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Writing Contest at The Moon Topples April 30, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in fiction, literature, Other, writing.
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I plan to enter the writing contest Maht is running at The Moon Topples.  I had also planned to enter the one held recently at the Clarity of Night, and actually wrote two completely different stories for it (both crap), but after torturing them to death I decided not to subject myself to everyone else’s ridicul.  My own was enough. 

I have been pretty distracted lately.  New responsibilities at work and the start of allergy season here in New England (mating season for plants in California, where I grew up, is intense, but mercifully short) have meant that not only has my writing suffered, but that I haven’t visited your blog and commented, which I try to do at least once a week.  I’m sorry about that. 

I will try to do better, as soon as the itching stops and I can once again concentrate.

At any rate, enter the contest Maht’s running.  It will be fun.  There will be some great stories, if last time was any indication.  It will also be a global event.  The winner of the last one lived in Islington, London, England.  Contestents came from as far away as New Jersey, New Zealand, and New England.  But they came from old places, too.  And all of the genres were represented, so long as they were small enough and fiction.  So don’t be left out of the fun. 

Which words do you own?–the108 April 26, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, linguistics, Other, parenthood, vocabulary.

[Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Posts on this subject started here and will continue on a somewhat weekly basis.]

The108 is the first “Mommy Blog” to be added to the sample.  You probably could guess that from looking at the vocabulary cloud below, which contains words commonly used by the108 that are completely new to the database.


In all, the108 added 660 words to the database (from a sample of 30,000 or so, taken from posts April 1 – April 21, 2007).


The108 is going through a tough time in her life right now.  And I almost didn’t post this, thinking that I certainly don’t want to add to her troubles by analyzing her vocabulary.  I decided to post this anyway as a sort of a reminder that there are highs as well as lows.  They will come soon, I feel sure.  Go to her blog, tell her that your thoughts are with her. 

Here’s another cloud of words used by the 108 just two times in her posts (the font is called “Damn Noisy Kids”):


I’m going to return to her blog this summer and I am going to be sending positive thoughts her way.  I’ll take another sample and I hope to see more joy and hope in it.  I am counting on it.

Once upon a time April 24, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Other, Rock, Science Fiction.

My son, Hoops (yes, I’ve finally decided to give people at least a pseudonym for him.  It is short for Hoopenslaaga, which is what my Mom called him when she saw him for the first time.  Her Scandinavian Grandmother {if I remember the story correctly and if I may insert braces inside of parantheses like this} used the word to refer to particularly large farm animals.  I would render the word phonetically if I had the time and the HTML skill to do so), asked to listen to Pearl Jam this morning on the way to school.  All I had in the car was Ten, which is a pretty good album, and the album that introduced me to the band, so I stuck it in the cd player. 

Like many Pearl Jam albums Ten starts out with a short little snippet of sound effects and music.  I noticed this morning that the sound effects were very similar to those in the opening of Ultraman, so I told him that.  When the next song, “Once,” started, he tried to impersonate Eddie Vedder’s voice, yelling “He’s our hero Ultraman!” 

It was pretty funny.  But the lyrics to that one seem to resonate with Hayata (whose character on the show is fused with Ultraman and can become Ultraman by using his “beta capsule.”)

I admit it. What’s to say?
I’ll relive it without pain.
Back street lover on the side of the road.
I got a bomb in my temple that is gonna explode.
I got a sixteen gauge buried under my clothes. I play.

Once upon a time I could control myself.
Ooh, once upon a time I could lose myself.

It’s like Hayata finally, after the ability to become Ultraman has left him (which apparently happens in the final episode of the series) comes face to face with his own bifurcated and dangerous existence. 

That or I’m reading to much into both.  It was funny anyway. . . .

Which words do you own?–Mags April 20, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, linguistics, Other, statistical analysis, vocabulary, writing.

[Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Posts on this subject started here and will continue on a weekly basis.]

With a sample of 24,994 words taken (February 19 – April 10, 2007) from her blog, Ms. Maggie Moo Talks 2 U, added 652 words to the database.  What sort of words?  This cloud shows the new words that Mags used most frequently:


Makes me hungry, most of it.  The way the second-to-last word dominates the picture is what we call “irony.” Mags managed to use 3,579 different words in all.

The Venn diagram that I usually produce for this analysis is a little strange, this time.  Apparently Mags uses lots of words that you, dear reader, do not.  And the she uses all of the words that you commonly use, too.  So the diagram is strangely lop-sided.  To restate that once again from the other direction, there were no words used by all of the other blogs sampled that Mags did not end up using. 


So the answer to the question “which words do you own?” is, in Mags’ case, a lot of them.  If this happens again I’ll have to come up with a different sort of diagram. 

DIY 5-pocket Index Card Wallet for Hipster PDAs April 19, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in DIY, Hipster PDA, how to, index cards, lifehack, Other.

I just got a promotion of sorts at work and will be managing a few people in addition to doing research and writing and random other stuff now, so I found myself thinking about time management a little this morning.  I still use index cards to manage my own time and to take notes for writing projects and such.  And I’m always testing new ways of carrying them around an organizing them.  The last one of these I designed, the six-pocket version works pretty well, and I’ve been carrying note cards in it, and using it as my wallet, for weeks.  The only problem with it was that I had to do too much unfolding to get at my debit card, a suprisingly frequent occurance these days.  So I designed a five-pocket version that is much easier to use everyday, because the part of the folder that holds my bank card is always right there on the outside, and yet there is no danger of the card slipping out. 

Step 1: start with a piece of 13 x 13 inch paper.  This sounds more difficult than it is.  The most durable papers in the world are readily available in this size, if you know where to look.  You just need to find a large manila or Tyvek ™ envelope, cut the bottom and top out, slice out the middle, and unfold it. 

Step 2: mark the paper with a faint line 1 3/4 inches in from two opposing sides and then 2 3/4 inches in from another side, as depicted below (click picture to enlarge). 


Step 3: Flip the sheet over and fold the opposing sides in, creasing on the lines. 


Step 4: Fold the bottom up, creasing on the line.


Step 5: Insert the top into the slot made by the bottom folds and crease the whole thing again (this operation is shown in a side view in steps 4 and 5 of the instructions for this folder.


Step 6: Using an index card as a guide, fold in three roughly-equal parts and crease (I don’t know what that shadow is all about.)


That’s all.  See how the bank card fits and is accessible but totally safe?


I use the same pocket for a list of phone numbers.  And a pen with a clip can be used to make sure it doesn’t unfold, if you want. 


After a few days it will pretty much stay shut anyway.

Lost in Translations April 18, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Japan, Other, Science Fiction, speculative fiction.
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My lovely wife told me yesterday that she couldn’t find the post on Ultraman on my blog.  I had to tell her that that was because I hadn’t finished it yet.  My son and I have been watching old episodes of Ultraman, which we have been renting from Netflix.  And I intended to start a series of posts about this latest interest, but the fact is, I’m having some trouble with it.

For those who didn’t grow up with Ultraman, the show is basically a series of abbreviated Japanese monster movies (less than 30 min long) that were dubbed in English and imported to the U.S.  In a typical episode a monster appears and begins to wreak havoc, the elite Science Patrol attempts to dispatch the monster, then Ultraman steps in to save the day.  My brother and I watched the show for a while when we were the age my son is now (nine), back in the early 1970s. 

Here’s a picture:


I’m having trouble posting about the show, though, because I’m extremely confused about what to make of it all.  The first hurdle is the fact that the DVD lapses in and out of English at odd moments.  Since it is a DVD, I just turned on the subtitles (my son is a pretty fast reader).  This unearthed a new dimension to making sense out of the show, though.  The subtitles are radically different from the English dubs.  Take the theme song, for example, which has an early-1960s surf music feel to it.  The English dubbing goes like this:

Ultraman, Ultraman, here he comes from the sky,
Ultraman, Ultraman, watch our hero fly.
In a superjet he comes from a billion miles away.
From a distant planet-land,
comes our hero Ultraman.
[repeat first verse]

Incredibly insipid, yes, and there are problems with what little is reported: 

  1. Ultraman did not come in a “superjet.”  He was chasing a monster and crashed into Hayata’s VTOL jet crashed, and saved Hayata by absorbing him and becoming him.  I guess that one could argue that Hayata came in a superjet, but not from a billion miles away.  Hayata came from Science Patrol headquarters, which seems to be near Tokyo.  Ultraman came from the M-78 nebula, which can be seen in the constellation Orion (RA: 5:47, Dec: 0:03), which is 1.6 thousand light years away.  So, it is like 9.4 quadrillion (thousand trillion) miles away, which screws up the meter of the song.  But it is not as if it would be screwing up perfection.
  2. “distant planet-land.”  That’s just bad writing–word chosen to rhyme with “man.” 
  3. Our hero doesn’t “come from the sky.”  With a couple of notable exceptions, like the episode where Hayata has to jump off a building to reach his beta capsule, Ultraman appears standing firmly on the ground.  Then he sometimes flies around.  He exits by flying away, but only as a cover to keep Hayata’s dual identity secret. 

The subtitles to the theme music are very different, much more cryptic, and much more interesting: 

The emblem on the chest is a shooting star.
With the pride-worthy jet, shoot the enemy.
From the Land of Light, for our sakes,
he has come, our Ultraman.
The capsule in hand, Flashes Sparkling
It’s a shine of one million watts.
From the Land of Light, for justice’s sake,
he has come, our Ultraman.

The subtitled version is problematic, too.  Watts, for example, are not units of luminousity, they are units of power.  Light is measured in lumens, a common American confusion, because we purchase lightbulbs according to wattage.  (The reason we do that has more to do with heat generated by the things than their light output, but these are closely related with incandescent bulbs, of course.) 

But mostly we are left with more questions.  Why is the emblem a shooting star?  “Our sakes”?  Justice’s sake”?  Is that sake, with a long A sound and silent “e”, or sake, like the rice wine?  Why is “Flashes Sparkling” capitalized? 

The theme music is just the easiest thing to point to with regard to the dual translation problem.  The dubbing and the subtitles are constantly at odds in unexpected ways.  I could just examine these episodes based on the reactions of ill-informed American pre-teens.  But everytime I think about this show now I get caught up with the additional questions that the dual translations reveal. 

I’m paralyzed, but in a good way. 

Lowell Massachusetts Flood Pictures April 17, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Lowell, Other.
1 comment so far

Here’s some pictures of the latest round of flooding in Lowell, MA.  We had worse last year around Mothers’ Day.

Pawtucket Falls at the Mammoth Street Bridge, on my way to work at about 8:15 am (click to enlarge).


An Exxon Station on Middlesex Avenue, where I filled up the car on my way home.  This is about 100 yards from the Merrimack River.


The Boathouse (now owned by the University . . .) from the Rourke Bridge, showing the Dunkin Donuts that got flooded last May (in the distance) and the closed VFW Highway/Pawtucket Boulevard.


University could be closed tomorrow, too, depending on when the river crests.

Stupidity = $ April 17, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Other.

The University’s closed today because of flooding.  It’s not flooding at the U, just on the streets that people use to get here, except for the street I use, which is fine.  So I came in because I have lots of work to do this week, but not work work.  Turns out that I’ll spend the week chipping away at my taxes, but not this year’s tax returns–last year’s and the year before that, too. 

So what I did was I took the standard deduction last year and the year before, even though I have one of those huge Massachusetts mortgages (on a smallish Massachusetts house).  So I’m paying tons of interest, but didn’t realize how many things, how many really big things (like he aforementioned interest payments) I can deduct.  I found this out this weekend as I did this year’s taxes with Turbo Tax (TM).  Since Turbo Tax is a computer program, it didn’t actually call me a friggin’ idiot (although I always turn off the sound on my computer, so I guess it could have) for loaning Uncle Sam all that money.  But I knew what it was thinking.  All of a sudden I’m swimming in refund.  And so, naturally, I’m going to revisit the previous two years’ returns, file a couple of 1040X forms.  I’m going to change the amount I have taken out of my paychecks, too. 

The cash is going to be a real blessing this year, the year my lovely wife will be going on sabbatical (which is a year where you don’t have to teach any classes or serve on committees, but get to not do those things at half pay with the same sort of research committments that you normally labor under.)  I have no qualms about keeping the money and acknowledging my stupidity, although I will resist the urge to publicly quantify that stupidity in dollars.  I just wish it didn’t all mean so much paperwork. 

But then, paperwork was also the source of this windfall.  Maybe I shouldn’t have such an aversion to it.  Maybe I should actively seek more.

Which words do you own?–Daniel Meissler April 13, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, linguistics, Other, vocabulary, web 2.0, writing.
1 comment so far

[Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Posts on this subject started here and will continue on a weekly basis.]

Below we have the vocabulary cloud for words added to the database by the blog of my latest volunteer, Daniel Miessler


An interesting juxtaposition of “atheism” with “icons.”  It seems to call forth a new religion, some sort of virtual-objectivist desktop non-worship, the Church of the Apathetic Blogger, perhaps.  (I read his post on atheism and it does no such thing, of course.)  Then a little further down we have “freebase” and “grandpa,” which I don’t think was about the Keith Richards’ remarks from last week. 

Perhaps my favorite string begins with the word “server,” and ends with “waterfall.”  It is a “found” steampunk haiku.

Mr. Meissler’s Venn diagram looks like this:


There are a couple of words that pop out that I am thinking about dumping in future diagrams–“march” and “john.”  Microsoft Word recognizes these as words instead of proper names (because one of the macros I run uncapitalizes all words), but I’m pretty sure that bloggers are not using them as such.  It says something about the commonality of the name John, and the month of the year these samples drew heavily upon. 

Mr. Miessler added 528 new words to the database, pretty respectable, this late in the game.  His is the second technologically-leaning blog to be sampled.  I have high hopes that the next blog to be added, Ms Maggie Moo Talks 2 U, a blog that leans towards posts on cooking and restaurant events, will add a whole new sheaf of words. 

Born on Armistice Day, Kurt Vonnegut April 12, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Books, literature, Other, writing.

He is gone, my favorite anti-war humanist humorist author.  I reviewed his most recent book last year on his birthday (here).  In that book he recounts his remarks to some fellow humanists about Isaac Asimov, another favorite humanist, after Asimov’s death.  “Isaac is up in Heaven now.”  Cracked everybody up, of course.  So let me be one of the first to say it:  “Kurt is up in Heaven now.”