Book Report: Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers

Context matters. At work, I'm sitting in a new area with some folks who don't know me very well. Today, someone asked for some help making a decision. I didn't have an opinion, so I sought an executive decision-maker. That is, I stuck a finger into my pocket to fish out a coin. But instead of encountering any coins, my finger encountered only a hole in my pocket. My jeans... Uhm, I'm in a delicately-balanced laundry situation right now, wearing a pair of jeans poised on the edge of total systemic failure. Anyhow, I didn't have a coin. Thus, I had no fast way to make binary choices.

So I said, "I can't make any more decisions until I change my pants."

In context, this statement made complete sense. From the remarks of people sitting nearby, I learned that this statement also made complete sense out of context, but it was a different sense. I tried to clear things up, saying, "Well, I've got a hole in my pocket--", but this was, apparently, "Too much information."

Now I forget what my point was. Oh, right, context.

As for the book Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers, it's a tongue-in-cheek pulp science fiction novella. At the time it was published, this might have qualified as parody--this was 1973. It was probably a good parody--Harry Harrison has written some good stuff. Nowadays, this book seems almost cruel--it pokes fun of works which have been largely left behind, kicking them when they are down. But maybe when this book was kicking them, they weren't down yet? I don't know.

Labels: , ,

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Including a Route Eerily Similar to BATH3's Route

I finally finished writing up my notes from No More Secrets. You're going to wonder why it took two months to write up something so short. But, you know, the writing isn't the only step. There's also the HTML formatting, fixing up the photo titles, and the all-important procrastination.

Labels: , ,

Book Report: The Boys

I'm not at Comic-con this weekend. I just read comics, but I don't especially want to meet their creators. I especially don't especially want to meet the creators of "The Boys." "The Boys" is perhaps the most cynical superhero comic book I've ever read. Maybe it's a little too cynical. It revels in brutality. It's just interesting enough to get me to keep reading. Which is more than you can say for most comics.

Labels: , ,

Book Report: The Tipping Point

My intern just got back from attending Lunch 2.0, chatting with web industry folks. Last night, I went to Triple Rock brewery for a little Geoworks reunion, finding out what my ex-coworkers are up to these days. This is not goofing off. This is "networking." They can both involve greasy food, but "networking" can also spread around ideas and knowledge and stuff. See, that's the difference between just going to a bar and going to a bar to spread memes: one is at a tippling point; the other passes the tipping point. Sorry. I am waiting for a long computer batch job to finish. I have nothing better to do with my time than to patch together a contrived segue for talking about The Tipping Point.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote this book about how ideas spread. He claims that three types of people spread memes: socially connected people; informative people; persuasive people. He writes about coolhunters. He talks about trends. I didn't get much out of this book, probably because I'd already heard its ideas relayed elsewhere. But it was the only thing in the Orange County airport bookstore that I thought I could stand to read.

Labels: , ,

Book Report: Phonogram

I canceled out of the stuff I'd planned to do today. Instead, I am sitting, napping, eating. I wore myself out last week. First, getting over a cold. Then, having just gotten over the cold, staying out late to go see Sonic Youth play in Berkeley. It was a fun time. Maybe not such a great idea, though. The day afterwards, I just kind of flopped around, wiped out. Now it's the day after the day after and I'm determined to recover.

After the concert, Dave and I and hundreds of aging hipsters stood waiting at the train station. Dave made a move somewhere among a squat, a jointed slither, and the Charleston: he crouched and swung his knees, as if he were getting ready to jump to the side. "For tennis," he explained. Dave plays tennis. I tried a similar maneuver which I'd seen in various martial arts movies, but I couldn't hold the position. But I had a realization.

I said, "That pose would also be good practice for The Hover Maneuver."

He said, "What's The Hover Maneuver?"

"You remember how I was talking about the guy who always used an 'ass gasket' in public restrooms and how he was proud to have handled a gasket-less restroom, like sat down and all that?"

"Erg, yeah."

"OK, so someone else said that ass gaskets are pretty rare in the Southeast USA. And then someone who was from that area said that she grew up in the area and that she learned The Hover Maneuver."

"So it's--"

"Yeah, in that context, I think you gotta figure out what it is from its name."

Dave was somewhat nonplussed: "Why don't these people just sit down on the seat?"

"I dunno. Maybe if you go into a public restroom and you see the ass gaskets there, you figure they're there for a reason. Huh."


I explained my sudden thought: "So maybe the Hover Method is good training for tennis. Are there any tennis schools in, in Florida?"

"Yeah, there's G__________. They're pretty big." (I forget the name of the place he said.)

"Dude, it's because of the Hover Method."

Sonic Youth. I didn't listen to much Sonic Youth back in the day. On Thursday night, I just tagged along to that concert so I could hang out with friends. But I had a good time. Tagging along in someone else's musical nostalgia can be fun. Oh, right, that must mean I'm segue-ing into talking about the recently-collected-into-one-volume comic book "Phonogram"

Phonogram doesn't seem like something that I would like, yet it is--maybe due to excellence of execution or something. It's a comic book set in a magical world. The sources of magic are pointed out, but the exact mechanisms are left mysterious. But it's not yet-another urban fantasy where we're supposed to be all impressed by the notion of a mystical amulet called Eye of Avacados or whatever. The main character in this world derives his powers from pop music. There are long discussions about the meanings of old Britpop songs. I don't even care about Britpop, but I still loved reading this comic, watching the B.S. of musical criticism intertwine with the B.S. of woo-woo fantasy... somehow, when you put these two awful things together, something wonderful can emerge.

Labels: , ,

Book Report: Against the Day


Labels: , ,

Book Report: The Wonga Coup

Some people worry that laryngitis might interfere with their opera singing. Me, I spent the day at home trying to recover from laryngitis, listening to operetta. And I'm glad that I don't rely on my voice as much as I do on, say, my typing. And I'm glad I don't live in Equatorial Guinea.

Equatorial Guinea is ruled by brutal dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who came to power by bringing in mercenaries. That's not this book's story. This book tells the story of a 2004 coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea in which another band of mercenaries fails to take over the country. It's a story of furtive troop movements, unconvincing lies, less convincing confessions made under torture, and corruption. On the one hand it's heartening--many people who heard about the 2004 coup attempt moved to stop it. On the other hand, it's not like preserving the current regime is so wonderful.

Labels: , ,

Book Report: The Roads to Sata

In this travelog, our hero walks the length of Japan, from the tippy-top of Hokkaido, the length of Honshu, down south past Sakurajima. This was in the 1980s, and gaijin were mysterious; he encounters much racism. He speaks Japanese fluently, talking with folks in small towns. He wrestles with sumo. He farts loudly. He endures rain, sun, and incorrect navigation instruction. It's a good read.

Did you loan this book to me? I don't remember buying it. I probably borrowed it from someone. But now I can't remember who. I asked a couple of the usual suspects, but no dice.

Labels: , ,

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even Redmond

I was planning to visit the Seattle area this autumn. MS Puzzlehunt 11 is happening around then. Any Microsofties reading this... any suggestions on how I might volunteer as slave labor for the folks running this thing? I'd be happy to sit on a hint-line phone, watch a clue site, and/or monitor the status of a juice refrigerator, whatever would be useful.

I'd be curious to know if they're interested. If they're not, I'll probably head up in November instead.

[Update: I have heard from them. After I posted a message on Which is what I probably should have done in the first place.]

In other news, Hurrah for Team Bloodshot! Bravely determining whether Ravenchase's Great American Race is fun and/or awful. Upcoming weather reports predict temperatures in the 90s and thunderstorms. Oh dear. Hurrah?

Labels: , ,

Milestone: Nine Million Hits

Wow, it's the site's nine-millionth hit: - - [10/Jul/2007:21:58:59 -0400] "GET /departures/monterey/0/3267_diver_tm.jpg HTTP/1.1" 301 376 "-" "Googlebot-Image/1.0"

It looks like some Google web crawler is making sure that my photo of a diver in the Monterey Bay Aquarium from my Monterey travelog is still there.

"Millions of hits" doesn't mean that millions of people look at the site. Plenty of people do look at it. But there are plenty of robots, too. Maybe hits aren't the best thing to count. But it's not really clear what I do want to count. Counting hits is easy. So I count the hits--whether they be from humans, robots, or whatever.

Error hits add to the count. It's easier to count them than to decide which hits are errors and which aren't. I recently decided that, web-wise, my site was going to be, not To do this I set up a "301 redirect". That is, any time someone points their browser at the web address www.lahosken..., the web server returns an error saying "Error 301: You meant lahosken.... When your browser sees one of these "301" errors, it knows to load the corrected address. But that generates two hits: first you try to load www.lahosken..., then you successfully load lahosken.... Eventually, no-one will have the "www" in their bookmarks and so these errors will stop happening. But since I just recently set up the redirect, the old bookmarks and links and whatnot have been boosting the count.

Oh, and the count... the count is not so rigorous. In theory, each night my web service provider rotates the log files: each night, some magical script somewhere renames the access log, so that I know it was "yesterday's" access log. A few hours later, my magical script runs over "yesterday's" access log; my script maintains the permanent long-term count, the thing that just ticked past nine million. Except that a few months ago, my web service provider's magic script had a hiccup. The log file didn't get renamed. My script happily read "yesterday's" log file--but that was really yester-yesterday's log file. So my script counted yester-yesterday's hits twice, artificially boosting the count. I noticed it happening. If I was super-rigorous, I would have subtracted out those numbers. I noticed it happened at least a couple of times since then. I didn't fix those either. It might have happened a few times when I didn't notice. I don't always pay so much attention. This morning, I noticed a different problem: the log file got renamed, but at a different time than usual. The result this time is that my magical script totally overlooked a day's worth of logs. They were named as if they were yester-yesterday's logs, but were really just a few hours old. I'm too lazy to fix that, too. I don't know how many times that's happened.

A few years ago, there was one of those double-counted days. I carefully fixed up my permanent count to undo the double-counting. I was more rigorous then, more careful.

Labels: , ,

Link: writeup of La chasse au tresor de paris

I enjoyed this (English) writeup of a Paris treasure hunt game. Yeah, even though it sounds like it was one of those spot-landmarks-based-on-riddly-descriptions games.

Labels: ,

Link: Steven Pitsenbarger at Alternative Photography

Apparently, "anthotype" is a photographic development system which uses dyes from plants. I never would have heard about it if it wasn't for this guy:

"Pitsenbarger has had a lifelong fascination with plants. ... The anthotype process allows him to ditch the camera and make images of plants using their own juices."

Alternative Photography (emphasis mine)

Remind me to never allow Steven Pitsenbarger to take a photo of me.

Labels: , ,

Book Report: New York Underground

You might remember a while back I read the book RE/Search Pranks 2 and found out about Julia Solis, who together with the organization Dark Passage set up a LARP based around New York and an abandoned subway tunnel. She also does a lot of urban spelunking. The book New York Underground is her ode to the tunnels beneath New York city. There are historically-researched anecdotes. Some of the anecdotes about train tunnels sounded familiar to me. This suggests that there aren't so many of these stories floating around; maybe if I'd read other books about New York's underground tunnels, these stories would all be old.

But I really like the photographs. Are the underground tunnels really lit up like that, or did she need to sneak lighting equipment down with her? The spooky green illumination of the cyclotron on Columbia University campus... But it's not just the lighting. There are the smooth lines of the tunnels, the broken debris on the tunnel floors, graffiti left by trespassers for trespassers. Go read this. Or at least look at the photos.

Labels: , ,

Link: Changing Roles of Katakana (and Italics)

I just read an article with some conjectures about the cultural significance of the rise and fall of katakana amongst Japanese writing systems. Hey, gimme a break, I'm waiting for a slow download, I'm going to read weird stuff. But the interesting part was when he pointed out that in Japanese semaphore code, it takes more than one, uhm, stance to encode each symbol. It takes a variable number, from one to three. In many cases, the stances are supposed to suggest the strokes of the katakana syllable.

Oh now I want a big pile of Japanese text that's been parsed into syllables so I can measure the frequencies, maybe come up with a simple huffman encoding. Oh, my download finished, never mind.

Labels: ,

home |