Monday, January 29, 2007

It's my birthday?!

Today I logged into Distributed Proofreaders to discover that it was was my birthday. Birthday - that's not for another couple months...? Then I noticed the numeral "4" next to my user ID and figured out that it was my DP birthday they were talking about, and that I must have signed up four years ago today, which sounds about right. Although with the redesign of the workflow, I have gone back to being a relative newbie in the scheme of things. That fits, because by their having called it a "birthday" instead of an "anniversary," I now feel like a four-year-old.

Brown & Pink Birthday Cake
Brown & Pink Birthday Cake,
originally uploaded by PinkCakeBox.

Pretty cake! Maybe I should have it scanned in so it can be proofread.

Why doesn't my ISP, to whom I actually give money, send me a greeting on the date I began service, which puts the year count up there in the double digits now? After all, one cannot really feel to have been born unless one has internet access. The telephone companies, the cable company, and the water company might well in on the act as well, to help inspire customer contentment. Perhaps because the customers would start to expect gifts and good customer service and things like that.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Not so intelligent design

The second item on this list of facts about thirst makes me even more convinced that the design of human beings is poorly optimized. Consider that one can go only a few days without taking in water, and it would seem as if this would be a high priority item for a designer to get right. Why wouldn't dehydration make us thirsty automatically, instead of making us hungry or tired or forgetful? Even I as designer, non-omniscient as I am, would have taken some care to get that basic drive right before going on to the rest of the creature.

On the other hand, evolution skeptics would cite the same item to point out that if human ancestors developed in the relatively dry African savannah, it would seem as if natural selection ought rightly to have cleared out any individuals who were apt to misidentify the need for seeking out a water hole. Humans who originated in a place with four wholesome rivers, in present-day Iraq might be expected to be more casual about decent hydration. Fallen mankind outside of Eden just inherited a design that was meant for a quite different setting.

All I know is that it's time for a cup of tea while I ponder human shortcomings.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Just this once

Mary of Mary's Great Ideas has cut me to the quick with this meme originally generated by Electric Venom. I'm only doing this because I just happen to have the answers handy, not because I make a habit of mem propagation.

My Me Meme

  1. My: You’ve heard the saying “I’d give my right arm for…”. So, what would you give your right arm for?

    A super-powerful cybernetic tentacle. Plus plenty of batteries.

  2. Me: What’s one word that describes how you want people to see you?


  3. Meme: If you could be any blogger, which blogger would you be… and why?

    Geoffrey Chaucer, who maketh mikle merry with the langage Englysche, ond giveth not a fygge for whoso think him freakisshe.

If they equal to the challenge, I hereby tag Pupski, Daryl, and Kelley.

Little horsies

I have found just the place to provide the essential ingredient in my plan for peace in Iraq. The evildoers will be crushed by our massive superiority in cuteness!
Guide horse

[Via monkeyfilter]

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I came up with some hearty lunchtime fare. Flickr set

Lunch is served
Lunch is served,
originally uploaded by milkfish.

Night night

I have had one of these pillows for years now to help save wear on my poor aching neck, though still do I sometimes wake up with soreness for several hours.
PillowsThe problem is that when I sleep on my side, I want to have my head on the higher edge of the pillow, and when I sleep on my back, on the lower edge, and that, being asleep, I don't always have the wherewithal to shift the position of the thing as I turn over.

I think someone should devise an automatic pillow which would adjust itself to the optimum height based on the orientation of the sleeper's body. An infrared camera positioned over the bed would determine whether a person were present (to avoid false actuation when a pet would jump up on the bed) and employ image recognition technology to identify who's present and to see whether the person's face were pointed upwards, to one side, or downwards. A very, very quiet servo mechanism (hydraulic rams? pneumatic? suspension cables?) would then gently adjust the top of the pillow to a pre-selected height for the sleeper.

Naturally, there would be a manual cutoff in case the occupant wanted to turn off the automatic adjustment function in certain circumstances. (Here I'm talking about reading in bed, folks.)

Optionally, a microphone could be used to detect snoring and tip the sleeper's head slightly in such a manner as to eliminate the problem. Also, for small infants, who are supposed to sleep on their backs, a similar system could be set up to send out an alarm if the child happens to be in a risky position during sleep. I think these two selling points would by themselves justify a good deal of interest if something like this could be brought to market.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

EzBake Tandoor

When I read about the Dorkbake (via Boingboing), I got to thinking about how one might construct an Indian-styletandoor heated with a light bulb.

The idea would be to have a large thermal mass around the clay liner (a flowerpot?) and lots of insulation around the thing to hold the heat in. Since there's no open flame involved, as in traditional wood-fired tandoor ovens, during the preheating phase it might be good to hold in some of that heat by covering the opening of the pot with an insulated terra-cotta saucer. Stick a teeny-tiny grill in the bottom of that thing and some insulated tongs to insert and remove the food and perhaps the thing might work!

Sadly, when I scan the standard ingredient list at Dorkbake, I don't believe one could produce a decent tandoori-style dish with the kind of things you'll be given. One could use the bison cuts, tenderized, to pass for beef, but without yogurt, curry powder, turmeric, and so forth, the seasoning is just not going to be all that it ought to be. Oh well, I don't have the wherewithal to make a trip to LA anyway at this time.


I stuck my hand in my pocket the other day and found that my pass for the gym with the optical barcode on it had fallen into two pieces.

That's the new card they issued me underneath the old one, which had been sitting on my keyring maybe seven years or so now.

My old membership number: 0038 (I'd actually signed up before they opened their first facility)
My new membership number: upwards of 16000

I wish I could say that this is reflective of the dramatic physical changes brought about by three- or four-times weekly trips to work out. (Especially now that they changed the spin class schedule so I had to drop that particular agony.) Perhaps if they had instead a biometric scanner to identify their members, a sort of gate like they have at airport security, which would look at your weight and physical appearance as you entered, one could visualize the change wrought for the positive and the negative.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Zoroastrian coauthors

So is Douglas good and Lincoln evil, or is it the other way around?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Some respect for the 90% content-free posts

From now on I am going to refer to one-line postings which depend heavily on a link to a website which is interesting in its own right as abloggiaturas, a term which will appeal mainly to music geeks.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

All of Today

The easiest way to know when you've gone to far is to try going all the way and seeing what happens.

In a bid to cement their dominance over the television ratings in the morning, NBC's Today Show is soon to be expanding to a four-hour format, according to the network. It makes sense, given the name of the program, since "today" encompasses not only the early hours or the good morning period, but by rights the entire 24-hour period.

From their beachhead of 7 to 11 (Eastern, that is - and could there be a sponsorship opportunity there), they could occupy a chunk of the midday with a talk-show in the style of The View, putting their male hosts a chance to rest and putting the others around a table to exchange catty comments. Then in the early afternoon it would be so-called daytime drama which they could easily do by pushing a little bit over the edge of celebrity-obsessed non-news into more unreality-based speculative plots involving some familiar villains we know from their regular news factoid segments. In the later part of the afternoon, they could string some of their concert footage and entertainment features into a variety show. The easiest trick would be to rebrand the nightly news just by moving the set and subduing the lights a bit.

The rest of the primetime hours could be some thinly veiled true crime story recast as a police procedural slash courtroom drama. Then some fake news, simply ripping off Comedy Central material from the night before maybe, followed by the Today-Tonight Show and the Late Night/Early Today Show. After that, I figure they have enough personal electronics and cooking and home improvement gadget segments to populate a few hours of infomercial programming until it's time to begin over again with the Today Show proper.

Of course if some earth-shattering news event breaks, such as some forgotten aged official passing away or a war erupts or something, they could just cast off all their canned programming for marathon news update special reports the way MSNBC does. Obviously they must already have broken the bathroom-break barrier somehow, and can just apply that secret knowledge to these rare and ratings-enhancing circumstances.

If MSNBC goes ahead with this idea, remember, you read about it here first.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


I was thinking about a particular line from a poem of mine:

quintuple amputee can't you heal us?
and started to wonder about the closely related term quintaplegic. Do people use this term? And when they use it, is it always in a ribald way? So, instead of doing some real research, I tallied up page counts at Google, checking all the Latin and Greek possibilities I could think of.

(Sorry about the whitespace - I do not have sufficient HTML-fu to figure out why that table's doing that.) So it turns out that quintaplegic isn't even the most popular term in its category, which typically refers to individuals who do not have control over their neck muscles. The higher numbers usually refer to non-human creatures. I didn't find any hits for prefixes greater than 12. By comparison, a search on paraplegic yields 1210000 hits.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A modest proposal to help bring peace to Iraq

When I read about the Ohio police dog who helps socialize inmates (among other things she does), I started to think about other individuals who might benefit from the loving contact of a pet. Top of the list: the warring factions in Iraq, a place which is on course soon to be known as the former Iraq.

One hitch in the plan: many Muslims consider dogs to be unclean. And cats don't have the same kind of social nature, not being pack animals. So, instead, why not go all out and use horses (or, rather, ponies) in their place? Nearly everybody knows about the noble Arabian horse, so what warlord or insurgent leader would turn down a chance to accept a gift equestrian

Every fairy child may keep ....
Every fairy child may keep ....,
originally uploaded by Lynn Morag.

Let's run the numbers. The increase in war spending is estimated at $80 billion, and let's assume that 10% of that can go to this project. A pony might go for something like $25k, and with the overhead of getting the animals over there, supplies, veterinarians, wranglers, and whatnot, we might imagine a total upfront cost of $250k per animal. That translates to 32000 pretty ponies we could send over there (assuming there are that many to be had). Some estimates of the number of insurgents range up to 17000, that would be enough for nearly every insurgent to be given a pair of ponies of their very own.

Now taking care of a pony is a lot of work, which would take time away from such things as constructing and planting IEDs, firing RPGs, and blowing up oil pipelines. Also, you can ride a pony, which would help relieve the gasoline shortage that many Iraqis have to face, even among those who wouldn't personally be receiving the actual pony. Finally, the nonviolent and pastoral image of ponies trotting in public in places like Baghdad and Basra would radically change the image of Iraq, particularly if rebel cells could be induced to spend at least part of their time giving pony rides to children.

Once the animals are old enough to breed, Iraq could develop a thriving commerce that would help bind the different regions together. So it would be important to make sure that healthy animals go to the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish areas fairly.

Of course, we would still need to have US forces there to help out, not least of their new responsibilities involving helping with the shoveling. But perhaps we could persuade outside contractors to take on some of this load until the revitalized Iraqi nation can take care of its own needs in this regard.

You may think of it as a crazy plan, but I feel that if it is presented in the right way to the American people, they would see the underlying old-fashioned common sense behind it and support it. If you agree, I urge you to write your Senator and Representative in Congress so we can get started on this new direction.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I lost because I had been defeated

My last post mentioning syllogisms brought this nitpick to mind once more.

When I heard the phrase used on NPR the other day, I realized then and there that I didn't want to be the last person holding onto the original usage of this phrase. But it made me sad.
Tombstone for Begging the Question
[Tombstone Generator is here.]

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

War speak

A sort of syllogism:

  • The people they are defending against over in Iraq are called insurgents.

  • The proposed buildup in US troop level is being called a surge.

  • Therefore, we might well refer to the additional troops as outsurgents.

Well, it's better than "surge-ans."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Vroom vroom

More along the lines of things stop working: my 2 year old electric toothbrush started acting weird the night before last.

So it's not just a matter of a short, which would have it running all of the time, or a broken wire, which might make it run none of the time. Instead, it's decided it wants to run all the time whenever it's away from its charger. How does that happen?

So now I pull the tip off while the thing is docked, smush a tiny amount of toothpaste on the brush part, then in one motion pick up the toothbrush and apply it to my teeth before the toothpaste starts flying all over. It still does that little pulse thing at the two minute mark, so the control electronics aren't completely fried. Then I've got to put the thing back on the charger so it'll shut down, pull the tip off for washing, then reassemble it. Or sometimes to avoid the hassle I go into the other bathroom and use my plain old non-electric brush (which would make my hygienist unhappy if she knew).

I was trying to think of some aspect whereby this new behavior might be an advantage, and the only thing I could come up with is that it would be considerably harder for a burglar to steal my toothbrush undetected. Otherwise, nothing.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Alternative Moon names

Did you know that there's a name for each full moon? I certainly didn't know about the existence of names beyond the old "hunter's moon" and "harvest moon," or that there were variations in the naming.

I came up with my own suggested list of names for this year:

  1. January 3: Full Sobriety Moon

  2. February 2: Full Steroid Moon XLI

  3. March 3: Full Take The Storm Windows Down Moon

  4. April 2: Full State and Federal Moon

  5. May 2: Full International Conspiracy Moon

  6. May 31: Free Extra-Special Bonus Moon

  7. June 30: Full Are We There Yet? Moon

  8. July 29: Full Spiked Lemonade Moon

  9. August 28: Full Back-To-School Specials Moon

  10. September 26: Full Talk Like A Pilot Moon

  11. October 26: Full Goblin Turkey Moon

  12. November 24: Full Who Let The Dogs Out?! Moon

  13. December 23: Full Shopper's Freak-Out Moon

You are welcome to print this out and stick it to your refrigerator for handy reference.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007 has your name written all over it!

I updated my random domain script tool to take in the top 50 search terms for 2006 as reported by Lycos. (Previously)

Updated: Changed the links to my other site.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Combine and conquer

Compare the recommended techniques for playing with a piglet and with kids. I'm thinking that the ideal solution is to bring a piglet to one's babysitting assignment. "Best. Babysitter. EVAR."