Category Archives: Uncategorized

But not English-Bengali

Some intriguing definitions from the Samsbad Bengali-English Dictionary, marooned among words in an alphabet I cannot read, with no page numbers because I can’t read those either:

  • a sound as of munching; confused noise as of hot discussion or incessant prattling.
  • possessing catlike brownish eyes
  • the sound of biting off or cutting off (esp. suddenly) a portion of a hard thing at one stroke; a snapping sound; an imaginary sound made by an ant when it pricks.
  • the part of the loin-cloth which the wearer tucks behind him between his legs.
  • a necklace of the twigs of holy basil worn by Vaishnabas.
  • to set a thief to catch a thief
  • a beggar’s bowl or drinking bowl made of cocoanut shell
  • the sound of clapping thunder or the fracture of a bone.
  • a letter (of the alphabet) written badly
  • to cast one’s horoscope from hypotheses or insufficient or uncertain data.

I may have to find my own copy to use as a sort of divining tool.

More Apple License Info

This is now old news, but this post has been in draft for several months.
From the 5.0 license agreement:

When you use Siri, the things you say will be recorded and sent to Apple to process your requests. Your device will also send Apple other information, such as your first name and nickname; the names, nicknames, and relationship with you (e.g., “my dad”) of your address book contacts; and song names in your collection (collectively, your “User Data”)

Granted, they add

All of this data is used to help Siri understand you better and recognize what you say. It is not linked to other data that Apple may have from your use of other Apple services.

I don’t remember this from last time, though it would not have caught my eye last time, either:


The Lighter Side of… Animals in the News

Again, a few dopey comments from me on Alan Taylor’s In Focus feature on Animals in the News:

2: He’s definitely feelin’ it.
3: How often do you get to yell “Jesus Christ, it’s a leopard!” yet your joy is dampened by the fact that the top of your head has come off :(
7: Winner of the “how to make bulls even more dangerous” contest and perhaps the opposite of Taureau Piscine?
8: No, they’re not for protection from the lasers, they always wear cool sunglasses there.
9: No joke here, I’m just legitimately surprised that there is dogsled racing anywhere apart from Alaska and the Yukon.
12: Let’s hope this is in a neighborhood where the kids know all about hunting, shall we?
14: Wondered for a moment if that horse would get handed down to a smaller kid after he’s been outgrown.
15: Ozark Hellbenders!!!
17: Buried lead: the cat’s reading Seth Godin’s Tribes.
18: New series starring Ricky Gervais.
23: Monkey dry cleaning is very small and monkeys never read the warning on the bags.
24: Is this cosplay or is this a real thing that people will then cosplay later? So pink.
25: OK, Bill, hold very very still. *brandishes brick*
27: As astonished as a panda can look.
28: This joke has already been done better by Jerry Seinfeld.
30: Oh, his leetle feeeeengers!
31: I sort of hoped this was one of those jail-themed fundraisers they do, but smaller.
36: Do all beavers have those freaky orange nutria teeth?
40: Not actually reminiscing about his sad past, Hadley is thinking about snacks.
41: Fenton! Fenton!!
42: Inspiring caption, but I urge you to seek your metaphorical eagles even before you’re 82. Goodnight folks! Tip your waitstaff!

Why I love Al

When I was a child, I listened to music as a child. I went to a Sharon, Lois and Bram concert (mom bought me a tiny Mon Cheri chocolate box, which I remember more vividly than the music). I had a record of the songs and poems of Dennis Lee (and stared at the album cover for hours and still remember the cadence of most of the poems.) But as my brother and I grew into the older elementary grades, we shared two cassettes that we listened to over and over: Weird Al’s self-titled first album and The Chipmunk’s Chipmunk Punk. The appeal was kid-friendly versions of (relatively, the albums were not new at the time) current pop songs.

As I entered junior high, I continued to listed to Weird Al, especially enjoying the comedic lyrics to his pop song parodies (I remember trying to think of other possible lyrics to Eat It with a friend). I also remember being shocked at the swearing in “Nature Trail to Hell”, though I think it was not too long before I was blase about the word Hell (my brother was not shocked at all and enjoyed my discomfort when the song came on).

Going on to college, I met fans of the Dr. Demento show. I had never actually heard the radio program, but I did have a couple of his Rhino compilation records (best of the 50s and best of the 60s, which I wish would be re-released, if only for “Pico and Sepulveda”) and knew of his pivotal role in the genesis of Weird Al’s first hit, “My Bologna.” I heard a wider range of comedy and parody pop (and comedy and parody music hall/classical, thanks to pals who made tapes of Flanders and Swann, PDQ Bach, Tom Lehrer, and Instant Sunshine– won’t someone release an Instant Sunshine box set?). I continued buying and listening to Weird Al, now seeing more of his craftsmanship in composing and arranging his songs. They were miles more carefully crafted than the wacky morning DJ hits that sometimes filled out a comedy music playlist.

As my non-parody music exposure also grew, I began to understand Al’s style parody songs– not parodies of a single song, but parodies of the songs of a particular artist or an entire musical genre that required a deeper level of musical literacy to appreciate and highlighted Al’s very experienced ear to pick out the most recognizable musical habits of so many musicians. I also started to enjoy that so many of the songs were about television and food, oft-neglected topics in mainstream pop but ones that a broad audience could connect to. We have not all stayed in Hotel California (much less stabbed beasts with steely knives) but most of us have eaten lasagne.

Al’s music videos display the same fluency in the language of pop culture as his music, plus visual literacy in music video history and art. Al commissioned work from great artists in animation and effects, acting as their friendly introduction to fans.

A moment now for television and film. I ardently loved the video The Compleat Al (another much-wished-for re-release) decades before I recognized the tributes to a shelf’s worth of influential music documentaries. Al hosted many hours of MTV, most of which I missed due to my family’s (probably wise) decision to not have cable while the kids were at home. As much as I did see, I’m sure I missed the references to OTHER MTV shows which I also missed. I only saw Al’s children’s show on DVD, not being the right demographic to catch it when it originally aired. I am glad I got to see it with his commentary: he explains the network and legislative requirements to provide moral lessons and clean-living tips that ended up shoehorned into Al’s vision for an anarchic kiddie show operating in its own world, complete with loving tributes to kid classics.

Just like people re-purchasing Pink Floyd, Al deserves to have his full catalog in print. As I grow older, I appreciate the musicianship of a dedicated artist. I appreciate his conscious choice to have his work be accessible to children. I am now enjoying the work of several generations of comedians, musicians, writers, and friends who have been lifelong fans. Al’s later albums often feature contributions from parodied musicians who are honored to take part. Did you see his episode of Behind the Music? There are dozens of artists who understood (and were deeply proud of) their own success after Al’s musical attentions. I feel that while the top pop songs of past decades may not age well, their parodies do (and are perhaps less embarrassing to own as an adult?).

I have never been to one of his concerts, but to a man every person who goes to one comments on how amazing the show is and how much goes into the performance. Everyone leaves happy.

While I try to remember that I don’t really NEED the artists I admire to have an admirable personality or personal life, I am quite pleased that Al seems to be a genuinely good person. While I never got my membership packet when I sent away in the mid-80s to be a Close Personal Friend of Al in his fan club, I do still consider him to be a Close Personal Friend I have never met.

The universal translator merely burbles quietly

My favorite animal chronicler, Sy Montgomery, has written a great article on the octopus and the bewildering nature of octopus intelligence.

Read the article and imagine yourself in the distant future, aboard a galactic ship crewed by beings from across the universe. You’ve got a new roomie, one from your home planet. Oh, boy! Another human, after years of being the only one onboard! Nope. It’s an octopus. She eyes you from the comfort of a brown beer bottle as you nervously search for a copy of the Octopus Enrichment Handbook in the All-Earthican Digital Library.

Antique radiation

After the excitement over the Fukushima nuclear plant, people in Japan are (understandably) a little jumpy about radiation. This seems to have led to the discovery of a bunch of antique radiation sources. A recent radiological survey of the Puget Sound area was done to establish what the normal baseline radiation level is (because the similar surveys in Fukushima had not had a pre-reactor-problem level to compare to). They were expecting to find a lot of non-disaster related radiation, and I wonder if they found any old bottles of radium, too?

The Lighter Side… of Horrible Flooding

Some thoughts on the (astounding, as always) collection of pictures from Alan Taylor’s photo feature on the flooding in Thailand.

#2: Important! Does the “hang loose” gesture mean the same thing in Thailand?

#4: I’d like to imagine this as a sitcom about two slackers who live in a perpetually flooded apartment.

#7: I was relieved to see that these were flooded hedges rather than rapid algae growth on local boaters.

#15: The yellow flags looked similar enough to the symbol on a shirt I got at Goodwill that I was able to track down its meaning: the Personal Flag of H.M. King King Bhumipol Adulyadej (Rama IX) in honor of the 60th anniversary of his accession to the throne. Neat!

#26: This guy will jokingly propose this picture for the family’s holiday update letter. His wife will merely scowl.

#33: Not only napping during a flood, but doing it on a bus stop anti-nap bench. He may win the nap championships.

#41: Best dad ever!

Upshot: communites were made safer

Rare on the internet, added context to an amusing video clip. In this case, on the importance of blowing on a hot New Zealand pie. I was surprised at the assertion that some viewers didn’t know the comment was in jest, but perhaps these would also be people taken in by the story about buying a 3 AM pie. Note in the longer version of the clip, the pie-seeker seems VERY familiar with how to present his wrists for handcuffing.

Juvenile Genres

There’s a popular (and long-lived, since I remember it from my own grade school days) elementary school reading assignment that involves requiring students to read a book from each of the major fiction genres. The drawback, I feel, is that they are the major fiction genres for adult fiction (Realistic Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, etc.*), not for kid fiction, and they haven’t been changing with the changes in publishing.**

I just found a couple possible books for a fourth grader who needed to read a mystery. The drawback being that mysteries are far more popular with people well out of childhood (and possibly well on their way to 40, as I find myself enjoying mysteries more these days). This may have something to do with children being less interested in books involving horrible murders and police corruption and poisoning and secret hatreds. Seems to frighten them, for some reason. The mysteries available for children almost feel like a different beast. More art theft, for instance.

And why not have kids read kid genres? I think this will teach them that there are different types of books within fiction (at least I hope that’s the purpose of the assignment). How about requiring them to read a book with animals that act like people, a dystopian novel where kids save the day, a school-based comedy, a best friends/worst enemies popularity drama, or a book with Serious Family Issues?

*Thank all that’s holy that they no longer require Westerns, since even adult fiction isn’t publishing more than a handful these days. I also don’t get why Fantasy is so often required while Science Fiction almost never is. Yes, there are fewer F than SF in the children’s section, but there’s some great new kid SF these days.

**The only possible benefit of teaching to tests is that it’s harder to keep using the same assignments for decades on end.