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: Sumana started talking about a boring ergonomics lecture which was so boring that the Powerpoint slides had been printed out in advance and given as notes. Presentation slides do not serve the same purpose as notes, but they're close enough for these purposes I guess. Sumana had not seen this lecture but suspected that it was the kind of presentation where etymology was deployed as an offensive weapon.

"Ergonomics is a Latin word," said I, kicking off this putative lecture. "It derives from 'ergo', 'therefore', and 'nomics', 'self-modifying games'. Therefore, self-modifying games. You may ask yourself, what does any of this have to do with ergonomics as practiced today? And you may ask yourself, where is that large automobile? And you may say to yourself, this is not my beautiful house!" Etc.

Sumana asked me to write about this so there would be a NYCB entry today. I have been writing all day already and the world is coming to an end, so I'm not in a writing mood at this moment, but the writing is done now.

The Nation Demands More Stupid Fake Pothead Names: "Guido van Rollum"

[Nb. the old set is here]

: How to Make Hot Sauces. Includes inevitable "further dilution with vinegar".

[Comments] (6) Market Research: If I were to write even more about food than I already do, what kind of stuff would y'all be interested in?

[Comments] (5) Famous Last Wor...: I've heard about the "last, unfinished work" of various writers and composers. The piece they were working on when they died. But I've got a monotonically increasing number of "pieces" I'm working on, and I don't see that ever changing. When I die I'm going to leave behind dozens or hundreds of unfinished works. I just now noticed this discrepancy, which seems like a moderately huge one. Is this what actually happened for Bach, Schubert, et al.? Is the idea of the one unfinished work just a romanticization and simplification? Or am I just really disorganized and undisciplined?

Johnny the Renaissance Loser: Google Memewatch: "why can't johnny"

[Comments] (4) DSR: virgin in the web people

I think there needs to be a B-movie with that title. Do they even make B-movies anymore? It doesn't seem like it. The movie business has gotten too complicated and unmaneuverable, just like everything else.

Day of the Awesome APOD: B-movie title theme today apparently. Look what our space probes have revealed!

Attack of the the Moon Illusion: I had this stupid hypothesis about the cause of the famous moon illusion, but when I did a search for a page to which to link "moon illusion" I found The Moon Illusion Explained, which blew my hypothesis out of the water. That page posits a hypothesis that, while much more complicated, is also less vague and has facts to back it up. I find it satisfyingly analagous to explanations of the Monty Hall paradox, in the way it supposes your brain confuses two different concepts (in this case, linear size and angular size). Bizarre tidbit:

Interestingly, Ross and Plug (2002) cite many old reports that people (including some scientists) had said the moon looked only about 10 to 30 centimeters in diameter!

This gives me a great idea: the Special Edition Collector's Moon! This limited edition miniature silver-plated copy of the moon is the perfect tribute to your own haphazard spending habits. Act now, and 5% of the profits will join the other 95% of the profits in my checking account.

[Comments] (5) Word Problems That Turn Out Not To Be That Interesting II: I noticed that the word "begin" has letters that are pretty evenly spaced, or at least they look evenly spaced if you have teeth as bad as mine used to be. B is letter 2, E is letter 5 (+3), G is letter 7 (+2), I is letter 9 (+2), N is letter 14 (+5). I wondered if there were any words (of more than two letters) whose letters were precisely spaced. This is the kind of thing I think about, as you'll recall if you remember the days of The Arbitrary Text Code.

So I wrote a little Ruby script to run against the word list I use for the Eater of Meaning, and it turns out there are such words! But they all have only three letters. Here they are, minus a proper name ("Stu", skip=1).

I changed it to allow one index of slop and it found a bunch of four-letter words plus "accede" and "deeded". So not terribly interesting. I was hoping to get one really interesting solution like "nowhere/abjurer" or "terra/green" from the rot13 puzzle, so that I could say "what common English word..." like on Weekend Edition, but it is not to be. The vowels are spaced too close together. In the field of two-letter words, though, it is kind of interesting that "me" has skip=-8 and "mu" has skip=+8.

[Comments] (1) : The Unofficial LEGO Builder's Guide sounds like a lot of fun. But the shouting! I can't take it!



: If coffinfish are not enough for you, check out the Deep Ocean Photography Gallery.

[Comments] (7) : In Bakersfield for Susanna's birthday. (It's also Sumana's birthday! Happy birthday! Incidentally I saw a fan of Sumana's on the freeway: the license plate said I LUV CES). Tomorrow I go down to LA to hang out with Adam and Kris, and for the first time in about ten years, Gabriel Koerner, who the New York Times once called "Gabriel Koerner", and then referred to on subsequent reference as "Mr. Koerner". Don't thank them; they're just following their style guide.

Hey, you know how you're supposed to start stories in the middle? I thought I was starting my story in the middle, but it's actually pretty close to the end, and I never noticed this basic fact until today. I've never been a fan of stories told almost entirely in flashback, like "As he wrote the end of this sentence, he thought about what life had been like when he'd first started writing this sentence." Maybe real writers don't like them either but they just come up on you all sneaky-like.

I wonder what's the shortest possible story told mostly in flashback. There must be one that's only one or two words.

: Had a great time in LA. Saw Gabe (as he predicted, Lost won the Emmy, to which I say bah), saw Adam and Kim and Kris, saw Pete Peterson II and Ann. Fun was had by all, connections were made and remade, ridiculous music was composed. Kris and I came up with a story idea which Kris is going to write and submit to McSweeney's. I'm just posting this to force him to do it.


: Sumana was in the comic book store and I was browsing and being bored. I noticed a Transformers graphic novel so I flipped through it, and I saw a truly pathetic sight. A Transformer was sitting in a chair in front of a (Transformer-designed) computer terminal, using it the way a human would use it. He was having trouble because the monitor was busted or something. Just sad. Use a null modem, man! It really disrupts my suspension of disbelief when a putatively alien character acts just like a human, because their alienness is just window dressing and wasn't well thought-out.

: "MREs may not be tasty, but at least they are fun and entertaining when cooked the improper way!"

[Comments] (2) : Attention Conservation Notice: would you like me to work at some interesting company or on some interesting project you have going? Devour my resume and send me mail.

I need to change my life. My current situation is not too bad but it is frustratingly lopsided. Currently I work at a job that's pretty boring, but I'm only working at it 3 days a week and I'm spending the other 2 workdays writing a book, which is really fun. I don't spend a lot of money, so 3/5 of my full-time salary is enough for me to live on.

I want another job, preferably one at a startup, because those tend to be less boring. As it happens, I occasionally get contacted by people who want me to work at their startups, and I just got a good offer to work on a really cool project. Unfortunately, working at a startup would seriously disrupt my work on the book, which I am loath to do. Even more unfortunately, this particular startup lives on the east coast, where I don't really want to move.

It's a good offer but not a slam-dunk, so before deciding what to do about it I want to see if there are any interesting companies here in California (or somewhere else nearby, or that let you telecommute) that would like to hire someone with my skills. I'm doing this mainly through NYCB because for some reason a lot of cool people read this weblog, and in my experience jobs found through networking turn out much better for everyone than jobs found through Craigslist.

I have a couple alternatives. The first is to maintain the status quo, which is not terrible and which has inertia on its side. The second is to work on the book full-time to get it done faster, and start looking for a job once the book is finished. The third is to become an author, making a living from puny book royalties and lucrative consulting work. Probably within a week I'll decide among these four paths.

I put my resume up for those who are interested; send me an email if you have any ideas, or comment about the general path you think I should take. My fate is in your hands, loyal readers. Disloyal readers not eligible.

[Comments] (1) : Pictured Rocks not pictured.

: If you want straight talk about REST web services but you don't want to buy my book where I dish out the aforementioned talk for what seems like forever, you can't do better than John Cowan's slides from XML 2005. We use the same metaphors and everything.

[Comments] (1) It's A Caaaake!: Worked all day preparing Sumana's birthday party, which is now winding down. I made a Borg cube cake that looked pretty good, and a vegan pumpkin pie that I was suspicious of and somehow everyone else picked up on that suspicion and nobody touched it.

Kent Johnson found a huge performance bug in Beautiful Soup, so look for a new version of that this weekend.

Bagels: Also presented at Sumana's birthday party: bagels. Easy to make if you have some time. Better than other bagels.

Very I/O intensive day today as I did basically nothing but read and write. Tomorrow I will try really hard to catch up on Beautiful Soup work.

[Comments] (3) Is It Beautiful Soup Yet?: I guess it is. I thought I would just fix the performance problem, but then I started looking through the backlog and I couldn't stop myself and I spent 45 minutes fixing bugs. I held off on fixing some of my backlog because I don't trust myself to write test cases for them at the moment.

I finished my writing quota early and spent most of the rest of the day at the beach with Sumana, which was lots of fun: interesting rocks, and snowy plovers. On the way there Sumana came up with the term "Goohoo" to describe the Oxbridge-like brain sinks where about 80% of my CollabNet ex-coworkers work now.

[Comments] (1) ACK Comes Alive: Story from my Mulla Nasrudin book:

Every Friday morning, Nasrudin arrived in a market town with an excellent donkey, which he sold.

The price which he asked was always very small; far below the value of the animal.

One day a rich donkey-merchant approached him.

"I cannot understand how you do it, Nasrudin. I sell donkeys at the lowest possible price. My servants force farmers to give me fodder free. My slaves look after my donkeys without wages. And yet I cannot match your prices."

"Quite simple," said Nasrudin. "You steal fodder and labour. I merely steal donkeys."

[Comments] (1) Sea Animal Obsession Time: Add "bu" to mola and you get mobula.

[Comments] (2) Guess The Verb!: Search request: Can anybody about benjamin Franklin?

Guess the verb!

[Comments] (1) : The [branch of science] Photo of the Day Bandwagon rolls on with Botany Photo of the Day.

[Comments] (17) : If I were to have business cards made, what should I put on them? I was thinking some little template on the back that would be useful to people.

[Comments] (2) Cheese Smackdown: Best cheese yet: Humboldt Fog. It's goat cheese, it's blue cheese, and it's gushy Brie-like cheese. Once it was the king of cheese; now you eat it with humble pie.

: This collaborative programming contest is a good visualization of how improvements happen to software, but I think the lessons might be applicable to the advance of knowledge generally. The contest program sees two types of improvement: incremental improvements that only help a little, and ways of rethinking the problem. The latter might help a lot or might actually make things worse for a while, but it allows lots of new incremental improvements. You could map this pretty easily to a paradigm-shift model of science.

: Print out games and play them. Great time sink; like BoardGameGeek, a better time sink than actually playing all those games would be. Includes, to pick one at random S-P-O-N-G-E, which appeals to so many of my friends in so many ways.

[Comments] (1) : I did get stuff accomplished today, but not anything that's visible right now. I'm reading A Fire Upon the Deep, which is just awesome (not just because it preemptively steals many of my ideas). I read Vinge's The Peace War and I thought it was kind of dull but this is great stuff. I love the big ole space opera.

[Comments] (6) : Man, that was a weird Arrested Development.

: How do you get on this list of doomed engineers? Tragic character flaw? Ironic death? Sheer cruelty of fate?

[Comments] (1) Depressing WWII Propaganda Posters:

Suddenly Popular: This picture.

First, there was Section 31: Now, Section 8 terrorizes fanfic writers.



c) Stories that deal with the previously unestablished death of a Star Trek character, or that establish major facts about or make major changes in the life of a major character, for instance a story that establishes a long-lost sibling or reveals the hidden passion two characters feel for each other.

d) Stories that are based around common clich├ęs, such as "hurt/comfort" where a character is injured and lovingly cared for, or "Mary Sue" stories where a new character comes on the ship and outdoes the crew.

From Sumana.

[Comments] (1) : Cedilla tries really hard to represent a Unicode text using the fonts you have available. Sort of a Unicode version of ASCII, Dammit.

: I made a big ol' challah for French toast tomorrow. It looks awesome! But how does it taste? I'll let history be the judge.

History: Yum! But a little dry.

Screw you, history!

[Comments] (2) : When is that baby due? Guesstimate with gnumed-pregcalc.

: "This day my oaths for drinking of wine and going to plays are out, and so I do resolve to take a liberty to-day, and then to fall to them again."

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