Hooray, the US wins in Iraq! Now all we have to do is find the weapons of mass destruction and bring democracy to the Middle East and it's Mission Accomplished!
  2006-12-30 17:37 Z
For our Christmas breakfast this morning Ken made us a pleasant homey breakfast: hash browns, scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon. And a Bloody Mary. All yummy, except the Bloody Mary was sweet. WTF?

Our mistake was being lazy and buying a mix, Mr. and Mrs. T's Bold and Spicy. The third ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. At 105 calories per 12 ounces, it's double the calories of tomato juice and 2/3 the calories in a can of coke.

Why put sugar in a savory drink mix? Because it's intended for Americans. The bacon had sugar in it too, a terrible idea in a product that is cooked at high temperature. Don't get me wrong, I like a sweetie bit every once in awhile. But with sugar infecting all processed foods (sandwich bread, anyone?) it's no wonder Americans are so fat.

Real food tastes better without added sugar.

  2006-12-25 20:29 Z
Man, you leave a company and no one remembers to tell you things. I just learned that two weeks ago Google officially put the SOAP search API on end of life status. That was my first project at Google, as well as one of the last things I worked on before leaving. It looks like the server is still up at least for now, but no new users.

Google also recently shut off Google Answers. It seems like good discipline to me; when your corporate culture has a "go fast, do a lot of things, fail often" approach to product development, you have to do something with the things that succeeded in launching but then failed to make a big impact on the business.

I wonder what will become of the Google search developers now. There's the AJAX search API, but apparently the terms of use are more restrictive, not allowing you to reorder or mix up the actual results.

See also Brady Forrest's comments
and my own post on why SOAP sucks
  2006-12-18 19:28 Z
We may not get winter in California, and so it may not feel much like Christmas. But that just means you can go out to pick your Christmas tree in your convertible and bring it home in the back seat with the top down.
  2006-12-17 21:47 Z
Remember the awesome movie Wargames, the nuclear war computer game where "the only winning move is not to play"? Someone finally had the clever idea to make a real game like that.
A lot of games that simulate global warfare tend to be heavily strategic, and thus very turn-based and stat heavy. I wanted something that looked like the movie, with vector-lined Soviet subs closing in on the coastline.
Defcon, by Darwinia creators Introversion Software, is at its core a stripped down RTS. You deploy your missile silos, navy fleets, and airbases. Then you have a brief naval and air battle followed by flinging lots of nukes at your enemy. Then it's all over and whoever has the most megakills wins.
But to be honest, the gameplay itself is not that great. It's slow, strategic options are limited, there's a lot of luck. The reason to play this game is that it's beautiful.
The intention was always to capture the feeling of senseless Armageddon and the claustrophobia of being buried deep underground, trying to win a war that simply cannot be won. Defcon was always meant to be an experiment in the creation of a mood. We wanted to see if we could evoke that vast and terrible detached feeling of genocidal mania.
—Chris Delay, in Dec 2006 Game Developer Magazine
The graphics are abstract and detached. The soundtrack is amazing with ambient creepy angels overdubbed on top of sounds of people coughing. The slow pace of the game increases the horror; launch your nukes at Paris and London and Berlin, then wait five minutes for them to hit. There's even a mode where the game is played over six hours in the background, while you're busy doing something else. How creepy is that?

The demo is 60 megs and will let you sample the ambience. If you like it, the full version is $17.50.

  2006-12-17 21:44 Z
I've talked before about how Sonic Youth was one of my few contacts with hipness when I was a nerdy high school kid. I was excited to learn that their first album release is finally out on CD. It was caught up in the legal mess of SST records and unavailable for a long time. Now it's out and only $8.50 on Amazon.

Oh yeah, and it's still awesome. It's much less rock than most of their music, more of a droning rush of sound thing going on. The original EP is just five tracks; the rerelease includes a live set from the same year. Haven't even listened to that yet, just excited to have the album I remember from high school.

The Burning Spear • I Dreamed I Dream • She Is Not Alone • I Don't Want To Push It • The Good and the Bad

  2006-12-15 19:04 Z
Someone at AOL Instant Messenger decided it'd be OK to send me a promotional email to an address I haven't used in five years, despite my having chosen every possible opt-out for marketing communications.
Visit AOLMobile.com today and throw a mobile snowball at a friend FREE!* It's easy! Pick your snowball, enter your friend's mobile phone number and click 'Send.' Snowball A Friend now!
What could be more fun than giving a spammer my friends' cell phone numbers? I wonder what other Valuable Communications AOL will decide to send them?
  2006-12-13 20:22 Z
What if they had a major release of a software platform and no one noticed? Used to be new versions of Java were hotly anticipated and discussed. Java 6 (Mustang) is out and I didn't have any idea at all. Did you notice?

Part of my ignorance is because I'm not working in Java right now (and believe me, I don't miss it). But it seems no one's really too worked up about the release. The links on Digg are getting no attention. It's on delicious with a paltry 61 links. There's a few geeky articles on Google News, but it's not exactly burning up the wires.

Maybe Sun just is downplaying this release. The list of improvements are not terribly exciting, despite some good stuff in the scripting department. Then again, maybe Java lost its groove. Sure has with me and the people I know.

  2006-12-12 16:30 Z
One thing I miss from France is the more subtle wines. I like big American wines, Zinfandels and Syrahs full of strong flavours. But the fashion in American wine right now is very high alcohol. I drank a 15.5% Zinfandel last night from Peachy Canyon. I didn't even know you could ferment to that level of alcohol. French wines tend to be more in the 12% to 12.5% range. The flavours are more subtle, they don't have the hot taste of alcohol.

It's not good that US wine has 1/3 more alcohol. It's a bit like the fashion for overoaked Chardonnay of a few years ago. It lacks finesse. Not to mention the effect of drinking that much more intoxicant.

  2006-12-11 17:01 Z
One place we found in France that I don't want to forget: Le Moulin Fleuri. It's in the middle of nowhere about 10km south of Tours. It's the kind of place that can only exist in France: a little place in the country, a beautiful and tranquil view, and a great restaurant with an impressive wine list. It gives the impression of having been a roadhouse for travellers for a hundred years. We bumbled into this with our Michelin guide for lunch one afternoon and got a much better lunch than we were expecting. There's a little hotel too, I think it'd be wonderful to stay there for a night.
  2006-12-06 00:53 Z
It's cool and open source and all, but Firefox 2.0 on Windows has two horrible crippling bugs that have been there since at least version 1.0. And a third new one, too.
  1. Copy/paste focus bug. Ctrl-c copies text or URLs, except when it doesn't, which is randomly about half the time in Firefox. This bug is three years old. It was marked fixed a few days ago, let's all pray.
  2. Find dialog opens when typing ' (apostrophe). Horribly annoying; you're trying to type a ' in a text box and it opens some little window instead. Apparently this is a feature that's enabled when you're not in a text box, but it's broken and is enabled when typing text, too.
  3. Window always on top.. A new bug in Firefox 2.0: sometimes a window will randomly become sticky on top. Minimizing and reopening fixes it.
All of these bugs are fundamental usability bugs I run into daily while using Firefox. And they're all particularly annoying because in each case the app is not listening to user input. Why do they release software in this condition? Why are these kinds of bugs in the app at all? Something is deeply wrong.
  2006-12-05 22:29 Z
I just upgraded to Firefox 2 and was impressed with how seamless it was. Double click the installer, follow the prompt to update a few extensions, and I'm done. My browser looks the same, it still has all my history and stored passwords and remembered forms, it works the same. Little fiddling required. And with Google Browser Sync I'm even able to move between my laptop and desktop and have things follow me around.

Contrast that to FeedDemon, which after an upgrade requires me to go through again and configure it to not act dumb. Or World of Warcraft; today is addon upgrade hell as the new patch comes out. And managing client state between machines? Total pain.

One problem with Firefox 2.0: what's up with the gradient fill on the tab bar? Hideous to have that embedded in my otherwise flat-coloured chrome.

  2006-12-05 15:55 Z
I went to see Aronofsky's new movie yesterday (as you would know if you were following me on twitter). I'm glad I went, but it was somewhat disappointing. It suffers the same problem as Kill Bill; lots of formalism, lots of beauty, but ultimately signifying nothing.
I think the biggest problem is that the main characters are so abstracted that we don't really care about them. Both Pi and Requiem for a Dream were highly stylized and abstract as well, but the lead characters and situation were strong and personal enough to create emotional connection. In this film the characters exist in a bubble of formal beauty, inaccessible to us.

Still it is awfully beautiful, and the music's great, and there's some nice symbolism for its own sake. If you're a film geek it's worth watching.

  2006-12-05 15:51 Z
Good news: I'm getting less spam. Bad news: I'm getting less mail. Something's going on at monkey.org that's causing mail to get delayed and bounced sometimes. If you've sent me something important and I haven't answered, that's why.
  2006-12-02 14:29 Z