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News from Year Twelve

Fonts in the wild [permalink]

30nov2009: I stumbled across a cool thing today. My font Ambages was for the logo and packaging of the boardgame Aztec Market. The font was originally just intended to be a kind of block doodle, but this continues the trend of folks on the internet interpreting it to be mesoamerican.

The Decktet rampant [permalink]


28dec2009: A game is not ranked in the BoardGameGeek database until it is rated by enough users. Of the over 44,000 games in the database, 5,831 are ranked. The ranking for a game is a function of the average of the ratings and the total number of ratings. This means that the highest ranked games are both rated highly and rated by thousands of people.

The Decktet is modestly-well rated by a few dozen users. Just yesterday it crossed the crucial threshold and entered the charts. As of this moment, it is at 2573rd. It is in the midst of some well established games. Especially since most of the copies of it are ones that people have made for themselves, it's holding its own. (Although I do sell spiffy printed copies, there are more BGG users who indicate that they own a Decktet than there are people who've bought copies from me.)

The book is go [permalink]

13feb2010: I just released The Decktet Book, a 136 page companion to the Decktet.

Busting out happy [permalink]

25feb2010: Cristyn successfully defended her PhD thesis today. Since she is in San Diego for the defense, I don't have have anyone with whom to celebrate the news. So, for now, I'll do a little dance and announce it here.

This means, of course, that she and I are both Doctor Magnus. If anyone asks after one of using that appellation, we can feign confusion as to which one of us should answer. Will that kind of situational comedy ever get old? (Yes, but we'll revel in it for a little while.)

File under rank [permalink]

13mar2010: Here are a few items of me-related trivia.

My calender just opened up [permalink]

18mar2010: But not in a good way.

I don't make much use of the calender on my computer, but I try to keep track of the basic ebb and flow of life. For example, I mark class meetings and office hours in it. I just checked it and discovered that it had duplicated all of those entries several times over, so that it had me teaching class five times at 10:30 tomorrow morning.

Record duplication is annoying, but it happens sometimes. So I tried to clear it up. The result is that there are no entries for my morning class at all except at the very beginning and end of the semester. Of course, the undo function can't undo this. So I can either reenter the data (pain in the ass), restore to a backup (fraught with different dangers), or nuke the site from space (it's the only way to be sure). This last option is the path of least resistance, so I'll probably be using iCal even less than the little bit that I used it before.

And the inclination I had to get an iPod Touch or iPhone to synch up and serve as a pocket organizer? Totally gone.

The perspicious absence of God-Man [permalink]

25apr2010: Today I received a cryptic message, the upshot of which is that most of the links on the God-Man Fan Page are broken.

The skinny is this: Ruben Bolling's contract with Salon recently ran out, so they took down their extensive archive of Tom the Dancing Bug cartoons. He has now arranged for the strip to appear at Boing Boing, but it looks like Boing Boing will only be running new strips.

I am not sure what is happening to Salon, which now has a masthead identifying it as "S beta". Salon has too much seniority on the web to claim beta status, which suggests that it's simply imploding.

I am also not sure what this means for the God-Man Fan Page. I never had any special rights to the comics and never hosted the images, but the fan page has always been a collection of links. Without links, it is like a Tootsie Pop without a chocolate center, like an owl without wisom, or like Christmas without tinsel.

Running hot and cold [permalink]

29may2010: Last night, when I tried to shower, I discovered that we didn't have any hot water. It is not entirely clear how long it's been on the fritz, because we had some sweltering days this week. My previous shower had been deliberately and gratifyingly rather cold.

In any case, the repairman came out today and fixed it. It took him longer to find our house than to actually repair the hot water heater.

When I told Cristyn that the problem had been with the thermocouple, she replied, "Oh, like in Star Wars." I hadn't made the connection, and smiled with geeky admiration. I guess our house is now ready to run Imperial blockades. [Cue the leitmotif for ablution and the sound of lasers firing in space.]

No news is the status quo [permalink]

5july2010: There are things I could be blogging about, but it's mundane business like a remodeled shower, a July Fourth picnic, and the first harvest from our gooseberry bushes. Summer marches on.

Monkeys and memories of mysteries [permalink]


11july2010: By way of the internet, I stumbled across this photo of a squirrel monkey who was launched into space in the 1950s.* His name was Baker, which caused a saccade of memory:

In eighth-grade English, we were put into groups. Our assignment was to write a mystery story. The teacher had gotten a packet of worksheets from somewhere which were intended to help brainstorming for a mystery story. The sheets guided us through thinking about various aspects of our story: our detective - including preferences foibles, special gear, and allies.

I suspect that the sheets eventually would have directed us to invent a mystery for our detective to solve, but we didn't get that far. Allowing everyone to have their say made the early sheets go very slowly, and trying to say something creative on every single page left us with a freakshow of a detective: He was a bald midget, a crack boomerang thrower, and a fan of the television show Matlock. I had suggested that he might like Perry Mason, but one of my comrades disagreed; the discussion was ultimately resolved so that our detective not only watched Matlock but actively touted its superiority over Perry Mason.

Our detective had a pet monkey named Mister Baker, which brought it all back today. I had not known about the simian astronaut Baker, however. Our Mister Baker was the namesake of a substitute teacher whom we all disliked.

As the deadline for the mystery story approached, we explained to the teacher that we still had two-thirds of the worksheets left to complete. She said we should skip them and just write the story.

This would have been a problem, if we had needed to write a complete story with only this eccentric character sketch to go on. Our teacher was lazy, however, and insisted that the story could be no more than ten pages. Moreover, she was not actually going to read it; one member of the group would read it aloud, and the teacher was going to grade us on that.

I don't recall any of the plot of the story. There wasn't much room for plot after we included all of the character. He harangued about television lawyers, stopped by the office to check on Mister Baker, and resolved the mystery in time to clock to perpetrator with a boomerang.

* I followed a link at Wil Wheaton's and crawled around the collection of Life magazine photos archived by Google. The photo above is here.

'Adventures' on the move [permalink]

3aug2010: Several years ago, my friend Janet asked readers to design a masthead for her blog, Adventures in Ethics and Science. Mine was the winning submission. Preparing to move from Science Blogs to Scientopia, she asked me to update the image. (I've linked to the new URL.)

Here are the old and new images, for comparison:

Old AES masthead

New AES masthead

Looking at them together, I am struck by how much better the new one looks. I think I made colour version of the Decktet between the first and the second version of the banner, and I think I learned a lot while doing that. Both versions make use of line art from an even earlier project, so it's mostly a matter of composition.

Although I'm not a professional graphics guy, it's nice to see signs that I might actually be getting better.

And good luck to Janet at her new blog home.

It's the terror, stupid [permalink]

18aug2010: Every August, Beloit College publishes a Mindset List. It began as a way of reminding professors that members of the entering class are just 18 years old and so don't remember all of that old-fogey stuff that old professors assume that everyone remembers. The list has become an internet meme that gets forwarded around like a picture of a cute animal, a virus warning, or a chain letter.

This year's list has this item: One way or another, "It's the economy, stupid" and always has been.

Although cute, the item is entirely wrong. The quote, of course, is from Bill Clinton's first run for president, the year that this class of freshmen was born. The economy now is worse than the economy was then. Yet the item overlooks an important and disorienting fact:

9/11 was half their life ago.

They were nine years old when the World Trade Center was attacked. For the part of their life in which they are most likely to have been cognizant of politics, it has been a discourse of fear. It still is, even if we hear less about 'terrorism' and more about 'muslims.'

Pitt! [permalink]

Tazza D'oro

22aug2010: I arrived in Pittsburgh yesterday. I found the Trader Joe's last night and stocked up on edibles: both mainline stuff and Joe's exotica like spicy dried mangoes. Today, I got out walking. East and North for fifteen minutes put me at a coffee shop in Highland Park, from which I am writing this. Tomorrow or the next day, I'll make it down toward campus.

Coffeehouses are a mirror of a city's soul [permalink]

4sep2010: I have been in Pittsburgh now for two weeks. The city is roughly three times the size of Albany and old enough to have a complex pattern of neighborhoods. One way to explore these, naturally, is to find coffeehouses. You can learn a lot about a neighborhood from the atmosphere at the coffeehouse.


Down Penn Avenue into the Friendship neighborhood is Voluto. It's very geometric, with spartan decor and hard furniture. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve is coffeehouses that only have disposable cups, but Voluto has ceramic mugs. This is some strange kind of mockery, however, since a refill costs the same as the first cup.

Further down Penn is The Quiet Storm, which also serves vegetarian food. People from the area are in and out regularly. The staff is friendly. It has a good vibe. The worst thing I can say about it is that their grits were a bit lumpy.

The Quiet Storm

Last week I went across the river into Southside to visit a used bookstore. There was a book that I'd been about to order on-line when I realized that it was available here in town. I got there and bought it just before rush hour, so I decided to wait out traffic in the nearby Beehive. A bit dark, but nice.

Today I walked up to Highland Park and visited Tazza D'oro again.

Nevertheless, I don't want you to think that my time here is all caffeine and pastries. Although coffeehouses are my preferred way to combine getting some work done with exploring the city, I've spent weekdays at the office.


I get office space at the Center as one of the perks of being a visiting fellow. The computer has a much bigger monitor than my laptop, which is great for reading a long parade of articles in PDF. I also get the chance to talk philosophy of science with whoever is around, which is the whole point of taking my sabbatical here rather than in (say) Aruba. Plus, there's a restaurant-grade Bunn coffee maker in the lounge.

Why I hate Google's instant search [permalink]

7oct2010: I don't keep much LaTeX documentation on my computer, because searching through my own heap of guides and man pages is simply less efficient than searching the internet. So I often finding myself entering search strings like 'latex ragged right'.

Now that Google has decided that instant search should be on by default, searches like these make pictures of people in latex cat suits parade across the browser window as I'm typing.