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August 20, 2007

Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Pt. Twelve)
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:50 AM * 20 comments

Cans are breeders of International Agents of Botulism.

Many cans contain liquids, some even gels. You know the drill.

A wounded can may pursue its hunter for long distances, especially downhill.

Can hunting is a great Ameri-CAN tradition. Think of the Pilgrims, utterly alone in the New World, bringing down cranberry sauce to serve with their turkey loaf. Or the Cowpokers building the first railroad to the Moon with the herds of baked beans and Hormel chili that once darkened the plains. GIs fought their way from the Normandy beaches to wherever it was, shooting the wild K-rats in Beggars Canyon. And the skills so honed will serve us all well in the Robot Wars to come.

Blasting cans is not just American, it is Real American. Just ask your Mom, the next time she takes the lid off some apple pie filling.

Pretend Tough

Continue reading Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Part Twelve)


Gather in the Hall of the Planets

“Science should say that this is so because we really really want it to be.”
Don’t we get mad when creationists do that?

That isn’t what creationists say. They say, “Your entire view of the structure of the biological world is absolutely wrong, because God said so in a questionably translated text from several thousand years ago.” If the actual statement, rather than the thought, were “We say special creation is true because we want it to be,” it would imply doubt and a deliberate choice.

As observed above, what one calls such an object really is subjective; there are all kinds of objects that fit into the broad “planet/moon” categories. (Nobody is suggesting that Pluto is, say, a comet, or a planetoid.) Some of those objects are going to fall into an in-between area. (This is true of biological classification as well.)

More importantly, it doesn’t matter for any practical purpose what side it falls on. It doesn’t change our understanding of the object’s physical nature — which saying “This is biologically related to this entire family of biota” as distinct from “This was created by magic, all by itself, and will never change” does.

***
“[Xena] was also associated with graceful combat, feminism, and anarchism.”

Makes you wish for the time-shift episode where she teams up with Emma Goldman.

***
When half of it is kabonging against the hull outside your window and the other half has one each unbelievably cute fur-covered sausage, formal classification tends to become unimportant….

“Look! Planetoid to starboard! Belt otters!”

“Ooooooooooooooooo!”

“Is that a magnetic grapple?”

***
I don’t think we know exactly what [St. Patrick] did

Snakes Off an Island

With Colin Farrell as Patrick
Sarah Jessica Parker as Brigid
Lucy Liu as Columba
and Johnny Depp as Brendan the Wet

***
That should be “We Nine,” the identity of the guests being left to Mom, who should certainly know if she’s that educated.

Which means that Uranus has the wrong name, which is a considerable relief to those of us who have heard Every Damn Rectal Joke in the Solar System.

Suggested new names:

Wendy
Winky
Woo-Woo
Wladislaw
Whadat?
Weeble (Precesses but it Don’t Fall Down)

No, no, wait, this won’t work, Gotta be “We Eight,” so …

Eeptune. Or possibly End of Track.

For all that people have been complaining about the IAS, the alternative is to throw* the nomenclature of Floaty Things Out There to everybody with an axe to set fire to onstage. If you are familiar with the requests received for commemorative postage stamps, or the various International Joe’s Post Office Box Star Registry for Fifty Bucks A Throw Services, you’ll see the problem.

*”Hurl” might be more appropriate.

***
“Welcome to Hell on Ion Station-Keeping Thrusters, stranger. Would ya like a bleep bleep drink in a bleepin’ bleepy glass, a coupla bleepin’ hands of eight-bleep-card bleep poker, or twelve bleepity bleep bleep minutes of bleep onna bleep with a virtual bleeper of user-defined gender an’ specializations? We also got Star Trek reruns. But no bleepifyin’ Voyager.

Once, bleep was an overdub. Now, it’s a word men will kill over.
—Deadwood 2189

***
“Greetings, intelligent beings of this world! We come to you from habitats orbiting a star approximately one-tenth the distance along this arm of the galaxy. We bring the technology of clean and inexpensive energy on a large scale.”
“How much is that going to cost?”
“Pardon me, my translator seems to be malfunctioning. Would you like to visit our craft?”
“What kind of guns does it have?”
“I must adjust my translator. The name of our home is Bright Fragments Reflecting the Inspiring Vastnesss of the Cosmos. What do you call your home?”
“Dirt.”
“My translator must be broken.”
***
Fragano: Only if the Moon (it is still a moon, right?) is called Penne.

I didn’t even get to the part where the alien ambassador asks what we call ourselves as a species, and is told that it’s “Wise wise man.” At that point he probably just sells us a subscription to Galactic Highlights,* sucks some fuel off Eeptune, and leaves a While You Were Out card on Europa.

*Featuring the cartoon adventures of Goofant and Galactus. They both eat planets, but one has really bad table manners.

And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the New York Times

I have a vague and possibly inaccurate memory that one of Lessing’s Canopus in Argos books was reviewed on the front cover of the NYTBR, by John Leonard, no less. Though Leonard spent the bulk of his time explaining that the book was good because of how much it was not you-know-what.

We been pandered to and rock-starred, we been mediafied
But the slippage that we never knew
Is the frisson that’ll getcha
When we all get our picture
On the cover of the
Times Review.

Open thread 69

try dragon fruit. I saw some at Safeway an hour or so ago. I haven’t a clue what it tastes like

Dragon. Only with more Vitamin C.

Compared to the disastrous launch of Cadbury’s Chocolate Marshmallow Caerbannog Bunnies a few years ago, it’s been a considerable success.

***
“It says these cookies are good for two years.”

“You mean, in two years they won’t be significantly worse than they are now.”

Now (and yes, I know this is in imperfect taste) I’m imagining a flourless triple-chocolate cake with a tiny LED display reading TIME TO DETONATION.

***
You don’t have to serve lox to the teeming hordes.

This goes for any variety of LOX.

***
Sombrero and Flippers (1953)

Television series on the short-lived Farmisht Network, produced following the success of The Cisco Kid. Featured Sombrero (Dougie Royce Landis), righter of wrongs down Mexico way in a big hat, and Flippers (operated and voiced by Hamish Klemp), a puppet penguin (though some claim he is a seal in formal dress). Ran for eight episodes, nobody knows how. Recalled in a 2001 song by Roth and the Norse Dogs, “Penguin with a Six-Gun.”

***
Which SF publisher are you?

The Minderbindery. You’ve never heard of them, and the last fan letter they got read, “Jorge Luis Borges would throw up all over you.”

***
Misspelling can become a problem if it causes your spells to go awry.

This an Open Thread? Okay.

Back in the Roleplaying Paleolithic, a number of people (including me) experimented with “spell failure” rules, in an attempt to add a little variety to Things Always Working Right. (“Fizzle” and “crock” were among the actual terms used.) One of the multiply-achieved ideas was the Mis-spell, in which one might cast Wireballs, Blasts of Freezing Cod, and (quite unfortunately) Heat Minor Wounds. It was most applicable in games with a fakey-Renaissancey background rather than a fakey-Middly-Agey, as one could assume that wizards were members of a literate artisan/professional class, working from Gramarye for ye Dicke-heddes, rather than just crotchety old men who knew how to blow things up by cussing at them.

***
CHIp: it was random, with situational adjustments to the chance for the skill (i.e., level) of the caster, and anything that might have made it easier and harder (e.g., distractions or careful prep). And they applied to NPCs as well.

There was a considerable discussion in Alarums & Excursions about methods of spell-crocking, but I think almost everybody used a random element, unless there was a good reason to be deterministic (as, a booby-trapped scroll).

And, of course, the mis-spells were supposed to be silly. There were plenty of other effect variations for other situations or philosophies. After all, there’s only one way a spell can go as intended, and an infinite number of ways it can Do Something Else.

Yeah, we messed around a lot with systems of spellcasting that had a little more style and flavor to them … that is to say, that had any style and flavor at all. Not that we didn’t do the same thing with every other subsystem.

***
If the dinos were on the Ark, at least we know what happened to the unicorns.

“Wow, they come with toothpicks!”

One also imagines a Gary Larson cartoon of a couple of carnosaurs jammed into coach-class seats, complaining that the movie is The Ten Commandments again.

And, nerdycellist, these are people for whom the entire point of homeschooling is to provide an extremely selective education (inverted commas optional), and the blacklist is not confined to biology (and political history — religious history goes without saying) — it’s been observed various places, including Good Math, Bad Math, that the Biblical pi=3 routine* has been making the rounds again, sometimes as part of a broader “Christian mathematics” festival of irreality. (Though urban legend parodies of this sort of thing also show up, some deadpan, some not, so one needs to be careful.)

*I Kings 7:23. Of course, it’s possible that they were using the metric cubit, and this is a conversion error.

***
And it came to pass after a decent interval of shoveling much dung, and the creatures that did eat of the fishes of the sea departing with rejoicing to do the same for the first time in an month, that they piled out of the boat, and smelt air that did not smell.

Whereupon the mighty lizards, those that had not already been skinned to maketh luggage and upholsterings, and who had early in the voyage eaten all the creepy-looking Precambrian thingies, went forth to find them places zoned for extinction.

And Noah looked about at the world, which was vast and empty and damp, and thought, well, we hadst best get around to it. An good thing the world is the Tigris and the Euphrates and the land between and that is it, or I would be one tired patriarch.

And he looked upon his wife, who went off in haste to gather something or other.

And he looked upon his daughters, and up at the heaven, and it did not darken.

Okay, he did say, and unto the maidens, Yoo Hoo.

And as he approached them, there came an hurtling stone, that struck him on the head, and he looked up again, wondering.

And there came a voice behind him, saying, “Sorry, friend. I wasn’t looking. Name’s Deukalion. This is the marina, right?”

Noah looked in the direction of the voice, and saw another boat, and it was big, and it had a promenade deck and a lapstrake hull.

And Noah’s spirit was troubled.

But before he could cry unto the Lord something about bad jests, there came another voice, and he turned to see a modest multitude.

And they had no beards, and did carry their young upon their backs, and had their goods on wooden draggy things.

One of them raised his hand, saying, “Hi. Boy howdy, that was an long landbridge.”

And as if there were not enough weirdness thereof, a great beast, with as it were an hangover, came up from the sea, and said, “Have you seen my mom?”

But another man, mighty in thews and all that, came up from yet another way, and did tear off the beast’s arm and did beat him silly with it. And the warrior said his name was Bee-Wulf, which is being translated, Lupus and Wild Honey.

And Noah went unto his sons, Ham, Spam, and Jay-Z, and he rent their garments, because his own was the only warm thing on the boat.

II Crossovers, 1:1-16

Back when IBM had balls

And the Selectric was sufficiently popular that Remington built a typewriter using the IBM technology to keep up with the demand. They were square-cornered, rather than the Selectric’s Italian-sports-car curves (though rather like the Selectric II) but the feel was essentially the same.

When I started Doing This for Money, I outran the electric portable I’d gone to college with, and for some time rented Remingtons from the local shop. Eventually a friend who was moving to word processors was a machine up, and I bought it. It had seen serious use — the typewriter shop people kept asking me to have it chemically cleaned,* though I never did — but never skipped a beat. (The only thing I missed was that the rentals had been correctors.)

And certainly I wish I still had it, for envelopes and other things that feed questionably through the HP. Though I have no idea where I’d put it.**

Eheu, fugaces.***

*Do not do this to your word processor. Serious death or injury may result.
**”On a pedestal” is picturesque but impractical.
***Gesundheit.

***
though its ability to correct wasn’t much use if you were typing mimeo stencils.

“Gentlemen, I would like you to look at the future.”
“The future is a Remington Standard 2?”
“Ah, but you will notice the piping attached, and this set of controls.”
“Hickey, you would attach piping and a set of controls to a rhubarb pie. What does this item do?”
“You see here a pressure tank, and here a supply of corflu. This tube leads to a spray nozzle just above the impact point of the typebars.”
“You haven’t.”
“I have. Gentlemen, this is a stencil-correcting typewriter.”
“All well and good, Hickey old man, but what about drying the corflu?”
“Well, I suppose one could lean forward and breathe heavily in the usual fashion.”
“Sounds like a limping half-step into the future.”
“The floor is open to suggestions.”
“I suppose a small fan …”
“A heat ray.”
“Egghead, you are cracked on one side. That, or you actually are a Martian, as several of us have long suspected.”
“Follow me closely. A system of lenses above the typing point. Approximately here, the pencil-carbon arclight you will recall from the Adventure of the Disassociated Del Rey.”
“I have tried mightily to forget that.”
“Nonetheless. A switch, placed at sufficient distance to avoid accidental ignition, controls the arc. We’ll worry about the clockwork adjustor later. Backspace, lower an actinic shield —”
“Where did that come from?”
“Hush, Arcot. Then press the trigger, a relay slams home, and the powerful light dries the corflu in a split instant. We’ll want a momentary switch.”
“Anyone would.”
“Gentlemen, you realize what we have created here.”
“The last time you said that, the federal authorities were nearly involved.”
“This is — the Mightiest Mimeo Machine.”

—Owen Johnson, “The Lawrenceville Boys Go Dingo”

***
Funny, no one has mentioned kerning.

Okay.

The last time I upgraded my WP software (which was a long while ago) I was hunting around for the pair-kerning setting, could not locate it in the usual place, and (as it was upgrade software) the pretend-manual was no help.

So I went to the library and looked around for a manual. The first one noticed was a For Dummies book, which seemed as good as anything.

The author observed that the manufacturer had removed pair kerning from the software. He then went on for half a page about how wonderful this was, because he never used it and really didn’t know what it was and so forth and so on.

I hadn’t had much experience with the series, but realized then that when they said “For Dummies,” they meant it.

I vaguely remember that there were IBM type elements (what they, and they alone, called the type balls) with ligatures, on the proportional-space models.

About the only time I do kerning now is in display type, which gets set in CorelDraw. It’s relatively painless with a little Bezier-fu, and not very many letters are involved.

And in the realm of dry transfer, I have a bunch of them for lettering models, with an actual ballpoint burnisher, which helps a lot. Large signs get done on the computer, usually on 110# or label stock, but if you want, say, a weathered old advertisement on the side of a building, your options are dry transfer, decal, and hand-lettering, all of which have their place. (And color decals can be printed on inkjets.)

***
Does anyone know where I can get an original Babbage debridement brush? (The Only Proper Badgers went extinct after the Great War.) It’s not as large a problem since the four-hamster drive was replaced with an atmospheric engine. And fortunately, someone in the great long ago reframed the portrait miniature of Lady Ada displaying studded leather gaiters.

On the other wossname, an abacus is excellent for moving heavy furniture. (You probably already know its combat capabilities.)

***
They were not called type balls, they were spherical interchangable type elements

The cubical interchangeable type element was a noble concept, flawed only by occasional incidents of catastrophic self-disassembly. The Klein-surface ITE may have reached prototype, but the last communication before the hot cell disappeared was cryptic.

As noted above, that is indeed what IBM called them on public occasions (the anniversary of ancestor Pythagoras Slipstick & Flange Works, unveiling of the millionth THINK, DAMMIT sign, the 1968 San Francisco Love-In and Chard Festival).

For everyone else, they were type balls.

“Analysis … Spock?”
“My element seems to have jammed, Captain.”
“Woah, I know what that’s like. Sickbay.”
“McCoy here.”
“Bones, get up to the Bridge with some ice packs. And whatever you do, don’t bring Chapel.

Worldcon

Is the people-copier ready yet?

From the manual:

—First all flys removing from room of using.
—One person in Gogo-Box per time. Not matter if you like him/her/it lots of.
—Copier not wise at devining foody contents of person from person contents. Excellent to be purging prior. Sample packet Mach-I-Go-Go(tm) pilles included whenly drugster close.
—Not to be jumping much. Blur nogood and messy.
—That not USB port. That not gamepad port neither.
—Dimenson of threes scanning entablature just good as are. Making of funny salaryman picture by of sitting on scanner unadvisory.
—No mirrors. NO AT ANY!!
—Not to be doing that, ever.
—If the cranching-sprang be not orderly, enter not in the Gogo-Box.
—UPS (Unidentifiable Pwn Supplies) meritorious addition to copier for modest plus charge.
—Happy Avatarnicating!

How to throw a large room party at a science fiction convention

“Archie, the cushion is stained beyond repair. Eighty-six* these persons, with a .38 if necessary. And have Fritz wrap up any hors d’oeuvres not bled upon.”

*This has a different original meaning, but I’m already pushing the redline on weird tonight.

***
HoHo: Okay, a deigeh hab’ ich.

Most people know the phrase “eighty-sixed” as meaning “to get tossed out of a bar.” (And yes, Don Adams knew this very well when they were making Get Smart.)

The original meaning is a bit different. When a bar patron had outstayed his welcome (for whatever reason), but was still sensible enough to leave on his own, the barkeep would pour him a shot of 86-proof whiskey.

These whiskeys are not quality products.

The recipient would generally stare, swallow hard, and decide that he had Had Enough. (Or at least recognize that the guy behind the bar was no longer his best friend.)

Because of the rep of the 86es, the Twentieth Century Limited had a rule that no whiskey of under 100 proof would be served aboard. However, Jack Daniel’s, which is unquestionably a quality product, comes out at 90 proof, and was therefore excluded. Various of the Century’s customers found various ways around this oversight; the actor Monty Woolley is said to have had a large, scholarly-looking book with a hollow interior.

***
CHip: That I don’t know. Obviously those 86es are not Night Train and the other truck-radiator distillations that gave the breed its rep. (Out of curiosity, I just looked at my bottle of Talisker, and it’s 91.6 proof.) It’s possible that, in an era where people seem to want to drink a lot but want it to taste like Slurpee, the makers have started making some lower-proof varieties. (“The poor man’s smooth.”) (The issue of 151 rum is another thing entirely.)

The Exploding Shampoo Plot

Terry: In the absence of David McDaniel …

“You wanted to see us, Mr. Waverly?”
“I do, gentlemen. Don’t sit down, there is some urgency here. I’m sending you both to London by special UNCLE jet.”
“Does this involve … the plot, sir?”
“Indeed it does. That is one reason I am sending the two of you. Mr. Solo, I’m sure you have a familiarity with hair products, and Mr. Kuryakin … don’t get me started.”
“Do we report to UNCLE London on arrival?”
“That won’t be necessary. A car will be waiting at Heathrow to take you to 9 Curzon Street, Mayfair. There you will give the password, ‘Shivering shocks shall break the locks,’ and receive a briefcase in return. You are to return immediately to the airport, and then to this office.”
“Immediately, sir?”
“I’m not heartless. You may have nine hours on the ground. Work fast, dress quickly, and remember me to Leicester Square.”
“Sir, may we know what the case contains?”
“I don’t see why not. It will be filled with George Trumper’s shaving soap, and a quantity of sandalwood aftershave. Good day, gentlemen.”

TSA Gumbo Surprise

“Surviving a nuclear blast wave and firestorm will require heavy insulation. Stone walls, like those in Federal prisons, provide such insulation. So do masses of paper, as found in university libraries. And homeowners will have walls filled with urethane insulation and dead bugs.”

“What about file clerks?”

“They’ve ditched the paper for CD-ROMs and USB drives. They’re not only screwed, but their data’s going to dissolve like sugar in an Old Fashioned. As I was saying, there will be three forces competing after the attack. The prisoners will have violence. The librarians will have organization, knowledge, and a wildly eclectic set of other skills. The homeowners will have a sense of outraged privilege and a willingness to live with dead bugs in their walls. I wonder who’ll win.”

—Prof. Groeteschele

Pasta with Sausage

A sufficiently timid palate may flee into a maxillary sinus and hide. Though, due to recent developments, if there is even a slight scent of Mentos and Diet Coke about, the sinuses will refuse to admit anyone.

Fortunately, chocolate often will persuade the palate to return to its usual haunts.

Terrorists

Terrorists are not merely murderers, there is a political agenda attached to their murdering which is why we call them terrorists.

Actually, we call them “terrorists” because they attempt to frighten people into doing your will. Murder is not required by any means. Violence is often used, but the threat of violence is sufficient. And there are nonviolent threats, especially if one has access to state power — overt or covert. Not that most death squads have ever been covert in anything but name.

The HUAC period was an era of terrorism backed by the threat of state power. People were coerced into silence, into incriminating others (whether they were “guilty” of anything or not), into refusing employment to people who had not only committed no crime, but were not even formally accused of such a thing. Indeed, the idea that America was a country that respected political freedom got swept under the rug, which did far more damage to America internationally (not that postwar America gives much of a crap about its international rep) than any “subversion” did. Were there card-carrying Communists in the US? Sure. Were any significant fraction of them interested in the violent overthrow of the country’s political system? Hell no. (Indeed, one of McCarthy and Cohn’s favorite judges was on the Soviet payroll, and busily went after people he knew had no ties to Moscow, both to protect the handful who were and, frankly, to make the proceedings look stupid.)

I will not brand my opponents terrorists and lock them up without due process, and I would not support that behavior.

Who asked you to? The idea that the label “terrorist” removes a person from the realm of humanity — even if that person has demonstrable guilt — is a tactic of state terrorism. Nobody is suggesting that Bush and Rove be sent to Gitmo; Leavenworth will do just fine, and Club Eichmann* will by then have been vacated, burnt, and a memorial left as a warning to others. And nobody has suggested locking up Rush O’Malkin for lying outrageously in public, or even denying them a forum; what has been called for is pointing out the lies in a very public way. The Der Stürmer** crowd won’t notice, but that is an inherent element of open public discourse, another one being that it’s, well, open.

Part of that openness is that you get to choose your own terms of discourse. But if you can find a difference between kidnapping people without any established guilt and killing them freelance, and kidnapping people without established guilt and killing them with your army,*** you run with it.

*One.
**That’s two.
***Waffen SS commanders complained bitterly that having their soldiers murder unarmed Russians was ruining them as fighting men, and sometimes making them useless for any duty at all. And that’s three.

Hugo Award results

The inevitable image is of an award winner seated on a fossilized Tiptree Bake Sale object,* wearing ornate Elisian headgear featuring a plover’s egg the size of an ocean jasper, holding an GT Energy Sceptre, and wearing a robe of off-white polysamite trimmed with Furry fur. Hey, it’s not like he or she is in Masquerade competition.

Imagine a cross between Queen For a Day (minus the washing machine) and the West Arkham Rep production of Richard III Meets Abbott and Costello. And there was much rejoicing.**

I think I just clinched Never Winning.

*The Scone of Stone, of course. Sheesh.
**Hurrah!

***
You mean pro wrestling isn’t fantasy?

Put the Mightily Thonged Grignr up against a skinny old wizardy dude who knows Muy Thai, and you got a prime-time slot in heaven.

“Wait … wait … manager Catullus is signaling … Yes! He’s sending The Amazing Clodia into the arena!”

AVPU

Re medic alert devices: Any time someone has a significant medical condition, allowing aid workers to discover that without questioning the patient or running tests is a positive thing. If there’s a downside, I don’t know what it might be.

If someone’s not normally responsive after an accident, knowing that the person is autistic (deaf, mute, etcetera) won’t cause anyone to rule out neurological damage, but it will help set the baseline.

This is not medical advice, but it’s empirical in spades.

***
Jonquil: Re the Wallet Card, the simplest way would be to write MY MEDICATIONS in red letters on the card, and put it somewhere it would be visible without too much hunting — either in a clear wallet window, or a credit-card-type pocket with the big red word sticking out. The most important thing is that it gets found — when they see “Isordil 20mg qid” (or whatever you’re taking), the responders will know what it is. If you’re worried about wear or dampness, you can pick up laminating sheets at Office Depot or the like.

Critical allergies can also go there.

I tend to have to update my card at least once a year, and I have a Corel file that prints out to a sheet of blank business cards, so I can sow them among my card cases and traveling bags and Elise’s purse and so on. If you print that way, you can probably find an image of the hexagonal Emergency Medicine symbol, but it’s not really necessary.

***
If you’re wearing the Elastomeric Gauntlets of Puissant Fluid Barricado all the time, folks might well take that as odd. But if you put them on in response to a streetcorner crisis, the passersby will doubtless figure that something useful is being done. (Both those who are standing idly by because they Want to See and those who are walking furtively because they Don’t Want to be Seen Seeing.)

Mine live in the little keychain case with my CPR mask.

On the other line of defense, on sufficiently cold days, which we get a few of every year up here, I wear a disposable mask both to prevent angina on the street and picking up droplets on the bus. Nobody has ever looked twice at it. (It comes off for building interiors, like the bank.)

Open thread 70

If it were a Chick tract, the last page would show the Wïtless Crüe arriving at Check-In and Pitchfork Assignment,* turning in outrage to Scooter, who pulls off his people mask to reveal a happily leering** devil.

“Told you you guys were going to resent shafting me. Speaking of which …”

*”Put all the liquids in the fumarole. NOW.” **Ever notice that the Insidious Missions Force demons in Chick’s holy hentai are the only characters who are actually ever happy about anything?

***
It is a fascinating* fact that caster sugar, so called because it can run through a caster (sprinkler), is at least as commonly known as castor sugar, which implies it will run through a beaver.

This may well be true, but it probably violates some wildlife law or other.

*As such things go.

***
[Defenestration] was the title of an episode of Kojak. One can easily guess what the episode was about.

“Theo, the guy fell eight stories into a pile of poo-poo. What’s the problem?”
“I don’t like it. First, it’s too simple. Second, this isn’t Upper West Side poo-poo.”
“You got lab work on that?”
“Crocker, this is my city. My nose is a laboratory.”

***
Vicki: Women were allowed to attend, though we don’t know what the proportions were. (Admission was free, so there aren’t any records of non-prominent people in attendance.) There are surviving mash notes to gladiators from young women, but again, we don’t know how representative those are.

There are surviving writings by various philosophical types on the games, but Michael Grant (who is unusually hostile on this subject) notes that most of them are only mildly disapproving, or seem more concerned with making logical arguments than actually changing anything. There were, however, plenty of entertainments in Rome that didn’t involve non-playacted death, so those who weren’t excited by the games may just have been at the theater.

Curious sidenote: many hundreds of little plaques bearing curses against chariot racers have been found, mostly buried at the hippodrome entrances where the subjects would be likely to walk over them. They say things like “May Agrippa’s horses get diarrhea in the home stretch, and oh yeah, his wheels should fall off and an eagle should crap on his head.” There is not a single known example of a plaque hoping that someone will win.

Of course, the contemporary street view of Rome is heavily colored by yarns like Ben Hur and Quo Vadis, which present the place as unrelievedly corrupt and nasty and generally icky, unless you became a Christian, in which case you were instantly an advocate for abolishing slavery, the games, and extramarital sex. The fact that, when the Christians did take over, none of those things was abolished (the games were, about AD500) is a different issue entirely.

***
PJ: It’s more that very large amounts of money were bet on the outcomes, so they were trying to avoid being losers in the first place.

It’s nice (for certain values) to imagine a scene where Chuck Heston buries a little scroll reading, “So, Messala prince of schmucks, you should only fall down and bust your tuchis.”

***
Ah, the Word of Command. (At one time it was Clerical Word of Command, but I haven’t kept up.)

When “Advanced” Dund came out, they tried, with industry but not much wit, to precisely describe what all the magic spells could and could not do. That they were trying to do this about magic spells is unfortunately characteristic of the TSR mindset at the time.

Anyway, when they got to the WoC, the defining completely lost its internal geometry. The reader was told that you couldn’t yell “Suicide!” at the subject, because, quote, “‘Suicide’ might be a noun.”

They then went on to tell you, with examples, the effects of shouting the entirely permissible words “Fly,” “Fall,” and, uhm-er-okay, “Die,” one of the most frequently used nouns in the rulebook. One might imagine a large rotund creature tumbling madly through the adventurers, scattering them quite literally like ninepins, and resting in the chaos with the observation, “Me come up 20.”

“Masturbate” is, however, an inspired thought, provided that the creature in question doesn’t, you know, produce violent side effects. One wouldn’t want to say that to the ever-popular Sodium Golem.

***
If the Techstore had shirts reading something like:

LN2
It’s not just 77 degrees K
It’s an adventure*

… would anybody be interested?

In other science notes, the closed-caption on the Weather Channel just announced that:

“For the second day in a row, NASA has shrubbed the lodge of the Shuttle.”

Next thing you know, they’re going to have to cut down the tallest tree in the forest with a herring.

*”The most fun you can have until your fingers shatter” is a possibility, but perhaps too grim.

***
Xopher: Aaah, you had a nice exasperated GM. A bad* exasperated GM would have used one of the party members as an aid to stimulation. Probably the “halfling,” but that’s another story.

“And little schmuck goed smiling.”
“Did you have to use that adjective?”
“Uh … Thog just pawn in great game of witty repartee.”

*Not that I know anybody like that.

***
“So, Poirot, this Betjeman chap is some sort of a poet, eh?”
“Yes, ‘Astings. Somewhat.”
“Good thing there’s only a couple of suspects in the case, then.”
” ‘Astings, for a man who spends his leisure time with the world’s greatest detective, your mysterious mind is perpetually stuck in what you call the neutral gear. It is exactly because there were only two Betjeman biographers of note at the time of the affaire d’acronyme that the mystery is so fascinating. What if this obviousness hides an inobviousness within its — never mind. Suppose that it were someone not in the — what was the fellow’s word?”
“‘Fetid swamps.’”
“Yes, what if he were not of the standards of the bog? Suppose it were, in fact, Michael Moorcock?”
“Uhm, I don’t —”
“Your supposer is broken, ‘Astings. Rub your two little gray cells together in their nourishing mix of gin and IPA. Could it not have been John Clute?”
“Wasn’t he in that movie with Jane Fonda?”
“There are days when I only wish you were played by Donald Sutherland.”
“Well, if anyone could have written it, then, well, I could have.”
“‘Astings, I have seen you Googling upon the ‘peotry,’ and being satsified with the result. In my suspect list, you are between le Voldemort and la V. C. Andrews.”
“I say, at least one of them is dead.”
“I only ‘ope to sell so well when I am dead. Voici, this log of the web. Could not this literary rudite-crudite have been produced by the evil master-mind of the Langford? Or his evil but much shorter and if possible narrower American time-twin?”
“I’m afraid you’re in Doctor Who country now, Poirot. And anyway, wasn’t the American clockwork fiend’s evil twin the Mike Harrison bloke?”
“You ‘ave ‘idden ‘epths, ‘Astings. And you will never again be invited to a First Thursday meeting.”
***
Well, I’m available to the BBC.

Hail, thou Bridge on the northerly Forth!
Twixt Queensferry South and Queensferry North
Bearing high traffic loads on an over-Firth courth.
And after the Tay, which was quite blown away
On a terrible, horrible, rather wet day
And the train out of Scotland was dunked in the bay
Still the builders did say, in their style gravely gay,
That double cantilevering pointed the way.
And so no further locals should fall in the drink,
They brought iron and steel and the oxide of zinc;
And thanks to the girder, the bolt, and the pin
Since the day it was built, it has not fallen in.

… well, maybe not that one.

But the Minnesota Orchestra played at the Proms this year, so the quota’s probably filled.

Still, per Aspel ad astra.

***
Misanthropy warning.

There are quite a lot of people who like the idea that “funny artists,” whether they’re writers, standups, or actors, are “secretly” SOBs (and DOBs). There are certainly well-known examples of the breed, but they’re well-known because (often after the subject is dead) the story gets around that “Hey, did you know Leo ‘Big Tsuris’ Sprudelmacher only left his grandkids a hundred grand each? I’m sorry now I ever laughed at the cheap bastid.” If someone’s polite off camera, nobody seems to notice, unless s/he dies broke and forgotten, in which case there will be a headline reading Dorothy Verklempt Dies Broke and Forgotten; Used to Be Funny.

Great actors get married too often, highly intelligent people are crazy,* science fiction writers, UFOs rubber ears Dianetics,** brilliant comics aren’t funny all the time, especially when you interrupt them at dinner and demand a performance.

*Especially mathematicians. If you know what a natural logarithm is, you’re probably taking antidepressants by the bucketful.
**Well, uh.

***
Vian: the problem with being a Mad Fiendish Mathematician (even manquée*) is that, while your contributions to the Tidal Overdrive Quiet Flush Valve or Terrestrial Precession Wobblepot may be absolutely vital, building the thing is left up to other people, who will likely not allow you to push any buttons. If you are allowed in the World Domination Special Interest Group Control Center at all, it will be in the back, with a blackboard, and for some curious reason, a lab smock and some glassware filled with Colored Liquids. And saying “Ah! I shall prove the Poincaré conjecture! That will show those who called me mad! Bwah-hah-cough**-hah!” doesn’t do it, first because, well, it would show those who, etc., and second because two other guys already got there, and they’re not mad, just kind of cranky. *Not “manky,” unless maybe you’re Paul Erdős and you just opened your brain.
**Darn chalk dust.
***
Sir Francis Drake’s gold pocket calculator.

Hewlett-Pakenham Modell 1. Sir Francis Walsingham had a few of them built for “especial agentes.” It could take sun sightings, record dead Spaniards to a perhaps optimistic six digits, and had a Vigenère lattice engraved on the inner lid. Drake’s is said to have been later set with a Nicholas Hilliard miniature of “A Comely Ladye of Cheapside,” and a concealable cheating device for “I’m From Devon and I Don’t Know This Game,” a popular quayside entertainment of the day.

***
a video that included bother dinosaurs and sodomy

“Bother,” said Apatosaurus.
“Don’t start that again,” said Pooh.
“We’re losing the light. Not that anyone cares. And my tail’s caught in the tripod again, but if I say ‘Cut’ one of you will get ideas,” Eeyore said through his megaphone.
“When I said I wanted to ride the raptor,” Piglet said calmly, “I wasn’t proposing any euphemisms.”
“Nobody expects the Spanish euphemism,” Christopher Robin said, and everyone but the dozing ceratopsians laughed.

1491

It suddenly occurs to me that, stuck somewhere ectopically in the tubes of the Aleksandr Internetsky, there must be a page/blog/wossname called Clovis Talking Points.

But damned if I’m gonna Google on it.

***
There is a famous SCA story that some folks preparing a feast acquired a boar’s head, and used an Authentick Middlyagey Receipt Therefor.

After long and elaborate preparation (what’s time to a pig’s head?) they completed the item, and then tasted it.

And lo, it did taste as though it were the Spam of far Vinland.

By all means, make amends, but amend with caution.

Startling revelations in the Valerie Plame case

After that they returned again to Pergamus, and here Xenophon might well thank God with a warm heart, for the Laconians, the officers, the other generals, and the soldiers as a body united to give him the pick of horses and cattle teams, and the rest; so that he was now in a position himself to do another a good turn.

But there came a man out of the West, and a small host with him, who wore no armor, and had not sacrificed to any gods, but placed before Xenophon a meager offering of wingless quailtards mangled and poor to eat, saying that the greater part of all the promised things belonged to their leaders, whose names were Kellogg and Brown and Root, because their promise was secret doubled.

So Xenophon was to have no horses, nor cattle, nor armor, with which to fight his battles, and only the Birdoids Ready to Eat. Then these men took away all Xenophon’s goods, and left him only a ribbon of yellow stuff, to show that they supported him mightily, and they went away and left him in the empty country, but not before theyslaughtered the people who lived there and burned their houses, that those who escaped became new enemies, as if the Hydra’s teeth were sown by the hundreds and thousands.

***
cutting brush while the country burns

As many here doubtless know, after the fire of AD 64, Nero housed the diplaced in his palaces, set up food distribution, and initiated a plan to rebuild the destroyed areas with better planning. (A number of sources say that he wasn’t even in Rome when the fire started, but returned immediately.)

There were a great many things not to like about the man, and it has been said that he conducted the highly visible relief program to buy some much-needed credibility … but Dispositio Discrimenum Adminstratio Roma* didn’t stuff fifty thousand people into the Circus Maximus and tell them to eat each other.

*endings vague and approximate, been a long day. And when you’re saying, “y’know, Nero did better than this other guy without even hesitating,” that other guy looks pretty bad.

The shorter YouWriteOn.com

I guess it comes down to the question of whether crappy critique is better than none at all. I’m sure that for some people it is…

I assume you wouldn’t say that about medical advice.

The absolute best that “crappy critique” can be is worthless, in the case of the aspirant being already skilled enough to know that it’s crap.

This is a technical profession, and people with neither skill or talent are unlikely to have much to offer. Neither “I like it” or “I don’t like it” is of any value in refining the work, unless the critic can state in at least a little technical detail why it brought that response. “I didn’t like the character of the postman” reveals nothing. “The postman seemed to be there just to tell us something we already knew, and the dialogue you gave him took three times as long as even that needed” can be acted upon.

There are quite a few people who do not write, even as amateurs, who can critique well. They are people who read analytically, who can make observations about why this bit worked or that bit lay there bleeding. (Many of these people could write fiction if they chose to.)

And ultimately, if you don’t learn to self-critique, you’re really not going to excel at the job.

A nominal military

Jim: Of course, that would make sense. Thank you. And I’ll bet the recoil system is cause for “consternation,” too. (I’m old enough to remember the Popular Science article when “Spooky” first appeared (I do not use the other nickname, for obvious reasons), which, like all weapons described in PS of that era, was going to Win The War Before the Next Issue.

If they’d give up the rights, which I kind of doubt, it would be interesting to do a book of Future Weapons of the Past, reprinting the art and key paragraphs from PS, PM, MI, Modern Mechanix (I think the X made it futuristic). It’s hard to say what the best (for specific values of that word) idea was, though it might well be the submersible fighter jet (which reappeared for decades; one could do a side-by-side gallery of the cutaway views).* Though my favorite art was a double-page, two-color spread (the style was like Gray Morrow’s, and it might even have been him) of Our Boys hanging above an unspecified city on their Bell rocket belts, bazookaing the behinds off the Bolshies.

They were probably using Nucular Bazookies … no, wait, we really issued those.

But I digress, as usual.

*Though if the clearances could be had, an article on “Whatever Happened to the Submarine Fighter?” seems like just the sort of thing Smithsonian Air & Space would run, and probably draw a letter saying “It is not dead, but sleepeth. —Name withheld by request.”

War with Iran

War with Iran would be both a complete failure and a massive disaster for everyone involved.

1) Oil prices would quickly rise to $100/barrel, with US gas going to IMO $4.00+/gallon.

2) If the goal would be to stop Iranian nuclear research and production, it would fail from the start. The Iranians have been busily digging deep under their mountains to put their facilities, and even if we could destroy them we have no idea where they all are.

3) Iran is a big place; some ground troops would have to be needed even if it were just SF types to provide ground surveillance and BDA. How will they be supplied and protected?

4) If Rumsfeld and Co. thought that fighting “terrorists” in Iraq kept them from going somewhere else, he has no idea what awaits if they go after Iran.

5) Iran may not have all that great a military, but they damn sure have a better one than Iraq and they’ve invested heavily in air defense (learned a little from Iraq War I and II). Going after their sites won’t be easy or cheap.

Not to mention the total loss of any remaining worldwide goodwill even from allies, and outright opposition from neutrals and rivals.

Open thread 71

Nick: Lotus WordPro 96.

I like it because, having used it for ten years (actually longer, since I started with AmiPro around 1993), I know it extremely well, because it does everything I need my word processor to do (which is quite a bit), and also because it’s paid for.

Charlie:

“Hang the phaser over the holographic fireplace in the Captain’s quarters, Mr. Chekov! Chop down the cherry orchard, Mr. Chekov! Embarrass yourself with Harcourt Fenton Mudd’s three so-called ‘sisters,’ Mr. Chekov! Let me tell you something, Gospodin Sulu: if the Captain ever orders Mr. Chekov to take the phaser down from over the holographic fireplace, you had better not go on the Bridge until the zapping stops.”

***
Oriana Fallaci has died. She was 76.

Guardian obit here.

If I’d had more to say, I would have put it on the front page, and I might yet, but as those of you who’ve followed her career may imagine, I’ll have to do a bit of thinking and sorting out first.

***
Kate:

“Today on Scrapheap Cha — uh, sorry, Junkyard Wars, our teams have to convert one of these yellow Volkswagens into an armour … sorry again, armor-plated Careless Author Pursuit Vehicle. Once complete, the teams will take off across this course — which you’ll note is rather short on auctorial hiding places — after either A. N. Wilson or Bevis Hillier, target to be chosen by lot, and no fair slipping a ringer into the draw box.”

[Music: “Big Yellow Taxi”]

***
Sara: One imagines James Bond in Manhattan (well, one Bond or other, anyway), being handed a note telling him where to meet his contact:

SHUN LEE PALACE

“Someone must be having me on.”

***
Lizzy:

You left out an airship, a whatever-that-guy’s-name-was Trimotor, a Temporal Displacement Widget,* the Nautilus (the one with the sense of interior design), the C-57D, and a Mechanical Mole. The last one would have to be capable of reaching Symzonia/Pellucidar/Anyplace Down There That Isn’t Real Hot and Preferably Supports Dinosaurs.

Of course, all those vehicles need to reach all their relevant fictional destinations. Singly or in combination.

Fortunately — and I would imagine this was your point — we can do that. We have the technology. I like a fountain pen for initial development, going to larger hardware for implementation.

*Preferably as small as possible, as large ones are inevitably left in places that end up behind Great Big Bolted Doors or on the other side of a River of Molten Sugar. Not that that’s bad for the story, as long as it does not become a plot, you know, device.

***
Kate: CORELDraw also hit the “X3” designation, and I’m assuming that someone at the company was superstitious about calling something “version 13.” Or maybe they weren’t, but worried that some of the customers might be. Hey, if it works for hotel floors … (The Marketing People, they live in a dimension not of sight and sound, but of Mind.)

Or maybe the new versions will give you mutant powers, like Resize Window and Select All Bezier Nodes.

***
All die. O the embarrassment.

“Important message for the King of Denmark. Sorry about the delay; had to wake up the Minister of Shriving Time to tell him he wasn’t needed. Long story. Anyway, your two chaps, choir invisible, high-five dispatched per instructions… . Just a literally bleedin’ minute ‘ere, don’t you people own a mop?”

To Carry On or Not to Carry On (1962)

***
Greg: The new* OS is called Vista. As in, “Vista Watson, he dead.”

Lizzy: The best-known illustrations for Treasure Island are by N. C. Wyeth. Aaaargh, I mean, aaar, they be my favoritest of all them pictures. Yers faithfully, Blind Pew.

*So nu?

***
Bigger than Making Light?

Fox News please copy.

***
Marilee: Which “guy from the Mary Sue story”? The Star-Ledger is the biggest paper published in New Jersey, and this guy is their TV columnist, so if you haven’t heard of him, that’s why, even if you live in New Jersey.

(Look, all I ever see is Nancy Franklin, and that’s adequate to my needs.)

I assume you don’t mean Aaron Sorkin, since his background is pretty completely covered in the piece. (He is also, of course, responsible for the line “You can’t handle the truth,” which it would be nice to put into the Do Not Use for Your Own Purposes Until 2106 box.)

***
Have been bemusedly looking at the Ads Picked by Google Apparently from Its Hinder Parts on the sidebar.

Over on “War with Them Guys” there was an ad for Ann Who Hath No Mind About Her’s books, which was kind of amusing, but the best one was an offer of free copies of Memoirs of A Geisha, aimed at people who had only seen the movie, that concluded with “Offer Submission Required.” Wow, I guess they read it.

And over here there are numerous ads for God, or at least his Googly associates. One tells me that “Jesus is the only way to Union,” which fortunately didn’t show up on the Montreal thread (and concludes, “the answer may suprise you,” so I guess they’re not hawking an inerrant text). Another asks me if I are righteous, and if I are sure I will go to Heaven, which for some people are two different questions, but the punchline has to be the site, which is “bjnewlife.com.” Now, I do not believe there is any connection between one’s state of grace and ability to write, and I would feel a lot better about my SoG if I did. But I think that someone offering religious commentary ought to be able to read for unintended content, especially if you are going to kiss somebody with the kisses of your mouth.

***
I’ve run across the Flash Gordon story in a couple of places. Robert Osborne at TCM mentioned it after a documentary they did that included interview material with Lucas.

And of course, when Flash finally got back on the screen, they had Danilo Donati, Fellini’s costume designer.

It’s hard to say what would have happened if Lucas had done the picture. It probably would have been better, except maybe for the costumes, but I wonder whether Lucas would simply have remade one or more of the serials with fancier effects. The film Lucas ended up making — Galactic Graffiti or whatever it was — was a story people hadn’t seen before. As Bill Warren said, people fell in love with that movie, wanted to see it over and over (we sat through three showings on the second weekend, which was the last weekend the theater wasn’t jammed past allowing holdovers), wanted to, in the manner of Trek, go live in that universe. And they did that in spite of some less than wunnerful dialogue and a rather out-of-place Yojimbo reference.

I don’t know what he had in mind for Flash — I doubt as he could have gotten away with doing it as a period piece, but there would be room for stronger characterizations and cool visuals (which the movie that was made had, due to good supporting players and Donati) without breaking anything. But I’m not at all sure it could have been turned into a franchise.

***
The villanelle is what?

Enter Mr Jno. Ford (the Elizabethan one) as King Edward the Fourth.

I am the King now, and I want a sandwich.
This monarch business makes a fellow hungry.
I wonder where my brother Richard is.

What happened to the kippers left from breakfast?
Or maybe there’s a bit of cold roast pheasant.
I am the King now, and I want a sandwich.

A civil war is such an awful bother.
We fought at Tewksbury and still ran out of mustard.
I wonder where my brother Richard is.

Speak not to me of pasta Marinara.
I know we laid in lots of boar last Tuesday.
I am the King now, and I want a sandwich.

The pantry seems entirely full of Woodvilles
And Clarence has drunk two-thirds of the cellar.
I wonder where my brother Richard is.

If I ran England like I run that kitchen
You’d half expect somebody to usurp it.
I am the King now, and I want a sandwich.
I wonder where my brother Richard is.

Comments on Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Pt. Twelve):
#1 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 10:27 AM:

Thus ends this series with Mike's last post. Hours--perhaps minutes--before he died.

"There's hope a great man’s memory may outlive his life half a year."

I have a brief coda I'll post this coming Monday.

#2 ::: dan ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 02:16 PM:

...and as we approach the second of those "half a year" markers, his memory still lives on strongly in this community.

True greatness carves its own memorials; 'tis ours now to keep tidy and brite...

Thank you, Jim.

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 02:32 PM:

I still want one of those LN2 shirts. I guess I'll have to do it myself. (Igloo Caps, maybe, for the top line ....)

#4 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 03:40 PM:

The "Greetings, intelligent beings of this world!" snippet made me bite my lips not to sniffle a little bit.

Thanks for collating and sharing all of these, Jim.

#5 ::: Bruce Purcell ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 05:44 PM:

God I hope there's more of this-

#6 ::: DarthParadox ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 06:12 PM:

I knew the series would be ending soon, but running into the end like a brick wall nearly brought me to tears, while I was still laughing over his last villanelle.

Laughing through tears, or crying through laughter... I suppose it's a normal way to remember such a man. I wish I'd known him when he was alive. But thank you for introducing me to him posthumously.

#7 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2007, 01:36 AM:

There was one there I hadn't seen: the "plover's egg the size of an ocean jasper" one. (I was at Worldcon and then got taken on a road trip by Ellen Klages, and didn't catch up on missed ML comments.) So thank you for that gift of new-to-me Mike words.

Have just spent half an hour rereading old e-mail and weeping. Laughing too, thank... well, thank Mike.

It's my birthday Wednesday. I don't know how to have a birthday without a Mike, though I imagine the day will happen, like days do.

Eh. I am a morose Lioness. I miss my Mike. Our Mike. Everybody's Mike.

He was a good one.

#8 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2007, 03:46 AM:

Oh gosh. Thanks for another sad but welcome reminder. So much splendid stuff that I missed in bleary early-morning skimming of comment threads. My bad (which I understand is short for "My bad translation of mea culpa").

I've updated the relevant Langford website link to go to this thread and thus the entire Ford Chrestomathy.

#9 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2007, 10:17 AM:

He fought old folly with a fertile wit
giving his judgment with a careful touch
of happy sharpness. We now owe him much,
but, unlike him, we make not happy hit;
the slender wand our arrow does not split.
We're not Mike Ford, that is our claim and crutch,
still we rejoice we could encounter such
a demigod of humour, straight, legit.
The love of words brings something at the mart,
but not enough to pay for human strife;
yet as time passes we may still remember
one who spoke plainly, heart to decent heart.
Now we keep hold of the still-glowing ember.

#10 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 05:01 AM:

That's lovely, Fragano. Except...it seems like you're missing a line. "Strife" is hanging out there unrhymed, and when I count the lines I come up with only 13.

Perhaps this is deliberate? The line is missing from the sonnet just as Mike is missing from our community, and the flawed poem contrasts with Mike's wonderful poems (as stated in lines 4-5).

(I'll feel slightly silly if it turns out it was just an error in the cut-and-paste.)

I went so far as to compose a line to fill the gap -- it would need to be the next-to-last line, to fit the rhyme scheme.

Burned bright, burned out, the fire that was his life.

It's a bit trite, but at least it scans.

#11 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 10:27 AM:

elise @7:

A single strand of silver wire entwines
Among the gems and beads, and twists around
The finest one, a secret treasure found
Among the curves like fruit among the vines.
And when the gem is lost, the shining wire
Preserves intact its shape, its outs and ins
The places where it widens, where it thins,
Reflecting, still, an echo of its fire.
How painful for the wire to now enclose
An emptiness, a hollow in its heart.
And yet the hole is just one balanced part
Of fine-wrought silverwork. And still it grows
And shapes the gulf into its graceful whole:
A necklace and a Lioness's soul.

Happy birthday, despite it all.

#12 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 10:33 AM:

elise @ 7... I am a morose Lioness

Nonetheless, happy birthday!

#13 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 11:47 AM:

David Goldfarb #10: While I like your explanation, like your lovely explanation, the truth, alas, is far more simple. I made a mistake in my counting.

#14 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 10:23 PM:

abi, that's wonderful! And Elise, a very happy birthday!

#15 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 11:18 PM:

I second Abi's poem as Very beautiful. It made me weep today at work...

Happy Birthday, Elise

#16 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 09:28 AM:

Has it really been nearly a year? It doesn't seem that long...

Happy birthday, Elise! And abi, what a beautiful poem (and appropriately enough, from someone whom I personally feel has taken up some of the Mike Ford mantle around these parts, at least in the poetry department).

#17 ::: Ken Burnside ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2007, 11:01 AM:

He shew'd us dreamburst
Not so long as we'd like
Raconteur abetting thirst
We hope again to see the like

The challenges of Euterpe*
Barely shows us adequate for art.
Inspired, but without his quiet example
Words, once joyous, slip our net

Though joyous dwelt, given freely
Perhaps this is the lesson learnt?
Methinks he would find it most unseemly
That we hide from the joy of dreamburst

Though we had him not so long as liked
In gratitude, thanks for the miracles, Mike.

* Euterpe, the Pleasing One among the muses. Very likely co-starring with Mike in the Parnassian version of The Office, the two of them zipping bon mots in dialog far too witty for focus groups.

#18 ::: Earl sees spam at 19 ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2010, 05:48 AM:

Spam in a Mike Ford thread makes me angry.

#19 ::: Cadbury Moose sights spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2010, 11:11 AM:

...very, very, angry.

Moderators, can you be less moderate with Mr elektrische zigarette please? Something like a big mallet would do nicely.

#20 ::: Jo MacQueen sees lottaspam ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2011, 10:14 PM:

Lila may have got to this one before I post, but if her good work doesn't get this far then #23 is spammy.

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Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.