log (2005/08/05 to 2005/08/11)

So can you believe the iTunes podcasting client can't deal with WAV files? Heh! Or at least not with the one that was yesterday's podcast. How silly.

I saw a news banner on the teevee in the cafeteria at the lab today, and it said:

Shuttle fleet grounded due to safety concerns

and I thought to myself

Thousands of commuters stranded on Moon

but it didn't actually say that.

A bazillion good links from Bruce Schneier recently. Vulnerabilities in ubiquitous systems: Eavesdropping on Bluetooth Automobiles and Hacking Hotel Infrared Systems.

More on that Black Hat dustup that I mentioned the other day:

The sad thing is that we could have avoided this. If Cisco and ISS had simply let Lynn present his work, it would have been just another obscure presentation amongst the sea of obscure presentations that is BlackHat. By attempting to muzzle Lynn, the two companies ensured that 1) the vulnerability was the biggest story of the conference, and 2) some group of hackers would turn the vulnerability into exploit code just to get back at them.

See this weblog for lots of details.


For $80 a year, any potential terrorist can be automatically notified if the Department of Homeland Security is on to him. Such a deal.


I think the airline industry is missing something here. If they linked the anti-missile lasers with the in-seat entertainment systems, cross-country flights would be much more exciting.

Now that would be extremely XXIst Century.

Charity o' the Day: Stop the Drug War dot org. You can give them money. I can think of worse things to do with money.

The Teaching Company now makes at least some of their programs available as digital downloads! This is good; I like The Teaching Company (if not most of their prices), and I was predicting that if they didn't start delivering content via the Net instead of the Post Office soon, they weren't long for this world.

A reader writes:

That's just the gynophilia talking.

That's got a nice ring to it. Reminds me somehow of one of those annoyingly vague and upscale big mural ads in airports. Big shiny car, expansive lawn, smiling well-dressed people obviously conducting important business over little hotdogs, a logo from Royal Bank of Scotland or something, and the slogan: "It's the gynophilia talking".

Call marketing!

Similarly, a reader who is sad writes:

Dear entity layer known as David Chess,

I am achingly sad tonight (and not only) because of your (seeming) obsession with The Sims. Maybe you could have your Sims read books and bake bread and build shelves, like in the olden days.

Aw, don't be sad! Think of it as this new toy that I've been having fun with, and I want to share that fun with my Treasured Readers. Nothing to be sad about.

I suspect the frequency of Sims pictures and Sims-only entries may be less in the future, though; the toy isn't quite as new anymore. And eventually you start to notice that the Sims have only so much variety. If you've seen one Sim growing from toddler to child, or making toaster pastries, or making out, or getting married, you've (more or less) seen them all. Once they get the modelling down one more level, so the characters are moving individual limbs to accomplish a goal rather than acting out pre-scripted motion sequences, the game will be that much shinier and more (dangerously?) fascinating a toy.

Sims can't bake bread in The Sims 2 (although since there's a Baker's Oven in the "Makin' Magic" expansion of the original Sims (which we have, but haven't installed), they might eventually be able to). They don't build shelves, and neither do I! (Ian who used to have a weblog and C built some shelves once; and very nice shelves they are.) But they can and do read books. Pictures of that might not be too fascinating, though.

So Kaylynn and Benjamin got married (I forgot to check if he's taken her last name) and went off on a honeymoon in a big limo and everything. Brandi got a cold, but got better quickly. I quit without saving when I picked the wrong choice on a Chance card and the Raptors lost all their savings to hire Brandi more minions; I feel vaguely guilty about that.

Speaking more or less of which, a reader writes:

"The thing I don't know is: if Kaylynn had failed and Ben had died, would I have just exited without saving and maybe tried again someday, or would I have saved, and played her from here on with the consequences of that tragedy?"

This reminds me of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Real Life." The holographic Doctor decides he wants to better understand the Human Experience (a common desire among androids, holograms, ex-Borg, etc., in the Star Trek Universe) and creates a family on the holodeck. A perfect, cheery family practically right out of a 1950s sitcom. B'Elanna objects that he's not really learning much out of this, and offers to tweak the program to make it more realistic...

Voyager attracts a good amount of criticism from Star Trek fans, much of it deserved, but this episode is worth watching.

The googled-up reviews of that episode do sound interesting; there are parts of teevee that I do sometimes regret not watching (still slowly slowly going through those Babylon 5 DVDs). So when I quit without saving in The Sims 2, I'm wimping out and not drawing all of the Life Lessons from it that I could. On the other hand unlike that Doctor I have plenty of real-world connections to give me Life Lessons already. *8)

Speaking of real-world connections and bread baking, on Monday night I made that delicious peach buckle referred to the other day (when I referred to it the other day it was M's sister's husband making it; I was just helping out a little). It was very good. Note that when the recipe says "sift together dry ingredients" it doesn't intend to include the sugar in "dry ingredients", but in fact the recipe works okay if you don't realize that and do include it; you just have to improvise a little.

The Long Riders' Guild:

Long Riders know instead the reality of aching bones encountered after a week of riding 50-mile days, or the bitter taste of disappointment that fills your mouth when you come to a village only to discover nothing for you or your horse to eat. They know the way the rain always finds a way to run down your neck no matter how many times you pull up your poncho with your cold, stiff fingers, or the fear that grips your stomach when your horse snorts and shies away from an unexpected stranger on a dark and lonely road.

Wild. (Found when checking up on the recent activities of the ever intriguing Sam Sloan.)

And that's about all for the moment. Hope everyone's happier! *8)

Yay, spaceship!

I hope everyone's reading geegaw.

I was sitting in the F train, headed home, stopped at Jay Street, when an A train to Far Rockaway pulled up across the platform. And never mind that I was wearing a silly dress and silly clogs, and carrying a ridiculous little purse: when the sea calls you, you come.

If it happens to you, this is what you should do

We'll put the Sims pictures below the fold today, out of the goodness of our hearts. In the meantime, leavening the present with the past, recall that ages ago we asked What do you say?


bullshit, total bullshit

I thought that was the gender switched version of "dip me in honey and throw me to the bears", with the... uhhh... "San Francisco" meaning of "bears".


this site's on my list of lunchtime browsing now.. but I can't stop listening to those chunklet mp3s which is not healthy:-)

I get it! I get it! And I liked it!

Believe it or not, this is one of the most elegant mechanical inventions I've ever seen. [link]

I say I say I say did you know now a fella goes to the doctor and says it hurts when I do this and the doctor says well don't do it then

"Keep your friends close and your animes closer."


Uh...what's not to get?

Heck! I thought you said "Lessig" not "lessing"

MeFi thread which touches on "meme" vs. "idea"


Very good very good. I like the "dip me in honey" explanation; quite plausible. And the Container for the Reception of Objects. And the rest. You may have to go back and read some old entries to fully understand them all; a good opportunity to remind yourself what this weblog was like before The Sims.

Speaking of which *8) little Hermes Zoom has grown into a child

Hermes grew up well

(His parents got all dressed up for the ceremony, but he was in his PJs.) He also got into private school (the Headmaster was very impressed with his visit, even though the meal was chili that'd been sitting on the sideboard for an hour and a half; apparently he really enjoyed talking to Marisa while they ate) after just one day at that nasty old public school (one of the less subtle biases in the game there).

We haven't seen much of the Raptors lately, so let's stop by there. Here's a picture of the shenanigans mentioned the other day (for you "hot girl on girl action" fans):

Sally and Kaylynn postwoohoo

Isn't that sweet?

The Raptors had a party; Gina invited Sophie from school, and just as she fulfilled her "Be Best Friends With Sophie" want, this Randy dude (who she's been going out with) rushed over (I guess he happened to be walking by) and slapped her.

Randy is jealous

Such violence, eh? About thirty seconds later, Gina had apparently convinced him that it was all perfectly innocent and not really "flirting" in the technical sense, and he was all manly admiration again.

Randy is admiring

Despite that little complication the party went very well, and Eleanor got a Good Party memory.

It was a Good Party

(While her Mom discussed the state of the construction industry; or perhaps of construction workers.)

Later on, Eleanor asked Brandi to move in; Brandi was smitten:

Brandi loves Eleanor

and accepted at once. Turns out she's a Criminal Mastermind! She brought in over thirteen thousand Simoleons for the household treasury, and has a high-paying job (and given that everyone else who's ever lived there has been just sponging off of Sally's rather paltry Slacker-track income, they're now better off than they've ever been before).

I wonder if she's a colleague, or alternately a rival, of Ransom Zoom? The outfit looks considerably better on her than it does on him.

Evil Doctor Brandi

(Unless that's just my gynophilia talking.)

I hope thinking about Eleanor doesn't distract her from her nefarious schemes...

"I may be a grieving mother, but I'm not stupid."

-- Cindy Sheehan

That's Cindy Sheehan of Gold Star Families for Peace, who has been making a fuss about our President and the war in Iraq and her dead son and all. The quote above is my memory of something I heard her quoted as saying on the news this morning, in reaction to the two spokesdroids that Bush sent out to talk to her; she apparently didn't find them entirely convincing. (Can't find exactly that quote on the Web, but the CNN story above says similar if milder things.)

Another random quote vaguely about politics:

Good policy decisions rely on a firm grasp of such cultural differences. When one faction is surrounded by topless women on some pebble-covered beach on the Mediterranean and the other is eating dry white cake off a flimsy paper plate in an air-conditioned conference room, you're going to have more than a few misunderstandings.

Good to keep in mind.

On (I have to assume) yesterday's Harrowing Tale, a reader who has been extremely fortunate in eir reading life so far writes:

That may very well be the worst writing ever. Yowch.

No, mon petit, there is much much worse writing out there. Lots of it.

I will grant that it may be the worst writing ever on this here weblog (or maybe the second worst, discounting the whole Decoder Ring issue). These things happen. (In my own defense, you should have seen the first draft.)

So in the inevitable Sims news, Georgia has moved out of her family home and moved in with the Danvers', and she and Jane are busy planning the wedding. Kaylynn and Benjamin are also planning theirs, currently scheduled for their next Saturday so Ben has the day off (he had a day of vacation coming to him, but he used it up dying). Ransom and Marisa, now left alone with little Hermes, will probably be my first two Elders. I am still unable to bring myself to allow Sally Raptor to age (and in fact she's still actively homewrecking, having invited Kaylynn over for dinner and shenanigans after Eleanor and Gina were asleep; but now that she's firmly engaged to Ben, Kaylynn no longer seems to have any qualms about a bit of old-flame action on the side; these Sims, I tell ya).

But no pictures of any of that here, because sheesh!

It's odd how firmly this Sims stuff has colonized large areas of my brain. I feel sort of how I imagine Holmes feeling, observing and analyzing the effects of the seven-per-cent solution...

That evening, after Kaylynn got home from the weekly editorial board meeting of her lifestyle magazine "KL", Benjamin took her upstairs, and in a low and energetic, almost feverish, voice, told her of his mind's desire, and his terrible plan.

Benjamin describes his plan

"There are those," Benjamin said, "who have gone into the bony arms of death, and returned again to tell their tales. I have always dreamed of becoming one of them, and now I think I have the means. If you, my darling, will help me!"

It's well known in the Sim universe that in the case of many untimely deaths, the Grim Reaper can be convinced by the pleading of a loved one to turn back on his fatal errand. At least most of the time.

The old Kaylynn would have quailed at the thought, but this Kaylynn, strong and wealthy, the head of numerous enterprises and veteran of her own daring (if corporate and culinary) adventures, was only intrigued.

"What's the risk that I'll fail?" she asked.

"Roughly ten percent," Benjamin replied, the light of lunacy and scholarship blazing in his eyes.

"Okay, but if you die, I'll never speak to you again."

They made elaboriate preparations. Comfortable chairs upstairs for the long wait, the head of the stairway closed off with welded steel gates so Ben couldn't weaken and dash downstairs for food or rest. On an endtable, the dreaded Noodlesoother, a tacky electrical device originally designed to increase a Sim's mood, but deadly dangerous with prolonged use. And finally, set up hopefully for the successful outcome, an Energizer, to restore both of them to health after what would be at best a draining ordeal. (As far as I know they don't use the Energizer autonomously, so I didn't need to fence that off.)

Ben put on the Noodlesoother, and they sat and talked. He rhapsodized to Kaylynn about the wonders of the universe as he imagined them, from the infinity of blazing suns to the dank darkness of the netherworld. Outside, the night deepened.

Talking of the sun, waiting for the dark

Gradually, Benjamin felt his energy draining. The initial rosy glow that the tasteless headgear had given him wore off quickly, and he began suffering hunger and exhaustion, each pang deeper and more wrenching than the last. Kaylynn sat, talking to him as long as he was able to talk, enduring in stony silence his moans.


It was much, much harder than she had imagined.

Finally, well after dawn, Benjamin collapsed to the ground, on the floor in front of the Energizer, into a pool of his own bodily fluids. Kaylynn wept.

Benjamin dies

They had done it. Now she was alone for the ending, one way or the other, of the ordeal.

The Grim Reaper floated up through the floor, faced Benjamin's crumpled body, and began leafing through an eldritch clipboard, muttering to itself ("Lansing, Laslow, Logan, I know I've got a Long here somewhere...").

The Grim Reaper and his dread clipboard

For a moment Kaylynn thought she wouldn't have the strength to play her part; it had been a long night, and she realized that she was nearly exhausted, physically and spiritually. But with a toss of her head she thrust herself between her lover and the dark figure, and implored it to spare Ben's life.

The Reaper shook its head in resignation, cast aside its clipboard and scythe, and showed Kaylynn a brilliant glowing ball: Benjamin's soul. It put both of its hands behind its back, and then extended them, balled into bony fists, toward her; death in one, life in the other.

Which hand?

Kaylynn hesitated, and then pointed toward the Reaper's right hand, through which she thought she had glimpsed a flash of blue. The Reaper opened that hand, and Ben's soul leapt out and back toward his body. She had beaten death!

Kaylynn triumphant

The Reaper gathered itself and paused for an instant, and something within the void beneath its tattered hood looked out at her. She knew she would never forget, nor be able to properly describe, this instant.

Kaylynn eye to eye with Death

The world shivered for a long moment (some bizarre glitch in the game), and then the Reaper was gone, and Ben was standing smiling before her. He threw the Noodlesoother across the floor and embraced her. She collapsed into his arms.

"We've done it!" he shouted, "but my dear, you look worse than I do. Our friend the Reaper seems to have lent me a good dose of energy. You use the Energizer first, while I wipe up this, urm, spillage."


Then it was Ben's turn in the Energizer.

Benjamin recharging

He emerged triumphant, almost strutting.

Benjamin triumphant

He and Kaylynn embraced, and he whispered to her "the experience of a lifetime, my love; and I owe it to you."

Benjamin and Kaylynn embrace

And to herself she said, "and when we're married in this same spot come Saturday, my foolish love, it will be me, and not you, that has looked Death Itself in the eye."

(So Benjamin Long had this 8,000 point "Be Saved From Death" Want, and once I read on the EA forums that as long as the person pleading with the Reaper has a really high Relationship score with the dead person, the chance of success is 90% I said to myself "what the heck, let's give it a try!". The thing I don't know is: if Kaylynn had failed and Ben had died, would I have just exited without saving and maybe tried again someday, or would I have saved, and played her from here on with the consequences of that tragedy?)

I'm afraid we have no Sims 2 pictures again today ("again" in the sense that we didn't have any Sims 2 pictures for the last few days, because we didn't have any entries at all; today we have an entry, but that entry will probably not contain any Sims 2 pictures, because I don't have any to hand and it's unlikely that any will spontaneously appear). I do apologize.

We'll just do some brief "real world" news items instead.

As you've no doubt heard so I don't have to bother digging up a real link to, scientists in some far away place recently announced that they had created a dog with glowing red eyes and slimy tentacles (insatiable lust for human flesh not yet confirmed; some difficulty with the Ethics Panel).

Our own dear Governor Pataki here in New York has pandered to the anti-abortion camp by vetoing a bill that could have prevented thousands of abortions a year. Or, wait, that doesn't make any sense. Does it?

Much more sensible, New Creation Theory Seeks Inclusion In Kansas Curriculum; go Flying Spaghetti Monster!

In a stunning reversal, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced that George Bush will no longer be allowed to enter the country:

... the Home Secretary today publishes new grounds for deportation and exclusion. Deportation is a decision taken by the Home Secretary under statute. The new grounds will include fostering hatred, advocating violence to further a person's beliefs, or justifying or validating such violence.

(For diplomatic reasons the announcement didn't mention Bush by name, but the intent seems pretty clear. Justifying and validating violence to further his beliefs is one of the man's specialties, after all.)

For dinner (well, for dessert) we had Peach Buckle, which doesn't involve metal clasps at all, but instead involves making pretty much this, and using peaches for the Fruit.

Very nice!

We asked a question (back before the beginning of Sims Mania, heh heh), and your answers give the usual heartening picture of our readership. What should we abolish?



Forehead stapling

mob rule



Corporate personhood

the constitution...oops, too late.

private property rights, Comrade. They are the props of reactionary running dogs and the tools of the revisionist repressors. Plus, I like *really* need an Ipod.

Indeed; may we all be well-informed sex-positive individuals, with unstapled foreheads and recognized rights. With a good dose of irony and misanthropy for leavening.

Abolish the CIA's policy of kidnapping. Oh - Italy is doing just that! [link]

(Hey, that NYT link actually seems to work; what's up with that?) Yeah, I read that story somewhere awhile back (maybe about the time this reader wrote in). Pretty wild. "Old Europe", nyuk nyuk nyuk...

the multiple site login thing is a social and political issue at this point, both OpenID and LID seem like reasonable solutions (I think LID is the smarter option, which means it will lose), now we have to get people to adopt one or the other (or both). So as to what we should abolish, I'll put in a vote for separate user logins.

Yeah, I almost LID-enabled myself once, but I got distracted. Speaking of logins, I'm pleased and/or disappointed that more of you haven't been curious about that "login" link that appeared here in the log back in May and tried to fiddle with it. G'won, don't be polite!

(Whoa, cool; Opera's got this great "Window / Closed" thing that remembers the last N windows that you (accidentally, say) closed, and lets you open them again. Dead clever.)

Looking for podcasts? Try http://8chan.net/midnightsnacks/

Yeah, this same or some other reader recommended the same or something similar the other day, and I did try it. Got a two-hour, 100+ megabyte podcast. It was almost entirely music; a bunch of long electro-ambient thumpa-thump music with the reverb set on high, perfect background for your next upscale orgy by the pool. And then every fifteen minutes or so this guy would come on in a cute pseudo-maniacal voice and say "This is W T Snacks with Miiiidniiiight Snaaaaacks!".

It was fun.

Way better than Dave Winer, but not as good IMHO as Susie Bright. (Even here in the XXIst, sometimes you still gets what you pays for.)

And finally

"That's a clever metaphor, what with you being a squirrel and all, but I was looking for some more definitive instructions. You know, a specific plan for wooing her..."

which I think sums up the whole thing admirably.