Friday, May 06, 2005

Good word

"Stuff gets harder once you're out of school. It takes longer, costs more and isn't as much fun."

--Cary Tennis

I subscribe to the Internet Scout Report, a list of interesting Web links that's e-mailed weekly by the UW-Madison's computer science department. And I wanted to tell you that I was amused by this headline in today's installment:

Important new dinosaur located in Utah

I know what they mean, but still.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Greetings to everyone who found their way here by way of publisher Vincent O'Hern's "Making the Paper" column in this week's Isthmus. I am indeed chronicling Madison's nightlife in my new column--called, appropriately, "Nightlife." If there's any nighttime scene you think I ought to cover, I hope you let me know.
Apples from heaven

At about 10:00 last night I was walking down Mifflin St. on the Capitol Square. Suddenly, on the sidewalk in front of Shakespeare Books, I spied an an old-school iMac. Just sitting there, its keyboard and hockey-puck-shaped mouse piled neatly on top of it. I looked around. Was it real? I approached.

A light was on in the shop next to Shakespeare Books. Until a few weeks ago, this storefront actually was part of Shakespeare, but that splendid used bookstore has, evidently, shrunk (unlike most independent bookstores in Madison, which generally disappear altogether, these days).

A man was laboring in the new store, painting or something, and when he saw me he came to the window. I gestured quizzically at the iMac, and he indicated it was mine for the taking. He opened the door and said he wasn't sure whether it worked, but he had no more use for it.

People who know me well know that I adore computers, especially old computers, and I would never pass up a free one--especially one as elegantly designed as the 1998 Bondi Blue iMac. So I thanked the man (he's opening an antique store), locked up the machine in my truck, and continued my stroll.

When I got home, I booted up the iMac and found that it works perfectly! (Except, that is, for what looks to be a dead clock battery--unless it's told otherwise, the computer believes it is permanently the year 1973.) So now I am, for the first time in my life, a Mac owner! This one runs Mac OS 9, and it appears to have belonged to a little girl: there are all manner of girlish games installed on it, including several produced by Wisconsin's own American Girl.

The timing is immaculate. We needed an extra computer, and this one is perfectly serviceable. Now then, I have a brownie here for whoever has an old (pre-OS X) copy of Microsoft Office for Mac they're not using.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Good word

"I think adults forget just how much faith teenagers can have in them, just how willing to believe that adults, by virtue of being adults, know absolute truths, or that absolute truths are even knowable."

--Curtis Sittenfeld

A few days ago I wrote admiringly about Wil Wheaton's "Games of Our Lives" column in The Onion. Well, I was surprised and pleased today to see that for this week's installment he selected Bagman, which Ereck can confirm is a pet obsession of mine. I'm embarrassed to contemplate how many hours, over the last couple of years, I have spent playing Bagman, thanks to MAME emulator software.

If I have any complaint about Wheaton's piece, it's this: although he mentions that the game is hard, he really doesn't quite convey just how tantalizingly difficult, yet deceptively slow and simple, Bagman is. I have played and played and played and played and played and played and played, and I still can't get past the first board. Not even when I cheat.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Well thumbed

I'm only mildly interested in seeing the hit film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It surprises me a little that I'm not more psyched, because (like a lot of guys my age, I suspect) I was fanatical about the franchise when I was a lad. But I think I just might be over it.

I've certainly consumed my fair share of Hitchhiker's Guide stuff. To this day, I still have the books, I have a book about the books, I have the radio plays on tape, I have a book of the scripts of the radio plays, and I even have a Commodore 64 ROM of the old Infocom text adventure. A lot of these items I gratefully received as gifts at the height of my obsession. But I think what I realized, as I was about two-thirds of the way through the radio book, is that in all these tellings, the story is exactly the same, and even more crucially, the jokes are exactly the same. I remember finding the novels screamingly funny at first, but after a while, I wasn't screaming anymore.

I do, however, make regular use of Babel Fish Translation, AltaVista's imperfect but handy translating service. For those of you not in the know, babel fish is a Hitchhiker's Guide reference.