Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Firefox 1.5

A major new version of the Firefox browser is out. Maybe you ought to download it and give it a try if you haven't already?

Standard disclaimer: I myself am a longtime confirmed user of the Opera browser. But Firefox is an excellent browser too, and I find that lots of people take to it like a duck to water. Hey, Firefox or Opera, either one is light years ahead of that virus delivery system known as Internet Exploder!

Firefox: free, intuitive, secure, loaded with features but easy to use.


Acidman Is Back

Rob over at Gut Rumbles is out of rehab, and back blogging. Stone cold sober, as a matter of fact.

Welcome back, sir!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Author C. Clarke

It amazes me how many people seem to think that the actual name of that well known science fiction writer is Author C. Clarke.

Hollow Earth

In the comments on Bridgework as Body Piercing, the Tetrast and I got off on an interesting tangent about Moebius strips, Klein bottles, and other nonorientable surfaces. Yes, I confess, many long years ago I was a graduate student in mathematics.

Anyhow. This thread led me off onto thoughts about the hollow earth. Back when I was a kid, I loved reading Edgar Rice Burroughs. Actually, I read only one or two of Burroughs' two dozen or so Tarzan books. What really grabbed me were his lesser-known series: John Carter of Mars, Carson of Venus, and of course Burroughs' Pellucidar series.

Pellucidar was a world located inside the Earth. Yes, in Burroughs' imaginative universe, you burrow straight down into the ground 500 miles in your "iron mole"... and you come out into the world of Pellucidar. The earth is a hollow shell, with our world on the outside and Pellucidar on the inside. A world on the inside of a hollow shell, with a tiny sun floating up in the middle, at the very center of the earth!

This idea of a hollow earth really fascinated me. I read also somewhere about a fellow named Cyrus Teed, or "Koresh," who in the late 1800s and early 1900s promoted Koreshanity, which taught in its "cellular cosmogony" that we actually live inside a hollow earth. Our world only appears to be a sphere, actually it's the inside of a hollow sphere, and the surface of the earth "curvilineates upward eight inches to the mile." Seemed to me this went the Flat Earth Society one better. ;-)

Of course if you live inside a hollow earth, the question naturally arises: What's on the outside? In my years in the field of math, I toyed with an imaginative answer: Nothing much, if your hollow earth is located in real projective three-space.

You can imagine projective three-space (see also the comments in the Bridgework thread) by thinking of the region inside a sphere. Now identify each point on the surface of the sphere with the point opposite it on the other side of the sphere... in other words, if you're travelling inside the sphere and you cross the outer surface of the sphere, you will simply find yourself back inside the sphere, over on the opposite side.

So we find ourselves living in a small, closed, three-dimensional "pocket universe." Now stick your hollow Pellucidar, or Koreshanity-world, or whatever, in the middle of this "pocket universe." You are living on the inside of a hollow earth, a hollow shell. And if you dig down into the ground, starting in Pellucidar, and if you keep digging straight down far enough... you'll come out eventually on the opposite side of Pellucidar.

That's right, if your hollow earth is located inside projective three-space, then there's no way out of Pellucidar, and nothing much else outside of Pellucidar. Dig down into the ground, and you'll just come back out again somewhere else in hollow Pellucidar.

Or if Pellucidar is quite tiny in size compared to the projective three-space in which it exists, this opens up the possibility of a closed "pocket universe" dotted with many little hollow-earth Pellucidars, hollow worlds scattered throughout a solid closed universe, sort of like the chocolate chips scattered throughout a chocolate chip cookie.

Believe it or not, there was a time when I used to amuse myself endlessly with such imaginary constructs. Like I say, once upon a time I was a grad student in mathematics. And I suppose I've got to dust off those math diplomas on my office wall once in a while. ;-)


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bridgework as Body Piercing

One of the things I'm having to get used to with my recently installed bridgework is the need to floss all the way underneath the fake tooth. And by that I mean, floss clear through underneath the bottom of the tooth, from front to back.

This is one thing I somehow never understood or foresaw before I got this "dental appliance" installed. First I take a little plastic lasso, and thread a length of dental floss through the loop of the lasso, like threading a needle. Then I stick the lasso in underneath the bridgework, and pull it on through so that the dental floss is now threaded underneath everything. And then I floss back and forth everywhere, underneath the bottom of the tooth.

The topological integrity of my body has been altered. I now have a veritable body piercing underneath my bridgework. I have pierced gums, or a pierced tooth, or whatever you want to call it— just as sure as someone who has pierced ears, or a pierced nose, or a pierced tongue, or whatever.

Body piercing. Body modification. I think I ought to qualify, you know?

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Five Luminous Mysteries

The other day I was just randomly googling around, and I discovered something I did not know until now. Namely, in October 2002 Pope John Paul II added five new mysteries to the Rosary. The five Luminous Mysteries:
  • The Baptism of the Lord

  • The Wedding at Cana

  • The Proclamation of the Kingdom

  • The Transfiguration

  • The Institution of the Eucharist
Thus bringing the total number of mysteries to twenty. The Luminous Mysteries come after the Joyful Mysteries, with the Sorrowful Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries following. And I was like, "Why didn't I know this before?!" I repeat, it came as total news to me.

Back when I was in college my friend Bruce, who lived down the hall from me in the dorm, was a devout Catholic. We used to discuss religion, and Bruce taught me how to say the Rosary. He even gave me a very nice Rosary with cocoa wood beads which had been blessed by Padre Pio, and a book about the Rosary: I still have both to this day.

I think Bruce thought he was going to turn this Presbyterian into a Catholic. A few years later, he entered a monastery out on the West Coast. For some years we used to exchange Christmas cards. He would always write in his Christmas card, "If you have any questions about the Blessed Virgin, please feel free to ask me."

Anyhow. Three years ago that the Pope added five new mysteries to the Rosary, and I didn't catch up with it until just the other day. I usually try to keep up on things like this. I'd think I would've heard about it before now. The five Luminous Mysteries.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I'm heading off over into Wisconsin for the day, to visit my grandmother.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Didn't remember yesterday until I got to Lions Club last night, and the tailtwister was asking everyone: (1) What happened on this day in history? and (2) Where were you when it happened?

Most everyone was able to answer both of those questions.

Forty-two years ago yesterday. November 22, 1963. I was in second grade when President Kennedy was assassinated.

The memories of that day are engraved on my mind. We were sitting there in Mrs. Kuhl's second-grade classroom, when there was a knock at the door. It was the art teacher, and I remember that she had with her a white transistor radio. She called our teacher out into the hallway, and they talked.

Odd how those memories stick with you: not just any transistor radio, but a white transistor radio.

When our teacher came back in the room, she told us that the President had been shot in Dallas. I remember how rumor floated around that day, I remember some of us arguing out on the playground over whether the President was dead, or just seriously wounded. Rumors were soon dispelled: President Kennedy was dead. At the end of the school day, when the bell rang, our class stood and faced east for a minute of silence.

That evening our family went grocery shopping. My mom was feeling quite down, so she bought a rainbow-striped clothespin bag. When we got home, at a certain hour of the evening my dad went over next door to the church and rang the bell. I composed a plunkety-plunk dirgelike song on the piano: it consisted mostly of playing the scales backwards, from high C down to middle C. Backwards. Down.

Damn. I was only seven years old, but I'll never forget that day.


Monday, November 21, 2005


So is "aunt" pronounced ant, or awnt, or ahnt? I say ant. Though you may say tomahto. ;-)

Ant, Awnt, Ahnt. Is there any other word in English which has three common and accepted pronunciations?

In fact, there may be a fourth pronunciation of "aunt": I seem to recall, on the old Andy Griffith show of my childhood, Aunt Bea being called "Ain't Bee."


Bill Gates = 666

This one's hardly original with me, but it's worth repeating: the letters in Bill Gates' name add up to 666.

That's right, take the letters in his name— "Bill Gates III"— and assign them their ASCII value, with "3" for the ordinal "Third":

 B    I    L    L   
66 + 73 + 76 + 76 +

 G    A    T    E    S   3
71 + 65 + 84 + 69 + 83 + 3 = 666

Uh, I think next comes Windows Vista, Digital Rights Management, and an RFID chip implanted in your forehead or right hand. ;-)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Mah Jongg

mah jongg tiles 1
I've written before about my nigh-cosmic interest in classical table games— board games, card games, throw in tile games and dice games, too. As for tile games, you think chiefly of dominoes; I've also got in my collection a set of Chinese dominoes, which are rather different. But most exotic of all among tile games is the mysterious oriental game of mah jongg. Above are some tiles from one of my mah jongg sets— a wooden set from the early 1920s, when the mah jongg craze hit the United States.

mah jongg box 1
Here's the box for that set: "The Game of a Thousand Wonders: Mah-Jongg 'Junior': A Complete Mah-Jongg Set with Babcock's Red Book of Rules." More: "Manufactured by the Paraffine Companies Inc. for, and Sold Only by, Mah-Jongg Sales Co. of America, San Francisco, New York, Chicago." The included rule book is in its tenth printing, July 1923.

mah jongg tiles 2
Here are some tiles from another mah jongg set I've got. These tiles are made of bakelite, much more finely detailed than the first set. I'd guess they also date from the 1920s.

mah jongg case 2
These bakelite tiles come, along with bakelite tile racks, in a green faux-alligator carrying case. (My wooden mah jongg set also has racks, of wood, which may or may not have originally belonged as part of the set.)

I first got interested in mah jongg back in my high school years— early 1970s. In those days there was virtually no place you could buy a mah jongg set, outside of an antique shop, which I was too impecunious to afford; though I do recall seeing a new mah jongg set in a department store somewhere— could that have been (local Madison, Wisconsin reference) "Manchester's, East, West, and on the Square"?

Books on mah jongg weren't much easier to come by. One of the few sources in this country back then for items relating to oriental games was the Charles E. Tuttle Company in Rutland, Vermont. I ordered from them the several mah jongg books they had in stock, and read these books cover to cover. Over and over again. Like I say, I took a nigh-cosmic interest in games, the more "far-out" the better. In those days, there simply was no outlet in our culture for interests like this, I was on my own.

mah jongg tiles 3
The summer I turned 18, I decided to make my own mah jongg set. By hand. Here are some tiles from my set— I based the designs the best I could on pictures in those books. I'd never seen a real mah jongg set with my own eyes at this point— those other two sets, I acquired in my twenties— so the wooden tiles in my handmade set were only about half as thick as they should have been. Still, it was a nice job considering I was flying by dead reckoning, and also considering that I have very little practical talent for "making" things with my hands.

mah jongg box 3
I also produced a box for my homemade mah jongg set. For some reason, I did up the box not in English, not in Chinese or Japanese, but in my own language, Hermetic. Rough translate of the top of the box: "Mah Jongg Set: Chinese style; The set consists of 144 tiles; Handmade; Includes other necessary game implements for mah jongg, except for tile racks." Like most homemade game sets I produced in those years, this one is marked Zinir— "For Export." A quote in Hermetic at the top reads, "Mah Jongg tiles are one of the six or eight most noble games of ancient Terra— Venerable Mei-San, Mei-San's Compendium" (A mythical 40-volume encyclopedia of games from across the galaxy) The manufacturer: "Ivory Star Game Implements, 5ThJ Eclipsist Realm"; which situates my homemade mah jongg set somewhere in the vast galactic "future history" which I drew up and wrote countless stories about in those years.

mah jongg cards 4
Well. On the way down to Dubuque last week, I stopped off at that antique mall and found a set of mah jongg cards, pictured above. "Man-Chu, the Famous Chinese Game," produced by the United States Playing Card Company, 1923. Includes a booklet, Foster's Famous Rules for Man-Chu.

mah jongg box 4
Here's the mah jongg deck and the box it came in.

And finally, discounting those booklets that came with the mah jongg sets themselves, here's a more or less complete list of the mah jongg books I've accumulated in my personal library over the years:
  • Eleanor Noss Whitney, A Mah Jong Handbook: How to Play, Score, and Win the Modern Game. Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo, Japan: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1964.
  • Marcia Hammer, Learn to Play Mah Jongg. New York: David McKay Company, Incorporated, 1979.
  • Shozo Kanai and Margaret Farrell, Mah Jong for Beginners: Based on the Rules and Regulations of the Mah Jong Association of Japan. Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo, Japan: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1952.
  • Kitty Strauser and Lucille Evans, Mah Jong, Anyone?: A Manual of Modern Play. Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo, Japan: Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1964.
  • Edgar S. Winters, Ma Cheuk as Played by the Chinese. New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1923.
  • Jean Bray, How to Play Mah Jong. New York & London: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1923.
  • L.L. Harr, How to Play Pung Chow: The Game of a Hundred Intelligences. New York & London, Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1923.
  • Ralph J.F. Gerstle, Ma Jong: The Green Book. Third Edition. Chicago: Ma-Jong Club of Chicago, Inc., 1923.
  • J.P. Babcock, Babcock's Rules for Mah-Jongg, the Fascinating Chinese Game. Second Edition. Shanghai, China: Mah-Jongg Company of China, 1920.
  • Henry M. Snyder, The Ma-Jung Manual. Edited by Robert F. Foster. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1923.
  • No author, Ma-Jong, the Ancient Game of China: Book of Instructions. New York: The Lent & Graff Company, 1923.
  • Lee Foster Hartman, Standardized Mah Jong. New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1924.
Do you begin to get the impression that I'm some kind of a fanatic when it comes to games?!


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sawed-Off Baseball Bat

I just discovered that, if you run a Google search on "sawed-off baseball bat," three out of the top twenty-five search results were written by... none other than yours truly.

No kidding. Better watch out when you're dealing with me.

Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle

Doc Searls has a fascinating article about the Internet, and how the carriers are trying to stuff the Internet "genie" back into the "bottle" of their own communication pipelines. If they succeed, the free, wide-open days of the Internet will become a thing of the past. The "suits" will control the highways and the byways of cyberspace.

A quote from Vint Cerf sums it up:
The remarkable social impact and economic success of the Internet is in many ways directly attributable to the architectural characteristics that were part of its design. The Internet was designed with no gatekeepers over new content or services... By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation. This has led to an explosion of offerings— from VOIP to 802.11x wi-fi to blogging— that might never have evolved had central control of the network been required by design...

Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in control of online activity. Allowing broadband providers to segment their IP offerings and reserve huge amounts of bandwidth for their own services will not give consumers the broadband Internet our country and economy need...

Telephone companies cannot tell consumers who they can call; network operators should not dictate what people can do online.
Doc's article is long, but worth reading in full.


Unauthorized Home Entry: Postlude

A couple of weeks ago, I returned home from a day and a half on the road to discover that in my absence my home had been converted, without my knowledge, into a day-long "work zone."

I mean, there were the workpeople, coming in and out of my house. My furniture disarranged and moved around. Without my knowledge.

And since I hadn't been expecting them, I'd gone away leaving everything in the house... well... Dirty dishes on the kitchen table. Dirty laundry scattered across my bedroom floor. Toilet bowl uncleaned and sprouting its own ecosystem. Personal papers, including my latest tax returns, lying right out in the open on a table.

I nearly burst a blood vessel.

The good news is, last night the St. John's church council approved changing all the outside locks on the parsonage and the attached garage, so nothing like this will happen again. Thank you, folks. Very much appreciated.

Winter Wonderland

And the snow came.

Late Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday night. And continuing slowly to drift on down, most of the day Wednesday. Up here high atop Wheatland Ridge, I'd say we got a good two or three inches. First snowfall of the season.

And I'm very glad my Jeep has four-wheel drive. Full-time all-surface four-wheel drive. I drove into town yesterday morning, and the county road was snow-covered and slippery. Cars have been going in ditches around here. Less than a mile from my place, somebody went in the ditch yesterday afternoon.

Oddly enough, down in the valley, where the temperatures are a predictable four degrees warmer than up here on the ridge, the roads are fine.

Up here on the ridge, the roads are rotten. TGF4WD.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Angers of Ease

Those of us who fall in a certain age bracket can remember a time when electric hand dryers in public restrooms across the country bore a little metal plaque with instructions which ran something like this: "Electric hand dryers... dry hands more thoroughly... protect you from paper and towel litter, and the dangers of disease... Available at the touch of a button... Step 1, Push button. Step 2, Rub hands together gently beneath hot air vent... Step 3..."

For some reason this plaque was made of a soft metal which could easily be gouged and carved with any common implement such as a pocket knife or even a ballpoint pen. And so arose a minor piece of Americana, as electric hand dryers in public restrooms across the land came to bear much the same edited instructions on that little metal plaque: "Tric hand dryers... dry hands more roughly... protect you from ape and owl litter, and the angers of ease... Available at the ouch of a butt... Step 1, Push butt. Step 2, Rub gently... Step 4, wipe hands on pants."

Yes, "the angers of ease." Somehow that phrase stuck with me. It made me think of how people who've got it easier are so often the angriest. "The angers of ease." You know, energy that would've been constructively burned off a hundred years ago by going out and chopping firewood is expended today instead by writing angry letters to the editor, or hyperventilating about kids who don't wear bike helmets, or persecuting the wretches who smoke.

The generation that first got most of today's household appliances, produced angry radical feminism. The generation that first got almost everything in life easy, produced angry Sixties campus radicalism. Ah yes, "the angers of ease." A hundred years ago, they would've worked it off by going out back and chopping more firewood, so they wouldn't freeze to death come winter.

But nowadays we don't chop firewood anymore. We just discover new and hitherto unsuspected reasons to be angry. Perfume worn in public! Peanuts in the lunchroom! People who buy SUVs! Little kids who point their finger and say "Bang!" Oh, the inhumanity of it all! The easier we have it, the angrier we get. It's a growth industry, rather like discovering new and hitherto unsuspected planets orbiting distant stars.

"The angers of ease": a hundred years from now, when medical science has pushed the average human lifespan well up into the triple-digit range, no doubt the common man will have to launch World War III single-handed— atomic, chemical, and bathtub-biological— just to ward off the anomie and the boredom and the bottomless free-floating anger which come from having everything handed to him on a silver platter, and the silver platter itself handed to him on a self-replicating gold platter.

Yes, "the angers of ease." Gotta watch out for that "ape and owl litter." And them "tric hand dryers," too. And don't forget: "Step 4, wipe hands on pants."


Snow Already?!

Well, the forecast is for rain to start up some time today, and then as temperatures fall, the rain will change to snow. I repeat, the forecast is: "Snow and rain changing to all snow in the evening. Areas of blowing snow after midnight. Brisk. Snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches."

I have to get out and around in the area tomorrow, driving these steep, twisting, up-and-down-and-winding gravel roads. Sounds like I'll be getting a chance to try out my Jeep's four-wheel drive. Which, unlike the old Blazer, this Jeep has full-time all-surface four-wheel drive. So there!

In these parts, we often get some sort of snowfall by shortly before Thanksgiving, but to be honest, I thought it might not come quite this soon. Hunh. Snow already.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Weird Dreams

As any regular reader of this blog is already well aware, I have some rather weird dreams. Always have. We could include here some really weird dreams, such as the dream when I was seven or eight which consisted of nothing but the sound of a fire siren (when I woke up, there was no fire siren). Or the dream when I was nine which consisted of nothing but a vision of plaidlike burgundy fabric. I mean, it was just this plaid pattern, motionless, burgundy with metallic gold threads woven through it— that was the entire dream.

I remember one very early dream, back around age three, where the Speedy Alka-Seltzer Man, only about six inches tall, came out of a hole in the wall. And he was threatening to take my toys away.

From age four up to about age seven, I also had recurrent nightmares about the Ide-Dide Clown. Pronounced "idee-didee." Usually in these dreams, I would be sitting on my bed in my bedroom, and I would hear footsteps coming down the upstairs hallway. Then the Ide-Dide Clown would come into view, walking down the hallway toward my bedroom, and he would go, "I am the Ide-Dide Clown. Ide-Dide!!!" I would wake up terrified, in a panic.

These dreams for years gave me a bad case of clownophobia. I remember one clown nightmare— non-Ide-Dide— where a clown came out of the closet in my bedroom, and his eyes looked like little disks, one black and one white. Or there was another nightmare about a parade going down the street outside our house, and there was this gigantic clown on stilts, and he reached out toward me with a white-gloved hand, and I tried to punch the hand, only it was all soft and sticky like roasted marshmallows.

Actually, the odd thing is, in my dreams the Ide-Dide Clown didn't look like a clown at all. He looked like a robot built out of blue cardboard boxes, with a pressure gauge in the middle of his chest, and jelly beans on wires sticking out of the top of his head. I managed to end these dreams quite abruptly at age seven: the nightmare began as usual, with the sound of the footsteps coming down the hallway. Only this time I went out into the hall to meet the Ide-Dide Clown, and I punched him in the chest, and he exploded in shreds of blue cardboard flying all over the place. That was the last time I ever had a clown nightmare.

I've also had some really, really weird dreams. This is where we get into hypnagogic and hypnopompic dreams— dreams where you experience visual or auditory hallucinations while falling asleep (hypnagogia) or waking up (hypnopompia). I think my first dreams of this sort date back to around age eight or nine (the furry ball with a hundred legs spinning around on top of my dresser when I woke up). They extended up into my mid-thirties. Probably the most intense period of such dreams for me was in my early twenties, when my brother and I were sharing an apartment on Langdon Street in Madison, Wisconsin.

I went through a real phase of hearing music playing in the room when I was drifting off, halfway asleep. This is not the sort of distant music you may sometimes hear in the buzz of a fan motor, or the thrumming of a car engine. No, this was like a stereo playing right there in the room at medium volume; though the music was often muffled and distorted.

I remember one particularly terrifying hypnagogic experience I had in that apartment. I was partway asleep, still quite aware of lying there on my bed. Then the music came, and it was like muffled Beatles music. Then, from off on the far side of the room, I heard a voice, like someone speaking, only it was muffled and garbled. Then suddenly the speaking voice approached rapidly across the apartment, until it was coming from just off to the side of the foot of my bed. Muffled music playing loudly in the apartment, this muffled but loud voice speaking angrily next to the bed... and I couldn't move! I was lying there, as much awake as asleep. And I couldn't move!

This is, of course, the well-known phenomenon of sleep paralysis, which is sometimes known to accompany hypnagogia or hypnopompia. I know this sounds quite weird to someone who's never experienced it, but psychologists tell us it's not uncommon— something like 30% to 40% of people experience hypnagogic or hypnopompic dreams at least once in their life. For me, things soon trailed off from that stretch in my early twenties, and I haven't had a dream of that sort in a good 15 years now.

Though I still do tend sometimes to have, shall we say, rather colorful dreams. As anyone who follows this blog is well aware.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

My First Blogiversary

Let the Finder Beware is one year old today! Yes, it was one year ago that I acquired a blog entirely by accident while trying to log in to post a comment on Caltechgirl's blog. I succeeded in logging in and posting that comment, but somehow (I'm still not sure quite how) by the time I was logged in, I had acquired a blog of my own.

So I decided to go with it, and a year later here I am, still blogging away.

I initially had some reservations about blogging, which I reprint here verbatim from my very first post on my blog:
  1. I'm too busy, I don't have the time.

  2. I detest the angry, vindictive mud wrestling I see on some blogs.

  3. I dread becoming a slave to regular posting, so as to hang on to my audience.

  4. I don't have the time.

  5. I have no desire to become a magnet for the various wackos, psychos, and emotionally needy sad sacks I see on some blogs.

  6. I've always commented under my own name, and made no secret of who I am, where I live, or what my line of work is. I've sometimes wondered if this will one day come back to haunt me, and see no need to aggravate the situation via my own blog.

  7. I have a number of very colorful interests, but once we get past those (give it three or four months) either I run dry, or else I start repeating myself: either way, no thanks!

  8. My personal website gets a modest but fair amount of traffic, and it's nicely situated in Google (hey, I'm #1 in Google for a search on yellowstripes). I see no good reason to divide my energies.

  9. I've met a lot of great people and made some good friends in the blogosphere, but I don't know if I meet the entry requirements to be a blogger, since I fit in none of the following categories: (a) Libertarian; (b) Randian Objectivist; (c) vegetarian; (d) gay/lesbian; (e) Kevorkian right-to-die-er; (f) neo-pagan; (g) owner of automatic weapons; (h) genius-level high-school dropout; (i) person who has no TV set in the house; (j) atheist/agnostic; or (k) follower of the Atkins low-carb diet.

  10. Did I mention, I just don't have the time??!

I find a year later that many of these reservations still stand. Though, like I say, here I am, 314 blog posts later, still blogging away.

At one point I did go on hiatus for six weeks, discouraged and on the point of giving up blogging; but I eventually returned. The moral of that story (see also #6 above) is, don't post stock movie stills or magazine article interview photos of Uma Thurman on your blog, because someone out there might take it the wrong way. ;-)

My thanks to everyone who's supported and encouraged me over this past year. Too many in all to name, you know who you are. Regular commenters, regular visitors. Some of you regulars I know by name, some I know only by recurrent IP addresses in my stats. Oh, one I really do have to thank by name, and that's my blogmom, Caltechgirl, who has encouraged and supported me in so many ways over this past year!!

I've got some more posts in the pipeline for this coming week. Something having to do with my interest in games. Something having to do with weird dreams. Maybe even another one of my occasional pieces of fiction. You know the drill. It's been a blast this past year. And I'm looking forward to Year Two.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Lucy and her husband are the proud parents of a brand new baby girl!!! Cathy was born on Thursday— 8 pounds 1 ounce, 21 inches long. :-)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Mr. Shopping Spree

Well, those continuing ed lectures at the seminary down in Dubuque actually turned out to be worthwhile. Which is more than I ordinarily expect when I go away on a couple of days of study leave. Bit of a surprise.

As usual, when I go somewhere on study leave, I fall into the odd habit of shopping. On the way down, I stopped off at the antique mall in Dyersville, and came away with an old card game, Man-Chu, the Famous Chinese Game. Turns out to be mah jongg, played with cards instead of tiles, United States Playing Card Company, 1923. A nice addition to my playing card collection.

I stayed at a hotel downtown where I usually stay when I'm in Dubuque. Yes, the place now is set up for high-speed wireless Internet, in fact they'll even loan you a wireless card. Whether such a card would've worked with Linux, had I brought my ThinkPad "with," is another question.

Somehow I was not surprised to discover that, in this day and age, a major chain hotel no longer has Gideon Bibles in its rooms. But that's okay, I brought my own Bible with me, bwahahahahaha! Talk about civil disobedience, transporting a Bible in a public place without a government-issued Bible-carrying permit...

At the little Catholic religious supply store down the street from the hotel, I bought:
  • A Justo Juez holy card, only 60¢ cheap

  • A red scapular, color me an inquisitive Presbyterian

  • A book, The Cube and the Cathedral by George Weigel, which has been on my floating mental book list now for some time. The store clerk tried to charge me the Canadian price for the book, fortunately I caught it and saved myself $10
Ummmmm, ate at the little restaurant in the hotel. Also had a greaseburger at the Hardee's near campus, where I ate many a time twenty-odd years ago when I was a young punk.

Someone alerted me that Kennedy Mall in Dubuque now has a Borders bookstore. Guess we can no longer sing that old jingle,
Kennedy Mall
Has nothing at all
Kennedy Mall
Has nothing at all...
Didn't get anything at Borders, but at another shop in the mall, I did randomly pick up three DVDs for a song:
  • Waterworld, one of my favorites even if it did bomb at the box office, and hey, Jeanne Tripplehorn is hot

  • Blade Runner, loved this movie ever since I first saw it in the theaters years ago

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I did not yet have in any medium (actually I already had the other two movies in VHS, which is, as they say, "the new vinyl")
People in Dubuque are still the worst drivers in the universe. And the traffic in Dubuque has become astonishing for a small city: you'd never get across University Avenue alive without lights at the crosswalk, the flow of traffic there is just nonstop at all hours of the day.

Speaking of young punks, in the library a young punk accosted me à propos of nothing, and tried to convince me that the Presbyterian Lay Committee is the greatest thing since sliced bread. (Well, I was sitting there at a table, reading the latest issue of The Presbyterian Layman.) I demurred. But he was civil about it, which in this day and age is unusual.

On the way home, there was a lot of traffic. At one point, toward dusk, I sneezed, and just as I was reorienting myself to the roadway afterwards, I noticed a deer dashing across the highway right in front of me. I missed it.

I stopped off in Waukon to pick up a large vanilla shake, had to wait more than five minutes at the drive-up window, and what they gave me was probably not a large vanilla shake. Oh well. I got home in one piece. Now comes the rush of the rest of this week.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Dubuque, Dubuque

Off to attend some lectures in Dubuque. And computer-free for the duration. 'Twouldn't do any good to take my ThinkPad "with" (as they say up here in northeastern Iowa when they mean "with me"). Would I have wireless access down there in Dubuque? No idea, and I've never gotten around to getting a wireless card, anyhow. At the hotel where I'm staying, I did once a couple of years ago get Internet access through the TV set in the room. Horrid resolution, about like the CGA graphics I remember from a friend's IBM PC XT back circa 1985. And they charged extra for it.

Speaking of localisms, down in Dubuque people say "youse" when they mean "you, plural."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Well, I got a permanent bridge installed yesterday. Lower left side, now I no longer have a gap in my teeth where that bicuspid used to be. This completes the dental odyssey which I began in May, when I went to the dentist for the first time in almost 20 years.

Must admit, there's nothing quite like bridgework to make you feel very definitely middle-aged.

On the other hand, for the first time in years, I can now chew food on both sides of my mouth. That's going to take some getting used to again.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Busy, Busy, Busy...

...and/or on the road much of these next several days. Expect my posting to be light this coming week.

But while I'm at it, here's a highly incorrect Ant City flash game.

Friday, November 04, 2005

How I First Stumbled Across the Blogosphere

It was three years ago today— November 4, 2002— that I first posted a comment on a blog. The blog was Dean's World. And I'm sure I hardly knew at the time what a blog was.

I'd first discovered Dean's World a few weeks earlier, some time in October 2002. I was just googling around, I don't even recall now on what, and stumbled across Dean Esmay's blog in the search results. "Hmmmm," I thought to myself, "this site looks interesting." Like I say, I almost certainly had little or no idea at the time what a blog was. Anyhow, I kept returning day after day. And within a few weeks, I worked up the nerve to post a comment.

Dean's World was a much smaller place in those days, and not the leading Playful Primate it has since become. In a post just a few days before my first comment, Dean remarked, "In the month of October, we averaged 391 visits per day, our all-time high. To date, we've had a total of 36,612 visits since the beginning of June (I don't have figures for April or May, when we first started)."

Nowadays, Dean's World gets something more like 11,000 visits per day.

Back in those days, a long Dean's World thread was one which garnered as many as half a dozen comments. In addition to visitors who came and went, there were only a handful of regular commenters. Dean, of course. His wife Rosemary. Kevin Brehmer. Ara Rubyan. Casey Tompkins. Paul Fallon. The late Gary Utter. Soon enough, myself. And within a few weeks after my first comment, the inimitable Arnold Harris made his appearance.

The Internet seems to age by dog years. Looking back, it seems hard to believe it was as little as three years ago. I gradually (more gradually than you might imagine) came to realize that there was a whole big bright blogosphere out there. I branched out to reading, and commenting, on other blogs. Strange to say, for a good two years I resisted opening a blog of my own. Then eventually I did acquire a blog, almost by accident, whilst registering to comment on blogmom Caltechgirl's blog— more on that when my first blogiversary rolls around, in about a week and a half.

Oh gee, I'm getting all sentimental and nostalgic about this. Three years. Who woulda thunk?!

The Sony DRM Rootkit Debacle

Something in me hopes that Sony gets slammed good and hard, in the courts and in the marketplace, over the recent news that Sony tried to enforce digital rights management (DRM) by placing a rootkit on one of their CDs. A rootkit which will stealthily and permanently install itself on your computer, when you try to play the CD.

I mean, come on. A rootkit is ordinarily something evil hackers try to install on your computer. And when they're caught, evil hackers ordinarily face major jail time for their shenanigans. But I guess the "suits" consider themselves immune to the strictures which apply to the rest of us.

I take a very dim view of DRM, which has little to do with your digital rights, and everything to do with the "suits" out there micromanaging what you're able to do with your computer. It's digital restrictions management, not digital rights management.

And I'm very glad that, thanks to Linux, I've long since broken free, and escaped from the Matrix.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Third O'Clock

So, today is the third. The third day of the month always, in a small way, drives me nuts.

Yes, I'm always glad when the fourth rolls around, because my watch has a date window where you'd expect three o'clock to be, and so on the third where you'd expect to see a "3" there actually is a "3", which just drives me nuts, and I am soooo glad when the fourth rolls around.

Angrier Than the Average Bear

Am I the only person who's noticed that, ever since that incident of unauthorized entry into my home last week, my blog entries have been edgier and, well, a lot angrier than usual? Machine guns. Mass graves. Sawed-off baseball bats. Bludgeoning store managers insensate right in the aisle of the store. Evil e-mail-gutting Internet Service Providers.

I didn't notice it immediately, but I have noticed it. Something is brewing, deep down there in the dark cavernous depths of my subconscious. I guess it makes sense. And I guess it also makes sense that I didn't notice it myself right away.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

E-Mail Woes: An Update

As I was griping the other day, my small local mom & pop Internet Service Provider has recently activated for our "benefit" an updated anti-spam quarantine program. This means if I want to check that I'm receiving all my e-mail, I've got to keep going and logging in to a website to see if they're holding back some of my e-mail.

What a royal pain! I mean, there is web-based e-mail, such as Yahoo or Hotmail, which you customarily check by logging in to a website. That's why they call it web-based. And then there is "real" e-mail (most common variety technically known as POP mail), where you don't need no stinking website, you just download the e-mail without further ado to Outlook Express or Mozilla Thunderbird or whatever you use as an e-mail program.

One of the benefits of signing up for Internet Service is that your ISP ordinarily provides you with a "real" e-mail address, not just a web-based e-mail address such as any junior high student can sign up for, for free, in 60 seconds flat. If my ISP is, then I have an e-mail address called... oh, let's call it I can set Mozilla Thunderbird for Linux (pictured above) to check automatically every so often, and see if I've got any new e-mail, and if I do, download it for me. Automatically. Without no stinking websites!

And if I've got spam, I can sort it out on my end, on my own computer, using Thunderbird's well trained and very effective spam filter.

Well. Here's what makes this an update, instead of simply a recycling of my rant from the other day. Yesterday I phoned my ISP's tech support number, and had a long conversation with the support person on the other end. He was very courteous, and he did his best to be helpful. But he verified that (unlike former anti-spam ventures by my ISP) there is no way to turn off the quarantining "you gotta keep logging into the furshlugginer website" feature. And there is no way to opt out of this new anti-spam quarantine program.

No, I'm stuck with it. At least until my ISP suffers its next drunken lurch, and institutes something even... worse? Better? Do you think I'm going to stick around and find out?

I repeat, no longer functions as a "real" e-mail address. I am now for all practical purposes without a fully functioning, website-free, "real" e-mail address. For this, I pay out good money every month?!

Unfortunately, out here in the remote Iowa countryside, my small local mom & pop ISP is the only game in town. If they weren't— if there was any local alternative— I can assure you, from conversations I've had with neighbors, that we'd be deserting like rats clambering off a sinking ship.

Well. Actually is only one of four e-mail addresses which funnel into Thunderbird here on my computer:
  • paul at paulburgess dot org, the receive-only e-mail address associated with my personal website. This is the address I generally give out in the blogosphere, including in the "E-Mail me" link at the upper left of this page

  • paul at stupid-isp dot com, fergit it!

  • a forwarding e-mail address I've had since 1998, which is generally the address I give out to people out here in meatspace. Until yesterday, for several years I'd had it set to forward e-mail to But henceforth it will forward e-mail to...

  • a free "real" e-mail (i.e., POP mail) account which I had the foresight to sign up for a while back. This now becomes my "workhorse" e-mail account for sending and receiving e-mail
Don't worry, gentle reader; from your end, all this is transparent. All you need do is keep sending your e-mail to me to whatever address you've already been using. Even in the unlikely eventuality that you send it to (which I have not been in the habit of posting or giving out to people), it will get to me eventually, though perhaps not expeditiously. I can't be bothered to keep logging into a website all the time to check my e-mail.

I mean, for this I pay out good money every month to!!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Better Man Than I'd Thought

There's a supermarket somewhere here in my extended area, and for some years now I've taken a rather dim view of the manager of that supermarket. I once saw him loudly berating one of his workers right out in the aisle, right in front of customers, barking "Now get to it, did you hear me? Do you understand me? Do you understand what I'm saying?"

If I'd had a sawed-off baseball bat with me, it would have been my highest moral duty, and my pleasure and joy, to whack and bludgeon this manager insensate, right there on the spot. (It didn't help that I already knew the worker, and I knew him to be a good and responsible fellow.) And I've heard second and third hand since that this manager is hard to get along with. In short, I've long since concluded that he's just a real jerk.

Then yesterday I was out shopping, and I happened to stop off for groceries. They must've been short-handed, because when I got to the checkout, which was clogged with customers, this manager opened another line, and he manned the cash register himself.

I noticed that the manager was friendly to the other customers and to me. Not friendly in that treacly, mawkish manner which has become so fashionable in this Candle-in-the-Wind, post-Princess-Diana world. But friendly in the brisk, small-town customer-service manner I remember from the world of thirty and forty years ago.

He ran my groceries over the scanner, and he punched keys for multiple quantities (two grapefruit here, four containers of yogurt there), as if he was playing Beethoven at the keyboard. He tied the plastic grocery bags crisply, like a Marine tidying his uniform to get ready for inspection. (And once I got home, I found he had packed the bags intelligently, none of the usual stuff of mousetraps or drain cleaner packed right next to the hamburger.) It was clear that in a quiet, understated way, this man took pride in his work, and he took pride in doing his work right. It wasn't exaggerated, and it was no act. It struck just the right note.

I'd have to say I came away with the impression that this supermarket manager was a better man than I'd thought. He may still be a jerk toward his workers, and if so there's no excuse— he'd still be thoroughly baseball-batworthy in my eyes. But I saw a side of him I hadn't seen before. A side which goes a long ways toward casting light on what drives the man. Sometimes the truth comes through in those subtle clues of word and deed. At the very least— even if he is a bad man— he's a more complex, tangled ball of yarn than I'd realized before.

Though like I say, there was something in the way he conducted himself, something that's hard to fake, which struck just the right note. Even if he's far from perfect, I suspect he is indeed a better man than I'd thought.

Trick or Treat

I had a grand total of nine trick or treaters here last night. To be honest, that's about what I'd expected, out here in the countryside high atop Wheatland Ridge. But as usual, I'd laid in an ample amount of candy, just in case.

Now it's the morning after, and the question is, what do I do with all this candy that I've got left over?!