Content-Type: text/shitpost


Subject: Comment of the day
Path: you​!your-host​!warthog​!mechanical-turk​!brain-in-a-vat​!am​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-30T16:02:40
Newsgroup: misc.comment-of-the-day
Message-ID: <31cd5121ae2fc7b9@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The comment, from a user named
'SMC90', says “Quite disappointed that there was not more about the
sewage ejection system !”

Same.

(original source)


Subject: Software sucks
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!wescac​!skynet​!m5​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-30T15:56:34
Newsgroup: misc.test.software-sucks
Message-ID: <7165e4e766d8a8b1@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

It's been too long since I did one of these posts. The blame is entirely mine, as the software itself has been holding up its end of the job.

Here I am asking my phone for driving directions to the Wawa store:

A screenshot of my phone;
I am doing a location search for ‘Wawa’ and the phone's top 5
suggestions are each between 7.7 and 47 miles away; at the bottom of
the screen are stores 2.2 and 2.4 miles away.

  1. Why is each of its top 5 suggestions more than 7 miles away, when there must be half a dozen stores closer than that? Is there something so marvelous about the Wawa in Upper Darby that I should prefer it?

  2. Why is it suggesting that I might be interested in a Wawa 47 miles away in Bethlehem?

  3. Last time I asked for directions to a Wawa, it was to the one on Oak Lane, 5.9 miles away. Why doesn't it guess that I might be trying to go back to the same place?

(I have no problem with the inclusion of item 6, 17 miles away; that is the town of Wawa, Pennsylvania, after which the store takes its name.)


Subject: Why do people hate?
Path: you​!your-host​!ultron​!grey-area​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-30T15:43:04
Newsgroup: misc.misc.why-do-people-hate
Message-ID: <3d8a3abbb62054bd@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

A screenshot of my phone;
I am doing a Google search and have entered “why do people hate”.
Google's suggested completions of this are “Why do people hate me”,
“Why do people hate cats”, and “Why do people hate cilantro”


Subject: Headline of the Month
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!brain-in-a-vat​!am​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-30T15:40:18
Newsgroup: alt.binaries.pictures.fallen-world
Message-ID: <f761769b6a7db573@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

This is old news, but maybe you haven't seen it yet:

Nun Involved In Katy Perry Convent Lawsuit Collapses And Dies In Court


Subject: Today I learned…
Path: you​!your-host​!warthog​!mechanical-turk​!skynet​!m5​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-30T01:47:59
Newsgroup: alt.mjd.today-i-learned
Message-ID: <50c29967f246351e@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

I was looking at this page from Agricola's 1556 treatise on mining and metals, De re metallica, which Wikipedia describes:

The book remained the authoritative text on mining for 180 years after its publication. It was also an important chemistry text for the period and is significant in the history of chemistry.

It's in Latin, and I wanted to see if there was an English translation available, which is why I was at Wikipedia.

There is indeed. It was translated in 1912 by one Herbert Clark Hoover and Lou Henry Hoover.

Yep, that Herbert Hoover. I knew that Hoover had been a mining engineer, but I didn't know he was also a scholar.

Lou Henry was his wife, an accomplished woman. She held a geology degree from Stanford, and spoke Mandarin.

Hoover gets a bad rap. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and his many accomplishments are overshadowed by the crash of 1929.


Subject: Philosophical duh
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!brain-in-a-vat​!am​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-29T17:18:04
Newsgroup: misc.misc.philosophers
Message-ID: <2401e772127af02e@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

There are a number of anecdotes in circulation among mathematicians about how dumb philosophers are about mathematics. Not all of these are deserved.

The story that Hegel claimed (in 1801) that it was a priori impossible that there be more than seven planets is one of these. The reality is definitely rather more interesting, and I think that to get the full picture I would have to read and understand Hegel's argument, which I have not yet done. I have not yet found the full text, and the original was in Latin. (“Quadratum est lex naturae,” says Hegel, “triangulum, mentis.” That's “the square is the law of nature; the triangle, of the mind.” Ummmm, okay.)

Another story tells that Kant claimed (1781) that Euclidean geometry was a priori correct and that a non-Euclidean geometry was not merely impossible but inconceivable. The claim of course is false, but I wonder how much of Kant's claim is really recognizable in there, and also how many mathematicians might have made similar claims in 1781.

Philosophy can be really tricky. Philosopher X seems to be saying Y, but then it turns out that you have misunderstood Y and it really means Z. Here's what the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says:

Kant introduced the notion of a priori knowledge in contrast to a posteriori, and synthetic knowledge in contrast to analytical knowledge to allow for the existence of knowledge that did not rely on experience (and was thus a priori) but was not tautological in character (and therefore synthetic and not analytic). Analytic statements are a priori, the contentious class of a priori non-analytic statements contains those that could not be otherwise and so provide certain knowledge. Among them are the statements of Euclidean geometry; Kant ascribed synthetic a priori status to the knowledge of space. He also ascribed certainty to Euclidean geometry.

(Gray, Jeremy, "Epistemology of Geometry", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.))

Okay, maybe? Gray continues:

But, wrote Kant, it is not the philosopher who knows that the angle sum of a triangle is two right angles, it is the mathematician, because the mathematician makes a particular construction that makes the truth of the claim demonstrable.

Now I wonder if, where the whole situation explained to him, Kant would want to classify this theorem not as synthetic and a priori but as tautological, since the mathematician can only prove it by assuming that the triangle is in a Euclidean space.

I am willing to give Kant and Hegel the benefit of the doubt here. But if anyone is looking for a really good example of an indefensible mathematical fuckup by a first-class philosoper, check out this article I wrote about Thomas Hobbes a while back.


Subject: Hegel and the Seven Planets
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!uunet​!asr33​!skynet​!m5​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-29T16:50:17
Newsgroup: misc.hegel
Message-ID: <84a7130edbc4f8eb@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Right now I'm reading this paper titled "Hegel and the Seven Planets". The tabs at the bottom of my screen look like this:

A
very short and wide screenshot of the tab bar from the bottom of my
screen.  From left to right are: a network monitor; four firefox tabs
labeled “9.6 Random — Gen…”, “Regular expressions…”, “Hegel and the
Seven…”, and “Jeremy Siek: What do…”.  Then there is a tab labeled
“shitpost: emacs — K…”, a bunch of little icons, and a clock reading
12:42 PM.  The hegel tab is highlighted.  Too much information?

Every time I see that one about Hegel I think “Hegel and the Seven Dwarfs”.

Worst Disney cartoon ever.


Subject: Today I learned…
Path: you​!your-host​!warthog​!gormenghast​!extro​!forbin​!brain-in-a-vat​!berserker​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-26T19:09:39
Newsgroup: rec.pets.today-i-learned
Message-ID: <8842819ed94f2cfa@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Byron White, associate justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1962 through 1993, played professional foodball for three seasons in the NFL. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers (then called the “Pirates”) in the first round of the 1938 draft and led the league in rushing yards.

His nickname (which he hated) was “Whizzer”.


Subject: The Dunkers on publishing your articles of belief
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!xyzzy​!the-matrix​!mechanical-turk​!skynet​!m5​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-24T22:53:52
Newsgroup: talk.bizarre.michael-welfare
Message-ID: <23dff4febb2e8b29@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Benjamin Franklin says, in his Autobiography:

I was acquainted with one of the sect's founders, Michael Welfare, soon after it appear'd. He complain'd to me that they were grievously calumniated by the zealots of other persuasions, and charg'd with abominable principles and practices to which they were utter strangers. I told him this had always been the case with new sects, and that, to put a stop to such abuse, I imagin'd it might be well to publish the articles of their belief, and the rules of their discipline. He said that it had been propos'd among them, but not agreed to…

He then quotes M. Welfare as having given this reason:

When we were first drawn together as a society, it had pleased God to enlighten our minds so far as to see that some doctrines, which we once esteemed truths, were errors; and that others, which we had esteemed errors, were real truths. From time to time He has been pleased to afford us farther light, and our principles have been improving, and our errors diminishing. Now we are not sure that we are arrived at the end of this progression, and at the perfection of spiritual or theological knowledge; and we fear that, if we should once print our confession of faith, we should feel ourselves as if bound and confin'd by it, and perhaps be unwilling to receive further improvement, and our successors still more so, as conceiving what we their elders and founders had done, to be something sacred, never to be departed from.


Subject: Lipogrammatic Math Stackexchange posts
Path: you​!your-host​!warthog​!gormenghast​!hal9000​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-24T22:44:15
Newsgroup: alt.binaries.pictures.math.lipograms
Message-ID: <93580d65df147494@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Well, I had this all written and ready to go, but then I decided it wasn't suitable for Content-Type: text/shitpost and I was going to post it over on the real blog. So in emacs I selected the whole file and cut it into the cut buffer, quit the editor, intending to open a new post on th new blog and paste back the cut text.

But the Emacs cut buffer (called the “kill ring”) does not persist when you quit the editor, so the whole post is gone. Oooooops. I am struggling to maintain my peaceful aplomb.

Maybe I'll regain the energy to tell you about the lipograms tomorrow.

[ I did bang it out again, and with orthographic modifications that substantially — no, surpassingly — outstrip my prior draft's quality. My aplomb is intact! WIN!!1! ]


Subject: Phagocytization
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!batcomputer​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-24T21:37:12
Newsgroup: misc.jobs.fagocitization
Message-ID: <3713c451853452fa@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Q: How do phagocytes communicate with one another?

A: They use cell phones.


Subject: I learned a new word!
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!berserker​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-24T21:35:34
Newsgroup: alt.mjd.fagocitization
Message-ID: <b6ffeb235d9ea155@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

…from Math Stackexchange!

A user wrote (in part):

I am not usually a reductionist, but if this site-idea, for instance, ends up fagocitating the standard (calculus) and (algebra-precalculus) questions-to-be, I am all for it, and I think it would be better for everyone.

Wow, “fagocitating”! What's that? My first thought was that it was some sort of cellphone spelling mishap. But no, it's even English, and it perfectly captures the writer's meaning here.

The standard English spelling is phagocytating and it means to engulf and absorb, in the manner of a phagocyte. English also uses “phagocytosing” here, which I like less for some reason.

(The writer's variant spelling is apparently inspired by Portuguese, in which the word is spelled fagocitar. Is this word in more common use in Brazil than it is here?)

I hope to phagocytize this word into my own vocabulary, immediately and with peaceful aplomb.


Subject: Plagiarism, plagiarism, baked beans, and plagiarism
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!computer​!hal9000​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-20T08:53:47
Newsgroup: sci.math.shia-la-boeuf
Message-ID: <d9067f725ac9d469@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The Shia LaBoeuf plagiarism scandal — No, not that one, the other one — No, not that one either, the Dan Clowes one — is old news (2013) but I had not heard about it before and it is really weird. I was going to write it up, but this MTV News article hits all the high points. Check it out.


Subject: People suck
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!uunet​!batcomputer​!plovergw​!ploverhub​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-20T08:30:10
Newsgroup: comp.protocols.tcp-ip.fallen-world
Message-ID: <13bd035387534743@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

This week I spilled a little coffee on my (employer-owned) laptop and now the cursor-up key doesn't work. The IT department told me to get it repaired locally, so I contacted a shop I've dealt with before and we had this exchange:

Them: If you send me your street address I can order a new keyboard for you under your warranty.

Me: Are you sure? This laptop is owned by my employer and they have already told me that the warranty doesn't cover liquid spills.

Them: If I had to send the old part back I wouldn’t be able to offer that to you but Lenovo doesn’t require the old keyboard to be returned.

...

Sir, I believe you just suggested that I commit fraud.


Subject: Gordon-Reed on Andrew Johnson
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!hardees​!m5​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-20T08:14:20
Newsgroup: rec.food.cooking.andrew-johnson
Message-ID: <2301ea53046d7603@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Annette Gordon-Reed on U.S. President Andrew Johnson around 1835, when he was in the Tennessee state legislature:

Johnson's response to the idea of bringing the railroad to eastern Tennessee tells a great deal about him. His vision for America's future was limited. The man who had such keen instincts about how to engineer his own rise and future by stepping outside conventional wisdom was never able to translate those insights to matters affecting anything other than his own personal progress. Contemplate for a moment the mentality that saw railroads as bad because they allowed people to move to their destinations so quickly that they didn't need to stop at taverns on the way. What about the towns and taverns that would spring up along the destinations that the railroad brought people to? They did spring up, and many people during Johnson's time foresaw that they would. This, from a man who as a fugitive from his apprenticeship had to walk thirty, sometimes seventy miles to get places, and whose family crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains dodging mountain lions and bears. Johnson's lack of forethought, and his poor understanding of the concept of progress in the world, would resurface in his days as president when he was called upon to imagine the newly reconstituted United States.

(Annette Gordon-Reed, Andrew Johnson. p.41)


Subject: Today I learned…
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!uunet​!asr33​!gormenghast​!extro​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-19T20:43:26
Newsgroup: sci.math.today-i-learned
Message-ID: <0e673189a8901ced@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Former rice planter Mrs Tang Ruiren, 78, used to live next to Mao's home until the mid 1980s.

When Mao visited in July 1959, she remembers his demand for unswerving loyalty.

"He said: 'If there's no People's Liberation Army, the people have nothing.'"

Mrs Tang followed Chairman Mao's order, to serve the people, literally.

Eight years after he died, she put her life savings of 17 US cents into an eatery, naming it Mao's Family Restaurant.

There are now 128 Mao restaurants across China that employ over 3,000 staff.

Source: BBC News in Pictures: Visiting Mao's family home. (Around 2006.)


Subject: Bug squeamishness
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!skordokott​!mechanical-turk​!brain-in-a-vat​!am​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-19T20:22:40
Newsgroup: alt.binaries.roaches
Message-ID: <d3059a84e85c4dc5@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Different people have different chores they hate more or less than other people. For example, if someone in our house breaks a glass, my wife usually cleans it up, because it doesn't particularly bother her, but it makes me want to dig my heart out with a spoon. But when it comes time to clean old, moldy food out of the fridge, I try to do it, because she hates it, and for some reason stuff like that doesn't bother me as much as it bothers most people.

When there is a bug or a spider to be evicted, alive or dead, Lorrie usually asks me to do it. And sometimes my insensitive response, particularly in connection with spiders, has been “Why? It's not hurting anyone. Spiders hang around and eat yucky gross bugs.” But if you have the visceral reaction to spiders that some people do, spiders are yucky gross bugs and are unacceptable regardless of how abstractly beneficial they might be.

I really didn't get it, and I went through my life evicting various small roaches, spiders, larger roaches, totally harmless millipedes, book worms, medium-sized beetles that live under the stairs, mosquitoes, flour moths, house centipedes, and so forth, wondering why other people made such a big deal about bugs. And I'm sure I was smug and condescending about it.

Then one day I was called upon to dispose of a roach and when I arrived to do it, I saw it was a three-inch-long roach and I went bananas and turned into a quivering mess.

So it turns out that I do have that place in my hindbrain that makes people scream and run away from bugs, except my threshhold was set a tad higher some other people's. Five-centimeter roach, okay; seven centimeters, OMG RED ALERT.


Subject: Not the worst job in the world
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!wescac​!berserker​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-19T20:02:06
Newsgroup: comp.protocols.tcp-ip.mealworm-eating
Message-ID: <6d6f24ae327d5dea@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Many years ago I read an account by someone who had been watching TV with his wife, maybe the David Letterman show, and they had some sort of animal on the show, whose trainer was feeding it mealworms. He reported that somehow he and his wife had had a conversation about how much they would have to be paid to eat a mealworm. The narrator was struck by the huge gulf between their respective willingness to eat mealworms.

He said something like this:

My wife said she would refuse a million dollars, ten million dollars, refuse guaranteed financial security for us and our kids for our entire lives, rather than eat one mealworm. But I could imagine holding a regular job eating mealworms full-time for $5 each.

I personally am so far away from the wife's end of the scale that I have trouble believing that she wasn't exaggerating, and if she was really offered $50,000,000 to eat a mealworm, she would find a way to do it. But I'm not certain.

By the way:

  1. Mealworms are not worms; they are beetle larvae.

  2. Mealworms are healthy and nutritious, high in protein. Wikipedia says:

    Mealworms have historically been consumed in many Asian countries, particularly in Southeast Asia. They are commonly found in food markets and sold as street food alongside other edible insects. Baked or fried mealworms have been marketed as a healthy snack food in recent history, though the consumption of mealworms goes back centuries. … The small amount of space required to raise mealworms has made them popular in many parts of Southeast Asia.


Subject: Free-range organically fed flies
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!central-scrutinizer​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-19T19:51:22
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.free-frange-flies
Message-ID: <b94193f1f579ab06@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Toward the beginning of The Shawshank Redemption, Andy finds a maggot in his prison food, and Brooks asks if he can have it. Andy is disturbed, but Brooks wants to feed it to his pet crow.

I read somewhere that the ASPCA had an agent on-set to make sure that the crow was being treated humanely, and this representative refused to let Darabont (the director )do the scene with a live insect. They had to dig through the bag of maggots (actually mealworms), which they had bought at a bait shop, until they found one that had died of natural causes.

Later there's a scene in which Red is walking across a field and thusands of grasshoppers are swarming around him. Darabont said that was unplanned, the grasshoppers just happened to be there and he loved the way it looked. Then he mused that it was a good thing that the ASPCA agent was no longer around by then, she might have had an apoplexy.


Subject: Mealworm frass
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!central-scrutinizer​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-19T19:44:25
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.frass
Message-ID: <c25e2ce0b63c2bad@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

In my recent article about fly meal I left out one of the products sold by Haocheng Mealworms Inc.: Mealworm frass. If you didn't know what frass was, the product listing helpfully glosses it as “insect poop”. They do a good job of hyping it:

The frass of mealworm can be directly used as the organic manure for the plants like vegetable and flower. The frass of mealworm has not any smell and acidic putrefaction, not the breeding of flies and mosquitos, so it is the best manure for flowerpot in the family.

I find this quite persuasive. And the price is low, only US$350 per metric tonne, around 16¢ per pound; 21¢ if you include shipping and buy a 20-tonne lot.


Subject: Xiangtan
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!am​!plovergw​!ploverhub​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-19T19:35:29
Newsgroup: comp.protocols.tcp-ip.xiangtan
Message-ID: <272479d40add1b96@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Every once in a while something happens to remind me of the immense bigness of the world, and I feel sad to think of how much of it I will never get to see. Today it happened when I was looking up Xiangtan, a city in China of a couple million people, around the size of the city in which I live, that I had never even heard of before. And not only is this not the first time this has happened to me, it's not even the first city in China that it has happened to me with! Last time it was Jinan which has 6.8 million people. How is it possible to be this ignorant?

Will I ever get to see Jinan? Probably not, but maybe a little. But will I ever get to know it? Or to know even a small part of it, well enough to see how it has changed since twenty years ago? No, it's too late for that. And there are more than a hundred cities just in China with populations over a million, with hundreds of neighborhoods each, all changing, all the time. And then there are cities not in China. And places that are not even in cities at all. And I will completely miss almost all of it. It makes me want to cry.

Writing on this a few years ago, I said:

It's one thing to want to visit Shanghai and never make it there. But it's a whole new level of sadness to realize that I should have wanted to visit Jinan but I didn't because I had never heard of the place.

I should probably try to maintain a more positive focus. Sometimes I get lucky. I was fortunate enough to accidentally witness the first East Belfast Lantern Parade in 2003. That was pretty excellent.

Xiangtan, by the way, turns out to be only about 55 km from the town where Mao was born.


Subject: Today I learned…
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!wescac​!berserker​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-18T16:56:43
Newsgroup: alt.binaries.today-i-learned
Message-ID: <c6a3a43f93658824@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

That there is a restaurant in Barcelona named My Fucking Restaurant.

The Yelp reviews are pretty solid.


Subject: Things English fails to distinguish
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!berserker​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-18T16:40:32
Newsgroup: rec.food.cooking.hindsight
Message-ID: <1aaaf3c71638da36@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

I wish English had an easy way to distinguish between the following kinds of regret:

  1. I wish I hadn't done X, but I made the best decision I could with the information that was available at the time.

  2. I wish I hadn't done X, but I fucked up by not considering Y, as I should have done.

In type (1) you can comfort yourself by thinking that you are sadder but wiser and you can do better in the future. (“Fool me once, shame on you…”) In type (2) you just fucked up. (“… Fool me twice, shame on me.”)

Also I wish there were different words for when you are embarrassed for yourself than for when you were embarrassed on someone else's behalf.


Subject: Ulcers
Path: you​!your-host​!ultron​!gormenghast​!qwerty​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-18T16:05:18
Newsgroup: talk.bizarre.ulcers
Message-ID: <e94c7380a9b97607@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

That reminds me of the story about the guys who discovered that many gastric ulcers are (ultimately) caused not by stress, or by peppery food, or anything like that, but by a bacterium. They were working on some drug for treating ulcers and did a controlled study to see if it worked. The experimental group was given their experimental drug. The control group was given daily doses of Pepto-Bismol as a placebo.

The drug was a failure. People using it got better, but not at a higher rate than the people in the control group.

But wait. The subjects were getting better. The drug worked. It just didn't work better than daily doses of Pepto-Bismol.

Yup, it turns out that you can sometimes cure gastric ulcers by giving the patient daily doses of Pepto-Bismol for three weeks. It's an antibacterial agent.

So they gave them the Nobel Prize.


Subject: Minoxidil
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!batcomputer​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-18T15:53:21
Newsgroup: talk.bizarre.minoxidil
Message-ID: <aee4fc9fa7772e6e@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

I forget where I heard this story, but Wikipedia at least supports it, with citations. Minoxidil, which is commonly used to treat hair loss, was originally investigated as an anti-hypertension drug. The drug worked for treating hypertension, but it had an unfortunate side effect. Many of the test subjects grew hair in weird places, like out of the ends of their noses.

“Huh,” said the scientists. “That's no good. But maybe if we apply it topically?”

And that's where we got Rogaine.


Subject: Why we have little hairs on our arms
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!xyzzy​!the-matrix​!mechanical-turk​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-18T15:47:00
Newsgroup: misc.test.little-hairs
Message-ID: <ddbefe16bb6365c6@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

A year or two ago I read an article that said that scientists at last had a theory about why humans, although mostly hairless, still have little hairs on their bodies. Why didn't our ancestors lose all their hair?

I had thought I knew the answer to this and that the answer was obvious. If you had asked me, I would have said: the little hairs are to make you more sensitive to insects. You have these sensors in your skin, which can detect mechanical pressure. How can we make them more sensitive? Attach a little lever to each one. Now if anything bumps the lever, the magnified force will be transmitted to the sensor.

So when I saw that there was an article about this, I expected it was going to say something like this: “Scientists formerly assumed that the evolutionary function of the hairs was to increase sensitivity of the mechanoreceptors in the skin. But actually, it turns out to be something else entirely…”

Nope, I read the article, and it was about these scientists earnestly explaining that the hairs function to increase sensitivity of the mechanoreceptors in the skin.

Maybe the person writing the article missed some important nuance, something like “yes, scientists have long supposed that the hairs were to increase sensitivity, but we now have the first real confirmation of that theory”. I don't know.

When I do Google search for “why do arms have little hairs” I get a lot of answers that claim it's to help keep us warm. Hahahaha. Bullshit.

(Why do we still have thick bushy hair on the tops of our heads? Dominus says: to prevent sunburn. I read something recently about why we have brow ridges and eyebrows; the claim was that it increases the expressiveness of facial communication. Maybe, but Dominus says: they are primarily to help prevent sweat from dripping into your eyes. Why do men go bald as they age, but only on their heads? Dominus says: I have no idea.)


Subject: Why we itch
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!hardees​!triffid​!grey-area​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!ploverhub​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-18T15:20:09
Newsgroup: alt.mjd.itching
Message-ID: <ddce1fa7e3a30100@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Toph asked me a couple of days ago why we itch. For many years I have had a theory about this, which I'm not sure is correct but which seems pretty good.

The theory is that itching is your body warning you that there might be an insect on you. When you skin detects a particular kind of light stimulation, you perceive it as itching. And then your automatic, unconscious response, even when sleeping, is to immediately reach over and scratch, which is just the kind of motion that is likely to dislodge the insect.

If course, itching can be caused even when there is no insect, by all sorts of other skin irritations, or even by nothing at all. That's okay. Like all detection systems, the insect-detection system is never going to be perfect. There always is a tradeoff between false positives and false negatives. You can have a system with high sensitivity that detects most insects but also raises a lot of false alarms, or a system with lower sensitivity that raises fewer alarms but when it does you can be more confident that they are real. The best adjustment trades off the costs of false positives and false negatives.

Apparently the itching system is tuned very sensitively: it wants to detect as many insects as possible, at the cost of also raising a lot of false alarms. This is just what we would expect. The cost of scratching at a false alarm is pretty close to zero, especially compared with the cost of letting insects eat your skin, suck your blood, or lay their eggs in you, all of which which can be fatal. Insect bites killed at least half a million people last year. Some people die from itching, but nothing like that many.

So: why does my face itch when I don't shave? Because the little hairs have gotten long enough to stimulate the insect-detection system. Similarly: Why do I itch after a haircut? Why do I itch when I wear a wool sweater? Same thing. Why do I itch when I have a skin rash? Because the insect-detection system in my skin is out of order.

Even seeing a lot of insects makes some people feel itchy all over and want to scratch. This is part of the same insect-defense system. When their brain sees a lot of insects around, it temporarily turns the sensitivity of the itch system even higher than usual.

(Or maybe this is totally obvious and everyone but me already knows this?)


Subject: The joy of Dada
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!uunet​!asr33​!skynet​!m5​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-14T20:14:34
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.dada
Message-ID: <26bf945e8751539f@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Newsgroup headers on these articles are generated partly at random, just as they were on the Usenet of old. The trailing part of each newsgroup name is chosen by me, and then this is appended to a namespace that the software selects randomly from a list. As with all aleatoric writing, this usually produces nothing of note; sometimes it produces something that is puzzling or intriguing but of no lasting value.

But when it wins, it wins by coming up with something perfect that I would never have thought of myself.

Formerly my favorite random Newsgroup header was alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.soot or perhaps alt.sex.israeli-chicken-sandwich.

And this week my article about improving rubies by putting them in a 3300° oven was randomly placed into rec.food.cooking.rubies.


Subject: FGSFDS
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!uunet​!batcomputer​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-14T14:34:21
Newsgroup: alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.fgsfds
Message-ID: <31e5472996b3e1c0@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

A stone sculpture of
Saint Anselm, who is bearded and wearing a mitre.  There is a book
open on his lap and his right-hand index finger is upraised.  The
caption FGSFDS is over his head in large letters.

FGSFDS


Subject: The joy of Dada
Path: you​!your-host​!ultron​!uunet​!batcomputer​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-13T22:05:27
Newsgroup: rec.food.cooking.dada
Message-ID: <d9bc1fcd83e4dbb2@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

I am a lifelong Dadaist. My family tells me that when I was very small my father could carry me around my grandparents' living room on his shoulders, and when we got to place where a Hans Arp collage was hanging, I would get excited, point, and exclaim “Arp! Arp!”.

Wikipedia says:

Arp told the story of how, when he was notified to report to the German consulate, he avoided being drafted into the German Army: he took the paperwork he had been given and, in the first blank, wrote the date. He then wrote the date in every other space as well, then drew a line beneath them and carefully added them up. He then took off all his clothes and went to hand in his paperwork.

(Unfortunately, no citation is given. But it seems to be recounted in Matthew Josephson, Life Among the Surrealists: A Memoir; Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1962.)

I like this much better than the story about how Edgar Allan Poe got himself expelled from West Point.


Subject: Beware…
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!central-scrutinizer​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-13T21:49:18
Newsgroup: misc.jobs.ides
Message-ID: <c4718023d7aad876@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Much less well-known than (but as legitimate as) the Ides of March, today are the Ides of April.


Subject: Melilla
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!computer​!nosehair​!neuromancer​!berserker​!plovergw​!ploverhub​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-13T17:48:01
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.melilla
Message-ID: <6c142e83348c20b8@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Did you know that Spain has territory in North Africa? Xavi's wife was from the city of Melilla, which I had not heard of before that visit. It is an enclave in Morocco that has been part of Spain since 1497 (although the Moroccans might take issue with that date), and about 75,000 people live there. Another Spanish city, Ceuta, is similarly situated.

A few years ago my daughter Katara asked a wrong question that presupposed that countries are subsets of continents. She was astounded when I brought up Melilla as a counterexample. But if Melilla is in Spain and Spain is in Europe, does that mean that Melilla is in Europe? Nope! Melilla is in Africa. Sorry, kid, almost everything is more complicated than you have been told.


Subject: The National Day of Catalonia
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!am​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-13T17:21:22
Newsgroup: misc.jobs.diada-nacional
Message-ID: <741333b867d98d51@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Wandering around in Barcelona long ago, I was interested to encounter a street named after “11 de Setembre”, the 11th of September.

(I remember it being Rua de 11 de Setembre, but Google insists that it has never heard of such a street. Instead it wants to tell me about Rambla de 11 de Setembre, which seems to be quite far away from any part of Barcelona where I remember being. I don't know.)

That evening I asked my host, F.X. Noria, about it. (Thanks, Xavi! I had a great time!) He hastened to explain that it had nothing to do with the Sepember 11 attacks in the United States: September 11 had been the Catalonian national day since 1886.

I found the National Day of Catalonia (“Diada Nacional de Catalunya”) surprising. Many national days commemorate the gaining of national independence. For example, the U.S. national day commemorates the independence of the U.S. from the Kingdom of Great Britain. But Catalonia is not an independent country. Its national day commemorates the Siege of Barcelona in 1714, in which the last of Catalan independence was lost to the Spanish. Well, to the French guy who won the Spanish war of sucession. Catalonia had backed the other guy, who was Bohemian.

I like Diada Nacional de Catalunya because it gives me something better to observe on September 11.


Subject: September 12 activities
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!am​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-13T16:55:29
Newsgroup: alt.sex.september
Message-ID: <e54daeb4056d2c16@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

One Wednesday morning in 2001, the observation deck manager at the Empire State Building went to a closet and took out an old, dusty sign that had lain unused for decades.

He wiped it carefully and hung it proudly:

TALLEST BUILDING IN NEW YORK


Subject: Friday the 13th
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!am​!plovergw​!ploverhub​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-13T16:52:37
Newsgroup: alt.binaries.pictures.friday-13th
Message-ID: <2bc9a2b9d2e2326e@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

On the earliest Friday the 13th I can remember, sometime in the middle 1970s, my mom took the day off from work and took me to visit the Empire State Building. On the way up you have to change elevators, and because it was a special occasion, I was allowed to buy soda from the vending machine. It was the kind that drops a paper cup and then squirts syrup and soda water into it. Then we went up to the observation deck itself, which was awesome. (And still is.)

I concluded that the association of bad luck with Friday the 13th was bullshit.


Subject: The hardest question ever asked on Math StackExchange
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!xyzzy​!the-matrix​!mechanical-turk​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-13T15:29:55
Newsgroup: alt.binaries.pictures.math.hard-probability-question
Message-ID: <5769724fbe70fc50@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

A bag contains 4 balls. Two balls are drawn at random and are found to be white. What is the probability that all balls are white.

(Here it is.)

The question was correctly (!) closed as being an exact duplicate of one that had been asked before. The original querent reasoned thus:

the rest of the balls could be

  1. all white
  2. One of them white
  3. none of them white

So among the three above possibilities only one satisfies our conditions so the probability is ⅓. But it not even the options given. What's wrong with my work?

Nothing, sir or madam, nothing whatever. The only better response to a question like this is to flip over the table.


Subject: My hero Kurt Schwitters
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!glados​!extro​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-11T16:34:34
Newsgroup: talk.bizarre.schwitters
Message-ID: <7c8efcc5e72800e3@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Dadaist Kurt Schwitters wanted to meet the painter George Grosz. According to Hans Richter):

One day Schwitters decided he wanted to meet George Grosz. George Grosz was decidedly surly; the hatred in his pictures often overflowed into his private life. But Schwitters was not one to be put off. He wanted to meet Grosz so Mehring took him up to Grosz’s flat. Schwitters rang the bell and Grosz opened the door.

“Good morning, Herr Grosz. My name is Schwitters.”

“I am not Grosz,” answered the other and slammed the door. There was nothing to be done.

Halfway down the stairs Schwitters stopped and said “Just a moment”.

Up the stairs he went and once more rang Grosz’s bell. Grosz, enraged by the continual jangling, opened the door, but before he could say a word, Schwitters said, “I am not Schwitters, either.” And went downstairs again. Finis. They never met again.

I read this as a teenager (in Richter's Dada: Art and Anti-Art) and found it inspiring. Some days I identified as Schwitters, other times as Grosz.

(Things I learned while preparing this article: 1. “Grosz” was originally “Groß” and is German, not Polish, so I had been pronouncing it wrong. 2. I had always imagined Grosz as small, twisted and ugly, but he was quite handsome.)


Subject: Ruby improvement
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-10T19:10:46
Newsgroup: rec.food.cooking.rubies
Message-ID: <5e2a95ee3aae749e@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Wikipedia:

Improving the quality of gemstones by treating them is common practice. … The most common treatment is the application of heat. Most rubies at the lower end of the market are heat treated to improve color, remove purple tinge, blue patches, and silk. These heat treatments typically occur around temperatures of 1800 °C (3300 °F).

I'm glad I wasn't the person who first decided to find out what would happen when you stick rubies in a 3300-degree oven.

Detail of Peter
Bruegel's 1588 woodcut of a stupid-looking alchemist sacrificing his
last gold coin to a smoking crucible


Subject: One of everything in the universe
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!uunet​!asr33​!hardees​!triffid​!gormenghast​!hal9000​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-10T14:21:01
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.one-of-everything
Message-ID: <cc2531d9f34b706a@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Today Toph and I were on the sofa with her stuffed kiwi toy and I said “look, I have two kiwis!”

“Dad, I'm not a kiwi!”

“Okay, I have one kiwi and one not-kiwi.”

“That's right.”

“Then I have one of everything in the universe! Everything is either a kiwi or not a kiwi, and I have one of each!”


Subject: 'Abd al-Karim
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!twirlip​!batcomputer​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-09T03:35:45
Newsgroup: misc.abd-al-karim
Message-ID: <f178b5a3062a7485@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

The common people had an insatiable appetite for stories about Muhammad, and hadith narrators were only too willing to oblige. One man, ‘Abd al-Karim Abu ‘l-Auja, confessed to fabricating 4,000 hadith. He was executed in ca. 155 [AH] / 772 [CE] by crucifixion.

(“Collection of the Hadith”. Great Events in Religion: An Encyclopedia of Pivotal Events in Religious History. Florin Curta and Andrew Holt, eds.)


Subject: History of the Unicode “byte order mark”: addendum
Path: you​!your-host​!ultron​!uunet​!grey-area​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!plovervax​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-05T16:10:38
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.unicode-byte-order-mark
Message-ID: <898fc7fb775291cd@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Tags: itsTrue

In a typical bit of engineers’ humor, Mark Feff is sometimes referred to as “Byte-Order Mark”.


Subject: History of the Unicode “byte order mark”
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!wescac​!berserker​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-04T22:29:06
Newsgroup: rec.pets.unicode-byte-order-mark
Message-ID: <3f62d8d307b6fb82@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Tags: itsTrue

The byte order mark (BOM) is a Unicode character, U+FEFF. When information is transmitted as octets, there is a choice about what order to send the halves of each 16-bit quantity. A UTF-16 stream can begin with a BOM character. If the receiver gets the FF before the FE, they can infer that the stream is being transmitted in little-endian format. This is all well-known.

What is less well known is the bit pattern was chosen to memorialize the BOM's original designer, Mark Feff, who died untimely in 1993.


Subject: Chitin
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!thermostellar-bomb-20​!twirlip​!wescac​!skynet​!m5​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-04T22:03:55
Newsgroup: talk.mjd.chitin
Message-ID: <9df00932e348a867@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

From its name, I expected that chitin was a protein, perhaps analogous to keratin. Nope! it is a polysaccharide, analogous to cellulose. Its name predates systematic nomenclature, and is ultimately from Greek χιτών (/khitōn/, “tunic”) via Latin and French.

Still, I think it should have been ‘chitinose’. Had I been present at the creation…


Subject: On the preferred numbers of the One God
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-03T19:44:25
Newsgroup: alt.mjd.islam
Message-ID: <ae433cd4bc2bcca6@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

According to Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2677 (itself a good authority), we have it on good authority that Muhammad said:

Verily, Allah is Odd (He is one, and it is an odd number) and He loves odd number.


Subject: Intriguing trending hashtags
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!epicac​!qwerty​!fpuzhpx​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-03T00:44:26
Newsgroup: alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.twitter-trending
Message-ID: <bdb6a80674c1c610@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

I've mentioned before that it can be fun to dig into Twitter's list of trending hashtags of the moment, to get glimpses of new corners of this very large world, corners that I never suspected that thousands of other people consider extremely important.

(Did you know that former Chilean President Alberto Fujimori, who was serving a 25-year prison term for his role in several massacres, was pardoned last December? I did not see anything about it in the news, and would have missed it completely, but I noticed the hashtag #IndultoEsInsulto (“The pardon is an insult”) and looked into what it was about.)

Anyway, today's random hashtag was #لاجلالهلالكلنا_نواف. These Arabic script hashtags are harder for me to follow up than the Latin script ones, because I can't yet read Arabic script. (Maybe later this year, wouldn't that be nice?) I can't get any nuance, but this one is about the Al-Hilal Saudi Football Club, which I gather is doing well in an important championship match. The tweets often depict this jolly fellow:

A smiling, shiny-cheeked Arabian
man in middle age, with a black mustache and goatee.  He wears a very
typical red-and-white checked head scarf (ghutra), held in place by a
black double cord (igal).  The background is an indistinct view of a
crowd in a sport stadium, in monochrome royal blue.

This turns out to be His Highness Prince Nawaf Bin Saad, current president of the club.[1] The tweets seem to include messages of support and well-wishing from fans (“we trust you”, “go ahead”), and are often punctuated with 💙 or 💙💙. I don't know why the hearts are blue, but it seems to be a Thing. Oh, I bet it's because the club color is blue, just like the Dodgers’. Okay, that wasn't so hard.

That's as far as I got with this one. It's fun puzzle, like doing a sudoku, but the result is more interesting than sudoku, and I get to decide for myself whether it's time to stop.

[ Addendum: I had it backwards. Al-Hilal was not doing well. The tweets were because they had just been eliminated, unexpectedly early, from the AFC “Champions League” series. Better luck next year! ]

[1] I hope I got that right. The club's web site styles him “H.H.” and not “H.R.H.”, but I found news articles that went the other way. The genealogy of the Saudi princes is incredibly confusing, but I think H.H. Nawaf is a grandson of Ibn Saud's younger brother Abdallah, so “H.H.” is correct.


Subject: Yuca frita
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!mechanical-turk​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-02T23:40:20
Newsgroup: misc.yuca-frita
Message-ID: <e0a75f9e17298434@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Yuca is a large starchy tuber, also known as cassava, and is not the same as yucca, which is not edible. (Linnaeus got them mixed up.) Yuca frita is yuca that has been deep-fried in the manner of french fried potatoes. It is potatolike, but has a different flavor and texture. I am very fond of it, and often order it at restaurants that serve it, usually Brazilian and Peruvian ones.

The local grocery store has all sorts of interesting ingredients I don't really know how to use, and it carries whole yucas, so one day I decided I'd try frying some.

This is rather troublesome. The yuca must be peeled, because its outer layer is poisonous, like a potato only more so. (Wild yuca is poisonous on the inside too, and must be extensively processed before it is safe to eat, but supermarket yuca is a variety that is safe without processing.) Then you have to cut up the root, discard the spongy core, and boil the pieces. Then you can fry them.

But! The result was great! Restaurant yuca frita is very good but I never realized before that it suffers a bit during its commute from kitchen to table. Home-cooked yuca frita, served steaming hot the instant it came from the pan, was the best I had ever had.

The prep was not too terrible, and it can be amortized, because the boiled cored peeled yuca chunks can be stuck in the freezer to be fried later ad lib.

Then the following week I was roaming in the freezer section of the supermarket, where I rarely go, and I saw that they sell bags of frozen boiled cored peeled yuca, all ready for frying.

So, everything worked out for the best in this best of all possible worlds.


Subject: Birthday greetings from my stalker
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!hardees​!triffid​!mechanical-turk​!skynet​!m5​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-02T19:35:25
Newsgroup: alt.binaries.pictures.happy-birthday-google
Message-ID: <dda4786d21794270@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

There's this creepy guy who follows me around my neighborhood. He has a camera and a little notebook, and he is constantly taking pictures of me, and writing down where I am and what I am doing. When I use the computer, he tries to peer over my shoulder and take notes about what I am reading or writing. He's so persistent that I always assume he's lurking around somewhere, even if I can't see him. I don't like it, but there appears to be no way to get rid of him, so I try to ignore him, go about my life and not let him bother me too much.

But today he rang my doorbell and gave me a big creepy smile and wished me a happy birthday.

A
screenshot
of my phone.  The usual “Google” logo has been replaced by one where
the letters are birthday candles.  The birthday candles have eyes.


Subject: Sigils in Perl and PILOT
Path: you​!your-host​!walldrug​!prime-radiant​!computer​!glados​!extro​!forbin​!brain-in-a-vat​!berserker​!plovergw​!ploverhub​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-02T18:05:38
Newsgroup: comp.protocols.tcp-ip.sigils
Message-ID: <4c668a03140b034f@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Perl notoriously prefixes variable names with symbols $, @, %, and * to indicate certain typing information. For example, $item is a scalar variable containing a single number or string, and @item is an array variable containing a numerically-indexed sequence of scalar values.

The most significant antecedent of which I was aware was PDP-11 BASIC-PLUS, which had three variable namespaces. The default variables could store a numeric value. Variables with names suffixed with $ could store strings, and those suffixed with % could store integers. BASIC-PLUS has been cited by Larry Wall as one of Perl's (many) inspirations. Its $ sigil was carried forward into the extremely influential Microsoft BASIC interpreters.

No ALGOL-derived language uses sigils, as far as I know.

(Unix shell languages use $, but not as a sigil. I mention this to save people the effort of emailing me. Variable names are un-sigilated. The $ indicates that the value of the variable is being retrieved. SNOBOL 4 does something similar.)

Today I learned about a forerunner that is much more Perl-like than the others: the PILOT language. String variables have names beginning with $; numeric variables have names beginning with #. Program labels begin with *. As in Perl, unprefixed identifiers are taken as literal strings. Wikipedia has a list of sigil-like language features#Historical_context) but it doesn't mention PILOT.

One could take a chronological chart of computer languages and draw a line down it that marked the switch from ad-hoc parsers to recursive parsers generated by parser-generating tools. It wouldn't be a straight line, but it wouldn't be excessively wiggly either. PILOT is very definitely on the left side of this line.

By the way, this use of the word “sigil” was coined in 1999 by Philip Gwyn, and caught on immediately. Prior to this, the Perl documentation had used the term “funny character”.


Subject: Camptown
Path: you​!your-host​!warthog​!goatrectum​!plovergw​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-02T17:53:49
Newsgroup: misc.do-dah.do-dah
Message-ID: <ce8bd6bfaba00230@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

Today I learned that the eponymous Camptown of the song Camptown Races is actually Camptown, Pennsylvania, only about three hours from where I live.


Subject: I'm missing !!Con this year
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!wikipedia​!neuromancer​!berserker​!plovergw​!plover​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-02T16:58:43
Newsgroup: rec.food.bangbangcon2018
Message-ID: <2ae50151d3dd5ee8@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

There was a strange sort of confluence of events, that might have left me feeling awful, but somehow didn't.

I.

I fully intended to attend !!Con again this year, and since tickets are scarce, and the best way to get a ticket is to get a talk accepted, I planned to get a talk accepted. This may seem overconfident but so far I have had five talks accepted, although in only three different years, so I have only been able to give three of them. Still I think my optimism is justified.

Last year, about three days after the !!Con submission deadline I thought of a marvelous idea for a ten-minute talk and I was confident that it was as likely as anything to be accepted. Then I had to wait twelve months before the next call for submissions. Eventually the dates were announced for !!Con 2018.

II.

Last year I decided I needed to be more conversant with Python, and as part of that I asked my employer to send me to PyCon this year. But then I checked on my calendar to make sure there were no conflicts

PyCon conflicted with !!Con. Oh, crap. What to do?

If I had foreseen that, I might have chosen to become conversant in some language other than Python, maybe Visual PL/I or Object Cobol or ECMA-Flow-matic or something. But it was too late.

I really didn't want to skip PyCon, and I had already told my job I wanted to go. But skipping !!Con seemed unthinkable, and I knew that while I was at PyCon I would be pining away, thinking of !!Con and how I wasn't there and I wasn't giving my marvelous talk.

III.

But then I discovered that I had missed the !!Con submission deadline! It had been earlier this year than in the past and I totally blew it. If this had happened the previous years I would have been crushed. But this year it solved my problem very neatly. I was going to PyCon anyway! I didn't have to feel bad about blowing the submission deadline, because I was planning to attend PyCon. And I didn't have to feel bad about not getting to give my marvelous talk, because I had failed to propose it in time.

I'm not sure this makes sense. Two things, either of which would have left me sad and disappointed, have added up together to make me fairly happy. But feelings don't always make sense.

Anyway, I hope the rest of you folks will be having a great time at !!Con without me (and Sumana). See you next year!


Subject: Hotel classification jargon
Path: you​!your-host​!wintermute​!gormenghast​!hal9000​!plovergw​!ploverhub​!shitpost​!mjd
Date: 2018-04-02T16:16:48
Newsgroup: alt.mjd.hotels
Message-ID: <8d78c188300309ea@shitpost.plover.com>
Content-Type: text/shitpost

In 1991 I was visiting Taichung with my male friend Ranjit and my female friend JF. We went to the place that the guidebook described as “the cheapest place in town” and asked for one room for Ranjit and one room for me and JF.

The hotelier refused to do this, and after a bit of a communication struggle we understood that the rooms we wanted were available, and she was willing to let me and Ranjit share a room, but that JF and I could not. At that point the hotelier's concern was quite legible. We took the rooms and everyone was satisfied.

If I were the proprietor of a cheap but legitimate hotel, I would probably have the same concern: I wouldn't want my hotel to be confused with (or used as) a place where prostitutes go to conduct their business.

My question is: is there a name for that type of establishment? (That is, the type that this Taichung hotel was not?) I think it is different from “Love Hotel”, which I think is understood to cater to unmarried couples who don't have their own apartments, and of course it is quite different from a brothel.

Rik Signes suggests “no-tell motel”, which is closer to what I want, but I think that mainly connotes a clientele of couples who are married but not to each other. Anyway this place was not a motel.

Suggestions?