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Now, this is a combination of too much free time, and too much coolness: hiding an image in a graphic's histogram. It's an innovative style of steganography, without requiring complicated software other than a histogram-analyzing graphics software -- and even digital cameras do it internally. I imagine on one end of the spectrum, the CIA is rolling their eyes because this form of encoding is sooo 1994; on the other end there's some bad science fiction being written right now about messages from ghosts being found by taking pictures of particular locations. #

Watch those hands -- they might get you into trouble if you're not current on your hand-gesture dictionary. Best say the word "two" in the UK -- counting on your fingers might get you a black eye. #

Bowdlerization is the process of eliminating portions of someone else's work, and/or substituting inoffensive replacements without affecting the entire story. The word comes from Thomas Bowdler, who altered Shakespeare's works to make them less offensive: Ophelia doesn't commit suicide, 'damned' and 'God' as explicitives are re-rendered in family-friendly ways. His revised collection is called The Family Shakespeare (available via Google Books). If you've ever watched badly-dubbed big-screen movies adapted for television, you've experienced bowdlerization first-hand in every 'gosh' and 'geez' that has been broadcast. I doubt you can apply this term to 'Han shot first' in Star Wars or the walkie-talkie shotgun change in E.T.: those were altered by the original artist, not a third party. #

If only they had blogs back in 1993 when they planned out RFC1438 compliance. Blogs sound like the ultimate Statements of Boredom, thus described as: [a] mechanism or means of publishing documents that express its deep concern about something important, but otherwise contain absolutely no useful information whatsoever. Whaddayaknow -- I'm RFC1438 compliant! (more April Fools RFCs can be found at the end of this page) (update: Wikipedia has a full list.) #

OK, I love LOLCats, and I like books, so I was duly (dually?) amused when Metafilter users took to interpreting the classics in lolspeak. 1984: OBRIEN101: I CAN HAS TORTURE RATS! #

Ah, when the Wifey finds me giggling, she know it's gotta do with lolcats in some way. So, now I'm giggling at something else cat-related: Cats Harbor Secret Plan to Turn Us Into Litter-Scooping Robots. Sounding like a Onion headline, it's actually a funny article about cat ownership in the technological age. Favorite line: When I get that time machine working, I'm going to go back to colonial times and explain to a farmer that in the future, we go to the store and buy artificial vermin. #

Aw, man, now I'll have to eat crow: for years I've been saying that 'click here' was an obnoxious, useless, and redundant thing to put in a webpage -- a sign of amateurish design, and should be removed whereever possible. D'oh -- "Click Here" really does make people click here. Sure, it's only 8% more, but that's still around one out of twelve -- and my favorite, "read more", actually made things worse. Semantically, this would lead me to believe that people go online to 'click' instead of 'read'. That's an important difference when it comes to interpreting how visitors use a website. #

Got a great dane, a motley crew of gregariously nosy friends, and a knack for having friends in peril? Buy a Mystery Machine to go with your scooby snacks. #

Blogger "glenniam" was in Fargo last week, and stopped at one of our feature museums: the Roger Maris Museum in West Acres, and took a bunch of pictures. In other museum news, the Mountain-Plains Museum Association is having their annual convention in Fargo this week -- and the Wifey and I are covering it for You'll be able to read more, over there, once we're done with our interviews and fun. #

The Gotta-Go Girls, a trio of ladies crossing the country to see what they can see, stopped at Bonanzaville in Fargo (I'll forgive the "Fargo, South Dakota" title -- we're NORTH, thank you). They do a good job of describing our neighborhood historical society, and the Bonanzaville museum. #

Beautiful libraries -- although I might argue that any place with so many books is beautiful. #

As a single dad for many years -- and still a dad today -- this article strikes a chord, because I've often felt very self-conscious about being out alone with Destiny. An unchaperoned adult male with a little kid is guaranteed to look suspicious in today's child-obsessive culture. On Saturday I was clothes-shopping with Destiny, as much just to spend time with her as any need for her to buy clothes. Every time Destiny was in the changing room I was very aware that I was a grown man standing around in the girl's clothes section near the nighties, panties, and school-girl outfits. That's a sign of pedophilia, right? Well, no, but there's a social stigma to that -- it's what people see, no matter how untrue. Mom's supposed to help with that, because God-forbid a dad knows how to pick pretty clothes that fit...wait, a grown man wants to buy his pre-teen daughter pretty clothes? That's suspicious, you know! The sad thing is, because I use the words "pretty" "pre-teen" "adult" and "girl" in this post, it's going to catch nasty search results from those men whom people are actually afraid of. Oops, now I used the word "nasty", too. What a depressing world it is -- not because of pedophiles, but because attentive, loving dads are assumed to be pedophiles if they're spending time with their daughters. #

You wouldn't think humor-magazine Cracked would be a bastion of self-help advice, but it is: Seven Reasons the Twenty-First Century is Making You Miserable. Stop isolating yourself behind electronics, make some friends who'll tell you you're an asshole to your face, and stop pissing on the world just because some of it is awfully crappy. Wait, that's supposed to make me feel better? Eh, it does make sense, though. #

Warner Brothers, following the lead of other production companies in buying up 1980s giant-transforming-robot franchises, has acquired the rights to Robotech (Macross, for the purists of you). What everyone is overlooking so far is that Transformers and Voltron, the other two big 80s-cartoons that have big-movie adaptations, were simple, kid-friendly shows where everything happened in a 1/2-hour episode and was wrapped up nicely before the next cartoon came on. Macross was extraordinarily ambitious when it was brought to the US in the 1980s, because it was a long ongoing dramatic war story with sympathetic characters dying every few episodes. By picking up the US rights, Warner Brothers has bought a (comparatively) strong story that has more income potential as a good film than just as a 'relive your childhood' throwaway action flick. #

Is 'quirk' the nadir of pop culture? Metafilter has a nice conversation about it, with good points all around. I'd say that Generation X condemned it, something like 15 years ago now, or alternately elevates it, depends on how you identified with the book -- but Generation X (the people, not the book) seems to be the most keen on making it part of their lives. Don't read the article MF links to; as the comments will show, it's not really worth it. In the past I've tried to be quirky, and I suppose people consider the Receipt Site quirky, but I really find quirky hard. There's so many strange pictures with irrelevant pop-culture references typed on top on broken english, you'd think anybody can do it. Me, I think my attempts suck: [1] - [2] - [3] - [4] - [5] I suppose, if I really wanted to be a quirk king, I could spend more time on it than obsessing over Downtown Fargo or researching dead fraternal groups or writing strange science fiction. If that's quirky, well, then I suppose that explains why you're here. #

Sitting on the back porch steps, waiting for the dogs to do their 'business', I noticed a little movement inches from my head. A bright yellowjacket crouched on the wooden railing, moving slightly, taking tiny steps backwards. As I got closer, I observed its task: it opens its jaws, stuck out a yellow 'tooth' (maybe 'tongue') and scraped the railing, exposing the lighter unoxidized wood underneath. The tongue went back in, the bug moved a small step back and did it again. The bug is biting off little chunks of wood and chewing it up to make pulp for hive construction. I'm so close my nose is almost touching the bug, but it didn't mind.

Suddenly it took off, bumping into my forehead before flying away. I looked closer and saw dozens of little half-inch long shallow grooves of light-colored wood.

The yellowjackets, at an infintesimaly slow pace, are stealing my deck to build their home.

A month ago, my wife and I walked down to the demolition of Pioneer East and took a brick for my own memories of the building. It was night, so we weren't concerned about being caught or hassled for taking a brick that was hours away from the dump.

For a few weeks, a small pile of bricks laid at the edge of the Idlekope building's lot and the railroad tracks. At four in the afternoon -- with people all around, and in front of the building's large windows -- I picked up a brick and walked, painfully and obviously with the intent of inconspicuousness, back to the van. We headed off.

Walking in a Wisconsin creek last weekend, the kids found an odd bright-colored rock in the water. Wiping off the muck and slime, it was identified: an old brick, broken off at one edge. It was quickly claimed as nautical salvage and given to me as an impromptu gift.

I guess, as far as borrowing inconsequential chunks of other people's buildings go, the yellowjackets are doing a better job of being constructive with their stealings. They benefit from having all day long and a whole army to do their borrowing; maybe, if I spent all day absconding with abandoned bricks, I might have enough to build a house of my own someday. The yellowjackets, sadly, don't have the internet or rummage sales because their free time is occupied with chewing up people's homes, so I guess I'll just accept that the tradeoff comes at the expense of casual hobbies. If the yellowjackets were able to work for a reasonable wage and rent a nice home for their family, they might have time for a card game once in a while.

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