november

(11 comments)
November 1, 2003

Welcome to November!

Video of the Moment
This is how the world ends / This is how the world ends / This is how the world ends / Not with a bang but a flash video. Ok, maybe some bangs in there too. (It sounds a bit like Mario Twins, not sure if its the same guys or not.)

Gamer Link of the Moment
I found this making of (the Xbox game) Halo article reprinted from the UK "Edge" magaine was a decent read, though I'm yet to really have played the game.

pass the peas, honey

(2 comments)
November 2, 2003

Lyric of the Moment
i eat my peas with honey
i've done it all my life
it makes the peas taste funny
but...uh...well...
I have this kind of fetish thing about legumes dipped in sticky substances
--I was bugging some of my AIM buddies with this. Few of them thought my twist of an old rhyme was as amusing as I apparently did.

Images of the Moment
Blurred up enough to not be very stimulating, some guy put all the playboy centerfolds together into 4 lumpy images, each image is the "mean average" of all the centerfolds from that decade. Worth the 5 seconds or so it takes to get the idea and move on, that's all.

Joke of the Moment
Q: How many people belonging to a certain ethnic group does it take to perform a particular menial activity?
A: A finite positive integer. One to perform the activity, and the rest to behave in a manner stereotypical of their ethnic group!
--David Albert on rec.humor.funny.reruns

Shirts of the Moment
I just made a new Blender Digest...and I'm plugging some shirts I'm going to have made. I'm not sure which design we're going to go with yet, but hop on over and let me know if you're interested in getting one of these fine piece of apparel.

rambling ambitionramble

(4 comments)
November 3, 2003

I've been navel-gazing lately, and I realized that one of my defining characteristics is "lack of big ambitions"--but figuring out the root of that, and what the implications are, has been a bit enlightening.

Spun one way, I think the "lack of ambition" comes from this tendency to not want to play when I think I'm unlikely to win (which isn't the same as its inverse) I don't even like setting goals unless I have a handle on what the risk factors are. This goes way back, come to think of it...I remember strongly objecting when my mom would suggest academic goals along the lines of "X number of A's, no more than Y B's". I'm much happier with an approach of putting in a good, honest effort and seeing where I end up. I have enough confidence in my abilities that I tend to assume I'll end up in a good position...and so far it seems to have worked out pretty well.

Another facet of this outlook, and I don't know if it's a cause or effect, is that I have an almost Zen-like (or maybe more properly "Taoist") materialistic acceptance of most situations I'm in. I sometimes attribute this to "moving around a lot when I was a kid", that I've learned to be content wherever I am...which isn't to say I can't judge my circumstances, or make adjustments and improvements, but I don't have aspirations to, say, a bigger house and a better car. I mean, I know I'd like to be wealthy, and achieve immortality through my work (or by not dying, like Woody Allen suggests,) but I think those are pretty long odds, and I don't want to get worked up worrying about them; I'd rather spend my time and energy and resources on the things I find important to me here and now: Mo, my websites, good books, programming, spending time with friends, playing games.

I dunno. Is everyone like that? How typical is this outlook?

On another, completely unrelated note: fractions. Lately I've been thinking how "1/2" doesn't sound like that much, exactly as much yes as no, but "2/3" sounds like a lot, a clear majority. But broken down into decimals, there's only a 16 or 17% difference between them, which sounds like practically nothing, statistical error almost. So something must be slightly broken in my intuition about fractions, or about decimals. Maybe 16.66666....% is more than I give it credit for. Maybe 2/3 isn't that much. I'm not sure.

Vietnam of the Moment
Number of U.S. troops who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last two years : 354
Number who died in Vietnam in 1963 and 1964 : 324
--Harper's Index, October 2003. I remembered that little statistic this morning after reading a Salon piece on Oiling Up the Draft Machine (subscription or day pass required for the whole thing)--there aren't active draft plans yet, but they might be quietly gearing up so that it would be an easier thing to turn to if needed.

The funny thing is I've previously liked the idea of making young people do military service or volunteer work; though of course I formed that opinion in a different political environment, assuming it'd be more like Germany (where they have it but it would be political suicide to use it) and less like Russia (where they have, and used it, ala Afghanistan and Kashmir.) With these guys in office though...


Article of the Moment
Slate says Stop calling firefighters "heroes"--they're brave men with a dangerous job that helps our society...but it's a less dangerous job than many others (including pizza delivery) and the men (and women) aren't above emphasizing and getting perks from their heroic perception. (I know at WTC, there was some under-reported resentment at the treatment remains of fallen firefighters got, relative to other victims. And that's further complicated by the way a communication failure was responsible for a large number of the deaths.)

victualer!

(4 comments)
November 4, 2003

Sign of the Moment
This is to Certify That Asian Grill is hereby licensed by the License Comission of the City of Waltham as a "COMMON VICTUALER".
--Sign in "Asian Grill Restaurant". IHNFOICIJLS* "Common Victualer".

Link of the Moment
I just read Slate's latest Surpreme Court Dispatch by Dahlia Lithwick...summaries of the proceedings and arguments with a lot of snide remarks, very fun reading. I should check out some of the older ones.

Ramble of the Moment
You know, I think smoking is kinda dumb, but everyone who smokes isn't quite as stupid as nonsmokers assume. There is a valid stress relief thing there. On the other hand, I get kind of sick of smokers' persecution complex--especially people who just throw the damn butts anywhere. That's why we're so annoyed by you! Like the bumper sticker says, or should say, "the world is not your damn ashtray". Cigarette butts are too much of a tiny toxic bit of pollution to just throw around anywhere.

Of course, I love that tobacco industry ad "TOBACCO IS WHACKO if you're a teen". How the hell did they convince anyone to let them stick that "if you're a teen" line in there? "...but if you're a grownup it ROCKS, baby" is the insinuation, I guess. Feh.

Oh, in case you haven't heard, some scientist/simpson fans managed to make the previously fictional Tomacco plant, Tomato plus tobacco. Just plain poisonous instead of incredibly tasty and addictive, but hey, if we were all yellow skinned with enormous eyes and four fingers on each hand, we'd probably handle it no problem.

me by the sea

(5 comments)
November 5, 2003

Lyrics of the Moment
I'm glad no one's here just me by the sea
I'm glad no one's here to mess it up for me
I'm glad no one's here just me by the sea
But man, I wish I had a hand to hold

I saw an orange starfish on the side of a rock
I poked on his back & tried to pull him off
A crab scared me away he ran close to my toes
And man, I wish I had a hand to hold

The moon is nowhere almost time for the sun
The voice of the waves sound anciently young
I'm a prisoner of freedom ten toes in the sand
And man, I wish I had a hand to hold

I'm in the habit of being alone
I try hard to break it I can't on my own

I'm glad no one's here just me by the sea
I'm glad no one's here to mess it up for me
I'm glad no one's here just me by the sea
But man, I wish I had a hand to hold
--Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. I've always dug these lines. I think Edie Brickell is a little underrated.

News Article of the Moment
Science proves that Classic Video Games are good for you and your memory. Well, for 25-45 year old guys.

Link of the Moment
15 Trends Taking Shape in Logo Design. I've always liked logos. Glad they're finally getting away from all those stpid double spiral things.

life of the hacker

(3 comments)
November 6, 2003

Logo of the Moment
Speaking of logos (yesterday), Eric S. Raymond would like this Symbol to become a 'hacker emblem'. (Hacker in its original sense of doing interesting things with computers, not breaking into them.) It's the 'glider' pattern from Conway's Game of Life where cells live, die, or are born based on how many living neighbors they had last turn. The 'Glider' is one of the simplest patterns that can copy itself as it moves across the board...if you paint into into the program that I just linked to, you will see it copy itself across the board (each click being made up of a slightly different group of cells) unless it bumped into more cells, or in the case of this java app, the edge of the world. Anyway, I like the design of this.

Link of the Moment
Worst Inventions Ever. Vibrating Bowel-Mover to the the Parachute Hat and beyond. Actually, a pretty quick read.

Music Video of the Moment
Sawers sent me this link, num1000 512kb cache mix, a high energy j-pop music video. Frantic. And as John mentioned, there's always The Badgers...

tetrus questus

(4 comments)
November 7, 2003

Guestbook Response of the Moment
Someone has been posting asking where to find old-school Nintendo "Tetrus". Well, as long as you spell it "Tetris", you should have no problems finding cartridges for almost any system on E-Bay, or a thousand online versions if you search on Google...here's one.

Flash Tool of the Moment
Slate Whack-A-Pol lets you pick your presidential canidate by process of elimination...pick the issues that are important to you, and down go the canidates who disagree with that position.

Link of the Moment
Heheheh, the Buttafly Guide to Interpreting Friendster Photos.

Quote of the Moment
"We didn't have any money, and we didn't have Coke left, and I was literally trying to finish this. And I looked at the Red Bull, and I'm like, 'It has caffeine in it!' I literally went through most of a case that time, and I was up two or three days ... The strange thing about Red Bull is that it has this really weird ability, and it's not just the caffeine, to keep you really sharp and focused, even though you've been up for two or three days. Usually [on caffeine], you get hazy and you're wired but you're tired, mentally not functioning. But [on Red Bull] you can focus, and you can think logically and clearly. You get tired, but usually it just gets you tired to the point where you're not likely to get distracted. You're just kind of a zombie, but you can focus and think, and it helped to do massive amounts of programming where I had thought of the design before, and I just had to do the programming ... By the end of it, I called the cops because there was a car across the street the second night and I thought it was going to do something bad. I remember calling the cops, and they said something about it not being in their jurisdiction, call somebody else. And then I realized I was kind of going crazy."
--Napster creator Shawn Fanning, in this Salon Article. I just like that realization at the end, more than the implicit endorsement of Red Bull.

my line is so beating the heck out of your stupid line. fear my pink line. you have no chance. i am the undisputed lord of virtual tennis. whoops.

(4 comments)
November 8, 2003

Link of the Moment
EGM presenting Kids Say The Darndest Things about the Video Games of our youth. Whipper Snappers! Back in my day we had 4 colors, and 10 pixels...and we liked it!

AIM Exchange of the Moment
LAN3: Lunar eclipse tonight-- natural occultation, or NASA coverup of renewed solar activity? Makes you wonder!
kirk: I thought it was just the moon saying "hmmm...mind if I stand just on this side of you for a bit? thanks"
--LAN3 had previous expressed amusement at my solar flare paranoia...

Toy of the Moment
Lovely...Ranjit point me to a Virtual Paper Snowflake Construction Kit. The interface seems a little funny at first...you can only start cutting at the edge of the paper, for instance. But nicely done, and unlike the real thing, it has an "undo" button.

Ugh

(3 comments)
November 9, 2003

PC died last night. Suspicously after Mo tried putting her mother's failed hard drive in...but it worked for hours after that, so maybe not.

Won't boot at all, just goes through WinXP's "Oops Couldn't Boot, do you want to choose safe mode, normal, or what" screen, tries to start for 10 seconds (putting up some list of file names) then resets and goes back to that Oops screen.

Ugh. If I can't get my data off that, I'm going to be a very sad man.

And no matter what happens, I will start backing up. I was halfway there already, everything I want to back up I keep in C:\data\ . But it was a big bulky directory with a lot of photos, and so I didn't get into the schedule of making backups the way I should've.

Aargh.

hard drives with a little help from my friends

(4 comments)
November 10, 2003

With a little help from my friends I was able to get the data off of my old drive. Although I didn't act on my previous vague backup plans, having everything in just a few directories made life a lot easier.

Thanks for the advice in the messageboard. I don't think it's a VGA thing; even safe mode doesn't start. Either something is hosed in the boot part of the drive (virus?) or maybe it's with the overall system.

People: If you have files that are important to you, Back It Up. This week. Put a copy somewhere else, and figure out how to keep that copy safe. (This can make your life easier when it's time to change computers anyway.)

Link of a Previous Moment
Since things are pretty hectic, maybe it's time to rely on the good old backlog...here's an old Wired article on well shaped curves-- a statistical distributions that seems to be showing up as much as the famous bell cuve these days. (I think they're also called "bathtub curves".)

Quote of the Moment
"I've said it before and I'll say it again. There is no way, no way that you could come from my loins. Soon as we get home, I'm gonna put a lump on your mama's head."
--Buford T. Justice, Smokey and the Bandit III

i need to look evil

(113 comments)
November 11, 2003

Hey, does anyone around Boston have a black or dark grey trenchcoat I could borrow for a costume?

Anyway, for the time being I'm working off of Mo's old laptop, placed on my usual worktable. There's something nice about working on such a self-contained little unit (even though the laptop dies instantly if momentarily removed from the wallplug, this minimizing it's usefulness as portable device.) But it...I dunno, does a good job of putting the computer in its place, it feels like less of a dominant thing in my life. Which is an illusion, but hey.

Link of the Moment
TechInterview.org has those little mindbender problems some companies like to ask on interviews. They generally don't have a lot to do with the job you're actually applying for, but they let an interviewer see the way you work you're way through difficult or even unsolvable problems. (Or, they just give less than clever interviewers something to ask, with letting them watch you squirm as a bonus.) The site also features discussions and solutions of the problems, so BONUS!

Anti-Censorship of the Moment
Time magazine cowardly dropped its 1998 essay by Bush Sr and Brent Scowcroft on why we didn't topple Saddam during Gulf War I from its onlne archives. It's a good essay in its own right, which seems damn near prescient now. Plus, the astonishingly Orwellian overtones of its removal speaks volumes...thank god for the free roots of the Internet, and lets hope the right to publish remains.

In a similar vein, looks like McD's has storngarmed strongarmed (thanks John) Merriam-Webster into dropping "McJob" from its new words section. They try to convince people that they're only doing it to prevent confusion with their disadvantaged/handicapped workers program McJOBS. Yeah, right.

Immaturity of the Moment
--from the Unh! Project, "A collection of guttural moans from comics" Look closely at this one, the "Captain America! I command you to..." just totally makes the tableau for me.

but is it art

(5 comments)
November 12, 2003

Quote of the Moment
"One hand washes the other... And both hands wash the face."
--Art Carney, 1918-2003

Geek Link of the Moment
A link that is ubergeeky even by my geek standards, organizing your life via CVS. Not the pharmacy chain, that's "Content Versioning Concurrent Versions System" (thanks Eric) a piece of (most often Unix) software that lets you keep track of modifications of old files and see their history, and when you're developing software with a team, let people work on some of the same files at the same time without getting in each other's way too badly. In practice, I found it a very difficult program to work with, and I generally prefer systems that let individuals "lock" files, keeping others from editing them, rather than CVS's philosophy of "lets have a big everyone edit party! I'll put all the changes together automagically, don't you worry your sweet little head about it."

I'm trying to find a reference to this one concept "file system of the future" (maybe by Ray Kurzweil?) that organizes your files in a giant timeline, where you have an at-a-glance-view of all the files you created (or modified?) at any given time. I think they picture it as recording even more than that. But my recent computer disaster have gotten me to think about a similar approach, that just for backup purposes, rather than having all my files in c:\data in a single "logical hierarchy", that it should be the same "logical hierarchy" repeated every year. Chronology is really central to how I think about all my myriad files.

Followup: Ranjit dropped a hint that led me to this Wired article on David Gelerntner's 'Lifestreams'. Actually, what he sniffingly and amusingly wrote was "I *think* it was David Gelerntner who 'invented' sort-by-date and says it's a revolutionary new system of organization", though reading the article I don't think he's giving it enough credit (though in 6 or so years since it hasn't set the world on fire.)

Passage of the Moment
So much for love's vertical axis. What about the horizontal, progress through time? Can love be measured chronologically? How do you measure the wild fluctuations lovers go through in minutes ('I hate you', 'I adore you'), let alone hours, days, weeks and months. Is there a line at all? In retrospect, remembered at a safe distance, love appears as a series of squiggles and dots -- vignettes, not a seamless narrative. Reflect on your own love-life and you'll see. A phrase, a hand, a birthmark, the beads of shower-water on her shoulder, the ferns we lay in as hikers passed along the fell-path, that day at the swimming pool, the amber slash in her left eye, the taste of her sweat, the tremor running under her skin just afterwards, the way she always eats the apple core, her laughter, her hair clogging the sink, her mispronunciations, the color of Lake Louise as we stood gazing down, the evening she'll say the thing I've been wanting her to say, a hotel room in Stockholm, her right breast cupped in my palm as I sleep behind her nape, the secret night away we've been promising ourselves, paella and wine on the empty terrace restaurant, me washing her sleeping bag in the sea after she got sick from eating shrimps, that funny tooth, that dress, that other dress, the model in the Scottish Widows advert, my hand between her legs as she drove the car, the photo ofher leaving the beach at Vai, the sudden thought (while out jogging) of the men she had before, that raffia bag she carried, the cards she sends, the e-mails, the phone call I'm still waiting for, the bump of her ankle, the curve of her leg, the shape of her mind. Love persists as an idea, the current under all we do, but these, the ways we remember love (or register it now, or anticipate it happening in the future), the palpable signs, have a separate existence. The in-love bits are just that: bits. Without them there'd be no line - no marriage, no children, no future. But on a graph the bits that matter don't show up.
--Blake Morrison, from "Things My Mother Never Told Me". S'funny, Mo has an amber slash in her eye...

man of legos, woman of shampoo

(4 comments)
November 13, 2003

So I keep hearing about that "Paris Hilton sex tape". Heh, I know something has changed on the web...all sites instantly go to monetize it. Whatever happened to this stuff being passed around for free?

The funny thing is...who cares? I mean talk about B-list celebrity...if it wasn't for her bizarre-but-cool name, I don't think anyone would be even marginally interested.

I really think a memorable name can be crucial to fame and success. I have a pet theory that "Yo-Yo Ma" would be about one fourth as well known without his name. (Not to take away from his talent, but what other orchestral superstars can you name off the top of your head?)

I guess you can take the concept to far. Hence: Yahoo Serious.

Essay Excerpt of the Moment
All known forms of kryptonian life have superpowers. The same must hold true of living kryptonian sperm. We may reasonably assume that kryptonian sperm are vulnerable only to starvation and to green kryptonite; that they can travel with equal ease through water, air, vacuum, glass, brick, boiling steel, solid steel, liquid helium, or the core of a star; and that they are capable of translight velocities.

What kind of a test tube will hold such beasties?

--from Larry Niven's famous Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex essay, now available online. Obliquely referenced in flicks like "Mallrats", a famous thought experiment on the possibilities and perils of sex and reproduction between Superman and Lois Lane.

Link of the Moment
Heheheheh. Türme Von Hanoi, Towers of Hanoi. A kind of artsy fotonovela about a guy who watches 50 Euros disappear as it switches back and forth between Euros and Dollars.

Onion Article of the Moment
Heheh, again. A buddy pointed me to this Onion article that begins: In a turn of events the 30-year-old characterized as "horrifying," Kevin Widmar announced Tuesday that his mother Lillian has discovered his weblog. The line about "'close to 100' regular readers" and the age of the guy and the general situation definately struck home.

Hi mom. Uh, I wasn't...uh...really wanting to download that "Paris Hilton sex tape"...uh...

and many happy returns of the day

(2 comments)
November 14, 2003

Milestone of the Moment
A year ago today I introduced the world to Dylan's Pointless Sidebar! (I was confused because the first entry was November 8th 2002, but I think I just "seeded" the sidebar with a guestbook entry he had left previously.)

I do like having a micro-blog there. I like being able to see what's going in his life, and it adds a little somethin' to the frontpage overall. And it's nice to give him more of an audience than he would have otherwise. I think it would be even cooler if he updated it like 2 or 3 times a week instead of his current schedule, but hey. He's a busy guy.

So happy anniversary, Dylan's Pointless Sidebar, and don't forget, you can always read the past entries in the Dylan's Pointless Sidebar Archive.

Pop Culture of the Moment
"My name's Ice Cream Jones,
and I'm deliverin' my ice cream cones
New ice cream cereal for breakfast,
with the great taste of ice cream cones!".

For some reason in middle school, we kind of adopted this breakfast cereal peddler as a mascot. At least we would sing his song in the hallways. I think we were just on the verge of discovering irony.

This guy and many, many others (including some interesting ones from the world of fiction) can be found on the well-annotated Topher's Breakfast Cereal Character Guide. He divides it up by company, which makes some kind of sense, though it made me realized that I never developed any manufacturer loyalty...every company used about the same technique to peddle their wares. Kids are loyal to the cereal and the little cartoony dudes and, much to the chagrin of some corporate bigwig somewhere I'm sure, just don't give a hoot about General Mills or Kellogs "fine family of products".

I do find it disturbing when they revamp a character. Like changing the Honeynut Cheerio Bee or Diggum the Frog's voice. That's even worse than dropping "sugar" from the name.

Quote of the Moment
"It's a cold bowl of chili, when love don't work out."
--QOTD on Slashdot

lalalalala

(2 comments)
November 15, 2003

Toy of the Moment
Let Them Sing It For You is a cool online toy, type in a sentence and it will piece together audioclips from lots of songs to sing those words. Its vocabulary isn't huge, so sometimes you have to think of a different phrasing for your message, but it's still about the niftiest online thing I've seen this week.

eyes wide openphotos

(4 comments)
November 16, 2003

Party Photos of the Moment
Brooke, Mo, and I threw a Masquerade Ball last night. We spent a lot of time setting up the place, trying to get a bit of a decadent feel...like that masquerade ball in "Eyes Wide Shut", but without all the naked women and sex. (Alas.) We set up new shelves with lots of candles, made curtains for the main door out of some plush purple velvet stuff, made covers for the book shelves, tv, tables, etc. (I assisted by cutting cloth and helping Brooke (on the sewing machine) figure out what piece connected to which from Mo's measurements.) Unfortunately, none of photos we took really shows off the room, but the effect with the candles and all was striking.

I was my evil twin Krik (you can tell Krik is evil because of the black clothes, slicked-back hair, and goatee.) Mo was an S/M slave. Brooke was a woodland fairy (and amazed everyone, including herself, by sewing her own outfit...what a short time before was mere bolts of cloth and thread became a terrific costume.) Sawers was a giant Furby...
And Lo, there was dancing:
Jane's spitcurl really made her flapper outfit, I thought...(she's here with Jennie--there were some great shots of her dancing.)
Brooke even had a dance with Death!
You can see 40-odd more photos that we took that night...it was a grand old time. Instead of burning mix-CDs ahead of time, we made some Windows Media Player playlists and hooked up Mo's laptop to the stereo...that worked out pretty well, lots more flexibility to change genres or pop in a new CD and get right to the good songs.

Funny of the Moment
"The actions taken by the New Hampshire Episcopalians (INDUCTING A GAY BISHOP) are an affront to Christians everywhere. I am just thankful that the church's founder, Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine of Aragon, and his wife Anne Boleyn, and his wife Jane Seymour, and his wife Anne of Cleves, and his wife Katherine Howard, and his wife Catherine Parr are no longer here to suffer through this assault on traditional Christian marriages."
--from a "recent letter to the editor in Tennessee" via rec.humor.funny

of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights

(4 comments)
November 17, 2003

Quote of the Moment
He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up to the topmost pinnacle of posh, it is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.
--H.L. Mencken on Warren G. Harding's inaugural address.

Game of the Moment
Zefrank.com's Spaceship Racing Game is some challenging fun...don't forget, unlike other games of this type, you can thrust forwards and backwards. Also, although it looks like the game lacks any convenient way of trying that again when you mess up (it seemse like 3 klutzy mouseclicks, all over the place) you can just tap return 3 times to give it another go.

Funny Link of the Moment
Nice to see some new content at The Book of Ratings...State Quarters part 5!

iraq your brains

(3 comments)
November 18, 2003

Heh...looking at my little stats at the bottom of this page, I've been getting a small spike in traffic, like 175 unique frontpage visitors instead of my usual 100 or so. I wonder if its that reference in the December Popular Science I previously mentioned? It's easy to forget how much bigger mainstream print is than most of the web. I need to be extra-interesting these next few weeks, hopefully some people just dropping by will become regulars.

News Funny of the Moment
For months, soldiers at Camp Doha, Kuwait, have been wearing T-shirts that say, "Operation Iraqi Freedom: Mission Accomplished." But recently a new T-shirt has appeared suggesting that the mission may be more open-ended.

It reads, "Operation Iraqi Freedom: Established 2003."

--Excerpted from article by Michael R. Gordon in the NY Times, Nov. 7, 2003, via rec.humor.funny

Articles of the Moment
Speaking of all things Popular Sciencey, MSNBC has Seven flights of fancy that fizzled...where are the flying cars, indeed. In a similar, albeit very retro, vein of technology not living up to its promise, Wired reports on a failed idea for a dual cannon that would launch two cannonballs, connected by a chain, to take down big swaths of soldiers at once. Cute idea, the technology wasn't up to the accuracy needed to launch both balls exactly at once, however...

Sneaking of the Moment
Took an extended lunchbreak today to catch a matinee of The Matrix: Revolutions. First off, if your company has a reasonable pseudo-flextime policy, I highly reccomend doing this. It's an extremely satisfying way to catch a movie you're jonesing to see, about the cost of a video rental. And you know? I thought it was a pretty good movie over all. I know the reviews all said it sucked, and a few of my friends advised me not to bother, but I was satisfied by its apocalyptic tone and way of wrapping up the trilogy. Admittedly, maybe it would've been better if the first movie was just all there was, but I had a good time.

There's a laugh-out-loud funny site, The Matrix: Resolutions (WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS), that makes fun of a lot of the directions some of the scifi geeks speculated or wished that it would end. Well worth the read.

For an opposing view, from the same site, and still with MASSIVE SPOILERS, check out 50 Reasons to Reject The Matrix. A bit toungue-in-cheek (sort of like The Onion's Jackie Harvey's The Outside Scoop meets the Simpsons' Comic Book Guy) but still some good points. One quote:
The cybernetic army that took over the Earth, says the film, was solar powered. The human resistance responded by blotting out the sky.

A desperate measure, but surely the only choice they had. It was that, or, I don't know, postpone their counterattack until evening.

gay wedding day

(2 comments)
November 19, 2003

Another odd anniversary today: The first date listed in my PalmPilot based journal is March 22, 1997. I started the web version December 30, 2000. (Once I realized how redundant they were, I gave up the Palm version.) That means, give or take a few weeks, I've been doing the web journal thing as long as I was doing the Palm journal thing before that. Which is odd, because I felt like I had been doing the Palm journal thing forever, but the web thing seems a lot more recent. (As always, my javascript date toy makes figuring out this kind of anniversary thing pretty easy.)

Sometimes I wish I had avoided the urge to start December 30 and 31st, which I did just so i could say "yup...been doing this journal since Y2K!". Like, on the archive by month, December 2000 is just this lonely little entry....

News Commentary of the Moment
So, Gay marriage is the big news in this state. Funny how its taken over talk radio, even the sports stations, at least sometimes.

The arguments against gay marriage usually are some variety of "slippery slope". "Why, if we break the 'traditional' man/woman thing because of this idea that everyone deserves equal rights, how can we stop people who want to, I dunno, marry their dog? Or a corpse? Or a child? Or their sister? Or many people at once?" First off, I find that many of these miss one basic criteria: the ability of all parties to give meaningful consent. (This is besides the fact that it's a shameless attempts to get people who might be more or less ok with gay unions to associate them with things they do find distasteful.) A dog, corpse, or child cannot give consent in a meaningful, legal way. The polygamy argument is a little more subtle. Frankly, I don't have a real problem with it; I know in practice, it often shows unequal power relationships and has other structural issues, but in theory, if everyone's an adult, why not? If you need a stronger, legal differentiation between granting gay marriage and polygamy or polyamoury rights, then the issues is that marriage involves the rights of exactly 2 people, so does gay marriage, but polygamy and the like implies creating new structures.

Other arguments are "for the children" variety; "because every child deserves a mother and a father" (as if having loser parents of both genders would be better than two caring and concerned gay individuals bringing you up) or otherwise invoke children, as if straight couples who decide to remain childless are hacking the system somehow. In general, when people start talking about "the children" and not "future generations", watch out.

Oy. It'll be an interesting 180 days.

For Your Eyes Only
--from an oddly compelling slideshow video of characters in Bond films Click it and see.


Exchange of the Moment
"Since the minute you were born I knew I would never take another easy breath without knowing that you were alright."
"So I'm like asthma?"
--from "The O.C.". Never watched an episode, though for a giggle I did some testscreening of a promospot for it, got asked to when walking through that semi-stripmall accross from the Arsenal mall.

leave those deckchairs alone

(4 comments)
November 20, 2003

Quote of the Moment
"I look at life as being cruise director on the Titanic. I may not get there, but I'm going first class."
--Art Buchwald

Q+A of the Moment
What kinds of things keep you visually interested in a strip?
Emotion. Raw visible emotion. It's virtually absent from most comics today. It flared warmly with "Calvin and Hobbes" and has mostly disappeared again. That and nudity.
--Salon's Jesse Jarnow interviewing Berkeley "Bloom County" Breathed on his new Sunday-only strip "Opus".

Link of the Moment
David Cortesi has an interesting book, Secular Wholeness, "A skeptic's paths to a richer life". The content of the whole book is online, though I think I might order the deadtree edition, for the usual reasons.

silent but deadly jokes

(3 comments)
November 21, 2003

Quotes of the Moment
" " -- Charlie Chaplin

" " -- Harpo Marx

" " -- Marcel Marceau

Interactive Site of the Moment
Kind of akin to those amihotornot sites, it's a tool to vote on the gender of objects. Other languages seem to make a big deal of the masculine/feminine of certain words and things, now here's our turn.

Gallery of the Moment
People useing their mad photoshop skillz to Envision the Victorian era Inter-Net. Cool steampunk, retrofuture stuff.

what's in a word

(1 comment)
November 22, 2003

Heh...I must be getting Popular Science effect...327 unique IP for a noticeably lackluster day? Dang, I wish I was posting better stuff lately, I'd have a better chance of getting some regular readers.

Word Geekery of the Moment
A while back Ranjit got to thinking about word chains where you add a letter anywhere in the word and still have a real word, like "i in sin sing swing sewing" (which is actually intended as a poem by Ranjit , at least without that final "sewing" which tends to negate the devilish vibe.)
The longest chain he found was 11:
i 
 pi 
  pig 
   ping 
    oping 
     coping 
      comping 
       compting 
        competing 
         completing 
          complecting
He found it was much easier to look at large words that subtract down rather than starting with one letter words and adding letters. He ended up with lightning-bolt looking "trees" of the various possible reductions. Here's a nice one, that again is almost a poem:
shaft
  haft
    aft
      at
        a
    hat
      at
        a
      ha
        a
  shat
    hat
      at
        a
      ha
        a
    sat
      at
        a

He created a web-based tool to help in the search. You can type in a word and find the reduction tree it makes. I think he kind of lost interest before adding some polish that he was thinking of, but it works, and is kind of interesting for the word geek in all of us.

Article of the Moment
Article about some eyebrow raising comments by General Tommy Franks saying that a major WMD attack on the USA might lead to discarding the Constitution in lieu of some militaristic form of government.

more digital introspection

(2 comments)
November 23, 2003

Just because I've always been curious about what pages other than the frontpage are getting so many hits, I made up a simple log scanner that goes through yesterday's logs and divides the hits into html/directories, images, cgi, and other (mostly cgi or images that the thing couldn't parse correctly), sorted then by number of hits. It wasn't too too informative, though my mortality guide and gamebuttons get a fair amount of their own traffic.

Toy of the Moment
The National Gallery of Art website has a cool online construction toy called Collage Machine. You can select from three sheets of images to drag and drop, resize, rotate, set transparency, flip, bring to front/back, etc. Virtual arts and crafts fun...too bad they couldn't work up a save mechanism.

Interview of the Moment
--MSNBC interview Opus, though I'm not sure if Breathed was involved. Still, he made is re-debut in the funny papers today.

welcome to thanksgiving week

(2 comments)
November 24, 2003

Watched a bit of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" and that newer Winnie-the-Pooh special last night, while helping my Aunt out with a digital arts-and-crafts project. The latter is kind of odd, after reading "Tao of Pooh" recently I keep asking, "huh, is Pooh exemplifying Taoist principles right now?" I guess thinking such thoughts so often kind of runs against Taoism's "let it flow" ideas, hence my mind kind of has to sputter through the paradox.

Quote of the Moment
"All I can say about life is, oh god, enjoy it!"
--Bob Newhart

Article of the Moment
Slate prsents an evolutionary explanation for Us Weekly magazine.

Flash of the Moment
Haunting Russian Movie with subtitles. Has a cool vibe for a while, though not all that satisfying in the end. Still worth a quick click I think.

no northern lights last night

(3 comments)
November 25, 2003

Excerpt of the Moment
"There were no 'Northern Lights' last night but there was a big moon and a sky full of stars shining down on the glaciers and snow covered peaks. It was a beautiful night with a constant breeze that seems to come from out among the stars and it seems at times that if you listen very carefully it will whisper secrets as old as time."
--Ronald Reagan in a note to his daughter Patti when she was a baby. It's very evocative...I think one little linguistic trick is to put a series of observations together with the word "and"...Garrison Keillor does that sometimes. It adds a sense of urgency to the observation, or something.

Kirk News of the Moment
So, much to my surprise, I plugged in the recovery CDs I ordered from HP, and they seemed to fix everything on my PC. (Based on some fiddling around I had done trying to get the PC to boot using a different drive, I had been led to believe there was some kind of hardware issue. Guess not...or, as my friend suspects, maybe there was some kind of BIOS burn built into the recovery process. Dunno.) So I'm very happy to be back on speedy machine with its big monitor...though now I've started jonesing for one of those cute mini PC cases with the integrated handle. Still, this systems works well, no need to mess with it.

Toy of the Moment
Thanks to LAN3 for pointing out Mr. Picasso Head! Make your own 'modern' art...cool little tool.

three more seconds of my fifteen minuteshistory

(3 comments)
November 26, 2003

Plug of the Moment
"[...] oddball hybrids like JoustPong [...]"
--January 2004 Electronic Gaming Monhtly, on my JoustPong project. Funny to get a tiny little mention in such a big magazine (embedded in a paragraph about AtariAge in an article about homebrew games for classic systems.)

BTW, what the heck is up with magazine predating? It makes sense that your "Special Holiday Issue is out in mid to late November, but why the heck should it be dated January 2004? Is it like how now every gas station prices end in 9/10 of a cent, where there was some weird competition going on?


Cartoon of the Moment
Mo's new favorite cartoon is sh*thouse at Pipingrad.com (click in the left column) the endearing adventures of two psycopathic, masochistic meatball-like creatures. A surprising amount of fun playing with the comic form, actually.

Logo of the Moment
This is "Frankie". He was the logo for the project that brought Internet and Cable to the Tufts dorms, "Tufts Connect". (Since Tufts' mascot is Jumbo, Elephants show up a lot around there.) I actually sketched this elephant-jumping-a-globe logo using my laptop's trackball during a planning meeting, and the final professionaly done version here (scanned off a mousepad) was almost exactly what I had doodled, except they removed the angel wing. I was a good hand with a trackball, I was. Alas, when Tufts Connect started having popularity issues, they wanted to start with a clean slate and "Frankie" (I do wonder where that name came from) was unceremoniously dropped. I have a t-shirt with him on it, though.

turkey through a straw

(5 comments)
November 27, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Heh. Among many other things, I'm grateful to have my PC back in working order...especially to be back with a good sized monitor. It just relaxes my eyes to have that much screen real estate.

Link of the Holiday
The Latest Book of Ratings entry ranks 5 Thanksgiving Symbols, from Turkeys to Autumn Leaves. A quick giggle.

Exchange of the Moment
"Ryan, why do I think I'm hilarious and you think I'm STUPID??"
"...you wouldn't understand."
--Ryan and Brooke. Brooke wanted it to be known that Ryan wasn't being mean, just funny. (Nor was she being serious, just mock-offended by Ryan not laughing at the terrifically lame joke she had just made.) And if he did get the timing right (I wasn't there) that was a GREAT response.

Clips of the Moment
The Avon and Somerset Constabulary has posted this page of innapropriate 999 calls (UK 999 = US 911, I believe). Drolly funny stuff...and a good presentation, you can select Flash w/ subtitles. If you're in a hurry, just check out "Salmon Sandwiches".

Actually, come to think of it, I'm not sure what it's ok to dial 911 for...like if I'm on the highway, and I see a stranded motorist, or some guy walking dangerously on the shoulder, is that 911? It doesn't seem like it should be, but it seems like trying to look up a more appropriate number at that point would be dangerous as well.

the power of sixteen by sixteen icons

(3 comments)
November 28, 2003

So, kisrael.com has a minor facelift. (You can see a snapshot of the old frontpage here.) It started as a slight structural page, trying to make "features" just the very most interesting parts, so people are more likely to click on the good stuff, and so Dylan's sidebar was moved up a bit. Then I decided...icons! I needed icons. Cute little 16x16 icons. I liked the old utilitarian feel of the text only links, but now each one has its own visual hook.

Please give me some feedback...I know not all the icons are stellar, but some of 'em came out pretty well I think.

Geek Project of the Moment
Some guys are hacking the 'Big Mouth Billy Bass'. Yeah, those are so 2 years ago, but the idea of using it as a teleconferencing avatar, so it is lip-synched with the person you're talking to, is irresistable.

Found Prose Poem of the Moment
You must believe me when I tell you this:
they dance naked in a circle, around a tiny fire.
If you lean in very close during quiet times,
you can hear their little drums.
--Christin Keck. He's talking about electrons, the special ones that might explain why Dell needs proprietary power supplies for their computers, in this alt.fan.dave_berry post...still, I love the sound of those lines.

86 simple rules

(6 comments)
November 29, 2003

So what do people think, does the sidebar link to loveblender.com deserve its former place under "features", like Wing And A Prayer suggests, or is it better heading up the list of "other stuff"?

Link of the Moment
From Modern Drunkard Magazine, it's The 86 Rules of Boozing. Practical and a bit funny.


Toy of the Moment
Press a button, get the guy moving. Some of the animtions, like the "S" key, are on the rude side.

the mental case

(2 comments)
November 30, 2003

In yesterday's comment section people asked some interesting questions about the visual design of this site...I started typing up answers for inclusion here, but it got rather long and not-general-interesty-enough for a daily update so I made a stand alone page of questions and answers, on the visual design of kisrael.com. (My favorite: "Why does grey seem to be the feature colour on the site?" "It's not; black and white are. The grey is just there to liven up the place.")

Observation of the Moment
[On why the universal programmer's task of breaking up a problem into smaller parts is difficult to learn] Personally I think this ties into a fallacy the vast majority of us share, that we are essentially rational beings, that all of the things we do in life could be traced down to logical decisions, maybe even the binary firings of clusters of neurons. Really, I think we're just gigantic cluesters of ad hoc heuristics, and attempts to describe our thoughts as logical processes are just optimistic, post facto mappings to what we would've done, if we had the time to think about it. (And there is some experimental/clinical evidence for what a great after-the-fact story teller/rationalizer our brains are...)
--2003.11.04, in this slashdot post.

Image and Article of the Moment

--from a review of DOOM: the comic book. Great game. Awful comic. Actually, I wonder if they could have made a better comic by going to the original DOOM bible, which envisioned DOOM as having a much more complex story, or if that would just make everything incosistent with the game everybody knew and loved. Though I guess according to the article, it couldn't have been much WORSE of a game... (via Bill the Splut)

Definition of the Moment
Death wish, n.: The only wish that always comes true, whether or not one wishes it to.
--via slashdot.