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 Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained.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 2002 Archives

January 31, 2002

How the Wayback Machine Works. After marvelling at what it takes to compile and keep 100 terabytes of data accessible online at 200 queries per second, do check out the Wayback Machine itself. (Unfortunately, my site doesn't have very interesting Wayback entries, as I keep all my archives online and haven't redesigned since the transition to this domain name.)

State of Washington Senate Bill 6500 argues that because the Declaration of Independence declares our rights are endowed by the Creator, creationism is a founding principle of our government and a legally acknowledged truth, and it is therefore unlawful and unconstitutional to teach the theory of evolution in public schools. Sec 1.2 implies that because we hold it to be self-evident that all men are created equal, we must also hold it self-evident that all men are created. Can't argue with that.

How to eat a Pretzel. (Thanks Mr. Barrett.)

Bad EBay experience spurs Internet manhunt.

Mr. Show: The Complete Series will be out on DVD on April 2. bobanddavid.com fills in the details: it's the first season. There will be a total of three sets. Features include commentaries, TV spots, "Fuzz" the Musical Featuring Ronnie Dobbs, and other extras.

Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet: Lose 10 Lbs in 2 days! This miracle beverage works continuously over a 48 hour period to dissolve your lungs and expunge the byproducts through your urine! "The reason that the Hollywood 48 hour Miracle Diet program has been featured on television, radio, newspapers and over 70 magazines is that IT WORKS!!"

(Sorry, I don't normally feel this kind of thing is worth mentioning, but I saw this on TV and felt like making some noise. 10 pounds in two days. Assuming these are actual pounds off your actual body and not ten pounds you would lose just by going to the bathroom, does this sound like a good idea to anyone?)

Speaking of televised weight loss exploitation schemes, has anyone released a study on these $20 muscle electrocution devices yet? This recent spate of as-seen-on-TV stimulators not only make for some disturbing commercials, but they especially bother me because I'm pretty sure they're a bad idea, but I don't have any reports or numbers to back up that instinct. No doubt electric muscle stimulators have been released before, and this is just a resurgence, but still.

January 30, 2002

Thanks to Anita for taking me up on my request for an Ikea trip, I now have the $1.20 worth of fasteners I needed for my coffee table, plus $90 worth of dishes and lamps I didn't know I needed until I got there.

On Monday, January 7, President George W. Bush issued an executive order to de-unionize 500 government positions in United States Attorneys' offices, Interpol's U.S. branch, the Criminal Division, the National Drug Intelligence Center, and the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review. Since these offices "have as a primary function intelligence, counterintelligence, investigative, or national security work," the presence of unionized workers would not be "consistent with national security requirements and considerations." (MeFi thread.)

Photos of what time it is. I'm late to discovering this, but I'm not the only one, so it's OK. He needs more photos of more times; sign up for a time slot and submit a photo! (He also needs to fix his "time zone" calibration, or learn how to use JavaScript to serve the appropriate images.)

See also his 11:11 am I'm Single auctions.

Hand-drawn web design has always been one of my favorite gimmicks. Dot-matrix printed PrintShop graphics and text never even occurred to me.

NYT article on Amazon.com's warehouse efficiency.

Strictly Ballroom will be released on DVD March 19. Deleted scenes, easter eggs, and a feature on ballroom dancing, according to DVD Talk.

New Scientist: The Last Word Science Questions and Answers. (Thanks Erin.)

January 29, 2002

I have to admit that it's not every day that I see a professor write on the blackboard an arrow pointing from the word "tenure" to the words "Don't give a shit." I have to admit that I've never heard a professor swear so much in class, but I do think this class will be interesting.

-- Nathan of Lost and Found

GameSpot Presents: The History of Video Games.

How to Write a Book in Three Easy Steps, by Derek Powazek.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy BBC TV series will be released on DVD on January 28, with deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes footage. Alas, this will probably be a region 2 DVD at first.

This extensive review of the iPod mentions using XPlay to connect your iPod to a Windows PC. I'm happy with my CD-Rs-of-MP3s-playing RioVolt SP250, but I'm constantly jealous of Lisa's iPod.

Speaking of the SP250, this LCD remote is finally available. Just to mess with me, sonicblue has closed their warehouse for relocation until Wednesday...

January 28, 2002

CoincidenceDesign.com is not a hoax. Neither is Sensation Zone.

Speaking of interactive fiction and Inform, the Informary seeks to collect current resources on the Inform language. Originally just an excellent Inform function index, the Informary is now quite a portal. The community continues to do cool things with Inform while Graham does cool things elsewhere, so this is a good well-maintained place to see the latest developments. It's all part of Roger Firth's IF pages.

A couple of interesting interactive fiction discussions in rec.arts.int-fiction ta the moment: Default parser responses: how do they affect the gaming /authorship experience? and room descriptions; how much is too far? I enjoy that the community is filled with English majors/grad students that happen to know enough about computers to give serious consideration to IF.

Stephen Granade was the author/editor of the original (now defunct) About.com node on Interactive Fiction. After About.com dropped the node, Stephen started Brass Lantern to take its place. Now he and his wife have designed a poster detailing a timeline of the history of Interactive Fiction. The poster is not available online, but can be purchased for $27, $36, or $41. The contents of the timeline are interesting, notable, and worthy of record, but I'm not sure I'd want to pay $27+$5 shipping for a poster of it.

The IF community is an ambitious group. Some still believe text adventures are commercially viable. While I'm sure it's a nice poster and all, I think the number of people interested in having it as a poster on their wall is pretty low. Perhaps the self-publication of the Inform Designer's Manual was inspirational, but not only was the manual a practical reference for this rather obscure hobby, it only cost $8 (+$5 shipping). The poster would make a great prize for the competition, if Stephen could afford to donate a couple.

January 27, 2002

Hey, if any of my local friends are heading to Ikea any time soon, please take me with you. We need some replacement glueless-joint-thingies, but I can't justify the cost of getting out there just for these joints. (I don't know where they went; it's as if we never had them, but that can't be. If you took 'em, give 'em back!) We need big ones and not-so-big ones. I don't know what sizes they come in, but we need at least four of each...

When I was young
It seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees
Well, they'd be singing so happily
Oh joyfully, oh playfully, watching me

But then they sent me away
To teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh responsible, practical
And they showed me a world
Where I could be so dependable
Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical

There are times when all the world's asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned
I know it sounds absurd
But please tell me who I am...

- The Logical Song, Supertramp

January 26, 2002

For years, users and fans of the interactive fiction authoring language Inform have wanted a nice, printed version of Graham Nelson's Inform Designer's Manual. At some point, Graham whetted everybody's appetites by announcing efforts to produce a fourth edition of the manual, available both in electronic and hardcopy forms through a small press. The new edition would include new chapters, such as a history of interactive fiction, that would make it worth purchasing just to see. (Graham has proven himself a fine writer, and any fan of his IF authoring language or his IF games would get excited over the prospects of these extra chapters.) Months passed, and many gave up waiting, myself included. Indeed, the language itself wasn't getting any revisions (it didn't need any), and it seemed Graham perpetually had better things to do.

Last May, on Inform's eighth birthday and the Designer's Manual, 3rd edition's fourth, when I wasn't looking, Graham releases the fourth edition, entirely rewritten and newly expanded with the promised chapters, in electronic form (as a beautifully layed-out PDF). Attempts to deal with small presses failed, and so it was up to the community to figure out how to produce the promised hard copy. Shortly after its release, active IF community member David Cornelson (aka Jarb, manager of the Interactive Fiction Library) proposes arranging a limited print run and/or on-demand printing of the manual. I'm not used to Internet community members following through on such proposals, so it was surprising that soon after the proposal, Jarb started taking orders.

On November 23, 2001, the very day I decide to start reading rec.arts.int-fiction again after over a year's absence, Jarb closes orders. (Pardon my emphasis, but I at the time I found this ridiculously ironic given my off-again/on-again lurker relationship with this surprisingly active community.) I find this out mere minutes after I find out that it was printed in the first place, and dash off an email to Jarb begging, pleading for one of the extras. Thanks to his kindness, I finally have a copy, and am quite pleased with it. A slick cover, quality binding and great print. My only real misgiving is the lack of margins, which is obviously due to the original formatting of the PDF for 8-1/2" x 11" paper, but it's otherwise excellent.

Incidentally, the book was printed at DeHARTS.com. It's nice to know that if I ever wanted a few hundred copies of a 572-page document in a form that kind of resembles an O'Reilly book (mostly just the cover :), they'd only cost about $8 each. Also mentioned during discussions of printing options was Digitz.net, which does actual book-at-a-time printing-on-demand with a 48 hour guarantee for up to 100 books, and also offer fulfillment services (ship your book directly to a customer). Anyone have any experience with Digitz that can attest to their quality?

January 25, 2002

The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog, by Rebecca Blood. Rebecca is the only person I would trust with understanding weblogs enough to write a book like this. Just as exciting: We've Got Blog: How Weblogs are Changing Our Culture, a collection of essays. Both are from Perseus Publishing.

Wow, I wish I could have written weblogging software worthy of an O'Reilly book. (Is Slash really that great?)

LA Times' history of the EFF.

DotBombSquad: You Have Two Cows.

Google-based impromptu art galleries, via kottke.org. (Click on "share it with us" in this January 9 posting for many more.)

Mermaniac's top ten cast recordings of 2001.

Frustrated with assembling your own burnable Linux install discs? Go to Linuxiso.org and let them do the hard work for you. (Thanks narilka.)

January 23, 2002

12 new Wallace and Gromit shorts to appear online!

The Red Menace in Memphis.

Friends, it's no accident that these images grace the library's main entrance. They are not mere decoration. They are clear indicators of the dangerous geophysical and neopolitical pornographies housed like welfare babies within the walls of this tax-supported institution. Our library system may try to position itself as a benevolent entity dedicated to the judicious accumulation of human knowledge, but further investigation reveals it to be a filthy Gomorrah packed with dangerous ideas and dirty pictures.

(Thanks Librarian.net.)

Handspring to Eventually Stop Making the Visor, in favor of their new Treo wireless phones. What?

Is Jabber's Chatbot the Command Line of the Future? It is, of course, the point of the O'Reilly Network to present articles that promote their books. Often, I'm grateful. They've got a new book on Programming Jabber (the Open Source instant messenging service) that I otherwise probably wouldn't have known about. (Not that I'm a big Jabber programmer, I just like the idea.)

January 22, 2002

Amazon Makes First Profit on Strong Sales.

Better efficiency... aided Amazon, which last year strove to cut costs and boost productivity as it changed its informal corporate mantra from "get big fast" to "get the crap out."

Once again I'm tempted to quote a MemePool entry verbatim, but instead I'll just recommend this entry on the Atari 2600 video game based on the movie E.T.. This Classic Gaming review links to their own interview with E.T.'s programmer Howard Scott Warshaw. Especially see this summary of Atari's rise and fall from Snopes.com.

Tom's Hardware Display Guide: A Comparison Of 13 LCD Monitors.

In overturning an impaired driving conviction, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a loophole in Idaho law means marijuana users can drive legally as long as they don't drive erratically and can pass a field sobriety test.

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based court wrote that Idaho's impaired driving law makes it illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol and narcotics. But Idaho doesn't list marijuana as a narcotic.

This means when Matthew Patzer, who wasn't driving erratically and passed a field sobriety test, but was arrested for driving impaired after admitting to marijuana use, was arrested unlawfully. The subsequent search of his car, therefore, was also illegal, and so the four illegal homemade grenades, sawed-off shotgun and modified rifle with a homemade silencer they found cannot be used in court for a weapons charge. Of course, this says nothing about what Idaho's narcotics laws ought to say, it's just a morbidly amusing consequence.

While I can't say I'm surprised, I am saddened that Fox is cancelling their new live-action version of The Tick after 8 episodes.

January 21, 2002

Black Hawk Download: Pirated Videos Thrive Online.

"There's a huge difference in what people think copyright is and what the corporations think copyright is," said David Rocci, the founder of Isonews, a Web site that tracks the availability of movies and television shows on the Internet. "I'm not so sure it's morally wrong for someone to go to `Lord of the Rings' in the theater two or three times and then download it because they like it."

But for Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, there is no doubt.

"We're fighting our own terrorist war," said Mr. Valenti... "The great moat that protects us, and it is only temporary, is lack of broadband access," Mr. Valenti said.

Internet Explorer SuperCookies bypass P3P and cookie controls.

There is a significant privacy problem with Internet Explorer because of a design flaw in the Windows Media Player (WMP). Using simple Javascript code on a Web page, a Web site can grab the unique ID number of the Windows Media Player belonging to a Web site visitor. This ID number can then be used just like a cookie by Web sites to track a user's travels around the Web.

However this ID number becomes a SuperCookie because it can be used by Web sites to bypass all of the new privacy and P3P protections that Microsoft has added to Internet Explorer 6 (IE6). IE6 ships today with all Windows XP systems. SuperCookies also work in all previous versions of Internet Explorer with all older versions of Windows.

It's weblog service mania!

A long time ago, Weblogs.com would let webloggers sign up to have their weblogs scanned hourly, and would build a list of which weblogs were updated in the last hour. Suddenly, weblogs numbered in the thousands, making Weblogs.com difficult to use. Thankfully, Weblogs.com made their data available in an XML feed, so other services could use it. So I built BlogTracker (then known cryptically as "the SubHonker Filter"), which used Weblogs.com's list to let users create an account and pick which weblogs they wanted to see. Last year, Weblogs.com implemented a new system, where instead of visiting thousands of weblogs an hour, the weblogs themselves were expected to send a message to Weblogs.com when they updated. Weblogs.com would then visit the weblog to verify that it changed, and update the list.

Before the change to the new system, Weblogs.com also provided a search engine service. Now, DayPop provides that service, using Weblogs.com's list to know when to get the latest web pages.

Meanwhile, LinkWatcher, as old as Weblogs.com, continues to crawl blogs hourly, and still accepts new registrations. LinkWatcher also provides an XML feed of their data. Someday I hope to add LinkWatcher's list to BlogTracker.

Meanwhile, YaySoft performs a similar function to BlogTracker, taking Weblogs.com's list, compiling statistics and letting users make custom lists. Still a work in progress, YaySoft eventually hopes to have a supplemental weblog crawler for weblogs that do not or cannot send the "I've updated" message to Weblogs.com. YaySoft also plans on providing an XML feed from their supplemental crawler.

Meanwhile, blo.gs intends to perform a similar function to both Weblogs.com and BlogTracker, by accepting "I've updated" messages and allowing users to make lists of their favorite weblogs to watch. blo.gs apparently also takes lists from Weblogs.com and LinkWatcher and reconciles them with its own data. blo.gs releases their data in XML, OPML, and RSS feeds, and makes the service's source code available in a CVS repository.

Finally, BlogTrack (not BlogTracker, BlogTrack) lets you specify an arbitrary list of web sites, and instead of visiting the sites hourly and providing a rough list of who was updated recently, BlogTrack visits all the sites when you visit BlogTrack. The result is an up-to-the-minute list of which sites have changed since your last visit. Best of luck to the developer, with this ambitious and resource-hungry project. (The reason Weblogs.com went from visiting thousands of weblogs to requiring the weblogs to send messages is because of the expensive resources required in a continually growing weblog universe.)

January 18, 2002

I've been waiting for a good excuse to get into massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), but have been cautious considering the amount of investment they usually involve. Most require a monthly fee, and any MMORPG worth its bandwidth would be so addicting as to ruin my life. Ultimately, I'm just waiting for World of WarCraft, highly anticipated due to the exalted reputations of both the WarCraft series and its production company. In the meantime, there's always the other well-backed brand name that I'm familiar with, Ultima Online. If I could get over the mixed reviews (complaints about the graphics and the overall engine make me cringe pretty fast), I could try the otherwise quite popular EverQuest-- visiting their site, however, spawns a full-screen browser with a markedly unimpressive Flash animation, a broken link, and JavaScript so buggy you have to open Windows Task Manager to get rid of it. No thanks.

I picked up a free disc for Lineage today, a medieval MMORPG based on a Korean comic book series. (Unlike EverQuest and Ultima Online, there's no need to purchase software; you can even download it from their web site.) Apparently extremely popular in Asia, with a reported 2+ million accounts and 200,000 players online simulatenously, the game had its U.S. beta release last March. The Mac version due out in February earned MacWorld's Best of Show award. Last year's reviews from their U.S. beta release: Gamers Pulse likes it, Computer Games Online says the graphics are a bit dated, and GameZNet comes right out and says lousy graphics and sound are off-putting, but they "later revisited the title and was surprised to see that there is quite a lot of depth to the game. You just need to have the will to endure your initial rejection." Unfortunately, despite my strong interest, I have so little patience for computer games that poor sound and graphics might be a deal-breaker for me.

Thanks to their 30-day trial, I tried it, and, well, even with low expectations, I couldn't get into it. Clunky movement made for irritating battles just in the practice area, and, well, I'm not going to care about making friends if the game is no fun. I'll just have to wait for World of WarCraft after all. It seems Blizzard can do no wrong; they have a knack for giving a feeling of robustness in their game engines in ways I haven't really been able to pinpoint, a combination of sound and graphics design that similar games from other companies lack. I recently played a Star Wars universe knock-off of StarCraft that, despite virtually identical game play and comparable mission design, didn't even come close to engrossing me as Blizzard's game did.

Which leaves me with very high expectations for WarCraft...

January 17, 2002

Programming in C: A Tutorial by Brian W. Kernighan. This is only of historical interest: the document uses a dialect of C from 1974 that is no longer used.

Photo of Michael Jordon's house, which Jordan's wife Juanita is seeking in divorce proceedings.

TiVo announces Series2. The battle for the living room continues!

Scumware.com details a kind of sponsored trojan I've never seen before, and hope to never see. Scumware, installed invisibly/semi-invisibly when you install another unrelated program, integrates with your web browser to direct you towards sponsored web sites while you're trying to browse, often obscuring or modifying the pages you're trying to view. Like adware, which displays advertising while you use your computer, or spyware, which silently watches what you're doing and sends that information back to a central location over the Internet, scumware is easy to install unintentionally, and difficult to remove.

January 16, 2002

Themes in Contemporary Analytic Philosophy as Reflected in the Work of Monty Python.

The positivists' revolt against metaphysics was really successful. Really, really, successful. It was so successful that even now, when everyone agrees that (a) logical positivism is dead, and that (2) even if it isn't dead, its arguments against metaphysics, to use the technical phrase, suck pond water, upper level courses in metaphysics taught in universities throughout the analytic world-- indeed, in this very university-- typically begin with self-conscious multi-week probing reflections on whether or not it's really okay to now do metaphysics.

(Thanks Cam.)

Washington State to shut down film office. The three-person office claims an annual budget of $375,000, which last year brought in $55 million in production spending. I'm not sure it's the most important thing on the budget, but it's certainly one of the cheapest given the returns.

North Face's new self-heating jacket. $499.

Nokia plans for an XHTML+CSS+WML capable phone (Flash demo of the concept, not yet an actual product).

Mouse fan!

January 15, 2002

I tend to blog for my own later consumption more than anything else. This is why I tend to just borrow links from much more popular weblogs like MemePool, because when I see something I like I often don't have the time to follow through to my satisfaction. So I blog it for later. In the case of MemePool, thanks to their multiple-good-links-in-one-paragraph style, sometimes I'm tempted to just steal entire entries verbatim. For example:

"Most board game geeks agree that The Settlers of Catan (or, as it's known in Germany, Die Siedler von Catan) is one of the best games ever, whether online, play-by-e-mail, or in-real-life. It fosters cooperation in the form of trading, and the only antagonistic element in the game is probably overused." (Thanks onigame.)

A Slashdot article follows up with a link to this article on aggression in games using Settlers as an example, in relation to this Nature article on a Swedish study of cooperation in game theory. Apparently, cooperation works if the majority can punish freeloaders. Whoduthunkit?

Ralph Nader wants Microsoft to pay.

Why software is more like science than construction.

Zagat Guide outtakes! The blurbs their reviewers wrote but their editors blocked. Some more. (Thanks Anil.)

Spaced Penguin! From 3-2-1 Contact Kids.

January 14, 2002

Disney beta-releases a massive multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) for little kids: Toontown.com. It's currently free during the beta period. Windows only at the moment. Like most MMORPGs, there's a battle system (cooperative battle against computer-controlled baddies, of course), subgames, quests, chat and NPCs. I'm amused that you can't chat with other players using your own words, you have to select from a library of innocuous phrases. There's text chat available, but I don't know how to get it to work.

DVDTalk's Best DVDs of 2001 includes their overall list, plus individual lists from each of their staff, including Glenn Erickson's.

Learning to program using Python.

How to Think Like a Computer Scientist (in Python).

Bruce Eckel's Thinking in Python.

A Moment of Science.

Ask a silly question, get many complicated answers.

January 11, 2002

I am 24!

Brain in a Vat. Philosophy students must read. That means you, DRV (who first introduced me to the brain in the vat when I was 12). You too, Jer. (Many thanks geegaw.) The piece comes complete with an unnecessary explanation of why anyone would think this is funny.

Salon.com: The geeks who saved Usenet.

OReilly.net: I Remember Usenet.

Solid stops light:

Researchers in the United States and Korea have brought light to a complete standstill in a crystal. The pulse is effectively held within the solid, ready to be released at a later stage.

This trick could be used to store information in a quantum computer.

How Much Ketchup is Inside a Ketchup Packet? From cockeyed.com's dare-I-say-brilliant How Much is Inside project.

January 10, 2002

It was great when public universities would develop software then release it at no cost to the world. This Salon article discusses the trend in the other direction, towards attempting to profit from academic research.

In 1992, Berkeley released its version of Unix and TCP/IP to the public as open-source code, and the combination quickly became the backbone of a network so vast that people started to call it, simply, "the Internet." ... But Bill Hoskins, who is currently in charge of protecting the intellectual property produced at U.C. Berkeley, thinks it must have been a mistake. "Whoever released the code for the Internet probably didn't understand what they were doing," he says.

Joel on Software: Fire And Motion.

It makes me think of those researchers who say that basically people can't control what they eat, so any attempt to diet is bound to be short term and they will always yoyo back to their natural weight. Maybe as a software developer I really can't control when I'm productive, and I just have to take the slow times with the fast times and hope that they average out to enough lines of code to make me employable.

I can't relate to this article at all. ... Is it lunch time yet?

January 9, 2002

David Gagne will be on syndicated version of The Weakest Link, either today or next Monday. Gagne fans, set your TiVos!

The Bush administration plans to close all Regional Offices of the Women's Bureau at the Labor Department. "The Department of Labor's 2003 budget - currently being finalized - calls for the elimination of the White House office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach, and the elimination of the Equal Pay Matters Initiative."

PhotoScore is like OCR but with sheet music. Scan printed musical score, and PhotoScore will generate MIDI files. Neat!

This Neuratron PhotoScore site has a downloadable demo (saving disabled).

I don't mind that euthanized pets are rendered into industrial fats (though only because I haven't been told a reason to mind), but using those fats in pet food is a little worrisome. This MeFi thread includes several reactions, including a couple of folks that, after reading about commercial pet food, have decided to put effort into making their own.

January 8, 2002

Jason Scott, director of BBS: A Documentary, has been looking for interview subjects. If you were involved in BBSes back in the day, Jason may want to speak with you. I was, though not nearly as much as some people. And I wouldn't want to tell half my BBS stories without other people's permission.

I like his list of other personal computing culture documentaries. (Thanks rebecca.)

Is CD copy-protection illegal?

Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., sent a letter to executives of the recording industry's trade association, asking whether anti-piracy technology on CDs might override consumers' abilities to copy albums they have purchased for personal use.

A 1992 law allows music listeners to make some personal digital copies of their music. In return, recording companies collect royalties on the blank media used for this purpose. For every digital audio tape (DAT), blank audio CD, or minidisc sold, a few cents go to record labels.

Instant Culture for Sale. Polaroid, in the throes of bankruptcy, may have to sell off its collection of decades worth of photographs. "... [A]sk a photo specialist about the Polaroid files, and the answers are quick and eager: The collection, amassed over six decades, is a window on American culture, an invaluable tool for anyone tracking the evolution of photography, and a medley of photography's biggest names."

AmazonScan.com mines statistical information about the sales of various products from Amazon.com over time. It doesn't scan every product in the catalog, just those the people think are interesting. Want a product watched? Add it to their scan list.

January 7, 2002

The First Left-Handed Piano.

The left hand, so often relegated to the accompanying chords and subservient to the melody being played by the right hand, would come into its own with the instrument. Mr Seed plans a complete mirror-image of an early 19th-century fortepiano: the highest notes will begin on the left and the lowest ones will be found on the right. The pedals will be reversed and,if playing with an orchestra, the soloist will be facing the other side, to ensure that his left hand and the lid are facing the right way. Musical scores do not have to be re-written because the treble clef will be played with the left hand. The fingering even remains the same.

The Internet is unpredictable. It's non-goddamned-deterministic. That's the point, of course.

Rules of Speed Chess. See also USCF blitz rules.

Omniglot, a guide to writing systems.

Qwest-MSN connection draws concern from DSL customers.

Press Your Luck, starring Bill Murray as Michael Larsen, is based on a true story about an ice cream truck driver who memorizes the board patterns on the game show Press Your Luck, and manages to win $110,000 over two days. Big bucks! No whammies! Bill Murray! (Thanks dollar short and Jerry Kindall.)

January 4, 2002

"If you graphed the progress of National Novel Writing Month's hegemony, it would look like the lines epidemiologists use to illustrate the spread of dangerous viruses."

I mentioned Dave's Quick Search Taskbar Toolbar Deskbar before. It has since gone through several rounds of development by its inventor and its fans, and now includes dozens of new features. For example, it can now display a clock, so you can save some taskbar space and turn off the default systray clock. Double-click on it and up pops a calendar-- a feature so useful to me personally that I had been considering learning Visual C++ just to develop a little calendar tool. The deskbar can now use other browsers besides IE, including Netscape and Opera. Developers can easily add extra sites to search using an XML file, instead of editing the .htm file in several different places-- which includes a documentation field that updates the help display with any new searches you might add. Dave even included my contribution, a fancy Amazon.com searcher that lets you search by store. Great stuff.

A.I. will get a special edition DVD release on March 5, 2002.

[Boy this is stale; almost everybody knows about this by now:] Google now has 20 years of Usenet online, and has compiled a list of first mentions. Such as the first mention of Star Wars Episode 6 (Revenge of the--er, Return of the Jedi), by none other than Randall Schwartz: "I wish Lucas & Co. would get the thing going a little faster. I can't really imagine waiting until 1997 to see all nine parts of the Star Wars series."

Software development for the Palm OS. I've been meaning to put together a page like this for a long time. (Thanks CamWorld.)

Amazon.com BibleFinder charts over a dozen popular translations of the bible, including readability and translation philosophy, format, theological affiliation, and a sample passage (Job 36:33) from each. With, of course, links to lists of purchasable bibles of each translation.

January 3, 2002

Happy New Year! What a busy last couple of months. Again I must say "I'll be with you shortly," as I clean out my pending blog entries from the last month that never got posted and write up anecdotes that never got written. My first resolution of 2002 is to get caught up enough with BrainLog to get working on fresher, newer things, and maybe rebuild a little bit. Only time will tell what I'll actually have time to do, as usual. :)

The Guardian Unlimited's Seven Wonders of the Web. I particularly enjoyed this ironically (and unintentionally) messed up quote: "Google is still to me - and millions of others - a daily miracle. If the internet only consisted of this ultra-fast search engine it would have justified its existence many times over." But I know what they meant. :)

The Tivo Web Project develops alternative interfaces to your (hacked) TiVo. Their instructions to install the Apache web server and Perl on the TiVo are what Matt used to put his TiVo schedule on his weblog. The next phase of the project seeks to do an interface in TCL that runs entirely on the TiVo with very simple set-up.

WarCraft III beta sign-ups begin January 7th. I never sign up in time for these, but perhaps you'll be quicker than I am.