Thu Nov 01 2007 22:05:
Cool Google Tech Talk (via Sumana) on precursors to the Web. Haven't watched the whole thing so I don't know if it eventually impinges upon my still-unpublished essay about Gopher. Includes the Plankalkül of the Internet. Also the usual Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson stuff. Not many kids named Vannevar these days.
Update: Who shows up at the end? Vint Cerf!
Fri Nov 02 2007 18:15 Random VP Quote:
"You can have nanotech in Mundane SF, but you can only use it in textiles."
(3) Sat Nov 03 2007 08:29:
First, there was The Lego Fantasy Roleplaying Game. Then, there was BrickQuest. Now, there's BrikWars, the game of ultimate LEGO-like carnage.
(3) Sun Nov 04 2007 14:13 Brown Blanket:
I've spent time in some fancy hotels recently, mostly against my will. One really aggravating thing I've noticed is the nylon (!) blanket that's the same horrible sweaty scratchy blanket you get at the Motel 6, or when sleeping on the floor of someone's basement rec room in the 1970s. No matter how fancy the hotel gets, they never think of using a real blanket like you might use at home. In your real-high end hotels they do come up with the idea of sandwiching the blanket between two sheets. Like you won't notice it's still there. Also, that damn pea under the mattress!
Update: Wow, the day I posted this I checked into a hotel that doesn't have that blanket on the beds.
(3) Mon Nov 05 2007 07:33 Fanfic:
Presumably inspired by this Future Stuff review.
Incidentally, Greg Knauss registered a domain name for TF:AR, undoubtedly as some scheme to steal my Google juice. They're always after me lucky charms!
Tue Nov 06 2007 22:39 Next Stop: Livejournal:
Sorry, I don't want to write about the thing I was going to write about. I keep typing words and erasing them. Instead, check out these fascinating wargames about the Cold War and the civil rights movement.
(6) Thu Nov 08 2007 07:41:
This might be a futile question, but are there any printers that were designed as printers and not as ways to move ink units?
Fri Nov 09 2007 13:52 Together At Last! Search Requests:
liquid nitrogen and girls
If only liquid nitrogen supported life.
(1) Sun Nov 11 2007 18:07 Retro Kid:
On the train there was a nine- or ten-year-old kid with an 80s-style camera. He took pictures, and asked people if they remembered when that kind of camera was popular, if they'd ever seen what real film looks like, etc. It turned out he'd also applied for his own credit card, and been the first person in recent memory to be turned down for one.
Mon Nov 12 2007 20:39 Better Know A Game Roundup:
What better way to spend a holiday than by cleaning up my games-to-be-rounded-up directory?
- Duckmaze is too much
maze and not enough duck. There's a pretty servicable duck on the
title screen, but the duck in the game looks like
Pac-Man. Wall-pushing mechanism is isomorphic to Sokoban.
- Scum of the
Universe: Galaga with a trading component. Great idea, but the
Galaga component is really aggravating. There's a quest, moral
ambiguity, etc. but getting to phase 2 of the quest requires playing
about 100 not-terribly-difficult levels of Galaga. I don't have the
- Cultivation is a
lovely "social simulation" where you try to grow and harvest plants
while getting along with your neighbors and occasionally mating with
them to produce the next generation. Unfortunately it's kind of
depressing, because your neighbors inevitably manufacture some spat
over someone sleeping with someone else, and start poisoning the soil
making agriculture impossible. Then there's a race-against-time aspect
reminiscent of a bad SF novel, where you've got to get off the planet
before the world is destroyed by society's insoluble problems. I don't
know if this was the intention.
- The Goonies: 20th Anniversary
Edition is a decent-looking remake of the first Konami Goonies
game in the style of the second, much more popular game. As Sloth, of
"love Chunk" fame, you run around gathering keys and freeing the
Goonies while evading terrible enemies such as drops of water and the
stalactites those drops of water eventually form. Actually I've never
seen a game in which stalactite formation was a mechanic. Prove me
- Can't get Polybius to work in
WINE, but I wanted to mention it just because of the
Scummer is a satirical Roguelike from the author of Powder and
Letter Hunt. Uh, it looks like I never reviewed Letter Hunt.
- So! Letter
Hunt is a Roguelike where you get power-ups by killing monsters in
an order that spells out words. Recommended.
- While I'm at it, Jeff Lait's other roguelike, You Only Live Once
has the great character name of Farmer Amy and appears to have some
relationship to the Powder universe. It also has the sort of plot more
usually associated with interactive fiction than with roguelike games.
- Remember Blob Wars: Metal Blob Solid?
Now there's Blob
Wars: Blob And Conquer, the 3D game with the same graphics and
sense of blob blood 'n' guts. I was doing pretty well for a 3D game
until I encountered the bane of my existence: 3D platforms I had to
jump on. Oversensitive controls sent many a blob plummeting into the
acid lake. Your mileage may vary in the direction opposite mine.
- From blobs to slimes. I found Slime
Forest in my Game Roundup directory and thought it was that
pseudo-RPG game that teaches you katakana. Then I played it for a
while and it was just a regular pseudo-RPG. Then I was ambushed by
some slimes and it turned out to be a katakana tutor after all. So,
kind of slow playing. Not sure why that surprised me.
- I hate Manic Miner! There, I said it. The Marmite of video games
still exerts a nostalgic hold on Britons, but it's a terrible
game. It's extremely crude run-and-jump that rewards only after school
repetition and endless pixel-scale memorization. Plus, for a long time
before I played Jet Set Willy I read "Jet Pack Willy" and assumed
there was a jetpack in the game. The truth could not be further from
However, I do enjoy the totally random enemies, so I won't feel
terribly bad about pointing you to the MM-like Chaos Caverns
over at Dan's
Remakes. The gameplay is smoother, which makes the game a bit
(1) Thu Nov 15 2007 23:18:
I stumbled upon a guy selling Linux distribution CDs on eBay ("+BONUS Ubuntu!"). It's a volume business, about 200 sold for basically nothing + $8 shipping. Similar to the books you see sold on Amazon for a penny, but sketchier since most people probably wouldn't buy the cow if they knew they could get the milk for free. Or, indeed,
the cow for free.
(6) Sun Nov 18 2007 09:49 It's A Race Condition:
Lately Sumana has been obsessed with the theme songs to sitcoms. I heard some of these songs when I was a kid but they all merged into one. Understandably so, now that I hear them again from the next room. One thing I didn't pick up on back then was that the lyrics of many of the songs are made of mortared-together cliches. Now, I've written songs out of cliches, but I try to put my own spin on them or juxtapose them in interesting ways, and more importantly my songs don't become cultural touchstones.
A corollary of this is that the theme song to Star Trek: Enterprise would make a good sitcom theme song. I lack the raw materials and skill, but you could get some mileage out of playing the Enterprise theme song over the opening sequence to Perfect Strangers.
Another thing I didn't pick up on until now was that sitcom theme songs never mention the name of the sitcom, [Update: not true, see comments] probably because they were commissioned long before the name of the sitcom was finalized, and probably because they were written long before that and shopped out to multiple sitcoms. Also, a common trope in these songs is to talk about how the world has gone to pot and how the relationship formed by the sitcom's main characters (family/friendship/bar) is the last outpost of civilization. So you could switch a lot of theme songs and it would work fine.
As a test I improvised the worst imaginable theme song, for a sitcom called "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise". It was terrible.
Sun Nov 18 2007 20:57:
So this year I remembered the Nethack tournament before the last minute, and over the weekend I made my third ascension. I say that pretty casually but I got really lucky in that game and at the end what did I have to show for it? I'm up against players who can ascend multiple games in a row, such that a single ascension only gets me to the midpoint on the scale of trophies. So let this be a lesson to you! Somehow.
(5) Sun Nov 18 2007 23:56 Bed, Math, and Beyond:
When I was a kid there was an awesome math exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. Most of the other exhibits were chintzy early-80s interactive things where you'd pretend to run a McDonalds, or answer questions about acid rain to be rewarded with 30 seconds of Frogger. The math exhibit was not interactive; it just showed you awesome things that you would just mess up if you could touch them, like a demonstration of probability using balls that clattered through a pachinko machine to form a bell curve. Man, I loved that exhibit. There was lots of text I didn't read, and a huge timeline that I didn't really pay attention to, but it was comforting to know it was there. Surely, people who had put that much work into a math timeline were competent to model the normal distribution.
I've mentioned this exhibit before, in the context of the second time I saw it: in the Exploratorium in 2002. The exhibit is called "Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond", and it was on tour! I figured it would go back to Los Angeles afterward.
One of our corporate trips when we went to Boston was to the Boston Science Museum. This is an old-school wunderkammer museum that believes in showing off everything it's got with minimal overarching theme. A section of the bottom floor is full of cool model ships in glass cases, each donated by the widow of the guy who built the ship.
There's also a special self-justifying exhibit on collecting and classifying. And the Tinkertoy computer, a huge van de Graaff generator, a little Massachusetts state flag that was taken on Apollo 11, casts of hands with different developmental problems, stuffed animals in simulated biomes, glitzy biotech exhibit bought and paid for by Massachusett's biotech industry, diorama of people building a pyramid, etc. And the Mathematica exhibit!
Still on tour? I doubted the Boston Museum of Science would let any exhibit leave its premises once it had been set up. What was going on here? In a fit of brilliance, Ray and Charles Eames mass-produced the museum exhibit itself and gave it out to hungry museums across the land! "Two identical copies of the exhibition were made by the Eames Office in the sixties and they currently reside in Boston and Atlanta." The main one is right next door to me, having moved from LA to the New York Hall of Science.
Mon Nov 19 2007 23:36:
Must... post... on weekday... So some Don Marti-style links. Did you know that public-key cryptography was invented in the UK and then hidden and nothing done with it?
I'm really enjoying this diary of a developer of an Angband variant, to the extent that I'm probably going to play their Angband variant despite hating Angband variants. It lets you play around in Hobbiton! Incidentally, I'd really love a SimCity-type game for hobbits, something that does for hobbits what Dwarf Fortress does for dwarves.
Lego Abominations gets points for effort. I do like the swordfish/bicycle pairing.
A fun introduction to game cladistics.
Thu Nov 22 2007 22:53:
Hey, happy Thanksgiving. I'm here with my in-laws. I'm sorry I haven't been posting the usual drivel lately; as often happens, my new job is to blame. It's really cliche to say that but it turns out that clicheness has relatively little effect on truth value.
Fri Nov 23 2007 22:01 Ultimate Hollywood Trivia:
Ultimateness may vary, as may the definition of "trivia". Did you know that Ray Harryhausen is still alive and working?
Second, is there a name for that style of close singing you hear in the opening credits of 40s movies?
(5) Tue Nov 27 2007 19:02:
The NYC transit system has two places where you can do an "out-of-system transfer". In an OOST two stations aren't connected through the subway system, but you can get out, walk to the other station, and go back in without having to pay another $2. One of these transfers is just going down some stairs past a pizza restaurant and into the other station, but the Lexington Avenue external transfer has you walking four blocks.
For a while I've thought it would be really useful if there was an external transfer between Queensboro Plaza and Queens Plaza, which are about two blocks apart. Yesterday coming home from jury duty I resolved to spend $2 to evaluate the external transfer possibilities. I'm pretty sure they don't put an external transfer there because the area is a freaking deathtrap, cars going everywhere and bad signage and no crosswalks. It did get me home faster though.
Wed Nov 28 2007 23:28:
Sumana's DM Hal gives a rave for The Future: A Retrospective.
George Orwell correctly predicted that the future would be "a boot stomping on a human face forever," but he failed to perceive that in the real future the face and the boot would belong to the same person.
(4) Thu Nov 29 2007 17:25:
If you liked RESTful Web Services but thought the words were in the wrong order, you'll like Services Web RESTful.
Thu Nov 29 2007 21:37:
Sumana and probably other family members will enjoy this list of intellectually stimulating podcasts. Not like our podcasts, that's for sure.
Fri Nov 30 2007 19:38 QOTD:
Sumana on minimalist music: "It's like a zillion ringtones."
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