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 Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained.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

May 2002 Archives

May 31, 2002

The other day I was thinking about the potential for computer games that used primarily aural feedback. Most computer games use a combination of visual and aural feedback, but rely heavily on the visual, using aural feedback almost entirely for reinforcement of other signals: missle hits asteroid and the asteroid goes boom; skateboarder wipes out and slaps the pavement; protagonist gets a power-up and a fanfare plays, and special music plays for as long as the protagonist is in their special short-term powered-up mode while they blink a different color. Occasionally, sounds will indicate changes in the game world that happen off screen: grunts of monsters in the other room; whooshing of spaceships behind you; sirens of police cars around the corner. And occasionally sound cues represent changes in the game universe that have no immediate visual corollary, often musical and often time-related: music's tempo quickens when there are fewer asteroids to destroy and aliens become more aggressive; horn sounds when there's only 30 seconds left in the round. In most cases, feedback is primarily visual, and most computer games can be reasonably played with the sound completely off. (Surely this is by design.)

So I was wondering if there are any good examples of games with primarily aural feedback. Consider the pattern repetition game often known by the trademarked name "Simon": four colored buttons, each with a distinct associated musical note or sound, light up individually in a short series. The player is to press the buttons in the same series. If successful, the same pattern is extended by one note/button. Play continues until the player enters the wrong pattern. All versions of this game that I've seen have distinct visual representations for the "buttons," such as colors or shapes, as well as aural representations, such as musical notes or sounds. Consistent placement, appearance and sound of the "buttons" are all important to this memory game, to reinforce the ever-growing pattern in the player's memory. But it's easy to imagine a version without the visual feedback: four buttons represent four distinct musical tones or sounds, the player listens to the pattern (with no visual feedback) then attempts to recreate the pattern from memory by pressing the buttons. It's a more difficult game, for sure, but still playable, and primarily uses aural feedback.

Only one other visual game comes to mind with an obvious primarily-aural equivalent, and it's also a memory game. The turn-over-the-cards-in-pairs memory game, such as the trademarked "Memory," could simply be by sounds: select a square and hear its sound, select another and hear its sound, and if they match, the squares disappear. The game ends when all pairs have been found.

I remember a great sound-only computer game, of sorts, which at the time was called "Zipper." If I recall correctly, two well-known melodies were played simultaneously, and gradually the two melodies would become less simultaneous; the time delay between the two melodies would shift. The object was to see how quickly each melody could be identified. Not a lot of interactivity, and not many fun examples, but it qualifies.

I also remember when my home town phone company started up an automated telephone information portal, where you could access weather, news, movie times, and more using a touch-tone phone. The service included jokes and games. The games were lame phone-tree-style choose-your-own-adventure games, where a recording would describe a silly scenario and you would choose one of three options. The games were short-- only about two decisions in each game-- but they'd have new "adventures" on a weekly basis. I suppose those meet my criteria for primarily aural feedback computer games.

Unfortunately, I'm not finding any examples on the web. Stretch the definition of "play" and you get many examples of computer-based interactive musical toys, with dozens of examples on the web ranging from mix-your-own-music to abstract interactive noisemakers. disquiet: audio-games lists a few.

Is it safe to conclude/assume that our sense of hearing is not as strong as our sense of sight, and that we take in less information via sound? This would explain why there aren't many primarily aural games. At least, we're not used to making lots of quick decisions based entirely on sound. I wonder if we can train ourselves to play complicated audible games. Certainly we have plenty of primarily aural entertainment, mostly music. It's no wonder that audio-heavy games are predominantly musical, because music consists of intellectual patterns of aural data that we have practice manipulating and understanding. It's even more difficult to imagine odor-based games, beyond basic odor recognition games, for similar reasons-- though there is possibly potential for odor as a reinforcement of other forms of feedback.

The Wumpus World and situational calculus. Wumpus World Simulator.

May 29, 2002

What is "Hunt the Wumpus"?

Plugging the Analog Hole. The MPAA is making another subtle power grab, this time through analog-to-digital converters. If this sounds like a minor technical detail, that's just what the MPAA is counting on. ADC's are everywhere; this alarmist hypothetical isn't far off: "Your cellphone would refuse to transmit your voice if you wandered too close to the copyrighted music coming from your stereo."

Meanwhile, an AP story notes that you can break the new copy-protected music CDs by taking a felt-tip marker to the rim of the disc. This article notes that the AP story violates the Digital Millenium Copyright Act by describing how to circumvent copy protection, and the second article (and this weblog post, and hundreds of posts on other weblogs about this) violates the DMCA by linking to it. Will Reuters go to jail?

Essential Blogging, the upcoming O'Reilly book on weblogs, is being made available for public review before publishing. The book "shows how to install and use the major weblog tools: Blogger, Radio Userland, Blosxom, and Movable Type." In addition to feedback, they're looking for contributions to their "Blogging Voices" chapter.

Tom's Hardware: How To Select The Right Case. I've had mixed success finding good computer cases, and it took several horrible experiences to motivate me to spend a little extra money on a quality case. The two servers I have are currently in pretty decent cases, one with a nice thumbscrew-held side panel and another very tall one with seven (7) 5-1/4" bays, only one of which I'm actually using.

May 28, 2002

Wumpus.

Yahoo! chief scientist on hacking web services. Interesting to hear about all the crap Yahoo! has to put up with; I'm glad I'm not running a popular service, or I'd have to make my code secure and stuff.

kartoo : les cartes de recherche. A search engine with a fancy Flash interface and pretty pictures. A map of your search results is drawn, with connections by subjects which you can then prune to refine your search.

This is the kind of product one might manufacture or sell just to get attention: caffeinated soap. "Have smelly co-workers that sleep in too much? Give them the gift of Shower Shock..." (Of course, thanks to my scheduled content system, by the time this makes it to my weblog this will be old news, if only because it's that kind of story: addictive to spread, but with a very short interest span.)

May 24, 2002

I've used Evite for a long time, both as a recipient of invitations and as the originator. Initially being suspicious of the service as a potential spam outlet, I've used a special evite-specific email address for my main account. (Unfortunately, there's no control over which email address others use to invite you to events.) I've never received spam at that adddress, and remain confident that, as long as the company doesn't change hands, they are safe to use. Having used them once again for a recent event, I decided to revisit the issue and read through their privacy policy. A couple of sections are disappointingly unclear at first glance, but after careful examination, I'm convinced that Evite's policy backs up their claim to be "spam free." Backing the policy is a relatively big brand: Evite "is wholly owned by Ticketmaster and operated by the Citysearch.com division of Ticketmaster." Though some people might not trust Ticketmaster.

Looking for authoritative examples connecting Evite with poor practices or potential violations of their privacy policy: This November 2000 NYTimes article (on page 3) mentions Evite as an example of a company that puts tracking GIFs in HTML email, as part of an early lawsuit regarding privacy and disclosure on the web. A Usenet search comes up with a couple examples of Evite being used as a relay, which Evite actively prohibits, and which makes no use of Evite's customer list; plus one or two direct complaints with no details provided. A Google search for "evite spam" produces Evite's own site at the top (matching the phrase "Evite does not spam. Read our Privacy Policy to learn more"), plus dozens of other pages, all in Spanish-- because "evite" is Spanish for "avoid."

SpamAssassin is a popular spam flagging utility because it's extremely picky about what it considers "legitimate" email. SpamAssassin flags Evite mail as spam not because evite.com is on a spam blacklist, but because when I send you an evite, it originates from evite.com's mail servers but has my email address (at a non-evite.com server) in the From line. SA thinks this is suspicious and flags it, just to be safe.

Nevertheless, people still complain that Evite should be avoided, just because their service involves the mentioning of many email addresses and so could possibly be up to no good. Spam and the practice of spamming are so detested that simply telling someone that a company spams is enough to convince them beyond all repair, and the nature of an invitation service makes Evite automatically suspicious. SpamAssassin's flagging behavior doesn't help much, either. I'm compelled to jump to Evite's defense, if only because I'd like to be able to use them without getting yelled at by my invitees because they think I just signed them up permanently for a Make Porn Fa$t newsletter.

Beyond being able to trust certain commercial no-cost web services, I've often considered developing web services for private use. While Evite is a powerful and sophisticated implementation, an invitation service is a relatively trivial web/email application. If I built one and limited account creation to just me and my friends, we wouldn't have to worry about spam or annoying ads. It runs counter to the open spirit of the web (which I heartily endorse), but the resource demands of opening such a service to the public is why commercial services have had to bury users in ads and sell their email lists in the first place. I would probably open the software, however, so others could set up their own such services... Right after I finish my symphony...

May 23, 2002

Google Labs, demos of new features being developed at everyone's favorite search engine. Voice search by phone, web-built glossary and sets, and keyboard navigable Google searches.

Panoramic Maps Collection, detailed maps of the United States, 1847-1929. Search or browse, and zoom in for great detail. (Many thanks, dollar short.)

Dave's Quick Search Deskbar now has a SourceForge site.

May 22, 2002

Amazon.com has books, DVDs, electronics, lawn & garden items, airline tickets, cars, and... pizza? Dog nail clippers? Seeds? Vintage tires? Wedding stationery? Disectable frogs in packs of 10? Photoionization detectors?

Amazon.com has launched a (beta) service to compete with Google Catalogs. Thousands of paper catalogs scanned and OCR'd, completely searchable and browsable. Search all products and if Amazon doesn't sell it directly, you'll be directed to a company that does. Your search terms are highlighted on the page. Plus: searchable restaurant menus in six major cities!

LawMeme: Top Ten New Copyright Crimes, in the light of chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting Jamie Kellner's repeated comments on how using a recording device to skip commercials in commercial television is "theft". The article also includes many more quotes from Kellner on the nature of this "problem" and its possible "solutions."

The Dough [Flash movie w/ music and sound]. Banks suck.

May 21, 2002

A bunch of announcements in the replace-Microsoft-Office world: OpenOffice releases v1.0; SOT Office has also launched, based partly on OpenOffice; AbiWord releases v1.0.1. And finally, the next version of StarOffice will cost $75, which, considering the quality of the suite and the support of its newfound owner Sun, isn't half bad.

Tron Revisited. Local musicians give Tron a new soundtrack, live at the EMP, Wednesday May 29th.

Lonely Planet: Antarctica. (Thanks Booboolina.)

May 20, 2002

Macromedia dives into the blogosphere.

"If we have an announcement to make, in the past the normal way to do it would be to go to each forum on the Web where people are discussing it and post it there," Chambers said.

Now he blogs it once, and makes sure the link gets out.

The important items -- the best Flash examples, the most interesting tips, the most pernicious bugs -- are passed through the developer community at blog-speed, which can be quite fast. The unimportant stuff isn't passed around as quickly -- which of course is just how it should be.

Prof. Huckle's Collection of Disasterous Software Bugs and Glitches, with excellent links to reports and supplementary information. Crashing probes, exploding rockets, diverted missiles, incorrectly tallied elections, long distance phone service outages, and many more, all because someone forgot to carry a one, put a dot instead of a comma, or used pounds when they should have used kilograms.

GameSpot selects the cream of the crop GameBoy Advance games. I can't wait for my GameBoy lighting kit to arrive; I was almost completely blown away by the GBA if it weren't for the dark screen, so I'm expecting a revival of that enthusiasm followed by a shopping streak as soon as I get the light kit installed.

Technical Pursuit Inc.'s Tibet is huge web application library that supposedly smooths out cross-browser compatability wrinkles in raw JavaScript development. Dual-licensed for commercial and open-source hobby use, I can't wait to try it.

May 17, 2002

Waiting For Godot: The Interactive Adventure.

The Paddle Company: "experts in our field because we make paddles... and only paddles." The game they're playing, paddleball, is a court game like racquetball or squash, using a paddle. Then there's paddle tennis, which I'm guessing is like court tennis, but with a paddle. Then there's padel, or paddle, which is also like tennis, racquetball, and squash, which involves a net (like tennis) and walls (like racquetball and squash). Here's a Spanish Padel page (translation courtesy of Google). Also, Padel.com has a few links, and sites for other paddle sports. Paddle paddle paddle.

A VBScript to let you use software without accepting the End User License Agreement. This operates under the premise that until you agree to an EULA by clicking on "Yes" or "Accept" when installing software, you're legally allowed to use the software any way you choose within the bounds of existing copyright law, just like you can a book or a CD. Software companies force you to accept a much more restrictive contract of use by writing their installation software such that it won't install without your accepting the agreement. Since you're within your right to tweak your personal copy of the software up until you agree to the EULA, you're within your right to tweak the installer to operate without confirmation of EULA acceptance. The author admits this is merely a symbolic gesture, but it points out the tenuous nature of software vendors' claim to the right to insist post-sale that you have to do everything they say if you want to use the software for which you've already paid.

May 16, 2002

Are computer games speech that deserves First Amendment protection? Yes, in so many obvious ways.

The Web Site of Pete and Pete. Episode guide, FAQs, and more.

The Story of "Nadine". What happens when an email address that doesn't exist is accidentally used to enter an online sweepstakes? It gets spammed. And spammed. And spammed. Despite both manual and automated responses declaring that the address doesn't exist, the mistyped email address of "Nadine" continues to get spam, in some cases several times a day from a single source. On the receiving end of all this spam is a well-informed, dedicated anti-spam advocate and system administrator with a tale to tell.

Imagine if that were your email address.

May 14, 2002

The Stranger is doing their SIFF Quiz again this year, a multiple choice quiz where the answers are provided for you ahead of time. You may remember this took me to task last year. I'm surprised and actually a little disappointed that the cheat sheet for this year is the same as last year's, which you'd think would make it easier this year. Will we try again?

Ursula K. Le Guin: On Despising Genres.

Yet another item in a long list of things I apparently missed: Last year, Scott Rudin attempted to block Stephen Sondheim's new show with malicious cease and desist orders, claiming to have exclusive rights to the show that he didn't have. Sondheim and company sued for damages and won a preliminary injunction against Rudin. Rudin countersued, claiming breach of a contract that doesn't exist (though the actual details of his production arrangement with the show are not discussed in the article). Late last year, they settled, returning Rudin's $200,000 investment in the show and disconnecting him from the effort. The show, entitled Gold! (formerly Wise Guys), has been rescheduled to open in June 2003 at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Both links have a good amount of background information and are worth a read, if you're catching up like I am.

Rudin has produced other Sondheim shows in the past, including Passion and the revival of ...Forum. He's better known for film production, of course, and while I've heard nothing but bad things about what he's like to work with, he's obviously tolerated for having a good amount of power in the industry.

Nobody told me Passion is available on VHS, either. I thought the whole point of this weblog thing was for you to keep me well informed. Was I mistaken?

Online advertising turns even more mailicious. Banner ads get ignored? Try pop-ups. Pop-ups get closed? Try ads that look like the Windows user interface. Users too smart for you, not clicking on them? Try interstitial full-pagers. Users clicking past interstitials without watching the ad? Try layered ads that sit on top of content. Layered ads turning away users? Hmm... Try installing software that spies on users and displays ads dissociated from which web site they're viewing. Users not falling for the "install this software" dialog box, rejecting the download? Try bundling ad display software with popular free programs. Users getting wise to your trojan adware/spyware? Try using viruses, trojans and bugs in the browser to install software on the user's computer without their knowledge, kill their personal firewall, and give you control over their computer to install arbitrary software at a later date. That should get their business.

May 10, 2002

GameSpot's SimCity 4 Preview. As much as I enjoyed SimCity, I avoided SimCity 2 and SimCity 3000 because they were mostly the same game with nicer graphics. SimCity is excellent with great graphics, but to be honest I was tired of the original engine. SimCity 4 promises a whole new engine, which means a different way of thinking about managing your city. The screenshots are gorgeous, as well.

The only thing I *didn't* like about HyperColor shirts was that they eventually stopped working after repeated washes and machine drying. Maybe you weren't supposed to machine dry...

The Peruvian government has introduced legislation to require government offices to use free (as in speech) software. Microsoft doesn't like the idea, of course. Congressman Dr. Edgar Nuñez responds to Microsoft's concerns with some fantastic, well-reasoned arguments.

To guarantee the free access of citizens to public information, it is indespensable that the encoding of data is not tied to a single provider. The use of standard and open formats gives a guarantee of this free access, if necessary through the creation of compatible free software.

To guarantee the permanence of public data, it is necessary that the usability and maintenance of the software does not depend on the goodwill of the suppliers, or on the monopoly conditions imposed by them. For this reason the State needs systems the development of which can be guaranteed due to the availability of the source code.

To guarantee national security or the security of the State, it is indispensable to be able to rely on systems without elements which allow control from a distance or the undesired transmission of information to third parties. Systems with source code freely accessible to the public are required to allow their inspection by the State itself, by the citizens, and by a large number of independent experts throughout the world. Our proposal brings further security, since the knowledge of the source code will eliminate the growing number of programs with *spy code*.

These are all reasons I worry about using non-free (as in speech) software for my own stuff. As long as I have basic rights regarding how I use personal technology, and non-free commercial solutions maintain a certain degree of interoperability and adherence to open standards, I'm willing to use non-free solutions that offer useful advantages to free alternatives, but I don't have the priorities of a government to the rights of its people at stake.

May 9, 2002

Toto's Africa Polka [MIDI].

Pokey the Penguin fansite and FAQ. I've mentioned Pokey the Penguin a dozen times before, but I never knew about this nice, coherent FAQ (so needed because the official Pokey site is intentionally... um... incoherent). YES.

According to the comic's author, he writes Pokey because he "wanted to make something so terribly bad that no one should ever like it at all, but somehow infuse it with enough lovability that everyone would anyway... either proving the point that people are dumb and will like anything, or proving the point that people really can look deeper than the surface to like genuine quality."

Pokey fandom is most deservedly out of control, including various Pokey computer games. A Pokey-related text adventure game seems to be the most complete, and there's a Pokey-based Tamogatchi, a platform shooter, and a fighting game. Activision's web version of Pitfall includes a Pokey-related easter egg (press F7 while playing). At least one mailing list and at least one IRC channel foster a bizarre community with a highly refined collective sense of humor. (Well, not really, but some fans seem to be smart enough to formulate their own Pokey-like humor.) GUN!!!

See also Influence of Genetic Polymorphism on Subjects Ability To Interpret Pokey the Penguin. More at The Pokey Informational Site.

Mom: "Toshi, shall we do an eye opening experiment?"
Toshi: "Yes, what is your eye opening experiment?"
Mom: "Powder explosion! You said you wanted to do this."

May 8, 2002

Ira Glass's 13 thingies of radio. I like Jeremy's account better. Well, as much. You can hear Ira Glass on KUOW on Friday evenings. You can hear Jeremy on KPLU on Saturday mornings.

Teatro ZinZanni is an experience like no other. Described as "the Kit Kat club on acid," and "the place where the Moulin Rouge meets Cirque du Soleil," Teatro ZinZanni continues to thrill audiences with this unique, new form of entertainment, all served up in a beautiful antique theater imported from Europe.

Has this been in Seattle all this time and I didn't know about it? I just stumbled across it this past weekend while walking around downtown, a curious building that takes up an entire city block, surrounded by a parking lot. I've never seen it mentioned in guidebooks or newspapers (though maybe I just didn't notice), and I've walked down northern 6th Avenue enough times that I thought I would have noticed it-- which just makes it all the more intriguing. I'd like to pretend it's a ghostly extravaganza that's only there for my benefit, and when I take other people to the site it'll be deserted. "Teatro Zinzanni?" says the street vendor pushing the cart of knives and cleavers, "There hasn't been a Teatro Zinzanni since 1942." "But I was just in there last week!" "Nahp, couldn'ta been this place. Place has been boarded up ever since Senior Zinzanni disappeared." "But...! But...!"

It turns out that 6th Avenue is a new location for Teatro Zinzanni. The first show, "Love, Chaos & Dinner," ran from October 1998 to January 1, 2001 in a different location on Mercer Street, and this second show, "Dinner & Dreams," just opened in March. The new location, between Bell and Battery streets, is a 275-seat 1910 spiegeltent imported from Belgium. $89/$99 gets you dinner and a show; drinks and gratuity are extra.

Teatro ZinZanni is a project of One Reel, one of the Northwest's most innovative and unusual non-profit arts organizations. One Reel also produces such high profile public celebrations as Bumbershoot, The Seattle Arts Festival; Family Fourth at Lake Union; AT&T Wireless Summer Nights at the Pier, as well as a variety of educational, environmental and cultural projects.

See the Seattle Times on this year's show, and CitySearch's mention of Teatro Zinzanni with positive reader reviews. Their first show, "Love, Chaos & Dinner," is currently playing in San Fransisco.

May 7, 2002

Powerpuff Girls: The Movie will be out in July. Trailer available.

Adobe won a suit against Macromedia for software patent infringement. Many reckless software patents have been awarded for "innovations" so obvious as to be questionable as patentable concepts, some as simple as "connecting two computers together for the exchange of data." This one's a tough one for me, though, because though tabbed pallets are a simple user interface idea, I'll be damned if they aren't a genuine innovation pioneered by Adobe. It's an innovation in the true spirit of the patent system, but does Adobe deserve years of exclusive licensing rights to this user interface idea? At the moment, Macromedia's stock is taking a small beating, with the expectation of a follow-up injunction barring the offending product from being sold.

I should really be reading SatireWire more. They've gotten much better since their humble beginnings:

KNIVES, TANKS, WHALES — AIRPORT SCREENERS NOW FAILING TO CATCH ANYTHING
Washington, D.C. — In a troubling sign that investigators may be getting bored with their success smuggling guns and knives onto airplanes, the U.S. Department of Transportation today disclosed that its agents have recently cleared airport security checkpoints with an M1 tank, a beluga whale, and a fully active South American volcano. More...

GEORGE BUSH PREGNANT
Washington, D.C. — Though his fainting spell in early February induced a few knowing winks, President George Bush's erratic foreign policy mood swings have forced the White House to acknowledge what the nation's midwives have been whispering for months: the President is, indeed, pregnant. More...

SCIENTIST SPLITS ATOM, FINDS TOY PRIZE INSIDE
Princeton, N.J. — A Princeton physicist recently split an atom of hydrogen and found a toy prize inside, the journal Science reported in its June issue. More...

If you're not quite tired of my links to basic explanations of the effects of the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (or CBDTPA), check out David Chess' explanation of the CBDTPA in terms of the "general purpose computer".

May 6, 2002

More Blank White Cards, from Saturday, May 4.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the BBC TV show, is now available on DVD, region 1. Two discs, including the Making Of documentary, deleted scenes and more. The Amazon listing says "Recording of the radio series," though I doubt it's the complete recording, but you can get that on CD from Amazon.co.uk. This comparison of the region 1 and region 2 editions doesn't even mention the radio show recording on the disc.

The EFF reports on the actual consequences the Digital Millenium Copyright Act has had in the three years it has been in service [PDF].

I've heard so much about the game Settlers of Catan, but originally thought it was no longer available or difficult to obtain. Thankfully, I was wrong. Settlers for 3-4 players, a 5-6 player expansion, and a 2-player card game version seem to be the basic elements, plus many many expansion packs and variants. I can't wait! Who wants to play?

May 3, 2002

Alexa websearch, brought to you by Amazon and Google, is interesting. The results themselves are obviously from Google, but clicking on a site in an Alexa search result does not take you directly to the page. Rather, it takes you to a page about the page with Amazon-like tracking features, such as "people who visit this site also visit" and a page rank.

The obligatory vanity search for "Dan Sanderson" just reminds me that I haven't searched for my own name in a long time. At Alexa, it brings up pictures of my web site, some of my very old Nomic-related activity, various Yahoo! Groups messages and Usenet postings, and my place in someone's giant mind map (in the company of Mahatma Gandhi and Henry D. Thoreau). The Alexa page about my home page has my complete mailing address, phone number and email address from the domain name registration, thankfully all out of date. That info has always been available from whois services (when it really shouldn't be), but it's still disturbing to see it easily avaiable on the web.

Mr. Elmo goes to Washington to advocate more spending on music research and instruments in public schools. Yes, that Elmo. Some cute pics, video, and a link to this profile on Kevin Clash, the man behind the puppet.

How to change the title of an xterm. Some shells come with a "title" command that does this conveniently, but I had to roll my own. Here's my settitle zsh function:

function settitle() {
    echo -n "\033]0;$*\007"
}

Design Your Own O'Reilly Book Cover.

May 2, 2002

Injudicious Conduct: very bad judges. (Thanks qJason.)

Ian Stewart's "Million-Dollar Minesweeper". A nice description of the P-NP problem, Minesweeper consistency validation as an NP problem, the SAT Boolean circuit NP problem, and, especially fun, Boolean gates expressed as Minesweeper boards.

Since I actually have been living under a rock these past few years, I'd never heard of Neverwinter Nights until now. I have a passing interest in RPGs and a fixed interest (though no real investment yet) in MMORPGs. But a DM mode in a fancy new 3D multiplayer RPG for PC? That's an instant obsession waiting to happen. (Or am I really behind on the times and there are other online computer RPGs with DM modes already?)

Information on Zelkova for bonsai. My new Zelkova has been growing for five years and trained for three. I'm managing to kill it within a matter of weeks. A few yellow leaves to start out, which I clipped because they were depressing. It then managed to look quite healthy up until a few days ago, when it started to form brown edges around the leaves. Too little sun and too much water are both possible causes. Apparently, Zelkovas are not indoor bonsai.

May 1, 2002

The Empire Bounces Back. Lessons learned from Phantom Menace, in the hopes of saving a franchise gone sour.

Yes, "The Phantom Menace" is the fourth highest-grossing film ever. Yes, it made almost $1 billion worldwide. And yes, anybody who thinks part two of the new trilogy, "Attack of the Clones," which opens May 16, will be anything but a smash doesn’t know R2-D2 from a Cuisinart. Never mind all that. "Menace" was a gold-leafed dud for Lucas, its writer and director. It was a lame kiddie flick. The dialogue hurt. And Jar Jar—yep, see, already you’re cringing, and all we did was mention his name.

How Stupid White Men almost got pulped.

Darts! Flash game, single or real-time multi-player.

Domains Reregistered for Distribution of Unrelated Content - A Case Study of "Tina's Free Live Webcam". A fantastic study on the dubious advertising strategy of porn sites registering expired domain names. The unfortunate practice makes me sorry I ever registered names I didn't have an immediate, continuously funded use for. I registered names of family members as gifts, and now I feel obligated to continue to renew the names even if the family members aren't using them, lest their online identity turn to smut.

Why Free Software usability tends to suck. Free software and good user interfaces.