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 mp3.com 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?!"