Saturday, June 18, 2005

Change in the look

For those who are returning to this blog, you will notice a change in its appearance. Although I liked the simple elegance of the previous template, the grey text was irritating. In typically lazy fashion, I scrapped the template instead of modifying it. For new visitors ... never mind!

Friday, June 17, 2005

My Study

My room is lined with books. Six large bookcases hold my 'in use' library. Shelves of hardcovers and paperbacks loosely sorted into categories. The two volume 'Oxford English Dictionary' lies on the floor near my feet. It takes up too much space on the oak library table that is my desk. I need it too often to shelve it. With a small pillow on top it makes a nice low footrest. Other dictionaries and thesauruses are on a shelf that I can reach from my chair. 'Bartlett's Quotations', Partridge's dictionary of slang, 'Walker's Rhyming Dictionary', some etymological dictionaries, a biblical concordance, Brander Matthew's 'Study of Versification' sit next to a handful of style guides, the printer's 'Pocket Pal' and an assortment of XML and HTML references. On the shelf above you'll find books on information design and usability. The distinctive yellow spine of 'A Pattern Language' holds the center spot. Other reference shelves contain a complete set of Frazier's 'Golden Bough', a complete set of Sir Richard Burton's 'One Thousand Nights and a Night' with all the supplementary volumes. There is a shelf of books on New England folklore and references on farming for the novel that I'm writing, another shelf of books on linguistics, symbols and semiotics. The two shelves of poetry are overstuffed. I'll have to winnow them soon. Deacon, Pinker, Gould, Thomas, Dennett and Calvin all appear in the science and philosophy section. Three volumes of Euclid are also there beside Darwin and Warren McCulloch's 'Embodiments of Mind'. Paperback fiction is stored on its side in stacks the stacks arranged two or three deep depending on the size. From where I sit I can see a stack of Robertson Davies, another of Tom Holt, some Charles DeLint and Christopher Moore. But Ernest Bramah's Kai Lung books, Matthew Lewis' 'The Monk', and a stack of Tom Sharpe's insane novels are tucked in there somewhere. My library insulates me from the cold and from the intellectual Siberia that is suburbia. The smell of paper soothes me and the tactile input of the page whether bright white, smooth pages of O'Reilly technical books or the yellowed foxed pages of my Pomey's Pantheon published in 1709 warms my soul. My closet is stuffed with my inactive library in neatly labeled boxes. In them are books that I may not need, but am unwilling to part with yet. At the bottom are boxes containing most of the 100+ software manuals that I have written, talismans of once and future (but not present) employment. Books are not the only things I have around me. Drawings and lithographs hang on what little wall space is left. Pinned to the bulletin board by my table are maps and timelines for my novel. A photo of Tom Baker as Dr. Who, and the following photos:
Jerry Lettvin and Walter Pitts talking with their collaborator Rana Pipiens.
Concert pianist and legendary teacher Theodore Lettvin gazes moodily down at the corner of a badly scanned photograph.
G.K. Chesterton accepting the gift of a dandelion from a young admirer.

I'm my own ...

I apologize for the lack of PC in the following piece. I've always been amused by Guy Lombardo's little ditty about family relations and one day it occurred to me that things could get far more complicated these days. So ... I made it more complicated. (Apologies to Guy Lombardo) Now many, many years I was a man you see, I was married to a widow who was pretty as can be. This widow had a daughter who liked older men she said. My father fell in love with her and soon they too were wed. This made my dad my son-in-law and changed my very life. My daughter was my mother 'cause she was my father's wife. To complicate the matter, even though it brought me joy, I soon became the father of a bouncing baby boy. My little baby then became a brother-in-law to Dad, And so became my uncle, though it made me very sad, For if he was my uncle, then that also made him brother, Of the widow's grown-up daughter who was also my stepmother. Father's wife then had a son who kept them on the run. And he became my grandchild, for he was my daughter's son. My wife is now my mother's mother, and it makes me blue, Because although she is my wife, she's my grandmother too. Now if my wife is my grandmother, then I'm her grandchild, And every time I think of it, it nearly drives me wild, For now I have become the strangest case I ever saw, As husband of my grandmother, I am my own grandpa. Thanks Guy! I'll take it from here. But the lie that I've been living throughout these many years Has kept my soul in misery and salted all my tears. The gal I have inside of me insists she must be free, And so I went to Sweden and arranged for surgery. So now the widow has a wife, her daughter's second Ma, My son has got two sisters, though still he calls one 'Pa.' This makes my grandson dizzy so he calls me 'Granny Sis.' And my poor wife has told me that she can't go on like this. She told me that she hated that my tits don't sag like hers, That I use up all her lipstick and have a nicer purse. She says she's not a lesbian, I no longer turn her on. So now she's gone to Sweden too and says to call her John. She didn't give up men though (she says she's nouveau gay). I opened up a letter that she sent the other day. She said that she's divorcing me to marry Jim my cousin. But she's the groom and he's the bride and my poor head is buzzin'. 'Cause she wants me to be the best man and bridesmaid all in one. Of course I said I'd do it, and I think it will be fun. But today's the day and in the mirror I think a see a pimple. Oh why must this afflict me now? Why can't my life be simple. Oh I'm my own transgen I'm my own transgen It sounds funny I know, But it really is so Oh I'm my own transgen.

Private England

To the tune of 'Officer Krupke' from West Side Story (as always, apologies to Bernstein and Sondheim) ALI Dear Private Lynndie England, You gotta understand, Our faith will not be shattered Nor vanish on command. Our mothers all are wailing, Our fathers all are dead. Golly Allah, shot right through the head! Gee whiz, Private England, we're very upset; Your country blocked the food and meds we needed to get. We ain't no Al Qaeda, We're misunderstood. But still on our head there is a hood. There's a hood! ALL PRISONERS There's a hood, there's a hood, There's a big black hood. We did no crime but still we wear a hood. MUSTAFA (speaking as Private England) That's a touchin' good story. ALI (spoken) Lemme tell it to the world! MUSTAFA as England (spoken) Just tell it to the Intelligence Officer. ALI Dear kindly Colonel Pappas, Don't let those dogs bite me. I have no information. Why won't you set me free. I know you think I'm evil. For begging for baksheesh, But why must I wear a collar and a leash! SALEEM as Colonel Pappas My dear Private England put a hood upon his head; If he don't want to help, then let's just shock him instead. Clip wires to his balls and make him stand on a box. And give him the juice until he talks. ALI Til I talk. ALL Til he talks, til he talks, Til he damn well talks, And then we'll let him pound some rocks. SALEEM (speaking as Pappas) This man is an Arab, so he can't be telling the truth. ALI (spoken) Hey, I'm a liar for Allah! SALEEM as Pappas (spoken) So take him to interrogation. ALI Why have you stripped me naked And put me in a pile The Koran says that's sinful. Women's panties ain't my style. The private likes my privates. And never lets me dress. Goodness gracious, that's why I'm a mess! RASHID (as interrogator) Go away Private England and take him along. He has some vital facts for us and I'm never wrong. Go ask Mister Rumsfeld just what he wants to do, This plan that he hatched has not come through. ALI I am through! ALL We are through, we are through, Though what we say is true, And talk until our face is blue. RASHID (speaking as the interrogator) In my opinion, this man does not respond to standard interrogation techniques. We'll have to use torture. Make him listen to Rumsfeld justify American foreign policy. That should soften him up. ALI (spoken) Hey, I got a soft spot on my head where I got clubbed! RASHID as interrogator (spoken) So take him to the Pentagon. ALI Oh Mister Secretary, They say that I am bad, They say that I have info, I swear I never had. I do not hate your country, I only hate George Bush So take my statement And shove it up your tush. IBRAHIM as Rumsfeld Oh my, Private England, you've done it again. This man don't want to talk, so you must hit him and then You'll have to take the rap because you're poorer than me, Maybe in ten years you'll be free. ALI What of me? ALL What of me, what of me? Won't you set us free We're innocent so set us free. SALEEM as Pappas The trouble is he's Shiite. RASHID as the interrogator The trouble is he's poor. IBRAHIM as Rumsfeld The trouble is he's pissed-off. SALEEM as Pappas If he walks out the door. RASHID as the interrogator He might just join Al Qaeda. IBRAHIM as Rumsfeld 'Cause that's what we would do. ALL England, we can't cover your ass too! Gee whiz, Private England, We're down on our knee, ALI And no one wants a fella who just wants to be free. ALL Salaam, Private England, What are we to do? We got fucked over You too!

When you're a Fed

To the tune of 'When You're a Jet' from West Side Story (apologies to Bernstein and Sondheim) When you're a Fed, You're a Fed all the way From your first wiretap Til you put 'em away. When you're a Fed, Let 'em do what they can. You got Bush on your side, If you follow his plan! You're never alone, You're never disconnected! Just put 'em in jail: No civil right's protected, For the disaffected! Then you are set With a mandate to play, Fast and loose with the law The American way. When you're a Fed, You stay a Fed. When you're a Fed, You can do what you please, You're in charge of it all All those assets to seize. When you're a Fed, A tool of the right wing: Why not just have a coup; And make Bush the king. The Feds are in gear, Their guns are all a poppin'. They're instilling fear 'Cause Ashcroft they are proppin' And they're not stoppin'. Here come the Feds Like a bat out of hell. They'll beat us to death, With the Liberty Bell. Here come the Feds: Arab world, step aside! Better go underground, Better run, better hide. We're drawin' the line, So keep your noses hidden! We're hangin' a sign, Says "Visitors forbidden" And we ain't kiddin'! Here come the Feds, Yeah! An' they're gonna beat Ev'ry liberal lefty Every Arab they meet. On the whole ever-mother-lovin' street!

West Side Story

I wonder what it is about the Bush Administration that makes me think of West Side Story. Scalia To the tune of 'Maria' from West Side Story (apologies to Bernstein and Sondheim) Scalia ... I just met a judge named Scalia. And suddenly I find The Bill of Rights' not signed For me. Scalia Say it loud and it sounds like braying, Say it soft and you'd better be praying. Scalia He'll keep me from straying Scaliaaaaaah ... Oooops, gotta go. Ashcroft's at the door.

Bill Clinton in Slumberland

I was wandering through some old files and found this little ditty that I had composed for Bill Clinton.
Are you tucked into your bed? The battle fought, the country led, For all good boys should be asleep Your fantasies in dreams to keep. Don't let them out to take the air For everyone will want to share. The fun they'll poke, the games they'll play, (They'll want to play them every day). Your inner needs will be a joke, Your plans and power up in smoke. Your work supplanted by the sleaze Of a woman on her knees. Too late. Those dreams are running free Providing grist for mills like me. So dream away the old dream's tar With what you wish upon a Starr.