A few months back, an ice cream manufacturer rolled out a big advertising campaign in San Francisco: a bunch of big posters saying "San Francisco Deserves a Better Treat Than Rice". If they'd said "Rice-a-Roni," I might have agreed with them. But they didn't say that. They said "rice." Why would they disrespect rice like that? If I had to choose to give up rice or ice cream for the rest of my life, I wouldn't hesitate: that ice cream would be out the door so fast.

If they really wanted to market to me as a San Franciscan, they would have at least chosen mint chocolate chip flavor for their stupid ice cream treat. But they didn't even do that. They didn't study my culture at all.

As one does when disrespected, I walked past these ads thinking "Why I oughtta..." I oughtta design some stickers saying to respect the rice. And I oughtta print those stickers. And I oughtta stick those stickers on these stupid posters. And as one does when thinking "Why I oughtta..." I never got around to it.

That was months ago.

But now, closing the door after the horses are long gone, I got around to making a sticker design. Because I am a man of a certain age, when I think about respecting rice, my mind goes back to an old movie called A Better Tomorrow Part II in which a young Chow Yun Fat demands that a mobster apologize to the rice right now.

The next time some lame advertising posters demonstrate a lack of respect for this staple food, I'll be ready. Well, I'll be readier than I was a few months ago. I haven't printed out stickers. And I'd have to work up the nerve to stick them onto posters. Anyhow. Progress.


Link: Coffee to the People

I guess as long as I'm linking to a cafe, I should link to the place where I pick up coffee on weekend mornings: Coffee to the People. I claim that it is awesome. It's a cafe at Haight on Masonic. There are tables, sofas, books, boardgames. There are coffee drinks, pastries, and some other bits of food that don't require too much prep: bagels, warmed-up quiche, etc. I usually get a depth charge and that depth charge usually keeps me awake without sending me into a clench-jawed frenzy. I.e., efficacious but not harmful. I try to get there early in the morning, before poseurs, hipsters, and fashionistas descend upon the neighborhood, cafe, and mood. Early in the morning, there might be grizzled political commentators, street people, and hippies, but nothing you can't handle. I drink coffee, maybe pick at a scone, sit, read, and wait for wakefulness to return.

Not to be confused with the People's Cafe. That place concentrates more on food, sandwiches and such. That's all well and good, but I like Coffee to the People better.

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Book Report: Noodling for Flatheads

I've been watching teams' Ghost Patrol application videos. They've been fun, with a lot of variety. What does this tell us?

  • Fun: This demonstrates that Gamers are silly
  • Variety: This demonstrates that the movie "Ghostbusters" lacks a Scrabble scene.

Ah, I love this subculture. But there are others. I read Noodling for Flatheads a while back. This is a book of essays about certain underground hobbies of the American South. It's a fun, quick read. Who might we be if we were in the South? You might fish for catfish by letting them try to eat your hand; you might be cockfighting participants and organizers; Moonshine producers and prosecutors; weighing the risks of Squirrel-eating vs kuru; thinking about Frog farming: fact or fiction; Raccoon hunting dogs; Chitlins in our nation, our culture, and our arteries; Marbles because why not marbles?

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Book Report: Long Time Leaving

Yes, I have mostly been writing about the computer crapola lately. But I do still have a long bus commute and I have still been reading plenty. Would that everyhting I read was as much fun as Long Time Leaving.

It's a book of humorous essays by Roy Blount Jr. They are funny. Should I quote some of them to you? Look, if you like other things by Roy Blount Jr, you'll probably like this one. Make sure you read Augusta Un-Mastered, which starts out as a travelogue but meanders off into architecture, tattoo artistry, and stranger things.

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Site: Updated No-Name Sushi Menu

I've been forcing myself to use the new computer, putting it through its paces. If there are important files/settings/whatevers that I forgot to copy over from the old machine, I'd like to know about it before my dialup service goes away. That is, I'd like to know about it before it gets difficult to rescue files/settings/whatevers from that machine. I finally got my monitor configured. In general, I love how easy it's been to get started with this Dell Ubuntu box. The network just works; the sound card just works. Plenty of other things just worked and I probably didn't even notice them, because who notices the things that "just work"? I only noticed the network and the sound card because they didn't work on the previous machine. Anyhow, one detail that didn't "just work": Dell happily sold me a monitor as something standard that goes with this machine; but the Ubuntu setup on the machine didn't realize how many pixels this monitor had. When I tried to choose a screen resolution, it maxed out at 1024 x 768. But this big label on the monitor said I should go for 1600 x 1050. It wasn't obvious how to do this; I'm not sure I did it the right way. Anyhow, edited my /etc/X11/xorg.conf file, found a likely-looking place that said "1024x768" and changed that to "1600x1050". Then I restarted (if I were a 'leet linux admin, I probably could have just restarted X instead of restarting the whole machine, but I don't know how to do that), and then I was able to select 1600 x 1050. So now I have more pixels. And I edited an X11 config file by hand and didn't brick my machine in the process, yay.

What? My point? Oh yeah. So I've been putting the machine through its paces. My goal was not to get more pixels. My goal was to set things up so that Firefox and emacs windows are next to each other so I can edit web pages and see how they look without having windows obscure each other. What web page did I work on?

I updated the No-Name Sushi Menu page. The old version of this page was based on a take-out menu from 2003. This new one is from 2007. What changed? There are fewer kai (clam) choices, no tamago (cooked egg) choices. There are more fresh salmon choices. There is kinbow, which is apparently burdock root. I think I hate burdock, but I'm not sure whether I hate the root, the stem, some other part, or all parts. I guess I should find out eventually.

In other news, because my employer is participating in an upcoming FCC spectrum auction, starting Monday I am not supposed to talk about spectrum stuff. Mostly I'm not supposed to talk about the auction, but in general I'm supposed to be skittish about talking about mobile phone services. So I guess there will not be so many phone-service-hating rants in the upcoming months. Thus:

  • Verizon says that they're going to create an "open" version of their service. Sort of like how your ISP doesn't restrict what model of machine you hook up to their ethernet socket, Verizon wouldn't restrict what mobile devices you use with their services. That would be nice. I'll $&#*ing believe it when I $&#*ing see it. Remember ~10 years ago when telcos were legally required to open up to the CLECs? They all said they were opening up; but they were dragged their feet.
  • You iPhone users are so gullible. How did you get tricked into using a device which such a slow data connection?

You see, most of the people who are likely to be annoyed by those two rants are my co-workers. They're going to be gagged by that same FCC rule. They probably won't read this until Monday, by which time the gag rule will be in effect. I get the last word!

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Not exactly a Book Report; Not exactly PuzzleHunt-Related

If you've always meant to check out the magazine Giant Robot but never got around to it, now you have some more motivation. Issue #44, in stores now, has an interview with Tetsuya Nishio. Yeah, the guy who invented Paint-by-Numbers/Nonogram/whatever puzzles. WPC dude. Yeah, him. It's not a long interview, but he does present a couple of cute little riddles, and we learn that he likes alcohol.

I'm not that much of a puzzle-head, so I thought the interview with the guy who makes donuts with fresh fruit was more interesting. He mentioned that the Harvey Mudd unicycle club rides to his donut shop annually. I'd heard something like that before, but assumed it was a tall tale.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, including outside a local cafe

Today was the YABA 2005 treasure hunt game, run by Alexandra Dixon. I volunteered to help out. Game control has to do many things. Scout the course, design puzzles, playtest, print puzzles, set up, run the game, clean up. Wow.

Fortunately, I didn't do much of that today. My tough job: sit outside a cafe and eat some salad and a couple of slices of apple tart. I was manning a "clue hub". Teams were solving puzzles; those puzzles directed them to places around the neighborhood. When they were halfway through the game, they visited me at the cafe to pick up a second batch of clues.

So teams showed up. I handed over clues. I nibbled at my tart and waited for more teams to show up. Meanwhile a crowd of teams built up around the intersection, sitting on bus stop benches and in doorways.

I watched one team. One member had nicked himself with scissors; he was bleeding. He called out for tape. A team member had a tape dispenser mounted on his wrist and handed over some tape for a jury-rigged bandage. Wow, a tape dispenser on his wrist. That guy was ready for anything. That's why they were a master team.

Some non-playing fellows at the next table wanted to know what all the excitement was about. Why were there all these people sitting around solving puzzles? I talked a bit about it. One guy said that he had run some scavenger hunt games in NYC. I asked if it was the Haystack Game; it wasn't. He'd just run some little games for friends. I wrote down Alexandra's URL on a piece of paper and handed it to him so he could get links to local games. Moving from NYC to San Francisco is no excuse to give up gaming.

Wesley Chan sat down at a chair across the table from me. Wes was also volunteering--he was bicycling along the course, snapping photos. He looked really tired, more tired than I would have expected. What was up with Wesley? Oh, he was moving this weekend. He was moving to Noe Valley. Eventually he forced himself back up to his feet; he was back in photo-taking mode. As for me, I went back to my tart.

I munched and looked around. I saw people solving puzzles. They seemed to be concentrating; they seemed to be having a good time. A week before, I'd been on a plane to Tennessee to attend a funeral. This was more fun. I hoped to attend more puzzle hunts and fewer funerals in the near future.

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Current Events

This is a blog; it is largely about books. Today the blogosphere is abuzz with news about a book: the new Harry Potter book is out.

I spent the day sailing. Thus, I had a fun time with Piaw and Lisa. Lea W. was there, awesome as ever. Speaking of blogs, I met pioneering blogger Eric Case. Vianna was there; I met her sweet patootie Dan. These were good people to spend a day with on a boat. There was fun sailing; there was relaxing sitting; there was enlightening conversation.

Afterwards, I got to meet Lea W's housemate Jonathan Blow. I've only been hearing about this guy for, like, forever.

We went to Lalime's, a restaurant which I'd heard about often, but had never tried.

Old friends, new friends. A restaurant I can cross off my list.

Have I made all of the Potter-reading people envious? I hope so. I hope they try to one-up me by going outside more often on nice days. Then I can borrow someone's copy of the new Harry Potter book.

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Book Report: Something From the Oven

Laura Shapiro wrote this awesome book about home cooking in 1950s USA. There are many interesting stories here. There is the tragic tale of Poppy Cannon who tried to convince the world that canned tomato soup was a good start towards a gazpacho--but the really tragic part was her personal life. There is the emergent persona of Betty Crocker, including Marjorie Child Husted, one of the main components of that persona. There are failed food industry campaigns--after the success of fish sticks, they tried to sell fried breaded everything.

There are many good stories in this book. You should read it. Ideally with the song "Betty Crocker, Punk Rocker" playing in the background. But if you can't swing that, don't let it stop you from reading this.

Also thanks to this book, I know I should check out some food writing by M.F.K. Fisher.

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