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Leonard's Predictions: In 2003, mankind will put aside its differences and band together against the common enemy: the French.[0]

I don't know how the French figure into this.

[0] I really have nothing against the French, but it's fun to make fun of them.

: Via The Scene I found Charity Navigator, which runs charities' financials through a spreadsheet and comes up with a ranking which you can use to figure out where your contribution will do the most good. My ideal charity seems to be The Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development; it has zero fundraising expenses (Heifer's runs 20%) and 10% operational expenses. But like Kevan, I feel nervous when I give money to Heifer or similar charity. I feel that I should also be giving money to a charity which will prevent someone with a Kalashnikov from coming and taking away the cow I donated (possibly preventing this by including another Kalashnikov free with the cow).

: Belated question for you all: what was the best NYCB entry of 2002? My contender: this funny one. If you have the time and patience, read 'em all (~1M) and let me know, or just skip the reading bit, do a search for some random word, and choose whatever comes up.

: Did some NewsBruiser code cleanup, and added a MailImporter class which will take an email message and turn it into a NewsBruiser entry. It will handle attachments to the email as uploaded files. There's also a less-polished RSSImporter class which imports entries obtained through an RSS file (right now it only supports RSS 3.0). I'm making RSS the official import/export format of NewsBruiser; it works well for that and I don't want to come up with something else.

: Manoj is jealous of my Hiptop. He says, "I wish I could post to my nonexistent blog from my nonexistent phone."

: Jason Kottke presents a geographically accurate map of the London Underground. That should make Rachel happy.

Now whenever I see a map of the Underground I have a partial mapping of the stations onto memories, which is a nicely weird experience. If I were to go on another vacation to Washington DC and take the subway there I could observe the formation of this mapping in near-real time. As it is, I have only a couple vague memories from my trip when I was 6: being between stations underneath the Potomac, imagining humidity and dripping water; being told by my father that Foggy Bottom was called that because it was actually underwater, at the bottom of the Potomac; standing on the Triangle platform watching a train arrive.

Of course, I have memories of various kinds associated with over half of the BART stops. There must be a point at which you've used a subway system so much that the stops stop being useful as mnemonic devices for remembering things you did.

Bonus game: without looking at the source code, can you find the link to Crummy on kottke.org?

: There's a point at which you're so hungry that instant noodles start to sound good, but you should really eat before reaching that point.

: I heard from a guy who might want to use NewsBruiser on a Windows server, so I investigated the possibility. It's surprisingly portable, considering I never gave the idea a thought until a couple days ago. There are only three problems I can find:

  1. NewsBruiser uses the Unix-specific crypt module to encrypt passwords. Fortunately, there is a pure Python implementation. This is also good because crypt isn't included with the default Python package on Unix, so bundling my own crypt will increase portability on Unix.
  2. NewsBruiser uses the Unix-specific fcntl module to lock the list of pending index updates. On Windows it can use a method in the msvcrt module instead.
  3. I made the assumption in a bunch of places that the path separator character is '/'; I need to go through and fix those, or NewsBruiser will generate horribly broken URLs and have problems finding files.

Pretty good, I think. I'm also thinking seriously about a paper topic. I think I'll probably go with demonstrating the simple web interface to the configuration file, focusing on the technique rather than the specific tool (I think the specifics of web apps differ too much for such a tool to be both understandable and generally applicable, but I could be wrong).

Innovation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery: Last week I bought a bar of shampoo. It's shampoo stuff in a soap-like bar. Very useful for very short hair, since you don't have to worry about using too little shampoo; I just scrub my head with it a little bit and lather. It doesn't leave my hair feeling greasy like some shampoos, which is good because the whole psychological reason I use shampoo is to get rid of that awful feeling of greasy hair. But it doesn't leave my hair as stiff as when I wash my hair with soap (which is how I know it's not just rebranded soap).

: The light in my bathroom burnt out, and rather than go through the trouble of replacing the bulb I performed my ablutions by candlelight tonight. It was fun, but not neccessarily an experience I want to have every night. It reminded me of when we lived out in the country and had occasional lengthy power outages. It was like camping--inside!

Aaron Swarm Swartz presents Tonight's Episode Salutes Programming:

Update: Scott James Remnant adds Murder In A Nutshell

Great Katzdots In History: Giving Thanks For Democracy and Sex

: No entries yesterday (A gap! A gap in the calendar!), because I got up late, spent the whole day in meetings, then went with Sumana to a party at Taska's house (hmm, another placeholder page for my 'Co-workers past and present' links.shtml selection). I saw Taska again, which was great. I also caught up with Pete Peterson II (the real reason for my attending; he leaves tomorrow) and the newly-wed Nick Moffit, met Sean Neakums, etc. etc. etc. I met Mike non-Popovic, who works for Danger; and Jonathan, who uses a Sourcecast-hosted site, so at the party I represented both the demand and supply chain. I'm leaving out so much stuff and so many people it's not even funny. It was a lot of fun and I'll likely attend in the future (it's every Monday night). But the upshot is that at no point yesterday did I write any NYCB (or, indeed, much of anything).

: Hilarious (If you are a Mormon or ex-Mormon)! My aunt Anne's filk of "If You Could Hie To Kolob", "If You Could Hie To CollabNet".


Cracklib Rosie, get on board...

: Three choice pictures from last night:

  1. The mysterious Sean Neakums
  2. Me and Pete Peterson II showing off our hopelessly out-of-date driver's licenses.
  3. The game of Settlers of Catan

Anecdote: during the game of Settlers, Pete got a harbor that gave him two-for-one trades for sheep. The conceit throughout the game was that this was not a harbor for trading sheep for other things, but an offshore sheep rendering plant which produced sheep-fat brick, wooly wood, sheepwheat, and decidedly inferior sheepbone ore.

MoreSensationalistExaminer.com: "Cut your rent" should be "Cut your parent".

: Enoch Soames: A Memory of the Eighteen-nineties, by Max Beerbohm. A fictional sketch of an utterly forgettable fictional poet, said sketch to contain one (1) supernatural twist. Slow, but witty and with a hilarious unneccessary post-ending.

Story found via another weblog (why don't I write down the credit along with the link when I make notes to myself?!?!) There's a minor Baker Street Irregulars-ish subculture pertaining to Soames: Teller of Penn and Teller wrote an article about him for The Atlantic, and various bodies have produced appreciations of his work, or at least Web pages professing the existence of appreciations of his work. (Caution: big spoilers in all three, and not the kind of spoilers that don't really spoil the fun of the story)

: Greg on my Sherman Oaks despair (qv.):

I lived a half-mile from the site during the work, and they completely gutted it. Tore out everything, even the walls, and turned it into office space, mostly. There are a few restaurants and a movie theatre and a record store there now, but it's unrecognizable.

Before the work began, they stopped re-newing leases, so the number of stores kept dwindling. It was a ghost mall, with only the movie theatre open at the end. It had endless parking and you could show up just a few minutes before the show and if you didn't mind the possibility of being set upon by refugee Sunglasses Hut employees, it was great.

I was only there once, in my mid-teens, and it was utterly deserted. I remember my sisters and I getting running starts and sliding across the slippery tile floor on our stomachs in a mad act of pointless, consequenceless mall-hogging. It was like the mall in Rock 'n' Roll Rebellion after the humorless owner and his reactionary security guards abandon it to the plucky gang of high-school stereotypes.

Moses Went Down Into Nasr's Egyptian Cuisine: In the remaindered cookbook section at Cody's is a cookbook about preparing a Passover Seder, called Let My People Eat! I tried to think of other clever names for Seder cookbooks; the best I cam come up with is How Is This Cookbook Different From All Other Cookbooks?, and You Want You Should Starve? (this would have recipes for guilt trips as well as for food). Neither of those is very funny.

: Rachel disputes my Sherman Oaks Galleria story:

Susanna and I have discussed it, and we don't remember sliding through Sherman Oaks Galleria on our stomaches. She says that the one time she was there, she believes, was when we got picky at "pick a pet" and neither if us remember you being there. I say if you're not careful you'll end up turning into mom in terms of story telling!!!

Maybe I was there without my sisters, or maybe we were all there but only I body-surfed across the floor. Maybe I made up the whole thing for a jacket cover bio and then forgot about it (as, indeed, the people who were going to publish my putative book seem to have).

Update: I am beset upon! In a Senate hearing, my mother testified as follows:

I dispute both your and the girls stories. We got Picky at Fox Hills Mall. The only time I have ever been to the Sherman Oaks Galleria was once when you and I went with Andy and Nancy. You and Andy may well have slid on your stomachs, but I don't remember it.

Yeah, me and Andy. That's the ticket. If Andy disputes the story, I'll still have won (unlike the terrorists), because I'll have re-established contact with Andy.

: I put up 70 pictures from Christmas. Includes the kitsch creche, a dinosaur cookie fight, and lots of liquid nitrogen. Also categorized all the 2002 pictures, so you no longer have to go on directory names (now, file names, that's a different story).

Books You'll Never See: The Pit And The Pennjillette

2002: The Year That Existed: What can we say about 2002? For those of us still under NDA, not much. [That wasn't an NDA! It was a credit card receipt from the grocery store! -ed.]

OK, apparently I have to actually write this entry. 2002 was a bumper year for uninformed speculation and hysterical fearmongering. I admit that many of the predictions in my Weekly Standard article, "2002 Predictions for 2002 (Not That You'll Be Around Next Year To Verify Them)" were off the mark, and may even have irresponsibly contributed to the year-end rush to stockpile dog collars and refried water. My assertion that by May we would all be sweeping diamond dust in the gem mines of Aldebaran was clearly off by a couple of years, and I can no longer mantain with a straight face that hair lasers are only months away. However, according to Lexis-Nexis my predictions for the hottest buzzwords of 2002 ("if", "the", and "and") were spot on, and my tepid attempt at an Enron joke prediction remained trite and boring the entire year.

Longtime NYCB readers will not be surprised to learn that for another year my warnings against the dreaded giant clam went sadly unheeded by both parties in Washington. My Pulitzer Prize-winning article, The Sociology of The Continental Shelf proved invaluable for filling up that section of the Times-Picayune they print on Mondays even though it's only about four pages long, but its policy recommendations never reached the right ears. Admittedly, Congress passed several anti-bivalve bills last year, but none of them credited me for being the first to call the attention of the public to this vital issue. The only bright spot was the retirement of Senator Strom Thurmond, for many years notorious as the best friend in government of Big Clam.

2002 was surely the Year of the Blog. Turning now to my own prodigious output, I find over 1200 "entries", each crafted with the care and political acumen which an old hand like myself can draw upon. As the tumultuous events of 2002 unfolded, it was blogs like NYCB which brought you the voices of real people on the front lines. In 2003, as more print journalists discover the possibilities of the Web, will we see the democratization of media and a closer connection between author and audience? If this old dog can learn new tricks, then perhaps the best answer is... stay tuned.

Next: readers nominate the best NYCB entries of 2002.

: A. Holloway read the entire NYCB ouvre for 2002, and decided that his favorite entry was the very first one of the year, the one about Carmel. Runners-up: Smells Like Teen Circuit, The Two Saturns (aka "How Leonard Thinks"), The Weblog Foundation series, and the one where it gets weird.

My mother's favorite is the putative description of Kiss Me Kant.

That's it (unless you have an email on this subject that you've been holding off sending).

Software Roundup: A longer game roundup coming soon. Here are three interesting non-game programs I saw on Freshmeat:

Game Roundup: Some of these games I've actually played, others I've just looked at the screenshots. Just like real game reviewers, except I'm honest.

: I wrote a rough draft of an abstract for a presentation for the Python conference. The topic is the advantages of CGI-based configuration systems, and the implementation of same. I sent the abstract to Jason, who's published papers galore. Anyone else want to see it?

Comic Irish Songs Head On "My Music!": Second In A Series: Father O'Flynn

Previously, on Game Roundup...: I tried to do an Aaron Sorkin-type intro here, but my review of Rocks'n'Diamonds is notably deficient in characters running around saying pithy things that advance the plot. Indeed, it is deficient in scenes, characters, dialogue, or plot of any sort, because it's a review of a game, and not one of those fancy reviews that looks on the surface like a dialogue concerning two world systems. So let's take it as read that I earlier wrote a review of Rock'n'Diamonds.

One of my remarks in the review was that I wished people would come up with interesting puzzles combining objects from the different games cloned by Rocks'n'Diamonds. Well, a while ago I heard from a fellow who calls himself Equinox "Eq" Tetrachloride. He's written a bunch of R'n'D levels, and sent them to me to try out. They're the cleverest levels I've played yet, and they mix items from different games in interesting ways (in one exciting level, you must complete the first level of Sokoban while being chased by a butterfly monster from another game). Hopefully Eq will put up his R'n'D levels for general consumption.

Eq has this to say about the mysterious yellow gemstones into which you decompose when you die in R'n'D (Yellow gemstones are made from people! THEY'RE PEOPLE!):

It was originally a Boulder Dash thing, as you probably know. [I didn't. -ed. Me neither.] I suppose it's like Sonic the Hedgehog being hit and losing all the rings he collected. In R'n'D, the other coloured gems come from other things, like player 2 being killed or a mole being smashed.

Leonard's Life--Uncensored!: Yesterday I got a birthday present for Rachel. I usually don't get birthday presents for people because I forget that this has to be done before the birthday, but this time I remembered. I also got some delicious bread at the bakery right outside the Rock Ridge BART station (which bakery turns out to be a cleverly disguised franchise). I also saw Sumana, and made salad for her. Today I worked.

: So, Cory (I can call him Cory because I briefly met him, once, although he immediately forgot me) has released his novel for free download. I feel jealous of him. I put stuff up for free download all the time, and indeed that's my first impulse for everything I write or create, but that's because for me it's a simple choice: put it online, or no one will ever see it. Cory has the option of locking up his work in a book and cackling evilly as people line up to shell out $22.95 for his words of wisdom, yet he magnanimously decides to keep everything online. I doubt I will ever be put to the same test, since none of the stuff I write is good enough to publish. [Stop sulking! You can write! -ed. But not publishable stuff--only IF, weblog entries, and sassy editorial insertions. I resent that! -ed. He never breaks character, folks!]

: Got the second draft of my abstract done, and not much else. I can't find any real prior work on this, which is weird; can anyone help? I'm looking for frameworks which allow you to get this sort of interface by defining in a text file the options you want to be settable. The closest things I can find are Scarab and a feature of Zope. Both of those are oriented toward dynamically creating simple data gathering forms rather than letting the developer define a static set of settable configuration options with arbitrarily complex logic. There's also Intake, which lets you develop all your form interaction this way, sort of.

: Ow.

: One of the things that makes me think that my life is a nutty sitcom is that my nutty cubemate, Kevin, is always telling me that today is "[some stupid thing] Day", eg. "Teddy Bear Day" or "Hug Your Landlord Day". He gets this information from the radio. Today he said that it was the anniversary of the Boston Molasses Disaster. ("You would think a molasses disaster would be a unique event. However, another molasses disaster occurred in 1932 in Sucarnoochee, Mississippi.")

The other thing that makes me think that my life is a nutty sitcom is that today at lunch Kevin spilled coffee on me.

Everyone Should Own One: The latest non sequitur "Back off..." bumper sticker. I was thinking... what if it's any arbitrary facts about the universe that go on those bumper stickers? You might see BACK OFF... A HEXAGON HAS SIX SIDES or BACK OFF... THERE IS ICE ON MARS.

: What we at CollabNet have known for a long time: Never mind the economy, stupid -- it's the burritos

: Despite the hilarious cries of KatzDot ("American Kids: Fact Or Fiction?!" "The Spiritual Net Factor From Cyberspace!") I got rid of the high-profile random and/or seldom-updated junk between the intro and the weblog. This brings NYCB center stage, which is important because NYCB click-throughs (that's when you click the permalink) bring in a whopping 1000% of my profits from this site. Feel free to complain, but I just can't resist those, sweet, sweet profits.

: You know what would be a cool state quarter? One with a totally blank reverse side.

Well, it's cooler than the actual California quarter options. Though I do like the idea of putting concentric grooves on a quarter.

Maybe North Dakota could have the blank quarter.

: I submitted my abstract. Whew! I'm afraid of getting bonked on some procedural thing like providing examples of prior art instead of references to papers. I guess I'm more afraid of getting bonked because they think my idea is stupid. Should I put up the abstract so everone can read it? <--my gut reaction for everything, as noted below

Thanks to Jason for proofreading the abstract and giving me lots of help on how to write an abstract. Thanks to Kevin for making it all the way through the motivation before falling asleep.

Right now (or sometime around now), Sumana is introducing Bruce Sterling. I wonder how that's going.

: I like yesterday's APOD (too tired to link right now). All the moons are nicely lined up in the orbital plane, and I like that there are moons named after characters from Shakespeare. It was like looking at an X-ray of the universe.

Pickup Lines That Don't Work: "Hey, baby, you're more relevant than ever."

Ambiguous Headline Watch: Governor's budget cuts spare Legislature. Well, I guess California doesn't need a spare legislature...

What? I'm outraged!

Another NewsBruiser Competitor: Spyblog ("Simple Python blogger"). It's got comments!

: I like fancy cookbooks, with their pictures and their coherent themes, but what I really like is enormous collections of recipes in electronic form, thrown together by user-contribution serendipity and given form by desperate one-word categorizations[0]. In my BBS days I would scour BBSes for packages of Meal Master-readable recipes and hoard them on my BBS, possibly only ever preparing one or two recipes found in the whole corpus. Nowadays I cook a lot more, so I have more than an academic interest in lists of recipes. Here are a few sites, including a couple I found just now while researching this entry.

[0] Also, I really like the self-published cookbooks that you see in tourist traps and restaurant gift shops while on road trips. I've never bought one, though.

: The tomato-avocado pasta was delicious! I recommend it. We used penne instead of linguini, because I don't like the long hairlike pastas. We also added asiago cheese, which was successful. The recipe says it makes four servings, but between the two of us we licked the platter clean.

Shark Pre-Jumped For Your Convenience: First Ruben Bolling "Lucky Ducky" cartoon: hilarious. Second Ruben Bolling "Lucky Ducky" cartoon: not funny. Third Ruben Bolling "Lucky Ducky" cartoon: short but still not that funny. Sumana noticed this too, and says she sent this to be included in Punchline Prima Facie. I'm also curious: Kris, what gives?

Leo: I'm looking at Leo, an outline editor written in Python and Tk which is supposed to help you do literate programming. I saw people being fanatics about it on some wiki, and since for a while I've been looking for an outline editor I figured I'd give it a try. I'm using it to organize things like my to-do list and my start page. Time will tell whether it's useful for mantaining documents, but it looks like it will be: I imported a NewsBruiser code file and got a very coherent view of the code.

At the very least, Leo is the outline editor I've been looking for, and I can pretend to be one of those people, like Joseph Allen, who uses an editor named after them. At most, I will become one of those people who is a fanatic about Leo on wikis.

Note: I had to recompile Python to get Leo to work, because my preinstalled Python defined Py_UNICODE as wchar_t even though wchar_t on my system is 32 bits, in direct contradiction to what The Python/C API Reference Manual says. I mean, geez.

Motivational Search Requests: You Rock!

: I dreamed that Dar Williams played a cover of "Beef". I listened to it on tape, and was excited because I would be able to modestly add Dar Williams to the list of covers of my songs. She was having fun, which is the important thing about "Beef"; that Dar Williams the singer have fun singing it.

When Press Releases Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Issue Press Releases:

Links in the Meme Chain:

From clickolinko: Swappington's, a cultural-artifact-trading site with a minimalist interface, an interesting (and, I fear, exploitable) economics, and a goofy animated GIF demonstration. (Incidentally, if you decide to get an account there, list me [leonardr] as your referral, since referrals are the only action I can find that create money.)

From Boingboing: the passive-aggressive approach to protesting workplace patent requirements.

New NewsBruiser Installation: The world-famous [PEA] site is now running NewsBruiser. Andrew Newton, the webmaster, says "Very cool stuff...thanks for the good, free code."

: Mickey sez, "Don't mourn me, plagiarize!" I'm on it!

: Kris bows to popular demand and discusses Lucky Ducky.

: In Kuala Lumpur, a whale.

You got me!:

Does everyone name their first SimCity Funkytown? I have a suspicion that this is true. What if you run that city into the ground, creating a hell on Earth that subverts God's divine plan? When you wipe that town, do you name the new one New Funkytown? I'm just wondering how common this is.

That's exactly what I did in first FreeCiv game with Dan, way back when.

: I don't think there's a summary (of a television show, movie, performance of a play, novel, etc.) that couldn't be improved by tacking this onto the end:

It reaches a climax with a space battle high above the Atlantic, as Irish nationalists and Martian dissidents duke it out with laser pistols.

More Books You'll Never See: The Use-Case Scenario Handbook

Yet Another NewsBruiser Competitor: Vellum has some good organizational ideas that I might steal. (I like plugin architectures a lot.) Thanks to Josh for pointing it out to me.

: Last Wednesday, The West Wing was brought to you in part by GE. Yes, brought to you in part by the company that owns the company that broadcasts the dang thing in the first place. It must be hard to find a sponsor for a rerun.

What's The Difference Between A Tetris?: Quack is a Tetris clone in which your game is watched by an enormous raytraced duck who quacks when you complete a line. Benny Kramek, the author, says:

I never was a really big fan of tetris, so I'm not sure why I decided to create this.

This bolsters my "spontaneous generation" theory of Tetris clone creation.

: NewsBruiser 1.11.0, "Weasels Bruised My News", is out. It's got a million ways of importing entries: any version of RSS, email, or directly from Manila or Blogger. It also runs on Windows, and has the fun random entry functionality. To do all the importers, I ended up using two pieces of code each from Mark Pilgrim and Fredrik Lundh.

"To see the snowman is to dislike the snowman.": Roger Ebert is at his cranky best in his 1998 review of "Jack Frost". This is, I must stress, not the 1997 film called "Jack Frost", which makes me think that there must have been some experiment to keep making movies called "Jack Frost" just to see what would get a rise out of Roger Ebert.

The 1997 "Jack Frost" has had a sequel made of it; I don't know how that fits into the experiment hypothesis. Stomp Tokyo review (I should check Stomp Tokyo more often.)

Caution! Salad!: This is the standard Leonard/Sumana salad, which we call Caution! Salad!



Peel and chop cucumber. Cut tomato. Put spinach, cucumber, tomato, beans, and olives into a bowl. Dress and shake the bowl around to mix up dressing. Cut up avocado and put in (if you put it in before shaking the bowl the avocado will become part of the dressing). Put cheese on top, if you want cheese. Serve with rice pilaf.

: Just another proof of the Amiga's continued dominance: robotfindskitten is now available for the Amiga. The author: Peter Gordon.

More Excitement: The Amiga port was apparently the last straw, as Pete Peterson II has seen fit to update the robotfindskitten.org site.

I wrote a little CGI for NewsBruiser what implements the MetaWeblog and Blogger XML-RPC APIs. It needs a little refactoring before I commit, but it works. Soon you'll be able to... do various things. And the company that'll bring it to you: NewsBruiser, Inc.

: For many years, Google News went without a single mention of Sumana. But now, as we race toward the millenium, she has been mentioned at the end of an article about her UC Berkeley radio interview.

Me? Still nothing.

BTW, why does Google News only keep a 30-day window of news? To keep its sources from becoming angry? ("The news source seems to be getting angrier!") It already archives all that stuff on the web side of things.

: Committed the Blogger and MetaWeblog XML-RPC interfaces, and as a bonus I implemented the Advogato interface. Let me know if they work; I have no idea except that my little test script creates and edits entries like mad, without crashing. Next: the LiveJournal interface, or at least its intersection with the NewsBruiser feature set.

Spam Or Desperate Cry For Help?:

Pounds melt away jnkgjhr

Today's Underreported Story: "Celebration Goes Back In Time" (from the Chron, of course)

Now It's Cocotime: I've moved servers; this is Kevin's machine. I had a recent backup of the weblogs but not of the other content, so I'm waiting for the old machine to be available again before I can copy everything over. More as it develops. I guess I'll be fixing up random things, though what specifically I have no idea.

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