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.