Archive for November, 2009

I Pokily Poked a Poke in the Pokey

The English language is a marvelous thing, isn’t it? Not just the depth and breadth and height of it, or the way it freely (and forcibly) adopts works from other languages, but the way it evolves and grows and mutates. Yet, despite the size and scale of the language, and all the neat parlour tricks it’s picked up – the verbing of nouns and the nouning of verbs, to give two examples – it still occasionally forces a single word to do double, triple, or even quadruple duty.

Consider “poke”, and all its variations.
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on November 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment »

I Still Hate Thanksgiving

I survived an extended-family Thanksgiving dinner, and all I got to show for it was… indigestion?

One potentially educational anecdote: Upon arriving at the site of the dinner, I was pressed into service to help make gravy. No worries – mix up a roux, made with drippings from the bird, and brown as necessary. Add some more drippings to make the gravy… and then things start going horribly wrong. It achieves a nice gravy-like consistency, and then begins to separate, with a strange layer of liquid on top of the gravy I’ve never seen before.

Okay, don’t panic… just add cornstarch, right? Hmmn, let’s taste it first, shall we?

It tasted – and I’m swear I’m not exaggerating – a bit like what I imagine transmission fluid tastes like. Used transmission fluid, with a hint of rat wee-wee and motor oil.
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Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General | on November 27th, 2009 | No Comments »

Kwik Hits

We in America have this pointless imperialist holiday coming up this week, for which I’m being forced to travel to fulfill familiar obligations, so this will probably be the only post this week, barring anything spectacular.

For your browsing pleasure…

Got WWII aerial photos?

Freddie Mercury, RIP. I can remember when he passed away; several friends who were really into music were quite upset, but I was all “Freddie who?”. I’m a bit more enlightened, these days…
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Published in: General | on November 24th, 2009 | No Comments »

Screw Diamonds, It’s War That Lasts Forever

If you haven’t already, I quite recommend you read Donovan Webster’s 1998 book Aftermath: The Remnants of War, which discusses the never-ending scourge of unexploded ordnance. UXO was a big deal a decade ago, but it’s something that seems to have largely faded from view since.

I was reminded of this today when I saw an article in the Independent about 26 year-old Belgian Maité Roël, whose leg was nearly severed by a WWI bomb in 1992, and who has the extremely dubious distinction of being – for now – the youngest and most recent victim of the Great War.

Crippled and left in pain by an unexploded bomb dropped seventy-four years earlier. Forced to undergo surgery 29 times. Left addicted to painkillers for a decade. Left unable to function after that without the numbing effects of cannabis and alcohol.

Shit, war sure is glamorous, isn’t it?

Don’t feel bad about the War on Terror, though. Maité Roël is only alive – and in pain – and on drugs – because of the state-of-the-art medical system in western Europe. Seventy-four years from now, kids who encounter UXO in Afghanistan and Iraq probably won’t live long enough to become crippled drug addicts. Small mercies, no?

Published in: General, History | on November 20th, 2009 | No Comments »

Pedal Power

Environmentally-friendly transportation is all the rage these days – industry is making huge advantaged in lithium-ion and fuel-cell technology to power electric vehicles, and the technology of hybrid vehicles is advancing by leaps and bounds. Carpooling is becoming more common than it used to be, and public-transit ridership is at historic levels. And, of course, you can’t overlook telework and telecommuting, which aren’t really eco-friendly except by accidental afterthought.

But everywhere I go, I see and hear and read about people turning to bicycles and promoting bicycles as the perfect form of transportation. I’ve got a bicycle, in fact, which a friendly bike-mechanic friend of mine overhauled this summer. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against bicycles as a form of transportation – but there’s something that bugs the hell out of me about them…
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on November 20th, 2009 | 4 Comments »