Friday, November 07, 2003

A new poem I wrote

Our Suburban Day

we wake dress get in the car
drive stop drive stop drive through traffic
breakfast at Denny's or Shari's
whichever is more on the way to the mall

I wear a baseball cap but
one of my more formal ones
since we are going out
I don't take it off to eat
only for a solemn moment like
the national anthem before hockey games
(and even that Canadian one to be polite)

then the shopping at the mall oh yes
the peak experience
do we support the Gap or are we
Banana Republicans
so many choices that's the best part
we could stay all day and we do
buying things
returning them
buying them back again
(is there a more lovely sound than
that of the receipt
printed and torn?
send me the MP3 of that)
we like cashiers because we feel how they
really understand us
for they are the Brand made flesh
and It touches us when they smile

we eat at Olive Garden because we always crave that
I hear Italy is nice too but it's far
even farther than the Venice in Vegas
and besides
we already feel like we're there from
reading this
authentic menu

walking out the door we know (we just know)
this is it
this is what they are all so jealous of
this is what fanatics hate
who hate freedom
and we don't blame them for
feeling left out
but if they'd only work hard
be reasonable
learn English
someday their time would come

Sunday, October 12, 2003

No personals

A good friend of mine said that I am "the most gay-acting straight man" she knows. I told her how my brother jokes that you can find Personal Ads for men seeking "straight-acting" gay men, but there don't seem to be any equivalent ads for women seeking "gay-acting straight men."

I had forgotten all about this remark until this evening, when I was putting an herbal clay mask on my face, and I thought, "oh, this is one of those things, isn't it?"

Monday, October 06, 2003


Driving home tonight, I was getting on the freeway and there was a lot of oil on the road. The car started to slide and got almost sideways. Then my "skillz" kicked in and I did a perfect "floaty powerslide" and saved it. A few seconds later I thought, wow, I almost totally crashed my car back there. A few seconds after that I thought, wow, I feel like James Bond!

Monday, September 29, 2003

Movie ideas

They can make anything into a movie these days: a comic book, an old TV series, a Saturday Night Live skit, just about anything. You know what I'm waiting for? Victoria's Secret: The Motion Picture. That's what I'm waiting for.


My friend Bob creates some interesting electronic music using thumb pianos and other instruments. I like the way he explores the overtones and subtle distortions of the tones.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Cat Reddick

OK, here's my theory. Right before today's game, Cat Reddick was bitten by a radioactive spider and acquired super-powers. I don' t know how else to explain it -- In the U.S. victory 3-0 over North Korea, she was all over the field, scoring two goals and making numerous incredible defensive plays. I've never considered her a star before, just an average player, but today was her day.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Mia Hamm, part 2

In a comment to my previous Mia Hamm post, koshtra says:
Some athletes have such a purity of concentration that it seems like you're watching a transfiguration or a transcendence -- this is what all human life could be if we just paid attention for once...

Yes, that's exactly what I'm talking about! Watch Mia when she is on the soccer field. Look at her face. There is a transcendent beauty there. It is not because she is physically attractive, although she is. It is an intensity, a kind of purity of intent and purpose that could be terrifying if it weren't so beautiful. Many players have a lot of skill with the soccer ball, but few have this.

And I think koshtra is right: if only we paid attention . . .

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Mia Hamm

I'm sorry, but I'm a bit crazy. When I see Mia Hamm do something wonderful on the soccer field, I get kind of choked up. Several times when she has scored a goal, I have actually started crying a bit -- especially if it happens during a World Cup. (The only other player I've ever had that reaction to is Pele.) Today when Mia scored her second goal against Nigeria on the free kick, well that was one of those times.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Outsourcing, our road to paradise

Offshore outsourcing is good, because it drives down costs, which drives down prices. The rise in unemployment is balanced out by the cheaper cost of everything to consumers. If you follow this to its logical conclusion, eventually no American will have a job, but we won't need (or want) jobs or incomes because everything will be free. We will live in a slacker's paradise. ("Been spending most their lives, living in the slacka's paradise . . .")

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Supply Side Jesus

The comic parody The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus is pretty funny (via boingboing). But I thought Jesus really was a supply-side thinker. It's right here, Matthew 13:12:
For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

(Note: this is a joke, so please no flames from theologians. Hey, I like saying that.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Stand up and be counted

Howard writes:
Wedding Bell Blues: I've always wondered what it would take for me to stand up and be counted when the person officiating at a wedding said: "If there is anyone gathered here today who knows why this couple should not be united in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your piece."

Now I know -- a reception that included a Krispy Kreme wedding cake.

The problem is, they never ask that at weddings except in the movies, because they know that somebody in the audience won't be able to resist the temptation. It's the ultimate invitation to rant! If they ever asked that at a wedding I went to, it would be really difficult not to shout out something like, "Stop, man! She's just marrying you for your Pokemon card collection! Can't you see that?"

Monday, September 15, 2003

We Need More Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs are the spice of life. Admit it, saying swim/swam/swum is much more fun than swim/swimmed would be. Irregular verbs have more character, more of what food marketers call "mouthfeel."

When we coin new words, we should make a little extra effort to make the verbs irregular. For example, the verb "to Google" is a fun word, but "Googled" is boring. Instead, try the irregular version:
  • I compulsively Google for my own name.
  • Yesterday she Gaggled for a Keanu Reeves fan site.
  • That web page was frequently Guggled.

Ahh, that's so much better.

On a platter

Social Reject blogs about this news story:
Adventurous ladies looking for new ways to flirt, here's a suggestion from New York's Museum of Sex -- go to a restaurant, head for the bathroom, take off your panties and put them on your date's plate.

If someone did that, I would put my socks on her plate. I mean, really -- that might fly in a movie or an episode of Sex and the City, but I think in real life it would just seem weird and disturbing.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

MP3 of the day

Killing Sugar, by Sahina. ( site requires free registration.)

Independent music

Last night I ordered some more music from CD Baby. From their "About" page:
  • We only sell CDs that come directly from the musicians. No distributors. Musicians send us CDs. We warehouse them, sell them to you, and pay the musicians directly.
  • Cool thing: in a regular record deal or distribution deal, musicians only make $1-$2 per CD, if they ever get paid by their label. When selling through CD Baby, musicians make $6-$12 per CD, and get paid weekly.

It's not too hard to find interesting music there, either, since it is well organized and described, and you can listen to the tunes online before you buy. Considering how bad major label record deals are for musicians, I think supporting independent music is essential. Independent artists are like the bloggers of the music world.

The Joy of Sharing a Computer

Rachel writes:
I did what I could to fix the computer, and yet I woke up to a note from the roomie informing me that he'd changed my admin password and that I was to never delete anything off his machine again (This is the version minus all the expletives). So, imagine my satisfaction when we got the new copy of Nortons and it showed that all FOUR viruses were on his side of the computer. I'd have loved to have slammed his face against the monitor and rubbed it there, like a big, dumb puppy.

Computers are already one of the most frustrating things around; "cohabiting" one can only make things more maddening.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

The Threat of Gay Marriage

The biggest threat to straight people from the prospect of same-sex marriage has got to be the knowledge that all of our straight weddings will be completely upstaged by the gay ones. Their weddings will be more hip and fabulous, and we will look bad by comparison. We can picture our guests standing in one corner, saying, "this reception is OK, I guess, but it's not nearly as cool as the reception for that gay wedding last month. Phil and John really know how to put on an event!" "Tell me about it. They had better music, better catering, the whole deal. Straight weddings are a bore. These days, I only go to them as a show of support for heterosexuality."

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Mulholland Shire

[Warning: Mulholland Drive spoilers ahead. If you haven't seen Mulholland Drive and the Lord of the Rings movies, the following won't make much sense.]

Cross Mulholland Drive with Lord of the Rings and you would get a dark, edgy movie called Mulholland Shire.

Mulholland Shire picks up where Two Towers left off, but with a shocking twist. We learn that the character "Frodo Baggins" is actually a burned-out loser named Lou Gollum whose long-term abuse of drugs has left him friendless and unemployed. He lives in a slum apartment in the bad end of Mulholland Shire. One of his few posessions is his drug pipe, which he calls his "precious."

Lou had come to the Shire expecting fame, fortune, and opportunity. But fate seemed to deliver all of the advantages to another man, Bill Sauron, who kept lucking into adventures, finding valuable antique rings and armor and becoming extremely popular. At first Lou befriended Bill, and the two had a brief but thrilling homosexual relationship. But later Bill rejected him to climb the social and political ladder in the Shire, and Lou Gollum sank into a deep depression.

The events of the first two Lord of the Rings movies have been a dream that Lou Gollum was having, in which he idealizes how his life should have turned out. In his dream, he is the imaginary Frodo Baggins, loved and trusted by Bill(bo), who recieves a precious magic ring and must go off on an adventure to save the world. Frodo is a tiny "hobbit" representing how small and powerless Lou feels at this point in his life. On the other hand, Bill Sauron has been transformed into larger characters, showing the large role he plays in Lou's life. The part of Bill Sauron that Lou hates has been transformed in the dream into the giant figure of Sauron, the dark lord responsible for all the evil in the land. But the Bill he still loves has turned into the tall Gandalf, a wise magical father-figure. (The invisibility episode near the very beginning provides an early clue that all is not what it seems -- Lou wishes he could just make Bill(bo) "disappear." And as we will see later, he already has.)

Though in the dream Lou imagines himself as the saviour-hero, the "Gollum" character manifests to remind him of the insecure, selfish, evil aspects of himself that he tries to deny. "Gollum's" babbling about the "precious" is a warped representation of Lou's drug addiction and crazy behavior. Indeed, the physical appearance of "Gollum" suggests an addict: the thin, wasted body, the hollowed, sunken face, and the crazed eyes are a giveaway.

Various bizarre images in the first 2/3 of the story suddenly make sense when understood as Lou Gollum's dream. For example, consider the scene where the Ents release floodwaters that destroy Saruman's machines and drain into deep holes in the ground. This absurd image of powerful talking trees and watery destruction would make little sense if taken literally. Instead, the giant "talking plants" represent the drugs that Lou is addicted to. They unleash a "flood" of problems, destroying the things that matter to Lou, and the image of the water draining into the ground shows Lou's life "going down the drain."

Sauron's powerful "giant magical tower" is an obvious phallic symbol in the dream, relating to Lou's prior relationship with Bill. The fact that the tower is no longer "available" to Lou/Frodo but instead guarded by giant gates and monsters shows Lou's frustration.

As the dream story goes on, Frodo looks more and more exhausted, and wonders if he can go on. This represents the crumbling of Lou's denial. The dream Frodo has been involved in many violent episodes, rationalized as combat with various "monsters," but really representing Lou's violent behavior in the real world.

At this point in Mulholland Shire, viewers will wonder how we possibly could have been taken in by the first 2/3 of the story and believed it to be real. The plot was so full of absurdities -- talking trees, wizards, Orcs, giant flaming winged demons with whips -- that it could only have been the deranged dream of a violent drug addict who has lost his hold on reality.

Frodo's quest to destroy Sauron is really about Lou Gollum's decision to take revenge on Bill Sauron by killing him. All of the obstacles that block Frodo's quest show that Lou's subconscious mind deeply regrets his decision to murder his friend, and wishes that his plan had been derailed. When Gandalf is killed by the balrog, but later miraculously appears alive again, it shows how Lou wishes that his murder, too, could be undone.

But wherever the hero Frodo goes, "Gollum" -- the real, deceitful, murderer Lou -- keeps tagging along. The evil "black riders" who constantly search for Frodo and the Ring are really the police detectives who are looking for Bill's killer. Some black riders are even mounted upon flying monsters (police helicopters).

In the end, Lou can no longer deny his situation. He must acknowledge that, far from being a hero, he is "Gollum," a twisted, evil man who killed his ex-lover in a fit of jealousy and rage, and has only his "precious" drugs left to console himself. Finally taking responsibility for his evil deed, Lou kills himself.

Though depressing, Mulholland Shire is an interesting look at the tricks our minds can play on us. As far as Lou Gollum has fallen, some part of him still desperately wants to be a hero, on a grand adventure to save the world from evil. At some level, he wants to save the world from himself.


I've been playing video games so long . . .

. . . when I see the words "Solid State" I misread it as "Solid Snake."

. . . I think of real-world objects as having a "high polygon count."

. . . when I walk into a room I look for a "save point."

. . . whenever I see boxes or barrels I want to smash them open for the power-ups inside.

. . . it bothers me that most real coins are silver, not gold.

. . . objects in the real world seem to travel much too slowly.

. . . when I get a performance review at work, I keep expecting to hear that I have "levelled up."

. . . I expect all stores to buy my old items back from me . . . even if it's not the store I bought them from.

. . . when I find something I'm looking for, I'm disappointed when the act of discovering it doesn't make a sound.

. . . I find it disorienting to drive with my point-of-view inside my car.

Monday, September 08, 2003

The shy ones

I read this journal entry at about "how a woman can tell when a man is staring at her chest" (via makeoutcity). It made me think about how funny it is that guys who are simply too shy to look women (or anyone) in the eye when talking to them would probably give the impression of ogling, whether they actually were or not. And that reminded me of how shyness can be misinterpreted as other things.

For instance, a while ago several women I know told me about a certain man they had just met, and they described him as "creepy," "strange," etc. Some of them seemed extremely anxious about him to the point of being scared and saying that they "wondered if they should call the cops" or something like that. They also said that he wouldn't give them a straight answer about anything.

I went and met this guy and observed his behavior. I quickly concluded that he was just very shy. He stared at the floor instead of making eye contact. He glanced around. He did answer questions awkwardly, but I think he was flustered about being around so many people he didn't know. Nothing about this guy seemed the least bit threatening, except maybe that he was of above-average height.

I think that shy people must have a hard time, because not only are they shy, but other people aren't good at recognizing shyness, and can interpret it as being all sorts of even less desirable things. Shyness can come across as being unfriendly, aloof, stuck-up, creepy, insincere, etc.

Actually, I tend to have the opposite bias. I am automatically suspicious of people who are too "smooth" because I figure that they must be manipulative. This is also not necessarily true though. Just another distortion for the collection.

It won't make you as happy as you think

The September 7, 2003 issue of The New York Times Magazine has a great article called "The Futile Pursuit of Happiness" by Jon Gertner. Gertner writes about a Harvard psychology professor named Daniel Gilbert who studies happiness. Gilbert's studies have found that people are bad at predicting how things and events will impact their future happiness. To summarize, people consistently overestimate how happy or unhappy a thing or event will make them, and also overestimate how long that happiness or unhappiness will last. Gilbert calls this tendency to overestimate "impact bias."

As Tim Wilson says, "We don't realize how quickly we will adapt to a pleasurable event and make it the backdrop of our lives. When any event occurs to us, we make it ordinary. And through becoming ordinary, we lose our pleasure."

To distill this even further, change never matters as much as we think it will. Knowing this, logically we should care less about change, craving good things a bit less while also fearing bad things a bit less.

Another interesting quote from the article:

George Loewenstein sums up this human capacity [of adaptation] as follows: "Happiness is a signal that our brains use to motivate us to do certain things. And in the same way that our eye adapts to different levels of illumination, we're designed to kind of go back to the happiness set point. Our brains are not trying to be happy. Our brains are trying to regulate us."

How to pronounce "Prius"

People have wondered how to pronounce the name of the Toyota Prius. My theory: "prius" is a Latin word meaning "first" or "before." So it ought to be pronounced pree-us as it would be in Latin. But I have heard people say "pry-us" also.

Sunday, September 07, 2003


I did not know there were other people who did this sort of prank -- making fake signs, pamphlets, and so forth. In my youth, I did many similar pranks.

Our college cafeteria often had little signs on the tables. The signs had a short essay about nutrition, and basically the point was to tell you how the cafeteria food you ate was helping to prevent some dire condition like scurvy or rickets. They usually ended with a list of things you could do to prevent [insert disease here], by eating [insert specific cafeteria foods here].

A new sign would come along every month or so, but they were all pretty boring. I started to wish for a more interesting sign. So I created a convincing imitation of the real signs, with the company logo and everything, but my sign was about the Black Plague. It described the effects of the Plague in gruesome, distinctly unappetizing detail, and gave advice for prevention like "reduce contact with plague-infected rats." I made enough copies to put one on each table in all of the college's cafeterias, and I enlisted a few friends to go in just before mealtime and distribute them.

The only problem was that the signs disappeared immediately. People thought they were so funny that they kept them, instead of leaving them on the tables for the next diners to enjoy. I wish I still had a copy.

Rain on

In reply to my plea on Friday, Michelle sent me rain -- a thunderstorm just appeared to thwart the smog. I did not realize that weather could be sent from blogger to blogger over the Internet. What will they think of next?

U.S. 5, Mexico 0 (Women's Soccer)

Within the last few months, Abby Wambach has gone from being just a good striker who is effective in the air, to an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses. Early in the first half, Wambach, with her back to the goal, suddenly turned and rocketed a shot into the upper corner of the net to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead. This was a Mia Hamm-style deceptive shot that looked like it would be a pass. Wambach seemed to be all over the field, creating a variety of attacking opportunities. Mexico self-destructed by giving up 3 penalty kicks in the game, but 2 of the 3 penalty kicks resulted from fouls committed in an attempt to stop Wambach. So Wambach really contributed to 3 of the 5 goals.

The difference between Wambach and Shaq is that a basketball team might reasonably give up some free throws in order to slow down Shaq. But for a soccer team to give up 2 penalty kicks to slow down Wambach, well that just looks crazy. In the foul that led to the final PK, a Mexican defender went down, flailing her legs at Wambach in what looked an awful lot like an NFL lineman style leg-whip. The leg-whip, by the way, is not only illegal in the NFL, but often results in a monetary fine against the offender.

But speaking of appalling fouls, the one that got Kylie Bivens thrown out of the game only minutes after she came on as a substitute was probably the worst of the day. Bivens slid cleats-first at a Mexican player, missing the ball but clipping her opponent's leg just above the knee, in a play that made no sense at all. The U.S. already had the game in hand at that point, and there was no need for a dangerous challenge like that.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Grey tan orange

The smog, the smog, it's driving me mad
I need it to rain, I want the rain bad.
Horizons should be so much farther away
Than this one, approaching, so blurry and grey.

Outside I breathe in and instantly feel dirty. I want to put just the filter part of a cigarette in my mouth and breathe through it. The city smells like distant burning garbage, like rags discovered in an abandoned garage. Forest fires. Smog. Forest fires.

It's like waking up the next day and smelling the smoke in your hair from last night's pub crawl, smoke you didn't even notice at the time but now seems disgusting. And it reminds you of things you may have said, which seemed clever at the time, but now seem disgusting. I wake up just like that and realize -- I stayed in last night! But I still feel coated in invisible essence of disappointment.

Do something. I don't know, put up big fans on the hilltops to blow it away, and on ordinary days turn them into windmills, generate some electricity. We keep flashlights for blackouts, water for earthquakes. What do we hoard for this, air? A garage full of air tanks? "What are all those?" "Oh, nothing, I was just thinking of maybe someday, you know, opening a scuba supply shop or something."

It's still everywhere. Rain for me.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

U.S. 5, Costa Rica 0 (Women's soccer)

It's hard to be disappointed by a 5-0 victory, but I will attempt it.

The U.S. team played virtually the whole game in Costa Rica's end of the field, and the majority of that in or near their opponent's penalty area. For all that they got 4 "deserved" goals and one fluke goal, when a Costa Rican defender fanned on the ball and allowed it to roll straight to Mia Hamm 5 yards away from the goal. The problem with this is that against better teams, there will not be 100 scoring opportunities in a game, and converting only 5% of them will not seem so impressive.

For all the attacks the U.S. generated, they actually created relatively few threatening shots on goal. In addition to the 4 "good" goals, I saw the Costa Rican keeper make maybe 3 difficult saves. So that only adds up to 7 on-target, threatening shots in the whole game. What happened the rest of the time? A lot of shots were blocked by defenders, a lot of shots were far off target, and a lot of crosses went to nobody in particular. Time and time again, close range shots that should have been easy goals went wide or sailed high over the crossbar.

To win the upcoming World Cup, the U.S. will have to create a better goals-to-chances ratio.

Danger: USB

Tim: What was the name of that British show from years ago about the bomb defusers?

Me: Danger: USB. No, wait, Danger: UXB. Danger USB would be a show about unsafe computer peripherals.

April: [mimes plugging something into the USB port of a laptop and then getting electrocuted]

Acronym madness

Friend: How do you pronounce XSLT? Is it "ix-ult?" "Ix-let?"

Me: No, XSLT is pronounced "ex-slut." See, it was developed by an ex-slut . . .

Miss Gullible My Girlfriend: Was it really??

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Great Moments in Software Documentation

The CiscoSecure ACS 2.3 Installation Guide dispenses this pearl of wisdom:
Step 8 If the CiscoSecure installation procedure fails during the database upgrade phase due to a fixable condition (such as database resources errors), do the following:

(a). Fix the condition that caused the failure.

Thanks, I'll do that. And when I get an "out of memory" error, I'll try to forget a few things, to free some up. And whenever it says, "this application has executed an illegal instruction" I'll go lobby Congress to change that law.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Matrix Essays

Earthlink's guide to blogging lists my Matrix Essays site as an example of a "great blog." That's pretty cool.

Are Capital Letters Dying Out?

I see so much Writing on the Web these days without Capital Letters. Younger people especially seem to have an aversion to the Shift Key. Could Capital Letters be on the way out? Will they eventually disappear from our Language entirely?

Language continuously changes, and English used to be written with a lot more Capital Letters than we use today. For example, consider the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Look at all those capitalized words! They're everywhere. The first sentence has 39 capitalized words in it!
At one time, about 250 years ago, it was Common in English Writing to
capitalize all Nouns, as is the convention among modern Germans. (link)

Perhaps one day children will ask the old folks, "you mean in your day you had two ways of writing each letter? and you had to remember which type to use where? how confusing and inefficient. i could never remember all that. it's crazy."

Dante in the house

Makeoutcity is blogging Dante's Inferno. Cool.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

And you thought you were behind schedule . . .

Languagehat reports:
At Deccan College in Pune (Poona) they've been working on a massive Sanskrit-English dictionary since 1948—and are still on the letter A. It's true they don't have computers ("'We’re hoping for computers in one or two years,' said Kshirsagar, not sounding very hopeful"), but that still seems awfully slow, and "political pressure is growing to finish the project."

I love the part about how "political pressure is growing to finish the project." Or at least get to the letter B, maybe?

It reminds me of a story my girlfriend told me about a castle somewhere in Germany that took 500 years to build. I said, "Wow, can you imagine starting a project knowing it would take 500 years to finish?" She said, "No, at first they only thought it would take 100 years." I said, "Even weirder, can you imagine being 400 years behind schedule?"

Villagers: "When will the castle be done?"

Engineer: "Oh, if all goes well, I think it will be ready in another 6 months."

Villagers: "Oh yeah? Well that's what your ancestors told our ancestors 350 years ago, you slacker!"

Engineer: "There have been some delays, yes, but we're working on it. It will be done soon."

Villagers: "Well, we've changed our minds. We don't want a castle any more."

Engineer: "What?!"

Villager 1: "We want a golf course."

Villager 2: "Yeah! With big water hazards, a fountain, and undulating greens!"

Engineer: "Undulat . . . wait, you can't cancel the castle project now, it's almost done! You can't just throw away hundreds of years of work!"

Villager 1: "Castles are so 200-years-ago. They're practically obsolete now."

Engineer: "No, it will still be quite useful, really, and it will a handsome landmark there on the hill. It will bring in tourism which will help the town's economy."

Villagers: [chanting] "Golf course! Golf course!"

Engineer: "OK, look, we'll build a small 9-hole course over there, by the side of the castle, but you have to give us more time for the castle itself . . . at least until spring."

Villager 1: "Sure, whatever. Just make sure there's at least one par 5 with a dogleg."

Monday, August 25, 2003

Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild

Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild is a pretty fun PS2 game. It has large outdoor fantasy "world courses" based on amusement park rides. The "stadium courses" are indoors, but also fantasy-based. However, the game does have more realistic courses for the "technical time trial" section.

For a game with such simple controls -- steering and gas are the only inputs other than doing tricks -- it has a lot of replayability. It has very convincing (though fantastic) physics including many different types of waves.

The best way to quickly progress in the game and unlock more content is to start by unlocking one of the faster hidden characters. Jonah has good top speed but his poor acceleration makes him difficult to use. Probably the best character to unlock first is "Wrong Way" McNabb. He has good speed and acceleration, and once you have him you will have an easier time winning the seasons and unlocking more.

The very fastest character is Agent Michael Hawke, who is a 007 type. With any of the extra fast unlockable characters, including McNabb, it becomes possible to "overshoot" some of the jumps and crash into walls or miss turns. With these characters you sometimes will need to slow down just before a jump.

I like the look of Coral, but I did not find her to be as easy to race as McNabb. Coral does have funny audio clips though, including one where she says, "fo' shizzle my nizzle."

At first I did not realize the importance of unlocking other characters, and I spent a lot of points on alternate outfits for Kyoko. She is a pretty useful character for the Freestyle competition, though.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Thursday, August 21, 2003

The country formerly known as Iraq

This just in . . . the US-led provisional government in Iraq plans to rename the country "Ka-blamistan."

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

What noise?

I've been wondering why women say "what was that noise?" 10 to 100 times more often than men. My girlfriend says this all the time. Do they learn this from watching teen horror movies? Are we supposed to go investigate, then get attacked by the Thing in the Cellar?

Example scene from yesterday:

Her: [looking around] "What was that noise? It sounded like a door shutting."

Me: "It was the sound of a door shutting."

Her: "Why would a door shut at this time of night?"

Me: [doubled over laughing] "That noise was on the DVD we're watching!"

[I press rewind and play the scene again. The sound occurs again.]

Her: [looking around, as if maybe the door shut again by coincidence]

Me:[laughing harder] "We don't have a door right here!" [pointing to right stereo speaker]

I guess sometimes surround sound is a little too convincing. Of course, men have the opposite tendency. There could be blood-curdling howls and scratching noises coming from right behind the front door, and a guy would sit there and say, "Oh, it's probably just the wind. Come on, let's watch the X Games."

Monday, August 18, 2003

Killer elevators

The Houston Chronicle reports on a killer elevator:
A doctor was killed today at Christus St. Joseph Hospital when an elevator malfunctioned, decapitating him, authorities said.

Hitoshi Nikaidoh, 35, of Dallas, a surgical resident at the hospital at 1919 La Branch, was stepping onto a second-floor elevator in the main building around 9:30 a.m. when the doors closed, pinning his shoulders, said Harold Jordan, an investigator with the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office. The elevator car then moved upward, severing the doctor's head, Jordan said.

This is a horrible tragedy, of course, but what strikes me as really strange about it is that it was the plot of an obscure Dutch horror movie called The Lift. From the IMDB plot summary:
A lift begins displaying some erratic behavior, like trapping some party goers and nearly suffocating them, and decapitating a security guard. Felix, the technician from the lift company, can't find anything wrong with the circuitry. When he and a nosy reporter begin asking questions of the lift company's electronics partner (Rising Sun Electronics) his boss puts him on a leave of absence. A subsequent visit to a professor leads them to believe that some evil experiments are being conducted with MICROCHIPS.

I thought of this because, believe it or not, I have seen this movie. I went to see it in the theater years ago, not fully realizing that I was going to a horror movie about a killer elevator, with subtitles.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Read about unconventional self-defense tactics -- a funny story by a blogger.

Fantasy CrimeBall

I have an idea for a new variation on Fantasy Sports. You pick 10 players and 1 coach, but instead of getting points when the players score in their real life games, you get points each time they get arrested. 10 points for misdemeanors, and 30 points for felony charges -- it's Fantasy CrimeBall. If the player or coach gets suspended for one or more games for a banned action, like recruiting violations or using over-the-counter banned performance-enhancing drugs, that gets 1 point per game-suspension. Being banned from the sport for life is worth 100.

Unlike other fantasy sports leagues, you can mix and match players from different sports. It doesn't matter what sport they play, as long as they get arrested or suspended.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Interviewed by Krista

Krista asked me 5 interesting interview questions. My responses are below.

1.If you could (or had to) live in a foreign country for a year, where would you live and why? (with the exception of Canada)

I already lived in a foreign country for a year: I was an exchange student in Japan during my junior year in college. I found Japan stressful, though, so if I had to pick another country to live in for a year, it would be someplace more laid-back. Costa Rica might be fun -- I went there for 2 weeks once and had a great time. The southeast coast is mostly English-speaking, so there is no language barrier, and the people are very nice.

But why doesn't Canada count? Because it isn't "really" a foreign country? Are the rumors true that it is just a big extension of Minnesota? Actually, I have a theory that the West Coast of North America is all one culture, from Canada to Mexico. I can go to Vancouver, B.C. or Puerto Vallarta and I feel like I'm still in the same basic place. But visiting the East Coast of the U.S. feels much more like a foreign country to me, even though it isn't.

2. What single thing has changed your life, for better or for worse, the most?

Computers, for better and worse. Computers have given me entertainment, employment, email, MP3 music, frustration, and blogdom. I can't imagine life without them.

3. Can you describe the word "tangy"?

(This is one of the best questions ever!) Tangy tastes the way a single note plucked from a guitar string sounds. It arrives suddenly and vanishes gradually, but leaves you wanting more. Tangy may have a bit of sourness or even a component of bitterness, but it is usually balanced out with sweetness. Tangy makes you salivate. The ultimate tangy dish is "Zucchini with Tangy Sauce" at a Chinese restaurant.

4. You're sitting in jail right now for committing some spectacular crime. What was it?

Hypothetically, I would not want to be in jail for any crime involving violence against other people, so my imaginary crime would have to be some sort of property crime. But to qualify as "spectacular" it would have to be something really big -- an audacious, "impossible" crime. I know! I would steal the Statue of Liberty, and then bury it shoulder-deep in the sand at Waikiki, so that it looked just like the final scene in the original Planet of the Apes movie. This would require a small army of accomplices, lots of funding, and comic-book-villian style technology. People who might notice the crime in progress would have to be hypnotized to ignore it, or sedated with some temporary and ultimately harmless sleeping gas. We would cut the statue into sections and load it onto a large ship to take it to Hawaii. During the voyage, everyone would know the statue was missing, but nobody would know where it was, causing a worldwide sensation and constant news coverage. Then we would use the same hypnosis/sleep technique at the other end of the voyage while my henchmen and their heavy construction equipment buried the statue. The pointlessness of this takes it beyond crime and into the realm of extreme performance art.

Oh, it would be quite a thrill to be known as The Man Who Stole the Statue of Liberty!

5. If you were stuck on a desert island, what inflatable pool toy would you like to find to help your escape?

(I'll have to skip the inevitable joke about the inflatable, uh, female companion.) An inflatable kayak or raft would be the most practical, especially if it came with an inflatable GPS, inflatable two-way radio, and inflatable outboard motor.

* * *

1 -- Leave a comment, saying you want to be interviewed.
2 -- I'll respond. I'll ask you five questions.
3 -- You'll update your journal with my five questions, and your five answers.
4 -- You'll include this explanation.
5 -- You'll ask other people five questions when they want to be interviewed.

I want one

An electric car that can go 130mph, 0-60 in under 4 seconds, and 80 miles on a charge. Where do I sign up?


I got my hair cut after work today. I was also dressed a bit snappier than usual, which isn't saying much since I normally dress like a cross between a skateboarder and an unemployed lumberjack. Afterwards, as I was walking down the street, some pretty girl in the back of a car smiled and waved at me. While that is not unheard of, it has been a while. Was it the haircut?

After that I stopped off for a drink before heading home. On my way out of the establishment, the female bartender yelled out to me, "Me love you long time!" I swear she actually said that -- I would not make up something that bizarre. Must have been the haircut.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Doesn't like?

Somebody once pointed out to me that the jingle, Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee is not very grammatical. I replied that obviously it ought to be "Ain't nobody doesn't like Sara Lee."

Thursday, August 07, 2003

It's all your fault

Imagine what it would be like if home security were like Internet security. Somebody broke into your house and robbed you? Well, you dummy, that's your own fault. Obviously you were just asking to be robbed by not having fences, barred windows, a steel security door, attack dogs, and a burglar alarm. You can't expect people to stay away from an unsecured target like your house.

Oh, you did have those things? Well, of course you got robbed, you see, you didn't have a sophisticated enough burglar alarm. You're just asking for trouble with a cheap model.

You did have a good burglar alarm? Wait, I see what the problem is! You didn't upgrade it to the latest version that came out a month ago. You can't expect to stop criminals with an outdated system! You have to keep on top of updates and patches. See, it's all your fault you got robbed. Don't be such an idiot next time.

Why is it that on the Internet, it has become the victim's fault for being attacked by criminals? And it has become the victim's responsibility to take measures to actually make the crime impossible. We don't expect that in the physical world. In the case of burglary, our peace of mind comes not from living in fortresses to make burglary physically impossible, but from such things as law enforcement and insurance coverage. Maybe there's something to that.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Monkey Outsourcing

I just noticed that somebody came here from a Google search for "monkey outsourcing."

Monkey outsourcing . . . for goodness sake, don't American monkeys work for low enough wages already? You want to outsource your monkeys offshore or something? I mean, I know that the organ-grinder market is highly competitive and all, but let's show some patriotism.

Senses of Humor

Things we see may make us laugh; things we hear may make us laugh, too. Our sense of touch may make us laugh, if someone tickles us. Why then, do our other two senses lack for humor? Where are the humorous tastes to make us say, "that's the most hilarious flavor!" What about comical odors?

If there were humorous smells, there could be scratch-n-sniff joke books and comic perfumes. If there were humorous tastes, comic chefs could prepare laughter-inducing sauces. (And psychics could have a humorous sixth sense. "I just had a laugh-out-loud premonition!") We would be better off, I think.

Update: I explained this idea to some friends over dinner, and my friend Tracy said that she had encountered a humorous taste, when she was served a salmon-flavored milkshake.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

The real Saddam

Howard theorizes that Saddam and Juan Valdez may be one and the same . . .

Outdoor luxury

I just got the Lafuma RSX Lounger chair, both to use as a deck chair and maybe to take camping. When I sat in this chair in the store, I was absolutely amazed at how comfortable it is. I find this more comfortable than 95% of indoor chairs, and actually if it wouldn't look silly I would put one in my living room. I realized that if we only got one, my girlfriend and I would fight over it, so we got two so we could each have one. I am sitting in mine right now as I write this on my laptop.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Cat burglar

An authentic blog must contain entries about the blogger's cat. This morning, I discovered that one of my cats knocked my wallet down from a table, put it on the floor, opened it up, took two dollar bills out of it and started playing with them. Luckily, he is an indoor cat, so he can't take my money down to the store and spend it.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Harry Potter 6

e-Claire blogs:
FYI -- that new Harry Potter book is heavy ! Nooo, this is *not* a spoiler. But my shoulders and neck sure are sore because I *would* not put it down.

Capsule review: as Harry matures, so does the series. Darkness from more than the expected sources... Go see.

Harry Potter 6 will be 2562 pages long and will be called Harry Potter and the Plot Development of the Turtle. A warning sticker on the cover will instruct the reader to always bend from the knees and not from the back when lifting it. The "Deluxe Collector's Edition" will come with its own Harry Potter Wheelbarrow to carry it around in. The Platinum Edition will come with a small forklift designed by J.K. Rowling and embellished with the Hogwarts logo.

Every one of Harry's blinks, twitches, coughs, and belches will rate at least two paragraphs. The first three chapters will describe Harry's thoughts between the time he wakes up and when he gets out of bed. By chapter seven, he will be part way through breakfast. In chapter ten, Harry will exclaim, "Ah, I wish summer were over so I could be back with my schoolmates at Hogwarts, instead of stuck in this room by myself, blowing my nose over and over again. Too bad this is only the first day of summer. It will seem like an eternity!" And it sure will!

But I will buy and read it anyway, because I'm hooked.

Sunday, July 27, 2003


Julie Fleeting demonstrated an interesting post-goal celebration technique in San Diego's 1-1 tie against New York. After scoring the tying goal, Fleeting ran over to the corner of the field, dropped to her hands and knees, and lifted her leg in the direction of the corner flag, imitating a dog urinating on a tree. As Fleeting walked away, Aly Wagner performed the same bit of comic mime. The PAX announcers refrained from making any commentary on this scene, allowing the scene to unfold in an eerie silence. I guess this is what happens when the players are banned from taking off their shirts after scoring goals (the Brandi Chastain maneuver).

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Washougal Motocross

Today my brother and I went to see the practice sessions for tomorrow's Washougal Motocross race. I got a lot of photos, including one of Ricky Carmichael jumping. In some ways, motocross is better on TV, because in person you can only see a small portion of the track at a time. But seeing it live you get a better sense of the speeds and distances involved. When you stand by the side of the track, and a rider lands a big jump, the bike hits the ground so hard you can feel the vibration through the soles of your feet, like a minor earthquake.

The start of a race is also fun to see live. When all the bikes rev up and then surge forward at the start, it reminds me of an angry swarm of bees . . . if each bee were 6 feet long.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Street corner stand-up comedy

Today I was downtown walking towards the waterfront to go to the Oregon Brew Fest. Just then, a brand new white Hummer H2 drove by. A woman on the sidewalk in front of me shouted out, "hey, nice car! My husband also got a nice hummer last night!!"

iSilo and Amphetadesk

Amphetadesk is a free RSS newsreader, nice for reading blogs that have RSS feeds. iSilo is a document reader for Palm OS. Combine the two, and you can read your RSS subscriptions on the Palm.

Just set up your subscriptions in Amphetadesk, then create a conversion in iSiloX that uses the local Amphetadesk URL. Then you can download all the newsfeeds into the Palm for later viewing.

To make it even more convenient for iSilo, you can hack the Amphetadesk template to make it put in Named Anchors, which iSilo can use to auto-generate bookmarks in the page.

Edit /templates/default/index.html and on the line where it outputs the globe image (line 42 in my version), add a named anchor like this:

to_browser(qq{ <td align="center"><a NAME="CHANNEL:$channel->{title}"></a><a href="$channel->{htmlurl}" target="$link_target"><img src="images/globe.gif" alt="Go To The '$channel->{title}' Site." title="Go To The '$channel->{title}' Site." width="13" height="13" border="0" align="center" /></a></td>\n});

The part I added is this:

<a NAME="CHANNEL:$channel->{title}"></a>

Then in iSiloX:

  • select your document that points to the local Amphetadesk page
  • open the document's Properties and go to the Bookmarks tab
  • under Named Anchors check Generate bookmarks from named anchors
  • select Filtered
  • select Include only names with this prefix
  • enter "CHANNEL:" into the text box (without the quotes)
  • click OK

Now iSiloX will generate bookmarks that mark the top of each news feed.

Daily Show Quote

"That's right, Jon, all too often democratic elections are hijacked by the majority." -- The Daily Show

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Buddha's tongue

There are 32 signs of Buddhahood, and #27 is:
pahutajivho: large, long tongue (large enough to cover his whole face and long enough to lick ears -- contributes to melodious sound of the Buddha and accommodates exceptional tastebuds)

Long enough to lick ears? That is pretty long. But how did people discover this quality of Buddha? Did he sit around licking his ears all the time, until his disciples were like, "Stop it! Enough already, mister show-off!"

Or was it the other way around? Did they egg him on to do it? "Come on, show us the tongue thing again, please?"

"Oh, alright. But this is the last time, we really have to get back to meditation."

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Cheese and tunes

Mollie's new favorite cheese is extra creamy havarti. A good cheese I recently discovered is Georgia Gouda.

On my latest fishing expedition, I found some good tunes from First Of June, Girl Next Door, and Billy Moon. All have free downloadable MP3's. (Site requires free registration.)

Monday, July 21, 2003

Overweight pacifist abstinence

Wired News reports: "American children are fatter than ever before, but they are far less violent and the girls are far less likely to get pregnant than most people think, according to a government report."

Kids these days -- too out of shape to commit violent crimes, and too busy eating to have sex.


A local pizza joint decorates the walls with children's artwork. The selection up there must have resulted from an assignment to create artwork on the theme of "not using drugs and alcohol."

In the picture, a cute kid sits in a chair reading a book. Nearby a bottle of hooch sits discarded in the garbage can. On close inspection, the bottle appears to be full. One might wonder why the kid bought the bottle in the first place, and which crazed store clerk sold it without asking for ID. But the general idea of the piece works pretty well. A lot of times I'd rather read than drink alcohol too, though at times the two can make a relaxing combination.

I find the second drawing much more puzzling. It shows a desert scene, with a hot sun blazing down on a sandy landscape full of cacti. A large hole occupies the foreground, and the top of a shovel (apparently wielded by an unseen worker deep within) can be seen emerging from it. A pile nearby is helpfully labeled "Dirt." The picture's slogan says, "I'd rather dig a hole than drink alcohol."

I'm afraid you've lost me on this one, kiddo. Dig a hole . . . at least 8 feet deep . . . in the desert . . . in the blazing midday sun? This is better than drinking alcohol? Hmm. At the very least, I'd want a nice cold beer after I got done digging the hole. I like the artwork, but the slogan really confuses me. Here are some suggestions for more appealing slogans:

"I'd rather win the lottery than drink alcohol."

"I'd rather discover the secret of immortality than drink alcohol."

Or even: "I'd rather drink something that has the same effects and taste as alcohol but produces no hangover than drink alcohol."

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Nice punchline

Nice punchline. Via Tales from a Yeti Suit.


All about "flippertigibbet."

Using the Sony Clie as an e-book reader

Because of the high resolution (320x480) display and the Memory Stick storage, the Sony Clie makes a good e-book reader. Of course, I'd rather read an old-fashioned paper book, but it's not always practical to carry one, and I can't fit 50 books in my pocket, whereas I always have my Clie with me, and can carry a large library on a Memory Stick. Text compresses very well, so the average novel is much smaller than the average MP3 file. Shakespeare's King Lear is a mere 78K when compressed for the Palm.

I use iSilo to read books on the Palm. It can read files stored on Memory Stick as well as files in the Clie's main memory. It has a conversion utility called iSiloX which can convert text or HTML files. I also use the HTML conversion to download content off of the Web to read later. Another pretty good reader is Plucker, which is free and open-source. I find that iSilo feels slightly faster, though.

Project Gutenberg has a huge number of free books in plain text format. This collection contains most of the highlights of classic literature. I download these in text format. Then when converting them, I use the iSiloX option labeled "Convert Single Line Breaks to Single Spaces." This removes the original line breaks so that no matter what font size I choose on the Clie, the text still looks right.

Project Gutenberg can be a little overwhelming unless you already know what you're looking for, because it contains so much. Try out something like Alice in Wonderland to get started. Another good site for documents is Memoware.

(Update: see also TeleRead, a blog about e-books.)

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Scientific method

Eve blogs about a Creation Science fair:
1st Place (Middle School Level): "Life Doesn't Come From Non-Life"

Patricia Lewis (grade 8) did an experiment to see if life can evolve from non-life. Patricia placed all the non-living ingredients of life - carbon (a charcoal briquet), purified water, and assorted minerals (a multi-vitamin) - into a sealed glass jar. The jar was left undisturbed, being exposed only to sunlight, for three weeks. (Patricia also prayed to God not to do anything miraculous during the course of the experiment, so as not to disqualify the findings.) No life evolved. This shows that life cannot come from non-life through natural processes.

Uh, yeah. But I can top that:

First I threw a brick into the air, and it did not fly, thus proving that heavier-than-air flight is impossible.

Then I told my cat to jump up in the air, and even though I waited 5 minutes, it just sat there, proving that cats are deaf. (During this experiment, I also prayed to God not to miraculously levitate the cat. He didn't, proving God is not deaf.)

Then I told my girlfriend a joke, and it took her 5 seconds to laugh, thus proving that the speed of sound is 6 inches per second.

Then I wrote a letter to Jennifer Garner and asked her out on a date. I never heard back from her, which proves that she is either illiterate or a lesbian, or perhaps both. (Not that there is anything wrong with either one -- well, maybe the first one.)

Finally, I drank twelve shots of bourbon, but I don't remember much after the ninth one, proving that the tenth shot causes time travel into the future.

TRON game

This TRON game brings back memories. (via ApeChild)

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

RPG's as management training

Role-playing games actually offer thinly-disguised management training. You control a party of adventurers (your employees). They all have varying skills and experience levels, and you figure out how to get them to work together as a team. Entry-level employees (low-level characters) have low productivity, but as they gain experience, they gain new skills and their output increases. Sometimes you have to deal with employee turnover when a character leaves the party, either by choice or because of a well placed sword-thrust from a nasty orc. You have to buy the right equipment to allow your employees to do their jobs effectively, and replace lost or broken items.

You also must come to terms with the idea that a successful encounter is not necessarily a profitable one. Sure, you may have defeated those trolls, but if you used up 100 gold pieces worth of healing potions, and the trolls only dropped 25 GP in treasure, you took a loss on the project. It helps to understand the Return On Investment you expect to get when purchasing expensive artifacts.

However, RPG's still lack essential elements of the workplace which could add to their value as a management training aid. Here's how it could work:

Absenteeism: At random intervals, when you battle monsters some of your characters should be missing. "The wizard? Oh, he just called in a few minutes ago, said he had a sore throat. Oh yeah, and the elf had to take his kid to the dentist."

Salary issues: After gaining a few levels, the characters should demand raises. If they don't get them, they can leave to work for a higher-paying competitor.

Sexual Harassment: Some of the characters will periodically make inappropriate remarks or advances towards other characters, who will threaten to sue you.

Marketing: Your Marketing department should make announcements to the entire land, promising that you will fulfill a Quest by a certain date, even though you just heard about the Quest five minutes ago and don't even know which continent the dungeon is on.

Sales: Your Sales department should sign binding contracts with powerful demons in exchange for overnight delivery of Legendary Artifacts you have yet to discover, and whose very existence is highly doubtful.

Discrimination: You could be assessed heavy fines for discriminatory hiring practices -- not having enough Elves or Dwarves in the party, for example. Even if you have them, you must be careful: if your only Elf is an archer, or your only Dwarf carries a big hammer and constantly mentions mining, you may be guilty of perpetuating hurtful ethnic stereotypes.

Budget cuts: Every so often, your supply of gold should be cut in half without warning.

Bosses: Oh sure, RPG's have "bosses" -- those especially tough monsters at the end of a level -- but the trouble is that you don't have a boss to report to. Your boss should ask you for schedules and Gantt charts showing when you expect to finish exploring the dungeon, how much treasure you expect to get, deadlines for characters to gain levels, and various milestones. If you miss one of these deadlines your boss should freak out. "Your goal for this quarter was to find the five missing pieces of the Mystical Amulet! You only have two! What am I supposed to tell the customer?"

Competition: Other parties of adventurers should come along and undercut you. If you're saving a town from bandits, they will offer to do it for a smaller reward. If you're searching for a lost sword, they will offer to find it quicker. They may not be able to keep their promises, but their smooth talk will convince a lot of people to stop doing business with you.

Time-to-market: Once you actually assemble the five pieces of the Mystical Amulet from the far corners of the Lost Lands, your boss should tell you that nobody really wants the Amulet anymore. Those are obsolete now. What's really hot is the Trident of the Seven Seas, like the one your competitors shipped six months ago while you were still working on the Amulet.

Environmental Impact: Some of your wizard's most powerful spells should suddenly be banned because they contribute to Global Warming. Your party should be required to recycle used weapons and armor, and pay fines for the damage that Lightning and Hailstorm spells cause to the region's farming economy.

Hey baby, is that a marble in your mouth?

Wired News reports on the interesting training regimen for Indian call-center workers:
"Some call centers ask their agents, as the floor workers are called, to practice speaking English with a marble placed below the tongue to imitate the American accent better," Mittal said.

Hmm, I checked under my tongue and found no marble. I guess real Americans must use a virtual marble.
Apart from the health hazards, there is a minor social embarrassment attached to a distinct American accent slipping out of an Indian mouth. Some call center workers are so consumed by the accent they employ at work that they accidentally take it home, only to be ridiculed by their near and dear.

Oh, the shame, the humiliation! Should Americans practice speaking with an Indian accent?

Monday, July 14, 2003


We went camping this weekend. I brought my GPS, my Clie, and other toys to create a high-tech camping experience. If there were such a thing as wilderness wireless internet access, I probably would have tried to use that, too.

In the forest you can hear rain approaching before it arrives, kind of like a guest knocking at the door before entering. It reminds me of how, when sailing, you see gusts of wind approaching before they arrive. They appear as a different pattern of ripples on the water, and you see those and think, "here it comes!"

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Safe Sex for Logo Elephants

Social Reject noticed that apparently if your want your logo to be two elephants having sex, the male elephant ought to be wearing a condom, or else people will be upset. Put this into the file under Elephant Sex Logos - Best Practices.

Thai community groups want to use a logo featuring two elephants having sex for next year's World AIDS conference in Bangkok but the plan has been criticised by health authorities because the bull is not using a condom.

Of course, this brings up all sorts of questions, like: where would the elephants get an elephant-sized condom? How would they open the packaging? How would they put it on?

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Linking Lyrics

Jason combines lyrics with links to create an interesting new type of blog entry. He subtitles it "this is way harder than it looks." I can believe that! Maybe I'll try one of these if I can think of just the right song -- a shorter song.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

U.S. 2, Paraguay 0 (Men's Soccer)

The highlight of this game, still etched in my brain, was when DaMarcus Beasley was triple-teamed by Paraguay on the left side of the field. He power-dribbled through all three defenders, changed direction and beat one of the defenders a second time, then crossed the ball to Landon Donovan who scored easily. After that, Paraguay was so spooked by Beasley that they started fouling him away from the ball, drawing a yellow card in the process.

Equally important was a play later on, where U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller made a brilliant 1-on-1 save against a breaking Paraguay player. That was probably the best scoring opportunity Paraguay had all game, and Keller kept them off the board.

In the past the U.S. men have had what I'd call "unconvincing wins" -- a win that somehow doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. This time, however, I thought they really looked good.

A Fine Distinction

If you wander down the street talking out loud to nobody in particular, but strangers can hear you, you might be mentally ill.

If you sit around writing to nobody in particular, but strangers can read it, you might be a blogger.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Just Like Stealing

Every time you feel good on your own
Prozac loses a sale
it's just like stealing

people listening to you tell stories
haven't paid for tickets
but they laugh easily
like they deserve free entertainment

you've always liked the way you look and somewhere
a plastic surgeon struggles to pay the bills

there you go with your high self esteem again
ruining the economy
tearing down what our culture was built on

I think the reason you're smiling is
you know you've gotten away with
the perfect crime.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Seeing Spring Off

All day long, I ache for spring, for spring's already gone.
The flowers left behind: who's around to savor their smell?
A yellow oriole, in the tangled leaves, warbles insistently;
A purple butterfly, searching for spring, flies off by itself.
Old time feeling: the flourishing capital is now a fantasy;
Seeing a friend off: all the more unsettled by the onrushing river.
O Prince of Friends, refrain from summoning the hermit with a song:
Back to the fresh flora in the mountain garden: this wish I will not deny.

-- K'ang Yu-Wei (1858-1927), from the Chinese poetry collection, Waiting for the Unicorn
This New York Times article about motorcycle helmets reminded me of something I've been meaning to say. This helmet probably saved my life when I crashed back in April. Thanks, Shoei!

Saturday, July 05, 2003

N.Y. 2, San Jose 1 (WUSA Soccer)

New York scored both of their goals on corner kicks, and spent a lot of time back on defense. On the second goal, it looked like San Jose keeper Beene made a mistake. Rather than waiting for the ball, she tried to power her way through one of the New York forwards. Even if this move had succeeded it might have been called as a foul, but instead Beene collided with the other player and fell down; meanwhile another New York forward headed the ball into the top of the goal. It was one of the few mistakes by Beene in an otherwise well-played game.

San Jose's Keri Sanchez played a terrific attacking game, generating many close chances but no goals. Late in the second half with New York leading 2-0, Sanchez broke into the penalty area and fired a shot from close range. The ball beat New York keeper Webber, but defender Raveia blocked the ball with her hand. Not only was this a handball in the penalty area, but it prevented a sure goal. It should have resulted in a penalty kick for San Jose and a yellow card for Raveia, but the referee did not see it, and play continued.

Later, Sanchez crossed the ball to Tisha Venturini-Hoch, who scored San Jose's only goal. But if the handball had been called earlier, it could have resulted in a 2-2 tie.

Where's the football?

Sigh. Again Princess audioblogs. Again it's not her, but some sort of weird music I can't begin to identify. I guess I feel sort of like this. Heh.

Quote of the day

"I totally feel like I am inside a giant robotic rhinoceros right now." -- Eve

Friday, July 04, 2003

Secrets of compost

I regularly add material to my compost pile in the garden. I don't take anything back out. The pile's size remains the same. I am convinced that the compost heap is a type of organic teleportation device. Someday, when scientists invent the Star Trek transporter, it will have been based on research into compost heaps.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Our love was like a dotcom

(A jazz ballad for the post-boom malaise.)

our love was like a dotcom
are you still interested,
have my options in you vested?

you vanished like a dotcom
where did all the magic go
on our way to IPO?

we . . . had a burn rate, baby, like a shooting star
ticker symbols in our eyes, glowing from afar

we . . . had a story the whole market loved to tell
till the day you laid me off and changed your URL

I'm sinking like a dotcom
there's no use in comin' round
this song is just my . . . 404 not found.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

The chair is not my son

Boing Boing reports that "Herman Miller is shipping the Mirra, a new chair that costs half as much as the Aeron and symbolizes post-boom austerity."

But at $640, this still seems a bit pricey for today's economy. Discriminating high tech businesses will choose the classic apple crate.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003


The part of the new Harry Potter book that really got to me was at the end, when Harry, right after finding out he had gotten Hermione pregnant, unexpectedly died of malaria. I guess he never should have agreed to take care of Malfoy's pet mosquitoes. Oops, hope I didn't ruin the surprise for you.


From The Book Of Good Manners; A Guide To Polite Usage For All Social Functions:
The man at the door, after asking the guest's name, hands him an envelope, with his name upon it, enclosing a card with the name of the woman he is to escort to dinner; or these envelopes may be in the dressing- rooms, if preferred. It will also be designated at which side of the table (right or left) a man is to sit; or a diagram of the table, with the names of the guests, should be hung in each dressing-room. The guests pair off as indicated.

As soon as possible a man should seek the woman assigned to him, and inform her that he will be pleased to act as her escort, disguising any personal preference he may have otherwise.

This was written in 1866. The complete text is available here. My 2003 version would be more like this:
The man closest to the door, if he can hear the doorbell over the music, opens the door. After examining the guest to make sure he or she is not a door-to-door salesperson, the greeter hands the guest a beer. The beer should be clearly labeled with the name of a respectable local microbrew. The greeter then makes a large, dramatic gesture towards the back of the house and yells, "the grill is going out back! The girls went to the store to get more wine or somethin'! Did you bring fireworks?!"

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Tomb Raider, Angel of Darkness

Yes, the controls in this game are very frustrating at first and hard to get used to. It takes at least a solid hour of play to figure them out. But here's the most important tip: you must use the right analog stick to manually move the camera! Once you get the hang of this, the game becomes playable and fun.

Painting of the day

Painting of the day: Isabel Samaras' Birth of Ginger, which is Boticelli's Birth of Venus redone with a Gilligan's Island theme. (via Sugar-n-Spicy)

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Boston 2, Philadelphia 2 (WUSA Soccer)

Philadelphia knew that a key to this game would be stopping Boston forward Maren Meinert. Meinert had come off of a great performance for the World team in the All-Star game, and had scored on Philadelphia before. So Philadelphia's rookie defender Rachel Kruze got the job of shadowing Meinert all over the field. This tactic worked very well. Meinert did not score a goal and was not particularly effective in creating chances.

At the other end of the field, Boston's defense could not stop Philadelphia star forward Marinette Pichon. Pichon scored both goals for the Charge.

Though it will not show up in game highlights -- which usually consist of great goals and spectacular saves -- what a player does away from the ball can be a deciding factor in the game. Philadelphia's Lorrie Fair positions herself so well on defense that she always seems to be at the right place at the right time to have the ball "coincidentally" drop at her feet. There is no official statistic for this, but if there were, I'd guess Fair would be among the league leaders. She also made a beautiful long pass from midfield all the way to Pichon in the penalty area, which resulted in the Charge's second goal.

Boston substitute Ragnhild Gulbrandsen came on late in the game to score the tying goal in the final minutes.
The Save A Planet blog has a very interesting way of looking at environmental issues.
This morning I went for my first motorcycle ride since my big crash. I took the Suzuki SV650s out and rode around the neighborhood. It felt good to be on two wheels again. My right hand can now operate the throttle and brake, but it still feels pretty stiff so I didn't ride for too long.

On a hot summer day, if you ride a motorcycle or drive a convertible along Highway 30, you feel the temperature change radically as you occasionally enter pockets of much cooler air. What is happening, I think, is that cooler air from up in the shady, heavily forested hills descends, following the contours of ravines and valleys, until it finds an "exit" where it can spill out over the road. Passing through the warm and cold zones, it's like you are feeling a topographic map of the hills above, represented as temperature.

I did not ride there today, but riding around reminded me of doing this last summer. That ride also features a view of the St. Johns Bridge.
Kevin from WizBang (my favorite news-oriented blog) interviewed me for Good Morning Blogosphere this morning.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

A simple trick

Instead of searching Google for something try using "something" blog as your search words. Curious about which bloggers like kung pao shrimp? Google for "kung pao shrimp" blog and find this blog, among others.

Who has been talking to cats?

What has changed people's lives?

Who got kissed?

Who found a nickel?

What makes them happy?

What happened behind the library?

I came up with this technique because I realized that lists of most popular blogs don't help me very much. I have found no correlation between how many hits a blog gets and how much it interests me. I need new ways to find blogs to assimilate.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Blogger Tips

Note: I have completely changed my Blogger template since I wrote this article. I think the tips listed here still work, but my site looks different now.

Many Blogger users have emailed me to ask how I achieve various effects on my blogs. I am not an expert on blogging, but I will share what I've learned. I am fairly experienced with HTML, and I still found it frustrating at first to edit my Blogger template. Here are some of the "tricks."

How to list your archives

The technique for doing this has recently changed in the newest version of Blogger. To list your archives, edit your Blogger Template and put this code in where you want the archives list to appear.

<a href='<$BlogArchiveLink$>'><$BlogArchiveName$></a>

Titles for your articles

In Blogger, go to Settings / Formatting and set Show Title Field to "Yes." Now add this section before the body of your post:

<div class="articletitle">

I surround the title in a named div element so I can use CSS to control the look of the title. CSS is much too complicated to explain here, so go to the online tutorial.

Creating a Byline

The byline names the author and the time of the post. Some people use the time of the post as their Permalink (see below), but I prefer to separate them. You can create a byline by putting this after the post area of your Blogger Template:
   <span class="byline">posted by <$BlogItemAuthorNickname$> at <$BlogItemDateTime$></span>

I surround the byline with a named span element so I can control the look of the byline with CSS.

How to create Permalinks

Permalinks allow other bloggers to link directly to a specific article on your blog. They are an essential feature of a blog! A lot of the blogs I've been to have non-functional permalinks. Often I want to link to a post because it is great material, but I don't because the permalink doesn't work. (Of course, some people's writing is so good that I link to the site anyway.)

There are two parts to a permalink, the Link Anchor, which is the spot in your site that the permalink takes you to and the Hyperlink, which is the section the user clicks on to go to the Permalink. Edit your Blogger Template and place the Link Anchor section right before the Title of your blog post. The Anchor should be before the title of the post so that the title will show up when the user navigates to the article using the permalink. The Link Anchor section looks like this:
   <a name="<$BlogItemNumber$>"></a>

Next you need to create the Hyperlink part of the permalink. Most bloggers put this at the very end of the post. At the end of the post part of your template, put in the Hyperlink like this:
   <a href="<$BlogItemArchiveFileName$>#<$BlogItemNumber$>">(permalink)</a>

Adding a horizontal line as a separator

If you want a horizontal line separating your posts, like I have on my Matrix Essays site, then add this after your permalink hyperlink:
   <hr />

<br />

Putting it all together

The complete <Blogger /> section of my site (except for the reader comments part) looks like this, in case you just want to copy and paste the whole thing:

<!---- DAY TITLE -->
<div class="date">

<a name="<$BlogItemNumber$>"></a>

<!---- ARTICLE TITLE --->
<div class="articletitle">

<!---- POSTS ---->
<div class="posts">

<!---- BYLINE --->
<span class="byline">posted by <$BlogItemAuthorNickname$> at <$BlogItemDateTime$>
<a href="<$BlogItemArchiveFileName$>#<$BlogItemNumber$>">(permalink)</a>
<br />
<br />

Adding comments for reader feedback

If you want your readers to be able to leave comments, you'll have to add a comments service like backblog or squawkbox. Sign up with one of these services and follow their instructions. They both work with Blogger.

Note: Since I wrote this article, Blogger has added their own commenting system. I now use the Blogger comment feature, and it works great.

Getting more hits

This one is easy. Write about sex, and you will get more hits.

But maybe you don't want to do that. Maybe you want more people to read your insights about non-sexual topics. There are various tricks for getting hits, but they all ultimately involve tricking people into going to your site when it doesn't really contain what they are looking for. Do you really want a lot of hits from people who will be disappointed about having wasted their time? Or do you want a smaller number of "quality" hits from interesting people? To get quality hits, write original material that offers your own unique perspective, and become the Blorg.

Don't put "weird stuff" inside tables

If you use an HTML table to lay out your site with multiple columns, and you also have a control like a hit counter or any other unusual thing, do not put the unusual thing inside the table! There was (and may still be) a bug in Blogger that would randomly ruin your template if you did this. It took me many hours of frustration to figure out what was happening. Put "weird stuff" either before the table or after it. I always put my hit counters at the very bottom of the page, below the table.

Adding a hit counter

I recommend GoStats. Put it outside the tables :-)

The Mozilla Curse

If you use Mozilla as your browser (and it's a great browser, you should use it just for the popup-blocking), then never, never accidentally type a single quote where you meant to type a double quote inside a hyperlink tag. If you do this, your post will become un-editable with Mozilla, even in "safe mode," and you'll have to use IE to fix it.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

The Fast and the Flamed

In today's World Superbike race in San Marino, one of the bikes burst into flames shortly after taking off for the warm up lap before the race. The rider quickly "abandoned ship" and jumped off the bike while it was still moving! The motorcycle continued on without him, crashing into the wall and sending a wall of flame up near where the front row of spectators were sitting. I could see spectators fanning the smoke away with their programs, leading me to wonder, "what ever happened to running away?"

Saturday, June 21, 2003


Trish-Y writes about leather:
[. . .] leather is like eyeliner to the eye, garlic to the bread, that extra zero to your paycheck. It suddenly makes everything interesting - it polishes you up, adjusts your hair, pushes you out the door and gives you a knowing wink. I'm not expecting you home tonight, it whispers as you swish out into the night. That's leather.

Order of the Phoenix

Last night I went to my local independent bookstore, Annie Bloom's in Portland, for the Harry Potter release party at midnight. I wanted to see the "scene" and take some pictures. The store handed out numbered tickets to mark people's order. I got there at around 11pm and was given the number 76. By midnight there were several hundred people there. A lot of people dressed up for the occasion. Some were dressed as witches or wizards, others wore bathrobes or pajamas and carried brooms. The candy store next door to the bookstore had stayed open late, so I bought some truffles and hot chocolate to enjoy while I waited.

The crowd was friendly, with a lot of people striking up conversations with strangers about the books. Some of the people near me had come from the other side of Portland because they thought that the crowd here would be better, with more adults.

When my real digital camera had run out of batteries, I started taking pictures with my Sony Clie. This attracted the attention of some other Harry Potter fans, and I gave them a demo of the Clie and explained its features. I should be a Clie salesman.

While I was still waiting to get in and get my book, I saw some kids come out of the store with their copies. They stood against the wall, opened the book, and immediately turned to the last page to see how it ended! Some in the crowd didn't want to know the ending, but they wanted a hint. "What's the last word?" they asked, and the kids yelled out "wake!" I checked, and "wake" is indeed the last word in the novel. But I haven't read any more than that yet, so I don't know what it might mean.

It was cool to see so many people excited about a book.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Feeding on Jessica Lynch

"Jessica Lynch is an American hero. Key word: American. That means she belongs to us. We need her. We need her goodness, and her newness. We need to feed upon her life force so that we, too, can live."

"Steven, that makes us sound like parasites!"

"No, no Jon, not at all. It's like a remora or a lamprey. We just need to latch on to her jugular and keep on sucking until her soul is as dry as a crouton."

"That's a parasite."

"No Jon, a parasite feeds off the living. We don't care if the host lives or dies. We're just as happy to feed off of decomposing flesh. Technically, that makes us saprophytes."

-- The Daily Show

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

We are Blorg

Eve at The Swamp writes, "WE ARE BLORG. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE." This reminds me of something I've been meaning to write about for quite a while.

People seem fixated on the question of whether blogging is journalism, and what kind of journalism it might be, and which rules apply. The people who mention this the most tend to be journalists, though, and as journalists they naturally view nearly anything involving information as some new form of journalism. And graphic designers see the Web as a new place to practice graphic design. Accountants probably blog their credits and debits and think blogging is "the new accounting." They all miss what really lurks within the blogosphere.

Blogging turns humans into The Borg. In a good way.

According to Wikipedia:
Borg are humanoids that are enhanced with cybernetic implants, giving them improved mental and physical abilities. The minds of all Borg are connected via implants to a hive, a collective mind, orchestrated by the Borg Queen. According to a Borg in one episode, they only seek to "improve the quality of life in the universe" and add to their own perfection.

Yes, a collective mind. The people on my blogroll are like my Borg Collective. And if I am on someone's blogroll, then I am one unit in that person's Collective. We share our thoughts, we add to each other's thoughts, we improve the quality of life on the Web. We add to each other's perfection.

Sites like technorati allow us to find out who links to us. This informs us that we have been assimilated, and also allows a Collective to form spontaneously without any formal invitations or complicated joining procedure.

How do we feel when we visit a site in our Collective and the site is down? Do we not feel a bit of a strange panic, almost like a vital part of ourselves has gone missing? Like we went over to a friend's house and he or she had moved away without telling anyone? This feels so different from our experience when some other site -- a commercial site, or any site not part of our Collective -- fails to respond.

A Blorg Collective interaction has some unusual properties. We never know exactly who we are talking to, or when -- an old message from months ago may draw a response today, as if completing a sentence spoken only seconds ago. We may not know why someone assimilated us into their Collective, only that they did. And the next contributor may be someone we have never heard from before.

Unlike newsgroups or message boards, which are topic-centric, blogs are person-centric. We may initially find out about a blog because of a Google search on a topic, but we assimilate the person, not the topic. Some blogs like snarkfest have multiple authors, forming a Collective all on one site.

The Blorg brings out our cooperative nature in a way that many other formats on the Net do not. We generally link to things we like, things of value, things of interest. We usually find it to be too much trouble to link to things that annoy us, especially because bloggers perceive a link as a reward of sorts. (There have been proposals to create new kinds of hyperlinks that carry the opposite meaning, a sort of "I'm linking to this because I hate it" semantic. I hope this never happens! The current system very subtly encourages benevolence by not providing a very effective mechanism for meanness.)

Welcome to the hive mind. You will be assimilated, and you will assimilate, and you will be the Borg Queen of your own Collective. Resistance is futile.