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[Comments] (7) Wikipedia Says: Wikipedia says that, originally, movie copyright dates were written as Roman numbers so that the studios could release five-year-old movies in Lebanon or Peru, and the audiences there wouldn't have the fact that the movie was five years old jump right out at them. This is entirely consistent with the known behavior of the movie industry, but I'm suspicious of it because I can't find a non-Wikipedia source for it, and also it forces me to add another item to my previously simple heuristic for when to use Roman numbers.

  1. You are pretentious (Super Bowls, titles of movie sequels, dates carved into buildings, names of people).
  2. You are desperate for visually distinct ways of representing the counting numbers (outlines, page numbering for prefaces).
  3. You want to obfuscate a number (movie copyright dates).

Actually, Pete Peterson II makes me add another item, since he's not named that for pretentious reasons. Lousy heuristic! In a sinister twist of fate, it's now become as complicated as Roman numbers themselves!

[Comments] (1) Dr. Livingston, I Presume: We checked out the Tivo for the first time in over a week and watched the new House with Ron Livingston. That guy is so typecast. He can't not be his Office Space character.

Today it finally happened: I wrote a recipe that Lucas had already written. It's not horrible because the plan is that we go in and revise each other's recipes anyway. But now I have to figure out how to merge the two recipes.

Nothing else of interest is happening to me, except for the run-in with the pirate bird-people. Lots of stuff is happening to Sumana, though.

[Comments] (2) : Cleaning out the garden for planting. I think the garden is mainly just an way to fool myself into doing exercise by making myself think it's useful work. It doesn't produce all that much food. This year the total harvest was a bowl full of green beans, some garlic, and 4 pumpkins. Not a very good return on the work I put into it. The rhubarb plants and the artichoke plant are still alive, but not producing yet. But it beats lifting weights or jogging around for no reason.

The Quality of Service is not Strained: Doesn't QoS look like a Klingon word?

Update: "qoS" means "birthday". Qos enough.

: There's a new gem of Rubyful Soup over at Rubyforge, if you're in to that kind of thing. If you tried the gem before and it didn't work, try it again. Just KEEP TRYING IT.

[Comments] (1) : I'm reviewing the proposal for a new Python book, in exchange for a sum so modest it's actually called an "honorarium" to make me feel better about it. But it's a good-looking book that fills a niche (the niche being the scattershot organization and frequent out-of-dateness of the online documentation). And I'm now the kind of guy who accepts honoraria. Next stop: corruption!

What You Call Hell, He Calls Game Roundup: Frustrated that NYCB is not as interesting as it used to be what with all the book-writing, so I took time today to do an old-fashioned Game Roundup. But not so old-fashioned that instead of reviewing Linux games I'm going to be reviewing crappy old jigsaw puzzles and board games. Seriously, have you seen those first commercial games from the early 1900s? What was wrong with those people? They weren't stupid; games like chess and backgammon have been around for thousands of years. But when someone got the idea of printing games and selling them commercially, it was Chutes and Ladders all the time. Though most of the games sold today are not much better, so maybe I'm being unneccessarily hard on those turn-of-the-century fools.

Anyway, here we have five games. In the near past I also found a new (Java?) version of an old Ultima-type game called Ranadin. This was a really great game in its time, but I can't find the URL to the new version on the web or anywhere in my notes. All I have is this excellent quote from the intro: "The king announced victory and dispersed his army, leaving the true threat largely undisturbed to this day." Now, games.

: Hey, mom, here's a bunch of stuff about Richard Dadd.

Toot!: Today I wrote my 100th recipe for the Ruby Cookbook. For the sake of history, let it be known that it was the recipe "Performing DNS Lookups". Not sure why history cares, but there you are.

[Comments] (4) : Is it a good idea to make one of those English Christmas fruitcakes? They look really good, but they also look like they might explode at any minute.

Extremely Context-Dependant Funniez: Me on IM:

(16:24:11) yeah, deer
(16:24:13) yes, dear

: Thanks to clickolinko, I now know what would happen if Frank Chu collided with Frank Cho.

[Comments] (1) : I decided there was no point to keeping private my private outline for the Ruby Cookbook, so I put it online in color-coded form. Now you don't have to email me ahead of time and ask me what recipes are still available (though this would still be a good idea, so that I can mark recipes as reserved). Plus, you can get a visual feel for our progress on the book.

PS: the other day I wrote my first Mandelbrot set generator (for the recipe about complex numbers), which was really neat. Soon I'll have graduated to ASCII art drawings of Mr. Spock.

[Comments] (1) : Today: bunch of cooking day. I made a bunch of food for Sumana to take to work so she doesn't have to buy lunch. I also started making plum pudding, using this recipe which I realized too late is actually a recipe for an infinite number of puddings, not just one. So it better turn out well.

And I did Christmas shopping and played computer games. Tomorrow I'm going to work on my story if I know what's good for me, which I don't.

: Today I discovered that you can switch the tunes of "She Blinded me with Science" and Gary Numan's "Remember I Was Vapour".

Also, in honor of the end of Checkerboard Nightmare, our Filk Will Eat Itself Dept. has come up with yet another Checkerboard Nightmare Filk For The Lazy. Play TMBG's "Doctor Worm", and shout "Hot!" at the appropriate intervals to turn it into "Doctor Hot"! Annoy your friends! Stupefy your enemies (ie. those who, until you started this filk, were your friends)!

: Watching ATK there was an offhand remark that putting butter on your popcorn gives great flavor but makes it soggy. What about clarified butter? That's got all the water boiled off. My cursory web search doesn't see anyone making a clear statement that they tried this and it did or didn't work, so I'm going to try it and make such a statement.

Scot Free: Ebay has dropped the charges.

[Comments] (2) And for a Buck and a Quarter: In "Minnie the Moocher", did Minnie actually have a heart as big as a whale, or was her heart only as big as the heart of a whale? I know it's a metaphor; the question is, which metaphor?

More interesting stuff coming tomorrow or Friday, hopefully.

: Cute APOD today.

[Comments] (3) : Man, working from home is great. Also great is having a well-defined set of requirements and seeing yourself make incremental progress every day. I set up the Cookbook page so it accurately reflects the working outline (it's actually the canonical outline, as far as I'm concerned) and has statistics about the recipes in progress. As you can see we're closing in on completing the chapter on date and times. This is disproportionately exciting because our deadlines are hit or missed based on the completion of chapters, not recipes per se.

Aaaand... tomorrow I might have the new web toy ready for you to play with. The data gathering is really the most labor-intensive part of this one.

: Toy still not ready for prime time, but I did get the date/time chapter of the Ruby book finished, and I found this big ole transcript of Bucky Fuller rambling on, so no one can say I didn't get important things accomplished. I also prepared secret appetizers that went into freezer bags to be baked when my family comes up for Thanksgiving.

Collector's Edition: 3D Settlers of Catan set for $380. From an old email Rachel sent me that I happened to see just now.

Ghee Popcorn Success: The TiVo recorded The Apartment on PBS so we re-watched it tonight. Man, that movie is a lot darker than I remember. Anyway, I decided it would be a perfect time to test out my hypothesis of putting clarified butter on popcorn. It worked! Great butter flavor and it didn't make the popcorn soggy. Another great quick tip, not from America's Test Kitchen.

[Comments] (5) The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: I guess when you're a kid in a small town and you want good science fiction and there's no Internet, you're supposed to befriend an adult who knows about science fiction, and borrow it from them or get it via inter-library loan. But I didn't know of any such adults, or even about inter-library loan until it was almost too late, so when I was a kid there was not much science fiction for me to read.

There was an anemic selection of young adult science fiction at the middle school library. This selection was much bigger than it needed to be because only three of its books were worth reading: two whose titles I don't remember, and Robert Heinlein's classic juvenile novel Have Space Suit Will Travel. Man, that was a great book. So I started out very well-disposed towards Heinlein.

The Arvin library had about two bookshelves worth of science fiction, plus some in the paperback racks. It was mostly mediocre Star Trek novels, and now that I think about it, the remainder was also pretty mediocre, but I read it. I read some of Heinlein's later stuff like The Number of the Beast, which even at that age I could tell was lousy despite the gratuitous sex scenes added to throw me off the track.

My dad had a copy of Stranger in a Strange Land which I also read and found to be very boring. I later learned that it was a classic, so I read it again a couple years ago and found it to be very boring again. I realize this makes me an iconoclast. So I figured Heinlein's adult writing was a bust.

But for some reason (probably extreme low cost), I recently decided to buy a cheap copy of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I just read it and dang if that wasn't great. Good plot, funny humor, MacLeod-esque in its sardonic political one-liners. The computer science was abysmal but I didn't mind. I did mind the political hay made of the contigent fact that the computer science was so abysmal, but I say go with the flow. I think apart from Lem (who will probably forever be a special case) this is the earliest-published science fiction I've read that I didn't have to judge by the lowered set of expectations I usually use for old science fiction. Well, 1984 qualifies as well.

Also, while doing research for this entry I discovered Frank Key, who is kind of what you'd get if Olaf Stapledon wrote Fafblog.

The Unofficial LEGO Builder's Guide: Sorry to shout, old chap, but the author of The Unofficial LEGO Builder's Guide (which I am currently reading) spells LEGO in uppercase throughout the whole book. He also always says "LEGO pieces" or "LEGO elements" or "LEGO bricks" instead of "LEGOs", just like LEGO Corp's anti-trademark-dilution guide says you should. I guess you have to do that if you're writing a whole book but it looks weird. Anyway, I thought I'd ELOG these facts for you to OGLE.

Apart from this (which looks to happen less frequently in later chapters as it slowly sinks into the reader's head just what brand of click-bricks we're talking about here), the book is great. It's the book I always wanted to write, just as OOP from Microserfs was the computer program I always wanted to write (now we have LDraw).

There's also a sentence in the book which I wanted to share with you because it seemed tautological and funny, though I guess you can parse it to be non-tautological:

Although only a few elements fall into the standard cylinder or cone categories, what they lack in number they make up for in uniqueness.

[Comments] (2) PRESENTS: This is so awesome (sent to me by Ryan North himself): Chris Noessel's NewsRex takes stories off the news wire and formats them as episodes of Dinosaur Comics. Just one more step towards my proof that any form of communication can be represented as episodes of Dinosaur Comics.

[Comments] (3) Christmas List: By Susanna demand, for the people who give me Christmas presents. You'll notice there are actually durable goods on it this year (because I don't have much income at the moment), but I would still be fine with you giving money to charity in my name.

I am doing pretty well this year w/r/t acquiring and making awesome presents for people with not much money.

I Am A Platform: "atropine is a screen-scraping library built on top of BeautifulSoup"

[Comments] (2) : Family over for pre-Thanksgiving dinner, which was fun. I made fried polenta with blue cheese, which it's probably good that I don't make it a whole lot. We also had some molasses spice cookies I made which were really good.

Today I found out how to parse an ID3 tag out of an MP3 file, and I put that information into a Ruby Cookbook recipe on binary file manipulation. It's actually quite easy so long as you limit yourself to the original, 128-byte ID3 format and stay far away from the overdesigned ID3v2. The "2" stands for second system. Ooh, snap!

[Comments] (2) Peanut Brittle and Christmas List Addendum: Happy Thanksgiving!

Usually every year my grandmother makes peanut brittle for Christmas. This year she is passing on that because she's not been well, so when my mother came up for Thanksgiving she foisted a big bag of raw peanuts on me. I don't know if I'm supposed to make peanut brittle for everyone or if I'm the kind of person who people want to give raw peanuts to (Sumana's mother also foisted raw peanuts upon me when she came to visit). The bag weights about 2.5 pounds, which seems to make between 3 and 6 pounds of brittle. That seems like less than what my grandmother usually makes. I think she might use two or three of these bags. Anyway, I'll try a little batch and see how it goes.

Here are a couple more things I thought of to put on my Christmas wish list:

More as I think of them.

Finnegans Wharf: Man, I am never going to Fisherman's Wharf again if I can avoid it. We went there yesterday and it was overpopulated. However during that trip I got to hang out with my uncle Robert, which was nice. Sumana comes in and looks at the text box I'm writing and says that I shouldn't say I don't want to go there anymore, having only been during big tourist days. But during those visits I've now seen everything I want to see, so why go again? I don't eat seafood so that's not a reason.

We went to the Múséé Mécháníqúé. I have been thinking about the penny arcade (now quarter arcade) entertainments on display there, trying to take them in the context of their time, and it's not working very well. My closest frame of reference would be old video games (in fact, they had some old video games there). But most old video games are still fun, and they're fun multiple times. Whereas all but the most complex mechanical entertainments at the Múséé are only fun once, if that. Some of them were really boring and repetitive, not even interesting on a mechanical level; I say this as a person who likes watching model trains.

But unlike video games, penny arcade machines were probably something you'd only see once a year, at the fair or on a vacation. In that context it makes sense to pay a cent to see something once, even if it turned out to be a cheap thrill you wouldn't want to repeat.

I think the best pieces at the Múséé were the music boxes. There were three "execution" diorama machines and my mother watched all three of them. I guess the entertainment-crazed populace needed to be weaned off of live public executions somehow.

[Comments] (1) My Favorite Wife: This was a weird, weird movie. At almost any point it could have become a noir thriller: the main character would be forced by his own spinelessness to kill someone, and the noir would start. But since it's not a Coen brothers movie that didn't happen. Instead, the characters constructed big tissues of lies which were destroyed and constructed again. It starts out awful Marx Brothers and soft focus sentimentality (which I guess is just the other aspect of awful Marx Brothers; hey, remember those Marx Brothers movies near the end, hideous in form, where Harpo's character was actually named "Wacky"?) but as you get used to it it becomes a sort of relentless psychological slapstick that dies out at the end.

For the first third of the movie I was driven mad by the voice of the male lead. Who was it he sounded like? Then Sumana told me: he sounds like Tony Curtis' imitation of Cary Grant in Some Like it Hot. Because he is Cary Grant. I had never seen Cary Grant in a movie before, except when I was very young.

[Comments] (1) Fast Hot Chili: This recipe is derived from a really complicated recipe for a non-chili black bean soup from a Greens cookbook. I got rid of most of the complicated steps and now it's made almost entirely from things that come in cans. The other recipe is worth making but it's not hearty like a chili, and it's really inconvenient to make without a food mill.

Saute a diced onion and 1 t oregano in 2 T olive oil. Add 2 chipotle peppers with sauce and 2 chopped serrano peppers and 3 chopped cloves garlic and 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juice. Simmer this for a while.

Then prepare in a big pot: 2 cans drained kidney beans, 2 cans black beans with juice, 1 package fake ground beef, and 2 cups vegetable broth. You could substitute the kidney bean juice for the vegetable broth, but I've never trusted kidney bean juice. You could also omit the vegetable broth altogether. Heat this up a little so it'll be about the same temperature as the stuff in the skillet.

Then dump the skillet contents into the big pot and cook a little longer. Puree some of the chili and/or add crushed up tortilla chips to make it thicker. Eat with avocado/chopped tomatoes/sour cream/etc. This is pretty hot; the hotness dial is the serrano peppers if you want to change it.

[Comments] (5) : My grandmother, Rosalie Richardson, died early this morning. My mother has more. She'd just gotten out of the hospital healthy, so we all thought she'd be with us a lot longer. The funeral is on Thursday and it's going to be difficult. She was the grandparent to which I was closest.

Obituary: Emailed me from my aunt Pat.

Rosalie Benson Richardson, 74, passed away in Bakersfield, California on November 27, 2005.

Rosalie was born December 29, 1930 to George and Rachel Benson in Monet, Arkansas. Growing up Rosalie, her parents and five brothers and sisters divided their time between Arkansas, Missouri and California. It was in Orland, California where Rosalie met her true love, her husband, Dalton. Shortly after the birth of their second child, Rosalie and Dalton moved to the Orange County area where they began a farming career and had three more children. In 1965 Rosalie, Dalton and their children moved to Kern County and began farming in the Wheeler Ridge area. Rosalie loved living and working on the farm. In Wheeler Ridge, Rosalie continued to raise her children and worked in the farming office. On the farm Rosalie made a home where her children and later grandchildren loved to be and always felt welcome. In 1994 Rosalie and Dalton retired from farming and moved to Bakersfield.

Rosalie was an active member in Meridian Community Church. She found great joy in church activities and fellowship with other church members. Rosalie enjoyed decoupage and in recent years she rekindled an interest in quilting. Rosalie created many beautiful things and received great joy in giving them to family and friends. Rosalie loved Christmas; every year she would make peanut brittle for her friends and family. Rosalie had many fans of her famous peanut brittle. In her spare time Rosalie enjoyed doing jigsaw and crossword puzzles.

Rosalie loved her family unconditionally and enjoyed spending time with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Rosalie was a kind and loving person who always had a warm smile on her face. She touched the lives of all who had the pleasure of knowing her.

Rosalie was preceded in death by her husband, Dalton Richardson; sons, Roy Richardson and Larry Richardson; sister, Ellen Smith; brother, Mark Benson and daughter-in-law Helen Richardson.

Rosalie is survived by sister Lou Carter; bothers Carroll Benson and Harold Benson; daughter Patricia and husband Alan Dyer; sons, Donald Richardson and Garry and wife Joan Richardson; daughters-in-law Frances Whitney Richardson and Kathy Richardson; grandchildren, Shannon and husband Shaun, Brian and wife Tina, Leonard, Susanna and husband John, Kevin, Rachel, Kyle, Eric and Brett; great-grandchildren, Sydney, Sam, Joel and Leah.

Services for Rosalie Richardson will be at the South Kern District Cemetery in Arvin on Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 12:00 noon.

Donations may be made to the Dalton Richardson Memorial Agricultural Scholarship Fund at Arvin High School.

Cookbook Note: Almost done with the "files" chapter but not feeling great about it. Seems like too many retreads of stuff in the other cookbooks. I guess that's to be expected since file access is so generic, but if you have any ideas for new recipes let me know of them.

No Fun With Amazon Wish Lists: Marc Hedlund complains about major problems with Amazon wish lists. The first comment is from an ex-Amazon employee complaining about Amazon's top-down management style that means features never get implemented. I believe it.

Fortunately you can get around some of the problems by hacking together stuff using the web service APIs. They don't do nearly as much as I'd like, but Amazon wish lists with all their problems are still the only online book tracker that provides any web service API at all. Another comment in that weblog entry is the inevitable "we're doing it better with Rails and we need beta testers", which is worth a shot; as is (still) LibraryThing if you just want something that works. The Z39.50 gateway is looking better to me all the time; the software equivalent of beer goggles.

Book update: files chapter basically done.

"And Other": Macros and fonts for creating Feynman (and other) diagrams.

: Remember the Lego Fantasy Roleplaying Game? With a bunch more bricks you can get BrickQuest, the more-Nethack-like game of my dreams (dreams vary in quality, of course).

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