Saturday, October 31, 2009

This Space Intentionally Left Bank


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Glazed Ubuntu Macaroon

From the Unix fortune cookie factory —
The Worst American Poet

Julia Moore, "the Sweet Singer of Michigan" (1847-1920) was so bad that Mark Twain said her first book gave him joy for 20 years.

Her verse was mainly concerned with violent death -- the great fire of Chicago and the yellow fever epidemic proved natural subjects for her pen.

Whether death was by drowning, by fits or by runaway sleigh, the formula was the same:

            Have you heard of the dreadful fate
            Of Mr. P. P. Bliss and wife?
            Of their death I will relate,
            And also others lost their life
            (in the) Ashtabula Bridge disaster,
            Where so many people died.

Even if you started out reasonably healthy in one of Julia's poems, the chances are that after a few stanzas you would be at the bottom of a river or struck by lightning. A critic of the day said she was "worse than a Gatling gun" and in one slim volume counted 21 killed and 9 wounded.

Incredibly, some newspapers were critical of her work, even suggesting that the sweet singer was "semi-literate". Her reply was forthright: "The Editors that has spoken in this scandalous manner have went beyond reason." She added that "literary is a work very difficult to do".

            — Stephen Pile, "The Book of Heroic Failures"
like brittle sparrows
sweltered in their own regret,
mud frogs must dry out

    —from haiku is so damn precious, by f. riley hall

Moore's verse was the "last gasp of obituary poetry" (Ibid.) in America, so it's worth noting that the notorious Cherry Sisters are buried in Linwood Cemetery, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, not far from my haunted precincts. I mention this because it's nearly Halloween.

By, e.g., Fran Allison ("Kukla, Fran and Ollie"), Don DeFore ("Thorny"), Elijah Woods ("Frodo") and Ashton Kutcher ("Mr. Demi Moore"), all either dead or sucking residuals.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Susceptiable to Logorrheas

Who doth not foam and break on Language' shore
After reding Shakespeare a bit Moor?


Monday, October 26, 2009

The Paeans of Unbearable Tedium

I forget the name, but a hymn turned up at Sunday's mass which included the line, "After the first ten thousand years [of praising God], we can all start over just like it was the beginning..."

You can. I'll be chatting up Charles Darwin, if he notices me. Or playing golf.

You do realize that golf and evolution were invented by the devil, right? So golf in heaven is impossible? Every stroke there is a hole in one. We'll have to visit the precincts of hell to get a good game in. Of course, every country club in the world has already been annexed to the sloughs of Despond, so there is never any waiting...

It's a joke. By a quirk of fate, golf and evolution have nothing in common, except for delusional male golf attire which, like apocryphal saltpetre, actively mitigates against natural selection.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Head Pilates

What is truth? We must adopt a pragmatic definition: it is what is believed to be the truth. A lie that is put across therefore becomes the truth and may, therefore, be justified. The difficulty is to keep up lying... it is simpler to tell the truth and if a sufficient emergency arises, to tell one, big thumping lie that will then be believed.
        — Ministry of Information, memo on the maintenance of British civilian morale, 1939
This is modern times, there ain't supposed to be no more miracles — O'Tempera O'Mores


Friday, October 23, 2009

Sumthin' fer Nuthin'

Send a self addressed stamped envelope to:

System76, Inc. (Free Stickers)
1582 S. Parker Rd. Ste. 310
Denver, Colorado 80231

You get back four stickers. Mine showed up right after I'd forgotten I sent in the S.A.S.E. I put one on my Dell laptop in the place of that Microsoft Vista sticker I peeled off and threw away months ago. The stickers are hard and shiny, like the originals.

That leaves three stickers on a waxed paper strip. I'm using mine as a bookmark in a re-read of Isaac Asimov's preposterously outdated Pebble in the Sky (1950), which almost incidentally predates the U.S. civil rights movement by a dozen years. But Asimov almost certainly took his model for unreasoning riot and hatred from Russian pogroms, if not the Nazi Holocaust itself. American biracial history is full of miscegenation, and even happy marriages, but Pola Shekt, the "Earthie-girl" lab tech, never gets phone calls from goyim ... err ... Outsiders.

Pebble also mentions advanced worlds which have replaced human with robot labor, predating The Good Doctor's own book, Caves of Steel (1954), and gives Mule-like mental powers to Schwarz (of Spaceballs fame — "May the Schwarz be with you!"); although The Mule from his Foundation Trilogy (1951-1953) really backdates to a 1948 story in Astounding Science Fiction.

I also play a little mind game, like Grew's and Schwarz's chess games in the dark, called "Too Much Science." The rules are simple. Take a black magic marker and blot out all references to science, real or imagined, in an Asimov story like Pebble in the Sky. Is it possible to blot out an entire page? Does the story line suffer one iota? Can you make the book resemble a redacted Freedom of Information Act release from the CIA? That's fun. As a kid, though, I was rather taken by Asimov's description of that glow-in-the-dark chess set. I still want one. Can you imagine Dr. Asimov's 3-Mile Island Chess from Parker Brothers?

There's another magic marker game you can play called "That's Good, Doctor!" Using two markers with contrasting colors — I'd recommend fluorescent pink and fluorescent yellowgreen — highlight all conversations involving two people, pink for A, yellowgreen for B. Whenever you realize you've just highlighted an entire page in yellowgreen, but pink is obviously speaking, ding yourself a point and snarl, "Good one, Doctor Asimov!" This game is played like golf, low score wins.
I have a Dell Inspiron 1525, which was not a native Linux laptop at inception. It started life as Vista, but problems arose (to put it nicely), so now it's been through Ubuntu 8.04, 8.10 and 9.04, plus a couple of restore-from-backups. My next laptop (probably my daughter's) will be a Pangolin Performance from System76.

Well, yes, actually. There's an updated glowing version of shogi — albeit electronic and not radioactive — in Cowboy Bebop.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cisco's Red Scarves

The Young Pioneers are a Communist Party youth group roughly equivalent to a unisex version of the Cub/Brownie Scouts in this country. Just like the Hitler Youth of yore (itself straight out of the British Baden-Powell mold), the common purpose of all these groups is frank, overt, political indoctrination. China's (very young) Young Pioneers are known informally as the Red Scarves, the scarf being the only official element of their uniform. Local groups dress alike as local budgets (or interests?) allow.

Cisco Systems has an ad featuring those omnipresent Red Scarves (tinted orange in the clip, for some reason) of a rural Chinese school getting connected to the world when a UPS-looking guy bicycles up a path with a brown boxload full of Cisco goodies — "Human Network Effect" comic books, maybe? I really can't tell. This is one of them message thingies, so maybe the message is "I'd Like to Teach, Teach Your Children Well, About Free Market Economies and How Your Chinese Commie Kids Are The Future Cookie Jar For American Stockholders."

Err... Adam Smith, right? (Can you hum the Ponzi Derivatives song for us, Mr. Baron, sir?)

Regardless of what Cisco thinks it's selling, the symbology is not exactly lost on an alert world. The subtext reveals to what extent them commie pinko socialisticociscoans be willing to bend over to play grabankle with Red China. Arrrgh!

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Countersteering 101

No video? Flickering video? Click here.

Despite the fan service and attitude, this one is just as good — except for the pseudo-science about "gyroscopic effects". The thing that keeps a bike in motion going on a straight line is the rake on the front fork! The more vertical the fork, the stiffer (and more unstable) the ride. Countersteering is one of those poetry in motion things, like figuring out how an oldstyle automotive differential works around a turn. Not everyone can wrap their heads around it. Just watch the video and follow the example!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Things that don't work the way they should

  1. Toothpaste slides off your toothbrush into the sink.

  2. The world was made for average people. In the long run, nobody wins.

  3. All burger joint kids' toys are defective — except for one set of plastic windup cars in the 1990's that worked perfectly. You could get twelve meters of zippy straightline fun out of one windup, and it never broke. My theory is, those toys were designed by some genius engineer fresh out of college; that was her first job, and she did it without the "planned obsolescence."

  4. Microsoft Vista. Obviously.


Monday, October 12, 2009

No Worries

If you missed Darwin's Darkest Hour on PBS, it's here. All two tiny hours.

Emma Darwin is played by Frances O'Connor, who also played Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), if she seems familiar.


Friday, October 09, 2009

"Bombing the Moon makes me very, very angry!"

As long as we're goofing around in He Did What?? World, allow me to observe — oh, idly, yes indeed — that winning a Nobel Peace Prize is no great shakes. Even Henry Kissinger won one, although he is far better known for unintended consequences in the Cambodia he bombed than for the Paris Peace Accord Hanoi allowed him to save face with. It's no big deal. Actually resolving the Israeli occupation of Palestine without melting the Dome of the Rock under a 5 megaton fireball, now... Well.

Anyway, did anyone notice that we Merkins have just bombed a specific crater on the surface of the Moon? Will anyone argue that we couldn't have H-bombed the bejeezis outa that particular neighborhood of the Moon, had we felt so inclined? Or doubt that, had we felt like, we could have brought the delivery module back to Earth? Will anyone ever again use the preposterous term "ICBM" to describe a weapons delivery system? We have interplanetary systems which are not just "intercontinental" and no way merely passive "ballistic missiles".

I still smart under the tonguelashing I got from a Nixon-era Republican shrill who misinterpreted my disdain for the technologically incompetent 1972 ABM Treaty as ignorance. Sorry, lady, spouting the GOP line is ignorance, almost by definition. The fact is, "ICBM's" were quaintly irrelevant as soon as John Glenn orbited the Earth. No longer could anything launched by a Saturn rocket be merely "intercontinental," or passively "ballistic" (i.e., flung to a distant target on a simple parabolic trajectory), or even a missile, i.e., anything akin to Goliath-killing pebbledom.

We advanced superpower nations bomb things in outer space these days.

In other words, the bar is way higher than you thought. I hope our peace-loving President enjoys the arms race this little lunar excursion has just kicked up a notch. And next year, I dare the eurocentric Nobel committee to dig up Marco Polo and ask his dry bones where's he been all this time?

Quite a few science-loving countries have already launched science satellites into orbit to demonstrate non-nuclear non-deterrent capability, so technically the space race we don't talk about hasn't already begun, really. Oddly enough, these countries include Saddam Hussein's pre-war Iraq, who launched in 1988. Other peace-loving nations include Russia (1957), the U.S. (1958), France (1965), Japan (1970), China (1970), Great Britain (1971), Europe (1979, on a French Ariane), India (1980) and Israel (also 1988 for some reason). To these, add North Korea, Pakistan and Iran within two years at the outside. And remember, it's just a science experiment.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

If you're over 50...

I'll bet you can't remember a bad bar of soap. Every bar of soap you had growing up and as a young adult was a good bar — no embedded lumps, no bumps, no discoloration, no stripes or streaks, no stratification, no cracks, and that little flake of a used-up bar would stick onto a brand new bar with a little hand pressure. No muss, no fuss, no melting in the shower (or at least not that much!)

Try to buy one like that in 2009. (Maybe it's just the drugstore brand I use...?)


Wednesday, October 07, 2009


The semi part of semi-retired has kicked in for a few weeks. I have a couple of projects to deal with.


Monday, October 05, 2009


I haven't mentioned Republicans in awhile. Probably should. Unfair and imbalanced obstructionist, do-nothing cretins!

Here, I'll mention commies, too.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

"Epic fail!"

The looming prospect of H1N1 has caused a few procedural adjustments in masses at All Saints: No wine, for awhile. No "sign of peace" for fellow parishioners (although rioting in the pews is still frowned upon, I take it.)

So, with that in mind, I committed a bit of a gaffe this morning. I dropped the host I'd just received on the gymnasium floor (All Saints is remodelling). Picked it up, brushed it off, and ate it.

In my personal opinion, God clearly understands the ten-second rule.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Highlander, You Lose

How long would you extend your lifetime? Eighty years? Eight hundred? Eight thousand? Eighty thousand? Eight hundred thousand?

You started life as Connor MacLeod. So far so good. As you approach one million years of unremitting personal youth and indestructibility, you realize that you are now the the ugliest and stupidest man on Earth. Your blue eyes and pale white complexion make you the object of glances and odd silences. Sometimes they, and they are not your companions, sometimes they stare.

Human evolution has left you wallowing in the dust of your own private Olympus. The plainest women are gracile and unearthly in their beauty. Pre-teen boys eviscerate you with the wit of Oscar Wilde, and human society excludes you because you cannot understand the terse form or rapid-fire delivery of normal conversations. Women speak like birds. Men communicate in brief sentence fragments uttered in low, quiet tones. Only children speak at length, in slang you can't penetrate. They travel fast, in packs.

Everyone fills in the blanks from a social context transmitted genetically. You are heavy, apelike, bearded, slow in body and mind, ignorant of the exact dimension of your deficiency. You live out your unending days under bridges, in jails, hospitals or sanctuaries provided for you by generations of the efficiently uncaring. Humanity abandons your planet to pester the stars. You inherit the Earth, meek by default, merely the last, lost among the half-remembered failures of the past.

A fool forever.

Not to mention, it's far easier to suck on sour grapes than it is to deal with mortality.


Friday, October 02, 2009


In the Sixties, that front fork was raked nearly vertical, which made the Vespa scooter difficult to control when it hit a bump or pothole. The 2009 GTV is more rational, at least in that regard. MSRP is about $7000, ballpark. I'm not in the business, just a flaming bonehead when it comes to Vespas.

Wars last 4 lightyears
   like coming home again from
      α Centauri


Thursday, October 01, 2009

There. Can. Be. Only. Everyone!

The only thing I can figure out is, Republicans all think they're Connor MacCleod, i.e., Immortal. With Wonkavision. And Golden Tickets. And they've all got Get Out of Jail Free cards. And Sixty Squintillion Bucks. Fortunately, Entropy is a great reminder.

We can thank Entropy for the blessed fact that no one on α Centauri has ever had to listen to anything creepy, self-serving, tasteless, awful, tone-deaf or embarassing on American television, such as (e.g.) Arthur Godfrey canning Julius LaRosa's ass — the wave front gets smashed into randomness by passing through gas clouds long before it arrives less than four lightyears away.