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The Joy of Semi-Licit Destruction

Friday, April 15th, 2005

As I was walking to get a sandwich for lunch, I saw a cracked-open lighter lying on the sidewalk – the long kind, like you use for a barbecue or fireplace. I wondered why someone would have done that, and a block later was still enveloped in my own fantasies of somehow saving the day (maybe it’s cold or something?), despite people’s fretful cautions, by using a jackknife (but which one?!) to incise my party’s last lighter at both ends, get the butane out with minimal spillage, and get the life-saving fire started…

My reverie was interrupted by the sight of a small, low cloud of smoke on a sidestreet. It was coming from an apartment building’s knee-high keep-off-the-grass hedgerow; it looked like the mulch was smoldering somewhat vigorously. A guy, of grad student age and mien, was alternating between desultorily poking at the smokier spots with his foot and looking at his cell phone.

Desi (approaching): Is everything all right?
Guy: Uh, this seems to be kind of on fire.
Desi: Yeah, looka that, that one bush is actually burning! Well, with the mulch (starting to edge the smoldering mulch onto the sidewalk with a shoe corner) the smolder travels underneath, you see, (stepping into hedge to kick more lustily and effectively) you gotta get the whole layer away. (Really ripping into it now – almost no mulch remains – kicking the burning bush to knock the burning parts off)
Old Lady Walking By: That’s beautiful.
Desi: Huh?
Old Lady: (nods head toward flowerbed further back in yard)
Desi: Oh, aren’t they lovely? I don’t work here though – we just noticed this mulch was smoldering, so we were getting it onto the concrete.
Old Lady (walking off): Well, you’ve done a good deed, young man!

The Guy left after a bit too, and I cleaned up the last little bits. After watching the remains of the mulchbed for a minute or two for any other signs of smoke, I decided to go a half-block further, order my sandwich, and check again for smoke when I’d placed the order. Just at that moment, I heard sirens in the distance. Fearing cops, I started to walk away at a normal pace, trying not to look back or fixate too much on the horizon.

The sirens passed me – they belonged to a firetruck – and I could hear them turn the corner and stop where I had been standing. At this point, I began to regret fleeing the scene, on the theory that I might be able to tell them something useful. So I went back.

Desi: That mulch was just burning.
Surly Boston Fireman: That’s what we’re here for.
Desi: I sort of kicked it onto the sidewalk.
S.B.F.: (nods coldly)
Desi: (nods and walks away)

Fifteen minutes later, sandwich in hand, I walked back by. The firemen were still there, drinking coffee and keeping an eye on the mulch.

Betrayed by the New

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005

Biking in to work today. Breakfast sandwich in my jacket pocket, coffee in my right hand. Nonchalant, self-satisfied.

I’m on the sidewalk. The paper-wrapped sandwich falls out of my pocket onto the ground; I squeeze the left-hand brake. This bike, still pretty new to me, has good brakes, and shocks in front.

The action of the brake slows down the bicycle, and compresses the shocks several inches, dropping the front of the bike. I am still riding high, and haven’t slowed down nearly as much as the bike has. I do what any object which knows its Newton would do, and pitch headlong over the front of the bike. My knees catch the handlebars as I’m going over. This starts me rotating so as to increase the speed with which my head is approaching the sidewalk. The bike, which knows its Newton too, picks up an opposite and equal rotational momentum. This lifts its back end in the beginning of a glorious arc which will allow the entire bike to land upside down on top of me when I hit the pavement.

In the end, I’m very little hurt. A bit rough on the palms, and a slightly sore neck (and some new little cracks in the front of my helmet). And, most marvelously of all, I didn’t even spill my coffee!

Where the news at?

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

Robotwisdom makes this interesting point:

Google News Search # hits
schiavo bulimia 150
schiavo -bulimia 65,300

Now, I pronounce that it would be unreasonable to expect all, or even most, of these Schiavo hits to mention bulimia — most of them have to do with legal and political wrangling and the course of her dying, and the cause of her condition doesn’t really directly enter into these things too much.

You’ve been caveated. Let’s make a fun comparison!

Google News Search # hits
pope parkinson’s 6750
pope -parkinson’s 19,100

If this were science, we could easily compute an ætiology relevance coefficient, or “matter factor” for each of these cases. To educate while I obfuscate, I list each by their name’s meaning.

Figure Matter Factor
Slave 0.2%
Father 35.3%

Lousy Smarch Weather

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

I wonder what today’s heavy rain turning into sleet did to the forsythia I saw in full bloom on Oxford Street yesterday? Or at least, I think it was a forsythia.

forsythia march 8th

It’s pretty cool and audacious to have your flowers this early. They’re especially striking, too: they must be some fancy garden variety. The four petals are long and curled — almost confetti-like — and the sepals are a very bright red.

I wonder why they like to flower so early? I certainly haven’t seen any flying bugs yet this year, and wouldn’t expect such a fancy-looking flower to be wind-pollinated. Most forsythia species are originally Asian, so my best guess is there must be some Asian bug who does the job.

String Guns

Monday, April 26th, 2004

Oh! Oh that thou, Marvel, thou man of strength — that thou, even thou shouldst suffer the soul-sorrow of stringed submission! How’lt escape?

Holy Moley (Wholly, albeit Holey)

Sunday, April 25th, 2004

For the next couple weeks, a panel a day of Captain Marvel. Together they’ll form an abbreviated version of the story of how he defeated Dr. Sivana’s plot to overthrow the universe.

“Shazam” is little Billy Batson’s magic word — it turns him into Captain Marvel. The word is the name of Billy’s Egyptian magician mentor. It also serves as a handy mnemonic for some of Marvel’s attributes:






This reminds one of the genesis of Serpentor, whose DNA, according to some website or other, was custom-designed to give him “the military genius of Napoleon, the ruthlessness of Julius Caesar, the daring of Hannibal and the fiscal acumen of Atilla the Hun”. Perhaps a snippet or two of snake DNA made it into the pot as well?

I at first remembered Serpentor as having been created by Cobra Commander, but now I seem to recollect that he had to do with some sort of rift in the Cobra organization. I am thinking Destro may well have had something to do with it.

But regardless. If there’s one thing I know about golems it’s that they cause unintended trouble. Serpentor, with his cold lust for power, his disdain for all other living beings, and his terrifying and merciless strength and cunning, was no exception to this rule.

It Worked!

Thursday, April 3rd, 2003

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