Oct 30 2004

0x486f2c20 0x686f2c20 0x686f2e00

I was musing on similarities between Santa Claus and system administrators. Consider:

1. Santa is bearded, corpulent, and dresses funny.

2. When you ask Santa for something, the odds of receiving what you wanted are infinitesimal.

3. Santa seldom answers your mail.

4. When you ask Santa where he gets all the stuff he’s got, he says, “Elves make it for me.”

5. Santa doesn’t care about your deadlines.

6. Your parents ascribed supernatural powers to Santa, but did all the work themselves.

7. Nobody knows who Santa has to answer to for his actions.

8. Santa laughs entirely too much.

9. Santa thinks nothing of breaking into your $HOME.

10. Only a lunatic says bad things about Santa in his presence.

Merry Christmas, worms.

Historic note: this was the first thing I recall writing that escaped into the wild. I sent out what I thought was a mildly amusing seasonal greeting to my users, and someone forwarded it to someone else… Of course, the following Christmas one of my users sent it to me. Shortly before suffering an inexplicable refusal of the “ls” command to return anything but

ls: .: permission denied

Oct 30 2004

Confessions of a failed clown

One version of my potted biography running around out there alleges:

He has attended clown school and the University of California at Berkeley.

Leaving aside for the moment the obvious question of whether this refers to two separate institutions, or just one—as certain alumni of a certain pine-tree-obsessed farm school have suggested—I should clarify that I did not attend a full-time course in the art of clowning. (Just as well, really. I don’t mind following in the footsteps of famous Poles—but since I don’t have a back yard, I can’t really emulate John Wayne Gacy.)

What I did do was attempt to learn clowning for the Great Y Circus. Being an idiot at the time—er, a younger idiot, I should say—I figured that the primary skills involved in clowning were things like balloon animals, distance and accuracy in pie hurling, inflicting lifelong traumas and phobias on small children, and the like. However, while these are important, they are also fairly easy to learn. Hence, in order to weed out the people who weren’t going to make it, the instructors started with the hard stuff.

I could handle myself on the trampoline—more or less. That is to say, I did not at any point go flying off the trampoline skull-first to impact with the ground hard enough to cause injury. Nothing permanent, at least, although some forms of brain damage are difficult to image… I was never going to be a star, but those also serve who can about manage a backflip on a good day.

That left juggling.

Now, it has been said that with enough practice, any idiot can learn how to juggle. This turned out to be true in my case. After a few weeks of chasing balls all over the gym, I had mastered the basic fountain and a few minor and umimpressive tricks—bouncing balls off the walls, the floor, the backs of the heads of people I didn’t like much, and so on. Time for the next level: rings and pins. Rings were tricky, but I made progress. Pins, on the other hand…

Now, your basic “pin” is about the same size and shape as a bowling pin—but, mercifully, hollow. The fundamental move is flipping it up into the air—it goes up, the broad end rotating towards you, comes down, and you catch it by the skinny end with your other hand.

Mental block. I couldn’t let go of the pin.

This didn’t happen every time—but often. I’d do the move, but I’d hold onto the pin—thus constraining where it could go, which meant I’d bring it all the way up and hit myself in the forehead with the broad end. I spent days doing this. I raised a bruise. The instructors—who would have fitted into Full Metal Jacket just fine, since there’s nobody as dour as someone whose job it is to try to teach people to be funny—tried yelling at me. That didn’t work. So they swiched to plan B, which was yelling louder.

Around the time they got to Plan E—yelling, with flecks of foam—I gave up. Besides, I could see that even if I did learn not to hit myself in the head, the next level involved juggling while riding a unicycle. I inferred that if I was sufficiently uncoordinated to brain myself with a club, trying to juggle while balancing on my perenium put me at grave risk of permanent sterility.

That’s why I had to go to Berkeley and get a degree in computer science. I wasn’t smart enough to be a clown.

Oct 30 2004

Sunday morning at home

Xxxxx wrote:
> Please. [Vampires] prefer to be called “blood lab technicians”.
> And anyway they’re only pissed because of the stuff you
> write about them.

Can’t be that. Half the dingbats have forgotten how to read—SHUT UP, GUYS! C’MON, YOU’LL WAKE UP THE NEIGHBORS. AND LOOK, THE SKY IS GETTING LIGHT! SCAT!… FINE! STAY OUT THERE AND TURN TO DUST FOR ALL I CARE! Goddamn telepathic ones are the worst, you spend a week wondering if you’ve lost your mind, every time you walk into a room there’s a door just closing… What’s even worse is the psychics from the Van Helsing Society have spent so much time in empathic mental contact with them, they do the EXACT SAME THING. So you phone in for an assist; now you’ve got TWO people sneaking around and leaving cryptic notes written in blood in the goddamn vegetable crisper. Then one night you hear a bloodcurdling scream, and you get up out of bed and go and see if it’s a dustpan-and-broom job, or you’ve got another horribly mutilated corpse to try to sneak past the landlord.

Zombies are all right; they’re unto lilies of the field. They only have two behaviors—wandering around bumping into things, and trying to eat you alive—and they’re good at both of them. You hardly ever hear of a zombie in psychotherapy. You know why psychotherapists work during the day? It’s EVOLUTION. Whenever some fool starts accepting evening appointments, it’s only a matter of time before the cops are standing around in his office scratching their heads and/or puking in the wastebaskets. And then we have to go steal the case notes out of the evidence lockup—and READ them. Takes about fifteen minutes before you start thinking that if you see one more repetition of the word “spectral”, you’re going to start crying.


Hang on, I’ll be right back… Okay, that’s done. I’ll go out and check him later; sometimes you can talk some sense into them if they’re scared enough, and if not, one good yank on the blanket and go fetch the dustpan.

Lucretia… now THERE’S a major pain in the ass. A millennium and a half if she’s a day. First time my crew and I tracked her down, we managed to get a holy water claymore into place in time. We set it off; she just stood there dripping and looking bewildered. We figured we’d gotten another dud, so we went in with spears. Ten seconds later, the street looked like a wood chipper had exploded—and she was still just standing there looking bewildered. I figured we were all dead anyway, so I yelled for everyone to get clear and nailed her with the sacramental oil LAW. Burned her clothes right off her. Now she looked bewildered and embarassed. I don’t remember what happened next—but my crew says she walked up to me, huffed, and then slapped me hard enough to break my jaw and give me a concussion severe enough to cause short-term memory loss. Then she covered herself with her hands and marched away with an air of injured dignity.

We keep tabs on her as best we can; she knows us all by sight, now. She won’t have anything to do with me if I’m carrying a LAW, but otherwise she’ll come over and give me a kiss and a hug. She likes to cuddle. Do you have any idea what a fool you feel like sitting in a dance club with a hairline that says you’re about twelve years too old for the place, cuddling with a fifteen hundred year old soulless killer? Particularly since her fashion sense has begun to go—that’s how we know how old she is. So I’m sitting there half-deafened by teenybop techno crap, cuddling with a woman wearing one sneaker, one Rollerblade, pants from a tuxedo, a hawaiian shirt, a feather boa, a Cat-In-The-Hat hat, and a pair of socks on her HANDS. I don’t even have to Jedi Mind Trick anybody. People take one look, dismiss it as performance art, and have forgotten we were even there within five minutes. If I want a drink, I have to steal one from a neighboring table. We don’t even dare trying to give her clothes—if you hand her something, she’ll look at it and set it down, and if you try to undress her manually, you end up like that poor bastard out in my courtyard…

Reminds me, I’d better go check on him…

Idiot. Well, not surprising; you have to be pretty damn stupid not to take one look at Lucretia and know that something is dreadfully wrong about her. I’d better sign off and go find my dustpan.

Oct 29 2004

The Top Fifteen Ridiculously Long Biblical Names

Okay, you free-love atheist swine. It’s time to put down your filthy bitmapped bimbos and your smutty newsgroups and sit up straight. Pastor Stephan is going to save your miserable asses from eternal damnation. You can buy me large plots of land later.

For today’s lesson we will be covering a topic of historic and lexicographic interest. As you know, in ancient and Biblical times the inhabitants of the Middle East had a lot of time on their hands. (Hence the Sons of Abraham—three faiths [Judaism, Christianity, Islam] sharing theology, prophets, sacred sites, and even sacred texts—and yet each works for the destruction and expulsion of the other two!) A side effect of this was tolerance for extremely long proper names.

Amazingly enough, many of these names have entered the English language. And so, in the interest of spiritual enlightenment and building power vocabularies, allow me to present…


15) Abelbethmaachah: Kings 1 15:20, Kings 2 15:29. A city in Israel. MODERN USAGE: Euphemism to describe two people you don’t know making love. EXAMPLE: “Yeah, that Earth First! rally was disgusting. Never seen so much sleeping-bag abelbethmaachah in my life.”

14) Almondiblathaim: Numbers 33:46-47. Another Israeli settlement. MODERN USAGE: Insult. The literal translation out of the Hebrew is “Place of men who blather about almonds all the time”; thus, almondiblathaim is used to mean people who go on and on about something you could give a hoot about. EXAMPLE: “Oh, great, the programmers are coming over. Don’t ask them how work is going; instant almondiblathaim.”

13) Apharsathchites: Ezra 4:9. Inhabitants of yet another city. MODERN USE: Geological techspeak. EXAMPLE: “No, you knucklehead. Apharsathchites have don’t mica inclusions, now, do they? Which means this is? Think… come on… Christ! It’s GRANITE, you pinhead!”

12) Berodachbaladan: Kings 2 20:12. King of Babylon. MODERN USAGE: Medical assistant techspeak. Used to describe the sound a full bedpan makes when dropped.

11) Helkathhazzurim: Samuel 2 2:16. Battlefield in Gibeon. MODERN USAGE: Onomatopoetic description of accidental death resulting from a stream of urine striking an electrified third rail.

10) Merodachbaladan: Isaiah 39:1. Another spelling of Berodachbaladan, King of Babylon. MODERN USAGE: Medical assistant techspeak: Used to describe the sound a full bedpan makes when dropped on a doctor’s foot.

9) Ramathaimzophim: Samuel 1 1:1. Samuel’s home town on Mount Ephraim. MODERN USAGE: Stew produced by a collective. EXAMPLE: “Hey, I bet some crab meat would go really well in this!” “Go ahead, Al! It’s a ramathaimzophim!”

8) Tilgathpilneser: Chronicles 1 5:6, 5:20; Chronicles 2 28:20. King of Assyria. MODERN USE: A specific type of potent Czechoslovakian pilsner prepared with ox tails.

7) Zaphnathpaaneah: Genesis 41:45. Joseph’s Egyptian name. MODERN USAGE: The practice of freebasing mothballs.

6) Bashanhavothjair: Deuteronomy 3:14. The name Jair son of Manasseh gave to the country of Argob. MODERN USAGE: The practice of achieving hegemony over a patch of land the size of an olive pit, naming it after yourself with a five syllable jawbreaker, and then proceeding straight into historical oblivion.

5) Chepharhaammonai: Joshua 18:24. Still another Israeli city. MODERN USAGE: The practice of pretending ham is chipped beef, still practiced by guilty members of the faithful to this day.

4) Kibrothhattaavah: Numbers 11:34-35, 33:16-17; Deuteronomy 9:22. A cute bit in the wandering of the Jews in the desert. Chapter 11: Everybody’s in the desert. They’re getting sick of manna. People start wondering why they left Egypt; they ask Moses for flesh. Moses talks to YHVH. YHVH promises 30 days of flesh. YHVH send a great cloud of quails. People pig out. And then:

11:33 And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague.

11:34 And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.

MODERN USAGE: Fast food meat contaminated with feces.

3) Selahammahlekoth: Samuel 1 23:28. Where Saul laid off the pursuit of David and went off to beat up the Philistines. MODERN USAGE: the amount of sexual humor one can make in the workplace without being hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit.

2) Chushanrishathaim: Judges 3:8-10. King of Mesopotamia. YHVH got ticked at the Jews because they “served Baalim and the groves” [Judges 3:7] and so Chushanrishathaim got to enslave them for eight years. MODERN USAGE: A guy who could have been a contender for serious fame, but wasn’t allowed to be evil long enough to ensure his reputation.

1) Mahershalalhashbaz: Isaiah 8:1, 8:3. The child of Isaiah and “the prophetess.” No other mention is made of this woman. The child is used in Isaiah 8:4 as a measure of time (“For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria”)—and is never mentioned again. MODERN USAGE: Fruit of a sexual relationship between a famous person and a bimbo—when the famous person SWEARS the relationship was purely a professional one.

Oct 29 2004

Damn good thing they don’t have a union

Xxxxx asked:

> How did you lose contact with your characters?


Well, what usually happens to me is they move and don’t leave a forwarding address.

Then, when I catch up to them again, they give me this look. “Since the last time we worked together,” one said to me just the other day, “I’ve met a wonderful woman, I’ve got a good job, I’ve got respect in my community. When I was working with you, I spent all day poring over ancient texts in languages I barely knew, and spent all night running away from zombies. And when it was all done, I had nothing to show for it but a half-dozen concealed weapons violations to answer for in the Hall of Justice, and the bill from a therapist who thought I’d hallucinated the whole thing and should probably be institutionalized.”

“It won’t be zombies this time,” I said.

“Oh, of course not. I know all about zombies now. It’ll be something else, probably that I’ve never heard of. And I’ll either lose my girlfriend, when I start muttering under my breath, or worse she’ll believe me and spend two months as a target.”

“Look, all this is negotiable. Let me introduce you to… hrm… an ex-KGB emigre? A gun runner, so you’ll never have to worry about running out of bullets again. You’ll like her, she’s a stunning blonde, eyes as blue as the sea, endearing mole on the back of her hand…”

“Come off it. Once we defeat the weresnails or whatever it is you’ve got waiting in the wings, we’re supposed to settle down? I’m an archaeologist, for crying out loud. She’s supposed to give up her gun-running ring and watch me dust off potshards for the rest of her life?”

“Well, you could show her the error of her ways.”

“Terrific. And what are we going to talk about over the Sunday paper? `My goodness, honey, it sure is terrific being able to spend time with you without having to make sure I’ve got a silver dagger where I can reach it.’”

“What could I say to convince you?”

”`I’m writing erotica now.’”