Archive for May, 2010

Terminological commentary in two parts

May 31, 2010

“Hey! What are you doing in there?”

“I’m becoming one with God.”

“Huh? Is it supposed to make that kind of a noise?”

“Oh, that. That’s just the kettle. You need one to boil God, you know.”

“Do I?”

“Of course. First you boil God, then pour it through the emotional quest, and then you become one with it.”

“Sorry if I appear a bit thick, but are you calling water ‘God’, tea leaves an ’emotional quest’ and drinking ‘becoming one with’?”

“That is not a very spiritual statement.”

“Well, I’m not as full of spirituality as you are. Good day.”

* * *

“Uh, sorry to interrupt you but… what are you doing?”

“I’m growing schnaaz with bibong.”

“Sorry?”

“You know, to phraanz with Ghod.”

“Is this some kind of a religious thing?”

“Oh, yes. Have you learned to kitchok your inner vingvoon yet?”

“I’m afraid I don’t —”

“Oh, don’t worry. That’s just what phraanzing with Ghod is like. It is a big, long, hard gloppo snuurd to know Ghod.”

“Er, what do all these words mean?”

“That question is bhok. Goodbye.”

Not intended as history, eh?

May 31, 2010

A particular opinion that strikes me (admittedly in my full ignorance of the field) as a dishonest dodge is this: to look at some Old Testament story, to notice there is no evidence for it, no reason to think it ever happened, and plenty of such ridiculous exaggeration in it that it near could not have happened — and then to say, “clearly this story was not intended as history”.

If you ask me, I can see a way all of the Old Testament was intended as history. It just was history that happened to be bullshit because of how it was put together.

It was made by a bunch of priests sitting down and deciding what of all the old legends and wishes and explanatory legends for place names and various ravings of spittle-flecked prophets they wanted to believe, what they wanted to be true and taught to their children. (This then again doesn’t need to mean deliberate fraud; self-delusion is easy and often profitable.) They were the deciders of a run-of-the-mill desert-edge kingdom, led by a tin-pot tyrant with centralizing religious ambitions called Josiah. Their people were recently settled down from centuries of equally commonplace and unexceptional nomadism on the eastern edge of their native Canaan, so they didn’t have much real history to draw on if they wanted great glories. Their ancestors had never been in Egypt. Their stories of David and Solomon and their vast empires were made up or then pasted over dim historical memories of kings lesser, not greater, than the kings of their day. (Worse still, some of the kings they had had had been theologically abominable, i.e. different, like Omri and Manasseh, and could not be remembered with praise; and some of the theologically sound ones, like Hezekiah, had not been altogether successful.)

Those deciders, sitting in a town called Jerusalem, simply decided, without fancy theology or any concern for the future, without any malice or intent to deceive, even, with full love and adoration of their king and kingdom and people even, that what they then believed and liked to believe, was true. (Well, they had a bit of fancy theology in writing the tales so that their particular royal brand of religion had always been what the religion of their people was, if they could get away with tweaking the popular tales that way. And the kings that had supported contrary theologies, well, clearly the tales of their glories had been greatly exaggerated. And what ho, there was this king called David before them that was even bigger, so they were not a step up, but down.)

I can myself see them doing the same sort of patriotic wish-fulfillment self-deluding that is done by those Americans that today are so very loud and certain on America being and always having been a Christian nation founded on Christian principles by a bunch of devoutly, Baptistly Christian men. It’s not like the Fox News has created a new kind of a commentator never before seen on the face of the earth! Someone like Jerry Falwell blaming “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians” for 9/11 is very much the same kind of a prophet person that used to blame all the defeats of Israel on the obstinate ungodliness of her people.

That’s what the Old Testament could very well be; just be priests and other people picking stories that made them feel good and smashing them together in a tremendously exciting and only accidentally historical tale of glories past, hopefully reflecting glories in the future. Intended as history, history worth teaching to their children: yes, even “hell yeah!”; resulting in a history that was as things had really happened: no.

Bits of varying degrees of derangement

May 30, 2010

The future of birth control: “Press ESC to abort”.

* * *

The future of pets: after a bit of gene manipulation you can carry it in your pocket, and pet it more than ever before — it’s the Sex Kitten!

* * *

Compromise on (theistic) evolution and Creationism: there’s natural selection, but God does the work. If there are unfit birds, He zaps them down. And they will be evil, evil, nasty, naughty, evil birds.

* * *

A thought: All those angsty poems and badly written pieces of fiction all over Internet that are commonly thought the work of callow teenagers — what if they’re largely the self-expression of very old people unaccustomed to self-expression instead?

It’s not like ineptitude in certain forms of expression is solely a province of the young… er, I mean old people have trunk scribblings too, right? And now, all of a sudden, they have an anonymous outlet!

* * *

More things we may need: A Center Against Positive Stereotypes. Negative stereotypes are old and well trod-on hat, but there are still plenty of positive stereotypes that need quashing.

Not all geeks are smart. It is cruel stereotyping to insist that the socially excluded have some skills that make them “equal” with the majority — plenty of geeks are as dumb as a box of rocks, and will never become computer millionaires, or even learn to properly tie the laces of their gauche galoshes!

Not all cheerleaders are pretty, peppy and healthy, either. Plenty are people that desperately need a bag on their heads, and a bag on your head too because you don’t want to see the rest of those people, either. There are plenty of cheerleaders not even the geeks want to be with.

Oh, and the people of your particular nation, whatever it might be? Those honest, down-to-earth people with which you’re supposed to join in a patriotic feeling of unity? They’re not decent homely people. They are horrible bastards, all of them. Especially those that live near to you. Your province sucks.

Also, there are viciously ungrateful orphans, poor doctors (Zoidberg: “That’s not funny!”), dope fiend grandmas, cowardly Marines, monks near a mental breakdown, people that trust and persevere and are true and pure and still always fail; and so on, and we’ve had enough of the foul, hurtful positive stereotypes to the contrary! We, the rest of us people!

The Center Against Positive Stereotypes (CAPS) opposes all these, and cute puppies too. There’s always rabies.

* * *

Communique from the Front Against Humanism

Humanism is a false and pernicious doctrine that fails to give proper place to the superior species of Planet Earth, the Dolphins. The contention that man is the center of life, the measure of all things, and the nexus of all moral activity, is not only blasphemous; it is also laughable, ridiculous and silly. What of the measure of the dolphin, the most intelligent and moral species on the planet?

“Bubbles”

* * *

From the desk of the Tomas de Torquemada Abstinence Society for Faith, Truth and Hot Screws:

The Holy Father has been falsely maligned for his courageous stand against the global infidel forces of infidelity, licentiousness, and sodomy.

The Holy Father’s principled and staunchly traditional stand against the impermissible impedance of the procreative aspect of the sexual act, exemplified in the morally contraceptive device known as the condom, has been especially criticized, but our Society wishes to assure those not convinced by the infallible crendentials of the Holy Father than his claims are much more true than has been guessed by the agents of atheistic depravity, as the “One Prick Saves A Million Souls” task force of our Society has been, as can now be revealed, infiltrating into a factory where he, using a sacred needle, has rendered many of the said devices as defective in the mundane sense as they already are morally.

Fr. Iohannes Fr. S.Ju.

Dixitque Deus, mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur!

* * *

From the Warning

There are razor blades in your apples, alligators in your sewers, miracles in your Santiago de Compostela. The time’s twenty past the hour, and a silence with no reason strikes; meat takes a week to exit your system, chewing gum takes seven years, but heavy metals are forever. Never mind Chernobyl; what about Mount Yamantau? You can dig but you can’t hide! Bears walking in the mine! Is this a Great Society? Mr. Gorsky, what do you say? Even Kim is all dashed, but he still makes the best movies. Diary of a Girl Student. Dutch courage, nothing more. The sidewalk was in trouble and the bears were in trouble and I broke it up.

Forward this message to three others or never weep.

We’ll be seeing you in mirrors everywhere!

yours,
A.F., F.C.B.S., Introvert Massacre Memorial Society

* * *

“Varying degrees of derangement”; varying, or increasing maybe.

Funny in retrospect

May 27, 2010

In 1957, the US Senate was talking about a voting rights act, the future Civil Rights Act of 1957. (Don’t worry; just because I can quote it by name doesn’t mean I know anything about it.)

Mr. Johnson of Texas, the Senate majority leader — who would seven years later be the President, ordering pants — spoke, saying:

We do not desire to have a vote on the bill until every Senator has had an opportunity to express himself, and we do not wish to take advantage of any Senator, or inconvenience any Senator more than is necessary.

Shortly after those unfortunate words, one Strom Thurmond of South Carolina began to express himself. He was not happy about the proposed legislation, and though no-one else rose up to share his delusion, he did not stop.

He spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes. (Concluding words: “I expect to vote against the bill.”)

Then the matter moved on again.

That’s a magnificently, gloriously spiteful bastard course of action, if you ask me. If you put it in a novel, people would complain about it being much too weird. Then again, that’s politics, that’s America, and that’s the world.

(You can see the relevant 88 pages of the Congressional Record, too. I wonder if anyone’s ever compiled a book of “the funniest bits of the Congressional Record” — I reckon it could be done. Then again, sometimes I think about the various live feeds of parliaments, Finnish or American or other, and think that with a few more camera crews you could get a show to rival Big Brother out of them. First the public speeches, then the private griping. And the bathroom cameras!)

Pastafarian eschatology

May 27, 2010

A quiet comment thread on Pharyngula: the post, a video from The Onion, is about teaching the controversy of global warming vs. Biblical armageddon. The thread is sleepy, with the American clock ticking the hours long after midnight, when even the most alcohol-and-indignation-fueled atheist has fallen asleep… and it is morningtime in Finland, and I read this comment:

No Ragnarök? And what’s the Pastafarian take on eschatology?

And I have an idea, and some time later find myself posting this abomination, provided below because, feck, something that long is more a blog post than a comment.

* * *

Pastafarian eschatology
reformed Expanded Universe heresiarch version

There will be no more pirates, save Davy Jones; there will be no more fish in the sea, save Godzilla, who technically speaking is not a fish, but this then is not a technical manual of the apocalypse, but a brief summary. (For the manual, see Apocaflopticon Piraiteicon, Bench Press, Sauk City (WI), 1952.)

There will be ten tornadoes greater than any seen before, and as they combine in the skies, two black holes shall open, and everyone nearby will be spaghettified instantaneously; this shall be the 23rd deuterocanonical coming of the FSM, and the taking up and the slurping of the faithful; but those that cannot account for their balls of meat shall be left behind, right behind, to suffer the rest of the apocalypse, and the toil of the damned.

In those days the dead shall rise; the graveyards will seethe, and the seas will vomit forth their dead; and there shall be eating of the flesh, and drinking of the blood, and great confusion on whether this is a zombie or a vampire uprising; but it shall be both, and it shall be an abomination. And there shall be great gnashing of teeth, and no teeth shall be left ungnashed, save some dentures, which shall be lost, and also damned, because it’s no fun losing your dentures in the middle of a zompire uprising. (Especially because as it turns out biting a zompire will turn it into a man; biting it twice will turn it into an Englishman; but if a zompire and a man bite each other at the same time, they shall be destroyed in a great explosion, and logicians shall be wroth, and their publications shall block out the sun itself.)

There shall be men with the faces of locusts, most probably spooking the children; there shall be men with the heads of elephants (and hearing them speak, men shall call their trunks tails), and there shall be men with asses for heads; and they shall rule states without number, and others where mathematics is still taught. And there shall be a teacher, and she shall be called Wormwood, and there shall be a beast, and he shall be called Calvin. Luther there shall not be; he is an ex-reformer; he has ceased to reform; etc. etc.

There shall be a great profusion of angels, with every integer combination of the number of wings, bosoms, eyes, hands and horns; most of them shall be abhorrent to behold, and all of them will find great difficulty shopping for clothes and sunglasses, and thus shall make war on the malls of the creation, turning the hamburger hut into a ruin, and the ATM into a great smoking pit, in which the carcases of the middle managers shall be barbequed, as it is prophesied in the Complainex Coustomersia.

There shall be cubits everywhere, and chalcedony too, and myrrh though no-one knows what to do with it.

In the end all will be gone save Davy Jones and Godzilla; and they shall repopulate the reformed Earth, and all seas shall turn to beer, and all lakes to various other alcoholic beverages, gross and unhygienic as that might be. There shall be health effects, but there shall be no more showers; but no-one shall mind.

And then there will be a midget, but he shall be late, and shall go back into his coffee urn, cursing mightily, and vowing a thousand-year war against the foul unbathed giant crowd.

And in the end, the cows will come home from outer space, pigs shall gain sufficient thrust and fly just fine, a troll shall say sorry, and there will be much rejoicing. Ramen.

(Shorter FSM eschatology: There shall be no more pirates. Oh no!)

(Come to think of it, maybe I should have gone with the shorter form. Oh well and apologies.)

* * *

Occasionally I look in the mirror and wonder what that ruggedly handsome man is going to do next.

And that is “rugged” in the sense of “having a rough uneven surface, (obs.) shaggy, hairy”; and “handsome” is the sense of “inviting a facepalm, a punch in the solar plexus, the finger, or some similar handy reaction”.

My awful mistake

May 26, 2010

Last week was really hot here in Finland; 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit?) or more. So hot that I broke, I wimped out, and bought a heretofore unnecessary item: a fan.

No, not the one that goes “flap flap flap” when you wave it.

Not the one that goes “Gee, Mr. Masks of Eris, you’re so awesome!” either.

No, but the one that goes round and round and makes a minor hurricane.

Now I am being punished for my presumption; Mother Finland does not take kindly to those that act as if a momentary break in the Great Cold is all unbearable and horrid. You’re supposed to endure the Great Cold, and the occasional unnatural warm spell you’re supposed to hate and endure without seeking any relief except griping and knifefights. (See “Finnish psychology for the unafflicted”, Konrad von Haha, London, 1932.)

But I didn’t endure.

And so it’s 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit), squalls, and rain colder than a witch’s tit out there now, has been for this week, and seems to be intent on continuing to be so: summer as usual. My fan is useless, except for acquiring pneumonia and scaring South Korean exchange students maybe.

So if you’re in Finland, or anywhere on the northern hemisphere, and your summer becomes cold and rainy with a side dish of falling frozen chunks of polar bears swept up into the chilling, tearing windy heights by unseasonal updrafts, if nudists get clothed by patches of frost accumulating on their pubic hairs, if you get mugged by a gang of reindeer that’s come for your space heater and blankets, if you see wild-eyed men stalking the streets muttering “the winter is coming! Just as the book, the winter is coming!” — then remember, it’s probably my fault.

Bumpy enslavement

May 25, 2010

From the comment spam folder:

Thraldom can be unquestionably alluring! It can stun whole’s shrewdness and swop encourage to much happiness and delight. But unwedded high-grade materials can dispense get up to someone past and more than the humansВ’ hot-blooded abilities. You may lean up against strapping bliss apposite looking at our models photographs. Astonishing scenes of bumpy enslavement in gigs of home-made photographs can burden anybody.

After that, the comment quickly devolves into a list of sexual fetishes, each a link to some hit-hungry site.

I have to say that is evocative writing, though it needs a bit of work on clarity. I just don’t know quite what it is meant to evoke. The confusion of puberty, maybe? The primacy of emotion over grammar? The secret passions of a Russian spammer, as filtered through Babelfish and a pirated e-copy of the Oxford English Synonym Dictionary?

Blurb: a personal aesthetic opinion

May 25, 2010

Wrote a long, long rant about how though book covers are meant to lure an ignorant reader in, they often fail by promising ridiculously, repellently too much.

Then deleted the said rant, as I’ve written it twice before.

One bit, though, expressed a personal opinion of mine I think I have not aired before, so here you go.

Gawd, “blurb” — even the word sounds like something fetid, fermented and demented slipping out of an abused rectum. Truth in nomenclature! Then again, “blog” sounds like the same thing going back in.

Ah well; have I mentioned there are some words I don’t like?

Twit count

May 25, 2010

A website called Stupid Fight lets you use an ultra-shady algorithm to compare the dumbnesses of the Twitter followers of a pair of persons.

From this comes this frightening result: the Twitter followers of John Scalzi are a lot smarter than the Twitter followers of CERN.

As in CERN, the huge atom kablooey thingy. (Then again, an example tweet from CERN a while ago: “Experiment have seen collisions!!!!!!!!!!!”)

I don’t know if this reflects extremely well on one, or horrendously on the other.

A little bit of experimentation gives the following dumbness scores (bigger number, more dumbosity) for the followers of various randomly selected many-followed characters:

Dear empty skies, CERN has dumberer followers than Fox News!

That’s not the worst of it, though.

Nharrrr!

Foldie thingie

May 23, 2010

Here’s something old. Years ago I was a callow student, 2nd- or 3rd-year university denizen, and thus still remembered enough of the entrance procedures to be of some help to the 1st-years. Thus I served for a few years as a tutor; then my final useful piece of information grew obsolete with the closure of the central and visible restaurant by which it was customary to gather the new ones on the evening before the first day for the informal get-together (from there to: “the dingy upstairs bar 250 m in the direction to which the lead tutor’s hand’s near magnetically drawn”); and so having done my bit I dropped out of that.

Now, thanks to the various reforms, I would be a hazard if I gave advice. One example: now (I think) the worth/size/duration of courses is measured in units called opintopiste (“study point”), rather than the opintoviikko (“study week”) I was familiar with. Their mutual relation is somewhere between 2x and whatever the dean feels like.

Now, what’s below is something I drew for use in a tutoring situation and then misplaced for years; it turned up a few weeks ago, and I ran it into the scanner. It’s a 5×5 grid of faces. The idea is to print it out, put folds into the horizontal and vertical lines of the grid, and then manipulate it by folding it repeatedly along those 4 horizontal and 4 vertical lines into a 3×3 grid with some chosen pattern of faces showing.

Say you fold the first row down by the first horizontal line; the flat-haired worried looking guy in the middle of the first row atop the T-utorman in the middle of the second row, and so. Then you do the similar fold at the bottom, the werewolfy center guy atop the central frizzled-hair off-center fellow, and finally fold along the first left and right vertical lines the first left and right colums toward the center. You’re left with a 3×3 grid with a face showing only in the middle square: the long-bearded disgruntled professor-type.

I may have had some big mathematical idea about which 3×3 grids were possible to achieve with processes like these; if so, I’ve forgotten that a long time ago. Should be good for some self-amusement, though, or for a drunken speed-folding party game.

Or for a distraction to throw at a mob of angry first-years as you leg it into the safety of the tutoric panic room.

* * *

Oh, fine. Not a part of the original design, but here are names for the figures.

First row: bald and apathetic 4th-year, spiky-haired googly-eyed 2nd-year, worried flat-haired 3rd-year, bellowing graduate student, a 3rd-year gal shocked by the depravity of the graduate students.

Second row: panicky 1st-year, Machine Epsilon the legendary assistant of CS and slayer of bugs, friendly Tutor-man the friend of all students and the arch-enemy of the previous, a student before his morning coffee, a student without his morning coffee.

Third row: screaming student (not graduate; note difference in head size), a non-universityperson shocked by the depravity of the graduate students, a long-bearded disgruntled professor type, a vampiric assistant professor, a docent suffering partial brain meltdown.

Fourth row: an exchange student from the stars, a student on his long summer holiday, a student contemplating his finances and/or fridge contents, a midnight rider, the “Daddy, why are you still a graduate student?” guilt child.

Fifth row: a student in deep contemplation of the intricacies of university administration, Zorg the intergalactic star space conqueror alien, a wolf-man werewolf or a biology graduate student, mathematics for those taking a minor in it, a professor preaching.