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?