Grunen Holle

![Nordschliefe map]( g) Nordschliefe. Kinda. My new favorite site, Autoblog, has pointed out a fabulous article on [learning to drive the Nordschleife]( ection_id=7&article_id=1340&page_number=1&preview=). Project Gotham Racing fans, start saving for airfare to Frankfurt. The Nordschliefe vies with Belgium’s Spa for the distinction of being one of the most famous and unforgiving road courses in the world. In 13 miles (!) it has over 100 corners (!!), and elevation changes that are more suited to an air show than a road race. Read On →


I’m not much of a gardener. A few years ago, I had a blackberry bramble growing in my back yard, and I killed it. ![primocane]( thumb.jpg) Primocane Ironically, I killed it when trying to weed around it to give it space to grow. I broke a cane near the bramble that didn’t look – to me – like part of the bramble – it was a single sticky-uppy cane, with no flowers, and no fruit. Read On →

Les bluets

Summer brings with it blueberries, as suddenly the geography of the world food distribution network becomes clear. One day, little 6 ounce packages of Mexican blueberries sell for $4. The next day, $3 buys you a pint of berries from South Carolina. And so it goes, through the summer, the prices getting lower and the berries getting better and being shipped from further north. As autumn arrives, there is a last gasp of late Canadian blueberries, and then finally we return to meagre, shrunken berries from distant lands south of the equator. Read On →


I’ve invited psu to join me in this little writing adventure, which means the name – Tea and Peterb – will no longer be appropriate. Besides, secretly I hated that name anyway. Suggestions are welcome.

Classic Music is Dead (or at least Terminal)

Events have conspired this week to bring up a topic that I find sort of near and dear to my heart and yet simultaneously deeply depressing. That topic is the state of “classical” music in our modern times. Growing up, my father listened to nothing but classical music in the same way he read no paper except the New York Times. Once you hear the best, he reasoned, nothing else is interesting. Read On →

City of Heroes

In the mid-80’s, Saturday’s were for going over to Junot Diaz’s apartment (yes, “that” Junot Diaz) where we’d go into the basement and play role-playing games. I’d say we played “all day and all night,” but really they played all day and all night, and I’d play for just a couple of hours until my mother called and yelled at me to come home, because she thought it was unhealthy for a teenage boy to spend 14 hours in the basement playing D&D (personal to mom: OK, 20 years have passed and I can admit it. Read On →

Why Google Mail is Better than is a desktop mail application for NeXT/Macos with a long development history. It does POP, IMAP, and so on. Has a rich UI. But it blows and Google mail does not. I’ve been using day in and day out for the last 3 or 4 years, as my current job involves working with Macs a lot. I’ve come to a sort of grudging peace with the application, not pushing beyond the functionality that I know works fairly well. Read On →

Vegan cats

This story makes me angry. It’s about vegans who feed their cats vegan diets. Cats, you see, are obligate carnivores. Feeding them a diet without meat (or rather, with amino acids that are only found in adequate quantities in meat) is abuse. I can understand people who don’t eat animal products because they think it is cruel or exploitative, even though I don’t share that belief. But I have nothing but contempt for people who have ethical objections to eating any animal product, but delight in torturing their pet. Read On →

Cousin-Lovin' Haiku

A number of people have commented on my mockery of “Cousin Lovin' Poetry," responding with detailed and impassioned screeds about how I don’t understand genetics, how the Bible thinks that people who have sex with their cousins are morally superior to those that don’t, how in Saudi Arabia cousin-lovin' is the norm, how Europeans are so much more sophisticated than Americans about this issue, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum. The lack of perspective on this is hilarious. Read On →

Paris in the Springtime

Microsoft has released their first downloadable content for Project Gotham Racing 2, including a bunch of cars I’ll never be able to afford and a whole new city: Paris. ![paris comparison]( thumb.jpg) Paris Comparison (click to enlarge) I don’t particularly care about the new cars – Gotham already has more than enough cars to hold my interest – but I’ve been eager to drive down the Champs-Elysees since I got the game. Read On →

Stop me

Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before: Once again the consumer bit of my brain has gotten the sickness, and I have the urge to upgrade my “gaming” PC. I am fighting it tooth and nail. Those really are derision quotes around “gaming,” since most of the games I actually want to run on my PC – like Warlords II -- don’t actually run on modern versions of Windows. Read On →


On the confusingly named Google Blog – the one not run by Google – Aaron Schwartz opines that gmail’s security isn’t strong enough: …[Gmail] should use public-key encryption. (This part will be a bit technical.) When you create a Gmail account, your computer creates a keypair. The public key is sent to Google. The private key is encrypted with a password you choose, and the encrypted version is sent to Google. Read On →

Corporate Food is Evil

I normally don’t just link to other people’s entries. It’s against my philosophy. But rules are made to be broken. psu goes completely insane about how P.F. Chang’s (and its equivelent alter-ethnic wannabe brethren) are destroying the American palate and wallet, and it’s just such a righteous rant that I have to share it with you: Lost in all of this is the fact that even in a relative backwater like Pittsburgh there are smaller, cheaper, better places that are far more deserving of your dollars. Read On →

Banh Mi

How do you know it’s Spring in Pittsburgh? When Lucy, the best Banh Mi vendor in the world (aka “The Saigon Sandwich Lady”) sets up her outdoor stand and starts vending her wares. photo:Krista Schinagl, Post-Gazette A good Banh Mi (literally “French Sandwich,” colloquially “Saigon Sandwich”) is a transcendent experience. Along with Pho, their beef noodle soup, it is empirical evidence for classifying the Vietnamese palate as the best in the world. Read On →

P.F. Chang's: Why it's evil.

Places like this represent a new trend in the marketing of what is essentially bad fast food towards a more lucrative audience. A couple of years ago, my new job took me to a set of offices that were situated close to a new retail complex in the Pittsburgh area. The complex was anchored by a large cineplex and a few “box restaurants” and a few more “box stores”. At some point, one of the “box restaurants” that opened was a chain of apparently high reputation called P. Read On →

Ask The Game Geek

![Sabotage Instructions]( inst-thumb.jpg) Intro screen To the person who arrived at my site googling for “apple II games remake download old parachute”: The name of the game you’re looking for is “Sabotage,” and you can get it [here]( images/games/action/ It should play in any halfway decent Apple II emulator. I liked Sabotage. It was one of my default “pick up” games that you could always rely on when you wanted something quick and fun. Read On →

Dear Game Industry:

Booth Babes at E3 Enough with the porn stars and cheesecake girls at your conferences. I know you think that everyone who buys games is 17 years old and in a state of arrested development, but we’re not. So cut it out, already. It’s embarassing. OK? PS: Also, reuse more code, you dorks.

C64 vs. Atari 800

The thing about boys and their toys is we’ve just got to argue about whose is bigger. Microsoft employee Mike Fullerton [has had it with his Mac]( 9a15-363a019d81cf) because all software for the Mac sucks. Meanwhile, over at Mac and Back, an intrepid ex-Mac user sold his Powerbook and has replaced it with a Dell Inspiron, and has discovered that all software for Windows sucks. Really, this shouldn’t surprise anyone: all software sucks. Read On →

The Grail of Yendor

Random thoughts on the meta-design of roguelike games, preserved here so I don’t lose them. In the late ’80s, I nearly failed out of college playing urogue, a rogue derivative by Herb Chong that, as near as I can tell, was heavily based on AT&T’s Advanced Rogue. I was quite addicted. I liked it even compared to the then-more-advanced Hack, because it seemed simpler, more elegant somehow. In the late ’90s, I tried compiling urogue on the then current x86 systems, Linux and NetBSD, and the build failed utterly. Read On →

High End Wine Battle

Since I tend to wax rhapsodic about the great dessert wines I encounter, it’s only fair that I mention the losers. This season’s big loser was La Tunella tocai friulano. To be fair, this is really my fault. Although I am American, I do know a little geography, and I knew going in to this that Tokaji is not, in fact, located in the Friuli province of Italy. So, I got what I deserve: a nasty, attenuated wine that had the consistency, nose, and taste of oversweetened grapefruit juice. Read On →

Losing My Religion

Jack Chick has a new tract, and I am once again nearly speechless: I have a hard time seeing straight when I have to look intolerance in the face. It’s an issue that hits very close to home with me. As an adult, I’ve managed to order my life such that, most of the time, when we’re not in an election year, I can pretend that most people, most of the time, aren’t hateful. Read On →


He’s insanely talented. He has won Grand Prix after Grand Prix, and seems absolutely invulnerable. The gods love him. He can take certain defeat and, using a seemingly endless reserve of luck, skill, and cojones, turn it into a victory. His rivals seethe with bitterness and jealousy, and fans wonder if the sport will ever be free of his domination. I am speaking, of course, about MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi. Read On →

On the Tragedy of St. Nicholas' Greek Food Festival

When spanakopita is wet and lame there is no pastry quite so false and weak, with spinach, feta, phyllo over flame, we eat it only at festivals Greek It’s true, indeed, that this need not be so: somewhere a Turkish baker plies his craft, but on divided Cyprus, Greeks say “No!” (a culture war can make one’s taste buds daft.) A rice pilaf that costs almost ten bucks is robbery even by standards Church The dollars flow in like a row of ducks, Somewhere a bishop cackles in his perch. Read On →

Ten Little Ladybugs

[Ten Little DEAD Ladybugs ]( A gothic tale of kidnapping, murder, cannibalism, and mayhem in the insect kingdom, Ten Little Ladybugs, written by Melanie Gerth and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith, presents a troubling view of the devastating havoc that eschatological idolatry and ideology wreak on America’s children. That such potentially scarring material is promoted as a “children’s book” is even more troubling. The cover is gaily festooned with the pastoral scene from a bourgeois garden, the smiles on the faces of the predatory insects arrayed around the ladybugs designed to mislead even the most cynical reader. Read On →

And the Ass Saw the Angel

One of the more egregiously out of print books, in America at least, is Nick Cave’s And the Ass Saw the Angel. Elise introduced me to this book ages ago, lending me a copy of her precious (Imported! British! Naked lady on the cover!) paperback. It’s written in an approximation of how Cave, a Australian gothic heroin chic musician, thinks an illiterate retarded Southern anti-Elvis educated at Eton might write: Read On →

Simple pleasures

Two eggs 1 - 2 teaspoons soy sauce generous squirt of sriracha chili sauce (a.k.a. “rooster sauce”) dash sesame oil scramble in skillet with a little canola oil Enjoy with tea.

Beyond Good and Evil

Currently on the bargain racks for the Xbox, GameCube, PS2, and PC platforms is a little gem of a platformer: Beyond Good and Evil. It was released with some fanfare late last year, and proceeded to impress critics and fail to sell at all. The fact that this game (essentially) flopped makes me a little sad. I am not certain if it is a sign that the publisher, Ubisoft, is an incompetent marketer (as a friend of mine said, “Beyond Good and Evil? Read On →

Blood and Treasure

Why this picture? Why now? Mostly because [of this woman who was fired for sharing a picture like it]( 1909527_coffin22m.html). Photo courtesy of The Memory Hole and the Freedom of Information Act. Link courtesy John Scalzi.

Children's Books vs. Video Games

33. If You Give a Mouse a Glock 19 [peterb] 32. Duck on a Warthog [peterb] 31. Horton Hears a Sniper [agroce] 30. Cat In A Hat With An M-16 [jch] 29. The Cat In The Hat Talks Smack [peterb] 28. The Little Castle Wolfestein on the Prairie. [tmwong] 27. Green eggs and fireballs. [bhudson] 26. Goodnight, Moon Patrol [peterb] 25. The Little Rocket Launcher Who Could [tomault] 24. Little Red Jedi Knight [bhudson] Read On →


Last night I read The Da Vinci Code (detailed review forthcoming). Tonight while idly wanting to see some of the paintings the author describes, I stumbled on [this kook’s]( ckleBall/DaVincisLastSupper.html) site: [(Click to enlarge)]( kook.gif) The best part is that that diagram is the sanest thing on the page. The text is a hundred times worse. I always assumed that Robert Anton Wilson was joking or exaggerating about conspiracy theorists' ability to see echoes of their delusions in anything and everything. Read On →

President Forever

As a followup to my preview of The Political Machine, I decided to try President Forever, which was suggested by one of my alert readers (who, I believe, is involved with the publisher?) There is a free demo available, and the full game can be purchased and downloaded for a mere $12. I paid more than that for lunch this week. (They also will sell you, as a bonus, their previous game President 2000 for just $2. Read On →

New Addiction

The only MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) that is any fun: The Kingdom of Loathing. And it’s free! I blame Zarf.

Dawn Comes Early, With Rosy Fingers

It has been a long time since I’ve experienced a web site that filled me with such elation and glee as does Winged Sandals, a Shockwaveriffic introduction to Greek mythology for kids. It has really enjoyable, accessible movies that everyone can enjoy, some neat activities (I like the trading cards), and a wonderful searchable “Who’s Who,” which while not comprehensive is well designed. The art style is Samurai Jack meets Pocketskeleton. Read On →

The Political Machine

I renewed my subscription today, specifically so I could get access to the beta test of Brad Wardell’s still-in-development election game The Political Machine. The Political Machine I’m a big fan of Brad’s games, and have long felt that he brought an exciting independent voice to PC gaming. I don’t play too many PC games anymore, what with the Xbox filling so many of my needs and my main leisure computing platform being a Mac. Read On →

Quick U.S. Political Update

Our President is still painfully stupid.

Gabba Gabba One of Us

I finally stopped resisting and bought an iPod, the 15 gigabyte model. Although I was probably doomed to buy the “regular” iPod rather than the Mini, simply because Minis are not readily available enough to satisfy my desire for immediate consumer gratification, I did actually go use a Mini before making the choice. A lot of people talk about the superior controls of the Mini; coming to both of them cold, I thoroughly disagree. Read On →


A brief followup Toronto booze report: I’ve always “liked” Tokaji, but never been crazy-go-nuts over it. In Toronto I picked up the 1999 Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu (“3”), and I love it. Although it has the sweetness you expect from a pourriture noble wine, like Sauternes, it is balanced not just by a peppery bite, but by actual saltiness. It’s refreshingly tart, with an unripe apricot ester-like aroma. I’ve never tasted a wine quite like it. Read On →

On Jews and Jewishness

Should you, perchance, use a particular popular internet utility to look for information on “jews,” the most prominently displayed entry turns out to be somewhat, let us say, antisemitic. That doesn’t strike me as the most useful introduction to a topic. I think the wikipedia entry on the Jewish religion is somewhat more informative and less inflammatory, as is the amusingly named jewfaq entry on who is a jew?

Dramatis Personae

_ ‘“Help him. Help him” Dobbs sobbed. “Help him” “Help who? Help who?” called Yossarian once he could wrestle his headset back into the intercom. “Help who?” “The bombadier. The bombadier. Help the bombadier” “I’m the bombadier” Yossarian yelled right back to him. “I’m the bombadier, I’m all right, I’m all right.” “Then help him, help him” Dobbs begged. “Help him. Help the bombadier.” And Snowden lay dying in the back. Read On →

Smooth, Rich, Bold, Lousy.

After a whirlwind weekend gustatory tour of Toronto I was driving home, and needed coffee to stay awake. I stopped at Krispy Kreme donuts, which for a long time had perfectly fine coffee, and once again was confronted by the trio of horrible coffees that they replaced their old, perfectly adequate coffee with. The new Unholy Trio goes under the nom de suck of three vague adjectives: Smooth, Rich, and Bold. Read On →

350 Miles for Liquor

Some more loot from my Toronto trip: alcohol! The LCBO store on Queen’s Quay near Yonge is truly a revelation. Egly-Ouriet a Ambonnay Champagne, Grand Cru Brut Tradition (try saying that five times fast). I’ve been looking for this for about 6 months, but of course you can’t get it in Pennsylvania because of our antediluvian state-controlled wines and spirits system. This is a champagne that has some of the body of a red wine; if you close your eyes you can almost imagine that it’s a Belgian lambic. Read On →

Why Orlowski Hates Google

Even in an article ostensibly about Sun and Microsoft, Andrew Orlowski can’t help throwing in some foaming-at-the-mouth about how Google is evil. Someone asked “Geez, what did Google ever do to Orlowski that he’s such a nutbar where Google is concerned?” and this of course led to: Top (Fictional) Reasons Orlowski Hates Google 13. His wife made out with Google CEO at wild party, who bragged to all of his friends. Read On →

Pittsburgh Gets Apple Store

In the “taking away things I like to whine about” department, Apple Computer will apparently be opening a retail store in Pittsburgh. Now I have no excuse for not buying that iPod. The rumor is that they will be getting planning approval on April 6th, and MacMinute says it will be located at 5508 Walnut Street, in the upscale (“bohemian,” say the marketers) Shadyside neighborhood. I can’t picture a huge space at that location – Walnut is a street of fairly modestly sized spaces, so perhaps this is the first of their rumoured new “mini” stores. Read On →

I Have no Sense of Humour

As my special gift to all of you, I am providing this small, modest space – perhaps the only one on the entire Internet – where there will be no stupid April Fools' jokes. Enjoy.

Bodies in Motion

[Jagged Alliance 2 ]( Lately I’ve been playing a bit of the squad-level strategy game Jagged Alliance 2 (both the original and the new “harder than killing a puppy in cold blood without guilt” Wildfire version.) I generally prefer turn-based strategy to real time strategy games, but thinking about some of the design decisions the JA2 guys made sparked some thoughts about the fundamental choices designers make when building these games. Read On →

350 Miles for a Hot Dog

I arrived in Toronto at about 2 in the morning, and the very first thing I did, after parking the car and checking in to the hotel, was to walk down Yonge Street to the nearest street vendor and buy a sausage, slather pickled peppers and mustard and kraut on it, and walk back to the hotel, eating my hot dog, victoriously. Hot dogs taste better in Yankee stadium, or on Yonge street. Read On →

Blame Canada!

I’ll be in Toronto this weekend, eating good food and visiting good bookstores; probably no updates until Monday.

Got (raw) milk?

Note: I originally published this article at Tea Leaves. For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the idea of being able to buy and drink raw milk (or as some would have it, “real milk”) rather than the pasteurized and homogenized product we all know and love. Part of it is the (realistic) fantasy of being able to make real clotted cream and part is the (unrealistic) vision of myself living in the Dordogne making an earthy, runny cheese from lait cru, which I bring to market each week. Read On →

Middle East^H^Hrth

Lebanese mourn death of Saruman, Wizard of Isengard Concept courtesy Paul Bennett, who graciously allowed me to use his idea. Here’s a [link]( .com/news?tmpl=story&u=/040322/photos_wl_me_afp/040322220456_0b96hpfk_photo0) to the original story.

Digital Picture Workflow

One of the digital photography web sites recently published an article on how Sports Illustrated manages its digital photographs. The piece described the process of shooting and editing 16,000 pictures during the Super Bowl. After reading it, I realized that the workflow that I’ve come up with for managing my own personal digital pictures is similar to SI. Workflow is a word that gets tossed around a lot when referring to the management of digital pictures. Read On →