kirk.is | archive | 2007 sep

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ui war crimes

(14 comments)
September 1, 2007
Brief update, off to Rockport.

One quick gripe: I can forgive the current version of the iPhone software not supporting receiving and displaying MMS (multimedia messages) but ATT giving me a code I have to type in a web browser. I can even forgive, somehow, the link not being clickable in SMS and opening up in Safari. What I can't forgive, and find to be yet another misdemeanor against humanity, is generating a "pickup code" with characters and a font that's ambiguous. Upper case 'I'? Lower case 'L'? I can't tell, and I wasn't able to pick up my damn message. Do it all caps, or all numbers, or something, but think, people!

Video of the Moment

--Forgot where I saw this... brilliant, though.

gravely

(1 comment)
September 2, 2007
So yesterday Evil B and I worked on his driveway. It was unpaved gravel but with enough weeds that it was starting to look like an extremely poorly kept lawn, virtually enough to give careless beachgoers an excuse to block it while parking.

Well, we took care of that.



The first part was the weeding. For the first stage we broke up the worst areas with the pickax and one of those twisting garden claw things, both shown here. Eventually we started shoveling hunks of gravely landscape into a sifting screen over a wheelbarrow, shaking furiously and picking out the roots and plant bits. Later we had to shovel and rake to redistribute the new gravel to cover the turned over space.

It was a lot of heavy and dusty work. The photo above is him and me standing after the new gravel was delivered. In all we had about 2 1/2 "scoops" delivered, a scoop being about a cubic yard, which is about a ton.

A ton of gravel is only like 30 or 40 bucks! I am totally in awe of our society that you can buy a ton of anything useful for that kind of money. I almost want to get a scoop delivered to my apartment, just so I could have a ton of something.

Physically it was a tough but satisfying day, and the end result was a huge improvement. In the evening we head for a reviving swim at the beach, braving the chilly water for a swim to the raft anchored offshore. It was kind of cool seeing Evil B pass on the neighborhood lore of the raft to some groups of younger people who later arrived: the game where you stand on the edge with your heels hanging off until the small ocean harbor waves throw you off, and then the ritual of diving to the bottom and returning with handfuls of sand to show that you've done it.

(Evil B mentioned that he liked the mix you see in Rockport. The first group who joined us swam over from a sailboat, 2 very young boys, 2 older girls, and a father-y figure. Later it was 3 boys, sweet natured kids who might've been from the wrong side of the tracks.)

So, a good day in all.

Exchange of the Moment
Evil B explains that he's going to break up some ground with the pickax and I can then move in with the Garden Claw to rip it up. He begins swinging the pickax with great vigor:

Evil B: "[Swings] Get in there! [Swings]"

Kirk: "Uh... your lips say 'yes, yes' but your ax says 'no, no'..."

Turns out he was addressing the ax, not me... You had to be there but my nervous comment struck him as pretty funny.

four wheels, no brains

(9 comments)
September 3, 2007
Another fine day for manual labor in Rockport.

Rant of the Moment
"Has anyone told the Human Torch that it might not be safe to sit on top of a gas tank when one is on FIRE? Nice message to send the kids, assholes!"
--A letter to the editor against the Fantastic 4 Human Torch ATV, the most "ridiculously stupid and insulting" movie tie-in toy ever. (Some harsh language.)

Video of the Moment

--I just dig the energy of this remix, if not so much the guitars.
Apollo 440 also did the most interesting ambient remix of "Mysterious Ways" I've ever heard.


leaky kirk logan

(2 comments)
September 4, 2007
A bit sore today... I was finally feeling the gravel work yesterday so that, combined with a day of shed-paint-scraping (all the sense of drama of peeling a grape with the sensual pleasure of nails on a chalkboard!) and then some more jumping off the sea wall with some errant, stinging plunges, plus a bit of redneck sunburn... well, I've seen better days.

I learned something from Saturday's beach trip, which involved less jumping and more diving: A few hours after I was back in my car, leaning over and reaching under the seat for the GPS, when a small stream of sea water came out of my nose. What the? I had no idea that my head had such vase-like properties. I should hunt for a good 3D-map of the sinuses, figure out just what that's about.

Brilliance of the Moment

--Star Trek's "The Trouble With Tribbles" as an Edward Gorey adaption. So frighteningly clever, and pitch-perfect in execution.

morning blues

(4 comments)
September 5, 2007
My alarm clock broke, so I've been using my iPhone as a serviceable replacement. I selected the Piano Riff ringtone , which is actually that cliché "blues refrain", something like C F Eb F C--- That way the alarm sounds, and I can sing along:
doo DEEdoodee Dah
    woke up this morning--
doo DEEdoodee Dah
    no wait, I still have to do that...

Anti-anti-PC Quote of the Moment
Even though there is plenty of stuff for reasonable people to dislike about Political Correctness as a dogma, there is also something creepy about the brutal, self-righteous glee with which [John Ziegler] and other conservative [talkradio] hosts defy all PC conventions. If it causes you real pain to hear or see something, and I make a point to inflict that thing on you merely because I object to your reasons for finding it painful, then there's something wrong with my sense of proportion, or my recognition of your basic humanity, or both.
--David Foster Wallace, "Host"

Funny Quote of the Moment
In New England everyone calls you "Dave" regardless of however many times you might introduce yourself as David. I am reminded of those fanatically religious homophobes who stand on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral during Gay Pride, holding signs that say "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" I have always wanted to go up to them and say, "Well, of course not Adam and Steve. Never Adam and Steve. It's Adam and Steven."
--David Rakoff, "Fraud"

another bug

(9 comments)
September 6, 2007

--Methuen MA, 2007.09.03

but ice knows many voices

(2 comments)
September 7, 2007
In the news, thousands of mourners -- including firefighters from across the nation -- are gathering to morn Paul Cahill and Warren Payne who died while fighting a restaurant fire in West Roxbury.

I don't mean to take anything away from firefighters -- having someone willing to put his or her life on the line to protect your person and property is something none of us should take for granted -- but I'm a bit surprised that this kind of event is so rare that it's feasible to have a national gathering of firefighters when it does occur.

Geek Poem of the Moment
Some said the world should be in Perl;
Some said in Lisp.
Now, having given both a whirl,
I held with those who favored Perl.
But I fear we passed to men
A disappointing founding myth,
And should we write it all again,
I'd end it with
A close-paren.
--This XKCD cartoon. I also liked today's cartoon on Insomia.

Essay of the Moment
Game- and comic book-author Evan Skolnick says " Everything I Needed to Know About Game Writing I Learned From Star Trek". Kind of a nice walk down memory lane, and a good exercise in thinking about plot and character.

click, shoot, sigh

(1 comment)
September 8, 2007
Man, digital photography really changes things, doesn't it? What a bummer: the times of my life I find it easiest to be nostalgic about are also the least well-documented (heh, maybe there's a hint of cause and effect there) simply because photos cost money to develop then. And while there was something special about the "ooh, open the envelope and see how they came out!" moment, it wasn't a substitute for the instant feedback and ability to re-pose shots that didn't quite come out.

There are some odd side effects of this sea change... times when I happened to have a camera around (generally this one decent 35mm point and shoot I inherited from Nana) loom larger as I think of my past. And, frankly, my standards for photos of people I cherish have gone up, whereas before the photos I liked were usually "just snapshots".

Video of the Moment

--Ronald Jenkees is...amazing. Unabashedly in love with his music, he reminds me of some of my comp sci professors, if they could do what they did on a musical keyboard instead of a computer one. He's more focused on jamming than beats, but does both pretty well.

Game and Links of the Moment
Crayon Physics (Windows only?) is a lovely little creation game... use a virtual crayon to draw boxes (and other shapes, though things tend to get boxified) to push a red ball into a star. As you create each box, it begins to fall, topple, and otherwise follow the laws of game physics.

Kloonigames is on a game-a-month kick, I need to check out all the entries in the Season 1 Overview sometime soon. (Did that. Some real delight in there. Reminds me I need to catch up on Orisinal some day.)

In other game design coverage, Bad Designer, No Twinkie! are articles from a game design blog that discuss what NOT to do when designing a video game.

blockvaders

(10 comments)
September 9, 2007

To view this content, you need to install Java from java.com "blockvaders" // source code // built with Processing

Click in the box to play... arrow keys move, space or ctrl fires. Stop the box invaders from touching down.

This requires a note of explanation... it's a case of me (probably) missing the point of the THE EMERGENCY 100-IN-1 KLIK AND PLAY PIRATE KART MELTDOWN, one of my 1/100ths of an entry for TIGSource B-game Competition. Basically, it's supposed to be a bad game, but most of the other bad games are bad in the awful clipart and play mechanic sense. This one is just bad by being too simple, too artsy, and without enough sound effects. And with the idea that if if you keep playing, the rotation makes sure it gets harder, for no fair reason.

3.5 years a second

(2 comments)
September 10, 2007
Ugh, so zonked from staying up way too late last night finishing up some more of those games. I'll write more about the experience when some other secondary activities around it get finished up (i.e. wrapping all 100 games with a single giant launcher) Quite a culture-burning geek experience.

I did take some time to watch the Pats. Man, I hope the Jets aren't as bad as the Pats made them look, and Tom Brady plus Randy Moss are just that good... I suppose Ellis Hobbs' 108-yard kickoff-return was a bit of a fluke (I mean half of the chance of that depends on a really good kick) but still. And Moss may be a go-to guy, but the Pats seem to be leveraging that to open things up for their other offensive possibilities.

Plus I got to see Lex and Michi over lunch, so a good weekend in all, if a bit oddly-focused.

Video of the Moment

--35 years of Shinjuku in 10 seconds. Amazing, I wish I could see something like this for Boston or NY.

duh dumb chhh

(5 comments)
September 11, 2007
Probably another day without much of an update.

Quote of the Moment
walking by the DVD section at Target
"Hey look, '300' for eighteen bucks."
"Wow. That's like... six cents per."
--Evil B and me the other week.

Articles of the Moment
Like Slate points out, Osama bin Laden sounds less batshit insane in his latest video, and maybe that's a ploy to try to recruit Westerners who would that be in a better position to dodge profiling for and perpetrate nefarious deeds. (Though maybe his dyed beard is a sign of war? Though it's not like that would be such a new posture for him.)

In somewhat related thoughts, Slashdot points to an article that says there might be brain differences in how liberals and conservatives think... though one person's "open to new concepts" is another's "will listen to any damn fool idea".

but sit and fart in the duck

(71 comments)
September 12, 2007
Someone asked what I think of the brewing scandal with the Patriots accused of having a video camera taping the Jets' defensive coaches signals. It sounds reasonably damning on the face of it. (There's also the danger that it's not a terribly uncommon thing to do, and the Pats may be made an example of.)

It seems odd because video recording an opposing coach doesn't seem that different than watching intently, which I presume is allowed. One proposed solution would be to allow one of the defensive linemen to use the same kind of radio that the QB gets.

I just hope those damn Motorola headsets use encryption!

N-quite-SFW Video of the Moment

--Making the rounds, a phonetic re-interpreation of a kids show in Dutch, or Flemish, or Belgian, or something. "Sit and fart in the duck" is on the less crude side of what they come up with, but it's pretty funny, especially when there's an (un)fortunate match between the lyric and the image onscreen.

Quote of the Moment
"Heat, pressure, and time. The things that make a diamond, also make a waffle."
--An example given by Basic Instructions' How to Seem Smart

loopy

(2 comments)
September 13, 2007
I've got a Hawaiian Shirt that has a "sunglass loop", a dense loop of fabric near the top of the pocket that you can hang sunglasses from. While I appreciate the ingenuity of the idea, as well as it being better than a mere pocket at stopping a pair of glasses from clattering to floor, I was somehow annoyed reading the tag for it and see that it was "Patent Pending".

Just something a bit too... Jimmy Buffet in the blend of vacation wear and corporate interest.

Videe of the Moment

--Speaking of unholy corporate blends, Slashdot linked to this errr... rap video pitching MS-DOS 5, apparently to retailers. (Is it just me or is it kind of odd that both the three backup singers and the woman who constitutes half of the in-video audience are in red dresses?) Heh, remember when beta tests were largely performed by the companies themselves? I think I previously posted a similar-ish Windows 386 promotional video that goes on at a stodgy place for seven minutes and then gets distinctly...odd.

Prose of the Moment
"And how do you finance this interesting life with these daily climbs of yours?" she asks, her voice curling in on itself with playfulness. She is leaning on one arm on the back of my chair, her hips canted forward; her shirt rides up, showing a chevron of sleek tummy, a demure ring at the navel.
--David Rakoff, "In New England Everyone Calls You Dave"

In an effort to banish the blues during those few hours between when the sun goes down at about four and the time when it might be appropriate to start drinking, I take myself to see Flight Club, which, while featuring an awfully good performance by the four-inch band of flesh across Brad Pitt's stomach just above his pubic hair, does little to lift my spirits.
--David Rakoff, "Hidden People".

David Rakoff likes flat tummies. I can see where he's coming from with that.

rude old nasruddin

(3 comments)
September 14, 2007
This. Has. Been. An. Exceeeeeedingly. Slooooooow. Week.

Tales of the Moment
The other week, a search for information about the 'Whirling Dervish' eventually led me to the figure of Nasruddin, a kind of Zen master of thoughtful pranskterism (albeit from another tradition of faith)
Once a renowned philosopher and moralist was traveling through Nasruddin's village and asked Nasruddin where there was a good place to eat. Nasruddin suggested a place and the scholar, hungry for conversation, invited Mullah Nasruddin to join him. Much obliged, Mullah Nasruddin accompanied the scholar to a nearby restaurant, where they asked the waiter about the special of the day.

"Fish! Fresh Fish!" replied the waiter.

"Bring us two," they requested.

A few minutes later, the waiter brought out a large platter with two cooked fish on it, one of which was quite a bit smaller than the other. Without hesitating, Mullah Nasruddin took the larger of the fish and put in on his plate. The scholar, giving Mullah Nasruddin a look of intense disbelief, proceed to tell him that what he did was not only flagrantly selfish, but that it violated the principles of almost every known moral, religious, and ethical system. Mullah Nasruddin listened to the philosopher's extempore lecture patiently, and when he had finally exhausted his resources, Mullah Nasruddin said,

"Well, Sir, what would you have done?"

"I, being a conscientious human, would have taken the smaller fish for myself." said the scholar.

"And here you are," Mullah Nasruddin said, and placed the smaller fish on the gentleman's plate.
Another one I liked was:
Two children found a bag containing twelve marbles. They argued over how to divide the toys and finally went to see the Mulla. When asked to settle their disagreement, the Mulla asked whether the children wanted him to divide the marbles as a human would or as Allah would.

The children replied, "We want it to be fair. Divide the marbles as Allah would."

So, the Mulla counted out the marbles and gave three to one child and nine to the other."
Unfortunately his name doesn't have single selling when put into English, so you have to type around... these anecdotes ccame from the Wikibooks page on him.

level up!

(510 comments)
September 15, 2007
I gave blood this morning (at 8am, after a surprise night of late night socializing when my upstairs neighbors had a shindig for their former housemate who was visiting from Italy) so I'm extra self-righteous today! Also tired.

Random note: separated at birth, yesterday's image of Nasruddin and the Sultan from Aladdin?

Stupid folk-traditions, ripping off Disney like that.

Game of the Moment
Scong is toast-modern [sic] game. "Be the Ball." No really... be the ball. Surprisingly disconcerting. (By the same guy who organized last weekend's game fest.)

Potentially Mildly Offensive Quote of the Moment
[Enemy looms, roars, gets exploded by gunfire]
"Oh man, that was scary. Good thing I had my reflexes up.... I'm a Level 8 Polack."
--Jonathan Z, when we were trudging through the FPS game "Gears of War". At the risk of over-explaining, it's a vague reference to online RPGs where you establish the get to upgrade your character's abilities (like reflexes) and achieve various levels of your character's type. Also funny because "polack" sounds a little bit like "warlock".

java and klik and play

(4 comments)
September 16, 2007
So I've made a few references to the weekend I had last weekend.

So there was Klik & Play, a mid-90s game creation tool for Windows. Glorious Trainwrecks is a current site dedicated to a renaissance of the type of games made in this system: an anti-aesthetic of gonzo wackiness, using terrible clipart animations and sometimes fostering oddball gameplay and styles.

The Emergency 100-In-1 Klik And Play Pirate Kart Meltdown, then, was a call to action for a team of 17 intrepid coders to make 100 distinct games over the course of a single weekend. The Independent Gaming Source message board post has more info and hype for the end result.

I didn't find out about the event 'til it was already Saturday morning. At first I thought I'd just throw in a Java game or two, since it said non-Klik-&-Play games were welcome, and my first dabbles with that system hadn't worked out. But as the weekend wore on, I had more ideas I wanted to try out, and then by the time it was Sunday I thought I'd try my hand at Klik & Play proper.

For me, the core of the event was the irc chatroom, where folks tapped in for encouragement and enthusiasm, trying each other's new games and asking questions and generally supporting the frenzied coding effort. Watching the total game count crawl upwards was extrememly satisfying.

Yesterday I also joined in the Klik of the Month get-together, the regular 2-hour irc-based creativity fest, and while it was fun it didn't have quite the same sense of huge-goal-based camaraderie that the previous weekend featured.

I've added the 5 processing games to my Java toys page and made a new klik & play page for this stuff, but here is what I came up with- first, the Java:

nudge
Nudge the white ball to sidestep the red chasers
blockvaders
Space invaders...in a box! Click to play, arrows move, space fires.
preggers
A moral and aesthetic lesson in birth control.
cosmicarkatamari
My previous cosmic ark swarm meets Katamari Damacy.
breastpong
Err...in the adolescent spirit of the event, it's pong. With breasts.

And then, the Klik & Play. Shift starts these games and then jumps or fires, arrows move, and on bug <3 flower you can click on a bananalemon if you get stuck:


ALIEN FIGHTER 2000



homeworld defense



bug <3 flower


bug <3 flower was from yesterday. It was inspired by Eudaimon's 100-in-1 entry "Platform Builder" and is more of a "game" but lacks much of the charm, and is also too difficult.

In general, there are two ways of approaching this, with lots of overlap: I tend to try to make games with novel gameplay and ways of interacting with the computer (for me, that's what makes video games a worthy medium). Others just love the joy and anarchy of making weird, ugly, beautiful, gonzo audio/visuals, often with fairly traditional gameplay.

It's all good. And by good, I mean bad, but in entertaining ways, which is good.

Boston LATER

(3 comments)
September 17, 2007
Ironically, the free paper called "Boston NOW" is the one with lead times such that they can't actually tell me what happened with the Patriots (yay) or the Sox (boo) last night.

I did help Jonathan buy and setup a video projector to replace his small television. And MAN, is his setup simple and sweet. He's got a small apartment in Back Bay but a large white flat wall, and the resulting HD picture is larger than many art cinemas I've been to, I think significantly bigger than that dinkyplex they used to have at Copley.

I also went to by myself a replacement alarm clock/clockradio. I had a promising iPod speakers/tuner combo unit, but really its tasteful LCD face is too hard to read with bleary eyes at night. So I got a fairly cheap but feature-laden thing: it has nice big red digits (sorry to see that designer's love of way-too-bright and night-sight-destroying blue light has spread to clocks), automatically sets itself with that radio signal, it even has a projector to put the time on the ceiling or opposite wall. But the radio ain't a digital tuner!!! What is up with these people? Do they really enjoy twisting a knob and hoping they get it just right? Do they still use car radios from 1986? I thought that they had this problem figured out five years ago. (And DANG IT -- It matters)

Funny of the Moment
"We wish that the [Watergate] break-in had happened at the John Hancock Hotel, JUST SO all future political scandals would have been named differently, i.e. Travelcock, Whitewatercock, etc."
--Eric Hoffman and Gary Rudoren, Comedy by the Numbers. The book also provided useful comedy gems such as
"The first rule of Polite Club -- don't talk about Polite Club. Please."
and a list of available clown names such as "Bricksy" and "Floppo the Dicknificent". Not to mention striking comedy factoids such as "Tommy Chong made a career out of telling 'weed jokes' and was arrested for selling bongs."


blender iii

(4 comments)
September 18, 2007
I updated the Blender of Love this weekend, using the new look and feel for the front page. I also updated the work viewing page, so that the comments form is embedded into it. I learned two valuable lessons with that second change:
  • Test your new webpages on a variety of browsers.
  • Webpages work better when you close your <title> tags. (I mean, it might seem like an interesting conceptual art piece to stuff the entire content of the page into the title, but in terms of making a page people can actually see, not so much.)
I wasn't 100% satisfied with my Blender design, but it was getting to the point where I just needed to put it in there, and consider updating it later.

The design kind of evolved. The first one had the new horizontal and more prominent icon bar:
The second try had a new structure that kind of hearkened back to the circa 2000 design:
The penultimate draft played around with some stock photography instead of the site's trademark chunky icons:
Miller had some good advice through the process. In the end I kind of gave up on hunting down all the "trapped white space" that he warned me about, but still it's better for having tried.

Quote of the Moment
"The rose of yore is but a name, mere names are left to us"
--Slashdot QotD. Apparently a bit of middle age poetry, according to The Waning of the Middle Ages. I like the hint of Ozymandias in it, along with a whiff of hubris.

Countdown of the Moment
Bill the Splut posted a link to Time's 50 Worst Cars of All Time. Some of the write-ups seemed odd, almost as if the author didn't actually like cars very much:
The Model T � whose mass production technique was the work of engineer William C. Klann, who had visited a slaughterhouse's "disassembly line" � conferred to Americans the notion of automobility as something akin to natural law, a right endowed by our Creator. A century later, the consequences of putting every living soul on gas-powered wheels are piling up, from the air over our cities to the sand under our soldiers' boots.
It took me a while, but finally I realized the problems... it's not that he dislikes cars, he's just absolutely elitist about it, and mass-produced cars in general. He's kind of like the Duke of Wellington on early steam railroads, " "They will only cause the lower classes to move about needlessly."

heheh. pants.

(7 comments)
September 19, 2007
Sigh. Friends are going through some rough times but I will attempt to carry the day with a series of trivial little amusements and diversions.

One of life's little lesson: you know, there's only a certain range of area on pants where you can put a pocket and make it easily accessible while the wearer is walking. This is the kind of lesson you learn when you have a pair of otherwise fine cargo pants with ripped top pockets, and so you put your wallet in a pocket lower down, and thus have to do a graceless little crouch walk when you remember you need your wallet to get through the gate of the MBTA.

(And by "you" I mean "me".)

Plus, putting objects in a low pocket leads to odd swinging. Put a heavy object (such as a camera) in there and get walking and you can bang a knee something fierce.

(And again, feel free to substitute "me" for "you" in that scenario.)

News Item of the Moment
SNELLVILLE, Ga. -- Police questioned an armless man Monday about the death of his neighbor.

Relatives of Charles Keith Teer, 47, claim he died after the armless man head-butted and kicked Teer during a fight. [...] Teer's relatives told police the men were arguing over a woman.

Teer's sister said the armless man attacked her brother.

"They got into a big confrontation, a verbal confrontation and a fist fight and he came after my brother, he came will full force, and head butted him as hard as he could," said Lynn Elliot.

She said Teer collapsed and died a short time after the fight.

--Recent News Report I saw linked on CNN.com. It's clear that even severely handicapped people are not as helpless as the popular imagination may assume. Of course, there's a humorous element to this tragedy... I mean, there's a town called "Snellville"?

Link of the Moment
It's been a long while since I've kept up with the Onion (though lately I've been keeping up with What Do You Think? thanks to the Slate sidebar appearance) but 14 American Apparel Models Freed In Daring Midnight Raid seemed really funny. I guess because those "American Apparel" ads, keeping that whole Calvin Klein grunge sex vibe (but losing most of the underage factor) kind of sneak up on you, and "American Apparel" is a brilliantly bland name.

The Onion might have jumped the shark with their massively uplifting (in the sense of "screw them, we're keeping on") response to 9/11. That was a cultural milestone, but for whatever reason they seem to have lost their place at the center of 'net culture since then.

I feel kind of bad for losing track of the AV Club.

laff riot!

(11 comments)
September 20, 2007
I'm kind of worried that kisrael has gotten a little mean spirited as of late. Maybe it's just my imagination.

Videos of the Moment
Slate has been having some neat stuff on their video feature lately. I really liked The History of the Laughtrack. I suppose I start to tune out the laugh track on shows that use it, but it's really hard to imagine it added to a show I like that doesn't already have it. (I'm very glad that Charles Douglass. named his machine the "Laff Box", with two Fs. That really made the whole thing work.)

A video of a British Gal trying to learn to sound like an American was less captivating than I'd hoped, but the opening montage of UK actors speaking "naturally" and then "American" was great. Accents are so funny, the way certain vowel habits get burnt into our brain, and the difficulty of hearing one's own accent as an accent and not just "normal".

Quote of the Moment
"Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors."
--Thomas H. Huxley

Comic and Comment of the Moment
There's been much speculation as the real nature of the relationship between Beetle and Sarge. In the absence of any leadership from Camp Swampy's officer corps, has Sarge's near-limitless authority over his subordinates simply allowed his inner brute to emerge in full, sadistic force? Or is Beetle no mere subject, but rather a participant in a complex and largely unspoken sadomasochistic relationship? Today's strip offers another, even darker take: Sgt. Snorkel is an artist — an artist whose medium is human flesh and bone and blood, and Pvt. Bailey is and will forever be his greatest masterpiece.
--The Comics Curmudgeon. Hmmm. This might not be helpingto counteract any anti-site-is-too-mean vibe.

News of the Moment
Jumpin' Jehosophat! Canada Dollar now worth as much as a real one!

his prices are IN-SANE

(14 comments)
September 21, 2007
Wow, it's still summer?

Side geek/engineering note, and I'm not sure if it will even be useful to the geek/engineers who stop by... my group at work has a strict "code review" rule. The code for each check-in should be reviewed by at least one other person. Previously, the reviewee would fire up the Eclipse "synchronize with repository" (or "stink-ronize with suppository" as one quipped-- one of those unfortunate turns of phrase that you can never, ever totally leave behind) and click through and describe the changes.

As a group, we found it goes much better if the reviewer "drives", rather than the reviewee. Otherwise it's far to easy for the reviewer to be a passive, minds-off viewer, and by setting the pace the reviewer can ensure his or her own understanding of what the changes are.

Crazy Eddie of the Moment
For some reason Crazy Eddie has resurfaced twice in my personal memepool... for those who weren't in the greater New York area in the 70s and 80s, he was the frenetic spokesman for "Crazy Eddie" consumer electronic stores. He'd go on and on about how crazy his prices are for 30 seconds, then end with "our prices are IN-SANE". (During that time when "Crazy" Eddie Antar fled to Israel to escape fraud charges, one of my schoolmates quipped "wow, turns out Crazy Eddie was crazy after all." I think the store chain later merged into "The Wiz", and the confusion is heightened by the slogan "Nobody Beats the Wiz" becoming the chain's name, probably when some executive thought "huh, maybe 'urine' isn't the best theme for promotional purposes.")

So the first link was a where are they now feature, along with Wendy, Mikey, Little Debbie, etc. I was tremendously disillusioned to find out that Crazy Eddie the actor was distinct from Crazy Eddie the owner. I had always assumed they were one and the same... the character didn't scream "professional actor".

Then Slate had a piece on The "Crazy Eddie" economy, saying that even the iPhone knockdown price is not just the "repeal of the nerd tax" but an unfortunate sign of a jittery economy, willing to risk long term stability for a short term gain.

By far, my favorite take on the whole "insanity in consumer retail" shtick is this old Tom the Dancing Bug comic featuring "Crazy Morty". Here's what Morty's Doctor has to say about his Crazy Prices!:
"It's true. Morty Zimmerman is clinically insane, yet somehow operates a chain of 'stores,' such as they are. If you were able to find something of use to you, and were actually able to successfully conduct a transaction, you would probably pay a price wholly unrelated to the value of the item you purchased."
Good times.

well, ANYTHING is unique if you look closely enough

(5 comments)
September 22, 2007
--Cool (but, come to think of it, not a very pleasant reminder of the end of summer) extreme zoom-in of a snowflake, via this Cellar.or Image of the Day, which has a few more shots.

hi-diddly-ho, son

(6 comments)
September 23, 2007
Miller and Kate joined me in going to see the Simpsons movie last night.

True confession time.

There are times when I'm worried that the Simpsons' "Ned Flanders" is overwriting memories of my dad.



It's mostly a cosmetic issue, glasses and mustaches. (I don't think the Pious Ned / Preacher Dad parallel enters into it so much.) But still. My memories of a hale and hearty dad end after sixth grade, when I'm about twelve or so, and it looks like Ned made his first appearance December 17, 1989, 18-odd years ago. And childhood memories aren't the most solid stuff. I suppose the movies theme of "Flanders being a better dad to Bart than Homer" didn't help.

Article of the Moment
"I hope everyone enjoys the new, resizeable, 'sweeper' program. And if when Vista finally comes out you see that it was renamed 'Microsoft Windows Vista Logic-based Hidden Item Seeking Game 2006 with Skins!', you will know why."
--David Vronay, on the politically correct remake of Minesweeper for Windows Vista. In short, there are parts of the world where landmines are a damn serious issue, and along with a visual makeover, the coders had to work to find a balance between what users were used to and humanistic concerns.

geeksctacy and velociraptures

(11 comments)
September 24, 2007
A while back there was an xkcd cartoon entitled "Dream Girl" wherein the narrator gets a longitude and latitude and time and date whispered to him in a dream, shows up at that place and time, and...

Well, that's where the geeks who love xkcd came in, and they decided to make something happen. The place was a small park in Cambridge, and the time and date was yesterday, 2:38PM. If you took woodstock, and divided it by burning man, and multiplied it by your high school's AV club, you might have something like the xkcd meetup. Hundreds of folks were there, some in costume, many references to various xkcd cartoons abounded. The place was packed to the rafters, or at least, there was a big stack of people on one of the bits of playground equipment:



This is what it looked like from underneath:



I attended with FoSO and her SO, and she took this photo of FoSOSO being attacked by an injoke velociraptor:



I've tried to explain just how deeply this webcomic resonates with a certain population of geekish folk. Heh, and despite this comic's admonition against slavishly echoing the trappings of a beloved bit of geek culture instead of its spirit, there was a certain amount of pure fandom at the event, like staging a real-life version of a tape-measure-based olympic event. But that's ok. It was a great time and a blast to have been a part of.

Link of the Moment
Muji sounds interesting. Here's their international online store.

desert people are dry

(7 comments)
September 25, 2007
The other day I saw a bumper sticker:
MOUNTAIN PEOPLE ARE WISE
OCEAN PEOPLE ARE HAPPY
Are there layers to that I'm not getting? Are they talking about, I don't know, Nordic folk vs. Mediterranean, or maybe campers vs. beachgoers, or are "mountain" and "ocean" symbolic of an outlook on life? I guess I associate a level of planning and general toughness with the Mountain People, and a bit of an easier life thanks to the bounty of the Ocean for those folks, but I don't think I'm getting it.

Not many Google hits for it either.

Defense of the Moment
The Sports Law Profesor defends Belichick's line about "interpretation of the rules" as more than a mere rhetorical smokescreen. Yeah, the article has quite a bit of unseemly legalese analysis, but it does point out some ambiguity in the "Game Operations Manual" and it makes it easier to enjoy what's likely to be heckuva season with this year's Patriots with a clear conscious.

Video of the Moment

--File this under "vaguely artsy ideas that didn't work". This is the Alewife T station one night, where there was a tremendous amount of machinery noise echoing in the central enclosed area. The effect was very THX-1138 or Logan's Run (given the kind of modernist look of the place to begin with) but I'm not sure if that comes across here. And I broke my own rule about "don't turn the camera vertically when recording video".

it's bidness time!

(5 comments)
September 26, 2007
I'm such a fair-weather fan. Sure, I gotta root for the Red Sox, but man, going from 14 ahead to barely keeping the division title is disheartening. But Cleveland is this year's little engine that could. And frankly, the city needs it more, in part because of the awful awful Browns and also... it's Cleveland. (OK, cheap shot, but the city is muddling through tough times.) If either team won it all I'd be pretty happy.

Video of the Moment
--Flight of the Conchords, "It's Business Time". A little raunchy in the most droll way imaginable. I was introduced to this by some gal at a party who really, really loved it and was duly impressed by my ability to find and play the video on my iPhone. Actually it's partially the memory of her Ethel Merman-ing "It's BIDNESS TIME!" that leads me to post it here.

Quote of the Moment
"Politics -- the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other."
--Oscar Ameringer

Article of the Moment
Disturbingly captivating tale of hanging out with real life pirates in South Asia from National Geographic.

go whoopi!

(8 comments)
September 27, 2007
I think either I'm really tired these days, or getting the early stages of juvenile-onset Alzheimer's, but I left my bike on my porch last night. No harm, no foul, but still, sheesh. I suppose it's nice to know that Arlington Center is safe enough to do that at least one night.

In other news I got a haircut. I got the sides clipped, but kept the sideburns (albeit trimmed) and now I'm worried I'm mixing my hair decades.

Also I decided to try using Crew "Fiber" hair goop. I like it. It smells like lemons.

Image of the Moment
--"If Pac-Man Were Real", a larger, animated GIF I saw at AtariAge


Video of the Moment
This was making the rounds a while back... Sherri Sheppherd on "The View" saying that she's too busy being a good mommy to know that the world is not flat. The two details that captivate me are 1. the idea having been brought up by Whoopi Goldberg apparently in defense of evolution and 2. Joy Behar trying to shoot it away with "You know, didn't some person already work this question out? I mean, why are we doing this again?", followed by laughter and applause.

It is to weep.

all our base

(6 comments)
September 28, 2007
For the Red Sox, All Our Bases Loaded Are Belong To Them. Bleh.

Future of a Past Moment

--I think I've posted some of these before, but I still dig these 1900s era French "Scenes from the Year 2000"

Science of the Moment
"Here is a list of things defined as rewarding: sweet taste in the mouth, orgasm, mild temperature, smiling child. And here is a list of nasty things: various sorts of pain, nausea, empty stomach, screaming child."
--Richard Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene", describing some potential instructions from a set of genes to their 'survival machine' (followed by the advice of 'of so shun things that lead to the latter, and repeat things that lead to the former'.) I'm rereading the book for my UU Science and Spirituality group...I recognize the strident Dawkins more than I remember doing so on the first read through. I do appreciate the 'Japanese poetry' like construction of this snippet.

if you want a sense of perspective, you can't afford it

(17 comments)
September 29, 2007
Might be in Rockport, so I'll prepublish this.

Been thinking about trying a few more online dating sites. For websites in general, I tend to be so droll in my user name selection, sticking with "kisrael" or "kirkjerk", neither of which are very descriptive (or to the extent they are descriptive are a little misleading) For dating sites, am I missing the chance to do a little advertising? I was thinking I want something that says funny and/or literate. "booksmart"? "funnypages"? "bookcrush"? Or throws in the bike, which is only mildly misleading on that whole "I'm athletic" shtick... "bikeandread". Bleh, too many vowels. (Of course, when brainstorming, it's always fun to think of the blatantly inappropriate... "bigstuff4u" etc.)

Plus, it seems like there's a habit of appending your year of birth to the end, ala booksmart74. That seems to kind of descend from the AOL days of yore.

I'm a little disenchanted with the whole online dating culture's tendency to express disinterest, or even loss of interest, by simply not communicating. It lacks the milkshake of human kindness.

Also, hmm. It seems that the proportion of people who express a fascination and love of the great outdoors is greater than what I run into in other parts of life. Sometimes I wonder if it's sincere and accurate and I just haven't been paying attention, a bit of optimism about what they'd like to be, or just a bit of what they think other people want them to be.

Ecard of the Moment

--Someeecards.com, "when you care enough to click send". Some funny and cynical use of good ol' clip art.

a virtual plane full of an infinite number of graphpaper ducks

(4 comments)
September 30, 2007

To view this content, you need to install Java from java.com
"all your ducks in rows and columns"
// source code // built with Processing


As promised... "Ducks. Lots of ducks. A virtual plane full of an infinite number of graphpaper ducks." Mildly interactive with the mouse pointer and mouse button.

I came up with the design of the duck during a dull meeting. Using a notebook of graphpaper for notes has its disadvantages! I ended up drawing an 8x8 grid of these things, but making this program seemed more interesting than posting a scan. (It probably took less time to make the program, come to think of it.)

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