(1) Sun Aug 01 2004 17:11 PST Biting The Hand That Feeds:
My latest contribution to the LazyWeb: The Syndication Automat! I suck websites into NewsBruiser weblogs and show you the RSS feeds that result. Eventually I'm sure I'll scrape ConGlomGo's site and anger the corporate gods, but for now I'm sticking to getting information out of the government, Project Gutenberg, and other well-meaning mastodons. Hit the wiki page if there's a feed you want and you think I might want it too. Life is too short for me to mantain a bunch of scraped feeds I'm not actually interested in.
This was the main reason I wrote Beautiful Soup, so it's been in my head a while. I've been building it up in pilfered snatches of time and it's good enough to release now. It's also the first project created under the aegis of the new Center for High-Energy NewsBruiser, the name I like so much I'm going to use it for my other NewsBruiser-as-web-platform projects.
Give it a try if anything there interests you. I'm especially proud of the text excerpts in the Gutenberg feeds, and the clickable maps in the piracy report.
(7) Mon Aug 02 2004 17:58 PST Opposition Research:
One of the things about political campaigns in this country is that everything you buy or use has to be made by an American company unless there's no alternative. This is not just flags and bunting and big Uncle Sam hats and the other paraphernelia of patriotism. It's everything. There's no law about this; you just do it. Because if you don't do it, the fear is, your opponents will use your insufficient patriotism against you as part of their "opposition research".
I always pictured opposition research as kind of an amoral game. You scour all available documents for scraps of your opponent's impropriety (actual or seeming). When you find something, you put on your Concerned Citizen face and release it to the media or make "Shouldn't this be investigated?" inquiries to the appropriate authorities. The goal is to get the media to bite, to get them to Discover An Issue and then try to finesse it into a snowball effect.
It's sad and depressing work, but all campaigns do it. Everyone's hoping for a Whitewater-scale jackpot, something where their opponent will look up in surprise and say "You sank my battleship!" and drop out on the spot. But the more common result is a constant stream of fake scandals and fiascoes that nobody remembers three days later, to match the equally forgettable stream of positive political theater coming out of your own camp.
I'm not talking about negative ads. This stuff is an order of magnitude too flimsy to use in a campaign ad. You'd get an ad like "Senator Bedfellow says he's for American jobs. But this one time, he ate a Toblerone! What's next, Senator--the killing of adorable kittens?"
You can't retroactively change what your candidate said twelve years ago in Rat's Ass, Missouri (though that's a good idea for a time travel story). On the other hand, it's easy to avoid this one particular type of embarrassment by simply treating patriotism as a sort of brand loyalty. But why put so much effort into avoiding such a flimsy fake outrage?
Well, this tiny subgenre of opposition research has a well-defined beginning, according to the campaign worker lore I am now intermittently versed in. It dates back to the 1992 presidential primaries, when Pat Buchanan suffered a fiasco because his campaign car was a Mercedes. A Mercedes! The champion of protectionism using a foreign car, ripping the bread right out of little Johnny Crankshaft's mouth and sending it overseas to the dour offspring of some unsmiling Hun! Fetch the smelling salts! Fiasco!
You can see (assuming this apocryphal tale is where it began) that it didn't start because some random politician had a Nokia watch. It was Pat Buchanan, and it was a car, the very symbol of the decline of American manufacturing. But now everyone is paranoid about it, because it's something they have control over.
Apparently this fiasco--a fake fiasco identical to the fake fiascoes that beseige every campaign every day, one remembered now only by campaign workers--was like the 9/11 of political campaigning, the moment everyone woke up and said "Holy crap! We must henceforth engage in ELABORATE, SUPERFICIAL RITUALS so that this will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!" Except since the fiascoes are themselves caused by the elaborate, superficial ritual of opposition research (and not by eg. a real enemy who wants to actually kill you), the counter-ritual is actually effective. As far as I know (which is not far at all) there have been no foreign-product-use-based attacks since the Buchanan fiasco. But if you ask me, the real reason is that other candidates are not Pat Buchanan, and these attacks would be less effective on them.
Here are the examples of this Brand America type thinking on the Clark campaign that I can remember. Because I was not privy to purchasing decisions (or indeed any other kind of decision) I'm guessing there were many more decisions made on this scale. I do have two that were kind of weird though.
- All the computers we bought were HPs or Macs. Not a big deal.
- We got Blackberries for all the brass to carry around and message each other with, except they weren't Blackberries. We couldn't use Blackberries because Blackberry is a Canadian company or something. They were these things called Goods (Geed?). But everyone called them Blackberries, because that's what they were.
- When I was looking for a weblog/news software package to run the Clark Community Network, one of the criteria I used was whether or not the software had been written by Americans. It didn't really matter, because Scoop (coming out of Maine, IIRC) was the best choice for what I wanted to do, but it was weird. And not even neccessary--the Dean campaign used Drupal, which was written by a guy in Belgium, and nobody got on their case.
I'm not sure how we justified using Linux for everything. Maybe because everyone else was also using it, and because creating a fiasco around it would require explaining what an operating system was. I think it just doesn't apply to software; only to things that can have incriminating pictures taken of them.
Anyway, the first and less viable of the two politics-related business opportunities I'm going to tell you about is the one where you buy cheap the sort of equipment a campaign needs, change the logos, and resell it as genuine American Brand Tech. Yeah, it's a pathetic sham, but having to explain why it's a pathetic sham makes the issue too complicated for your opponent to use it against you. Complexity: make it work for you in politics!
Tue Aug 03 2004 13:10 PST Sure, Do It The Easy Way:
I remember in some class in college (the first one of the three I took where they teach you Lisp) I had a Lisp problem where I had to figure out how to pass in two numbers to a function of one argument.
Well, I thought, I'll encode the numbers x,y as a product of powers of primes 2x*3y, just like you would to encode a formula into Gödel numbering. Then I'll have one number that, by the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic, uniquely represents some list of numbers. On the other side I'll "just" decode the list from that number.
Then I figured out that the real answer was to put the numbers in a list and pass in the list.
(2) Tue Aug 03 2004 13:59 PST:
A reliable source informs me that LinuxWorld is in town this week. Is anyone I know in town and interested in hanging out? Do people still go to LinuxWorld nowadays?
(4) Wed Aug 04 2004 12:27 PST Yesterday:
Date with Sumana along Valencia yesterday evening. Bookstores: bought used Iain Pears, which so far reads like a less clever Quicksilver. Bombay Creamery: ginger ice cream is good, saffron pistachio ice cream is better. Pirate store: fun! Secret code: bring almonds to the girl behind the counter; she loves almonds. Addams Family-esque garden supply/taxidermy store next to the pirate store, and from which the pirate store seems to have acquired some of their merchandise: not as fun, but okay. They sold largeish test tubes, which I would turn into a spice rack if I wanted a cool-looking spice rack that was hard to use. BART back home: comfortable.
(1) Thu Aug 05 2004 08:15 PST:
I've been meaning to post about 3-D printing and custom-made artifacts, and my mother beat me to it!
(1) Fri Aug 06 2004 06:57 PST Lessons in Countersecurity:
To access the database, a group of the remaining employees gathered together, and in what must have been an unbearably wrenching session, recalled everything they knew about their colleagues: the names of their children; where they went on holidays; what foods they liked; even their personal idiosyncrasies. And they managed to guess the passwords.
If you choose a good password, the terrorists have won!
Fri Aug 06 2004 12:26 PST Virtue Is Its Own Reward #4:
Find happiness and win! (Seen on a candy bar wrapper by Sumana.)
(1) Sat Aug 07 2004 20:15 PST Games You Already Have Roundup:
This morning I was browsing through dselect looking for some games to
play and maybe review for a Roundup. While I was there I decided to
remove the KDE and Gnome games that come with every Linux system I've
installed for the past four years. Then I thought: wait. I spend
countless hours every decade searching for games to review, and I'm
about to remove a bunch of games without even considering them for
review--without even ever having played some of them. What's the deal?
Well, the deal is that most of those games are clones of games I've
been playing off and on for the past fifteen years. They don't have
that much play left in them. Even for the ones I like, there's usually
some DOS version that is the focal point of my nostalgia, and the new
GUI versions don't measure up.
Because of my general policy regarding saying things when I can't
say anything nice, I had never even thought about reviewing them. But
surely a review, even a cursory one, is better than unthinking
deletion. So here is the first in a series of Game Roundups that
focuses on games that are probably already installed on your
machine. For this reason, I'm not giving links to most of these. Here
we go, with the "Games > Arcade" section of your
- GNOME Robots: First, this is not an arcade game (indeed, it's
filed under both "Arcade" and "Puzzle" in my convoluted menu
layout). It has the layout of an arcade game but it's turn-based,
which no arcade game is. (I would be very interested if anyone has any
counterexamples) Anyway, this implementation is not as menacing as the
DOS robots clone my uncle Robert had on his PCJr, where a robot with a
eye would taunt you between levels. This version has two types of
robots: the "Type 1", which you all know and avoid, and the
bloodthirsty, double-quick "Type 2". Doesn't use numeric keypad by
default--you're going to put GNOME on the desktop by using vi keys for
the robots game? Bad idea, dude.
Has an idea of "safe moves", where if you try something that would
get your little guy killed, it just beeps at you instead of letting
you do it. That would be great if I had any emotional attachment to my
guy. As it was I was wondering why I couldn't just die and get the
game over with. You win, evil shortsighted robots trying to kill one
Oh, here's a feature I'm excited about. You can change the icon of the
things beseiging you. So you can play being chased by
shell-gnashing eggs or tail-tapping mice.
- KAsteroids: I always liked this Asteroids clone. Good rock
graphics, and some of the rocks have powerups in them (asteroid mining
on the cheap, I guess), which adds a different element to the
game. There's also a "break" key, so you don't have to turn around and
fire your jets in the opposite direction to slow down.
Has a pretty silly method of pausing--a modal dialog box pops up
saying "KAsteroids is paused". Is that in the usability guidelines? I'm keeping this one; I like Asteroids and this is the best Linux implementation I've played.
- KBounce: "Press Ctrl-N;Space to start a game!" But may I end my
turn early? No, because it's a Qix clone (subgenre:
mouse-controlled). I think icebreaker (coming soon to a
not-installed-by-default Game Roundup near you) has more class, with
its near-ASCII graphics. Does bonus score allocation with a dialog
box, which I'll admit is easy to program and explains everything well,
but doesn't have the visceral thrill of a game where one number goes
down as your score goes up at the end of a level. Frippery: Lets you
select a background image.
- KFoulEggs: Color-matching Tetris clone (actually a Puyo Puyo clone)
with blobs. Points for the name, and for multiplayer mode. Points off
for being a clone of a boring game.
- KGoldrunner: Lode Runner clone. Didn't respond to my attempts at
keyboard control, then popped up a dialog saying "You have pressed a
key that can be used to move the Hero. Do you want to switch
automatically to keyboard control!" Now that's service! Except for the
The implementation is not bad--you don't have to stand still while
digging a pit; you can move on and the pit will still
happen. Unfortunately this means if you're running you can easily fall
into your own pit. The sprites for the people are kind of blocky
compared to the rest of the sprites; did they copy everything from the
old Broderbund game and those sprites don't stand up to the test of
- KSirtet: Servicable Tetris clone. Nice block graphic. Its
distinguishing feature is that it features an "arcade" mode that's
just like the arcade game. No, I did not know this either. The
difference is that the arcade version of Tetris clears the board when
you "level up", as the kids say.
- Gnometris: Sounds like one of the lesser-visited science labs on
the Enterprise. Preferences let you configure the random filler blocks
in excruciating detail. A high-class stone finish to the blocks and
excellent control makes the act of wasting time playing Tetris seem
restful. The game was written for the author's wife, so awwwww. Winner
of KDE/Gnome Tetris smackdown: Gnome! But KDE wins for sheer number of Tetris clones bundled with the desktop; see above (and below!).
- KSmileTris: Another PuyoPuyo variation, with smiley faces on the
blocks. The best thing about this game is that of course you can
change the distinguishing graphics on the blocks, but in a feat of
graphics recycling one of the graphic sets consists of the icons for
the other comes-with-your-system games reviewed in this
roundup. Genius! Sheer misused genius!
- KSnakeRace: I was dreading this one, because I hate these snake
games. But this one has nice EGA style graphics and an enemy snake who
wishes your doom--and really, who can blame him, after all the horrible things you said about him? Since, if you really think about it, snake games
kind of look like Qix, there are red balls bouncing randomly around
the playing board. In a biblical twist, you eat apples instead of the
featureless energy pellets you see in many snake games.
disappointment was that your inevitable death is not treated with the
same drama as the death of the enemy snake. When you run into a wall
it just starts the level again, but when the enemy snake gets stuck
its tail flows back into its body until it disappears. Also, the
snakes have rattles but there's no way to use them. Anyway, I came in
with really low expectations but this implementation was cute enough
to get me to keep it installed, which is saying a lot because I thought you couldn't pay me to play a snake game anymore.
PS: What was the name of the original snake game? This has broken
my streak of "X clone" comments because I don't know the name of the
original progenitor of snake games.
- GNibbles: Not as good as KSnakeRace. Impossible to see your snake
on the dark playing board. Graphics in general seem dystopian, though
there are side-of-board warps like in Pac-Man. These mean that when
you get tired of playing the game (elapsed time: 15 seconds) and start
writing the review, your snake can go across the screen over and over
again like a dead EEG. Winner of KDE/Gnome snake game smackdown: KDE!
- Gnome Stones: I think this used to be called Gnome Mines but it
was changed because it was too similar to gnomine (of which more in
the next exciting episode of Games You Already Have Roundup). This is
a Boulderdash clone which can't lift a candle to Rocks 'n'
Diamonds. The gameplay is jerky, your character is is a freak (okay,
he's kind of endearing; I like the Commander Keen-esque mannerism
animations when you're not moving him around), and I have it on good
authority there are only 60,000 levels. Best part: psychedelic
between-level fades. Get Rocks 'n' Diamonds instead.
- KSpaceDuel: A SpaceWar clone, made ridiculous by the fact that the
contestants are satellites with little solar panel wings, and not
proper spaceships at all. Two-player only, but has space mines.
- KTron: The Tron lightcycle game is just a deathmatch version of
the snake game, so I think it's even less interesting. But check out
the "Appearance" configuration panel for this implementation. It lets you change the line
style and line size and color, as though it were a chart program.
- Kolf: Ok, this one I
actually hadn't seen--it's new in KDE 3.2, so I'm providing a
link. The wacky Modernist splash screen intrigued me. And it's a lot
of fun! It's a mini-golf game with water hazards, moving platforms,
pinball bumpers, teleportation, Excitebike-style acceleration panels,
and other things that would be impractical on a real miniature golf
My generally horrible scores were balanced out by a good many holes
in one. (In the anti-frustration sense, not in the below-par sense.)
It's probably a clone of something, but I've never played the original
(much less 10 variations of the original at various points throughout
my life), so it's new to me. Includes "USA Pro" tour which replicates
actual miniature golf holes with probably no degree of accuracy
whatsoever--wait, I get it. They are miniature golf recreations of
places, like the Grand Canyon and Lake Tahoe (Tahoe?!?! One can count the scales on a trout at a depth of a
hundred and-- Calm
down, Sam). This is a great game.
Sun Aug 08 2004 14:26 PST Humpback Whales:
If you get a chance, don't miss this Nature episode about humpback whales. I thought humpbacks went around never really opening their mouths, but that's possibly the most wrong I've ever been about anything. It is amazing.
(1) Mon Aug 09 2004 12:35 PST:
Just when I thought Spamusement couldn't get any better, in come the pterodactyls.
(2) Mon Aug 09 2004 19:31 PST Games You Already Have Roundup II: The Wrath Of Board Games:
Greetings, already havers of the following games. Today we look at
computer versions of games usually played on boards. "Board Games",
they are called. Man, it's hard to fill up a whole introductory
paragraph. Did you ever notice how arbitrary the "board game" term is
when games are categorized in a Linux installation? The category
includes solitaire Mahjongg, which is not a board game and uses pieces
from a board game that has no proper board. It includes Yahtzee, which
is put out by a board game company but is played entirely with
dice. Yet it does not, and this is the real travesty, it does not
include my groundbreaking multiplayer mudfest "Bran's Brother Has
Flipped!: The Home Game". Where's the justice? Not in this life, my
That's why I'm imposing a strict rule on this episode of Games You
Already Have Roundup. No matter what the menu classification says, if
the game does not feature competition, ie. you versus some human or AI
opponent, it is not a board game. It will not be featured in this
episode, but rather in the next episode, Games You Already Have
Roundup III: The Search For Puzzle Games. Hopefully the people who
write Debian post-install scripts for these games will take this as
the stinging rebuke it undoubtedly is, and will get their act together
in time to avert game-categorization catastrophe on a grand scale.
Don't thank me; I'm only doing this so I can put off playing those
awful marble games. And now, with further ado, the games.
- KWin4: Give me a break! I thought I could go the rest of my life
without having to play Connect Four, but then I got this crazy idea to
review all these bundled games. Hm, I never realized how quickly this
game degenerates into a holding pattern where you fill up all the
useless rows to the top.
Actual title of this clone: either "Four wins" or "Kwin4",
depending on what part of the application you believe. You can play
over the network. I hope that was fun for the author to
implement. Nice animation, on the opening screen and in the game. It's
really well-put-together, but it's Connect Four. What's next?
Operation? The goofy game for dopey doctors?
- Four-in-a-row: Argh! OK, this one's actually not a good game. It
looks like every other Gnome game with marbles on a grid, but it's got
the logic of Connect Four. Again the inconsistent naming: help claims
it is called "Gnect". I also can't help noticing that I never win. Is
it a solved problem or am I just no good at this game? This version
has AI settings, which implies the latter. Winner of of KDE/Gnome
Connect Four clone smackdown: damn you, Connect Four! The only
way to win is not to play. I hate to admit that there are degrees of
"better" and "worse" here, but the KDE one is a lot better.
- Iagno: Scraping the bottom of the Gnome pun barrello is this
Othello clone. I started wanting to eat the pieces; they look like
delicious mints. I tried various buttons to see if one was the "eat"
button. I searched the settings for an option that would let me eat
the pieces. Then I gave up and switched to a slick sun-and-moon
graphic set which I think would give the implementation a lot more
character if it were used as the default. Two local players or AI.
- KReversi: Graphics not nearly as good as Iagno's can be, and what's
more the animation is annoying. In Iagno all the pieces you capture
turn over simultaneously. In KReversi they turn over piece by
maddening piece (I later found out you can speed up the animation so
fast it goes away). However I perservered and by pressing the one
Othello hint I've learned since I was 9 and playing a BASIC Othello
game ("go for the corners"), I was able to rack up what I think is my
first Othello win ever. One player against AI only. Winner of
KDE/Gnome Othello clone smackdown: Gnome!
- GNOME Tali: It's Yahtzee, despite the name which tries to connect
it to the ancient
Roman game of knucklebones. For once, I believe the game
conglomorate official history. It's fun. I don't need to defend
Yahtzee to you. I like the interface by which the dice you want to
re-roll turn into pumpkins when you select them. AI and/or human
players. Keep it.
- Ataxx: Uses the same graphics as Iagno. And it's a little like
Othello: you're trying to convert your opponent's pieces to your
color. But you have a choice: you can clone a piece by 'moving' it to
an adjacent square, or you can jump a piece and convert all
neighboring enemy pieces. There's a point at which the strategy
abruptly switches from always cloning to always jumping, and at that
point the game can go on for quite a while. There's nothing wrong with
this game, but I think Othello has a better-defined win condition.
- KBackgammon: To review this I thought I would have to relearn how
to play backgammon, but it turns out this is not the case. This game
is a mostly GUI wrapper around GNU backgammon, which in and of itself
is fine. There are also GUI wrappers around eg. GNU chess. But the GUI
wrappers to GNU chess don't have a text adventure-esque interface
surrounding the chessboard where you interact with the GNU chess
engine. You don't have to enter a special command to castle; the
chessboard and the pieces and the drag and the drop constitute the
whole user interface. Yet tragically this seems not to be the case
with KBackgammon--sometimes nothing in the GUI will advance the game
and you have to type a command. So even if you know how to play
backgammon, I think you will find that KBackgammon is not nearly as
usable as it should be. However as I flailed around trying to
understand this state of affairs I was treated to comical output like
"Only 3 beavers are permitted (see `help set beavers')." Who will deny
me additional beavers?!?!
PS: Why does chess not come with every system? It's
the single most popular chess in the world! Could it be because
"gchess" and "kchess" are already taken as names?
- Atlantik: I remember the halcyon days of 1998 when Linux was a
doomed fad and this program was called "kmonop". Yes, I remember well those
halcyon days of 2001, when Linux was just a flash in the pan and this
program was renamed to Atlantik under legal pressure. I stood by on
the sidelines for years and watched via the project go from its
original goal--to be a Monopoly clone for Linux--to being an
all-singing, all-dancing all-client-server Monopoly®-like board game
framework, allowing you to play any arbitrary game so long as it was
homomorphic to Monopoly. Well, I get quite enough of that philosophy
in the world of physical games. I managed to avoid Atlantik, to keep
it in the realm of free software nostalgia and out of the realm of free software
installed on my computer, until this installation with its new version
of KDE. Even now I have managed to avoid actually playing it due to
the server not working (admittedly, I am not trying very hard to make
it work). So you can say this is not a fair review if you want. Maybe
if I actually started playing I would find some features to tickle my
Looking at the board designer, which does work, I see that your
games can differ from Monopoly mainly in the number and names of
squares, the cards, the rents charged, and the locations of the
special squares. Frankly I expected more from a project that seems to
have fallen victim to hacker mania for abstraction; it looks like it
just lets you design your own local version of Monopoly. Whereas if I
were to design a Monopoly-like game it would have fluctuating rents,
mobile properties, and monstrous beasts that roamed the
streets destroying houses and hotels on your command. On the other
hand, Atlantik is bundled with KDE, and none of my stuff is. So they
must be doing something right. PS: Linux is too hard to install!
There's no application support! Where's the GUI?
- Kenolaba: Where chess is a battle this is kind of a mob scene, or
a really big wrestling match where all the down-home "good" wrestlers
take on all the effete, pretty-boy, villanous, or downright foreign
"evil" wrestlers at once instead of going at it one-on-one or
tag-team. Or maybe a real battle instead of the abstract battle that
was planned beforehand. You have to push your opponent's pieces off
the board using your own pieces. Really nice click-and-drag
interface. I was wondering "What kind of game played on a big hex
board could justify its inclusion in kdegames?" But this is a... wait,
I just figured it out. This is that game "Abalone". I never checked
out that game and now it's been KDEized. Anyway, a good game worth
- kbattleship: You sunk my kbattleship! OK, I got nothing. This is
your basic Battleship game. Has several nice improvements over the
overpriced Milton-Bradley version. Apparently you're not allowed to
put your ships touching each other (I never knew this), so when you
destroy a ship it blocks out all the surrounding squares so you don't
waste time on known bad squares. This is pretty good, but I don't
think the AI is too smart.
Mon Aug 09 2004 21:38 PST:
Neat (to me) addition to the Automat coming once I get my act together and finish it/verify that it's slurping up new stuff.
(6) Tue Aug 10 2004 19:35 PST Games You Already Have Roundup III: The Search For Puzzle Games:
Tonight we have puzzle games, both those correctly categorized and the refugees from yesterday. This elusive category contains some of my favorite games and some of my least favorite. And now, the games. What inspiration will the challenger bring?
- Mahjongg (Gnome): The tiles look cheap, like they're made of
parchment wrapped around Altoids tins. If I'm going to play I want the
tiles to look classy. Otherwise: has hint, random number seed, etc,
the same as the Amiga Mahjongg I played at my uncle Jon's house (I seem to have a lot of history with
games played on my uncles' computers. Also, I only assume that was an
Amiga, but I think it was). Background color sucks, but you can change
it. Has a "shuffle" feature that shuffles just the tiles you haven't
already removed, which is a good way to avoid frustration, and it's
not cheating if you decide that's the game you're
playing. Nonetheless, this implementation is no match for:
- KMahjongg: Now these are some slick tiles. It's probably just
because the tiles are more stylized, so I don't try to see them as
photorealistic. But they look like they're made of sandstone or
something. Also, the KDE Mahjongg tile set has the awesome
fire-breathing (a Westernism?) dragon tiles to represent "C", "F", and
"P". Whatever those are. (PS: aha!) In its
turn, no match for:
- Shisen-Sho: Like the solitare remove-the-tiles computer Mahjongg
(not to be confused with actual Mahjongg as played by bored housewives
of all nations), but much better. This should be the standard Mahjongg
game, but it won't be because it doesn't look as cool in
screenshots. Instead of nice stacks of tiles you have a big
board. Tip: turn off gravity; the game is pointless unless you can see
yourself taking chunks of tiles out of the board. Did I mention that
this was the game I played in college when I was bored? Winner of
KDE/Gnome Mahjongg smackdown: It's Shisen-sho, in a blatant display of
favoritism! The crowd goes wild for Shisen-sho, master of games
played with Mahjongg tiles! Woooooooo!
- KHangman: This game made me laugh harder than any other game in
this roundup, but unfortunately the laughter was unintentional. When
you start up the game you are treated to the sight of an uppercase K
which has met an untimely demise at the end of the hangman's noose. The
interface eschews drop-down menus in favor of buttons along the side
of the panel, and one of the buttons is "Child Mode". If you click
"Child Mode" the interface simplifies drastically and the background
changes to a nice picture of rolling hills and sun and flowers. But
there's still that purple-tongued K dangling in the noose! I thought
Child Mode would sanitize the game, but it merely moves the death-fest
to an outdoor venue! Comic highlight of the Roundup!
Oh yeah, the game. It's hangman. It focuses too much on building
the scaffold rather than hanging you piecemeal, and the UI isn't up to
code, but it works. I couldn't lose, even on words like "ethnography",
but a thing about hangman that a lot of people don't appreciate is
that longer words are not neccessarily harder unless you're counting
on someone not knowing the word.
- Imagine if Bastet were
taken seriously as a game, not as an exercise in sadism. Imagine if it
were used as an example of a simple game you too could write, if
clones were indeed written of it, if small children pledged allegiance
to it each school day. You would have Color Lines. This whip-wielding
dominatrix of puzzle games will titillate you with lurid personal ads
in the "Alternatives" section of the local weekly and then prove
unable to deliver anything beyond simply hitting you with the whip a
lot. Originally written for Windows, it has infiltrated your
red-blooded Linux system in not one but the requisite two
incarnations: Kolor Lines for KDE, and Glines for Gnome. Now, in this
review, I shall have my revenge.
In this game you are faced with a grid containing some colored
balls. You get to move one ball to any accessible empty square, and
then three balls are placed randomly on the grid. When you line up
five or more like-colored balls they disappear and you get to move again. When the
grid fills up you lose.
The source of my frustration with this game is that it is
impossible to win, or even to keep playing indefinitely. With Tetris
you could imagine having superhuman reflexes and playing forever. With
Skee-Ball you are given a certain number of shots up front
and you do not resent the end of the game. In some games like golf, the game is played out to a series of goals which has a predefined end. But none of these are true of Color Lines; while in principle a game could go on forever, the laws of statistics say that no matter how good you
are, the board will always fill up and you will
lose. To stay in a steady state you would have to consistently be able
to create a line of 5 balls by moving 2 2/3 balls (since you get a
free move after completing a line). Good luck can keep you going for a
while, but this just makes you feel more helpless. It is a depressing
As for the implementations themselves: The Gnome version lets you
change the graphic used to represent the balls; the KDE version lets
you set the difficulty level. Choose the feature that's right for you.
Now all that's missing is a game that combines Bastet with Color
Lines (putting the balls in the worst possible spaces), creating the
game of ultimate frustration. The "Very Hard" setting on Kolor Lines
comes close, but I think there's still room for improvement.
Winner of KDE/Gnome Color Lines smackdown: in the true spirit of
Color Lines, this smackdown will have no winner. Oh, all right. In the
slightly less true spirit of Color Lines I have chosen a winner at
random.choice(['KDE', 'Gnome']) == 'KDE'!
- GNOME Klotski: More on the puzzle end of the spectrum than the
game end. Like Sokoban played via telekenesis; you have to move little
blocks out of the way so the big block can be moved. It reminds me of
a wooden puzzle my father had, but that's about all I can say about
it. Oh, it also dares to, on the high score list, represent the number
of moves to two decimal places. Fun if you are crazy about Sokoban (and I
assume there are people who do). Come to think of it, why is there not
a GNOME Sokoban clone and a KDE Sokoban clone bundled with all my
- KDE Atomic Entertainment: Nice name. Sounds like a production
company. This is a game played on a Sokoban type board where you move
atoms around to form molecules. It's not Sokoban because the defining
game mechanism is reaching down from the third dimension and sliding an atom in one direction until it hits a wall, not pushing an atom
one square in the opposite direction from where you're
standing. Anyway, I like Sokoban better as far as gameplay, but I
really love the concept here.
- KBlackBox: It was with great forboding that I opened up this
"logic game". It was frustrating at first, so much so that I started
wondering why I cared about a box full of lasers, and when that
happens you know the game's in trouble. It's a clone of an Emacs Lisp
game that I'm sure resembles the original in great detail, but is not
very helpful to people who don't know the other game. This must be how
people feel about remakes of eg. Lode Runner if they've never played
Lode Runner. Anyway, after some initial futzing around wondering what
"R" and "H" and "1" meant I finally read all the instructions and
seriously went about the task of locating the reflective balls in this
box full of lasers, and wouldn't you know I got it almost entirely
right. But I didn't think it was very fun. If you like Minesweeper but
think Minesweeper is too simple, you might like this.
- Tetravex: When you look at these squares with a number on each
side you think "Great, I'm going to be rotating these squares and
doing small-change arithmetic til the end of time." But actually
you're just arranging those squares in a grid so that the numbers
match, and you'll be done long before the end of time. It's basically
the same as the puzzles-on-cards I used to spend ages with on long car
trips, so it evokes a certain nostalgia, but the numbers still make me
feel like it should be one of those math puzzles where you need to
make everything come out at 21.
- kmines and gnomines: OK, both of these games are slavish
imitations of the old Windows 3.1 standard. They work the exact same
way. They have the same sort of graphics. I am going to give the
smackdown prize to kmines, even though gnomines' flag graphic is far
superior, for the following two reasons:
- gnomines' happy face tries way too hard to be cute and doesn't fit
in the happy face button, so it looks like someone's peering through a
window at you.
- In general, gnomines has UI spacing issues. The bottom of the
minefield is way too close to the status bar for my taste.
You see the kind of tiny distinction I have to make to turn this
into a proper smackdown?
UPDATE UPSET: gnomines takes it back! Shocking details inside!
- klickety: The closest thing I've seen in years to Tear
Down The Wall. You are faced with a jumble of colored bricks
subject to gravity. Click on a group of adjacent blocks of the same
color and it disappears. The only problem is that now I feel dirty
because this game turned Tear Down The Wall into something sort of
When you get a high score, says "Congratulations, you have won!",
which makes me think of the Nirvana song Opinion. Actually this
is true of many of the kde games; it must be in the library.
- SameGame: I think this was the game that started the KDE/Gnome
clone wars. Maybe I'm just making that up. Anyway, now that I think
about it this game is a lot like klickety, but on a smaller
board. There are marbles on the board and clicking on a set of
adjecent like-colored marbles removes the whole set and compacts the
board. Nice rotation mouseover effect. This game has an 'undo'
- SameGnome: Same game as SameGame, but themeable. I always liked
the "planets" theme, but the colors aren't as distinct. Maybe they
should use Neptune instead of the moon. Winner of smackdown: Gnome,
just for the planets.
- KMessedWords: I thought this would be Boggle, and then when I
loaded it up I thought it was the game equivalent of that software
that looks at redacted text and tries to figure out what the text
is. It turns out it's a game that shows you a scrambled word and makes
you unscramble it. Unfortunately the word shows up on my screen as
black-on-black, so I can't play except by guessing words randomly from
the configurable word list. Same UI sensibility and same original
author as KHangman.
Bonus: I should have reviewed these yesterday, but they were
classified as puzzle games even though by the standards set out
yesterday they're board games, so I missed them.
- KJumpingCube: A territory game that features a stack of pieces on
each square. That's how I think of it, anyway, but the game chooses to
represent the number of items in the stack as a face of a cube. Each
turn you can put one piece on a square/increment the ordinal of a
square by one. A square with fewer pieces on it than enemy pieces
surrounding it is taken over. Two players or human vs. AI.
- Konquest/Galactic Conquest/GNUlactic Conquest is a great
multiplayer game that's kind of like a mini-FreeCiv. Both Sumana and I
are big fans. I like it due to its mix of its mix of strategy, tactics, and bluffing. Sumana says it's the best two-player computer game since Puzzle Fighter. You send ships across the galaxy or GNUlaxy, I suppose (maybe a GNUlaxy is just a very large
solar system) to conquer planets and crush the inhabitants in fists of
various hard materials. But your real target is your opponents, both
the humans who share the computer with you and vicious AIs like Comp1
and the sinister, monocled Comp2. "The once mighty empire of Comp1 has
fallen in ruins." Ah, music to my ears.
(3) Tue Aug 10 2004 22:21 PST Fiddlesticks!:
I have the darnedest luck with the websites I scrape for the Automat. They either change their website formats while I'm working on them or they stop updating before I can make sure the automatic import works. Case in point: the Catalog of Government Publications ("Pueblo, Colorado stuff", says Kevin), which has been averaging 25-30 new online documents a day but which only had one today. Hope it picks back up soon; I've actually found several very interesting documents in this stream (examples later, when I don't have to go to sleep).
What are they doing, anyway? About two-thirds of the documents they put in the database are not online, and lack even a reliable bibliography link, so I haven't been able to put them in the RSS feed yet. Are there 75 and only 75 new documents published by the government every day? I have no idea whether or not that number even sounds right.
Supposedly the GPO is required to keep a master index of everything the government publishes, but is that really all of it? They're still releasing documents from 2000 and 1994. That implies that there's a big delay in getting some information from the government agency to the GPO. It's a mystery. I am driven by the cool idea of having an RSS feed listing every document the government publishes, but even if this feed had all the not-online ones I can't shake the feeling it's only scratching the surface. Does anyone know?
Wed Aug 11 2004 18:34 PST Games You Already Have Roundup IV: The Voyage Card Games:
I was apprehensive about this entire class of game because to my
mind the category-killer of card games is pysol, the Python framework that has
swallowed hundreds of solitaire games. But there weren't a whole lot
of them, so out of a sense of duty I went through them, and now I'm
glad I did because they're not what I expected. So here are the
reviews I wrote as I shelled pistachios for Pesto Pistachio (I should
have bought them shelled; this I realize now).
- AisleRiot: Starts off as a slavish Klondike klone of the Windows
3.1 Solitaire that made "computer" synonymous with "productivity
drain". Fortunately, can be turned into about 80 other card games a la
pysol. Nice acronym, and by default uses the Knuth font for the card
labels. As go attempts to tug on pysol's coattails, pretty good.
- Patience: KDE's attempt at a pysol type framework. Also starts up
as Klondike. Not as slick as AisleRiot, and only has 18 games,
including three difficulty levels of Spider. I like the card-flip
animation though (but not the card-turning-over animation, which I
find disturbing and smacking of witchcraft). Unlike AisleRiot, it can
play games on its own (and is actually easier to watch doing this than
pysol), though it can get into an infinite loop. Winner of KDE/Gnome
pale shadow of pysol smackdown: Gnome!
- Blackjack: Actually, this one's not in pysol. And this is a good
implementation. In a fit of anti-realism, will actually help you
improve your blackjack game by showing you the odds and giving you
hints in case you don't understand what the odds mean what with all
the confusing numbers between zero and one. It even does card counting
for you, and doesn't kick itself out (though I was able to crash it).
Downsides: somewhat unintuitive interface requires that you click
the dealer's hand to stand. Keeps your winnings (or losings) in some
Gnome persistence cubbyhole so it's like one eternal round of
blackjack your whole life unless you clear out the file or whatever
gconf uses. Figures out the optimal strategy for blackjack every time
it loads, which is a bit slow.
Since you have an unlimited amount of credit, I was thinking it
would be actually possible to do the thing where you double your bet
every time you lose and thus have an expected take of zero no matter
how long play or how unlucky you are. Unfortunately, a 500.00 (in a
nod to internationalization, there are no units; but I assume it's not
like 500.00 baht) per-hand limit stymied my plans, but I'm still
652.50 ahead after a few high-stakes rounds. This game is fun and
glamorous and statistical, but I can't stop thinking about the dealer
in the old BASIC
blackjack game who would give lame excuses like "THE CARDS HAVE
TURNED AGAINST ME" when he lost. Is there no place for heart in
your cruel modern technology? The heart provided by lousy
Oh, I forgot to mention that there are a lot of rules knobs you can
tweak, but the rules are gathered into groups like "Atlantic City" and
"Vegas Strip". You can't tweak them individually. Anyway, this is a
good game and I wasn't expecting it.
- Freecell: I was worried this would be a whole nother program from
AisleRiot, but it's actually just AisleRiot set up to run Freecell
instead of Klondike. Good call, Gnome people. Next!
- KPoker: Can be played video-poker style or against one computer
opponent. I won $82 off the computer, which I know it has because I
paid several hundred dollars for this computer, but it won't pay
up. Deadbeat computer! When you win, has a little screen-saver like
wavy effect on the notification that you won which is a little queasy.
Remember, you click the cards you want to keep, not the ones
you want to discard. I traded a straight in for two pair by keeping
the one card I wanted to discard. Also, the computer is not a real
poker player--it never folds in response to an agressively played
hand, or does anything besides match your bets and optimize its
hand. So really it's just another type of video poker when you play
against the computer. But still not bad.
- Lieutenant Skat: I think this was one of those wartime movies
where Mel Tormé joined the army. Anyway, it's also a card game
implemented for KDE with a splash screen that looks just like what you
might see on the big LCD of a Vegas marquee in between ads for cheap
surf-and-turf. I always thought it was a solitaire game, but it's
actually a two-player game that is what War would be like if you tried
to make it into an actual game with real strategy and kung-fu grip.
Amusing German-sounding error messages like "This move would not
follow the rulebook. Better think again!" add to the Teutonic flavor.
- xmille: I don't know if this still comes with systems, but it
should. Consider it a bonus. Before KDE and Gnome and their big bundles of toys and games, there was a big bundle of toys and
games that came bundled with X Windows. This game stood among them. Someone should write a modern GUI
version of this because not everyone can stand the unadorned X widget
set, but I love this game. It's Milles Bourne, which is a classic card
game even though I've never played it with cards. It simulates a car
race where both contestants are trying to sabatoge their
opponents. It's a fun game, but a little weird, frustrating, and often
capricious; as with running for president, you can win the race yet
have thousands of points fewer than your opponent. Who wins? It
So, that's all the X games that come with your standard Linux install
nowadays. Stay tuned for Games You Already Have Roundup V: The Final Toys.
(6) Thu Aug 12 2004 15:38 PST It's Around This Point That They Should Be Calling Me Mad:
There are cameras that take a 360-degree panoramic picture. I assume there are also panoramic videocameras for filming IMAX movies. What if you got one of those videocameras and strapped it on a helmet around your head, and then wore goggles so that what you saw was a full panorama?
Your eyes already know to invert an image (since an image hits your retina upside-down), and how to merge two 2D images into a 3D image. Unless this is an inate ability, your brain must learn to do this by coordinating your sight with your other senses over time. So unless this behavior is fixed in childhood, it should be possible to change the way your brain processes your visual input. It should be possible to wear such goggles all the time and eventually adjust to having full-circle vision, perceiving things as though you actually had eyes all around your head.
Simpler experiment: If you wore lenses all the time that inverted everything, would your brain eventually learn to process the image exactly as it appeared on your retina?
More complicated experiment: could you also add cameras above and below the ring of cameras that formed the panoramic camera, creating a near-complete sphere of vision? At what point would your brain be unable to handle the additional information?
Who will volunteer for my monstrous Beholder-Man experiment (funding request pending)?
Thu Aug 12 2004 22:21 PST Games You Already Have Roundup V: The Final Toys:
By their own admission these are not games. They are toys. But you
know what I always say: a toy is just a game with no win
condition. Wait, that makes Color Lines a toy. Well, there's some
difference between a toy and a game, but not enough difference to keep
me from my obsessive rounding-up. Here we go.
- Tea Cooker: This is a timer. It is preset for various types of tea
steeping. Has a little, hard-to-read pie-chart display in the deskbar
window (is deskbar a word or did I just make it up?). You can choose
your own custom time. As a timer, it's not bad.
- KDE World Clock: Displays a geographic map of the world with the
in-daylight portion shaded. You can add flags to various cities, which
would be nice if you were homesick or separated from your loved
one. The best feature is the ability to change the map graphic to an
irrelevant false-color map of the earth that shows eg. the amount of
- AMOR: The only in this series of Roundups to which I have made an
(unofficial) contribution. AMOR creates a little animated icon
that wanders around the active window and does tricks. My favorite is
the segmented worm; it's cute.
- Mousepedometa: an odometer for your mouse. It measures how far (in
inches or centimeters) you've moved your mouse pointer. The help
claims the next version will be USEFUL, which I assume means it will
have a keystroke counter as well. Has a trip odometer, just like the
odometer in a car. Old-fashioned analog flippy number graphics, not
the harsh digital graphics of the modern era. Would you believe I
racked up 10.8 inches on the mouse writing this review?
Oh, also if you had your WACOM tablet pen acting as the mouse, you
could use it to do things like see how long your signature would be if
it were a straight line.
- Moon phase indicator: The moon is new right now. That's all it
says, so that's all I'll say. Lets you see the moon from any
Earthbound angle, not that it matters at the moment.
- KTuberling: A Mr. Potato
Head for KDE. Hacker Abstraction Syndrome (henceforth to be
abbreviated HAS) has added "penguin" and "aquarium" modes, but has yet
to turn it into a KidPix like collage/drawing program. A lot of
fun. To the right you can see Sheriff Tater, my own creation.
- xeyes: The sailor's favorite. This classic demonstration of
non-square windows in X (this used to be a big deal, but I think
everyone has it now) is a pair of googly eyes that follow your
cursor. It would be kind of funny to have a background be a famous
painting and put xeyes on top of it so that the painting's eyes really
did follow you (r cursor) across the room (screen).
- xlogo: It's the X logo. Useless! Except, I suppose, as an example
- xearth: This doesn't come with enough systems. It pretty obviously
inspired the thing in Snow Crash that's exactly the same but
fancier. Like KDE World Clock, but shows the earth as a globe in
space. Has lots of options (with or without starfield, markers,
etc.). Good clean fun.
PS: if you are interested in this sort of thing, check out
Fourmilab's Earth and Moon
viewer. I think I've mentioned that the Fourmilab website is what
Crummy merely aspires to be. On that happy note, we end this roundup.
Did I miss something that came with your system? Let me know and
I'll review it, unless it is not a game or (catch-all) I don't want to review it.
Fri Aug 13 2004 13:40 PST:
I always knew that one day spam would gain sentience, but I didn't expect it would so quickly overtake its authors in intelligence.
(1) Sat Aug 14 2004 00:07 PST Colin Powell the cat is running for president:
This one's for Kris, who a long time ago pointed out that the headlines of "offbeat" news stories become orders of magnitude funnier if you shuffle the subjects and the predicates. Well, Kris has been feeling a little low lately so I thought I'd cheer him up by writing Dog Bites Dog (title a Sumana production), the script which does just that every five minutes. It's not as good as doing it by hand, but what did you expect?
I'm spookily intrigued by the possibility of applying this (very simple) algorithm to 'real' news headlines. But right now I'm more intrigued by the possibility of sleeping. Enjoy, all-night surfers and people on the other side of the world.
(8) Sat Aug 14 2004 07:48 PST Pope remains in custody:
I dreamed about RSS feeds and woke up too early, and got Dog Bites Dog running against a source of non-offbeat news. I'm debating whether to leave it up because it turns out shuffling is a headline mood multiplier: it makes "funny" headlines actually funny, but it makes depressing headlines really depressing ("Powell says US Jailed for Lying", "Life Won't Be Freed").
There are some good ones, though, like "Flying ants End Airbus Subsidies", "Ruling Resigns, Admits Gay Affair", and "Category 4 Charley Raises $2.4 Million Near Seattle". In recognition of this, I decided to just get it to not use the most morbid headline fragments. See what I've done? I'm already making the compromises that result in offbeat news in the first place.
(2) Sun Aug 15 2004 22:17 PST Ultimate Chowdah:
I made this out of Planet Organic leftovers that I've been too lazy to cook the past few weeks. It is delicious (there is a huge amount left). Sumana says "It's the best chowdah I've ever had." I think it is too.
- 4 Russet potatoes, diced (do not peel!)
- 2 ribs of celery, chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 3 ears corn, cut from the cob
- 1 can creamed corn
- 2 cans vegetable broth plus water to cover
- 2 large leeks: soaked, chopped, soaked again (this is to get rid of any dirt or sand)
- 1 cup cream
- Salt and pepper
Put everything except the leeks and the cream in a pot and start a-simmerin'. Saute the leeks in butter and put them in the pot. Once the potatoes and the corn are cooked (maybe 30 minutes), mash the soup with a potato masher. If you want, blend it a little with a stick blender. At the last minute, stir in the cream to turn it into a chowdah.
This is the only recipe I know of that is both a potato-leek soup and a potato-corn chowdah. That's right, it's two soups in one. Step right up!
PS about stick blenders: they cost about $30 except for one particular brand (I forget which) that costs $10. It's not worth $30 to have one but I think it is worth $10. So get the cheap one. It is useful for: soups, whipping cream, light drink-mixing duty.
PPS: Susanna, I made your ninety-minute rolls this morning and they were so good that I made another batch in the evening.
(1) Mon Aug 16 2004 14:34 PST:
This just in: crazy Turkmenistan dictator Saparmurat Niyazov turns out to be the Ice King! My old nemesis! I should have suspected.
(2) Tue Aug 17 2004 20:40 PST Stars Can't Find Missing Nuclear Fuel Rod:
Thanks to PyRSS2Gen, Dog Bites Dog now has RSS feeds. This should be fun. Unfortunately, as always seems to happen with me, Feed on Feeds doesn't parse the RSS file correctly even though Feed Validator (Feeeeeeed Validator) says it's valid. Steve?
Update: Bizarrely, it works now.
(2) Tue Aug 17 2004 20:41 PST Bamboo!:
Bamboo! The miracle wood you can put in the dishwasher! Lighter than oak, sturdier than balsa! Make sure all your spoons, whisks, and wood golems are made of BAMBOO! It is great.
(3) Wed Aug 18 2004 17:51 PST:
OK, this one takes some explaining. Almost 10 years ago Newt Gingrich wrote an article for his PAC that contained big lists of positive and negative buzzwords for use in political discussion. The point, as is usually the case in politics, was to put attitudes directly into people's heads by piggybacking on peoples' idea of language as a means of communication.
Of course you don't really need the list. Once you've read and written enough political speech the buzzwords just flow from your fingers as you type. But all sorts of irrelevant, non-buzzwords flow from your fingers as well. How can you be sure people see the buzzwords?
Enter the Eater of Meaning. Since political writing contains little meaning to begin with, this eater works a little differently from the others. It simply highlights the buzzwords (green for positive buzzwords, red for negative buzzwords), and leaves everything else alone, letting your readership see the tone of the document at a glance and be appropriately alarmed, reassured, or inspired. Kind of the way Onion articles work, come to think of it. I don't have a good Eater-themed name for it yet; any suggestions?
Examples: #1, #2, vs. a control site in case you think I'm kidding. The list of buzzwords is kind of dated, but on the whole it holds up well. Enjoy.
Update: Danny calls this "'They Live' style shades for political hotwords", which is an excellent summary but which is not Eater-related. My eating metaphor has backed me into a corner while simultaneously painting that corner!
(7) Thu Aug 19 2004 13:07 PST Cheese Lust:
If you harbor a guilty craving for macaroni and cheese--not the baked kind with breadcrumbs that sounds great but takes too long to make and ends up tasting milquetoast and not cheesy, but the junky kind that comes in a box and is done in fifteen minutes and turns powder that can't possibly be real cheese into sauce that tastes like you're drinking the very lifeblood of some beast made out of (admittedly metallic-tasting) cheese.
Sorry, that turned out to be a sentence fragment. IF [previous paragraph], you will be pleased to know that there is a way to feed your craving that involves real food. A couple days ago I made Alton Brown's Stovetop Mac-n-Cheese recipe, and it was as though the genie of the lamp had said "So, you want it cheesy? I will grant your wish, but with an ironic twist--it will be TOO CHEESY TO EAT!" And it is, almost. I planned to cut it with frozen peas, but my only box of frozen peas expired almost a year ago and looked like it had been defrosted more times than was good for it. I composted the peas and ate it straight.
By the time I was done I was sick of macaroni and cheese and never wanted to eat it again. I packaged up the leftovers and took it to Sumana's house, hoping she would eat the rest. Now, two days later, I want to eat the rest. It's that good.
The only downside is that it's 2-3 times more expensive than the boxed kind. At least it is around here. It's probably proportionately less more expensive (huh?) elsewhere, since the boxed kind seems to cost a dollar everywhere in the country. It's still cheap compared to other dinners you could be having. My faith in Alton Brown is vindicated! Maybe his baked macaroni and cheese will finally live up to my mental image of "baked macaroni and cheese".
(4) Fri Aug 20 2004 06:35 PST Poisoned!:
Last weekend I noticed some plants in my garden which hadn't been growing before. I didn't know what it was, but it was growing where I'd planted stuff, so I assumed I must have planted it, so I broke off part of a leaf and tasted it. My tongue started tingling, and not in a good this-is-hot sort of way. Uh-oh.
It turns out it was a lily, and that lilies are made of poison.
The previous tenants must have planted some lily bulbs that suddenly decided to grow even though the stuff I planted is not growing that well. Anyway, I washed my mouth out with a lot of milk and have so far not died.
The lesson is, don't put something in your mouth just because it grew in ground you now control.
(1) Sat Aug 21 2004 17:52 PST:
Seth's moment in the AP photo wire limelight. I like making up my own stories about that photo, more than I usually like making up stories about photo wire photos. Eg. Seth and the guy to his left are impeccably dressed Tarantinoid hitmen who have just missed their chance to bump off Attorney Fred von Lohmann. Or they noticed an enormous praying mantis perched on his back or something. Try it! It's fun.
(2) Mon Aug 23 2004 11:06 PST How Dead Will You Be? #2:
Sumana, preparing for her vacation to Tokyo, showed me Why don't you try simulation of earthquake,wind and flood damage. Why don't I? Great tourism interface on that site.
(1) Mon Aug 23 2004 12:40 PST:
Pieces of ship. How many cargo ships sink every year? In Dangerous Waters I read some huge number like 200. Can that be right? Do they get recovered like that ship did or do they just grow barnacles and wait for future archaeologists or treasure hunters?
(1) Tue Aug 24 2004 13:31 PST:
One of the best things about Sumana's stash of Amar Chitra Katha comics (apart from hilarious bird-related dialog like "It is time for my parrot to act." and "Caw, caw.") is the ads that took aim at Indian kids of the 1980s with bizarre condescension ("Rearrange the missing letters to form the name of a well-known medicated plaster") and borderline trademark infringement. Well, now these ads come to life on
He has scanned comic-ads from Tinkle, the folktale-packed foolishly-named ACK adjunct magazine that Sumana has but a few copies of. I've always liked it nonetheless, due to its providing a home for Doob Doob and Kalia the Crow (Caw, caw.).
Tue Aug 24 2004 18:55 PST Viva Las Metavegas:
Though I have no particular love for Las Vegas, I do love articles that treat the city as a perverse optimization problem. It's the generalization of trying to beat the casino games. Here are a couple such articles I found a ways back, and today
I found another, more pragmatic one. Now that's what I call better satisfying the fitness function!
(7) Wed Aug 25 2004 11:05 PST User Stories:
Explain to me why, outside of a puzzle, someone would boil eggs and then not use them and instead put them back in the fridge and somehow get them confused with non-boiled eggs and need a way of distinguishing boiled from non-. Who needs to stock up on hard-boiled eggs days in advance?
(12) Wed Aug 25 2004 13:30 PST Also, You Can Only Use A Barometer:
Since the last entry got so many comments, I would like to make this entry another in the same vein, because I like comments. How many ways can we come up with to distinguish hard-boiled eggs from regular eggs? No cost is too high, no preparation too elaborate. My contributions:
- The one from the previous entry, where you buy brown eggs especially for boiling and white eggs for leaving alone and not boiling.
- There's some way of distinguishing good eggs from bad eggs by holding it up to a candle or other bright light and looking at the size of the yolk or something. You should also be able to use this to distinguish boiled and raw eggs.
- Just crack the egg and, if it turns out to have been raw, go back in time and stop yourself from cracking it.
(11) Wed Aug 25 2004 20:14 PST Hubristic Game Roundup:
The good news is that, despite the presence of a couple of clones,
this Game Roundup has some of the best ideas and some of the nicest
implementations I've seen in a while. The bad news is that apart from
the fabulously bizarre but lightweight Komi and the unassuming
icebreaker, these games have Greek-tragedy-quality flaws--sometimes
trivial flaws--that make the games not worth playing. I will start
with the greatest tragedy of this roundup:
is a great Roguelike with Omega-like nonlinearity, excellent character
development for a Roguelike, and many wacky touches like randomly
generated dialogue, which throws it all away by being a mecha
game. Because it has the potential to be so great and its fatal flaw
is so simple, I am going to take this opportunity to make a detailed
argument about UI design which you can skip if you find it boring.
In case you came late to the party, a mecha is a Godzilla-sized
robot (such as, well, Mechagodzilla) operated by a person who is
usually riding in the robot. The point of a mecha game is to do a game
on a large scale, where you can crunch through entire cities wreaking
havoc. People who like mecha games also seem to like drawing lots of
pictures of mechas (mecha? mechae?), which is not my cup of tea, but
that is not relevant to this discussion.
In your standard Roguelike game, you push buttons to control a
simulated person. When you play a mecha game, you are pushing buttons
to control a simulation of a person pushing buttons to control a
second machine. Sometimes people have wacky ideas about what it would
look like to have a video game about playing a video game. Well, here you
have it. It looks like a mecha game, and it is annoying.
It doesn't have to be this way. Mechas are, by conceit of the
genre, vaguely humanoid. The best interface is therefore the one
you've spent your whole life using: your own body. Forgo the buttons
and use motion capture and force-feedback to tie your mecha's movement
to your own, as in Fiasco. Indeed, some mechas are refered to
as "suits", implying this very mechanic. In game terms, this would be
implemented by letting you use the same commands to move your mecha in
battle mode as you use to move yourself in non-battle mode.
If you absolutely need to simulate additional clunkiness (eg. so
you can have a notion of "current facing direction", as Gearhead
does), do it by reducing the directional key controls to the Clunky
Three: rotate left, rotate right, and thrust (move forward). This
time-honored trio shows up in innumerable games all the way back to
Spacewar, and nothing does a better job of connoting "the thing on the
screen does not represent you, only a machine you control". I don't
play a lot of mecha games, but this was used in the only one I ever
liked--a DOS play-by-modem maze chase that Andy and I used to play.
Gearhead, in the worst mecha game tradition, forgoes both these
mecha-motion strategies in favor of a menu system. When you're
just walking around with your feet, you can use the arrow keys to
move. But when it comes time to stand and fight mecha-style, you can't
directly move your mecha at all. Instead of letting you use the arrow
keys for left, right, and thrust, there is a menu system which
has options for left, right, and thrust. You use the arrow keys to
select your option from a menu, and hit enter to rotate or move. It's
Microsoft Mecha 98. Just don't do this! There's no reason to! Factor
out the aggravation for a better game.
Someone who likes mecha games might say that this is part of the
the game; the human is subsumed into the machine and must operate it
in clunkiness. I would say that misses the point. You are already
interacting with a machine in a clunky way. It's just that it's a real
machine, not a simulated one. Treat the player sitting at the computer
as though they were the character sitting in the mecha, and you've got
big mimesis wihout sacrificing usability. You can bet the character in
the game is not selecting "Rotate left" from a menu; it's not
that bad to drive a mecha. Take advantage of the clunkiness of
the standard Roguelike controls and kill two robo-birds with one
I've picked on Gearhead enough. As I said, I pick on it not because
it's a bad game but because it's a really, really good game made
virtually unplayable by a bad UI decision. It's a game where talking
to the world-weary shopkeeper is quick and fun, but where even small
battles play at a crawl. Admittedly I have a preference for the
world-weary shopkeeper type interaction, but that doesn't mean I want
the battles to be slow and hard to play.
- icebreaker is interesting
because of the skill with which it uses nice iconic graphics to
conceal the fact that it's another Qix clone until you actually start
playing. There's also a convenient
webpage which details all the ways in which this game is different
from Microsoft's Jezzball, pioneer of the mouse-based Qix clone.
As previously mentioned, this is a lot better
than KBounce. It has penguins--the bouncy balls are penguins and
you're trying to cut up their ice floes so they can be transported to
zoos or some lame excuse like that. I like the penguins, but I don't
like the linear way it gets harder, adding one penguin each time.
- Freebooters: Lovely
nonsensical name disguises a game that is more atmosphere than game by
a wide margin. It's set in the Caribbean region, and who's to say but
that certain piratical impulses might be indulged in the course of the
game. That's what it promises, anyway. What it delivers is a game
where you, a legitimate businessman, go from port to port buying and
selling rum and other commodities (in a welcome deviation from
realism, there is no slave-running). Occasionally you run into a
pirate ship and have it out, but the having-it-out action scenes have
weird controls and look like boats fighting in a bathtub. It reminds
me of a nautical version of North And South, but not as good. Great
graphics in the non-real-time parts of the game, though.
This game is a clone of "Pirates!", one of Sid Meier's
pre-Civilization games. There was a real chance here for the clone to
improve on the original, but it just plays like early Sid Meier, the
kind of game that would be fun if it were the late 80s and similar,
better games didn't exist yet.
is not actually a Qix clone, but I can't shake the feeling that it's
somehow homomorphic to Qix. You are a frog with an arbitrarily long
tongue, a frog who lives in a swamp--of madness! Alien spaceships and
vicious robins patrol the air, protecting the yummy fireflies that are
your food. To retrieve these morsels you must dare to expose your
tongue to the alien/robin joint assault for as long as it takes to
move your tongue up the screen and then back down--but wait! The water
itself teems with vicious herons who will peck at you, and fish that
will gobble you up! I'm taking liberties as to what the sprites are
supposed to be; they don't look like herons or fish or fireflies (but
they do look like alien spaceships). The web page says you are a
"space frog", which might explain things even as it makes things more
confusing. Anyway, it's very hectic and it's fun for a while.
- Laby: Fun
roguelike, very customizable with skillset. Has a kind of SNES feel to
it. Hard to find items, instant death got me twice. Really feels like
there's something missing in terms of game balance, but I still want
to play even though I know I'm just going to die. A little work could
turn this into a classic.
Mobsters has a great idea (mobsters come back from the dead in a
Marley-esque quest to undo the damage they did while alive... okay,
it's not quite that good) and excellent funny graphics, but it's way
too hard. The undeath factor explains the old video-game conundrum of
how you can take ten bullets to the chest and still live, but it
doesn't explain why your un-undead opponents have the same ability.
It's doubly frustrating when your opponents can fire off those ten
bullets all at once, while you're stuck with the crappy
one-bullet-on-the-screen-at-a-time gun they issued you in Mobster
Hell. Fix this, and you've got a fun shoot-em-up.
(1) Thu Aug 26 2004 06:43 PST Mea Culpa (And Carpa):
I'll check this out tonight, but I have it on the good word of anonymous that GearHead will indeed let you use Roguelike keys to control your mecha if you tell it to. This is great news since it would let me give an unqualified recomendation of GearHead, though it doesn't explain why the other interface even exists much less is the default. Grumble grumble.
Thu Aug 26 2004 11:50 PST Down To Earth:
Hey you! Stop looking at the stars! Shuffle your feet and look at rocks instead!
Wow, there are a lot more X Pictures of the Day than the last time I checked. How about a roundup?
(1) Thu Aug 26 2004 17:22 PST Game Roundup: Authors' Revenge:
How exciting! Today's the day when game authors and contributors strike back in typical genteel fashion at my Roundup reviews. First it was Joseph Hewitt defending Gearhead from my slanders, and now Richard Hoelscher, contributor of graphics to the Gnome games, sees fit to respond to my ground-disrupting "Games You Already Have Roundup" cycle. Here's his email (address redacted as per his request), which mainly details things I noticed that will be fixed in the next release of gnome-games; I'll just respond to a couple points of his.
"There is GNOME Sokoban already implemented as a set of caves within GNOME Stones." Of course there is. I should have seen that coming, since the exact same thing happened with Rocks 'n' Diamonds.
Re the Minesweeper clone smackdown where I didn't care: he tipped the scale hugely in favor of Gnome by pointing out that the Gnome version lets you choose a board of up to 100x100 for a huge Minesweeper experience, while the KDE version limits you to a puny 50x50 board. New winner of KDE/Gnome Minesweeper clone smackdown: Gnome! That happy face is still a little creepy, though. Reminds me of the Pac-Man cartoon.
(1) Fri Aug 27 2004 19:41 PST A Couple Things About Nethack:
Nethack is complicated enough to have developed its own set of urban myths (dungeon myths?). Myths and Facts about Nethack zaps the myths with a wand of cancellation.
More interestingly, it turns out that most of the weird Nethack shopkeeper names are names of towns in various parts of the world.
Oh, and the Kingdom of Loathing now has a Nethack dungeon.
(2) Sat Aug 28 2004 19:42 PST Leonard's Household Tips:
Don't make caramel sauce without a really well thought-out plan for storing it, or you will burn and melt things and the caramel will become useless.
(1) Sat Aug 28 2004 21:52 PST NewsBruiser: Aggregated Assault:
I have some 5x7 notecards and I write down my big projects on them so that if I ever feel lackadaisical like I don't have any big projects, I can look at the notecards and remember that I'm just lazy.
This is one of the projects and to be honest there's not much on its notecard except the name--that's how lazy I am. But phase one is now complete: you can now take arbitrary RSS feeds and aggregate them into a NewsBruiser weblog, a la my arch-rival Scott's Planet.
Viola! I give you the long-promised Richardson/Chadwick/Matkin/Whitney/Walch recipe weblog! Right now it only has me and Susanna since we're the only ones with a category where our recipes go. If you've got a weblog on this site and you want in, send me mail and I'll show you how to create a category. You don't have to do anything special to get recipes to show up in this weblog; just post to your category and they'll show up within an hour.
Sat Aug 28 2004 22:00 PST Butter Pecan Ice Cream:
As a test of the automatic aggregation, I'll post the most recent recipe I've made. I'm having a little dinner party tomorrow and tonight I made butter pecan ice cream. This is a good time to formally state the pound-cake-like Generic Ice Cream Mneumonic I've come up with:
- 1 cup cream
- 1 cup milk (whole cow milk in this case)
- 1 cup sugar (brown sugar in this case)
I'm experimenting with heating the sugar along with the cream and milk. It worked out well this time, so heat all that up in a pan.
Now, the rest of my mneumonic (patent pending) is '1 cup flavor stuff'. However, the flavor of butter pecan ice cream depends in large part on the brown sugar we're using, so that kind of counts as 'flavor stuff' and we actually want less than 1 cup. What I used was:
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans
- 1 tablespoon butter
If you're offended by the idea of deviation from the mneumonic I made up, then 1) that's kind of weird, and 2) you can probably do 1 cup of nuts and 3 tablespoons of butter without ruining the ice cream.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the pecans and toss to coat. Toast the pecans. I dunno when you stop exactly; generally you stop toasting nuts as soon as you smell the oils being released, but something is wrong with my sense of smell today so I just stopped when they looked right.
Dump the nuts and butter into the cream/milk/sugar mixture. Stir in The Old Standbys:
- 1 or 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon salt
When you've got nuts and sugar and cold, you know there's got to be salt.
There's your mix. Let it cool and then machine it. Very tasty.
Sun Aug 29 2004 15:21 PST HEY LADIES: FLOOD INTO MEXICO AND CANADA:
The Weekly World News is weird. I don't mean their articles are weird, though the good ones are. I mean they have no consistent narrative about themselves. For instance, The Onion has a conceit that it's a very serious newspaper and is not funny at all, which is actually pretty close to the truth. But the WWN, while not actually claiming to be a joke, doesn't even pretend you're supposed to believe it. It's supposed to shock you, but you can't be shocked by something you know isn't real and were kind of expecting anyway.
Evidence: this contest where you have to make up a headline for the B-movie quality photo. Lots of sites have photo caption contests, but you get the feeling WWN is using the caption contest to figure out the best angle on the story that will eventually go with the picture. Also, every week someone submits "Michael Jackson's New Shocking Look" as a headline, and it's got a pretty good win/loss record, which is just sad.
The other thing is that if they should stumble upon an actually interesting fact, they obfuscate it. Look at this article on typos in printings of the Bible. Now, typos do happen in printings of the Bible and there are lists of them. But the WWN article, while clearly based on such a list, bears the marks of the writer saying "I can think up funnier typos than this!", failing, and publishing their list anyway in preference to the real one which is funnier. It's like they have some code of reverse journalism where they can't publish anything true.
Anyway, I didn't write this to pick on WWN, though it turned out that way because honestly the magazine itself as a physical object gives me the creeps--it's something about the paper. Okay, gotta concentrate. Get to the point and don't say anything else negative about WWN. THE POINT IS that I added a couple more news sources to Dog Bites Dog, on an auxilliary page. It's got WWN headlines and a huge conglomoration which mixes up headlines from the 3 other news sources, and which is quickly becoming my favorite.
Does anyone have more suggestions for sources? It has to be something that usually uses "Crazed Noun Verbs As Bystanders Look On Helplessly" type headlines, because that's all it can parse.
Sun Aug 29 2004 23:51 PST:
We offer a complete crime solution, from cradle-robbing to grave-robbing.
(5) Mon Aug 30 2004 20:36 PST Kerry selling his vote on e-Bay to pay bills:
I made some changes to Dog Bites Dog to make it get better (ie. "gramatically correct more often") headlines but most of my attempts backfired. I think I improved the average headline quality a little, though. I'm now into heuristic territory (while "man" can be a verb, it's exceedingly unlikely that it is the verb in a headline).
Also, I had a dinner party last night, and I made an ice cream pie which was one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten. Also an artichoke-spinach-cheese dip which I'm having for dinner tonight with my first loaf of French bread. Anyway, at the party were Riana and Seth and Riana's friend Alexey. Riana and Seth have this parrrrrpetual Talk Like A Pirate Day thing going on when they're arrrround each other. Like that. Eventually I pointed out how easy it would be to add a mode to the Eater of Meaning that did the same thing, and well, one thing led to another and before you could say "Let us time how long it takes for you to implement the mode of which we have been speaking", Seth had started his stopwatch and I was running to the computer room. Elapsed time: 3 minutes. Though I put some more time into it afterwards fixing edge cases so that you can discuss things like the aRRRRRTs sound server.
Also, the Eater of Meaning goes further and further off its original goal of destroying all human communication, and is quickly becoming just a framework for writing web filters really quickly. I swear I don't plan these things, they just happen.
(3) Tue Aug 31 2004 08:45 PST:
By request, here are recipes for the things I served at my Sunday night dinner party:
- Pasta: regular penne with a pesto sauce. See pesto post passim.
- Corn: corn soaked in water and then grilled on my tiny charcoal grill.
- Dip: based on this recipe. I used Fontina instead of Monterey Jack because I think Monterey Jack has no flavor, even though it's the only cheese named after a place in California. I used garlic instead of garlic powder because I don't have any garlic powder. I didn't use salsa because I find that idea kind of creepy, and also I wanted to make everything from scratch. Not having a slow cooker, I baked it in the oven for about 30 minutes.
- French bread: sliced very thin and served with the dip. I used the recipe from The Baker's Apprentice, which is pretty basic. The secret the book taught me is to make half the dough the day before and let it ferment in the fridge, then mix it in with the other half. It presents this as two separate recipes due to the structure of the book, but that's what it boils down to.
- Salad: this was a disaster so I did not assemble it and we did not eat it. However I was able to salvage part of it later in the evning, when I baked the jicama slices in the oven and made jicama chips which were much tastier than raw jicama. I've had jicama in restaurant salads and it was delicious, but they must marinade it or something because when I tasted it raw it was disgusting. Let's move on.
- Ice cream pie: Graham cracker crust made using the America's Test Kitchen recipe where you toast unsweetened coconut and whirl it in the food processor along with the graham crackers. I used chocolate graham crackers. You don't see enough graham cracker crusts. I think it's better than a pastry crust for just about any kind of pie (and it's certainly easier), but maybe that's my American cook heresy.
Two batches of ice cream: chocolate on the bottom (flavor stuff = 1 cup grated chocolate), and butter pecan on top. Also hot fudge sauce, where I abandoned my family's traditional fudge sauce for a recipe I can't find at the moment, but it thickened the sauce with flour, like a roux. I was a little dubious about this but I like the extra thickness.
As we were eating the ice cream pie we started talking about Dr. Graham and his crackers. Seth said that Graham was ahead of his time. "He said you should eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, and not eat sugar." There was a long pause, and then Riana raised her bowl full of hot fudge ice cream chocolate graham cracker pie. "Here's to Dr. Graham!" she said.
(2) Tue Aug 31 2004 18:13 PST Negative Links:
Sometimes people get ideas about how there should be a special attribute you can give to an <A> tag that indicates just how you feel about the awful, awful thing you're linking to. So that search engines and other programs that analyze links don't misconstrue your linking as endorsement. Unfortunately due to the vagueness of the idea and the fact that it's kind of hard to search for things like "html" and "link", I haven't been able to find anybody's ideas on this topic. Does anyone know of any? I don't want to make up my own ideas because that will defeat the purpose of building some ad hoc consensus.
Somewhat relatedly, some of my readers may not know (and others may know all too well) that there's a whole sub-economy based on gaming search results. The currency of this sub-economy is units of Google PageRank, and it is kind of weird.
Tue Aug 31 2004 20:55 PST If You Read One NYCB This Summer, Read This One:
Here's another, much more significant entry from the 'some of my readers may not know (and others may know all too well)' file. Lots of states are using a particular company's (Diebold's) system to tally votes in their state and federal elections. It turns out it's very easy to attack this system to make it give different vote tallies from the actual tallies.
The system keeps two sets of books, and you can get it to display tallies from the fake set instead of the set that reflects people's actual votes. Paper verification ballots are useless, because the software knows to use the real data for spot checks and only uses the fake data to report aggregate results. This is really bad. It undermines the integrity of the election system.
Something like this has long been suspected, and it is a general problem with electronic voting and vote counting systems, but it is no longer a hypothetical problem. The attack actually exists and has been demonstrated. (That link has a very detailed article about the problem which I recommend you read.) The system has been in place for four years in 30 states. It's possible it has already enabled election fraud.
As in accounting, keeping two sets of books is not something you do unless you want to cheat or are being pressured to cheat. It's not a bug--it's a whole other system designed for cheating, hidden inside the system the states were sold. The authors of that article pin the blame on a specific person, who had means, motive, and opportunity. But who specifically did it is not as important as the reaction to the discovery of the problem, which has been just awful.
Let's suppose I did something like this at the company where I work, and play out the scenario that would happen once someone found out. Obviously I would be immediately fired. My now-ex-employer would inform all our clients about the problem, and they in turn would demand that 'we' fix the problem immediately. Most of the bigger clients would ask that their sites be shut down until the problem was fixed. Everyone would take the problem very seriously.
While it would not be in my now-ex-company's interest to have information about the problem made public (at least until it had been fixed), it would also not be in their interest to let the problem remain unfixed. It would also not be in the client's interest to ignore the problem. If anyone ever exploited this hypothetical problem it would cause enormous damage to the client, and if we didn't fix it quick they would fire 'us', quickly.
Now let's exit that hypothetical and see what happened in the real world. As far as I can glean from that article, (it's a little vague), the person they blame doesn't work at Diebold anymore. I don't know if this is because he was fired, or because he got sent to prison for (unrelated but motive-providing) embezzlement.
But that is all that's happened. Nobody seems interested in fixing the problem, and according to the people who know how to exploit the problem, a lot of the time they can't get the interested parties to even watch a demonstration.
What's wrong with this picture? Here's my guess. Note that I'm going to explain this situation without claiming that any of the parties currently involved want to rig elections, which is certainly a possiblity but which explaining things that way tends to get you dismissed as a conspiracy theorist. Anyway, the problem exists and is exploitable whether or not I'm a conspiracy theorist.
Diebold is (in my explanation) trying to keep the counties and states from demanding action because any effective action would result in Diebold losing the contract--remember, this back door has been in the software for years. It's already way past "fix this now or else" territory and into "we don't trust you and we never can" territory--if the state wanted to take action.
The state officials don't want to take action because they don't want to admit that such a huge problem could happen on their watch. They know that if this knowledge becomes widespread the public will blame them (with some justification). A lot of them also have a lot of political capital invested in "information superhighway" type electronic voting rhetoric, and the states have put a lot of money (by state budget standards) into these fancy systems. It would cost a lot of time and money to switch. And for what? So you can say "Yes, this election was secure."? Well, you can say that no matter what, and save the time and money.
There's also no upside to solving the problem for the state officials. They are not directly damaged by bad elections so long as no one finds out they were bad (unless their opponent rigs the Secretary of State election against them, which would be ironic but also difficult). The only reason they should try to solve this problem is that their job is to not let this problem happen. California's secretary of state, Kevin Shelley, is the only official I know of who is doing his job in this respect.
If there were consequences for ignoring the problem, there would be incentive for the state officials to fix it. We wouldn't have to depend on government officials wanting to do the right thing. Right now there are no consequences because for the most part the ultimate bosses of everyone in this scenario (the citizens of the states) don't know about the problem yet. If the state officials watch a demonstration of the problem, they destroy any plausible deniability they might have had, and they create a news hook for media investigations into the problem. That's why they don't want to even look at it.
I am posting this entry to do my part to get rid of the plausible deniability. It's very important that the states secure the application as best they can for the coming election, and switch to a more secure system as soon as possible.
(4) Tue Aug 31 2004 23:03 PST One Piece At A Time:
There's lots of Python code that pings weblogs.com, but I couldn't find a Python library for the other side of the equation; one that parses the big XML file of recent pings. That's why I developed the Ass-Kicking Laser Algorithm, which does that very thing. Even with the paucity of things you could conceivably do with the weblogs.com XML file, I think it has more options than are wise. Once I start actually using it I may trim it down. But like I say, one piece at a time.
The name is Kris'. He came up with it in 1998 when I was complaining that the algorithms I was learning about in class didn't live up to their cool names, like the gift wrapping algorithm and Graham's Scan. Since any interesting name I could give this library would set the user up for an anticlimax, I figured I'd go all the way. Thanks, Kris.
In retrospect, though, Graham's Scan is pretty cool.
|Unless otherwise noted, all content licensed by Leonard Richardson|
under a Creative Commons License.