log (1999/11/26 to 1999/12/02)

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Thursday, December 2, 1999

I can't stop playing "Things from Space"!

That's a literary allusion: Spy Fox sometimes says it when you go into the arcade game hidden in his watch in "Some Assembly Required".

What I actually can't stop playing, though, is Galactic Patrol, which is alot like Things from Space, except with more different alien ships and weapons, bosses, three different view angles, and a sexier voice. The little boy picked it up at Staples the other day, for just $6.50, and the kids and me have been playing it regularly since. I had the laptop home that weekend, and it got installed on there, too, so now I have Galactic Patrol here at work. A BAD IDEA!

I now have my own page at Amazon! Isn't that a thrill? And it has an incredible ugly URL!   *8)

I reported the other day that zero people thought my Amazon reviews were useful, and two didn't. Well now four people think they are, and only one doesn't (I guess the expensive team of assassins I keep on retainer is good for something after all). This gets me a little stripe next to my name on all my Amazon reviews, which is (a) incredibly juvenile and silly, and (b) really good for my ego. The Web is full of places to admire oneself, and I'm a total sucker for them. At least I'm not registered with epinions yet!

Recently finished Daniel Pinkwater's "5 Novels"; they were wonderful! They're nominally aimed at junior-high to high-school kids, but odd twisted adults will also love them. I kept reading particularly ticklesome passages to the little daughter, who despite being only nine would I think very much like "Alan Mendelsohn the Boy from Mars". The other ones are probably a bit heavy on the cultural references that she hasn't gotten to yet; she gets annoyed with books where she has to stop and ask the grownups about things too often.

The Wallace and Gromit Webring!

Here is a copy of Hayek's "The Use of Knowledge in Society". People following the issues around the WTO protests in Seattle may find this interesting and/or enlightening in a sort of subtle sidearm fashion. Which isn't to say that I endorse everything he says there, but he focuses pretty sharply on at least one of the less obvious issues.

A facile paradox: in the U.S., the left has a great distrust of the powerful, and thinks that government ought to do more to plan and arrange the world; whereas the right tends to admire and trust the powerful, but think that they ought to keep out of other people's business. Kinda strange...

Bovine Inversus weblog (why didn't I think of a clever domain name?)

Speaking of domain names, today's empty cobwebby corner of the Web is: sanctity.com (courtesy of WordURL).

Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Tuesday, November 30, 1999

Miss Susie had a steamboat
The steamboat had a bell
Miss Susie went to heaven
And the steamboat went to
Hello, Operator, give me number nine...
The Lunch Bag of Notre Dame.

SelectSmart.com has an interesting area where you can say how you feel (superficially) about various issues, and they will recommend a corresponding U.S. presidential candidate (link from Colin Maroney). The site seems like a good idea; I'm slightly suspicious of just how unbiased they are, given that they have on the front page a link to the "World's Smallest Political Quiz", under which just about everyone comes out Libertarian. Of course, maybe just about everyone really is Libertarian!

The little daughter enjoyed the Something Interesting that asked how many roads there are (if you count two roads that meet as a single road); thanks to whoever sent it! Her first thought was "one!", which is probably true if you count anything passable (including air-routes) as a road. She finally settled on an estimate of 2-3 per continent, not counting silly Daddy-suggestions like abandoned parking lots whose entrances have been bulldozed over. I find this one pretty interesting, myself! How many not-connected major road networks (over 200 miles, say) are there in the world?

Thanks also to whoever sent in the long Something Interesting about car trips and guessing games. Coincidentally, we played a round of Twenty Thousand Questions (that's what we called it when I was a kid) just the other day. The thing she was thinking of was "George Washington in Bermuda, watching a Scooby-doo tape with the sound muted and the tape paused at the scene where Shaggy's hair looks yellow, and the TV has one olive-green rabbit ear and one cat's whisker, instead of antennas". Took me quite awhile, and a few hints, but I got it!   *8)

Monday, November 29, 1999

Old Faithful Webcam from the National Park Service (link from Medley). I spent quite a bit of time in Yellowstone on my great cross-country trek (a solo drive West across North America after graduating from college, one of the defining events of my life; maybe I should tell the story sometime).

I remember sitting on a rock next to one of the amazingly colorful geysers (I think it was probably Anemone) and eating, and just being amazed by the world in general. It was great.

A couple of readers have asked what the odd little passages at the top of some days' log entries are from. They're from my own head, I'm afraid; you have to make up the enclosing stories yourself. Enjoy!   *8)   Some mostly-more-complete fiction of mine can be found on the WORDS page.

So far the most popular important things are, plausibly enough, love and children. Sounds about right, but feel free to surprise me! Your opinion is solicited here.

Today's nicely-done personal site with a cute name: quietnoises.com.

...trying to keep my eyes steady in the face of your roommate's sarcasm and your rich brown eyes.
(Wandered into from I put a spell on you.)

A couple of on-line novels (based in some sense on a pair of role-playing campaigns, I gather) by Mary K. Kuhner: Jayhawk and Radiant. I've lost entire days reading "just one more chapter" in these; beware!

WordURL suggested queue.com this morning, and there I found this striking page of people trapped inside pictures. Ceci n'est pas un ordinateur!

The people at SchoolCash.com must have real sensitive antennae! I mentioned them in the Log the other day, and over the holidays they sent me a note with a bunch of clippings from BBS News Online and the LA Times and suchlike authorities, offering to answer any questions I might have. I guess I'm important!   *8)

Happy Monday to all.

Sunday, November 28, 1999

"What do you think he meant, 'she has a metabolism you could drive nails with'?"

"Beats me."

Sunday: a good day to eat bagels and not write anything significant in one's log. I did do a new Top Story for the portal at Theogeny, though.

Saturday, November 27, 1999

She crouched beside me, checking the tightness of my bonds. The others were across the room, paying no attention to us. As she tugged on the ropes, I realized that she was whispering, almost inaudibly.

"When they question you, they will say things about Clarissa. Whatever they say, don't believe them. You understand? You must not believe them!"

I could not of course make a sound, or move more than an inch, but I tried to nod. Apparently satisfied, she stood and returned to the others, huddled around the radio set.

I really wanted to like Amaya, the World Wide Web Consortium's browser/editor, but so far the random malfunctions and interface gaffes have gotten in the way of really exercising it. (I've also played a bit with FrontPage Express; it's also frustrating, for a different set of reasons.)

Writing a good HTML editor is generically hard, of course. I haven't even found a smart C source editor that I really like, and that's a much easier problem. Imagine how hard it would be to write a C or Perl source-code editor that let you examine and alter the program's output, and tried to change the source to match the changes you made to the output!

Both Amaya and FrontPage can I think be used as semi-smart HTML editors, by pretending that the as-rendered screen is read-only. I suppose I should give them more of a chance. But just typing in the HTML is so easy; I don't somehow feel a burning need for help. Berners-Lee seems to think it's important, though.

A nice academic study of "neophilic irreligions" (the Subgenii, the Cthulhu folks, the Discordians), can be found here.

What's the most important thing in the world?

Friday, November 26, 1999

Finally! Found a page that shows the hex values for Dodger blue, Navajo white, and all those other odd color-names that browsers seem to support for no apparent reason. How useful!

Does anyone know anything about SchoolCash.com? Claims you can get money for your local school just by shopping at various major merchants (including Amazon) through them. Too good to be true?

New uses for your PDA! Heard this story on NPR the other day, and was just looking (without success) for a URL when Anne Merritt posted this link.

After swiping a credit card through the store's credit card device, Ventura allegedly swiped it a second time through a credit card scanner attached to her Palm Pilot

Geegaw has announced a hiatus, so she (I'm not sure that I'm sure that Geegaw's a she; can we have a convention that bloggers by default are referred to as female? Thanks!) so she can attempt to "have a life". Foolish mortal! Blogging is in the blood...

Since I said some nice things about genetically (why is it "genetically", anyway: there's no "genetical"; shouldn't it be "geneticly"?) modified foods the other day, I thought I should pass this along: RRE had an interesting piece from an organization called Loka, talking about how the media in the US has consistently understated the strength of citizen concerns about genetically altered stuff, how strong the support is for requiring such stuff to be labeled, and so on.

I'm again in something of a quandary. Labeling is good, of course (buyers should have all the information they can feasibly be given about what they're buying). On the other hand, if genetically modified foods were all labeled as such, lots of people might not buy them for basically irrational reasons, and that might make it less cost-effective for producers to make them, and that might mean that we (that I) would miss out on some of the benefits. Ah, well, I think I'll be for labeling, and then for educating the public about why it's not in general especially risky to buy the labeled stuff.

The Loka piece was interesting, but also somewhat annoying. My tolerance for people who praise "The Precautionary Principle", and stress "democratically decided social and environmental concerns" (as if the demos had no legitimate economic concerns, for instance) seems to be sort of low. Comes, perhaps, of reading Reason. *8) I'll certainly grant Loka that U.S. (and other!) politicians are sometimes in the pockets of business; on the other hand, it's easy to extract just about whatever "huge majority" support you want from a poll, just by asking the questions right. The piece was as one-sided as the pro and con links I gave the other day; if anyone has a link to some reasonably balanced discussion of the issues, I'd love to have it.

(I'm still at home and not very connected; the links above are from email that I have copied locally, and from stuff that I stored on the glog Weblog before the holidays.)

Oh, and for whoever's been showing curiosity about the workings of the formify script that I use for my fill-in forms: it's a simple CGI hack that sends me email containing all the field names and values that it receives: low-function but flexible! Maybe I'll clean it up a little and stick it on the toys page sometime.


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