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Aug. 12th, 2012


Reasons for living

My brother came into town the other day with his kids Andi and Barney. We went down to the coffee shop for various refreshments and were able to commandeer the comfy chairs at the front of the store. It was a nice visit. We talked about my recent health problems, but also some less weighty matters, such as the Olympics. Barney is something of an expert on the Olympics. (He can name the locations of every one going back to Munich).

Before they left, my bro told Andi and Barney to give me a hug. I assured them I would take care of myself because I want to be around to see Andi write her best seller and see Barney win the Nobel Prize,

I got a message from my bro today. He told me "It was important for [Barney and Andi]  to see you so that they know you are all right. It can be a little scary for kids (and adults) to hear that someone they love has been hospitalized."He brought the kids down as much for their benefit as for mine. That makes it even more significant. It makes me feel valued in a way that doing something purely for me would not.

So I have to take care of myself for them.I don't want to traumatize Barney. As for Andi, Axel Rose said it best:"I'd hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain".

I have other reasons to take care of myself. I want to live to see the 47th president sworn in. He will be the next prime numbered president, and I want to see if the trend of prime numbered Republican presidents. I would also like to live to be 70, because 70 is the smallest weird number.

I understand that those last two reasons diluted the emotional power of the rest of the post. But I believe in being thorough.

Aug. 11th, 2012



For the last 10-15 years, the word "gender" has been supplanting the word "sex". Originally the words had two different meanings. Gender was an attribute of a noun, sex of an animal or person.

It baffled me for a long time. I knew it wasn't because we had become more prudish. Finally I figured out that it came from the feminist notion that gender is a social construct. If it's a social construct, a term from linguistics makes more sense than a term from biology.

I am reminded of this new-fangled usage whenever I go to get a prescription filled. (As I did Friday). At the pharmacist counter they carry a number of different pregnancy-related products. One of them is a product called "Intelligender" which is (these are the words on the box) a "gender prediction test".

And every time I see that product I realize how stupid this new usage is. Because really, how much socialization goes on in the womb?

Aug. 10th, 2012


Poetry Reading After-Action Report 8/9/2012

In spite of doctors orders, and still not being 100% up to snuff, I went to the poetry reading last night. It was a pretty good crowd, including some new people.

I was a little late. When I walked in Jonathan announced "Cloyd's here!!!". People seemed happy. I guess they were glad I was not dead.

I shouted out to Jonathan to put me on the list of readers. He did and said "I can bump you up". That was very nice. He called me up after the next reader.

I expressed my thanks for everyone's well wishes. I expressed my regret that I did not write any poems about my hospital experience, but indicated that I might come up with something at the next reading.

I asked the audience "Let me see a show of hands...who would like to see a poem about catheters?" There were two or three hands. There did not appear to be widespread demand for such a poem.

My chosen selection was "The Palmreader" the poem I found in my office while I was moving. I gave a brief backstory and read the poem. I heard a few people say "aww". That's always gratifying.

It's good to be back.

Aug. 9th, 2012


A couple of hospital things

I am not diabeticCollapse )

Elle is an angelCollapse )

Aug. 8th, 2012


Why I've Been AWOL

It has been more than my customary maximum of five days without a blog post,but I think I have a pretty good excuse.

Sunday,I was going to drive over to school to run off a test I was going to give the next day. On my way out, I sideswiped my neighbors car. I stopped of course. When I got out of the car, I could barely walk. My neighbor insisted I sit on his step while he called an ambulance. I told him he didn't need that but he very wisely ignored me. There were no accident-related problems that made the ambulance necessary. I was just very feverish and weak and confused.

I just got out of the hospital today. My database class never took their third test.Exams start tomorrow, and I made up one that a colleague is going to proctor for me tomorrow.

My nurse told me not to go to work at all tomorrow and Friday.I told her that I couldn't promise her that,since there were exams to be given and these were very time critical. She gave me a look. The kind of look mothers give teenagers. But I did promise her I would exert as little effort as possible, and if anyone asked me to do anything extra during those days I would say "I'm not even supposed to be here."

So in the interest of keeping my promise to exert minimum effort,I am going to wrap up and give more details later.

Well,one detail can't wait. Elle was an angel during my stay. As she always is.

Aug. 2nd, 2012


A book of blank pages

I don't know how it came up in conversation, but today after class a student was telling me about a book that opened with several pages of positive (but made up) blurbs, followed by nothing but blank pages. The author was of the belief that reviewers often wrote about his books without reading them, and he wanted to test this theory.

The student told me he sent the book to several reviewers, and some of them wrote reviews just based on the blurbs at the beginning. Nothing like the scientific method.

He couldn't remember the name of the book, but after a little searching on his phone he determined the title. I tried googling it, along with the phrase "blank pages" , and got surprisingly little. Apparently nobody on the internet wants to give away the joke

I posted a link to the book on my facebook page, and my cousin liked it.I quickly messaged her and told her not to buy it. I would have felt horrible if she'd put down money for a book of blank pages because of me.

I was going to include more information in this post,but I don't want to be the lone spoilsport that gives away the joke. I'm even a little hesitant to quote extensively from reviews (which are a hoot). I will say that the book has been described favorably as "a teaching event" and criticized as "not a book at all".

Jul. 30th, 2012


One more thing about that Obama Speech

Obama's "you didn't build that" speech has been nearly picked clean now. Everyone has rested their case about the context of the infamous quote. Others have criticized narrower parts of the address, such as his remarks about the internet and the Golden Gate Bridge.

I think I still spy a morsel of meat on the corpse though, and like a glutton at a covered dish dinner*, I'm gonna grab it and chew it up while it's still there.

I refer to his remarks about fire departments:

There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.

This was the most blatant straw man I've ever seen. It's the dumbest thing I've ever seen any president say. And I'm 54 years old.

Just because someone wants less government doesn't mean they want the fire department privatized. Most conservatives and even some libertarians are ok with municipally funded basic services such as a fire department.

Yes, there are libertarians who disagree. But even anarcho-capitalists such as Murray Rothbard, who want to privatize everything, would not suggest that everybody have their own fire department. Maybe anarcho-capitalism wouldn't work, but under it  everybody wouldn't have their own fire department anymore than people now have their own grocery store or barber shop. There would be a few private fire departments, each with lots of customers.

At the very least, this shows that Obama does not understand division of labor.

OK, I lied. I had two more things to say. The second one is that the Roanoke speech was not about usual suspects such as overpaid CEO's and shady derivatives traders. If it was, I probably wouldn't have gone to the trouble of making two blog entries about it. It was about talented, smart people who built their own businesses and are profiting from it. When politicians start going after fat cats,the definition of "fat" gets broader and broader until no cat is safe.

Now I am done. Let's bury this corpse. Unless there's a couple of morsels of meat I missed.In which case let's just stick it in the freezer.

* this is something I have actually been

Jul. 26th, 2012


James Garfield is the Chuck Norris of presidents

I'm about halfway through Candice Millard's Destiny Of The Republic, a book about the assassination of President James Garfield. The early chapters have a lot of biographical information about James Garfield. He was quite an impressive guy, even if he wasn't in office long enough to leave much of a legacy as a president.

Here are some of the things I learned:

  • He once wrote an original proof of the Pythagorean theorem
  • He worked his way up from janitor to professor at Western Reserve Eclectic Institute
  • At the age of 26, he became president of Eclectic
  • As a Lieutenant Colonel in the union army, Garfield led his outnumbered  troops to victory in the Battle Of Middle Creek, which was key to the union holding Kentucky.
  • He eventually became a General in the Union army
  • He won the Republican nomination for President at the convention without seeking it or even wanting it.

And here's an  anecdote from his later life:

[Garfield's son] Jim turned a flip over the end of his bed and said triumphantly to his father, "You are the President of the United States but you can't do that". To his son's astonishment and delight, Garfield, six feet tall and just a few months shy of his 50th birthday, not only did the flip but then hopped across the room balanced only on his fingers and toes

I couldn't do that when I was 50. Hell, I couldn't do that when I was 30. If it was in my power to referee the course of past history, I would have invoked the mercy rule on that one.

Jul. 25th, 2012


Helpful People

In my last post, I neglected to thank some people who made moving a lot easier for me. One of them is my brother. He came by and brought me coffee. He also helped with some of the packing. We got something like an assembly line going with the stuff on my desk. He would take something off and hand it to me, so I could either pack it or toss it.

Read more...Collapse )

Jul. 24th, 2012


More stupid work stuff + a found poem

I am now moved into my new office, and am caught up on all the grading I'd put off while I was busy with moving. It was an arduous process. I am the king of pack rats, and had a lot of stuff to go through and get rid of. I sold 75 dollars worth of books to a textbook dealer and gave away even more. I filled three boxes of paper to be shredded and filled up our recycling bin many times.

I spent many days going through and getting rid of things before I started packing. I told the lady in charge of the move that I probably seemed like a college student who starts working on a term paper the night before it was due. I then explained I was more like a student who spends everyday but the last one researching and outlining the term paper, and then starts writing the night before it's due.

I came across some amazingly old stuff. I found an unreturned homework of a former student. Actually, I came across the unreturned homework of lots of students. But this particular student has since gone on to graduate school, completed a PhD, and is now a tenure track professor in our college.

I found a paper class roster. They stopped giving us those at least ten years ago. It was printed on a line printer, and it was unburst. Readers old enough to know what "unburst" means will appreciate how old it was.

I also found a handwritten copy of a poem I'd written many years ago. This was a heartening discovery, as I thought it had been lost forever. It's not a great poem, but it is too good to be lost forever. It might even be worth reading. I'll let the reader decide on that second point.

Click here for poemCollapse )

Jul. 20th, 2012


My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

I read Pat Conroy's My Reading Life to get a glimpse into the mind of a fellow bibliophile. It met this expectation, and gave me a bit more. It certainly whetted my already voracious literary appetite, and piqued my interest in some books I would have not otherwise considered. But the reader is also introduced to a lot of colorful characters he met in his pursuit of reading material.

Read more...Collapse )

Jul. 19th, 2012


Obama's Roanoke Speech

I found out yesterday that I have until Monday to move to my new office.I'm still slammed, but I now have time to say a few things about Obama's Roanoke speech before the news becomes completely stale.

The reaction of the mainstream press and Obama supporters since the "you didn't build that" quote went viral has been as interesting as the quote itself. My favorite was this headline from Jake Tapper:

Did Obama Say, ‘If You’ve Got a Business, You Didn’t Build That’?

Ummm...yes. The article could have been one word long.

A commenter on a Reason blog said "The intellectual dishonesty it takes to believe that's what he said and then to spread it around is staggering".

Actually it's not intellectual dishonesty that makes people believe Obama really did say "If you've got a business, you didn't build that". It's listening to the speech.

People have complained about context. This is usually a lazy argument (the people who make it frequently don't give any context).
To be fair, a pro Obama commenter on Tapper's piece made a reasonable, if not conclusive argument:

“Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that. ”
He’s not saying you didn’t build your business. He’s saying YOU DIDN’T BUILD THE ROADS (the infrastructure).
Half of you know what he meant and are lying and the other half are just plain stupid.

I have to admit the antecedent of the pronoun "that" is ambiguous. But you don't have to be dishonest or stupid to think he's referring to the business and not the infrastructure.

And if you want context, the paragraph before the infamous quote gives you plenty. Obama said:

I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

This is more damning than the original quote. He is clearly minimizing the hard work and intelligence of individual achievers. So if you take the whole speech as the context (as many Obama defenders do), it's even easier to believe he meant that business owners didn't build their own businesses.


Jul. 18th, 2012


Stupid Work Stuff + A Poetry Fragment

A lot of things, such as the Freeh Report on Penn State and Obama's infamous speech in Roanoke, that have provoked thought and deserve a blog entry. But they deserve a substantive entry, and that's not going to be possible for a few days now.

I received an email yesterday that I have to be packed up and ready to move to a new office tomorrow. I've known this was coming for a while and have done some preparations, but not enough that the next couple of days will be easy.

The only good part is some of what  I accidentally find while going through things. I'd scribbled the beginnings of a poem in one of the way too many spiral notebooks I have.  It's a blank verse rendition of something I'd read in Alan Turing's biography and might be worth finishing. Here it is:

When Alan Turing was a little boy
He planted his toy soldiers in the ground
You see, they'd lost some limbs and he had hopes
That new undamaged soldiers would soon grow
Like fresh fall crops from fertile planted seeds
I wonder if he knew about Greek myths
Where dragon's teeth were planted in the ground
And yielded crops of fierce brave warriors

Jul. 16th, 2012


New Phone

I know that getting a new phone is the kind of non-story that gives blogging and social media a bad name. But there are a couple of subplots and incidents that make it worth writing about.

My Virgin Marbl was working just fine. The problem was that my last charger stopped working. After fooling around with it some, I went to the nearest Best Buy to get a new one.

At least I tried to go to the nearest Best Buy. When I got there, it had closed down. But in a "triumphant story of the the little guy" twist, the Radio Shack about 100 yards away had not closed down. So I went in there.

I showed the young lady behind the counter my Virgin Marbl and asked if they had a charger for it. To her credit, she did not say "bless your heart you poor naive child". At least not with her mouth. She wasn't as successful with her facial expression.

She told me I would probably not be able to find a charger anywhere, except perhaps a Family Dollar Store or Dollar General. It looked like it was time to get a new phone. Fortunately the young lady waiting on me was able to find me a cheap phone that met my requirements. My requirements are that it be prepaid (I hate bills) and a flip phone (which makes pocket-dialing impossible.)

While my new phone was being set up I asked the manager if they got a spike in business when Best Buy closed down. He told me "We did when it first happened 4 years ago".

4 years ago? I need to get out more.

The next day I was talking to  my friend bastardx about my new purchase and told him I would probably not get a smart phone until they stopped making flip phones. He suggested I take it even farther than that. "Just buy up a lot of flip phones". Now there's a thought. Of course, I would still have to buy a smart phone after the last of my hoarded flip phones died. But by that time smart phones would probably come with a star-trek style teleporter.

I do OK without a smart phone, but I have to admit that Sunday  I saw a really interesting looking lizard that made me regret not getting at least a camera phone. Maybe I should be more willing to shell out the money for newer technology after all.

Jul. 13th, 2012


Poetry Reading After-Action Report 7/12/2012

 At the beginning of the poetry reading last night, Jonathan pointed out that July 12 was the birthday of Bill Cosby, Pablo Neruda, and Henry David Thoreau. I shouted out that it was also the birthday of arshes_nei_2005, who was a regular attendee of the poetry readings before she moved away.Jonathan nodded.

He probably already knew that , because he then read a Neruda poem, Perhaps Not To Be Is To Be Without Your Being that Arshes had linked to on her facebook page. I guess I should stop and think before I holler out stuff everybody already knows.

He spoke a little more after that, and went off on a tangent during which he mentioned that cattails are edible. This will be important later, so don't forget.

The first reader was Rob, who read several poems by other people, including a poem by A.E. Stallings  called Triolet on a Line Apocryphally Attributed To Martin Luther. Don't let the very scholarly title fool you...it is a delightful, engaging poem. You should click on the link and read it. The poem came from a book called Olives , which I'm including a link to. Stallings  deserves a plug for writing such a wonderful poem.

I read four haiku. There were only two dead celebrities I wrote about (Andy Griffith and Ernest Borgnine), but I wrote two for Andy Griffith. North Carolina's native son deserved a really good haiku, and I figured if I wrote two that odds would go up that one of them was really good. I also wrote a haiku that was not about a dead celebrity. I'm branching out

Click here for haikuCollapse )

Jul. 11th, 2012


"Less Than 1.5 Tons"

Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.

- Popular Mechanics, 1949

The above is one of my favorite old wrong predictions. The history of computer science is full of such howlers, and I often use them in my classroom. For instance, when I explain to my students just why the IPv6 address space is so gosh darned big, I explain that  since history  is littered with predictions that underestimated both the capacity and demand for computing, it makes sense to err on the side of abundance. I share a few of these predictions, and the Popular Mechanics quote usually makes the cut.

Of course the prediction is, strictly speaking, true. It's funny because it ended up being way too cautious.

I've discovered that I can use that aspect of the prediction in explaining other concepts. For instance, today in my algorithms class I talked about Big-O notation. I'll spare my lay readers a formal definition of Big-O. It suffices here to say that a function f(n) is O(g(n)) if, for all practical purposes f(n) is no bigger than g(n).

For example, it's true that

n+100 is O(n).

This is provable using the mathematical definition, but common sense can tell you it's true. If n is say, 100000, the difference between n+100 and n is negligible.

Big-O  has it's limitations. To illustrate these limitations, I point out to the class that

n is O(2n)

No one would argue against the assertion that for all practical purposes, and lots of impractical ones, n is no bigger than 2n.

Of course this assertion, while true, is not very meaningful. Kind of like asserting that modern computers weigh less than 1.5 tons. And that's when I share the Popular Mechanics quote. Then I segue into an introduction of Theta notation, which I'll resist doing here. I don't want any more eyes to glaze over.


Jul. 9th, 2012


Russian Peasant Multiplication and other algorithms

Today was the third day of my algorithms class. I talked about a couple of algorithms for standard arithmetic problems. One was Euclid's greatest common divisor algorithm. Another was russian peasant multiplication.

To multiply two numbers N and M  together using russian peasant multiplication, you follow these steps:
  1. If N is odd, add M to a subtotal (which will eventually contain the product).
  2. Divide N by 2, dropping any remained. Multiply M by 2.
  3. If N is equal to 1, the subtotal is equal to the product and you are done. Otherwise go to step 1.

NMValue To
Be Added

I first learned about russian peasant multiplication when I was a nerdy little kid reading math books. I absorbed it fairly well, and believe it should be taught in K-12 schools. There is some opposition to teaching non-traditional algorithms in grade school arithmetic, but RPM has a benefit that other algorithms don't have. It is the way computers do multiplication. Computers work in base 2, so multiplication and division by 2 (the only arithmetic operations other than addition  used here) are unusually fast. They can be done with a shift operation.

Kids don't have to be taught all the details I gave above. But it might pique their interest in computers, and it would plant a memory that would be useful later if they took computer architecture.

The lady in the video below makes a pretty good case against alternative algorithms. I could argue with some of her points, and just might do that in a later post. Right now, my response to her would be to ask for just one non-standard algorithm which might be beneficial to students.

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Jul. 6th, 2012



This is a test of the livejournal client semagic, which I downloaded a few minutes ago. It was a pretty easy install and so far seems easy to use.

My primary reason for getting a client was to allow support for multiple drafts, which livejournal doesn't do with it's web interface.A quick look at the menu bars suggests that semagic will do that.

And I just noticed I can post from the preview window, which is nice.

So far I am a satisfied customer.

Edit: After playing around with it a little more, it appears that semagic does not support multiple drafts. Oh well,at least it's free.

Jul. 4th, 2012


"But don't the trees seem nice and full?"

The title is a line from Opie The Birdman, episode #102 of The Andy Griffith Show. The clip below should give it some context:

It seems the most appropriate thing to post on the day that Andy Griffith died. It nicely showcases his acting talents, and it's a perfect line about dealing with loss, as many of his fans are doing today.

The internet being what it is, I know volumes have been written about him in the blogosphere already. I can't add anything, but I would recommend a couple of his films where he plays, quite well, characters other than a folksy sheriff.

One of these is A Face In The Crowd, a 1957 Elia Kazan film featuring Griffith as Lonesome Rhodes, a derelict who rises to fame as a media star and political commentator. Lonesome is cruel and manipulative. I am a native North Carolinian who grew up on Andy Griffith reruns, and I didn't think of Sheriff Taylor the whole time I was watching this movie.

The other is Waitress, a film about a waitress who is really good at making pie. Andy Griffith plays the curmudgeonly but basically sweet owner, and in one scene gives an unforgettable monologue. He talks to the title character about pie. He talks about pie in the most beautiful, sensual, poetic language I have ever heard any food spoken of. I think I gained 10 pounds just listening to him, but it was worth it.

RIP Andy Griffith. I am proud to be from your home state.

Jul. 3rd, 2012


Moonrise Kingdom

Elle and I went to see Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom Sunday night. She had picked it out, because it is a love story between two children and it looked sweet.

It was a fairly enjoyable movie. Set in 1965, it's the story  of a strange nerdy young Khaki Scout (pretty much the equivalent of a boy scout) who runs away with an even stranger and nerdier young girl. Ed Norton plays the no-nonsense scoutmaster. He takes his job very seriously, to the point of keeping an audio log on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Bruce Willis plays a small town police captain.

It's a lot of fun to watch Norton and Willis trying to catch the two young lovers. A lot of their dialog is reminiscent of old police dramas where the cops were working together to catch more egregious offenders. It works as parody, but it also works on a realistic level because this is probably the biggest case Captain Sharp (Willis's character...I don't recall him being given a first name) has ever worked on.

Willis's performance was the best I'd ever seen from him. His character could have been one of the action heroes from his previous films who had retired, got a job in a sleepy little town, and mellowed with age.

It wasn't a perfect movie. At times Anderson's idiosyncratic directing style was distracting and diluted the emotional impact the movie could have had. It's hard to put my finger on what I would change, although the film could have done without Bob Balaban as an old fisherman functioning as a greek chorus. There was also a subplot about an affair between two of the adult characters that was underdeveloped and completely unnecessary.

Elle liked it, although slightly less than I did. Her tastes in entertainment are slightly more conservative than mine. She liked all the New England scenery and the shots of the young girls house. She said she would give it  6 out of 10 stars. I would give it 7.

Despite not being completely satisfied, I would recommend this movie. I liked it, and if you are a devout Wes Anderson fan you will like it even more than I did.
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Jun. 29th, 2012


Obama, Satire, and Satire-like Reality

One of my facebook friends posted this image recently:

Don't be Selfish

My initial reaction was that this was not going to help him with women voters. In fact, it could hurt him a lot. In fact, someone with enough political smarts to get elected president would probably know not to create an image like this.

So I posted a comment expressing my skepticism. I was given a link to the Obama campaign site, where they do in fact ask people to include gifts to the Obama campaign in their wedding and other registries. (Someone else expressed similar skepticism at Free Republic and was given a similar reply). But I couldn't find the above image. I don't think it came from the Obama campaign. As near as I can tell, it's origin  is the Reaganite Republican blog.

But don't be too quick to give me a Strange New respect Award. It's pretty clear to me from looking at Reaganite Republicans' blog that he intended this image to satirize and not to deceive. And while the contents of the Obama Registry site are nowhere near as blatant as this image, they're just as audacious when given a minute's thought. The image itself is satire, but it accurately depicts the sentiments in the Obama campaign.

The image is a great piece of satire. I would just encourage any conservatives and libertarians wishing to post this on the net to make it clear that it is satire, and not an actual image from the Obama campaign.   Perhaps a good way to do this is to, instead of posting the image, post a link to the Reaganite Republican blog.


Jun. 28th, 2012


Recent Supreme Court Activity

The Supreme Court today upheld nearly all of Obamacare. Taken with their recent decision in the Arizona case, this shows a trend of allowing federal power to expand while limiting the power of states. I'm not happy about that.

I am  probably trying too hard to give credit where credit is due, but I'm glad that John Roberts didn't use the interstate commerce clause to justify the individual mandate. He might as well have though, because his justification of it as a tax sets just as much bad precedent.

I am not sure what product the federal government could not force people to buy now. A lot of libertarians give broccoli as an example. I don't think that will happen. But there is a movement now to make sure everybody goes to college. Why could the government not make everybody enroll in an approved college or university? Or make parents pay their children's  tuition?  One could argue that such a mandate is for the common good because a well-educated citizenry is desirable.

There are really severe flaws in the tax argument. It's nothing but legal prestidigitation. melvin_udall points out in an entry today that Obama once insisted the mandate was not a tax. I wonder what he would say now.

The President is not the only one trying to have it both ways. The Supreme Court is too.   A blog post by Michael S. Rozeff at lewrockwell.com points out

The Supreme Court says that the fine is not a tax for one purpose (getting the case to be considered despite the Anti-Injunction Act) and is a tax for another purpose (the Constitution).

The only good thing about today's ruling is that discussion of it has taken over the internet, completely shutting out those Tau Day smart alecks.

I am probably too grateful for small favors.

For anyone interested here's a link to the entire decision (193 pages long):

Full text of Obamacare decision

Jun. 27th, 2012


"Up Till Now" by William Shatner

I recently finished reading William Shatner's autobiography Up Till Now. He has lived a very full and interesting life. My life is pretty dull by comparison, and if you restrict it to my reading life it's even duller. Nevertheless, the story of how I acquired this book is still worth telling.

I bought  it from the used book store I frequent and occasionally write about here. I always buy too many books when I go in there, and on the day I bought this I was determined to leave the store with only one book The Shatner book looked like it would be a fun read, especially since the back cover promised an amusing anecdote about an amorous gorilla. Whether it's Wise Blood or Planet Of The Apes, any story is made more lively if you throw in a gorilla.

But Shatner's memoir was not the only one that caught my eye. There was a copy of Somerset Maugham's memoir The Summing Up which looked intriguing. I knew I could learn a lot about what it takes to be a great man of letters from this book. And I was sure it would be more intellectually stimulating than Shatner's book. On the other hand, there were probably no gorilla stories.

I then considered that I could buy one of these books on my next trip back. So I asked myself which book was less likely to still be there in two weeks. It was an easy question to answer.

The Shatner book proved to be worth the (cheap) purchase price and the time spent reading it. The gorilla anecdote did not disappoint and there were a couple of good critter stories. He once hunted a brown bear with a bow and arrow, and there's a really good story that involves an elephant.

Of course there's a lot of discussion of his show business career. Much of it is about things that anyone with access to media would know about (Star Trek, Priceline commercials, etc.) but there was some interesting early history I didn't know about. One of his early films was Incubus,a film  shot entirely in Esperanto.He also appeared in Roger Corman's The Intruder, a 1962 film about racial tensions in the south. This was interesting because you don't associate the names Corman and Shatner with hard-hitting social criticism.

There was one surprising omission. He made no mention of his 1961 film The Explosive Generation, where he played a high school teacher who riled up the town by teaching sex education. I'm guessing that since the film's premise, that sex education is really controversial, is so dated he was embarrassed to write about it.

Up Till Now proved to be an informative and enjoyable read. At times it was even thought-provoking, although probably not as much as the Maugham autobiography would have been. Still, I think I made the right decision.


Jun. 22nd, 2012


Marilyn Monroe Quotes

One of my facebook friends recently posted this image:


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Jun. 19th, 2012


Nabokov's Pale Fire And Digital Technology

I still haven't purchased a kindle. I still might purchase a kindle. And this, dear reader, is probably not the last time you see me publicly weigh the pros and cons of a kindle.

I had thought that one of the reasons for a kindle was that I would be able to read Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire in hypertext. I'm happy reading most novels in plain old regular text, but Pale Fire is an exception.

Pale Fire has a very different structure from most novels. It's written in the form of a poem by a man named John Shade, with annotations by a man named Charles Kinbote. The narrative comes from Kinbote's irresistible urge to write about all manner of things other than the poem, including the murder of John Shade and the mythical land of Zembla, where Kinbote claims to have been king.

Of course, to see this narrative you have to flip back and forth between the poem and the annotation. I'm convinced the only reason Nabokov didn't write  it in hypertext is that hypertext was not yet invented in 1962 when Pale Fire was written.

So you would think that the Kindle edition would correct this defect. But according to this review on Amazon, it has not. (Another reviewer tried to make the case that this is as it should be, but I am not convinced.)

A hypertext version of Pale Fire was one of the weightiest reasons on the pro side for getting a kindle, and now it looks like I have to cross it off.

Fortunately, I don't need to despair of reading Pale Fire in hypertext. I just can't do it on a kindle. I've found at least two hypertext versions on the web:

Pale Fire
Shannon Chamberlain's Pale Fire Project

Both of these can be accessed from a plain old computer. Let's hear it for old school technology!
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