Last night I downloaded the Eclipse Java IDE to try to make a little progress on Bonaguil. Wow. Suffice it to say that I was bitter that I had to go in to work today and work in an environment without it. It is the best IDE I’ve ever used, and I’ve tried quite a few. It’s like music, love, and cookies all rolled up into one convenient package and available for free download. Read On →

Madness and the Minotaur

![coco](/weblog/images/articles/coco- thumb.jpg) “cloadm” Slot machines, so the theory goes, are addictive precisely because of the randomness of the payoff. It’s not simply the possibility of winning that draws players, but the hypnotic, chaotic patternlessness of winning and losing that sucks them in. Videogames work this way too, sometimes. D.B. Weiss’s otherwise undistinguished book Lucky Wander Boy does have the germ of an idea in exploring the (fictional), eponymous arcade game, which was both exceedingly difficult and surrealist. Read On →


According to, the English version of the second part of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis comes out at the end of this month. I may not be able to wait. Additional Resources The preorder page at Amazon is making me salivate. If you haven’t read the first part of Persepolis, just stop what you’re doing right now and go buy it. Really. It’s that good.

Software Development Considered Harmful

Those of us who develop software are familiar with all sorts of bonehead mistakes. I use “bonehead” in this context as a term of endearment – we all do stupid things like forget to initialize some value or forget to close a brace now and then. And there are plenty of discussions, in books and elsewhere, about the sorts of mistakes that new programmers make. That’s not what I’m going to talk about today. Read On →

Chateau-Fort de Bonaguil

[![bonaguil-front]( front-thumb.jpg)]( front.JPG) [Chateau-Fort de Bonaguil]( /bonaguil-front.JPG) In the latter years of the 15th century, after losing a lawsuit brought against him by his vassals, the Baron Berenger de Roqueteuil is reported to have said: By Lord Jesus and all the saints of his glorious Paradise, I will raise a manor house that neither my unpleasant subjects will be able to take, nor English if they have the audacity to return there, nor even the powerful soldiers of King of France. Read On →

What I've Played.

It’s been about a year since I bought that xbox. Here’s what I’ve learned. This started out as a simple list of pithy generalizations. But, after looking around and noticing that many of my points had been made by others, I decided to focus on a few issues in the context of specific games that I have played. Wage slave games Project Gotham Racing 2 and Madden Football are nearly perfect games for the wage slave, with Gotham having the slight advantage. Read On →

Bonaguil 0.1

Because I’m kinda thickheaded, I spent my weekend vacation programming a game. That’s my idea of relaxation. I’m funny that way. ![Bonaguil]( close.jpg) Bonaguil (click to play) This is a bare-bones reimplementation of the SSI-published Apple ][ strategy game Fortress, (“A game of strategic development and fortification”) which combines elements of Go and Chess, although it is much less sophisticated than either of those games. I don’t know if this was based on some actual board game; I suspect not, since the scoring is irritating enough that I can’t imagine doing it without a machine’s help. Read On →

Tour de France Primer, part 2

With the race over, this is obviously a good time to write the second part of my little stage racing primer. This part focuses primarily on tactics and strategy. Each rider and team goes into the Tour with different goals and expectations. Most teams are there to try and win a couple of stages and get into breakaways so their sponsor logos are on TV for a while. A few teams with strong sprinters will try and win the Green jersey. Read On →

That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, Part 1

![apb]( thumb.jpg) APB APB (“All Points Bulletin”) was an Atari arcade game designed by Dave Theurer, who also made the classic games Missile Command, _Tempest _-- the best arcade game ever made, for my money – and I, Robot. It was the forebear of the original, overhead view Grand Theft Auto games. It was primarily a driving game; you were a police officer, and had a certain amount of time to arrest a certain number of miscreants (hitchhikers, litterers, speeders, etc. Read On →

Time Travel

HOUR 1: Hey! Guys! I got DOOM 3! Whooooooo! HOUR 2: Stupid installer erased my datebook. HOUR 3: OK, it’s running. Why is everything so slow? What the hell? DAY 2: Got new videocard at CompUSA. Runs OK now, when not crashing. DAY 3: Couldn’t take crashing. Bought new computer. DAY 3: Still crashing. Hate everyone. DAY 4: No friends playing; computers all too slow. Maybe play with strangers? DAY 5: 13 year old kids humiliating me. Read On →


![Shelf of old videogames and computers]( thumb.jpg) [Shelf 1 (of 4)]( shelf.jpg) Nostalgia, in general, is an emotion that I am suspicious of. We grow by moving forward, and though sometimes that involves looking back introspectively, nostalgia is the opposite of introspection: it is the fetishism of the past. Some part of the past is thought of as good because it wells up nostalgic feelings, rather than because of anything one can qualify objectively. Read On →

DVD Menus: A Desperate Plea

Here is what happens to me on a regular basis when trying to access the various “extras” on a DVD release: - Put DVD into player. - Watch the FBI warning for 5 minutes while the controls on the player are locked out. - Watch 5 minute cut scene from the movie or whatever. - Watch for 5 minutes as the menu animates into the screen. - Click around at random with the arrow keys on my DVD remote and squint at the screen to see if the state changed at all. Read On →

Hockenheim: Quote of the Race

Heinz Pruiller, a commentator for ORF TV in Austria was asked “How many more races is Michael Schumacher going to win before the end of the year?” He looked at Speed TV’s David Windsor as if he were daft, and answered: “All of them. All of them.” He paused, briefly. “All of them.”

Latter Days

Latter Days For those unfamiliar with it, Cerebus is mixed-media pictures and text, black and white ink on paper, originally released as 20 page bound pamphlets, periodically bound into folios referred to as “phonebooks.” That’s how you’d describe it in a museum, anyway. A more concise description would be “Cerebus is a graphic novel.” A less pretentious description would be “Cerebus is a comic book.” The most recent “phone book”, covering the penultimate chapters of Dave Sim’s epic work, is entitled Latter Days. Read On →

The Tour De France, a Primer

Now that we’re more than two weeks into this year’s race, I thought I’d write a short primer on the basics of what is going on in the race so you all can keep it in mind for next year. I know I should have done this before, but I was busy. Sue me. The Tour De France is a three week race organized into stages. Each stage goes from a start point to an end point. Read On →

The Problem with Data that is Meta

Talk to geeks the world over, and they will wax lyrical about all the ways in which meta-data will save the world. It will make your disk searchable. It will provide a semantic framework for WWW content. It will allow tools from different vendors to manage your workflow and asset files. It can form the basis for archiving your digital life. Sadly, it’s all a lie. The problem here is that by its nature, the data that is meta is still data, and therefore it is subject to all the same problems that the original data had in the first place: Read On →

The Spice Must Flow

If there’s one annoying trend that has permeated Asian cuisine as prepared and served throughout America, it’s that I can hardly find a place where a server doesn’t ask me “How spicy? 1 to 10?” You don’t ask me how much salt I want in the dishes that come out from the kitchen. You don’t ask how much sugar you should put in the cheesecake. You don’t offer me a choice of an omelette fried in yummy butter, healthy duck fat, or disgusting institutionalized margarine. Read On →

Overheard At Enrico's

![Enrico’s]( thumb.jpg) Photo courtesy Peter Su Enrico’s Biscotti is one of the treasures of our town, and is surrounded by legends, myths, and stories, passed on by word of mouth from person to person. When they stopped selling daily lunch in the back room – a converted auto garage – in preparation for opening their trendier Shadyside location, I was depressed for a week. Recently, the back room opened again for lunch on Saturdays. Read On →

California and Me, a Short Interlude

I grew up in Massachusetts, and now have lived in Pittsburgh for about the last ten years. Because I work in the computer industry I am forced to travel to California against my will. I have spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley and even a summer in Pasadena. All this time in CA has lead to one inevitable conclusion: On balance, I hate the place. Now, don’t get me wrong. Read On →

Gmail Invites: Going for a Song

It makes me somewhat disgusted that people are still trying to profit off of gmail invites, “selling” them on craigslist and elsewhere for $5, $10, etc. I mean, how desperate do you have to be? What happened? Did the blood bank stop accepting your plasma? Did your attempt to corner the suburban lemonade stand market fail when some sixth graders moved in on your turf? Did no one join your Ponzi scheme? Read On →

Famous Last Words

If you’re a software developer for long enough, you’ll hear certain things throughout your career that almost never, ever, ever turn out to be true. Here’s a partial list of some of the more popular lies and simply wrong things you’ll hear. “Every bug fixed will have a unit test demonstrating that it is fixed.” “All APIs will have complete and accurate documentation.” “We always write a complete spec before beginning the implementation. Read On →

Folding Shirts

![Cloth folding]( folding.jpg) Om mani padme hum Here’s a short movie -- not by me – on how to fold a shirt to such a perfect, crisp shape that its very existence provides nearly irrefutable evidence of the presence of a pantheon of benevolent and all-knowing Clothing Gods. I find it compelling. I find it hypnotic. I can’t stop watching it, over and over again, hoping to absorb how to perform such household magic. Read On →


The land that Pittsburgh sits on is a rumpled place, a piece of rough cloth thrown carelessly on the table. A very long time ago, this place was a flat plain made up of the debris washed down from the left side of the decaying Appalachian mountains. This grand flatness was then itself carved up and out by rivers and kills and everything in between, leaving a landscape of close valleys and hills of oddly similar height. Read On →

Mistakes Were Made

The walnut cake movie is the first movie I’ve made in a while. It was made without any planning or forethought. Every time I make a movie, I screw it up in new and interesting ways. Here’s what I learned from my screwups this time: I’m deeply unhappy with the voiceover. Without a real mic, I was reduced into shouting into the lousy condenser mic in my laptop, which sounds about as bad as you’d expect. Read On →

À la recherche du temps a noix

![hodo kwaja]( thumb.jpg) hodo kwaja Hodo kwaja is a Korean filled sweet that is shaped like a walnut. In the mid- 1930s, a Korean baker (one Mr. Cho Kwigum) was apparently contemplating a madeleine and said to himself “You know what would be great? It would be great if there was stuff inside of this thing.” He gave it a distinctive walnut shaped mold, chose a popular filling, and named it, and Korea has loved them ever since. Read On →


![mangosteens]( pg) Mangosteens The mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana L) is perhaps the most treasured of the tropical fruits, and virtually unknown in the US except among those fortunate enough to travel abroad. They’re not legal to import to the US because of concerns about fruit fly infestations; but you can find them on the street markets in Chinatown in Toronto. It’s an exceptionally attractive fruit, with a thick, royal purple skin and a tomato-like green stem up top. Read On →

Offal in Koreatown

There’s not really very much that I won’t eat, or at least that I won’t try. This weekend in Toronto I got to cross one of the long-standing entries off the list of foods I have knowingly ducked: pig intestines, which we call “chitterlings” or “chitlins” around these parts. Offal is not generally a really big part of the standard American diet. Growing up in the Jewish tradition I probably had more than your average kid – Grandma’s chopped liver was great, and I loved stuffed derma and kishka (which are basically simple, salty chicken fat sausages). Read On →


Marcus Gronholm’s co-driver Timo Rautiainen was injured when a metal bar lying in the road pierced the undercarriage of their Peugeot 307, and the seat, and Timo’s backside. It was at this moment that viewers everywhere learned that it is entirely possible to rattle off driving directions in Finnish while, at the same time, cursing in English. Gronholm, understandably, stopped the car to make sure that Timo was OK. When interviewed after the stage, he described it thusly: Read On →

There is Magic Yet In Pittsburgh

Find a map of Pittsburgh and spread it out upon the table. Make it a good map, detailed enough to show all of the actual streets downtown and surrounding, perhaps even the paper ones that fly off into space above the rivers or worm their old ways under newer steel and stone. Put your finger on the Monongahela river where it reforms itself into half of the Ohio. Begin to drag it east, up the channel. Read On →


It was in a small auberge in the Dordogne, in the south-west of France, maybe forty-five minutes from the town of Villeneuve-sur-lot, where I encountered the perfect fried potatoes. I was dining with my parents, my sister, and a somewhat vegetarian friend. I, of course, went straight for the foie gras over arugula, among other things, but my mother and sister got the crayfish, which came with pommes frittes. Jennifer, the vegetarian, picked at the fries and soon started wolfing them down. Read On →

Hiro Sushi

We were in Toronto for the weekend a couple of weeks ago. For those who don’t know, Toronto is a great food town only 4 or 5 hours drive from Pittsburgh. In particular, we have found Chinese and Japanese food in Toronto that is as good or better than anything I’ve had in North America. One of these most excellent establishments is Hiro Sushi. I have never personally had better sushi than at Hiro Sushi. Read On →


For too many years i’ve been forced to take road trips to Washington, DC, Toronto, or Cleveland when I had the desire for Ethiopian food. A new restaurant, Abay, has opened up in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh (on Highland Avenue). To say I’m pleased would be an understatement. The space is warmly lit, unassuming, and uncluttered; it seats about 50 to 60 comfortably. The menu is still under development, but has a decent variety of vegetarian, beef, and chicken options (I did not see any lamb on the menu, which makes me a bit sad). Read On →

Groundhog Day

Having to deal with yet another bad designer’s stupid implementation of “save points” is the worst part of being a console gamer. Almost everyone gets it at least a little bit wrong. Many designers get it very wrong. A few game designers get it so wrong that you want them to be put into suspended animation and then revived only when the Earth has been conquered by a race of technologically advanced yet horribly malicious alien beings who will transport them into a whirling nightmarish dimension of transinfinite pain. Read On →

Name Change

All the URLs are the same, but starting today we are “Tea Leaves,” since the related project with that name is going dark. If any of the participants in the tleaves project want to have a place to hang their hat here, just let me know.

Depressing Software Thought

It’s the year 2004, and I am helping my parents configure their brand new Thinkpad to talk a completely standard wireless access point, and it is so painful that it is beyond the power of language to express.


![sign]( thumb.jpg) [Click to enlarge]( sign.jpg) After September 11th, the sign board became a way for suburban America to express solidarity. All down any given highway you could see hundreds of small storefronts asking us to pray for the victims, to support our troops, and in some cases crying out for vengeance. For some reason, I was transfixed by this. Something about the grass-roots nature of it moved me. I’m kicking myself for not taking more photos of them at the time. Read On →


![Jack in the Box]( mb.jpg) Jack in the Box Idlewild is an amusement park about 40 minutes east of Pittsburgh, near the historic town of Ligonier. It’s positioned as a “family” amusement park, and definitely caters to kids, particularly younger kids. There are a few thrill rides here, but apart from a small (though worthy) old wooden coaster, you won’t find rides here that you wouldn’t find at a local fair. Read On →

Berry Scandal

![ripe-berries]( thumb.jpg) [Ripening berries ]( I’ve been talking for the past few weeks about how proud I am of my wild blackberries, how I have great plans to protect them and hug them and love them and call them George. But something has been gnawing at my subconscious, and yesterday it dawned on me. Blackberries are supposed to have their cores intact. Are these really blackberries? Maybe they’re not. Maybe they are black raspberries. Read On →

Seen at Indy

The highlight of the Indianapolis Formula 1 Grand Prix qualifying session for me was seeing some enterprising fans holding up a hand-made sign which read: “Team McLaren: New Tech Center - $300 million Drivers - $17 million 3 Points behind Sauber - Priceless”

Workaday Port

Quinta do Noval Every so often some bureaucrat at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board screws up when filling out the computerized order form and ends up accidentally ordering 300 cases of some wine when he meant to order 30. When this happens, good wines go on sale. This has apparently happened with the Quinta do Noval LB Porto. Typically, this unpedigreed port would sell for between $15 - $18 a bottle. Read On →

Blackberry harvest

Can’t talk. Busy eating blackberries! Pictures tomorrow.

Are You Experienced?

I play games; a lot of games. Many of the games I play are computer games. Some of those are of the broad category called “Role-Playing Games,” or RPGs. There are many definitions of this, but a simplified one is: if it sounds sort of like Dungeons and Dragons, it’s a role playing game. I’ve been thinking about the mechanics of these games, and I am judging them and finding them wanting. Read On →

Greetings from Azkaban Park, New Jersey

Watching the third Harry Potter movie is a bit like watching someone drive an aging, souped up car: when they improve the engine, it just makes how the car’s suspension creaks through the corners more obvious. [] ( Harry / Hermione Slash. You know it’s coming In the earlier, worse movies, it was easy to ignore the underperforming actors and actresses, because Chris Columbus' (Home Alone) direction was so ox- stunningly, earth shakingly bad. Read On →

Chinese Food in Pittsburgh

After my rant about P. F. Chang’s you might ask, “Pete, where do you get chinese food you like in Pittsburgh?”. Ten or so years ago, my answer would have been “I call my mom and ask her to come into town.” Happily, things have gotten better since the dark days of the mid to late 80s and early 90s. Now I believe that there are four places in town that it is safe to bring your Chinese Mother Who Can Cook for a meal and stand a fairly good chance of not completely blowing it. Read On →

The Nexus of Pittsburgh Food

Pete wrote about Penn Mac the other day, which brings up the larger subject of the Strip in general and in particular, that part of the Strip which is really the Nexus of almost all the good food in Pittsburgh. This nexus lies in that area of Penn Avenue within a couple of blocks of 21st street on either side of the actual crossing. Here, in a square that is about half a block on each side, you wil find a group of establishments that are either the source of some of the best food in town, the source of the best raw materials in town, or just a group of people who are connected to almost all the good food in town. Read On →

The “recent bookmarks” on the sidebar come from one of Joshua Schachter’s projects, Amusingly, I think I might have set this off when complaining on zephyr a few years ago about bookmark management – I use too many computers for local bookmark lists to be of any use at all. I kept whining and whining about how I wanted a way to not just access the same bookmarks from different computers, but easily, trivially add them from anywhere, too. Read On →

Today's Political Song:

Ding, Dong! The Witch is Dead!


It’s nice living in a town with a decent cheesemonger. ![Penn Mac]( thumb.jpg) [Penn Mac ]( The unfortunately named Pennsylvania Macaroni Company is the go-to place in Pittsburgh. Located in the culinary center of town, the Strip, Penn Mac provides brusque, unsentimental service and a decent array of interesting cheeses at reasonable prices; 1 pound minimum. Their selection covers an impressive, though not encyclopedic, array of cheesy comestibles. If you go on a Saturday, when it’s packed, please know what you want in advance and don’t dither. Read On →

Software Engineering Terms: A Lexicon

Software engineering is a scientific discipline, as well as an art. Like many such fields, it has developed specific terminology and jargon, whose meaning may be subtly different or even completely opposite to what one would guess. In the interests of spreading enlightenment among budding software engineers, we have prepared this brief lexicon that covers some of the more important terms you may encounter in your career in software development: Read On →

Software Engineers: A lexicon

I’ve been working at software companies for the last 15 or so years of my life. In this time, I’ve worked with a lot of people who call themselves software engineers. The following is a collection of shallow, unfair, insulting and overly general classifications of the types of people you will run into if you get into this business. It’s up to the reader to figure out which category I fall into. Read On →