Friday, September 30, 2005

Word of the Day: entheomania

Word of the Day

entheomania (n)

Abnormal belief that one is divinely inspired

The king's entheomania was the root cause of his subjects' general woe.

Thursday, September 29, 2005



I stepped outside this morning and saw it immediately: a huge, black mushroom cloud rising above the jagged rooftops across the street. A second later I heard a loud thunderclap, combined with a strange whooshing sound. I felt that acidic, twisting, 9/11 sensation in my stomach: fear. The black cloud was moving toward me, and I stepped back into the house. I stared out the window for a couple of minutes, then turned on the radio. There was nothing about it on the news, but I thought it was probably too soon for it to be reported. Outside the window, tiny snowflakes seemed to fall for a few seconds. I began to hear sirens. But cars were moving and people were walking by as if nothing was wrong. The cloud seemed to have dissipated. Something had obviously exploded, though. There are chemical factories near here, I thought nervously, but then I decided that the cloud had looked too close to be one of those. I went outside and noticed a faint smell of diesel fuel in the air. Sirens were wailing, but that's not unusual here in the city. No one within sight seemed concerned: a woman wheeled a baby stroller by and a man across the street was laughing into his cell phone. I went about my business, thinking that perhaps I would read about a gas-station explosion in the next day's paper. Or that maybe I had imagined the whole thing (cue Twilight Zone theme song). But a faint cloud of fear followed me for the next hour or so -- a 21st century feeling, I decided.

Postscript, September 30th: Nothing in today's newspaper about the explosion. There are spots of white powder all over the cars and fences in the neighborhood, as well as my backyard deck. A guy who was cleaning his car told me it was "cement dust." So far, no one I've talked to knows what exploded. I'm not sure I like living in a place where there are mysterious explosions and dust falls that aren't explained or even acknowledged.

Post postscript: If it actually is cement dust, I'm wondering if maybe the "explosion" was actually a building demolition. That wouldn't be newsworthy, I guess, though the dust cloud certainly made a mess around here.

Post post postscript, October 4th: Something about this finally showed up in the local paper -- but only as a passing mention in an editorial and in a letter to the editor. Turns out it was "nontoxic" coal ash from an industrial chimney that was being "blasted out" for cleaning. How is that legal? And wouldn't any miner tell you that there's nothing nontoxic about coal ash?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day

"There are clues everywhere--all around us. But the puzzle maker is clever. The clues, although surrounding us, are somehow mistaken for something else. And the something else--the wrong interpretation of the clues--we call our world. Our world is a magical smoke screen. How should we interpret the happy song of the meadowlark, or the robust flavor of a wild strawberry?"
--Margaret Lanterman

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tuesday to do

Tuesday to do

Move air mattress, replace rubber toilet "flapper," sit on a commuter van's damp seat, make conversation with a man covered with some white powdery substance, buy frozen cherry slush, use an Easy Eraser cleaning sponge, pick up Clarinex, drink Snapple lemonade, read the Daily News, edit letter, order Chicken Tenders, watch Bob Dylan, load HP Multipurpose Paper, fix Jam 1.

Visual Version

Monday, September 26, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry


The landscape loses the river
where chain-mailed fishes leapt.

I trace it in a book, with my finger,
even as they cook on the seared shore--

under a flickering sun,
framed in a dusty pane.

Outside the door
the brown grass sprawls,

a bone-thin dog sniffs an invisible trail;
black trees tap the siding.

There's nothing for a dowsing rod.
Under leaves brown as leather

and mysterious withered shapes,
shucked skins are hidden like mummies.

A dark hour descends,
a dry mouth exhales,

tumbleweeds invade my sleep.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Original 'Alice' online at the British Library

Go Ask Alice

Lewis Carroll's original, hand-written manuscript of Alice in Wonderland (then called Alice's Adventures Underground) has been put online by the British Library here. If you have Shockwave installed, you can virtually turn the 3D pages, and there's an optional voiceover if, like the real Alice, you like to be read to. Many of Carroll's amateur illustrations are similar in form to Tenniel's in the published version, interestingly enough.

Other books the British Library has put online at the site include the Diamond Sutra, Jane Austen's History of England, Leonardo's sketchbook, the Lindisfarne Gospels and the circa-1570s Mercator Atlas of Europe, among others.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Word of the Day: xilinous

Word of the Day

xilinous (adj)

Of or pertaining to cotton

"A xilinous swab is what I need!" Captain Morgan shouted. The first mate thought he was referring to a nefarious deck hand, but actually he only wanted to clean his ears.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Nice Day for Sitting in the Car

A Nice Day for Sitting in the Car

I've never understood why some people like to just sit in their cars, going nowhere. Today I was picking my son up from school and had to park in an awkward space, a bit too near a fire hydrant. There was a car in front of me, though, that I thought was about to leave. It was a compact car that could seat four people at most, and there were already three full-sized adults in it. I assumed they were waiting for someone to come out of the school and would then leave--and that I could then pull into the space. But no. A good-sized boy came out of the school and got into the car, taking up the last seat in the back. I started my car, getting ready to move. But they just sat there. Five minutes went by. They started opening papers and books, and it looked like the boy had started his homework. I could see the driver's eyes in her rear-view mirror, and it looked like she was taking a nap. Very mysterious. Finally, my son came and we left. The little car full of people was still parked, with no sign of imminent movement. For all I know, they're still there.

Just another slice of life from here in Weirdsville.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Eerie Sounds of Saturn

Music of the Spheres

Perfect background noise for a Halloween party, or a low-budget flying-saucer movie: NASA's recordings of eerie radio emissions from the planet Saturn (via the Cassini space probe) can be downloaded as a WAV file here. I'm a big fan of "white noise," particularly as a sleep aid (somebody snores), but these unearthly tones would give me nightmares.

(via Incoming Signals)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Evil Clown Generator

Evil Clown

I've never liked clowns, and I was terrified of them as a kid. Something about their unpredictable antics made (makes) me uneasy. The Evil Clown Generator is fun, though--maybe because I get to have some control over what happens on screen. You can click on buttons to change the jester's facial features, or just hold your cursor over eyes, nose or mouth to see a rapid-fire series of different evil/funny expressions.

Monday, September 12, 2005



Fall must be coming -- I'm sneezing my head off and my nose itches. Yet it was 90 degrees today (32 C), and they're talking about the possibility of both hurricanes and wild fires on the Weather Channel. September is a schizoid month. I like it better than drowsy August, though, when the whole lazy, heat-stroked world seems to have collapsed onto a chaise lounge. September is more serious and stimulating, but not quite percolating yet. I'm tired of all this tropical air. I want to wear a jacket, buy a pumpkin, get busy and clear my head. And my sinuses.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

"How I failed the Turing test"

Human? Prove it

Convincing online correspondents that you're not a chatbot can be difficult (more difficult than making them think you are a celebrity), as Jason Striegel found out: How I failed the Turing test.

(via Scribbled Lines)

Nine Eleven


Nine-eleven again. This is the first anniversary when I haven't felt much of anything, even though I watched the towers collapse with my own (bugging) eyes four years ago. It seemed like the end of the world then, but here we all are. Well, not all of us . . .

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Word of the Day: ordalian

Word of the Day

odalian (adj)

Relating to an ordeal

Owing to his "delicate" back, Zachary considered any task requiring physical labor to be an ordalian imposition.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Strange Attractors

These fractal images have a weirdly organic look. Kind of beautiful.

(via The Presurfer)

Quote of the Day: Horse show judge to the rescue?

Quote of the Day

"...This is the price we as citizens pay when people who don't really care much about the citizens to begin with reward their flunkies and sugar-daddies with patronage appointments. This is the price we pay when horse show judges are entrusted with the responsibility of protecting us from dangerous circumstances. This is what failure of the institutions intended to defend us from dire circumstances looks like. From all appearances, we're on our own from now on since these clowns don't seem to think that there's a thing in the world for which they need to apologize."

More at RuminateThis: The Deadly Cost of Politics

(via wood s lot)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Random Title Generator

Books That Never Were

Rough Consort
The Green Crying
The Butterfly's Sorcerer
The School of the Servants
Forgotten Witches
Academy of Night
The Silvery Husband
Death's Wings
The Game of the Healer
The Burning Dream
The Angel of the Moon
The Trembling Secret

They may sound vaguely familiar, but the titles above, spawned by the Random Title Generator, are entirely fictitious. Rough Consort sounds like it could be a nasty Princess Diana bio. Forgotten Witches could be about Salem's B-team. The Silvery Husband--or I Married a Robot? The Burning Dream--the story of an overly ambitious pyromaniac, perhaps. And The Trembling Secret sounds like a long-lost Wilkie Collins page turner.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Random Acts of Poetry

Random Acts of Poetry

Sad Horns

Catastrophe's whirlpool
pulled the doomstruck down

stilling their vibrations,
stirring a gumbo

of rainbow poison,
wood, nails and upholstery,

filling a lake
thick with dead fish,

the soft, liquefying
faces of the drowned.

put on dark glasses,

knew nothing
about sheeted things on wagons.

Weeks later,
memory drains,

and the sea slinks back
with a dolorous sigh.

The sun bakes the ruined walls,
while elsewhere

the world hums on,
and here the sad horns moan.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Dead bodies everywhere; link to NOLA blog

"Dead bodies everywhere"

A Katrina/NOLA blog with updates every few minutes: The Interdictor

As the Martian Anthropologist points out, with competent and concerned national leadership, it all could have been forseen and avoided.