I Didn't See Your Mail; Facial Hair

Happy New Year! If you sent me email in the last few days, I maybe never saw it. My site's spam-detection software thought that mail dated 2010 or later was likely to be spam. (This was apparently an awesome spam-detection trick a few years ago.)

In site update news, I posted a photo of me to the page of photos of me. In this photo, I attempt to imitate Chuck Jordan, but fall short. And the lighting is bad.

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Milestone: 15 Million Hits

I'm writing this in kind of a hurry. An out-of-town cousin is in town. There have been fun activities. There will be more. Thus, apologies. I write in haste.

The 15 millionth item (modulo the usual disclaimers of reportage noise) - - [20/Dec/2009:00:02:17 -0400] "GET /new/labels/interspecies%20diplomacy.html HTTP/1.1" 200 49246 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)"

This appears to be a robot: it loaded a few pages from my site, but not the accompanying graphics, style sheets, etc. It started out by loading my Evil Guest book report and then loading some pages linked-to from there.

Whois and traceroute make me guess that this machine is in Georgia, belonging to the Georgia Department of Education. Its robot-like behavior makes me worry that it's been taken over by a botnet—crawling some random web pages on my site doesn't seem like a very department-of-education-ish thing to do. Then again, there are stranger things in heaven and earth etc etc. I gotta go.

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Tutorial: Closure Tools Javascript compiler and library

There are some fine tutorials out there for using Closure Tools, but I wrote a tutorial anyhow. Go read Closure Tutorial: Displaying Friendfeed Items. Uhm, by "Closure Tools", I mean the set of recently-opensourced Javascript compilation tools and library code. The Closure library is huge, and there's plenty to explore. This tutorial shines a light on goog.net.Jsonp and goog.array.

Yes, I wrote this on a Saturday. Tech Writer's Saturday is like a busman's holiday, apparently.

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Yosemite Photos

I went to Yosemite earlier this month. While I was there, I took some Yosemite photos, which I now make available to you, the internet. Thank goodness, right? I mean, the internet totally suffered a dearth of Yosemite photos until I came along. Next, I might try taking some cute photos of cats.

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Posted Chicago Photos

I went to Yosemite! But that was this week. Last-last week my parents and I went to Chicago. I posted some photos, some mine, some other folks'. They're more likely to interest you if you're related to me. Or if you like to look at photos of tourists who are looking up. A lot of stuff in Chicago is tall. Tourists look up a lot.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere simultaneously

I posted some notes on DASH #1. There's a photo. This would be a good time for me to mention: "playdash".

(My DASH photo is not as cool as the photo of Jack o Lanterns including one with a hidden message which might be more topical now that we're in October. But what can you do?)

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even Stanford

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Even Marx Meadow, Hawk Hill, and other places around the San Francisco Bay Area

Against all odds, I wrote about Shinteki Decathlon 5. I played the first weekend; the second weekend I volunteered. Thus, there's a pile of semi-related stuff in that write-up. It's mostly about playing. Thus, you can thrill to the chase after a "wet elephant". You can vicariously experience my unhelpfulness as I ate a really good lemon bar pastry while watching my team-mates solve a puzzle involving flags of all nations. You know, standard game write-up stuff. But in the middle, there's a long aside where I blather about being a volunteer at Marx Meadow, and mixed up in that, there's some semi-coherent speculation and handwaving about how the idea of a "mobile GC" couldn't possibly work, except that obviously it does work so I'm not sure what my point was, exactly, except that I was full of admiration and empty of understanding of how the Shinteki folks keep it all together.

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Texas Travelog

A while back, I asked for Texas travel advice and y'all had good advice. Where by "y'all" I mean "Curtis" Thank you, Curtis! (I think Darcy told me to go to Austin; this advice was disqualified on the grounds of "My Texas travel guide drew a blank on things to do in Austin") So I went to Texas. And I came back with results.

Let me be clear: the main thing I found out is that my plan to use census data to pick a vacation spot was a bad plan.

Anyhow, you can read the whole thing: Texas 2009. Or see it. It's mostly photos. I gave up on trying to impose a narrative on this one. I ended up leaving out some detaily stuff that I might normally include, but maybe wasn't so interesting. I ate at a Waffle House! That's pretty exotic cuisine for me. But maybe folks aren't so excited to read about it.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, which helps explain how we kept showing up at clue sites

Behold my notes from the excellent BANG XX. Yes, that game was a while ago. Hey, if I publish the notes for BANG 20 before BANG 21 starts, that's not late, right? What's that you say? Something about nonsequential nonsensical numbering systems? I'm not listening to you, I've got my fingers in my ears.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even appearing simultaneously in Redmond and Palo Alto

Behold, it is notes from Microsoft Puzzle Hunt 1[23]. I volunteered at the bay area simulcast. I took a couple of crappy cameraphone photos of the playtest. I dressed up as the angel of death and other folks took videos! Anyhow, scattered notes.

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Site: Yet more Library Book Cart graffiti photos

I uploaded more library book truck graffiti photos (scroll down to the section marked February 2009 for the latest greatest). Can you find the palindrome? I knew you could.

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Site: Updated Contact Info New Phone Number

I have a new phone and a new phone number to go with it: 1 415 868 4629. So I updated the Larry Hosken Contact Info page and there was much rejoicing.

I also have a Hello Kitty bag to hold the phone, all rigged up on a belt clip. It does not look as cool as it sounds from the verbal description; and the verbal description is already pretty dorky. You have been warned.

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Milestone: 13 Million Hits

Wow, it's the site's 13000000th hit. (Sort of. Actually, it probably passed 13000000 a while back. I skipped counting a bunch of hits (most of them?) during October-November. Anyhow.) - - [18/Jan/2009:05:48:16 -0400] "GET /departures/Seattle/11/03623_al_mary_veronica_tom_table_tm.jpg HTTP/1.1" 200 4497 "http://lahosken.san-francisco.ca.us/departures/Seattle/11/" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0; SLCC1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; Media Center PC 5.0; .NET CLR 3.0.04506; InfoPath"

Let's see, what's going on here? Someone viewed the travelog of that road trip to Vancouver that Tom Lester and I took four years ago when we were both between jobs. That page shows a bunch of "thumbnail" graphics--small versions of large photos. Here, the browser is fetching one of those thumbnails, specifically a photo from Veronica & Patrick's place up at the Sixes River in Oregon--in the photo, Patrick's parents and Veronica are sitting around the kitchen table.

The IP address suggests that the user is a customer of Bigpond, an ISP service run by Telstra in Australia. Assuming that Bigpond uses a sensible naming convention, I'm guessing this customer is in Queensland:

$ dig -x
;; ANSWER SECTION: 85476 IN PTR CPE-124-185-38-69.qld.bigpond.net.au.

"qld" seems like an abbreviation for Queensland, doesn't it?

Looking at previous hits for that same IP address (presumably the same user), we can see loading lots more thumbnails... Ah, and here's where they loaded the page itself: - - [18/Jan/2009:05:48:14 -0400] "GET /departures/Seattle/11/ HTTP /1.1" 200 45255 "http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=1&ct=result&cd=1&q=recommended+road+trip+between+LA+and+Vancouver&spell=1" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 6.0; SLCC1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; Media Center PC 5.0; .NET CLR 3.0.04506; InfoPath.1)"

I guess they arrived at the page after doing a Google search for road trip recommendations from L.A. to Vancouver. Dang, Tom and I started a ways north of L.A. I sure hope that that Australian nevertheless leaves some slack touristy-time between L.A. and S.F. There's plenty of stuff to see there.

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Book Report: Refactoring HTML

This book is about cleaning up HTML, the markup language used to write web pages. It's a good book. I'm going to kvetch a lot about parts, but... kvetching comes easy. Anyhow.

You know how liberals are famous for losing credibility with normal folks by... by looking at things from both sides out loud, shooting themselves in the foot along the way? This book is kinda like that at first, but it gets better. It loses credibility early on by arguing at length for XHTML over HTML. There is the usual list of reasons that people use when boosting XHTML, none of which apply to folks writing HTML by hand. Yet, that, apparently, is the audience: "Writing correct XHTML is only even mildly challenging when hand authoring in a text editor." That last sentence indicates an author out of touch with reality as most people experience it. This is forgivable, understandable. The author, Elliotte Rusty Harold, has been looking at raw XML more than most people. He has written more books about XML than... he's written a lot. He has no doubt learned to look <through /> a <forest /> of XML-ish <angle /> <brackets /> (in the same way that an experienced LISP programmer (easily) keeps track of a prairie (of parentheses)). But there are other pieces of advice--assign an id to each element, e.g.-- which suggest that he doesn't normally work in raw XHTML (or HTML); no-one could wade through that much clutter. (In his defense, he does back off and suggest that it's enough to add ids for just some of the major elements--but he says the trade-off is for bandwidth; never mind the sanity of the folks trying to read & edit the code later.) And he misspelled Marc MERLIN's last name. And-- a-- and--

And hang on don't run away; there's a lot of good stuff in this book. This book is basically a big list of ways that you can improve your HTML--and other aspects of your web site. I wish more webmasters would read this book. Though not all pieces of advice apply to all sites, many of them... I wish more webmasters were exposed to more of these issues. I suspect that most webmasters aren't aware of many of them. I wish more webmasters studied up on web accessibility. And I don't really think that the author Harold is an insane XML freak who has lost his instinct for XML's unreadability--I looked at his web page and it's in HTML, not XHTML; Harold doesn't force himself to deal with hand-editing XHTML. To be clear: Harold's web page's HTML is quite readable.

I could imagine using this book as a checklist for sprucing up a site--not following all of the pieces of advice, but considering them. It covers a wide swath of ground: encodings, programming, HTTP, SEO, usability... there's plenty of good stuff here. Check it out; keep your grain of salt handy.

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Site Update: It's like Web2.0, but three years too late to be considered cool

You know how I had separate lists of Twitter updates and Blog updates? Like, on my home page, I listed each of those, but they were in separate areas? That was kind of silly. And unnecessary: Friendfeed provides a handy combination of my feeds. They provide it as a pretty web page, but also as a Web API. So I wrote a little Javascript to present that list of recent updates.

It's like I'm some kind of web programmer or something. But I'm not turning into a hipster, I swear. I don't even own an ironic trucker cap. Don't shun me just because I used some Javascript. At least I didn't put in any gratuitous XML parsing.

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Misapplying Google Friend Connect

I put a couple of "Google Friend Connect" gadgets on the site. These are little web gadgets that allow you to register your interest in the site and to leave comments on a wall. (That's "wall" in the sense of "write all", i.e., like a forum or IRC channel for you young whippersnappers who didn't have "wall".) And you're thinking "So what, big deal. I could already leave comments without these 'gadget' thingies." And you're right.

A neat thing about these gadgets, though--you can use them on more than one site and they share their data. E.g., I set up gadgets on a test website. The wall-comments there are the same as those on this site.

So... suppose you have a website on some topic. You can set up these gadgets for your own site. You can then encourage other folks to put your site's gadgets onto their sites. They'll need to install some HTML, and they'll need your permission (You'll need to tweak your Friend Connect settings under Site Settings > Advanced, you'll need to add their site's URL to the list of permitted sites) E.g., if you have a site about puzzly treasure-hunts and if you give me permission, I could post your gadget on my site. You might like that because it helps drive traffic to your site. I might like that because it makes my site part of a bigger community.

But I don't think my site could be the main site for the topic--my site's topic is me. I doubt that other sites want to start showing gadgets for my site. I do not have a personality cult; I am not Kibo.

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Ghost Patrol: It was awesome, yes

The Ghost Patrol Game was awesome. You just want to lock the creators up in a basement somewhere and force them to crank out more of these things. Uhm, but that would be wrong. Anyhow, there's a write-up; with photos stolen from Dave Shukan.

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Site: Yet More Library Book Cart Graffiti Photos

I went to Doe Library again yesterday and I had my camera with me--with some juice in the batteries this time. I snapped photos of the re-shelving carts, the ones which have been decorated. I guess that bored library science students decorate them, but I don't know the whole story. So now the August 2008 part of my collection of library book truck graffiti photos has grown. Yes, someone painted a pirate ship onto the front of a cart. Someone drew an "S" such as you might see in an old illuminated manuscript. Someone pointed out that they were pushing books for The Man.

But I've now seen "CONS" (short for "conservation", I suppose) used as the start of "CONStantly" twice now, so I'm no longer impressed by that joke. C'mon, librarians, keep it fresh.

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Site: Library Cart Graffiti Photos

Yesterday was a good day for a few reasons, few of which will make it into the permanent record. But one good thing was a visit to Doe Library. While there, I snapped photos of a few decorated book carts. I would have snapped more, but my camera batteries ran out and I hadn't brought spares.

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Site: New Photos for the Lyon St Page

Last week, a few folks headed over to Pete's place to watch the movie "Appleseed Ex Machina", which was pretty good. Pete lives in the Marina district. Thus, this was a chance for me to once again walk the length of Lyon St, from Haight to the Marina, with my camera. I'd done it before, back in 2003, but Lyon St. has changed meanwhile.

Thus, my old "Lyon St Oct 2003" page is now Lyon Street Oct 2003 (and Jul 2008). It includes a graffito depicting a human, a graffito so realistic that it triggered Google Streetview's face-blurring:

View Larger

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Site Update: Los Angeles Photos

I took some photos in Los Angeles, though they aren't exactly photos of Los Angeles. Instead... uhm, museum-goers. They're photos of museum-goers. I must have been in a weird mood that week.

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Milestone: 12 Million Hits

Wow, it's the site's 12 millionth hit. Let's look at the log: - - [27/Jun/2008:00:13:43 -0400] "GET /new/archive/2005_08_01_index.html HTTP/1.1" 304 - "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)"

Here, the Google crawler was making sure that a page of blog entries from 2005 hadn't changed.

I use these "millionth" hits as an excuse to babble about webmasterly stuff. I didn't think I'd have anything to talk about this time. But about a week ago, I heard about Google's "Google Trends for Websites" feature, "a fun tool that gives you a view of how popular your favorite websites are, including your own!" You give it the name of a domain (e.g., "lahosken.san-francisco.ca.us") and it shows you a pretty graph of how many visitors that site got over time, a list of other domains popular with those visitors, and queries that visitors tend to search for. Wow, interesting! So, I asked for trends for my website:

[Empty chart with words: 'No data available']

...And thus we are reminded that my web site is not very popular; Google hasn't been able to gather enough data to generate cool statistics. And I notice that it says this about all of san-francisco.ca.us, not just the lahosken part. That is, my site isn't just unpopular: it's a small part of an unpopular backwater. If you're reading this, you have obscure interests.

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Site Update: The Smoking GNU: Back to Basics

You are, of course, far too tactful to point out that it took me over two months to write up the wacky fun times playing in the Midnight Madness game with The Smoking GNU. It takes a while to write up that many wacky fun times!

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Site Update: Extended Shinteki Decathlon 4 Kvetchfest

The Shinteki series of games is so awesome that you can remain bitter about a van breakdown for several days afterwards if that van, you know, interfered with... Oh, I'm just going to go sit over here in the corner and be grumpy for a while. To avoid charges of scapegoating, I should admit that there's a non-trivial chance that we would still have come in last place even if the van hadn't broken down. Nevertheless, grr.


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Just Three Shinteki Photos

I didn't take any Shinteki photos. That's not quite true. I took a photo of an easel while GC was still setting up. Then Brent put a cover over the easel, like folks weren't supposed to see it so early. So then I erased that photo. Later on, when we were allowed to see the easel, I snapped some photos. But they didn't help. Later on, I didn't think to take photos.

Fortunately, Tobias Lester took some photos. Yay, Tobias! Tobias was on the team. So was Laura! And Emily! They were great! There's a team, photo, yay. Except Tobias isn't in the team photo because he was, you know, holding the camera. the iPhone. the whatever. Anyhow. He took the photo.

And then there's a photo of the lady who towed away our broken-down van. She's pushing that van across the parking lot because (a) the van wouldn't start and (b) she's a tough lady who can push vans across parking lots even if those vans don't start. She was pretty amazing.

Then there's a photo of that view from that lookout point. Chronologically, that came before the van break-down. But these photos are ordered alphabetically and "view.jpg" comes after "singlehanded_van_push.jpg". Hey, if I renamed "view.jpg" to "lookout_point_view.jpg", then it would be in the correct chronological order. Or I could go to bed right now. Yay, bed!

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Site Update: a Pretty Plain Code Cheatsheet

I made a pretty plain code cheatsheet for puzzlehunts. It doesn't have all the codes you want, but it has the biggies and it's not too crowded. PDF is here: http://lahosken.san-francisco.ca.us/frivolity/hunt/cheatsheet.pdf If you like it, but want to add to it, the source (an OpenOffice spreadsheet document, so help me) is in the same directory. If you improve the cheatsheet, feel free to send the result to me, I can post it.

I used to use an Nth generation photocopy of the code sheet the Burninators provided for BANG 7. But I lost track of that piece of paper a few months back. Yes, I'd made a few copies. I lost track of all of them. Maybe one of them will show up... but if it doesn't show up by Saturday's game.... uhm, yeah. The Shinteki folks had some darned nice schwag at last year's Decathlon event: a pad of paper, each sheet graph-ruled with codes in the margins. Nice, but I also want cheatsheets to pass out. A while back, I'd talked with some folks about the advantages of having multiple mini-sheets with one code on each, but that seemed like it would take more effort, cutting pieces of paper apart. Yes, I am that lazy.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even San Francisco

I posted some notes on the excellent SF Minigame. There's one photo. Usually I have zero photos or many photos. This time, one.

In other news, yesterday The Great Urban Race came to San Francisco. Looking at their website, they seem similar to Urban Challenge. Or maybe I just think that because that photo on their FAQ page looks like it could be the Graham brothers. But it explains some of the strange people I saw on the Embarcadero yesterday. And there was the KGB Puzzle Hunt at CMU, but I didn't see any of that. It turns out that CMU is not in San Francisco.

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Site: Gratuitous Photos of 17th Street

(Am I the only one who checked the coedastronomy site in case they meant March 3 Greenwich time?)

I can post an admission that I'm half-done with a handful of projects, but I don't have to like it. I finish projects! Or I give them up! (Right now, I am making a "chop" hand gesture to emphasize my willingness to give up on stalled projects.) So after posting that blog item, I forced myself to get my act together. (Right now I am gritting and baring my teeth to illustrate my renewed strength of purpose.)

Thus: a page of photos of San Francisco's 17th Street. A couple of weeks back, when it stopped raining, I walked the length of 17th Street. I snapped a bunch of photos. And then for two weeks, I didn't get around to captioning/uploading them. Instead, I just groused about not enjoying being in the middle of projects. Today, I finally finished slapping some captions on. Allez-oupload! I will now stop worrying about those photos.

Last night, I wasn't doing photos. Last night, I finished off my Erlang experiment. I was trying to learn about Erlang concurrency. And sure enough, concurrency is indeed easy with Erlang. Here's my program's, uhm, central dispatch control loop thingy:

queue(Migrant) ->
 TradedList ->
     RanList = cull_unhealthy(TradedList),
     {NewMigrant, NewList} = judge(Migrant, RanList),
     spawn(critter, run_n_trades, [self(), 
       clear_state(NewList), 500]),

That "spawn" spawns a new thread, a thread that executes a function called run_n_trades. That "receive" receives a message.

run_n_trades(Queue_PID, List, 0) ->
    Queue_PID ! List;
run_n_trades(Queue_PID, List, N) ->
    run_n_trades(Queue_PID, run_trades(List), N-1).

It's not obvious from this code, but run_n_trades does a lot of data crunching and then sends the results back to the, uhm, central dispatch control loop thingy. (It's that mysterious Queue_PID ! List blob.) That's sending back the data structure that the queue will receive. How does this message-passing benefit me? Well, I actually had two threads doing big data crunching at the same time. Each one would crunch, crunch, crunch, then send results back to the queue. The queue could combine their answers. (In this case, the "combine" was allowing one of the genetic-algorithm "critters" to migrate from one batch of critters to... whichever batch was next passed back to the queue. (But this parenthetical remark probably doesn't make much sense unless you're looking at the whole program, which isn't really interesting enough to be worth it.))

What did I learn from all this?

  • Erlang is not so bad. I am not fond of languages designed by people in love with recursion. Among those, Erlang is not so frustrating as many.
  • Erlang concurrency is indeed easy. If I were writing a program whose main challenge was coordinating many threads, watching a little data on each thread, I'd be glad to have Erlang in my bag of tricks. Because those problems can be really hard, and Erlang has nice language structures for these.
  • Erlang was not a great choice for my sample program's purpose: yet another genetic-algorithm prisoner's dilemma fun-fest. Part of Erlang's safety comes from discouraging you from changing the value of variables. Instead, you're supposed to create new variables whose values don't change. (Is "variables" even the right word?) So if you're moving around little structs, there's some extra copies but you don't sweat it much. But if you make many tiny changes to a big array of structs... Erlang isn't a great choice.
  • But it does suggest some ways to make thread-safe programming safer in, you know, real programming languages like C++. Maybe you make a rule saying that cross-thread messages pass in copies, not originals. That's one extra copy, but one extra copy maybe isn't so bad. And at least everyone knows which thread is responsible for which data structure.

Am I rambling? Sorry, I'm rambling. I'm just so happy that I have an excuse to stop thinking about Erlang now that I did what I set out to do. And I'm glad I finally uploaded those photos. So... I'm rambling. You shouldn't have to listen to me ramble. Here, go look at photos instead.

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Milestone: 11 Million Hits (plus gratuitous Taft domain pestering)

Wow, it's the site's eleven-millionth hit. - - [20/Feb/2008:06:20:03 -0400] "GET /anecdotal/hunt/15/darcy_ian.html HTTP/1.1" 200 853 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)"

If you look at this hit in isolation, it looks like someone is browsing a page with a photo of Darcy & Ian of Team Taft on a Raft (more about that team later). But this "someone" is probably a robot. If I look at other hits coming from the same IP address, there are a few of them per second; this thing moved faster than most humans would click. It loaded many photo pages--but not the accompanying photos.

OK, that hit's not so interesting, but it gives me an excuse to talk about webmasterly stuff. Since the last time I hit a million-milestone, Microsoft Live Search created a site for webmasters where we can glimpse what Live thinks about our site. It's pretty cool. (This is probably one of those times when I should mention that my opinions are mine; I don't speak for my employer.)

Their site is new, still "finding its legs." I find it confusing (but figure it will improve in the months to come). It says that they indexed 19,500 pages on my site--but my site has less than 3000 pages; less than 8000 files. I asked about this on their support forum, but never got an answer. OK, that's confusing, but overall their site is really useful!

They give a list of the top five pages on my site:

  1. New
  2. Comment: All of the Comments
  3. Seattle/Vancouver Road Trip Travelog
  4. 36 Views of Seattle's Pier 86 Grain Terminal
  5. New: the Book Reports

I'm not sure how "topness" is measured here, but this is an interesting collection of pages. It might measure how many people choose to visit those pages from a Live Search--many people visit that "All of the Comments" page (but I think they go away disappointed... at first they're so happy to find a page that mentions both "St Louis" and "wh*res", but then they find out that those phrases came from totally separate emails...).

What else does this Webmaster site let me do? I can provide them with an email by which they can alert me to problems with my site. I appreciate this feature very much. If evil spammers take over my site, I want to know. Heck, the taftraft.com domain expired a few days ago, and now it's just showing boring rafting ads. Wouldn't it be nice if MSN live had some way to tell Team Taft on a Raft about that? You bet it would. (I mailed Ian at his berkeley.edu address, was there a better thing to try? Can I renew a domain for someone else? I am not enjoying the rafting ads.)

Especially interesting was a list of top sites that link to me:

  1. Graphic Novel Review » Realism/ Slice of Life
  2. Graphic Novel Review » Literary
  3. Vishwas M S Curriculim Vitae
  4. Divided Review Project: Page-by-page Review of Prank the Monkey, the ...
  5. Graphic Novel Review » Autobiography
  6. Graphic Novel Review » Fantagraphics
  7. Graphic Novel Review » Elsewhere on the Web
  8. Graphic Novel Review » Elsewhere on the Web: The Squirrel Mother and ...
  9. Graphic Novel Review » Megan Kelso
  10. Piaw's Blog

Most of these are the result of one blog post in Graphic Novel Review. In this article, the author points out that I am a philistine for not properly appreciating Megan Kelso's comic book "The Squirrel Mother". Which just goes to show that there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Thank you for reading!

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Site Update: Contact, more XFN than you can stand

I've been marking my internet territory. That is to say, I've been federating my identity. That is to say, I added more rel="me" links to the Larry Hosken contact page.

Do you remember my ramble about XFN a few weeks ago? Or the follow-up ramble about how XFN-like links might ease the burden of finding your friends on a social network service you just joined? Or how I set up that FOAF profile back in 2003 and then whined because no-one else had a FOAF profile so I had no-one to link to?

I hope you don't remember those. They were ranty and rambly. Which is too bad, because this stuff got more interesting recently.

Here's a summary.

Probably more than one web page represents you. Maybe you have a blog, a flickr page and a twitter page. Wouldn't it be nice to specify that those pages were all associated with the same person?

You can--if you can edit the page's source code. You can add a rel="me" to the link. If your blog links to your flickr with rel="me", you've "claimed" your flickr. If your flickr in turn links back to your blog with rel="me", that confirms the claim. If you can't edit the page's source code, then you might still get a rel="me" link, if the service lets you specify your web page and then automatically supplies that rel="me link. LinkedIn does, flickr does, other services do, too.

You can identify your friends. By adding rel="met", rel="met acquaintance", rel="met friend", or similar attributes to a link, you can say "The web page at the other end of this link is a person who I met/liked/whatever". (For a list of the words you can have in the rel, read the XFN spec).

A while back, I added rel="met" to various links on my friends-links page. (I didn't try to add further qualifiers like friend or acquaintance because... I dunno, it just seemed a little too high-school.) Social networks sites can use these, too. LiveJournal annotates friends links with rel="friend"... uhm, in some places. Not on my LJ page, apparently. But on some other people's LJ pages.

So, what's new? What got me excited about this stuff again?

This info just got easier to use. Google crawls the web. Google recently started keeping track of these XFN links (and FOAF profiles, but... this "summary" is already getting long.) Google is making this info available to programmers via an API and to humans via a sample program that uses that API. The API is Socialgraph.

Yeah, that information is easily accessible now. A programmer who wants to use it doesn't need to set up their own crawl. Yay, Socialgraph! I also like the fact that it uses data from more than one source: FOAF in addition to XFN. I'm not super-fond of either standard; it's good that Socialgraph is flexible enough to work with either; presumably it will work with other, better standards that come along. Oh, and the docs have pretty diagrams showing how a social network could use this info to solve the new-member-wants-to-find-already-subscribed-friends problem.

Full disclosure: Yeah, you know where I work. I hope that doesn't bias me in favor of Socialgraph, but you never know. My opinions are, as always, mine. I don't speak for anyone else.

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Site Update: I'm on Twitter. (Are you?)

I signed up for Twitter. Yes, you can now get updates about my status much more often than you want to. You can see my Twitter status if you visit this blog's front page; if you resourcefully follow the "follow me on Twitter" link, you'll find other ways to receive those updates. E.g., there is a feed.

Are you on Twitter? Let me know.

I'd considered signing up for Twitter before, but their About page mentioned something about giving them my gmail password, and I was all like "No way! I sit down the hall from a bunch of computer security experts. They scream every time you tell your password to a stranger. I just couldn't face those people." So I gave up.

But you can join Twitter without telling them your email password. It's just that then you're kinda on your own for figuring out which, if any, of your friends are already on Twitter. Thus, I ask: are you on Twitter? If so, let me know so I can subscri^W follow you.

I already know that Vanessa is on Twitter; it was her blog post today that prodded me to sign up. How about the rest of you? Yeah, I know, the intersection between my circle of friends and Social2.0 folks is narrow; but there are a few of you.

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Site: Getting Started with CppUnit on Ubuntu

I wrote a little hello-world getting-started guide for programming CppUnit on Ubuntu/Debian/Linux/whatever. CppUnit comes with a couple of tutorials, but I couldn't compile the code from either. I was able to tweak the code of one of them to compile--but when you're getting started, figuring out what to tweak ain't always easy. Anyhow, when I found something that compiled, I pasted it into a web page.

In other site news, a Lowell alumna wrote in with more info for the The Basic Eight vs. Lowell High School compare & contrast wacky funfest.

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Site Update: Mini-feed on Home Page

I continue to putter around with the computer. I did some programming this morning, and now this site's home page has a little mini-feed with links to a few recent articles on this blog. Not wildly exciting, but it prompted me to configure some... Oh, you're falling asleep, aren't you?


If you're going to act that way... Check out the Richter Scales singing "Here Comes Another Bubble" if you haven't already. It's exciting.

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Site Update: Updated Tags for Old Blog Posts

Blogger.com manages this part of my site, the /new/ part. In the long-forgotten days of 2006, Blogger.com didn't support labels/tags/whatever. In those dark days, I hand-made some tags, tags which looked suspiciously like tarted-up links to technorati.com. Then Blogger.com did support labels/tags/whatever. But now I had all of these blog posts that didn't follow the new tagging scheme. What to do?

I've been noodling around on the computer a lot, and today I tackled this one. What did I want to do?

  1. Read my blog's data into a program
  2. Look for links to technorati.com/tag/foo
  3. For each of those links, create a label "foo".
  4. Upload the results to Blogger.com

As I was putting a program together to do this, I discovered another task: don't convert all of the tags; tweak some of them. That sounds like a strange goal, doesn't it? Well, I had made technorati tags for nautical and maritime, just one item tagged with each. Maybe I wanted to convert that "maritime" to "nautical" for consistency. Why leave out some tags? I'd technorati-tagged a Pi post "irrational". I'd never used that tag again. (You might doubt that, given the hysterical tone of this blog, but it's true.) I didn't especially want to clutter up my tag space with 100 obscure tags, each used only once.

So I started reading up on the Blogger GData APIs. At first I thought I could install the Python client library with a simple sudo aptitude install python-gdata. That seemed to install an old version of the library that didn't work with my Python. (It insisted on importing ElemTree from some nonexistent place.) So I ended up downloading and installing the latest version of the library.

Then I set about reading the docs, copying out bits of sample code, and twisting them towards my own purpose. Soon I had a messy piece of code that seemed to work:

from xml.etree import ElementTree
import gdata.service
import gdata
import atom
import getopt
import re

TAG_RE = re.compile('technorati.com/tag/([^\'\"]+)')

TAG_MAP = {} # If a tag isn't in here, ignore it.  If it is in here, see how to convert it.
TAG_MAP['book'] = 'book'
TAG_MAP['books'] = 'books'
TAG_MAP['puzzle%20hunts'] = 'puzzlehunts'
TAG_MAP['puzzle%20hunt'] = 'puzzlehunts'
# ...this TAG_MAP crapola went on for a while
TAG_MAP['pi'] = 'pi'
TAG_MAP['poesy'] = 'poesy'

# Get my blog's ID number.  I guess I didn't really need to 
# run this each time.  I should just have made a note of the
# number.
def RetrieveBlogId(blogger_service):
  query = gdata.service.Query()
  query.feed = '/feeds/default/blogs'
  feed = blogger_service.Get(query.ToUri())
  return feed.entry[0].GetSelfLink().href.split("/")[-1]

# The program doesn't actually call this function!  But
# an earlier version of the program did, back when I was
# still trying to figure out how the API worked.  This fn is
# taken from the sample code, but with an important tweak.
# The sample didn't mention that by default, this would
# only retrieve 25 blog posts.  My blog had 427 items, so 
# I appended a tactical "?max-results=500".
def PrintAllPosts(blogger_service, blog_id):
    feed = blogger_service.GetFeed('/feeds/' + blog_id + '/posts/default?max-results=500')
    print feed.title.text
    for entry in feed.entry:
      print "TITLE \t" + entry.title.text
      print "\t" + entry.content.text
      print "\t" + entry.updated.text

# Create a client class which will make HTTP requests with Google Docs server.
blogger_service = gdata.service.GDataService("lahosken@gmail.com", "ilikeyou")
blogger_service.source = 'Technorati-to-Label-1.0' 
blogger_service.service = 'blogger'
blogger_service.server = 'www.blogger.com'

blog_id = RetrieveBlogId(blogger_service)
# PrintAllPosts(blogger_service, blog_id)

feed = blogger_service.GetFeed('/feeds/' + blog_id + '/posts/default?max-results=500')
for e in feed.entry:
    dirty = False
    for tag in TAG_RE.findall(e.content.text):
        if tag in TAG_MAP:
            kitty = atom.Category(term=TAG_MAP[tag], scheme="http://www.blogger.com/atom/ns#")
            dirty = True
    if dirty:
        blogger_service.Put(e, e.GetEditLink().href)

Yes, that is some awful code. No, I don't think it was good style to name that variable "kitty". Give me a break, it was a one-off.

This code ran quickly, but I think that Blogger.com is still handling the results. At first, I didn't think that it had worked. I thought maybe I needed to force a republish of all my pages. So I tweaked the blog's template and triggered a republish. But I don't think that was the problem. Actually, my pages are changing. It's just taking a while. It's several hours later now, and I notice that my blog's pages keep getting re-uploaded. I think I changed tags on about 100 blog posts, and I think each of those changes triggered a republish. They seem to happen about 2-10 minutes apart. If there are a few hundred to process (plus that template change), I guess it makes sense that it would take a few hours.

I wonder when this post will appear.

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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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Site Update: Food Photos

That day when I ate at all of the cafeterias at work (a few weeks ago), I brought along a camera, yay! Uhm, but I ran out of batteries early on and I hadn't brought any spares, whoops. So I emerged with only four photos. Ideally, I would have emerged with many many photos and chosen the best four. Ah well. Nevertheless, these photos do bring back memories. I look at them and I feel so full. Then again, maybe that's because I just ate some tamales. And some bread dipped in olive oil. And a couple of carrots.

It's like I'm in training for when the 18th cafeteria comes along.

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Site Update: Contact, Links

I updated the site's Contact and Links pages.

A few months back, Gavin Bell gave a talk at work. He mentioned in passing how various folks are using hCard to say "this web page is about a person" and using XFN to represent the relationships between people. Then he got on to the point of his talk: data-mining social networks. And figuring out how you could use them to get interesting reports on friend activities vs. separate reports for your friend's photos on flickr, status updates on twittr, etc. And the privacy concerns.

As so often happens at these talks, I was surprised by the part that I was supposed to already know. I hadn't heard of hCard nor XFN and the "excitement about microformats" had not yet caught my eye. (Maybe it hadn't caught yours, either. That's why I tried to summarize what each of those formats is for.)

So I set up my home page, contact page, links page, and blog page to point at each other with links that say rel="me". That says, "If you think of a web page as representing a person, then all of these pages represent the same person." (Of course, not all pages represent people--but some do--personal personal home pages, personal blogs, profile pages...) Then I set up some hCard info on my Contact page to say "Yes, indeed, there is a person associated with this cluster of pages." That page now links to some of my profile pages on social networks, each link marked with a rel="me" to say "That's me, too."

My Links page is mostly links to other people. But not all. Can I link to the Dogtec.org dog-trainer continuing education page and say "That is Veronica Boutelle."... with a straight face? Not really. Anyhow, I gave some of those links, which were definitely about people a rel="met" tag, meaning "That's a person, and I've met them." For those pages where people gave their names, I also added some hCard information, saying, "This link is to a person named 'Kiem Sie'."

This is, of course, a silly thing to do. A very small fraction of my friends have publicly-visible web presences for which they declare their names. Many of them don't want lots of public "social" information about them out on the net. Some of them have been stalked. Most of this "social" information about people is locked up behind Access Control Lists, and that's probably a good thing.

The hard part about making these relationships visible to computers isn't the data structures, it's the permissions. If I have a private account on two sites and I want to consolidate their information somehow, I'm not likely to convince either site to send information to the other--they're probably competing.

Oh, there's more to say, but I gotta go soon. I guess the short story is:

I've been wasting time with links and social networks.

But the interesting part is that I found out that I know the guy who made the Machinima animation for that "Code Monkey" video. How cool is that?

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Site: Seattle Travelog #13

The exciting news lately is that I've had free time and I've been keeping solid food down. Thus, I've finally put together travel notes from my recent Seattle trip. There are some notes from MS Puzzlehunt 11.0 in there. Plus some photos of the Pier 86 High-speed Grain Terminal. Plus bonus Buffy Night. It's not so coherent. Hey, give me a break, I've been sick.

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Milestone: 10 Million Hits (including 26000 strange ones)

Wow, it's the site's ten-millionth hit. In decimal notation, that is a very round number. Let's take a look at the log record of that hit: - - [23/Oct/2007:08:33:47 -0400] "GET /frivolity/LuxiSerif-Bold_pfa_u_tm.png HTTP/1.1" 503 413 "-" "MSNPTC/1.0"

This is probably a 'bot, a crawler, a program that automatically reads web pages without human intervention following web links to find other web pages to download. I couldn't figure that out just from this record, but looking at the many many records that precede it, I see that the same, uhm, entity is downloading a lot of files without taking much time to read them. The internet address is, which is at bjtelecom.net. Beijing Telecom--so perhaps this is a Chinese user using Beijing Telecom as an ISP? My site returned a status code 503 which, roughly speaking, means "You're asking me for stuff too quickly. Please slow down." As I look at previous requests that this bot made, I see that it did not check for the existence of a robots.txt file which suggests it was either written by an ignoramus or else it is illegitimate or both. As I keep looking at previous requests, I also notice that the bot tries to read several nonexistent files--so I guess it probably was coded by someone incompetent. Hey, now that I look more closely I notice that /frivolity/LuxiSerif-Bold_pfa_u_tm.png, the file that this ten-millionth hit asked for--that file doesn't exist. If the 'bot had asked for /frivolity/tav/LuxiSerif-Bold_pfa_u_tm.png then it would have been onto something.

This crude bot is not the strangest phenomenon to hit the web site recently. I never would have noticed that little bot if it hadn't been responsible for the site's 10000000th hit.

The strangest thing recently has been the 26 thousand visits to the Book Report: Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading page. To compare, that page has had more hits in the few weeks of its existence than, say, my Japanese Ska page has had in the past few years. Hundreds of hits a day. It's not people using browsers. People-controlled browsers report refering pages. People-controlled browsers download the pictures that go with a page. These "visitors" haven't reported a referer, haven't downloaded graphics. They come from a wide variety of IP addresses. If the requests came 1000 times per second instead of 1000 times per day, I'd think they were a distributed denial-of-service attack. If I displayed advertising, I'd think they were trying to corrupt my advertising statistics. Oh, and some of them garble the file name in strange ways like the middle request here: - - [27/Sep/2007:21:31:47 -0400] "GET /new/2007/08/book-report-leave-me-alone-im-reading.html HTTP/1.1" 200 7953 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)" - - [27/Sep/2007:21:32:03 -0400] "GET /new/2007/08/book-report-leave-me-alone%0D%0A1bd5%0D%0A-im-reading.html HTTP/1.1" 404 1123 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)" - - [27/Sep/2007:21:33:03 -0400] "GET /new/2007/08/book-report-leave-me-alone-im-reading.html HTTP/1.1" 200 7953 "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)"

Could someone be trying to crack a web server by putting gobbledegook into the requested address and hoping to choke the web server program and trick it into... writing that gobbledegook into memory somewhere where it might get executed? It seems like there are other easier ways to crack into systems, ways more likely to succeed. I have no idea what the story is behind these 26000 hits. If you know or if you have an amusing theory, please drop me a line.

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Site Update: Updated Resume

I updated my resume.

If you know about any tech writing jobs in San Francisco, please let me know. Yes, in San Francisco. No, I don't think that's very likely. But it's worth asking!

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Site: Shinteki Decathlon 3 Notes

I was talking with Matt A. at Paul and Anisa's wedding reception yesterday. He said that he read this blog, but he didn't make it all the way through most posts. He's not so interested in book reviews. But he does like the rants about... whatever's going on in my life. Most of the book reviews are preceded by those rants. Then there's a segue in the post where I say something like "...which brings us to the point of this post". That's usually where Matt stops reading. That's a pretty reasonable attitude. Matt doesn't spend three hours of each weekday commuting by bus; he's not looking for book reviews.

Which brings us to the anecdote before the point of this post. A few days ago I was at the bus stop next to work. My bus had filled up with coworkers, and I'd been left behind. Thus I was sitting and waiting for an hour. The good news was that yet more of my co-workers showed up meanwhile, so I had an excuse to chat with some of them. A couple of them were gamists--Mark Pearson of the Warrior Monks; Corey Anderson of the Burninators. The bad news is that I don't remember either of those conversations because during each of them, a fly flew up my nose. It was very distracting. As flies flew in, memories flew out. So I can't report on those conversations.

Which brings us to the point of this post. The way I remember things is to write them down. So you'll be glad to know that I wrote up my notes from Shinteki Decathlon 3.

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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.

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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 lahosken.san-francisco.ca.us, not www.lahosken.san-francisco.ca.us. 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.

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Site: Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, but no longer Trapped in my Camera

The Debian upgrade is not going well. OK, I kinda lost X Windows.

"Where was it when you saw it last?"

"On my monitor."

"Well, did you look for it there?"

"Yeah, it's not there now."

Fortunately, at work there are tons of computers, so I finally got around to rescuing my photos of recent Games and uploading them to teh internets. No, I haven't made much progress on the No More Secrets write-up. Can I blame that on the botched upgrade, too? I guess not, that machine still has Emacs and a keyboard and stuff. So I guess the other problem is that I'm slow.

Anyhow: photos.

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Site: Tauba Auerbach / The Alphabet Variations

You may recall that I went to a gallery a couple of weeks ago. It was some art by Tauba Auerbach, including two that featured an alphabetload of overlapping letterforms. I'd wondered what they would look like rendered in other fonts. It turns out that's pretty easy to automate; last night I did so. Check it out: T.A. Variations

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Site Update: BANG 17 Writeup

I know, you're bored of hearing about BANG 17, and now you're ready to read about No More Secrets. But I'm really slow, so all I have is a BANG 17 write-up. Featuring cameos by

  • Paul of the BANG wiki,
  • the Smoking GNU, and
  • Michael Constant

(My No-More-Secrets photos are trapped on my camera. You remember how I halfway-upgraded my computer? One casualty was USB support--i.e., the adaptor between my camera and computer. There are workarounds, but not here, not ready, not this weekend.)

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Site: Santa Monica / Venice Photos

I posted some photos and notes from my meanderings in Santa Monica and Venice. The summary: there may be wonderfully exciting things going on in Santa Monica and/or Venice, but I didn't spot them. But I had a nice time walking around.

Except that walking to the Orange County airport was a bad idea, even if it was just a short distance through a business park. If there was a proper pedestrian approach, I never found it. No photos of that part; all my attention went to traffic-dodging.

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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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Site Update: Photos of Library Book Trucks

So far, this page of photos of library book trucks only has a few photos. But I'm setting it up anyhow. I've taken other photos of library book truck graffiti--and thrown those photos out because I didn't have a good place to put them. A few weeks back, I went to Doe Library and some of those decorated book trucks were locked up, look like maybe they were heading for the junkyard. I was regretting not keeping those photos. Didn't one of those carts have a label making a funny Sisyphus allusion? Maybe now I'd never remember.

From now on when I take goofy photos of library carts, I'll know where to keep them.

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Site Update: Conversations Before the 2007 GC Summit

Maybe you've already watched the videos of the GC Summit 2007 presentations, where folks talked about how they make The Game fun. I'm sure glad I watched it. I'm a Game newbie and it was pretty eye-opening to realize how much the Game has changed just in the last few years. Anyhow, if you were going to watch those videos, you probably already have.

You probably haven't read the transcript of some of the hatter that happened before the summit. You probably haven't read it because I just now got around to finishing typing it up. But you can read it now if you're into that sort of thing. Mostly, it was some folks talking about Overnightmare. Hey, it's not much, but it's all I've got.

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Milestone: 8 Million Hits

Wow, it's the site's eight-millionth hit! Please pardon me as I now babble on about web minutiae. Starting with... let's take a look at the log of that hit: - - [02/Apr/2007:13:03:28 -0400] "GET /slick.css HTTP/1.1" 200 2812 "http://lahosken.san-francisco.ca.us/departures/stl02/3355_illinois_side_power_plant.html" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv: Gecko/20070312 Firefox/"

This hit came from IP address, and whois tells me that's at the Savannah College of Art and Design in famous Savannah, Georgia, USA. Here, they're loading the style sheet file that goes a web page. Strangely, when I check my logs, I don't see that this person actually got the web page itself. Perhaps they had it cached from a previous visit? Perhaps my web server doesn't log everything perfectly? Perhaps I'm not as good at reading these records as I think I am? I don't know.

Last time the site hit such a milestone, I showed some site information that I got from Yahoo! Site Explorer, Yahoo!'s service for sharing information with webmasters. Yahoo! had some interesting information about my site that I couldn't get from my own records or from Google: a list of pages on other sites that linked to my site. (This is probably a good time to repeat that my opinions are mine, not my employer's.) A few days after that, I got a message from Vanessa saying that she wanted to meet for lunch. Vanessa is on the Google Webmaster Central team; i.e., she works on Google's service for sharing information with webmasters, the counterpart to Yahoo!'s Site Explorer.

On the way to lunch, we walked through a parking lot. Vanessa mentioned that she'd noticed my blog post about Yahoo! Site Explorer. Ah, Vanessa had noticed that I was saying nice things about our competitors. I glanced around nervously. The parking lot was empty, except for us. We were in the parking lot at Vanessa's request--she'd dropped something off in her car. I remembered that Vanessa was a fan of the old TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". The heroine of that show solves her problems by shoving wooden stakes through their hearts. It occurred to me that if my way of dealing with problem people was to shove wooden stakes through their hearts, then a good first step might be to lure those people out to some place with no witnesses--such as an abandoned parking lot. I hadn't heard anything about Vanessa solving problems via the pointy stick method; then again, if she was sufficiently good at it, perhaps there would have been no survivors to tell me about it. I think I said something clever like "Oh ha ha ha you noticed that blog post, eh?" Vanessa was in pretty good shape; in a fair fight, she could probably put me down. My legs were longer; I could probably outrun her.

She didn't stab me, of course. She wasn't angry; she looked happy. She smiled and said that Google Webmaster Central had a new feature, a feature that I would like. And she was right. It was a list of pages on other sites that linked to my site, noting which pages on my site they linked to. It listed more sites than Yahoo! had found, too. It was a lot of data, data that made me happy.

So now I'll list some other sites that link to this site, sites that didn't get mentioned in my previous post about the data from Yahoo!.

  • GeoURL links to pages based on geography. I've tagged some of my site's pages with latitude/longitude coordinates, and thus they are listed.
  • search.centraldatabase.org It's pages of search results. Normally if you run a search engine, you ask that your search results pages not be crawled/found by other search engines. Otherwise it looks like you're trying to serve spam pages on topics like "hamachi".
  • blogger.com When people post rebuttals to my blog posts, they do so via blogger.com. So there are a bunch of blogger.com pages that have links back to my blog posts.
  • 43things.com In theory, this web service allows you to maintain a "to do" list. I played with it for a while and then pretty much stopped. Still, when I did things that resulted in web pages, I used this service to link to those web pages.
  • en.wikipedia Apparently, I am a world authority on a few niche-y topics. Thus, some of my writings get linked from there. Also, people want to know what some things look like--things that real photographers don't bother to take photos of, but which I do. Thus, my photos occasionally get linked.
  • thebishop.net Hmm, Tim Bishop hasn't posted to his blog for a while. Back when he did post, I posted some snarky replies, and those linked back to my site.
  • looksmartjapanesefood.com Hmm, a dubious-looking page of search results surrounded by annoying animated ads. Hmm, the documentation for this link-listing tool did mention something about not filtering for webspam. Yeesh, the internet is a mess. Let's move on.
  • slashdot.org Yes, I occasionally post snide remarks to Slashdot the nerdly news site.
  • embruns.net My Paris travelogue annoyed this guy so much that he wrote a rant against it.
  • del.icio.us Some people use del.icio.us to bookmark pages on this site. (del.icio.us user featured in this sample link: Irwando of Team Sharkbait, yayy!)
  • youngpoets.ca Links to the Daily Nonsense page as a "fun" site. Is this a good time to say "Happy National Poetry Month!"? Oh wait, I guess that .ca at the end of their domain name means that they are Canadian. They probably don't celebrate the USA national poetry month. Philistines.
  • wikilens.org It's that book recommendation site I use; my profile page there links back to this site.
  • vcci.or.jp If your memory is very, very good then you might remember that a couple of puzzle hunts have refered to the ancient Japanese game Genjikou. Someone in Japan wrote a report on Genjikou and linked to one of my puzzle hunt write-ups. Apparently I am a world authority in some niche-y things.
  • Static Zombie Peter Sarrett blogs about a few things, including puzzle hunts. I have been known to leave a snide comment.
  • Spectre Collie Chuck Jordan made the mistake of working with me once--he was young and needed the money. Now he must endure me posting snide comments on his blog.
  • San Francisco Trusts in Cod This music band home page links to the No-Name Sushi menu.
  • Schneier on Security Once every couple of years, I feel obliged to post a comment on Bruce Schneier's blog.
  • inside looking out Charles Ying made the mistake of working with me once-- What's that? I already used that joke? OK, I'll stop.
  • Of Time and the River used one of my photos and gave me a photo credit
  • Hacker Tourism notes that I am a self-proclaimed hacker tourist.
  • Mobygames I worked for a year in the videogames industry, and it was all worth it for that link
  • Mirror Project Occasionally I take a photo of myself in the mirror. E.g., this one right after I took my pants off.
  • Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO I occasionally post unhelpful advice here.
  • Hogwarts Game write-up links to my write-up, which in turn links back there. It's a puzzle-hunt linkitude love-fest.
  • LOMO.HOMES: LENE2000 A. E. Graves has a few weird cameras. When she wants to post photos from her "lomo" camera, they go here.
  • Linkstew A few years ago, I left some comments in Benjy Stewart's blog. A year ago, I left some graffiti on his office whiteboard.
  • kottke.org Jason Kottke is a highly acclaimed web developer, but any schmoe can post comments on his blog.
  • Lorem Ipsum Is there any blog out there on the WWW that I haven't posted a comment on?
  • Isotope A while back, I posted something about this local comic book store. Then they posted blog entry noting that I had posted about them. Now here I am posting about this blog entry noting their link to me. I think we have discovered the perpetual motion machine for the web.
  • In Passing... Another place I have posted comments. Everybody in the world is welcome to know my opinion about anything.
  • Firearm Buzz This website claims to have reviewed one of my web pages and determined that it's about ninja smoke bombs. For their level of quality, "reviewed" == "looked at the title, ignored the article". Frickin' webspam garbage.
  • Eve Andersson Back when the WWW was mostly chemistry grad students posting their office hours, a set of excellent web pages burst forth about the glory of the number Pi. That page was the work of Eve Andersson. When I have some meager pi-related information to share, I offer it up to her.
  • Embjapan.de Japan Forum German language speakers discuss Japanese performers of Jamaican-style music and link to an American's web site. I feel so cosmopolitan.
  • Defective Yeti Considering the name of Matthew Baldwin's awesome blog, you wouldn't think I'd need to post a comment with the correct spelling of "Wookiee".
  • Cockeyed.com I said disparaging things about penis jokes on a website called "cockeyed.com"?
  • Markov Googler It seemed like a good halfbaked idea at the time, I'm sure.
  • Black Pine Circle School: Us Never write your "about" page after going without sleep for three days.
  • Blorvak Even though someone helped create the excellent comic "Oddjob", I still feel obliged to post cryptic comments on their blog.
  • (link omitted) Do you remember a while back when AOL intentionally exposed the web history of some of their users? One of those users visited my site. Another site set up a pretty web site listing all of the pages that this user visited. That page links to my site. I won't link to it, though. AOL figured out that they were wrong to expose that information. It sure would be nice if that web site were to stop propogating it.
  • All Consuming Yes, I am on All Consuming. I can not think of anything to say about it right now, though.
  • tourb.us This is a site where I carefully keep track of which concerts I will never get around to attending.
  • sourceforge.net I worked on a program called Skitter Tag: where Open Source meets Abandonware!!
  • Scout Technologies I posted a modern art/embedded software joke as a comment on Julie Farago's blog. Apparently, I have no shame.
  • tribe.net I can no longer remember why I wanted a tribe.net profile
  • rodcorp Good grief. How many links does Google know about? I can't keep typing up cute little remarks about all of these! I think I will stop soon.
  • mapper.ofdoom.com I could have sworn that I saw some "2.0" version of the Mapper OfDoom that used Google maps to display the maps. Whatever happened to that?
  • Tom Lester's photos from that road trip we took a few years back
  • lahosken.googlepages.com Oh gee I forgot about that until just now.
  • 43 People Another robot co-op page. Here, I name-drop more web celebrities.
  • The Ageless Project In which we learn that I am older than dirt.
  • hk.knowledge.yahoo.com In China, I am regarded as a world expert on how to write "sushi" in English.
  • Geoswiki Wow, someone out there still cares about GEOS? Bless them.
  • fury.com Many beings leave comments on Kevin Fox's blog. Unlike many of those beings, I am human and not a spambot.
  • Engineering & Where I requested some technical support
  • Yahoo!.com Remember the Yahoo! web directory?
  • de.wikipedia An editor of the German wikipedia links to my site and seems to anticipate a day when the German wikipedia needs an entry for "Laurence Hoskens"? I suspect he's going to have a difficult time researching that topic.
  • I Blame the Patriarchy Despite my ongoing oppression of women, I occasionally dare to post comments on this blog.
  • Notes from the BillMonk Chuck Groom, not to be confused with Chuck Jordan, made the mistake of working with me for a... Oh, I'm just plain out of jokes.
  • le cadavre exquise I am tired. So tired. I don't know what to write about these links anymore. Please let the links stop?
  • Andrew Chatham I never would have made this post in Andrew's blog if I thought I was going to have to try to think of something to write about the resulting link now.
  • livejournal.com If you had asked me yesterday, I would have said that I thought that livejournal was pretty cool. But right now I would rather gnaw my fingers off than try to think of something to say about it.

Aiyee! That's enough. There's still at least another hundred sites to write about but... No. No more. My brain. So tired. So very tired.

I suppose that Vanessa had her revenge on me after all.

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Site Update: The Basic Eight vs Lowell High School

(Today is April Fool's Day, but this is not an April Fool's Day prank.)

The Basic Eight is a novel by Daniel Handler. It's set in Roewer High School. Daniel Handler went to Lowell High School a year behind me. I've heard rumors of this book, that it's a roman a clef or whatever. I finally got around to reading the book, recognized a couple of English teachers. I tried searching the internet to find out if someone had noted down the Roewer/Lowell parallels. There were a couple of scattered mentions, but no big list. So I guess it's up to me to start one and to solicit help. Behold a link to a new web page:

The Basic Eight vs. Lowell HIgh School

So far, it's a short list of "knowns" and a long list of "I have no idea". And an email address by which you can set me straight.

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Site Update: Chicago Photos

I finally typed up my notes and uploaded my Chicago photos. I don't know if they're coherent. But I'm calling them done for now, because I think I'm about to get distracted with other tasks.

In other news: Pi Day approaches. That might explain why Michael Naylor was roaming the internet looking for Pi stuff, sending me email.

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Site Update: Fixed a Photo

A little script runs over this website's visit logs each night, generating a pretty report. I think I wrote the original back in 1999. I rewrote it last night. Python instead of Perl now. Sorted and clustered logs of errors. Some errors indicate that I've broken the web site; I want to fix those. Some errors indicate that someone on MySpace decided to use one of my photos as their background image without my permission; those errors are fine. The want-to-fix errors were getting lost in a sea of MySpace crud. So I re-wrote the script, tinkering, getting things the way I wanted them.

The pay-off so far? I finally noticed that I failed to upload a photo that someone sent me. Yes, the page that failed to display that graphic--I added that page back in October. Sorry about the broken image. Anyhow, it's there now.

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Milestone: 6 Million Hits

[Update: I meant seven-millionth. It's seven. I'm not re-celebrating six. Sorry, I posted this in a hurry, didn't proof-read, didn't fact check, sloppy work, sloppy.]

Good gracious, it is the site's six-millionth hit.

Let's look at the log record for that six-millionth hit: - - [01/Dec/2006:10:49:32 -0400] "GET /departures/monterey/0/3292_from_water.jpg HTTP/1.1" 200 31201 "http://www.lahosken.san-francisco.ca.us/departures/monterey/0/" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; America Online Browser 1.1; rev1.2; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; FunWebProducts; ZangoToolbar 4.8.3)"

This appears to be an AOL user visiting my Monterey travelog. They're at the page, the graphics are loading, and this log shows them downloading a photo of Monterey taken from a boat tour.

Last time the site hit such a milestone, I pulled some site information from Google Webmaster Central. This time, in the interest of fairness or whatever, I'll give some information from Yahoo Site Explorer. (As ever, my opinions are mine, not my employer's.) Yahoo Site Explorer shows many uninteresting things and one interesting thing. The interesting thing is: You can ask for a list of pages that link to your site--any page in your site. What sites link to this site?

Oh, and there's more sites, apparently. How long have I been working on this list? For an hour, I think. I'm at work now. I'm supposed to be working. Uhm... I'm going to stop this list now.

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Site Update: Hogwarts Inside Out

I posted a write-up of the wacky fun times I had in and around the Hogwarts Game. Some of you puzzle-hunt freaks have already found this. Typical.

  • Play-testing with Continental Breakfast: As an experiment, I played with a different team, see how they approach things differently. A non-trivial percentage of the team was from Australia, and yet they never, ever chewed on eucalyptus leaves. Apparently, that's a myth. Anyhow, this was a play-test, a fortnight ahead of the game proper. We ran into weird stuff so you wouldn't have to.
  • Puzzle Construction Parties: After the playtest, I volunteered with Team Snout, GC for the game. Here, you can find out the answer to the question: what if a magical wand looked more like a mechanical wang? Also in this episode: bonus summary of conversation with Yar Woo.
  • Game Control HQ Operations: During the game itself. I volunteered with Game Control. I spent a lot of time in a motel room worrying about phones. Meanwhile, the people around me couldn't stop talking in British accents. Can you spot the four major mistakes I made? Can you guess how many years' worth of life I cost my fellow GC folks, just from stressing them out? (That was a rhetorical question.)

Careful, this write-up is long. Depending on which part of The Game you like, you might not be interested in the play-test, the GCHQ behind-the-scenes, or what-have-you. No, really, it's long. You gotta pace yourself. I'm just warning you is all.

In more recent news: I gave away my TV and XBox twenty minutes ago. I reclaimed nearly half a square meter of floor space. That's a non-trivial percentage of my teeny-tiny apartment. Which I hereby declare to be back on its way towards habitability.

See, I paused a little bit before starting to type this paragraph. That was me getting up and doing a little spin-move this in this freed-up floor space. I couldn't extend my arms as I did this, of course. They would have bumped into a wall and/or knocked over that floor lamp. But I could totally have made that move with arms akimbo.

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Site Update: Islais Creek Area Photos

I'm still working on that write-up of the Hogwarts Game. Today was a milestone: I finished listening to all of the audio I recorded. I had an audio recorder on me for most of the time I was in the game or volunteering for GC. This was an easy way to gather information. However, retrieving that information afterwards is takes at least as much time as the original recording.

To reward myself, I decided to spend a few hours not-in-front-of-the-computer. I took some photos, including a bunch of a set of cement silos. It was kind of a sketchy way to spend one's free time, scrambling around in "parks" full of broken glass, nodding howdy at the homeless folks, realizing that one has been trespassing for the last five minutes or so. Still, I guess it's good to take photos of things that you like. On the way to the area with these photos, I went through China Basin. There's yet more new construction going on in China Basin. One of the casualties is an old warehouse-looking building that had been covered with graffiti. I took a photo of it a few years ago. Now, that photo's all that I have left. Anyhow, photos.

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Three More by Curtiss Anderson

I typed in three more essays by Curtiss Anderson:


Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Even Auburn

Pete extracted some more Shinteki Decathlon II photos from his camera, and I posted some of them in the write-up.

In other puzzley news, Eric Harshbarger's running a puzzlehunt in Auburn in September. I mostly know of Eric as one of those people whose last name starts with "H" and with personal homepages with higher PageRank than mine. But the guy builds statues out of Lego and comes up with some cool puzzles. So if his PageRank is higher than mine... I think that means the system works as it should.

According to some mail forwarded by Wei-Hwa, Eric Harshbarger designed some of the puzzles for the upcoming Perplexcity live event here in San Francisco. Maybe that's enough to convince me to risk attending an event associated with trading cards. Maybe?

[Updated when Philip Dasler of Austin pointed out that Harshberger is in Auburn, not in Austin as I originally wrote. Yipe.]

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Two More by Curtiss Anderson

I was out late last night at the Ozric Tentacles/Particle concert. I only stuck around for one song by Particle, didn't like it, and it was past my bedtime. This morning was the AIDS walk. Drivers honk to encourage the walkers, which is good. But they kept me from sleeping in. I've been a wreck all day. I tried to write about things, but I couldn't concentrate. So I went to see the movie "Cars" which was just gorgeous. And I typed in two more of Curtiss Anderson's essays:


Two More by Curtiss Anderson

I typed in two more of Curtiss Anderson's essays:


Milestone: 6 Million hits

Today, this website enjoyed its six-millionth hit. That hit was all about Amazingly Big things up in the Seattle area. I'm talking about the Pier 86 Grain Terminal and Microsoft. Let's take a look: - - [13/Jul/2006:18:23:59 -0400] "GET /departures/Seattle/10/36views.html HTTP/1.0" 200 16858 "-" "msnbot/1.0 (+http://search.msn.com/msnbot.htm)"

This is the "msnbot" search crawler, scouting the internet for content to display in MSN Search results. It just crawled a page of my not-so-recently-updated travel photos, carefully confirming that they haven't changed.

(My opinions are mine, not my employers'.) Internet search geeks talk a lot about Google Search versus Yahoo search; they don't talk so much about MSN Search. But in one important regard in June 2006, MSN did even more to help internet users than Google did. So three cheers for MSN Search, a pocket of goodness buried in a big company, crawling the web so that they can show people of many nations some photos of huge grain silos.

I don't know how coherent that was. It's past my bedtime. Good night, wonderful internetty people of many nations. I hope you continue to find the Japanese ska reviews useful and/or inciteful.

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Three More by Curtiss Anderson

I typed in three more of Curtiss Anderson's essays:


Curtiss H. Anderson: Three more / Lea W., one for the Road

I continue to type up these Curtiss Anderson essays which fell into my possession. Today, three of his travelogs:

Speaking of travelogs, you might remember that the first time I went to St Louis, one of my favorite spots was The Chocolate Bar, a bar that served hot chocolate instead of, you know, real drinks. I lamented that San Francisco didn't have anything similar. Now we have something sorta similar: Bittersweet, a cafe that serves chocolate instead of coffee. No live DJ. But their spicy hot chocolate is sufficiently spicy and chocolatey for my standards.

Speaking of travel notes, we were at Bittersweet for Lea W.'s send-off party. Lea's moving to Cincinatti, of all places, to do more awesome medical research. One person at this gathering had family in Cincinatti and had thus been there. But she was on call, and thus didn't get to join in the conversation to let us know what Cincinatti was really like. But her husband, Andy, had accompanied her there. He talked about driving out of town to see the rust belt towns. Ironton had been a big steelmaking town; now there were a few people hanging on--but not many. Portsmouth had some big murals--but most of the people were gone. So it was kind of scenic, kind of eerie checking these places out.

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Curtiss H. Anderson += 3

I typed in three more articles by Curtiss H. Anderson:

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Site Update: The Curtiss H. Anderson File

Lately, I haven't done anything worth writing about. Instead, I typed up some essays hand-written by someone else, namely Curtiss H. Anderson of Roseville, California. I've got a bunch of these handwritten essays, but so far I've only typed up three of them:

If I get my act together, I'll type up more of these in the future. But it took me over a year to get my act together to type up three of them, so don't hold your breath.

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Site Update: Notes on the Construction of the Triclops Headlamp

Less elaborate than the Mystic Fish Hat or the Battery Bandoleer, today I made a sort of triple headlamp, and I kept some construction notes.

Because the more I thought about it, the more I thought A regular headlamp doesn't look quite dorky enough.

Soon everyone will be wearing these. Or at least everyone who has no sense of dignity.

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Not Exactly a Site Update

While my innards re-assemble themselves, maybe I can distract you with some fun email that the site received recently. It's on the comment page, but I'd like to call out the two most recent emails, which are goodies:

Captain Ken Appleby sent photos of his ship which navigated the English Channel and under the bridges of Paris.

A reporter mistakenly sent me a question, thus tipping me off that ex-Nazi Hubertus Strughold's name has been ejected from the International Space Hall of Fame.

Keep sending in the great material, folks. Goodness knows I'm too tired to write anything today myself.


Apprentice Zorg: Addenda, Erratum

In the weeks since I did that write-up of the Apprentice Zorg game, new facts have come to light. Well, I shouldn't act like anyone was trying to conceal these facts. OK, I think most people involved already knew this stuff. But it took me a while to figure them out.


I tweaked the write-up, but for the sake of folks who already read it and don't want to wade through it again, the new facts are these.


After a puzzle hunt game, my apartment floor is usually covered with papers and stuff. (Otherwise, it's just covered with papers.) So a while after a puzzle hunt game, I figure out where to put the papers and strange objects that the team accumulated during the hunt. Usually, I stuff them all into a box or an envelope. This time, I needed a box; I had no box; I went to the local drugstore to procure a box.

At the drugstore, there were some box-ish things available. I decided to get a small plastic chest of drawers that would fit on a shelf. In fact, it was already on a shelf--I reached up on tip-toe so that I could take it down. As I tugged on the chest, it tipped forward, thus causing a couple of its drawers to come forward, fall out of the chest, and land on my head.

Anyhow, I got the box home and started putting stuff away.

So I was dealing with the film-cannister-lookalike thingies which had played the parts of "stones" in the game. A couple of them had water in them which I wanted to dump out before storing. One cannister had been full of water. One had contained a black capsule which we'd soaked in water. In the write-up, I commented that this capsule looked like one of those sponge expando-matic dinosaur capsules, and that I'd been surprised that it hadn't expanded. Well, it did expand--when I opened it up to dump out the water, I could see that the capsule had expanded out into a pillow of green sponge.

I was mistaken when I said it wasn't a spongy expand-o thingy. Sorry about that.


The other thing I found out was the identity of the Taftian who played the parts of Zorg, the awesome "ten plus ten asks" (20 questions in words of four or fewer letters) guy, and the Rhodian sycophant. Specifically, I found out that it's the same guy who maintains the Sarong Theorem Archive which made such a splash in the blog-o-sphere a few months back. Which just goes to show that in our crowded word, there are only about 80,000 interesting people (though nobody agrees on exactly who those 80,000 interesting people are).

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Including Fhloston Paradise

Good grief, it's another game write-up. A few days back, part of Team Mystic Fish played in The Apprentice: Zorg, a fifteen-hour puzzle hunt game in the East Bay.

In a lazy bold writer's move, I typed this thing up in a couple of days and am posting this admittedly-rough draft. You remember how last year, my game write-ups appeared months after the fact? I'm trying to fix that.

Meanwhile, team Taft on a Raft, the excellent organizers of TAZ, are threatening to release an online game called The Prisoner's Dilemma. Be seeing you.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Especially Petaluma. Furthermore, Petaluma generally has it Going On

On Saturday, Team Giant Die Protocol played in BANG 15 (BANG Appetit), a puzzle hunt game in Petaluma. Then we played boardgames. These things are more fun to do than to read about, and yet I did a little write-up.

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Milestone: 5 Million Hits

Good gracious, it is the site's five-millionth hit. That's five million hits in seven years (plus a couple of days).

Let's look at the log record for that five-millionth hit: - - [12/Mar/2006:03:00:50 -0400] "GET departures/Seattle/11/03759_great_republic_painting_tm.jpg HTTP/1.1" 200 4070 "-" Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)"

This appears to be a Verizon customer in the Seattle area looking at the New Year 2005 Berkeley-Vancouver road trip travelog. They're running MSIE. I don't know much about Microsoft software, but that .NET CLR 1.1.4322 might mean that this person is running an old version of the .NET framework--noawadays you see 2.0.50727 a bunch.

Most people find the site by searching Google. (My opinions and statements are mine, not that of my employer.) What kinds of things do they search for? The most popular searches are

  • hogtied
  • poke her
  • japanese punk
  • free comix
  • unknown phone numbers
  • ninja smoke bombs
  • telegraph machine
  • japanese ska
  • david thatcher
  • mongol 800

Thanks to the power of Google sitemaps, I can regularly check out which things people search for such that this site shows up in the results--whether or not people click to go to this site. So, what are the most popular queries for which people could click to go to this site, but don't?

  • tahoo
  • pg & e
  • puzzle
  • telcan
  • dblock
  • xjapan
  • antsy
  • demoui
  • bay area night game
  • porta portal

I guess if I want to write about one of those topics, I could, and be assured that I've got a head start showing up in search results pages for those words.

Anyhow, it's been a fun seven years. Thank you for reading!

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Site Update: McGuffin Ho!

The Burninators ran a Bay Area Night Game last weekend, and I wasn't there. Looking at the BANG 14 puzzles, it was pretty awesome. What was I doing instead? Well, I was working on writing about a different Burninators game, one back in July. Yes, it took me eight months, but I finally put together McGuffin Ho!, a write-up of the McGuffin game.

(Some of the more cynical among you might suspect that I posted this with a secret purpose: to distract people on other teams from their applications to work at XXtra Online Magazine. Please do not be distracted. Since this application process is likely to result in many embarassing photos, I think you and/or your team should put great effort into this.)

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Site Update: New York Travelog

I went to New York for a couple of weeks. I didn't emerge with any exciting anecdotes. But you can read the travelog anyhow. The main thing I got out of the trip: the best New York pizza is not so great, but there are rumors of greatness in New Haven.

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Site: Uploaded Sailing Story

When everything goes right on a sailing trip, there's usually not much to tell. Maybe you've read some of my "very boring sailing travelog"s. They're not so interesting; not much happens.

Earlier this year, I went on a sailing trip in which, suddenly, nothing happened. That was a little bit more interesting than those trips in which very little happened.

It's called Kraken because I wasn't sure what else to call it.

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Site Update: Shinteki Decathlon Write-up Posted

It's late November, and NaNoWriMo people around the world are in the final sprint, churning out huge amounts of fiction. Me, I'm just horking up little bits of reportage. For example, I just posted (finally!) a write-up of Team PG?E versus Shinteki Decathlon. That is to say, it's a meandering bit of memories about a puzzle hunt game that happened a few months ago. Yeah, I just now got around to writing it up. Yeah, I forgot a lot of details in the meantime. Get over it.

Still, if you want to see how Peter Tang, Dave Loftesness, and Emily Marcroft banded together to face a bizarre set of challenges, check it out.

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Site Update: More BANG 13 Photos, pointer to YABA photos

Tom Lester sent in three awesome photos from the recent Bay Area Night Game. So I put them on the Bay Area Night Game 13 page.

In other puzzle-hunt photo news, Wesley Chan posted his photos of YABA 6. See thrilling action photos of me registering people for the game!

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, Including Far From Redmond

I typed up some notes about the Microsoft Puzzle Hunt. No, I wasn't at this weekend's Microsoft Puzzle Hunt IX. I wasn't cool enough to get invited. So what did I write about? I finally typed up some notes about the time I played in a re-enactment of Microsoft Puzzle Hunt 8.

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Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, including San Francisco's Union Square

[ There was a blog entry here. It was kinda long for a blog entry. And then I added some photos, and it was even longer. So I moved it to its own article/web page/whatever: BANG 13 Notes ]

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Site: Uploaded St Louis Photos

Last weekend, I went to St Louis. I didn't emerge with any exciting stories, but it's an exciting time for St Louis--there's a lot of rebuilding going on. I took some photos of some old St Louis buildings, new St Louis buildings, and more. Special bonus photo: cub scouts digging a gratuitous hole.

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Site: Milestone

Wow, it's the site's four-millionth web hit: - - [28/Sep/2005:23:09:05 -0400] "GET /self/MBrooce/MBbruce.html HTTP/1.0" 304 - "-" "Googlebot/2.1 (+http://www.google.com/bot.html)"

Ah, the Googlebot spider visited to confirm that I haven't changed the main MégaBröoce page since February. The price of excellence is eternal vigilance!

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Site Update: Jan 05 Road Trip Report

Just nine months after the fact, I uploaded a write-up of the road trip that Tom Lester and I took back in January.

You could argue that in 2004-2005 span, I thus completed another unemployed travel trilogy. If so, I hope it's the last one for a while.

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Site Update: Comments

If you want to post a comment on this blog, now you can--even if you don't have a blogger.com account. To prove you aren't an evil spambot, you will need to identify a captcha. That is, you will look at a picture of some distorted text and you will tell the computer what that text says. You can pretend it's a fun word puzzle.

Of course, mailed-in comments are always welcome. But I'm slow to get around to posting those. If you go there now, you can see mail from famous puzzle designer Bob Abbott plus more detail about the history of the Telcan company.

No, I'm not playing in the Mooncurser's game today. But I'm sure it's great.

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site update: New Zealand 2004 Travelog

Waaaay back in December, I went to New Zealand. I caught glimpses of puzzle hunts, looked at giant ferns, paddled kayaks, talked about old telegraph equipment, snapped lots of photos, rode a train full of Japanese tourists, ferried a strait, ate pizza, visited museums, went sailing for a few days, rode buses, got rained on, got hailed on, caught cold, and came back.

Then I got busy with other stuff, forgot most of what happened, tried to recall it, and finally typed up what I remembered. The result is Larry Hosken's New Zealand 2004 Travelog. Enjoy.

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Site Update: Shinteki Untamed with the Lester Tang Conjecture

Uploaded a write-up of the Lester-Tang Conjecture's Experience at Shinteki Untamed. That is, I wrote about a puzzle hunt.

It's a big week for puzzle hunts. There is gobs of new info at the Genome Game website about that Game of last year. There is hope for a fun Weekend at Burni's early this summer. Last weekend I solved puzzles for 24 hours. (The hardcore players went longer.) This morning, I found some Hash House Harrier spoor in downtown Mountain View. Remember, folks: if we all work together, we can make the world a much more confusing place.

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Site Update: Photo, Comments, Geo

Happy Pi Day! I made some little site updates, no biggie.

Tom Lester took a nifty photo of me, so I added a thumbnail link at the Portrayals page.

New messages on the comment page.

GeoURL snapped out of its coma. The Mapper.ofDoom is pretty cool. These inspired me to sprinkle latitude/longitude information into the Lyon Street photos and Justice Unlimited write-up. I guess that doesn't really count as updating this site. Rather, I was providing more data to the GeoURL and Mapper.ofdoom sites. Whatever.

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Outsourced the "New" page

I started using the Blogger service to maintain this page. Now you can use your favorite RSS aggregator to keep track of how rarely I write!


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Site Update: Fave Reads

I finally figured out my Fave Reads of '04. Usually I upload those on New Year's day. But this year I was in Seattle. And then I went to Tahoe. And then I started a new job. Hey, at least I finished it before the Chinese New Year. Anyhow. Added some REL="nofollow" links to Tanya's comment so that I could link to some relevant pages without boosting their PageRank. Man, those pages are shady. Added a link to Steven Huang's blog.

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