Funny anecdote from a high-rolling Jesuit in a good I, Cringely yesterday:
"Here's one more tidbit on wire-taps: They get you free phone service! The feds tapped the phone of the Sisters of Mercy in Washington D.C. because of some anti-war stance or something they took in the 1980s. The good sisters noticed some kind of clicking on the phone at times, and finally decided that someone must have tapped into their phone. Their solution: Don't pay the bill so the phone company will have to shut off the phone. The phone never went dead, and they quit sending them bills! The Feds wouldn't let Ma Bell shut them down, and probably began paying the bills. The sisters talked long and free with their friends across the country!"
In other good recent linkage:
• a cool iBook anti-theft app actually sends you screenshots of what the laptop-stealer is doing on your computer. If you don't manage to figure out enough to ID them from that, it eventually simulates a hardware failure, saying that your iBook needs to be taken in for repair. All you have to do is notify them that your iBook is stolen, and the company begins tracking it anytime it goes online.
• And also: Katamari lyrics translated, e.g., "The goal was endlessly far, but I couldn't stop pressing on/Forever rolling on, I grew a lot, as a person(*2)/I noticed many things, and everyone became as one(*3)/While smiling faces flooded the town, a petty evil lay hidden in the shadows [Note: the police]"
• A Christianity Today article titled "5 Reasons Torture Is Always Wrong". Actual Christians rock! I would guess that Christ's message of love and tolerance and rejecting evil has the potential to become, like, a worldwide phenomenon. I'm surprised it doesn't get talked about more often.
• Going into the Seahawkbowl, I'm reminded of how ESPN's Page 2 is still the funniest sports meta-coverage around. ("I'm mean, it's not that easy to describe how you feel when you're actually experiencing life in the present tense; how is Bettis supposed to describe the emotive sensation of a futuristic alternative reality? Does this guy think Bettis is Philip K. Dick?")
• And in case you missed it elsewhere, the NYT reveals A Shocker: Partisan Thought Is Unconscious
When the store opened, there were all sorts of things that almost worked and/or were supposed to work and/or might work, in theory, according to calculations, if we only had another half-hour, etc. One of those things was spooooky lights that were supposed to go in over the Atomic Telporter, which required someone to ... go buy lights and put them in (Web had hooked up sockets that have been sitting there empty for a month now, alas). But now they're in!
It's subtle, but they look lovely at night. And will be like a beacon unto drunks. Coolio volunteers Samantha and Robert were there, too, and figured out what worked and what didn't on the arcane switchboard. Like who knew that when you flicked a certain switch that this happened?
The lights were fluorescent (which I bought reflexively out of 826-inspired cheapness), but then I was bummed to realize fluorescents don't work well with dimmers—which is a sad waste of this spectacular dimmer knob (check it out if you go in there):
My only consolation was finding out my new status as a blacklight purchaser.
Thanks to everybody who asked. The shorter version of the story is... my grandmother had to go into for surgery to remove a blockage in her intestine (which helped explain her 105 degree temperature). Then—displaying enormously bad luck but excellent timing—my grandfather was going into the ICU with my mom and sis to see my grandmother when he lost his balance. A nearby nurse luckily caught him and, one trip to the ER and a CAT scan later, he found out that he had a huge blood clot in his brain, so he went into brain surgery immediately to remove the clot.
So they're both still in the hospital, and stable now, but there's a relatively complex path to getting them back to their old place, etc., which involves more than a few acronyms (such as SNF, i.e., Skilled Nursing Facility, pronounced "sniff," a.k.a. a nursing home). They'll be at a SNF temporarily, for some physical and "occupational" therapy.*
The longer version of the story involves my grandfather being combative, nonresponsive, and completely out of his mind, somehow simultaneously not himself and quintessentially himself, like in an unconscious ur-self state, in wrist restraints and alternately thinking he was in the county jail, that he was on a train going across Lake Pontchartrain, that he was waiting for his eggs benedict to arrive, that he needed to get up to do the laundry, that "some nigger" had just taken all of his change as a tip but it was sort of his fault because he had $40 and he was acting like a big shot and the war had just ended. And then at one point, apropos of nothing, he started singing "Cigarettes and whiskey... and wild, wild women!" And I turned to the nurse and said, "That's old Waylon Jennings!" And my grandfather, hearing me, said, "I know!"
* I love that part of occupational therapy is re-learning basic things like bathing yourself. "What's my occupation? Gettin' clean, yo!" If Kool Moe Dee ever has to go to an occupational therapist, I hope he says, "You want to know my occupation? I get paid to rock the nation." And then, I don't know, maybe they would put a microphone at the end of the parallel bars for encouragement.
Once I again, I've got to plug the magnificent Internet Archive (tagline: "Universal Access to Human Knowledge"!), specifically the Moving Image sub-collection. I was writing about some software the other day (always a recipe for hilarity) and I had to talk about downloading and compressing movies. *Of course* we couldn't be discussing *illegal* downloads, so for the twenty-seventh time now I've had to go rummaging around for downloads that are both legitimately legal and actually interesting to use as examples. (They are, naturally, rare.) I've checked out the brilliant Prelinger Archives numerous times, with its cool old ephemeral films—like, e.g., square-dancing Lucky Strikes!
But I had no idea how many feature-length movies were in the public domain already. Aside from fun-for-five-minutes weirdness like Reefer Madness and Sex Madness, there are actual movies you'd want to see (maybe? I would) like the original Night of the Living Dead, Danny Kaye's Inspector General, His Girl Friday, and the noir classic D.O.A. (not to be confused with the one starring Meg Ryan and Randy Quaid, which for some reason *isn't* free). Just a little keyword searching turns up more impressive randomness, like a weird-ass "silent musical" remix of 1924's Aelita, Queen of Mars, artistically important for its Constructivist sets and High Modernist blah blah blah.
Strangely/understandably/sadly, the top downloads in the Moving Pictures section are still all ghoulish footage from the 12/26/04 tsunami. The best part is how quickly the comment sections became a wide-ranging and largely retarded discussion about Jesus and THC and whatever else might put nature's utter indifference in context. To which I think you can only say, hey, look: Square-dancing Lucky Strikes!
I missed this a couple days ago, a review of Billy Collins' new book, "The Trouble With Poetry". I've always liked Billy Collins, but I've also had this same feeling at times, like (as Heidi aptly put) he's unfortunately only funny in the same way your science teacher is funny.
Charming Billy Review by DAVID ORR Published: January 8, 2006
I wonder how you are going to feel
when you find out
that I wrote this instead of you
is how the first poem begins
in the new book by Billy Collins
called "The Trouble with Poetry."
It is a typical Collins beginning -
a good-natured wave
across the echoing gulf that stretches
between writer and reader,
as if to suggest
the poem itself exists
in that uncertain, cloud-strewn gap,
and we, as readers,
are very nearly poets ourselves ...
Do read the rest. Of course, I've often really liked my science teachers. To the point of taking up a collection in a can to buy my high-school chemistry teacher a new bow-tie. I would probably still buy Billy Collins a bow tie.
We just moved into a new-to-us but older place that has simultaneously made me feel like I have more grown-up amenities now (a washer! a dryer! right there! in the bathroom!) and at the same time that I've retreated from modernity, back somewhere closer to the Great Depression. Or maybe just pre-WWII or so—like when I wake up in the morning and I'm freezing and the first thing I think is that I should put on some clothes, go outside, and cut some more wood for the stove. (Which, if I do, then causes me to no longer be freezing, which I think may be the Great Secret of the Pioneers.)
I'm using free wood from trees that were just cut down a couple months ago, so the wood has been reluctant to burn. Hence my new acquaintance with fireplace-bellows-type things, ranked here:
1. The lungs. Blowing on the wood works well, actually, but you start to get lightheaded surprisingly quickly. I remembered seeing Plains Indians breathing through straw-type devices (in a woodcut somewhere...?), in order to blow directly into the heart of the fire. I tried this with an old cardboard gift-wrap tube, out of boredom and dizziness. It did not work. Or maybe I needed a narrower tube. In any case, I would enjoy seeing a woodcut of myself doing this.
2. Fanning with cardboard. A good standby, actually, low velocity but high volume. Smelling salts for a sleepy fire. I combined this with rubbing alcohol at a particularly cold and desperate movement right after we moved in, to great effect.
3. Those keyboard-cleaning cans of compressed air. These rock! Until I realized that it was an expensive habit. But it was fun while it lasted. I love these cans. I remain convinced: On-demand compressed air needs a more prominent place in daily life.
4. Bellows! Actual bellows are not the best bellows, actually, but they're very good for coaxing the fire along, i.e., making love to it, i.e., whispering, "hey there, baby-fire, where you goin'?" In terms of skill level required and efficacy, hand-bellows are like the sniper rifle of fire-building. From whence does one procure bellows? Heidi won this pair for me on eBay for Christmas:
"Pair"? Are bellows like pants? Hmmm. Anyway, the ultimate bellows is/are...
5. The Revlon Swivel Styler. Holy crap! It feels kind of unsportsmanlike, but... my God, when you use it, it's like looking into the heart of a star. I think the wood actually starts to melt. Assuming you can stand the embarassment of a hair-dryer sitting by your fire, it's the only way to go.
So I was just realizing that maybe it was dumb of me to try to revive the ol' blog in the middle of moving, just as I was losing Internet access. But I was so excited to have GSTS all open and up and running (phenomenal, stupendous month, by the way, >$14K gross!). But then there was moving and going out of town for a week. But I'm back! And, um... talking about bellows. I'll work on that.