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: Wait, MST3K is now ripping off Uncle Morty's Dub Shack?!

: A sonnet (about sonnets!) written in Inform 7.

: Foo Camp caused a fairly big change in my mental layout which I haven't talked about yet; that's my attitude towards hardware. I'd always known that there were people who built robots and other crazy things out of spare parts, and when I was a kid I'd wanted to be one of those people, but I didn't have anyone to show me how that works, and my spare parts just lay around and stayed spare. My experience came from building PCs and hooking up audio equipment. So I built up this Lego (LEGO)-like attitude towards hardware. I thought of wires as specially designed and standardized objects like quarter-inch audio cables.

This changed at the MAKE table where I did something I'd never done before: I took something (an iron) apart with someone explaining what I got out of it. The someone was named Mike and I don't remember his last name.

I removed a motor from an iron. I attached it with alligator clips to the wire poking out of a stripped laptop supply. The motor turned. That's all it took to change my attitude. There's nothing special about wires; it's just electrons. I knew this on an abstract level, but I'd never done it before, and without a little guidance I wouldn't have been able to identify the motor or hook it to the power supply without killing myself.

Anyhow, I now think I could build a robot out of spare parts. But the other thing I found out is that they have to be the right spare parts. There is no Turing completeness for hardware, and there's only so much you can do with the stuff in an iron. However now I'm interested in going through the big electronics catalog I got mysteriously in the mail.

Now I will go eat a whole pie: Sad, funny emails from online dating sites.

: Solar-powered wireless networks on the backs of snapping turtles. I was watching this talk about mola molas, and the lecturer said a big worry was that the expensive transmitter tags wouldn't earn their keep. They transmit data to a satellite about a year after being attached. If the mola dies in the meantime you don't get the data. When the transmitters communicate with each other you've got distributed backups.

[Comments] (2) : Tomorrow: birthday party. Today: being really sweaty. I haven't mentioned this yet, but my asteroid mining story got me into Viable Paradise! Now that's excitement! I'm going to room with Rachel Chalmers.

[Comments] (1) : Sumana gave me an awesome birthday present: a commissioned painting of the first pirate on the moon! (More party pictures coming soon). I had been talking about commissioning such a painting for years, but Kevin and his deadbeat artist friends were unwilling to part with their "artistic integrity" for the less-than-princely sums I'd earmarked for the project. Sumana bypassed the mainstream art world altogether and went to the MoCCA comic convention, whose artists prefer to say "awesome!" when you ask them to draw lunar pirates.

[Comments] (2) Time Bank: I was thinking about the "time bank" feature from back in the days of BBSes. A typical BBS was hooked up to 1 or 2 phone lines, so only 1 or 2 people could be online at once. This led to per-day time limits for users. You'd get 30 or 60 minutes of BBS time, which was enough to download about four files. Then you got kicked off so someone else could call. It was a cruel, but fair system.

The time bank was usually a BBS door (note to today's youth: terminology makes no sense) that let you deposit some of today's time and come back to collect it later. I had one of these on my BBS, but I never put any structured thought into when they're useful. Andy and I just liked having more doors than any other local BBS.

I remember using time banks occasionally, but I'm not sure why. Looking back on my previous behavior (which I barely remember), I imagine I'd use the time bank just before logging out of a BBS--it's not a big time investment to pop over to the time bank, and you can use the extra time later to download a huge file (possibly as much as a megabyte!).

A couple callers to my BBS hoarded time: they'd call in just to deposit all their time in the bank, and continue this every day until they'd reached the maximum balance. Seems like, strangely enough, a waste of time.

It should be possible to do some trendy Freakonomics-like analysis of time banks. I can't think of any analogous situations, where an allotment of time is made fungible within certain limits. Any ideas?

Spamazon: Doing research for The Future: A Retrospective I stumbled upon hundreds of thousands of identical products on Amazon whose names were generated from popular search requests. Product photos are generated, or chosen randomly from stock photo repositories. A sample collection, from the incredibly prolific author "James Orr and Jassen Bowman". One unsatisfied customer:

This CD has absolutely NOTHING to do with selling corporate gift baskets. It's a trick. It is really about selling "information" over the internet. If you are interested in that, then buy it. But know that you are first being tricked by the title, so I don't know if I would trust the product. I bought the EXACT SAME cd, only the title was about selling "cranberry juice" instead of "corporate gift baskets". I threw it away.

On the other hand (from a review of Your Internet Business - Sell Diaper Cakes In Your Spare Time):

I've finally made my first million! Hot cake is an understatement! Diaper cakes is the new wave and you could be getting in on the bottom!

The best thing is you don't even have to buy this CD set 'cause Diaper Cakes sell themselves!!

But probably my favorite spam-product is The Mega How To Earn Extra Money, Success Principles and Sales Models for Pictures Of Aliens Businesses 3 CD Power Pack. You've got pictures of aliens and you're scraping the bottom of the marketing barrel figuring out how to make money off them!

Seriously, Amazon, get this crap off your store. PS: diaper cakes are real. Flee!

: Last year at this time, Internet madman Julian Cash mailed painted toy balls to a number of people, including Brad Fitzpatrick, Michael Schwern, and Andy Lester. This year he sent one to me. None can speculate as to his motives.

I figured out it was Julian fairly easily, though I briefly considered it as a birthday present from Elise.

: I just got resume spam from Hari Puttur. Of course it's not quite as funny as making fun of spam names since that's probably his real name.

: Today I started reclaiming my lost inheritance by buying a compact OED from the nearby thrift store. That sucker is heavy.

[Comments] (2) : This list of wifi network names reminds me to tell you that ever since we moved into our apartment we've seen a network called SmokeHERB. Sadly, the obvious password doesn't work.

[Comments] (1) : I'm reading The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose and on page 295 Frank Muir drops a maddening hint:

Thackeray contributed hundreds of short prose items and drawings to Punch in its early years. These attracted little notice except for one drawing: this became famous because nobody then or since has been able to see the point of it. A rival magazine helpfully offered five hundred pounds to anybody who could explain the drawing. Nobody could.

Citation needed! This sounds like the "Cow Tools" of the nineteenth century, but I can't find it or anyone else talking about it online. Internal evidence from TOBoHP says the cartoon is from 1841 or 1842, and all of 1841 is on Project Gutenberg. But I don't see the point of most old Punch cartoons, which makes it impossible for me to see the one that never made sense to anybody.

Update, much later: Mystery solved!

: More goodies from the Oxford Book of Humorous Prose: Australian writer Marcus Clarke's late-19th-century metamelodrama The Haunted Author, recovered from the bowels of Google Books and cleaned up to HTML.

[Comments] (3) : Sumana went off to work on a farm and I suddenly became extremely lazy. I've spent the past two days doing not much but playing old DOS games. However I think the DOS game bug has now passed. Here's my new plan: I've got six songs recorded that you haven't seen unless I've shown them to you. I'm going to go to sleep now and when I wake up I'm going to try and record one or two more.

Then I'll have enough stuff to release a little album, pretty much ten years to the day since the release of Nowhere Standard Time. (I don't know when exactly it was, as NYCB archives don't go back that far and July 1997 is missing from my mail archive. It doesn't matter. Stop tearing apart your ARCHIVE directory looking for the exact date, me. PS: I was still working on it on 7/14. That's as close as I got.

Speaking of NST: before she went to commune with the cabbages, Sumana bunched up the video I shot on my California trip (most of it shot by accident), and turned it into a music video for NST's "Relativity". It's the all-time second Google Video You Can Bruise. Enjoy it, if you can.

[Comments] (1) Oysters Before Swine: Had dinner last night with Rachel Chalmers et al. Rose presented Rachel with some clothes for her kids, including one that said "enfant terrible." Someone (I think India) suggested a mini "I'm blogging this" T-shirt for infants. I countered this saying that "I'm being blogged" would be more accurate. It was just like the Algonquin round table! (p533-556 of The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose)

: I was just getting ready to release my awesome new album, and then I discovered that there's a new radio sitcom about Bletchley Park. I can't compete with that!

[Comments] (5) : OK, here you go. The new album is Omne Animal Triste and it's got nine songs you've probably not heard before. Blaaah!

: In the 80s and 90s there were a lot of cyberpunk-inspired "hacking" games (here's a bunch of reviews). In these games you "jacked in" to the "network", battled ICEs, and stole data from mainframe computers.

There were claims through the nineties that "corporate espionage" was the next big moneymaker for the military-industrial complex after the fall of the Soviet Union, but it never amounted to much and even I could tell that it was a poor substitute for fighting commies. Very few people made a living cracking computers over a network; it was mostly amateurs looking for thrills.

Today, computer crime is big business, but the games have disappeared. I've got an idea for a modern-day game about computer crime. Instead of ripping off faceless corporations, you're defrauding the general public. You can set up phishing and malware sites, create botnets, send out spam, sell fake pills, etc. Pitfalls include spam filters, ISP shutdowns, vigilante activity, and mob hits.

Would this game be fun? I'm pretty sure it would be fun by the standards of the 80s cyberpunk game, but that's not a terribly high bar to set. Here's a card game called "Botnet" that looks fun but is a little lower-level than the game I'm thinking of.

[Comments] (2) : I was reading the science fiction-y 1964 RAND Corporation report Habitable Planets For Man (which has what might be the best figure title ever, "Hypothetical satellites of the Earth", also see Preliminary Design of a World-Circling Spaceship). It fed into my growing belief that the RAND Corporation is itself an organization out of a science fiction novel, right down to the ominous name and alien amorality. However I was unable to think of any science fiction that actually features the RAND Corporation. Anyone? I'll settle for offhand mentions.

I'm also interested in RAND-like entities; I can think of two of those off the top of my head. The Foundation is a lot like RAND, which makes sense since they come out of the same ideology. There was also a Star Trek: Voyager episode which had a RAND-like group of mercenary aliens (inc. Jason Alexander) but, typically, didn't do anything interesting with them. That's all I got.

Oh, speaking of the Foundation, there's a fun book by Donald Kingsbury called Psychohistorical Crisis which is written as if Asimov's psychohistory had caught on as a common science-fictional trope instead of being a one-off. It would be interesting to see some psychohistory stories as they'd have been written in the 60s or 80s.

And just to take this entry further off its original point, I find it interesting that psionics used to be fairly common in science fiction (thanks to John Campbell) and now it's kind of tacky and pushes your story towards fantasy. But you can see a residue of it with all the telepathic characters in Trek and other science fiction TV shows.

[Comments] (3) : Going to SF tomorrow for job interview/consulting. Basically going to be busy or on planes for the rest of the week.

[Comments] (1) : Well, I'm back.

[Comments] (2) : Not enough people and things are "the celebrated". Basically the only thing that's "the celebrated" is the jumping frog of Calaveras County. But almost anything that's appreciated by a medium-sized group of people can be described as "the celebrated". Or you can just declare something "the celebrated" by fiat, like Mark Twain did.

Job Interview Karaoke: Derived from Powerpoint Karaoke. You're given someone's resume and role-play a job interview pretending to be that person. The job you're interviewing for may also be chosen randomly. For higher stakes, submit someone else's resume to a real job listing and try to get the job.

Mini Game Roundup: Battle Tanks is a fun game of wanton destruction. The AI is pretty bad but it's fun to just drive around destroying the game world.

[Comments] (1) :

"Charmed, I'm sure."
"What does that even mean?"
"I think it's a veiled insult. 'Well, I can't be bothered to check my own mental state, but...'"

: Tiny Pocket Wisherman update. Don't bother upgrading unless your list was having problems before.

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