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: 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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