Tuesday, February 26, 2008

If you could turn yourself invisible...

...you would also make yourself blind.

Think about it. If light passes through your body without interference, it's passing through your eyes, too. It's not being focused by your lenses, and it's not stimulating the nerves in your retinas. It's just going right on through. If light were to be intercepted by your retinas, then it would not continue on through, and your eyes would become visible. Instead of being completely invisible, you would be a pair of floating eyeballs.

I guess this didn't occur to H.G. Wells. Or perhaps it did, but he calculated that he could disregard it. It certainly didn't occur to me when I read The Invisible Man as a child.

Don't ask me about the odd and convoluted train of thought that led me to this realization. But I do find poetic justice in the fact that if you want to be unseen by everyone else, then you must also give up the ability to see everyone else.

Life works that way sometimes.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Always a good sign!

Just heard the sonic booms of the Space Shuttle passing overhead on re-entry.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dirty secrets

According to a story in The New York Times, a federal judge in San Francisco, Jeffery S. White, has just ordered the "disabling" of a Web site, Wikileaks.org, that specialized in providing a place for people to anonymously post "leaks" of information from governments and companies around the world. Wikileaks claims that it acts as a sort of watchdog, shining the light of day on wrongdoings by governments and companies. This particular suit was brought by a Cayman Islands bank, Julius Baer Bank and Trust, because a "disgruntled ex-employee" had posted some of the bank's secret documents. According to Wikileaks, the documents -- which Julius Baer Bank is apparently not challenging the authenticity of -- show that the bank secretly conducts asset hiding, money laundering, and tax evasion activities.

Anyway, the interesting thing about The Times article is that the newspaper makes a particular point of publicizing that all the judge's order does is disable the Wikileaks.org domain name, and that the site is still available through its IP address. And The Times goes a step further and actually publishes the IP address (, in case you're interested), sort of flaunting that the leaks are still available. The Times also mentions that overseas and third-party mirror sites of Wikileaks are not affected.

Does it sound to you like the Times is going out of its way to tweak the judge's nose?

It does to me.

Do you think it might be that The Times is moved to tweak the judge's nose because of the similarity between this case -- publishing dirty secrets -- and The Times's own Pentagon Papers case back in 1971? A case which The Times eventually won?

I think it might be.

The judge's order seems likely to be overturned -- the First Amendment implications are considerable -- but in the meatime do you think it's just great that The Times is tweaking this judge's nose?

I do!


Saturday, February 16, 2008


A week or two ago Judi was talking to me on the telephone. This is part of what she said:
"Sunni is lapping up water all on her own. Can you hear her lapping? It was just a week ago that we had to give her water with a syringe, and now she's lapping up water on her own. She's making her mommy so happy. I don't think she has any idea how happy she's making her mommy. It's amazing how much we take for granted. Something as simple as lapping up water. It takes something like this to make us realize how much in life we aren't grateful for that we should be. Every small thing is a blessing that should fill us with happiness."

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Of course it goes without saying (and of course I will say it anyway) that today I am proudly wearing my beagle socks, to celebrate Uno's victory.

I took this picture when I was in New York two months ago:


Sardi's is next to the St. James Theater, where we saw How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. Uno had lunch there today. At Sardi's, that is.



Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Everyone needs a friend

Overheard, at work, where a new person is being trained:
"Undo is your friend."
Amen, sister.

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Monday, February 11, 2008


We were grabbing a late bite of breakfast at Burger King. The place was mostly empty. In the booth next to us there was a young couple, both overweight, he in a bright blue t-shift that said "Easily Distracted," her in something forgettable. Between them on the table was an infant, perhaps a girl, strapped into one of those carrier thingies with the big handle.

They finished eating, and he stood up to dump their tray into the trash. Then she stood up. Then they walked away. Judi watched them over my shoulder until finally she said, in an incredulous voice, "They both went into the bathrooms!"

I turned around, and sure enough, neither of then was in sight. We turned to look at their table. Their table where their infant girl was still strapped into her carrier, waving her arms and legs. They had gone off to the bathrooms and left their baby unattended on the table.

If I had had any desire to be a dad, and have my very own baby daughter to raise, that would have been my moment, right then.

A few minutes passed. Then dad and mom emerged from the bathrooms, he first, then her. We noticed that she had taken her purse to the bathroom with her. She hadn't wanted to leave her purse unwatched, but her kid was another matter. They gathered up their little girl and left.

Separate incident: Leaving the Burger King, we got behind an SUV with a bumper sticker that said:

I (heart) MY WIFE

If I could, I would have liked to ask the driver -- a middle-aged guy with thinning buzz-cut hair and a mustache and short beard shot with gray -- why he felt as though he needed to announce this fact to the general public. I mean, wouldn't that have been the default assumption? Had something happened to cause the public-at-large to doubt this guy's love for his wife, and he felt as though he had to set the record straight? If so, what was it that had happened? Because I would really like to know how one gets into a situation like that.

As it turned out, the day was just getting started....

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Apparently I'm not the only one

From the moment I first learned to read, I've been a bookworm. (There's a word I haven't heard in a long time: bookworm.) I've read zillions of books, though I must confess without much discipline. I could so relate to Wolf Larsen in Jack London's The Sea Wolf when the narrator, Humphrey Van Weyden, says something to the effect that he is surprised to find that Larsen is so well-read, but also surprised by how random his reading has been. "Hump's" implication is that this has somehow interfered with Larsen's ability to think critically. I have to add that this is probably the only thing Wolf Larsen and I have in common, except perhaps that we are both atheists.

Today, I have more money to buy books than I have time to read them, but when I was young, it was the other way around, and so I was a frequent customer of the library. It helped that the town library was literally next door to my grade school. I could walk over and check out a book during recess, and I often did, returning it the next day. The Laconia Public Library -- a wonderful building -- still makes an appearance from time to time in my dreams.

So why bring this up? Because this was the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon on GoComics yesterday, and it struck a chord in my soul that I had long forgotten:

Calvin Fears the Librarian

When I was young, I was terrified of librarians. I still fear them to some degree. And, apparently, I'm not the only one. Calvin, at least, shares my fear. Why do we feel that way? What is it about librarians -- quiet people, after all, who are overwhelmingly female -- that allows them to project such an aura of authority? The librarian frowns at you -- she never looks, she always frowns -- from behind her desk, and your insides go deathly cold. The librarian is ruthless. Kneecapping? Yeah, I can see it.

Now, okay, before I start a range war, I need to say that I know librarians are actually warm and helpful people, and I enormously admire the heroic librarians who stood up for our civil liberties in the face of the speciously-named Patriot Act. I'm not asking why librarians are ruthless, because I know they aren't. I'm only asking why we perceive them to be ruthless. Calvin and me, at least.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008


...by Judi, to me, about someone else whom we both know:

"Why does she always go out of her way to make herself miserable? It's like she can't be happy unless she's miserable."


Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I was listening to the news while driving to work this morning, and a reporter was explaining that New York's Mayor Bloomberg had announced that they would not be using real ticker tape during today's "ticker tape parade" for the Giants. Instead, they would be using chafe made from shredded newspaper. But, the reporter commented, the people of New York might enjoy the chance to "defenestrate the words of all the sports pundits who said the Patriots would win." (Not his exact words, but close.)

I think that's the first time I've ever heard defenestrate used in actual speech. I don't know where I first ran across the word -- maybe in a Nero Wolfe story -- but it's oddity has always been a source of marvel for me. Why is it that the English language needs a word that means "to throw out of a window?" Specifically, a window. Not throw out through a door, or off a balcony, or off a roof, but out a window. How many opportunities would you ever have to use such a specialized word? "If I come across another four-syllable word, I'm going to defenestrate this book"?

For that matter, since we have a word for "to throw out a window," why is it that we do not have specific words for "to throw out a door," "to throw off a roof," or "to throw off a balcony"? It seems that there are still a few gaping holes in the language.

If any of the three of you (I think I lost a couple of readers) has a copy of the OED (I, alas, do not), does it shed any light on these important questions?

If you remove the de- prefix, you are left with fenestrated, which means "having windows." As in, "the only difference between my workplace and a prison is that my workplace is fenestrated." There's a good word to pull out and and spring on someone! But notice that although fenestrated means "having windows," defenestrated does not mean "to remove the windows," as in "I defenestrated my laptop and installed Ubuntu, and I couldn't be happier with the outcome." No, it means "to throw out a window," as in "My laptop crashed for the umpteenth time and I was so frustrated I defenestrated it."

All this having been said, I'm not sure that the reporter was even using the word correctly: Isn't the "ticker tape" in a ticker tape parade thrown from the rooftops? I thought it was. But maybe I'm wrong. Is it thrown out of windows?


Monday, February 04, 2008

What a difference two years makes

Two years ago, on the Monday after the Super Bowl, I posted a piece that suggested that the Super Bowl was really all about the commercials and the half-time show, and that the actual football game had become irrelevant. I was inspired by the fact that as I drove in to work, listening to the radio that morning, all the talk on the airwaves was about the commerials and the Rolling Stones. The game was so not-present that I couldn't even find out who had won.

That wasn't the case this morning!

Judi and I first met the little beagle Skye on Super Bowl Sunday in 2005 (you can read about it here, if you want), so every year on Super Bowl Sunday we celebrate... not exactly her birthday, since we have no idea when she was born (or how old she is), but what we call Lucky Day. The day when we were lucky enough to meet her, and the day when she was lucky enough to find a home with Judi in Florida, where it's warm and sunny (mostly). Skye has very definite opinions about cold, rain, and overcast, and those opinions are not positive.

Yesterday we celebrated Lucky Day with cheesecake. The weather was what Skye considers perfect: 80 degrees under a bright sun and a cloudless blue sky. You couldn't ask for more on the third of February.

For those of you who are following the Princess's condition, Sunni has improved dramatically in the past week. Apparently the specialist-who-we-trust-less was in fact correct, and the problems she was having were caused by her medications, and those are now tweaked to where she is able to walk much better, and eat, and lap up water all on her own. Hooray for Sunni!

On Saturday I was at a mall about ten miles north of here when my car began spewing steam. A lot of steam. I swung into the nearest parking space and left it. This morning I asked the garage where I have it repaired to go up with their wrecker and tow it in. Hopefully it's still there, and hasn't been towed by the mall's management, or broken into or vandalized. But hey, I'm not complaining. Yesterday was Lucky Day, the sun was shining, Sunni is much improved, and this morning we know that sometimes, just sometimes, the underdog can win big.

Who could ask for more?

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