November 2004

16 Nov 2004[link to here]

I recently had a practical reason to do what would normally be considered ego surfing, and skim through the zillions of references to me on the web. Most are regarding software I wrote (txt2html, waterfall, and even autojot), and there are even a few masters theses that refer extensively to mine, which is neat. It also looks like a few people read this page, which is always unexpected. What was most surprising was that someone ported txt2html from Perl to C. It's really weird to see my code transformed into a different language.

17 Nov 2004[link to here]

I played in a treasure hunt on Saturday, run by Coed Astronomy. It was a beginner-level 5-hour walking game at Stanford. They've graciously put all the clues online, so you can try them out. The last one is particularly good. It looks like last year's is up there too.

22 Nov 2004[link to here]

I put up some pictures from last weekend.

23 Nov 2004[link to here]

Flying shark.

23 Nov 2004[link to here]

I've had a cold for the past couple days. I'm dizzy, my head feels weird, I'm drowsy but have trouble sleeping, and I can't concentrate. And it just occurred to me that some people pay good money to feel like this.

26 Nov 2004[link to here]

Usually I can recognize spam by the subject line, but I just got one with the subject "fovea". If they're going to target their messages that well, we're all in trouble.

27 Nov 2004[link to here]

I somehow managed to put lots of scratches into the screen of my new cell phone. It's not a big deal, but it's a little annoying. I've heard that one can fix a scratched CD by buffing it with toothpaste (a mild abrasive), so I thought I'd give that a try.

My plan was to first cut a small hole in a zip-lock bag, then put the phone in the bag and seal the edges of the hole onto the screen with packing tape. Looking a bit like a patient in surgery, all the electronics would be protected, while the scratched area of the screen would be exposed to my ministrations.

Since I'm a clever and careful guy, I tested this first on an unwanted CD to see what would really happen. Then I scratched up my old cell phone and tried the whole process on that before risking my new one. Oh, wait, no... That wasn't me. I'm the idiot who just scrubbed his new cell phone with toothpaste.

I scrubbed a little, washed it off, dried it, and took a look. No change. I scrubbed some more, checked again. Still nothing. After a third round, I decided it was either doing nothing or working too slowly to be worth the effort, so I peeled off the tape and called it a day. Or rather, I tried to peel off the tape.

Just as scrap wood on cinder blocks can qualify as furniture, there exists packing tape equally embarrassing, and apparently it lives on a shelf in my home, is brown, and was painstakingly designed by evil tape scientists never to be removed. What I intended to be a simple act of peeling it off was in fact the secret self-destruct activation sequence for the mass of industrial goo that had, until that moment, successfully masqueraded as ordinary tape.

Fifteen minutes of cursing and a few milliliters of isopropyl alcohol later (as a solvent, not to dull the pain), still feeling like an imbecile, I'd removed most of the gunk. In fact, the tape cleaned the screen so well that everywhere it had been was especially clear, making the center of the screen look cloudy by comparison. Or, no, actually the toothpaste did do something after all. The scratches were unchanged, but were now framed in a neat, slightly opaque rectangle.

The good news is that I only notice the rectangle when there's glare on the screen. The bad news is that I'm an idiot. But at least my phone is minty fresh.

28 Nov 2004[link to here]

I made an Atom feed for this page today, and put links in the right places so things can find it (and the RSS feed) more easily. I first tried to use someone's Atom-feed-making library, then, as is often the case when using other people's code, discovered it was somewhat broken, eventually decided it was too broken to work around, and ended up just doing it all myself. It would be nice to fix the library, but the documentation is poor and it just doesn't seem worth the bother, especially given my limited understanding of Atom (and lack of interest in learning more). So much broken software, so little time. I do feel I haven't contributed enough to the software community lately, but this isn't going to be where that changes.

One weird thing about the whole process is that the Atom format demands that each entry include its publication time and last revision time. Not only don't I track these separately, but I don't track the time at all, only the date. I could include a time in my little database, but I don't really want to, because I don't consider these entries to be associated with a precise moment. Even the date is often somewhat fictitious, representing the date on which I thought about something and maybe started to write it, or maybe even the date on which I did write it. Primarily though, it's the date with which I wish to associate the writing, and not necessarily the date on which I actually published it (which most often differ when I stay up past midnight). In fact, actual publication date is basically unknowable in my setup for a variety of reasons, one of which is that the site you are looking at is actually just a mirror of the one on my laptop. The time at which a particular change is pushed to the public server never seemed particularly noteworthy.