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03 March 2003

My computer is linked to the Internet via a long segment of sea-green Ethernet cable that snakes from my bedroom and across our living room floor to what was a formidable cobra's nest of similar cables by my roommate's computer; somewhere within that nest is an Ethernet hub, along with a DSL modem, and unconnected co-ax and twisted-pair phone cord, and the S-video and component cables that feed from the TiVo and DirecTV boxes to the television, and a power-strip or two. Oh, yeah, plus great tumbleweeds of dog hair and dust bunnies, because who wants to deal with sweeping around all those cables?

I suppose you could argue that there was a sort of spontaneous organic beauty to the whole thing, much in the way that the narrow, winding streets of ancient Florence look nicer than the sterile grid of a planned city like Brasilia. You could argue that, but in recent weeks, my roommate, Juan, came to the rather more sensible conclusion that the whole thing was a fucking mess, and went to work on the cobra nest.

First to go, obviously, were the cables that hadn't carried any sort of signal in two or more years. (They're now spilling out of a plastic Rubbermaid canister that sits precariously atop a stack of empty CD jewelboxes and unlabeled VHS tapes, so it's debatable whether, from an aesthetic viewpoint, there's been any net gain, but at least it's easier to sweep the floor.) Next, the runs of wire connecting the TV and its input sources got untangled and re-strung under the computer desk, where they'd be out of the way. Finally, this past weekend, Juan decided that the sea-green Ethernet cable running to my bedroom was an unnecessary eyesore, seeing as he had an old wireless adapter card that he wasn't using...

Installation of the wireless adapter did not go without snags, alas. To avoid stretching this preamble out any further, my computer still has the Ethernet card and the sea-green cable; it also has a more capacious hard drive, no audio capability for the time being, and a fresh re-installation of Windows 98.

Which brings me to the whole point of this post -- as I was going through my Internet Explorer "Favorites" directory on what's now my E: drive, in order to import the URLs to the freshly installed version of IE on my new C: drive, I came across this gem of a Java-based Webtoy that I'd bookmarked a couple years ago and completely forgotten about. Sodaconstructor lets you build self-propelled Creatures out of dots (representing lumps of inert bodily mass) and sticks (representing either elastic joints or contracting muscles). By varying the number and relative positions of mass-units, joints, and muscles, you can create radial amoebas, long-legged bipeds, or multilimbed arthropods. Tinker with variables like environmental gravity or the force and rate of muscle contraction, and you determine whether your creature flies, jumps, crawls, or simply collapses like a beached jellyfish. (Once you've launched the Constructor, click the "file" button at the top left to see some pre-made example Creatures; the Pushmi-Pullyu is a special favorite of mine.)

posted by Throbert | 3/03/2003 01:14:00 PM |
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throbert says:
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