A blog meant to represent, as most blogs do, extracts or excepts from day-to-day life.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Good thing I'm a pipe smoker

American ingenuity and trailer park wisdom have long told us that household items such as duct tape, super glue, JB Weld, and bubble gum hold unfathomable potential to fix anything. Well, now you can add one more such household item to that list: pipe cleaners.

I was driving home from Dallas today, about thirty miles from home, when my accelerator cable snapped, meaning the gas pedal fell to the floor, but the car wasn't going anywhere. I pushed the car into an empty lot at Mockingbird and I35, where I sat basically hopeless. I called my mechanic to consult, and he didn't have any ideas. "I don't even think duct tape can fix that one," he said. I've long referred to him as kind of a philosopher-mechanic.

Then I started thinking about my neighbor and fellow Beetle owner, who often talks about VW engineering and its foundation in WWII German military vehicles. The cars were basically engineered to be fixable on the battlefield. The engine, for example, can be removed and reinstalled in a matter of minutes. It's held onto the frame by four bolts (or in my case, three...). So I decided that it was time to stop thinking like a civilian and adopt a certain battlefield mentality. That's right, for the first time in my life--and, God, I hope the last--I started thinking like a Nazi. Pretending that bullets were flying past, I got busy.

I found a couple old, used pipe cleaners under the seat, bent back the broken end of the existing cable, and tied it back to the gas pedal with the pipe cleaners. That worked, and a lot better than any amount of duct tape could have.

I drove to my mechanic's house, where we installed a new cable. In one of his lucidly philosophic moments, he assured me that I was "gooder than shit" and sent me on my way.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Sorry, guys. I didn't, in fact, have comments enabled for non-bloggers. It's cool now, though. Anyone can make comments.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Inspring language

OK, I'm a grammar nerd. Grammar used to occupy most of my time; now it's just something I do for fun.

I just overheard two Italians talking to an American about the screwed-upness of the English language (a language that allows facile, on-the-fly construction of words like "screwed-upness").

"I always have trouble with H's," the Italiana said.

"I never know when an H supposed to be silent," she explained. "Like, sometimes it's silent and sometimes it's, like, you know, inspired."

She used the example of "hair" and "air," which isn't the best example. I'll cite for my readers "herb" (like in cooking) and "Herb" (the male forename).

Of course, what ma donna meant to say here was aspirated, rather than inspired, and to my ears the faux pas with regard to our slippery consonant was kidna funny.

And the subtle irony was not lost on me: while the two words--inspired and aspirated--have quite different meanings, they are closely related etymologically. Both words have to do with "breath," and I think the phonetic link between the disparate words is "aspired," as in "ma donna aspired to say her H's correctly." On the other hand, a native English speaker's H's are more or less, well, inspired.

By the way, if I remember right, Martha Stewart aspirates the begining of "herb" (as in the thing used in cooking), and I don't think she picked that up in prison. I think it marks a larger trend, the anglicization of American English. I notice a lot of cases where British language and grammar tend to sneak into American usage. A great example of this--but one that has nothing to do with H's--is the propensity for British punctuation in the formidable and very American Language Log. I think I can trace the British punctuation to U Penn linguist and Language Log contributor Mark Lieberman, who always puts end punctuation outside of end quotation marks. Of course, that's what they do across the pond. I love the blog but, Mark, WTF? Or as Mark himself might rather say, "WT *"?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Blog 2.0

In case my readers didn't get the memo, this is the era of Web 2.0. Blogs are an integral part of that era, and as such, they are intended to be collaborative. But my readers have not commented on my postings for some time now. So go ahead, let me know you're still reading: make comments. It'll make me happy. You don't even have to be a Blogger user to make comments.

Before I get back to my paper on the Long Tail, wayfinding, blogs, folksonomies, Web 2.0, the "architecture of participation," and, uh, information overload..., I'll give a preview of upcoming posts: in the next few days, expect an informative run-down of RFID, what it is, and why you should care. (No, I'm not saying it's the Mark of the Beast, but it is something we should pay attention to.) I've had this subject on my mind lately because I just dropped some major coin to have an RFID tag implanted in my forehead. Kidding. (get it? "on my mind"/"in my forehead")

Monday, October 16, 2006

Yeah, I heard it on NPR

I was in the KERA/NPR studio today, and the in-studio engineer, Gini, was talking to me and the senior engineer, Eric, about her dinner at Texas de Brazil over the weekend. "Did you have anything but meat?" Eric asked.

"Yeah, I had a little bit of salad, and I had some really good tabouli, too."

"Tabouli at a Brazilian restaurant?" Eric asked.

"Yeah, apparently Brazil has a pretty big Lebanese population," replied Gini.

"Actually," I said, "Brazil has the largest Lebanese population outside of Lebanon." Ohhh, snap. "Yeah, I heard that on...."

Yeah, I heard it on NPR. Oops. In fact, most of my small talk, erudition, and anything in between comes from things that I hear on NPR. It's amazing I'm able to say anything at all when I'm in that studio.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cracking jokes

I sure feel like an ass for cracking all those North Korea nuke jokes last night.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thanking the hosts

I sat down today to write a thank-you note to my friends who hosted a dinner and wine-tasting event last Friday at their beautiful and impeccably decorated historic home in Denton. Because I'm always at a loss for words when writing such notes, I consulted Emily Post's Etiquette.

Says Ms. Post:

"IN writing notes or letters, as in all other forms of social observance, the highest achievement is in giving the appearance of simplicity, naturalness and force.

"Those who use long periods of flowered prolixity and pretentious phrases--who write in complicated form with meaningless flourishes, do not make an impression of elegance and erudition upon their readers, but flaunt instead unmistakable evidence of vainglory and ignorance."

Sound advice, but she sets a bad example, if you ask me--like the pot calling the kettle black, to pull from the trite, overused aphorism. Nonetheless, I set out my finest imported French stationary with grape-cluster rèlief and gave my best attempt at 21st-century non-prolixity (and I sure hope that my hosts don't read this before the note reaches them):

"Dear Emily and Kevin, It was so thoughtful of you to invite me to your wine tasting and dinner last Friday. My palate got a much-needed workout, and I must say that never before has drinking wine out of paper sacks seemed so righteous. The whole event--and not just the prosciutto bread--truly made me want to slap my mother (adequate metaphor, indeed, Emily). --Gratefully, Sean"

Yup, I think I nailed that one. Surly Ms. Post would be proud.