Saturday, May 7, 2011

Circumference of Darkness

It's a real book. I kid you not.

...Okay, maybe I will a little. Otherwise I'd have to end this post right here.

"Circumference of Darkness" is the first book in the most terrifying series you will ever read. Follow the journey of young Edmund Brumby as a slip of paper with naught but a room number on it leads him into the shadowy underbelly of London academia.

What will he find behind the door of classroom 42? Who is this "Miss Walters", and what does she know about the strange art referred to as "geometry"? Will Edmund ever find the answer to the ultimate question? Only time will tell.

Time, and massive commercial success spawning further books, that is. The sooner you buy your copy, the sooner Jack will run out of things to spend money on and finally submit his sequel manuscript, "Hypotenuse of Hades".

...Okay, so I actually have no idea what "Circumference of Darkness" is about at all. It's probably a lot less interesting than the descriptions it brings to my mind, but you never know. This is what comes of exploring the used book section of your local library. Try it out. Let me know what amusing things you find. If you don't find anything or are too lazy to go, tell somebody about my blog and see if they'll do it for you.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Easter Duckling

Easter has just recently passed by, full of cute little creatures, salvation for some, and devouring of chocolate effigies of afore mentioned cute little creatures for most. Nothing wrong with any of that. Perfectly normal holiday fare.

Or so I thought, until I joined my fiancées family in their yearly ritual of dying eggs. Aside from my disappointment at their not being rabbit eggs, there was little wrong with the experience. We dipped eggs in dye hoping they would come out nice colors. We were often not disappointed. We drew faces on the eggs which were generally amusing, occasionally surprisingly so.

What ruined it all was the duckling sticker you see above. It came with the egg dye, along with it's assorted friends, including a frog. Incidentally, if anyone can tell me what a frog has to do with any version of Easter, please let me know. Some cruel individual stuck this sticker to me. They probably thought they were amusing, because they hadn't examined the sticker closely.

If they had, they would have noticed that there is not a single feature of this duckling that isn't designed to strike fear into the hearts of men. The gaping maw, the stubby useless wings flapping wildly, the cross eyed something-is-very-wrong-in-there gaze, the upraised foot prepared to quash it's foes... truly, it is a creature out of nightmare. The way it blurred when I tried to photograph it just proves it's unholy nature.

I removed the creature as quickly as I could and placed it in the trash. The rest of Easter was spent hoping it would not find it's way out. The rest of my life will be spent praying it doesn't find it's way back from the landfill and kick me down some stairs...

Hope everyone had a happy Easter!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Anarchic Anthropomorphs

If you are like most people, you have probably gone through your life thinking AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous. You also probably believe everything they tell you, and think society is being destroyed by some political group, religion, television show, or Chuck Norris.

Before you read what I have to tell you, I would like to urge you not to. What I have to tell you will turn your pleasant little world on it's ear. You will ever after be aware of the sinister forces working all around. There will always be reason to fear. So just turn off your computer and go play outside.

Still here? I wouldn't recommend that. I'll only tell you about scary things. Like the news, except significantly less annoying. Oh, and less repetitive... and probably a lot more truthful. So actually you may as well stick around if I haven't scared you off yet. Here we go:

The real AA is Anarchic Anthropomorphs. I haven't yet determined whether AA meetings are just a front for the organization, or if they are entirely separate and just happen to confusingly have the exact same acronym. Regardless, this is the actual group that is trying to destroy life as you know it through subtle manipulation of society at every level.

The human mind likes to think all intelligence at least vaguely resembles it. That's why science fiction and fantasy are filled with strange creatures with societies and thought patterns largely similar to current or past human patterns. This also applies to the animals in our lives, we like to put words in their mouthes and assume they have emotions we can understand.

This is usually a healthy tendency. It leads to creating lolcats instead of fearing the true motives of that furry alien creature you have allowed into your home. But this sort of thing can be pushed too far. You shouldn't anthropomorphise animals that you eat, for example. It's best if you think their primary emotion is a desire to be delicious.

It also should not be applied to inanimate objects. Especially ones that are simply to be disposed of after they have ceased to serve the purpose of holding your fries, like the box in today's picture. Printing text on a piece of cardboard that makes it seem as if it is talking in the first person is just disturbing. These are the sorts of lines that the Anarchic Anthropomorphs cross to influence you with their twisted agenda.

Please join me in opposing this destructive force. Eat cows, they don't think like you, their life's dream was to be a burger. Dispose of your fry boxes improperly, preferably by making a giant tower out of them. Boxes are rarely people too, their commands need not be heeded.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Meaning of Efficiency: To His Coy Mistress

Efficiency has been an important topic in some circles for a long time. Recently, it has become popularized in certain contexts due to various factors I am not currently inclined to discuss. Instead, I shall be writing on a vaguely efficiency themed topic I find amusing.

Recently I was beset by the beast of literary coursework. My particular incarnation of the beast tries to crush my spirit by blathering on about meter and rhyming schemes and how I should enjoy literature for the way words flow in it. Who in the history of the world has been taught to enjoy the flow of words in a literary work? Discovering that they enjoy literature by being exposed to it is not the same thing. 

As for rhyming and meter, what percentage of the population really needs to be forced to know such things? I have often heard complaints that the math someone is learning is something they will never use once they get out of school. That may well be true, but at least the basics of that discipline are useful to everyone, and the higher tiers are useful to a wide variety of career choices.

If I am ever wealthy beyond everyone else's wildest dreams (I must use theirs, for my own dreams hold precious little avarice) I do believe I will found a musical hamburger stand chain. All of the equipment will be operated by reading and singing poetry in the appropriate meter. Just so that anyone that wants the scansion skills forced on them to finally have a purpose may have their wish fulfilled.

Before you accost me in the street for insulting your precious literature, know that I do find value in older works. Dickens, Shakespeare, Milton, these are authors I have found interesting, and there have been (and will be) more. In the end my literature course will be a positive thing. I just wish it were a little more honest when works are actually not worth consideration but happen to be famous none the less.

If I happen to find an influential poets' work laughable, that should be a valid answer when anyone, including my teachers, ask. Literature is an utterly subjective topic. It would be far more efficient (Hah! I bet you wondered how I was going to get that back in there. No? Ah well.) to give everyone the history surrounding literature, force them to read a selection of books, then have a nice heated chat about it.

Since it's hard to institute such a regimen in a systematic fashion, I don't hold out much hope for the idea. So in the mean time I answered my exam questions very seriously and will share my true thoughts on a certain poem with you instead. I am not very proud at all to present "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell, with commentary by yours truly:
Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
So, let's see... if he had enough time, he would complain for a long time. So we can infer he was feeling rushed in his schedule of whining.  He compares his love to a vegetable, but fails to specify which one. I like to think it would be an enormous parsnip. I'm not precisely sure why. Also, even if he had until the end of the world, he would spend four times as long admiring the breasts belonging to the object of his parsnipian affection than her face. I wonder if honesty won him any bonus points.

        But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

After that rousing beginning, he turns rather morose. I hope whoever the mistress was left him after this. Surely if the breasts thing didn't get her, hearing about how everyone is going to die and worms will find her quite tasty did. The fact that he thinks he hears winged chariots is just extra. Perhaps no one told him that normal crazy people hear voices.

        Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

I don't think there is much of a way to dress the last section up after the first two. The guy wants sex, and would like somebody to be quick about it. I thought poets were supposed to be sensitive intellectual types, deep thinkers, even? Why this fellow was remotely influential is beyond my powers of comprehension. Feel free to explain my ignorance to me in the comments if you want. Pronunciations of agreement and/or muffin recipes are also acceptable.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Musings of a Neophyte: On Honeymooning

My knowledge is both vast and varied. Of the expert advice available in the world, I think you should heed mine most. I'm willing to back up that claim not only with my say-so, but also with the cast iron credentials that I must possess due to my content being on the internet. All that said, I am also willing to admit there are certain topics in which I could be considered a neophyte. The usual course would obviously be to steer clear of writing about those topics. However, it recently occurred to me that a fresh perspective is often helpful when confronting problems of many sorts. This brought me to consider the fact that I could be considered an expert in fresh perspective on the very topics which traditional wisdom would dictate I not write about.

Thus freed to be an expert in all topics, I decided to start the Musings of a Neophyte series. A recent conversation with my fiancée on the topic of our honeymoon brought up the fact that neither of us was quite sure of the origins of the honeymoon tradition. A visit to the Oracle of Wiki told me more than I ever really cared to know about the origins of the tradition. My reading triggered several thoughts on the topic and only one off the topic, so I decided it would make an appropriate beginning to this series. An aside for my off topic thought: does the Oracle's logo remind anyone else of something sinister they can't quite place? To me it resembles a small incomplete moon. Why that would strike me as sinister I cannot fathom. At any rate, we have got introductions and side thoughts out of the way, why not dive into the topic at hand?

When considering my accomplishments, and the things I am likely to accomplish in the future, I can think of few that might compare to finding the girl to whom I would like to pledge my love and life. Given that, somehow convincing her to put up with me is little short of a miracle, and certainly bears celebrating. I won't bore you with any more of such talk, I promise. I just felt it needed to be clear that I am for the Honeymoon tradition in principle while I point out some of the more peculiar ideas I have found surrounding it.

There seems to be a fairly large emphasis on destinations that are both far away and expensive. Now I'm sure this will sound terrible, but one's honeymoon seems like the ideal time for neither of those to me. Typically a newly married couple doesn't have a whole lot of money to burn, since if you haven't married by the time you have a lot of money, you've also most likely turned into Mr. (or Ms.) Scrooge. Thus taking a trip that stresses the finances seems like a good way to diminish marital bliss, not extend it. Further, the end of a very long and emotional day seems a poor time to start a long drive or flight.

Okay, perhaps I didn't have that many thoughts on the topic, but you can't blame me for not having deep insights, I'm new to this! I think I like this type of expertise already...

What, you're still reading? You aren't satisfied with all that build up to so little material? Fine. I do have one more thought. Wikipedia says:

 "In many parts of Europe it was traditional to supply a newly married couple with enough mead for a month, ensuring happiness and fertility. From this practice we get honeymoon or, as the French say, lune de miel [lit. "moon of honey"]."

I say that perhaps one should reconsider a marriage that requires a month's worth of mead to ensure happiness and fertility. Just a thought.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Series of Unfortunate Shredding (Number the Fourth After the First)

Yes, this is the final Unfortunate Shredding. If that brings you hope that I will soon move on to topics less inconsequential than shredder warning signs, good for you I suppose. Don't count on it, though. If the concept of "Number the Last" is painful to you, put down your mathematics books and go outside right now.

There is only so much even I can do with the warning labels on a shredder as it turns out. This final picture is really the one that started the whole thing, but I had to save it for last. There are so many things going on in the picture and so many ways to interpret them that the possibilities simply boggle the mind.

I'll start by analyzing the picture with science. It worked for Batman. A casual glance will tell you that this is a baby, or a strangely dressed crawling midget I suppose, but Occam's Razor dictates that we should accept the simpler explanation. If you pause to examine the picture in more detail, you may notice a drip of liquid originating from the child's right little finger, and some unknown substance clinging to it's head.

Small children are generally known for getting into things and having a sweet tooth. So this warning might stem from an incident involving a child who managed to overturn a container of molasses on himself, then crawled off to gum up the family shredder. Naturally this would be grounds for suing the company, because there were no explicit warnings about allowing syrup sodden children near their machinery.

The above explanation would be acceptable, except that it is based on a stereotype. As we all know, science cannot accept stereotypes or even such a menial concept as common sense. Therefore, another explanation is required. While it I find it tempting to say that this is caution against children infested with head crabs, the simplest interpretation would be that you shouldn't put babies in the shredder. It appears to make them glum.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Series of Unfortunate Shredding: On Differerentiation, or Why This Is Not The Fourth

Being different can be an extremely difficult pursuit, it seems. As children we are edified on the laudable nature of the trait with much media being devoted to differences being acceptable. Yet somehow there is a tendency shortly later on to rebel and be different in precisely the same fashion as some thousands of one's peers. Naturally this leads disillusioned parents to wonder where they went wrong. Did they fail to correctly follow the prescribed pattern for teaching their child to be different? Maybe they should have played that Barney tape one more time.

I'm here today to ease the troubled minds of parents, young people, companies, platypusses, and any other individual interested in the fine art of varying from the norm. For those skilled enough, I hope to point out potential pitfalls. For those of you who are just never going to be special, I'll lay out reasons why working at being different might not be all it's cracked up to be anyway. To aid me in my discourse, I will be enlisting the aid of a very special shredder and one of it's warning signs.

Appearance of being different is often all that is actually being pursued. For example, this warning sign seems rather unusual on a shredder, but if there is actually nothing special about the shredder, and the sign is merely warning you not to empty canned lasers or pocket flamethrowers onto it, much of the appeal is lost. That warning could be put on any shredder you can buy. It's merely omitted due to rarity with which the warned against action is attempted.

Don't be a poseur. People will notice if they're smart, and who wants to impress only the truly dumb? (Don't answer that, it's rhetorical!) A faux eccentric is not likely to achieve greatness, win friends, or even influence people unless they're extremely fashionable. But that makes for even more work than ever. If you don't genuinely enjoy being different on it's own merits, rethink your life. Have a nice sit on the couch and join the group I talked about earlier that will never quite be unique.

Sometimes there is a reason that nobody has done something before: it is incredibly foolish. This should be kept in mind when entering any area that is untrod in a metaphorical sense. Perhaps even in a literal sense. If this article's warning sign indicated that one should not spray the shredder with liquid because it will melt, that would be an example of an incredibly foolish, yet unique, shredder design. If you are determined to be different, at least don't be a melting shredder.

My final point should please my entire audience, if they've read and followed my advice so far. You see, being different really isn't something that should be worked at, despite the huge amount of effort society devotes to trying to be different, or at least hold the appearance of it. People are most unique when left to their own devices to find the path that makes sense to them. That's why I like to assume that warning label means one should not put their favorite spray bottle in the shredder, because it happens to be designed to shred spray bottles, just in case somebody needed to.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Series of Unfortunate Shredding (Number the fifth... no, third!)

Now is the point in our shredder warning sign journey where things turn a bit strange. It appears to me that the manufacturer was no longer contented with warning users what not to shred, as the remaining warning signs do not depict the shredder at all. Some might argue that the shredder is implied, and that these are not more generalized bans. Some might say that those using the preceding argument are muffinheads or something equally unkind. To avoid flinging of insults, I will be providing interpretations for both camps.

Camp of the Anti-Hippy (Other camp avert your eyes, lest the hippies get you)

Perhaps hippy is not the correct descriptor for the hair in the warning. It could be rather extreme emo hair. Or the most fantastically oversized combover in the history of the world. Perhaps it's just a woman with regular somewhat long hair after a windy day. But in that case the creator of the sign would just be an embittered hermit who's sole satisfaction in life is producing racialist propaganda against women who resemble the one who crushed his heart. The one with the hair that had a penchant for clinging to her face like a headcrab. But if it was just a warning against women with hair long enough to attach to faces that would crush the beautiful strangeness I like to find in warning signs and by extension make this world a darker place. And you wouldn't want to do that, would you?

Camp of the Implied Shredder (Other camp avert your eyes):

This is the camp that believes this sign intends to instruct people not to shred their long luscious hair. If that doesn't describe you... didn't I already tell you to avert your eyes? Why are you looking at this? Glad we have that done. Most people probably don't think of performing the action this sign warns against. After all, hair is already long thin strands. Presumably the bulk of a shredders work is done. The only thing really left is to jam up and make a horrible mess. But warnings aren't for the bulk of the population, now are they? They're for that small percentage of the population that sticks a fork in the toaster while drying their hair in the bathtub and crossing the street without looking. I really can't think of anything wrong with warning that segment of the population against shredding their hair.

Camp of the Terminally Nosy (Both camps avert your eyes):

I told you not to look, but you big fat went and did it anyway! You should be ashamed. Give me a £, you'll feel lighter.

If you're still averting your eyes, cease and desist all eye aversion in 3... 2... 1... 

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Series of Unfortunate Shredding (Number the one after the first)

Onychophagia, or nail biting is a common oral compulsive habit according to expert sources*. These expert sources are silent on the presumably much more rare habit of shredding one's nails, however.

Given the silence of the experts regarding this disorder, I feel it is my duty to step in and put forth a working theory. By this effort I hope to pave the way for preventative treatment and to spread awareness.

As we all know, awareness of a problem is always the greatest part of the battle... or at least 5% or so of the battle. The other 95% consisting of laying down your pipe, extricating yourself from your velvet armchair, and actually working towards a solution.

Since this warning is only to be seen on shredders, I am lead to believe the disorder primarily affects office workers with too much paperwork. It is my theory that doing too much paperwork and later being forced to shred said paperwork muddles the brain. Paperwork feels meaningless to begin with a large percentage of the time. How much more so when the end product of that paperwork is trash?

When meaning is removed from work, the mind and hand tend to wander. Repetitive meaningless work magnifies the effect approximately ten fold according to the numbers which I have just made up. Eventually some percentage of workers are bound to daydream about the shredder being a Stargate, doorway to Narnia, or other portal away from the land flowing with paper and tedium.

Bravo to the shredder company for predicting this problem and clearly labeling their shredders as not being usable as a Stargate. If only they had designed the shredder to produce confetti for celebratory flinging at the end of the work day, I would heartily recommend they be given a standing ovation.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Series of Unfortunate Shredding (Number the First)

It is difficult for one who has not studied the White-Collared Cubicle Dweller to understand just how excited they can become upon acquiring a new piece of office machinery.

If the machinery is communal, the Cubicle Dweller will gather with the flock to admire and test the machinery until the capricious office psyche is bored with the contraption.

Should the device fall under the sole proprietorship of a single Cubicle Dweller, one should steer clear of the giddiness, experimentation, and warning labels that are likely to ensue.

The picture above is one of the warning labels resulting from a Cubicle Dweller obtaining a paper shredder. Almost every shredder in the world has some form of this warning label emblazoned upon it. Why? For the simple reason that the first thing a disillusioned cubicle dweller will do with a shredder is attempt to transform any tie in the vicinity into something resembling confetti.

Dress codes tend to grate on the average Cubicle Dweller's nerves, and what better outlet could they find for their frustration than a tie, the very symbol of purposeless attire? Give them the ideal method of expressing said feelings toward said article, a paper shredder, and no one should be surprised at the results.

Fortunately for the Committee of Head Injury Avoidance, manufacturers have come up with this sort of label to call for a thoughtful pause to consider that perhaps the tie should be unfastened from it's current host before being sent to it's well deserved fate.

Personally I think they went a little overboard by portraying a tie only and not the unfortunate gentleman attached to it, thus implying that ties simply shouldn't be shredded and flung into the air during the Boss's Lunch Break Parade. But I suppose that would probably have gotten the shredder a PG-13 rating for scary images, and they really wanted to keep it more of a family friendly shredder.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Opportunity of Pure Iron Pyrite

Ahh, the holidays! With their dazzling decorative displays, exquisite edibles, and just a hint of harumphery in the air. They also happen to be a convenient excuse for my long absence from this venue. For surely naught but the holidays could keep me from writing for the amusement of my loyal readers (Some of you are loyal, aren't you?). Lack of inspiration is completely unknown to me. And if you believe that... have I got the opportunity for you!

The most observant, less charitable individuals might say avaricious, among you probably noticed something missing from my description of the holidays. That's right, presents! Specifically that most vital ingredient of the holiday season, the right presents. Take presents away from the holidays and what do you have really? Gathering with those unfortunates who share the same ancestry as you to celebrate your love of oddly prickly trees festooned with shiny baubles. At least that is the impression I got from several ads I received shortly after Christmas from various shops catering to those that didn't get what they wanted and needed to purchase it for themselves.

Luckily for all those who have ever silently suffered through yet another addition argyle addition to their wardrobe because it would be impolite to turn down the beneficence of a certain relation, I was inspired to action by those ads. It became clear to me right then and there that the outdated method of knowing the recipient well enough to choose a pleasing gift simply won't do. It's a terrible lot of work, and not even near 100% accurate. Clearly science needs to step in and assist with the only logical answer, the Giftometer!

The Giftometer is a theoretical device which would offer visual and possibly auditory cues as to the appropriateness of nearby items as gifts for a specific individual. Naturally it would first have to be calibrated for a particular individual, most likely via temporary attachment and draining of non-essential material for analysis. Traditionally science tends to favor bodily fluids or brainwaves, nothing anyone will miss, of course. Hopefully the device could be made highly portable, though the first generation apparatus will most likely be room sized, as per standard scientific operating procedure.

If you are puzzled why I would liken such an opportunity to iron pyrite, allow me to explain. Before I explain that, however, allow me to address the group that is confused about iron pyrite alone due to a lack of essential mineral knowledge. I would like to suggest a book on the subject of mineralogy for the perusal of those of you who fit into this category, however, when I searched for such a book on Amazon, the search engine helpfully crossed out "knowledge" and pointed me toward "Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes". One hopes that salt is not the essential ingredient in said recipes, but I digress.

Since it appears knowledge is not one of the commodities which Amazon provides, I will offer a much more limited insight into the fascinating world of mineralogy before moving on. Iron pyrite is commonly known as fool's gold and is often thought of as worthless, but in the right hands it is actually quite profitable. Those right hands can form it into $162 pyramids like this one:

The assisted gift selection industry is similar in obvious ways to iron pyrite, yet it's market is completely untapped. The only assistance services I know of are offered by your friends, and they may just be out to make you look bad and waste your money. I would like to take their place in this matter and waste utilize your money on funding my research*. Thus I will be adding new ways for you to hand over your cash contribute to my projects as I think of them. In return for your continued support, you will receive the privilege of being allowed to purchase Giftometer devices slightly sooner than everyone else**.

*Scientific breakthroughs are often achieved as a side effect of an unrelated endeavor, or sometimes through dreaming. Thus my research methods include plenty of time spent on seemingly random internet surfing, eating bagels, and sleeping.

**Everyone else is likely to get one of these devices approximately never. My calculator breaks when I try to calculate never + slightly sooner, but I'm sure that's just a bug and the true mathematical result would leave you very impressed with your chances.

***What are you reading this footnote for? There isn't even a *** marker anywhere in the text!