stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
That's "on" meaning "pertaining to".

After I bought my house, twenty-some years ago, my next move was to acquire a dog. (That would be the late lamented Murphy.) In order to allow him outside time, I then had a fence erected around part of the back yard - a plain, unadorned picket fence.

I have to admit that I haven't taken good care of the fence - hammering in the occasional loose nail, no more than that. Just now, I glanced out the window and saw that the western segment of the fence had broken; one of the supports had leaned out of true, and the section of fence north of it had come loose and sagged inward. If Buster had noticed it, he would have had an easy route to freedom. I shut the access to the doggy doors and went outside to inspect it. Armed with no more than a hammer and a shim, I managed to get it realigned, but it's no more than a makeshift. Among other things, it puts increased strain on the already-misbehaving gate.

No help for it; I'll have to call in the pros to repair the fence ASAP (and hopefully get the gate working properly again). At least the excessive heat warning that's been in effect since Tuesday noon will expire this evening.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
James Nicoll just posted a retrospective on the old SF role-playing game Traveller. That brings back some memories of my own... When I was a student at Chicago, I got involved in a D&D group. At one point, our GM suggested we try out this new SFnal answer to D&D; we were all game for it, so he set up a scenario and let us loose.

At the end of the first session, our party was aboard a submarine, hiding from the Imperial Space Navy, who were hunting us on charges including poaching, assault (several counts), hijacking, kidnapping, trespassing on government property, theft of government property, destruction of government property, and extortion. We were, in fact, not guilty of poaching. We meant well, though...

(The GM later suggested that we had gone into a game set in civilized places with the mind-set appropriate to the barbarism of D&D. Nicoll's pet phrase for D&D adventurers is "murder hobos". (I think that was Nicoll, at least.))

Ah, me. Haven't played any of those games in decades; video games are a poor substitute.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I'm currently reading Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel. (I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg when I was on an adventure-novels kick; The Prisoner of Zenda, Captain Blood, and one or two others were also part of that haul.) Three thoughts come to mind.

1) Spoilers. Going into the novel knowing the identity of the Pimpernel probably diminishes its effect. (I would quite possibly have guessed - the trick Orczy played has become common since her day.) Fortunately, apart from the broad context, I know nothing more. I can foresee some of what will come - I just finished the scene where Marguerite is blackmailed by the French agent - but no more than in outline.

2) Reigns of Terror. Orczy, of course, makes an effort to get the reader to sympathize with the poor persecuted aristocrats, and I try to let that happen; but I keep remembering the bit by Twain, comparing the several-months-long and bloody Reign of Terror with the slow-motion, thousand-year Reign of Terror, in the opposite direction, which begat it. Lavoisier was certainly not the only unjustly condemned victim, but the whirlwind doesn't really care who sowed the wind. (I also find myself remembering the next-to-last paragraph of Lincoln's Second Inaugural; but that's another issue altogether.)

3) Typography. There are, naturally enough, numerous French or French-derived words and phrases in the text: entr'acte, coup, and the like. I would prefer to believe that Orczy wrote them, in the original, as I just did, and some blunderer, transcribing it for the Project, interpreted the italics as indicating emphasis and thus replaced them with ALL CAPS. If the Baroness herself is responsible, all I can say is QUEL DOMMAGE!
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
One of the phenomena that so excited Charles Fort is that of the vitrified forts, crude stone buildings which at some point were subjected to intense heat.

I'm currently reading Sir Walter Scott's journal, and just ran across the following paragraph: "Will Clerk says he has a theory on the vitrified forts. I wonder if he and I agree. I think accidental conflagration is the cause." (Dec. 11, 1825)

Just an odd coincidence...
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Note to self: just because a frozen dinner is labeled "Honey Balsamic Chicken" doesn't mean it doesn't contain Brussels sprouts.

Low Bar

Jul. 11th, 2017 08:56 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I'm just going to leave this passage from Polybius, about King Ptolemy Philometor, here.
If any king before him ever was, he was mild and benevolent; a very strong proof of which is that he never put any of his own friends to death on any charge whatever.
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
It is the first week of July. The temperature outside is somewhere around 95F. Not a snowball in sight.

Why the hell am I being earwormed by "Silver Bells"?
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
There was a discussion yesterday on the American Dialect Society's mailing list. One of the regulars had heard an interesting expression used on the news, and he presented it, together with a proposed explanation of its origin. Another regular offered a different explanation, and I chimed in with yet another.

The original poster has written a brief (three paragraphs or so) article on it, and in it he cites and quotes the two of us who responded.

This is the second time in my life that I've gotten a mention in a linguistics post or article. In neither case was there anything of great moment involved; even so, I find myself inordinately pleased. (The title of this post is apropos.)

(I'm being deliberately ultravague about the actual content, because it's his article, and won't be appearing for a couple of weeks.)
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Why did Charlie Brown not ask Schroeder to hold the football for him?


Jun. 27th, 2017 03:31 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
Happy birthday, [personal profile] nlbarber!


Jun. 25th, 2017 09:55 am
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Preliminary evaluation: I like Civ VI a lot. Maybe more than Civ IV.

I'm playing as Pericles, going for a Cultural Victory. This is different from a CIV Cultural Victory; in CVI, it requires your cities to attract lots of tourists. The main way to do that is to get a Great Artist/Writer/Sculptor to donate one or more of their Works to a museum in one of your cities. Later on, you can send Archaeologists out to ruins and shipwrecks, and put what they bring back in your museums. There are other tricks, too. This sounds like fun.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Still reading Wilson on the English Reformation. We're into the reign of Elizabeth, and I just hit the following:
In July matters took a dramatic turn for the worse. Henry II of France was killed in a jousting accident. His son became king as Francis II and the fact that he was married to Mary Stuart meant that the crowns of England's closest potential enemies were united. It was part of their diplomatic stance that Mary was the rightful queen of England by virtue of her descent from Henry VIII's sister, Margaret, and they blatantly quartered the royal English arms with their own.

"Blatantly"? That's a bit rich, considering that the French fleur-de-lys was part of the English arms, and continued to be so until 1801. Not to mention the longstanding fraughtness of the relation between the English and Scottish crowns....

stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Seen on Twitter:
My therapist told me "Write letters to the people you hate, and then burn them." Did that, but now I don't know what to do with the letters.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
... I bothered to re-activate my phone? Since I did so, two messages have been left, both of them the "Final Warning from the IRS" scam. (Also, numerous calls-w/o-message from Unavailable and from a couple of solicitors - both of those organizations I have given money to but do not wish to talk to.)

Oh, well. When Fall Semester rolls around, it will be useful again.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
I may have made a mistake.

I grew bored with Skyrim not long before I bought my new computer. I contemplated Minecraft, for a change of pace, and Fallout IV, for another FPS. In the end, I bought neither.

Instead, I am now downloading Civilization VI. I enjoyed Civ IV a great deal; I think it was the best version to date. Civ V did not catch and hold my attention; I thought too much had been sacrificed from IV, in the interests of "simplification". What I've read about Civ VI, though, looks very attractive, and so... Steam is about halfway through the download.

I have a lot to do this summer. I can't afford to give too much time to gameplaying.

But surely I can give a little?
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
The story begins with a grooming appointment.

Gracie had already had her trip to the groomer, and it was Buster's turn. I picked up the phone and punched in the groomer's number. There was a dial tone, the familiar sequence of tones, and... nothing. I tried again. I got the number of another groomer; no good.

It occurred to me that I didn't remember receiving any phone calls for several days. (I get lots of phone calls. "CALL FROM UNAVAILABLE". Hey, buddy, if you're unavailable so am I.). I e-mailed my brother and asked him to call me, and to e-mail me if he couldn't get through. Sure enough....

I handled the grooming appointment by walking to the nearest groomer - a bit more expensive than my usual, but much closer - and making the appointment in person. (Buster looks much better; they even managed a semblance of a puppy-cut.) I also made a vet appointment (Gracie had picked up an ear infection) by giving the data to my brother and having him call the vet.

I don't really use the phone all that much, and I am still a champion-class procrastinator, so my efforts to resolve the situation were desultory. I fiddled with the phone; no dice. I downloaded the manual for the phone, but found nothing useful. I bought another phone and plugged it in to another jack; no luck. I made a mental note to, somehow, contact AT&T.

"I should call the plumber about the phone isn't working"
"I need to make another vet appointment the phone isn't working"

This morning, I finally figured out how to contact AT&T, initiating an online chat. After about half an hour, most of it consumed by the usual trivia, I was told that I had the wrong agent, and she would transfer me to someone who could help. We went through the trivia again, and I was eventually told that this was the wrong office, and I should call ###-###-####. I pointed out that this was impossible, and was given a URL instead.

I copy-pasted the URL to the address bar. I spent a few minutes ticking boxes and filling in forms, and was told that they could not process my ticket.

I returned to the page I'd been at before, clicked on a different button, and began another chat. After another round of trivia, the agent suggested that I reset the modem. (My phone was not, and never had been, connected to the modem, but wotthehell....) This, of course, broke the connection. I waited a few minutes for computer, router, and modem to make nice, and restarted the chat. New agent. More trivia. "Is the phone connected to the wall jack, or to the modem?" The wall jack. "Plug it into the modem." This I did, and voilĂ , I had a working phone again. I thanked the agent, gave him top marks on the Customer Satisfaction form, and disconnected. (I made another couple of tests to make sure all was well, and it was.)

I went over to my other phone, which was connected to a wall jack; its screen now says "Check phone line". I'm assuming that AT&T has cut off all of my wall jacks except for the one dedicated to the modem. Not sure I'm happy about that, but also not sure I care enough to kick up a fuss.

Gotta call the plumber tomorrow.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
After a bit of a hiatus, I'm back to reading Derek Wilson's A Brief History of the English Reformation. It's an interesting book and I'm learning a good deal, but once again I've stumbled over a careless assertion by Wilson.

He's just described the death of Mary I, and is clearly about to mention the epithet she has borne ever since. But he prefaces it with this comment:
Unlike some of their continental counterparts, the English are not much given to providing their monarchs with nicknames. Aethelred the Unready, Alfred the Great and John Lackland seem to be the only kings whose sobriquets have stuck[.]
Um. The Confessor? The Conqueror? The Lion-hearted? Longshanks? Crookback, even? If "Lackland" is in play, most or all of those should be.

I'm not going to criticize Wilson as a historian. He clearly knows far more about his subject than I ever will; but this sort of carelessness annoys me.


Jun. 18th, 2017 04:03 am
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
It's hard for me to come to grips with the fact that Babylon 5 ended its run eighteen years ago.

Since then, we've lost Garibaldi, Commander Sinclair, Dr. Franklin, Zack Allan, Ambassador G'Kar, all of Zathras... and now, Vir Cotto. Stephen Furst has died.

Vir was the most lovable of the cast, IMO - bumbling, earnest, clear-sighted, and when push came to shove remarkably effective as a force for good. Perhaps unique among the cast, he got his wish.

Ave atque vale.
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Don't mathematize here!
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
As an SF fan, I've heard a fair bit about Charles Fort. Heinlein mentions him, Spider Robinson mentions him, he's one of the high muckamucks of paranoid SF. When I found a copy of his Book of the Damned on Project Gutenberg, I downloaded it, and I finished reading it yesterday.

I was expecting, I dunno, maybe some Powers-quality secret history. Something entertaining, at least.

About a third of it was sophomoric bleating about the nature of knowledge, betraying a complete incomprehension of how science works. About a third was the recounting of various unusual events, mostly involving stuff falling from the sky. And about a third was wild-eyed hypothesizing, piled higher and deeper into something worthy of Madame Blavatsky or L. Ron Hubbard.

It was boring.

I think it's time for another Powers marathon.


stoutfellow: Joker (Default)

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