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This is pretty funny: Someone submitted the precis of the movie (At Least) Three Cheers for Cause and Effect from Infinite Jest as an actual proposal for a movie. How far was the query letter submitter hoping it would get into production before someone realized this? Who would even watch that, or any of the movies from Infinite Jest (except, I suppose, Infinite Jest itself)?

[Comments] (3) Can't fight the freezer: Am thinking of getting a big standalone freezer to supplement the meager freezer on top of my fridge. I like making food and freezing it to heat up later. How much sense does this make? I'm not sure where in my house it would go.

I'll try to keep posting every day despite the month and a half of constant activity that looms before me. I like posting to NYCB but too often it turns into an excuse to procrastinate, which is my big problem. In addition to Ultra Gleeper, where I've finally pulled out of the rest stop and onto the straightaway, this new project is the textbook example of something you don't want to do if you want to retain free time. I guess I can prove the Ultra Gleeper is worth its salt by just spending a couple minutes a day posting links I find through it.

[Comments] (8) Exciting Gmail Contest: It used to be that people who got Gmail accounts would hold contests on their weblogs to give out their Gmail invites. The first n people who commented on the relevant entry would get a Gmail invite. Well, time passed, as it always does, and now there are too many Gmail invites to go around. Everywhere I go, people bombard me with offers to send me Gmail invites. Soon I predict it will escalate to bombarding me with actual Gmail invites, and then with bricks.

To keep things civilized I am starting a contest. The first one person to comment on this entry offering me a Gmail invite can go ahead and send me one. Surely this friendly competition will solve the Gmail invite problem once and for all!

And Other Dangers: I'm rebooting my Ultra Gleeper installation to get a feel for how long it really takes to set up the dataset, and to write the getting-started document. So far it's taking a loooong time; I think because I'm running it on a machine with less bandwidth. Best find so far: Code Names, a map of secrets.

Gleeper TODO note to myself: (all of this has to be done by Monday)

[Comments] (2) Someone's Having A Contest: From query logs:

In what country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented? : 87
In what country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented : 25
 In what country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented? : 9
In what country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented?  : 9
In what country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented  : 8
In what country was Mentos invented? : 7
Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented : 7
what country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented : 7
country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented : 4
country Mentos Freshmaker invented : 3
in what country was mentos invented : 3
  In what country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented? : 2
 In what country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented : 2
Mentos freshmaker invented : 2
Where were Mentos invented? : 2
in what country was mentos the freshmaker invented : 2
what country was Mentos invented : 2
what country was mentos invented : 2
where was mentos invented? : 2
 In what country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented?  : 1
 In what country was Mentos invented : 1
 Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented : 1
 what country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented : 1
In What Country was Mentos, "The Freshmaker", Invented? : 1
In what country was Mentos "the Freshmaker" invented? : 1
In what country was Mentos invented : 1
In what country was Mentos invented  : 1
In what country was Mentos invented?  : 1
In what country was Mentos the Freshmaker invented : 1
In what country was the freshmaker Mento's invented? : 1
Mentos "The Freshmaker" was invented in what country? : 1
Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented? : 1
Mentos 'the Freshmaker' were invented in : 1
Mentos Freshmaker invented : 1
Mentos the freshmaker invented in what country : 1
Mentos, 'the Freshmaker' invented, candy : 1
What country invented Mentos the Freshmaker? : 1
What country was Mento's the freshmaker invented? : 1
What country was Mentos invented in? : 1
Where was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented : 1
country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented? : 1
in what country was Mentos "the Freshmaker" invented : 1
in what country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented : 1
in what country was mentos 'the freshmaker' invented : 1
in what country was mentos invented? : 1
in what country was the mentos freshmaker invented? : 1
in what country were mentos invented : 1
in what country were mentos invented  : 1
in what were mentos invented : 1
mentos freshmaker invented : 1
mentos the freshmaker invented : 1
mentos the freshmaker invented country : 1
mentos the freshmaker was invented in what country : 1
what country invented Mentos candy? : 1
what country invented Mentos? : 1
what country invented mentos "the freshmaker" : 1
what country invented the Mentos, freshmaker : 1
what country was "mentos" invented : 1
what country was Mentos "the fresh mint" invented? : 1
what country was Mentos 'the Freshmaker' invented? : 1
what country was mentos the freshmaker invented : 1
what country was mentos the freshmaker made in : 1
what country was the mentos freshmaker invented : 1
what country were mentos invented in? : 1
where was  Mentos invented : 1
where was mentos invented ? : 1
where were mentos invented : 1
where were mentos invented? : 1

I gotta say, "the Mentos freshmaker" sounds like a much more interesting device than "Mentos, the Freshmaker". More like a doomsday machine.

For what it's worth, the answer is "Holland".

[Comments] (3) Recommendation Engine Meta-Discoveries: My friends all have IMDB pages, but at least I have an Audioscrobbler page. Which reveals that the shorter my songs are, the more people listen to them. Not a lesson I think people want me to learn, but one born out by cold hard statistics.

In non-meta recommendation engine discoveries, HobbySpace "seeks to show that everyone can participate in space exploration and development in one way or another."

: Has anyone hypothesized that John Barth and Donald Barthelme are the same person?

[Comments] (7) : The amazing Ultra Gleeper has reached 1.0. I spent the whole week making sure I could honestly say it works, and that it was actually amazing and not just a fluke. It turns out it does honestly work (now) and it is pretty amazing. It found Gold bar mystery from China, and Steven Wolfram's attempt to give every mathematical function its own web page, and a whole political analysis magazine I never even heard of.

Learn all about how it works in my new paper, "The Ultra Gleeper: A Recommendation Engine for Web Pages", soon to be a major CodeCon presentation. Of special interest is the "Giving away the store" section, where I do what I wish other people would do and summarize all the little epiphanies that turned into the design/software/idea/whatever.

Have fun. If you start using this, or start writing your own, I'd like to hear what you think. I made an account on my installation for Sumana so hopefully I can get some user feedback from someone who's not me.

Update: I redid the web page to make it more user-level "why you need a recommendation engine" and less academic "why is this recommendation engine different from all other recommendation engines?", since the latter is now well-covered in the paper.

[Comments] (5) But The Youngest Son Knew About Google: Search request: tricks to play on leprechauns

Wouldn't the leprechauns have already run the same query, and prepared themselves for shocking tape measures or whatever other lame tricks are listed in web pages about leprechaun dupery?

[Comments] (1) : How to Extract DNA from Anything Living. Come back here, you!

Found via lonita's links log, found via you-know-what.

[Comments] (5) : Does anyone know why the HTML standard doesn't allow PUT or DELETE as form actions? Sure, they're not widely used, but neither is the form's TITLE attribute, or the KBD tag, and they're in there.

: Gleeper find of the day: the Archaeology Data Service, a collection of zoom-in-able maps and search engines that help you find really old things in the UK. Like peat, and moats. You know, when I was in England I didn't see a single recognizable moat, but apparently they're all over the place there.

[Comments] (11) Curry Recipe: From Sumana's mother, Nagalakshmi, who wants me to come to India and says if I do she'll teach me how to cook Indian food.

Heat the oil in a pan. When it's hot, add the mustard seed, turmeric, and ginger. Then add:

Close the lid and leave for 5-8 minutes. Then add:

Serve with rice or naan or whatever.

My problem was, I was using too much liquid and my curry always was soupy.

I revently bought a bunch of spices mail-order (more on this later) but I didn't get any turmeric. I thought the only reason people used turmeric was for color, to fool diners into thinking you'd put saffron into the food when actually you were too cheap to buy saffron. Sumana and her mother think this is a hilarious misconception of mine.

[Comments] (2) CodeCon Request: If anyone reading this is coming to CodeCon tomorrow, would you mind printing a copy of my paper and giving it to me there? I'm out of reach of printers--printers and I never did get along very well; the feud dates all the way back to my old noisy dot-matrix--and I'd like a paper copy to use when working on my talk. Let me know if this is within your abilities; I'd also love paper copies of my preliminary slides, on which to write my notes.

[Comments] (6) Forbearance: I decided not to use my CodeCon presentation to push my pet hypothesis that the "free money from the government" guy is actually the Riddler from Batman.

"Riddle me this, Batman! How could you get $800 for remodelling the Bat-Cave? Or $400 for a new cape? Or over $1000 for repairs to the Batmobile?"

[Comments] (5) Mea Gleepa: It turns out the Ultra Gleeper requires version 0.5.3 of SQLObject, not version 0.6 or up as I previously stated. It looks like I started working on it about three days before 0.6 was released. I know Ian Bicking reads this weblog, so maybe he could speculate on whether porting to 0.6 would be fraught with peril or as easy as changing the import statements.

Update: I just released 1.0.2, which fixes RSS bugs and also moves the variables specific to my installation into cfg.py where you'll run into them while setting up the database and change them to your stuff.

[Comments] (14) : I have a compulsion to buy weird soaps and sometimes I regret it. Like the cocoa soap. It smells like cocoa! Hmm.

The soap I'm using now is some lavender clay soap. I dropped it on the bathroom floor when I was taking it out of its package, and little bits shattered off. Yup, clay soap.

The flyer for the CodeCon Google reception last night says "Relax and rewind." What does it mean to rewind, in that context? It could have been a retro-video-game-themed party, but no such luck. They probably meant "unwind"?

Off to give Gleeper talk.

[Comments] (1) : Gleeper talk went really well, I think. I'll put up the slides tomorrow in PDF format, and hopefully they'll archive the recording of the talk, so you can experience it retrospectively.

The OpenOffice presentation program is really good for drawing little ad hoc diagrams like the ones I made heavy use of in my talk. Better than any of the specialized diagram-drawing programs, closer than them to my preferred presentation strategy of scrawling ovals and arrows on a whiteboard.

Details about my next big project (until now maintained in parallel with the Gleeper, now to eat up all my time) coming soon.

Now We Are Sick: Can't go to CodeCon today because my sinuses hurt. I will tell you a story about being sick and the moral is: never buy more than one box of TheraFlu per illness.

My senior year of college I got sick a lot for some reason, with the sinus/ear/throat problems to which I am prone. Fortunately in the UCLA student store they sold TheraFlu, a granular substance which when added to hot water produced a soothing liquid similar to apple cider. I did this once and it worked really well to relieve the symptoms, so the next time I got sick I bought two boxes of it.

But by the time I started in on the second box, the peculiar not-quite-apple-cider smell and taste of TheraFlu was starting to itself become a source of sickeningness. I gave up halfway through the second box, even though it really helped the symptoms, because just smelling or thinking about it made me want to throw up. And now I can't even appreciate real apple cider, which I used to like a lot. Thus, the aforementioned moral.

Turning to the lighter side of the news, I put up the slides from my CodeCon talk. Hopefully soon the archived audio will be put up, and you can read along.

[Comments] (1) Kind Of A Penguin: There's also a new NewsBruiser, because Jarno found a bad bug in the comment system. I recommend everyone who uses comments upgrade to this version, especially since 2.6.0 also fixed a bad bug in the comment system. I don't actually know of that many NewsBruiser weblogs that have comments, though. All the crummy.com weblogs have been automatically upgraded.

[Comments] (6) Sony Walkman Personal Stereo Park: San Francisco renamed Candlestick Park to Monster Park, hopefully because monster.com gave them a lot of money but also because "Monster Park" sounds cool and scaray. How about renaming Alcatraz to Monster Island?

[Comments] (4) They Keep Coming: Ie. the recipes from Sumana's mother. This is a cold/sore throat remedy that really surprised me. You grind pepper into a saucepan full of water and boil the water. Then you grate ginger into it and drink it. Shocking!

[Comments] (2) The Real Recipe: It turns out the recipe I gave for the cold remedy yesterday was actually Sumana's garbled recollection of the recipe. Here is the real recipe, from her mother:

Start by melting 1/2 t butter or thuppa (ie. ghee) in a pot. Then add:

Boil down to 2 cups and drink with honey. Or add salt and serve it with rice.

Sumana also got me a copy of Make. If I were good at making things I'd be all over that magaine. As it is, I'm only partially over it.

[Comments] (3) A Refreshing Splash of Lemon-Lyme: For a Valentine's Day dinner I made Lemon Lime Risotto with Asparagus, which was very tasty. I love odd little risottos; it's a good medium for experimentation. Lately I've also been thinking of ways to make desserts with buttermilk.

[Comments] (7) : I think this would be a great game but I can't think of a mechanism: "Disconnect Four".

RSS aggregator as task aggregator: One of the things I like about the Ultra Gleeper is its RSS feed, which not only gives you recommendations but also the interface you for rating the recommendations, right in your aggregator. It works really well for me because I use Feed On Feeds, so my aggregator supports Javascript (incidentally, only recently did I find out that "DHTML" is just a code word for "Javascript"). It should work in any aggregator since they any aggregator has to be web-enabled enough to handle clicking on a link, even if it doesn't support Javascript.

If ever again I get into a segfault.org-like situation where every day I have to go through a bunch of user submissions and publish or kill them, it'd be easy to do that as a series of operations in my RSS aggregator. There's an emerging consensus that anything non-urgent you have to keep an eye on should be exposed through RSS, but I'd like to actually be able to take action on those things without having to click over to the main site. You'd see the item, and then any controls neccessary to edit the item, and buttons to publish or kill it. About as easy as such things get.

The only drawback to this idea is that you have to authenticate to get a customized RSS feed, so either your browser needs to store username and password or you need to stick it into the feed URL.

A similar idea in the same vein, which I didn't actually use, was the idea of wrapping any RSS feed at all in Gleeper clothing. The result would look almost exactly like the old RSS feed, but each item would be annotated with a set of rating controls for each link in the entry. I never did this because it'd be way too much trouble to be an RSS feed man-in-the-middle, and change all my subscriptions to point to the cache. It's a good idea though, until someone gets mad that you're changing their RSS feeds, which I estimate would take 16 seconds.

Update: It occurs to me that one could combine these ideas. Suppose you have a website that keeps track of tasks for you, and provides an RSS feed for the tasks, but you have to click through the RSS feed to actually manipulate the task. You could write a script that annotates the RSS feed with the HTML forms and links you need to manipulate the task, and do it all from your aggregator.

It's Time To Dim The Lights: This has been linked all over, but I enjoyed it a lot: Over Time, a student short featuring puppets that are not quite Kermit the Frog. It's funny and it's (off-brand) Muppets, but it's also got an interesting take on the relationship between puppet and puppeteer. Better than those dang pizza ads that's all the real Muppets are doing nowadays.

[Comments] (10) SQLite: At CodeCon I was mobbed with people who wanted to know why I made the Ultra Gleeper run against MySQL instead of the hip self-contained database, SQLite. Actually I think it was Danny O'Brien, who just plugged the Gleeper in this week's NTK and maybe one other person, but I'm no stranger to micro-mobs. Anyway the answer is that I barely heard of SQLite and I've been using MySQL installations more or less continuously at work and at play for years, so I just went with what I was used to.

I know everyone hates software that's hard to install and that the Gleeper is currently such a software, but I was surprised at how for many people the breaking point was having to set up a MySQL database. If most of that is balking at setting up MySQL, then SQLite will probably solve the balking problem. I haven't installed it but I don't see how it could be harder to install than MySQL. Plus the database files it keeps can live in the same directory as the app instead of in /var/, which I think is probably the big draw though it doesn't make much difference setup-wise.

Because people (including me) are all about self-containment, I'm planning to distribute a copy of SQLObject with future versions of the Gleeper. That should short-circuit the SQLObject version fiasco, and it's the only external library the Gleeper depends on. Including a copy of every single external library works well with NewsBruiser, and as a matter of fact it works with the Gleeper, which already includes about ten external modules in its lib/ directory. Why not SQLObject too?

I don't want to distribute SQLite in the package, because it's not a Python library. I'd have to either distribute platform-specific binaries or hook up with SQLite's build system. That said, I don't have a problem with changing over to SQLite if people think that's easier. I had all sorts of doubts about SQLite, but then I realized they're the same doubts people who use proprietary databases have about open source databases, so they're probably WRONG. SQLite looks really nice.

The other thing I could do is write a script that takes you through the installation process, instead of a document that tells you how to do it. A very powerful tool for making installation documents look less complicated is to hide the verbiage at the other end of hypertext links that might not be followed. I didn't do this because I didn't have time before CodeCon. I'm still not doing it because I'm working on a different project, with a deadline. Spooky! To me, anyway. Whoooo!

PS: This is also why there's no new Beautiful Soup, or whatever else it is I promised you I'd do.

[Comments] (4) XML-RPC APIs: Does anyone know of any XML-RPC interfaces that don't require authentication and that live on the public Web? I know of two: the weblogs.com ping API and its imitators, and the Advogato XML-RPC API (some but not all of which requires authentication). I don't think either of those is interesting enough for my purpose. My studies have shown that all the new web services expose REST and/or SOAP APIs. Poor little XML-RPC's showcase of implemented services is stuck in 1999. Am I wrong? Am I wrong?

Update: I can't believe I forgot the XML-RPC API I wrote for Downhill. It doesn't really meet my criteria either, because it's not that useful anymore. The Weblog Ecosystem data it depends on is about 2 years old and it's not being collected anymore so I can't update it.

Hmm, Waypath and Meerkat look like they might work.

I Advise It: Viewer discretion is the better part of viewer valor.

[Comments] (3) : Making good progress on the secret project, which I don't even really think needs to be a secret, but if I weren't too lazy to find out I'd instead be too lazy to work on the project. So it's a good trade-off. Meanwhile my brain is working on other ideas to astound you. I'm really starting to identify with the Richard Feynman quote (was it a quote or an anecdote about him?) that suggests you should cultivate a smal set of ideas and apply them to everything that comes your way, so that when you find a match people will think you're brilliant.

[Comments] (5) Nontrivial Tests For Being Trapped In A Cultural Artifact #2: Product placement. If you live in a modern consumer society, yet lead a Soviet-like existence in which there's effectively only one brand of soda, one type of car, etc, you're probably in a movie or TV show.

[Comments] (3) Iain Pears: I read An Instance of the Fingerpost, which everyone seems to love, and thought it was incredibly boring. Then I read The Dream of Scipio and thought it was really good. Conclusion: I like reading multiple, mutually analagous stories better than I like reading the same story told from multiple viewpoints.

[Comments] (1) Lessons Not Learned: I thought I was on track for my secret project, but it turns out the deadline got moved way up and I wasn't paying enough attention to notice this until yesterday, so it's a midnight oil combustion-fest 'round my place. That Leonard! Will he never learn? THE ANSWER IS NO.

He Did The Risk: He did the Zombie Risk.

[Comments] (1) : My CD player recognizes my Foo Fighters album as "no disc". It's the Odysseus of CDs.

[Comments] (2) : Hey, if you have ideas for interesting little things to do with the Google web API, let me know. I'm trying to think of one for my project, but I've been drawing blanks, and the non-blanks I've drawn have proven not to be feasible.

Whew: (Almost) done with the mysterious and spooky project. Ahead of schedule, too. Now I've got this big adrenaline rush left over from my rush to finish it that I'm not sure what to do with. The solution: rocksurfing! The incredible new sport that combines rock climbing, windsurfing, and sluicing for gold! It's extreme cubed!

[Comments] (3) Cleanup: Two things for my project for which I could use some help. First, if there are any REST bigots in the house I'd like to run some stuff by you. Let me know.

I'm also having a problem with Python's CGIHTTPServer in conjunction with POST requests. I can use the cgi module just fine with a POST, so there must be some way to get it to work, but if I try to read sys.stdin (where the POST data goes) from a CGI it just hangs. What's up with that? I found people talking about similar problems, but only on Windows and on Python 2.4. Has anyone else seen this?

: I found this via Dog Bites Dog. I feel like this proves some point of mine.

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