Planarity: a great time waster

Posted by me on Thursday, the 16th day of August, anno domini 2007 at 11:48 PM, local time.

So, a friend at work forwarded me a link to this website with a simple flash-based game on it. All you have to do is move nodes around to show that the given graph is planar. Simple at first, then there are 200 nodes and not enough room to see anything at all… I would say that levels in the 7-10 range are the best. Actually challenging, but still doable.

It’s worth taking a look at anyway, especially if you are bored and have nothing else more productive to do for a while.

But, it’s not my fault if you get stuck on that website for an hour. I warned you.

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“These are your father’s parentheses”

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 31st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:58 PM, local time.

Wow. Sorry guys, I know how you all hate it when I make a blog entry saying how awesome dinosaur comics or xkcd happen to be today, but seriously folks, this is why I love xkcd: I just read it and had to comment.

Seriously, with lines like “These are your father’s parentheses. Elegant weapons, for a more… civilized age.”, while an Obi-wan stick-figure carries out a stack of parentheses to a bewildered Luke, few things could make me laugh harder. This is just great stuff!

Wow, three new posts in under an hour. Now I’m just tired and should go to bed. Goodnight!

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Downtown Rochester

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 31st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:48 PM, local time.

So I was downtown this past weekend, at the bookstore (as usual), and noticed a few things.

Downtown Rochester was actually pretty busy! It was in the early evening on a Saturday, so probably lots of people going to restaurants or whatever. But there were tons of people walking around downtown, eating on the sidewalks, siting on the benches talking, looking at books in Barnes and Nobles. It was nice.

I also went by the old Extraordinary Bookseller shop to see if they had changed their hours or whatnot. Nope, still like 11am-6pm weekdays only or something like that. A couple months ago, we all noticed that they had downsized drastically, and a nail salon or something took up most of their space on 1st Avenue. I think they still have a little nook there yet, but I haven’t been in there since they shrunk. However! I saw a sign that said what actually happened was that they were moving! So, my main worry of what had happened to all the great old books they had that could not possibly have fit into what was left of the store is now laid to rest! I tracked down where they said they moved to, and walked 3 blocks to get there. Apparently they are now located in the lower floor (we’re talking basement level here) of the old Barrister Hall on 1st St N. They were closed when I was there (it was Saturday evening after all), but there was a rudimentary sign on the window that indicated they really were there now. I’ll have to go check them out sometime in their new location. Maybe they have the whole basement of that place and they can fit even more bookshelves and books! Wouldn’t that be exciting! Probably the rent is a lot cheaper as well. It can’t have been cheap on what has pretty much become the new main street of downtown Rochester (1st Ave W). So that is good news I think.

Also, Kristen’s Knits is now open again. They relocated further down 2nd St S from their old location, but now they are in a huge old Victorian house, with ample parking (always a problem at the old place). I think their hours are longer now, also. Weekdays 10am-6pm, Thursdays open till 8pm, and Saturday 10am to 3pm. Apparently they are in the old Restless Leg Syndrome House. Where will I go if I get Restless Leg Syndrome? No where, apparently. One nice thing is that its closer to downtown proper now, actually walkable, I think. Also, its right across from Just Rite Foods, so that’s kinda cool, too.

One other thing I noticed around Rochester lately: all the strip malls are getting renovated. They all did look pretty bad, so I guess they needed it. I think some of them will look pretty nice once it’s all done. I wonder if it will help them get more businesses to flesh out the vacant premises. I hope so, I guess. More little shops is always good, I think.

That’s pretty much it. Though I must say the 1st St promenade demolition looks pretty much finished and now they are repaving things for walkways and planters and benches and whatnot. It might actually be usable by winter! That would be kind of amazing actually. We shall see. Also, since it will connect Peace Plaza with Annenberg Plaza, there should be quite a nice area there that is walking only with hopefully lots of nice art and nice stuff to do.

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Broken Weltanschauungen

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 31st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:27 PM, local time.

Please, no one hate me.

From time to time, I come across a worldview, that just seems broken to me. I feel slightly bad using that terminology, but there it is. (Many feel that worldviews are something that can not be inherently “broken”, just different… If you choose to view things that way, then the worldview I am about to describe is just so contrary to my own worldview, that I have to describe it as broken to make my own worldview seem self consistent. There. Feel better? Anyway…)

So, I have heard phrases like, “Oh, I am really excited about seeing this new French film, you should see it.” When I inquire as the subject matter of the film, I merely get “I don’t know… it’s French” as the only response.

For all I know, the film could be great. Or it could suck. But this has nothing to do with its “Frenchness”. Or it shouldn’t have anything to do with it. But if someone uses “Frenchness” as the only reason for seeing a movie, (or “Japaneseness”, or “German”, or what-have-you) then the worldview of that person seems a bit broken to me. I think the movie should be judged on its own merits.

What’s ironic is that such Weltanschauungen are likely caused as a backlash of an older worldview that some people call “Nationalism”. By deciding that America is such an evil nation, or run by evil people, or whatever, then deciding that all things not-American are obviously better than all things American. Its a simple leap from that point to saying that because it is “French” it is more worthy of being seen than another movie that is “American”. A further irony is that most movies made in America are made by people with a similar worldview as those not wanting to watch American movies because they are American.

Anyway, maybe I’m wrong. Certainly there are degrees here, but if ever you start thinking about how you’d like to do something merely because its French, then maybe you should rethink things a bit, and start objectively analyzing your motivations. Unless you happen to be French. Then its OK. =)

I don’t mean to offend anybody with this, just making an observation about people, and I was trying to figure out why I got mad when such people made such statements. I think I know why. Their Weltanschauungen are broken, and it makes me sad to see a broken Weltanschauung.

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Treacle, or, what not to put in the refrigerator

Posted by me on Saturday, the 28th day of July, anno domini 2007 at 12:47 AM, local time.

So, last week, Jim and Pam held a pot luck at their place to bide the time until we all tromped down to the Galleria Barnes & Nobles to wait in line and buy our Harry Potter books. The thought was that people should bring Harry Potter related dishes to the pot luck. I don’t know that a whole lot of them were really mentioned in the books, but there was Butterbeer, Shepherd’s Pie, ice cream, etc.

I attempted to make Treacle Tart, which, is apparently Harry Potter’s favorite desert (or so the books lead us to believe). First of all, for those of you who don’t know, treacle is a byproduct of the sugar making process, also known as molasses. However, as it turns out, the Bri’ish make Treacle Tart not from molasses at all, but from another byproduct of the sugar making process, Golden Syrup.

After a lot of searching around town, I finally found some golden syrup at the local Hy-vee. Great place, that Hy-vee. Anyway, right on the jar in big letters it says: “Do not refrigerate golden syrup!” With the exclamation point and everything. (That’s a lie. There is no exclamation point… But it should have one!) So, I was mixing everything up and it was going great, except that I was late for the pot-luck. So I walked over to Jim and Pam’s house and baked the tart in their oven, as they are nice understanding people and weren’t currently using their oven anyway. After it finished baking and cooling, before any of us thought to eat it, it was time to go get book wristbands (trip 1 to Barnes and Nobles that night). Not thinking at all, before we left, I was like, oh I should probably put this in the fridge till we get back…

Well, when we did get back, we completely forgot to eat the tart. Then after trip 2 to actually go wait in line and get our books, I don’t think it was on anybody’s mind to eat anything more when we got back, and so it slipped my mind again.

Three days later, it was still in Jim and Pam’s fridge. We tried it. Rock solid. With some prying and sharp knives, we managed to get some out of the pan and try it, and it wasn’t too too bad, but I don’t think it was quite what the Bri’ish, or Harry Potter, usually ate when they ate Treacle Tart (for a variety of reasons, mostly mistakes on my part, including the refrigerator bit). Anyway, later when I was trying to clean out the dish, I almost gave up. Some of that stuff was almost permanently embedded in the glass pie pan.

Long story short, don’t put treacle in the refrigerator. It’s just not a good idea.

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My Mediocre-ly Bad Day

Posted by me on Wednesday, the 25th day of July, anno domini 2007 at 9:06 PM, local time.

So today I was almost late for my meeting, it was quite hot and uncomfortable out, and one of my test machines at work didn’t seem to quite want to work right. Also, we got beaten rather badly at softball, I had to go back to work after softball, and didn’t get to eat supper until just now, at 9pm. Also, when I did get to go home, MPR decided to not work for the 6 minutes of my trip home, surely just to spite me.

And to top it all off, I forgot my shoes at work.

On the other hand, it was Roscoe’s catered food for lunch in the park, my tests did finally work, there is opera on MPR now that it works again, and my beer fermenter didn’t explode again today like I feared it might. Also, I remembered to blog today, which is good.

However, since I can’t think of an adverb to properly modify “bad” and thus had to fake one with “mediocre-ly”, I think that may tip the scales of the day slightly on the less than perfect side. =-)

I probably should just go to bed and hope for a better tomorrow. Right after I eat supper. At 9pm.

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Harry Potter, Quick and Dirty

Posted by me on Thursday, the 19th day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:45 PM, local time.

So, just a quick note to all of you out there scrambling like me to catch back up on the happenings in the Harry Potter series. I determined I didn’t quite have time to reread all the books (since I thought about it last weekend), but I found a site online that had some pretty good but short chapter summaries for the entire thing thus far.

However, the single chapter per page was getting annoying, especially since the site uses frames and whatnot. So, rather than waste my time clicking next every 20 seconds, I wasted it writing a quick script to simple collect all the data and reformat it into an RSS feed, suitable for Google Reader and the like. Point your favorite feed reader at

No this is not actually the script. This is a copy of the output of the script. I thought I would be kind to my web hoster and not make it regenerate the same list every time somebody requested it. Since this was intended as a quick job so I could more efficiently read the summaries in time for the release of the book tomorrow night at midnight, any niceties you might wish from the interface to that feed are simply not there, nor are they likely to be added. Each chapter is an RSS entry, and each chapter was “released” into the feed on the chapter-th minute of each hour, and each hour starts a new book. Completely nonsensical, but RSS made the times all be different and this was a simple way to make them unique. :-)

Anyway, let me know if it is giving your reader too much trouble, I could probably break them down into per-book feeds if there was really that much desire for such things in the next 24 hours and 15 minutes.

* Quick Update *
If you just use firefox (could be my old version) to click on the link above to the feed, it appears to only give you up through book 5, chapter 21. I’m not sure why that is, but if you view the source, it shows you up through book 6, chapter 30 (as it should). Also, google reader gives you all chapters as appropriate, too. Just grab the source and edit out the top bits if you think firefox just doesn’t like the 162 entries in the feed and needs to have fewer of them.

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Rollerblading, Berries, Music, and Country Traditions

Posted by me on Sunday, the 1st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 4:02 PM, local time.

Today I went out rollerblading on the Douglas trails, hoping to spot some blackcaps. I ended up going all the way to Douglas and back (around 11 miles round trip), and found lots of great blackcaps. I filled up half a nalgene bottle or so of them. I would have been able to get more, if I had proper bramble attire (jeans and boots… not shorts and rollerblades!). I may have also gotten more if I hadn’t noticed someone ahead of me picking all the bushes clean. Geez. These were clearly my bushes. The best spots right now along the trail seem to be between the 3 and 5 mile markers on the way to Douglas. There were a lot of other bushes closer to home too, but I left those for later. They will probably be pickable throughout the next week or so. Now I just have to think of things to use them for (ha! that won’t be much of a problem!). On my cereal is a must, berries and creme is always good, ice cream can be enjoyable topped with blackcaps, and I have a couple creme brulee recipes for berries that should be pretty good, too.

So, all those blackcaps, free for the picking. Yesterday, at the farmer’s market, I saw some for five dollars. I buckled. I just love berries so much! Those Amish though, always trying to make a quick buck off people, when they could just go pick the berries themselves. Seriously… I also missed out on an early raspberry opportunity yesterday, as Andy was mentioning that they had gone to the market earlier that morning and bought some of the last of the early raspberries! :-( But, more of those will be coming soon I’m sure. Strawberries are mostly done, too. Last week I got a nice big container of those and they were just spectacular.

While rollerblading, I was listening to some music on my phone music player thingy. Have I mentioned I like piano music in the background? :-) Some of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, and then Handel’s Messiah. As always, they made me happy to hear. I don’t quite understand why some people thing classical music is boring, or puts you to sleep or something. It can be very exciting! Directing along, and singing along, can also be fun. Luckily Messiah is in English, but some other operas are harder to sing along to, and usually I just make up words that sound similar. How horrible is that! But, no one else along the trail can hear what I am hearing, and usually I quiet down when I am passing people. Heh. They might get a little frightened if they had to listen to me for long.

Speaking of things that other people might find a bit odd as they pass me while on the trails, I think I freaked out a few people today, since as they passed by, I nodded to them. To me, its just a reflex. You pass somebody, you nod. It’s what you do. It would be rude not to. People here either don’t get it, or just like to ignore me. There were people who got really confused looks on their faces, and some people said “Hi” (but thats too much effort, they really should have just nodded). Only a few old geezers nodded properly. I suppose when they were young, this area was all country, too, so they knew all the appropriate country responses.

Well, back to my ice cream.

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Microfiche Reader

Posted by me on Sunday, the 24th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 11:05 PM, local time.

I was at the used book sale this past week outside the library, and finding many fun books to acquire, Jim pointed out a row of microfiche readers… all for free! They had a great sign attached to them: “Microfiche Readers: Free to a good home.” I almost got one, but I would have had to lug it back to the bus, carry it on the bus all the way back to work, then carry it to my truck, etc., etc. That’s a lot of work!

Plus, I don’t really have any microfiche to read. But, until I get a reader, I wouldn’t have any way to read any microfiche I did acquire, so its better to just get the free reader now, right? Maybe if they are still there next year…

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Commercials and Rollover Minutes

Posted by me on Wednesday, the 13th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 11:11 PM, local time.

Ok, just a warning, this post is a little lame, and not filled with anything actually useful. You've been warned.

So, with my mythtv box up and running, and with getting TV shows online to watch, or from DVDs and such, I don't watch many commercials anymore. In fact, I pretty much try to avoid them at all costs. They really are a general waste of my time, and its so easy to get by without seeing them these days.

However, recently I accidentally let a show start running into commercial time before I hit the magic button, and saw a couple commercials. Two of note, really. And a bunch of other crappy ones. But two that were actually pretty funny. First, there is the one where this guy and girl are sitting in some restaurant and she is saying how good her drink is tasting and that he should try it, or get one of his own. He keeps refusing, and she finally pushes the drink in his face to get him to try it, only to see the image of the guy shimmer a bit and such, classic hologram interruptus. He's like, "You caught me, I'm actually at the game right now." And that's like the whole commercial. Pretty funny, though I really have no idea what they were trying to sell me, except maybe hologram displayer thingies?

The other one I saw that was pretty good was the one where this mom was looking in the garbage can and was appalled to find leftovers thrown away by her family — leftover minutes that is (little tiny orange clock thingies, I think?), and she goes on a tirade about the fact that they are still perfectly good minutes, they work just like new ones, etc, etc, some people don't have enough minutes to fully satisfy their needs, and here they are throwing away their extra ones. The kids are all like, "But those minutes are from September, they can't be good any more!" And the mom is like, "They work just as well as minutes from June!" Very funny. I don't know why. I really think rollover minutes are pretty stupid anyway. Just a gimmick. Few people actually use them unless your average minute consumption is like perfectly your plan amount, yet you have wide variance in your month to month calling time. Not very likely, in my experience. Everyone I know has like millions of rollover minutes left, and nobody ever uses them. My plan doesn't have them, and it took a while to convince the plan people that I didn't want them, and they should take them off my plan. They were like, "But they're rolloever minutes! Everybody wants that!" I was all like, "Nuh-uh. And take $10 off my bill." And they were all like, "Oh-kay…"

So in the end, commercials suck at selling things to me, and in general I hate the time they waste, but sometimes, every now and again, they can be pretty funny. Oh and by the way, I'm sure you would have all loved this post more if I had YouTube inserts to show the commercials, and I tried, I really did, but they are no where to be found on YouTube. Which is odd. You would think that commercial companies would be putting things like that on YouTube right away. Its like free advertising! Maybe YouTube doesn't like that sort of thing and would have made them take it down? I don't know, I had thought I had seen advertisements on there before.

The end.

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