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 Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained.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

June 2001 Archives

June 27, 2001

Hiho! I'm several days back from Disneyland, and boy was it fun! I'll post muchly about it later, but I wanted to jump in quickly and ask you, dear BrainLog readers, for a little advice. After I lose my job on Friday, I have two weeks before my next job starts. Despite having just had a great little vacation, I'm now quite obsessed with the possibility of a cross-country road trip. I'm currently thinking an arc through Salt Lake City, Denver, St. Louis, and Chicago (a nice failsafe point, with a direct route back to Seattle). Then Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont and/or Connecticut, time willing. With a one-way rental car, flying back, I should be able to hit a bunch of stuff and still have a good time in the two weeks that I have.

So my question is, what cool stuff must I absolutely try to see along the way? The route is very tentative, and I'd be interested in diverting it to catch cool events or must-see items. Staying very flexible along the way will help make this fun. I'm already disappointed that I don't have enough time to see everything America has to offer, and the route I just described passes by another dozen road-trips' worth of cool stuff that I'd be tempted to detour into. I'd really like to see the southern states, but I cannot pass up the opportunity to see the northeast, if I can even get that far. I already have the advice of travel guides and web sites (including some excellent road trip web sites which I will blog soon), but any personal recommendations would be taken to heart.

And hey, if you'd like to have lunch or something while I'm in your area, let me know!

June 21, 2001

My first real vacation in a long long time is tomorrow: I'm going to Disneyland! I've been excited about this for a while; I'm leaving at 6am tomorrow and have two and a half days of nothing but DLand and the new California adventure.

But wouldn't you know it, around the beginning of this week, I catch the flu. I'm better today than I was before, but this one is really, really annoying. And right when I'm wrapping things up at work, too. Hopefully I'll still get to go (it'd be expensive to back out now), but in the meantime, this sucks.

Hopefully you won't hear from me tomorrow.

Cinemaweb has silent film resources, including information about silents on video, DVD and laserdisc, as well as sales and rental of 16mm and 35mm prints. See also their silent film bookshelf.

J.S. Zamecnik & Moving Picture Music includes an essay, notes, MIDI files and sheet music for use with silent films.

Silent movies were always accompanied by music, but they were only rarely released with an official score. Instead, the studio would send out a "cue sheet" with a list of the major scenes, the approximate length of each scene, and the title of an appropriate piece of music. The musical director at each theater could find the appropriate music and put it in order, or if their library did not include a particular piece, they would substitute something similar in mood. Many music directors ignored the cue sheets altogether, and scored each film as they saw fit.

Being a music director required a huge library with hundreds or thousands of orchestrations, and-- not foreseeing that their careers would vanish with the coming of "talkies" in 1928-- many music directors invested in such libraries. Theater orchestra arrangements of classical works were popular for film scoring, but many original compositions were also published specifically for motion picture orchestras.

-- J.S. Zamecnik and Silent Film Music, by Rodney Sauer (1998)

"Sam Fox Moving Picture Music Volume 1" by J.S. Zamecnik is probably the first music ever published for creating film scores. Several composers had created complete film scores before this time, but the usefulness of this music was limited by its being assigned to a particular picture. Most musicians, realizing that they would be playing for thousands of films, would not invest in music that was only useful for only one picture that would be gone in a week. They wanted a permanent library of useful pieces from which they could "compile" their own scores to any movie. The Sam Fox Moving Picture Music series was designed to fill this need.

-- Notes on "Sam Fox Moving Picture Music", by Rodney Sauer (1998)

Khorborg. Delicious!

24-Hour BLOGATHON! Sponsor daring webloggers to blog constantly for 24 hours. Bill is accepting additional challenges based on how much money he raises; at the moment, it sounds like enough money will encourage Bill to blog for 24 hours, in the newd, in front of a webcam, and he's not allowed to blog about musical theater.

Photographica.org is a collaborative photo sharing site. I got my fancy camera in the hopes that I might carry it everywhere I go, perhaps in the hopes that it would encourage me to go places. Since I haven't been doing the latter much, I haven't been doing the former. I'm a little nervous to take that camera to Disneyland next weekend (water, breakage, theft, eek!), but I am eager to snap pics.

Ambigram.Matic automatically generates ambigrams, rotationally symmetrical representations of words. I used to be very into ambigrams, especially since good ones were best left to human artistry and not simply a methodical process. I tried making ambigrams of my friends' names in high school, with some success. Some names took a long time to get right, however, and didn't always result in something legible.

If I recall correctly, one book on the subject mentioned software available for manipulating vector graphics to produce high quality ambigrams....

Google search for "ambigram".

New York Review of Books on The Producers and its success.

Anil says PHP Builder is dead. The site will stay up, it sounds like, but development has been cut. Dya think they'd let me host it for them? :)

There's no money in cool web sites, it is clear.

June 20, 2001

NYTimes on the birth of the Fortran programming language.

This minigolf game is *way* too popular. It's been interesting, if somewhat painful, to watch Electrotank set up, fix and patch their site for their launch. While still in beta, their minigolf game hit weblogs and email inboxes everywhere. Knowing they had a hit, Electrotank has been moving quickly to improve the minigolf game and get their servers up to snuff.

Apart from being a fun implementation of minigolf, it's amusing to think that a small gaming site can bring waves of acclaim from such a simple, tried-and-true game idea. Have we not had a good Flash minigolf game before? In any case, the multiplayer aspect is probably new, but that too is surprising.

I've been waiting for this day: Simpson's "Doh!" added to online Oxford Dictionary. I was even thinking out this very thing just recently.

Ionesco for Kids!

Manhattan Timeformations, a finalist in the 3D category of Flashforward 2001.

Another delightful Flashforward nominee, in the Games category: Orisinal.com.

Monsters Inc. has a new trailer!

June 19, 2001

Fox sets Simpsons for DVD boxed set. Woohoo! (Thanks Dan.)

Shortly after releasing their CueTV to Radio Shack stores, with an attached contest promoted by NBC, Digital Convergence-- of CueCat fame-- fires everybody. Radio Shack says the free CueCat barcode scanners will still be available in stores until they run out of them. If you think you have any use for a barcode scanner, such as for catalogging your music or book libraries quickly and easily, you might want to run out and grab one. There's already plenty of free software out there to use the things (at DC's protest).

SOAP Web Services in Java, notes from a presentation.

XMethods lists freely available and open SOAP-accessible web applications. With standard remote procedure calls, you too can utilize powerful apps such as the Jabber Messenger service, a babelfish language translation portal, a Shakespearean insult generator, and much more! :)

Welcome to Safeway. You know the scam: Safeway introduces a "club card" program, with the promise that club members get coupon discounts automatically. While they associate your purchasing habits, including store location, time of day, and products, with your name, address and phone number, you're swiping the card because you think you're getting good prices. Then later, after people stop using their cards due to privacy concerns, Safeway raises their prices such that a decent (not very good) price is the club price, and an extremely exorbitant price as the non-club price. Especially where Safeway has a locational monopoly (i.e. my neighborhood), they either make a killing or force the use of the cards.

Even being very familiar with this practice, it still surprised and appalled me to notice that two pounds of grapes that I purchased recently would have cost me $5.95 if I didn't use the card. With the card? $1.80. Safeway might call that a substantial savings, I call that a scam. Like, that's got to be illegal.

I'd get a new card with a fake name and address, but they're still getting value out of associating my purchases with my other purchases (across different receipts). And they'd get the exact same associations by using my debit card as an ident. Too many people use cash for groceries, I guess.

June 18, 2001

Ain't It Cool News has two positive reviews of Spielberg's A.I. with a few spoilers and one devesatingly bad review with MAJOR spoilers. I'm trying to avoid the spoilers, but it's nice to have reasons to lower my expectations. If the Game is any indication, the sci-fi universe developed for the film may deserve some spin-offs, perhaps a series of novels, and maybe another movie directed by someone else.

So the big movie at the end of the month is Planet of the Apes after all. :)

New Line Home Entertainment, famous in the DVD world for their Platinum Editions (which are great, even if their films aren't), is announcing a new branded line of special DVD features called Infinifilm. With Infinifilm turned on (just a feature of the DVD, select from a menu), menus of scene-related extras pop up during the movie, which you can optionally view. Their example is Thirteen Days, with historical clips.

That's not terribly cool by itself, but was is pretty neat is their DVD of Little Nicky has Infinifilm extras hidden as an easter egg. If you happen to have this disc, check out these instructions to get to the special material.

More on the A.I. Game: If you're just getting started, but want hints, Cloudmakers is working on a special hint guide, where you can progress at your own pace without revealing too much information. I applaud the effort, and only hope they have the resources to make a nice complete hint guide before it isn't worth anything.

cloudmakers: cddb is a database of A.I. Game players (Cloudmakers participants specifically), intended to organize the members themselves.

Spherewatch is another group of A.I. Game players, meant for newcomers that are a little behind other, more established groups (like the Cloudmakers).

Troutmakers, a group of people that have more fun making fun of the A.I. Game than playing it (or perhaps just supplementing their fun). Some funny stuff, though you wouldn't get most of it if you haven't been playing.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind Special Edition DVD, discussed by Glenn Erickson.

A nifty review of The Producers stage show.

Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, on The Producers.

Netscape: We're in Media, Not Browser Business Now.

June 15, 2001

TiVo hackers finally figure out how to get MPEG-2 video files off the device. And burn them to CDs, and distribute them over the Internet, and all that. Some TiVo hacker forums explicitly discouraged work towards this goal, lest TiVo, under pressure from the media industry, be forced to crack down on all forms of TiVo hacking. Still, it's always fun to get reassurance that things that seem technologically possible almost always are, and with as little effort as a community of hobbiests can muster. The ExtractStream Yahoo Group is open to discussion of the subject.

Meanwhile, TiVo is suspected of disabling features for non-subscribers. The TiVo device was always meant to have some recording functionality without having to subscribe to their dial-up service, but there is discussion of the version 2.0 software having a nag screen for those not paying a monthly fee.

RockList.net, the ultimate collection of best-of-the-year lists from most every music publication and poll, for many years. Rock on.

Very cool photos of Rebecca and Jesse. Mostly Rebecca.

Sony Execs Suspended for Falsifying Film Critic Blurbs. "Meanwhile, Sony has been hit with a class-action lawsuit brought by two moviegoers who claimed they were duped into seeing Heath Ledger's A Knight's Tale because they were inspired by the glowing review blurbs attributed to the bogus critic, David Manning..."

EB1, on-line game rental for those priviledged with high bandwidth. I'm not entirely sure how they're "streaming" existing commercial titles for PCs without risking piracy, especially since it seems like you're downloading almost all of a game in order to play it. But the limited selection implies the games were rewritten or ported to this format. I'd say it might be worth it, but I'm used to seeing titles like these for sale at $9 at the local used software store.

On-line Medical Dictionary.

June 14, 2001

The Science of Days of Our Lives.

Free Music Software for Windows, from Shareware Music Machine. A nice list, though freeware software is notoriously hit or miss.

Harmony Central's audio editing software list for Windows has more detailed information on free, shareware and commercial audio software.

Musicware reviews music software, and maintains lists of free software. (Some annoying ads, but good content.)

Despite the availability of free options, I'm still tempted to endulge in Cakewalk products, at least maybe at the academic prices. But I fully intend to take the free versions to their fullest extent before paying hundreds, even if professional packages are the equivalent of Adobe Photoshop for audio.

Check out Cakewalk's Desktop Music Handbook, with lots of great background information on MIDI and digital audio.

The Simpsons Writers and Directors List.

May Day Mystery: Historical Madness.

The Straight Dope. Just mentioning The Straight Dope, cuz I like it.

Pocket Cook, a recipe manager for Pocket PC and Palm handhelds, has a bunch of neat features, including support for MasterCook recipe files.

June 13, 2001

Darkness Good for the immune system, and aids in the body's production of melatonin.

Japanese Aesthetics, Wabi-Sabi, and the Tea Ceremony.

FUD@Everything2.com.

Bug Bios: Insects on the Web. Dating a zoology grad has given me a newfound appreciation for crawly things. This is certainly a great site. (Thanks Dan.)

Why Cows Have Legs. (Thanks Zannah.)

Want more memory? Viking Components Config Tools can help you determine what kind of memory you need. (I think. Not sure how well it works.)

More guitar resources:

June 11, 2001

George Orwell: Politics and the English Language.

The A.I. official web site has an artificial chat bot. You can ask game-related questions to it, though it only gives you a few hints to get you started. Based on ALICE, it's just great fun to play with.

The Problems with JSP, an old article by a Go.com'er, justifies the use of template engines over JSPs. Having worked with Go.com's open-sourced TeaServlet in the workplace, I've seen how well the template engine model works with workflow, especially in a media site situation where templates are produced daily, while applications (and anything that needs app-style functionality) are only created every once in a while to handle special circumstances. I even dislike the way I've written entire apps in PHP, with their design strewn about the app's source code. (Admittedly, I can use different practices and still use PHP, but I'm not likely to break my own, insignificant apps with small, quick changes. And when I do break my own apps, it doesn't cost me money, or cause a dozen people to be paged in the middle of the night.)

Beyond the Movie: Pearl Harbor. (Thanks Dan.) I'm avoiding the movie like the plague, but it's always good to bring forward the actual history being represented.

Universal Currency Converter.

June 7, 2001

What is Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE)? "It's an enhancement added to some Warner and Columbia DVDs to stop region 1 (R1) DVDs from playing on Region-free DVD players." Warner Brothers would like you to think multi-region players won't be able to play future DVDs, but it turns out RCE only breaks region-free players, not multi-region ones, and there are work-arounds for many players. And only a few discs are have RCE.

The FAQ also claims to have a leaked WB memo. Naturally, WB is tight-lipped about this to the public. The industry would prefer most people just not know about region coding, except for the fringe trying to import discs across regions. Because even to the casual DVD consumer, region coding is obviously against the consumer's best interest, with no obvious benefit except as a price fixing mechanism.

You know, I realize there are far more insideous industry machinations than the mere price fixing of a few DVDs. But the DMCA and all that is changing the face of intellectual property and information rights. In the Information Age, this stuff is like water-- except it doesn't occur to most people that we need advocacy in this area, because we're not used to valuing information so highly. Sure, you don't hear about price fixing of gasoline in the press either, but at least people would understand that's a bad thing if it showed up in a newspaper. Lisa told me about the DMCA before it passed, but I couldn't imagine its magnitude even when it was explained to me. And sure, DVDs are just an example of what the DMCA can do, but its manifestations are concrete, obvious and currently in the courts.

Plus, I know more about DVDs than I do about gasoline, and I gotta get upset about something.

The Geography Network has mountains of great geographic info online (pun intended).

kick ups football. Flash fun! Keep the ball in the air.

This review of the Half Keyboard seems mostly disgusted by lack of gaming ability, which is silly, because clearly that's not what it's for. It looks great for PDA use, especially the wearable version.

PhpWiki. WikiWikis are an unusually popular, simple way of collaboratively maintaining documents on a web site. Works for conversations, documentation, or more! Wikis have been implemented for many platforms, including this one written in PHP.

Check out this list of upcoming Broadway shows. Found while investigating Matt's insinuation that there will be a stage musical based on The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (it's true!), this page also mentions other derivative/revival-style ideas in the works:

  • A Thousand Clowns (July 15)
  • The Women (November)
  • Assassins (November 29), the Sondheim musical
  • The Cherry Orchard, Broadway transfer of Vanessa Redgrave's Royal National Theatre production of the Anton Chekhov play.
  • The Summer of '42, a new musical based on the 1971 film
  • Into the Woods, revival
  • La Boheme, the original Puccini opera, on Broadway, directed by Baz Luhrman and produced by the "same team" as Rent (which is based on La Boheme). Aiming for mid-2002.
  • Hairspray, stage adaptation (musical, of course) of the John Waters film. Aiming for Spring 2002.
  • Batman: The Musical.
  • Blade Runner.

No doubt there are much more interesting projects in the works, but I don't know anything about them. Yet.

June 6, 2001

Jafar Panahi, director of the critically acclaimed film "The Circle," was arrested by INS at JFK International Airport because he didn't have a visa, even though he was only changing planes on his way to Hong Kong. Panahi was not offered a translator, and was arrested for not submitting to a law requiring Iranians to be fingerprinted and photographed when entering the country. Panahi's three films have "earned him recognition as one of the most influential young directors challenging the limits of Iran's huge film industry and helping to transform it into one of the most vibrant in the world." "The Circle" is banned in Iran.

Annoyed by the rampant X10 pop-up ads that seem to be everywhere? Thankfully, it's just an aggressive campaign, arranged with the web sites you visit just like any other ad. (The alternative, I've recently discovered, is the possibility that it's adware: ads snuck onto your computer, opening with web sites to pretend that they were legitimate.) X10 has realized that people are reacting negatively to this aggressive campaign, and has a FAQ about the advertising-- including a special link that will suppress the ads for 30 days!

QJason hypothesizes that you can modify the X10 opt-out URL to set for a longer period than 30 days.

BlogIRCO! Blogger chat in-jokes for everybody!

SatireWire: Dell Supports Extending Gateway Amnesty.

Bob School. A musician remembers his father, and Bob Dylan.

Mechanical Watch FAQ.

O'Reilly Network has an Introduction to IPv6.

June 5, 2001

A writer for Architectural Record discovers the A.I. Game. I've mentioned the Game several times by now. A key factor in the backstory is a professor's contribution to the industry of sentient homes; the professor is featured in an "issue" of Metropolitan Living Homes.

This hilarious article is worth reading all the way through, both for the appreciation of the detail of the research that went into the fictional architectural magazine, and for the amazing email responses the author got from the "puppet masters" of the Game. Given the scope and complexity of the game, it's amazing that the PMs maintain a solid, consistent pretense that the game universe is real. I don't think the author of the article realizes there's a gigantic murder mystery with dozens of intricate puzzles behind the sites, but who's got the time, really? :)

Speaking of which, it sounds like I'm too far behind on the game to catch up to recent major revelations. Artificially intelligent beings that inhabit the datasphere are destroying the web sites in an effort to cover up the identity of the murderer, removing pieces from play as we approach the movie release date. (I'm not sure the pieces that are being blocked are critical pieces, but I am missing out, one way or the other.) And now it turns out a major event has restored all the web sites to their original condition...

I live here. Where do you live? Post a link to your neighborhood in my comments! (Thanks Dan, whom I'm ripping off a lot lately.)

The New York Times' Kaycee Nicole Swenson story: A Beautiful Life, an Early Death, a Fraud Exposed.

Occasionally Mr. van der Woning spoke on the telephone to someone he thought was Kaycee, but most conversations took place using instant messaging. "I spoke with her every day," Mr. van der Woning said. "Sometimes I spoke with both Kaycee and Debbie at the same time. Figure that one out."

More belated Douglas Adams links:

Facilitating Collaborative Software Development: The Enforceability of Mass-Market Public Software Licenses. A paper on software licensing by some lawyer guy whose significance I forget, though he's associated with a major case or something, I just don't remember. :)

Bruce Eckel has some of his books online, including Thinking In Java, Thinking in C++, and more.

jBoss, an Open Source JavaBeans application server. I'm starting to think maybe Java is a fun way to go for my own personal projects after all.

June 4, 2001

In BlogIRC last week, Dan mentioned an interest in cookies. Then I got interested in cookies, and mentioned I had flour and sugar and might be able to pull off some cookie recipe. Then maggie suggested Cowboy Cookies. Despite a lack of chocolate chips, I decided to make the cookies right away, take pictures, and post them (the pictures) to BlogIRC in real time. It was an interactive extravaganza. Fun was had by all.

Want to join us in BlogIRC for a fruitful chat about the world? Every Wednesday from 5:30pm Pacific Time onward, the blogging elite start up their IRC clients and connect to irc.turlyming.net, port 6667, room #blogirc. If you need assistance finding an easy-to-use, free IRC client for your computer, just ask.

I've been playing with ways to automate posting of a collection of photos. I don't have a robust solution yet, but it's getting there. Apologies for the lousy photos, I was working quickly. Enjoy the recipe! P.S. Make the dollops of dough you put on the cookie sheet small, like a teaspoon's worth. I made the dollops too big, and a day later the cookies were too hard to eat. Would have been fine if they were thin, though.




Bloggus Caesari, the weblog of Julius Caesar.

Tech interview questions blog. It's common for job interviews for software engineering positions to include fancy, sometimes unanswerable, puzzle questions, so the interviewee can demonstrate problem-solving abilities. It's good to practice on a few beforehand, because if it catches you by surprise, it can spoil the interview.

Uvarov Bros. Programming Contest continues the ten year tradition of the now-defunct Programmer of the Month contest.

Subversion is a versioning system, spun off from CVS. If you're into versioning systems, this one might be worth watching. Geek.

Cisco Security Advisory on their 600-series family of routers. This includes many DSL modems originally distributed by Qwest (such as mine).

June 1, 2001

Douglas Adams FAQ. It shouldn't have taken Mr. Adams' untimely end to inspire me to acquire the missing pieces in my collection of his work. It's also perhaps a bit silly for me to be hunting down the more rare, out of print items, since there will probably be a re-issue of all of it. Indeed, I placed a online auction bid on the 6-CD set of recordings of the original Hitchhiker's radio show, just before realizing that they were just recently re-issued, in two phases. And the FAQ says one U.S. release of the "audio book" is actually the radio series.

CDDB tug of war--users are the losers? It's fine that companies set up venues for gathering user-generated content, but it's not so fine that the companies want to claim ownership of the data. While that issue of ownership is perhaps a grey area, it's very clearly insideous to claim ownership of data you didn't even collect, especially without an explicit user agreement made before the data was entered. The nature of CDDB (where all that was entered was album and track titles) makes it a fancy example, but it's important for more obvious situations, like Usenet archives.

A New Shakespeare Portrait. Some great pics of what Bill might have looked like, with analyses.

Palm Programming: The Developer's Guide. Complete text online.

Optimizing The Calculation Of The Distance Between Two Points For A Given Yaw Angle. Geek.

Feed Magazine has info on the AI of Black & White. You know, that game I keep talking about.

Metafilter thread on fan fiction. fanfiction.net.