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: Ah, much better.

[Comments] (1) I'm Sorry, I Can't Seem To Read The Rest Of Your Message:

Dear Leonard,

Your newsbruiser was introduced in one of the magazines published in Korea, and

Communication Is Destroyed!: Daddy, where do disturbing search requests come from? Maybe from people turning search results into poetry. Junk food for the Eater of Meaning, a jungle of semiotic booby-traps for anyone else. From stack.

Guest Guest Weblog: A long time ago, Brendan said:

This looks like some kind of ancient Rube Goldberg chain reaction, where the only reactants are dinosaurs shooting lasers at other dinosaurs.

If that doesn't get you to click, I don't know what will.

How To Tell You're Going Crazy: Materials engineering is starting to look good.

FHW: Web Site Will Revolve Around Mars

What Happened?:

Subject: 91,426,295 0rders filled & counting... 8 jksbxvbdohahv
Subject: 13,771,942 0rders filled & counting... 4 kbvqhbc

[Comments] (1) Great Moments In Voicemail System Design:

"For service to an existing building, press 1."

What should have come next:

For service to a building that has yet to be built, press 2. For service to a demolished building press 3. For service to a hypothetical building, or to the concept of buildings in general, press 4.

[Comments] (5) : I got an apartment in Little Rock. Actually to call it an apartment is to overstate the case. It is an 'efficiency', with a Room (it's bare and purposeless, like the newest room in a text adventure you're writing), a kitchen, and a treacherous bathroom even smaller than the one in my hotel in Brussels, with steps leading up to the shower, as though a shower is some sort of sacrificial altar. Which I'll always be afraid it's one mistep away from becoming. It reminds me (in spirit if not in size) of the apartment in The Apartment. The best part: it used to be used by the vicar of the local Lutheran church, who it seems has just skipped town. Second-best part: the rent is $315 a month. I move in on Saturday. "Moving in" to consist of driving there and unloading my car--all the stuff that's been rattling around my trunk since Bakersfield is still in there.

[Comments] (5) Just Back Away Slowly: Workin' on a Perl farm. Trying to raise some hard code. Getting out my dollar sign. Initializing your variable. Looking in your manual. Useing all your modules. Downloading you from CPAN. Exporting your name.

Perl farm woman. I'll cast you to array. Perl farm woman. Cast you to scalar too. Perl farm woman. Don't you know I'll cast to hash... hash!

[Comments] (1) Get That Bizarre Filk Off The Top Of Your Site, Leonard!: Okay, okay. The CCN was displayed on Meet The Press today (yesterday) for about 3/4 of a second. By my calculations I have 899.25 seconds of fame left.

: Here's where I rip off inpassing.org, except the stupid things I hear people say are actually stupid things I myself have said. Which, I suspect, sometimes happens at inpassing.org. But I don't try to hide it! Glaring honesty! Hit the tipjar!

Wouldn't it be neat if you could do that, plant some food and nurture it into more food? Well, I guess it does work that way. But not for cake.

: The signs leading into Santa Nella say "Everything For The Traveler", which always makes me feel like I'm entering a creepy cult town that worships the Traveler from Star Trek. "Noooo! You cannot order the Traveler's Breakfast Special! Only the Traveler may order the Traveler's Breakfast Special!"

: You might think that putting ranch dressing in potato salad would be a good idea, but once the potato salad is within an inch of your tongue you realize that it is not.

[Comments] (6) Leonard's Immutable Law Of Commercials: If ever there is a dog in a commercial, the dog will bark before the end of the commercial.

Incredibly Tiny Photo Wire Roundup: That didn't take long.

: On The West Wing, they have televisions all over the place and at most one of the televisions has its sound on at any time. Maybe that's how they do things in fake White Houses. Here we have the same news-junkie environment with televisions all over the place, but they are all on mute and have close-captioning turned on. Take that, fictional representation of reality!

[Comments] (1) The Joke's On You: Spam: Use your computer to make money! I already do!

[Comments] (3) Apropos Chinese New Year:

"What animal are you?"

"Human."

[GLARE]

It turns out I am actually a sheep. I was thinking it would be nice to vary the Chinese lunar calendar to give other organisms a chance. We would have cool years like the year of the elephant, year of the saber-tooth tiger, year of the mola mola, year of the E. coli, etc. Just another idea from Leonard Labs, where we're always working orthogonal to your best interests.

You'll Never Drink Your Coffee In This Town Again: This Salon article lures you in with a teaser about the man who was the inspiration for The Dude from The Big Lebowski, then springs this on you:

True to legend, The Dude is warm and weird and possibly half-crazy, and he loudly promotes films that he's passionate about.

Huh. I don't remember that. [Googles for script] Ah, here we go.

DUDE

Walter, I sincerely believe this could be the most groundbreaking short film of the twentieth century. I am truly excited about this project.

WALTER

Dude, your level of excitement is not the issue here.

DUDE

All I need is thirty thousand dollars. If I don't come up with it by Monday, they're going to kill this project!

WALTER

"They're going to kill this project! They're going to kill this project!"

Speak Of The Dude And You See His Sunglasses: Every month or so it seems we get a furlough of sorts and we get to go out and do something. Yesterday, no sooner had the electrons dried on my previous entry than I was invited to Adam Harrington's birthday party. But this was to be no ordinary birthday party. This was to be a Big Lebowski-themed birthday party, held in a bowling alley. Truly, the ultimate birthday experience! Dave Mason and I went to Target beforehand and bought Dude-ish clothes and, for the gift, a duffel bag full of socks and underwear briefs--the ringer.

Adam and I were the only ones who truly captured the essence of Dudeness in our bathrobes. (Dave went for the "picture on the movie poster" Dude look, and merely looked like a non-Dude slob; sorry, Dave.) I bowled three frames, doing horribly (top score: 107) and having a great time. Last evening, I lived the dream: I was the Dude.

I got so excited about this that I started considering a "Jeff Lebowski, Cable Repairman" Halloween costume, until I remembered that I don't do Halloween costumes.

Update: Wes Clark gets in on the action.

Chilly Photo Roundup:

[Comments] (1) Night Of The Living Tired: Day NH-2. Social norms have completely collapsed. It is in this crucible that men's souls are laid bare. J. expressed a desire to see a movie, if any movies existed. I asked him to design a movie that would meet his needs of the moment. He thought a little. "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly," he said. "Set in outer space, with an all-female cast."

[Comments] (1) Random Words:

[Comments] (2) Leonard's Tips For Slovenly Living: If you don't have a coffee mug, you can drink hot chocolate out of the measuring cup.

Bonus: To make fake Nutella, or "Notella" (Ha! I am hilarious!), mix peanut butter with cocoa mix. Note: I have not tried this.

: Breakin' III: Electric Sharkjump

[Comments] (4) Next Slide, Please: If photos like this one can make it onto the AP photo wire, maybe there's hope for my photography.

PS: Let me restate my plea for a news photo wire where the photos don't go bad after a month. Anyone? Should I just set up my own silent, copyright-infringing filcher?

[Comments] (1) This Has Nothing To Do With Anything: Spoiler alert.

In the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (or thereabouts), the Breen attack Earth and destroy much of the greater San Francisco area. Later we see a map of the targets in the Dominion control center, and if you look at the map you'll see that of the targets was Colma. Ever since I saw that I have been wondering why the Breen would want to blow up Colma. Are they really big on desecrating their enemies' graves?

PS: If you see me, ask me to perform my uproarious impression of a Breen.

This Summer...: He's SETH DAVID SCHOEN.

[Comments] (1) : Wow, I just got spam from Nigeria that wasn't Nigerian scam spam. They're trying to sell me crude oil. Next it'll be air compressor parts, and over time the Nigerians will take over the spamming industry.

[Comments] (2) : A year after Sumana showed up in a Google News search, I'm pleased to tell you that my name now shows up in a Google News search. Note that I said my name.

[Comments] (7) Great Things About Python #1: The way you can unroll an arbitrarily complex data structure deeply nested list in a for statement, and assign everything to variables, and it's readable.

Update: I don't think this entry deserves to be on the Daily Python-URL, but I'll take what I can get.

[Comments] (2) Stupid Google Tricks: didd yo meaan

[Comments] (4) Photo Wire Roundup Jumps The Shark:

: Current post-bedtime reading: The Diamond Age. As per my suspicion it is like Snow Crash, except good. I am continually distressed to find that, like Ben Jonson's ne'er-do-well ancestors, Stevenson preemptively stole many of my ideas. Impressed last night to discover that he also managed to preemptively steal the premise of Dinosaur Comics.

Pre-Post-Literacy Photo Roundup Equivalent: This article goes with that AP photo. I was interviewed for the article but not directly quoted; you can see my sinister hand in the claims made by unnamed people. This is clearly a plot to keep me out of Google News searches.

: I saw this primitive Earth tool today. It lets you check off which countries or US states you've visited and make a map out of it (my state and world maps). More later about the similar, subtler tools I've been wanting to craft for a while. I'd like to point out things brought into stark relief by the, well, stark relief of the US map. First, it makes it look like I started out in Maryland. and scampered west as fast as I could to enjoy all the big states, which is not the truth. Second, what counts as "visiting"? Do I count the ten minutes I spent in Oklahoma? ("Hey, we're near the border, do you kids want to go to Oklahoma?") If so, why don't I count the far longer stints in the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Savannah airports? It's a calculus, as Brian might say.

PS: Tool is also useful if you want to get a map with one state or country highlighted. Why would you want to do that? Because of Wyoming!

Rebuttal to Previous Entry: Down with mapping!

: Being really famous must be like having to do tech support forever. "Oh no! This piece of paper doesn't have your signature on it! What can I do? You must help me!"

: Kevin wished me luck today in his usual pointless way, by telling me of a Japanese bean-throwing ceremony that takes place today.

After throwing the beans, people eat the same number of beans as their age to wish for good health that year. For example, if you are 20 years old, you will eat 20 beans.

Hopefully you eat different beans from the ones you threw.

[Comments] (1) Basil: In California, basil is a vegetable. A big bunch costs $1.79. In Arkansas, basil is an herb. It still costs $1.79, but it comes in a little plastic zip bag containing about ten leaves. Now whenever I buy basil in California I'll feel guilty, like I'm depriving someone else of basil.

[Comments] (2) Fair Fare: New horribly unhealthy food: rock candy dipped in batter and deep-fried. It's geode-licious!

[Comments] (10) Leonard's Tips For Slovenly Living #2: If you run out of human soap, you can probably wash yourself with dish soap.

I haven't tried this one either, but I might have to soon.

[Comments] (9) Proceedings Of The First Congress Of Future Old Farts: Resolved: that the newfangled video games the kids love nowadays can never be as inventive or interesting as Metroid or Mega Man.

[Comments] (1) : I had Mongolian BBQ a couple nights ago, but I forgot to mention it because it was so bad. I would say "At least it was Mongolian BBQ", but... well, it was bad. Still weird that it's easier to get Mongolian BBQ in Arkansas than in San Francisco.

As long as I'm complaining: these pens keep falling apart. They are Staples "Comfort SticTM" pens. Don't buy them!

[Comments] (7) News Before It Happens: More later, but first this unimportant detail: by virtue of getting into the office before anyone else I just got a picture taken of me by the same AP photographer who took my picture last time, and I'm wearing the exact same thing as in the last picture. Embarassing! People are going to think I only brought one set of clothes to Little Rock.

PS: I also didn't comb my hair. At least my fly was up.

Update: Man, that was quick. Here's Andy.

[Comments] (1) : Tomorrow I set out on my "As Long as I'm Here" road trip, with stops in Louisville, Lawrence, Provo, and Bakersfield. More as I hit the road--gotta go home and pack.

: At Brendan's house. For those who wondered: I am safe!

We are going to MAMMOTH CAVE tomorrow.

I'm A Jayhawk Man: At Alyson's house, where the chicken noodle soup flows freely. Atticus and Sam are asleep but I'll hear from them (literally) tomorrow.

: In Provo now at Susanna's house. Mammoth Cave was a bust--they weren't offering the self-guided tour, and the magic words didn't work, so there was no way of getting in and out of the cave in a timely fashion. Got some good auxilliary pictures though. I'll go next time.

: Back, moving stuff around. Have recently become obsessed with Caesar salad. It's trivial to make a Caesar salad that's 10 times better than anything you can get in a restaurant (at least the middlebrow, not-too-expensive restaurants I frequent). Go ahead, try it. Just use Alton Brown's recipe. I use spinach instead of romaine, and I add chopped tomatoes, so it's no traditional Caesar salad, but you know what makes those restaurant salads so uninspired? Bland adherence to tradition! Also their croutons are as hard as stone so I can't eat 'em.

[Comments] (1) Map Fun: So the road trip was pretty fun. We went through Nebraska instead of through Colorado, mainly so I could add more states to my map. Not sure if there's another reason to visit Nebraska.

Demonstrating that that visited-states map thing is a general, flexible tool, here's the result of Brendan and I playing the license plate game (Bonus Canadian addendum). And here's the map of all the BART stations I've visited, where the list of BART stations has been ASCIIbetically sorted and mapped onto the similarly sorted list of states.

[Comments] (1) Decision Procedure For Milkshake Quality: Some restaurants serve good milkshakes; others just put them on the menu. If you order a milkshake will it be worth the calories? It's easy to find out with this decision procedure that's a lot simpler than the decision procedure for hot sauce quality.

  1. Does the restaurant serve more than one flavor of ice cream?

The reason this is important is that good milkshakes are made out of ice cream that's the flavor of the milkshake. Bad and mediocre milkshakes are made out of vanilla ice cream blended with flavored syrup. This is in defiance of the Fundamental Theorem of Ice Cream Flavoring, which is that you flavor your ice cream while you're making it and not afterwards.

You can apply this decision procedure by looking at the dessert menu and seeing if they ever hint at the possibility that ice cream might exist in more than one flavor. If you're at a fast food restaurant there is no dessert menu, but come on! Fast food restaurants are the classic case of a restaurant with bad milkshakes--they pull vanilla ice cream out of a soft-serve machine and add syrup to it, right in front of you. You can't even pretend it might be good.

NOTE: Unlike the hot sauce procedure, which has been confirmed dozens of times since publication with no known failures, this decision procedure goes to press with a known flaw. In-N-Out Burger flagrantly violates this decision procedure (you can actually see the syrup in its finished shakes), but its shakes are pretty good.

The only thing I can think of is that if you start with good vanilla ice cream, you can make a decent shake out of it by adding syrup. The decision procedure explains the fact that you can't even get a good vanilla milkshake at a restaurant with only vanilla ice cream by assuming that if you don't care enough to get multiple flavors of ice cream, you don't care enough to get good vanilla ice cream either. I guess this assumption doesn't hold for In-N-Out.

[Comments] (2) Game Roundup Is The Place To Be: As part of my reacclimation to my canonical life, I've prepared a Game Roundup for you. Lots of game clones in this roundup: just about every game here is a clone of another game or belongs to a well-established genre. This does not bode well. I've got about 25 more games to review before I'm all caught up, though, and fewer of them are clones.

Today's winner: The Bub's Brothers, hands down. It gets the traditional prize of a limerick:

While playing that game with a bubble
My keyboard was worn to a nubble
So much time had elapsed
Civilization collapsed
And I was surrounded by rubble

Craven Spam: master! live like a king. It seems I already do!

What's Out?: Subversion 1.0 is out!

Pictures Pictures: 17 never-before-seen pictures of my colleagues on the Clark campaign tech team, and 81 similarly-never-before-seen pictures of the Brendan/Leonard road trip. Latter includes many pictures of the famous Atticus and many pictures of the Mammoth Cave region, in case you are seized, as I was, by the ridiculous idea of making a text adventure about Mammoth Cave and the area surrounding, with its cemeteries, uplifted strata, spooky nature trails, hokey rock shops, Christianity-themed tourist traps, huge parking lots, cancelled tours, etc.

Some of the road trip pictures are bigger than your average crummy.com pictures because of their extreme spectacularity (eg. the radioactive truck). A lot of the campaign pictures are really, really big because Josh Lerner is going to put them on a CD. I will probably scale them down once he downloads them.

[Comments] (3) Brown Signs: California's pretty stingy with its brown highway signs, the ones designating an Official Government Attraction. Even zoos and wildlife preserves don't generally have brown signs. So it was a surprise when I went out to the Midwest and started seeing brown signs everywhere, some on ridiculous things not worthy of a brown sign, like the National Pontiac Corvette Museum and the Maker's Mark Distillery. (There's also the My Old Kentucky Home State Park featuring "Steven Foster: The Musical", none of which should even exist, much less have multiple brown signs. The state that MAMMOTH CAVE calls home put Steven Foster on their state quarter!)

The point of this entry is that there are three brown signs we saw that point to things that should exist, and that we would have visited had we had more time. The first is the Abraham Lincoln birthplace in Kentucky. It apparently has a Lincoln Memorial type marble building which protects from deterioration a log cabin in which Lincoln was not born.

The second thing is the Agriculture Hall of Fame near the Kansas/Missouri border. Untrue to its name, the Agriculture Hall of Fame is not the destination for which the state fair is merely the semifinal. It does not house the World's Largest Grape. It does have inductees, who are pretty much who you'd expect. It has a lot of old farming implements. It has tours. It has a large collection of barbed wire and Harry Truman's boyhood plow. Speaking of which...

The third thing is the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, where it turns out Truman is buried. A little weird. The online-but-not-really gift shop lets you buy "The Buck Stops Here" desk sign replicas.

The Double Standard: Brendan has a floppy hat and Sumana thinks it's great. I have a floppy hat and Sumana considered it cause for siccing Queer Eye For The Straight Guy on me.

Extra Day!: Enjoy your extra day today. I'm going to another one of those pesky CollabNet retreats and I won't be back until Tuesday night.

Throwing My Vote Away: Got back from the retreat in time to go and vote for Clark. Sorry for the downtime. I'm qualitatively better at pool than I was before the retreat (I've discovered how to hit one ball at an angle using the other ball). Inadvertent but fun pool variant coming tomorrow. Etc. Etc.

[Comments] (3) Cue Ball Wild Pool: As promised. This is a pool variant that you play when your pool table has two cue balls but no eight ball (as did the pool table at the retreat). It's just like regular pool, except you can make a shot using either of the two cue balls. This is faster and more fun than regular pool.

Niggly sub-rules: when you choose a cue ball, the other cue ball is the eight ball for the duration of that shot (so if you sink one cue ball using the other, you lose unless it's the endgame and you were trying to sink the eight ball). If the other player sinks the cue ball they used, you have to put it somewhere appropriate on the table as in regular pool, but you don't have to use it on your next shot.

Rules for the horrible pool variants Andy and I used to play (with rules for cue ball bowling, bonuses for making a ball jump off the table and hit the potted fern, etc.) not forthcoming.

[Comments] (2) Official Crummy.com Licensed Joke Product:

Q: What pet does a vampire keep?
A: A coffinfish!

I can't believe Big Book Of Jokes For Kids didn't accept that joke.

: Made tasty butternut squash soup tonight. I forgot to get ingredients for my crazy squash soup idea! That idea being to bread and fry sliced zucchini, and to float it on the soup as a garnish. Now no one will ever know how that would taste! Until the next time I get a chance to try it.

I used to hate squash and zucchini. I still hate bell peppers, but I might not in a year.

Tomorrow: I plan to make the ice cream of madness. Turn back!

Can't Stop Stupid Map Tricks: Here's a map of all the countries whose country codes are the same as a US state code, and vice versa.

robotspamskitten:

SORRY: this message is created by robot!

Well! That's okay then!

What Would Be Nice: XML-RPC Edition: It Would Be Nice If All Consuming had an XML-RPC interface for entering which books you've read. That way it wouldn't take me 3 minutes to indicate that I've read one book and I would actually start using it.

On the other end of the What Would Be Nice supply chain, It Would Be Nice If Freshmeat's XML-RPC interface could be used to grab the newly added/updated projects listed on Freshmeat instead of only being usable for submitting new versions of projects. This would make my Software Roundup rounds a lot easier.

[Comments] (1) You Can Make Me Use A Password But You Can't Make Me Like It: I love The Container Store, because it is what it says and I love containers. But what I don't love is differences. Also, I have no love for the password notebook they had in the impulse-buy aisle, a convenient place for you to record your usernames and passwords for websites so that everyone else can log in as you. I think the notebook had a Sherlock Holmes head embossed on it. ("One thing puzzles me, Holmes; how were you able to impersonate the Duke on eBay?" "Inspector, my methods are well-known. It was a simple matter to look up his password in the notebook containing all his passwords.")

Maybe you can secure the notebook by hiding it in a book safe, except the title of the book is "Book Safes And How To Make Them".

Best Dressed: stack's roommate did a documentary on the Weather Underground that was nominated for an Oscar but did not win. stack went to the Oscars and was duly saluted by the papparazzi. Kevin sez, "Don't you hate it when Sandra Bullock gets in your shot?" This is an ongoing problem for stack.

PS: stack's day job project is out.

[Comments] (6) Dog Shows: What's the point of dog shows? It seems like a worship of the Platonic form, made ridiculous by the fact that the Platonic forms were artificially created by selective breeding. It's not like people are still coming up with new avant-garde breeds of dog.

I can understand county fairs where people show off their enormous pumpkins, because at least you can eat pumpkins.

Yes I Will Complete Your Assignment For You Search Requests: What was the Marbury v. Madison case all about? Use internet if you want.

: One of the advantages of having a digital camera that fits in your pocket is that you can take a picture whenever your arms are not paralyzed. I kind of had this when I had the Hiptop (That reminds me: I got rid of the Hiptop because it never worked for me. I now use a cheap old reliable cell phone with no features beyond Tele-TalkTM), but my time trials indicate that it takes about ten seconds for me to take my camera out of my pocket, turn it on, take a picture, turn the camera off, and put it back into my pocket. I don't think I could have taken a picture with the Hiptop in 10 seconds. Plus you can actually see details in the camera pictures.

All that was seemingly a big lead-up to the fact that I've had to start putting up "misc" directories to contain pictures that don't correspond to a "big event, better take the camera" thing. Here they are for February and March. These sets include hilarious moments like At least they didn't park in the handicapped space.

Bonus for Joe: this Ad campaign for New Zealand found near the Apple store which opens up new fields in tautological advertising. "Don't even come," it says. "We won't let you in."

Bonus bonus for everone: for some reason they're ripping up all the greenery around the building where I work. I assume they know what they're doing. Anyway, I call this picture set The Scouring of the Shire, and it should satisfy those of you who were hoping Return of the King would be even longer.

: Sumana's story of her visit to a call center in Bangalore is up on Salon. Forget The New Pentagon Papers, this is the real stuff! Sumana doesn't like the Magic Marker-ish drawing that adorns the story, but I do. I should write my sci-fi story about outsourcing, along with all the other sci-fi stories I'll never actually write.

[Comments] (1) Dream Incompetence Hilarity #2: (Here's #1)

"Well, if I'm driving to New York I should be able to stop by Massachussets and see Jake. Right? Well, let me check the map. Hm, I don't... seem... to be able to read... a map."

(The map wasn't even right.)

[Comments] (2) : Sumana got me a copy of Twisty Little Passages, a book I've had my eye on for a little bit. I will probably start reading it tonight since I'm too burned out to do anything else (more productive things I could be doing: making Nutellamisu as I'd planned, making any kind of food at all, continuing to unpack/organize all my junk, putting up pictures from the CollabNet retreat, working on NewsBruiser, writing a story, writing something down for the panel--wait, I have to write an entry about that). OK, other entry coming up.

[Leonard-Trips]: So, as I apparently just remembered, I volunteered to be on a panel for a Serious Seminar on Digital Democracy Friday afternoon at UC Berkeley. You're welcome to attend, but I'll probably just be mumbling something foolish and then staring into space. One of my theses is that online campaigning qualitatively changes the dynamics of fundraising, but it does that by making fundraising look more like grassroots organization. We can only make a quantitative change to the effectiveness of actual grassroots organization, because an end-to-end network is a one-trick pony. All it does is make things more like grassroots organization.

I think staring into space is probably my best option here.

[Comments] (1) My Day Came Pre-Made: Last night Sumana informed me that the smarmy Andorian captain on Enterprise is played by Jeffery Combs, the same actor who played the smarmy Vorta flunky Weyoun on Deep Space Nine and about a jillion other smarmy alien Star Trek roles. Typecasting was never so delicious!

If there were a Weyoun action figure I would buy two, just so I could have one of them face the other, and say "Oh. An action figure of me. How banal." Also, if one of the action figures were to break I could replace it with the other with no problem.

Report From Staringintospacecon 2004: I didn't embarrass myself, but I didn't talk a whole lot either. It was a little depressing because I felt outclassed by people who were better than I at public speaking.

Note to self: put more business cards in your wallet. You lost all previous business cards when you put your wallet in the washer. That's just the way it works.

PS: Here's Seth's email advice, which is better than the use I got out of it:

Maybe you should prepare a short list of (as the PR people say) talking points -- or an outline -- that you can use if an appropriate time comes for you to make remarks. ... how you got involved, what technology people at the Clark campaign worked on, the campaign's attitude toward technology, etc.

People at seminars also hate generalities and love gossip. Being concrete (I should say being specific) is very desirable for attracting audience interest. I have a hard time with that sometimes. For example, when talking about trusted computing, I tend to assume that people think that things like "reverse engineering" and "interoperability" are good, and then talk about how reverse engineering may interfere with those abstract classes of activity. But for many audiences, it would probably be more helpful to say "suppose you had some spyware on a Windows machine, and you wanted to understand exactly what kind of personal information it was transmitting...".

Despite much gossip likely being off-topic for your panel, the inside of a presidential campaign is a place most people never get to see at all (like the inside of a nuclear power plant, or the inside of the Library of Congress, or something), and I'm sure many people in your audience would be hungry for general narrative about what it is like to help somebody run for president.

Another thing I think people can appreciate -- especially people who have been subjected to endless amounts of marketing here in the Bay Area during and even after the technology boom -- is a frank discussion of limitations. (It's refreshing to read Peter Neumann's RISKS stuff, for example, as an antidote to boundless optimism about particular technologies.) I suspect this kind of honesty can go very far just on the strength of the contrast with the way professional marketers talk about things. It conveys an honorable sense of "I am an engineer and I'm going to talk to you about what's really possible and what isn't".

[Comments] (3) Future Fad #2: My prediction of vegan vegan food has not yet come to fruition (or vegetablition), but I'm preparing to prime the pump. My cruelty-free imitation veal will take the world by storm with its tender baby-soybean flavor. I call it "Seal". It can't fail!

: DUN-dun!

Sumana loves this, as you might expect. Almost as good is the fact that the automatic ad at the bottom of the page tells you to make out your will. Because next week, Law and Order is all new, ripped from the headlines--and YOU'RE the body!

: Saw Secret Window with my mother today. She said people are comparing it to Hitchcock movies, so I will join the club. There was a Hitchcock movie fitting the title schema "X Window". Secret Window was a rehash of The Dark Half, which had a lot of birds in it, reminiscent of The Birds. The end.

Enough levity! The movie was okay but not great. I wish there were some way to edit these movies down to 45 minutes. The movie's saving grace was John Turturro in a role where he looks like Dennis Kucinich's evil twin.

Fun trailer fact: science has run amuck! We never should have put I, Robot and The Caves of Steel into the supercollider just to see what would happen. A Will Smith movie was produced that scientists estimate might have a half-life of up to 50,000 years. Is this the kind of world we want for our children?

Hurry, Before Zagat Gets To It: There's a Vietnamese restaurant near my house, on the 1100 block of Ocean. By weekday it is an ordinary Vietnamese restaurant, but on weekends it turns into its alter ego, Sexy John's Pasta! It's an all-singing, all-dancing, all-organic bistro in an authentic Vietnamese restaurant atmosphere. The Ceasar salad, garlic bread, and made-from-scratch pasta are all great and very cheap. The aforementioned Sexy John is a student at the nearby city college; maybe he'll open a full-time restaurant if his food catches on. Give it a try if you're in the area. It's great to have a good Italian restaurant within walking distance of my house.

Dessert: They were out of tiramisu, but they comped us some panna cotta because apparently they're still trying to figure out how to make panna cotta. I thought it was good because I'd never had panna cotta before, but Sumana said the texture was weird.

PS: please do not do a Google search for "Sexy John's" until this restaurant becomes very popular.

Virtue Is Its Own Reward #3: Sumana got spam that said "Hang Saddam and Save 50%!"

(#1, #2). Why do I keep doing this? Because I keep changing the titles of my mini-features, that's why.

[Comments] (2) What about the Eagles?: If you thought The Big Lebowski was a thing not subject to SCA-ish appropriation by dressing-up fanboys then Big Lebowski night in North Little Rock should have shattered that notion. (Adam-Dude #2, where are those pictures?) But no! You chose to believe, despite all evidence, that the Coen masterwork could only be appreciated by those too cool or too stoned to make fools of themselves by dressing up like characters from the movie.

If your childish preconceptions were not so laughable, perhaps you could be an object of pity. For behold! Lebowski Fest is coming to YOUR TOWN (if you are Brendan), and its Star Trek convention-esque geekiness scatters to the wind like ashes from a Folger's can any aspirations you may have had for having your master's thesis The Dude Abides: Lebowski as a Mithras/Christ Figure in Modern Mythology taken seriously. You should have picked on Barton Fink instead. Nobody dresses up like Chet the bellboy. Well, if you do, I don't want to hear about it.

[Comments] (2) New Theory of the Manahmanah: I think Brendan and I thought of this on the way to California. Here are previous theories, all of which pale in comparison to the shiny new theory.

The new theory is that the hippie Muppet is trying to communicate with the Snowths, but the only thing he can get across in their language is the phrase "Manahmanah", a context-free friendly expression that translates roughly to "Hey hey!" So the lyrics of the song, translated, go something like this:

Hey hey! (It's good to see you)
Hey hey! (I said it's good)
Hey hey! (It's good to see you, to see you, to see you, it really is a good thing that you came)

Then the hippie Muppet whips out his Advanced Snowth and starts talking about how lovely the Snowth country is, and asking where are the most beautiful landscapes, and they can't understand a word he's saying.

I Am Not An Ideogram! I Am A Free Man!: Another gem from Steve's Chinese Word Of The Day: "Prisoner". If I ever need to write "Concave prisoner", I'm all set.

There must be little cartoons where the lines of ideograms frolic and interact in vocabulary-building ways.

: Inspired by clasic Trek, I used to make up jobs for my Lego spacemen based on the color of their spacesuits. The blue suit guys were the pilots, which I suppose makes sense in retrospect. I don't remember what the other jobs were. Maybe the red suits were the navigators, and the yellow suits made the coffee, and the black suits were space ninjas. I don't know. I never managed to acquire any white-suit Lego spacemen, so I guess those were the guys who stayed in the pressurized dome on the moon and did paperwork.

Anyway, it turns out aircraft carriers have the same kind of colorful division of labor. Lots of (official Navy) pictures on that site, including one of Daniel Green, who out-Ts Mr. T.

Sure, Make The Robot Do It: In Shabot 6000, robots take the drudgery of religious doubt and angst off humanity's shoulders. Well done, with only one Futurama-overlapping joke so far.

DID NOT HAVE KNOWLEDGE OR A CERTIFICATE: Noisy graffiti from Iraq, including the sociopolitical version of Hofstadter's Law.

[Comments] (2) Recycled Joke Time: Pretty cool that someone managed to write a Javascript chess game in 5k. But it's not so great--I can beat it three times out of four.

Tip your waitresses!

Bort, Retry, Fail?: Not content with killing off Be's senior management, Mike Popovic ex-co-worker Dave Bort has taken to drawing an online comic. On a good day it's funnier than Tom The Dancing Bug.

Named Incubus #2: "The Alamo"

Willfully obscure entry. Oh, all right, here.

Metadessert Madness: If only those Girl Scouts knew to what fiendish uses I plan to put their cookies. My Dissociated Press recipe algorithm has seized upon new data and is coming up with ideas:

The first two are the only ones I can think of ways to make appetizing (crushed Samoas + banana wrapped in phyllo dough and fried, Tagalongs + coconut cream + canteloupe or avocado + etc., some sort of halo halo thing; needs work).

Anyway. Today I made ice cream of madness (coconut-banana-lime, not the ice cream of madness I'd originally intended to make), as well as two other dishes I'd never made before (fondue and bread pudding). Remind me to tell you about it when I'm not asleep.

[Comments] (3) The First Monkey, Or, Lack Of Practice Makes Perfect: Recently I discovered that I'm a lot better at playing the guitar than I was when I left to work on the campaign. In the intervening time I didn't practice at all. How did this happen? Was what I was doing homomorphic to playing guitar? Did I gain generally enhanced reflexes? It's a little scary, like discovering that you're slowly turning into Spider-Man.

: Went to the zoo on Saturday with Sumana and Zack. It turns out that Garrett went to a different zoo on Saturday, so just go look at his pictures. They're better than mine.

The Asian elephant is very sad because her friend had tuberculosis and was euthanized. We did see the African elephants who were happier, partly because they'd just had bales of hay stuck tucked between their tusks so that they would walk around and eat from a sort of beer hat of hay. I think when they complete the "African Savannah" habitat they should put the Elephas in with the Loxodonta and verisimillitude be damned.

The lake in the "South American Rainforest" habitat had been drained for no reason I could see, so there were no vegetarian piranha and the sole caiman was crammed into an isolation chamber along with the giant python. No turtles either, but elsewhere in the zoo they had Madagascar spider tortoises walking around on the grass, the tiniest chelonians you've ever seen.

Also, I recently found out that Zack makes candles, so I brought and gave him my now-ruined "Powerful Elvis Prayer" devotional candle for him to recycle. It's nice to be rid of it in a way that makes me feel like someone will appreciate it.

[Comments] (2) When Food Fads Collide: Sumana pointed me to The Everyday Low Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook. Coming soon: my Vegan Raw Food Low Carb Low Fat Organic Whole Wheat Juicer Cookbook. Subtitle: "Just stop eating."

[Comments] (4) An Atom of Sense: Getting back to NewsBruiser development. I made a bunch of comment-related fixes and I just finished adding Atom syndication support. If people are going to make my life difficult by making up new syndication formats, I might as well play along. Still need to fix the longstanding timezone problem with the timestamps: I'll do that tomorrow and then cut a release.

New comment features: you can automatically shut down comments on old entries, and you can turn on comments for specific entries instead of for the whole site.

Joe says that there was a glowing review of NewsBruiser in the UK magazine Linux Format. Since they don't do aspiring weblog software authors the favor of putting their glowing reviews online, Joe is sending me the magazine and I'm gonna type it up. And as long as we're discussing Linux magazines with weird names, how about India's Linux For You?

: I forgot to thank Feed Validator, the pedantic friend of Atom and RSS developers, for its help on NewsBruiser last night.

(From Impeach Central): Quasi-spam:

Read the Books that Will Impeach Bush & Sign the Petition

Them are talented books!

Steal This Idea: A solution in search of a problem, the OveractiveWeb's answer to the LazyWeb. I thought of a way to make this useful, but Spamgourmet does the same thing in a more intuitive way, so that's out the window. The only thing this idea has on Spamgourmet is that Spamgourmet keeps your real address on file and this putative service wouldn't. So what is it good for? Absolutely nothing?

Idea follows. Compute a one-way hash of your email address. For instance, "8zhkqqkZ.A9tg" is a crypted version of "leonardr@segfault.org". "b83aaa5e5c8129987c8c54f2974e84d3" is the MD5 sum of "leonardr@segfault.org". You get the picture. Then give out "b83aaa5e5c8129987c8c54f2974e84d3-whatever@mysecretemail.com" to someone from whom you want to hide your true email address. When you want to see if they sent you mail, go to mysecretemail.com and say "Hey, I'm leonardr@segfault.org". mysecretemail.com thinks "Oh, that's good old b83aaa5e5c8129987c8c54f2974e84d3.*@mysecretemail.com," and forwards you all the accumulated mail.

It's cool and secret-agent-ish, but like I said I can't think of a real use for it. Also you could break it if you had a way of generating a specific hash collision, which you kind of do.

PS: more useful, less cool variant: leonardr-at-segfault.org-whatever@mymyriademails.com. This lets you get get infinitely many forwarding accounts for one email address.

robotfindskoan:

One day, robot asked the head monk how to find kitten.

"The kitten that can be found is not the true kitten," said the head monk.

"Then why do we search for kitten?" asked robot.

"Why did you drop kitten?" asked the head monk.

At that moment, robot found kitten.

[Comments] (3) The Rothe Hits!: New NewsBruiser release. It's Atom-licious! And Sumana-compliant!

Speaking of Chelonians: Check out the Subversion book. Also, True History of the O'Reilly Animals.

[Comments] (2) Freshmeat Mysteries: Freshmeat's page for NewsBruiser says it has a rating of 8.37 out of ten. With one vote. How is that possible? I can only rate a project with an integer. Is the 8.37 a grandfathered score from some older rating system in which NewsBruiser had multiple votes?

Update: Your Earth FAQ has the answer.

Coming soon, if you're interested: easily-derivable-from-first-principles secrets of how to get the most bang for your Freshmeat announcement buck.

Ramble And Bonus Link: 2 years since I got braces. Going to orthodontist today for what will hopefully be my penultimate visit (They were supposed to be on for 2 years, but I missed an appointment working for the campaign). For a while I had a compulsive Python script on my home page that displayed what percentage of the time had elapsed between then and now.

Anyway. check out this free stock photo site. What's the catch? Well, this page conveniently lists the main catches, but photographers may reserve the right to attach additional catches to their photos. Not too onerous.

Now, It's Garbage!:

"...in the musique-room the boy that was to sing a song, not singing it right, his master fell about his ears and beat him so, that it put the whole house in an uprore."

Just another way in which my life is less exciting than Pepys': fewer random onstage beatings.

Trapped By Weblog, Need Help: Sumana just IMed me saying she'd finally caved in and read the "We're under zombie attack" weblog, which made me realize that it's sort of the real life equivalent of a zombie. I try to resist its undead power, but everywhere I turn I see it coming towards me, closing in! Help!

They Held It Without Me?: PyCon 2004 is in full swing, and Ted Leung is there, covering the events as well as the pre-event sprints.

This year's crop of papers includes some of the standoffishness I think makes for good paper titles, like "Scripting Language" My Arse and Twelve Thousand Test Cases and Counting. (Wasn't that a Johnny Cash song?)

Bug in Gnumeric: I keep clicking this button. Where's my money?

[Comments] (1) Stupid Google Tricks: "hapter ne"

Helpful Python Tip: The parser in the htmllib library is useless for actually parsing HTML. Use the one in sgmllib instead. I learned this once when writing the Eater of Meaning and I'm learning it again with this new project I'm working on. Hopefully I'll have something to show you tonight.

That's A New One!: Hey! Sumana sent me a 'shout-out' on this week's Namaste America Gold, the semi-interactive Bollywood fan show/source for imported news from India. Excitement! Obaid Kalwani, the shouter-out, pronounced her name wrong and mine correctly. Go figure.

Until this week, all the 'shout-outs' were to and from people in the East Bay. leading me to do high-larious impressions of Obaid Kalwani reciting shout-out locations: "A shout-out from Walnut Creek... here's one from Hayward... shout-out from Concord... this is a Fremont train. Doors are closing." This week they had shout-outs from Los Angeles and East Brunswick, putting the lie to our hypothesis that they recorded a different shout-out segment for each media market.

[Comments] (5) : Can someone point me to an HTML parser that turns an HTML document into a nested data structure like what I sketched out below? I'm sick of having to jump through hoops to collect the text of a link. I know there's something similar for XML because I heard about it at EuroPython. Stop me before I write my own! Must work or be makable to work in Python 1.5.2. Offer not valid in "Mirror, Mirror" universe.

Sorry, no spectacular thing to show you today. I've got only one of the three things working that I wanted to have, and (sad to say) it's not the one that hits people in the gut and makes them think This Is Important, insofar as any of them do that.

This is an HTML document.

->

["This is an", [TAG name='a' attrs={href: 'http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/', title: "Brought to you by HTMLCorp"} child=[TAG name='b' child=["HTML"]], "document"], "."]

Update, much later: I wrote Beautiful Soup because I wasn't happy with any existing parser.

: Godzilla is set to be retired (again) with a Kill All Monsters!-esque monster monster rally of a movie called "Godzilla: Final Wars". When will they learn? You can deprive the Godzilla franchise of oxygen, but that won't kill it.

Spooky Spam: your name is wrong

: I just realized that it's only a matter of time before Freenet's Ian Clarke is knighted and becomes Sir Ian Clarke. Because really, how long can you go with a name like "Ian Clarke" before the Queen taps you on the shoulder?

We Are A Model Of The World: I got very excited when I read:

But the Japanese always think big, even in miniature. That's why they built the entire world to precise scale at this odd site about two hours by train from Tokyo.

Sadly, that is hyperbole. The entire world is not represented to scale at Tobu World Square. It just has a bunch of scale models of famous buildings. They're nice models, though! Check out the pictures. They even have Tom, the famous 150-foot tall beefeater.

I look forward to the exciting future, where terraformed planetoids recreate Earth at scale. But I had this mental image of the portion of the model world in Tobu World Square that contained a tiny model of the model of the world in Tobu World Square, ad infinitum, and you can't get that on no planetoid.

World Famous Leonard #2: Salon ran an article about CollabNet and I am quoted. Admittedly, all I'm quoted for is to set up Kevin's joke. It's a good joke!

Thing I've learned from talking to reporters: they will get you to talk their ear off and then use one sentence of what you said. It's not their fault. They're just bored. They're hoping you'll say "You know what I hate? Cute puppies!", because that's a story. Not your lame software whatever.

The April Fool: The Eater of Meaning provides a great tool for other people's April Fool's Day jokes, so I should be excused forever from having to come up with them, right? I think that's how it works.

Anyway, Sumana suggested I could make an April fool as a dessert today. As far as I can tell no one has ever thought of doing this before, though there are lots of April Fool's Day themed recipes for tormenting your kids with. I don't have any specific April ingredients, but there were key limes at the grocery store yesterday, which there usually aren't, so unless they've started selling the runts as key limes those are probably seasonal.

This was my thinking way back this morning, when I thought a fool was a kind of sponge cake or something. It turns out it's just cream whipped with flavored syrup. Now it doesn't sound like much of a dessert. Sounds like the thing Brendan got in the Sizzler clone in Illinois that he thought was pudding but turned out to be Cool Whip and Oreos. Wait, that was hilarious! If I could somehow harness the power of that incident, I'd have the perfect April fool April Fool!

NewsBruiser Review is Here!: Previously, on News You Can Bruise...

Joe says that there was a glowing review of NewsBruiser in the UK magazine Linux Format.
...
Joe is sending me the magazine and I'm gonna type it up.
...
Just another way in which my life is less exciting than Pepys': fewer random onstage beatings.
[Nb. I guess that's the subplot?]

And now, the continuation...

Got the package in the mail today. I thought "Huh, this looks like a magazine. I didn't order a magazine! Huh, this looks like overseas mail. Who would send me a magazine... from another country?" I forgot that my life has continuity. Anyway, the article is as glowing as Joe said it was, and as promised I've typed up the review and plan to shamelessly exploit it for promotional purposes. Some choice quotes from the review:

"[O]ne of the best blogging utilities doing the rounds."

"Installation is brilliantly simple..."

"[T]he whole system runs like clockwork."

"Friendly, organised, versatile and great to use."

How do you like that bookending? Thanks, Joe!

Damn You, Unit Tests!: Funny AFD Subversion message

[Comments] (2) The Uses of Enchantment: Seth and I saw Good Bye, Lenin! last night. Sumana was supposed to come as well, but I messed up the planning and scheduled the movie night while Sumana was at a concert with Zack. The movie was great-- a touching, beautiful film about propaganda and its effects on its makers and consumers. Who could have thought such a thing possible? It even cheated, Kobayashi Maru-style, by stealing a gag from The Big Lebowski, so what can I say? Go see it! is what I can say.

PS: Confidential to everyone. Who do you and I both know who looks exactly like Florian Lukas?

PS Update: Jarno, was it the guy from Denmark we met at EuroPython whose name I don't remember?

[Comments] (2) "Do you have a problem defending your country?": Salon has an interview with Eugene Jarvis, creator of Defender and Robotron. He's as cranky as I could hope any HotEA programmer to be, and he loves making up random numbers to prove a point:

[Now] you look at the PlayStation 2 or Xbox controller and there's, like, 27 buttons on the thing and three or four joysticks.

"Madden 2004" is a hell of a lot like "Madden 1004."

There's 3,000 channels of everything out there and there's just a million games where you're running around in tights with a sword and you're playing in 1542.

Really, what it's about is the five people that actually send the 3 million letters to their congressman.

It sounds like he wouldn't approve of Burrell Smith's Defender strategy. Incidentally, how does Smash TV fit into your anti-amoral gaming philosophy? Smash TV fascinated me and my pre-adolescent peers precisely because it presented such an amoral world. Does Defender somehow cancel out Smash TV? Are you going to reach for the 'heavy-handed satire' excuse? Answer me, dammit!

Wait, I'm not the one interviewing him.

[Comments] (1) A Very Interesting Story, Sir!: Hey, remember the giant lizard in Cryptonomicon? I was thinking/hoping it was a godzillasaurus, but the semiofficial word has it that it was just an ordinary extinct Megalania prisca. Why, Wiki technology? Why do you shatter my fantasies?

Blaaaaaah: Did you know that certain crustaceans will crawl into a fish's mouth and replace its tongue? Unfortunately, "[t]ongue biters do not eat scraps of the fish's food" -- the obvious business model for such a creature. I forsee a future in the fish economy for custom parasites that eat the mother-in-law's food that you, the discerning fish, think is gross. It's like having a dog under the table--in your mouth!

[Comments] (2) Chocolate Fountains: They came into my life and won't leave. Chocolate fountains. Maybe I read too many of those junky free magazines whose ad revenue all comes from wedding catering services, but every plucky service industry small business has got a chocolate fountain these days. Not sure what the big deal is. It's just chocolate fondue, and chocolate fondue is just ganache, and ganache is just a bunch of molecules. You all know about molecules, right? I think the allure comes from a temptation unique to women to stick your head in the chocolate fountain, similar to the constant masculine temptation to turn pirate or (if working on a political campaign in an Amtrak station) to turn Amtrak hobo.

Hello, I'm Calling From Schwab's Damage Control Department...: The company that keeps my 401(k) money so I don't have to pay tax on it chose to automatically put certain of their clients into their "We Charge You More" program, a system that applies a light private-sector tax to your money year after year so it doesn't suffer from tax shock when you cash out. It seems I am too poor for my money to be of interest, so I'm still being charged the regular amount. But that article (which Sumana sent me) is as great an example as I've seen of the opt-out mentality at work.

My experience is that every time you encounter an opt-out system in real life, it is because there is a weasel who won out over someone who wanted to do the right thing. In a given situation there might not be anyone who wants to do the right thing, but the decision to create an opt-out system can only be made by a weasel. I know some such people and I'm sorry to say this: you can be a great person in other respects and at other times, but when you choose an opt-out system your head briefly turns into that of a flesh-ripping weasel, just as it briefly turns into a big lollipop when you fall for the old Bugs-Bunny-in-drag trick.

Why? Because if the thing you're letting people opt out of was so great, people would opt in after you told them about it. It would be what we call a 'service' that you could 'offer'. Opt-out is a way of turning a 1-10% positive response rate into a 50-75% negative nonresponse rate. There will be maybe 5-10% of people who would like the service, yet who wouldn't have opted in. That's who you'll point to to justify your behavior, but all the time you'll be thinking about the 30-40% of people who won't use the thing and won't opt out. That, to me, is the mark of the weasel.

When cornered, the common North American Opt-Out River Weasel will employ its traditional defense: weasel words. It may try to dig its way out of a hole, but its webbed feet are not effective digging tools.

By Tuesday, however, Mathison had adopted a more conciliatory tone. He said Schwab is following up on the letters by calling every single recipient and explaining the contents in detail.

Good job! A hidden charge and a phone call to explain it! Now they'll really love you!

PS: if you must use opt-out, here are some less weasely ways to do it:

  1. Let people out of reversible things, ie. things that don't cost money or result in you giving other people information about them.
  2. Sound sort of apologetic when you bring up the fact that there's opt-out involved in something. People love this.
  3. If you have one of those web signup forms that has an opt-out box, say up front what the opt-out means instead of being so vague that it looks like you yourself have no idea what you want to do with the information you collect.
  4. Come up with an idea so brilliant, so useful, so pure, that everyone on the planet must have it, that screaming mobs rip off their clothes rather than go without it. Then market it and charge money for it. Ha! You're rich, and not a weasel! What? You say it's no fun that way? There, there.

PPS: A couple years back there were little online brouhahas about some web signup form with a checked-by-default "I love having my data shared!" checkbox. If you entered invalid data into the form and unchecked the checkbox and submitted the form, it would redisplay the form with errors highlighted and the checkbox would be magically checked again. If you wanted to opt out you'd have to be sure to uncheck it every time you submitted the form. This is not because the designers of the form are weasels; it's because HTML checkboxes don't work the way a lot of people think they do.

[Comments] (2) Rebranding: Sumana wanted me to pick her up some tortillas at the store. I was looking and looking and all I could find were these weird 'Low Carb' tortillas. Dang spinoff products! Where were the real tortillas?

Then I realized: these were the real tortillas. Tortillas are now the designated low[er]-carb alternative to bread. It's only a matter of time until someone sees Dr. Atkins' face scorched into a tortilla.

[Comments] (1) Suddenly, out of nowhere, an abjurer!: Inspired by Brendan's inadvertent discovery that "Furby" turns into "Sheol" when ROT13ed, I thought I'd write a little script to find words that turn into other words. Of course, now that I've written it all I have to do is search for some of those words to find people who've done the same thing. So, a whole TEN MINUTES wasted! Some interesting potential names for fictional characters discovered, though: Cheryl Purely, Glen Tyra, Barny O'Neal, Ryan Elna, Penny Craal, Eben Rora, Anil Navy, Terryl Greely, and Ivan Vina the Pyrex clerk. My favorite combinations: tang/gnat and green/terra.

Silver Lining Department: the SCOWL Word List seems to have a very high percentage of real words, as opposed to strings found in trusted pieces of text. Maybe I'll grab it for the Eater.

Sour Grapes Department: Who cares what words yield other words when ROT13ed? The real question is, what words are composed of a string concatenated to its ROT13 equivalent? There are five common words that fit this vital criteria, not counting proper nouns:

Also the abbreviations "Re", "PC", and "SF", and the editor "vi".

[Comments] (2) Or madly squeeze a right-hand foot into a left-hand shoe: Pepys' diary should be a Livejournal, not a Moveable Type installation.

Dead Spammer #1 (for certain values of 1): From Sumana:

Before the explosion buy at any price qfrlcbg el sbskp

Too late!

[Comments] (1) : What's the modern day equivalent of this? Don't say weblogs (even though that's probably the answer).

[Comments] (2) Do You Fondue?: Recently I've been experimenting with fondue. Tonight I achieved the level of competency required to start experimenting and not need a recipe, and also discovered the ultimate fondue dip vegetable--artichokes! Other vegetables have failed for me in fondue, but I tried boiled artichokes tonight and it was great.

Give it a try. It's easy and artichokes are cheap right now. You don't need a special set--just make it in a saucepan and dip the bread or whatever in with forks. Cheap non-trendy fondue!

Next time: hearty ad hoc soup that inevitably makes my housemate say "this is squash?". Like I would lie about squash, and it's really caramel.

Junk Now More Accessible: I finally got off my duff and did something about the awful performance of crummy.com (mainly caused by my brazen sacrifice of performance for convenience and UI tweakability, running everything through a Noodle-esque wrapper script). I've now got everything except the actual CGIs being rendered from my abstract source files with their dislike of headers and footers to static HTML files, The more dynamic files (people's weblogs) are re-rendered once a minute. It's still a hack, but at least it's no longer a slow hack.

Let me know if you see anything I missed.

: Kevan's latest project is a syndicated weblog of Victorian satire Diary of a Nobody. It uses NewsBruiser, and in doing so exposes all the warts of the portal page that for some reason I never really anticipated being used as the front page of a website. Gotta get busy.

PS: Coming soon: more Kevan mania. Wait til you see the link he sent me! You won't believe the twist! Because it's based on a counterfactual!

PPS: Already here but not actually released: mine and Peter's weblog-ish hypertext versions of Gogol's Diary of a Madman. There's also fifty contemporary weblogs with the same title, most probably named after the Ozzy Osbourne song rather than directly after the story. Find the next trend before it happens!

: Gripping psychological expose (via Sumana) of the fourteen habits of highly effective embezzlers. No need to read the whole thing--I've already read it and I'll tell you the good bits.

6. Volunteers to take care of details that you should handle. Picking up signature cards when you open a new bank account, for example. The more details the bookkeeper handles, the more theft opportunities, and the easier it is to cover things up.

Pretty useful, no?

Uh, I gotta go.

[Comments] (8) They're Playing Sports!: OK, I've kept you waiting long enough. Remember that Game Roundup where I speculated that many games could be improved by replacing humans with cars, a la "Soccar"? Well, Kevan has upped the ante with his discovery that you can improve any game even more by replacing the humans with dinosaurs! Witness Football-o-saurus, a shareware Windows game in which dinosaurs play football (they are British dinosaurs). Brilliant execution; only one thing bothers me, Holmes. The spectators seem to be human. Why?

Now that the scales have been lifted from my eyes I see that all those stale game genres can be revitalized by refocusing them on their rightful subject. Imagine a first-person shooter that's actually a first-person mauler--you are a dinosaur biting or clobbering other dinosaurs. A real-time strategy game in which you deploy your herd of dinosaurs against a rival herd. Even, say, a Monopoly clone in which everything has some strained connection to dinosaurs!

Since the pure, eternal "idea" portion of a project is the hard part, and since the implementation work and will to see it through to completion pales in comparison, I expect these games to start coming out next week now that I've done all the heavy lifting. Hey, I'll even help you out. Look--I started a SourceForge page! It's as good as done already!

Update: despite their British origin, Kevan assures me in comments that the dinosaurs are playing American football. I was kind of wondering where the goalie was in that screenshot. This conclusively identifies the dinosaurs as Paralitian stromeri.

: This is the best Diesel Sweeties cartoon ever output to PNG.

Pretty Neat: I'm sure this was on Slashdot two years ago, but check it out: You can include tiny images inline in HTML by encoding them in base64. Found via Andy McKay, who provides the all-important Python implementation and a working example. RFC 2397 makes it all possible.

[Comments] (5) I Pie: The Pie Of The Month Club combines recipes and collage like no previous Of The Month Club. It's full of bizarre, inventive pie recipes like chocoholic Dirt and Worms Pie, tart Amish Saurkraut Custard Pie and portable Pie on a Stick. There's even the arbitrarily large Stack Pie. I showed that last pie recipe to Michael Stack, who said:

I think there's a resemblance (I used to think I looked like a concrete pillar).

This relieves me of the need to come up with an awesome dessert named after Stack for my "dishes named after programmers" diner menu.

Incidentally, if you're a Yankee in the South and you see "fried pie" on a menu, you might think that it's an eccentric dish made by this particular restaurant where they take slices of pie and deep-fry them. If you find this idea simultaneously repulsive and compelling, you might dare to order a fried pie, hoping and fearing to see a golden pie wedge breaded like a shrimp and plopped onto your plate with some whipped cream. If this is what you are expecting, you will be simultaneously relieved and disappointed. Fried pie is actually a completely standard dish that is basically a better version of those inedible $0.25 Hostess fruit pies. I'm not saying don't order it, but know what you're getting.

[Comments] (1) : Good primer covering programming-related skills that are technical in nature but not the sort of thing you learn in a class: How to be a Programmer. Learn how to debug, how to make design tradeoffs, how to estimate (always difficult, since it's only even possible in degenerate cases), how to work in a team[0], etc.

For programmers about to enter the real world (or otherwise about to take responsibility for software projects), it's a good technical companion to the more lifestyle-oriented Things I Wish I'd Been Told. Along with How to Build a Fort That Girls will Visit, these two documents form the essential post-college geek starter kit trilogy. (Thanks to Paul for looking in the Internet Archive when I was too lazy.)

[0] Supposedly you learn to work in a team in college, but it doesn't work. Working on an open source project is better preparation. You could pick up pair programming in college, if you went in determined to learn that way.

[Comments] (7) The Problem Is: The problem with splitting California into two culturally symbolic states, North and South, like you were planning to do in your post-cyberpunk novel, is that there's this great big valley running right down the middle of California. You can't really split it down the middle, nor can you split around it without creating a jigsaw puzzle. You're stuck!

This has been The Problem Is.

[Comments] (1) WE CAN SNEAK IT INTO THE SUBMARINE: From a meandering Salon article Sumana pointed me to, I found out about the ultra-decadent Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai, which I could never go to for fear the hotel would suddenly start sailing off into the Persian Gulf. It sure has a lot of stuff, but the bizarre all-caps style of the ad copy makes me think the person writing it is asking for my help smuggling money out of the country.

SPANNING 330 SQUARE METRES.. THE CLUB SUITE.. LOCATED ON THE 19TH AND 20TH FLOORS..IS THE PERFECT ENTERTAINMENT SUITE.SPORTING A SNOOKER TABLE.. COCKTAIL BAR AND DINING TABLE FOR 6 PEOPLE WHILE CLEANING.. THIS GORGEOUS SUITE I DISCOVERED $20 MILLION IN US DOLLARS LEFT.. BY A PREVIOUS OCCUPANT BENEATH THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE WHICH LEADS UP TO AN ADDITIONAL LOFT COMPLETE WITH SITTING AREA CONTINUING INTO THE BEDROOM WITH ITS KING SIZE BED.. I WRITE THIS FROM THE COMPLETE BUSINESS CENTER CONSISTING OF A WORK DESK..LAPTOP..PRINTER PRIVATE FAX AND TELEPHONE SERVICES AND DATAPORT ..

: Incidentally, a fun game you can play is to search for the name of a country and see at what position the CIA World Factbook entry for that country comes up. Actually, now that I've written it down, I don't really see why it's fun.

More fun to look through the Factbook for tiny territories like Howland Island, which features tourist attractions like the historic Earhart Light beacon (named after Amelia Earhart, who was headed for the island when she disappeared) and... nothing else. The only thing on the island is a thing that helps you stay away from the island. Fortunately, "the laws of the US, where applicable, apply."

: I recorded a song ("Monochrome") for you tonight, but then I had to wrestle like Jacob with my sound card, and then it turned out the vocals were red at the beginning, and then Sumana said it was too long ("What is it, four verses?" "Uh, three."), and then I came up with a better solo for the pyrotechnic finish, and generally it needs to be rerecorded. I don't know what I can do about the length, though. It's a standard three minutes and by gum it's supposed to be the missing link between the peppy 2:30 grungefest and the half-hour two-sample techno club beat that makes you want to leave, to be anywhere but here, to listen to Donovan or something just to hear a chord progression. I guess the experience has made me bitter. I have passed through the Easy Bake crucible!

OK, starting to babble. Time to turn off the computer.

Conversation:

"I had that 'hip deer in the headlights' look."

"Yeah, I know that one. 'Oh, I'm too cool to--[whump] Aaah! My trucker hat!'"

[Comments] (3) How Dead Will You Be?: PBS used to have a morbid web page that would show you the blast radii of various types of nuclear weapon superimposed over a map of your hometown, provided by the aptly-named MapBlast. Now it's just a bunch of static HTML with descriptions of how you really don't want to be anywhere near a nuclear blast. The sample map image is the only thing thing that proves I wasn't hallucinating it all.

Kris figured they took down the interactive portion because of 9/11, which makes total sense. Previously, terrorists would only have had to obtain a nuclear device if they wanted to blow up a city. Now, they have to obtain a nuclear device and a map and compass! But what about other methods of horrible destruction, as yet out of human control? Are there convenient, non-terror-enabling online forms that show you how dead you will be? I decided to do some searching and find out.

Well, I think that covers most of the SimCity disasters. Maybe the raw power of a nuclear explosion or an asteroid strike are what let you make a calculator that doesn't get hung up on the topography of the landscape or the size of a particular volcano.

[Comments] (3) Where was I on the night of the 19th?: Way-ul, I was sitting in my chair, working on the new NewsBruiser website. It's got a big tour page that covers most of the major features, and a great new logo and button drawn by Brendan. Both logo and button feature the bruisin' yet friendly NewsBruiser pachycephalosaurus, as yet unnamed. Name him, and win a valueless prize!

If you're interested in the progress of the Brendan/Leonard logo collaboration, check out the Gallery of Rejected NewsBruiser Logos. The dimetrodon was my original idea, and in the face of all evidence I still think we could have gotten it to work out somehow.

: Check out The Religious Policeman, an relatively new English-language weblog written by a Saudi. Your average political complaining weblog, except he's complaining about the lack of elections in his country. Caution: contains pictures of public executions. I'm not kidding.

I'd love to find more English-language weblogs written by natives of non-English-speaking countries--please post your favorites in comments. I want English-language weblogs because I want to read them, not collect them, and unfortunately I don't speak all the world's languages. I'm a failure!

: In the court of The Sun King, cell phones are mandatory. (From Hart's Weblog via Sumana.)

: In college, Adam Kaplan and I had this running joke about Brian Kernighan as a sort of freelance Santa Claus. He'd break into your house on Christmas Eve and leave you UNIX source tapes or a Plan 9 installation. If you'd been bad, you'd get lumps of Windows NT.

Anyway, while we were having our little jokes, the real Brian Kernighan was riding high at Lucent, lording it over Kevin and giving interviews to fans. Years later, Adam sends a pointer to me and Kris as a reminder... of what could have been. Ach, it's a sad story, and one told for no apparent reason.

PS: confidential to Adam et al. Is it okay if I link to your Livejournals? You don't really advertise them and I know Kris has his own non-Live journal, but sometimes I'd like to link to something you write and I don't know if that's okay or if you want to keep them semi-private or if you even know I know about them, in which case, oops.

[Comments] (1) Arbitrarily Hearty Squash Soup: This is an easy and tasty soup. I made it tonight to run some experiments before posting the recipe. To make it you stew ROASTED SQUASH AND THE LIKE in BROTH, blend it in the blender, and then add DAIRY and SEASONING. I didn't keep track of the time, but it probably took half an hour to 45 minutes.

ROASTED SQUASH AND THE LIKE

This can be any kind of squash or any other vegetable that's stringy and fleshy and you didn't like when you were a kid. The more squash you use, the heartier the soup. Tonight I used a butternut squash, some other kind of squash I don't know what it's called (it's yellow and shaped like a Keystone Kop's billyclub; it might actually be a zucchini), and two sweet potatoes.

Peel the squash and bisect them so as to maximize the exposed surface area. Scoop out any seeds and sprinkle the squash with pepper and brown sugar. Bake them on a cookie sheet in the oven until they're hot and you're sick of waiting. If you don't peel the squash you'll just have to scoop out the flesh once you remove them from the oven, when they're hot enough to ignite human flesh. There's no need to bake the squash skin! Anyway, once the baking is done you are ready to chop up the squash and dump them into the simmering

BROTH

I use two 14-ounce cans of vegetable broth. Using less broth is another way to increase the heartiness of the soup. I don't think any other kind of broth makes sense for this soup. While the squash cooks in the broth, mash it up with a potato masher. When it's good and mashed, transfer a few cups of it to the blender and blend it. Pour back into the soup pot and repeat until the soup is the consistency you want. If you're like Adam and Kim and you have one of those fancy hand blenders, by all means, use the fancy hand blender. Once you have a good thick soup you are ready to add the

DAIRY

The cream is a double-edged sword. It adds richness (because of the fat) at the expense of heartiness (because of the liquid). It's fine to use less cream, or none. I add the cheese because I like the flavor of a Swiss cheese in the soup, and I also like getting rid of old cheese.

SEASONING

I like a lot of different flavors, so every time I make this soup I add more stuff. Last time it was the cheese. This time I added toasted sesame seeds, which worked pretty well. Toasted squash seeds would have been more thematic. I bet you could also add garlic. (Side note to self: come up with dessert involving sesame seeds baked in brown sugar.)

Stir it all up, and you have soup! Serves 6, I guess (me + Sumana + Housemate 1TM + Housemate 2TM + me or Sumana having seconds + me or Sumana having a bowl for some other meal).

Next time: I am actually going to make Samoa Samosas. I have the ingredients and everything.

A Hard Day's Assimilation: This is the first of two entries I will write today about the "Star Trek: The Experience" licensed entertainment experience in Las Vegas. Check out their casting call for the new "Borg Invasion" thrill ride.

Job responsibilities include assimilating humans into the BORG collective in order to gain their power and knowledge...Strong improvisational skills are necessary because BORG do not have minds of their own.

The whole site is great, in an over-the-top Ferengi-run kind of way. I'm curious about the employees' prosthetics--they have to be fairly realistic in a less forgiving setting than a sound stage, and not take hours or lots of skilled labor to apply.

[Comments] (5) Hm, I Don't See A Betazoid Option: If my previous entry on the topic wasn't enough excitement for you, you can up and get married at Star Trek: The Experience, surrounded by well-wishing Klingons and Ferengi (what, no Species 8472?). You might think this was a great idea, especially for a fanboy like me, but their implementation hits a lot of wrong notes.

This isn't like a drive-up Elvis chapel that you do on the spur of the moment. You have to schedule this thing. And if you're deranged enough to want a Star Trek wedding, you're deranged enough to go on and on with your nitpicking and ruin it. Little details like the fact that your Star Trek wedding is nothing like a Star Trek wedding. None of the long-suffering Starfleet officers attending your wedding are in their dress uniforms, and you're getting married on the bridge--not the best place on a starship for a wedding, since people tend to be there trying to get work done. The sample pictures have people in 21st-century wedding clothes standing in front of the putative Enterprise viewscreen, making it look like they're negotiating with the Romulans over mineral rights. What should be an immersive experience ends up making you feel like an anachronism in someone else's world.

Well, that's my preemptive review. When I actually get married there I'll let you know how it went.

: Sumana and I made Samoa Samosas. They are not insanely great but they're edible. They'd be more edible if instead of taking the premise literally and using real Samoa cookies I used flavors that resembled those found in Samoa cookies, like chocolate and coconut. Recipe coming tomorrow, for completeness.

[Comments] (2) Samoa Samosas: Sumana likes them, I think they are mediocre. I will concede they are very good for a food that combines two completely different culinary concepts solely for the sake of a funny name. Sumana took the leftovers to work for a taste test. Results to be published in an update.

Filling:

Dough:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mash up the bananas. Chop up the cookies. Mush everything together.

Spread 3 sheets of the phyllo dough out on a cookie sheet. Brush each layer with melted butter and cut into 4 triangles. Distribute the filling between the triangles and fold into a vaguely samosoid shape with the filling in the middle. Brush top with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 10 minutes. Makes 4 samosas.


This is a scaled-down recipe. We actually made 6 samosas with 2 bananas and 8 cookies. We used 1 more sheet of phyllo dough to fashion the other 2 samosas. It's complicated so I didn't put it in the recipe. Just eat the other banana half.

I still have 14 sheets of phyllo dough, and it's not as hard as I'd feared to work with. Maybe I'll make some weird baklava or warbat (warbat!).

Fictional Legal Fictions: While driving across the Missouri river, Brendan and I passed a riverboat casino. Except it wasn't a riverboat. It was a building built on a pier with molding on the outside that made it look like a riverboat. It was connected to an onshore parking structure. How can that possibly skirt any state regulation about gambling? Is onshore gambling actually legal in Kansas, with this casino merely trying to provide the experience of Old Tyme Riverboat Gambling?

[Comments] (8) There's A Reason Why They Call It That: Last night Sumana and I threw caution to the winds and went to Greens, a ritzy vegetarian restaurant in the Fort Mason center (where little corporations are housed in big boxy Army surplus buildings). Unlike our similar adventure at Millennium, it was great! It was hearty and rustic where Millennium was trendy and urban, open and sunny and Californian where Millennium was a dark, crowded bistro. Millennium was obsessed with meat substitutes, Greens with vegetables and grains. Both used the weird leafy vegetables you've never heard of--I don't remember what they were and I could just make up random-sounding vegetables like "erdile" and you'd believe me.

We shared two great appetizers; southwestern bean cakes and a "spring sampler" with walnut bread, bleu goat cheese, walnuts, and dates. I had a great polenta-in-soupy-stuff entree, and Sumana had shish kebobs which she didn't like as much. I ordered a chocolate mousse torte for dessert, which I haven't eaten yet. (I couldn't eat it yesterday due to my new "jam every other day" diet.)

Total cost of meal was $60, which I think is pretty good for an upscale dinner in San Francisco. That $60 does not include the enormously expensive cookbook I bought. I'm going to end up one of those people with a bookcase full of cookbooks. A cookbookcase.

Two Years Later: Now's a good time to mention that sometime after this entry, Lego mad scientist Amy Hughes put the pictures of her awesome Lego church back online.

[Comments] (1) Town Names: Apropos Brendan: while on the campaign I found out about a town called Sandwich Landing in New Hampshire, which reminds me of The Young Ones.

[Comments] (2) : I wonder if, in this mechanized age, superheroes ever fall victim to secret identity theft.

: On Saturday, a sadistic Kevin made me and Sanil (visiting from Chennai) hike up Wildcat Peak near Berkeley. Apart from the hellish ascent and the treacherous descent, it was nice. A Nike missile silo (q.v.) on the summit has been beaten into a plowshare of an observation deck from which you can see the entire San Francisco Bay. I have pictures but who knows whether you can see anything in them--I've only seen tiny thumbnails so far because I can't find my USB memory card reader.

There's a "Peace Grove" below the observation deck in which certain trees have been provided the local Rotary Club with plaques comemmorating peacemakers (from a Rotary Club point of view, I guess) like Desmond Tutu, Anwar Sadat, Adlai Stevenson, and Edward Teller. Kevin claims Henry Kissinger has a plaque, but we couldn't find it.

The Peace Grove is great because there's no trail through it, no list of plaques, and no guidebook references--just a marking on the trail map and the word of your (not particularly trustworthy) guide. I probably shouldn't even be talking about it, lest I spoil the fun of crunching through the brush looking for plaques. It's like a monument plus a geocache.

: Get this before the cool kids take them all: Spacebloom is a fancy coffee-table book from a future where bioengineered storage media/embedded system vegetables are grown in space. Why? Because it's the future. Are you against the future?

[Comments] (1) Retraction Of Notice Of Intent to Mock: Wikipedia: Salon has an article on Wikipedia, a site that is great even though I've mocked it in the past (I can't find where I mocked it; did a Wiki zealot delete that entry?). The article reminds me I should anti-mock Wikipedia. What can I say? It looks like it works, thanks to the hard-working people who obsessively mantain it. Since I am lazy and want things to work automatically, I tend to discount things that will only work if you make its maintenance your pet project. Thank you, obsessive Wikipedia mantainers.

Even so, I would only care in an academic sense, but sometime in the past Wikipedia surpassed the point where the articles were tedious clean-room implementations of preexisting encyclopedia entries. Now they tell me about interesting things like The Fundamental Theorem of Poker (which inspired me to seek out other fundamental theorems) and what the SysRq key is for.

In celebration of the article and the server-crushing load it will no doubt send Wikipedia's way, I declare today WikiDay on News You Can Bruise. I can think of two other Wiki-related things to write about, which should be good enough for a Day.

[Comments] (7) Going Out In Midday Sun No Longer Top Indicator: Distributed stereotype ranking self-evaluations for Great Britain. Food and monarchy head the list. Full list nowhere to be seen online, which is a shame as that sort of list would be a good air-clearer for finding out less-appreciated facets of a national psyche.

Unfortunately, WikiDay is on hiatus due to insufficient funding. How will I tell the children that WikiDay has been cancelled? Please, think of the children.

[Comments] (3) Finger Wikin' Good: Thanks to your PayPal generosity, we were able to raise approximately $0.00 for our WikiDay celebration. This was well short of the expectations I laid out at the beginning of the funding drive, but it turns out that no special funding is required to write weblog entries about Wikis, so the show can continue as planned.

Suppose you want the glory of Wiki contributorship, but you also crave the greater proportional glory that comes from contributing to a Wiki that lacks thousands of contributors. Check out the Wiki Cookbook, the most promising of the WikiBooks. It has few specific recipes, but as with Wikipedia the potential is there to focus our individual obsessions on a single semicanonical web site. Check out, for instance the Caesar salad recipe--they have the original recipe from Caesar's Bar along with a bastardized modern version. Completeness mania strikes again! Huzzah! A global namespace ensures that variants of recipes will be explored within the context of the larger dish rather than stuck somewhere else. I hope.

My only complaint: I can't find any way to get any of the special Wiki pages (random page, recent changes) for a particular book (ie. the cookbook). There's one big dataset of all the changes made to every WikiBook from which these pages take their orders.

: A more tech-oriented entry to close off WikiDay (unless you or I can think of something else). Let's say you really like buzzwords (specifically, the same buzzwords I really like). Well, check out my ex-co-worker Greg Stein (now at Google)'s SubWiki, which combines "Wiki", "Python", and "Subversion" in pleasing ways. Is there any interest, or indeed any conceivable need, for me hosting a Wiki on crummy.com?

PS: If you know of any cool Wikis, post them in comments.

[Comments] (8) Free Cheap Rider: Today I sent a book to someone (who reads this weblog and will soon be pleasantly surprised). Book rate is so cheap! Why do we subsidize sending books through the mail?

[Comments] (1) Dactyl Nightmare: You all know my good friend Checkerboard Nightmare. But what about other things named "[Incongruent noun] Nightmare"? I believe I have found one.

There was an old VR game (that was what we called these games before we called them "first-person shooters") that ran on Amiga hardware, called Dactyl Nightmare. It had a sequel called (surprisingly) Dactyl Nightmare 2. The ad copy promises you will be "plunged into an ultrareal setting trying to avoid the menacing intentions of giant swooping pterodactyls in this game of unprecedented realism" and "You won't sleep through this nightmare."

Hey, wake up! Nightmare! C'mon! You're missing it!

OK, good. Here's a contemporaneous review of Dactyl Nightmare from an Amiga separatist site. The other thing I wanted to show you is this screenshot from Dactyl Nightmare 2, in which the pterodactyl has had big posters of herself printed up and hung in her nest. An egg theft countermeasure?

Man, what a great name. The trademark has been cancelled; does that mean I could write a completely different game with the same name and get away with it?

[Comments] (6) Operator Overloading: All sorts of things are possible with the click of a mouse, or, if you prefer, with a click of a mouse, or with a click of the mouse, or even with the click of the mouse.

Now, let me just publish this...

[Comments] (2) : I'm in a bad mood, but at least I made Alyson happy.

[Comments] (3) : Want your life to be a shallow imitation of Jake's? Afraid someone might take seriously your ironically-purchased thrift store t-shirts? Have we got a deal for you. (From cl)

[Comments] (3) : Tonight I reached a NewsBruiser milestone (by popular demand, you can now change the look of the notebook front page with templates), and tried my hand at baklava. I don't like wimpy dry baklava, so I packed it full of walnuts, dates, and shaved chocolate. It turned out pretty well, I think.

[Comments] (6) Nostalgia Theater: Snapshots From Belgium: While wandering around Brussels about a year ago, I went into a video store that had a Shaolin Soccer poster in the window. Since the poster said "Shaolin Soccer" and not "Le Futbol Shao-Lin" or something, I figured I could just ask for "Shaolin Soccer" but phrase the rest of the request in French. My plan was foiled when, like everyone else in Brussels, the video store clerk just started talking to me in English. But unlike everyone else who did this, she was very friendly and chatty--I guess not a lot of tourists come to the video store.

Another departure from the Brussels norm is that, though perfectly fluent in English, she had no idea what I was talking about. I had to show her the poster in the window to convince her that such a movie existed. Thus convinced, she started rooting around in the back and I started scouring the shelves. We talked a little. "My accent is very bad," she said. "My French is very bad," I pointed out.

Finally we found the movie on a shelf behind the cash register. So, that's why I have a Region 2 DVD of Shaolin Soccer dubbed in French. How come Region 1 DVDs all have multilingual subtitles and dubbing, but a DVD from any other region has nothing? I am starting to suspect that certain DVD regions are freeloaders.

Next time I get nostalgic, I'll tell you about the Italian restaurant in Charleroi where I accidentally ordered a salad. Yeah, that should cure my nostalgia.

[Comments] (4) Truth In False Advertising: I got a scam "phishing" email that wanted me to go to a fake PayPal page and give them my password. The URL was (are you ready?): http://[xxx].[yyy].com/trycon/scampage/

"Your honor, my client was never trying to con people with a scam page."

"Objection! May I refer the judge to People's Exhibit A, THE URL TO THE DAMN WEB PAGE."

Did someone unzip a handy prebuilt phishing tarball (The Pocket Phisherman?) into the webserver root and not rename the directories?

Tokyo Damage Report: In the future, guidebooks will only have things you're interested in. (From Sumana).

[Comments] (1) Baklava Brownies: I have reached that annoying (to you) stage of culinary skill where I can kind of make food on the fly, but I can't precisely recreate a recipe after the fact. I just can't envision the quantities. However, the secret of cooking is that recipes are very flexible so long as you're not making a cake or anything. So although the quantities I put down below are estimates, they should come out fine. If you run out of filling, just make more. That's what I did.

With that in mind, here is my baklava recipe. This is not at all like traditional baklava, which I think I've mentioned I don't really like. It's really dry and I can't help but think it is a complete waste of an opportunity to use figs or dates. The consensus from the salon.com tasting lab is that these are like brownies, so I dub them Baklava Brownies. They are probably healthier than fudge brownies, because they're basically made of dates and nuts, the sort of things that if you cornered a doctor and asked if it was healthy to eat a lot of them, the doctor would give sort of an equivocal answer versus a straight "no".

The goal of this recipe is to prepare FILLING, put it between sheets of BUTTERED PHYLLO, and bake it before adding TOPPING. First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then start assembling the

FILLING

Chop up everything in a food processor. You should have a big sticky mass. This is going to have a browniesh consistency and taste, but it's not going to have any structural integrity. That's why you're going to employ it as filling in a

BUTTERED PHYLLO ASSEMBLY

I'm not going to get into the mechanics of buttering phyllo dough. Suffice to say that you need:

Layer three sheets (actually half-sheets) of dough on the bottom and spread half of the filling on top. Layer three more sheets on top of the filling and put the rest of the filling on top of that. Top with three more sheets. Butter every side of every sheet of phyllo dough.

I built my baklava on a cookie sheet, but it should be small enough and would be more in keeping with the brownie theme to put it in a brownie pan. Anyway, according to some online sources you should cut squares out of the baklava before you bake it--just cut the top layer of dough, don't cut into the filling. I did this and it turned out fine.

You've got a half-sheet of phyllo dough left. Cut it up, butter it, and smush it along the sides of your assemblage so that the filling doesn't run out when you bake it. Then bake it, for about 10 minutes. While it's baking make the

TOPPING

You really shouldn't trust my recipe here, because my topping never reduced and thus didn't turn out too well. But it's equal parts honey and sugar (about 1/4 cup of each), reduced in an equal amount of water with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Spoon it over the baklava when you take it out of the oven.

Like brownies, you can eat this hot or let it cool. It's good either way.

[Comments] (2) Vindication: They mocked my predilections, but I am vindicated by anecdote!

Until 50 years ago, the book's paper wrapper was there to draw attention in a store, and to protect the book until someone actually sat down and read it. At that time it was commonly discarded[.]

In conclusion: ha!

Fundamental Theorem of Felicific Calculus: Utilitarianism: the game!

If a person is very happy, the player can "suck" some of that person's happiness (or sadness) and give it to some unhappy sod by rapidly hitting the circle button.

[Comments] (8) : Does anyone, under any circumstances, wear a top hat anymore? No one I can think of except people pretending to be people from the past.

Update: the consensus is: "People at weddings, sometimes, and also me if they weren't so expensive."

[Comments] (2) The One Time That Little "Under Construction" Icon Would Be Appropriate: I just updated NewsBruiser after a bunch of big Zack-related changes, so who knows what kind of stuff is going to break. Be on the lookout!

Froggy Went A'Measuring: And she did ride, uh-huh. Measure things like air pressure and temperature with a realistic (ie. not cartoonish) frog-shaped Phidget (qv.) named Rita. She has a tadpole-like tail that connects to your serial port.

Sensors also available in "boring box" edition. Maybe it has a compartment for you to hide your house keys in, or something to make up for the fact that it doesn't look like a frog.

Site does some stupid Javascript thing so I can't be bothered to find better links. Produit de France.

No, I Da Snowman!: You know how sometimes you work and work to find the cause of a bug, and after hours of debugging it turns out to need a one-line fix? Well, I just committed a four-line fix. Four times as satisfying!

[Comments] (5) Pesto Myths And Facts: I should be sleeping off my NewsBruiser triumph, but instead I'm writing this because I promised Sumana to demystify pesto tonight. So let me tell you that I made pesto on a whim without ever having made it before and it was great. I made it out of less-than-fresh basil and it was great. I made "Panic Pesto" out of whatever vaguely relevant ingredients I had lying around, and it was great. It's hard to screw up pesto. With that in mind, let me clear up some common misconceptions about pesto and its manufacture.

Myth: Pesto is just olive oil and basil.
Fact: Pesto is also three other things.

To make pesto you combine basil, nuts, cheese, and garlic in a food processor, then, with the food processor on, drizzle in olive oil until the mixture becomes semi-liquid. There should be a lot of basil, the same amount of nuts as cheese, and garlic to taste.

You can add pepper if you want. I wouldn't add salt if I were you. There's plenty of salt in the cheese, and if you are some kind of salt vampire or humanoid deer you should just keep your freakish lifestyle to yourself. There is no room in the blues for your petty sentimentality!

Myth: You must use hand-carved pine nuts.
Fact: That doesn't even make sense.

You can make pesto with any kind of nut. Panic Pesto was made of half pine nuts and half walnuts. Does it make a difference? Sure. In the way it tastes. Not in whether or not it's pesto. It still tastes fine.

Myth: Only Parmesan cheese is acceptable.
Fact: The previous statement is a myth, whereas this one is fact.

Panic Pesto was made of 1/4 Parmesan and 3/4 Jarlsberg fondue leftovers. If Jarlsberg works, then any white hard or semi-soft cheese should work. Maybe bleu cheese would work. Maybe even cheddar would work.

Myth: The non-use of basil in pesto will anger the pesto king.
Fact: The pesto king is an imposter and a fraud. So who cares?

I have only ever made pesto with basil, because both Sumana and I are crazy about basil. But you could make it with parsley instead, or spinach, or anything that's leafy and green with some flavor. You could even make mint pesto, though I wouldn't put it on pasta.

Myth: Blah blah blah.
Fact: Just put whatever you want in pesto. Make it with walnut oil. Substitute some other aromatic for garlic. Make hummus instead. You could probably come up with a combination that is awful, but my feeling is you'd have to ignore some other common-sense rule of cooking to do it.

[Comments] (2) Python Question: Is there a Python library that's like the standard time library, except it can handle dates before 1900? It's not for myself that I ask; it's for a friend. Guido mocks his pain. Can't you help?

[Comments] (1) Missing A Trick: Obviously this tiny LED flashlight should be called the Pak-LED.

[Comments] (5) Fried Green Vanilla: You know how vanilla beans cost four or five dollars apiece? And how you have to slice them open like a biology lab worm and scrape out the vanilla-laden goodness like... the dirt in the digestive tract of a biology lab worm? Well, here's an easier and cheaper way. For the cost of three or four vanilla beans you can buy half a cup of vanilla bean paste. It's basically vanilla extract mixed with pureed vanilla beans. It tastes and looks the same as if you'd done the vanilla bean dance, but it's half as expensive and easier to use.

I made vanilla/coconut/mint ice cream yesterday using the paste, and it was great. More on this later.

[Comments] (3) Shameless Word-Of-Mouth Marketing: Wherever there are petty, disgruntled Moveable Type users there is an audience for my rabble-rousing. Check out my weblog software, NewsBruiser. It probably does what you want; it's easy to install, upgrade, and hack; and it's open source and written in Python. Also, declare yourself emperor while the real emperor is away inspecting the border with Gaul! It's easy and fun!

PS: There must be a more effective way to do this?

[Comments] (10) Coconut Cuisine: Lately I've been making ice cream with coconut milk instead of cow milk. My original plan for such an ice cream was coconut/chocolate, which I still haven't gotten around to because my making of ice cream has slowed to a crawl because of my attempt to stop eating so many desserts, but how could it be bad?

I actually bought a coconut, thinking that the stuff inside was "coconut milk" (the way... well, I can't think of any foods that work that way), then discovered that it's actually "coconut water", and that "coconut milk" is what you get when you simmer coconut meat in water. So I started buying the canned coconut milk with the elephant on the can, since some negligible percentage of the money I spend on the coconut milk goes to an Asian elephant sanctuary. (Incidentally, if you want to eliminate the middleman and give money directly to an elephant sanctuary, check out this one in Tennessee).

So now I have nice coconut-flavored ice cream but I also have a coconut I don't know what to do with. Ideas? I was thinking maybe I could put a lime in it and drink it all up.

[Comments] (8) An Approach To "Twisty Little Passages: An Approach To Interactive Fiction": I've read Twisty Little Passages by Nick Montfort (cf.), and it's not for you and me, faithful readers. Its goal is to convince people in English departments that, despite the occasional presence in interactive fiction of spaceships and dragons, the medium is a legitimate form of aaaaht. Just like hypertext fiction!

Now, it's already received wisdom in parts of acadamé that video games are a form of aaaaht, but I guess not in the English department. Perhaps they resent video games intruding on their turf, so they lash out in anger at the most story-like form of game. This book is intended to soothe them and get them thinking about IF using whatever vocabulary is hot in textual analysis these days.

I, and everyone who expressed interest in this book to me, is in another group: people who self-interestedly stipulate that interactive fiction is a form of aaaaht, and who are interested in figuring out the theoretical underpinnings so they can make better artifacts. This book is not so good for us. I will demonstrate.

Twisty Little Passages starts off promisingly for us by comparing interactive fiction to another folk-art-ish form: the riddle. I recommend reading this part because while I don't think the analogy is complete, I think the comparison is useful; that by examining what makes a good riddle you can get some insight into what makes good interactive fiction.

But unless you want a refresher course in the history of IF I recommend not reading past page 80, where after an interesting take on IF precursors, ELIZA makes her appearance and the book takes a plunge into the canonical. The well-known-to-us history unfolds (Adventure, Zork, Scott Adams, Infocom, Magnetic Scrolls, bust, post-bust independents), with nary a reference to the riddle analogy. You think it'll be used as a lens through which to view the history of IF, but it's not used for anything, really. Over time it becomes clear that the riddle comparison was mainly intended to get the people in English departments to start thinking of IF in terms of other art forms. It's like a skeleton key in a game that only has one locked door; you carry it around to the end wondering why you only used it once.

The book closes with a roundup of references to interactive fiction in non-interactive fiction, hoping to clinch the argument with the awesome power of intertextuality. This section is a little embarrassing, like those late-80s letters to Nintendo Power touting the hand-eye-coordination benefits of video games. But it too is easily explained if you consider the market: antsy English majors who see a new form of writing intruding on their turf and eroding the overall quality of literature. People who will feel a little better if they know that non-interactive authors have sponsored interactive fiction by inclusion in their works, if they see that not all thinking on the subject has been done by dragon-obsessed, spaceship-loving nerds like me.

The best I can say for this book is that it should get more people thinking about interactive fiction, writing the sort of books that will be fodder to the minds of those of us who write interactive fiction. Maybe Nick Montfort will write another book for you and me, a book called Hey, Remember That Riddle Thing? Well, Have I Got Some Ideas For You.

[Comments] (3) Sensible Defaults: I need some feedback on this. I'm adding a feature to NewsBruiser that makes it easy for you to specify a license for what you write on your weblog. There will be the generic full-copyright license, where only 'fair use' is allowed; a public domain license, where everything is allowed; the in-between spectrum of Creative Commons licenses, and a 'custom' license that's whatever you want to type in. Possibly others. There are UI issues with this that I haven't figured out yet, but they needn't concern you. What need concern you is the question of what the default license should be.

The current law is that if you don't do anything special to something you right, it's under the generic copyright license. Therefore, making the generic copyright license the default would be the safest option, but I don't like the current law. I think it's too restrictive, and I don't really want to ratify it by making it the default license for a weblog.

What's more, NewsBruiser already embodies my assumption that anybody who writes a weblog is willing to give more latitude to readers than they'd get from fair use. It makes the full text of entries available in various syndication formats, which is more or less an open invitation for people to cache, archive, and mangle your entries using their own programs. I do this because syndication feeds that aren't full-text feeds are nearly useless. I figure that reasonable people writing weblogs won't mind giving a little more leeway than copyright law in its full scope allows..

My current thinking is to have the default for a public weblog to be the most restrictive Creative Commons license (attribution required, no derivative works, no commercial use), and the default for a private weblog to be regular copyright law. Does this make any sense? My guiding principles are: I don't want to imply to people that full copyright is the best thing for their weblogs (I think it's not). I don't want stuff to be under full copyright when the author wouldn't mind a less restrictive license. I don't want someone to give away something they thought they weren't giving away.

The last two are in conflict, and I feel I must tread carefully lest I become a sort of copyright Opt-Out River Weasel. Looking at that old entry, maybe the way to do it is to "Tell people about [the licensing options]" rather than hoping they go to the configure screen and find them. What do you think?

Update: Man, this entry is a big mess. But people seem to understand what I'm talking about, so it's doing its job.

[Comments] (2) The Online Donation of Constantine: Sumana asked me why, my stupid jokes on the subject notwithstanding, I don't have a little PayPal button on my pages so that people could send me money. It's true that I've considered this. NYCB, NewsBruiser and my various other writings and software cost me nothing but spare time (I've been bumming off of other peoples' hardware and bandwidth for 9 years, and why stop now?). It's not very monetizable, and I don't really need an extra $15 a month, which is the upper limit of what I'd probably get.

At the same time, I'm curious as to how much people are willing to send my way in this post-purchase economy, but that by itself is not a compelling reason to ask for donations. Thus, the brilliant solution: I set up a Paypal or Paypal-like accont, and expose donation buttons all over the place, except that all the money donated actually gets sent to some deserving charity.

How to do this? I can think of four solutions.

  1. The vim/"In lieu of flowers" method: I just say that if you feel the urge to give, you should do such-and-such. Advantages: I don't have to do anything much. Disadvantages: High activity threshhold for donation precludes rash impulse donations. I don't find out how much is actually being donated.
  2. The "money laundering" method. I funnel donations to my own Paypal account and every n months I cut a check for the balance. Disadvantages: I have to cut a check every n months. "The balance" likely to be emberassingly small. If I use Paypal for other purposes it gets all mushed up.
  3. The "cross-site scripting" method. I put up the little Paypal buttons except they don't go to my own Paypal account, they go to some charity's Paypal account. Advantages: Mwah-hah-hah sneaky. Easy to donate. Disadvantages: most charities don't have Paypal accounts. I don't find out how much is being donated.
  4. The "Unix pipes" method. I get an account on some Paypal-like site and specify that all incoming funds be funneled to various other accounts. Advantages: does exactly what I want. Disadvantages: does not exist.

Any others?

[Comments] (5) : The licensing stuff has to wait a little bit, because today I discovered that Movable Type has a data dump format! Well, you know how I love importing entries from other weblog tools. So I had to add a plugin to NewsBruiser that eats up that format and turns it into NewsBruiser entries. Thanks to Josh and Anirvan for sending me example dump files for me to work with. Today's new library is Transfusion, which parses the not-so-great MT data dump files into something you can use.

Incidentally, I've noticed a worrying difference between email spam and weblog spam. With email spam, the spammer can maybe approximate your spam list (after all, even spammers get spam), but they can't see your non-spam list without cracking your email account. On the other hand, with weblog spam no one sees the spam you deleted, but all the non-spam comments are right there for everyone to see and parse. It would be trivial for a comment spammer to post an exact repeat of someone else's comment but with Viagra links all over the place. In the long run, a Bayesean filter for comment spam might degenerate into an IP and URL blacklist. Is there any algorithmic defense against an attacker who has access to everything previously blessed by the algorithm?

Economies Of Scale: Are you in the market for a really big map?

Search Requests Passing In the Night: I think there could be a fruitful meeting between the person who searched for how to get rid of a lazy boyfriend and the one who searched for how to pour a cement pad.

[Comments] (8) Metal Fire!: Sorry, but it's my Constitutional right to shout "Fire!" in a crowded weblog. And what cooler kind of fire to shout than metal fire? Magnesium, uranium, aluminum... they'll all go up in flames. Don't even get me started on nature's deathtrap, sodium.

I guess I knew about metal combustion before, because I'd seen the pretty spectrographic colors metal dust makes when thrown into a fire. And it's not surprising that for metals with nearly-empty outer electron shells, a fine line would divide oxidation from combustion. But never before had I envisioned metals catching fire on their own and wreaking havoc, or conceived of high-tech fires deemed worthy of their own fire class (D) and requiring special fire extinguishers to appease. Even though your aluminum foil isn't going to catch on fire, the idea has a certain cutting-edge cyberpunk allure.

Social Skills: "Your shoe is untied."

CORRECT: "Thanks."

INCORRECT: "I don't need your pity!"

[Comments] (2) Instant Karma Chameleon: This is seriously the best NewsBruiser yet. It's got all the features on Zack's "stuff NewsBruiser can't do" wish list, and you know Zack's a tough customer. You want NewsBruiser to look like the rest of your website, you got it. You want a blogroll, you got it (albeit slightly ugly to manage). The search engine is smarter and much more robust; it's fun to search where before it was kind of a drag, as though your baby had been untrue.

And if you like to import things, you're in luck. Not only can you hook a NewsBruiser weblog up to a Moveable Type weblog and suck down all the entries, comments, and trackbacks; it now comes with a lumbering Tor Johnson of an HTML machete (deserving of its own post, tomorrow) that you can use to exhume weblog entries (and things-that-should-be-weblog-entries) from their nonstandard HTML coffins.

You'll forgive me if all that functionality makes me wax poetic for a bit. Over the past year or so I've been thinking about weblogs, syndication, online communities, information retrieval, the next step in computer-mediated communication... the whole bit. I haven't been talking about it much, because I don't do the grand vision thing well. In my experience, a grand vision is largely a pheremonal advertisement for the person with the vision. I see instead a lot of little strategies and experiments. The world doesn't need another wannabe visionary, but I figure if I can make some incremental improvements and implement some ideas, I can hold my head high with the rest of them.

This ties into NewsBruiser like so: you know how a lot of open source software projects start out with an idea to write a program to do one task, then get it into their heads to do a generalization of that task, and keep integrating the task over some variable and never get anything done? I am fortunate and happy to report that the history of NewsBruiser development has been the good twin of that phenomenon.[0] All this time I've been envisioning and implementing slight tweaks to NewsBruiser concepts that open up new vistas, restricted liftings of restrictions that make it more powerful. Such changes add up, and somewhere during the past year the application became capable of being a platform. Those slight tweaks are becoming more powerful, and my crackpot ideas for fearsome electronic beasts are resolving themselves into simpler and simpler transforms on the NewsBruiser codebase.

But as they say, talk is cheap. I'll let you know when the killer app is done. For now, we've just got a really good weblog system.

[0] The urge to generalize is natural, and it's not hard to generalize without biting off more than you can chew: you start with a working system; you make incremental improvements; you make sure all improvements have a working system as their endpoint; and you try very hard to make the new system as simple to use as the old system, assuming you don't care about the new features. Above all, be patient. It will be better and come faster, and you'll get a better understanding of the problem domain if you don't try to do everything at once. Slow and steady wins the race. A stitch in time saves nine. Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

PS: Zack, Mike, everyone else who's interested: give this version a try. Let me know if you have problems or feature requests.

[Comments] (2) Rewrite Rules: It seems I am, relatively speaking, the master of Apache rewrite rules. If you're setting up NewsBruiser and you want the URLs to look a certain way, send me email letting me know what you want them to look like and I'll come up with some rewrite rules for you to try.

Note that rewriting goes both ways. If you use rewrite rules you also need to create a Python class that rewrites the URLs NewsBruiser generates, so that it outputs the nice URLs that will trigger your rewrite rules. I can help you with this too, if you want.

[Comments] (6) HTML As She Is Spoke: Let me toot a slightly different horn here, if I may. A while ago I put out a call for a Python library that parsed an HTML file into a DOM-like data structure. I needed something that worked on Python 1.5.2 with no external dependencies, something that either fixed or forcibly parsed bad HTML, something that made screen-scraping easy; yea, something that both sliced and diced.

You may be surprised to learn that none of my faithful readers' helpful suggestions met with the approval of my demanding eye, and so I wrote my own library, which I like to call Beautiful Soup and which I mentioned in passing yesterday. It's the HTML parser that just doesn't care. If you give it perfect HTML, it'll give you a perfect data structure, just like the big-name parsers. But other parsers know too much about HTML. They choke on or try to rewrite bad markup. They assume you care about the whole document. A pirate might make you walk the plank, but only a parser would make you walk the whole tree.

Not so with Beautiful Soup. What you wrote is what you get. If the HTML is horrible, so is the data structure you get--but you get something, and if you're screen-scraping, you don't care about the whole data structure. You're not writing a web browser. You want to grab some data and get out. Beautiful Soup hides all the tree traversal behind a couple of methods that let you slurp up all the links, all the headings of a certain class, the specific span that contains the train schedule time, whatever. It's similar in philosophy to Aaron's xmltramp.

If, like Lucy Ricardo, you got some 'scrapin' to do, give it a try. I love it. But then, I love all my children. The ones I designed to go on rampages no less than the ones where it just happens.

PS: Since Beautiful Soup knows very little about HTML, and it's based on SGMLParser, you could probably use it on anything that looks like HTML, eg. XML or your domain language that has the same structure as HTML but different tags.

Pretty Good Hummus: It's been over a week since one promise fed into another. I promised Alyson I'd try to figure out how to make smooth, creamy hummus like they serve in Middle Eastern restaurants. She and I are tired of the grainy stuff you get in a tub from the store. So join me in the Test Kitchen You Can Bruise, as I uncover the secrets of great hummus.

I looked at eight different hummus recipes on the web and tried to factor out the commonalities and tally the differences. I came up with the following generic set of ingredients:

Generic Hummus

Process all ingredients except for olive oil in food processor or blender. Use water or reserved garbanzo liquid to lubricate the hummus if the blade won't catch. Slowly drizzle olive oil (as though making pesto) into the vortex until hummus reaches desired consistency.

Simple enough. Then there were the secret ingredients: cumin, soy sauce (?! But it was in two of the eight recipes!), ground sesame, oregano, paprika, chopped parsley, chopped chilis, coriander, plain yogurt, cayenne, turmeric, and cilantro.

I decided to use yogurt instead of water or reserved liquid, because it would both lubricate the hummus and add the tangy flavor you get at a restaurant. I bought cumin and coriander to put in the hummus, but I am a spice spaz and I couldn't find the coriander. I used marjoram instead, because it smelled nice.

What I got was pretty good. It's smooth (a little too smooth, actually; I used too much yogurt) and tasty. Since I got it pretty close, I think my one experiment entitles me to take a guess at the two secrets to smooth hummus:

  1. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt to the generic recipe.
  2. Use the blender, not the food processor.

I started the hummus in the food procesor (a teeny 2 cup model that makes me work in stages; wedding gift overflow from an anonymous source), but I wasn't happy with the consistency so I moved it to the blender to finish it. I'm almost certain you could get the exact same result by just dumping everything in the blender.

All the herbs and spices affect the way it tastes, not the consistency. I do not claim to have made the tastiest hummus in the world; just one that has a good creamy consistency. As for flavor, I have not tried this, but adding a tablespoon or two of peanut butter might be good.

You might balk at buying plain yogurt just so you can use a little bit of it in hummus. The solution is to buy a lot of plain yogurt and make tzatziki with the rest; then you've got the complete Pita Fun Pak.

Incidentally, after smelling my post-hummus breath Sumana wants me to make it clear that a little garlic goes a long way in this recipe.

Wait For The Wagon: Profiles In Adequacy:

Millard Fillmore demonstrated that through methodical industry and some competence an uninspiring man could make the American dream come true.

Now that suffices! Maybe there's hope for me yet!

So Rich And Green: Because Beautiful Soup's reception greatly exceeded expectations (I think I tapped a real market need here), I made a cute little web page for it with lots of examples and Tenniel graphics. I finally get to pay tribute to the line from Carroll that made me actually roll around on the floor laughing when I was 9 and my father was reading The Annotated Alice aloud, one chapter a week, complete with all the incomprehensible-to-children annotations.

Hummus Take 2: I made some hummus for Mark's birthday party, which I'm going off to after I post this. It turns out you have to start it in the food processor, unless you have a monster diesel-powered blender. I really do recommend finishing it in the blender, though. I added some sesame seeds and it's got a little different taste from the other batch of hummus. I think that's mainly because I used a different brand of garbanzo bean. Still good, and I managed to get the consistency right.

[Comments] (4) Hummus Corollary: I know this is turning into the hummus weblog (I actually had an interesting entry to post yesterday, but at the last minute I discovered my data was wrong so I have to redo it today), but it transpired that Mark was also making hummus and that, in a corollary to my blender/food processor law of hummus, it turns out that if you have a real food processor instead of a dinky 2-cup "microprocessor", you can make hummus in the processor only. Mark likes his hummus a little chunky, though.

Also, even though it might sound clever, don't bring your hummus to the party in a leftover Trader Joe's hummus container, or people will unintentionally insult your wondrous hummus by thinking it's the grainy Trader Joe's stuff.

[Comments] (6) The Wages of Combinatorics: Trying to figure out the best way to present the licensing interface for NewsBruiser, I decided to see which Creative Commons licenses were the most popular. I ran a Google link: search for all 11 Creative Commons licenses, plus additional CC-provided licenses like the public domain dedication 'license' and the CC-GNU GPL and LGPL. I used the canonical license link: the URL I would link to if I were licensing something. It turns out that only four or five of the 15+ licenses are used by any substantial number of people.

The top five licenses are all Attribution-type licenses, with the most popular being Attribution-NonCommercial with nearly 25,000 hits. The least popular Creative Commons license, with only 13 takers, is the CC-GNU LGPL license.

License Design Implications

It looks like Creative Commons has enough licenses. The core licenses have proven very effective at meeting people's needs, and there's no need to keep minting new ones because as far as I can tell the new ones don't get used. This might indicate that the new licenses are created in response to "You should have such-and-such a license" feedback rather than in response to people who don't like any of the existing Creative Commons licenses.

For instance, consider the Creative Commons "Music Sharing License", which is effectively the same as Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs. It's a lot more popular than its forlorn twin, but here "popularity" means 177 hits on Google instead of 16. It's dwarfed by its own commentary: Googling for "music sharing license" gets you 530 results talking about the latest license from Creative Commons. Compare to a string search for, eg. "Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike". You get people actually using the license, not talking about it. Creating a new license gets Creative Commons some buzz, but not much more; it looks like everyone who wants a license already has one they like.

The GNU licenses were probably created on behalf of GPL fanatics who kept bugging the Creative Commons people "why don't you have a GPL license?". Now that they're here, few people use them. My guess is, most people who want to use the GPL are using the actual GPL.

I didn't include them (or Music Sharing) in the survey because they're for music, but the URLs to the Sampling and Sampling Plus licenses are also mentioned almost nowhere on the web. This might be because no one uses them, because they're newer, because they don't get used correctly, or because they get used in ways that Google can't pick up. My methodology isn't as good for licenses not used by web pages (which probably also affects the GPL/LGPL numbers), so I will reserve judgement on these--but again, I searched for links to the URL I'd link to if I were licensing something under that Creative Commons license. The fact that the most popular licenses get tens of thousands of hits indicate that there's not some systemic disconnect where people don't link to the license they're using.

On the flip side, it does look like the CC public domain dedication is getting some good use--it's the sixth most popular license. I think this and the Founders' Copyright license (about which below) feed into a core competency of Creative Commons--being a trusted repository for copyright assignments.

UI Implications

If you want to let someone choose a Creative Commons license (in addition to whatever non-CC licenses), you don't need a bunch of orthogonal sets of radio buttons like the Creative Commons license picker has. You can provide four individual radio buttons and an 'other' field. This will handle 84% of the cases without greatly inconveniencing the other 16% of the people. (You want an 'other' field anyway, since people come up with all kinds of crazy non-CC licenses for their stuff.)

I couldn't measure the success of the Founder's Copyright because I couldn't find one canonical URL for the license. However, it's a good idea and I'm going to make it an option in NewsBruiser. This brings up my other UI design factor: in addition to the four most popular Creative Commons licenses, you can add whatever ones you like and think people should use. They'll be more likely to be used if they're options and not an 'other'.

Data below, if you're interested:
Relative popularity of Creative Commons text licenses
LicenseGoogle hits% of totalFirst result
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike2490031.63Photographers' and Illustrators' Artist Corners | Creative Commons
Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial2100026.68molly.com
Attribution1030013.08Photographers' and Illustrators' Artist Corners | Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike1010012.83Tools
Attribution-NonCommercial50606.43MSNBC - GlennReynolds.com
Public-Domain30803.91Mike Linksvayer
Attribution-NoDerivs14601.85Among Other Things
ShareAlike10601.35 ACM SIGWEB - Conferences
NonCommercial-ShareAlike7690.98Trademarks, Free Speech, and ChillingEffects.org
NoDerivs-NonCommercial4790.61blog@garogreen.com
NonCommercial3230.41Search Engines Directory
NoDerivs1260.16Browse Top Level > Moving Images > Brick Films > LEGO
CC-GNU-GPL310.04blogkomm: download
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs160.02Photographers' and Illustrators' Artist Corners | Creative Commons
CC-GNU-LGPL130.02Carlsbad Cubes - Wolf Paulus' Web Journal

[Comments] (4) Beautiful: At last, a solution to the eternal question "Where is your RSS feed?". Admittedly it creates the new question "Why is your RSS feed a big letdown from what I was led to believe by your RSS button?". But isn't that a much more interesting question? (From Sumana)

Leonard Preemptively Gets Results!: Just last night, Creative Commons effectively got rid of many of their least-used licenses by making the (almost always warranted) assumption on their license picker that you want attribution. Check out Mark Linksvayer's comment in my previous entry on the topic for hot new data that is going to make me have to redo my graph tonight.

[Comments] (2) Give Me A Graph With Hair: I redid my graph to do a side-by-side comparison of Yahoo's and Google's allegations as to the relative popularity of Creative Commons licenses (and to get rid of a license which I somehow had in there twice).

The two engines give pretty similar pictures, except that Yahoo says public domain usage and the "Attribution" license are much less popular. Note the following:

Hummus Weblog or Licensing Weblog?: You decide, gentle reader. Tonight I got a lot of good work done on the notebook licensing stuff as well as my usual time spent solving the problems of my new users. The licensing code is one or two hours from being releasable; I just need to tie in the templating code. The release may happen tomorrow or it may happen Tuesday; I'm going to Bakersfield again for the long weekend so there's a kind of narrow window.

It's well-known that typos spawn ideas. Such an idea: the I Want Options library should spawn a knockoff called I Want Potions.

[Comments] (2) Creative Cormorant: And we're back. Kevin did an OS upgrade on this webserver so now we have all sorts of goodies like Apache 2 (which means mod_py (which means mod_py support for NewsBruiser) and a Subversion repository (which means SubWiki (which means a NewsBruiser documentation/fun Wiki)). Yes, it's all about NewsBruiser here. And parentheses. Speaking of the world's premiere news bruising software package, I just released version 2.4.0, "Creative Cormorant". Not only does it have integrated Creative Commons licensing support, it fixes several a couple bugs in the configuration interface that could cause you to lose data, so I definitely recommend upgrading.

[Comments] (4) Everything Is A Design Pattern, Or, Hooray For Bookfinder: A while ago, in the used bookstore in Mountain View, I saw a magical book. It looked to have been published in the 1950s and it was a cookbook, but not just any cookbook. Instead of a list of recipes it laid out these sort of design patterns for food. I thought this was a great idea and I think it's the basic concept you need to easily teach cooking to computer geeks. To cook food you need to have the techniques and you need to have a mental map of food textures and flavors so that you can pick ingredients that go with each other and with the techniques you're using. Patterns work for both skills.

This is, incidentally, the best thing about Alton Brown's style of cooking pedagogy; he shows you the makeup of dishes, how to analyze them, and the connections between them. One of the best examples of this is that in some episode or other of Good Eats he points out that a cheesecake is structurally a custard, not a cake. It needs to be cooked in a hot bath, not just baked in a pan just because it has 'cake' in its name.

Anyway, for some reason I didn't buy that book! It cost $10 and I guess I decided it wasn't worth it. Later I changed my mind, but the last time I went to that bookstore it was gone.

Today I idly searched Bookfinder for "cooking patterns" and I found it! I don't remember the (long, unwieldy) title and I can't search for it anymore because I bought it and there are no other listed copies, but by a fortunate confluence of minds the author put "patterns" in the title so I was able to find it. And at about the same price it was being offered at the used bookstore! The $3.00 extra I'm paying to have it shipped to me I will chalk up as a "lesson learned" surcharge. The relevant lesson, of course, is: never take chances! Buy EVERY BOOK!

If I ever write a cookbook (which I might) it's going to be a synthesis of this cookbook I've got coming to me in the mail and Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For The Food. It'll be organized around the principles of recipe schemas and recipe transformations based on ingredient or technique. If you can make x, you can make y by applying a transformation. You can start slow, gradually build a repertoire you're comfortable with, but always keep experimenting within the bounds of the known if you don't want to learn a whole new skill to make something different.

I think cooking should be more like quantum chemistry and less like high school chemistry. There's always going to be a subjective element, but I think it can be factored out and that you can learn even from reading about transformations that involve stuff you don't like.

Book Update, Updated Book: The book is called (are you ready?): "Cooking Without Recipes: A complete cooking course designed to change beginners and recipe-followers into creative cooks, including 300 recipe patterns and exciting variations." With a baroque title like that you'd expect it to be from the hand of the learned Dr. Johnson, but it is instead from the hand of the learned Helen Worth. There's an updated 1980 version which I should probably get as well if I decide to seriously do this design patterns cookbook thing.

Other cookbooks I found that have similar ideas: "How to Cook without a Book" by Pam Anderson (no, not Pam Samuelson); a completely different "Cooking Without Recipes", by Cheryl Sindell and Joachim Splichal; "The Blue Strawbery Cookbook" [sic], by James Halle. I've ordered them according to my guesses as to where they fall on the continuum that travels from Recipe Refactoring Metropolis to the Random Improvisation Olde Tyme Country Farm.

Honorable mention goes to similarly-named Cooking Without a Kitchen, which, aiming for the MacGuyver wannabe niche market, features gourmet recipes you prepare in the hotel coffeemaker.

[Comments] (6) Spam Microfiction: Man, this is pretty good:

arizona,and he accompanied,audrey,he went down,meadowland,some inexplicable loathing,checkmate,ratslayers mutilated face.

I kind of wish I'd written it.

: In Bakersfield for the weekend. This is one of those rambling entries I write when I'm in Bakersfield and I don't want to miss a day writing in NYCB. Current mood: tired but awake. Thinking about: Bayesian text analysis, capabilities and limits of. Reading: Infinite Jest, which I got for $6 at the used book store by Greens. That's a lot of words for not a lot of money, so merely on the books-by-the-pound scale my purchase was justified. The funny titles of in-book cultural artifacts are just a bonus.

Oh, today we went to a multifamily yard sale where they tried to sell me old Collier's Yearbooks on the pound-for-pound principle; rather the books-by-the-foot principle, claiming that I could impress my friends by filling up yards of empty bookcase space with these old instant-history books. Since this would require getting new, empty bookcases and new, easily impressed friends, I declined. I wonder why they were selling them? Did their friends tell them "You know, those books used to impress us, but the novelty is kind of wearing off."?

I bought two Ian Fleming James Bond novels, and they were kind of pushy about me buying more books. I compromised and bought their ugly 1970s copy of the card game "Pit" that you always find in some distant relative's shelf of games. I guess I'm going to be that distant relative for the next generation.

Oh, I should mention the awesome yard sale (I love yard sales!) Sumana and I went to last weekend. There were lots of antiques, including a player piano, a Polaroid Land Camera, and a lovely 1950s refrigerator ($350, due to its tiny freezer compartment not really practical as your only refrigerator). The woman holding the garage sale said that swarms of antique dealers had descended on her garage sale and that what we saw was merely the carcass they had left.

I bought a hand-made tablecloth and Sumana bought a folding chair. When I'm rich and have my own house I want to do my kitchen in that can-do 1950s industrial aesthetic. To me, "retro" will always mean the 1950s, the first style I can see someone wanting to get back as opposed to just liking because it's old. The same way "modern" art as a term of... art... is stuck in the 1920s.

[Comments] (4) : Oh, hey. Does anyone (like Kevan) remember a book or something that hypothesized wildly about what kinds of creatures would have evolved from current stock one billion years in the future? I mention Kevan because when people were talking about it a year or two ago, the canonical example everyone liked was the Paul Bunyan-esque giant forest squid.

I bring this up because in the odd "randomly placed bookcase" exhibit at the dinosaur museum in Utah, and then in the same used bookstore where I bought Infinite Jest, I found a 1981 book called After Man. It takes the relatively short view of 35 million years in the future, but it's a nice book because it's imaginative, illustrated with watercolored line drawings and written like any other zoological monograph. I can't find any information on this kindred spirit, but I know it exists and it's preventing me from doing a proper NYCB about After Man. Does anyone remember this?

[Comments] (2) Cross-Cultural Hijinx: So, I know all the standard British English and when I went to England a while back I thought I would have no problem communicating with the natives. And for the most part I got along fine. Nobody even tried to confuse me with double-talk about boots and lifts and parliamentary governments. But I did run into some verbal confusion for which no guidebook or web page had prepared me, and these experiences were kind of embarrassing in a that-aggravating-American or a Leonard-suffers-in-silence kind of way. For the benefit of future tourists I will now commence a vocabulary of lesser-known differences between UK and US terminology.

Exhibit A. In the US, when you order an "x salad sandwich" (eg. "chicken salad sandwich"), you get a sandwich made of x salad, which is x mashed up with mayonnaise and celery and other unsavory things. I'd never order any kind of "x salad sandwich" here.

But in the UK "x salad sandwich" means "do you want a sad little slice of tomato and piece of lettuce on your sandwich, or do you just want the bread and cheese and meat and whatever?" And clearly you want the x salad sandwich in preference to the x sandwich, because you need that tomato and vegetable to lubricate the sandwich which is otherwise pretty dry or slathered with some obscure Qwghlmnian sauce.

Exhibit B. I ran into some confusion between "chocolate" meaning a candy bar and meaning an individual, unwrapped piece of chocolate candy and meaning a piece of candy in general. I never did figure this out, and in the end I just went chocolate-less rather than navigate what seemed to be another country's "Want a Coke?" "Sure, I'll have a Sprite" issue. Now that I think about it it's kind of weird that it was easier for me to buy chocolate in French in Belgium than in English in England. Anyway, can anyone clear up this point? It's possible I was merely faced with a surly or inexpert cashier.

Smooth Operators: I can't make this stuff up, but other people can. There are enough Perl operators to make a periodic table. Bizarrely, Perl still lacks most of these vital operators.

Cruel Macros For Dear Friends: In the BBS days there used to be a market for prank programs that you installed on your friends' computers without their knowledge, with hilarity inevitably insuing. Nowadays, shady software companies will install software on your computer without your knowledge, but it's not as fun. Those of us who run secure operating systems still do things the old-fashioned way, though we have to occasionally walk away away from our desks to make things easier for our well-meaning Mallorys.

In this spirit is Brian Fitzpatrick's broken-keyboard.el, which sneaks around your Emacs keybindings breaking one key at a time. It's one for the ages, or at least all ages that have keyboards.

[Comments] (2) A Winner Is Me: Hurrah! I won the Checkerboard Nightmare contest, which means I get to control the content of Checkerboard Nightmare for a storyline's worth of strips. I may also be able to get Kris to draw some of the one-off strips for which I keep sending him scripts.

I'm surprised I wasn't disqualified for going to college with Kris, but since the 'contest' was actually just a thinly disguised auction there was little room for favoritism.

Leonard's Pop Science Minute: 7-million digit prime number discovered. Skulking between two 7-million digit composite numbers, no doubt.

Good tabloid-science headline: Origin of Enigmatic Galactic-center Filaments Revealed!

Accuracy not guaranteed.

: For Sanil's benefit I cropped and put up pictures of the Kevin/Sanil/Leonard peace grove hike, but I haven't named the pictures yet so unless you like poking through directories full of unnamed files, you might be frustrated. But here's a special picture for Susanna, which I took while walking to the BART from North Beach.

[Comments] (9) I wonder how they ship the sets?: A Lego container ship: my fanboy fantasy? No, it's an official set! It's all brand-named and I like my Lego sets generic (I never even applied those NASA decals on my space shuttle set), but I'm thinking about getting it or at least giving broad hints that it would look nice on my desk. If there was room on my desk.

Lego and Maersk might have some Scandanavian corporate synergy; maybe the container ship set was a cross-promotional deal. Update: Looks like it's been going on for a while, along with other promotional tie-ins.

[Comments] (2) It's WikiDay in June!: I was waiting to announce this until I got reST support working, and then I got it working and it turns out reST support is way too slow, so for now I'm going to stick with the default syntax. I've set up a wiki for NewsBruiser, where I'm going to put all the documentation. NewsbruiserFans, if you could help out I'd greatly appreciate it, even if you just port existing documentation to the Wiki. I've already spent way too much time recently not working on NewsBruiser.

The Game Of Molas: Apropos my longstanding quest for games in which you can play a mola mola, I have it on good authority that Parodius 2 lets you play a mola, and that a mola is a recurring character in the annoying Kirby series of Nintendo games for various platforms. I welcome this development, and hope that molas will infiltrate more games in the future. Now, stay tuned, as we bring you a Special Report You Can Bruise:

Parodius 2: An Unlikely Champion. Tonight, we'll trace this mild-mannered Gradius parody from its obscure origins, through development, to its current height of fake fame caused by its exploitation of the cheap button-pushing trick of letting you play as a mola mola. And whose idea was it to create a hagiographic documentary for a video game? Not even one anyone's ever heard of?! We pull no punches as we investigate our own sorry selves!

Coming up next: Kirby Kirby Kirby: An Unlikely Runner-Up.

Ok, back to fixing that NewsBruiser comment bug.

[Comments] (1) Note About Old Paintings: If you go to a place where they have a lot of old paintings, like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, notice that no one in the portraits shows their teeth. Because their teeth were all rotten! Man, that must have sucked. That reminds me, I have to go brush my teeth.

Incidentally, the Rijksmuseum is under renovation and has a sort of "greatest hits" exhibition going in two big rooms, so you can get a discount and a much quicker tour that gets all the famous stuff, at the expense of not being able to see the non-famous stuff that's often more interesting.

[Comments] (3) Problems That Aren't That Interesting: I decided to find the answer to the Tootsie Roll Pop-like question of how many moves it would take to move a chess piece to any given part of the chessboard. I don't know why I bothered because it didn't take long to find out that the problem is not that interesting. Every space on the chessboard is accessible from the standard starting position in at most three moves.

On the plus side, while seeing if anyone else had duplicated my puny results, I came across the awesome Trading Agent Competition, best described as Core Wars for those intelligent agents we hear so much about that look for the best prices online. In fact, that link deserves to be the star of this entry. Okay, I'll move this paragraph above the diagram so you'll see it. I couldn't find source for the agents, but here's an overview of the strategies employed.

And here's the chess diagram:

+--------+
|33333333|
|33333333|
|23333332|
|11111111|
|11111111|
|11111111|
|00000000|
|00000000|
+--------+

The only thing remotely interesting about that diagram is that it's not symmetrical, because of the positions of the king and queen.

Another chess-mentioning entry coming later today, if I write it.

[Comments] (2) Cool Off: Well, I didn't write it yesterday, but I'll write it today. My latest toy is my XM radio, which I bought to keep me sane coming back from Arkansas, and which I keep to keep me sane going to and from Bakersfield. It has already paid for itself since I no longer need to buy new CDs for every trip. I recommend it not if you do a lot of driving, but if there are specific days coming up where you're going do a lot of driving, and you dread those days.

Anyway, on one of the trips coming back from Bakersfield, what should be beamed down from the XM satellite but a song called "Cool Off", by New Orleans ensemble Galactic. It was nice, funky, jazzy. But it just went on and on. For minutes! And there were no words.

I don't know how much you know about me, random weblog reader, but I've got to have words with my music. When there are no words, I get cranky and I skip the track or change the station, or I start just making up words and belting them out. In this case the beat was groovin', so I made up words and had impromptu karaoke.

I was in me a boat crash
I crashed into the shore
Flew out of the cockpit
I wasn't drivin' that boat no more

Chorus:
You better cool off, cool off daddy,
Cool off daddy-O.
Cool off, cool off daddy,
Cool off daddy-O.

I was in me a chess match
Moved knight to queen's rook three
My opponent got angry
Started beatin' the tar out of me
He said:

Chorus:
"My name is Kulov, Kulov, daddy,
Kulov, daddy-O.
Kulov, world chess champion,
Kulov, daddy-O."

I was down me in Bolivia
Said some things made some people upset
That's when they pushed me against the wall
Offered me a last cigarette
I said:

Chorus:
You better cool off, &c.

Eventually the guy on the recording started thanking everyone for coming out tonight, so I assume the song was the last track on a live album and its purpose was to "cool off" the audience after a hot jam session. My words are still king, though.

Confidential to Jake: let me know if you're interested in laying down some jazz mix for my goofy lyrics, and I'll send you a vocal track. Think of it as like "What's A Godly Person?", except I know you're doing it.

NewsBruiser, Citoyen du Monde: Thanks to persistent prodding from Jean-Pierre Chretien (not, despite appearances, the former prime minister of Canada), NewsBruiser now has an internationalization framework. It acts like gettext but it's not. I couldn't get gettext to do what I wanted it to do, and wrestling with gettext was costing valuable time that could be better spent sipping lemonade while my users do translations for me. Now that Jean-Pierre can translate in peace, I'm free to improve the framework or maybe even get gettext to do what I want. Jarno, the door is now open to the Finnish translation you wanted to do. I'd wait until Jean-Pierre finishes I18Ning all the bare strings, though.

I Demand Satisfaction!: And I've got it, with McSweeney's insufferable list of alternate taglines for Punk'd.

Leonard Richardson Discovers Dinosaur Website: When I was a little kid my father brought back from a business trip a novelty copy of the Las Vegas Sun that said in huge Pearl-Harbor type "LEONARD RICHARDSON DISCOVERS DINOSAUR". I was amazed at this (there is a picture in my scrapbook of me being amazed; Mom, is there any chance you could scan it/photograph it so I can use it as a visual aid?). I don't remember ever noticing the real-world narrative problems created by the existence of this newspaper: I hadn't actually discovered any dinosaur for the Sun to report on, and if there was some other Leonard Richardson who'd discovered dinosaur then the novelty of the newspaper was limited to a coincidence of names. I probably treated it like a newspaper from the future.

Well, my career plans changed and I'm not likely to discover any dinosaur soon, but I did discover this dinosaur news website fair and square. It's from National Geographic and it descends into software-bug or cross-promotional news that has nothing to do with dinosaurs, but up at the top are arrayed for my vicarious enjoyment all the dinosaurs other people, sweatier than myself, have been discovering. Artists' renderings and everything.

I'd like to see a nice concise expose of the dinosaur discovery pipeline where people find the bones, analyse them, write the paper for Nature, get the artists' renderings done. Who pays for the artists' renderings?

Also, can you still get those novelty newspapers done or has that racket been shut down by humorless lawyers, driving you to use desktop publishing or make fake CNN web pages?

[Comments] (1) Strawberry/Balsamic Vinegar Ice Cream: I bought a bunch of strawberries thinking I would make that Italian dessert with strawberries and balsamic vinegar. Then I remembered how much I like strawberry ice cream and I decided to make strawberry ice cream instead--with balsamic vinegar! Ha! Here's the recipe:

Macerate[0] the strawberries in the juice/vinegar/vanilla for an hour. You can add any other flavorings you want; I tried a little almond extract because I have this huge thing of almond extract I bought and I'm trying to figure out what it's good for. Once it's good and macerated, add:

Mix well. Smush with a fork or potato masher if you want. Put in an ice cream maker, and there you go. No cooking. Strawberry seeds are very small so you don't have to worry about seeds in the ice cream.

I have had the ice cream but I am not sure how it tastes. I just don't know! Is the balsamic vinegar good or bad for the flavor? Would it be better as just a standard strawberry ice cream? It's a very complicated flavor and I need more time to decide.

I think my final verdict will be it's good for small dishes on the veranda but not for big pints that you eat while watching Sex in the City and generally being a big stereotypical chick. Ususally I wait to post up a recipe until I know whether or not I actually like it, but Sumana is doing a taste test and she always wants me to have the recipe put up in advance.

Other recipes coming up: pestoast, vegetarian risotto.

[0] This is cook-speak for 'soak'. I don't know why there are so many cooking terms that mean the same thing. "Marinade" and "macerate" imply different types of soaking substances, but since you have to say what the soaking substance is, I don't know why they don't just say "soak" except in those really terse recipes that are really just descriptions like you see in those pocket French cookbooks: Strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar, made into ice cream. Here "vinegar" implies a marinade, but "macerated" makes you know that you have to add sugar and rare liquers and whatnot.

What should you make every day?: A lot of things.

: Today's a day I've been waiting for: at last, there is a user-contributed NewsBruiser plugin. Timo Virkkala's SummaryList plugin is a little mini-entry list that can go on every page on your NewsBruiser install. It is neat, and I didn't write it!

More NewsBruiser meta-stuff later.

[Comments] (5) Movie Night: Oh yes it's movie night, and the feeling's right. Well, it's IMDB night anyway. The feeling? Still right. Tonight's feature presentation: the Prohibition-era satire What Price Pants?

[Comments] (4) Alto on Altoids: Jake wrote a dada sampling program that makes old music new again. It's great if you like noise, and who doesn't? Well, I didn't, at first, but it grew on me. Good job, Jake. I would love to hear the gory details. Is it for technical or artistic reasons specific to the one work, or can you turn it loose on anything?

I almost said Jake's program worked in a Dissociated Press fashion. It doesn't, but I bet that would sound really neat. You could turn a music library into an insane never-ending medley by analyzing the waveforms, finding smooth transitions, and pasting together one-second chunks.

I was going to do a minor NewsBruiser release tonight, but it misbehaves really badly when you install it on Python 2.3, so I'll do it tomorrow.

: My first Checkerboard Nightmare guest/commissioned strip is up. I'm making Kris draw the one-off strips I've sent him over the years, and then will come a storyline we're collaborating on. The current strip is actually based on a joke Kris and Kurtis did many years ago, so technically I forced him to draw his own joke.

The other two one-offs are all mine, and will reveal my tragic, George Lucas-esque dramatic overdependence on mysterious cloaked figures.

[Comments] (2) Anole Analogy: NewsBruiser bugfix release, named after the tenacious lizard that once hung from Alyson's ear. The importing stuff, in particular is a lot nicer; lots of Movable Type import bugs were fixed, I added real error handling and diagnosis to all the importers, and thanks to Zack there's now a generic Blosxom importer.

I want to start doing less work on NewsBruiser in the short term. I am about to move (for real this time) and I also want to go work on a tangential project. I'll try to spend one day a week on NewsBruiser, and I'll also try not to spend more than that on NewsBruiser.

[Comments] (9) : Doing a lot of shopping today in preparation for my move. I'm going to have the most awesome kitchen on Earth. To this end I have been buying specialized devices that allow me to destroy kitchens more awesome than mine. Some say I've gone too far. I disagree.

: Leonard's obsessions collide (collude?) with Gambling on Voting, a comparative analysis of the security standards applied to slot machines and voting machines. Who will win?

I believe it was Shaw who said: "The voting machine pays nobody except him that designs it. Nevertheless, a passion for voting is common, though a passion for designing voting machines is unknown."

From Vice Squad, which mostly deals with vices that do not overlap with my obsessions.

[Comments] (1) About half of my dreams are like that: My new filtered-through Kris Checkerboard Nightmare is probably the best one you'll get from my tenure as co-author. Caution: contains swearing. Interestingly enough, for once I wrote it without any swearing and Kris made it blue. I mean, he turned Chex into Adam here.

"Hmmm... refreshingly cool!" has been my mental catchphrase for a while now, but for some reason it never turns out to actually be refreshingly cool.

[Comments] (1) : I was looking for biology geek recipes that mentioned the scientific names of the ingredients. I didn't find any, but I did find Cicada Recipe (which has, rather redundantly, both "How To Eat Cicadas" and "How To Prevent Tree Damage By Cicadas") and the Cicada-Licious cookbook (PDF), which says:

Eating bugs sounds disgusting? If you have ever eaten a crawfish, lobster, crab or shrimp then you have already eaten members of the class Arthropoda, of which insects are a part. So there.

Tofurkey Has Gone Too Far!: Hey kids! Destroy your enemies by Making Graham Cracker Turkeys!

What? I had to make it exciting somehow.

At least they're not turkey Graham crackers.

[Comments] (2) Anniversaries: Four years ago today I graduated from UCLA. In the intervening time, I could have gone to college again! My classmates are now programmers, cartoonists, Ph.D. candidates, law school students, etc. Our various plans to take over the world with horrific man-bots have yet to see fruition.

Today is also the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday. At some point in the past few years I decided that I would spend today in Dublin being a middlebrow literary tourist. Well, that didn't work out either.

When I was 13 I got to page 72 of my mother's copy of Ulysses and then I found a copy of Finnegans Wake in a used bookstore and I never went back to Ulysses. From this you can figure out what it was I thought was interesting about Ulysses. I should try it again now.

[Comments] (1) : Long, retrospective Ars Technica interview with Scott Collins of the Mozilla Foundation, where he's quoted as saying "Well, you can't put 50 pounds of [crap] in a ten pound bag." Then later he says "I checked in stuff that broke the tree on two occasions and the same guy fixed my [crap] twice," except Ars Technica didn't censor it that time. I don't know, I just notice these things. This makes me think that they didn't censor it the first time and he said something obscure like "50 pounds of myxomitoxic bread."

[Comments] (7) In bed: For some reason I keep my fortune cookies for far longer than I should. Since I'm moving and since they're just text, I might as well inflict on you the ones I've kept and then get rid of the papers.

The last two bookended my life's intersection with the Clark campaign.

The other thing about moving is it makes me tired and makes me write irrelevant cop-out NYCB entries like this.

[Comments] (3) : Almost entirely moved, but nothing's set up here except cable and Internet. I thought about setting up the bed and taking a nap, but I'd have to go back to my other house anyway for the sheets, so it's not worth it and I keep not doing it and getting more tired.

[Comments] (7) Everything Permitted Is Compulsory: I'm sure everyone who reads this weblog and lives in San Francisco is too cool to have a car, but maybe somebody can help me out. I moved from a street that has free parking to a street that requires a permit. It's going to take at least a month for me to get a permit, since you have to send them a copy of a utility bill to you at your new address, and then it takes 2-3 weeks for them to get back to you. Don't even get me started on how they want a copy of your vehicle registration at your new address when the DMV doesn't send you any acknowledgement of a change of address; you're supposed to write down your new address on a piece of paper and keep it near your driver's license. I don't know how that's going to go.

The point is I'm not going to have a permit anytime soon. Now, the purpose of the permits is to prevent people who don't live in a neighborhood from using the streets of that neighborhood as long-term parking. Since I live in my neighborhood, I'd be within the spirit of the law to park there.

My question is, how vigorously are the permit laws enforced? What is, realistically, my chance per unit time of getting ticketed if I just park in front of my house before I have my permit? Do the people who ticket you if you park on the wrong side of the street on street-cleaning day spend all the other days cruising the streets looking for permit violations? Or is the purpose of the law just so if someone parks their beat-up hippy van in front of your house and leaves it there for a month, you can call and complain and get it towed?

I'm leaning towards the latter explanation, due to the logistics of enforcement and the way the permit website seems to be written half for people who want to get a permit and half for people who want their street to require a permit so they can get rid of some specific non-native car-parker. I realize that you get ticketed for violating the letter of the law, not the spirit, but if I'm unlikely to face the consequences I might do it anyway. Yes, the moral decay of the kids these days, it's horrible.

The other thing I can do is just drive to work every day, taking my car out of the danger zone, since unpermitted parking is permitted on weekends. I don't really want to do that, though. Right now I've got my car parked on a nearby permit-free street. I've seen unpermitted cars parked on my street, so I don't know how big a deal this is.

: Messier jailed in Vivendi probe. Messier Objects Confiscated.

[Comments] (1) There is no Baum in Gilead: Spammers like putting little snippets of literature in spam to evade filters. Maybe it's selection bias, but I've noticed a lot of the spammers are using the Gutenberg texts of the works of L. Frank Baum; both the Oz stories and his weird early-20th-century science fiction stuff. This has happened often enough that I'm starting to wonder if there's a bunch of Baum in the starter kit you get when you decide to become a spammer. Has anyone else noticed this?

: Found some MP3s of a synth-orchestral arrangement of the music to the two coolest-music-having NES games: Kid Icarus and Metroid. This is not some fanboy project; it was an actual cassette tape released in the 80s by Hirokazu Tanaka, who wrote the music for the games, is now president of the company that makes Pokemon, and is a HotEA candidate if ever there was one.

Unfortunately it's hard to arrange for synths music originally written for different synths, so there's some unneccessary ornamentation in the tape tracks. Example: this version of the Metroid intro makes it feel like the opening music to a Jerry Bruckheimer film, rather than the creepy civilization-overrun-by-weeds dirge that fits in with the game. And there's a weird tooty synth patch that I'd only previously heard in actual video games trying to be cute. It's not cute, guys.

Incidentally, in addition to having the coolest NES game music, Kid Icarus and Metroid used the same game engine and were released on the same day. Metroid became a huge hit and remains a Nintendo cash cow; Kid Icarus, like its namesake, plummeted to a watery death. I certainly appreciate the greatness of Metroid, but sometimes I wonder what the world would be like it things had happened the other way around.

Leonard's Test Kitchen: Now that I've got my own kitchen I can run science experiments without someone else throwing them out. I've got two batches of sourdough starter racing to starterdom. We'll see what the difference is between generic tame-yeast sourdough bread and old-fashioned Streptococcus sanfranciscus. Details as I actually get results instead of just stirring things and pouring in flour, which is boring.

: Beautiful Soup is proving quite popular. Looking at people's weblog entries that mention it I'm seeing lots of other HTML parsers. So far the closest one to Beautiful Soup is pullparser. I say it's the closest because it has a tree traversal method--to me tree traversal has always been the most annoying part of screen-scraping. It's not as forgiving of bad HTML as Beautiful Soup, though (the second most annoying part of screen-scraping).

In conceptually related news, you might remember how a year or so ago I was obsessed with configuration interfaces. I even wrote a paper about them. Well, today Anthony Baxter talks about his client-side GUI implementation of a configuration interface.

[Comments] (3) High-larious Fake Marijuana Names: I started making these up and got from Sumana the mix of laughter and I-can't-believe-I'm-laughing-at-this that satisfies both my urge to entertain people and my urge to force my will on people. So I couldn't stop. Probably inspired by The Poor Man's fake movie schedule, here are my best:

And Another Thing: I always complain to Seth that bad laws get passed and laws get passed with stupid loopholes because the people who draft the laws think "This brilliant law will solve our problem!" and don't think about attacks that use that very law for some undesirable purpose. The way good programmers think about hostile-user attacks against every design and implementation decision they make.

I know what you're thinking: "Great, another hacker trying to use the hammer of technology to hit the non-nail of law. Also, he has poor personal hygiene!" Well, hear me out before you judge, hoo-mon. My personal hygiene is actually quite good, and look at this hypothetical complaint constructed by the EFF to demonstrate how awful and exploitable is Orrin Hatch's INDUCE (now IICA) bill[0]. I'm sure my prattling to Seth had nothing to do with this, but it is the perfect example of what I was talking about.

Note that in a twist rarely seen in the technical realm, sometimes the people writing the law are actually using the law as cover to enable some new attack. In that case it's even more important for outside reviewers to find and expose the backdoor in the law. Also, all laws should be written in my Leibnitzian Python wonder-language that contains no ambiguity.

[0] Leonard's Analogue to Leonard's Analog[sic] to Brooks' Law: "Renaming a bad law makes it worse."

[Comments] (4) Endorsement: Let me heartily endorse Alton Brown's recipe for chocolate mousse. It uses gelatin instead of egg protein to thicken the mousse, which means you can't serve it to someone who doesn't eat gelatin (I guess you could use agar-agar), but which also means it's about three times easier to make than the standard Joy of Cooking one with the eggs. (Actually, I should try that one again.)

: Testing NewsBruiser's newfound use of Ping-O-Matic, the long-awaited (by me) service that offloads the work of pinging the myriad of weblog aggregation services that spring up like mushrooms in the wake of a Mushroom Creation Scroll. Found via Ned Batchelder.

[Comments] (7) Waffling: Still having hard-to-diagnose problems with Ping-O-Matic. Good thing I have more food stuff to write about.

I made banana-buttermilk waffles today, and they were a big hit. I thought about making banana-buttermilk-cornmeal waffles but I don't know how many adjectives you can pile on "waffles" before the waffles start to fall apart. I got a Belgian waffle maker as part of my getting-a-kitchen shopping spree; Belgian waffles are the least soggy and I can't stand soggy waffles. My particular waffle maker is designed to be flipped over after you put in the batter, in an obsessive bid to spread around the air bubbles and prevent any possible sogginess. My kind of waffle maker!

The waffle maker instructions say to put chili on top of a waffle and have it for lunch. I guess that could work. Seems like the gateway to waffle obsession, though.

[Comments] (1) : You may have noticed by now that I am something of a connoisseur of spam. While others wish it would go away and hope their filters will hide it from them forever, I collect it in underground vats slowly stirred by giant ice cream machine-style blades. Sometimes I tromp down the rickety metal stair to see what monstrosities have emerged from the deep.

But spam was quite boring before about 2000, and it would still be boring were it not for the Wacky Racers type race between spammers and spam filter authors. Lately the spammers have been having a rough time of it due to the invention by anti-spam scientists of the text-analysis spam filter. The Bayesian filter is the best-known example of this, but there are other methods of text analysis. To try to foil these filters spammers have had to make their spam weird and interesting by mutilating it and adding random elements which by amazing coincidence oft make the spam sound like the death rattle or final King Lear insanity of the spammer.

And yet--why should I be at the mercy of lowly spammers for my entertainment? In my day we made our own fun. "My day" being yesterday, when I made my own fun in the form of the "with a side of spam" filter for the Eater of Meaning. Now I can make any web page look not like I requested it but like there was a concerted attempt to smuggle it to me under false pretenses.

This Eater uses the same text-mangling tricks found in real spam to destroy meaning not as effectively as most of the other Eaters, but more effectively than last year's "scramble all but the first and last letters" insta-fad. Could it be turned to an evil purpose and used to create real spam? Probably not, because the results are too hard to read. Any piece of real spam chooses a few anti-filter tactics and has thematic consistency. A bouquet, if you will. Okay, you won't.

It's Not Easy Being Greek: Sumana pointed me to a NYT article with extracts from various adaptations of The Frogs, my favorite play of antiquity. It got remade in 1974 to be about Shaw instead of Euripedes, and then (news hook) the remake itself got remade and will open in July. It's more relevant than ever for the Greek god of drama to go into hell to resurrect a dead dramaturge! Gah.

I really like the idea of trying to resurrect Shaw in a The Frogs scenario, but look at those excerpts. You can actually see the play get less funny with each remake. (I am not a total purist; I think those attempts to translate the Greek puns are awful.) I bet the frogs in the most recent version all look like Michigan J. Why not just make a new play about Shaw that pays homage to The Frogs? (I know, name recognition).

Bre-ke-ke.

Mene, mene, tekel, uparsin cognate cunard pronounce bimonthly: Kris got religious spam that includes a sample prayer which trails off into anti-spam-filter text. Kevin said "That's glossolia, is what that is." It made me think of a religion that believes God has a spam filter and you need to say a bunch of random words at the end of your prayer to get it heard.

Someone Write This Paper: "MIDI Files As Weapons"

[Comments] (1) Weird Warnings: "Burn on a temperature safe surface." Oh no! None of my surfaces are rated for having temperature!

Not related to this definition of "temperature safe" (ie. "safe temperature"). Also, don't inject drugs into your friends' beer. It's no safety!

The Google Made Me Do It: Okay, I guess I'll grill that corn.

[Comments] (2) Party Animal Leonard: Hi. Sorry for the inaccessibility (if you experienced any). DNS problems.

I had Steve and Jenny Minutillo and Sumana over for dinner at my new house. Finally gave me incentive to clean all the junk out of the living room. I grilled corn and made salad dressing and was generally LE CHEF.

The having-people-over madness continues next Saturday with my birthday/belated 4th of July/housewarming party. If I know you and you want to come and I haven't already sent you an invitation, then send me email. Either I forgot you or didn't think you would want to come or thought you were too far away to realistically come. There will be games and chocolate ganache cake, among other things.

If you're coming, let me know what time you want to come so that I can maybe reduce the duration of the party to the lowest common denominator.

At my mother's house for the holiday. Crickets are chirping and fireworks going off. Now going into the hot tub.

Opening Lines In Need of Stories:

It was, indeed, your father's Oldsmobile.
The coins said "In God We Trust", but as Dave had learned, the trust did not go both ways.

Anacrusish: I wrote an Anacrusis type ultra-short story, which Brendan deemed to be THE KING, so I guess it's good enough to post publicly. It's called:

Leanne

Parked, he decides he wants to see what it's like when she drives. He jabs the second button, the one she presses when they get out to stretch their legs and switch seats.

The odometer reading flips from total to per-trip and the radio beeps as it reboots with changed presets. The A/C goes on. The seat whirs and moves in toward the pedals, headrest declining, back straight as an old soldier. But the relative positions of his body and the seat don't change at all.

He adjusts the mirror from its preadjusted position. He's got red hair and red lipstick.

PS: Sumana should write an Anacrusis entry about her friend Ana Cruz.

Retaliation: Brendan wrote a nice story about someone's father's Oldsmobile. One down, one to go.

[Comments] (4) Money, it's a crime: Very interesting postmortem on Microsoft Money. Shows how metrics affect the thing being metricked (usually detrimentally) and how bad (for consumers) market definitions result in bad (for everyone) metrics.

Entrez la Matrice des Sauces: Feeding my 'recipe patterns' obsession, Sumana sent me Matrice des sauces au moment, which shows how 1.3 zillion French sauces are obtained from one procedure, with examples. Also has a great interface for mouseover French/English translations and showing which elements of the matrix make which sauces.

[N]o one ingredient is by itself critical. Each can have another ingredient substituted for it and the sauce will still work (although the name may need to be changed).

I'm just beginning to appreciate the French genius of totally exploring a well-defined culinary combinatoric space and naming everything differently just to intimidate people with 6000 names for sauces or soups.

: I figured out why cell phone rings are so annoying. It's so when the cell phone's owner answers the phone and starts jabbering away, you'll be grateful that the ringing has stopped instead of aggravated re: the jabbering.

[Comments] (2) : Hey, Noodle is #2 on the list of useful but obscure Java projects. Neat! Found at Josh's Hacking Log.

Ladies And Gentlemen: I was putting off mentioning the Checkerboard Nightmare that has a cartoon version of me in it, capping off the Leonard/Kris corporate food CN storyline, until I figured out what the heck kind of ugly Bill Cosby striped sweater Kris had my homunculus wearing. Then I figured out it was actually a T-shirt with the periodic table on it, so that's okay.

I don't really have a T-shirt with the periodic table on it, though I did tell Kris why the periodic table is shaped the way it is, in keeping with my recent role as person who tells his friends why weird-shaped things are shaped the way they are. In return for a similar service, Kevan provided me with the choice bit of information that it's very easy to inadvertently hang the Union Jack upside down.

[Comments] (6) : Party was great, except YOU DIDN'T COME! (Unless you did). Kevin, the bookcase you got me is great but the shelves are defective. Can we take it back?

I got spam from the best spam name ever: "Gay Ponce".

: Man. Just spent way too much time cleaning up the NewsBruiser I18N keys. We've now crossed the I18N Rubicon; all the main code has been I18Ned and now it's just the libraries and the modules. Time to figure out how to handle the libraries.

[Comments] (4) : The TiVo picked up "Amok Time", the classic original Trek where Kirk and Spock go mano-a-mano with sharp Vulcan sticks as the famous Star Trek fight choreography song goes Dah dah DAH DAH DAH DAH DAH dah dah dah dah, and I got to thinking, wouldn't the new Priceline commercials be a lot better if they took this for their model? "But I'm the VOICE... of Priceline!" [scrash!] "Take that, Bill!" "My SUIT! You've ruined my SUIT!"

PS: Bonus fanboy quiz: IMDB trivia for Enterprise says that T'Pol was originally named T'Pau in tribute to the T'Pau character in "Amok Time". They changed her name so they wouldn't have to pay royalties to Theodore Sturgeon (author of AT) for every episode of Enterprise. To my knowledge this is the second time this (renaming a Trek character so as not to have to pay royalties) has happened. What's the other time?

: Hopefully we are now back for good. I told Kevin to not try to switch us over until his new ISP figures out, as ISPs often do eventually, that they have a customer on the end of the line and that sometimes customers pay them money. Money! They like that, right? Maybe that's the problem; we've all along been trying to motivate them with money but actually they use Mentos or something for currency. "What are these 'electronic transfers' of which you speak? Do they have the great taste and Deutschebank backing of the Freshmaker? We think not! It must be the phone company's problem."

Anyway. Check out this SciAm article on the Voynich manuscript, which argues a mechanism by which Voynich-like text can be created. These disturbing new developments indicate that Voynich is a hoax... perpetrated by Cthulhu!

I think the author of that article gives up in triumph way too early. "The binomial distribution of word lengths can be generated by mixing short, medium-length and long syllables in the table." Sure, but why would that happen? An generation mechanism from which a binomial distribution followed naturally would be a lot more convincing. It's not something that needs to be explained away; it's a clue as to how the text was generated.

Pestoast: Let's say you just made some pesto, but in doing so you used up all your culinary energy for the day. You can't bring yourself to boil water for pasta or make a sauce out of the pesto.

What to do? Slice some bread, spread pesto on it, put it in the broiler, and you've got pestoast! It's like Vegemite toast, but not gross. Also a good way to revive old bread because the olive oil in the pesto revitalizes it.

: Markets Too Efficient, Say Beneficiaries Of High Prices.

[Comments] (2) : Finally got my fancy-schmancy Shun knives (Shun knives? But I need knives!) My kitchen is now complete! Except I'm storing my knives in a drawer and I want to store them in some other way, but I'm not happy with any of the knife-storage methods that currently exist. Are there knife blocks that have a hinge so you can open them and clean them? I've only got 3 knives, so I don't need a whole block, but a hinged case would be really neat.

[Comments] (1) Finally!: Hack bytecode to subclass allegedly "final" Java classes. Combine with Multiple inheritance for Java and really piss off the Java designers. Link found at Deft Code.

[Comments] (2) Attention George Moffitt: I can't email you; something between me and you does not like recipient. The answer to your question is to append ?content=lofi to the URL of the RSS feed. Also, if you're running off a CVS checkout, update plugins/entry/render/syndicate and it'll do exactly what you want instead of a lame approximation.

[Comments] (2) It's Hip To Be A Square Number: I'm a quarter-century old now. I got lots of great stuff for my birthday including a bookcase, a Moleskine notebook like I bought for Sumana in Belgium, and a Lego container ship (okay, I bought that for myself). It turns out I'm much, much better at putting together Lego sets than I was when I was a kid. I know to organize the pieces ahead of time instead of just opening all the bags, dumping them on the table, and getting started.

The container ship's probably the biggest Lego set I've ever put together, and it only took me about 2.5 hours. It was a pretty easy set, though, since 1/3 of the pieces turn into shipping containers. If I had more pieces I'd make hollow double-size shipping containers and have them carry tiny Lego pieces across the Lego ocean to my Lego model of Hong Kong.

I had some extra pieces left over, so I decorated some of the shipping containers with lights, and my ship is now the only container ship to have a plank. Arrrr! Actually I think I know where the plank pieces are supposed to go, but I'd rather have a plank.

[Comments] (4) Amazing Abbreviations: In the style of I18N, L10N, etc. I will now refer to "authentication" as A14N and "authorization" as A13N.

[Comments] (1) I finally finished something!: I'm sure you've had one of those time periods. The thing I finally finished automatically exports appropriate entries in my personal notebook to my del.icio.us account. I like my personal notebook because in it I can work on stories, write notes to myself, and ramble on at length about things that aren't links, but I also like the public-brain aspect of del.icio.us. Thanks to doing useful work, I can have both. I spent a little time reformatting old entries so they'd get crossposted, and it's a nice feeling. There's some entity escaping going on that I don't want to go on, though.

The del.icio.us plugin is in NewsBruiser, but I think it's stretching the limits of what should be in NewsBruiser. I can't see that many other people really wanting to echo certain of their weblog entries to their del.icio.us accounts. Am I wrong?

Once I Was The King Of Loathing: Now I eat key lime pie. If you're looking to waste some time, you could do worse than by playing The Kingdom of Loathing, a fun little MMORPG with stick figures and a Da Warren-esque sense of humor. It gave me enjoyment for about a month, until I won all the awards and I drank all the beer, and I reached the end which hasn't been implemented yet. Now I'm stuck in this limbo where I'm not sure if I should go in every day for a couple minutes to bulk up for the as-yet-unimplemented conflict, or just go in every month or so to keep my character from being deleted while I wait for the end to come and then go. Agonizing indecision! Don't let this happen to you! Stay away from the Kingdom of Loathing!

Wait, how did that happen?

[Comments] (1) Future Food Take 3: Seal was a horrible flop, but the third time's the charm, right? I've duplicated in algae and soy the queasy texture and obscure glisten of canned ham, and it's set to take supermarkets by storm. I call it "Sham".

The Matrix Refactored: Sequels are never as exciting as the original, but in this case it was neccessary. The del.icio.us integration was a big fat hack, and it had to be fixed. Now there's a separate annotation plugin that lets you associate a URL with an entry, and the del.iciou.us plugin checks to see if there's a URL in the special URL slot instead of seeing if you typed a URL in the title field.

Sometimes it takes a day or so for me to remember that I wrote a plugin-based system and not just a system where you have to put new features in a directory called "plugins", but eventually I figure it out.

[Comments] (2) : In my most recent orgy of personal-notebook-to-del.icio.us-filing, I re-found this page of raytraced drawings that use mesh diagrams of Star Trek ships and structures the way other raytraced dragins use mesh diagrams of Platonic solids. Ships floating through tropical environments, or surrounded by glass balls, or made out of marble. It's kind of goofy but there is a nice eerie one of Deep Space Nine crashed and sinking into a lake.

Content-type: food/chocolate: Choose your chocolate format.

Public Service Announcement: Sumana is looking for someone to be a backup stage manager for the show she's stage managing. She'll probably post about it tomorrow, but I wanted to get the ball rolling ahead of time. You get free cookies and I don't know what all.

[Comments] (1) Public Bread Announcement: Also, it has come to my attention that I am a bread-making genius. I've been making bread every weekend to exercise my great-uncle's famous sourdough starter, and it just keeps getting better. This week I started experimenting with nuts and cheese, and the resulting bread is a meal in itself.

I wish it didn't take a whole weekend to make sourdough bread or I'd be able to make all my bread. Eventually I'll try my hand at quicker non-sourdough loaves. Susanna sent me a recipe for 'ninety-minute rolls' which looks great.

[Comments] (1) Game Roundup Confession: It's been hard for me to do X Roundup because I had such old libraries on my machine. I couldn't actually play pygame games or most SDL games or do blah or blah. I knew Debian was the answer, but I could never get around to switching until this weekend. But that's over with and now I'm apt-getting and X Rounduping away instead of doing more important things.

It's also been hard for me to do X Roundup because it just plain takes a long time to find and test and review a lot of pieces of software. So I've decided that once I have five Games/Softwares, it's Roundup time. Here we go.

Slag Panic is a Qix clone with the featuritis that comes from games being written in Python and features thereby being easy to add. It's got more interesting enemies than your average Qix, obscure bonuses, and an aggravating between-rounds roulette wheel that decides your fate for the next round.

The record will show that I usually only review Tetris clones with a good twist. Not a random slight-game-mechanics change twist like "everything's colored and you have to match colors", but a real twist that changes the way you look at Tetris. bastet is such a game. It uses heuristics to figure out what piece will be hardest for you to place, and always gives you that piece. You have to change your strategy from planning for completed rows to creating situations where the computer can't help but give you a piece that will complete a row. The traditional 'next piece' window isn't possible (or desirable), so instead it gives you the piece it deems the most useful, just to tease you.

The unfortunately named Kraptor is a decent arial combat game. What was the original game in this genre? I want to say "Xeyes", but obviously that's not right. My biggest complaint about this game is that most of the weapons get mounted on the sides of your aircraft, so it's impossible to hit anything directly in front of you. That's always where I aim when playing these games. So except for the huge end-of-level ship I always use the cheapo unlimited-ammo weapon.

Aklabeth is a clone of the prequel to Ultima. I always thought the Ultima games were an incongrous blend of fun overhead 2D adventure and dull underground 3D maze-mapping. Guess which one came first. Written by the same guy who did The Valley of previous-roundup fame.

Blob Wars: Metal Blob Solid offers the most realistic depiction as yet of blobs at war. You are a blob commando who must repel an alien invasion and rescue quivering blob MIAs. In a nice postmodern twist, the aliens are also blobs--they look just like you except they're green. I had a great time until I got on the wrong side of a lava pit with no way to cross, and then I gave up and wrote this review.

The game's intro movie uses the actual game mechanics, which is to my mind the only way to do intro movies. It's very gory (insofar as a game about blobs can be gory, which is actually a fair amount), but you can turn of the gore. There is a variety of weapons, though I couldn't find any way to switch between them--it looks like you have one weapon at a time, which can be aggravating because there's a puzzle element to the game that sometimes requires you have a specific weapon.

As for the limerick prize: it's hard for me to decide between bastris and Blob Wars, and I'm tired, so I'm going to punt til tomorrow. Suggested limericks are welcome.

Update: Ok, I came up with a poem finally, about Blob Wars. I was not in a poetry-writing mood today because POLLY CALLED ME FAT! I don't know, what causes people who write poetry to not be in the mood?

There once was a blobbish commando
In many exploits had a hando
He rescued his maties
And made time with the ladies
(See also: Calrissian, Lando)

[Comments] (3) Good Move: EFF renaming Share-In to Freedom Fest. Share-In? Who was sharing? With whom? It made no sense. Anyway, I went to the Share-In and it didn't work out.

Wishful Thinking Search Requests: scientists making pokemon reall Surely these scientists are the geniuses of our age!

: If only there were a name to describe this "renaissance of breakin'"! Something that captured the electric thrill of the scene!

: I've just been poking around the trademark registry site, just typing in trademark registration numbers at random, and am finding lots of neat phrases. Since it seems most of the trademarks ever registered have expired or been cancelled, I'm not sure why there aren't more jackals at the carrion heap of this site, profiting off the half-cocked turns of phrase other people thought important enough to trademark. Maybe it's the stigma of previous failure.

I discovered this site a couple months ago while researching the old VR game Dactyl Nightmare, when I became enamored with the idea of creating something out of the wreckage of the "Dactyl Nightmare" trademark (or, as it says on the site, "Disclaimer: NIGHTMARE"). But there are so many other possibilities. For instance, did you know that Dactyl Nightmare is now metallurgically balanced? Part of this complete breakfast! Go on, give yourself a Hydra-lift--you deserve it!

[Comments] (3) Blue Cheese Pesto: My customary pre-recipe Googling turned up no actual recipes for this dish; only intimations that it was used in various fancy restaurants, often as a garnish for steak. Well, what's good enough for steak is good enough for pasta, says I. Last night I made pesto with Parrano (one of the all-time great cheeses--it tastes like Parmesan but has a semi-soft texture like Gouda) and blue cheese. I wouldn't make it with only blue cheese, but making it with 1 part blue cheese to 3 or 4 parts other cheese gives the pesto the fighting spirit for which blue cheese is renowned. Obviously walnuts are better in this pesto than pine nuts.

Side note: why is this obvious? I don't know! I can't describe this pairing without resorting to terminology like "meaty" and "woody" that seems very unscientific. But at the same time I think that the statement "walnuts go better with blue cheese than pine nuts" is closer to objective fact than to totally arbitrary opinion or taste. If I knew more about food I could find out what compounds give those two foods their flavor and say that they complement each other, but that doesn't explain why and it can't be made into a useful general rule. This drives me crazy.

Obituary: Sumana told me that Jerry Goldsmith, who composed a lot of themes for Star Trek series and movies, has died. I went to look at his IMDB page and found that that barely scratches the surface of what he accomplished. Even apart from his Trek work, he wrote the scores for many of the best-known sci-fi movies of the past 30 years: Alien (and its sequels), Planet of the Apes (and its sequels), Alien Nation, Gremlins (and its greatly underrated sequel), Total Recall, Logan's Run... Before that he did TV themes. Like the Twilight Zone theme and the Perry Mason theme.

He won an Oscar for The Omen in 1997, and for six years he wrote the yearly Oscar theme song itself, which should qualify him for a meta-Oscar. He's gone now, but he'll be stuck in people's heads for as long as we watch movies.

: Making a favicon.ico file for your website used to be a grueling experience, due to Microsoft's weird mutant-BMP ICO format. But now there's Favicon From Pics (logically equivalent to the pics2favicon metaphor I would use). Just upload a picture and you get back a scaled-down, ICO version of that picture. Save the gruel for dinner.

Curse You, Noun Gender: After way too much nightly drudgework on NewsBruiser at the expense of all the work I wanted to do, basically all its text is now I18Ned or I18Nable. I managed to do this without sacrificing ease of installation, ease of use, or the decentralized nature of the plugin architecture. Jean-Pierre is still working on actually doing the I18N and the French translations, but he's done with everything except the themes (which were the last piece of the puzzle) and most of the plugins. If you've been wanting to translate NewsBruiser into another language, now's a good time to start.

The Semantic Web Strikes Back: Do you need bamboo plants, pots for planting bamboo in, or silk orchids? A good place to go is Grand Products in South San Francisco, located near the gravel companies and trucking companies and biotech startups. It's probably where all the SF Chinatown shops get their bamboo plants and sell at a huge markup. The store is in a warehouse and the people working there are very friendly. I don't think they get many walk-in customers.

However--and this is a big however--despite what certain online yellow pages say, Grand Products is not a Garden Center or Seed Merchant of any kind. You can't buy a shovel there, or mulch, or seeds (not even bamboo seeds). So don't go in there thinking it's a garden supply store, or you will be horribly embarassed.

Lego Trains: For the combination of Nick Moffitt and me that inhabits us all.

: Has anyone else noticed that Project Gutenberg (and ibiblio, and indeed the entire University of North Carolina) is inaccessible? Is there a thunderstorm or backhoe I should be worried about, or is the universe just trying to prevent me from doing my cool project?

Update: looks like a local problem. Dang universe.

: Sumana and Zack and I are going to the garlic festival in Gilroy. Online consensus is that it's like every other smallish-town yearly "X festival", but with garlic. Which is fine with me, because I haven't been to such a festival since the last time I went to the Arvin Wildflower festival. Whenever that was. I'd rather celebrate garlic than wildflowers.

[Comments] (1) : Garlic festival was fun, but not as garlicky as I'd hoped. I don't think I need to go again. Cheap bulk garlic, though, and really great roasted garlic ice cream (I'll have to try making that). Discussion on forums made it sound like the traffic jam coming in and out of the festival is the worst thing in the world, but if you leave SF by 8 you can get there by 10; the traffic jam is no worse than the Bay Bridge traffic jam.

[Comments] (2) Wedded Bliss: Pete Peterson II and Garrett LeSage have gotten married! But not to each other.

: After months of stalling I'm starting with the easy "things I learned working for a campaign" entries and working my way up. First: all politicians who are trying or have tried or have succeeded in being elected President of the United States say the name of the office "Prezdanistase". This is because you end up saying that phrase about once for every person who ends up voting for you, and around the twenty millionth repitition it ceases to have any meaning.

I thought this was universal among American politicians until I heard on the radio Al Gore properly enunciate the phrase in his speech at the DNC yesterday. Admittedly, he was saying "Vice-President of the United States", and also he's Al Gore.

Oh, I've found that it's easier for me to talk about things if I'm responding to questions, so if you have any questions about the profession of politics or my experience in particular, leave a comment.

explodingspamdog: Spamusement turns spam subject lines into cartoons. Very good.

NewsBruiser Nepotism #3: My cousin Joseph Walch joins the cavalcade of my family members with crummy.com weblogs. Joe is Alyson and Kristen's brother. If you're related to me, the offer remains open.

[Comments] (3) : The "realm" field of HTTP basic auth is a really bad place to put helpful status messages like "Your account has been locked." In fact, it's a really bad place to put anything except the name of the realm (or some other string that never changes). If you try to be clever and put other strings into it depending on state, browsers will think it's two or more totally different types of authentication and in some cases can go into an infinite loop.

: Losers Fall in Line Behind Party's Choice. In Soviet Russia, all newspaper articles have that headline!

[Comments] (3) Calendar Overstock: Your ritzier used bookstores love to sell calendars. The price you can get for a calendar plummets as the year inches towards the inevitable phoenixlike conflagration that destroys it each Dec. 31. I haven't checked, but I bet that in Q4 of a year a calendar for that year would be so cheap at a used bookstore that it would be worth buying even if you just wanted to rip out one of the pictures to use as a poster.

But why is this? Why do they print so many calendars, so many that most of them (I can only assume) don't get sold and get shipped off to used bookstores? Are calendar manufacturers in a constant state of self-delusion that surely this year the teddy bear calendar will sell 50% more copies than it has sold every year for the past five years? Are the calendars we see in used bookstores merely the unpopular ones? Does selling old calendars to used bookstores actually form a secondary, but still profitable market? I wants to know!

Politics in a Nutshell: Heard on KQED today: "When you strip away all the spin, what's the buzz?"

[Comments] (2) My mother is OK: I got a call from my mother last night. She's out of the hospital and back home.

[Comments] (2) Herbivore: This concludes my trilogy of reviews of the three famous vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco. (See Milennium, Greens.) Herbivore is much better than Milennium but much not-as-good-as Greens. However of the three it's the cheapest and the most accessible from BART; it's equidistant between the 16th and 24th street Mission stations.

I had ravioli with pesto, because I'm all pesto mania this week (tune in later for the exciting conclusion, to take place tonight). The ravioli was great and the pesto was just OK. There was some cheese substitute they put in the pesto. They should have just left the cheese out. And I should have ordered the lentil loaf instead; it looked pretty good even though it was a vegan copy of a dish that is itself pretty weird.

Sumana had some big french fries and some tacos. I tasted the guacamole on her tacos and it was great.

I got German chocolate cake for dessert. It was really good and I got full before I could finish the slice, which means that I'm being satisfied by smaller portions of sweets, which is good.

We ate dinner with Sumana's old friend John Morearty, and his wife. We recommended movies at each other; one Lone Star for one Spirited Away. Universal touchstone of I've-been-meaning-to-watch-that: The Man in the White Suit.

[Comments] (2) It's Alive!: It rained, and my garden is alive!

Pesto Fondue!: It's madness, but it works. Make fondue and then add some pesto to it at the last minute. I made it last night and it was more of a cheesy pesto dip because I lost control of the cornstarch, but it tasted great. Also good on toast.

[Comments] (1) Biting The Hand That Feeds: My latest contribution to the LazyWeb: The Syndication Automat! I suck websites into NewsBruiser weblogs and show you the RSS feeds that result. Eventually I'm sure I'll scrape ConGlomGo's site and anger the corporate gods, but for now I'm sticking to getting information out of the government, Project Gutenberg, and other well-meaning mastodons. Hit the wiki page if there's a feed you want and you think I might want it too. Life is too short for me to mantain a bunch of scraped feeds I'm not actually interested in.

This was the main reason I wrote Beautiful Soup, so it's been in my head a while. I've been building it up in pilfered snatches of time and it's good enough to release now. It's also the first project created under the aegis of the new Center for High-Energy NewsBruiser, the name I like so much I'm going to use it for my other NewsBruiser-as-web-platform projects.

Give it a try if anything there interests you. I'm especially proud of the text excerpts in the Gutenberg feeds, and the clickable maps in the piracy report.

[Comments] (1) : Guido Van Rossum: Vengeance

[Comments] (7) Opposition Research: One of the things about political campaigns in this country is that everything you buy or use has to be made by an American company unless there's no alternative. This is not just flags and bunting and big Uncle Sam hats and the other paraphernelia of patriotism. It's everything. There's no law about this; you just do it. Because if you don't do it, the fear is, your opponents will use your insufficient patriotism against you as part of their "opposition research".

I always pictured opposition research as kind of an amoral game. You scour all available documents for scraps of your opponent's impropriety (actual or seeming). When you find something, you put on your Concerned Citizen face and release it to the media or make "Shouldn't this be investigated?" inquiries to the appropriate authorities. The goal is to get the media to bite, to get them to Discover An Issue and then try to finesse it into a snowball effect.

It's sad and depressing work, but all campaigns do it. Everyone's hoping for a Whitewater-scale jackpot, something where their opponent will look up in surprise and say "You sank my battleship!" and drop out on the spot. But the more common result is a constant stream of fake scandals and fiascoes that nobody remembers three days later, to match the equally forgettable stream of positive political theater coming out of your own camp.

I'm not talking about negative ads. This stuff is an order of magnitude too flimsy to use in a campaign ad. You'd get an ad like "Senator Bedfellow says he's for American jobs. But this one time, he ate a Toblerone! What's next, Senator--the killing of adorable kittens?"

You can't retroactively change what your candidate said twelve years ago in Rat's Ass, Missouri (though that's a good idea for a time travel story). On the other hand, it's easy to avoid this one particular type of embarrassment by simply treating patriotism as a sort of brand loyalty. But why put so much effort into avoiding such a flimsy fake outrage?

Well, this tiny subgenre of opposition research has a well-defined beginning, according to the campaign worker lore I am now intermittently versed in. It dates back to the 1992 presidential primaries, when Pat Buchanan suffered a fiasco because his campaign car was a Mercedes. A Mercedes! The champion of protectionism using a foreign car, ripping the bread right out of little Johnny Crankshaft's mouth and sending it overseas to the dour offspring of some unsmiling Hun! Fetch the smelling salts! Fiasco!

You can see (assuming this apocryphal tale is where it began) that it didn't start because some random politician had a Nokia watch. It was Pat Buchanan, and it was a car, the very symbol of the decline of American manufacturing. But now everyone is paranoid about it, because it's something they have control over.

Apparently this fiasco--a fake fiasco identical to the fake fiascoes that beseige every campaign every day, one remembered now only by campaign workers--was like the 9/11 of political campaigning, the moment everyone woke up and said "Holy crap! We must henceforth engage in ELABORATE, SUPERFICIAL RITUALS so that this will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!" Except since the fiascoes are themselves caused by the elaborate, superficial ritual of opposition research (and not by eg. a real enemy who wants to actually kill you), the counter-ritual is actually effective. As far as I know (which is not far at all) there have been no foreign-product-use-based attacks since the Buchanan fiasco. But if you ask me, the real reason is that other candidates are not Pat Buchanan, and these attacks would be less effective on them.

Here are the examples of this Brand America type thinking on the Clark campaign that I can remember. Because I was not privy to purchasing decisions (or indeed any other kind of decision) I'm guessing there were many more decisions made on this scale. I do have two that were kind of weird though.

I'm not sure how we justified using Linux for everything. Maybe because everyone else was also using it, and because creating a fiasco around it would require explaining what an operating system was. I think it just doesn't apply to software; only to things that can have incriminating pictures taken of them.

Anyway, the first and less viable of the two politics-related business opportunities I'm going to tell you about is the one where you buy cheap the sort of equipment a campaign needs, change the logos, and resell it as genuine American Brand Tech. Yeah, it's a pathetic sham, but having to explain why it's a pathetic sham makes the issue too complicated for your opponent to use it against you. Complexity: make it work for you in politics!

Sure, Do It The Easy Way: I remember in some class in college (the first one of the three I took where they teach you Lisp) I had a Lisp problem where I had to figure out how to pass in two numbers to a function of one argument.

Well, I thought, I'll encode the numbers x,y as a product of powers of primes 2x*3y, just like you would to encode a formula into Gödel numbering. Then I'll have one number that, by the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic, uniquely represents some list of numbers. On the other side I'll "just" decode the list from that number.

Then I figured out that the real answer was to put the numbers in a list and pass in the list.

[Comments] (2) : A reliable source informs me that LinuxWorld is in town this week. Is anyone I know in town and interested in hanging out? Do people still go to LinuxWorld nowadays?

[Comments] (4) Yesterday: Date with Sumana along Valencia yesterday evening. Bookstores: bought used Iain Pears, which so far reads like a less clever Quicksilver. Bombay Creamery: ginger ice cream is good, saffron pistachio ice cream is better. Pirate store: fun! Secret code: bring almonds to the girl behind the counter; she loves almonds. Addams Family-esque garden supply/taxidermy store next to the pirate store, and from which the pirate store seems to have acquired some of their merchandise: not as fun, but okay. They sold largeish test tubes, which I would turn into a spice rack if I wanted a cool-looking spice rack that was hard to use. BART back home: comfortable.

: Google Memewatch has gone too far!

[Comments] (1) : I've been meaning to post about 3-D printing and custom-made artifacts, and my mother beat me to it!

[Comments] (1) Lessons in Countersecurity: From Slate:

To access the database, a group of the remaining employees gathered together, and in what must have been an unbearably wrenching session, recalled everything they knew about their colleagues: the names of their children; where they went on holidays; what foods they liked; even their personal idiosyncrasies. And they managed to guess the passwords.

If you choose a good password, the terrorists have won!

Virtue Is Its Own Reward #4: Find happiness and win! (Seen on a candy bar wrapper by Sumana.)

Just One Guitar: Or is it?

[Comments] (1) Games You Already Have Roundup: This morning I was browsing through dselect looking for some games to play and maybe review for a Roundup. While I was there I decided to remove the KDE and Gnome games that come with every Linux system I've installed for the past four years. Then I thought: wait. I spend countless hours every decade searching for games to review, and I'm about to remove a bunch of games without even considering them for review--without even ever having played some of them. What's the deal?

Well, the deal is that most of those games are clones of games I've been playing off and on for the past fifteen years. They don't have that much play left in them. Even for the ones I like, there's usually some DOS version that is the focal point of my nostalgia, and the new GUI versions don't measure up.

Because of my general policy regarding saying things when I can't say anything nice, I had never even thought about reviewing them. But surely a review, even a cursory one, is better than unthinking deletion. So here is the first in a series of Game Roundups that focuses on games that are probably already installed on your machine. For this reason, I'm not giving links to most of these. Here we go, with the "Games > Arcade" section of your StartTM-like menu.

Humpback Whales: If you get a chance, don't miss this Nature episode about humpback whales. I thought humpbacks went around never really opening their mouths, but that's possibly the most wrong I've ever been about anything. It is amazing.

[Comments] (1) : Just when I thought Spamusement couldn't get any better, in come the pterodactyls.

[Comments] (2) I Have Arrived: My picture is on Fafblog.

[Comments] (2) Games You Already Have Roundup II: The Wrath Of Board Games:

Greetings, already havers of the following games. Today we look at computer versions of games usually played on boards. "Board Games", they are called. Man, it's hard to fill up a whole introductory paragraph. Did you ever notice how arbitrary the "board game" term is when games are categorized in a Linux installation? The category includes solitaire Mahjongg, which is not a board game and uses pieces from a board game that has no proper board. It includes Yahtzee, which is put out by a board game company but is played entirely with dice. Yet it does not, and this is the real travesty, it does not include my groundbreaking multiplayer mudfest "Bran's Brother Has Flipped!: The Home Game". Where's the justice? Not in this life, my friends.

That's why I'm imposing a strict rule on this episode of Games You Already Have Roundup. No matter what the menu classification says, if the game does not feature competition, ie. you versus some human or AI opponent, it is not a board game. It will not be featured in this episode, but rather in the next episode, Games You Already Have Roundup III: The Search For Puzzle Games. Hopefully the people who write Debian post-install scripts for these games will take this as the stinging rebuke it undoubtedly is, and will get their act together in time to avert game-categorization catastrophe on a grand scale.

Don't thank me; I'm only doing this so I can put off playing those awful marble games. And now, with further ado, the games.

: Neat (to me) addition to the Automat coming once I get my act together and finish it/verify that it's slurping up new stuff.

[Comments] (1) Google Memewatch: Off!

[Comments] (6) Games You Already Have Roundup III: The Search For Puzzle Games: Tonight we have puzzle games, both those correctly categorized and the refugees from yesterday. This elusive category contains some of my favorite games and some of my least favorite. And now, the games. What inspiration will the challenger bring?

Bonus: I should have reviewed these yesterday, but they were classified as puzzle games even though by the standards set out yesterday they're board games, so I missed them.

[Comments] (3) Fiddlesticks!: I have the darnedest luck with the websites I scrape for the Automat. They either change their website formats while I'm working on them or they stop updating before I can make sure the automatic import works. Case in point: the Catalog of Government Publications ("Pueblo, Colorado stuff", says Kevin), which has been averaging 25-30 new online documents a day but which only had one today. Hope it picks back up soon; I've actually found several very interesting documents in this stream (examples later, when I don't have to go to sleep).

What are they doing, anyway? About two-thirds of the documents they put in the database are not online, and lack even a reliable bibliography link, so I haven't been able to put them in the RSS feed yet. Are there 75 and only 75 new documents published by the government every day? I have no idea whether or not that number even sounds right.

Supposedly the GPO is required to keep a master index of everything the government publishes, but is that really all of it? They're still releasing documents from 2000 and 1994. That implies that there's a big delay in getting some information from the government agency to the GPO. It's a mystery. I am driven by the cool idea of having an RSS feed listing every document the government publishes, but even if this feed had all the not-online ones I can't shake the feeling it's only scratching the surface. Does anyone know?

Games You Already Have Roundup IV: The Voyage Card Games: I was apprehensive about this entire class of game because to my mind the category-killer of card games is pysol, the Python framework that has swallowed hundreds of solitaire games. But there weren't a whole lot of them, so out of a sense of duty I went through them, and now I'm glad I did because they're not what I expected. So here are the reviews I wrote as I shelled pistachios for Pesto Pistachio (I should have bought them shelled; this I realize now).

So, that's all the X games that come with your standard Linux install nowadays. Stay tuned for Games You Already Have Roundup V: The Final Toys.

[Comments] (6) It's Around This Point That They Should Be Calling Me Mad: There are cameras that take a 360-degree panoramic picture. I assume there are also panoramic videocameras for filming IMAX movies. What if you got one of those videocameras and strapped it on a helmet around your head, and then wore goggles so that what you saw was a full panorama?

Your eyes already know to invert an image (since an image hits your retina upside-down), and how to merge two 2D images into a 3D image. Unless this is an inate ability, your brain must learn to do this by coordinating your sight with your other senses over time. So unless this behavior is fixed in childhood, it should be possible to change the way your brain processes your visual input. It should be possible to wear such goggles all the time and eventually adjust to having full-circle vision, perceiving things as though you actually had eyes all around your head.

Simpler experiment: If you wore lenses all the time that inverted everything, would your brain eventually learn to process the image exactly as it appeared on your retina?

More complicated experiment: could you also add cameras above and below the ring of cameras that formed the panoramic camera, creating a near-complete sphere of vision? At what point would your brain be unable to handle the additional information?

Who will volunteer for my monstrous Beholder-Man experiment (funding request pending)?

Games You Already Have Roundup V: The Final Toys: By their own admission these are not games. They are toys. But you know what I always say: a toy is just a game with no win condition. Wait, that makes Color Lines a toy. Well, there's some difference between a toy and a game, but not enough difference to keep me from my obsessive rounding-up. Here we go.

Did I miss something that came with your system? Let me know and I'll review it, unless it is not a game or (catch-all) I don't want to review it.

: I always knew that one day spam would gain sentience, but I didn't expect it would so quickly overtake its authors in intelligence.

Google Memewatch: Tired of what you have? Turn it into something else!

[Comments] (1) Colin Powell the cat is running for president: This one's for Kris, who a long time ago pointed out that the headlines of "offbeat" news stories become orders of magnitude funnier if you shuffle the subjects and the predicates. Well, Kris has been feeling a little low lately so I thought I'd cheer him up by writing Dog Bites Dog (title a Sumana production), the script which does just that every five minutes. It's not as good as doing it by hand, but what did you expect?

I'm spookily intrigued by the possibility of applying this (very simple) algorithm to 'real' news headlines. But right now I'm more intrigued by the possibility of sleeping. Enjoy, all-night surfers and people on the other side of the world.

[Comments] (8) Pope remains in custody: I dreamed about RSS feeds and woke up too early, and got Dog Bites Dog running against a source of non-offbeat news. I'm debating whether to leave it up because it turns out shuffling is a headline mood multiplier: it makes "funny" headlines actually funny, but it makes depressing headlines really depressing ("Powell says US Jailed for Lying", "Life Won't Be Freed").

There are some good ones, though, like "Flying ants End Airbus Subsidies", "Ruling Resigns, Admits Gay Affair", and "Category 4 Charley Raises $2.4 Million Near Seattle". In recognition of this, I decided to just get it to not use the most morbid headline fragments. See what I've done? I'm already making the compromises that result in offbeat news in the first place.

[Comments] (2) Ultimate Chowdah: I made this out of Planet Organic leftovers that I've been too lazy to cook the past few weeks. It is delicious (there is a huge amount left). Sumana says "It's the best chowdah I've ever had." I think it is too.

Ingredients

Procedure

Put everything except the leeks and the cream in a pot and start a-simmerin'. Saute the leeks in butter and put them in the pot. Once the potatoes and the corn are cooked (maybe 30 minutes), mash the soup with a potato masher. If you want, blend it a little with a stick blender. At the last minute, stir in the cream to turn it into a chowdah.

This is the only recipe I know of that is both a potato-leek soup and a potato-corn chowdah. That's right, it's two soups in one. Step right up!

PS about stick blenders: they cost about $30 except for one particular brand (I forget which) that costs $10. It's not worth $30 to have one but I think it is worth $10. So get the cheap one. It is useful for: soups, whipping cream, light drink-mixing duty.

PPS: Susanna, I made your ninety-minute rolls this morning and they were so good that I made another batch in the evening.

[Comments] (1) : This just in: crazy Turkmenistan dictator Saparmurat Niyazov turns out to be the Ice King! My old nemesis! I should have suspected.

[Comments] (2) Stars Can't Find Missing Nuclear Fuel Rod: Thanks to PyRSS2Gen, Dog Bites Dog now has RSS feeds. This should be fun. Unfortunately, as always seems to happen with me, Feed on Feeds doesn't parse the RSS file correctly even though Feed Validator (Feeeeeeed Validator) says it's valid. Steve?

Update: Bizarrely, it works now.

[Comments] (2) Bamboo!: Bamboo! The miracle wood you can put in the dishwasher! Lighter than oak, sturdier than balsa! Make sure all your spoons, whisks, and wood golems are made of BAMBOO! It is great.

[Comments] (3) : OK, this one takes some explaining. Almost 10 years ago Newt Gingrich wrote an article for his PAC that contained big lists of positive and negative buzzwords for use in political discussion. The point, as is usually the case in politics, was to put attitudes directly into people's heads by piggybacking on peoples' idea of language as a means of communication.

Of course you don't really need the list. Once you've read and written enough political speech the buzzwords just flow from your fingers as you type. But all sorts of irrelevant, non-buzzwords flow from your fingers as well. How can you be sure people see the buzzwords?

Enter the Eater of Meaning. Since political writing contains little meaning to begin with, this eater works a little differently from the others. It simply highlights the buzzwords (green for positive buzzwords, red for negative buzzwords), and leaves everything else alone, letting your readership see the tone of the document at a glance and be appropriately alarmed, reassured, or inspired. Kind of the way Onion articles work, come to think of it. I don't have a good Eater-themed name for it yet; any suggestions?

Examples: #1, #2, vs. a control site in case you think I'm kidding. The list of buzzwords is kind of dated, but on the whole it holds up well. Enjoy.

Update: Danny calls this "'They Live' style shades for political hotwords", which is an excellent summary but which is not Eater-related. My eating metaphor has backed me into a corner while simultaneously painting that corner!

[Comments] (7) Cheese Lust: If you harbor a guilty craving for macaroni and cheese--not the baked kind with breadcrumbs that sounds great but takes too long to make and ends up tasting milquetoast and not cheesy, but the junky kind that comes in a box and is done in fifteen minutes and turns powder that can't possibly be real cheese into sauce that tastes like you're drinking the very lifeblood of some beast made out of (admittedly metallic-tasting) cheese.

Sorry, that turned out to be a sentence fragment. IF [previous paragraph], you will be pleased to know that there is a way to feed your craving that involves real food. A couple days ago I made Alton Brown's Stovetop Mac-n-Cheese recipe, and it was as though the genie of the lamp had said "So, you want it cheesy? I will grant your wish, but with an ironic twist--it will be TOO CHEESY TO EAT!" And it is, almost. I planned to cut it with frozen peas, but my only box of frozen peas expired almost a year ago and looked like it had been defrosted more times than was good for it. I composted the peas and ate it straight.

By the time I was done I was sick of macaroni and cheese and never wanted to eat it again. I packaged up the leftovers and took it to Sumana's house, hoping she would eat the rest. Now, two days later, I want to eat the rest. It's that good.

The only downside is that it's 2-3 times more expensive than the boxed kind. At least it is around here. It's probably proportionately less more expensive (huh?) elsewhere, since the boxed kind seems to cost a dollar everywhere in the country. It's still cheap compared to other dinners you could be having. My faith in Alton Brown is vindicated! Maybe his baked macaroni and cheese will finally live up to my mental image of "baked macaroni and cheese".

[Comments] (4) Poisoned!: Last weekend I noticed some plants in my garden which hadn't been growing before. I didn't know what it was, but it was growing where I'd planted stuff, so I assumed I must have planted it, so I broke off part of a leaf and tasted it. My tongue started tingling, and not in a good this-is-hot sort of way. Uh-oh.

It turns out it was a lily, and that lilies are made of poison. The previous tenants must have planted some lily bulbs that suddenly decided to grow even though the stuff I planted is not growing that well. Anyway, I washed my mouth out with a lot of milk and have so far not died.

The lesson is, don't put something in your mouth just because it grew in ground you now control.

[Comments] (1) : Seth's moment in the AP photo wire limelight. I like making up my own stories about that photo, more than I usually like making up stories about photo wire photos. Eg. Seth and the guy to his left are impeccably dressed Tarantinoid hitmen who have just missed their chance to bump off Attorney Fred von Lohmann. Or they noticed an enormous praying mantis perched on his back or something. Try it! It's fun.

[Comments] (2) How Dead Will You Be? #2: Sumana, preparing for her vacation to Tokyo, showed me Why don't you try simulation of earthquake,wind and flood damage. Why don't I? Great tourism interface on that site.

[Comments] (1) : Pieces of ship. How many cargo ships sink every year? In Dangerous Waters I read some huge number like 200. Can that be right? Do they get recovered like that ship did or do they just grow barnacles and wait for future archaeologists or treasure hunters?

[Comments] (1) : One of the best things about Sumana's stash of Amar Chitra Katha comics (apart from hilarious bird-related dialog like "It is time for my parrot to act." and "Caw, caw.") is the ads that took aim at Indian kids of the 1980s with bizarre condescension ("Rearrange the missing letters to form the name of a well-known medicated plaster") and borderline trademark infringement. Well, now these ads come to life on Vishal Patel's site.

He has scanned comic-ads from Tinkle, the folktale-packed foolishly-named ACK adjunct magazine that Sumana has but a few copies of. I've always liked it nonetheless, due to its providing a home for Doob Doob and Kalia the Crow (Caw, caw.).

Viva Las Metavegas: Though I have no particular love for Las Vegas, I do love articles that treat the city as a perverse optimization problem. It's the generalization of trying to beat the casino games. Here are a couple such articles I found a ways back, and today I found another, more pragmatic one. Now that's what I call better satisfying the fitness function!

[Comments] (7) User Stories: Explain to me why, outside of a puzzle, someone would boil eggs and then not use them and instead put them back in the fridge and somehow get them confused with non-boiled eggs and need a way of distinguishing boiled from non-. Who needs to stock up on hard-boiled eggs days in advance?

[Comments] (12) Also, You Can Only Use A Barometer: Since the last entry got so many comments, I would like to make this entry another in the same vein, because I like comments. How many ways can we come up with to distinguish hard-boiled eggs from regular eggs? No cost is too high, no preparation too elaborate. My contributions:

[Comments] (11) Hubristic Game Roundup: The good news is that, despite the presence of a couple of clones, this Game Roundup has some of the best ideas and some of the nicest implementations I've seen in a while. The bad news is that apart from the fabulously bizarre but lightweight Komi and the unassuming icebreaker, these games have Greek-tragedy-quality flaws--sometimes trivial flaws--that make the games not worth playing. I will start with the greatest tragedy of this roundup:

[Comments] (1) Mea Culpa (And Carpa): I'll check this out tonight, but I have it on the good word of anonymous that GearHead will indeed let you use Roguelike keys to control your mecha if you tell it to. This is great news since it would let me give an unqualified recomendation of GearHead, though it doesn't explain why the other interface even exists much less is the default. Grumble grumble.

Down To Earth: Hey you! Stop looking at the stars! Shuffle your feet and look at rocks instead!

Wow, there are a lot more X Pictures of the Day than the last time I checked. How about a roundup?

[Comments] (1) Game Roundup: Authors' Revenge: How exciting! Today's the day when game authors and contributors strike back in typical genteel fashion at my Roundup reviews. First it was Joseph Hewitt defending Gearhead from my slanders, and now Richard Hoelscher, contributor of graphics to the Gnome games, sees fit to respond to my ground-disrupting "Games You Already Have Roundup" cycle. Here's his email (address redacted as per his request), which mainly details things I noticed that will be fixed in the next release of gnome-games; I'll just respond to a couple points of his.

"There is GNOME Sokoban already implemented as a set of caves within GNOME Stones." Of course there is. I should have seen that coming, since the exact same thing happened with Rocks 'n' Diamonds.

Re the Minesweeper clone smackdown where I didn't care: he tipped the scale hugely in favor of Gnome by pointing out that the Gnome version lets you choose a board of up to 100x100 for a huge Minesweeper experience, while the KDE version limits you to a puny 50x50 board. New winner of KDE/Gnome Minesweeper clone smackdown: Gnome! That happy face is still a little creepy, though. Reminds me of the Pac-Man cartoon.

[Comments] (1) This Time For Sure: Okay, this was a false alarm, but I don't see how the Earth can survive this one.

[Comments] (1) A Couple Things About Nethack: Nethack is complicated enough to have developed its own set of urban myths (dungeon myths?). Myths and Facts about Nethack zaps the myths with a wand of cancellation.

More interestingly, it turns out that most of the weird Nethack shopkeeper names are names of towns in various parts of the world.

Oh, and the Kingdom of Loathing now has a Nethack dungeon.

[Comments] (2) Leonard's Household Tips: Don't make caramel sauce without a really well thought-out plan for storing it, or you will burn and melt things and the caramel will become useless.

[Comments] (1) NewsBruiser: Aggregated Assault: I have some 5x7 notecards and I write down my big projects on them so that if I ever feel lackadaisical like I don't have any big projects, I can look at the notecards and remember that I'm just lazy.

This is one of the projects and to be honest there's not much on its notecard except the name--that's how lazy I am. But phase one is now complete: you can now take arbitrary RSS feeds and aggregate them into a NewsBruiser weblog, a la my arch-rival Scott's Planet.

Viola! I give you the long-promised Richardson/Chadwick/Matkin/Whitney/Walch recipe weblog! Right now it only has me and Susanna since we're the only ones with a category where our recipes go. If you've got a weblog on this site and you want in, send me mail and I'll show you how to create a category. You don't have to do anything special to get recipes to show up in this weblog; just post to your category and they'll show up within an hour.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream: As a test of the automatic aggregation, I'll post the most recent recipe I've made. I'm having a little dinner party tomorrow and tonight I made butter pecan ice cream. This is a good time to formally state the pound-cake-like Generic Ice Cream Mneumonic I've come up with:

I'm experimenting with heating the sugar along with the cream and milk. It worked out well this time, so heat all that up in a pan.

Now, the rest of my mneumonic (patent pending) is '1 cup flavor stuff'. However, the flavor of butter pecan ice cream depends in large part on the brown sugar we're using, so that kind of counts as 'flavor stuff' and we actually want less than 1 cup. What I used was:

If you're offended by the idea of deviation from the mneumonic I made up, then 1) that's kind of weird, and 2) you can probably do 1 cup of nuts and 3 tablespoons of butter without ruining the ice cream.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the pecans and toss to coat. Toast the pecans. I dunno when you stop exactly; generally you stop toasting nuts as soon as you smell the oils being released, but something is wrong with my sense of smell today so I just stopped when they looked right. Dump the nuts and butter into the cream/milk/sugar mixture. Stir in The Old Standbys:

When you've got nuts and sugar and cold, you know there's got to be salt.

There's your mix. Let it cool and then machine it. Very tasty.

HEY LADIES: FLOOD INTO MEXICO AND CANADA: The Weekly World News is weird. I don't mean their articles are weird, though the good ones are. I mean they have no consistent narrative about themselves. For instance, The Onion has a conceit that it's a very serious newspaper and is not funny at all, which is actually pretty close to the truth. But the WWN, while not actually claiming to be a joke, doesn't even pretend you're supposed to believe it. It's supposed to shock you, but you can't be shocked by something you know isn't real and were kind of expecting anyway.

Evidence: this contest where you have to make up a headline for the B-movie quality photo. Lots of sites have photo caption contests, but you get the feeling WWN is using the caption contest to figure out the best angle on the story that will eventually go with the picture. Also, every week someone submits "Michael Jackson's New Shocking Look" as a headline, and it's got a pretty good win/loss record, which is just sad.

The other thing is that if they should stumble upon an actually interesting fact, they obfuscate it. Look at this article on typos in printings of the Bible. Now, typos do happen in printings of the Bible and there are lists of them. But the WWN article, while clearly based on such a list, bears the marks of the writer saying "I can think up funnier typos than this!", failing, and publishing their list anyway in preference to the real one which is funnier. It's like they have some code of reverse journalism where they can't publish anything true.

Anyway, I didn't write this to pick on WWN, though it turned out that way because honestly the magazine itself as a physical object gives me the creeps--it's something about the paper. Okay, gotta concentrate. Get to the point and don't say anything else negative about WWN. THE POINT IS that I added a couple more news sources to Dog Bites Dog, on an auxilliary page. It's got WWN headlines and a huge conglomoration which mixes up headlines from the 3 other news sources, and which is quickly becoming my favorite.

Does anyone have more suggestions for sources? It has to be something that usually uses "Crazed Noun Verbs As Bystanders Look On Helplessly" type headlines, because that's all it can parse.

: We offer a complete crime solution, from cradle-robbing to grave-robbing.

[Comments] (5) Kerry selling his vote on e-Bay to pay bills: I made some changes to Dog Bites Dog to make it get better (ie. "gramatically correct more often") headlines but most of my attempts backfired. I think I improved the average headline quality a little, though. I'm now into heuristic territory (while "man" can be a verb, it's exceedingly unlikely that it is the verb in a headline).

Also, I had a dinner party last night, and I made an ice cream pie which was one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten. Also an artichoke-spinach-cheese dip which I'm having for dinner tonight with my first loaf of French bread. Anyway, at the party were Riana and Seth and Riana's friend Alexey. Riana and Seth have this parrrrrpetual Talk Like A Pirate Day thing going on when they're arrrround each other. Like that. Eventually I pointed out how easy it would be to add a mode to the Eater of Meaning that did the same thing, and well, one thing led to another and before you could say "Let us time how long it takes for you to implement the mode of which we have been speaking", Seth had started his stopwatch and I was running to the computer room. Elapsed time: 3 minutes. Though I put some more time into it afterwards fixing edge cases so that you can discuss things like the aRRRRRTs sound server.

Also, the Eater of Meaning goes further and further off its original goal of destroying all human communication, and is quickly becoming just a framework for writing web filters really quickly. I swear I don't plan these things, they just happen.

[Comments] (3) : By request, here are recipes for the things I served at my Sunday night dinner party:

[Comments] (2) Negative Links: Sometimes people get ideas about how there should be a special attribute you can give to an <A> tag that indicates just how you feel about the awful, awful thing you're linking to. So that search engines and other programs that analyze links don't misconstrue your linking as endorsement. Unfortunately due to the vagueness of the idea and the fact that it's kind of hard to search for things like "html" and "link", I haven't been able to find anybody's ideas on this topic. Does anyone know of any? I don't want to make up my own ideas because that will defeat the purpose of building some ad hoc consensus.

Somewhat relatedly, some of my readers may not know (and others may know all too well) that there's a whole sub-economy based on gaming search results. The currency of this sub-economy is units of Google PageRank, and it is kind of weird.

If You Read One NYCB This Summer, Read This One: Here's another, much more significant entry from the 'some of my readers may not know (and others may know all too well)' file. Lots of states are using a particular company's (Diebold's) system to tally votes in their state and federal elections. It turns out it's very easy to attack this system to make it give different vote tallies from the actual tallies.

The system keeps two sets of books, and you can get it to display tallies from the fake set instead of the set that reflects people's actual votes. Paper verification ballots are useless, because the software knows to use the real data for spot checks and only uses the fake data to report aggregate results. This is really bad. It undermines the integrity of the election system.

Something like this has long been suspected, and it is a general problem with electronic voting and vote counting systems, but it is no longer a hypothetical problem. The attack actually exists and has been demonstrated. (That link has a very detailed article about the problem which I recommend you read.) The system has been in place for four years in 30 states. It's possible it has already enabled election fraud.

As in accounting, keeping two sets of books is not something you do unless you want to cheat or are being pressured to cheat. It's not a bug--it's a whole other system designed for cheating, hidden inside the system the states were sold. The authors of that article pin the blame on a specific person, who had means, motive, and opportunity. But who specifically did it is not as important as the reaction to the discovery of the problem, which has been just awful.

Let's suppose I did something like this at the company where I work, and play out the scenario that would happen once someone found out. Obviously I would be immediately fired. My now-ex-employer would inform all our clients about the problem, and they in turn would demand that 'we' fix the problem immediately. Most of the bigger clients would ask that their sites be shut down until the problem was fixed. Everyone would take the problem very seriously.

While it would not be in my now-ex-company's interest to have information about the problem made public (at least until it had been fixed), it would also not be in their interest to let the problem remain unfixed. It would also not be in the client's interest to ignore the problem. If anyone ever exploited this hypothetical problem it would cause enormous damage to the client, and if we didn't fix it quick they would fire 'us', quickly.

Now let's exit that hypothetical and see what happened in the real world. As far as I can glean from that article, (it's a little vague), the person they blame doesn't work at Diebold anymore. I don't know if this is because he was fired, or because he got sent to prison for (unrelated but motive-providing) embezzlement.

But that is all that's happened. Nobody seems interested in fixing the problem, and according to the people who know how to exploit the problem, a lot of the time they can't get the interested parties to even watch a demonstration.

What's wrong with this picture? Here's my guess. Note that I'm going to explain this situation without claiming that any of the parties currently involved want to rig elections, which is certainly a possiblity but which explaining things that way tends to get you dismissed as a conspiracy theorist. Anyway, the problem exists and is exploitable whether or not I'm a conspiracy theorist.

Diebold is (in my explanation) trying to keep the counties and states from demanding action because any effective action would result in Diebold losing the contract--remember, this back door has been in the software for years. It's already way past "fix this now or else" territory and into "we don't trust you and we never can" territory--if the state wanted to take action.

The state officials don't want to take action because they don't want to admit that such a huge problem could happen on their watch. They know that if this knowledge becomes widespread the public will blame them (with some justification). A lot of them also have a lot of political capital invested in "information superhighway" type electronic voting rhetoric, and the states have put a lot of money (by state budget standards) into these fancy systems. It would cost a lot of time and money to switch. And for what? So you can say "Yes, this election was secure."? Well, you can say that no matter what, and save the time and money.

There's also no upside to solving the problem for the state officials. They are not directly damaged by bad elections so long as no one finds out they were bad (unless their opponent rigs the Secretary of State election against them, which would be ironic but also difficult). The only reason they should try to solve this problem is that their job is to not let this problem happen. California's secretary of state, Kevin Shelley, is the only official I know of who is doing his job in this respect.

If there were consequences for ignoring the problem, there would be incentive for the state officials to fix it. We wouldn't have to depend on government officials wanting to do the right thing. Right now there are no consequences because for the most part the ultimate bosses of everyone in this scenario (the citizens of the states) don't know about the problem yet. If the state officials watch a demonstration of the problem, they destroy any plausible deniability they might have had, and they create a news hook for media investigations into the problem. That's why they don't want to even look at it.

I am posting this entry to do my part to get rid of the plausible deniability. It's very important that the states secure the application as best they can for the coming election, and switch to a more secure system as soon as possible.

[Comments] (4) One Piece At A Time: There's lots of Python code that pings weblogs.com, but I couldn't find a Python library for the other side of the equation; one that parses the big XML file of recent pings. That's why I developed the Ass-Kicking Laser Algorithm, which does that very thing. Even with the paucity of things you could conceivably do with the weblogs.com XML file, I think it has more options than are wise. Once I start actually using it I may trim it down. But like I say, one piece at a time.

The name is Kris'. He came up with it in 1998 when I was complaining that the algorithms I was learning about in class didn't live up to their cool names, like the gift wrapping algorithm and Graham's Scan. Since any interesting name I could give this library would set the user up for an anticlimax, I figured I'd go all the way. Thanks, Kris.

In retrospect, though, Graham's Scan is pretty cool.

[Comments] (2) Metaphor Milestone: I forgot to mention that recently was the first time I've ever heard someone at work say "at the end of the day" and actually mean at the end of the day.

Subscribed to Seth: Seth's diary is now on NewsBruiser, after an evening of rewrite rule magic and Apache configuration frustration. Now you too can subscribe to his RSS feed, or just enjoy the superior navigability of NewsBruiser over... HTML files. Yeah, that was hard to beat.

[Comments] (15) Godzillopoly: Here's a first stab at my ideal Monopoly game, based on an idea of Kevan's. This version makes a couple small changes, all in the spirit of the existing rules, and evens the game out a little by making the endgame less depressing and hopeless for the players who aren't winning. However it does not inject any additional element of skill into the game, so it's not perfect.

Basically you add Godzilla(tm), or my non-licensed, freely-usable character Freezilla... uh-oh, let's call him Lizardbeast and get rid of the spikes on his back. There, we're perfectly safe! Anyway, as I was saying. you add the loveable and completely original character Lizardbeast as a player in your Monopoly game (tiny metal Lizardbeast tokens sold separately). When the first building is placed he is placed across the board diametrically opposite that building. For instance, if you build a house on New York he is placed on Boardwalk. Subsequently he rolls the dice (actually, the banker rolls for him) and moves as any other player, after the last player has moved. The only differences between him and a human player are:

If Lizardbeast lands on a square that makes you do one of these things, he stays on that square and does not do them. When he passes Go, he does not collect $200.

If Lizardbeast rolls doubles he gets to move again, just like a human. If he rolls three doubles in a row, he does not move the third time, but neither does he go to jail. How is that supposed to work anyway? "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the facts are clear. The puppy dog you see before you rolled two threes. Then he rolled two ones. Then, in the presence of numerous witnesses, he rolled two sixes. The state rests." Anyway.

If Lizardbeast should ever land on your property, woe betide you! He will crush one building on your property. If your property has no buildings on it, nothing will happen. You may collect rent as usual while Lizardbeast is on your property.

"I noticed you said 'one building'," you say tenatively. "Does that mean--" Yes! Build a hotel, if you dare, in your hubris! When Lizardbeast checks in, your hotel does not check out! He will stomp it as easily as he would a single house!

Should Lizardbeast succeed in destroying all buildings on the board, he becomes bored (so you don't become bored moving him around all the time when he can't do anything) and leaves until such time as someone once again dares to develop their property. At that point he is reintroduced opposite the first erected building, as before.

Discussion: This variant alleviates some of the rich-get-richer that makes a Monopoly endgame infuriating if you're losing and boring if you're winning. However it does this by simply disrupting the endgame at random and moving you back into the middle game. It doesn't solve the fundamental problem of the endgame where it turns into a stochastic grind and you just want to make the computer finish it, but you're not playing on the computer. My current thinking involves buying Lizardbeast bait to leave on your opponents' properties, but it is as yet unformed.

Crap, I forgot to change the name of the game.

Take That, Lousy Buffalo!: In Alberta there's a prehistoric buffalo jump, a cliff off of which ancient Native Americans herded buffalo, making use of the buffalo's potential energy in addition to all its other parts. Nowadays buffalo are too smart to fall for that trick, so all that's left is an animated GIF, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the best names ever: the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Center.

: The Technorati API is very useful; so useful that its 500-a-day limit on API calls is incredibly frustrating to me. And don't even get me started on Google's API. I much prefer APIs like the Amazon API that just limit how often you can make a call.

Does anyone have any suggestions of how to get more getCosmos()-like behavior without actually cheating? All I can think of is to scrape del.icio.us instead, but that puts me in a del.icio.us ghetto. I may end up building my own private mini-Technorati.

[Comments] (6) We'll Leave A Light On For You (But Why?): My neighbors leave their porch light on all night. I am not sure why. Are you supposed to leave your porch light on all night? It seems like a waste of electricity. Does it deter burglary?

[Comments] (3) Software Endorsement: If you're writing a database application in Python and you need a object-relational mapping (ie if you're writing a nontrivial database application in Python), I recommend SQLObject, written by NYCB reader Ian Bicking. I tried most of the ones on this list and SQLObject was the least frustrating of the lot. NOW YOU KNOW.

The Ass-Kicking Laser Algorithm Is Making Sense: More sense than it was making before, anyway. I changed it to turn relative times into absolute times, and got rid of the weird "URLs I've seen before" cutoff in favor of a time-based cutoff. It's still over here.

Fly Me To The Moon, Alice!: Check out this emulator of the Apollo guidance computer.

[Comments] (6) : My grandfather, Roy Dalton Richardson, has died. Like my father and myself, he was stubborn and emotionally quiet. But he was passionate, and he worked his whole life, and when he couldn't work anymore it hurt. Every since I've been able to formulate the thought, he's been my image of how I would be when I was older. He was the first person I saw grow old. I loved him, and now he's gone, from my life and many others. May he rest in peace.

Lesson Learned: If you're messing around with del.icio.us and your intentions are honorable, resist the temptation to hit that hidden link at the bottom of various pages. It does exactly what you think it does.

[Comments] (3) Porch Light Followup: Consensus is that leaving the porch light on does deter burglary. Reader Vince Janis also wrote in with a suggestion to deter burglary by writing an intimidating name on a dog bowl and putting it by the back door. Why say BEWARE OF DOG when you can say BEWARE OF DOG WHO EATS FOOD?

I turned on the light on Sunday night to see how it would go. The only thing that happened was I forgot to turn it off Monday morning. I should have seen that one coming. I like the idea in principle, but I need a timer or (as Sara suggested) a motion detector.

Vindication: For probably months now I've been waiting to see if my House of Representatives RSS feed would get automatically updated when the members returned from campaigning vacation. Well, yesterday they came back, and so did the RSS feed!

Of course, all they did yesterday was give fancy names to post offices. Maybe we should be grateful for that, actually.

Impressive: Now this is what the area surrounding a black hole should look like. One of the best APODs ever.

[Comments] (4) The party! It's ruined!: Who knows why it took me so long to come up with this, but I finally did last night while talking to Sumana (who is coming home tomorrow). Continuing my love of randomly generated entertainment, Dadasaurus Rex does for Dinosaur Comics what Dada Pokey did for Pokey the Penguin (or, to look at it another way, what Pokey the Penguin did for itself). Every minute it puts together a new comic using the hard-to-install-on-non-Debian-systems but wonderful Python Imaging Library.

Eventually this system will expand to consume Dada Pokey and its spin-offs, and I'll also add a Five-Card Nancy style game and more different webcomics, and everything will be happy because I'll have finally gotten rid of that horrible 1998 Dada Pokey code. For now, at least most is happy; love those comics!

Update: in personal communication, Ryan North says Dadasaurus Rex is "FANTASTIC".

: New on the WB: Jack & Bobby. What is this, the Quicksilver show?

[Comments] (1) : Today's my day for publicity, as Beautiful Soup gets a favorable mention in Uche Ogbuji's xml.com column, which is actually about converting HTML into XML. Beautiful Soup tries to reduce the number of times you have to convert HTML into XML, but if you do have to there are tools for it.

libxml2's tree object looks like something I could use as a model for a future version of Beautiful Soup (I do need to rewrite a big chunk of it; I'm painfully aware of numerous embarassing flaws, but it's still the best screen-scraping library IMO).

[Comments] (1) Now Boarding The Sleep Train: But first, the official word from Ryan North about the Dinosaur Comics/The Diamond Age connection first noted here in January:

People have mentioned this to me before, but I haven't read the book yet. It's on my list, because it's an incredible coincidence. Especially with the Utahraptor: it's such an obscure dinosaur! The dinosaurs were actually picked because I liked the way they looked. I had to go back and look up what they were when it came time to name them.

There you have it. Most amazing coincidence I've seen in a while. I left my copy of The Diamond Age in Arkansas (actually I gave it to Geoff, which means it's probably in San Francisco but I don't know where), so I can't go back and check, but my half-recollection is that it's really very similar to the archetypal plot of Dinosaur Comics.

[Comments] (4) : Can someone please go to Japan and find out what the Hakone 3D Space Dinosaur World/Fairy Tale Aquarium is? Sumana went near enough to it to get a brochure that mentions it in a big list of attractions, but not near enough to it to find out if it really is the most awesome thing in the world, or just a bunch of meaningless words strung together.

[Comments] (4) Funeral: Johnny Cash played at my grandfather's funeral (in the form of the "My Mother's Hymn Book" CD), leading me to declare that I want Johnny Cash at my funeral too. No one else seemed to appreciate this; Sumana says she will ensure that only the really silly Johnny Cash songs are played at my funeral, like "Chicken in Black" and "Sam Hall".

I read the eulogy, and everyone said I did great, but I just tried to make eye contact instead of just reading off the paper.

In addition to the eulogy, the Californian ran a news piece on my grandfather.

: Weird recipe-theoretic entry coming later tonight, so enjoy these giant lizard pictures while you can.

[Comments] (2) How to think about recipes: I have a brilliant plan to make money off of the ideas I'm going to synthesize in this entry, but others are catching up to me on the basics and I still haven't done anything with my alleged plan that's so great. So this is kind of my admission of defeat; I'm going to try to formalize and make obvious the part that's about to become well-known anyway.

Let's think about recipes. Every time you make a recipe you perform a ritual corresponding to the recipe. A recipe is generally written as a narrative, but except in very simple cases you never make the recipe simply by reenacting the narrative. If you want to get it done in a reasonable time (and, if heat is involved, if you want it to work at all), you have to set multiple things going simultaneously, the ordering merely hinted at by the use of words like "meanwhile" in the recipe.

Even when the recipe is divided into sub-recipes, you need to read the recipe as a whole and figure out how best to use your time, what the prerequisites are, and how the recipe will take shape. The idea of mise en place is, in my opinion, partially a hueristic to make this step easier by moving a lot of the decisions to the front so you don't have to place them elsewhere.

That's the state of the art. Now imagine writing a recipe for a hypothetical cooking robot, something that knows about ingredients and cooking techniques but lacks planning skills. You'd get a representation similar to one you'd find in an MMORPG cheat-sheet. This representation describes the recipe in terms of the ritual, depicting a series of steps in which you combine and transform old items to get new items. I bumped into this idea a year ago, the way a ship might bump into a mola mola, but didn't actually understand that it could be used to represent real recipes until I played Kingdom of Loathing.

These recipes look like trees. The vertices of the tree are items of food. The leaves are the ingredients, and at the root lives the finished dish. The edges of the tree are operations. Some of them are unary (melt the butter), some are binary (brush the dough with butter).

This is the cool part. You can do all sorts of things with a tree representation of a recipe. Some of them have to do with the fact that your representation represents the cooking ritual, and some have to do with the fact that the ritual is now computer-parsable.

The more complicated actions now naturally correspond to a longer branch of the tree, making it easier to get a feel for how the recipe ritual is going to go. If you have times associated with each operation, you can calculate which actions you need to start first. You can, if you know enough about ingredients and their properties, perform a transformation on the recipe. (This is the part I am really excited about.)

As far as I can tell, this idea originated in Computerized Cooking, a gloriously cranky but un-ignorable document from the '80s which reminds me of Ted Nelson's stuff. Recently it found new life in insta-hit weblog Cooking for Engineers, which does a lovely tree presentation that is a tree but doesn't look like a tree, or RPN, or have a lot of internal cross-references. The ugliness of the recipes was my main problem with Computerized Cooking, and I really admire the way CfE solved it.

So that is how, in my opinion, you should think about recipes if you want to make money from recipes (as opposed to food) in the twenty-first century. On a higher level of abstraction lives the meta-recipe of the culinary design pattern, which I think looks like a templatized recipe. And above it in a different direction you have the meta-recipe of the meal, which I still have no clue about. I think it would look like a set of recipes with interconnected techniques and ingredients, but I'm starting to sound like Frank Chu so I'll leave that alone until I figure it out.

[Comments] (6) Yum Yum Yam Yam Walla Walla Couscous: This is my reverse-engineering of a dish by that name that Seth had heard about when he was young. I'll present it in lovely CfE format.

3 yams, peeled and diced Bake on sheet for 30 minutes at 325 degrees combine
1 cup mixed dried fruit (eg. cranberries, raisins)
1 cup nuts (eg. walnuts) toast
2 Walla Walla or other sweet onions, diced saute in olive oil
ground cinnamon
cumin
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups water or broth boil combine and fluff
2 cups couscous

Discussion: I added more stuff to the recipe than to the dish I actually made, because the awesome expansion power of couscous made the end result look like a desert of couscous which expeditions of yams and cranberries had unsuccessfully tried to cross. Couscous can hold a lot of other stuff. I also added some garlic to the recipe because the couscous I made was too sweet and lacked bite. Put in the garlic when your saute is almost done so it doesn't burn; that's just a general rule of garlic. I used Hawaiian sweet onions because I couldn't find Walla Walla onions.

Not bad, for a first couscous recipe. And until I find a better one, I declare that this has the best name of any dish ever created.

Google Memewatch Demands: Move over!

Update: Rianna contributes "All your meme are belong to us".

: Turn POST requests into GET requests with AutoPOST. From 1996 via Toph.

[Comments] (2) Not Invented Here: If you think there are too many skinnable MP3 players or Python web frameworks, whatever you do don't look at this list of HUMAN LANGUAGES.

[Comments] (1) : There is now Twinkie tiramisu, in accordance with NYCB prophecy. It uses ice cream for the filling, which is kind of weird; Twinkies already have filling. I guess just soaking Twinkies in coffee sounds too much like some peoples' breakfast.

[Comments] (3) Clickolinko bonanza!: Not to be confused with a Clickolinko juncto. Heh, heh, a little Baroque Cycle humor there. Okay, I'll stop. Ow! I said I'll stop! But now, I'll have to retaliate so as not to show weakness!

Okay, where was I? Here are three things in recent Clickolinko history that caught my eye.

This one was directed toward me by name: Google Memewatch dares to ask: What are you cooking with?

websay does what eCow (which doesn't even work anymore due to various venue changes) does, only it actually works and has a better interface. This is my ultimate win; I come up with an idea and get the credit, and eventually someone else does the same thing and I can pass off the mantainance duty on to them.

Finally, it turns out that The Onion generates its headline graphics with a PHP script. A nice, juicy, usable-by-anyone headline graphic generation script. The API is pretty simple, as this API demonstration.... demonstrates.

[Comments] (1) Star Trek Reductio:

"Is he an alien or does he just have a big wart on his forehead?"
(Me to Sumana, about the hoity-toity weapons dealer in DS9 "Business as Usual".)

[Comments] (4) Scroungeup Game Roundup: I'm busy doing other stuff, but I have a bunch of game reviews lying around so I figured I'd turn them into a Roundup for you, my discerning readers. What is it you discern, anyway?

Herbivore Update: Went to Herbivore again, and had the lentil loaf. Okay, but not as good as I'd been hoping.

[Comments] (3) Deadbeat UPS: I bought a UPS a while ago at a yard sale for $10, and I thought it was a pretty good bargain. But then it got lazy or something, because it embarked on a campaign designed to get me to stop using it. Every once in a while it would pretend the power had gone off and beep, beep, beep. Real annoying. The only way to get it to stop was to push the button on the front, which... turned off the power. So instead of a machine that protected my computer in the event of power outages, it was a machine that simulated localized power outages affecting only my computer.

Since I'm not afraid of power outages due to ext3, it's now sitting on my computer room floor enjoying an undeserved retirement. That's the story of the deadbeat UPS.

[Comments] (3) : Neal Stephenson defends the endings of his books from ending-naysayers like myself by saying that his endings are written to conform to his ideas of a good ending, not ours. Okay, fair enough. He's the writer. But that leaves unanswered the question: what is his idea of a good ending?

If we can learn to take Stephenson's works on their own terms, our appreciation of them can only be enhanced. But his aesthetics are in this respect foreign to mine, or there wouldn't be a problem (this is especially bizarre because in most other respects his aesthetics are aligned with mine). So what is the deal?

[Comments] (1) : Next Passover, try a delicious plague of cookies.

You Paid For It: CoolGov is the more readable, more weblog-like, more interesting on average version of the GPO document site (plug for my RSS feed of same).

My nominee for interesting government site is Microgram, the bulletin of the drug war, which features in every issue a roundup of new ways drug entrepreneurs have come up with of smuggling drugs into the country. This includes innumerable "Put cocaine inside random object" schemes, but also weird things like fake Viagra that's really an amphetamine (didn't I get spam for that? And isn't the attempt to get spam past a spam filter analagous to smuggling something into a country that doesn't like it?). Also hilarious implausible-deniability marijuana products with stoner parody labels like "Splif" peanut butter, labels probably designed by the same people who design those stupid stoner parody logo T-shirts and trucker hats.

: Like lists? You'll love the Wikipedia list of lists.

[Comments] (4) : I like these Pac-man paintings from cognitive scientist Jim Davies. They remind me of, but are better than, the paintings I did in high school when I thought painting was an effective way for me to express things without actually thinking them through or knowing how to paint. Excellent work, especially Pokey's Problems One Through Three. The ghosts' different Pac-man-chasing algorithms turn them into symbols.

[Comments] (4) : Man. Writer's block! What should I write about?

[Comments] (4) Previous Entry Does Not Count: Nobody told me what to write about, though some people emailed in to gloat, so I'll write about the Radio Habana Social Club, where I just ate dinner with Sumana and friends. I went to get away from my writer's block and companion algorithm designer's block (I need to read some papers or something). Its selling points are that it's incredibly small, and the walls are crammed full of stuff, including a set of "Heroes of the Blues" trading cards (four or five different bluesmen took the "blind" praenomen, according to the cards, and for all I know they were really blind). These selling points are better than they sound.

However, I think the food is pretty bad. I had a tamale which in retrospect felt like just a big chunk of lard, and I was not happy because I ate lard. The menu said you could get the tamale with chile, which I misread as saying you could get it with chili, and I was very excited until my tamale came with a line of red sauce down the middle, dashing my hopes of a Doe's-esque tamale. It also came with black beans, which were pretty lackluster despite having intermingled onion slices; spanish-rice-tasting basmati rice, which was very good, and the generic California Random Greens Salad that makes you think you're having a fancy dinner.

I had cocoa which, as happens in some restaurants, wasn't sweet at all; it's like they make the traditional Aztec cocoa and you have to dump in a bunch of sugar from the sugar container to make it taste like cocoa, and you feel un-hip. But hey, that's me to a T.

The signature dessert was rice pudding; I didn't have any because I'm trying to get rid of this peach cobbler in my fridge, but it's probably good. My verdict: come for the atmosphere, leave for the atmosphere.

[Comments] (3) Apology: Oh yeah, I've been meaning for a while to publicly apologize to Taina Prusti, Jarno's girlfriend wife, for consistently calling her "Prusti" the whole time we were all together in Europe, and then afterwards on this very website. When Jarno introduced me to her, all I heard was her surname. She probably thought I operated under some weird American notion of chivalry. In my defense, I thought and still think "Prusti" is a great first name for a woman.

The Nethack Mad Scientist: "I've created a monster! With my scroll of create monster!"

[Comments] (2) How do they cram all that hologram?: I read The Physics of Star Trek, which is actually a low-level primer on modern physics with Trek references interspersed, which is fine with me. Anyway there's a section on holograms and how they work, and I was reminded of a while ago when Kris complained about not being able to buy a full-color hologram. Well, I'm here to tell him he can buy a little dinky hologram for $99, or a larger one for $149, at the CafePress of holograms.

The Stomper of Meaning: Monster attack DHTML!

: Man, whatever its flaws, I gotta admit that The Weekly World News has managed to do The Onion better than The Onion. It achieves this by walking a tightrope, setting up dumb jokes and deliberately ruining them: that beautiful girl of comedic tropes that The Onion wants to approach, someday, but never has the guts. The great advantage of the WWN, I'm beginning to realize, is that it doesn't care about anything, and that can be liberating. Unfortunately, it usually means setting up the dumb joke and then going through with it.

Many readers have written in to ask why am I so hostile towards The Onion in these pages. It's because the founders of The Onion are incredibly wealthy, whereas I am merely moderately well off. It's inflation-adjusted class warfare!

Link found via Dog Bites Dog, which I can't tell from one minute to the other whether or not it needs to have its algorithm rewritten for more yuks per headline.

[Comments] (3) : Hi, I'm Seth David Schoen. Not really, but let's say I was. Today would be my birthday! And my friend Leonard would be racking his brain trying to think of a gift that would top 2002's floating-head-fest ksethdavidschoen. And failing, because he totally forgot until the last moment that he needed to think of a present for Seth. Yes, the same problem that befalls people who buy presents also lies in wait for those who write pieces of software to use as presents. He'd have to fall back on the old "I'm Seth David Schoen" gag, that tired prune of a joke.

But wait! Surely the fact that it's such an old joke is the key to how best to use it. In this computerized age, can we not automate the rituals that, while not actually giving us satisfaction, give a sort of second-order satisfaction when we see that others still perform them? Do we dare treat a running gag not with the deference due to age but with the surgeon's eye of the seasoned refactorer?

Indeed we do. Now that I [still Seth] use Leonard's NewsBruiser weblog software, all sorts of crazy plugins are within my reach. If only Leonard would write a NewsBruiser plugin that implemented this bizarre in-joke! Then my [Seth's] birthday would be complete!

Well, far be it from me [Leonard] to interfere with the completeness of Seth's birthday. The Birthday Incompleteness Theorem notwithstanding, I present NB-SethDavidSchoen, the most useless NewsBruiser plugin ever, and the first to come in a standalone package (the two are related). Furthermore, I've flipped the switch on my own weblog for the remainder of Seth's birthday.

As are we all, I'm Seth David Schoen.

[Comments] (3) Flash! Floo-od! You'll kill ev'ry one of us!: One of my irrational fears is flash floods (irrational not because flash floods are not dangerous but because I never go anywhere they occur). One minute you're hiking along a gully with your camping stove and the next you're under twenty feet of water like in O Brother, Where Art Thou?. That's how it works in my imagination anyway. Today's Earth Sciences Picture of the Day is a chilling close-up glimpse at a flash flood in the offing. ESPOD, by the way, is the best companion I've so far found to the venerable APOD.

Man, if only the power of flash floods could be turned to some useful purpose. Like setting up encounters between flash floods and flash mobs.

[Comments] (2) About bookmarklets: I'm starting to get into bookmarklets, and I have a question. Can I write a bookmarklet that activates when you drag and drop a link onto it? I realize that this question, like the question of how to programatically access a browser's open tabs, lies on the line between the browser as an application environment and the browser as an application in its own right. A lot of the stuff I'm starting to think is interesting lies on that line, which I find very strange. This is the first time in my life I've ever cared about drag or drop, much less the two combined.

Separated At Birth: Ziggy and Dick Cheney.

Think about it.

[Comments] (7) : Keep your eye on Mount St. Helens; it's been acting like it did the last time it erupted.

[Comments] (4) : I need to publish my long-delayed lessons learned entries before the election, because afterwards there will be no news hook at all (this is actually one of the lessons learned) and no one will care. But man. I'm having a political nervous breakdown. I couldn't watch the debate last night, and I'm not sure why. I'm over my "I can't believe my guy didn't get nominated" disappointment. Aren't I?

[Comments] (2) Codecon Codecon.: Anybody got any brilliant ideas for CodeCon '89 2005?

Predigested Meaning: uselessword and 0x800ccc0d are... well, they are what they are. I really like the idea of replacing words with random numbers; the result looks like someone should be reading it over an obscure radio band.

Incidentally, you can do base conversion in Python by passing in the base as the second argument to the int() function. Pretty neat, huh?

[Comments] (1) Remembrance of Events That Occur In The Past: Sumana was looking at an Evite she got. Evite says "This event occurs in the past."

Lost weekend. Where did it go? Now it's occuring in the past.

[Comments] (4) Pearls Of Great Size: In the Colossal Cave adventure you open a colossal oyster to reveal a colossal pearl. There's also a huge pearl in Steinbeck's The Black Pearl. If such a pearl did exist, would it really be that valuable? A marginally bigger chunk of gold is marginally more valuable because it's divisible, but pearls are used in their entirety for decoration. There must be a point beyond which marginally larger pearls stop being marginally more valuable. Clearly this happens well beyond the point where marginally larger pearls become marginally tackier.

[Comments] (1) : Before Pong, there was, well, more Pong.

: There must be a better game to play with these dictator cards than the morbid-yet-milquetoast War variant suggested, though I guess War is thematically appropriate.

[Comments] (14) Leonard's White Chocolate Vendetta #2: Finally, a use for white chocolate: Reverse chocolate chip cookies! Instead of pretending that white chocolate is chocolate, that it can be substituted for chocolate, or that it has special properties of its own and should be addressed as its own ingredient, it recognizes that white chocolate is the absence of chocolate, and treats it accordingly. And wouldn't you know but the result is pretty good. I can't help but think the result would be better (modulo the really quite nice visual) with real chocolate, though. That's the tragedy of white chocolate. If you do come up with a good recipe containing this ersatz chocolate, a better recipe is as close as using real chocolate instead.

Sail The Boolean Seas: What a great search request: mola AND mola

[Comments] (2) : Dog Bites Dog says: "Darth Vader Controls the Speed of Protein Folding". I guess I underestimated the power of the dark side.

There's a Darth Vader grotesque (via, with picture) in the National Cathedral. Which makes sense, since pop culture is what we have now instead of myth and folklore. I thought about browsing the NatCat (ooh, good newslang!) site to see if there were any other interesting grotesques, or even if they had a list of the ones there were, but "Darth Vader" was its own menu option so somehow I doubt it.

This reminds me of one of my co-workers telling me about a cathedral they're building in Barcelona (?) which has statues of businessmen and other average contemporary people. I was only half paying attention so I don't remember any details or even who told me this, but I thought it was a good idea. This happened at a disappointing lunch at Chili's restaurant. If you ordered something with bleu cheese and chipotle peppers you'd expect it to have some flavor or at least make your breath smell bad, but that's not how they do things at Chili's restaurant. Anyway, does anyone know anything about this cathedral?

[Comments] (2) Dy-no-mite: As suggested and previously reported, Sumana and I went to see Napoleon Dynamite the other day. I can confirm that the main character is basically me in high school; not in general like "yeah, I was a misfit in high school", but in fair detail down to the mannerisms. Also, Efren Ramirez, who plays Napoleon's buddy, looks a lot like my high school buddy Dario Espinoza (however, Dario is much cooler than the character in the movie).

The movie takes place in the present day or at least in the late '90s, but aesthetically everyone in the movie seems ten to fifteen years behind the times. They all dress like my junior high classmates. I don't know if this was a conceit of the movie to make the characters look dorky or if it was a way of making fun of rural Idaho or if rural Idaho is actually stuck in the early '90s (Do you guys need help? Wait, actually, can we join you?). What goes on here?

It was a good character study movie and I recommend it. It starts out looking like a lot of set pieces, but the set pieces cohere into a story, but the story doesn't really have a plot because if there were a plot the characters would find out what it was and then try to ruin it for various reasons.

Lebowski watch: there was a brief bowling alley scene which can only be explained as a Lebowski homage. Why else would characters in a movie enter a bowling alley?

Sumana, I think the reason the theater is spooky is that nobody goes there, and it's supposedly part of a mall but it's actually across the street from the mall on the edge of a residential area.

Feeling Lucky: Wow, the new Lucky Ducky cartoon is actually good!

Death Takes A Second Job: I guess this is an eye-catching banner ad?

[Comments] (1) Drought: No posting for most of the rest of the week. People have all kinds of silly reasons for not posting to their weblogs, but I think I've come up with the silliest reason ever.

[Comments] (5) People Named After Programming Languages: A couple weeks ago Sumana and I went to lunch with Rachel Chalmers and Jeremey Fitzhardinge. Their daughter is named Claire, and Rachel mentioned how they were jealous of Ada Norton for having been named after the same name as a programming language. But then they found out there's a programming language named Claire, which satisfied their child-naming programming language lust.

That made me curious as to what other programming language names you could give a kid. Despite (or perhaps because of) my own better judgement I am limiting the list to reasonable names and avoiding names like "Bullfrog" that I like, and individual people might like, but that a couple would never agree on.

Girls' names: Ada, Alice, Alma, April, Aura, Bliss, Charity, Claire, Eleya, Ember, Emerald, Envy, Euphoria, Ewe, Friend (if you're a Puritan), Glee, Godiva, Hope, Io, Ivy, Jade, Joy, Juliet, Lakota, Leta, Libra, Lua, Maple, Mary, Maude, Mila, Miranda, Muriel, Onyx, Pandora, Pe[a]rl, Ruby, Sally, Theta.

Boys' names: Ace, Al, Alan, Alf, Alvyn, Bob, Cecil, Chuck, Crow, Darwin, Dino, Dylan, Euclid, Heron, Hugo, Igor, Kermit (not really a programing language, but it's got an embedded scripting language), Kid, Mercury, Oberon, Occam, Pascal, Peter, Pike, Rene, Rex[x], Slate, Saul, Tom, Yorick, Zeno.

[Comments] (2) : When I'm gone, Bundle Me In Graphite.

: The not-posting life is not the life for me, but there should be no more interruptions of that length in the forseeable future. (I still can't believe I'm doing this silly thing.) Anyway, the Syndication Automat got mentioned on CoolGov, and I added to the Automat a feed for the University of Pennsylvania's Online Books Page, which aggregates links to free online books from all over the web. It has a lot more technical books, religious books, and generally modern stuff than Project Gutenberg. I've been looking at it sporadically for years but now I can keep up with it.

I promised Seth I'd add some other feeds to the Automat, so I'll probably do that this weekend. It's good easy useful work.

[Comments] (1) : If you want robotfindskitten to be more violent, well... I already wrote robotfindskitten 2: This time it's personal!, and Kris did robotfindskitten: The Deltaur Initiative. On the other hand, if you want robotfindskitten to be more violent yet still be recognizable as robotfindskitten, you can try Ryan Finnie's rfk-hypermegadeath patch, which introduces the first reliable way to lose at robotfindskitten. Elise says one of her friends used to consistently lose at robotfindskitten by playing it over an unreliable serial link that would go down before kitten was found, but not everyone can afford such an environment.

Studies Show Seth Often No Motivator: But not this time. As a result of a conversation we had at his birthday party, I put up an Automat feed of the GNU Philosophy page. However now that I think about it it should probably track the What's New page instead. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow.

Update: that's better.

: Automat mania continues; I added a new feed for new things added to the Interactive Fiction Archive. I'm not entirely sure how it's going to work out; probably you'll get new files right away and then again once they get processed. Not a big deal.

Because I've been able to remember to update it for a while, the deliverables weblog is back in business. Let me know if you actually find it useful.

: Oh yeah, the other thing I did yesterday was fix up Beautiful Soup to give you more ways to search for tags with certain attributes. I can't take all the credit since Jonathan Ellis came up with the basic idea, but I will take most of the credit.

[Comments] (4) LowbrowRustic Cheese Puffs: When I was younger I sometimes tried to make choux puffs and put pudding or ice cream in them for a dessert. But since they always came out flat it was difficult to put things in them. For my birthday party back in July I made savory choux puffs with cheese, and Sumana loved them so much that I kept making them, and eventually I had paid my puff-making dues and my puffs started actually coming out puffed.

Sumana wanted me to put up the recipe even though there's nothing special about my recipe, so here it is. Maybe I can help with technique.

The recipe uses my patented "1 of everything" measurements. I call them Rustic because to save time I dole them out with a spoon instead of a pastry bag, so they are a little lumpy. As all restaurant-goers know, Lumpy equals Rustic and vice versa.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the butter, salt, and pepper in the water and boil it. As soon as it comes to a boil, dump the flour in and stir it into a big ball. Transfer it to the mixer bowl, or use a hand mixer, because you're really going to need to clobber this dough. I'm pretty sure that insufficient clobbering was the cause of the flatness of my earlier attempts (my other guess is cold eggs; I haven't yet run an experiment to see which it is).

Start clobbering and add the eggs one at a time. Once the mixture looks thoroughly clobbered, add another egg. Then add the cheese and clobber some more.

Scoop with a spoon onto a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Parchment paper or a Silpat mat on the cookie sheet help a lot. Knife the puffs when they come out of the oven so they don't get soggy. Then either eat them or let them sit a while, cut them open, and fill with something. My favorite filling right now is duxelle (basically sauteed mushrooms and onions) and MORE CHEESE. I am trying to think of something with kalmata olives. For truly lowbrow cheese puffs you could just fill them with Cheez Whiz.

This makes 24 cheese puffs, or 2 cookie sheets' worth.

: These crazy Texans have written software that maps a phylogenic tree onto a circle, the result resembling a cross-section of the trunk of a real tree. For maximum confusion, use this software to diagram the relationships between different types of tree. There's a monster PDF that shows a representative sample of all of life on a big circle. Excellent visualization, though I think it blurs the real distance between two arbitrary species. You think it's correlated to the distance between the two around the circle, when you actually have to go down the tree to find the common ancestor. Obvious application of this fallacy: unroll the circle, and you've got the Great Chain of Being.

Fox and the Grapes: NewsBruiser 2.5.0 is out. It doesn't have anything earth-shaking but there are several bug fixes I'd been feeling bad about not having in a proper release. The big sparkly draw is the del.icio.us integration, for use in case you're crazy like me.

[Comments] (4) : I wrote a piece of software that is really neat. I think it's in the top quartile of the class of application that people could have turned into software companies back in 1999. I don't know anything about starting software companies, and it's not 1999, but I still think there's some way to make money off of it. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to distribute it even if I give up hopes of monetary gain. I'm hoping my readers can help.

My original plan was I would host it and let people have accounts on it, but as it turns out, it requires a lot of processing time to keep one user happy. (I have optimized this a lot but it's still pretty high.) I can't host it for more than ten or twenty people without buying a dedicated server, and a dedicated server will probably only let me go up to a couple hundred users. I don't want to enter the realm of running dedicated servers because that means the project has taken over my life, and unless it's my actual job to run the project I don't like that.

That's the one option. Now, this is a piece of software that sometimes reads other people's web pages. If somehow I got it all set up and everyone in the world were using it, it would use up about as much of your average web page author's bandwidth as, say, Technorati does. This I could live with. On the other hand, if I gave it out as open source and n people ran their own instances of it, it would be like creating n/k Technoratis for some fairly large k. If n got bigger than k I would have unleashed a monster upon the world. A monster! Usually you can count on nobody caring about the software you release, but I don't want to take that risk. The people I've shown this to really like it.

My current inclination is to just write a paper detailing all my secrets and making this someone else's problem, or at least making me look like a visionary when someone else comes up with the same idea. My ideal outcome would be selling the idea and the current implementation to someone, where I get some money up front and they make a lot more money by setting up servers and taking subscriptions and generally letting the project take over their life. I know that's not likely to happen. What's the next best option?

[Comments] (7) NYCB Readers Demand (or, "Whatever Mola Wants, Mola Gets"): My readers exact a heavy toll for their (no doubt forthcoming) advice on the dilemma expounded upon in my previous entry, by... giving me stuff to post. First we have two reader-submitted Google Memewatches (Google Memeswatch?). * don't * people from Kevan, who informs me that the actual, far-too-precious name for a Google Memewatch is a "snowclone"; and will the real * please stand up, from the usual gang of idiots.

Second: I have been overwhelmed with links to this story, reinforcing my delusion that NYCB is the preeminent mola mola weblog, when the fact is that I am just the preeminent mola mola obsessive. A huge mola mola has washed up on the shores of New Zealand. Why? Perhaps because of Joe Mahoney's dark secret. I don't know; maybe it was a bodyboarding accident.

The Tar Pit Turns One: 1 year since I turned on NYCB comments. Grep shows that NYCB has since accumulated almost 1000 comments, and the other weblogs on this site about 3000 more (Rachel is in second place with about 750 comments). Amazingly I have grown to like comments on my weblog; I had my doubts initially, but I must admit that this is the nicest tar pit I've ever sunk into. It's more like a refreshing tar bath.

[Comments] (3) Frog Blog Demon Dog: Ever since Sumana first said "frog blog", people have continued to create weblogs called "frog blog". Recently we saw a frog blog that starred Demon Dog! Only they call him the Quiet Coyote, and his job is not to show up and commiserate with you when you are bored or annoyed, but to show up and silently express his Puritan disapproval of your noisiness. He is quiet; why can't you be?

Maybe Demon Dog is Quiet Coyote's evil brother. Or I could see them in an Odd Couple type matchup.

[Comments] (1) Your Spam Name: Yesterday I wrote a little toy called Your Spam Name. In a coincidence that boggles the mind, it turns out that Kevan wrote the exact same toy a couple weeks ago and never told anyone about it. Because I think my toy looks nicer than Kevan's, I'm going ahead and releasing it anyway. After all, what spammer would settle for just one spam name? Anyway, if we don't get the word out people will just keep writing them.

[Comments] (4) Daylight Savings Time Mnemonic: I can feel it in my bones (or in the fact that I inhabit a world of near-permanent darkness); it's almost time to flip the DST bit in my time zone's time struct. Most daylight-savings-time sufferers know the mnemonic for which direction you go when going on or off daylight savings time: spring forward, fall back. But since the two changes cancel each other out, I could never remember whether the purpose of daylight savings time was to bottle the bounteous daylight of summer, or to hoard the precious daylight of the winter months.

Then I realized that you could use the exact same mnemonic to remember this as well. In spring you go on Daylight Savings Time, and in the fall you go off it. Spring on, fall off. Pretty slick, no? Too bad they already gave out the Nobels this year.

The other thing you can do is live in the UK, where the name of the Daylight Savings timezone is British Summer Time.

[Comments] (2) : People are going to Canada to get flu shots. Can flu shot spam be far behind?

Monday Update: Kevin got Flu shot alternative! As the alternative, Kevin recommends getting the flu.

[Comments] (2) Not the kind of whales I had in mind: Sumana was looking at the map and found Grey Whale Cove south of Pacifica. We thought that was a nice-sounding name and decided to go visit it, but then I discovered that it's a nude beach. So we're going to walk the Golden Gate Bridge instead.

[Comments] (1) On The Bridge:

"You know what would be awesome would be if a container ship went right underneath us."
"Yes, dear."

It almost happened, too.

Yesterday's News: OK, my silly experiment is o'er. You should now be able to figure out why I posted sporadically this month.

I remember having an intense dislike for Suck back when it was publishing (this stemmed from similar causes as with my once intense but now merely simmering dislike for Wired). However I'm really liking the unofficial "nine years later" RSS feed.

This has a couple causes. One is nostalgia for nine years ago, when the web was new and exciting. FishTalk or Annoying Hum--which browser plugin will conquer the desktop? Did you hear that some people are putting their journals up on the web?!?! What's next, copies of physics papers? It all seems sort of ridiculous, now that every compressed food-pill, government mind implant, and virtual sexbot has its own web site. As I once said to Pete Peterson II:

Funny how nostalgia depends on less information connectivity, less bandwidth, less knowledge, less sophisticated tools, scarcer resources in general. Instead of figuring out new ways to use our brains, we just use tools to make old jobs easier and wish there were more challenges. There are new challenges but we can't think of them.

The other is that I have become very interested in the idea revisiting old news, as a corrective to the arbitrary demands of the news cycle. This is why I have a Today In History on top of NYCB, so you can go back and see the foolishness of my previous self in daily installments. Old Suck is more entertaining than copies of pre-eWeek PC Week, but with its leaf-in-the-wind contrarianism it makes all the same mistakes as that more august rag.

Not only is this educational, it's just fun to watch people get it wrong, such as when Suck sorta-praises The Doom Generation and writes Kevin Smith off as a one-hit wonder, when as we in the future know that The Doom Generation only existed in people's articles about it, and that though Kevin Smith is indeed a one-hit wonder he has managed to pull off the same hit multiple times.

The same principle could apply to other types of news. I like Scientific American's huge "x years ago" archive, but they focus on the things that turned out to be important. I think there's as much to be learned from a regular dose of what people used to think was important. For a while I've been kicking around the idea of presenting an old front page as though the things on it still mattered, but I'm not sure where to start. What are news organizations with deep archives? CNN? Do they keep track of the old front pages or do I have to figure out for myself what the past thought was important?

[Comments] (1) Beans and Threads: I'm sure this comes as a surprise to no one, but frozen green beans are no good. I've been making green beans recently from the fresh ones you have to trim and it's been time-consuming but the green beans are great. Last night I was lazy and used frozen beans and they were soggy like the grave. Well, they were soggy like the ones I hated when I was a kid, the ones that come in a pack with tasteless corn and lima beans that get stuck in your molars (but not your molas) when you chew.

Also, I just noticed that Daily Kos is using my old Clark Community Network rolling open thread code for sites where people love to have huge random conversations. I assume it's my code because the wording is almost exactly the same. Neat.

[Comments] (1) Spammer B. Goode: My not-that-bad fears have been confirmed: "Your Spam Name" generators are multiplying! But instead of multiplying forward in time, like skinnable MP3 players or open source CMSes, they are multiplying backward in time. Kevan informs me that after writing his "Your Spam Name" script he discovered an even earlier one, which spits out spammer names at random rather than taking a seed. However, it provided me with the best spam name I've ever seen: Hospitable B. Inhospitality.

[Comments] (2) Zithermania!: Kevin told me that "traditional goth" is now considered its own musical genre. Soon there'd better be a musical genre called Zithermania!, or I'll be disappointed.

Cool Things:

  1. The 204 HTTP status code, "No Content". In addition to denoting an extremely boring website, you can return this and the client will stay where it was instead of expecting a new page from you. This is great for control panel type pages, in conjunction with some Javascript on the client side to mantain displayed state (I know, I've been seduced by the Javascript side, or perhaps just the client side).
  2. Python open source job opening writing test automation software.

[Comments] (1) I could a tale unfold: tales of the

(from Sumana)

[Comments] (1) Unwavering Public Confidence: OK, I gotta actually start writing these. This one's going to say a lot of what I want to say about politics, though some of it in less detail than I could give. I'm going to talk about confidence. This, or the ability to project it, is the most important personality trait for someone working for a political campaign. Even when everything is going all to hell you must remain confident that it will all go right and you will prevail. You must never admit weakness, lest that acknowledged weakness begin to grow without bound.

I can think of a couple reasons for this, though both are based in speculation. The personal reason is that a lot of people have careers in politics; it's usually not a one-shot deal like it was for me. I think expressing any doubt in the sureness of your cause hurts your chances for being enlisted in future causes. Nobody likes a loser, but in politics you can't help occasionally being a loser. What you can help is predicting your own impending loserdom.

The other reason is that if you ever admit weakness, that becomes the media story about your campaign. Why are you staying in the race if you're not going to act like you've got it locked up? It's like the emperor admitting he's naked! Endless fun for the press.

I'm almost positive about this, but I never actually saw it happen, because--stay with me here--nobody ever admits any weakness in an election. Even poor Joe Lieberman, in the Democratic primaries, went around smiling and talking about having the "Joementum", long after it had become clear that "Joementum", while real, was a new phenomenon totally unrelated to "momentum" (am I the only person in the world who still makes "Joementum" jokes?). It was embarrassing to watch, but he had to do it or get out of the race.

I imagine what I'd do with the gift of a political opponent admitting, in a speech to the three undecided voters in an evenly divided state, that his triumph (thanks to the unswerving support of the good people of that state) was less than a sure thing. I'm a lousy speechwriter but I'd say something like "My opponent said recently that this election is going to be close, heh heh. Well, maybe he's a little too far from what's happening on the ground with Michigan voters. I've been talking to people all around this state and I know what's coming. The only thing close about this election is how close [opponent's name] will be to the unemployment line when it's all over! [Note: use non-unemployment joke if you are the incumbent.] We're going to win, because the voters of Michigan are going to show [campaign-specific boilerplate about what you're going to show whom]!" You could be forty points behind and give this speech and press coverage of it would studiously avoid the fact that you were obviously deluding yourself or lying. You would only get weird looks if you gave this speech outside of Michigan.

I am not good at seeming confident even when I actually am. My instinct as an engineer is to plan for the worst case and bring up enough possible pitfalls to fill an SEC filing. So once the Clark campaign started losing primaries I became even more glad that my position didn't require me to interact with the public beyond fielding tech support questions.

Hey, sometimes this charade works. Look at John Kerry. In December 2003 John Kerry's campaign was a joke. He had to mortgage his house to keep going.[0] His staff was putting out feelers (privately, of course!) trying to defect to us. But now all my friends from Clark are working for Kerry and he's a swing state away from the presidency. Why? Well, because the Kerry campaign had a really good ground operation in Iowa and got a snowball effect from it. But the thing that kept everything from falling apart again was the unwavering public confidence.

One of the things I've learned is that politics is made of two different professions: campaigning and governing. I have never experienced the governing firsthand, but a lot of the people who work in campaigning are auditioning for a job in governing--not just the candidates.

A lot of the problems with politics are in my opinion problems with confusing the two professions. People move to the governing profession and don't learn or don't want to learn the new skill set. An example is governing with the goal of getting re-elected instead of serving your constituents.

An opposite mistake is this belief that acting like you've already won will help you win. Unwavering public confidence is a prerequisite to success in politics, but it does not bring success. In my opinion we made the mistake of thinking otherwise, and this was a big reason why we didn't turn the Clark campaign around; coincidentally I also think it's a big reason why George W. Bush has been a lousy president.

[0] Funny (I hope) side note. Jordan and I and I don't know who else spent some dinner time making up silly fundraising graphics for the various candidates. (These would be web page graphics that show how much money the website visitors have raised; see for instance the one on Daily Kos; left-hand corner, scroll down). The Kerry one we came up with was "pay off the mortgage on John Kerry's house". The Lieberman one had a cup of coffee with "fill the cup of Joe". His fundraising goal was $2.50 for coffee. Man, I could do a whole entry just making fun of Joe Lieberman.

[Comments] (3) : In a follow-up to yesterday's deadly revelation[0] on the post-campaign fate of the code I wrote for the Clark campaign, today I found out from Sumana that the Kerry campaign is using a hacked version of my eBlocks software for distributed phone banking. I'd talked to some Senate campaigns and state parties about it over the months, but this is the first time I've seen it in use. Even more neat!

[0] Okay, so it wasn't deadly. What of it? I thought you liked sensationalism! At least that's what I heard from your ALIEN LOVE SLAVE!

[Comments] (4) Category Non-Error: Man, it's nice to post without having to check to see if I can post today. (By the way, has anyone figured out what I was doing? Hint: I'm way too proud of it and it wasn't worth the planning it took.) Anyway, today I take finger to keyboard to praise a new NewsBruiser feature to which I gave short shrift in the actual release.

The feature was written as part of the del.icio.us integration (thus the shortness of the shrift), but you can use it standalone. Instead of selecting categories from a list you can just type in their names. Categories that don't exist get created. It's so easy to use, no wonder it's #1 (for del.icio.us interfaces). If I didn't have so much invested in my baroque system of long category names, I'd start using it for NYCB. I may do so anyway. I'm a loose cannon, Richardson! Turn in my badge!

[Comments] (4) Pie Ice Cream Pie: While Brendan and Maria were over recently, I made Jake's suggested pie ice cream. I think it turned out horribly so I haven't posted a recipe, but the pattern is sound:

  1. Make pie
  2. Make ice cream mix
  3. Put both in ice cream maker.

Try it with a better pie than the weird one I made, and you might get lucky.

My ice cream pies, however, are turning out great. I've made a couple since my debut effort, and since ice cream pie is even simpler than pie ice cream, most of my mental energy goes into making it a showcase for new kinds of ice cream.

  1. Make 2 batches of ice cream
  2. Make graham cracker crust
  3. Put #1 in #2.

The trick is to make it with two contrasting flavors of ice cream. Butter pecan is outstanding in ice cream pie, and my most recent concoction features a great peanut butter chocolate ice cream, but I think there's a little bit too much nuttiness with both in the same pie. Still good though.

Whenever I do research on this topic I come back to this list of ice cream pie recipes, but I've never really been happy with it. Most people seem to think an ice cream pie is kind of lowbrow, the kind of thing you make on the cheap from a store-bought half gallon of ice cream (this person kind of excepted). I like a subtle dessert sometimes like a sorbet, but my favorite kind is one that beats you up with flavor. For this it is hard to beat an ice cream pie.

Re peanut butter and things of similar viscosity. I haven't yet been able to get swirls in ice cream, but it turns out that swirls are decadent and unneccessary. If you soften in the microwave the thing you were thinking of swirling, and put it in the ice cream mix before it goes into the mixer, it'll actually be better; the flavor will permeate the ice cream instead of being in big arachibutyrophobia-inducing lumps. Swirls were probably invented to get away from this homogeny hegemony, but I prefer it this way.

: Sumana pointed me to this Salon article about people handing out religious tracts to trick-or-treaters. Says one tract magnate:

"A tract that has a ghoul on the cover might really speak to a kid who's been dabbling in those kinds of things, but we may not be able to sell that to the Christians. We stay away from the occult stuff and tend to use more innocuous costumes, like pirates."

Sumana is sad that pirates are considered innocuous, but I think this opens up new possibilities. "Arrr! I'll pillage in strict accordance with the teachings of the apostle Paul!" If I weren't so busy dabbling in ghouls, I'd work some religiousinspirational angle into the walktheplank.net business plan.

[Comments] (3) robotfindspython!: Last night and today I toiled under the lash of curses, verily even the curse of curses. But now my triumph is complete: I have written a robotfindskitten implementation in Python! It can read non-kitten items from a file! Genius!

I also brought my robotfindskitten page back to life as the Ultimate robotfindskitten Fan Page. There's got to be one, so why shouldn't it be mine? It's got some files of NKIs for use with the Python version.

[Comments] (4) : Here are some fun Nethack patches, including the obsessive-compulsive photography patch and the awesome, but could be more awesome, pirate patch.

Flu Spam #2: Continuing my public service exposé of spam's response to the flu vaccine debacle. About a week ago I got Traditional remedy to flu available. Hey, I can make soup too.

Then on October 28 I got flu, Cancer, SARS and HIV! (well, I got a spam that said that). As you can see, spammers are still on the SARS scaremongering bandwagon when even BoingBoing is tired of SARS. What's next, alar in apples? The Ford Pinto menace?

[Comments] (3) More Spamthropology: You know all that mortgage spam? I couldn't figure it out. How did it work? What spammer could finance mortgages and stick around to get them paid off, or would be able to foist people off onto a real bank and take a cut? Why would the most expensive purchase the average person makes in their life be advertised via spam? Why would this business be so successful that spam for it would multiply over time?

Then I went to one of the mortgage spam websites and it all fell into place. It's a phishing scam. They just want your personal information for some other purpose. Not nearly as interesting as I'd hoped.

[Comments] (5) How To Exercise Political Power Part 1: IF you'll recall, in our last seminar on politics I mentioned that in a representative democracy, politics is the fusion of two separate professions: campaigning and governing. The art of scheming to acquire power and the art of wielding power.

Also mentioned before were the weirdos who make careers out of politics (they are actually no weirder than computer programmers, though their personality disorders tend toward more the extroverted end of the Table of Mental Abberation). These people are trying to gain political power, almost certainly at your expense. But they're working on it full time and you're not. What they know is that political power is a pyramid scheme, and that while you almost certainly cannot get as much as you want, you can get more than you deserve. There is a secret, but not a hidden one. The secret is voting.

"Yeah, right, get real," you say. "Voting? There's no way my vote will count!" Yes, this is true. Even if you live in Ohio or Florida, your vote tomorrow will count so little as to be negligible. Some people in my rhetorical position would counter this argument by bringing up obscure Alaskan elections decided by a margin of one vote. I think this does a disservice to democracy so I prefer to stipulate the point and lure you into a false sense of complacency.

The reason your vote counts for so little is that you're not the only person in the country. You're just one person and there are hundreds of millions of other people who could vote if they wanted to. Many of them do! We each think of life as a narrative where we are the star, but the surest way to shatter that illusion, besides looking up at the night sky, is to look at election results.

If you live, like me, in a state like California or Texas, you have seen this happen in many presidential elections. The people of most states have such similar demographics that their electoral votes are taken for granted and nobody pays attention to them. Sure, their votes are important in the aggragate. Without their electoral votes--the accumulated votes of you, the New Yorkers and Tennesseeans--the campaign taking those electoral votes for granted would surely falter. But your vote? No.

A standard response to the my-vote-is-meaningless complaint is that you should make sure your vote reflects an informed decision on your part. This almost makes sense but not quite. Obviously you should decide how to vote via some rational or at least emotional process. Flipping a coin to decide your vote is about the same as not voting at all--the only thing your vote has going for it is that it's yours and not some lousy coin's[0]. Even voting based on a last-minute gut instinct (which is what I do when I can't decide) is better than voting randomly. But the system of elections won't treat a coin-flip vote any differently from a well-considered vote.

However it does treat two votes differently from one vote. What you need to do is create or take advantage of a vote multiplier. Once you reach your decision, you need to somehow convince more people to vote the same way. Then in a sense you'll all share that block of n votes. Your own vote will still count for basically nothing, but mentally you'll take credit for all n of the votes. You'll feel better, and in a real sense you'll have more power.

Before the Internet this meant convincing other people in your state to vote with you, and most such attempts were crushed into dust by large margins of victory and the Electoral College[1]. But now, thanks to HTTP and SMTP, you can reach people in the states over which the Demographics Fairy has waved her swing-state wand. Assuming you can afford it, it's even easy to even go to such exotic locales and help run get-out-the-vote operations, where you get people who were already sympathetic to your cause to actually go into the dang voting booth already. And thanks to a polarized electorate, your efforts might actually make enough of a difference to satisfy your average-citizen-level lust for raw power!

This feels like you're gaming the system, but it is actually how the system is supposed to work. People aren't supposed to be furtive about voting, as though it were an annual bout of flatulence. You're supposed to argue and convince other people. I don't do this because I am really really shy, but that's how you do it if you want to do more than just pull the lever. Working for a campaign, or running for office yourself, is just an attempt to get a bigger vote multiplier. A good campaign uses vote multipliers to best advantage and helps people create their own vote multipliers.

I have made out amazingly well on this score with respect to this presidential election. I spent three months working for a political campaign which ultimately failed but had some long-term effects on the race. Some software I wrote for that campaign got picked up by one of the major campaigns (thanks to Josh Hendler) and provided vote multipliers to lots of other people. My totally random estimate is that I've had as much effect on the political campaign as maybe 100 or 1000 people actually casting votes in Ohio, which is huge and way more than I expected. That plus the California vote I'm going to cast tomorrow, which would be useless even if I weren't going to vote along with most of California. But I'm not complaining, because I now understand why my vote is useless and I know what I can do in the future to feel like I made a real contribution to an election cycle.

The other way to get a bigger vote multiplier is to lower your scope. Stop obsessing over the national election! That's where everyone is paying attention. Look at a state or local election. Because fewer people are interested, your vote counts for proportionally more and any vote multipliers you get are automatically increased.

Unfortunately, the reason people aren't as interested in local politics is because usually, local politics are incredibly boring (this is eg. why Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor of California). Some say that lowering your scope is not for them precisely because local politics are incredibly boring. What they do not realize is that all forms of politics are incredibly boring. A major political technique is making your opponents so bored that they give up. Anything exciting is probably a distraction put up by one faction, or something that hundreds of people are already working on and that you can't get close to unless you want to make a career out of it (I don't say this to denigrate making a career out of such things, but it's not for me). This can have a real effect on your life, though often more than portions of politics that get orders of magnitude more attention.

I wanted to get this one out now, but soon I will do a companion piece to this one talking about the other half of politics and how to get the most out of your government dollar. The election is tomorrow, but the government we will always have with us.

Also, go vote tomorrow if you're American. I trust you to be reasonable, and I don't know any of you who live in swing states, so I'm not going to lecture you about who to vote for. But think about this for next time. I don't want you to think that you are powerless, because it's not true. You just don't have as much power as you need to set everything right. You need to get some other people on your side.

[0] Anyway, coins have previous presidents on them, which opens them up to bias. If you flip a quarter you're likely to find yourself voting a straight Federalist ticket.

[1] Let me state for the record that I think the Electoral College is a bad idea and that I will still think it's a bad idea even if it gives me a result I like, say, tomorrow.

PS: There is a whole darker side to get-out-the-vote operations, where you run the vote multiplier equation in reverse and try schemes to get your opponent's supporters to not vote. I know from experience there can be a huge temptation to think "Man, if only the other guy's supporters would just not vote, we'd have it made" (I had similar thoughts during the Feb. 2 primaries, and I was trying really hard not to). There's a big gap between thinking this, though, and saying it, and another big gap between saying it and doing something about it.

I could go on and on about this and the anatomy of GOTV pathologies (even on the non-darker side) in general, but this piece is already long enough. I can go into more detail if you want. For now, I will end on a partisan note by pointing out that one of the major American political parties benefits, on average, when one more person votes; the other one benefits, on average, when one fewer person votes. Even with my cynical view of human nature I would rather align myself with the first party or, if I couldn't bring myself to do that, try to make the second party more like the first in this regard.

[Comments] (3) Curse of the well-meaning tourist: Seth is encountering the same problem I did in Brussels, where you brush up on the local language and think you're hot stuff and everyone just speaks English to you because it's faster.

: No more election junk mail in my mailbox! Just regular junk mail! I could get used to this. Also a tax refund from the state of Arkansas. Apparently they were just kidding about their special "fleece the outsider" income tax.

: How much of a sucker's game is it to be browsing through a used bookstore or antique shop and say "I think this is seriously undervalued; I could perform arbitrage and sell it on eBay for marginally more money than this"? I'm pretty sure it's completely a sucker's game, but I keep hoping, but my test objects turn out to have really small eBay markup margins. Obviously I'm becoming one of these people.

[Comments] (4) : It wasn't intended to be, but HTMLer almost makes a good double feature with Beautiful Soup. The one creates bad HTML and the other parses bad HTML. Only problem is its idea of 'bad' HTML is HTML with lots of hexadecimal junk in it, instead of just being poorly formed. Is there anything that generates bad HTML a person might create instead of bad HTML that tries to find buffer overflows?

[Comments] (7) : Because Sumana wanted them, I am putting up a directory of cute animal pictures I've acquired over the years. I was going to try to hack on Nethack tonight, but it turns out people got invited over to my house so I'm making dinner instead. At least I'm finally making those rotten bananas into banana bread.

[Comments] (3) Nethack Dinosaur Patch: At last I got some time to mess around with Nethack. But what to do? Something simple to start with. What is Nethack missing, I asked myself? The obvious answer was dinosaurs. It's got all sorts of fantastical creatures, but none of the truly fearsome beasts from Earth's own past. That was my internal sales pitch, anyway.

Study of the sources and this helpful document showed me the way to creating new Nethack monsters, and I was ready to zap my wand of meta-create monster. But which dinosaurs to pick? I thought about that old AD&D monster manual table that lists about 50 kinds of dinosaurs in great detail and somehow manages to make dinosaurs boring. No, I would only pick a representative sample of dinosaurs.

My patch provides but three painstakingly selected lizard-beasts: the fastest dinosaur ever, the smartest dinosaur ever, and the most popular dinosaur ever. The balance is probably off and there's a lot more that could be added (treatment of the fact that, while many dinosaurs have hands, they can't really do much with them; also, I guess you could saddle and ride the smaller dinosaurs), but it makes me happy.

[Comments] (4) Cheese: Trader Joe's has a great cheese for relatively cheap. It's Brie made from goat's milk. It's great on bread because it has more flavor than regular Brie. Just thought you might like to know.

: Back in 1999 I transcribed Mark Twain's The Late Benjamin Franklin because it wasn't up on the web. Well, that just proves that 1999 was some kind of Dark Age of the Web, because now there's about a jillion of Twain's newspaper articles online. In addition to the same piece I spent valuable time typing up, highlights include How I Edited An Agricultural Paper Once, his analysis of why such ludicrous satires inevitably fool people, and the shaggy-dog dead media joke that is his map of beseiged Paris.

[Comments] (2) The goose is getting fat: People who grew up with me or are married to those who did: what do you want for Christmas? Send me email. I am also having trouble finding stuff for peoples' stockings, so also let me know about your trivial troubles resolvable with trivial trinkets.

[Comments] (3) When In Los Angeles: Visit the La Brea Tar Pits. Motto: "The el lugar place for the la brea tar." The museum has (or had, last I was there) an ingenious carnival game type exhibit that lets you be a Smilodon trying to escape the tar. But there is no escape!

Underpackaging: Lots of stuff is overpackaged, but for some reason flour is underpackaged and it has always been. I've lived for a while and lots of things have changed but one thing I can remember all the way back to childhood is the flour shelf in the supermarket being dusted with spillage from flimsy paper bags of flour that have grown leaks or rips. Flour's pretty cheap so I guess the supermarket and the flour mill can afford to lose merchandise. But really how much would it hurt to use the next thicker grade of paper? Also, apparently I'm Pat from Achewood.

[Comments] (2) The Coffinfish Returns!: Based on an offhand comment I made to Sumana, I'm pleased to announce that you can now pre-order your very own Holiday Singing Coffinfish! Would make a great gift if it really existed!

PS: if you're new, the coffinfish is one of NYCB's most beloved and least marketable creations. Reminds me a little of Bill the Cat, actually.

[Comments] (1) : Speaking of pictures of animals, a few new ones added to the cute animal picture proto-weblog, including one magical picture that has both a rhino and a shipping container. Clearly that needs to turn into a real weblog, but I've got other things to do, and I'm not even doing them.

: Wow, I got a surprising amount done tonight. Anyway, check out this book about John Law, the eighteenth-century con man destined soon to figure in a Eco/Pears/Stephenson story near you. (Actually I think he's already been mentioned by one of those authors, but not nearly enough as his character warrants). He's also got a big chunk in Extraordinary Popular Delusions, which I haven't plugged recently. All this is a fancy way of saying: I don't have anything for you tonight! Go read old public domain stuff instead!

[Comments] (1) Jason Update: I know you've been wondering what's up with Jason Robbins. He has once again left acadamia and started a software methodology company called Method Labs. I always knew he'd end up running a meth lab.

[Comments] (1) Not Enough Spam?: Noticed that I haven't been writing as much about spam recently? That's because I've been posting it all over at Spam As Folk Art. So have Kevan and Sumana.

[Comments] (5) Eclair Cake Dissection: Susanna posted the secret family recipe for eclair cake, which I threatened to post over a year ago. Now's a good time to dissect it a little.

It's not just called an eclair cake to make it sound fancy. The crust is made of choux paste, the same stuff you use to make eclairs. Except instead of pastry-bagging it into eclairs, you spread it onto a baking sheet and bake it into one big quadrilateral eclair. Then most of the other stuff is cheap versions of the stuff that goes into eclairs (cream filling, chocolate, etc). It is like a big splayed-open eclair. Anyway, it's very tasty and I recommend you try it.

[Comments] (4) Persimmon Cookies: Some people grow persimmons; some buy persimmons; others have persimmons thrust upon them. I count myself firmly in the latter camp. I don't like persimmons but Sumana gets the Planet Organics produce delivery every other week, and lately it's been persimmon after persimmon. Some sort of persimmon marketing scheme, I understand.

So what to do with the persimmons? The only thing I can think of, apart from weird things like persimmon chutney and hollowed-out persimmons filled with tuna, is persimmon cookies. Now, I tell all kinds of lies in my songs but one of the biggest whoppers is in Confectioner's Sugar where I say I like persimmon cookies. I don't.

Fortunately I have a good recipe from my great grandmother Jesse Clark that other people like, which means I can foist my cookies off onto others. Also fortunately, Zack and The Poor Man and The Claw have somehow been invited to dinner tonight, so I can make them take cookies home. If you find yourself with persimmons, make these cookies and you'll soon be rid of them.

Ingredients

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mash up the persimmons or puree them in the food processor. Sprinkle the baking soda over them. I don't know how it happens but somehow the persimmon puree absorbs the baking soda and turns into a perfectly smooth gelatinous mass. For all I know you are not supposed to do this, but I like doing it because it is the only time I ever say "Persimmons! Awesome!"

Sift together the dry ingredients.

Cream the shortening. Add the sugar and cream the sugar. Add the egg and beat some more. Add the persimmons and beat some more. At this point the dough will look like extremely soft granite. Now's the time to incorporate the dry ingredients. After that's all done, incorporate the nuts and raisins.

Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Flatten the cookies slightly with a fork (I always forget this part). Bake for 10 to 15 minutes--that's what the recipe says, but I always end up baking them for 15 minutes and sometimes on to 20. But then, I don't eat the cookies, so I'm just going by looks.

[Comments] (1) Sunday at the Zoo: Went to the zoo with Sumana. The new savanna habitat was great, very atmospheric with lots of room for the zebras to run around. One of the giraffes took a shine to the wood of the giraffe barn, and began gnawing and licking it, probably trying to get some kind of giraffe high. We came in on the end of penguin feeding time, and one of the zoo workers tickled one of the penguins, which made the cutest noise you could ever imagine a penguin making. Apropos alliteration announcements, an anteater ate an avocado.

[Comments] (4) Best Company Names: My pick: Spectrum Holobyte. No name does a better job connoting both "It's the future" and "It's the 80s". Which names do you like?

[Comments] (2) Putting the Bull in "Bull Market": You know how the example application for every new mobile device, web service framework, and toasted-pita sandwich is a stock quote web service? Did anyone ever actually write one of those? Bizarrely, I need one for a project. I'm scraping Yahoo Finance but it would be nice not to have to scrape. This hypothetical application needs to have all the obscure stocks (in fact, I'd prefer it only have the obscure stocks, but that seems unlikely).

[Comments] (2) Stock Spam Effectiveness Monitor: I am a novelty vampire. I can have a cool idea but if it starts eating up all my nights and weekends I think it's not so cool anymore. This felt like it was taking forever, but it only ate three of my nights and now it's more or less done: the fearsome Stock Spam Effectiveness Monitor.

Said monitor tries to get a picture of how people respond to spam by graphically correlating spam that advertises a stock with the price of that stock. I chose this because stock spam isn't as obscure as other spam, due to a gentleman's agreement with the spamees, a greater need for verisimilitude, or some nearly-toothless SEC rule (a la "The publisher of this newsletter discloses the receipt of ten thousand dollars from a third party... for the circulation of this report."). Also because it's the only kind of spam I know of where the sales numbers during a certain time period are public knowledge.

So far the results are not very enlightening, but I'll keep watch over it for a while and eventually we'll figure out just what happens when someone sends out stock spam. Maybe nothing happens! I bet those third parties would like to know that, before they continue shelling out ten thousand dollars a pop for the circulation of this report. Yes, I think they'd indeed be interested third parties.

: A while ago I told you about "pride" as a sexual orientation. The other day I got spam touting "Diversity Owned Businesses". Yes, "diversity" is now an ethnicity.

Send me some links to post so this doesn't turn into my spam obsession weblog.

[Comments] (1) An Underwater Sensation: At last, there's a band called "mola-mola"!

[Comments] (1) I'll Write Your Weblog: Thanks to Mike Popovic for sending me some links to write about.

Activity Book: If you're bored today, learn how to do something. I'll be hanging out with Sumana's mother and driving everyone all around the Bay Area.

[Comments] (2) : New England has great place names:

That reminds me of the town I found in New Hampshire called Sandwich Landing, which brought to mind The Young Ones.

[Comments] (4) : I went to Riana's birthday party yesterday and made her the previously mentioned pirate cake, just to prove it could be done. We burned the cake and it turned out all right, though I should have used whole milk instead of skim in the cake recipe.

To increase the interactivity of this site I have provided an interaction for you. If you didn't go to Riana's party, never fear. You can digitally insert your mug shot into one of the pictures, with only marginally less effort than it would take to insert your mug shot into any other picture.

Show Me The Mix: The cookbook I'm going to write will have as one of its underpinnings the idea that you can make a lot of baked-goods-oriented food ahead of time as a mix. To that end I'm going to find good lowest-common-denominator mixes that can be put to multiple use. Well, common denominators don't get much lower than Missouri Mix, with about twenty associated recipes that run the gamut from waffles to gingerbread. I'm skeptical about the quality of, eg. the cake made from Missouri Mix, but if you can only make one mix this is is a solid contender. There's always the nearby rival Nebraska Master Mix.

That page has all sorts of other mixes and looks like, but is much more interesting than, the fake phobia web site. I think there's a whole mix-making subculture I'm not in on.

I must draw the line at the raspberry cocoa mix that's store-bought cocoa mix plus raspberry Kool-Aid. I've made my own cocoa mix and it's awesome and that's not it. That site has good recipes for cocoa mix and they're not it either. Even the Kool-Aid Man won't touch that one.

End-Of-Year Calendar Blowout: A while ago I speculated about the calendar industry and how they always seem to make too many calendars. Among my speculations was that near the end of the year, the used bookstores at the end of the calendar food chain would be so desparate to sell their calendars for that year that you could pick them up as cheap poster material.

This entry is to let you know that it's true. I went to Bookbuyers in Mountain View a couple weeks ago and they had 2004 calendars for a dollar (it would be an even better deal if they had 2004 2004 calendars for a dollar). Some pretty good ones, too. So if you want cheap, square posters with convenient holes for tacking them to your wall, now's the time to act.

[Comments] (2) : I, Monster is a fox-and-geese game in roguelike garb, where you control the monsters going after an adventurer and his dog. Unfortunately you're pretty badly outgunned and always lose, which I suppose is the point. Double-bill with What Fools These Mortals for a roguelike-alternate-perspective gamefest. All that's missing now is a capitalism simulator where you run a Nethack shop.

Come On Baby Light My Game Roundup: Cast your mind back to the very first Game Roundup. The year: 1627, give or take a couple billion years. Puritan settlers, facing a dull winter, look to the natives for help in rounding up classic games such as "throw me the ball; okay, now I throw you the ball" and "not starving to death". In these more prosperous times, a plethora of fun Linux games awaits, if we will but bother to download and compile them. Today, let's give thanks for the stereotypical hackers who spend all their time writing these games, and the dashing millionaire playboys who stay up past their bedtimes playing and reviewing them.

Twig's In Space faithfully reproduces the look of an '80s arcade Asteroids-like game being emulated with MAME. Written by a CS professor partly as a computer graphics demonstration, partly to tweak a rival professor at the same university, making the game a more sophisticated, less directly insulting version of the old standby Spray Steve's Cooties (one of the most obscure computer games in history, if Google is any judge).

Barrage is kind of a disturbing game, and it's mouse-based to boot, so I can't even play it very well. Soldiers and tanks file past you and you try to blow them up with your artillery piece. They're not even trying to attack you! It's like blowing up a parade! It's got a sort of shooting gallery theme, but it should have little wooden ducks and clowns instead.

Speaking of which, look at Chickens For Linux, which offers the same kind of game but you're destroying chickens hell-bent on destruction, unlike the perfectly harmless military units of Barrage. I couldn't get it to compile because of some Allegro thing, but I didn't try very hard because I don't really like this kind of game anyway.

Chromium B.S.U. is a very nice-looking infinite-powerup shooter. Very difficult--more difficult than my skill or patience can handle--but it's designed for those who like a challenge. Maybe it would be more to my liking if it were called Chromium B.T.U. instead.

neverball is like a big Labyrinth puzzle that you tilt to move a ball around. I used to crave a Labyrinth puzzle when they were a mid-level prize in those magazine-selling schemes advertised in the back of Boys Life, but now I can't be bothered. There's a putting-based variant called Neverputt which is better.

Robohack is an ingenious ASCII version of arcade favorite Robotron 2064, with all the flashing colors and obnoxiousness you've come to expect from such games. But it's all in ASCII and ncurses. It takes a special breed of madman to take ncurses in this direction, and I'm behind it all the way. Greg Naughton, I salute you.

Nazghul (I guess that's a Nazgul plus a ghoul) is a tile-based game engine that's being scripted to clone Ultima 5, but which can of course be scripted to clone other games. Wins major points for agreeing with me that the first-person Ultima dungeons are entirely pointless.

I haven't played it, but balder is based on the zero-gravity combat training game featured in Ender's Game. Character development presumably not included.

Transcend is a board-based shooter with smoothly morphing vector graphics, in which you assemble a weapon out of space flowers to help you battle a big "anti-glyph". The thing is that everything in the game world corresponds to some facet of a piece of music which gets constructed as you solve the level. I would really love to experience this aspect of the game but I couldn't get the sound to work. This one is quite the high-concept piece, let me say. Fun, too.

Obsessive Beautiful Soup Press Watch: Beautiful Soup got a footnote link in this PyZine tutorial about retrieving web pages in Python, and the 1.2 release was linked to from the Daily Python-URL. The 1.2 release is pretty old, actually, but it just got added to the prestigous Vaults of Parnassus so they probably picked it up from there.

I'm actually a little frightened of the mysterious way Daily Python-URL chooses what to link to. For instance they linked to this back in January even though it was just a random observation about Python and not, in my opinion, worthy of being linked to. I feel like I should put disclaimers in my non-weighty Python entries ahead of time. Don't link to this entry, Daily Python-URL! Link to that PyZine tutorial instead. It's cooler than this rather obsessive post.

Special Thanksgiving Photo Zeitgeist Search Request Thing: I have to go to sleep because tomorrow I'm chauffering everyone all around San Francisco, but I thought I'd share with you the most popular Thanksgiving images on crummy.com, as determined by Eurovision Song Contest voters using Google image search. By a wide margin the most Thanksgiving-ish picture is this sideways one of Rachel eating, possibly because of the colorful flowers in frame. A distant second place goes to this lovely spread, marred only by the presence of canned cranberry sauce.

There's probably a third place, but already I tire of this conceit. Today I had Thanksgiving dinner at my uncle's house, which was good but IMO not as good as last year's blowout. Of course last year at this time I was desperate for home-cooked meals. I played a lot of games with Susanna and Rachel today, and it was fun. I hope your day went well also.

Tourist For A Day: Walked the Golden Gate Bridge with Susanna and John, then went to Fisherman's Wharf with them and Rachel and my mother, and mistook an lousy expensive restaurant for the good expensive restaurant my mother wanted to take us to. Then other stuff happened and I wandered around with Rachel and now I'm home and my feet are tired. I have described these events in unadored, hard-hitting style so that YOU ARE THERE. The New York Times says "A triumph!", but not in relation to this.

I Get Letters: Which save me from having to think of my own things to post. This one's from Patrick Tufts, of the maddeningly familiar name, proctor of the Quicksilver Metaweb and probably maestro of something else due to the maddeningly familiarity of his name. He took issue with my earlier statement that the Metaweb had the grandiose goal of replacing Wikipedia. Says he:

One of the reasons we did the Metaweb as a separate site, and not part of the Wikipedia, is that we want users to be able to express their personal point of view, if they wish, and also to be able to create authored content. Neither of these is possible on the Wikipedia.

Most likely I misleadingly took the "replace Wikipedia" thing out of context from someone's list of goals for Metaweb. Unlike the mainstream media, I am willing to take responsibility for my attempt to take things out of context and sensationalize. Unfortunately, I have yet to progress beyond couching my taking of responsibility in self-aggrandizing rhetoric, rendering the whole exercise useless.

Interesting that that old NYCB entry should come up today, because I just got to the part of The System of the World with the remote-control garotte. (Well, more or less.)

[Comments] (2) : NewsBruiser CVS now has an implementation of one of the most-requested features in NewsBruiser history (I think I got two requests for it). You can now receive an email every single time someone posts a comment to an entry in your weblog. Go ahead, post a comment. I double-canid dare you. It's as good as spamming me, except that the world can see your shame.

[Comments] (3) : I don't know why I could find no Python library equivalent of The Demoronizer, but today I got fed up with not just Microsoft smart quotes but with ISO-Latin-1 in general, and I wrote ASCII, Dammit, which will remove those characters from your string once and for all, replacing them with HTML encoded entities or with my lame guess at a plain-ASCII rendering.

I'm sure there's something you're supposed to do ahead of time to prevent Python from choking on those characters, and that I'll hear all about it soon, but this is still useful because you can use it to get rid of the Microsoft smart quotes. Everyone hates Microsoft smart quotes, right?

[Comments] (3) Public Service Announcement: On behalf of Kevin. Attention, West Coast and chain restaurants! We know you think you know the recipe for biscuit gravy. You think it goes like this:

  1. Make white sauce
  2. Fry some crappy sausage
  3. Put some crumbled sausage in the white sauce

Unfortunately white sauce is not biscuit gravy. White sauce is made from butter, and biscuit gravy is made from sausage grease, verily, the same sausage grease you created while frying the crappy sausage and then dumped into the grease pan or whatever happens to grease in restaurants. Contrary to popular opinion it is not neccessary to be a lovable Southern stereotype to make good biscuits and gravy. It is simply neccessary to not start off with a dang white sauce.

[Comments] (5) Word Of The Day: "Timepass". One of India's most recent contributions to the English language. It seems to mean "the ability to distract you enjoyably but without making you accomplish anything", as with Tetris. It's all over the place but I saw it in an ad for an Indian movie that claimed to be "Full of family timepass" and also "A laugh-packed rib-tickler". You can tell it's a rib-tickler because it features the only comedic actor in all of Bollywood, making faces of surprise. You know who I mean. The chubby guy.

[Comments] (1) It's Not Food--But I Ate It!: Sumana is sick and was watching TV today when she saw a commercial where someone said "It's not a get-rich-quick scheme--but I did!"

Master of Molas: Jake Berendes, who's been making stuffed animals, made a mola mola stuffed animal--before I asked him to!

All Politics Is Google: I realize this revalation comes a bit late, but I've discovered we can use sophisticated search technology to determine people's relative political preferences. Judging from these search results, the new political dream ticket is a goat, teamed up with a dog.

World Famous Leonard: After much persistent effort, Sumana has gotten her article about cooking shows published in Salon. The article turns out to feature me and my weird recipes to an alarming extent, which is a little embarrassing, but I guess I can't complain. Congrats to Sumana!

[Comments] (2) : Finished The System of the World last night. I found the ending quite satisfactory; almost conventional. A good show all around, though my mother would probably feel a compulsion to edit huge chunks out of the Baroque Cycle the way she does Lord of the Rings.

[Comments] (1) : While I'm talking about books I should mention that I also read The Crying of Lot 49, which is about as good as everyone says it is, but in retrospect they weren't saying it was as good as you thought they were saying it was. Still great. I had no idea that Yoyodyne in Buckaroo Banzai was a reference to Pynchon.

[Comments] (1) : Awesome. For a while I've been telling anyone who would listen that 1) books often make machine-parsable references to other books, and 2) there's no not-obviously-lame reason for the copyright owner of a book to get mad over people republishing their book's bibliography, leading to 3) the inevitable emergence of a utopian world in which cool and useful graphs of books that reference each other can be made. That despite this, I continued, of the online services (ie. Google and Amazon) that make selected portions of books available to the public like fish dangled above the heads of eager penguins, none have seen fit to provide automatic cross-referencing of books' bibliographies.

It turns out that Amazon recently introduced that exact feature, so good for them. Unfortunately since it's part of their Search Inside The Dang Book initiative I doubt there will ever be API support for it. "You let hackers Search Inside My Dang Book automatically?"

[Comments] (3) Vaguely Remembered Mashed Sweet Potatoes: I guess I should post this since I already got a request for it. This is the recipe for mashed sweet potatoes mentioned in the Salon article. It's based on an ATK recipe but the requestor couldn't find the recipe on the ATK site for whatever reason, and mine's a little different anyway. It's really simple, so here it is in 1-2-3-4 form:

Dump everything in a pot. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Mash and serve with pepper.

I have a nonstick pot, so even though I was lazy about stirring and some of the potato slices got burned on the surface, it just enhanced the flavor with Maillard reaction products. Laziness wins again!

I remember the ATK recipe using white sugar instead of brown. I'm sure they tested it both ways but using white sugar with sweet potatoes just seems wrong to me.

[Comments] (3) Brownie Mania: More generally, recipe mania. Sumana asked me to type up this recipe for a friend at work, so I might as well share it with you. This is my the brownie recipe that lives in my head and makes pretty good brownies. In its composition it is based on recipes on the backs of baking chocolate boxes and in my box of family recipes. The procedure for baking them so you don't have to cut them in the pan comes from Alton Brown. In its combination of disparate parts it is my own invention.

Ingredients

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut some parchment paper to fix a 9x13 pan including up the sides. Put the parchment paper inside the pan; I use butter spray on the pan to make the paper stick.

Sift together the dry ingredients and set them aside.

In a large bowl over a pot of boiling water (double boiler style), melt the butter and baking chocolate. Once it's melted, remove from the heat and stir in the sugars. Stir in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla and the mystery ingredient (about which more anon).

Finally, fold in the dry ingredients. Add a batch of half to a third of the dry ingredients to the batter, and mix to combine. Repeat until it's all in there. Don't stir this more than you have to or the flour will get glutinous and you'll have a cake. If you want nuts, put them in now.

Pour the batter into the paper-lined pan, spread it out, and bake it for 30 minutes (use toothpick test to see when it's done). Once it's done you can grab the parchment paper and just pull it out of the pan and put it on a cooling rack. Once it cools you can cut it up with a knife or pizza cutter, without having to worry about cutting within the pan.

These are good as is, but if you like marshmallows you can do what Alison wrote about, and put mini marshmallows on top of a brownie, then broil it for a minute or two.

So, about the mystery ingredient. This is where you can turn "brownies" into "x brownies" by adding to the batter a small amount of something strongly flavored. I like a teaspoon of mint extract, or a couple tablespoons of peanut butter warmed in the microwave, or some espresso powder. When I was much younger I liked to put chocolate chips in the brownies I made, but now that seems kind of gauche.

[Comments] (3) Melon Baller Melon Balls: More dang recipes. Why not? I just got a melon baller from Sur La Table thanks to a gift card I got for my birthday (thanks, Andrew/Claudia) and it's great. Now, no melon is safe from my circular scalpel. I made the following recipe and tried to sell them to Sumana as "fake Dippin' Dots". She didn't buy it, but the liked the results. It is a simple yet ritzy appetizer, at least if my notions as to what is 'ritzy' are accurate, which they probably aren't.

Ingredients

Procedure

Cut the canteloupe in half, remove the seeds, and take the melon baller to it. Whee! Put the canteloupe balls on a cooling rack and put the cooling rack on a parchment-paper-lined sheet pan. Sprinkle sugar over them and put the sheet pan in the freezer for at least half an hour. (Note: the cooling rack and sheet pan are just a thing I made up so the canteloupe balls won't come out embedded in frozen canteloupe juice. You can just put them in a bowl but it'll get a little messy. Maybe you could set something up with a strainer over a bowl.)

So flavor #1 is the canteloupe. Flavor #2 is the pepper and flavor #3 is the balsamic vinegar. The important events in the life of any given canteloupe ball are a) being formed from the primordial canteloupe; b) having a toothpick jabbed into it; c) being frozen; d) being rolled in pepper; e) being dipped in balsamic vinegar; f) being eaten. How exactly you put them together depends on the scenario. The constraints are that you want the canteloupe to be as cold as possible when eaten, and that I don't think balsamic vinegar will freeze well.

For a party scenario you might do it a-b-d-c-e-f, providing a dish of vinegar for people to dip the canteloupe in. Or if it turns out balsamic vinegar freezes well, you could do it a-b-e-d-c-f and omit the need for a separate dish of vinegar.

The way I eat it is a-c-b-d-e-f, reusing the same toothpick for every canteloupe ball. Also, I'm usually standing over the kitchen counter while I'm doing it. Even though I got good at cooking, I'm still a slob.

This is a controversial recipe, and not all people accept it. Sumana does not like the cracked pepper, and thinks it should be omitted from the recipe. This might argue for a party-time preparation of a-b-c-d-e-f, providing a dish of cracked pepper as well as one of vinegar, so as to satisfy picky people like her.

Note about balsamic vinegar: the best kind is the generic brand sold at Whole Foods, which is really good and really cheap. Also, you can make balsamic vinegar taste twice as expensive by putting it in a saucepan and reducing it by half. I learn things from cooking shows and give you the important bits.

[Comments] (14) Addicted to Nethack: Actually, addicted to Slash'EM, the Nethack variant. There are two main reasons. The first is that Slash'EM doesn't have nearly as much of Nethack's insane, dull near-endgame slog through the mazes of hell (literally). The second is the Doppleganger, a wondrous player-choosable species which has the ability to (expensively) self-polymorph at will and which gets intrinsic polymorph control at level 9. Thus making it more or less affordable for me to live out my ultimate Nethack fantasy of spending most of the game polymorphed into a xorn. "Walls? Where we're going we won't need... walls." Wheeeee!

Slash'Em also has a basilisk, which is a dream self-polymorph animal because it has the stoning powers of a cockatrice but it can also carry things. I don't know how they justify having a "basilisk" and a "cockatrice" be two different things, but I'm not complaining. There are other changes made to Slash'EM to balance out the ability to turn into a powerful monster more or less whenever you want, but I can deal with them. My point is, Slash'EM is a lot of fun.

I realize that I have two disjoint readerships of my weblog and that this entry makes absolutely no sense to one of them. Sorry.

[Comments] (4) Booze: Some people bring over a bottle of wine as a gift when they come to my place for dinner. While I appreciate the gesture, I don't drink wine and I don't do enough deglazing to be able to use it up as fast as I get it. I've got five bottles of wine now. So I humbly ask you to, when coming over, in lieu of wine bring payment in South African Krugerrands. Or, if you must bring booze, bring a little bottle of some weird liqueur so I can make some bizarre Bananas Foster dish or something. My cupboard will thank you.

[Comments] (3) You May End Your Turn Early!: The supermarket is selling gift cards (I guess this is the most generic gift idea ever.) and advertising them in the checkout lanes. In big letters where other advertising campaigns would have some catchy slogan, this advertising campaign boldly announces "Cards Have No Value Until Activated". I guess to keep people from swiping them, but it makes me wonder if that's a selling point to someone. "I don't know anything about you, but everyone has to eat food, so here you go. Why are you looking at me like that? Don't you realize that this sucker has been activated?!"

CodeCon CodeCon Redux: My project has been accepted as a CodeCon presentation! I was thinking of sending it to PyCon but that's all the way in DC, and CodeCon is just across town. I've given up on the idea of making money from the project, but maybe once I release it and it gets publicity people will stop saying "Oh, it sure would be nice if this existed" and take the idea away from me and start improving it. The only question is, will my army of androids be ready in time?

[Comments] (2) : Doin' okay, even though I'm sick. I'm making slow but steady progress on my short story, and my Christmas presents are almost finished.

When I read stories in which the characters have software companies (which is not that often) I wonder why the author doesn't just start that software company themselves if it's such a great idea. I hoped I'd get insight into the question with the company in my story, but I honestly don't know why I don't start it myself; it seems like there's about a five-year window coming up where it'd be pretty profitable. Maybe there's not as much of a market for the product in the real world. Also, as we've established, I'm just not a company-starter, which is a shame as I've decided that's the only way to really get rich.

Beautiful Soup Users Do The Darnedest Things: Like make RSS feeds for MP3 files of the day's news, spoken slowly, in German. How long until a Nuntii Latini feed?

[Comments] (3) Aw, How Cute: After a year of paranoia I got a cute widdle comment spam. Probably the result of a random form-submitting robot rather than a NewsBruiser-spamming robot. I'm leaving it up to remind me to fix the NewsBruiser bug it exposed; NewsBruiser shouldn't have accepted a comment on such an old entry. Not sure why only that entry was spammed. At last, I can start training the Bayesian filter!

Update: Actually, judging from the accesses from that IP on that date, it looks like someone went poking around NYCB with a web browser and posted spam on two specific entries. Weird.

Update again: The bug is fixed and the spam is gone.

[Comments] (6) Come Out With Your Game Roundup: I don't know if you've noticed this, but the Game Roundups are a lot more fun than the Software Roundups, which is why I've been doing GR after GR with nary an SR in sight. In that spirit, here's yet another Game Roundup. Yee-haw!

[Comments] (4) Sickbed Soup: This is an incredibly easy soup that you can make when you're sick. I made it up when Sumana was sick and then tried it myself when I was sick earlier this week. The general idea comes from my mother. It's actually cheaper than most canned soup nowadays.

Ingredients

Procedure

Dump everything except the lime/hot stuff into a pot and heat until it boils. Simmer until the noodles are soft. Pour into a bowl and add lime/hot stuff until it's hot enough to clear your sinuses. The microorganisms won't know what hit them!

If you're not sick you might be able to think about adding some other stuff, like chopped parsley or random spices.

[Comments] (10) : Is this valid HTML?

<!  DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC...

That is, as opposed to:

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC...

More generally, is it okay to have whitespace between the <! that begins a declaration and the actual name of the declaration? The W3C validator says it's fine, and I couldn't find anything in the standard about it, and the general SGML-based-language attitude towards whitespace is "whitespace is all in your head, maaaaan." However, there are intimations on various webpages that it's invalid, and the Python HTML parser chokes on it (this is a leading cause of complaints against Beautiful Soup). I have a fix for the Python HTML parser but before I put all the effort into making sure it doesn't break anything else I'd like to know if it's even something that's "supposed" to work.

[Comments] (1) Curry: I went to Bakersfield this weekend to drop off my uncle Robert and got sick again. Coming back, I made a curry with broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes which Sumana deemed okay. It wasn't hot enough though. I can still feel my inflamed sinuses.

I hope I'm better by the time my mother comes up. We plan to go to Greens and the Exploratorium.

Gaiiiiiius...: Here's a pitch for a TV show. A remake of Mr. Ed, set in imperial Rome, during the time when Caligula appoints his horse (Mr. Ed) to the Senate. Mr. Ed can talk, but only the emperor can hear him. In the final episode it is revealed that this is because Caligula is completely insane.

: New NewsBruiser coming tonight, hopefully. First I gotta test some comment mail stuff.

How Do Ya Like Them Aardvarks?: It's up. I fixed all the stuff people were complaining about in the earlier entry, probably at the expense of stuff people sent me email complaining about much earlier than that. The two new things that have affected my NewsBruiser life the most are the comments-via-email thing and the better editing workflow.

[Comments] (1) Boring Dream: I dreamed I was escaping from somewhere with some other people in a miniscule submarine. It was dark and so cramped I couldn't move. It was effectively like dreaming about being asleep. Then it started over again, except the submarine was even smaller. As though I'd beaten the first level of Submarine Escape and there was nothing for it but to repeat the experience on a higher difficulty setting.

[Comments] (6) Spam Will Eat Itself: The NewsBruiser wiki has been defaced with wiki spam for a while. Recently I decided to do something about it, so I examined the patterns and found some bizarre features unique to wiki spam.

First, the spam I was getting seemed to be manually entered. There were long (by web bot standards) and irregular pauses between hits from spammers, and slightly differing spam methodologies. Sometimes the log message for a spammy change had a solitary "d" or "df" in it, the mark of a person used to scribbling crap data into web forms. It was kind of sad to imagine the people whose job it is to manually spam wikis, like an email spammer who must manually type in SMTP commands. Maybe I'm missing all the bot-based attacks because I use a relatively unpopular wiki software (just as the only comment spam I've ever seen on NewsBruiser was manually entered)

What is new and interesting, though, is the way the wiki spammers locate wikis to spam. To get things started there must be some bots that can spam SubWiki, or particularly persistent manual wiki spammers. But once there is any spam at all in a wiki, a pheremone trail has been laid down and the hordes close in.

You see, the majority of manual wiki spammers seem to be free riders who use search engines to find wikis that have already been spammed, then go in and replace the preexisting spam with their spam. The internicene warfare rages without end, as spammers destroy each others' contributions to the wikispamosphere while making a mockery of the work of the original spammer who went through all the trouble of finding that wiki in the first place, or writing a bot that could spam SubWiki. For shame!

There are a variety of engines and sub-techniques in use, but the most common one is to search for "wiki" plus the name of a site to which wiki spam points. Then, for each hit, go into the wiki and replace the (spam) text of the page with your own spam text. This anti-wiki-spam organization has documented this behavior, but not its comical implication.

Until I can figure out a better solution which hopefully doesn't involve me doing a whole lot of SubWiki development or switching wiki software, I am going to do a little free riding of my own. I've implemented a couple solutions that protect the NewsBruiser wiki only because it's not worth five seconds of a spammer's time to figure out what's going on, when there are so many other wikis they could be spamming.

[Comments] (2) Broken Tom Swifties: From IRC chatter at work:

It's fun.

: File-sharing is the new encryption.

[Comments] (2) Wiki Is Not A Toy: Despite the fact that I'm a big jerk who laughs when wikis are spammed, I've been thinking about the problem since yesterday. The reason I got all those copycat wiki spammers stepping on each others' toes (and, incidentally, mine) in the NewsBruiser wiki was not because there was spam indexed in the page history, as with some other wikis, but because there was spam right there on the front page. Because I was lazy. My wiki was living in sin. The price of having a wiki is eternal vigilance, and I wasn't taking it seriously.

So in addition to the anti-spam measures I took yesterday, this morning I updated my subwiki installation and started toughening it. I put in robots meta tags similar to those in NewsBruiser, and email notification of changes so it'll poke me if it gets spammed. Unfortunately un-spamming a page in subwiki is pretty difficult, which is why I was so lazy in the first place, so now I need to write a 'revert' function. Then I can have a 'click here to revert' link in the update email like I do with "click here to mark as spam" in the NewsBruiser comment emails.

I wish Bayesian techniques would work well on wikis, but it seems like a just-change-the-links attack would be even easier to do for wiki pages than for weblog comments.

Mindshare: "Instead of writing ad hoc HTML browsers, use Beautiful Soup". AWESOME

Anthony Baxter, who's contributed patches to Beautiful Soup before, sent in a special parser class for dealing with the aggravations particular to SOAP-generated XML. The class name is BeautifulSoap.

Comment Permalinks: Let me know if you like this solution. In the default theme you can link to a NewsBruiser comment by referencing the time it was posted: here's one of Zack's posts. Older entries don't have this feature in the static files because I haven't rewritten the static files yet.

I have no idea why I tried this before and found it really difficult. Either I fixed the problem while doing something else, or I was trying to have the permalink be the ordinal of the comment (which might change if comments get deleted) instead of the post time. I'd rather have a human-recognizable anchor than one that would be ambiguous if two people should happen to post comments in the same second.

: Oh yeah, today I took the day off and my mother and I went places. We went to the pirate store and next-door Paxton Gate (both closed because we got there too early), then to Greens for lunch and then to the zoo. Now I'm working on NewsBruiser even though I should be working on my CodeCon demo.

[Comments] (1) Amazing!: Python shipped with DVD player! Uh, don't read the rest of that headline.

[Comments] (1) : Last year I told you about a Japanese anti-quiz show where panelists register how much they are surprised by particular facts. Well, it's made it across the ocean in the form of Spike TV's Hey! Spring of Trivia, which has been dubbed in often-facetious Spike TV manner but is otherwise fun. I recommend it, even though they keep driving the point home again and again in a way that doesn't translate well, and so it takes half an hour for them to get through five pieces of trivia. That's what Tivo is for.

Once I watched an episode, I figured out where the element of competition comes in. It's not a competition between the panelists but between the pieces of trivia themselves (and, implicitly, between the viewers who send in the trivia). There's also a fun bit called "seed of trivia" where the show takes viewer questions and does experiments to find the answers, thus giving birth to new pieces of trivia.

There is here a life-cycle metaphor for trivia, a competition between pieces of trivia, the idea of rating their fitness by how surprising they are. Why not go all the way and, Dog Bites Dog-style, breed champion pieces of trivia from each week's winners? Surely these would be the most unbelievable pieces of trivia ever to pass human lips.

PS: On the Japanese channel in SF there is a show called Hey! Hey! Hey! which I took to be the original version of Hey! Spring of Trivia, but it is some sort of variety show spin-off, or maybe it just has a similar name and the animation is done by the same production company. Also, they stopped showing Project X, which sucks.

: Recommended: Mega Mouth Burgers and Beers (also referred to as Big Mouth Burgers &c.) at 24th and Valencia. They have the best duplicate of my Little Rock comfort food (bleu cheese hamburger and chocolate malt from the Purple Cow) I have encountered outside of my own kitchen, and it costs only slightly more than it did in Little Rock. Plus, it is called MEGA MOUTH. Sumana likes it too, but I'm not sure why given the vegetarian options are 1) Garden Burger (tm), 2) burger with no meat but a lot of cheese, 3) just eating fries or just drinking milkshake. No grilled portobellos or anything.

[Comments] (2) : Jake, you need to see this: new Christmas music synthesized from old. Like that survey-driven songwriting thing which turns out to be the most difficult thing in the world to search for. How come people keep writing enormous numbers of new Christmas songs every year, but the most recent addition to the canon is from the 1950s? Answer: because in general, Christmas songs are pretty bad.

[Comments] (1) Creatures of Habit: Today's Achewood is great.

[Comments] (2) : Check out Medieval Demographics Made Easy for some fun facts and RPG-oriented tables. Among said fun facts is the surprising-to-me one that medieval villages were basically crammed as close together as possible. I guess FreeCiv is more historically accurate than I thought.

[Comments] (3) Demolition Derby: Someone smashed the casing of the left-hand mirror on my car. Hopefully I can get it fixed tomorrow, because otherwise Christmas is ruined. So aggravating!

[Comments] (1) : Day off work. Lots of reading. Finished my post-Baroque Cycle rereading of Cryptonomicon. There's nowhere I can find on the web that lists all the obvious-in-retrospect Baroque Cycle references in Cryptonomicon. This weblog entry and its comments list most of the ones I found but not all. I guess I should put such ramblings in a separate entry.

Also today finished The Flying Inn which was not nearly as good as the description made it sound. I guess I was suckered by how cool I think those big rounds of cheese are. There's lots of Chesterton available online, thanks to your friend the public domain, including all the good stuff except The Napoleon of Notting Hill. Something to read if you're on vacation and bored. I definitely recommend The Man Who Was Thursday, but longtime NYCB readers already know this.

No one will fix my car, so I fixed it myself. With duct tape.

: Weird stuff on the XM on the way to Bakersfield: on the "old tyme rydio" station there was an old Christmas melodrama about Handel which as far as I know was just totally made up because it fits with none of the things I know about Handel. Ol' G.F. and his family and everyone else had whitebread American accents and it was a heartwarming pre-Capra tale about Handel's struggle with religious belief which culminated in him writing the Messiah. The best part was where Handel turns away from music and his dad tells him how his music reflects God's glory. Handel: "I have no god, father." Beat. Beat. "Merry Christmas." End of scene. Genius.

Sumana says that maybe Handel was the father and he had a wayward son. The world may never know. It's still funny.

[Comments] (3) Things I Keep Meaning To Tell You #8: There were a couple pizza restaurants that played a good-sized role in my childhood: Bear Mountain Pizza in Arvin, which was good and could have its own entry except that entry wouldn't be that interesting; and a Shakey's in Bakersfield. Bear Mountain is presumably still there, and so is the Shakey's, but the latter has been cut off from its parent chain, cast out into darkness, and is now going solo with the exact same menu as before. Only now it's called Sharkey's Pizza. I don't want to go in because doing so will ruin my pleasant fantasy that Saruman the White has opened a pizza restaurant.

[Comments] (3) Filks For The Lazy: Take "Paperback Writer" and just replace every instance of the title with "Checkerboard Nightmare". It works pretty well.

[Comments] (1) : For Christmas, Sumana gave me a radio whose battery you can charge by turning the crank, which warms my survival-kit-obsessed heart. It also gets shortwave, but my trawl through the shortwave frequencies revealed the same sort of content you get on AM radio: sports, religious broadcasting, ominous yet monotonous beeping, etc. You'd think something that bounced off the ionosphere would be cooler. I couldn't even find any numbers stations.

Scarred: Seen on restaurant sign: FRY SAUCE JARS MAKE GREAT STOCKING STUFFERS

Excellent place to eat on your way up Utah: the Timberline in Beaver, Utah.

Google Memewatch: "we put the * in *"

[Comments] (5) : I finished Moby-Dick (Why is the title hyphenated? Was Melville planning to register moby-dick.com?) and it's really good but it's not the greatest American novel of all time. Even within the realm of conventional choices for that honor, I think Huckleberry Finn is better.

: The French for Silly String is "serpentine en mousse", which I think sounds a lot cooler than "Silly String".

[Comments] (3) : The cool thing I got people in my family for Christmas was I ran their weblogs (for those with enough content in their weblogs) through BlogBinders and turned them into books with fancy covers. It turns out BlogBinders uses CafePress' print-on-demand system so if you're handy with the text-to-PDF conversion you could use that directly and make the book look exactly like you want, and only get the top skimmed off of your money once.

If members of your family have weblogs and don't read this one, this makes a really good present, even though I can't entirely identify. If I got this present I would think "Great, a hard copy backup!" and not "Yes! Today I am ze author!". On the other hand, the covers I did are awesome (for GIMP novice values of "awesome").

My only complaints about the finished products are that 1) the print-on-demand is too expensive to do a sizable run of books, 2) BlogBinders puts a big garish logo on the back of the book, and 3) the text on the back of the book isn't justified and is in an ugly font and generally looks bad unlike the rest of the book. Oh, and 4) Rachel blabbed about the present on her weblog early enough to taint the surprise for Susanna.

Tomorrow when I get back to San Francisco I'll put up the NewsBruiser plugin that lets you syndicate entries in the format used by BlogBinders; that's what I used to make the books. Better to have it up on the web in a tarball than in my CVS working copy.

Speaking of presents, I once hypothesized to Seth that a sprig of thyme would make an ideal gift, because there's no present like the thyme.

[Comments] (1) : Just as we were settling in and hoping to get something done, a new year approaches like an unwelcome guest. We try to achieve relativistic velocities to delay its onset, but that only makes everything happen faster from our perspective. There's nothing for it but to greet 2005 with desultory toots on our paper noisemakers and hope it leaves the timeline relatively unscathed. Toot!

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