Feb 6 2009

Write this

I’m trying to get some folks I know to write some fiction.  Many of them are particularly good at puns– so just to make it hard, I’ve also included required lines that are to be followed by a play on words.  

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Mar 24 2008

More detailed map of Apollo 11 landing site versus baseball diamond

The official NASA history site covering Apollo 11 includes this map of the Apollo 11 landing site superimposed on a baseball diamond to provide scale, but unaccountably leaves out a number of things.

I’ve done what I can to remedy this:

(Click thumbnail to enlarge.)

Oct 24 2006

Fragment from The Three Stooges Meet Seymour Cray

MOE: Shaddap! Bring me that sort algorithm deck.

LARRY: Okay, okay. Whoop! [Trips over FORTRAN IV manual. Cards go flying.]

MOE: You nincompoop!

CURLY: It’s okay, Moe. I punched line numbers onto that one! So all we need is to go get the sorting deck, and use it to sort the algorithm deck!

MOE: Yeah, that cou—wait a minute…

GREPPO MARX: [Honk, honk.]

LARRY: What’s he even doing here?

CURLY: Backwards compatibility.

MOE: I’ll backwards compatible you! [Bonks Curly with slide rule.]

CURLY: Oh, yeah? [Eyepokes Moe with flowchart template.]

LARRY: [Gets tie wrapped around printer platen.]

Apr 30 2006

Nervous flier

In addition, HappyJet would like to assure you that (A) we have food tasters to make sure the pilots are not all incapacitated by bad fish, (B) we have screened the cabin crew to make sure none of us are kidnappers, (C) none of the flight crew is prone to flashbacks to their war service, (D) we are carrying no snakes, (E) our wings have been fitted with special anti-gremlin devices, (F) neither our radar nor visual inspection reveals any UFOs in the area, (G) none of the passengers are cute little girls under time pressure to get to a hospital, and thus we needn’t fear a hijacking delay with a potentially tear-jerking outcome, (H) we are carrying no spiders, (I) that sneezing man in row fourteen has nothing more than a slight allergy to rose perfume, (J) the President of the USA is not on board incognito, (K) we are carrying no scorpions, (L) none of the ground crew recently started sleeping with a foreign women with legs that won’t quit, a mysterious past, and a tendency to phone her “mother” furtively and bang down the phone whenever someone else comes into the room, (M) the courier in row two is in fact carrying a human kidney in that case, not a weapon, (N) it’s not a kidney from anyone you know, (O) our cabin crew is capable of doing an exorcism in under thirteen seconds flat, (P) we are carrying no mutant centipede/weasel hybrids, (Q) we have plenty of oxygen for the masks, and have double-checked to make sure it hasn’t been stolen and sold on the black market, (R) the seat cushion floatation devices actually do float, years of beer farts nonwithstanding, (S) our on-board instruments indicate that all of the usual laws of physics are still in effect, particularly the ones you don’t quite understand that we exploit to let us hurtle through the air without plummeting into a swamp, (T) our destination city has not been replaced by an alien simulacrum with disturbing differences such as packs of carnivorous pseudochildren, (U) we have already worked out a procedure to determine who to eat first if we’re stranded somewhere without food, and it isn’t you—it’s the fat flight attendant wearing the “EAT ME” button, (V) according to reports from fire houses all over the world, you did not forget to unplug the iron, (W) even if your spouse were to hit on one of us while we’re handing out ginger ale and packs of peanuts, we’re totally uninterested, (X) even though this is a very powerful machine, your child cannot electrocute himself by licking the twelve volt power jacks, (Y) although the canned orange juice is imported from a place you probably didn’t even know grew oranges, it’s perfectly okay, and (Z) we are carrying no homosexuals.

Dec 24 2004

USENET Oracularity #602-07

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Oh omniscient one who knows whether Francis Bacon really wrote all
> of Shakespeare’s plays but who’s not telling,

> I don’t get the line in Macbeth where the witch asks, “When
> shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning, or in rain?”
> If there’s thunder, isn’t there lightning? And if there’s either of
> those, isn’t there usually rain? I mean, it’s hard to imagine Witch #2
> saying, “Oh, let’s meet in thunder, we met in lightning last time.”

> Anyway, if Shakespeare is such a genius, the question must mean
> something, so what does it mean?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

} (Nice to see that there’s SOMEBODY out there not obsessed with UNIX
} and Lisa…)

} Witches, naturally, have a language all their own. “Meeting in
} thunder” means “Banding together to do some serious cursing.”
} “Meeting in lightning” means “Just popping in for a quick cuppa” and
} “Meeting in rain” means a trip to the pub for a few dozen pints. By
} the way, “eye of newt” is code for “pickled onion” and “wing of bat”
} is “cuttings from an old saddle.”

} The full translation of the dialog of the witches of the Scottish Play
} reveals they are plotting to place a basket of goat giblets on the
} throne and quintuple the tax on polydactylity. From this we may infer
} that Shakespere was a little foggy on witchspeak, but we may forgive
} him for this.

} You owe the Oracle an autographed copy of Wyrd Sisters.

Dec 10 2004

USENET Oracularity 586-06

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Oh great Oracle
> How do I get myself a
> black belt in haiku?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

} Typewriter ribbon
} All the ink now on paper
} Look! Haiku black belt!

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

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.’”