A leap second! Who knew?

"Enjoy New Year's Eve a second longer," said the researchers at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Well thank you, researchers at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, you just had to go and say that didn't you. I could have slept another second and now look - I'll stay up an extra second and blow the whole thing off. Just like I do every time we change to daylight savings time. And back again.

How does that work, come to think of it, researchers at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology? I lose an hour going both ways. Some kind of weirdness there. I don't understand that at all.

The BBC, being British, is going to add a pip. (Yeah, I'm not sure about that either. Why don't they just give it up and speak English?)

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Commas are not confetti, and other resolutions

There was an English teacher where I worked once who used to tell that to her classes - commas are not confetti - and that's a fact I should pay more attention to myself. I claim some sort of pardon from the strict observance of this rule because once in a former life I spent a good many years as a speech writer, a most congenial occupation in which no one pays much attention to your grammar - let alone your spelling - and commas are more about comfortable phrasing than about strict rules.

But here I am now. (I used to think maybe the only thing better than writing speeches might be writing postage stamps, simply because it seemed to involve a fairly light work load. There are only so many words you can squeeze onto a sheet that small, after all. Blogging isn't stamp writing, I suppose, but it is surely the next best thing.) So I'm resolving, at least, not to fling quite so many commas around in the New Year.

Making New Year's resolutions is something I gave up along the way, but to be honest there are times when I miss them. Where, after all, can a person find such a sure and such a cheap - and such a safe - thrill of nearly-pure sin as in breaking one? So this year, with that reward in mind, I am going to make a few.

I resolve:
  • To clip the damn coupons.
This one will surely be the first to fall because they are almost never for anything I need or even want. But other folks I know seem to find the exercise so therapeutic that I figure it's worth at least a try.
  • To read the logs.
OK, this is a geek thing but I don't spend nearly the time I should reading the logs my computers so copiously record. Undoubtedly there are things there to learn, and anyway I owe them that much.
  • To wash my coffee pot.
Once, at least. And maybe dust under the bed, but that part's not included in the deal.

Reproduced here for the record:

KID: "Mommy, is it true that we're all dust before we're born and we turn back into dust when we die?"

MOM: "I think that's what the Bible says. Why do you ask?"

KID: "There's somebody either coming or going under my bed."
Archive some of my pictures there, maybe some other stuff, maybe get involved with one of the book projects later in the year, maybe some other stuff, who knows. Creative Commons is a good idea. And with the copyright cops and DRM dragoons tramping across the media landscape we had best start learning again how to entertain ourselves, it seems to me. You are likely to hear more about it if you hang around this blog at all in the coming year.
  • To buy a light bulb.
Oops. Better make that two.
  • Move to Massachusetts.
I've been living in Massachusetts for more than a decade now but I've always had the feeling I'm just passing through. This year I'm thinking about moving in.
  • Win the lottery.
OK, this is more a fantasy than a resolution. I don't actually buy lottery tickets so that pretty much nails the fantasy part down right there. But I figure what's the harm in tossing it in.

When I fantasize about winning the lottery I also fantasize about how I'm going to spend the money. The current plan is to open a bread store - an only bread store, with all kinds of good, fresh-baked bread and a different kind on super-sale every day so everybody can have some. It's all just an excuse to use the name Buy Bread Alone.
  • And then there's the comma thing of course.
That too. I might even dust off my old Strunk & White. (You wouldn't remember where I put Transitive Vampire, would you?)
So there it is. Let the sin begin.

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General shows how he can bullshit with the best

If I knew anything at all about philosophy (which I don't) I'd probably say (but I won't) absurdity has never been the same since the Existentialists got ahold of it, but there are still little flecks to be found floating on the datastream, as for example this:

"As events have shown in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere in the world, this year has been an incredible one of progress in the war on terrorism," General Pace told several hundred troops, after singers and a comedian traveling with him had entertained them.
That was from the New York Times, newspaper of record and/or Judith whatzername, which today, running out its string on General Pace, also printed this:

It was a rare moment last month when Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, publicly contradicted his boss, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. On Thursday, however, General Pace essentially said never mind.
He thought Rummy was talking about, you know, people, not just Iraqis, and so of course Rummy was right all along and the general won't have to give up hanging around with the singers and comedians after all.

And yes, you're right, this is exactly the kind of thing I said I'd be writing about on House of Horrors, but I didn't feel like doing that so I wrote about it here. They have their empire, I have mine.

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Why everything is miscellaneous, and other news

I just haven't got around to dreaming up any other categories yet.

And in other news:

I was a teenage geek for the NSA

Last evening I started to write something by that name but it got so depressing I gave it up. Then, during the night, the shadow board of Yet Another Media Empire met and decided to redisentangulate one of the Empire's former properties and rename it House of Horrors and other stuff I don't want to write about. So, on occasion, I can go write stuff I don't want to write about there. (And maybe even some stuff I do, if I feel like breaking the rule.)

If you should now and then need a little horror in your life you may find it at HoH. Meanwhile this blog will remain post-political and post-Constitutional, so as not to unduly frighten the horses or the kids.

As nearly as possible, that is. Under the circumstances.

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My sister's potato chips

My sister and her husband are my landlords. They live downstairs, I live up.

My sister loves to shop for bargains at the grocery store. Yesterday she found a bargain on a gigantic bag of potato chips.

My sister can't stop eating potato chips once she starts. And the giant bag was more potato chips than she's allowed to eat. So she brought the bag up here and gave me half.

I am sitting here eating my sister's potato chips for breakfast. I can't stop eating them once I start.

Have you noticed how difficult it's become to eat? Especially if there's more than one involved. Some people don't eat meat, some people eat just about nothing but. Some people love meat but can't have the cholesterol. Some people love mashed potatoes but can't take the carbs. Some people are trying to eat less, some people are trying to eat more. Some people eat tofu and yogurt and sprouts. And swallow fish oil pills. The meat is sick, the grain is mutated, the fish come from farms and all of it is bad for you except the fish oil, which they just haven't got around to yet.

It used to be so simple - a nice slab of rare roast beef, some fries, maybe a big chunk of cheesecake for dessert. Good. Now I'm sitting here eating my sister's potato chips while I can. My next appointment with the doctor isn't until spring.

Don't ask me because I just don't know.

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Reading poetry is like eating applesauce with pork

I hate obligatory combinations of foods - applesauce with pork, mint jelly with lamb (where did that idea come from anyway?), cranberry sauce with turkey, and all the rest. I only eat them when somebody forces me. Which is what I mean, about poetry. And why I haven't read much of it since I got out of school.

Here's one that was popular back then:
No man is an island, entire of itself.
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
As well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were.
Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls.
It tolls for thee.
Some guy named John Donne wrote that. I sort of liked that one, but don't tell.

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If you're ever looking for a lawyer in Denver this has got to be the best place to start

Powers Phillips, P.C., is a small law firm located in downtown Denver, Colorado within convenient walking distance of over fifty bars and a couple of doughnut shops. Powers Phillips also maintains a small satellite office-in-exile on the cow-covered hillsides near Carbondale, Colorado, where it puts out to pasture some of its aging attorneys.

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File under "Old news never dies, it just becomes history."

New York: Following the outsourcing of software and other technological work in recent years, Western nations have now begun "offshoring" of Christian prayers to India.
(Winner of the Ig Nobel Prize for Economics, 2004)

PS: Why they're praying to India I have no idea.

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The truth about what happened in the back seat of that Ford

I've never been entirely comfortable with the thought of an entire generation raised riding backward. And now that they've grown to adulthood - chronologically speaking, at least, many of them - I sometimes wonder if that's why, as a nation, we don't seem to know where we're going anymore but are obsessed with where we've been.

The American Academy of Pediatrics still says kids should be made to ride backwards until they are at least one, and worse that "the safest place for all infants and children younger than 13 years to ride is in the back seat."

Now, I'm a geezer and a curmudgeon, and hopelessly out of touch, so in conscience I should allow they might be right in some bizarre, healthy way. But it sure didn't happen that way for me. I was four, maybe five, when my own back seat adventure happened, in an old Ford coupe. My sister, a couple of years younger, was in the front seat with my Mom and I was alone back there when, right on the main street in the middle of the town my Mom rear-ended somebody who was backing out of a parking spot. Of course the story was that he front-ended her (uh huh) but I was in the back seat so I can only guess the story about that.

What I do know about is this. That old Ford had a curious design feature - there was no outside door to the trunk, but instead the back of the back seat folded forward to provide access. And the impact of the collision overpowered the seat back latch, and just like that the seat back flipped down and bent me double, trapped me with my face between my knees, unable to muster enough breath to utter more than a small, pathetic squeak, much less push the seat back up and escape. My sister, meanwhile - perverse even at that early age - attempted to fly through the front windshield. I learned that part later. At the time all that was clear to me were the sounds of screaming, a siren, some ambulance guys, and then a growing awareness that somehow I had been forgotten in all the excitement, and would surely die. And the upholstery in that damn Ford was covered with bristles of the most vicious kind, and I was wearing short pants. Hell hath no fury like the back seat of that Ford.

I don't recall my life flashing before me which should have tipped me off, I guess, but I was too young to know about such things then and anyway maybe it did and I just didn't notice. It would have been, after all, pretty short.

Eventually, though, I was rescued. And, American Academy of Pediatrics to the contrary, I was 13 or so before I began to develop any interest in ever getting into a back seat again, I being an American male and it being the 50s by then, and all. But nothing of any lasting interest ever happened to me in a back seat after that. So if it's true, that thing about my life flashing before me, I'd just as soon fast-forward through the back seat part if that's OK.

And I still don't like to wear short pants.

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Right here's where it all goes wrong

In an article about evolving airport security procedures Joe Sharkey, writing in the New York Times, describes a world of sniffing dogs and air-puffing "trace-portal machines" (starting to sound a little kinky already, isn't it?) before he gets to the really good stuff right here:

The [Transportation Security] agency describes the new procedures as "enhanced pat-down searches," meaning they're more physically intimate as well as more randomly applied.
And then proceeds to demolish the whole happy dream with this wet-blanket addition:

"Except in extraordinary circumstances, a screener of your gender will conduct your additional screening," an agency statement says.
Well. I guess a guy could always hold out hope for extraordinary circumstances but what I want to know is, whatever happened to privatization anyway? Don't these security geeks ever log in? Or turn on?

No less an authority than Answers.com informs us that porn is a multi-billion dollar industry and all the best companies are involved. Well, most.

In 1999 there were 711 million rentals of hard-core sex films. Subsidiaries of major corporations were the largest pornography sellers. The General Motors subsidiary Direct TV sold $200 million worth of sex films. EchoStar Communications and AT&T were also very large sellers, as were the major hotel chains. Video rentals and sales revenue exceeded $4 billion a year plus $800 million less explicit erotic works. Revenues of companies such as Playboy and Hustler were small by comparison.
And that was in 1999, before the iPod. Just wait till they get that thing to vibrate on cue (hey I told you kinky - you were warned). Or even make movies for it, if that's your thing. So they're thinking an "intimate pat-down" concession at the airport wouldn't turn a profit? Hey, security geeks, get a life! Are we Americans here or what?

I remember when flying was fun. (Yeah, I'm a geezer and it was a long, long time ago. But why give up hope?)

And...oh yeah, the picture. Almost forgot. It's Jesus, as visualized by forensic anthropologists using methods described in this Popular Mechanics story.

Is that a candidate for an intimate pat-down or is it not? More like a strip search if you ask me.

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How I learned to love the Bomb and read the New York Times

(The picture's just here because I needed a place to put it.)

Not that I ever hated the Bomb, you understand. After all it did end the War. (There may be lots of wars but there is only one War, just as there is only one Bomb.) So the thing was pretty popular where I lived. The only real concern it caused in the neighborhood was whether we'd be stuck with playing Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers now that there was no Enemy. Some guy's dad said the Russians were the new enemy but that didn't make much sense. Just last week they were on our side.

Of course a few years later, in the 50s, I found out the Russians really were the enemy but the Bomb was still no big deal as long as we all sat in the hall with our backs to our lockers and covered our eyes. In fact it seemed almost a matter of civic pride that surely we were high on the list of places the Russians would want to drop it. In those days Duluth was the biggest fresh water port in the world and the third biggest port of any kind in the US, measured by tonnage, because of all the iron ore that was shipped from there, and who wouldn't want to drop the Bomb on a place like that? (Now the ore is something called taconite and it's shipped from a port farther up the lake shore, and I don't know any more about Duluth than you can see for yourself by clicking the webcam link in the sidebar column over there. I don't know if the place is still Bombworthy or not.)

(But while you're into clicking be sure to pick up your Barbie-doll IM client, whatever that is - I have no idea myself, but how can you have a media empire without ads? Or if the ad has changed by the time you read this click on it anyway, what the hell.)

That's the way things were in the 50s. Over the years I've read volumes of earnest pontifications on the 50s, mostly written by people who were not there. I was. I started high school in 1951 and graduated from college in 1959 and you can't get any more 50s than that. So you can believe me when I tell you the single word that best describes the 50s is this one: clueless.

Which brings me to the New York Times.

The place I went to college was a small Central Minnesota town isolated from the rest of the world by vast fields of waist-deep snow where the New York Times arrived by mail, always one day late. A professor of mine, a guy named Reginald Lang, who taught a course in world politics (one of the best courses I ever took if remembering anything about it counts) steadfastly refused to comment on any matter of current events until he had first read about it in the New York Times. Hence the only reason any of us read anything in any newspaper was so we could ask Reggie questions he couldn't answer yet. Which led to my acquiring at least a minimal smattering of knowledge about what was actually happening beyond the snowbanks that year and a sense of overwhelming awe at the majesty of the New York Times.

It wasn't until I went to work in New York City a few years later that I found out the New York Times, "newspaper of record" be damned, was really just a local paper - an establishment paper, to be sure, but still a local paper - and bartenders and cabbies knew as much about what Scotty Reston was saying as Reggie did. (Of course if you live in New York for any length of time all national media begins to seem local, but that's another subject for another time.) And I've been reading the New York Times more or less regularly ever since.

The Times has fallen upon bad days of late but then so has the Bomb. I'm pretty sure the Bomb's still there, in a missile pointed right at me (or wait! what's that in that guy's briefcase? ohmygod!) but I don't take it personally, and the Times is on the grid so there's no stumping Reggie anymore. Really it's all sort of dull, where the Bomb and the Times are concerned. What is it that people are getting so worked up about?

I wish the Times would give up its chuckleheaded idea of charging money to read its columnists but hey, if that's what it wants that's what it can have. The Times is just a newspaper. Newspapers are newspapers. And that's the story on that.

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Dog doo-doo, and what's on the other blogs

Not that I'm drawing any connection here, you understand. What I had in mind was a comment on cursing, although come to think of it there is quite a bit of that on other blogs, in a rather puerile form - what Tom Wolfe, in I Am Charlotte Simmons, calls fuck patois - a form first glimpsed by a neighbor of mine some 25 years or so ago as he was observing his daughter, recently returned home after completing her first year in college, walk barefoot in the back yard. That was, you will recall (if you have performed the calculation properly), the time "free speech" was all the rage on college campuses (and whatever happened to that?), and my friend's daughter had embraced her freedom with considerable gusto. On this occasion, suddenly and without warning she began hopping furiously on one foot and muttering to herself, "Oh shit, I stepped in the dog doo-doo."

I trust you see my point. The vocabulary of Wolfe's fuck patois consists of words which have taken leave of meaning and now exist only as a spectrum of sounds, a sort of verbal punctuation to the style of expression known as "edgy."

Now, I'm all for edge. But I say, if it's edge we must have then let's have edge with some edge. There was a day long ago when cursing was cursing, and not just a random assembly of obligatory but miscellaneous sounds. So to the extent there is cursing employed on this blog, and to the extent I intend to make vows about this blog, I vow to at least try to get it right.

Other than that, if you want to know what's on the other blogs go read them for yourself. I'm not saying I'll ignore them completely here (no I don't intend to make a lot of vows about this blog) but they are not, you may as well know, high on my list of concerns. Just go up to the top of this page, type what you want to read about in the little box, and click on "Search All Blogs."

There, that's the spirit.

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(The picture is just here for a place to put it.)


Why? Because I can. Live with it.

Yet Another Media Empire has consolidated. Of course you already know this unless you've been off somewhere having a life or something. Actually it's not so much a consolidation as a series of complex acquisitions performed over the last twelve minutes or so, which in Internet time is about four dog years. (In Swatch time it's something else but who remembers Swatch time, I'm asking you.)

You will be expecting something interesting to read now. Sorry. Oh, you may find it here if you come back but at present we just need a posting, part of some configuring and testing spells now being cast. They will surely be be complete anon. Nothing can really go wr


OK, nothing we can't fi .

Correction posted later: On careful inspection it has become apparent that in the throes of consolidation I must have differentiated instead of triangulating and in consequence the time conversions cited above are in error. Twelve minutes in Internet time equates, in fact, to approximately 1.8639336 dog nanoseconds. As this is the last error I will ever make it is, in fact, lucky for you you got to witness it.

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