Monday, February 28, 2005

Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall

Over lunch, I got together with Scott Mathis, at the Beer Store, and we made a couple of batches of beer -- a brown and an IPA.

Crafts come in two flavors -- things that give you a better product, cheaper (like computers built from components, or hand-smithed, black-powder rifles), and things that cost more than they would if you bought them, but that you do anyway, just because you love doing them (like swaters that you knit yourself).

Brewing beer is the former. In a couple of weeks, we'll have a lot of craft beer at about half the price it would cost me to buy it at the liquor store.

I got started brewing at the Beer Store six or seven years ago, when I was dating a woman who liked chewy beers. I gave her a gift certificate for a batch as a Valentine's Day present.

It's the perfect relationship present. You start a batch by spending a couple of hours together brewing, which is like cooking but you don't have to clean up afterwards. Two weeks later, you spend another couple of hours together, bottling. The result is six cases (15 gallons) of bombers.

Plus, if you break up in the two weeks between brewing and bottling, you each get three cases of beer to drink, to help you forget.

U-brews are the brewing analogue of frame shops. They'll rent you time slots to use their equipment, and sell you any supplies you need. You supply the work and take home the finished product.

They started in Canada, where an over-helpful government cheerfully taxed their microbreweries into extinction. Some of these breweries realized that by just renting their old equipment, instead of selling it for scrap, they'd no longer be taxed as breweries and could go into a new market.

The idea worked, and spread.

It spread here early. I think Jeff McLean's Beer Store, here in town, may be the country's oldest continuously operating u-brew.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Gone, but not forgotten: Mirsky

On nights when I'm not sure whether to post, I rely on Mirsky's Drunk Browsing Test.

The first blog I remember reading regularly was the now-dead Mirsky's Worst of the Web (Requiescat in Pacem, 1996). It's gone, but he's now back -- well, sort of -- here.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Spinning Tables

The optimist sees a glass that's half full.
The pessimist sees a glass that's half empty.
The engineer sees a glass that's twice as big as it needs to be.

You're blindfolded, led into a room, and seated in front of a square table. You're told there's a wineglass at each corner, and the wineglasses are randomly up or down.

Your job is to get them all pointing the same direction.

You can tell whether they're up or down by feel, but you can't just feel them all. You have to solve the problem in steps. Once a minute, you can grab any two, and flip the state of either, both, or neither.

You think you've gotten off easy. She's not done.
  • Between each step, she'll rotate the table to some random configuration.
  • When you get them all in the same state, she'll immediately whisk off your blindfold.
  • She's naked.

She's doing most of the work and bores quickly. Either find a strategy that guarantees quick, deterministic success or face the prospect of dining alone.

Hat tip to that mountain-climbing bridge player, Rich Laver.

No Talk, All the Time

Is it a blog if there's no text?

John Salmon's telling the world what he's listening to, and he lets the music speak for him and for itself.

No talk, all the time.

When I hear something that stops me in my tracks, I go to the home page. John lists the artist, the album, the track, and -- if there is one -- a link to a web page where I can buy the album.

He must think he's blogging. Sugar In The Gourd even has blog ads.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Differences Among Women

As Larry Summers hysteria drones on, it seems a time to put this up, which is mostly how I (and that other Jeff) feel.

Differences Among Women
[Click on it to read it.]

This is also a shabby yet serviceable excuse to figure out how to put images and pdfs up on my blog. Anything to try a new technology.

Historical trivium the first: An editor tried to change the title to something clunky, like "Gender and Mathematical Interests." The Two Jeffs put their four feet down and changed it back. Extra points if you can see why.

Historical trivium the second: One morning, I got a response to this article that began, "For the first time do I lay hands on a SunExpert issue, and it changes my life."

Mine, too. The sender, whose blog is here, and whom I eventually met, has been a long-distance friend and desultory correspondent ever since.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Linguistics Trivia

OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today: "Homer Nods
The official language of Belgium is not Belgiumish, as we said in an item yesterday. We regret the error. Belgium's language is actually known as Belch."

Addendum: Two correspondents, Jim Flanagan and Dominic Dunlop, have pointed out to me that Belch is closely related to Phlegmish.

Why My Friends Don't Ask Me For Technical Advice

I see, from Google Zeitgeist, that the technical topic people are most interested in is still wallpaper. (Compare this with last year.)

Google Movies

The second nice Google service in the last month. Busy, busy, busy. See Google movies: now playing for an intro.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Board games

Here's a game everyone can play.



A generally accessible paper on stuperspace can be found here, with a link to other, related articles at the bottom of the page.

Hat tip to Garvey.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The On-line Wall-Street Journal

The old musician's joke,

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: To play on a Chieftain's album.

has a new variant:

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: To write an article for the on-line Wall Street Journal's editorial page.

Today, for example, I see Our Mission Remains Vital, by Kofi A. Annan, and
As Gonzo in Life as in His Work, by Tom Wolfe.

No matter what you think of the U.N. or Hunter S. Thompson, or, for that matter, the authors of the articles, there's no way to avoid admitting that the guy who runs the editorial page -- who got these articles -- is doing an awesome job.

Watch WSJO for a few weeks and see if I'm not right.

It's a race to see which will come first: a WSJ editorial by Paddy Moloney, or a Chieftains' album with James Taranto.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Ask Mr. Protocol

One sad thing about today's web is that it arrived after some stuff was gone that should have had wider exposure. I particularly miss Mike O'Brien's "Ask Mr. Protocol," the first of which is Mr. Protocol Feels Secure

You can browse through the rest, here.

Geeky aside:

I used this entry to test the BlogThis! bookmarklet, which I can also embed in my entry. Another bookmarklet that I particularly like is BugMeNot!, which curcumvents the noxious "free registration" requirements of sites like this one.

I can drag these bookmarklets directly from this blog entry and drop them onto my toolbar. (I've tried it.) If you like them, you can, too.

The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences

Musing about on-line services, I'm struck more than ever by how wonderful the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences is.

I first learned about it when someone sent me email pointing me at sequence A045794. Was I surprised? Well yeah.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

You Can't Always Get What You Want

I'm suffering from gratification frustration.

My local coffee shop offers free wireless, so I use them as my ISP.

While I'm working, I usually listen to Sugar In The Gourd, which is all old-timey, all the time. There's no talk; to find out what's playing, you have to go to the web site and look.

Mostly, it's just background music, but every once in a while, a cut stops me in my tracks. I'll say, "Who's that?" and have to pause what I'm doing to go peek.

One surprise has been how often it's been the same person that's brought me to a screeching halt before. For some time now, I've been getting bowled over -- and over, and over -- by cuts from Reed Martin's Old-Time Banjo and from Palmer and Greg Loux's In Good Company.

I just looked again on They don't carry the first, and the second
is marked "unavailable."


Earlier, after fumbling with an advanced mathematical technique, "high-school algebra," it occurred to me that a symbolic algebra package could solve my problem quickly and accurately. I just wanted to simplify one ugly equation.

I spent some time looking on the web for a page that would let me type in an equation and simplify it: sort of an Algebra 1 analogue to Google's Web Translation tools.

Every single site I tried was a broken link.

I suppose Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are right, and I'm just waiting to learn what I need.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Uncommon Valor Was a Common Virtue

It's the sixtieth anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima.

We fought for five weeks to take a seven-and-a-half-square-mile island. It cost 6,000 Marines, a thousand of them in mop-up operations, the week after the island was taken.

There were 21,000 Japanese on that island. To take it, we had to kill 20,000 of them.

The WSJ article pointed at in the title is good. The chapter on Iwo Jima in P. J. O'Rourke's Peace Kills should be required reading. But this, from another article, brings tears to my eyes as I sit here, re-reading it.

We kept hearing that we were going up against the best soldiers in the world — the Germans and the Japanese. But they are the ones who came up against the best in the world — the Marine Corps.

Among the regiments who served in that battle were the 26th Marines, with whom I later served.

Semper fi.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Enigma of Aztec Sacrifice

I got A Patriot's History of the United States for Valentine's Day.

Reading about the conquest of the Americas, I came on what must be the land-speed record for human sacrifice: the killing of 80,400 prisoners in 96 hours by the Aztecs in 1487. That's shifts of four priests, round-the-clock, cutting the hearts out of prisoner while they're still alive, and kicking the corpses down the pyramid. Roughly 14 sacrifices a minute.

All this from a stone-age civilization that lacked even the wheel.

Here's the classic paper on why they did it:

The Enigma of Aztec Sacrifice: "Recently, Borah, possibly the leading authority on the demography of Mexico at the time of the conquest, has also revised the estimated number of persons sacrificed in central Mexico in the fifteenth century to 250,000 per year, equivalent to one percent of the total population."

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Martha Stewart Chronicles

Jo, the tattooed lady, recommends The Martha Stewart Chronicles. If a boy can't trust his sister, who can he trust?

Putting HTML directly in blog posts

I can put HTML directly in posts. An example, the AutoRantic, Virtual Moonbat , follows:

EtherHouse: Yiddish Proverbs Archives

I have a notifier set up to look for a few things in the blogosphere. This morning, it delivered up this gem:

Di grub iz shoin ofen un der mentsh tut noch hofen.

(in YIVO, this would be Di grub iz shoyn ofen un der mentsh tut nokh hofen.)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Comments and email.

Well, I understand why I'm not getting notified of comments by mail.
Haloscan is handling my comments, and they won't notify me by mail
unless I pay them money. The settings in the "Comments" section of my
Blogspot settings are irrelevant.


Friday, February 11, 2005

Cracker Crack Crackers

From excellent cousin, Eddy Sherman, via Jo and Tim. You can't stop eating them ("crack"), and the recipe's from Eddy ("cracker").

  • Put a cup and a third of canola oil into an oil-tight, tupperware container. That'll seem like a lot because, well, it is a lot.
  • Stir in a package of powdered, Hidden-Valley Ranch dressing mix and some pinches of crushed, red pepper.
  • Add a four-sleeve package of crackers. (e.g., a 16-oz. box of saltines)
  • Put the lid on, wrap the seams with Saran Wrap (because the container isn't really oil-tight), and shake.
  • Turn the sucker every time you walk by it for a day or so.
Tim swears you can't substitute for the canola oil. I've tried various seasonings, like curry powder, as substitutes for the red pepper. They're good. I've also tried low-fat and unsalted crackers, which I didn't like as much, and generic ranch dressing packages, which I did.
I'm told their flavor improves with age, but how would you ever find out?


Another Carnival of the Recipes participant, michuli, sensibly asks, "So after a couple of days what do you do with it?"

Well, now.

So far, I've used the crackers as crackers, but perhaps I lack imagination: I should at least submit this to Carnival of Sin and Carnival of Cordite, see
what other suggestions I can get.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Lunatic Spaceman, RIP

Monday night, the spaceman left us. That would be, me and my car, the Luna-tic.

I went into a big-box store, late at night, to pick up something. By the time I came out, someone had stolen my hood ornament. Oh well.

My sister, Jo, who created my art car and gave me the hood ornament, which she found in Houston, warned me that this would happen. It's still annoying to be vandalized.

Looking at the positive side, I still have a picture of the spaceman to remind me what it looked like. You, too, since it's my photo on the blog.

Also, I can pick a new hood ornament. I'm taking suggestions and donations.
Jo's advice is to make sure it's plastic or soft rubber. If you have an accident,
you don't want your obit to read, "Killed by a flying hood ornament."

Make, the Mook

A few weeks ago, Mark Freufelder dropped me a note, saying thathe was sending me a free, Make t-shirt and a copy of their first issue. (He wanted to publish a note I'd sent him as a letter.) The free issue just arrived. I think I'm subscribing. It has an article about how to make a rail gun from a ruler.

Here, by the way, is the MakeZine web page:

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

More under-the-floorboards changes

A few technical things:

I've tried rearranging my blogroll to make it easier to see what my categories are. I don't yet see how to do subfolders in Bloglines, but I have a hack that makes it look like they're there.

I've created a monitor at Bloglines that looks to see who mentions me.
I also set up a Google news alert for the same thing.

Google "plus" addressing looks to be broken. I haven't been getting notified
of comments. I'm trying setting up a bloglines email account, to see if
I can use it instead (for blog-related email).

I've found ways to put all the sites I used to watch into my blogroll. I'm now
watching everything with Bloglines. At least, I think I am.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Google Maps Tracks my Social Life

You have to be pleased by the UI and amazed at the speed of Google Maps, but when I searched for my girlfriend's name I instantly got a map ... to my work address. I was, oh, taken aback.

I'm thinking Rob Pike must have come down the chimney at Christmas and implanted little RFD chips in everyone.

I sent Google email, suggesting that it'd be safer to use Google phonebook entries instead. "Look," I reasoned, "what if she dumps me again?"

To show you how good these guys are, here's what you get if you look for kevin fenzi broomfield colorado Once you have the map up, try using your mouse to scroll the map around. You'll need to hold down the left mouse button while you're doing it. Click on one of the locations, too.

Addendum: Many people have asked why there aren't maps of, say, Paris. People have even asked me. I dunno. Ask Google.

It is, after all, only in beta, and I imagine they're starting out easy and working their way outwards from there. In the month I've been watching it, they've added Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Still no Mexico.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Adding Y!Q to Blogs

Jeremy Zawodny's blog claims "Adding Y!Q to your site is easy."

Having now done it, I'm inclined to agree with him, but I'm not sure how useful
it'll be. He isn't either. Worth a shot, though.

Pointing the way

I've been leading a double life for a while now.

For years, I've had a permanent email address that my friends all use. This address is nothing but a forwarding address -- the nice folks who maintain it for me just shepherd my mail along to my ISP-of-the-week.

Most recently, I've been using an IMAP account, so I can get the mail
anywhere, and reading it with Thunderbird.

This one-level-of-indirection approach keeps me from having to send out the my-address-has-changed notes I keep seeing from my friends. One email
address to remember for me.

At the same time, I've been playing with Gmail. Somewhat to my surprise, I love gmail. I actually like the interface better than T-Bird's.
The only thing it lacks is the ability to use vim(1) on messages I'm composing,
but T-Bird doesn't have that, either.

I kept hesitating about moving my pointer, hoping that Gmail would come
out of beta. This morning, I stopped waiting. I asked my forwarding
service to point at my gmail account. The deed is done.

Like everyone else, I have gmail invitations to give away. I see
I currently have fifty. Yes, fifty. If you want one, ask.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

I fell down and stubbed my toe, called for the doctor, Cotton-Eyed Joe

I went to dance to Rogers Hall in Lyons last night to dance to Bad Monkey: Frank Lee and Andrea Earley, joined by Pat Carbone and Ellen Rosenberg. Chris Kermiet was calling.

At some point in the evening, someone gave my foot a patsh. I was dancing barefoot, but I always do. By the time I got home, the toe was purple as can be, with the discoloration creeping up between the toes. Broken.

This morning, I strapped it to the toe next to it, and called for the doctor -- Jim Flanagan, on my cell phone -- who endorsed the advice I got from a doctor when I broke a toe in college: "Don't break it again."

Sopisticated blog-reading

Turns out Bloglines is slicker than I thought. Just as Google caches pages, it caches RSS feeds. I'm better off querying Bloglines for popular, underpowered feeds than I am querying the sites themselves.

Also, Bloglines has an API, so you can develop apps, like offline newsreaders,
yourself. ORA has a nice article with code that the link in the title takes you to.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

This Is Going on My Wish List

Aren't Amazon Wish Lists wonderful things? This just went on mine.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Workin' on a Chain Gang

Well, folks, I'm going to Jail, unless I can
make bail:

Bail Deadline Date: 4/28/2005 Bail:$1,800

Any help on this that I can get will be appreciated both by me and by the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Here's a good, technical summary of what we know about this genetic disease.
(If you've never explored OMIM before, this is also your introduction to a truly great site.)

This Printer Stinks

I used to argue we should make printers that put odor on paper; scratch-and-sniff is more challenging than color, therefore more interesting.

It even conforms to Andy Rudoff's dictum: the measure of new technology
is whether it can be used for porn.

Axel and Buck's Nobel Prize made me stop. I decided it would too hard. There are too many orthogonal axes. Consumables would cost a fortune.

Then, along comes this guy, to illustrate that I'm resorting to proof-by-lack-of-imagination:

When the Sous-Chef Is an Inkjet: "'We can create any sort of flavor on a printed image that we set our minds to,' Mr. Cantu said. The connections need not stop with things ordinarily thought of as food. 'What does M. C. Escher's 'Relativity' painting taste like? That's where we go next.'"

Customers pay this guy hundreds of dollars a meal to let them
eat paper. It's a whole new wrinkle on "making money on consumeables," eh?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Google Groups :

Looking in Google Groups :, I'm surprised firefox doesn't autodetect an RSS feed. Bloglines seems to have no trouble adding it to my blogroll, and detecting
new articles, so I guess I shouldn't care, but I'm still curious.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Stephe becomes a blogger

The irrepressible Stephe Walli is now a blogger. Either you can teach an old dog new tricks, or Stephe's entering his second childhood.