Friday, January 30, 2004

Politicians are famous for kissing babies, but there are limits!

Video clip from the Tonight Show of Dean with Angela Ramos and baby Arlo: DeanBlowBaby.wmv

Partial transcript:
Ramos: Governor Dean! How are you? I didn't think I was gonna get to you!
Dean: I'm gonna have to blow this one... what is your name?
Ramos: You're gonna have to what?
Dean: I'm gonna have to blow this child
(audience laughter erupts)

(page where I found the video)

Is there a term, even a disparaging one, for "electronic" dance music made entirely with the sort of equipment that could be purchased at Wal-Mart? Hackneyed, kiddie-fied canned drum and bass tracks from keyboards that are basically toys, "sampling" accomplished by playback from standard consumer CD players and cassette recorders, general poor sound quality, etc.

Imagine that you were a kid who heard techno or house music for the first time back in the 1990s, and tried to reproduce it using only the items that were already sitting around your parents house. No professional DJ turntables. No mixing boards except the volume and EQ on your stereo. Absolutely nothing made by Roland. It's probably not hard to imagine, because you probably did try it.

Now imagine that it's 2004, and you're still making that same sound. What genre of music is this?

Back in the day, if people on the Internet were talking about something, they were doing it on Usenet. OK, there were listservs. And IRC. But in general, if you wanted to find the Net's most knowledgeable people on any particular topic, from C to Urban Legends, you could be pretty sure that they'd be reading and posting on the newsgroup(s) devoted to said topic.

Then the imminent death of Usenet actually happened. Sure, it still exists. Sure, there are still some newsgroups (including all the ones linked from this posting) that still serve their original function. But for many other topics, such as programming in any language newer than C, or music, or gaming (etc), the "community" is spread over so many different little mailing lists, Slashdot-like forum sites, blogs (yes, I am aware of the irony), etc.. that there is simply no single point of success for finding people who can answer your questions.

The forums, especially, are like going back to the world of the non-networked BBS. Think about it. Every one of them requires you to re-establish your identity in order to participate (or else post as an AC, assuming they allow it). They use a variety of different software, each type of which has slightly different options and a slightly different interface; and (most importantly) the choice of software and most of the options is up to the Sysop rather than the users. Nobody on any one forum neccessarily knows when the same topic might be discussed on some other forum, unless one person happens to be reading both and posts links. (ok, Usenet has this problem too, but it's worse with forums because their interfaces have no way for a thread to span multiple websites the way a Usenet thread can span newsgroups. Of course, that isn't always a good thing either..).

Perhaps the only advantage that forums have over the BBS of old is that like any other website they are mostly searchable by Google (forums run by proprietary companies who lock out the robots by requiring sign-in to even read the posts are so far below contempt that I won't bother talking about them). This is of course a monumental world-changing advantage over the BBS days, and even over the pre-Deja Usenet. But in these days of Google Groups, Usenet is arguably more searchable than the web. But of course its too late.

Google Search: "imminent death of usenet predicted"

Prelude to a bitchfest about the lack of a good replacement for the old Usenet (including the new Usenet)

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Linux man pages -

Another set of HTML man pages. These rank high in google when searching for the names of individual Linux commands.

The map of the Stofonian Empire can now be downloaded in the original XCF format for editing with the GIMP. Why would you want to do this? You probably don't, but I'm using the website as a way to get the map from one PC to another.

Also, each Sinist (state or province) of the Empire is now a (slightly) different color from it's neighors. All Sinists within the same Elikaln are shades of the same basic color.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Hint: this is a float

Holy crap... JV has stolen my style!

Internet Sacred Text Archive

"Open Source for the Human Soul" (via plep (via gammatron))

Friday, January 23, 2004

Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music

(via miscellaneous heathen) Descriptions of instruments, genres.

Did somebody forget to tell the dance kids that rock already claimed the terms Garage, Hardcore, and even Jungle? ("jungle beat" is the word that sheet music publishers use for the Bo Diddley sound)

The map of the Stofonian Empire has been updated.

The old maps on which this is based contain a number of contradictions with regards to the location of borders, mountain ranges, etc., and this is an attempt to reconcile them. Expect more changes are more source materials are utilized.

Also, this map attempts to represent areas such as Hemal and Elorpal. These were historically distinct regions within larger provinces. In some cases they became independent again after the Fracture.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Beyond Red and Blue

(via gammatron)

Friday, January 16, 2004

Grokking the GIMP

Online book about "Learning Advanced Image Editing Techniques" with the Gimp. From the preface:
The most annoying thing was that almost every book I picked up was full of tips and tricks. Tips and tricks? I felt like I was getting advice on betting the ponies. I didn't want tricks; I wanted the ideas. What is photo touchup and enhancement? Where's the beef? How could I work on my photos if I didn't understand the basic concepts?
Working with digital images requires some understanding of what needs to be done. It's not a ``choose the right tool, one click, and you're done'' subject. Most books on digital image manipulation would have you believe the contrary...and perhaps they're right. However, that is not what this book is about. It is not about tips and tricks, and it's not a collection of recipes for solving someone's favorite image manipulation problems. It is first about understanding image manipulation concepts, second about knowing which GIMP tools are most effective, and third about the savvy use of these tools.
See also Photo Touch Up and Enhancement in the GIMP by the same author.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Slashdot | TruSonic Uses Catalog As Muzak

Holy crap. I had about 20 Flvxxvm Florvm songs on I wonder when folks will start walking into hotel lobbies and hearing them..

Novarese writes that that NBC has apparently started using something like Turner Time for the digital generation. Ironically, I don't think TBS does the :05 thing anymore, or colorized movies either.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Wrong Answers

"Dedicated to proof of the proper role of the WWW in research."


Welcome to Bannertown - where old Chickenhead banners go to die. Some of these ads are clickable. Some aren't. All are recommended by 3 out of 4 dentists who chew gum.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Territorial Army - Territorial Army Home Page

(via the BBC, via Slashdot) I never really wondered what the British equivalent of the National Guard was, but now I know.

Terror Alert Level

The current terror level is Terror Alert Level

I have finally replaced my 7-year-old self-portrait (as seen on my homepage) with a more modern one. This one was taken just today with my camera phone. It proudly shows how bald I am getting. Check out the clip-on sunglasses!

Abandoned attempt to blend the photo into the webpage color scheme:

Oh so tempted to use this as the blog banner image, but it would blow the whole "DOS" look so it ain't gonna happen:

"September Gurls" has been deposed. Thanks to the local all-80's radio station, I now have The Safety Dance stuck in my head.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Squiggle SQL Builder

Table people = new Table("people");

SelectQuery select = new SelectQuery(people);

select.addColumn(people, "firstname");
select.addColumn(people, "lastname");

select.addOrder(people, "age", Order.DESCENDING);

I've seen (and also written (in proprietary code I can't show you)) this kind of thing before. It makes me wonder why the hell wasn't something like this included as a basic part of JDBC, since it makes SQL so much more usable.

"September Gurls" by Big Star is stuck in my head. No matter what other music I listen to, as soon as I stop "September Gurls" comes back. It even drowns out the most annoying of the kiddie song that my daughter listens to. I can't shake it. Fortunately, its an almost perfect song, so its not a bad thing to have stuck in your head.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Actually saying that the Juturian name for Juturia J'Ut-Ur is a little bit of an over-simplification. Here's about as much detail as I'm willing to commit in writing.

There are two major groups of people in Juturia. The Et-Er are not natives of Ristkon at all, having arrived in 1346 EYE. They are a different species from all other inhabitants of Ristkon, and therefore cannot interbreed with them.

The descendents of the folks who were already living on that landmass before 1346 are collectively called Aiyu. The Aiyu are actually made up of a number of loosely related ethic groups, each with its own language and dialects. The name Aiyu is derived from what one particularly well-known tribe called themselves.

The Et-Er, in spite of their smaller numbers, have excercised a great amount of influence over the Aiyu. The greater part of the Aiyu gradually adopted the culture, language, and religion of the Et-Er. The language of the Et-Er became the common tounge of the land and is normally referred to when I said "Juturian".

The word J'Ut-Ur itself is derived from Et-Er. First, Ut-Ur is the result of applying some kind of ablauting rule to Et-Er. I have not decided what the ablaut means. The prefix J (pronounced "zh") also means something, but again I'm not sure what. The word is appled to Et-Er and Aiyu alike, although usually only to the Aiyu who actually speak Juturian.

J'Ut-Ur is actually only the first word of the official name of the country. I don't know what the rest of it is, or exactly what the full name means, but it probably contains words meaning things like "republic" and "federation".

Stofonil Elikalnst to Sinist

Har! I've drawn a new map of the Stofonian empire.

The place names on this map are romanizations of what the Stofonians actually called the divisions of their empire, not English or Latin-like forms like you see on some other maps.

Thus you might see "Scalia" on other maps, but the Stofonians called the place Scayls. Ditto for Badingo and Wada (sometimes called Badingola and Wadaland).

The main exception is Juturia, because I'm not sure exactly what the Stofonians called it. Its name in, well, Juturian is J'ut-Ur but I'm not sure what the Stofonians would've done with that. Jutur, Juturstof, Juturil, something like that. I seem to recall at some point figuring out that the Knarrians called it "Jothor" because Jothor is a common first name in Knarr and they thought it sounded familiar.. maybe the Stofonians did something similar, as Jothor is also a first name in Stofonian.

Forgive me for being too lazy to color every Sinist (state, province) a different color. Only the Elikalns are colored.

Btw, none of these maps would be here without the GIMP.

GIMP User Manual

Another, apparently older version. In much plainer HTML.

Gimp User's Manual

Manual for the GIMP in "webhelp" format.

Linguistics 001 -- Pronunciation of English

Among other information, this contains a comparison of "American" and "British" vowel pronuncations using the IPA.

IPA transcription systems for English

What the heck all those IPA symbols actually mean to you and me. (Well, if we were British anyway). I'm sure there's an Americanized version around somewhere.

International Phonetic Alphabet

The IPA chart as a big image.

IPA in Unicode

Yes, this is a post both about Unicode and about my conlangs.

Stofonian, like English but unlike either Elosian or Knarrian, uses more sounds than the 26-letter basic Latin alphabet can represent. (The sounds of Stofonian were of course based on the sounds of English, since I invented it when English was the only language I knew about).

It would be cool to use IPA when transliterating Stofonian on the web.

stɔfonɪl ɛlɪkælnst tɑ sɪnɪst

But its just too much of a pain to mess with all of those HTML entities. You could always use "ASCII IPA":

stOfonIl ElIk&lnst ta sInIst

But that looks even funkier. (Not to mention that vowel pronunciation varies quite a bit in Stofonian anyway) So we'll stick with good old inexact Romanization. At least it lets us use capital letters.

Stofonil Elikalnst to Sinist

(translation: "Stofonian Empires and States", ie., first and second level divisions of the Stofonian empire)

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Aussie is 'heir to English crown'

Insert "return of the king" jokes here.

The Old New Thing

... has moved.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004


I've said this before, but I really need to get back to Chicago sometime just for all the train and transit sites to see.

Streetcar backers move toward feasibility study

The nonprofit group hoping to build an eight-mile streetcar line on Peachtree Street should move closer today to committing money to the popular $200 million project.

Railfanning Atlanta, GA

Descriptions of some Atlanta railfan locations. I've seen this site a long time ago, just now blogging it.

Okay, I've redrawn the online maps of Robertson's Planet to agree with the canonical onces I scanned last night.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Big Maps!

I've scanned in a few of the original maps of Robertson's Planet to augment the ones drawn from (poor) memory that were already online. I'm trying to decide if I should add thumbnails or not, since you probably either want to see the maps in full detail or you aren't interested at all.

Complexspiral Demo

Warning: don't even bother looking at this with a non-CSS compliant browser, including MSIE. Just being able to view this is in all its glory is worth taking the trouble to install Mozilla. I'm not kidding.
I knew that I had seen the face of God;
and it was so beautiful that I cried. me

My Design for the Zen Garden

I have created a stylesheet for CSS Zen Garden based on the look of this here blog.

I orginally wanted to use a variation of Eric Meyer's pure CSS menus to truly mimic to Turbo C interface, but then I read the Zen Garden page more carefully and noticed that everything needs to work in MSIE. Sigh..

Long-Term Coffee Consumption Significantly Reduces Type 2 Diabetes Risk

(via Slashdot)
A study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital has found that participants who regularly drank coffee significantly reduced the risk of onset of type 2 diabetes, compared to non-coffee drinking participants.

FBI urges police to watch for people carrying almanacs

Is there any aspect of geekdom that doesn't make you look like a terrorist? Let's see:

trainspotting - bad.
planespotting - worse.
roadgeeking - they'll crack down on it as soon as they find out about it.
vadding* - bad.
almanacs - bad.

Come to think of it, is there a generic term all kinds of "spotting" (planes, trains, trucks, highway signs, etc..), watching, exploring, and all similar related activities?

Monday, January 05, 2004

17th Street Bridge partially opens

I have been watching cars using the 17th street exit ramp from I-75/85, the new bridge, and the new portion of 17th street between Spring and West Peachtree.


Fontifier lets you use your own handwriting for the text you write on your computer. It turns a scanned sample of your handwriting into a computer font that you can use in your word processor or graphics program, just like regular fonts such as Helvetica.
(via Zeldman)

Stick up for Martha, for your own sakes

Any public company or officer who commentson a pending government investigation concerning the company now does so at the peril of later being indicted for inaccurately or falsely denying the allegations of improper conduct. For the same reason, every officer of a public company is effectively deprived of the right to protect his or her reputation by denying public reports about purely personal matters which damage their good name.

To paraphrase Bob Dole in another context: Where is the outrage? Make no mistake. This is the most blatant attack by government on pure free speech in recent memory, made more chilling by the prominence—and wealth—of the target. If they can do it to Martha, they sure as hell can and will do it to the average American. | Atlanta/South Metro | 17th Street Bridge debuts

I can see the bridge out the window at work. It is obviously not in operation yet. This is a really fuzzy picture taken with my camera phone (note the reflection of the Win2K login screen on the window through which the camera is looking!)

I wanted to find an image of the "home taping is killing music" record industry propoganda from the 70's and 80's.

The first thing I discovered is that "home taping is killing music" is the name of some British dance music thing which I really don't have the time or the inclination to explore. Maybe you do.

Then I discovered this. "Home taping is killing music" was the title of an apparently classic 1982 album by the New York punk band Porcelain God. I probably won't buy it, but these were musicians after my own heart!
Phil Spector is credited with the Wall Of Sound, but on this CD Billy Syndrome brings you the Ceiling Of Sound. This is a multi-tracked production recorded on a $5 budget!! Billy took two shitty cheap mono tape recorders and recorded live with the previous tracks playing on the other tape recorder in the background. This process achieves tones and rings of distortion to insanity levels and is just so fucked up it needs to be heard to be believed. Billy Syndrome in 2002 dares anyone to produce such a ill sounding recording. With the death of condensor microphones in boom boxes, in 2002 YOU CAN"T DO THIS ANYMORE.
Rock and roll!

"The worlds largest archive of classic print ads" (via Zeldman)

Here's a nice geeky one. Has this site been Slashdotted yet?

Saturday, January 03, 2004

conlang updates

Based on the recently discovered material, I have added alphabet charts to my conlang page.

Also made a few corrects to the timeline, but I still have tons of stuff that needs to be added to that.

And then the maps..

Friday, January 02, 2004

Typecasting: The Use (and Misuse) of Period Typography in Movies

The movie is set in a small town in provincial France, mid-1950s. About halfway through the film, the town's mayor puts up notices forbidding anyone to eat anything but bread and weak tea during Lent (which of course coincides with the opening of the new chocolaterie). I almost laughed when they showed a close-up of the notice. The headline was set in ITC Benguiat, a typeface which debuted in 1978 and was mainly popular in the '80s.

How to Spot Arial

(via Zeldman)
Many of the characters in Helvetica and Arial are very similar to each other, although none are quite identical. Other characters are quite a bit different, and they are the key to telling which is which. Here are some of the most obvious ones
(see also: The Scourge of Arial)

Thursday, January 01, 2004

By the way, the reason that nobody could understand the Ipsilstanst is because they were speaking Gerrk. The word "Ipsilstanst" is simply Stofonian for "sea people", and is applied to these people because of their famed prowess at seafaring. No one knows what they called themselves.

The Ipsilstanst culture flourished so long ago that the earliest records of the Elosians and Stofonians probably glimpse only its decline. When communicating with other peoples, the Ipsilstanst usually preferred to learn the foreign language themselves and keep their own language hidden. They would, however, frequently apply the "Gerrk" principle to any language which they learned, so that the concept became well known in the ancient world.

First the Mayols and later the Stofonians were inspired by this to create specialist Gerrk jargons. These were often used as "secret languages" by the Masters and Mistresses (men's and women's cultic societies), with neither sex being able to comprehend the other's speech, even though both were speaking Stofonian.

more conlang discoveries

Turns out that one of the things that I still didn't find at my parents house was my original chart of the Stofonian alphabet. I seem to recall last seeing it with a map of Knarr that is also missing. All I could find was a computerized version that I made circa 1992. Unfortunately, the actual text file is long gone, and all that remained was a printout. The text file used characters from the OEM character set, and the printer seriously failed to render these properly (see? I've managed to work Unicode into this already... if we'd've had Unicode support back then this wouldn't've happened...) Combine this with the fact that the characters didn't look all that much like the Stofonian alphabet anyway, and I essentially had to go digging through the archives for actual Stofonian writing, and make guesses about the letters for which I couldn't examples.

Looking at all three alphabets (Stofonian, Elosian, Knarrian) the following become obvious:
  • The Knarrian alphabet is almost a superset of the Elosian. It has often been said that the Knarrian alphabet was created by adding letters to the Elosian to make it easier to use. With the Elosian alphabet, distinctions between voiced and voiceless consonants and also between several important vowels must be inferred from context (this may indicate that some historic phase of the Elosian language actually lacked semantic distinctions between voiced and unvoiced sounds, but there is no concrete lingustic evidence for that). This makes it almost useless for any language other than Elosian. It would be natural for someone adopting it to want to add new letters or diacritical marks or something to make these differences explicit (even the Elosians sometimes forced the "context" by adding in tiny letters that were not to be pronounced but only affect the pronunciation of the surrounding letters). However, if this was the case with Knarrian then the additions were done in a completely haphazard and illogical manner, showing an almost complete ignorance of the very phonetic concepts on which any use of the Elosian system would've been based. The creation of the new letters is usually attributed to the great sage Knarrknoxx, but no educated man would've done it the way he allegedly did.

    A possible explanation is that both the Knarrian and classical/modern Elosian alphabets descend from a common ancestor, which contained letters for all spoken sounds in some early Elosian dialect. By imperial times, many of these letters fell into disuse because readers had learned to infer their sounds from context. As a great scholar, Knarrknoxx may have known about these early letters and simply re-introduced them.

  • The Stofonian alphabet is not particularly related to the other two. Certain Stofonians letters appear very similar to certain Elosian latters, but there does not seem to be any logical relationship other than that someone might have borrowed shapes from an alphabet which they couldn't read. The Stofonians either invented the alphabet themselves, or learned it from some culture other than the Elosians. Possibly the the Mayols, whom they succeeded as the rulers of the country now known as Stofonia?

    But neither the Stofonians nor the Mayols were advanced enough to have invented an alphabet themselves... especially since the order of the letters shows some knowledge of phonetic concepts such as voiced/unvoiced, stops, fricatives, etc. Maybe it came from someplace further afield, such as Foelia or even Gullen? I know it wasn't the Ipsilstanst, since Kulstof says that the Stofonians couldn't decipher Ipsilstanst writing.

    (Although perhaps Ipsilstant is the source of the anomalous shared letters with Elosian. Maybe both the Elosians and the Stofonians arbitrarily assigned letters from the Ipsilstanst alphabet to the sounds of their own language? )

Finally, I've noticed that some of the chronologies use dates from the Knarrian calender, which needs to be added to the list of calendars in the master timeline.


(via sinople)
Someone told me that all of the spider stuff actually happens in the second book in the series, and that they had to tweak some of the stuff that happens in the books to make the movies work. You know what? Good. Books suck. They used to be good back when people didn’t have movies and TV and dressed like Davey Crockett. People also used to ride horses and drink tea, but now we have cars and Sprite. Move the fuck on. Peter Jackson did an amazing job adapting these books, and now the movies are so kick-ass that some people are going to go back and READ the books, which wouldn’t have happened if he’d just filmed the books exactly as they are. Happy now, smarty?