Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kung Fruit

Did you ever know some spacy little Seventies hippie chick, all beads and dreams, a flower child who might be caught reading Trout Fishing in America while in a moment of bedazzling distraction committing fellatio on a daffodil — and then one day, suddenly, right before your very eyes she twists a juicy red ripe apple in half with her bare hands, then tries to pretend it never happened?

When you call her on it, she dumbs it down; the next time you see her do it, she traces a line of longitude through the skin clear around the particolored pome, "along the seam," she says, with her thumbnail, then rips her Winesap in twain — just as though she'd done it that way the first time!?

Can everyone do that? Or just Italians? Is that the mark of a peasant? Or a princess? Is it just the disenfranchised who break the rules of consensus reality, the gypsies, the gifted, the gadabouts? Can I do that too? Why can't I do that? Why can't I do that? Why can't I do that?

Is it the ruthless who torture fruit? "Those who linger longest in the shade/ entertain themselves with Life, and Lemonade!" — 2nd Place, the 2008 Bad T. S. Eliot Contest


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thanks for the jealousy...

Dad: "Well, family... It's all over... Finished... Done with..."

Dad: "We have to head back home..."

Family: "Aaaaaawwwwwww! How's co-ome??"

Dad: "Let's just say, something tells me Summer's coming to a close..."

Sign: "Fin"
[Jeez, Argentina, you can have our snow now, if you'd like...]


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Final Fantasy: The Text Adventure

There are thirty moogles here.

Hoisting outlandish woodwinds over their heads, they play the delicate opening strains of Selrach Nenirov's Prelude to a Post Encomium: Imaginary Worlds. Fantastic star-voyaging ships maneuver silently into graceful landing patterns all around the high mountain tarn, frozen to a depth of a thousand meters, and polished by aeons of gentle star-pressure from this world's corona borealis. The ships have tuned their open channels to the moogles' symphony, missing not a moment.

The ice, black, ancient and vitreous, begins to reflect the first whispers of the corona overhead. A hush falls over the assembled watchers. The silence lingers a bit too long, perhaps, but then, from opposite ends of the mountain lake, two skaters sit, spraddle-kneed, as they remove the guards from their skates and step onto the ice.

The ice booms. Slowly they glide together, as though reluctant to disturb the surface. Then suddenly, with a gentle surge of acceleration, Fran and Balthier catch each other and spin around a mutual center. The moogle orchestra soars slightly, as though freed from the absolute determinism of Nenirov, and a deep shaft of violet light penetrates from the sky and reflects in the ice below the dancing couple.

You pause a moment in appreciation, but you've seen these two weave their magic on a thousand other occasions. The sky begins to insist with a subtly rhythmic pulse of greens, golds, reds, pinks. Graebal is waiting. You hurry on...


Monday, February 25, 2008

Dreary day, bought Revenant Wings

Ffxiirv is a little hard to get into, after the PS2 version. Still better than this long, slow day of waiting for the next blizzard to arrive later and later, but inexorably... I'm not proud. I have to use my daughter's Nintendo DS with the dim backlighting. My fingers are numb already.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Chutes & Ladders

Michelle Wie came in tied for last place after the three round Fields Open. She won $2,570 bucks more than Natalie Gulbis, who missed the cut. Golf in February is meant to be cruel, I guess, even in Hawai'i.


LPGA final round interview

More than Julie Inkster won in the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship, too — dq'd for signing the wrong scorecard.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Michelle Wie at the 2008 Fields Open

Michelle Wie seems to be doing ok at the 2008 Fields Open in Hawaii. She's tied after round one for 16th at three under par, behind Jang, Creamer and others, and tees off for round 2 this afternoon about 4:45 CST.

The current LPGA scoreboard is showing the projected cut line, now — there's lots of fancy names under that green bar. Heavy tournament! Also, check out the ESPN Photo Feed.

A few details on yesterday's round.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

"We'll plow the streets when the snow stops."

Sometime in April, maybe?


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rode with Kit Carson

Lafe Powell, my great-grandfather, my mother's mother's father, knew Kit Carson according to family lore. I wouldn't know; he was a senile old man who lived in a back room in my grandmother's house in Ottawa, Kansas when I knew him. I might have been 5 or 6, then. I remember my grandmother washing his feet in a small enameled basin with chips on the rim, because he had gangrene caused by frostbite in the Rocky Mountains from the days when "he rode with Kit Carson."

Lafe's middle name was Scoojewah; that may be a transliteration several idioms removed from the Cherokee Sequoyah, but the family story (one he told on himself with a twinkle in his eye) was that he had an Indian midwife and he was named after Sacajewea, of Lewis & Clark fame.

That's all I know, except my mother always loved Taos, New Mexico and my uncle Harry was a doctor (and Baptist preacher) on the Navajo Indian reservation. Maybe there's a bit of Carson karma there after all.

I never knew Sophie Powell, my great-grandmother, at all. My Aunt Bonnie told me she always carried a few candies in her apron pockets for her grandchildren. No photo, sadly.


Winter thoughts...

Are you ready for...


Meets... Beelzebufo?

Oh, yeah. Here's a gratuitous link to Ayn Rand.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Idle thoughts until the glacier recedes from Cedar Rapids

CutePDF Writer is a nifty bit of GPL freeware that lets you print to PDF under Windows XP, and now it works with Vista too. Finally! Open Control Panel → Printers and right-click on CutePDF Printer to make it the default. I deleted the Microsoft PSX (whatever) printer, which I personally found offensively condescending, arrogant and actually (as opposed to virtually) useless.

Note that you'll need the "free converter" too, probably, to install GhostScript 8.15 Light on your machine. It's an easy install, but the installer dialog box simply vanishes when it's done. No gnus is good gnus, I gnuess.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Japan does the impossible

Blue roses? Western horticulturists have been trying to breed a perfect blue rose (no red hues) for centuries. Leave it to Japan, the world's toymaker, to do the impossible.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Michelle Wie is back next week

Playing golf February 21, at the Fields Open in Hawaii, at Ko Olina. Hopefully, the "personal managers" Sony had scheduling her into Korean game shows last year (playing Twister with the local slugs) are long gone. As a PrettyGood® golfer already, she swings nice enuff.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ok, I'm game

Barack Obama, because McCain-Bush will be the ticket of fear. And fear, as Jeb's brother W has amply demonstrated these last 8 years, is cowardly and faithless.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Looks like Leningrad

Snow is piled 4 to 6 feet deep at the curb. Cedar Rapids looks like St. Petersburg only without the culture, of course. Well, there is a Grant Wood exhibit, differing only from The Hermitage in scale, scope and resale value.

Snow. Weeks and weeks of snow. And cold. Cold, cold snow. Looks like Russia.


Monday, February 11, 2008


Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died on Mardi Gras, February 5th, in the Netherlands, aged 91. I saw him speak in Ames, Iowa once. He had a tiny, silly voice and at least two Vedic auras, one rough and one smooth, or "gross" and "subtle" if you remember the pre-selected technical vocabulary from those days. The normal one was gold, warm and rumbling, like a basso profundo ripsaw. The second one was bluewhite, blazing hot, pitched high above the normal range of feeling, like a lick of sky-kissed silk. These are similes, of course. If you were susceptible to this sort of thing, he could warm you up with whatever vibe you liked, a faculty utterly lacking in any of his followers, SFAIK. I'm not sure he knew what he was doing, or even if it was him doing it, but he seemed to be PrettyGood® at it. Do you remember your TM™ mantra?


Friday, February 08, 2008

More chess meanders

  • Arena – Free, and kind of fun, maybe because you need to do some hands on installation for best results:

    • Download both Arena 1.1 and Arena 1.99beta4 – install Arena 1.1, then copy Arena.exe and the Fonts folder out of the beta archive into the installed Arena folder
    • Download the current English language translation file (goes into the Arena Language folder) – this gives you easier access to some parts of the beta menu system that are still in German, e.g. sounds options
    • Find suitable WAV or MIDI sounds which you may associate with events such win, loss, draw, startup, board clicks, etc. These are not provided, except for board click and a nice intro. Track down whatever else you'd like among the Intertubes.
    • female voice announcements if you want to announce moves
    • 49 intensely annoying national anthems are thankfully optional except for Deutschland über Alles which comes with the SOS 5.1 for Arena engine

    • Chess engines, must be either UCI or Winboard. Install as UCI, then if it doesn't work, install as Winboard, and if that fails install as Winboard (old); i.e., UCI or WB2 or WB1. Here's a short (but hardly exhaustive) meta-list.
      The strongest available free chess engines are probably either Rybka 1.0 beta or Spike 1.2 Turin. My favorite is a mild French spreadable named Cheese 1.1b.

      Be sure to get each engine's own opening book, if available.

  • Fritz 11, by no stretch of the imagination free, is the premier commercial chess package. Beautiful, sophisticated and friendly.

    Download the ancient Fritz 5.32 demo to get acquainted.

  • And the point is...? Well, Arena is basically a ... well ... arena for gladiatorial contests between chess engines. You'd think the point of that would be to find out which engines are stronger, right? Not necessarily. The woods are full of newbies, oldtimers (Y.T., e.g.), and ordinary subgeniuses who'd like to learn how to play chess without getting sand kicked in their faces by snarky laughing nerds. So, actually, you want to know which chess engines belong to the categories Weak, Weaker and Weakest. But, hey ho! The weakest of these engines (such as Joker, Mustang or ALchess), provided only it survive a week of attention on the web, plays above the merely human novice.

    No, what you really want is ICC Dasher, and here's why:

    Multiple personalities! Actually, these fourteen Dasher personalities, ranked from 1000 to 2700 ELO, are all manifestations of one prettygood chess engine, Crafty 21.4, but each personality has a different set of optimizations (or suboptimizations) which make the illusion pretty good. I give Dasher high marks for this feature. Of course, it's also a nice client for the Internet Chess Club's online chess server — you have to subscribe to play there, though. Like a country club, and it really flogs that cachet.

  • En passant, the Free Internet Chess Server (FICS) is to ICC what spaghetti and meatballs is to gamberi fra diavolo, i.e., a bit more plebeian, if not downright proletarian. Plus it has BabasChess, which has a rational window structure including an isolated games list in the Info pane that Dasher could benefit from. These online chess servers have grown far too complex to force average users to use the unparsed telnet console. Backgammon and Go servers don't put up with this. Why only chess? Except, as noted, BabasChess — good on yer, mate.



Back on Wednesday, there was another Big Game, but around here we could only get it on Univision. The U.S. and Mexico played each other to a 2-2 tie.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Ok, I'll vote for McCain, so long as his running mate is Christine Todd Whitman, and so long as the House and Senate are firmly held by Democrats.

The lunatic fringe of the Republican party, starting with FOX (*caff*) News, has shown it can't be trusted with governance, which it seeks immediately to dismantle. Also, I really dislike the LFRP's insistence that war trumps rule of law.

Krishna argues with Arjuna precisely on this point, which is oddly existentialist for the Bhagavad Gita — Arjuna must fight, to establish the rule of law. It's what war is for, and Krishna sides, blindingly obviously, with Law.

So does John McCain, and so must we. McCain soars miles above the War-Trumps-All fox nest, and that alone gets my vote.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

El Cid

Or candidate insanity day, as we call it. Sovereignty resides in the people once again, and the world holds its breath, changing. But the stress is still bearable. It's only a primary.

As the ragged scree at the foothills of November's first Tuesday slips, slides, flakes and evaporates into pitiless oblivion, body chemistry changes. Not only are the candidates unwashed, but they start metabolizing ketones. They stink mightily. Their own dogs growl and slink away.

Dangerous, for the candidates, that election night. The Sword of Damocles rives the winner from crown to ballocks with a blaze of light, and the first thing the godstruck fool sees in that annealing moment is eternally blessed, willy nilly, like the princess' frog. The wise spend the evening in seclusion, with their families.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Giant Papier Mache Heads Day

Brusquely changing the subject, Der Bringer 1.9 is a nice free chess program that seems to have fallen into desuetude. Get the full setup program which includes the Bringer.hlp file, unlike anything available to monolingual isolationist Americans — you do read German? Don't even have to speak it. Note that Gerrit Reubold's old homepage is long gone, so no help there. Der Springer is a chesspiece (the knight) — I'm not sure what Der Bringer might connote, maybe a sort of batman, butler or Sam Gamgee for chess. "Yet another chess assistant?"

[UPDATE – James Kearman's chess site also has a Bringer page which includes a proper setup.exe.]

Anyway, lots of snow and rain (!) this morning. Where are the candidates when it comes to ironic Climate Change?

Fat Tuesday tomorrow. Super Tuesday. Super Dooper Tuesday. Lent comes early this year. I'm giving up hope for the chattering classes.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Phil? Phil Connors?

Spare us.