Wednesday, July 31, 2002

More Game Geeking

I'm in the final stages of Silent Hill, which in my case probably means weeks of play yet. But I'm starting to burn out a little on linear RPGs, so I decided to use some of my allowance this payday to buy a platform game. My choice: Jak and Daxter. True to my form, I started without reading any directions. And true to her form, Kelly came creeping downstairs to interrupt my gameplay.

I think there's a rule that she needs to play my characters until they are dead or in dire straits. This time, she was running around until she encountered a spiked pit, then handing me the controller. In this case, I'd just turn around and do something else, and in minutes she was demanding the controller again. Go figger.

One note about Silent Hill: I got stuck once and consulted GameFAQs. In the walkthrough I consulted, they explained that the game had four endings, good+, good, bad+ and bad. In order to get a good+ ending, you have to do certain things right. Unfortunately, they don't all make any sort of sense. I'm shut out of the good+ ending because I failed to collect a puddle of spilled red liquid early in the game! I could go back (having kept a steady stream of saves), but I'm unwilling to play through all the intervening action to get back to where I am. Boy is that irritating. You'd think these people would try to make the game playable and fun. It isn't 'challenging' if the goals are arbitrary. So instead of getting an A+, the game designers will be getting a B- at best...

Fly Me

Criminy, how could I have missed this all these years? TM advocates claim that it's actually possible to levitate once sufficiently advanced in one's meditation. Reading one page on the topic, I noticed that it was not until the bottom of the page that Yogic Flying was explained:

The physical manifestations of the "Yogic Flying" vary with the practitioner. The Yoga Sutras of Mahrishi Patanjali describes three stages of immediately visible results. Stage One is generally associated with what would best be described as "hopping like a frog." Stage Two is flying through the air for a short time. Stage Three is complete mastery of the sky. The above photo and all "Yogic Flying" demonstrations to date depict Stage One results.

[emphasis mine]

Control the Presses, Control the Market

This extremely well-reasoned article covers the ground I already have travelled. The recording industry (not their indentured artists) has the unstated but actual motive of continuing to control the means of distribution. It's not about piracy, but control.

Pirate's Web Site Attacked

That's right, the criminal organization known as 'the RIAA' had it's website subjected to a Denial of Service Attack in response to legislation their puppet Howard Berman introduced which would allow them to attack your computer. Look for more of this just retribution in the future. Serves them right, the crooks!

Monday, July 29, 2002

Frivolous Purchase Horizons

Now I begin the debate. Do I purchase the DVD of Master of the Flying Guillotine when it comes out in September, or be content with having seen it at the Clinton Street Theater with my friends? I'd probably watch it once or twice myself, but the value comes in letting others see it. It's cornball fun, but most people don't have the stomach for old chopsocky flix. Dilemmas, dilemmas...

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Dinosaur Pops

We drove down to Fry's today to buy Kelly a bit of computer software. On the way down, I swear I don't remember why, we began talking about cryogenics. I got my definitions a little garbled, in that I didn't remember that cryonics was the word specifically describing freezing people with the goal of later resuscitation. But the essentials were correct, and I got across the current state of the art and why we don't know if it is possible to resuscitate a frozen person (for legal/ethical reasons, all persons frozen to date have been legally dead already, so even if we thawed them out without 'freezer burn', they would still be dead).

Kelly got the idea and contributed: "It's too bad we didn't freeze the dinosaurs, so now there could be little baby dinosaurs for pets."

"Yes," I added, "it's too bad we didn't have cryonics labs back then. But if we did have dinosaurs for pets, what would we do when they grew up?"

"We'd send them away."

"Send them where? I can see you having a little baby T. Rex gnawing at your thumb, but when it got bigger..."

"I don't know. But wouldn't baby dinosaurs be cute?"

"I guess we could give them to the zoo," I offered, giving Kelly an out. "Uh huh. That's a good idea!"

Capsule Review

Steven Johnson relates, around page 141 of Emergence, his own exposure to bio-feedback training, where he learns that his adrenaline levels hover at the middle range unless he makes a joke, when they spike: "But I'd learned something nonetheless: that without consciously realizing it, I'd already established a simple feedback circuit for myself years ago, when my body had learned that it could give itself a targeted adrenaline rush by making a passing joke in conversion."

Curiously enough, this follows the only joke I've encountered so far, on page 140: "Without that negative feedback pulling our circadian rhythms back into sync, we'd find ourselves sleeping through the day for two weeks out of every month. In other words, without that feedback mechanism, it would be as though the entire human race were permanently trapped in sophomore year of college."

Relax, the rest of the book is much better than that. I've now reached page 162, and I know I'll finish the book. He talks about a lot of stuff I already knew, but I was engrossed by his theory that Clinton's troubles with Monica Lewinsky might never have happened were it not for an attempt to garner affiliates by CNN several years before. I won't go into it, read the book to find out. It's a great anecdote, whether it accurately reflects the causes, and gives a neat illustration of feedback cycles.

Now I've got to go tell some jokes while hooked up to a biofeedback rig...

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Weird Science

Today Jean introduced Kelly to the concept of the 'blind taste test', and thereby to the notion of double-blind testing. We'll make a scientist of her yet.

Here's what happened. A while ago Jean asked me what pop I wanted from the store and I said Pepsi (this was while we were travelling, and the given store had a limited selection, basically Coke and Pepsi). She pursued the issue and I declared that Pepsi was 'okay' and that Coke verily 'sucked'. Of course she called me on this opinion, and I declared that I could tell the difference every time, blindfolded in fact.

So here we are. Jean decided to expand the test (no fair!) to five colas, two flavored, as they were the ones handy in 20 oz. bottles at our local grocery store. The brands in question were:

  • Classic Coke

  • Vanilla Coke

  • Pepsi

  • Pepsi Twist (Lemon flavoring added)

  • Shasta Cola

Note the addition of two fruit-flavored colas, further straying from the original claim I made... Anyway, Jean tested Kelly and I, then I replicated the test method with Jean. The test was to place five identical cups with one ice cube and some beverage onto a table. Each cup was labelled with a letter of the alphabet. The cups were filled by random drawings of slips of paper with the name of the soda, to remove bias. Finally a large tumbler of water was available to 'cleanse the palate' between samples.

We each sat down and ran through the samples, writing down our impressions and eventually ranking each beverage. I'll present the results, then expand with a few more comments:





Shasta Cola

Astringent, but not in a bad way.


Vanilla Coke

Vanilla? Lemon? Some sort of esther.





Classic Coke

Simple, no extra accents.


Pepsi Twist






Pepsi Twist

Smooth with orange, banana, a twist. Had a little

apple. Exquisite!


Vanilla Coke

Orangy and lemon.


Classic Coke

One flavor, like regular Pepsi.



Tastes like Coca Cola.


Shasta Cola

Fizzy, bubbly. Delightful.





Shasta Cola

Most cola-like. No added flavors, richest flavor.


Classic Coke

Flatter, weaker than [Shasta Cola].



Bitter aftertaste.


Pepsi Twist

Funny flavor - lemon? Chemical.


Vanilla Coke

Disgusting like raw cake batter.

As you can see, Jean and I both chose Shasta Cola as Number One. This came as a minor surprise, but as I'd never had it before it wasn't a dismissal of my previous opinions. And I've always said I prefer a fruit cola over either Pepsi or Coke alone, so I claim to be consistent.

One final comment. Kelly needs a lot more training as a lab assistant, as she was constantly making little comments about the flavors while Jean was taking her test. I finally escorted Kelly from the room so that Jean could complete the test without undue influence. But you might want to factor that contamination into the experiment.

Friday, July 26, 2002

Concert Night

Yesterday evening, Mentor sponsored a concert for employees and families, so Jean brought Kelly down. We bought some food from the concession stand (burger for Kelly, veggie burger for me) and sat on a towel listening to the band, The Patrick Lamb Band.

After a while, Kelly got up and danced. She's a natural, and just jumps into the music as if she's one of the entertainers. During a music break she took advantage of the free ice cream! Whoo! I passed on that myself.

This was the first event Mentor had had for awhile, but I still made Kelly leave with me at 7:15, so we'd get home in time for her normal bath time. Next time I hope it's on a Friday, so we can 'close down the joint'.

Wet Fusion Fizzles?

Looks like Wet Fusion is taking more body blows:

Instead of the millions of degrees Celsius that are needed to drive a fusion event, Professor Suslick said the temperature inside the cavitating bubbles was only reaching 15-20,000 Celsius.

To paraphrase John Houseman: "We make energy the old-fashioned way, we buuuurrrrrn it!"

An Apology

In my recent smoking anecdote, I referred to Dave Winer as 'opinionated', which is no crime. So am I. But I also called him a 'hypocritical egotist'. That was truly uncalled for. Looking back at adjacent entries I'm reminded that I'd just returned from Disneyland, and as I noted after a more recent trip, I don't travel well.

But that's no excuse. I definitely disagree with many things that Dave Winer says, and I feel he sometimes contradicts himself, both in words and actions. This more accurately reflects my opinions of him than the inflammatory phrase 'hypocritical egotist'. On the positive side, however much I take exception with some of his positions, I've been reading his words for several years, and have no plans to stop. In fact, I read Scripting News every day. The idea density is always high.

So on balance I have more respect for him than I chose to voice. I'm sorry about that. I reserve the right to make a face or groan, but I'll try not to use negative energy words about him in the future.

Over and Over

Mick Jagger turned 59 today. Is that even legal?

In my first months at college, I had a roommate who was a big Stones fan, and one day we got into a game of 'Stones Chicken'. How it worked was that he put on the album Sticky Fingers (side one, yes it was an LP, vinyl and all, kids). When the side had finished, he declared that he was going to play it again. "Go ahead, I don't care" I replied.

I mean, who could complain? You've got "Brown Sugar", "Wild Horses", "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", and "You Gotta Move" on that side (never much cared for "Sway"). So we listened to it again. Then it ended, the auto-arm lifted from the record, and he walked over to the record-player. With an impish grin and a hand on the tone-arm, he asked "again?" "Sure," I replied.

This went on the whole afternoon. It was a weekend, we had no plans, and in the end I think we listened to that side at least ten times, maybe as much as twelve. So here's to you Mick. Thanks for the memory.


As I was signing checks today for Jean to take to the bank, I noticed the check made out to Kelly from her grandparents. I turned it over to see how Kelly had done endorsing her check. It was kinda scribbly, but there was a big block of scribble clearly crossing out an earlier try. I mentioned it to Jean and she told me that Kelly had originally signed it:

Kelly Pokemon

Thursday, July 25, 2002


Certainly I don't believe in the rapture of the nerds--the idea of a single point at which everything changes and all will be right thereafter.

Charles Stross

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

What Price Fun?

Is a recipe worth $4.16? How about two? What if I throw in a cool tip for preparing food or getting the most out of your kitchen? But wait, there's more!

I took the plunge and subscribed to Cook's Illustrated magazine. It's published six times a year, and at the online subscription price, that works out to $4.16 per issue. I decided that I'd try it for one year, mainly on the strength of their television show, America's Test Kitchen, which I love. Looking at the masthead of the first issue of the magazine, I find most of the staff from the television show, so I think I'm on the right track.

I've only just browsed the first issue. It's only 32 pages long, but there is no advertising, and in addition to the no-nonsense scientific-method style of writing, it contains a boatload of recipes. Two have already caught my eye, and Jean wants to try another, so I guess I have to ask, what price a recipe, what price fun?

You'll be hearing more about this as time goes on. I already know that I'm too lazy to make many of the recipes these guys present. They are, after all, concerned with the Best Recipe, and that sometimes takes a little more effort. So I'm more interested in the shorter recipes which tweak my interest. To see what I mean, Sauce Mayonnaise pays back the minimal effort to learn and make it. It takes about five minutes to throw together, but is a lot of fun when I bother to make it. Returning to the magazine in search of quick gems, the recipe for balsamic vinaigrette looks promising. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Accidental Traveller

Boy do I travel poorly. It's now three days after our return home, and I'm still muddling about. I had a good day at work today, but by now my mind is mud. I made sure to have a healthy, anti-oxidant rich meal for dinner, but I think I need to go to bed early tonight to overcome the deficit. Last night's sleep was alright, but the previous night was sleepless due to heavy sinus congestion.

I shudder to think what it would have been like if I'd had to travel the route Jean's sister and her husband did. They were in Australia for an academic conference, and flew from Australia to Hawaii (the main island). I'm not totally straight on their travel time, but I think it was at least sixteen hours! Gah! You'd have to roll me off the plane straight to the hospital.

On the bright side, I had no horrible stabbing sinus problems on either descent returning home. On the trip to Maui I had them both entering San Francisco and Maui. They weren't as bad as the attack on landing at John Wayne International for the Disneyland trip, but two in a row left me a zombie for the first evening and following day. On the return trip, I did my sinus medicine at just the right time, and worked diligently at equalizing pressure as we descended (both times). As a result, I just got an itching sensation in my sinuses, and as an aftereffect, a 'sprained' ligament in my face. That is, it was feeling sensitive to the touch on my cheek near the mandibular tendons... Whatever that means.

Jean's currently taking an evening exam, so Kelly is waiting (im)patiently for me to play with her, so this diatribe must come to an end. Aren't you glad?

Monday, July 22, 2002

Invest In the Future!

This snippet of a longer essay is taken out of context, but still, I think, fairly reflects some of what the author intends:

It's hard to explain, but you never really own a dog the way you own a child of your own species.

The larger essay is focused on dog 'ownership', spirituality and responsibility, but I caught up short on reading this sentence. I can state in no uncertain terms that I do not own my daughter. True, I owe her allegiance, and society at large holds me responsible for her acts until an arbitrary age of majority. But own her? I hope the author in this case was merely making an unfortunate choice of words.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

Back From Hawaii

Travel sucks. It's late. Maybe I'll write more later. Maybe not. Oh, everyone got back safely.

Friday, July 12, 2002

One More Quote

In the days before the telephone it was impolite to impose yourself on people by visiting them. Instead you would leave a calling card. Expecting people to immediately answer their phones is just as rude.

Bob Frankston

Comment: I never make the phone my first priority. I use an answering machine, turned up high enough so I can hear the caller leaving the message. If I want to talk to them immediately, I go pick up. If it's not urgent and I'm engaged, I call back. If it's a telemarketer stupid enough to leave a message, I delete it. End of story.

Incidentally, I feel the same way about the front door as the telephone. Just 'cause someone knocks, doesn't mean I have to drop everything and answer. Call first, sucker.

Movie Notes

I forgot to mention that I'd seen Minority Report after the last NOVA meeting. I have to disagree with the critics who say that the last half hour was significantly worse, or somehow a Hollywood cop-out. It was very much in tune with much of the film noir ouvre, which this movie draws a lot of its inspiration from.

The Sunday afterward I saw Scooby Doo with Kelly. I have to say that Matthew Lillard was uncannily spot-on for the role of Shaggy. Linda Cardellini was better as Velma than some choices would have been, but not 'spot on'. The Freddy and Daphne roles were just 'cast-a-star' attempts to draw older teens with star power. Scooby animation was adequate. Thanks to the writers for properly thrashing Scrappy.


I was telling Kelly about the Snakehead fish loose in a Maryland pond, and the danger of non-native species overrunning local fauna. She got it right away, but I had no picture handy. Now, here's a link to one.


Wow, two good quotes from one essay! Another from Bruce Sterling's inaugural speech for his Viridian Design Movement, focussed on making an art of reducing greenhouse gases:

Of course, many people claim not to be convinced by this so-called climate change evidence. That is because they are shortsighted sociopathic morons who don't want to lose any money.


ULTIMA is genre-based adventure fantasy, and yet it isn't. It's about selling the experience of being a group of people on a computer network, who are pretending to be a group of people in a simulated fantasy environment. The busywork with the swords and trolls and dragons is really absolutely paper-thin here, it's just one phosphor-dot thick.

Bruce Sterling

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Movie Time!

Yow! They've finally started listing the showtimes for Master of the Flying Guillotine at the Clinton Street Theatre.

For the record, the first week's showtimes look like:

  • Fri., Jul 12: 7:00 PM 9:00 PM 11:00 PM

  • Sat., Jul 13: 7:00 PM 9:00 PM

  • Sun., Jul 14: 2:00 PM 7:00 PM 9:00 PM

  • Mon., Jul 15: 7:00 PM 9:00 PM

  • Tue., Jul 16: 7:00 PM 9:00 PM

  • Wed., Jul 17: 7:00 PM 9:00 PM

  • Thu., Jul 18: 7:00 PM 9:00 PM

I'm trying to set up view times with Tom and Alan by email. This will have to satisfy my 'stupid movie' quotient for awhile, as the Maui trip will overlap the next NOVA meeting. I won't get to another meeting until August! In the words of Mojo Jojo: "Currrrses!".

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Game Geek Redux

I realize this makes me a totally squinty-eyed geekazoid, but I am really enjoying playing Silent Hill. I tend to squeeze in playtime in units of a half-hour to an hour in the evening while Kelly is soaking in the tub.

Since it's an ethereal, atmospheric, creepy game, the pace is usually slow enough that I can hit 'pause' without damaging the ambience. So when those interruptions inevitably happen, it ain't like FFX, where it can be downright painful getting away from the console...

I killed the Lizard!!!

Monday, July 8, 2002

More Social Engineering

Disney keeps rearing it's head. Here's a pointer to an essay on Boing Boing on traffic shaping at the park, another instance of social engineering. We found the 'machine' FastPasses at least more effective than standing in the standby line, though at Pirates of the Carribean it was still a long wait. My 'instant' FastPass, which came with our AAA holiday package, got me onto California Screamin' in about five minutes.

Sunday, July 7, 2002

Disneyland Gallery

Lotsa chores this weekend, not much July 4th news, so... How about a new gallery? This is the combined 'cream' of one disposable camera, one roll of Kodak Royal Gold 400 in my Olympus Stylus Epic (sorry, still don't feel comfortable travelling with the Nikon N80), and one roll of Fuji Velvia 50 slide film (also known as Disneychrome). Can you pick out which is which? I can't!

Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Silent Hill

By the way, I've been playing Silent Hill on my PSOne recently. I've logged near four hours, explored most of the accessible parts of Silent Hill, without discovering the gateway to the next level of storyline, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly. My capsule review would be: I wanna say it's creepy, but that's not enough. Since this is a PG weblog, let's just say it's damned creepy.

I'll post here if--when--I break down and seek hints on how to escape the ghetto I'm in...

Baroque, yet Trailer Park

From the sort of mind that brings you such dishes as Turducken, comes another dish that has remained below my radar until now: Beer Can Chicken. The principle here is that you stuff an open can of beer up a chicken's butt, put it upright onto a barbeque grill, and grill away. The beer in the can boils, evaporates into the chicken, and leaves it moist and tender, even if overcooked.

My first thought on hearing this on the radio this morning was, "so if barbeque smoke is cancerous, what does cooking a bird containing a metal can with various industrial paints and dyes on it do?" Just label me curmudgeonly...

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

While Waiting For the Sandman

My sleep deficit has been paid off. I slept nine hours last night, including a stretch of six uninterrupted hours at the start. I feel so much better than yesterday. I could have gone to sleep any time after getting home from work, and I was yawning seemingly every five seconds. But I put it off until 11pm, fearing a repeat of the previous night's sinus horrors. But all was well...

In the few hours I spent vacillating, I went downstairs and watched the remainder of a Hong Kong movie I'd gotten from the International Channel. It was called Thunder Cops, but the only such movie noted on the Hong Kong Movie Database was an entirely different movie. The International Channel does a very haphazard job of titling, crediting, et cetera.

Thunder Cops is about a cop who is working undercover in a triad, though since he steals, kills people and otherwise breaks the law without apparent connection to his duties, it's hard to say how is is an undercover cop anymore. Oh, and he has a brain tumor. His sister works in a hospital, and was once engaged to his best friend, another cop who has sworn to arrest him, not knowing he is also a cop. It just gets goonier from there. This movie is sort-of trying to join the ranks of 'heroic bloodshed' movies which have abounded in Hong Kong, but it can't really make up it's mind, and just settles for ridiculous visual hyperbole, such as gun battles where the heroes get shot in the kneecap and limp bravely onward toward the bad guy. I honestly don't know why I finished this one. Even I Wanna Be Your Man was more interesting than this one.

Next in my Replay queue is 9413, directed by and starring Francis Ng, who was also in I Wanna Be Your Man. This one at least sounds a little more interesting than the last one. But when you're taking free screenings off a television network, you have to prepare for some 'made-for-tv' quality shows.

Monday, July 1, 2002


Basically the only legal activities in Yellowstone National Park are drinking alcohol and driving a motorized vehicle.

Philip Greenspun

Day of the Dead

Pretty much sleepwalking today. My sinuses went through one of their periodic fussy periods where they block completely and no medication seems to help. This leads to 'sleeping' with mouth open, drying throat, coughing, waking up. Repeat. Last time I looked at the clock it was 2:45am. I doubt I got five hours of sleep. Hope it's not so nasty tonight.