2007 April❮❮prevnext❯❯

tee hee!

So this is April 1! Day of a thousand thousand stupid online gags. None of them very funny. And this is one of the unfunny ones! But maybe you figured it out. Did you select the text? Hit ctrl-a? Or something else?

People who make websites love the idea of fooling people with fake stories and what not on this day but of course most people, you know, have a calendar, so it's actually quite difficult to do it in a convincing way. So instead you just get a dumb mishmash of fake stuff and real stuff, and the biggest danger isn't people believing one of the dumb stories, but failing to believe a legitimate story that sneaks through.

The other "classic" thing to do is to announce that your website or project is going away. I toyed with that idea, trying to sound really convincing, that I've just been doing this website for too long, that it saps my energy for other projects, that it was my birthday the other day that made me realize this. All of which are kind of valid issues, but this site has become what passes for a spiritual practice in my life, and it would take some significant trauma for me to give it up.

Pretending your closing up shop on April First is really kind of a cry for attention, people who do that are probably really hoping to provoke a worried outcry from their loyal fans. And while I have a certain small readership here, mostly folks who know me in real life, I don't think it's the kind of site that would provoke too many withdrawal symptoms were to go away.

Ah well, that's it. Not such an interesting update, but between the lame gag and needing to tackle other stuff this weekend, I don't want to overdo it with the links and what not.

who's treated you the best in love?

For a long while, the Blender of Love had an ongoing freeform survey question feature. But for about four months now it hasn't been updated (I'm kind of worried about the guy who was coming up with the questions.) The last one that it's been stuck on is a great one, though:
Who's treated you the best in love, and what did they do?
Assuming you limit the scope to romantic love, and also aren't in the relationship you believe could be the "love of your life", it's a tough question! I really don't know what my answer would be. (Despite its time up there it's one of the few I hadn't answered.)

It raises many further questions... would my answer be based on one extravagant, lovely gesture, or a pattern of grace? Can it be retroactively undone when the romance went bad? Does it have to be something that was reciprocated?

Video of the Moment

(was https://www.youtube.com/v/uVhE7DVUFvA )

--Erin sent me the Japanese trailer for the movie "Transformers". She was most amused by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay speaking Japanese, but I thought the whole "direct appeal from the author" pitch was the oddest... ""a grand scale experience with ground breaking visual effects that will take your breath away". I wonder if that approach is more common in Japan, or if it's just odd.

(UPDATE: video went away, so I replaced it with this more recent one with Marky Mark, but a similar idea of "artist to audience" conversation.)

a Transformer's tribute to Michael Bay. It's a parody of the song from the first Transformers movie (back when it was still a cartoon.) I think the best part is, thanks to the song's cameo in Boogie Nights, you never have to worry about how bad you sing it.

Link of the Moment
Thought provoking Slate piece on Utiliarianism and Neuroscience, where science and morality collide on the synapse-y level.

soup won't be computerized

While I enjoy the covenience of my "tap and go" subway pass, some how the
Valid Until:
that flashes on the screen makes me feel as if I'm living on borrowed time.

Panel of the Moment
--from Top 15 Unintentionally Funny Comic Book Panels. I'm not sure they're all that unintentional, but the comment for this one ("Rod! Rod! Rod!: I can't tell if she's hoping for it or is suddenly surprised by it") made me laugh. (via Bill the Splut)

Passage of the Moment
[On a Braun Handheld Mixer]
"Is it a classic instrument?"
"Is it timeless or is it likely to go out of style in the next... 20 years?"
"I would say it's a new classic. But 20 years is a long time. I think everything is going to be computerized in 20 years."
"Soup won't be computerized."
"Why not?"
"It's a liquid."
Girl and Sales Clerk in "Me and You and Everyone We Know"

Sports of the Moment
Not a good day for me and sports yesterday... Red Sox drop the opener to the frickin' Royals, and then Ohio States completes a matched set of losing the national football AND basketball championship to the Florida Gators. I don't have particularly strong feelings for the Buckeyes, but when you go to an Ohio high school you get exposed to it a bit. Plus, all else being equal, I'll cheer for a cold location over a warm one any day.

thy fearful symmetry

So last December or thereabouts I was dropping my mom off at her office, the Salvation Army's Massachusetts Headquarters. (Just a block or so from where I now work, thus confirming this amazing ability I have to live or work in locations that would have been really convenient a few years before or after.)

I picked up the November 25th copy of The Salvation Army's magazine "The War Cry". I was a bit startled to see my cousin Scott quoted in a small "Quotes of the Past & Present" column, saying "I picture heaven as a great family reunion." And then later on my (dearly departed, or as the Salvationists say, "Promoted to Glory") Grandma Israel was quoted: "We have two choices when facing life's crisis--we can either be bitter or we can be better."

I have to admit that my first thoughts were oddly uncharitable. I (mistakenly) thought Scott was on the staff of the magazine, and somehow "quoting yourself" (in the biggest point type in the column, no less) was a little unseemly. It turns out Scott likely works near editor-in-chief Major Ed Forster at National Headquarters, who at one point was also the corps officer (local minister) for my grandmother's church. Which makes the thing seem a bit more appropriate.

Still, the Grandma quote... eh, it doesn't quit sound like Grandma, who was pretty plain-spoken, but googling a bit makes me think that it does come from national ministerial figures Grandma would've respected, and maybe even quoted. As for Scott's quote... it's a little poignant, given the track record of that side of my family... he and I both lost our fathers when they were fairly young, and an Aunt to Lou Gehrig's even younger (leaving behind four sons) and neither of our shared grandparents are still around. I'm not sure of the theological standing of his quote, but then again I tend not to be sure of anything's theological grounds.

Quote of the Moment
"Don't be mean. The fates are cruel enough. Remember. No matter where you go, there you are."
Buckaroo Banzai. Would have been good for me to think of that after I saw that War Cry...

Video of the Moment

--"Tyger". This gives Felisdemens "the transcendent shivers". It didn't move me quite that much, but I really like how they kept the puppeteers in

Link of the Moment
Human-Computer Interface in Sci-Fi... extremely readable, high-level overview of various "UI of the FUTURE!" A special emphasis on "Minority Report". (via boingboing)

Reminds me of one criticism I heard of the Star Trek Next Genreation approach, that none of those "reusable surface" touch interfaces offered meaningful physical feedback.


So I'm about 4,000 odd songs into my 6,500 song iTunes collection, rating each on a scale of 1 star (will be actively irritated if/when my iPod starts playing it) to 5 stars (one of the best songs in the word.)

There's not much instrumental jazz I want to listen to, really. "Night in Tunisia", "'Round Midnight". a few other pieces.

It made me realize that I hadn't thought about Charlie Parker for years. In high school, he was "the" jazz guy. I guess, though, in college the tile of "the" jazz guy got passed on to Miles Davis.

For what it's worth, I've kind of shared a nick name with Charlie Parker, "Bird". Well, just with my parents. I think it was short for "Nerd Bird".

Video of the Moment
Evil B pointed me to something I missed, George Takei responds to Tim Hardaways homophobia. Funny. I love Takei. He seems so comfortable with his role as queen-y actor and activist spokesman, and dealing with that weird relationship most Star Trek stars have with the fanbase.

Excerpt of the Moment
You are getting so beautiful they will have to make passport pictures of you 9 feet tall. What do you really want to do for a life work? Break everybody's heart for a dime? You could always break mine for a nickel and I'd bring the nickel.

Photo of the Moment

--CVS near the Boston Public Library. Those giant heads are intimidatingly huge as you drift past. (This probably would be a better photo if it had people in there for scale, but it seemed rude to take pictures of strangers.) (Oops, wait, there is a stranger in this photo... whoops.)

nothing but civil

Last night FoSO and I went to The Butcher Shop, had some good food (their Hot Dog de la Maison is kind of amusing... though more of a sausage on great crusty bread) and very good wine. Then we headed to AIB's senior exhibit where Ksenia was showing some pieces. And they had, you know, red wine that was about par for the course for receptions like that.

And I could tell the difference, the stuff at the reception was rather harsher, but if it had been poured for me at The Butcher Shop I probably would have thought that it was better than it was. I guess for me wine enjoyment is context sensitive, and also I take other people's word for the quality of things.

That said, after a great bottle of "La Crema" Chardonnay at Legal Seafood's, I know the characteristic that I'm looking for in white wine, which is "creaminess". Back in the day there was a vintage of Bogle Chardonnay we were fond of with a bottle description that specifically noted that quality.

Man. I make a pretty mediocre "foody" I'm afraid.

Also... why am I overusing quote marks so much?

Quote of the Moment
There seems to be an inordinate number of movies about mankind going to war with machines (Terminator, A.I., that Stephen King flick with all the AC/DC songs, etc.) That plot device always struck me as something of a cheap shot; as far as I can tell, machines have been nothing but completely civil to us.
Chuck Klosterman, "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs".
It's a decent book, but... I dunno, when a guy is so pop-culture obsessed that it leaves even me a little shell-shocked, well, it might not be for everybody.

Video of the Moment

--A Mandelbrot the size of the known universe..."If the final frame were the size of your screen, the full set would be larger than the known universe." (more about the Mandelbrot set)

kungfu party

Gotta go get ready for my delayed birthday party today. It's a small little thing but I kind of liked the Kung-Fu theme I came up with for the party, and the drawings of Me and Miller:

I still can't draw reliable caricatures (except of myself) for crap, but still, it was fun.

Gotta get busy...

peep show

Happy Easter!

Video of the Moment

--via B.K. on the Blender board... WARNING CONTAINS BUNNY PEEP SEX

coffee power

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So Overheard in New York had this exchange:
Barista: Would you like to try a cappuccino muffin?
Customer: No, thanks. I don't want to start my appetite yet.
--Starbucks, 45th & Broadway
I didn't think that was funny, because I could totally relate... you can get by with just coffee in the morning, and oddly if you eat something you might still be ready for lunch at about the same time, or even earlier.


Photo Work of the Moment
So the other day we were walking, and I snapped one of those typical shots of the church and the Hancock at Copley, a little cooler than average because of the reflection of the clouds:
I then remembered FoSO borrowing my Kodak DC-20 (arguably the "Brownie" of the Web's toddler years) back in the day and taking a series of photos from her office building, which I then stitched into a collage:

click for fullsize
Funny to realize that this image is over ten years old, which means A. I've been doing digital photos for a while now, and B. I've been in Boston for a long time, and so finally may be feeling a bit more rooted. Oh, and, C. DC-20 images really haven't aged so well. It was a nifty minimalist camera back in the day, but...

Passage of the Moment
Tim Crane thus describes the basic two requirements for an emergentist position as 'dependence' and 'distinctness': 'mental properties are distinct from physical properties'. That some kind of dependence relationship exists seems hard to deny: destroy enough molecules within a cell and you no longer have a cell; kill enough cells in an organ and the organ ceases to function; watch your discussion partner ingest enough alcohol and his sentences will cease to be coherent.
Phillip Clayton, "Mind & Emergence".
Admittedly not the funniest... I guess it caught my fancy because of its resemblance to this Monty Python bit, (though less racist and sexually explicit) in a fairly serious and dense tome.

Passing of the Moment
Oh, huh... BC-Creator Johnny Hart died. It's weird seeing his early stuff when he was a bit cutting edge, and not just in the weird "Fundamentalist Wacko" way.

shimmy and shake

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If there's one thing I learned through the power of astute observation, it's this: if you value your dignity, don't use those powerful shiatsu-ish massage recliners in a public place, like, I dunno, Jordan's furniture, or Brookstone.

Video of a Previous Moment

--The secret behind the Bush presidency. I guess this explains his previous assault on German Chancellor Angela Merkel; clearly some internal German political feud.

Quote of the Moment
"I remember saying things, but I have no idea what was said. It was generally a friendly conversation."
Associated Press reporter Jack Sullivan
...as quoted by Chuck Klosterman as a preface to his book, who says Sullivan was "attempting to recount a 3 A.M. exchange we had at a dinner party and inadvertently describing the past ten years of my life".


Yay Red Sox!

Promotional Item of the Moment
--A clever flexi-straw advertisement for a yoga school, from a page of Creative Advertisements Around The World. All physical stuff, some very smart

Exchange of the Moment
[On a tube of "Airborne" tables sitting my desk]
Jonathan: "That stuff's like crack..."
Kirk: "Not crack, more like... voodoo, to ward off colds. 'See? That fizzyness is the magic working!'"

i agree with péret.

So there's a great used bookstore at Davis Square, McIntyre and Moore. I stopped in the other night and found this odd book, "Investigating Sex: Surrealist Research 1928-1932", a series of 12 roundtable discussions about sex by fairly major surrealist figures.

It's an interesting read (though they generally aren't sounding stereotypically "surreal") but a lot of it comes across like this:
BENJAMIN PÉRET   I always follow the woman's preference. I always ask what she prefers.
RAYMOND QUENEAU   I agree with Péret.
JACQUES PRÉVERT   I share Breton's view.
MAX MORISE   It is a matter of whatever is mutually agreeable.
PIERRE UNIK   Like Péret, I always ask the woman what she prefers.
I kept think of the Loony Tunes "Goofy Gophers"... "After you!" "No, after you!" "After you, I insist!" "Nononono, after you!"

Still, I ended up liking Man Ray even more than I did before, though he was only in one of the discussions:
ANDREÉ BRETON   Does the man have any comparable way of recognizing the woman's orgasm?
MAN RAY   The woman is strongly aware of the precise moment of orgasm in the man. But the man has nothing to go on except for the woman's lassitude.
ANDREÉ BRETON   And if this lassitude is simulated?
MAN RAY   Too bad for the woman! I go along with her act.
But my favorite bit was the following exchange...
ANDREÉ BRETON   A fanciful question: Péret finds all the women with whom he has had sexual relations assembled together, in a café for example, with the one he loved or believed he loved standing apart. What would he do?
BENJAMIN PÉRET   Run for my life.
They seem kind of preoccupied about simultaneous orgasm. (Maybe because of the times they give for how long it takes once the preliminaries are done... "five minutes", "five minutes", "twenty seconds maximum" "Less than a minute", "Two minutes", and "between fifteen and forty seconds")

The other question that caught my attention was if they had had sex with a woman who had since died, and if that brought on pangs of remorse. As far as I know all my former lovers are still around, but it's an oddly disquieting thought.

Article of the Moment
Could we have accidentally nuked Jupiter by letting the plutonium-packing Galileo satellite crash into its crushing depths? (Or as loquacious put it on metafilter, "All these worlds are yours, save Europa. Attempt no landings he...llo! What the hell is wrong with you!? Did you just nuke Jupiter?")

Passing of the Moment
RIP Kurt Vonnegut. Kurt is up in Heaven now.

Damn, but did he write some good stuff. "Cat's Cradle" with its pseudocult of Bokononism is something I could really get behind.

I think I need to reread his recent "Timequake".

grease paint and puddles of lovers or chained moons or brandy on knuckles or insanity

I watched "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" last night. Mean humor in parts, but legitimately funny; a guilty pleasure. Sacha Baron Cohen is fearless.

Prose Poem of the Moment
You can't write about grease paint and puddles of lovers or chained moons or brandy on knuckles or insanity but if you take a hot enough bath and lie on your back you can feel your blood swimming the crawl through your ass and if you play steel strings long enough you can feel your blood waltzing through your fingertips and if you let yourself laugh loud and hard enough so you're crying and peeing your pants you can feel your blood painting a self portrait on your stomach and it's a beautiful feeling

I took a 60 hour bus ride from rhode island to montana by myself and met a boy who bought me candy in fargo and said have a nice life and it would have made a great poem of passing except i ran into him again on a bus going to florida and it was as if fate had brought me back to that stringy tripping tongue studded sweetheart but he didn't remember the chocolate incident

This sticky stuff needs anger and passion and my stamp card isn't full yet but maybe if i could hate things worse than spinach and thunder i could be okay but spinach isn't so bad in pastries and thunder has a calming sensuality that i want to rip out of my ears so i can say thunder's the burning coals on my eyelashes and the ceramic clams in my fingernails making their way to my hair filling me with kasha and rhinestones

I went bowling with an old friend once and lost and that night he asked if i wanted to take the physical challenge or sleep and i couldn't for the life of me figure out what was so challenging about him when it was clear if i went to sleep he wouldn't call and if i took off my clothes he wouldn't call because we didn't keep in touch and anyway i wouldn't want to be the web of butterscotch between his hangnails

I only keep my shades in a jar so the tree on my desk can get light otherwise i'd spend all my time pining about a boy who could touch both my thumbs with one hand wear butterflies like he grew them in his eyes and kiss my ear like it was a flag but maybe i just need more sex in my life or cigarettes or salmon or Stephen but i think if i could just duct tape all of them to the bottom of my shoe my feet'd get some mileage
I sang with Sara in sQ at Tufts. I put this work on the Love Blender a while back, but as I was through my music collection on iTunes and rating everything it hit me that I wanted to post this here, because it really is great.

the 29 bestest songs

Game of the Moment
Too make up for the terribly dull and self-indulgent entry below, here's a lovely and addictive flash game: Boomshine... kind of a cross between Missile Command and Maxwell's Demon. The urging on you do of your little boomshine circles to just hold one one...second.........LONGER is amazing.

Ramble of the Moment
I bought the red iPod, which gave a token amount to fighting AIDS in Africa. Also, this image is about half again as big as the real thing.
I finished sorting through and rating my iTunes music collection the other day. Out of the 6400-odd tracks in my collection, there were about 5000 I never wanted to hear in a mix. Of the 1400 I thought were ok, I rated 270 of them as stuff I'd actually be happy to hear when they came up in rotation, and about 30 of those as "great". Thus, my 37-gig collection got reduced to the 5.75 gigs that matter.

(Admittedly, my judgement is biased towards stuff that's good to do geekwork to, so energetic music tends to have an advantage over the slower stuff, and long jazzy or classical bits have very little chance.)

So I decided to grant myself one final birth day indulgence, or reward for sorting through all this, and bought an iPod. I had an iPod a long while back, but didn't really have a spot for it, the car radio adapter was more trouble than it was worth. But now that I've started walking to and from the T station and my work PC doesn't have a reliable sound setup, this one should be more useful.

It's kind of weird that the 8-gig Nano costs the same as a 30-gig iPod video, but still I went for the former. Besides better battery life, and not having internal moving parts, its petite minimalism just resonates for me.

And for your reading pleasure, and since I was on kind of a self-indulgence roll, I thought I'd blow a day on kisrael discussing the 29 bestest songs on my iPod.

Music of Every Damn Moment
The first three I identified as the Best. Songs. Ever. a long while back. They are Deee-Lite's Groove Is In The Heart (which I am morally compelled to dance to every time I hear it, even if just a little), Buildings And Bridges by Ani DiFranco, which is the most beautiful blend of dimestore profundity and musical grace I've ever heard, and It's Your Thing by the The Isley Brothers, the bass and piano that never fails to grab me by the cajones. (There's a bit more R+B in the Top 29: James Brown's I Feel Good and Soul Man by Sam & Dave.)

I've always loved Fever by Peggy Lee, and Shirley Bassey has a similar vamp effect in the Propellerheads' History Repeating.

Lately I've been getting into mashups, Tripper Trouble is dj BC mixing up the Beatles and the Beastie Boys, Groove's a Bitch by dsico is Groove is in the Heart plus She's a Bitch plus Just 1 Kiss, My Other Car Is A Beatle by Jay-R is an even bigger swath of artists. And before there was mashups there were covers and remixes, like Shake Your Thang, which really is how Salt-N-Pepa introduced me to It's Your Thing, and more recently JXL's A Little Less Conversation revived a sleeper Elvis work. Also two by Tom Jones et al.: Burning Down The House and Sexbomb.

Mystery Dance by Elvis Costello is the only song to appear in the Top 29 twice, it's short enough that both the electric and acoustic versions seem worthwhile.

Cake's The Distance always holds a special place in my heart as being my big solo in Tufts' sQ. Then there's a string of modern stuff... Smash Mouth's Diggin' Your Scene and the overplayed but great AllStar, t.A.T.u.'s All The Things She Said, the nostalgic drumline of Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl, and the cool retro-western-gogo of Legend Of A Cowgirl by a Imani Coppola

Slowing things down, Holly Cole's cover I've Just Seen A Face is just lovely, and I find Dar Williams' As Cool As I Am, Paul Simon's Tenderness, and Willy Mason's Oxygen can all move me to tears when I'm on the hunt for that kind of catharsis.

Finally, some oddballs: Johnny Cash's Riders In The Sky is just THE cowboy song for me, Maynard Ferguson's Chameleon is the only instrumental to make it here, and Madonna's Hanky Panky (Bare Bottom 12" Mix), with its giant percussion and naughty spanky talk is the best thing to have spun off from the movie Dicky Tracy.

I might be willing to make a mix cd or mp3 set if anyone is interested.

before you can say jackie robinson

With the return of the Red Sox I've been listening to Sports Radio a bit more, and... wow. I'm mildly surprised they're still banging the "LOL, so much for global warming, amirite?" drum. One of them was even clever enough to repeating the metaphor "the Earth has a fever" without even extending it to the idea of sometimes a fever also brings on chills. Ok, so maybe that bends an already strained metaphor to the breaking point, but seriously, to ignore what seems to be a higher preponderance of weird rather because "why that's not quite warming, is it?" is just frustrating.

Quote of the Moment
A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.
Jackie Robinson.
A sophomoric interpretation wonders "so why does that impact matter if the other lives don't matter", a slightly wiser (if more geeky) level is to see that importance as an emergent property...

Anyway, Happy Jackie Robinson day. His wikipedia page makes for some good reading.

And I hate to say it, but shame on the Red Sox for being the last major league team to integrate, and maybe their backwards stance helped perpetuate the Curse of the Bambino (PDF, or see the google HTML)

News of the Past Moment
I guess it's as good a day as any to put in my two cents worth on Don Imus. I find the most startling aspect of the whole sordid affair is: people were still listening to Don Imus???

i blame john cusack

So in what I'm retroactively branding an act of solidarity with the Marathoners, I kept up my ideal of walking to and from the T-station, rain or shine. Err, today, that would "rain".

It's only my pants that got damp in an annoying way, especially the top part. maybe I should start wearing a trench coat or something on days like this.

Quote and Ramble of the Moment
But whenever I meet dynamic, nonretarded Americans, I notice that they all seem to share a single unifying characteristic: the inability to experience the kind of mind-blowing transcendent romantic relationship they perceive to be a normal part of living. And someone needs to take the fall for this. So instead of blaming no one for this (which is kind of cowardly) or blaming everyone (which is meaningless), I'm going to blame John Cusack.
Chuck Klosterman, "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs"
He also blames "When Harry Met Sally" for making everyone think that, typically, you have two friends who refuse to admit they're in love with each other, when usually it's not symmetrical person, and the one person who doesn't feel the spark is either oblivious or wracked with guilt and pressure.

He also says "Every relationship is fundamentally a power struggle, and the individual in power is whoever likes the other person less." There's probably some level of truth to that, though I don't think it's absolute.

It occurs to me what that there are some very crass ways of thinking about online dating. it's been said the secret to happy romance is for both people to feel that they're at about the same level in terms of desirability, that unhappiness comes from the stress of dating out of your league. Maybe one secret to bliss is 2 people who both secretly think the other person is out of their league, but not so much so that they're wracked with insecurity.

Or, maybe I'm just full of crap and half-baked theories.

Image of the Moment

--I just liked this image of "The Health Fairy" from this Slate photo essay on the use of animal (and magical) mascots for educational purposes.

sorrow in virginia

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For some reason the tragedy in Virginia makes me want to avoid the usual kisrael blather for a day.

I caught how the Daily Show kind of dodged it; a brief mention of the fact that they were not to going to be tackling it, and a small joke about how the plan was to repress it for now and have a breakdown 30 years down the line, and then on to the email abuse scandal.

I guess what struck me was the physicality of it, I guess specifically the use of doors; the chaining of the main building door by the gunman, then how the barricading of classroom doors (in one case students only having the time to block it with the edge of their shoes, rather than forming a blockade with furniture as happened in other rooms) frustrated the gunman and left him only able to put a few shots through the door.

Yikes. I better stop thinking along these lines before I become one of those people who never stops glancing around, investigating hiding spots and lines of sight and computing tactical strategies wherever they go.

back to the blather

So I was on the subway on the evening of Marathon Day, and a French woman (I think French, though I suppose could be French-Canadian or something) asked me about my book A Year in the Merde, which she pointed out might be a play on "A Year In Provence".

It was cool because I was able to confirm that "My Tea Is Rich" (the book's hypothetical name for a chain of English Tea Rooms) does strike French folks as funny... it's a play on "My Tailor is Rich" which was a common sentence for French-speakers learning English.

The woman mentioned she likes cross-cultural books so I recommended Hellenga's "The Sixteen Pleasures". The whole incident made me wish I had a personal business card to hand her... not in a "trying to give women by number" kind of way, but just on the off chance there could be some followup communication, making it a smaller world. Or, it could just be a bookmark!

Hobo of the Moment
--"Kirk the Jerk", my own hobo, ordered through Adam "Ape Lad" Koford's Hobotopia project, where for $10 he would draw your Hobo name on a postcard. (He's now doing fairy tale scenes for $20.) (thanks Bill the Splut who got his own hobo)

Business of the Moment
I am so bummed that my first knowledge of a 1,428-Year-Old Business in Japan was that it was being closed down! It was Kongo Gumi, builder of Buddhist Temples. (via boingboing)

where the wings have no shame

Ah, the joy of Liberal Guilt: I've started taking my daily coffee without milk, just to see if I feel better with less dairy. But if the Dunkin Donuts worker is African-American, I have to admit I catch myself before asking for it "black".

The sweetener issue comes into play too. "Black with sugar" sounds like a pickup line. Maybe "Black, an Equal" is a more positive message.

Or I'll just stick with saying "no milk".

Newsquote and Links of the Moment
But defining the current surge as a "Plan A" is a dangerously dishonest move that ignores the history of the Iraq war to date. In fact, since 2003, we have run through at least six plans, none of which has succeeded. The Petraeus plan is something more akin to Plan F—truly, the last Hail Mary play in the fourth quarter. And if it fails, then we better start considering Plan G, also known as "Get out of Iraq."
Slate has had some interesting stuff lately. I enjoyed the gusto Blogging the Bible displayed for the book of Solomon, and today's meditation on the SkyMall's SnacDaddy product as a message about American culture is not to be missed. (In response to the SnacDaddy's promise to hide the discarded bones and how "your mess is kept out of sight while the wings keep coming.": "Thank God, because as everyone knows, looking at chicken bones after having eaten chicken parts can result in devastating moments of existential doubt: I too will become nothing more than bare wing bones someday. Kinda Beckett-like.")

they will surprise foes below by hurling upon them deadly thunderbolts

I thought I always preferred using larger headphones with an iPod, but, it turns out, not while walking. They're a bit too isolating, while I appreciate the music I don't like being quite that removed from my environment. (And for what it's worth, I feel like I'm being less of a hermit while reading on the subway as opposed to iPodding up.)

The Minuteman Bikeway is long and very straight, at least between my place and the subway stop. I kind of end up wishing for these novelty sunglasses I had when I was younger, "spy" glasses that had the extended outer edge of each lens mirrored so you could see behind you. That way I could keep an eye out for bikes coming up on me.

Predictions of the Moment
Aerial War-Ships and Forts on Wheels. Giant guns will shoot twenty-five miles or more, and will hurl anywhere within such a radius shells exploding and destroying whole cities. Such guns will be armed by aid of compasses when used on land or sea, and telescopes when directed from great heights. Fleets of air-ships, hiding themselves with dense, smoky mists, thrown off by themselves as they move, will float over cities, fortifications, camps or fleets. They will surprise foes below by hurling upon them deadly thunderbolts. These aerial war-ships will necessitate bomb-proof forts, protected by great steel plates over their tops as well as at their sides. Huge forts on wheels will dash across open spaces at the speed of express trains of to-day. They will make what are now known as cavalry charges. Great automobile plows will dig deep entrenchments as fast as soldiers can occupy them. Rifles will use silent cartridges. Submarine boats submerged for days will be capable of wiping a whole navy off the face of the deep. Balloons and flying machines will carry telescopes of one-hundred-mile vision with camera attachments, photographing an enemy within that radius. These photographs as distinct and large as if taken from across the street, will be lowered to the commanding officer in charge of troops below.
I love the steampunk / War of the Worlds feel of that one.

Coinage of the Moment
For some reason the eagle on the back of a quarter caught my eye, and I wondered what it had in its talons... on a worn coin, it looks like something architectural, but this page on its design didn't say. But now I can tell that it's a bundle of arrows. Duhhr. (Conservative stoner hippy: "Have you ever really looked at a quarter? I mean, really looked at it?" And don't get him started on the back of a dollar.)


Up in Rockport helping EvilB work on a house they hope to move into later.... I'll try to post more at some point.

Pointless Cartoon of the Moment
--Another taking-notes-in-meeting dragon

friends helping friends

So I ended up helping Evil B all day yesterday, and probably will again today.

In an "abundance of caution" we're wearing reasonably heavy duty breather masks, with the filters on the side for the inhale and the one way valve in the center for the exhale. So it's like your own personal atmosphere in there, all filtered and what not. One of us, and I'm not saying who, had the good line "Urrp... oh man, I'm going to be enjoying that one for a while."

The laugh of the day was all mine, though you have to understand the "friends help friends move / good friends help friends move bodies" level of friendship between me and him... "Gee, I wonder what EB's furniture will look like in this room... if that's where his futon will go, or... hey, wait, why I am wondering? I'm probably gonna be moving that crap myself in a few months!"

Well, maybe you had to be there. And there, getting a little loopy on the fumes that are sneaking past the breathing mask.

life is what you can get away with

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Not to sound too much like I'm trying for my martyr card, but there's that saying "friends help friends move, real friends help friends move bodies." I'd prefer to think of that second part as "real friends help friends spend whole weekends doing the Herculean tasks involved in going over a house full of the antique-ish knick knacks (and lead paint) of a lovely old lady who'd lived there for decades while smoking quite a bit, and working towards the goal of having it be a fit place to raise a one year old child." but that really, really doesn't scan.

Politics of the Moment
I really liked this Slate piece on which presidential candidate is which stock?... John Edwards as Krispy Kreme is especially clever.

Toys of the Moment
--Chris Deck's MINI Star Wars models are just small and brilliant and lovely.

Quote of the Moment
"The reason I wear pajamas all the time is along the way I discovered I could get away with it."
Hugh Hefner, on NPR this morning.
Life made a little more sense when I realized that he wasn't the same guy as Howard Hughes, despite the alliteration.


Summer was so here yesterday, and today as well.

Besides the joy of wearing sandals, I think what I was most missing was seeing shoulders. They're a terribly underrated part of the body, sensual and expressive without being blatant about it. Some people look for the first bluebird of spring, me, I'm on the hunt for the first shoulders.

Yesterday was kind of amazing though... not just the multitudes casually taking in the sun or going for a jog, but it seems like many sports teams picked the day to start their practices as well. As if some giant switch had been flipped...

I wonder. Does the grueling winter add that much to the appreciation of the warmer weather, or should I just move some place that's closer to this all year round? My friend Andy moved to Atlanta, he claims the people are just friendlier outside of New England, as if the layers we put on during the harsher seasons carry a metaphysical weight that lasts the whole year long.

Blog of the Moment
--A blog inviting you to Judge a Book by its cover, general publishing industry snarkery from a public library librarian. Great stuff.

International Politics of the Moment
Slate on the rise and fall of Boris Yeltsin... or at least his reputation.

I heard someone thinking that Putin was trying for a clearly illegal fourth term (he's finishing up his sketchy third claiming that the two-term limit didn't apply since the Constitution hadn't been set up at the outset) but now I hear he'll pick an heir apparent and back him.

Reminds me of how some folks wanted to remove the two-term limit for Reagan. Not sure if the same thought occurred to Clinton fans (though in 2003 he said that he'd like it to be a limit on consecutive terms)

backpacks to the future

I've noticed that pretty much everyone wears backpacks the way they were meant to be worn these days, i.e. square on the back using both straps. But back in high school, the only people who did that were serious backpackers and nerds.

I use a courier bag right now, but if I ever switch to a backpack, I am probably always going to sling it over one shoulder, no matter how bad it is for my back, or how much extra wear that one strap gets. Because, you know, that's what was cool in 1991.


Slate of the Moment
Explainer on the end of the Catholic doctrine of limbo for the unbaptized babies. What caught me was the footnote:
On the other hand, some Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, and orthodox Christians hold that everybody remains in an "intermediate state" until the return of Jesus Christ on judgment day.
As far as I know, the whole idea of going off to heaven or hell immediately upon dying is "extra-Biblical"; or at least I realized that the Salvationist doctrine I grew up in claimed that people were just stone cold dead until bodily resurrected at the end of the world... the thing is, I think most Salvationists have the common kind of image of souls quickly winging their way up or plummeting down.

Actually, the whole idea of a body/soul separation doesn't show up all that much in the Bible I think.

Cartoon of the Moment
Today's xkcd was especially clever... I guess it's the same charm I pointed out for indexed... geekish humor that you have to work to figure out, which makes it that much better.



--I decided to paraphrase a dreamish thought I had this morning in the form of an xkcd ripoff homage. It came out well enough, but I'm not sure if it's going to be all that funny to anyone else... and for the record I do clean my apartment more often than that.

nerd of war

I'm starting to feel like a T veteran, because I've finally developed a strategy. One coworker says he always goes for the subway car where he'll have to walk the least, but my goal is to find the least crowded car, and hopefully a seat.

So not surprisingly, it's the far end cars that seem to be the least populated. And I've found my favorite seat on the Red Line: so, saying that the line goes south into Boston from Cambridge, the best seat is in the "northermost" car, southwest corner... usually the car is close to empty at Alewife, and that particular seat has this little shelf thing you can toss a bag or coat onto. Luxury!

(Me, overthink?)

Link of the Moment
  1. Most wars are asymmetrical / irregular.
  2. In these wars, the guerrillas / irregulars / insurgents do NOT aim for military victory.
  3. You can NOT defeat these groups by killing lots of their members.
    In fact, they want you to do that.
  4. Hi-tech weaponry is mostly useless in these wars.
  5. "Hearts and Minds," meaning propaganda and morale, are more important than military superiority.
  6. Most people are not rational, they are TRIBAL: "my gang yay, your gang boo!" It really is that simple. The rest is cosmetics.
I just found out about the "War Nerd" Gary Brecher (thought to be a nome de plume)

He's... really something. To say he's jingoistic is putting it extremely mildly. I think a lot of people will find his expression of love for war and his casual off-the-cuff bloodlust revolting. And some people claim that his belligerent style sometimes conceals a lack of hard facts, at least in certain cases.

But he's willing to call a spade a spade and skewer sacred cows like the greatness of the American Military (historically, it's really supply and logistics that we do really well, and beyond that we probably have only our fair share of heroes.) Like his take on WWII... pretty much all of Europe was borderline fascist, and the real fight was the Nazis vs Soviet Russia, the rest was largely window dressing.

The sheer pragmatism of his outlook is almost scary, especially with his stated hope of seeing more and more exciting wars. But his piece on assymetrical warfare (where that list comes from) and his strong arguments that Bush and Cheney and Co. set us up for nothing but failure in Iraq really reminded me just how nuts and agenda-driven these guys are. I wonder if the "war nerd" persona is meant to be a Vonnegut-ian "wrang-wrang", "A person who steers people away from a line of speculation by reducing that line, with the example of the wrang-wrang's own life, to an absurdity."

I liked his article on Count Carl Gustav von Rosen... he underplays how the civillian airplanes the Count refitted with missile batteries to fight a bushwar in Africa were originally designed as military vehicles, but besides that it's an amazing story. (Here's another link with some photos.)

My car alarm wasn't engaging for a long while. But I didn't get it fixed, because I could still unlock the car with the remote.

The keyless entry is why I got the remote actually... to, as I explained to my friend Jim, "avoid accidentally 'keying' my own car. Again." What amused Jim was the "again".

So last weekend I was helping EB on the house overhaul project and we made a run to Home Depot. I get in the car, feel a jolt of static electricity, and lo and behold, the car alarm is returned to life! Loud life. Loud, squalling, probably not the best way to be a good neighbor at 8 in the morning life. And nothing on the remote will make it shut up.

After several harrowing minutes, we finally disarm the alarm by a combination of pressing this little interior reset switch I found, jamming on the remote button, and the ancient technique of "sitting there and hoping the problem fixes itself" which, surprisingly, it kind of does. And now it's working fine, giving me those reassuring little electronic chirps. (In my head, 1 chirp = "locked!", 2 chirps = "Okay (I'll let you in)".)

Cartoon of the Moment

--Scott Meyer, from Basic Instructions, "your all-inclusive guide to a life well-lived."

I'm up in Rockport helping EB again, so this is just a placeholder, an assurance that my "daily" humanistic/spiritual ritual will get done.

Maybe doing articles in advance is cheating in that regard, and really I'm just weirdly obsessed about not missing a day.

FX Suit of the Moment

I was happy to see that this "goomba" from the Super Mario Brothers movie just snuck into the Carboard Monocle's Top 20 FX Suit list. As they say
Okay, so we may catch some flak for having this on the list. Though the head sculpt and the animatronics in the face are impressive, the overall design of the creature left the average viewer wanting more. Not to mention the disappointed Mario traditionalists that wanted it to actually look like a Goomba from the game. All that aside, there was something about these that stuck with me. They were big dumb oafs, and watching a pack of these bump into each other and sway to music is just plain funny.
The goombas were the 3rd best thing in that movie, right after the little windup Bob-Oms (scroll to the bottom) and Samanth Mathis' purple-to-white dress I kisrael'd about before.

Also, the soundtrack was decent, despite of or because using US3's "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)", like every other movie made in 1993-1994.

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Another Sunday on EB's home refurbishment project in Rockport. This day entailed packing lots of chairs into those transportable storage containers (a lockable shed-like box up with stuff, then the storage company carries it away to a nice climate-controlled place for the interim.)

EvilB working away in the chair stockpile
And by lots of chairs, I mean lots of chairs, some in various states of disrepair (including a few missing their wicker seats, which I consider the "assless chaps" of chairdom), but each now wrapped in those cheap furniture blankets you can buy at U-Haul.

Why his folks' place has quite so many chairs was never quite clear. "Maybe I had a shortage of chairs growing up," joked his mom.

Sure, we may scoff now, but it's clear that this storage container will be their key to weathering the upcoming Great Chair Famine of 2012.

Sounds of the Moment
Boingboing posted some fascinating Audio Illusions. The first link, Shepard's ascending tones, is especially amazing... the tones definately seem to be getting higher and higher, but if you press "play" as it soon as it ends you realize you're back where you started! It's about as exact an aural equivalent of Escher's Ascending and Descending as you could hope for.

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