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Rated: 18+ · Book · Personal · #1196512
Not for the faint of art.
Complex Numbers

A complex number is expressed in the standard form a + bi, where a and b are real numbers and i is defined by i^2 = -1 (that is, i is the square root of -1). For example, 3 + 2i is a complex number.

The bi term is often referred to as an imaginary number (though this may be misleading, as it is no more "imaginary" than the symbolic abstractions we know as the "real" numbers). Thus, every complex number has a real part, a, and an imaginary part, bi.

Complex numbers are often represented on a graph known as the "complex plane," where the horizontal axis represents the infinity of real numbers, and the vertical axis represents the infinity of imaginary numbers. Thus, each complex number has a unique representation on the complex plane: some closer to real; others, more imaginary. If a = b, the number is equal parts real and imaginary.

Very simple transformations applied to numbers in the complex plane can lead to fractal structures of enormous intricacy and astonishing beauty.

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May 25, 2022 at 12:01am
May 25, 2022 at 12:01am
Today's article is five years old. Given the subject matter, it seems appropriate.

Why some people are always running late  
It’s not always rudeness or scatter-brained behaviour – it can be something much deeper, writes Laura Clarke.

I thought I might have linked this one before, but I couldn't find it in a search. I've been at this for a long time and I have a shit memory.

We all know that person: there’s the child minder who is always late, the colleague who misses every deadline, even if just by a few hours, the friend you must tell to arrive 30 minutes earlier than she needs to for your lunch reservation.

30 minutes? Amateur. I dated a woman who had to be asked to show up two hours early. Even then, she was often late for the actual time. Hell, one time we left for a trip 28 hours after we were supposed to. She called to change plane reservations (this was effectively pre-internet) three times.

We didn't date very long. Bad enough my first wife was two hours late to our wedding. She had an excuse, at least (illness).

A look into the psychology of lateness offers a glimpse into a mind that that may be malfunctioning.

Seems to be a lot of that going around these days.

Perceptions of unpunctual people are almost always negative — even if misguided.

They should be negative. However, I'll tentatively accept the article's assertion that it's not always the reasons we think.

Some excuses, particularly for acute lateness, are fairly universally accepted —an accident or illness, for example. But others aren’t so easy to swallow. Some late people will pass it off as a symptom of being big-thinking and concerned with loftier matters than time-keeping, as an endearing quirk, a mark of doing one’s best work under pressure, or having the body clock of a night owl rather than a lark.

Okay, go right to hell with all those, especially that last bit. Maybe it's why you're late for work -- I almost always was, and for that reason -- but it's definitely not an excuse to miss your 8pm dinner reservation.

Being consistently late might not be your fault. It could be your type. The punctually-challenged often share personality characteristics such as optimism, low levels of self-control, anxiety, or a penchant for thrill-seeking, experts say. Personality differences could also dictate how we experience the passing of time.

Well, we can get all philosophical about whether those things are your fault or not, delving into questions of free will, but either way, it's still your responsibility. It's like... maybe you have the kind of personality that makes you love driving fast. I can understand that. But it's still your responsibility to pay the inevitable speeding ticket.

In 2001, Jeff Conte, a psychology professor at San Diego State University ran a study in which he separated participants into Type A people (ambitious, competitive) and Type B (creative, reflective, explorative). He asked them to judge, without clocks, how long it took for one minute to elapse. Type A people felt a minute had gone by when roughly 58 seconds had passed. Type B participants felt a minute had gone by after 77 seconds.

Leaving aside for the moment my skepticism about Type A and Type B, how many people did he study? Were they all undergrads? Did they control for people on the autism spectrum? What was the spread (I highly doubt every single participant had exactly 58 or 77 seconds; there had to have been some overlap)? Was the study replicated? The link from the article isn't much help.

Late people often have a “bizarre compulsion to defeat themselves,” wrote self-proclaimed late person and TED speaker Tim Urban in 2015.

Hey, I have one of those, but I'm not a late person. Sure, I'll procrastinate stuff, but when it comes to meeting up with other people, I'm on time. Usually.

He gave these poor souls a name: CLIPs, Chronically Late Insane People.

You go to hell with that acronym, too. It's demeaning to people with actual mental illness.

And depression often comes with low energy, making mustering the motivation to get a move on all the harder.

I can relate to that, as well, but when I'm depressed, I'm more inclined to just blow something off rather than be late for it.

For those left waiting, there is hope. You, too, can dictate what you’re willing to put up with.

“Instead of getting angry or upset, you can take a stand and set boundaries,” she says. “Talk about what you will do if the other person isn’t on time.” For instance, tell your late friend you’ll go into the movie without them if they’re more than ten minutes late.

That's way too generous. I'm not going to miss one second of the previews. You get there on time or early, or I watch the movie without you.

In summary, the article might have some good points. I don't know. But perhaps it will help someone. I especially liked the part about the rest of us not putting up with other peoples' lateness.
May 24, 2022 at 12:03am
May 24, 2022 at 12:03am
Just having a bit of fun today.

The Mysterious Jewish Roots of Yosemite Sam  
Yo, Semites: Was the gunslinging, rabbit-hating Yosemite Sam Jewish all along? We spoke with the creator’s family to learn the truth

The article riffs on a certain former president's mispronunciation of Yosemite, but I'd be more interested in knowing if Porky Pig was Jewish. Yes, I know pigs ain't kosher. But as far as I know, Porky never ate pork, so... hm.

In one corner of Jew Twitter, Trump’s fuck-up also prompted an unexpected revelation about a 75-year-old cartoon character: Yosemite Sam. Yes, the belligerent, rabbit-hating, Bugs Bunny-antagonizing cowboy from Looney Tunes. Was he in fact… Jewish?

Twitter is nevertheless still a craphole.

"It being a strange world, Yosemite Sam is actually Jewish. He bore more than a passing resemblance to his creator, Isadore Freleng, and his full name is given in one episode as Samuel Rosenbaum."

Shouldn't be that strange. Jews are everywhere. There's probably one sneaking up behind you right now.

Later, by phone, Beck elaborated. “He’s a Western-bad-guy type. And we don’t associate Jews with that, I don’t think,” Beck says. “Bugs himself might have some Jewish tendencies, with Mel Blanc as his voice and a certain New York speech pattern.”

Oh? We doing stereotypes now?

According to Shaw, her father created Yosemite Sam in 1945 because he felt Bugs Bunny needed a stronger adversary than the dim-witted Elmer Fudd.

Dim-witted or not, he was brilliant in What's Opera Doc.

Freleng was also known to hide the occasional Jewish pun in his work, such as a 1954 cartoon titled Muzzle Tough (say it out loud).

The Warner Bros. cartoons had the best puns, period.

Speaking of, there’s the distinct possibility that Goofy is Jewish, having been developed by pro-labor Jewish cartoonist Art Babbitt, who helped lead a strike of lower-paid Disney workers.

Look, no. Warners: Jewish. Disney: Waspish. The Mouse and the Rabbit have battled since the dawn of time, and will be rivals until its end.

Anyway, in case it's not clear (sometimes I wonder these days), none of this is meant to be insulting to anyone or any group. These are cartoon characters we're talking about. Like I said, just a bit of fun.
May 23, 2022 at 12:02am
May 23, 2022 at 12:02am
For "Andre The Blog Monkey's Banana Bar [18+]:

The most annoying thing about your town/area

Of course there are no annoying things about where I live. Everyone is happy, nothing is inconvenient, and the sun is always shining.

I can hear your "Yeah, right" from here.

As I've noted before, when it's not freezing (defined by me as 55F or below) outside, I like to sit on my deck. I paid a lot of money for that thing and by Marduk's manhood, I'm going to use it.

This is normally quite pleasant. Songbirds are tweeting (and not complaining about Elon Musk), bees are buzzing, owls are hooting (yes, yes, I did my Duolingo lessons; shut up) and crickets are cricketing. Right now, the leaves are lush and green, and blocking the view of the backyard neighbors' houses.

Yes, very pleasant, except during the day and at night.

During the day, everyone gets their yard work done. This wouldn't be so bad if everyone did it at the same time. But no; that would be too kind. The neighbor mows his lawn. Then, when that's finally done, the other neighbors mow their lawn. After that one's finished, one of the people behind me mows their lawn. And then another. And then another.

There's no respite in the non-grass-growing seasons, either. If it's not lawnmowers, it's jet-engine-powered snowblowers or leaf blowers. And sometimes chainsaws. One time, the people two doors down had their ancient elm tree cut down, one of only two in the neighborhood. That took all day so it wouldn't fall on someone's house. And it was loud. On the plus side, I now own the only remaining elm around. One of these days I'm going to have to get it removed, too, and as loudly as possible, because even elms die at some point. I'm hoping to hire an artist to turn the stump into a throne where I can sit, with a beer and a cigar, and survey what's most definitely not my domain.

And then, at night? You can hear further at night for some reason. Probably because hardly anyone mows their lawn after dark. I can hear a passing train right now, and that's nearly a mile away. Well, honestly, that doesn't bother me much; I spent my childhood near railroad tracks, and the rumble and horn are kind of soothing. So that's not really an annoyance, but it does tell me that pretty much anything within a mile is going to reach my eardrums. Like sirens and semis on the interstate. Parties to which I'm not invited. Domestic disputes. Gunshots. Okay, the gunshots are pretty rare, but this is still America.

And also the nightly muscle car race. For some reason, that's still a thing. When electric cars started becoming mainstream, I rejoiced because I thought it signaled the end of the muffler-less disturbance of the peace. But no. People started complaining that you couldn't hear them coming, so they made them purposely louder, thus negating 3/4 of the purpose of having an electric car. Instead of, you know, learning to not walk in the middle of the goddamned street.

Not to mention the sirens. There's almost always a siren somewhere. Especially after the gunshots.

But all those aural annoyances are actually minor compared to the biggest annoying thing about living in Charlottesville:

This town is infested with douchebags.

It's not just the fashion, either; it's the attitude. Entitled, demanding, uncool. This is primarily evident while driving, but I also derive vast amusement from lurking on the local Nextdoor app. Like, for instance, people complaining about neighbors doing loud yard work. Or the latest, some guy complaining about always backing out of his blind driveway into traffic. I mean... have you tried backing into the driveway? Or putting up one of those convex mirrors? Or both? Come on. Or maybe taking out your muffler so they can hear you coming.

My town has not yet instituted a plastic bag ban. I hope they don't; I use those things for trash, and without plastic grocery bags, I'll have to actually purchase small plastic trash bags, thus imposing the same environmental impact but at greater cost to myself. Bans are well-meaning, I'll grant that, but like most of the bullshit people do in response to pollution or climate change or whatever, they don't do a damn thing. Remember when everyone was trying to ban plastic straws? It's like that. Rearranging deck chairs on the Hindenburg. Anyway, the point is, if they do start to discuss one, I have this fantasy about showing up at City Hall with a prepared speech about banning douchebags instead.

Won't happen. Too lazy. But I can make jokes about it.
May 22, 2022 at 12:10am
May 22, 2022 at 12:10am
Sigh. Here we go again.

No. Just... no. That shit makes it sound like an established fact, which it very definitely is not. It does, however, appeal to the cognitive biases of many people, so of course people (other than me) nod sagely and go "Yep, exactly as I thought. And we will, too."

To be clear: There is not one shred of credible evidence that there is, or was, or will be, other technologically proficient civilizations in the galaxy. Speculating that there could have been is fine. Boldly declaring in a clickbait headline that there were is egregious pandering.

In a new study, researchers suggest the answer to the Fermi paradox could be pretty bleak: Maybe all the intelligent civilizations have annihilated themselves. Jeez, 2020, that’s a little on the nose.

Oh yeah, the article is from 2020, which I suppose partially explains the pessimism.

And sure, "maybe" all the intelligent civilizations (please do me the courtesy of sparing us any snark about how we're not intelligent either, hurr durr) have annihilated themselves. Maybe they never existed in the first place. Maybe they ascended to a higher plane of being. Maybe they visited Earth in the past and are now thought of as gods. Maybe they take joy rides in our atmosphere just to fuck with Navy pilots.

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

I'm pretty sure I've said this before, but the Fermi paradox isn't a paradox.

This is the Fermi paradox stated at its most succinct: The universe is unfathomably gigantic, but so far, we’ve never seen any sign that there’s intelligent life anywhere else.

Let's change "intelligent" to "technological," okay? It avoids a joke that was funny once, when Monty Python made it, and it better describes what we're actually looking for Out There. For instance, there are several other species on Earth -- macaques, corvids, cetaceans, felines -- who demonstrate what we call intelligence without displaying the slightest tendency to go and build spaceships or Dyson spheres. We'd never see signs of alien crows or dolphins on planets thousands of light-years away, because they'd be happily hanging out in their evolutionary niches, just like ours do, without sending radio signals or forcing their sun to become a message generator. Or whatever.

In short, there is not a single element in the process of evolution that requires a species to build rockets. For all we know, the chance of it could have been one in a trillion. One in a trillion trillion. One in a googolplex. We don't know because we have no baseline for it, only one data point -- us -- and the persistent gut feeling that we built rockets and we can't be all that special.

Once you've won the lottery, the chance of having won the lottery is unity. The chances of winning the lottery are irrelevant at that point, except as a way to contemplate just how lucky you got.

Why aren’t they sending telescope satellites through our part of space? And how can it be that out of all the planets and systems we’ve peeked into so far, we’ve seen nothing?

There are as many individual theories as there are theorists, and these run a huge gamut.

These aren't theories. These aren't even hypotheses. These are speculations. Which, again, is fine, but let's not pretend that we know anything about extraterrestrial life other than we don't know anything about it.

They could even be extinct. In fact, the research includes parameters for extinction and the idea of “self annihilation,” a probability that could be extraordinarily high.

Or it could be extraordinarily low. Come ON.

Here's another thing to consider: we only came about because of unique characteristics of Earth's history. No life-ending catastrophes. Some pretty big ones, sure, but, for instance, the dinosaur-killer paved the way for the rise of mammals and birds (which are descended from some dinosaurs), but, for example, we weren't fried by a nearby supernova, pushed into interstellar space, or swallowed up by a rogue Jupiter-class planet.

Any of these things could have happened, and certainly did happen to other planets in the galaxy. That, we know for as close to a fact as we'll ever get. And any of them could stop right in its tracks any nascent technology-using beings. No need to invoke self-annihilation when we live in a dangerous universe that's actively trying to kill us.

Invoking self-annihilation is just playing to the fears and fever dreams of the readers. Again, could it happen? Sure. I'd postulate -- speculate, that is -- that if there is another tech civilization in the galaxy (I'm leaving out the rest of the universe here because it's big, far away, and long ago), that only they would have the ability to self-annihilate. Dolphins don't look to be on the verge of causing the Aporpoiselypse (okay, that's a stretch, I admit it), and ravens seem to be content with messing with our heads rather than murdering us or themselves.

In other words, I suggest that technology is a prerequisite for deliberate self-annihilation, but we have no data on how likely it is.

“Since we cannot preclude the high possibility of annihilation, [this result] suggests that most of the potential complex life within the Galaxy may still be very young,” the scientists explain. That means there could be a proliferation, but it’s of other civilizations that can’t push out into the galaxy yet—just like us.

Translation: we don't know shit, but we're gonna speculate anyway.

And just to reiterate, nothing about evolution requires the emergence of a species with technological capabilities. I have no doubt we'll find "life" elsewhere. Just not, you know, Klingons or Vulcans.

So. Anyway. I know I've ranted about this sort of shit before, but it's one of my prime annoyances, so you get to hear about it again. And probably will also in the future.
May 21, 2022 at 12:02am
May 21, 2022 at 12:02am
Hey, this time it's not a war.

Well... kind of not a war.

On This Day
Sermon on the Mound  

When most people think of the 1980s, they think of the movies, music and hairstyles of the era. And generally, they mock these things, forgetting that, 40 years from now, our movies, music and hairstyles will be mocked.

To be fair, today's music sucks almost as bad as it did in the 80s. Oh, there are (and were) exceptions, but for the most part, the 80s were a musical wasteland for me, broken up only by the presence of three great Springsteen albums, Pat Benatar, the continued existence of Rush, and the debut of Melissa Etheridge.

But I digress. That's what most people think about when they encounter something about the 80s. Me? I mostly remember the Axis of Evil, which was centered around Reagan and Thatcher, the ascendance of whom proved to me that this world was too wicked for me to ever be responsible for bringing a child into.

Periodically, someone will bring up the idea that women should run the world, that they'd do a better job of it. I reply with "Margaret Thatcher." At which point they shout, "SHE DOESN'T COUNT."

Now, I generally try to avoid the Big Taboos in here: politics, religion, and sex; and today's anniversary contains all of these things. Well, okay, maybe not sex. Unless you're into that sort of thing, which, hey, you do you. As with religion and politics.

In the address, Thatcher offered a theological justification for her ideas on capitalism and the market economy.

You know what's interesting about theology? You can use it to justify anything. During the time when slavery was a thing here in the US, the pro-slavery people used religion to justify their ownership of people  , and abolitionists used religion to fight against it.   Who was right? Obviously the latter, but it wasn't a religious victory.

What people think happens is: they follow their religion and their ideals spring from that. Given, however, that the same religion (and I'm talking about pretty much any of them here) can provoke such vastly opposing ideals, it seems to me that, instead, people come to some conclusion and then reverse-engineer their religion to support it. So you get, for example, what we have here in the US: different Christian denominations preaching opposing things, like "poverty is a virtue" and "prosperity is a virtue."

That particular dichotomy echoes some of the stuff Thatcher said in her address.

As the link above doesn't contain the actual text of her speech, here it is.  

The UK is, of course, a completely different country from (they would say "to") the US. We made sure of that back in the 18th century. They're explicitly a theocracy; we are not (though there's a strong effort to make us into one). And yet, I often note parallels. When they lean right, we lean right. When they lean left, we lean left. When we have high unemployment, they tend to have high unemployment, and the reverse. We may be two countries separated by an ocean and a common language, but for whatever reason, our fates are linked. I'm not implying any directional causation here, only correlation.

Which is one reason I find it interesting that some of the stuff Thatcher said in her speech on this day in 1988 is still echoing down the corridors of time.

We are told we must work and use our talents to create wealth. "If a man will not work he shall not eat" wrote St. Paul to the Thessalonians.

This particular quote stood out to me as, perhaps, a reason why the speech was mocked as the Sermon on the Mound. In the actual Sermon on the Mount, as recounted in the NT, Jesus is reported to have said: “Why take ye thought for clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

As an outsider to both religion and UK politics, these statements strike me as incompatible. Oh, sure, you can do mental gymnastics to attempt to reconcile them -- see my above comment about theology -- but the Paul quote seems to be a straightforward call for toxic productivity, while the Jesus quote encourages slacking off.

Again, as an outsider, the tension between Jesus and Paul seems to me to be the fundamental cognitive dissonance of Christianity.

Personally, I'm on Jesus' side on this issue.

To assert absolute moral values is not to claim perfection for ourselves. No true Christian could do that.

I don't know if this is irony or not: there is a logical fallacy called the No True Scotsman Fallacy. It goes something like this:

Person A: "No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."
Person B: "But my uncle Angus is a Scotsman and he puts sugar on his porridge."
Person A: "But no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge."

So there was Thatcher, addressing a church in Scotland, explicitly invoking the No True Scotsman fallacy.

I'm gonna go ahead and call that irony.

When Abraham Lincoln spoke in his famous Gettysburg speech of 1863 of "government of the people, by the people, and for the people", he gave the world a neat definition of democracy which has since been widely and enthusiastically adopted. But what he enunciated as a form of government was not in itself especially Christian, for nowhere in the Bible is the word democracy mentioned.

1) I'm using this quote as justification for ragging on the Sermon on the Mound. If Thatcher can quote an American, then by Bast's breasts, an American can quote Thatcher.

2) Nowhere in the Bible is pedophilia (UK: paedophilia) mentioned, and yet we have laws against that. For example.

3) Of course Lincoln wasn't espousing Christianity. We, unlike the UK, are not a Christian country -- despite efforts from the modern-day Axis of Evil. Lincoln's relationship with religion was, from what I've seen, complicated.

A friend sent me a photo the other day. Without context, at first it was a little hard to figure out, but it finally clicked for me. The photo showed a statue of Thatcher, which for whatever reason was surrounded by a security fence. As I'm painfully aware of here in Charlottesville, statues are an endangered species these days; statues of terrible people, even moreso. I wasn't aware that their impending extinction carried over across the pond, but see above about how we tend to move in parallel. But you could still see the image of the Iron Bitch (probably bronze in this case) looming above the fence.

Outside the fence, some bloke was sitting at a table selling chicken eggs.

To paraphrase Chris Rock, I'm not saying that egging a statue of Thatcher, or selling the means to do so in front of the statue, is right... but I understand. Maggie, you wanted an unregulated, free market economy? Well, there it sits.
May 20, 2022 at 12:01am
May 20, 2022 at 12:01am
Just a grab bag of vocabulary today.

I did, in fact, know what a quincunx is, but since most people don't and it sounds like the quest objective in a sorcerous pornography holodeck game program, I never use the word.

It's kind of like why no one ever uses the word "weenus" to describe the loose skin on your elbow. Which is what it is.

Here at stylist.co.uk, we like to consider ourselves wordsmiths.

Just because you're sitting in a garage doesn't mean you can call yourself a car.

But even so, we were stumped when it came to a list of some of the most unusual words in the English dictionary.

Really? Because some of these are fairly common, at least in the US.

As usual, you'll have to go to the link to see all the words. I'll just highlight a few.


Verb: Surprise someone greatly.

I've only ever seen this used in the passive sense: "I was flabbergasted." Another word that sounds vaguely criminal, but isn't.


Noun: The action or habit of estimating something as worthless.

This one, along with antidisestablishmentarianism, I learned early on and memorized the spelling and pronunciation. Just because I'm a nerd.


Noun: A situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.

I don't think I've ever seen this one, but it strikes me as being very pleasantly British. Though it could be applied to either of our governments.


Noun: The partially shaded outer region of the shadow cast by an opaque object.

Oh, for shit's sake. How is this one in any way obscure or unusual? Sure, it's not an everyday word like "drink" or "intricate," but I think I first encountered it in a children's astronomy book in relation to lunar eclipses.

Anyway, no, I don't expect highbrow literature from Stylist. It's not, after all, Cracked. But I'm a sucker for an interesting word list, or at least a list of interesting words, so here you go.
May 19, 2022 at 12:01am
May 19, 2022 at 12:01am
"Andre The Blog Monkey's Banana Bar [18+] prompt today.

The biggest plus for living in your town/area

It's not Cleveland.

Seriously, though, I've already covered this: the proliferation of breweries both in and around town. I've mentioned several of the more urban ones, but there are just as many outside town.

But it's not just beer. No, lest anyone start to wonder if I can only think about One Thing, nothing could be further from the truth.

For example, we also have, right here in town, one of the few sake breweries in the US. While it's not the best sake, it's ours.

There are also several cideries in the area, making delicious beverage from apples and pears.

In addition, there's the wineries.

Those aren't technically in town, either, but the surrounding area is home to a large number of vineyards. As I mentioned before, it was Jefferson's idea to plant some French vines in the area, as he figured the climate was somewhat similar to parts of France. The attempt wasn't very successful.

But science advanced over 200 years, and in the 1970s, on a nearby farm dominated by the ruins of a house also designed by Jefferson, an oenologist figured out the trick to producing relatively large quantities of delicious spoiled grape juice. That vineyard is still around. I got married there once. I don't know why, but they shared their secret with other vineyards. If you've ever wondered about the explosion of wineries over the past 40 years when you're driving through unlikely places (like Indiana or New Jersey), well, you have Barboursville to thank for that.

One time, I was in California, a place much better known for its wines. Whilst sampling some good ones, I was talking to the owner (it was a small place) and told him I was from Virginia. He scoffed at the idea of Virginia wine. I of course took it poorly. The next time I was there, I brought with me a bottle of Viogner, one of the grapes that do really well around here, to give to him.

Look, I'm not saying we're as good as France or California, or even a good Argentinian Merlot or an Australian Shiraz, but our vineyards don't suck and, you know... shop local.

We're also home to Trump Vineyards, about which the less said the better. Naturally, it's the one wine I won't drink.

I can't end this without also discussing distilleries.

Our neighbors in Kentucky and Tennessee get all the publicity when it comes to distilled spirits (primarily bourbon and rye). And for the most part, it's well-deserved. But recently, we've become home to several small distilleries, including Vitae in town, and Silverback out in the country. Decent product from both of them.

Now, plenty of locations have a good selection of fine fermented and distilled beverages, but the particular combination here makes the town a great place to live.

So you see, I don't just think about One Thing.
May 18, 2022 at 12:02am
May 18, 2022 at 12:02am
First of all, I want to thank everyone involved in this year's Quill awards: nominators, judges, and espeically Jayne for selecting this blog once again. Also congrats to all the other Quill nominees and winners. I'm grateful. But I'm also pissed off, because that means I have to keep up the quality and avoid slacking off, which violates my ethical principles.

That said, today's link doesn't require a lot of brainpower. In fact, the less, the better.

Why Is Minneapolis-based Tattersall Distilling making vodka for Arby’s?  
The fast food chain is releasing an “extremely limited” line of fry-flavored vodkas, and it tapped two Minneapolis companies to help.

I'm sure you'd expect me, a soi-disant connoisseur (goddammit, French lessons) of quality adult beverage, to have Opinions on this. After all, I've come down strongly against Chicago "pizza," Cincinnatti "chili," and several other abominations of the Midwest. And, well, I do have opinions, but it's more complicated than that.

Arby’s really is releasing two variations of fry-flavored vodka, and two Minneapolis liquor companies are helping with the rollout.


Arby’s picked Minneapolis-based Tattersall Distilling to develop the liquor and Surdyk’s to distribute it.

I've only been to Minneapolis once, and I focused on beer; I'd never heard of Tattersall. Some of their stuff   looks quite good. They even have an Aquavit, which is rare in the US, and is an example of yet another name for a distilled spirit that roughly translates to "water of life." Appropriately.

Slated to be available exclusively online starting Nov. 18, the vodka will come in two flavors: curly fry and crinkle fry. And yes, there’s a difference between the two, said Kreidler. Both are potato vodkas, but the crinkle fries are flavored with Kosher salt and sugar, while the curly fries are flavored with cayenne, paprika, onion, and black pepper, he said.

I have a pepper vodka in my stash. Ghost pepper. I keep meaning to make Bloody Marys with it.

Incidentally, there's a persistent misconception that all vodka (which is not "life water" but just "little water") is potato vodka. It's not. You can make vodka from just about anything you can distill: yeast eats sugar, and it's basic chemistry to convert starches into sugars. The whole point of vodka is to distill it so that the taste of the original grain is barely noticeable, if at all.

But then they keep adding flavors to the stuff, like vanilla or chocolate or, as I noted above, ghost pepper. A lot of people like it, as is evidenced by the fact that they keep selling it. For me, the jury's still out.

And yet potato is really the only choice for something like this.

Since the announcement on Tuesday, the response from consumers has been varied. On Instagram, one user decried the vodkas as “heinous swill.” Others accused Tattersall of being a “sell-out.” But there were plenty of social media users who seemed excited at the prospect of fry-flavored liquor.

Well, they got people talking about it and forming opinions before even trying the vodka. Mission accomplished.

“You really can’t claim to be ‘craft’ and then attach yourself to a massive fast food chain,” Keller says. “That doesn’t exactly present well to an existing audience. … Consumer culture sees right through that stuff.”

Yeah, that's Gatekeeping 101.

Now, this article was from last November. I haven't looked into it since then. As it was intended as a limited release, it's probably a -- pun intended, of course -- flash in the pan.

That's okay; I have no burning desire to sample it. And yeah, I do think it sounds like an abomination, but I don't give a shit about the corporate connection. Also, if it sounds good to you, and you can find some? Try it. If it doesn't? Don't drink it.

Just... if someone tries to make Big Mac flavored vodka, don't tell me; I don't want to know.
May 17, 2022 at 12:01am
May 17, 2022 at 12:01am

The industry is/was your town/area noted for?


Also, tourism.

Those two industries are incompatible.

As I noted a couple of weeks ago in "Charlottesville, this town probably started as a rest area. Not a destination, but a place to spend the night and drink while on the way from an actual place to another actual place. Tourists still come and go.

As for "brains," I'm making a pun. A lame pun, but still a pun.

These days, people only care about college for two things: 1) job preparation and 2) sportsball. But in the good old days, a college -- or, in this case, a university, the distinction between which is still a bit hazy to me -- was a place to expand one's mind. After UVA was founded in the early 1800s, Charlottesville became more of a destination. Now, instead of tourists coming and going, students came for four or more years (or in the case of Poe, one semester) before leaving.

Me, I came and stayed. I just like it here.

Now, I'm not saying university makes a person smarter. More knowledgeable isn't the same thing as smarter. It's the difference between being able to win a trivia contest, and developing a Grand Unified Field Theory or whatever. But one of the original purposes of a university was to expose a person to a wider range of culture, knowledge and experience than they'd have gotten in one farm or town.

Times change, and thanks to faster transportation and the internet, you can get that bit anywhere. Not that either invention is without its downsides. Now, like I said, people seem to only do higher education for vocational training (I'm guilty of that myself) and sportsball. And maybe partying, which we were known for in the days before they foolishly raised the drinking age to 21.

In any case, as I noted before, UVA is the largest employer in town, so it's the "industry" that drives our economy. But it's not only the college; there's a hospital affiliated with it. As with any hospital, opinions vary on it, but I consider them world-class. (They certainly do charge world-class fees. Or, rather, America-class, because we have to pay for that shit ourselves). In particular, there are only three places I'd want to go for neurological problems: Mayo, Johns Hopkins, and UVA. One of these is two miles from my house.

It's where they flew Superman to when he broke his neck.

Hence, "brains."

As with most college towns, there are certainly other big businesses here as well, though we don't have much of the hot, sexy tech industry. Which suits me just fine; the last thing we need is a SpaceX launch facility or an Amazon whorehouse. There used to be a clothing factory here, and there are some defense-related employers as well, making us a target. And the usual assortment of retail outlets, including at least one that's unique to us. But it wouldn't be Charlottesville without UVA.

And purveyors of fine fermented and distilled beverages.
May 16, 2022 at 12:05am
May 16, 2022 at 12:05am
It is a night of a lunar eclipse. The actual full moonination (I just made that up) occurs at 12:14 am (yes, I keep track of these things), which would be when the lunar orb is fully within the shadow of the Earth. That puts it way high up in the sky, to use a technical phrase from astronomy -- perfect for viewing. Usually, during a lunar eclipse, the moon takes on a deep red glow, the reflected light of every sunset and sunrise on our planet simultaneously. It's all really very cosmic.

It's not all that rare; a lunar eclipse happens every few years. I'd say "once in a blue moon," but that would only make the confusion surrounding the definition of a blue moon that much worse. I've ranted about that before. I'll rant about it again. But not today. Common or not, I like to look at these things, especially now since it's the first one since I got new eyeballs.

Naturally, the sky where I am is completely covered by a thick blanket of clouds.  

I should probably be more frustrated by this than I actually am, but -- though I hate it when someone goes "well, it could be worse" -- it could be worse. I got the news yesterday (Sunday) that my last remaining aunt, who had a stroke back in February, died over the weekend. She was in her 90s, so it's not like it was totally unexpected or anything, but still sad.

My cousin told me the funeral would be on Wednesday. I went online and started looking for near-last-minute transportation, because I still don't have a car. "Oh, you have to travel in two days? You must be desperate. Here, let us give you the highest price we possibly can." Usually I take a train to NYC, because it's a lot less stressful even if it takes longer. But the trains were booked solid. Still, one cool thing about our little airport here in Charlottesville is that they have daily nonstop flights to La Guardia. That's flights, plural. No puddle-jumping to IAD and getting drunk in the airport bar while waiting for your connection, and lots of options to choose from -- all remarkably pricey on short notice.

Right after I booked the ticket, he called to inform me that, well, no, the funeral would be held in two weeks instead. On Memorial Day weekend.

To his credit, he offered to reimburse me for canceling my really very goddamned expensive booked flight. I mean, seriously, I've flown to Vegas for less. Shit, I've flown to bloody England for less, but that was over a decade ago so maybe it doesn't count. It's pretty close to what I paid for a trip to goddamned Maui.

Problem is -- setting aside for the moment the absolute joy that traveling on Memorial Day weekend is -- I just can't go that weekend. My housemate has her own family plans, and has had them for some time. We have pets. Finding a holiday weekend cat-sitter on short notice is harder than watching an eclipse through the clouds, and I'm not leaving the cats alone.

So it looks like I'll miss the funeral. Hopefully I can take the trip sometime in June or July, go visit my cousin, see the grave where she'll be buried with my mom, her other sister, her brother, and her parents.

Still mostly cloudy here, though I just looked up and saw a single star. It looks like Mars but it's in the wrong place, almost directly overhead. I don't think it's Antares, either; that should be closer to the moon. I can't really tell what it is, because I don't see any other stars to get my bearings.

The whole neighborhood is dark. I think everyone's trying to look at the sky.

Ah. The clouds parted, briefly, and I got a glimpse of the blood-red moon.

Mission accomplished.

Oh, incidentally, the airline completely refunded my ticket price. If I were a total asshole, I'd tell him it was nonrefundable and collect the money, but I'm only a partial asshole.

I'm not entirely in the shadow, you see. Or, well, technically, right now I am, but at least I'm looking at the stars.
May 15, 2022 at 12:23am
May 15, 2022 at 12:23am
I might have overindulged earlier, which is why I'm running a little late today. Just as well that this one doesn't require a lot of brain power, because I'm pretty short on that right now.

I simply found this story interesting. It's related to civil engineering, my profession, but even without that I just think it's cool.

“While studying these fountains early on, I realized that they were unique, but neglected and not really spoken of,” he says. “The city seemed to have forgotten them.” It pained him when he read about the demolition of pyaaus, or water fountains, and made it his mission to protect as many as possible.

While the person quoted here, Rahul Chemburkar, is an architect and not a civil engineer, the professions are related. Architects get to be more artistic, though.

Water supply (along with waste management) is one of the most important aspects of being able to live in cities.

“It is our moral duty to protect this part of the city’s heritage,” he says. “And if we could revive this idea [of public drinking fountains], it would be in contrast to the plastic bottles we drink from.”

Access to clean water is a basic human need. It's harder in cities. What I like about this article is that in Mumbai, it's more than just a public works project; it's part of the city's character.

This is where you'll have to click on the link to actually see pictures and drawings of the fountains in question. They are marvels of civic art.

The Keshavji Nayak pyaau, inaugurated in 1876, looks nothing like a public drinking fountain—it resembles a pavilion or shrine, with red sandstone pilasters, a cupola covered in carved peacocks, and statues of bulls at the entrance, a feature seen in many Hindu temples.

For instance, there's a pretty cool before-and-after pic of that one.

Beyond restoration, Chemburkar conducts frequent walks and lectures, via the Mumbai Pyaau Project, and sketches postcards of the fountains. I went on a walk last March, before the pandemic, and, along with architecture students, tourists, curious locals, learned about structures that I would have never noticed. The walk also nudged the group to contemplate today’s water-supply challenges.

And of course, there's a lot more to water access than just having fountains available. Just ask the Southwest US right now. But I can't be arsed to get into the politics of it in my current condition, so I'll just leave this here as something cool to share.
May 14, 2022 at 12:01am
May 14, 2022 at 12:01am
And now for another fragment of history...

On This Day
May 14 Revolt  

As with most of my oeuvre, I select these things semi-randomly, and in this case, I find myself way out of my comfort zone. That's okay. That's one reason I'm doing this.

Portugal is not a country I think about often. I mean, sure, I have a vague desire to visit there, but I have a vague desire to visit lots of places. I'm aware that it was once a major naval power -- for one thing, they achieved what Columbus failed to do, find a sea route to Asia -- and that it once controlled Brazil. Other than that, the true importance of Portugal to me has always been the existence of port wine, which is delicious and can get really expensive.

So, apparently, Portugal was a monarchy up until 1910, at which point the peasants revolted. This was, of course, long after France, a few years before Russia, and don't ask me about Spain because that history is a real mess.

This Wiki page is particularly questionable, and when that happens I usually look at their listed sources for clarification. But in this case, all the sources are books that I can't be arsed to buy, and web pages that are in -- believe it or not -- Portuguese. Half of them are 404 anyway.

But of course that's not stopping me from riffing on it.

Anyway, from what I can gather, the May 14 Revolt was a revolt of the revolt. That is, the supposedly representational government that got installed after the 1910 overthrow of the monarchy. According to this Wiki page  , "The Republican Party presented itself as the only one that had a programme that was capable of returning to the country its lost status and place Portugal on the way of progress."

Wow, history really does echo, doesn't it?

Point is, as is often the case in these situations, the government they replaced the government with was dysfunctional, so another revolt was called for in order to restore the values that the first revolt was supposed to have installed but didn't. At least that's my take on it; like I said, there's not a lot of detail on that page.

The insurrection was, from what I can gather, swift, bloody, and successful.

At least, at first. A few years later, there would be yet another bloody revolution, this one getting the country back to a dictatorship. It wouldn't be until 1975 that the country returned to some semblance of democracy.

From this, I have learned several things, including but not limited to:

*Bottle2* Sometimes, revolution is necessary and ultimately beneficial, if bloody
*Bottle2* I would not have wanted to live in Portugal before 1975
*Bottle2* I'd venture to guess that most people don't know this bit of history, from which it follows that they are doomed to repeat it.
*Bottle2* Democracy is fragile

Those bullets are meant to be bottles of port. Preferably 40 year vintage port, which at this point could have been produced after Portugal achieved a semi-stable democracy. Port gets its name from the city of Porto, where, historically, the wine was shipped out to the great benefit of other countries (and the financial benefit of the vineyards and Portugal).

Oh, and one other interesting bit. The name "Portugal" is of somewhat disputed origin, but is most recently derived from the Roman name for it, Portus Cale. You can guess what Portus means. Cale is the disputed part  . It might have been a Celtic word for "port," which would make the name of the country translate to "Port port."

I like that.

As a final disclaimer, I might have gotten some of this shit wrong; like I said, it's not something I've looked into before. Don't take my words (or Wikipedia's) as the gospel truth. Just consider this another port in the storm.
May 13, 2022 at 12:02am
May 13, 2022 at 12:02am
I don't know anything about this source, except that I religiously ignored its print version like I do every other magazine at the checkout counter. Or did back before I was too lazy to even shop for my own groceries. And the menu headers don't give me a lot of confidence: "Breast Cancer Starter Kit." That's... ambiguous, at best, and maybe a little horrific.

Anyway, the article.

I'd view the "workout" bit with skepticism, but whatever. I'm more interested in the questions. Obviously, I'm not going to paste them here. Hell, I can't be arsed to read all 170.

But of course I have comments on parts of it. Starting with the lede.

The art of conversation is changing.

Always does.

Sometimes we are so connected to our screens that we forget to “connect” with those around us.

Hey. Guess what. The people on the other end of that screen? They're people. Just like the ones around you, only better because you've selected them. Sure, you may be using the screen in solitude to play Wordle or check your stock portfolio with existential despair -- which is your prerogative -- but a lot of people use *shudder* social media, or text. They're talking to other people. They're connecting. There's nothing magical or preferred about in-person communication. In fact, people tend to sweat and fart, which you can't generally smell over the internet.

Fuck right off with your technophobic bullshit.

Once in a while, it’s nice to sit down, relax, and just talk.

Even nicer with alcohol.

But, chatting can quickly get boring when you stick to small talk.

Which is why I usually jump right in to math or science. This has the bonus effect of making most people go away.

After all, there is only so much to say about the weather.

The weather is not a safe topic of conversation. Pretty soon, someone mentions climate change, and then there's inevitably an argument.

Luckily, posing a couple of hypothetical questions can quickly turn a dull chat into an invigorating conversation.

Isn't that what Cards Against Humanity is for?

Try out these hypotheticals the next time you want to have a real conversation.

It occurs to me that Lilli ☕️ could mine this for her QOTD forum. That way, we can discuss them online, as Nature intended, rather than face-to-face.

The article, of course, goes on to list the actual questions. Some of them are silly, as expected. Others might actually have some value. A few aren't all that hypothetical.

The irony here, if you can call it that, is that if I were to use the list as intended -- in person, in meatspace, talking with another moving sack of mostly water -- there's no way I'd remember any of these questions. Nope, I'd whip out my communicator, find the website, and scroll down to the questions, thus negating the dubious benefits of being in meatspace in the first place.

But that's okay. It's not going to happen. I'm just leaving this list here for you to look at if you're interested. And if you want to address any of these questions in the comments here, go for it. I shot my wad complaining about the article's intro.
May 12, 2022 at 12:07am
May 12, 2022 at 12:07am
"Andre The Blog Monkey's Banana Bar [18+]

All of this traveling has made Andre hungry, and we don't want a Hangry monkey on our hands! So today's prompt is about food, and the best place for our buddy to eat in your town!

What food or foods are your town/area noted for? What's the prevalent cuisine? Where is your favorite place to eat out in your neck of the woods?

I mentioned some of the more important food places (the ones that also offer fine fermented and/or distilled adult beverages) in last week's entry, here: "A Tour of the Town. To reiterate, there are several purveyors of glorious nectar that also serve delicious meals.

As Charlottesville is a university town, it attracts a wide range of cuisines. Just off the top of my head, in addition to what can only be described as American food, we have Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Belgian, French, Indian, Afghani, Mediterranean, Italian, and several others. There also used to be an excellent South African restaurant (with a bar), but, sadly, it fell victim to the pandemic. That's of course in addition to various familiar fast-food and casual chains.

Oddly enough, one thing we lack is a Denny's. And when I was in college here, we didn't even have a Waffle House. We had to get our late-night bleary-eyed food fix from Hardee's and a local deli that's not around anymore. Now there's a Waffle House less than a mile from me, and I haven't ended up there in years.

You don't "go" to Waffle House. You "end up" at Waffle House. It's right next to a Taco Hell, and I call the driveway between them "Desperation Alley."

While there's no one prevalent cuisine -- though at one time, you couldn't throw a chopstick without hitting a Chinese restaurant -- we're serious about our restaurants here. Someone told me once that we have more restaurants per capita than New York City. That seems to not be the case -- sources vary depending on how one defines the local population and what sorts of restaurants we're talking about, not to mention the ever-changing landscape of food service -- but we certainly have a lot of choice here. Obviously on an absolute basis, NYC has more and more varied eateries, but it's also dealing with over 150 times the population (not counting tourists).

As for favorite place? Well, I don't have one. I try not to get too attached to restaurants, as they flicker open and closed like lighthouse shutters doing Morse Code. I learned that lesson hard a few years ago: my favorite restaurant in the universe was The Raven, three hours away in Virginia Beach. I'm still experiencing grief from its closing. No, stop laughing; I'm serious here.

But if you looked at my credit card statements, a) you'd be appalled and b) you'd see Timberwood Tap House standing out as my most frequent destination, right up there with Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Both of them are within walking distance of my house, and across a parking lot from each other; they both serve excellent food, and they both have a wide-ranging, varied list of beers on tap.

Of course, I mostly go to the Alamo for movies, but I also find time while I'm there to order food and beer. With Timberwood, well, when restaurants reopened after the pandemic, it became my habit on Mondays to walk over there, sit on the patio, and enjoy lunch with beer and music. Even when it was cold outside.

But I like variety, and those aren't my only destinations. There's a local Mexican chain called Guadalajara, for instance, one of which is in walking distance in the other direction, and of course they also have tequila.

And of course Three Notch'd, the brewery, is only two miles away. I'd walk there even if I had a car, because, well... beer.

I can't leave this without calling out one of my other local regular vendors of victuals: Bodo's Bagels. They have three locations, and some say their bagels are superior even to the ones in New York. To which I can only say: spend more time in New York. Regardless, they're very good, even if they don't serve booze, and even though it is the sort of place where you can hear people complaining at the next table about food as cultural appropriation whilst eating a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel.

And hey, if you get bored with the local fare, Richmond is an hour's drive away, and DC, two.

Now I'm hungry. I'll resist staggering over to Waffle House, though.
May 11, 2022 at 12:01am
May 11, 2022 at 12:01am
Another article that didn't get the memo that the only ones who can fight climate change are us individuals.

This article is from about a year ago, so I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that they didn't pay the price.

Via an unprecedented wave of lawsuits, America’s petroleum giants face a reckoning for the devastation caused by fossil fuels

And they have an unprecedented army of lawyers, rivaling only that of Disney, to keep them from facing said reckoning.

Coastal cities struggling to keep rising sea levels at bay, midwestern states watching “mega-rains” destroy crops and homes, and fishing communities losing catches to warming waters, are now demanding the oil conglomerates pay damages and take urgent action to reduce further harm from burning fossil fuels.

But I thought the solution was organic, locally-sourced reusable cotton bags.

But, even more strikingly, the nearly two dozen lawsuits are underpinned by accusations that the industry severely aggravated the environmental crisis with a decades-long campaign of lies and deceit to suppress warnings from their own scientists about the impact of fossil fuels on the climate and dupe the American public.

Scientists? Meh. What do they know? Have they built a giant company to slake the public's thirst for energy? No? Then what good are they?

“Things have to get worse for the oil companies,” he added. “Even if they’ve got a pretty good chance of winning the litigation in places, the discovery of pretty clearcut wrong doing – that they knew their product was bad and they were lying to the public – really weakens the industry’s ability to resist legislation and settlements.”

Not going to happen. Corporations, by definition, can do no wrong.

In 1979, an Exxon study said that burning fossil fuels “will cause dramatic environmental effects” in the coming decades.

“The potential problem is great and urgent,” it concluded.

And yet, here we still are, Cassandra.

The urgency of the crisis is not in doubt. A draft United Nations report, leaked last week, warns that the consequences of the climate crisis, including rising seas, intense heat and ecosystem collapse, will fundamentally reshape life on Earth in the coming decades even if fossil fuel emissions are curbed.

But the climate changes all the time. Who are we to think we have the power to change the entire climate? No, better to just let the coastal cities drown like nature intended. So what if a lot of people are displaced? It's their fault for living in places like Miami.

Municipalities such as Imperial Beach, California – the poorest city in San Diego county with a budget less than Exxon chief executive’s annual pay – faces rising waters on three sides without the necessary funding to build protective barriers.

Eh, they're just going to slide into the Pacific come the next big earthquake, anyway.

Farber said cases rooted in claims that the petroleum industry lied have the most promising chance of success.

The only time lying is bad is when a Democrat does it.

Exxon worked alongside Chevron, Shell, BP and smaller oil firms to shift attention away from the growing climate crisis. They funded the industry’s trade body, API, as it drew up a multimillion-dollar plan to ensure that “climate change becomes a non- issue” through disinformation. The plan said “victory will be achieved” when “recognition of uncertainties become part of the ‘conventional wisdom’”.

Conventional wisdom says we should drive and fly more. Gotta keep the economy running.

The legal process is likely to oblige the oil conglomerates to turn over years of internal communications revealing what they knew about climate change, when and how they responded.

Hm. I should have bought stock in shredder manufacturers. Oh well.

Really, there's no need to worry about climate change. Pretty soon the global average temperature will decrease again.

Nuclear winter will have that effect.

Anyway, if it's not obvious, at least from that last bit, my comments here are intended as satire. Still, the time to do something about climate change was 30 years ago. Now, it's too late. I know they keep trying to get us to hope, but it's not working on me. Like I've said before, I'm riding this sucker down with the hot wind in my hair and a big grin on my face.
May 10, 2022 at 4:53am
May 10, 2022 at 4:53am
Occasionally, lifehacker will actually have a useful article.

How to Summon a Demon  
Want a hell-spawn of your own? Need someone to play chess with? Try summoning a demon!

If I’ve learned nothing else from heavy metal, horror movies, and Dungeons and Dragons, I’ve learned that demons are awesome. I want to invite as many as possible into my life to do my bidding and compete in fiddle contests.

You have learned the wrong lessons, grasshopper. The only evil thing in Dungeons and Dragons is the DM.

This do-at-home rite is adopted from a handwritten, untitled grimoire written around 1577.

For context, this was just before Shakespeare became a thing. Hm, what if... nah.

A note of caution before you begin your ritual: Many experienced magical practitioners (wizards, warlocks, necromancers, etc.) maintain that even a simple ritual requires a lifetime of dedicated spiritual practice and should not be undertaken lightly, lest great harm befall you.

Yeah, these days we call that "gatekeeping." What's the point of magic if you can't use it to take shortcuts?

With that out of the way, let’s summon something! The original spell is sometimes confusing due to the age of the language and the fact that it’s handwritten, but I did my best.

Ever tried to puzzle out Shakespeare's original handwriting? Well.

Obviously, I'm not going to recopy the spell here; that's what the link is for. Some highlights:

Step three: Recite the oration. Stand over your glass and recite the following Latin aloud. Use a commanding, deep voice (it’s cooler that way): “Omnipotens sempiterne deus adesto magna[e] pietatis tue misteriis, adesto piis Invocationibus nostris ut speculum istud quod in tuo nomine bene dicere facto…”

It goes on like that for a looooong time. You can see the rest in the original text. Make sure you read it all and don’t mispronounce any words, though, or this might not work.

Here's the thing: no one alive knows how Latin was actually pronounced. We have some educated guesses, but things get lost over time. More, the language was so widespread that there were certainly regional dialects, in addition to the foreign accents of people who learned Latin as a Second Language. Some of these dialects became pidgins or creoles, and later evolved into Spanish, French, and so on.

It's kind of like how you can't say "be sure to pronounce English correctly." There is no One Correct Pronunciation, despite what the BBC tries to tell us (in one particular British accent).

After this transcription of the ritual (which, to be absolutely clear, is presented in what seems to be a self-parody of other lifehacker how-to guides), the article goes into some interesting history, which is the actual reason I'm linking this.

Rituals to summon supernatural entities or forces have been (and are) practiced in lots of spiritual traditions, from Shintoism to Santeria. Different rites have different meanings and implications in different traditions, so know that I’m only talking about the Western idea of calling explicitly evil entities into the material plane. Like you see in horror movies.

One thing about the long-running show Supernatural that stuck with me was that the showrunners there actually did their research.

Summoning a demon to do your bidding is central to the Testament of Solomon, a text falsely credited to King Solomon that was written somewhere between the end of the 1st century CE and the high medieval period. In it, an angel gives Solomon a ring inscribed with a pentagram.

This is one of the reasons why the pentagram gets a bad reputation. It shouldn't, really. It's a symbol of unity and harmony and balance, and also has some really cool mathematical properties that I won't go into right now, much to your relief.

(Right now everyone who thinks math is evil is nodding vigorously and itching to make a comment about it.)

Even the whole "inverted" thing is made-up.

Of course, everything we do is made-up, but that part's really made-up.

The Key of Solomon, for instance, does contain spells (like “How to make the holy garters”) but they only work for the most pure, virtuous, pious man.

I know "garters" is a word whose meaning has shifted over time, but this is still amusing.

The idea of summoning demon-y demons for your own gain, as an act of evil, catches on widely with the publication of Malleus Maleficarum (“Hammer of Witches”) in 1478.

This is an important point. Even if we take at face value the idea that one can summon a demon (there are metaphorical interpretations, but, like the author, I'm using the phrase literally), which we don't, this is kind of like some of the things we see even today on the internet.

For example, maybe some kids have started doing something stupid they saw on DikDok or whatever. This is nothing new in society; kids are always doing stupid shit, which is partly how natural selection still works on humanity. But us olds would have never heard about it if someone hadn't hit the Moral Panic Button and started going, "Look at what these idiot kids are doing." This just spreads the ideas more widely, and even some adults who somehow managed to survive childhood with most of their fingers and eyes go, "Hey, that looks like fun. Hold my beer."

That publication caused WAY more evil in the world than the supposed evils it was railing against.

Fake or not, a lot people died for real because of Hammer of Witches. As many as 80,000 people, mostly women, were tortured and murdered during the witch trials that were heavily influenced by Kramer’s book. So if any tome is cursed…

There are none so evil as those who proclaim themselves to be righteous.

No, that's not a quote; that's an original Waltzism.

No, I don't claim to be righteous.

The article goes on to point out that while the idea of summoning demons is "fake" (again, I call it metaphorical), there exists true evil in the world, and usually, that evil is the group that is conjuring up the moral panic in the first place.

After all, if you really want to summon a demon, all you have to do is go on the internet and say things like:

"We should institute socialized medicine."

"Cannabis should be universally legal."

"Living wage for all."

"Musk is an ass."


"Chicago pizza isn't pizza."

The metaphor I keep referring to in this post is that demon-summoning is actually about confronting the darker aspects of one's own nature (and we all have darker aspects). But there are people in the world who deliberately do evil, though they insist they're doing good.

At least if literal demon-summoning were real, you'd end up with an entity that knows it's evil. That, you can work with. It's a lot harder to banish those who are certain they're righteous.
May 9, 2022 at 12:01am
May 9, 2022 at 12:01am
"Andre The Blog Monkey's Banana Bar [18+]

So on Wednesday, you told Andre about great places to visit where you live. Now he'd like to know about the people who live or have lived where you do.

Sundays's prompt; Tell us about a famous person or persons who lives or came from your Home Sweet Home

When I was at college, the dorms were arranged with several dorm rooms around a common area. Someone had done a country-looking cross stitch as a throw pillow: "Suite sweet suite."

That always pops back in my mind whenever I see "home sweet home."

Anyway. I've talked enough about Jefferson, and I mentioned Dave Matthews last time. I've also noted before that Poe spent some time here. Then there was the one lady who claimed to be the last Romanov...

You know what? I'm going to go with that one.

Hopefully you all know that in 1918, some revolting Russians rounded up some revolting Russians. That is to say, the revolutionary Bolsheviks executed the entire former royal family of Russia, who, let's face it, were pretty revolting, being autocrats and all. The youngest was Anastasia Romanova, also known as Grand Duchess Anastasia   despite being, like, totally a teen.

A couple of years later, a woman in a mental institution in Germany (should have been the first clue) claimed to be Anastasia. Apparently, some people believed her, but certainly not everyone. Personally, I'd figure that claiming to be the last royal Russian in early 1920s Europe couldn't possibly be good for one's health, but okay, whatever, there were enough believers that her claims were taken seriously by a bunch of people.

Apparently, she spent the next few decades in and out of asylums, which I suppose could be ordinary mental illness, or it could have been, I don't know, watching a bunch of revolting peasants destroy your entire family.

It wasn't until the late 60s that she became associated with Charlottesville, having married a history professor here (should have been the second clue).

I never met the lady; she died shortly after I came to town (not my fault). My ex-wife's father claimed to know her, but he claimed to know everyone (and, to be fair, he knew a whole lot of people). Apparently, Anna and her husband were described as "eccentric," which is code for "crazy, but rich enough to get away with it."

It was only after her death that the final nails were driven into the coffin of her claims to royalty. I mean that metaphorically; she was cremated and didn't have a coffin.

First, DNA testing became a thing, and apparently there was enough of her left (ew) to test, and behold, she was not Russian.

And second, after the end of the USSR, archeologists found the remains of the Tsar's entire family, including Anastasia.

A local brewery occasionally makes a beer called Anastasia's Chocolate Fantasy, which is a Russian Imperial Stout brewed with cocoa, because of this local connection. It is absolutely delicious. But Russian Imperial Stout is, as I've noted before, not actually Russian... much like Anna Anderson herself

So Anna Anderson was just a crazy lady, but apparently she made the best life out of it as she could, and, Duchess or not, she's absolutely a part of Charlottesville history. Though few people here actually believed she was Romanova, they humored her anyway, because that's what we do here. It really should have been blindingly obvious in retrospect, though.

I mean.

If you're the only heir to the Russian throne, and you saw a bunch of peasants rise up and grind your family into borscht, and you need to find a place to live...

...would you really choose the state whose motto is "sic semper tyrannis?"
May 8, 2022 at 12:05am
May 8, 2022 at 12:05am
And now, today's burning (or really, drowning) question:

Are the Great Lakes Really Inland Seas?  
Well, yes. And no. Actually, it depends on where you stand, in more ways than one.

That's right up there with "Is a hot dog a sandwich?" in terms of categorization questions. (It's not, by the way. It's a taco.)

Also, I like how the subhead answers the question in the headline without actually shedding light on it, making it more likely that people will read on without being clickbait. (Source is Atlas Obscura, not a clickbait site.)

The water reared up and slammed onto the sand like an ambush predator.

Ooooh, someone's taken a creative writing class. (The first paragraph goes on like that, but it mostly just sets the tone.)

The Great Lakes of North America’s midsection—Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario—together span nearly 100,000 square miles, with a combined coastline just shy of 10,000 miles.

It might be helpful here to have some comparisons. For example, that's about the size of Colorado or Oregon. Or New Zealand. As for coastline, well, that's notoriously tricky to measure, which is how fractal dimensions were discovered, but that's another topic.

They even have their own U.S. Coast Guard district, the only lakes with such a distinction. And the Guard’s rescue teams stay busy: Superior and its siblings are capable of storm surges, rip currents, tsunamis, rogue waves, unique extreme weather phenomena, and destructive surf.

I think we're all aware of how angry the Lakes can become.

They have claimed more than 6,000 ships, more than the Gulf of Mexico and the Black Sea combined, according to estimates.

Why is it a "gulf" and not a "sea?" And why is it a "sea" and not a "lake?" Well...

“The most accurate answer you’re going to get is, ‘I don’t know,’” says John Richard Saylor, author of the upcoming Lakes: Their Birth, Life, and Death. “I do think it comes down to semantics, what you want to call a ‘sea.’”

Yep. Is Pluto a planet? Depends on definition of "planet." Under current internationally accepted definition, no. Shut up about it already, sheesh.

For many, the Great Lakes are indeed greater than lakes. The United States Environmental Protection Agency, for example, describes them as “vast inland freshwater seas.” A seminal 2017 paper in Limnology and Oceanography, authored by some of the most influential researchers studying the lakes, also refers to them as ‘inland seas.’ But what makes a sea varies by source.

Virginia and three other US states are technically Commonwealths. We still refer to them as states.

You might, for example, associate seas with saltwater, but “Whether water is salty or fresh does not cleanly separate lakes from seas,” says Robert Sterner...

Well, not really, no. The Dead Sea is famously salty as hell, sure, but so is the Great Salt Lake, which is about 7 times bigger than the Dead Sea.

The article lists other examples of things that are called seas and lakes.

Meanwhile, a growing number of scientists believe the Red Sea may actually be a young ocean.

That's a technicality based on continental drift models.

While the languages of these earlier people are not known, over the last few millennia the Great Lakes have been home to several Native American and First Nations peoples, most of which belong, culturally and linguistically, to the Anishinaabe. The term covers a number of communities dispersed over a broad and varied geographical area, but there is continuity among them in how the Great Lakes are perceived.

While one could argue that the people who lived there the longest should get to define their geographical features, I don't think the natives would have had the global perspective to, say, compare their size to New Zealand.

So, the semantics remain imprecise across languages, but what about the science? Do the people studying the Great Lakes see them as inland seas? The answer is a resounding “sort of.”

Thanks for that clarification.

Despite their size, the lakes are beholden to what happens on the land that surrounds them in a way larger seas are not. For example, precipitation and runoff that drains into the lakes significantly affects their water levels, chemical composition, and other characteristics.

Not to mention the ever-present industrial and human pollution.

In fact, the strongest case for describing the Great Lakes as inland seas may be to remind the public of the potential threat that they pose.

And yes, the article does reference the Gordon Lightfoot song.

University of Minnesota’s Coker suggests that the Great Lakes belong “in a category of their own.” Perhaps it’s not the lakes that fail to fit our definitions, but rather our words failing to describe their unique nature.

And that, to me, is the crux of the issue: whatever they are, the bodies of water we call the Great Lakes are what they are. Pluto didn't suddenly disappear when astronomers changed the definition of "planet;" in fact, we sent a probe out to take pictures of it. It's kind of like the Rock of Gibraltar. You could call it a hill, or a mountain, but no, it's called a rock.

On that note, codifying hills and mountains is a similar issue. The definition has changed over time. Here in the US, people who live out west look at the Blue Ridge Mountains and scoff, "Those are just hills!" Going in the other direction, all I could say was "Holy fuck, these are some big-ass mountains."

At one time, though, around the time the dinosaurs bit it, the Rockies were at the bottom of an inland sea, and the Appalachians were much, much higher (and originally extended into Scotland). Before the last Ice Age, there weren't even any Great Lakes for people to argue about their definition. Or people to argue about their definition.

But it's the nature of humans to codify and classify things. This can aid in understanding, but it can also become a semantic trap. After all, it doesn't matter if your car gets crushed by a boulder, a big stone, a small mountain, or a large rock; your car is still crushed. All continents can be considered big islands, and there is really only one world-spanning ocean surrounding all of them.

So don't worry whether a hot dog is a sandwich, a sub, a taco, a gyro, or whatever. Just enjoy the hot dog.
May 7, 2022 at 12:21am
May 7, 2022 at 12:21am
Thought I'd experiment with a new, occasional format today. I learn something, maybe you learn something.

On This Day
End of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu  

I have an appreciation for history, sure, but one aspect of it that never really grabbed my attention is detailed war chronicling. War is usually too depressing, even for me, so normally I content myself with having a vague idea of the timeline, major players, and general outcome.

And even there, some military actions are more on my radar than others. The big US conflicts, of course; the Sino-Japanese wars, the Seven Days War in the Middle East, that time the UK took back the Falklands and... ummm... well, apart from the really historical ones like the time Hannibal crossed the Alps on elephants (come on, just picture that), I'm pretty ignorant.

I was almost completely ignorant about the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

I mean, I had a vague notion that the French got their asses handed to them in Vietnam about a decade to two before we went in and got our asses handed to us, but that's about it. I wonder if this particular battle is where they got their offensive and undeserved reputation as surrender monkeys? Look, everyone's lost a war. Including us. Several times to Canada, for fuck's sake.

I'm not going to rehash most of what's already at that link in the title, just make a few of my own observations, as is my wont:

The United States was officially not a party to the war, but it was secretly involved by providing financial and material aid to the French Union, which included CIA contracted American personnel participating in the battle.

I doubt this was the first time we were secretly egging on a war, nor was it the last. The Cold War wasn't, always.

The Peoples Republic of China and the Soviet Union similarly provided vital support to the Viet Minh, including most of their artillery and ammunition.

Yay, proxy wars!

By 1953, the First Indochina War was not going well for France.

This being Wiki and not Cracked, and having little historical perspective of the overall conflict, I'm not sure if this is comic understatement or not. I'm going with yes.

Most of the page deals with the actual weeks-long battle, and is of value, but my purpose here is to a) snark on things and b) focus on this particular day in history, the day the battle officially ended.

But the "Battle" section is interesting mostly because of the names the French gave their fortifications. French women's names. It's just so... very... French.

So, on May 7, 1954, they record this message:

The last radio transmission from the French headquarters reported that enemy troops were directly outside the headquarters bunker and that all the positions had been overrun. The radio operator in his last words stated: "The enemy has overrun us. We are blowing up everything. Vive la France!"

Bad. Ass. Even in defeat.


Public opinion in France registered shock that a guerilla army had defeated a major European power.

Yeah. History doesn't repeat itself. It echoes.

One final note, from the page:

The French government in Paris then resigned, and the new Prime Minister, the left-of-centre Pierre Mendès France, supported French withdrawal from Indochina.

Pierre Mendès France. For whatever reason, I'd never heard of him. But that name. It would be like if we elected a President named Rock America. If that President was from a liberal Brazilian Jewish family.

Which, you know... we could do worse.
May 6, 2022 at 12:01am
May 6, 2022 at 12:01am
They've identified the most boring person in the world, and miraculously, it's not me.

Now, it's not like these researchers looked at every one of the 8 billion of us and ranked us by boringness. No, it was the traits that they identified. I have some issues with the methodology, but whatever; this is for fun. Because I wouldn't want to be perceived as boring.

The most boring person in the world has been revealed by University of Essex research - and it is a religious data entry worker, who likes watching TV, and lives in a town.

Or, alternatively, it could be a researcher who studies boreology.

Incidentally, how does one become a religious data entry worker? Oh, wait, they mean they're religious AND a data entry worker.

Also, I think they left out "vegan."

The study into the science of boredom has uncovered the jobs, characteristics, and hobbies that are considered a stereotypical snooze.

"The study into the science of boredom" has got to be the most boring thing I've ever heard of.

After examining more than 500 people across five experiments researchers found the blandest jobs are seen as data analysis, accounting, cleaning and banking.

Oh, okay, so it's subjective, based on peoples' preconceptions. None of those jobs are inherently boring. You know what's boring? Security guard. Well, 99.9% of the time; the other 0.1% of the time your adrenaline really pumps. Or so I'm told.

The paper – published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin – also discovered the dullest hobbies were seen to be religion, watching TV, bird watching and smoking.

Religion: Not a hobby. It's an identity. Fishing is a hobby. Stamp collecting is a hobby (and a mind-numbing one at that).

Watching TV: Not a hobby. It's just something you do. Passive. Hobbies are at least somewhat active. Even fishing.

Bird watching: Okay, that's a hobby. Boring? Less than fishing. Definitely less than golf.

Smoking: COME ON.

The study also showed that being perceived as boring likely conveys low competence and low interpersonal warmth.

I have another article in the queue, which will come up at some point, that presents a different take on this.

Those perceived as boring may thus be at greater risk of harm, addiction and mental health issues.

At which point they'll be less boring, won't they? Still shunned, though.

The top five most exciting jobs

1.) Performing arts

2.) Science

3.) Journalism...

So says an article by a journalist about scientists. I bet if an accountant did the study and wrote the article, they'd find journalism and science way more boring than accounting.

The top five most boring hobbies

1.) Sleeping

2.) Religion

3.) Watching TV

4.) Observing animals

5.) Mathematics

Again... how are these hobbies? Seriously, sleeping as a hobby? What the nocturnal fuck? Everyone sleeps.

Everything about this study is suspect, in short. The interesting part is how people seem to avoid, shun, and ostracize those who are seen as boring -- as if the only true measure of a life is how exciting it is. Perhaps, to venture into the even more suspect ground of evolutionary psychology, this is some holdover from when excitement meant dodging saber-toothed tigers and hunting mammoths.

Or maybe some of you can only dream of living a boring life, and they're just jealous of those of us who can.

Yeah. I'm going with that.

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