An overabundance of doughnut gravy

Apple has rejected a number of iPhone applications from their store recently, because they “duplicate functionality” of Apple applications (or, evidently, of apps Apple might write). Apple is now adding a new wrinkle: they now warn that notification of these rejections is included in non-disclosure agreements.

So, forget for a second that this whole process is stupid, bad business, insipid, and almost certainly illegal. Instead, imagine that you are a developer who gets an app rejected like this. In addition to being angry and disillusioned, you also have a problem: you now can’t tell your fans why the app they are waiting for will never come without violating the NDA. About all you can say is “we have stopped work on this application”. If anyone demands an explanation, all you can say is “we can’t tell you”.

I suggest an alternative solution. Rather than say “we can’t tell you”, explain it with a phrase that has no actual meaning whatsoever, but one that will come to be known to mean “Apple screwed us over with their idiocy but we can’t tell you that”. I offer up the following phrase (which, I must stress, has absolutely nothing to do with the iPhone, Apple or the app store, but is merely a way of stating the inexplicable): “an overabundance of doughnut gravy”. So you might say something like: “We regret to inform you that we have canceled all work on application X. We found we could not continue after suffering from an overabundance of doughnut gravy.”

Virtual film analysis

Having recently completed Awake in the Dark, I was glad to see Roger Ebert’s article on how to read a movie. I immediately started thinking along the lines that some of the commentators did: could this be reasonably done in an on-line way?

I think it could. It wouldn’t be exactly the same as Ebert describes, of course, for some obvious reasons: the crowd would be much larger, the pace would be necessarily slower, the shots to be examined would have to be selected in some way other than yelling “stop”, typing is not the same as speaking, and so on. Even so, it still might be useful. And fun.

I’m tempted to do this myself. Maybe I will if no one else picks up the gauntlet. One way it could work would be like this:

  • Get a domain like
  • Install the latest version of phpBB.
  • Create one forum per film.
  • Use one thread per shot.
  • For each film, one registered user acts as the “host”.
  • Lock down permissions in a forum so that only the “host” can create new threads (i.e. shots) in that forum.
  • The host initiates a shot by creating a new thread containing the shot to be examined, with a number in the subject. The initial post would contain things like the time index and so on.
  • Anyone can then post to the thread.
  • Once some criterion has been reached, a new shot is posted. This could be done in a few ways:
    • Some sort of time limit, say, an hour or two. This forces the experience to work in a “live” way, however, which isn’t what the internet is best at.
    • Some sort of “post count” limit is hit. For example, after 50 or 100 (or whatever) posts to the thread, the next shot starts. This has the advantage that the pace of the process is dictated by interest, moving through shots quickly when a lot of people are posting (i.e. at “peak hours”) and more slowly when fewer are paying attention. Disadvantage is that the cutoff is arbitrary. There will surely be cases where it either cuts off to soon or stalls.
    • Allow the host to move on when he feels the time is right. Would probably be the best choice, but would entirely depend on a good host.
    • Some other method.
  • It might be useful, when moving to a new shot, to lock the previous shot/thread. I can see where this would be helpful. I can also see how it would be a hindrance. Probably a choice left up to the host.
  • It might be interesting if the choice of frames was deterministic (e.g. take one frame exactly every 30 seconds), rather than having the host (or, perhaps, requests from earlier shots) pick out “interesting” frames. On the one hand, this downplays the human element and forces focus onto a place it might not go naturally. On the other hand, this downplays the human element and forces focus onto a place it might not go naturally.
  • Using one film per forum, run several different movies at once.
  • Close down the site after being sued by the MPAA for copyright violations.

It would take quite a while to get through a film. It would also be a project with many built-in “intermissions” from the point of view of the reader. That is, they’d see a few shots, then go on with their day, then see a few more, and so on. This would be a much different concept than sitting in a dark room for several hours at a stretch. I’m guessing it might make the analysis better, but perhaps not.

Who’s up for it? Would you participate in such a thing?

Spam gets three times funnier

Spam filters are now good enough that they suck away the evil crap without me noticing. It’s been a long time since I cared enough to look to see what it was filtering out. On a whim, I did so today and noticed that subject lines have graduated from spelling out the names of erection medicine in fifty million different ways to using provocative “headlines”, which look like over the top news/gossip events. The idea being, I suppose, that if the headline is compelling enough, you take the time to read (or, at least, render) the spam.

I still haven’t read any of the actual mails, but some of these headlines are hilarious. I’m guessing they have some sort of random context-free grammar thing generating them. Sort of like they fight crime, but more obsessed with media whores. Some examples of what I got today:

  • Britney Spears Ditches Music Career, Enters Car Racing
  • Britney Spears Admits “My Vagina Made Me Shave My Head Bald”
  • Angelina Jolie’s Lips Explode
  • Britney Spears’ New Hair Extensions Are Lindsay Lohan’s Pubes (that one’s for you, Rob)
  • Britney Spears Shoots Down American Spy Satellite With Her Vagina
  • Britney Spears Not Bipolar – New World Order Conspiracy Afoot
  • Britney Spears: “Yes, I tried to suck the shine off a bumper”
  • Paris Hilton denies screwing Ron Paul
  • Britney heartbroken as Diana’s Butler beds Winehouse
  • Paris Hilton To Poses For Playboy, followed immediately by another mail claiming Paris Hilton Becomes Nun. Your call on which would be more shocking.
  • Paris Hilton’s Vagina Bites Penguin

The Weekly World News wishes they could make these headlines. I can almost see the “photo” they would use for that last one.


My Sprint cell phone just got a call from Sprint itself. The woman on the line was offering me some sort of perk for being a “loyal customer”. This is ironic, first because I’m about to dump Sprint, but even more so because just as she was telling me what this perk was, the call dropped.


Poker faceAfter digesting James Devlin’s articulate (and still ongoing) series on building a poker bot, an obvious near-term prediction can be made: prepare for a future of bot on bot action. That is, as more knowledge of building software that can play on-line poker masquerading as humans spreads, inevitably the ratio of bots to humans will increase. Far from causing the on-line poker industry to collapse, it will thrive under such conditions, gaining more and more “players”, even as the proportion of actual humans in a virtual seat shrinks. An average of humans-per-table may never hit zero, but it could become vanishingly small. Once it gets lower than 1.0, most on-line poker games will be bots vs. other bots.

A good number of these bots, possibly large subsets of them, will be colluding. Since this requires communication between them in some way, what you will have here are distributed expert systems, programmed for conflict. In short, you’re halfway to Skynet. This, I think, would be a much better story for the Terminator franchise: where Skynet arises out of an intense escalation of poker-bot conflict, and the extermination of the human race is merely the side effect of Skynet’s (successful, though misguided) obliteration of all opposing poker bots.

Devlin’s articles also paint a picture of how disturbingly easy it is to hijack software on the Windows platform. There’s some Skynet potential there as well. For example, it is easy to see how a zombie network could easily become a poker playing powerhouse. Chances are one or more of them already is.

Image from a lego model by robbed.

For all the wrong reasons

I just left a comment on samaBlog kvetching about the tenacity of the stupid Imperial measurement system that continues to thrive in the U.S., as well as the U.K., Liberia and Myanmar. (Measurement is completely arbitrary; you might as well choose a system that at least makes some sense internally. How many inches in a furlong again?) Shortly after, I noticed that (in addition to running out of fours for their signs) some gas stations are now selling gas by the half gallon.

This is, apparently, being done because their pumps don’t support prices higher than $3.999, rather than the psychological reasons you might expect. It would be hilarious, however, if this kind of thing conspires with the price of oil to convert American gas pumps to charge by the liter, essentially using greed, bad hardware programming and laziness to force us kicking and screaming into a new metric dawn.

I also fully recommend that any hydrogen stations that open should use liters, as the price will then look ridiculously low compared to gasoline.