October 25, 2016

How to have a doggie bed

Ever since I mentioned that I sleep on a doggie bed (i.e., a mattress on the floor), I've been inundated with requests from readers. They say, "Oh, Keith, I want to have a doggie bed too! But I don't know how to handle my fears of...you know." I've probably gotten hundreds of such emails, if not thousands.

It's really quite simple. Here are the Three Rules of Having a Doggie Bed:

First Rule:

There are no spiders anywhere in your home. Why would they be? You're a very clean person.

Second Rule:

There is no such thing as a spider. Spiders come from dreams. They aren't real. So never worry about encountering a spider.

Third Rule

Get white sheets and blankets so you'll be able to see the spiders clearly as they march onto your doggie bed.

Special Bonus Rule:

Never look at this photo.

October 13, 2016

Totally cool

Update: it seems I'm the only one in the entire world who hasn't heard this song before today. That's what happens to us hermits: we slip out of touch. From now on, if you encounter something wondrous -- fer hevin's sake, tell me about it.

This is Israel (“Iz”) Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole, doing his version of "Over the Rainbow". Floored me. He died at 38 years old. (Hat tip to Jerry Coyne.)

September 24, 2016

This and that

One Million Moms, the wingnut group that is outraged by virtually everything, should go after major league baseball for the term "back-door slider". I mean, really. It's just rude. In a similar vein, where is the canned Million Moms outrage against "Naked and Afraid Pop-Up Edition"? They're off their game.

Baseball players should be required to be ugly, so they don't distract me.

AP: "Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday announced he had signed three bills targeting abortion providers, including one requiring them to follow outdated federal guidelines for the most common abortion drug and prescribe it at much higher doses than needed."  That's our world in a nutshell, isn't it?

I think the news should be presented in cartoon format, so Americans can understand it. You think I'm kidding, don't you?

Said of good hitter in baseball: "he can rake." I don't get it. 

What's with the phrase: "Stick that in your eye"?

"I thanked god that there was a god." A woman's face uttered this on TV. Circuitous thinking in action.

The phrase: "Hopped up." I thought it had to do with the animation of people on drugs, particularly speed. But it seems "hop" is slang for opium and narcotics in general, and this was true as of 1887.

From AP: "A Kentucky man has been arrested in North Carolina after witnesses say he urinated on the floor of an American Airlines flight from San Francisco to Charlotte." Whew. Long pee!

I heard a woman say, "He was comin' tworge me". Maybe confusion between toward and towards caused her Hail Mary snatch at another consonant, and she landed on a "j"? Tworj. Who knows? Fun though.

Old person's T-shirt "So many tunes to hum. So little time."

"It was all fathomed in her mind," said the pastor's wife about an affair-sniffing parishioner.

"What am I, kidding?" Like "what am I, chopped liver?" I love that delivery. May be a NY thing. Not sure. Say you?

Kayaktivists. I figured the term was coming but I still shuddered the first time I heard it.

I'm surprised religious people don't say, of the dead, "Oh, he's on eternity leave." They'd chuckle too, as if they knew something. They don't know anything.

I heard a mother on TV say her twenty-something daughter wanted to “get into some movie-starring."

"Thank God it's a rental," said a character in a movie. But I noticed that the captions (which I always have on during movies) said "Thank gosh it's a rental." And then captions said "scarry music". I always wondered what home-schooled Christian kids do for a living, once they grow up. Apparently they transcribe captions.

Of the phrase: salad days: “Whether the point is that youth, like salad, is raw, or that salad is highly flavoured and youth loves high flavours, or that innocent herbs are youth's food as milk is babes' and meat is men's, few of those who use the phrase could perhaps tell us; if so, it is fitter for parrots' than for human speech.” Comes from:
[4] Fowler, H. W. A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Oxford University Press, 1926.

I’ll “swing by” and check it out. Ape reference?

I've decided to believe that I live in a spaceship. What I see outside my windows is merely a hologram, meant to reassure me. It's lovely up here. Mmmmmm.

Some day, Americans will vote with emoticons —a whole range of them, hundreds if not thousands. And then an AI will figure out what it all means and tell us who the new president is. Hail Leader!

Why is there no coffee air freshener? A house never smells more pleasant than when coffee is brewing.

Crime show on TV: 
Detective: “ When you were on the phone with him that night, how did he sound?"
Woman: "Disheveled."

Baseball talk. A “fieldmouse trade”- i.e., nobody special was included in the trade. 

A southerner was asked "When was your appointment?" The woman replied, "It was of the morning." I've never heard that usage before.

Why is there no gay version of Mystery Science Theater 3000? All you'd need is a threesome of sharp, funny gay people watching a movie and saying catty things about absolutely everyone on screen. I'd love it.

I now return control of your computer to your able hands. Go on with your gardening, your cruise, or whatever the hell else you were doing with your day. I'm done with you. Begone!

August 22, 2016

The damn hawks are cramping my style

Let us begin with a picture of loveliness. How can you not love this crow? And yet, something lurks above, threatening this bird's freedom to roam.

Earlier this summer, I heard shrieks coming from an overgrown area of the farm. It was a hawk hatchling, crying for its mother to bring it food. This went on for a couple of weeks. And then one day there were two hawks in the sky, one smaller than the other. That's when the problem started. They want to eat my crows. How dare they?!

In case you're just tuning in, I feed crows. They're so smart, I can't help myself. They're almost like people. Anyway, I didn't realize how bad the situation had gotten until one day I did what I always do: headed out with a bag of seeds and peanuts and called "Crow!" As always, the crows headed for my voice. They'll do anything for peanuts, the food of the gods.

I looked up and saw a few crows in the sky, heading toward me -- and right above them were two hawks. It was almost a crowtastrophe! The crows realized they were threatened, freaked and flew away. No one was hurt. The sad part is that for days afterward, they thought I was in cahoots with the hawks. I was like, "Me?! Me?! The guy who feeds you daily?!" But crows are suspicious. They can't help it, it's their nature.

So I had to rework my whole routine. The hawks had learned that me screaming "Crow!" meant delicious crows were on the way.

Shortly afterward, one of the crows -- the one in the photo, I think -- talked to me from the tree in front of my house. He spoke to me in the soft voice, the one crows reserve for friends. It's not the ugly cawing sound; it's very pretty. He was trying to tell me something. Meanwhile, construction workers saw me seemingly talking to the air and asked who I was talking to. I said, "a crow". They just shook their heads in pity and looked away. But I thought I understood the crow's message.  I knew what he wanted me to do.

He wanted me to be silent. So now I feed the crows without calling them. I just head out, they see me, and they come. No hawks at all. Mind you, they're still there. But they've discovered another food source: wild turkeys. I saw them swooping down on a group of 10 or so unfortunate hens. Jeepers. But at least it wasn't my crows.

This has been your slice of crow/farm life. I hope you enjoyed it. As for me, I gotta go feed the crows. And you can bet I'll be silent as I do it.

One more view of Crow. Ain't he fine?

August 21, 2016

I broke up with baseball tonight

It's true. The relationship is over. I was watching my team as they opened the ninth inning in a tied game, and instead of worrying and hoping and rooting ... I realized that I don't care anymore.

I deleted the game without seeing the final inning and canceled my upcoming recordings of Nationals games (and Mets games, for that matter). I threw my Nationals keychain and my Bryce Harper T-shirt in the garbage. I'm not going to record baseball or check scores or glance at the standings ever again. I'm not going to talk about baseball or think about it.

It was a great relationship for a while. Don't get me wrong. In my heart, I wish nothing but the best for baseball. I hope it finds another fan to replace me.

But I've moved on.

August 13, 2016

Rabbi writes about transgender god

Interesting op-ed today in the NYT. Rabbi Mark Sameth asks Is God Transgender? Much of what he said was new to me. Thought you guys might like it.

August 11, 2016

The Trump game

We don't need to recount Trump's insane behavior here. I'm sure you're familiar with his lunacy by now. But here's the thing: if Trump bows out just before the election, whoever the GOP puts in his place will beat Hilary easily.

Trump will get what he wants: continuing attention and quite probably a flagship show on Fox (plus the ability to sell useless items to stupid Fox viewers and other imbeciles on his mailing list), and the GOP will score a most unlikely win.

People just don't like Hillary. Given any seemingly sensible alternative, they will vote against her and thereby elect the GOP apparatchik.

The second amendment threat that Trump issued yesterday may provide the perfect means to drive him off the ticket. And he won't care at all.

This is frightening. But our country has been terrifying for many years now. Remember, one of the major parties had no problem putting Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency. In a country this ignorant, anything can happen. That is the ultimate scary fact of our times.

August 7, 2016

That Marco Rubio sure is kind

The latest from Republican goon, Marco Rubio:
Sen. Marco Rubio said Saturday that he doesn’t believe a pregnant woman infected with the Zika virus should have the right to an abortion — even if she had reason to believe the child would be born with severe microcephaly.

“I understand a lot of people disagree with my view – but I believe that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws -- and therefore I pledge that I, and my fellow Republican nitwits, will take in all the unwanted Zika babies and care for them in perpetuity."
Watta guy! At least we won't have to worry about the poor, microcephalic children. And if you think about it, it's a win-win for them. The GOP could raise them up to become the next group of super-Republicans. After all, they have to find a new pool of voters somewhere. It's either this or the snowflake babies. Because people who are fully conscious will never vote for them again.

They sure have a keen moral sense, these Republicans. I mean, you never see them falter when faced with a tough choice. I guess their gods tell them which choice is the correct one. Let's hear if for their gods: (Insert rude noise).

August 2, 2016

Francis gets it backwards

Pope Francis is totally confused about sex, which is no wonder considering the strange sexual rules of his faith. He can't get a handle on what's occurring in modern times so, like Fox News, he jumps in and spews nonsense.

Today's AP stream:
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has lamented that children, as he puts it, are being taught at school that gender can be a choice. Francis said: "Today, in schools they are teaching this to children -- to children! -- that everyone can choose their gender."
Of course, what's being "taught" -- largely through experience and media coverage in the US -- is that there is no choice regarding gender. You are what you are. And sometimes what you are is a person trapped in a body of the wrong sex. It's not surprising that this happens. Some people are physically intersex. They are born with both female and male sexual organs. It's not much of a stretch to think that sometimes the whole body is the wrong sex. The transgender person feels that he or she is in the wrong body. What a horrible fate that must be. But today they can have that little problem fixed.

Is this process about choosing whatever gender you want? In fact, the pope got it ass-backwards. It's about not being able to choose what gender you are. These people, young and old, don't choose a gender. They claim their appropriate gender, even at a young age. And if that doesn't align with the physical gender of their body, they tell us: I'm not a man, I'm a woman. There is no choice, no mystery. It's simply something they know as surely as they know their own names.

Sexual orientation and gender dysphoria aren't about choosing. They're about who you are. Choice plays no role. This is simply the reality of their bodies and minds. They are who god made them, including gay or transgender (if'n you want to think of it that way; there is no god, of course). 

The pope understands nothing about this. For this reason, he should stick to non-sexual topics when he speaks. Why share his ignorance?

July 22, 2016

Scrivener for IOS

I know, I know. I've been ignoring the blog. Let's see if one post can nudge me into blogging again. It's worth a shot, right?

I use Scrivener to write fiction. It's the best writing software out there and was available only to Mac users for quite a while. I hear there's a Windows version now, so anyone can use it. (Mind you, no one should be on Windows anymore. No one.)

But the thing that was always missing was an IOS version of Scrivener. It took years to develop and folks were beginning to doubt that it would ever be released. But it's done! I was so excited to download it when it came out on Wednesday, and I've been playing with it ever since.

First off, it's fabulous that my work is now mobile. I can carry all my intellectual property with me wherever I go. That's so reassuring. No more worries about my house burning down while I'm out for a walk and taking my work with it. The books (there are several) are now safe. That is so important.

Plus, the IOS version works well. One of the things about Scrivener on the desktop is how zippy it is. Nothing is slow, everything is instantaneous. I'm happy to report that the IOS version is just as zippy.

The true joy of this is that wherever I am, if I think of something that needs to be changed in a manuscript -- or if I think of a great new story idea -- I can pick up my iPad and input the changes or idea. It automatically synchs with the desktop version of Scrivener. No more lost thoughts! This is so nice.

Anyway, I'm a very happy guy. Now let's see if I can get back to blogging in the next few days and weeks.

April 8, 2016

Incredible aurora lights

This is an image of the northern lights over Lapland. It doesn't get much better than this. As always, these shots are taken from NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day site. (Link)

Click the photo to see a larger version.

March 22, 2016

Who knew there was such a thing as airglow?

This photo is from NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day site. The headline says "Rainbow airglow over the Azores". Cool, isn't it?

You can see a huge version of the image by clicking on it.

March 19, 2016

Religious gits say incredibly dumb stuff

I mean, really.
According to Wayne Propst, he was replacing soil in his aunt Sharon Givan’s yard when he made the amazing discovery of the fossilized snail shells which he believes date back to the time of Noah’s flood.

“What’s really interesting to me is we’re talking about the largest catastrophe known to man, the flood that engulfed the entire world,” Propst explained, while showing off fossilized remains and adding, “Noah’s flood in my front yard. How much better can it get?”

Seeking to verify the veracity of his claim, Propst contacted self-proclaimed fossil expert Joe Taylor who stated that the fossils indeed are a remnant of the Biblical flood that covered the Earth due to God’s wrath.
Although Taylor has yet to study the fossils — or even lay eyes on them in person — he believes that they are a sign of the flood in the dry East Texas town and called the discovery “rare.
Indeed. Want some more? You know you do. Here you go.
“Now all I got to do is go in front of my aunt’s house and pick up something from back when it all began. I don’t even have to search anymore,” said Probst, adding, ” Who else can say they have a front yard full of Noah’s dirt?”

Propst’s aunt Sharon agreed, saying: “To think that like he says that we have something in our yard that dated back to when God destroyed the earth. I mean, how much better could anything be?”
How does someone end up this brain-dead? Oh, right. Churches. Never mind.

March 18, 2016

This and that -- expanded version

Note: some of the items below may be repeats. I didn't clear out my "This and That" file  very well the last time I did one of these posts. Rest assured there's new stuff interspersed throughout.

Oh joy! We are informed that Monster Theresa will be sainted on October 4, 2016. Don't forget to mark your calendars! This pope is now two-for-two in appointing monsters the the exalted position of Saint. Attaboy, Frankie. (The first monster he sainted was Junipero Serra.)

I get irritated each time I see a TV news story that includes this statement: "It so happens the Bee Gees hit, Stayin' Alive, uses exactly the right beat for proper chest compressions." Why does this irritate me? Because typically in the same report they show video of people compressing someone's chest much faster than the actual beat of the song. Methinks these people have the musical skills of a Ronald Reagan. (Ever see Ronnie try to clap along with music? Hilarious.) So, ummm, I don't think this is a good guideline for the musically challenged -- which is mostly everybody. Time for a new idea.

I love to hear "decease" used as verb, and I get the chance to hear this quite often on crime shows. I recently heard a police officer say, "It was apparent she had deceased." Bravo! I also love when the investigator thinks "this is the guy" because he "didn't show no remorse". This is what makes the guy a suspect. But...ummm, as it turns out, he didn't do it. So why would he show remorse? Most police officers are, like most people, unintelligent. This is why you should never talk to the police if they think you committed a crime. Just slam the door in the officer's face and hire a lawyer. It's the only sensible thing to do.

AP word insanity. A headline on 3/12/16 said "Storm to stay lingering over northern California". And the sub-head said: "Rough weather that gave a brief blast to Southern California was set to maintain its steady stay over Northern California into the weekend." I wonder if "stay lingering" will become the new "stay loose".

A woman on the teevee said, "She was very nice, very go-lucky". Indeed. I hope to meet some go-lucky people later today.

Seriously, I love crime shows because I get to hear gits say things in their backwoods accents. The other night I heard a Texan say, to excuse having missed a clue, "the paperwork had just not caught'n up."

On another show, a nervous girl said of a suspect, "he kind of gave me a willy feeling." Watch out, young lady. That can get you pregnant.

"Charm the pants off him" is such an odd phrase, because it's so easy to get a man's pants off. What's hard is getting him to keep them on.

I've never heard of a keeping room. Ever. Found it mentioned here.

I'm going to ask my devoutly religious sister to buy me a statue of Baphomet for Xmas. I haven't asked her yet. Shhhhhh! I think this is going to go over really well.

When I saw an article about searching for the best NY biscuit in the Times, I had to look up what a biscuit is. Oh, those things. We never ever had biscuits in our house when I was growing up, nor did I ever see one at a relative's house. It must be something fat Southerners eat.

I wonder how many logic teachers believe in god.

When in the supermarket, it's great fun to loudly refer to the meat as "dead animals". Like if I'm far away from my sister in the store, I often yell, "You go buy the dead animals while I get the toilet paper." My sister's face turns beet-red.

Unkempt has become "unkept" in common usage. This is how language changes. And again, it makes sense. I find it enjoyable to watch language change in real-time. It's always happening. Always. Language never stays still.

Funny AP headline of the day (Jan 1, 2016): "Man Attacks Soldiers Guarding French Mosque With His Car". The nerve o' them soldiers using this poor man's car to guard a building.

I wondered about the origin of the term "Charley horse". According to the unimpeachable source called the internet, the pitcher Charley Radbourne was nicknamed Old Hoss -- and he got a cramp during a baseball game in the 1880s. Thus the phrase was born. Odd, but I'll take it as fact.

TV guy: "It's not happenchance." Me: I hear this all the time. Happenstance is no longer the word. It's now happenchance -- and as with all these things, you can see why. It kinda works better. I wouldn't use the incorrect version but I grok why others do.

"Inherent nitwittery killed humanity". Dog (my visitor from another galaxy) told me they've already carved this on our tombstone in the Hall of Failed Species. Sad, but I thought I'd pass it on. And even more sadly, I understand why the intelligent species of other galaxies wrote us off. We ain't much.

In a bar scene in a Scottish movie, the bartender yelled "last orders". I assume this is their version of "last call". I think I like it better.

Let's end with something from the current news cycle. A USA Today story today recounted the clubhouse reaction to the White Sox losing player Adam LaRoche simply because he wanted to bring his son to work. And okay, he wanted to bring the kid every day. But he'd already gotten the team's agreement on this before signing his contract. Unfortunately, the bit with the kid was sealed only with a handshake. And then the damn WS brass suddenly decided he couldn't bring the kid to work. Tch.

So LaRoche (who just about everyone, including me, loves) walked away from a $13 million dollar contract and retired. I say all this by way of introducing a comment in the USA Today story. It reported that Chris Sale (a WS player) was furious over what happened and said, “We got bold-faced lied to’’ by the WS brass. Of course, the usual phrase is " a bald-faced lie", I suppose harkening back to the clear view provided by a clean-shaven face. It's kind of fun. I like "bold-faced lie" too. It kinds of makes sense, and as I say, most of these alterations do make sense. But people are losing language skills quickly, madly and irrevocably.

Ah, well. Things change. That's the nature of the universe.

March 16, 2016

Aurora over Iceland

Kinda looks like a Phoenix, eh? Cue the wingnuts. As always, these cool shots come from NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day site.

If you can spare the bandwidth, click to see the photo in a much larger size.

March 14, 2016

The curious incident of the orange flames on the stove

For weeks, I couldn't cook. This isn't quite the tragedy you may imagine, since I hate to cook. Still, one must eat.

The problem was that the friendly blue flame on my gas stove had been replaced by an angry orange (some would say yellow) flame. The first time I saw it, I shut the gas off immediately, thinking something was wrong with the gas mixture. Yellow-orange flames can indicate carbon monoxide, and that's not how I want to leave this world. (I'd like to be sucked up into a tornado, BTW. Sounds like a really exciting ending.)

So we called the gas people and eventually a friendly gas guy arrived. He walked into my house and within 30 seconds, pointed at the humidifier. "That's doing it," he said. Though he'd never seen this scenario before, he was sure the humidifier was the culprit. My sweet, darling, cute and oh so friendly humidifier was being called a common criminal. Oh, the fruited plain!

I balked. I said in a "you must be a total jerk" voice: "That's ridiculous! How could a humidifier affect the stove like that?" And I kept on haranguing the guy. In an instant, I had turned into a monster rather than a customer, so strong was my belief that he was wrong. But the fellow kept his head and repeated, each time I'd pause, "That's doing it." Once again, he pointed his finger at my poor, innocent humidifier. The finger was really irritating me. How dare he?

To show the man just how stupid he was, I turned the humidifier off and opened every window and door in the house. It was a windy day so it didn't take long for the room in the air to be replaced.

And the flame turned blue.

Oy, I felt like a jerk. (And let's be clear, I acted like one too.) But it seemed so unlikely. Nevertheless, the guy was right. I apologized profusely, because I'm a good-good person, and said goodbye to the stalwart gas guy.

Later on, I googled "humidifiers and gas stove" and found a zillion posts by people who had had the exact same experience. And in every case, they were as shocked as I was at the drama's conclusion. Plus -- and I find this so odd -- in each case the humidifier-stove connection was also news to the gas installer. You'd think if this was a thing, and apparently it is, the installers would know all about it. After all, it's not rare for people to use a humidifier. But they were as baffled as I was.

One poster said he was particularly shocked because his house is two stories, and the humidifier was in a kid's bedroom upstairs -- far from the stove. Yet he too experienced the odd orange flame.

Keep this info in your back pocket, folks. Humidifier = orange flames on stove. One nice thing, after all is said and done, is that I can shut the humidifier when I feel it's done its trick -- and later on, all I have to do is turn on the stove to check the humidity. If the flame is still orange, I don't need to turn the humidifier back on. It's kinda nice. And when I want to cook, all I have to do is open the windows.

This has been your Monday story. Protect and treasure it, for tomorrow is Tuesday.

March 12, 2016

Queer rage lets loose

I almost dropped dead when I heard that Hillary Clinton praised Nancy Reagan for "helping to start a national conversation about HIV/AIDS". Nancy, of Ronnie-and-Nancy-hate-queers fame. These two were literally monsters in the most crucial days of the AIDS crisis. We were all dying and they didn't say a thing.

Thankfully, Dan Savage handled this for me.
“You could only say the Reagans started “a national conversation” about AIDS if terrified, desperate, and dying people screaming “WHY AREN’T YOU SAYING OR DOING ANYTHING ABOUT AIDS!” at the Reagans counts. It does not.”

Savage argued that Clinton “needs to walk this back immediately or she risks losing the votes of millions of queer Americans who survived the plague. We watched our friends and lovers die by the tens of thousands while Nancy and Ronnie sat silently in the White House.”
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This confirms for the umpteenth time that Hillary Clinton isn't real. She lives in some alter reality that doesn't really connect with anything. She was an adult, an ambitious, politically-oriented woman when Ronnie and Nancy steadfastly did nothing to help people with AIDS. She didn't notice when we were dying in the streets while Ronnie and Nancy thought everything was swell?

No one who is gay wants to vote for this woman right now. Take my word for it. And I'm with Savage here:
He [Savage] also stated that he was “literally shaking” as he composed his criticism of Clinton.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes -- again. Hillary Clinton is a sham, an unreal creation affiliated only with corporate America. If it doesn't shed money that falls at her feet, she's not for it. Sure, she says things that some liberals like. But she only does that to get her hands on power -- so more money can work its way toward her and her friends. And who the hell cares what happens to real people?

I have never respected Hillary Clinton, not for one second. And with this, I'm now veering toward hatred.

Perhaps you weren't there when all this went down. I was. My friends were dying all around me. And Ronnie and Nancy ignored it.

March 5, 2016

My hope for the Olympics

Yeah, yeah, the Zika virus. I know. Still, there could be something scintillating at this year's Olympics, something that will have everyone jumping out of their seats.

Yes, I'm hoping for the long-awaited Saran Wrap Handling event. Can you imagine the excitement? Mortals can't even touch Saran Wrap without it turning into a tangled ball. But there are some halcyon individuals who can handle this challenge -- and it is they who will enter the Olympic competition.

Just picture the championship event, the penultimate Advanced Saran Wrap Handling competition. A pitcher tosses a savory roast toward the competitor -- who wraps it as it passes by in the air, without ever slowing its passage. Like magic, the wrapped roast lands on the target table behind the competitor.

And here comes a pie. (The event includes increased difficulty with each pass.) Oh, it's the dreaded custard pie -- the hardest kind to wrap in the air. But the stalwart competitor hardly moves. His or her hands fly up into the air, and voila! The wrapped pie ends up on the target table.

And in the final round, a Bloody Mary is tossed from a glass into the air. Can the competitors possibly wrap it before it spreads too far? Oh, the agony of competition!

Fans will jump out of their seats as they watch this virtual sorcery. Could anything be more exciting and sportsmanlike? No! This is what Olympic fans have been waiting for.

I cannot wait to see this.

March 2, 2016

Cool clouds over Hong Kong

Yup, I got the photo at the Astronomy Photo of the Day site, hosted by NASA. Ain't it purty?

You'll find a larger version of the image here.

Funny thing

I found this today on Jerry Coyne's web site. (He gets cross if you call it a blog.)
PHILOSOPHY is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat.
METAPHYSICS is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that is not there.
THEOLOGY is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat, that is not there, and shouting; “ I found it!”
SCIENCE is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat using a f—– flashlight.
By Jove, I think he's got it. (PS: It's not Jerry's own set of similes. It's from a reader named Leon. Bravo, Leon!)

March 1, 2016

Kinda sorta stuff

I bought two inexpensive appliances recently, and both have a very strange capability.

For instance, I bought the humidifier you see here. Delightful appliance but it has the weirdest controls. You don't actually have to touch the button to make it do things. You just sorta kinda touch it. Your finger literally doesn't need to make contact in order for it to respond. You just bring your fingertip near the button -- and it reacts. It's such an odd experience. I also bought a very cheap rechargeable light that has the same sort of controls.

So I guess this is a thing now, huh? We only need to come close to a device to make it work. I think I kinda-sorta like it, though you sometimes trigger the device when you handle it -- by moving it around the house, for instance. This can be irritating but on the whole, I approve.

Have you encountered this sort of thing? Do tell.

February 28, 2016

Frank Bruni rules

Frank Bruni speaks the truth like no other. Here's a bit from his NYT column on Trump (and Clinton):
IMAGINE, for a moment, the presidential candidacy of a rich, brash real estate magnate and reality TV star named Donna Trump.
Quizzically coifed and stubbornly sun-kissed, she’s on her third marriage. There’s clear evidence that infidelity factored into the demise of the first, and among her children is one conceived when The Donna wasn’t married to the other parent.

Her sexual appetites have been prodigious, at least according to her frequent claims and vulgar cant. And she has a tendency — disturbing on its own, even more so in someone who aspires to civic leadership — to talk about men as sirloins and rump roasts of disparate succulence. She denigrates those who displease her on cosmetic grounds:

So-and-so used to be a 9 but, with that male-pattern baldness and desperate comb-over, is down to a 6. So-and-so thinks he’s covering up that paunch with baggy suits, but we all know better.

How well do you think The Donna would do in the polls? How far into the race would she survive?
There's a lot more at the link. Go read it. And then wonder why most Americans don't see this obvious point. 

PS: My feeling is that it doesn't matter if Trump is the Republican nominee. His fans are mostly idiots who don't vote. On the other hand, Clinton's voters will be there promptly on Election Day. Not to worry. (Mind you, feel free to worry about what Clinton will do. That's not clear at all. Probably not much. She'll be too involved with all the Republican hatred directed her way.)

February 27, 2016

Don't try this at home, kids

Have you ever tried to break a CD? If you have, I hope you did it outside.

Yesterday I decided to throw out a dusty old CD. But it had personal files on it, so I figured I should destroy it before tossing it in the garbage. I was standing in the kitchen when I bent the CD. I figured it would break in two, thus saving my info from the prying eyes of busybodies. Simple, right?

Two pieces indeed. It broke into millions of little, shiny pieces. Looked like confetti. It went all over my kitchen counters, the floor, the nearby rug, my clothes and my hair. Teeny, tiny, shiny things everywhere. I had to clean the floors, vacuum, wipe all the counters and the stove, change my clothes and take a shower. It was that bad.

So, uh, don't do this. Or if you must, step outside first.

February 26, 2016

You've got to be kidding

I've never heard of this before. It's so ill, it made me sick.
You gotta hand it to Whitey Bulger — he has a gift for doing what he pleases.

The 85-year-old incarcerated gangster — who lived life of unparalleled brutality as a Boston mob boss before dropping off the radar for 16 years — got in trouble in his Florida jail cell for trying to free his own little prisoner, authorities said.

South Boston crime lord James (Whitey) Bulger was caught masturbating with the lights on at 3 a.m. last June, according to documents obtained by the Boston Globe.

A male corrections officer making early morning rounds at the federal penitentiary in Sumterville, Fla., caught Bulger in flagrante delicto, the papers said.

The guard saw him touching his exposed genitals with his left hand, according to the papers obtained by The Globe.
“I got you!” the guard allegedly hollered.

Bulger was written up by prison officials on June 1 for violating a rule that prohibits sexual activity for inmates.
You've got to be kidding. What monstrous prison official came up with this inhumane rule? I'm astounded. You put people in a cage forever -- and then attack them when they do natural things that everyone else does? Seriously, I want to know who came up with this rule. I'm going to make a wild guess and say it was probably some self-important, authoritarian, religious moron who loves to punish people (and probably masturbates in the evening when recalling what he put prisoners through that day). In other words it could have been any prison official at all. What is wrong with these people?

It's going to take me ages to absorb this new, horrifying information. Authoritarian gits are always trying to control others and make them submit to their own inane rules. These are the same folks who want to monitor the foods that poor people buy with food stamps -- and want to drug-test them and pull their benefits if they've, you know, smoked a joint or anything. Monsters, one and all.

February 25, 2016

Having fun at telemarketers' expense

This is such a fun story. A guy had had enough of telemarketers, so he came up with a robotic scheme to drive them crazy:
While the simple robot does not possess anything near artificial intelligence, it does understand speech patterns and inflections, so it can monitor what the telemarketer is saying, and then do its best to try to keep the person on the end of the line engaged.

Often the robot just has a little fun. Using recorded lines spoken by Mr. Anderson, it may say the following to the telemarketer: “I just woke up from a nap, I took some medicine and I’m really groggy. Can you go a little slower?” Sometimes it interrupts the telemarketer to ask questions. “Do you drink coffee?” or “You sound like someone I went to high school with.”

The idea is to keep the telemarketer on the call for as long as possible. The longer the conversation goes on, the more eccentric the robot becomes. In one sequence, the robot tells the telemarketer that a bee landed on his arm, and asks the telemarketer to keep talking as he focuses on the bee.
This really made me laugh. The best part is that he's made the system available to anyone. Read the linked NYT story to find out how to do it.

Telemarketers are the scum of the earth. It's about time someone turned the tables on them.

The murder route to the baseball season

I live for baseball. It's just the way it is. Luckily, baseball has one of the longest seasons in professional sports -- it's only gone from mid-October to March. Still, in the off-season I suffer. I need baseball. Didn't used to be that way but it sure is now.

So each year I wonder what to do with myself in the off-season. Last year I discovered HGTV. Since I was in the process of moving to a new house, it was interesting to me. I like design, I like decorating. So I watched a ton of HGTV shows until baseball started again. I haven't gone near HGTV since. Been there, done that.

So this year I was at a loss. HGTV wasn't gonna cut it. Whatever would I do during the off-season? And then I discovered the Investigation Discovery channel. It's wall-to-wall murder, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I'd never seen any of the shows before, so I was a ripe audience. I used to read tons of true crime books. There's something about watching lives that are totally out of control that appeals to me. The term "true crime" means only one thing: murder. And that's the way the ID (Investigation Discovery) channel reads it: murder all the way. I think I saw one show that was only about stealing. Stealing: bah, humbug. Money is boring and stealing it is ultra-boring. It's murder we want.

Because I read only true crime books for about ten years in the late 80s, early 90s, I know every detail of endless murders. In fact, as I watch ID shows, I'm often familiar with the story -- to the point where I find myself yelling at the TV: "That's not what she said when she shot him. She said..." I know almost every story. But still, I'd only read about them. Seeing the stories come to life is fun. This won't last, but for one off-season it's been a help. I happily took the murder route to baseball this year.

 What the hell am I going to do next year?

BTW, the ID station is completely off the wall. If you were an alien watching this channel from Alpha Centauri, you'd think one thing for sure - the female of this species sure is murderous. Haha. But that's how they play it. Check out the names of some of their flagship shows:

Deadly Women (and yes, they include transgender women)
Wives With Knives
Momsters: When Moms Go Bad
The Wives Did It
Evil Stepmothers

In a country where men kill women all day long, every day of the year, this channel focuses on the evil of women. I mean, really. Mind you, many of the other shows on this channel are about men who torture and kill their wives and girlfriends, but they make no note of the killer's gender. And needless to say, there is no show called "Husbands Who Kill". Can't have that; patriarchy rules. Sigh.

I see this station (and all cop and prison shows) as being part of the Fox News constellation of shows designed to keep the population in a state of terror so they'll vote for Republicans (as if that makes any sense at all; Republicans are weak on everything). Just imagine all the old people who only watch Fox News and Investigation Discovery -- with a listen or two to Rush Limbaugh in-between. You can just imagine them shaking in their living room chairs. What a country.

Anyway, the first game of the spring training season (for my guys, anyway) is little more than a week away. Mets v. Nats. In other words, I'll soon be back in heaven (like Bowie) -- and I'll never watch the sick ID channel again.

You may now return to your normally scheduled life. (Can ya tell I'm still manic? Hooray!)

February 24, 2016

So, indoor humidity is a thing?

Who knew? I always thought humidity was something to dread. In the summer months I read the weather forecasts with dread, anxiously looking for a humidity index well below 60. But I never thought it mattered indoors.

But then my doctor told me to get a humidifier. I dutifully said "okay" but when I got home, I didn't rush to Amazon to order one. I decided I definitely didn't want one in my house. Humidity? Isn't that anti-electronics? As an avid computer-guy, the prospect worried me. So I googled it and learned that humidity can actually help electronics. Strange but true.

Not only did it fix my dry-nose problem, it fixed all kinds of stuff. Ever since I moved here about seven months ago, I've gotten shocks whenever I touched plugged-in electronics. In my wildest dreams, I would never have attributed this to an overly dry home. I don't think I've ever even heard that. But the shocks are gone. I can touch anything in my house now! Oh, joy.

Also, within an hour of plugging in the humidifier, my plants stood up and saluted. In fact, they're still saluting two weeks later. They love it. Again, who knew? I mean, I knew plants needed moisture but I thought I was providing that by watering them and then spraying them daily. The humidifier does much more for them. They adore it, the cute little green fellas.

So that's it, I'm hooked. In fact, I even bought a spare, dog forbid mine conks out. You gotta have a spare. You gotta!

PS: I'm blogging because I finally hit a manic streak. Being manic depressive isn't that bad, as long as the moods switch regularly. But I hadn't experienced a manic wave in ages. Blogging fell by the wayside, life fell there too. But now I'm me again. Hooray! (And it had better last for a while. You'll know. If I blog, it's still with me. This is no way to live but there isn't a damn thing I can do about it.)

February 22, 2016

Zipf's law is so simple -- and so strange

Here's a quick explanation of Zipf's Law:
Zipf's law in its simplest form, as formulated in the thirties by American linguist George Kingsley Zipf, states surprisingly that the most frequently occurring word in a text appears twice as often as the next most frequent word, three times more than the third most frequent one, four times more than the fourth most frequent one, and so on.
I mean, seriously. How can this possibly be true? And yet it is. Each one of us can write a book using whatever words occur to us, and yet our book -- and all other books -- will always comply with this law. It's as if we're being governed by something we are neither aware of, nor understand. I've known about this for a long time but every time I see it referenced, as I did today at phys.org, I'm shocked. It goes all the way down the line, too. The 96th most often-used word is used 96 times less frequently than the most frequently-used word. And on and on. How can this be?

The linked article is about researchers who recently applied Zipf's law to ancient texts, and found that they too comply with this law. This search was occasioned by the existence of Big Data in our technologically enhanced world. Prior to this, Zipf's law had only been tested on a certain number of texts. The researchers thought there was no reason to limit their investigation into the resilience of this law. So they looked into texts from all around the world, including ancient texts -- and they found that they all follow Zipf's law. In any language, in any age, Zipf's law holds true.

Each time I encounter Zipf's law, I am shocked anew. It's as if there's a whole 'nother level of rules that guide our lives -- rules we neither sense nor grasp, and yet we use them unfailingly. It's just amazing.

PS: When quantum computers are realized, I suspect we'll see lots of new correlations in the world around us. What we are aware of is so much less than what's really there. It's exciting and as I keep saying, very strange.

February 8, 2016

Bet you've never seen this before

These attractive anomalies are called light pillars. This shot was taken in Alaska. I found it on APOD, the Astronomy Photo of the Day site.

Now you have something to google and learn about. For joy.