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June 9th, 2006


02:01 am - On Smiting

Oregon Pastor Predicts God Will Smite Portland Gays on Father’s Day

You heard it right, my friends - according to an Oregon pastor’s prophecy, God so hates the queers, he’s prepared to destroy Portland. There will be earthquakes, floods, and buildings collapsing atop the LGBT Pride Parade. Thousands of queers (along with goodness knows how many non-queer allies and street vendors) will be sucked into the Earth’s gaping maw and crushed moments before their lungs fill with water and then they are finally killed by falling bricks. (Salem and the entire Willamette Valley are predicted to get it too, but I get the feeling that they’re just His collateral damage.)

Interesting...


Current Location: 45.43419, -122.63843
mood: sleepysleepy
music: Caring Is Creepy - Oh, Inverted World - The Shins
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June 8th, 2006


02:23 am - Inform 7

A new version of Inform has recently been released. Inform is a programming language specifically designed for the purpose of writing interactive fiction (which is the fancy way of saying 'text adventure game'), and its most interesting feature has probably been that it compiles to the same virtual machine which was used by Infocom back in the day, the Z-Machine. According to the Inform FAQ it is "hard to believe that many more than a couple of thousand people have ever seriously tried to compile an Inform file." In light of this, I should like to point out that not only have I seriously tried to compile Inform files, I've seriously tried to compile Inform files under BeOS of all things.

Now, the changes in this new version of Inform are probably best demonstrated with an example, so I shall quote the example from the manual which, as a biologist, I find most amusing:

"Xylan"

Understand "hydrolyze [something]" as hydrolyzing. Hydrolyzing is an action applying to one thing.

Carry out hydrolyzing: say "[The noun] cannot be hydrolyzed."

Instead of hydrolyzing the xylan: move the xylose to the holder of the xylan; remove the xylan from play; say "At once the xylan becomes xylose."

Plant Cell Wall is a room.

The xylose sample is a thing. The xylan sample is a thing in Plant Cell Wall. The description of the xylan is "A polysaccharide. Totally useless. If only you had some xylose, instead!" The description of the xylose is "Awesome!"

Test me with "x xylan / hydrolyze xylan / x xylose".

[Of course, how our players will ever solve this problem is another question (especially if their biology and chemistry are both rusty). When adding entirely new commands to a game, it is often a good idea to provide as many ways of phrasing the command as possible; to drop hints about the correct phrasing within the game's text; or even to tell the player about the expanded command list in some documentation or help at the beginning of the game. So for instance we might also add]

Understand "break down [something] with water" or "break [something] down with water" as hydrolyzing.

[And these lines will also provide syntax for our new command, without interfering with the previous syntax. It's also good to anticipate alternative (British or American) spellings. People's typing habits are hard to overcome, even if they know you are spelling the word the other way. It is probably best not to annoy them unduly. So:]

Understand "hydrolyse [something]" as hydrolyzing.

[Then some text in-game might offer a clue, subtle or (since this is an example) blunt:]

Instead of examining the player, say "You're a drop of water, which means that you can break down certain chemicals!"

Understand "break down [something]" or "break [something] down" as hydrolyzing.

[And finally, we could try adding instructions explicitly:]

Understand "help" or "hint" or "hints" or "instructions" or "info" or "about" as asking for help. Asking for help is an action out of world. Carry out asking for help: say "The following commands are understood, in addition to the standard ones: EVAPORATE, FREEZE, HYDROLYZE, SUBLIME..."

Test more with "help / x me / break down xylan"

Which yields the following "game":

Xylan
An Interactive Fiction
Release 1 / Serial number 060608 / Inform 7 build 3M43 (I6/v6.30 lib 6/10N) SD

Plant Cell Wall
You can see a xylan sample here.

>look at the xylan
A polysaccharide. Totally useless. If only you had some xylose, instead!

>look at me
You're a drop of water, which means that you can break down certain chemicals!

>hydrolyze the xylan
At once the xylan becomes xylose.

>look at the xylose
Awesome!

>

Now, the hypothetical reader perhaps might have noticed that the code is written in natural language. I find this very interesting, particularly because the use of natural language actually seems to add something, unlike as with, say, AppleScript, where the use of natural language simply turns programming into a game of guess-the-verb. Specifically, it is no longer necessary to make as many changes when adding objects, e.g. to add routines to recognize the name of an object and then another routine to print the name of the object. It also becomes much easier to add new verbs and adjectives and such. As an example, prompted by the mention of the verbs evaporate, freeze, and sublime in the text of the previous example, it was very easy to modify the example to add these verbs:

Form is a kind of value. The forms are solid, liquid, and gas. A person has a form. A person is usually liquid.

Evaporating is an action applying to nothing. Understand "evaporate" as evaporating.

A check evaporating rule:

if the player is gas, say "You are already in gaseous form." instead;
if the player is solid, say "You can't evaporate directly from the solid phase; perhaps you should try subliming instead." instead;

Carry out evaporating:

now the player is gas;
say "With much concentration, you increase the velocity of movement of your constituent particles enough that your atoms become liberated from one another. You are now a gas."

Freezing is an action applying to nothing. Understand "freeze" as freezing.

A check freezing rule:

if the player is solid, say "You are already frozen" instead;
if the player is gas, say "You can't freeze directly from the gaseous phase; try melting first." instead.

Carry out freezing:

now the player is solid;
say "By practicing various relaxation techniques, you manage to slow down the motion of your molecules enough that they begin to adhere tightly. You are now a solid."

Melting is an action applying to nothing. Understand "melt" as melting. Understand "condense" as melting.

A check melting rule:

if the player is liquid, say "You are already liquid." instead;

Carry out melting:

now the player is liquid;
say "Your particles [if the player is solid] begin to move more freely [otherwise] begin to coalesce [end if]; you become liquid.".

Subliming is an action applying to nothing. Understand "sublime" as subliming.

A check subliming rule:

if the player is not solid, say "You must be solid in order to sublime" instead.

Carry out subliming:

now the player is gas;
say "With great concentration, you manage to pass from the solid to the gaseous phase without ever becoming liquid in the process. Wait 'till your friends hear about this!".

A check hydrolyzing rule:

if the player is not liquid, say "You can't very well hydrolyze [the noun] when you're [if the player is solid] frozen [otherwise] gaseous [end if]!" instead.

Instead of hydrolyzing the xylan when the player is liquid:

move the xylose to the holder of the xylan;
remove the xylan from play;
say "At once the xylan becomes xylose."

Instead of examining the player:

if the form of the player is liquid, say "You're a drop of water, which means that you can break down certain chemicals!" instead;
if the form of the player is solid, say "You're a drop of ice." instead;
if the form of the player is gas, say "You're a quantity of water vapor." instead.

Which then yields a slightly more complex scenario:

Xylan
An Interactive Fiction
Release 1 / Serial number 060608 / Inform 7 build 3M43 (I6/v6.30 lib 6/10N) SD

Plant Cell Wall
You can see a xylan sample here.

>look at me
You're a drop of water, which means that you can break down certain chemicals!

>freeze
By practicing various relaxation techniques, you manage to slow down the motion of your molecules enough that they begin to adhere tightly. You are now a solid.

>look at me
You're a drop of ice.

>hydrolyze xylan
You can't very well hydrolyze the xylan sample when you're frozen!

>sublime
With great concentration, you manage to pass from the solid to the gaseous phase without ever becoming liquid in the process. Wait 'till your friends hear about this!

>sublime
You must be solid in order to sublime

>condense
Your particles begin to coalesce; you become liquid.

>hydrolyze xylan
At once the xylan becomes xylose.

>

The language is accompanied by a very interesting paper on its development called Natural Language, Semantic Analysis and Interactive Fiction [pdf], and six large sample games referred to as Worked Examples.


Current Location: 45.43419, -122.63843
mood: nerdynerdy
music: Transcendental Sports Anthem - Lonely People of the World, Unite! - Devin Davis
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June 4th, 2006


05:54 pm - More Data
Google seems to have added a new feature to its Search History thing that tells you when it is that you do the most searching:



I'm not sure why I apparently do so much more searching in May than at any other time.
Current Location: 45.43419, -122.63843
mood: nerdynerdy
music: Giant Spiders - Lonely People of the World, Unite! - Devin Davis
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May 30th, 2006


11:16 pm - I am bored.
Therefore I did two things: first, I made a new userpic featuring CUpty cupty cuptcakkes in celebration of VANILLA the PLADStIC snoMWAN; incidentally, Logan Whitehurst has released the first few songs of his Very Tiny Songs Project.

Also I filled out one of them Interweb memetic survey things:

LAYER ONE:
-- Name: Nick Chaimov
-- Birth date: February 15th, 1983
-- Birthplace: Portland, Oregon
-- Current Location: Milwaukie, Oregon
-- Eye Color: Green-Blue
-- Hair Color: Brown
-- Height: 6'1" (but should have been more were it not for my bilateral medial distal femoral stapling)
-- Righty or Lefty: Right
-- Zodiac Sign: Aquarius

LAYER TWO:
-- Your heritage: All sorts of western European plus Ukrainian Jews
-- The shoes you wore today: The same shoes I wear every day
-- Your weakness: Insecurity
-- Your fears: Being alone
-- Your perfect pizza: The kind with artichoke hearts on it
-- Goal you'd like to achieve: Go to graduate school

LAYER THREE:
-- Your most overused phrase on AIM: "I see."
-- Your thoughts first waking up: There seems to be a cat walking on me.
-- Your best physical feature: Not applicable.
-- Your bedtime: 3 am
-- Your most missed memory: The ones I can't, in principle, remember; e.g. to quote Marvin Minsky, "Recollections from our first five years seem strangely isolated [...] A memory is not a separate entity apart from how it works on the mind. [...] To remember an early experience, you must be able not only to 'retrieve' some old records, but to reconstruct how your earlier mind reacted to them -- and to do that, you would have to become an infant again. To outgrow infancy, you have to sacrifice your memories because they're written in an ancient script that your later selves can no longer read."

LAYER FOUR:
-- Pepsi or Coke: Mountain Dew
-- McDonald's or Burger King: Taco Bell
-- Single or group dates: Single
-- Adidas or Nike: New Balance
-- Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: I don't like iced tea.
-- Chocolate or vanilla: Chocolate
-- Cappuccino or coffee: Those Frappuccino things from Starbucks

LAYER FIVE:
-- Smoke: No.
-- Cuss: Practically never.
-- Sing: No; I don't know how.
-- Take a shower everyday: Almost always.
-- Have a crush(es): Perhaps.
-- Do you think you've been in love: Yes.
-- Want to go to college: In progress.
-- Like(d) high school: Not in the least.
-- Want to get married: Yes.
-- Believe in yourself: In the limited sense that I believe in my own existence, yes.
-- Get motion sickness: Only on planes, boats, and in cars.
-- Think you're attractive: No.
-- Think you're a health freak: Not so much 'health freak' as 'hypochondriac'; when I was 10 or so I got ahold of a medical text and diagnosed myself with every possible disease, especially brain cancer. Also everyone with a headache has meningitis.
-- Get along with your parents: Sure.
-- Like thunderstorms: When they're sufficiently distant and not accompanied by a tornado, yes.
-- Play an instrument: I took piano lessons for a while but then I stopped.

LAYER SIX:
In the past month...
-- Drank alcohol: No.
-- Smoked: No, and not in any other month either.
-- Done a drug: Only ones that are prescribed to me.
-- Gone on a date: No.
-- Gone to the mall?: Yes, but not of my own accord.
-- eaten an entire box of Oreos: Oreos, no; Thin Mints, yes.
-- Eaten sushi: Repeatedly.
-- Been on stage: In high school I played Captain Safety, teaching elementary school students about the importance of not setting each other on fire.
-- Been dumped: Yes.
-- Gone skating: I went ice skating once when I was a child, and slipped on some partially-melted ice, splitting my chin open. The rumor at my elementary school the next day was that my jawbone had had to be surgically removed. This rumor was not founded in reality; yet I've not been ice skating since then, except in the very limited context of high-school physics, and even then I was grabbing onto the walls and such.
-- Made homemade cookies: Yes.
-- Gone skinny dipping: I don't do nudity.
-- Dyed your hair: No.
-- Stolen anything: Only intellectual property.

LAYER SEVEN:
Ever...
-- Played a game that required removal of clothing: What did I just say about nudity?
-- If so, was it mixed company: And again.
-- Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: Only on Benadryl.
-- Been caught "doing something": No.
-- Been called a tease: No.
-- Gotten beaten up: To a limited extent.
-- Shoplifted: No.
-- Changed who you were to fit in: No.

LAYER EIGHT:
-- Age you hope to be married: 8.5π
-- Numbers and Names of Children: Children are terrifying.
-- Describe your Dream Wedding: I choose to misinterpret this question and describe a wedding that happened in a dream. It took place in some kind of weird tree-house play structure made of bamboo or something. It also involved a flying car and some sort of teleporter that went to an electronics store.
-- Where you want to go to college: That already happened.
-- What do you want to be when you grow up: A bio-something-ist.
-- What country would you most like to visit: Japan

LAYER NINE:
In a guy/girl..
-- Best eye color? Any
-- Best hair color? Any
-- Short or long hair: Long, I guess, but it doesn't exactly matter.
-- Height: Any (within the range of reasonable human heights.)
-- Best weight: I don't much care; not extremely underweight.
-- Best articles of clothing: Don't care.
-- Best first date location: Don't care.
-- Best first kiss location: Mouth.

LAYER TEN:
-- Number of drugs taken illegally: Zero.
-- Number of people I could trust with my life: I guess 3?
-- Number of piercings: Zero.
-- Number of tattoos: Zero.
-- Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper?: I don't know... maybe two or three?
-- Number of scars on my body: One on each knee from the bilateral medial distal femoral staplings. One on my chin from the ice skating thing. One on my arm from an overenthusiastic puppy.
-- Number of things in my past that I regret: 2π

Now I am going to go read a book.
Current Location: 45.43419, -122.63843
mood: boredbored
music: GyzmKid - The Velvet Teen

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May 25th, 2006


08:34 am

I need to buy a laptop so that I can use this.

Also: Happy Towel Day

Also also: High-resolution Trojan implosion photos.


Current Location: 45.43419, -122.63843
music: Shame On Me - Solving For X
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May 21st, 2006


03:14 pm

Goodbye, Trojan.

Update: Video [via Metroblogging Portland]


Current Location: 45.43419, -122.63843
music: Frog Eyes - The Golden River - Time Reveals Its Plan At Poisoned Falls
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May 20th, 2006


01:35 am - Nick Reviews Software For Some Reason: Onlife

In light of that I don't have anything better to talk about, here is a brief "review" of a new computer program that I just found on the Internets — except that it's not really new, and I actually discovered it several months ago, but that was back when the newest version available was Beta 2 and running it took 60% of my CPU time and constantly wrote

01:17:00.650 Onlife[5217] Exception acquiring Plug-in item: *** -[NSCFString substringWithRange:]: Range or index out of bounds
01:17:18.647 Onlife[5217] Exception acquiring Plug-in item: *** -[NSCFString substringWithRange:]: Range or index out of bounds
01:17:36.701 Onlife[5217] Exception acquiring Plug-in item: *** -[NSCFString substringWithRange:]: Range or index out of bounds
01:17:54.648 Onlife[5217] Exception acquiring Plug-in item: *** -[NSCFString substringWithRange:]: Range or index out of bounds
01:18:12.643 Onlife[5217] Exception acquiring Plug-in item: *** -[NSCFString substringWithRange:]: Range or index out of bounds
01:18:30.657 Onlife[5217] Exception acquiring Plug-in item: *** -[NSCFString substringWithRange:]: Range or index out of bounds
01:18:48.647 Onlife[5217] Exception acquiring Plug-in item: *** -[NSCFString substringWithRange:]: Range or index out of bounds
01:19:06.648 Onlife[5217] Exception acquiring Plug-in item: *** -[NSCFString substringWithRange:]: Range or index out of bounds
01:19:24.642 Onlife[5217] Exception acquiring Plug-in item: *** -[NSCFString substringWithRange:]: Range or index out of bounds
into my console log. Now however there is a new version — Beta 5 — which does neither of those things; or, more accurately, it does those things to a lesser degree: it now only takes 20% of my CPU and only writes weird things to my console log a few times an hour instead of a few times a second. These two facts may be related to one another.

At any rate, despite its present bugginess, the program in question, Onlife, is highly successful in satisfying both my need to collect vast amounts of information and to visualize this information in appealing ways — much as SQL Logger might have if I had ever managed to get it to install correctly, which I had — and have — not, which I suppose is not too great a loss since I don't actually use Adium anymore anyways.

Anyways — the primary purpose of Onlife is to collect all sorts of information about the status of various programs and to save this information into a database. As I currently have it configured, it collects the status of the Terminal, Transmit (an FTP client), Firefox, iTunes, Mail.app, MS Word, NetNewsWire (RSS Reader), QuickTime Player, RealPlayer, Safari, TextWrangler (text editor), Xcode (IDE) and iChat and stores this information in a central database which then can be queried. I haven't actually ascertained any useful queries which can be made, but it is of course still nice to know that you could make such queries should the need or inclination arise.

But, still, data are less impressive when they are not visualized, and, as such, I present Day Mode:

This view shows, for the time period selected, every song which I listened to in iTunes and the duration for which the song played; every e-mail I read in Mail.app, and the duration for which I read it; every RSS feed I viewed in NetNewsWire, and the duration; and every web page I viewed in Safari, and the duration. Furthermore, selecting an individual item, such as a web page, displays the content of that item at the time it was viewed, so I could select a viewed web page and see the contents of that web page as it was at the time I viewed it. If I want to zoom out a bit, I can switch to Month view:

This view would doubtless be more impressive if I'd actually been using the software for at least a month so that one could be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of tiny little colored dots, so here I must ask the hypothetical reader to simply use his or her hypothetical imagination. A table view also provides a sequential list of activities in each of the enabled applications:

And finally we come to my personal favorite view, the Thumbnail view:

I'm not entirely sure why this is my favorite view, but it probably has to do with its similarity to a feature in Hypercard. So actually the program doesn't really do all that much, but I'm very excited by the amount of information that it collects, and also the direction that it could probably move in the future.

In conclusion, I like data.


Current Location: 45.43419, -122.63843
mood: nerdynerdy
music: XOC - SMW - Switch Palace and Bonus Game

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May 19th, 2006


03:06 pm - Best Dinosaur Comics Ever


Current Location: 45.43419, -122.63843
mood: amusedamused
music: They Might Be Giants - Severe Tire Damage - Till My Head Falls Off
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January 7th, 2006


04:46 pm - This, I think, is the strangest thing I've ever found in a used book.

0107061635.jpg
Originally uploaded by nchaimov.


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December 8th, 2005


07:54 pm - Statistics
Continuing with my prior trend of using this journal for little more than commenting on its own existence, I should like to point out that I haven't posted anything in exactly 367 days. This is nearly three times greater than my previous record for not writing anything for a long time, which lasted a mere 128 days. Having performed the requisite analyses, I find that there seems to be some sort of interesting cyclical phenomenon going on with respect to this journal, as evidenced by the following chart:



It seems that if past trends continue, I can be expected to follow up this post within a few weeks. I will thereafter post a number of entries in rapid succession, whereafter I will do exactly nothing for approximately 2.8 years.

I recently installed Google Analytics on my web site which I no longer use for much of anything in order to keep track of all the people not looking at it. As it turns out, there exists a small proportion of people who aren't not looking at it, but they're not exactly the people I'd expect. They are in fact people from Egypt and Switzerland. In particular, someone in Switzerland running Internet Explorer on Windows XP seems to have taken a particular interest in my Renn Fayre pictures, examining them in detail. I also find that people seem to spend more time looking at pictures containing naked blue people than at pictures containing other things. It seems that Windows-using citizens of Switzerland will spend, on average, 34 seconds looking at photo galleries not containing naked blue people. However, when naked blue people are added to a gallery, they instead spend 2 minutes there.

Alas, I can't install Google Analytics code on this journal, because JavaScript is disallowed, even for paying users. As such, my ability to spy on you is limited to HTML-only services that offer substantially fewer types of statistics. However, the people who come here are also not necessarily the people I would expect.

One Mac OS X user from what appears to be Fraser, Michigan seems to have visited this here journal on November 28th. This user is apparently very optimistic, as he visited again the very next day, perhaps in anxious anticipation of an update that was not to come. On December 2nd, I had a visit from someone in France of all places, then the next day from someone in Egypt, then Chicago. On December 6th, even a visitor from a location as exotic as Canada visited for some reason I cannot exactly comprehend.

I do wonder exactly how these people are ending up here.

And now a message for c007h177.acad.reed.edu and c012h006.acad.reed.edu:

I CAN SEE YOU

Now then! Let us wait and see whether the above-observed trend shall continue.
mood: geekygeeky
music: Rheostatics - Whale Music - The Headless One
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