last week

November 4, 2018
So from 2003-2013 or so this site had a comments section - it acted as a bit of a social hub, with a medium-small group of folks I knew from real life or just online commenting on the entry or just having little dialogs there.

But then comment spammers figured out how to post, and it got overwhelmed with the crap. I tried a few restrictions to block it (disallowing links, even) but still, the bots would post post post-- mostly just to gauge if they could, I guess.

Two decades in, and this blog's archive is increasingly important to me -
(skimming the On This Day page is a frequent mid-workday getaway) and I was getting frustrated with the bogus comment counts, so I made a tool to help me zip through and ditch all the damn spam.

I had already purged some of the most egregious days of spam (hey if one spam comment is good, 138 nearly identical comments must be better right?) but there was plenty remaining- At the start, I had 24035 comments in all (over 4048 different days), but only 7507 did I figure were human or close enough (covering 2072 different days).

It was interesting skimming so much old conversation... sympathy through a divorce, advice on dieting, appreciation of vacation photos, and just general rambling. I forgot how much I used to hear from folks like Jesse Lex and LAN3.

But, probably independent of the spam, the site had a rise and fall as a social nexus, I decided to graph it out:

This is very similar to a chart plotting the rise and fall of poems sent to my site:

It's not an apples to apples comparison, in part because the comment section had such a later start.

Overall I think the decline in interactions on my blog-ish sites corresponds to the the rise of Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, etc - I've written about that on my devblog. Basically, it's super tough for an individual site or writer (especially ones who aren't trying to do it for a living) to compete with the ability to grab a lot of people's stuff and put it into a single stream.
Onion: Explanation Of Board Game Rules Peppered With Reassurances That It Will Be Fun - I am the friends, not the "Area Man" in this scenario.
I don't know if it will be effective - honestly I can't say that any state slogan would inspire me to go visit if I wasn't already inclined - but Nebraska's new slogan "Nebraska: Honestly, It's Not for Everyone" is brilliant.
November 2, 2018
As usual, in roughly descending "you should hear this" order, 4 star stuff in red.
ZeFrank's Guide to post-Halloween Candy Trading:

I'd like to see an Epic Rap Battle of Brownie the Elf (short-lived mascot of the Cleveland Browns) and the Celtics' Lucky the Leprechaun but it seems kind of unfair from the outset.
"...Even as a stimulus for reminiscence, a treasured book is more important than a dance card, or the photo that freezes you in mid-teeter at the edge of the Grand Canyon, because such a book can be a significant event in the history of your reading, and your reading should be an essential segment of your character and your life. Unlike the love we've made or meals we've eaten, books congregate to form a record around us of what they've fed our stomachs or our brains. These are not a hunter's trophies but the living animals themselves."
--William H. Gass, Living Animals. Not sure I agree with all of it but it's well put. The whole piece is a celebration of the physical character of books (but only briefly puts a knock on e-readers.)

I had the idea that after year of mostly e-reading I should purchase physical copies of the books I deemed 4 or 5 star - though those would hang around as pristine copies, devoid of signs of the physical journeys I undertook with it, that Gass so praises.

The flip side to it: unread books accumulate in Kindle-space too, of course, but the stack on the bottom of my bedside table (often graphic novels or things I couldn't get e-copies of) is somehow more condemning than the lists on the screen.

(Ah well. I think to my friend Jessica's kind of habit of having favorite authors she can meet in person autograph her Kindle device, which I find endearingly quirky.)

A lot of the jokes are kinda sexist and predictable but Carol Burnett doing a gender-swap Star Trek Original Series is worth knowing about -

On the Augean Stables of comment spam, and git-r-done ux.
October 31, 2018
Daring Fireball just posted a link to a 2014 article, TIME Magazine's Fifty Years of BASIC, the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal. As Gruber puts it
For those of us of a certain age, a BASIC prompt was what you’d expect to see when you turned any computer on.
This article is the best I've read on the subject (marred slightly by the amount of ads on the page) In particular, I hadn't realized how important it was as computers moved from the batch process punchcard era to the expectations of real-time interaction we enjoy today - and of getting students to realize that programming was something that mere mortals could do.

That was in the 60s - in the 80s, BASIC was the bedrock of home computers - and most kids were given a chisel and some other basic tools so that if they were motivated, they could get the computer to do whatever they wanted.

The article briefly touches on BASIC's detractors. But as my friend Jeremy Penner (founder of everyone-can-and-should-make-games celebration site Glorious Trainwrecks ) mentioned to me, line numbers, while limiting in many ways, are a super intuitive way to get a kid making that first step of "computer programs tend to go step by tedious step". I think Dijkstra infamous complaint "It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC" is way out of line; understanding simple step by step flow does not preclude later learning of modularity and other more sophisticated topics.

As Harry McCracken writes:
BASIC was so approachable that you could toss off little improvisational programs with barely any effort at all. I probably wrote hundreds of them in my high school’s computer lab—games, utilities, practical jokes to play on my classmates. Most were meant to be disposable, and unless any of them show up on forgotten floppy disks at my parents’ house, almost all of them are long gone.
That hit home for me. In the 2000s, that's sometimes my style for stuff in Processing and P5.js (though I'm a bit of self-absorbed nerd so I archive "the good stuff" at Other people I know, like Anna Anthropy write books about writing your own games in Twine, Puzzlescript, and Scratch.

But it's still a long way from the "booting into BASIC" days - Mac/Windows/Phone environments are great program launchers, but don't have that ramp into "you type things and computer stuff happens!" Also, the gap between "real" programs and what an amateur can write is MUCH bigger than it was in 1980s - especially for games. "Casual" games are a welcome exception to that, but a beginner programmer usually isn't using a toolset for 3D stuff.

(An upcoming thing I'll be keeping an eye on is Dreams for PS4 - "a space where you go to play and experience the dreams of Media Molecule and our community. It’s also a space in which to create your own dreams, whether they’re games, art, films, music or anything in-between and beyond." That's the same folks who made LittleBigPlanet which had a pretty rich online maker community too, so it'll be neat to see what comes of it.)
"A sign you're becoming an adult is when you watch a movie and you stop seeing yourself as the protagonist and start seeing yourself as one of the minor characters."
Thinking how FB offers "plausible deniability" when some issue seems too complex or fraught to provide a compassionate response. Like, maybe the algorithms didn't choose to show it to me, that's why I made no comment.
Marching with City Life / Vida Urbana to protest ghoulish landlord shenanigans--

Soldiers in reanimated skeleton armies would probably have to use sign language.

A few weeks ago at the Maker's Fair at the Boston Children's Museum:
"Do you know about the Myth of Sisyphus?"
"Yeah, that's a funny one to me because Sisyphus is cursed to roll this boulder up the hill for eternity, but really the boulder would eventually erode. I mean a hundred thousand years or so, it would be like a little pebble, like, just like stick it out, Sisyphus, you'll be done in no time, you know? "
"Eventually it's just going to be sand."
"Yeah, exactly. And in addition, the hill will also erode. And so, you know, Sisyphus after some time would have a flat plane instead of a hill and maybe like a marble instead of a boulder."
"Yeah, so, yeah, he's cursed for eternity, but really it's he just needs to get through, I dunno, 50,000 years or something."
"Yeah, he should really stick to it, and then that'll show the gods."
"It's funny to think about a man serving out his eternal curse, and what it is, is very easily pushing a marble along the ground."
"Yeah. And then maybe stop conscripting innocent boulders into your curses, HUMANS."
--from Everything is Alive's interview with Chioke, a grain of sand - it reminds me a bit of the poem Dialog of Soul and Stone - also of my paraphrase of a line from the Dilbert animated series, "Sisyphus has a sense of playfulness [...] you have to look at it from the rock's point of view." which is kind of a different assumption about what rocks might enjoy....
October 29, 2018

--Shot at yesterday's rally for Transgender rights - If you live in MA Vote Yes on 3, please. If you know + like or love a TG person, or you don't but you're willing to believe the world is more complex than you mighta guessed, it's the humane thing to do.
Ugh, Brazil.
on them red sox
"Being an adult means not having your bed pushed up against a corner. That is literally the only criteria"