My Life as a Blog
by Rich Carlson

Instant wisdom:

Independent Games Festival finalists announced
Strange Adventures In Infinite Space hangs in there.
"You never know what will happen in the Purple Void..."

Here's the scoop since my last post. Of the seventy three Independent Games Festival entries, judges chose ten games to compete in the final round of the competition in March. Here's the roster.

Mr. Bigshot
Pontifex 2
Reiner Knizia's Samurai
Strange Adventures In Infinite Space
Teenage Lawnmower
Wild Earth
Word 'Em Up

Strange Adventures made the list, and of course we're surprised and delighted. We get to go meet everyone at the festival in San Jose, and that'll be a blast; a real strange adventure. See, you never know what will happen in the Purple Void...

IGF, SAIS and Links of the Week
News from the periphery, and beyond...
"Did quark matter strike Earth?"

A week plus gone by. Lots going on lately. We (the Digital Eel guys) are eagerly awaiting the results of the Independent Games Festival, which should be posted any day now. Strange Adventures In Infinite Space is one of among 73 entries this year. The competition is stiff, so we won't be too upset if we don't place. Still, it would be nice if more folks had an opportunity to enjoy the game, via the IGF. We'll have to wait and see.

Work continues on an SAIS sequel. The game is playable as a pure strategy game with multiple players on a LAN. Ogg Vorbis has become our choice for sound and music support. Phosphorous is cranking out more hypercool game art even as we speak. Things are going well. No ship date as usual, and I won't be saying too much more about this save for the occasional "milestone" update. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, it's time for a few more Links of the Week! Enjoy.

Fridge cools with sound | How small are small stars really? | Plague of giant jellyfish hits Japan | The Science Fiction TV Show Synopsis Generator (see below) | And, speaking of Io... (We were?)

Also, this first page is getting too long, so I'll begin an archive very soon.

FST Thanksgiving show axed by NPR
NPR passes on "Pass the Indian, Please"

The Firesign Theatre's official website has announced that the FST Thanksgiving show was axed by NPR. "Pass the Indian, Please" was apparently deemed as inappropriate for public radio.

Posting on the Mindless Fellowship Pavilion message board, FST member Phil Austin writes "ATC (NPR's All Things Considered program) has rejected The Indian Piece and will broadcast nothing by FST on thursday. Indian Piece said to be "incomprehensible" by ATC executive."

The FST site also responded with this straightforward challenge "Incomprehensible? Listen to it and judge for yourself." And they mean it. They've posted 3.1 meg MP3,572k RealAudio and 56k modem RealAudio stream versions so that, despite NPR's apparent political correctness, we can enjoy a brilliant sketch anyway.

Be sure to contact NPR and All Things Considered if this nonsense gets your heater hot.

Links of the Week
News from the periphery.
"Did quark matter strike Earth?"

A week or so has passed since my last entry, alas, and another Turkey Day has come and gone. (Game hens this time and too much pumpkin pie.) I'm overstuffed, it's late and I don't have much to say, so here goes another Links of the Week!

Happy Thanksgiving! *blink*Jerry Pournelle's website | Biting the Hand | Did quark matter strike Earth? | The Earth's Magnetic Field | Face transplants? | Throwing Einstein for a Loop

Links of the Week
News from the periphery.
"Belgian pensioner killed by his own booby-trap..."

Terkezi Oasis in the Sahara Desert | The human Swiss Army Knife | Beksinski: surrealist | The Sharpest View of the Sun | Belgian pensioner killed by his own booby-trap | You Are a Suspect (Note: the US senate just passed the HSB) | Medieval Mickey Mouse? | Industorious Clock | Deep Thought | George Harrison's Parting Gift

New Phosphorous Art
"Are you ready to enter Dimension13?"

Click here to see more.I like weird art. I always have. Not ugly art but art that is out of the ordinary. I mostly go for surrealism. Magritte, Ernst, Robert Williams... So when Bill brings something new over from Toad Hall, I get pretty excited. Here's the scoop.

Bill Phosphorous Sears' new art collection, Dimension13, is online with three eye-popping black marker illustrations for starters and more to come. Are you ready to enter Dimension13? Sure you are.

Two New Board Game to PC Ports
Old Board Games Aren't Dead (They Just Smell Funny)
"You are in for a pleasant surprise."

"TigrisGame is an excellent fanmade computer adaptation of Tigris & Euphrates, Reiner Knizia's classic board game that ranks among one of the best games of its kind ever made. If you have never played the board game before but love Sid Meier's Civilization (and who doesn't?) or Avalon Hill's Advanced Civilization, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Set in the ancient world and designed for 2-4 players, the object of the game is to earn victory points in four important areas: religion, people, trade, and farming." (The Underdogs)

You can download TigrisGame (freeware) here or here.

"Wizard's Quest is an excellent Windows version of an oldie Avalon Hill board game, first released in 1979. Unlike Avalon Hill's classics like Advanced Civilization, Wizard's Quest is a much simpler and easier game - designed more to introduce young gamers to the world of (fantasy) board gaming than to offer a lengthy challenge to wargame veterans." (The Underdogs)

This is a nice port and the rules are included in the Help file. Note: The WQ site occasionally shuts down due to bandwidth usage limits. If you get a "temporarily closed" message, try again later. You can download Wizard's Quest (freeware) here or here (this file contains MSWindows installer updates in case you need them).

How to Write Science Fiction Without Really Trying
The Science Fiction TV Show Synopsis Generator
"What comes out reads like a TV show..."

A couple of days ago I was thinking how cool it would be to have some kind of quick and dirty science fiction plot generator for brainstorming story ideas. So, I started playing with some old javascript code that I've been tinkering with for years; a neat little text string randomizer which I still use to generate random quotes on a few of my web pages, among other things (like this and this). "Instant wisdom," above, uses this code, for example.

I figured that since a single descriptive sentence would probably be adequate for the use I had in mind, the order of the seperate "phrases" in the summary sentence (that the randomizers would generate) would be setting, character, predicament and solution. Basically, this involved dovetailing four generators, putting punctuation in the proper places and seasoning (tweaking) to taste.

You run into some interesting problems right away, however. When a word like "alien" appears twice in the same sentence, because it's found on two or more of the random generator lists, the sentence reads "funny." In other words, a half-decent writer wouldn't write like that. There are other things you have to do, like smoothing the phrases as much as you can so the sentence is less stilted, but for brevity's sake I won't go into details.

The funny part is that in making the choice to generate a plot summary in one sentence, what comes out reads like a TV show episode blurb or movie summary in the TV Guide. This isn't necessarily bad, though, when you get a plot synopsis like

While living a harsh life in the deserts of Mars, a reclusive survivalist is trapped in a time loop and must parley successfully with several unfriendly extraterrestrials.


While traveling from one distant star to another, a nerdy computer programmer who is being hunted by killers must retrieve a powerful artifact from untrustworthy space pirates.


After surviving an assault by warlike beings from another world, a likeable oaf with a robot dog must locate and hail a passing supply ship.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the way this little gadget turned out. It serves its function as a brainstorming tool while at the same time being kind of entertaining. You can try out the Science Fiction TV Show Synopsis Generator here (Updated 11.26.02). Its use is self explanatory. For those of you who want to dabble and make your own generators, you can download a zip file with the javascript code in html and text file formats here.

The Sharpest View of the Sun
"Ask yourself if you have ever seen the likes of it before."

Anatomy of a sunspot.What does the sun really look like up close and personal? (Hot, hot, hot!) It is certainly too bright to see any features, right? But what if you could see it through a glass, darkly...?

I think that's exactly what these clever astronomers are up to, except that they use technical terms like "adaptive optics" and "digital image stacking" to impress us -and it works. This is bleeding edge stuff. Click on yonder image, take a gander and ask yourself if you have ever seen the likes of it before.

Good ol' APOD posted this image of a sunspot today. (Who else?) Go here to view the 11.14 entry, "The Sharpest View of the Sun," and read a good overview with lots of links. Click here to view other recent close-up images of the sun.

You can thank the fine folks at the Swedish 1-m Solar Telescope facility and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for these spectacular images if you ever meet one of them.

The Sum Total of All Human Knowledge
Everything we know jammed into a GIF
"Confuse and astonish your friends!"

The Sum Total of All Human KnowledgeThe Sum Total of All Human Knowledge can now be displayed on your active desktop or web page. Confuse and astonish your friends! Use STAHK as a teaching tool; uplift primates! Use STAHK to exercise your mind. Evolve into a futuristic mutant even as the size of your cranium increases! Display STAHK in low res for that Colossus: The Forbin Project vibe! Use STAHK as a background on your web page and annoy everyone! Right-click on the image or download STAHK here. Tip: STAHK looks best on black.

What is the next entry?
11/8 posts: Cop-out!
"Nobody knows what In His Own Write is"

Yep, you're right. The 11/8 posts were a cop-out. I barely wrote anything. But APOD was good yesterday and nobody knows what In His Own Write is, so we roll with it. Filler, but with sufficient nutritional value to get us to the next exciting entry.

What is the next entry? Why, Links of the Week, of course.

The Residents 30th birthday | NASA pulls Moon hoax book | Video Game Violence and Public Policy | The Ketchup Song | Evil Clown Generator | Roswell Rods | The Urban Exploration Ring | Revisiting the Sound of Guitar Pioneer Charlie Christian (more) | Halloween with Firesign Theatre (more) | Googlism

Story Time
The Wrestling Dog
"Perry had surpassed himselve by getting a Wrestling Dog!"

The Wrestling Dog

One upon a tom in a far off distant land far across the sea miles away from anyway over the hills as the crow barks 39 peoble lived miles away from anywhere on a little island on a distant land.

When harvest time came along all the people celebrated with a mighty feast and dancing and that. It was Perry's (for Perry was the Loud Mayor) job to provide (and Perry's great pleasure I might add) a new and exciting (and it usually was) thrill and spectacular performer (sometimes a dwarf was used), this year Perry had surpassed himselve by getting a Wrestling Dog! But who would fight this wondrous beast? I wouldn't for a kick off.

- John Lennon

Little Ghost
Planetary Nebula NGC 6369
"The end of a sun-like star's life"

The Little Ghost NebulaCut'n'pasted from the Astronomy Picture of the Day website (APOD): "This pretty planetary nebula, cataloged as NGC 6369, was discovered by 18th century astronomer William Herschel as he used a telescope to explore the constellation Ophiucus. Round and planet-shaped, the nebula is also relatively faint and has acquired the popular moniker of Little Ghost Nebula. Planetary nebulae in general are not at all related to planets, but instead are created at the end of a sun-like star's life as its outer layers expand into space while the star's core shrinks to become a white dwarf. The transformed white dwarf star, seen near the center, radiates strongly at ultraviolet wavelengths and powers the expanding nebula's glow."

Now ain't that somethin'.

Go here to view the entire original Little Ghost APOD post. Go here to view the APOD archives.

The Plasmaworm Collection
Music to soothe the savage cyborg.
"Check out the weird sound collages"

The Plasmaworm Collection on MP3.comIf you're interested in experimental game music head over to and check out the weird sound collages I've posted there. The twelve compositions in this set represent half of the background music tracks for Plasmaworm, a psychedelic Snake game that Iikka, Phos and I made a while back. All of these tracks were composed and mixed using the Plasmaworm music editor developed for and included with the game.

Liquid War
Control a liquid army!
"Let's talk wiggly war games."

Click here to download Liquid War.Let's talk wiggly war games. Now, you may find this hard to believe but Liquid War is a truly unique multiplayer "war game" in which you control a liquid army and try to eat your opponent.

It's downright psychedelic. You're watching two different-colored amoeboid blobs of liquid trying to surround and consume each other. You tell your blob where to go by moving the cursor around the screen with the arrow keys. It's like Lava Lamp Wars (which doesn't exist) meets Tickle Bee (which does).

Features? Have a look-see: Single and multiplayer modes, a zillion maps, network support and best of all it's GNU license freeware. Click here to visit the official Liquid War website. Click here to watch The Liquid War Movie.

Two From Space
Astronomy Picture of the Day
"If you enjoy space images you have to check these out."

Well, APOD does it again with two in a row to knock your socks off: NGC 604: Giant Stellar Nursery ("Scattered within this cavernous nebula, cataloged as NGC 604, are over 200 newly formed hot, massive, stars") and The International Space Station Expands Again ("The developing International Space Station has changed its appearance yet again."). If you enjoy space images you have to check these out.

Click here to view the large hires image of NGC 604. Click here to view the large hires image of the International Space Station.

Firesign Theatre
Now Playing on NPR
"Learn the surreal truth about over-emotional monsters"

Click here to go to the official Firesign Theatre website. I first heard a Firesign Theatre record when I was 13 or 14 in maybe 1970 or '71. I clearly recall that it was Waiting For The Electrician Or Someone Like Him.I think it melted my brain but in a good way. I liked the mix of satire and surrealism and I became an instant life long fan.

Now you can hear the Firesign Theatre guys ever-regrooving on NPR courtesy of the popular program, All Things Considered. Lo and behold, Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Phil Proctor are doing it on the radio again. Again? Yes, dear friends, and this is fortunate for all of us. From who else are we going to learn the surreal truth about over-emotional monsters, cars that run on kid's dinosaur fantasies, explosive fun-mobiles and homeland security?

To go to the official Firesign Theatre website, click here now.

David Ossman and Phil Austin Peter Bergman and Phil Proctor
Click an image to go to NPR.
Listen to the shows via RealAudio.

Lord of the Rings
"The best postcard view in the solar system."

Click me.My friend Iikka says he wants to live on the moon someday. A fine and quite possible dream given his youthful age of 25. If I had my druthers, however, I'd want to live on one of the many moons of Saturn. I know that this isn't a likely possibility; we'll visit Mars first. But Saturn holds the greatest amount of mystery and wonder for me, and I figure it's the best postcard view in the solar system.

The images of Saturn below are from the Hubble Space Telescope. (Update 11.10.02: -Except the b&w image which is from one of the Voyager or Pioneer missions. Can you see why this should be obvious?) If you want to learn more, go to the Astronomy Picture of the Day website (APOD) and archives. Feast your eyes and fuel your imagination.

Click me. Click me. Click me. Click me. Click me.

The Doctor Fun Page
by David Farley
"That's the kind of combination that I like."

Doctor Fun, David Farley's daily online single panel comic, cracks me up. It's a double whammy. Farley's sense of humor is playfully twisted, and his colorful illustrations are just plain funny drawings -that's the kind of combination that I like.

You can always view the latest Doctor Fun comic here. Click here to visit the The Doctor Fun Page. Click here to view this week's Doctor Fun comics.

Spock Elephants Pirates

certain maxims of archy
A musical tribute to Don Marquis and George Herriman
"Archy typed his poetry by hopping on the typewriter keys"

Archy the cockroach and his unlikely counterpart Mehitabel the alley cat were comic characters ("lowbrow literary creatures") created by newspaper and magazine columnist Don Marquis (1878-1937). George Herriman (1880-1944), who drew the Krazy Kat comic strip, illustrated Archy and Mehitabel for Marquis as well. They were a good team, and their work together endures to this day; Archy and Mehitabel are still in print.

Presented here is my rather odd (dated; anachronistic) musical homage to Marquis and Herriman which I recorded in 1989 with vintage 80's gear; a Tascam 1/4" 8-track, an obscure Roland drum machine, a Roland D-50 keyboard and various medium-grade mics and processors. Later, Pat Callies added guitar solos and remixed the song, the results of which can be downloaded below. Thanks, Pat!

The electronically modified vocal track is a truncated reading from one of Archy's poetic essays entitled, not surprisingly, certain maxims of archy. Note that since Archy typed his poetry by hopping on the typewriter keys, the lack of capitalization and punctuation is unavoidable.

The original poem can be found in its entirety on the official Don Marquis site.

Download certain maxims of archy in mp3 format here (3.2MB).

M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
"You'll know more about deep space than Jerry Garcia"

When I saw a photo of M31 for the first time as a kid, probably on The Outer Limits, I began to understand that man is insignificant in the cosmic scheme, which was somewhat of a relief, and, as Douglas Adams so eloquently pointed out, that space is "really big."

It's one of the first times when you think stoned thoughts...without drugs. "Oh, I get it. The Earth is like a city. Our solar system is like a country. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is like a continent, and the distance between galaxies is like an ocean." Like you get anything at all when you're in fourth or fifth grade, but you think you do, and it gives you new bearings, and if you're like me, it excites the imagination.

All you care about at that age are Hot Wheels, sixth grade bullies and banana seats, and then WHAM, you see something like M31 and it changes you. You begin to grow up a little, and your toys become smaller and less important. You see a spectacle of wonder on an almost inconceivable scale and sense new mysteries that cannot be fully explained. So, you leave your monster movies behind, at least temporarily, and begin to read science fiction.

Within a few short years I would watch Armstrong walk on the moon on TV with my family. With Heinlein and Clarke and Asimov on my shelves, suddenly science fiction had become fact, and I was hooked forever -and the hits just keep on coming.

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is probably the best website for space images on the net. One click a day for a year and you'll know more about deep space than Jerry Garcia ever knew, and the imagery is just as trippy. If you miss a day, it's not a problem. APOD maintains a meticulous archive for your starry perusal.

Click here to visit M31.

Flog the Blog
The Format Test
"I've got you right where I want you."

'Blog' is one of those hip web words which means online journal or diary; it's short for web log. Blogs are very in right now -and since everyone who is anyone has got one, I thought I'd jump on the blogwagon too.

It isn't that I have anything in particular to say, although I may editorialize here from time to time. But when I discover something out of the ordinary, I usually want to share it. I'll use this forum to do so. Treasure is usually buried, and most don't have time to look for it. Consider me as your intrepid prospector. When I stumble across something promising, I'll let you know.

By the way, if you are reading this online, then I've got you right where I want you. Sitting half-naked in your office, swilling Pepto Bismol, listening to Satchmo and cleaning your trombone. We are about to embark together on a metatrivial adventure of indeterminate course and length. You should be prepared for anything...or nothing at all.

Note: At the bottom of each entry, I may post images from time to time, as well as related, or unrelated, links, like this:

Download the recipe for Sled Pie here.

Caricature by Gabriel