Tuesday, October 14, 2014

MiniLegend: What the Hell?

I'm trying to play an IOS RPG/Card game that is so new, it seems to have no reviews yet (as of Oct 14, 2104). Well, here's a short comment:

I opened the game and went to the register screen. I carefully typed in my desired account name, my long password (twice) and my email address. Then I tapped "Register". I got an error message:
Account or Email not found.
Well, why should they be found? I haven't registered yet!
I tried again, very carefully (which means I had to retype everything), and I got the same error message.
The developer's website is http://www.pocketriver.com.

What the hell?
What the hell??
What the hell???

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Don't Tailgate!

Here's wonderful technology: Don't you wish you could call a nearby driver's cellphone by dialing their license plate number? (I'm just talking about you and me; we wouldn't want anyone else to have this capability.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Re: the influence of Frederic Bazille on Norman Rockwell

If art interests you, you are going to hear about this new computer program that can discover influences among artists. The program has discovered some well-known influences, and it has also discovered some previously unremarked influences, such as the link the algorithm makes between Frederic Bazille’s Studio 9 Rue de la Condamine (1870) and Norman Rockwell’sShuffleton’s Barber Shop (1950). See this page at Medium.com.

I would like to add an observation about this claim of influence:


Both pictures have an angled line setting off a subset in the lower left. I'm sure that is unbelievably rare in paintings, oh sure. Both pictures have an old-fashioned heating stove (and they are quite different.) I never imagined that people would want to keep warm in paintings, these must be the only such examples.

Bazille has a violinist playing with a pianist in the main room. They are remarkably far apart. Rockwell has a few musicians playing in the back room. They are acting more naturally, with the clarinettist(?) and the cellist sitting down while the violin stands, and they are all close together.

The computer program also found that both pictures use a wall-corner to divide up the picture, and both have a low "front" area that is not—as in many paintings—loaded with tchotchkes. Otherwise, one can see tons of differences in the pictures. I'l say it again? Did the Bazille painting influence Rockwell? Bullshit.

Monday, June 02, 2014

EA To Pay College Athletes Up To $951 Each ...

EA will pay college athletes up to $951 for using their likenesses - without permission - in computer games.  Their lawyer seems happy with this settlement, saying that it rights a "huge wrong".

Well excuse me, but if the athletes are being PAID, they are no longer amateurs, right? The colleges who utilized these professionals in their games ought to forfeit them all.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Tyrwhitt's lovely shirts: no nasty pins!

I'm not a squeamish person, but I fear shirt pins. Every time I buy a shirt, I know that I will get pinstuck if i fail to hunt and hunt and find every last oe of the 5, 6, 7 or even 8 sharp pins.

But not now! I have been buying Tyrwhitt's shirts, and they come beautifully packed with nary  a pointy pin. What a pleasure they are to unwrap and wear. I recommend them: good quality, and good for the price. You can deal with the online store, or find their brick&mortar stores in the USA, the UK (especially London) and at a few international locations.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Talisman, the fine board game, has arrived on the iPad!

I was lucky to receive a copy of the IOS Talisman game that I can review. There is already an informative and positive review at BoardGameGeek, so I will not repeat what their reviewer covers. And here's a link to the iTunes store, if you are ready to buy. (To be precise: there exists a "Talisman Prologue" game that we are NOT discussing here. The good news is that we get an app for the full Talisman.)

Talisman is a remarkably imaginative treatment of RPG in a board game, and that game has been faithfully reproduced in the IOS app. As usual, the app frees you from a lot of counting that the board game requires, and the app prevents you from making illegal moves. Also, there is a tutorial built into the game, so you do not have to know Talisman to enjoy playing the app.

Talisman belongs to a category of games that I’m sure you are familiar with: it is a game of skill (considerable skill in fact) with a large element of luck. Almost every game turn offers a chance to make a tactical decision, and there is deep strategy in deciding whether you are ready to go for a win.

Games of this type are wonderful to play in social settings. Everyone has a good time, and none of the novices notice that you are playing the game better than they are. They have a reasonable chance of winning, but that won’t bother you, because you know that in the long run, your skill will carry the day.

A Talisman game can last a long time. When the iPad first came out, one of my first reactions was: Wouldn’t it be great to play Talisman on my iPad? I imagined the iPad Talisman game saving the state of the game so that I could return to it several times a day for some rounds of play. Talisman on the iPad allows me to do exactly what I want, while the game’s AI plays one, two or three oponents. (Of course, several actual people can also compete, using this app.)

There is already an expansion set (and apparently, more coming) that I expect to buy, with – among other things – many more fascinating player characters. Talisman, among RPG games in general, is highly unusual in offering a stupendous variety of different kinds of characters to play with. There’s much more variety than the usual human/elf/dwarf+fighter/mage/thief.

Talisman, I’m glad you’re here!

A simple way to fund the U.S. Post Office:

This afternoon I collected all the junk mail (and even a piece of real mail) that the postman had left for us, and realization struck:

Suppose the Post Office threatened to triple the amount of mail I receive unless I agreed to pay them one dollar per week. That's a significant amount of money, but I would cave in if I could possibly afford it. Many of us would.

Think of it this way: snail mail comes to us through a sort of conduit, and the USPO could establish a slow lane (choked with ever more junk mail) and a fast lane.

Monday, May 05, 2014

"Three, please!" (I'm afraid you had to be there.)

I blogged recently about my feeling that an elevator that moves between only two floors needs one less button. I entered the same elevator that inspired that blog entry today (on the second floor), along with two women deep in conversation. The woman nearest the control panel pressed the button for floor #1 while they continued talking.

I could not resist saying, "Three, please!"

The same woman turned to the control panel and extended her finger to press the nonexistent button. And then, fortunately, both women laughed and laughed.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

There ought to be a word: Literally!

Now that the word "Literally has come to mean "figuratively", it would be nice to add a word to the English language that literally means: literally. Here is my suggestion:

The digit 2 is added to the word in place of using the word twice. Compare:
My friend literally died laughing last week; literally!
My friend li2terally died laughing last week.

Li2terally is pronounced the same as Literally. In speech, we can generally rely on emotion and context to decide which word is intended.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Word Clues (Word Clues 2):

I've been playing Zynga's Words With Friends (a juiced-up version of Scrabble). There's a site called WWFSTATS.COM that ranks WWF players and makes it easy to find opponents. One of my current opponents (he's a good player) goes by the handle GL-13. GL-13 happens to be a game designer (see the Kindred Games website). I just had to try out his current game. It is called Word Clues 2, but in the iTunes store, it is simply titled Word Clues. You can find it in the iTunes store here.

The game has a clever mechanism. You are shown part of a word with some blanks, like this:

 _ _ _ _ _ bank

You score a lot of points if you can guess what word the game is hiding. If you can't, the game shows you another partial word with the same missing letters. Now you have two clues, and if that's not enough, you get more clues to the missing partial word.

That missing partial word doesn't have to be five letters. So far I have also seen 3, 4, 5 and 6.

There are also "bonus" rounds in which you decide how many points to risk in order to see more letters, and then you get one guess at the word.

If you are good at games like Wheel of Fortune, I think you will find this game a pleasant challenge. If you are, like me, not very good at this sort of game, then it becomes an incredible teaser. On a half-mile walk, I thought hard/hard/hard, and was happy to figure out one of these words with only three clues.

Check it out!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A lesson in Proofreading:

I am currently proofing a page-proof of my second novel. This is not nearly the last page proof. My current efforts to proofread include such matters as checking for conflicting or illogical plot elements or actions, and making sure that my characters always stay in character. I am proofing backwards (starting at the last page), but there is so much on my mind as I proof, that I know I will not catch every typo. I expect, in the next round of proofing, to look only for typos.

Here’s an example of how thinking about my character’s speech almost caused me to miss a typo. On one page, I read this line of dialog:
“Why did she do that?”
I decided that in this situation, my character ought to say:
“Why would she do that?”

I took out my pen, preparing to cross out ‘did’ and replace it with ‘would’. However, I found that I could not cross out ‘did’. Here is the line's actual text:
“Why she do that?”

What a convincing way to remind me that many typos remain to be found.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

TSA Wants Armed Police Stationed At Airport Checkpoints?

The TSA wants armed guards at their checkpoints. There will be a considerable expense: to hire, background, train, and manage all these guards, to buy their equipment, and to keep replacing all that ammunition. And every dollar of this expense can be avoided. Let’s all stand up against this total waste.

All we have to do is encourage states to keep loosening their gun-carrying laws. Some states have recently voted to allow people to carry their guns inside airports. We need every state to pass such laws.

Then the TSA will simply ask for volunteers. Who won’t want to spend time toting his gun at LAX or EWR, or any fine airport? And what a deterrent they will be.

Terrorists will know that the moment they are detected, bullets will fly from every direction. They will have no cover, and their dying wish will be that they had chosen instead, to rob a bank.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The IOS SSL Flaw: Hard to Spot? Bad Programming?

Bruce Schneier asks today whether the recently discovered IOS SSL programming flaw might have been intentionally inserted to cause a security weakness. This is a legitimate question, although the error is likely to have been caused by an accidental extra keypress. Apple should be able to determine exactly who inserted the error, and chances are that they will clear the developer of malice.

As a software developer, I wish to take issue with one of Schneier’s comments. He felt that the error would be hard to spot. I disagree. An experienced programmer ought to see the error at once. The only question is whether the code would ever be reviewed.

But this error could also be flagged by a program that examined source code for unexecutable lines. There are many such test programs, and they might, while checking millions of lines of source in Apple’s repository, notice this problem. It ought to be routine to run such a test.

Here is the source code. (I’m quoting it from the Guardian, and my formatting might not match the original.) Below, the duplicate “goto fail” lines stand out as a stark error. (I aded the red to make it easy for you to find it.) The “if” statement below the duplicate “goto fail” lines, which is needed, will never be executed.

static OSStatus
SSLVerifySignedServerKeyExchange(SSLContext *ctx, bool isRsa, SSLBuffer signedParams,
uint8_t *signature, UInt16 signatureLen)

OSStatus err;


if ((err = SSLHashSHA1.update(&hashCtx, &serverRandom)) != 0)

goto fail;

if ((err = SSLHashSHA1.update(&hashCtx, &signedParams)) != 0)

 goto fail;

 goto fail;

if ((err = SSLHashSHA1.final(&hashCtx, &hashOut)) != 0)

goto fail;



return err;

There’s another issue. I showed this code to my wife, who has suffered through my life-long romance with software development. She knows little about programming, but I thought, correctly, that she would understand this error. She did, and she had another comment:

“I thought ‘goto’ programming was a thing of the past.”

And she’s almost right. “Goto” programming has been recognized as bad, hard-to-read and hard-to-get-right. Most programming languages offer much better alternatives. But in many programming languages, the “goto” continues to be supported because it is still the best way, even the clearest way, to unravel some complex progamming situations.

The “goto” statements are completely unnecessary in this case, and if the developer had written the code in a gotoless way, it is more likely that the result would have been error-free. For example:
if (((err = SSLHashSHA1.update(&hashCtx, &serverRandom)) != 0)

|| ((err = SSLHashSHA1.update(&hashCtx, &signedParams)) != 0)
|| ((err = SSLHashSHA1.final(&hashCtx, &hashOut)) != 0)))
// process the fail here ...
          ... etc...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cuisinart Compact Juice Extractor: The Pros Are the Cons!

Please read my previous blog entry first. It is also about my Cuisinart Compact Juice Extractor. Thanks.

The juices I have made in my new juicer taste delicious, and – so far – they seem worth the effort. The most remarkable thing about my Juice Extractor is that whatever you might consider a Con is also a Pro:

CON: The ingredients are more expensive than I bargained for. PRO: I can afford them in my current budget by not buying cookies.

CON: I need time to use the juicer. It’s not a five minute snap. I’m sure I’ll get better at it, but I need 15 to 25 minutes to prepare my ingredients and clean up. PRO: I’m pretty sure that spending time preparing food is an aid to dieting. When food requires time to prepare and eat, I'm sure it seems more satisfying. But CON: Who has this kind of time in the morning? PRO: I often do, because I’m retired. But seriously: CON: Often, my morning is a rush, like everyone else, and I won’t have time to juice.

CON: All that pulp is a terrible waste. PRO: I fry the pulp with a few other veggies, some cheese and/or a veggie burger, and I eat it. The pulp shortens the time I need to make my fried veggie dish. There’s no waste at all.

PRO: This juicer is easy to clean. Many of the reviews say so. But they don’t tell you what that means. CON: There are seven parts that are each easy to clean. Those easy-cleaning times add up.

PRO: One of my goals in buying a juicer was NOT to use our wonderful hand-held blender. That blender is 250 Watts (hard to find these days), and my wife requires it for some recipes. Using the juicer will extend our irreplaceable blender’s life. CON: No more banana shakes for me! But PRO: When I get hungry later, a banana plus a glass of soy milk makes a healthy snack.

Here's to Juicing! For now, at least.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Bought a Juicer. Lifestyle change?

I’ve been thinking about a Juicer for a few months. Good juice extractors cost around $100, and there’s a mighty chance that after using it a few times, I will exile it to a forgotten shelf. But when my diet is working, I start off the day with a plate of fried veggies and protein, with a milkshake. The base of my shake is soymilk or buttermilk plus a banana, and I add many ingredients and spices for variety. I thought that a juicer would enable me to add kale and other healthful tastes to my milkshake. But that fear of wasting $100 held me back.

Last week, the local supermarket offered the $100 Cuisinart Compact Juice Extractor for a mere $40, and I bought it. My lifestyle has changed. I wonder if I will soon abandon the juicer, but for now, I am definitely enjoying it.

In my next blog entry, I will assess the Pros and Cons. But to give you a heads up:

  1. Apparently, I cannot put bananas in my juicer. No recipes call for them. I might experiment with a banana, but I suspect it will goo up and gum up the works. I’m making delightful juices, but I have to eat the milk and banana separately.
  2. The veggies and fruits that I want to juice cost money! I think these are the most expensive parts of a decent diet. I did not consider this cost when I dreamed of buying the juicer.
  3. The juicer produces an extraordinary amount of pulp waste. It’s painful to look at all that $$pulp$$.

Tomorrow I’ll show you how these concerns fit into the Pros and Cons, which – for me – were full of surprises.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fedex Seemed Creepy Today:

Fedex notified me that a package would arrive at a bad time, so I went to their website to put a hold on the delivery. In order to do that, I registered an account at Fedex.

The first registration screen asked for the usual info: address, phone number, password, etc. After I supplied all this, the website explained that I had to verify myself. I think this is a good idea. I would not want someone, impersonating me, to hijack my deliveries.

In order to verify me, Fedex asked me a series of multiple choice questions, and this is where things got creepy. I had to identify a town my son had lived in. Many of the questions concerned an address that I have not lived at since 1974. I even had to identify a person, not related to me, who had lived at that address for an overlapping period of time.

Fedex, you know too much about me! I hope you are keeping this information well-guarded, because a person who wanted to steal an identity would love to have this kind of in-depth info. (By the way, I had to select an answer for a security question during the registration process. I know how to answer when Fedex asks for my mother’s maiden name, but my answer has nothing to do with my mother.)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Too Many Buttons:

Lately, I've been using a few elevators that shuttle back and forth between the ground floor and the second floor.

When I get into one of these elevators, I see two buttons: 1 and 2.

Now I admit that before I press one of these buttons, I usually have to think. (I'm not too good with East/West or Left/Right, either.) Still, it seems to me that these elevators have unnecessary buttons.

If we are on the first floor, the elevator can only go to 2. If we are on 2, the elevator can only go to 1. Therefore, the elevator needs only one button, labeled: GO.

Do you agree?

Friday, January 03, 2014

Close the dam* barn Door!

I swim laps for exercise. For a long time I have worn resistance gloves, which build up my arm strength. My gloves were wearing out, so I bought new ones online yesterday. I also, after a few web searches, bought novice fins, hoping that they will help my leg strength.

Today, my random web pages are chock full of ads for swim gloves and fins. Enough already! I'll be buying them again in about 15 months.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Blended Peanut Butter Coffee, recipe:

I invented a wonderful, delicious drink today. Other people have invented it before me (e.g., see here), but I have nice, clear instructions for you. Here is the suggested ingredients list:

2 T coffee grounds.
1 scant T peanut butter
Sweetening, such as two sugar cubes, or two packets of Necrtresse.

I use creamy peanut butter. People on the web advise that it is dangerous to use the crunchy variety.

Make about five ounces of coffee, using the amount of grounds (probably two Tablespoons) that you would normally use, and a little less water. Don't use really good coffee for this purpose, there's no point. (For example, do not use George Howell's marvelous Terroirs coffees.) I used Martinson's decafe for my first experiment.

When the coffee has been brewed, pour it into a cup suitable for use with your hand-held blender.  I poured the coffee over the peanut butter (held in a spoon) to weaken the thick consistency of the peanut butter. Use about one tablespoon of the PB. (I used slightly less. Other people suggest using much more.)

Add the sweetening.

I suggest a variable speed hand-held blender. Start at a low speed. You have two goals:
(1) Not to splash yourself with hot coffee. Be careful!
(2) To throughly blend the PB and the coffee. A "crema" will develop.

Coffee has the ability to mask or destroy many flavors, but it makes the PB taste more subtle, adding a hint of chocolate. Pour into your favorite cup or mug, and enjoy!