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Subescribe To KMDB Today: Kris' hypothetical plot summary for the prequel to Breakin' 2; Electric Boogaloo: "Neighborhood kids help a small business owner become a wealthy developer."

Susanna's Marriage [0:27]:

TEASER: Susanna: married? I have the story! After this!
CONTENT: Susanna got married. I wore a tuxedo. So did John (ye groom), and a bunch of his young cousins. We all stood around at Tuxedo Junction and had pictures taken of us. It was jolly good fun. The next day there was a reception in Bakersfield. Everyone who was anyone was there, except for certain someones. Sumana looked glamorous in various dresses. Susanna looked glamorous in one dress. Life became a dizzying blend of cake, sliced fruit, and more pictures. Party followed the previous portion of the same party. Would it ever end? Yes, but not til pretty late.

Next week: I head to Utah to attend a second reception there, and then to sneak up on some trilobites with a geologist's hammer. Try to hide in the sedimentary rock, will you, trilobites? Take that! Whap!

: Maybe they sent me my DSL equipment today. I got the welcome email I was told would signal their sending the equipment, but the order status webpage says they haven't done squat for two weeks. Since DSL companies do everything in batch mode, my working belief is that the email was sent out with a batch of emails today, the order status database will be updated in a batch update at midnight tonight, and the actual equipment will be shipped as part of a big shipment in November, to beat the holiday rush.

: Now, some laying of a foundation here for a conversational edifice covering topics Sumana has hinted at, the actual capstone to be placed in a future entry.

I got a Tivo, and it is a lot of fun. Instead of a taskmaster determining the times I can do exercise without being bored, basic cable is now an obsequious chimpanzee offering me delicacies off a salver. Then I crack my whip and send it scurrying into the underbrush, and fifteen minutes later it comes back with a rabbit between its teeth. I don't know where I got a whip.

When you buy a Tivo, it starts out completely unusable because its commercial-skipping functionality is crippled at the implicit behest of the broadcasting giants. Basically, you can fast-forward so slowly that you effectively see all the commercials without sound, or so quickly that instead of skipping commercials you skip the pesky intervals between commercial breaks. However, there's a secret cheat code, just like in the game "Contra", which lets you reinstate the famous 30-second skip functionality. There are lots of other cheat codes which aren't as useful, but some are cool.

Originally I thought I'd like some way of doing a 10-second skip, because that's the way I would ideally watch TV: is this program more interesting 10 seconds from now? How about now? But after about two days Tivo had enough stuff recorded for me that now I can just pick something I'm pretty sure will be good. If it turns out to be boring I can just delete it and watch something else. I don't have time to watch everything it records, but who cares? I don't want to; I'd turn into a couch legume. Tivo is a prefetching cache, and when the thing being fetched costs a fixed amount, there's no need to complain about a prefetching cache.

A lot of times people will say "I don't watch much TV, except..." then rattle off a list of about five or ten programs, their desire for accuracy trumping their need to seem hip and TV-illiterate. That used to be me, except for me it was just two programs, so I managed to avoid embarrassment. Now it's five or ten. The difference wasn't that I was purer before Tivo, but that I was lazy and couldn't be bothered to stay up 'til midnight to watch Space Ghost. Now it's in my queue and I don't have to

I sort of wanted to be really cool and build my own PVR using off-the-Sourceforge-shelf technology, because then I could then 1) affect a superior attitude to nearly everyone, and 2) implement neat things like my ten-second skip and a smarter preference-guessing system (for some reason it thinks I like 1960s television Westerns, possibly overcompensating for the negative publicity caused by "My TiVo thinks I'm gay"). But it turns out I actually went and bought a Tivo; ostensibly to test the waters but actually because I couldn't justify spending all that time making a hacked-up free software PVR when I might not use a PVR at all.

It turns out I will use a PVR, but with the 30-second skip in place the Tivo is good enough for now. Send me mail when your cool open-source PVR product costs less than $300, or when it costs more than $300 but Tivo does a 30-second-skip-crushing software update, and I'll look at it.

PS: One thing I don't like about Tivo, but which is probably unavoidable due to the underlying technology: you can't record two programs simultaneously, and you can't watch one program while recording another.

It Is To Laugh: Joke I heard from Sumana, who heard it from someone else, etc:

The Canadian government wanted to create a province for the indigenous peoples of Canada, but they would have Nunavut.

: Steve Minutillo has a Chinese word of the day feature which shows up in my aggregator and is pretty cool even though usually the details of the character and its meaning always slip right through my head. But the character for "concave" is so cool and obvious that I could actually remember it and use it if I am ever stranded in China.

Leonard: 凹! 凹!
Chinese Person #1: What is he saying?
Chinese Person #2: It appears he is saying "Concave! Concave!"
Chinese Person #1: Look, he is writing it down!
Chinese Person #2: What brushwork!
Leonard: 美国使馆在哪里是?

: Welcome the latest addition to the NewsBruiser family: Timo Virkkala's WeeTee's Piece Of Mind, all the way from Finland. (Wow, I now know an amazing 0.00005% of the population of Finland! Only 5909239 to go!)

Timo's installation story is pretty harrowing, but only one of his problems was directly caused by NewsBruiser (and it's been fixed in CVS), so I feel a little better. It's always painful setting up a web application on a machine you don't control; I tried to design NewsBruiser for that situation because I know the feeling. Anyway, I hope Timo has a great time with NewsBruiser.

Incidentally, the download URL I gave Timo is this one, and here's the patch against nb/NewsBruiserCGIs.py which fixes the infinite loop problem in version 1.13.0. I guess I'll have to release a version as soon as I get Internet back:

<         while not os.path.exists(dir):
>         while dir and not os.path.exists(dir):

When Gollum Spams:

From: Your Resume Is Excellent (yourchance@togrow2.com)
To: joboffer@believeuss.com

You Got Your Microstate Politics In My Microstate!: Tell-all PDF slideshow Havenco: What Really Happened. Includes line "Informal and inconsistent restrictions were placed on Havenco's operations, but largely ignored, in the truest form of banana republic.", and plug for author's less-Cryptonomiconesque "you can't catch us, we're the gingerbread man" server hosting scheme.

Update: Riana writes:

Note amusing typo on p. 5 of the PDF that causes the phrase "the underling problems." I'm sure Prince Michael thought/thinks his underling ex-CTO is a problem :)

Hey, RSS Reader People: I'm going to Utah for a week, so tune your readers here for guest weblog action.

For All N, There's More Than N Ways To Do It: I was never able to get my programming language to work that would be able to interpret any arbitrary file as a valid program. Adding to the indignity was the fact that neither was I able to think of a cool name for it. Cliff Biffle's Beatnik is a much more clever idea than mine, has a cool name, and encourages the authorship of programs that read well, whereas mine would only have encouraged you to use random other programs as standard input. Pretty neat, even if Beatnik is limited to standard ASCII.

Also check out HQ9+, from the same author.

It Lives!: On my way to Bakersfield on the I-5, I passed two big container trucks from some fancy gardening store I never heard of. Then I passed another such container truck. Then I passed a pickup truck with a bed full of tacky nude statues. Then I passed a Webvan-sized truck from some "custom horticulture" store or some thing. I think someone should nip down to Beverly Hills and see what's going on at al-Fassi's old place.

Leonard Nitpicks The Pop Songs:

Will there be rainbows, day after day?

No! There will not be rainbows, day after day! Que sera, sera, my eye!

(Not originally a pop song, but there was a pop version on one of Rachel's CDs, so it is fair game.)

It's A Madhouse!: The guest weblog was a big success, such a success that I've taken it off the front page to remove the temptation to not write anything in NYCB, instead cynically pretending the guest weblog is something I write somnambulically. I don't know whether to move it to a side spot on the front page like the BoingBoing guest weblog, causing the participants to lose interest as the novelty fades, or to just hide it until the next time I'm gone. Probably the latter, since I was unable to think of a downside for that option. Thanks to all participants for their great entries, especially to Brendan for putting up the first part of his semicanonical Jake Berendes West Covina graphic novel.

More information about my trip coming soon. If you want a trilobite, talk to me. If you want pictures, wait until I get my DSL equipment (I called today and discovered that someone forgot to push the damn button that sends my equipment, so the guy filed a Request To Push Damn Button, and hopefully that will be the end of it), or check out Seth's cool pictures from Germany.

: "Use in conjunction with the sound task to be killed by your own users and hung from a lamppost."

: Sumana sent me cool fish pictures. It's all part of The Elkhorn Slough Foundation's nature photography fantasy.

: From the author of PHP robotfindskitten (which solves in an interesting way the problem of being driven insane by having to move around a game board by clicking an HTML form button, except for the part where you go insane anyway) comes Letters Sent To The Council, which brazenly combines "Genuine" and "[source unknown]". Still not as funny as Funny Insurance Claims.

PS: Carrot Cheesecake tries but cannot wrest the carrot crown away from Carrot Cake Soup (nice recipe format there, BTW; is it for some kind of Iron Chef home game?).

: Time once again to check in with the bottom of the barrel (a regular feature here on NYCB) and see what it has in store for us. Ah, yes. It's Jason's TE license plate slogans. We did the obvious one (New Hampshire) the day I first saw Spirited Away, but there are seven more: as luck would have it, one for each day of this blessed week.

: I know you want to beat down the doors to obtain the newly released Sourcecast 2.6! However, your enthusiasm is superfluous, as it is possible to obtain it without beating down a single door. It's got Project Tracker! (Also known by the sobriquet "Scarab".)

As always, press release also available in InfoWorld flavor.

Trilobite Travelogue: My mother posted a little Utah travelogue, so I thought I'd share with you my more detailed tale of trilobite hunting, based on an email I sent to Jim, a co-worker of Sumana's to whom I gave a trilobite and a chunk of fossilized lakebed containing many trilobites:

The company that owns the trilobite quarry is U-Dig Fossils. They have no web site but there is a fan site which is probably better than their actual web site would be.

The quarry is about 50 miles from Delta in central-west Utah. The whole area used to be a lake and it looks like the quarry is sort of near the north shore of the ancient lake; it's in the foothills of some small mountains.

To get to the quarry you go about 30 miles down highway 6 from Delta (Delta itself is about 100 miles from Provo), then turn onto a dirt/gravel road. The road goes north about 20 miles with some twists and turns. On the way there and back we saw some deer and some penned-up cows.

The actual approach into the quarry is pretty scary; it's a very steep downhill slope. We made it fine in my mother's SUV, and people on the website talk about making it in their rental cars.

We were the only customers at the quarry. The guy in charge was working down in the quarry under a tent. He came up to the office (a shack), showed us some samples, gave us buckets and hammers, and made us sign waivers. My mother brought an old geologist's hammer but the ones they gave us were better. He then took us to a hill on the east side of the quarry, above where another man was working under another tent, showed us how to find the "bugs", and left us to dig.

The modus operandi of the quarry seems to be to dig up a bunch of small rocks with a backhoe and leave them in huge piles. You then climb on a pile, pick out a likely rock, and split it open. Try to get as many slabs out of your rock as possible; every time you split a slab you have a new chance of finding trilobites. The quarry employees reserve especially rich trilobite veins for themselves; they have a sideline selling trilobites to rock shops (actually, their sideline is probably letting people come to the quarry and dig).

The trilobite vein was very rich; I found some sort of fossil in perhaps half of the rocks I cracked. A lot of the fossils were the tiny Peronopsis interstricta which I eventually started ignoring because they're not as cool.

Unfortunately, in my inexperience I ruined several trilobites and caused several others to become disloged from their stony homes. There are a lot of trilobites, so the loss to science is not great. When a trilobite is knocked out of its matrix, it skitters away into the pile of rock chips at your feet and becomes less valuable, like a comic book taken out of its wrapping. Sometimes I was able to recover the fleeing trilobite; other times I was left with only its impression in the rock. If you pick through the fragments you can find loose trilobites lost by others; my mother and sister started doing this when they got tired of wielding the hammer.

The literature says to wear safety glasses but I found it was too hot, and the flying rock chips weren't getting anywhere near my eyes, so I got rid of them after I filled my first bucket. I wore garden gloves the whole time; that is definitely a good idea. I was wearing shorts but came to regret it. It's pretty hot, but it's more useful to wear pants so that you can kneel and lie down on the rock without getting scraped up. Also, bring lots of water--I went through two big squeeze bottles in 2 hours. We brought back 7 bags of trilobites. I had the most because I worked longer, by my mother's looked the best as she has more experience collecting rock samples. Total cost for 3 people: $36.

After the dig we were dirty and exhausted. We are not cut out to be full-time trilobite diggers. We went back to Delta and crashed at the Best Western.

Last night I cleaned the trilobites with my nonexistent trilobite cleaning tools. I used a hammer and screwdriver to chip away some excess rock where I could (I ruined the screwdriver; good thing it was just a dot-com giveaway), and wiped off some dirt with water and cloth. One trilobite negative dissolved when I tried to wash it; I wasn't expecting this and felt bad about it.

I probably have a total of 20-25 non-Peronopsis trilobites, mostly Elrathia kingi. 15 of them are loose or in their own rock matrices, and the rest of them are hiding in two big chunks of fossilized lakebed.

The trip was a lot of fun. I definitely recommend it if you want to go fossil hunting or have a day to spare on a Utah or cross-country vacation. If you were going from San Francisco through Salt Lake City on the 80 it would be a doable 1-day detour.

: Brendan sent me to a rarely-updated Story Minute-ish comic The Grimbles, with special reference to the most recent episode. However, I like this one, and Sumana might like this one and definitely this one.

Constitutional Monarchy Chess: Sumana asked me why a chess queen can move arbitrarily far in any direction. Does this correspond to some great political power held by queens in feudal Europe? Seems unlikely. I made a wild guess that perhaps in the original Indian version of chess, the "queen" piece was some sort of king's advisor which didn't translate well to European terms.

Then I started thinking about all those stupid chess sets where the pieces look like Simpsons characters or Civil War soldiers or Wizard Of Oz commemorative plates and it doesn't make any sense. I thought, "I want in on this not-making-sense action!". So I decided to bring the game of chess into the modern world by changing the pieces to depict a political battle between two parties in a constitutional monarchy.

The chessboard is a country with a thirty-member parliament. There are two parties, the Social Democrats (white) and the Democratic Socialists (black).

The purpose of the game is to get the king to put his support behind your platform. Each side has a piece representing one of the positions the king could take, and you must corner your opponent's representation so that the king has no choice but to accept your side's position.

Each player controls eight non-cabinet members of parliament (the Pawns) and a seven-member cabinet or shadow cabinet (depending on whether or not they are the party in power).

The King, as previously discussed, is the king (more precisely, your party's wish as to the political position the king would take). The Queen is the prime minister or shadow prime minister. The cabinet positions are:

If you have more pieces on the board than your opponent, your party is in power and your ministers are actual ministers; otherwise you are in opposition and your ministers are shadow ministers. In the event of a tie, as in the beginning of the game, the Social Democrats are in power. This is because the king breaks ties and he is a Social Democrat. Unfortunately, none of this has any direct effect on the game.

Let's consider an example to see how Constitutional Monarchy Chess livens up the dull chess notation. "Qg7" would instead be "PMg7" or "SPMg7". The unspeakably boring "Bxe5" might become "SMfFAxe5". Now that's excitement!

I also forsee doing a brisk business in my specialized Constitutional Monarchy Chess pieces, which depict people in black and gray suits and dresses who can only be told apart by the ministerial logos on their briefcases.



Probably not really a postal worker.

Yeah, I'm Scared:

root is not in the sudoers file. This incident will be reported.

Dramatis Personae:

Sumana: Can I come in? I promise not to talk about The Great Gatsby anymore.
Leonard: Okay.
Sumana: You know how sometimes you promise not to do X, and then all you can think about is X?

No Kidding:

Subject: Warning: E-Mail viruses detected

: A gaming magazine recruits a former mobster to play and review various crime-themed video games. He can't figure them out and doesn't like them much, but the control non-crime game turns him into a coffinfish:

HH: I will master this frickin' game! I gotta take this home.

From 101-280 (our paths cross again, mysterious stranger).

: From Sumana, the only four recipes you need. (Sorry, this breaks the streak of entries that use <blockquote>.)

Obituary: Yesterday my mother's aunt LeJeune Whitney died. I don't remember losing my mother's parents but this is like losing a grandparent. I'm glad I got to see her at Susanna's reception, not glad that I spent almost the whole reception standing in the reception line and was unable to talk to her for long.

: It's good to see that Greg is putting ink to paper again. Perhaps he will also invent the successor to the smiley.

Duelling Auctions: "Who ever would have thought we would see a US president represented in a GI Joe like figure!!"

Well, how about the John F. Kennedy actual GI Joe figure? Or the Dwight D. Eisenhower actual GI Joe figure? Or the George Washington actual GI Joe figure?

Coming soon: Jimmy Carter Nuclear Sub Engineer action figure. Also the Zachary Taylor figure, with real annexing action.

: My mother wrote her aunt's obituary.

Teaser: Amazing meta-dessert recipe entry coming tomorrow. Don't miss it!

Dead Spammer Part Aleph-Null:

My friends were afraid I'd die uqszhngpit

Amazing Meta-Dessert Recipe Entry As Promised: By now you have probably noticed that my fondness for the meta extendeds even to my culinary adventures. Dessert is the main playground of the meta in my cooking, because it's safer: the concept of "dessert" pretty much has transitive closure. You can take n desserts, apply some transformation to them, and you will probably still have a dessert. So I like to play with desserts that incorporate or are based on other desserts (eg. tiramisu or the world-famous Nutellamisu).

A few days ago, I made Impulse Buy Cookies. They are like chocolate chip cookies, but instead of chocolate chips they use the equivalent amount of whatever junky candy stuff you want to buy when you're in the supermarket. I got a Kit Kat bar, a Nestle Crunch bar, and some little chocolate-covered balls of peanut butter.

I must say that Impulse Buy Cookies are a great idea, so long as you can reliably yet impulsively buy chocolate chips. Otherwise, I have my doubts. Probably it's because I bought candy I don't actually like very much; I mainly bought the peanut butter candy because Sumana likes peanut butter candy, and the other stuff because it seemed suitably impulsive. The Kit Kat bar was a horrible idea; the heat of the oven made it tough and leathery. Plus, I forgot to put the egg in the cookies, so the dough was a little weird.

However, last night I redeemed the meta-dessert world with Ganache Cookies. Why ganache? Because I like ganache. Ganache has panache. Also, I had purchased way too much whipping cream and way too much block chocolate for my disastrous Chocolate Mousse Cake meta-dessert, so what better way to use it than in a substance made entirely of whipping cream and block chocolate?

For completeness, here is how you make ganache: take a half-pint of whipping cream and bring it to a boil. Add some flavorful thing like jam or vanilla or liquer. Chop up about 8 ounces of chocolate and put it in a bowl. Once the cream boils, take it off the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Mash everything together with a whisk and stir it. You now have ganache.

To make your cookies into Ganache Cookies, just make whatever kind of cookies you like as you would normally make them. Do not put anything hard like chocolate chips in the cookies, as the cookies need to be refrigerated and it's not pleasant to eat cold hard things. After the cookies have cooled a little bit, take each one by the edge and dip the other edge in the ganache. Then let them cool on wax paper. Keep them refrigerated unless you want a mess. Note: you will get a mess whether or not you want one. However, the cookies are very good.

Kevin and I speculated whether you could make an even more meta-dessert out of the cookies, the dessert equivalent of the turducken. Well, it's not that hard. Any time you have cookies you can use the cookies as the base of an ice cream cake or ice cream sandwiches. Then you can bake a regular cake, cut a hole in it, and put the ice cream cake inside like a file. Then you could use the entire thing to represent a single sugar molecule in a pecan pie the size of the earth, topped with moon-flavored ice cream (a tip: if you are pressed for time, you can substitute the actual moon).

Question for ganache experts: is there something I can add to the ganache to make it harder when cool, so that the cookies don't need to be refrigerated?

Update: Sumana says: "People who have snacked on your cookies uniformly pronounce them wonderful. You brought our receptionist to speechlessness."

: My DSL equipment got sent, but it got sent to my home address (where I am not during the day) instead of my work address (where I am during the day; also, by sheer coincidence, the address to which I told them to send it). I am actually fairly pleased, as this is the smallest screw-up so far in the carnival of screw-ups that have marked my latest DSL adventure.

I can either stay at home tomorrow and wait, or redirect the delivery to my work address. In either event I will not actually be able to use the DSL until Wednesday night, the day before I leave for Utah. Oh well. Not a big deal. Note my lack of rage; it's all part of the new kinder, gentler, less full of rage image I've been told to cultivate for my gubernatorial run.

Amazing Meta-Dessert Recipe Entry Addendum: There needs to be a variety of ganache called "Ganesha Ganache".

A Couple More Things About Star Trek: I guess this could become a semi-regular series. Anyway, these have been bugging me for a while. As always, I welcome nitpicking rebuttals from even more obsessive fanboys than I.

  1. The TNG-era Enterprise has three or four holodecks. I'm not saying they should have more; they take up a lot of space. But a lot of people like to use them in their off hours, yet somehow one is always free whenever a senior officer needs to run a holodeck simulation. I'd like to see the scene where Geordi has to kick some ensign out of the holodeck so he can test his pet theory.
  2. Every Star Trek show has exactly one M.D. I think they should have had more. Especially DS9, although they probably had private-sector doctors in addition to the Starfleet doctor. Voyager had one doctor who could be instantiated multiple times, which is a great idea, but unfortunately Voyager is not canon. I get the impression that the writers treated "doctor" as a role to be filled by a main character rather than figuring out how many doctors these people would actually need. The doctor on Enterprise doesn't even have any staff to help him. He has to get other crew members to help him, as a favor.
  3. Orion slave girls. Sometimes otherwise sympathetic Star Trek characters get a gleam in their eye when the topic of Orion slave girls comes up. Hey, we're talking about slavery here! You know, the bad thing? They should work on getting rid of it instead of drooling over the green women. (It does look like they got rid of it between TOS and TNG.)

Worthwhile Salon Teaser:

Of math and makeup tips Men are more logical, women more empathetic? So says Simon Baron-Cohen in his new book, "The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male and Female Brain"

"That's Nice" Search Requests:

i've been working on the railroad activity sheet

The Medi-Yorker Returns!: Long has this Crummy mini-feature slumbered. But at last, I have come up with another incredible simulation of a mediocre New Yorker cartoon.

The scene: a restaurant... on the moon! Inside, a waiter hovers with pad in hand over a customer, who looks up from his menu and says:

"The lobster... is it fresh?"

Thank you.

: As has been recorded, I talked to Brendan last night. We talked about avocados, and proposed starting a band called "Underwater Avocado". The band would produce a song also called "Underwater Avocado". The cell phone battery died before we could complete the lyrics, but here's what I was thinking:

Underwater avocado, yeah, yeah
Underwater avocado, bleah, bleah

Could be the big hit of the summer, assuming we could somehow declare it the big hit of the summer by fiat.


Today's Accomplishment: I found and suggested the fix for a big performance problem in Torque.

Hi. I've got Internet access at home now.

Leonard's Roadside America: My favorite sign I saw on the driving trip to Utah was a sign seen when coming into Los Vegas that said "You will always remember Lance Burton, Master Magician." It's like someone named a Nethack incubus "Lance Burton, Master Magician".

Sumana LaForge: Pictures from the Salon retreat; Sumana says "I'm the one who looks like Geordi."

Speaking of which, keep those fanboy Star Trek rebuttals coming so I can keep justifying the delay in posting them.

Also speaking of which, if you're a cheapskate you can get your Salon Premium subscription for only $23 instead of $35. You see, when you subscribe you can sign up for a free subscription to Wired. Wired then gives you a chance to revoke your subscription and get a $12 refund. You could probably also do this with the other magazine subscriptions as well, which would mean your Salon viewing was completely subsidized by other companies... wait, that's what most people already have.

Away Put Your Weapon: I mean you no harm. I just want to link to this game site review of robotfindskitten. (from Pete Peterson II)

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