Sunday, January 23, 2005

Blizzard of January 2005

View from a second floor window

Wow. My family lived in Alaska when I was young, so I am no stranger to huge amounts of snow, but this blizzard has been an impressive amount of snow in a rather short time period. The NWS now says we're going to net about three feet of snow, but with drifts some spots are already well over that. Before the snow started yesterday afternoon, there was only a couple of inches on the ground. The wind was rather impressive as well. Last night, there were several occasions where you could hear the house shake as the wind blew. That's a little disturbing. The good news is no snow seemed to make it into the house.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Heroscape Unit Creator improvements

I've added some improvements to the href="/cgi-bin/heroscapeunit">Heroscape Unit Creator, including a
slightly cleaner layout of saved units and most importantly, the
ability to rate user created units. Hopefully this will make finding
the well done ones easier and will make the incomplete/flawed ones go
away. At some other point I hope to add the ability to view and sort
by other parameters, but until then, go
rate some units

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Userscript: Delicous Sort

Another greasemonkey userscript: Sort pages. It sorts the links on any page by the number of people who have marked it. At some point, I'll probably have the userscript add a button to pages to revert to the usual time based sorting.

Also, I updated my userscripts page to have a brief description of all of my current scripts.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Greasemonkey 0.2

I am now an "active developer" on the greasemonkey project. I made some fixes to it so it now correctly works with background tabs, frames and iframes. The new release also doesn't blow away your old userscript config like the the old releases did. You can download the new release from

Friday, January 14, 2005

2004 Games Report


  • 470 Games played (80 new to me)
  • 212 Titles
  • 112 Sessions
  • Played with 216 different people

Last Year's Hits

Two games from last years top games, Amun Re and
RoboRally, didn't get played at all in 2004. Amun Re because of a bit
of burn out and RoboRally because of insufficient opportunity.

Five games got played, but fell out of the top ten. "6 nimmt!" only fell to #18 while Puerto Rico, Attika, Finstere Flure, and Balloon Cup fell more substantially. Most of these fell due to some amount of burnout and will hopefully get picked up again soon.

Three games, Crokinole, Electronic Catchprase and Princes of Florence retained spots in the top ten.

Year to year comparison

If you want to maintain a high rate of playing games and get a healthy amount of sleep, I recommend against having a baby. In every other regard, I highly recommend it.
This years gaming dropped substantially along all axes except number of different people.

Year Games New Diff Ses Ppl
1997 ~30
1998 ~100
1999 ~150 63
2000 301 112 141 126 129
2001 712 172 266 175 165
2002 650 161 279 163 241
2003 552 128 272 129 180
2004 470 80 212 112 216

Monday, January 10, 2005

Greasemonkey: Interstitial Skipper

I wrote another greasemonkey userscript: yahoo groups interstitial ad skipper. Ok, "skipper" is not quite right, but it immediately moves on to the actual message. If you've used the web interface to Yahoo Groups, you've noticed it occasionally inserts an advertisement before you can view the message. Adblock does a fine job of removing the ad itself, but you're left with an essentially blank interstitial page. This userscript automatically "clicks" on the Continue to message link. This is especially useful when opening several messages into tabs in the background.

Sunday, January 9, 2005

Grease Monkey

Greasemonkey is a plugin
for firefox that lets you run "user scripts" on particular web pages
automatically. When I last played with "bookmarklets" it occured to
me that it would be useful to have the automatically execute some of
these whenever particular pages are loaded. That's exactly what
grease monkey has done. If you install greasemonkey, you should be able to right-click or control-click on the userscripts to install them.

Combine it with href=>xpath and
you have a rather nice system for mucking with web pages. For example, slashdot has some really awful color schemes on some pages. I wrote a greasemonkey userscript to fix slashdot's colors. It does its best to change all existing background colors to the default. This might be doable with a cleverly written user style sheet, but given the lack of element classes in the slash HTML, maybe not.

One of the things that bugs me on a lot of web pages is that there's a
lot of unneeded garbage around the edges. In particular, the
following layout is common:


A recent article points out that many folks ignore them anyway.
So, I wrote a couple of userscripts to extract the content section and put it at the top. The remaining "shell" of a page is left at the bottom in case you want it. That part ends up looking weird, but the main content is nicely and more clearly positioned at the top of the page. Here are the userscripts: Weather Underground reorganizer and CNN story reorganizer. Or, if you'd rather just remove the CNN side navbar.

I'll probably write some more of these, which I'll post to this section of my blog. I may also create a better userscripts page, which is for the moment a placeholder that links back here.

Other userscripts I know about, other than those on the greasemonkey site:

Tuesday, January 4, 2005 Categories

Updated: The categories it was picking weren't very good. Part of the reason for this was that the hierarchy wasn't visible and it wasn't very good at picking "cut-off" points in the hierarchy. I made a new version that shows the hierarchy in the same style as the earlier clustering example. It's much better. The thicker, darker lines correspond to more strongly associated URLs. hierarchy. Plus, now both of them use recent popular links which improves it's knowledge a bit (more popular means more tags to learn from).

Continuing in the same vein as my earlier experiment with
delicious clusters, I decided to turn it around
try clustering of the URLs, which essentially means categorizing them. It's been pointed out that a problem with these tagging interfaces (aka folksonomies) are lack of synonyms and the like. My clustering system helps address this as well as related but non-synonymous terms. In any case, using the clustered taxonomy generated from the tags it is possible to cluster the URLs into categories. I created a first pass of a categories page. It works ok, and I believe I know how to make it work better.

What it does is take about 150 recent postings from, strip out the ones with no tags and the ones with unique tags and apply the historical tag clustering database to identify which "tag clusters" it is part of. From there, it identifies which URLs tag clusters are similar to one another and creates URL clusters based on that. These are the categories. It's got some basic heuristics for determing when to stop glomming categories together. Once it has all the categories, it tries to pick a good name for them by grabbing the most common tags for URLs in that category.

It works well, but far from perfectly. There are a few big caveats; The categories it produces are based on the recent URLs. In the grand scheme of things "computers" may be a big category, but if only one or two recent entries are about computers, it may not even get a category. The names for the categories are often wrong or misleading. Often a category will be meaningful and coherent, but slightly (or oddly) mislabeled. For example, earlier today, there was a category "recipes". The category would have been better labeled food, as it included several food but non-recipe related sites, but it didn't know any better. It will sometimes leave links uncategorized that should obviously go in one of the generated categories. Sometimes this is due to odd tagging and sometimes it is due to insufficent tags. Finally it sometimes puts a URL in an entirely inappropriate category.

I hope to soon try to address some of these by using more extensive tag histories of a URL, only URLs with a "critical mass" of tags and by improving the "tag clusters". Check it out..

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Game Metrics for 2004

I've discussed game metrics before, and listed my top games by various measures last year, so here's this years version. My favorite measures remain the Huber Happiness Heuristic and Matthew's Month Metric, and not just because they are pleasingly alliterative.

Huber Happiness Heuristic

Equation for a games "happiness units (HU)": (Rating-Offset)*Total Time

  1. Goa (3300 HUs)
  2. Power Grid (3240 HUs)
  3. San Juan (2630 HUs)
  4. Heroscape (2230 HUs)
  5. Oasis (1620 HUs)
  6. Electronic Catchphrase (1610 HUs)
  7. St. Petersburg (1520 HUs)
  8. 10 Days in Africa (1365 HUs)
  9. Crokinole (1365 HUs)
  10. Princes of Florence (1215 HUs)

Other games yielding at least 500 HUs: Typo, Marco Polo, Tongiaki, Ticket to Ride, Einfach Genial, Yinsh, Buy Word, Phoenix, Vinci, Adam & Eva, Victory & Honor, Attika, Geschenkt.

Month Metric

Month Metric
(distinct months in which the game was played)

  1. Electronic Catchphrase (8 months in 2004, 31 ever)
  2. San Juan (6 months in 2004, 6 ever)
  3. 10 Days in Africa (6 months in 2004, 7 ever)
  4. Oasis (5 months in 2004, 6 ever)
  5. Crokinole (5 months in 2004, 20 ever)
  6. Adam & Eva (5 months in 2004, 5 ever)
  7. Ticket to Ride (4 months in 2004, 4 ever)
  8. Tongiaki (4 months in 2004, 4 ever)
  9. Typo (4 months in 2004, 4 ever)
  10. Can't Stop (4 months in 2004, 22 ever)
  11. Coda (4 months in 2004, 4 ever)
  12. Einfach Genial (4 months in 2004, 4ever)

Most Plays Metric

See the 5sAnd10s2004 list.

Most Sessions

  1. San Juan (13 sessions)
  2. Electronic Catchphrase (9 sessions)
  3. 10 Days in Africa (9 sessions)
  4. Crokinole (8 sessions)
  5. Heroscape (7 sessions)
  6. Tongiaki (7 sessions)
  7. Adam & Eva (6 sessions)
  8. Oasis (6 sessions)
  9. Power Grid (6 sessions)
  10. Typo (6 sessions)

Saturday, January 1, 2005

5s and 10s for 2004

As has become the tradition, here are the games I played this year at least 20 times, 10 times and 5 times.
Italicized games have appeared on my lists in past years. See also my list from last year.

I played somewhat fewer games total this year, but also fewer different titles which means the 5s and 10s list is about the same size as usual. It was a good year for word games (Electronic Catchphrase, Typo and Buy Word) as well as for new games.


Electronic Catchphrase (23)


10 Days in Africa (13), Crokinole (13), Quack Shot (13), San Juan (13),
Heroscape (11)


Adam & Eva (8), Typo (8), Phoenix (7), Tongiaki (7), Buy Word (6),
Einfach Genial (6), Geschenkt (6), Light Speed (6)
Ma Ni Ki (6), Oasis (6), Power Grid (6), Yinsh (6), Goa (5),
Magic: the Gathering (5), Marco Polo (5), St. Petersburg (5), Zirkus Flohcati (5)

The only game on this list that doesn't entirely "deserve" to be there is Quack Shot, which was played 13 times all in one sitting.