January 2004

5 Jan 2004[link to here]

A few times in the past decade, I've wanted to make a special, custom, non-standard deck of cards. Don't ask me why. I can't remember. Sometimes I come up with a game that needs an extra face card per suit or an extra one or two suits.

Sometimes I want to play a game that someone else invented and I can't bring myself to pay $20 for a goofy deck of cards that can't be used for anything but this one weird game (and other weird games you invent around this expensive deck you just splashed out for). I don't mind kicking back a little to the inventor, but I don't want to buy stuff I don't want and have it take up room in my home, nor do I want to pay for marketing, shelf space, distribution, etc. Also it's more fun to use something extremely generic or that you made yourself than some prefab brought-to-you-by-MarketingTM product. (See my related whining about music, should I ever whine about it publicly.)

So, anyway, I want the extended dance remix of playing card decks that I can use for all sorts of slightly weird games.

Making cards from cardboard, paper, posterboard, or other non-playing-card materials isn't a good option, because they don't feel nice. They're the wrong stiffness, the wrong thickness, crease too easily, hard to shuffle, hard to cut identically, etc.

Taking a marker to some normal playing cards is an obvious solution, and that's what I usually end up doing. It works, but the results are often not pretty. Not only is playing with ugly cards less enjoyable, but it also introduces errors. It's surprisingly easy to confuse the six of diamonds with the six of red ovals or the six of diamonds-with-a-green-line-through-them. The more I do to clarify the distinction, the uglier the cards get.

I've seen blank playing cards advertised before, but they usually turn out to be lame, substandard cards. Omitting the plastic coating is a popular corner to cut. Once I found an ad for what I wanted, but the vendor was out of stock and never seemed to resupply. I don't look very often, but a few weeks ago I finally found what I wanted: playing cards that were perfectly normal, with a standard major-brand pattern on the back, but blank on the front. They also had cards that were entirely blank. I stocked up on both. I'm not sure what I'll use them for, and it's not clear how nice hand-drawn cards will look, but I'm ready. Future, here I come.

6 Jan 2004[link to here]

Unix systems typically measure time in seconds since 00:00:00 January 1, 1970, GMT. That moment is called the "epoch". It's been a while since the epoch, and as luck would have it, I happened to notice the other day that at 13:37:04, Jan 10, 2004 GMT (this Saturday), it will have been exactly 1073741824 seconds since the epoch. That's 230, or in binary, 1000000000000000000000000000000. It's been 17 years since the last power of two, and it'll be another 34 years until the next one.

Is it geekier that I think this is significant, or that I recognized 1072141376 as being nearly 230?

March 23 will be the demiquartermegacentadiurnal (12500 days since the epoch).

8 Jan 2004[link to here]

I'm sitting here typing up these words, and you're sitting somewhere else, some time later, reading them. It sure was easy, wasn't it? Building the infrastructure took a lot of work, but now the marginal cost of sharing and connecting is close to zero. Getting information quickly and easily is an obvious benefit of this web we've made, but I really enjoy the random little personal connections. One of the coolest things about the internet is getting mail from people I've never heard of who just happened to read something I wrote.

26 Jan 2004[link to here]

Perhaps one of the most important bills to pass through US congress in recent history is one to require that voting machines permit basic auditability to help prevent voting fraud. This is especially important now, due to the recent disturbing trend toward deploying critically flawed voting machines. Our system of choosing representatives has enough problems without making widespread voting fraud easier.

The bill in the house is H.R. 2239 and in the senate is S. 1980. Read the legislation. If you agree that it should be made into law and you live in the US, see whether your congressfolk are listed as cosponsors and either urge them to cosponsor it or thank them for already having done so. If you disagree, then please remain quiet and sit on your hands until November 3rd.

30 Jan 2004[link to here]

I spent the last couple days in Tahoe. In addition to more traditional ski resort activities, I rode my unicycle on snow. It was great fun, technically challenging, and physically exhausting. Fresh snow is unlike any other terrain I've ridden on. I recommend it to all of you out there who have decent off-road unicycling skills, a unicycle with a big knobby tire, and fresh snow in easy reach.

31 Jan 2004[link to here]

Fred tells me that riding on snow covered pavement is actually quite easy, so I thought about my experience some more.

I was riding mostly on an uneven trail, fraught with divots, bumps, and chunks of ice. Some of those were obvious, and some were hidden by fresh powder and took me by surprise. Reacting to those hazards on a low traction, compressible surface was tricky. There were also ruts from a sleigh, which made route planning more complicated.

Most of the challenge came from the tire sinking into the snow. Sinking in 1-2cm was no problem. More than that made it tough to climb even slight hills, and it complicated all the maneuvers I was doing around the other hazards. I could ride on the more level ground with my tire sinking in up to 5cm, but more than that (or an ascent) and I got bogged down. Snow conditions can vary quite a bit, and I imagine that the type of snow would make a big difference. I'll try it again next year and report back.