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Online Services: The Internet Before the Internet

Tom Christiansen Re:Oldster? (387 comments)

An oldster is anyone older then roughly 30 (in the context of the article). People who can remember using 14.4 and/or slower modems, and playing things like LORD.

No, you mean rogue(6), whose magic word was Elbereth . My fingers have the movements in muscle memory. Something about 100,000 lines of C code written in vi does that to a kid. Or maybe the 10,000 games of rogue(6). Prolly both.

Earlier still was ADVENT, whose magic word was xyzzy . Whole 'nother country, that.

more than 2 years ago
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Online Services: The Internet Before the Internet

Tom Christiansen Too many false assumptions (387 comments)

The posted article has too many false assumptions in it to be anything like reasonable. It's trying to establish a false dichotomy. I've been on the Internet since the early 80s -- essentially, all my computing life -- and certainly never resorted to silly BBS systems or AOL/Prodigy abominations. Bletch!

Sure, there were times I had to dial into a terminal server, but I still connected directly to a nice friendly BSD Unix system on the real Internet. The firstish of which was what became known as uwvax.cs.wisc.edu. Yes, we had an ARPANET IMP. Pesky little thing it was, too.

What category then do I fall into? Neither of the two misleadingly presented ones from the original article, that's for certain. The question is: how many others were in my camp? Pretty obviously the kinderwriter of the article never thought of people like us.

more than 2 years ago
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Should There Be a Sci-Fi Category At the Oscars?

Tom Christiansen Tolkien was an avid F&SF reader (309 comments)

Elendil wrote:

Huh? Could you please tell us your evidence for this? I was under the impression (based on JRRT's letters and novels) that he wasn't too keen on technology and the so-called modern world. So I have some difficulty imagining him interested in a distant future filled with spaceships and robots.

Certainly. In Letter #294, Tolkien himself wrote:

I read quite a lot - or more truly, try to read many books (notably so-called Science Fiction and Fantasy). ... I enjoy the the S.F. of Isaac Asimov.

That's as straight-from-the-horse's-mouth as it gets.

more than 2 years ago
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Should There Be a Sci-Fi Category At the Oscars?

Tom Christiansen Re:Special Effects (309 comments)

Science Fiction films tend to be subsets of either action or drama films, but with more special effects.

Not necessarily. Gattaca certainly was not full of special effects; neither, really, was Blade Runner, and both were better movies than 99% of the dreck that purports to be science fiction.

more than 2 years ago
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Should There Be a Sci-Fi Category At the Oscars?

Tom Christiansen Re:Every time a bell rings (309 comments)

Avatar was about as sci-fi as Lord of the Rings which won the Oscar.

Say what? There was nothingThe Lord of the Rings, — at all.

Tolkien actually enjoyed hard sf, especially Asimov, but his roots were in Beowulf and the Eddas, not in H.G. Wells. It’s like comparing apples with aardvarks: not even in the same kingdom.

Tolkien’s work is fundamentally mythologic in scope, looking to the past and recreating a series of tales out of old myths and half-remembered memories. Science fiction is a completely different beast. It extrapolates possible futures by applying known principles to unknown possibilities, all the while keeping within the laws of nature as we understand them. Yes, both are story-telling, but that is as close as it gets.

Science and myth are truly about as far apart as you can get, so I cannot see how you could possibly make such an outlandish statement.

more than 2 years ago
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Computer De-Evolution: Awesome Features We've Lost

Tom Christiansen Ubiquitous Spamvertising (662 comments)

Web sites without advertisements in the middle of the body text still exist, such as wikipedia.org, tvtropes.org, and even slashdot.org once you've maxed your karma for a while.

I never see any of these spamvertisements that people are referring to, no matter what my karma or status is on this or that site.

Mostly that's because I use privoxy, which does 99% of the adblocking I ever want. However, I do on rare occasion play the "Block Content" or even "Edit Site Preferences" games in Opera. I think of "Block Content" as something of a first-person-shooter video game to shoot down intrusive spamverts.

I am so allergic to spamvertising of all sorts that I really can't read generic stuff on the web using somebody else's browser setup without going pretty completely batshit. I've been known to cover the stupid jumping pictures with giant postits or a taped on piece of paper. I am no more capable of reading static text while something is juggling screaming cats right in front of my face than I am capable of reading a book while a wailing banshee blasts out my eardrums from 2" away.

It's like how people with Tivo report that when they're visiting someone else's home and see a TV running with commercials on it, their first thought is something like "Huh! That TV's broken." That's exactly how I react when I come across someone else looking at the web with all its spammy in-your-face attention-seeking whinings: that their browser must be broken or something.

Disabling moving GIFs and sound by default is really mandatory, and really probably plugins, too, unless you have some other mechanism to block them. I've even been known to turn off javascript on specific sites just so the dumb things stop moving around on me. Even tooltip popup balloons can be maddening: just shut up, get out of my face and my mind, and let me read in peace, damn it! I would never read a book or magazine that had a loud screaming baby built right into it, and it simply astounds me that anyone puts up with this sort of outrageous assault.

I truly think that without the the serene freedom from the otherwise relentless spamvertising that this privoxy+opera combo gives me, I'd've long ago gone medieval and probably completely postal on these rude assholes. It's criminally abusive what they try to do to us.

Nobody has the right to strap you in a seat with your eyelids sewn open so they can steamshovel their spamverts into you. We call that assault, and nobody but nobody should put up with it. It's like the insulting "can't fast-forward through ads" property on some DVDs and some players. Their rights stop long before they reach my mind: I am not their prisoner, so go find some other sheep to bugger.

more than 3 years ago
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Perl 5.14 Released

Tom Christiansen Re:The question nobody wants to ask.... (187 comments)

In a string context (in Perl, it would have to be something besides ===, but we'll get to that later), it would be "visually equal to" - any characters that are visually equal would be considered equal (useful mainly when using Unicode). So the Cyrillic "e" (0435) would be considered equal to Roman "e" (0065). I'm not sure how to handle complexities like "is the single character 'small a with macron' equal to the sequence 'small a' and 'combining diacritic macron'". We'll need a committee for that, probably. And since Perl uses different operators to determine context, we'd need something else for that. "veq", maybe?

You cannot use visual similarities between glyphs that may or may not look similar in one font or another, because there exists no standard that spells out their correspondence.

In contrast, there does exist a standard that says whether two code points should be considered the same basic character. This is what you get when you compare two strings at the primary collation strength using the Unicode Collation Algorithm. This is perfectly easy to do in Perl, and is extensible to locale tailoring as well.

To do more than that is to ask to translate 133t$p3@k into normal text. It may have some applications, but it is not as useful as you think.

more than 3 years ago
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Is That Sushi Hazardous To Your Health?

Tom Christiansen Mythbusting Colorado's Fish Freshness (554 comments)

> Considering that Colorado is surrounded by land on all sides and New York is
> about as far away as possible from the pacific ocean (while staying in the US)
> i'm not surprised the tuna sushi you get there is a bit off.

Nonsense! The distance from wharf to table is the same as the distance
from wharf to major airline hub to table. Denver is United's main hub.
That means everything is as fresh as the airport is distant--very close.
Any quality restaurant gets its fish flown in daily.

Regard:

Sushi Den; Denver CO

        How does Sushi Den get such fresh fish?

        One of the most important ingredients of sushi making is getting the
        freshest fish available. In Colorado, as a land locked state, many
        sushi bars do not have easy access directly to the fish market. We are
        one of the very first sushi bars in the United States to purchase
        directly from the fish market in Japan. At Sushi Den, Koichi, our
        youngest brother, is stationed at one of the largest fish markets,
        Nagahama Fish Market, located in our home prefecture in the
        southern-most island, called Kyushu Island. At 4:00 AM, he carefully
        hand selects the freshest fish just unloaded from the boat, then within
        a few hours, the fish speeds its way to Denver, arriving within 24
        hours. Toshi also goes to the local fish market at 7:00 AM in Denver 6
        days a week, where he painstakingly handpicks the freshest fish
        available just for that day. We also source many exotic fish from
        Alaska, Seattle, Boston, Hawaii, Florida as well as from Philippines,
        Canada, Mexico, and Spain.

        http://www.sushiden.net/faq.html#faq7

Hapa Sushi; Boulder & Denver CO

        "We owe our awards to our loyal customers, who have come to Hapa since
        we opened 10 years ago," says owner Mark Van Grack. "We believe we have
        the freshest sushi in town -- most of the tuna is flown in from Hawaii.

        http://bouldercountygold.com/2009/eats-drinks-entertainment/best-sushi-hapa-sushi/
        http://www.franchise.hapasushi.com/

Sushi Tora; Boulder CO

        We get fresh fish flown in daily including fish from Tsukiji Market in
        Tokyo every Wednesday.

        http://sushitora.net/bouldersushi.html

Jax Fish House; Boulder CO

        Jax famous Raw Bar features a variety of fresh oysters, clams, chilled
        crabs and lobsters, all flown in daily.

        http://www.jaxfishhouseboulder.com/Portals/0/Jax%20Fish%20House%20Boulder%20Press%20Kit.pdf
        http://www.jaxfishhouseboulder.com/Menus/DinnerMenu/tabid/62/Default.aspx

Flagstaff House; Boulder CO

        Mark's menu changes daily to take advantage of the freshest seasonal
        ingredients including fresh fish flown in daily, locally grown organic
        products, and herbs from his own organic garden.

        http://www.flagstaffhouse.com/about_us_mark.html
        http://www.flagstaffhouse.com/menu.html

        The menu, which changes daily, offers an excellent selection of fresh
        fish, flown in from the source, and Rocky Mountain game, all prepared
        with a creative flair. Typical appetizers include pancetta-wrapped
        rabbit loin or pheasant breast, calamari, black trumpet mushrooms, and
        caviar. Entrees, many of which are seasonal, might include Colorado
        rack of lamb, Maine lobster, veal cheeks, and mahimahi. The restaurant
        also has dessert soufflés, a world-renowned wine cellar (at, 20,000
        bottles, perhaps the best in Colorado), and an impressive selection of
        after-dinner drinks.

        http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/north-america/united-states/colorado/boulder/44791/flagstaff-house-restaurant/restaurant-detail.html

There. May be now put this unfounded but stupidly repeated rumor to rest
once and for all. PLEASE?

--tom

about 5 years ago
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D&D Co-Creator Gary Gygax Has Passed Away

Tom Christiansen Re:A old friend to be sorely missed (512 comments)

> Thanks for taking the time to write this.

You're very welcome. It's something I needed to do, a sort of
professional-piety response, perhaps, giving credit where due.

> I enjoyed it very much. I never stop to think about how my affinity
> for Perl might be related to imagination then related to AD&D.

Adam Rogers of Wired Magazine wrote convincingly in the NY Times that:

        GARY GYGAX died last week and the universe did not collapse.
        This surprises me a little bit, because he built it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/09/opinion/09rogers.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

I strongly encourage you and all programmers and gamers alike to check out
what Adam has to say there about our world being one that Gary built.

Adam also has a 17-minute segment on NPR:
      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88062853

D&D promotes open, imaginate thinking and problem-solving ability.
Consumerist alpha-state zombies entranced by the bube tomb do not
develop these skills. From the moment I took up D&D in 1975, lo these
33 years ago, I never again watched TV with any regularity, racking up
fewer hours per year than the average American does in a single week. I
later became convinced by Postman's position, and his take on Huxley's
_Brave_New_Word_, and so came to see television as modern-day soma.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World#Comparisons_with_George_Orwell.27s_1984

The crossover between gamers and programmers, especially but apparently
not uniquely those of us of a certain age, is remarkably high. For it's
still going on as young players, often social outcasts looking for a safe-
space for nerds or geeks or whatever outsider term you care to apply to
them and us, are always coming into the gaming world.

The imaginative, creative, problem-solving ability essential in any good
admin or programmer is not nurtured by couch potatoes in trance state
worshiping their false idols of TV and spectator sports, wasting away
"Amusing Themselves to Death" per Postman. That ability is stifled, quelled,
stanched, nipped in the bud before it can even develop. Instead, these
abilities are much better fed by interactive challenges, and this is why
good gamers make good sysadmins, and good programmers sometimes, too.

Gary also helped plant the seed in me of being a word-guy, something of
a vocabulary antiquarian. He would plumb older sources for words in
English that in modern times were either unused entirely, or used
quite differently. A brief list of these might include:

        adamantite, aegis, cantrip, cuirass, curate, drow, durance vile,
        dweomer, electrum, glaive, habergeon, lich, morningstar, myrmidon,
        panoply, rune, sigaldry, sigil, thaumaturge, theurgist, and wight.

I should really write these all down some time. I'll bet even such words
as apothecary and dwarves owe much to Gary for their modern currency.

For a while, Slate had the best Gary Gygax article at:
        http://www.slate.com/id/2185914/pagenum/all/#page_start

But I think now that the Wired treatment is most impressive:
        http://www.wired.com/gaming/virtualworlds/news/2008/03/ff_gygax

--tom

more than 6 years ago

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