't love is differences.

    Hah! Little does he realize that without the 'differences' he so despises, he'd be unable to keep his ice palace colder than the outside world! Take that, lousy Ice King!

    : Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, since it's a love story, could be called Smooch Smooch Hota Hai.

    OK, I'm off.

    : I'm in Bakersfield. My mother and I had lunch at a Mongolian BBQ place which turned out to actually be a Mandarin BBQ place (I had misread the sign in my glimpse of it during my previous trip to Bakersfield).

    Jake emerges from hiding to say that he's flattered by the Esquivel comparison, and to mention two DSRs he got: I hate myself T-shirt and how many girls from makeoutclub have you slept with

    : It took me a little while to remember that fireworks stands have always been like that.

    PS: While we were walking the dog, I saw a meteor.


    : Larry's Californian obituary:

    Graveside services will be held at South Kern Cemetery District/Arvin Cemetery on Tuesday, July 2 2002 at 10:30 a.m. for Larry Carlton Richardson, 47, of Bakersfield, CA, who passed away June 26, 2002.

    Larry was born in Santa Ana, CA. Larry resided in Orange County until the age of 10 when the Richardson family moved to the Wheeler Ridge area where they farmed. Upon graduating from Arvin High School in 1973 Larry went to work full-time for his father at the family's farm and packing shed. During his 29 plus years in the agricultural field Larry had been a packing house manager and was involved in Farmer's Markets in the greater Bakersfield area. Larry had a great love for his job and enjoyed working with his brothers and son. He looked forward to going to work and took great pride in everything he did.

    Larry was a loving person who made friends everywhere he went. Larry always had a smile on his face, a kind word to say and a story to tell. Larry loved life and everyone in his life. Larry enjoyed spending time at home, barbecuing for his family, feeding the birds in the backyard and spending time with his cats. Larry took joy in watching auto racing. He could often be found working on racecars and cheering on his son, Brian and nephew Eric, at Mesa Marin Raceway. During the holiday season Larry would delight his friends and family with his homemade candy. Every December Larry could be found making candy canes and sharing his love for making candy with many different people.

    Larry is survived by his loving wife, Kathleen Wennihan-Richardson of Bakersfield; parents, Dalton and Rosalie Richardson of Bakersfield; sons, Brian and wife, Tina Richardson of Bakersfield, Kevin Richardson of Bakersfield and Jeffrey Wennihan of Bakersfield; sister, Patricia and husband, Alan Dyer of Madera; brother, Don Richardson of Bakersfield; twin brother, Garry and wife, Joan Richardson; sister-in-law, Frances Whitney of Bakersfield; grandchildren, Sydney and Sam Richardson of Bakersfield; numerous nieces and nephews and other loving family members. Larry was preceded in death by his brother, Roy Richardson and sister-in-law, Helen Richardson.

    : I miss Sumana, but I'll be seeing her soon.

    I scanned and put up some pictures on the backup site, including a picture of Seth near the Golden Gate Bridge, the same, made into a greeting card, the famous picture of me and Seth with Danny O'Brien, and the picture of Sumana doing the solemn graduation dance.

    I got wedding presents for Adam and Kim, and presents for others as well.

    As you know, Seth, I have a four-foot demonstration slide rule which I will give to you or sell to you for less than $450. What you don't know is that my foot was also once run over by a car, although the car was just starting to move so there was not much momentum behind it. My mother had just dropped me off at band practice and started driving off before I was done getting my instrument out of the bed of the pickup, and so her rear tire ran over my right foot. Probably not as dramatic as the scene whereby your foot was run over.

    Spam: dBASE: better than ever23. Yes, and deader than ever, I'll warrant.

    Perhaps you thought that where spam was concerned there was no barrel, or that if there was a barrel it somehow had no bottom, or that if there was a bottom it had been treated to be scrape-resistant. I think this spam proves otherwise.

    Man or Butterfly? First In A Series: I dreamed that I ate some food which contained a powerful sedative. I began to drop off, my mind wandering, losing control of my muscles...

    I woke up.

    : Sumana has graduated, for real this time! A repeat performance of the dinosaur/elephant parade is scheduled.

    : A tardy note, also apropos Sumana (apropos this CES entry, actually). Stereotype humor is humor in which the punchline is basically the assertion of a stereotype ("People in group x have property y") in a novel way. For instance, the 'Those Cowardly French' stereotype:

    Q: How do you say "I surrender!" in French?
    A: You don't need to say anything in particular, you just speak French.

    Metastereotype humor is type of stereotype humor in which the stereotype being asserted is "People in group x hold stereotype y." The metastereotype humor I was thinking of in Sumana's act was a very funny bit in which Sumana's parents tell her that she needs to get a prestigious job because Indian-Americans stereotypically have such jobs (doctor, engineer, etc). Sumana counters by enumerating the various menial jobs that it is also stereotypical for Indian-Americans to have (7-11 clerk, taxi driver, etc.). Sumana's parents say "Oh, those are all Pakistanis." It's sterotype humor, but the stereotype being referenced ("Indians look down on Pakistanis") is that certain people have certain stereotypes.

    I think that Sumana bit is the only time I've heard metastereotype humor done well (there's a difference between metastereotype humor and regular stereotype humor done flagrantly so as to mock the genre, of which there are many good examples). I may have seen it done well a couple times in old Saturday Night Live skits, but that's just a general feeling of 'they must have done that' than anything concrete.

    Oh, there was a MAD article in the '70s called "You Can't Win With A Bigot" which was pretty funny, in addition to shining light on the last gasps of bigotry against groups for whom bigotry, as opposed to mere stereotyping, no longer works (eg. Italians). I'm not sure it counts, though, since the operative stereotype was "Bigots are bigoted", which is true by definition and therefore not much of a stereotype. It might just be flagrant stereotype humor with a tut-tut framing device.

    Have you seen good metastereotype humor? Send in your examples.

    : Sumana is here! She brought my new camera (thanks to Kevin for getting it from work and bringing it to her), which is large (for a digital camera) but sturdily built and padded, which gives me hope that my habit of dropping cameras on the floor will not ruin this camera as fast as it ruined my previous cameras.

    She and I went down to Arvin last night to see the fireworks show at the high school. Nice! The parking lot was full of people sitting on and near their cars watching the show for free, and we joined them. Some of those present put on their own, smaller, fireworks shows in the street during lulls in the actual show.

    : Spam: Rebuild your credit with gold. Yeah, gold's not valuable in and of itself, only as a means of rebuilding your credit.

    : A chap named Benjamin Molitor ported robotfindskitten to the Game Boy Advance. You ported robotfindskitten to the Game Boy Advance! Way to go, Benjamin Molitor! Press Start.

    : Spam: Are you still working for money? Oh, the shame! I had no idea it was so passé!

    : Off to Jake Berendized Calabasas for Adam's wedding. More later.

    : Calabasas had its revenge on me, in the form of a weird heatstroke/stomach flu thing which is only now starting to abate. "You only feel hungry now."


    They say in Harlan County, there are no neutrals there
    You'll either be a union man or a thug for J.H. Blair

    Either J.H. Blair is a union man (unlikely), he is a thug for himself (bizarre, counterintuitive), or he never enters Harlan County (bizarre but possible). Or the song should be rewritten like so:

    They say in Harlan County, there are no neutrals there
    You'll either be a union man, a thug for J.H. Blair, or J.H. Blair himself

    : Untaken Domain Names: First In A Series: sourforge.net

    : Untaken Domain Names: Second In A Series: datarage.net

    : It's probably the book of Andy Rooney essays I read recently, but I got to thinking: what if, like the copyright industry, I could simply have banned any application of technology that inconvenienced me? For instance, it would be illegal to use a database to store a mailing list for use in junk mailings. This would effectively prevent anyone's address from being stored in a database, ever, but who cares, if it stops junk mail? Not only should it be mandatory for spam to be labelled for easy filtering, the spammers should have to do the filtering on their side so I never get the spam. Also, it should be illegal to make telemarketing calls except on a special line to my house that the telemarketers have to chip in for. I can just not plug a phone into that line. But I might want to use that new line; I might even occasionally want to receive calls on it! So telemarketers should have to, when they call and you answer, put you into a voicemail system: "This is a telemarketing call. To be placed on the no call list, press 1. To listen to a recorded sales message, press 2. To be connected to a live telemarketer, please hold. Our call is important to you."

    Forget taping bricks to postage-paid postcards; this is the real stuff!

    : When I went on vacation I left a bag here containing two small limes. Now the limes are overripe and yellow, and resemble tiny lemons. I fear that I've glimpsed some horrifying truth about lemons (or possibly limes).

    : Feeding my "Muppet biology" obsession comes word that the South African-produced edition of Sesame Street is introducing an HIV-positive Muppet. I think this is a good idea, to the extent that "we need a character with x property" is ever a good idea, but I couldn't figure out how a Muppet could catch a human disease. Then I realized: she got it from her puppeteer.

    : From the latest EFFector email: Privacy Groups Demand Protection of Users' Privacy

    : I got a meta-postcard from Rachel. On the front of the postcard are many pictures of postcards of London attractions. Rachel is quite keen on my coming to visit her. Among her pitches: "You should get a job here so I could come see you all the time!" I'm not sure I want to get a job in England. Maybe I should just go see Rachel over Thanksgiving.

    I also got a great birthday card made by Susanna. It has a drawing of a dinosaur and one of a fish being confused by a fishing lure. "Happy being 23!", she says.

    : Raw materials for joke: consider the fruits of hybridization between the literary efforts of Joseph Conrad and those of Paul Conrad. "The horror! The horror! Of George W. Orwell's justice, that is!"

    : It wasn't a fish being confused by a fishing lure. It was a whale being confused by a bunch of bananas.

    : My stomach feels better, and diagnoses range from heatstroke to extremely selective food poisoning. I predict that a big scare in 10 years or so, spurred by alarmist pieces in Time and Readers Digest, will be "microterrorism": plausibly deniable acts of sabotage which merely annoy individuals or small groups of people. My ailment was ahead of its time; in the future I suspect it will be labelled microbioterrorism (an ambiguous set of modifiers; since it will be futurenow, perhaps it will be given an especially stupid newterm like 'narrowbodterror', where the whole thing is ambiguous).

    : Sumana called me to tell me she's been offered a job. Huzzah!

    : It seems like a long time ago, but it was only seven elements ago (Palladium, oddly enough) when Zack showed me the Periodic Table of Science Fiction. An ongoing project of Michael Swanwick to write a tiny science fiction story about each element on the periodic table, in ascending order of atomic weight. Sometimes it's a story, anyway. Vanadium is just a rant:

    There is so little to be said in vanadium's favor! It is a soft and ductile white metal. So what? Its boiling point is 3,450į Centigrade. Who cares? It has no desirable properties and, worse, no ambition to achieve any. There it is, and there it will stay. I've wasted more than enough time on it already. I wash my hands of it forever!

    The concept is cooler than the average story in the series, but could you do any better?

    This Is Not Spam As Its Fabulous Offers Are Tempered By Bizarre Restrictions Just, Like Real Business Opportunities:

    Could you use a Free Grant of $10,000 to $156,000
    but, not exceeding $5,000,000?

    : V-mail Kriswise! Totally blazzo!

    : I feel burnt out. I haven't been able to write a line of non-work-related code for a few weeks, not even the minimal changes needed to reinstate Tonight's Episode or get rid of the entries in my referer logs from that evil company that wants you to pay to salt other people's referer logs with your URL.

    For a while it was a chore to update NYCB, and I had to push myself to do at least one entry every day, but I think I broke that today.

    : Well, my computer died. Hopefully there is just some problem with the hard drive, which is partitioned in a very strange way that I don't remember doing. My mother is clamoring for a new(er) computer so I'm probably going to buy a new one, use it to fix this one, then install Windows on it and give it to her.

    : An economics joke:

    Q: What do you have when everyone is bored with regulating prices?
    A: Blasé-faire.

    : Spam: Incredible Tahitian Perls...Starting at $1.00!

    : Did you know it's possible to measure the temperature of a web page? Thermodynamicists have succeeded in locating the hottest spot on ibm.com!

    : I would have more interest in the movie The Bourne Identity if it were about a mathematician named Bourne who discovered an interesting identity property.

    : I thought of a morbid story idea for an Onion-alike satiricon: Ironic Death Rate Plummets:

    Much of the drop was due to new health and safety regulations. Fewer industrial workers than ever before were crushed in the gears of the machinery destined to replace them, and not a single chemical company CEO met a gruesome demise in a vat of his company's toxic product.

    : The Nethack bibliography (found via Zack) is cool, but it only covers the database; it doesn't have citations for all the quotes in the source code. Perhaps I'm exaggerating the number of quotes in the source code, but I remember there being a nontrivial number, mostly used to justify weird features involving vampires or whatever.

    : The obvious followup to this (so obvious it took me a whole day to realize it): Future-slang spam and Newspeak spam. *** DOUBLEPLUSLOW PRICES! ***

    : Last night I went to see They Might Be Giants, and had a great time. First we ('we' being a wide variety of people who know Zack) went to a Japanese restaurant (the same restaurant a different 'we' once went to with Pete Peterson II). Zack had an okonomiyaki, which I thought was the thing you got in Nethack instead of a pancake when playing a samurai, but this is not correct. I bring up the okonomiyaki because it had little shavings on top which waved around due to the okonomiyaki's body heat, making the whole thing look like a living slime mold.

    Then on to the concert, which was good. A local singer-songwriter named Noe Venable opened. She claimed to be a big TMBG fan. She was well-received and played five songs, three of which were really good.

    An unexplained break of about twenty minutes (is that normal?) and then TMBG came on. John Flansburgh was the excited rock-geek jumping around and yelling, and John Linnell was the dispassionate keyboard player scowling out the lyrics. They played many songs from a new album called No!, which I had, strangely, not heard of before. (But why is that surprising? My news sources include nothing that would mention new TMBG album releases. I didn't hear about Mink Car until I saw it in a store.)

    My feet are sore from standing. Two other complaints:

    : Kevin found a Googlewhack without knowing what one was: qhyyneqf cerpyhqvat

    : Funny phrase: ".NET antics." As in "I've had just about enough of you Microsoft kids and your .NET antics!"

    : From Sumana, a Salon teaser even more alarmist than But is he bowing to a false god?: But is he a false god?

    : Is it just me, or is it obvious to everyone that iPods are turning into PDAs that play music?

    : Rachel says she's jealous of me because I went to see TMBG. I am hip!

    : More Yoda spam: Free Money For You its

    : Yesterday I saw a headline along the lines of "19 million pounds of meat recalled after 19 fall ill". Of course they fell ill! They each ate a million pounds of meat!

    : Horrifying Visions of the Future: A Retrospective: In the future, people will put on plays written by our contemporaries, and they will change them in various ways to make them more relevant. For instance, Angels In America will take place on a Mars colony called "America" and instead of AIDS the characters will have the space plague. You can take this prediction to the bank because, unlike many things that annoy me about humanity, this feature of humanity will remain even if people enhance themselves not to be stupid.

    People of the future will also put on, as plays, screenplays like Fight Club and the scripts of television shows like Law And Order, and will make the same sort of changes to them. By then we will all be dead and buried, and those who undergo cryogenic freezing will never be unthawed for fear of the vengeance they would wreak should they find out about this.

    : It's well known that the powers of magic are enhanced by calling it "magick". Magic is based on the principle that words and rituals have power, and so a more complicated word for the principle gives you access to more power. If you can handle it, you can use mhagick or maghick. The most complex variety I know of that's even marginally safe to use is pmhaugshickque. You can put apostrophes in it if you're brave, but that turns it into scary Lovecraftian p'mh'augshi'ck'que, which Man Was Not Meant To Know.

    : Zack claims that you do get okonomiyaki instead of pancakes when you're a Nethack samurai. But how do you explain this? And also that the source code never mentions okonomiyaki? But then how do you explain how both Zack and I thought this was the case, even though I'd never heard of okonomiyaki before? The answer is clear: we have been abducted by sinister extraterrestrials from beyond Dimension X and forced to play Future Versions Of Nethack!

    [nb. from objnam.c, version 3.4.0; it's possible that okonomiyaki were present in an earlier version and removed, but to my knowledge this would be the first time a non-exploitable feature was ever removed from Nethack:]

    STATIC_OVL struct Jitem Japanese_items[] = {
            { SHORT_SWORD, "wakizashi" },
            { BROADSWORD, "ninja-to" },
            { FLAIL, "nunchaku" },
            { GLAIVE, "naginata" },
            { LOCK_PICK, "osaku" },
            { WOODEN_HARP, "koto" },
            { KNIFE, "shito" },
            { PLATE_MAIL, "tanko" },
            { HELMET, "kabuto" },
            { LEATHER_GLOVES, "yugake" },
            { FOOD_RATION, "gunyoki" },
            { POT_BOOZE, "sake" },
            {0, "" }

    : More multicultural Nethack: notes on keeping kosher in Nethack.

    : Hey, Kris, remember the joke event horizon?

    : Various computer parts are supposed to be wending their way towards me, as Peter Schickele says. The dot.com <-pathetic attempt at irony- bust seems to have killed off the cheapo Linux OEM ecosystem; PriceWatch used to have a whole section for inexpensive computers with Linux preinstalled, but now nothing. Feeling very strange, I tried lame Google searches like "linux" and "linux box", looking for text ads, but nothing there either. So I'll be building my next computer. This is actually sort of nice because it lets me reuse old parts that I don't care about (video card, sound card, network card) from my two old computers, and use the money thus saved to buy ridiculous amounts of RAM and hard drive space, which I do care about.

    : Today in the kitchen at work (someone had brought in a box) I saw the real-life equivalent of the Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs from Calvin and Hobbes: Cap'n Crunch Choco Donut cereal. It looks like chocolate Froot Loops with little nonpareils on the Froot Loops. And get this: it is marketed under the 'Oops!' sub-brand of the Cap'n Crunch brand, the line which previously consisted only of the randomly-produced 'Oops! All Berries!' cereal (which is the set difference of Cap'n Crunch Crunchberries and Cap'n Crunch and which resembles gastronomic Rokenbok).

    Now, the conceit of the 'Oops!' sub-brand is that through some horrible oversight of logistics Quaker produced too much of some cereal component, and is making the best of a bad situation by boxing it separately as a new cereal. But Choco Donuts are not an existing Cap'n Crunch cereal component! They're not even topographically equivalent to any existing Cap'n Crunch cereal component! This cereal piece is not a mistake; it has 'intended result of long series of deliberations and actions' written all over it! Putting this ceral under the "Oops!" sub-brand is nothing more than marketing Tourette's.

    As if to drive the point home that not even by the fiction of the Cap'n Crunch backstory is this an "Oops!", on the back of the box you see the Cap'n himself, taking you through a tour of his costly new production facility for making Choco Donut cereal pieces. If this cereal really was the result of an oversight, wouldn't the oversight have been discovered long before all this infrastructure was built around it? Does "Oops!" mean "Oops! The Cap'n Accidentally Invested Millions In The Design And Production Of A New Manufacturing Process For Shaped Cereal!"?

    Actually, judging from the awful design of the production line, maybe it's "Oops! Blasting Large Numbers Of Nonpareils Into The Air In Hopes That Some Of Them Will Stick To Something Is Very Messy And Wasteful!", or possibly "Oops! We Were Too Stupid To Realize That It Might Be More Efficient To Create Little Cereal Donut Simalcra At Their Actual Size Instead Of Creating One Huge Cereal Donut Simalcrum And Breaking It Up Into Smaller Simalcra With Some Sort Of Magic Beam!"

    I complain, but at least I vaguely understand what's going on; the "Oops!" line is turning into a line of extra-junky cereal which would be called "Select" or "Extra" or "Premium" if it were a line of stuff made for the benefit of adults. I don't understand what's going on here. Are people pathologically afraid of germs? Are our (and by "our" I mean "your") children turning into food isolationists? I don't know.

    : When Physical Objects Are Warezed, Only Warez D00ds Will Have Physical Objects: Or something. The latest in the DSR saga is "Franklin Planner " crack.

    : MoreSensationalistExaminer.com: Bad-guy backlog should be Bad-guy weblog. Now's your chance to one-up the Chronicle!

    : Mail from Kris in which he presents a theory for the origin of cereals so wacky, that if it's true then a similar theory must apply for the origin of wacky theories.

    : Microbusiness in action: feelies.org sells the little pieces of the game world that at traditionally accompany IF games, and can be instructed to sell them for your game.

    I've decided that "Micro-x" is the next meta-trend, as the Internet and related technologies make it easier to offload more logistics onto other people and thereby dabble in more things. "Meta-trend" is also the next meta-trend (there can be multiple simultaneous meta-trends because, well, it's meta).

    : I'm a happy rabbit, because my spacecraft components have come in. For some reason I have been thinking of the hard drives and RAM I ordered as spacecraft components; possibly because I had the same feeling towards them as you have towards spacecraft components during a game of FreeCiv; you order them and are excited and they can't come in fast enough (counterpoint).

    But I got to thinking that my new hard drives and RAM are probably better (in terms of raw power) than anything currently used in actual working spacecraft due to the long lag time involved in spacecraft design. So I decided that I should lead-shield my hard drives and RAM to protect them from radiation, incorporate them into a Gallileo-type spacecraft with a camera and radio transmitter, send it off into space, and reap the rewards (eg. pictures, and being the coolest person in the entire world).

    This pleasant fantasy lasted only a moment before I realized that 1) it would take me years just to learn everything I'd need to know to build and launch a spacecraft, that 2) though I can afford amazingly huge hard drives and chunks of RAM, the sum cost of the parts neccessary to create a spacecraft is well beyond my budget, that 3) sending out a Gallileo-type spacecraft would probably violate some stupid law or UN resolution or other, and that 4) I bought the hard drives and RAM as part of a project to bring my computer back to life, and not as part of a nascent space program. So I abandoned the project before I led the taxpayer (viz., myself) down a garden path.

    : Also, if I did launch a spacecraft, with my luck it wouldn't make it through the green.

    : Scary future-speak spam:

    To be from future mes please rep to this with the word

    I can'the promise thehathe if you follow theodayse

    : Adam speaks:

    Now I donno about text editors as herbal supplements, but can emacs do all the things mentioned here? I think not!

    : I'm back "on line", as the kids say. Thanks to my new hard drive (the fancy new RAM won't fit in my old motherboard, so no new RAM yet) and (finally) an installation CD that's less corrupt than a Calcutta phone line installer, I have computer again. And such unoccupied swaths of hard drive space! I'm a pioneer! I'm Pioneer 10!

    : Alert John Ashcroft! Subversion has gone into "alpha mode", as they call it.* And there's a logo contest, though they aren't running any of the banana logos that I liked (allegedly those were some kind of "joke").

    *May not actually be what they call it.

    : Search Results Unclear on the Concept: "nethack" "wand of wishing" download

    : Search Requests After My Own Heart: formmail.pl revenge

    : An IMDBwhack.

    : You know that KDE screensaver called "virtual machine" which manipulates letters and symbols on the screen in strange looping patterns? It's called kvm (download) and it's a depiction of a virtual machine in which randomly generated automata cavort and reproduce. The tarball contains a description of the virtual machine. My curiosity is satisfied now.

    : The battle rages on, with Want a better rate than Mr. Jones?

    We shall outspend Mr. Jones on the beaches; we shall consume more conspicuously on the landing grounds, we shall borrow at more favorable rates in the fields and in the streets, we shall deduct the interest in the hills; we shall never surrender!

    : Jason Robbins of Tonight's Episode fame gave a presentation at the O'Reilly conference on Source Access and Commercial Software (and "commercial" is used appropriately there, I think). It had a humorous component which used hypothetical source code from ancient Sumeria to point out that mere source code access is insufficient to reap the benefits of collaboration. He's going to put up a revised copy on tigris.org, but here is a preview.

    The guy on the panel from Microsoft's Shared Source initiative, against which (the initiative, not the guy) much of Jason's satire was directed, is also named Jason. Battle of the Jasons!

    : I'm fairly sure it was unintentional, but the Beetle Bailey strip mentioned herein made me realize just what a badass Sarge is. This is a guy who talks to his dog, who has a separate bed in his quarters for his dog, who dresses his dog in a little Army uniform, and not a peep about it out of his men. Not even behind his back. They don't dare, because he's such a badass.

    : Enjoy the Python Cookbook , including the Borg design pattern.

    : Hm...

    "Cephalopods have no gas-filled sac, so they have no way to make that type of noise," he said.


    "They made these strange noises like a dolphin or a seal as they were dying."

    : There's the Angband comic, previously mentioned here, and there's also a Nethack comic (well, one based on Nethack, anyhow). It's not as funny as the Angband comic, and it hasn't been updated for a couple months, but unlike the Angband comic it is actually text-based, and it has some funny moments:

    Waltraute wields a long sword! The long sword slips from her hands!
    @: Damn you fried food! First you ruin my girlish figure, then you make me helpless!

    : I wrote a labor-saving device I'd been meaning to write for a while, which breaks my long streak of not writing code except for work. Hopefully my burnout is subsiding, and soon I'll be interested in working on my game again.

    : DSC:

    : Leonardonics backlog clearing-out: X Sense... tingling!, Seth David Schoen, The original x, x brand y. Four more on the way.

    : In other long-neglected Crummy feature news: Tonight's Episode will return tomorrow morning, with Jason's 14-part series The Jury Did It.

    : Time for some Murphy-style "laws" which for some reason writing them makes me think it's the mid-90s and there's nothing better on the Web than lists of Murphy-style "laws".

    : Lame Onion editorial of the future: 10 paragraphs from someone wondering why a nice guy like Smithers (from The Simpsons) isn't married.

    : A double whammy for Jason, with The Jury Did It premiering here on crummy.com, and his Sumeria presentation now available from dig.tigris.org.

    : Interesting, obvious-in-retrospect vocabulary tidbit from Kevin: the singular of "qualia" is "quale".


    <kmaples> I remember I was working at tower before nevermind came out
    <kmaples> we (the buyers) got these pre-release packets for the album
    <kmaples> in there was the assurance 'note - nirvana is extremely accessible'

    : Leonard micromarketing (someone else use the micro-x construction or my trend prediction will fall apart! Mickey Kaus, call your office!): a member of the UCLA LUG, who probably came in after I graduated since I've never heard of him, made O'Reilly book covers for the members of the LUG. Nobody will find this interesting except me, but whose weblog is this? That's right, it's mine. Mine, I tell you!

    Of slightly more general interest, Dan Helfman drew some cartoons.

    It's also interesting to see what happened to the half-painted mural.

    : Generic food product name: Prepare 'n' Eat

    : Leonardonics spam: Are you the only one?

    : Beating The Salon Horse: What if Salon's announcements were written the same way as their news articles?

    Salon tries to wring money out of the faithful with Salon Premium. But will the Napster generation pay for secondhand reporting and warmed-over commentary?
    Salon's new blogging service will make sure no bobo voice goes unheard. But will the new content save the magazine... or overshadow it?
    Salon announces improved revenue in new quarterly results. But without the sneaky accounting tricks they deplore in others, the numbers tell a different story.

    I'm here all week! Tip your waitresses!


    Well, he's puffing a big ceegar, feeling mighty slick
    Cause he thinks he's got your union licked
    When he looks out the window and what does he see?
    Popcorn popping on the apricot tree

    : FHW: CollabNet turning Japanese, Korean.

    : Even by my jaded standards of spam irony, this is pretty funny:

    From: iHateSpam <greatoffers@[domain].com>
    Subject: Finally. Eliminate Annoying Spam!

    : Tux Paint, a cute piece of software from the prolific Bill Kendrick.

    : I wasn't actually expecting to find examples of Leonard's Law of Editorials, but here is one (secondhand), from this article about the school uniform debate. Well, about the school non-uniform debate. (link from Instapundit):

    The scheme will "weaken Islamic values and spread a culture of nudity," the Jomhuri-Eslami paper complained on Thursday.

    : Some of the descriptions of SpamAssassin tests are pretty funny.

    This reminds me to announce the second Crummy.com Spam Contest (the first one is over, but I haven't collated the results yet).

    The premise of the contest is that SpamAssassin has finally given us an objective (though imperfect) way of measuring the "spamminess" of any given email. The object of the contest is to recieve the single most spammy email (as adjucated by SpamAssassin). Forward your entries to spammy-spam-contest@crummy.com, and wait forever for me to decide the contest is over and judge the results.

    I don't use SA on my personal account yet, but we use it at work and there (for an account that gets little spam) I've seen spams with SA scores of 23, so I'd say about 25 is the bare minimum for getting excited enough about your spam to enter it. Honorable mention will be given to the spammiest email not to actually be spam or a discussion of spam.

    As always with Crummy.com Spam Contests, this is to be a passive competition, like a rubber ducky race. You may not write spam that scores high on the SpamAssassin scale just so you can use it in this contest, nor may you alter the SpamAssassin rules, or add new ones, to make a particular piece of email score higher. You could spread around your email address in order to get more spam, but that act carries with it its own punishment.

    : Another spam entry, highlighting the spam subgenre I call "The Spam Of Nations" because it posits a completely different set of economic laws from those that obtain in the real world (chain letter spam also falls into this category).

    Make Money Selling Overstocked Merchandise!

    : Weird, overheard in Cody's yesterday (paraphrased):

    "Do you have any newspapers in English from the Middle East?"
    "Well, I don't think we have any English newspapers from the Arab world. I know we carry Ha'aretz in English."
    "Oh... I was really looking for something from the Middle East."

    : Sumana read me a funny quote from Spin Cycle today. Let me set the scene. Then-President Clinton is about to go white-water rafting. The president's handlers are in a tizzy because of the associations this will bring up with the Whitewater scandal. Press secretary Mike McCurry feeds the president a snappy line to use.

    Inevitably, a reporter in a passing raft shouted at the president: "What do you think of Whitewater now?" Clinton flashed a thumbs-up. "It's better when you have a paddle," he said, reading from the McCurry script. The quote made the next day's New York Times.

    This paragraph gave me the Goon Show-like image of a reporter on a raft dogging Clinton throughout his presidency, always floating by at the crucial moment to shout out some pointed question. Probably the raft would be fixed with wheels so he could row it through a press conference. The Secret Service starts to worry. He's seen at the National Press Club, sipping a scotch and soda, entertaining a Post reporter in his raft. Eventually he's transferred to the foreign affairs desk and covers international crises from his raft. His tragic demise (not sure how; stray shell punctures raft?). Write up, sell film rights. $35K? Intimate political comedy, slight farce; doesn't have to be a blockbuster.

    : I spent the day cleaning my room. Since I was moving around all my furniture anyway, I decided to rearrange it. I'm now sitting about four feet from where I used to sit. I rotated my bed ninety degrees from its old position! Not even Fox would dare to air such extreme content, but I swear to you, my readers, that it is the truth.

    : What happens on The West Wing if Bartlet loses the coming presidential election to the Republican challenger, Gov. Ritchie? Does the show end? Do they bring in a new cast and become a show about the Ritchie administration? Does it become a show about the post-White House jobs of the various characters we already know, a la Saved By The Bell: The College Years? I go for the second option. Of course, we know that Bartlet won't actually lose (unless the show is going to end), which raises the Disturbing Question: how fair is this election, really?

    : You know that weblog that recreates Julius Ceasar's Gallic Wars in weblog form? Of course you do. Yesterday I thought it would be funny to do the Satyricon in weblog form. It would read like a whiny LiveJournal. After that set-up I should have a sample entry to set you rolling in the aisles, but... I don't. Sorry. Also, the dinner with Trimalchio is way too long to be represented by a weblog entry, and that's the funniest part, so I doubt it would work.

    In other classics news, I read Juvenal's Satires, a copy of which Sumana found me for cheap. Very funny. I kept thinking "I hope he writes some more of these soon," and then reeling as the horrible truth hit me. If this were the 18th or even the 19th century, you could title or subtitle a book "The New Satires" (like Mary Shelley's "The New Prometheus") and it would be an acceptable title or subtitle. People would accept that you were doing a sort of "the adventure continues" thing. But even those days are gone.

    : Cool hack: Zillions of games, a generic strategy engine and language for defining strategy games. Plays chess and its myriad variants, as well as whatever other puzzles and games people have thought up. Windows only, unfortunately, so I haven't tried it myself. The chess variants site is cool, though, and platform-independent.

    [Via Plurp and the aforelinked chess variants site, which I found a couple weeks ago via some weblog that I forget which one. The way this works (see previous example) is that I see something that's cool and forget about it, then I see it somewhere else and remember it and post an entry about it and have to quote the source that reminded me of it, as well as the (by now hopelessly forgotten) original source.]

    : Slightly scary Markov chain URL ticker: ClickoLinko (found through referer logs). I assume it monitors the #crackmonkey IRC channel. From it I was reminded of ThinkGeek, to which I would be particularly subsceptible to right now were it not for my tendency to lose interest in cool gadgets once I realize how much cooler they could be:

    "Hey, that is really cool!"

    "It'd be even cooler if the car was a tiny MEMS device."

    "Oh yeah."

    I think I got this disappointing yet money-saving internal voice from Dan.

    : About a week ago I went to a used bookstore and bought a bunch of used books. It appears someone had recently gone to that selfsame bookstore and offloaded their collection of novelizations of '80s games, because I found and purchased a Zork novelization, an Enchanter novelization (which I'm reading now), and a novelization of the RPG Paranoia, which I only know of from the multiple-choice text adventure based on it that was bundled with the Adventure Game Toolkit, and from the great phrase "First Church of Christ, Computer Scientist". The first two books would make good prizes for the IF competition (incidentally, I never received my prize for Guess the Verb!; oh well).

    Also at the used bookstore I got a bundle of Retief books. Great! (I've never seen Retief books except in used bookstores; they must all be out of print). More on these later; Google 'Retief' if you're curious.

    retief.com is taken but the owner isn't doing anything with it except trying to sell it to someone else (much like me with another cool science fiction domain name, except my motives are pure; I'm not doing anything at all with it. Eventually I'll host a software project there, once I come up with a suitable idea for a software project).

    : Doomed, geek-pandering movie title: Inode What You Did Last Summer

    : Funny Manoj commit message:

    This isn't windows. You don't shut down with "start"

    : Mozilla Icon or Elephant? First (And Last) In A Series

    False-Trillema name for this series: Picture, Pachyderm, or Providence?

    : Jakey B is back, and he presents a fiendish plan indeed for a joint Leonard/Jake venture to destroy the market for gross-out candy. My fear is that, like the art world with Duchamp's readymades, the market will merely assimilate our product and use it to accelerate its spiral into depravity.

    : They Said It Couldn't Be Done Search Requests: listening to metallica's songs using winzip

    : Single most audacious claim made ever by a spam: LOSE 80LBS IN A WEEK? The answer is no (unless you contract Ebola or something).

    : Jason Robbins, whose Tonight's Episodes are merely one tank in the armored divison that is his arsenal of heuristics for formalizing comedy, came up a while ago with the idea that in the next Austin Powers movie, there should be a "Micro-Me" character the size of an action figure. You see where this is going: a "Nano-Me" villan capable of being injected into Austin's bloodstream, a huge Mechagodzilla-like "Mega-Me" robot which Dr. Evil directs à la Dr. Wily, etc. Eventually it would fall apart and stop being funny with "Meta-Me".

    : As Groucho Marx did not say, "I won't belong to any struct that would have me as a member."

    : Muppets + Weezer = cross-promotional fun! (from Kevin)

    : The last of my spaceship components came in today, and are on the floor in a box. Soon I'll be shutting down this computer and performing the transplant.

    The other things that came in today are my copies of the Diesel Sweeties and explodingdog comic books. I'll report on them once I read them. They remind me that I've had the Footrot Flats comic book Joe sent me for YEARS and still haven't reviewed it. That will come too.

    : I'm back on the net, though not all the parts are moved into the new computer. This new bizarre motherboard has its own network card and sound card, but I don't trust 'em. I'm afraid that each contains a tiny privacy-invading modem, like in The Lone Gunmen. (Oh yeah, the motherboard also has its own modem.)

    : OK, everything's working except sound (dunno why). My CD writer even works, which hasn't been the case for a while.

    : Edsger Dijkstra, R.I.P

    : I forgot to mention two new additions to the NewsBruiser-running Weblog family, but I will do so now: Charles H. Baker has not one, not three, but two weblogs running NewsBruiser.

    : Cool toy: Construo is a little mechanics simulation that's like building soap bubbles out of Tinkertoys. Gravity, friction, brittleness, torque... it's got it all.

    : I added code to NewsBruiser to put in meta tags that force web crawlers like Google to index only one view of your weblog (you choose which one: the daily, monthly, yearly, or individual entry view). So if this has been bothering you, update your copy from CVS.

    : NewsBruiser bug reporters: please put it in Issuezilla. I filed A. Holloway's quoting bug, but that's the only one I remember.

    Update: the quoting bug is fixed.

    : I had a NewsBruiser-productive evening because I set up Apache and NewsBruiser on my box with a copy of the hosted weblog data, so as not to have to do everything through a slow SSH connection. Next: a local CVS repository.

    : Wow, CVS repository was a lot easier than I thought. I'm on a roll! A jelly roll! I set up a module for my new game, and I'm about to retroactively create repositories for Guess the Verb! and Degeneracy. I think I'm going to turn into that person who version-controls everything on his hard drive, and I don't mind at all. I knew I bought 240 gigabytes of hard drive space for a reason!

    : Other cool thing: WINE is set up on my machine to run DOS executables as UNIX executables, and so I can run Booze for DOS and the English-to-Huttese translator.

    : Am I so out of touch with the people that I find it strange that befuddled indifference is the attitude toward GPS of the populace at large? Or is it merely an impression conveyed by the author, so fascinated by GPS that anything less than obsession is seen as wanting? Of course, this is Australia we're talking about, so some national stereotype may come into play. (Joe? How do the Ozzies feel about GPS?)

    : Back from the dentist. I was worried about my teeth (this dentist visit was a referendum on my post-braces dental hygiene habits), but they're fine. It helps that I spend all night, every night* cleaning my teeth.

    * A slight exaggeration

    : Ruben Bolling shamelessly attempts to cash in on Tonight's Episode in "A Death Most Fatal".

    : Motto for Perl AI network agent of the future: "The friend you extend".

    : Among the most persistent spammers from whom I recieve spam is some organization that likes to put on parties at a club. It may be from the club itself. Their spams have two glaring flaws:

    : I think my life will become complete the day Salon uses the phrase "his rock 'n' roll jihad" in an article teaser.

    : Interested in assembling a survival kit? (always a good idea) You'll have to go to page 2 of the Google search results, because the first page is entirely composed of metaphorical "survival kits" containing only information, like the HTML Survival Kit and the Tax Season Survival Kit. However, here's a big list (known affectionately as "The Big List") of instructions for actual survival kits from various sources.

    : Sumana, watching an elaborate Twix commercial: "I remember when the appeal of Twix was just that you got two candy bars."

    : Possibly the two funniest Boxjam's Doodles ever: 1 2. I love the way the artist does storylines.

    : I fear that Seth has been kidnapped by DEF CON crax0rs, who are compelling him to put rootkits into the new BBCs. They can do this because they compelled him to answer a question truthfully and they asked him "Will you answer this question 'no' and refuse to stay with us to put rootkits into the new BBCs?"

    : Or maybe it's because he was writing a really long entry.

    : Tomorrow I may (may, mind you) work on RSS syndication for NewsBruiser. I'll probably start and then get frustrated because Python 1.5.6, which is the latest version of Python I feel comfortable developing an application for when I want the application to be used by people on computers they don't control, has no XML support (AFAIK).

    : In my sleep I came up with great algorithms for washing dishes and for minimizing the total cost (including shipping) of the parts of a computer each of whose parts could be ordered at different prices from different suppliers (which, now that I think about it, could be a general logistics algorithm; it's not computer-specific). I don't remember them, but part of the 'great' algorithm for washing dishes was:

    if (dish is wet):

    So I don't think they were actually great, only dream-great.

    : Through cargo cult data structure analysis (the flip side of cargo cult programming), I got NewsBruiser to write an RSS feed that looks like Danny O'Brien's. It even steals his content! No, just kidding.

    : Are there any RSS aggregators that actually work, or is it just a big scam to get hard-working programmers to waste time adding RSS support to their applications? I don't want to commit anything until I know it works, but I can't find anything that will look at my RSS file and tell me what it says.

    : Apparently there are two file formats called "RSS" which are barely similar. I don't want to hear about it. I'm adding support for the other file format now.

    : The ultimate velvet painting: Elvis in clown makeup crying over a little statue of Christ holding a puppy which is also in clown makeup.

    Update: nutella keeps piling it on.

    : Behold the RSS! What now?

    You can get this from CVS; if there aren't huge problems I'll release 1.2 tonight or tomorrow. Be warned that you have to change your configuration files around a bit.

    : NewsBruiser 1.2.0 is out! Now, to waste the rest of the day playing Nethack!

    : You know how Mac users are always bagging on* Windows users, saying "The Mac had feature x years ago [and is therefore superior to your puny operating system that just got it]!" Well, why shouldn't Unix users be able to do the same to Mac users? (link from Josh) There is no reason.

    * You can probably determine my age from the fact that I used that phrase.

    : Time for another in a series of Recipes You Can Bruise. While previous recipes in the series required me to type out in tedious detail all the ingredients and steps and what can you empty into what bowl, this ingeniously simple recipe is designed such that I only have to tell you the name and you can figure it out. It's more a bill of fare than a recipe, actually: Chili and Cornbread Stuffing. It's tasty.

    : That velvet painting is getting more and more crowded; Kevin tells me that it has to have Bob Marley in it too.

    : A one-sided market:

    Doc Searls: Where they need something in the infrastructure space, they'll roll their own if they have to, as they did with FireWire. But in other cases, like with BSD and with USB and Apache, they'll cherry-pick what they need. So it's a matter of carefully adopting and driving ubiquitous standards.

    It's also finally happening with Web services. Craig says they are finally starting to emerge now as a result of infrastructure anarchy. And what's smart is when companies cause anarchy in a market, like you're doing right now. I was sitting there in the audience at lunch thinking I was looking at what we used to call a corporate sex change. It's huge. It's total. You're saying some of the same things I was hearing from (from Linux vendors) several years ago, but from a much different perspective, because you have commercial success that most other companies have never enjoyed. And you're involved with this community internally. I know this from the emails I get from people involved in your company saying they're doing really cool stuff.

    Rob Glaser: Yup.

    Doc Searls: You haven't been able to talk about this stuff for a long time, but now you've created a structure where you can.

    Rob Glaser: Yup.


    Doc Searls: ... And this is how these two conceptual frameworks fit together here. This is where it's really critical. You have commercial where it's proprietary and closed, and you have infrastructure where it's open and public domain. And the smart companies know how to work both sides of this. In your case there's been this tectonic shift, and bang: this (the company's infrastructural stuff) is all exposed.

    Rob Glaser: Yup.

    Doc Searls: We can understand: "Oh: you're selling this (commercial stuff) and you're working with everybody else on either giving this (infrastructure stuff) away or co-developing it. And suddenly it all starts to make sense.

    Rob Glaser: Yup.

    : Harmless joke: A guy is transported to the near future and his guide is showing him around. He sees a sign on the side of a road: MAXIMUM SPEED 110.

    "Wow," he says to his guide, "you guys really raised the speed limit."

    "No," says the guide. "We just switched to metric."

    : Shudder to Tales of the Plush Cthulu!

    : At my command, Joe analyzes the lackadasiacal attitude of the man in the outback towards GPS.

    : NewsBruiser RSS in action! I'm still not sure what use this RSS thing is, but it looks nice. It probably just needs a killer app.

    : While driving home I saw a car that looked just like mine in the lane next to me, and I thought: What if that car and mine crashed? How would it be described? "An accident on southbound 280: two gold 2000 Saturns collided." People would think that the fabric of reality had momentarily become undone and split one car into two and the cars had crashed. This caused me to consider the same possibility I was having other people consider; what if that car was somehow my car from an alternate dimension? Then I thought: wait a minute... techno is the same cultural phenomenon as disco! We look upon the 70s and sadly shake our heads and think How could they not see?, but all the time we're blind to the fact that it's replaying as farce before our very eyes. Why don't they look?

    : People come up to me on the street and ask me "Leonard, what's the most useless dialog box in the world? It would have to be one of those 'tip of the day' boxes, right?" And I say "Yes, strange person coming up to me on the street for no real reason, you are correct." And then I point them to the world's most useless dialog box, which I found while trying to get a KDE RSS reader to work.

    : "Leonard Leonard Leonard! Wake up!"

    "Bah! I was having a dream about a friendly tortoise! What do you want?"

    It was Bob, my idea man. Always looking for the quick buck and the flashy sound bite. His Crummy.com Gasoline-Soaked Dollar Bill Giveaway had cost me millions in legal fees alone, and his plan to put advertising messages in my Java variable names had yet to recoup the cost of the banner ads. But he was working for me under a highly illegal indentured servitude scheme, which meant I couldn't fire him or he'd go to the feds.

    "This is going to be huge, so you'd better sit down. Oh, you're lying down. That's even better. Now, picture this. This is huge! You know the Jake Berendes West Covina franchise?"


    "What if it were a board game?"

    A board game?

    "Yeah! 'Out of maple syrup candy, go back two spaces.' You could play with Berendes Bucks instead of Monopoly money. Or even better, it could be one of those games that's exactly like Monopoly except for the names of the properties. That way we wouldn't have to come up with new rules!"

    "Bob, nobody plays board games anymore. Too much crap to get lost in the rug. It's all collectible card games now."

    "How about a collectible card game?"

    "There aren't enough distinct words in Jake Berendes West Covina to make a collectible card game. You'd have to get into implicit stuff like 'the cheap 35-millimeter camera the kid at the McDonalds bought with his money'.

    "You could write the next episode."

    The truth comes out. Bob was always trying to get me to write more Jake Berendes West Covina. It was the only thing of mine he knew how to sell. Perhaps waking me up at three in the morning was his way of catching me off my guard.

    "You know there is no next episode, Bob."

    "Okay, so how about this. You know that Weezer song American Gigolo?"


    "What if instead of 'my love walks right to your door', it went 'my love walks right through your door'? It would be about some Herman Munster-like guy who went crashing through doors."

    "Now you're talking!"

    : Can someone who knows about Windows help me? I'm trying to install Windows ME on the computer I'm making for my mother. Rather than take advantage of the incredible innovation that is the bootable CD, they saw fit to provide me with a bootable installation disk, which (of course) went bad as soon as I took it out of the wrapper, and won't boot. I can't copy the files onto another disk because it's like a Snickers bar with bad sectors as the peanuts. I can't find an installation disk image anywhere on the web, and I'm starting to suspect that Windows ME does not actually exist, but is merely an experiment by Microsoft to see if they can make payroll solely from sales of bad floppies and repurposed Windows 98 CDs that no one can use.

    There are various tutorials on the web about how to make a bootable Windows ME CD-ROM, but they assume you're using Windows already, which is insane. So if anyone has enough Windows knowledge to get me an installation disk that works, I'd be very grateful.

    : Pathetic Search Requests: hamburger university diploma fake

    : MoreSensationalistExaminer.com Double Issue! "Can this man save Market St.?" should be "Can this man; save Market St."

    Also, "Mariah too flashy for record label" should be "Mariah too fleshy for record label".

    : The Enchanter novelization is not very good. It's supposed to be a comedy, but it's a comedy the way '80s high school movies are comedies, in that it contains some jokes. It also contains tiresome Tolkien homages (I hope my Tolkien homages aren't tiresome; this book made me worry about that). It's not fair to judge an author based on a novelization, but the same author (Robin Bailey) wrote the Zork novelization I found, so I worry. Reading the book is like watching someone else solve a poorly written text adventure. [What did you expect? -ed. Watching someone else solve a well-written text adventure.] There were eight bosses in the book. The first one showed up at the very beginning of the book and six others showed up all at once near the very end, with the big bad guy bringing up the rear. Innovative, but confusing for the bulk of the book, because you're expecting one boss every couple chapters. Why not just have two, plus the big boss? (Answer: because the travelling pack of big bad guys is another Tolkien homage).

    However, there's a silver lining: while researching this entry I found a properly anal-retentive Chronology of Quendor.

    : Sentences no one could have predicted in 1990 (from this Bruce Schneier profile):

    A more complete explanation of public-key encryption will soon be available on The Atlantic's Web site, www.theatlantic.com.

    : A hilarious rant from David Hyatt, a Mozilla developer, similar to Netscape 4.8 to Feature More Bugs, Useless Crap*: it's How to Monetize(tm) your browser. Via (and viva) Aaron Swartz: The Weblog.

    *Yes, I know. I'll get around to it.

    : Also, the coolest name for a web browser ever (and up there in the ranks of cool names for pieces of software): The Off By One Web Browser.

    : Context: a lot of people starting companies choose their company names based on what domain names are available. Speculation: in the future, the names of new countries will be chosen with an eye to what top-level domains are available and which ones (eg. .tv, .me) can be easily sold to Westerners. After all, only about 430 of the 676 two-letter ISO country codes are still available, and All The Good Ones Are Taken.

    : Thinlet is Torque for GUIs! It's Glade for Java! It's Die Hard meets The Country Bears! I found it from ThinRSS, a Java WebStart RSS reader, which (surprise) I can't get to work (because I can't get Java WebStart to work).

    : New from Leonard Nimoy: I Changed My Mind, I'm No Longer Spock

    : Joe Barr: Still Cranky

    What annoyed me most about the Red Hat installation was reading not one, but three tales explaining how Red Hat came by its name. Did it result from Marc Ewing always wearing a red cap during his college days, or from an affinity he had for his grandfather's red lacrosse hat? On the other hand, is it because of what red has symbolized throughout history? Not that I really care, but it bugs me that Red Hat can't stick with one fable, or lacks the cleverness to poke fun at its myriad tales.

    : My belt broke today while I was buckling it. The buckle tore off. This is the fourth day I've had the belt and probably the tenth time I've buckled it.

    I know what you're thinking: "What a crappy belt!"

    You are correct.

    : The Jury Did It is done, but Tonight's Episode continues, and today's Tonight's Episode is one of my favorites.


    "It's silly, but I'll sign anyway," she said.

    Yeah, that's Berkeley.

    : One of the cool things about Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt is it's like a better-written version of the stories I make up for my civilizations in FreeCiv.

    : Phrase I just thought up (political or science-popularization book title?): The Rational Hoedown

    : Photo wire roundup: (Is there a photo wire whose photos don't go bad after a month?)

    Bonus: Mike Popovic sent in a new cute animal mascot.

    : Cute political-animal mascot: Todd Fahrner's newborn son Carl.

    : If I Make My Query Look Like The Semantic Web, The Semantic Web Will Exist! Search Requests:


    : If First Monday had a sub-magazine on copyright issues, that sub-magazine could be called First Sale.

    : I greatly improved the <title>s of NewsBruiser CGIs (examples: single-entry view, multi-entry view, search results). Pretty cool, but not, I think, cool enough to do a new release for. Get it from CVS if you must have it.

    Incidentally, I think this is the first self-referential NewsBruiser entry ever posted (I could be wrong).

    : Mencken once wrote "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." Kevin and I were sorely tempted yesterday, when a long freighter slid across the bay in view of our windows. There was talk of heading out on a schooner with cutlasses between our teeth, boarding the vessel and seizing its precious cargo of shipping containers. This plan was rendered unfeasible by the fact that our cutlasses would be useless against the guns no doubt on board, not to mention the fact that our conquered vessel would be cornered in the bay, easy pickings for the US Navy. We considered various alternate plans, including:

    Frustration grew. How could we gain the thril of cutthroat piracy without undergoing any actual risk? That's when inspiration struck, and a business model was born. Instead of becoming pirates ourselves, we are leveraging our experience with collaborative software and becoming pirate consultants, developing enterprise class solutions for collaborative piracy. Our new company, walktheplank.net, will help pirates work together to pillage more effectively, and reduce time-to-loot.

    How can Kevin and I be so cavalier about piracy, a vile crime and a scourge upon international trade? As always, I blame society. The culture in which I was raised referred to "piracy" as a relatively innocuous crime, something you committed by making a backup copy of a Lode Runner disk. How could I but equate the storming of ships and the seizing of cargo with such actions? Perhaps the next generation can be saved, but the experience has rendered me completely amoral.

    : Funny random bits: The supervillain who says "permanently" when he means "for now" and vice versa:

    "So, they've escaped... permanently."
    "I want them eliminated... for now."

    Also, the movie trailer in which the gruff-voiced male trailer narrator and the full-of-wonderment female trailer narrator argue over whether the movie takes place in a "world" or in a "land".

    "In a world..."
    "In a land..."
    "In a world..."
    "In a land..."
    "In a world!"
    "In a land..."
    "World, you cow!"
    "Land, you brute..."

    : A ringing endorsement from Crypto-GRAM:

    The best technical description [of Palladium] is the summary of a meeting with Microsoft engineers by Seth Schoen of the EFF.

    Contrary to popular belief, this entry is not just an excuse to point out that I too have had something I wrote mentioned in Crypto-GRAM. It's also an excuse to quote this step from Schneier's PGP attack:

    4. Eve somehow convinces Bob to send her the gibberish plaintext.

    Eve is a freaking criminal mastermind.

    : "The semidecidable we decide right away. The undecidable takes a little longer."

    : I just beat Manoj pretty badly at FreeCiv. Neither of us had played against anything but AIs for a long time, {so, and} it was a lot of fun. He bribed one of my units with a diplomat and I was overjoyed at the supra-AI level of cunning required to do so. Nonetheless, I beat him, because he only built two cities (I initially backed off to give him space to expand, but he had to go get dinner so we had a big battle which I won).

    I'm really bored with the FreeCiv AI; if I survive to develop gunpowder I'm pretty much guaranteed to win, so I usually lose interest around that point. Manoj and I are going to play again at some point; does anyone else want to play (with me or with the both of us)? As previously mentioned, I don't really like playing games with people I don't know, but anyone who reads NYCB could probably gain admittance into that elusive category by dropping me a line. Despite my triumph over Manoj, I'm probably easy pickings for a FreeCiv expert, because my playing style is attuned to the foolish isolationism of the AI.

    I'm starting to think that the results of unit conflicts in FreeCiv should be reported as though you were hearing about them in your regime's propaganda broadcasts, eg. "Your heroic musketeers were killed defending themselves against an unprovoked attack from Manoj's explorer."

    : Wow, I just innovated! (The innovation is the slightly weird thing you haven't seen before, not the big noticable thing that I took from other pieces of software).

    : The innovation is now in CVS. The baseline functionality is a calendar: you can see a year calendar or a single month's calendar (also look at the bottom of the home page), with linked days. The innovation is a graphical representation of how busy a particular day was for a notebook. Pixels are allotted to the little blue box proportionally to how many entries were posted on that day. I keep trying to explain it in more detail, but I effectively keep typing that sentence over and over again, so that must be all there is to it. I had to do this with a one-pixel graphic because my attempts at doing it in CSS failed miserably. (CSS experts, help!)

    While getting the calendar to work I discovered some remarkable new ways of presenting a calendar's user interface. It's time to think outside the box and provide clients with distinctive, sticky calendars which keep users on the high-revenue months. The second one is sort of Star Trek-ey; it embodies the 'all whitespace is vertical' philosophy of information design prevalent in TNG.

    I really need to sleep now, so good night.

    : Religious spam (not really): Has He Contacted You Yet

    : After a sizable disaster that wiped out the copy of Python on this machine, the pre-1.3 NewsBruiser is running on this site. I'm going to revamp the index.cgi (which I've decided is a generic showcase for all the NB functionality) and then release 1.3.

    : Stop the presses! And then upgrade them! NewsBruiser 1.3 is out! Get it here and enjoy all the nifty stuff I wrote yesterday and today! (like the revamped index.cgi).

    : Datum the first: the final ten danzas of Jake's Birthday Party are missing from the online recording (because I ran out of tape and had to finish it on the other side).

    Datum the second: no one has ever mentioned this to me.

    : The Squares Close In: McNealy: Livin' la vida Linux

    McNealy said he is ready to live the "Linux lifestyle," even if it means following a feisty crowd.

    : Is there a thing like the USGS earthquake map, only for meteor impacts? That would be pretty cool (but unlikely).

    Sumana and I are heading down to Monterey for our whale watch. Hurrah!

    : Back from the whale watch. I saw several blue whales, a few humpback whales (including a spectacular humpback breach!), a lot of Risso's dolphins, an awesome mola mola (aka sunfish, but "mola mola" sounds cooler), which I didn't realize before how interesting (and large!) they were, some jellyfish, some obnoxious sea lions, and a fur seal. I took a lot of pictures, which I'm afraid are of one second after the cool thing happened (the humpback breach, the dolphins swimming under the boat), but I'll find out once I finally get my camera working with this computer.

    : Ideas For Robotfindskittenlike Games: First In A Series: kittenisfoundbyrobot. This one's not very exciting.

    : An incredible article (found via HTP) about using automatic statistical analysis of text to filter out spam. It sounds like it works, and, unlike SpamAssassin, it works (over the long term) even when the spammer knows the algorithm and the initial data set.

    Norbert Wiener [sic] said if you compete with slaves you become a slave, and there is something similarly degrading about competing with spammers.

    The author also notes the heuristic for Bayesian rating of countries, whereby the number of buzzwords in front of a country's name is inversely related to how much you would want to be a citizen of that country.

    : Michael Stack is back from Switzerland, where he was an observer at the UN Commission For Photocopying The Reports Produced By other UN Commissions. Not really, but I know photocopying was involved somehow.

    Update: stack says:

    Human Rights commission. The g/f did representation for an NGO. I was chief photocopier for our delegation.

    : On Chinese TV last night there was a fairly funny show called "Jacky Go Go Go". Sandwiched between juvenile short skits about the eponymous Jacky being in the hospital was an extended game Jacky and some acquaintances played in which they were divided into two teams of two, and each team had to run around some Taiwanese metropolis (Taipei?), finding and eating various foodstuffs. Hilarity ensued, apparently. An interesting fact is that one member of one of the teams looked rather like Joe Mahoney (his hair was even dyed the same color). Also, the show had a cool videogame-like animation that was used to reintroduce the show when coming back from commercials.

    Extrapolated sample dialogue: the Joe Mahoney-looking guy and his friend have stumbled into a Hooters bar (!), looking for fried potato skins or some such.

    Joe Mahoney-looking guy: I think this is a topless bar.
    Other guy: Oh, I see. [begins to take his shirt off].

    I suspect it's a lot funnier when you don't know the language, because you think of the sort of joke you would set to the action on the screen, which is quite often funnier than the actual joke. This happened to me with having watched "Dude, Where's My Car?" in Russian; the things I thought were brilliant sight gags (like the fridge and cupboard full of pudding cups) were given dumb bad-comedy explanations in the dialogue.

    : What if evolution were such that adaptive traits could only take hold in a population with the help of an advertising campaign? I'm envisioning an ad for sexual reproduction:

    "You got your gametes in my gametes!"
    "Hey! you got your gametes in my gametes!"
    "Wait a minute... it's a genetically different organism!

    : I fixed a bug in indexer, and the fix will be included in the next release.

    Reindexing after an add or an edit is too slow for me. I'm thinking of saving up reindexing tasks and taking care of them immediately before the next search. That will amortize the cost of writing the index to disk, and, more importantly, shift the wait onto people who do searches, like you, and away from the people who write entries, like me. (It's not a big wait, about 1 second. But I'd rather make a searcher wait 1 second sometimes than wait 1 second myself all the time). Adding an entry already takes long enough to do the weblogs.com ping.

    : Late night FreeCiv game with Manoj and the two Andrews. We saved and went our separate ways around 2 AM, after a few years of everyone declaring war on me and trying to whittle down my massive empire of mail-order shoe stores and fusion cuisine restaurants. The carnage will resume later this week.

    Another great thing about playing FreeCiv with humans is that you can give your cities silly names and not be the only one who appreciates them. I marked my triumphs over enemy cities by renaming them to the names of fusion cuisine restaurants like "Big Ken's Sushi Burrito Hut".

    Speaking of silly names, today's entries will be reverse liponymic in "mola mola". I did not name a FreeCiv city Mola Mola, but I should have.

    : Ideas For Robotfindskittenlike Games: Second In A Series If You Start Counting From Zero And Count This Entry, Or If You Don't And Start Counting From One: Response has been whelming for this idea. Pete Peterson II offers robotfoundkitten, "not so much a game as it is an 80x25 flat text file of a # next to a ? in the middle of the screen." A. Cairns suggests robotfindskittens, in which "robot doesn't know how many kittens there are and has to bump into everything on the screen." There's also the tragic prequel, robotloseskitten.

    While good ideas (keep sending them in!), all of these require costly development effort and changes to the game mechanics, which would need to be focus-grouped at enormous expense. The easy money lies in simply rebranding the existing game with superficial changes that don't really change anything. For instance, robotfindskitten: special edition would have gold-plated non-kitten-items and be suitable for display on a coffee-table (well, those coffee table video game consoles, anyway). The personalized edition, code-named robotfindsyou, will give you the thrill of actually being found by robot! (Note: for purposes of the game, you will be a kitten). And we can use PayPal to support the pay-per-kitten model of robotfindskitten premium.

    We should also go the Super Mario Bros. route and have various 'themed' robotfindskitten levels, such as the 'jungle' level (robotfindsmonkey) and the 'water' level (robotfindsmolamola). And on a very special episode, it's robotfindsrobot.

    : The real-life "friend you extend" is most likely dumont, the IRC infobot for the #tron IRC channel (incorrectly labeled in this entry as the #Crackmonkey IRC channel). Those in the know (Pete Peterson II) say dumont is male, but I always think dumont is female. In fact, I always think dumont is Margaret Dumont, and expect to see things like the following on the occasions when I pay #tron a visit:

    <dumont> CAP-tain SPAUL-ding!

    The conceit of an IRC infobot is that it hangs out on an IRC channel as a user, dispensing definitions of terms and engaging in limited social interaction with the human users. Dumont knows nearly 100,000 facts, including such old standbys as the entire Jargon File[0] and airport and area codes. She He also contains various handy features such as the ability to do Google searches and domain lookups, not to mention clickolinko the automatic weblog. Dumont was written by Walter M. Gibbs.

    Random example of dumont interaction (thanks, Pete):

    <pedro> mola mola?
    <Dumont> mola mola is The Mola mola (ocean sunfish) is the world's largest known bony fish. At least one estimate over 3000 lb. has been recorded and fish reaching 3m from fin tip to fin tip have been seen. It is found in all oceans in tropical and temperate climes. It eats jellyfish and small fishes and algae. In the eastern Pacific, Mola mola is normally found from B.C. to South America, although in El Nino events it has been recorded as far north as Alaska.

    [0] I used "entire" there to make it sound more impressive, but there's really nothing that interesting about loading an ASCII file into a computer program; the interest lies entirely in which file you choose. The metaphor is taken from reference to human memory, where memorizing the entire Jargon File would be an actual feat. I don't really know where this footnote is going, so... aaah! It's fallen off the edge of the Internet!

    : Papa's got a brand new bag, but Leonard's got a brand new T-shirt. It's courtesy of our new hosted site, Helix Community, which you may have heard of (you may have also heard of the similarly-named but entirely unrelated Helix Code). It has a little green DNA helix to the right of the logo which on inspection appears to be the DNA of some sea creature, possibly a mola mola. It is the second, I think, in the line of T-shirt editions of our hosted sites that I posess (the other being OpenOffice.org).

    : Excellent picture of a mola mola at mola.org, the site that asks, "Why would you look any further? This site has an excellent picture of the Mola."

    : Sumana: the Paul Conrad cartoon is a reference to a joke in which a guy quits his job to join the circus. When the circus next comes to town, his friend comes to see him, but it turns out he's not a clown or a tightrope walker or anything; he's the guy who cleans up the elephant crap. His friend says "Why don't you quit this awful job and come back to your real job?" He says, "What, and quit show business?"

    Even though I get the joke, that's not enough when dealing with Conrad, and I have no clue what the cartoon means. That Bush is stuck cleaning up the messes of an indifferent GOP? It makes no sense (bah-dah!). There are two elephants; is that significant, or did Conrad realize that he could depict two elephants but only have to draw one and part of another one?

    All told, wouldn't you rather get your scatalogical humor from the world-famous Love Lab? They have a picture of a mola mola defecating.

    : News flash! Mola mola sighted in Walla Walla!

    : After various tribulations I've finally gotten hold of the pictures that were on my camera. This includes pictures from Adam's wedding as well as the whale watch. The whale watch pictures turned out okay; there are two cool pictures of dolphins swimming near the boat, and several pictures with visible whale (including at least one whale fluke picture), but I couldn't even tell which picture was supposed to be of the humpack breach, and of course I totally botched my chance to get an awesome picture of the basking mola mola (I had the perfect opportunity, but my camera was set to 'review' mode instead of to 'take pictures' mode).

    : Disturbing Search Requests:

    Remember, if you've enjoyed this edition of Disturbing Search Requests, please support our sponsors by clicking on the banner ad below. Without the puny ad revenues thus received, we would have no incentive to bother trawling through a new day's search requests.

    Ad: MolaMolaWorld.com: More Mola For Your Moolah


    Fisherman, spare that mola mola!
    Touch not its snout or dorsal!
    Instead, try some granola
    Or other tasty morsel.

    : That was pretty weird. However, I think it reduced my sunfish obsession to managable levels. I feel off-balance, as though I just stepped off a roller coaster: you mean I don't have to work sunfish into every weblog entry? But what about the Mentioning Sunfish All The Damn Time Homeland Security Act of 2002?

    Note: for maximum madness, please read MM Day in chronological order.

    : Cory, Cory, Cory. Not wearing your anti-idiot goggles is part of being a journalist! (A contributing factor, no doubt, to Danny's distaste for the profession.)

    : More tiresome homages in the Enchanter novelization: Indiana Jones, The Empire Strikes Back, Puff the Magic Dragon. Now, an homage can be funny, but it is not automatically funny simply because it references something else. There needs to be some irony; some mismatch of dramatic scale; to scrape the bottom of the funny barrel, at least some self-awareness. Having your characters reenact scenes from popular movies is not intrinsically funny, and absent mitigating circumstances it is actually anti-funny.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that the Enchanter novelization is aimed at young adults, but it doesn't say "Young Adults" anywhere, and anyway it's got too much profanity. The fact remains, however, that it's a fantasy novel and a novelization of a computer game, which means I'm attacking a target that's effectively all soft underbelly. I can only conclude that this is my day of being cranky about writing-related topics.

    : Robotfindskittenlike Games: Third In A Series: Jon Katz wishes he got this much mail, and he also wishes it were all about robotfindskitten variants. Kevan Davis suggests "an appropriately meta-zen game: robotfindsself. Adam Parrish has a similar idea: "After years of fruitless searching, robot engages in intense introspection only to find that robotiskitten." (Adam also suggests a robotfindskitten MMORPG)

    Jeremy Penner, of never-heard-of-him-before fame, has a variety of suggestions:

    How about robotfindsnothing, in which there is no kitten nor non-kitten items, and when you bump into empty space, you win?

    Or robotfindskitten, Junior Edition, in which there are no non-kitten items, just robot and kitten. Studies have shown that young minds have difficulty handling the frustrating challenge of a full-blown game of rfk, frequently giving up before they actually manage to find kitten. This way, the difficulty level for the game would be better suited to the youngsters.

    Or perhaps kittenfindsselfwithrobot, wherein you are kitten, you are unable to move, but you have a remote control with which you can control robot to come find you! This would obviously work well with your "superficial changes" initiative.

    And if easy money's what you're after, the best way to go is with licensing! For instance, "Dude, Where's My Kitten?", in which the NKI descriptions are replaced by bad jokes from the hit film.

    And Brendan Adkins provides a variety of bad puns, including:

    Keep your easily distracted charge away from the muggers and pickpockets in the zoo with robotmindskitten!

    For the hearing impaired: robotsignskitten! (Could also be an autograph simulation.)

    The tragic sequel to Equus: robotblindskitten!

    In the darker Clive Barker version, where DOES that delicious sausage come from? It's robotgrindskitten!

    : Kevin: "Whenever I get spam about meeting sexy singles, I picture scantily clad slices of processed cheese."

    : Red Rock Eater Digest: The Movie!

    They opposed judicial activism and budget deficits ... until they took power!

    : If you live in or around San Francisco, take note: My co-worker Mark Welch has completed a feedback-incorporating bullhorn called an Obnoxicator (very professional-looking; you plug in guitar effects pedals to provide the noise) and is about to go outside the office to test it out. This explains the horrible noise you are about to be subjected to. But Mark means no harm; in fact, in accordance with international treaties he has pledged to unleash the full power of its devestating sonic crush only against known Burning Man participants.

    Update: I can hear it pretty clearly from six floors up. It sounds a lot like FEEDBACK FEEDBACK FEEDBACK!

    : Newspeak stoners: "Dude, I was doublepluswasted."

    : Caution! Danger - Frequently Asked Questions!

    Q. Who are Danger's competitors?

    A. Murder.

    (Not really.)

    : Jeremy Penner, of a-few-entries-ago fame, has perpetrated upon the world a Commodore 64 port of robotfindskitten (screenshot).

    People on the RFK list are talking about compressing the NKIs down to a size that can be used by extremely low-memory devices like the Atari 2600 (and for things like the 1K game contest that I can't find the link for even though I searched Google and BoingBoing). Turns out it won't compress to less than about 6K. I've suggested replacing the NKIs with smaller NKIs that are just nouns or noun phrases ("rope", "disaster", "skateboard", "big door"), like the takeable objects in Scott Adams adventures. So far I've gotten no feedback on that idea. I hope people don't think the original NKI list is inviolate or anything. Even Java doesn't have the same (metaphorical) NKIs on embedded platforms; it's a different world.

    : Last night on the Chinese station there was a commercial where Chinese characters appeared on the screen in conjunction with a typewriter sound. I thought this was hilarious. But are there typewriters like that? Then it wouldn't be so funny. (But at least no one would have lost an eye.)

    There's a new show on the Chinese station: the Victorian show! Call your local cable operator! (Or just watch it on broadcast).

    : All of CollabNet is buzzing about the romantic mountain wedding of Director of Ops Robert Benefield, and Gabby Robertson (who also worked at CollabNet, a while ago)!

    : Too Close For Comfort Search Requests:

    Bonus Search Request: camoflauge birthday cakes, for surprise parties.

    : Kevin's designed our pirate flag, which we call the Jolly WONTFIX. It's got a skull and a burrito crossed with a bottle of habanero sauce. This is, I think, the tragic result of not playing at pirates as a child.

    : Depressing bug report fragment:

    [and it happens again, and again, and nothing else happens]

    : Praise for NewsBruiser from a non-user: "a nifty upgrade" with " the feature that means a weblog stops being an overgrown .plan file, and becomes a proper Web Log -- a calendar. Now I'm jealous."

    Mike found a couple bugs in 1.3.0 which make it difficult to actually run a new NewsBruiser installation, so if you were planning on doing that please wait until tonight when I can fix them. I also found another problem with using indexer to do incremental indexing, and I'm not sure how to fix that, but I'll at least put a stopgap solution in place tonight.

    When The "Clone All Windows Programs" Subphilosophy Of The UNIX Philosophy Goes Too Far: First In A Subseries:

    GPuTTY is a PuTTY clone using the Gnome environment.

    : Fixed the two Mike problems (I'd actually already fixed them in CVS and forgotten about it, apparently) and switched from indexing after an add or edit to indexing just before a search. Whee!

    : Realized yesterday: I got the form for the "Seth David Schoen" Leonardonic from Jake's There's A Mirror On My Grave.

    : I got spam that said A whale of a vacation and I thought "Yup!", thinking it was referring to the Leonard/Sumana Whale Watch, until I realized it was spam. That's playing dirty! You can't use whales in spam!

    : I'm leaving work early and heading down to Bakersfield to visit Susanna and my mother. A parting thought: "-stan" is the addendum of choice when making up silly names for countries, but there are only 6 actual "-stan" countries.

    : Random musical notes (ah ah ah, as Nandini says) from my drive down:

    : After great travail and significant cost to myself, I've managed to get my mother's computer running a rudimentary form of Windows ME. Argh, I say. Instead of brooding on the many horrors I beheld today, let me talk about the wild party I attended last night, hosted by Mark Fasheh. I saw a lot of the LUG dudes I hadn't seen since graduation (Mark, Peter, Dan), and of course I also hung out with Adam, Kris, Kim, and Melissa.

    I'm going home tomorrow. I'm taking the day off. My current task (debugging our indexer plugins with the help of a class I wrote which generates scary-looking SourceCast sites full of random text) has become onerous as of late, but I found new enthusiasm for the work commiserating with the LUG people at the party. But the many hours I spent today trying to get my mother's computer not to be dead crushed any enthusiasm I had for working on anything to do with computers (damn you, Windows, crusher of enthusiasm!). Hopefully after another holiday I will be back in the mood, or at least the zone.

    : On my way to and from LA I listened to my newly-acquired copy of Lucky 7, from The Reverend Horton Heat. The Rev preaches a gospel of boozin' and cruisin', and his Subgenius-tinged ska-rock sound is always welcome 'round my place, ever since Kevin's radio station first introduced me to it. As with so many religions, I don't buy any of it, but the music is great. [The hell? Are you pretending to be the Salon music critic? -Ed. Hey, Danny O'Brien pretends to be a Wired reporter! That's different and you know it. -Ed.]

    : I will never write this story, for a very simple reason which is that my self-esteem is okay, and also I'm no good at writing stories. But some self-loathing yet competent author could implement it and maybe make a little money. It's called "Life of Author" and it takes place in a future in which copyright has been scaled back to last only the life of the author plus fourteen years.

    The main character is a mercenary hitman for EvilCorp, a huge conglomorate which owns the rights to much of the world's intellectual property. His job is to bump off authors who won't sign up with EvilCorp, thus causing their works to (soon) pass into the public domain. Of course, authors in the EvilCorp stable are given life-extension technologies and, near the end of their extended lifespans, kept in near-cyrogenic vegetative states to give EvilCorp perpetual ownership over their works. But something goes wrong or there's a twist of some kind; this is where the self-loathing comes in.

    Tangentially, Disney is going to release a science fiction version of Treasure Island which looks really cool. It reminds me that I've been meaning to make a science fiction version of Steamboat Willie-- oh, wait, I can't.

    : Intruiging surnames in my family tree: "Eggers", "Sorenson".

    : More science fiction/copyright law crossover, this time an explanation for why characters in science fiction set in the future make lots of references to 20th century and pre-20th century works, but almost no references to post-20th century works. Such works aren't part of the cultural canon because they are only available in archaic DRMed formats made by long-bankrupt companies. (This is just the "digital dark age" idea, but I recently realized that the digital dark age explains this nagging problem with Star Trek and other such science fiction.)

    : Adam Parrish points out that you probably could use whales in spam if you wanted to.

    : After sitting on this spam subject line for a week I can't think of anything funny to say about it, and it's too good not to share, so here you go:

    Weedmon say: call, we be open 7 days, mon

    I'm envisioning the inevitable bust. "So, you're the one they call 'Weedmon'..."

    : Neglected (?) Software Categories: content micromanagement systems.

    : Mike Popovic has an amazing two new weblogs devoted to the Hiptop, a cool unreleased PDA with the incredible business model innovation by which you pay one flat fee for a month of connectivity (you may remember this business model from the freaking Internet). Mike is testing a Hiptop, which has many other cool features, and he logs his experiences and ideas for additional features at mikepop meets hiptop. Meanwhile, at Hipshake, Mike writes little skits presenting glimpses into the horrifying world that is modern life with the Hiptop. Caution! It's damn fake!

    Mike's weblogs provide much-needed competition for Danger Info, which has become a bit complacent recently. Actually, I just made that up.

    : Email From Famous People: I think I just got email from Dave Eggers, who has sent me what purports to be the cover art for McSweeney's #9. This is the one where Neal Pollack fights Magneto! Thanks, Dave (or convincing Dave impersonator).


    [S]omething about his sharp nose and shaved chin seemed to hint that if mysticism, as a lesson, ever came in his way, he might, with the characteristic knack of a true New-Englander, turn even so profitless a thing to some profitable account.

    --The Confidence Man, by Herman Melville

    : Last night Sumana rented The Truman Show and we watched it together. It's a good concept (I feel like railing against the concept, but it's actually a cool idea, and The Truman Show probably prevented other, worse movies on that idea from being made). It has some good sight gags, which are always welcome. But quite apart from that is the amazing transformation you see in Jim Carrey over the course of the movie, as before your eyes he actually becomes Robin Williams. At the end he bursts free of his chrysalis and, with a twinkle in his eye, steps off into a world of heartwarming family dramedies.


    <kmaples> bingo!
    <kmaples> that's it!
    <leonardr> ??
    <kmaples> corporate sponsorship!
    <kmaples> verizon provides the connectivity, we fly their flag right below the jolly roger!
    <kmaples> we could bring in all sorts of deals and endorsements!
    <kmaples> for instance, etch the nike swoop into our canonballs
    <kmaples> and instead of saying "fire", we say "just do it"

    : Is there an actual Law of Unintended Consequences, or is it just something lame like "there will be unintended consequences"? The answer: both.

    : MoreSensationalistExaminer.com: "Heroes hailed!" should be "Heroes jailed!".

    : Zack (or possibly someone else with the same name) recently discovered a vulnerability in Python.

    : More mulled Linux from The Register (keeping track).

    : NewsBruiser 1.3.1 is out. I recommend you get this if you are running 1.3.0, because it fixes a pretty bad problem with the indexer. Also, indexing happens immediately before a search rather than after an add or edit, which saves time (see NYCB passim). Also, it has code from Mark in it.

    : -stan update: in a roundabout way Sean Neakums pointed out that there are actually seven -stans. Brian D. Hicks pointed out that ending the name of a hypothetical country in -stan makes it sound poor and/or ex-Soviet.

    -stan is incredibly popular when you look not at extant countries but at countries which people would like to see formed, especially countries which, if formed, would be split out from India. Googling shows me Khalistan, Mughalstan, Dravidistan, Marathastan, and Sakastan. India itself used to be called Hindustan[0]. But there's also Kurdistan, which some would like to see formed in northern Iraq. The great Footnotes to History site mentions diverse ex-stans and also-stans, like Bantustan, Tunganestan, Baluchistan, and Dagestan. So the new question: what language or language family is "-stan"? I think it's become a cross-language marker that says: "This is a country and not an amusement park."

    [0] Sumana says that right-wing reactionaries still call it Hindustan, which has the weird effect of making it look like the right-wing reactionaries buy into every single Indian seccession movement (maybe they do!).

    PS: Possible best name for a country ever: The Great Republic of Rough and Ready

    : Stupid idea: Timestamps, little adhesive circles or squares that you print or draw a watch face on and attach to a fake watch on your wrist.

    Good idea (from Sumana): Earplugs that are also headphones, so that you can hear your alarm go off but nothing else (also, other people in the room don't hear your alarm). Worrying complication: why don't these exist already? Impossible? Market too small? Too easy to confuse with other products?

    Good idea: History lesson based on pork; famous legislation (FOIA, Civil Rights Act, etc) analyzed in terms of their irrelevant riders for inland naval bases and centers for the study of pig diseases. Possible tripup: is pork a recent political invention? In this unlikely contigency, an even better idea would be to write its history.

    : Movie Madness! Last night I went with Sumana and Adam to the Pacific Film Archive see Some Like It Hot, which wowed me. I've heard it called the best comedy of all time, and I thought that was hyperbole, but I now think it has a shot at that distinction. Very funny, and racy without being very dirty. It also didn't suffer from the bane of modern comedies, the minutes of tiresome non-funny exposition. The exposition was funny! Long have I waited for such a movie! (Not that long.)

    I say "Madness" because the movie-watching is not yet over. Tonight Sumana and I will be watching The Seven Samurai.

    : The fathers of Tonight's Episode (Sumana found this):

    The assistant was also expected to write for each story a blurb and seven or eight titles, from which his boss would pick one... Many of the titles were puns, and after a while I began to see that as a game, and we used to make up lists of possible titles in the subway-- We Who Are About to Fry, Where There's a Kill There's a Way, etc. I liked the crime titles best, because they could be funny. The sports titles and blurbs were the hardest; the technical vocabulary of golf, for instance, is very limited--par, birdie, and so on--; these words had to be combined and recombined constantly in new ways.

    From The Futurians, by Damon Francis Knight, about the science fiction community of the 1930s.

    : Kris wrote a hilarious song about me called Leonard Could Play The Banjo. It crams most many of the major Leonard/Kris in-jokes into one four-minute song, which is quite a feat.

    : Today I toyed with a category system for NewsBruiser (yes, I am shamefully allowing my product to be driven by the checklist mania). The main reason I want this (besides checklist mania) is so that I can categorize my entries according to my minor obsessions. But I can't think of a good web interface for mantaining so many categories, and since I inevitably mention the minor obsession in the entry, I think I'll just add the ability to have an entry title.

    Leonard's Laws of Editorials #3: There is not one last socially acceptable prejudice, and if there were it would probably not be the one you think it is.

    Unique String in Little Hippo: I got entry titles working, and this is the first NYCB entry to have an entry title separate from the body. (Ooh, aah) The title itself is nonsense, a mutated version of a title I made up while testing the code. To me it sounds like a science fiction story involving a land dispute between two prospector robots. Or a Merry Melodies cartoon for intelligent agents.

    Picture Bonanza: I think I may start overdoing the title thing. If so, stop me after I strike again. Anyway, I put up over 200 new pictures of the Fourth of July weekend, my mother's neighbor's awesome pet tortoise, the Stone-Kaplan wedding, me being sick at my birthday party [0], Sumana moving out of her old apartment, the mega whale watch, and our post-whale-watch driving break along the Pacific Coast Highway. Since most of my readers have probably never driven along the PCH (?), I felt obligated to capture its raw beauty for you.

    My picks: Frank Chu-esque "Totally Superior Product", Don't Mess With Tortoise, kiss, Sumana and her Kidde, whale, whales, dolphin, beach, tidepool (that last one is > 200K).

    [0] 'being sick' is used here in the imperfective. There was not one particular occasion on which I was sick during my party (that happened during Adam's wedding); rather, the party took place while I was sick.

    : Hey, Stephane is back!

    Welcome to The New Radioslackô! I think this redesign really embodies a new direction for the site, namely, "Not getting my ass sued by those motherfuckers at RadioShack."

    : Neologism from The Stone Canal (have I mentioned that MacLeod's neologisms are the best?): "War is the state's killer app."

    : Not only Stephane, but also Tuesday Morning Quarterback is back! It's now on ESPN instead of Slate, but it's the same thing with more garish colors and inline photographs.

    Poorman's Origami Beach: Every time I get a burrito at the burrito place in Brisbane, I get a little strip of stiff paper containing the number associated with my burrito. I've taken to folding them into little alligator mouths that can be closed by fingertip pressure and then reopened by releasing the pressure. I call them doob-doobs.

    Strongly Worded Headline Watch: MP3 royalty assurances are worthless - Vorbis author (from the Register, so its inflammatory nature comes as no surprise), and Netscape 7.0 Shrivels Under Mozilla's Shadow (from the normally staid eWeek).

    : Today I got cred points from stack for reading Ken MacLeod (stack is basically a Ken MacLeod character with a Neal Stephenson name). But I probably blew them all by doing some reactionary something, like making cookies.

    : I got spam asking How is Greenspan helping you?, which makes it sound like Fed chairman is an elected position.

    Netscape 7.0 Shrivelling Cause Revealed!: Panicware Launches Pop-Up Stopper ISP Distribution- A Program Providing Pop-Up Stopper Technology to Internet Service Providers Free of Charge

    Who's the biggest ISP in the US? America Online! Who owns the Netscape browser? America Online! And if Netscape 7.0 had the ability to block pop-up ads itself, there'd be no need for AOL to take advantage of this incredible free offer! It all makes sense! (Baseline for making sense established by the amount of sense made by the AOL-Time Warner merger.)

    : Cellular Humor implies that spreadsheet jokes are thin on the ground, but since all you have to do is take a joke about a lawyer, a programmer, or a consultant (or a joke about a lawyer, a programmer, and a consultant), and change the profession to 'spreadsheet developer', I don't think the shortage is one that needs to be rectified.

    He's In Prison, See, So He Can't Collect The Money Himself...: Amazing.

    One of his multi-million dollar endeavors almost led him into a dangerous deal in Nigeria. The trade ended up being a fraud and two Americans who ventured there before me were killed, recounts Grubbs.

    : At the request of David Ford, the guy whose machine hosts Crummy, I added automatic nice to the NewsBruiser CGIs and SSIs. I also factored out a lot of the SSI code. No new release yet, though (but I'll do one before I start my ill-conceived drive toward categories).

    : Steve Robertson makes a guest appearance in today's Goats.

    MoreSensationalistExaminer.com: Good job today on "Un-fare!" and "N'Sunk", but "Female cops air gripes" should be "Female cops air gropes" or at least "Female cops air grapes".

    My weblogs4hire skills:

    : This informative yet disturbing article increases my suspicion that FreeCiv is a solved problem, subject to initial conditions. Since according to my prejudices solved problems are not fun, my brain races to find ways of rectifying this. Perhaps throwing complexity at the problem will help, or maybe I just need to get schooled (though that will only demonstrate that I haven't yet solved the solved problem myself).

    Incidentally, here is Civlike News.

    I Feel Nervous About Making This Joke: You can't hug someone with nuclear arms... but you can with conventional arms!

    : Yesterday, from a conversation in which I was explaining One Froggy Evening: (Caution! It's sappy.)

    Leonard: Don't you want a singing frog to liven up your life?
    Sumana: I have you!

    Now With Realistic Screams Of The Damned: Not only is Ben Collins-Sussman a Subversion developer, but he's also world- Chicago-reknowned for creating the din of hell! (But not for this play.)

    Irrecoverable Insincere Contemptuous: Acceptance Dissenting Narrate Broadway Bonfire Binomial?:

    Macromolecule munsey Grime addressograph atomizing additions begun belying election souls subtitled-surpass irreproducible toyed.

    Skinny insists directing pict frugally lifetime Prerogative Plumbed, quartz allowably beverage, dangerous badminton ace wretches harnessing.

    Wantonly dough theorize impersonating circularly bundled pitcher engage wizards blessing kidnappings luzon, bleacher noncritical hung coffee pertaining reprover inspect copes subvert honest minimizes smashed widget misspell majors mammoth devastate.

    Confine friendships Subtlety plowman hosts radiography doubted chit trumps lloyd ruggedly, phrases Closed cavalierness opportunely staring grown submariner perfectionist supplies waterfalls contraband hairlip.

    : Sorry, the semantics broke. This is what that entry should have said.

    Chocolate Penguin Mints: Balm In Gilead Or Sugarless Menace?:

    Manoj gave Ed a bunch of tins of the new chocolate-flavored penguin mints.

    I happened to be over near Ed Manor, and tried one, and found it pretty disappointing.

    The chocolate flavor only lasts for about a quarter of a second, and then you find yourself stuck with this mint in your mouth which decorum demands you finish.

    I think I may have gone off penguin mints in general, but Ed agrees that the chocolate ones in particular are pretty lackluster.

    Another Release In The Wall: NewsBruiser 1.3.2. Now with kung fu entry title grip!

    : I take the jacket covers off hardcover books when I read them, because otherwise I always tear up the jacket covers in a fit of rage. No, I tear them up accidentally over the course of reading the book. This is especially bad when the book is one I've borrowed from someone else (as it usually is, since I rarely buy hardcovers; I mean, look at me: I'm waiting for The Salmon Of Doubt to come out in paperback). So it wasn't until I restored the jacket cover to The Stone Canal in preparation to returning it to Zack's welcoming bosom, that I realized that the cover art has a background that makes it look like the whole book cover is a transparent PNG that you've loaded into the Gimp.

    And man, what a shaggy dog story that was.

    Funny Quotes From Last Night's FreeCiv:

    "I'm going to take this to the United Nations! Uh, once I build it."
    "A shared vision society is a polite society."

    : (From Sumana): Will Congress be convinced? And will Eli Gafni?

    When The Separation Of Powers Goes Too Far: The United States Botanical Garden is part of the legislative branch. A bulwark against the growing power of the executive? (Indirectly from RRE)

    : Have you been eaten in an industrial accident? If so, give me a call at 1-888-SHYSTER.

    : Hi, we're the replacement killers.

    : Work on the piracy consultantcy gig continues apace. Kevin and I have devised a four-step process called ARRR that will enable your pirate organization to increase booty earnings through piracy best practices.

    1. Acquire weaponry
    2. Research your target
    3. Raid your target
    4. Regroup and divvy up the loot

    Imagine striking fear into the hearts of your victims and rivals with "Avast, ye scurvy dogs! Prepare to be boarded in accordance with ARRR, an ISO 9000 certified process!"

    If you'd like to find out more, I'll be speaking on ARRR at the forthcoming Congrés International de Piraterie. Or, for a ridiculously large honorarium, I will visit your organization and rehash those four painfully obvious bullet points at great length. It's all part of walktheplank.net's new metapiracy initiative.

    Google Rhetorical Device Search: "here there be" -monsters -dragons

    : "The Most Virulent Worm in Existence" Just Keeps Going! Great, and now it has a publicist. "The Klez.A worm felt that there was a side to the worm story not being adequately covered by the mainstream media..."

    When Personalized Spam Goes Not Far Enough: $USER, Rates go lower. Re-Fi again! !

    : now it's COCOTIME. No! It cannot be COCOTIME!

    : Happy birthday to Sumana!

    : "The owners spare no expense in lavishly publishing their poorly worded press releases on a damn FREE PRESS RELEASE SITE."

    The Categorical Imperative: I added to NewsBruiser about 75% of the code neccessary for category support (the 75% that lets you manage and browse a category tree). I still have to add category filing controls to the entry add and edit CGIs.

    Here's a screenshot. Note the HTML sparseness that is the hallmark of the Leonard Realism style.

    Katzdot: Short History Of Lo-Tech Perverts and The Lo-Tech World

    When Event Organizers Tip Their Hand: "The AIDS fundraising community"???

    Taxonomy Of Used Bookstores: There are two types of used bookstores: those that try to look like new bookstores and those that try to look like antiquarian bookstores. The difference, I believe, stems from the fact that the former buy remaindered books in relative bulk. They then figure that because they have multiple copies of books, they should go all the way and create a well-lit, spacious place with well-organized book sections marked by preprinted signs, and try to pass for a new bookstore that has really good prices. Sometimes they also sell almost-outdated calendars, used software, and so on.

    The other type gets all its books from individuals selling their books, so they don't have multiple copies of anything except Atlas Shrugged. These bookstores cram their books together on buckling shelves and hand-letter their section names to create the impression of a disorganized antiquarian bookstore in which a careless employee has thoughtlessly priced a first edition Hemmingway at trade paperback prices.

    Some used bookstores that would otherwise fall into the second category look like the first category because they sell both new and used books. Other stores selling both types put the used books off to the side, in a separate room or on a separate floor. The new books are always closer to the cash register, because they are higher margin. In these cases it's like being in two bookstores simultaneously. Space and time become fluid and pliant, resulting in good bargains.

    This has been Taxonomy Of Used Bookstores.

    : Blindingly obvious solution to the union man/thug for J.H. Blair partition problem: the narrator is an unreliable narrator. Alternatively: "They say" this, but it's just an idiom.

    Crouching Crustacean, Hidden Mammal: Cute!


    I'm just mad about sunfish
    They're just mad about me
    I'm just mad about sunfish
    They're just mad about me
    They call it mola mola...

    The Categorical Imperative: I can now file entries under categories from the add and edit CGIs. But it's broken now when I rename or move a category; the category's entries don't know that the category's path has changed. I'm not sure whether to notify all those entries on a change, or whether to create a pseudo-database where categories have IDs that don't change and refer to categories by their ID. Categories open up all sorts of cans of Consistency brand worms that I don't like dealing with.

    : The large hill near my workplace is on fire. Helicopter lifting water out of the bay, cops directing traffic, firemen all over the hill. Way too much excitement. It looks like they've got it under control, though.

    : Because I have nothing but voluntary abstention from bad taste to offer in memory of the dead I did not know, there was no Tonight's Episode yesterday, and very little NYCB. As though by some strange conservation law, though, Brendan informs me that the comic strip PVP did have a couple of TEs yesterday.

    Mola Mola Digital Infiltration: Kevan sent me a screenshot of what is, as far as I know, the only appearance of a mola mola in a video game (thanks, Kevan!). Kevan cites as his source the 1993 Capcom comic book license "The Punisher". How long until a video game is released that actually stars a mola mola? It's intuitively obvious that that would be the greatest game ever.

    The Spam Of Nations: Second In A Series: Make Money Giving Away Free Stuff!

    The Categorical Imperative: I made the neccessary consistency fixes, so I'm only slightly nervous about trying out categories on NYCB. An entry's categories are not displayed on the front page, but they are displayed when you drill down. Assuming I can actually stick with categorization, I'll probably spend a little time each day categorizing the 'today in history' entries. Surely there must be some end to the categorization madness, you ask? So refreshing, your Continental mode of thought... yet so presumptous. We must discuss the issue at greater length, after the banquet. But I forget myself. Gralnor! See Dr. Rambaud safely to his accomodations. Some say the northern tower is haunted, but I find the draft refreshing.

    : Comrades! Hear the wise Chairman's words on carpal tunnel syndrome!

    : Leonard Kleinrock, noooo!

    : The index for NYCB was broken (Brendan, among others (well, other (well, me)) noticed this), so I wrote a little utility CGI to rebuild it. I'm fairly sure that NYCB's brokenness is not due to a bug in NewsBruiser 1.3.0, but rather to my habit of testing out undebugged code on NYCB.

    Signs The National Mood Is Changing: People don't seem to chug as much or as wide a variety of liquids as they used to.

    Teaser: NewsBruiser 1.4.0 will have web-based configuration.

    Update: It's in CVS, and I'm using it here. I need to write the category documentation before I can release 1.4.0 though.

    Categories For The Masses: NewsBruiser 1.4.0! If you were previously put off NewsBruiser because of the complexity of the configuration file, give it another look; almost all of that is web-based now (compare the new sample .nbrc with the old sample .nbrc).

    Update: I took some screenshots and made them part of the NewsBruiser site.

    Multiple Meaning Headline Watch: Sex Pistols Showered With Beer in Los Angeles

    From Brendan, who says "Not that the multiple meanings are all that different, but still." Indeed... but still.

    New Interpretations For Old Jokes:

    Old Joke: The doting mother and her son were walking along the beach when suddenly a huge wave came up and dragged the boy off to sea. The grief-stricken mother cried out to the Lord for deliverance, pleading for her son's life. Suddenly a shaft of heavenly light shone on the water and a boy crawled out of the ocean, coughing but otherwise unharmed. The mother inspected the child closely, then cast her gaze to the heavens and indignantly said, "He had a hat!"

    New Interpretation: God rescued the wrong kid!

    Bonus: hehadahat.org is available. (.com is taken but nothing's happening there, so according to my code of domain name ethics it's okay to take the .org). A good name for a weblog.

    I Can't Stop Writing NewsBruiser code!: I just added the ability to download a tarball containing all information about a notebook (except for the index and other stuff that can be recalculated). When will the carnage end?

    : In an attempt to stem the tide of innovation, I went and made a huge list of links to people I know. I also tossed in some software links. Ah, the conventional... This gave me an excuse to remove a lot of seldom-modified weblogs from the navbar (including, sadly, one of my own; I'm not sure what Kris and I should do about Counterpoint/Countercounterpoint).

    : From taint, a Tolkien-branded version of the Spanish prisoner scam email. A bit halfhearted in execution, but well-conceived.

    : Kevin's back from his vacation, and he says "I did."

    Unpopular Book: Sweat The Small Stuff

    More Pictures From Kevin's Vacation:

    Security Through Ubiquity: GE Interlogix-Supra Unit Introduces Hinged License Plate Frame For Fleet Key Storage Elante provides concealed access for preventive maintenance

    Yeah, thanks for telling everybody!

    : A MySQL manual, in places only passingly translated into French, with funny results: "A user who can connect without a password, mais only from the local hŰte". Reminds me of "vous ne pouvez pas play this savon dodge on me twice".

    Plausibly Deniable Ominous Euphemisms: Player Relationship Management

    : Happy birthday to Susanna! And Adam! Susanna and Adam are exactly the same age!

    : Enterprise premiere tonight. Will I remember? Sumana has pledged to remind me, so probably.

    : I watched the Enterprise premiere with Jason and Manoj; it was fun and then suddenly dull for the last ten minutes. There was so much cheesecake in that episode that Tom Ridge has decided to set the Homeland Security Cheesecake Advisory Level to HIGH. (Also, what happened to Daniels?)

    My favorite part of Enterprise is when Archer is talking to someone he doesn't trust (which is basically everyone not his superior officer or a member of his crew). He'll talk and talk and be very reasonable and then suddenly yell "Why are the Vulcans spying on us?!?!" or "What have you done with my chief engineer?!?!". I think his character book says "his style is a mix of Kirk's and Picard's", and the writers are taking that too literally.

    Unfortunately, that didn't happen in this episode, so there's no good reason for me to mention it here, except that now's when I thought of it.

    Bonus: The Twilight Zone remake, starring Forrest Whitaker, of which we watched about a minute after Enterprise. It's insufficiently UPN! Forrest Whitaker's experiences in the Twilight Zone have left him so jaded that he's incapable of showing any emotion except for that evinced by his general hang-dog look. This is a great touch, but the show is incredibly lame anyway. So as long as they're running the franchise into the ground, they should replace Whitaker with a younger, hipper host who refers to the Twilight Zone as simply "the Zone". Jason suggests the kid from the Dell advertisements. "Dude, you're in the Zone!"

    But how to get rid of a Twilight Zone host? There's precedent.

    : Via clickolinko, the latest on Mr. T.

    : Arr! We be steamin' down the very mainstream!

    : Behold NewsBruiser 1.4.1! This version is really easy to set up; I wrote a little script which writes the configuration for you, and you no longer have to change cfg.py. It also has the tarball support, which doesn't always work, and I don't know why, so I marked it 'experimental'. Isn't it great how calling something 'experimental' absolves you of all responsibility?

    : Most of the slogans in the Maoist Python poster weren't revolutionary enough, so I made it more suitable to the Peoples' taste. Remember: you never saw the previous version.

    The Spam Of Nations: Third In A Series:

    Are you interested in opening a free adult toy store and earning 50% of the profit.

    14°30.882'N 128°15.459'E Marks The Spot: One of the most pressing problems of modern piracy is where to hide the booty. Development and ecotourism mean that even the most isolated beaches will eventually attract visitors. Here's a simple burial technique using equipment any modern pirate ship should already have.

    Put the booty into an empty shipping container you have lying around. While en route to your next raid, simply lower the shipping container into Davy Jones' locker and take a note of the GPS coordinates (do this at night to avoid your activity showing up on spy satellites). If your container won't sink, fill unused space with sand, silt, or any other dense material; you can use ballast water if your booty is gold or otherwise waterproof. Years later, you and your shipmates can retrace your steps, raise the barnacle-encrusted container, and claim your prize.

    Unsolved problems: are shipping containers watertight enough? What about trawlers?

    : I added authentication cookie support to NewsBruiser, and the result is NewsBruiser 1.4.2. Now you only have to enter a notebook's password once per browser session (if you have cookies enabled in your browser).

    Perils Of Broadcasting: Oops. I had the 'notify weblogs.com' box checked on my NewsBruiser development installation, so weblogs.com has periodically been notified of exciting changes to 'My Notebook' by 'Joe Newsbruiser'. Sorry. (Hopefully weblogs.com knows to ignore pings where the weblog is at 'localhost').

    Release Early, Release Often: I hope you didn't download NewsBruiser 1.4.2, because I just released NewsBruiser 1.5.0. It's got a templating system (*cough* checklist *cough*) that's both simple and fast. Check it out. I also got honest with myself and added about 10 things to the TODO.

    It takes a little time to roll a NewsBruiser release, although about 98% of that time is uploading the file and publishing the news item and sneakily releasing it again because I found another bug immediately after releasing it. Everything else I've automated, and as of 1.5.0 I've even automated that portion of the news item that can be automated (the link to the changelog and whatnot). But it's still a little boring, so to lighten the drudgery I've decided to make up silly code names for NewsBruiser releases. 1.5.0 is the "Pig In A Blanket" release.

    : How can a movie have a "guest star"? You're either in the movie or you're not.

    : Evilfinder is the perfect companion to The Arbitrary Text Code. It also has the advantage of actually existing in a usable form. And, of course, it's evil.

    : Just in case you're not yet sick of me talking about NewsBruiser, let me tell you how proud I am of the new stuff. I was looking at the changelog and I noticed that a lot of the cool features I take completely for granted (the category system and the configuration system) didn't exist or wasn't usable a mere eight days ago. I don't even use the templating system (yet?), so that's not on my radar, but because I wrote it I know enough about it to know that it's cool.

    I'm definitely a much better programmer than I used to be (and Python fits my style). My self-stereotype is that I'm good at code and awful at interface design, but the interfaces I've designed for NewsBruiser are good and I know how to improve them. How did this happen? [Obvious answer: practice]

    Great Murders In History: One last thing before the sleeping: the long-awaited Tonight's Episode archive.

    MoreSensationalistExaminer.com: "The Great Wine Glut" should be "The Great Wine Gut".

    : N-shot gag for sci-fi stories: deceptively eponymous devices and phenomena. The "Feynman Drive", named after 21st-century physicist Kelly Feynman; the "Hawking Effect", discovered by three-time Nobel laureate Edward Hawking; etc, etc, etc. How many times would this be funny? My guess: twice, and then three or four more times as a fleeting mention with no explanation of the eponymy.

    Eventually I'll come up with enough of these ideas that I can actually write a story. "That's not the way it works," you say. It is when your stories are hastily-put-together houses of idea cards!

    That reminds me, the guy from Cardhouse did me a kindness, which I need to discuss at greater length.

    : The Congressional Hearings On--Hey, I'm Changing In Here!

    : Back from a party at Nandini's house, featuring Sumana, her parents, Seth, Steve, etc. etc. A good time. And now, a lot of dental hygeine and then sleep. I have an orthodontist appointment tomorrow.

    Programs With The Same Name As JDK Classes: "TreeMap is an experimental program for comparing host and parasite trees." Unfortunately, it has a couple of bugs.

    Because of a programming error the distribution of cospeciation may be slightly biased towards rejecting the null hypothesis of cospeciation if the host and parasite phylogenies are small.

    That's one of those technobabble sentences that people quote to point out that something makes no sense to them, but that actually does make sense to me, so I guess I'm quoting it for the novelty of such a thing happening.

    Cam, You Have Got To See This: ratemykitten.com

    : It looks like Jackie Chan doesn't do his own stunts in his new movie. In a sense it's understandable; after all, the guy is getting old. But the stunts are things that no human could do, like leap a full story from a standing start[0]. It's a bit disappointing; I hope that Jackie Chan doesn't turn into a generic CGI-enhanced action hero.

    The West Wing premiere was awful. Hey, you know who could save that show? Jackie Chan! He could balance the budget with his bare hands! Think about it.

    [0] Not meant to imply that Jackie Chan could leap a full story even with a running start.

    Characters In Commercials Considered As Potential Hosts For The Twilight Zone: Second In A Series: The other guy who'd be a good Twilight Zone host is the trenchcoat-wearing guy in the Sprint PCS commercials. The only problem is that instead of speaking to the audience, he'd walk up to the hapless Zone-goer and say, "So. Your world has suddenly changed into a hideous mockery of its former self. Looks like you could use a new cell phone. Sprint built a digital PCS network from the ground up, so that you'd always get good reception, even in... the Twilight Zone."

    Update: I forgot to credit Sumana for coming up with this idea.

    : I wrote part of a short story last night. I hope it turns out well. I'm not a very good writer (of short stories), but practice is the only way to improve.

    Random Notes On The Difference Engine:

    : Just spent some time packaging the software (which barely deserves the designation) I wrote for Seth's birthday. I hope I'm able to demonstrate it at the party; it has dependencies which may not be met at Seth's house. Link forthcoming after the premiere, go it well or ill.

    Sumana gave me the idea of writing a poem about Seth, and it wasn't difficult to whip up a quick one (though I used a secondary pronunciation). Here you go:

    There once was a human named Seth
    Unconstrained from pronouncing "Macbeth".
    When the actors did say
    "Call it 'that Scottish play'!"
    He observed, "What an odd shibboleth!"

    HERE IT IS: ksethdavidschoen

    : Need to read: The Flying Inn by G.K. Chesterton. Not present in this shockingly long list of Chesterton on the Web.

    : Another note on Chesterton (tiny spoiler): the intro to The Napoleon Of Notting Hill contains Chesterton's funny "Cheat the Prophet" routine, which he uses to mock books like Looking Backwards and to set the scene of the book, which is an early 21st century in which things have not changed significantly since the early 20th century. Then the very first thing he does in the very first chapter is talk about all the changes that have happened in the past hundred years! (Sample changes: the end of war, abolition of the nation-state, etc; generally carried out through the effective technique of "people realizing" that since there's no mechanism that could underly the author's intended societal change, they need to carry it out through spontaneous action. Sometimes I imagine crackpot science fiction along these lines: "'You see, Trudy,' said the handsome captain, 'The twentieth century was full of wars and horrible problems, but once people realized that ACCELERATION AND TIME ARE PLUS SPACE EQUIVALENT, it was a trivial matter to CREATE WORLD FOCUS BEAM FOR GOOD LOVE and STOP CAPITALIST SPINE REALIGNMENT MUNCHERS.'" This is a really long parenthetical, but it's coming to an end now.)

    Why would Chesterton do this? There's the possibility that he never noticed the inconsistency, but that seems unlikely to me. I think it more likely that he decided that the 'Cheat the Prophet' routine was so good an introduction for his a-utopia that it was worth a small inconsistency in the story (there's no technological change between 1900 and 2000 in NoNH, so in that respect the intro is consistent with the story).

    : Spam: Our Halloween gifts are here! Halloween gifts? Halloween is not a gift-giving holiday! It's a bribe holiday, and a microbribe holiday at that!

    : My programming philosophy is "Once is a special case, twice is a copy-and-paste, three times is a generalization."[0] I've revamped my devel page once since I put it up, and I needed to do it again, if only to add ksethdavidschoen. But it's such a pain to write all that HTML with the anchors and the alphabetization and the blah and blah. So I generalized: behold The Me Software Map! (And its concretion, The Leonard Software Map) Now I keep all the project metadata in a simple, no-frills (well, one-frill) configuration file and serve it up to you in a nice HTML form when you request it.

    [0] Canonically, you're supposed to generalize the second time, but I've found it more helpful to have three cases (assuming that copy-and-paste is significantly easier than generalizing) because with the triangulation thus provided you're less likely to generalize in the wrong direction. (Also, if I copy-and-paste maybe there won't be a third time and I'll get away with it; sometimes my time is more valuable than the well-factoredness of the code.)

    Very Short Story Search Requests: before andrew could say a word sharon made a super duper frog face

    : Am I crazy, or does Chock Full O' Nuts brand coffee contain not a single nut?

    : Pictures from Seth's party are up; more coming soon.

    : "Most web sites are not making any money. The problem? They provide value! Our proprietary technology destroys value root and branch, allowing your profits to soar!"

    : More pictures. These are from my August trip to LA, where I saw Mark, Dan, Peter et al. for the first time in years. Some really good photos, many of them exploiting my friends' talents for the funny face: caption contest fodder, "Wait, that's Kim? I thought I married Kim!" Kim keeping an eye on Adam, and, of course, you found kitten. Bonus for Jake: my Fujichia T-shirt has now made it to LA.

    Two Short Pieces About Burning Man: The ultimate Burning Man hack: take a can full of nano-bots and terraform the playa; harness the power of the sun and the great taste of clay to create a lush oasis in the desert. At the end of the week, de-terraform it back to featureless waste (all nanotech should have an 'undo' button).

    How to kill Burning Man: build a hotel-casino on the spot (or near enough to draw people away). The man burns every night! The competition will draw off part of the crowd, and the commercialization will drive away the remainder.

    : "More evil than Satan himself" hits the mainstream.

    : Fads And Fallacies In The Name Of Science Fiction. (via Boingboing) According to that, I'm right to be suspicious of the use of fictional secondary sources (see "Infodump").

    : Every night the machine hosting Crummy runs out of disk space. When I wake up in the morning, some disk space has been restored, as though the Disk Space Fairy had visited the premises with her magical disk-space-creation wand. I mention this to let you know that if you see weird things happen on Crummy: pages creaking ominously, CGI scripts mysteriously moving from directory to directory as though controlled by some eldritch force; it's probably because of the magic leakage from that damned wand! That thing should be shielded in lead.

    Interesting Search Requests: "mere source code": A parody of or companion to Mere Christianity?

    : Possible AMOR replacement for a future xsethdavidschoen: XPenguins (AMOR is really old, and has QT dependencies and requires a KVM-compliant window manager; XPenguins is newer and appears to use only standard X libraries).

    : Robots powered by the ocean itself. Then, they turn on humanity! Wait, come back! You greenlighted Sweet Home Alabama, but not this?!

    Put In A Happy Face (Or Two): Whose idea was it to represent 01 and 02 in the IBM ECS character set as happy faces? Were such things common at the time, or was it the work of a single, unsung genius? I think the IBM graphical characters may have been the greatest nonstandard extension to a standard ever devised.

    Puerile Puns For Angry Robots: Ed Felten over at Freedom To Tinker has been mocking the CDTPA by highlighting the seemingly endless list of devices it would subject to the phlegmatic rubber stamp of government regulation; recently it was the TinkleToonz Musical Potty. For the occasion, he did not, but should have changed the name of his site to "Freedom To Tinkle".

    : A while back Sumana mused on why English associates positive or utopian connotations with 'dream': "like a dream", "living in a dream world", etc. After all, one's dreams are not neccessarily good; usually when you remember a dream it's because the dream was frightening or disturbing. Sumana thinks that dreams have gotten worse over time. I thought I disagreed, but while writing this entry I've decided that I don't. Dreams have gotten worse because real life has gotten better.

    Most of the good dreams of earlier times are dreams about not being a starving subsistence farmer. It's very rare, I think, to dream about things above the lowest level of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, because that part of your brain that cares is the part that's asleep (sometimes I try to have such a dream and it's pretty funny). When your physical needs are effectively met, you dream less about your physical needs being met, and more about fear, pursuit, etc.

    : Googlewhacking is much, much easier on Google News than on Google proper.

    Game Roundup: I visit Linux Game Tome so you don't have to! This is fun, almost like running a BBS. Here are some Da Warren-style descriptions for some games that caught my eye recently.

    : Mike's started up yet another Hiptop weblog, but this one is open to posts from anyone with a Hiptop. For one brief moment I saw the trend (if any) this embodied and the direction (if any) it would take us. But those epiphanies only last a moment, and now I have no idea. I just hope it's not the Tar Pit From Hell.

    : Are there canny X-Men?

    : More dream amusement: last night in my dream I was breaking all sorts of traffic laws because my dream-brain doesn't know how to drive a car very well.

    : One beneficial side effect of the Me Software Map is that it gives you incentive to package up software you've written in a usable-by-others form. Where's he going with this?, you think, stealthily reaching for the nearest blunt object. Well, I combined the two Tonight's Episode CGIs into a single file, spruced it up a bit, and released the whole thing as Tonight's String. Ow!

    : I also added entry deletion capability to NewsBruiser (I did this mainly to mollify Mark). It's in CVS, but I don't trust it yet. Incidentally, Mark and his girlfriend Kim have a new weblog, ToastedKitten.

    Update: I deleted a couple NYCB entries from March 2000 which were actually entries from Susanna's notebook that accidentally got copied into the NYCB directory, and which for the past two years have been providing amusement to those who read my archives and see me suddenly talking about my boyfriend and claiming to be a soapdish. I still don't trust entry deletion because the thing I don't trust is deleting entries when you posted entries later in the day and those entries belong to a bunch of categories. (I've tested that, but I don't trust it. You know what I need? Trusted computing!)

    When The Unix Philosophy Goes Further Than You Expected, But Not Neccessarily Too Far: Powermanga has a case-sensitive high score list.

    I'm a tiny bit addicted to Powermanga. The power-ups are a lot of fun, though there aren't as many of them as there should be, and the ones that cost more are not that powerful. The damage system (insofar as I can figure it out) is pretty neat too. Finally, it's a game with guts; it treats entire, classic games (Galaxian and Asteroids) as mere parts of a level.

    : Argh! Arts and Letters Daily ran out of money!

    : Condensed history of mass marketing: "It worked fine until people gained the ability to ignore it!"

    : I realized yesterday why I don't trust NewsBruiser item delete: when it moves back subsequent entries from the same day it doesn't change their entries in the index. I'm pretty sure that was what was bothering me subconsciously; right now I feel that once I fix that I'll be fine with entry delete.

    The Partly Cloudy Expatriate: In keeping with what appears to be a forming family tradition of going to foreign countries for American holidays, my mother and I will be spending Thanksgiving in London, with Rachel, who's already there. I've applied for a passport, I've arranged for time off, we have plane tickets and a place to stay; I guess what I'm trying to say is that this is actually going to happen. I'll be in England for about a week, with only slight constraints on my time, so if anyone wants to drop in on me (or vice versa), let me know.

    : Don't know how I missed this, but a polynomial-time algorithm for determining primality was recently discovered. This throws a wrench into my plans to sell at a ludicrous markup the Richardson Constant-Time Probabilistic Primality Test (motto: "Correctly indicates primality infinitely often!"), so I'll release it here into the public domain:

    def probablyPrime(n):
        if n > 1 and n <= 7:
            return 1
            return 0

    : One tiny beneficial side effect of the dock lockout here in SF: I am surrounded by shipping containers!

    "He's More Promotional Still Than Man, Now..." Search Requests:

    is there a book of all about the Story of how Anakin Skywalker transform himself into Darth Vader Photos

    : I kept meaning to reply to Dave Eggers' email and tell him that I was going to come see him at Cody's on the 10th, but I kept putting it off and it's a little late now since I'm just about to leave to actually go see him.

    : The Eggers plot thickens: Dave denies ever having seen my site, and the actual McSweeney's #9 cover is nothing like the one I got, so the email I purportedly got from Dave earlier is a forgery. I got my copy of A Heartbreaking Work... signed, though.

    : Report on the Dave Eggers reading: Dave read some pirate stories from 826 Valencia, a couple bits of You Shall Know Our Velocity, and a bit from A Heartbreaking Work.... My favorite was the pirate stories, partly because of their Markov Chain ridiculousness, but also because Dave read them in his normal voice (pausing occasionally to put his head down between his arms in mock shame, laughing at some particularly ridiculous passage). The other readings were delivered in a plaintive voice which grated on me. The audience asked Dave weighty questions about literature and politics that he had trouble answering. At the signing, he was very friendly and talkative.

    "And then? And then?...?!

    And then I went home.

    : Sometimes I think: "That's so stupid; it'll never catch on!" (or, sometimes, "That's so stupid, it'll never catch on!") Most of the time I have been correct about this, and when this happens I gloat silently. One time I was 100% wrong and appropriately humbled: I used to think it was a really stupid idea to launch applications from a desktop with one click instead of a double-click. It turns out that double-click was unneccessary UI clutter, and now I use single-click application launch all the time and it seems like the natural way to do things.

    One time I was 100% wrong and I remain defiant. I refer to Dippin' Dots. Dippin' Dots is an ice cream-like substance which comes in tiny pebble-sized spheres. You eat it with a spoon like real ice cream. It's advertised as "The Ice Cream Of The Future".

    I first encountered Dippin' Dots in my senior year of high school. They set up a little stand in a Bakersfield mall. I tried some once and it was nothing special. It wasn't as good as actual ice cream, it was gimmicky in an annoying Jetsons/dystopian cyberpunk future way, it had no facility for Ben and Jerry-style interosculation of tasty non-ice cream items, etc. etc. Despite all these flaws it seemed to actually believe that it was the Ice Cream Of The Future, when I saw it pretty clearly as being the Won't Go Anywhere Manufactured Fad Of The Mid-'90s.

    However, I was wrong. Dead wrong. Dippin' Dots has survived; nay, it has prospered. Dippin' Dots is now being sold at McDonald's! I can only hope that the novelty can still wear off, that my perception of Dippin' Dots longetivity is due to my having been part of the very early test market for it. Otherwise... well, it's not really that big a deal. It just bugs me.

    The other thing that bugs me (but pertaining to which I never had incorrect premonitions of market failure) is those drinks with huge blobs of tapioca-derived substance living on the bottom of the cup. I think there's something about little balls of food that rubs me the wrong way.

    : Sumana has the day off, so we went to the beach, over by Mike's old house. We both got our feet soaked due to larger than average waves that struck while we were looking at something (an interesting rock, a sand dollar). The beach is populated by the snowy plover, who wade in the backwash of a wave and then run like the dickens when a new wave approaches.

    PS: I've been looking (but not very hard) for a Web taxonomy, and here is one (it looks complete, but I don't know that it is). Extra cool thing: it gives you a Google image link so that you can search for images of a particular species. It knows not to bother with keeping its own database of organism images! (But for some things there are no images.)

    PPS: What is Escherichia metacoli? Something that helps E. coli digest its food?

    : My aunt Ann and cousin Kristin are in town. Sumana and I went with Kristin and Aaron to see Spirited Away, which I liked a lot. Since everything reminds me of something I did, it reminds me of Guess The Verb!. But more it put me in mind of a Lovecraftian fairy tale, except without the the-universe-is-meaningless stuff. I recommend it, and will provide more details (w/spoilers) upon request.

    Also, I know I've seen the radish spirit before, but where? The only references to it I can find on Google are reviews of Spirited Away. I had the impression it was a standard part of Japanese mythology.

    : Rawr!

    : Where is the baby alligator, you ask? It's right here!

    : Just released NewsBruiser 1.6.0, "Sheep May Safely Graze". It's an overlapping mix of features implemented for the benefit of others (specifically, Mark and Mike), features implemented as part of checklist mania, and features implemented so that I can resurrect Segfault as a NewsBruiser site. There's not much new in there for 1.5.0 users, but pre-1.5.0 users should upgrade.

    Just The Mola, Ma'am: Have you seen a sunfish? Fill out the Sunfish Sighting Report Form!

    Three Funny Things About Diablo II:

    1. At one point you enter a creaky old tower... and the only place you visit is the cellar! It's got a five-story cellar even though the tower itself is only about 20 feet tall in game terms!
    2. Another problem of scale: in act II there's a big fancy palace which at first you can't enter. You finally get to enter it and all you see is this big stairway overlaid with the game text: "To the Harem level 1". This guy's palace consists entirely of his harem!
    3. There is a unique monster named Creeping Feature.

    : Dave sent me a CD containing almost all of the Da Warren files (yay!). I can't put them up at the moment, though, because of the lack of disk space on the Crummy-hosting machine. Will keep informed.

    : Baudolino comes out tomorrow. Sumana acquired a review copy for me a while back (thank you!), but I'm not even halfway through yet (sorry, people who get to read the review copy after I'm done with it!). It's quite good; one might describe it as the tragedy[0] of which Foucault's Pendulum is a retelling as farce.

    [0] I don't know yet whether or not Baudolino is actually a tragedy; what I meant by that is that the characters in Baudolino take their cockamamie medieval idees fixes more seriously than do the characters in Foucault's Pendulum.

    : Funny idea: a "work" skin for FreeCiv, in which the units are ER diagram boxes that you drag around a grid. Note: this only has the barest possibility of fooling anyone, and then only if your job could plausibly consist of moving ER diagram boxes around a grid.

    : I always had a vague feeling that the In-N-Out code words did not actually exist, and were merely planted on the web in order to tempt me to try to use them at In-N-Out, whereupon everyone would laugh at me. But the last time I was at In-N-Out I witnessed a cashier confirm an order as "protein style". Now, I'm paranoid, but I'm not that paranoid, so I guess it's for real. So the problem now is that the various dishes triggered by the code words don't interest me at all.

    : Dan: "It's your error message! No one else would write 'Oh no! Couldn't find localization key!'"

    Is this true?

    Leonard's Exciting Life: I wrote a little piece of doggerel about the idea of a deposit requirement for copyright, inspired by Seth's comments on the subject. Aaron Schwartz responded with another bit of doggerel, and I just polished off a third in response to it. All of this is taking place via email, which feels pretty weird to me, but most likely it will eventually go onto the web and I'll feel better. (Is this some new psychosomatic ailment? Phantom weblog entry?)

    I sort of got sound to work on my computer. I got ARTS and ESD to stop fighting over control of my sound card. The big problem now is that the sound card they were fighting over is the lame sound card welded to my motherboard, and not my real sound card.

    My American Science and Surplus catalog arrived today. I haven't read it yet. I haven't made much progress on Baudolino, either.

    I have been thinking a lot about shipping containers. I want to write a near-future science fiction thriller dealing with a fiendish plot to do with shipping containers. I've been coming up with interesting things someone sneaky could do with them, but they're getting pretty silly, the sort of thing you would see if there were a Batman villain whose gimmick was shipping containers. "Now, Batman, I'll crush you slowly... between two shipping containers! Then I'll make my escape in my boat... made of jerry-rigged shipping containers! Gotham City will be mine... I'll ship it to Singapore!"

    Ouch: "If we're lucky, they'll get permission to export it ONLY to terrorist states."

    : Apropos In-N-Out, Rachel says: "i always order a grilled cheese!"

    : Last night Kevin went home and turned on his TV, and there was Brian. "I screamed," says Kevin. But no, Brian had not taken control of the world's satellite broadcast system; it was the Sundance Channel and Revolution OS was playing.

    Speaking of which, tonight is the night Brian takes control of the world's satellite broadcast system, with an appearance on TechTV's The Screen Savers. Their hailing of Brian as an OpenOffice and Sunversion [sic] developer and "the founder of the open source movement" smells of #FFFF00 journalism, but TechTV once mentioned Segfault, so they're fine by me (tip: this no longer works).

    : "NewMP3Free is not responsible for anything." Yeah, I'll say.

    : Very nice tool (which waits for a killer app, I think): DistroWatch.

    : Last night near the end of my dream, Kim Jong Il showed up, wearing jeans and a plaid button-down shirt, trying to act normal. I'm not sure whether or not my dream generator was trying to be funny, but it was funny. This is not funny, though (in case you were having difficulty determining which aspects of Kim Jong Il are funny).

    : Sinister Bird Hegemony Threatens Arctic Circle

    Product Placement Search Results: Third In An Increasingly Disconcerting Series:

    Dali's most famous for his twisted clocks from "Persistence of Memory." Now you can own a watch shaped like a Dali clock.

    : Is genetic testing the top of a slippery slope that will lead inevitably to mindless armies of "Frankenclones" controlled by the maniacal whim of the high priests of science? Some, who take their funding from Big Hubris, say no; but other, more thoughtful, voices are telling us that it's already happening.

    Most Vague Euphemism Ever?: "Gender Needs"

    (Fortunately not seen in the wild)

    : I got my passport in the mail today. Sumana once noted that any given person will either look like a terrorist or a drug user in their passport photo. Well, I hit the jackpot: I look like a terrorist who's on drugs. I blame the fact that I had to squat slightly to be at the same height as the camera, so I'm sort of leaning crazily off to my left.

    The Secretary of State of the United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizen/national of the United States named herein to pass without delay or hindrance and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection.

    Colin Powell's got my back, so it's okay.

    : Spent the day working on draft support for NewsBruiser; you can (w/the version in CVS) put aside an entry to work on later. You can also set it up such that anyone can contribute a draft and then the administrator can edit and publish the draft; you may recognize this scheme from Segfault. I'm really close to being able to use NewsBruiser to revive Segfault.

    Game Roundup: I haven't actually played any of these games, but they look cool. All of tonight's games are clones of existing games. But first, a slight digression.

    There are four DOS games I'd love to see cloned [Do it yourself! -- Ed. Bite me! I'm just sayin'!]. Strangely, three of them are set in mines (one of them involves mines inside a mine); I must be a sucker for games set in mines. All four were once Da Warren files.

    THE POINT of that digression was that

    Classic Katzdot: It's Time For The Website

    : Here's a game that might be more or less interesting than the 15-puzzle: lo.


    I've got ninety thousand pounds in my pajamas
    I've got fourty thousand Euros in my fridge
    I've got lots of lovely Euros
    Now the Euro's getting dearer
    And my dollar bills would buy the Brooklyn Bridge

    : There was one serious bug in the draft code which ate the technology:software category, but I can restore it thanks to my non-data-normalization laziness.

    : Here's one for my mother: Scrabble variants that reward a naturally large vocabulary rather than obsessive memorization. (via Kevan)

    : NewsBruiser 1.7.0, "Doob Doob A Rama", is out. It's got a lot of stuff, and I finally got serious about documenting the license, so I can in good conscience put up a Freshmeat entry for it.

    Silly Song: Delaney's Donkey (Heard on My Music!)

    Tragedy: A long time ago, stack and I had a brilliant idea that was going to make us millions in software. Unfortunately, we sat on the idea and now those darn open sourcers have cloned it! However, I am secretly relieved by this news, because it means I won't have to look at even more of those method calls of stack's where he puts spaces in between the parentheses and the first and last arguments like this:

    obj.method( arg1, arg2 );

    What the hell is that? A parenthesis provides horizontal space just fine without adding even more space before or after it.

    Oh, uh, the program is called 'pv', and it's really nice. Our version would have been called 'pwc' or something like that, and another reason it's just as well we didn't write it is that if we had, the cloned version would be called 'gpwc'.

    : A (toy) land-based aircraft carrier. Of what possible use would this be? The only thing I can think of is that tiny countries with no need for a real military might want one as a small-ticket item to boost national pride. "Yeah, we've got an air force. Heavy artillery? Got that too!" Or maybe it's part of the starter kit that new countries get, along with the sample constitution.

    More Katzdot: Beyond The WB Tragedy (New readers: this is just a cheap way of getting content for the site when I can't think of anything funny)

    Hi. I'm playing FreeCiv now.

    Children's Book Title: "Bob Blob in the Blog Bog"

    : Part of our weekly employer-subsidized food shipment at work is a box of fruit, and in the box today were some baby kiwi (not baby Kiwi) from a berry company in Oregon called Hurst's Berry Farm, soon to be a major theme park. I had one of these kiwi and it was tasty. Either the juvenile kiwi is hairless or these have had hairiness bred out of them so that you don't have to peel or slice the ridiculously small kiwi; you just eat them. But you probably won't be eating 'them' because you only get a pack of 16; more likely you'll only eat one and save the rest for others. I estimate they're probably twice as expensive as blueberries (you'd get half the fruit for the same price). But I can never eat all those blueberries anyway. Once I'm allowed to eat dry cereal again I may get some and try them on Cheerios or something; I bet that would work well.

    Right now you're thinking "Leonard, these baby kiwi are great and all, but when it comes right down to it, aren't they really just a flavor-packed snack?" Ha ha! You have walked right into my tasty trap! For you see,

    Hurst's Baby Kiwis are more than simply a flavor-packed snack. They are rich in Vitamin C and naturally low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. Hurst's Baby Kiwis are also high in fiber and a great source of potassium, Vitamin E and magnesium. Six ounces of this delicious fruit only contain 130 calories.

    I must admit it's easier for me to get you to walk right into my tasty traps when I get to write your interior monologue for you.

    PS: Is CollabNet weird for still providing free food, what with the dot.com crash and all? Even Microsoft, of the famous free-soda policy, sells food to employees in vending machines, and when I first heard of their free-soda policy (in high school, possibly from Microserfs, or BBS-era geek urban legend), it sounded really extravagant.

    : Hm, I wonder what's holding up the approval of NewsBruiser's Freshmeat entry? But I don't wonder so much that I'm willing to bother the Freshmeat people about it. It's probably a background check or something. They're making sure NewsBruiser hasn't smoked pot on more than three occasions in the past twenty years. (If NewsBrusier ever achieves sentience and runs for public office it can use dodges like: "It was a previous version of myself that published those statements.")

    More NewsBruiser progress this evening. It's almost ready to run Segfault; I just need to add the ability to retroactively post an entry (and I need to convert all those stories I got from the Internet Archive from God-awful Segfault HTML into something I can feed NewsBruiser). I also eventually need image upload and an author index, but that is frosting.

    Argh: There was some Freshmeat confirmation mail that I didn't receive. It's a good thing I received the resulting rejection email (a very classy rejection email, I might add) or I'd have no idea what was going on.

    : My uncle Robert (news - photos) showed up last night without warning. Well, I had warning, but I thought he'd be showing up on Friday. Robert is taking a vacation and came over here to catch a World Series game. He's here for a week; we'll probably be playing some Diablo over the home network, and doing other fun things.

    The past few weeks have seen a parade of Whitneys in this house. There's my mother, my aunt Ann, and now Robert. The only holdout is my uncle Jon.

    : Keri, if it will positively affect your decision to use or not use NewsBruiser, I will be working on image upload for NewsBruiser this weekend (assuming I don't spend the whole weekend playing Diablo with Robert). Also, I don't think Andy's statement about NewsBruiser's orientation towards small entries is true anymore, since newer versions use entry templates and you can change the template to, say, put the entry in its own <div> and whatnot. We'll see what I need to add to get Segfault looking nice.

    I'm eventually going to add a way to package a CSS file and some template files as a "theme" in a directory. This will have four beneficial effects:

    1. It will be easy to demonstrate NewsBruiser's increasingly wackass (that is to say, more wack per unit ass) layout possibilities without manually changing the template strings forward and back.
    2. I'll be able to package a bunch of prebuilt themes with NewsBruiser.
    3. People who love to tweak HTML and CSS but who don't love Python coding will have a mechanism for contributing stuff to NewsBruiser.
    4. I will get to check the "multiple templates" and "remote templates" boxes on the blog tool comparison chart.

    Sumana said I should write a song called "The NewsBruiser Blues".

    : Yesterday at lunch the Dan/Kevin/Josh/Leonard entity came up with the new killer app: a site that, when you sign up, uses an RSS aggregator to send you an email newsletter every day containing the new items in those feeds you've told it you want. Such things already (probably) exist, but if they do they rely on screen-scraping and as such have a limited range. If you know of such a thing that exists, tell me so that Dan and Manoj will stop bugging me about adding a newsletter feature to NewsBruiser.

    You can tell this was partially my idea because it's an aggregator aggregator.

    : I forgot to mention another time I was 100% wrong: I used to think that software power-off for computers was a really stupid idea. But it's actually a great idea. You can shut down the computer just before you leave the house, and not have to hang around for the shutdown process; you can put the shutdown command on a timer and listen to audio from the computer until you fall asleep; etc. So long as there's still a physical power switch you can flip if you need to, I've got no complaints about this innovation.

    Daddy, Make The Man Stop Talking About NewsBruiser: Sorry, kid, but my insane ramblings will ring in your ears throughout this bus ride, yea, even all the way to Tampa. I just added import functionality to NewsBruiser: not import in any specific format, but the generic ability to retroactively post an entry. This will come in handy when I figure out what I need to do to "import from Manilla" to get that checkbox checked and bring in the old editthispage entries. And also, of course, import is essential for Segfault.

    As so often happens to me, I thought it was going to be difficult to implement this but it was very easy. I added just one new method (given a time, figure out what entry ID an entry would have if it had been published at that time) and the rest snapped into place. I would like to attribute this outcome to some special ability on my part, but my genius mainly consists of intuiting the optimal ordering of my feature implementations: retroactive posting was easy because it uses most of the same code as entry deletion (it's just that instead of moving the ordinals of a day's entries back to eliminate one specific entry, you're moving those ordinals forward to accomodate a new one).

    Of course, the elegance of Python helps with the snapping into place: Python frequently gives me the I-joined-lots-of-subsystems-and-they-worked-together epiphanies I call 'Lisp moments', without the I-misplaced-a-parenthesis-and-my-dog-exploded headaches I call 'Lisp moments'.

    : Up and at 'em! News isn't going to bruise itself!

    : Let me tell you about some trauma I suffered recently. BART stations recently added a cool device that changes a $20 bill into four $5 bills. I really like operating this machine, and sometimes I change a $20 bill even when strictly speaking I don't need to. But recently my attempt to change a $20 bill traumatized me. You see, the machine rejected my bill. But instead of rejecting it through the bill acceptor where I'd inserted the bill in the first place, like every other machine in existence that accepts bills, it spat the bill out through a previously unrevealed orifice directly underneath. Gaaah!

    The reason this so traumatized me is that I had built up an internal representation of the machine whereby I fed the machine a $20 bill and it excreted (or I milked it of, if you want a less earthy metaphor) four $5 bills. I assumed that if it didn't like my $20 bill, it would discreetly vomit it back up the way, say, the BART ticket machine will. But instead, this weird alien hole in the throat opened up and my bill was expelled through that.

    I'm better now, but I take from the experience this lesson: never form an internal representation of a machine! Any machine! That machine could turn on you, and on that day you will be slightly discomfited!

    Paid for by Concerned Citizens Against Internal Representations.

    Passive Agressive Technique Pays Off: From a recent stack commit message:

    Also purged spaces from arg lists (crummy made me do it).

    : I've got a rudimentary image/file management system working in NewsBruiser. It's ugly and not everything is implemented, but you can add attachments to an entry, delete attachments from an entry, view a particular attachment, and view all the attachments from a date range. The downside is that I don't want to work on it any more. Which is why sleep was invented.

    You Asked For It Implicitly Accepted It: Brian Donovan has been defending from no one in particular my habit of talking endlessly about NewsBruiser. I will, accordingly, indulge said habit (this also indulges my habit of talking about my personal life, since NewsBruiser and sleeping is all I've been doing for the past 20 hours).

    The image upload code is nicer now, and it is now useful in conjunction with NewsBruiser instead of being a completely separate piece of functionality that happens to share an interface, and I've started using it on this site (see screenshot which is brought to you by the technology of which it's a screenshot). This needs testing before I'm comfortable with another release, though. If anyone thinks this feature is cool and would like to test what's in CVS, I'd love that (or I can make a tarball for you if you're scared of CVS, as I once was).

    : Spam: "Do others ogle at your mane of curls, never knowing the behind-the-scenes beauty battles that you endure?" Why, yes, that's me to a tee!

    : I finally remembered where the idea of the little permalink triangle came from: not, as I once thought, from Doc Searls' site, but from a project I did with Peter Hodgson where we did a hypertext version of Diary of a Madman. The triangle interrupted the main text to signal an entry into the thicket of hypertextual readings below.

    Why, you ask, did we not instead make use of that marvel of HTML, the text link? I'm not sure (I'd never even asked myself that question until just now). Probably because I was trying for an exact lookalike of the earlier HTML version, which was itself a lookalike of a version done in some proprietary hypertext system, which was itself a lookalike of a version done in a third hypertext system, and so on back 10 or 15 years to the dawn of PC hypertext systems (my version is called 'madman7', and there's talk between Peter and I of a madman8). Somewhere in the DOS era there was probably a hypertext system that didn't know about or didn't want to rely on terminal bold or reverse video to signify linked text, and so displayed the link as an asterisk next to the linked text. I actually think madman7 looks nicer with the triangle than it would with linked text, but I may have to revisit that.

    Anyway, here's the triangle, the colors darkened a little for NewsBruiser: . I like it better than the old triangle I made by hand , so I'm going to start using it for NYCB and after I check with Peter I'm going to make it the NewsBruiser default permalink image.

    Note the subtle use of attachments there.

    : Kevan, Claydonia is another fun build-your-own-everything combat game played with children's creativity toys (in this case, modelling clay or Play-DoTM).

    Cautious Revolutionary Mottoes: First In A Series: "Phase Out The State"

    Two-Character Prefixes Used In Subject Lines To Make The Same Piece Of Spam Look Different:

    A new programming language could use these as operators.

    `! (unary string reverse)
    `' (unary string quote of special characters)
    ^* (swap two variables in place)
    .* (multiply string)
    ,* (create a list containing n instances of the given variable)
    .- (remove substring from string)
    ++ (unary increment)
    ** (exponentiation)
    ., (append item to list)

    : Earlier, for some reason I don't recall, Kevin and I started talking about the World's Fair. Do they still have them? Are they like the Olympics, where a corrupt governing body is bribed by cities around the globe for the privilege of attracting millions of gawking tourists for a few months? Or can any city declare a World's Fair and hope enough countries show up to justify the name?

    Kevin recounted his experiences at the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville. That was the last one either of us could remember ever having heard of, and almost all the websites we could find talked about one particular World's Fair or another. But Wikipedia to the rescue! (Motto: "Centralizing the untrustworthiness of Internet content.") They've got a great World's Fair entry which explains all.

    The World's Fair system has the look of a comic book universe where the rules for contributors got too lax, and bizarre rules and alternate universes had to be created to mantain canonicity. The whole thing is run by the Bureau International des Expositions, under the watchful eye of Captain Planet. (The Wikipedia notes the benevolent nature of BIE oversight: "countries can hold their own 'fair', 'exposition', [or] 'exhibition', without BIE endorsement.")

    There have been three confusingly similar expo classifications in use over the years (this is all explained in mind-numbing detail in the Wikipedia entry), but after a spate of expos in the 80s and 90s it looks like they've finally got things under control and have settled down to a relatively sedate rate of five years between World's Fair-class "registered" events, with smaller "recognized" events interspersed. You wouldn't think it would be that complicated to manage the damn World's Fair, but apparently there's some flap with the host country always wanting to use preexisting buildings for the Fair, I mean, geez! You gotta watch those host countries every minute of the day.

    Anyway, the most recent big exposition was the Sprockets-ish EXPO2000 in Hanover. The next one is the Exposition of Global Harmony, or EXPO 2005, in Japan. As with everything these days, EXPO 2005 has mascots and a theme song. (Kevin on the mascots: "That's what I was afraid of: a resurgence of orthodox Shinto.") Its theme is a nature/technology conjunction which could have a Fullerene/Viridian hipness about it but which seems stuck in "we'll build the pavillion out of recycled plastic bottles" mode.

    Looking toward 2010, we see a number of possible contenders (at last, the bribery!). South Korea is a strong contender, as are China and Russia ("Russia not only wants to host EXPO-2010, we have all the necessary economic, political and organizational resources to do so."). Experts say that future geopolitical Sino-Russian cooperation is unlikely if one country snatches the hotly contested EXPO-2010 site away from the other.

    Mexico and Poland are also angling for the EXPO-2010 prize, but Mexico's site is currently down, and Poland's requires Flash, so I preemptively disqualify them from hosting EXPO-2010.

    Looking even further into the future, San Francisco and Istanbul are the current candidates for EXPO 2015. Of course by then we'll all be spacefaring robots.

    : Incidentally, in case you're wondering what kind of vigilance is neccessary in WikiWorld, look at Wikipedia's VANDALISM IN PROGRESS and Edit wars in progress nodes. Of course, this is only neccessary because Wikipedia is a large, ambitious, popular Wiki.

    : At work, I've been doing a lot of testing with randomly generated data. I'm generating the data by picking words from /usr/dict/words. /usr/dict/words contains many archaic words (due to its primary source (I think): a 1911 edition of Roget's) and many archaic neologisms like "Microvaxes" and "BITNET". There are some words which appear only in lists of words, articles about spelling bees, and pieces of random text generated from the Unix word list.

    One such word is "Boswellize". It appears to come from a 1911 encyclopedia entry (another source for /usr/dict/words), and its semantics have never been invoked in a Google-viewable sentence since. Even the encyclopedia entry, and this very weblog entry, only treat "Boswellize" as a word and don't actually use it to convey an idea. I think this word needs to go. I like words and all, but is it really neccessary to have "Boswellize" as an official word? If anyone were to actually say it, its meaning would be obvious, just as it would be if I said "to Clintonize" or "to McDonaldsize". Why keep the word around when it won't earn its keep?

    Some would say that what I desire has already been accomplished, that "Boswellize" has been eliminated from the marketplace of words as measured by its pitiful performance on Google. But it is clear that such people, while well-meaning, are deluded reactionaries. The word is still in /usr/dict/words, and it will be until a more recent encyclopedia than the one with that entry about Boswell passes into the public domain. This, I argue, is the true tragedy of copyright extension.

    By the way, FRELI is a word list with part-of-speech information: useful if you want your random data to make some kind of grammatical sense.

    : If you think Tonight's Episode has been sliding downhill recently, just be glad the same person isn't doing it who came up with the movie name Half Past Dead. Motto: "The Good, The Bad, and the Deadly" (actually, that one's not bad).

    Hm, if Tonight's Episode were to jump the shark, how would we know?

    : From Plurp, it's Bottling A Deep One! Just like Grandma used to make! It's the most interesting item in Propping up the Mythos.

    : Tonight I learned that if you're a farmer in a commercial, you pick your corn (oh yeah, you grow corn) one ear at a time, all by yourself, and put it in a bucket. When the bucket is full you go out to your pickup truck and empty the bucket into your pickup. Under no circumstances do you use any kind of farm machinery to gather the corn, even though that would let you complete the harvest in a week instead of in eighteen months. [Maybe those weren't the farmers! Maybe they were corn poachers! -Ed. While your sarcastic remarks are usually irrelevant and ludicrous, that one actually made some sense. I'm taking a class. -Ed.]

    Future Fad: Vegan imitation versions of food that's already vegan. Examples: soyrange juice, seitan salt, "Nofu", etc.

    Cheap Thrills: CollabNet is briefly mentioned in the new book Living Networks. Jason met yesterday with Ross Dawson, the author, and got a copy of the book autographed to CollabNet as a whole ("To CollabNet: thanks for a magical weekend," joked Jason). One letter, perhaps, of the autograph text is to me (assuming we have autograph sharing).

    The book has an associated weblog, of the "thoughtful technologist" genre popularized by Dan Gillmor and Tim O'Reilly. When will all books have associated weblogs, you ask? The answer is "never".

    Hm, I just had a glimpse of a future in which a publisher's books automatically have associated weblogs, accessible from http://www.publisher.com/weblogs/[ISBN], lying dormant like so many IMDB discussion boards.

    Kills All Known Murder. Dead.: Occasionally Jason and I have discussed the possibility of automating the generation of Tonight's Episode titles. Unfortunately, it's impossible because the act of coming up with the data for the automaton would be equivalent to coming up with a bunch of Tonight's Episode titles, and then you could just use the titles. However, Kevan has come up with a clever approximation: you take a more general-purpose text generator and simply feed it the Tonight's Episode buzzwords. Kevan calls this innovation "Tonight's Sponsor" and recommends the usual suspects. The dataset yields some strong contenders, as well as approximations to actual Tonight's Episodes past ("Nothing Comes Between Me And My Murder") and future ("Snap! Crackle! Death!").

    Call For Submissions: I need some NewsBruiser themes (I'm working on the actual theme packaging and selection, but I am no good at designing themes). A theme consists of a CSS file and some template strings. Ideally, the NewsBruiser theme you create would be exciting and original, but I will settle for ripoffs of LiveJournal/Radio/Movable Type/Whatever themes. Getting other people to work on themes will also be useful for pointing out deficiencies in the template system.

    What's the best way to do this? People who already have NewsBruiser installed can just mess around with their install. For others, I could create a temporary notebook on crummy. Is anyone interested in that?

    In more labor-intensive UI news, I'd also really appreciate it if someone would come up with some UI standards for NewsBruiser. I've been doing it sort of ad hoc and it's not as consistent as I'd like.

    : Enough about me. Let's talk about Brian Donovan's cool ahoy program. It's a bit of Javascript which fulfills my lifelong dream of being able to link to any arbitrary chunk of a webpage (but not my lifelong dream of being able to link to any arbitrary chunk of any arbitrary webpage). It's GPLed and it works with Mozilla (and everybody uses Mozilla now, right?). Brian, would I be correct in assuming that it would be okay to use ahoy in conjunction with the docs for BSD-licensed NewsBruiser, since the Javascript never actually interacts with any of the code?

    : I found Garrett. He works for Red Hat now (he designed the controversial BlueCurve theme). I wonder if he still has the Segfault icons.

    : "We are no bug to no one."

    Oh No, It's Devo NewsBruiser!: 1.8 is out, with hot file upload action. Unlike with previous versions of NewsBruiser, I've been using the (effectively) 1.8 code for a week, so you have more cause than usual to think it stable.

    So far I've recruited Brendan into my conspiracy to commit themes. Any other takers?

    : I sometimes have stupid crises, which you never see, about posting links dealing with something I found on some other weblog. For some reason I feel that this is illegitimate, even though it's obviously not! Anyway, today's edition of such links comes via CamWorld. It's the cutest little thing you've ever seen[0]: Javascript programs whose only control is a form submission button and whose display is the text on that same button. My favorite is "Happy Eater", the game of fructophilia, possibly because it brings new life to the smiley idiom. In addition to providing us with this buttony bounty, Kirk Israel, the author, also has a fun weblog.

    [0] May not actually be the cutest little thing you've ever seen.

    : For Halloween, Kris shaved his macho goatee and dressed up as the Checkerboard Nightmare ("The Checkerboard Nightmare" makes it sound serious and brooding, like "The Batman"). This reminds me of when I was in sixth grade and I constructed a Nethack acid blob costume out of lime-green gauze and plastic sheeting. I don't think I've dressed up for Halloween since. There was just no way to top that.

    Mini Photo Wire Roundup:

    : Hilarity exists at The Big Empire Guide to Las Vegas on 25¢ a Day. Includes case studies in squalor and tip sheets derived from said case studies, for the benefit of those intent on being free riders on the Las Vegas economy. There's also a special collection of comically bad gambling advice, and even a tour of the Liberace Museum.

    Since this is the Vegas entry (as of now), I need to mention, for those who haven't seen it, the cool Wired article about the MIT blackjack team, which came up with a division of labor to exploit the optimal blackjack strategy without alerting the house to their actions. Sometimes I wish I could be a bad-ass card counter, but then I remember that I already make good money doing actual useful work, and I feel better.

    : Last night Sumana and I prepared Zack's minimalist pasta sauce. Tasty! Today I prepared the "wretched excess" version, where you use up as much of the perishable food from last night as you possibly can. Also tasty! Like a Philly cheesesteak, but with pasta.

    Secret Clickolinko Interface Revealed!:

    Accusations Fly In Clickolinkostan Parliament As Cabinet Resigns Over showtime Scandal

    Opposition Leader: "limit Was The Last Straw"

    Disgraced PM Neakums Accepts Responsibility For Covert tz Modification

    : Today marks the 300th episode anniversary of Tonight's Episode. Don't believe me? You can verify with a click of your mouse.

    PS: tonightsepisode.com is completely untaken! Grab it now and put something goofy on it! (Assuming you have nothing better to do today.)

    : Added theme support to NewsBruiser. Now I just need themes. I came up with a maximally boring theme called "Poindexter", so at least I have something, but I can't release 1.9.0 until I have a decent alternate theme.

    : To the ad hoc NYCB search debugging team (which is Brendan and someone else, I forget who): I found the cause of the index corruption. It was happening when there were outstanding index updates and two people hit the search CGI at the same time. Both CGIs were simultaneously processing the index updates and saving the index, which caused random corruption. I added locking and I can't duplicate the problem anymore on my computer. Hopefully NYCB will be as fortunate.

    : Lawrence! You got me!

    : More gambling: Kevin claims to have a seedy uncle John who designs slot machines. Kevin also claims that everyone has a seedy uncle John, which is patently false: I have an uncle Jon but he's just about the least seedy person imaginable. But where I'm going with this is that more than I want to be a bad-ass card counter (q.v.) I would like the more profitable occupation of bad-ass slot machine designer.

    Right now gambling is only legal in certain parts of the country, which means that almost all opportunities for impulse gambling are squandered on the miserable payoff of state lottery tickets. Slot machines are designed for placement in a featureless wasteland where people go specifically to gamble, such as Las Vegas, a reservation, or the state of New Jersey. If gambling were to be legalized in a new area, slot-machine companies would simply flood that area with their current lowest-common-denominator slots, with no regard for local differences. Slot machine companies need to have a flexible system in place that allows them to instantly deploy region-specific slots to any state or U.S. territory.

    I envision a Sun-like system with a network of dumb slot machines each of which has not only its payoff pattern but also its branding controlled by a central server. Whenever someone walks away from a machine, the machine may undergo a state transformation into a game more likely to keep someone at the machine.

    This opens up amazing new opportunities for the house. Rather than relying on crude randomness, slots can play in quasi-legal ways on people's superstitious conceptions of the odds in order to increase revenue (it will also create new superstitions, such that a slot is 'hot' after changing state). As new and flashier themes are created, a casino operator can purchase them online and download them onto the server, which will automatically begin propagating them onto the casino's slot machines. It also gives me license to come up with thousands of bizarre, unworkable slot machine themes like Nethack slots, slots with polynomial terms on the reels where you win if the resulting polynomial can be factored, and slots with Magic Eye icons.

    Eventually all the slots will settle to an equilibrium consisting of the same sort of lowest-common-denominator slots that existed in the first place, but by that time I will have retired wealthy and fled the country. (Bizarrely, many of my plans end with "but by that time I will have retired wealthy and fled the country"; I should look into this.)

    Game Roundup:

    : Phidgets are single-purpose peripherals that take computer action based on sensor data and/or take real-life action based on the computer or network environment. A gallery of whimsical phidgets brings to physical manifestation the little X toys, the load monitors and IRC notification agents and the like. My favorite is the physical biff implementation Marble Mail.

    It's all pretty useless, of course, but my cube at work is full of useless stuff that isn't connected to the computer, so why not (for example) make my Godzilla action figure stomp around whenever someone assigns me an issue?

    : Ed has semi-moved to Japan, so his coveted Aeron chair is mine! I remember his last tearful words to me on Friday: "Have a nice weekend."

    Being An Account Of A New And Cunning Deception: While driving to work (I missed the bus) I saw a garbage truck move into the right lane while flashing its left turn signal. I was amazed. Why didn't I think of that? Unfortunately, the left turn signal kept flashing and it became obvious that the truck driver simply had the left turn signal permanently on and wasn't paying attention to turn signals at all.

    : Josh points out that Radio Userland has implemented our RSS email aggregator idea. That's one hardy cactus! It would be nice if there was a site that did this for you, though; I can't get Dan and Manoj off my back by telling them to use Radio Userland.

    Update: Aaron reveals that he too has written an RSS-to-email aggregator. "I want to make it a hosted service, but I haven't done it," says Aaron.

    : Been very busy this week, but I'm trying to post something here every day (the calendar view is for some reason a powerful incentive for me on this score; I like having every day on the calendar linked). I have a bunch of email which I should write up; probably this weekend. I'm posting this lame entry before I go to sleep so that I can't use it as an excuse for not posting anything interesting tomorrow.

    : More potential Twilight Zone hosts: the two cops from Law And Order: Oh My God A Body. Disadvantages: they would have to cross networks to host the show. Advantages: the episode would start just after it would have ended had anyone else been the host, and the cops would come on the scene and spend the entire segment cracking wise about the character's misfortune. "Looks like the victim's face was normal, yet everyone else had a hideous face, so the standards of beauty were reversed!" "Yeah, reminds me of my mother-in-law." "He'll be getting his beauty sleep now, that's for sure." "Twenty years on the force and I've never seen irony like this." Etc., etc.

    This reminds me that for my entire life until about a year ago, until I got braces, I thought it was normal in humans for the upper and lower teeth to meet, because that was how my teeth were. Now it turns out that (what I thought was) a slight overbite is normal.

    : Evil Entity Linux will make your desktop gloomy and hard to read for you. Find a market segment and go with it, I say.

    Many say, "MS Windows has won, and the Linux Desktop is dead!" Now the Linux Desktop is UNDEAD, and it has risen from its crypt in search of virgin blood.

    (From LinuxOrbit via LWN)

    : Sumana came up with a gimmick I can use when I need to generate revenue from this site: News Too Hot To Bruise. (News You Can Scald?) I'm not sure what it would be news about, but once I have your money I can probably think of something.

    : NewsBruiser 1.9.0, "Dancing Elephant Revue". Fixes several annoying bugs and creates theme support. I still need themes (a couple of people are working on themes, but no themes yet); the docs and changelog are sprinkled with rather pathetic requests for contributed themes.

    That Darn Organism!: I'm starting to worry about RSI, and I've found these yoga exercises useful. #2, in particular, helps a lot (in alleviating my fears of oncoming RSI; possibly not in other respects).

    : I added some clever code to NewsBruiser which runs the weblogs.com ping in the background so that you're (I'm) not wasting precious post-submit seconds waiting for it to complete. This is a test entry for it.

    Update: Yeah, that was faster.

    : Itamar Shtull-Trauring, who wrote a very useful HTML stripping tool in Python which I use in NewsBruiser, has on his website a funny Ontological Proof of the Existence of Ernie.

    : I just added RSS 2.0 support to NewsBruiser, so RSS people try it out and let me know if it works. I got it to validate, so I must be doing something right. [Valid RSS]

    : Happy day! Problems have been resolved and NewsBruiser now has a Freshmeat entry.

    : First, I added RSS 2.0 support to NewsBruiser. Thirsty for revenge, I then added RSS 3.0 support to NewsBruiser. Works pretty well. I also integrated Ahoy, making this a nice little maintenance release. Not touching NewsBruiser for the rest of the day.

    Game Roundup:

    : Note to people coming here via Freshmeat looking for a NewsBruiser demo site: NewsBruiser is very slow on this machine, but it's not NewsBruiser's fault; all CGIs and SSIs are very slow on this machine. It ain't neccessarily slow.

    : Google Cache says someone has actually written a (non-musical) play called Kiss Me Kant. It has the archaic wit that I enjoy.

                                        DUC DU DRYROT
    Then I take it you don't enjoy the company of women.
    Quite the contrary. But must every company be incorporated?

    : Celestia is a software package for which I've been waiting years. It's an astronomy program that actually lets you move around space rather than keeping you stranded on Earth looking at the stars. It's got a star catalog and you can hop from one star to another in seconds. My only complaints: an "accellerate but stay in current orbit" mode would be great, the browsable list of objects is currently available only on Windows, and Celestia sometimes causes X to freeze for a while (Graphics card incompatibility? Just computationally intensive?). The Celestia page is updated with new celestial bodies as humans discover or launch them. All in all, a great piece of software.

    : Andy Holloway, I think your problem is caused by a bug in the Default theme's entry template. Update themes/Default/configuration from CVS, or try changing "<p class="entry">...</p>" in the entry template to "<span class="entry"><p>... </p></span>". That should fix the problem.

    Also, NewsBruiser won't accept an entry if the title is the notebook password (I had the same problem you did when I added title support).

    Update: The clickolinko oracle speaks: "now hacking nycb is simply a process of figuring out what title is missing." Unfortunately, as of yet there exists no effective enumeration of NYCB titles.

    : So far this year I've gotten 40 megabytes of spam and 46 megabytes of email viruses. But I've only gotten about 325 email viruses, and I've gotten about 5000 pieces of spam. This makes me think that spam and email viruses represent the two reproductive strategies. Spam is the sturgeon strategy where you send out thousands of tiny, defenseless eggs and hope that one or two of them come to fruition; whereas email viruses are the human strategy, where you create fewer, larger offspring, imbuing each of them with the skills they'll need to survive and reproduce.

    : Todd Fahrner, master of CSS and hopeful NewsBruiser UI manager, lays the smack down on me:

    you advise andy holloway to jump from the frying pan of his horribly invalid html to the fire of even more horribly invalid html. span can't contain p. any inheritable formatting properties associated with the span shouldn't make it into the p because the p essentially terminates the span - if a browser does otherwise it's part of its (nonstandard) error handling. my first concern with theme development/ui is to make it difficult to produce invalid html. it's not productive to try to apply css to html that can't be parsed in a deterministic way.

    Shows what I know.

    Generic Food Product Name #2: "Dinner Tonight"

    : Andy, try NewsBruiser 1.9.2 (Motto: "Now, with functionality!"). If it doesn't help, let me know.

    NewsBruiser 1.9.2 also features Brendan Adkins' "Timothy" theme, which is pretty sharp.

    : Something strange is happening to me, a sort of culinary Stockholm syndrome. I no longer want to eat foods that I can't eat because of my braces. For instance, candy bars no longer hold any interest for me. I can no longer fathom why someone might want to chew on ice cubes. I'm even not terribly interested in crusty bread anymore. The only exception is popcorn, particularly Cracker Jack.

    : Brendan came up with another theme, "Laurie", which duplicates the look of his weblog. Cool! This was one of the things I was hoping NewsBruiser was now flexible enough to do.

    : "As you know, Bob..." in the wild.

    : The morning rain ran noisily through the walls of the house and soaked the carpet outside my room. To get rid of the rain-stench I sprayed the carpet with foam from a can and vacuumed, twice. The foam itself smells pretty bad, but it doesn't last, and it's a lot better than the smell it replaces. Which is strange, because the name of the scent on the can is "morning rain".

    : (Via everyone) MAD's parody of The Onion is pretty good, and preempts the "Headline Funny, But Article Drags On Way Too Long" Segfault story I was never able to force myself to finish.

    : By this time next week I'll be in London. I've discovered a strange mental behavior: I think that facts about the future are facts about the present. For example, "In the future I will be going to England". I don't viscerally understand that at some point in the future the present state of affairs will be that I am in England, and that shortly thereafter the present state of affairs will be me returning from England. I think that it will always be the case that in the future I'm going to England, as though this were something on a huge list of things I plan to do one day and not something for which I'd already bought tickets. This makes it hard for me to prepare, except in spasmodic flurries of activity after which I think "OK, I'm ready", even though all I did was buy some cheap sweatshirts to wear while there and then jettison to some deserving UK charity, filling the space on the return trip with moon rocks and cheap gin.

    it's ok to contact this poster with fun things do do while in England
    this is in or around London

    : A wealth of mola mola pictures, including some great schools of molas and basking molas. Warning: not all of these pictures are pleasant. Some depict molas subject to ectoparasites, a dead mola being preyed upon by starfish, and molas in every condition being menaced by huge, translucent copyright symbols.

    : Joe Barr asks Linus Torvalds 10 goofy questions, including the real-life "Does UNIX have eBay?"

    2) Does Linux run on Red Hat?
    Torvalds: That's just too strange a question.

    Disturbing Sci-Fi Product Disclaimers: "Caution: Filling Is Sentient"

    : A worthy NewsBruiser competitor: MOD. Written in PHP, no database requirement, focusing on reader interaction (which NewsBruiser abjures; interact with someone else, you losers! (just kidding)).

    : The Baen Free Library, online publishers of a Retief anthology, [Hey! Write about Retief! -Ed. Okay, I will, geez.] have recently published The Wizardry Compiled, which I'd heard of but never before actually seen. It's a magic-meets-software fantasy novel that warms my heart like a AM/PM cheap chili dog by occasionally actually mentioning some specific thing about programming, and by always using "programmer" to describe a type of person, the way Roast Beef does (hey, two Achewood references in one day today).

    Anyhoo, I found this book, and many others, through this valuable resource at Penn: The Online Books Page. I hope they're mirroring all these books.

    : Seth David Schoen takes the bait, inviting me to visit one of Simon Finch's bookshops while in London. "You might see things which you would otherwise only see in museums," says Seth. "(Of course, you could also go to museums in London and see similar things.)"

    This is the first NYCB entry in a while I've posted in Lynx. The list of categories is pretty long, but there's not much I can do about that.

    Progress: It used to be that someone at every BART station had written "NO WET TICKETS" on a piece of paper and taped it to every ticket-taking machine in that station, because the ticket-takers would choke on wet tickets. But times have changed, and now all those ad-hoc signs have been replaced by a standardized "NO WET TICKETS" sign with a graphic on it.

    : In the long run, we are all Keynesians.

    : NewsBruiser 1.10.0 is out. It includes new date grouping stuff, which is demonstrated by a theme that makes NewsBruiser look like Kevan's weblog (I was going to clone a LiveJournal theme as a demonstration, but Kevan's looks better).

    : Shweta stars, and Zack is mentioned, in today's Narbonic. Also, there are pirates!

    Leonard's Peeves: nth in a Series of nn: A "mile" in an airline's frequent flyer program has absolutely no relationship to a "mile" of space. The 'miles' should be called 'points', like they are in every other point-based currency scheme. Also, the relationship of a "point" in the frequent flyer program would have about the same relationship to a "mile" of space as a geometrical point has to a line segment one mile long.

    : JCSC is a souped-up lint for Java. Looks pretty nice.

    : I've mentioned it before, but there's more good stuff on Footnotes To History, the gallery of ephemeral states. Thrill! to the Jesse Ventura-esque antics of the maverick governor of North Dakota! Spill! off the edge of Ernest Hemmingway's brother's tiny platform nation of New Atlantis! Mill! around the utterly defenseless Minerva, which got annexed by Tonga, for heaven's sake.

    : What connects two buzzwords? It's JMS4Spread!

    (Spread is not really a buzzword, but it deserves to be.)


    <kmaples> Subject: Hate Typing? You Talk, It Types Software
    <kmaples> well, that puts us out of business

    : Lie justification footnote... co-opted!

    Nostalgia: My favorite extended ASCII characters, the happy faces, are also HTML entities! ☺ ☻ In Mozilla on Linux they look just like they do in the DOS old-school. Lynx renders them as smileys. How do they look in your browser? HTML also has a token unhappy face (☹), which to me looks rounder, smaller, and like it just has a droopy moustache.

    : More London, from Kevan:

    A place for you to go in London, by the way - Cynthia's Bar, a bar staffed entirely by robots! Apparently. I've never actually been sure where to find it, but someone mentioned recently that it had a web site (http://www.cynbar.co.uk); it seems to be hiding under London Bridge somewhere. It might be terrible, I've no idea. But it's staffed by robots!

    Beyond that, I only ever seem to go to the Tate Modern gallery (which is worth a glance, they usually have some vast, insane installation in the entrance area) and Mornington Crescent (the Tube station, which may or may not mean anything). And the London Science Museum is fun and free, if you've got some time to wander. Aside from lots of new toys and gadgets to poke at, they haven't updated the computing section since the 1970s, and it's become a bizarre brown-wallpapered history of itself.

    Tomorrow: Michael Stack's teary-eyed reminiscences of his native land, and lands adjacent.

    : Busy packing. Sorry for the lack of stack; his solliloquy is in an IRC window at work, so I can't paste it in now, and when I was at work I was too busy to remember putting it anywhere I could access it now. To make up for it, here's a picture from October.

    : Sorry for the big build-up; here's stack.

    <stack> Man. Its going to be so great.
    <leonardr> if there's something they have there that you can't get here, lemme know so i can get you some
    <stack> What I want you can't bring home (Pint in a country pub... train ride through english country-side).
    <stack> England is beautiful.
    <stack> Or... least, can be.
    <stack> Tate modern is pretty amazing. Otherwise I always liked the portrait gallery. Its to the side of the national gallery.
    <stack> Then if your in london for a w/e, get up early and go to brick lane mkt. Its in old part of london, whitechapel (Jack the Ripper, where marx used live, now its indians and south asians... amazing restaurants... biggest mosque in england)... market is good taste of old england...
    <stack> My brother is manager at camden mkt which your sister might drag you too... I worked there for years. Its touristy now... but if she takes you, go to the compendium bookstore there.

    Stack's brother is no doubt the celebrated Eamon Stack. I may look him up and say hi.

    : Atticus, who looks a bit like I did at his age, now has a little brother, Samuel.

    : My award-losing photo of the poorly-designed Lord of the Rings game box ("Where does Sauron go? Why the huge plastic depressions to hold small things like little cardboard punch-outs? A game within a game!") gets hit by a lot of Google image searches for "lord of the rings". This actually makes some sense; it's one of the only pictures of its kind which is a picture of "lord of the rings" rather than a picture of some specific part of Lord of the Rings, like Tom Bombadil. So I assume that all the vague people who got it as a search result are happy.

    : OK, I'm off. I'll be back on the 30th. Amount of news to be bruised between now and then: unknown.

    : I'm in London! I'm also tired; I walked about 5 miles today. More later; I'm just checking in.

    : Well, once again I walk the green grass of freedom (except I'm inside, and there's no grass). I forgot how to use the mouse, and I got 350 email messages, some of which might actually not be spam, but other than that I'm okay. I don't feel like it's 3 in the morning or anything. Much, much more later.

    : The oldest, smallest-payoff Spanish prisoner scam ever:

    Claim your $320 from Aztec Riches now!

    : Sumana saw Rapture Letters linked at MemeMachineGo and wondered how it works. I can think of two ways. The low tech way is to have an unsaved confederate agree ahead of time to send out the emails. The other way, which is probably what they're actually using, is to use a program like Dead Man's Switch, which does something irreversible unless you're around to hit a button every week. As always, this opens up the possibility that one week the person in charge is just going to forget to hit the button, making it look like (as Kris thinks has already occured) the Rapture happened but nobody got taken.

    : I had no jet lag going over, but it's pretty bad coming back. I think this makes sense.

    I managed to get 400 of my 500 pictures out of my camera Data corruption on the memory card has made the rest of the photos elusive. Perhaps 150 of the 500 are good enough to go up on the web.

    : On the way to the grocery store I was passed by a big tricked-out truck wearing a bumper sticker that said BACK OFF . . . I'VE GOT FIRESTONES. Clearly this is a new trend I missed out on while I was in England; bumper stickers that try to intimidate other drivers with facts about your car. So I could get a bumper sticker that says BACK OFF . . . I JUST TOPPED OFF MY WINDSHIELD WIPER FLUID, or BACK OFF . . . I'VE GOT ANTI-LOCK BRAKES, or BACK OFF . . . IT'S PAID FOR (it's actually not yet paid for, but no one need know). Or maybe it's facts about the driver rather than neccessarily the car, in which case I could use BACK OFF . . . I KNOW JAVA, or BACK OFF . . . I'M 1/16 NATIVE AMERICAN, or BACK OFF . . . I LIKE HOT SAUCE. But those are just guesses; which facts are intimidating enough to go on a bumper sticker?

    Jerky Boys: I love the totally useless things that my Amazon Gold Box presents in the vain hope that I'll buy an attachment to an appliance I don't have. Yesterday I was presented with the Beef Jerky Works Kit. It's a caulking gun that instead of caulk contains ground meat and spices. You spray it into strips and dehydrate it in your food dehydrator. Remember, when you hear the word "jerky", reach for your gun... your jerky gun, that is!

    I think that the Gold Box picks stuff more or less at random (maybe everyone's Gold Box is the same?) from the list of high-margin items like appliances, rather than make any effort to match up with things Amazon thinks you might want. Otherwise, as Cam pointed out, people might wait to buy something until it went into their Gold Box, making the exercise counterproductive (for Amazon).

    This stubborn refusal to make use of the recommendation information is actually the reason why I like the Gold Box: it's the closest thing I've ever seen to a "random item for sale" button. If some online megastore had such a truly random button, I would do nothing but hit that button all day. First I'd need to come up with some sort of business plan for hitting that button all day, though. The obvious one involves a website where I point the jaded viewer to ever more odd and interesting books and appliances that they never would have found through any recommendation algorithm. The site makes money by taking a commission on sales. The site makes money by being a front for a diamond smuggling ring.

    : Kris sets me straight:

    Wouldn't the "Back off, I have Firestones!" be a joke on the Firestone defective tire recall thing, meaning the car is dangerous to drive near? I feel dumb telling you if you knew already, but if you neglected to inform your audience of that for the sake of a "random car parts" joke, I think that's dishonest and hurtful.

    I vaguely knew about some tire recall thing but I didn't know they were Firestones. I almost made the connection anyway, but you must understand that this was a truck made to look like a miniature monster truck. It had a big American flag painted on the driver's side door (possibly on the other door as well). To me the bumper sticker looked like the driver was taking sides in a miniature Ford/Chevy-style flamewar; I thought the only reason there were even words on the bumper sticker was that it would have taken too long for another driver to figure out that that thing Calvin is pissing on is the Goodyear logo.

    This seemed much more likely to me than that the driver of the truck would have a bumper sticker saying "Look out! An essential part of my ultra-customized vehicle is substandard and could fail at any moment! It's wacky!" But clearly, I was wrong, and the driver of the truck has a more nuanced psychological profile than I'd thought. Or maybe the bumper sticker was put on by guerrilla bumper sticker vandals. Yeah, that's it. Elven vandals... with jetpacks!

    Update: Kris achieves a Hegelian synthesis:

    If the car was all tricked out and huge rather than a sensible truck, I'd be more likely to believe the company that made the bumper sticker said "hee hee, the tire recall!" and the guy who bought the bumper sticker saw it and said "... YEAH! FIRESTONES ROCK!"

    Spam: live in your house. Yeah, that's the idea.

    Joke Told During Prohibition:

    So this grasshopper walks into a bar restaurant, and the barten-- the waiter says, "You know, we have a drink named after you. And the grasshopper says, "Really? Why would anyone name a drink Water?"

    : Sometimes when I'm drifting off to sleep or when I actually am asleep, I experience this weird jerk. Harlan Ellison comes into my room and starts berating me. No, what actually happens is a muscle spasm which, if I'm already asleep, might wake me up with a sudden dream-sensation of violently tripping over something. In an inversion of my overbite belief, I always thought this was just some weird quirk of my biology, but today J. Bradford Delong reveals that it is a general feature of humans. It's your brain unplugging your motion and speech centers so that you don't chase rabbits in your sleep. So when you dream, one part of your brain is acting the Cartesian demon to the other parts, intercepting commands to your body and creating the sensation of their fulfillment.

    Conflations That Bother Me #2: "innovative" and "new"

    Four Search Requests, Presented In Descending Order Of Politeness:

    1. jeeves can you please find me a fruit machine that i can play on for free
    2. can jeeves find me a political cartoon?
    3. i need to see pictures of gingerbread houses
    4. Tell me about the battle of hastings you stupid computer

    Today's Fun Thing: I added random entry functionality to NewsBruiser.

    From Lego Dawn To Lego Decadence: When I was a kid there were four types of Lego sets: Castle, Space, Town, and Bucket O' Bricks. Nowadays there are ten or twenty types of Lego sets, and all of them are lame.

    Let me give you an example: the old Space sets were great. They had enough gadgetry that you could build any kind of futuristic-looking instrument, but not so much of so many different kinds that it was difficult to mantain a consistent design aesthetic. The humans were differentiable by their different colored spacesuits, which allowed you to assign them to jobs like in Star Trek, or make them representatives of rival space organizations, which for some reason all used the same logo: the symbol of the Galactic Empire from Foundation.

    Now the Space sets have been discontinued (?) and replaced by Star Wars sets. Now, I like Star Wars as much as the next fellow, but if I want Star Wars I'll see a movie. If I want to re-enact scenes from Star Wars I'll buy Star Wars action figures and move them around jerkily while speaking in deep or high-pitched voices. To my mind, there's no need to pollute the Lego piecespace with Star Wars stuff. Yet there it is. I can't get a spaceman anymore and give him or her a motivation; I can only get predefined characters from Star Wars.

    In retrospect, Lego started going downhill when they started making different types of Lego person heads. This was with the introduction of the Pirate line of Lego sets. I admit that that huge pirate ship was really cool, but it was also the gateway drug into a never-ending spiral of bizarre custom Lego pieces and pre-imagined scenarios. It was a slippery slope from custom heads to a product line whose bread and butter is specific custom heads that tie in to movies.

    So, the Space sets have been replaced by Star Wars sets. I never really figured out how to do interesting things with the Castle sets (though it would be cool to render the castle from Degeneracy in Lego), but at any rate those have been replaced by Harry Potter sets. The workaday Town sets have been replaced, I suppose, by various 'adventure' sets which are more extreme; I say that because they have the same design aesthetic as the old Town sets. Those aren't as bad as the others. The Bucket O' Bricks 'sets' are still around in about the same proportion as they used to be (which is to say, not much). (There are also sets with gears and things, but I never paid as much attention to those as I should have.)

    This brings me to the actual thing I wanted to talk about here. There is a series of sets called "Lego Studios", which consists of a Lego set plus a Lego man with a Lego camera who's there to film the goings-on. What the hell, man! How is acting out the filming of a movie about a vampire more interesting than acting out an actual vampire scenario? Let me put this in tabular form so that you can understand my confusion.

    "Vampire" scenario "Filming of vampire movie" scenario
    Vampire?Yes Not really

    There's a Spider-Man tie-in. Now, Spider-Man is all CGI, but the "Lego Studios" set for Spider-Man isn't a room with a Beowulf cluster and some workstations; it's some fake buildings and a Spider-Man guy and a guy with a camera and a guy with a megaphone. It makes it look like the actor playing Spider-Man actually has spider-powers--that he is, effectively, Spider-Man. Why not just make it a damn Spider-Man set? Kids who get this set for Christmas will probably not actually use the cameraman or director, which is heartening, but why are they in there at all? You're supposed to be the one telling Spidey what to do!

    My prediction: the Lego Studios line will grow to swallow the Harry Potter and Star Wars lines. After all, those are movies as well, and all you have to do is add a few pieces for a film crew and you've completely ruined the dramatic tension!

    Newspapers Of The Future: First In A Series: The Washington Post-Scarcity

    NewsBruiser Theme Song: I made up a silly NewsBruiser theme song. The short version goes:


    Only you sing it like "Transformers!" in the Transformers theme song. This is actually the better of the two versions. The extended remix goes:

    More than eats the pie!

    Again like the beginning of the Transformers theme song. I don't know what qualities enable NewsBruiser to exceed mere eating the pie, but it's a theme song that Joe Mahoney will like, which is the important thing.

    : I'm posting this from my new toy, a Hiptop (of Mike Popovic hype fame). While this carries little intrinsic interest, it foreshadows things to come; I envision myself stranded on the side of I-5 and posting to NYCB for help.

    I'd post a random picture taken from the Hiptop, but the web browser doesn't seem to support file upload. (Finally, complaining, my natural medium!) More Hiptop news as it develops (but probably typed on the big computer).

    (Later) Here it is.

    : I told Sumana the short version of the NewsBrusier theme song and, shockingly she came up with the exact same second line as I did. Together we came up with a few alternate second lines, some of which attempt to actually connote what NewsBruiser does. Examples:

    Holds up half the sky!
    Blogging on the sly!
    Featureful and spry!
    Someday you will die!

    That last one is useful for putting the lie to Doc Searls' (??? I can't find it anywhere) observervation that "Everybody dies" is an idea never seen in advertising.

    *** You have found kitten ***: I kept not mentioning this until it was released, which in someone with patience would be considered a sign of forbearance, but in me is simply a sign of not getting to it. Dave wrote an Inform version of robotfindskitten, complete with bonus custom NKIs. As NTK would say,

    ... otherwise it's Dave Griffith, Inform, and robotfindskitten -
    together at last! - in Z-machine remake ROBOT FINDS KITTEN (sic)
    ( http://www.cndb.com/game.html?title=Robot+Finds+Kitten+%282002%29:  
    Good shot of robot's ass as it bends over to check whether or not the
    thing in the upper right hand corner of the screen is kitten)...

    Call For Future Prior Art: A while ago I wondered if I could think of any way of encrypting a physical object. I thought of a couple ways of doing it, one of which requires no future technology but which is very time-consuming and only works for certain types of objects. I'll leave that alone for the time being. The other way I thought of requires nanotech, and it's a special case of a cool-sounding general technology. I want to know whether anyone else has used this idea, and how. (And how!)

    The general idea is that you send a swarm of nano-bots at an object and compress it into a block of very, very dense nanobot matter. The block has the same mass as the original object, but it comes in a standard shape--maybe the size of a brick, with a protrusion on top for attaching a crane hook or similar lifting device. Now, if you want to encrypt the object, then as part of the compression you simply scramble the smart matter so that the nanobots won't know what goes where without your private key.

    Problems: this would probably take a lot of energy. If you tried it on something living, it would probably die unless the compression was incredibly fast. If you could do this you could also use nanobots to make a copy of the object, encrypt the data generated by the nanobots, destroy the object, and recreate it from the encrypted data as many times as you wanted, which is more useful. (Rebuttal: this technology ensures continuity of matter, and avoids the embarrassing situation where you need to reconstruct something but don't have enough spare mass on hand, and the Johnsons are coming over! Also, storing a molecular copy of an object may require about the same amount of mass, in which case the two technologies would be pretty much the same.)

    Has anyone thought of such a technology, or encountered it anywhere in fiction? I can think of a couple things I'm working on (very, very slowly) where I could use this.

    : I've put up the second episode of Dr. Virtual's Cyber-Couch, entitled The Subject's Subjects. In this edition, the good Doctor branches out into email therapy.

    : For everyone I know of except me, Bakersfield is the place you pass through on your way to somewhere else. Case in point.

    : Finally, an XML standard for representing Joe Mahoney.

    : Sometimes a whole avenue of geeky breast-beating is closed off by a fortuitous discovery or invention. The acceptance of non-Euclidian geometry forever put an end to the tradition of people spending years trying to prove Euclid's fifth postulate from his first four. This makes me glad because in general I like to present to the younger generation a "hard core" persona, yet I lack the determination neccessary to waste years of my life in a futile effort to get rid of some dumb postulate.

    Now, Mark Wooding of Cambridgeshire has written Quine, a C program capable of transforming any C program into a quine. This makes me happy because I don't think I've ever written any quines, except in made-up languages in which such things were trivial. Now there's a quine transformation program and I can scoff and say "Oh, quine is a solved problem."

    (Found via the humbling sweetcode, which for every "Well, that's out of the way now" generates ten "Man, I wish I {had thought of that, could have written} that"s.)

    : Oh, the shame. (Kris has no permalinks; scroll down!)

    Update: Kris has permalinks: go directly there!

    Photo Wire Roundup:

    : Attending the EFF party. Eventually I'll know how to make these mobile entries interesting; I think it just takes practice. For instance, one interesting detail is the giant boa constrictors which roam the new EFF building, devouring the hummus and people's hats willy-nilly.

    Hmm, perhaps that's the secret to making these interesting: just make stuff up! Or maybe name-drop: Seth and Cory are here, of course, as are Brewster Kahle, Eric Eldred and (I think) Doc Searls. I saw Anirvan and the Danny/Quinn entity briefly, but they've left (Charlie is still here). Hm, better get back to making stuff up before people lose interest. Seth is now demanding that the EFF members rise up and sieze control of the International Space Station, creating a libertarian paradise in orbit! More later; the boas are eyeing my Hiptop.

    : Back from the party. It was fun, and because I knew when to leave I didn't get over-partied. Charlie and I walked back to the BART together. It was good to see Seth et al. again, and I got to give Seth the gift I got him in London: a huge Augustan coin made of chocolate ("The metal is highly debased."), which I got from the surprisingly tacky British Museum gift shop. Seth, this page indicates that the F on the coin stands for "filus".

    That reminds me that I need to start writing my article about my England trip. I'll start on that now. Good night.

    : Favored albums for long intra-California road trips, as recommended by my friend and co-worker Andrew Ryan:

    I'm going to get both of these and try them out on my Bakersfield trip. Any others?

    Update: Greg Knauss recommends Lovegod, by the Soup Dragons, "because it's so relentlessly upbeat. And, God, you're going to need that in Bakersfield."

    Legalese Edge Case: "Google is not affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its content."

    : Cool useless thing: you can run Mozilla's mail application in a tab (as opposed to a different window) by going to its XUL url.

    XUL Healing: There's more XUL stuff at xulplanet.com. I don't yet know whether or not I care, though.

    : Sam Gon III presents the highly detailed A Guide To The Orders Of Trilobites, complete with "Trilobite of the Month" centerfold and the "terror of the Burgess mudflats". (found via A Voyage to Arcturus) In other trilobite news, don't forget the trilobite cookies!

    : Earlier today, whilst waiting in the x-ray technician's office to get x-rays taken, I thought about pulling out the ol' Hiptop and writing a News You Can Bruise entry. Then I thought, "No, that's a stupid idea, because the substance of the entry could only be that you were bored enough to put up with the tiny Hiptop keyboard and punch in a NYCB entry. Better to wait until tonight, when you can post an entry retroactively analyzing your current state of mind." So I read Sunset magazine instead. There was a cool recipe for a bowl of soup covered with a pastry shell, and also a Mashed Potato Cloud, which enables wireless connectivity to the mashed potato network. Still not as cool as trilobite cookies, though.

    Disturbing Search Requests:

    : Sumana is trying to save on rent money, and asked me if it were possible for a person to live in a Bag of Holding, eg. is there air in there? Good question. I thought there might be some lame prohibition against putting living things inside a BoH, but the first edition DMG (which is all I have here) says nothing on the subject, and silence equals consent. My guess is that a newly created BoH contains vacuum, and that whenever it's opened the air pressure inside tends toward the air pressure outside. So there would be air in there, but it wouldn't last long, unless you set up a ventilation system. Sumana would probably be better off with the Leomund's Tiny Hut spell, but I don't remember how long that lasts, and she'd have to cast it again every night when she came home from work.

    : Congratulations to Sumana! She'll be performing at the Apollo amateur night. I hope she knows how to play the lyre!

    Update: Press coverage, with photo!

    Joke from Todd:

    Q: What do you call a rite of passage for geeks?
    A: A foo mitzvah.

    Tonight, on MathNet: Man, that's some serious rain. Fortunately, it only lasted for about three minutes.

    Anyway, I've long maintained that there should be a mathematical cop show about Alfred Tarski and Alonzo Church, called "Tarski and Church". My proposal has been met by stony silence by major television networks, or at least by the large statues outside their office buildings, which I took to be the receptionists. However, I'm nothing if not a team player, and I'm willing to sweeten the deal with a lighthearted sitcom, entitled "Everybody Loves Riemann". Who'll take a chance on the pilot?

    The NewsBruiser Theme Song: A Rebuttal: by Aaron Swartz. As far as I know, no other theme song has a rebuttal (A Google search turns up nothing except the bizarre fact that Crummy is already on the first page of results for "theme song rebuttal"). This must mean NewsBruiser has "arrived", in a sense previously matched by no other thing with theme song.

    In other cleaning-out-my-inbox news, the aforementioned-if-you-count-inclusion Seth David Schoen writes:

    If one were to remark on the appearance of our area code early in the decimal expansion of pi, one could say
    415's in pi!

    Then one could debate, per Hempel, whether this helps to disconfirm the hypothesis that pi is not normal in base 10.

    And Andy Holloway takes valuable time away from corrupting the youth to write:

    Maybe it then proceeds to bruise all news pertaining to the eating of the pie. That news will think twice before it touches your pie again!

    NYCB regrets that this correspondence is not yet closed.

    : The other day I had an idea so exquisitely horrible that I knew it was only a matter of time before it was realized. The basic premise is that you put wireless Internet access inside coffins. You put a thermometer, a video camera (with a light; I don't know how you power the light, or the other stuff for that matter), etc. in the coffin, and give it an IP address (Kevin suggested also including a gas spectrometer). Add a little Silent Radio inside the coffin, and survivors can virtually visit the grave every Memorial Day without actually having to get in the car and go to the cemetery.

    We joked about it, Kevin and I, but joking about it doesn't make the problem go away. Today whilst browsing Clifford Pickover's new blog (man, it just gets worse, don't it?) I saw a link to this New York Times story (and again!) about Internet-connected videocameras in coffins. I haven't read the article due to the whole requires-registration thing, but the angle seems to be shock value, whereas I think guilt is the big potential money-maker here. The ancient art of Google-fu (and, I suppose, the even more ancient art of looking at the URL), reveals the article to be about a Dutch made-for-TV movie, so for now at least the idea remains safely in the realm of scathing social commentary made-for-TV movies.

    Call For Paper Suggestions: Some people at work (basically Josh) tried to get me interested in submitting a talk on NewsBruiser to the Python Community Conference, and sort of succeeded: I'm interested, but also apprehensive. Sometimes I consider submitting a talk to some conference or other, but I back out because I'm afraid of wasting people's time. Manoj pointed out that if people thought my talk would be a waste of time, they wouldn't show up. In that case, I responded, I was afraid of no one showing up. Ed pointed out that this would be the fault of the conference planners, for accepting a talk that no one wanted to attend. So I suppose I'm actually afraid of proposing an idea that will be rejected, which is a stupid reason for not at least giving it a try.[0]

    So, I can think of a couple topics for a speech and discussion. I'd like feedback from you on what sounds interesting. I've included several ideas, along with the rebuttal provided by my internal critic. Background for those who need it: NewsBruiser is a web-based Python application of about 7500 lines which lets you run weblogs. Python is my favorite programming language; I use it a little bit at work and a lot at home, but I'm not an expert.

    [0] Except, I might have an idea which the conference planners like but no one else does, so that no one shows up; or I might have an idea which sounds good enough to get people to show up but which actually is a waste of time. Also, I might show up to the talk in only my underwear, then suddenly be falling off of a cliff.

    Tonight's Episode: Murderous Magnetism: That's the name of the awesome early Christmas present I got from Jason yesterday. He printed the Tonight's Episode archive onto sticky paper, stuck it to that magnetic rubber stuff, and cut out the words with a razor blade. The result: Tonight's Episode magnetic poetry! Brilliant! The only problem is that the words are very small indeed, so small that I feel like I should be operating them with tweezers.

    Here are photos. The sample TE in the third photo says "The Autopsy In Your Future".

    Jason also made a magnetic set for his young nephew, consisting of printed out pictures of construction equipment obtained through Google image searches. There's even a little to-scale construction crew magnet. (I haven't seen the set, but Jason described it vividly, and it sounds really cool.)

    : Sumana is many things, but she is not a registered protocol.

    : Just got back from having a great time with Aaron Sardine Swartz, Seth, and Sumana. We talked about random things, and generally hung out. Good low-key stuff. I corrected an error in Seth's discussion of Knuth, which meant that Seth owed me a discussion of the sum of $2.56. There are pictures; the bizarre things in the pictures are jar openers approved by the king of Denmark himself (maybe). All this I bequeath to you; but now, the sleepin'! "Sleepin' lizards!", as no one ever says.

    [Note: I finished this entry at around the posting date, but Crummy was down, so I'm actually posting it later this morning.]

    Reader Response Roundup:

    Aaron sends a link to the Dr. Fun comic about Donald Knuth that he mentioned last night.

    Joe Mahoney on the Python talk:

    How about giving a talk on how you've gone about implementing all the different items on that weblog software checklist. The title could be "Treating Feature-itis with Python"

    Also, "Newsbruiser! Who ate all the pies?" works in the theme song [Naturally! -ed.]

    Brendan on same:

    How about just a talk on maintaining your own open-source software as a one-person team? Plenty of people do it, sure, but not many I've seen have the design consistency or version control of NewsBruiser.

    And on bags of holding:

    You're right about the lame prohibition, in a way--according to the 3rd ed DMG, living things can be placed in the bag, but suffocate after ten minutes. There wasn't anything in the 2nd ed DMG or Unearthed Arcana, though, so it obviously took a while to think up. Maybe the bag is made of astral elastic, so it's always just the right size for the sum of its contents, and air just gets squished out. Or maybe it's a linked list.

    Chronicle Of An Annoyance Foretold:

    At this point I began concocting elaborate disaster scenarios involving my vacation to Bakersfield and delays in their sending the Hiptop. These worried me until last night, when I called worriedly to make sure they'd shipped it and I'd get it on Friday.

    My worst fears--confirmed! I sank into despondency, forseeing delaying my trip south for days of waiting at home for the postman for a package which never arrived, bureaucratic nightmares at the post office, etc. etc. I held out hope for the possibility of one scenario, so unlikely that I felt foolish even considering it.

    They had been entirely accurate in their promises the first time I'd talked to them, and wrong in every detail when I called to follow up![0] Amazing! It's a Christmas miracle, adjusted for inflation!

    So, I have a working Hiptop now, and I'm happy. A couple times in the past 12 hours I began NYCB screeds against T-Mobile's customer service but deleted said screeds as petty, vindictive, and uninteresting. Determined to learn from my earlier rhetorical excesses, I was working on a calm, reasoned indictment of the bastards when the point was rendered moot.

    [0] It's conceivable that my package could have been shoved out the door the minute I got off the phone, but it was sent through USPS, which shuts down at 5, ne c'est pas?

    A Thought: Sometimes you can tell that a mailing list uses a Python script to generate its copy, because the mail merges have spaces after them, eg. "Hello, Leonard ,".

    : On the BART today I saw an ad for a book of poetry, "To Be The Poet", by Maxine Hong Kingston. It said:


    Naturally, until just before I got off the train, I read this as "To Maxine Be Hong, The Kingston Poet."

    : Belatedly, some pictures of the gifts I got for Kevin and Stack while in England. Also includes two nice pictures of the sunrise on the day I gave the gifts.

    : Kris is tinkering with popular winter holidays, but he's not alone. Recently making the weblog rounds have been "What if Christmas Were a Jewish Holiday?", with all the nitpicky attention to edge cases found in actual Judaism; and the Klezmonauts, a Chicago-based[0] klezmer band which released an album of Christmas Carols called "Oy To The World!". Because I am a sucker for klezmer music, I listened to the sample MP3, was hooked, and ordered the album.

    OTTW! is the first CD in my playlist of new CDs for my Bakersfield trip. I find driving incredibly boring, and whenever I go down to Bakersfield I have to get some new CDs to distract me, or I am slowly driven insane by the vastness of I-5, which I am convinced is an enormous, serpentine H.P. Lovecraft monster in disguise. I kind of went overboard this time: I bought about 10 CDs, and then Kevin bought me some jazz so that at the drop of a hat I'd be able to say "Ah, Brubeck." and act sophisticated, and then what with the klezmer and all it got out of control (I'm sure you all know how this feels).

    [0] Whenever I hear that some person or group of people is "Chicago-based" or "Los Angeles-based" I think that it's like "soy-based" or "carbon-based" and they are actually made out of the city in question. Which I guess is true, if you count the food as being part of the city.

    Wow!: Jon Carroll quotes Guess The Verb!. And it's not a quote published (to my knowledge) anywhere else, which means that he's actually played the game. Mike has also quoted Dr. Prugrave, so this makes him my most-quoted fictional character of all time. Unfortunately, he's too mad to appreciate the honor. (Thanks to Sumana, who noticed this)

    : At Pea Soup Andersen's. Capsule reviews of music so far:

    Well, I've got some food in me, so it's back on the road.

    : At rest area, almost home. Just finished Songs For The Deaf, which created a nice ominous atmosphere; I expected to see lightning in the distance and the clouds zooming over my head at time-lapse speeds.

    Spoiler Theatre Presents: Just got back from The Two Towers. I liked the first movie a lot better, but I also liked the first book a lot better. My favorite part, the Ent trashing of Isengard, was well-executed in a way that seriously tickled my monster movie bone, but the movie botched the leadup, took out the cool war song (the only LOTR song I don't skip), and cut the Gandalf/Saruman smackdown denoument. That last bit could still go in the third movie, but the end of this one had a "Well, that's Saruman taken care of!" feel).

    Gollum was brought to life very well, but nothing really happened in that plot: you'll recall that the end of Fellowship saw Frodo and Sam trudging apprehensively toward Mordor. The second movie ends with almost the same shot, only they're about ten miles closer and they have Gollum. I don't remember, but I think this is actually pretty faithful to the book (since Shelob got pushed off to the next movie).

    There were some battles which involved no Ents and which I therefore found pretty boring. Saruman came up with some good seige engines, though. He woulda conquered Middle Earth, too, if it hadn'ta been for those meddling hobbits and their Ring of Power!

    : I can only stand to drink one glass of eggnog a year, and I think tonight might be the night. My mother bought a gallon of the stuff and is talking about foisting it on us all. I don't know why they don't sell eggnog in half-pint containers for people such as I. I can't be the only one who finds the first sip delicious, the last cloying and repulsive.

    : Jason sometimes submits sets of Tonight's Episodes on a theme (eg. "TE Salutes Love And Sex", "TE Goes To College", etc). I've been sitting on them because I'm not sure how to present them as a group, and also because I often find the name of the set funnier than any of the entries (for instance, I think "TE Salutes Corporate America" is hilarious). However, he just sent me two "TE for the holidays" which I thought I'd share with you immediately :

    Here's one of my own: And A Partridge In A Fear Tree

    Update: And another of Jason's: Then One Foggy Christmas Eve, Santa Snapped

    The People's Bushisms: The Miami Herald's "Action Line" column today prints a list of comments from people unclear on the concept, and botched attempts at communication with their consumer-advocacy staff. Destined to be an inbox favorite along the lines of the "wacky insurance claims" document. (Found via my mother)

    This restaurant has a soft-drink machine available to customers with a big sign on it that says: ''No Refills.'' If you go for a refill, the cashier will yell at you and tell you that you're stealing. This has happened to me twice. It seems to me you should investigate this.

    Update: Here's an archive from previous years, none of which have become inbox favorites, so perhaps my prediction was premature. The regular Action Line column (de facto "latest column" link for newspapers without them) is also enjoyable.

    : Funny, seemingly endless article about using a Compact Flash reader under Linux, full of post-dot-com angst and Linux user bitterness.

    Insecure Movie Trailer:

    Or, you could watch that OTHER MOVIE!

    Look On My Works, Ye Mighty, And Despair: Gaaah! They rebuilt the Sherman Oaks Galleria!

    : Writing a song with Adam and Kris is like building and then solving a puzzle. The puzzle is a cool riff we came up with which needs to be filled with lyrics. We try various stupid things until someone comes up with a line catchy enough to use. We build on that line, filling in the blanks in adjacent lines. Eventually we know what the song is about and we can start simply making up lines to fix the plot of the song.

    Tonight's ong is good, or so is the consensus. Kris says he'll be done with the production by the end of the weekend.

    Funny Film Title: I Married A Woman

    : Be all you can be... in the Devo Army!

    : Kris mastered the latest Adam/Leonard/Kris opus, "Superstar": download it and let him know what you think. It's not too late to get improvements in (I've got some suggestions myself).

    More later, about this and other things.

    More Capsule Reviews:

    : This morning I made cornmeal pancakes. My pancakes always turn out oblong and wrinkled because I'm not very handy with the spatula, but it's hard to go wrong with cornmeal, so the pancakes turned out good. On them I put marionberry blackberry preserves I got for Christmas from my aunt Pat. Thanks!

    : The Bakersfield area is sometimes called the "Golden Empire", but why? Why is it golden? Who's the emperor? I have no clue.



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