Monday, June 28, 2010

More on the oil "spill"

It seems that about 20 gallons every second (rough guesstimate) are spewing out of that pipe on the ocean bed. Think about that.
20 gallons/second.
1,200 gallons/minute.
72,000 gallons/hour.
1,728,000 gallons/day.
12,096,000 gallons/week.
52,560,000 gallons/month.
630,720,000 gallons/year.
The larger the number gets, the less comprehensible it becomes. If I were to increase my guessestimate to, say, 23 gallons/second, then we're looking at 725,328,000 gallons/year - a difference of 94,608,000 - closing in on 100 million more - gallons!!! And that's the problem: It is really difficult for us mere mortals to get a handle on the enormity of the problem. So, after that prelude, on with the show...
Unfortunately, I have this burning desire to rant and rave some more about the oil spill. (See earlier post.) Here, I am providing some links that will allow you to easily keep up to date - thereby alleviating the need for me to keep blathering, babbling, and bafflegabbing on!

Spraying oil dispersant is providing objective, well-written reports in their blog - you can infer by their name that they are primarily interested in maintaining a healthy environment for all of us, probably the most important issue in our lives today. Remember that this blue orb, spinning around the sun, floating in space, is an extremely delicate and complex mechanism, and that us human beings seem to be doing everything in our power to destroy that - along with ourselves in the process!

Oil on the beach
Then we have our old friends, Greenpeace - while they generally tend to be a little too militant for me, and most definitely biased in their mission, this is one occasion where I applaud their efforts. They are doing everything in their power to make people aware of the magnitude of the disaster.

Of course, we can always count on Wikipedia to give us the latest news on this. While the article is long, it's worth a skim (pun intended). They also have timelines - one from the beginning to May 30 and one for June (it looks like they're now doing a separate page for each month).

And one more - in the interest of fairness, and if you really want to see the other side of the story, here is the link to the official BP propaganda site. (They've been clever - recognizing that people don't read any more, they are instead relying heavily on YouTube videos to, erm, document the story.)

Spot the typo

Here's an article I noticed today, copied verbatim. Can you find the typo?

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - This is a golf course hazard -- with real teeth and claws. Golfers say they spotted a mountain loin at the Valley View Golf Club in Bozeman, Montana. The duffers saw the elusive predator while they were teeing off. Authorities say they've been getting more reports than usual this year about wandering mountain lions. Bozeman animal control officer Kathy Middleton says the lion spotted at the golf course was probably just passing through.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The oil "spill"

Controlled burn - helping
air pollution too!
I've avoided making any comment about the oil "spill" because I wanted to give all parties, especially British Petroleum, a fair chance to respond and act appropriately in the crisis.

But here we are, at day 70 - and a huge crisis it is, my friends. It's safe to say that it is the worst man-made disaster in history. All of us will be suffering the consequences for many decades (after all, we still haven't recovered from the >20-year-old Exxon Valdez spill).

The shitheads at BP clearly have no clue what to do now. It has become apparent that they were in no way prepared for a disaster like this. They decided years ago that accidents like this just simply "could not happen," and therefore there was no reason to spend their shareholders' dividends by investing in an appropriate disaster recovery plan. For shame! Even the papers they filed with the government were hideously out of date, much of the content copied from BP's Alaskan disaster in 2006 - how else does one explain the mention of walruses (yes, walruses!) in a disaster "plan" for the primarily equatorial Gulf of Mexico?!?! Walruses my ass! And what about listing a university professor in Miami as a contact in case of emergency - when the man died in 2005? And had retired many years before that? Come on. Let's get real here. [And, btw, for those who blame the government for not catching these anomalies: Get over it. There is no way that you can realistically expect government employees to spend time poring over these documents and checking out each and every detail - it's just not feasible.]

And to those who are trying to boycott BP gas stations:
  • You are destroying the small businesses that run the gas stations, and adding to your local unemployment situation. You are not hurting BP. Research this yourself - I'm not gonna bother educating you here.
  • But, even if you disagree with the above assertion, realize that if BP fails as a company, we are more screwed than ever - who's going to pick up the tab then? We are. While I hate to say it, it really is in our best interest to see that BP continues to be a viable company. That way, they will pay and we can punish them.

And how the hell can we call this a "spill?" Oil is gushing at an incredible rate at the bottom of the seabed, destroying the food chain from plankton all the way up to the wildlife on land. Spill my ass. A spill is something you mop up with a paper towel - preferably Bounty!

Kudos to Obama for making BP deposit $20bbn in escrow. While I very much doubt that that amount will cover the damage, it's at least a good start. It's not only a question of the ecological costs - there's the livelihoods of folks on the Gulf, the fact that the oil is going to spread across the Atlantic over to Europe and Africa, and on and on. Every single one of us is going to be impacted in some way, shape or form.

And, while I hate to say I told you so, when I saw this happen on day one I knew, just knew, that this would be horrendous. Sure as shit.


One silver lining: Maybe, just maybe, this is the wake-up call we need to finally start weaning ourselves off oil, and moving to greener, smarter energy alternatives. One can only hope.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

An experiment

I've added a new gadget on the left - a slideshow of pictures in the Panoramio archives. The selection is done based on how a picture was tagged, and it seems that people have some strange ideas of how to tag pics - but I guess that just adds to the fun! Your task: guess the tag! I will be changing the tag on a (fairly) regular basis.

(I'll move the gadget down a bit in a few days - I just want to keep it in an obvious spot at first.)

An explanation is in order...

...concerning my quit smoking campaign. Chantix, the drug I'm using to help me quit, takes at least seven days to "kick in." They say that it's OK to keep smoking until the end of the first week. (Actually, subsequent studies now say two weeks - Chantix has a supplement about that in its packaging - but I'm sticking with the one week thing.)

Considerable doubt has been expressed by a smart-aleck friend about my commitment but, you better believe it, I am hell-bound and determined to quit. In fact, by disclosing all this here on my website, it makes my commitment that much more forceful. So no, I'm not "milking it," Mr. You-Know-Who-You-Are!!!

Left is right and right is wrong!

To answer the question I posed earlier: There really appears to be no clear answer. If you search for "no smoking signs" or "road signs" in Google Images, you will see a panoply of examples showing both alternatives. But, in an admittedly unscientific count, it seems that left-top-to-right-bottom wins the day.

And, imho, I've always maintained that left is right and right is wrong - politically and handedly!

Update: Day 4 of quit smoking campaign

Well, as my Chantix packaging helpfully informs me, it's day 4 of my quit smoking campaign. I now get to take two pills a day. Yippee.

While I'm still smoking the same number of cigs a day, I did notice by late afternoon yesterday that I was not that interested in lighting up - it was more habit than anything else that made me do it. But this happens sometimes, so who knows. (As I write this, I'm still waking up, and smoking the requisite number of fags to get my nicotine reserve up to its normal level. I'm sure that my fellow smokers will identify with that!)

I've been getting some really good encouragement from folks around me, most notably from Donald, a dear, close and trusted friend of mine. Yesterday, he challenged me on something I said to him which sounded like I was wavering - and maybe I was. But he read me the riot act, which I appreciated; this is what I need right now. No platitudes - just honest, down-to-earth constructive criticism and commentary on my progress (or lack thereof!).

An e-cigarette - "smoke" and all!
Now I know I'm going to catch hell from Donald for even mentioning this, but there may be a viable alternative to quitting: the electronic cigarette! Yes, indeedy. The e-cigarette looks and tastes like a real cigarette, but without all the associated nasties. California tried to ban them last year, but the bill was struck down - interesting because if there's any place a ban like this would pass, it's California. For me, however, I think the primary pleasure would be to see the reactions I would get if I vaped* one in a no-smoking zone! I sometimes walk around with an unlit cig in my mouth, and even that gets pretty interesting...

* Apparently, "vape" is the appropriate term since you're not actually smoking! The Urban Dictionary has this definition: To inhale vapor from e-cigarettes. Used because "smoking" an e-cig doesn't apply as there is no smoke only vapor.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The $64BBN question: Will I quit?

For some time now, I have been hell-bound and determined to quit smoking. Not easy. I always quip that quitting is easy: After all, I do it 20 times a day - every time I stub one out!

But I've never fooled myself that it's just something you "do." It takes a certain inner determination, a resolve that does not come easy. I've been threatening to do this for some time now - many years, in fact.

I truly believe the time has come. But I'm gonna need all the help I can get. Recent developments in my life have not made the decision any easier, and I've been procrastinating because of this. But I also realize that there never is the "right" time. So I've decided to bite the proverbial bullet...

I got a ℞ (see note below) for Chantix, the new drug that, my doctor tells me, suppresses the desire to smoke by blocking the nicotine receptor in the brain with a substitute. The key is to get the dreaded nicotine out of one's system asap, and this helps in that it tricks the brain into thinking it is getting nicotine, except that it's getting something else - don't ask me what. And, supposedly, that satisfies the urge. So, I started taking it yesterday. The regimen is complicated - they provide one with a "starter" set of pills, and essentially it consists of titrating up to a constant dose. Frankly, I'm not sure I can figure it all out, even with their cute little arrows, boxes that pop open to the right spot, you name it. But I'm persevering. (Maybe I'll spend so much time figuring it out that I just won't have the time to smoke!)

So here we are. Day 2. Still smoking my brains out. But hey, it's early. Gotta give it time. Yeah, that's it - time. So, no doubt I'll be keeping you, dear reader, up to speed on developments - if there are any!

Meantime, I've been pondering the old "No Smoking" sign - you know, the one with the red circle and a slash through the outline of a cigarette. Here's the question: Which way should the slash go? I'm offering the alternatives here. Is the left one right and the right one wrong? Or vice versa? You tell me by way of the comments button below. I will publish the results as and when I'm ready...!

Note: Did you see the special character in the sentence preceding my parenthetical "see note below" remark? It's the Unicode symbol for "prescription," shown in the image on the right. But I think the character itself will only show up on your machine if you have the typeface installed (Arial Unicode MS). If you don't see it in the paragraph above, please let me know via comments - I would really appreciate the feedback, because I need to know how widespread the support is for this and other similar fonts. Thanks!


Looks like this could be yet another one of those useless products/services designed to lighten our wallets. Any thoughts?

in reference to: Cenegenics | There IS such a thing as healthy aging! (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Quick one...

I've just published a boatload of weird, wonderful, wacky, wicked pictures on my "Picture me" page - check it out!


Warning: This post is not for those blessed with a delicate constitution!

Ever noticed how, after eating corn, the kernels seem to, erm, reconstitute themselves in one's bowels? They are clearly visible in one's poop the next day.

Well, some years ago, I, along with two friends (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons) decided to conduct an interesting experiment to make sure that this was, in fact, true. For an entire weekend, we ate nothing but corn, and observed the output. You understand, of course, that this was entirely scientific in nature; absolutely nothing puerile going on here... As I recall, another ingredient was involved (again, to prove some point or the other), but I'm damned if I can recall what it was. I have an APB out to find out what it was, and will update this post accordingly. (Update: I just found out: it was cashews, for the same reason. Thanks, Davio - so much for nameless!)

Anyway, sure enough - the theory did, indeed, turn out to be true. Sadly, none of us took pictures of the resulting output, always necessary in any scientific experiment to establish proof beyond doubt. BUT: The internetwits have, once again, come to my rescue. This is a must-see. While a picture of the input is fine, I'm reluctant to include the relevant output picture here; but if you click through you will see the results.

Bonus: While you're at it, you must see this article, the "Private Pain of Akiko." Make sure to scroll down for the delightful picture in question! A thing of beauty is a joy forever. (While you're there, check out the archives at this delightful site.)

My next experiment? Asparagus.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bonus add-a-caption

Since I kinda like the idea of soliciting captions, I thought I'd provide a bonus (!) one today. You know the drill - create a caption, leave a comment! (Remember: really rude responses get extra credit!)

Not to influence you, but I'm thinking ... boy scouts ... pitching a tent ...

I never cease to be amazed and amused

It turns out that the National Pork Board, in its infinite wisdom, decided to send a cease-and-desist order to Thinkgeek because ... well ... they were concerned that Thinkgeek was attempting to usurp their slogan for pork: "The Other White Meat."

How did this come about? This year, for its annual April Fools parody, Thinkgeek advertised - yes - unicorn meat, billing it as the other white meat!

I'm serious. Who could make this kind of shit up? Check the links - here's the original parody!!!

* * NEW FEATURE! * * Add-a-caption

Anybody wanna take a shot at providing a suitable caption for this?!

Best ones get published here!!! Use the comments button below...

Monday, June 21, 2010

OK, so punctuation is important

Pedant that I am, this is the first of (I'm sure many) observations on the use of grammar. Deal with it! Some people seem to think that sweating the correct use of punctuation is a waste of time. Someone recently wrote a great book just on punctuation. I don't recall the title or the author, but when I do, I will update this post. Meantime, consider the importance of the double (or single, if that's your preference) quote in these examples:
The word processor came into use around 1910.
The word "processor" came into use around 1910.
One's a lie, one's the truth. See, those double quotes do make a difference!

June 22: The book mentioned above is Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. Remove the comma from that title - makes a difference, huh? (It's the punchline of a joke about a panda who goes into a diner and... well, I'm sure you can figure it out! There's also a dirtier version of the joke - substitute "roots" for "eats.")

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ejaculate this!

Well, yet again I applaud Wikipedia - they never cease to amaze me! Click here for an, erm, interesting video... And hands-free, too! AYOR. 'Nuff said.

Browser wars - more marketing bullshit

Remember my earlier post about marketing-speak? The Orwellian BS that advertisers spew at us nonstop. Well, I've just seen a new one that bears mention.

It's a commercial for Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8, wherein they claim that their browser "stops 3 million scams each day." Well, that may be true - but if so, then so do all the other browsers out there: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, you name it. So what's the big deal? I have absolutely no idea!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gautrain video

Here's some quasi-amateur video of the Gautrain in action. Or maybe it's quasi-professional. It's definitely not professional!

The Story of John: A meta-post

Why the title? Well, this is a post about posting! As always, my friends over at Wikipedia and Wiktionary do a much better job of describing meta- than I can!

But, I digress. A friend of mine, John Miles, does voiceovers for a living; he used to be a radio DJ, primarily at country music stations. He now runs his own voiceover company and, like any sensible businessman, recognizes the need to get the word out. For some time, he has had a website that is maintained by someone else. As is often the case, not only is this an expensive proposition, it's also frustrating because he's unable to turn on the proverbial dime to get changes made. Even simple things like his phone number - I mean, c'mon! So, I suggested that he regain and retain control by setting up a blog hosted - where else - right here on Blogger!

But, I digress - again! For a few days now, John and I have been working on setting up his new site, at and, I have to say, it's coming along rather well. All I really did was show him the ropes over a beer last weekend and since then he's been blogging his brains out - and doing a damn fine job! Go take a look!

But, I digress - yet again. Finally, I'm getting to the point of the story. I think. Clearly, the primary thing John needs to advertise is - yes! - his voiceovers. (Is that word hyphenated or not? Voice-over, apparently, is more correct, but it looks strange to me. And just how can something be "more correct?" Or "more dead?" Or "more pregnant?" But, I digress!) And it turns out that Blogger does not, as yet, host audio files. At least not as slickly as it does everything else. (Oooh, "slickly" - now there's a word I could get my tongue around. Not to mention "slipperily." But, I digress!) Anyhoo. (Oooh, "anyhoo" - now there's a word... oh shut up! But I will say that you must look at the anyhoo link, and get Google to translate it for you - it's mysterical! Oh look: I accidentally coined a new word there, and it's highly apropos!)

Needless to say, Blogger has a good help page on how to do this. It involves getting a third-party website to host the audio files, and then somehow linking to them to get the fancy button that allows you to actually listen to it. But such a fuss! Oy.

So what's the point of this story? Oh, c'mon, my dear, patient reader. You know me better than that! There is no point. I just wanted to, yes, babble! Perhaps this will explain things...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Vuvuzelas rule!

So what, exactly, is this beast? I think I'll leave it up to Wikipedia to explain. Suffice to say, it's a device (a horn of sorts) that has become popular at the World Cup in South Africa - in much the same way as those huge foam-rubber fingers are at sports events in the U.S.

The vuvuzela is in the news because it's cheap (apparently you can pick one up for seven bucks at Amazon), therefore popular, and the thing emits an irritating noise (a tone in B), drowning out the commentators.

As usual, it looks like capitalism has come to the rescue for those of us desperately looking to buy one - brick-'n-mortar and, of course, online!

Update - Saturday June 19th: I love The Onion, and I see they wrote this story about the vuvuzela. Apparently, there are now dozens of apps for the iPhone and Android that don't seem to do very much except imitate that annoying sound!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pictures I've found in odd (really odd!) places.

I'm always bemoaning the literacy problems of the general population;
here we have examples from a mayor, two roadsign painters and a flock o' teabaggers!
Perhaps they done shoulda used this:

Why (or where) on earth would this ever be necessary?

Two of the Google doodles celebrating the World Cup. These are from Doodle4Google, a contest for kids; the one on the right is the South African entry (find more at the official Google doodles archive).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gautrain - once more from the top

I know, I know - enough about the effing Gautrain already! But I've been wondering what the interior looks like, now I know. And so do you! It's interesting to see how they addressed the "do I sit facing backward or forward" problem - I've never seen it done this way before! And, on the right, we have one more gratuitous station pic just for yucks.

Since its inauguration last week, news about the Gautrain (as with the World Cup itself) has been overwhelmingly positive. South Africa really needed this boost; despite the huge expense of all this hoo-ha, it should pay off in the long run.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Monty Python - The Philosopher's Song

The Monty Python crowd created a number of amazing songs - Eric Idle was the primary contributor. I'm going to feature their lyrics occasionally; this is one of my favorites. Click here for a fun rendition of the song. And here's Wikipedia's writeup about the song.

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table.
David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel,
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.
There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya'
'Bout the raising of the wrist.
John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
Plato, they say, could stick it away;
Half a crate of whiskey every day.
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle,
Hobbes was fond of his dram,
And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart: "I drink, therefore I am"
Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed;
A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he's pissed!

Facebook update

A few days ago, I wrote about Facebook. In that post, I said I was going to delete my account (well, try to delete it) and that I would keep you updated. I did, in fact, delete the account, and then decided to see if the allegation about third-party clicks was true.

Sure as shit, it is. After a few days, I found a site that sported a FB button (something about reproducing the content of that page on my "wall") and clicked it. Whadda ya know? I went back to Facebook, and there was my account in all its splendid original glory!

So now I want to mess with it for a while longer. More to come...!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Breaking news: Elevators go up and down!

A quickie: Here's an excerpt from The Pioneer, CSUEB's newspaper, in a story about expired elevator permits:
... Those same elevators carry students, teachers and visitors daily up and down.
Well, I'm certainly glad to hear that they go "up and down" - I'd be terrified if my elevator started going up only, or down only, or even sideways! It's also good to hear that they operate "daily." C'mon, people - I know you're just student journalists, but this crap is nothing but filler garbage. For the love of your god, please stop! (You, that is, not the elevators!)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

And now. For something. Completely. Different.

The post below put me in mind of a delicious old Monty Python sketch. (That's John Cleese playing Anne Elk!)

Ya know, it's interesting - it took years for Monty Python to catch on in the U.S., but now it seems to be pretty well-known. And appreciated! Very heartening. While most of us know by now the hoary old parrot sketch and lumberjack song, there are some hysterical items that are more obscure, but most definitely well worth watching - the cheese shop, the Scotch Tape boutique, the argument, Eric The Half A Bee*, etc. Considering that Monty Python hails from the '70s, I think it has aged pretty well!

It seems that the boys have set up a Monty Python channel on YouTube containing some of their better stuff. If you're a fan, or just want to experience something new and extremely funny, take a look. Their introduction to the channel is particularly good - the link in this ¶ will take you there.

But, I Babble - Sarah Palin alert!!! While setting this post up, I came across John Cleese's views on Sarah Palin, at the time of the 2008 campaign. A must-see!

* Yet another digression: Eric The Half A Bee is one of my favorite songs from Eric Idle, and I just had to reproduce the lyrics here. (You can hear a snippet of the song here.)

A one, two, a one, two, three, four...

Half a bee, philosophically,
Must, ipso facto, half not be.
But half the bee has got to be
Vis à vis, its entity. D'you see?

But can a bee be said to be
Or not to be an entire bee
When half the bee is not a bee
Due to some ancient injury?

La dee dee, one two three,
Eric the half a bee.
A B C D E F G,
Eric the half a bee.

Is this wretched demi-bee,
Half-asleep upon my knee,
Some freak from a menagerie?
No! It's Eric the half a bee!

Fiddle de dum, Fiddle de dee,
Eric the half a bee.
Ho ho ho, tee hee hee,
Eric the half a bee.

I love this hive, employee-ee,
Bisected accidentally,
One summer afternoon by me,
I love him carnally.

He loves him carnally,
The end.

Cyril Connelly?
No; semi-carnally!

Cyril Connelly.

Fox News goes nuk-u-lar!

Why, oh why, do the Fox News anchors and all their pundits insist on pronouncing "nuclear" with that middle "U" sound?! I have a theory, but first, a quote from this wonderful site on English usage:
This isn’t a writing problem, but a pronunciation error. President Eisenhower used to consistently insert a “U” sound between the first and second syllables, leading many journalists to imitate him and say “nuk-yuh-lar” instead of the correct “nuk-lee-ar.” The confusion extends also to “nucleus.” Many people can’t even hear the mistake when they make it, and only scientists and a few others will catch the mispronunciation; but you lose credibility if you are an anti-nuclear protester who doesn’t know how to pronounce “nuclear.” Here’s one way to remember: we need a new, clear understanding of the issues; let’s stop saying “Nuke you![Red emphasis mine, just because I can!]
My theory: Sarah-I-can-see-Russia-from-my-porch-Palin made a tit of herself every time she tried to pronounce the N-word. Since the right-wing neo-cons revere Queen Sarah, they probably don't want to upset their deity - therefore, everyone on that "network" has been told to mispronounce it. (Who remembers the scandal that erupted when they spelled "nuclear" as "new-clear" on her TelePrompTer [a.k.a. autocue]? A real one, that is, not her actual TelePrompTer, which, as we all know, is her hand!)

Well, that's my theory, and I'm sticking to it! Which reminds me - who remembers the bit from Monty Python about Anne Elk's theory about the brontosaurus? See post above...

But, I Babble: I just cannot resist posting these images:
                Nice tits, Sarah!                      Call me Vanna!                            Nailin' Palin!


Now that all eyes are on South Africa, this guide to some South African slang might be in order. There are only 40 examples here, most certainly not an all-encompassing guide, but it's a good start.

For example, they are missing "shame." This English word takes on a whole new connotation in South Africa - in fact, many meanings, depending on context. It usually means "cute" - as in, when a mom cajoles you into looking at her new-born, you say "Ag, shame..." meaning "Oh, how cute!" (You're probably fibbing, of course, but that's a different story!) Or "I heard about your mom's suicide. Shame." That one means I'm sorry, I sympathize, I feel your pain. It's a remarkably useful expression, called into service when there's just nothing else that can be said! (B.t.w.: "ag" is Afrikaans for oh, oh no, shoot ("shit"), oh dear - it's from the Dutch "acht" and is pronounced with a guttural g.)

"Howzit" is mentioned, but not properly explained. It's essentially "Hello" or "Hey, how you doing?" or "Hi" or, for bumpkins, "I'm honored to make your acquaintance, Your Majesty." Again, very useful.

Another one is "Just now," which they mention in the article, but don't give it nearly enough attribution. Here's the real explanation:
  • "When did you bake these cookies?" "Just now." (i.e. at some indeterminate point in the past - it could be used as a copout if they're stale!)
  • "When does the mailman usually arrive?" "Just now." (i.e. perhaps he's already been here, maybe he's here now, or it could be that he hasn't yet arrived - and I really don't give a rat's ass!)
  • "When are you going to take out the garbage?" "Just now." (i.e. I have absolutely no idea, I'll do it when I feel like it, so there!)
I love the flexibility of this phrase - it can be used to describe the past, the present, the future, and sometimes, never! (There's a "never" example in the article.)

And then there's "Ja, well, no, fine," often smooshed into a single word: Jawellnofine. I'll leave it up to the linked article to describe that one for you!

Enjoy. It may help you to understand the narration while watching the World Cup!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Blast from the past: I'd forgotten that Trivial Pursuit is fun!

Last night, I gathered up a motley crew of my friends and we played a game of, yes, Trivial Pursuit! (How I acquired it is another story - at a charity event last week, it came up during the auction. I opened the bidding with $5.00. Nobody else was interested, so a shrink-wrapped, early edition of the game landed in my lap for next to nothing!)

One question asked what CSSR stands for (Czechoslovak Republic, the old name for Czechoslovakia). Another wanted to know the name for the system of racial segregation in South Africa (apartheid, now abolished). Which meant the edition we were using must have been produced somewhere in the late '80s. Which, in turn, meant that it no doubt helped that the players were all a bunch of baby-booming old farts like me! (Ooh, it'll be interesting to see the comments if any of my partners-in-crime read this post...) I had forgotten just how much fun this game is.

One nit: A few too many rules, but fortunately it doesn't spoil the game if a few get tossed out the window as the drinking, I mean, game progresses. After all, who really cares where one's token lands? Just roll again, baby! Or suck up that tough history question - sucker!

Another minor complaint: Why, oh why, do they think that it's OK to combine Sports and Leisure into a single category? (Yes, it was the "Genus" edition.) Makes no damn sense. I suck at sports, and I'm v. good when it comes to leisure (!), thus causing a schizoid reaction from me every time I had to decide whether to land on this category!

Bottom line: Lotsa yelling, lotsa cheating, lotsa drinking, lotsa fun!

Fabulous frock, my dear!

I just couldn't resist posting this picture of bartender Eric (left), which I snapped during the event mentioned in the post above. Don't you think he looks just gorgeous?!?!

Eric was pouring drinks at my favorite watering hole, the World Famous Turf Club. That frock! That 'do! Those tits! Très chic, mon chéri! But, to be fair, I give you the real Eric on the right!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Well, OK - time to acknowledge the iPhone 4

Since I'm an avowed iPhone enthusiast (long story, future post!) and love my 3G, I guess I need to at least acknowledge the existence of the iPhone 4. In a nutshell, it's g-r-r-eat!

One quibble: I hate it when manufacturers exaggerate the qualities of a feature in their product. Steve Jobs is guilty of this in boasting that the iPhone 4 has a "retina display." While, it seems, the display truly is beautiful, it does not come anywhere close to having this so-called quality. There's a good article from PC World about this.

But what about Android phones? As you can tell if you read this blog regularly, I also happen to be an avowed fan of Google. And they created the Android operating system, which is embedded in a number of phone models that are all worthy competitors to the iPhone. So what do I do? My loyalties are split! But I'm committed to the iPhone for some time, and I still think that Android-based phones have a ways to go. For me, one thing that is truly impressive about Android is that Google has included their GPS-based smart navigation system in all models - free! - thus totally removing the need for GPS hardware. Here's a smackdown which compares the iPhone 4 to the top-of-the-line Android-based phone. You decide!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Do you, like me, enjoy the English language?

Today, a good friend of mine pointed me to a phenomenal website. It points out common errors in usage of the language, and is a no-nonsense, ad-free alphabetical listing of a huge number of errors. It's fun to browse if you're into this sort of thing! I've also added it to my permanent list of sites I like. Thanks, John!

A pleasant side-effect of exploring this site was my discovery of this one, which contains the complete text of a huge number of reference works. These are books sans copyright, hence their easy availability. It's really nice to have a place where they are categorized and can be easily referenced. Another addition to my permanent link list over there on the left!

One more tweak - I need your opinion!

OK, one more tweak, but this time it's pretty obvious - a new typeface. It's Trebuchet MS, a sans serif font that was primarily designed for easy readability on screens. Now that I've switched to a wider column format, the serif Georgia typeface that I was using became tough to read (see note below).

For comparison, here is a sample of the typeface that I was using before, Georgia. Do you see what I mean about it being difficult to read? It seems to get worse as your eyes move to the right side of a line of text. And, it seems (to me, anyway) that with large paragraphs the lines of text seem to "squoosh" together. It's a real pain-in-the-arse! (Oh, awlright, ass!) In addition, I was using a slightly smaller size, again as in this ¶.

What do you think? Please let me know via the comments button. Thanks!

Here are all the "typable" letters for you to get a sense of how things will look:
|ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz 0123456789 ~`!@#$%^&*()_-+={}[]\:;"'<>,.?/

Note: I'm told that the optimum width of a column for the sake of readability is 1½ alphabets of the language being used. So, looking at the above, see the space between the red pipes (|) - that's what the width of a column should be. It isn't - at least, not on my wide-screen PC - hence my motivation to use a better typeface! (On smaller screens, such as those on netbooks and mobile phones, this will look different - but the fundamental problem is the same.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Israel's complicity with South Africa during the apartheid years

It's a little-known fact that Israel and South Africa have enjoyed a close alliance over the years. During the apartheid era, when the western world was using broad sanctions against South Africa - including import of weapons - the two countries were secretly negotiating deals. This was never proven, but now some documents have turned up that, apparently, show pretty conclusively that Israel almost sold nuclear weaponry to South Africa. Click on the heading of this post for more.

The story is timely because one can infer interesting analogies with Israel's current predicament. It's an extremely complex issue that I don't pretend to even begin to understand completely, and we must always remember that stories have more than one side. (Apartheid was another issue that was never reported on to a depth that allowed impartial analysis.) Which is why I'm posting this ... just another angle to think about!

New layout

Well, once again I've changed the look 'n feel of this thing. I'm still tweaking it, but if you have an opinion, please let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Facebook is a no-no

Of late, Facebook has been in the news, and it's not pretty. Coincidentally, I've been bumping up against a number of items on the "internets" talking about FB, and it's also not pretty. I'm going to limit my editorializing on the topic here, and instead provide links to what I believe are pretty reliable sources - they can speak for themselves. But this is still a long post; apologies for that!

First, there's the issue concerning the privacy of the FB community. It's clear that FB is doing its best to maximize its revenue by providing as much information as it can about us to its "trusted partners." (Don't you love that weasel-word? Whose trust? Not ours...) One way to achieve this is by making it as difficult as possible for us to retain our goddess-given privacy. This year, they have been rolling out a large number of changes to their privacy settings, often without any notice. It got to a point where the maze of settings was incomprehensible to a PhD, let alone us poor "average" users. But there's been a healthy outpouring of discontent, and it now seems that, as I write this, FB is in the process of rolling out yet another update to the privacy settings, this time (supposedly) making it easier to keep our info to ourselves. We'll see.

Meanwhile, this week, it turns out that some serious worms have infected the FB community. It's done via this (IMHO ridiculous) phenom of getting people to "like" whatever the fad-du-jour happens to be. Users are posting warnings like crazy. Here's a good article about it.

Last night, I bumped up against a blog entry, declaring that Facebook owns us - worth a read, the Swedish author makes a compelling case for quitting FB, from a European viewpoint.

But is that enough justification? How about commentary from someone in the U.S., who has posted the Top Ten Reasons You Should Quit Facebook. This is a must-read.

So, what if we decide to quit FB? Turns out it's not easy - while you can "delete" your account, even after much cajoling by FB to stay with them, they have a nasty little trick: There is a 14-day period after the so-called deletion whereby, if you click on anything that looks like the blue FB logo (e.g. a "like" button) on any FB-associated website, your account will automatically spring back to life!!! Sneaky, huh? There is a recommended way to finally say bye-bye to Facebook, however - see this page, and scroll down a bit until you get to the pic I've reflected below.

And I'm not even going to delve into the topic of censorship, except to say that it really does seem to happen.

Are there alternatives to FB? It's going to take an upswell of popularity for another social networking site before a viable alternative comes about. Look what happened to MySpace. But I think that Google's new Buzz may just be able to pull it off. You, of course, can help by setting up a Gmail account, or any other association with Google - critical mass is what they need.

Some of you may be asking what I'm going to do about quitting Facebook. Truth is, I've never really liked it - their UI is bizarre (they seem to think that a shitload of buttons on one screen is cool), and I somehow always feel, well, dirty when I'm on FB (don't ask me why, it just has a voyeuristic "feel" to it). So yes, I'm gonna follow the above instructions and quit - if I can - right now. I will keep y'all apprised of any updates!

One more optical illusion

I know I posted some optical illusions a couple of days ago, but I just could not resist...

This optical illusion is great! Again, credit Scientific American. See the squares marked A and B? They're different shades of gray, right?

Nope... They're the same color!

Yes. Gautrain again...

Sorry, folks - just couldn't help myself. Trains excite me, and considering this one is from my homeland, I had to add a couple more pics!
The Gautrain runs at 160 Km/h (≈100mph). The first section is open, running between Johannesburg's airport and Sandton, the primary commercial center. Distance between the two is ≈12.3 miles, the ride takes 15 minutes and costs R100,00 or ≈US$12.50 (this is a premium fare for the airport, and includes free parking at the Gautrain stations; commuter fares between non-airport stations average about R18,00 or ≈US$2.25). Frequency is every 12 minutes during the day, and every 20 minutes at night. The first day went well, carrying 11,000 passengers and with only minor teething problems. See next post for more pics, video and links.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Gautrain inaugurated in Joeies!

After much political tsoris, the first section of the first heavy-duty rapid transit system in South Africa (more specifically, in Johannesburg) has just opened! The open portion runs between Sandton and OR Tambo Airport, 19.8 Km (≈12.3 miles). And just in time for the World Cup (naah, no connection there...!). Here's a clever commercial for the system.

And a pic of one of the trains, culled from today's news:
  • Why "Gautrain?" Johannesburg is in Gauteng province.
  • Joeies, Jo'burg, Jozi, eGoli (place of gold) are all local nicknames for the city.
  • Sandton is Jo'burg's primary commercial center.
  • OR Tambo Airport is Johannesburg International Airport.
  • And "tsoris?" No, not S. African! It's Yiddish for trouble, distress, heartbreak, ... you get the idea. Oy!
For more info, click the title of this post for an excellent Wikipedia article, or go here for a Google search.

From your eyes to your brain

Are these two pics of the Leaning Tower of Pisa different?
Believe it or not, they are identical in every respect! This is from Scientific American; I'll leave it up to them to explain what the hell is going on - click here. You'll also get to see nine other interesting optical illusions. And, of course, the opportunity to buy a special issue of SciAm, containing 169 illusions (always gotta get the plug in!).

Another one: Do you see the inverted triangle?
You do realize, of course, that it's not there... (Note: Sadly, in switching to a white-on-black format for this site, this image doesn't work quite as well as it normally does; probably because it's a .GIF file. If you really want to see it correctly, contact me and I'll send you a decent copy.)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Oil spill : Obama :: Katrina : Bush ?


There has been much speculation in the media comparing the oil spill to Katrina - they are pondering whether Obama will go down in the polls the way Bush did with the way he handled Katrina. The answer is simple, people: Katrina was a natural disaster, the spill was a man-made disaster. In a natural disaster, our government is the only body that can help - in a man-made one, the people/businesses that are responsible need to step in first. If they fuck up, then, and only then, must the government step in and assist with fixing the problem. And that is exactly what Obama has done. He has acted appropriately. Bush did not. Period.

Right now,
here's how:
Focus on the fix,
not the politics.
[Hey, I'm a poet,
I just didn't know it!]

Finger-pointing and the blame game can be played later.

But Obama in not perfect, and he has messed up in some respects. The main problem is his public persona: he just cannot display emotion, and that is what the public wants to see right now. They are angry, and they want to see an angry Obama.

The truth is, Obama really is angry; he just doesn't show it. [Note to Barack: Dude, please yell, scream, shout, sob, cuss, whatever - just effing do it! Thanks.]

Friday, June 4, 2010

The winter circumcision season?!

As embarrassed as I am to point this one out, at least I can't be accused of hiding the barbarism of my native country. Click this. (Mind you, understand that this is a long-standing tribal tradition.)

Pictures are worth 1,000 words

Not that I've ever believed that! I thought you might enjoy these.

Unfortunate shadow: Believe it or not, this picture was part of a magazine ad. Notice the shadow on her breast above the word 'see.' Was it deliberate? Ya think? (Note the caption.) The ad was subsequently pulled, and (it seems) they have tried to suppress as many copies as possible that are circulating on the web.

Close the door, damnit! This car is advertising two companies: Larsen's Biscuits and the Peniston Oil Co. (Yeah, right.) Still, it makes for a fun pic!

Well-endowed veggies. Some carrot, huh? Talk about a snail trail! This one's a keeper.

Carry on, nurse... When you gotta go, you gotta go!

So yeah, my mind's in the gutter - what else is new?

Web pictures are fun!
Expect more of this sort of thing.