27 June 2005

I get lost

Twice I have printed out directions from Google Maps, and twice it has gotten me off track. I think Google must be using an inferior database of roads to generate their directions.

On the way to Salem, my printed directions omitted the fact that I-95 North is the same road as Mass. Rte. 128 for several miles; completely failed to mention that when they diverge, you want to take the left fork and stay on 128; and got the exit number for Peabody wrong.

It's a shame, because Google Maps is pretty good otherwise. Its user interface puts it way ahead of its competitors.

But all these sites have a long way to go. For example, none of the free map sites show highway exit numbers on their maps. And none show public transit lines. Or pay parking lots. Driving directions could also be improved dramatically without a great deal of technical effort. The most obvious thing is landmarks. Good directions periodically reassure the traveler that he's on the right path. "You'll pass Boston Common on your left." Or, "Pass through Joe Bloggs Tunnel." Or, "Turn right on Walnut St. at a large stone church."

The other thing that sent me astray this weekend was the sign on I-93 South (into Boston) that says, "Commuter lane - no exits until Storrow Drive". Actually, the Storrow Drive exit is one of the ones bypassed. I think this has been the case ever since the new bridge opened almost a year ago. It's crazy that the sign hasn't been changed.

22 June 2005

M. plays Blank White

My sister M. was in town a week ago. We did the tourist thing and played 1000 Blank White Cards. I guess we should have used the rejects the gang sent back with us from Florida, but we decided to start from scratch.

Normally this game is something of a free-for-all, but with the card set we ended up with, it was surprisingly stable. For me, this makes the game even more fun. After the last hand, we ended up with:

  • six plain point cards
  • six point cards that actually do something
  • eight action cards
  • six counterspells

This is a good mix. I've been thinking about doing the counterspell thing for a long time. My impression is that it really helps the game. It also helped that very few of the cards had you doing something every turn. I think the game works better when it can move along pretty quickly.


Evil Thieving Monkeys - Steal another player's card in play and play it on yourself. (inspiration)

Turn to the Dark Side - Flip any card in play face-down. On the back (if it's blank), draw a cruel, evil version of the front.

Let it all hang out - All new cards must have a PIG theme! +3 pts. (There was a Star Wars theme card, too. Never managed to get both in play at the same time, alas.)

In Triplicate - +3 pts. Whenever you play a non-point card, triple its effects.

I'd better stop here. James wants to look at motorcycles.

19 June 2005

I'm caught in the crossfire

I bought Ben Folds's new album, Songs for Silverman, but I had to return it because it wouldn't play on my computers at home or at work, making it mostly worthless to me. It wouldn't play because it doesn't conform to the Compact Disc specifications. It is a DualDisc.

Supposedly DualDiscs exist to add DVD-like bonus features to CDs. Videos, interviews, that kind of thing. In particular, Silverman comes with a copy of the whole album in 5.1 SurroundSound—a phenomenally cool feature, if I had a SurroundSound home theater, which I don't. But really DualDiscs exist to fight music piracy. I know this because Songs for Silverman isn't sold on CD. This really drives me crazy, since I don't pirate music and haven't for years. I can't even buy an album I like and listen to it at home anymore. Technology sucks.

I'm particularly irritated at Sony because the fact that the disc was not a CD appeared in print about 1/8-inch high on the back of the CD. Barnes and Noble graciously gave me store credit when I returned the DualDisc, even though I had already opened it. I hear some record stores don't do that. They all should; it's borderline fraud to put these non-CD things into CD cases and sell them alongside CDs without warning your customers.

James wants to look

James's first four-syllable word was avocado, but only because he long ago started saying “cycle” for motorcycle. Yesterday he said, “momocycle”—a conscious effort on his part.

I showed James some pictures of motorcycles on Google Image Search and it's now one of his favorite things to do. “Look—cycle?” he'll say. Whenever he's in the computer room he demands to see pictures. It's becoming quite difficult.

Some of his favorite searches are purple fish, red motorcycle, and blue bus. (James is into two-word phrases these days.)

I had forgotten—you do find some strange and beautiful things when you spend time aimlessly wandering on the Web.

A rift in the Ross Ice Shelf. “At the narrow end, [these rifts] are covered by a snow-bridge and are nearly invisible. As a result, they can be quite treacherous, as some covered portions of the cracks are large enough to swallow tracked vehicles.” (more)

A child's toy filled with gasoline - Not for sale in the land of the free, for obvious reasons. But what a cool toy. You can take it apart and rearrange the pieces to make this. The same page has a picture of the most beautiful motorcycle I've ever seen. This motorcycle could star in its own movie.

A search for big rock turns up lots of nice pictures, including this one.