i'm running out of time to tinker with my prose page before the national novel writing month begins. i thought this event would be a good chance to test out some computer-generated prose, because It's all about quantity, not quality. so i signed up a long time ago, but then i forgot about it. and now i'm not even sure i'll be able to generate 50,000 words in a month.

the problem is that i don't have a lot of opportunity to test what i'm doing because google only gives me 1000 queries a day, and when i run out, i have to wait until the next day to do more testing. and then i forget until a few days before the national novel writing month begins. it would be great if i could just have one testing day to do however many queries i needed. but i guess i'll have a whole year to tinker before next year's national novel writing month.

 
Search: "a * *" "kra'vak" Snippet #:the vo san fighter is the kra vak equivalent to a torpedo fighter but instead of carrying a single large missile it is fitted with a smaller version of Search: "fighter * *" "articles" Snippet #:between the mid s and early s and following from a greater geopolitical study of what most plagues this world l ron hubbards authored an Snippet #:latest deep fighter news articles on file date headline deep fighter the tsunami offense preview view all news articles
 

i've registered to participate in this year's NaNoWriMo event. National Novel Writing Month, november 1st to 30th, is an challenge i can't resist. can i write a novel in just 30 days? beginning at 12:01 am on the first of the month, i have until midnight on november 31st to submit a 50,000 word novel.

in 200 pages i should write something worth keeping.

 

i've had this idea for a while now, and i've come to terms with the reality that i'll likely never be in a position to implement it, so i'm just going to talk about it here, and maybe someone else will put it together. the idea is for a website that allows for advertisments to be created by anyone.

the website is very simple. i have an idea for an ad. i go to the website, type up my idea, and give it a price. maybe i'd like $2, or maybe i think it's a really great idea, and i'd like $2000 for it. someone else goes to the website and reads my idea. they think "what a great idea! i could make that" and then they do. they send the ad to the website along with a price. after the ad has been approved, anyone can go to the website and view the ad. but the ad can't be (legally) published elsewhere unless someone pays the fees for both the idea and the production, plus a small standard fee to pay for the website costs.

moveon's new bush in 30 seconds website is close to what i had in mind, but it's far more specific, both in subject matter and in medium. both subject matter and medium would ideally be open. moveon also requires the idea for an ad and the production of an ad to come to the same place, but it seems to me that people with no production skill can have great ideas for ads. moveon's prize is a videotape of the ad. wouldn't the winner already have that? i think money is a better prize.

moveon's site is a step in the right direction. i just think someone else needs to make the idea into a general purpose website. most ads are terrible, and i think this website would help change that while opening up the market to everyone.

 

the web robots FAQ defines a web robot as a program that automatically traverses the Web's hypertext structure by retrieving a document, and recursively retrieving all documents that are referenced. i think the part about retrieving all referenced documents is really beside the point. a web robot is any application that acts as a web browser, but has no human controlling it. if a human is controlling a web browser, a server can send a "go away" message and the human (if they are well-behaved) will go away. if there is no human, we need a standardized system for sending "go away" messages that the application can understand (and if the application is well-behaved, it will also go away).

robots.txt is this format. i've built quite a few web applications that load pages from other servers. and i've done a bit of worrying that one of these web applications would bother the owner of one of the loaded pages. the solution, of course, is to follow the robots.txt standard. by following this standard, i allow the owner of the pages my scripts are loading to say "go away" to my applications whenever they chose to do so, and i no longer need to worry about that cease-and-decist letter arriving.

i started looking for something coded in PHP to check robots.txt files, but i found nothing. so i wrote my own. robots.inc contains the function ok_for_robots which will take a URL and tell you if it's okay for a robot to load this URL. it will also take an optional name for the robot, but this part isn't as widely useful yet because there is no quick way in PHP to specify the name of the application while loading remote content. so the next step is making this easier to do in PHP. meanwhile if you - like me - have PHP scripts that are loading remote pages and you - like me - are concerned about being a good neighbor, you might consider using robots.inc.

 

dress up doll magnets are fun, but the simpsons set rocks.

mutant forms of lisa and bart simpson frame the progress report on my refrigerator. marge's extra eyeballs hold up the top corners. the bottom is supported by homer's pants. it's an "A." yes, i'm bragging. bear with me, please, as i'm unable to lord it over the rest of my class.

i have no contact with classmates because, after completing my bachelors the traditional way at illinois wesleyan university, i thought i'd try an online course through heartland community college.

the course is "growth and development of the young child," the most basic child development class at hcc.

the course description "completely online" wasn't fully accurate; i do have to venture up the road to hcc's main campus to take exams.

i'd say i enjoy the class overall, however. besides the interesting content, the format of the class could hardly be more time efficient.

the only real drawback of this course: i'm lonely for class discussions and opportunities to force my opinion on my classmates. but this is mosly outweighed by the convenience of attending class from the comfort of my recliner.

plus, i make up for it by annoying my loved ones by turning every discussion around me into a debate about issues of child development.

 

my favorite musician comitted suicide last night. sigh.

 

outside the inboxis a compilation of songs inspired by and titled after the subject lines of mass-email (spam). brought to us by "brad sucks", "a one man band with no fans". i've enjoyed the songs, the idea, the band name, the band's (clearly untrue) description, and brad's own music. it's all wonderful and free to download. go listen.

 

so i have this great idea for a joke. let's build a web application around an open source project, with direct ties to an open source web browser, and then make it only available to users of a closed source web browser. the irony would just be fantastic.

 

as i was reading this robert davies quote: The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealised past, the local NPR station played "the best is yet to come", and i couldn't help noticing the irony. i think this would be a great song for the dean campaign. maybe change a few of the lines, but the general idea seems appropriate.

 

i don't know about everyone else reading joel on software, but for me, $750 is not a "ridiculously low price" for software. it's a ridiculously low price for a house, and maybe a really, really nice car, but not software.

 

the shocked and awed gallery contains pictures drawn by iraqi children depicting the american attack and occupation. some of the pictures are amazing. one titled "christian love" shows an airplane is attacking iraq with cross-shaped missiles. some are just odd. one has a tank flying an israeli flag, something which by news accounts never happened in iraq. it's definitely a gallery worth seeing.

 

my hat's off to james patten, who created the corporate fallout detector, a tool much like an old-fashioned gieger counter that scans barcodes of individual products and then beeps according the amount of complaints about that corporation's ethics. flip the switch to measure their reported environmental damage. its guys like patten who make me wish i invented cool stuff.

 

everyone else may be pointing to cnet's coverage of this story, but you heard it here first.

 

i wasn't going to bring it up again, but tom did. i still think manufacturing scarcity - for the public, at least - is bad. i'd rather put up with spam than pay to send email, and i think the introduction of a "trusted email network" would practically force all email networks to be "trusted". to the extent that "trusted" means "paid", this is bad. free is not the problem. your neighbor buying herbal viagra is the problem. to the extent that "trusted" doesn't mean "paid", i don't see any difference between the trust we currently give an SMTP server and the trust we'd be giving the new trusted relays. both are just passing the message along, with no understanding of what it contains.

this all reminds me of what jessica was telling me about the high school she's been working at for the past few weeks. every student at the school has to wear an ID badge at all times. it's for security, and while it may seem like overkill, it didn't immediately strike me as being utterly ridiculous until jessica told me what one of her students said, which went something like this:

the kids at columbine who shot everyone were students there, so they would have had ID badges. and anyone who has a gun can just hold someone up and take their ID badge, and then they have an ID badge and a gun.

the point being that manufacturity scarcity creates the illusion of security under the assumption that troublemakers can't afford the cost of making trouble (in this case, getting a badge - in the case of email, getting a signature from a "trusted" server). but this assumption is false. spammers don't care about our rules, and they can afford to find and exploit every loophole in the system to work around the system.

they'll do the equivalent of holding up a student to get an ID badge, if that's what it takes to get into the system. they'll pay someone who's already in the system to join their ranks. they'll find a way. meanwhile, the rest of us will be paying the cost of fooling ourselves.

what doesn't get pointed out often enough in these discussions of what to do about spam is that too many people respond positively to spam. these people not only don't want to get rid of spam - they're willing to pay for it. these same people will be using the new "trusted" email networks, and the spam will follow them in, only it will now be "trusted" spam.

 

on oblivio:

Also, I?ve never really thought of making the various lies different colors; I just liked saying I had. I?m totally sticking with black for everything.
 

joel on software writes If someone wants to write up a nice article about how to develop multilingual, Unicode applications with PHP or point me to an existing article on the subject I will link to it here. so i wrote an article and titled it How to develop multilingual, Unicode applications with PHP. it's not comprehensive, but it ends with an open invitation to send your PHP-with-unicode function problems to me to solve.

 

mark twain wrote The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. intimated means "made known subtly and indirectly; hinted". this definition is quite different from that of intimidated. intimidated means "made timid; filled with fear".

i mention all of this because today i noticed a BBC article, which began (and until they correct it, will still begin) The top US official in Baghdad has said the US-led coalition and the Iraqi people will not be intimated by Sunday's suicide bomb attack. i assume paul bremer did not intend to suggest that the "coalition" and the iraqi people will not be made known subtly and indirectly. this was a mistaken word choice.

i wanted to see how far this mistake had spread (because often the same story gets published all over with different headlines), so i searched google news for "intimated". the mistake in this particular story hadn't spread beyond the BBC, but four of the top ten news stories using the word "intimated" use it incorrectly, with the intended meaning of "intimidated". the misuse was so common, i had to check the dictionary again to reassure myself that the two words don't mean the same thing. they don't mean the same thing at all. bombs intimidate. bombs do not intimate. certainly they have proofreaders at these newspapers. do they not know what these words mean?

 

because i had read several headlines stating that verisign had shut down sitefinder, i was surprised when i went to http://puzzleblog.com/, and was redirected to sitefinder. i haven't been able to find another domain (or even subdomain) that does this. and to further confuse me, a whois search reveals that the puzzleblog.com domain name isn't even registered with verisign. it's registered at pairNIC. so when you do a domain name search for http://puzzleblog.com/, your search is sent to pairNIC's DNS servers, which are for some reason redirecting everything without a subdomain back to sitefinder. odd.

 

credit where due: steve minutillo asks:

Why would you use a ridiculous page like this one to convert non-ASCII characters to HTML entities when a totally sweet bookmarklet is available?

he links to his own implementation of a utf-8 to unicode entity converter, but he might as well be linking to mine, which is put to shame by his slick bookmarklet. and to think just yesterday it was cutting edge (impossible, even). great job steve.

 

after yesterday's post in which i attempted to suggest that joel was wrong about PHP, my favorite weblogger, jonathon delacour, accepted joel's statements as truth:

I wish Joel Spolsky had published his excellent introduction to Unicode and character encoding a week earlier, because then I wouldn't have wasted a couple of hours trying to write a snippet of PHP code to convert Japanese characters to Unicode character entities.

so today i wrote a snippet of PHP code to convert japanese characters to unicode character entities. now i think we must either conclude that joel was wrong about it being darn near impossible to develop good international web applications or i am somehow capable of performing the impossible. i'll be satisfied with either conclusion.

 

joel on software writes:

When I discovered that the popular web development tool PHP has almost complete ignorance of character encoding issues, blithely using 8 bits for characters, making it darn near impossible to develop good international web applications, I thought, enough is enough.

to say PHP's character encoding deficiencies make it "darn near impossible to develop good international web applications" is only partially true. the only thing you really can't do with PHP and non-ASCII character sets is edit text (and you can even do that in some very limited ways). but there's nothing stopping anyone from writing a good international web application in PHP, so long as that application doesn't require text editing.

take my daily japanese lessons for an example. i won't be so bold as to suggest this qualifies as a good international web application, but i use PHP to post new lessons, display lessons, and organize lessons, all with non-ASCII text. i won't say it wouldn't be nice to be able to edit my lessons through a web interface, but that's not such a problem that i can't work around it. i get the impression joel hasn't actually tried to develop an international web application with PHP before declaring it "darn near impossible".

 

thank you to my instant friend, ann maria bell, who pointed out to me that the ladybug-esque creatures moving in with me are asian lady beetles.

i failed to mention that these ladies greatly prefer our south windows, which are likely the warmest part of our building.

it sounds cute, but ann sent me some bad news and some worse news. the bad news: they bite. the worse news: i was wrong about the frost displacing them. they're staying the winter.

i'll complain, but i won't try to poison them. that would be a hopeless battle with too great a cost, as ecologists have known since before they were called ecologists, rachel carson being one whose work i recommend.

so, if you're feeling overrun by asian lady beetles or any other pest, think about what you're poisoning before you take action.

 

i've just completed the process of making all my music available for purchase via bitpass. the implementation was incredibly easy, and staff member rachel has been more helpful than i could reasonably expect. the only reason i see for them retaining the "beta" label is that the instructions for selling content are still a bit confusing. but i spent more time uploading my full song files than i did setting up bitpass.

of course, the downside of using such a nice sales system is that future sales will increasingly be a reflection of how well my music is recieved. problems with paypal and cashets provided a handy excuse for why no one was buying my music. now if no one buys my songs, it will either be because they don't know about it, or they didn't like it enough to pay fifty cents. and both of those problems are mine to solve.

 

unpacked boxes and piles of books block the path around our apartment and occupy every available chair. obviously, scott and i aren't ready for visitors, but this hasn't deterred the scores of ladybugs that eagerly clamor at our windows. they even creep inside in apparent eagerness to welcome us, the new tenants, into this old house in this old neighborhood.

i think they're ladybugs. i've been told, because they're orange, that they are japanese beetles. but they just don't look like the pictures i've found of japanese (scarab) beetles.

whatever they are, they don't mind our sparse furniture or clutter. they don't even mind us. why should they? beetles have helped themselves in every autumn and will do so regardless of their human roommates.

it's probably a beautiful metaphor of nature's faithful attempts to perservere through every trial. maybe i'll come back to that when they're gone, but right now i can't say i'll miss them when frost spreads across our windowsill in their place.

 

last december i wrote if you want to take a more active (and fun) approach to showing your displeasure with the [grocery] card system, make an effort to frequently trade cards with other customers. well now you can do so online at rob's giant bonuscard swap meet. it should be simple enough to expand this to cover other grocery chains, and as soon that's done, i'll be swapping.

 

i've made a few changes around the site. if you look at the list of recent changes, you'll see that the vast majority of everything on the server was edited today. it was brought to my attention that this site is difficult to navigate. so i'm doing a site-wide clean-up and reorganization. the major change so far was doing away with the style switcher, which had prevented me from making changes in the past, for fear of how they might affect the various styles (which few were using anyway). so now there's just one style. if you don't like it (and you're alpha-geek enough), you can still apply your own style sheet to the site, but i'll be focusing my limited design skills on a single style from here on out.

 

of everything i've ever heard on the radio, my absolute favorite listening was episode 188 of this american life. you can (and should) listen to it in realaudio format from their website. jon udell is also a fan of this american life, and actually went to the trouble of creating an encapsulation file of a particular segment he wanted to talk about. but i'm not quite as interested in the technology (or lack thereof) of realaudio, so i'll just take the easier path and let you know that my favorite part is about thirteen minutes and ten seconds into the stream. or, you can just read a transcription of my favorite part on debbie3's weblog.

 

i don't want arnold schwarzenegger to be governor of california (because he seems to have a history of abusing his power), but i also don't want to support moveon's campaign against him, because they haven't provided me with enough information for me to know if i support what they'll say. i certainly don't support their assertion that the recall vote "is an attack on American democracy", and if that's going to be included in the anti-arnold ad, i don't want to support that. so instead i'm posting this to publicize that i don't like arnold.

 

sadly, both the ACLU and the kucinich campaign support causes i believe in, yet both have mistreated me enough that i can't bring myself to continue supporting either.

you may recall that last year i joined the ACLU, and then later i complained that i was getting junk mail from non-profit organizations. it turns out the ACLU was responsible for that junk mail, as brian dear has discovered.

in related news, i've withdrawn my support for dennis kucinich after the group of volunteers working on the illinois website fell apart through internal disputes caused by a complete lack of direction from the campaign. if this problem were just in the website development group, i probably wouldn't be giving up on kucinich altogether, but the exact same problems exist with the whole illinois campaign. for example, there are two different email lists for the state campaign, representing two different management groups, each claiming to be the proper authority of the kucinich campaign. the whole thing is a massive failure.

i'll probably be supporting howard dean, and trying to convince myself that his understanding the internet is more important than his driving an SUV.