Raspberry Pi versus Roku!

I just discovered that Raspbmc (XBMC on the Raspberry Pi) deletes commercials from The Daily Show, pulls in additional interview material on the Web and intelligently inserts it before the Moment of Zen, and has good integrated episode synopses.

Take that, Hulu! Take that, Roku! Free software FTW!

As well, try watching Al Jazeera on a commercial set-top box. You may have cut the umbilical to cable; now cut it to proprietary software.

If you liked The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you might also enjoy these 5 novels…

In reverse chronological order. What a wealth of comic sf there has been recently! Can you recommend any in this vein?

Follow the links for descriptions and reviews.

  1. Constellation Games, Leonard Richardson, 2012
  2. Year Zero, Rob Reid, 2012
  3. Against Peace and Freedom, Mark Rosenfelder, 2011
  4. First Contract, Greg Costikyan, 2000
  5. Mindswap, Robert Sheckley, 1966

A second glance at The Restored Finnegans Wake

I just got The Restored Finnegans Wake ( http://t.co/CNA0Jxpn ) for my birthday, and although on first glance, I complained about it a little on my social networks ( https://twitter.com/rwhe/status/218453421353738241 ), on second glance, I’m beginning to appreciate the editors’ work.

I compared what Allforabit Funferall read on Sunday (116.11-117.09) in my usual edition and in the new one. The text is virtually identical. Apart from a pair of inserted commas and maybe one or two other minor punctuation changes in the new edition, there are a few small word changes, mostly in the direction of enriching the text, not impoverishing it as we had feared. Here they are (this is on pages 92-93 in the new edition):

1. “language of sweet tarts” becomes “tonguage of sweet tarts”

2. “lingo” becomes “iridated lingo”

3. “mouths of wickerchurchwardens” becomes “homosapuel mouths of

4. “Here, Ohere, insult the fair!” becomes “Here, O here, insult the fair!”

Nice! Only change 4 is less Wakeanly obfuscated than we would expect. The rest I think Joyce would approve, if they are indeed his words at all.

He might even have approved change 4. I understand the editors have a hypertext genetic database of history and changes to the Wake that they plan to release, but for now we must see “dumb in his glass darkly”.

Actually, the text is remarkably clear, despite the very few changes. It’s a new experience to read the Wake so beautifully typeset. I believe that’s what gave me the impression of reading Ulysses by mistake; my workaday Penguin edition (circa 1987) is so cramped and murkily typeset (not to mention yellowed, though that’s not the dear old thing’s fault) that it’s a slight struggle to make out words. In the new (I’m still not willing to call it “restored”) edition, even though there is more text on each page, there is a feeling of lightness and easiness when reading the book.

This new edition swings.

Word games: SOWPODS vs. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

This is to further an interesting discussion about which dictionary is appropriate for arbitrating word games at Seattle Cosmic Game Night and elsewhere. My friend Dave Howell prefers Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, because he considers it authoritative.


I prefer SOWPODS, because it is the word list used in all international Scrabble tournaments, and if it's good enough for serious tournament play of a serious word game like Scrabble, it ought to be good enough for casual play of lighter word games like Boggle at Seattle Cosmic or most of the games we play at Tim Schutz's group Word Nerds. (In other words, I guess I too am claiming it's authoritative, in a way.)


One of the great things about SOWPODS is that it's designed specifically for playing word games. For example, it does not contain any proper nouns, unlike Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, so no judgment calls are necessary there. There are also simple rules in the front matter of the bound copy of SOWPODS (Chambers Official Scrabble Words, International Edition) that describe proper and improper ways to pluralize nouns, and so on.


One of Dave's complaints about Scrabble dictionaries in general is that they are inflated with lots of two- and three-letter "garbage words" intended to make it easier to score in Scrabble. It's true there are a lot of weird little words in SOWPODS, but perforce they are only a small percentage of the overall vocabulary; there are only so many two-letter words you can make. In any case, these short words are irrelevant to Boggle (at least the way we play it) because only words that are four letters or longer score.

In any case, I believe my bound copy of SOWPODS refers American players to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary for words longer than nine letters, so that should make Dave happy.

There are a couple of other advantages to SOWPODS. The bound copy does not include any definitions of words, so checking whether a word is present is a quick and simple decision. Is it in the word list? If not, can you make it with the simple prefix/suffix rules? OK, you're done. If you really need a definition, type define:myword into Google, and you'll get a bunch of results that may not even be in M-W.

Further, digital copies of SOWPODS are readily available for PCs and smartphones, allowing interesting textual analysis, such as the list I recently made of all palindromic words in the English language.


This can come in handy in the middle of a word game; smartphone apps enable you to search SOWPODS for anagrams of a given string, and so on. I'm not suggesting cheating here, but consensual analysis of a position can be instructive.

To sum up, while I recognize that Dave's favorite dictionary is considered an authoritative resource by many English-language writers and editors (although I have some issues with the way Dave seems to construe the word "authoritative"), and while Merriam-Webster's is the go-to dictionary for American players if you have the good fortune to make a word longer than nine letters, it seems to me that a dictionary or word list such as SOWPODS that has been designed with care specifically for word game play is more appropriate our game groups.

Planned Ludism.org outage; temporary email addresses for Hale-Evanses

Because the Hale-Evans household is moving, there will be a temporary outage of the server for Ludism.org and related sites this weekend. We hope it will be brief.

Until further notice, please use the following addresses for email:

Ron: ludism@gmail.com
Marty: queenofswords@gmail.com

Although mail sent to our regular addresses will probably arrive eventually, this is the fastest and surest way to reach us for now.