This is BrainLog, a blog by Dan Sanderson. Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained. See the front page and newer entries.

July 2000 Archives

July 31, 2000

Several years ago, when they were popular, my mom got me a memo cube. I've used it pretty much constantly ever since, and it's finally starting to run out. Now it seems memo cubes are out of fashion and unavailable, at least the ones I'm looking for: plain white, square pieces of paper (no patterns on the actual paper, no colored paper), no Post-It-style self-stick crap, with or without patterns on the sides, glue-bound on one side. Like these. I can only find Post-It-style and boxes of loose sheets in stores.

Random online searches haven't been entirely fruitful, but I could settle for cubes with the Business Network Intl. logo on them (whoever they are) for $8. Could someone please tell me where--anywhere--I can get memo cubes? If you have a local store that sells 'em, or if your company gives 'em away, please let me know and I might be interested in paying cost and shipping.

In the meantime, it looks like I'll have to make my own. *sigh*

FDA FAQ on food labelling. Found at HealthFinder.gov. See also health.org's labelling resources.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. See especially the FAQ, with links to primary sources on USDA tables.

The Internet Magic 8 Ball. This is a real Magic 8 Ball being shaken via Lego-based robotics and image-captured by a web cam. (Unfortunately their software only supports Netscape, not IE.) (Thanks Hit or Miss.)

July 29, 2000

BrainLog Presents: Dinner and a Weblog

Today's Recipe: Porcupine Meatballs

A Sanderson "Family Recipe"

Ingredients:

Ingredients.  Pretty simple.

  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 10-3/4-ounce can condensed tomato soup
  • 1/4 cup long grain rice (uncooked!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (not extra lean, it needs to hold together)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 cup water

My father would make Porcupine Meatballs when I was a kid, so they're kind of a comfort food. Kind of a kid's food, too; big ol' balls of meat in a tomato sauce. My father insists it's a family recipe, even though I found Porcupine Meatballs in The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book-- on the same page as the Sanderson family recipe spaghetti sauce. I'm not ragging on my father, though: there are plenty of similar recipes on the web. So here's one of them.

Combine the beaten egg, 1/4 cup of the soup, uncooked rice, onion powder and pepper. Add the beef and mix it in. You can use a fork, but you'll be using your hands eventually, so wash up and dig in.

So where the heck did "porcupine meatballs" come from anyway? Is it a Jewish food? A Southern food? Cajun??

Other versions of this recipe like to add chopped onion and even green pepper. Now would be the time to mix 'em in.

Shape firmly into 20 meatballs. Or 8 meatballs, depending on how you were raised. Place them in a large skillet.

Mix the remaining soup with the Worcestershire sauce, oregano, and water, and pour the mixture over the meatballs. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover. Simmer, stirring often, about 20 minutes or until no pink remains inside the meatballs and the rice is tender.

GameSpy has a Porcupine Meatballs Recipe! It even comes with an Age of Empires scenario! I'm not kidding!

Da Chef: You scoop together some meat, pour a can of Campbells on it and call it a Dwarven delicacy? A feeble attempt at mouth-filling!

Tondor: That recipe has been passed down for over 27 generations of my esteemed family!

Da Chef: I am amazed that none of your family lineage has starved to death with the lacking of the culinary skizzles[sic]! You are an affront to the buds of taste. Out of my sight, grubby little kneebanger! Your stunted growth is explained at last.

Tondor [Picking up his axe:] Fromage, I call upon thee the Dwarven engine of might, brought to you by the new Gillette Mach 3. This means war!

Da Chef: So be it!

Skim the fat. You want a good sauce, so I usually remove the meatballs and dump the sauce into a flask, let the fat rise, then spoon it off and dump the not-as-fatty sauce back onto the meatballs. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if you like, though I don't remember anything about that from my childhood. Serves 4 or 5.

OK, looks lame, but it's good food!

Calories: 218 kcal
Protein: 22 gm
Total Fat: 14 gm
Source: my own half-assed calculations

Why do all web-based recipe calculators suck? They're all using the same data, but I never get good results. I need a book or something. Or I should just put more effort into it.

July 28, 2000

Dinner and a Weblog has been postponed a day due to time constraints. I'll do it Saturday. 'Cuz I know you're all looking forward to another mundane recipe with crappy photos. (But at least the photos prove that I'm actually making the recipes and not just posting them. :)

DVDFile reports of a new DVD player with an Apex-like hidden menu, which can turn off region codes and Macrovision. The report indicates their menus may share a chipset or something, because the hidden menu looks just like the Apex's. Like the Apex, the review says "If you're looking for a primary player, move on." But my Apex (as slow as it is) hasn't broken down yet (like others presumably have).

Unrelated: I was pleased to discover that my Apex does a decent PAL-to-NTSC conversion, which I didn't even think about until I tried that region 2 Metropolis DVD in NTSC mode. PAL is a European video standard with more scan lines, while NTSC is the American standard with fewer. I'm under the impression that only fancy players (and those meant for bypassing region codes) have this feature, so watch out for PAL/NTSC if you're buying from someplace that might carry both.

On building your own Lava Lamp. (Thanks MetaJohn.) See also the Lava Lamp Conspiracy Page

"Carlie Coley’s annual safari to Key West in khakis and white beard has ended triumphantly. The Alma, Ga., plumbing supply store owner was named the Ernest Hemingway look-alike “For the New Millennium” on Saturday night in a raucous competition at the Key West bar where local lore says the legendary American author drank." (Thanks MrBarrett.)

How to Hurt the Hackers: The Scoop on Internet Cheating and How You Can Combat It. Multiplayer games would be fun...

July 27, 2000

So cellular phone users, I'm (very mildly) considering a cell phone for occasional convenient quick contact with my girlfriend (no long chats) and emergency use. I'm looking for suggestions and advice of any kind (even advice like "It's not worth it!" or "You'll end up paying $15/mo refusing soliciters!" or "Avoid cheap phones!" or "Get a Nokia and set the ringer to Ride of the Valkyries! Way cool dood!"). See comments for more, then post yer thoughts. Thanks!

Scrabble FAQ.

The San Jose Scrabble Club No. 21 has two-letter and three-letter word lists online, as well as other lists and study guides.

I'm pleased to see the DOoM "crossword game" (Scrabble) MUDs are still up. Used to play MarlDOoM, like, eight years ago. Play Scrabble online, in true Multi-User Dimension form. To avoid copyright infringement, the DOoM servers play crossword games of non-descript rules. You get a board, and must assign special squares and letter values yourself. But you can always play on other peoples' boards, and the game is moderated by a reasonably complete Scrabble-style dictionary.

Is learning how to MUD too much effort to play Scrabble online? Try Hasbro Interactive's excellent Scrabble "2" for PC. (Let me know if you're interested in playing a weak player. :)

FAQ for Terry Gilliam's Brazil. "... Gilliam has been quoted as saying: 'Because I dislike being quoted I lie almost constantly when talking about my work.'"

Pith and Vinegar linked two keeper links on Gilliam's Brazil, which I can't help but steal: an early draft of the script and a nice fan page.

The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation. (Thanks CamWorld.)

July 26, 2000

Web site for Sundance audience award winner Saving Grace. Could be good, could be bad, but the trailer is voiced by my hero, Gary Owens. See the Movies.com entry, IMDb entry.

Ladder, an old CP/M platform game (if you can believe that), is a staple of my childhood. For literally years now, I've wanted to find source code to port to, say, an ANSI terminal, or even a fancy DirectX update. Turns out I didn't need to look too far! Kevin Handy has already done a *nix ANSI terminal ncurses conversion of Ladder for me! Works pretty well, including source.

I looked pretty hard several times for a copy, but could only find a very faithful Amiga remake, which comes with 68000 assembler source. This version is playable on an Amiga emulator (such as WinUAE for Windows), though you'll need a Kickstart ROM and Workbench disks (+ a little patience; kinda surprised this site is still up, actually), as well as the LhA arcer program to play it.

Silly me, I never bothered to check the CP/M newsgroup. They directed me to the CP/M-86 Free Software Archive, which in turn linked to the CP/M-86 Commercial Software Archive. The latter hosts a mirror of the Unofficial CP/M web site, including binaries of CP/M-86 (CP/M for an AT PC)-- and, tada!, Ladder for CP/M! Also: Catchum, a Pac-Man-like game, IIRC.

But I ran into a roadblock with CP/M-86, namely I can't get Sydex's old 22DISK utility to properly use my floppy drive to transfer LADDER.COM to my bootable CP/M-86 floppy. CP/M Main Page seems to have good stuff that might help. But the *nix version works for me.

Hooka hooka hooka!

Related trivia question that I don't know the answer to: What is generally considered to be the first platform game?

A.I., would-be Kubrick film that's now a Spielberg film, has a new release date of July 4, 2001, and stars Jude Law and Haley Joel Osment.

Movie Trivia FAQ. Apparently some relation to IMDb, most likely in its earlier (non-Amazon) forms.

July 25, 2000

Microsoft announced last Thursday that IE 5.5 will get a patch that increases user control over cookies, in response to privacy and security concerns. A public beta of the new features will be available in a week or so. Good stuff, though Microsoft never does anything that isn't in their own best interest:

... Ed Black, president of the Washington-based Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), criticized Microsoft's move to tighten cookie controls aimed at third-party advertisers.

"This looks very much like another effort by Microsoft to utilize its monopoly power in the Internet browser market to establish dominance in an adjacent market -- namely, the market for personal data and information," Black said in a prepared statement. The CCIA supports efforts to protect privacy but doesn't believe cookie-generated data "should be available without restriction to some [companies] while requiring consumers to 'opt in' to providing information to everyone else," he added.

The original announcement says the patch will be available "within four weeks".

OReilly.com has a feature analysis of Microsoft's C#.

IP Network Index. (Thanks Twernt.)

Pitt Stalker Sought by Police, Spielberg Impersonator Sentenced.

July 24, 2000

Holy guacamole! Slashdot reports, before I hear anything about it, that Go.com's publishing system has been open-sourced. (I hadn't heard anything about it until just now. They don't tell me anything.) And Hemos likes Mr. Showbiz. Yay for my employer!

IBM's Linux commercial. Part of their Avery Brooks "serious software" campaign. I also like "Flying Cars".

Want to build a computer? No, I don't mean buying a motherboard with a Pentium and some RAM and putting it in a box, I mean solder or breadboard chips and wires and press buttons to code in machine language. Build the Cosmac ELF, a popular hobbiest platform whose instructions were published in the August 1976 issue of Popular Electronics. A few photos of the ELF show differences between the original and later models. The Machine Room tells the history of this "'freeware' computer". Supposedly the 1802 processors are still manufactured for industrial applications. The advanced model could output a video signal (!). If anyone can find more instructions on building other models, or if you have an ELF story, please post a comment below!

Nuts 'n' Volts magazine is still publishing, apparently. Get your free sample issue today!

This Deja thread inspired this build-your-own-computer train of thought. Not much extra info, but someone has old 1802s for sale. Also mentioned are the 68xxx Star-K Kits, but who knows if you can actually get them.

I'm proud to own an old copy of How to Design, Build & Program Your Own Working Computer System by Robert P. Haviland, one of those wonderfully ambitious (but practically useless) Tab Books. Lacking step-by-step instructions or parts lists, you pretty much get vague schematics on how pieces are supposed to work together and descriptions of various methods. He briefly tells you to machine code an OS with a BASIC interpreter, then details how a BASIC program is written. It's funky. Powells has a used copy. What I'd like is Haviland's follow-up book, How to Design, Build & Program Your Own Advanced Working Computer System (which Powells doesn't have).

I notice Build Your Own Z80 Computer (book) is available in an Amazon "zShop".

Ooh! Ooh! How about those HERO robot kits? Man, I'd kill for one of those. Especially the extremely fancy HERO 2000 that can find its own charging station.

Me, I had the far less expensive (and far less fancy but still quite educational) Radio Shack Microcomputer Trainer. Teeny all-in-one chip with 256 4-bit bytes RAM and enough ROM to house a few built-in programs and a method to tie together 8 LEDs, a 7-segment display and a keypad. My father was nice enough not to throw out this golden oldie, like he did my Star Wars action figures, and has actually agreed to ship it to me. (Yay Dad!) I'd recommend Computer Garage's pictures from the Vintage Computer Festival Sept. 1998 if it weren't so terribly slow to load, but the Garage itself is excellent. See also the related web ring.

July 21, 2000

BrainLog Presents: Dinner and a Weblog

(Damn, not enough time to redo the banner...)

Today's Recipe: Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients:

Ingredients; forgot to photograph the flour! D'oh!

  • 1 pound beef tenderloin, lean beef round or sirloin, all visible fat removed
  • 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoons dill weed
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt

Cut the meat into thin strips about 2 inches long. (I had the butcher cube mine, which seems just as good.) Sprinkle with pepper, cover and let stand in refridgerator for 2 hours. (Or, uh, forget to do this part and just pepper the meat.)

Place 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, saute until tender. Dump the mushrooms out onto a plate and set them aside. Saute the onions in the same skillet until brown, dump them out too. Add the meat to the skillet and brown quickly (!) on all sides until rare. Dump.

Cooked mushrooms, onions and beef

If you want to serve over rice, like I do, now'd be a good time to start cooking it.

Place 1 tablespoon of oil and 2 tablespoons of flour in the skillet and stir, mix well. Gradually add the broth, stirring constantly. (Some recipes use a little Worcestershire sauce, and I can't resist Worcestershire sauce, so I'm gonna add some.) Cook until smooth and slightly thick. Add tomato paste, dry mustard, oregano, dill weed and sherry. Blend well.

I went for sweet and creamy sherry as opposed to dry, cuz I figured not knowing what I was doing I had a 50/50 shot. It worked OK, but is one any better than the other for general cooking use? (I was told to avoid "cooking sherry".)

Here's a picture of my kitchen, from the POV of my computer:

My sister gave me Philosophy magnetic poetry for Christmas.

In the top of a double boiler, combine sauce, meat, mushrooms and onions. (Double boiler my ass; there's plenty of liquid here to regulate the temperature. Or just use your own judgement.) Cook 15 minutes.

Is half an hour too long to wait for beef stroganoff? Try Dr Becky's Quick Beef Stroganoff recipe, which is basically taking a regular recipe and cooking it all at once.

Is half an hour not long enough to wait for beef stroganoff? Try beefrecipe.com's Easy Ground Beef Stroganoff, which is easier to prepare but simmers for an hour.

Are these recipes just too darn healthy for you? Try Family.com's Peanut Butter Beef Stroganoff, which is pretty much the same (hell, they're all pretty much the same) except with peanut butter added.

Beat the yogurt (read: sour cream substitute) in a small bowl to prevent curdling, then add it to the meat and blend it in. Cook for 5 more minutes, then serve immediately (!) with rice (or spinach noodles or whatever). Serves 6.

Mmmmm!  Umm...

Uh... Well, something like that. I, uh, used a little too much broth and not enough yogurt and flour, so I didn't really get a sauce out of it. (Cooking lesson: proportions are important with sauces.) Still tastes good, though.

Calories: 215 kcal
Protein: 18 gm
Carbohydrate: 7 gm
Cholesterol: 40 mg
Sodium: 71 mg
Total Fat: 12 gm
Saturated Fat: 3 gm
Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 gm
Monounsaturated Fat: 4 gm
Source: American Heart Association Cookbook, 5th Ed.
(P.S. 12 gm total fat * 9 kcal/gm = 108 kcal from fat; 108 kcal from fat / 215 kcal total = 50% calories from fat. See last week's discussion.)

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou trailer. (Thanks Twernt.)

Could the future of robotics be a toy train with a taste for flesh?

July 20, 2000

Nightline's 20th Anniversary museum has a selection of clips from the show sorted by date, topic and name. (You'll need to resize the window; they didn't provide a linkable page that spawns an appropriately sized window.)

The main Nightline web site has recent video clips and transcripts.

Programming Perl, 3rd edition is out. I'm excited about the new topics, such as threading, but I'm not sure I'll be upgrading from the 2nd edition right away.

The Apple G4 Cube has no fan? That's a little scary. I'll need reliability reviews before I can start salivating. But look! New iMac colors!

GirlHacker inspired me to take a scant interest in collecting the new 50 state quarters as they come out. Not sure how long I'll care, but I've already found the last five states in my change dish. This coin collectin' is easy! (And of course, to take it seriously I'd need to care about the release letters and things. My South Carolina is a P!)

July 19, 2000

New York State Historical Maps, since 1556.

Software Testing Techniques from the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada).

Dave Winer has started a Napster weblog.

July 18, 2000

Lisa got me an extremely thoughtful gift from Paris. I've complained before about how there don't seem to be any good consumer-released copies of Fritz Lang's Metropolis available (link is to a very good fan site). The Madacy release is the only one in print in the United States, as far as I know--and the DVD sells for $8 or less--and the print, cut and music are dreadful. A version sells in the UK, but has terrible reviews.

Lisa got me a French release of Metropolis on DVD, finally justifying my spending extra money on a DVD player that can play multiple region codes (it's a region 2 disc, meaning it won't play on DVD players sold in the U.S.). The image quality is excellent, and it appears to contain more footage than versions we've seen. The menus are in French, and the titles are in German (with optional French sub-titles for the titles). The music is bizarre, but I like it. Knowing the condition of existing prints, this is probably the best I could have hoped for on video.

And it sounds like it is. The above-mentioned fan site has comparison charts, but most helpful was the note at the bottom of this page:

Important note to anyone considering buying Metropolis in DVD: the versions released by Madacy, CMH/Xoom, and Eureka are not recommended by us, since they all are reported to (1) have bad image quality; (2) have an inadequate soundtrack; (3) be very incomplete (many scenes found in Moroder's or in Munich's restored versions are missing in them). The only DVD version that could be considered worth buying would be that released by Film sans Frontieres. However, this version has French captions and we do not know if a version with English captions is being sold or at least being planned.

The Films sans Frontieres web site has little information, and Amazon.co.uk doesn't list this version, so I don't know where you can get it. DVDfr.com lists it (with a picture of the silver 3-D cover), but I can't tell if they actually sell DVDs or just review them (my French isn't that good :).

Here's a long, energetic and very appropriately scathing review of the Madacy release, which mentions the FsF version:

There are other versions of this film on DVD available, but most experts on Metropolis agree that only one of them is any good-and that's in French, released by the company Films Sans Frontieres.

And thanks to Lisa, I now own it. =)

The Hacker's Diet. A golden oldie I wasn't aware of. (Thanks beth of MetaFilter.)

For those that missed it: Conan O'Brien's Commencement Speech to the Harvard Class of 2000. (Thanks Geegaw, among others.)

July 17, 2000

This American Life's Radio: An Illustrated Guide is on sale at Amazon for $3.95 (and hey look, I made the link go through TAL's Amazon.com affiliateship). Originally kept a NPR pledge giveaway, sometime when I wasn't looking this was released in stores. Of course, the 32-page documentary comic book has its own website.

405: The Movie was made by two guys in three months in their spare time using their desktop computers. You won't believe it when you see it. The official site has tons of info, and you can watch the whole film at iFilm.com. iFilm also did a feature story on the film:

"We were more than willing to spend money on this project," says Branit, "but at the end, we looked at each other and realized we hadn't spent a dime, except for a few CDs and a couple of pedestrian-on-the-freeway tickets from the highway patrol."
(Thanks Ooine.)

Incidentally, Roger Ebert and the Movies last week featured two films popular on the web: 405, and George Lucas in Love. The latter is now available on VHS for $8 and tops the charts (#1) in VHS sales on Amazon.com at the moment.

Also mentioned was Bobby Loves Mangos, which I haven't watched yet but comes recommended.

Oh, and welcome Richard Roper as Ebert's new permanent co-host.

DeCSS goes to Federal Court today. I've already said plenty about this complicated intellectual property case (important on so many levels and in so many ways), but I might as well re-visit briefly.

In short: DVDs are encrypted for the sole purpose of requiring manufacturers of DVD players to license a closed standard owned by the DVD-CCA--and thereby agree to all terms of the DVD-CCA, regardless of their legal (or ethical) status. The movie industry feels it needs this control to manipulate sales and distribution, considered a form of price fixing in some countries, through moronic and futile systems such as region coding. While the DVD-CCA will claim that encryption is to protect against piracy, it's a tough argument to swallow given the weakness of the encryption they used (which, in part, made it so easy for DeCSS to be written).

DeCSS breaks the encryption, allowing DVDs to be played without licensed technology. It does not facilitate the piracy of DVDs in the way the DVD-CCA would like you to think: anyone who can pirate a DVD can pirate, byte for byte, the encrypted DVD without breaking the encryption, resulting in a copy playable by any DVD player. DeCSS merely makes them playable without a strictly licensed player.

It is conceivable that the ability to manufacture and sell a player outside the realm of the DVD-CCA's control could be construed as a piracy threat. Because there'd be no license, a manufacturer could use DeCSS--a (legally) reverse-engineered version of the decryption scheme--in lieu of licensed technology to (legally) produce a DVD player that does not implement Macrovision copy protection (which is otherwise required by the DVD-CCA license). The DVD-CCA uses its license to circumvent the law, and DeCSS's reverse-engineering demonstrates the futility of this effort.

Whether DeCSS violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, objectionable in subtle ways, is for the courts to decide. The DMCA (as I understand it) prohibits the bypassing of copy protection schemes, which might just give the DVD-CCA enough ammunition.

See also related stories in the sidebar of the NYTimes story.

July 14, 2000

BrainLog Presents: Dinner and a Weblog

Today's Recipe: Chicken and Broccoli in Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients:

Ingredients; expensive freshly grated Parmesan cheese!

  • 10 ounces fresh broccoli spears
  • 4 tablespoons margarine
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onion
  • dash nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (1/2 slice bread)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken

Preheat your oven to 375�F. Lightly spray an 11x7-inch baking pan with vegetable oil. Uh, make that a 13x9-inch baking pan with corn oil.

Take a fantasy trip into a black hole, using MPEG movies of computer simulations. Has explanations, too. (Thanks LarkFarm.)

Steam broccoli spears until tender-crisp, then plunge into ice water to stop cooking. Drain and blot dry on paper towels. Set aside.

You should probably cook that chicken, too.

Mr. Showbiz has a great X-Men feature page. Check out the sidebar on the Mutant Watch protest rally in Seattle (one of several around the country as part of Fox's Senator Kelly ad campaign).

Cooked chicken and broccoli

In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon margarine. Er, butter. Add sliced mushrooms, cover (with aluminum foil, I guess) and cook 7 to 9 minutes, or until mushrooms have released all their juices. Uncover and increase setting to high. Allow liquid to evaporate. Set aside.

Cooked mushrooms (they shrank!)

In a small bowl, combine chicken broth and nonfat dry milk. Set aside.

Cinematrix develops an audience polling technology based on colored wands that audience members hold in the air to be counted. They have collaborative games and utilities based on this technology, too.

In a saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons margarine (butter) over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add chicken broth mixture and stir and wire whisk (or a fork or whatever). Bring to a boil, then add onion, nutmeg and 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese. Add cooked mushrooms and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese and parsley. Set aside.

Slashdot has a nice write-up of the bill to ban distributing information on illegal drugs. Tacked on to a bankruptcy reform bill, no less.

Arrange broccoli spears on the bottom of prepared pan. Evenly distribute chicken over broccoli. Pour mushroom sauce over everything. Everything in the pan, at least. Sprinkle bread-crumb mixture on top. Bake 25 minutes. Serves 6.

Mmmmm!

Calories: 262 kcal
Protein: 22 gm
Carbohydrate: 14 gm
Cholesterol: 46 mg
Sodium: 336 mg
Total Fat: 13 gm
Saturated Fat: 4 gm
Polyunsaturated Fat: 3 gm
Monounsaturated Fat: 5 gm
Source: American Heart Association Cookbook, 5th Ed.

Bookmark dumping ground (unsorted territory):

And that, my friends, is the end of the bookmark dumping ground. I'm out of bookmarks, if you can believe that.

July 13, 2000

Jikes, an open source almost-GPL'ed Java compiler, is said to be very fast. But I also hear the latest compiler from Sun is much faster than its predecessors, and I'm too lazy to benchmark myself. Still nice to see an alternative compiler.

The general advice on Java IDEs is to not bother; get a good text editor and Sun's Java SDK and do it yourself. But I also hear recommendations for things like KAWA. It'd be kinda neat to have Visual-C++-style autocomplete dropdown menus, a sort of docs on the fly thing for classes. And an editor-centered debugger might be fun. But I'm really looking for an IDE; I'm happy with the former solution.

Salon has more to say on reality shows.

Bookmark dumping ground (unsorted territory):

July 12, 2000

DailyNews Yahoo gives the lowdown on ratings for the TV show portion of Big Brother, and it's not surprising. Thankfully they acknowledge the existence of fans and the reason for the fandom:

About the only place Big Brother seems to be gaining popularity is on the Web. Although exact figures aren't available yet, the AOL-CBS live Webcast of house goings-on is a hot topic in TV newsgoups and has several devoted followers. The uncensored video is frequently more compelling than the TV version (witness last night's pow-wow on when contestants lost their virginity--FYI: Will was a lad of 13, stripper Jordan 21) and fan sites such as The Red Room and The Unofficial Big Brother Fan Page have sprouted up with commentary on every housemate moment.

"The live feeds of Big Brother are sooo much better than the TV show," writes one addicted Web viewer in the alt.tv.mtv newsgroup. "The TV show cuts out X-rated conversations and a lot of good stuff, and I have caught a lot of weird shit going on when watching the live feeds. I have yet to see the toilet camera being used, though."

Salon's scathing review describes Big Brother as "unhip" and makes a key observation:

People do not watch these shows for the voyeuristic thrill of observing others going about their most intimate business. No, the reality of reality TV is that we watch it because we're only looking for a good, mean laugh at some bozo's expense.

... which gets directly to why I like Big Brother: there are few mean laughs to be had, (so far) little Real-World whining or petty bitching, just real people living real lives. And with nothing to do but talk, these people are pouring their souls out, intentionally or otherwise, in casual conversation and demeanor. They're connecting in a way that the casts of other reality shows are never allowed, putting aside the petty crap in order to live together in closed quarters.

Salon's TV coverage is good at being realistic about what television can aspire to, so the author suggests that what's missing is the titilating but cheap-to-produce pettiness that's made reality TV so popular with both audiences and networks. But that is the fundamental mistake in the editing philosophy of the producers of the TV synopses: they don't trust the viewer to be interested in other aspects of the guests' lives, but not enough petty bitching is happening yet, so none of the interesting stuff gets aired.

What I think is the good stuff also takes longer to watch and absorb, so it's not making it into the TV show, and that's a shame. Still, it pains me to hear people complain about the whole project when it's only the mis-managed and mis-marketed TV portion that isn't working. (What's worse is that I can't evangalize, because not enough people have fast enough connections [or, admittedly, the time] to watch what I'm calling the real show.)

I'll gladly entertain the idea that it's the petty bitching that gets to the heart of the human condition, not the casual conversation, and I agree for the most part. There's nothing more humanizing than an apology, and even as the Big Brother contestants are starting to fight a little bit, they don't get to leave the house and hide, so they face the music and apologize, making for good TV all around. But the point is the baseness of the viewing experience, not (necessarily) the content: people want to see bitching because it's titilating. If that's all there is (especially if they have no reason to apologize and get over it), it gets really old really fast.

Aside: Survivor has hit upon an interesting formula along these lines. They have to live and work with each other, but they're also kept in a continual sense of competition. With more space to spread out, the degree to which they have to bond is about that of an office workplace, so grudges are easier to keep.

As I type this, Tuesday's Big Brother has just aired, and it's got all the yelling that's been missing so far. ... It's, uh, pretty entertaining, too. On Thursday's show they'll be announcing the first banishment live. Enjoy!

I'm giving serious consideration to Java certification. My employer won't pay for Sun's official training (and I haven't found a college-based substitute that qualifies for their tuition reimbursement plan), so it'll be intensive self-study for me. The test itself costs about $150, plus $100 or so for books, but it looks good enough for a resume that it'll be worth it--that's the impression I'm under, anyway. But I'm far more interested in the education, anyway; I love the language, especially now that I have a use for it.

The Java Certification FAQ has some good info. As for study books, The Complete Java 2 Certification Study Guide seems to be the one. However, a new edition comes out in September, and I'm in no rush. I've heard good advice to study from two books, a likely choice for the second being Java 2 (Exam Cram) for its difficult sample tests. How tough is it? Try these sample questions.

Bookmark dumping ground (unsorted territory):

July 11, 2000

My mother tells me the Big Brother feeds are impossible over an AOL connection. If only people that watch the feeds can become fans (because the TV show by itself is boring), that probably spells doom for the show. *sigh*

American Beauty on DVD, with commentary, DVD-ROM features and more: October 24. Express.com has a great pre-order price.

Touch of Evil, Orson Welles' cut and restoration, on DVD: October 31. About freakin' time, but I've decided not to mind the delay, as the DVD includes a 57 minute documentary and the 58 page memo from Welles to the studio used as the blueprint for the re-edit.

Back to the Future on DVD: early 2001.

The new Woody Allen DVD boxed set is out. I'd be interested if I didn't just order Annie Hall individually. (Not super-enthusiastic about every film in the set, but it's a good price to grab 'em all.)

Java programmers will enjoy The Java Ranch. Java. Cows. Java. Good stuff.

There are only a handful of neat Handspring Visor Springboard modules available, esp. with regards to reference libraries. I think the PDR module is neat, for those with a use for it (doctors, a clear market for Palm devices). That's not to say there aren't plenty of reference downloads you can buy, some are free (and for all Palm devices, too).

Bookmark dumping ground (unsorted territory):

July 10, 2000

David of MetaLingo earns linkage by telling me about three Big Brother web feeds not linked from their web page: control room cam, chicken cam, and a very useful a composite of the four main feeds (clickable). Thanks David!

I don't mean to sound like a shill by plugging Big Brother, but CBS really mis-fired with the marketing and design of the TV portion of the show, so I think the web feeds are worth mentioning. Forget the atrocious "tour" opening show, people are already noticing that there's nothing special or interesting about the half-hour highlights reels. (Complain about the potato clock all you like, I'm glad for the contestants that they're given things to do each day.)

What I'm not entirely sure about is how the TV portion is meant to get ratings. I guess people, like me, who love the live feeds, want to see the highlights. (William trying to hit on Jamie while she was imprisoned in her plaster mask should sway web votes--I would hope). But how is anyone else supposed to get interested? Too much ramp up involved to follow the soap-opera "storylines," but not enough of the real human drama (that you see on the feeds) to get anyone motivated to pursue it.

Orwell Project.com, an unofficial Big Brother site.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coen Brothers' modern re-telling of Homer's The Odyssey, is due out this fall. Stars George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, and Holly Hunter. I'm happy to see that Stephen Root has a roll. (IMDb, Movies.com.)

The trailer for Blood Simple, the director's cut, due out any day now (July 14 in Seattle), is worth seeing.

Is Hollywood willing to cast an aging celebrity as an old person? How about four? Space Cowboys casts Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland as retired Air Force pilots called to fly a shuttle mission to repair an aging Russian satelite. Movies.com reports Jack Nicholson and Sean Connery were also approached for Jones' role. Eastwood directs, with a release date of August 4. Check out the trailers and other video. Co-written by Ken Kaufman, who also co-wrote Muppets From Space.

Bookmark dumping ground (unsorted territory):

July 7, 2000

Say what you will about Big Brother, but the live web feeds are pretty cool. The contestants were chosen so they'd be uncomfortable with each other, there's nothing to do but talk, and everyone is well-mic'ed. The half-hour recap on TV isn't going to show the best stuff, like the short uncomfortable conversation about dental dams I just heard. The feeds are directed all day (camera changes and mic mixing), so you're always watching and listening to real action. If you dislike the show or the concept, give the web feeds a try.

InMotion Pictures lets you rent a portable DVD player, headset and a DVD movie one-way or round-trip from airports in Portland OR, Minneapolis-St.Paul, Philadelphia, Seattle, Denver, San Jose and San Diego. One-way, $12.50, only between supported airports; round-trip, $12.50/day. DVDs by themselves can be returned by mail, and they'll also sell you equipment and movies at the airport.

Bookmark dumping ground (unsorted territory):