June 26

June 26th, 2019

Today is the date that they started the reign
Of that crazy King Richard the Third
We all know that ended quite badly indeed
For England and Richard the Third

Sometimes a leader is really insane
And sometimes is merely absurd
Alas, history is repeating again
And I think that it would be preferred

That rather than wait for a play to explain
The weirdness of what has occurred
This time we just skip all the heartache and pain
And dethrone our new Richard the Third

The meta-language of corporate campuses

June 25th, 2019

In the last two days I did whirlwind tour of both the Google SF and Facebook Menlo Park campuses. In both cases I met with really interesting and brilliant people, and had great conversations.

But also in both cases I observed an interesting similarity between the two campuses. The architecture of each was marked with a distinctive flavor.

Google has a kind of low-key “cool nerd” vibe. The message seems to be “we may be geeky, but we are cultured, and we appreciate good art and music.”

Facebook has more of a bro vibe. It’s architecture is a bit like your friend who likes to party more than you do.

Yet so many of the details — the cafeteria, the art on the walls, the mini-kitchens and little tips about work above the urinals — were eerily similar. I realize that there is a sort of meta-language of corporate campuses. Beyond the individual differences,
they are all of one species, and it is a fascinating species indeed.

Shades of meaning

June 24th, 2019

In my post yesterday I blocked out a particular word. It actually took me a while to work out exactly how to block it out.

I realized, in the process of experimentation, that different ways of blocking the same word convey different meanings. I am speaking not of denotative meanings, but rather of connotative meanings, which in some contexts are more important.

If you block out a █████ word, readers get interested. You are obviously trying to stop them from seeing something naughty.

If you block out a ◙◙◙◙◙ word, readers just get curious. Whatever could be going on behind those funny little circle things?

But if you block out a ░░░░░ word, readers understand that you are simply removing something unpleasant from polite conversation. Which was exactly my intent.

Such a scamp

June 23rd, 2019

Today I read this rather astounding account in the NY Times. I’ve redacted a name here and there:

WASHINGTON — President ░░░░░ on Sunday shrugged off the brutal dismembering of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, just days after a United Nations report described how a team of Saudi assassins called Mr. Khashoggi a “sacrificial animal” before his murder.

The U.N. report urged an F.B.I. investigation into the slaying. But in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. ░░░░░ said the episode had already been thoroughly investigated. He said the Middle East is “a vicious, hostile place” and noted that Saudi Arabia is an important trading partner with the United States.

My very first thought when I read this was: “Oh, that Adolf. Such a scamp. He does have his vicious little ways, doesn’t he? But hey, what can you do? Germany is an important trading partner with the United States.”

Cephalopod week

June 22nd, 2019

For those who may not be aware
Today is part of something rare
Rejoice if you’re a fellow geek
Yes, it’s cephalopod week

Those creatures living off our shores
With tentacles and leucophores
Their brains are largely in their feet
And all of them are really neat

An octopus or cuttlefish
Is strange as you could ever wish
A genius on the ocean floor
With arms that number eight or more

Their skin is like one large display
That changes many times a day
And best of all, oh let’s give praise,
The celebration lasts eight days!

They have cats

June 21st, 2019

I am staying with friends. They have cats. Six cats to be exact.

Each of their cats has a unique story, an entire history waiting for the telling. I have come to realize that when you visit friends who have cats, you become a participant in an ongoing saga.

This cat is nineteen years old, that one is as big around as a volley ball. Those two cats there are sisters who wandered in one day, deciding they needed to adopt some humans.

As I am sure you know, cats are imperious. They decide what they want and when they want it, and cat people make sure that they have it.

Sometimes I wonder whether the cats are simply biding their time, waiting for some universal signal, something tuned to a high pitch beyond the range of human hearing. And then they will take over, and we will never see it coming.

But then I realize that there are two reasons why this can never happen. One obvious reason is that the dogs are watching, ever vigilant.

They know all too well that the cats can strike at any moment. And for some reason the dogs are eternally loyal to us humans, unlike the cats. They are, I fear, our only line of defense.

But the other reason this can never happen is even more obvious. You see, the cats have already taken over.


June 20th, 2019

Destiny is a funny thing. Many people feel, deep in their soul, that they are here for a purpose. But one of the odd things about life is that it is generally left up to us to figure out what that purpose is.

If your life is a book, then your true purpose is an exercise left for the reader.

But what if you could pull back the curtain, take a peek, cheat just a little bit? Suppose that one day you got a glimpse of your actual reason for being here?

Would that knowledge increase your resolve to fulfill your Destiny? Would it give you a more confident step, or a tighter focus? Would it steel you to your purpose?

Or would it have the opposite effect? Would some persistent little voice within you whisper “Hey, wait a minute. Don’t I have a say in all this?”

And in that moment you might realize that there is a deeper truth: That your truest destiny is to do everything you can to defy Destiny.


June 19th, 2019

This week Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that our federal administration is putting people into concentration camps on our southern border, “where they are being brutalized with inhuman conditions and dying.”

House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney and other Republican lawmakers objected to her use of the term “concentration camps”, arguing that this term should be reserved for the Nazi death camps of WWII.

So I looked it all up, to find out what the real history was.

It turns out that the Nazis created about 20,000 concentration camps, as well as six death camps. In the concentration camps, prisoners were used as slave labor.

This sort of reminded me of the American internment camps for our own citizens in WWII. Many thousands of Americans, mostly United States citizens who had been born in the U.S. and had never lived anywhere else, were forcibly taken from their homes and thrown into camps. In some of those camps the prisoners were used as slave labor.

Basically, you were thrown into one of those American camps if you were an American citizen who was ethnically German or Italian. Your accomplishments or credentials as an individual didn’t matter. If your family roots happened to be German or Italian, you were out of luck.

Even if you had spent your entire life in the U.S., everyone knew that someone from a German or Italian American family could not possibly be a real American. Your house and property were conficated and and your entire family — men, women and children — were thrown into a prison camp for the duration of the war. To add to the fun, after the war ended you didn’t ever get your house or property back (in case you were wondering).

In his internal government communications, president Roosevelt referred to these American camps as “concentration camps”, and they did indeed exactly fit the current dictionary definition of “concentration camps” — as opposed to “death camps”, a term generally reserved for Auschwitz, Dauchau, and the four other places where the Nazis shipped large numbers of people specifically to be murdered.

And it turns out that the Americans who suffered through our own version of that experience much prefer the term “concentration camp” to describe what they and their families went through. Our government, understandably, prefers the gentler sounding term “internment camps”.

Speaking of terminology, in Liz Cheney’s objection to AOC’s use of the term “concentration camps”, she said that the people in the Nazi camps were “exterminated”.

As it happens, quite a few of my relatives in my grandparents’ generation were murdered in those Nazi camps, and I feel uncomfortable with Cheney calling what was done to them “extermination”. We are not cockroaches.

So yes, we Americans are once again keeping lots and lots of people — men, women and children, entire families — in concentration camps. It’s just something we do.

Oh sorry — one correction. Turns out that the American citizens thrown into the WWII American concentration camps were not ethnically German or Italian. My mistake.

Father’s day, extended again

June 18th, 2019

Why do humans walk vertically?
Because they can’t stand being horizontal.

Why don’t people understand how sound insulation works?
Because it is baffling.

Why were the almond and cashew locked away?
Because they were nuts.

Why didn’t the old car wheel work?
Because it was retired.

Why didn’t the injury cost anything?
Because it was treated.

Father’s day, extended

June 17th, 2019

Yesterday, as a way to amuse myself with a Father’s Day theme, I started to create dad jokes. I’m not proud of this, but I’m also not ashamed of it.

By now, a day later, I have built up nice little set of dad jokes. Some, admittedly, are very bad. But in their defense, the others are all worse.

I may be moved to reprint them here tomorrow. You are under no obligation to read that post.

Consider this fair warning. :-)