Wednesday, October 7

STDU distracts us

Here on Shiny Things Distract Us (STDU), we report on those shiny things... that distract us. An example: STDU distracts us!

STDU: Scientific and Technical Documentation Utility.

Hooray for STDU!

(via Lifehacker)

Sunday, May 10

Doggerel dogfight; a bad poetry competition

My wife and I had a Bad Poetry Competition the other day; 10 minutes to write an impromptu dash of doggerel so eye-wateringly bad that the reader would have no choice but to commit suicide. You have been warned! Here are our entries. Who won?

Her entry:

"Poem 1"
By Pharaohmagnetic's wife, aka "A wench in the works"

The VitaMix
Is no arbiter
Of degrees of miscegenation
Whether things float to the top and are pushed down
Or incorporate in a smooth, foamy, emulsification
It cannot show you the way out.

My entry:

"Turbulent Hyperbole"
by Pharaohmagnetic

Turbulent hyperbole engorges on me verbally
While silent flights of guile
Bestride the islands of my mind.
Vanity, insanity are unto me profanity
Where more can see the side of me
Inside the violent brine.
Are thunder-tossed belittlements a little brittle
ever since
The fissures of the tissue in my brain
filled up with spit?
I cannot bluff or cough enough
to underseat the powder puff
that whittles at the spittle that exuberates my eyes.

More bad poetry featured on Shiny Things Distract Us: Here, here, and here.

Friday, May 1

"I am the author of all things"

Here on Shiny Things Distract Us, Fraxas is the real Code-Wizard-Software-Developer-Computer-Programmer guy; I'm just a meatspace lab monkey. What limited experience I have with the world of algorithms and other abstractions comes from my occasional use of Mathematica to model data or solve the Python Challenge. I really love Mathematica; it's fun and easy to tool around with. If I had learned to code with Mathematica, rather than the tooth-cracking monstrosity that is C++ or Motorola 6800 machine language, I might have discovered enough enjoyment to find a calling. Oh well! Back to the soldering iron.

I've blogged (if tangentially) about Mathematica and its creator, Stephen Wolfram, before. His latest project, Wolfram Alpha, has been picking up a lot of buzz, and I'm very excited to try it out next month or so. (Here are two Slashdot posts on the subject: 1, 2.)

Stephen Wolfram's outsize ego, as made physical in the sheer mass and pagecount (1197) of his vanity-published book A New Kind of Science, is the source of much controversy. Basically, he argues that all of science and nature can be explained by simple cellular automata, a claim that may be neither New nor a Kind of Science. Nevertheless, I find Wolfram fascinating and amusing all at once, and I thank him for bringing Mathematica to the world.

But this is the best take-down of him, or anyone, that I have ever read. Hilarious:

bixx456's review of A New Kind of Science from

More on Alpha below:

Tuesday, April 28

Quote of the Day

“Hey, you self-important humorless lemon-sucking purveyor of unrelenting grimness and despair: lighten up a bit, why don’t you?”

I think I just found my new catchphrase.


Monday, March 23

A pun! My word.

One man's laughter is another manslaughter. That's the obvious pun. But according to Google, one man's laughter is another man's...

- poison
- disdain
- tears
- humiliation
- medicine
- painful tears
- annoyance
- annoyed grimace
- NOT...laughter?

Sheesh. There's a lot of hyper-literal, overwrought killjoys on the internet, wasting opportunities for a perfectly good pun(ishment).

Thursday, February 19

One Track Mind: On the Loose

A few weeks ago, Fraxas blogged about Stormy High by the band Black Mountain, calling them "a Canadian 70s-metal band" in all but chronological actuality. The reference touched off some free-associating on my part, and by the power of suggestion, I soon found myself listening to bona-fide Canadian 70s metal. To my delight and amazement, emusic offers a few albums from the back-catalogue of Saga, Canadian 70s metal band extraordinaire. Here I highlight their single hit On the Loose, which to this very day can be heard on the air waves of my hometown rock and roll radio stations. The unabashed synth virtuosity, the unironic pretensions to insanity, the echoing distant vocal stylings... I know I should be embarrassed to be writing this, but I'm not. I'm not. Every indier-than-thou geeky hipster has to have some guilty pleasure, right?

P.S. "On the Loose" is from Saga's 1981 album Worlds Apart, but I would like to still classify the song as Canadian 70s metal, because Saga was formed in 1977. Also, I need this post to make sense.

UPDATE: According to the titles at the intro of this youtube video, the song is actually from 1978! I win! But on second thought, upon actually watching the video, I realize just how embarrassed I should be feeling for blogging about this song. Very, very, very embarrassed.

Tuesday, February 3

The Pillows will Destroy us All

Tom the Dancing Bug by Ruben Bolling is quite often brilliant. Never is this more true than when the comic strip satirizes comics itself. God-Man and Harvey Richards Esq., Lawyer for Children are both great recurring features, but they pale before the genius of Super Fun Pak Comix. This recent example made me laugh, because I have often suffered at the cruelty of too-abundant decorative pillows.

Friday, January 9

Art thou ready for some FOOTBALL?

If on the seventh day the toil of armoured men - armed with but their wits and strength, protected by their peers, their grunts, and plastic - attracts attention; if the names of Plaxico and Manning conjure faces and fond thoughts; and if the meter of this humble verse tickles fancy or imagination:

read, then, this link.

[Recovered Scenes from the Tragedy Plaxico by William Shakespeare, by Shane Ryan, on McSweeney's. Phenomenal.]

Friday, January 2

A Soundbite from Sterling

In this year's yearly interview with The WELL, Sterling issues this pronouncement:

I'm inclined to think the model [for local urban resilience in the face of nation-level leadership incompetence] is Italy. Italy has had calamitous Bush-levels of national incompetence during almost its entire 150-year national existence.

So in order to be successful and happy in the face of the kind of collapse that the US may be faced with in the coming years, it has to become more like Italy.

(Aside: one of the problems with this idea is that the USA is geographically much more spread out, and population-wise much less dense, than that boot in the Med is. So the City-State of Boston might work, but Idaho and Wyoming would have two choices: retain a 'state'-like identity and continue to benefit from governmental services (like policing, banking, insurance, and defense) or become homesteaders-with-Internet.)