Links of Recapitulation

My God, what have I done?

Much as I love sausage links, they have no place in a respectable venue such as this. They're greasy, which makes it even harder to read the words on the screen, and they aren't really very good for you anyway. So I've decided to use links of recapitulation instead, and make up the difference with chocolate donuts.

Whether gazing through windows or at navals, the aliens are among us, and only ask us to move toward the light. There, multicolored hair awaits, although bloggers will be punished for eternity, or until Spring, whichever comes first. This is no time for mediocrity; it is time for faith, and lingerie, and very long naps.

The cadence of the moon encourages our hatred of butterflies, but rethinking perception is the goal where pamcakes and meebus are concerned. In a relative sense, the loops and bounds of my spastic colon result in that sinking feeling: there's never enough money, no one understands me, and I have a novel to write.

My favorite colorit's the color I hate the mostis red, but I need other colors, too. The long weekend beckons, with its spots and dreams and rapid transit, just because I say so. Not that it's the fault of the windmill, but we must eat, and it's what's for dinner. We don't eat insects, though, or fish.

Separation anxietywhether it results from glue or dreams about saintsis better than politics, for even dogs know their lassos from their poetry. A fear of problem-solving doesn't require additional tableware, even when death and landfills take the place of dessert. At the seashore, we have no need of television. The moon is an adequate substitute.

Even before 2008 began, Nostrildamus told us what to expect from our children. They are enlightened already, and their only ambition is the truth, imperfect as it is. The irony of zombies dancing in the wind is a far better lesson than Rock Paper Scissors on a cloudy playground at Easter. Even Noah looked toward the next life with a faux pas in his throat, for coffee is a luxury when time is short. The moon has questions, too.

Pranks are for the young at heart, but soul food is ageless. Don't bother answering that; I'm in an awkward stage of life. Two years ago NASA might have done things differently, although they couldn't have anticipated the mucus of politicians with too much caffeine on their hands, and lofty dreams of the Labor Day weekend to come.

How did all this start in the first place? Oh. I see.


Nausea and Infinity

Even infinity gets nauseous sometimes.

When I contemplate infinity, the longness of it wears me out, and then I want to take a nap. I think that's why you always see ad nauseam and ad infinitum together. The whole idea of something going on forever is nauseating, which causes droopiness. When you're droopy, the last thing you want is someone telling you to put up a bunch of ads, or mile-markers.

I don't think there are any mile-markers on the road to infinity, because the Department of Transportation would run out of numbers halfway through the job, so it wouldn't make sense to even start something like that. Billboards wouldn't make sense, either, because you'd never know where to put them without any mile-markers to tell you where you are.

I think the road to infinity is paved with good intentions, but all the droopy people who stopped to take naps along the way make it look like it's paved with sleeping people. It isn't, though.


The Brakewater of Time

Sometimes water has too much braking power. That's why we don’t need a breakwater. See? Navel gazing can be a satisfying pastime, but when seconds count, I like to focus my gaze on the U.S. Naval Observatory instead. This will be especially important as the wee hours of Wednesday give way to Thursday, because that's when an extra second will be shoveled into the Furnace of Time, thereby providing just enough thrust to keep our planet from grinding to a halt before breakfast.

Although the International Earth Rotation Service is ultimately responsible for deciding whether or not to throw another second into the fire, it's Father Time who has to do the actual work. He lives on a small boat at the U.S. Naval Observatory, so that's where the sacrifice is performed. This way, he can paddle out onto the ocean at a moment's notice and tell Poseidon to quit slamming on the brakes, since that's what's slowing us down in the first place.

The Earth is constantly undergoing a deceleration caused by the braking action of the tides. Through the use of ancient observations of eclipses, it is possible to determine the average deceleration of the Earth to be roughly 1.4 milliseconds per day per century. This deceleration causes the Earth's rotational time to slow with respect to the atomic clock time.

The sacrifice will commence just before midnight (UTC) on New Year's Eve, and should be all but over by the time 2009 rolls around, give or take a couple seconds. If you happen to be watching, you'll see that the leap second is glued to the end of the last second of the old year, which isn't at all the same as grafting it to the first second of the new year.


Here, I'm reminded of the words of my great-uncle's niece, on my mother's side, who always seemed to have a way of making a long story short . . .

He who leaps first leaps loudest, but second fiddle can't hold a candle to Father Time.

. . . which, I think, simply means that Poseidon is a lousy driver.


Elbow Room


Narrow newspaper-style columns have their advantages, but I've decided to abandon them in favor of the increased real estate offered by the virtually identical layout you see here. It sure isn't Web 2.0 material, but it'll give the occasional photo a bit more breathing room, and the little graphics I like to put in the corners of my posts won't have to be reduced to 200-and-change pixel widths to keep the text from turning into three- or four-word columns.

Another good reason to widen the playing field is the common use of RSS feeds, which tend to do away with much of a Web site's formatting anyway; the content remains, but not the look and feel. Narrow columns, among other things, generally don't come along for the ride. That isn't necessarily a bad thing.

In any case, that's what's behind the change, mostly. I think I'll also tack on one of my favorite graphics below, just to see how much of it will fit now. Can't be any worse than the 400 pixel limit I had to work with before, no?


Colors of the Season

Pretty colors are important. For some of us, the next 24 hours will bring the full range of human emotion. There will be joy as we rip the wrapping from that special gift we've been itching and begging for, and there will be heartbreakeven rageas we discover yet another pair of slippers, or mismatched socks in a used sandwich bag.

Amid the yips of uncontainable elation spewing from the good boys and girls there must also come anguished wails. Parents have feelings, too, and the 25th of December is payback time, little mister. And you, little missy-too-good-to-fix-the-plumbing. Have another liverwurst cookie, and let us know how you like the motel.

For the rest of us, the next 24 hours will bring the full range of human ingenuity into sharp focus as we gaze, lovingly, at the shiny new thermocouple Santa installed on the furnace this morning. There will be howls of delirium as ice turns to water, and thence to more water as frozen pipes begin to thaw. Like heat, water is an appropriate and thoughtful gift, especially when it's wrapped in the colors of the season.

"All I got for Christmas was a drink of water," My One True Love will say. "In a red cup." I'll smile a little smile and wink a little wink, and then we'll go out and make snow angles. After all, isn't that what Christmas is all about?


Shiftless Tinsel and the Lasso of Creativity

Now here this, not later there that, or no presents of mind for you! Some blog comments are nothing short of inspirational. The recent suggestion that creative lassitude might be what I'm after inspired a sequence of investigations that fell to earth nowhere near their original launch site, but produced an unexpected shower of inspiration-sparks in the relatedyet unrelatedarena of blog comments.

To wit, the Robertson Davies quote to which Gary refers is probably this . . .

Many a promising career has been wrecked by marrying the wrong sort of woman. The right sort of woman can distinguish between Creative Lassitude and plain shiftlessness.

. . . which led me to another Davies quote, which happens to refer to tinsel, which is poignant in light of this season of shiny tree ornaments.

Well, allow me to introduce myself to you as an advocate of Ornamental Knowledge. You like the mind to be a neat machine, equipped to work efficiently, if narrowly, and with no extra bits or useless parts. I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt. Shake the machine and it goes out of order; shake the dustbin and it adjusts itself beautifully to its new position.

Somewhere along the line it occurred to me that "lassitude" rhymes with "tattooed," sort of, which brings me back to the point I was going to make before, which is that blog comments ought to contain healthy dirt.

Some of the sparks that landed on me during the course of my investigation persuaded me that standard letter-templates are insufficient when it comes to blog comments. For this reason, I took the liberty of modifying one of the free templates one finds here and there on the Web, and include it here as a holiday gift for those who remain uncertain about the proper format for blog comments.

I have just finished reading the ______ you wrote on ______ published in the ______ post of ______. I want to tell you how much I appreciated your clearly written and thought-provoking ______.

While much has been written on this topic, your ______ expresses both the positive and negative aspects of this important topic, without taking an emotional stance on either side of the issue.

Thank you for your thorough research and clear writing.

Although it probably goes without saying, the template's blank spaces are intended for your editor's comments, or those of the blogger to whom your comments are addressed.


Canceling 08

Fast-forward to the end of 08 Nearly two weeks left before the new year, but '08 feels like a ghost. Maybe it's the weather, or the economic climate, or a combination of things that have nothing in common with either of those. Maybe it's the glimmer of hope for a better year aheadfor better years aheadthat's at the root of my restlessness. I just want 2008 to go. Now.

So before I lose my sense of humor over the whole thing, I've decided to take the high road and declare 2008 over, regardless of what the calendar might have to say about it. I'm just that desperate, and I don't care if it does cause a rift in the space-time continuum.

Maybe Santa can come next year.


Disfiguring the Alphabet of Eights

AnalemmaP, right where it should have been all along.

In the doppelganging scheme of things, the leaks and dribbles of ordinary awareness often confound the unwary, leading to goosechases in the wilderness of perception. Although it's been said that heightened awareness is its own reward, the Pavlovian ideal of celebratory salivation repays patience and fortitude in a more useful currency.

A distinguished citizen of our unparalleled multiverse, Craig Conley immediately spied the true nature of the Alphabet of Eights recently outlined in or near this space, effectively smithereening prior misconceptions, misperceptions, and dumb luck associated with any myopic analysis that disfigured the figure eight previously thought to be an acceptable representation of Sideways Infinity, among other things.

In a note forwarded to me via teletype, Mr. Conley drills through the enamel and past its pulp, eventually arriving at a root-mean-square approximation of the solution to this problem, which follows.

The Alphabet of Eights has 22 letters. The letter "Analemma P" is the junction point. Ptolemy considered "Analemma" and "P" to be two letters, but a binary star had him seeing double.

Clearly, this new concatenation calls for further study, for if analemmap is to be considered a letter of the alphabet, the Möbius Dilemma must also be taken into account, along with the gravitational lensing perpetrated by the anonymous binary to which Mr. Conley refers. How this might affect the alphabets of others is a question best left for the left-brained, the harebrained, and their next of kin.


Alphabet of Eights

Analemma Moebius eight your baby?

In the alphabet of eights h i j k analemma p form follows function: Möbius against a daytime sky.

In the alphabet of eights, down is sideways and sideways up, but iSun always smiles on USB.


Three Poems

Up the funny stairs

Some Life

Bus fares
Climbing stairs
Silhouettes of broken chairs

Blank stares
Music blares
No one lives here; no one dares

Jesus cares
Only he who dreams despairs

Rotten pears
Worried over small affairs

Grey hairs
Solar flares
Melting icecaps; drowning bears.

Home sweet hovel


The clock strikes three
And we run and we hustle
For the busses and the cars
And the train runs late
To our homes and our hovels
By the lake, by the depot
Under water
Drowning slowly
While the clock strikes eight.

The rock feels no pain

The Last Poem

I will be the first to learn
The hows and whys
The making of ignorance.

I will be the first to learn
The pitfalls and traps
The solitude of arrogance.

I will be the last to learn
The agony of irreversibility.

              Circa 1978

I Hate to Solve for X

The evil of X

It only took a little while
To find the root of Y
Quadratics only made me smile
But X just made me cry.

I solve for N or P or Q
And sometimes even Z
But work with X is never through
It's all mixed up to me.

Binomials just cancel out
It's not at all complex
I know what Trig is all about
But I hate to solve for X.

           Circa 1978

Regarding Tableware

Don't eat with your hands. Every once in a while, an eclectic blend of influences conspire to design and manufacture words that might otherwise have been discarded in favor of a more reasoned approach to communication. Influences of this sort are often mistaken for chaos; they seem geared toward subversion; they want to throw reason and logic from the train. But the creative process isn't rationalnot in the way mathematics or computer programming are rationaland it often withers when linearity is imposed.

In a similar way, the rarified atmosphere at the outer fringes of creative writing is often mistaken for a vacuum. While the oxygen-starved brain is certainly capable of producing particularly heinous prose, a vacuum almost always causes the brain to explode. Although the resulting differences in style and substance can be difficult to quantify, a simple test will quickly separate the merely brain-damaged from the brain-absent.

For the first example, I held my breath while my assistant inserted her fingertips in my nostrils to eliminate any stray air-puffs that might compromise the experiment. This resulted in only minor brain damage, as you can see from the holiday poem I executed after regaining consciousness.

iHerds of hoofed antlers on iCrusted snow
iDonner, iBlitzen, iPanzer & schnitzen
The howls of the vowels from Alphabet's shore
"Cast off!" cried the captain, "iCan't take it no more!"

For the second example, I stowed away in the starboard wingtip of the space shuttle while my assistant inserted her fingertips in my throat to eliminate any stray screams that might alert NASA to my presence. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to hold herself together in the vacuum of space, while my training allowed me to maintain my presence of mind long after it had disappeared from view.

I'm sorry, said iDolph
This "Jeff" has to go
iAye said the captain
And then he ate some beans.

As you can see, the differences are subtle, but not impossible to distinguish once you know where to look. To the layperson, the absence of quotes to indicate dialogue is probably the most glaring, while the fastidious eye will immediately note the absence of proper tableware, thus forcing the captain to eat with his hands.



Tiny stars via NASA

Being by their nature smaller
And looked down on by the taller
Is it any wonder, then
That the Pygmies rise again?

Robbing, looting, burning all
Making up for size that's small
They are on a mad rampage
Tiny hearts filled up with rage.

Everybody tries to flee
Pygmies must have gotten free!
But they never get too far
Anywhere the Pygmies are.

Now the Pygmies run the world
All their flags have been unfurled
Tiny houses, tiny cars
Lying 'neath the tiny stars.

               Circa 1978


Like the Windmills of my Beard

A subject near, and deer, and altogether beardful. This beard is your beard. A North American marvel of engineering, the USGS, aghast, once measured the longest strand at 1241 miles, as the crow flies.

But crows don't know ether. They rely on tradition and warm currents to obtain the lift required for a journey of this magnitude, for their beards are not lichen, and rarely grow on trees.

But the reindeer has a beard. Greyer and less manageable than the deer we used to know, its hoofbeats remind us less of thunder than the softer foods we hunt and kill, now that winter's teeth are bare.

Incoming . . . are those choppers I hear? My beard is your beard, growing from the ears of corn I saw in a movie once; row after row after row of popcorn in my teeth, but what need have we of teeth, or antlers, or beards?

Windmills, maybe, to fluff the breeze.


Death and Landfills

Calling this a hearse is like calling your uncle in Florida. Monday is the perfect time to contemplate things I might have buried in the landfill of my mind during the weekend, such as morbidity. Although the theory is that the bulk of my organic self will eventually take a long dirt nap, the fact is I've been doing exactly that for the better part of a lifetime. This brings up two important questions.

1) What's the difference between death and whiskers?

2) Have I spent the best years of my life in a landfill?

Here, I may as well point out that most men have whiskers, and they don't just disappear into thin air after they're shaved off. It's been said that most females don't have whiskers, but there's no law that says whiskers can't grow on legs, or underarms, or pretty much anywhere there's a fertile follicle environment. A whisker by any other name is still a whisker.

Anyway, the point is that my hair has been accumulating in landfills all this time, and so has yours. Since a landfill is essentially a graveyard for whiskers, the idea of a final resting place is absurd. My whiskers have been "resting" since puberty, give or take, hence my DNA has been "resting," and hence, I must now point out, the answer to both questions, above, can only be yes.


The Gelatin Poem

My love. My life. My Jello.

Notice my smile
How do I love my Jello?
Happy you asked
Let me count the ways.

Behold my love
My Jello in the moonlight
I go to her
Too soon she is gone.

What have I done?
Commence regurgitation
Jello must live
Jello cannot die.

I throw the switch
Reanimated Jello
She lives forever.

Mr. Sunshine

Mr. Sunshine draws the blind
To keep the laughing voices out
His angry eyes can't bear the sound
This day is made for sleeping.

Don't wake Mr. Sunshine
He hasn't slept a wink
Don't wake Mr. Sunshine
He hasn't had a drink.

Darkness fills the empty space
Where nightmares shout into the room
His ruined mind no longer plans
A day that's made for sleeping.

Don't wake Mr. Sunshine
He hasn't had a drink
Don't wake Mr. Sunshine
He isn't who you think.

Television's flickered light
Escapes into polluted air
His eyes roll back into his head
A head that's made for sleeping.

Don't wake Mr. Sunshine
He isn't who you think
Don't wake Mr. Sunshine
He's drowning in your sink.

Static from the radio
Invokes the special phrase again
His shadow leaves no mark upon
A world that's made for sleeping.

The Wisdom of Seagulls

Among the rocks that edge the shore
She sits to tend the ebb and flow
As if by wish the tide returns
As if by calling slows.

On moonless nights she scans the waves
And listens for the distant horn
As if by sight the lost return
As if by ear they're found.

No seagull breaks the air with wing
Nor silence with its mournful call
As if by flight the chain is rent
As if by sound released.

Opiate of the Masses

Readin' rots the mind.
Your slaves were never given books, for that is how the mind is made to sift the reason from the noise that flickers now, like candlelight, from every window of the house where all your slaves lie sleeping.


Beneath the Blue Moon Hiding

This Blue Moon

This blue moon becomes us now: She floats below the brighter stars (as if we ever needed stars) to mark the places where we strayed. We stayed too long, and slept too long, and yawning woke to find the sky had found a new face in the moon. A harsher face, an older face, and bluer than we felt before, we rode into another town, beneath the blue moon hiding.


How My Computer Wound Up in the Toilet

How can you flush something that's already the same thing as the thing you want to flush? In theory, software upgrades and toilet cleaning are best left to others. In practice, most of us wind up doing these things ourselves, because IT departments and maids generally resent the idea of working for free. There are exceptions, I know, but then you'd need a lawyer.

The most important difference between the two activities is that, when your 754 MB download has been corrupted and won't install, it's easy to flush the computer down the toilet. This isn't possible with the toilet, because . . . well, because it's a toilet, and you can't flush something that's already the same thing as the thing you want to flush.

After the plumber has gone, I like to linger awhile and savor the glint of the shiny porcelain bowl. For some reason, it always reminds me of my hard disk before I began installing all the updates and patches required to patch and update the software that worked, sort of, before someone decided it needed cleaning. It was never really clean in the sense that you'd want to eat spaghetti out of it, but it worked.

I've always been fond of the old if it works don't fix it adage, so I have no explanation for attempting to clean something that wasn't entirely dirty to begin with. Now that the madness has passed, I understand the need for buying a new computer every six months, and a new toilet every four. Clean is good, and not everyone is handy with a pipe wrench.


Being Food

What's for lunch?Why is everyone looking at me that way? I can't put my finger [sic] on it, but there's a look in their eyes today. Everywhere I go it's the same. Something about the way they smile . . . but those aren't smiles . . . why is everyone smirking? It isn't natural. Why do I feel like a freak? Is there something in my teeth [sic]? Maybe my skirt [sic] is tucked in my underwear [sic] again?

No. It's something else . . . I can feel it . . . I know it. Here comes a little old lady. I'll ask her, because little old ladies are always . . . wait . . . she's smiling, too. That same gruesome, frightening not-a-smile . . . why is this happening? Run.

Safe. They can't see me here. I'll wait until dark, then hightail [sic] it out of here. Go south, where the weather suits my clothes [sic]. Maybe dye my hair [sic] before I stop at that little restaurant at the edge of town. No one will notice me then.

I wonder what's on the menu.


Static Cling

Static is static, no matter how you modulate it. Human perception is always fascinating, but it's especially intriguing when it goes terribly wrong and drifts off into the mudhole of misperception. Of course, since the whole business is entirely subjective to begin with, misperception is just as fishy, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't drill holes in our boats when all the lakes have dried up.

I believe sober judgment ought to dictate whose perception is valid, and whose is merely staggering about the room with spittle in the corners of its open mouth. Spastic concatenations of random thoughts shouldn't be allowed to dictate perceptual superiority, which is why the largest, loudest, and most profane among us ought to be the ones to decide what's what, and what's not.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it's all about amplitude, baby, and since the perception is the reality, it shouldn't take a broadcast engineer to figure out where all the static is coming from. If there's a lesson to be learned from talk radio, it's that every sinking ship sends out a distress call, but not everyone has the same idea about what's distressing, and what's not.


Howlin at the Moo

Uhowlin@mebwah? As a literary device, omitting portions of a wordthe portion at the end in particularis often used to denote rough language. This is generally implemented on the written page by an apostrophe in place of one or more missing letters in a word. Used to great effect when, for example, the writer wishes to give a colorful, rough-hewn character an air of gritty nonchalance and missing teeth, the practice is nevertheless tiring, and mundane.

For this reason, I'm starting a Movement to discourage it. Those who insist on seeing an apostrophe where letters used to be are welcome to do their own typing, but I think dialogue is every bit as readable, meaningful, and enjoyable without the blasted thing. In fact, as you can see from the example that follows, there's no good reason for the last letter in any word spoken by a colorful, rough-hewn character.

"I say, sir. Have you any sweet, hot mustard?"

"Wha? Ho do relis?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Yo wan ho do relis fo yo ho do?"

"Egad! What has happened to your teeth?"

"Wha? Ain nothin wron wit m teet."

"No, not teat. Teeth! Teeth!"

"Ain dea. Kno wha yo sai th firs tim."

"Tim? The name is Keith!"

"Bo. Gla t kno yo."


Obviously, dialogue like this is more authenticand much easier to followwithout all those infernal punctuation marks cluttering things up.


What I Learned from Insects

Actual size. I enter the room.
There is a fly on the windowpane.
I open the window and the fly flies out.
A wasp flies in.
I close the window.
The wasp remains.
I ask the wasp what it wants.
The wasp remains silent.
I ask again.
Same result.
I open the window and the wasp flies out.
A fly flies in.
I close the window.
The fly remains.
I ask the fly what it wants.
The fly remains silent.
I ask again.
Same result.
I leave the room.
Insects are poor conversationalists.

Touching Aurora

Above . . .

I dreamed I was a cold fish in a warm solar wind. Inhabiting four states of matter, I swam in blue northern water below winter's trees, quiescent in the frosty atmosphere where Aurora lives.

and below.



Happy as a clam in a Dali painting. After long moments spent hewing and honing a blogologue, it's truly gratifying to hear the three magic words that make it all seem worthwhile. When I hear, "that's really stupid," I always swell up just a little, because I know I've accomplished what I set out to do.

Leaving comments on others' blogs is less rewarding, because I generally don't get the negative attention that propels and perpetuates the demented language I've left strewn about here. It's a bit like standing on the roof, naked, holding a metal pole and daring the thunder gods to send all the amperes they have at their disposal, except it's a perfectly clear day with no storms in sight, so nothing magical happens at all.

Imagine my delight, then, to receive the ultimate recognition for comments I had left on someone else's blog. Although I would have been perfectly happy with "that's really stupid," and out-of-my-skull thrilled with "that's really, really stupid," a dear friend handed me the mother of all complimentary words, which is, of course, "delirious."

Yes! He couldn't have done any better, because that's exactly the word once used to describe my number one hero, Salvadore Dali. I believe it was Phyllis McGinley who honored him, circa 1960.

Señor Dali, born delirious,
Considers it folly to be serious.

Although I'm certainly no Salvadore Dali, I believe I could be. I'd only need a canvas, some brushes, a little moustache wax, and a heat gun for melting clocks and stuff. The rest would be child's play.


Separation Anxiety

How do we learn to disintegrate? Hope and Fear present two faces to the world; in secret they confess their unity.

Janus watches from afar.

Hope's countenance betrays her; it is the face of uncertainty. Fear is never far behind.

Hope knows how things will go. The blade comes down between them, and then they wait.

Hope pours out amid the shards; Fear consoles and protects. No more, he says.

Practice makes perfect the stranger within.

Now they confess their unity to the world.

Janus smiles.

Why We Shouldn't Sniff Glue

Maybe the Beatles were aliens, too.

Last weekend's archeological dig turned up more than I could have hoped for. Right here in my own backyard, I unearthed pieces of a mysterious silver platter that converts ordinary sunlight to every scintillating color, and more mysterious still, there is music (!) in the thing. This, I think, is the clearest indication of its intended use as a vessel of communication between Us and Them.

Only an alien intelligence would have the wisdom to design such an elegant device, and only an alien intelligence would possess the foresight to leave it exactly where it ought to be found, at exactly the right moment, by exactly the sort of person suited for the task of communicating such news to the world.

With the help of a few pieces of tape, the shards rested perfectly in the tray of my CD player. This is how I learned of the music and the alien message imbedded in it. The message seemed cryptic at first, but became increasingly meaningful with each replay.

Here's what I've been able to decipher so far.

Glove Glove

Me Too


I Love



Sew Please

Love [unintelligible]


The reference to Alaska is particularly intriguing in light of the recent election; it confirms the aliens' mastery of space and time. The repeated mention of gloves corroborates it.

The references to glue are more puzzling. While aliens aren't completely above suspicion with their swollen brains and marblelike eyes, sniffing glue does seem a bit out of character when you consider their aviation-safety record at major airports worldwide. More likely, it's simply a good-natured jab at one or more unelectable citizens of our northernmost state.


Do You Read Me?

I read you like a book. Once the province of stage magicand, some say, clandestine remote-viewing operationsthe ability to read the minds of others is now one step closer to commonplace, thanks to the efforts of researchers at Maastricht University. An article in yesterday's ScienceDaily convinces me that the neuroimaging techniques used in the study now encourage a rather literal interpretation of what's mind-reading, and what isn't.

Scientists from Maastricht University have developed a method to look into the brain of a person and read out who has spoken to him or her and what was said. With the help of neuroimaging and data mining techniques the researchers mapped the brain activity associated with the recognition of speech sounds and voices.

Are the three remaining pieces of the puzzlewhen, where, and whylurking in there, too? Sorry, I have no galvanic response to that question.


Prefabricated Dream Saints

Saint Egolatría doesn't like you. It certainly isn't the first time I've been inspired by Craig Conley's unparalleled handiwork, but I don't recall ever having been inspired in such parallel fashion. Imaginary saints are one thing; strange dreams make it two.

Last night I dreamt about Saint Egolatría, patron of poorly planned head trips. In my dream, she held the map I had so carelessly left on my dresser while she chided me for being self-absorbed, and arrogant. She said my deeply flawed personality was at the root of many fiascos, and hoped I might get lost in a bad neighborhood, after dark, with an empty gas tank and no cell phone.

The night before, a series of dreams culminated in a pastiche of patrons, each wearing a color-coded robe to indicate his or her mood. Saint Añoranza seemed petulant at first, but this later turned out to be due to a wardrobe malfunction. For their grand finale, all the patron saints locked arms for a rousing rendition of Hey Bulldog.

Three encores later, a bikini-clad penguin brought the curtain down.


Why I'd Make a Fine Pundit

Here's lookin' at ya, Pundit Boy! Punditry suits me. From the fresher vantage point of the morning after, yesterday's incursion into the realm of insightful political commentary was brief, but edifying. I detect, now, a peculiar facility with exactly the sort of in-depth analysis required to quantify the qualifiable, and vice versa. I will demonstrate.

In a nutshell, our political system's minima and maxima have yet to define the boundaries of incommunicado elements derived, certainly, from an era of unbridled grit. Circumstances beyond the pomp of pitch and yawe.g. economic stability in the swing statesmake this feasible, not only in terms of prosperity, but in the larger sense of provincialism bound and gagged by the force of law.

Aloof and alone, these are the little people of whom it was written that neither the old New Deal nor the newer Big Deal might assuage their hunger, for a chicken in every pot only levels the boiling point. The winds of change blow hot and cold, fast and slow, up and down the great divide that separates one delineation from the next, leaving the huddled masses to the clergy, who may not even feel the draft beneath their robes.

Political elasticity, then, may indeed require the full cooperation of voters in the autonomous districts. As a solution to the troubling issues that coalesce during an election year, this form of lapidary cannot be easily dismissed without first examining the trends responsible for the fissures and cracks that threaten the very foundation of hyperbole.

Therein lies the rub.


Super Duper Tuesday

Hungry for knowledge?

Here in the midriff of the United States, people are a little bit excited about today's unprecedented presidential election. Elsewhere, emotions vary from apathy to rage, with raw fear filling the cracks between. But while those of us in the torso are doing a fair job of holding it together, othersnotably those who call the kneecaps homeseem to be struggling to put the whole thing into words.

As you might expect, the blogosphere is atwitter with insightful analysis and commentary, the best of which I will attempt to pass along as the day progresses. It's the least I can do, and you deserve no less.

As you can see from the following example, some bloggers even go beyond the presidential election, and squarely into the realm of The Other Election.

The Election's has began and will end soon. The most awaited results of the election concerns the Presidential Results and Vice Presidential Results. Who will win Obama or McCain? Who will become the Vice President, Biden or Palin? Who will be the winner in the final tally of votes..

I will post the Presidential Election Results here as well the Vice Presidential Election Results for 2008 US Election..

And the new President of the United States is..... (oh am excited)

And the new Vice President of the United States is.... (come back later for the update)

Interestingly, it also turns out that not everyone is "real crazy." Some are only halfway there, if this ABC News blog is any indication.

Singer Hank Williams, Jr., who has become a regular warm-up act on the campaign trail for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, said that Sen. Barack Obama is "not real crazy about" the national anthem before singing the Star-Spangled Banner at a rally in Colorado Springs, CO this evening.

Of course, if you're too busy to follow the day's developments, there are blog oracles that will confirm what you already knew anyway.

Here is the 2008 presidential election open thread for John McCain supporters. In your optimistic world, he defeats Barack Obama in a historic upset, becoming the Harry Truman of our generation and the 44th president of the United States. So do not ask who won the presidential election. You already know the answer.

Amazing, no?

I'll be back with more fascinating election-day coverage, but first I need more sardines.


This just in, from the Early Childhood/Parenting section of the Examiner.

Everyone's going to be talking about pretty much one thing all day today - the presidential election.

Get your kids involved in the discussions (even if they're toddlers) by printing out a free map of the US to color in red and blue as the states are called.

I wish someone had mentioned this before, because my child is out there voting today without any crayons. However, the author makes another excellent point before signing off.

A good resource for voting results and early voting exit polls is, they're the company that is famous for its polling and have a tin of info.

Also from the Examiner, how to "get patriotic and pumped" on election day by stuffing your face with politically-themed treats. My favorite? The veggies, of course.

Voter veggies - Add some blue food color to water and add sliced celery sticks. The celery will soak up the water and become blue. Kids will think you to be magical if you let them help with this! Then add some cream cheese and sliced tomatoes.


I'll be back.need more sardines.


This just in. According to Google's election results page, as of 7:05 PM GMT the two presidential candidates are hopelessly tied in a 0 to 0 Electoral College vote.

Only 270 votes to go. I need more sardines.


In the spirit of in-depth political analysis, I might mention that when Jimmy Carter was president, I sometimes thought it would be nice to have dinner at the Whitehouse. But now I think it would be even better to have dinner at the Whitehouse with the Obama family.

After Mr. Obama is elected, I hope they invite me to dinner. I hope they have sardines.


Unfortunately, my insightful political commentary was interrupted by an unexpected electrical problem, but after extinguishing my shirt and smashing the offending wall outlet, I'm ready to continue.

One especially poignant political question came to me as I was attempting to restart my heart: If a wall outlet in the Whitehouse laundry room shorted out, resulting in a blue flame and the subsequent melting of a clothes dryer, which presidential candidate would do a better job of fixing the problem?


Well, I'm really bored with being an insightful political commentator, so I think I'll just declare Mr. Obama the winner and go to sleep now.


Watching You Watching Me: Tails from the Cold War

An impasse. "I'm watching you, squirrel," said the dog.

"Not at all," replied the squirrel, "for it is I who watches you!"

"I see we have a misunderstanding," said the dog, smiling.

"Yes," said the squirrel, who did not smile. "Your misunderstanding is legend. You are a dog."

The dog's smile was gone. "If you would be so kind, squirrel, as to come down from your perch . . . "

"You are always welcome up here, dog," yawned the squirrel.

The dog responded with a low growl.

"My," said the squirrel, glancing at the sun. "I would so love to chat, but . . . "

The dog watched as the squirrel disappeared into the golden canopy above, but only for a moment. A cat had appeared on the stone wall that marked the edge of the yard.

"I'm watching you, cat," said the dog.


Every Color I Need

Palette of the day.

Everything I love about this season was perfectly arrangedin a mosaic wayon the driveway this morning at eight. How many leaves in this palette? I didn't count them all, but it seemed to me there was one for each color. At least the colors I need today.


Thanks, Gary, for the inspiration on this one.


Time Shifting, Fat Squirrels, and the Smallest School in the World

This is no time for gloating. One problem with writing in advance of publication is the risk of outdated information. I had writtenand prepublishedMonday's flu-inspired verse on Sunday, fully expecting to be in the same bedridden, feverish condition that characterized the latter portion of My One True Love's weekend. I figured this would give me more time for things like vomiting and diarrhea, not to mention eliminating at least some of the trouble that comes from spewing fever-fueled monologues.

Not that I'm disappointed, but Monday dawned with only the occasional hint of any of the symptoms I noted above. Even the ominous gurgling in my stomach has gone away, and if I'm delirious it has nothing to do with fever. Still, I'm only halfway through Monday as I write this, and we all know what can happen when premature gloating replaces sober judgment, and fear.

In other news, I've noticed an alarming trend toward obesity in the many squirrels that call this place home. I say alarming because they've metamorphosed from scrawny tree urchins to rotund furballs with attitude, which can only mean we're in for a long, cold winter. Or not, if it's simply due to their increasing dependence on anabolic steroids.

For those who wonder what that citizen journalism tag is doing in a blogologue that, after all, appears to have precious little to do with journalism, or citizens, or anything worthwhile for that matter, I would simply point to the Global Voices button near the top of this page. I rarely click the links on my own blog, partly because I can't stand looking at what I've done, and partly because I already know what I've done, so I don't really need to look at it over and over, if you see what I mean.

Anyway, I did click that link today (by which I mean yesterday, unless you happen to be remarkably adept at time travel) and immediately ran into a brief but potent article on the smallest school in the world, a very literal assessment supported by UNESCO and amplified by media such as CNN and YouTube. To quote the author, it's a "story about how blogging can change lives in a positive way and attract attention to invisible parts of this world." And in typical Global Voices style, it's an interestingand encouragingside trip into the everyday realities of people far removed, and at the same time nearer and more similar than we might want to contemplate.


My Stomach Flew

Blowing chunks I felt the special gnawing days ago
A sign of things to come
And things to go
Flying from my mouth
While farther south
The end of lunch as we know it
Leaves me dry as a bone
In a bagful of powdered desiccant
In the Sonoran desert
At noon.

Conflict Resolution

Not very diplomatic.

Like charity, diplomacy begins at home. Like so many of you out there in Netland, I live and die by the e-mail, and Outlook is the last place I need any kind of conflict. Since forewarned is forearmed, I decided to take the proactive approach and nip the whole thing in the bud right now, before WWIII (the big big big one) breaks out in my inbox.

Fortunately, I ran across a nifty code-hunk that, I'm told, will notify me of any insurrection that might be brewing before it becomes a brouhaha, or a hahabrew, or whatever it is these things turn into when they're fueled by cheap whisky.

Sub CheckConflicts()
 Dim myOlApp As Outlook.Application
 Dim myItem As Outlook.MailItem
 Dim myConflicts As Outlook.Conflicts
 Set myOlApp = CreateObject("Outlook.Application")
 Set myItem = myOlApp.ActiveInspector.CurrentItem
 Set myConflicts = myItem.Conflicts
 If (myConflicts.Count > 0) Then
    MsgBox ("This item is involved in a conflict.")
    MsgBox ("This item is not involved in any conflicts.")
 End If
End Sub

I'm no programmer, and I'm certainly no diplomat, but I know a can of worms when I'm told to. Now, thanks to a bit of clever programming, I won't have to worry about a few malcontents turning my e-mail to gewgaw.



Whose spreadsheet is this, anyway? Maybe it's a known feature of the human trajectory toward codgerhood, but I just don't enjoy a challenge as much as I used to. The idea of solving impossible problems no longer thrills me to the point of obsession, which is generally the point at which I stop drooling on my pants and start focusing. No challenge, no obsession. No obsession, no focus. No focus . . . well, let's just say I go through a lot of trousers.

In an effort to rekindle the flame, I decided to modify a spreadsheet used for employee scheduling in a small business. It works perfectly well in its intended capacity, and it isn't like anyone asked me to fool with it. But there it was just the same, and one thing led to another, and by the time I came to my sensesin a relative way, that isI had already saved my changes and it was too late.

The thing is, none of the numbers that indicate what time of day each employee is expected to clock in and out are really times, at least not in any way a spreadsheet might understand. They're numberslike 9 - 5 or 10 - 6:30but they're formatted as text, not time of day. This is fine for human eyes and minds; we immediately grasp the intended meaning in the context of work hours. But in the simple-minded world inhabited by computers, there is no context until one has been deliberately fed to the application responsible for the particular task at hand. Especially if that application happens to be a spreadsheet, any context is purposely absent. This, of course, is exactly what makes spreadsheets useful in such a spectacular variety of circumstances, but if you want to crunch time-related numbers, you have to feed time-related numbers to your spreadsheet in the first place.

For those of you who wonder what, after all, might be keeping me from just formatting those text-bearing cells as time quantities and being done with it, I would simply indicate that (1) this is not my spreadsheet, (2) the spreadsheet's actual owner has no stated desire for that sort of capability, (3) the spreadsheet's actual owner might wonder why I'm messing with his stuff, (4) the spreadsheet's actual owner probably wants to enter his employees' shifts that way, otherwise he wouldn't, and (5) this is not my spreadsheet.

Still, I'm only human, and have, now, only limited patience with these sorts of things, as I said. The problems that lurk in improving things that don't require itor that didn't ask to be improvedare exactly the kinds of challenges I hate don't need anymore. But in my heart I know I won't really be able to avoid this crap writing a script to parse every cell in that spreadsheet, searching for the telltale signs of a text-formatted time quantity so the characters on either side of the colon if it even exists dammit can be extracted, processed, and then reintroduced I'm melting to the cells from whence they came.

After that, it should be a simple matter to tally those hours.


How Was Your Weekend?

Can you spot me in this weekend picture? If your weekend was nothing like mine, you spent it thinking about all those little tasks and errands you put off during the past week, month, and year. Then you fell asleep with your mouth open, angering your spouse and inviting a throat infection.

If your weekend was anything like mine, you spent it in the branches of a nearby tree, attempting to apply deodorant to the wingpits of the many delinquent hatchlings with no sense of personal hygiene. Then you fell out of the tree, angering the local authorities with your incessant emergencies and inviting retaliation from their spouses.

If your weekend was nothing like mine, you spent it driving aimlessly until the gas tank went dry, forcing a similarly aimless hike into a blind alley in the restaurant district south of town. There, you were accosted by thugs and left for dead in a dumpsterful of rancid leftovers from last week's Squid Festival.

If your weekend was anything like the one coming up near the end of this week, you know exactly how it's going to go already. If you're such a psychic, why not just tell me about it right now, huh?


Spotting Character

Primal canine rage, or something else? There's never been any doubt that Styx is a character, but after reading Craig's Decipher Your Dog's Character By the Spots, I began to question the exact polarity of that character. Following the procedure Craig had outlined, I performed a little spot-gazing of my own and discovered that Styx has spots on his coat, and on his skin. They don't align properly, and are of markedly different character, spotwise.

Those on his coat lead me to the conclusion that Styx is the nervous, sensitive type, while the spots on his skin tell me he's strong and protective. This leaves me with a bit of a quandary. Which spots speak the truth?

I'd like to believe otherwise, but now I fear I'll wake one morning to discover we've been burgled, pillaged, ransacked and otherwise unburdened while Styx cowered in the closet. All because I misinterpreted the readings, or perhaps more to the truth of the matter, because I chose to ignore the warning signs. Maybe it isn't primal canine rage, after all, that causes Styx to tremble.


The Art of Interference

Repeating interference patterns

As I've mentioned before, the years I spent in a failure analysis lab were very good years indeed. The range of disciplines meant never having to say "I'm bored," and the resulting knowledge proved useful in many of the seemingly unrelated endeavors that followed. But there were other perks that had more to do with the creative, artistic side of life. Art is where you find it, and sometimes it's found in rather unexpected places.

One such unanticipated art form lay in the materials testing we did in the lab. There are a number of ways to measure the relative strengths of materials, but my favorite method used the principle of interference patternsor moiré patternsto examine stress levels. The resulting patterns were always intriguing, and frequently beautiful in much the same way fractal-generated patterns are beautiful.

During a period of random doodling over the weekend, interference patterns resulted in the graphic you see above. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder, so I'll leave it to your eye to decide what's what. A larger version is in the Graphics folder of my Picasa collection.


Waking the Dreamer Within

If the rich aroma doesn't get you, the caffeine will. I don't remember my dreams, mostly. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because the occasional recollections have convinced me that my dreams are highly detailed, richly colored expressions of nothing. They're three-dimensional in much the same way a computer-rendered object is three-dimensional, which is to say, not really.

But every once in a while my mind surprises me with a production worthy of the dream label. This is more likely to occur during the daytime, when I'm face down in the dirt because I hit my head after tripping on a piece of wood. That's pretty much what happened today, only it wasn't a piece of wood.

I was dreaming about being asleep, and someone was trying to wake me but I couldn't speak because I was asleep. Speaking is hard enough when I'm awake, but I'm even more mushmouthed when I'm not. All I could get out was "mumph," so the person who was trying to wake me had to ask me to repeat myself. Meanwhile, the part of me that was dreaming about the other dream had to sit there and watch, knowing full well how pointless it is to have conversations with someone who's already two layers down, dreamwise.

I finally woke up from the dream-within-a-dream. Not because I wanted to, but because the outer dream was beginning to lose patience, and wanted to wake up and drink coffee. It's a little bit foggy, but I'm pretty sure Dream #1 grabbed Dream #2 and shook it until it stopped the mumphing and came to.

Anyway, next time you're dreaming about being asleep and don't like the way things are going, wake up and smell the coffee.


Rapid Transit

Starkle starkle little twink . . .

After yesterday's monologue, it wouldn't have been right to just go out and watch the International Space Station pass below Jupiter; such an event requires a record of some sort. So when the ISS first appeared in the western sky, I was ready for it. With my camera on the tripod, pointed at Jupiter and set for a 30-second exposure, I waited for the space station to appear in the viewfinder.

Half a minute later, I had a memento of the grand occasion. A much larger version of the photo is in my Picasa gallery, but even the scaled-down example you see here proves the value of sitessuch as the one I mentioned yesterdaythat provide accurate time and location information for interesting photography subjects in the night sky. Half a minute may be a long time in the context of camera shutters, but isn't nearly long enough if you don't know what time the subject will arrive, and where it will be when it does.

According to the star chart I got from Heavens-Aboveand my camera's internal clock, which was synchronized with the NISTthe ISS passed below Jupiter at 14:02:34 GMT this morning, and disappeared from view at 14:02:56. The camera's shutter closed at 14:03:18.

This event obviously didn't last long, but considering the space station orbits our planet slightly more than fifteen times per day, there ought to be plenty of photo opportunities yet to come.


Star Charts and Ground Tracks

Jupiter's lucky day.

From the vantage point of most inhabitants of our small planet, the International Space Station is a bright object in a clear nighttime sky. Until its arc casts it again into shadow, the ISS basks in sunlight we won't see until dawn. Unfortunately, that reflected luminosity only lasts a few minutes at a time, which is why we need sites like Heavens-Above to keep us informed of its relative when- and whereabouts.

In little more time than it takes to say orbital parameters, it's easy to find out exactly where and when the space station will drift into view, and for how long. If you know (1) where you live, (2) where the sun sets, and (3) which way is up, you have all the information you need. Heavens-Above will do the rest.

This eveningfrom my particular viewpoint here in the nation's midsection anywaythe ISS will float by in the southern sky, directly below Jupiter and heading for the moon. It won't make it to the moon, of course; it will wink out before it has that opportunity.

But hey, there's always the next orbit . . .


Because I Said So

Saying so makes it so. Always. My daughter's first words were "Daddle" and "Mim," which may seem to describe separate entities, but don't. In fact, they were three cohesive syllables she used to name the inseparable whole. The more refined designators that followed were used to issue commands to the Parental Blob, especially on Saturday mornings when her high-volume "MomEhDaddeeee!" informed us that she was awake, and expected us to be, too.

This use of language as command, of course, is equally familiar to anyone who's spent any time at all living in a cave, or hanging out in bars. The primeval communication of our hairy ancestors remains as useful as ever, and certainly no less effective. As Craig Conley points out in a recent interview, the primitive mind makes no distinction between cause and effect. Saying so does, in fact, make it so.

Language has the power to reawaken vestiges of humankind's earliest communication our ancient ancestors' savage cries of anger or love. All such cries were commands; to the primitive mind the command was inseparable from the act, much in the way that a small child learns to conjure up a parent from the unseen void of an adjoining room, simply by employing a magic word like 'Mama'.

Although her language has become noticeably more precise and less commanding, the modern version of my daughter has little need for verbal communication of any sort. In addition to text messaging, her devastating I'm rolling my eyes maneuver never fails to get the point across, especially when it's delivered as she's walking away with one hand in the air.