August 2000 Archives
Far be it from me to promote a book club, but Books Online is offering three otherwise expensive Java certification books for $9.99 (plus about $10 shipping), with a commitment of only one book. Big enough selection of computer books that you could almost certainly find one you'd like, pay full price and be done with it. Considering I was planning on spending $100+ for two of the Java cert. books, spending about $50 and getting two extra books is a pretty good deal. So I'm blogging it.
Samsung 909 Multi-Region DVD player. Modified, but very inexpensive as hacked DVD players go.
The Intolerant Librarian, "for librarians who have had enough."
Fantasia on DVD? Sure thing. Fantasia 2000 on DVD? You betcha. A 3 Disc Collector's Set with more features than you can possibly imagine, including material on unproduced segments, isolated music tracks, interviews, on-camera introductions, and much more? Damn skippy.
13-year-old "r00ts" Popular Polynomial. The availability of scripts to compromise roots is getting way out of hand. Will the script kiddies ever let up?
Hey neat, Amazon.com ships pre-orders a day before the official release of the item. That's cool. Might I be the first on my block with North by Northwest on DVD?
How to decode the output of that free CueCat bar code scanner, which you can get for free from Radio Shack, or order (for cost of shipping) from the CueCat web site. Need more info? See this little Linux driver, which gives more information on the data format in its README file. Picked one up the other day. Guy gave me a dirty look when I didn't want a catalog.
As we can see, it's super easy to write software to use it without installing their default utility (which merely matches barcodes to web pages from their central database). Parse a book's ISBN and bring up the Amazon.com page, to catalog automatically in a database, for example. Better yet, scan your CD collection into a program that uses CDDB to fetch the track titles. (Faster than sticking your entire collection into the drive, anyway, which is what you'd have to do without a scanner.)
Survivor Blog. Outwit. Outlast. Outwrite.
Losing Your Lunch? ABCNews.com didn't need to leave the building to get the picture for the article; I don't know anyone at work that actually eats away from their desk. (I occasionally leave for a break, but only to go to the library.)
freedb.org. Because CDDB went commercial. (It never said it wouldn't, I guess.)
Why isn't Freferick Wiseman's High School at your local library? Because Zipporah films is too poor to allow licenses to libraries. But you can purchase VHS tapes and rent or purchase 16mm prints.
Project Vote Smart, the Last Trusted Source for Political Information, is surrounded by wild fire. Literally. Stationed in the Rocky Mountains, the road to the Project has been closed, and volunteers are continually being harrassed by smoke and water damage.
ABC.com has had their foot in the door on web + TV integration for a while. The Who Wants to Be A Millionaire Shockwave game gets so much traffic that that part of the company is practically profitable. I'm just now getting around to trying their Enhanced TV version of the show, a comparable game but synced to the broadcast, so you answer the same questions in the TV game. Finally, you can get points for knowing more than those people. Entertainment value even if you don't like the show--though you have to be watching the broadcast to get the question, which doesn't appear in the web feed.
Good quality sync (at least over my DSL line, though it looks low bandwidth). Each of the four answers for each question has a silly picture that goes along with it, such as maps for geography questions (with a full map after the answer is revealed). Even more impressive is the sponsorship tie-in: during a national TV commercial, you get bonus points for answering a trivia question that requires you pay attention to the commercial. The general strategy to get you to turn on your TV is pretty cool. (See, that's what happens to your priorities when you work for a media site.)
I finally got a Leatherman multitool - the Wave. Needless to say, I love it to pieces. Needs oil, I think; some blades won't come out with fingernails. Had that problem all the time with bigger Swiss Army knives, broke many fingernails. Thankfully, the little knife on my keychain is great for opening the tools on the Leatherman.
I considered many of the Swiss Army-style knives before opting for a Leatherman, but nobody is making any of the configurations that appealed to me (e.g. the Deluxe Tinker)-- though some on-line stores claimed to have some in stock.
Hooray! I'm a blogger that blogs about recent purchases!
Workbench Magazine compares multi-tools. Good read if you're in the market.
Victorinox's new SwissLite knife is small and has a blade, nailfile with "screwdriver", scissors (which now appear to be standard on their small knives), tweezers and a light. Nice to see popular features in a small model. And small knives are good for keychains, where big knives are too cumbersome to sit inconspicuously in a pocket.
The shutting down of an aging but vital network server in this California university town has sent shivers through the worldwide Internet. Hundreds of sites have already gone silent, and experts say that without drastic action the Internet itself may shut down within weeks.From the great but (*cough*) horribly infrequently updated Theogeny.com.
Seeking to provide free-tool portal-style services in the growing print-to-web market, CueCat provides free barcode readers for your computer. Radio Shack is giving them away in their stores so you can browse information about products you see in their printed catalogs. Wired also gives them to subscribers to find more information about their printed ads.
The software that comes with the scanner can read all bar codes, and if it sees one it recognizes, it'll take you to an appropriate web page (a Slashdot reader reports success on a Pepsi can and a DVD, for example). The scanner being generally useful, however, you can easily write your own software to use it for more practical matters. Indeed, the thing plugs into your PS2 keyboard port and spits out ASCII characters of what it reads. Programs that print bar codes are readily available as well, including the GPL'd UScan package.
Barcode 1 has all the information you'll need on bar codes and their standards, including the familiar 1D Code 128, probably readable by the free scanner, and 2D bar codes of many different specs, probably not readable by the free scanner. Barcodes are pretty.
Salon reports what we've been missing on Big Brother in the web-fed portions that appear neither on television nor in CBS's web archives-- and it's enough to inspire revolution against a network. Most all major events that happen are an order from CBS, that much we know. What we didn't know (unless we were watching the live feeds 24/7) was that CBS has portrayed commanded incidents-- even scripted dialogue-- as the house guests' own ideas on the TV show. For example, the "roast" of two fellow houseguests included offensive jokes scripted by CBS but portrayed as written by the houseguests.
I had a bunch more to say to amend the article, including a description of the recent "massage" fiasco that I'm surprised they actually aired. But I wanted to link a bunch of barcode stuff instead, and I try, often unsuccessfully, to limit the amount to screen space I use each day. ;)
Salon has had daily coverage of Big Brother, despite the fact they didn't like it at first. I wish they'd be more critical of the show in the daily coverage, instead of merely summarizing the TV spots.
AOLiza: 1990s technology culture meets a 1960s technology culture experiment.
For more (and slightly better) conversation simulators, see NonI, MegaHAL & HeX by Jason Hutchens.
See also Jason's archive of transcripts from the Loebner Contest.
N'Sync Killed My Baby! (also Landover Baptist.)
Today's Recipe: Really Good Spaghetti Sauce
- 1 pound ground beef (optional)
- 8 oz sliced mushrooms
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 green pepper. chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 16-oz cans cut up tomatos
- 1 6-oz can of tomato paste
- 1 spoon sugar
- oregano, basil, thyme
- 6 cups hot cooked spaghetti
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sauce experts like to play up the saucey part of a sauce. They recommend cooking slowly and for a very long time so the ingredients can release all of their flavor into the liquid, giving the sauce a complex but uniform taste. Screw that! I like my vegetables crunchy and fresh, containing their own flavors in their own units. Most of all, I like my spaghetti sauce chunky. And you can't get chunky spaghetti sauce in an American restaurant. So you have to make it yourself.
It goes without saying that spaghetti sauces are meant for combining ingredients of your choice, in amounts to your tastes. This recipe is very similar to one found in Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, but with beafed up amounts. I like ground beef, but you can easily leave this out for an equally great vegetarian sauce, or use ground pork or turkey. The mushroom, onion and green pepper amounts are higher than the book recommends, which is as it should be; I also like large chunks (chopped but far from diced). Like garlic? Add more garlic. BHaG likes 1 tsp of sugar and each spice; I tend to over-do it, especially the oregano.
The Best Recipe says: "Day in, day out, we find that canned tomatoes make the best sauce." Canned diced tomatoes, in tomato juice, work great for me.
And hey, Cook's Illustrated's The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles is available for pre-order.
Cook the vegetables in oil. That's a lot of veggies, do it in shifts. Dump into your big fancy wok-shaped covered simmering pan. (I don't know the brand of mine, but I love it; if anyone has any recommendations, please post.) Brown the meat, dump it in. Dump in the cans of tomatoes, dump in the tomato paste. Stir it all together. Add sugar, oregano, basil, thyme, and a bay leaf if you have one. Stir.
Bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat, cover. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Serve over cooked spaghetti noodles.
You can time the noodles pretty well by starting to boil the water 15 minutes into the sauce's cooking, then throw in the noodles when you uncover the sauce. It's important not to overcook spaghetti, and because the uncovered simmering of the sauce can be of a variable amount of time, you can pay attention to the noodles and dinner will be ready when they're done. As you like, use a little salt and extra-virgin olive oil for cooking the noodles.
Prepare the vegetables while you're cooking other vegetables, and you can have Really Good Spaghetti in about an hour. Clean up while simmering and there'll be more time for play after dinner!
I really need a decent digital camera for Dinner and a Weblog. Above, the blue of the television brings up the red in the sauce, an effect I couldn't replicate well with Photoshop in other pictures. I'd be willing to spend a grand on such a camera (though it'd take a while before I can save that much--but it'd be worth it).
Really Good Spaghetti Sauce is great for impressing dates!
Tada! One of my favorite dinners, and it makes enough for three or four days worth of food. You'll clean your plate, even when the noodles are gone. Chunky enough for a sandwich, even.
Calories: 501 kcal (26% from fat)|
Protein: 30 gm
Carbohydrate: 64 gm
Cholesterol: 61 mg
Sodium: 93 mg
Total Fat: 14.5 gm|
Saturated Fat: 5 gm
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.3 gm
Monounsaturated Fat: 5.6 gm
Calories: 308 kcal (5% from fat)|
Protein: 11 gm
Carbohydrate: 64 gm
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 40 mg
Total Fat: 2 gm|
Saturated Fat: 0.3 gm
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.8 gm
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.25 gm
|Source: my own half-assed calculations|
Not that such a potentially dangerous and influential ruling from a little judgy wudgy like this is going to last, but according to him, source code is not protected free speech, giving Hollywood a major victory in their war against DeCSS-- a completely legal piece of software if it weren't for extremely dangerous threats to our basic freedoms in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. The one that our Congress passed in 1998 to benefit a few corporations and do both short-term and long-term damage to the general public in the Information Age. (See also analysis of the DMCA from the library perspective.)
I've been playing with MasterCook Cooking Light recipe software. Checking to see what the latest version is, I found The Best of MasterCook. Of course, MasterCook.com has plenty of useful tools and resources for free over the web.
Microsoft .NET vs. J2EE: How Do They Stack Up?. Finally, someone explains this .NET crap to me; Microsoft's materials make it sound like a complete replacement for everything...
Kozmo to acquire UrbanFetch. 'Cuz competition is a bad thing. Kozmo recently fired 10% of their work force (275 people), I guess to save up for the big buy.
Java Coding Standard. A brief but useful Java style guide. Books on the subject (such as The Elements of Java Style) don't really seem worth money, but style guides are important nonetheless. (I was looking up the order in which to specify method modifiers: static public or public static? The guides seem to imply static public...)
Living.com has died. The Amazon.com acquisition is laying off all 275 employees and filing for Chapter 7. Amazon says it's no biggie. Starbucks writes off its losses from their share of the furniture store.
RegisterFREE.com will do registrar transfers for $12. This includes the mandatory 1-year renewal. Get away from NSI and renew all your domains for $12 each!
I started using RegisterFree because, as great as Joker.com is, they're not as accessible in case of a lawsuit-- Joker is in Germany, RegisterFree is in New York. Not sure if that's sound reasoning, but it's peace of mind. Both are inexpensive and have fast purchasing service (two days to activation, usually). The real test will be when I try to transfer ownership of a domain.
David Spade's new animated series Sammy wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. Not that it's all that good. Fun cast, though. Andy Dick finally breaks out of type-casting, an ability he proved long ago with The Ben Stiller Show but went ignored for these many years. Maura Tierney has a small role, too.
Gibraltar seeks to become a Debian GNU/Linux based router/firewall package on a bootable CD-ROM that doesn't require hard disk installation. Configuration is stored on a floppy disc. There are advantages and disadvantages to keeping your system on a CD-ROM, but it sure simplifies security issues.
Perhaps it's about time I link my Amazon.com Wish List. Long and predictable, but it's all stuff I want. Buy away!
Bird on a Wire's wish list is a bit more entertaining.
You can now pre-order the new 2-disc Limited Edition of The Bridge on the River Kwai, to release November 7. Features an exclusive documentary, an original featurette, a short film narrated by William Holden, an "appreciation and discussion" by John Milius, photos and behind the scenes footage. Try to remember Alec Guinness for something other than Star Wars.
World Chess Federation (FIDE) web site. rec.games.chess.misc FAQ. How Elo (chess) ratings are calculated. It's nice that rating systems like this don't average over games played, so even an experienced player can make big changes in their rating by winning just a few games against the right players.
Left Hand Smoke, a group rapidly gaining popularity in Seattle, has MP3s of some of their songs free for download.
The International Olympic Committee has essentially banned Web sites from covering the Olympic games in Sydney, Australia.
Remember I was trying to reclaim a piece of my childhood in the form of the old CP/M game called Ladder? Well someone's gone and written a version of Ladder written in Java. It's not in applet form, so you'll have to download and install the run-time environment. It's far from a perfect port: no funky intro menu with all the cutesy sayings that gave the game a lot of its charm, and the level order (1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1...) is replaced with simply playing through the levels. The old level order is an admittedly annoying feature, but the game seems too short if you just whip through all the levels on first play. On the plus side, window menus let you adjust colors, speed, levels, and you can even create and play custom levels. Plays better than the Linux version I linked earlier.
Slate analyzes the Ralph Nader TV ad. (Yeah, everyone blogged it, but it's a fun read.)
Director Michael Lehmann will attempt to reclaim his fame with Heathers 2. IMDb lists a planned release date for 2001, but has no cast info (a good indication that it'll be more than a year). Daniel Waters, writer on Heathers, will write H2. (Hey, I didn't know Waters wrote Demolition Man. Hudson Hawk, too...)
Feds request lighter sentence for Naughton. Patrick Naughton, former VP for Infoseek (aka Go.com aka Walt Disney Internet Group), was convicted on federal charges for attempting to meet with a minor he met on the Internet. The minor in question was an FBI sting operation. Naughton may get a lighter sentence-- probation and a $20,000 fine, instead of jail time-- for having cooperated extensively with officials. The feds are requesting that details of his cooperation be sealed, though this article implies that he is helping to pursue criminals on-line.
Naughton co-authored the Osborne McGraw-Hill Java Complete Reference book series.
Figuring out how to use the ferry system in the northwestern U.S.? The Washington State Department of Transportation ferry web site has most all of the information you'll need. The handy Ferry Travel guides have an accompanying web site.
Looking for a general map of the city of Seattle? Try SeattleMap.com. Especially useful for familiarizing yourself with the various neighborhoods and regions.
Disney.com presents: Surf Swell Island: Adventures in Internet Safety. What is Goofy doing on The Cliffs of Mean Manners? Will Donald get lost in The Virus Caves? Is Minnie safe on No Privacy Beach? (The press release mentions off-line festivities to celebrate the launch.) P.S. I'm told the site is buggy, and crashes many browsers. Still funny, though.
"And you thought 20/20 vision was as good as it gets..." Television ads for Acuvue 2 contact lenses have a guy say this while a visual shows "20/20" reduce to "20/19", "20/18", "20/17"... Who do they think we are?
Today's Recipe: Chocolate Mousse
- 1/2 lb semi-sweet baking chocolate
- 5 eggs (as fresh as possible)
- 1/3 cup of hot coffee
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 pint of whipping cream (for topping)
Melt the chocolate with the coffee in a double boiler. I just used a metal bowl that happened to fit over my only sauce pan. Made me wish I had a real double boiler. You know, with a handle on the inner pan.
Separate the eggs: whites into a medium mixing bowl, yolks go into the final canister (another mixing bowl). And here I thought separating eggs was difficult.
I realized too late that I should have made my "final canister" my OXO Good Grips best-damned-9-bucks-I-ever-spent mixing bowl.
I also should have used the metal bowl for beating the whites, as metal (copper especially?) produces better results.
Add the pinch of salt to the egg whites, then beat until peaks form. I pretended to be a purist and tried to do this by hand with a whisk. After five minutes, I came to my senses and hooked up a mixer. Peaks formed in about 60 seconds.
Lisa introduced me to a fantastic and very geeky cookbook: The Best Recipe, from Cook's Illustrated ($30 list, only $21 from Amazon). Each recipe is thoroughly researched, with explanations of detailed tests of different combinations of ingredients and techniques. The experimentation results in "the best recipe", as well as excellent advice. On raw eggs in mousse:
Because of the small possibility of bacterial contamination, many people worry about making mousse because it uses raw eggs. As with other recipes that use raw eggs, it is theoretically feasible to make a mousse by heating the eggs to a safe temperature before they are used in the dish. The "safe" temperatures for eggs is 160 degrees. Unfortunately, we found it an impossible task to beat individual yolks containing so little liquid over a double boiler in order to raise the temperature. We could not increase it beyond 120 degrees before the yolks congealed into tiny, hard pieces. In addition, a difficult technique for making a "safe" soft meringue from heated whites left a result too sticky and grainy for mousse.
You can limit the risk somewhat by using very fresh eggs that are free from any cracks and blemishes and by keeping them refrigerated until ready to use. This does not totally eliminate the risk, however, since the bacteria may be present in the egg to begin with. Also, be careful never to leave foods made with raw eggs at room temperature from any appreciable length of time.
The bottom line, though, is that if you are truly concerned with the health risks inherent in using raw eggs, you probably shouldn't make mousse at all.
Incidentally, this recipe is not their "best" recipe. You can look it up yourself. :)
Beat the yolks. If you like, add 1/4 cup of creme de menthe (omitted here). Add the melted chocolate and beat until smooth.
OK, here's the (slightly) hard part. Fold the beaten egg whites carefully into the chocolate mixture. We separated the eggs and beat the whites into a frothy mixture to add the air that makes this a mousse and not chocolate raw egg soup. You'll need to keep the whites frothy as you mix it in. To fold, put some of the frothy whites on top of the chocolate mixture and gently turn the chocolate over them with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Tada! Chocolate raw egg soup!
Pour the soup into serving containers and chill overnight. Actually, it only needs to be chilled for two hours, but you probably ate the last 4 ounces in the 12 ounce package of chocolate chips and you won't be in the mood.
Whip the cream to top. This takes a long time. I don't think it was worth it, either, but I didn't want to add anything to the cream lest it overpower the delicate taste of the mousse. Or maybe I just don't like cream. Cool Whip might have been better (don't kill me, purists!).
Mmmmm.... Chocolate mousse for dinner! Woohoo! Uh... Errr... uggghh... *taste* Mmmmm....
Calories: 263 kcal (54% from fat)|
Protein: 7 gm
Carbohydrate: 25.5 gm
Cholesterol: 183 mg
Sodium: 68 mg
Total Fat: 16 gm|
Saturated Fat: 9 gm
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 gm
Monounsaturated Fat: 6 gm
|Source: father's recipe, and my own half-assed calculations|
Also high in vitamin A, mostly from the eggs, but also the whip cream.
Serves 6 to 8. I fit it into three glasses, but I probably shouldn't eat two servings at once. Calculations are for 6 servings.
Little Sisters eat rats, live, right now! Little Sisters is Mr. Showbiz's alternative to Big Brother, with web cams on two employees. They also do Survivor stuff (like eating rats). Little Sisters was an instant success, getting more traffic than EXPN within just a couple of weeks. They even got a mention (with pictures) in last week's Newsweek.
The Blob - Criterion Edition DVD will release September 19.
Enter to win tickets to the Jeopardy college tournament at the University of Washington, Sept 15 and 16.
I'm slightly excited that O'Reilly is publishing a Java Enterprise CD Bookshelf. Truth be told, Sun's online documentation is easier to use, but I like them for effectively being able to carry the other books (e.g. Exploring Java, with examples as separate files on the disc) to work and back. I had been disappointed that my Java CD Bookshelf was out of date, but this makes up for it.
Finite-State Lexicon Compiler. Teehee!
O'Reilly interview with Anders Hejlsberg, creator of Microsoft's new C# programming language. Anders gives excellent answers to up-front questions, particularly with regard to emphasizing C#'s selling points above and beyond existing languages, especially Java.
Spike Lee directs a concert film of the highest grossing comedy tour in U.S. History: The Original Kings of Comedy. I'm also looking forward to his next film, Bamboozled, a satire of New York's network television industry.
The Library of Congress has its own HTML reference online. It's not a great reference (very introductory), but it's neat that they have one.
The Exploding Dictionary combines and cross-references "to near death" a bunch of dictionaries. SQL-based, so it's a tad slow, but still cool. The Ghostwheel Project also hosts Technojargon, a subset of The Exploding Dictionary.
Prepare! For Godzilla 2000! This ain't no sequel to that Broderick movie, this is made by the original creators of the Godzilla films. And no cheesy computer generated crap either; nothing beats a man in a lizard suit!
Go.com is now the Walt Disney Internet Group. The stock ticker symbol will be changed from GO to DIG on August 7. Oh, Q3 losses and higher revenues are news, too. Wednesday's teleconference is archived online, with some interesting (press-releasey) numbers. (How the heck do we get such great domain names?)
These stockholder conference calls are neat, if earnings reports turn you on.
Rosemary's Baby has a DVD release date of October 3.
The realities of "Enterprise" Java solutions dispell some J2EE hype. More like an article to bring managers down from the ceiling than to shed any light from an engineering perspective, but buzzwords need defining, too.
Disappearing Bacon. His new film would have caught my attention if the trailer actually showed his face. (I'm not as big a fan of Paul Verhoeven as some people, but I haven't seen his non-U.S. work...)
I'm having too much fun on Tapster, Spinal Tap's new web site (domain name apparently on loan from someone else; talk about a great low-cost publicity strategy). Do see the commentary on Napster, download a bunch of songs (including the new one), and pre-order the new DVD already, will ya??
Evan Mather's latest film, Fansom the Lizard, is now online. Stylish, cute, 9 minutes long. I wish my spare time was so well focused.
Lawyers really want to be on television, anyway. And those TV court show contestants really need lawyers. Those that defend themselves, and whatnot.
The Big Picture, formerly the Casbah Cinema in Seattle, is now "the nation's first 'luxury Internet theatre and venue'". They host fancy business meetings, presentations, parties, film premieres, and have digital projectors and a T1 Internet connection for web site launches and whatever else. A "100-seat Internet theater," for rent, as well as a lounge and meeting room. Makes me wish I had a use for it that would justify facility rental costs. (100 friends, $18 each. Next Seattle blogger get together? We could watch DVDs and post to MetaFilter on a big screen!)
Cinema Grill, with 19 U.S. locations (including Seattle; more on the way, supposedly), lets you dine while watching the latest flicks. Not much playing in the Seattle location right now (is Gladiator a film you can eat to?), but may be worth checking back...