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Zeke 04-01-2018 07:57 PM

Five-Minute Anbar!
Big news! Today is the launch of our biggest subsite yet! Like, literally biggest. Huge! Bigger than the void between galaxies!

A while ago, Excelsior told the story of the starship <i>Anbar</i>, which was lost for 59 years outside the Galactic Barrier. As a joke, they framed the relevant episode ("Sunset") as Season 59, Episode 12 of an actual Anbar series. This has confused and intrigued fans who didn't get the joke ever since (much like April Fool's jokes often have for 5MV's readers in the past, though I'm not sure why that comparison came to mind).

But now the Anbar series is real! Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story! I have painstakingly reconstructed all 708 episodes, then reduced them to fivers in my usual style! Behold <b><a href="../anbar">Five-Minute Anbar</a></b>!

Subsite code: 5M0, because they're in the Big Empty and fighting aliens called the Zero, and anyway I've always wanted an excuse to use that one. Subsite colour: dark! Very very dark! Almost too dark to see! Because there's nothing outside the galaxy! Nothing to do! Nothing to explore! Except alien parasites that want to kill you! Taste the excitement!

(For any further questions, please refer to the <a href="../about/5m0.html">FAQ</a>.)

evay 04-01-2018 08:21 PM

you are a delight, Zeke. Never change. And happy April Fool's! :D

Nate the Great 04-01-2018 08:52 PM

How exciting, one more "just passing through to confirm that I saw a post but have nothing to contribute" stamp on my card and I can trade it in for a Quark's Mug!

Zeke 04-01-2018 09:14 PM

(Nobody tell him they don't take that card anymore. I wanna see the look on his face when he tries to redeem it.)

NAHTMMM 04-01-2018 09:36 PM

My goodness.

Nate the Great 04-01-2018 10:05 PM

I miss stamp cards. My local thrift store has them once in awhile, but my family has never spent enough in the applicable period to earn anything.

The real fun was when there were still bakery outlets around that had them. I miss bakery outlets.

Wowbagger 04-02-2018 07:14 AM

This is just as I always imagined it.

I love the title callbacks in some of the later seasons. No doubt, after 45+ years, the producers wanted to pay homage to earlier generations of this remarkably long-running show.

And what happened to Cox's chair, anyway?

Zeke 04-04-2018 02:25 AM

That was fun! And tiring. <i>So tiring</i>. But fun!

In the spirit of Easter, when everyone was surprised by an event that had been foretold a couple hundred times, allow me to reveal the worst-kept secret of this stunt: no, I didn't really sit down and write 708 fivers. They were randomly generated, not on the server at load time, but on my PC just once so that everyone would see the same episodes. I used C++ to do it, and if anyone's curious about the exact algorithm, <a href="">here's my source code</a>.

Spoiler: Details for the programming-inclined 

All my random terms were carefully chosen to avoid grammar and syntax issues. For instance, the first term in a title never starts with a vowel (so it can go after "A" without changing it to "An") and can always be pluralized by adding "s". Pronouns are avoided so I can keep male and female characters in the same box. I only slipped up once, and if you're bored enough to look for it yourself you'll find it eventually; if not, <a href="">here's one case where it happened</a>. I haven't checked yet, but there are probably also some identical titles, and almost certainly some identical blurbs. <i>That</i> was something I anticipated but chose not to prevent -- not worth the trouble.

I've had this stunt in mind for a while now, and I considered many different approaches. I was really close to writing a more complicated program that would've had many more random terms, title/scene patterns, and scenes per episode (let's face it, this was really Five-<i>Second</i> Anbar). Making the randomness half as obvious would probably have taken ten times the work, but it would've been a fun challenge. Alas, by the time I got my compiler working right, I was too beat to make a program that big -- but I have to admit this simple version is probably funnier anyway.

Another thing I wanted to do was include a few of the events we know about from "Sunset". That episode includes an extended flashback from Season 22, and there are at least ten, maybe as many as twenty other significant events whose placement in the timeline I could have estimated. (In fact, I did do a <i>bit</i> of that -- characters born in the Big Empty are added to the list roughly when they would've been old enough to have episodes about them.) Those would all have been season premieres to make them easier to find, and I even wanted to make up the remaining premieres, following the theme of "Caretanbar" with titles like "Way of the Wanbar". ("What are we going to do about the Klingons?!" "What Klingons?" "Huh. Never mind.") Right up to the end I was hoping to do that, but by the time I had everything else ready, the thought of writing even 10 more mini-fivers, much less 58, made me despair. Leaving that stuff out had its own benefit: it kept this event almost spoiler-free, which is remarkable for a topic as radioactive in Excelsior's myth-arc as the <i>Anbar</i>.

The graphics posed a little challenge too. The <i>Anbar</i> is a Class 3 neutronic fuel carrier, the same class as the <i>Kobayashi Maru</i> -- which you may recognize as a ship that has <i>never been shown onscreen</i>. How convenient for a site that always uses a series' main ship for its graphics! Fortunately, XL had already chosen a representative for the title card of "Sunset" (the starship <i>Antares</i> from "Charlie X", or at least one of the same class), so I used that. Similarly, a made-up series obviously had no official font, so I picked something thin and spaced it out to fit the Big Empty theme.

This "subsite" was the ultimate stress-test for the PHP code I've been running 5MV's subsites on since the '05 redesign. I'm proud of how well it did -- I only had to change one thing (it wasn't equipped for two-character-long season codes). This is probably the last hurrah for this old system, which uses text files as a pseudo-database, since we do actually have a <i>real</i> database on the server and I've been meaning to switch to using that for ages. I'm glad I could send out the old code with a bang.

Finally... honest, 5MV has <i>not</i> become an Excelsior fansite. I'm just very into the series right now for two reasons. First, in these days of AbramsTrek and whatever the hell Discovery is, it's refreshing to have an alternative (which has its own major differences from Roddenberry/Berman Trek, but it's closer in spirit, and it's not another damn prequel). Second, I'm writing the episode after next!

evay 04-05-2018 10:39 AM

I love hearing how the sausage is made, both creatively and in terms of code. very fun. I had been considering putting The Symmetry Principle AFD site back up on TripHammered this week, given the sad passing of Dr. Hawking, but I don't think anyone would have noticed.

Zeke 04-07-2018 02:32 AM

Yeah, I thought of you when I heard the news. I'm sure a life like his leaves few regrets, but the rest of us will certainly miss him. I should do something commemorative in the next update.

Flying Gremlin 06-08-2018 09:04 PM

So that's why I saw a bunch of code monkeys go by recently. What an incredible smell you've discovered!

Actually, your description of the process brought up a good question: considering the code of the site didn't support two-digit season numbers, how was it able to handle the 10th Doctor pages on the 5MDW sub-site? Though, seeing as you're a much better coder than I am (I break, I can fix, I can bug, but write new code from scratch? fugget about it), it probably had something to do with the fact that there is only a couple of doctors that have Fivers completed, and the fact that the groupings on that sub-site are not actually labeled "Seasons". Or not in the quasi-database and added manually.

Now that is out of the way, I should get back to work.

Zeke 07-01-2018 01:34 AM

Oh, that was an easy one. I just gave that season the code "x". It delayed the problem until the next regeneration, which at that point was still years away. (It's good to have the code up to date now in case I ever finish that damn "Eleventh Hour" fiver, though.)

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