<M <Y
Y> M>

[Comments] (4) Hitchhiker's: Wow, that was great. Good job, Yoz!

Out Of Order: This was supposed to have been published yesterday:

New Beautiful Soup, with minor fixes and real Python 2.2 support. Now going to see Hitchhiker's with Sumana and Zack.

Python Generators: I'm messing around with Python generators for the first time, because I figured they'd make it easy to write different ways of traversing a Beautiful Soup parse tree, a la Ka-Ping Yee's scraper script. And they do make it easy, but they also slow down recursive tree traversals quite a bit. Is there a fast way to do this, or should I just unroll the recursion so I'm not creating a million generators?

[Comments] (2) Hey Hey Hey: At the DI in Provo there was a Fat Albert T-shirt, but due to bad typography it actually said "Fatal Bert and the Junkyard Gang". I looked at it and thought "wow, that's a pretty cool band name", but then I was disappointed. So from now on, just call me Fatal Bert.

: My computer blew up. Fortunately, the hard drives seem okay. I'm not sure whether or not the motherboard got it or whether it was just the power supply, but I just got a new motherboard that I never installed because it wouldn't fit right in my case and my video card wouldn't fit in it. So really the whole experience has just been an impetus for me to buy the missing pieces.

: Beautiful Soup 2.1.0 contains a bunch of new methods that solve a large class of problems that previously required that you write a while loop that navigated the parse tree.

I'd been meaning to do this for a while, but the impetus for me actually doing it was that I ended up writing one of those while loops in the screen-scraping script I wrote for the vaporware Productivity Hacks book. With the new stuff in 2.1.0 I could trim a line of code from the manuscript and make it easier to explain.

In fact, Beautiful Soup 2.0 (and the RSS feed builder mentioned earlier, which is going to have a life of its own once I finish the hack) was done for the same reason: so I wouldn't have to explain in print what this complicated code was supposed to do. This is the true power of documentation: it forces you to make things work in a way that's easier to explain. Assuming you care about the people who are reading your documentation, I mean.

[Comments] (1) Damn frogs, stealing our women!: Every since I was very young I've been fascinated with the story of the frog who would a-wooing go. There are so many variants of the song, but they're all clearly about the same frog and mouse.

Sometimes they get married and everything's fine. Sometimes they get married but then eaten by a fish or a heron or a cat. Sometimes they get eaten in the sixth verse for no real reason. It's like a probability distribution of all the different ways the lives of the frog and mouse could end up. They probably got eaten, but I prefer the versions where they don't. Cause having them get eaten just seems like

I'm tired of singing this song to you, mm-hmm
I'm tired of singing this song to you, mm-hmm
I'm tired of singing this song to you
They all got eaten by a bird, and away it flew
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, the end

Especially when it happens in the sixth verse.

[Comments] (4) Restaurant Review: Watercress on Valencia. A little pricey: $20 for three-course menu. They do one flavor really well: an earthy butteriness that was detected in beets, candied nuts, mushrooms, and chicken. Maybe it was just butter, but how do you get butter into a cube of beet?

Big problems setting portion expectations. We got salads and they were tiny (and tasty). Then the entrees were enormous (and tasty, though a little salty). We held off on the entrees so we'd have room for dessert, and then the desserts were tiny (and not good).

Oh, I need to review the really good place we went to in Provo. Later.

Uncle Morty's Dub Shack: I saw the series finale of Enterprise on Sumana's pre-post-production press preview DVD, but Sumana has embargoed me from telling you about it, so instead I will talk about Uncle Morty's Dub Shack. This is the funniest MST3K-style TV show since MST3K. In fact I think it is the only MST3K-style TV show since MST3K, but I'm not trying any predicates-on-sets-with-only-one-member tricks on you; it actually is funny. The setup is very similar to MST3K, but its episodes are only a half-hour long so it moves a lot faster than MST3K. It's also significantly lowerbrow than MST3K, but not as lowbrow as I'd feared. It's like an Adult Swim realization of MST3K.

The conceit is way too complicated, like a movie version of Pee-Wee's Playhouse that spends forty-five minutes building up Pee-Wee Herman as an eccentric cyberneticist who after his wife leaves him decides to build a strange playhouse with sentient talking chairs, etc. There's a theme song that explains the idea, but before that you get a thirty second-intro to the theme song that puts it in context, and by the time it's all over you've lost a good chunk of the air time.

Basically, four slackers are compelled to dub English versions of old Bollywood and kung fu films, but they don't have any translated scripts, so they just make up whatever story seems to fit the action. The show is half dubbed film clips and half skits like the ones before the movie on MST3K. Sumana originally thought the skits were dumb and fast-forwarded through them, but they're actually pretty funny and often clever.

Uncle Morty's Dub Shack is on the poorly-named Imaginasian TV, the new basic-cable answer to local Chinese channels. They run an episode practically every day, and it's not the big watching-a-movie investment of an MST3K episode. You just get the ten minutes of the movie about which the show's creators could make up the funniest story.

[Comments] (1) Restaurant Jargon: I've written before about words that only show up on restaurant menus, weird vegetables, and techniques like "coulis". At Watercress there was tomato something, "tomato coralage" or some similar word. I asked the waiter what a tomato corolage was, and he said it was just tomato sauce. So either he was patronising me, or he didn't actually know, or this mystery word actually means "made into sauce" and was just put on the menu to make the food sound fancy.

I've decided that when I see a word I don't recognize on a restaurant menu, I'll write it down to remember it, and expose its true meaning here on NYCB. First, the only cooking term so far I've learned from menus: coulis is a sauce made in a blender and strained to make it seedless and very smooth. In restaurants it is usually used to garnish a dessert, and is inevitably made from two fruits: raspberries plus something really off-the-wall like passionfruit. Using three fruits in a coulis would clutter up the menu. Using one makes it seem cheap.

Also, jicama, a food I first saw on restaurant menus. Jicama is a South American root vegetable that has the texture of an apple. I can't decide whether or not I like it.

[Comments] (2) Potato Blue Cheese Soup: I was going to make a potato-leek soup similar to Ultimate Chowdah, but the cream in the fridge had gone bad. So I came up with the idea of using blue cheese to thicken the soup instead of cream. It was definitely one of my better ideas.

Melt butter in soup pan. Add aromatics and salt, and sweat. Add broth, potatoes, corn, and herbs. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes. Get out the stick blender and blend it. Stir in the blue cheese. Add pepper to taste. Yum.

For the record, the aromatics I used were one onion, part of a leek, and two stalks of baby garlic. Yes, it's Clean Out The Fridge Daze here at Leonard's house.

[Comments] (4) : What's a webpage you've always wished had an RSS feed? I need a demo site for the RSS feed builder. I've already done two, but one is for the O'Reilly book and the other (new books from Dover) requires some fancy scraping that makes it too complicated to be an example.

[Comments] (5) : Yesterdate, the 8th of May, I installed seeds in my garden. Sunflowers, watermelons, corn, and "garden beans" (As opposed to beans that grow in the rec room? They look like green beans so I planted them.). I mention this so that I'll have a record of when I planted these things. I don't remember when I planted the potatoes, so I don't know when to reap the harvest. I don't even know how potato plants work. I guess I'll find out when I dig one up.

Still to plant: canteloupe, pumpkin. Already planted: potatoes, rhubarb, garlic.

My mother says there's no way to know what to grow: you just have to plant things and see if they die or not. Nothing grew when I planted last year, but I planted way too late and also the soil in my backyard was all dead. Not even weeds were growing there. I don't have that problem anymore!

Scrape 'N' Feed: I came up with a name for my RSS feed helper, and fixed it up, and I hereby release it. I don't know if I'm allowed to put that example on the actual page to illustrate the module, or if it has to be first published in the O'Reilly book.

I probably never would have come up with the idea for this module if it hadn't been for the need to compress the large feed-scraping problem into a small "Hacks" entry. I've never done so much work for a hundred dollars. (However, I have done a whole lot more work for nothing.) You are the privileged recipients; my feed-scraping has never been easier than with this module. Though sometimes I get the feeling that scraping web pages into RSS feeds is just an obscure hobby of me and a few others.

Update: Actually I have done more work for less than a hundred dollars. When I was about 10, I dug up a huge tree stump in the side yard. It took me most of the summer, on and off. I think I got fifty dollars for it.

[Comments] (1) Spam Poem:

tying steps my
pretty fly
human prison side reference anything fly

[Comments] (3) Use The Bike Rack: Kevin thought Community-Supported Agriculture schemes were for dirty hippies, but then I showed him this one where you go to San Juan Batista and pick up half a dang cow to take home.

[Comments] (2) : Beets. Pumpkins (smallish ones you can eat, not the big ones just make big doorstops that connote "autumn!"). Canteloupe. That's all the seeds I got.

Check out this thing that finds paths between Wikipedia entries. I love this kind of thing, and this is the most impressive one I've seen. It's as fast as Downhill even though it's probably got an order of magnitude more data to match up.

DSR: i want a website where you can make a baby and you get money and play games and go shopping

A website, huh?

[Comments] (1) Friday Pie-Blogging: Going to Seth's party. I made a vegan strawberry-rhubarb pie, with rhubarb from my garden. The first fruits of my garden! Fun fact: the leaves of the rhubarb plant are a deadly poison! Well, they're a poison anyway. Much like lilies.

[Comments] (2) : I came up with the perfect name for my restaurant: "Overkill". It signifies everything I want in a restaurant. I don't think I actually want to have a restaurant, though. Too much work, not enough payoff.

[Comments] (3) Things That Are Fun: Writing stuff to fulfil various obligations. It's kind of slow going. My creativity seems to be exhausted for the moment. Thus, this spectacularly dull entry. Anyway, here's a cool picture of a mola mola, and Kris is going to start doing another comic soon.

Still Nothing Interesting Happening: Having no luck getting all the parts of my computer to work together: my video card seems to have taken over the PCI bus, preventing anything else from working. I knew we never should have moved past 1993 computer technology. I have given up getting it to work until I get my articles written.

On the plus side, strawberries are delicious.

[Comments] (4) : My mother likes the map of recent earthquakes in California. Maybe she'll enjoy TASTING THE FUTURE with the map of earthquake risk in the next 24 hours, calculated from the other map with scientific formulae.

[Comments] (3) : There are pictures of Lily on my camera. How did that happen?

More Hits: I just heard a car alarm that sounded like "Take Me Out" by Franz Ferdinand.

[Comments] (1) : I have read a few chess tutorials in my time but none has held my attention like Predator at the Chessboard. Maybe it's just the dinosaurs.

This site is titled Predator at the Chessboard, and is decorated with dinosaurs; yet the dinosaurs pictured are herbivores. Is this not a contradiction of some sort? In fact it isn't; and this, patient reader, for two reasons.

Yes, now it is the plants who are the prey.

[Comments] (1) : I misspelled "metadata" as "meatdata", which is funny because I bet "metadata" and "meatdata" are opposites.

[Comments] (2) Xiao Loong And Thanks For All The Fish: Yesterday: date with Sumana. We went to Xiao Loong in West Portal, a tiny Chinese restaurant which I've always thought would be really classy just because the door is painted a really cool shade of red. Well, it is pretty classy. They use a great technique where they dip things into hot oil for one millisecond and then stir-fry. The sauces are good but the tofu was in big chunks that didn't absorb the sauce very well. We had to mash it up to make it not bland yet covered with sauce.

Video rental time! We got The Great Dictator and the original Ladykillers. The Great Dictator was alternatively hilarious and bizarrely sentimental. You don't see movies with names like The Great Dictator anymore. I miss that.

Oh, one weird thing about this movie. At the very very beginning there's a scene during World War I and Charlie Chaplin is playing a German soldier. So you think he's playing fake-Hitler, because of course real-Hitler was a soldier in World War I and used this to his political advantage later. But apparently this was not common knowledge in 1940, because in the first scene Charlie Chaplin is playing the other guy in the movie, the everyman barber who just looks like fake-Hitler, and it's incredibly disorienting. You're expecting in the first scene the kind of vicious anti-Hitler humor you end up getting later on in the movie, because c'mon this guy is Baby Fake-Hitler, but he's played as a garden-variety buffoon, the Tramp, not fake-Hitler at all.

We just finished The Ladykillers and it too was great. Truly this is the weekend we struck comedy gold. About halfway through I realized that Alec Guinness' mannerisms in that movie are just the same as Danny O'Brien's mannerisms. I expect the movie would be even funnier if you watched the whole thing imagining it's Danny O'Brien planning the heist.

I inherited a corduroy jacket from my grandfather, which I wear sometimes when I go out. It's great because it makes me classy. Without the jacket I haven't shaved and I'm wearing ratty jeans and a T-shirt I got for 25 cents at a yard sale. With the jacket I get let into restaurants.

Back to working on article.

: Reading The Metaphysics of Star Trek because I got it for free somehow. I can never tell if the people who write these books are required to incorporate every single relevant reference from the TV show, or if they're just really good at picking and choosing examples to illustrate the various controversies.

The book is a pretty good introduction to the problems of mind and identity; I had not previously heard of the closest-container schema for numerical identity, and it's interesting but it doesn't make me feel any better about going through the transporter. Plus this book introduces a great term which I think deserves wider use: "recruited matter".

So it's a lot better book than I thought it would be, and not so aggressively "that is impossible" as The Physics of Star Trek, which I must have also somehow gotten for free because I wouldn't have bought it. These books apparently just fall off the backs of trucks into my lap. I believe Sumana is involved.

[Comments] (3) Found Fiction: Sometimes the new Project Gutenberg texts that show up in my RSS feed are really interesting, but usually they're boring sentimenal novels of the nineteenth century. However even boring sentimental novels can provide entertainment value via their lists of illustrations at the front of the book. When each illustration is captioned with a corresponding line from the book, you can read the captions as a sort of derivative work created at semi-random out of sentences from the book. It often makes for intriguing literature.

For instance, The Day of Days we get this little denoument:

"What I want to say is—will you be my guest at the theatre tonight?"

"You are the one woman in a thousand who knows enough to look before she shoots!"

Facing her, he lifted his scarlet visor.

He was Red November.

And in Little Eve Edgarton this madcap comic gem:

"Music! Flowers! Palms! Catering! Everything!"

"I am riding," she murmured almost inaudibly

"I would therefore respectfully suggest as a special topic of conversation the consummate cheek of—yours truly, Paul Reymouth Edgarton!"

"Your paper-doll book?" stammered Barton

"Don't delay me!" she said, "I've got to make four hundred muffins!"

Suddenly full comprehension broke upon him and he fairly blurted out his astonishing information

"You're nice," he said. "I like you!"

"Any time that you people want me," suggested Edgarton's icy voice, "I am standing here—in about the middle of the floor!"

Man, four hundred muffins. Almost makes me want to read the book. Actually I just skimmed it and that one's not too bad.

When Things Happen: My Soy-lent Green idea has come to fruition as HuFu. Specifically it has come to fruition as T-shirts and other paraphernalia about the purported product; you can't actually buy any.

[Comments] (2) become one of the low rates: Continuing my interest in mortgage spam. About 90% (or, perhaps, 3.77%) of the recent mortgage spam I've seen tries to give the impression that this is a follow-up to some earlier missed connection. For instance, from the most recent specimen to get past my filters: "We tried to contact you earlier about flnanclng your home at a lower rate."

Why is this such a common feature of mortgage spam? Are they trying to trick the people who are trying to get a mortgage but haven't heard back from the bank? A sort of phishing applied to customer poaching?

: List of possible terrorist plans. Includes dumb ones, and oddballs like "Terrorists might throw the nation's largest pancake breakfast." "Terrorists might unplug ticker tape thing." I think I've done that by accident. This needs to be an NKI list. Robotfindkitten: Public Safety Edition. Be alert!

: New feeds at the automat, for Kris' dual comic threat Checkerboard Nightmare and Starshift Crisis.

[Comments] (5) Ultra Guilttrip: Big ole weblog entry on recommendation systems mentions the Ultra Gleeper, and Paolo Massa, whose paper I referenced in the UG paper, has also noticed it. I find a lot of good weblogs to subscribe to from backlinks and being del.icio.used.

I have from the beginning felt that my paper is a much better contribution to the field of computer science than the Ultra Gleeper itself. The Gleeper, like all flesh, is frail and has shortcomings, but the paper exists in the realm of ideas, and solves all the damn problems and crowns me king of the world already.

Regrettably I have used this fact as an excuse to not work on making the Ultra Gleeper easier to install and use. I am a mess, I have writing assignments and even despite that I'm lazy and don't do work (this is also the reason I have not responded to your email). Also I beat myself up about the absolute amount of time I waste, even though by relative standards I'm a pretty productive guy.

Oh yeah, as long as I'm touting accomplishments that just highlight my lack of follow-through. blogs.gnome.org has started using NewsBruiser for their user weblogs, and they say nice things about me that I don't think are deserved. Also Benjamin Kahn ported one of those standard weblog themes (ie. one of the ones you see everywhere on weblogs of all shapes and sizes) to NewsBruiser. It looks nice!

: Let us now praise famous Josh Myers. This occasional NYCB commentor has recently done two things of note. First, he came up with a clever way of determining form submission encodings by hiding known HTML entities in forms and seeing how the web browser screws them up. Useful... and deadly! In certain extremely borderline situations.

Second, Josh has started a reading group for The Art of Computer Programming. His aim: use group dynamics and the fear of failure to make the members of his pact keep reading the thing and working the exercises. I always knew peer pressure was a technology capable of substantial non-infringing use.

[Comments] (3) What People Did Before The Internet: Went crazy in Antarctica.

[Comments] (2) : I've always wanted to write an early history of character sets, but I've been beaten to it by the guy who wrote FidoNet. Way to rub it in.

[Comments] (2) : In Bakersfield, as seems to be the tradition. Went to the Bakersfield Home and Leisure Expo, which was on the fairgrounds and sounded like it would be like the county fair. Unfortunately it was only like the part of the county fair that's a big ripoff. There were a couple desultory snack bars, and a single building full of booths for various businesses, mostly mortgage-related. I expected them to come up to me and act like they already knew me. Cool things: Jerky Hut, where I got some habanero beef jerky for Kevin, and this business that sets up dress-up tea parties for little girls. Yes, the thing girls once did as a normal leisure activity is now catered and done as a birthday party or something. It's like if someone tried to sell me a party where you go swimming and then play Nintendo. But Rachel seemed very interested in the tea-party idea, so maybe I'm missing something.

Oh, the reason we wanted to go in the first place was my mother heard that there's this guy who does topiary dinosaurs, and we wanted to see that. He was not there. There are topiary dinosaurs online, though.

: For lack of anything better to do Rachel and I went to see the new Star Wars movie. And it was pretty good as such things go, though... well, if I start complaining about things I'll stop liking the movie. Just one thing: all the scenes take place in furniture catalogs. In fact, furniture catalogs are more realistically furnished than the scenes in this movie. Nobody in the movie has any paperwork or magazines lying around or anything. It's creepy. But this, as with all of this movie's shortcomings, just leaves me wondering if the same shortcomings are also present in the original movies, hidden behind a veil of nostalgia. Come out from behind that veil of nostalgia and fight, you cowardly shortcomings!

[Comments] (1) Dr. Teeth: So I went to the dentist to get a crown put on the tooth that's had a temporary filling for three years, and he didn't seem incredibly impressed with the job my braces did straightening my teeth. Personally I think my mutant tooth is still a little crooked but on the whole they're straight enough. Anyway, he tried to upsell me on some gumline cosmetic surgery that was just plain weird.

Here's a rendition of my two upper front teeth with the gumline:


As you can see from my state-of-the-art diagram, the gumline above the mutant tooth is higher than the rest of my gumline. That pesky tooth is weird enough to guarantee I'll never be in a cereal commercial, but it's not a big deal. This is where the upsell came in. The reason it was weird was that I'd think cosmetic surgery might be used to restore my gumline to the population average, making it look like this:


But it seemed like my dentist was proposing raising the other tooth's gumline, bringing me further from the population average for the sake of local symmetry:


And making me look like a rabbit. No thanks. Of course, we've already established that I know nothing about teeth or how they're supposed to go into the mouth of Homo sapiens, so maybe that gumline isn't as weird as it looks.

[Comments] (3) : Man, the heck with this.

<M <Y
Y> M>


Unless otherwise noted, all content licensed by Leonard Richardson
under a Creative Commons License.