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 Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained.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.

January 2001 Archives

January 30, 2001

I didn't lose my job yesterday. But 400 of my coworkers did. Thanks and hugs to everyone concerned for my wellbeing, I greatly appreciate the warm thoughts. (To clarify: "Go.com" no longer refers to the company as a whole, but to the web site, which employed a significant portion of the company. The second piece of news is that "Walt Disney Internet Group" no longer refers to the company either, as the Group been completely absorbed into The Walt Disney Company.)

DVDFILE.COM: Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream Theater.

Gamasutra: It's Great to be Back!, "Fast Code, Game Programming, and Other Thoughts from 20 (Minus 2) Years in the Trenches".

Rebecca Mead has her New Yorker article about weblogs on her web site. From last year's Cartoon Issue.

The tests carried out in the laboratory revealed that the horizontal keyboard was still better. 83% of testers reported that the traditional keyboard was more comfortable than the vertical one.

TweakUI 2000, for all versions of Windows, including 2000 and Me.

How to Connect A Dell PC to an Apple Cinema Display.

January 29, 2001

World New York is back, baby!

The history of humankind's perception of the universe. (Thanks Dad.)

Infiltration: online and underground. Remember this old weblog chestnut?

Ooh! Ooh! Sun Networking Systems: Netra t Servers: Netra X1 -- ultra-thin rack mountable server technology for under $1,000. Comes with Solaris 8, even.

It's not zero-starting-cost custom printed T-shirts, but Berda CompuGraphix offers excellent options for orders as small as 12 units. The only decent looking printing place I could find online that would print on dark colored shirts.

Interview with Jason Haas, after the announcement that LinuxPPC has gone non-profit.

Alan Oppenheimer is on a mission to provided free Airport/Internet access to all. His first stop: Ashland Oregon.

Contrast New York City. (Both links thanks Mr. Barrett.)

January 26, 2001

Brad sells mugs for lesser kudu!

To be effective, an assassin must be invisible as well as deadly, hiding behind the most innocent disguise. A bowl of beef ramen metamorphoses into a fearsome ninja; an apparently harmless can of tea becomes a sword-wielding samurai of death. With Lunchbots, each meal may be your last!

They're cheap plastic, and they're fun! Above quote is from the box. They come with little swords, though there's no place to put them when they're in their hidden forms; I'd think a sword lying in front of a ramen bowl would be rather suspicious. Nevertheless, the swords are essential for popping the heads out.

The link above goes to MiniDisco, an online MiniDisc store, in their "accessories" section, which makes it even more cute. (Nice cheap viral ploy to include cheap random toys with your minidiscs.) These toys are actually distributed by Seattle-based junk toy wholesaler Accoutrements-- which, of course, is nothing but the wholesale backend of Archie McPhee & Company. Lunchbots aren't in the McPhee online store, though I'm sure you could find a set at one of their stores.

(Should I take "Made in Taiwan exclusively for Accoutrements, Seattle, WA" to mean that this, like most McPhee items, is manufactured kitsch targetted entirely towards American audiences, made up to look like an import? It wouldn't surprise me, I was just wondering if that's what that means.)

They Might Be Giants Unlimited.

For the perfect party, invite a mathematician.

I'm a little late for Project Greenlight, a Miramax screenplay competition where the grand prize is your film being produced, with you in the director's chair (you get paid to do it, too). Closed to new entries; they've already picked the top 250, and top 30. Apparently as scripts qualify at certain levels, the authors must video record some of their scenes to progress.

Southwest Airlines paints their ugly-ass planes to something less ugly-ass. The light tan of their original planes a) reminds me that passengers are being shipped like cardboard packages, b) makes the seams of the planes visible so that they look ready to fall apart, and c) makes the planes look fat. Same goes for the original tan interior. The nice pretty blue will make their airliners virtually invisible on a clear day!

How to manage your site with Blogger, PHP, and XML, by Matt Kingston. Go Matt go!

Hershey Hotel opens chocolate spa.

January 24, 2001

Washington Post staff writer spends an evening in a Britney Spears AOL chat room and gets paid for it:

Weinpost: ...So you think Bush should sort of pretend to be liberal to keep people happy?
Scoobdoo1fan: he could.
Weinpost: What would be a good first step?
Scoobdoo1fan: help homeles ppl
Weinpost: Good plan. Think it will happen?
Scoobdoo1fan: no
...
Weinpost: why not?
Scoobdoo1fan: Becus the US doesn't care i think

Talk about OT!

The New York Times on self-organizing web sites, such as Everything2 and The Vines Network.

$2 (thing)@Everything2.com.

Joel said there are some NDAs and contracts that you should never sign. Joel was right.

What's Wrong with Dorfman? by John Blumenthal was selected as "one of the 50 best books of 2000" by January Magazine. The novel was self-published and distributed online, and many are taking the success of this book as an important milestone for both books and the Internet.

Make a CD case using oragami: GIF, PDF. From this mathematician's web site.

What happens when you crack your knuckles.

Learn a language at EF.com.

January 22, 2001

Coming Attractions has pics of Tobey Maguire in his Spiderman costume.

Filming began on the fight scene between Spidey and "Bone Saw" McGraw. Extras in the scene have provided Coming Attractions with a great deal of info about the experience. See the January 16th and 18th entries:

Tomorrow is the day that filming begins on the wrestling scene between Spider-Man and "Bone Saw" McGraw. Sony's sent out an email to the extras, giving them permission to make cardboard signs that the wrestling spectators can hold up and show on camera. However, Sony advised any would-be signmakers that they could only pick from a list of acceptable catch phrases (which they furnished in the email)...and that we list below. Some of them are pretty amusing...

Being There will be released on DVD on April 3rd.

A Lawrence of Arabia 2-disc DVD set is set to release April 3rd, including four original featurettes, an exclusive documentary, "A Conversation with Steven Spielberg," newsreel footage, DVD-ROM features such as a map of Arabia and historic photographs, and more.

The Golden-Globe-honored Almost Famous will release on DVD on March 13th.

The acclaimed TV miniseries Dune (2000) will release on DVD on March 20th. 295 minutes, and a bunch of features. Buy.com is selling pre-orders for $17.

Concept art for a Rendezvous With Rama movie. Revelations Entertainment seems to be claiming the entire movie will be computer generated (at least that's what I take "even the actors [will be digital]" to mean). David Fincher is attached to direct, with Morgan Freeman in the cast. All very, very encouraging.

I spent several hours last night mentally storyboarding the climax for Ender's Game. I need to spend more of my free time committing this stuff to paper. It's probably a little too late for me to finagle my way into the chair for that one, but who knows.

Miramax Film To Appear Online. Guinevere releases on January 22nd. One-day rental will cost $3.49. SightSound, the company handling the release, also released The Quantum Project last year, starring Stephen Dorf and John Cleese. Guinevere stars Sarah Polley and Stephen Rea; it's a too-old-for-her romance. Another article on Guinevere.

The new Lord of the Rings teaser trailer is out.

January 17, 2001

Make a Lego mosaic out of any picture; you provide the picture, Lego provides the plans, the parts, and the frame. And it's only $30 per picture. Grayscale image, and the "pixels" appear to be 1x1 flat Legos viewed from above, on a flat plate (44x44?). If I really wanted a Lego picture, I'd probably shell out the $120 and quadruple the size (by dividing the picture into quadrants with an image editing program).

Of course, one would be tempted to investigate making your own color version of the above. Alas, Legos' bulk offerings are limited to certain colors. It would be neat to have a few "tint" options for the grayscale.

David Chess made an appearance on Science Friday last week, as an expert on computer viruses. Real Audio available. Congrats, David!

Clerks: The Animated Series, all six episodes (including the two that ABC actually aired before cancelling the show), will be released on DVD on February 20. Two discs?

The XFL begins February 3rd. Football with new rules, mic's in the huddles, cameras in the helmets, and players paid on commission. And at the end of each quarter, both teams vote a player out of the game. Har har! (XFL.com, Football.com's XFL site.)

FindAGrave.com. Popular celebrity searches, the first of which includes rather disturbing pictures of Tiny Tim.

Monopoly Chocolate Box.

January 16, 2001

Regal Cinemas and Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp. to close thousands of movie theaters, having built too many screens too quickly on borrowed money.

Dateline story on Dean Kamen's fancy wheelchair. You know, Dean Kamen, IT and all that.

The New York Observer criticizes Jazz.

The unofficial TRON web page!

Bloggers love StorTroopers. Fun to see a small service get so much viral free press, though I doubt I'll be making a caricature of myself any time soon.

Ebert & Roeper host a film festival on a Bahamian cruise aboard the Disney Cruise Line, Feb 1-4. The Bahamas part sounds fun.

January 15, 2001

wrongwaygoback.com : fantastical. Neale has an all-out magazine!

I'm a Weblogémon! Catch me if you can! Well deserved link-backs: Thanks Friez!

Wired on Macworld Expo: "Here's Jobs on the experience of buying a computer compared to buying a car: 'At least you can go to an auto dealer and test drive a fucking car,' the dealers reported him as saying." See also a few notes on the new G4 Power Mac's digital video encoding and DVD-writing abilities.

The Best of CES 2001.

The Worst of CES 2001. Lots of redundant and pointless Internet radio devices (which, if ever popular, will only make sense when broadband hits the living room, and when built into existing stereo receivers). Was a little surprised to see that DigiScents actually managed to get a product together. And yes, the Internet-capable microwave is a silly-- though I tend to think these shows are meant to demonstrate proof-of-concept potential technology. (Or is CES meant to be something else?) When full-time Internet is wired into houses like electricity, "pointlessly" enabling devices and appliances will have virtually zero additional cost, and a recipe browser built into anything in the kitchen will be worth having, even if you don't baste turkey in the nuke box.

DVDFile.com covers CES / VSDA 2001. New DVD players abound, with Progressive Scan and DVD-Audio as the highlights. DVDFile claims both features will be available in decent players for $300 within a couple of months.

humanspellcheck.com: typo spotting!

Is IT a wearable car? "'Sort of 'B.C.' meets George Jetson in the form of a Razor on steroids,' as Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future put it yesterday."

People are talking about IT.

theITquestion.com : IT is nothing earth shattering, says Dean Kamen. Fun while it lasted, though.

Welcome to AOL Time Warner. (No longer news, just blogging their web site.)

January 12, 2001

A Taste of Blue Food In Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, a comprehensive article on material cut from the film before its wide release.

When Stanley Kubrick made hurried changes to 2001: A Space Odyssey, following the less- than- overwhelming reception it received at its première screenings in the USA, he can have had no suspicion of the legend to which his edits would give birth. Ever since those brief hours spent in the basement of the MGM building in New York, rumours have abounded as to what he excised, whether the "trims" still exist, whether different variations on the movie slipped out, and whether there is any prospect of ever seeing the movie, once again, in its original state. With the year 2001 approaching, and the death of Mr. Kubrick in March 1999, these suppositions have received new attention.
(Thanks LarkFarm.)

The Opposite Song, one of many Sesame Street songs by all-around cool guy, Christopher Cerf. Call me crazy, but I want his life. Or something similar. Check out this appearance on Michael Feldman's Whad'yaknow, December 5, 1998.

Aegis.com, "the largest HIV / AIDS web site in the world. UPDATED HOURLY."

Want to try out PHP and MySQL for your web site, but don't want to pay for web hosting? Dan of danelope finds Datablocks WebHosting Services, which offers 20MB PHP4+MySQL web hosting accounts for free with no banner ads. yoursite.datablocks.net as the URL, the rest is yours. Hell, free hosting with no banner ads is cool enough, let alone the PHP and MySQL.

Why McDonald's Fries Taste So Good.

January 11, 2001

The latest printed Facets Film Catalog arrived in the mail yesterday. In the middle of this issue is a collection of "The Top Ten lists from 80 of the world's biggest movie lovers," (text not available on the web, alas), including lists written for Facets by:

What is 'IT'? I love hype! This is pretty fun hype, too. The consensus among the message boards seems to be IT is some kind of energy efficient personal transport, a hydrogen fuel cell (assembled with hex screwdrivers in 10 minutes with parts in a duffel bag?), or a pooper scooper. IT will no doubt be disappointing, but it makes for a fun lateral thinking puzzle.

Salon.com also has an article on IT, which mentions the inventor's home page. See also Wired's earlier article on the inventor.

HaX0rZ threaten IRC, the oldest and most beloved volunteer-run real-time chat network on the Internet. I greatly appreciate Miz Ery's suggestion of a mentor program to promote computer ethics-- we need to foster the community pride that came naturally to early Internet users. It seems such a program would have to encompass the globe and involve greater themes of technological responsibility.

Says Luzor, a former IRC DoS attacker:

The IRC ops are evil. They put people down, and they are out to hurt. It's not hard to see why someone would want to blow them off the face of the Internet. If someone takes crap all day from idiots, they don't want to have to take more crap at night from people who are supposed to understand what it's like to be a geek, a leper, a reject... Make IRC a place that doesn't make people angry and maybe you'll stop getting attacked.

Says Miz Ery, a former channel operator:

I stopped using IRC when I got a full-time job. But I peek in occasionally and I do see a lot of angry kids looking to break stuff... Maybe the admins can fix the DoS problem with technical things like router filters and the much-help from the ISPs. But the real problem is the kids, and I think we need to really look at why they are so angry.

How Does A Word Get In the Dictionary?.

Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet. I'm sure I blogged this before, but it's always nice to re-discover sites like this.

January 10, 2001

AAaargh! My TiVo is dead! AAaargh!

First my computer (video card overheating caused random crashes), then my Handspring (got screwed up, had to hard reset, lost sync backups from hard drive and computer's USB ports no longer work), then my cell phone (battery died an early death in the charger), and now my TiVo (a few crashes in the past week, now it won't boot). Is someone trying to tell me something?

Been too lazy to blog the last few days, have to catch up:

The Seattle Times provides some information on the Seattle Monolith originators, with some positive quotes from a Some People member.

Monolith back in Magnuson Park, perpetrators revealed.

And finally, another anonymous Kubrick tribute in Magnuson Park.

Apple? Or orange?

99.5% pure commercial grade titanium. 3:2 aspect ratio 15" screen. Talk about a cool portable DVD player.

Too bad I already ordered the orange. :)

Your dot-com not making a profit? Then make it non-profit!

What a nice company to make this decision, too: CultureFinder.com. Now that they're non-profit, I'm already willing to promote them!

20 Simple Juice Recipes. From Living and Raw Foods.

Juicing 101. Part 2.

Some Like It Hot has a DVD release date of April 10. No extras on the disc, and it might be worth waiting to hear reviews of the disc before ordering it. But it may just be the only opportunity to get this Wilder classic on DVD...

When Harry Met Sally has been released on DVD.

1/9/01 FRASIER'S EDGE
When Frasier is poised to receive a prestigious lifetime achievement award from local broadcasters, he suffers the first pangs of a sudden mid-life crisis and rushes to consult and joust with a psychology professor/mentor (Rene Auberjonois), an equally stuffy academic who speaks his peculiar language and can address his nagging insecurities...

Nothing like Rene Auberjonois to add class to a show far past its prime, just in time for the Golden Globes.

Speaking of television: Vicki Lewis is still amazing.

January 5, 2001

9-foot monolith re-appears -- in Green Lake. What was once quite suddenly really cool has a great deal of potential to become really lame. The web sites (or maybe here) of those likely to be responsible aren't very encouraging that this could remain reasonably cool. But we'll see; Seattle's anonymous art tradition is cool in general.

"You only have to watch a few episodes to learn that there's far more religious content in 'The Simpsons' than other shows, especially other comedies," said Heeren, who teaches at California State University, San Bernardino. And the masterminds behind Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie are not doing "a slash-and-burn job, while working in as much blasphemy as possible. ... They show a surprising respect for the role that religion plays in American life."

The Boogie Bass has been hacked!

Blue Man Group Home Page.

The Robot Constructor is entertaining for a few minutes.

Comparing PHP with Perl for Dynamic Web Pages.

January 4, 2001

Giant, anonymous monolith appears in Seattle's Magnuson Park at the dawn of the new millennium, and then promptly disappears. I was hoping it would become a permanent park installation. Maybe we should petition the city to replace it. Here's an AP photo of the monolith.

My computer woes have made progress, but haven't fully resolved. I swapped every single part, and the last part I tried, my new GeForce 2 video card (replaced with my older ATI All-In-Wonder Pro), seemed to improve things. So I can exchange the newer card. However, this has not fully resolved problems. I had one or two similar crashes after the swap, though they were much farther apart, and I haven't had one since. Also, the USB ports on this motherboard don't appear to be working, and I don't know why. So I'm going to do another format and reinstall.

I hate this crap so much that I was actually looking forward to giving up and buying a whole new brand-name system. As like most of us, I center my life around my workstation, and so it would have to be the utmost in stability and power. My research carried me overboard into dreamy dream land and I ended up looking at the Dell Inspiron 8000 "portable desktop" laptop. Oh sure, its base price is $1700, but when I was done configuring it, it was $3100 (almost entirely due to the upgrade to the SXGA+ screen). I figured I wanted this to last a long time, and to be returnable to Dell for a replacement any time something is wrong. It would replace my desktop, and maybe even be something of a gaming machine. It would run Linux, play DVD movies, burn CD-RWs, and do everything I'd want it to do from pretty much anywhere. Heck, set my cell phone next to the IrDA port and it'd be the wireless device of my dreams.

I enjoyed the reviews: ZDNet tested a $3400 machine, with cutting edge ATI Rage M4 video (32MB RAM on the video card) and the fully-loaded configuration. "Put simply, the Inspiron 8000 is the fastest, most powerful notebook PC we've ever tested." SharkyExtreme tested a $3700 machine, and notes that the expensive SXGA+ screen "easily blows away any screen we have seen on any shipping notebook." (Anyone know a Seattle dealer that could show me the difference between the cheaper and expensive screens?) I'm not necessarily serious of course; if I just got my existing desktop working, I could spend far less money and still get an SLR digital camera. Or not spend any money at all. Truly, I would want a desktop machine for major multimedia projects, though high-end laptops are already being pushed as mobile digital video units. In general, I'm attracted to the idea of a portable desktop as the central computer.

I'm curious: Does anyone have any experience with centering your life around a laptop like this? Anyone have use for, or simply enjoy, the advantages of being able to take this kind of hardware on the road? How does this kind of technology work into your lifestyle?

Picking Up Perl, a Freely Redistributable Perl Tutorial Book. (Thanks GeneHack.)

An Age of Anxiety.

Weblogemon! Been a while since we've had a pointless community ego stroke, and this one might actually become a playable game. I want a card!

January 2, 2001

'Millennium' has two N's. Or not.

Users of Microsoft's Word '97 for Windows may have noticed that the program's spell check application accepts both "millenium" and "millennium" as accurate and does not offer a correction. That's not the case in other versions, like Word 2000, which only counts millennium with two Ns as correct.

Harry reviews all the movies to be released in 2001. A good source of recommendations for trailers to hunt down on the Internet.

Spielberg to Be Knighted. Spielberg is also to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame sometime next year. I'm quite surprised he doesn't already have one.

The Butter-Margarine Chronicles. (Thanks Kestrel's Nest.)

ChessBase chess puzzles.

U.S. government issues standards on organic food. (Thanks Kestrel's Nest.)