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Stupid, stupid day [Apr. 1st, 2013|02:26 am]
[Current Mood |irritated]

I'm not a fan of April Fools' Day. Perhaps it's because, hello, I spend all year making stuff up, and once a year a bunch of amateurs are going to try it? Please. But what really fails to impress me on April Fools' Day is...a bad puzzle.

By the time anyone reads this, they'll presumably already have gotten the news about Google Treasure Maps. It's kind of clever, though "street view" is certainly the best part of it. Anyway: The rest is after the jump, lest someone not want this 'puzzle' 'spoiled' for themCollapse )

And I think that's why I hate April Fools' Day. Yeah, I make stuff up, but they're one-off little jokes, and they aren't anything that anyone's going to spend time worrying about or otherwise engaged in. Pranks that waste people's time? That's just stupid.

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/219968.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Odd dreams, we get odd dreams [Jun. 14th, 2012|11:57 am]
Last night's odd dream involved the usual disconnected plotlines, including what I'm pretty sure was Otherworld, and also some sort of corpse-reanimating ritual. I distinctly recall someone being reanimated and having to shove his jaw back into place before being able to say "Do you know what you have done!?".

That's par for the course, for dreams, or at least for mine. The standout odd part was the group, in the dream, who realized that "Death Before Zombification!" was less defiant and more merely descriptive than they intended.

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/219810.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

What a weird day [May. 12th, 2012|06:10 pm]
I spent today at work making terrible decisions about how to implement (and test and debug) code. Also about how long to stay at work, since I left at 10:15. (Also about when to get to work, since I arrived at 2:15.)

I thought the day might have been starting kind of OK, though, based on the bus ride to work. Admittedly, it was spent with three teenagers who were judging people on their looks, including taking pictures with their phones, which seemed pretty ballsy given that one of them had a Justin Bieber haircut. But it was pretty well balanced out by having a driver who made sure that people getting on waited until other people got off; and who didn't start driving after a man with a walker got on until someone gave him a seat; and who paused to check on a man who stumbled and fell while getting off the bus. Even the teenagers started to get up to check on the man who fell. And there were two different women with babies in strollers (at two different times), and people made room for them, and the man sitting next to one of them made happy faces at the baby. It was kind of going to be OK.

And then at the mall, waiting in line to get lunch, I was joined by a woman and her ten year old boy (her son, or nephew, or legal guardian ward, or who knows), and he was wearing this T-shirt. Warning: not appropriate for work, or ever.

A ten year old. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people?

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/219641.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Kick-your-self-starting [May. 4th, 2012|03:20 am]
MIT's Technology Review cites crowdfunding as a major emerging technology. It mostly discusses Kickstarter, but also mentions a number of similar websites.

It makes me want to start my own crowdfunding business. I just have no idea how I'd go about finding investors.

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/219354.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign [Apr. 6th, 2012|09:32 pm]
There are two signs that I pass periodically which count among the simple joys in my life. One belongs to Sav-Mor Liquors, whose sign currently reads BEER CAN'T HELP WITH TAXES / YOU'LL NEED SOMETHING STRONGER. (Past signs include the December classic HOLIDAYS MEAN FAMILY / WE SELL LIQUOR, the St. Patrick's Day IF YOU SEE LEPRECHAUNS / STOP DRINKING, and their recent COME SEE OUR WORLD FAMOUS SIGN. And while they seem to coordinate their signs across stores, I have no idea what this one means.)

But far and away my favorite sign is the one for the movie theatre at the Fresh Pond Mall in Alewife, because while they are not necessarily the worst spellers in the world, they're some of the worst spellers at that size. In the past, for instance, they've proudly proclaimed that they're showing DIARY OF A MIMPY KID—and understand that they're consistently having to substitute for letters they don't have enough of, so this sign required turning two Ws upside down to use as Ms. Or, in fact, four, because it was misspelled the same way on both sides.

Today, one side of the sign let us know that they were showing MIRORR MIRORR; alas, the other side had it spelled correctly. However, both sides of the sign did display, at the top of the sign in theatre 1, the title WRATH OF THE TITIANS 3D.

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/218627.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Kerning (and Keming) [Mar. 23rd, 2012|11:15 pm]
If you don't know what kerning is, you should. If you don't know what keming is, and it's not obvious, you probably should.

And thus, I give to you an insanely geeky Google Easter egg. And an even geekier one.

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/218498.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Saturday NYT puzzle [Mar. 17th, 2012|04:06 am]
Has Will Shortz just kind of given up on his job...?

Spoilers, of courseCollapse )

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/218142.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Play the Play [Feb. 26th, 2012|01:39 am]
As is the case every year, I totally forget about the Interactive Fiction competition until it's long since over and judged. (You'd think that having friends who submit things to it would help me remember. Nope.)

Anyway, I've been dipping into it here and there; I rather enjoyed "Beet the Devil", mostly for its strong narrative voice, and "Six" for similar reasons. But easily my favorite so far is "The Play" by Deirdra Kiai, playable online on her website. It's short, in the sense that it doesn't take long to reach the end, though you're very likely going to want to play it more than once. And it's not very strenuous—if you're used to IF being "pick up everything that isn't nailed down, try applying everything in your inventory to a puzzle, guess which verb the author had in mind", well, this isn't that. Go, play, enjoy, ponder. (Warning: contains theatre.)

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/217968.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Kickstarting [Feb. 8th, 2012|03:51 am]
I've never really felt compelled to poke around on Kickstarter before—well, OK, being unemployed was a notable part of that, and now I feel like I have actual money to actually spend on actual things. Or, I suppose, in the case of Kickstarter, potential things. At any rate, I've thrown in my two cents for Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tzavelas. Because, you know, book. (Long-awaited, in my case, since I believe I told the author something like sixteen years ago, "You should write a novel." She was going to anyway, I have no doubt, but that makes it no less awaited.)

(Also, speaking of kicking things until they start again, I'm going to try resuming my posting at my old work journal, now that I have new work. Follow it to see the details of everything I do that isn't covered by a non-disclosure agreement!)

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/217610.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Lo those many years ago [Jan. 20th, 2012|03:32 pm]
At work, listening to music while coding, and the Indigo Girls's "Prince of Darkness" came up on iTunes (apparently, per the "last played" attribute, for the first time in two and a half years). To my surprise, my first and primary association with the song is still the fact that the Carleton Knightingales sang it, not that I would have seen them in some sixteen years.

So: Thinking of you, Angie.

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/217548.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Christmas dinner cooking report: T+30min [Dec. 25th, 2011|04:26 pm]
Turkey undercooked (even though the meat thermometer read fine!). Second attempt at rolls also failed to rise. Sous-chef nauseous, has been unable to help out, will likely not eat. Personal Christmas joy: fading.

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/216634.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Christmas dinner cooking report [Dec. 25th, 2011|02:55 pm]
Turkey went in without a problem. Stuffing prepared to be baked (using rendered turkey fat and turkey giblets). Potatoes boiling. Rolls, however, possibly going to have to be written off; dough seems not to be rising, and proofing a second package of yeast suggests that it, too, is dead.

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/216574.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Culture Shock: mostly culinary [Dec. 24th, 2011|08:13 pm]
Last year, I was with my brother-in-law's family in Minnesota, and the culture shock was pretty severe. This year, I'm with my parents-in-law in Alabama, where, surprisingly perhaps, the culture shock is not so extreme—Boston-to-Alabama is, perhaps, but in terms of the church service, Methodists are a lot more familiar than evangelicals. (I did have to get up and walk around outside the sanctuary during communion, because it felt too awkward to just sit there. It gave me a chance to look at some lovely, and only slightly homoerotic, portraits of Jesus and the apostles.)

On the other hand, my mother-in-law and I have...somewhat different ideas about cooking. I offered to cook Christmas dinner—in part, I feel like it's a nice gesture to relieve her of having to cook on the holiday, and in part, last year's turkey was kind of a little awful. (This was as much my wife's opinion as mine; she was the one who asked me if I wanted to cook the turkey this year.) So we sent along a shopping list, and tonight I started a little bit of preparation: mixing the spice rub for the turkey, and cubing the several-day-old French bread for the bread pudding.

Now, of course, that bread was going to be for both the bread pudding and the stuffing. But my mother-in-law had bought a bag of Pepperidge Farm cornbread stuffing mix, and it seemed wrong not to use it.

Culture shock does come in many guises.

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My world: and no information about it [Dec. 20th, 2011|03:32 am]
My times continue to be interesting, all around. So instead of commenting on them at all, I link you this image.

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/215845.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

I crane, you crane, we all crane... [Dec. 6th, 2011|02:22 pm]
Today's spam:
Your Mailbox Is Almost Full "CLICK HERE <[unlikely link].ua>" To Update Your Mailbox And Receive New Massage.
On the one hand, who do they think is going to fall for that? No one who's responsible for my mailbox is going to write something that incoherent and ungrammatical, or send me to a website in Ukraine.

On the other hand, I could use New Massage....

(Speaking of tenseness, the previous post in which I said my NDA prevents me from saying how my day is going is of course a complete exaggeration. All the same, I wouldn't expect any genuine work-related news here, if I were you. Heck, document analysis is what my company does; even this very sentence is probably enough for them to find this entry, figure out it's about them, and analyze it for positive/negative content.)

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/215741.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Seattle activist Dorli Rainey [Nov. 21st, 2011|09:21 am]
I mentioned to a few people, last night, an interview that Keith Olbermann did with 84-year-old Dorli Rainey, who was pepper-sprayed in Seattle. (That link goes to a photo that the Guardian calls "a powerful image of martyrdom".)

I therefore link it for y'all here, because it's so very much worth watching:


If you can't stand Keith Olbermann (and, hey, I totally understand that; I view him with a grain of salt and frequent eye-rolling), watch the video anyway, because it's ten minutes long and he only manages to get in three questions, one of which is "how are you feeling today?". (Her answer: "I am feeling great. I feel so energized. It's amazing what a little pepper spray will do for you.") And if you can't watch or listen to the video for whatever reason, there's a transcript posted at that link as well, though I think it's more powerful to hear Rainey tell the story herself.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/214789.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

(no subject) [Nov. 17th, 2011|09:29 am]
This column in the Ann Arbor Chronicle offers a really nice insight into people vs. corporations at a personal level, its point very much being that the personal level is all there is. Worth reading.

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/214732.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Once Upon a Time [Nov. 14th, 2011|01:11 pm]
So my wife and I have been watching Once Upon a Time, a new ABC show. I pretty much never watch anything on the networks (if you're following a show on a basic cable network, and you miss an episode, it'll be back repeatedly over the next week; with the networks, you have to actually remember to watch), but I have to admit I'm getting pretty caught up in this.

The premise, if you're not familiar with the show, is that the Evil Queen of fairy-tale-land (I'm not sure if it actually has a name) cast a curse which wiped away everyone's happily-ever-afters by transforming the land into the worst possible world, i.e., ours. Which, when you put it that way, kind of makes the show into a really depressing commentary—the whole premise, really, is kind of that things like true love and happy endings can't exist in our world. But, well, anyway, Snow White is now schoolteacher Mary Blanchard; Jiminy Cricket is a therapist; and the queen herself is the monarch-like mayor, Regina Mills. (You can see they had fun with the names; Cinderella becomes Ashley.) There are lots of nice little touches—in the first episode, as they're leaving the classroom, one of Blanchard's students hands her...a pear.

But there is one point on which the show failed me rather badly in this past episode. The danger of unthinkingly casting fairy-tale-land is that you run the risk of your cast being, well, snow-white. Which this cast is, other than the Magic Mirror/editor of the Daily Mirror, Giancarlo Esposito. (Excellent bit of casting, but then, casting Esposito in pretty much anything is excellent casting.) In the most recent episode, spoiler for the first few minutes of Once Upon a Time episode 1.4, Collapse )

I'm certainly going to keep watching; I mostly like what they're doing with the show so far. But seriously, a plea to the creative force behind the show (i.e., the guys from Lost who aren't J.J. Abrams, and Buffy's Jane Espenson): think about what you're doing, OK?

(Also, personal note to Jane: I had no idea you went to graduate school in linguistics! Call me! I've got a screenplay I've been working on....)

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/214314.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Notes on scandals [Nov. 11th, 2011|06:29 am]
My brother, with his incredibly unfortunate photo, tweeted a link to this article about Joe Paterno. My wife and I have talked about the scandal enough this week that I'm not going to do so any further here; but my brother is right (as he is more often than you'd expect, but especially about sports) that it's an article worth reading.

linguistic aside about a sentence from the articleCollapse )

Meanwhile, a great deal of attention is being paid to Herman Cain's alleged acts of sexual harassment. And I have to admit that I think that's a shame, for a number of reasons:
  1. Far, far less interesting to me than whether or not Herman Cain committed any sort of harassment is how unprepared he seems to have been for this fact to come to light.
  2. In the meantime, the question of whether Cain broke a law over a decade ago (in a way that was settled out of court) is overshadowing the much more serious question of whether his campaign flagrantly violated campaign finance laws this year.
  3. Even if Cain did sexually harassed women, that fact would be, in my mind, quite frankly at the very bottom of the reasons that he's incredibly unqualified to be president, and the more people talk about the scandal, the less they're talking about his dismissive reference to Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan-stan, the insanity of his 9-9-9 plan (as encapsulated in the best graph ever), his complete loss of words when asked about things like Medicare and the Palestinian Right of Return....
And finally, to make it all better, the 11/10/11 Stephen Colbert sign-off, which you shouldn't watch if you, you know, hate really good singing.

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Minor irritations from Google [Nov. 1st, 2011|01:22 am]
I think I'm starting to reset the fact that, when I do a Google Image Search, the first page of hits are taken from Google+. In fact, this happens when I'm searching on a name, even though most of the photos it shows me are people in the circle of that person on Google+, and not the people themselves. It's as if they're somehow overriding their "relevance" algorithm to be a "relevant Google service results and then other relevant results" algorithm.

Meanwhile, Google searches continue to ignore punctuation, so that "2+2" and "2 2" return the same results. This is a frequent irritation for me, since I often search on things where punctuation matters. On the other hand, "Google" and "Google+" are distinct. Which is Google's way of saying "we could include punctuation, but we just don't wanna", and "whatever you might need punctuation for, it's not as important as what we need it for".

(To be fair, Google searches also distinguish "C" from "C++" and "A" from "A+". Still.)

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/213206.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Ask Dr. DW: Pirate version [Sep. 24th, 2011|07:09 am]
Recently, for reasons I dare not even try to understand never mind explain, I found myself singing "What Do We Do With a Drunken Sailor?". Rare as this is, it's even rarer when I'm at a computer, which meant that for the first time I had the presence of mind to try to check something about it.

One of the things that we do with a drunken sailor is "Put him into bed with the captain's daughter". It's a well-known fact that the "captain's daughter" is another name for the cat-o'-nine-tails, which is why this is a punishment for a drunken sailor. Of course, the correlation between things that are well-known and things that are true isn't very strong. So I thought: at last! A chance to actually check this fact!

Wikipedia, of course, confirms it, which does nothing whatsoever to convince me. Actually, I was hoping it would have a reference, but no, it doesn't. The web is similarly willing to confirm it, similarly without any actual convincingness. Google Books seemed like a good place to look, but the fact that Pushkin wrote a short story called "The Captain's Daughter" somewhat overwhelms the search; you can add "whip", but that's more or less the websearch equivalent of begging the question—of course if you add "whip" to the search, you get hits confirming that it's a whip. As it happens, those books are things like 2010's The Book of Pirates and 2002's Pirattitude!: So You Wannna Be a Pirate? Here's How!, which rank somewhere below Wikipedia on sources I'd trust. (Also a page in Anticraft: Knitting, Beading and Stitching for the Slightly Sinister, which tells me "These days, however, a taste of the Captain's Daughter can be quite sexy (assuming everyone is a consenting adult)", just before instructions on how to crochet one. I'm also taking this to be less than authoritative.) What's very much lacking from Google Books is any kind of authentic reference to "the captain's daughter" as a flogging device of any sort.

(I was starting to doubt that the song itself was even authentic, but there are indeed results from the late 1800s for "What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor"—for instance, in The Water-Babies, serialized in the early 1860s; and seems to be mentioned with the same title by Dickens in 1856. But I digress.)

My readers being either well-educated in the ways of historical sea shanties, or else as vile a mob of scurvy dogs as ever raised a mug of rum, seem likely to be able to answer with certainty. Why was "the captain's daughter" considered punishment—assuming that that line is as authentically 19th-century as the rest of the song? (Not obviously the case; Google Books only returns one hit for the combination of "What Shall We Do..." and "captain's daughter", and it's from 2010.) I've seen theories—a captain's daughter was simply that unattractive; being found in bed with his daughter by the captain was a guaranteed flogging—but someone out there must know the actual fact of the matter, or know someone who knows.

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Google+, or rather, Google-- at the moment [Jul. 24th, 2011|12:59 am]
Someone has decided to share his Google+ posts with me. That's terribly kind of him. However, since I'm not in fact on Google+, this amounts to my having been put on someone's mailing list against my will—and I can't even reply to him, since all the mail comes from a "noreply" address at plus.google.com.

There's "unsubscribe" info at the bottom, but, seriously, I'm supposed to unsubscribe from a mailing list I never joined? What the hell? (In any other email, that would count as a spammer trying to verify my address.)

My feelings about Google+ have tilted from "slightly positive, because hey it's not Facebook" to "markedly negative, because seriously you guys are helping a user spam me?". Is there some sensible way to make this stop, perhaps by emailing some support address at Google to say "so when did you turn evil"?

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/211353.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Ask Dr. DW: Moral Compass Needed [Jul. 16th, 2011|11:07 am]
Help me out here. Am I a bad person if, when I see a "lost cat" sign, I say "aww!" and feel really bad for the owners, and keep reading the sign, and then get to the point where they say she's an outdoor cat, and then roll my eyes and say "Oh, for Christ's sake"?

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/211113.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Random NPL convention moment [Jul. 8th, 2011|10:12 am]
Last night, the Today Show was apparently here at the NPL convention with a small crew and a reporter. For the icebreaker/mixer, which involved randomizing our table locations, I found myself sitting next to the blonde woman who, as I didn't quite realize, was the show's correspondent. So I introduced myself, and learned her name was Jenna, and that she was from Austin, Texas.

It was much later that evening that I learned who Jenna from Austin was.

Some Con moments are randomer than others.

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If You Were Gay... [Jul. 4th, 2011|06:56 pm]
Having been thinking about this post, which is about changing the lyrics when covering songs by someone not of your gender so that you're singing to/about someone of the appropriately opposite gender, I've been wondering about the following.

What songs are there that involve same-sex relationships? Restricting the list to songs that actually charted on the Billboard 100, because, yeah, I know y'all can come up with any number of songs by Girlyman/Coyote Grace/whatever other indie bands are out there. Indeed, let's say any Billboard chart, given that the "Alt 100" isn't necessarily all that indie.

Only songs that are explicitly same-sex, so not counting songs with possible undertones ("Losing My Religion"—got me, look it up) or songs with no gender mentioned but which are presumably same-sex given that the singer is ("Your Song" or, really, anything else by Elton John, or Melissa Etheridge's music, etc.). Edit to clarify: "explicitly same-sex" means, in this case, given the gender of the singer; that is, only the gender of the other person involved needs to be explicitly textual. So for instance, if the singer is male, and is singing about "how much I miss the touch of his lips" or what have you, that counts.

All we could really think of and/or scrounge up from the Internet were Think of 'em yourself first, if you likeCollapse )

So what do you think; did we miss any?

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(Very) small joys [Jun. 28th, 2011|03:31 am]
So it's 3am on a Tuesday, which means that I am--as I am wont to do--watching Syphy. For the past few weeks, Monday-night-3am has been Wolf Lake, a 2001 series with Lou Diamond Phillips about werewolves, that I suspect would have lasted longer if it hadn't been somewhat ahead of its time on the paranormal front (i.e., if they hadn't done it four years before Twilight took off). I was kind of enjoying it, actually. Sadly, they're now back to "Masters of Horror", which has a tendency to be either predictable or stupid or both, even when written by the so-called modern masters of horror. The best episodes have been the one based on James Tiptree's "The Screwfly Solution" and, well, admittedly, this one, which is based on H.P. Lovecraft's "Dreams in the Witch-House".

But the thing that makes me actually kind of happy about the episode is the main character's Miskatonic University T-shirt. Miskatonic University seals and symbols are a dime a dozen if you search Google Images, and they're usually the typical boring college seal design. In this production, however, someone who clearly really cares made the T-shirt with this image, with the sun replaced with a skull.

It's small, but I appreciated it.

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The ayes have it! [Jun. 24th, 2011|10:30 pm]
In the words of the Ryan Stiles impersonator who seems to be wielding the gavel in the New York senate: Ayes 33, Nays 29.

Congratulations, New York!

EDIT: Sorry, the instant replay shows that those are the words of the short gray-haired man in front of the Ryan Stiles impersonator. I think, though, that "the ayes have it" were his words.

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NAEP revisited: the math exam [Jun. 22nd, 2011|08:04 am]
Apologies for two closely-related posts in quick succession, but: I've decided to skim over some of the math questions, since that's a field where I have more expertise than in history. One of the first questions I looked at was the following, a "hard" question from the 2009 12th-grade test (block M2, Question #7):
The table above shows all the ordered pairs (x,y) that define a relation between the variables x and y. Is y a function of x? Give a reason for your answer.
The NAEP's answer: Take a moment to formulate an answer before looking, if you're so inclinedCollapse )

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Those who do not study the history of the history exams... [Jun. 22nd, 2011|07:42 am]
Via LanguageLog, a really nice discussion of the recent NAEP history test results, in which an education professor explains why we shouldn't take all that seriously the reports that American students know so little about history. For instance:
An item is “bad” if almost everyone gets it right. So, if during the piloting testing of NAEP, it is determined that most twelfth-graders can identify “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Rosa Parks, the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima, slavery as a main cause of the Civil War, the purpose of Auschwitz, and Harriet Tubman, these items are all thrown out because they fail to “discriminate” among students.
You can also go right to the website for the exam, which lets you look over questions from the exam, and also gives some sample answers in the "complete/partial/inappropriate" categories for short answer questions. (Another article from the History News Network discusses some answers the examiners consider "wrong". The second half of the article veers into other territory, but the first half is well worth reading.)

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Doctor What? [Jun. 20th, 2011|02:38 pm]
I've just caught up on the new season of Doctor Who. At the risk of spoiling: what the hell just happened?

This entry was originally posted at http://tahnan.dreamwidth.org/209349.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Bad jokes, badly told [Jun. 15th, 2011|06:45 pm]
Although this is my favorite joke, I sometimes forget how much I like the joke:
Q: What did the Dalai Lama say to the hot dog vendor?

A: "Make me one with everything."
It's a stupid joke.

Even more stupid, however, is telling it to the Dalai Lama. Who smiled politely, because that's what the Dalai Lama does.

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Today's food expedition [Jun. 8th, 2011|10:43 pm]
Today the Unemployed Slackers Local 89 headed into downtown Boston for the Scooper Bowl: $8 (proceeds to the Dana Farber Institute) for whatever ice cream you can handle. It turned out we could handle a fair amount of it. Personal consumption:
  • Edy's: Orange sherbet, Rocky Road ice cream. I was reminded that Rocky Road is not, generally speaking, my preferred ice cream (the other options there were mint chocolate chip and cookies and cream, both of which I like less). Still, not at all bad, and the sherbet was perfectly pleasant.
  • Friendly's: Vienna Mocha Chunk, which was serviceable, and Nuts over Caramel, which was similar.
  • Breyer's: Dulce de Leche, for which I probably needn't have broken my general rule of not eating misspelled food (it was labeled "Dulche..."). Perfectly fine, but not as great as I'd hoped (why, oh why, did they not have their strawberry or coffee, my preferred Breyer's flavors?).
  • Ben & Jerry's: Jimmy Fallon's Late Night Snack, which wasn't really much better than Stephen Colbert's AmeriCone Dream, which I also hadn't liked very much; and Bonnaroo Buzz, to which the whiskey swirl didn't really add anything exciting.
  • Baskin-Robbins I skipped entirely, because the options were Oreo, mint, Atomic Fireball, and S'More. (I'm told I chose wisely.)
  • Ciao Bello Gelato: worth the price of admission on its own. The wild blueberry and the mango were stunning, stunning enough that we all went back for more after we'd finished our circuit of the ice cream.
  • Soco Creamery: a nicely local (well, far-west part of the state, but that's still local) ice cream company, worth keeping an eye out for. The Dirty Chocolate was perhaps too strong, insofar as I'm just not that much of a chocolate fan, but the Mexicali Chocolate had a very nice flavor.
  • Brigham's: Mocha Chip, which was probably fine, but really anything after the gelato was an anticlimax.
Then, because we were in the neighborhood and why not, we went to Saus and plit a large (sorry, "Belgian") pommes frites. This is how fried potatoes are supposed to be: made to order, hot out of the fryer, beautifully cooked. Plus, homemade ketchup, homemade mayonnaise—which finally made sense of the "putting mayo on fries" thing, because this was not the weird bland thick American stuff—and the Cheddar Duvel (i.e., cheddar cheese and Belgian ale), which I could easily have gotten a spoon and eaten a soup-bowl of. If you're anywhere near City Hall (and you might as well be, since the Scooper Bowl continues tomorrow), go there, it's excellent.

That was most of my day, though I went ahead and swung by the Arlington Farmers Market with another USL89 member and picked up a few things. We also had a very nice chat with the chef from Flora, who is as amiable as his food is terrific.

All things considered, a good food day.

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Revere-ing Ms. Palin [Jun. 6th, 2011|07:16 am]
For those who somehow missed it, Sarah Palin recently said that Paul Revere was
he who warned the British that they weren't going to be taking away our arms. By ringing those bells and making sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.
This was generally ridiculed. That seemed to me not entirely fair, because she hesitated at the beginning, and it sounded like she perhaps reached for a noun and got "British" instead of "colonists", and then finished the sentence rather than correcting herself. Very Palin, really, but everyone misspeaks.

Then, of course, talking to Chris Wallace, she insisted that she got it right:
Part of his ride was to warn the British that we're already there. That, hey, you're not going to succeed. You're not going to take American arms.
So much for misspeaking. I really was prepared to grant her some latitude, but not when she goes back the next day to insist on her misstatement.

OK, none of that is really news to y'all. You might even have heard that some conservatives are insisting that Palin was right, insofar as according to one of Revere's letters (courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society) discusses his capture by British troops, and his telling them that they would face 500 armed colonists. Mind you, there's a big difference between "telling the British once they've captured you" (and Revere makes clear that his statement was given once they had already pointed a pistol at him) and "[riding] to warn the British that we're already there".

The thing that I did just learn, and that I find really quite striking, is that people didn't have to turn to obscure letters by Paul Revere; they could have found the following statement from a reliable source:
  • Part of the purpose of Revere's ride was to warn the British that colonists would exercise their natural right to bear arms.
That reliable source is, of course, Conservapedia. And thanks to the joys of wiki, we can see that this statement was added yesterday. Well, admittedly, what was added first was a paragraph about Sarah Palin, which was removed. Then user DanW edited the page to say:
  • Part of the purpose of Revere's ride was to warn the British already present in the colonies that colonists would be exercising their 2nd Amendment rights.
This was reverted, with the observation that "there was not a constitution yet". So DanW tried again, saying:
  • Part of the purpose of the ride was to warn the British that colonists would exercise their gun rights.
This, too, was reverted by a different person, observing that "Americans had no rights under the British". Finally, DanW put it back, noting that "The right to keep and bear arms is a natural right. It does not matter whether or not the British recognized them"; and the previous reverter did some "copyediting" to put it in its current, "natural right" form. (Perhaps the most brilliant part of yesterday's editing was that someone then added a citation to a discussion of Sarah Palin's comment, which was removed with the observation, "Citation not needed", which tells you more or less everything you need to know about Conservapedia.)

I genuinely can't decide if I find this really funny or really scary. On the one hand, it's hilarious, and on the other, it represents an actual attempt to do the Orwellian change-history-to-match-current-statements thing.

(Incidentally, the far more fascinating part of the Revere letter linked above is a phrasing he also used in his 1775 deposition, in which he relates encountering some officers who rode up, pistols in hand, and said, "God damn you Stop if you go an Inch farther you are a dead man". When Revere and his companions tried to pass them anyway, "they kept before us & swore if we did not turn in to that pasture, they would Blow our brains out". Seriously. If I saw a reenactment of these events with British officers using the phrases "you are a dead man" and "we will blow your brains out", I would have thought it was some stupid modern Tarantinoesque reimagining, and not something directly from the source material. I wonder how old the phrase "blow [one's] brains out" is.)

(Later edit: Poking at Google Books, there's a 1771 account of a trial in "The London Magazine; or, Gentleman's Monthly Intelligencer" in which a witness testifies that the defendants said, "d——n your eyes, you fon of a bitch, lie ftill, of we'll blow your brains out." Interestingly, too, the same article appears in "The Lady's Magazine; or, entertaining companion for the fair sex, Appropriated solely to their Use and Amusement", with the differences that (a) this is headlined as "An Account of what passed on the Trial of the Jews", and (b) "damn" is uncensored. In 1724's "A General History of the Pyrates", the author—possibly Daniel Defoe—referred to "blow his Brains out" as "a favourite Phrafe with thefe Pyrates". Why can't I get paid to do this kind of research?)

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Cooking woes [May. 22nd, 2011|06:09 pm]
You know, I've been making this asparagus salad for years, and I'm really starting to get skeptical of step 4:
Step 3. Take 3 Tbsp pine nuts. Put into toaster oven and lightly toast.

Step 4. Let the pine nuts burn. Repeat step 3, properly this time.
Some day I'll learn how to skip that step.

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Sudden realization [May. 19th, 2011|11:05 pm]
Today, amidst three loads of laundry, I spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen. My wife has an event on Saturday that she needs to take food for, so I made her a cake. I also had bought a brisket when I was out getting strawberries for the cake, but then it turned out she was out with a friend tonight, so I kind of sighed and said, "Well, I guess I'll just make it anyway, even if she's not here to eat it."

Somewhere in there I realized I have become a 1950s housewife. I think I need a Valium.

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Top Chef: Masters [May. 4th, 2011|10:46 pm]
This has been a singularly bad season of Top Chef. Some of the challenges have been less "difficult" and more "mean" ("oh, and by the way, you're going to have five less minutes than we told you, and no wait staff, and no running water"—that's not some weird exaggerated paraphrase, that's one of their actual challenges). This week they had to run the lunch rush in a fast food restaurant, and they clearly did a terrible job of it, because, duh, you can't just drop untrained people into a restaurant and drive-through and expect them to do fine with it, regardless of how good they are at making food.

Then there was last week's episode, which consisted of cooking favorite dishes of "Biggest Loser" contestants but kept to around 500 calories each. So you've got all these chefs talking about what a great thing this is, how terrific it feels to be part of these people's life changes...but at the same time, there's the occasional comment about how, well, counting calories just isn't something chefs do, and they're not used to limiting themselves in this way. They claimed this was all about "health", and yet they have nutritionists standing there telling them how many calories are in, say, a slice of bacon, as if the only health concern with bacon is calories. And this week we had one of the judges saying that one of the dishes felt like a kid's portion—that is to say, a week later, the show was right back to saying "more food rather than less".

Plus you have the fact that they advertised the show as having Ruth Reichl as one of the judges (I loved her book Garlic and Sapphires), by which they seem to have meant "one of the judges for the first two episodes". I can't tell if that's misleading advertising or some sort of deep disorganization on their part.

Alas. Well, eventually there will be another real season.

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Another in a series of open letters [Apr. 23rd, 2011|10:44 pm]
Dear Macys:

Your commercial involving Thanksgiving parade floats, fake snow, lots of red and green, and little people in elf costumes is a Christmas commercial. It is currently April. STOP AIRING IT.

Yrs, Tahnan

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You don't really care for music, do you? [Apr. 23rd, 2011|06:25 am]
The truth of the matter is that I don't really care very deeply about music. I mean, sure, I listen to the radio in the car; I'll play music when I'm working at a coffee shop to help remove some of the ambient distraction. But I've never really been a big music buyer or concertgoer. (Or mixed-tape maker.)

On the other hand, I'll occasionally latch onto a song and listen to it over and over for a few days or weeks. "Postcards From Mexico" by Girlyman was such a song; so were "Don't Marry Her" by the Beautiful South (which I heard in a coffee shop, until they suddenly shut it off when a child came in) and "Leeds United" by Amanda Palmer (when I was pointed to the YouTube video for some reason or another).

The current song is "Colors" by April Smith and the Great Picture Show, which I heard by chance in the car on WERS. So I encourage anyone who doesn't know it to go listen. ("Songs for a Sinking Ship", track 6.) I think the rest of their stuff is probably pretty good, but I wouldn't really know because I listened to a handful of other songs and then went back to playing "Colors". Repeatedly.

Unrelatedly, in the interest of closing the tab, Jörg Piringer made a video of the 49,571 displayable Unicode characters in the 0-65536 range. One character per frame, for thirty minutes. If you're me, you'll watch the whole thing (albeit in the background for most of it). If you're not me, you should still go watch it, or at least the first six minutes of it. (After that it's Chinese characters. Twenty-four minutes of Chinese characters. There are a lot of them.)

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A few short open letters [Apr. 17th, 2011|02:20 pm]
Dear MBTA,

Your font is Helvetica. Every time I read a new T map that uses Arial, I die a little inside. Please stop.

Yrs, Tahnan

Dear Will Shortz,

Spoiler for Saturday's crosswordCollapse )

Yrs, Tahnan

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Fresh Pond movie theatre [Mar. 31st, 2011|01:36 am]
Sometimes I think the folks who run the movie theatre at Fresh Pond aren't the brightest bulbs in the projector. Due perhaps to a spate of movies with W in the title (I think there were three others to put on the two-sided sign), they didn't have enough Ws in their stock of letters when they got to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. So they took an M and turned it upside down.

Then, just to be sure, they turned the other M upside down as well, so that they're showing Diary of a Wiwpy Kid.

And just to be sure you know how wiwpy this kid is, and that this wasn't some random mistake: they spelled it that way on both sides of the sign.

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