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Site Journal

By Samuel Stoddard

July 1998

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Friday, July 31, 1998

The downtime took its toll. The RinkWorks audience is less than half what it was two weeks ago. But the traffic is rising slowly each day; hopefully it will continue to do so.

I'll be out of town until Monday evening, so there won't be any updates until then. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 30, 1998

Well, the search engine on the At-A-Glance Film Reviews page works, but it's very slow on the new system. I'm not happy with it, but for now it's all I have the time and resources to do. Better news: new Book-A-Minute Bedtime scripts were posted this morning, and new SF/F scripts should be out after the weekend. Also, I fixed the technical problem I was having with Crazy Tales, so the development of that site is back on schedule.

Now, to post answers to Stephen K.'s now ancient reader question: What's your favorite Book-A-Minute condensation and why?

The winner of the survey is Ender's Game, although I suspect that's due in part to the popularity of the book. The two Thomas Covenant trilogies were a close second. Here are some of the responses:

The asker of the question, Stephen K., also answers, citing If You Give a Mouse a Cookie as his single favorite, and The Lord of the Grasshoppers--uh, Rings trilogy as honorable mentions.

Lastly, Book-A-Minute co-author Dave Parker supplies his own answer:

"My favorite Book-A-Minute condensation is probably The Two Towers, the middle part of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic Lord of the Rings. It's one of the very few condensations on the page that didn't go through a single revision--it was perfect in its first draft. Not only that, it fully expresses my views about that book; I can't think of a single relevant thing that happens in that book other than the two mentioned.

"It's close, though, because I like so many other condensations as well. I like Piers Anthony's Guide to Xanth for the ruthless way it smites Piers Anthony; I also like The Collected Works of Anne McCaffrey for its simplicity--it condenses an entire body of work into three lines, and cracks me up every time I read it.

"The ones we get the most mail about are 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ender's Game, although I think that's just a reflection on how many people have read those novels and not on how good the condensations are.

"More close runners-up are Gulliver's Travels for the non-sequitur ending (I laugh everytime I read that); Starship Troopers for the use of 'blah blah blah' to convey Heinlein's story; Animal Farm for it's unique two-part nature, and The Cat's Meow and The Mad Overlord, just because Sam and I wrote those books and it's cool to see our stuff up there.

"Now that I've gone on for far longer than I anticipated, I'll close by saying that I think every condensation on all the Book-A-Minute pages rule absolutely, and that everyone should read every single one of them and send us cash. The End."

Wednesday, July 29, 1998

The Dialectizer works again! Wahoo! I'm relieved, because the trouble I was having looked like I wasn't going to be able to fix it at all. But Paul Sand, the friendly neighborhood system administrator for the University of New Hampshire was able to point out the problem. Thanks Paul!

I also I got the page managing portion of the program I use for the At-A-Glance Film Reviews page working -- and therefore posted a bunch of backlogged ratings and reviews, a review of The Truman Show included. But I still haven't gotten the search engine part to work well yet. Also, there were some formatting errors in the solutions for some of the new Brain Food puzzles, but these have been fixed. Speaking of Brain Food, reader Paul A. contributed the first of the two new Lateral Thinking Puzzles -- thanks Paul! (Hmmm, that's the second time I've thanked someone named 'Paul' in this journal entry.)

It appears the switch to my new web host hasn't propagated to the furthest reaches of the Internet just yet and some people are still getting the old "Under Construction" page. Because of that, I'll wait a little longer before posting answers to Stephen K.'s question: "What's your favorite Book-A-Minute condensation and why?" Email me now, because this is your last chance...until your next last chance.

Here's another reader question -- how do you find the puzzles on Brain Food in terms of difficulty? Too easy? Too hard? Just right? Your input will be helpful when I choose what new puzzles to add to the page each month.

Tuesday, July 28, 1998

Slowly things are coming together. Today I posted a new set of Brain Food puzzles. The host switch broke the Cryptogram Maker on Brain Food, but I fixed it midday yesterday. Still left to fix: the search engine for the At-A-Glance Film Reviews page and the web page part of The Dialectizer.

Thanks go to Elise T. who noticed an error in one of the Anacrossagrams on Brain Food. The error has since been fixed. Sorry about that.

However, adapting to the new system has put a damper on the development of the Crazy Tales site, but I think it will be finished sometime in August.

Dave's Somewhat Complete SF/F Writers' Internet Resources is moving to the main RinkWorks server from Dave's private web page area. The old address was: The new address will be: For those of you that bookmark that site directly, be ready to update your links within the next day or so.

A while back before RinkWorks went down, I had asked a reader question. The question was proposed by Stephen K., and it is posed to all of you: What's your favorite Book-A-Minute condensation and why? This is the last call for answers to this question, so send in those responses now!

There. Now that all the business is taken care of, let me expound on the current offerings at your local cineplex. The Mask of Zorro is fantastic. This is an action movie with a plot, something this year's crop of summer releases have been sorely lacking. Not only does it have a plot, but the plot and action are intertwined. The action doesn't "take a break" for the plot, it's an integral part of it. Honest character development is another part of it. Anthony Hopkins' performance is magnificent. Director Martin Campbell strikes just the right balance between seriousness and levity (his previous film, Goldeneye, was a little too goofy, I think, but then I'm a Bond purist). And the stunts! With all the recent emphasis on CGI, stunts -- a visual thrill the movies have cherished since the silent era -- have taken a backseat in recent years. The Mask of Zorro resurrects that exciting tradition in the best spirit.

But the movie I saw last weekend, Saving Private Ryan, I cannot praise enough. Director Steven Spielberg has matched the accomplishment he made with Schindler's List. It is about as flawless as moviemaking gets. I walked out of the theater differently than I went in. So awed and moved by it am I that I haven't yet been able to digest its content. I haven't found the words I need to express my experience of it yet, so I'll stop trying. It's extremely violent -- not sensationalistic violence, but realistic war-time violence. If you think you can stomach it, go see this movie immediately. Like, right now. Go. Shoo.

Reviews for each of these movies will appear on the At-A-Glance Film Reviews page within the next few days.

On to still other fun things, the other day I played a very early version of Everett Kaser's next game, "Grosshoppers Anonymous," or whatever the heck he's going to call it. It's a lot of fun (surprise, surprise), and you can read about its development on Everett's site journal page.

So what do you think about I Think? Funny? Weird? Obscure? Demented? Dumb?

Monday, July 27, 1998

Welcome back, everyone! However pleased you may (or may not) be that RinkWorks is back up, you surely can't be more pleased than I. I didn't realize how much my psyche needed this site -- it's such a satisfying release for my creative energy. When it was down, I missed that outlet. Some good came of it, however -- I probably spent more time on developing new material than I might have otherwise, because I wasn't sidetracked with the technical details. The new featurette I Think has opened. (It beat Crazy Tales out the door after all.) There's new Computer Stupidities. And I hope to have new puzzles on Brain Food as well, but first I have to figure out how to compile the program I wrote to manage it -- the new system has some quirks I haven't worked out yet. Ditto for updates to the At-A-Glance Film Reviews page.

The gory details of why RinkWorks went down for so long are complicated. Whether it's my fault, my old hosting service's fault, my new hosting service's fault, or just bum luck depends on what mood I'm in when you ask me. But now I have the foresight to prevent such downtime in the future if what happened happens again. If I ever need to change web hosting services again, I'm going to do it right -- have the new one up and running before the old one dies, so you, the reader, won't even notice the switch at all. I have no idea how the speed of this new host will compare to that of the old one, but hopefully it won't be worse. So far it appears to be good.

Anyway, we're back, and barring an act of God, RinkWorks won't disappear like that again.

Thursday, July 16, 1998

[Note: the following journal entry no longer applies as of 7/27/98.]

I will definitely be changing web hosts. My current hosting service and I could not reach an acceptable agreement. The new hosting service I've chosen looks good, although time will tell if the transfer speed they can provide will be better or worse or the same as that of my present host. I hope it's better, but even if it's worse, switching is the only way I can afford to keep RinkWorks around and keep it as functional as it is.

The addresses will NOT change. will still be the proper address, and all the locations of all the files and CGI scripts at RinkWorks will keep the same URLs.

However, I am still not sure if there will be any downtime. If there is, it could at ANY TIME today or tomorrow and last for two or three days. If the site is still up at the end of tomorrow, there probably won't be any downtime of any significant length. If there is downtime, this could be manifest in any number of forms; the most likely are (1) the server may not respond; (2) a File Not Found error may occur.

Bear with us. Keep your bookmarks. Three days should be the longest amount of downtime there will be, if there will be any at all, but don't worry if it takes longer. During the downtime, you may reach me via email for status updates at: Please use this email address only if bounces.

Hopefully, there will be no downtime at all and the transition will be transparent to everyone but me. I'm just informing you now, just in case. See you.

Wednesday, July 15, 1998

I just posted Paul A.'s Book-A-Minute SF/F condensation -- along with two other "outside" scripts, actually. It's been slow for Dave and I in the SF/F arena lately, I guess. Fortunately, we have three very sharp readers covering for us this time around.

Speaking of Book-A-Minute, second call for Stephen K.'s reader question: "What's your favorite Book-A-Minute condensation and why?"

Today I'll give you some behind the scenes information about the new Brain Food site. Its roots are actually older than those of any other RinkWorks site, although I didn't think to make a puzzle web page until sometime late last spring. I've been interested in puzzles and mind benders and the like for as far back as I can remember and particularly during junior high school. The Logi-Number Puzzles featured on the site is a puzzle format I invented between and during classes in seventh or eighth grade. Initially, the puzzles I created were simplistic, but the format turned out to be good for more difficult puzzles also. My friends weren't interested in puzzles like I was, so I rarely had anyone to solve what I made, but I made tons of puzzles anyway, finding their creation a pleasant diversion in its own right. I have old notebooks tucked away in forgotten corners with pages after pages of these.

Later on, high school maybe, I made up another puzzle format to amuse myself with, namely the Symmetric Word Boxes. At that time, I didn't even have clues to solve the puzzles; I made it a game to try to think up words that would complete a Symmetric Word Box. It wasn't until I was compiling the web page that the clues to the puzzle entered the picture. To create the puzzles on the web page, I used a program I wrote a few years ago that randomly generates Symmetric Word Boxes, and I generated a ton of them and added the clues afterward.

The Anacrossagram puzzles was a format I came up with as a logical step from the Symmetric Word Boxes. Although a program could be written to generate these randomly also, I haven't done so yet, and the Anacrossagrams currently on the Brain Food web page were all created manually. It's difficult to make them hard and yet still have a unique solution; these puzzles tend to be comparatively easy to solve.

The Word Fragment puzzles have a pleasantly simple format, making it easy for me to create challenging puzzles. The idea for this puzzle format came to me during tenth grade. I realized, for whatever reason, that "bookcase" was probably the only word in the English language that had a 'k' before the 'c' (it isn't, but there are only a couple other words). I realized that, given "kc" as a substring, it might be a challenging puzzle to figure out the word it came from. I made up ten or twelve more puzzles like this (most of which appear in the beginning of ones in Brain Food) then, and when it came time to put these on the web page, I made up a ton more.

The lateral thinking puzzles, also called situation puzzles, were games I used to play once or twice with my family during camping trips. My uncle knew a few, and the rest of us tried to figure out what the answer was. I enjoyed that immensely and always looked for opportunities to play that kind of game. When I got on the Internet back in 1991 (before the web!), it didn't take me long to find a fairly long list of these puzzles that had been compiled by Jed Hartman and released in the public domain. It contained most of the ones I already knew, plus many more. I added a couple I knew that were missing, found others on the Internet that weren't there either, and that group of puzzles is what resides on the web page currently. I hope to collect more as time goes on.

The other puzzles on the page -- word problems, riddles, and the like -- were all compiled from myriad sources, including some I made up myself. The different categories of word problems are, to some extent, arbitrary, but they seem to be useful in helping people find the type of puzzles they like.

To make it easier on myself, I will only update Brain Food with new puzzles once a month. (I'm wary about creating too many RinkWorks sites that require constant attention, because the maintenance work would build up faster than I could manage.) However, I'm hoping to have collected a fairly good number of new puzzles by the time the monthly update rolls around. For the next update (which will be in a couple weeks), I've already collected dozens that will be added. In particular, I have a ton of riddles to add (at present, there are only two riddles on the riddle page -- hardly enough).

Currently, the Brain Food web page is doing very well, especially considering that it's too young to have amassed much exposure on the web in the form of links from other pages. Time will tell if this traffic will subside after the novelty of the new site is over, but my guess, based on reader feedback, is that it won't. This is encouraging to me, but either way, I will continue to improve it, as puzzles are one of my oldest hobbies.

Tuesday, July 14, 1998


It's a reader day today. In response to Paul A.'s quote from July 12, Chris R. writes: "Books about the worst films of all time that don't list one Pauly Shore movie should be ignored."

I have to admit, Chris has a point there.

Stephen K. has a question for you Book-A-Minute readers: "What is your favorite Book-A-Minute condensation, and why? What's mine? Hey, I'm asking the questions here." Send me email, everyone.

Monday, July 13, 1998

[Note: the following journal entry no longer applies as of 7/27/98.]

Because of a potential disagreement between myself and my web space provider (to be fair, please note that we are currently doing everything we can to resolve the dispute -- by no means do I wish to make them out to be a bad guy), it is possible that RinkWorks will go down for a short time (on the order of days; two or three weeks at worst case, I would expect). This would happen if I end up needing to change web page service providers. It is not definite if this will happen. It is not even definite that, if I do have to switch providers, that the site will become unavailable for a time. But it's a possibility, and I want to inform people now just in case.

In the event that this site suddenly becomes unavailable, don't despair. Check back every few days, and I will have it up again. The address,, will not change.

Hopefully the dispute will be resolved and nothing will come of this. More later.

Sunday, July 12, 1998

I'm back! Did everybody miss me? Last night I responded to the 140 letters that had built up in my email box, most of which were about RinkWorks but none of which contained any questions for me to ask people in this journal. So I guess that idea didn't fly. I did, however, get something from Paul A., who would like to respond to Chris R.'s quote from the June 23 journal entry, where he says: "My favorite filmmaker . . . has to be Terry Gilliam. Anyone who makes a movie with a bunch of midgets . . . has to be a genius."

Paul A. writes: "I draw Chris' attention to a book called The Fifty Worst Movies of All Time, which includes the infamous all-midget western..."

My take? I think I'm going to see what Chris has to say before I assert my own opinion.


Friday, July 3, 1998

Bye! I'm getting married tomorrow, and I'll be on my honeymoon next week. So RinkWorks will go to sleep for a little while. (You'll still be able to get here, but there won't be any more updates for a few days.) I return on Sunday the 12th; the next journal/site updates I do will probably be on the 13th. Very soon, EquiWorks author Darleen Daniels will have a new last name. You may ask how and why I am doing web site work so close to my wedding day. The answer is simple. Because I'm a geek.

Send me email while I'm gone so I'll have something to read when I get back. Today's reader question, the answers of which will be posted one at a time upon my return, is: "What reader question would you like to see me ask?" It can be something serious or something silly. It can be something like the questions I've asked before or something completely different. Go nuts. Have a great fourth of July. I know I will.

Thursday, July 2, 1998

Well, I did it. From now on, when anybody tells me The Dialectizer is ripping off their web pages, I'll refer them to the new "Why This Site Is Not a Copyright Violation" page I just posted, available from a link at the bottom of the main Dialectizer page.

Regarding Armageddon, I said yesterday it looked decent. That was before I read the many and varied reviews of the film, nearly all of which trash it to pieces. For some downright hilarious entertainment, read Roger Ebert's take on the movie.

A new featurette was announced today, namely Crazy Tales. If you don't know what these are, I guess you'll have to wait and see. Included on the page will be some original stories and also some excerpts from classic literature. Originally I wasn't intending to have this site done for a while, but I had an unexpected amount of time last weekend, and I spent it programming the engine for it. Now the programming part of the site is (pretty much) all done, and I only need to add a few stories. So Crazy Tales may very well be the next site I release (say, mid-late July), and Book-A-Minute Classics should be hot on its heels.

Jack C. writes: "How many new sites are you working on that you haven't told us about yet, and what are they?"

I'm working on eight new RinkWorks features right now, of which four are advertised as "coming soon" (three on the main page and Book-A-Minute Classics). The ones I haven't announced yet haven't had a whole lot of work put into them yet. A tentative guess as to when the recent of these will see the light of day is next January. So I think far ahead, but it's entirely possible (likely, even) that I'll think of something later that will be released earlier. For instance, the most recent one of these I conceived of was Crazy Tales, and that's the next to open.

Nice try, Jack, on the second part of that question. :-)

Wednesday, July 1, 1998

Armageddon opens tonight, but I doubt I'll have a chance to see it for a while. Is anybody excited about it, or are we all tired of special effects no brainers? I'm tired of bad special effects no brainers, but this one looks decent.

"Thunder T" writes: "Is 'I Think' what you were talking about in the June 2 journal entry?"

Yes, and Brain Food was what I was talking about in the May 21 entry.

Peter F. suggests new dialects for the Dialectizer: "New York...Valley Girl...French..."

All three of these are good suggestions, if I could pull them off. I'm doubtful as to whether I could do a New York or French dialect justice, but I'm actually working on a valley girl dialect and expect to have that completed by the end of the summer. A valley girl translator does already exist elsewhere on the Internet, actually, but I'm not that happy with it. I'm working on improving it. For the moment, though, that's taking a backseat to the new projects I have in the works right now.

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