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  Contributed by:Ben
Can you believe I get a day off on Friday because Ronald Reagan died? I understand "normal" holidays like Labor Day and Memorial Day, but is it really necessary to give the millions of people under the government's employ a (paid) day off because a 93-year-old man we knew was going to croak any day now, well, lived up to his expectations? I'm certainly not complaining that I get a day off ... I just don't agree with the reason. Hell, I don't even like Reagan and I think he did some terrible things to this country (like sky-rocketing the deficit). We have yet to take care of that nasty deficit he left us with - but you won't hear anyone remembering that during his funeral, oh no, it'll all just be peaches and roses.

  Contributed by:Ben
I've started my new job at NIST. Currently I'm working on adding a help interface to a refrigeration modelling simulation named EVAP-COND. Later on in the summer I'll be doing more challenging work on some of the other in-house programs.
I also have a funny story to relate. On my first day of work here (Tuesday) I had to stop by the security trailer to get a visitor's badge. Before I entered, I noticed a squirrel hanging around on a wooden fence really close to the door. He didn't seem to run away when I approached. Inside was a friendly overweight African American guy. This guy put a handful of potato chips outside on the wooden fence, and the squirrel started eating them. Then I happened to look on the guy's desk and noticed a 5"x8" framed photo of his squirrel sitting up on its haunches. Evidently this squirrel is his pet, and he feeds it every day and uses it to entertain visitors (as I left a visitor was standing about a foot away from the squirrel watching it eat). Needless to say, the squirrel was fat.

  Contributed by:Ben
This is a random entry just to get poor Udephus onto a google search result somewhere. Udephus, if you're reading this, this is CydeWeys

  Contributed by:Ben
I figured out what was wrong: the hard drive on Fyre was full. Then, every time the site generation script was run, it would run out of room and generate a blank .html document. I solved that problem by deleting around 1GB of *.rpm's that were sitting around.

  Contributed by:Ben
The site was down for awhile ... and you can probably blame me for that. Something was wrong with the site generation script, but I've fixed it. A belated Happy New Year goes out to everyone. My Winter Break is almost up, and on the 24th I'll be back in school. I've been playing a lot of America's Army recently. It's a great multiplayer game. I've also been playing Kingdom Hearts (for PS2) and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (for PC).

A guy I know at college is writing a weblog called Sorority Girl. In it, he pretends to be a college-aged female and writes all of these satirical, dumb-sounding entries. I think he's getting a bit too much into it - he's been writing an entry a day for months, and even put together a "fundraiser" for kids at Childrens' Hospital that raised over $300. Needless to say, he gets a lot of readers, but I can't help but wonder how many of his regular readers have actually "caught on" to his ploy? His real name is Sing Su and he's a diminuative-looking Asian boy.

  Contributed by:Ben
Fyre was down for the past week or so. You see, I'm currently at college and so I don't have physical access to Fyre anymore. Apparently the network cable came loose, and Fyre only came back online tonight when I got my dad to reseat the CAT5 cable. Don't expect too many updates on this site - I'm working mainly on my new site Terpy, which I'm hosting on my server Terpy in my college dorm room.

  Contributed by:Ben
It is now 15 minutes before I go attend my first college course. I can't say I'm not excited, but inevitably it'll just be standing up, saying your name, i.e. "getting to know everyone" stuff. I ordered a Linux server from Wal-Mart for $214 (including shipping) that I'll hopefully be getting in soon. Despite its low cost, it is actually better than Fyre, and for that, I am ashamed. Anyway, Fyre will not be going down, don't worry about that. I'll just be devoting most of my effort to my new server which I'll be running on campus on a much faster connection. I'm taking suggestions for its name ... contact me via AIM. My username is Cyde2. That is all for now.

  Contributed by:Ben
Just as an update to the last entry, no, I did not break the page counters. I just temporarily messed them up, but they're back to the same old count now.
I know it seems like I haven't been updating this site recently, but I have been very busy with the Magic Online Custom Splash Screens page. And also, I'm packing up for college and stuff like that ... I'm leaving in less than a week! I'm not sure what is going to happen to Fyre when I'm away at college. Fyre is going to stay at home with my family, but I'm not sure if I'll switch to hosting this site on a Linux computer in my dorm room. It all depends on whether I have access to port 80 on the UMCP network and what kinds of restrictions they put on me. I'd really rather host it at school, though, because my upload on this DSL is a max of 15 KB/s which can really get slow.

  Contributed by:Ben
I was just messing with Apache and apparently I've broken the page counters. Oh well. Just remember, the Site Statistics are a lot more accurate for that kind of thing anyway.

  Contributed by:Ben
Random perverted MTGO quotes:
  • Ways MTG guys get chicks: "Wanna sit on my throne of bone?"
  • Wanna sit on my throne of bone -- I'll poke you with my rod of ruin.
  • A crystal rod could make a good sex toy.
  • Stick your bone flute up my glacial crevice.
  • Never twiddle your bone flute in public.
  • Cry and let loose the hollowdogs of war.
  • Did he just flip you the bird of paradise?

  Contributed by:Ben
Today is my 18th birthday ... and with that comes a whole host of responsibilities and privileges. I can now legally smoke cigarettes (not that I would anyway), I can join the army and get killed (bad), I can vote (good), I can get the death sentence in my state (bad, but I could still have gotten it in Virginia anyway), I can sign my own name (good), and I am now legally an adult. It doesn't really feel that special to me though. Maybe turning 21 will be different. Though I suspect it won't be.

I'm working on a "card game" in Java. You can see the functional beta of BattleCards here.

  Contributed by:Ben
Just got back from college orientation - yeesh! Kind of overwhelming, but also very fun. No, nothing else new. Sorry.

  Contributed by:Ben
Sorry for the (horrendous) lack of updates. Final exams are upon me, and the school year ends on Wednesday! Rest assured I'll be plenty bored during the summer to do some cool things with this site. MiniHack has gone live on the Fyre public Nethack server.

  Contributed by:Ben

Two more squirrels were (inadvertently) killed in the attic. That's a total of 3 dead squirrels that used to inhabit the attic. How two of them got stuck in the trap at once is a mystery that will probably never be solved. MiniHack is ready to go live on the Fyre Nethack server. What is it, you ask? Login and see for yourself. Soon.


  Contributed by:Ben

We killed a squirrel yesterday. We didn't exactly mean to, but we're still satisfied with the outcome. You see, we've had a squirrel living in our attic for a few months now. We try patching up the holes he bores under the roof to get in, but he just makes more holes. So we had to take out the root of the problem - the squirrel. I suggested a rat trap, but my dad wanted to be humane and bought one of those cage trap things. The squirrel got caught in the trap sometime in the morning, and by the time we checked the trap at night, the squirrel was dead. The heat in the attic throughout the day must've killed it (it gets over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in our attic on a sunny day). For what it's worth, the squirrel weighed 2.8 pounds. That's a large sucker!

My latest project is called MiniHack. It's a console-based game written in Perl. More info to come (possibly even the source).


  Contributed by:Ben

I am so happy the break is over, even if it means going back to school. Why? Because I'm Jewish, and we celebrate Passover, and we had a whole load of relatives over. The bottom line is that I had less free time during the break than I do after school during a normal school week. Babysitting my 7-year-old cousin (without compensation, mind you) is no fun. Luckily, he can play some of the simpler games I play, such as the PlayStation2 game Gauntlet: Dark Legacy. And I'm glad I get my room back too - my aunt was staying in it.

I'm sorry that I don't actually have anything new to talk about. I'm going to write two new short stories soon - one is about an incredibly spoiled boy who gets a "perfect" gift and fails to realize what it is, and the other is sort of an essay on philosophy in Herman Hesse's Siddhartha style. It should be interesting, but unfortunately you won't be able to read them because I want to preserve all of my first world publishing rights.


  Contributed by:Ben

I've been working on my latest science fiction short story, titled "A Deuterium Debacle." It's a bit shorter than my last story, "Shimmer", and also has slightly different origins ("American Studies" class rather than "Creative Writing" class). It will be going up on Critters tomorrow.

I've been playing a great game recently called Wulfram 2. I played it awhile ago, then something happened and it vanished, but it made a comeback. The graphics are incredibly dated by now, but I still really enjoy the core gameplay: a hovertank battle between two teams composed of up to 32 players each. I especially like the base-building and ship-commanding aspects. I simple haven't seen an FPS as complex and engaging as this one, before or since. Anyway, I dug up my old Wulfram Strategy page (back when it was in version one), and you can check it out here if you'd like.

And I have confirmed my enrollment to UMCP, as well as admissions to the Honors and Gemstone programs, as well as the scholarship. I simply couldn't pass up a totally free ride to college.


  Contributed by:Ben
There's not much to report on. Ohh, one minor thing. I got a FULL SCHOLARSHIP to University of Maryland College Park (tuition, room & board, and even books!) Well, I think I know where I'm going to go to college!

  Contributed by:Ben
WAHOO! I got rejected from Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Sciences. Now you're probably wondering why I'm happy about that. Quite frankly, I don't want to go there anyway - it's simply too far away. Now that I don't even have to consider it, my choice between UMCP and SMCM is a lot easier!
And by the way, in Optics class, we made this really cool camera out of a cardboard box, a mirror, a lens, and some tape. We used photographic paper to take the pictures on. All things considered, the pictures we got are very good!

  Contributed by:Ben
*Sigh* ... is this site little more than a blog now? Oh well. My dad had an interesting story to relate. Living as close to Washington D.C. as we do, helicopters fly near our house often. We're kind of directly in the flight path between the White House and Camp David, so you can guess which kind of helicopters those are. Today my dad was at a local university when FOUR helicopters flew overhead, two Command choppers and two Chinooks. Apparently this Bush and Blair visit is such a big deal that it takes four helicopters to transport all of the support staff and materials to the meeting (or maybe they wanted more decoys than usual because a chance to knock out the leading two "Anti-Muslim" men on the world certainly isn't an opportunity that knocks often). And yes, I know, the U.S. and U.K. aren't actually anti-Muslim, but unfortunately that's how we're stereotyped by many Muslims and Arabs in the Middle-East.

  Contributed by:Ben
I have some rather disturbing news to relate to whoever is reading this webpage that I obtained from a reliable source (one of my teachers). There is more going on than meets the eye in the case of Elizabeth Smart, the 15 year old who was abducted in Salt Lake City, Utah for nine months. She is a Mormon, though her abducter was in a different sect of Mormonism, the one that allows polygamy. The man was trying to get seven wives for himself by kidnapping them all. He made an attempt at snatching Elizabeth's cousin. And another thing the media won't tell you - Elizabeth was almost fully indoctrinated into the ways of the polygamist Mormonist sect. For nine months the abducter was persuading her impressionable young mind with tenets of his religion. By the end of the nine months, it really wasn't kidnapping - she was willing, if in a brainwashed way, at least. So it was only rape in the sense that an adult had sex with a minor, not that the woman was not consenting. It's understandable why Elizabeth's family didn't want this info to get out, because it puts her in a bad light, but nevertheless, here I am, reporting the truth.

  Contributed by:Ben
I've made yet another Java applet! This time it's a battle simulator for the boardgame Axis and Allies. You can see it here. It's not entirely complete yet but it's safe enough to put on the web (a previous version was crashing both MacOS 9 and Windows XP!!). So, if you are intrigued, go look at it. If not, go do something else :-)

  Contributed by:Ben
Random quote of the day (from Slashdot): "So, it's my arch-nemesis, Sum Yung Foo! We meet again..."

  Contributed by:Ben
Nothing new here, absolutely nothing new, but I figured I might as well put something up here just so people don't think I've totally abandoned the site. My public Nethack server is up and running with version 3.4.1; please play it!
In case you haven't heard of Audioscrobbler, you should really go check it out. It works with a variety of mp3 players on a variety of operating systems. It tracks your music preferences and then compares that against everyone else to see what similar bands there are that you might like but simply don't know about. My nick on Audioscrobbler is Cyde, of course.

  Contributed by:Ben
Today is Senior Skip Day at my school. (Look at the date, we're the class of 2003, get it?) I didn't skip however. Progress is being made - slowly. All these recent snow days have taken the "work" out of me. Fyre's Domain is still hiding off somewhere vaguely in the wings. I'm not sure whether to go with a Perl script I write or Slashcode. We'll see. I'm also working on updating my public Nethack server to the latest version of Nethack, 3.4.1. That is all.

  Contributed by:Ben
Random essay (I just wrote). Not for anything in particular, so here it is.

I'm willing to sacrifice much of our "rights and liberties" for security. The Declaration of Independence enumerated our rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." IN THAT ORDER. Sacrificing liberty is worthwhile if it means saving life.

If we prevent another large terrorist attack such as 9/11, so be it. It's worth it. There is no "right to privacy." If spying on people 24/7 is going to prevent loss of life, it's worth it. I'm not a criminal and I don't do anything illegal, so it wouldn't affect me. It would mean that people doing illegal things would be caught and punished much more often (Wouldn't it be great if all murderers/rapists/robbers were caught, not just some?!). And if it takes away some of the "rights of equality", so be it. People aren't equal anyway. If it means that every person of apparent Arabic descent has to be strip-searched before boarding a plane, oh well, that's too bad, maybe their "rights to not be profiled as a terrorist" are being violated, but also thousands more people will not die!!

To me, 1984 is a dystopian future. That's one way total surveillance could end up. But I don't think our government is that corrupt. I think the increases in safety will be well worth the loss of some trivial privacy. You'd still have many freedoms, with the catch being that, if you do something bad with those freedoms, you are always going to be caught unlike the "sometimes" that it currently is.

Isn't peace the ultimate goal? Peace != civil rights. To be peaceful, everyone who acts violently must be punished, not by being put to death, but by being locked up in jail. Wouldn't America be a much better place if you could go anywhere, free of the worries that an un-caught rapist or murderer is out there who might get you?

With high enough levels of surveillance, Malvo and Muhammed would've been caught after they fired that single round into the gas station that missed. Instead, we value our "rights", and a dozen people died because of it. But isn't the right to life that those 12 people had violated more important than the right to privacy of many? No, I don't think it is. Remember the order in the Declaration of Independence: Life, THEN liberty.

Thank you.

  Contributed by:Ben
Happy Birthday Fyre's Domain! It's been up and running for a year now, give or take a week.

  Contributed by:Ben
Random quote of the day: "I refuse to forfeit my freedoms for a little security- I login as root every time!"

  Contributed by:Ben
The past two days I was skiing with my friend and his Boy Scout troop at Timberline. The weather was really ugly: it rained a lot on the first day and the snow was all slush, and then there was a blizzard on the second day and the snow was all ice. Still, I had a lot of fun. Never before have I literally been thrown sideways off my skis by a huge gust of wind (Luckily I had my head entirely covered with goggles, face mask, hat, balaclava, etc. It would've been suicide otherwise). And the whole week before that we were dealing with "The Blizzard of 2003". Though technically not a blizzard (a blizzard involves winds in excess of 30mph, which Timberline had), it did dump two feet of snow on the entire Washington area. School was cancelled for a whole week, which was a good thing.

  Contributed by:Ben
My science fiction short story "Shimmer" is coming up for review today through the next week at the online writing workshop Critters. I'm very excited. While it is by no means the first (or even close to it) science fiction or fantasy short story I've written, it is probably my best. And this is the first one I'm not simply releasing online (read: relinquishing all rights to), as well as the first one I've actually shown to fellow science fiction writers and requested a critique on. Hopefully, it will be well received, or at least I'll get some good feedback. And maybe if I'm lucky I'll even publish! (It's not the money that I'm after, which isn't a lot, it's the "coolness" factor of getting one's own work published on paper that thousands will read). Maybe I'll start a career in this? Well, probably not. "Author" isn't the best of professions, and one really has to be good to succeed. But I can easily see it as a hobby-on-the-side of my main profession, be it computer programmer or astrophysicist. And as long as I enjoy writing these stories I will continue to do so, even if everyone else in the world thinks that they're horrible and refuses to read them (fame through infamy, ha!).

2/11/2003 19:43EST
  Contributed by:Ben
W00T! I got into University of Maryland! And the Honors and Gemstone programs!! Okay, second semester senior year has officially begun!

  Contributed by:Ben
I have completed a project for my Discrete Math class and I've put it online. Basically, it calculates the winner of an election based on four different vote tabulation methods: simple plurality, majority with run-off, Borda count, and Condorcet criterion. Go give it a whirl if you feel so inclined. It's written in Perl CGI and is executed server-side so it works with any web browser. And of course, the source is available!

2/1/2003 11:07EST
  Contributed by:Ben
R.I.P. Space Shuttle Columbia :-( You will be sorely missed, and your loss was a great setback to the advance of science.

  Contributed by:Ben
Finally, I have located all of my old webpages and put them back on the net. What a trip through memory lane that is! I've been making webpages since 1997 - that's 6 years, during which the web has changed by a tremendous amount. Back when I first created Bigmack's World I was working on a state-of-the-art, $3,000, 150Mhz 16MB RAM computer! I first got on the Internet at the age of 10, and soon thereafter created my first webpage. I met an Australian girl named Alisa Campbell who was at the time 20; now she's probably 27 or 28. I haven't been able to contact her for years, though, which would be really cool. Anyway, by the time I'm somewhat through college, I'll have had a webpage online for over half of my lifespan. Now that is something few people can say!

Oh and by the way, I'm going skiing next weekend at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. I'll bring my digital camera and try to get some pictures of the slopes, but it might be kind of hard to prevent the camera from getting damaged by moisture or blunt impact trauma (I'm not the world's best skier, you see).

  Contributed by:Ben
Yes! I have finally finished my college applications! And I'm learning Esperanto, the language! (And no, I'm not kidding about that, I actually am). I haven't had much free time recently, but I have bothered to put up some very old versions of web pages I've made. There are four in all. Check out the Archives Page for more.

  Contributed by:Ben
Well, another year has come and gone. Overall, it was a bad year. We had continuing terrorist attacks (in Bali and Israel, among others), the stock market failed to recover, war with Iraq is looking inevitable, India and Pakistan are capable of and willing to wage a nuclear war against each other, North Korea is developing more nuclear weapons, the number of Arabs in Europe is steadily rising and thus increasing the amount of Anti-Semitism in Europe (France is by far the worst), and our environment is going down the toilet. I mean, the North Pole, which is geographically one of the two coldest places on the Earth, is a swimming pool! The ice at the North Pole has melted all the way through to water! If that's not proof of global warming, then I don't think anything else is.
We also have Raelians claiming to have created human clones. Whether or not it's actually verified as true, I don't care too much: I'm not religious and really have no moralistic objections to any of it. I've been playing The Sims Online since Christmas. It's not so much a game as it is an interactive chat room, though. So I don't recommend it to everyone. To some, though, it could just well be the finest computer game ever. I'm just pissed that the city I'm in, Alphaville, has proved to be unstable and has been offline much of the time.
Now, for website news, I'm really not sure what to work on next. Getting the Wiki Web up was the easy part, but without any defining purpose for its existence, it will continue to be little-used. I've been playing NetHack recently, though not anywhere close to an Ascension. I apologize if this site is turning into little more than a blog, but I'll admit, I don't have as much free time as I would like (Christmas break just wasn't long enough), and so I haven't been progressing very much with learning Perl or improving this website. But suffice to say, a much-improved, version 2 of this website is in the works, with a totally new on-the-fly page generation system to allow anyone to add comments to the site and have them updated instantly. That is all for now, please enjoy your time at Fyre's Domain.

  Contributed by:Ben
Merry Christmas! Anyway, I just got back from seeing LotR2:T2T, and it was very good. There's a bad storm brewing about all over the east coast and it's snowing and sleeting. Not a good day to be driving somewhere else to celebrate Christmas (I'm an Atheist, but I still like presents, you know?)
So, I just put up my own Wiki Web. I'm not sure what it's going to be good for, but it's available for anyone to use and update with info, etc. Probably it'll be used amongst my friends at school.

  Contributed by:Ben
It is now Tuesday and Winter Break starts after Friday. I am understandably excited. I still have two college applications to slog through, but after that, I'm on the second semester Senior in High School home stretch. Not that I'm going to slack off or anything; I'll just devote more time to things that interest me.

  Contributed by:Ben
Last week there was a lot of freezing rain Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. As a result, school was cancelled on Wednesday and we had a two hour delay on Thursday. Sweet. After finishing up Final Fantasy X I started playing another RPG I recently bought, Dark Cloud. Hits have really dropped off since I lost my DNS. Until Google reindexes me this place will continue to look like a desert wasteland. Oh well.

  Contributed by:Ben
Ugh! I can't believe this happened. No-IP killed my account for their web redirect service. Well, I actually can believe it. I signed up with them originally under a Hotmail account that I lost the password for. So they probably tried contacting me for whatever reason, got no response and killed the account. Oh well. fyre.myvnc.com is still taken, so I have to go with fyre.sytes.net now. I actually like the newer URL better, because it has a double-play of changing "i"s to "y"s. Unfortunately it could be awhile before the Internet gets used to this change and starts linking to the correct URLs. I'll be facing a large drop-off in web traffic as people simply can't access this site for awhile. Oh well. If you see this site in the next few days, consider yourself lucky. I'm not sure how you'll have managed to get here, but at least you arrived at the correct place.

  Contributed by:Ben
Whew! I finally beat Final Fantasy X! After only 83 hours ... geez. And I didn't even do everything. Not that I'm planning to.
In case you didn't know, I live in Montgomery County, Maryland. We recently got a lot of snow. A hell of a lot of snow. It started snowing Wednesday night and late into the day on Thursday. School was cancelled both Thursday and Friday. So I've had a nice four day weekend available, and what have I done with it? Well, I beat Final Fantasy X, for one. I also played a lot of WarCraft III online, so I've updated the maps section. That leaves today and tomorrow free to do whatever I feel like doing, which probably won't include playing PlayStation2 games. So, I have some choices available. I could work on this website, I could write a short story, I could work on programming, I could work on learning Perl, I could totally revamp this website, and I could do a lot more other things. I'll need to figure out what to do though. For one, the WarCraft III maps directory is getting an insane amount of hits: over half of the entries into this website come through this page. Which is unfortunate, really, because it's just a directory listing of maps. So I'll learn a bit more about Apache and put some text and some links in there to make it more appealing.
I got some pictures of the snowfall early Thursday morning. We had over six inches and at the beginning everything was covered by snow, though by now a lot of it has melted away. I'll probably post these pictures at some point. I only have two more college apps due, one on January 1st, and one on January 15th, so I'll have enough time to procrastinate for now and get them done over Winter Break.
Okay, enough for now. Enjoy the season, I know I am! Look to see you soon. This is Ben, signing off.

  Contributed by:Ben
And now, for some totally irrelevant news ... I've almost completed Final Fantasy X for PS2, after having not played it for a few months. I'm working on the Ultimate Weapons, I already have all the Aeons, and I've unlocked a lot of the Monster Arena. The funny thing is that Tidus' ultimate weapon, the Caladbog, wasn't difficult to obtain at all. It involves a really annoying chocobo racing minigame that is so hard all of the FAQs say it takes about 5 hours to finally get it right. Well, I was just messing around with it yesterday and I won, just like that! Tidus' ultimate weapon was sooooo easy to get. Well, that's all for now, sorry for the totally boring entry.

  Contributed by:Ben
Sorry for the lack of updates. I've just been very busy lately. The deadlines for Early Admissions for the colleges I'm applying to is December 1st, so a lot of my effort is going into finishing those essays. I'm only updating this page right now because I have some time to kill in Digital Art class at school. Over winter break I should have time to do something with this site (I plan on going to an all-Perl generation script which will allow real-time commenting), as well as posting my voluminous (I don't think I spelled that correctly) digital photo archives. Also in the works: this server sorely needs to be backed up, so I'll just do a tgz of all major directories and burn it to CD.
In other news, I'm working on some televisions in the basement that have been sitting around for five years. Ever since the lightning struck in eighth grade (I'm in twelfth grade now), we've had two TV's with ruined fuses sitting in the unfinished basement. No longer. I'm going to model my basement after the room I stayed in at Delta Tau Delta fraternity at Carnegie Mellon for the sleeping bag weekend. Basically, it goes like this: two monitors and three televisions. One TV is dedicated to the PlayStation 2, and the others are for watching TV. Imagine, I'll finally be able to fulfill my life long dream of watching TWO TV shows at once while still making progress in Blitzball trying to get Wakka's #$&@#$^%&ing Ultimate Weapon!

  Contributed by:Ben
Hmmm, I appear to have lost a few entries (*ahem* Barry). Althougb I can't totally blame him - it's sort of my fault that the "Friend's Submissions" script has some errors in it. Until it is fixed, Barry, please don't post to the main page, okay? Let me try to reconstruct one of the previous entries. Anyway, I said, come check out my Cornmaze Java Applet. I wrote it for my Statistics teacher and it's apparently popular with AP Stat teachers all over.
And um, I just got back from a sleepover weekend at Carnegie Mellon (They had me stay in a fraternity). More about that later, I'm kind of tired right now though.

  Contributed by:Ben
This website is really starting to get popular. As a quick visit to the Statistics page will attest, monthly averages are going up, up, and up. I've already uploaded 1.3 gigabytes this month and it's not even half over yet! Alas, I do see some performance hits on my Internet connection. Sometimes when I'm playing online FPS's such as Team Fortress Classic and Firearms my ping will shoot up to over 2 seconds, which makes the game unplayable. And sometimes I even get disconnected from WarCraft III and the like because of insane lag! Argh! Well, there's not much I can do about it. I'm looking at getting cable internet, which should increase my upload capacity by 8X from what I have now. But don't hold your breath; it could be a little while. The biggest increase in traffic has resulted in the hosting of the hundreds of Custom Maps from WarCraft III I've been hosted online.
What's next for this site? Honestly, I don't know. I've been rather busy lately, so I haven't had time to work on the Perl scripts and such as much as I would like. And the Java game I was planning on making, just forget about it. Maybe by the end of next summer. But for now, this site is going to stay mostly static, increasing the number of viewers steadily as more people link to this site (hopefully because they find it useful). Already, I'm showing up on the first page of results on Google for many search queries. Very strange. Not nearly as successful as my previous website, Bigmack's World (I might as well mirror it on here for fun, hehe). That's all for now. Enjoy.

  Contributed by:Ben
Yesterday was just a weird day. I had school off, so I drove with my dad a little ways south to visit Saint Mary's College of Maryland. On the way there we saw many interesting things. Outside of the Beltway going south on Route 5 we saw a mess of police cars and ambulances (and even a fire truck) roaring down the left lane, but without their sirens on or lights flashing. Soon we came upon the scene of a domestic dispute from a day previously which involved someone shooting out windows at a motel and no injuries. Normally, this would be nothing, but because for some reason a link was suspected between that and the sniper shootings, the place was swamped. Not by the police, who'd already made their arrest, but by television camera crews. Two camera cranes were jacked up high above TV vans surveying the scene, and at least ten different news reporters teams were there. It was strange.
And then a little bit later we saw five police cars screaming down the read, and their lights WERE on. They surrounded a white pickup, with their guns drawn, ready to go into action. It was like a scene from Cops. I'd never seen anything like that before. The guy in the car was laughing incredulously, holding his hands up high, so I suspect he wasn't actually guilty of anything except some minor offense such as speeding. As my dad remarked, the police are really hopped up on testosterone in light of recent events.
Next we drove through La Plata (we didn't plan this route, it just happened, I swear). It is a Southern Maryland town that was hit hard last year by a freak tornado. Many of the buildings were still being repaired from the damage they had sustained. Apparently some of the buildings had just been given up on and were in an eternal state of destruction, waiting, I guess, until it became profitable enough to knock them down and use the land for something else.
And if you thought that's it, you don't know my quaint luck. At this rate we were going to be late for the appointment so my dad went screaming down the interstate at a fast rate. I guess we were lucky, because we saw at least two cars as they were being pulled over by State Troopers for speeding. And then we passed the Pax River Air Force Proving Grounds (where all of the latest plane designs are tested before put into actual military service). We saw a flight of two helicopters, on a training run I suppose, a cargo plane flying fast and at a low altitude, some miscellaneous civilian planes, and a strange double-rotored chopper sort of like the Chinook except the blades are a lot closer together so it looks like it's wobbling as it flies along. And then there were the decommisioned fighter jets sitting inverted on concrete pylons. Except when we came back later in the day they had moved. I guess they were on a rotating joint to slowly flip and rotate them throughout the day.
Some more weird stuff was witnessed by us, but I'm not going to spoil it by posting it for all to see. Yesterday was such a quaint, surreal day that I think I might reminisce back on it for all of my life.

  Contributed by:Ben
Things are getting kind of scary around here. As most of you probably know, there has been a "serial sniper" on the loose in the Washington D.C. - Maryland area. What you may not have known is that is where I live. Right in the middle of it. A lot of those places I'm now seeing broadcasted on national TV I've been to before. Very scary. Here's how serious it's gotten: today, after the shooting of a 13 year old at a middle school, we had a State Police helicopter circling around our school. It was black and complete with mounted weapons. Now that was quite a weird experience!

  Contributed by:Ben
Barry's party was on Saturday night; that was fun. A few of his friends I had previously met, but most were entirely new to me. Some memorable events occurred: a girl sat on a guy, he threw her off the chair, and her head slammed into a plaster pillar, leaving a big indentation on it. "Don't break Barry's house any further!" was one of the main jokes of the night. She ended up okay, but she needed an icepack most of the night. I took some pictures of the party which you can see here. Ignore the first 5; they're just pictures of my cat. The blond girl in the freaky black outfit is Sara and the black haired girl in the jean shorts and blue tee-shirt is Katie. There were a lot of other people there whose names I know, but it's kind of irrelevant now. I didn't get good pictures of most of them.

  Contributed by:Ben
The Week 3 Scenario of the MechWarrior Tournament last night was a blast. I ended up winning 1 (just barely), losing 1 (just barely), and the third one we didn't finish because two players had already gone undefeated, so it was irrelevant. Only 5 players showed up, so I stood a good chance of winning an LE, and guess what, I did! I got the LE Joust Tank. It's a very good unit and I'm planning on using for next week's scenario, along with the Mad Cat III I got from my lucky pull (So far I'm averaging 1 unique per 3 boosters just from weighing them in my hands; these odds are a lot better than the 1 per 6 in a full sealed case).
In my Creative Writing class we're really getting going. Some of the other people in the class are complaining, but I know I'm absolutely loving it, because my only problem is lack of motivation, and getting a grade is motivation enough for me. I suppose it's a form of exterior motivation, i.e. I won't do writing for just the fun of it, but I suppose some motive is better than no motive at all. I'll be posting my first story next week on Monday or Tuesday. It's the aforementioned story where a woman named Riaa lives in the near future, 2013, in a totally intellectual property rights controlled world. Maybe I'll post it to Slashdot ... and watch on in horror as Fyre melts down due to a thorough slashdotting. Eeek, this could be bad.
And tomorrow, my friend Barry Rosenberg is having his birthday party. I'm going to give him some MechWarrior miniatures as a present (He doesn't have any yet but we both played Mage Knight, so it'll work okay). I'm also going to bring Bahamut, my laptop running Linux, to show off the OS and a lot of the fun games at the party. LiquidWar in particular is a very fun, simple game that can support up to six players on a single computer.
Okay, and finally, site related news. I'll be posting my creative writing journal here (17 entries so far, 32 pages, that'll be a lot of typing, but I hope you'll enjoy all of my various science fiction short short stories). (And yes, that "short short" bit is not a typo; due to limitations of the journal, a story cannot be more than one entry, so a lot are unfinished and unsatisfying to me. I'll have to return to them later). Also, 3D graphics class is getting underway, and soon, hopefully sooner rather than later, I'll have some code for some 3D C++ programs to post (maybe games, maybe just tech demoes). Also, I still haven't given up on Perl or Java (not by a longshot), so expect some upcoming Java applet games and more Perl scripts like the Chessboard displayer and the comment submitter. I haven't played NetHack in a long time, and it's making me unhappy. It's so annoying that I haven't beaten that game yet, and I really want to. But I'm still too attached to recent(er) games like Firearms Half-Life and WarCraft III. But as soon as these bore me, I swear, I'm going to dedicate myself fully to NetHack until I finally beat that devilish game!

  Contributed by:Ben
Some random tidbits today. The week 3 scenario of the MechWarrior Campaign is tomorrow night, so I'm all busy picking out an army to use. Also, we're finally getting around to writing stuff in Creative Writing, so I've chosen to write about some dystopian future where intellectual property right protection has gotten all out of control (Yes, I read too much Slashdot). When it gets underway I'll be posting it here.

  Contributed by:Ben
Okay, a few things to go over for today. Number one, I'm sick of all this September 11th stuff. You know it's getting to be too much when you can't even find local election coverage because the channels are doing 24-hour 1-year-after remembrance events. I had to wait until the NEXT MORNING in the newspaper to find out that Van Hollen beat Shriver in the Maryland Democratic primaries. It's not as if there's anything special or new about this September 11th stuff. They showed the plane footage again, some large commemerative ceremony, etc. I suppose a few people still care, but I certainly don't. Quite frankly I'm sick and tired of it, to the point of desensitization. On the night of the eleventh I couldn't even watch the Simpsons because Fox was doing there 9-11-2001 thing. That's sick. That borders on obssession. I even know a person who lost a relative in the attacks, and they said they've had enough of it already. And they've been affected in a way more personal than probably 99.99% of you out there. Oh yeah, another reason I'm sick of it, many of the Half-Life servers were shut down due to "Septemember 11th remambrance/observance." That's ridiculous: I want to play a game to escape all the crap on the TV, and all of the best servers are offline? Argh!!
Number two, I'm becoming hopelessly addicted to WizKids' new collectible miniatures game, MechWarrior: Dark Age [Fan site]. I played my first three games last night at my local gaming/hobby shop, Dream Wizards, in the week two scenario. I didn't win, but I came in second, and quite frankly, my army sucked because I don't have many units and I didn't know what I was doing. Despite that, I almost won, because there are a lot of other newbies as well (this game just came out). So this is one of the most fun times in a game's lifecycle: when it just comes out and there aren't any expert power players yet. This reminds me sort of when EverQuest was a good game, back in the closed beta days when making above level 10 was an accomplishment. So in the battles, I ended up using too many ranged vehicles, which quickly got tied up by cheap infantry units, and I picked a bad mech (The Elite Blackhawk). For 160 points, its attack values are good, but its main problem is that its two weapons are ranges 3 through 10 and 0 through 6. Since I was tied up most of the time, I ended up using my 0 through 6 attack the most, which was less powerful. Argh. Next time I'm definitely using a good melee mech.
So you might be wondering, what's so cool about MechWarrior: Dark Age? Well, it's kind of like Mage Knight [Fan site] except a lot better. For one, it's more balanced, and the three unique types of units: infantry, vehicles, and mechs, make for very strategic play. That, and the fact that it now uses three dice instead of Mk's 2, makes it a lot more tactical and less random, which was one of the faults I found with Mage Knight. Vehicles are generally ranged, and can be tied up easily because they cannot attack units that come into base contact with them. Infantry are cheap, maneuverable units good for tying up units. Mechs are pretty much good at everything: running long distances, attacking with ranged, attacking with melee (depending on which mech you use, anyway). And they can keep on attacking turn after turn, so long as they manage their heat dial. That gets pretty tricky. But enough of this MechWarrior stuff, let me just conclude that it is a great game, and I encourage anyone with interest to pick up a starter pack for only $19.99. You'll get enough units for a basic army; convince someone else to get one too and you can start playing battles.
That's all for now, Ben out.

  Contributed by:Ben
Sorry for the lack of updates over a long period, but I'm really busy now. School has started (so far it hasn't been so bad, actually). I'm having to worry about applying to colleges, getting good teacher recommendations, applying for a school parking permit, and of course the usual homework.
Meanwhile, there's been some stuff I've been doing, and stuff I've been putting off. I've made four WarCraft III maps by now, but I haven't exactly gotten around to updating my WC3 webpage. And I haven't exactly been concentrating on my writing enough. Quite frankly, I'm wasting all my time playing WC3. Darn you Blizzard Entertainment!

  Contributed by:Ben
Wow, what a strange week it's been. First, last Friday I officially finished my eight week long SEAP internship. The title of my research is Using Microarray Analysis To Determine The Effects of DHA and AA on the MDA-MB-231 Breast Cancer Cell Line. Here's a link to the Microsoft Word manuscript of my project. In the upcoming months I'll write a good paper for application to my school, the Intel science fair, and what not, but for now, just enjoy what I have at the moment.
Also, my Italian cousin Arianna and her mom Dixie left on Sunday. It was fun while they were over, but unfortunately, they had to go back to Italy less than a week after they got here. Oh well. I have a lot of pictures from SEAP, the cousin's visit, and a neighborhood block party that might be interesting. Suffice it to say, I live on probably one of the most diverse streets ever. Our little section of Windsor View Dr., less than 20 houses total, has got everything. We've got Chinese and Japanese. An elderly British couple. We have some foreign nationals from Belgium (who speak French) are living almost directly across the street. In my household alone we have Scotch-Irish and Russian Jews. And let's not forget the well-to-do African American grandfather living across the street, and the wife of one of the men who came from Italy and speaks Italian. Oh yeah, and we have lawyers, doctors, a lot of little kids, a college drop-out, many dogs, some cats, and a whole variety of street-going contraptions (bikes, roller skates, roller blades, scooters, tricycles, and other stuff I don't know the name of). There are undoubtedly many people I left out, but you get the picture. This street is only possible near Washington D.C.
The computer situation at my house is going well. All computers are present and accounted for (and getting OS'es installed on them). You can see the computers page for more information. In the meantime, I'm pumping out an impressive number of SETI work units, and soon I hope to even have my own Beowulf Cluster!
That just about covers everything. Except for the horrible news that school starts on August 28th. That's just a week away! Eeek! And I have two summer reading books to read by then, The Invisible Man by Harlan Ellison and Uncle Tom's Cabin (there's only one of these). However, I will get to be a senior, which is nice in a way. But it also means I have to worry about college applications and such. Oh boy this is going to get busy.
Also, I figure I've been playing Blizzard's excellent game WarCraft III so much, that I might as well make a webpage for it. I don't really like playing the normal game, so I'll be posting strategies and such. Here's a link to the page.

  Contributed by:Ben
Here's a heinously erroneous error message I just got when turning on one of my computers:
Keyboard error or not present.
. . .
Press F1 to continue


  Contributed by:Ben
Today was sort of a big day in the Science and Engineering Apprentice Program (SEAP), run by George Washington University (GWU). It was also my last day at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Too bad I forgot to bring my camera to take pictures of the people. For what it's worth, I'll take time to give a quick shout-out to the cool people I met while I worked there: Carrie, Cathleen, Brian, Nabarun, Chanaka, Lauren, Winston, Kathryn, Mary, my mentor, Dr. Rasha Hammammieh, and countless others that don't come to mind right now. It was a great eight weeks! A lot of fun! So now, tomorrow is my last day of SEAP, and I have to give a presentation down in Lisner Auditorium (On the GWU Campus). This should be interesting.
Here's a picture of my cousin Arianna.

Original Quote of the Day: "Give a man a wheelbarrow full of porn, and you satisfy him for a year. Give a man a woman to call his own, and you satisfy him for eternity."

  Contributed by:Ben
Whew, the LAN party was a blast! We ended up playing mostly Quake III Arena (all sorts of mods such as OSP, QuickDeath, and Bouncy), some 3v3 Total Annihilation, a little bit of Warcraft III, and, oh yeah, Jon brought over his DreamCast and we played a lot of Soul Caliber. The preliminary pictures are up, but they're not weeded through yet, thumbnailed, commented, or anything like that yet. In fact, I'd wager that about 40% of them aren't even on-topic. Anyway, I'll clean it up soon, but in the mean time, let me just say that Total Annihilation must be the best game ever! I remember playing it more than half a decade ago, on my 150Mhz computer with 16MB of RAM. And now, playing it on a 2Ghz computer with 768MB of RAM, it's a little bit smoother, and certainly demonstrates it has the best staying power of any game around anywhere.
In other, site-related news, I've upgraded my site generation script to send entries in excess of five off to an archive page for separate viewing. This will immensely speed up the loading time on all of my heavily-updated pages as well as keep them up-to-date for search engines. You can get the open-source page generation script here.

  Contributed by:Ben
Hmmm, let's see, what's new. I'm annoyed that the computers I ordered online STILL haven't come yet, despite them saying they would be here by the 6th of August. I have two 2 Ghz computers in the mail, as well as a laptop my aunt is selling me for cheap. All in all, the costs come to less than $1,000! And let me tell you, although these computers don't have monitors, that's about all they don't come with: they have nice memory, hard drive space, video cards, speakers, etc.
So, today I'm having a computer/LAN party at my house. Jon Edwards, Noah Teske, Barry Rosenberg, Anatoly Preygel, and Martin Katz, with his friend Chris Rowlett, are coming. That makes seven of us, playing computers in my "spacious basement," and whatever else. For two days. Geez, it's going to be wild. Anyway, I do have my trusty digital camera, and I'll be taking some pictures, so I might as well post them here and give you all a look at what a true computer nerd party should look like, if done correctly.

  Contributed by:Ben
Mark my words, I have a bit of a prediction to make. It seems rather obvious, what with all the news and everything, that America is going to be attacking Iraq soon, right? Well I'd like to guess when that will be. I'm guessing October 12th, 2002. Don't ask for my reasoning, it's rather shaky, but I figure, why not, I'll throw a guess out there. And if I happen to be right, I can point to this entry and say, "Haha! I am psychic!".

  Contributed by:Ben

Long time no update, huh? I'm sorry to say, there have been other things more important in life than working on this webpage (Sad to say, isn't it?). Among other things, I've been hanging out with Georges, I went to a Washington Freedom Women's soccer game (they won 1-0), I've been playing a lot of Firearms Half-Life RC2.6 (What can I say, I'm addicted), I've been hanging around talk.origins a lot, I've been taking a lot of pictures with my digital camera, and among other things, I've just started the simulation mode in Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec for the PS2 and it's proving to be enthralling. And nevermind that I still have an 8:00-16:00 day to put in at WRAIR during the weekdays.

So you see, I haven't had much time to get around to programming neat Perl scripts for this webpage, or programming a new Java game (Which I really want to do), or what not. Heck, I haven't even been able to devote any time to my science fiction writing (I received a wonderful amount of critiques on Quantum Glitch, but I just haven't finished the second revision yet). Also, I have summer homework for school, I have to worry about applying to colleges, and I have this huge summer research cancer project that I need to put the finishing touches on. Eek! Work overload! I'm just so glad that I didn't sign up for any truly hard classes senior year.

About my breast/prostate cancer research project: it's going great. The labwork so far has been tolerable, but what's really nifty is the data I've garnered. I have five sets of data regarding different time periods and which omega fatty acids the cancer cells were treated with. Let me repeat the importance of that: I have data!! Now, I'll just need to analyze the interesting genes ... though that will be tough on its own right.

About this webpage. I need to upgrade the C++ page generation script soon. Why? Because when it "archives" old entries, it really isn't doing son: they're still on the same page. Since the main index page is already about 60KB and growing, I know I need to update the page generation script to truly archive the old entries and offload them to a secondary, archived page.

By the way, Fyre's Domain is now being served on ports 8080 and 8007 in addition to port 70. This should allow more people access. Thus, any of the three URLs will yield this webpage: http://fyre.myvnc.com:70 , http://fyre.myvnc.com:8007 , and http://fyre.myvnc.com:8080 . Note that I've redirected the offical URL, http://fyre.zapto.org , to port 8007. For most people it shouldn't make a difference.


  Contributed by:Ben
I got a digital camera from an online auction recently and I've had a lot of fun. I've taken pictures of my cat, the Potomac River (there's some gorgeous shots in there), etc. I'll be posting the pics in a photo gallery as soon as I finish programming my Perl script that will generate a photo gallery complete with indexed thumbnails and captions for each picture.
Also, an 18-year-old French guy named Georges Renaudin is staying at our house for three weeks; it's a foreign exchange program, except instead of an "exchange", it's one-sided. I'll get enough community service hours to complete my high school graduation requirements. That'll be 60 of 60 hours needed to graduate, complete, and without doing any actually community service! Heck yeah!

  Contributed by:Ben
A lot of you have come to this page searching for Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII. I'm not exactly sure why, but I'll admit, I loved FF7 too, and so as to now make your trip to this webpage totally useless, here's a cool Sephiroth picture for your enjoyment. Here's another one.

  Contributed by:Ben
So many ideas are floating around in my head right now, it's driving me crazy. First of all, I have all of these science fiction short stories I want to write, but I just can't seem to find the motivation to do them! Please, if you can offer up some encouraging words, contact me! Otherwise, I'll get it done, but it might take awhile. Also, I'm thinking of all sorts of cool RPGs I want to code in Java. After the experience with TORPG, I decide I want to make a more traditional RPG (but without random battles and a separate battle screen), with a very innovative experience system. More on that to come as the project enters its beginning stages. For now, though, have fun on the Fourth of July!

  Contributed by:Ben
It appears some filtering software called SmartFilter is now blocking SourceForge. The place that I work at uses this filtering technology, and it's really annoying, because I often have to use Linux and open source software solutions to problems that pop up. And now I can't?! This is unjust. Please click here to request that SourceForge be unfiltered. Also, while you're at it, do something evil to Microsoft. Have a good day!

  Contributed by:Ben
I've started my internship at WRAIR today. The science here is very advanced and I feel there is a great opportunity to learn a lot. This thing goes on for eight more weeks, including today. At the end I'll have a project to use for school, and possibly, the Intel Science Competition ...

  Contributed by:Ben
I just got my SetiQueue server up and running. Basically, it's a work unit cache for SETI@home. You can check out the webpage for it here. If you wish, you can set up your own S@H client to use my queue server. You'll still get credit for your work, but my server happens to be a lot more dependable than the notorious S@H server. All you have to do is set up your server to use an http proxy. The server name is "http://fyre.myvnc.com" and the port is 5517.

  Contributed by:Ben


Whew, I'm glad I got that out of my system. Yes, it is official, just one hour ago I finished taking my last exam, so I guess I'm a senior now! This isn't all that I have to report though. I've been working on a neat little game/Java applet. Follow the link to try it out. It's two player, by the way.

  Contributed by:Ben
Ugh, I have a final tomorrow and one the day after that. Then they're done! And I can finally get around to working on this website again! Anyway, recently I've made a Perl script to display Chess board positions in a Java applet. It's open source, of course. I'm running the ChessBrain project on my computer now instead of SETI@Home; this one is basically distributed Chess. The ultimate goal? To solve the game of Chess completely, and make playing it pointless. Playing Tic-Tac-Toe is pointless, for example, because it's a solved game. But it takes a lot more computational power to solve Chess. I encourage you to join the project!

  Contributed by:Ben
I just got back from a two-day visit to Carnegie Mellon ... and I think it's looking pretty nice, although it is pretty expensive. I guess my list now looks something like: UMCP, Saint Mary's College, and Carnegie Mellon. Nothing special to report: the school year is winding down rather quickly, and it turns out I only have TWO finals to take at the end of the year. Once school ends and my internship starts, I'm really going to be able to start accomplishing all that I. This includes: maybe upgrading or buying a new computer for Fyre, writing some more stories, adding some nifty Shakespearean Perl scripting language things (Sort of like those word magnets you can buy where you put together an Ad-Lib sentence from the words they give you, know what I mean?), and heck, maybe adding some of my other interests to this site (Mage Knight and Final Fantasy X, for instance).

Today's Science News: A decades old question is coming closer to being answered. Scientific American has an article up about the creation of the Moon: specifically, how did it happen? The leading theories seem to indicate that it was created in a truly massive collision between our Earth and another planet-sized body. This is the only way to explain how much angular momentum the Moon has. The findings of this simulation have important ramifications for physics and astronomy - but especially for science fiction! I'd love to write a story explaining how, billions of years ago, alien intelligences were involved in the shaping of the Moon in very intriguing ways. Look for this story soon ... or never, we'll have to see how it goes.

  Contributed by:Ben
I've been running the SETI@Home client on this machine recently, to make use of the idle CPU cycles. If you want to see my progress, check out my Online SETI Weblog. Well, not really I'm just piping the stdout of the SETI client to a web-accessible text file :-) The end of the school year is coming up and I'm totally psyched. I should be able to devote considerable energies to creative projects such as stories and this webpage as soon as the school year lets out.

  Contributed by:Ben
Whew, AP week is finally over, and I think I did pretty well on my two AP exams: Psychology and Language & Composition. I've uploaded a program I made last year called TTriad (Triple Triad) that is written in C++, using the AP string and CMU graphics classes, and comes pre-compiled for Macintosh (grrr, I really wish our school used Linux computers). The sources are included, and with only some fidgeting around, you should be able to get it to compile and run on your system. It's based roughly on the Triple Triad card game from Final Fantasy VIII, but vastly different; one of my projects this upcoming summer will be to program a better Triple Triad game in Java for Linux. It's a strategic, puzzlish game that should be a welcome diversion after I finish TORPG (we're not going to totally meet my original expectations by the end of this school year, so I'll complete it on my own over the summer).

Project: After getting inspired at the Grove Park Inn to build a waterfall/sculpture thing (they had really nice ones at an art store there, but the price was several hundred dollars!), I'm starting to put together plans. I'll need a large sheet of shale rock, like the kind used for making garden walkways, which should be obtainable from Home Depot for a few bucks or less. And I'll also need a water pump, most likely of the aquarium-variety, that I can obtain at PetSmart for under $20. And the rest of the materials are basically free - nice smooth stones from a local stream, and some plastic device at the bottom of the shale to check the water. I'll also have to refill the water periodically as it evaporates. The point of this is to have something nice in my room that lets off a nice soothing sound (I'm really into nature), and also to entertain my cat.

  Contributed by:Ben
I finally got back from the trip to Greensboro and Charlotte, North Carolina, yesterday. It was a nice trip: I got to see the Governor's Mansion, the town Cherokee (It was not what I was expected from Native American reservation), and a beautiful hotel in Asheville called The Grove Park Inn that we stayed at for two nights. I saw some cool sci-fi movies while there, and the landscape is second to none. It's like a dream: waterfalls and fountains everywhere, tunnels that look like treasure-troves, carved out of rock, with embedded shiny geodes and cool lighting, nice classical background music, and a whole fluid water motif going on. The place is just awesome, if you can afford to stay, anyway :-( Luckily my mom's work paid for the visit. It's the most beautiful hotel I've ever seen (they even had nice Chess sets sitting around on verandas, overlooking the landscaped gardens and moving water; to make it even better, I won a game against my dad!)

In Programming News: I've dredged up the source code for a Java fractal program I've written that produces Newton fractals. I know it works with Macintosh and Linux and I'm confident it should compile on Windows as well.

  Contributed by:Ben
I'm going to a Democratic Convention with my mom over the weekend (starting early tomorrow on a plane flight), but before I go, I want to give you all one nerdy quote of the day ...

Quotes of the Day: The MIT cheer goes like this ... "Secant, tangent, cosine, sine, 3.14159..."
"Under Capitalism, man exploits man. Under Communism it's the other way around."

  Contributed by:Ben
Whew, finally, Fyre is back up, after a downtime of approximately four days. Let's just say, the transition from RedHat7.2 to RedHat7.3 was tougher than anticipated, what with my non-standard system config, and my main concentration has been on AP exams recently, not on Fyre. Well, I'm back up online and running again, and I'll start devoting more time to Fyre.

  Contributed by:Ben
Something really bad happened to me on Monday, but it started off good. Right after school I drove to WRAIR (Walter Reed Army Institute of Research) for an interview with a SEAP mentor. Here's the good news: the interview went well, she's agreed to be my mentor, I get paid $1400 tax-free, plus the awesome experience of working with microarrays and prostate and breast cancer research and biochemical warfare research (Me working with anthrax, that almost scares myself). Getting into the complex itself was a somewhat scary experience: I was stopped at two different checkpoints, requiring verification calls to my mentor's office, and a thorough check of my driver's license, etc. This is a real military installation! There were the typical armed marines on guard across the grounds, and some soldiers doing push-ups. And now for the bad news - as I was leaving, I was informed of a big accident on the Beltway. "So what," I thought, "I didn't take the Beltway to get here and I won't be taking it back anyway." How wrong I was. A chemical truck had wrecked on the Beltway, spewing chlorine everywhere, and the Beltway was shut down, in both directions. It took me more than three hours of annoying stop-and-stop-some-more driving, just to get home, a trip that originally took me 20 minutes! I arrived home past 20:00, feeling really sick with a bad headache, and went straight to sleep. My mom joked, "Well now you've earned another chip on your license: rush hour driving." I wish I hadn't, but at least the 10 hours of sleep felt good ...

  Contributed by:Ben
Nothing much has happened lately, besides the daily grind of schoolwork going on. I've finally tired of Grand Theft Auto 3 for PlayStation2 (After killing 3000 people, I realized I'd played enough of it), so I guess I'll try to work my way through Final Fantasy X. I can't believe how quickly the school year is going by! We have about a month and a half left, and that's all. Crazy. But there'll be a lot in between now and then - AP exams, SAT II's, normal class exams, Senior Research Project, etc, etc. Maybe during the summer I can finally do something awesome with this site, like making a better PHP or Perl generation script, or what not. For now, I'll leave the infrastructure alone, and just update the content.

  Contributed by:Ben
I've added a new page to the site: AP Test Terms. We were in AP English class today, you see, and the assignment was: each of us had to get definitions for three of the 60 terms used on the AP test, and find or make up examples. We were doing these on some of the school's laptops, and I had the brilliant idea of suggesting that I collect everyone's responses together on one comprehensive site. So while everyone else was done in five minutes and spent the rest of the time surfing, I spent the whole period just getting the definitions and examples together in a nice web-readable format. The result is the newest page on my ever-growing site.

  Contributed by:Ben
I visited Saint Mary's College today, which is South of here, in Calvert County. It's not religious at all; in fact, it's a public college, and it just so happens to be named after one of the first American cities, that's all. It's one of two all honors public colleges in the country, so it does have some distinction. The seminar was nice, and some very funny jokes were cracked (though, that's not what I use to make my decision on what school to attend). The tour guide was nice, and we got a thorough tour of the campus. My favorite parts were the lakes and the paths through the wilderness - this is one nice campus! Students can check out sailboats and kayaks and rowboats for free, and some people like to go out into the middle of the lake to study. The WLAN (wireless local area internet) is pretty comprehensive and includes all parts of the campus, including the lake and other areas. It's also near Historic Saint Mary's City, which is a very scenic place. It's not very strong in computer science, but apparently it does have good biology (scanning electron microscope and a gene sequencer), and good artifical intelligence (a blend of computer science and psychology). Overall, a nice place, and YACICSMGT (Yet Another College I Could See Myself Going To).

  Contributed by:Ben
I forsee some site re-organization of stuff into categories: academic stuff, such as Psychology, the literature section, etc. I've mirrored my school's resource page here, it contains good links and resources for doing school projects. Also, it's only available in school, since it's stored on the network, not on the Internet, so this will make it available for use at home doing homework at well.

  Contributed by:Ben
A minor peeve of mine is: all of the sites grab certain information about your computer, like what OS it's running, what browser, etc. I'm sure that Yahoo, Google, MSN, etc.; all of them gather this info; heck, even I gather this info! What it means is that each you visit a webpage, you're casting a vote. If you visit with Microsoft Internet Explorer, you're essentially casting a vote in Microsoft's favor, which I'm sure you don't want to be doing. So if you have objections with Microsoft as I do, for being an evil corporate monopoly and all, take the little bit of trouble to cast your vote in favor of "the little guys." Make an extra effort to switch to Netscape or Mozilla, two superior browsers anyway, in my opinion. Better yet, switch to Linux altogether, that way you'll be casting an even bigger vote as you visit webpages.
I uncovered something random on the internet today: Civilization 1, about 10 years old now! My, has it aged ... I'm used to CivIII now, you see, and I just can't imagine how I ever played this. But it sure as heck made me nostalgic! For some excellent classic gaming action, you can download CivI from this very own website. Unfortunately, it runs most easily on Windows, but I'm sure even a semi-experienced Linux guru out there can easily get it to run on WINE.

  Contributed by:Ben
I've uploaded Tern Overgul, a game I programmed with Anatoly Preygel a few years back. It's an applet and should run through your internet browser. Check out the readme here.

In Other News: An ant SUPERcolony has been discovered in Europe. It stretched 3,700 miles long. Is that even possible? Conceivable? Believable? Check out more at Sciam.com.

True Anecdote: Today, my mom came home from work as normal. She went out a half hour later to bring in the trash can or something, and comes back in screaming. "Ahhhhh! There's TWO gypsy moth caterpiller nests in my brand-new tree!" We've recently had our lawn landscaped, you see, and those caterpillers were absolutely going to destroy that small, fledgling tree. So naturally, my dad and I get to handle it. "Let's get out the flamethrower," I jokingly say, referring to the blowtorch we used in years past for this job. But, alas, we haven't seen any for many years, so we were caught unawares. Using a hose just spreads them around, and you can't do much by hand, so heat and flame is really the only way to kill them. It turns out we have some RAID lying around though, and some kitchen matches. Can you guess what happens next? Well, if you can't, here's what happened. We soaked the nests in RAID then lit them on fire, creating veritable fireballs in the tree in front of our house. Luckily my mom wasn't around at this point to see that. We continued spraying, making these huge fireballs. We set up an aluminum pan underneath the nests to catch the escapees; of which there were about fifty. After the nests were totally destroyed, and the surrounding wood of the tree charred, we turned on the mass of caterpillers in the pan, lighting them on fire and spraying more RAID at them, creating huge fireballs. If I had a digital camera, I would have gotten many pictures; you simply can't understand how much fun RAID and fire is unless you see pictures of it, or do it yourself. Long story short, the caterpillers in the pan were hissing and popping, and I think I even heard a few scream. By the time it was all over they were one huge charred mass of biomass, perhaps a delicacy to certain cultures, except they were doused through and through with RAID. It was a massacre tonight. Those gypsy moths didn't know what hit 'em. They certainly won't be threatening any trees anymore, that's for sure.

  Contributed by:Ben
Since Fyre's Domain is set at my home page at home, I've designed it to be more of a home page for myself, to replace those commonly typed-in links such as slashdot, google, etc. Hence the surrepticious "number" links at the top of this page. They're here to stay. I hope you use them too.

In other news: The Department of Homeland Security today has declared an indigo-peach warning color code today as they shift their terminology from the inappropriately named "homicide bomb" to "homicidal/suicidal massively massacring bombing attack," to be more PC and more tough on terrorists at the same time. "We will not tolerate such attacks on Israel, or on any other nation," Secretary Rumsfeld said today. "By changing our rhetoric to express how truly despicable we feel these acts are, we believe we can curb their occurrence." Right.

  Contributed by:Ben
I've been addicted lately to a great PC game called Dungeon Siege by Gas Powered Games, which is led by Chris Taylor, who made the awesome game Total Annihilation. It's a really great action RPG, like Diablo, but so much better because you can control up to 8 characters and you don't have to click for every attack; they're autonomous and will hack at enemies with swords, cast healing if a member of your party gets low on health, etc. There are even packmules that can carry around a lot of loot, but I typically find that, if your party is full, it should be with 8 fighting-capable units, not some mule that sits around toting your loot. I've also been playing recently some of my PlayStation2 games: Grand Theft Auto 3, Final Fantasy X, Devil May Cry, Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec, and Metal Gear Solid 2. What can I say, these are some great games, I wonder if I should make a PS2 or Dungeon Siege page? Maybe only if I had some real content to put there.

Random Fyre Feature: check out the statistics page, which is an output of the program stats.pl that I just pounded out. It's updated every five minutes, so if you're playing on the public Nethack server or whatever and want to see if it's just YOU lagging, or whether my CPU is really busy or what not, just check out the page.

  Contributed by:Ben
The carpeters who were putting down the new carpet totally disconnected my upstairs computers, such as my Wind0ze machine, but they also disconnected the router, thus explaining why Fyre could not be reached over the Internet the last few hours. Grrrr. First it was the painters, now the carpeters ... luckily our house isn't scheduled for any renovation for a long time.

  Contributed by:Ben
Today was very interesting. We had a half day at school and we'll have one tomorrow. My dad got this "genius" idea to go visit Goucher College directly after school, so we went, and 11 hours later, we finally came home. In the interim, we ate all sorts of junk fast food, wandered around on campus, got yelled at (figuratively) by the admissions office for not abiding by the 2-week-earlier contact rule for scheduling visits, and ALSO because they're swamped with seniors and don't want to have to deal with "mere" juniors now. But we made a covert plan with a philosophy teacher and we got into a seminar (normal class held once weekly on Wednesdaysfrom 18:30 to 21:00). It was very interesting, albeit a little long fora single class, but then again, it's only held once a week. There weresome nice people there and the discussion remained on a fairly high level(the topic seemed to be Marx and Hegel). Overall, a nice class, and Icould envision myself attending Goucher, which is A Good Thing.

  Contributed by:Ben
I have some new stuff planned for Fyre in the near future. First, I'm working on a custom fortune-mod file that will serve up Nethack-related messages. This would be useful in the public Nethack server script in replacement of the current random fortunes. Also, I want to get a cgi form or some such up that allows you to fill out a field or two and send me a comment. If you have any input or wish to offer some help, just contact me.

  Contributed by:Ben
        College visits, day two. We spent the whole day visiting two collegs: Goucher College and Western Maryland College at Westminister. They're both liberal arts colleges located somewheres therabouts of Baltimore. We did the whole tour of Goucher, but only a quick peek at Western. Goucher I was mightily impressed with. It's a nice small college with a consolidated walking campus (i.e. no roads running through it like with Western), and it has nice woods and such, but it's very "in the thick" of things since it's so near to Towson, a big town, as well as the Baltimore Beltway. The dorms, classes, etc., are nice, as well as the other buildings. They have a good philosophy department, which I'm interested in, but they're not so strong in computer science. But here's the awesome part: you're allowed to attend one class a semester at one of their fellow colleges, and get this, Johns Hopkins is one of their fellow colleges, and it's only fifteen minutes away! Talk about the best of both worlds. At Goucher, cheaper tuition, a good chance of getting partial or full scholarship, a smaller, more "nurturing" community as my mom puts it, and then the opportunity to take courses at JHU without actually having to go to JHU! We also visited Western, but not so much in depth, and it still looks good, but not so much as Goucher.
        I could actually see myself attending Goucher, more than I can say of any other college. They have some mostly PC computer labs with a few Macs ... if I were to come in there with a good Linux machine in my dorm room (FyreII?), then I could run a lot of unique services on campus ... that would be cool. Since the tech departments are a lot smaller, I'd have a better chance of working closely with the professors, and they do actually have a nice high-tech shielded 400Mhz NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) machine, which basically means they can actually do some pioneering chemistry experiments. The male-female ratio is something like 30-70, which is HIGHLY in any guy's favor ...

  Contributed by:Ben
College visit, day one. We headed down to Johns Hopkins in the (relatively) early morning and returned home in time for dinner. Overall, my impression was somewhat favorable; I talked with the computer science people and they have a lot of good stuff there. Unfortunately, there are some negative aspects: a bad female-to-male ratio, very expensive tuition, and it's hard to get in. Plus, it's sort of focused mainly on biology and medical type stuff, which is what I'm not exactly into. And finally, it's a pretty hard college to get into (Although it's hard to improve on my SAT score of 1580). Overall, it's nice, but probably not one I'm going to apply to. Also, Pooya says its pre-med program is great, but not so much its computer science.

  Contributed by:Ben
I think I may be going to version numbers shortly with the Fyre webpage generation script. I'll be adding new features over the break such as: hiding old pages from the index bar (like Mogul India) while keeping them linkingly intact. Also, "archived" entries should REALLY work; I'll make a separate .html file for the old entries. And finally, I'll support different color and image schemes for different pages.

  Contributed by:Ben
Minor change today; I switched the server port from 8007 (a port I made up) to port 70, the old gopher port which really isn't used anymore, so it should function just fine for http. The reason I'm doing all of this is because my stupid ISP, Verizon, filters port 80; the default port for http, so every website you visit should more or less have the :80 at the end of the URL, but it's assumed by default because it's obviously the http port. I switched over because at my school only about 8 ports are not filtered by the firewall, but many of them I already use anyway, such as ftp, ssh, telnet, and ssl, which I certainly couldn't switch over to because my router already uses them for what they're supposed to be used for. But the school firewall doesn't filter 70, and I don't use it for anything else, so I'm switching apache over to that port, and it's two less digits in the URL anyway!
Unfortunately, changing the port made me lose the old counter numbers, so all the pages are starting back at one! Oh, well ....

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
Fyre upgrade notice: I've put in some bids on Intel Pentium II 400 Mhz CPU's, slot 1 type, with stepping numbers SL357. If I get one of those it will be compatible with my current processor and this computer should be a dual-400. Let's just hope I can win these bids somewhat cheaply.

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
Well, I kind of switched around the RAM a bit, so now my Linux machine and Windows machine have 512MB RAM each. Whatever ... (this is only because it turns out my Windows machine only has two RAM slots on it! Cheap, bad motherboard!!)

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
Yesterday was Fyre upgrade day; I got some RAM in from an online auction site. I bought two 256 MB sticks, one went into Fyre, and one went into my Windows machine. This server now has 384 MB RAM where it previously had 128 MB. Quite a marked improvement; I don't even use hard drive cache any more! Also, this computer has two 9.1 GB ultrafast SCSI hard drives. I have room for a third, so if I can find a reasonably-sized SCSI cheaply online, I'll buy that too. And finally, this computer runs on a *pitiful* Intel Pentium II 400Mhz, although I must admit Linux gets a lot more out of it than Windows ever did. My plans for upgrade include either getting another 400 Mhz, or more preferably, buying two already stepped-and-matched Intel Pentium II Xeon 500 Mhz processors, which are great for servers on account of the extra L2 cache. So, conceivably, this computer could end up being a great server - a lot of RAM, triple-SCSIs, and dual-500 Mhz's. Now all I need is the money :-)

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
I've changed the site generation script around a bit to support different style schemes for different pages. Right now it's sort of crude and hardcoded, but soon I should be able to support separate data files for schemes on the various pages (naturally, that is if I feel like generating various images for all the pages, which I don't think I'll end up getting to).

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
I took the SAT yesterday for hopefully my last and final time. I felt pretty confident, seeing as how I was very good at it to begin with, and then my parents threw me in a review course I didn't really need.
But anyway, the reason I brought up the SAT was as an excuse for not getting anything accomplished this weekend; it burned me out so I just played a lot of games. I'm starting to procrastinate a lot these days. So that explains why I still haven't implemented some of the features on this site I've been wanting for a long time. But, oh well, that's life. I just hope my Psychology teacher doesn't kill me for posting his tests online.

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
I figured out what was wrong with the counter; the data file was specified incorrectly, so the count kept on resetting. Hopefully it's working now.

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
Turns out the webcounter is behaving in a funky fashion; I'm going to have to fix whatever's wrong with it. But I hope you enjoy the new look of the webpage, which finally corrects that annoying bug with the varying-width menu sidebar. Now, all I have to do is put up more content, and oh yeah, viewer interaction. TORPG is going well; I encourage you to check on our project.
Check out a nanotechnology proposal I had to do for school. Then look at the source. *Shudder*. MS Word has got to be the worst document to HTML translator in the history of the human race. BTW, by clicking on that link, you lose the frames (we're presenting it in lieu of PowerPoint, so I don't want all the Fyre links and stuff!)

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
Random quote of the day: never shove a stielhand grenade down your pants to impress the girls; on one hand, it just may work, but if it goes off ... you're in a world of pain.
I switched the site over to another counter, one that I've compiled myself. It's running out of the cgi-bin on this computer. A lot neater than that previous link-out "bear" counter I had, hehe.
Entries are now "archived" on the page for entries that are more than five entries old. This may not make the most of sense but you'll understand very quickly as you look at my site's pages.

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
Check out this interesting Webalizer script I've got installed that locally tracks page hits and data transfers and such.

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
I made some minor changes to the website; the date for each entry is displayed in the title bar, not as plain text in with the rest of the entry. By the way, at the rifle range yesterday, I hit the bullseye at 100-yds. with an unscoped .22 rifle! That's pure luck more than anything else; the rest of my shots were wild all over the target.
Check this out; don't the differences in punctuation make a big difference? That's why I insist on using correct capitalization and grammar, if only even on the Internet:
Car for sale. A classic! Lemon yellow coupe. Exterior is completely rustproof. Can be delivered upon request. No engine runs better. If the sun is out, you can remove the roof for the feel of the wind in your hair. Go ahead and kick the tires.Car for sale. A classic lemon. Yellow coupe exterior is completely rust. Proof can be delivered upon request! No engine. Runs better if the sun is out. You can remove the roof. For the feel of the wind in your hair, go ahead and kick the tires.

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
Yessss! After an hour or so of exasperating programming, I've gotten the nested subsites running! The subsites should show on the menubar only when you're actually viewing the related material. Next up: adding a summary of subpages along the top of the main page and that viewer contribution posting type thing.
Check out the source for the newest version of the Fyre generation script.

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
I got the nested sub-sites working. Check out the menubar on the left; see the Empire Earth subsection? Cool. Now all I need to do is get the subpages only to display when you're at the main page for those subpages, i.e. only being shown for the Empire Earth and Empire Earth Strategy pages. I guess I'll get to that tomorrow. I also want to add a page where I review the books I've just finished reading, and that illusive viewer-interactivity thing.

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
I am posting this from my school, Montgomery Blair HS, during lunch. I just finished the PSAT re-take. We took it much earlier in the year, but the tests are still quarantined due to anthrax and thus still ungraded. So we had a free retake today, which I hope I did well on.
Anyway, the real point of this post is that I'll be updating the script soon such that only the five newest posts are shown on the front page, and the rest can be viewed in an archive. I'm also looking for what sort of scripting language I should be using to have a form that people can fill out with contributions of their own. That's the ultimate goal of this website: viewer interaction. There's not much of a point if it's only me, and rarely, my TORPG group members. So if you can offer any help, my contact info is below ...

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
Check out the new format! I hope you like it. It's mostly in place; I might be fine-tuning it on a pixel scale in a few days. But it's mostly as it will be. If you have any comments, drop me a line at my e-mail address, the.Cyde@verizon.net , or contact me on AIM at CydeFyre.

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
If you're interested in how this page is generated, check out the C++ source code that I run to update all of my pages simultaneously from the same files.
I got back from a ski trip today over the weekend with my friend Barry. It went very well and I tackled my first black, a slope named Thunderstruck at Timberline, Canaan Valley, West-By-God-Virginia (Credits to Barry's dad for that one).
Here are some random images:
I'm going to be sprucing up the aesthetics of this webpage soon; be prepared!

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
Welcome to Fyre! This is a test of my automated page generator script. Expect more content soon.

  Contributed by:Ben McIlwain
Success! Hopefully I'll be updating the Nethack, TORPG, Philosophy, etc., pages very soon.
I just sure hope this webpage ends up being cool-looking ...

Fyre's Domain 2002