Saturday, December 31, 2005

Can You Raed Tihs?

Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs. Cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

(h/t Chelsey)


Friday, December 30, 2005

Retiring the Old Almanac

As the year winds down, I find I'm ready to retire my 2005 Old Farmer's Almanac. Already have the 2006 almanac, purchased at the supermarket checkout a few months ago.

I haven't missed buying the Old Farmer's Almanac in almost 20 years now. In fact, I still have old copies going back into the 1960s and 1970s. I never throw old copies away. Indeed, I'm always on the lookout for old almanacs in used bookstores and second-hand shops.

To be honest, I liked the Old Farmer's Almanac better in the old days, when it was less slick and less professionalized than it's become in recent years. There was something funky about the calendar tables, with cryptic astronomical symbols which meant "Mars in quadrature with Jupiter," or something of the sort. Tables of the best fishing days. Diagrams showing the size of ten-penny and six-penny nails. Notations, in Old English lettering, of "days of traditional observance in the Anglican Church calendar." Tables of high and low tides, basically intended in those days just for New England. And vaguely disreputable advertisements, "Miss Marguerite Predicts That 1967 Will Be a Year of World Import!" The "feature articles" in the OFA in those days were never much, and often enjoyably amateurish. The almanac always closed with a hippy-dippy piece by this same dude, who would explain, in loopy purple prose, how all the ecospheres of the world were but cells in one vast cosmic organism. Or somesuch.

The gradual decline of the Old Farmer's Almanac began some time in the late 1980s, shortly after they switched from a fold-and-staple binding to a binding with a solid spine. Then the cover went glossy. Then the inside pages started going glossy. The kicker came when they "redrew" the cover illustrations, from finely engraved steelplate to a much-less-detailed sloppy freehand. On the newer and simpler cover, Ben Franklin looks like a dyspeptic deadeyes.

And the feature articles have gone slick and professional. At least they didn't stick with the trend of the early 90s, when for a couple of years they flirted with political correctness, and with knowing references to sociologist Thorstein Veblen. Breezy and slick, the feature articles have taken over the almanac. I don't know that they even carry that diagram of different nail sizes any more.

Oh, I'll still buy the Old Farmer's Almanac every year. I'll even read the feature articles, and try to ignore the obvious fact that they're written for the reading consumption of suburbanites and latte-drinkers. And the old copies of the almanac will continue to accumulate in my little wooden bookrack in the half-bath upstairs, next to the toilet, where they will afford me endless browsing.

But I do wish they'd cut the feature articles by better than half, and farm them out once again to well-meaning if unpolished amateurs. I do wish they'd bring back the vaguely disreputable ads for the Rosicrucians, or "Resurrected billions to farm ocean bottoms when seas are removed by coming whirlwind! Send SASE for details." I even wish they'd go back to non-slick pulp paper, and to the old steel-engraving cover design, in which Ben Franklin looked not like a dyspeptic deadeyes, but merely dyspeptic.

Sometimes the more things change, the more they do not stay the same.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Favorite Words




These are just a few of my favorite words.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Unreal Estate

The other day I picked up a free magazine of real estate listings for northern Wisconsin. Which is, well, a long ways to the north of here. And I concede that many of these houses come with lake frontage. Nonetheless, methinks the housing market up North is somewhat unreal.

Some gems from the real estate magazine, and there are plenty more where these came from:
Yes, your very own 2-acre island in the heart of Catfish Lake. Power and phone are to the island [well, I should hope so!], along with older 2-bedroom cabin. Imagine the possibilities with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. $495,000.

This home offers a huge recreation room with a bar in a fully furnished basement, 2 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, open concept kitchen/living room. $399,000.

3 bedroom, 3 bathroom home with southern exposure and 165 feet of sandy shoreline on Lake Superior. Architecturally designed with outstanding craftsmanship. [Looks like an undistinguished older house in suburbia.] $895,000.

Charming chalet home with 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, fieldstone fireplace, and ripple sand frontage extending around the entire peninsula. [Looks more like an A-frame cottage than a house.] Level lakeside area adjacent to wet boathouse provides perfect picnic and swimming area. The 3 stall wet boathouse has 2 bedrooms, bathroom, and woodburning fireplace. $1,275,000.

Beautiful Tomahawk Log home with rustic elegance. Sitting on 1.5 acres and with 200 feet of pristine sand frontage. 3 bedrooms, 3.5 bath. 3-season room [translate: in northern Wisconsin, you can forget using this room 5 months out of the year] with large deck lakeside. $1,600,000.

This is only the second owner of this "New Orleans" style getaway! [Q: "New Orleans"?! Is this really the best way to describe a house you're trying to sell?] Private and quiet and close to town— this gem won't last long! [Again, not the best wording to use, especially in association with "New Orleans."] $499,900.

2 bedroom authentic log 3-season cottage brings back the real Northwoods retreat. [translate: does it have running water? And you won't be able to heat it during the winter. But it's yours for only] $599,000.

The perfect makeover candidate, with an excellent location and good bones. Spacious family home just needs some elbow grease & updating. [In other words, the place is a wreck, but we'll let you have it for only...] $469,000.
I dunno, maybe it's just that I live in an area where housing is still affordable. But I'd have to be someone's idea of Bill Gates before I'd lay out several hundred thousand dollars for an otherwise none-too-impressive two-bedroom home. Lakefront or no.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Meme of Fours

Well, I'm on vacation over here in Madison, and I'm going to take my folks out today to see the Narnia movie. And I discover that IB Bill has tagged me with the Meme of Fours. So here we go:

Four jobs you've had in your life: Teaching assistant in a university math department; Manual brightstacker in a canning factory; Wholesale sports merchandise; Presbyterian minister.

Four movies you could watch over and over: The Matrix; Kill Bill, Vol. I; Waterworld (Seriously! And besides, Jeanne Tripplehorn is hot); Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin.

Four places you've lived: Madison, Wisconsin; Cook, Washington; Durham, North Carolina; Mendota, Illinois.

Four TV shows you love to watch: The X-Files; American Gothic; Twin Peaks; Millennium.

Four places you've been on vacation: San Diego; northern Wisconsin; Seattle; Madison (this very moment).

Four websites you visit daily: Dean Esmay; Slashdot; OSNews; Weather Underground.

Four of your favorite foods: Pizza; Hamburger; French fries; Vanilla malt.

Four places you'd rather be: Portland, Oregon; State Street in Madison; Franklin Street in Chapel Hill; Wheatland Ridge.

Four albums you can't live without: Yes, Fragile; The Beatles, the White Album; Simon & Garfunkel, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme; The Chills, Submarine Bells.

And I tag Casey Tompkins, over at The Gantry Launchpad.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Good News of a Great Joy

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

 "Glory to God in the highest,
  and on earth peace among men with
    whom he is pleased!"

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shephherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 —Luke 2:1-20


And So 'Tis Christmas

Well, I've got worship services this morning at Mt. Hope and St. John's. Then I pack my bags, and it's off to Wisconsin to visit family.

I'll be on vacation most of this week, so you can expect my blogging to be light. Merry Christmas!


From "Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativity"

It was the Winter wilde,
While the Heav'n-born-childe,
  All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;
Nature in aw to him
Had doff't her gawdy trim,
  With her great Master so to sympathize:
It was no season then for her
To wanton with the Sun her lusty Paramour.

Only with speeches fair
She woo's the gentle Air
  To hide her guilty front with innocent Snow,
And on her naked shame,
Pollute with sinfull blame,
  The Saintly Vail of Maiden white to throw,
Confounded, that her Makers eyes
Should look so neer her foul deformities.

But he her fears to cease,
Sent down the meek-eyd Peace,
  She crown'd with Olive green, came softly sliding
Down through the turning sphear
His ready Harbinger,
  With Turtle wing the amorous clouds dividing,
And waving wide her mirtle wand,
She strikes a universall Peace through Sea and Land.

No War, or Battails sound
Was heard the World around,
  The idle spear and shield were high up hung;
The hookèd Chariot stood
Unstain'd with hostile blood,
  The trumpet spake not to the armèd throng,
And Kings sate still with awful eye,
As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.

But peacefull was the night
Wherin the Prince of light
  His raign of peace upon the earth began:
The Windes with wonder whist,
Smoothly the waters kist,
  Whispering new joyes to the milde Ocean,
Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While Birds of Calm sit brooding on the charmèd wave.

The Stars with deep amaze
Stand fixt in stedfast gave,
  Bending one way their pretious influence,
And will not take their flight,
For all the morning light,
  Or Lucifer that often warn'd them thence;
But in their glimmering Orbs did glow,
Untill their Lord himself bespake, and bid them go.

And though the shady gloom
Had given day her room,
  The Sun himself with-held his wonted speed,
And hid his head for shame,
As his inferiour flame,
  The new enlightn'd world no more should need;
He saw a greater Sun appear
Then his bright Throne, or burning Axletree could bear.

The Shepherds on the Lawn,
Or ere the point of dawn,
  Sate simply chatting in a rustick row;
Full little thought they than,
That the mighty Pan
  Was kindly com to live with them below;
Perhaps their loves, or els their sheep,
Was all that did their silly thoughts so busie keep.

When such musick sweet
Their hearts and ears did greet,
  As never was by mortall finger strook,
Divinely-warbled voice
Answering the stringèd noise,
  As all their souls in blissfull rapture took.
The Air such pleasure loth to lose,
With thousand echo's still prolongs each heav'nly close.

Nature that heard such sound
Beneath the hollow round
  Of Cynthia's seat, the Airy region thrilling,
Now was almost won
To think her part was don,
  And that her raign had here its last fulfilling;
She knew such harmony alone
Could hold all Heav'n and Earth in happier union.

At last surrounds their sight
A Globe of circular light,
  That with long beams the shame-fac't night array'd,
The helmèd Cherubim
And sworded Seraphim,
  Are seen in glittering ranks with wings displaid,
Harping in loud and solemn quire,
With unexpressive notes to Heav'ns new-born Heir.

Such musick (as 'tis said)
Before was never made,
  But when of old the sons of morning sung,
While the Creator Great
His constellations set,
  And the well-ballanc't world on hinges hung,
And cast the dark foundations deep,
And bid the weltring waves their oozy channel keep.

Ring out ye Crystall sphears,
Once bless our human ears,
  (If ye have power to touch our senses so)
And let your silver chime
Move in melodious time;
  And let the Base of Heav'ns deep Organ blow
And with your ninefold harmony
Make up full consort to th'Angelike symphony....

But see the Virgin blest,
Hath laid her Babe to rest.
  Time our tedious Song should here have ending,
Heav'ns youngest teemèd Star,
Hath fixt her polisht Car,
  Her sleeping Lord with Handmaid Lamp attending:
And all about the Courtly Stable,
Bright-harnest Angels sit in order serviceable.

 —John Milton (1608-1674)


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Whence This Blog Originateth

my desk
This is where my blog originates from. My desk, in my study, in my house, high atop Wheatland Ridge, on a gravel road far out into the countryside of northeasternmost Iowa. Usually I retire to my study with a cup of coffee after breakfast, early in the morning, and I write.

And my pearls of insanity are propagated thence, via Mr. Gore's DARPA-begotten Internet, to my 20 or so regular readers. (Yes, I do follow my stats. And I'm appreciative of all of you my readers.)

And it all originates from my old oak desk. Arm of retro oak office chair just visible at the very bottom of the picture.

Atop the desk, starting on the left... Leather coffee cup coaster, "University of Dubuque Theological Seminary." Black and chrome retro stapler. Small red anvil, used as a paperweight. Corsair FlashVoyager one-gigabyte USB flash drive, looks sorta like a rubber jackknife handle. Pink Pearl rubber eraser. Rhodia 3"x4" graphpaper-ruled notepad (orange cover). Inlaid cherrywood rocker blotter. Black porcelain postage-stamp moistener, "Sengbusch Ideal Junior, Milwaukee, Wis., Made in U.S.A.": alas, now obsolete. Black hard-rubber ball, "The Gates Rubber Co., Denver, U.S.A.", partly hidden behind computer. Small American Family Insurance 2005 calendar, now in its waning days, with Norman Rockwell illustrations; also partly hidden. Air Pilot temperature and humidity gauge (metal, black & white circular, nonfunctional). Keuffel & Esser Log Log Duplex Decitrig slide rule, 20 scales, machine-ruled on celluloid over a mahogany core, in leather case, ca. 1940 vintage. Pickett 5" aluminum log log slide rule, in leather case with pocket clip.

IBM ThinkPad T20, running under Mandrake Linux 10.1; Fluxbox window manager; browser, Opera 8.51, with my blog loaded. This geekishly configured laptop computer is (well, obviously) the heart and nerve center of my blogging endeavors.

Metal and bakelite desk lamp visible behind the computer.

Continuing around to the right... Telephone, a regrettable necessity of modern life. Answering machine. Heavy glass and hard rubber inkwell, "Lewis Ball Bearing Ink Well Co., Mfgrs., Paulding, Ohio, U.S.A." A tin of Penguin™ Caffeinated Peppermints. Iomega 100-megabyte USB zip drive, nifty translucent blue. Leather document envelope, "Compliments of S.S. Stadsvold, Proprietor of Fosston Elevator and Flouring Mills, Fosston, Minn." Libelle leather pen wrap, which holds two Rotring solid brass fountain pens (medium nib and extra-fine nib) and a Rotring solid brass mechanical pencil (0.7 mm lead, hardness: HB).

And don't forget, leather desk pad on top of my desk. And bolted to the top of a nearby bookcase, an old-fashioned Giant™ hand-crank pencil sharpener, "Made by Automatic Pencil Sharpener Co., Chicago, U.S.A."

As you can tell, I'm a Selective Luddite®, using the best of old and new, using them and not letting them use me. I believe in operating on a human scale. Preferably a funky human scale, with soul.


Strong Bad: Monster Truck

In this episode, Strong Bad is the announcer at a Monster Truck Show!!!


Friday, December 23, 2005

Major Matt Mason

Christmas 1967. I was 11 years old. And under the tree that morning I found... none other than Major Matt Mason and his space station!!!

Major Matt Mason was an astronaut in a space suit. His space station stood a good two feet tall. And there were all sorts of neat accessories. Like the jet pack which you put on his back— it enabled him to fly through the air on a string. Or the space sled he rode around on. Or the gigantic heavy-duty moon suit, which looked more like deep-sea diving equipment. Or even the rocket launcher, which fired a cap-loaded missile.

There were tons of other Major Matt Mason items you could buy, but those were the ones I had. And now you can read all about the good Major on his collectors' website.

Strong Bad: Fingers

Why does Strong Bad wear boxing gloves all the time? How can he type at his computer keyboard?! In this episode, Strong Bad gets some fingers. Well, sort of.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

1984 Arrives in Britain, 20-Some Years Late

Starting in March 2006, the UK will be using cameras to track and record the whereabouts of every vehicle in the country:
Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.
As Mister Rogers might have put it: "Can you say 'Orwellian'?"

Today it's license plates. Tomorrow it's computer face recognition. And how long do you suppose it will be before the Department of Fatherland Security, or whoever, gets the bright idea of importing this kind of program into the States?

Your whereabouts, every time you're out in public, tracked and recorded in a nationwide database. Maybe while they're at it, they can mandate by law that a camera be installed in your TV set at home, too:
The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time... To one side of the telescreen there was a shallow alcove in which Winston Smith was now sitting. By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, Winston was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen, so far as sight went. He could be heard, of course, but so long as he stayed in his present position he could not be seen.

—George Orwell, 1984
And that's not to mention all the other information already being collected on you. Every time you use your Mobil Speed Pass at the gas pump. Every time your groceries are passed over the scanner at the supermarket checkout. How many boxes of macaroni, which brand of toothpaste you use, all stored in some database somewhere.

Imagine living in a world where all these databases are centrally tied together. If you've never heard of Total Information Awareness, you should look it up. And it should scare the hell out of you:
[Total Information Awareness] has the stated mission to gather as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralized location, for easy perusal by the United States government, including (though not limited to) Internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver's licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data. In essence, [its] goal is to develop the capacity to recreate a life history of thoughts and movements for any individual on the planet on demand.
Oh, what a wonderful world that will be...

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Strong Bad: Japanese Cartoon

Strong Bad shows what it would be like if he was a cartoon character in Japanese anime.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter Solstice, My Foot!

Just heard on the radio that winter begins today at 12:35 PM. Well, winter is a bit late to the game. We've been "enjoying" subzero and single-digit weather since the weekend. And now today is the day when it's supposed to warm up! Yeah, right.

I was down in Lansing last night to see a high school basketball game. Stopped off downtown for supper beforehand, and of course downtown Lansing has diagonal parking, and the sides of the street slope downwards toward the curb, and the entire street slopes downwards (the Mississippi is less than two blocks away). So when you're parked, the nose of your vehicle is pointed very distinctly downward. Anyhow, coming out after supper, I found that my parking spot was coated with ice. Trying to back up out of it, my rear wheels were just spinning on the ice.

So I put my Jeep in four-wheel drive, and just backed right on out. That is the kind of weather we've been having around here.

After the games (JV lost in a squeaker, varsity won) I was going out to my Jeep, which was parked across the street from the high school, when all of a sudden four deer came dashing through, between the cars and across the street. One deer leaped in the air between two cars, and you could hear a resounding thunk as its hoof clipped somebody's fender. What were those deer doing in town?! No sign of a jolly dude in a red suit, though. Not quite yet.

Strong Bad: Fhqwhgads

"Come... on... fhqwhgads, I said come on, fhqwhgads, everybody to the limit, everybody to the limit..." Strong Bad stars in his own music video. Directed by The Cheat.

(BTW, that's pronounced f'ho-go-gosh. More or less. And keep an eye out for the JFK/Lincoln tie-in.)


Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Looks like Mindjack is back in gear. They've been running minor items on the sidebars, but the last feature article was back in May. Until I stopped by yesterday, and found a new feature article dated December 14! "The Telephone Repair Handbook," first of three parts, all about the cyber side of social networks.

"Mindjack: The Beat of Digital Culture." I just love these funky quasi-cultural-magazine sites. You know, sort of like those free local weeklies you'll find a stack of, near the cash register in restaurants and pizza joints in Ann Arbor, or Berkeley, or on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin. Funky quasi-cultural-magazine sites. I wish I could find more of them.

Now if only Shift would return...


Strong Bad: Action Figure

Wow! What if Strong Bad had his own action figure?!


Monday, December 19, 2005

I'm Dreaming of a Peirce Christmas

I gone and done it. Ordered myself some books for Christmas. All writings of, or about, American logician and philosopher of science Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914). These ought to fill in some of the remaining gaps in the several feet of shelf space here in my study which contain primary or secondary Peirce literature:
  • Writings of Charles S. Peirce: A Chronological Edition. Volume 2, 1867-1871.

  • Writings of Charles S. Peirce: A Chronological Edition. Volume 6, 1886-1890.

  • Peirce's Letters to Lady Welby.

  • Studies in the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce.

  • Studies in the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce, Second Series.
Now is that a geek's book list, or what?!

Strong Bad E-Mail Week Here at Let the Finder Beware

I've decided that this week I'm going to post a link every day to one of my favorite Strong Bad E-Mail episodes.

Strong Bad: Trogdor the Burninator

Strong Bad gives an art lesson on how to draw a dragon. Result: Trogdor the Burninator! Complete with music video. "Burninating the countryside, burninating the peasants...

"And the Trogdor comes in the niiiiight!!!"


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Strong Bad E-Mail

If you haven't discovered Strong Bad E-mail over at, where have you been the past several years?! One of my favorite episodes features Strong Bad starring in that action-packed movie, "Dangeresque 2: This Time It's Not Dangeresque 1!"

And remember... Strong Bad always does all his own stunts, he never uses a stunt double! ;-)


Friday, December 16, 2005

Mocking the Announcer

I've got to confess that I have an off-the-wall habit, a longtime habit which might make some people question my sanity: when I'm listening to the radio, I talk back to the announcer. I mock the announcer. I make fun of the announcer. Right out loud. I jeer at the announcer mercilessly.

Eating breakfast in the morning, I usually listen on my GE Superradio to 600 WMT from Cedar Rapids. First off, WMT has this annoying policy of doing station identification three or four times a minute. When it gets too bloody annoying, I'll interrupt the announcer in a paroxysm of station identifications: "News Radio 600 WMT! News Radio 600 WMT! News Radio 600 WMT! News Radio 600 WMT!! NEWS RADIO 600 WMT!!!!!"

I mean, it's as if they're afraid we're going to forget which station we're listening to, if they don't keep announcing it every 20 seconds.

Or I'll make fun of the names of the news crew. When the announcer says, "And now for the weather we go to Mark Schnackenburg." I call out, "Schnackenburg?!" Or even, "Schnackenburg?! Where did they get a name like that??!!!"

The lead-in to the morning traffic report always goes, "And now, here's traffic conditions this morning on the highways and the byways." This elicits from me the mocking response, "The highways and... the byways??!!!"

It seems to be station policy to pronounce 2005 as "twenty-oh-five." This sterile, prissy way of saying the year is one of my pet peeves. So I'll interrupt the announcer with: "Twenty-oh-five??!!! Shouldn't that be... two thousand five???!!!!!!"

Morning farm report, everything always seems to be up or down by something-and-a-quarter. Soybeans are up by two and a quahtta, pork bellies are down by one and a quahtta... My response is to sing out, "Quahtta... quahtta... quahtta... QUAHTTA!!!".

When a news story reports on an F3 tornado that hit a town in Iowa, I go, "F3??! Isn't that... 'Fujitsu'???!!" (Actually, it's "Fujita"; but I digress.)

Whenever the announcer mentions the town of Coralville, down near Iowa City, I yell, "Cor'v'lle!!!" Because everyone knows that Coralville is actually pronounced "Cor'v'lle." You know, just like Louisville is pronounced "Lou'v'lle."

And this morning, I was mocking the announcer for using the word "quagmire": "Quagmire??! Are you saying it's like... Vietnam???!!!!" Also had to make fun of a Fox News report, something about "Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter said it was a dangerous gamble...": "A... dangerous gamble??!!!"

(What was "a dangerous gamble"? I'm not sure, I wasn't listening that closely, I think maybe it was the Patriot Act. In which case I suppose the Senator is actually right.)

Anyhow. If you ever overheard the way I talk back to the radio at the breakfast table, mocking the mass media and all we hold dear, you'd probably call them to come haul me away to the funny farm. Or at least tell me to get back on my meds. I'm sure I'll be classified as a security risk once the Department of Fatherland Security hears of my disrespectful proclivities.

Though like I say, this habit of mine goes back a long way. Back to my childhood, when my brother and I, in a very similar key, used to mercilessly mock commercials on TV. Call it a self-deprogramming tactic. The late William S. Burroughs was right when he said that Time magazine (and, by extension, much of the mass media) is like the ancient Mayan calendar, which programmed the Mayans to recognize certain days of the Mayan year as lucky or unlucky, times to laugh or times to cry. Mocking the announcer is a way of preventing the mainstream media from (as the moonbats in academia put it) "colonizing my consciousness."


Thursday, December 15, 2005


Yesterday we got a snowstorm. Schools were closed. The white stuff was falling out of the sky. I called off confirmation classes in the evening. By the time the snow stopped, mid afternoon, several inches had fallen. There was a lot less traffic going by my place than usual— and let me tell you, I ordinarily get a lot of traffic going by for someone who lives on a gravel road miles out into the country.

This has been an odd winter so far. It seems we get an inch or two of snow every few days. And it's been cold enough (for a while there, record-breaking cold) that the snow has stayed on the ground, and it's added up, bit by bit. We probably had better than six inches of snow on the ground before this storm hit, and yesterday's snowfall was the biggest of the season so far: nearby town of Dorchester got 4½ inches, up here on the ridge we got maybe 4 inches or a bit more.

Though note, the forecast was for "5 to 8 inches of snow." 5 to 8 inches, and we got maybe 4 inches or just over. This is par for the course with weather forecasts around here: however much snow they predict, we seldom get even the minimum. Actually I'm surprised we got as much as 4 inches. When they forecast "5 to 8 inches," usually we actually get more like 3 inches.

And if they forecast "3 to 5 inches," you can expect maybe an inch and a half of snow. "2 to 3 inches of snow" predicted, we'll probably get more like an inch.

My rule of thumb is, expect to get not much more than half of the minimum snowfall the weatherman was calling for. And I can't think of a snowstorm we've ever had around here where we ever came even within hailing distance of the maximum predicted snowfall. I sometimes almost wonder if they don't deliberately exaggerate the forecasts in order to boost ratings on local news programs, in a sort of meteorological version of "if it bleeds, it leads."

Nonetheless, 4 inches of snow will slow you down out on the road quite well enough. And now they're talking about the possibility of light freezing drizzle, and more snow, today.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Narnia Movie

Some of us got together over in Decorah yesterday and saw The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. My recommendation: go see it!

The movie was fairly true to the book, which is a rarity among movies adapted from books.

I first stumbled on the Chronicles of Narnia when I read the third volume, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, at age twelve. Oddly enough it didn't register on me that the book was by C.S. Lewis— I say "oddly enough," because I grew up in a home where C.S. Lewis was a household name. In the years since, I've read all seven volumes of the Chronicles of Narnia, as well as most of the rest of Lewis's writings, several times over.

Anyhow, the movie. The special effects are stunning, as we've come to expect in movies in recent years. CGI seamlessly melded with live action. Aslan comes across as a real lion. "And he's not a tame lion, you know."

The lantern. The snowy waste. Mr. Tumnus the faun. The Witch. The beavers. The four kids, and of course Lucy absolutely makes the movie. The movie captures not only the characters and contents of the book, but also the tone and atmosphere.

People keep calling the movie "controversial," which I don't get. It's "controversial," I suppose, to those who think Christianity, and any Christian allusions whatsoever, should be driven out of the public square and back into the catacombs. Are you going to let people like that lead you around by the nose? I know I sure won't.

One caveat about the movie for those with young children: it's considerably more violent than the PG rating might lead you to expect. About on a par with the Lord of the Rings movies, in fact, especially in the climactic battle scene. Of course I always enjoy the battle scenes in movies, but then again I'm hardly a youngster.

Overall an excellent movie, and faithful to the book. Like I say, go see it!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Santa's Reindeer in Japanese Anime

I would just love to see Santa's reindeer cast as the stars of a Japanese anime series...

war-blitzen antler lightning
Elves rushing into the workshop in terror: "Santa! The Abominable Snowman is attacking! We can't stop him!"

Cut to scene of giant monster, like an ape made out of snow, swiping elves aside and trampling igloo beneath its feet. "Rrrroowwwwwrrrr!"

Cut back to workshop. Santa, with look of grim resolve: "The battle for the fate of the world is being fought here at the North Pole. Unleash the reindeer, they're our only hope!"

Battle scene, Santa's reindeer go forth to fight the Abominable Snowman. A hard-pitched battle ensues. But they're no match for the monster. The reindeer are on the brink of defeat, when suddenly...

Well, since this is Japanese anime, you know that of course the reindeer are going to transform into more powerful reindeer, each with its own special powers. My favorite among the reindeer has always been Blitzen...

Blitzen stands there, pawing his hooves in the snow, bowed but not defeated. Suddenly loud rock music cuts in, and a voiceover goes: "Blitzen transforms to..."

Stock Blitzen transformation sequence, used in every episode, shows the reindeer turning into a bigger, more powerful reindeer: "...WAR-BLITZEN!!!"

Now War-Blitzen goes forth to battle the Abominable Snowman once again. He unleashes his special attack: "Antler Lightning!"

Kahh-RACKKK!! CRRRRASSSHHHH! Powerful lightning bolts shoot forth from War-Blitzen's antlers! The Abominable Snowman staggers back! "RRRROWWWWWWWRRR!!"

Rudolph of course will transform into Mega-Rudolph, with a Rednose Laser attack. But Blitzen is still my favorite. Blitzen transforms to War-Blitzen! Antler Lightning!!!

Santa's reindeer, fighting to protect the world, in their own Japanese anime series! Sounds to me like an idea that would thrill ten-year-old boys everywhere.

(Reindeer image courtesy of Google Images; added touches courtesy of The GIMP.)


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Steven Malcolm Anderson, 1955-2005

I was stunned to learn this morning from Dean Esmay that longtime Dean's World commenter Steven Malcolm Anderson recently passed away. As I wrote on my blog some time back, SMA was "a true conservative and a true original, and a man of honor and deep integrity." He and I shared an interest in certain rather esoteric writings, such as Goethe's Theory of Colours, and Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West. He will very much be missed.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Game of Jetan, or Barsoomian Chess

Recently I was mentioning my childhood fascination with the lesser known writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs, such as his John Carter of Mars series. I forget just at what point in my grade school years I came into possession of a paperback copy of ERB's The Chessmen of Mars. Anyhow, young game fanatic that I was, I was especially taken with a chesslike Martian board game which played an important role in the novel: the game of Jetan, or Barsoomian chess, so called after "Barsoom," which was the native name for the planet Mars in Burroughs' series.

the game of jetan
Jetan was played on a ten-by-ten board, orange pieces against black, twenty pieces to a side. One of the most fascinating features of the game was that many of the pieces were able after each square to change the direction they were moving, so that "three spaces straight" might mean "three spaces north," or it might mean "one space north, then one space east, then one space north again."

In high school I turned out sets for various odd games as an art project, and of course I made my own Jetan set, which you will see pictured above. The board I made of leather— it helps to have an uncle who was a salesman for a leather company. The Martian chessmen I made by cannibalizing a couple of different wooden chess sets, and spray-painting the pieces orange and black, adding to a few of them further distinguishing marks.

Jetan turns out actually to be a very playable game. One minor problem, the rules as ERB gave them in his book contained a few ambiguities. Back around 1970 I corresponded with John Gollon, author of Chess Variations Ancient, Regional, and Modern, and he conceded that for a Jetan piece called the Thoat in particular (represented in my Jetan set by the Knight), the ambiguities were pretty well irresoluble.

the game of jetan
Then in the early 90s I spent some of my spare time one summer writing a computerized Game of Jetan. The result looks like a crude CGA computer game from the early 80s, but it works, and it will play a tolerable game of Jetan against you. If anyone is interested in downloading and trying out my "Game of Jetan 2.2," the zipfile is right here. Documentation and Turbo PASCAL source code included— "Silver Moon Software Ltd." is what I used to call myself when I was in software-writing geek mode.

Like I say, do you begin to get the impression that I'm some kind of a fanatic when it comes to games?!

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

John Lennon

My earliest musical memory is of riding somewhere with my father in our big tailfinned car. It is the era of tailfins. I'm sitting in the front seat. I must be two or three. My father has the car radio turned on, and he's singing along with the music. I can still hear my father's deep bass voice singing "The Yellow Rose of Texas." I do believe this song hit #1 on the charts back in those days? Looking back today, I find that hard to credit, like some far distant memory of an alternate reality.

Because when I was in grade school, reality began to shift. I remember seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. I remember listening to the Beatles on the radio.

I've never been a super Beatles fan, as a cousin of mine later became. I was no whiz on Beatles trivia, and to this day I'm sure there are Beatles songs I've never heard. But the Beatles and their music were a fixture in my world, as I was going through grade school and junior high. I knew something was shifting and changing in the culture around me, and I knew that somehow, music was an important part of it. To a kid entering seventh grade in 1968, it's not clear just what's happening, or how, or why. I never was that big on music, period. But if you'd asked me in those years, I'd have said that the Beatles were my favorite group. No question.

Fast forward now to December 1980. I'm in graduate school in math at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I've been out studying at the library. Finally, late into the evening, I head home. To the apartment building, a block or two off State Street. Up to the fourth floor, to the apartment I'm sharing with my brother.

I shut the apartment door behind me and lock it. I walk through the tiny kitchenette into the living room. I let my backpack drop from my shoulder onto the desk. I turn around to the right, not quite 180°.

My brother Steven calls to me from the bathroom: "Hey, did you hear? Some guy shot and killed John Lennon."

I stand there in the living room, beside the desk. Frozen. "Oh, shit."

I just stand there in the living room. Turned not quite 180°. Frozen. Staring off into blank space, defocused, staring off into the corner of the room.

Twenty-five years ago today.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Long Pennies

Once several years ago I had this dream, as is recorded in my Book of Dreams:

Last night, I had a dream, and there were lots of parts to it. And in one scene, I discovered that back in the 1940's they used to make some pennies which were real long and stretched out, so that there was room on the back to add, in fine print, an endorsement for your representative in Congress. And I saw that this long penny was endorsing the fine, faithful civic sense of one "Irene Knizz Divell."

Looking back in waking hours, these long pennies remind me of the time when I was out on the Pacific Coast in Washington State, the "Peninsula" down in southwestern Washington, and in one of those little towns along the beach I found this restaurant with wonderful home cooking, giant juicy hamburgers with a ton of fries, and home-cooked green beans just right, and they had on display inside a glass case a curiosity, a small mummified human head joined seamlessly onto a small alligator's body, so flawless you couldn't even see how it was done, it looked just like real, and you could put coins in a machine, and then put a penny in the slot, and it would take your penny and roll it out long and return it to you, a long penny with a picture of the Alligator Man stamped on the back.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005


It's cold around here these past few days. It was fairly cold on Sunday, and then Sunday night the temperature got down to around zero. Yesterday I doubt the thermometer managed to creep up out of the single digits, and then last night... Well, last night I got up in the middle of the night (thankfully not my usual insomnia, overall I slept soundly last night) and I checked on the Internet, and here were some of the temperatures around here in the middle of the night:
  • La Crosse, -1° F.
  • Decorah, 1°
  • Prairie du Chien, -6°
  • Boscobel, -3°
  • De Soto, -2°
De Soto is over on the Wisconsin side of the River from us, and up here on the Ridge it's reliably a few degrees colder than down in the valleys, so I think it's safe to say that it was below zero here last night. I don't have a thermometer outside— got one that I keep meaning to set up, though I never get around to it— but I don't doubt for a moment that it got below zero here.

In fact, at the moment it's four below up in La Crosse.

This is really strangely cold for this early in December. I mean, this is more like January weather. And of course the snowfalls we've been getting every few days since Thanksgiving just sit there on the ground and keep adding up, bit by bit. We haven't had a really big snowfall yet, but they do add up.

I can tell when it's going to be a cold night, because my house has dual heating, electric and oil, and when it's going to get really cold overnight, the electric coop switches my heat over to oil by remote control. Usually at the top of the hour, heading into the evening. The furnace kicks in, and for a minute or two you can smell this burnt oil odor in the house.

Fortunately I'm armed with plenty of wool blankets. On my bed I've got my trusty old Hudson Bay point blanket— heavy white wool with blue, yellow, red, and green stripes. In fact I've got that blanket on my bed year round; yes, I know it's weird, but I've always had a thing about genuine wool blankets. Heading into the winter, I've added on top of that a second heavy wool blanket, this one a big grey Army blanket, with a red stripe along top and bottom and a white cross embroidered on each stripe.

Downstairs on the wicker sofa, I've got a flimsier grey wool Army blanket. Have to look into getting a heavier wool blanket to take the place of that one. You can never have too many wool blankets. Especially in this subzero December weather.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Master of the World

Antoll MA dot org.

Every once in a while, a website comes along which simply beggars description.

Antoll MA— a "pseudonym which was given to me on 11 April 1975 by an extraterrestrial presence which I am still unable to name"— has come up with a plan to solve all the problems of the world. This plan is called "Operation I AM." And the idea of the plan is simply... well... that Antoll MA should become Master of the World.

Gee, I wish I'd thought of that idea first!

Antoll MA continues: "I have resolved all of the concepts in my head and it only remains for them to be put into action. Yes, I need money. I estimate that several million dollars will be needed to cover this operation. It is necessary to pay scientists to work out all of the solutions, to virtually create the position of Master of the World, to divide the planet using new criteria, to pay the governors. To summarise, it is a question of the virtual setting up of Operation I AM so that it can become real as soon as men and women want it to."

Lots more stuff here. Numerology and 665. A blue dot of light appearing on the forehead of Marilyn Monroe. Joseph Smith and the Buddha. Passing a physics exam by mental telepathy.

And then there's Antoll MA's 65-page "Ultimatum to Heads of State," which he mailed out to world leaders: "I asked the Heads of State to recognise Antoll MA as the Master of the World. The pamphlet was sent to all the embassies throughout the whole world. I received no replies because I had no office and therefore no fixed address." Well, yeah, if you're going to send out a mailing to demand that George W. Bush, Tony Blair, et al. recognize you as Master of the World, I suppose it would help if you'd give a return address.

Oh, by the way, Antoll MA says you can get in on his program, too: "As soon as this site appeared on the Internet, I asked my 'Brothers of Space' to show themselves with orangey-red lights right across the world to validate my message. Nothing prevents you from going alone at night to an open space and making your demands." He adds: "The red balls should appear because they are just waiting for you. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't work the first time. In fact, this hardly ever works the first time, you have to come often and look at the stars."

Sounds to me like a nice set-up for an alien abduction, and ending up with an extraterrestrial implant in your sinuses. Them greys are especially nasty. Don't say I didn't warn you.

(h/t Steven)

Friday, December 02, 2005

Can You Help Me Identify This Picture?

old picture
Anyone out there have any idea when or where this print originated, or who the artist was? I'd guess the 1920s or 1930s; the artist's name as it appears in the print looks like "Cope." The print is on textured paper and it looks about the same consistency as Christmas wrapping paper or a paper placemat. It measures about 18"x10". The frame is badly worn and beat, though the print itself is in good condition.

(You can click on the picture above to see a larger version of it.)

There's a story behind this print. I first encountered a print just like it in the fall of 1981. I was in seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. Some of us were over at the loft apartment of a fellow seminarian. He had all sorts of wonderful art objects in his apartment, including a copy of this print hanging on the wall. (Yes, in case you hadn't guessed, he was an Episcopalian. ;-)

I saw that print of his that once and that once only, but it stuck in my mind. It was one of the inspirations behind a strange second-person short story I wrote, entitled "Yellowstripes."

As the years went by, I could still picture that print in my head. I assumed I'd never see the likes of it again.

Until about ten years ago, when I was serving as an interim pastor in north central Illinois. One day I walked into an antique shop, and what should I sight but... another copy of that very same print!

It wasn't cheap, but I didn't hesitate for an instant. I snatched it up, and it's hung on my wall ever since.

Though I'm still clueless as to its provenance. Way back when, I raised this question here and at Dean's World, and commenters were able to identify the characters in the picture— "the guy on the ground is Pierrot, and the two walking are Pierrette and Harlequin"— and they noted that the style looks like an artist called Erté. Can anyone add any further ideas about this print, who or what or when or where?

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I Told You So

Recently I was mentioning an article by Doc Searls on how the major broadband carriers are planning to exert leverage over the Internet content carried through their "pipelines," perhaps favoring some content while discriminating against other Internet content carried over their network.

Well, speak of the devil, now comes the news that Bell South wants to "strike deals to give certain Web sites or services priority in reaching computer users." To use an example given by the CTO of Bell South himself, the telco giant should be able to "charge Yahoo Inc. for the opportunity to have its search site load faster than that of Google Inc."

Or, said the executive, "his company should be allowed to charge a rival voice-over-Internet firm so that its service can operate with the same quality as BellSouth's offering."

If this plan goes through, I wonder if you could then pay the "suits" an extra fee not to make Google or Skype work worse on your computer than they did before??!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

December 1, 1985

I find that today is the twentieth anniversary. I can't even bring myself to say of what. Only I just don't much feel like blogging today.

December 31, 1969 - December 1, 1985. And the first of December is always a black-letter day on my calendar.