Link: Plain ol' Tasha

Tasha draws a comic. It's pretty good. She was inspired by Jim's Journal, and that inspiration shows.

You might think I'd link to a good comic to recommend it. But I never got around to it.

Yesterday, I bought toenail clippers. I suddenly recognized that Tasha and I shop at the same drugstore.

So I linked to that.

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Glossing my Twits: 2HB

Seth Godin recently blogged "If you've got 140 characters to make your point, the odds are you are going to be misunderstood (a lot)." I'm not really surprised that I get questions about my twitter items. E.g., my parents and D. asked what my recent Twitter means. OK, so I'll explain. But I warn you: it's a long story, maybe not worth it.

This time, I recognized the two-headed baby even though I just saw it out of the corner of my eye. It is a skill; it can be learned.

Why "This time"? Because this Twit refers back to a previous one:

I failed to recognize the two-headed baby. I blame the brutal legendary hair.

That Twit probably only made sense to two people reading it; I twitted it anyhow because I liked the sound of "brutal legendary". Ah, but what sense does it make?

I used to work at a game company called Infinite Machine, and so did a bunch of other people. After I.M. went under us people scattered to the four winds. Paul Du Bois and Lance Burton went to a company named Double Fine. Double Fine's logo is a two-headed baby. They are a game company, thus they have artists working for them full-time, therefore they have an awesome logo. This logo is sufficiently awesome that they stitch it onto patches. You can buy these patches.

I'm fond of the company. Remember how I bought an Xbox so I could play an excellent game called "Psychonauts"? And then when I was done with the game, I gave away the XBox and the associated TV because they would never experience anything so awesome again? Double Fine made that game. Anyhow.

Double Fine's project is a game called "Brutal Legend." I don't know much about it except that it's based on the iconography and imagery of Heavy Metal. And lately, they've been making two-headed baby patches upon which the 2HB sports long headbanger-ish hair. (Available now! Just $5) If you waxed lyrical, you might refer to it as brutal legendary hair. Anyhow.

At work a coupla weeks ago, some of us folks on a project are walking along. One of them asks the project's Tech Lead about the patch on his jacket. I'd kinda noticed that there was a patch on his jacket, but now I looked closer--OMG 2HB! He was wearing a Double Fine Two-Headed Baby patch. His spouse, it turns out, works at Double Fine. (What are the chances?) It looked different from the logo I was used to--it had the head-bangerish hair.

So I'd seen this patch a few times and failed to recognize it until someone pointed it out--maybe because the head-bangerish made it look different. Thus, I failed to recognize the two-headed baby. I blame the brutal legendary hair.

With me so far? OK.

Sunday evening, I'm trotting down my apartment building's stairwell, heading out for the evening. Someone else is coming up that same stairwell. We mutter greetings at each other, drift right, move past each other. And after we'd passed each other, some synapses in my brain finish firing and I ask... I ask something which, if the answer had been "no", would have been pretty embarrassing. I asked "Excuse me, is that the two-headed baby logo?" The answer was yes, yes it was. He was wearing a jacket with the patch. This guy lives upstairs from me. It turns out he sits right next to Paul Du Bois at work, because he works at Double Fine. I was pleased that I'd recognized the logo this time--and noticed it en passant.

Of course, part of the reason I'd succeeded this time is that earlier, I'd stared at that other patch, wondering "why didn't I recognize this?" The image was burned into my brain.

OK, so this time I recognized the two-headed baby logo out of the corner of my eye, probably because I'd been staring at the logo recently. Thus This time, I recognized the two-headed baby even though I just saw it out of the corner of my eye. It is a skill; it can be learned.

Fair warning: April is coming up. April is National Poetry Month. In April, I reserve the right to Twitter things solely because they sound interesting--and they might not have any basis in reality whatsoever.

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Site Update: More Library Handcarts

Yeah, I know you want a game report. Yesterday was BANG17, which was pretty awesome. Even if the game hadn't been awesome, it would have been a good excuse to hang out for a day with some folks who I hadn't seen in too long a time: Andrea took a break from her hectic almost-graduated grad student schedule; Lofty Dave recovered from a cold just in time; Paul Du Bois drove up from San Jose.

Plus it was good to meet some new-to-me folks. Paul's Double Fine co-worker Pete Demoreuille was introduced as "Smart Pete" and lived up to his nickname. I got wrapped in aluminum foil by The Smoking Gnu. I met Paul, the mysterious force behind the Bay Area Night Game wiki. I found out that Michael of team Taft on a Raft knows some Double Fine folks.

But I'm not going to try to write about that now. Today, I've been kind of a wreck. I didn't get much sleep Friday night, and so early Saturday I drank an excessive amount of coffee. I was doing my Buzzy the Hummingbird impression all day. Today, I went cold turkey on the sauce. I've mostly been napping. When I haven't been napping, I haven't been... effective. Like just now I opened up a big jug of orange juice to pour myself a glass, and tossed the jug cap. I didn't want to do that--I needed to re-cap the jug. What saved me from fishing the cap out of the trash? I was so spacey that my toss missed the garbage bin.

The only worthwhile thing I got done today was to prepare some photos from yesterday. These aren't the BANG 17 photos. I have a few of those, but they're not ready yet. You can look at Lofty's photos, starting with this one showing most of the team covering a Smoking Gnu with foil.

I have photos of what I did before the game: photos of book trucks from Doe Library. I now have two hand cart photos showing graffiti in languages I can't read. One in (I guess) Chinese and one in (I guess) Arabic.

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Book Report: The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy

I finished playing the excellent game Psychonauts! It was totally worth buying an XBox just to play this game. Actually, I didn't make it to the end of the game. I made it to the start of the "meat circus" level, peeked at a walkthrough, and figured out that I was at the end of the adventure-gamey part--you know, the part I enjoy. (That and figuring out ways to destroy hay bales.) So I stopped playing the game, opened up the bonus disc that only had cutscenes, and watched the final cutscenes. Wow, fun cutscenes full of funny and/or touching dialog. All the fun of the game without the tedious trapeze artistry! It was awesome.

Sometimes the path to maximum enjoyment of a product involves knowing when to stop. For yet another example, consider the book, The Battle Over Hetch Hetchy.

I didn't read the whole book. I read the introduction. The introduction was informative.

Hetch Hetchy is, of course, the big reservoir next to Yosemite where a lot of San Francisco's water is stored. It used to be a mountain valley; we dammed it. In hindsight, it wasn't such a great place for a reservoir in terms of beauty lost vs. water stored. John Muir, at the time, pointed out that it was a bad idea.

What I learned from this book's introduction: at the time when people were debating whether or not San Francisco should flood Hetch Hetchy, it wasn't rapacious developers versus nature lovers. It was public utility people versus private utility people. Pretty much everyone except John Muir figured that Hetch Hetchy would be turned into a reservoir; it was mostly a question of whether San Francisco or some private company would do so.

Some nature lovers who didn't want the valley flooded. But there weren't many of them. Cynical folks at the time didn't take these nature lovers seriously--and perhaps with good reason. The nature lovers wanted to build roads to Hetch Hetchy and turn it into a place for tourists. They didn't have any plans on how to do this, however. Private water and power interests exhorted these people--because private water and power interests didn't want the city to have public water nor power.

So I learned something from the introduction, yayy! Then I emerged into the book proper. I read a few pages and quickly determined that the author, Robert Righter, was going into more detail than I really wanted to read. So I stopped.

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Book Report: Strange Brains and Genius

I'm playing the excellent game PsychoNauts. It's a fun game. In this game, you get to crawl around inside the minds of some pretty insane folks. Insane people can be fun. So you might think I'd like the book "Strange Brains and Genius", which explores the relation between genius and insanity. But it didn't turn out that way.

I didn't make it very far in this book. That doesn't mean it was a poorly-written and/or poorly-researched book. That means I was reading the wrong book.

Cliff Pickover wrote mini-biographies of some eccentric geniuses. Then he looked for common themes amongst their madnesses and/or eccentricities. I made it partway through the biographies, but it was mostly stuff I'd seen before. I didn't especially want to read any reflections on the relation between genius and madness, so I stopped.

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Book Report: The Nautical Chart

You may recall that a few weeks ago, my simple plan to play the excellent game PsychoNauts hit a snag when I failed to rent an XBox machine. This weekend, I tried again. I'd asked around about XBox rentals. No-one knew of a place that rented any. So yesterday, I decided to buy an XBox. I shoveled big fistfuls of cash into my pockets and walked over to the local Toys 'R Us.

It was closed. I mean, it wasn't just closed for the day. This store was closed forever. It's like there was some malign cosmic force which had determined that I was not going to play the excellent game PsychoNauts, and that force was snuffing out businesses to thwart me.

I was feeling pretty shaken. My "Plan B" for XBox acquistion had failed. The whole point of "Plan B" is that it's not supposed to fail. "Plan B" is the plan where you buckle down and do things the safe way. I went over to the local Peet's to have some coffee and steady my nerves. Then I walked home.

I looked at the CompUSA web site. They said that they sold XBox machines, and that the downtown San Francisco store had them in stock. I called up the store and navigated some voice menus to hear... that they sold XBox machines and the downtown San Francisco store had them in stock. I wanted to talk to a human, to gain some reassurance that the malign force would not thwart me again. But I got over it.

CompUSA was still there. They did indeed have XBoxes. I bought one, hooked it up. My television did not catch fire.

Soon I was playing the excellent game PsychoNauts. It really is excellent. At least up until the point where there's a Psi Blast training level. I haven't got past that. I don't think I can get past that level on my merits. My merits as a video game player are pretty sparse. I tried looking up a cheat code, and couldn't even figure out how to enter that.

Meanwhile, I've had a fun time kicking virtual rocks, punching virtual hay bales, and looking at pretty glowy figments. But I think I'm stuck until I can get in touch with someone who can tell me the right way to enter a cheat code for this game.

But there are plenty of video game review sites out there. You didn't come here for video game reviews, did you? You came for the book report. OK, let's step away from this game which is excellent, but hard for me to access. Let's look at a book that's accessible, but not so good. Let's look at The Nautical Chart.

Take a simple piece of noir crap.

Dress it up with themes. The main character is a sailor, skilled at navigating. He thinks about objects to use as landmarks, to take bearings from. At the start of this novel, he gets rid of his sextant. He starts taking orders from a femme fatale. Towards the end, he gets some new navigation equipment, and takes control of his life back.

So navigation is a theme. And there are other themes. And so the reader can feel all proud of himself as he checks them off. I spotted that, he thinks to himself.

So reading this book was kind of satisfying in that I could go back and write an essay about it for a college-level course. But that doesn't change the fact that this book stunk on ice, and had the plot of a basic piece of noir crap. Not to say that all noir is crap. I'm just classifying the exact kind of crap that this book is a piece of. You understand.

It was translated from the Spanish. Maybe in the original Spanish, the language is more amusing? There were some passages that seemed like they were trying to be funny.

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Book Report: The Search

Just a few hours ago, my weekend plans were so simple.

  • Put the excellent game PsychoNauts into my backpack so I remember to bring it home from work.
  • On the way home from work, stop off at BlockBuster video to rent an XBox video game machine.
  • Go home.
  • Plug in TV. See if TV catches fire. (A few months ago, I was moving furniture in my apartment. I tipped a bookshelf over on my TV. I haven't tried using the TV since then. It's probably fine. But maybe there's a short-circuit in there; maybe it will catch fire.)
  • See if I can figure out how to hook up the XBox to the TV. This may not be possible at all. I don't know anything about the provenance of this TV. During the depths of the dot-bomb, my neighbor, like me, could not find a job. So he moved back to the East Coast to live with his dad. He gave me his TV so that I could have some entertainment during my own unemployment. How old is this TV? What are its inputs? I don't know.
  • Play PsychoNauts.
  • Achieve bliss.

This simple plan just got simpler: It turns out that Blockbuster doesn't rent out XBox machines. I wonder why I thought they did. Maybe they used to. Maybe I'm just an ignoramus. I tried calling up EB Games. They don't rent XBox machines, either.

How will I play this game? What am I doing this weekend?

But that does not help you, dear reader. How can I help you? Are you here for the book reports? I can share my opinion of John Battelle's The Search. What is that opinion? The Search is worth skimming, but not worth reading.

In ten years or so when kids ask me "What was life like back when the web was young?" I can hand them this book. But if you lived through that time, this book is 95% full of stuff you already know. You might want to borrow the book to get the other 5%.

Some fun facts from my 5%:

  • It is much cheaper to acquire customers by being search-findable than by sending email spam according to some report by some organization named Piper Jaffray. Not just more ethical. It's cheaper. Spammers are evil and dumb.
  • The Yahoo! founders' first(?) web-crawling project scraped sports statistics from many places. The goal: Winning a fantasy football league.
  • The people think that mixing paid search listings with regular search listings is a feature, not sleazy. They see it as the web parallel to the yellow pages. They don't think of the yellow pages as sleazy.
  • During the Google IPO, Google opened up stock bidding to a large auction. Brokers specializing in IPOs criticized Google for this. This criticism did not say, "I, a fat-cat IPO broker, am upset. Why did those Google jerks use an auction? All the other high-tech companies let me run my own little exclusive auction. I sell stock cheap to my fat-cat frat buddies and then we sell the stock at high prices to regular investors. We all get mansions. It's great. Doesn't Google like the old boy network?" Instead, the criticism said, "Google is arrogant." (Remember folks: just because someone despises you doesn't always mean that they're arrogant. Sometimes it means you're despicable.)
  • When something strange happens to the Google index, people suffer. One year during an index change, stopped showing up in the top search results. The business nearly went under. The business owner tried to find out what was going on, but no-one at Google replied to him. Google needs to work on communication.

Hmm, that mention of fantasy football reminds me that I want to read something about football pools.

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