Monday, December 29, 2008

Year in review

This is the year I discovered Jason Bredle. He introduced me to George Saunders's work. I think I have now read everything both of them have published, and several of those I've read twice.

This is the year I made new and now very dear friends, like the Crabsons and the Cowins, who invited me to the Raconteurs show, whose opening band was The Fiery Furnaces.

This is the year I discovered The Fiery Furnaces. 4 out of 6 of the CDs in my car's CD player are now Fiery Furnaces CDs. I can't remember the last time I became so enthralled by a band.

This is the year I got back into hurling, and this is the year I played for Pat's Saints.

This is the year I really felt single again after spending years in an extremely difficult relationship, although it really ended almost a year before this year started.

This is the year I fell in love and had my heart broken again.

This is the year I traveled alone internationally for the first time.

This is the year I took a boat ride on the Yangtze river, and had fish nibble my feet, and ate real Sichuan, and was given a Chinese name.

This is the year my 156 year-old blue-chip American company got bought by an overseas behemoth.

This is the year Barack Obama was elected to be the first Black American President. I voted for him.

This is the year I spent a lot of money on a new wardrobe and quality haircuts.

This is the year I decided that being fit is not an optional thing.

This is the year I quit smoking... for the most part.

This is the year I took my first trip out on the ocean, and deep sea fished with Damian and his closest friends.

This is the year I learned that I do not get sea-sick easily.

This is the year I saw Tom Waits live.

This is the year I saw my first big "show": it was Wicked, and I saw it with Mom & Dad in Chicago. It was pretty awesome.

This was the year I finally got to see Chicago.

This is the year I was moved out of the Unix administration group. It's the first time since I entered the IT industry that I am no longer actually a Unix administrator. Not sure what I am now.

This is the year I put as much effort as I could into a class and did not get an A.

This is the year I got spontaneous w/an old friend and flew to Estonia. (We're leaving on the 31st - it counts.)

This is the year I paid off my car.

This is the year I got back into ski racing. Although it did start last year with training, I didn't get on the snow with the ski team until this year. I've rediscovered one of my favorite things in life.

This is the year that I was mostly happy to be me.

My cat is into pain

And that's a little weird. Like, when I pet him, he likes to bite me. It's not in a mean way, it's just a firm, but not-too-firm bite on the arm or the finger. It seems to be an expression of pleasure for him. He also likes to pull push pins from the bulletin board and just kind of roll them around in his mouth.

I got my ticket!

Yes, yes, yes I do, got my ticket, how 'bout YOU?

Monday, December 15, 2008

My new favorite artist: Erwin Wurm

I've just discovered Erwin Wurm. It was from this old link I found while searching for a different artist.

Erwin is interested in how people see themselves. His exhibitions seem to be composed mostly of photographs of his sculptures, which are striking, simple compositions which often involve actual people frozen in medias res.

His work embraces sarcasm and absurdity while presenting the dark side of human nature.

Here is an interview with the artist, apparently conducted while he was setting up an exhibition.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


There is no name for this composition. I just found it in an old notebook, and kind of like it. Morgantown, spring, 1997.

'dem fish shure are jumping,
I would be too.
From one of the top ten
dirtiest rivers
in the good ol' U. S. of A.

And the wind
Shure is blowing that river south
though it wants to go north
like the way that rusty pipe's pointing
from out the slimy bottom.

that train shure is a'rolling.
To Fairfax, Naples, Springfield...

The way that water's shining up at me,
you'd think I was the only one
The sun knows.

Ah, but it's not me.
It's the power plan I'm weeded in with
droning and hissing,
'don't think it'll ever stop.

I best get a job.
lessen I want to watch this terrible river
die for all my life.

I'm glad that the big bear hasn't bitten me (us),
I pray that he will not have, Amen.

Better news: the tree remains standing here,
Not where you are, where I am.
where I have always been.
Where I will remain.
It stands untouched, but the wind.
She bends him to the North!
And he breathes the clean air, New!
Anew, and like his eyes sparkled,
She showed him far far away deeds.
Learnt him right Straight, she did!
And he understands. He listens and sees, and he wants
to see so bad, but instead
Grows. And matures,
Right here.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Word frequency lists

Over the past year, Wiktionary has become my dictionary of choice for online reference. Of course I'm still an OED man when it comes to source material, but as a go-to dictionary, Wiktionary is very good. (My only gripe is that its interface does not play well with my cell phone. In fact it completely sucks, and I can't believe they don't have a better mobile interface.)

Just now I discovered its word frequency lists! Oh yes. These are exactly what I've been looking for. Immediate uses coming to mind include:

  1. Creating "soda water bottle"-type sentences from the TV and Movie Scripts lists that use things like

    • the most frequently used sounds
    • various even distributions of most frequently used sounds
    • new English-like sounds
    • a metalanguage that sounds exactly like English but isn't

  2. Developing the Layman's Story, which utilizes only the top 20 nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs
  3. Eliminating the top 20 nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverb from my vocabulary for a day
  4. Restricting my vocabulary to those words for a... as long as I can tolerate it...

I'll think of more.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday.

"What justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples... ?" - Justice Antonin Scalia

I'm not gay, not that there's anything wrong with that. Now let's look at the numbers...

Couples who are allowed the benefits of marriage in America:

  1. Man and woman of same race
  2. Man and woman of different race
  3. Divorced man and woman
  4. Divorced woman and man
  5. Divorced man and woman of different race
  6. Divorced woman and man of different race
  7. Divorced man and divorced woman
  8. Divorced man and divorced woman of different race
  9. American man and foreign woman
  10. American woman and foreign man
  11. American divorced ...

Ugh... This would be easier using mathematics. Let's build a tree:

same race -<
/ foreign
divorced -<
/ \ American
/ diff race -<
/ foreign
person -<

Too lazy to draw the rest of this tree, but you can quickly see that there are 8 possible combinations for person.

Another way to represent this is by using sets:

A = {divorced, single}
B = {same race, different race}
C = {American, foreign}

Note that the number of combinations is the product of the cardinalities (number of elements) of each set:

|A| = Cardinality of set A = 2

Combinations = |A| * |B| * |C| = 2*2*2 = 2^3 = 8

But also note that there's no valid combination that involves two persons who are both foreigners, so there are actually 4 possible types of man or woman of various social statuses and races who are recognized as able to reap the benefits of a legal marriage in America, and they may choose from any of 8 types of the opposite sex. That makes for 4*8 = 32 possible combinations! (Wow, I really didn't realize there would be that many combinations when I started listing them. I'm glad I went to trusty ol' math to do the work for me.)

Anyway, the point is that there SHOULD be 4*8 + 4*8 + 4*8 = 96 combinations. That's 32 combinations for each pairing of man+woman, man+man, and woman+woman.

If you still believe that being a homosexual is a matter of choice, then you have come to the wrong place for an argument, because I'm way past that. I assume you have been paying attention to the research, and weighed the consideration that no sane person would choose to impose a social stigma on themselves.

If you believe homosexuality is a mental disorder, you have not been paying attention to the research. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder. Scientists have found genetic markers that influence the sexual orientation in some animals, which strongly suggests homosexuality is congenital in humans as well, not mental. So any further argument against homosexual marriage is an argument against people with congenital variations, which is a group that YOU are probably a member of. (In fact, one could make an argument that we ALL have congenital variations, because who is to determine what the "baseline" for the human genome is? Isn't that eugenics? And in fact some research suggests (as does common sense) that genetic variation is by design, so it is not a disorder.) So, moving on...

Who can reap the benefits of marriage by law is most certainly a civil rights issue. Marriage in a church is a religious sacrament, and any religious body can decide for itself what a marriage is, but that has nothing to do with the US code of law. Marriage in a court of law is basically a financial union, and denying any couple of legal age the right to form that union is a denial of civil rights.

I also believe that stably married and adequately vetted homosexual partners should be allowed to adopt children, just as easily as stably married and adequately vetted heterosexual partners.

So there.