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 Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained.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

October 2002 Archives

October 30, 2002

Because it makes too much noise at night, we need a new refrigerator. Because it freezes the milk and makes the icecream into a gooey soup, we need a new refrigerator. Because we are fearful, and we don't know that the world is friendly, and because there are people that hate us for unknown reasons, we definitely need a new refrigerator.

-- From The Metababy Gallery

Google search for "because we are fearful we definitely need a new refrigerator".

The cable Internet service provider industry really really really wants to charge you for your bandwidth use.

Most people now pay a flat fee for online access. But the big media companies offering Internet service; Comcast, ATT, AOL -- would like to change that, and already have in a few test locations.

The broadband industry’s plans to institute tiered pricing have been widely reported in its trade press. There are numerous articles about replacing today’s open 'Net environment with industry-self-described versions of "walled gardens" or "Internet Lite." ... The central feature of these proposals is much like telephone companies; there’s a price plan for everyone.

You have received this mailing from the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers. For information about subscribing or unsubscribing, skip to the end of this mail.

Selected headlines of interest to IT workers, October 13 to October 25, 2002.

In this mailing:

1. BofA sending more tech work abroad (Charlotte Observer)
2. Union organizing continues at IBM (Poughkeepsie Journal)
3. New Yorkers campaign for jobs (BBC News)
4. IBM Shuts Hungary Plant, to Cut 2,800 Jobs Worldwide (Reuters)
5. Study: Republicans dominate tech votes (CNET.com)
6. Slowdown sending tech jobs overseas (San Jose Mercury News)
7. Sun to lay off 4400 (CNET.com)
8. WA unemployment rises in September (Puget Sound Biz Journal)
9. OpenTV to lay off nearly half of staff (CNET.com)
10. Site for the Truly Geeky Makes a Few Bucks (New York Times)
11. As economy keeps dragging, things start to feel scary (San Jose Mercury News)

October 29, 2002

Scumbag chess tricks, how to cheat at chess in a tournament setting. (Thanks, Dad.)

This trick works best in a time scramble where both players are quickly pushing pawns forward. The pawn on h2 is pushed very quickly to h4 and the clock banged, now return your hand over the same pawn, next move push the pawn forward again but this time leave it half on the sixth and the fifth ranks, bang the clock and return you hand over the pawn, on the next move the pawn is advanced to the seventh rank and a new queen next. I have seen this trick played by an old member of the Hull Chess Club many years ago to win the annual blitz tourney.

From this page: Benjamin Franklin's The Morals of Chess.

Slashdot further clarifies last week's Adam Smith slams the GPL story, with a few insights on government software, as well as criticism of how the story was broken with a misleading, inflamatory headline ("Washington State Congressman attempts to outlaw GPL", which I only partly corrected when I posted).

An obituary of etymologist Allen Walker Read and the origins of OK.

As a long-time technology buyer, I'm used to seeing new products come out at lower prices than the lesser model I had purchased merely a couple of years previous. For instance, my trusty Olympus C-3030 3.2 megapixel digital camera, which I bought a year ago for $1000, is being bested by the new 5 megapixel Olympus C-5050, which comes out November 11 with a sticker price of $799. New multi-memory-type support (XD, SmartMedia, CompactFlash and Microdrive are all supported), the obvious bump in resolution, a new tilting LCD monitor, and a hot-shoe for an external flash with slave strobe support all make me desperate to trade up.

While I'm less eager to get a new laptop computer, the price/quality differences are even more impressive: I purchased my Dell Inspiron 8000 (Pentium 3 800MHz, 256MB RAM, 20GB 4400 RPM hard drive) for $3800 (*shudder*) in 2001, and a new Inspiron 8200 (Pentium 4 1.8GHz, 512MB RAM, 40GB 5400RPM hard drive) with similar accessories, which I'd say is at least three times as good for most applications, today costs $2700. Oy.

October 26, 2002

"Hi, Robert? It's Mr. Powell, your old high school gym teacher! Don't forget to set your clocks back!"

October 25, 2002


1999 | 2000 | 2001

Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) wants to outlaw the GNU Public License in federal research. I wonder who told him to do that.

A clarification: "The letter's authors want the White House's national cybersecurity plan, due for completion next month, to ensure that companies that develop software using federal money are free to sell the resulting products for commercial gain. The letter made no mention of open-source software." It was Rep.-Adam-Smith-D-Wash.-whose-biggest- campaign-contributor-is-Microsoft's addendum to the letter (also signed by Ron Kind and Jim David) that slammed the GPL, which the letter's original author, Rep. Tom David (R-Va.), did not intend.

If by "commercial gain" they mean the companies developing the technology retain exclusive IP rights, as if they used private development funds and not public money, then the distinction is slight. The original letter is all about explicitly licensing to foster "public-private partnerships", and to vaguely insinuate that the GPL threatens commercial exploitation isn't much better than to come right out and say it. (Of course, I don't know anything about the current state of government-funded development of software, but I wouldn't assume it's all in the public domain... is it?)

More follow-up from Robin Miller: This message from Danese Cooper of Sun Microsystems says, "Many staffers of the 67 Congressman who signed [the letter] are now claiming they didn't know what they were signing and the letter is being withdrawn."

Supplemental: Adam Barr's account of Microsoft's use of TCP/IP briefly explains that FreeBSD's original TCP/IP code was released under the BSD license (an approved Open Source license), which has no requirements of license propagation or source distribution. Adam wrote a book on working for Microsoft, entitled "Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters: What I Learned in Ten Years as a Microsoft Programmer".

Supplemental: Open Source Case for Business.

The Anti-Telemarketing EGBG Counterscript. (Thanks David Chess.)

A comparison of LCD screens.

How To Build a Silent PC. "Ultra-quiet" power supplies are great (I have two), but without further improvements, PCs still make a lot of noise.

October 24, 2002

The Internet-only Wallace & Gromit cartoons are available for purchase and download. The first one is free, $10 gets you all ten.

Full transcript of the Eldred v. Ashcroft October 9th hearing.

Smarty: the compiling PHP template engine. Sure, PHP allows you to mingle HTML and code, but for anything but small applications, this is not what you want. I've played with a few small template engines, but have been looking for a robust, well-supported standard library to use with my apps. I look forward to trying Smarty on my next app.

Trillian has gone Pro for $25. Not that we didn't see that coming. The plug-in feature of Trillian Pro 1.0 is compelling, if only because Trillian still lacks Jabber support (despite the fact that Jabber is open source). They continue to support a free version, 0.74.

I'd be much more inclined to pay for Trillian if I didn't suspect that IM providers are still intent on blocking unofficial chat clients. The Trillian developers have done a decent job of catching up with "changes" in the protocols, and supporting them with payment would certainly assist this.

October 23, 2002

Mrs. Joan Doyle: Now then Father, what would you say to a nice cup of tea?
Father Jack Hackett: Feck off, cup!

-- Father Ted

See also Craggy Island, the Father Ted MOO.

Macintosh Titanium iBook owners know this all too well: the titanium case blocks wireless Internet signals from Apple's internal AirPort card, despite the supposed in-case antenna. This little design flaw makes the cheaper, plastic iBook much more valuable for heavy wi-fi users. The solution is obvious: get a wireless card that sticks out of the case. Apple doesn't make one, and the others you can buy are all for Windows PCs. Open Source community to the rescue!

AnswerBus Question Answering System. (Thanks Jerry.)

Amazon.com Web Services 2.0 Contest. Developers can win a $1000 gift certificate by building an application that allows potential Amazon Associates to build their own store, using the newest version of Amazon.com web services. (I can't win, but you could.) Version 2.0 includes access to Wish List and Marketplace information.

October 22, 2002

The Buckminster Fuller Institute has some books online, including the full audio files and transcripts of Fuller's 42 hour lecture, Everything I Know.

The year I was born Marconi invented the wireless, but it did not get into any practical use until I was 12 years of age when the first steamship sends an S.O.S., its in distress, by wireless so think of it a great many miles and the world began to know the ship was in distress and ships began to rush to its aid. Absolutely unexpected! My father and mother would say "wireless! such nonsense!"

And when I was three the electron was discovered, and nobody talked about that. It wasn't in any of the newspapers nobody was interested in electrons didn't know what an electron was that had been discovered.

I was brought up that humanity would never get to the North Pole absolutely impossible, they'd never get to the South Pole; and our Mercator maps didn't even show anything... the Northern-most points were kind of a rugged line, but you didn't see or know anything up beyond that.

When I was 14 man did get to the North Pole, and when I was 16 he got to the South Pole, so impossibles are happening.

Found on an old Metascene entry. Will someone please fix Fred's computer?

Michelle is learning the art of stained glass.

Very belated congratulations to Michelle and Don. I only met them in person once, but I can assure you, they're fantastic people, and utterly deserving of each other's wedded bliss.

At some point I bookmarked Snipe.Net's PHP-based image gallery software for future reference. Upon finding the bookmark again, it was fun to just look around Snipe.Net.

MOOzilla is a MOO client for Mozilla.

Did you know Mozilla was an application platform? We just need to see more apps beyond the standard set that come with it (like the browser, email, composer, IRC, and calendar [beta] aren't impressive enough). Many are comparing it to Emacs in its cross-platform versatility and power. Others are saying XUL in Mozilla could replace quick'n'dirty programming languages like VisualBasic as a way to get things done. Still others are complaining that XUL is too cumbersome to get anything done. Nevertheless, it's fun to think about the cross-platform possibilities.

Creating Applications with Mozilla is a free online book, and comes in O'Reilly dead-tree form as well. I'd love to find a reason to learn to program Mozilla. I have a couple of ideas for non-web apps, though thinking in terms of web applications all these years makes it difficult to imagine solving problems any other way. Emacs Lisp might be more useful to me at the moment, anyway...

October 21, 2002

Those of you intending to acquire or make a gift of the new DVD release of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial this holiday season, don't miss the E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial Ultimate Gift Boxed Set, which includes both the new 2002 edit (walkie talkies for guns) and the original 1982 version, the soundtrack, the screenplay, and much more. It costs twice as much, but if the person you're buying it for cares at all about the movie, they will be disappointed if you don't get them this one.

Any mention of the E.T. DVD must be accompanied by the obligatory complaint about the "limited release" marketing strategy. All editions of E.T. on DVD will no longer be made available to retailers after December 31, 2002-- which means that if someone is expecting to get it for Christmas and doesn't, they may only have a few days to acquire it. Someone expecting it for Hannukah at least has a few weeks this year. (Hannukah 2002 begins the evening of November 30.)

P.S. I'm not dropping any hints. Lisa has already ordered it for me. :)

Ads and press releases for the Beauty & the Beast DVD imply a similar limited "Disney vault" release. Anyone know the stop date, or does Disney never set one until they've evaluated demand?

James Burke's Connections on DVD. (Thanks Dan.)

AOL is now available for Mac OS X. The OS X implementation uses an embedded Gecko engine (from the Mozilla project) as its browser.

Cross-site scripting filter for PHP4. PHP's strip_tags() is grossly insufficient for preventing user-supplied HTML text from being a security hazard. $message = strip_tags($message, '<a>'); is enough to allow users to post arbitrary JavaScript on, say, your blog's comment system.

I've always suspected this was the case, but never bothered to test. Now that I've tested it, I've disabled all HTML in BrainLog comments. (Not all HTML tags have scriptable attributes, but until I've tested this thoroughly in most browsers or seen a report of such a test, I'm holding all HTML suspect.) If you have a link to share, just include the URL as text and we'll copy-and-paste.

October 18, 2002

The wireless Enhanced 911 (E911) rules seek to improve the effectiveness and reliability of wireless 911 service by providing 911 dispatchers with additional information on wireless 911 calls.

The wireless E911 program is divided into two parts - Phase I and Phase II. Phase I requires carriers, upon appropriate request by a local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), to report the telephone number of a wireless 911 caller and the location of the antenna that received the call. Phase II requires wireless carriers to provide far more precise location information, within 50 to 100 meters in most cases.

This means cellular phone hardware will enable the pinpointing of your location via your cellular phone signal, required by the FCC in the next two years. Privacy concerns abound, but the ability to quickly locate a 911 cellular caller is an obvious win. Competing technologies are supposedly building in privacy features, such as limiting the technology to only 911 calls, or even requiring a special button be pressed on the phone before it is trackable. The original rollout deadline was set for the end of 2005, with 25% of all phones sold by the end of this year to have support for location tracking, but major wireless carriers have already been granted extensions.

It's a year-old issue, but it's the first I've heard of it, so I'm blogging it. :)

October 17, 2002

Have you seen spam show up on your computer in a pop-up window called "Messenger Service", whose first line is similar to "Message from WEBPOPUP05 to [Windows machine name] on [date]", selling cigars, or fake diplomas, or other typical spam fodder? You haven't visited any suspicious web sites, and you haven't installed any suspicious software that might include evil adware. What is it?

Update: It's a message sent to the Messenger Service, a service intended to display messages sent by system administrators on your local network. [I've removed the NetBIOS information I originally posted here to avoid confusing the issue, but it's a good idea to shut off File and Printer sharing anyway if you're not using it.]

Thanks to helpful readers for providing instructions on disabling the Messenger service. Turning off file sharing if you're not using it is still a very good idea. Running a service opens your computer to potential security holes, so never run a service you're not using, and always stay up to date with security patches for the services you are. Microsoft ships Windows with some services turned on by default to "help" people, but it's really quite a disservice.

Free web-based security auditors like ShieldsUP! or AuditMyPC.com can show you what kind of information others can see, and which "ports" are open on your computer. If the Messenger Service has been active on my machine all this time, I'm impressed this is the first unwanted broadcast message I've seen.

For this annoying new kind of spam and many, many other security reasons, the best answer is a personal firewall. ZoneAlarm is a popular choice for Windows, and comes in Pro, Plus, and free editions. I just installed the free version, and ShieldsUP! now reports my computer as completely cloaked. I'm very excited.

TechTV's Firewalls Explained has good basic advice on securing your PC, and recommends both ShieldsUP! and ZoneAlarm.

October 16, 2002

Eldred v. Ashcroft is the first constitutional challenge to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. Lawrence Lessig, a deservedly famous law professor specializing in intellectual property issues, debuted before the Supreme Court on October 10th. His recap of the debut and the arguments is most compelling. (See also someone else's notes.) Lessig's web site is thorough, informative, and includes a weblog.

Apologies (mostly to myself) for not having given more blogspace to Eldred v. Ashcroft in the past. Court challenges like these are probably more important than "pending" legislation, and are of at least equal educational value.

Hey NetFlix users, has anyone else received a movie called Lantana without knowing how it got onto your rental queue? I just received it, and my mother said it's on her queue, and neither of us can remember what it is or why we'd be interested. It's probably nothing-- maybe we both heard something about it a long time ago, put it in the queue and completely forgot about it. But what's particularly peculiar is that not only do I not remember putting it on the queue, but I do remember very recently reviewing my queue and moving more desirable items to the top, so I should have noticed a strange movie near the top of my queue if it was there before.

If Lantana is showing up on queues without user consent, something weird is going on at NetFlix. It doesn't seem like the kind of movie that would be part of a (nasty, evil, probably illegal) marketing campaign, so it might just be a technical glitch. And even with two incidents, it still seems plausible that we just queued it and forgot it...

October 15, 2002

The Exploratorium exhibit on Skateboard Science includes information on the physics of tricks. (Thanks Flutterby.)

Escher's "Ascending and Descending" in Lego.

See also BrickLink, a marketplace for buyers and sellers of specific Lego pieces.

Jessamyn wrote an article for this month's issue of Searcher magazine about her experience with Google Answers, the pay-for-research, get-paid-for-research service run by Google.

October 14, 2002

I went into a T-Mobile store to take a look at the Sidekick over the weekend. I didn't expect much from the sales staff, especially after hearing some stories, but they at least knew about the Sidekick and were taking orders. I was hoping they'd have a functioning demo model so I could check to see if a few web pages worked in the unit's browser, but they don't do demo models at T-Mobile stores. They had a fake Sidekick shell to demo the size and feel of the thing, and I have to say it felt great. It's only a little wider than my cell phone. But it didn't have a working screen, so I couldn't say much beyond that.

While the staff appeared willing to sell me one, they knew almost nothing about it (though tried to fake their way through a couple of answers)-- not their fault, they haven't been trained on the thing yet. They were even trying to talk me out of it, saying they heard a "rumor" about a future model having a color screen, an empty sentiment considering it's obvious a future model will have a color screen. They might be turning away the early majority (me) until service improves; the early adopter customer experience isn't for the faint of heart. They also confirmed that the "upgrade path" for existing T-Mobile customers is confusing and potentially unpleasant, and we're not eligible for the $200 post-rebate unit price. In any case, while it sounds like this first generation model fulfills expectations and would be fun to have around, I'm sold on the idea to wait until the next model (or a few well-received major software updates) before considering it again.

In lieu of an SDK, Sidekick users are setting up web apps to perform simple functions missing from the device. A simple server-side web calculator and a simple networked chess game should tide over current owners for the time being.

This DangerInfo.com thread, supposedly posted by a Danger employee, asks for your top three most desired features in a future version of the Sidekick. The results are illuminating, including such missing features as configurable alerts, repeating notifications, cut and paste, and selectable URLs in contexts outside the web browser. The most requested feature appears to be an SSH client, which would enhance the value of the device for system administrators and webmasters by a couple of orders of magnitude. I'm skeptical about the technical ramifications of SSH over their central proxies, but I don't really know enough about it. JavaScript support in the web browser appears to be desired, but I can't imagine what common JavaScript-based website features people hope to use on such a small device. Maybe they're imagining Sidekick-specific web apps, or just easily programmed client-side abilities. Most of what I'd want from the device would come from having a public SDK, to allow for the development of obscure but very powerful apps such as an outline editor.

Good luck, Danger and T-Mobile! Keep it cheap, open the SDK, and build a reputation for quality service at a low price point (despite your rocky start), and you'll own the new hybrid cellular phone/Internet market, even with your proprietary operating system.

October 10, 2002

Dear Danger HipTop T-Mobile Sidekick brand mobile internet access device: You suck. Anil warns that the extremely sexy-- and extremely new-- HipTop/Sidekick cell phone/PDA/wireless Internet device doesn't play well with some web sites, and lacks proper development support (so far) to allow site maintainers to help rectify the situation. This CNet review (among other sources) mentions that Danger's servers are actually mangling pages to make downloads to the device leaner, which might explain-- but not excuse-- a web site so browser-friendly as Anil's not appearing properly on the HipTop.

skallas reports that the word on the street is that plans for a public SDK are possibly tentative, but it's all speculation so far. A lack of a public SDK would kill my interest. I'm convinced developer support was a major part of Palm's success: it came with decent software, sure, but it also came with the ability to run other software written by users who knew what they wanted to do with the device and knew how to get the device to do it. Nevermind that I'd like to think of myself as that kind of person, other smart people write the cool software (or compatible content) and make it available to me. But if they're going so far as to filter the entire web through their servers to cut down on bandwidth use, there may never be an SDK, or so goes the speculation. But it's Java-based, and GPRS is bandwidth-limited, so maybe it won't be much of a concern after all. And I hear the Sidekick doesn't have a built-in calculator. (It has a 12-voice MIDI synthesizer, though, if you can believe that.)

Some of the CNet reader reviews are also sobering. It sounds like T-Mobile isn't letting us existing T-Mobile (VoiceStream) customers upgrade our existing contracts, meaning we either wait it out or paying for two plans. They're allegedly even refusing the $50 rebate to existing T-Mobile customers! It might just be a bad first week: one review reports that the T-Mobile representative they talked to on the phone didn't even know what the Sidekick was. Another reports that the web site that's supposed to give you access to all your data on the server isn't even up yet, but was told it'd be up soon.

A lack of a public SDK, central proxies and centralized data stores would mean T-Mobile, Danger and their partner developers have to carry the entire device for its entire lifetime, which means its lifetime might be shorter than we would like. Central data stores also implies the device is dead without a paid subscription, which is discouraging if I want to put my life on the thing. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong on that. I'd like to be. The thing does have memory.) If the device is merely the thing you use to access a service (the "thin client" business model), then the service is the product, and needs to be top notch. If support is going to suck, then it's not worth anything.

But many reviews are still very positive, so for now I'll just wait and see if Danger and T-Mobile get their act together, ogling the owner's manual and searching for friends and coworkers that had the guts to adopt early. This could be the coolest toy for the next two years-- a Palm-style revolution, even-- or the biggest missed opportunity in the PDA market, depending on how T-Mobile and Danger play their cards in the next month or so. There is a 14-day trial period return policy, so maybe if things still look good in November...

October 9, 2002

Roshambo Run, a nightmarishly difficult, addictively elegant puzzle game, from The Brunching Shuttlecocks.

Boomerang Games is one of several services attempting to be NetFlix for console games. $19.99/month, 2 games at a time. This negative review of RedOctane, another such service, claims their turnaround time is too slow. A reader response to the review claims Boomerang is related to NetFlix, and has good turnaround. (Via Slashdot.)

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) is introducing the Digital Choice and Freedom Act. The Act seeks to protect consumers by re-stating fair use in terms of purchased transmissions of intellectual property, and amending the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to allow lawful consumers to bypass copy protection technology that impedes their rights. It also prohibits non-negotiable shrink-wrap licenses (the "I Agree" button you have to click on to install software that you've already purchased). News.com on the DCFA.

Meanwhile, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Virginia) is introducing the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act, with the IT industry's support. The bill [PDF], Boucher's statement and summary. The bill appears to care a great deal about copy-protected CDs not providing adequate notice to consumers before sale that its copy-protection methods make the disc unplayable in certain devices. The bill also seeks to rectify threats to fair use introduced by the DMCA, including the allowance of copy protection circumvention if such circumvention is not used to infringe the copyright, and the manufacture, distribution and sale of devices that enable "significant non-infringing use of a copyrighted work".

I don't know if either of these are passable legislation, at least in these forms, but it will be important to make a big deal about them at some point so that any congresscritter that hasn't been bought outright by media and software industries might understand defense of fair use as a legitimate position that's upheld by lots of intelligent people. Seriously, though, it's interesting to see what form this kind of legislation takes when it is introduced, especially compared to opposing bills.

October 8, 2002

PopCap does it again: Bookworm. Addictive, despite the fact that it goes from easy to too difficult rather quickly. Any hopes of strategy of managing "easy" and "hard" letters by diligently using a little of each are too son dashed by a cavalcade of Z's, Qu's and X's. But while it's easy, it's wonderfully satisfying. I was even finding words longer than the seven-letter limit imposed by the game, which I have to tell you about here because the game wouldn't give me credit. (Thanks usr/bin/girl.)

Movin' Out, a musical/dance theater production based on 24 songs by Billy Joel, directed and choreographed by Twyla Tharp, just completed its debut run in Chicago, and is now in previews on Broadway for an opening on October 24 at the Richard Rodgers Theater. Metromix describes the reworking of the show for its NYC run. The cast recording will be released on October 15.

I'm indebted to this page for telling me how to put a newline in an Emacs search query without resorting to lousy regexp hacks: C-q C-j. The author of the page was obviously equally indebted to the guy who told him, given that he wrote eight paragraphs about it.

October 7, 2002

Congratulations to Anita and Jack! May your marriage fill your lives with love and joy forever!

The Ad Council's Campaign for Freedom television spots assert the importance of freedom by depicting scenes of an America that is less than free. Given recent attempts to trade civil liberties for a sense of homeland security, these public service announcements are extremely refreshing to see on network television. All of the ads in the campaign are on the web site.

For C++ programmers: Why not to use boolean arguments. Seems difficult to justify given the apparent technical elegance of booleans (it's fun to pretend you're only using a bit, even if you're not), but I've seen enough frustration caused by them that they're probably worth avoiding in most cases.

Tiny desktop PC for $1000. If I were to go back to a desktop machine (which I'm considering), I'd want something expandable (a traditional box), but a low-profile box, a black LCD screen and black keyboard is awfully tempting.

October 4, 2002

I don't know why, but I've long had it in my head that the state of California is supposed to have excellent miniature golf courses. Under this presumption, I made it a goal to find at least one on our trip, since I had never really seen what I conceived to be a primary example of the medium (the medium of miniature golf course design, that is).

Lisa had remembered GolfLand in Sunnyvale, CA, from her childhood, so we made an effort and found it. A solid course with 37 holes, it was everything I had hoped it would be. There's a poorly positioned bullseye hole on the back 18 that's too easy to jump over and into prickley bushes and a pond you're not supposed to crawl around, but other than that, it was good fun.

My appetite sated, I didn't expect to waste more of my wife's honeymoon with carpet golf, but further south we saw a Boomers peeking over the highway noise barriers, and decided to stop. The golf was about on par (*cough*) with GolfLand, so I only mention it because on Tuesdays, this particular Boomers (it's a chain) sells all-access passes for $10. All-you-can-play mini-golf, bumper boats, and their entire video arcade on free play (minus the prize games). Sure enough, it was Tuesday, and the place was deserted. The bumper boat attendant didn't want to be bothered, but we rode them anyway. It was here that I discovered that arcade gun games (at least the older ones) are actually less fun on freeplay, because the story always sucks and they never end. Seems like at a buck per three slugs to the shoulder I can't wait to find out if I and my partner save the girl from the cackling businessman.

The US ProMiniGolf Association presents the history of miniature golf.

Everyone has played Electrotank's smash-hit online minigolf game, now available with characters, a more stable interface and a purchasable 36-hole PC version-- except they've crapped up the camera positioning since I saw it last, so I have to say it's less fun now. While looking for course info, I was surprised to find an online minigolf game I hadn't seen before: LifeSavers Miniature Golf. Despite being heavily candy-branded and surprisingly difficult, is quite fun and well-implemented; it lacks the physics that make Electrotank such a winner, but it has its own style. It's a monster download though, so much so that it offers to permanently store its files on your hard drive if you're on a slow connection and plan to return. You can refuse the saving at the beginning and still play.

CanonicalTomes.org, "a volunteer-created, volunteer-administered, and user-contributed database of books or other works which define their respective domains." I've been dreaming of sites like this ever since I first discovered Usenet FAQs. This one needs more books and more votes, but seems very much on the right track. (Thanks Jerry and Rebecca.)

In short, the Smithsonian Institution 1995-1999 (SI) seems to present the public with an extremely biased version of electrical engineering history. As we shall soon see, certain individuals within the SI have used rather loathsome linguistic legerdemains in their attempt to erase the great Hungarian-American inventor Nikola Tesla from the history books. I think readers will find an examination of this semantic sabotage quite entertaining.

-- "Semantic Sabotage at the Smithsonian," Rhesus Monkey Magazine

October 3, 2002

Hello! A few days later than expected, but I'm finally back. I highly recommend three week vacations, if you can afford them. They're nice.

The trip was pretty much the de facto west coast road trip from Seattle to San Diego, then back through Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, so I won't bore you with the details, at least not all at once. The US-101 route is a common experience in this part of this country which I'm happy to now share with others who have taken it. I was especially grateful to have the opportunity to take it slowly, pulling off at most roadside attractions, spending extra time in each major destination, listening to almost a hundred hours of music and audio books-- Bill Bryson's work makes for a fantastic road trip audio book when read by the author-- which I didn't really get to do on my two-week cross-country blitz last year. Oh, and I got married.

Back into the fray, it's crunch time at work as we gear up for the holiday shopping season. Thankfully I won't be working the warehouses this year (the rumors are no longer true). And while that's all happening, my summer hobby project (of sorts) just launched, with a bunch still left to do. It's been up a day and a half and already has over a thousand users.

Which of course conjures the obvious question, will I be participating in National Novel Writing Month this year like I was all excited about doing last year but quickly gave up on? mmm... Nes. Yo. I dunno. Given my work schedule, I'll barely have enough free time to finish the web site, and even if I could squeeze in 1,800 words a day, the temptation to tinker would be too intolerable, petrifying my pencils with procrastination. I'm once again compelled to count the words I've written in this weblog over the years (not counting this entry):

  • Total words: 235,168
  • Number of entries: 2395
  • Average word count per entry: 98.1912
  • Longest entry: 1,520 words
  • Longest month: May 2000 at 12,828 words

This Legomaniacal professor built a Lego Harpsichord. It actually plays: just listen (MP3). His bibliography at the bottom of the harpsichord page is just begging me to build one of my own, though I'd probably do it out of wood, if at all.

(P.S. "Legomaniacal" is a word I just made up. You're welcome to use it.)

Here They Are, Science's 10 Most Beautiful Experiments.

Lance Fortnow's Computational Complexity Web Log features tutorials and tidbits on computation theory. Great stuff I never had the chance to learn in school.

The Colossal Cave Adventure page.