Apr 302005

image courtesy of duane_j on morguefile

In response to a friend’s invitation to have dinner at Bacchus:

“Bacchus? That’s the place with the dead-animal-head bar, right? Frankly, that kind of place makes me want to knock back double bourbons until I stop caring about how my bad behaviour is spoiling the ambience for the other patrons. Places like that really bring out the Hunter S. Thompson in me. I dress badly – I go home and change first to make sure. I roll Drum cigarettes on the white tablecloth while pestering the sommelier about the vintage of the Labatt’s Blue (“What do you mean you don’t have Labatt’s Blue?!?! Christ!”). I give the piano player a series of five dollar bills and insist that he play “She’s Always a Woman” again and again and again. I sing along. I cry, then I order more shots of bourbon. (“Did you get any Labatt’s Blue yet? Christ!”) I strike up a conversation with the people at the next table. They’re from Japan, so I talk to them in my own personal variant of Japanese. They are polite. This strikes me as funny. I order more bourbon. I order some for them. I tell them they should try Labatt’s Blue.”

 Posted by at 11:52 pm
Apr 242005
courtesy of akim95 on stock.xchng

Ran across a photograph of the “Garden of the Cessation of Official Life” in Marilyn Stokstad’s Art History vol II. The garden was originally built during the Ming dynasty, and is located in Suzhou, China. (The detail on the left is from an unspecified garden in Suzhou, courtesy of akim95 on stock.xchng.)

Blahblahblah. It’s the title that intrigues me – an aesthetic recognition that “official life” is sufficiently onerous to justify a garden in which to enjoy its cessation.

 Posted by at 8:46 pm
Apr 162005

…12 hops, according to The Amazing Baconizer, which uses Amazon Web services to see how two items are linked by consumer preference via intermediate items (ie, the “people who bought this also bought…” thing). Think The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (The Oracle of Bacon), except for stuff sold on Amazon.

Here’s a first (for me, anyway): Oxford Dictionary of English -> Madonna, by Andrew Morton – “There is no path currently connecting these two items“. How can that be? Errriiiiccccc!

 Posted by at 7:53 am
Apr 132005

A couple of years ago, my Dad unexpectedly inherited the (modest) estate of an old friend. When my family packed up the contents of his cabin, we boxed up and stored his rather large book collection. At the time, we were too busy dealing with estate matters to look carefully at the books. Now, however, we’re gradually going through the boxes.

It’s a treasure-trove of Canadian WWI military history: regimental references, personal diaries and memoirs printed in small runs, reference books with hundreds of photographs glued in by the publisher. We’ve only just begun unpacking and sorting, but already there are several wonderful candidates for Project Gutenberg. I’ll be scanning for *years*.

I am *so pleased*.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 6:11 pm
Apr 132005

(…as seen on boing boing), “SCIgen is a program that generates random Computer Science research papers, including graphs, figures, and citations. It uses a hand-written context-free grammar to form all elements of the papers.” One of its papers was recently accept as a “non-reviewed” paper by The 9th World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics. A quote from the accepted, auto-generated paper:

“Our overall evaluation seeks to prove
three hypotheses: (1) that we can do a whole lot to adjust
a framework’s seek time; (2) that von Neumann machines
no longer affect performance; and finally (3) that the IBM
PC Junior of yesteryear actually exhibits better energy than
today’s hardware. We hope that this section sheds light on
Juris Hartmanis ’s development of the UNIVAC computer in

The auto-generated drawings are magnificent.

OHOHOH – surely it must be possible to make a Random Software User Guide.

 Posted by at 1:57 pm
Apr 112005

w00t! The second book for which I did post-production (editing, assembly, format conversion, etc) is up on Project Gutenberg: “India, Old and New“, by Sir Valentine Chirol, originally published in 1921.

This follows the very cheesy “Our Holidays: Their Meaning and Spirit; retold from St. Nicholas“, originally published in 1906, a vomitously sicky-sweet children’s book, full of childhood stories of inspiring historical characters (Whittier’s Boyhood; Washington’s Boyhood), nasty racial vignettes (Christmas in the South; Chinese New Year in California) and really bad blank verse (“Sing, little children, sing!”).

Actually, come to think about it, I’m vaguely ashamed of my part in the re-publication of “Our Holidays” – did that one really need to be preserved for prosperity? Surely no one would inflict it on their children?

 Posted by at 6:44 pm
Apr 102005

François @ Edito.qc.ca

The March 10 edition of “The Economist” talked about the “rise of the creative consumer”, the idea that customers are an under-used source for ideas about product innovation. “… in the past firms have mostly resisted customer innovation or not known what to do with it. American farmers were lobbying manufacturers to make cars with detachable back seats as early as 1909. It took Detroit more than a decade to “invent” the pick-up truck. Even now, carmakers respond to customer modifications such as performance-exhaust systems by voiding the warranty.”

This practice of customer-driven innovation is widely used within the commercial software development industry. Customers drive product innovation because most software companies have few (if any) people who are expert in the domain where the software product will be used. Computing is a “meta” technology. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:27 am
Apr 012005

It’s always worth checking Google first for April Fool’s Day pranks. This year, Google Gulp (BETA)™ with “Auto-Drink™ (LIMITED RELEASE)”.

Google never lacks a sense of humour about itself:

  • Being a limited release product, Google Gulp can only be obtained by getting a cap from another Gulp user – “if you don’t know anyone who can give you one, don’t worry – that just means you aren’t cool. But very, very (very!) soon, you will be”
  • Periodically, Google will collect usage data from Google Gulpers, which is stored in “the GulpPlex™, a heavily guarded, massively parallel server farm whose location is known only to Eric Schmidt, who carries its GPS coordinates on a 64-bit-encrypted smart card locked in a stainless-steel briefcase handcuffed to his right wrist”.
  • Google Gulp was developed by a Google VP who spends his one-day-a-week 20% time “collecting flora samples in several Bolivian sub-equatorial rain forests.”
  • From the FAQ: “Wait – you’re saying Auto-Drink™ changes my brain chemistry?” “Um, yeah – but for the better.” “When will you take Google Gulp out of beta?” “Man, if you pressure us, you just drive us away. We’ll commit when we’re ready, okay? “
 Posted by at 6:50 pm