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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.

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