Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

You can tell the new playgrounds. They're slick and well designed and really, God, so much better than the old ones. At some point in the last twenty years, there has been a revolution in the art and science of playground creation and the results are almost uniformly good.

The sandboxes are all curvy instead of squared off and the jungle gyms use wood and plexiglass and have multiple levels and cool climbing stuff and the slides are all slick, twisting plastic instead of the long, straight metal that burns you when you sit down on it on a hot day.

And they even throw in the clever sop to eduction every once in a while. While Tom ran around looking for things to pretend to drive and Mike lolled near sleep in my arms yesterday, I went over and played with the letter wheels.

There are three tumblers mounted between wooden posts, with four letters on each: P, R, B and M on the first; E, I, O and A on the second; and G, N, T and D on the third. You can spin them -- all three at once or just one at a time -- and out will pop a word. Like say:

PRBMEIOAGNTD

You'll note that the letters have been carefully picked and positioned to prevent anything naughty from being spelled, with only the occasional nonsense word showing up. Out of the 64 different possibilities, only nine don't have dictionary entries of one form or another. Not that I'm an obsessive or anything.

("Ped," for instance, is a natural soil aggregate; "rit" is an abbreviation of "ritardando," meaning "with a gradual slackening of temp." But you knew that.)

And you can cut that nine down to eight if you think that "pid" belongs in the dictionary. I mean, doesn't everybody on the playground know it stands for "process ID"?

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is greg@eod.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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