Blog updates

April 23, 2015

Not that I am accusing anybody of reading this blog anymore, but I am just noting for the record that I’ve updated my theme to take advantage of some features that have been added to wordpress in the many years since I settled on this theme (which seems to have been long since discontinued). In particular, the ‘Archives’ in the sidebar are now a dropdown rather than a needlessly long list. But the other changes should be more or less transparent, despite requiring a decent amount of rejiggering behind the scenes.

Once more, with feeling

March 28, 2013

I’ve seen or heard a number of people expressing the wish that they could hear a favorite album (or song) again for the first time, and admitting some jealousy towards those who have never heard it before, and thus will hear it with the freshest of ears, experiencing every twist and turn as a genuine novelty.[1]

I suppose I understand that desire,[2] but there’s also something to be said for putting on an album that you haven’t listened to in years, and just being reminded why you liked it.

Which, I suppose, is just a roundabout way of saying that I made the recent discovery that Dark Side of the Moon remains a phenomenal album.

* * *

[1] This is obviously disregarding the possibility that the virgin-eared listener might perceive a particular album, song, chord change, lyric, or whatever as unbearably trite and not novel or surprising at all.

[2] On the other hand, a pretty damn uniform characteristic of my favorite musical works is that my first listen was the one I liked the least. The stuff I really like in the end is what grows on me. Even something that blows you away on the first listen has room to get even better. I can think of some arguable counterexamples to this general rule among my own favorite-musics list, but they tend to be songs that are particularly strongly associated with a particular time, place, or event—songs that function more as time machines, aids to memory, or madeleines than as musical works per se.

On Recent History

September 30, 2009

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Again. Sorry. Anyway, what follows here is a pictoral account of what I’ve been up to lately.


Daylight saving

October 28, 2008

My school has a fake belltower that plays recordings of various bell sounds at regular intervals. Turns out whatever system controls its playback hasn’t been updated for the Energy Policy Act of 2005, since it’s still operating under the old rules for changing the clock. I suppose it’s no bigger nuisance than for any other clock, except that this one can be heard chiming from blocks away. I’m giddily anticipating the three weeks next spring when it will be unreliable for the same reason.

A Proundrum

October 21, 2008

If the opposite of ‘pro’ is ‘con’, what’s the opposite of the Constitution?


July 30, 2008
  • A digraph is “a pair of letters representing a single speech sound, as ea in meat or th in path.” Makes sense: di- meaning ‘two’, and -graph meaning ‘something written or drawn’.

    So how come a monograph is completely different? Shouldn’t a digraph be composed of two monographs?

  • In other news, I’m quitting my job today. Woo!


July 24, 2008
  • A few months ago, I became eligible for a work-issued laptop, allowing me to RDP into my workstation to work from home. Basically, it’s a device to simplify working overtime, as I still have to spend 40 hours a week at the office. So I signed up for a laptop as soon as I became eligible, and yesterday I was finally issued one.

    The funny part is, I’m resigning as of next week, and I’m now in the process of filling out a bunch of paperwork and getting signatures showing that I don’t owe my employer any money—or any laptops. Fun times.

    I’ve already used the laptop a bit, and I plan on using it more this week-end, when I’m up in Boston for a friend’s wedding celebration. This will be literally my only chance to ruin a vacation by literally bringing the office with me, so I intend to make good use of it. For some reason.

  • Speaking of higher education, here is a great, thought-provoking essay about some of the pitfalls there are. I will do my best to keep it in mind. On the other hand, this essay, while also quite interesting, reeks of nothing so much as bitterness and sour grapes (Wondering about the octopus? It’s here.). Odd, perhaps, that I respond better to condescension than disdain, though both tones are equally capable of pompousness and (for lack of a better word) elitism.

Mama Leone left a note on the door

June 27, 2008

Two years and two weeks after I began this job, I got a phone call that ended it. Well, I mean, it hasn’t ended yet but the end is very clearly in sight.

“Be careful what you wish for,” they say, “because you just might get it.” I think I was careful—despite leaving everything to the last possible minute and doing it sort of on a whim to begin with—but I suppose I’ll find out soon. Now I “just” need to figure out how to pay for that.

I haven’t felt this eager/giddy/anxious/paranoid in, oh, about 7 months. That turned out great, so I’m cautiously optimistic at the moment.


June 13, 2008

Wired’s Threat Level is reporting on a list of street gang slang compiled by law enforcement officers. I am reminded of that one part of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where dude is at the drug conference. Hilarity all around.

Before I get to my main point, here are some [verbatim] entries I’ll comment on:

ACETISM…..(Satanists)…..Sacrifice of self comforts, finances and personal effects for the “Cause”
BEES KNEE’s…..(Latin Kings)…..An extraordinary person, thing, idea, The ultimate
CATS MEOW…..(Latin Kings)…..Something splendid or stylish.
CAT’s PAJAMAS…..(Latin Kings)…..Same as “Cat’s Meow).

Not only can’t the makers of this list spell or use apostrophes correctly, they evidently can’t recognize regular English words and idiomatic phrases. Webster’s defines ascetism as “asceticism; the condition or practice of self-denial.” It would appear the Satanists are using a word according to its standard dictionary definition; does that really count as slang?

The bee’s knees, on the other hand, is slang: “the bee’s knees, Older Slang. (esp. in the 1920s) a person or thing that is wonderful, great, or marvelous: Her new roadster is simply the bee’s knees.” However, this is also a standard usage, and certainly antedates the Latin Kings. Wikipedia says the gang was founded in 1940; but the bee’s knees dates from 1923. There was “a fad around this year for slang terms denoting ‘excellence’ and based on animal anatomy” that was also responsible for such phrases as the cat’s pajamas and the cat’s meow. Wait, where have I seen those before?

Anyway, the main reason I bring this up is to note that the Aryan Brotherhood apparently uses Cockney-style rhyming slang. Here are a couple examples:

APPLES and PEARS…..(Aryan Brotherhood)…..Stairs; Tiers also.
BARKLEY HUNT…..(Aryan Brotherhood)…..Vagina; cunt
BURT and ERNIE…..(Aryan Brotherhood of Texas)…..A lawyer.
CANDY WRAPPERS…..(Aryan Brotherhood of Texas)…..The Crapper (bathroom).
DAPPER DAN…..(Aryan Brotherhood)…..Can
EAGLES NEST…..(Aryan Brotherhood of Texas)…..One’s chest.
FIELDS of WHEAT…..(Aryan Brotherhood of Texas))…..Streets/outside.
GAG and CHOKE…..(Aryan Brotherhood of Texas)…..To smoke.

You get the idea. Some of those are hilariously appropriate (GAG and CHOKE, in particular), but it’s interesting to note that the Aryan Brotherhood allegedly uses a slang term based on the name of a region in Gloucestershire, England. No way that one wasn’t borrowed from some Cockney. Do they have prisoner exchange programs between the US and the UK, to allow for the cultural growth of convicted felons? Why should university students get all the fun and opportunities for self-improvement? If not, how did this spread?

Anyway, I can’t get enough of rhyming slang. Once I learned that a famous anti-apartheid activist was code for an awesome beer, I was hooked. So it’s kind of heartening, I suppose, to see it in use in the States.


June 11, 2008

I have no idea how to even begin researching these questions, so I’m just throwing them out there.

  • You hear about plenty of clinical trials where Drug X is shown to be no better than a placebo in treating Condition Y: patients are told they’ll get medicine, but they’re randomly assigned to get either medicine or sugar pills. How about a trial to see whether Drug X is any worse than a placebo? Run the test like normal—but then run it a second time, telling all the participants that they’re getting a placebo, even though half of them are getting Drug X.
  • If the placebo effect depends on the recipients beliefs about the treatment, does the type of belief and the type of treatment affect it? Do Southern Baptists respond better to placebos that have been blessed by an ordained minister?

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