Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I just finished Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot" (I read the Project Gutenberg release of Eva Martin's translation from 1914.) I've been meaning to read it for years; there was a recent Russian TV series, of which I watched several episodes and understood... nothing. So when it came up in the "Recommended" list on Textonphone, I couldn't resist.

First of all, if you've never read it, I highly recommend it. Second, you'll probably want to read a newer translation - the language in this one makes things seem even more alien than they were already, and the transliteration of Russian names is also strange to my eyes: "Lef" would usually be written "Lev" today; "Colia" would be "Kolya"; "Muishkin" would be "Myshkin" or "Miyshkin". Enough of that, though...

Social manners and mores have changed so much since Dostoyevsky's time that it seems like an entirely different world. The hero, Prince Myshkin - the "idiot" of the title - is an epileptic who was a helpless invalid for the first 24 years of his life; at the beginning of the novel he is just returning to Russia after five years of treatment in Switzerland. He is trusting and open; he observes the people around him and reacts to them almost like a child. Dostoyevsky intended Myshkin's attitudes to be a counterpoint and commentary to the conventional attitudes of the people around him; what he could hardly have imagined is that the world and its attitudes would change so much that the prince would be the only character who makes any sense.

Case in point: Nastasia Filipovna, the woman with whom the prince's fate is intertwined. She is the daughter of nobility who fell on hard times; they died when she was a young girl, and she was taken as a ward by Totsi, a wealthy friend of the family. When she was twelve or so, Totsi realized that she was quite beautiful and took her as his mistress instead of his ward. At the time of the novel, she is in her early twenties and is no longer Totsi's mistress (in fact, he's afraid of her.) Everyone reviles her as a fallen woman; wealthy men openly negotiate to possess her beauty and the money that Totsi will give her husband, but just as openly despise her. Yet from the moment that the prince sees her portrait, he falls in love with the sadness and suffering he sees in her face and is deaf and blind to how society sees her.
It struck me, as I was reading, that today she would be on Oprah and have a best-selling memoir; she would be regarded as a victim of child abuse, not as a low woman.

It also just struck me that this is a blog post, not a book report. I'm going to bed.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Punic excuse for a leader...

Last night on the BBC world service, I heard a fleeting reference to this story - briefly, Colonel Qaddafi's son and daughter-in-law were arrested in Switzerland; the charges have been dropped; however, Switzerland hasn't apologized, so Libya has cut off shipments of oil to Switzerland. Boring.

However, what I noticed was that Qaddafi's son is named Hannibal, and he was arrested in the Alps. So immediately I wonder: what were the charges? Possession of elephants? Conspiracy to invade Rome?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bosch only, please

If you're picky about your cordless tools: "Ne Makita pas..."

j00r l33t sk1llz - not so much...

I heard a great programmer's put-down the other day: "You couldn't program a twenty out of an ATM." (citation needed...)

How's this: "You couldn't program a Republican victory out of a Diebold."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pirates versus Ninjas... maybe a TRUE World Series?

This post on the official Google blog got me thinking: we have the Pittsburgh Pirates; why isn't there a team called the Ninjas? (Don't even get me started about the Robots and the Zombies, OK?)

For alliterative advantage, the home city should also start with an N - Nagoya comes to mind. Unfortunately, it seems that the whole ninja fascination is more of an American thing, and there are no Japanese teams called the Ninjas. But imagine the possibilities!

(Nagoya has a minor-league team called the Dragons. Somebody should whisper in their ear, don'tcha think?)

Beauty and sadness on the sidewalk

I don't think I've ever seen a hummingbird that wasn't moving too quickly for the eye to follow - this might be the only way to see one at rest.

Call me a softy, but I nearly cried when I saw this... but at the same time I still found it quite beautiful. Sorry about the lousy picture quality - I only had my phone.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bunny love

Eldridge and his lady friend in a quiet moment
Seems like I've used the phrase "&@#$ing like bunnies" for most of my life, but I saw the real thing this evening and it surprised me. Shocked, almost.
I have a client who has some rabbits he's rescued from the coyotes; my previous experience with them was when they chewed through every single exposed cable in his office. This evening, however, I was cleaning a Trojan off his machine, and apparently the female was in heat.
Eldridge (the male, and in fact the demon bunny who chewed the cables) is an unstoppable love machine. He jumped on her every five minutes or so; didn't seem to notice at first which end he got (the end with the ears is the WRONG end, Eldridge!), and went at it so fast I thought I smelled smoke. Fifteen seconds or so later, he wandered off to get some water - but in a few minutes he was at it again. Once in a while his balance was uncertain, and she saw her opportunity and bucked him off like a rodeo bronc. He'd wander off, shake his head to clear it... and be back again in a few minutes. Who says chivalry is dead?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Theme song of barbers and butchers...

The Worst Cuts Are the Cheapest

Come on down and eat SOME PIG!

Q: Where did Wilbur the pig really end up?
A: On Charlotte's Weber.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Food article headline

(article about the resurgent popularity of aged beef)
Old Rib-Eye is Back!

Immigrant footwear

Q - What brand of shoes do female agents of the Citizenship and Immigration Service prefer?
A - Naturalizers.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thank goodness for inefficiency...

We run the dishwasher about twice a week at our place, and we're neither of us very enthusiastic about unloading it and putting the dishes away. So they sit, clean, in the washer for a couple of days sometimes; meanwhile we rinse the plates and set them on the counter. Ah, procrastination!

After a few days, it becomes difficult to discriminate between the (clean) dishes in the washer and the (almost-clean) dishes on the counter. When I eventually get a wild hair to put away the dishes, generally the only way I can tell whether the washer is clean or dirty is to look at the bottoms of the coffee mugs in the top rack: if the concentric hard-water rings match the cups' current orientation in the rack, then they're clean.

I live in fear that one day I'll try out a dishwashing detergent that actually lives up to its promises and doesn't leave a hard water deposit. How would I know the dishes were clean if they weren't just a little dirty?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Damn straight I'm a liberal. Why aren't you?

I read an excellent political taxonomy a long time ago. Unfortunately I don't remember where - might have been buried in the middle of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel - and it didn't make much of an impression on me at the time. I've been thinking about it recently, though...

As I recall, the taxonomy broke down like this:
- Conservatives believe that the status quo is perfect, with any and all inequalities built into it. If the poor are miserable, it's because they deserve to be; if the rich wield absolute power, it's because they earned it. Anyone who wants to make the slightest change is dangerous and must be stopped.

- Radicals (aka Revolutionaries) believe that the current system is inherently corrupt and unjust. Bloody revolution and overthrow is the only salvation for mankind. If the poor are content to live under the current system, then things must be made intolerable until the masses rise up.

- Liberals generally believe that the system they live under is imperfect, but perfectible. There may be injustices built into society, but they can be addressed to make "a more perfect Union." Needless to say, both Conservatives and Radicals despise Liberals.

Under this taxonomy - and it makes more sense than any other I've seen - I can't imagine myself as anything but a liberal. I wish that, just once, a candidate who's being called the "L word" by his (or her) opponent would have the guts - and the nous - to say "Damn straight I'm a liberal. Why aren't you?"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Elemental causes?

Likely source of my headache: although Wind and Fire have died down, there's still too much Earth and not enough Water in the air.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Torture porn

Can somebody PLEASE explain to me the appeal of torture movies? We're watching "Notting Hill" on TV - a freakin' romantic comedy, for heaven's sake - and there have been ads for "The Strangers" on DVD and "Saw V" opening on Friday. Saw V? As in freakin' FIVE? Are you joking me? Unbelievably, the Red Cross is promoting Saw V - if you give blood during (this month? this week? not sure) you can get a $2 coupon to go see this abomination.

Again, if anyone ever reads this, please fill me in on any possible reasons a sane human being would pay good money to watch this stuff.

Another bad ad, though (slightly) out of date now...

Washington Mutual - "We won't nickel and dime you."

Oh hells no. They went for the whole @#$%^%.

Worst ad copy EVAH?

"Just because you have insurance, doesn't mean you're covered. That's Allstate's stand."

Good Lord, do they listen to themselves?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Late already

Wow, that didn't take long! It's after midnight, so on the very first day after my quiet announcement I've already missed my resolution to post at least once a day. And I'm very close to breaking my resolution to have something to say each time - not to blog for the sake of blogging.

Today's political thought: If your mind can be made up by a 30-second political spot, you are not a serious person, and I don't want the decision of who's going to run my country to be in your hands - you're like that jury in Australia who were playing sudoku during testimony. If that's you, then whether you're (notionally) a Democrat or a Republican, please just stay home on voting day, OK? I have a theory that if the people who fall for lying attack ads were removed from the equation - if the campaigns suddenly found that dirty tricks no longer brought in votes - then most of the dirty money in our current system would dry up.

Of course, it's possible that without the enormous amounts that both parties are spending on media buys, the last remaining prop would be kicked out from under our suffering economy. In that case... bring on the Swift Boats, I guess?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Good intentions

Today, October 14 2008, I have decided to finally buckle down to blogging discipline. I've thought of myself as a (frustrated) writer for years, but haven't been writing. I don't know whether I'll have an audience here, and that's not even the most important thing: from now on I'll be writing at least one post a day. The discipline and the practice can't help but improve my craft, even if no-one ever reads this.

So what's going to be here? A miscellany, what else? So far it's just jokes; any jokes I post will be ones that I made up myself - I can't promise that nobody else thought of them first, but I will promise that I've never heard them. Essays: political, philosophical, humorous... Recipes, maybe. Very short fiction, or a serial? Don't know yet.
I'll try, anyway, to always have some point - I read too many one-sentence blog posts that feel like total wastes of time.

The thing between

Little Johnny is in sex ed class.
He raises his hand: "Teacher, I'm confused - the testes and the prostate, are they the same thing?"
"No, Johnny... there's a vas deferens between them."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The underwear question, resolved?

A few months ago, when Barack Obama clarified that Michelle had never used the word "whitey", it occurred to me: was this his campaign's preemptive answer to "Boxers or Briefs?"

Podiatric penicillin?

Have you heard about the new Progresso Pedicure?
They're calling it "Chicken Soup for the Sole"...