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I just found a claim that the quote "Jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today," from Alice's Adventures Through the Looking-Glass, is actually supposed to be a mnemonic to help remember the distinction between the Latin words "nunc" and "iam".

Can someone who actually KNOWS Latin sanity-check this claim for me?
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So, that thing about how you can escape from a vampire by throwing a large number of grains of rice, or seeds, or whatever in their path, and they will be distracted and stop until they have counted all of them, giving you time to run away -- does that predate or postdate Sesame Street?

yes, I am kidding. But it is a coincidence, is it not?
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It's true. When I want something, it is usually an intellectual want, or a mild, vague urge, but I rarely truly passionately desire something.

I'd like to claim that this is because of a careful Buddhist detachment, or training in Stoic philosophy, but, in reality, it's probably just a side effect of the type of depression I've had for years.

So it's kind of neat that I now really, really want something -- something I desire so much that my teeth hurt.

That's not a figure of speech, by the way -- I literally noticed that my back molars were somehow aching with desire for this. Dunno why that happens, but it did.

Bruce Galloway's Fantasy Wargaming generally considered to be a truly awful roleplaying system, and I don't disagree with this assessment. I attempted to play it once, in seventh grade, and couldn't make heads or tails of it -- and I later discovered that this was due to no fault in myself, but simply because it is just that poorly written and thought-out.

So I don't know why I desire the thing so much -- but I found a copy on AbeBooks, for $3.98 including shipping, and bought it. Other copies started at $1, but generally had shipping start at $3 -- there was one that was listed for $1 with $2.50 shipping, but it was listed as "Fair" condition, while the $3.98 with free shipping was listed as "Very Good" condition, so I decided to spend the extra 48 cents.

I don't suppose that the seller is going to make a great profit on this thing, but it gets it out of his or her stock anyway.

Yeah. I just spent nearly four bucks on a used copy of a game that everyone, including me, thinks sucks. And I can't wait for it to get here!!!

A poem

Aug. 22nd, 2007 12:38 pm
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This morning, listening to Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac", Lis and I heard a poem which was vaguely disturbing, slightly sick, and funny.

It's called "Earl", by Louis Jenkins:
Cut for people who don't like funny, kinda disturbing poetry )
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I mean, let's face it -- both of them are, well, mediocre story-crafters. And the universes they create don't REALLY hold together all that well -- their world-building is, y'know, okay. Their characters are fairly two-dimensional.

But, damn, there's something there. Something about what they create just sticks with you.

What is it?!

I can point to the weaknesses in Star Wars, and in Harry Potter. But that doesn't matter. There's SOMETHING in those that works.

Are there other fictional universes that just, y'know, get you that way? Even if the people who created them are fairly mediocre in their craft?

And what IS it? Can it be learned? I mean, all of you who write for a living -- you've probably asked yourself this question occasionally, too. . .

Is it the same thing for Star Wars and for Harry Potter?
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Note: I've been avoiding spoilers, so these are all just guesses:
Read more... )
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Writer's Almanac today had stuff about Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason. I've been reading the Perry Mason books, because they're exactly the kind of thing I like to read while exercising or just killing time -- interesting and fun, without being heavy, and the good guys always win. And they're mostly reasonably Playfair, too.

  • He was born in Malden, one town south of here. (But he went to high school in Palo Alto, so I don't know how long he was here.)
  • He was kicked out of college, after one month, for brawling (he'd later claim that he'd slugged a professor), and and never went back to school. He ended up as a typist in a law firm.
  • He figured that he was at least as smart as the guys for whom he was doing the typing, so he took the bar exam, having had only one month of higher education. He passed, and became a lawyer, focusing on defending indigent Chinese and Mexican workers.

I DID know that, after he became famous, he used all his contacts in the law and forensic fields to form a foundation to look into and overturn wrongful convictions.

From http://www.thrillingdetective.com/trivia/gardner.html

In his pulp days, Gardner was notorious for killing off the final heavies with the last bullet in the hero's gun, which led to some editors teasing him about how all his good guys seemed to be such bad shots. Gardner's alleged explanation? "At three cents a word, every time I say 'Bang' in the story I get three cents. If you think I'm going to finish the gun battle while my hero still has fifteen cents worth of unexploded ammunition in his gun, you're nuts."
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So, Lis and I just got back from seeing the movie Stranger than Fiction and have been arguing about it since, which is generally a good sign for a movie -- we like movies which we have things to talk about after.

Obviously, this post will probably be spoilery, so I'll cut-tag it. But, for you writers who either have seen the movie, or have no intention of seeing the movie, I'm just wondering how YOU feel about some of this stuff:
Spoilers contained within )
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Oh, and having thought about it, I think I got the story of the four rabbis wrong: one died, one went insane, one became a heretic, and Akiva came out unscathed. Mier wasn't part of the project.

And I think I'm getting the details from a work of fiction: Milton Steinberg's amazingly mindblowingly brilliant book As a Driven Leaf. Which is a brilliant piece of historical fiction, in which Steinberg takes the, like, four pieces of information we know about ben Abuyah, and turns him into a fully-realized character.

Frankly, I think that future generations could do worse than to declare that a divinely-inspired work, and put it into the Bible. Various people tried to excommunicate Steinberg for writing the thing, which is always a good sign.
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Last night, I dreamt that Neil Gaiman had just written a new novel, and one of the characters had four cats, and they were based on James Nicoll's cats. I think Hillary and one other one were lifted verbatim, and the other two were composites.

Also, happy birthday to Mr. Gaiman; he was the lede bit on Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" for today.
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So, [livejournal.com profile] matociquala posted about how she flunked Creative Writing twice, once in high school and once in college. And [livejournal.com profile] papersky mentioned that she also did badly in her Creative Writing classes.

I think they ought to track down their Creative Writing teachers, wave their collective awards and book contracts at he teachers, and gloat shamelessly, but they both have too much class for that. Well, [livejournal.com profile] papersky has too much class for that, anyway.

Anyway, I was thinking about MY creative writing classes in high school, and how badly they let me down. See, my classes were good. And I did well in them. And they taught me useful things.

Clearly, that's why I'm not a professional writer.

I'm really embarrassed that I can't remember my creative writing teacher's name right now -- I remember her face and her personality perfectly well, and her name will come to me some time after I hit post. Hell, I remember her lessons. And use them. She was really, really good, and loved what she did. I do remember my other favorite English teacher's name: Arthur Foisy, who, I just discovered upon going to my high school's website, is now a house dean.

The Creative Writing class was offered to seniors, and was split fifty-fifty between students who were honors-track and looking for an interesting elective-type class, and seniors who had flunked English at least once and needed to pass an extra English class to graduate. You needed to pass four years of English to get your diploma. Most folks did this by taking the normal four years of English, but, if you flunked one, or, for that matter, wanted to graduate in three years instead of four, you needed to double up. Your two main choices for doubling up were Creative Writing and Journalism.

This split helped both the CW and the Journalism classes immensely. Frankly, there weren't that many classes where honors/AP students and folks who flunked English WOULD learn together, and the dichotomy helped.

If I write essays competently, it's her fault. Hers and Mr. Foisy's, really.

Lucile Burt -- that's her name.

They both love literature and poetry -- reading it and creating it -- although Mr. Foisy preferred reading and criticism, and Ms. Burt preferred creating it.

But, see, they believed that EVERYONE could write and create, and probably should. And you didn't have to write and create for publication. I mean, you COULD publish, and that was fantastic if you did. But even if you never had any intention to publish anything, you'd still benefit from learning how to put a story, an essay, and a poem together, and from learning how to take them apart again.

I never had any intention to publish anything. Still don't.

Lis, for that matter, majored in Creative Writing in college, and did well at it. And earned an "A" in her high school class.

And, after college, she didn't write a word of fiction for ten years. Now she's started writing fanfic, but, again, she has no intention of going pro.

So, clearly -- if you want to be a successful professional author, you have to flunk Creative Writing.
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1. Lis and I saw a Dippin' Dots, Ice Cream of the Future vending machine at the mall that had a different name. I don't remember what it was, but it WASN'T called "Dippin' Dots", and it DIDN'T say that it was "of the future", which means that we are now in the future. And it's dystopian. So we went and looked at puppies.

2. Happy birthday, Leila.

3. I was thinking about the play "You Can't Take it With You" that Theatre@First put on a while back, and something about it disturbed me. So, the whole play is about this lovely, eccentric family that effectively drops out of society and does their own thing, unconcerned with the outside world. They get into some trouble because the grandfather refuses to pay income tax, because the outside world just doesn't matter. Who cares who's president, or what's happening in the world?

The play was 1936.

There's something fundamentally disturbing and somewhat evil about a play whose message is "Don't worry about anything outside your own home, or about the country, or about the world," in 1936.
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So, the President of the United States has said that he's upset by a version of the National Anthem sung in Spanish.

He feels that it should only be done in the original, which is English.

I want to help him in this endeavor, so I've transcribed the original, English lyrics for you all to learn. Let's remember to sing them, instead of any later, degenerate versions.

The original English lyrics to the National Anthem of the United States )
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I mean, c'mon -- this isn't even SUBTEXT.
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First, I downloaded Moby Dick to my PalmPilot, to have more random stuff to read with me -- it's important to always have a book or two on you, and the greatest strength of the PalmPilot is that it makes it practical to always have twenty or thirty books on you.

I'm only up to chapter six, but I'm really enjoying it.

Okay, I've avoided the book in the past, because everyone always talked about how Great it was, and how it dealt with The Human Condition, and never once did anyone use the adjective "wacky".

Like I said, I'm only up to chapter six -- but, so far, I would like to be the first to publicly state, "Moby Dick is wacky fun."

At least, the first six chapters are.

Anyway, on Sunday, after coming home from Hebrew School, I was so pissed off and angry that I decided to make something inedible. I was feeling mean and destructive, so I decided that a good way to deal with it would be to make an alcoholic beverage so nasty that nobody could possibly ever stomach it. And I didn't simply want to mix something unpotable -- I wanted to brew it.

As you know, Bob, anything with sugar in it can ferment when you add yeast to it, so I set about to take some of the nastiest sugariest stuff in the kitchen, and mix it with water and yeast in a gallon glass jug to set aside for a couple days to ferment.

Which is why there is a jug of Tang Mead bubbling away on my kitchen counter right now. Unfortunately, it's actually smelling lack-of-horrible, and, while there is no remote possibility of this tasting GOOD, it may fail to be completely undrinkable.
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[livejournal.com profile] sokmunky pointed out that Ms. Jaqueline Steiner has an email address.

So I emailed the following:
Read more... )
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Okay, so we all know that " Charlie on the MTA" was written for Walter A. O'Brein's campaign for mayor of Boston. Some of us may even know that it was in 1949, that he lost badly, and even that his campaign was fined for disturbing the peace when he had cars drive around blaring that song out of loudspeakers.

But what I didn't know was that Walter A. O'Brien, progressive/liberal/Communist candidate for mayor, had a seven-plank platform, of which public transit support was only one plank -- and he had folksongs for all seven planks. Each one was, effectively, a filk, using the tune of a well-known folksong ("The Ship That Never Returned" is the source for "Charlie on the MTA".)

So. . .

Does anybody know what the other six songs were?
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Today, on the 25th of October, 2005, a grim milestone was reached.

Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander Jr became the 2,000 American soldier to die in Iraq.

There's nothing particularly special about the number "2000". Sgt. Alexander's sacrifice was not different from anyone else's. Someone who dies tomorrow will not be mourned any less by his or her family. Those who died last week did not make any lesser sacrifice in the name of duty and patriotism.

But we humans look for milestones. And we look for numbers and patterns. And the Universe is always willing to provide them for us.

Today is, as the blind irony of random chance would have it, St. Crispin's Day.
Read more... )
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I thought I'd post a bit of poetry I like to recite to my lovely wife Lis.

How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways. . .
Integer out of bounds: stack overflow error.

September 2017

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