Saturday, October 14, 2006

My Favorite Blogger Errors

Collect 'em all!

1) Your request could not be processed. Please try again.

2) Files published…0%...Files published…0%...Files published…0%...Files published…0%

3) There were errors. (Hide details ...)

001 EOF while reading from control connection

4) The connection was reset

The connection to the server was reset while the page was loading.

* The site could be temporarily unavailable or too busy. Try again in a few moments.

* If you are unable to load any pages, check your computer's network connection.

* If your computer or network is protected by a firewall or proxy, make sure that Firefox is permitted to access the Web.

5) Blogger Problem

This server is currently experiencing a problem. An engineer has been notified and will investigate.

Status code: 1-500-36

6) Try publishing your post 5 times and get nowhere 5 times according to the fun 0% dealie. Then check your blog and discover 5 identical posts. Attempt to delete 4 of them. Get one of the other errors. Repeat.

Now, I know it would be too much to expect a small-time mom-and-pop operation like Google to get its act together and run a blogging service with the uptime of your average Geocities page, but I haven't given up hope. After all, I'm still using them, aren't I? (Quietly calculating how long it would take to switch all my posts over to...any suggestions?)

But maybe the creative hackery and network outages of the past month or so have finally gotten their attention. Why, just listen to their PR person: "We know how important Blogger is to our users, so we take issues like this very seriously."

While Google is busy taking this all very seriously, feel free to post any errors I've missed in the comments below. If that particular function is working today.

Friday, October 06, 2006

2006 Ig Nobel Prizes Announced

The Annals of Improbable Research has announced the winners of the 2006 Ig Nobel Prizes, the slightly less prestigious counterpart of the Nobel Prizes awarded this month. Scientific breakthroughs honored this year included:

  • An explanation for why woodpeckers don't get headaches

  • The invention of a teenager repellant, which emits an annoying noise audible to teenagers but not most adults

  • Why the sound of fingernails on a blackboard is so bloody awful

  • A paper entitled "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage." Which pretty much speaks for itself, I think.

    Read all about these and the other Ig Nobel Prizes in the Annals of Improbable Research.

  • Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    Dead llama dumped on the street in Oakland. Yeah, it's a rough town

    The SF Chronicle has just reported that a dead llama was found dumped in the middle of the street on 89th Ave in Oakland's scenic eastern precincts. For some reason its legs were tied, though the authorities claim there's no sign of foul play and the unfortunate beast appears to have died of old age. So obviously the Chronicle's in on the cover-up. My personal theory is that a rogue gang of ruthless alpacas is expanding into East Oakland, which has historically been llama turf. Read all about it.

    Monday, July 10, 2006

    New rules for soccer - a modest proposal

    Having just finished watching the World Cup with a mixture of boredom, disillusionment, and the occasional short-lived burst of excitement, I'd like to make a modest proposal that I feel will dramatically improve this beloved game we know as soccer, or football, or futbol, or footie, or kick-ye-the-ball, etc.

    As I see it, far too much time is wasted by players running incessantly around the field, attempting to dribble the ball around other players only to be tripped up and stomped upon, passing to their teammates only to be intercepted, and attempting time after time to score goals only to be blocked by the opposing defenders and their goalie. Countless hours are consumed by such pointless activities, and all too often, players are seriously injured by collisions with each other, with the ball, with the field, with the goal, and various combinations thereof. What a shameful waste of time and talent!

    After watching this latest World Cup, I think we can all agree that soccer is really about penalty kicks, corner kicks, and other set pieces. A disproportionate number of goals are scored this way, and all the running around, collisions, falling down, rolling about in agony, etc. are clearly intended to produce opportunities for free kicks and their ilk. And if the free kicks scored during the game don't give one team a clear advantage, the penalty kick shootout at the end will. For instance, in the World Cup final yesterday...what an inspiring ending! So if you aren't scoring on free kicks of one sort or another, you clearly aren't playing soccer.

    Therefore, I propose that we streamline this revered sport by cutting right to the chase and basing all scoring entirely on free kicks. Fortunately, an excellent model already exists in the time-honored playground game of H-O-R-S-E. While H-O-R-S-E originated on the basketball court, it could work equally well on the soccer pitch. For those unfamiliar with this noble pastime, here are its rules - rules I think you'll find truly elegant in their simplicity:

    The game may be played with as few as 2 people, and as many as desired. The only skill required is shooting; no player is allowed to defend. [For soccer the goalie would be kept since it's such fun to watch him dive and flail about.]

    With 2 players, the first player may shoot from anywhere on the court [aka pitch]. There is no penalty if the first player misses; the second player then gets to shoot from anywhere on the court. If either player makes their shot, the next player must make the same shot from the same position; if the next player misses, they get a "letter" from the word "horse". The first player is again free to shoot from another spot on the court, however the player may not shoot from a spot where a shot was already made in the same game. A player is knocked out of the game once they have enough letters to spell out the word "horse;" the last player remaining wins.

    The game is essentially the same with 3 or more players but the rules may vary slightly. [Imagine three soccer teams competing at once - what an innovation! "And Brazil makes the shot, and stays at 'H' - and now Italy makes the shot as well, and they're safe at 'H' too - but it's bad news for France, as Henry misses! Sorry France, I'm afraid it's 'H-O' for you. They're raging in the brothels of Montmartre right now, I can tell you that! And what's this? It appears Zidane has set fire to an Italian player's jersey - oh, the humanity!"

    Often, the shots in H-O-R-S-E are trick shots that are rarely, if ever, taken in a real game; although unlikely, if the shot succeeds, the opponent is much more likely to miss and therefore receive a letter. Elaborate routines and "call" shots, such as "off the backboard" or "left-handed hook shot," are frequently allowed, and the shooter's actions must be followed exactly for the next player's shot to be considered good. [Yet another advantage of H-O-R-S-E - instead of waiting around for hours to see a creative or exciting shot, you'd get to see them all the time, as players strive to outdo each other for the honor of team and country. Each player on a team would step up and make the most challenging shots of which he's capable, striving to make things as difficult as possible for the opponent who must equal his prowess or receive the dreaded letter.]

    To keep things interesting, why confine ourselves to H-O-R-S-E? Why not use different words from the respective languages of the competing teams? "Schadenfreude," for instance, or "prosciutto". What a stellar opportunity to build cross-cultural understanding while improving the vocabularies of foreign language students everywhere!

    So who's with me? Isn't it time we retire all the tedious "passing" and "dribbling" that's led to so much wasted time, so many lost scoring opportunities, and so many players brought down in their prime? Let's join together in shouting "Hurrah for H-O-R-S-E!" Post your support in the comments and I'll forward our humble petition to FIFA in time for the next meeting of their rules committee.

    (Thanks to Wikipedia for the Rules of H-O-R-S-E.)

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Sea lion runs amok at the Berkeley Marina

    The Berkeley Marina, one of the more idyllic spots in the East Bay and where I once embarked on an ill-advised fishing trip, has recently been terrorized by a 1500 pound male sea lion, who seems convinced it's his turf. 1500 pounds is a lot of sea lion -- for comparison, a classic VW Bug tips the scales at about 1786 pounds, though a newer one weighs quite a bit more, especially with a jet engine installed. So an angry male sea lion driving an old Beetle could easily have a combined weight of over 3000 pounds, not something I'd care to see hurtling down the street anytime soon.

    Anyway, enough with the weights and measures, there's marauding wildlife on the loose. According to the SF Chronicle, the sea lion's most notorious assault was an attempt to drag the crew member of a fishing boat into the water by biting her leg, after which a tug of war ensued with another crew member who had the presence of mind to grab her arm. Being bitten by a surly sea mammal and then pulled in two directions, especially with 1500 pounds on one side of the equation, really can't have been a lot of fun. I hope she got a tetanus shot afterwards, too; lacking opposable thumbs, sea lions are not known for their oral hygiene.

    Since California state law prohibits harassing sea lions, even those prone to harassment themselves, marina folk had to petition the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for permission to fend off the raging pinniped with the admirably humane strategy of spraying him in the face with hoses. Which doesn't sound that bad to me, particularly on a hot day down at the docks, but then I'm not a sea lion. Maybe it's like kryptonite for them.

    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    See if your home will escape rising sea levels!

    A friend has just alerted me to one of the best uses of online mapping software yet devised -- helping you plan your future relocation once rising sea levels have inundated your home! You can use the handy pulldown menu in the upper left corner to choose the potential increase in sea level. In case you're wondering, which you ought to be, some predictions call for a 7 meter rise over the next 50 years. (For those unfamiliar with the exotic, Eurotic ways of the metric system, a "meter" is just over three feet, what we right-thinking folk call a "yard". Fascinating, eh? It's like taking a trip to Europe, it is!)

    As luck would have it, my Oakland, CA domicile will escape a 7 meter rise by at least a half-mile. News this good makes me want to go burn some tires in the yard, barbecue an endangered salmon, and finally, as the sun sets behind a pretty petro-haze, drive a vintage 8-cylinder automobile to the beach and leave it idling while I frolic in the ever-rising tide.

    For the rest of you closer to sea level, fret not, many a happy home has been built atop stilts. In other good news, local lagoon Lake Merritt will fulfill its destiny and finally be reunited with the sea.

    Yes, now you can see Waterworld the way it should've been made -- on a global scale, and without Kevin Costner.

    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    New MSN AdCenter doesn't support Firefox browser. How very surprising.

    OK, this is more a tech rant than a real strange/true post, but true to form, Microsoft refuses to let you navigate their new search advertising site with arch-competitor and damn fine browser Firefox. Shocking, I know. Given that my curiosity about this new product outweighs my Firefox loyalty (albeit barely), I guess it's time to fire up the creaky IE browser I have lying around here somewhere. Now if I can only remember where I left it. Somewhere in the Program Files, maybe? No way I'd leave it someplace so obvious as the desktop. Maybe behind this pile of dirty socks?

    For those of you who don't give a rat's ass about such petty foolery, apologies for the digression. We'll be back to bigfoots and lake monsters and jet cars shortly.