Thursday, February 26, 2004

Words, words, words

First (and you can ignore the rest of the post if you want): Holy friggin' crap. I actually won. Go me!

Nitpicky stuff: I keep on mispronouncing depreciated as deprecated. The first is from Latin for 'price', the second from 'pray'. The computer geek that I am, when I mean to say deprecated, I don't mean it quite as defined in the dictionary, but more like "obsolete and recommended against" with "soon to be removed in a future version" implied.

Third: I heard two people mistake amenable and amendable recently. I think both meant amenable in the second, "willing to change" sense. Amendable means you can make changes, but doesn't imply whether anyone would like it. Amendable is most commonly used for text (contracts, documents, etc.) and so can substitute for emend, or it can mean a change that improves (c.f. "make amends").

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

And I just finished reading "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", too.

Dwane was ranting about HOV lanes and the followed up with a link to a Cato Institute article about combination high-occupancy/toll-paying lanes.

Ah, the Cato Institute. It's plans like this that made me think I was a libertarian for a year.

What bothers me are the political talk shows where the host will bring out pundits and introduce them based on the think tank they come from without giving any more credentials. Think tanks names are then like secret society code names. When you know the code it's easy to predict which organization will take which stance. The publicized rationalizations are the fun side-show: Come see the conservative co-opt green standpoints! Watch pro-labor reps swear it's for the good of the shareholders!

H. Monkey rolls his eyes.



[ edited at 10:10 Feb. 24 ]

Friday, February 20, 2004

Simplicity of Dark

I wrote that I don't enjoy making prank calls, and it reminds me of talking to Frank about Knights of the Old Republic, a game which lets you can play a Jedi, for good or ill.

So I said, "Playing the Dark Side is easy and hard. I mean, knowing which choices to make easier, but it's so hard to actually do it." I think Frank words were, "What are you talking about?"

Take something from the near beginning of the game for example: you open an abandoned apartment's door, and there's a generic-looking woman hiding there. She tells you she slapped some guy in a bar who made advances and wouldn't take "no" for an answer. She drew some blood when she hit him. He's part of the crime syndicate. He lied to say she attacked him unprovoked and put a bounty on her head so he wouldn't loose face. You can choose to say, "You know, maybe I'll just kill you and take that bounty for myself." If you do, your fellow soldier points out that, sure we could use a little money, but killing some innocent woman is not the way to do it. Cpt. Carth's a bit whiney and annoying, but he has a point. I mean, it's just so wrong.

Just to be clear, none of these people are real. It's all just spots of glowing screen and vibrating speaker diaphragms. These people only move and make sounds because of inexorable processes directed by patterns of millions of tiny differences on magnetic plates no bigger than my hand that spin inside my computer, patterns designed by people I have never met. I know this.

Killing the woman is still hard.


Thursday, February 19, 2004

100 years of...

Can you blame my mom liking her job? They'll have an excess of buttons for Ted Geisel's 100th birthday on Tuesday, March 2nd, so she wrote me asking if I would like one. When I wrote back, I couldn't help myself:


A Seussical button would I like to see
That says "Go read books! Avoid the T.V.!"
Or has Cindy Lou Who, so cute and so wee,
With Yertle and Horton and a big bumblebee.

Please do send it by any which way,
By snore-fax or speed-snail or railcar relay.
I'll wear it one Tuesday so people may say,
"My goodness, what news! It's Seuss's birthday."

I'll hang it like fruit of a truffula tree
On my favorite long-sleeved striped red and white tee.
Oh a Seussical button I would much like to see
So long as it's soon. I won't wait 'till March 3.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Pondering Monkeys

I pondered, and I finally thought of something for a set of Most Emailed photos captions. Yay!

It's pretty simple - each weekday morning, Mort takes three images of whatever Yahoo has listed on their most emailed photos page and tries to make a caption linking them, and then the regulars try to do him one better.

But just so you know, I am not the original Pondering Monkey.

Friction/Burns the butter back to milk

I've got that Soul Coughing song, "I've Got To Get Right With This", where the lyrics include a phone number. I looked up the number.

I don't feel so bad cold-calling a business. And I didn't want to mess with them or otherwise waste their time; I just wanted to see if they're who the phone book says they are. Maybe I'll want to actually do business with them. And the person on the other end is almost always paid to pick up the phone anyway. So I called a few months ago, and a lady answered, "Hello. [Garbled]," and I said, "Excuse me?"

She garbled her garble again.
"I'm sorry. Wrong number." I hung up.

This happens to me almost every time I call a number where I don't expect how the person on the other end answers the phone. It reminds me of speech recognition software on a Mac I saw in 1995 where it worked only if what you said was one of a pre-made list of choices (to its credit that list was easy for the user to modify). Even if I suspect they're speaking English, which I'm positive this lady was, I just can't figure out the name said. If I accidentally call, to make something up, "The law firm of Samuel Hugh, Thomas Luis, and Sarah Dewey", the receptionist could say "Hello. Huey, Looey, Dewey; can I help you?" I'll just hear, "Helfosihefyouledhwdycnhpeheeou?"

Last month I was at out drinking with friends and friends of friends - about seven total. Granted, two beers didn't help, but I'm sure I was the only one who had to give up on figuring out half the conversation. Two people left, alcohol got metabolized, and then I had an easier time.

It's not my hearing - I can sometimes hear that a muted TV is on in the next room because of the noise the CRT makes. It must be that bit in the brain that turns the sound to words. I think the bit of the brain that goes from words to sound needs work, too. People complain that I mumble.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

"Dreaming her dreamy little dreams"

A Monty Python quote is good title for dreams I had when I fell asleep listening to the BBC World Service. I can't find my "All the Words" books to figure out which episode it came from, though.

And I know, shamisen aren't Chinese, but you try telling my subconscious that.

Where was I? Oh right, fell asleep listening to BBC news...

I had a dream I was playing a stereotypical Final Fantasy knock-off with GBA-quality graphics, but the world was confusing. It was some planet with two layers - a whole maze like arrangement of earth floating a mile above normal ground. I couldn't keep track of where everything was, which made it really hard to play the game.

An apartment-sized set of rooms with clean white walls is part of a therapeutic experiment for patients with limited mobility. Caregivers can move some doorway-sized white walls of this opaque fiberglass-like material near to the patients, and these panels take paints and pencils as well as paper. It's a creative outlet for those who can move their hands and wrists but can't sit up. A set of these walls are assembled so that they look like a whitewashed bus stop enclosure on wheels, and there I am, sitting on a bench inside them, trying map out in acrylic paints this stupid game's twisty landmasses so I don't lose my place. I'm using a lot of green.

* * * *


I'm touring the world with two BBC reporters, a man and a woman. I'm along for the ride as they track down their "human interest" stories. I can't recall the first countries we went to.

In China we met the Party chairman in what maybe once was a temple room. Maybe we were in the Forbidden City. To the chairman's back was an ornately decorated wall with filigrees and small bells and places to put lit incense sticks. The floor was padded and covered in red silk. The chairman sat on a raised cushion and held a white acoustic folk guitar. The fret board was painted white, the back was painted white; the whole thing was except for the wire strings, the gilded frets and the steel tuning pegs. He played the guitar and it sounded like a shamisen.

My view panned around, turning 180 degrees, so that I saw his only audience member. The chairman's nine-year-old niece sat on the silk floor, listening attentively. But the two BBC reporters were kneeling down towards the back of the room. And behind the reporters sat two actors from MAD TV in character as annoying husband and wife tourists who wouldn't shut up. The woman from MAD TV actually reached forward and strummed the guitar near the base of the frets so that it played a western-style chord. The chairman was incensed, but suddenly Ben Stiller walked into the room, singing a song that poked fun at himself that our Chinese bus driver made up. The chairmen and the comedians from MAD TV joined in. I think there were cameras rolling and it was all staged, to be aired later on FOX™.

* * * *

Then we went to India, the reporters and I. We were at a resort beach with a half km of yellow sand leading up to the ocean; a kind of beach I don't think exists in India. I had to ask twice which hotel we were staying at ("The fifth one from the end"). It wasn't so much a hotel as a themed bed and breakfast, a marriage-themed bed and breakfast designed for post-wedding parties. There was a grand sloped entranceway shaped like a wedding cake, and a master of ceremonies who announced everyone who walked up the entrance ramp. Everyone looked Hollywood-beautiful, but I don't, so I didn't get a very good intro when I walked in - the MC just said I was smart and witty or something. I was also the only one for whom the entranceway wasn't fake but actually made of cake. I kept sinking down in it as I tried to scramble up into the hotel, and got icing all over my tux lapels. My only consolation was an unavoidable rear view of the shapely BBC reporter as she walked in front of me.

I sat down on a bench on the sea-facing upstairs balcony to admire the bright, sunny day. A middle-aged local with a very bushy but well-trimmed, curly beard and a head of hair to match sat down next to me after coming back from what was clearly not his first trip to the cash bar. He vaguely resembled a rabbi I once knew. He also vaguely resembled Saddam Hussein. He leaned over to confide in me, "India, you know, wouldn't mind going in to space if it has to." I thought about this. I said, "You know, I wouldn't mind going in to space, either."

Fade to: midday in a nearby city. A man who looks like Kurt Russell walks down a wide, empty cobbled street in a nice neighborhood in the heart of the city. The monsoons have started, but nobody acts as if they mind getting drenched. Several Indian men in dark suits pour out of a limo as it peels into view. These gangsters each have pistols, and as they surround the white guy, they aim for his chest. Their unarmed target raises his left arm and points out his index finger like his hand is a gun, too. He aims at a black wrought-iron fence in front of one of the well-architected stone townhouses and "fires". The fence gate bursts into blue flame despite the rain, and it bends and warps until the top rail almost reaches the ground. As the fire goes out, a hooked fishing line from above lowers to catch on the tiny circle of burnished metal on a twine necklace around the accosted man's throat. The hook snags a bit of skin and draws blood as it's raised up and tugs at the necklace. The protagonist points his hand again, upwards this time. The hook and line burn up, all the way up to a fishing rod held out a third-floor window by an unseen hand. He then runs down the street, turns, and escapes into traffic. The leader of the group that tried to kidnap him, the only person at the scene with an umbrella, steps out of the car. "He can not handle the Soul of India," the leader says. "He must be stopped."






Monday, February 16, 2004

Friday, February 13, 2004

Easily amused

Today Matt and I were laughing about us listening to a voice mail message of us listening to a voice mail message of two minutes of Matt and Spiney and I while playing Quake that was accidentally recorded on my voice mail.

And then I get all disappointed after actually seeing the same picture and reading that it's in Miami and in So. Cal (simultaneously) that Pho Shizzle is fake.
At least this is real, and in Vancouver if you want to check.

I have not achieved a higher level of consciousness today.

Well, there's always tomorrow.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Littlest Meme

I saw the L'il GnR site today, and emailed the link to a friend who I know doesn't read this blog or check MetaFilter regularly, with the subject "The Littlest Axl..."

Now that's an odd phrase. And, as a native English speaker, "littlest" looks unnatural. I thought I taken to it after seeing "the littlest ninja", but I most have been thinking of Ninjai: The Little Ninja. Though someone else thought of a "Littlest Ninja". He's so adorable when he flips out and kills the whole town.

There was a Canadian TV show that started in 1979 called The Littlest Hobo, based on a 1958 B&W movie of the same name. It ran for six years, too. The only constant recurring character was the German shepherd.

The "the littlest foo" phrasing probably gained popularity after the Shirley Temple movie, The Littlest Rebel, based on a play of the same name that had opened on Broadway over 82 years ago today, and written by one Edward Peple. "Rebel" as in Southern Confederacy. Can't you hear it know? "Aw, please Mr. Lincoln..."

No really, there's actually a point in the movie where she talks to the then-President. Also, it has Mr. Bojangles. I'm guessing he plays a slave. I know, it's a long shot.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Monkey In, Monkey Out

I've been looking at the site meter stuff, and a lot of people that come to this site are looking for Chinese Year of the Monkey info. Since it's scrolled off the front page, I thought I'd put a link to my uneducated ramblings about writing "Year of the Monkey" in Japanese and Chinese. I'll just keep this floating at the top. Never mind. Google is good with the indexing so that the links now go to the archive. Cool.

Someone came here looking for "year of the monkey bible", which bothers me because it's mixing religious metaphors. To me, the bible is very iconoclastic in addition to being monotheistic, and the beliefs behind Chinese Zodiac is this incompatible animist tradition. I'm amused that this site that mentions both was ripped off here and here.

The best, though, is whoever typed in to Google What happens to people who were born on the monkey if its the year of the monkey. It's not like Google doesn't have a help page. There's a link for help on the front page and a link labeled "Search Tips" on every results page.

If you see I made a mistake in my original post, and I probably did, please send me an email.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Snow, Routine

Man, I had a whole schedule Sunday and everything. And stuck to it. And had a good time at a Super Bowl party (thanks, Jessi).

I cleaned and threw a lot of stuff out Sunday, three tall garbage bags full. I carried them the .2 mi to the dumpster, and Monday my shoulders were sore. I need to get back to working out more often.

I ran, too. It wasn't as cold and the sidewalks were all very clear around where I live and quite a ways up and down the street, too. A mile around the corner, I was just stomping through snow. Though it looked cool when I passed by this house that sits back from the road a bit that always has an exemplary yard. I don't think anyone actually lives there — I only know of companies and non-profits that keep their grounds that well. The yard was a pure sheet of white.

I'm sure I got a much better workout, and I wasn't slowed down too much. But there's nothing as fun as the sound of stomping through crusty snow. It has that "white noise with the bass turned up" sound. That "rending cardboard asunder" sound. The great crushing noise comes in part because snow near the top melted a bit last week and refroze icier, and you break it with every step.

So I run by this house, and the sun is low and shining off this refrozen sheet sitting over a foot of snow.

It was beautiful, like a giant mass of scalded marshmallow fluff.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Everything I Know I Learned Listening to Public Radio

Pete, these guys are advertising folks so maybe they are well poised to know what the industry is considering. But TV folks are bringing back Dark Shadows? I was led to believe that the original was this show with horrid production values and your standard meaningless soap opera plots. Then again, everything I know about Dark Shadows comes from listening to one episode of This American Life, my favorite radio show which the local radio station now plays on Saturday afternoons, the bastards. (Thank goodness for the free audio feeds. Ahhhh...)

But Charlie's Angels? Frankenstein? Maybe there's nothing new under the sun but the networks aren't even trying. Then again, another radio show had a whole Nothing New episode recently, talking about sampling music, economies of recycling, cooking with leftovers...



מַהשֶּׁהָיָה, הוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה, וּמַהשֶּׁנַּעֲשָׂה, הוּא שֶׁיֵּעָשֶׂה וְאֵין כָּלחָדָשׁ, תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶשׁ
—קהלת א:ט

I can't find a better translation then the King James:
"The thing that hath been, it [is that] which shall be; and that which is done [is] that which shall be done: and [there is] no new [thing] under the sun."
I have an official Conservative Judaism siddur that has Kohelet excerpts, but all their translations are so wishy-washy.

(Unicode text from here)