Saturday, August 26 2000
Recently I've been working on a flexible, easily-edited system to generate random English sentences and paragraphs of arbitrary complexity. The origins of this project date back to the old CollegeClub astrology section, which featured a random fortune teller program. This program consisted of a single ASP function having its own internal data. The function pieced together complex sentences randomly by substituting tokens with random replacement phrases. Inside these phrases could be other tokens which in turn could be replaced, and so on and so on. Depending on what tokens were introduced by the expansion of other tokens, the full expansion of a core tokenized phrase could take many iterations. The content of the phrases for this first system were the result of my fertile imagination and decidedly not in keeping with the overall blandness of the rest of the CollegeClub site. Thus it came as no surprise that the removal of this fortune telling system was the only alteration to the astrology section ever accomplished by Katee Faust (aka GR8K8) after she took over the astrology project (an act that ultimately precipitated my ouster from the company).
My new random phrase generator works in a very similar way, but it is considerably more flexible because it is written entirely in SQL, the phrases themselves are stored in a SQL table, and all the iterations of token substitution are handled by a single stored procedure. I have an ASP form for simplifying the task of putting data into the tables, although the usability with real human beings has not been tested. I've already migrated the random phrase generation on the top of the front page of this journal to this system.
Today I needed to fix Kim's Bathtubgirl.com website, which was all fucked up in Netscape. Not having a good copy of Netscape on my home computer, I was forced to go to work to debug the thing. While I was there, I implemented a system allowing anyone who has registered on my messageboard system to build their own tokenized random phrase generation system. If you're interested and registered, open your profile pop-up window, click on the "Phrases" tab, type in a random phrase system name, click on the Create button, and then click on the link that forms to get a new window where you can begin the process of building your tokenized phrases. The documentation isn't too great, but if you're the least bit intelligent you can probably figure out what to do. The key to remember is that tokens are represented in your phrases as [tokenname] and are replaced automatically with a random phrase from the list of phrases for that token whenever your phrases are expanded. The topmost token must be called [main] - this is the first token for which you build phrases. As you work, the system shows sample full token expansions for the token which you are editing. Whenever you alter a phrase, you have to explicitly delete the old copy or it will persist in the mix of possible substitutions.
As of yet, John and I are a fairly anti-social couple of housemates. Tonight John went out to see a movie with his friend Chen (an Asian girl he knows through his sister), but I was disappointed that they didn't even end up sleeping together.
I haven't yet felt the urge to paint paintings or teach myself Flash, so the only thing to do except make cool database toys (ones that none of my readers seem to want to play with) is to trawl the alleys looking for free stuff. Tonight I found a small wicker shelf with an iron frame and little stylized feet. It's more elegant than I can possibly describe and, though it was manufactured years before they were invented, perfect for holding CDs.
The punkishly never-sold-out tune "Eye for an Eye" introduces the latest Royal Carribean advertisement. Then we hear the voiceover. It's a youthful-trendy female with a slightly husky voice urging us to "get out thehre." This is what the dot com culture hath wrought - rich people aren't just the old and unfashionable anymore.
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