Saturday, April 30, 2005

Two Kinds of People

Ran across this line somewhere out there, I forget just where:

"There are two kinds of people in the world: myself, and everyone else."

Friday, April 29, 2005

A Guy's Meat Pie Recipe

Let it be known, I am not a cook. I am a guy who lives alone in a house way out in the middle of the countryside. Were it not for the microwave in my kitchen, and restaurants within driving distance, I would probably starve to death in short order.

Nonetheless, I do carry a few recipes around in my head. One is a recipe for meat pie: I think I got it out of The Old Farmer's Almanac, though looking through my collection of old almanacs in the magazine rack in my bathroom, I can't find any meat pie recipes. Anyhow, yesterday for the first time in many years, I baked a meat pie.

You start with the pie crust. I took three cups of flour, mixed in maybe a teaspoonful of salt, then stirred in a cup and a half of shortening with a fork until mixed. Add in three-quarters of a cup of water, and once again stir until mixed.

Now take one of them big ten-inch pie tins, and sort of press and poke the pie crust stuff into place to make the bottom of the crust. There may be an easier way to do this, such as with a rolling pin, but I've only got one rolling pin and it's an antique, for show only and not for use.

Then take a leek (sort of like a green onion, but a lot bigger), and chop the white stem part of it into disks. (Rooty piece at the bottom, and loose green shoots at the top, should be discarded.) Chop each disk in half, and crumble the resulting half-moonish dealies into the pie pan. (Leeks are hard to find at supermarkets in this area, it was finding a leek that really inspired me to get going on this pie.)

Likewise take two medium to large carrots, chop them into disks, add to pie. Take one good sized potato, peel, discard peelings, chop the rest of the potato into dice-sized chunks, add to pie.

Now get a quart-sized vacuum-sealed Mason jar full of venison out of your cupboard. If, like me, you live out in the countryside but are not a hunter yourself, don't worry, you'll have neighbors who hunt, so you'll have a quart jar of venison in your cupboard. The venison should be cut up into cubes. Pray it doesn't have any prions in it, and add it to the pie.

Next add salt and pepper to taste. Then boil up a packet of instant brown gravy on the stove, and pour it over the pie ingredients. Finally press down the rest of the pie crust over the top of everything. (The convex side of a tablespoon may be helpful here, if the dough insists on sticking to your fingers. I used to have a wooden spoon, but I don't know where it's gone to.)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lay down a round pizza pan on an oven rack, covered with tinfoil so the pie doesn't leak down through the holes in the pizza pan and start a fire in the oven. Put pie in oven, and let it bake for 35 to 45 minutes. (I did get the temperature and time out of a cookbook, it's been so long since I baked a pie that I forgot.) When pie is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool down some.

Your meat pie will go down well with a couple of bottles of cold beer. (I prefer Leinenkugel's or Point Special.)

Serves one.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


On Accidental Verbosity, Deb muses on body weight and longevity, and "the entirely obvious fact that one doesn't have to be a marathon runner to live to a reasonably old age."

Acidman is back and blogging again. Naw, I didn't really think he'd stay gone for long... that just wouldn't be his style. And believe me, that man's got style! Welcome back, Rob!

Caltechgirl ponders people who are unable to show compassion and simple human decency toward those on the other side of the ideological fence.

Zombyboy wonders how it is that, the more we've got access to modern health care, the sicker we feel. (Yeah, and you wondered why I avoid doctors like the plague...)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Gear: Fountain Pen and Mechanical Pencil

fountain pen and mechanical pencil
I've written in here before about my "gear"— impractical little items that I pick up because they're cool. Because they add to the quality of my life. Call them "hyacinths for the soul." Impractical little items, or in this case not so impractical: I get a lot of use out of my fountain pen and mechanical pencil.

I used to use a fountain pen way back when, junior high and high school and on up into my early twenties. The fountain pens I got in those days were some dreadful things picked up for probably 59¢ in a dimestore. Still, they were a cut above your typical Bic ballpoint.

Then I drifted away from fountain pens until about eight or ten years ago, when I ran across this Rotring fountain pen in a Levenger catalogue. Black finish. Machined from a chunk of solid brass. Six-sided barrel, so it won't roll off your desk. Knurled grip. I got it with a medium nib— nib size, as you see, can be indicated with that twist-o-indicator at the top of the cap.

This pen is so sturdy that you could run over it with your car and it would have nary a scratch on it. (Though, as they say, "Don't try this at home.")

I also got a matching black-coated knurled solid brass mechanical pencil, which takes 0.7 millimeter leads. Push the button on top to advance the lead. Twist-o-indicator at the top, to indicate the hardness of the lead. It's another triumph of German engineering, and it looks like it, too.

Let's face it: ballpoints are cheap, ballpoints are convenient, but the aesthetic quality of something written with a ballpoint can't even begin to compare to the beauty of a page written with a fountain pen. Fountain-penned writing just plain looks better, it has character, and the ink flows onto the page like magic.

Ballpoint pens are serviceable: they represent the triumph of utility over quality. Fountain pens are serviceable and beautiful, and so is their writing— even if you've got electroencephalographic handwriting like mine.

Back in the old days, I'll admit, fountain pens could be messy to fill, and they could leak. Today's fountain pens are another story. I fill this fountain pen every three or four weeks, no problem; and I've never had any problem with it leaking. The only limitation is, it stays on my desk; but that's just because I don't want to deal with the inevitable scenario of "Hey, could you lend me your pen?", and then that's the last you ever see of it. (I can't begin to count the pens I've lost that way over the years.)

You can check out all sorts of fountain pens at Levenger or at Fahrney's Pens. Blows my mind to see how many hundreds or even thousands of dollars some of them fountain pens cost; I got mine cheap, and it'll last me a lifetime.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005


I guess I must be something of an antiquarian. Because I find myself fascinated with gopherspace.

Gopherspace, in case you hadn't heard of it, dates from the Silurian era of the Internet, back when trilobytes and nautiloids roamed the cyberseas. Check it out— gopherspace may look primitive, but it's actually rather cool.

Unfortunately, the University of Minnesota Master Gopher is no longer with us. But you can still embark into gopherspace from the Floodgap Systems' official gopher server.

Other interesting places in gopherspace include The Well, gopher://, and gopher:// Warning: some browsers, including Internet Explorer 6, are unable to access gopherspace. If you'd like to bypass this limitation, either you can get on the good side of the administrator of a caching proxy server (as I did), or else you can get into gopherspace via the Floodgap Public Gopher Proxy.


Saturday, April 23, 2005

With Stalin as Your DJ

In the April 25 issue of The Weekly Standard, I ran across a book review by Henrik Bering, which opens with the following two paragraphs:
One of the most ghoulish reminiscences of life at Stalin's court was provided by the old Polish Communist security chief Jakob Berman. He recalled late-night banquets in the Kremlin lasting till four in the morning, where exquisite food and drink— roast bear, pepper vodka, and sweet Georgian wines— were served, and where the drunken participants would dance the night away with Stalin manning the gramophone.

On one occasion, Berman had slow-waltzed with Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister. "You surely mean Mrs. Molotov," asked the interviewer, Polish journalist Teresa Toranska. "No. Mrs. Molotov was in a labor camp," Berman answered matter-of-factly, adding that in the waltz he played the part of the lady, with Molotov leading. Throughout the night, Stalin was sticking to his DJ duties, while carefully watching everybody. When asked if they enjoyed themselves, Berman gave a qualified assent: "Yes, it was pleasant," he said, "but with an inner tension."
I'll bet. Smile while you're dancing, or your DJ might wish you into the cornfield...


Friday, April 22, 2005

Green Is Unfurling

Here in the northeastern corner of Iowa, the trees have been budding these past few weeks. And now this week, the trees have been starting to leaf out— some of them a bit earlier, some of them a bit slower. Here's the big tree out in my back yard, wearing what at this stage looks like a corona of green:

Green Is Unfurling
Here's a closer view of that same tree; in a few weeks, you won't be able to see the branches for the leaves:

Green Is Unfurling
And here's a shot of the unfurling new leaves on one of the maple trees out in my front yard. The maples are a bit further along, though they're not fully leafed out yet. If you look carefully, you can also see the whirlycopters:

Green Is Unfurling


Lucy, Thank You!

You are just too kind, and I'm going to blush a bright purple!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Which Browser Do You Use?

I'm fascinated to see from my blog stats that only about four out of every seven of my visitors use Internet Explorer.

To be more precise, we're talking 57.0% Internet Explorer; 31.3% Gecko-based browsers; 7.2% Opera; 3.1% other browsers; and 1.4% older versions of Netscape. Or if you want a more detailed breakdown:

51.9%.... Internet Explorer 6
20.5%.... Firefox 1.x
 7.0%.... Opera 7
 6.2%.... Firefox 0.x
 3.0%.... Mozilla 1.x
 2.8%.... Internet Explorer 5
 2.8%.... Safari
 2.1%.... AOL 9
 1.6%.... Netscape 7
 1.1%.... Netscape 4
 0.3%.... Netscape 3
 0.3%.... Konqueror
 0.1%.... Opera 8

And Opera 6, AOL 8, Other/Unknown, AOL 6, and AOL 5, less than 0.1% each.

Not exactly typical of Internet users as a whole, where Internet Explorer use just recently dropped below 90% for the first time in years.

While we're at it, operating systems used by my visitors are Windows, 89.6%; Linux, 4.5%; Mac OS X, 3.5%; Other/Unknown, 1.4%; Other Macintosh, 0.7%; SunOS, 0.15%; and a single user of FreeBSD. Of course, XP accounts for about three-quarters of the Windows users, with most of the remainder evenly divided between Windows 2000 and Windows 98.

Standard Disclaimer: I myself am a long-time Opera user, and am running under Linux— Mandrake 10.1, to be precise.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Papam

I see a new Pope has been elected. No word yet on who he is, but they ought to be announcing it soon.

11:53 AM: Well, that was quick. It's Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger— more or less who I expected. I know some of my more liberal Catholic friends will be disappointed; though, sometimes mellow and sometimes cantankerous Presbyterian that I am, I feel a resonance with anyone who says the following:
"We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires," said Ratzinger, 78, who has been the Vatican's chief overseer of doctrine since 1981.

"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism," he said, making clear that he disagrees with that view.
Sounds to me like my long-standing "Burgess's Law": "Relativism is the intellectual equivalent of disarming you through gun control: for when absolutes are outlawed, only relativists will have absolutes."

12:04 PM: And he will go by the name of Pope Benedict XVI.


Slightly Higher in the West and South

Okay, this is a bit vague in my head, because we're talking early sixties here— maybe about 1960 or 1961. Anyhow, I remember hearing a certain brand of bicycle advertised— I think it was Schwinn, and I think it was on one of my favorite TV shows at that time, namely Captain Kangaroo— and what I remember is, the price of the bicycle was "slightly higher in the West and South."

And I believe I also remember seeing this in an advertisement in comic books at that time: Schwinn bikes were priced "slightly higher in the West and South."

I also believe I saw or heard commercials for certain other items such as refrigerators, "slightly higher in the West and South." I can't verify it for the refrigerators and such, though for Schwinn I can find corroboration.

Anyhow, I remember this line made an impression on me. And it made perfectly good sense to me.

Because, back around five years of age, I was well aware that the center of gravity in the United States lay east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon Line. As witness the fact that, until the Brooklyn Dodgers jumped to Los Angeles, every single major league baseball team was located... north of the Mason-Dixon Line (well, we won't quibble about the Baltimore Orioles or the old Washington Senators) and no further west than the western banks of the Mississippi.

It was in this northeastern quadrant of the country that the lion's share of the nation's industrial might was situated. So naturally, if you lived down South or out West— and note the "northeastocentric" phrasing of that, down South or out West— you might well have to pay a premium to have certain manufactured goods shipped all those hundreds of miles to your locale— yes, to your locale, so distant and remote from the dynamos of industry.

In fact, growing up in south central Wisconsin, in a small town up north of Madison, I was acutely aware that, in some sense, I was living at the beginning of the end of civilization, geographically speaking. Because, as I well knew even at that age, it was the East coast that had been settled first, in colonial days; and then from there settlement spread westward, though even in my day (remember, we're talking 1960 or 1961) population still trailed off as you went West.

Oh, there were plenty of people down South; but that was more agricultural and less industrial, and besides, that was "conquered territory." (Bear in mind, at the time I was born the Civil War was only about as remote from me in time as World War I is from us today.) The center of gravity was in the northeastern quadrant of the country. One vast concentration of population and industry ran down the coast from Boston to Washington; another ran across the country from Pittsburgh to Chicago.

Even at age four or five, I could picture a fairly detailed map of the United States in my head. And I knew that the population started thinning out once you got West of the Mississippi. Oh, there were still a few "real" cities as you traveled across Iowa, through Cedar Rapids and Des Moines to Omaha; or from St. Louis across Missouri to Kansas City; but things were thinning out as you went, and by the time you reached the Great Plains, you were entering upon the Empty Quarter. From there on out, it was small cities (nothing, really, by the standards of back East), small towns, lots of open space, and tumbleweeds. Lots of wilderness, lots of wide open spaces.

Once things thinned out West of the Mississippi, it was (by the standards of those of us who lived back in that northeastern quadrant) mostly wilderness, until you got out to the West Coast. On the West Coast once again, there was population density and real cities, Seattle and San Francisco and Los Angeles and whatnot. I knew some of that dated back, but in my mind a lot of it was Johnny-come-lately boomtown growth starting after World War II: you know, people settling in pink stucco houses in a suburb of LA, so they could head out in their sports car to the drive-in for a hamburger and fries (eating in your car, tray attached to driver's side window), and generally tooling around in the perpetual shirtsleeve weather, listening to pocket-size transistor radios and wearing brightly colored loose-fitting shirts and living a casual life thousands of miles from the centers of civilization, only loosely tethered to the mores of the long-settled, generations-old dour masses back East of the Mississippi.

Oh, besides the West Coast, there were some "real" cities down in Texas, though they weren't much in those days compared to what they later became; and there was the odd phenomenon of the "real" city of Denver, up in the Rockies. But basically once you got West of the Mississippi, civilization was beginning to thin out. And likewise, as you headed north from my hometown of Poynette, Wisconsin, things were beginning— just beginning— to thin out.

Civilization lay almost entirely to the South and East of us. For that great megalopolis which stretched from Pittsburgh to Chicago spent its force by the time it reached Milwaukee, 90 miles to the east of us. And 25 miles to the south of us was the city of Madison. Now if you headed to the West and North of us, the only undeniable big city left in the world was the Twin Cities, in Minnesota; except for that, things were thinning out. Oh, north and east was Green Bay, and north and west was La Crosse; but head north from my hometown of Poynette on Highway 51, and all that remained was... what? The likes of Wausau and Rhinelander? And by that time you were already in the midst of the thickening pine forests, further north now to Upper Michigan, and then the vast waters of Lake Superior; and then more northerly yet, up through the howling wilderness of Ontario, up across Hudson Bay, icebound Ellesmere Island, polar ice cap, clear on up to the North Pole.

Yes, from my hometown in Wisconsin on northward, once you got rolling, you basically had a clear shot up through the wilderness, all the way to the North Pole.

I was acutely aware of this as a young kid: I lived on the marchland edges of civilization. I could not have felt this any more sharply, had I been a youngster back in the days of the Roman Empire, living in Britain just a day's journey south of Hadrian's Wall.

To the West of me, civilization thinning out into the sagebrush and the wide open spaces. To the North of me, civilization thinning out into pines and snow and ice. And if you wanted to order a Schwinn bicycle, and you lived far from the factories and steel forges of the civilized world... just remember, prices are "slightly higher in the West and South."

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Friday, April 15, 2005

The Libertarian Family: A Precautionary Tale

Mr. Libertarian sat at the dinner table, along with Mrs. Libertarian and the Young Libertarian. They were finishing a pleasant meal, and Mrs. Libertarian said to her husband, "Would you like some more coffee?"

"Yes, please; as long as it is 'free trade' coffee and not 'fair trade' coffee; or, worse yet, coffee produced under the conditions of a socialist economy." Mr. Libertarian craned his neck and squinted at the jar of instant coffee over on the kitchen counter, as if essaying to read the fine print on the label from across the room. But his astigmatism defeated him.

"Sugar or cream?"

"Me? Frankly, I'm an atheist."

The Young Libertarian interrupted: "Can I go out and play now?"

"Not until you finish your meal," said his mother.

"Oh!" pouted the Young Libertarian. "You and Papa don't love me!"

"Of course it is in our rational self-interest to love you," replied Mrs. Libertarian. "You see, you are the only hope we have for propagating our genetic material."

"And," added Mr. Libertarian with a self-satisfied nod, "caring for you while you are young and unable to fend for yourself is a rationally maximized strategy for inducing you to reciprocate, and care for us when we are old and unable to fend for ourselves. It's remarkably rational, under a mutual cost-benefit analysis."

"But I don't like brussel sprouts!" wailed the Young Libertarian.

"Now, now," said Mrs. Libertarian, "brussel sprouts (Brassica oleracea) are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, calcium, sulfur, and vitamin A."

"Indeed," said Mr. Libertarian, "a 100 gram serving of brussel sprouts contains 60 milligrams of vitamin C. And in a peer-reviewed double-blind scientific study, brussel sprouts have been shown to help provide significant protection from mutagenic oxidative DNA damage."

"So you see," said the young boy's mother, "it is in your rational self-interest to eat your brussel sprouts. Why, we could give you fifty good reasons to eat your brussel sprouts!"

"But I HATE brussel sprouts!" shrieked the Young Libertarian. "I should be free to make my own choices and decisions on what I eat! Everyone should be free to enjoy maximal individual liberty consistent with the same maximal individual liberty for others!"

"Well, you see," said Mr. Libertarian, with a lofty air, "you have fallen into a logical fallacy. There is no self-contradiction in asserting that your mother and I may curtail your individual liberty at least so far as to tell you to eat your brussel sprouts. For you are still young and rather irrational in your thought processes, therefore it has been the general agreement in society to delegate to parents the authority to make informed and rational decisions on behalf of their offspring, until such time as the offspring are mature enough to make rational decisions on their own." When he had finished saying this, Mr. Libertarian had to pause for a few moments, for he was quite out of breath.

After dinner, the Young Libertarian went out to play, and Mr. and Mrs. Libertarian decided to go for a stroll in the back yard.

Suddenly the Young Libertarian came dashing up to his parents. "Mama! Papa! Look, the house is on fire!"

"I can see the empirical evidence for myself," said the father.

"Oh," said the mother, "don't you think we ought to call the fire department?"

At this, Mr. Libertarian drew himself up to his full height, and brushed a stray hair from the front of his vest. "I have always firmly maintained that fire departments should be privatized."

"But Frank!" cried Mrs. Libertarian, "Our house is burning down!"

"No," demurred Mr. Libertarian, "I will not feed at the public trough, or rely upon inefficient, non-free-market solutions. Plus, no one has ever with justification accused me of hypocrisy or logical self-contradiction."

However, his wife prevailed upon him at last. And so the next day the headlines of the local newspaper read: "House Ablaze: Libertarian called fire department reluctantly."

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Happiness, sadness, anger, fear, annoyed [sic], etc. You can "make a request" for an emotion for Eric to convey, and he will add it to his "pending list," at Eric Conveys an Emotion.

Me, I'm waiting for Eric to convey the requests, "Allergic to vertical blinds" and "Drinking out of the wrong bottle"...


Thursday, April 14, 2005

NewsTalk 890 WLS

WLS 890
My favorite talk radio station for many years now— especially Don Wade & Roma early weekday mornings. WLS is in Chicago, but you can listen to it over the Net from anywhere.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Baseball, or Not?

Okay, here's the thing: all my life, I've never been much of a sports fan. I always say that if I were to follow a sport, it would probably be baseball. But truth be told, I've just never paid much attention to sports.

When I was in school, it used to amaze me how classmates of mine (many of them getting F's right and left in their classes) apparently carried a comprehensive sports database in their head. They might not know what 7 times 6 was, but they could tell you all about who pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948, and that included reeling off a mindnumbing list of stats, earned run average, strikeouts, games won, innings this-and-that...

No, I never paid attention to sports, except for one stretch in the mid-to-late nineties when I followed the Green Bay Packers because I was working at that time for a wholesale sports merchandise distributor, and if the Packers won a game, we'd have to be in to the warehouse in the middle of the night to get an extra shipment of tee-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, and car flags out to the stores by the time they opened in the morning.

Anyhow. Baseball. If I were to follow a sport, it would be baseball. And if I were to follow baseball, being originally from Wisconsin, I'd probably be a Brewers fan. (Though over here in Iowa I'm surrounded by Yankees fans and Cubs fans and even Twins fans.) Which is not to say that I can name you even a single player who is presently playing with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Every year around this time, I get the lazy idea that this is the year I'm going to start following baseball. And every year, I never do. However, just last night, I tuned in the local TV news, and saw that the Brewers won their first home game yesterday, "more excitement and better players this year," blah blah blah.

Do you think I'm going to follow baseball this year? Or not?

I'm already trying to find out if some TV station around here carries Brewers games. (Probably.) Or I do believe I know of a La Crosse radio station which carries their games. Given my uneasy relationship with TV (no satellite, no cable, nothing but the aerial on my roof; and last night must be the first time since the Pope's death that I've even turned that damn box on)— I say, given my uneasy relationship with TV, I may well prefer to listen to baseball games over the radio. Baseball is the kind of game you can picture in your head.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Tomahawk Nickels

Last night I had this really strange dream about "tomahawk nickels." These were nickels which had been minted in the United States for only a few years, way back when, and in the dream I was inspecting some of these tomahawk nickels.

And the thing is, they weren't shaped like coins. They were shaped like little metal tomahawks.

In fact, they were three-dimensional: think of a handle and an axehead and a feather, arranged as if along three adjacent edges of a pyramid. Or in other words, the feather stuck out to the left of the tomahawk. I imagine a pocket full of tomahawk nickels would be like a pocket full of jacks.

On one side of the axehead was the date. On the other side of the axehead was "US 5c."

Like I say, these tomahawk nickels weren't minted for long. Most people just found it too inconvenient to use a "coin" that wasn't shaped like a coin, and in fact was 3D instead of flat. Though in the dream I was remarking to my brother, "Remember when we were kids, and every now and then you'd receive a tomahawk nickel in change at the grocery store?"


Books, Books, Books

Okay, Dean Esmay laid this one on me; here are my answers to the questions:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World, by Walker Percy.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Ummm, do comic books count? 'Cause I had a major crush on Crystal, the Human Torch's girlfriend, in Fantastic Four comics way back in the Lee/Kirby days of the 1960s.

The last book you bought is:

Access to the Airwaves: My Fight for Free Radio, the autobiography of one-time shortwave radio pirate Allan Weiner, who currently is head honcho at shortwave station WBCQ, Monticello, Maine.

The last book you read is:

Konrad Bizer: A Man Called by the Lord, by Paul Jordan. The biography of one of my predecessors in the pulpit here at St. John's. Bizer, born in Germany and educated in Switzerland, served as pastor here in this corner of Iowa from 1903 to 1924.

What are you currently reading?

The Complete Card Player, by Albert Ostrow (1945). This is one of the few older books on rules of card games that doesn't have the name "Hoyle" in its title. I'm rereading it for probably about the tenth time in the past 35 or 40 years, longtime game fanatic that I am.

Five books you would take to a desert island.

Dean says he'll give me a free Bible for the desert island: fine with me, dude, long as it's the Oxford Annotated <old> Revised Standard Version, with the Apocrypha.

My other five books would be: Boswell's Life of Johnson, the Everyman's Library cloth edition; The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton, in Floyd Dell & Paul Jordan-Smith's 1927 hardcover edition; the Essays of Montaigne, the 1947 Heritage Press edition of the George B. Ives translation; Walden by Henry David Thoreau, preferably the Könemann hardcover edition; and On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

Dowingba, because.

Casey Tompkins, because because.

IB Bill, because because because.


Saturday, April 09, 2005

Chez Caltechgirl

Listen up! Caltechgirl has turned Munuvian, and moved her blog to a new address:

I've updated my blogroll... how about you? Oh, and check out them rotating banners...

BTW, Caltechgirl is my blogmom— yes, I acquired my blog accidentally whilst registering to post a comment on her blog— and she's been supportive of my blogging above and beyond the call of duty. Which I really do appreciate!

Bushmills Irish Whiskey

Left to myself, I much prefer beer to liquor. But for that once-in-a-blue-moon, I find I do enjoy Bushmills Irish Whiskey. Just the other day, I found that Bushmills goes down very nicely mixed with Spring Grove Lemon Sour pop.

Bushmills, you can probably find at a liquor store near you. Spring Grove Soda (and why they call it "soda" rather than "pop" in this part of the country, I can't imagine), unless you happen to live within shouting distance of Spring Grove, Minnesota, I'm afraid I can't be of any help.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Dean's World Is Three

Today happens to be the third blogiversary of Dean's World. I remember how I first stumbled across Dean's World (and through it, the blogosphere) while idly Googling around one day, two and a half years ago. A few weeks later— beginning of November 2002— I posted my first comment there. And I've been hanging out at Dean's World daily ever since!

I'm honored to count Dean Esmay as a friend. Happy third blogiversary, sir, and here's wishing you many more!

A Comb Is Like a Toothbrush

One thing I've never understood— and I mean just absolutely never understood— is people who will blithely ask to borrow your comb.

As in, they want to borrow your comb, to comb their hair.

I'm sorry, but to me, a comb is like a toothbrush. Would you ask to borrow someone else's toothbrush, to brush your teeth? Would you want to lend your toothbrush to someone else, and then stick it in your mouth again, after it's got their saliva and their plaque and their germs on it?

Likewise, would you want to use your comb again, after it's got someone else's dandruff and someone else's hair grease (and maybe even someone else's head lice) on it??!

I dunno, I just do not understand people who ask to borrow my comb. I remember some years back I worked in a place along with this fellow who was basically the nicest guy in the world. He looked sort of rough— an ex-biker, but really a good fellow. Still, he looked rough. He had the most awful hair: wavy, steel-grey hair, dandruff-ridden, greasy to the point of being stiff. It looked like he never washed his hair. And I will never forget the day he asked me, at work, if I had a comb he could borrow.

I lied through my teeth and told him that I didn't have a comb. Then I had to remember, for the rest of the day, not to forget and idly take my comb out of my pocket to comb my hair.

Is it a certain personality type? Or a certain cultural background? Or what? I mean, I simply don't understand what's driving someone who, without a second thought, would ask to borrow my comb.

More on "Mandriva"

By my unscientific estimate, reactions at Slashdot, OSNews, and alt.os.linux.mandrake have been running 50 to 1 against "Mandriva" as the new name for Mandrakelinux. To quote only one comment among multitudes: "Did they think at all? Did the board meet and seriously think this was a good idea? I just can't understand how these things happen. I can't comprehend one person being so stupid, let alone an entire corporation. Was there no one to stand up and say 'STOP, this is quite possibly the WORST NAME EVER INVENTED'?"

I also notice that, if you Google on the term "Mandriva," one of the top search results is a recent anti-"Mandriva" thread on entitled, "let's choose a better name for OUR distro." Mysteriously enough, if you click on the link, you are led to a completely unrelated thread entitled Software group joins EC's MS crusade. But you can still find the original thread (and it's an eye-opener) cached in Google.


Thursday, April 07, 2005


Yes, it's true. Following its recent acquisition of Conectiva, Mandrakesoft has announced that Mandrakelinux is now...


Man-WHAT?! Is that "Man-driver"? Or is that "Man-dreeva"? Either way, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Mandriva. What kind of a name for a Linux distro is that?!

I understand that Mandrake has been embroiled in a trademark lawsuit over possible confusion with the comic-strip character Mandrake the Magician. But fer cryin' out loud, couldn't they have come up with something better than Mandriva??!

I mean, come on. Mantiva. Condrake. Mandows/Manspire. Mandragora. Anything but Mandriva!

It's enough to make a grown man switch to Ubuntu.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Happy 100th Birthday!

Today is my grandmother's 100th birthday. Yes, she was born on April 6, 1905. I'm going to be heading over into central Wisconsin today to see her. And we'll probably order out to the restaurant for chicken dinners, and sit around visiting in her apartment.

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II

In the fall of 1978 I was in graduate school, a teaching assistant in the math department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I was living in an apartment on Langdon Street in Madison. And— somehow this is the way it sticks in my memory— I clipped two articles to save, just weeks apart, out of Newsweek. One article had to do with the steep decline in the number of breweries in the United States. The other had to do with the election of a new pope.

Actually, it was the second new pope in a matter of weeks. When Paul VI died, Pope John Paul I was elected: looking back now, a quarter of a century later, I'm trying to remember how long it was, but it seems to me that John Paul I died after only about a month in the papacy. So soon the cardinals were meeting again, and this time Karol Wojtyla of Poland became Pope John Paul II.

And now, after a papacy of 26½ years, John Paul II has died. He was truly one of the giants.

He was a spiritual giant. Agree with him or disagree with him, he was a spiritual giant. One of the quirks of contemporary Western culture— and it is greatly to our discredit— is the incapacity of many to see greatness except where the "great" is already in seamless agreement with them (or except where the "great" is even further to the left than they are, which is even more to our discredit). I like to think that Pope John Paul II, by his sheer presence and by his unyielding and personable witness, stood as a sign of contradiction against this tendency in our culture.

He also provided the Roman Catholic Church with an infusion of backbone, at a time when Catholicism seemed to be headed pell-mell toward imitating and recapitulating many of the most dismal traits of mainline Protestantism. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Presbyterian and I can't imagine myself as a Catholic; but I'm grateful that the Roman Catholic Church today is something more than just a pale "stay in tune with the times" imitation of the Presbyterian or Methodist church down the street.

(Now when are they going to bring back the Latin Mass? Never happen, I know; but I'm only halfway joking. Also, why can't Catholics sing??!)

And of course there's John Paul II and the fall of Communism. If today there is no longer an Iron Curtain or a Soviet Union, and if today Communist ideology has been consigned to the dustbin of history, this pope certainly deserves a share of the credit.

Pope John Paul II. Born May 18, 1920. Ordained November 1, 1946. Became a bishop, July 4, 1958; archbishop, December 30, 1963; cardinal, June 26, 1967; pope, October 16, 1978. Died April 2, 2005.


Friday, April 01, 2005

Signals from a Distant World

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an astronomy professor at a leading university confirmed persistent rumors that, for the past six years, scientists have been receiving and studying signals from a distant star system.

The radio signals originate from a planet of the star 58 Eridani, 43 light years away. The signals were first detected in March of 1999, but it was not until about a year ago that significant progress was made in deciphering them. "We still have made very little progress on what seem to be 'text' communications," said the source, "but we now have a good handle on transmitted pictures, which are encoded in something similar to a holographic format. To us, not an obvious way of structuring things; but these are evidently creatures who perceive and conceptualize the world very differently than we do."

From these transmitted images, the inhabitants of the distant world are described as trilaterally symmetric: three eyes, three arms, three legs, evenly spaced around the body. "In evolutionary terms, this is a somewhat more energy-costly bodily structure; but the great adaptive advantage is that they are all 'front' and no 'back'; they can see, reach, and operate in their environment in a full 360° circle around them." However, the images reveal little that is humanly intelligible about the aliens' society or culture. "Even in a clear and detailed picture, you simply can't understand what they are doing or why. What we are seeing is alien, in every sense of the term."

58 Eridani is a class G3 star. It resembles the Sun very closely. According to the deciphered transmissions, its inhabited planet is slightly smaller than Earth, with less extensive oceans and on average a warmer and drier climate.

The source said that an open public announcement is planned within the next two months, though a date has not yet been set. "This is an earthshaking discovery— radio signals which confirm that we are not alone in the cosmos. It's very exciting, and yet at the same time it's certain to shatter many of our self-conceptions."