Archive for August, 2009

Such a tragedy

August 23, 2009

Just thought about a band I hadn’t thought about in years. Not for three years at all; not for eight years with anything more than a passing thought.

The band in question is Theatre of Tragedy. After three albums I really liked they did in 2000 one called Musique, which “marked the switch from gothic metal with Early Modern English lyrics to a more electronic style, using Modern English.” Soon after my interest in them waned, and eventually I lost what CDs I had.

Maybe I should go hunting, see if my trusty commercial internet music provider has the old ones. Meanwhile, here’s one good old piece, “Aoede” off of Aegis (1998).

(Have a stab at Poppaea, too. And for the “after” sound, try Automatic Lover. Not bad music by any standards of mine, but I wanted my Early Modern English!)

My collected one-liners

August 23, 2009

I’ve had a copy of Microsoft Messenger or the equivalent for family communication for years — I can’t say it more exact than that, but long enough to use a lot of “flavor texts”, fillers for the short text space that some people apparently use to tell where they are, how they are doing, and so on.

Below’s the long record of those one-liners, minus the ones that would be incomprehensible, in strict chronological order from the oldest to the most current. Those that are in Finnish I’ve translated.

Most are Internet-oneliners, some are quotes, some few are my own work. The only ones that need a hint are the four riffs on Monty Python’s phrasebook sketch; and you can quite safely assume that those you don’t get are Python as well.

You shouldn’t think I know or agree with a person if you see a quote here. Hey, you shouldn’t even think I know or care about the sources of these.

Have fun!

* * *


Second blog: Lemmata

August 21, 2009

Just registered a second blog through WordPress. The newborn is called Lemmata, and I’m offloading all my mathematical and other doodles there, one every day, as long as they last. Three pictures/cartoons are there already, and it’s going to be cartoons/sketches/doodles/pictures all the way.

I’m not saying anything about their quality except that they amused me when I drew them, and a properly lecture-fatigued math student will laugh at anything.

Operations here continue as always. There will be slight tweaking on the Lemmata side; the Monotone theme is good for webcomic-like activity, but I’m still ironing out a few cosmetic things.

Well, let’s see how this goes. One per day, as long as they and my patience last.

Mathematicians (slide)rule!

August 21, 2009

And in other news, Wall Street Journal says that being a mathematician, a drone in the sweet field of severe problem-solving, is the best job in the US. I’m willing to say we can (possibly using chains of open balls) generalize this result to hold everywhere outside a set of zero measure. (Or zero capacity. Depends on whether we need reverse Hölder and some Caccioppoli or not.)

Top five seems to be Mathematician, Actuary, Statistician, Biologist and Software Engineer.

The metric used — environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress, over a sample of 200 jobs — seems reasonable, but then again I’m not a statistician. (Who are in the second place. After mathematicians. Which I am. Neener neener. Does it sting? Does it sting?)

How come the whole top twenty is jobs that I think are eminently nice, cool, desirable and want-able, even by a committed fool like me? Might be because they’re mostly academic or at least detached indoor introvert work.

The worst job of the 200 sampled? Lumberjack. It’s fifteen spots below Nuclear Contamination Technician. But lumberjacks don’t mind because they’re okay.

Second blogiversary

August 21, 2009

And yea in the remote year 2007, in the month of August, on the 21st day, this blog “Masks of Eris” did come into being.

This thing below was the first post.

* * *

Remarriage and Heaven
A clownaround

Scene: Heaven. Fluffy clouds and starry skies. A sound of harp from the distance.

Larry and Mary, a happily married and recently deceased couple, rise up through the clouds.

Larry: So, Heaven! I guess coveting a Mercedes doesn’t count, after all.

Mary: (laughs) You horrible man!

Larry: So, is there anyone we know here?

John enters.

Mary: Oh! Dear John!

John: Mary, my love!

Larry: Who’s this?

Mary: This… this, uh, Larry, this is my previous husband, John. He died of pneumonia in 1995.

John: Mary dear… who’s this?

Mary: John dear, this is Larry. He’s an undertaker; I met him at your, um, at your funeral and married him after a year of mourning.

John: (flummoxed) Oh, bully.

Mary: But — oh, oh dear. If you’re here, too —

Greg enters.

Greg: Mary m’love!

Mary: Greg!

Larry & John: Who?

Mary: Uh, my first husband, Greg. He was killed by a rabid chihuahua —

Greg: Infection! Not chihuahua!

Mary: — infection years before I met you, John, or you, Larry.

Greg: Mary? I’d like you to, to ah um…

Two women enter.

Greg: …to meet my previous wives. This is Lucy, a dental hygienist; she died of red fever in 1976, and this is Lucilla, a pediatrician; she died of hay fever —

Lucilla: Hay fever complications, love.

Lucilla waves at Mary. Larry hyperventilates. An Angel enters.

Angel: Here, what’s this commotion about here? Where are your harps?

Larry: (To Angel) What’s this all with my wife’s previous husbands and their wives? It’s outrageous, and I demand to see the management!

Angel: Uh, He is resting.

Larry: Well, who can I talk to?

Angel: I’ll… I’ll see if, uh, if the Son is available.

The Angel leaves. Meanwhile, John and Greg are fighting over which of them Mary should call ‘her most beloved’.

Lucy and Lucilla lean against a white wall, miffed. Mary is aghast.

Larry: (To Mary) I’ll say! This thing has been really awfully badly thought out!

The Angel reappears, twisting his hands.

Angel: There’s been a, a um, a um mistake in here. We’ve a really excellent joy control program up here but uh, but uh tiny slip-ups like this are, uh really, bound to happen at times.

Larry: (glowers) So?

Angel: So, we have a policy for situations like this. Mary, would you please step right here… a little to the left… perfect!

The Angel pulls a lever out of nowhere, then pulls it, and then pushes it back into wherever it came from. Mary drops down through the clouds with a shriek. The Angel shrugs.

Angel: Well, that’s that.

Larry: What? Where? Mary? What did you —

Angel: Oh, to Hell with you too!

He repeats the lever-trick; Larry disappears as well. Meanwhile, John is punching Greg in the mouth.


* * *

Also, isn’t “blogiversary” a delightfully slimy word, like a Vogon feast of remembrance of some sort?

I’ve a rather nice little thing cooking up for this day, but it’s not quite ready yet. Meanwhile, I’ve pondered before on why I blog and on the steps that led me to blogging.

(And if you say “Who the frak’s blogiversary?”, read this for fifty partial answers.)


August 20, 2009

Well, Lovecraft again. Realized that a philosophical snippet wasn’t why I adore the man — it’s the language, the language. And hence Star-Winds, sonnet XIV of the Fungi from Yuggoth (wikisource), the favorite poetical bit of this unpoetical man me myself (if that’s not XXI Nyarlathotep):

It is a certain hour of twilight glooms,
Mostly in autumn, when the star-wind pours
Down hilltop streets, deserted out-of-doors,
But shewing early lamplight from snug rooms.
The dead leaves rush in strange, fantastic twists,
And chimney-smoke whirls round with alien grace,
Heeding geometries of outer space,
While Fomalhaut peers in through southward mists.

This is the hour when moonstruck poets know
What fungi sprout in Yuggoth, and what scents
And tints of flowers fill Nithon’s continents,
Such as in no poor earthly garden blow.
Yet for each dream these winds to us convey,
A dozen more of ours they sweep away!

If you don’t want to bother reading, the Internet Archive has a beautiful reading of the whole by Colin Timothy Gagnon.

It’s not the sketches of horror-stories (though they are nice) that makes the Fungi so effective, if you ask me; it’s the godless sense of the strangeness and awe of the places above and below; of that that “[i]n that strange light I feel I am not far / from the fixt mass whose sides the ages are”.

HPL’s birthday

August 20, 2009

The stars are right again, and have crawled to point to August the 20th again: the birthday of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the writer of great acclaim, influence and style, and one of my gibbous and cresset-y idols.

I’ll repeat a quote from the man himself, first:

I certainly can’t see any sensible position to assume aside from that of complete scepticism tempered by a leaning towards that which existing evidence makes most probable. All I say is that I think that it is damned unlikely that anything like a central cosmic will, a spirit world, or an eternal survival of personality exist. They are the most preposterous and unjustified of all the guesses which can be made about the universe, and I am not enough of a hair-splitter to pretend that I don’t regard them as arrant and negligible moonshine. In theory I am an agnostic, but pending the appearance of rational evidence I must be classed, practically and provisionally, as an atheist. The chance’s of theism’s truth being to my mind so microscopically small, I would be a pedant and a hypocrite to call myself anything else.

(H. P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters, vol. 4, p. 57, quoted in introduction to The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, edited and commented by S. T. Joshi; the emphasis is mine)

And now, I’m off to do my three traditional Lovecraftian things — to read a bit of the man and listen to a HPLHS drama CD (I think I have an unopened one here, um, somewhere…), to curse my inability to acquire Joshi’s Lovecraft biography (and my confusion between trying more and waiting for the apparently forthcoming two-volume edition), and to teeter and tooter round and round in eldritch spirals of forgotten phrenzy to the looming whiteness of that indescribable, squamous monolith of horror which inholding unspeakable Things moodily squats in a desert of dust and grime —

Er, to go to the fridge. Where in the Antarctic, yellow-stained frost of the freeze-locker dead peas sleep, waiting.

Clear skies and night-gaunts, all. The moon is dark, the heavens bright, and the stars they’re a-right.


August 19, 2009

There was a post on Stupid Evil Bastard that I quite agree with, referring to a campaign against the youth use of the word “gay” as a pejorative. It’s not a very well thought-out campaign, but I don’t want to talk too much against people on a good cause, no matter how badly directed and formulated their chosen way seems to me.

No, just one small thing. The campaign features posters substituting, among other things, “gamer guy who has more videogames than friends” for “gay” in “That’s so gay!”, apparently to show that that wouldn’t be nice at all.

My first reaction was roughly this:

What the nunchucks? Any gamer, no matter how social, will have more games than friends in a few years! The things tend to pile up, you know?

How many friends can you have — ten? Thirty? Having that many games is easy-peasy (or used to be in my day) and not freakish at all, even though I strongly increase the likelihood of it being freakish by denying it — and it was my brother who had the games anyway!

But seriously, ‘more games than friends’ is supposed to be a slur? You know, don’t you, that this actually isn’t an overblown stereotype generalization like dumb jocks and ditzy cheerleaders?

Show me a gamer with more friends than games — Facebook friends don’t count — and I show you the equivalent of a cheerleader that can’t jump, and a jock that gets winded by the second floor!

My second was this:

Ah, crap. This is supposed to be an insult, and insults don’t have to make any sense. And this is a deep one — not the unfair stereotype (“jocks are dumb”) or the puzzling innuendo (“yo momma wears combat boots”), but the trivial truth (“your jockstrap smells”): it cannot be disputed, and you’ll look like a crashing bore and immediately lose if you admit it and ask why it should be considered insulting.

Like, you know, I just did.

And it adds to its effect because it is of the form “you have more of the inferior, usually material thing than of the superior, usually spiritual or social thing”, no matter whether the things are commeasurable in any way, or incapable of coexistence or negatively correlated, or whether possession of the supposedly inferior one is in any way a bad thing. Like “more money than friends” — that’s a nice trap because it sounds bad, though such a sloppy inequality can mean three cases of BFF, and heaped millions of legal tender.

(Which gives rise to the question of what’s the use of inequalities like this if one subscribes to the sentimental notion that a friend’s monetary value is incalculably great or impossible to measure. But incoherence just adds to the effect; good luck refuting something that doesn’t actually exactly mean anything.)

Nice, and irrational and emotional to the extreme. A trivial truth in a falsely comparative frame. A very good insult.

I wonder if anyone’s ever written a book on the psychology of insults?


Does anyone else react to things like this?

Yup, Hitchens

August 18, 2009

Christopher Hitchens has his say on the Yale University Press brouhaha. This Christ I quite agree with, at least as far as this matter is concerned.

It’s a curious feeling: I want to read the book, but at the same time I’m angry with the publisher for giving out only a truncated, mutilated version because they are cowards with misplaced guilt. Maybe I should buy two copies and mail the second back to the YUP, mutilated and pissed-on and with the word “coward” smeared on it with a suitably demented shade of lipstick.

Or maybe that would be overdoing it.

Okay, that would definitely be overdoing it.

A picture of that could be in a dictionary next to the definition of “overdone”.

Except that a wide panel of dictionary experts would unanimously advise against the inclusion of such a picture, since the like can easily be found on the Internet.


After all, publishers may be pissants but books are holy because they store the wisdom and mistakes of people who will eventually and inevitably be no more. In a way there’s nothing more heartbreaking than a list of lost books. It’s not just the lost knowledge of things that were; books and similar things are the only form of immortality currently available (in addition to procreation, of course), and when the last copy burns, that author is so much more dead and gone forever.

And what relation this mock-poetic drawl has to the YUP case? None, except it illustrates (I hope) the half-baked philosophical reason I’m touchy about things like these.

(Footnote: I am especially angry that Suetonius’s Lives of Famous Whores is lost. Now that would be some classic to plonk at the schoolchildren. “Worth learning Latin now, boys?”)

“Worse than cancer”

August 17, 2009

Just came from seeing Brüno, the Sacha Baron Cohen movie.

Think about rollercoasters, okay? People shriek, raise hands to cover their faces, dread the next turn and scream in terrified appreciation when it comes — well, that’s rollercoasters, that’s horror movies, and that’s Brüno. You need a certain subtly self-flagellatory mindset (which is not a bad thing, mind you) to enjoy it.

Actually, Brüno was a mash-up of a rollercoaster and a horror movie, with the hand- and hair-raising heedless drive of the former, and the yawning-gulfs-beneath-commonday-things mindset of the latter.

“Good taste” is a convention, okay? Not DragonCon, but something duller. But every convention attracts the equivalent of a fifty-something overweight hairy man dressed as Sailor Moon running around, knowing exactly what he does. And for the convention called Good Taste, that’s Brüno.

And, uh, I actually immensely enjoyed the film.