Content-Type: text/shitpost

Subject: Hotel ritual
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!wescac​!skynet​!m5​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-25T02:50:33
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

I have a little ritual I observe whenever I enter my new hotel room for the first time. I look around and say “I have stayed in many places both better and worse.” This is almost always literally true.

So far, the best hotel room has been the Tokyo Westin and the worst has been the Pico Rivera Truck Stop.

I have stayed in some strange places, including the unnamed flophouse in Taichung that the travel guide described as “the cheapest place in town”. I would stay in the flophouse again, but not in the Pico Rivera Truck Stop. The flophouse was bare, its sheets worn and dingy but clean. The Pico Rivera Truck Stop's carpet and bed spread were sticky.

The flophouse had a shared shower, and I showered with the others. The Pico Rivera Truck Stop had a private shower, but when I saw it I opted not to shower at all.

Subject: Chaise LONGUE
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!computer​!hal9000​!plovergw​!ploverhub​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-23T18:03:12
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

A screenshot
of a notepad app on my phone.  I have just entered the word 'Chaise'
and the phone is offering to complete it with 'lounges', 'lounge', or
'the'.  The first two are marked out with an angry red-orange

I dread the day when some crowdsourced spelling dictionary auto-“corrects” my text to include a grocer's apostrophe. It's coming, you mark my word's.

Subject: Peddler's Pantry
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!hardees​!triffid​!grey-area​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-23T16:31:06
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

A puffed
rice confection with small embedded M&M-style candies, wrapped in
clear cellophane with the description 'Crispy Rice Treat Candy' and,
in larger letters, "Peddler's Pantry"

The Wawa sells this unwholesome-looking comestible, and it pisses me off every time I notice it. Peddlers are canonically itinerant, and therefore do not have pantries.

Subject: Icelandic butt
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!batcomputer​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-23T10:55:57
Newsgroup: misc.icelandic-butt
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

By the way, the only word for “buttocks” mentioned in Zoëga's Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic is þjó-hnappr.

Þjó is the thigh, or maybe the upper part of the thigh. And hnappr seems to be akin to “knob”. So it's the thigh-knob.

This information could save your life!

Subject: Ear care tips
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!uunet​!asr33​!skynet​!m5​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-22T16:03:11
Newsgroup: alt.mjd.ear-care-tip
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Last year sometime I got my ear cartilage pierced and I resolved to be a responsible adult and take care of it so that it would heal properly. I asked the piercer for recommendations and followed them, washing the wound daily with foaming antibacterial soap. It never healed properly and I eventually took out the stud and let it close up.

A couple of months ago I went back to try again. This time I did nothing, washing it not ever and ignoring it entirely. It healed completely and immediately.

There's a lesson in there I think.

Subject: Names that begin with an 'X', and don't
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!am​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-21T14:44:18
Newsgroup: sci.math.x-names
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

There has never been a professional major-league baseball player whose surname began with the letter 'X'.

However, I was pleased to learn last week that one of the judges on the U.S. Federal Court for the District of Maryland is named Paula Xinis.

Subject: Israeli chicken sandwich
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!hardees​!brain-in-a-vat​!am​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-20T21:16:39
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

That “all parts of pig” story reminds me of something a little bit similar that happened when I was visiting Gabór Szabó in Haifa. (Thanks, Gabór! I had a great time!) I was unexpectedly hungry one evening, and we popped into a small restaurant. After speaking briefly with the staff, Gabór translated for me: although they were just about to close, they would feed me if I was willing to order one of two sufficiently easy dishes and take it to go. “You can get a sandwich, made with chicken…” Here Gabor paused, not sure how to translate. “Uh, just, you know, meat. The other one is made with… all different parts.”

That was clear enough. Ever heedful of my souvlaki mistake, I ordered the all different parts of chicken sandwich. It came stuffed into pita with lettuce and tomato and I think some kind of dressing, probably yogurt. It was pretty good, I would order it again.

Subject: Cantonese style non-vegan soup
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!hardees​!m5​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-20T21:12:49
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.cantonese-style-soup
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The recent article about dinuguan reminded me of my first encounter with zhū zá tāng, a Cantonese noodle soup.

Many, many years ago in Philadelphia's Chinatown, there was a beloved restaurant called Nice Noodle House, where I was accustomed to eat lunch every Wednesday, because I hate deciding where to eat. I also hate deciding what to eat, so to save myself trouble, I just started working my way through the menu from upper left to lower right.

Early on in this project, I ordered the “Cantonese-style noodle soup”. The waitress frowned at me. “You eat this before? This is pig soup.”

“Okay,” I said. “I like pig.”

She was still doubtful. “It made with all parts of pig. You sure you like?”

This situation comes up more in certain types of restaurants than in others. I was a bit surprised this time, because usually in Chinese restaurants, the attitude seems to be that they will bring you what you ordered and if you don't like it that is your problem. Koreans, on the other hand, are more sensitive, and they often seem to be concerned that when the dish arrives you are going to disparage Korean food and insult Korean culture. Koreans often take it very personally if you don't like their cooking; the Cantonese, in my experience, will usually just write you off as an idiot.

Anyway, this time it turned out well enough for everyone. I said “I might not like it, but I promise I will pay for it.” That satisifed the waitress and I got my soup. I did not love it, but was okay, and I ate it and paid for it.

Nice Noodle House closed before I could get all the way through the menu, and was replaced with a less superb noodle restaurant, and later still with an outstandingly mediocre Asian fusion restaurant.

Subject: The opposite of vegan soup
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!am​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-20T20:49:19
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.opposite-of-vegan
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The coffee shop near my house has started selling soup. Today they had “classic black bean’, which they claimed was “vegan and spicy!”, and “roasted pepper with smoked gouda”, described as “the opposite of vegan and very hearty”.

blackboard behind the counter of the coffee shop, with menu as

I take issue with this. It is not what “opposite” means. I thought I had discussed this before, but it seems that my article about it has been unfinished and unpublished since 2007. Here's a relevant excerpt:

This reminds me a bit of the time, about fifteen or twenty years ago, when I realized that "opposite of" is not at all the same as logical negation. For example, the opposite of "never" is "always". But the logical negation of "never" is "not never", or "sometimes". The opposite of "hot" is "cold", but the negation is "not hot", which is not at all the same as "cold".

I don't know why I found this so surprising, since "opposite" extends to all sorts of situations in which logic doesn't apply. Red is the opposite of green, but I'm not sure that it makes sense to ask for the logical negation of green. I suppose you can go with "not green", which is certainly quite different from "red".

The claim here is that roasted pepper with smoked gouda soup is the opposite of vegan. I agree that it is not vegan soup, but is this really sufficient for it to be the opposite of vegan soup? I think not. Wouldn't the opposite of vegan soup be something more like, I don't know, dinuguan, which Wikipedia describes as

a Filipino savory stew of pork offal (typically lungs, kidneys, intestines, ears, heart and snout) and/or meat simmered in a rich, spicy dark gravy of pig blood, garlic, chili (most often siling mahaba), and vinegar.

I didn't want to hassle the hapless coffee shop people, so you folks get to hear about it instead.

Also, there is a picture of what appears to be a green bell pepper giving me the finger. I don't even know what that is supposed to be about.

Subject: Browning
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!uunet​!asr33​!hardees​!m5​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-20T12:13:21
Newsgroup: misc.browning
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Tags: itsTrue

Noted chemist and sometimes poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning had a varied career. In addition to her discovery of the Browning reaction, she was also the inventor of the Browning machine gun.

However, you sometimes hear that the Cleveland Browns football club was also named in her honor. This is untrue; they are actually named for James Brown.

Subject: Stuff my brain came up with this morning
Path: you​!your-host​!ultron​!brain-in-a-vat​!am​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-20T12:05:03
Newsgroup: sci.math.breakfast-bullshit
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

This morning while I was groggily making breakfast for the kids, my brain informed me that the browning reaction that was taking place in the toaster was named for chemists Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Kenneth Cole Reaction.

It also claimed that as the Wankel engine is named for Felix Wankel, and the diesel engine is named for Rudolf Diesel, the gasoline engine is named for Wilhelm Gasoline.

I have to put up with this kind of bullshit every morning.

Subject: Executive departments
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!gormenghast​!qwerty​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-20T00:34:39
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.departments
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

According to, an official website of the United States government, there are 15 executive departments. They have an alphabetical list.

And in their alphabetical list, the departments of the Interior and the Treasury are alphabetized under “the”.

A screenshot of part of the page, listing in order, the
departments of Labor, State, the Interior, the Treasury, and Transportation

Subject: W and V
Path: you​!your-host​!ultron​!the-matrix​!mechanical-turk​!berserker​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-19T17:47:34
Newsgroup: alt.mjd.w-to-v
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The adjective for things of or pertaining to George Bernard Shaw is Shavian. (There is also a Shavian Manor Style, named for architect Richard Norman Shaw.)

Often when I am in the Wawa store I think about how the people who work there should be called the Wavians.

Subject: Poor phrasing of the day…
Path: you​!your-host​!warthog​!colossus​!kremvax​!hal9000​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-19T17:10:36
Newsgroup: misc.misc.aerosmith
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Wikipedia's article on the song “Wild Thing” mentions:

The music video featured cameos from many well-known rock musicians including Rodney Dangerfield, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith…

Subject: Today I learned…
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!wescac​!grey-area​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-19T17:05:39
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

That Exene Cervenka was married to Viggo Mortensen.

Subject: Nancy and Squid
Path: you​!your-host​!ultron​!brain-in-a-vat​!am​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-19T02:22:52
Newsgroup: misc.nancy-and-squid
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

This is a bizarre mashup of a photograph of Nancy Spungen and Sid
Vicious, and a still of Spongebob Squarepants and Squidward. Nancy Spungebob
(with Squidward Vicious)

Subject: Whether to get donations via Patreon
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!uunet​!batcomputer​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-16T18:41:00
Newsgroup: talk.bizarre.patreon
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Over the last few years I periodically considered whether I should set up a Patreon account and ask people to give me money if they like my blog.

I was never very happy with the idea, for several reasons:

  1. I write the blog primarily to amuse myself, and if people started to send me donations for it, I might start to worry about what they wanted instead of what I wanted.

  2. Even worse, some people might think that donating entitled them to tell me what they wanted and then they might tell me so.

  3. If it started earning a significant amount of money, I might start playing games to try to increase my pageviews or some shit like that, the endpoint of which is Buzzfeed. I would like my blog to be at the other endpoint.

Also, it seemed kind of tacky.

Happily, the decision was taken out of my hands. For about a year I had been signed up as a Patreon donor, regularly giving small donations to a couple of worthy projects. Another worthy project appeared, but when I signed up for it, I immediately received the following notice:

Hello there,This is a note to alert you that your Patreon account has been suspended and is pending removal for suspected fraud. If you believe this action was taken in error, please reach out to us…

This was mysterious. Who is defrauding whom? If I'm being defrauded, why remove my account? And how could I be defrauding anyone? They have been successfully charging my credit card for months.

So I opened a support ticket, asking:

Fraud on whose part? What's the problem?

To which they replied, but without answering the question:

Unfortunately, there appears to have been fraudulent activity linked to your account. For this reason the account has been removed.

If you have evidence to the contrary, please submit it for possible consideration.

A few more exchanges followed, during which we repeatedly talked past one another:

Your reply is not responsive to my questions. Fraud on whose part? What is the problem?

You ask for “evidence to the contrary”. How can I provide any when you haven't told me yet what the problem is?

I want to get this straightened out, but you have not given me any information I can act on.

We appreciate your concerns about sharing personal information, but in order to look into your account and possibly reinstate it, we will need the following information: …

I did not express any concern about sharing personal information.

My patreon account email address is … .

[More information they demanded, all of which they already had.]

Now tell me who you think might be committing fraud, and who you think they are committing it against.

Thank you for the clarification. Fraudulent activity can be triggered by a variety of reasons.

At that point it seemed useless to continue, so, with peaceful aplomb I didn't. In due course they cancelled my account and refunded all the money I had ever paid out of it.

I still don't know what the hell was going on.

Subject: I'm so old…
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!batcomputer​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-16T17:37:32
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The earliest memory I have that can be dated with accuracy is from the late spring of 1973. I had been accustomed to watch Sesame Street every day. But without warning, Sesame Street was pre-empted. It was replaced by the most boring show imaginable, and for weeks all the adults in my house were utterly transfixed by it for hours at a time.

I didn't understand what it was about, but it was called “Watergate”.

Subject: Seedless fruit
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!glados​!neuromancer​!berserker​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-16T17:21:11
Newsgroup: talk.bizarre.math.seedless-fruit
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

A nice question turned up on Math SE last week:

A tree has 20 fruits. 15 of which have no seeds and the rest do have seeds. A bird eats 5 of these fruits picked at random. If I pick one fruit from what's left on the tree what's the probability it has seeds?

This is either very easy, or a pain in the butt, depending on whether you go about it the right way. (OP tried the hard way, and got an utterly wrong answer.)

I think it's a nice question because it is highly instructive for people who don't know much about probability: you can get the answer to this one without knowing much about probability. I asked Katara, who does not know very much about probability, to see if she would try the easy way.

She didn't. She decided to do it the hard way, and then correctly recognized that she didn't know enough technique to actually do the calculation. (I told her that I wouldn't have asked if that had been the only way to do it, but that didn't help.) She seemed pleased when I showed her the easy way. Here's how I explained it:

Suppose all the fruits are off the tree at random and lined up in a row. You are going to pick the leftmost fruit in the row. What's your chance of getting fruit with seeds? (¼, obviously.)

Okay, now suppose that before you pick the leftmost fruit, the bird comes, and eats the five fruits farthest to the right. What then?

I think this is a very neat way to put it. Of course it's quite possible that this explanation might not work — nothing works for everyone — but this time it did.

I also told her that her idea would have worked, and that if done correctly it would have produced the same answer at the end. At some point maybe she'll learn to do probabilistic calculations and I'll show her. (“Hey, remember that problem about the bird eating the fruits?”)

Subject: Soot
Path: you​!your-host​!ultron​!uunet​!asr33​!gormenghast​!hal9000​!plovergw​!ploverhub​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-13T15:22:44
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The Korean word for charcoal is 숯, pronounced approximately /soot/. This is a coincidence.

The storefront of a New York restaurant. It has a white sign with
Korean 'Nyuyeok gomtang sootbool galbi' in red Hangul script New York Kom Tang Soot Bul Kalbi

For many similar examples, see the Wikipedia article on “false cognates”.

Subject: Today I learned…
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!am​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-03-02T20:09:51
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The default XCompose file defines several key sequences for typing the § symbol. One of these is:

<Multi_key> <Cyrillic_pe> <Cyrillic_a>  : "§"   section # SECTION SIGN

This appears to be an abbreviation for параграф. (Literally “paragraph” but apparently the Russian meaning is not so particular.)

The file does not define an analogous Cyrillic-script sequence for entering the ¶ symbol.