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Category: General

That's not right

So I wander into my break room at work today and I see this:


“Golden French Toast.”

On one of those little cups you stick in the coffee machine and it makes coffee. We have a bunch of various types. This is new to me. I figured it was a joke.

“The comforting flavors of warm, buttered French Toast with a touch of cinnamon, drizzled with sweet maple syrup.”

Wow, nicely forged label!

Sadly, on closer inspection, it wasn’t a forgery. This is what flavored coffees lead to. Cats and dogs, living together. Bah humbug.

Old time

Pandas don’t have just one religion, but probably their most popular religion is this:

There are many gods. The goal of all the gods, except for maybe a few twisted ones, is to create the most perfect object possible in our universe. In fact, this is the sole reason our universe was created; any object created in the palaces of the gods, which lie beyond, is perfect by definition. The universe we live in was fabricated as a testing ground of sorts.

It is self-evident that the perfect object is a stalk of bamboo. The gods compete, each in their own ways, to make the best bamboo that can be made.

Pandas are arbiters. One cannot properly determine the worth of a stalk of bamboo without a panda to pass judgement. This is why pandas exist; they were added to our world in order to help the gods decide if their bamboo efforts had reached fruition. Before there were pandas, the arguments between the gods had consequences not to be desired.

This is why pandas must eat bamboo. It is a holy duty. It is not, as some might think, laziness or gluttony. By eating bamboo, pandas hasten the day when the goal of all the gods will be reached; and all will celebrate.

Some might ask if this goal should be reached, since — if the purpose of the universe is to test bamboo — the universe will be purposeless once the perfect bamboo is accomplished. Purposelessness is another word for “disposable.” Pandas, however, are not inclined towards long-term thinking. They simply enjoy bamboo.

With thanks, as always, to S.


The MacArthur Fellows always cheer me up, as much for the people I don’t recognize as for those I do. It must be such a neat surprise to be named.

And look! David Macaulay. I love his books. Josiah McElheny! I don’t know you but you’re not Dale Chihuly. Terence Tao, way to be smart. Luis von Ahn, thanks for inventing CAPTCHA. I love that people invent stuff that seems obvious afterwards. And John Zorn, yeah, there’s a lot right about that.

You know why Wikipedia kind of sucks sometimes? We’ve had a whole year to write about the 2005 recipients, but only 6 out of 25 of them have bios. S’up with that, Internet?


Seoul’s defeated me. Ten San Franciscos, a dozen Bostons, the third largest urban sprawl in the world. I’m in the megacity, and it has no reason to bother speaking my language.

Coming in from the airport, driving at sixty miles per hour, it wasn’t more than half an hour before the apartment buildings began. Buildings? High-rises: concrete masses rising fifteen or twenty stories into the sky, with three story high logos painted on one side. Samsung, Hyundai, others I don’t recognize. We pass high-rise after high-rise in rows along the highway, stacked close together and stretching far back from the road. It’s another twenty minutes before we get off the highway and enter the district where my hotel is. The apartment buildings continue the entire way.

New cities delight me. I want to smell the streets and eat the food and touch the landscape. Seoul hasn’t blunted that, but I fear that my senses would slip off the skin of the city without so much as a glimpse of its heart. I’m jetlagged and overwhelmed.

The hotel sits at a junction of roads. There’s a bridge crossing the Han River, and a ten lane surface street spearing into the middle of one fashionable shopping district, and another ten lane surface street paralleling the river. There may or may not be wider streets in Seoul, but there are many as wide. Surface streets, not highways.

Behind the facades of the main streets, there are tangles of tiny byways, barely big enough for two cars to pass. There aren’t blocks; there are turns and curves and angles intersecting unexpectedly, with business signs hanging overhead. Cars park where possible.

Is this Seoul? I have no way of knowing. It’s the tiny piece I’ve seen in a few days of transit from hotel to office to other office to restaurant and back again.

And I’m jetlagged, and I have no time for anything but business and sleep. I want a month with no responsibilities to wander around Seoul. I want more time to research.

I’m leaving tomorrow, and I haven’t got the faintest idea where I’d begin again.

Towards a theory

Holidays, New England style:

  • MLK Day — nothing special
  • President’s Day — nothing special
  • Patriot’s Day — the Boston Marathon & Red Sox
  • Easter — nothing special
  • Memorial Day — spend five hours driving to the Cape
  • July 4th — Boston Pops on the Esplanade
  • Labor Day — spend five hours driving to the Cape
  • Halloween — Salem
  • Thanksgiving — Plimouth Plantation
  • Christmas — Christmas Revels
  • New Year’s Eve — First Night

That’s all the cheese I can think of off the top of my head. What’s missing?

Blast from the past

[When I was just a little lad, I worked at Netcom, then among the largest ISPs in the country. Some of our customers wanted me fired for posting this.]

Newsgroups: netcom.announce,netcom.general,netcom.netcruiser.announce,
From: (Robert McReiger)
Subject: ANNOUNCEMENT:  ScotsNet
Followup-To: netcom.general,netcom.netcruiser.general
Organization: ScotsNet On-line Communication Sairvices, Inc.
Date: Sat, 1 Apr 1995 00:00:00 GMT
I'd like to thank ye all for reading this little message I've composed,
because this little message is representin' a large change in this
company, and it's no small decision I've made.  So it's a good thing ye
took the time to read it.  Because I've got a lot to be tellin' ye.
But before I'm about that, I suppose a number o' ye will be won'drin'
why I've gone an' changed me name.  Well, I'm goin' to be tellin' ye
that too.  I've been resarchin' me heritage, and I've discovered that
I've a wee bit of Scots ancestry in me -- and I've decided that it'd be
fittin' to honor it.
Which leads me to the subject of this wee little announcement.  You
see, I dinna think just changin' me name is enough to prove me love for
my new-found heritage.  No, I don't.  Fairthermore, I've been thinkin'
lately it's about time my company was provin' its intent to turn over a
new leaf by turning into a new company.  Wi' a new name, you know.
As such, I've decided that NETCOM Online Communication Sairvices,
Incorporated, will no longer be NETCOM Online Communication Sairvices.
Incorporated.  From now on, we're goin' to be *ScotsNet*.  And our
domain name, it'll be
We'll also be changin' a few of our policies.  To start with, we think
anyone who gets an' account wi' us is deservin' of a little
recognition.  Any sort of account, from our beloved NetCruiser accounts
all the way to our T1 customers.  So whenever ye gets an account wi'
us, we'll be givin' you your choice of a *wee* little terrier, or a
*great whackin' huge* terrier.
Whichever ye like.
And furthermore, if ye've gotten' an account wi' us, and it hasn't
worked out -- perhaps the bairns have been peerin' at the filthy
pictures on Usenet, or perhaps ye can't get the bluidy modem to produce
the bluidy initialization strings, or maybe it's just that your spouse
dinna think you're spendin' enough time wi' your new terrier -- we've
got a way to make it up t'you.  We're not goin' to help you get it
workin', but if you can't get it workin', we'll send you a lovely
potted plant.  Altogether free.  *And* your money back, as an apology.
It's the least we can do.
And in general, there's one thing ye can count on from here on in.
ScotsNet will niver do anythin' less than our very best to be the most
*Scottish* Internet Sairvice Provider we can be, and we can be vurry
Scottish indeed.  And we will be.
Because there's one thing we know for sure.
If it's not Scottish... it's *crap*.
Robert McReiger                                        
Chairman, ScotsNet Online Communication Sairvices, Inc.

Goes up to RGB

These Depression era photos in color are amazing; the subjects are interesting, but the perceptual aspect is more so. I think perhaps we’re used to thinking of the denizens of the 30s in black and white. These color versions — surely they’re publicity stills from Seabiscuit or Road to Perdition? It seems artificial, even though it’s definitionally authentic.

We don’t live in the world we live in. It’s an imaginary construct, and it’s surprising to see it as it really is.

Via CNN.