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: I saw this primitive Earth tool today. It lets you check off which countries or US states you've visited and make a map out of it (my state and world maps). More later about the similar, subtler tools I've been wanting to craft for a while. I'd like to point out things brought into stark relief by the, well, stark relief of the US map. First, it makes it look like I started out in Maryland. and scampered west as fast as I could to enjoy all the big states, which is not the truth. Second, what counts as "visiting"? Do I count the ten minutes I spent in Oklahoma? ("Hey, we're near the border, do you kids want to go to Oklahoma?") If so, why don't I count the far longer stints in the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Savannah airports? It's a calculus, as Brian might say.

PS: Tool is also useful if you want to get a map with one state or country highlighted. Why would you want to do that? Because of Wyoming!

Rebuttal to Previous Entry: Down with mapping!

: Being really famous must be like having to do tech support forever. "Oh no! This piece of paper doesn't have your signature on it! What can I do? You must help me!"

: Kevin wished me luck today in his usual pointless way, by telling me of a Japanese bean-throwing ceremony that takes place today.

After throwing the beans, people eat the same number of beans as their age to wish for good health that year. For example, if you are 20 years old, you will eat 20 beans.

Hopefully you eat different beans from the ones you threw.

[Comments] (1) Basil: In California, basil is a vegetable. A big bunch costs $1.79. In Arkansas, basil is an herb. It still costs $1.79, but it comes in a little plastic zip bag containing about ten leaves. Now whenever I buy basil in California I'll feel guilty, like I'm depriving someone else of basil.

[Comments] (2) Fair Fare: New horribly unhealthy food: rock candy dipped in batter and deep-fried. It's geode-licious!

[Comments] (10) Leonard's Tips For Slovenly Living #2: If you run out of human soap, you can probably wash yourself with dish soap.

I haven't tried this one either, but I might have to soon.

[Comments] (9) Proceedings Of The First Congress Of Future Old Farts: Resolved: that the newfangled video games the kids love nowadays can never be as inventive or interesting as Metroid or Mega Man.

[Comments] (1) : I had Mongolian BBQ a couple nights ago, but I forgot to mention it because it was so bad. I would say "At least it was Mongolian BBQ", but... well, it was bad. Still weird that it's easier to get Mongolian BBQ in Arkansas than in San Francisco.

As long as I'm complaining: these pens keep falling apart. They are Staples "Comfort SticTM" pens. Don't buy them!

[Comments] (7) News Before It Happens: More later, but first this unimportant detail: by virtue of getting into the office before anyone else I just got a picture taken of me by the same AP photographer who took my picture last time, and I'm wearing the exact same thing as in the last picture. Embarassing! People are going to think I only brought one set of clothes to Little Rock.

PS: I also didn't comb my hair. At least my fly was up.

Update: Man, that was quick. Here's Andy.

[Comments] (1) : Tomorrow I set out on my "As Long as I'm Here" road trip, with stops in Louisville, Lawrence, Provo, and Bakersfield. More as I hit the road--gotta go home and pack.

: At Brendan's house. For those who wondered: I am safe!

We are going to MAMMOTH CAVE tomorrow.

I'm A Jayhawk Man: At Alyson's house, where the chicken noodle soup flows freely. Atticus and Sam are asleep but I'll hear from them (literally) tomorrow.

: In Provo now at Susanna's house. Mammoth Cave was a bust--they weren't offering the self-guided tour, and the magic words didn't work, so there was no way of getting in and out of the cave in a timely fashion. Got some good auxilliary pictures though. I'll go next time.

: Back, moving stuff around. Have recently become obsessed with Caesar salad. It's trivial to make a Caesar salad that's 10 times better than anything you can get in a restaurant (at least the middlebrow, not-too-expensive restaurants I frequent). Go ahead, try it. Just use Alton Brown's recipe. I use spinach instead of romaine, and I add chopped tomatoes, so it's no traditional Caesar salad, but you know what makes those restaurant salads so uninspired? Bland adherence to tradition! Also their croutons are as hard as stone so I can't eat 'em.

[Comments] (1) Map Fun: So the road trip was pretty fun. We went through Nebraska instead of through Colorado, mainly so I could add more states to my map. Not sure if there's another reason to visit Nebraska.

Demonstrating that that visited-states map thing is a general, flexible tool, here's the result of Brendan and I playing the license plate game (Bonus Canadian addendum). And here's the map of all the BART stations I've visited, where the list of BART stations has been ASCIIbetically sorted and mapped onto the similarly sorted list of states.

[Comments] (1) Decision Procedure For Milkshake Quality: Some restaurants serve good milkshakes; others just put them on the menu. If you order a milkshake will it be worth the calories? It's easy to find out with this decision procedure that's a lot simpler than the decision procedure for hot sauce quality.

  1. Does the restaurant serve more than one flavor of ice cream?

The reason this is important is that good milkshakes are made out of ice cream that's the flavor of the milkshake. Bad and mediocre milkshakes are made out of vanilla ice cream blended with flavored syrup. This is in defiance of the Fundamental Theorem of Ice Cream Flavoring, which is that you flavor your ice cream while you're making it and not afterwards.

You can apply this decision procedure by looking at the dessert menu and seeing if they ever hint at the possibility that ice cream might exist in more than one flavor. If you're at a fast food restaurant there is no dessert menu, but come on! Fast food restaurants are the classic case of a restaurant with bad milkshakes--they pull vanilla ice cream out of a soft-serve machine and add syrup to it, right in front of you. You can't even pretend it might be good.

NOTE: Unlike the hot sauce procedure, which has been confirmed dozens of times since publication with no known failures, this decision procedure goes to press with a known flaw. In-N-Out Burger flagrantly violates this decision procedure (you can actually see the syrup in its finished shakes), but its shakes are pretty good.

The only thing I can think of is that if you start with good vanilla ice cream, you can make a decent shake out of it by adding syrup. The decision procedure explains the fact that you can't even get a good vanilla milkshake at a restaurant with only vanilla ice cream by assuming that if you don't care enough to get multiple flavors of ice cream, you don't care enough to get good vanilla ice cream either. I guess this assumption doesn't hold for In-N-Out.

[Comments] (2) Game Roundup Is The Place To Be: As part of my reacclimation to my canonical life, I've prepared a Game Roundup for you. Lots of game clones in this roundup: just about every game here is a clone of another game or belongs to a well-established genre. This does not bode well. I've got about 25 more games to review before I'm all caught up, though, and fewer of them are clones.

Today's winner: The Bub's Brothers, hands down. It gets the traditional prize of a limerick:

While playing that game with a bubble
My keyboard was worn to a nubble
So much time had elapsed
Civilization collapsed
And I was surrounded by rubble

Craven Spam: master! live like a king. It seems I already do!

What's Out?: Subversion 1.0 is out!

Pictures Pictures: 17 never-before-seen pictures of my colleagues on the Clark campaign tech team, and 81 similarly-never-before-seen pictures of the Brendan/Leonard road trip. Latter includes many pictures of the famous Atticus and many pictures of the Mammoth Cave region, in case you are seized, as I was, by the ridiculous idea of making a text adventure about Mammoth Cave and the area surrounding, with its cemeteries, uplifted strata, spooky nature trails, hokey rock shops, Christianity-themed tourist traps, huge parking lots, cancelled tours, etc.

Some of the road trip pictures are bigger than your average crummy.com pictures because of their extreme spectacularity (eg. the radioactive truck). A lot of the campaign pictures are really, really big because Josh Lerner is going to put them on a CD. I will probably scale them down once he downloads them.

[Comments] (3) Brown Signs: California's pretty stingy with its brown highway signs, the ones designating an Official Government Attraction. Even zoos and wildlife preserves don't generally have brown signs. So it was a surprise when I went out to the Midwest and started seeing brown signs everywhere, some on ridiculous things not worthy of a brown sign, like the National Pontiac Corvette Museum and the Maker's Mark Distillery. (There's also the My Old Kentucky Home State Park featuring "Steven Foster: The Musical", none of which should even exist, much less have multiple brown signs. The state that MAMMOTH CAVE calls home put Steven Foster on their state quarter!)

The point of this entry is that there are three brown signs we saw that point to things that should exist, and that we would have visited had we had more time. The first is the Abraham Lincoln birthplace in Kentucky. It apparently has a Lincoln Memorial type marble building which protects from deterioration a log cabin in which Lincoln was not born.

The second thing is the Agriculture Hall of Fame near the Kansas/Missouri border. Untrue to its name, the Agriculture Hall of Fame is not the destination for which the state fair is merely the semifinal. It does not house the World's Largest Grape. It does have inductees, who are pretty much who you'd expect. It has a lot of old farming implements. It has tours. It has a large collection of barbed wire and Harry Truman's boyhood plow. Speaking of which...

The third thing is the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, where it turns out Truman is buried. A little weird. The online-but-not-really gift shop lets you buy "The Buck Stops Here" desk sign replicas.

The Double Standard: Brendan has a floppy hat and Sumana thinks it's great. I have a floppy hat and Sumana considered it cause for siccing Queer Eye For The Straight Guy on me.

Extra Day!: Enjoy your extra day today. I'm going to another one of those pesky CollabNet retreats and I won't be back until Tuesday night.

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