Thursday, April 28

Psychonauts Run the Laugh Track

A platformer? With a funny script? Sign me up!

This new video game looks like a cross between Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels and a classic jump-and-run like one of the early Super Mario games. This is the video game I've been looking for for years! Nobody makes games in the platform action genre anymore, and that's my favorite... I still enjoy playing the original Rayman now and then.

Add in the eccentric humor that is littered around the Psychonauts official web site, and it seems perfect.

Car Computers Track Traffic

This is pretty amazing: GPS-equipped handheld computers are creating a city-wide network that determines which areas of the road are most congested (based on actual current vehicle speeds) and audibly recommends alternate routes for those commuters lying in the wake of current and potential pileups.

This is still an experimental pilot program, but the concept is definitely on the right track. I even see such a program developing (after quite a while) into the computer-controlled automatic driving machines present in certain stories of Asimov. If every car gets hooked up to the network, so the vehicles can "know" each others' precise position, that technology could definitely be harnessed to automate safe driving. Of course that would open up the possibility to giving individual vehicle speeds to local authorities, and possibly allowing police to issue citations for unseen law-breaking, with an efficiency that even unattended red-light cameras have failed to attain.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself. This technology, as used for traffic control and management, is definitely in its infancy, but the idea as it stands is wonderful.

Tuesday, April 26

Murphy resigns

Mayor Dick Murphy announced yesterday his plans to step down as San Diego's leader.

Personally, I'm happy about that. Mayor Murphy (thank goodness we won't have to call him that anymore after July 15) has always seemed to me just about as progressive, and as useful, as a stick immobilized in dirt at the bottom of Lake Hodges. Ron Roberts and Donna Frye have both announced their candidacy for mayor if the City Council should decide that an election will determine Murphy's replacement.

I think that an elected governor will be seen in a much more positive light than a Council appointee, and there is almost no doubt in my mind that Ron Roberts would win an election against Donna Frye. I believe that the last election (in which I voted for Roberts) was only close because Roberts and Murphy split the Republican vote against Frye; if only one Republican is on the ballot it should greatly decrease Frye's chance of becoming mayor.

Who votes a surf-shop owner mayor of the seventh-largest city in the US, anyway?

Thursday, April 21

Vintage Video Games Go Highbrow

This article from Wired is about an art exhibit with pieces inspired by 1980s video games. It's a really cool idea!

Rise of the Green Machine

This is a great article about hybrid cars. It seems that, though various auto makers are embracing the hybrid model, Toyota has the most-developed hybrid engine since its Prius has been around for eight years.

Also... my wife and I are getting a Prius! We put our name on the waiting list at a local dealer not long ago, and I just got a call today that a new high-mileage wonder will be waiting for us sometime in the first week of May.

I can't wait to have it! My wife (the environmental scientist) is going to get to drive it to work, but I'll be able to take it out on nights and weekends.

Tuesday, April 19

Condo conversions transform market

This looks cool - at first I was a little bit puzzled by all the projects I had heard of to convert apartments into condominiums, but the fact that these conversions are providing less costly roads to home ownership is quite a benefit, especially here in San Diego.

That doesn't mean I'll want one, though... my wife and I will still be holding out for a detached residence (that is, whenever we decide we're done being renters). Apparently our apartment complex has applied with the city to see if it can get permission to convert to condos, so we might not have too long to wait until we have to become homeowners.

Copyright Reform to Free Orphans?

This looks promising... I work in music publishing, and copyright issues abound. A lot of people like to write songs using existing themes, and finding copyright owners can be quite tedious (thankfully, that part isn't my job).

/me crosses my fingers and prays for this reform to work out

Friday, April 15

Today's Verse of the Day from Bible Gateway

Very apropos for April 15:


Romans 13:6-7 (New International Version)

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Thursday, April 14

Wired News: Surprises Lurk in Satellite Snaps

This is really cool. First of all, just the fact that Google has added satellite images to its spectacular mapping service. This really helps to see how the terrain actually looks when charting directions to a new destination, and it's much better than attempting to interpret Mapquest's decision that one particular turn should be called a "slight right."

However, the thrust of this article from Wired is in the unexpected discoveries people are making in the satellite images. One searcher found a picture of the area in which the makeshift town for Burning Man is constructed, showing a skeletal outline of its not-currently active streets. Also, there are pictures of sports arenas, and even historical images taken by satellite including one of a firefight in Najaf in 2003 and an early glimpse of last year's devastating tsunami.

I've even found an aerial picture of my apartment building. And my parents' house, and the house I lived in when I was a kid. In fact, many people have taken screenshots of Google's image of their hometown, annotated them with favorite hangouts, friends' houses, etc., and posted them on the Internet social photo-sharing site Flickr.

Google maps is now much more than a map. Its satellite images make it an interactive reminiscence tool.

Americans Wage E-War on Big Oil Over Fuel Costs

This is a good idea... better than any of the gasoline boycotts I've ever heard of. Instead of deciding not to buy gas on one particular day, the plan is to *never* buy gas from Exxon/Mobil stations. The idea is that Exxon/Mobil will lower prices to get customers back, and it will trigger a gas price war that will lower the price at the pump at stations nationwide.

This is easy for me, because I always buy gas at Shell anyway. I've got a Shell credit card that refunds me 5% of any purchases I make from them. So this boycott means I won't have to make any changes at all. In any case, I heartily support boycotting Exxon/Mobil. I realize that foreign oil prices are rising, but the current price spike can't *entirely* be the fault of Middle Eastern oil barons.

Wired News: Math + Crime = Hit

This show looks really cool... if I remember to turn the TV on tomorrow night, I'll definitely check it out.

Update (4/15/05): Oh, yeah. I'm going to see a play tonight, so I can't see that show. It's a rendition of My Fair Lady from the drama and music departments at the university from which I graduated a couple of years ago. I guess I'll try to see NUMB3RS next week.


This is a utility for creating backups of Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird and Netscape profiles. It's Windows-only, though, so Mac users are out of luck (and people like me are only partially lucky).

I haven't tried it yet, but it looks like this can also be used to transfer a Firefox/Tbird/Netscape profile from one computer to another if you don't want to have to reconstruct everything on your second machine.

I first heard about this when Lifehacker linked to the thoughts on things blog, where Nick Aster talks about being able to restore all of his Web and email settings in 10 minutes after a reformat by using this program.

So maybe Mac users aren't all that unfortunate... when's the last time OSX got so cluttered you needed to reformat?

Strong Bad RSS

Hurrah for the Web community!

As you may know, there exists an RSS feed for all of the new items on at However, that contains a lot of junk I'd rather not read, including weekly items that seem to me to be so much fluff. I really could care less about some fan's drawing of Bubs, you know? I've wanted a Strongbad-only RSS feed for quite some time.

Then I found out about Scott Reynen's RSS Filter. When I first found it, it was only able to filter RSS feeds to *exclude* a particular term. However, I suggested a positive filter (i.e. the ability to filter RSS so that the resulting feed only has items that *include* your selected term). He added this feature on March 24, and after a bit of testing I'm proud to announce a new "Strongbad only" RSS feed.

This feed will contain all Strongbad emails, and it might also include Strong Bad audio quotes sometimes, if his name exists in the title of the RSS item... but since he's the only reason I ever visit anyway I don't mind a bit of extra SB goodness. Enjoy! Add it to your Bloglines account, and enjoy Strongbad's hilarious emails without any unrelated crap.

Monday, April 4

Interview: 43Folders' Merlin Mann

Another awesome interview at Lifehacker; it's with Merlin Mann (who is, in essence, Danny O'Brien's partner in productivity).

My favorite bit of the interview:

Typically, the GUIs we all learned have used controlling metaphors that were based on physical things like desks and file cabinets and shelves. Even where these metaphors failed or misled, they were still really useful as a way of fording the no-man's-land between terrified users and seemingly complex, command line-based systems. They built an extra layer of interactivity that made learning a computer much less intimidating and abstract by translating it into work people were already familiar with.

So, flash forward 20+ years and there are a lot of us who haven't really thought in terms of those metaphors in years. In fact, the "desk" and "file cabinet" metaphors are starting to seem downright quaint; we want ways to increase our productivity and sense of response time, not a permanent set of training wheels, right?

Add to this the research into how things like extraneous navigation and modal shifting can take you out of the flow state (a pet research project that Danny's totally nicking from Mary Czerwinski). If you live forever doing real-time translation of how your computer is like a desk, you're going to always be parsing your interactions in an overly mediated way. As long as you're thinking about desks and clicking and menus and so on, you're never going to be in the desirable flow state for long.


YaGoohoo!gle just takes your search query and displays a page with 2 frames: Google's results on the one side and Yahoo!'s results on the other. It seems that the orientation changes, as I got Google on the left this morning and it was just on the right when I checked it again.

And by the way... yes, I know I haven't blogged in quite a while. Life happens.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by emailing the author (use the link above).

The Geek Code desperately needs updating, but in any case here's mine (as of 2010-02-28):

Version: 3.12
GIT/MU d+(-) s:+>: a C++> ULXB++++$ L+++ M++ w--() !O !V P+ E---
W+++ N o++ K? PS PE++ Y+ PGP t !5 X- R- tv+@ b++ DI++++ D--- e*++
h--- r+++ y+++ G+

If you really care about knowing what that all means, you either know the code already, or you can get it decoded for you here.