Sunday, July 31, 2005

Times Online: Fantasy’s darkest arts make for a bestseller

Terry Pratchett writes to the Sunday Times defending the fantasy genre: “Rowling says that she didn’t realise that the first Potter book was fantasy until after it was published. I’m not the world’s greatest expert, but I would have thought that the wizards, witches, trolls, unicorns, hidden worlds, jumping chocolate frogs, owl mail, magic food, ghosts, broomsticks and spells would have given her a clue?” (via MetaFilter)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005 Hershey is going gourmet / Candy giant buys Berkeley chocolatier Scharffen Berger

Oh. So much for “premium” chocolate. Tesco Value: Guess The Price

I miss the Tesco Value packaging. My guesses came in almost a fiver too high. (via Famous for 15 mexapixels)


explodingdog draws pictures from titles readers send in; unique and often touching. One of my favourites: thank god I saved you from those evil men.


“Poorly-drawn cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines!” Variable, but I particularly like the surreal ones (“I did it again”, “I know what you did last summer”, both oddly involving chickens) and some of the rude ones tickle me too (“My penis hurts after a big session”).

Coding Horror: What if it was infinitely fast?

Jeff Atwood on shifting bottlenecks: making one operation significantly, or even infinitely, fast usually just reveals another bottleneck.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Historical Present: Demystifying Diet Coke(s)

Leslie Harpold on the ever-growing diet Coke range. Diet Coke is sugar-free New Coke; Coke Zero is sugar-free Classic Coke. Which is odd, as to me Coke Zero tastes much closer to Pepsi… (via glassdog)

The Asylum: Psychiatric Clinic for Abused Cuddly Toys

Very odd, but strangely compelling, Flash game. (via jay is)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Ask MetaFilter: Why does a sandwich taste better if someone else makes it? The economics of movie popcorn pricing

Jason Kottke wonders about movie theater soda and popcorn pricing; his army of commenters answer. (In short: soda and popcorn are dirt cheap to produce, so any upsell on size and any upsell that gets you to buy two items rather than one is worth it.)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Freakonomics: Why do people post reviews on Amazon?

“Take the latest Harry Potter book, for instance. It has been out about a week. So far there are 1,385 reviews at amazon […]. What's in it for reviewer 1,385?”

Famous for 15 megapixels: Rumours

Stef’s posts on the London bombings have been wonderful, if somewhat uncomfortable, reading. His take on the phenomenon: “It sure is reassuring that people in Valparaiso, Knoxville and Auckland who know how to use the ‘Text’ option in MS Paint are unafraid of bombs on the London Underground system.”

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Tricks of the Trade: Painter

Tricks of the Trade is entertaining, but really should steer clear of “scientific” explanations. “Before resealing a can of paint, blow one deep breath into the can and close it quickly. You’ll fill it with carbon dioxide, which will keep the paint from oxidizing.” Sorry, but no: we don’t breathe out pure carbon dioxide. Exhaled air still contains relatively little carbon dioxide (4%, vs 0.04% in inhaled air) and plenty of oxygen (17%, vs 21% in inhaled air) (source).

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The New Yorker: The Candy Man

Excellent profile of Roald Dahl. (via links)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

ongoing: Feeling Sad?

Tim Bray’s annoyed that “the latest Harry Potter, well, it’s not cheerful at all”. Well, piffle. Kids deal with dark themes just fine. Narnia’s often dark; His Dark Materials is often bleak; and Roald Dahl’s humour, the saccharine BFG apart, was always black.

Scobleizer: Boeing blogging

Scoble’s on the Boeing Connexion junket: “it's a blogger circle jerk”. Heh. The first comment nails the junketeers’ breathless self-importance: “Blog Blog Blog! Let's blog! Let's blog about blogging! […] I can blog! I will blog! Everyone can blog! Blogging is the answer!”

Simon Willison: Understanding the Greasemonkey vulnerability

A careful and clear description of the recently-discovered vulnerability.

Monday, July 18, 2005

SatireWire: Interview with the Search Engine

Interviewing AskJeeves: “Bees don’t get arthritis.” (via Jeremy Zawodny)

Greasemonkey has a security hole you could fly a plane through

Greasemonkey, with certain script settings, “can expose the contents of every file on your local hard drive to every site you visit. [...] An attacker can quietly send this information anywhere in the world.” Advice: uninstall; downgrade to a neutered version. Mark Pilgrim, referring to a related, less-serious exploit: “I’ve accumulated a fair amount of karma in this fledgling community, and I’m going to burn some of it now by suggesting that this is a BIG FUCKING DEAL.” (via links) [Update: fixed in GM 0.5.]

Saturday, July 16, 2005

New York Times: Corrupted PC’s Find New Home in the Dumpster

“When Lew Tucker’s Dell desktop computer was overrun by spyware and adware […] he did not simply get rid of the offending programs. He discarded the whole computer.” Eh? It's not like it’s difficult, or costs anything, to avoid infection. Windows Update; ZoneAlarm; AVG; Ad-Aware; Spybot-S&D; and most importantly, stop downloading crap you don't trust. (via Slashdot)

Friday, July 15, 2005

Parallel port interfacing made easy

Parallel port hacking. This one’s for Dhaval. (via MAKE:Blog)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Guardian Unlimited: Television took 30 years to reach a mass audience—broadband has taken three

Ofcom review published yesterday “predicted that virtually all British homes—99.6%—would have access to a broadband connection by the end of this year.” Tread carefully around that spin: there’s a big difference between “have access to connection” and “are connected”. (via

Guardian Unlimited Books: Alternative Potter Project

I particularly like the William Carlos Williams pastiche: “Forgive me / he had it coming / so beardy / and so old” (via Making Light)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Topological gaming hell: starts off simply enough, but then… (originally via; MetaFilter has interesting comments on strategy)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tricks of the Trade: Pool Player

Matthew’s pool-playing tipster: “Momentum = mass x velocity squared.” I’d stick to the hustle, pal, and stay out of physics. There ain’t no square in momentum: p = mv. (He may be thinking of kinetic energy: k = ½mv2.)
[Updated: the correction also gets the physics wrong: acceleration (and hence force) is proportional to the derivative, not the square, of velocity.] Jon Carroll on copyright and clearance

San Francisco’s distinctive Transamerica Pyramid is a registered trademark, and was airbrushed out of the skyline in a recent movie. (via Danny O'Brien) Press Briefing by Scott McClellan

Official transcript of yesterday’s remarkable briefing, in which the usually meek White House press corps suddenly grow Paxman-esque fangs: “You’re in a bad spot here, Scott.” News: Smelling like a Rove

Salon provides a decent overview of the Valerie Plame affair. If this were the UK, Rove would have resigned long ago.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Independent: Downloading trouble at the BBC

BBC “lambasted by classical music labels” for its free Beethoven downloads. Missing the point, I think: how many of those million downloaders would have bought classical music before? And how many might now consider buying classical music? (via Scripting News)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Angels With Attitude: Photo Contest Winners

Beauty-pageant photographs: despite the “not extremely or overly retouched” stipulation, clearly heavily Photoshopped. There’s something deeply disturbing about these kids, with their flawless skins, long eyelashes, and dead eyes. As one Metafilter commenter puts it: “These are the children of nightmares.”

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Live 8 video downloads

Directory of direct links to AOL's Live 8 coverage. Dave Gilmour still plays a mean guitar. I like the banner one crowd member carries: “Pink Floyd reunite: pigs have flown”. (via

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Gmaps Pedometer

Double-click to set waypoints, calculates mileage. Seems to use the old unsupported Maps API, so it might break in future, but nice and useful. (via MAKE:Blog)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The MegaPenny Project

A strangely mesmerising visualisation of large numbers.

Boots Retail International: Boots US

The “British Aisle”, selling Boots cosmetics, just opened in our local Target: a bit of a surprise coming across a Boots logo over here.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Tea Leaves: Immersed in Hype

Next-gen game consoles, hype, and realism: “Building a game world that models every detail of the real world would result in a game world that is really boring.”

Ed Bott: A is for Arrogant, B is for Bloggers, D is for Dell

Squeaky wheels in the blog world: “Granting special treatment to so-called A-listers only convinces me that A is for arrogant.” (via Scoble’s comments)