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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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October 16, 2020 at 12:01am
October 16, 2020 at 12:01am
Rage forthcoming...


30 Things Your Home Doesn’t Really Need
Let it go, let it go…

The title is bad enough without introducing a Frozen reference. I don't have kids and I've only seen that movie once, but it made me understand why people are so short-tempered these days, even before the pandemic.

There are plenty of things we hold onto for good reason.

Such as my incandescent rage at "decluttering" advice articles.

While we aren’t here to push a hyper-minimalist agenda, we do believe every object in your home should serve a distinct purpose or, at the very least, brighten your day a little.

You're not my supervisor!

The ominous cloud of plastic bags under the sink

I'll have you know I either reuse plastic bags as trashbags, or bring them to the grocery store for recycling. As I have groceries delivered, this is usually a separate trip for me. (I walk there, so don't give me shit about wasting gas to recycle.) Whether the bags actually get recycled or not once I leave them in the designated bin at the store is Not My Problem. Point is, I don't have a plastic bag issue.

All those spices that are past their prime

I am convinced that 99% of decluttering advice exists for the sole purpose of encouraging people to Buy More Stuff because once you throw something out, you don't have it anymore, and then when you need it, you have to buy more. The entire purpose of having dried spices is their long shelf life.

The microwave—the stove or oven does the job just as well (if not better) without hogging counter space

You can just truck right off with that bullshit. First of all, my microwave is up under the cabinets, not taking up counter space at all. Second, while there are certainly things that are better off not being microwaved (such as leftover pizza or steak), if I need boiling water I'd damn sure rather nuke it for two minutes than wait the interminable amount of time it takes for it to boil on the stove. And finally, normally this is where I'd just stop reading, but no, I can't turn my eyes away from trainwrecks.

The logo-heavy cups and shot glasses from your college days

That way you can Buy More Stuff.

Stemmed wineglasses (simple drinking glasses work for water, juice, and vino)

Bite my ass.

The top sheet, unless you really love to bundle up

That way, you don't have anything between your sweaty thighs and the blanket, so you have to wash the blanket more often, which wears it out quicker, so you then have to Buy More Stuff.

The shack of books you’re done reading (donate them to a used-book store—or pass along to a fellow bibliophile)

Go to hell. Go directly to hell. Do not pass GO...

The obscene amount of decorative pillows you purchased during your boho phase

I don't have decorative pillows. I'm a man. Also, what in the name of Inanna's tits is a "boho phase?" Do you mean "bohemian?" That shit went out with the sixties, and this article is clearly not aimed at 70-year-olds.

Every hotel toiletry you’ve ever stolen

Those little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash? Those are meant to be taken. Also, I leave them in my travel kit and only replace then when they're empty. And if you're stealing anything else from a hotel, screw you for making my lodging expenses higher than they need to be.

Sad towels with holes or makeup stains

Because then you have to go out and Buy More Stuff to use for cleaning rags.

Expired medications, makeup, and sunscreen (yes, they all have expiration dates!)

...even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Unless it's a digital clock, in which case it's never right. This article is a stopped analog clock.

The dead plants you keep trying to revive

I know better than to bring plants into the house. They immediately realize that they're living with me, and, seeing no other means of escape, commit suicide.

A china cabinet (repurpose your plates as wall art instead!)

My china cabinet was old when I was a kid. I inherited it. Besides, it's in storage for now. Also, people who use plates as wall art are the kinds of people I avoid hanging out with.

The dead batteries rolling around in your desk drawer

Uh huh. You're not supposed to throw batteries in the trash. Recycling won't take them. There is no place to drop them off. Honestly? Sometimes I throw them in the trash while walking by and whistling innocently. Look, it's still less of an asshole move than stealing from goddamned hotel rooms.

Supplies for the creative projects you’re going to pick back up “someday”

That way, when you do get around to it, you'll have to Buy More Stuff!

Obviously, I didn't copy all of the stupid advice here. The microwave one is especially infuriating, but the others have their own special blend of inflammatory herbs and spices.

This article reminded me of a tumblr I used to subscribe to, one which, sadly, is no longer being updated. But I found it again and it's still glorious. (Don't go here if repeated F-words offend you.) https://fuckyournoguchicoffeetable.tumblr.com/

Okay, look, I admit to being a clutterbug. It's a tendency I have to wrestle with. But I don't think the answer is to go all the way in the opposite direction. Could I use a bit of a purge right now? Sure. Am I too lazy to actually do it? Absolutely. But keep your rotten, filthy, COVID-infested hands off of my microwave, books, files, tools, and craft supplies. Especially the microwave.
October 15, 2020 at 12:02am
October 15, 2020 at 12:02am
Entry #7 of 8 for

 Journalistic Intentions  (18+)
This is for the journal keeping types that come to PLAY! New round underway!
#2213121 by Elisa, Bunny Stik

*Penr* Kissing Camels Surgery Center

Okay, this one I just had to do a search on.

Contrary to an impression I might have given, I haven't been everywhere. Hell, I haven't even been everywhere in the US.

The problem with travel, for me, is that I'm always torn between revisiting places I've enjoyed and experiencing new locales. That's one reason I employ a jolt of randomness in my road trips. This, by the way, is in addition to the problem of deciding between traveling and staying at home. The former is tiring and costs money; the latter can be boring.

Lately it's been all boring, no traveling.

Point is, I looked up what in Newton's name Kissing Camels is, and found that it's a thing near Colorado Springs,which is a place I haven't been to yet (I have, however, visited nearby Denver and environs). And no, it's not an adult version of a petting zoo, or anthropomorphic slash fiction.

Kissing Camels is an example of pareidolia.

Here's a link to a picture of it.  

As far as I can tell (I also found numerous other photos of the same rock formation), that's not photoshopped. Oh, sure, it probably got color-balanced, cropped, contrast-enhanced, etc., but that's approximately what the rocks look like.

So, as is common in these sorts of things, there's a community nearby also called Kissing Camels, and apparently there's a surgery center there. BOR-ing. *Yawn*

I was hoping it had something to do with when they tried to wrangle camels out West.

Yes. That was a thing. Someone presumably looked around at the Mojave Desert, scratched his head, looked at his horse, looked back at the vast barren wasteland, and then back at his horse, which in his mind turned into a camel, because camels live in the desert, while horses, well, not so much.

Then (in my headcanon), his eyeballs became large dollar signs as he realized that he could make a humpload of money by importing camels from a different desert, and immediately set off to Arabia or Egypt or some such.

Well, no, that's not how it happened at all. It was more of an Army thing. They wanted to adopt the use of camels as beasts of burden in the Southwest, but for various reasons it didn't work out.

So did they return the camels to Egypt or whatever? Oh, no. Not at all. This is America, dammit. They kissed the camels goodbye and the stubborn sand llamas eventually died out.

Or did they? Spend a night in the desert soutwest. Listen very carefully. Look, up on that ridge! Is that a hump, or... ?

The desert is huge, and habitation there is sparse. I like to think that a few survived, bred, and are sitting in the shade of a rock somewhere, plotting their revenge.

After all, "camel invasion" would not be the weirdest thing to happen to us in 2020.

Don't believe me about the camels?  
October 14, 2020 at 12:06am
October 14, 2020 at 12:06am
While I try to stay away from the Big Three subjects guaranteed to ruin a good relationship (politics, religion, and Monopoly), sometimes my amateur interest in philosophy intersects with one of them.

This is one of those times. I saved this link a few months ago; it's only now come up at random, and I'm completely sober (for the moment), so fasten your seatbelts and let's go.


How a Huguenot philosopher realised that atheists could be virtuous

I admit to having, for most of my life, only a very vague idea of what a Huguenot was. All I knew for sure was it was a religion thing, and not in any way related to an astronaut. Fortunately, the internet came along and I obtained a better idea. For those who are wondering and can't be arsed to look it up, they were French Protestants in the 15th-16th century who were persecuted for their religious beliefs.

Sound familiar? It should.

Here's a bit about their history.  

Anyway, the Aeon article.

For centuries in the West, the idea of a morally good atheist struck people as contradictory.

I'd even go so far as to extend that from "atheist" to "anyone who didn't follow your particular brand of religion."

But today, it is widely – if not completely – understood that an atheist can indeed be morally good.

Widely? [Citation needed].

One of the most important figures in this history is the Huguenot philosopher and historian, Pierre Bayle (1647-1706).

I'm just leaving this here because, unlike certain websites, I don't tease and then fail to deliver. That was the philosopher mentioned in the headline above.

Bayle introduces his readers to virtuous atheists of past ages: Diagoras, Theodorus, Euhemerus, Nicanor, Hippo and Epicurus. He notes that the morals of these men were so highly regarded that Christians later were forced to deny that they were atheists in order to sustain the superstition that atheists were always immoral.

Sounds like a variation on the No True Scotsman fallacy  . "No true Scotsman puts brown sugar on his porridge. The fact that Angus MacGregor puts brown sugar on his porridge just proves that he's no true Scotsman!"

From his own age, Bayle introduces the Italian philosopher Lucilio Vanini (1585-1619), who had his tongue cut out before being strangled and burned at the stake for denying the existence of God. Of course, those who killed Vanini in such a fine way were not atheists.

"It is wrong to kill. Anyone who disagrees with us on any other point probably disagrees with us on that one, too, so we must kill them."

The really pressing question, Bayle suggests, is whether religious believers ­– and not atheists – can ever be moral.

Perhaps it was a pressing question for Bayle in the 17th century, but it's clear to this atheist that, certainly, religious believers, as well as atheists, can be moral. You mostly just have to watch out for individuals of whatever stripe who want to do wrong things, and for believers (or unbelievers) in larger groups.

Left alone to act on the basis of their passions and habitual customs, who will act better: an atheist or a Christian? Bayle’s opinion is clear from the juxtaposition of chapters devoted to the crimes of Christians and chapters devoted to the virtues of atheists.

And, clearly, counterexamples of both sorts (and from other religious groups) can easily come to mind.

In Bayle’s time, to be truly good was to have a conscience and to follow it.

Here's an interesting philosophical puzzle I've been turning over in my head for some time. I'm sure if I had more than an amateur interest in philosophy, I could find some proposed answer to it out of some grizzled head or other, but I haven't run across one yet.

Suppose you have two people, let's call them Alice and Beth. Alice has a strong desire to do a particular immoral thing. Let's keep this simple and say, "shoplifting." So Alice really, really wants to kife things from stores and take them home without paying for them. But she doesn't; she restrains herself because she knows it's wrong, or maybe simply because she doesn't want the hassle involved with getting caught. Doesn't matter; the point is that she controls her urge. Beth, on the other hand, has no such desire; she understands that shoplifters exist, but she has no desire to do it, herself. Very, very different motivations here -- but the result is the same: neither Alice nor Beth engage in stealing shit from stores.

The puzzle is this: Between Alice and Beth, who is more praiseworthy? Alice, for keeping her inner monster at bay? But she acknowledges that she has that inner monster, that desire to do something wrong, and is that not itself evil by some definition? Or is it Beth? But the reason Beth doesn't shoplift is because she has no desire to do so; her motivations are "pure." Consequently, why should that be praiseworthy? She's just following the dictates of her nature. And yet... the outcome is the same for both of them: no shoplifting. An external observer only sees the result, not Alice's inner turmoil or Beth's lack thereof. Unlike with Cindy, who doesn't have a job and really needs food so she occasionally swipes a few apples from the grocery store. Or Debby, who just does it for the thrill of it.

For the sake of this line of thought, assume all four of these ladies have similar religious beliefs (or lack thereof, whatever).

The point, as regards this article, is that merely following one's conscience doesn't always lead to an outcome that we external observers would consider moral. Or immoral.

The challenge Bayle undertakes is to explain how atheists, who do not recognise a moral cause of the Universe, can nevertheless recognise any kind of objective morality.

Well, that's easy enough, I think. What are the effects of your actions on the rest of the world, and the people around you?

This article limits itself to Christianity and atheism, but of course myriad other religions exist. Christianity is itself a form of atheism: it rejects all of the other gods ever imagined by humankind. As do I. The only real difference is that I believe in one fewer god than they do.

God cannot make killing innocent people a morally good action. Respecting innocent life is a good thing that reflects part of God’s very nature.

"Therefore, we declare that anyone who disagrees with us is not innocent, et voilà, we can kill them." Also, see the book of Joshua. "Those people have the audacity to be living peacefully in the land I think God wants us to have. To the siege engines!"

At bottom, these Christian views do not differ from what atheists believe about the foundation of morality. They believe that the natures of justice, kindness, generosity, courage, prudence and so on are grounded in the nature of the Universe. They are brute objective facts that everyone recognises by means of conscience.

Okay, look. That's nice to hear and all, and I'd like to think it applies to me, but any sentence that begins "Atheists believe..." should be rejected out of hand. The nature of atheism is to accept that there are no gods. It says nothing about what we believe, only about what we do not believe. Personally, I'm convinced that these enumerated virtues, and others, are a result of human evolution, a kind of social lubrication because we are social animals. They are traits that help us get along with each other, to be able to live among others. And, naturally, they're ideals that few of us humans, religious or otherwise, always live up to; that's the way "ideals" work. Of course, dig deeper and yes, human evolution itself is grounded in the nature of the Universe, so I agree with this assertion for myself - but I don't claim to speak for anyone else.

According to the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor...

"Canadian philosopher?" That's a phrase I've never heard before.

...our age became secular when belief in God became one option among many, and when it became clear that the theistic option was not the easiest one to espouse when theorising about morality and politics. Through his reflections on atheism over three decades, Bayle demonstrated that resting morality on theology was neither necessary nor advantageous.

And just to be clear, because I'm not sure I have been, I'm not trying to convince anyone over to my point of view, or to disrespect anyone's religious views. As I noted above, this article focuses on Christianity because it's about a philosopher who lived in a Christian country during a time of religious upheaval and persecution, but similar arguments can be made with any belief system. My goal here is only to expand on the article itself, and present my own point of view. But part of my point of view is radical freedom of religion: you practice yours (or not) and I practice mine (or not), and we can still try to get along. Yes, religious people and atheists have both committed atrocities in the past. That doesn't mean we have to continue to do so.
October 13, 2020 at 12:01am
October 13, 2020 at 12:01am
Meaning? Purpose? A Jedi craves not these things.


Life’s purpose rests in our mind’s spectacular drive to extract meaning from the world

What is the purpose of life?

Life needs no purpose. What's the purpose of a rock? Its destiny is to be ground down into dust, but that doesn't make it the rock's purpose. We can give it another purpose - a paperweight, say, or a weapon - but that doesn't mean it was destined for that.

Whatever you may think is the answer, you might, from time to time at least, find your own definition unsatisfactory.

Every definition is unsatisfactory.

Humanity’s purpose rests in the spectacular drive of our minds to extract meaning from the world around us.

That's not a purpose, either. That's a result. You're basically talking about what we talked about in here a while back: apophenia, the seeing of purpose or meaning when there isn't one.

For many scientists, this drive to find sense guides every step they take, it defines everything that they do or say.

Which is not to say that curiosity isn't a good thing.

Take words, for instance, those mesmerising language units that package meaning with phenomenal density. When you show a word to someone who can read it, they not only retrieve the meaning of it, but all the meanings that this person has ever seen associated with it. They also rely on the meaning of words that resemble that word, and even the meaning of nonsensical words that sound or look like it.

I've actually been thinking along these lines for a while now. It came from beginning to study another language. Not only must one know what a word means, there's all kinds of metadata associated with it: what it applies to, how other people have used it in sentences, perhaps where you first encountered it, and (in the case of pronouns and words in certain other languages) its gender... just to name a few. And for people like me, the "meaning of words that resemble that word" is how I make puns. Like the one I've been suppressing since I started writing this, about having to go swimming to find one's porpoise in life.

There, I feel better now that I've gotten that out of my brain.

And yes, you do it too, even if you don't realize it. For example, I'm willing to bet that if you've encountered The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, you're poised to include the number 42 in a comment below, especially if you read this entry's title.

Recently, we have been able to show that even an abstract picture – one that cannot easily be taken as a depiction of a particular concept – connects to words in the mind in a way that can be predicted. It does not seem to matter how seemingly void of meaning an image, a sound, or a smell may be, the human brain will project meaning onto it.

Just like we project meaning onto life, even when it's not there.

In other words, the goal of our existence ultimately seems to be achieving a full understanding of this same existence, a kind of kaleidoscopic infinity loop in which our mind is trapped, from the emergence of proto-consciousness in the womb, all the way to our deathbed.

As was eloquently pointed out in Babylon 5, "we are what the universe has created so that it can figure itself out."

I don't believe that either, but as guiding principles go, it is rather appealing.

The proposal is compatible with theoretical standpoints in quantum physics and astrophysics...

I'm glad they didn't lead with that, because it would have made me stop reading the entire article. Hijacking quantum physics to support your pet philosophy is cheating, like ending a story with "...but it turned out it was all a dream."

Perhaps it does not matter if you find this proposal satisfying, because getting the answer to what the purpose of life is would equate to making your life purposeless. And who would want that?

*raises hand*

I'm comfortable with the lack of meaning or purpose. At least, I am today. I wasn't always. And as usual, ask me again tomorrow and I'll probably say the purpose of life is to enjoy beer. Right now, I have too much of a headache from doing that earlier. And sometimes I think that the sole purpose of life is to increase overall entropy (which all life does), thus hastening the eventual heat death of the universe.

But look, I'm not dismissing the article entirely. If I did that, I wouldn't have linked it. I find it interesting, but that doesn't mean I agree with it. It's perfectly reasonable for an individual to create their own meaning, or purpose, and live for it. I only object to the idea that there's one answer for everyone.

Even if that answer is 42.
October 12, 2020 at 12:04am
October 12, 2020 at 12:04am
Entry #6 for

 Journalistic Intentions  (18+)
This is for the journal keeping types that come to PLAY! New round underway!
#2213121 by Elisa, Bunny Stik

*Mailr* politicalwatch@appliancerepairscottsdaleaz.com

I haven't been to Scottsdale, but I've been pretty close.

On one of my excursions, I decided to follow U.S. Route 60 from beginning to end. Or... I suppose it was end to beginning, considering that the US mostly developed east to west, and I was traveling back east.

Route 60 ends just east of the California border, because apparently, a while back, in a transparent attempt to begin its process of secession from the US, it took over the old US routes that ran across it, giving them new designations.

It's not as well-known as the storied Route 66, but I figured, hey, I'm in Vegas and I want to get back to Virginia, and the other end of the old route is in Virginia Beach. So I drove south from Vegas until I reached the end point of U.S. 60 and began the long trek home.

I don't live in Virginia Beach, of course, so this route would take me past my town (missing it by about 35 miles), but I'd long been wanting to trace one of the older, pre-interstate US routes from beginning to end. I have a friend who, until earlier that year, lived on a farm adjacent to Route 60 in Virginia, but that, and Pacific Avenue in Virginia Beach, had been my only experience with that road that I remember.

It's worth mentioning that yes, I'm fully aware that interstates get you where you want to go much faster and with more services available. But I don't travel for the destination; I travel for the experience of traveling.

Still, US 60 through Phoenix was one of the most stressful experiences of my driving career - and I've driven in New York, Boston, DC, LA, Atlanta, and the SF Bay area, just to name a few traffic-heavy places.

Phoenix. Sucked.

A few months after this trip, I saw a news story about a high-speed chase that the cops were involved in through Phoenix. My comment was I didn't believe it, because the top speed you can make through that shithole is, in my experience, approximately half walking speed. Okay, probably it's not a shithole, because clearly people want to live there. But the traffic sucks.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that Scottsdale is essentially part of Phoenix. Oh, sure, it has its own separate designation, but my rule is that unless cities are divided by a major river, a significant park, farmland, or a big honkin' wall or something, stop calling them different cities. It's annoying and confusing to anyone who doesn't live there, and I say that as someone who lives in the only state where cities are separate political entities from their surrounding counties.

But U.S. 60 doesn't go through Scottsdale, instead bypassing it to the south. Though "bypassing" doesn't convey the right flavor of traffic jam. After slogging through Phoenix, it was getting dark (I'm pretty sure I entered it in the morning), so I pulled off to spend the night at a motel in Mesa, which is another annoyingly city-that's-not-a-separate-city, directly south of Scottsdale. Or I don't know, maybe it was Tempe. Look, I've only been to Phoenix once and the chance of me being there again is minuscule. Okay, no, maybe it's not; I didn't have time to visit any breweries there, so it's still on my list. I'll just have to remember to allow a few extra weeks to get around the city.

From what I can gather, Scottsdale is, like, the rich people part of Greater Phoenix, so I wouldn't be allowed across the border anyway.

Which does nothing to explain or even hint at an explanation for the actual prompt, so my headcanon is that the appliance repair company is a front for a right-wing conservative pedophile, undocumented immigrant, human trafficking, and opioid distribution ring (hey, they're not the only ones who can make shit up), and that particular email address is for someone who follows the ebb and flow of politics so they'll have some warning when the government decides to start rounding them up.

Though they won't, because the government is in on it.

Following an old US route can get tricky at times, especially when it goes through a city and signs are missing or unclear. I must have looped around Louisville, for example, three times making sure I stayed on track.

And then, when I finally rolled into Virginia Beach a few days later, I stopped for the night just a few blocks short of the other end of Route 60, because that's where my favorite bar in the entire world is located.

Well. Was located. It closed last year, and I'm still sore about it. Add Virginia Beach to the list of cities I have no further reason to return to.

Unless a new brewery opens there, of course.
October 11, 2020 at 4:31am
October 11, 2020 at 4:31am
We're already up to entry #5 (of 8) in

 Journalistic Intentions  (18+)
This is for the journal keeping types that come to PLAY! New round underway!
#2213121 by Elisa, Bunny Stik

*Stop* Kitchen-Dick Road

"But Waltz... this is the third one you're doing a street name. I thought you said these things are random?" These things are random. That's why a bunch of them are clumped together. Sure, I use an app on my mobile which generates what's called a pseudo-random number, but it's statistically no different from rolling a hypothetical 16-sided die. The nature of randomness is...

...Oh, never mind. The reason I'm posting so late (for me) today is that after regaining consciousness from a thorough drunk pass-out, I got sucked into a YouTube rabbit hole of mathematical and physical oddities and, dare I say it: complexities. This led me to contemplate some of the deep mysteries of the universe, not in anyway related to roads, kitchens, or dicks.

Or are they?

After all, it doesn't take much to generate statistically random processes is one's kitchen. Happens all the time. Every day. Multiple times a day, for some people. Just boil water, and you'll see chaos in action, and chaos shares certain properties with randomness. Like... you know that water is going to eventually boil, but the exact location and size of the bubbles of steam? Unpredictable, within boundary conditions.

When I do road trips, I also use randomness. During my first cross-country road trip, as I'm sure I've noted before, I got it in my head to drive from the easternmost point in the continental US (in Maine) to the westernmost point (in Washington). Apart from these two boundary conditions, I had a few others:

*CarB* Avoid interstates, stick to secondary roads.
*CarB* No less than four and no more than eight hours of travel in a day
*CarB* Stay within the US; a great-circle route between the endpoints would be over 90% in Canada
*CarB* Select a random endpoint within a particular radius of a theoretical six-hour drive to stop for the night

This is not an exhaustive list, and there were some deviations from the plan, for example when a friend invited me for Thanksgiving dinner and their house was, well, close enough to the semi-random route. And when I nearly got buried in a snowstorm in Vermont *CarB*.

What I'm getting at, though, is that the last stage of this odyssey took me west of Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, and through a little town called Sequim, on the northern coast of the peninsula. And it is just outside of Sequim that the infamous Kitchen-Dick Road resides. So of the four road names in this blogging exercise, this is the only one that I can positively say I've seen - though I have no memory of seeing the sign itself, K-D Road intersects U.S. 101, and I'm certain that was the road I took because... well... look at a map of the area. There are no other through roads.

As for the name, the origin appears to be as mundane as it gets. There was a guy named Mr. Kitchen. There was another guy named Mr. Dick. The remarkably straight, north-south road between their farmsteads, or whatever they were at the time, was named after the dudes. Still, you have to think that whoever decided to name it that instead of, I dunno, Remarkably Straight Road or North-South Drive or Olympic View Boulevard, knew exactly what he was doing and was snickering like Beavis and/or Butt-Head the whole time.

How do I know this? Well, for once I could be arsed to look it up.


Kitchen-Dick Road: The strangest street name in Washington

Okay, well, Washington's a big state, though admittedly with a low density of roads compared to, say, anywhere east of the Mississippi. But there have got to be other contenders for "strangest."

Additionally, according to that (very short) article at the above link, which also sports a very helpful photograph...

And it gets even better… The street actually intersects with Woodcock Road.

*cue more Beavis and Butt-Head chortling*

But the best part? The best part is something they conspicuously leave out of the article.

And there's a great reason for the name: two Sequim pioneer families, the Kitchens and the Dicks lived at either end of the road. They combined their names to name the road. This from Peggy Hardin Hunt, who's husband is the great grandson of William Dick, one of the pioneers.

Which could have made her name "Peggy Hardin Dick-Hunt."

*cue Beavis and Butt-Head dying of asphyxiation*

So next time you need a meetup location, considering telling your friend “I’ll meet you at the corner of Kitchen-Dick and Woodcock,” because it doesn’t get any better than that.

The chance of me ever setting foot on the Olympic peninsula again is perilously close to zero; Forks exists there. But you never know - an ex-girlfriend of mine, someone I still talk to occasionally, lives on nearby Whidbey Island. So it could happen. That would be pretty random, though.
October 10, 2020 at 12:02am
October 10, 2020 at 12:02am
Entry #4 for

 Journalistic Intentions  (18+)
This is for the journal keeping types that come to PLAY! New round underway!
#2213121 by Elisa, Bunny Stik

*Drbag* Dr. Fail

Could be a Bond villain name, right? I mean, it would give away the ending, but really, you know Bond's going to win and the other guy's going to... well... fail... anyway, so why not?

Anyway, I got curious and looked up the origin of the name Fail. Turns out it's Scottish,  , which I'm sure will amuse any British readers to no end.

That hyperlink also shows the Fail Coat of Arms. You know, the family crest, with all the heraldic shit.

I really wish I had Photoshop skills right now, because I could come up with a far more appropriate and amusing crest. Appropriate and amusing, that is, to anyone not named Fail. That helmet, for example, would have a halberd stuck in it. Maybe add the dog from Duck Hunt that laughed like an idiot every time you failed. Perhaps bagpipes with a hole in the bag. Or modernize it with a drawing of a motorcycle wreck.

I know, I know, it's rude to make fun of peoples' last names. You should be proud of your last name, even if it's Fail. I'm certain the family has a proud history. I mean, hell, it's produced at least one doctor.

And yet, we can't help it, can we? Funny names are funny. There's the story of a Dr. A. Hedgeh, for example, who apparently had a problem with people adding "og" to his nameplate. I can't do it justice here, but have a link to the result: https://i.redd.it/zwt1s91nkuz01.jpg

This being the internet, of course, it's entirely possible that the Dr. Hedgehog story is made-up, in whole or in part, because unlike me, other people can do amazing things with Photoshop. Less likely with the Dr. Fail thing, as I found multiple sources. Here's another one: http://www.thefails.org/

Which doesn't mean all the available information is completely truthful. After all, you can try to fact-check everything, make sure it has some grounding in reality. But often enough...

...you fail.
October 9, 2020 at 12:09am
October 9, 2020 at 12:09am
Today's story is kind of parent-focused, but it illustrates some things that I've been harping on for a while.


Pleasure is good: How French children acquire a taste for life

The article discusses the idea of pleasure from different cultural perspectives. Well... not too different. European and American. But it's still worth noting some of the ideas in here.

In the US, we tend to compartmentalize pleasure, separating it from our daily chores and relegating it to special times. We have happy hours, not happy days. We have guilty pleasures, as if enjoying chocolate or a favorite movie is a moral failing.

To too many people, it is a moral failing. Whereas in France...

Pleasure, in fact, takes the weight of a moral value, because according to the French, pleasure serves as a compass guiding people in their actions.

Pleasure, then, is the goal. The purpose. Not a meaningless distraction on the way to some other goal.

Stimulating practices included reading to children, playing music and giving them massages. The ultimate goal of stimulating children is to develop their understanding of what gives them pleasure.

Some in the US would find this "creepy." The whole point is that it's not.

The moment that tied it all together for me was when I asked a mother in my research study why it was important to train her children to behave properly in public. She simply replied, “Because if they know how to behave properly, they will know how to adapt and get along with people. And that will give them pleasure.” Adhering to social rules is a means to greater pleasure. You have to give up something to gain something greater.

Pick an activity, any activity. Ask "why do we do this." Ask "why" to the answer. Keep doing this and eventually you come to the root causes. If the root cause is "to increase pleasure," I'd say you're on the right track.

As Americans, we are taught to deny pleasure and venerate self-sacrifice and hard work. And when we finally take time off to have fun, we often do things in excess. We party hard. We eat and drink too much. And then we feel guilty. When we enjoy food too much, we say we’ve been “bad.” Maybe if we didn’t deprive ourselves of simple pleasures all day every day, we wouldn’t feel so compelled to overdo it on weekends.

I'm just going to leave that right there. Personally, I've never been on board with that ethic. Hard work just leads to more work. If, as our cultural myth goes, hard work leads inevitably to financial success, then sharecroppers would be millionaires. So that myth is debunked right there.

I only ever worked with the goal in mind to one day not have to work anymore.

The rest of the article delves more into the family aspect of things, which I skipped, because it gives me great pleasure to have never had to deal with offspring.

Now, I understand others' ideas of pleasure are different from mine. Maybe work gives you pleasure. Not the results of the work, but the work itself. Or maybe raising kids was a challenge you willingly embraced, and it gives you joy. That's great My point is those things aren't universal.

Maybe if people chased things because it would genuinely improve their level of happiness instead of adhering to someone else's idea of happiness, people's lives would be better.

Or maybe we all just need more money.

Hell if I know. I just thought it was an interesting article.
October 8, 2020 at 12:03am
October 8, 2020 at 12:03am
I'm not feeling very well right now. No, I have no reason to believe it's that; I just maybe overindulged in some of my favorite beverages after completing a particularly grueling research / writing project. So today's entry will be blessedly short.


5 Weird Details Of Fictional Universes Nobody Told You

I have strong opinions about fantasy/SF writing; one of them is the idea that one should overwrite one's backstory, and then never let anyone else see it; just use relevant ideas from it as needed in the story.

Apparently, some of these writers did just that, though not every one of the six examples is an example of pre-plotted backstory; and, obviously, someone else (us) is seeing it.

I won't do my usual call-and-response thing here because I can't be arsed today. Suffice it to say there's something in there for almost every flavor of nerd, including Star Trek, Star Wars, and the ever-popular works of Tolkien.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll be in better shape to contribute something marginally more useful.
October 7, 2020 at 12:03am
October 7, 2020 at 12:03am
Entry #3 for

 Journalistic Intentions  (18+)
This is for the journal keeping types that come to PLAY! New round underway!
#2213121 by Elisa, Bunny Stik

*Penr* Golden State Urology

My adolescent sense of humor has long provided me with the means to come up with exceptionally amusing names for different professionals and businesses. Inspired by the Three Stooges (The Holy Trinity of comedy) with their law firm of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe, I came up with things like a dentist named Dr. Paine and an astronomy professor named Dr. Starr.

But, as with all things, the real world exceeded my meager imagination. For example, the spokesperson for the local power company, was, for a while, a guy named Phil Sparks.

You can't make this shit up. Well, you can, but you wouldn't be believed.

Or the state lottery PR manager who, at one time, was a woman named Paula Otto. (Get it? Poor Lotto? Well. I thought it was amusingly appropriate.)

So Golden State Urology can be considered, at best, a minor contender for Amusingly Appropriate Names. I mean, after all, you only need them if your pee *isn't* golden, right? Or if you're getting a vasectomy. Urologists do those, too. When I got mine, the urologist was kind of snippy.

It would be more appropriate to get a colonoscopy from a Dr. Brown which, given the frequency of that particular surname (behind only Smith and Jones in the US, last time I checked), it would be really strange if there were no proctologists with that name. But, as usual, I can't be arsed to look it up; besides, who wants that in your search history? Bad enough I've been going down a Google rabbit hole of British monarchs from the 1500s, so I'm probably on a List somewhere as "someone who likes beheadings."

One of these days I'm going to get in trouble for my internet searches, and I'll be presenting my WDC portfolio as evidence of my innocence. "I'm a comedy writer! Of course I searched for 'How to commit a funny murder!' Oh, and don't look at my porn."

But I digress. There are, of course, fewer appropriate surnames than there are unrelated ones, and I really should be saving this discussion for if one or more of the first four prompts come up. But the nature of pulling these up at random leads to the possibility that I won't get to talk about Dr. Croissant or Dr. Brain. If they do come up, well, I trust my own croissant-craving brain to come up with something else that's mildly amusing.

I'll close with two observations: Once, in my cross-country travels, I came across this place  , although a quick search tells me that the specific location of Bacon Printing Company that I found is no longer in business. That's sad. Point is, though, I was hoping that I found the place that prints BACON, but alas, it's just a regular printing company that uses paper.

As for my second closing observation, Robert Waltz can't dance.
October 6, 2020 at 12:03am
October 6, 2020 at 12:03am
For today, my second entry chosen at random from the prompts in

 Journalistic Intentions  (18+)
This is for the journal keeping types that come to PLAY! New round underway!
#2213121 by Elisa, Bunny Stik

*Stop* Hazard Ave.

Another Street Sign prompt... I told you I pick these things at random. My only rule is not to do one twice.

Even though I designed roads, I never paid much attention to the general distinction between streets, avenues, ways, lanes, drives, etc. I mean, I had this vague notion that a street is urban while a road is rural; a court is a short street that either loops or ends in a cul-de-sac, and an avenue is a particularly broad street. But I could name exceptions to each of these general rules.

I just designed the things. I never got to name them. This is probably a good thing, because then there'd be a Thunder Road, a Back Street, an Icant Drive, and an Ivelostmy Way in my town. To name but a few.

And really, some of these naming conventions are purely arbitrary. The street I live on is a court, because it ends in a cul-de-sac; a nearby street is a drive, even though it's a loop. Another nearby street is designated an avenue, even though the closest part to me is actually narrower than the court I live on (later on, it's divided by a tree-planted median). The street=urban and road=rural is more of a design specification; streets generally -- again, you can find exceptions very easily -- include curbs and sidewalks, while roads (including highways and freeways, another blurred distinction) do not. The drainage systems are completely different for streets and roads, and from a design standpoint that's what matters.

As I'm learning French, it seems they make the same distinction: a rue is an urban street, while a route is a rural road. Meanwhile, in America, we can't decide whether to pronounce "route" like root or like rout. (In French, it's closer to root.)

Speaking of France, the Platonic ideal and archetype of the "avenue" is the Champs-Élysées in Paris, formally the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, because yes, avenue is a French word. And it's only very recently that it finally dawned on me that the name of this prototypical avenue translates as Elysian Fields. I mean, I could have looked that shit up if I'd been arsed to do so, but as usual, I was not. Hell, it took me fifty years just to learn how to pronounce it correctly so as not to get smacked by a passing French person.

Hopping back across the pond, let's look at New York. It has avenues, too. In Manhattan, avenues run north-south (actually more northeast-southwest, but whatevs) while streets run perpendicular to them. That is, on most of the island. The lower and older part is confusing as hell. The Dutch probably did that, back when it was New Amsterdam, specifically to annoy the hell out of the rigid English when the latter acquired the city from the former. Or, well, no; there was no real planning involved, but that's my headcanon.

Anyway, the point is, the avenues of New York are merely broad streets, and most of them are one-way. You think of an avenue, you probably think tree-lined, probably has a median, otherwise looks like an airport runway. Oh, sure, there are trees, but almost all streets in New York have trees. Pretty sure it's the law there. You look at a picture of the Champs-Élysées, though, and it's positively teeming avec les arbres.

Which reminds me of a joke:

Why are the streets of Paris lined with trees?

Because Germans like to march in the shade.

There is one notable exception to the rigid grid structure of middle Manhattan, and that's arguably the second-most famous street in the world: Broadway. (I'm sure that as an American I should proclaim it is the number one most famous street in the world, but come on, just look at a picture of the Champs-Élysées. That sucker is just plain beautiful.) Broadway is so special that it doesn't have Street, Avenue (it would qualify as an avenue under most definitions of the word), Road, or any other description. And it's not Broad Way, or Broadway Way, because that would just be silly. It's just Broadway, and it cuts right across the otherwise regular grid pattern that defines Manhattan and makes it actually a rather easy city to drive in, as compared to, say, Boston or DC.

Fun Fact: Broadway starts in Lower Manhattan, but it runs across into the Bronx and on into Upstate New York, not stopping until after it's passed through Sleepy Hollow. Yes, that Sleepy Hollow, of Ichabod Crane fame and the setting of a TV series that started out so well and then went to shit. In fact, there's more to Broadway outside of Manhattan than there is in Manhattan. One of these days I want to follow it for its entire length. It's only something like 33 miles long; given Manhattan traffic it should only take me a week or so.

Point is, with all the traffic, trees, statues, medians, curbs, stoplights, signs, blinking lights, crosswalks, parking, pedestrians, and potholes you inevitably find on something called an "avenue," the only thing shocking about Hazard Ave. is that it's not a far more common name for a street.
October 5, 2020 at 12:02am
October 5, 2020 at 12:02am
As an Aquarius, I don't believe in astrology.


Why Astrology Matters
Seeing meaning in the stars is a vital part of the scientific story.

What I do believe in is folklore.

Allow me to elucidate.

Whether a thing reflects actual reality or not matters when one is discussing science, but not in every situation. For example, our concept of the beginning of the universe popularly known as the Big Bang fits all available data, and has made accurate predictions, while the Hopi creation story   (to name but one of many) serves as a window into the thought processes of that culture but no one is going to do effective science with it.

These stories are culturally significant not only to their parent cultures, but to our understanding of humanity as a whole.

And that is why, even though astrology is clearly bullshit, it's important to know about as part of the history of the stories we humans tell ourselves to try to make sense out of a nonsensical universe. And that, I think, is the theme this article's author is trying to convey.

The basic premise of astrology is the stars and the planets exert an influence over events on Earth.

It's actually a bit more complicated than that. Of course stars and planets exert an influence. The gravity of the sun and moon is obvious. The light of all the heavenly bodies reaches our eyes, and we can see them, however faintly and sometimes only through instruments. The idea behind astrology is that their relative positions matter, and that's the part that's, at best, mythological in nature.

To the informed scientific mind—a relatively new phenomenon—astrology can’t possibly work.

Like I said.

Some might walk away at this point, seeing no value in discussing astrology. However, astrology is a vital part of our human, and scientific, story. We have been making astrological connections—mapping the heavens and trying to discern their influence on the Earth—for much longer than we have been doing science.

Which is what I've been saying.

Astrology had a huge influence on the development of science, sometimes directly. In 1663, Isaac Newton bought a book on astrology at the Sturbridge Summer Fair. It was an act of curiosity, but Newton found that he couldn’t make sense of it because he didn’t know enough geometry. And so he began to study Euclid. This is how Newton got hooked on mathematics.

That's actually something with more grounding in fact than the possibly-apocryphal "falling apple" story.

Like ancient AI, it was the job of astrologers to identify patterns in the gathered data and extract meaning from the correlations they found. Who can blame them if they sometimes saw patterns and meaning where there were none?

That's what we humans do: look for patterns. As I've noted before, we often find them when they're not really there. But sometimes, in the searching, we stumble across deeper truths.

In the end, Boxer, like me, doesn’t think there is any reason to believe in astrology—but we are both Tauruses, so what can you expect?

Filthy Tauruses, stubbornly never getting anything right... oh wait, they're right.

I’m not ashamed to say that I have a soft spot for astrology. Historically, astrology is the grit that seeded the pearl; its data-gathering, map-making, and pattern-seeking laid the cognitive foundations for modern science. Rather than rudely dismiss it as an embarrassing product of ignorant times, we should acknowledge its contribution.

And that's the sense in which I discuss it -- as a relic, a step on the road to enlightenment, but certainly not enlightenment itself.

This is how science works. You make observations. You gather data. You form hypotheses. You test the data from the observations to see if they conform to a hypothesis. If they don't, ideally, you throw out the faulty hypothesis. In the case of astrology, and in several other cases from human history that I won't go into right now, instead of throwing out the hypothesis, we've said, "Well, maybe if we just tweak the hypothesis..."

Astrology claims to predict. And, just as a blind dart-thrower will occasionally hit a target through sheer chance, sometimes its predictions seem accurate. We'll always remember these accurate predictions -- the author of the linked article opens with one such. We'll either dismiss all the times the dart-thrower hit the backboard (or his friend standing too close to it), or we'll make excuses for him. "Well, that was just one bad throw."

The article itself is interesting in that it describes, also, some attempts to get at the accuracy rate of astrology; so far, it seems indistinguishable from blind chance.

As for the gravitational influence of the planets upon one's birth, keep in mind that -- and I haven't run the numbers here, so take this with a grain of salt -- the obstetrician exerts a greater gravitational field on the newborn than does the mighty planet Jupiter, all those millions of miles away.

Nevertheless, we are influenced by Jupiter, and by Mars and Venus: we're influenced to want to go out there and explore, or stay here and send robot probes. The planets and the stars do have repercussions on our lives, if only indirectly. Just not in the way the astrologers claim. Theirs is the power of stories, of discovery, of speculation.

And that's more powerful than gravity.

An explanation of today's blog entry title  
October 4, 2020 at 12:04am
October 4, 2020 at 12:04am
First off, I'd like to thank the judges and other people involved in running "30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+]. Last month was a lot of fun to blog and read others' entries and responses, and I'm (almost) humbled to have been selected as September's winner.

Merit Badge in 30DBC Winner
[Click For More Info]

Congratulations on winning the September 2020 round of the  [Link To Item #30dbc] !! Fine job!

And also congratulations to the other winners: Eric Wharton and WakeUpAndLive~No cig for me! , who, among other participants, had excellent entries last month.

Anyway, enough with the bragging. The problem with winning awards, like that one or last year's Quill, is now I'm under even more pressure to keep up whatever it is that I've been doing right. If you know what that is, tell me. Maybe the Merit Badges I've been giving out help. Or at least don't hurt.

Speaking of which, I'll announce yesterday's Mini-Contest results below. But today's blog is about music. Specifically, a song I'm sure everyone, at least other Americans, will hopefully know.


This Land Is Your Land: The Story Behind America's Best-Known Protest Song

Few songs are more ingrained in the American psyche than "This Land Is Your Land," the greatest and best-known work by folk icon Woody Guthrie. For decades, it's been a staple of kindergarten classrooms "from California to the New York island," as the lyrics go. It's the musical equivalent of apple pie, though the flavor varies wildly depending on who's doing the singing.

From Wikipedia: An apple pie is a pie in which the principal filling ingredient is apple, originated in England.  

I guess that doesn't completely negate the cliché "as American as apple pie," as a lot of our heritage (not to mention our most popular language) also originated in England. Still, let's not be under any illusion that its origins are on this side of the pond.

That said, I have no idea how familiar the people in other countries might be with this particular song, so if you don't know it, take a look at the article. It's fairly short and has pictures and videos, and I'm not going to reproduce it in full because the only thing more American than apple pie, bald eagles, personal assault weapons, and meddling in other countries' politics is copyright law.

On its most basic level, "This Land Is Your Land" is a song about inclusion and equality...

And already we see in this song, now about 80 years old, the seeds of the Great Divide that still pervades our country. Or, perhaps, the Divide has always been there and it's only fairly recently that its chasm has been fully realized.

But there's more to "This Land Is Your Land" than many people realize—two verses more, in fact.

I knew this, to no one's great surprise I'm sure. But one of my blind spots has always been assuming that if I know something, then so does everyone else. So here it is.

Throughout his travels in the late '30s, Guthrie was haunted by Kate Smith's hit recording of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America." Guthrie found Berlin's song to be jingoistic and out of touch with the reality facing many of his fellow citizens. So he set about writing a response.

I remember when I first learned of this aspect of the song's origin. It certainly wasn't in kindergarten or whenever it was we were first forced to sing the thing when I was a kid. I mean, back then, it was part of the patriotic indoctrination we all received: Stand for the National Anthem. Put hand to heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance (no one tried to make us kids sing The Star-Spangled Banner, probably because hell, most adults don't have the required voice range, and kids trying to do it would drive up sales of earplugs and headache pills). Sing This Land is Your Land.

So I can excuse the general idea that some people have that it's just another Thing that we do to Promote Patriotism. But the point is, and the article delves into this later, it was only when Springsteen's first live album came out in the mid-80s that I caught a glimpse of the actual origins of the song: not so much patriotic as revolutionary.

Of course, in this country, what is revolutionary should be considered patriotic. But that's not always the case, as the article demonstrates.

Instead of doing a sarcastic parody, he wrote a song that pulls double-duty, celebrating America's natural splendor while criticizing the nation for falling short of its promise.

Which makes Guthrie a better man than I am. I'm all over the "sarcastic parody" idea.

Regardless of which verses are included, "This Land Is Your Land" is terrific for singing. That was by design. Guthrie likely stole the melody from the Carter Family's 1935 tune "Little Darling, Pal of Mine," which itself was patterned after an old gospel hymn titled "When the World's On Fire" (sometimes called "Oh, My Loving Brother").

Ah, yes, another great American tradition: theft of intellectual property. Hence the sometimes draconian copyright laws I mentioned above.

To be fair, though, I don't think an "old gospel hymn" can be copyrighted.

But regardless of Guthrie's intentions, "This Land Is Your Land" has come to mean different things to different people.

As should be the case with all great works of art.

Anyway, like I said, the article goes into much greater depth of its history and includes videos of different versions. I should also give a shout-out to the excellent cover performed by Counting Crows. Can't be arsed to link it tonight, but you can find it if you want.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the parody of This Land that circulated amongst my peers when I was young:

This land is MY land
It isn't YOUR land
I got a shotgun
And you ain't got one
If you don't get off
I'll blow your head off...
This land is private property.

The irony of subverting a subversive song is not lost on me, and I find it endlessly amusing.

*StarB* *StarB* *StarB*

Mini-Contest Results!

Great responses from yesterday, and they certainly all made me hungry! (Though part of that is that I can now use the left side of my mouth for chewing again, which is a big relief.)

Soldier_Mike 🎺 spoke of crepes from his local restaurant, which it sounds like I'm definitely going to have to visit next time I'm in his neck of the woods. Crepes, of course, are also a French thing. Probably more French than French toast.

WakeUpAndLive~No cig for me! - Eggs Benedict is a quite popular breakfast or brunch meal here in the US, too, yes, complete with Hollandaise. Only our tradition is to serve it on a split English muffin - which, as with so many foods, is neither English nor a muffin. The closest you get to one in actual England is crumpets. Also, she provided a great resource in a different comment for how to pronounce the "ch" sound for challah and other words.

Andy~2021 has to be better spoke of potato rosti, and its resemblance to latkes. Potatoes, of course, aren't exclusively a breakfast food, and latkes certainly aren't. I had latkes with lox in, of all places, a Belgian restaurant (not in actual Belgium but in NYC), and it was delicious. Also, I don't believe in day drinking. There is only drinking. Position of the accursed daystar is irrelevant.

Lilli ☕ - those sound delicious and now I wish more Middle Eastern restaurants (and Indian, etc.) would serve breakfast in the US.

Brandiwyn🎶 knows I'm lazy, so that recipe is intriguing to me. Probably not as delicious as some of the other entries, but balances that out with absolute ease of preparation.

Lazy Writer est 4/24/2008 - while I like oatmeal just fine, it's never going to be near the top of my "delicious breakfast" lists. It's more... I don't know... utilitarian? Sometimes you just need the good carbs.

As for the Merit Badge, I think it'll go to Lilli ☕ today [though I will wait until at least next Friday to actually send it because I sent you one last week] - because those were foods I never heard of and now I definitely want to try them. But I wouldn't turn up my nose at any of the other foods -- far from it! Except for coffee. I know you guys love the stuff, but I just never got a taste for it.

Wouldn't mind a good English Breakfast Tea, though.

I'll do another mini-contest soon - thanks again for reading and commenting!
October 3, 2020 at 12:03am
October 3, 2020 at 12:03am
And now for something completely different... a recipe *Shock*

(And an actual emoticon)

Merit Badge Mini-Contest below!


Recipe: Best-Ever Challah French Toast

This came up from my list at random, but it's serendipitous because not only is it Shabbat right now (aka the Sabbath, which of course happens every week) but it's also Sukkot, a harvest festival that only comes 'round once a year, like most harvest festivals. It's kind of like the Jewish version of Oktoberfest, with less beer and more freezing your ass off outside at night. But with food.

Couple of things to start off.

Food as Cultural Appropriation: Get the fuck out of here with that shit. Eat what you like. And I can practically guarantee you that if you like bread, you'll like challah. Besides, I bet that unless you have dietary crap going on, you've already eaten bagels, pastrami sandwiches, and latkes. Anyway, this comes from my ancestral culture and I give you permission.

Pronunciation: Since the etymology of the name is Hebrew, it's pronounced with a sound we don't have in English. This is rendered as "ch." Now, "ch" can be pronounced like in chop, or like in Charlotte, or, and this is the important one here, like in loch or chutzpah. You make the sound by basically half-clearing your throat. If you really, really can't make the sound, then pronouncing it with a hard "k" is barely acceptable, though that will out you as a goy. But if I can learn how to pronounce a French "r," you can pronounce the Hebrew "ch." Might take some practice, though.

One final thing before we get on to this delicious and probably addictive recipe:


There. Now you know more than I do about this tasty bread.

Growing up, challah French toast was the only French toast I knew.

Same here, although unlike the author, my parents couldn't cook to save their lives. But with enough sugar, when you're a kid, who cares?

We would slather softened butter over thick slices of fresh challah on Friday night for Shabbat, and my dad would use the rest of the loaf to make mile-high stacks of French toast the next morning...

You know how I know the author doesn't come from an Orthodox family?

It wasn’t until a diner served me French toast made with a piece of limp wheat sandwich bread that I realized how spoiled I had been.

Seriously, it's possible to make decent French toast with other breads, but some of the crap that passes itself off as French toast is actually crap. (French toast, by the way, isn't all that French and actually predates what we now know as France -- but "Gaulish Bread" just doesn't have the ring to it. I hear that in actual France, it's called pain perdu, or "lost bread.")

Trust me, once you’ve had challah French toast, you’ll realize there’s no other way to eat it.

This is truth incarnate. So beware: you will be spoiled by this, just like I can no longer drink cheap-ass American adjunct light beer.

3 Steps for the Absolute Best Challah French Toast

And really, this stuff is dead easy to create. Even I can be arsed to whip up a batch from time to time, and I'm the laziest imaginable cook.

1. Cut thick slices of bread, then dry them out in the oven.

This is ideal, yes, but a lot of times the reason you're making French toast is you have bread that's going stale and needs to be eaten before it becomes duck chow or hockey pucks. And stale bread may not need the oven treatment. You probably know better than I do whether to do this step or not. I usually just use the stale bread.

2. Use full-fat dairy for the very best custard.

Seriously, if you're already committed to French toast, the paltry extra calories you get from using actual milk instead of watery skim milk won't make a thimbleful of difference.

3. Fry the French toast in butter, not oil.

I approve of this message.

The article ends with the actual recipe, which seems like a big block of text but is actually just padded for rank beginners so they don't make rookie mistakes like letting the butter (or the toast itself) burn.

For maximum sacrilege, I recommend serving with a heap of bacon strips. Unless you're actually Jewish, I promise this won't piss off God. The pig might not be very happy about it, though.

Besides, I once overheard some idiot complaining about cultural appropriation while chomping down on a bacon, egg and cheese bagel. Irony is utterly lost on some people.

*StarB* *StarB* *StarB*

Merit Badge Mini-Contest!

And hey, now that it's fully October and I'm feeling better than I was yesterday, tell me about your favorite breakfast food in a comment below. The one that makes me the hungriest gets its chef de cuisine a Merit Badge. As always, you have until the end of the day today, October 3, WDC time.
October 2, 2020 at 12:02am
October 2, 2020 at 12:02am
I'm not firing on all cylinders right now. I think I've mentioned this before, but I've been fighting a toothache since approximately 15 seconds after my state instituted lockdown back in March, and it's only been about a month since the pain got so bad that I wanted the pain to go away even more than I wanted to, you know, not get sick -- and I can't think of many better places to get a certain airborne disease than at a dentist's office.

The other thing I've been doing is trying to get a flu shot. My pharmacy advertises them, but every time I've gone there in the past two weeks, they've been conveniently "out."

A root canal - actually, two of them at the same time - was scheduled for yesterday morning, and afterwards, as I went to pick up some prescriptions the endo had called in for me, behold, a flu shot was available. Now, I don't usually get major side effects from flu shots, but I think the combination of having someone dig around inside two teeth, the painkiller prescription for the aftermath, and the vaccine conspired to give me mental fog. It's a bit better now that I've had some rest, but I still don't feel all that coherent. A bit like being drunk, actually, only without the fun part of, you know... actually being drunk, or having drunk. (No, I didn't drink any booze and won't until the meds have run their course.) But I just can't seem to shake the fog right now.

Like, for example... as I've mentioned before, I've been working hard to learn French on Duolingo. The way that site is set up, lessons come in chunks of twenty exercises. Usually I get about 17-20 of the exercises right. I'm sure some people with better memories than mine do better, but hey, I'm slowly improving. Point is, when I went to do the lessons today I regularly flubbed five or six of the exercises for almost all the lessons. Stupid, basic stuff too, like using the entirely wrong word, making a wrong conjugation of a verb, switching genders (too tired to make a joke out of that right now), or typing "tu" instead of "te" when the pronoun is used as the object of a verb.

All of this is to say that I have a lot of things I want to do on WDC this month, and was hoping to hit the ground running; instead, I hit the bed sleeping.

Still blogging tonight, though -- I don't feel quite bad enough to break my streak -- and I expect things will get better once I've had some rest. And sorry if I flub English as badly as I did French earlier.

One of the things I wanted to do this month was a different blog challenge, besides the one I did yesterday, but I just don't have the concentration for it right now. So I'm falling back on my Blog Fodder folder. Here's a Cracked article about one of the most infamous fiction writers of all time.


The 'It Was A Dark And Stormy Night' Author Had A Super Weird Life

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents - except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

How Not To Write, Lesson One.

He also coined phrases that are still used unironically, like "the almighty dollar" and "the pen is mightier than the sword." But, more importantly for now, his life and its consequences were weird as hell.

Okay, those were things I did not know before reading the article. Of course, it's Cracked, so I can't be 100% sure that this is factually accurate, but now it's in my mind as "provisionally true" because in my current condition I can't be arsed to fact-check (though that's not much different from me on a good day). If someone else does that, feel free to comment.

Let's talk about his marriage first, because it'll make any relationship problems you're struggling with seem quaint.

I mean, I'm not going to paste the entire article here, because I don't want Cracked's crack team of lawyers slapping me with a plaig... plege... plegia... copying shit off their site lawsuit. But this stuff is seriously warped.

Now you know what they say about revenge: it's best served repeatedly and with increasing fervor over several decades.

Yes, I believe the Klingons came up with that proverb. In any case, that section deals with the very public spat between Bulwer-Lytton and his ex.

But of course it gets weirder.

But with the worst of their exchange over, Edward could get back to his writing, so now let's talk about the book that led to insane Nazi conspiracy theories.

Again, go to the link for details, but basically this guy, his memory now mostly reduced to a source of parody (I've done my own twists on the "dark and stormy night" thing), was popular and influential enough to affect freaking Nazi Germany a century later. And the echoes still reverberate today.

Bulwer-Lytton did not, of course, live to see any of that, but he did live to be offered the Greek throne.

I told you it got weirder.

Anyway, while that website varies widely in quality, sometimes you find a gem or two. And this particular one has to do with the lingering influence of the power of writing, so here I am, fighting off brain-cobwebs in an heroic effort to share the story with my fellow writers.

You're welcome.

Maybe tomorrow I can do something more coherent.
October 1, 2020 at 12:06am
October 1, 2020 at 12:06am
Let's open October with a prompt from

 Journalistic Intentions  (18+)
This is for the journal keeping types that come to PLAY! New round underway!
#2213121 by Elisa, Bunny Stik

This round will focus on weird names! I have worked in fields that have given me access to many bizarre names over the years. They are short prompts for a reason. I really want to see participants flex their mental muscles this round!

I'm not sure if my mental muscles are up to the task. They'd rather sit at home and drink. But I'm going to pick one of these prompts at random and see where it leads me.

*Stop* Solid Waste Rd.

(You can see the other eccentric road names, as well as the other prompts, at the contest link above.)

I like roads.

Hell, I've designed roads.

Not major ones or anything, but those curvy little subdivision roads with their cul-de-sacs and cookie-cutter houses. I wasn't responsible for the houses. I was only responsible for making sure they weren't going to flood after they were built. Anytime you add impervious surface to an area -- roads, sidewalks, driveways, patios, the houses themselves -- stormwater runoff increases. I'll spare you the details, but the reason why shouldn't be too obscure.

But even runoff coming in from offsite can be an issue, so you don't plan to put houses where this is going to happen. Otherwise, next big storm comes along and your house gets washed downstream. It becomes, in effect, solid waste.

But that's not what I suspect Solid Waste Road was named after.

The other reason I like roads is I like driving on them. They go places and present you with things to look at -- sometimes big things like mountains or deserts, and sometimes little things like street signs.

Because sometimes, as this prompt illustrates, the street signs themselves can be oddball, eccentric, amusing, or head-scratching.

I always wonder what streets and roads are named for. Sometimes, it's trivial, like 33rd Street in Manhattan. Sometimes it's obvious, like Main Street in... well, just about any town in the US. But sometimes, it's a mystery to be solved.

There's a road near me called Turkey Sag Road, for instance. This bugged me until someone pointed out to me that the "sag" part was etymologically related to the "sac" in "cul-de-sac," which means, in French... wait for it... you're not going to believe this in a million years... "sack." Not sure how factual that information was, though.

And yet, I still don't know whether it's named for a hollow where turkeys hung out, or whether someone along the road used to sack turkeys for Thanksgiving or whatever. The internet is completely useless in this regard, and the few people who live in old houses on enormous plots of land along said road do not seem to be the kind who welcome strangers knocking on their doors to ask stupid questions.

Two of my favorite road names are, in no particular order, Clint Drive and Flicker Lane.

I'm sure this makes no sense on the face of it. Perfectly ordinary words or names, right?

Except consider that road names are almost exclusively etched onto street signs in BLOCK CAPS.

And do you know what you get when you put an L and an I together in BLOCK CAPS?

There's an old warning for comics writers, because comics dialogue was also traditionally done in block caps: Never, ever, ever name a character CLINT FLICKER.

Anyway, I'm going to save some of my other road name musings on the chance I'll pick one of the other weird road names in a future entry. I'll just leave you with this: I'd bet $10 that Solid Waste Road leads to the local sewage treatment facility, because that's what they call anything that goes through the sewer system that isn't, well, liquid. And sometimes the stuff that is liquid, but then settles out. It's very tempting to call that "shit," and I suppose in the very general sense of the term it is (as in "What's all this shit?") but actual fecal matter isn't all that's there. No, there's toilet paper, obviously; some of your kids' toys; "flushable" wipes that really aren't; and your ex's wedding ring.

Or it could be a dump, or "landfill." Either way, it's solid waste.

So it's not all that bizarre, really; perhaps someone considered it a bit of a joke ("Okay, we can't call it "Shit Lane," and "Treatment Plant Drive" won't fit on the street sign, so..."); but I'll admit it would be amusing to drive past and see the sign. Still, while it's likely in an industrial-zoned area, I feel a good bit of sympathy for any humans who live along that road. Not only do they have to put up with the fragrance of a dump or a treatment plant, but anyone who sends them snail mail can get a great chuckle at their expense.

September 30, 2020 at 12:02am
September 30, 2020 at 12:02am
Ah, yes, the traditional end to a 30DBC month.

PROMPT September 30th

Congratulations on making it to the last day of the competition! What was your favorite prompt from the last month? What was the most rewarding aspect of participating in the competition? Did you learn anything about yourself or your fellow bloggers?

Do I even have a favorite prompt? Unlike some previous months, I enjoyed writing to most of these prompts. I only recall one or two which presented issues for me, like the bit about spare time. I suppose I'll pick the "favorite seasonal thing" prompt from a few days ago, because it prompted me to write about one of my favorite subjects: beer.

The most rewarding aspect, and I don't remember exactly how I've responded to this question before but I suspect I'm going to be repeating myself here, is seeing the variety of other peoples' responses to the same prompts. We're all coming from a different place, so we all have our own takes on things. While it's nice to find people who agree with me, it helps me grow and think when someone has an entirely different worldview.

Did I learn anything? Sure. I always learn something. Sometimes I forget it immediately; at this point I need repetition to drill something into my head. I know I didn't comment on every entry I read, and I didn't read every entry, but the ones I saw demonstrated thoughtfulness and care in their answers -- whereas I'm aware I'm often sarcastic and sometimes prefer to inspire laughter than delve deep into the philosophy of some prompts. But that's okay, as far as I'm concerned. So I guess that's what I learned about myself, or, rather, confirmed: that I like being the comedian.

I suppose I should try for even more comedy, but you know, sometimes I just want to be serious. This may confuse people, though, and make them think that I'm trying to be funny when I'm not. But that's not nearly as bad as not being funny when I'm trying to be. That shit's downright embarrassing, like when you drop your pants for sex and the woman points and giggles. Or is that just me? Probably just me.

Anyway, I expect to be around next month too, just doing different things. Maybe I'll attempt some 30DBC Unofficial Month prompts. Almost certainly I'll take a stab at "Journalistic Intentions [18+]. Probably it'll mostly be me riffing off of interesting (or stupid) articles that are lurking in my Blog Fodder folder.

Oh, and I'll resume handing out Merit Badges in mini-contests. After spraying out a bunch of them early this month, it's been a few weeks again, so be on the lookout for those.

Anyway, it's been a good blogging month -- thanks to all of you for reading, commenting, and running the 30DBC. See you tomorrow!
September 29, 2020 at 12:01am
September 29, 2020 at 12:01am
Alright, this is not something I would ever normally do, but I sign up for these challenges specifically to do things I wouldn't normally do.

PROMPT September 29th

List the top ten things you most desire in life and the top ten things you are most grateful for.

The Top Ten Things I Most Desire In Life

10. A reliable car
9. Cats
8. Travel
7. A home with a comfortable bed and good appliances
6. A reliable internet connection
5. A gaming laptop
4. Games for said laptop
3. Friends
2. Booze
1. Money

Okay, maybe #7 is cheating, but without stuff in it a house is just a house, not a home, so I assert that I can specify at least some of its contents.

And now...

The Top Ten Things I Am Most Grateful For

10. ... 1. (see above list)

Some might be wondering where "happiness" is on that list. Happiness isn't a thing. Happiness is what can emerge when what you want and what you have are the same. As has been said before, happiness isn't about having what you want, but about wanting what you have. Which is not to say I'm ecstatic all the time or anything; I do have this pesky tendency towards depression.

Besides, it hasn't been a high priority for me for a while, since I figured out that I was going to either live or not, regardless of whether I'm "happy."

But the thing is, I do have what I want. Mostly. I mean, I'm not completely complacent. The "travel" thing is kind of a sore spot for me right now, what with restrictions and all. And there are always little things I want, like, for instance, the new Jim Butcher book which I'm given to understand comes out tomorrow.

You'll also note that "love" isn't on the list. I'm entirely too cynical and jaded to put it on there. It's just not a high priority for me; previous attempts have ended badly, and you know what they say about doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.

So I guess my lists are very material-oriented. I'm okay with that. I made peace long ago with being materialistic. I suppose other things like health and, well, being alive should be on there as well, and they are important to me in that without being alive and reasonably healthy, I couldn't want or enjoy anything. So those should be read as the implication anchoring everything else.
September 28, 2020 at 12:06am
September 28, 2020 at 12:06am
I'm pretty damn possessive of my possessions.

PROMPT September 28th

If you were forced to eliminate every physical possession from your life with the exception of what could fit into a single backpack, what would you put in it?

1) My laptop, its power cord, mouse, mousepad. Can't live without these things. Why do I have a mouse when I have a laptop? Because I can't stand using the damn trackpad, and besides, how can I game with the trackpad?

2) A metric assload of $100 bills so I can buy more stuff. No, I do not consider this cheating. Money is a possession, and while most of it's just numbers on some bank's balance sheet, I can convert it to a physical possession during business hours.

3) A .45 caliber handgun for when I find the sonofabitch who "forced" me to give up the rest of my possessions, which include somewhat valuable houses that won't fit into any backpack I've ever heard of. I mean, I'm not a violent person, but that could change in the above scenario.

I guess that last one is kind of cheating because I don't currently own a .45, but that's the first thing I'd buy with some of the money.

4) My passport so I can leave the country after retiring the person from (3).

Seriously, though, the only plausible scenario wherein I could see this sort of thing happening would be an imminent natural disaster, like a hurricane or tornado. We don't get many of either in the Virginia Piedmont, but it happens. It's rare enough that I haven't been arsed to put together a dedicated bug-out bag, which is really something I should work on doing, you know, just in case.

Wouldn't really need the cash, because of cards and such, but the laptop is truly essential. And no, there wouldn't actually be a gun involved unless the reason was a zombie invasion, which happens even less often than hurricanes or tornadoes. The passport is for real, though, because it would suck to lose everything and also not have a means to leave the country if I have to. My wallet would go in there, too, except that it's probably in my pocket. Same with my Android.

Unless civilization has completely collapsed, I wouldn't even bother with toiletries or clothing or whatever -- those things are readily available, though I'd miss a few of my T-shirts. If civilization has completely collapsed, though, not much use for the laptop or smartphone, either. And why would anyone assume I'd survive such an event? I'm not the survivalist type. And without a functioning CPAP, I'm not long for the world anyway.

If the point of this exercise is to get us to think about what physical possessions are truly essential in our lives, I guess what that comes down to for me is: money. It's just so damn versatile.

But I do like the laptop.
September 27, 2020 at 2:27am
September 27, 2020 at 2:27am
Oh, yeah! Hung-over prompts time!

PROMPT September 27th

We are nearing the end of the month, and as always, I need your help to fill the Challenge War Chest with new prompts! In your entry today, write three of your own blogging prompts and then use one of them to complete your entry.

So, let's see. Blog prompts. Many of this month's prompts have been quite thought-provoking, and I'm not sure I can top them in my current condition. Fortunately, I don't have to top them, just come up with different ones.

In that spirit...

1) What are your favorite procrastination techniques?

2) Tell us about your favorite food. Include all the sensory description you can: smell, sight, etc. Why do you eat it even though you know it's bad for you?

3) Talk about a time someone gave you a compliment, but you felt you didn't deserve it.

Yeah, I know, they're kinda salty. If you had my hangover right now you'd be pickled too.

Because this entry is later than my usual entries, I figure it's appropriate to tackle #1.

What are your favorite procrastination techniques?

Oh, there are so many. So, so many.

I guess the most important procrastination technique is "forgetfulness." When I know I have something important to do by a deadline, I distract myself by doing something else until I forget what it is or when it's due. Then I wake up in the middle of the night screaming because I suddenly remember what it was, how essential it was for my well-being, and that it was due last week.

Another good one is cleaning. Now, I hate cleaning with an all-consuming passion, but occasionally I get saddled with something I want to do even less. This is a good way to actually get me to straighten some things up, because I tell myself cleaning doesn't require a lot of brain power and I can use the time to think about the thing whose deadline is rapidly approaching. Usually this means I half-ass the cleaning and half-ass the... whatever the other project is.

Then there are the times I convince myself that in order to do project A, first I need to tackle project B. But project B requires the results of project C, which in turn requires me to complete project D. The biggest problem here is that project D is heavily dependent on project A being complete. I call this Recursion to Infinity Procrastination, or RIP, which will be etched on the tombstones of my unfinished projects.

Occasionally, procrastination isn't all bad, and I manage to get other things done, like when I'm stuck on a story so I decide to do some reviewing instead. At least then I get reviews done. Most of the time, though, I just waste time until the adrenaline kicks in so I can't wait any longer.

If you're expecting me to be all sunshine and light here and give tips for not procrastinating, remember 1) who you're reading here and 2) the hangover bit from above.

Hopefully, though, this has been at least a teensy bit amusing for you readers, because I'm suffering for my art here, and my art is supposed to be comedy.

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