Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Don't Even Get Me Started on the Rauschpfeife

They had a new interview with They Might Be Giants on NPR's Fresh Air. They didn't give out the dial-a-song number like they did in the very excellent episode of This American Life that was about stories that only happened because of the telephone. I think TMBG no longer has anything at the other end of the line. They still do update regularly.

Anyway, they mentioned the Sarrusophone. Check this out: Yahoo Groups: Sarrusophone exists. Despite colonization attempts, the internet is still a wild & wooly place.

Also searching on the net while listening to the interview, I found a movie from 1971 that TMBG probably stole their name from. Sarah Vowell says she wrote liner notes for their recent "best of" CD, and I found this directory on ibiblio of every album review on the public radio programs on WUNC for most of the 1990's.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Hereby Founded is the Organization to be Known as PSHAW

Since it's erev shabat, I want to mention I have a book that translates part of this mishnah from "Ethics of the Fathers" as "at seventy: a hoary head". The minshah describes stages and the progress of life in simple terms. I think the link above at does it justice. I couldn't find any links to websites I liked that translated השיבה (or השיבה if your browser isn't doing UTF-8) as "the hoary head", though.

PSHAW - a splinter proscriptivist group of the Militant Grammarians of Massachusets.

Buy on the Rumor, Sell on the News

I heard about this fake radar blip on the radio. I am certainly glad to hear that no one's life was in danger. But what struck me as exemplifying the bizarreness of the world we live in was that the U.S. stock and commodities markets, as well as the British and Brazilian markets, took a noticeable dip before returning to more or less their previous levels once the blip turned out to be nothing.

I wonder if the title quote to this post has an identifiable origin. The Motley Fool weighed in but they only comment on whether the adage is worth its salt and not where it came from. Searching Google shows that "fact" is a common substitution for "news" and often both instances of "on" are elided. Here is someone who agrees with the sentiment, but gets the original adage backwards.

Nothing in Bartlett's. This will mean a trip to pester my local librarian. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

One for 'Yes', Two for 'No'

I was visiting a cousin of mine a few weeks back. Beth and her hubby Bob have two kids now, and older than both kids combined is their dog, a black lab. (Should that be capitalized? It is, after all, short for "black Labrador Retriever". And they're really from Newfoundland not Labrador, apparently.)

It was a fun Sunday afternoon. Little Evan was a very cute and happy baby. He would smile a huge grin whenever someone paid him attention and smiled. He only cried when he got stuck while crawling around. Leah, I remember, cried a lot when she was that age.

Playing along with Leah with her toys was interesting though. She's three, IIRC, and I thought the border around what was allowed while playing "make-believe". For example, she had a little Fisher-Price plastic person that she had named after one of the Madeline characters. Leah said he was going to the park, and then walked him over to an end table that had a lamp on it. She said, "He's in a swing," and moved him back and forth under one of the lamp's overhanging fiddly bits. "It's an imaginary swing." See, she was very careful to keep the imaginary world whole: the little people made side-to-side movements as if they were walking even though she was carrying them through mid-air in her hands; she never stopped to clarify that the lamp was the park's jungle gym and swingset. But she's willing to break with the separation to explain to the audience what she thinks might be a non-obvious representation.

Later, she wanted me to play with stuffed animals with her. I think the parents were grateful - Mom Beth I think changed brother Evan's diaper and Dad Bob lied down reading something on the couch. I think Beth said that it was almost time for bed and Leah would have to put away her toys soon. So the little people and animals were at another imaginary playground, and I had one of the stuffed creatures look up at out the bedroom window and comment that it was getting dark and they had to go back. That wasn't allowed; Leah explained to me that it was day in the pretend world.


At a few points in the day Leah would say, in preparing to answer a question "If I do this it means yes. If I do this it means no." and she'd hit the palm and the backside of her hand. Or turn one eight to the left and back then turn to the right and back. Beth said she had been doing that a lot lately, though they weren't clear as to why. I said, "Well, she's understanding the inherent arbitrariness of human language. She's figuring out it's a representational medium, and she's free to assign other representations so long as all parties to the communication understand the representation beforehand." Beth and Bob thought that was funny.


I think I think about this stuff too much.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Feed Me!

Still working out the rss/xml feed issues.

I'm still trying to hold out hope for my feed at, which I like because it displays a summary in my SharpReader window instead of just trying to take me directly to the site. My on-the-fly feed from is more reliable though. The Blogstreet server looks to be down at the moment. The locust keeps on going.

I was also thinking of changing comment systems, but I wouldn't want to if I couldn't export my current stuff and reimport it. It's more or less impossible with Blogger to keep the old comments on the old posts and whatnot - I could do it if I edited each post by hand.

I do want to post a list of feeds I have subscribed to in my aggregator. I can't even remember how I found some of them (like the Homestar Runner feed).

As Seen on Kuro5hin

Ah, I am now returning to form. After bugging a few friends verbally with inane stories, I reminded myself my goal for this blog in the first place: get all my stories and relatively pointless tidbits out in the open so I don't feel the need to harangue my friends about them. And with that in mind, I thought this was funny:

And the contents of those posts are even more amusing.

Monday, November 17, 2003


After I saw Cat & Girl weighing in on hipsters, I find someone's blog entry about a hipster quiz. I am happy not to qualify, though I am dangerously close at 60%. Even though Sarah Vowell rules, I am apparently disqualified because "All Hipsters love Noam Chomsky," and I have no desire for a scooter. Also my facial hair is disqualified because it's not a fashion statement so much as a manifestation of my laziness.

Also the hoodie square needs to be changed on Hipster Bingo, since I just saw the same commercial five times in one hour yesterday for Old Navy hoodies.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

If It's in the Comics, It Must Be True!

Is Matt at Mac Hall gunning for A. O. Scott's job?

I caught a matinee of Matrix Revolutions the other day. Personally, I think it's a cinematic landmark, as this film is the first time someone has managed to construct a narrative entirely out of plot holes.

sam at explodingdog warns us of overintelligent insects!! (I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.)

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Roland stuns us with universal truth, the mathematical equation for funny itself!!!

The sum from N to infinity of N of chicken equals Z prime of chicken.

I'm listening to the "Yanqui U.X.O." album from Godspeed
You Black Emperor!
, but I'm only mentioning that so I can cram more exclamation points into this post.
!! !!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Dude, way to skijor

I was looking into buying skis as a gift and stumbled upon some interesting sites.

First, if you want to find trails, Trailsouce was recommended by Google. Or maybe I found it through Anyway, you can find a list of cross-country trails in New York, say, and they also have international listings, like for Argentina (also for hiking, which I may have to check out).

Then there was the International Gay & Lesbian Snowsports Association. I don't understand the reasoning. I wouldn't be interested in an "International Heterosexual Snowsports Association", even after switching 'Snowsport' with an activity I actually participate in. (To be fair, a truer equivalent might be a "Singles Skiing Club" or somesuch.)

On a straighter note, I found Skijoring. There's something that strikes me as nifty about the idea of sled-dogging without the sled (you're on skis). While two-dog team is evidently the standard for racing, I like the "just a man and his dog" mentality.

Cover Me

I want to be in a band. We'll do covers. Yes, .Pete, like Me First and the Gimmie Gimmmies, but instead of doing everything punk, we'll just do the most incongruous genre for the song possible. We'll have to be careful, though: I hear all the truly hip people are on strike.

Sunday I was thinking about a joke that someone attributed to George Burns, I think, about the cigar he was smoking. Something like "It's a Lawrence Welk.[...] It's a piece of crap with a band around it." And so naturally that led to me thinking about Mairzy Doats. And the next thing I know, I'm planning out a death metal cover of the song. There's a bit of trickiness with the "kiddley divey" part not fitting right rhythmically with normal death metal, but I think I've got that figured out. I'm a keyboardist type and know next to nothing about playing electric guitar, so I'm not entirely sure of the chords, but if I had the right guitar I'm pretty sure I could work it out.

I heard the Alien Ant Farm cover of Smooth Criminal later in the day. When I first heard that one, I thought they should go all the way with that one and do it totally death metal or totally punk. Sure, they wouldn't have been one-hit wonders, but I'm the kind of guy who would willing give up fame for skillful, finely-crafted contrariness (maybe not money, but the fame can definitely go). Now I realize that they had no hope - they needed better source material.

And then, as I was heading home for the evening, I heard three modern tangos by Astor Piazzolla, and the last one, possibly La Cumparsita, sounded amazingly like a hybrid cover of the Mission:Impossible theme and the James Bond Theme played by two people on classical guitars. I think the lady said it was two; it sounded like four.

Afterward: I had no idea before looking it up right now that the M:I theme was written by Lalo Schifrin, who also did the score for Enter the Dragon. I probably recognize his name from hearing someone talk one of the songs on this list.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I May be Absent Minded

But at least I've never done this. I mean, when I lock my self out I always have a recourse. It's been, what, two months now? I can imagine one of those signs:

Days since last lock-out:  45

Together I can do it!

Monday, November 03, 2003

Down to Monkey Business

I was linked to at Monkey Watch, which made me feel I should do something to justify my monkey nickname. (Like all good nicknames, it was given to me by someone else as a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing.)

And then I heard Earth & Sky on the radio today. You can find here a transcript as well as a link to a realaudio stream. Earth & Sky's segments are very short (two minutes, perhaps), but are always interesting tidbits.

About the monkeys: for years, Sally Boysen has been trying to get chimps to count and understand English for years. From the Earth and Sky transcript (w/added punctuation):

I heard the chimps vocalizing [as] someone was giving them dinner. And I said out loud, for some reason, "Oh, they must be having grapes," followed by a reply to myself, "Oh, now how did I know that? "

After all this time of teaching chimps our langauges, she realized we can learn theirs and went proved they can recognize their own, too.

Being a scientist is cool.