Aug. 17th, 2015 09:59 pm
bnewman: (explorer)
The head of engineering at a major tech company has just come down to the shop to inspect the prototype of the company's latest model. On his clipboard is a checklist on which each feature of the device will be checked against the officially approved specification. And so far it all looks good — this is according to spec, and that is according to spec. But...

Scattered throughout the mechanism are little platforms, and standing on each platform are a few tiny demons standing at attention, singing sad songs and dirges and wailing and bemoaning their terrible fate. This is disconcerting, to say the least, and — what's worse — it's not in the spec.

The head of engineering turns to the build team and gestures at the tiny sad singing demons and asks, "What are these, and what are they doing here?" And the nearest build team member grins and says:

"Oh, those... I wouldn't worry too much about them — they're just imp lamentation details."
bnewman: (damselfly)
[ profile] fiddledragon told me excitedly that she had seen a tee-ball parade across the street, but I heard "tea ball parade" and was momentarily confused, until I thought of this charming fictional tradition:

At the appropriate season, the townspeople gather in the square outside the herbalist's shop. Each person has a large tea ball on a string on a stick (like a fishing pole). People select herbs and flowers that symbolically represent a wish or prayer that they have (and that are non-toxic to aquatic life) and put the herbs in their tea balls. Then everyone marches together down to the river (this is the parade part), gathers at the shore, and steeps their tea balls in the current for an appropriate length of time. The wishes are believed to be carried down the river to the sea and out into the universe, where they may be fulfilled.

SQL haiku

Feb. 18th, 2015 09:18 pm
bnewman: (explorer)
At work there are some whiteboard walls. One of them used to be covered with puns, but recently the puns were erased and replaced with haiku. Since our company writes so much SQL, I thought it would be fun to contribute some haiku in SQL.

create view rainbow
as select distinct color

select count(flowers)
from meadow where wind is null
group by color, shape;

insert into heart
(select feeling from moment
where timestamp is null);

We also write an awful lot of Perl.

foreach $flower (@field) {
$rainbow{$flower->{HUE}}++ };
print sort keys %rainbow;
bnewman: (damselfly)
I've occasionally seen a bumper sticker or button asking, "What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it's all about?" Recently, I googled this phrase to see if I could find a source or context for it, and what I found was a touching, almost midrashic commentary on almost the complete lyrics of the Hokey Pokey — definitely worth reading.

But maybe you want to learn the whole Hokey Pokey while standing on one foot (tricky, I know). Here, in the spirit of the High Holydays, is my summation:

You put your whole self in,
And you turn yourself around;
That's what it's all about.

Shana tova.
bnewman: (explorer)
I decided to look up the exact time online so I could reset our clocks accurately. The site I found (by searching for [time reference]) contained a Java applet, so while it was loading, the page seemed to be saying "The official U.S. time is [a coffee cup]." That's not as precise as the information I was looking for (which did eventually appear), but it is extremely accurate.
bnewman: (explorer)
My, it's been a long time. There have been a number of exciting things that happened that I meant to post something about, and then didn't. Someday, maybe, I will. I've been preoccupied, and I've been thinking that any day now I'll redo my website, and have been holding off updating my current website for that reason.

Setting all that aside, here's a post on the topic of pseudofilks, or cryptofilks, or whatever you want to call these things...

Often, when writing a song parody, I'll keep a line from the original song intact. Sometimes, that line motivated the parody in the first place. Other times, it comes as a surprise, even to me. Usually, the context of the filk changes the meaning of the line in a way that's particularly ironic, poignant, or otherwise powerful or punchliney. I mentioned a number of these at a song-parody-writing panel at Arisia.

And then there are the songs where, once I realize the twist that makes the parody work, the region of lyrics that can be kept, albeit with a changed meaning, grows and grows until it swallows the whole song. All the lyrics exactly the same. Then what? How do you perform such a filk — what establishes the context that changes the meaning, that makes the difference between the filk and the original song? These oddities are what I'm calling "pseudofilks".

The possibility of having a beloved song ruined for you forever minor, implicit spoilers for Babylon 5, and major spoilers for A Fire Upon the Deep follow after the cut )
bnewman: (Default)
From The Annotated Alice, by Lewis Carroll with notes by Martin Gardner:
"O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"34

34A species of arctic duck that winters in northern Scotland is called the calloo after its evening call, "Calloo! Calloo!"

More likely, as readers Albert L. Blackwell and Mrs. Carlton S. Hyman each pointed out, Carroll had in mind two forms of a Greek word, kalos [καλος], meaning beautiful, good or fair. They would be pronounced as Carroll spells them, and would fit well the meaning of the line.

That's what I thought. And, yes, it was a frabjous day.
bnewman: (explorer)
One of these things is not like the others.

bnewman: (explorer)
A lot (mostly good) happened since I last posted, and lot more (holidays, homework, travel...) is about to happen, but it's late, and I'm in a hurry, so I'll just leave you all with this titlebunny:

"Indiana Jones and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"

You know, Indiana Jones is frequently off searching for biblical artifacts, so it could totally work... assuming the coat of many colors hasn't been, you know, burned or eaten by moths at any point in the past 3500 years.
bnewman: (explorer)
            You are a primate.
The highest frequency of photon that you can see is 750 THz.
bnewman: (damselfly)
Alas, that [ profile] fiddledragon's phone seems to be off the hook! Here's hoping that she's been properly sung up in person. Well, I tried.

A happy May Day to all my friends at and/or from Bryn Mawr (the rest of you can have a happy May Day tomorrow) — now I'm going back to sleep.
bnewman: (damselfly)
<large><friendly>DON'T PANIC</friendly></large>
bnewman: (Default)
is a 32-bar contra dance for a circular set of six couples:

(1-4) Even couples lead in, take hands, and set. Meanwhile, odd couples turn once around by the right.
(5-8) Odds arch while evens lead out through them with their neighbors and cast back to places.

(9-12) 1s and 2s, 4s and 5s half-pousette while 3s and 6s set to partners and turn single.
(13-16) 2s and 6s, 5s and 3s half pousette while 1s and 4s set to partners and turn single.

(17-24) All balance and swing neighbors.

(25-32) Grand chain half-way round to end progressed.
bnewman: (Default)
You'd think that, with a title like that, this would be an intensely personal post.


It's Rosh Hashanah — shanah tovah, chaverim — and it's traditional to eat sweet things, because the new year should be sweet. Specifically, it's traditional to eat apples and honey together. Well, there are apples in the fridge, and I did buy some honey just for the occasion, but I was pulling out the roasted unsalted pistachio nuts from Trader Joe's when I had a terrible idea: what has honey and pistachio nuts in it? Baklava!

So, it so happens I don't keep phyllo dough lying around in case I suddenly decide to make baklava at midnight on Rosh Hashanah. But there is sliced whole-wheat bread lying around. So... baklava toast!

Baklava toast consists of bread, honey, chopped pistachio nuts, and cardamom. Toast bread lightly. Spread with honey. Sprinkle cardamom. Sprinkle nuts. Drizzle some more honey on top (on the theory that it will help hold the nuts on — this theory is false). Toast again. If you want the nuts to stay on, chop them really fine and shake off the excess, or make it a sandwich.

Speaking of pistachio nuts... )

Speaking of linguistics, I was IMing with [ profile] fiddledragon the other day, and made a number of egregious linguistics puns which I will now present in the form of riddles:
  1. What team of superheroes have giant minimal meaning-bearing robots that combine to form a Word?
  2. What super-villain is their arch-nemesis?
  3. What kind of defensive systems do their giant robots have?
  4. A British syntactician, fed up with arguing with a French colleague, tells him that he has his head up his butt. What is the Frenchman's retort?

Answers... )
bnewman: (Default)
I am attending this year's first meeting of BORG, the Brandeis Official Readers' Guild, at this moment.

BORG, in conjunction with the Brandeis Society for Creative Fantasy and the Borough of Fenmere (aka the Brandeis Medieval Society) is plotting a "Dragon Hunt". I wonder where they got the idea... (Yes, they got the idea from us.) I wonder if they'll need my help...

Didn't I just leave this party?
bnewman: (Default)
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The diagram above is a (partial) representation of the public transit system of a major east-coast city. The colors are those of the official map of the system in question. Which city is it?

(Note: spoilers in comments)
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