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July 31, 2008

The introduction and first paragraph of Mark Twain's Roughing It

This book is merely a personal narrative, and not a pretentious history or a philosophical dissertation. It is a record of several years of variegated vagabondizing, and its object is rather to help the resting reader while away an idle hour than afflict him with metaphysics, or goad him with science. Still, there is information in the volume; information concerning an interesting episode in the history of the Far West, about which no books have been written by persons who were on the ground in person, and saw the happenings of the time with their own eyes. I allude to the rise, growth and culmination of the silver-mining fever in Nevada—a curious episode, in some respects; the only one, of its peculiar kind, that has occurred in the land; and the only one, indeed, that is likely to occur in it.

Yes, take it all around, there is quite a good deal of information in the book. I regret this very much; but really it could not be helped: information appears to stew out of me naturally, like the precious ottar of roses out of the otter. Sometimes it has seemed to me that I would give worlds if I could retain my facts; but it cannot be. The more I calk up the sources, and the tighter I get, the more I leak wisdom. Therefore, I can only claim indulgence at the hands of the reader, not

Chapter 1

My brother had just been appointed Secretary of Nevada Territory—an office of such majesty that it concentrated in itself the duties and dignities of Treasurer, Comptroller, Secretary of State, and Acting Governor in the Governor's absence. A salary of eighteen hundred dollars a year and the title of "Mr. Secretary," gave to the great position an air of wild and imposing grandeur. I was young and ignorant, and I envied my brother. I coveted his distinction and his financial splendor, but particularly and especially the long, strange journey he was going to make, and the curious new world he was going to explore. He was going to travel! I never had been away from home, and that word "travel" had a seductive charm for me. Pretty soon he would be hundreds and hundreds of miles away on the great plains and deserts, and among the mountains of the Far West, and would see buffaloes and Indians, and prairie dogs, and antelopes, and have all kinds of adventures, and may be get hanged or scalped, and have ever such a fine time, and write home and tell us all about it, and be a hero. And he would see the gold mines and the silver mines, and maybe go about of an afternoon when his work was done, and pick up two or three pailfuls of shining slugs, and nuggets of gold and silver on the hillside. And by and by he would become very rich, and return home by sea, and be able to talk as calmly about San Francisco and the ocean, and "the isthmus" as if it was nothing of any consequence to have seen those marvels face to face. What I suffered in contemplating his happiness, pen cannot describe. And so, when he offered me, in cold blood, the sublime position of private secretary under him, it appeared to me that the heavens and the earth passed away, and the firmament was rolled together as a scroll! I had nothing more to desire. My contentment was complete.

[why did it take me so long to come this fantastic book?]

Posted by tplambeck at 10:12 PM

Karajan vs AC/DC

Posted by tplambeck at 09:33 PM

July 29, 2008

Not the beard you're looking for

Originally uploaded by SirKnightGary
Previously clean-shaven fugitives are inevitably arrested with beards.

They might as well put it on the WANTED poster:


It's a safe bet they still have arms, and sure thing that they've got a beard, in my experience.

This is not to say that every Bosnian Serb faith healer is Radovan Karadzic in disguise, however:

* * * *
Petar Glumac, an alternative medicine healer, who claims that Bosnian Serb wartime leader and indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic based his false identity on him, sits in front of his house in the village of Banatsko Novo Selo some 30km (18.5 miles) from Belgrade July 27, 2008. Karadzic evaded capture last year when Austrian police raided a Vienna apartment where he was staying but they did not recognise the disguised war crimes suspect, an Austrian newspaper reported on Friday. When the police asked him to identify himself, the report said that he showed a Croat passport under the name Petar Glumac and added he was in Vienna for training. Glumac, 78, told local newspapers on Sunday that he has a Serbian and Croatian passport. Picture taken July 27.
Posted by tplambeck at 09:17 PM

July 28, 2008

Perceptual Map #38812324: Importance to U.S. National Security Interests v. Resemblance to Scarlett Johansson

Perceptual Map #38812324: Importance to U.S. National Security Interests v. Resemblance to Scarlett Johansson
Originally uploaded by tgbusill
Hmm—I mean need to add this graph to the Four Universal Graphs.
Posted by tplambeck at 09:22 PM

From Memoirs of an Infantry Officer

[Siegried Sassoon. After suffering through through Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man a few years ago in a misguided effort at Sassoonian-completeness, I'd started this book and then put it aside for some reason. Finally I came back to it and enjoyed it very much.]

* * *

Kendle, who had been trying to do something for a badly wounded man, now rejoined me, and we continued, mostly on all fours, along the dwindling trench. We passed no one until we came to a bombing post and three serious-minded men who said that no one had been further than that yet. Being in an exploring frame of mind, I took a bag of bombs and crawled another sixty or seventy yards with Kendle close behind me. The trench became a shallow groove and ended where the ground overlooked a little valley along which there was a light railway line. We stared across at the Wood. From the other side of the valley came an occasional rifle-shot, and a helmet bobbed up for a moment. Kendle remarked that from that point any one could see into the whole of our trench on the slope behind us. I said we must have our strong-post here and told him to go back for the bombers and a Lewis gun. I felt adventurous and it seemed as if Kendle and I were having great fun together. Kendle thought so too. The helmet bobbed up again. "I'll just have a shot at him," he said, wriggling away from the crumbling bank which gave us cover. At this moment Fernby appeared with two men and a Lewis gun. Kendle was half kneeling against some broken ground; I remember seeing him push his tin hat back from his forehead and then raise himself a few inches to take aim. After firing once he looked at us with a lively smile; a second later he fell sideways. A blotchy mark showed where the bullet had hit him just above the eyes.

The circumstances being what they were, I had no justification for feeling either shocked or astonished by the sudden extinction of Lance-Corporal Kendle. But after blank awareness that he was killed, all feelings tightened and contracted to a single intention -- to "settle that sniper" on the other side of the valley. If I had stopped to think, I shouldn't have gone at all. As it was, I discarded my tin hat and equipment, slung a bag of bombs across my shoulder, abruptly informed Fernby that I was going to find out who was there, and set off at a downhill double. While I was running I pulled the safety-pin out of a Mills bomb; my right hand being loaded, I did the same for my left. I mention this because I was obliged to extract the second safety-pin with my teeth, and the grating sensation reminded me that I was half way across and not so reckless as I had been when I started. I was even a little out of breath as I trotted up the opposite slope. Just before I arrived at the top I slowed up and threw my two bombs. Then I rushed at the bank, vaguely expecting some sort of scuffle with my imagined enemy. I had lost my temper with the man who had shot Kendle; quite unexpectedly, I found myself looking down into a well-conducted trench with a great many Germans in it. Fortunately for me, they were already retreating. It had not occurred to them that they were being attacked by a single fool; and Fernby, with presence of mind which probably saved me, had covered my advance by traversing the top of the trench with his Lewis gun. I slung a few more bombs, but they fell short of the clumsy field-gray figures, some of whom half turned to fire their rifles over the left shoulder as they ran across the open toward the wood, while a crowd of jostling helmets vanished along the trench. Idiotically elated, I stood there with my finger in my right ear and emitted a series of "view-holloas" ( a gesture which ought to win the approval of people who still regard war as a form of outdoor sport). Having thus failed to commit suicide, I proceeded to occupy the trench -- that is to say I sat down on the fire-step, very much out of breath, and hoped to God the Germans wouldn't come back again.

The trench was deep and roomy, with a fine view of our men in the Quadrangle, but I had no idea what to do now I had got possession of it. The word "consolidation" passed through my mind; but I couldn't consolidate by myself. Naturally, I didn't underestimate the magnitude of my achievement in capturing the trench on which the Royal Irish had made a frontal attack in the dark. Nevertheless, although still unable to see that my success was only a lucky accident, I felt a bit queer in my solitude, so I reinforced my courage by counting the sets of equipment which had been left behind. There were between forty and fifty packs, tidily arranged in a row -- a fact which I often mentioned (quite casually) when describing my exploit afterwards. There was the doorway of a dug-out, but I only peered in at it, feeling safer above ground. Then, with apprehensive caution, I explored about half way to the Wood without finding any dead bodies. Apparently no one was any the worse for my little bombing demonstration. Perhaps I was disappointed by this, though the discovery of a dead or wounded enemy might have caused a revival of humane emotion. Returning to the sniping post at the end of the trench I meditated for a few minutes, somewhat like a boy who has caught a fish too big to carry home (if such an improbable event has ever happened). Finally I took a-deep breath and ran headlong back by the way I'd come.

Little Fernby's anxious face awaited me, and I flopped down beside him with an outburst of hysterical laughter. When he'd heard my story he asked whether we oughtn't to send a party across to occupy the trench, but I said that the Germans would be bound to come back quite soon. Moreover my rapid return had attracted the attention of a machine-gun which was now firing angrily, along the valley from a position in front of the Wood. In my excitement I had forgotten about Kendle. The sight of his body gave me a bit of a shock. His face had gone a bluish color; I told one of the bombers to cover it with something. Then I put on my web-equipment and its attachments, took a pull at my water-bottle, for my mouth had suddenly become intolerably dry, and set off on my return journey, leaving Fernby to look after the bombing post. It was now six o'clock in the morning, and a weary business it is, to be remembering and writing it down.

Posted by tplambeck at 08:29 PM

July 27, 2008

Hiding from the dog

Hiding from the dog
Originally uploaded by thane

Posted by tplambeck at 07:46 PM

July 25, 2008

Chez Casa Lupe, in Mt View

THANE: Whenever they ask me that question, "Would you like corn or flour tortillas," somehow I really want to say "Corn," even though I don't like corn tortillas.

GLORIA: Corn tortillas are healthier.

THANE: It's something about that word, "corn." It starts with a "K" sound. Who wants to say "flour"? It's not a fun word to say. It's indecisive. The word "Corn" is like a big black hole, gravitationally attracting you to say it. I find it useful to think of the yellow tortillas, their crumbliness, the inability to roll them up satisfactorily, etc, then finally I can think, "Right, corn is not for me." Then I can finally say, "Flour." Why is it so hard?

COLE: Right, me too—I have to concentrate to stop myself from saying "Corn."

THANE: Maybe if they turned it around, and asked, "Would you like flour or corn tortillas?" instead?

COLE: No—I think it's still hard to say "Flour."

THANE: Right.

Posted by tplambeck at 07:22 PM

July 18, 2008

The bigger they are...

Originally uploaded by thane

Posted by tplambeck at 09:03 PM

July 12, 2008

Fire light vs eclipse light

Originally uploaded by thane
This photo was taken 6 years ago [10 June 2002] during a partial solar eclipse.

You can see images of the eclipse in the light that is passing through trees and hitting the wall behind Owen and Cole.

But I remember the funny smoky quality of the light that day. It was as if someone was blocking the sun with a filter. I guess the someone was the moon.

Anyway, every morning nowadays I'm reminded of this eclipse, because the sunlight coming through the diffuse smoke from the zillion California fires (still burning) strongly reminds me of it.
Posted by tplambeck at 05:19 PM

Explosions appearing too frequently in popular science books

I don't have a problem with any of them, I just don't need to read any more about them, thank you, especially when I'm not expecting to read about things blowing up.

1) The Tunguska event.
2) Krakatoa. For example, it appears early on in the Carl Zimmer book on E. Coli. It was a little strained, working it in.
3) The KT exinction. ("For example, scientists now believe that the extinction of the dinosaurs..."). Well, yes. I've read about this one in too many non-paleontological contexts, also.

Can we all just watch the video, instead?

Posted by tplambeck at 04:31 PM

July 10, 2008

I've never gotten more than 43.

Originally uploaded by thane
Yet another Prius, two blocks from our house.

And our new neighbors? Blue Prius.
Posted by tplambeck at 07:15 PM

Ghosts in the Google Streetviewer

Looks like New Jersey, but click "View Larger Map" and you'll see that this location is in the middle of the Jersey City Cemetery.

View Larger Map

Posted by tplambeck at 06:44 PM

July 08, 2008

Fifty years of Moanin'

if you've never heard the trumpeter Lee Morgan's 1958 recording Moanin', I suggest the following exercise.

1) Listen to the first 60 seconds (no more!) of this recording, then press pause.
2) Reflect for a moment, and try to imagine what the next 2 minutes, 8 seconds of the music is likely to sound like. Did you imagine that at 1:21 seconds into this recording, just 21 seconds after you pressed pause, an appropriate sound would be that of a goose being stepped on? If so, you are a Hard Bop Trumpet Genius like Lee Morgan. Either that, or you're cheating.
3) Listen to the rest of it. You can thank me later.
4) Finally, ask yourself the question: why didn't I play trumpet in high school?

Posted by tplambeck at 10:52 PM

July 06, 2008

Steve Sigur, RIP

He made today's Huffington Post.


One year Steve requested a a part-time teaching load and was paid for half a day. The principal also mentioned, Do you know what he did with the other half of his day? He spent it working with the kids on his own time. He was here all day long. What do you make of that? Never seen it before. When asked, What kind of teacher is Steve? the principal replied, Best teacher I have in the school.


Conway/Sigur triangle book

Posted by tplambeck at 10:20 PM


In today's (Sunday) NYT crossword:

1973 Helen Reddy #1 hit (9)

This is precisely the type of clue that causes me to begin solving somewhere else in the grid.

Why? Because I know that once I write down the answer, I'm going to have an idiotic melody from the 1970s playing in my head for the rest of the day. I'd rather not be reminded of any such melodies.

I didn't know the answer to this one immediately. I took some comfort in the knowledge that IAMWOMAN didn't have enough letters.

I struggled to not think about it. I tried to think of today's Federer/Nadal match at Wimbledon. Then the Big Sur fires. What I might try to next inside MATLAB.

Then suddenly it came to me anyway like some horrific meteor strike:



I'm sure I can trust you to have the wisdom not to click on this Tanya Tucker version:

Somehow the "drama enhancing" key change halfway through just really, really, really pisses me off.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:23 PM

Ozzie pounces

Posted by tplambeck at 07:53 PM

Cat's name

The cat has finally been named: Osmanthus Fancy Teabag [link].

Ozzie, for short. Or Teabag.

He was named "Earl Grey" by the Animal Shelter people, and no one was happy with that name. I still like "Fleabag Willie" better, but was vetoed.

Posted by tplambeck at 06:40 PM

July 05, 2008

We adopted a cat

We adopted a cat
Originally uploaded by thane

Posted by tplambeck at 02:18 PM

July 04, 2008

SMS poetry via Twitter

I'm sending out SMS Poetry via Twitter.

There's still plenty of room for others to join the elite group of five people currently "following" this valuable cultural resource.

I hope to see you there.

Posted by tplambeck at 08:45 PM

4th of July

4th of July
Originally uploaded by thane

Posted by tplambeck at 08:38 PM

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