Monday, December 24, 2007

Those of you itching for a decision tree...

...should check out the work that's been done at Stray Shopping Carts - apparently there's a book, too. When I was a young, cynical LDS missionary on the hardscrabble streets of LA, I would often see black plastic bags floating along the ground or in the air, or fluttering helplessly in a tree, and I would daydream of having a Nature-channel special that would follow them around, while a British narrator in hushed tones talked about what they were doing. This is in the same spirit.

Also, those of you not subscribed to the Shared Items are missing a good chunk of this blog's content, as highlighting a few items is often all I have time for. Comments on them are always welcome in whatever the current post is here, even if it will seem non sequitor to everyone else. And, lastly, Merry Christmas everyone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oh, the shame

"Did you sing along to 'The Moody Blues Air Supply - Making Love Out of Nothing at All' yesterday on the way to work?"

Oh, I wish you hadn't asked me that. I was totally belting it out.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The most interesting thing I've read in weeks

Fascinating Account of gangs in LA. Wait till you get to the funeral on page 6. My jaw just kept dropping further and further. Well-written and thorough.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

17 5 year olds. I feel decent about that.

post removed. I had accidentally redirected my readers to a site that was forwarding them on to adds instead of the intended content. Sorry, everyone.

Monday, December 10, 2007

As if you care about ...The Golden Compass

Oh yeah, saw the Golden Compass - LOVED IT. Even if religious groups are all up in arms because it was "written by an atheist". Oh No! somebody might get the idea that some religions misuse their power over people! We can't have them thinking THAT!

Movie was good, though. Excellent jet-driven blimps and stuff like that. Enormous plot holes, but lovable ones. See it

4 out of 5 stars

Sunday, December 02, 2007

As if you care about ... Blood Diamond

I've been thinking about doing more reviews of films I watch here, so consider this an experiment in that vein.

Blood Diamond was quite good, much better than I thought it would be when I initially saw it advertised. It was billed then as mostly action flick, and while there was plenty of action, it's really about the conflict it's set in. It joins Hotel Rwanda and Black Hawk Down as eye-opening, dramatic, and interesting films about the plight of Africans and Africa. Maybe Beyond Borders, Tears of the Sun, and The Last King of Scotland are in that category too, but I haven't seen them yet.

DiCaprio does pretty well with a South African accent, and I've always liked Jennifer Connelly (even though her performance is a little flat here). As with everything I've seen him in, though, the real standout here is Djimon Hounsou. He and DiCaprio received Oscar nominations for their roles, and its easy to see why.

Anyway, this one is recommended. Four out of five stars.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Word of the Day: Chiminage

I saw this used in a forum thread and had to look it up. It's totally getting added to 'words to look for reasons to use'.


\Chim"i*nage\, n. [OF. cheminage, fr. chemin way, road.] (Old Law) A toll for passage through a forest. [Obs.] --Cowell.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Guerilla clockmakers!

An underground cell of secret restorationists has struck in Paris:

For a year from September 2005, under the nose of the Panthéon's unsuspecting security officials, a group of intrepid "illegal restorers" set up a secret workshop and lounge in a cavity under the building's famous dome. Under the supervision of group member Jean-Baptiste Viot, a professional clockmaker, they pieced apart and repaired the antique clock that had been left to rust in the building since the 1960s. Only when their clandestine revamp of the elaborate timepiece had been completed did they reveal themselves.

Story Here

Posted without comment


I had an excellent Thanksgiving. Other than sick kiddos, everything about this trip was just as I would have liked it - I got to spend a whole week someplace instead of just a few days, had good food and lots of great family around, got to go to Jiffycon and play some games and meet new people, and generally have an excellent time.

While I was on vacation, I decided to actually start on an idea I've had for a long time. I make lots of random generators, for gaming and just because I like to see how little bits of creativity each contributed atomically can add up to interesting and unexpected results. The idea I'd been nurturing but not starting on was to make a random generator that could come up with new cultural rituals. Societies are filled with ritual, and imagining interesting fictional societies means imagining the rituals that might fill their lives. So I started listing all the occasions on which rituals, ceremonies, or rites are performed in one column, and the substance of the rite in another column. I enlisted the help of one of my sisters and a couple of my nephews, and we ended up with quite a list.

Then last night, I made it: Rituals Generator

warning: not all of the rituals it will generate are 'child-safe'. As with real rituals, sex is sometimes involved.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Secret Language of Motorcyclists

d-pulse, knowing of my interest in all things of hidden meaning, sent along a link to this guide to motorcycle waves.

He also mentioned he's doing a post on this for some "other blog" he works on; link will be posted here or in the comments when there's more.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Daring Dean and the Devious Devilfish!

Having lots of fun making a random generator for Pulp Novel Titles. Making it sometimes-alliterative is good fun.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Dogs in the Vineyard

Tonight some friends and I (hi Davey!) are going to play Dogs in the Vineyard, a roleplaying game where the players are supernatural gunfighter/priests in an old-west religious utopia. That idea, by itself, is lots of fun. But there's more to why we're playing this particular game tonight. Dogs is a different kind of roleplaying game.

I grew up playing D&D (still do, actually), which is the granddaddy of RPGs. The basic idea behind D&D is that you're some kind of fantasy hero (a warrior, priest, thief, wizard, etc) and you fight monsters, kill them, and take their stuff. Which can be amazing fun. When you want to do something, say, climb up a cliff to get at the goblin who's trying to stick arrows in you, you (a player) tell your Game Master (the guy who controls everyone but the heroes) "Hey, I want to climb up that cliff and fight that goblin!". So, you roll a polyhedral die to see if you make it up the cliff, another when you want to see whether you or the goblin gets to hit first, another when you want to see if you actually hit, and another to see how damaging your blow was to the goblin archer. If you didn't kill him, you'll do most of that again on your turn after the goblin fights back. I don't mean to make it sound tedious (though at times it can be) but there's a lot of dice-rolling, and your hero is defined by a whole lot of different stats and skill levels, usually written down on a piece of paper so you can track it all.

Davey & Mark are from the 'World of Darkness' school of roleplaying, which is responsible for Anne Rice-like vampire games and werewolf games and so forth. I've had only passing contact with that rules set, so hopefully I won't misrepresent it too terribly. It's more or less like D&D - every task you have in mind, you roll some dice and determine your degree of success. The way Davey and Mark usually use the system, there's lots of intrigue and the players are usually trying to uncover the twisted plot of the GM. Since Mark and Davey are quite cunning, they usually make devious plots that would require especially shrewd players to uncover them. Trust me, you don't want Mark and Davey planning your possible demise.

So anyway, recently, Davey was talking (well, blogging) about starting a new game and the conundrum of whether to dig deep and make a setting where his players will never do more than scratch the surface, or whether to simplify things and risk them guessing all his evil plans and frustrating them. Then he and Mark came over and we got to talking about different styles of roleplaying, and that I come from a school where it isn't strictly "GM's creativity vs. Player's ingenuity". But it's hard to explain just how a different system works; better to play it.

Dogs in the Vineyard works like this: the players' job is to go to a town in trouble, and figure out how to fix it. They are God's Watchdogs (thus: Dogs) in his Vineyard - the kingdom of God on earth - which looks a lot like Antebellum Utah. Their mandate is to judge what is & isn't sin, and put it right. The GM's job is to create a town where there's some problem somewhere along the pride-injustice-sin-corrupt worship-false priesthood-hatred scale. In fact, the process for creating the towns and their problems is straight out of Mormon theology: somebody has pride about something, it leads to them sinning, they justify the sin which leads to corrupt worship, and so on. What's different about a GM's role in DitV is that you're not supposed to have any particular solution in mind. Whereas, in D&D or World of Darkness, the GM might make an intricate plot and lead the players from scene to scene, culminating in a grand finale he's known about for months, instead my job as GM tonight is to make the situation which is pregnant with conflict, play the parts of the townsfolk who all want the Dogs to do different things, and then escalate the conflicts they find themselves in. It's entirely up to the players who is right and who is wrong; they're judges and that's their job.

Also, the way the game uses dice is really nifty. But it's best explained in play. So while my go-to game is still D&D, I'll run Dogs in the Vineyard for any of you, any time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Secret Language of Cars, part III

The fox-emblem has been photographed, and the meaning found.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

So, if you're already watching NBC's "Chuck", you've already noticed Yvonne Strahovski, who plays Sarah Walker, a CIA agent sent to make sure Chuck stays out of trouble. But she's new in the US, and doesn't (or didn't) seem to have any fansites devoted to her yet. So when lykaon and the technonaut saw the need, a plot was hatched and was born.

We here at "As if you care" wish all the best. May it soon become the premiere site for Yvonne Strahovski fans.

And I didn't say "Mouthbreather Constituency" even once!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Calling all Templar Fans

Via National Geographic:

This week officials announced that the Vatican will publish classified manuscripts about the mysterious Christian knights that have been kept under wraps for nearly 700 years.

The Holy See will publish 799 copies of the book-length document in leather-bound reproductions so faithful that they will even show stains left on the historic parchment.

The knights were a Christian military order created in 1119 to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. They were believed to have amassed great wealth and influence during the Crusades and have often been depicted as keepers of the Holy Grail.

The new publication won't reveal any relics' whereabouts, however. The document describes the knights' trial in the 1300s for heresy—including charges of idol worship and homosexuality—as well as their eventual absolution by Pope Clement V.

I was a Templar fan from the first time I read Foucault's Pendulum 13 years ago and my mom recommended Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Which is why I never saw or read The Da Vinci Code - I've always snobbishly looked down my nose at the 'new Templar fans' who only learned about this stuff from a book I haven't read but have prejudged. And I will continue to do so, stubbornly; snobbishly. But I do hope the new manuscripts have some juicy new info in them for us all, old fans and new, to check out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Shadow of Yesterday

My friend Clinton R. Nixon, who has written several RPGs, has put together a comprehensive wiki version of The Shadow of Yesterday. It's a great game, and he's released it all with the Creative Commons license, so people are pretty free to do what they want with it. I've seen adaptations of it to play Aztec-themed games, Civil War superheroes, even Watership Down. But there's a lot of great ideas in the 'canonical' setting, too. So if you're a gamer, or just need something interesting to keep you occupied, go poke around.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I love wikipedia: Hoist by his own Petard edition

I love wikipedia, for so many reasons. I have, in my Firefox browser, a direct Wikipedia search box, which sees frequent use. Such was the case when hemisphire recently accused me of being "Hoist by my own Petard." Not only had I never heard the phrase (except in passing in Hamlet, apparently), but I had no idea what was being talked about. Awesome. Never will I watch The Two Towers again without thinking about petards during the orc torchrunner part at Helm's Deep.

I didn't experience the full-on xkcd-wikipedia effect, but I did end up on the Fougasse page, where I learned there was a British Petroleum Warfare Department in WWII, and read an interesting account of early anti-personnel fougasse usage in the Crimean war.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Another What if: Education

Today at lunch, Lykaon was saying he wished he could go back and get another degree in Psychology to help understand people, their motivations, and their relationships.

This has spurred quite a lively conversation, so here's my challenge to you:
From the degree programs, certificates, and other academic accreditations available at whatever college you spent the most time at, which one (besides the one you ended up with, if you did) would you find most interesting to pursue? For the sake of the hypothetical, we'll just assume you have time for the coursework, satisfy the prerequisites, and that paying for it isn't an issue. I also want to know, out of the same list of programs, which you would like _least_ to work towards -either because you feel it is useless, or too hard, or whatever.

Perusing GMU's list, I can say right off that the LEAST interesting to me is Jazz Studies - I think that's ridiculous, but the reasons will have to wait for another day. Most interesting would be either the minor in Folklore, the Master of Science in Information Security and Assurance, or a BA in History.

Gimme yours!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Hobos, Angels, and Klingons

I recently came across a story about the Dance Notation Bureau that talked about the near-death and resurgence of "Labanotation", a written system for annotating dance allegedly accurate down to the eyeball-blink.

Then, the other day, Davey, in one of his various efforts to make sure I go insane or at least don't get as much work done as I might otherwise, sent a link along about the Voynich Manuscript which has yet to be translated, if in fact any translation exists.

It has me thinking about all the different ways we humans use writing, and all of its various forms. How very many of them that were once used are now exceedingly rare or entirely forgotten. On the one hand, it seems a great pity to have lost so much knowledge that was part of humanity's development; on the other, as languages die and are folded into each other, more people are able to communicate, and that can't be all bad. Taken to its natural extreme, we would expect that, given enough time and globalization, everyone will speak the same tongue.

Then there is the idea that all of language springs from some (lost) original, single language, termed Adamic[link] by some, Enochian[link]
by others, and probably known by myriad other names. Those of you who have read Genesis will remember the story of the Tower of Babel, and of the confounding of tongues [link] as punishment for attempting to reach heaven by mere architecture. It's not the only account of a perfect, original language being lost. Some time ago now, I started but never finished The Search for the Perfect Language, by Umberto Eco (Amazon is kind enough to tell me I bought it in May, 2004). From the back copy: "The idea that there once existed a language which perfectly and unambiguously expressed the essence of all possible things and concepts has occupied the minds of philosophers, theologians, mystics, and others for at least two millennia. This is an investigation into the history of that idea and of its profound influence on European thought, culture, and history." I wish I'd read it all, but (and I say this as a fan) Eco's not all that easy to read. Maybe I'll put it back in the queue.

But, for now, we're losing languages and methods of notation. And, reason would argue, it's bound to happen. That linguistics and systems of writing or notation should follow 'the survival of the fittest' comes as no surprise. Probably we would be correct if we said that any such system or language passed out of use because it was no longer needed by those who knew it, or because they themselves failed to pass it on.

Still, part of me pines to know all such things. I doubt I could even come to know the full list of disappeared or little-used systems of writing, much less actually learn any of them.

Here are a few, in broad strokes:

And so forth. Totally useless to my modern life - all of them. And yet... I mean, if I could mark my street with hobo signs saying this wasn't a good place to stop, that'd keep the hobos away, right? Or, if I could read alchemical symbols, I could, uh, make something? If I spoke Navajo, I could be a WWII Codetalker? See, there's no reason to want to know any of it. But that doesn't stop me.

So here's a point to ponder: let's say you woke up tomorrow as a perfect example of Xenoglossia; you can now speak or read/write (but not both speak and write) any language or notational system, living or dead, that is currently known by no more than 100,000 people. Which do you choose, and why?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

birthday addendum 1

Dan has drawn a fishy for me.

Flattered, Honored, Speechless.

A glance at my Shared Items this morning will show what wonderful friends and family I have. Thanks to Maren for organizing and thanks to all who participated - I'm touched.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Secret Language of Cars

Rob Donoghue has just posted about the Secret Language of Cars, too. (here's me on the same topic, in case you missed it)

Rob adds the following symbols to the lexicon:

Go Play
Diver Down
Watch my Car
(Crime Prevention)

And poses questions about these two:

Anyone know what those mean?

Addendum: Davey figured out the one with the arrows.

Decision Tree: Prank, Ruse, or Tomfoolery?

Read all about it over on lowercase numbers

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Stephen Fry: Comedian, Genius, Gadgethound?

Stephen Fry (yes, that Stephen Fry) now has a gadget blog? Well, maybe it won't be gadgets all the time, but wow, I would not have expected a Stephen Fry blog to be a big old iphone missive! If you've never watched "A Bit of Fry & Laurie" and only know Hugh Laurie as 'Dr. House' then you're in for a comedic treat!

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Playing with what's available from, so I added a little playlist on the sidebar for you to play some of the songs I've been listening to lately. It said it would only play 30 second previews, but it seems to be playing the whole songs, for me at least.

It'll get updated from time to time, but not with any kind of regularity. Let me know if it plays the whole songs for you, and any thoughts you care to share about the feature or the music.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

Kerry was feeling mean, so he sent me to the wikipedia page explaining the gramatically correct sentence "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo". I had to read it until I understood it, and sounded like an insane man while explaining it to another coworker, as we both said Buffalo far more times than a reasonable person should in a year. "Indeed, for any n ≥ 1, the sentence 'buffalo' is grammatically correct," so we could still be saying it and our sentence would still be describing the brusque nature of upstate New York bison to each other.

Plane of Knowledge: Know your Antediluvian Patriarchs!

So, this came up in conversation today. I don't expect everyone to get all of these, they're pretty hard to remember. But I expect everyone to get a few of them. I'm giving you Adam and Noah, you fill in the rest as best you can. If you're really feeling like a cheater, this is Genesis 5, KJV.

3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name (2)________:
4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten (2)________ were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:
5 And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.
6 And (2)________ lived an hundred and five years, and begat (3)________:
7 And (2)________ lived after he begat (3)________ eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters:
8 And all the days of (2)________ were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died.
9 And (3)________ lived ninety years, and begat (4)________:
10 And (3)________ lived after he begat (4)________ eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters:
11 And all the days of (3)________ were nine hundred and five years: and he died.
12 And (4)________ lived seventy years, and begat (5)________:
13 And (4)________ lived after he begat (5)________ eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters:
14 And all the days of (4)________ were nine hundred and ten years: and he died.
15 And (5)________ lived sixty and five years, and begat (6)________:
16 And (5)________ lived after he begat (6)________ eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters:
17 And all the days of (5)________ were eight hundred and ninety and five years: and he died.
18 And (6)________ lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat (7)________:
19 And (6)________ lived after he begat (7)________ eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
20 And all the days of (6)________ were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died.
21 And (7)________ lived sixty and five years, and begat (8)________:
22 And (7)________ walked with God after he begat (8)________ three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
23 And all the days of (7)________ were three hundred sixty and five years:
24 And (7)________ walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
25 And (8)________ lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat (9)________:
26 And (8)________ lived after he begat (9)________ seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:
27 And all the days of (8)________ were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.
28 And (9)________ lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son:
29 And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.
30 And (9)________ lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters:
31 And all the days of (9)________ were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died.
32 And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat (10)________, (11)________, and (12)________.

Best of luck.

Google Book Search 'My Library' so far falls short

So, I saw the items I Shared about Google Book Search now allowing a 'My Library' feature, with the potential promise of letting me put up a collection of books and allowing me to search them. If true, that would be huge - put all my church books up and let google pull out the bits I need for a talk, or build a whole ideal research library and go wild looking up text within. Sadly, that's not the case. I figured a way for Librarything to give me all my ISBNs, which I then imported into Google reader - about 1/3 were rejected for unknown reasons.

The rest are here, in 'My Library'. Kinda cool, but nothing Librarything doesn't already do. One thing you'll notice is that nearly all of the books have 'No Preview Available', which means their text isn't searchable on Google Book Search. A few have 'Limited Preview', which is just as useless.

So, for now at least, the 'My Library' function isn't all that useful.

Wherein you discover that I'm a chip off the old block...

My dad has posted two excellent decision trees: Moisture on the Earth and Moisture in the Air. Mystery remains where I get my logical nature...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Secret Language of Cars

I have a fascination with symbols and cryptolects that manifests itself in derivative interests in Heraldry, Vexillology, Labanotation, Hobo Signs, and other related fields where graphic design and linguistics combine. I suppose the umbrella term Semiotics is probably best. I don't have any formal training - its just one of those things I like to notice in the world around me and think about. So, when I see a symbol conveyed, I want to know what it means, why its there, and how it was selected. For the longest time several years ago, I didn't know what this meant when I saw it on other people's cars:

Now I know that its the symbol of the Human Rights Campaign, which is "working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality." So, it doesn't mean the person driving the car is any of those things, but if your noticeably effeminate male colleague has such a sticker on his car, I'd call that confirmation. Ok, case solved. But then I started seeing this one:

No idea what it meant. Months ago, maybe more than a year now, somebody was talking about stickers on an internet forum I read and they said this one allegedly meant a preference for BDSM (if you don't know what that means, just let me say its best not to look it up at work), and that it was to help people in that subculture identify eachother. Yikes! So for months and months scenes like the following would occur: I'd be in a parking lot, and notice a middle-aged woman with her kids loading groceries into her car, and see the sticker. "Really!? Her?!" I'd think. Or I'd be driving, and some random old guy would pass me and I'd see the sticker - "WOW, that's just... weird!" Or maybe worse, some reasonably attractive young woman would have the sticker on her car and I'm left thinking - "Kinky!" It's all very funny in retrospect, but I really had nothing else to go on but one internet poster's suppositions.

So finally I started seeing variations on it - one was a bow shape like you see yellow ribbons, only with the black and blue, and it said "Heroes live forever" in it - that didn't seem to fit the former profile. In the course of this research, I found a few news stories about its impact and use, and they led me back to the wikipedia article on The Thin Blue Line. Go read it, I'll wait.


So, thank goodness all those people I was seeing were cops or family of cops, and not the other thing, or at least not advertising the other thing. It's pretty weird that a symbol that is so simple has loads of sites selling stickers that seem to require you to prove that you're law enforcement. Of course the police that were interviewed for news stories say it has no effect - what do you expect anyone to say? I was talking with my friend Rob about it last night and he thinks its totally corrupt - I think it's an acceptable level of nepotism. What do you think?

There are other secret car stickers - there's one I still haven't figured out or found a picture of on the internet. It's a green-ish square with what looks like a foxhunting cap and some kind of fox depiction. I don't know if I've ever seen it outside VA, and I couldn't find any reference to it in any of the Virginia fox-hunting pages I trawled. I could be totally wrong about what it depicts - I wish I had a picture but you'll just have to keep your eyes open for it.

I'm not talking about little three-letter black on white ovals that mock the country codes of Europe, and I don't even think the Ichthys and its Darwin/FSM/Cthulhu parodies count. But I'm sure there are some more.

What other secret signs have you seen on cars?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


As many of you may have heard, Michelle has landed a job opportunity that will take us to the North of England for about 2-3 years starting around June 2008. We're very excited and more than a little nervous, as I begin to look for jobs I can do there, and as we realize the enormity of preparations needed for such a move. But it's lots of fun to think about too, and we have lots of time left to prepare.


Friday, August 31, 2007

Shelob moves to Texas

Monster Webs Invade Texas! (BBC)

Super-freaky, if you ask me.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Useful Mutants, Bred With Radiation - New York Times

This is one of those issues where I feel like the dividing line of opinion is between educated, rational people, and reactionary fools. It's an article about plants, and using radiation to speed up the rate of mutations such that breeders can come up with new, useful lines during a single lifetime. The problem is, you say the word "radiation" or "irradiated" or "mutant" and people flip out.

Useful Mutants, Bred With Radiation - New York Times

What do you think? Is this controversial to you?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Off-topic, but too great not to post

Uhh... the Iraq!

Post your thoughts. Coherent or incoherent; your choice for this one.

Monday, August 27, 2007

What is this Fruit-Flavored Beverage?

* For statistics on whether you actually call this "soda" or not, plot your place of origin on this map:

The Bear Grylls Living Animal Tastiness Scale

--- As Good as I've Ever Had! (cooked python, Australia)
--- Actually Quite Tasty (raw fish, the Alps)
--- Not Half Bad
--- Right Now Even This Tastes Good
--- Sadly I Need the Protein
--- Like cheese that's been left out for weeks (Scorpion, Mexico?)
--- Like a Mouth Full of Puss (grubs from rotting sago palm, Equador)
--- Maybe Even Worse than it Looks

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What is this Lighter-than-air vehicle, part 2

Couldn't find a shot of it in the air I liked, but here's the ship from Stardust (which I haven't seen yet but probably will soon). But since we've just had a decision tree on this, I thought I'd invite you to tell me what terms you think are OK to use on the vessel in question.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The David Attenborough Milk Quality Scale

--- Smashing! (Chocolate milk with Hersheys syrup)
--- Jolly Good (Whole milk)
--- Quite Lovely (2%)
--- Good (1%)
--- Adequate (Skim Milk)
--- Palatable (warm Goats milk)
--- Poor (Yak milk)
--- Dreadful (3 days past sell-by date)
--- Wretchedly Poor! (Panda milk - see Planet Earth, Mountains episode)
--- Foul! (Milk of Magnesia)
--- Bloody Hell! (Homemade 'yogurt' my kids make by hiding half-full sippy cups)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Decision Tree: Lighter than Air Vehicles

First, a word about how my decision trees work. They reflect how I use these words, and that's not always the same as the way dictionaries define them. Often a dictionary will say two words mean the same thing - if I've made a distinction, I'm not disagreeing with the dictionary, I'm just saying that's how I've decided to use the words in question. Language being a living thing and all of that. I mention this because whenever I do one of these, someone (usually my very clever mother) will comment about how I'm incorrect. Please feel free to post about things I ought to've included or how your personal decision tree would be a little different, but understand I'm not trying to map English usage, I'm only mapping my own twisted subdialect of it. End Public Service Announcement.

On with the tree:

So, yes, I know every piece of available information says that a Dirigible is any steerable lighter-than-air vehicle and that it's identical with Airship, but I'll only ever apply the term to Zeppelins and Blimps, never to those damnable thermal airships.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Google Business Referral Representative FAQ

Holy Crap! No time to blog at the moment but I just saw this and think that's about the most interesting idea I've seen in weeks:

Google Business Referral Representative FAQ

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Neat idea, Dumbass execution.

Amusing incompetence in the harbor at Red Hook:

"The man, Duke Riley, a heavily tattooed Brooklyn artist whose waterborne performance projects around New York have frequently landed him in trouble with the authorities, spent the last five months building the vessel as a rough replica of what is believed to have been America’s first submarine, an oak sphere called the Turtle, said to have seen action in New York Harbor during the Revolutionary War.
Mr. Riley, who emerged from his rusty hatch without the tall-boy can of beer he had taken into his vessel when it launched about 9:15, managed to make it to within about 200 feet of the bow of the ship, at a time when officials say harbor security is a critical factor in guarding against terrorism. From a nearby pier, several of his friends and his art dealers shouted congratulations through a chain-link fence.
On Thursday evening, he and the two friends, Jesse Bushnell and Mike Cushing, scrambled around in the murky Red Hook water — avoiding the occasional condom or dead rat — to make sure that the sub, called the Acorn, was seaworthy and would submerge. (It never did so completely.) They had loaded several thousand pounds of lead into the bottom and were adding rocks to further lower the moss-coated vessel, which resembled something out of Jules Verne by way of Huck Finn, manned by cast members from “Jackass.”

“We start arguing with each other and saying, ‘Hey, you’re doing that wrong,’ ” said Mr. Bushnell, who owns a bicycle shop in Providence, R.I. “And then we realize there is no right way to do this.” He added grumpily, “I’ve basically been wading around in this water for three days in my underwear.”
“I’m not really a very technical kind of guy,” he said, sitting shirtless on the pier Thursday with various green things still clinging to his arms from the water. “I just guessed a lot on this.” Asked how he planned to get back to shore after the tide carried him out to the cruise ship, he grinned. “I haven’t really thought about that yet,” he said."

Full Story at: An Artist and His Sub Surrender in Brooklyn - New York Times

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ira Glass for President 2008

I love This American Life. I want Ira Glass to run for president.

Here he is, talking about storytelling:

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

New Feature: Shared Items

Those of you who read this blog on the page (as opposed to in a reader) will notice a new feature on the sidebar, right beneath my Recently Played items, "Shared Items". These will be things that I've seen in Google Reader that I've decided are noteworthy or interesting - check'm out.

Addendum: for those of you who are reading in a reader, you can go to Foucalt's Shared Items and subscribe there.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Decision Tree: Sweet Coverings

Been a little while since we did one of these:

80s lyrics mania

Disco Mom has issued a challenge. I know most of you here read there too, but I though I'd mention it, as I'm currently in the lead and I know you people won't let THAT stand. I'll be looking for your scores in the comments there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Case of the disappearing books

I'm loosing books. Good books. Maybe only good books; it's a little difficult to tell.

I started to notice this when we were leaving for vacation and Michelle needed a good book to read. "Oh, I'll find you something," I said.

"Hmmm.... that's odd... Salt: A World History doesn't seem to be on the shelves..."

"No matter, let me dig out Neuromancer..."



"I... must have lent it out?"

Then, just now, I was checking out 'In Very Deed, where cousin-in-law Katy makes an off the cuff Confederacy of Dunces comment. Now, there aren't that many of us running around the internet, so when a fellow CoD fan throws that out there, its the responsibility of the rest of us to respond. Only, suddenly I couldn't remember Ignatius' last name! So I went for my trusty copy, but couldn't find it! Now, I might lend you Salt or Neuromancer, but I'm unlikely to suggest Confederacy of Dunces unless I know you pretty well; its just not a 'hey-you-might-try-this-one' kinda book. So now I'm convinced the book gnomes are making off with the good books.

If I've lent you a good book, please give it back to me. The library is shrinking.

(Epilogue: I did eventually find Confederacy. It was hiding behind Snow Crash)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Have you ever been in a Filipino prison, Timmy?

Ever wondered what it would be like to see a few hundred prisoners re-enacting the "Thriller" video?

Wonder no longer.

[via DaddyTypes]

Friday, July 13, 2007

Christian Metal Band or Star Trek Episode?

Christian Metal Band or Star Trek Episode? It's pretty tough, actually. I will admit I'm not much of a fan of either one - I got a 6/12, average for all guesses. Post your scores, readership!

[via Kevin Allen, Jr.]

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dire Badgers in Iraq!

Holy crap! There's vicious giant badgers running around Basra attacking people! Of course, locals are sure its an insidious plot by the British to sow fear and mayhem, but the British army says "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area".

Ups to [The Technonaut], who casually said to me "So, did you hear about the badgers?"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Enoch!

Welcome to 2.

Oregon is Pretty

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mysteries revealed

Here's what Davey looks like. I swear he hasn't aged a day since 1995.

Well, maybe thats not entirely true. Maybe when "Friend Jeff" gets back from Italia he can send me a copy of the recent pic of Davey and I (with Davey's ninja bodyguard, Mark) at IHOP a while back.

edit: I realized Jeff had already webified it someplace, so here it is:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cardboard Forts

When I was little, my cousins and I would take over my grandparents' garage each summer and build a giant cardboard spaceship. They would collect fridge boxes and other large cardboard boxes throughout the year, and we would put them all together into a maze and make control panels out of broken electronic equipment and styrofoam. Then, when it was time to blast off, we would each get in our respective quarters (also our battlestations) and my grandparents would beat on the ship with brooms and make whooshing sounds for takeoff. Seriously quality memories.

I was reminded of all that by a post over on Geekdad which mentions Mr. McGroovy's Box Rivets. OH MAN that stuff looks fun. I am totally ready to start collecting boxes and turn my living room into a castle. I can foresee me wanting to keep it there WAY longer than the rest of the Family Steering Committee, though - maybe we'll have to work up to it with a Princess Carriage or something...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Describe Davey for me

All around here at the office, its Davey this and Davey that. So, for those of you who've never met Davey but are reading his nascent blog, I'd like for you to describe your mental picture of him.

For my amusement.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Focus your hate on Davey

Musicovery is amazing.

Via Davey, via Stephanie.

edit: ganked pic from The Technonaut as punishment for posting it there, too.

Sneaking up on toast

My daughter and I invented a new game. Now, whenever we make toast, her job is to listen for it to be done. Then, we act as sneaky as possible and tiptoe into the kitchen to sneak up on it before retrieving it and sneaking back to the table. Now every night she wants to know "Can we make toast and sneak up on it?" The best part for me is the conspiratorial look of excitement on her face. Plus, she likes to 'put on her listening ears' (she must have learned that at day care) and be very quiet waiting to hear it spring up.

Invented any good games with kids lately? Lets hear about them!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Feel the Love

My friends (for I dare to call you friends!) over at the Durham 3 Podcast do me great honor during the Camp Nerdly recap episode (at about 2:30 in). To the point of some embarrassment. Thanks fellas - that means a lot; Nerdly was/is the triumph that it was/is due as much to each of you as anything I did.

Long live the Durham 3.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Nautilus-inspired Office

I'd love to have a workspace like this Game Studio's Steampunk Office Suite. Apparently it was all done with painted plywood and a robot wood-router, and was cheaper to do than most office furnishings. Gorgeous.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Have at You!

Also, Davey, in case you missed it deep within the comments of the TV Pilot Meme post, you've been called out by Disco Mom:

"I vote that Davey starts his own blog!"

So, y'know, one more way me and mine are trying to keep you nonproductive.


I like books. My mom used to take me to used bookstores, where we would trade in a whole laundry basket of dad's used sci-fi & fantasy books and I could spend the credit. When I was having a rough year at BYU and things weren't going well, one of the places I took solace was a used bookstore there. The smell of old books, the stacks of volumes not as neatly arrayed as Barnes & Noble or Borders, the joy of discovering a secret backroom and some great old book about Freemasons or something - these are what I love about used bookstores. I like new bookstores, too. I like that you can (in the right section, anyway) pull a random volume off the shelf, sit down and start learning about something new. I've always felt you could learn a lot about people by looking at their bookshelves, and have occasionally been guilty of 'bookshelf cultivation'.

There's a couple of ways to catalog/cultivate your book collections online. For a while, I tried reader2, but the interface is weird & nonintuitive, and it wasn't doing it for me. It's been around for years, but I finally got around to trying LibraryThing last night and so far I like it much better. I added a little widget over on the right that'll show a few random book covers from my library. Obviously, I've only cataloged/tagged a small portion of my books (mostly those I can see on my work bookshelf), but its the kind of information organization that appeals to me, so there'll probably be some more additions, at least until I hit the 100-book free limit. Its the kind of thing I might even dish out the $25 lifetime fee for, in part to support small-business web development and in part because its useful to me.

I'd like to hear from some of you about your bookshelves, favorite bookstore experiences, and other bibliophilic errata.

edit: Also, I know there's tons more of these 'put your books on the web' things, like Shelfari and others. Anyone have any experience with those? like them? think I should use them instead of LibraryThing?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Profit Calculator -- New York Magazine

The Profit Calculator is an interesting analysis of how a variety of professions & businesses work in the Big City. I hope it doesn't convince too many people to give up their jobs for the 15 hour work week & $800,000 salary of a meth dealer, though.

(via The Technonaut)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stories from 2012

I just started watching some of the videos from The New Yorker Conference 2007. They got together lots of smart people and asked them how different things might be in 2012 - It'll make you feel smart to listen to.

Friday, June 01, 2007

meme: Random TV Show Pilot

Ok, so mine's below, and I'm counting on Davey and those of you without blogs to do this in comments here, but those of you who have blogopresence do this in your own space & link to this post. Here are the rules:

1) Go to the tvtropes Story Generator and get your random elements. Copy these into your blog post (or comments). If you get a totally sucky set, you can refresh and get another one, but try to do it with whatever you get the first time.

2) Write an outline for the pilot of a TV show using as many of the elements as possible. Post it on your blog or here. If you do this on your own blog, please post a link to it in comments here so we can all enjoy it. Try not to get fired from work for nonproductivity.

3) Go!

Edit: This meme will take more time than you anticipate; it is not for the weak. Bonus points if you cast your main roles.

The Violent Glaswegian next door

In comments on the xkcd post, amid accusations I am ruining his life/costing him his job, Davey reminded me of an excellent site: tvtropes.

In particular, I'm a sucker for random generators (whence my work with Abulafia), and tvtropes does not disappoint. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you tvtropes' Story Generator, which will most amusingly outline an episode of an imaginary TV show for you. The result I just got was:
Setting: Cyberspace
Plot: Jumping Off The Slippery Slope
Mandatory Narrative Device: Cursed With Awesome
Hero: Genius Bruiser
Villain: The Libby

Mandatory Character As Device: Violent Glaswegian
Mandatory Trope 1: Dressing As The Enemy
Mandatory Trope 2: Acceptable Targets
(Optional) Stock Phrase: I Heard You Were The Best
(Optional) Genre: Science Show

Which is totally a show I would watch!You had me at Genius Bruiser vs. The Libby, but throw in a Violent Glaswegian and set it in cyberspace and I'm there! It's going to be all Mean Girls meets the Matrix meets Macbeth! Heathers meets Hackers meets Highlander! Here's my quick plot outline based on the above:

Beat 1: Our hero, Gordon [genius bruiser], is big, strong, and a talented hacker, but not good looking. He hosts a [science show] (within a show) on public access tv/Youtube [cyberspace] where the format is lessons in computer security punctuated by backyard Mexican-style wrestling matches between Gordon and his crew (show name: Linux Lucha Libre!). Megan McFadden, the morbid red-haired goth chick recently moved next door from Scotland [violent glaswegian], watches the wrestling from her window; develops crush on Gordon. Gordon's sister Julie [the libby] also has an ongoing video podcast series entitled "Jules & the Gang" and its her and her popular friends dishing gossip and being catty about the losers at their school, which to Julie definitely includes Gordon & his loser friends [acceptable targets]. Their show is wildly popular, all the wannabees at school watch Jules & the Gang hoping to be favorably mentioned or looking for who to pick on. Everybody loves and hates Jules & the Gang. Until one of the nerdy kids they've been ripping apart on the show kills himself [jumping off the slippery slope]. That's all just setup, the first 15 minutes of our hour-long pilot.

Beat 2: The first day of school. Megan decides the only way to stop Julie and get with Gordon is to infiltrate Jules & the Gang, and so hides away the leather & eyeshadow in favor of cool kid clothes [dressing as the enemy]. She hates them all with a violent Scottish passion, but it turns out she's actually really good at being popular even though she's all conflicted about it [cursed with awesome]. Meanwhile she and Gordon start to flirt a little. Climax of this beat comes when Jules & the Gang make fun of Gordon and Megan has to join in or risk the whole operation. She does - Gordon is devestated.

Beat 3: Megan's plan hits stage 2 - she's going to sabotage the Jules & the Gang videocast, inserting scenes of (gasp!) Jules and the other girls without makeup, or showing them as the insecure girls they really are (she's been sneaking footage of them with this weeks product placement - a small videocamera). But in order to make that happen, she has to get Gordon's help computerwise ['I heard you were the best']. Gordon and her get together, sabotage videocast. Day after the new Jules & the Gang hits the web, Julie and the other girls come to school furious and looking for a fight. Megan, now back in her goth garb, gets into a catfight with several of the Gang in a hallway, kicks ass, pulls hair, claws faces, shouts awesome Scottishisms at them. All looks resolved, except for the teaser for next week where we see Julie plotting sweet revenge.

That's my random show - thank you tvtropes and thank you Davey - you've had your revenge while I thought about all this instead of work.

Edit: Now with casting!
*Gordon: I'm thinking Jesse Plemons of Friday Night Lights fame might be sufficiently big but nerdy.
*Julie: Emilie de Ravin (sans Aussie Accent as in 'Brick') or even Heroes' Hayden Panettiere would be good.
*Megan: This one's tricky, but maybe with proper dialect training, Bonnie Wright (whom you know as Ginny Weasley from the Harry Potter films) might do the trick.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

You're __________!

We (re-)invented a terrible game here at work. It's straight out of third grade:

Whenever somebody says something, evaluate whether it would be amusing to take the last word or several words of their sentence and say them back in an accusatory way.

Josh:"The humidity makes the air feel thick."
Me: "You're THICK!"
Josh:"Seriously, that's getting kind of annoying."
Me: "You're ANNOYING!"

Yes, it's infantile (you're infantile!) and stupid (you're stupid!), but it's also totally fun. Try it today!

Self-Analysis from my Three-Year-Old

From the drive down to our timeshare this last weekend (in the middle of her favorite sea shanty):

"But... I'm a good singer!"

Me: "Yes, baby, you are. Who told you that?"

"I just learned it by myself!"

Friday, May 25, 2007

What 'R' You?

xkcd Rules

So, there's a few good webcomics out there. Actually, there's probably tons and tons and tons. Turns out the internet is B-I-G. But one of my favorites is xkcd, because its all nerd-point-of-view in the best ways.

And one that seems right at home here:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pass the Parsley

This got brought up in comments about the "What's on my Plate" tree, and Maren didn't know what it was. It's time you all knew. Brace yourselves.

First: a little history. In 11th grade Gabe Soll and I were partners on a civil-war era novella for our AmHist class. He did most of the work, I mostly proofread. One of the other groups got a failing grade when it was discovered that they had essentially rewritten the film "The Posse". I digress. Anyway, I borrowed Gabe's copy of Penn & Teller's How to Play with Your Food, and I never gave it back. Gabe, if you're reading, I'm sorry. Also, why are you reading, we haven't spoken in years - I heard from Chuck Moscato that you were a balding lawyer. Call me.

What the rest of you need to know is that the book in question is chock full of fun things to do with comestibles. That's right. Everything from "How to transport David Letterman's Watch into the Belly of a Fish" to "Stabbing a Fork in your Eye" (ask Kari about that one sometime - I did it at the Potomac Mills Food Court and she totally freaked). One of the tamer entries is "The Parsley Game." I quote:

"The parsley game is very simple: when Parsley, that useless biennial bastard nephew of the carrot family, is served on your plate as a garnish, you sneak it onto the plate of one of your dinner partners without being seen by the recipient. It's as easy as that, but, like chess, the possibilities are endless... The first few times you play the game, you'll win, but then your pals will catch on that you're playing and it will get harder... After a while, no one will turn around for anything."

So there you have it. Palm your parsley early, when nobody's thinking about it yet, and be ready at a moment's notice to get it onto the plate of anyone who looks away or goes for a drink refill.