Larry Hosken: New

How I've been doing lately (nothing exciting):

I mostly sit around and read stuff on the internet, like you're doing right now. I subscribed to a local newssite, the SF Chronicle, because I noticed that folks were linking their articles for local pandemic news. Now I read even more.

I only get out once every two or three days. Usually that's for a pre-dawn walk. (It's pretty easy to maintain distance from everyone else before everyone else is awake.) But sometimes, there's a mid-day errand. Yesterday, my parents found a box of N95 masks at their place, no doubt left over from some fire season. I walked that box of masks over to a hospital. On days when I don't get a walk, I do an exercise routine inside.

Some days aren't quite filled by those activities. On such a day, I might get a little work in on writing up my experience working on the MIT Mystery Hunt last year. It's a chance to think back on a simpler time.

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2020-04-03T21:19:52.169503

A question about manners for you: Rumor has it that wearing a mask in public won't be frowned upon much longer. I have a used disposable N95 mask left over from a fire season. I wore it for some quick errands on smoky days; then it hung from a hook by my door for a couple of years. I don't have any "regular" not-N95 facemasks. Can I wear my mask around town without folks assuming that I should have donated it to a hospital (where they're, sensibly, asking for folks to donate unused PPE)?

I could scribble "USED" on the mask with a marker. Would that help?

(I had some unused N95 masks, too. I donated those to a hospital a few days ago. But the hospital folks only wanted unused masks.)

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2020-03-28T17:33:11.483349

Are you up for filling out daily surveys and sharing your phone's location data to help some UCSF researchers track how Covid-19 is spreading around the world? Install this app on your phone (perhaps checking the FAQ first) and go wild.

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2020-03-27T21:19:47.241110

That DRILL IN PROGRESS sign is up again in the UCSF Parnassus Hospital emergency room parking lot. Once again, there are tents up. This time, it's fenced off, presumably to keep clueless doofuses like me from blundering through.
picture: sign, some fence, bit of tent visible behind the fence

When I blogged about that sign previously, I said I was "glad" that UCSF medical folks were preparing. That wasn't the right word. I appreciate that they're preparing. Thank you, UCSF medical people.

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2020-03-14T15:28:21.919573

The census sure asks a lot of questions about April 1, April Fool's Day.

Don't mind me, I'll just be sitting over here muttering "Must not prank census." to myself over and over.

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2020-03-13T02:28:20.822892

Wow, it's the site's 36 millionth hit. As usual, these "hits" aren't a measure of humans visiting pages; that count would be much lower. It's just requests to the website: every time a robot visits some page, the count goes up. If a human views a page that contains a dozen graphics, those graphics cause another dozen hits. So it's not as impressive as it sounds. But it's easy to measure so that's what I measure. We can take a look at the log:
147.75.65.86 - - [09/Mar/2020:17:11:53 +0000] "GET /new/old_2003.html HTTP/1.1" 200 9829 "-" "SearchAtlas.com SEO Crawler"

Unsurprisingly, this is some bot, visiting old pages. Most of this site's visitors are from bots. That's not so surprising—the net has many busy bots. They don't tire, they can just keep on loading web pages 24 hours a day.

From mid-January to mid-February, I got a lot of visits from humans, actual honest-to-goodness people. When you think about the stuff I write about on this web site you might guess: are these people looking for incoherent descriptions of weekend-long puzzlehunts? High school students looking for book reports to plagiarize? Computer nerds? It's difficult to find the thing that these January-February people have in common except maybe…

I suspect they were all disappointed. Do you remember how I have that big file full of words? That file that comes in handy for solving and designing word puzzles? For a few weeks earlier this year, Google served that word list up in response to obscure web searches. This kind of makes sense: if someone searches for something pretty obscure, there's no web page about it. Like, I just googled [shirtwaist dandelion hodgepodge] (a phrase I just now made up) and there weren't any pages about that. There are some pages that mention all of those words, so Google shows them.

My big words file mentions many, many words. So there are plenty of obscure search-phrases for which Google considers showing that words file. On the other hand, the internet is vast and full of word-nerds: there are plenty of dictionary files out there that also mention many, many words. Usually, Google chooses some other word-list-mess to show. But for a few weeks, Google was showing my words file.

I didn't even notice at the time: I wasn't really looking at website logs in the weeks before or after the MIT Mystery Hunt. Since then, word-file web traffic has calmed down (just as mysteriously as it heated up.)

Anyhow, welcome to the site, humans. I hope most of you aren't too disappointed to find out that the internet doesn't yet have pages about everything. It would be pretty cool, but it just ain't so.

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2020-03-10T18:01:52.002275

I wrote some notes about working the recent election. People wail and gnash their teeth about changes in election technology, but I was really glad to be using plastic security seals that I could close without bruising myself. OK, I guess those aren't the advances in election technology most folks are curious about, but it made a big difference to me. Anyhow, for more insights like that, follow the link.

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2020-03-06T23:56:07.754278

As I walked past UCSF Parnassus (a combo medical school+hospital), there was a big sign out front saying DRILL IN PROGRESS. Behind that sign were some big tents set up in the emergency room parking lot. Those tents could hold, say, a large influx of sick folks hoping to get tested/triaged/etc. I was pretty glad to see UCSF folks getting ready, figuring out processes and such. I was doubly glad they had that DRILL IN PROGRESS sign out front, otherwise I probably would have chickened out on taking the rest of that walk.

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2020-03-04T22:09:32.147468

The advice works! Normally, I unconsciously touch my face pretty often. But I never do so while washing my hands. Just keep washing hands.

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2020-02-29T13:42:45.474652

On Tuesday, I'll be volunteering as a poll worker at the site of a 2-Tone Game puzzle. Yes, I'll be working on an election at a place that I turned into a puzzle. This will be so very on-brand for me.

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2020-02-27T20:10:16.249196

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