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By Samuel Stoddard

August 1998

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Monday, August 31, 1998

Book-A-Minute Classics is open. Have fun. I was concerned initially about the seeming shortness of the list, but the SF/F and Bedtime pages all started out at about this length, so I guess it won't be very long before it's as fleshed out as the others are now. Anyway, we have a long "to do" list, and I'm open to suggestions about what we should do next, which is not to say I can promise to follow through, but I'll certainly take them into consideration. In the very long run, however, I hope to lampoon all the titles that are famous enough to be common knowledge.

Today's reader question is, "What's your favorite use for rope?"

Saturday, August 29, 1998

Answers to the reader question, "If you were on a desert island with an electrical outlet and a running water pipe, and you could pick one kitchen appliance to have with you, which one would you pick, and why?" follow:

These answers are very good, but I have to take issue with Everett's supposition that there would be ice buried under a tree on a desert island. I have the sneaking suspicion, Everett, that you're just being silly.

My answer? I would take along an ice cream maker, because chances are I'd be the only one on the island that had one. It'd be an irrefutable status symbol.

Friday, August 28, 1998

Well, I'm half way through my exams. I'm running short on time, so you all have an extra day to send me your answers about the kitchen appliance and the desert island (see the August 26th entry, below).

I would, however, like to take a moment to feature an excellent site on the classic Marx Brothers' comedy, A Night At the Opera. The site URL is There's reviews, photos, trivia, scenes cut from the final release, and too much more to name here. The comprehensiveness and organization of the site impressed me; if you're a fan of classic film, give this site a look.

Thursday, August 27, 1998

Today I take the first two of my four Master's comprehensive exams. The other two are tomorrow. I'm a little nervous but more relieved that it will all be over soon than anything else.

Computer Stupidities was updated a couple days ago with new stories. Check them out.

Final call on the current reader question, listed below.

Wednesday, August 26, 1998

Fourth call on the reader question: "If you could have one kitchen appliance on a desert island with you, and assuming you had a working electrical outlet and (if necessary) running water to power it, which one would you choose to have stranded with you?" Come on, folks, this is a golden opportunity to be witty. Or just silly. Send me mail.

So far, two people have mentioned in my Reader Survey that RinkWorks would benefit with more pictures and multimedia. This is of course a perfectly valid preference, but I regret to say that the visual aspect of RinkWorks won't be changing significantly in the foreseeable future.

There are a few reasons for this. From a practical standpoint, I don't have the time or resources to produce lots of flashy graphics and animation. And that pretty much closes the argument right there -- even if I wanted to spice up the site, I really couldn't.

From an idealistic standpoint, I'm opposed to it on principle. My little "new" icon (used on a great many RinkWorks features) takes up about as much space as the entirety of this journal entry thus far. That's a lot of textual information for a little bitty icon -- think how much text you can have in the same amount of space in a larger image. What this all means is that every image that's added to a web page means it'll take significantly longer to load in your web browser. As it is, with my minimal graphical content, images account for 46% of the downloads from my site. For me, it's just not worth the extra time to download a page containing less content than there would be if I had spent that time making better content instead.

Again, I'm not knocking visually-appealing sites, nor those who suggested I add some glitz to RinkWorks -- I'm just saying that, for the reasons outlined above, the ratio of text to graphics will stay as it is until several things change.

Tuesday, August 25, 1998

Days after the answers to the "favorite actor/actress" question were posted, responses are still trickling in. This, from "Faux Pas": "It's a hard question to answer. . . . Out of the hundreds and hundreds of actors working today, I'd have to pick someone like Bruce Campbell. Why? He seems like your average Joe . . . more of a person than a 'movie star . . . doesn't seem to let the whole movie/television thing to go his head."

"VladTwo" sent me some interesting mail a few days ago in response to the I Think feature:

"I don't know if this has occured anywhere else, but in certain towns in the SF Bay Area, there have been signs appearing on street corners, by the little buttons to get the 'walk' signal. (Now, remember when they changed 90% of the signs from Walk/Don't Walk to 'symbol of guy walking'/'flashing red hand', apparently to compensate for the people who couldn't read?)

"These signs, while good in intent, just didn't make much sense. They would show a picture of the signal (guy walking, flashing hand, and non-flashing hand), with a description of what to do in each situation.

"Not only does this say a whole heck of a lot about the people who might actually need these signs, but it says something about the person or people (the signs ended up being on EVERY street corner, so I'm assuming that it was a government-sanctioned thing) who put them up. Think about it. We had signs in English. We were worried about people not being able to read these signs, so we put symbols in their place. Now we're explaining how to utilize the English."

Third call on the reader question: "If you could have one kitchen appliance on a desert island with you, and assuming you had a working electrical outlet and (if necessary) running water to power it, which one would you choose to have stranded with you?" This is your chance to get creatively wacky. Send me mail.

Monday, August 24, 1998

Second call on the reader question: "If you could have one kitchen appliance on a desert island with you, and assuming you had a working electrical outlet and (if necessary) running water to power it, which one would you choose to have stranded with you?" Send me your answers, readers, and the sillier the better.

Everett K. (who voted for Don Knotts as his favorite actor) took a look at the results yesterday, noticed that I was being serious in my answer, and decided he'd forward me his serious answer, too. Here it is:

"'Old' actors (in no particular order): I have to agree with you with one (no, two) additions: Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, and Cary Grant (for his impeccable comedic timing).

"'New' actors (in no particular order): Again, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hanks, and Mel Gibson, plus Harrison Ford, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro, Charles Grodin, Kevin Kline, Uma Thurman, Jodie Foster, Julia Roberts... (interestingly, there's LOTS of actors whose work I almost always enjoy immensely, but far fewer actresses about whom I feel that way).

"You see, when being serious, it's impossible to pick a 'favorite' anything, let alone something as diverse as actors..."

Remove Charles Grodin from that list, and I'm with you on every name. Kevin Kline deserves special mention, I think -- he's shockingly versatile and even has a great singing voice.

Sunday, August 23, 1998

Slapdash City opened. It's a site that parodies the web as a whole. Check it out.

Results from the "favorite actor or actress" reader question:

As for me, I'd have to make a distinction between past and current. I think Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart, in that order, are the greatest actors who have ever lived. For today, I'll go with Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hanks, and Mel Gibson, in that order. Actresses are tougher, especially for current actresses, because I think there are a lot of great up-and-coming actresses out there, and it isn't quite clear yet which ones will outshine the others. For all time, I'll go with Katharine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn (by purest coincidence -- they aren't even related to each other, you know). Today, how about Faye Dunaway (more for her work in Network than anything current, however) and Uma Thurman? I also have to give an honorable mention to Christopher Lloyd, who isn't in the same league as these others but was always a favorite comic actor of mine -- and then cropped up in Twenty Bucks as the scene-stealing dramatic performance of the movie. Wow.

Back to silliness for the next reader question: "If you were stranded on a desert island with one working electrical outlet (I don't know, it's in a tree or something) and you could pick one kitchen appliance to have with you, which one would you pick, and why? Assume you can rig up a water pump with bamboo sticks if the kitchen appliance you pick requires running water."

Get creative. Send me email..

Saturday, August 22, 1998

Fourth call on the reader question, "Who's your favorite actor or actress, and why?" Responses are light this time, so let me know.

Today I'd like to talk a little about the Computer Stupidities site, one I haven't talked about much in this journal yet. In terms of traffic, it's the second most popular RinkWorks site, behind The Dialectizer, and one of the oldest. Like The Apogee FAQ, Computer Stupidities existed in a form prior to its debut on the web in January 1998. Sometime in 1996 (after the original 1995 incarnation of The Apogee FAQ but before At-A-Glance Film Reviews hit the web as the first RinkWorks feature, before RinkWorks was even conceived as a name), I ran across a hilarious collection of anecdotes of the type you see on the Computer Stupidities page today. Intrigued by the many and varied ways people could confuse the way computers work (and intrigued, too, by the psychological transition from smart to stupid many people take when they sit down in front of one), I compiled all the anecdotes I could get my hands on -- again, a lot at the time but not very many compared to what I have now -- and sorted them by category in a single text file. It was my intention to maintain a "master list" of these in pure text form, for distribution to my friends and perhaps posting on Internet newsgroups once in a while. I came up with the name Computer Stupidities at that point and used that as the title for the list. In ASCII form, the list was hard to read and hard to maintain, and I actually didn't do a whole lot with it after I completed the initial draft, although I did save new stories as I ran across them.

When I decided to expand my At-A-Glance Film Reviews web site into a suite of web entertainment productions under the RinkWorks name (some time before December 8, 1997, the official opening of RinkWorks), a Computer Stupidities web site was a natural, although I apparently didn't think of it until I had decided on putting my long-running Apogee FAQ there, too, and planning a similarly-formatted FAQ for Everett Kaser Software.

Shortly after RinkWorks debuted, I put up a "coming soon" notice for the site. It opened in January with all the stories in that original list, plus the ones I had collected since but hadn't yet merged. The site sat idle for somewhere around two months, and then I started updating it regularly, every two weeks, and have kept that up until today. Unlike the early days, where I had to go out and gather stories -- asking my friends, searching the Internet, etc -- now I receive enough submissions from readers to keep the site going without that being necessary.

I'm glad to have that site. Its popularity is high and enduring, and a great many of my readers stop by just to check for new stories. It is, however, one of the hardest sites to maintain. At-A-Glance Film Reviews is larger and more complex, but I wrote a manager program that generates the HTML pages from a central database. It was hard to write, but now that it's functional, all I do to maintain that is enter new ratings and reviews when necessary and run the page generator. Book-A-Minute, in spite of what it may seem, requires a lot of creative energy to update (even three little condensations every two weeks, divided up amongst Dave, myself, and the occasional reader, is a creative drain), but it doesn't require that much technical effort. The Apogee FAQ is sticky to update, but I only update that one a few times a year.

With Computer Stupidities, I have to collect stories, cull through them, format the ones I want to keep into HTML by hand, and manually insert them into the appropriate categories. Then I have to fiddle with the "new" icons, deleting the old and adding the new and linking up the new icons on the main page so they connect to the associated story. Not a lot of creative energy there, but a lot of grunt work. I suppose I could write a site managing program, as I did for At-A-Glance Film Reviews (and Brain Food and Crazy Tales and the two game FAQs), but I'm not convinced it would save me much time since the bulk of the work (formatting the stories into HTML) would still have to be done by hand.

Not that I'm complaining. It's rewarding work. People seem to like it, and that's what counts.

Friday, August 21, 1998

Third call on the reader question, "Who's your favorite actor or actress, and why?" Tell me all about it.

Someone left an eye-opening (for me) and insightful compliment in the Reader Survey yesterday, and I was so enthused by it, I had to post it here. The survey was filled out anonymously, so I don't know who to credit, but whoever you are, I thank you for it:

"I really like the small-community feel of the site - like you know us and we know you, sort of...very chatty and friendly - I would hope that you would not get too busy to lose that altogether - it's what makes this site a lot nicer to me than more impersonal ones."

This is the sort of categorization of RinkWorks that makes me feel happy about it. It's not something I would have thought of to call it or even thought of to shoot for, but now I'm thinking that's just the kind of site I want RinkWorks to be, and I refuse to get too busy to forget that. It also quelled my worries about the new Message Forum -- thousands of people visit RinkWorks daily, but only a very small percentage participate in, for example, the reader questions in this journal. That's ok -- I'm not out to give guilt trips to the people who want to keep quiet -- but I was worried about how the Message Forum would fare. After reading the quote above, I suddenly realized it didn't matter if ten people or a thousand people participate in discussions, as long as it's fun and friendly. Right?

So a special thank you to whoever that was, for vocalizing that observation.

Thursday, August 20, 1998

When I said "within the next couple days" yesterday, it apparently meant "within a few hours." The RinkWorks Message Forum is up and running, and I urge all of you to go post a message there to help get the ball rolling. I think (hope) that it will sustain itself in time, but it needs to build up some inertia first. So it'd be a big help if everyone went and started a juicy thread. :-) Thanks.

Other announcements: Book-A-Minute SF/F was updated this morning, I Think was updated a few days ago, and though I won't generally mention it because it's updated almost every day, At-A-Glance Film Reviews has indeed been getting a reasonably steady stream of new reviews lately. Another announcement is that Slapdash City, in spite of my September release prediction, is almost done and will be open soon (within the next couple days?). It might even beat Book-A-Minute Classics out the door, like a few other features did; regardless, both will be open by the end of the month.

Second call for the reader question: "Who is your favorite actor or actress, and why?" Send me your answers.

Wednesday, August 19, 1998

A late answer to the most recent reader question: from Faithy G.: "California Red French, because it can make just about anything taste better."

I agree, Faithy, and I'm glad you said "just about" because I can't really see it improving the taste of scrambled eggs, ranch potato chips, or, well, bleu cheese.

Today's reader question is more serious in tone (perhaps I'll alternate between the serious and the silly): "Who is your favorite actor or actress, and why?" Send me your answers.

Lastly, in an attempt to make this site more interactive, I'll be opening a message forum within the next couple days. This will enable you all to communicate with each other rather than just through me. It'll be interesting to see how it goes -- this is sort of a trial for me. I'm optimistic.

Tuesday, August 18, 1998

Showcase Magazine, a weekly insert in our local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, featured Brain Food in last Thursday's issue. Read it here.

Matt missed the boat. No matter. I only got three answers to my reader question, "If you could be any type of salad dressing, which one would you be, and why?" but they were all good, so here they are:

Monday, August 17, 1998

Greetings again, everyone. The answers are flowing in for my Reader Question, namely: "If you could be any type of salad dressing, which one would you be, and why?" As such, this is the final call for answers before I post them. Go nuts.

Friday, August 14, 1998

Second call on yesterday's reader question: "If you could be any type of salad dressing, which one would you be, and why?" Email me your answers!

In particular, I haven't yet heard from Matt, who started this thing again in the first place.

Regarding the Reader Survey, the overwhelming response is that updates are the favorite way of improving the site, but not at the expense of quality. That means pretty much keeping things the way they are, which is probably what I would have done anyway. The survey isn't going to trigger any major changes to the site, but it's always nice to know how readers feel and if some relatively easy things can be done to make things better. If you haven't filled it out yet, please do.

The Avengers opens today, but it's not being screened for critics -- always a bad sign. Too bad. I was looking forward to that movie with huge expectations. We'll see. Maybe it's not as bad as the studio thinks it is.

Thursday, August 13, 1998

Browsing the first results of the Reader Survey (which was fun, because I heard from several readers I don't normally hear from), I was struck by Matt J.'s, which, among other things, named this journal as his favorite feature. (I never expected anyone to say that!) One of the things he said about it:

"I miss the reader questions that you used to post on the journal page. I feel that the questions gave the pages a nice 'live' feel."

You're probably right about that, Matt. The reason I slacked off on that was it often took several days for replies to flow in. But so what? Since I stopped, this journal seems a bit less interesting. So, to resurrect the trend, today's reader question will be taken from an episode of Murphy Brown. To paraphrase Corky: "If you could be any type of salad dressing, which one would you be and why?" Let's see you dedicated readers answer that one! Send me email.

Wednesday, August 12, 1998

Hi! There's a new Reader Survey on the RinkWorks main page now. This survey is designed to help me learn what readers like about the site, how they read it, and so on. So please, take a moment and fill it out -- it doesn't take long, and it will be a big help to me. Thanks!

In other news, I highly recommend The Gingerbread Man, a movie that got buried by its studio because it didn't like director Robert Altman fighting for his artistic vision. It's an adaptation of a John Grisham story, but it's not based on one of his novels -- it was written directly for the screen. There's much less lawyer stuff and courtroom scenes that in the usual Grisham story, and I think the movie bears more of Altman's signature than Grisham's. In any case, this is a very entertaining, very creepy thriller, and since it was given a theatrical release so quick most people didn't even know it existed, I feel I should tout this movie where I can. It's on video now and should be readily available at your local video store.

In other news, development of Slapdash City is progressing much faster than I thought. I may even have it ready before September, although I have Master's comprehensive exams at the end of August, so maybe not.

Monday, August 10, 1998

Last weekend, Darleen and I went to a model horse show (yes, they have those), and Darleen came back with a huge pack of ribbons. Her model horse shows, and the model horse tack she makes, will be a large part of what EquiWorks will cover.

Friday, August 7, 1998

So far, Slapdash City is in need of a tagline, which is why the "coming soon" page for it doesn't give you any clues as to what it's about. Before the questions roll in, I'll hint: it's a parody of the web as a whole, and the usual content you find on it. I'd like to say that I thought of the name Slapdash City before I realized that it plays off the free web page provider geocities pretty well, but I have to admit it was a happy coincidence.

I Think made Yahoo! It was placed in the Entertainment/Miscellaneous/Opinions section. It was actually accepted into Yahoo at the same time The Filmmaker's Exam was, but it took me a little while to find where they had put it. Again, this is encouraging to me, as Yahoo is a terribly important source of hits.

Speaking of hits, I mentioned before that the recent downtime cut a big chunk out of my regular traffic. I still haven't recovered from it yet, but things are improving -- a few more people are finding the site again each day. C*E*A has been a big help in publicizing RinkWorks -- yesterday they made The Dialectizer a front page feature. (Thanks, C*E*A!)

Everett Kaser has a name for his new game. Read all about it.

The game is estimated to be finished in four to eight weeks or so, give or take; at that time, look for a new version of The Everett Kaser Software FAQ to be posted here, with detailed information about the new game.

Thursday, August 6, 1998

Crazy Tales opened today, and I Think was updated yesterday. My review of Time Barbarians was posted as promised. A new humor featurette, Slapdash City, was announced on the main page. Have fun.

Wednesday, August 5, 1998

Today I'd like to do something different -- instead of talking about my site, I'm going to talk about someone else's. It's been around for three years now, growing from a small-time site to one of the web's most popular boredom cures. The interesting thing (especially to me) is that it's all pretty much the work of one person, Cathie Walker, who taught herself HTML out of a book, started up the site in her spare time, and now does it full time.

The site is C*E*A, located at C*E*A stands for "Centre for the Easily Amused." I think the title does itself an injustice. It's hard not to be amused by this vast, endless amalgam of original material and indices of other silly web pages. The best part is that new features and updates to old ones are made all the time. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 4, 1998

Whatever you do in the course of your life, don't see the movie Time Barbarians unless you really really REALLY enjoy watching bad movies just to laugh at them. This is my new "worst movie ever seen," ousting the nauseating The Perils of Gwendoline In the Land of the Yik Yak from this dubious honor. I knew it wouldn't be a good movie, but I had no idea it would be that wretched. See my review of it, coming very soon on the At-A-Glance Film Reviews page.

Secondly, and on a significantly happier note, The Filmmaker's Exam was accepted into Yahoo this morning and should make it in their database within the next few days. Says Steve, who added the site: "I just added your site to Yahoo! (hence my previous form letter), but I just had to let you know there's a mistake in your list. You have one question in twice - #37 & #66."

I hope Steve doesn't mind my posting his email, but I had to share this -- he really had me going until I looked up those specific questions!

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