2003 October❮❮prevnext❯❯

ring thing

(1 comment)
I had a dream the other night where Mo wanted me to get a diamond added to my wedding band, as if it was something people generally did for a certain anniversary. I really didn't want to though, preferring the simple circle. My simple wedding band spins so well on a table...also, I realize I've developed the habit of rotating the ring on my finger with my thumb when I'm walking along. I must do this more than I realize, I keep finding myself trying to do it even after I've taken the ring off for yoga...

Link of the Moment
Making the rounds last week, it's The Worst Jobs In Science. It's like a strangely comforting variation of Murphy's job; your job can't be so bad that there's not one worse. I mean, heck, some of these careers sound worse than unemployment.

Quote of the Moment
Lousy minor setbacks! This world sucks!
Homer Simpson.
Man, do I know the feeling.

Rant of the Moment
Rented "F-Zero GX", a GameCube game from Blockbuster yesterday. I'm really impressed with all thier windows plasted over with announcements how they're slashing late fees, that now days late cost the same as normal days, given how they've jacked up the minimum game rent time to like a week, and charge $6 or so accordingly. Of course they don't need to charge extra for late fees, because over the years they've just added in like 3 days of late fees into the main price. Yeesh.

electronic selfmedication

So for the past few evenings I've been taking some time and playing all the way through some old "Nintendo 64" games: Diddy Kong Racing, Battle Tanx and its sequel "Battle Tanx: Global Assault". These games are kind of like comfort-food, I know I can beat their campaign modes with out too much strain, and they're a good time all around. But it hits me that I've rarely been so aware that I am so consciously practicing escapism. This week has been a real roller coaster, and immersing myself in these goofy and fun worlds (where I'm highly confident I'll come out on top in the end) is very soothing.

Article of the Moment
Slate.com on how American parents also have a preference for sons over daughters, looking at marriage and divorce rates. The article, and the report it based, decline to speculate why that is, but my theory is this: men just don't how to relate to little girls. I think few would argue that the mother-child bond isn't stronger than the father-child bond. Therefore I'd guess that a lot of these breakups and what not happen because men just aren't emotionally in tune enough with young women, they just don't know what to do.

Just a guess.

Brag of the Moment
Another 5 or so seconds off of my 15 minutes of Warholian fame, Popular Science just asked to copy my text for this Link of the Moment ("Murphy's Job") for a new blog area they're adding to their magazine's Reader Feedback section. (I suggested cleaning up the phrasing a wee bit, I must've been in a hurry when I typed it.) I'll have to look for it in the December issue--which will come out, when, early November or something? It's odd how so many magazines always beat their cover date by like a month.

List of the Moment
MIT's Technology Review has Bruce Sterling's Ten Technologies That Deserve to Die. While I don't agree with some of them (in particular, I think he forgets about the random access qualities and special features of DVDs, along with the side benefits of material objects that look good on a shelf (as opposed to elecronically distributed alternatives)) I was struck by the one reference to "your American internal visa (formerly known as a 'driver's license')". He's got a point, for what it's worth.


(1 comment)
As it starts to get colder I think about time passing. If you're not careful a year can slip by quickly. On the other hand, it seems like such a long time since we've had to deal with snow...

Flash Toy of the Moment
Do you have the need to start your day by being crassly insulted by a foul-mouth virtual xylophone? If so you are in luck! Curiously amusing. There's some other interesting stuff at Limmy.com, some cool multiple exposures in the 'photos' section, and the other 'playthings' are worth clicking through if you're bored.

Comic of the Moment

Woo! The cartoon version of Lore (of Brunching Shuttlecocks fame) now has its own website, with promises of weekly updates: LoreBrandComics

Horoscope of the Moment
Libra: (Sept. 23-Oct. 23)
You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution, but in the end, being part of the problem is much more fun.
--Horoscope from The Onion


Woo, slept for like 11 hours last night. I feel a little better!

Geek Conceptual Art of the Moment
So Slashdot had a story about this program called Baudio (originally "Ka-Blamo") that trivially turns any file into a sound file. The point is, I guess there's some forms of legal protection that apply only to music...so with pieces like John Cage's 4'33" (four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence, or that long of ambient concert hall noise when performed live) out there in the canon, can now any random computer file get the same protection supposedly reserved for music, just by running it through this program? Anyway, Baudio's homepage has three examples of what it sounds like. (They aren't too bad but you may want to turn your speakers down just a tad.) The GIF is too short and staticy, the Photoshop PSD starts the same but gets cool in the end, but the BMP version sounds awesome. (It all has to do with how repetitive the images are internally, how they store the same data. GIF ties it up into as neat a bundle as possible, but with BMP you can practically feel each line as it comes up.)

Incidentally, there's been a similar technique used for a while by Atari programmers...there was this add-on for the Atari called a "Supercharger" that could load games from cassette tape, and there's a way of converting an Atari program into sound in a way that the Supercharger can understand it. Here's the file in the mp3 form, but it's really screechy and annoying. (And for the Atari Supercharger to 'hear' it through it's little wire, you have to turn up the volume...I hate it when forget to switch the wiring and it comes blasting out of my speakers...)

Subculture of the Moment
Wiggaz; white kids gone gangsta. With commentary along side.

Kiss of a Previous Moment
I was kind of wanting to see that infamous "open mouthed kiss" between Madonna (butch) and Britney Spears (fem) at the MTV Music Awards, forgot about it, but then found this page with the clip. Maybe I've seen too much stuff on the Internet and become a bit jaded, but I thought it was actually really boring.


Announcement and Link of the Moment
The new Loveblender Digest is done. This month has a really good Artist Feature, 8 Works by Jason Pettus. Worth checking out.

Game Link of the Moment
I'm just a sucker for Top 10, Top 25 gaming lists: Here's GameSpy's 25 Most Underrated Games of All Time. On a slightly related note, if I ever compile a list of the best computer and video game names of all time, "Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord" is right up there.

why the yankees suck

(1 comment)
Dialog of the Moment
"Yankees suck!"
     "Why do Yankees suck?"
"...because they hate their mothers."
Some very young Sox fans talking with some friends of Mo.
I always wondered why, exactly, Yankees Suck and now I know.

For anyone mildly interested in baseball but without easy news access (Hi Mom, in London) Sox evened their 5 game series 2-2 vs the A's with the deciding game tonight, Yankees took the series from the Twins, Cubs took their series from th Braves, something like the first time in 95 years that they've won a series in the post-season. Oh, and the Patriots won too. And the Browns beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh. So all in all I'm pretty happy with my fandom of Boston and Cleveland teams.

Nineties Nostalgia of the Moment
Remember Tamagotchi, those little LCD keychain "virtual chickens" in the mid-90s? Here's an Academic Paper on 'em. (If you're in a hurry just skim through what's probably the most interesting page) I guess people got sick of babysitting the little things, or maybe look after one little critter paled in comparision to Pokémon's "gotta get 'em all" dozens and dozens of different creatures.

It might be kind of difficult to explain Tamagotchi to our grandchildren, or at least how we were so taken with creatures made by such primitive little displays, even when better technology was theoretically available. I had forgotten how the little things almost required 24/7 attention.

Here's a different page with a lot of images, including "screenshots" and a picture of the original inventor.

Link of the Moment
Map of the London Tube with walklines, the walklines show you which stations are easily walkable, a bit of data missing from the original.

Political Quote of the Moment
I'm the master of low expectations.
George W. Bush aboard Air Force One, June 4 2003.

damning with effusive praise

Go Red Sox!...they beat Oakland in typical nailbiting fashion. But Johnny Damon had a nasty, nasty knock, colliding with Damian Jackson when they both went to catch a fly ball...he was K.O'd and has a concussion. Terrible to see the replay for that.

Bring on the Yankees. They suck. And they hate their mothers.

Looking forward to a Red Sox/Cubs World Series. Red Sox won that last World Series matchup, 4 games to 2. In 1918.

Funny Link of the Moment
Positive Movie Reviews--a really funny exercise in damning with effusive praise. Rates movies using a scale of "four or five stars"...a bit like The Onion's "The Outside Scoop", but easier to actually read through.

Commentary of the Moment
SO, after his Feature on the Blender, Jason Pettus had some kind words for the Blender setup in his journal. (Final 3-4 paragraphs on the page.) I am pleased with how the Blender has evolved, that you can see all the raw content, but there's also a selection made, so if you just want to read some good stuff every month, it's there as well.

The middle of that journal entry is a great read, some amazing little tidbits from "Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin" by Mel Gordon.

Gaming Link of the Moment
Home of the Underdogs has writeups of hundreds of overlooked PC games and applications. I like how mousing over titles brings up screenshots, since a single screenshot can really say a lot. Beware the huge amount of popups. They're feature on head-to-head games was pretty good. I also love their puppy astronaut mascot, shown here.

Heh...one of the things about even "general interest" linkblogs that are run by a small team or just one guy (like this one is) is that they always focus a bit too much on some particular interest of the writer...the way BoingBoing always seems full of Doctrow's Disney links, or CamWorld always has a ton of politics. I'm sure a reader of this site who digs the usual random links but just isn't into video games probably thinks I'm obsessed.

Random Link of the Moment
The website of the gum I'm currently enjoying encourages me to take a quiz to find out Am I A Gum Or Mint. Apparently, I am a mint. I have no idea what that means.

truth and rent

Truisms of the Moment
* Information Wants To Be Free
* Rent Wants To Be Paid
"IronChef"'s sig on Slashdot.
I have another one for today: hot water heaters want you to sit around all day waiting for the plumber or propane guy.

Small Gif Cinema of the Moment

--A view inside one of those "plasma ball lights"--I was very happy to pick one up at the Christmas Tree Store for $14...originally I was thinking about calling the minimovie "bad trek fx". As always, you can see more of these things on my small gif cinema page.

Quote, Link, and Ramble of the Moment
You know that everything that you hear from science and from neurology, that you are a beast, just a hairless ape which happens to be a little bit more clever than other apes. At the same time, you don't feel like that. You feel like you're an angel trapped inside this body, constantly craving immortality, craving transcendence trying to escape from this body. And this is the essential human predicament.
Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
From his astoundingly wonderful series of lectures, Reith Lectures 2003 - The Emerging Mind.

If you have one iota of curiosity of what it means to be a human, of the mind/brain problem, you must read (or listen, they have audio links) these 5 lectures, and preferably the Q+A sessions for each one as well. He spends a lot of time talking about thos fascinating cases of localized brain damage that give us tantalizing hints about how our brains cope with the world (the "Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat" kind of thing), moves on to possible neurological understandings of our appreciation for art, and even touches on the cosmic ramifications of much of it. Admittedly the first 3 lectures are stronger than the final 2, which mostly dive deeper into some previous points. Still, I love his presentation style, which I've seen among a few really smart people who are good at given simplified but not dumbed down explanations of complex ideas. They don't present concepts as God-given facts, but in terms of "here are some observations we've made, and here's what we think it might mean." Richard Feyman reads the same way.

Two lectures have a big focus on synesthaesia, where some people have their brain crosswired so that unrelated concepts trigger each other; most strikingly, number shapes that trigger colors so strongly that the person afflicted can much more easily pick out a shape made of just those numbers out of a field of roughly similar looking numbers, because they stand out in color. (Here's a Scientific American article on the phenomenon.) I think I have just a touch of this, or something similar: some letters are likely to trigger certain numbers, and vice versa, usually tied in with phonetics. For example, I have an early drawing I made (I think of myself) that spells my name "KI4K"--R's are tied with 4's. And I once saw a poster for the movie The Fifth Elment that said "IT MU5T BE FOUND", with the S replaced with the similar looking number five. I spent a few seconds wonder why "MUFT" it be found, because for me, 5's are tightly linked to F's, not S's.

it slices! it dices!

Link of the Moment
LAN3 sent me this page on the autopsy procedure. Interesting simple cartoon illustrations (with an animated version of the whole thing as a link at the end.

Top Ten List Excerpt of the Moment
9. "Three words: Lieutenant Governor Urkel"
7. "I guess I'd have to quit my job as a security guard"
2. "I would form a task force to find out exactly what Willis was talking about"

Headline of the Moment
CNN: Siegfried: Tiger wanted to help Roy. Not quite as silly as it first sounds, but still...it got me to click!

cowboy down

Sigh, Yankees evened it up last night. On the other hand, that just means it's now a 5 game series, except now Red Sox have homefield advantage.

"Cowboy Up" is such a funny little motto/rallying gimmick for the Red Sox. I kind of like it, despite my usual caution with most things of a western theme...I mean our guys are kind of working on a paradox, a team of mavericks, but hey, humans (especially Sox fans) are complex, we can handle contradictions.

Links of the Moment
Sitting on my backlog is Multi Theft Auto, a project that makes the violent but brilliantly flexible game "Grand Theft Auto 3" into an online world with many, many homocidal maniacs about, not just the one of the usual single player mode.

Tied in with that is a great essay, Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs. (MUDs, "Multi-User Dungeons", are an older form of shared online world, exclusively text based. It's a very clever metaphor...players who are Hearts are in it for the social interaction, Clubs are out to cause other players grief, Diamonds seek to advance in status in the game's terms, and Spades try to dig up information on the mechanics of the game itself. It goes on to talk about how MUDs are generally balanced to encourage one group or another, and how the groups interact with each other in general. Cool reading.

Salvation Army Reference of the Moment
Heh. James Lileks took a picture of the Salvation Army building on 14th Street in NYC, and described it as "Very cool, but highly ominous; it's like a soul-eating machine, not a soul-saving one." My mom worked right around there for the better part of the 90s. (Whoops: Craig points out that I posted the wrong link, though this review of my current old but terrifically small and functional cellphone is a good read as well for the budding Kirkologist.)

Mascot of the Moment
This is Floyd D. Duck, the mascot of BubbleYum. According to the BubbleYum site, Floyd says "Hope you're in the mood to POP...come join the bubble party!" That's quite a rallying cry. Clearly, Floyd is a role model for anyone who enjoys the sweet pleasure that is the result of modern bubble gum technology. The site even has desktop wallpaper and screensavers with the attitude-laden mallard's visage.

on strawberries and the paths taken

(1 comment)
Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of my dad's death...I think I've said most of the things I needed to in what I wrote on the day when I had been without him for as long as I had been with him, but here are two things I'd like to post, a recent anecdote from my mom and an essay I wrote over ten years ago, that I just rekeyed in.

Anecdote of the Moment
"Had a funny incident too, that I think Dad would have enjoyed. I had my friend Wendy over for dinner last Saturday, and mentioned about Friday being the 15th anniversary of Dad's death. Wendy and I sit usually sit with a group of about eight for lunch in the canteen. On Friday the subject of October birthdays had come up, and Wendy just looked across the table at me, and in a very kind voice said, 'I really did mean to get you a card.' I knew what she was talking about, but the rest of the group immediately started wishing me 'Happy Birthday!'. Wendy look horrified for a moment, and then the two of us just burst out laughing. We did explain it once we got our breath back."
Heheheh - an e-mailed anecdote from my mom is just a lovely bit of macabre humor.

On Strawberries and the Paths Taken
I walk down the dark path at my great uncle's farm with Dad. The path is deeply ridged with tractor treads and covered with armies of rocks. There is a storage building hugging a hill, and on the hill side the roof is so low I can climb to the top and survey the strawberry fields. I don't, though. Dad and I come to a small brook and cross the wooden bridge. A sign here reads "CAUTION - STEEP BANKS, DEEP WATER". Dad warns me not to get too close. We turn right and walk past the storage house, next to the now brown fields. We pause in the chilly November night and look west. An airplane is rising, though all we can see are the three lights on the bottom. To my hyperactive eight-year-old imagination, it's a UFO riding into the inky cold of space.I tell Dad my theory. We look into the sky a little bit longer then slowly walk back to the welcoming farmhouse.
I walked down the sterile path of the hospital corridor with m mom. She had prepared me for what I was going to see. Dad had experienced seizures, and he had been diagnosed as having spinal meningitis. My mom said we were lucky; it hadn't touched his mind. However, he had lost almost all of his hand-eye coordination. He couldn't even feed himself. He was almost blind. He couldn't really see me, or my mom, but he knew our voices. His speech was slurred, almost incomprehensible. We both struggled so that I could understand him. The shock of seeing him this way banged against my mind. I really didn't feel that this was my dad, this unshaven man who needed assistance in completing the most essential tasks of life.

When my dad's seizures had first started, I had visited him in the hospital, and he was still basically well. Then, reassured that everything was going to be right, I took my planned trip to New York to visit friends. But then, after the grand-mal seizures, I did not know how to act. I hugged him stiffly, and he hugged me back, as best he could. We began to cry. I did not know how to act. What he missed most, he explained through half-spoken words and rough hand motions, were the kinds of things his father had done for him that he wanted to do for me, like giving me money out of his wallet when I needed it, with no assistance. Only now do I realize what he meant. He felt so helpless, and I was so unable to do anything to make it better. After this first visit, I went to the waiting room, trying to forget and ignore.
Finally, my dad, though still essentially bed-ridden, was able to come back home. We moved his bed into the dining room, next to the kitchen. It was my habit to pick a path downstairs to the kitchen in the dark before school every morning. One morning, as I hunted for breakfast, my dad, a very light sleeper, asked me to make him a bologna sandwich (by this time his speech had become clearer and we had become more adept at understanding him). It was a simple task. Just toast the bread and get a piece of bologna out of the fridge. Dad, although he was now able to walk with a walker, still was not able to do this himself. So every morning for a few weeks, I would offer him a bologna sandwich, a favorite of his ever since he was a boy. And then, for a reason that I cannot fully remember, I stopped. I would try to be very quiet when making my breakfast and would not offer to make his. If he asked me to make his sandwich, I would, of course, but only if he asked. Maybe I was just so stupidly lazy that I thought I couldn't wait for the time it took to make the toast. Or maybe I didn't like the constant reminder of his vulnerability, and therefore my own. I wonder if he noticed the change.
It has been eight years since we walked down the path at my great uncle's farm and two years since my dad's death. I think back to the year of slow recovery. He learned to walk with a walker, then a cane, and then unassisted. People could now understand his speech and his phone with the giant push-buttons was a prized possession. Near the end, he had relearned to read via large-print books and supermagnifying glasses. But then, tumor treatments plus pneumonia proved to be too much for him. Maybe it was too much for my mom and me, too.

At the farm, the dangerous brooks is still there. On my way down to it, I see the storage building with the low roof. Now I feel that I'm much too mature for climbing buildings. An interesting rock catches my attention. I dust it and put it in my pocket. After the bridge, I turn right instead of left and follow the brook to its other end, a small pond with ducks. Then I retrace the path we took that night eight years ago, and I squint at the setting sun. A lone strawberry lies waiting in the twilight covered path for me. On my way back, I'll throw it into the brook as a sacrifice for me and for Dad.
(An essay that I wrote during eleventh grade in high school, for Mrs. McLaughlin's class. (Later it was part of what got me recognition in the NCTE writing competition.) The writing seems clumsy to me now, but at least it is pretty forthright about what sometimes strikes me as one my bigger moral failings. )

gullible soup

Sox slipped behind a game, alas. But we did get to the amusing view of Don Zimmer rolling on the ground after trying to bullrush Pedro...

Video Game Quote of the Moment
Seriously though, who would believe that mansions get given away in contests?! Talk about stupid! What do they feed you Mario brothers anyway...gullible soup?
King Boo in the game "Luigi's Mansion"

Braingame of the Moment
Dylan sent me this 7-Up themed mathematical "Read Your Mind" game--it's pretty convincing, the tricks it uses to guess the digit you circled are relatively subtle. The UI is so-so...took me a second to realize I was supposed to click on the guy in the lower right corner.

Image of the Moment
...cartoon via Ross' page

and on and on

Sometimes I'm startled by how much time I've been working on some of my online projects, but mostly I'm amazed at how they aren't much older than some other well-established things in my life. For instance, it seems like I've been doing the LoveBlender digest forever, and it surprises me to realize that the Blender took its new form (and got mentioned in The New Yorker) August/September of 1997, and I started going out with Mo just a few months after that...and that I started the PalmPilot journal, the journal from which this blog springs, in the Spring of that same year. (And of course, all of that was only like a year out of college!) And I started the blog version of my journal late 2000 (I probably should've just waited for the new year, but I liked the idea of at some point being able to say it started in 2000), and that seems like an eternity ago...but my wedding (6 months later) and WTC (9 months later) seem much closer than that. (It somehow seems odd to me that I'd only been doing the blog for 6 months before getting married, and that there's so much more blog "after" than "before".)

So what's it all mean? I dunno!

Passage of the Moment
The Internation Express man couldn't understand it. I mean, in the old days, and it wasn't that long ago really, there had been an angler every dozen years along the bank; courting couples had come to listen to the splish and gurgle of the river, and to hold hands, and to get all lovey-dovey in the Sussex sunset. He'd done that with Maud, his missus, before they were married. They'd come here to spoon, and on one memorable occasion, fork.
Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett, "Good Omens"

Article of the Moment
I've always been a fan of Thurber, this Slate review of a book of his letters had some nice high-level analysis of his life and times.

(Solved) Nintendo Mystery of the Moment
Planet Nintendo talked about a very odd little tune that was showing up hidden in various Nintendo games...pretty cool and mysterious, though a relatively prosaic explanation exists, alas. But the whole idea of it was very provocative...

Headline of the Moment
CNN really does have the best headlines... Researchers: Monkeys use mind to move objects...I knew the research it was referring to (which seems a little behind what other folks are doing with artifical vision systems) but for a split second, I had to think "Oh my goodness...now monkeys are using the Force!" This might be how "Planet of the Apes" really gets started, you know.

what is love

(1 comment)
Parody of the Moment
A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, "What does love mean?" The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined and more than made up for the jail time they had to do. See what you think:
When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. Then she gives him a hand-job. That's love.
Rebecca - age 8
Love is what makes you smile when you're tired. Wait, no, that's coffee.
Terri - age 4
When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. They don't call you 'jerkface' like all the kids at school do. Oh, how I long for the sweet kiss of death.
Billy - age 4
Love is when you go out to eat and give someone most of your French fries without making them give you any of yours, and they don't report you to the FBI for not calling them 'freedom fries'.
Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, and he wears it every day. Then you tell him you like another guy's shirt, and he beats up the other guy and takes his shirt and gets sent to juvie. Love is fun!
Noelle - age 7
(--by Jacob W. Haller on alt.religion.kibology--probably a parody of these quotes.)

Movie of the Moment
How on earth did I miss this movie? Best title for a movie I've ever heard of.

Programmer Link of the Moment
Joel on Software on Character Encoding. S'funny how much you can get away with without this ever coming up, but when it does, man can it be painful.

Gamer Link of the Moment
We're just a-poppin' with special interest links today. Check out 1Up.com's 50 to Watch, small, highly readable profiles of the likely major players of the next few years of gaming. Overall, the site looks like an interesting up-and-comer in online coverage of video gaming.

News Thought of the Moment
Supreme Court to decide on use of Pledge in U.S. schools. You know, it seems kind of weird that people pledge allegiance to a flag. To the republic for which it stands makes sense, but I don't think enough people really grok what a flag means, at least in the sense that the pledge means it. The story I link to mentions the "under God" phrase is a johnny-come-lately Communist witch-hunt-relic anyway, but that fact isn't mentioned enough, in my opinion.

Reminds me a bit of this one time when we were playing darts against the Elks Lodge in Arlington. I was glancing at some proposed changes to their constitution, and mostly it was someone wanting to add "...and who will salute the flag" to a bunch of qualifications for membership or other roles. I wondered if there was some wanna-be Elk who was declining to salute the flag, or if they were just being paranoid, or what.

leggo my lego

Wistful Thought of the Moment
Heh...20 years ago I would've wanted this job so bad...though I guess it's not the role that builds the sets, just the big stuff, which I find less interesting.

News of the Moment
I know there's the Kobe case to get all excited about and the Red Sox in the postseason and all, but does anyone else agree that China putting a guy in space isn't getting enough attention?

Joke of the Moment from Two Weeks Ago
A midget, a bodybuilder and a porn star walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, "What is this, an election?"

Animation of the Moment
--This has been bouncing around my C: drive for a while, it's some proof-of-concept animations for the wonderfully brilliant old game Lemmings.

kisrael.com #1019

Dang it to heck, September 25 was my 1000th kisrael.com and I didn't even notice. Grrr! (And it was a lame entry too, and I knew it then, or else I wouldn't have called it "Thursday Thud"...the "Quote of the Moment" was too appropriate, in retrospect.) As always, here's how I figure these anniversary dates out. (I hope I do better at catching the 100K rollover of my car--I got a good photo at 50K.)

Sports Update of the Moment
Red Sox "evened up the series in a must-win situation" (sounds a lot better than "staved off elimination", which makes it sound like they were down 2 or 3 games, not just 1) but the Cubs lost to those "punk-ass Marlin" (not that it matters but I'm never going to forgive them for having a hearltess rich owner who bought good players, won it all, then dispersed them to the wind after a heartbreaking (for me) 7-game series over my beloved Cleveland Indians.) Still, I guess it's good, that Red Sox/Cub series, with it impossible for either team to win, would have brought about the implosion of the universe, so I guess we caught a good break there.

I'm kidding. Sox are going to win it all.

Grumble of the Moment
Hidden Tracks on CDs. What the hell is the point? Either it's a normal track that they leave out of the listing, or they stick a song at the end of another song, or they do something stupid like put 90-odd blank tracks between the normal songs and tht hidden treasue, or a ton of silence. Do they think they're being funny? Or cute? Or interesting? Wrong on all 3 counts.

Article of the Moment
I've gained a lot of respect for Slate.com over the past few years...frankly, it's a more consistently interesting site than Salon. Today they had a run down on the top candidates to be the next pope...a lot of politics and other considerations. (Interestingly, the top 4 candidates consist of a Black, a Hispanic, an American, and (in a technical sense) a Jew.)

Tourist Attraction of the Moment
Whoa! The Colossal Colon Tour is in Boston, right now! Copley Square, to be exact. Clearly, you don't want to pass up the chance to crawl through a 40 foot long, 4 foot tall model of a human colon, right? And see things like things like cancer and Crohn's disease and polyps?


Oy, a dark day in Boston. Yankees still suck, though.

I'm just trying to imagine the conversation between manager Grady Little and pitcher Pedro Martinez on the mound in the eighth:

"Pedro, you've pitched 7 great innings. Your pitch count is a pretty big 120, though, and I'm a little worried about this lefty Hideki Matsui who gave you some trouble in game 3. We could put in our own lefty Alan Embree in to face him, but in order to decide I need to ask you one question: are you in fact the reincarnation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, blessed with supernatural powers that should let you go for the full 9 innings tonight?"
"Why, yes...yes, I think I am."
"Well then--carry on!"

Duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhr. At least now I can stop thinking about baseball, it's a really annoying sport to be concerned about.

Quote of the Moment
I'd do Einstein in a minute.
Gina Gershon on the Howard Stern show

Programmer Link of the Moment
Stirring up some controversy a week or two ago, Software Fashion, making fun of some of the "hottest trends", has good points, though it's a bit blustering at times.

dumbasses who web support

(1 comment)
Crap. Yesterday I called up my webhost to workout some quota issues with the loveblender. They offered to remove some old "log files". I think those "log files" were my content for the past 6 years. Look, dumbasses, just because a directory is named "1998july" doesn't mean it's a damn log file. I just hope they have backups, because I (of course) just realized the ones I made earlier this year have some serious gaps...

Worst case scenario, a surprising amount of the content seems to be preserved at The Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

Joke of a Few Moments Ago
Memo to Cruz Bustamante: Alfred Hitchcock's Estate called. They want his silhouette back.
Phil's Phunny Phacts

Link of the Moment
Cool project idea, a polaroid of a polaroid of a polaroid of a....

Game History of the Moment
I had kind of lost track of the myriad of sequels in the Mega Man series, but The History of Mega Man set me straight. Good coverage.

robot on wheel

Not going to be a big kisrael-ish weekend, I'm afraid...I'm working on porting the Blender to a new host, but really I keep coming back to this brilliant 1999 N64 game, Rocket: Robot on Wheels. It's a really nice platformer/puzzle game that makes great use of a terrific physics engine. The main character design is great as well...you control this little robot that's basically Marvin the Martian melded with a unicycle. (Hmm, shouldn't it be "Robot on Wheel" then?) With a tractor beam instead of arms, that you can use to swing from various hooks, or carry objects around. I was reminded about this game when it showed up on Gamespy's Top 25 Underrated Games, and I'm glad I picked it up from half.com.

Quote of the Moment
...if the church put in half the time on covetousness that it does on lust, this would be a better world.
Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon Days

Quote and Link of the Moment
After the first few times I played [this Japanese 'drumming' video game], a strange new screen began to flash after nearly every game. I could not figure out what this screen was at first, because it was in Japanese. Then I realized: It was the high-score screen. I was setting new high scores every time I played. You could tell because it was asking me to select three kanji characters, and then these would display next to my score at the top of a list. This was deeply satisfying, because it demonstrated how beautiful was my gift. It was also deeply frustrating, however, because I don't know how to write 'ASS' in kanji characters.
The article is a great read for anyone interested in Japanese culture. I was amused by this ending, refering to a sophomoric, profane urge every videogamer in the 80s felt at least every once in a while.

Geek Note of the Moment
Not sure if anyone else will find this useful, but sometimes I like to leave little technotes to myself for future reference (come to think of it, I have a seperate database for this kind of thing, but whatever.) Anyway, to do a recursive "search and replace" in Unix (that has Perl installed), try
perl -e "s/oldstring/newstring/g;" -pi.bak $(find nameofdirectory -type f)
According to this CoolComputing page, this will replace oldstring with newstring in all files, making a ".bak" backup.

Followup: obviously it helps to know a little about perl and/or unix to full use this...Like if you're substitution involves funny characters or slashes, you needed to escape 'em thusly: \/
Or, in my case, it was loading up too many files, so I had to add in a "-name *cgi" after the "-type f".

the smell of spam in the morning

Heh. Nothing like waking up to six copies of e-mail with a subject "Put a bullet in SPAM!shenanigan" in a row. (All to the same e-mail address...usually multiple Spams at least our targetting different e-mail for the same account.) And to think they say irony is dead.

Quote of the Moment
If you took all the students that fell asleep in class and laid them end to end, they'd be a lot more comfortable.
Graffiti in the Big Ten

Game Link of the Moment
"Elite" was one of the awesomest games of the early 1980s...you flew a spaceship around a wireframe universe, fighting off pirates (or being a bounty hunter yourself!), trying to make a living trading goods from planet to planet. (Actually, one of the coolest things was your path wasn't set, you had many alternatives to try to make your way.) Years ahead of its time, I remember playing it on Todd Beecher's C=64. Slashdot posted to an Guardian article on the history of the game, or you can check out the author's Elite homepage...including information on Elite: The Musical.

The article goes into some detail about how they auto-generated their galaxies; rather than coming up with the memory needed to store the details of a handcrafted universe, they came up with some pseudo-random formulae to generate a huge number of planets. From there, it was a matter of 'gardening' to find the sequences that would make a good gamer experience. (I remember being very impressed with the game's sequel called "Frontier"--the universe it created was even more rich and impressive, yet it still all fit on a 1.4 meg floppy.)

Software of the Moment
Feh. I probably won't have time to play with this 3D modeling and motion program 'Juice' but it looks like fun...

steven seagal bad

Quote of the Moment
I need a semibad movie to de-stress--like, not Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-bad, maybe Steven-Seagal-bad.
Mo, 2003-10-18

Article of the Moment
Slate.com on the fraud of "saint" Mother Theresa. It's really funny how saint-crazy this pope is, you think he would have more respect for the process. Good quote from the article: "MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty."

Geek Link of the Moment
Eric Raymond has made a copy of The Art of Unix Programming available online (first link on that page, of course people are encouraged to buy the deadtree version as well.) Great reading about the history and philosphy of Unix...I liked Appendix D, The Unix Koans of Master Foo. (The Editor's Introduction links to some other cases of Westgern Programming and Eastern Philosophy.)

we read the news so you don't have to

Slate of the Moment
Two cool things from Slate, why the Republicans are wrong to discount the importance of the Northeast, and then a description of a medical procedure used on Roy (of Siegfried fame) where they implant a piece of skull they had to remove into his abdomen for safe keeping...really kind of interesting.

Local News of the Moment
Huh. Waltham is having a ballot initiative "Question 1", that would reduce property taxes by 25%, though quite possibly at the cost of services like non-fee-based garbage and recycling. Dale Worley has made a page analyzing the issue. Frankly, I don't put a lot of trust in citizen based tax cuts like this. I'm no fan of government waste, but I tend to prefer stronger services over lower taxes.

Quote of the Moment
The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
Winston Churchill
This kind of helps explain why I'm against this general trend of more things decided by direct ballot. We're not a direct democracy, we're a democratic republic, and that old line about "democracy being two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner" comes to mind. (2019 UPDATE: so the electoral college is still a lousy idea - or rather, a bound delegates make it a shitty implementation, despite what protections the system offers for underpopulated rural (and one time slave-owning-- not a coincidence) areas)

News of the Past Moment
Huh, I didn't hear that much about the guy who went over Niagra Falls...mostly just references to it happening.

reddy kilowatt rocks

Q+A of the Moment
Answers to Questions Kids Might Ask GE Mascot Reddy Kilowatt During His Tour of American Elementary Schools.
Q: Is that light-bulb head supposed to be cute?
A: You'll have to ask my designers, but I believe it's supposed to be indirectly educational.
Q: What, as if we never saw a light bulb before?
A: Not everyone has had your advantages.
Q: Why are your arms all crooked?
A: They're bolts of energy.
Q: Do you have a penis?
A: No.
Q: So, are you from outer space or what?
A: No, I'm just a drawing.
Q: Can I get a suit like yours?
A: You wouldn't be skinny or zigzag enough to wear it.
Q: I know fire isn't exactly electric, but what about flame throwers? Or bazookas? How about bombs? Are they electric? Or are you just to help Mom's blender make yogurt shakes for babies?
A: All the things you mention have electric components.
Q: What about those giant robots that Godzilla fights? Are they alive?
A: As a form of brute nature, I'm unqualified to comment on the dramatic arts.
Q: Is it satisfying to flow through the body of a condemned killer?
A: No, I'm emotionless. As lightning, I strike innocent forest rangers and prairie housewives, too.
Q: What happens if you touch water? Do you die?
A: Electricity does not conceive of its own cessation.
Q: What about "sexual electricity"? Is it really electricity?
A: I'm answering children's questions only, sir.
Q: They always show atomic energy with big muscles. You must be jealous, huh?
A: I don't get a chance to look at other drawings.
Q: Why is it we get wax in our ears and snot in our nose? Why not snot in the ears and wax in the nose? Why not the same thing in both places?
A: That's a biological matter, to which I'm indifferent. I only seem to live.
Q: So if I waste electricity, like, by leaving the lights on all night, do you go lie down somewhere and weep?
A: No. You're thinking of Christ.
Q: I don't think you're neat. I think you're queer.
A: That's not a question.
Q: Let me get this straight. Does it mean your nose and your stomach and your gloves and all of you are made of nothing but energy?
A: Believe it or not, kid, so are you.

Not sure where I originally saw this, maybe Spy Magazine. "Electricity does not conceive of its own cessation", heh. Here's the Toonpedia entry on Reddy.

Link of the Moment
That Reddy Kilowatt logo, along with many other industrial logos (I think they were all companies that made radio tubes) can be found at The People's Logo Page. I love that old-school styling.

Prose of the Moment
I'm really not sure I understand the what and wherefore of The Previous Adventures of Popeye the Sailor but I really like reading it...the way it turns the cartoon character into an almost elemental-force archetype, grounded in both kiddy popculture and the reality of life as a sailor.

feedback feedback

Guestbook Quote of the Moment
Support GFD (go fork a donkey)... i pooed in woods!
I'm happy to note that as of this writing, my guestbook is the #1 Google match for go fork a donkey, with or without quotes. (On the other hand, without the quotes, if you put a + sign before the a, it is only the second match. Google is a harsh mistress.)

Comments Followup of the Moment
Another nearly forgotten mascot character is Mr. Zip, advocate for those new fangled sets of five digits that help our mail get delivered in a timely fashion. Here's a page about his background that mentions he was phased out when they started to use Zip+4...you would think they could give him 4 little helper kids or something. At least one webpage wants him back. (Thanks to LAN3 who wrote mentioning him the other week (after the Floyd D. Duck incident,) and then Mr. Zip came up in yesterday's comments. I guess he does bear a passing resemblance to Reddy Kilowatt.)

Essays of the Moment
I've posted this Star Wars vs Star Trek site before, but yesterday I got into its essays page. The one called Brain Bugs was my favorite, pointing out idiocies in Star Trek writing that I hadn't thought much about. (He also gets into some of the cultural issues, not just sticking to the 'science', and makes some good points.) The guy is kind of funny, he's such a "hard" sci-fi guy (ala the old school rockets and metal kind) and he makes very logical arguments, but they tend to miss the point that they argue the nature of entire fictional universes based on what the tv or moviemakers assume would look cool on film for one scene or another. (Also, though he would probably deny this, there is an implicit "this sci-fi is better because its technology is more powerful" factor. I mean, I could put forward a sci-fi universe with technology so powerful that it uses Death Stars energy beams like we use AA batteries, but that doesn't mean it's an interesting universe. This guy would argue that no, it's just an academic "which tech is more powerful" argument, and that my universe is pointless without describing the technologies that would make it happen, but still.)

Heh. Between these essays pointing out how the Trek universe is a jingoistic, communistic nightmare, and some other essays about Star Wars (not to mention my latest video gaming disappointment, Rogue Squadron 3: Rebel Strike where Luke slashes his way through dozens of Daogobah indigineous critters as 'training', and uses machine-gun like emplacements to mow down literally hundreds of stormtroopers in what can only be called a massacre), I'm thinking the sci-fi universes I loved so much as a kid were much darker than I realized, that maybe the shows and movies are just propaganda for the Federation or Rebel Alliance, respectively.

News of the Moment
Neurotics, start your engines--Solar Flare on its Way to Earth! (If it's Saturday night when you're reading this, then we're fine. Well, we're probably fine anyway.

Day of the Moment
I remember the Car Talk guys mentioning today is "National Slack-Off Day". I wonder if that ties into it also being Take Back Your Time Day? Which seems to be semiserious in some of its goals. (I think in both cases, the choice of date reflects the fact that American workers (on average I assume) work 9 more weeks per year than their European counterparts.

memory's a traitor

(1 comment)
Might not be such a big update day. Peterman and Leslee invited Mo and I over for a yummy brunch of big pineapple slices plus french toast and bananas foster. Also some melon that I thought tasted oddly like bologna. But hey. Anyway, I ended up spending most of the day with them so that threw off my typical update schedule.

Quote of the Moment
If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out.
Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (via Ross)

kingfish of the world

Yankees lost the world series to the Marlins. In general I'd be against the Marlins after their previous win of that title over the Indians, and the way that their fans don't know what it's like to lose a postseason series. But they have some likeable players and a cool old guy coach and the sweet schadenfreude of watching the Yankees lose is just too much. Yay Marlins.

Patriots vs. Browns today, so I have a bit of divided loyalty. I guess my best strategy for games where I'd like to root for both sides is to put my stock in the team that's having a better season, and is more likely to end up in the playoffs. (And it's less stressful to not be rooting for the underdog.) Guess that's the Patriots this game.

Oh yeah...don't forget to set your clocks back if you haven't already. Oddly, my cellphone hasn't picked up the change yet, and I'm pretty sure its getting its time from the network.

Lyrics of the Moment
The bells of Hell go ding-a-ling-a-ling, For you but not for me; And the little devils sing-a-ling-a-ling, For you but not for me; Oh death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling, Oh grave, thy victor-ee? The bells go ding-a-ling-a-ling, For you but not for me.
--One day at Sunday School at Cleveland Temple they did an odd little skit thing with this song. The lyrics have stuck with me, either because of the fun of "the bells of hell go ding-a-ling-a-ling" or maybe the maliscous joy of "for you but not for me"...guess it's a schadenfreude kind of day all around.

Toy of the Moment
Sand is a cool little electronic toy. Little particles drift down, and you can draw in ledges and what-not. I had a little better luck with the windows download at first (plus you can resize it) but then the online java versions seemed to be fine, and had more interesting variations there from the sidebar.

Observation of the Moment
Huh. I think I finally found a use for SPAM...it's such a reliable flow, that when it stops coming, it might be time to double check that everything's ok with your email account...

we read metafilter so you don't have to

Art of the Moment
If you're really into online toys like yesterday's "Sand", this Metafilter post has a whole alphabet of 'em. People on the message board really seemed to dig "Y", which reminded me of this one old videogame...

tnemoM eht fo kniL
?sdrawkcab etis siht ees ot tnaW

Site of the Moment
The Sound of Eating is a guide to the Pac-Man universe. Well, mostly just the arcade games (not the cartoon and all of that.) The Ghost Psychology page was one of the more interesting ones; amazing how much thought went into the personalities of those ghosts. I wonder how much that aided the popularity of the game, I've played some clones that I'm pretty sure had less complex ghost psychology and I don't think I notice a difference while playing.

The First Church of Pac-Man may also be worth a browse through, seems to all be on one page for easy scrollability.

If you're really intereted in this stuff, you can always see some previous Pac entries here on kisrael.

it was a class on romance

Dialog of the Moment
"Remember that class you tried to hold last semester, out of your dorm room?"
"Err, not really."
"It was a class on romance..."
"Oh, that one."
"...that mostly consisted of 45 minutes of you fiddling with the VCR, trying to find the right part of the tape, giving helpful advice like 'if you're watching videos on a date I guess you should try not to do this, then'."
"And then there was something about how sometimes it was romantic to casually slip a hand in someones front jeans pocket."
"Or vice-versa, you said."
"But then you suggested 'but not to the extent that you acquire a nickname like 'itchyballs'.'"
"Thanks for remembering."
"My pleasure."
--Jen (an old girlfriend) and I, in a dream I had this morning that made me giggle out loud. Paraphrased a bit, I tried to punch it up so you could see what I was giggling about.

Geek Link of the Moment
Possibly about to be slashdotted to heck, the images of putting a model of the Enterprise through a "atmospheric re-entry simulator" are hard core geek cool.

Geekier Link of the Moment
A Russian site looks at toilets as portrayed in video games. Many different video games. Strange world we live in. Would it make more sense in Russian?

News of the Moment
Looks like theres news of another earthbound solar flare. That final line ("Space weather forecasters say this spate of strong solar flares unusual because it is not following normal patterns of solar behavior. The sun follows an 11-year cycle of activity, with the last peak being around 2000") gives me a bad feeling.

jack and jill-o-lantern

(1 comment)
This year's pumpkins by me and Mo. (Maybe not as cool a photo as last year's, but better designs I think. The demonic guy on the right makes use of the fem's broken off stem.)

Quote of the Moment
If you want a vision of the future, it is a wireless broadband network feeding requests for foreign money-laundering assistance into a human temporal lobe, forever. With banner ads.
John M. Ford

Thought Provoker of the Moment
Really thought-provoking audio segment from NPR: this woman was almost diagnosed as being in a "persistent vegitative state", though she was very aware of the "pulling the plug" discussions going on around her. She tried to signal with her hands, and it was only because a nurse started paying attention that she was saved.

For myself, I don't want to drag on my own possible future vegitative existence at the cost of all that wear on my friends and family, but I want people to make damn sure I'm not aware of what's going on.

Movie of the Moment
Wouldn't your day be better with some human beatbox and harmonica? I thought so.

those a cappella grooves

(1 comment)
You know, I only sang a cappella for a year with Tufts sQ, and only put together one or two songs, but it's had a surprisingly lasting influence in how I listen to music. I think I still listen to songs with an ear for "would this be a good a cappella piece", picking out different instrumental lines. And, like a surpisingly large percentange of a cappella singers, I hate listening to a cappella for the most part, but enjoy singing it. Go figure. (And it's not like there are a ton of groups out there just waiting for random less-than-half-assed ideas for good a cappella arrangements...)

Toys of the Moment
Actually, the guy who made that Sand java toy I posted a few days ago has a page with some other java toys. "Spring" is cool, if a little spastic, and I guess the toy "Fire" would be more fun to play with if it didn't strike so close to home...or rather, Californian homes.

Quote of the Moment
If God is dead, who will save the Queen?

News Quote of the Moment
I have not seen anything like it in my entire career as a solar physicist. The probability of this happening is so low that it is a statistical anomaly.
You know, 'statistical anomaly' is NOT what I want to hear from solar physicists about my particular sun.

Slashdot Thread of the Moment
I thought that this slashdot thread on the future of videogames was pretty good. (Including my own post, if I do say so myself, along with one other guy who modded it as "+1, Insightful")

2019 UPDATE-- here's what I wrote:
It's amazing how scripted 3D human movement is in 90% of games. Take Soul Caliber 2; during some of Voldo's victory poses (and you think they could take the time to do victory poses right, since they can be easily 100% scripted without interference from either player) his weapon passes right through the floor! That's just wrong. Essentially, what we need (well, not need, but it's a worthwhile goal) is "rag doll physics" in everything. Polygon/limb-specific damage shouldn't even be an issue. If a character walks, that should reflect his (or her) legs and feet moving against the floor, using the arms for balance...

it's going to be rough for a while, because suddenly walking and jumping go from easily recorded and replayed events to challenging AI problems (and if we're not careful, everything's gonna walk around like that Honda ASIMO 'bot) But I think just like N64 era games had "stairs" that were just hills with vaguely stair like textures, this gen's scripted movement will seem like an anachronism.

GTA has started to address this, at least in terms of car physics. Despite the fact that it has special camera angles (and behaviors?) for certain jumps, all the vehicle stuff is based on an essential core physics model. GTA is also interesting for overlaying a scripted adventure on a world that doesn't feel like it's exclusively been created for the player...although RAM limitations means vehicles and pedestrians aren't nearly as persistent as they should be, and it's not like a UO virtual economy or anything, it has the flavor of a 'real', persistent, and self-consistent place. With absolutely NO traffic laws :-)

halloween flare up

Funny of the Moment
I'm Steve Stevenson for the daily channel 192 news. Tonight, in a related story we brought to you yesturday, the sun has once again tried to destroy the earth. The sun claims that "we were in the way" and stated "when ya gotta go, ya gotta go..."

President George W. Bush commented on the topic claiming that the sun may be in league with known terrorist group Al-Queda. President Bush attempted to stare down the sun in a show of bravery when his eyes were severely burned due to over exposure to UV rays without blinking. Later on today, President Bush will be launching a "Shock and Awe campaign" directed towards the sun to send the message that the United States does not deal with terrorists...

Also, DogIsMyCoprocessor pointed out that maybe it's time we give up on Allah, Jesus, Buddha, etc, and go back to the Sun Gods, 'cause clearly they're getting a bit ticked...

Advertisement of the Moment
This is quite the ad for gum. I have never been so disturbed by nipples on a guy.

Halloween Costume and Lyrics and Phoon of the Moment
I think I love you,
Ms. Pac-Man.
I know your boyfriend.
What do you see in him?
He is round & yellow.
Look at me--I am sexy and trim!
Johnny Blue-jeans, Viva Varieté.
Man, that was a great Comedy Central show.

Anyway, I ment Ms. Pac-Man at that paper store between Porter and Harvard Square.

Incidentally, my pose is a 'phoon'--I've been meaning to write up that odd genre of "capturing the running action" photos, but wanted to make up an example first. Here you go, then!

2003 October❮❮prevnext❯❯