Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Safe sex advice - fun too!

OK, yes, I know I need to start getting more serious on this site, but sometimes there are things one just cannot resist...

The Huffington Post reports that the British group The Midnight Beast is offering the following safe sex advice:

Something to remember as a rule of thumb,
One up the bum and you won't be a mum.

Makes sense.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Classic limerick

I was recently reminded of this piece of delightful doggerel, and felt an immediate urge to post it here. Can't imagine why.

There was a young man from Nantucket
Whose dong was so long he could s**k it
Said he with a grin
As he wiped off his chin
If my ear was a c**t I could f**k it!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Egypt is in Iraq - according to Fox News!!!

OK, this is old news, but considering the recent worrying news in Egypt, I cannot resist pointing out that, in 2009, Fox News thought that Egypt was that country we've come to know and love as ... Iraq!!! Yet another classic Fox blunder.

(Yes, I've been bad about keeping my site up-to-date, considering events in Egypt. But, sometimes life takes over and priorities change. But no worries; I'm gonna get back to daily updates PDQ, I promise!)

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Straight Dope and beer bottles

Some time ago, I submitted a question to The Straight Dope, a website and weekly syndicated column that deals with weird, wacky, wonderful questions in a well-researched yet tongue-in-cheek manner. It's one of those "must-read-regularly" columns.

I just heard that my question, after thorough (and hopefully enjoyable) research on the part of the Straight Dope team, has just been published - kewl!

It concerned what I thought was a somewhat dubious claim in a TV ad where Samuel Adams claims that their beer tastes better because it comes in brown bottles, and not clear or green ones. The subsequent Straight Dope research, however, seems to prove me wrong...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Olbermann disappears

Keith Olbermann's sudden vanishing act from MSNBC on Friday, during the same week that the FCC approved the Comcast-NBC merger has to make one speculate whether this was just mere coincidence...

Of course, both Comcast and NBC deny a connection, but remember that Comcast has a reputation for donating heavily to right-wing causes; could they be "cleaning house" in preparation for the merger? Right now, General Electric owns NBC Universal. After the 13-billion dollar transaction takes effect, GE will retain 49% control - like Comcast, GE is not renowned for being friendly to left-wing causes.

While I did not always agree with Olbermann's leftist viewpoints, there's no question that he was an important counterpoint to the huge onslaught of right-wing punditry that is slowly and perniciously poisoning the much-too-easily influenced minds of the U.S. populace. Balance is important, more so in this era of extremism on both the right and the left.

Rachel Maddow is the next logical target - I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Keith: While I realize that you have to adhere to whatever agreement you pounded out with MSNBC, please do not let yourself be silenced - your voice is important during this critical time in U.S. politics.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

English as she is spoke - quick note

Just a reminder... Now that I'm getting back into updating my site, please note that my regular sidebar doodads will also spring back to life. For starters, see English as she is spoke.

What is wrong with society?

OK, so the Gabrielle Giffords story has lots of "human interest," the sort of crap that people love to see, and the primary reason the media panders to this sort of nonsense. But really, do we have to hear about her rubbing the husband's neck for ten minutes? Or lifting her finger?

I'm just waiting for the next headline: "Gabby farts and takes her first dump" - no doubt with a detailed account of the volume, length, girth, texture, color, and odor.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ricky Gervais - good stuff!

Seems that Ricky Gervais ruffled a feather or two at the Golden Globes last night - good for him! We need more of this sort of thing on U.S. TV, instead of the nonsensical pablum that is served up to us ad nauseam.

(Btw, I'm still trying to get back into the habit of updating this site more regularly. But I've been busy with, erm, other matters. Normal service will be resumed asap, as they say!)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sarah Palin - blood on her hands

Much has been said about the so-called "Tragedy in Tucson." At the risk of being targeted as a subversive, I feel compelled to point out that that while the shooter is clearly guilty of the massacre, I really feel that he is more a "victim" than a "perp." Like so many people these days, he's clearly nuts - nothing more, nothing less.

The problem is that people like this are so easily influenced by the crap that is spewed by the politicians and pundits in this country. While both sides, left and right, are guilty of this, I think we can all agree that it's the right wing that is instigating the vast majority of this bullshit. (And, it should be noted, Keith Olbermann - a leftie - immediately went on air after the incident to apologize for anything he may have said in the past, and vowed not to do it again. It would be nice to see the hate-filled right-wingers do the same.)

Nonetheless, idiots like the killer (I forget his name) are prone to listening to and believing in the agitprop that fills our airwaves. When Sarah and her ilk talk about "bullets not ballots," "don't retreat, reload," and such, not to mention publishing the infamous map on her website, what can you expect? She even listed the names of the intended targets, including that of Gabrielle Giffords (see above).

Now who's the guilty party? It's pretty damn clear to me, and I honestly believe that Sarah Palin should be charged - at the very least - with incitement to kill or whatever the official name of that particular crime is these days.

I'm ba-a-ack!!!

With my (somewhat) new high-speed 'net connection, I'm now in a much better position to get back to updating my rambling without the frustration of low speeds. Mind you, there's a long story about the crappy service provided by our local cable carrier, Comcast. That's for another time, but very soon, I promise. You will definitely want to hear about the shitty company they run.

Meantime, there's just so much political crap floating about, I need to vent - BIG TIME. There'll be a new post about our friend Sarah coming up shortly...

Monday, December 27, 2010

OK, still waiting...

Well, here we are and this silly blog is still not being updated. You can blame a number of companies-who-don't-give-a-rat's-ass about their customers. More on this when I have calmed down and am able to coherently deliver an update. (But, those companies will not like what I have to say, you can rest assured..!!!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Still on hold...

OK, apologies - life is crazy, v. little time to attend to my baby. Will be back asap.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Still gonna be awhile...

...but getting there!!! Lots of stuff in the news, wish I had the time to post, but it just ain't happening right now. Other priorities and all that...   ;-)   ;-)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Heads up...

...I'm gonna be offline for awhile, taking care of some changes. I will be posting again asap.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Viva! pop opera - an unashamed plug

My very dear friend, Colin, is, amongst other things, a theatrical producer. We have known each other since the tender age of 11, which means we've been friends for ~45 years!!! He is currently producing a show in Bangkok - Viva!

Viva! is a pop opera group that Colin has put together, and they are doing their debut show in Bangkok, then moving on to tour South Africa. He has sent me samples of their work, and I have to say that I am utterly blown away by it. And, trust me, my opinion is not biased in any way; they really are very talented.

You can take a look at their website here. (And, pending Colin's permission, I hope to add a sample or two of their work.)

Here's their commercial, which will give you a taste:

Quick hits

No time for commentary today, so I'll just point to some very interesting articles, all courtesy of the Huffington Post:
  • It seems our old friend George W. Bush lifted (plagiarized?) large parts of his new book from adviser's notes. We always knew he never had an original thought!
  • More on the Bush book: Joe Wilson, who you may remember from the scandal concerning Valerie Plame and Niger, has this to say about it.
  • Glenn Beck has truly gone beyond the pale this time - I have to agree with this column, where it is clear that Beck really is a disgusting, hideous person. Like we didn't know that already...
  • And here we get to see how Sarah Palin believes that Obama is "the most pro-abortion president ever."
Bush, Bush again, Beck, Palin ... and the list goes on. It's disturbing, to say the least.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lisa Murkowski, Alaska's write-in candidate

If you've been following the story of the infamous electoral battle between Joe Miller (Rep.) and Lisa Murkowski (Ind.), it's interesting to note that Miller appears to be getting desperate.

Briefly: Lisa Murkowski ended up being a write-in challenger, which is an incredibly difficult hurdle to overcome. Voters have to fill in the little circle, as well as write the name of the candidate. Because there was concern about the (apparent) difficulty of spelling her name correctly, the Murkowski campaign aggressively tried to educate voters how to go about doing it correctly.

Now, the write-in votes are being inspected (Murkowski, leading, has 40%, Miller 35%), and the Miller campaign is challenging votes like the ones in the picture - all of them are spelled correctly, and the liitle circle has been filled in, so it's hard to discern exactly why they are challenging these votes. An act of desperation perhaps? Follow the ongoing story here! And some fun pictures here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

America - piss-poor sense of humor

Never mind my opinion - take a good look at this, courtesy of the Huffington Post. Sad, isn't it?

Strange dates

Nope, not the kind you take out to dinner and then, well ... whatever!

I'm talking about the way we measure the rotation of the earth. You wanna see today's date in 280 different languages, most of them pretty obscure? Check it out here! A sampling of today's date is on the right.

This is from Curious Notions, a website with some pretty arcane and interesting stuff! For example, we all know about Roman numerals, but what about Roman fractions? It's both convoluted and fascinating...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bafflegab at its best

Oh boy. This has to be the worst press release ever (nah, prob'ly not). Besides the grammar problems, just what is it they're trying to sell?!?! (Don't bother clicking through to their website, it doesn't exist.) A prior press release from them seems rather redundant... If you can figure it out, let me know - please!

What is odd about this?

I sincerely hope that Douglas R. Hofstadter doesn't mind me quoting his entire essay below, but it's kinda important that I do it this way. Full credit: it's his copyright, and you can reference it here (but don't look yet!).

What is unusual about this essay?

(Clue: Read the first and last sentences carefully. There are a few other clues sprinkled around, mostly near the end of the essay. Not to mention the title of this post...) The answer appears near the bottom of the sidebar so as not to make it obvious to my faithful readers.

Bonus: It's a portrait of his life, fascinating reading regardless of the embedded puzzle.
Autoportrait with Constraint
Vita in Form of a Lipogram
Autumn, MMVIII

I was born in midtown Manhattan right as World War Two was drawing to a, uhmm... to a conclusion. My Dad was a physics prof at an august institution roughly an hour south by train, and until I was two or so, my Dad did "wrong-way commuting" to work and back. Finally our family found a flat and had a short stint living in that most Ivy of Ivy towns, but around my fifth birthday, my Dad got an alluring invitation to work way out in California, and so my folks, my baby sis Laura, and I all got into our car, took off on a cross-country jaunt, and soon wound up at Stanford. I did most of my growing-up on campus, going to junior high and high school in Palo Alto, and so it was natural that I should go to Stanford (as did most of my cohorts, in fact).

Our folks' third and last child, Molly, born in Palo Alto, was, sadly, not what anybody had thought. By four or so, Molly was visibly abnormal - not saying any words at all, nor absorbing any. It wasn’t autism; it was a profound brain malfunction, probably dating from birth or prior to birth, but what was wrong, nobody could say - no diagnosis. Molly just didn't pick up any words, who knows why, and our Mom and Dad had such anguish for so long on Molly's account, as did Laura and I. What bad luck.

I, loving math from childhood, took as much of it as I could at Stanford (calculus, groups, topology, and such topics), but I also got into studying Italian, Latin, Spanish, Hindi, bits of Russian and Tamil, and so on - but most of all, I must say, a strong and idiomatic command of français was my goal. Our family’s prior Swiss sabbatical, during which I was in "third form" in a British-run school (similar to ninth in a junior high) and had a fun francophonic pal (our voisin), did a lot toward bringing this about. Although I found linguistics intriguing from afar, upon actually taking a class in it at Stanford, I found it too formalistic and artificial, but luckily, that didn't diminish my captivation with words, sounds, grammars, and symbols, which still had a fantastic magic, pushing and pulling my young mind to its limits. I was curious about how brains (or minds, if you will!) think, and thus I found symbolic logic's rigid simulacrum of cognition fascinating; programming, too, was an important part of my multifarious mind-pursuits.

Though constantly musing about all sorts of abstract topics, I wasn’t just a lump on a log — not by a long shot. In fact, I did sports — in fact, "sports of all sorts" (as Lucky says in Waiting for Godot): running, jumping, vaulting, tossing, bowling, swimming, skating, skiing, ping-ponging, mini-golfing (plus a bit of maxi-golfing), occasional hoop-shooting, and loads of biking. Oh - how could I omit this? - a droll local adaptation of that cutthroat British sport of hitting colorful wood balls through hoops on lawns, and knocking your rivals as far away as you can. Most jolly! Of all things, though, I'd say music was my most constant companion - Chopin, Bach, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, and on and on - plus lots of old jazz - Louis, Bix, Hoagy, Fats, Zutty... Also, I did a bit of piano-playing, but not a lot - mostly just absorbing music off of spinning vinyl, coming to know so many works.

As is probably obvious, I had a highly romantic soul, but sad to say, I struck out with girls; that was always a puzzling, troubling fact. Looking back at it all now, I think that Stanford's pitifully low girl/boy ratio was probably a big part of it. (It's fifty–fifty nowadays, but fat lot of good that'll do for yours truly!) Also, I was a bit young to go to Stanford - a nontrivial handicap. Anyway, my major at Stanford was math and I had basically no difficulty with it, pulling down mostly A's and also making lots of original findings. Blazing my own idiosyncratic pathways, though of minor import and mostly just in quaint, oldish nooks of math, was wildly intoxicating.

My Dad, at forty-six, won a fantastic physics award, as grand an award as our world knows, involving a trip for all our family to Stockholm in wintry snow, donning formal tails and chic gowns, strolling through classic palatial halls, hobnobbing with royalty (tricky protocol!), chit-chatting with many world-class minds, and savoring our VIP status. It was all much as in a fairy story, practically magical. And I got to bask in my Dad’s honor, not just vanish in his shadow, as many might think. Ah, glory days!

Although unlucky with girls, I had many pals at Stanford from many lands, not just my own - India, Britain, South Africa, Italy, and so on - and for many vacations, a handful of my pals and I would go up with Laura and my folks to our family's ranch in Flournoy, in north California, not far from Corning, in softly rolling hills with lots of oaks. Laura had fun riding Chico, my folks had fun rounding up and branding cows and bulls, and all of us had fun chatting, hiking, skipping rocks, playing darts and "foot carroms", arranging and lighting kindling and logs, fixing roofs, tossing hay to always-hungry cows, and so on. Ski trips to Mount Shasta would also start out in crack-of-dawn dark and finish up in post-sundown dark at our cozy ranch. I miss all of that today - such nostalgia...

But from our cows, back now to our moutons. Post-graduation, I took a long vacation from school: four months in London plus a six-month stint in Scandinavia (half in Lund, half in Stockholm). Lots of longing for a fair young flickvän, but no such luck - and oh, such angst! Anyway, following that Nordic saga, back in my old stomping grounds, I took up grad school in math at Stanford's traditional cross-Bay rival, Cal. Although I thought I would do a bang-up job, I soon saw I was wrong - in fact, math grad school was a crushing fiasco. All that fancy-shmancy ultra-abstract stuff was just too arid and confining, affording my highly visual mind nothing at all to grab onto. ¡Ay ay ay! I had hit a tough crossroads. What to do?

At this point, I was practicing piano many hours a day (contrapuntal intricacy, Slavic poignancy, Gallic sublimity, a touch of polytonality, but nothing atonal!), and also I was composing a bit, imitating my idols, and so I naturally thought of music - composition in particular - as a pathway I might follow, but by light of day, that was just too iffy. My only option, so I thought, was to drop out of math and jump into physics - a daring foray, as I had found physics horribly difficult, though inspiring, at Stanford. And, in fact, studying physics in grad school (U of O in "Duckburg", as it was known, up north) was no picnic, to put it mildly. At first I found it thrilling, I admit, but bit by bit it got turgid and confusing, and finally I wound up finding it as ugly as sin. My spirits sank low, low, low. I'd blown it in math; was I now going to fail in physics, too?

Pausing for a short bit in my mostly chronological narration, I'll talk just a tad about what kinds of non-physics things I was doing during my days of physics turmoil. Still tons of music, first of all - playing piano on a daily basis, plus lots of small piano compositions, of which I was proud. Also, studying Russian (but I didn't go far). And lastly, political activism.

Having grown up with a highly political Mom and Dad (hardly right-wing, mind you!), I wound up political, too, highly conscious of moral topics. A typical outgrowth of that is this: during my grad-school days, on a trip to Italy with our folks, my sis Laura and I both put a halt to our carnivorous habits, as it was too troubling to us to play any part in killing animals, and I still hold to that philosophy today. Also during my grad-school days, with inspiration coming from such pacifistic paragons as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. M. L. King, I did political work to aid folk not as lucky as I was. Awful assassinations - JFK, RFK, MLK - had crucial impacts, strongly sparking my political and social activism, including such things as fighting starvation in Biafra, organizing boycotts in support of a farm-labor union, participating in day camps for minority kids, saving wild parts of our national parks from mining, crusading against atomic arms, opposing that insanity known as "Star Wars", plus working towards linguistic and social parity for woman and man. I thank my family for this all-important gift of altruism.

Gplot (click it!)
But back to my physics turmoil. As it turns out, although down, I wasn't out. I stuck with it, hanging onto this wildly bucking Brahma bull, and at last, truly by luck, I hit a glorious jackpot, stumbling across a rich topic during a six-month stay in Bavaria with my Swiss doctoral advisor (during which I taught - schön!). Thus at thirty, I got my Ph.D. thanks to "Gplot", a stunning graph I'd found, involving rational and irrational Bloch/Landau functions in a crystal. Gplot had, in fact, a fractal form (zooming in on any part of it, you'll find a small copy of it, again and again, ad infinitum) - a first in physics! This visually amazing diagram was so intriguing to so many physicists that, frankly, I was probably a shoo-in for a physics faculty slot at almost any top-notch school, had I sought such a job, but I didn't.

Ironically, by that point I had truly had it with physics and its always-growing list of disappointing, arbitrary complications, such as quarks and gluons (too many "colors" and "flavors"); "charm" (distinctly uncharming); a most grungy rabbit-out-of-a-hat trick by Higgs and company (making mass from nothing); plus that Cabibbo-Kobayashi-Maskawa quark-mixing matrix (its long, gawky CaKo-phonic tag hints at my discomfort). In a word, I was so off-put that I quit, going out in Gplot's small, happy flash of fractal glory.

Luckily, though, my mind, always curious about its surroundings, rapidly found stimulation in grappling with minds, brains, souls, computation, AI, and that loopy conundrum of what an "I" is - all still abstract stuff, no doubt, but not so much so as physics or math. In fact, soon I was busy writing a highly idiosyncratic book which I thought of as my own way of "braiding" that odd batch of far-flung topics about mind into a natural unity.

At thirty-two, with my book on its way but still not out, I took a job at Indiana U. in Bloomington, thanks in part to its famous music school, and also to its florid, woodsy campus, but most of all to its warmth and cordiality. "Go for folks who go for you!", was my Dad's simplistic but catchy motto (I'm paraphrasing his words to adapt to this situation, naturally, but that was its gist) - and I took his tip, for though it was corny, it was sagacious, too.

At IU, my goal was to work in AI, most of all trying to mimic faithfully, in programs, how thought actually works. Crucial to my philosophy of computationally mimicking a mind was my constant focus on how humans think - which is to say, fluidly but also fallibly - that is, not logically, but analogically. Also, I was scrambling madly to finish up my big book - a most unusual book, flip-flopping back and forth from fanciful contrapuntal dialogs - canonical and fugal - to fairly straightforward monographical writings, and also chock-full of mind-twisting prints by an almost unknown paradox-loving Dutch graphic artist. Upon publication, my book was a surprisingly big hit and won a major national book award, assuring my job stability. I was thirty-four (or so), and still high and dry.

But I'd had a hunch that IU was promising in that most chancy of all domains, and in fact, I was right. I was oh-so-lucky to bump fortuitously into Carol Ann Brush in an auditorium lobby during a film. Carol was an Italian and art-history major doing grad work in librarianship. My oh my! Although our liaison had a bit of a bumpy start, Carol and I had a lot in common and soon hit it off in grand fashion. Thus, at long last - at thirty-six - I had a most happy romantic affair. What a turning point!

Soon I got an invitation to go to Michigan - so good that I couldn't turn it down, actually - and thus I sadly forsook Bloomington for Ann Arbor. It was in that unflappably tooting-its-own-horn town, in fact, that Carol and I wound up marrying (Carol was thirty-four, yours truly was forty); it was in Ann Arbor, too, that Carol and I took a ballroom dancing class, and that our first child, Danny, was born. Slowly, slowly, I was adapting to Michigan, but Indiana was hoping I still had a soft spot for it, and in fact I did. Upon our old school's making an outstanding job proposal, Carol and I found it most fitting to go back to IU. This was a big joy for us - no ifs, ands, or buts.

D.R.H. ambigram (flip this pic 180°)
My job back in Bloomington was, shall I say, "cushy", to put it slightly slangily. That is to say, I had no particular disciplinary affiliation (a fantastic luxury!), and thus could work on all sorts of things, ranging from AI to ambigrams (an odd kind of ambiguous calligraphy), from translation to triangular math (both passions), and also Mandarin (I was gung-ho (ho ho!)). And to top it all off, Monica, our baby girl, was born in Bloomington. Rich days! Carol and I ran a lot in Bryan Park, saw many films, on occasion had lunch chatting it up in Italian, and, whilst comparing two translations from Russian, got caught up in Pushkin's magically lilting, rhythmic, rhyming writings. All was going smoothly for our family of four.

But alas, on our first sabbatical away from IU, in an idyllic mountain-clad town in Italy's far north, as Christmas was drawing nigh, Carol was struck without any warning by a malignant brain tumor, and in but a day or two was in a profound coma. Our kids and I lost Carol that awful month. In a flash, Danny (still shy of six) and Monica (just two-and-a-half) and I had to adjust to living without a woman in our midst, without a Mom. It was tragic for Carol, and cataclysmic for our small family, now just a trio. But this ill wind notwithstanding, I didn't abort our sabbatical, as Carol had had such high aspirations for what it could bring us all. Many kind Italian folks, knowing our plight, warmly took our family in, adopting Danny and Monica with amazing compassion, most of all at Cognola's asilo (that is, school for tots). This was our salvation.

Post-sabbatical, back in Bloomington, my kids and I didn't curtail our habit of talking Italian, thanks in part to a long string of wondrous and caring Italian au-pair girls - six in all! That was a fantastic boon for us in all ways, not just linguistic. And today, in fact, Italian is still our family's standard way of communicating, still part of our daily fabric - and thus a posthumous fashion of honoring Carol. Danny and Monica did primary school primarily in Bloomington but also a bit in California, and at that point (just short of 2002) our family took off for a sabbatical in Bologna, Italy (a non-touristy town that Carol was so fond of), during which both kids got to swim nonstop in Italian. What lucky dogs, growing up bilingual!

Today Danny is as tall as I am, has a sporty Audi TT (wow!), and is majoring in biology and Italian at IU. His fascination is big cats - lions, jaguars, cougars, and such - scary, but who am I to worry about it? Monica, too, has grown as tall as I (Carol wasn't tall, nor am I a giant, so this is a curious twist!), and is finishing up high school and planning on working in fashion, concocting wild, flashy, and dashing things to don. Also, Danny snowboards with gusto and Monica skis with flair. I'm a bit gray, sad to say, but I won't complain - still got my hair! Anyway, I'm in fairly good form, and I still run and do sporadic skiing and biking (plus almost-daily chinups and/or pushups). Lastly, our gold and shaggy dog Olly (sorry for using a "y", but I had to!), now six (or forty-two in dog units), is a darling. If only Carol could know all this!

As for my own focus nowadays, it is, as always, broad and a bit wild and woolly, including translating (I did an anglicization of Pushkin's most famous book, a lugubrious story told wholly in sparkling rhyming stanzas), studying human cognition through various colorful windows (such as analogy-making, linguistic slips, and bon mots), musing philosophically (what is this "I"-thing, anyway?), stubbornly going back and banging my skull against math and physics (think of a moth drawn to a flaming torch), dipping and diving into many forms of art (such as ambigrams, gridfonts, and jazz-scribbling - of which a crowning point, anno domini MIIIM, was my solo show at IU's Art School, lasting for two months), critiquing today's ubiquitous cool mantra "you guys" and its unconsciously macho halo (which I abhor - but that's a long story, not for now), writing down my sundry thoughts, and particularly savoring doing so with unusual constraints on form - tough hoops to jump through, as I am wont to say - such as crafting lipograms that flow naturally (if you catch my drift, although not too many folks do), and God knows what-all. It's kind of a crazy quilt, I must admit. But that's how I am.

I'd say that that about sums it up. And so now, as I draw to a mildly humorous conclusion, I shall at last bid my tight linguistic constraint - and also you, my forgiving companions - a warm and at last unbound good-bye!
So there it is - have you spotted the anomaly yet? If not, read all about it here! And, if you still want the challenge, you can find another one here. This link, too, is interesting.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


It's been awhile since the topic of Dan Savage vs former Senator Rick (the Dick) Santorum (R‑Pa.) came up, but I think it's time to resurrect it.

The links here will tell you the complete story, but I'm just gonna give you the good part. My favorite sex advice columnist, Dan Savage, created a neologism for the word "Santorum" and came up with this incredible definition: "The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex." He created a (now dormant) website devoted to the topic, and it's well worth a read.

Savage's website, a section in The Stranger, the paper he writes for, is filled with excellent sex advice and his writing is both humorous and cogent. Again, I highly recommend you take a look - in fact, you will notice that I have a permanent link to his website in my Links I like box in the sidebar. The Wikipedia articles (here, here and here) about him give more insight into the santorum story.

In a response to a reader, Savage recently said: "...while you fingered O'Donnelled his girlfriend...". He denies trying to create another neologism, but I dunno - I like the idea!

Spring forward, fall back

It's that time again, when we all have to reset our clocks - a useless, outdated practice that wastes more time (!) and energy than it saves. But, it got me to thinking about unusual clocks. I remember once purchasing a ballbearing clock (right) for about $30 - cheap enough - but dropped it on the way home. I ended up with 32 ballbearings and a pile of plastic pieces. I never bought another, although I would dearly love to own one (hint hint!). The action is mesmerizing - a bit like staring at an aquarium. Using it as a timepiece is secondary to the fun of seeing those balls dropping!

The 'net has an amazing array of fascinating clocks. For example, go to Google Images and search for [clock]. If you search for [clock ballbearing] you will find pictures of some truly incredible clocks, including the one at left which will write the time on a piece of paper for you! It costs a mere $350,000 - more info, plus a video demonstrating it in action, is here. Classic Rube Goldberg. Which reminds me - for a beautiful Rube Goldbergian device, take a look at this commercial. (It loads slowly, but be patient - it's worth the wait.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Knowledge of science

As my regular readers know, I despair about the lack of decent education in this country. Science is one topic that is under intense scrutiny, and here is a test, conducted by Pew Research that speaks volumes. It is a (relatively) simple 12-question quiz, and shows how you fare compared to other demographic groups. Give it a shot, and see how you do. I found the results very interesting, and the section which breaks down the percentage of correct answers by age really supports my hypothesis about the idiocy of the younger generation. Fascinating stuff, yet depressing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I don't understand...

As I type this, there is a story making headlines about a Qantas* flight (Airbus A380) that lost an engine over Singapore. No-one on board was injured, and (thus far) there have been no reports of the debris hurting anyone on land. The plane landed safely.

In 1987, I was on a SAA flight (Boeing 747) from Johannesburg to London. Shortly after refueling at Ilha do Sal, one of the Cape Verde islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, we lost an engine - same circumstances as the Qantas flight. I was sitting at a window seat over the wing that lost the engine, so not only did I get an earful of the explosion, I saw the damage as well. After dumping the fuel, we landed safely back on the island. No injuries, although a change of pants was in order for a few passengers!

Here's what I don't understand. This happenstance did not hit the news in any way, shape or form! So, what is it about today's occurrence that deems it newsworthy? Is it because, 23 years later, we live in a world so hungry for anything, we're now happy to unquestioningly accept non-news?

Interesting aside: The day we spent on the island while waiting for another plane to come and pick us up was fascinating. Ilha do Sal primarily exists to support its large international airport, used by SAA in the days of apartheid when South Africa was not allowed to fly over Africa. The airport stood out in solitary splendor, with nothing but salt flats all around. Our arrival significantly increased the population that day, and the hospitality we received was truly amazing. We were bussed to the Morabeza Hotel (which, judging by its website has changed a lot!), and were mightily entertained through the day and night. A lobster and crawfish barbeque was hurriedly put together, a local band rushed down to the hotel to entertain us, we danced the night away at the hotel's disco - in all, a very memorable 24 hours. The next day, British Airways sent a jumbo jet to rescue us. Because communication from the island was somewhat primitive - no phones, only shortwave radio to reach the outside world - we had no way of letting friends know what had happened. (The island is almost on the equator; their 10 ft. TV satellite dishes point straight up, a strange sight.)

A friend of mine, Bonnie, was going to pick us up at SFO. She got to the airport, and nobody was able to tell her anything - because we were connecting to a different airline in London to fly to SFO, there was no continuity in terms of knowledge about our arrival. Coincidentally, that same day, a different SAA flight had crashed in the Indian Ocean, killing 159 people. At the airport, Bonnie picked up the paper, and saw a headline that said something like "South African Airways flight crashes; 159 dead." You can imagine what that did to her heart rate...

* So just how does one pronounce Qantas? There's no 'u,' which makes pronunciation of the 'q' a hard 'c', not the usual 'cw' as in "The queen is quite queer." Al Qa'ida has the same problem, and there we use the hard 'c'. Not to mention Iraq, Qatar, Compaq, Nasdaq, and qwerty (as in keyboard). That said, is Qantas pronounced cunt-ass?!?! Wikipedia seems to agree...!