Monday, October 30, 2006


The idea of encoding an arbitrary finite string of integers as a single fraction (by looking at a product of primes to appropriate powers) will probably not be new to any mathematician, and certainly not to any logician; but I think the idea that this encoding can be put to any practical use will probably be a surprising one. Of course one's value of 'practical' can differ, but John Conway has suggested a way to write a computer program as a string of fractions. The resulting language ('Fractran') is -- but of course! -- Turing complete.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Battle of the text editors on QDB

The decisive victory of vi over emacs in Google Trends being deceptive (whatever one thinks of the various text editors, it cannot be believed that the film Rocky VI has anything to say about any of them), one must turn to another source. Since I am addicted to QDB anyway, why not check what the fine folks who submit quotes there think of the two editors? Thus: emacs vs. vi 1.

1 I agree with the now-exhausted (from link-clicking) reader who opines that these quotes have little to offer in the way of deciding the ages-old struggle, but hope that he or she at least got a laugh from them, as I did.

Tell your story well, but quickly

As happens to all good things, Wired magazine's article featuring six-word stories by famous sci-fi writers turned up on Metafilter, where, as one would expect, the meme was taken up and propagated with alacrity. The results (358 comments as of this post!), some of which (for example, wendell's remarkable series and, though the spirit of it is different, this punctuation-themed story) are incredible, are at I read until my eyes exploded. Unfortunately, for perhaps the first time ever, Monterroso's famous story is too long to make the cut!

Of course, one can't see something like this without giving it a try oneself. Two quick stabs I made at it follow. Regrettably, the pun in the first is not my own.

The eighties, the nineties -- the naughties.
We didn't know until too late.
I'll post more as I think of them. I hope readers will leave some in the comments, too.

By the way, I'm sorry for the long silence. More content will follow over the next few days, or early next week.

UPDATE 26 October 2006, 6:30 PM.

If only I'd listened to mother.
Also, in the spirit of The Onion:
Unusual amounts of blood amazed passersby.

UPDATE 27 October 2006, 3 PM. Boy, this is addictive. I woke up with a great one this morning, but couldn't remember it long enough to get up and write it down. Oh, well -- here's another one:

It isn't over yet, I hope.

UPDATE 1 November 2006. Various people, not least among them the redoubtable naper271 whose contribution can be seen below, have expressed dissatisfaction with the genre. I will post soon about another genre, suggested by the previously-mentioned A; but for now I should mention that, before you judge this genre too harshly, you should look at the examples on the Metafilter thread above, not my own (poor) examples.

UPDATE 25 April 2007. As with so many other things in life in general, and this blog in particular, the statement above that I would post soon about another genre was a filthy and reprehensible lie. By way of consolation, here's another example: "A dream of prosperity ended badly." Well, naper271 may not like these, but I do.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Prolific readers

I've just, apparently, made the acquaintance of someone in Redmond who, eager to see all that can be seen in my blog, has been reading entries at the rate of about one every ten seconds. Hello, sir and/or madam! Your implicit criticism about the too-short length of my entries is well taken, and it won't happen again. (Also: Don't worry! I consider it highly likely that this blog will be here for at least another ten minutes, so you are welcome to take a more leisurely stroll through the remaining entries.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

ToS from

When one rents a vehicle from Avis, one "may be asked to sign a declaration attesting to specific criteria, among them:
  • ....
  • The renter/authorized driver has not, within the last 36 months failed to report or leave the scene of an accident."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fantastic fables

The great mass of people know of Ambrose Bierce through his Devil's Dictionary; but it is my opinion that his Fantastic Fables also are worthy of some attention. Herewith, three of my favourites.

"The Foolish Woman":

A Married Woman, whose lover was about to reform by running away, procured a pistol and shot him dead.

"Why did you do that, Madam?" inquired a Policeman, sauntering by.

"Because", replied the Married Woman, "he was a wicked man, and had purchased a ticket to Chicago."

"My sister," said an adjacent Man of God, solemnly, "you cannot stop the wicked from going to Chicago by killing them."

"Congress and the People":

Successive Congresses having greatly impoverished the People, they were discouraged and wept copiously.

"Why do you weep?" inquired an Angel who had perched upon a fence near by.

"They have taken all that we have," replied the People -- "excepting," they added, noting the suggestive visitant -- "excepting our hope in Heaven. Thank God, they cannot deprive us of that!"

But at last came the Congress of 1889.

From Æsopus Emendatus, "The Grasshopper and the Ant":

One day in winter a hungry Grasshopper applied to an Ant for some of the food which they had stored.

"Why", said the Ant, "did you not store up some food for yourself, instead of singing all the time?"

"So I did," said the Grasshopper; "so I did; but you fellows broke in and carried it all away."

Monday, October 02, 2006

Won't somebody think of the ...?

Won't somebody think of the congressmen?

This is, frankly, just amazing to me. I mean, lying, corruption, torture -- these are all the Republican family values we've come to expect -- but pedophilia? That is to say, not just pedophilia, but pedophilia practiced by the fucking pedophile who was head of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus? (Really! -- this link should point to the caucus's web page, but it seems not to be there any more.) Not only did we have a pedophile in office, but this administration can't bring itself to denounce him, rather trying to spin his predatory actions as partisan gamesmanship and "simply naughty e-mails"?