December 30, 2005

I, for one, would like to welcome our new robot overlords.

Via Dean comes this article about a self-aware robot. The article doesn't mention it, but I believe its name is SkyNet.

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Visually speaking part VII

Look at the picture below and see if you can guess what it represents.

hole milk.jpg more...

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The revenge of DOS

Or how my obsolete skills became useful again

Microsoft is reintroducing our old trusty friend, the C:\ prompt. It will, in theory, give Windows' users the ability to create programs similar to that available to Unix users as shell scripts. What Microsoft fails to mention is that this functionality has existed for quite some time as DOS batch programming. Anyone- like me- who has been geeking around computers since DOS' heyday will remember writing and using these things. Anyway, here is an excerpt:

While these new commands and scripts will interest primarily administrators and power users, less-technical types may benefit from Monad scripts that could circulate on the Internet as Unix scripts do. For example, a Monad script might quickly reorganize files and directories based on their name or creation date--a task that can take a fair bit of manual labor in Windows Explorer.

A beta version of Monad for Windows XP is available as a free download. Registration is required, and you will also need to have.Net Framework 2.0 (available at the same page) installed.

I dunno, but it seems that there's always some sort of catch with Microsoft. Or maybe it's the effing critical flaws that get discovered daily, ones that allow a hacker control of your PC. Nice, huh?

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December 29, 2005


Stephen and Melissa Green now have a bouncing baby boy, Preston Davis Green. Stop by and congratulate the happy parents.

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Visually speaking part VI

Look at the picture below and see if you can guess what it represents.

king of pop.jpg

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December 28, 2005

Porting your Linux desktop

I've mentioned before that I'm test-driving several(okay, 11) LiveCD Linux distros, trying to determine which one I'd like to use as a counterpoint to the ubiquitous Microsoft product. However, as some people have noticed, you have to be a bit geek savvy to work with even the most user friendly Linux OS. Installing a printer is just not that intuitive. For the record, I've worked in assorted Unix/Linux operating systems for more than 15 years, so I'm not a novice at such things. If it's giving me trouble, it's bound to be pissing most everyone else.

Anyway, if getting rid of Windows isn't really in the cards for you, but you'd like to have a portable Linux OS that you can take and use anywhere, even on older computers that choke on XP. then this article at Desktop Linux might be what you've been looking for. Excerpt:

Why would anyone want to use a Linux liveCD as a basic day to day desktop? Here are some thoughts:

  • Easy to load and update -- Easy, because your data (including configurations) are separate from the operating system (OS). The idea of separating data from the OS has always appealed to me. It seems like a very logical and smart thing to do. Even when I partition a system for a hard drive Linux install, I create a separate partition for /home. Doesn't everybody?

  • It's portable -- You can take it with you and securely boot up from just about any PC. Also, Linux liveCDs can often be installed and booted from a USB drive (thanks to some excellent standards around booting from USB drives). This really beats lugging a laptop around (especially when airport security is involved). The downside is that your Live-CD might not boot on all hardware. The distro might not detect the hardware correctly or the hardware might not be able to boot from CD or USB.

  • Most run on older PC hardware -- Not only do they run, they usually run quite fast! (Did you ever notice that you usually cannot upgrade old PCs from Windows 95 to Windows XP?) Some of the older PCs don't support booting from CD or USB. In such cases, you can usually copy the CD to the hard drive and create a boot floppy to load the image from the hard drive.

  • Security -- It's hard for someone to violate your OS when it resides on a read only CD. And, you can always reboot to a pristine state. This is kind of like going to communion and being forgiven for all past sins. Linux by design is a very secure OS. This just improves on it. Amen.

  • It's just plain fun! -- You can remix if you like. You can do your own. This is one of the great things about open source. I am waiting for the next version of Windows XP liveCD. Don't get me wrong here, Microsoft does allow generating DOS 3.1 boot disks so you can network stage new XP clients. But that is more of an enterprise moment...

If you're in the mood to give Linux a test, but have no intention of getting rid of your Windows machine, this option might be for you. A portable, personalized OS that goes where you go. All you need is something like a USB flash drive for data storage and you're good to go.

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It's just that simple

Uh no, it isn't. Michael Crichton offers both insights and some stubborn facts concerning the current state of the world. Excerpt:

Now, if we are to do better in this new century, what must we do differently? In a word, we must embrace complexity theory. We must understand complex systems.

We live in a world of complex systems. The environment is a complex system. The government is a complex system. Financial markets are complex systems. The human mind is a complex system---most minds, at least.

By a complex system I mean one in which the elements of the system interact among themselves, such that any modification we make to the system will produce results that we cannot predict in advance.

Furthermore, a complex system demonstrates sensitivity to initial conditions. You can get one result on one day, but the identical interaction the next day may yield a different result. We cannot know with certainty how the system will respond.

Third, when we interact with a complex system, we may provoke downstream consequences that emerge weeks or even years later. We must always be watchful for delayed and untoward consequences.

The science that underlies our understanding of complex systems is now thirty years old. A third of a century should be plenty of time for this knowledge and to filter down to everyday consciousness, but except for slogans—like the butterfly flapping its wings and causing a hurricane halfway around the world—not much has penetrated ordinary human thinking.

On the other hand, complexity theory has raced through the financial world. It has been briskly incorporated into medicine. But organizations that care about the environment do not seem to notice that their ministrations are deleterious in many cases. Lawmakers do not seem to notice when their laws have unexpected consequences, or make things worse. Governors and mayors and managers may manage their complex systems well or badly, but if they manage well, it is usually because they have an instinctive understanding of how to deal with complex systems. Most managers fail.

Why? Our human predisposition treat all systems as linear when they are not. A linear system is a rocket flying to Mars. Or a cannonball fired from a canon. Its behavior is quite easily described mathematically. A complex system is water gurgling over rocks, or air flowing over a bird’s wing. Here the mathematics are complicated, and in fact no understanding of these systems was possible until the widespread availability of computers.

One complex system that most people have dealt with is a child. If so, you've probably experienced that when you give the child an instruction, you can never be certain what response you will get. Especially if the child is a teenager. And similarly, you can’t be certain that an identical interaction on another day won’t lead to spectacularly different results.

If you have a teenager, or if you invest in the stock market, you know very well that a complex system cannot be controlled, it can only be managed. Because responses cannot be predicted, the system can only be observed and responded to. The system may resist attempts to change its state. It may show resiliency. Or fragility. Or both.

An important feature of complex systems is that we don’t know how they work. We don’t understand them except in a general way; we simply interact with them. Whenever we think we understand them, we learn we don’t. Sometimes spectacularly.
And for that matter, who believes that the complex system of our atmosphere behaves in such a simple and predictable way that if we reduce one component, carbon dioxide, we will therefore reliably reduce temperature? CO2 is not like an accelerator on a car. It’s not linear (and by the way, neither is a car accelerator.) And furthermore, who believes that the climate can be stabilized when it has never been stable throughout the earth’s history? We can only entertain such an idea if we don’t really understand what a complex system is. We’re like the blonde who returned the scarf because it was too tight. We don’t get it.

Fortunately, studies show that we can learn to manage complex systems. There are people who have investigated complex systems management, and know how to do it. But it demands humility.

And I would add, along with humility, managing complex systems also demands the ability to admit we are wrong, and to change course. If you manage a complex system you will frequently, if not always, be wrong. You have to backtrack. You have to acknowledge error. You’ve probably learned that with your children. Or, if you don’t have children, with your bosses.

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December 23, 2005

I believe in Santa Claus

Okay, maybe I just need to believe in Santa Claus. In any event, I believe that this editorial should have put the question to rest, permanently. Thank you, Virginia O'Hanlon:

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus?Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!

I'm certain that I will repeat this story many times to my newborn daughter, who coincidentally is named Virginia. Yes, I believe, too.

Yes, this is essentially a retread from last year's post. Sue me. I plan to post this little gem every year.

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Merry Christmas, you hosers!

Out of the wayback machine come Bob and Doug Mackenzie:

Bob Okay, good day, this is our Christmas part of the album, and
you can play this at your Christmas parties, uh, or to yourself on
Christmas Eve, if there's nothing else to do.
Doug Good day, eh? In case you thought, like, I wasn't on this part!
Bob Oh, I guarantee ya, you'd be on. Okay, so, good day, this is the
Christmas part, and, we're gonna tell you what to get, uh, your true
love for Christmas.
Doug Look out the window!
Bob Where?! Whadda ya doing?
Doug Snow, hosehead.
Bob Wha? Oh, it's the Great White North, and it's snowing, cause it's
Christmas time. Hey, hoser!
Doug What?
Bob Here's a quiz. Quiz for Doug.
Doug Okay, I have my thinking touque on.
Bob Yeah, right. What are the twelve days of Christmas? Cause,
figure it out, right. Christmas is when?
Doug Uh, the 25th.
Bob Right, and what's the 24th, Christmas Eve, right? So, that's two.
And then, what's after that?
Doug Um... Uh, Wrestling Day.
Bob No. Get out.
Doug Boxing Day, yeah, yeah.
Bob That's three. Then what's after that? Nothing.
Doug New Year's.
Bob Four. And what's...
Doug New Year's Eve.
Bob Five. Where do you get twelve?
Doug Uh... There's two Saturdays and Sundays in there, that's four.
That's nine. And, three other days, which I believe are the mystery
(Music starts.)
Bob Okay now. This is our Christmas song, in case you don't know
what to get somebody for Christmas.
Doug There's lots of ideas in here, so, listen, and don't get stuck.
Bob Okay.
Doug By the way, that's me on the organ.
Bob Aw, geez.
Doug You start.
Bob Okay. On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a beer.
Doug On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: two turtlenecks,
Bob And a beer. (Okay...) On the third day of Christmas, my true
love gave to me: three French toast,
Doug Two turtlenecks,
Bob And a beer. (Okay...)
Doug There should be more there, eh?
Bob Where? On the... go.
Doug Fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: four pounds
of backbacon,
Bob Three French toast,
Doug Two turtlenecks,
Bob And a beer.
Doug In a tree. See, you need more.
Bob Fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: five golden
Doug Four pounds of backbacon,
Bob Three French toast,
Doug Two turtlenecks,
Bob And a beer, what was it?
Together In a tree!
Bob Okay, on the sixth... go.
Doug Of Christmas, my true love gave to me: six packs of two-four,
Bob & BG Singers Five golden touques!
Doug Four pounds of backbacon,
Bob Three French toast,
Doug Two turtlenecks,
Bob And a beer,
Together In a tree!
Bob Okay.
Doug Okay.
Bob On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
seven packs of smokes,
Doug (Nice gift...) Oh, six packs of two-four! (BG Singers also
sing "nice gift".)
Bob & BG Singers Five golden touques!
Doug Four pounds of backbacon,
Bob Three French toast,
Doug Two turtlenecks,
Bob And a beer,
Together In a tree!
Bob Right, I keep forgetting.
Doug Phew! This should just be the two days of Christmas, it's too
hard for us!
Bob Um...
Doug Go, hoser.
Bob Oh.
Together Eigth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
Doug Eight comic books,
All Seven packs of smokes, six packs of two-four,
(Bob and Doug become unsynchronized with the BG Singers, and quit singing.)
BG Singers Five golden touques! Four pounds of backbacon, three
French toast, two turtlenecks,
All And a beer,
Doug On my tree!
Bob Yeah. That beer's empty. Okay. Day,
BG Singers Twelve!
Bob Uh, twelve.
Doug Good day, and welcome to day twelve.
BG Singers Five golden touques!
All Four pounds of backbacon, three French toast, two turtlenecks,
and a beer, in a tree!
Bob Beauty, eh?
Doug Where'd you learn to do that?
Bob Uh, albums.
Doug Boy. So, like, that's our song, Merry Christmas...
Bob Merry Christmas!
Doug And good day!
Bob Good day, everybody. Happy New Year, too. Sheesh. Okay,
you know what you left out?
Doug What?
Bob Donuts - I told you to get me donuts! Either on the ninth day or
the tenth day, or the eleventh day, I wanted donuts!
Doug Okay, the song's over.
Bob But I want...
Doug Merry Christmas, everybody!
Bob Or on the twelfth day, you coulda got me a dozen donuts.
Doug So, go out to the stores, and get some presents.
Bob You coulda gone down to, like, the good donut shop, where if
you buy a dozen, you get another one free, and then thirteen for the
thirteen days of Christmas.
Doug Well, next Christmas, I'll get me a chainsaw...
Bob Take off!
Doug Boy, that song was a beauty. It moved me...
Bob Yeah, I think it ranks up there with Stairway to Heaven...
Doug Wha-?
(Music fades)

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December 22, 2005

Visually speaking part V

Look closely at the following picture and see if you can guess what word or phrase it represents:

assaulted peanut.jpg

Answer below the fold more...

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December 21, 2005

Is there a Santa(and the response)?

Don't say that I didn't warn you...

                            IS THERE A SANTA CLAUS?

As a result of an overwhelming lack of requests, and with research help
from that renown scientific journal SPY magazine (January, 1990) - I am
pleased to present the annual scientific inquiry into Santa Claus.

1. No known species of reindeer can fly. But, there are 300,000
species of living organisms yet to be classified, and, while most of
these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out
flying reindeer (which only Santa has ever seen).

2. There are 2 billion children (persons under 1 in the world. But, since
Santa doesn't (appear) to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and
Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total - 378
million according to the Population Reference Bureau. At an average
(census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that's 91.8 million
homes. One presumes there's at least one good child in each.

3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the
different time zones and the rotation of the earth; assuming he
travels east to west(which seems logical). This works out to
822.6 visits per second. This is to say that, for each Christian
household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second
to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the
stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat
whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into
the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of
these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth,
(which, of course, we know to be false, but for the purposes
of our calculations we will accept) we are now talking
about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75-1/2 million miles,
not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once
every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc.

This means that Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second -
3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the
fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe,
moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second -a conventional reindeer
can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

4. The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element.
Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized Lego
set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting
Santa (who is invariably described as overweight). On land,
conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting
that "flying reindeer" (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal
amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need
214,200 reindeer (a rounded figure). This increases the payload -
not even counting the weight of the sleigh - to 353,430 tons.
Again, for comparison, this is four times the weight of the Queen
Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch).

5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates an enormous
amount of heat when you factor in the air resistance - this will heat the
reindeer up in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's

The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION
(14,300,000,000,000,000) joules of energy. Per second.
Each! In short, they will burst into flame almost
instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and create
deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team
will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa,
meanwhile, will be subjected to forces 17,500.06 times greater
than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim)
would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

In conclusion - If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve,
he's dead now.

The response
The analysis you sent me about the death of Santa Claus, based on
classical physics, is seriously flawed owing to its neglect of
quantum phenomena that become significant in his particular case. As
it happens, the terminal velocity of a reindeer in dry December air
over the Northern Hemisphere (for example) is known with tremendous
precision. The mass of Santa and his sleigh (since the number of
children and their gifts is also known precisely, ahead of time, and
the reindeer must weigh in minutes before the flight) is also known
with tremendous precision. His direction of flight is, as you say,
essentially east to west.

All of that, when taken together, means that the momentum vector of
Mr Claus and his cargo is known with incredible precision. An
elementary application of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle yields
the result that Santa's location, at any given moment on Christmas
Eve, is highly imprecise. In other words, he is "smeared out" over
the surface of the earth, analogous to the manner in which an
electron is "smeared out" within a certain distance from the nucleus
in an atom. Thus he can, quite literally, be everywhere at any
given moment.

In addition, the relativistic velocities which his reindeer can
attain for brief moments make it possible for him, in certain cases,
to arrive at some locations shortly before he left the North Pole.
Santa, in other words, assumes for brief periods the characteristics
of tachyons. I will admit that tachyons remain hypothetical, but
then so do black holes, and who really doubts their existence

Here is a link which contains lots and lots of rebuttals. People with less of a life than me. Go figure.

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A heart-warming Christmas story

'Tis the season for reposting.
Fa-la-la-la, la-la-la.


My Christmas Story

Late last week, I was rushing around trying to get some last minute shopping
done. I was stressed out and not thinking very fondly of the Christmas
season right then. It was dark, cold, and wet in the parking lot as I was
loading my car up with gifts that I felt obligated to buy. I noticed that I
was missing a receipt that I might need later. So mumbling under my breath,
I retraced my steps to the mall entrance.

As I was searching the wet pavement for the lost receipt, I heard a quiet
sobbing. The crying was coming from a poorly dressed boy of about 12 years
old. He was short and thin. He had no coat. He was just wearing a ragged
flannel shirt to protect him from the cold night's chill. Oddly enough, he
was holding a hundred dollar bill in his hand. Thinking that he had gotten
lost from his parents, I asked him what was wrong.

He told me his sad story. He said that he came from a large family. He had
three brothers and two sisters. His father had died when he was nine years
old. His mother was poorly educated and worked two full time jobs. She made
very little to support her large family. Nevertheless, she had managed to
save two hundred dollars to buy her children Christmas presents. The young
boy had been dropped off on the way to her second job. He was to use the
money to buy presents for all his siblings and save just enough to take
the bus home.

He had not even entered the mall, when an older boy grabbed one of the
hundred dollar bills and disappeared into the night.

"Why didn't you scream for help?" I asked. The boy said, "I did." "And
nobody came to help you?" I wondered. The boy stared at the sidewalk and
sadly shook his head. "How loud did you scream?" I inquired. The soft-spoken
boy looked up and meekly whispered, "Help me!"

I realized that absolutely no one could have heard that poor boy cry

So, I grabbed his other hundred and ran to my car.

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Martha Stewar holiday humor

And another from the not-so-wayback machine...

No holiday season would be complete without swatting the smug grin off of Martha Stewart's face. I give you the following:

When you read or listen to Martha Stewart's hints and advice, do you think to yourself "I could do that"? Then, you follow that thought with "What is wrong with me? Am I just a waste of good air?"

If this is you, then read on ...


December 1
Blanch carcass from Thanksgiving turkey. Spray paint gold, turnupside
down and use as a sleigh to hold Christmas Cards.

December 2
Have Mormon Tabernacle Choir record outgoing Christmas message for
answering machine.

December 3
Using candlewick and handgilded miniature pine cones, fashion
cat-o-nine tails. Flog Gardener.

December 4
Repaint Sistine Chapel ceiling in ecru, with mocha trim.

December 5
Get new eyeglasses. Grind lenses myself.

December 6
Fax family Christmas newsletter to Pulitzer committee for

December 7
Debug Windows '98

December 8
Decorate homegrown Christmas tree with scented candles handmade with
beeswax from my backyard bee colony.

December 9
Record own Christmas album complete with 4 part harmony and all instrument
accompaniment performed by myself. Mail to all my friends and loved

December 10
Align carpets to adjust for curvature of Earth.

December 11
Lay Faberge egg.

December 12
Erect ice skating rink in front yard using spring water I bottled

Open for neighborhood children's use. Create festive mood by
handmaking snow and playing my Christmas album.

December 13
Collect Dentures. They make excellent pastry cutters, particularly
for decorative pie crusts.

December 14
Install plumbing in gingerbread house.

December 15
Replace air in mini-van tires with Glade "holiday scents" in case
tires are shot out at mall.

December 17
Child proof the Christmas tree with garland of razor wire.

December 19
Adjust legs of chairs so each Christmas dinner guest will be same
height when sitting at his or her assigned seat.

December 20
Dip sheep and cows in egg whites and roll in confectioner's sugar to
add a festive sparkle to the pasture.

December 21
Drain city reservoir; refill with mulled cider, orange slices and
cinnamon sticks.

December 22
Float votive candles in toilet tank.

December 23
Seed clouds for white Christmas.

December 24
Do my annual good deed. Go to several stores. Be seen engaged in last
minute Christmas shopping, thus making many people feel less
inadequate than they really are.

December 25
Bear son. Swaddle. Lay in color-coordinated manger scented with
homemade potpourri.

December 26
Organize spice racks by genus and phylum.

December 27
Build snowman in exact likeness of God.

December 28
Take Dog apart. Disinfect. Reassemble.

December 29
Hand sew 365 quilts, each using 365 material squares I weaved myself
used to represent the 365 days of the year. Donate to local

December 30
Release flock of white doves, each individually decorated with olive
branches, to signify desire of world peace.

December 31
New Year's Eve! Give staff their resolutions. Call a friend in each
time zone of the world as the clock strikes midnight in that country.

And a special letter to Santa. It's so good that I wish I had written it.

Dear Santa,

I rarely ask for much. This year is no exception. I don't need diamond earrings, handy slicer-dicers or comfy slippers. I only want one little thing, and I want it deeply. I want to slap Martha Stewart.

Now, hear me out, Santa. I won't scar her or draw blood or anything. Just one good smack, right across her smug little cheek. I get all cozy inside just thinking about it. Don't grant this wish just for me, do it for thousands of women across the country. Through sheer vicarious satisfaction, you'll be giving a gift to us all. Those of us leading average, garden variety lives aren't concerned with gracious living. We feel pretty good about ourselves if our paper plates match when we stack them on the counter, buffet-style for dinner. We're tired of Martha showing us how to make centerpieces from hollyhock dipped in 18 carat gold. We're plumb out of liquid gold. Unless it's of the furniture polish variety. We can't whip up Martha's creamy holiday sauce, spiced with turmeric. Most of us can't even say turmeric, let alone figure out what to do with it.

OK, Santa, maybe you think I'm being a little harsh. But I'll bet with all the holiday rush you didn't catch that interview with Martha in last week's USA Weekend. I'm surprised there was enough room on the page for her ego.

We discovered that not only does Martha avoid take-out pizza (she's only ordered it once), she refuses to eat it cold (No cold pizza? Is Martha Stewart Living?) When it was pointed out that she could microwave it, she replied, "I don't have a microwave." The reporter, Jeffrey Zaslow, noted that she said this "in a tone that suggests you shouldn't either."

Well lah-dee-dah. Imagine that, Santa!

That lovely microwave you brought me years ago, in which I've learned to make complicated dishes like popcorn and hot chocolate, has been declared undesirable by Queen Martha. What next? The coffee maker?

In the article, we learned that Martha has 40 sets of dishes adorning an entire wall in her home. Forty sets. Can you spell "overkill"? And neatly put away, no less. If my dishes make it to the dishwasher, that qualifies as "put away" in my house!

Martha tells us she's already making homemade holiday gifts for friends. "Last year, I made amazing silk-lined scarves for everyone," she boasts. Not just scarves, mind you. Amazing scarves. Martha's obviously not shy about giving herself a little pat on the back. In fact, she does so with such frequency that one has to wonder if her back is black and blue.

She goes on to tell us that "homemaking is glamour for the 90s," and says her most glamorous friends are "interested in stain removal, how to iron a monogram, and how to fold a towel." I have one piece of advice, Martha: "Get new friends." Glamorous friends fly to Paris on a whim. They drift past the Greek Islands on yachts, sipping champagne from crystal goblets. They step out for the evening in shimmering satin gowns, whisked away by tuxedoed chauffeurs. They do not spend their days pondering the finer art of toilet bowl sanitation.

Zaslow notes that Martha was named one of America's 25 most influential people by Time magazine (nosing out Mother Theresa, Madeline Allbright and Maya Angelou, no doubt).

The proof of Martha's influence: after she bought white-fleshed peaches in the supermarket, Martha says, "People saw me buy them. In an instant, they were all gone." I hope Martha never decides to jump off a bridge!

A guest in Martha's home told Zaslow how Martha gets up early to rollerblade with her dogs to pick fresh wild blackberries for breakfast. This confirms what I've suspected about Martha all along: She's obviously got too much time on her hands. Teaching the dogs to rollerblade. What a show off.

If you think the dogs are spoiled, listen to how Martha treats her friends: She gave one friend all 272 books from the Knopf Everyman Library. It didn't cost much. Pocket change, really. Just $5,000. But what price friendship, right? When asked if others should envy her, Martha replies, "Don't envy me. I'm doing this because I'm a natural teacher. You shouldn't envy teachers. You should listen to them." Zaslow must have slit a seam in Martha's ego at this point, because once the hot air came hissing out, it couldn't be held back. "Being an overachiever is nothing despicable. It is only admirable. Never lower your standards," says Martha. And of her Web Page on the Internet, Martha declares herself an "important presence" as she graciously helps people organize their sad, tacky little lives.

There you have it, Santa. If there was ever someone who deserved a good smack, it's Martha Stewart. But I bet I won't get my gift this year. You probably want to smack her yourself.


A Hopeful "Child"

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Holiday images

Think of it as blog re-runs...

catching snowflakes (2).jpgholiday cheer2.JPGholiday cheer3.JPG

holiday cheer4.JPGholiday cheer5.JPG

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holiday cheer.JPG


: This OTB post has nothing in common with the twisted images above. I'm just hoping that some of James' readers will stop by. Huzzah for the Beltway Traffic Jam!

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December 20, 2005

How to tell if you've been really bad this year

Don't say I didn't warn you: more...

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Breaking news

How ice cream cones are really made: more...

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Twelve days of Christmas

Not only did I post this last year, I've sent it out via email for more than 11 years. I promised you old and stale, and I've delivered ancient and decayed. No thanks are necessary.

December 14, 1972

My dearest darling John:

Who ever in the whole world would dream of getting a real Partridge
in a Pear Tree? How can I ever express my pleasure. Thank you a
hundred times for thinking of me this way.

My love always,


December 15, 1972

Dearest John:

Today the postman brought your very sweet gift. Just imagine two
turtle doves. I'm just delighted at your very thoughtful gift. They
are just adorable.

All my love,


December 16, 1972

Dear John:

Oh! Aren't you the extravagant one. Now I must protest. I don't
deserve such generosity, three French hens. They are just darling
but I must insist, you've been too kind.

All my love,

December 17, 1972

Dear John:

Today the postman delivered four calling birds. Now really, they are
beautiful, but don't you think enough is enough. You are being too



December 18, 1972

Dearest John:

What a surprise. Today the postman delivered five golden rings, one for
every finger. You're just impossible, but I love it. Frankly, all
those birds squawking were beginning to get on my nerves.

All my love,

December 19, 1972

Dear John:

When I opened the door today there were actually six geese laying on my
front steps. So you're back to the birds again huh? These geese are huge.
Where will I ever keep them? The neighbors are complaining and I can't
sleep through the racket. Please stop.


December 20, 1972


What's with you and those freaking birds?? Seven swans a swimming. What
kind of damn joke is this? There's bird poop all over the house and they
never stop the racket. I can't sleep at night and I'm a nervous wreck. It's
not funny. So stop those freaking birds.


December 21, 1972

O.K. Buster:

I think I prefer the birds. What the hell am I going to do with 8
maids a milking? It's not enough with all those birds and 8 maids a
milking, but they had to bring their damn cows. There is manure all over the
lawn and I can't move in my own house. Just lay off me, smartass.


December 22, 1972

Hey Shithead:

What are you.....some kind of sadist? Now there's nine pipers
playing. And Christ do they play. They've never stopped chasing
those maids since they got here yesterday morning. The cows are
getting upset and they're stepping all over those screeching birds.
What am I going to do? The neighbors have started a petition to evict

You'll get yours !

December 23, 1972

You rotten prick:

Now there's ten ladies dancing. I don't know why I call those sluts
ladies. They've been balling those pipers all night long. Now the
cows can't sleep and they've got diarrhea. My living room is a river
of shit. The Commissioner of Buildings has subpoenaed me to give cause
why the building shouldn't be condemned. I'm calling the police on you !


December 24, 1972

Listen F--khead:

What's with those eleven lords a leaping on those maid and ladies?
Some of those broads will never walk again. Those pipers ran through the
maids and have been committing sodomy with the cows. All twenty-three
of the birds are dead. They've been trampled to death in the orgy. I hope
you're satisfied, you rotten vicious swine.

You're sworn enemy,

December 25, 1972

Dear Sir:

This is to acknowledge your latest gift of twelve fiddlers fiddling
which you have seen fit to inflict on our client, Miss Agnes
McHolstein. The destruction, of course, was total. All
correspondence should come to our attention. If you should
attempt to reach Miss McHolstein at Happy Dale Sanitarium,
the attendants have been instructed to shoot you on sight.

With this letter please find attached a warrant for your arrest.


Law Offices of Badger, Bender and Chole

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Holiday party

In honor of the current anti-Christmas PC climate in today's society:

Holiday Party

FROM: Ms.Pat Smith, Human Resources Director

TO: Everyone

RE: Christmas Party

DATE: December 1

I'm happy to inform you that the office Christmas Party will

take place on December 22, starting at noon in the banquet

room at Luigi's Open Pit Barbecue. No-host bar, but plenty of

eggnog! We'll have a small band playing traditional carols...

feel free to sing along. And don't be surprised if our General Manager shows up dressed as Santa Claus!

FROM: Pat Smith, Human Resources Director

DATE: December 4

RE: Christmas Party

In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish

employees. We recognize that Chanukah is an important holiday

which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not

this year. However, from now on we're calling it our "Holiday Party."

The same policy applies to employees who are celebrating Kwanzaa

at this time. Happy now?

FROM: Pat Smith, Human Resources Director

DATE: December 5

RE: Holiday Party

Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous

requesting a non-drinking didn't sign your name. I'm happy

to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that

reads,"AAOnly," you wouldn't be anonymous anymore. How am I

supposed to handle this? Somebody?

FROM: Pat Smith, Human Resources Director

DATE: December 6

RE: Holiday Party

What a diverse company we are! I had no idea that November 27

was the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which

forbids eating, drinking and intimacy during daylight hours. There

goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon

this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees beliefs.

Perhaps Luigi's can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the

party, or else package everything for take-home in little foil swans.

Will that work? Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Overeaters

Anonymous to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant

women will get the table closest to the restrooms. Did I miss anything?

FROM: Pat Smith, Human Resources Director

DATE: December 7

RE: Holiday Party

So December 21 marks the Winter Solstice...what do you expect me

to do, a tap-dance on your heads? Fire regulations at Luigi's prohibit

the burning of sage by our "earth-based Goddess worshipping"

employees, but we'll try to accommodate your shamanic drumming

circle during the band's breaks. Okay???

FROM: Pat Smith, Human Resources Director

DATE: December 8

RE: Holiday Party

People, people, nothing sinister was intended by having our GM

dress up like Santa Claus! Even if the anagram of "Santa" does

happen to be Satan," there is no evil connotation to our own

"little man in a red suit." It's a tradition, folks, like sugar shock

at Halloween or family feuds over the Thanksgiving turkey or

broken hearts on Valentine's Day. Could we lighten up?

FROM: Pat Smith, Human Resources Director

DATE: December 11

RE: Holiday Party

Vegetarians!? I've had it with you people! We're going to keep

this party at Luigi's Open Pit Barbecue whether you like it or not,

so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the "grill of death,"

as you so quaintly put it, and you'll get your #$%^&*! salad bar,

including hydroponic tomatoes...but you know, they have feelings,

too. Tomatoes scream when you slice them. I've heard them scream,

I'm hearing them scream right now!

FROM: Karen Jones, Acting Human Resources Director

DATE: December 12

RE:Ms. Pat Smith and Holiday Party

I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Pat Smith a speedy recovery

from her stress-related illness and I'll continue to forward your cards

to her at the sanitarium. In the meantime, management has decided

to cancel our Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of the

22nd off with full pay.

Happy Holidays

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A cure for beal: reposting old stuff from last year. Sure saves me a lot of effort...

Rudolph was a four-hoofed ungulate, who, incidentally, possessed
a nasal appendage of a maroon luster. Consequently, if
circumstances were to present themselves that he ever came into
your view, you would most undoubtedly remark at to its luminary

The multitude of other members of the population in his
ecological community had previously teased, chuckled
boisterously, and dubbed him unspeakable pseudonyms -- the
objective of which was to lower his self-esteem and make him
miserable. They also excluded him from participation in leisure
activities consistent with their species.

However, on the twenty-fourth of December in an unspecified year,
a mythological, supernatural being inherent to western culture
(who symbolizes the Christmas attitude and allegedly brings gifts
to children) arrived through the supersaturated, humid air, spoke
to Rudolph and formally invited him, due to his extraordinary
nasal characteristic to stand at the forefront of his snow
vehicle with the express purpose that he navigate through the
nocturnal mist.

At that point, the multitude of other members of the population
in his ecological community who had previously teased, chuckled
boisterously, and dubbed him unspeakable pseudonyms, reversed
their disposition toward Rudolph to a more congenial, amicable
relationship. They consequently exclaimed with great exaltation
and fervor, "Rudolph, the antlered mammal with a maroon nasal
appendage, you shall most certainly be recorded in the annals of
time, and your memory will be preserved for posterity!

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December 19, 2005

You do the math

Why Math is Taught in School---- (Written By A Very Wise Man)

I was riding to work yesterday when I observed a female driver cut right in front of a pickup truck, causing him to have to drive on to the shoulder to avoid hitting her. This evidently angered the driver enough that he hung his arm out his window and "flipped" the woman off. "Man, that guy is stupid," I
thought to myself. I ALWAYS smile nicely and wave in a sheepish manner whenever a female does anything to me in traffic, and here's why:

I drive 48 miles each way every day to work.

That's 96 miles each day.

Of these, 16 miles each way is bumper-to-bumper.

Most of the bumper-to-bumper is on an 8 lane highway.

There are 7 cars every 40 feet for 32 miles.

That works out to be 982 cars every mile, or 31,424 cars.

Even though the rest of the 32 miles is not bumper-to-bumper, I figure I pass at least another 4000 cars.

That brings the number to something like 36,000 cars that I pass every day.

Statistically, females drive half of these. That's 18,000 women drivers!

In any given group of females, 1 in 28 has PMS.

That's 642.

According to Cosmopolitan, 70% describe their love life as dissatisfying or unrewarding.

That's 449.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 22% of all females have seriously considered suicide or homicide.

That's 98.

And 34% describe men as their biggest problem.

That's 33.

According to the National Rifle Association, 5% of all females carry weapons, and this number is increasing.

That means that EVERY SINGLE DAY, I drive past at least one female that has
a lousy love life, thinks men are her biggest problem, has seriously considered suicide or homicide, has PMS, and is armed.

Flip one off? I think not......

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