Best LotR Parody Yet

Books 1, 2, and 3. Ten-minute versions, chock-full of Tolkien in-jokes, fan-culture in-jokes, weblog in-jokes, and plain old funny stuff everyone (who has seen the movies) can enjoy.

Progress Report II

One of the reason it has been so quiet around here lately is that I’ve been spending most of my spare time (not counting work, family time, dentistry, and so on) working on my automatic stack-ripping program. The general concept is described by Robert Grimm or Atul Adya et al, and my own take on the idea first showed up here on this site. The main difference between what I’m doing and what Grimm or Adya have done is that they’re trying to reconcile or combine two different paradigms at run-time, whereas I’m doing a compile-time conversion from one to the other. One significant practical consequence is that, while they both end up with code that depends heavily on Windows-specific “fibers” (which are semantically very similar to threads and therefore IMO not much of an improvement), I’ll end up with code that’s extremely environment-agnostic and could easily run inside a kernel or embedded system.

At this point I’m pretty much done with the code to parse the input, convert the parse tree into a generalized control-flow graph, and break up that graph into subgraphs separated by points where the code either blocks or rejoins after having blocked. All that’s left is the code to produce the final output, which shouldn’t be too hard, plus the usual amount of “apple polishing” (rearranging, renaming, commenting) to make the code presentable. It’s really quite satisfying to take a complex function, written to embody a particularly devious kind of control flow, and see that the program “understands” it well enough to break it up correctly. A couple of times it has even managed to outsmart its creator by getting an answer right that I had gotten wrong, and to me that highlights the importance of being able to do the conversion automatically.

Note to Self

Trying to eat a bagel while your mouth is still numb and swollen from major dental work is a really stupid idea.


What is it about blogspot and awful color choices? I’ve had to set up no fewer than three Proxomitron filters to fix as many as a dozen crimes against readability on Counterspin and Shadow of the Hegemon. They’re still ugly, but at least now they don’t hurt my eyes. Come on, guys. The default colors work fine for most people. The more time you spend mucking with the colors, the less readable your sites become. Oh, and Demosthenes? Learn to use # for all of your numeric color specifiers, you moron.

Dumbest Idea Ever

Here’s a description of a product-pair called the Chameleon Card and Pocket Vault:

The Chameleon Card’s black strip covers a programmable transducer that mimics the information on the magnetic strips of the cards it is replacing. A new handheld device from Chameleon, the Pocket Vault, programs the Chameleon Card to take the place of any credit card the consumer chooses for a transaction.

Is anyone seeing the problem yet? Here’s what the article has to say about security:

But the Pocket Vault promises to do more than prevent slipped discs caused by overstuffed wallets. Its security features should also help safeguard shoppers from the devastation of credit card fraud and identity theft, said Burger.

Your worst possible exposure,” said Burger, “is that a thief may be able to get in one illegal purchase in the 10 minutes after the card is ejected from the (Pocket Vault).”

Oh great, so the card is only good for ten minutes. What if your store clerk or waiter has their own Pocket Vault? The moment they’re out of their site it takes mere seconds to make a copy of your card. This is a mass-market version of a thousand-dollar piece of equipment that identity thieves already use to make people’s lives miserable. What an incredibly lousy idea.

All in the Name of Science

I can’t put this any better than the Melbourne Age story does:

A US filmmaker was so intrigued by McDonald’s claim its food was nutritious that he ate all his meals at the fast-food giant for a month.

The result? Eleven extra kilos, higher cholesterol and an award-winning documentary of his fast-food journey, Super Size Me: A Film of Epic Portions.

Such dedication. How many of us would put ourselves through such an ordeal for the betterment of science?

Hepatitis G Beneficial?

Apparently people who have long-term GBV-C (hepatitis G) infections are less likely to die from AIDS.

“We found strong evidence that HIV-positive men who have persistent GBV-C infection survive longer than those who do not have GBV-C. The survival advantage is large and depends on how long the GBV-C infection persists,” says senior investigator Jack Stapleton, M.D., of the University of Iowa and Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Carolyn Williams, Ph.D., epidemiology branch chief in NIAID’s Division of AIDS, was the lead investigator on this study.

Kazaa Loses Again

Sharman Networks, the Australian company behind Kazaa, had several of their premises raided last month. Today, their claim that the search was illegal has been rejected:

The court today upheld the validity of the orders issued to record companies to search and obtain evidence about the activities of Kazaa in Australia.

The Anton Piller orders – by which a court empowers a party, that has alleged wrongdoing, the opportunity to enter premises and search for evidence – were issued by Justice Murray Wilcox on February 5.

Justice Wilcox also dismissed an application by Sharman to delay proceedings against it until a similar case in the United States was finalised.

Borda is Broken

John Quiggin has written an interesting article about why the Borda-count voting method is fatally flawed. This might be a good time to remind people that I’m hosting a copy of the (slightly outdated but still interesting) Voting Systems FAQ for people interested in such things.

Deep Sea Fish

Here are some really weird, really scary looking fish. The long-nosed chimaera and the firefly squid look particularly interesting.