Saturday, January 31, 2009

Say wha...?

How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they've seen...


Friday, January 30, 2009

Lies, lies, lies

Is the Israeli GDP such a weak sister that it has to stifle academic criticism in Sweden?

The gist is, a couple of Swedish scientists (a linguist and a phoneticist) published an article a year ago in which they describe the last fifty years of "Charlatanry in forensic speech science" — the title of their article — as baseless, useless quackery. In other words, lie detectors can't work and don't work. They're bunk.

So, a lie detector manufacturer in Israel, apparently stung by declining (or nonexistent?) sales, threatens to sue for libel to suppress future publication on the issue!

Isn't litigation fun? Merits, schmerits! No need for expensive (or embarassing) research and rebuttal, just hit 'em in the courts. This sounds remarkably like SCO's frivolous (and interminable) lawsuits against Linux the last ten years. SCO was eventually bled dry when the consequences of Linux losing that argument by default became obvious, and IBM stepped in to bankroll the defense.

It's possible that fear of polygraphs is the psychological leverage that makes this gimcrackery minimally effective. In which case, a bit of psychoactive rubber hose from your local radiator shop is waaay cheaper.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

The stupid monkey money is starting to flow again...

Have you noticed? The bulls are getting restless...


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Some Meaningful Years of the Chinese Zodiac

1944, Year of the Monkey

1961, Year of the Ox (that's this year, too!)

1993, Year of the Rooster


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Israel attacks Gaza ... again

Guess what? Israel claims provocation, whether by Hamas, George Mitchell's gratuitously buttinsky arrival, or Obama's unwelcome recent chat on Al Arabiya is uncertain; however, neutral observers notice the familiar 1,000 eyes for an eye pattern — and the timing is interesting.

Until Israel re-attacked, the body count at a border crossing so obscure you need to look it up was 1 Israeli solder, 1 "Hamas official" on a motorbike and 1 innocent non-Israeli bystander, so the "response" rather does beg the question. Judging by body language, however, Israel is simply underlining its underlined underlinings underlined several days ago, in case anybody in Gaza ACCIDENTALLY missed the goddamn memo!!!

Israel is nuts. The place reminds me of NI3, in fact, a mind bogglingly extreme decrepitant any high school chem student can muggle up from ingredients under the bathroom sink, but so ludicrously touchy (even alpha particles can set it off), it's useless as a high explosive.

Oh, yeah, I get it. Yesterday was Year of the Ox. Chinese New Year.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Mein Fuhrer, I still can't walk!

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Is Go Funny?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Many Faces of Go version 12!

David Fotland's venerable Many Faces of Go is making real news in Go circles again.

First, it's been updated to version 12, and mixes in the recently developed Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS) algorithms by Sylvain Gelly, et. al, enabling it to play as strong as 2 kyu on single core machines. That's 3 dan, in 9x9 games!

Second, it won two gold medals (for normal and 9x9 play) at the 13th World Computer Game Olympiad (2008) in Beijing.

Third, the graphics are more visually appealing than the ancient, two dimensional Windows versions that have been floating around for years. This is a small point but it counts a lot. The board now shows a kaya grain and the stones mimic slate and shell. The effect is understated, but it looks right — except under Wine, where the stone shadows are white instead of black. Of course, Macintosh OS X still sets the highwater mark for best Go graphics on any computer, bar none; on Windows, CGoban 3 and PANDA gGo also have attractive board graphics, IMHO.

And fourth, it runs out of the box under Ubuntu Hardy, in Codeweaver's CrossOver Linux Standard!

[Update: The Trading Centre in the U.K. uses CopyMinder, a "call home" type copy protection nanny, which does not play well with Linux, at least on my system. I could not run the full-feature, time-expiring demo because of CopyMinder.]

The version 12 evaluation copy (at Smart-Games) does NOT expire, but it has a few disabled features — e.g., you can only play handicap games by registering, computer opponents stronger than 18 kyu require registration, fuseki study halts after a few stones are placed, Go problems are really simple, etc. One thing you can do is replay those games of Shusaku which are included in the library. A standard, reasonable demo, easily paid for and registered at Smart-Games.

Five stars out of five.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Never heard of Echelon?

Folks over as MSNBC seem to be agog over some touchingly antique news indeed, namely the barely interesting information that NSA "eavesdrops" on every American, terrorist connections or not.

This old hat has been passé for decades. It's the logical extension of the old ECHELON program which listened to wireless telephony and categorized the raw input by scanning for key words and phrases in the alphabet soup.

One trusts the President's Blackberry is slightly more secure than your average Firefox "encrypted transaction" business website. Technically, this stuff is so easy I wonder if the entire story isn't some of kind of misdirection?

I dunno what you think of hardened Blackberries, but I want one! What a neat toy.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Invincible, The Games of Shusaku

Invincible: The Games of Shusaku, edited by John Powers, is one of the most expensive readily available books on the game of Go (Baduk, Weiqi), currently as much as $129 at

The price makes it one of the many bootleg Go books found at The Pirates Bay, which you may Google on your own dime.

I find it passing strange that Go could be that popular — a century ago, it was an aristocratic game principally valued for its ability to fill a drowsy afternoon of empty moments to its gilt-flecked brim.

Were it not for the anime (and manga) Hikaru no Go, Shusaku would enjoy the dimmest of twilights in this century. (Name the year and place, and the Shogun and principles present for the ninth castle game. One of them was Shusaku. Who were the top Korean players that year? True or False: Inoue Matsumoto Inseki presented a massive kaya goban to the bemused Commodore Perry in 1854 during a three-day intermission in the eleventh castle game.)

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Odd numbers

Yesterday, there were exactly the same number of people on the Mall in Washington, D.C. as used to live in Gaza. Today there's somewhat fewer.

Twenty five, another odd number — Ramon Mercado, at the Cyclone Go Club at Iowa State University, told me everything I need to know about breaking out of the 20 kyu levels. His advice was to memorize the first 25 moves of Shusaku's games. He also said it only takes a year to get to 9 kyu. "A game of golf takes two hours..."

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Memo to my daughter

Because you (like me) despise praise, you will have to climb mountains all your life. Climbing mountains has two advantages: First, you will always knows how far you've come. And second, you will not need anybody to tell you when you've reached the top.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Bush's Last 24 Hours in Office

It's funny, but on this edits page at, where one types one's modest maunderings, there's a subliminal message: Moderate Comments. Nahhh, this is a democracy.

Unlike Thailand.

George W. Bush can revel in the contrast.

[Update 2009/01/30 Banned in Thailand?]


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gazing at Gaza

So far, my favorite bullshit excuse for killing Palestinians was Ariel Sharon's dog-in-the-manger moment at Al-Aqsa, which followed Yasser Arafat's jubilation aboard the fishing boat Jandelay (September 27, 2000) when an offshore natural gas well went online in Gaza territorial waters. Thus British Gas reaped the heady rewards of pouring venture capital into Palestine.

For some reason that bit of history reminds me of Barbary Macaques at Gibraltar. Or the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Sick transit, Gloria Monday

I voted for Barack Obama, even though I think he's a titch overrated. My first choice, back in the caucusii last year, was Joe Biden. In fact, Obama reminds me of the young Jack Kennedy just before the Bay of Pigs. Cool, collected, confident, ignorant... Arrogant.

In fact, I expect Biden is ten times exactly right; Obama will be tested, and Obama will prove himself a consummate fool on the world stage before he ever starts paying attention to history and exercising independent thought, especially in the Middle East.

Hillary Clinton's appointment to State reminds me of George McClellan's appointment to the Army of the Potomac, frankly. She'll be a pedestrian gadabout with a colossal chip on her shoulder and no sense for the urgency of the times.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mene mene tekel upharsin Redux

The handwriting on the wall... Israel's slim chances depend on avoiding global economic recession, right? Since that's unlikely, expensive military adventures in Gaza — and the cheap temporary halo-polishing about West Bank settlements which invariably precedes IDF actions somewhere — mean Israel falls into economic Götterdammerung.

Guns and butter, right? Found wanting in the scales of common sense, world justice, strategy and tactics, the result can only be political ruin, national collapse when the Palestinian-controlled Knesset dissolves the state of Israel, and absorption into Iran by intense regional indifference. (Nobody really wants the Palestinians, remember?)

Heck, even if Bernie Madow were a secret agent of AIPAC siphoning billions of American dollars to Tel Aviv and nobly taking the rap as a lovable scamp scam artist, there aren't enough legitimate cash flows connecting Israel to the world to keep the Zionist golem alive. So Gaza is a gamble, and Hamas, like Hezbollah, like Osama bin Laden is simply waiting for the inevitable last twitch.

Bin Laden's nuts. He tells you what his strategy is, and expects your arrogance to ignore the input.


¿Quién es ese "Garfield"?

Been trying to learn Spanish for decades, ever since high school, and after all this time El Gordo y la Flaca still leave me in the dust.

Nik's Spanish is not exactly Academy-ridden, either. He's from Argentina, and there are lots of neologisms in Latin America. For example, another panel recently held the phrase "Gomería la parche, la + veloz" — Gaturro wearing a sandwich board (he's widely read, get it?) Well, gomería is not in my dictionary or the RAE's dictionary either. I think what it means is, "Stuck on The Patch, fast acting," presumably a nicotine patch. Could be wrong... :) Frequently am.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Life's Little Lessons

Fry eggs over easy in real butter, not margarine. A little, not a lot. Try it!


Al Jazeera Creative Commons Repository

Al Jazeera has video anyone can use.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why I am not a Muslim (Baptist, etc.)

Unfortunately, Islam's current most vocal adherents are absolutely opposed on scholastic grounds to the theory of evolution. Some of these Imams are even erudite, but tediously condescending and legalistic.

I pity Muslim biologists who are up against this kind of pietistic close-minded ignorance, although truth be told I doubt most of them are facing sword or stake. Islam can be both blazingly beautiful and remarkably tolerant, although its world record on this point is nerve-wrackingly unpredictable.

Let's just say that Christian fundamentalist creationists have nothing on the Imams, when it comes to cute, if inconsistent, Adam and Eve in Eden stories and either uninformed or stone deaf opinions about evolution. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

Catholic biologists under the current Pope Benedict have had a wavering ally at best, but most of them take the sensible view that the Church can and should be ignored when it comes to irrelevant notions about blindingly obvious facts like evolution.

Fortunately, Catholic lay dissent is no longer a matter for conscience and courage, now that the Church has relinquished the Inquisition (thank you John Paul II!)

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Spanish word frequency lists!

Check this out!

There also a Spanish vocabulary list for the Mnemosyne flash cards program.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Knesset Vaudevillains (sic)

I see Ehud Olmert had a few choice words for home consumption about "embarassing" Condoleezza Rice by "making her abstain" from a U.N. Security Council vote about a cease fire in the Israeli invasion of Gaza. The gist seems to be that he tattled on her to our increasingly ex-President Bush, "and told him what to do." Uhhh... sure. Whatever you say.

If Rice got on Olmert's nerves, more power to her, it means she was doing her job — but I guess what this really means is that Olmert will soon start bragging privately about late night panty raids on the Clinton State Department.

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I have the 7 stone handicap

I'm ahead by 85.5 stones, but I think my opponent has just been nodding off during this very slow game. He seems to be awake now. The white groups at B18 and O11 are dead. It's bad form of me to comment a 25 kyu game, though. Thurb!


Sunday, January 11, 2009


Ok, so here's a puzzle. Let's say for some reason you think Genesis is a nice ancient anthology of naive yarns, not prophecy so much, per se. So who were the Jews who thought of themselves as The Many and needed to look back and know their father Abraham, way back at the beginning of Time? Having found your own origins, would you share that glory with your goyish neighbors? Who were the Arabs rubbing together in the wadis who needed a mother, and why did a Jewish talespinner give them Hagar1? Why were the other peoples in the vicinity not also mentioned, or were they simply edited out like the children of Keturah? When did all these people share the good earth? Clearly, it's easier to predict the future when your tale is set in the distant past. Think Wilma Flintstone in a babushka. Think Oggham's Laser2.

1Who's on First? Although slave Hagar's son Ishmael came first, all these illegitimate Arabs have no right to own land "because God says so." It's legalism, sleight of hand. Think Jacob, Esau and primogeniture. To add insult to injury, both Esau and Ishmael are described as hairier than Chewbacca. Maybe the mark of Cain was simply no hair on his forehead! These ancient Mesopotamians carried a curious set of recessive genes — and hairy kids never inherited.

2The sensible principle that it's better to be a scullery maid married to a witch's seventh son than a scullery maid with a master's degree in irony.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Crimes of Sara Dybbuk

It seems extraordinary to me that Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, looms so large in Genesis yet figures so dimly in Judaeo-Christian tradition. She seems like a thoroughly understandable and sympathetic picaresque.

Oddly enough, Hagar is even a woman by a well, and like Abraham, she herself receives God's promise that her descendents (i.e., the Arabs) will be innumerable! What's going on here? Jesus meeting with the woman at the well in the New Testament must have really resonated with the precursing Arabs (the "other sheep" of John 10:16?) in Samaria. But Ishmael's descendents drop out of the Bible more or less altogether and do not reappear at length until the Qu'ran1.

It sounds like at least three oral traditions have blazed away through the generations like grass fires, then merged again later — one with Isaac and one with Ishmael, two names for the same person, on the same altar; and another far older story about the true matriarch, Hagar! You can see the dim outlines of something believable in the smoky gloom of those old campfires — the barren and jealous Sara demanding that Abraham kill, not just banish, Hagar's son, whose name is either Isaac or Ishmael depending on which benighted band of country cousins tells the story.

By this mischievously irresponsible and non-miraculous retelling, the crimes of Sara really mount up.

She loathes her husband2, she's mean-spirited, she's frigid or at least she buys off Abraham's advances by putting an Egyptian slavegirl in his bed, she steals her husband's paramour's baby and calls him He-Will-Laugh, when the kid grows up enough to say "You're not my mother, Princess! Forsaken is my mother, and my name is God-Listens!" she henpecks her husband into sacrificing the brat like a sheep, when that doesn't work, she drives the real mother out of camp "and take your insolent whelp with you!"

About the only thing Sara manages to accomplish is inspiring her husband to pay for her tomb, which at her death he does — whole-heartedly, elaborately, with panache, spending 10 times what the place is worth, excessively piling rock on whitewashed rock, binding her screeching dybbuk to the earth forever. Or at least 4,500 years whichever comes first.

(But, but... What about Isaac's son, Jacob? Jeez, what have you people got, a birth certificate? Even in a span so short as 233 years, my relatives can splice other people's ancestors into their own family histories and become Daughters of the American Revolution, like nobody in your family is related to Charlemagne. To sum up, nice story, but what part of Genesis is historical?)

1Acccording to the Qu'ran, Abraham visits Ishmael in Medina and together they build the Kaabah. It's not recorded anywhere that Abraham said, "Oy, my son, behind every successful man is a woman with nothing to wear."

2Probably because of that "brother-sister" charade with Pharoah. She was young, she was beautiful, she was loved by a real man — until Abraham gave the game away and spoiled a done deal!

I'm astounded that in 64 years, I never once heard of Hagar before now! This has got to be one of the best underdog stories of all time, and it seems to have been a favorite with artists from Dore to Rembrandt to Marc Chagall. The closest I ever got to this story arc was Moby Dick, "Call me Ishmael." Who is that? And how did I grow up so ignorant?

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Friday, January 09, 2009

The Sara vs. Hagar Catfight

I've been reading Thomas Cahill's The Gifts of the Jews, which is (so far) an overly energetic book full of finger drumming and cuneiform polishing as though Cahill's having trouble locating the thrust of his thesis, but it has given me my first glimpse into the shared mythology which surrounds the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Both Jews and Arabs acknowledge each other's descent from Abraham, the Old Testament patriarch:
  • Jews, descendants of Sara, Abraham's wife, and mother by the first of many old age births in the Bible — miraculous considering what an anachronism Viagra would have been three or four thousand years ago — of Isaac, father of Jacob, later called Israel (aha!).

  • Arabs, descendents of Hagar, Abraham's concubine but Sara's Egyptian slavegirl, and the mother of Ishmael, Abraham's first natural son, the one with primogeniture if not legitimacy.

    (Hagar's son Ishmael was intended to be Sara's old age insurance policy, her Social Security as it were, until Isaac came along beyond all expectations. The catfight was born during the years Hagar and Ishmael took center stage in Abraham's household, supplanting the legitimate but barren wife.)
That's the mythology, not an explanation. From that point on, it is an excuse, as the two polemics apparently damn each other mutually as first one lineage and then the other receives "the Curse of God," which was apparently a prefiguration of Mercutio's plague on both their houses.

The Blessing of God seem not to have occurred to anyone, except perhaps Hagar. But in a harem, knives within arm's reach are sharpest.

(On the face of it, for example, kosher and halaal are virtually identical dietary restrictions — so similar that questions come up all the time. But if you scout around the web, you discover mutual prohibitions: Jews can't eat Muslim foods, Muslims can't eat Jewish foods. From an outsider's point of view, it sounds like schoolyard cootie avoidance.)

Meanwhile, Cahill, struggling hard to ignore all this patently obvious internecine strife and all its pregnant implications for the modern era, seems to feel that the "first gift of the Jews" was Abraham's willingness to "go forth" from Sumeria into Canaan. He contrasts the cyclical time worldview held by the Sumerians (and, allegedly, everyone else!) with "The Journey" of Abraham, which begins in Sumer and ends he knows not where.

I.e., was Abraham's the gift of linear narrative — of past, present and future? But the Greeks had this idea so long ago its cognate appears among the thoroughly pagan Vikings. Linear narrative, the Arrow of Time, Fates and Norns woven into the fabric of prehistory, is pre-Vedic even in India. Our view of Time has more to do with spinning and weaving, with the patterns at the bottom of the loom, the middle and the top, than with any wheel-like epiphanies seen above the ziggurats of Sumeria.

(I skipped ahead in the book, just to check this out. Yup, that's what Cahill thinks all right, rather ethnocentrically in my opinion. I doubt that a people as historically inclined as the Chinese — who seem to think history is too important not to slash and burn occasionally — ever bothered to look up "Jerusalem" in their introspective Boddickers.)

Memo from Mother Nature: Next time, no brains for apes.


Mike Goetz called

The erstwhile Mike Goetz, of B03 Adventure fame, dropped me a line the other day. He's always been a mysterious character because that game included his phone number from 1983 — in case you found a glitch in the game, you could call him and report it. The problem was, like all students, he graduated and moved on from R.I.T. (Rochester Institute of Technology, I think), leaving that phone number fossilized like a bug in amber inside a game people play to this very day.

It's been like watching the inexorable winds of entropy at work. For awhile, even after Goetz headed toward the twinkly Christmas tree of computer lights in Wall Street, that phone would still ring in the dark. No one ever found a bug in the B03 version. But they'd call with Questions. "How do I get the last point?" "I pushed the red button and my computer crashed." "I can't get out of the catacombs!" Etc.

Detritis, decades-old newspaper rolling in the gutters of the mind. The old lady who answered the phone was not amused. She tracked down Goetz' new number and used to pass it out like Halloween candy. On April Fool's Day. Goetz moved again. She got a new number. When you call that number these days, it's been disconnected for dusty centuries.

Goetz' contribution to the game, aside from porting it, was the Computer Room he added on north of Witt's End. Classic. I enjoyed the posters. I enjoyed the klaxons when the alarm went off. I laughed when Rover showed up, AWOL from The Prisoner.

Mike Goetz. Not just a number anymore.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Go is an easy game...

Except for the beginning. The difficulty seems to lie in the first 200 moves.

What next, I wonder?
Winter has arrived. The moon
slips behind a cloud.

Yes, it's a thinly-veiled Alzheimer's threat. What did you expect? I'm too old to write haiku on purple!

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Israeli Children's Crusade in Gaza

A few days ago, below the fold in the local newspaper, there was a picture of a Palestinian boy crying at some relative's funeral. It didn't seem very much like the heartwrenching images that prompt me to sympathy with Palestine; those are usually, but not always, girls, deeply stoic and blood-streaked. Then I realized where the discordant note was coming from.

These propaganda photos have many fathers. Some, the most affecting because they show the truth, come from Al Jazeerah and its ilk. Others, like the boy, come from the disengenuous, the liars and the mockers, for whom that kid in the paper was just a crybaby Palestinian brat being taught a well-deserved lesson by the sternly even-handed IDF.

Maybe my cynicism has become tinged with prejudice? I tried to find the picture of that boy on the Internet, but I couldn't. Instead, and this stuff can't be faked, I saw photographs of dead children with missing bits of skull and brains slopped out of their natural containers onto the ground. You don't see brains much these days — it's not a popular variety meat at the butcher's counter. But once you've seen the brawn laid out on butcher's paper, you know what that stuff leaking out of children's heads is.

It's not news, of course. Only obscene.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What?! Bush followed through?

In a fey, rare and picaresque moment of lucid coincidence with reality, George W. Bush, a man we no longer refer to as "Mr. President," is apparently going to create three new "marine national monuments" after all, to add to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in northwestern Hawaii set aside in 2008 as part of the Bush legacy.

Marine ecologists wish he'd used the 200 mile territorial waters standard, instead of the 50 mile continental limit, and there's some question whether enough of the Marianas Trench is protected, but the stroke of Bush's pen sends most of us scurrying to our marine atlases trying to find the newly protected regions.

The Marianas Trench is of course the deepest part of the Pacific. That's where the benthic diver Trieste reached the Challenger Deep ocean floor in 1960.

But where in American Samoa is Rose Atoll? And the "seven islands strung along the equator in the Central Pacific" sounds like a Cash Cab Red Light Challenge From Hell: "Name four of the seven islands comprising the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument... and ... Go!" Uhhh... Rose... Jarvis... uhhh...

"Oh, so sorry! The seven islands are Wake, Baker, Howland, Jarvis, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll."

This stuff is so obscure it sounds like real science, provided it's not just another C.I.A. fantasy like the Glomar Explorer. We're so jaded.

By the way, got Go?

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Popeye Unbound

The inflooenshul works of American artiste E. C. Segar (creator of “Popeye”) have apparently entered the public domain!

Let the image grab begin, because of course "public domain" only applies to forgotten and usually forgettable authors
whose body of work was never all that commercial, and is no longer claimed by the deep-pocketed robber barons, squatters and snarling wolves (like Eisnerville's...err...Walt Disney Co.'s bizarre claim to own the rights to Sir John Tenniel's Alice illustrations.)

Sorry, it seems that 100 Classic Books (Nintendo DS) violates US copyright laws so it can't ackshooly be shipped from No idea what the problem is, since most if not all of these titles are available from Project Gutenberg:

Louisa May AlcottLittle Women
Jane AustenEmma
Jane AustenMansfield Park
Jane AustenPersuasion
Jane AustenPride and Prejudice
Jane AustenSense and Sensibility
Harriet Beecher StoweUncle Tom's Cabin
R.D. BlackmoreLorna Doone
Anne BronteThe Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Charlotte BronteJane Eyre
Charlotte BronteThe Professor
Charlotte BronteShirley
Charlotte BronteVillette
Emily BronteWuthering Heights
John BunyanThe Pilgrim's Progress
Frances BurnettLittle Lord Fauntleroy
Frances BurnettThe Secret Garden
Lewis CarrollAlice's Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis CarrollThrough the Looking-Glass
Wilkie CollinsThe Moonstone
Wilkie CollinsThe Woman in White
Carlo CollodiThe Adventures of Pinocchio
Arthur Conan DoyleThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Arthur Conan DoyleThe Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
Joseph ConradLord Jim
Susan CoolidgeWhat Katy Did
James Fenimore CooperLast of the Mohicans
Daniel DefoeRobinson Crusoe
Charles DickensBarnaby Rudge
Charles DickensBleak House
Charles DickensA Christmas Carol
Charles DickensDavid Copperfield
Charles DickensDombey and Son
Charles DickensGreat Expectations
Charles DickensHard Times
Charles DickensMartin Chuzzlewit
Charles DickensNicholas Nickleby
Charles DickensThe Old Curiosity Shop
Charles DickensOliver Twist
Charles DickensThe Pickwick Papers
Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities
Alexandre DumasThe Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre DumasThe Three Musketeers
George EliotAdam Bede
George EliotMiddlemarch
George EliotThe Mill on the Floss
Henry Rider HaggardKing Solomon's Mines
Thomas HardyFar From The Madding Crowd
Thomas HardyThe Mayor of Casterbridge
Thomas HardyTess of The D'Urbervilles
Thomas HardyUnder the Greenwood Tree
Nathaniel HawthorneThe Scarlet Letter
Victor HugoThe Hunchback of Notre Dame
Victor HugoLes Miserables
Washington IrvingThe Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon
Charles KingsleyWestward Ho!
D.H. LawrenceSons And Lovers
Gaston LerouxThe Phantom of the Opera
Jack LondonThe Call of the Wild
Jack LondonWhite Fang
Herman MelvilleMoby Dick
Edgar Allen PoeTales of Mystery and Imagination
Sir Walter ScottIvanhoe
Sir Walter ScottRob Roy
Sir Walter ScottWaverley
Anna SewellBlack Beauty
William ShakespeareAll's Well That Ends Well
William ShakespeareAntony and Cleopatra
William ShakespeareAs You Like It
William ShakespeareThe Comedy of Errors
William ShakespeareHamlet
William ShakespeareJulius Caesar
William ShakespeareKing Henry the Fifth
William ShakespeareKing Lear
William ShakespeareKing Richard the Third
William ShakespeareLove's Labour's Lost
William ShakespeareMacbeth
William ShakespeareThe Merchant of Venice
William ShakespeareA Midsummer-Night's Dream
William ShakespeareMuch Ado About Nothing
William ShakespeareOthello, the Moor of Venice
William ShakespeareRomeo and Juliet
William ShakespeareThe Taming of the Shrew
William ShakespeareThe Tempest
William ShakespeareTimon of Athens
William ShakespeareTitus Andronicus
William ShakespeareTwelfth Night
William ShakespeareThe Winter's Tale
Robert Louis StevensonKidnapped
Robert Louis StevensonThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Robert Louis StevensonTreasure Island
Jonathan SwiftGulliver's Travels
William ThackerayVanity Fair
Anthony TrollopeBarchester Towers
Mark TwainAdventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark TwainAdventures of Tom Sawyer
Jules VerneRound the World in Eighty Days
Jules Verne20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Oscar WildeThe Importance of Being Earnest
Oscar WildeThe Picture of Dorian Gray

When was the last time you read Silas Marner of your own free will? Most English Lit falls in the same "under duress" category. Even Shakespeare. My brother is the only guy I know who's ever read Martin Chuzzlewit cover to cover. Call me Ishmael, but Queequeg passeth a racist, imperialist gas, and Victorian authors are weird as well as duller than boiled broccoli.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Fallen Sparrows in Gaza

War is hell, yeah. I'm no fan of Israel, and I actually do like Islam, as long as I don't have to carry water for the team (I am a Darwinist, after all!) But Hamas is kind of a hard case to like. It's one thing to root for underdogs, but they sometimes have mange, distemper, rabies... Whether it's Hamas or Irgun, it's damned ugly, and I can't be owned by any of that propaganda anymore.

That said, it's hard to get around pictures of bleeding kids, which is why Israel clamps down the news blackout, and why I really dislike the goons in Tel Aviv. Humanitarian relief, please.


Friday, January 02, 2009

My Nintendo DS games

  • Club House Games* (=it's new to me)
    It has backgammon and Klondike. Way too easy, I can beat the chess and checkers games. (Update: Turns out you can unlock harder versions of these games, as well as droll features like the "Paper" backgammon board. Backgammon does support Doubles (and the Crawford Rule) if you turn on the multi-game series feature. If there's a version of Go on here, I haven't found it yet. The "Connect Five" game is actually Go Moku, a Japanese kid's game played on a standard Go board with black and white stones.)
  • Kanji Sonomama DS Rakubiki Jiten
    A Japanese-English dictionary with character recognition (very touchy about stroke order). If you need to use this, you'll also need to buy a second Nintendo DS Lite for casual play.
  • Metroid Prime Pinball
    There aren't many pinball games for the Nintendo DS, but this one is good. The theme is Metroid Prime, an annoyingly difficult First Person Shooter which runs on Gamecube.
  • My Spanish Coach*
    Don't pay more than $29.99 msrp for this, but as a drill-and-review toy for Spanish language acquisition it's pretty cool.
  • Revenant Wings (Final Fantasy XII)
    I'm stuck on (and intensely annoyed by) the last level. Sort of like Final Fantasy Tactics, but with Vaan and Penelo. Be warned, RW has a bad "well, that sucks" letdown in the storyline. Just when you get involved in the outcast viera story, the authors run all those rabbits through Hamlet's Last Act — "peurile and underdramatized," as Wednesday would say. Awful. (But who knows? Beat the last boss and maybe they'll all come back from the dead?)
  • Space Invaders Extreme*
    Nice retro game with postmodern "eXtreme" touches. I've been looking for a playable version of this game for decades.
  • Umezawa Yukari no Yasashii Igo
    Go, as in Baduk or Weiqi. Yukari Umezawa-sensei's Easy Go, i.e., "easy" only in the sense that single-CPU go opponents were still pretty weak in 2008. Umezawa-sensei's go puzzles, which require human thought but not computer A.I., are graded from easy to quite hard.
That's all, I'm not really into the DS a lot (the format is too small, until there's a good reason.)

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Sowing the Wind


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Another Year, New in Name Only

I'm glad I turned 64 in 2008 and managed to make it to 2009. This is my 65th Winter. In my next life, I'd like to be a reasonably well-rounded goof who is, in other respects, an idiot savant in either Go, Golf or Guitar, or all three. Don't think I have enough karma points to level up in all of them, and if I could chose just one, it would have to be guitar. (Jeff Beck and Tal Wilkenfeld are my heroes.)

I wonder how one donates money to Palestinian relief, and whether the Israelis will or can intercept the funds.