February 28, 2020

The ideological slant of Choose Your Own Adventure books. I grew up with these, and hadn't thought much about the possible conservative ideological implications of "your fate is determined solely by your choices". I'm not sure I fully buy Eli Cook's view -- for example he points out that the author was scoffed at by publishers in the 60s but embraced 12 years later, though I would say that could say more about the fallibility of publishers than being a sure sign of cultural shift -- but it's interesting to consider the implications of the 2nd person, flexible genre.

I guess I still see the narratives as dominated by authorial intent. The writer demarcates a certain possibility space, and the reader picks a single path through it. Or on subsequent readings, recalls the previous experiences and gets to try something new. Or, what I think was my preferred method, sneakily peeks ahead before commiting to the full page turn... sometimes devolving into an exercise in how many bookmarks you can make with your fingers.

Eventually the reader can develop a map of the entire possible narrative space territory. (And a few books even play with the idea of unobtainable pages - only the transcendent explorer, or peeking pageturner - will know the full lay of the land.)

I suppose my cautious, bet-hedging engagement with the books reflected my developing view that there is an objective, God's (or Author's) Eye truth to things, and a likely best-path, but the optimal choices can be obscured.

I think despite Cook's reservations about peddling ideology that presumes choices and culpability, these books are pretty great - learning that you can make choices with consequences is also a good lesson for kids. I wonder if anyone makes similar books for young readers, or for a grownup to read along with a little person - that sounds like huge fun...
The podcast "Watch Out For Fireballs" recently did an episode on Atari. On their followup letter reading episode, they read the note I sent in (a scooch before 1h29m) - I try to pack a lot in - about writing my own Homebrew JoustPong/FlapPing in assembly, the book Racing the Beam (didn't realize they were going to cover that in the episode), and then a shout out to Batari BASIC for lowering the bar for folks and the communities on the Stella list and the website Atari Age. I'm grateful to all that!
I'm reading through [Kirk's Old Y2K PSA page]. It's definitely a review of a number of years of my life. And I remember managers suggesting that the systems would be replaced by then. Hah! Governments still use COBOL. I remember one of the "rules" I was told early in my career that systems have 20% of their code changed every year. That meant that in 5 years, everything had been replaced. What they didn't realize was that it was pretty much the same 20% that kept getting replaced, so any problems in the remaining 80% did not disappear.

Rammstein stage setup timelapse... what a feat of organization...

If you took professional wrestling, and McDonald's french fries, and the NRA, and infomercials about bogus products that don't work and you just mixed them altogether and you stick them in the back of a tacky white limousine, and you drive it around Central Park 500 times, you open the door, out would step Donald Trump.
Sam Harris

just cause 3 as psychological self-care

February 28, 2019
The other day I finished Just Cause 3 (again) and its main three DLC packs. The 3-year-old game really has a polish the 4th game in the series lacked.

The series, of course, is such a gloriously concentrated dose of what I want in big-budget games: moving around with visceral physics in implausible ways (being pulled along a grappling hook, floating on a parachute, gliding and skimming with flying-squirrel-suit wings) in a plausibly realistic looking environment, along top getting my inner adolescent placated with insane empowerment fantasies of making things go boom and generally being an indestructible force of nature. All with a well-tuned challenge level, featuring my character dying a lot but with me rarely getting too too frustrated - and always offering the chance to bring more destructive hardware to bear if a mission seemed more than a gun and a rocket launcher and my lazy skills could handle.

Around the time I was sinking too many hours into this game, counter-intuitively things felt like they were getting better at work, and I made a few breakthroughs in using the new techstack. (A new UI stack that's more of a challenge because most of the then-new technologies I picked up 5-10 made sense for side projects, for just writing some code and slapping it on my webserver, while with the full-on React/Redux setup you kind of need a more professional workflow - so I have fewer chances to organically hone my skill on interesting small projects.) I wonder if this videogame's message of "persistence will always be rewarded" and general "wow tough guy look what you can do!" stance helped with that.

Anyway, once I figured out how to launch the damn DLC - the Air / Land / Sea missions, the missions I didn't play on my first run through 3 years ago, things got even better. The mechs of the land pack, with their quick movement and wacky gravity guns, were fun enough, and the giant lightning gun and missile-packing rocket-powered boat of the sea pack made some of the grind of clearing bases fun, but man - that rocket pack the air-based dlc adds to the squirrel-suit - not unlimited, just boosts from nearly anywhere - and then the missions where you are attacking a flying air fortress... just imagine being Tony Stark attacking the Helicarrier as a one Iron Man army. Except in one of the earlier suits, where he's still a bit klutzy and sometimes doesn't give himself clearance and so comically bashes his head into an overhang... super fun.
Pac-Man: The Untold Story of How We Really Played the Game - intriguing description of how generations of right-hand Pac-Man players clutching the left side for leverage leaves its mark on the old upright cabinets (Thanks Nick B)

Interesting how Pac-Man, which like Q*bert was button free, was ambidextrous. Nintendo famously put the crosspad under the left thumb, which may have heralded a switch in games away from being focused on rough movement and towards precision timing. (Continued with the WASD/mouselook arrangement favored by PC gamers- something I've never quite gotten into my skin.)

February 28, 2018

Who asked you to be a writer in the first place?
Colonel Littauer to Kurt Vonnegut
(when Vonnegut was bitter about being a broke writer )

February 28, 2017

There are some points I don't agree with, but these responses to What is it that liberal voters just don't get yet and What is it that conservative voters just don't get yet aren't bad starting points... Of course libertarians often like to paint themselves as the third way, which ain't quite the answer either, but the blindness on both sides of the spectrum about the other's PoV is astounding.

February 28, 2016

stuff.alienbill.com/amazonadder/ - Amazon has a thing where you can request an "Order Report", a CSV of all the stuff you've had shipped over the years (oddly, there seems to be no equivalent for digital orders.) Anyway, you can pull the data from them into a spreadsheet program, or if you're not so clever with spreadsheets, you can copy and paste the raw data into this new webtool I made. (All calculations are done inside your own browser, nothing is sent to any server)

The page gives you a chart of what you spent in each category per year, then a breakdown (sorted by total spent) by year, by month in year, and then by category where you can zoom in to total-sorted lists of what you bought.

My totals? Since 2004, about $16K. Trend definitely upwards - 70% of that's in the last three years. On the other hand, December is the biggest month for spending, so some big chunk of that is gifts.

Sigh, here's my top categories:
Electronics 4281.75
Personal Computers 1145.85
Video Game 1074.34
Paperback 1011.46
Toy 828.76

Paperback is around 1000 (hard cover is a bit below in the list, around 500) I really do wish Amazon included Kindle download data!

February 28, 2015

excellent 5 seconds turned into 3 1/2 minutes... and a great song:

unconditional rebel - siska from Guillaume Panariello on Vimeo.

February 28, 2014

My T pass informs me I'm valid til 3/31, a little ominous given what a milestone birthday that's gonna be.

I unceremoniously passed the USA male median age (36.8) which means on average I'm seeing more people who are younger than I am, especially in a college town like Boston.

Still the inner-child has free run of the place, so maybe it balances out a bit.

February 28, 2013

One of those days.


(1 comment)
February 28, 2012
click to play...

robotish - source - built with processing

Of all 5 games I made this weekend, I think this one was the most playable and developed from a game design standpoint.

It really matched my vision for it, which is a little unusual for these things... except I think I had something a bit more linear feeling in mind. But it got the idea of having to daringly dart out and drop the mines, where the offensive maneuver carries an element of risk. But in terms of nicely increasing difficulty, sense of satisfaction, and details like having the screen background mirror the game play a bit, it is more fully baked than usual, by my standards.
I gotta admit most of the scratchware games I make never reach the balance point of "time spent making it" vs "time people spend playing it"
Which is kind of ok. 2/3 or more of the point of it is the game is me making things.
You can lead a horse to water but actually you probably can't, unless you grew up on a farm or something.

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/02/alt-text-science-books-kids/ I laughed.

this cat has a bad ride

February 28, 2011
The only thing better than going to bed is going BACK to bed.


February 28, 2010
To view this content, you need to install Java from java.com
dorkicus - source - built with processing
A two player game made for THE 371-IN-1 KLIK & PLAY PIRATE KART II: KLIK HARDER. (You can see the resulting list of games)
It makes me feel weirdly good that the second Google hit for "atan2" is the Processing.org site.

shangri lalala

February 28, 2009
So for a few days now I've been trying the Shangri-La Diet. I've lost a few pounds, though that's nothing special for the first days of any diet.

On its face, it certainly sounds like a gimmick diet: you consume a couple hundred calories of flavorless oil or unflavored sugar water (I think the latter is deprecated for blood sugar reasons) in a window of at least two hours of not having any flavors. (Not even toothpaste or gum.) And that's it: the thought is that this alone will lead to hunger suppression.

The rough idea is that your body uses the combination of flavors and easily digested calories to say "hey! This is a time of plenty... I should bulk up my weight for the lean times that's sure to follow!" I'm less clear on why then getting a chunk of calories in a flavorless way would lower that "set point" weight that your body "wants" to be at, but empirically, there seems to be something to it. Psychologically, I feel much less involved with food than usual. I still have the problems of socially-derived eating and portions I've always had (never being very hungry in the evening, but that being everyone's favorite time for fun restaurant meals.) but I don't find myself eating out of angst or boredom, and forego things I used to go for (like, just get get a small or medium iced coffee at DD rather than a large plus a flatbread sandwich.)

I lost some weight in 2006 (gaining about 1/2 or 2/3 back) on the Hacker's Diet, which really was nothing but calorie counting, a daily weigh-in, and some exercise. Because of this new scheme, I've been thinking about the Hacker's Diet hypothetic gadget the Eat Watch:
You strap it on your wrist, set it for the weight you want to be, then rely on it to tell you when to eat and when to stop. Whenever it says EAT, just chow down on anything you like until EAT goes out. Obviously the EAT indicator will stay on longer if you're munchin' cabbage instead of chugging München's finest beer.
But of course, I think most people do have an internalized Eat Watch -- The Hacker's Diet page says "Some people are born with a natural, built-in eat watch. You and I either don't have one, or else it's busted." but I think many people will eat at a certain level, consistently -- and for many of us, that level is geared to gain weight at a moderate pace. Some years it might only be 2-8 pounds, but it adds up. So what Shangri-La consists of then is utilizing that watch for eating, rather than enforcing discipline against acting on feeling hungry.

This news report/promo seems to do a reasonable job of presenting it...

The book is kind of cool when it goes into explaining why some other plans (like low-carb, or low-glycemic-index) work, as well as an assortment of otherwise mysterious lab results, like how rats fed bread gain more weight than rats fed the equivalent calorie amount of bread ingredients, or get fatter on the same food mixed with water (the old diet standby of lots of water - making food easier to digest - is not without its problems in this view) -- according to Shangri-La, it's all about your body associating delicious flavors and easy to digest calories with Good Times.

Well, wish me luck. Quaffing tablespoons of oil is not without its degree of gross! (Note: since I wrote this I've been floating the oil on cold water. Much easier to deal with!)

Saw Slumdog Millionaire. Man- either the poverty/roughness was over the top, or people live like that... either way, troubling. Fav word: "chaiwalla"!

giant heap of meh

February 28, 2008
Bleh, Upset stomach, some minor chills.

Dunno what it is. I know people tend to categorize everything as "the flu" or "a cold" but jimminy crickets there seems to be a lot of everything going around this season.

Comic of the Moment
--a cartoon guide to the story behind the subprime mortgage meltdown. (Warning, cussin')

Article of the Moment
The life and times of America's greatest hoaxer, Alan Abel.

february stumbles to an inglorius end

February 28, 2007
Whoo, what a day, Dow dropping, Cheney ducking, Iranians thought to be scoping out the Big Apple.... that last ones kind of spooky. Sees like any war in Iran might be brought home to us. Reminds me a bit of WW2 worries about German saboteurs.

Ramble of the Moement
One thing about travelling... it gives me time to read, and also tends to give me ideas to write about. Which might be a result of the reading, or me just turning into some kind of Andy Rooney like crank about travel, as per my earlier ranting about how irritating airlines can be. Who knows... maybe finally returning to a public transit commute (wow, since before I started journaling on kisrael instead of my Palm pilot) will encourage me to be a little more externally reflective.

Anyway, Mr. Ibis suggested Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" (a book that roughly lived up to its title in terms of how quickly I got through it. Grumblesmurf.) It was a neat book about the snap decisions we make, with lots of amazing anecdotes, like how the "Pepsi Challenge" gave Coke the terrible idea to make New Coke, not realizing that the sweeter first anonymous sip of Pepsi gave it an edge that wouldn't last for a whole can, and how this one researcher John Gottmann can watch a few minutes of couples arguing (in an odd bit of synchronicity, hypothetical couples in the book had the name of my Aunt and Uncle (page 19) and then my grandparents (page 60)) and reliably foretell the relationship future of the pair.

One interesting bit was how some "gamblers", asked to pick at whim from a red deck or a blue deck, the former stocked with big payouts but, in the long run, bigger losses, and the latter being the only sustainable-y good choice. According to various sweat sensors and the like, the subconscious started realizing the problem with red before behavior changed, and way before the person was able to talk about the difference. I had a similar situation with the video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andres". When you flip over to the map screen the game shows the player's position with an ornate "gang tattoo gothic arrow". I was kind of irritated that the game used an artsy icon rather than something simpler that could show which compass direction my player was facing. BUT... I realized that I was making a much than chance guess at which way I was heading. The ornate arrow was re-orienting itself to point the way, and my hindbrain knew it, but my conscious mind didn't! (This, of course, also points out the odd occasional rigidity of my otherwise tangental thinking; of course they wouldn't rotate a fancy arrow, games like this don't do a lot of rotation of 2D bitmaps, only 2- and 3-D polygons.)

So you start the book, and the opening stories make it sound as if it might be an optimistic "trust your instincts" kind of tome, but with a few exceptions (like students reliably able to gauge the effectiveness of a teacher after just seconds of video footage, and the thing with the cards) but then there's a cavalcade of counter examples, from the snap judgment of the Amadou Diallo slaying to the election of pretty boy Warren Harding. So the lessons I actually took from the book are: So it's not all that useful. Though it seems like that kind of relationship assessment test could be an enormous boon to humanity, though of course it would be devastating to couples who did poorly, with a 10-15% false negative rate. There's gotta be some money in that.

I think I should be less concerned about snap judgements about music, however. Listening to a few moments of an MP3 I've heard before should let me figure out how to categorize it.

So overall the book was interesting enough to be worthwhile, but I kind of wish it hasn't been 2 years and counting waiting for a paperback version.

dc redux day 3

February 28, 2006
I didn't get to see much of DC... a lot of the attractions close in the evening, and I didn't want to sick around for a weekend. But one night we did go down to Georgetown... pretty in the twilight.

And I got to visit my cousin Scott...also my Aunt Ruth and Scott's wife Sandy.

Restaurant of the Moment
Now, on this trip, last night I had a very odd meal... Chris suggested we go to ESPN Zone. I thought that the series of tables, each with its own small TV was a little odd, but our actual dining experience was even stranger... both of us sitting in a seperate recliner with a built-in swivel table, in front of a GIANT TV screen... I have to say, watching "talking head" sports coverage/interviews on a TV the size of most movie screens is...well, kind of tedious really. The giant screen was then flanked by a total of 12 smaller screens with different games going. (I would've thought almost any game would be better fare than talk talk talk, but what do I know, I'm not THAT much of a sportsfan.)

After we went downstairs to the arcade... we played an extremely overpriced (they use a swipecard system, so it's hard to calculate prices exactly but it was over $2) game of air hockey (set to play to 5 points...sheesh) and an older foozpong-ish ice hockey game.

Results of the Moment
Not that it drummed up that much interest, but I liked the night scene with the Washington Monument, and Ksenia liked the daylight one.

wait, i thought *i* was lord of the hissy-fit

February 28, 2005
Book of the Moment
--Longmire Does Romance Novels, some very funny retitlings of some very cheesy looking books. I remember we use to tease our high school gal friends who were into these by picking them up and seeing how long it took to find a naughty bit...

my bitter friend

(1 comment)
February 28, 2004
Story of the Moment
My bitter friend Delirium and I had a sleepover. We got up and went to the kitchen to get a glass of juice. I said,"What kind of juice do you Want?" I want hemlock juice! I went to the fridge. I looked in and there was no hemlock juice, so we had milk instead!
--Brooke and some anonymous kidlet. It was a Mad-Libs type affair, with Brooke let filling in the blanks of the kidlet's paragraph. The tale of emergent insanity is quite terrific. More details in her journal.

Quote of the Moment
"The idea is to die young as late as possible."
--Ashley Montague

Game of the Moment
Tail Gunner is a Java remake of an old 8-bit game...very simple, you're riding on the back of some kind of spaceship, and have to use the mouse to target the starfighters that are on your tail and blast them to bits.

Video of the Moment
The Cat With Hands...nightmarish, a bit disturbing, and cool.

i am not a bot...i am a hu-man

(1 comment)
February 28, 2003
Quote of the Moment
I don't think bots are the problem... I've had several online conversations which I'd assumed were chat-bots but turned out to be real people. I guess when Turing designed his test, he probably didn't anticipate the massive advances in human stupidity that we've witnessed in the last few decades
The Turing tests say, basically, if someone who tries can't tell a typing computer from a typing human, than it's not reasonable to argue that we haven't achieved Artificial Intelligence. Putting that simple test into practice has proved problematic, as the Salon article goes on about.

Link of the Moment
High concept: songlines of NYC, merging concepts of aboriginal landmark songs with linking and footnoting. I guess it's likely to work a bit better for NYC thanks to the grid like layout of Manhattan...

Arcade of a Past Moment
A moment of respectful silence, if you would, for the recent demise of "Midway Games West"--the last incarnation of the arcade division of Atari games. This Gamespy article counts down the top ten, and ends by mentioning another ten classics the company brought to life to eat the quarters right out of your pocket. I think Atari will always be more known for the at home fun of the 2600, but I had forgotten how much arcade goodness they brought to the world.


February 28, 2002
Comic of the Moment
Bill pointed out this amazing comic book from the 1940s. I think we would have had an easier time fighting the Nazis if we had trained our troops in the art of drilling through solid rock with their heads. Be sure to check out the Link labeled "Minit Mystery" near the bottom of the page. They just don't make 'em like that anymore, for which we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

The Wonder of the Internet
Here's a Fetish that I wouldn't've known existed if it weren't for the Internet. (PG-rated link, for the most part.) They seem really into women with headphones on. That's it.


(1 comment)
February 28, 2001
Quote of the Moment
best weight loss advice ever: 'eat a carrot, run a mile'
dj, 2001.01.10
My friend Dave wrote that advice on my guestbook. I asked what he meant.. it's not meant to be literal advice, just that you know in general what to do to lose weight (watch what you and exercise,) so quit your belly achin' and do it.

Anyway, today I got beneath the lowest weight I hit last time I was on a diet plan, in August of 1999. I think my attitude is better this time (based on the comments I write in my weight log) so hopefully I've found something more sustainable. That's the thing that quote doesn't cover, that you have to make a permanent life change of carrot consumption and mile running.

Link of the Moment
Fun web toy: The No.1 Song in the UK or USA for any date in the past 50 years. Hope the song for your birthday was better than mine.
Thanks Brooke -- check out her website Her linkpage (under 'a discovery') has some neat stuff, and I'm not just talking about the link back to here.

Other Links of the Moment
dieselsweeties.com is a very neat cartoon that I got to via biscuit theater on Yip Yop... also worth a click. Brooke grooves on the elf heads, but I like the cartoons.

Diesel Sweeties has a small cast of characters. Clango and Maura are the main characters, and they explore all the nuances of sweet sweet robot/human lovin'. I also like Indy Rock Pete.

Democracy is finding proximate solutions to insoluble problems.
--Reinhold Niebuhr
I'd like to go to Europe with Mo and visit Veronika and Bernd this year. I told Mo that if we could do that I would bend on going someplace sunny and beachy, like Jamaica, for the honeymoon.
"I can say 'Your sister's a whore' in Italian!"
          "You could, but I would punch you in the face."
"Wait. On second thought, I don't actually PAY your sister."
--Hotendotey, 00-2-28
Two rockets heading in opposite directions, each at .9c relative to earth. What's up with the frame of reference or time dilation so that they aren't travelling faster than lightspeed?
Just like Carla had her "a good day is when I don't get peed on or bitten" guideline when she was working at the pet store, yesterday at Nina + Billy's taught me that a good day moving is one where I don't get a sofa dropped on my head.  So, yesterday was not a good day, but it wasn't too bad.
           --captures STDERR in crontab
Paul Harvy's so annoying.  Is he really Salvationist?  He's another one of those extremists who are always invoking "our children"... told a lame rehashing of Noah where the regulations of this country = destroying the world by flood.  Hmmm.