Ping Brother Richard

> i is king.
> i can has sanwich.
> i is king & i is hungry.
> ping brother richard
> [AFK]
> i can has kipr from brkfst?
> i can has cold kfc, k?
> i is king
> i can has sanwich.
> why ur in my country fitin?
> were in tewx.
> no mustard!
> o noes!
> ping brother richard
> [AFK]
> tuna pasta?
> stfu
> i can has bacon?
> blt?
> i is king.
> i can has sanwich.
> WTF?
> woodvilles in pantry?
> clarence is drinkin my boozes?
> ping brother richard.
> [AFK]
> i is king
> know how 2 run things
> so wtf is with this place?
> i is king
> i can has sanwich
> ping brother richard
> [AFK]

This is a pastiche of a John M Ford villanelle.  It was originally posted on the Making Light LOLCats thread.


I in ur sonnet, doin ur ritin.
How do this hapn? I just a kitty.
Main job of catz are just 2B pritty!
(‘Cept with the doggies, then us be fitin.)
Course back in da old days catz was workin
Eatin ur mouses an axin fr milk…
Now giv me treatz or me clawin ur silk!
An bring em here fast, none of ur shirkin.
U humanz r comin under r powr
Uzin ur money to pamper n feed us,
Learnin from websitez how much u need us.
R clvr planz is comin to flower!
Now mousie are safe in his tiny holz
Nless u go catch him. I da boss. LOLz.

This started a rather large thread of LOLcats pastiches and original poems on Making Light.

Nil sub sole novum

Martin sent me a rather silly YouTube link, mostly about Horatio Caine’s one-line quips at the end of the prologues of CSI: Miami. The sameness of his delivery, episode after episode, reminded me irresistibly of Aristophanes’ The Frogs. Indeed, I could not resist setting it all out. How would Aristophanes have tackled the rivalry among the three CSI shows?1

Dionysus, patron of drama, descends into the underworld to bring one of the great dramatists back to earth with him, to inspire the people of Athens to their former greatness. In the land of the dead, Aeschylus and Euripides are contending for the seat of honour, at Hades’ left hand, awarded to the greatest tragedian; it was Aeschylus, but Euripides is trying to take it over. In the background, Sophocles is staying out of the battle.

Like Dionysus, Dr Quincy, ME goes into the TV studios to bring one of the current crop of detectives with him, to solve the crimes of the modern era. There, Gil Grissom and Horatio Caine are arguing over who should get the largest dressing room, awarded to the best CSI; it was Gil’s, but Caine is trying to take it over. In the backdrop, Mac is staying out of the battle.

The two playwrights’ works are compared to one another in a variety of ways. After opening prayers, each dramatist describes the other’s weaknesses and his own strengths. It becomes clear that Dionysus prefers Aeschylus, the more traditional and methodical playwright, over the more modern Eurypides.

The two detectives’ shows are also compared to one another. After a brief introduction covering their education and work experience, each CSI describes the other’s weaknesses and his own strengths2. It becomes clear that Quincy prefers Grissom, the scientist, over the flashier Caine.

Then the true contest begins. A nit-picking analysis of each dramatist’s best prologue, for logic and for style. The best3 part is when Aeschylus proves that, metrically and structurally, one can insert “lost his bottle of oil” into the line-ends of his opponent’s prologues.

Again, the key comparison is a nit-picking analysis of each detective’s investigative techniques, for protocol and for style. The best part is when Gil proves that, dramatically and stylistically, one can put one’s sunglasses on and sidle like a crab at any point in his opponent’s exchanges with other characters2, again.

The final contest takes place over a set of scales, as each dramatist recites a single line of one of his plays. The weightiest line wins. In each case, Aeschylus’ works outweigh Euripides’.

Like Dionysus, Quincy uses scales for a quantitiative analysis. Each CSI recounts one of his one-line end of prologue quips. The heaviest line wins. This bit, I’ll do.4

Come here, then, if I have to do this —
treating detectives just like cheese for sale.
Such clever men as these use clever tools:
Forensic science as is taught in schools
Can only show a fraction of the art.
It’s innovation that’s the greater part
And so when other testing stalls and fails
We turn to systematic means like scales.
Come on. Stand beside the balance scales.
GRISSOM & CAINE [together]:
All right.
Now, each of you grab hold and don’t let go
until I yell at you like Roger Daltrey.
GRISSOM & CAINE [each one holding a scale pan]:
We’re holding on.
Speak your line into the scale.

CAINE [reciting]:
I am going…to get to the truth.
GRISSOM [reciting]:
“Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him.”5
Yaaaaar! Let go. [inspects scales] The pan on Grissom’s side
has gone much further down.
And why is that?
Why? Because he put blood into it.
He wet his words the way wool-sellers do —
whereas you put in a word with wings.
All right, let him speak again and match me.
Grab hold again.
We’re ready.
So speak down.
CAINE [reciting]:
You don’t spend $1,000 on clothes…you’re never going to wear.
GRISSOM [reciting]:
Man versus Gravity. Man lost.
Let go. Let go. This one’s going down again.
He put gravity in — the heaviest of forces.
But I put in money…and my line
was…better phrased.
Yeah, but money’s light.
It’s got no staying power at all. Say something else,
a heavy line, immense and ponderous,
to make you sink.
A really heavy line…
where can I find such a thing among my cases?
I’ll tell you. “We’ve got to move quickly.
The tide is rising, and we have a sinking crime scene.”
You’d better speak —
it’s the last time the two of you get weighed.
CAINE [reciting]:
The verdict is in, Frank, but the jury…is out.
GRISSOM [reciting]:
By law you’ve got to disclose everything. Three bedrooms, two baths, and a skeleton.
He got you again.

How so?
He put in a whole house and a stiff.
A hundred weightlifters couldn’t shift that load.

This last contest gives Dionysus the excuse he needs to bring back the playwright he really prefers, Aeschylus. As a final, stinging rebuke of Euripides’ preference of style over substance, he negotiates for Sophocles to have the seat of honour by Hades.

Like Dionysus, Quincy prefers Grissom6, and declares him the winner. As a final, stinging rebuke of Horatio Caine’s flashy style, he negotiates for Mac to have the coveted trailer.

  1. Paragraphs in italics are a summary of The Frogs. Following paragraphs are, um, translations.
  2. Of course I was tempted. But I do have a life.
  3. And most famous. Justly.
  4. All of Quincy’s lines are minimally adapted from Dionysus’. The Chorus song has been rewritten, but the essence is retained. And all of Caine and Grissom’s lines are from their shows, of course.
  5. Macbeth, Act V, Scene 1
  6. As, clearly, do I

Miranda Dreams, I wake up

One sunny autumn day in 1989, I was walking through the UC Berkeley campus. I was a sophomore in college, coming from a class in Dwinelle Hall, heading back to my student co-op on the south side of campus. There’s a small brick-paved bridge just before Sather Gate, with low concrete parapets. The trees growing in the stream bed by Strawberry Creek created a mass of green behind the sunlit bridge.

Standing on the bridge, bright against this backdrop, was a group of three men. Two were playing hammer dulcimers, one a guitar. They were busking, as musicians so often do on campus. Drifting across the light, warm breeze, I heard a song like sunlight transformed into music. The lead hammer dulcimer led the way through a rhythmic melody, punctuated with sycopated notes in bright counterpoint to the basic tune. The second hammer dulcimer added complexity, the guitar lent depth to the thin brightness of the tune.

I was filled with a senseless joy. I can’t explain it; it’s not a song that creates this effect for anyone else I know.

The song was called Miranda’s Dream, written by Lawrence Huntley and performed by the Whamadiddle Dingbats. It is on their instrumental album, Saturday at the Market.

I bought a couple of tapes by the group (Saturday at the Market and Lucky!), but shed them over time. Once, I wrote to Lawrence Huntley and managed to convince him to send me the sheet music for the melody. That I still have, and I used to be able to do a respectable rendition on the guitar. But the place the song has played, faultlessly, for years, is in my head. It’s stuck with me for eighteen years, vivid as the first day I heard it, delightful as sunshine.

Over the last two or three years, I’ve been putting some time and effort into getting that track again. I tried the direct approach, tracking down two different emails for Lawrence Huntley on the web and emailing him directly. All attempts either bounced or vanished. I found a more recent version with steel drums, but it loses the crispness of the original dulcimer and guitar piece.

So finally, I found it on ebay (purest luck!) and bought it. It arrived last week, and once again I can hear the bright, intricate and glorious piece, just as I heard it that warm fall day in Berkeley.

Why am I posting this? Several reasons.

  1. We have some Googlejuice. If the members of the Whamadiddle Dingbats (Lawrence Huntley, Mick Doherty and Keven Shay Johnson) Google themselves, they may find this entry. If you do, guys, thank you for making some lovely, memorable music. Leave a comment, if you like.
  2. I’m after another of their albums, Lucky!. Anyone reading this have a copy?
  3. It’s what’s batting around my head right now. This, is, after all, a blog.

Rejection! Oh, the tragedy!

At the end of January, at the urging of a few friends, I sent three sonnets off to Asimov’s, the only science fiction magazine that accepts poetry. Unlike most of the sonnets I write, these were not “occasional” sonnets, written to mark a specific event or play off of a specific theme in a conversation.

I got the rejection letter this week, a good month after Asimov’s own guidelines said to “assume the submission was lost”. Poetry is a chancy thing to publish, of course, and I’m not actually disappointed or annoyed in the least that I got knocked back. I regarded the entire submission process as being like throwing spaghetti at the wall, just to see if it stuck.

So, since Asimov’s doesn’t want them, I thought I’d publish the three of them here. Each is structured as a 14-line SF narrative, basically a short story in iambic pentameter. I had a lot of fun writing them – even managed to recycle a story idea that never jelled into one.

Principal Damage

The cloning table holds me half-reclined
And wraps the scanning visor round my head,
Recording me. I try to clear my mind,
But grief remains. My alter self is dead.
A roadside bomb went off; his whole squad died.
Like all the other soldiers grown before
From memories and tissue I’ve supplied,
He died. As will the next, and many more.
I knew that he was gone before the call —
I felt the bomb explode, and tasted blood.
I can’t explain, but I’ve died with them all,
Been burned and shot, been stabbed and drowned in mud.
Sometimes I wish that I were just a clone
So when I die, I die just once, alone.

I blame John Scalzi for this one, since he’s the one that got me into the “civilians turn soldiers in SFnial wars” mindset, years after the imprint of Starship Troopers was finally ironed out of my skull. Though Ursula K LeGuin‘s story Nine Lives is a piece of it, too, with the notion of some mystical connection among clones that activates on death.

Some Minor Alterations

At glum fifteen, I met myself at thirty.
I was an awkward kid, and couldn’t see
A future that would suit someone like me.
I wanted to be normal, not so nerdy.
She brought me pictures: husband (somewhat bland),
Cute children, pleasant house, a life in full.
The photos made it all seem possible,
And, suddenly, too dull for me to stand.
My fears of growing into her inspire
Me through the days I spend on my research,
Inventing this machine. I plan to search
Through time for the excitement I require.
And my first trip? To tell a lie, and thus
Steer my past self toward the truth of us.

The scansion on this one is iffy, but it was fun. It’s an attempt to resolve the time-travel paradox on one of my favourite wishes (that I could go back in time to my teenaged self and tell her it would all be OK in the end).

Nothing in this poem should be an indictment of my current life, by the way.


The branching universes take me far
Beyond my devastated world, to one
Where Earth revolves around a living star.
I find my other self. She doesn’t run.
I do the thing, and hide the body well,
And then go home. The keys are in her coat.
The house is nicer here — mine’s just a shell —
But on the mantelpiece, I find a note.
If you are reading this, I must be dead.
But that’s OK. I hope you made it fast.
Just know you’re not the first to come instead
Of staying home. Nor will you be the last.
Enjoy this respite from whatever hell
You’ve just escaped, and in your turn, die well.

This is recycled from a story that just never worked out about fifteen years ago. It’s based a lot on Larry Niven’s All the Myriad Ways, gone a bit dark. One of my readers cited The Golden Bough in reference to it as well, though if that is an influence it’s filtered through the culture (I have never read it).

So my quest to become a published poet is thwarted, thwarted, I tell you! And I’m not really gutted. I hope the narrative sonnets are at least interesting.

Religion is the warp on custom’s loom

Religion is the warp on custom’s loom
(And warped it sometimes is, for we are frail.
We fumble in the dark, and often fail
To see our own faults clearly in the gloom.)
And culture, common practice, makes the weft.
Our actions and our ethics jointly weave
Like tabby, twill, jaquard. What we believe
And what we do cannot be clearly cleft.
It goes against the grain to pick a thread
And say, “This doesn’t represent the whole.”
We live with strands that we cannot control,
And cut our garb to fit our cloth instead.
And so, in peaceful spirit, can we please
Discuss dupattas and salwar kameez?

Originally posted on Making Light.

Pieces falling into place

It’s been some time since I’ve blogged. Plans have been up in the air, and sometimes I can’t bring myself to write about things that aren’t yet complete. As Martin wrote in his Going Dutch entry, we are moving to the Netherlands this summer.

This is, naturally, terrifying. It’s been particularly scary for me to contemplate, because I had to find two very important things.

A job
Moving country meant moving work, and that’s a frightening thing. I joined the Royal Bank in 1997 – October would have marked ten years there, and I was thoroughly institutionalised after all that time. It was intimidating to even contemplate finding something else.
A house
Admittedly, unlike the job thing, househunting is for the benefit of entire family, and in theory I could fob some of the weight off on Martin. But I get emotional about my living situation, so it felt like it was really my worry.

So how has it gone, in the month and a half since I quit the Bank and started these searches?


Martin pointed a job ad out to me in late March, before I was even officially out of work. It was for a small company, MediaLab, which makes search software mostly used in libraries. It’s a tiny company, and a deeply cool one, writing interesting software and having fun doing it.

At his urging, I sent them a CV. When we got back from California, I had a phone interview, and made a strong connection with the people I talked to. They invited me over for a second interview in person in their offices in Amsterdam.

That went even better. I enjoyed the conversations and liked the people, and it was mutual. More importantly, from a business perspective, it was clear that my area of expertise and my approach to work will fill a need in their company.

So I got the job.

I start at the beginning of July, which sometimes seems a long way off. I find myself thinking about the work, and about sitting in that bright and friendly office while I do it. It’s been a long time since I looked forward to work.


We wanted to rent a house for a year, to give us a chance to try out the Dutch lifestyle before committing a lot of capital to it. But there aren’t a lot of spacious, affordable houses in commute radius of Amsterdam.

It’s also difficult to search for houses at a remove. (My friend who just moved to New Zealand can testify to this.) After poring over hundreds of advertisements on the internet, we finally identified one that looked nice, in a promising town. So Martin and I went across one rainy Monday to look at it.

It was awful. Cramped, grimy and grim, in the shabbiest neighbourhood. It was also not available for a year’s rental; the owners wanted to keep the option open to sell it (an endeavour in which I wish them luck). We straggled home after a discouraging day, ready to abandon the whole damned effort.

I tried to take a fresh tack on the matter the next few days, looking again at places we had eliminated, sending out emails to emails to estate agents. Then the phone rang.

It was an estate agent, calling based on a profile Martin logged on their website. He had a four-bedroom property, he said, just coming on the market for a year’s rental. In Wormerveer, a town in commute distance from my office. Large workroom as well, was I interested? I made interested noises, and he sent me pictures.

Then I was really interested. It’s a light, spacious place, converted from a schoolhouse. The owner, a painter, is taking his family to the Canary Islands for a year. I flew over on Tuesday to view it and the neighbourhood.

It was fantastic. The town charmed me, and the location of the house was particularly good (it’s right near the market plaza, two schools, shops, and some pleasant areas to walk through.) And the house itself was better than the photos conveyed, with an essential unity of light and design.

It didn’t hurt that I got on very well with the owner, the painter, who showed me round. We talked about aesthetics and the philosophy of art, bookbinding and lithography, history and philosophy (boring the estate agent senseless until he recalled another appointment). Practical matters will go easier with this channel of communication, but more importantly, I’m looking forward to future conversations.

So now I have a job and a house, and frankly, they’re both fantastic. What a good set of prospects to take into a challenging year!

Moderation sonnetry

We value moderation in all things.
The edges may define the battleground
But on their own, unbalanced and unsound,
They cannot make the peace consensus brings.
And sometimes in the drive to win a fight
Participants forget that victory
Is counted in the people who now see
The world anew, not in who’s proven right.
A careful gardener of good debate
Can prune the branches, leave the essence whole,
Protect the fragile, dsmvwl th trll,
And understanding on all sides create.
Because we need what conversation brings
We value moderation in all things.

Originally posted on Making Light.