An inspiring story for the holiday season

I had a dream last night. Much like Martin Luther King, it involved some pretty fanciful things. So I thought I would share the details with you to see if it makes any sense to you.

It began in some sort of fairy tale land. I went past the candy cottage of hansel and grettel, and humpty dumpty falling off a wall, and ended up at a house with a low door. Stooping to enter, I recognised that it was the home of the seven dwarves from Snow White. In the corner sat Doc, who for some reason was not pleased to see me.

"What do you want here?" he shouted. I explained that I was just visiting for a while, and that I wouldn't stay long. He grudgingly accepted this, and I sat down in a chair that was too small for me. Then the other dwarves began to come in. Although they looked familiar, there was something amiss with them that I couldn't quite place. So I asked Doc what was going on.

First, there was a dwarf who seemed really pleased to be there. He came up and said hi to me, and bounced around and told jokes -- but the whole time there was a scowl on his face, like he was really upset about something. Who's that? I asked Doc -- Is he one of the seven dwarves? "You dweeb!" shouted Doc, "That's the Happy that never smiles!"

Then there came a dwarf who kept inhaling, and going a--a--a--a... aaahh. His face was read, and he kept leaning back with a hankerchief, ready to blow... but nothing came. Once again, I asked Doc what was going on, what was wrong with that one? "You berk!" he cried, "That's the Sneezy that never sneezes!".

Finally, in lurched another dwarf, who looked absolutely exhausted. I expected him to drop any moment, but instead he kept walking round and round the room, slowly taking step after step and never coming to a halt. But he kept yawning and sighing, as if he had been awake for days. Once more I turned to Doc. "What's up with his? Why doesn't he go to bed, or at least sit down for a bit?". Doc turned to me with a look of complete disgust at my stupidity. "You nork! It's the Sleepy that never sits!".


Evening all.

I'm writing this from in bed. (oops, almost typed "from in bex". that would have been misconstruable). I'm able to do this because I have got my wireless setup up and running. Thrilling, I know. Anyway, it would be really great, except that my laptop is still a bit old and knackered, so I still have to prop the thing up against a wall to stop the lid from falling over, but apart from that, it's pretty good.

Anyway, it's almost the end of the year. More importantly, I'm soon to head off back to the UK, and hence I won't be able to connect to this website to post updates (since it is based in the US). So expect long periods of silence. No one has yet come up with a good suggestion for how I should spend my new year, so I will do my best to make my own entertainment.

More search queries coming here looking for milkshake. I hope you are satisfied with the explanation that you find here. Ah. This reminds me of a little game that I like to play called,

Get your .dics out

Regular readers will know that I am very fond of what might be called "found" art. Although, that's probably the wrong phrase. What I mean is, text that is formed by some random process that forms interesting patterns. Such as the text that people use in search queries to get here. Or the passwords generated by AOL in their incessant mailings. (their recent adverts, while mildly amusing, makes no sense whatsoever).

Anyway, Get your .dics out is a game that anyone can play, if you regularly use a computer with microsoft products on it, and you are so anally retentive that you cannot stand to see those little wavy red lines under every word that you type. All you have to do is search your computer for a file called "CUSTOM.DIC", and then post it for the world to see. Here's mine:


It's up to you to work out how this file comes about, but just appreciate this list for its entertaining juxtapositions of the obsessions in my life: the "Willesdan wankers whiteboard whodunnit", for example. The exceptionally onomatapoeic, "Oi Ooo Ow ooo ou Pookie Presidente". Who are "Matt's Montford minuting munchkins"? What are Emma's Entertainments and how do they relate to the faffing freshers?

Fans of my oeuvre might like to see how many of my different works they can spot implicitly from the different bits of vocab in there.


Once again, Starship Troopers seems strangely prescient:

and the others enter A Company's perimeter. No one notices their arrival
because everyone's gathered in a big circle watching the Brain Bug.
CARMEN Look... they got it.
Several of its delicate legs were apparently broken during the capture.
Carl approaches it without fear, puts his hand on the thing.
GENERAL What's it thinking, Colonel ?
Carl smiles in a cruel way.
CARL It's afraid.
Cheers and shouts from the crowd.


A terrible thing has happened: I look at my logs, and I see that more people are coming here by ill-advised search queries than on purpose. Which is awful, since no one is supposed to be coming here at all. But anyway, the fact remains that search queries are outpacing "real" traffic by a factor of two to one. And a really quite stupid fraction of these are coming in based on the query "Kelis Milkshake (Radio Mix) lyrics" through Yahoo, which suggests that someone (probably yahoo themself) has hard-coded this search onto a web-page somewhere. I'm also getting a large number of queries of the form "kelis milkshake lyrics explanation" or "meaning of milkshake by kelis". So, in the interests of actually making sure that web searches do find the information that they are looking for, here is an explanation of the lyrics of Milkshake by Kelis. We'll do this line-by-line

my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard

Kelis here is making use of a technique known as metaphor. This is a device where what someone says is not literally what they mean, but meant to conjure up images and ideas associated with what is meant. Here, she is not literally making milkshake. Instead, "milkshake" is a metaphor for her sexual attractiveness, and "boys to the yard" means that many men approach her with the intention of trying to copulate with here.

and their like it's better then yours

Kelis is claiming that the men who wish to copulate with her find her more attractive than other women in general (it seems likely that although addressed in the second person, there is not a specific individual being addressed).

damn right it's better than your

Kelis is also of the opinion that she is fertile example of the female form, and highly worthy of the males' attempts to copulate with her.

i could teach you but i'd have to charge

Again, these lyrics are not to be taken literally: Kelis is not offering to give a short course in effective copulation and attraction. Instead, she is implying that anyone wishing to attain the same degree of attraction and desirability will have to make significant changes to their persona. "have to charge" is a way of saying, effectively, that although she could offer tips and pointers, she won't.

I know you want it, the thing that makes me, what the guys go crazy for.

Here, the metaphor is dropped and the direct meaning is made clear: other females are envious of her ability to make males want to copulate with her. And Kelis is well aware of the effect that this has on the males and on the females.

They lose their minds, the way i wind, i think its time

Note that this is wind, as in to dance provocatively, rather than wind in the sense of flatulence. That would not be attractive and would not make the males want to copulate with her. Instead, her dance moves are a form of mating ritual which whips up the males into a state of sexual frenzy.

i can see youre on it, you want me to teach the techniques that freaks these boys,
it can't be bought, just know, thieves get caught, watch if your smart,

Here, Kelis iterates that her attraction to males is innate, feral even. There is no way for those who lack these features to attain them through money, and attempts to imitate her mating dance will also fail.

Once you get involved, everyone will look this way-so,

In this verse, Kelis mellows somewhat towards her implicit interlocutor, and tries to give some explanation for how to to ensure that all the males want to copulate with her. She points out that she becomes the centre of attention.

you must maintain your charm, same time maintain your halo,
just get the perfect blend, plus what you have within,

Here, Kelis espouses a policy of embracing the Virgin-Whore dichotomy so renowned in twentieth century sexuality psychology, and inhabiting both roles: being sexually attractive (the "charm") whilst appearing virgo intacta ("maintain your halo"). She must maintain a balance between provocation and innocence. But, again, it comes back to innate qualities, that, if not posessed, cannot be simulated...

then next his eyes are squint, then he's picked up your scent,

... and in this case, those qualities seem to be a musk secreted by the female which indicates to the males that the female is on heat, fertile, and ready to be copulated with.

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
and they're like, its better than yours,
damn right its better than yours,
i can teach you, but i have to charge

So there we have it: Kelis' "milkshake", which brings all the boys to the yard, is a metaphor for her sexual pheromones, which she apparently secretes at a much greater intensity than is usual. And this is something that simply cannot be learned, or bought.

Now it's your turn. What do you think the lyrics of Candy by Kelis might mean? Use your imagination, and write on both sides of the paper.

(If you are not satisfied with this explanation, which I just made up because I was bored and for fuxake, if you can't figure out your own interpretation of lyrics without a search engine, then what's wrong with you, then why not try looking up Milkshake in the gloriously unexpurgated urbandictionary.com.)


I can't help noticing (and I really mean that, I simply cannot help it) that there appears to be a mistake in the lyrics of "Thriller". Here's the Vincent Price "rap" section that comes at the end:

Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y'awl's [sic. sic, sic, sic, sic, sic] neighborhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse's shell
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller

Look at the rhythm: dum de dum de dum de DUM, de dum de dum de dum de DUM
Now look at the last few lines. The rhyme scheme is all off: instead of couplets, it's just all over the place. But it looks like it's supposed to be ABAB. You can just about see that "shiver" could rhyme with "thriller" if you weren't paying attention, but what's with all this "alive / resist"? That just doesn't work. Now try the following:

And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can survive
The evil of the thriller

Doesn't that seem much better? And, although it changes the meaning of the ending, it still makes about as much sense, more or less, as the original. So what went wrong?


According to the enviable people at News Scan, "Mersenne primes are an especially rare breed that take the form of 2-to-the-power-of-P, where P is also a prime number".

Well, I suppose that's partly correct: primes of the form 2-to-the-power-of-P are somewhat rare. They aren't all that hard to find, though. See the whole article here.

I shouldn't complain too much. The normally reliable folks at Mathworld (sponsored by New Kind of Scientist, Stephen Wolfram Andhart), persist in claiming in their article on Prime Numbers, that "no efficient algorithms are known for factoring arbitrary primes". As it happens, I know a great algorithm for factoring arbitrary primes, which works about as fast as it is possible to work.

That had better be all for now.


Look, I'm not saying that Google's rankings are a bit dodgy, but there's got to be something a bit askew if this blog is the #4 hit on google for "thin pillows".

And it's very worrying that more people are searching for "milkshake" (25 queries) than for sex (1), nude (2) or even diggerworld (5).

More analysis of weblogs for weblogs later. Or perhaps never.
Now that I've finally got around to posting something new, I just wish I could remember what it was that I was going to witter on about. OK, I'll go to my current obsession.

I'm well know for my obsession with bubblegum pop teenage female double pop acts. I don't know what it is, but for some reason a lot of my favourite music is made by cheap disposable female duos: Shampoo, Daphne and Celeste, taTu, Britney Spears... the list goes on. Well, I now have a new name to add to this roster: Halcali!

Yes, Halcali: a pair of teenage japanese girl rappers who wear boiler suits, just like the Beastie Boys, so they must be real rappers. You can click around here and find some excellent clips (30 seconds or so) from their first album, Bacon (Japanese-style random picking of English words for added coolness!).

Highlights including Guri Guri Surfer Girl (track 3). Listen to the clip of Track 4 to hear the crazy background sample ("this is a recording"). Hear echoes of several classic rap tracks including "Hey you! The Rocksteady Crew" and something else (The Message? Rappers delight? Something by Len? Cross-reference also to the "Shoyu Weenie" episode of Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law if anyone else can pick up on these references) in Candy Hearts (track 6). Wonder if the whole operation is secretly under the control of the mysterious Svengali DJ Fumiya who seems to have credits on every track. Then hear the glory of Electric Sensei (track 11), and realise that you just don't care. To get some sense of what they are singing about, then check out the translation and transcription of the current single, Guri Guri Surfrider :

It's new style How High?
koukiatsu nante chiisai
senkou faiya- maru de daiya
moeagaru sama- su-pa-saiya
sokosoko ha-do ni norikonasu ha-tobi-to
mazu ippo ri-do ABC to the Z moshi mo
norikoeru kamo ne sama-taimu

How high indeed? The album is great, so rush out and buy a copy. If you can find anywhere that sells it, that is, because I can't.

I should give mad props, or at least slightly loopy supports to Adam and Joe, whose BBC3 endeavour Adam and Joe Go Tokyo put me onto this band. Thanks guys! I wonder what's on next?

Oh, Programme Name, my favourite!

Feel free to send the above in to NTK and claim it as your own, but please don't direct people to the copy on triv: it only has 128kbps upload, and a flash crowd would probably destroy it forever (or at least get me kicked off). Cheers. Coming soon: readers letters and all new crazy search terms. Or not. Probably not.


Concepts for which we need a word: the shaking, wiggling, banging set of motions that you use when your ball-based mouse is sticking, and so motions in space are not translating to the desired motion on the screen. With luck, this term will become obsolete as soon as we (which is to say I) get optical mice. Unless they have a whole new and innovative way in which to go wrong.
I think it's fair to say that only a computer scientist would write a 'makefile' in order to invoke latex to produce all their application letters for the jobs that they are applying to. I think it's also fair to say that there's no obvious reason why I have done this, since it probably doesn't save any time overall, and if anything complicates the process and makes it slower. But, you know, anything to avoid actually doing some work or having to think about something.

I noticed today that Frosties aren't called Frosties here, they are called "Frosted Flakes". I've been eating them for the past year, and I only just noticed that. What other vital facts have I been ignoring?


Evening all.

I should point out that after the exertions of yesterday, in which I not only went to Philadelphia and back in the falling snow, but also took a quick stop off in Princeton in sub-zero temperatures. I therefore think that I am quite justified in not having left the house today. Well, there is four inches of snow blocking my egress. So, I am quite happy to stay in and slump in front of SNL.

Anyway, in response to the recent posting by angel, whose new site design makes her look like a goth, and also makes me feel sad that I fall below the line: classified as a blogger that she doesn't know; not a member of the exclusive group of bloggers that she does know. Well, OK, so technically I am a fictional character who exists only to expound the half-arsed imaginings of a semi-anonymous author who refuses to admit that this is a blog, but my point remains... increasingly obscure.

Sorry, I appear to have left a sentence in mid-lurch. Where was I? Oh yes, the fragrant Angel muttered something about having Jehovah's Witnesses (I recommend pouring boiling water over them). What I found interesting was that the Witness began the conversation with the question "Do you think people concentrate too much on material things, especially at this time of year?" That's interesting, because it reminds me of the kind of thing that telemarketers usually say when they call me up in the morning and wake me up when I am quite reasonably sleeping in because I'm lazy. They often start with something that I call, for want of something more concise, "A question to which most reasonable people would be obliged to answer yes". I remember being woken by someone representing Mothers Against Drunk Driving (I'm still looking for a group that represents the interests of drunk drivers, who I have found seem to have no one looking out for them), who called up to ask me if I thought that it was increasinagly important to think of other people, "in these difficult times". My preference in these situations is to call them on this: when someone asks a question like this, just give them the answer that they weren't expecting. Hence: Q: Do you think people concentrate too much on material things, especially at this time of year? A: No.

The other option that I have heard advocated in these situations is to convert instantly, since they also aren't expecting that. When they ask if you have welcomed Jesus into your life respond that you hadn't before, but now that they mention it, yes, super, I believe! Anyway, this is someone else's idea, and quite likely someone whose blog I read, so I will let you fill in the remainder of the details yourself.

Meanwhile: in the interestes of being too lazy to send email to people, I'll just blog this instead. I will be flying to Engerland a couple of days before Christ's 2004th, and will remain there until Uncle Sam sees fit to renew my J-1, which is always a bit of a gamble. So I'm looking for things to do to celebrate the fact that I will be dating cheques wrongly for the subsequent few months. Usually my new year's eve celebrations go pretty badly. Last years celebreation at Chez Triv was a pleasant exception to this rule. (For those not familar with triv.org.uk, think of a slightly less sinister greenend but without the universally popular SSH client). So, I thought I would offer a never to be repeated deal: I can grace your UK-based New Year's Eve party.

Here's what I bring to the table: I will bring myself and my charming alter-egos to the venue of your soiree; I will also bring some quantity of alcohol and my own sleeping arrangements. Now, I know that I will be ingreat demand, so if you want my attendance, then please fill in and return this simple questionairre:

1. Where is the location of your party?
a) In London's fashionable England
b) In the people's republic of Cambridge
c) In Coventrycestershire

2. Which adjective best describes your intended party?
a) Tame
b) Tepid
c) Lukewarm
d) Insipid

3. How is your party most likely to finish?
a) At five past midnight, with everyone sighing "Oh, *finally*"
b) Gently petering out at 2am
c) As the sun rises, the party gently dies
d) The party will never end.

...anyway, more of this later, it's time for Weekend Update.

Mmm, Tina Fey. And she is. Fey, that is. Goodnight.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: applying for jobs is very boring and time consuming. Especially considering that I haven't actually applied for any yet. I'm still working on getting everything that I need ready so that I can do it all in one blast. More or less. So far I've got my CV and supporting materials in reasonable shape, and picked out the places that I'll be applying to. But I still need to notify my referees which places to send letters of (dis)recommendation to, and write a bunch of virtually identical cover letters but make subtle differences (like the name of the place I'm applying to) to each. So some more work to do yet.

So, in the meantime, here is my discovery of the week. Stop words are the words that are thrown out by search engines as being too frequent to be meaningful: words like "the", "and", "is" and so on. So that means that the longest phrase in the works of Shakespeare [allegedly, but plausibly] is "To be or not to be, that is the". Which means that searching for these words in most search engines fail to get anything very useful. Although, searching for anything in search engines these days usually fails to get anything useful. Oh well.

While I'm on the subject, a quick google search reveals surprisingly few hits for the phrase "The Ring of the Fellowship". So, anyone who needs a title for their blue movie set in a Cambridge college need look no further. (Actually, does anyone feel like attempting to start a rumour that such a film is being made? I can't be bothered myself).

Some quick "why not try"s while I'm in the mood:

Why not try... raising the stakes?
...lowering the bar?
...bowling for Columbine?
...exceeding expectations?
...freeing the Birmingham Six?
...having a coincidental meeting?
...foiling a dastardly plot?
...extracting more energy from a system than you put in?
...staying in bed?
...being wantonly obscure?
...being wilfully obscure?
...being Jude the obscure?
...recording a new answering machine message?
...censoring yourself?
...censoring someone else?
...listening to pop?
...splitting up?
...taking the piss?
...taking the pills?
...not trying?
...keeping a web-based diary of things that happen in your life and making it publically available so that the world can read about it?
...juggling too many balls?
...mixing your metaphors?
...thinking up new insults about Jamie Oliver?
...memorising train timetables?
...getting yourself up, dusting yourself up, and starting all over again?
...writing a chapter of a book on a topic that you know a lot about?
...stopping doing that?
...applying for a job?
...pausing for thought?
...pausing for breath?
...pausing to go to the toilet?
...getting married?
...having a nice cup of tea and a sit down?

Sorry, once I get started it's hard to stop. So I'll stop.


Let me tell you something: applying for jobs is incredibly tedious. You spend the whole day messing around with your CV, covering letters, stupid requirements from different employers, and at the end of the day (literally, I'm tired now) you're no further along thn when you started. And you have nothing of interest of meaning to blog about.

So thank goodness for crap lolly stick jokes: they give us something to grimace about. Although, this one is rather familar.

Q: What can of dog can jump higher than a house can?

(OK, the original set up wasn't quite like this, but I needed to correct the grammatical errors).

Ah, that's enough for today. I'm on Internet Explorer so let's see if it manages to screw this post up.


I recently watched the Avid Merrion video for "Proper Chrimbo" which, I had been assured by that arbiter of humour, Chris Moyles, was absolutely hilarious.

I don't get it. More to the point, I don't recognise most of the celebrities in the video, let alone the impressions of them by Merrion. Does this make me incredibly out of touch, or, in some bizarre sense, does it make me cool to be above this level of cheap regional celebrity?

(If you said, "Who's Avid Merrion?", then award yourself five points and a slap on the back).

Still, it seems that the alternative for the christmas number one is a cynical cover version of "Love is All Around", which is a plot point in a film written by the guy whose earilier film first propelled the last cover version of Love is All Around to the top of the charts. Is it me, or is that just stupidly self-referential?

Can I do the joke about how this Hugh Grant thing is wearing a bit thin? You know, about how it was believable that he would marry Andie McDowell, and then dump her for Julia Roberts, but that giving her up for Martine McCutcheon is stretching it a bit? Well, let's take it as read.

Lolly stick joke: What kind of horse never wins a race?
Answer on stick: A sawhorse.
I believe that a sawhorse is some kind of construction upon which you saw pieces of wood. The concept exists in the UK as a Black and Decker Workmate, so the joke doesn't work there:

What kind of horse never wins a race?
A Black and Decker Workmate.

See what I mean? Anyway, I suppose a translation of the joke into English would render the punchline as something like:
A Clothes Horse.

Which communicates the appropriate level of crap-punness required, I think. I think it wouldn't work in America, since they don't have clothes horses in the states -- after they have worn their clothes, they just throw them away and buy new ones. More lolly stick frolics to come.

To recover my lost work from last week, I think it went something like this:

Is there a word for deciding not to email someone, but to post the message that you would have sent in a blog because you know tha thy happen to read that blog? Anyway, that's what I'm about to do, for the benefit of one of my Ivy League Professor Readers.

If you like Zero 7, then you might also like... Royksopp, whose hit Eple you should have heard either in the background music of every single Television programme shown in 2002, or else in the Soulwax megamix 2ManyDJs just after Destiny's Child has been mixed seamlessly into Dolly Parton. You should also enjoy Lemon Jelly.

Zero 7 are also of interest for their patronage of the emerging art of machinima on the video for "In the Waiting Line". Put briefly, Machinima is animation done using the graphics engines of popular video games such as Quake or Unreal to render the thing. Although, it can't be all that hip given that Wired magazine did an article on it last year, and we all know what trailers of the scarifying edge that they are.

Anyway, that's the crux of what I had to say last week, although I preferred it the way I said it originally. Damn you, Internet Explorer! Damn you to Hull!

(thought: when faced with the smug little error box that pops up in Windows 98 when something crashes advising you that "if this behaviour persists, please contact the manufacturer", how many people have actually contacted Microsoft to complain? I tried complaining to Microsoft once about an entirely different issue, and it never did me any good).