Content-Type: text/shitpost

Subject: The Disco Ball
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!glados​!extro​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-06-07T15:10:01
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Wikipedia informs me that the disco ball was invented in the 1920s. This is surprising. Certainly the technology to manufacture it was available much earlier. I think a disco ball would not be out of place at Versailles.

Subject: P.L. Kapitsa on lightning rods
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!hardees​!triffid​!gormenghast​!qwerty​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-06-07T14:47:58
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

…each English citizen who provided his lightning conductor with a spike and not with a blunt end was considered as politically suspect.

Subject: Good advice from Georgius Agricola
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!uunet​!asr33​!hardees​!m5​!plovergw​!ploverhub​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-05-24T11:47:41
Newsgroup: rec.pets.good-advice-from-johann-agricola
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The miner should not start mining operations in a district which is oppressed by a tyrant.

De re metallica, 1556

Subject: Asking the wrong question
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!berserker​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-05-21T18:37:55
Newsgroup: rec.pets.wrong-question
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The New York Python conference PyGotham is trying an experiment: they're letting the community vote on the (suitably anonymized) talk proposals. Interesting idea!

But I think they're asking the wrong question:

Screenshot from
the PyGotham voting site that asks “Should this talk be presented at
PyGotham?” with answers “Definitely yes!”, “I'm impartial.”,
“Definitely not.”

I think it should say instead:

If this talk were presented at PyGotham, would you attend?

⭘ Yes
⭘ Maybe
⭘ No

If I were running a conference, I would care deeply about what people wanted to see, and very little about what they imagined that other people might want to see.

Subject: Ominus
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!batcomputer​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-05-20T15:48:21
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.ominus
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Standard !!\TeX!! has a control sequence, \ominus, which produces the symbol !!\ominus!!. (It is analogous to \oplus !!\oplus!!.)

For a while, at a time when I was writing more !!\TeX!! than I do now, I would sign my documents as !!\text{Mark D$\ominus$}!!.

Subject: Pangrams not in English
Path: you​!your-host​!warthog​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-05-20T15:45:39
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.pangrams
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Alicja Raszkowsa nerdsniped me into inquiring into pangrams in languages other than English. The Polish Wikipedia page has an extensive list. I was interested to learn that in Polish, a pangram must contain each of ‘z’, ‘ż’, and ‘ź’. Note that this is not completely obvious. A Spanish pangram must contain both ‘n’ and ‘ñ’, but need not contain both ‘o’ and ‘ó’, as those are the same letter. Possibly fun exercise: write a computer program which, given a sequence of pangrams in an unknown script, emits the list of letters in that script. For Spanish it should emit both ‘n’ and ‘ñ’, but only one of ‘o’ and ‘ó’.

So far my favorite find has been this Reddit discussion of the perfect Finnish pangram


which contains each Finnish letter exactly once. It appears to mean the act of a filth-lover pleading with someone to sleep with them.

The best part of the discussion was when one Finnish user complained that they did not know what “vongahdus” was supposed to mean. Another user explained:

Vongahdus as in something a vonkaaja would do.

This was accepted without any request for further clarification. Instead the first user's reply was:

I just love our language, everything is as confusing as possible.

Subject: What the fractional fuck
Path: you​!your-host​!ultron​!ihnp4​!hal9000​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-05-18T12:39:13
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Just as the phrase “what the entire fuck” implies the existence of fractional fucks…

Full Tumblr post

Subject: High school math department
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!mechanical-turk​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-05-18T12:33:38
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The professor said to me that analysis was a deep enough and rich enough subject that I would not be wasting my time to take it again, and that I would not be bored. I thought about this a little bit, and I thought about this a little bit, and then I agreed that he was probably right.

I have something to add to this. All through high school I fought with my high school math department to be excused from high school math. For example, I said it was stupid to be taking high school trigonometry while also studying differential equations at Columbia. My tenth-grade trigonometry teacher said that just because I was studying differential equations at Columbia, did not mean I did not also have something to learn from tenth-grade trigonometry.

Looking back on it now, with the wisdom that comes with age, I can see that I was right and he was wrong. I had nothing to learn from tenth-grade trigonometry.

My ninth-grade math teacher asked why I was always “trying to do an end-run around life”. I suppose that to this ninth-grade math teacher, your ninth-grade math class is one of life's highlights, one of those fleeting moments of youth that one must stop to savor lest it slip away all too quickly.

But I think this story proves that I wasn't just trying to rush ahead for the sake of rushing ahead. When I was offered the chance to do two semesters of real analysis a second time, instead of rushing ahead to the next thing, I didn't try to skip it. I didn't even argue.

Those high school people were wrong. So, so wrong.

May they all burn in hell.

Subject: If you know calculus, is it worth taking real analysis?
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!hardees​!m5​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-05-18T12:16:43
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

[ This is another resurrection of a deleted Math Stack Exchange post. There's nothing really wrong with it, except that I feel like it's not of general interest. ]

Which parts of real-analysis are worth studying if you have already taken several calculus courses? I know that real-analysis is more 'rigurous', but still I wonder whether it is worth to again go over a lot of subjects that I already know from through calculus.

When I first entered university, shortly before classes began, I met with an professor whose task was to advise me on which classes to take in my first semester. After hearing me describe my background, which included passing the college-credit calculus exam at age fifteen, he suggested that I take real analysis.

“But I took that already,” I protested. “I had a two-semester course in real analysis at Columbia University last year. We used the little blue Rudin book. I got A’s.”

The professor said to me that analysis was a deep enough and rich enough subject that I would not be wasting my time to take it again, and that I would not be bored. I thought about this a little bit, and then I agreed that he was probably right. So I took the analysis course again. We used the same textbook, but I was not bored, and it was not a waste of time. It was an extremely good use of time; I have never regretted it.

So that's my answer about which topics of real analysis should be studied if you have already done calculus: all of them. You will not be bored, and it will not be a waste of time, because the answer is the same even if you have already taken real analysis.

Subject: Welp
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!hardees​!m5​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-05-17T12:28:47
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

[ The following is ill-informed speculation. ]

I think that in some dialects of American English, “well” is sometimes pronounced with a final glottal stop, /wɛlʔ/. People wanted to represent this pronunciation in writing, but they couldn't, because English doesn't have a way to write a glottal stop, so instead they started to write it instead as “welp”. Once that spelling had been written and read enough times, people actually started to pronounce it /wɛlp̚/ or /wɛlp/.

Bonus question: if any of this is correct, why is it spelled “welp” and not “welk”?

Subject: Shibboleth
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!uunet​!asr33​!gormenghast​!extro​!forbin​!berserker​!plovergw​!ploverhub​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-24T15:06:35
Newsgroup: misc.shibboleth
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

From now on whenever anyone says “shibboleth” I'm going to correct their pronunciation. “That’s actually pronounced ‘sibboleth’.”

Hilarious! I wish I'd thought of this years ago.

Subject: Hugo Award anecdote
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!skordokott​!mechanical-turk​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-21T21:35:49
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

A former classmate of mine is a writer. I asked him how it was going.

“Well,” he said, “One of my short stories was nominated for a Hugo.”

“Awesome! Are you going to win?”

“No.” He shrugged, and explained: “Ted Chiang wrote a story this year.”

Subject: Yacht
Path: you​!your-host​!warthog​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-14T03:24:11
Newsgroup: alt.mjd.yacht
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

"Sunk Cost Fallacy" would be a good name for a yacht.

Subject: Artificial stupidity
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-14T02:59:13
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.attractions
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Google Maps has a new button that says “attractions”. I clicked it to see what attractions were near me. It just does a canned search for “attractions”.

Screenshot of
Google maps information about the Liberty Place observation deck

But there must be some sort of metadata, because the canned search has found the Liberty Place observation deck, very nice.

Screenshot of
Google maps information about the Franklin Institute

Also it found the Franklin Institute, home of the Benjamin Franklin national memorial.

Screenshot of
Google maps information about The Main Attraction Unisex Hair Salon in
West Philadelphia

And of course it also found this barber shop that happens to have “Attraction” in its name.

Subject: Little Philadelphia
Path: you​!your-host​!warthog​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-14T02:50:40
Newsgroup: sci.math.little-philadelphia
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Sometimes Philadelphia can seem really small. Last night I went to a Secret Cinema show. Secret Cinema is this guy named Jay Schwartz who owns a large collection of obscure films and some film projectors, and who puts on a film show every so often. Secret Cinema is where I saw Billy Jack.

Last night's show was a bunch of short comedy films from the 1930s. (Most of which I thought were awful.) Afterward I went to the Secret Cinema web site to find out more about what I had seen, and I noticed this item at the very bottom of the page:

The bottom
of the page says “WebMasters: Rodney Linderman & Jay Schwartz”

The name Rodney Linderman rang a bell, but it took a minute before I could put my finger on it. Rodney Linderman is better known as Rodney Anonymous and is the front man for the Dead Milkmen.

Subject: Chariots in chess, again
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!glados​!extro​!forbin​!berserker​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-14T02:39:28
Newsgroup: misc.misc.chariots
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Even if the chariots were an anachronism in chess at the time it was invented, maybe it's not so strange. Indian legend is still full of chariots. For example, Krishna served as the charioteer for Arjuna in Mahabharata. In the Ramayana, Lord Indra himself sends his charioteer, Matali, to assist Rama. Maybe they put the chariots in because they were cool, the way we have videogames about fighting with giant swords even though nobody around here has done that for a long time.

Then when the game came to Europe, where chariots were unknown even in legend, so they decided to change them. To the always perplexing castles or towers. Because apparently the European mind had an easier time accepting a tower scooting around the board than a horse-drawn cart with an archer in it.

Europeans can be pretty weird.

Subject: Chaudhuri again
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!brain-in-a-vat​!am​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-14T02:29:49
Newsgroup: misc.chaudhuri
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

It occurs to me that the “chaudhur” in “Chaudhuri” is also the same as in the name of chaturanga, which is the original name for the game of chess. It refers to the four components of the army. (In the original game, there were infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots.) I think that in Persian the name is still the same, shatranj.

Subject: Exclusive?
Path: you​!your-host​!warthog​!gormenghast​!extro​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-14T02:14:40
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.exclusive
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Today I went to check in for a flight to Los Angeles. They must have overbooked, because one of the things they showed me was this:

They are
offering me a discount on a future flight if I agree to switch off of
the overbooked flight.  The offer is labeled “Exclusive flight change offer”.

Now my question is, what exactly is the meaning of “exclusive” here?

Subject: Form Autofill
Path: you​!your-host​!ultron​!uunet​!asr33​!skynet​!m5​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-10T14:48:47
Newsgroup: sci.math.form-autofill
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

My web browser has this feature where it remembers what you put in a form and then when it sees you are filling out a field with the same name it suggests filling it in with the items you have used before.

There are a lot of fields around named search, and for the last few months, every time I meet one, I get this:

screengrab of Firefox. autosuggesting that I might want to search for
“eat a baby”

I don't remember what that is about, and it startles me every time.

Subject: Software consultancy
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!uunet​!asr33​!hardees​!m5​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-08T14:22:46
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

“Hair of the dog” would be a good name for a small software consultancy. It alludes ruefully to the programmer’s belief that any problem caused by software can be fixed by adding more software.

Subject: Grover Cleveland's secret mouth tumor
Path: you​!your-host​!ultron​!uunet​!batcomputer​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-08T04:15:52
Newsgroup: news.groups.cleveland
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

In other weird Grover Cleveland news, President Cleveland absconded from his duties for four days in 1893 to have a secret surgical operation on board the presidential yacht to remove a cancerous tumor from the roof of his mouth. The secret wasn't revealed for many years.

The tumor currently resides in the collection of the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.

A small glass jar with a
sintered glass stopper is
four-fifths full  of a cloudy, colorless liquid.  In the bottom of the
jar is a white mass, partly feathery and partly corrugated. The jar
has the label “1170”.

“CEPI Curiosities: “It is a Bad Looking Tenant” – Grover Cleveland’s Secret Tumor” at the blog of the Center for Education of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. 20 February 2017.

Subject: In other Grover Cleveland news…
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!central-scrutinizer​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-08T04:05:50
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.cleveland
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Cleveland’s election was accompanied by one of the nastiest scandals in U.S. presidental history. It is undisputed (even by Cleveland) that he was paying child support to a woman named Maria Halpin.

Cleveland’s story was that although the child, by then ten years old, might have been his, Halpin had also been sleeping with several of his buddies. When she became pregnant, claimed Cleveland, he took responsibility because he was the only bachelor.

Halpin’s story was that Cleveland had raped her her after a dinner date, that the child was certainly Cleveland’s, that when the baby was born Cleveland had arranged to have it kidnapped and placed in an orphans’ home, and Halpin involuntarily committed to a mental asylum.

“President Cleveland’s Problem Child”, Smithsonian Magazine, 26 September 2013.

Subject: Other stuff I learned while reading about James Blaine
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!ihnp4​!grey-area​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-08T03:49:05
Newsgroup: misc.cleveland
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

I had been told that James Buchanan was the only bachelor president, but that is not true. Grover Cleveland was a bachelor when he was first elected, and served as president for fifteen months before marrying this knockout:

Frances Folsom
Cleveland, age 21.  This is a grayscale photograph of a light-skinned
woman with dark hair cut short, with a poof over the forehead.  She
has light-colored eyes and a strong chin with a slight dimple.  She is
wearing a blouse with an embroidered tulle overlayer, a black velvet
collar, and a jeweled five-petaled brooch at her throat in the shape
of a flower. Frances Folsom Cleveland

Subject: Number theory
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!skordokott​!berserker​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-08T03:43:39
Newsgroup: alt.binaries.number-theory
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The world's most eminent expert on the properties of smooth prime numbers.

Subject: Secretary of State
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!berserker​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2019-04-07T20:17:08
Newsgroup: comp.protocols.tcp-ip.secretary-of-state
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Up until the middle of the 19th century, it was quite common for the President of the United States to have previously served as Secretary of State. U.S. Presidents who served were:

  • Thomas Jefferson (under Washington)
  • James Madison (under Jefferson)
  • James Monroe (under Madison)
  • John Quincy Adams (under Monroe)
  • Martin Van Buren (under Jackson)
  • James Buchanan (under Polk)

That's six of the first 15 Presidents (and four of the first six!) serving in six of the first 11 presidencies.

Buchanan's service as Secretary of State under Polk ended in 1849; he was President from 1857 until 1861. Since then, no U.S. President has been Secretary of State either before or after his or her term of office. James Blaine tried really hard (even harder than Hillary!) but couldn't pull it off.