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By Samuel Stoddard

December 1998

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Thursday, December 31, 1998

Well, it's the last day of 1998, and it's the last day you'll see me around for a while. I'm going to be on vacation until Thursday next week. So Happy New Year, everyone, and I'll talk to you again when I get back.

Tuesday, December 29, 1998

More telemarketer terrorism stories:

Wednesday, December 23, 1998

In the spirit of the season, I'll tell the stories of my own meager efforts at frustrating telemarketers. My stories aren't as classic as the one in the previous journal entry, but I've had some fun now and then.

Any other telemarketer revenge stories out there?

Sunday, December 20, 1998

Another dog name:

I would now like to bring up an issue very important to our personal identity and societal security, namely, the issue of annoying telemarketers.

This story, entitled "AT&T" and written and copyrighted by Robert Byron (reproduced here with permission), is forwarded to me by reader Kent M.:

One thing that has always bugged me, and I'm sure it does most of you, is to sit down at the dinner table only to be interrupted by a phone call from a telemarketer. I decided, on one such occasion, to try to be as irritating as they were to me. The call was from AT&T and it went something like this:

At this point I put the phone down for a solid five minutes thinking that surely this person would have hung up the phone. I ate my salad. Much to my surprise, when I picked up the receiver, she was still waiting.

When you are not interested in something, I don't think you can express yourself any plainer than by saying, "I'm really not interested," but this lady was persistent.

So now AT&T had me on hold, and my supper was getting cold. I began to eat while waiting for a supervisor.

I had to swallow before I choked on my food. It was all I could do to suppress my laughter, and I had to be careful not to produce a snort.

I was on hold once again and managed a few more mouthfuls. I needed to end this conversation. Suddenly, there was an aggravated but polite voice at the other end of the phone.

Robert Byron has other stories of this nature at

Thursday, December 17, 1998

More dog names:

Thanks Dave. I really appreciate that.

The inside joke, folks, is this. Not many years ago (something like three, I guess), I wrote a computer role playing game. It was probably the most complex programming project I've ever undertaken, because it was quite involved. It only had ASCII graphics, but I managed to get a 3D view of the maze working, and I had ASCII pictures of all the monsters. (No, don't expect this to appear on RinkWorks -- I don't think it would port to the web very well.) At any rate, the second group of characters I played through had a leader named "Dog." For whatever reason, every time Dog nailed somebody in combat, I'd shout, "DOG!" That's it. That's the entirety of the inside joke. There's nothing more to say.


Wednesday, December 16, 1998

The new online game Enchanted Forest was released today. I'm particularly interested in the competitive aspect of it. All scores are recorded, so you can browse your own scores to see how you're progressing and/or browse the high scores to see how you fare against everybody else.

At any rate, I thought I'd talk a little bit about the history of this game. Like Fantasy Quest, featured on Adventure Games Live, its original incarnation was as a BASIC program that used ASCII graphics. The trees were represented by 'T's (and, later, one of those extended ASCII characters that looks like a | and ~ mashed together), the spaces were represented by periods, and the player was represented by an 'X'. I made some use of color (as now, blue to show where you've been), but it was fairly restrictive. Commands were typed in using quick commands ("N," "E," "S," "W," or "QUIT") as were the answers to all questions. The first drafts (circa 1990) had only one level. Later drafts (still circa 1990) had five levels. This new web-based version again has only one level (the game is too long, especially when played over the web, with five separate levels) but adds in "level boosters" to escalate the stakes.

The BASIC version was written while I was in eleveth grade in high school. I was one of about six people who took a high school level computer programming class. The class wasn't high on the list of the school's priorities back then, so it was not offered during regular school hours. Instead, it was offered an hour before school officially started. It was fun going in early when the school was mostly empty. The neat thing was that the teacher let us play around with the machines as long as we got our regular work done first. There'd usually be an assignment of some sort, which we'd whip out fairly quickly (most of us learned BASIC on our own prior to this anyway), and then we'd spend not only the rest of the class period playing around but also the time between the end of class and when school started for real. During those hours, I threw together this game, and I ended up getting most of the people in the class to play it, too. It was fun, because I received instant feedback from people as they were playing the game. I got to hear their cries of victory and their wails of defeat, and I got to bound from one player to another to see how the latest games were going. It was tweaked and refined almost continuously for a while, and I kept adding new things to find.

Writing Adventure Games Live got me excited about making online games, and I knew I wanted to do more. The funny thing, though, is that I don't think I ever intentionally decide to port Enchanted Forest to the web. I just kind of fell into it. Late last month I started toying with what it would take to write Enchanted Forest for the web, and my exploration never quite stopped. It just suddenly ended up being a project I was actively pursuing. I started out porting the game more or less faithfully, right down to implementing the five separate levels the original game had. I was pretty much all done last Monday and was tentatively planning to release it the next day when playtesting made it evident that the five level version just wasn't going to fly. So I took an extra day to drop it to one level and add level boosters, then took the opportunity to tweak the board generation routines and so forth to improve the gameplay, then add a couple new rare things to find. I'm much happier with this version of it.

So that's pretty much the story of the game. I hope the gamers among you will find it fun.

Tuesday, December 15, 1998

Another favorite curse word:

May I say that I've had better answers to this question here than Inside the Actor's Studio ever gets?

I've had several suggestions for dog names, and I thought up another one myself. What do you think of "Indigestion" for a dog name? Anyway, here are more:

Monday, December 14, 1998

Answers to the reader question, "What is your favorite curse word?" are listed below:

Ok, so none of the answers above are actually real. I wanted people to send me answers I could censor, hence obliterating the whole point of this question, but the only one who actually did that was quoting Nathan Lane's answer to the question on Inside the Actor's Studio. Here it is:

The answer from my associate (I've always wanted to say that -- it's almost as cool as saying, "I'm sorry. I have to take this call from my AGENT," which, by the way, is the subject of an I Think rant written more by my ASSOCIATE than me.) is one I didn't have to censor at all, although it looks like I did. But he meant literally this:

The rest of the answers require no editorial comments from me, so here they are:

That's the last of the Inside the Actor's Studio questions I'm going to ask here. There are one or two others, but I don't think they yield very interesting answers, so I'll skip them.

Continuing with brainstorming for dog names, I thought up a few more:

Yet in spite of these suggestions, I'm still leaning towards "Bursitis." Anybody got any better ideas? (I've received a couple so far, which I'll post soon.) Send me email.

Saturday, December 12, 1998

Darleen and I would like to get a dog sometime within the next couple years (we're not in a position where we can keep one now), so naturally the pressure is on to think up a name for this dog before it's too late. We're deciding between Aquafresh and Bursitis. Anybody got any other ideas?

Thursday, December 10, 1998

While the answers to yesterday's readers are trickling in, here's some answers from Shelley T. that I didn't post earlier because I misfiled her mail.

Favorite sound?

Least favorite word?

Wednesday, December 9, 1998

Answers to the reader question, "What profession might you like to have other than your own?" follow:

Patrick also has a straggling answer to a previous reader question, "What is a sound or noise you hate?"

The next reader question: "What is your favorite curse word?"

Tuesday, December 8, 1998

Today is the one year anniversary of RinkWorks. (At-A-Glance Film Reviews has been around since Fall 1996, and The Apogee FAQ has been around in text form only prior to that, but that's it.) On December 8, 1997, RinkWorks came online with only At-A-Glance Film Reviews, Book-A-Minute SF/F, and The Apogee FAQ, and coming soon notices for The Everett Kaser Software FAQ and Computer Stupidities. The Filmmaker's Exam appeared as the first featurette soon after RinkWorks opened. However, it wasn't until April 8 that RinkWorks got its own domain name. Luckily for me, by purest coincidence this was literally days after Internic announced a $35-per-year rate drop in the registration of domain names.

Continuing with the previous string of reader questions, one of the questions in the series is "What is a profession you would least like to have?" We already covered that one last month, but another question in the series is "What profession other than the one you have might you also like to try?" So that's today's reader question. Send me email.

Monday, December 7, 1998

Answers to the most recent reader question, "What is a sound or noise you hate?" follows:

I really relate to the mosquito answer. The maddening part about it is when they're whining in your ear, you can't see them -- so you wave or swat at where you think it's hovering, and somehow it never does any good. And sooner or later you make the mistake of swatting your ear, which starts it ringing. Ugh!

I saw Enemy of the State last night. I recommend it. The first preview they aired was for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, and I am proud of myself, because I had the strength to bury my face. So now I have heard the trailer but not actually seen it. I refuse to see it before I see the movie, because although I hear it does not give more plot away than what common knowledge already covers, it has to give away certain things about the look and feel of the movie. You see a scene in the trailer, and during the movie you're trying to figure out how the movie is going to get to that scene. I hate that, and I don't want to do that with Star Wars. Plus I don't want the trailer to get me all excited five months before the movie's released. My wife Darleen saw the trailer. She said C3PO and Yoda look funny.

Thursday, December 3, 1998

A straggling answer to the reader question, "What is your least favorite word?" follows:

Any other answers?

Answers to the reader question, "What is a sound or noise you love?" follow:

Once again, a fantastic array of answers. If there are any other answers out there, send them along. In the meantime, readers, what is a sound or noise you hate?

Tuesday, December 1, 1998

The Site Market Game is off, and the trick this time is that you have to lose money rather than earn it. Register today!

The previous two reader questions were, "What is your favorite and least favorite word?" A few days ago, I posted some answers to the "favorite word" question. Since, I've received more answers to this question as well as answers to the "least favorite word" question. I'm going to post them, and if there are any more answers to either of these questions out there, please don't hesitate to send them.

Favorite words:

Least favorite words:

As a matter of fact, Patrick, you're quite correct. Congratulations for being the first to recognize (and tell me about it, anyway) the series of questions used on the great interview show Inside the Actor's Studio, which is broadcast on the Bravo television network in the evening several times weekly. I'll talk more about the show and the questionnaire later, but for now, readers, could you tell me, please, what is a sound or noise that you love?

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