Friday, October 31, 2003

Silly palm PDA Applications:

A few web sites post the myriads of software written for Palm PDA users, often with a short description of each. I can’t imagine why anyone would need or buy some of these apps. In many cases the tedium of trying to keep the application’s data up to date and (thus) useful boggles the mind. Here are a few samples with their short descriptions (often written by people who write better software than English):
- Piggy Bank: Do you know how much in your piggy bank
- Bookmarks: Keep track your bookmarks
- Confident Up Up Up: Built Up confident with your single, tiny achievements...
- Command Manager: Too many commands to remember?
- Task Manager: Track status of every task in your life
- My HouseKeeper: Help your keep track everything in your house
- Where is it: Here it is!
- Problem? Solution: Oh...Problem? Yes...Solution!
- Traffic Fines1.0: This program will help you to keep track all the traffic tickets/fines How much help do I need, for goodness sakes?
And best of all:
- Baby Care: Having baby is not a problem anymore.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Would you rather Hear a book or See it?

Now that pop music has become a visual art, it’s just a matter of time before audio books become video books, with still image montages, background video, and dramatizations of whole scenes. Stay tuned for a mystery novel accompanied by video sequences having nothing to do with the text. The DVD version will have all the “outtakes” including the dreadful first draft.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The Brits are just not quite like us:

This web site: HedgeLine is, according to the BBC, the most important site for victims of high hedges. Have you ever been the victim of a high hedge? If you’re not sure, perhaps you should peruse HedgeLine with care.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Authority without Responsibility:

I once had authority without responsibility. Let me tell you it felt wonderful, and a few days of it made up for years of responsibility without authority. Even better, all that power did not corrupt me absolutely (as far as I know). Here’s how it happened: my manager’s manager came to me and said “I want you to follow Jack around, figure out what he’s supposed to be doing, and make it happen.” “Won’t he notice?” I asked. “No,” she said, “that’s part of the problem.” So I followed Jack around. He was supposed to produce some things to meet a very near deadline. I started giving orders to people to coordinate this work. Whatever I asked for I got, and we met the deadline. But if anything had gone wrong, it would have been all Jack’s fault.

Monday, October 27, 2003

But in any case, call me real soon:

The interesting questions about Amazon’s full text search capability are: (1) How did they keep it secret so well? And, (2) how long will it last? The New York Times has an article about author’s concerns today. Basically, Amazon contracted with publishers to get permission to make this text database. They claim it infringes on no contracts or copyrights, but publishers have myriads of different contracts with their authors. Some stand to benefit from this new capability, others may find that it really hurts their sales. And we can only guess right now how ingenious people may discover how to abuse what Amazon has provided. You can read more about this at: The Authors’ Guild. If there’s something you really want to do with this search capability, I suggest doing it ASAP. It’s going to be fun following this controversial feature.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Call me Ishmael!

On Amazon, you can now search the texts of tons of books. I searched Amazon for the phrase “Call me Ishmael” and got some pleasant surprises among the 183 books found:
- There’s a book called Call me Ishmael by Charles Olson.
- There’s also Call me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals by Shahid Ali Agha.
- Petzold’s book on Programming Windows with C# uses the phrase in a sample program. So do many other programming books.
- For example, another book about programming tells you to: Declare a string object named s containing the string "call me Ishmael."
- Dennett, in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea says on page 110, ". . . delicious writer of fiction, once published a novel that began: "Call me, Ishmael." Oh, what a single comma can do!
- The phrase shows up in the parody Bored of the Rings: “Call me Ishmael," said Gimlet. "Whanne in Aprille," started Legolam. …”
- You wouldn’t expect a book called Creating Short Fiction to quote Moby Dick, but it does.
- The fortieth quote found was the first to tie the name back to Genesis: the Cliffs Notes for Moby Dick.
This is not a great way to actually find Melville’s novel, which was 81st on the search list (the ninth web page I think).
But is Amazon's text search legal? Some thoughts tomorrow.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Dogs and Concepts:

Sometimes I take my dog out the back door, sometimes out the front. After I taught my dog the command “back yard” (and never before that) she sometimes would run to the back door to indicate she preferred to go out that way. Does this imply that I managed to teach my dog to think about the concept “back yard?” I don’t think so. I think my dog initially assumed I was too stupid to understand the difference between the back and front yards. Only when I demonstrated my ability to know the difference, was she willing to discuss it with me. (We’ve had similar experiences with “cross the street” and “upstairs.”)

Thursday, October 23, 2003

The Designated Hitter:

With apologies to those of you who have no interest in baseball, I’m going to solve the designated hitter problem. As those of you who care know, using a designated hitter has the advantage of prolonging the careers of great hitting stars, but the disadvantage of removing much strategy from the game. But we can fix all this! Change the rules to require the designated hitter to bat for a position player, not a pitcher. We get the benefit of prolonging hitters’ careers, and we get lots and lots of strategy. In addition, consider that every team has a terrific fielder in the minors who can’t hit a lick, but whose brilliant fielding is a spectacular crowd-pleaser. Bring those players to the majors and have the DH hit for them! The game of baseball will be more exciting with these star fielders making great defensive plays.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

(I also ordered a cardboard box online):

When I bought some wrapping paper for my friend, I asked the clerk to wrap it in itself. {Steve Wright created his own, rather better wrapping paper joke. To find it, search for ‘gift-wrap’ on this page:(Steve Wright Humor)}

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Big Brother is looking Right Through you:

A guy was stopped at airport security, one of those fancy new scanning machines detected something weaponlike on his person. He insisted he had nothing, agents found nothing patting him down, but the item was right there on the scanner’s screen. Turns out the guy had an operation last March, the surgeon left a tool inside him. “It never felt right,” he said. “I always felt a twinge when I bent over.” Try this link for more details: More Info.

If you tried the link, you know it’s broken. When this story inevitably happens – I don’t think it has happened yet -- I hope to fix the link to point to the real thing. The possibility is real, and so is this link: Forgotten Surgical Tools 'Uncommon but Dangerous'.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Chasing Rainbows:

Now that I’m I telling you they exist, you might occasionally see two unusual kinds of rainbows. The sun can be surrounded by a circular rainbow when it is high in the sky, rather washed out. Be VERY careful not to stare directly at it, your eyes are too precious to ruin with this rare sight. (If you want to know how I looked at it – well I was nineteen and should have been old enough to know better.) Circular rainbows also occur around a full moon high in the sky, almost entirely pale white. When I saw this rainbow, I thought the moon was surrounded by clouds, until I realized how perfectly circular and banded the “clouds” were. The moon rainbow was considerably wider than the moon.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

It's an Alogous:

A simile without a woman is like a tractor without a fish.

Friday, October 17, 2003

A brief quote from the owner of a so-called "genuine" Faux-Suede Couch:

"The world is full of oxymorons and morons."
- Dr. Susan Fisher, October 2003

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Today, a few Twisted Sayings, mostly original:

Nothing Ventured, nothing pained.
Hope springs into eternity. (last 29 July, to be precise)
Don’t let the bastards grind your coffee.
Fact is stranger than the internet.
The grass is always greener on someone else's CRT.
Hell hath no fury like a troller flamed.
Waste not, want another closet.
A stitch in time would come loose, there’s nothing to attach it to.
If you see five troubles coming down the road toward you, chances are there are another seventeen you haven’t even noticed yet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

How Old is That Web Page?

I’ll bet there’ve been times when you needed to know if a web page is up to date. There are many accessible “dead corpse” web pages on the Internet. When you’re looking for contact data, tourist info, restaurants and hotels, the latest news in a niche area, conference schedules, ground rules, you can go crazy trying to figure out if a web page is still accurate. Or you can waste time sending a nice email to the support address on a ghost website, email that no one will ever answer. EVERY WEB SITE AND WEB PAGE SHOULD HAVE A “MODIFIED” DATE ON IT! EVERY SINGLE ONE! THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW! There, I’ve said it. Thanks for listening. In ten years or so let’s talk about web page Garbage Collection, if we haven’t already drowned in the stuff.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Pistachio Nut Vengeance:

Here’s one of the special things about pistachios in the shell: most of them are easy to open with the fingers, but a few of them just seem to be glued shut. What do you do when you come across those frustrating pistachios? Here’s an idea: collect them until you have a nice bagfull, then make of gift of this bag to someone you hate.

Monday, October 13, 2003

GPS Without Hardware, Poetry Only:

You are where you are,

Because that is where you were,

When you got lost.

-“Handbook of Correct Answers”, from Bones & Hair by Paul C. Howell

Friday, October 10, 2003

Brake hard, Accelerate gently:

Carsley recently brought up the subject of those oldsters who confound their auto pedals and plow through a crowd. Why can’t a little invention solve this problem? When I’m eighty, I’m sure I will never need to floor the accelerator. If I push the accelerator down hard, one of the car’s many computers (whichever one happens to be listening to my foot) should just ignore me and sound some sort of raspberry sound. In fact if I floor ANY pedal when the car is moving slowly, the car’s computer should figure out what I meant to do and stop the car. Doesn’t that make sense? Let’s call this invention: Imprecision Braking.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Tiger Man Misses Big Cat:

I’m deeply disturbed by this story about Antoine Yates and his tiger; I hope he was misquoted, and didn’t really say “He was like my brother. He was my best friend. He's my only friend, really." If he did say that awful thing about the tiger, then How is the alligator supposed to feel?

By the way, check out this wonderful news storyat kuro5hin about Bertelsmann suing hardware manufacturers for including the shift key on their keyboards.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

AT&T War Stories (1985) #2, Rare Boards:

In 1985, the first year people say AT&T lost a billion in the computer business, I was managing an AT&T demo for a trade show. We were using special AT&T-built (that is, nonstandard) PCs, and we needed six high resolution graphics boards for our demo. These boards were new and rare as hens’ teeth. I was given the name of the AT&T guy doling them out and warned it would be nearly impossible to get some. I went to see him. Like most AT&T employees he was on the phone, a long call. I sat in his office and studied a big poster on his wall displaying part of the orchestral score (chorus and orchestra) for an AT&T advertisement. I can read music scores, so I did. When he got off the phone we talked about the score. It was part of an ad he had developed for AT&T; he was very proud of it and delighted by my interest. Then I braced myself and asked him for his rare graphics boards, preparing to justify my need as strongly as I could. But he immediately answered “sure” and I walked out of his office carrying my boards. This is unfair, I said to myself. These boards have to be carefully apportioned according to each project’s value to AT&T. I don’t deserve these six boards. But I sure didn’t give them back.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

It’s so addictive you’ll never do anything else ever again:

I’m an inveterate browser of new games for the Palm PDA. Game developers routinely claim their games are addictive, very addictive, extremely addictive. Why? Painkillers and foods are not advertised as addictive. I’d rather try out a game that claims it will fascinate me for a few dozen hours at most.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Close your eyes and click your mouse...

We share the blogosphere with many bloggers who delight in asking us to click on links about which we know nothing whatsoever. Look at this, they say, with nary a word about what "this" is. There are many strange and time-wasting sorts of links in this universe; I'd just as soon know what a ink is about before I click on it. Thanks for listening!

For example, look at this!

For example:

Look at this.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Waitress Rants:

bitterwaitress (it’s on my blogroll) has got to be one of the most offbeat sites on the web. It’s a collection of anecdotes about restaurants and waitressing, bad tips, celebrity stories, horror stories, nice stories, and just plenty of views of the restaurant world from an angle most of us never see. My next post will probably be Tuesday morning the 7th.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

No Hero at the New York Times:

There was some excitement in the October 5, 2003 New York Times real estate section. (Great thanks to my wife for noticing this!) I couldn't find the story online, but I've typed it in for your reading pleasure. There's a story bylined Christopher Gray, about: An 1892 Limestone-Fronted Building That Endures. In the story we find this paragraph: "On a recent weekday morning, almost all the classrooms were full. In the spare, white-painted basement sculpture studio where Alexander Stirling Calder (the father of Alexander Calder) once taught, [great photo supplied, will be first nude in RE section, somebody be a hero and use it], seven students were carving chunks of stone, sending chips flying. Some were just starting, others were almost done, such as a woman finishing an abstract seated figure in white marble." Alas, the picture referred to was not in evidence.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Do you ever recycle the tops of containers?

Maybe once in my life I’ve seen a recycle “1” or “2” symbol on the top of a plastic container. The county I live in is pretty choosy about what we can recycle. It’s depressing to imagine every last one of those plastic tops piling up in landfills. Why not have recyclable tops?

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Quickies Today (1):

+ When you’re horribly late for some sort of commitment or event, you’ll think about whether to skip it altogether. Try saying this to yourself: “Better never than late.” If that sounds wrong to you, then go.

+ When I realized I had left the inside light of my car on all night, I was afraid the battery would be dead. It wasn’t; but the light bulb has burnt out.

+ Don’t ask for permission, you may never get it; act first and apologize afterward. And take care to notice those situations in life for which this dictum is horribly wrong. And if you're one of those people who will say "What situations?" then I don't even want to talk to you.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Truth in Advertising:

This is a common experience: we learn a word by reading it, and eventually we discover that we’ve been pronouncing it horribly wrong. So there’s this company Wachovia, ready to handle finances for you. I’ve seen its ads in the papers and I thought what a great name, this is a company that wants to “Watch ovuh ya,” big brother in the nicest sense. Only it turns out they’re a little more, well, you decide: I saw their ad on TV last night, and the company name is actually “Walk ovuh ya.” Oh well…