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By Samuel Stoddard

June 1998

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June 30, 1998

Wow. Apparently, The Dialectizer was given a 10-15 minute spot on the nationally syndicated Kim Komando radio show last Sunday, the 28th. I'd never have known if reader Tony Eldridge hadn't mentioned it to me. Thanks! I called the Komando Corporation up to see if I could get a tape of the show, and I was told I probably could.

Other exciting (for me) news about The Dialectizer is that, without my provocation, the folks at Yahoo decided to put it in their "Cool Links" page. It went up yesterday, and you should have seen my hit count shoot up.

Regarding the most recent reader question, "Would you rather have a bottlecap or a plug nickel?" the best answer actually came from inside. RinkWorks' Dave Parker, who doesn't usually participate in the crazier of my reader questions, says:

"Given the choice, I would most certainly take the bottle cap. This is because I like bottle caps. Mostly, however, it is because I dislike plugged nickels.

"Going beyond that, a bottle cap is worth more than a plugged nickel. This is evident because the saying 'that isn't worth a plugged nickel' is not 'that isn't worth a bottle cap.'

"Plus, I can't help but think that if we all threw bottle caps at Saddam Hussein, that would somehow promote world peace. Until he started shooting missiles at us. But then we could respond by stepping up the frequency of our bottle cap hurlings, until he was completely buried in aluminum (unless they were British bottle caps, in which case he'd be buried in aluminium, which I think is a type of plastic), and it would take him at least fifteen minutes to get out from under them all. But Boris Yeltsin would probably laugh himself to death when he heard the news, and that might do something for world peace.

"So, definitely the bottle cap. No wait, I meant the plugged nickel."

June 28, 1998

Everett Kaser is running a contest on his journal page. Make up a suitable name for his new game, and if he uses your suggestion, you get a free copy of it. I already thought up the best possible name ever (see the June 27th entry in his journal), but he didn't recognize it as the multimillion dollar idea that it was -- so you all still have a chance if you want to try.

Would you believe -- I got another letter from someone claiming I had ripped off her home page and stored it on The Dialectizer? Actually I got it the day after talking about this in the June 25th journal entry below, but I forgot to mention it. I think I'm going to have to write a permanent "Why This Site Isn't Violating Your Copyright" page for The Dialectizer and refer people to it when they ask that I "remove" their pages from my server.

Today's reader question: "Would you rather have a bottlecap or a plug nickel? Explain how this relates to the international pursuit of world peace."

June 27, 1998

Whew! I finished Brain Food this morning. It was a long haul, but, for me at least, a rewarding one -- especially since I wasn't originally expecting to have this page ready until September. I'll update this page every month, and while the number of puzzles I add with each update remains to be seen, I'm hoping it will be a fairly substantial number.

The other big news is the announcement of a new upcoming humor featurette called I Think, which features humor so skewed and offbeat it makes Book-A-Minute look conventional. It remains to be seen if anyone besides myself will find it funny.

Now, to business. Over the past few days, I've asked people to tell me their favorite part of RinkWorks. I may formalize this question someday in the form of an automated survey which would be placed on the main RinkWorks page, but that won't happen for a while if it happens at all.

At any rate, the bottom line is that Book-A-Minute had the most votes, by a wide margin. I find this interesting, because if as far as raw hit counts go, Book-A-Minute places a distant fourth, behind The Dialectizer, Computer Stupidities, and At-A-Glance Film Reviews. However, I've noticed that a higher percentage of Book-A-Minute visitors click on the "visit our other RinkWorks sites" link than those who do so at any of the other sites -- implying that the people who do visit Book-A-Minute like what they see. I guess those of you reading this journal must be the same crowd. I'm glad. Dave and I take a special pride in that page, and I thank you for supporting it.

I won't note too many specific responses to this question, since it was asked for my benefit rather than your entertainment, but here's a couple:

As you can see, I owe a great debt of gratitude for the support and encouragement readers like these have provided me.

June 26, 1998

Claude B. says the following: "I do like your site (especially Book-A-Minute) but your Computer Stupidities ring like an old cracked bell (i.e., not particularly true)."

As I mentioned to Claude in private email, I would be shocked if every story on the Computer Stupidities page is true. There are hundreds of stories there. The odds against them all being true are just too great. However:

None of the above is proof, just evidence. An opinion that the site is mostly untrue is still a valid one. For the record, it's not an opinion I hold. I believe that the vast majority of them happened at some point, and not only that but that many of the less creative ones have happened multiple times and will continue to happen.

At the same time, I don't think it really matters that much. As far as the site goes, my only concern is that the stories are credible. Beyond that, what difference does it make? The site's primary purpose is entertainment, and that's the way it will stay.

So there's my philosophical take on Truth, with respect to the Computer Stupidities site.

In other news, this site journal evidently inspired Everett Kaser -- he put up a sort-of-daily journal on his own site, right here. What a copycat.

Third call to all readers out there: What is your favorite part of RinkWorks, and what would you like to see more of in the future? Be creative!

June 25, 1998

"I'm embarrassed to admit that I laughed aloud after reading the chicken joke," says a reader (referring to the June 23 journal entry) whose name I won't reveal because I don't think he intended me to post this. But I had to do it because I'm really proud of that joke...even though I don't pretend to understand it.

I got a letter last night from someone irate that someone had "lifted virtually all" of his web site and dialectized it, and would I please delete the material from my site? This makes two letters of this nature I've received in a week.

Folks, there's nothing to delete. The Dialectizer downloads requested web pages on the fly, dialectizes them, passes them to the user, and forgets they ever existed. If the Dialectizer were accessing files located permanently on my web server, I'd have the entire Internet on it. The practical problems doing this would pose should be immediately apparent.

Second call for the reader question, "What's your favorite part of RinkWorks, and what would you like to see more of in the future?" Send me your input; thanks!

June 24, 1998

I posted the new Book-A-Minute Bedtime scripts sooner than expected. Have fun. In other "new stuff" news, Brain Food is coming along very nicely, and I'm hoping to be done with that next week. Time will tell.

Today's reader question is more of a survey to help me maintain the site. "What's your favorite part of RinkWorks, and what would you like to see more of in the future?" Stephen K., I know what your favorite part is, so tell me your second. :-)

June 23, 1998

We made up a stupid joke today. I made up the punchline, and Dean Biron made up the question, in that order. Don't ask.

If this isn't first-rate original humor, I don't know what is.

Anyway, some answers to the reader question, "Who is your favorite filmmaker and why?" follow:

Stephen, I'm with you. Rear Window is a masterpiece.

Excellent choices, all three of you.

June 22, 1998

The Everett Kaser Software FAQ is out! After six months of preparation (and stalling), I finally have this RinkWorks feature wrapped and ready.

For those of you unfamiliar, Everett Kaser Software makes logic and puzzle games for the PC. Shareware versions of each can be found at the Everett Kaser Software web site,

In other news -- and I wouldn't even mention it except I brought it up off-handedly a couple journal entries ago -- my numbers are once again obsolete. I said, on June 18, that the Dialectizer got between 1000 and 3000 uses per day. I had to correct myself on June 19 when my hit logs showed 4500+ uses for June 18. Now I have to do so again. My hit logs show that 11500+ uses for June 20. I was floored. I never would have predicted such a deluge of traffic. I'm glad people like it.

And now I'm up to my fourth and final call for answers to the current reader question: "Who is your favorite filmmaker?" Remember, it can be an actor or director or writer or anybody else that has anything remotely to do with making movies. In the next journal entry, I'll post some answers.

June 20, 1998

The Book-A-Minute SF/F update is a little light this time around. Sorry about that. Part of it is because we're working on getting the new Book-A-Minute Classics site ready. The other part of it is I'm too busy with wedding plans to do much reading. But I'll make up for it by posting extra Book-A-Minute Bedtime scripts next weekend.

Third call for readers to answer my "Who's your favorite filmmaker?" question. It can be anyone -- actor, director, producer, key grip, you name it. I know you're out there -- send me email.

June 19, 1998

Huh. The day I said the Dialectizer gets up to 3000 uses a day, it got 4600+.

Anyway, second call for the reader question: Who is your favorite filmmaker and why? I know you're out there. Send me email.

June 18, 1998

Well, The Everett Kaser Software FAQ is really close to being done. Close enough so I've committed to the end of this month for its release on the main RinkWorks page. I'm excited, not only because Everett Kaser makes some great puzzle games, but also because that site has been "coming soon" for close to six months now, and I want to see it done.

An interesting thing happened yesterday regarding The Dialectizer. I was checking my hit count logs for the previous day -- specifically, I was looking at some of the sites that had referral hits to my site (i.e., someone else's page had a link to my site that at least one person followed). I noticed that I had received four hits on the Dialectizer engine (not the main page, but the actual CGI script that converts web pages) from some site in Australia. I visited the site and discovered, much to my dismay, that the HTML code that makes up the main page of the Dialectizer was copied to this site in Australia. All the attributions and copyright notices, all mention of RinkWorks and myself, were gone. (Curiously, he kept the line that said that more dialects would be coming in the next couple weeks.) Other than that and a different background color, the page looked identical to mine. When I looked at the HTML source, I recognized 99% of it. Basically he had set up his own front end to my Dialectizer script, neatly bypassing both my name and my advertising banner.

I sent him email yesterday morning, stating that this was copyright infringement and asking that he remove the page from his site. I checked back throughout the day to see if he had done so; by the evening, it looked like I was going to have to write code in the CGI script that denied requests from his server (thereby rendering "his" version of the Dialectizer useless and exposing his scheme to anyone who tried it). But just as I sat down to do it, I checked back, and the offending page was gone. Since he complied with my request -- without a fight, even -- I won't reveal his name, but I noticed with some amusement that his home page says that he heads a "Web Authoring" service. I have to wonder what kind of material he comes up with for his clients.

Anyway, in the end, no real harm was done. The page was only up for a few days and received minimal traffic (about 4 uses per day, as opposed to the 1000-3000 I get from the real page). And now it no longer exists. I'm fine with that. But it makes an interesting story, and it draws to my attention the hazards inherent in putting intellectual property on the web. Not that I'm going to stop or anything. :-)

June 17, 1998

Hi! As you may have noticed already, I put up the icon for a new upcoming site that I've been working on for quite some time now: Brain Food. This site will contain all sorts of puzzles, riddles, and mind benders. Progress is going well, and I expect (but not promise) that I'll have it ready by the end of July. (Originally, when I said I'd have one new site per month until this November, Brain Food was slated for September.) In fact, I hope to have all the various sites you see listed as "Coming Soon" done by the end of July, in the hopes that I'll actually make that deadline for all but one or two.

Today's reader question is: "Who's your favorite filmmaker and why?"

June 16, 1998

Well, Six Days, Seven Nights wasn't the critical and financial smash I was predicting, by any means. It was, however, thoroughly entertaining with great performances.

Would you believe it's still raining here? The almost two straight days of rain had a brief break Sunday night and Monday morning, and then it started downpouring again Monday night and is still going strong this morning. I just know there's a lot of people out there whose basements are turning into swimming pools.

June 15, 1998

Yet another dialect -- the Cockney dialect -- was posted to The Dialectizer. Check it out.

June 14, 1998

Wow, is it raining outside. It's been raining constantly since yesterday morning -- and not just a drizzle either, a veritable downpour that shows no signs of letting up any time soon. Usually all-out downpours only last between fifteen minutes and an hour, but it's been going for 28 hours at minimum. I saw The Truman Show yesterday (see the At-A-Glance Film Reviews page for my enthusiastic rating and check back soon for my review). We could hear the rain hammering on the roof during the movie even, and you know how sound-proof movie theaters are.

June 12, 1998

The Apogee FAQ got accepted into Yahoo yesterday. For those of you who have tried to get their pages there, you probably realize what an accomplishment that is. The Yahoo staff does their best, but with the size of the web doubling every few months, it's impossible for them to keep up with all their submissions. Anyhow, The Apogee FAQ is the last of the big RinkWorks sites to make it into Yahoo, which is a relief to me. (It's not physically at Yahoo yet but will be there in a couple days.)

I might as well take the opportunity to give a little history of the FAQ. For starters, Apogee makes action games for the PC. 3D Realms is another name for the same company -- it's the label they release their 3D games under. Pinball Wizards is the same thing for their pinball games (at present, only one). You can visit their web site at Their games include Duke Nukem, Terminal Velocity, Shadow Warrior, Death Rally, Stargunner, Rise of the Triad, Wolfenstein 3D, and Commander Keen.

As for the FAQ itself, it's the oldest of all RinkWorks creations -- although not as a web site. The At-A-Glance Film Reviews page has been around since 1996, predating the RinkWorks name by over a year. But the Apogee FAQ was around since 1994 as a text document I posted routinely on the relevant Usenet gaming newsgroups. I dabbled with making it a web page in early 1995 -- it was really just an HTML-formatted version of it (all one file) rather than a fully-fledged web site -- but that didn't work out so well because the conversion to HTML was done manually. That meant I had to keep two separate versions up to date and synchronized, which was not an easy thing to do. That effort dried up, and I stopped supporting the HTML version very soon after I started it.

Then, in the tail end of 1997, coinciding with the creation of RinkWorks, I tried again -- the right way. I wrote a C program that would read in the text version as input and generate the HTML version automatically. This time I had each section in its own page with links at the bottom to jump to the next section, previous section, and all subsections. With this program, I didn't have to worry about keeping two separate copies up to date, and I didn't have muck with HTML code either -- my conversion program did it all itself. This is what I use today. The version I physically, manually maintain is the text version. The web pages are all computer-generated. I'm using the same system with the upcoming Everett Kaser Software FAQ -- the generating program is already written (it's just a tweaked version of the Apogee one), and now it's just a matter of completing the information in the text document.

Let me back up a little, to the creation of the original text-based FAQ. I was a fan of their games even way back then, when most of what they did were platform games. (In many ways, I prefer them to the modern 3D games.) The newsgroup had only just been created, and it soon became evident that a FAQ would be helpful. I started writing the thing, and my efforts caught the notice of Joe Siegler, Apogee's Online Support Manager. He was extremely willing (much more so than you'd think a company representative would be) to provide information and offer proofreading services. He always did (and does) leave the final decisions about content and wording to me, but he authorized me to label the FAQ an "official" one regardless. So with a lot of effort -- if I had known how much, I probably wouldn't have started the thing -- and a lot of help, I got the FAQ out there. Many revisions came and went; the current version is from this past May. It's five times as large as it was originally, clocking in at over a quarter of a meg. I don't release new versions as often as I did, because it's pretty complete now -- usually, I only need to add information about new games as they are released.

I'm proud of it. I'm especially proud that Joe Siegler calls it "the definitive source" of information about Apogee and their games. A couple of their games even have the FAQ shipped on the CD as an extra.

There. Thank you all for humoring my infodump.

June 11, 1998

Chris R. writes us with an answer to the favorite novelist question, even later than Dave's. But it was interesting, so I'm going to post it. He writes:

I find it curious the word "mediocre" crops up in a list of your favorite authors, but there you go. Because this question seems like a popular one to answer, I'll extend this further -- if you want to answer the question, send me your email.

June 10, 1998

He had eight days to do it, but only yesterday do I get mail from my cohort Dave Parker, who writes: "Hey, I want to answer the favorite novelist question too!" Ok, Dave, but only with a little ribbing for having missed the deadline. Dave writes:

June 9, 1998

Some time ago, "the Haley family" from Alaska suggested I put a Pig Latin dialect up on the Dialectizer. Yesterday, I did. Thanks for the suggestion, guys!

June 8, 1998

Regarding the June 5 journal entry about The Filmmaker's Exam, Dave found his original draft of it (before I added any questions to it), and there were forty questions even. So I guess I did contribute 35 (or close to that many) after all.

I didn't see The Truman Show this past weekend as I was hoping to. Next weekend, hopefully.

Regarding the previous reader question: "Who is your favorite novelist and why?", I have the following representative responses. The pool leaned heavily toward sci-fi and fantasy; I assume that's because the Book-A-Minute SF/F and Dave's Somewhat Complete SF/F Writers' Internet Resources pages are part of why you're here.

From Eve A.: "Barbara Hambly -- I've read all her books, several times."

From Ken M.C.: "In a word, Tolkien. He's unmatched."

From Paul A.: "Currently, Terry Pratchett. . . . I think [because] there's not one that I wouldn't want to read again."

From Stephen K.: "Robert Anton Wilson . . . Tolkien . . . Douglas Adams, though he has a tendency to go off the deep end . . . Piers Anthony's Xanth series, even though many of [them] are repetitive and predictable . . . Michael Crichton . . . . Try as I might, I've never gotten into real sci-fi, stuff like Asimov or the like."

Stephen K. goes on to say: "How come you always get to ask the questions, but never give any answers? Who's your favorite novelist?"

Well, Stephen K., I like literally everything I've ever read except for Robert Anton Wilson, Tolkien, Adams, Anthony, and Crichton -- they all stink. Ok, seriously, I like Terry Brooks. I think he gets bashed unfairly because his first novel resembles Lord of the Rings so much. I feel this is unfair for three reasons: (1) his first novel, The Sword of Shannara, really was his first novel -- most authors write a few books before publishing any, but this was the first book he ever wrote, and he isn't given that consideration lots of times; (2) his first novel resembles Lord of the Rings in plot structure only -- the ideas in the novel, and some of the characters, aren't similar at all; and (3) his next couple books showed marked improvement. So there.

I like Tolkien (of course). I like David Eddings. I like H. G. Wells. I like Jack London. I like Dave Barry. And I've gabbed enough for today.

June 5, 1998

Today, RinkWorks' David J. Parker talks about how his humor page The Filmmaker's Exam came into existance: "I'm not really sure what caused the idea to pop into my head, but I remember doing a guest review of Carnosaur for the At-A-Glance Film Review page just as an excuse to do a small version of the Exam. It was basically a slam of Joe Ezsterhozer, whose name I can't spell and have no intentions of ever learning how. All I needed was a bad movie to use the 'test' on, and I pretty much picked Carnosaur at random, even though it has nothing to do with Ezsterhozer except that it is almost as bad as 'Showgirls.'

"After doing that quicky four question test, we pretty much both decided it would be really funny to expand it. So naturally, I didn't. At least not right away. As I almost always do, I lost interest for some time, and then came back to it later. I wrote approximately 40 questions, and I guess Sam must have added the other 35, and up it went. And the rest, as they say, is history."

My own memory is different -- I remember contributing more like 10 questions to the exam rather than 35. Now I guess we'll never know. At any rate, you can see Dave's original four question test on the At-A-Glance Film Review page, where his review of Carnosaur still resides.

Last call on my previous reader question: Who is your favorite novelist and why? This is your last chance to send email -- I post answers the very next time I do another journal entry, whenever that is.

Also, check The Dialectizer. Last night I posted a new dialect.

June 4, 1998

Today I'm going to talk about the process of creating the condensed scripts that populate the Book-A-Minute sites. (For those of you who haven't been there yet, check it out!)

Last weekend, Paul A. wrote, concerning the Book-A-Minute site: "Is it easy to write these things?" Then Paul proceeded to attempt his own condensation, which he followed with the line, "Hmmm...I guess not."

I enjoyed Paul's letter and his condensation attempt, because, at least to him, we succeeded in making the task look easy, yet he, through trial and error, discovered on his own that it wasn't. The script he wrote wasn't funny -- but the reason was not so much that it wasn't good but that it wasn't finished.

Here's what we go through to write a condensation. I'll write a first draft of a condensation and send it to Dave Parker (or, in the reverse scenario, Dave will write it and send it to me). The first draft can take a couple minutes in the best case but very often takes close to an hour. See the thing is, the precise wording is vital. One word might be funny, while its synonym might not be. The script could sink or swim on the choice between passive tense and active tense. The words have to read clearly the first time and have an immediate bite to them. Sometimes, I think, we never do get just the right wording down -- those would be the scripts on the page less funny than the others. There are a couple I've written that I've never been happy with, and those don't get posted on the site at all.

At any rate, I write the rough draft and send it to Dave. Dave reads it, and, strangely, is usually able to suggest revisions right off the bat that greatly improve it. Likewise, I'm able to do the same for him when he writes the first draft. I think this is because the process of writing the rough draft necessarily pulls its author too close to the joke to "get it" anymore until a break from it is taken. When Dave sees what I've written, it's fresh to him, and he knows what strikes him as funny and what doesn't. In this way, Dave and I are the perfect team, and I can tell you for a fact that if either of us were doing this on our own, the site wouldn't be half as good.

Anyway, we bounce the condensation back and forth between us until we're both happy with the result. Usually four or five passes between the two of us is sufficient; sometimes it takes more, and sometimes -- in the case of some of the one-liners -- the rough draft is good enough.

Curiously, almost all the revisions we make are cuts from the rough draft. For whatever reason, the rough draft is always too wordy to have any edge. We learned, basically through trial and error, that fewer words generally makes for a funnier condensation. Obviously you can't cut out so many words that you're no longer expressing the basic idea of the thing, but you have to cut out as many words as you can without doing that. And that brings us back to Paul A.'s attempt at his own ultra-condensation. It was too long. This is common in attempts that are sent to us by readers. It's not easy to boil a full-length work of literature down to three or four lines. When I first played around with the idea, that's what I did too. Even now, when Dave or I write a condensation -- even now that we know excess verbiage is death to the humor value -- the first drafts are invariably too long. The subsequent revisions shorten it. So when I said Paul's script was incomplete, that's what I meant. It looked like a good first draft to me but needed the trimming down that most first drafts seem to need. I encouraged him to try this, but I haven't heard from him since.

So that's a little bit of behind-the-scenes information about the Book-A-Minute site. It really is a collaborative effort between the two of us, which is why we credit the both of us on all of the scripts we do.

The reason I thought to talk about this in the journal today was that we made remarkable headway on the upcoming Book-A-Minute Classics site today. We completed four condensations, which is a lot to accomplish in a single day -- I've found that if I do more than one or two in a couple days, I get too close to the medium even to be able to write good first drafts anymore. But these four all came out very good I think (hope), and I'm more anxious now than ever to get the site to an "openable" state and let you all read it. In the journal some days ago, I said I had a new site planned to open in every month up through next November (although I also said I doubted it would work out that way). Book-A-Minute Classics was the site I had tagged for August, but it may be sooner depending on how many highly productive days like today we have. We don't want to rush things though, for that will only result in poorer work.

Oh, and for all those who haven't emailed me yet about their favorite novelist, do so now! Whoever you are, tell me who your favorite novelist is and why. Just do it.

June 3, 1998

Yesterday I posted a notice on The Dialectizer that I'd have at least two new dialects available by the middle of this month. Now it looks like it might be sooner. We'll see.

Yesterday's question still applies for today -- keep those letters coming.

June 2, 1998

Today I am pleased to report that, with the favorable response to the Don't Throw a Brick Straight Up page, I'm beginning work on a new humor featurette with a similar (if less gruesome) sense of humor. I don't know when I'll finish, but I don't expect it will take forever, as some of the more content-heavy sites I'm working on seem to be. The completion of The Everett Kaser Software FAQ depends a lot on Everett Kaser at this point -- he's busy on a new game right now and doesn't have a great deal of time to be checking my facts and answering questions. I'm aiming to have the FAQ done this month, though -- just don't hold me to that.

"Mother Drench" sends in the following answer to the May 31 question about multi-colored shampoo: "Heck no! Multi-colored toothpaste is obviously a conspiracy. They keep the different chemicals separate until they are mixed in your mouth where they engage in a chemical reaction that produces mind-controling fumes that waft into your brain and leave it defenseless against subversive radio signals transmitted by the CIA via satellite. The last thing we need is for shampoo to be participating in this shady practice too."

Methinks Mother Drench needs to get out more. At any rate, today's question is less oddball in nature. It is, simply, "Who is your favorite novelist, and why?" Send me your email!

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