Category Archives: Nonsense

While “nonsense” is an uncommon synonym of “gimcrackery,” I use the two differently. “Nonsense” is restricted to my fantastical weirdness. “Gimcrackery,” more often, documents my (more or less truthful) struggle with the world.


MIT wants your input?

Why the hell would they care about your input? Where is your input when alcohol mixed with driving kills a person in the United States every 53 minutes? Where is your input when you calculate the CDC-given figure and realize this amounts to 10,000 deaths per year? We are paying a human tax of 10,000 people per year because drunk drivers do not want and do not accept your input on “who ought to die.”

Are you, oh prideful sack of flesh, taught properly in your high school driver’s ed class on “who ought to die?” Have you ever thought about that? Has it ever come into play in a real-life situation, where the driver behind the wheel had the power to decide who lived and who died? And who was ever faulted for the decision in a true Kobayashi Maru?

This is beyond asinine. There is no issue. Simply have the autonomous car give its best effort. After all, since when have humans done any better?

The prince surely dies

A.S.E. left the ending ambiguous; the disappearing body of the prince suggests that some magic beyond adult understanding was at work, and that the little prince made it home safe and sound to his rose. I have seen discussion that “since the rest of the book was a fantastical fable, why should this bit be taken literally?”

  1. Did his flock of interplanetary migratory birds suddenly decide to not pick him up? In the first place, how the heck did he hitchhike off of them? Why would snakebite be any faster than candlelight? I think the implication is that he was marooned in the desert with nowhere to go – such is the case with the narrator, too, who does not end up in the desert by choice, and only escapes out of some lucky turn (we know that he almost dies of thirst before finding the well a week into the story). The prince was invulnerable to thirst, but he was wholly unable to transit independently between planets. Faced with the prospect of living forever removed from his beloved home, he chooses death.
  2. Why was the prince scared? Surely zipping home via snakebite is a lot less risky than flying through the hazards of outer space borne by a flock of birds. If the snakebite would just send him home, why was there any risk to the narrator? At worst he finds himself on the prince’s planet, and would have to find his way to earth as the prince did initially. No, the worst case is not a sudden comical detour to the prince’s home; the fear is that the worst case is death by a treacherous snake.

I would explain away the missing body as the narrator becoming disoriented or an overnight sandstorm obscuring the view.

The belief that he is actually home safe and sound is merely a nicety – a pretense used in a vain attempt to curtail the narrator’s sorrow at his passing, not so unlike the lie we repeat to ourselves that the deceased are “in a better place.”



149: And in the newest trashy crossover…

After sis called me about moving (I think around 9 AM) I was pretty groggy and unable to leave bed. I fell into a shallow sleep.

I was the silly secret sidekick of Andrew Scott, who now found himself under arrest. To the policemen who had cuffed him, I was some nosy passerby in a hoodie with a penchant for mouthing off to the authorities. I waved a few grapes at them and ate with great gusto. Delicious, sweet vitamin C. I juggled some and kept talking pretty quickly, waffling over their limp attempts to shoo me away. I spritzed everyone liberally with grape juice just by squeezing a single grape – and it kept dispensing juice, over and over and over. It never seemed to deflate.

An unnamed officer finally lost his temper and made to confiscate this dangerous weapon. I feigned handing it over when my fingers “slipped” – the grape snapped improbably up my sleeve and rolled into my jacket pocket; the gawking officers were too busy being misdirected by my now-empty left hand to notice my waiting right hand receiving the grape. Andrew rolled his eyes in that languid, evil-genius way that he had cultivated for Sherlock.

I “conjured” the grape into my right hand and gave everyone one last liberal spritz. The fuming officers were on the verge of arresting me when Andrew stood straight. “Right,” he said, “I’m out.” The courtesy handkerchief slipped off his wrists to reveal that they were no longer cuffed.

Foxtrot foxtrot sierra

There was talk for a while, but that went away quickly when everyone saw how compatible those two were. Their sickeningly sugary chemistry sank into the collective consciousness of Satoru’s circle (Airi’s gossiped a while longer) and no more was said about the age difference.

Their marriage was a stable and happy one. Airi wanted very much to take the Fujinuma name, while Satoru pushed back with how prettily “Katagiri” rolled off the tongue. He attracted some knowing looks from his assistants the next day, wearing a stiff collared shirt that did not fully obscure a red crescent on his neck. Airi took the Fujinuma name and that was the end of it.

142: Without malice, but also without sympathy

Let me try to summarize this in a short recast scenario.

Quoted below for posterity:

I’m a professional pianist who has been playing for 12+ years. I play entirely by ear and often learn new songs using just my knowledge of basic chord structures or sometimes a YouTube tutorial. I learned how to play a couple of Beethoven pieces using video tutorials and recently have gotten very interested in learning a piece by Chopin. For anyone who’s every played anything by him, you know the trickiest part is mastering his use of rubato (the free-form style that disregards both rhythm and tempo). Since I play by ear I depend greatly on the rhythm to guide my playing and movement…so I’m having a lot of difficulty wrapping my head around Chopin’s technique.

Any advice on how to master the Master’s music?

Btw, I’ve been trying to learn Nocturne Op. 9 No. 1 for almost a year now and still can only play the first 4 bars or so:(

A young man enters a party for financial enthusiasts. There are only two rules: you must enjoy something financial and you must not misrepresent yourself. If you don’t particularly enjoy or deal in finance, why be there? If you’re Bernie Madoff, the door is over there. The rest is up to basic decency, like “don’t be contrary.”

The people already at the party welcome him warmly. Always good to have new faces, new opinions, etc etc. His opening line: “Hi everyone, I’m a self-made rich rich person, and I need some help making ten dollars, can you help me? By the way, I’ve been rich rich rich for twelve years; I’m a really canny investor.”

The stunned reaction radiates outward, and for a moment nobody knows how to react. As the dust settles, a lot of people try to ignore the unfortunately misguided partygoer trying to run before walking.

“I know all about the yield curve and how to read it, I just need to know what an ‘interest rate’ is.”

Okay, this person is becoming a little harder to ignore.

“I’ve been trying to make these ten dollars for a year now, and all I’ve got are these five quarters I found by chance.”

At some point you throw in the towel and show this hapless young man the door, kindly suggesting a textbook and maybe a financial advisor. He becomes belligerent and insists (politely) that he is a rich and successful investor, and he doesn’t understand all the hubbub about learning about silly things like “interest rates” when he already has such an advanced grasp on things like “yield curves.”

Naturally, this imposter is impinging upon the house rules that govern this party: it is quickly becoming clear that he has rather a distorted view of what constitutes an “enthusiast,” much less a “rich and successful investor;” yet he insists on comparing himself readily to all present, putting himself on the same (or a higher) level than many of those present.

The bouncers are called, and the young man leaves in a hurry, though not without some slightly put-out words.

NOTE: I believe this poster is female, but I feel like the story sounds really nasty when I cast it in feminine form.

135: Comatose

I finally accrued enough credit on Google Play to purchase HJ Lim’s recording of 30 Beethoven Sonata ($9.49). I pulled it up in VLC to give its metadata a cursory look-over, and I was horrifying. The birdbrain in charge of typing this up had bungled it royally – typos and inconsistencies (album-wide, but more seriously, sometimes within the same sonata) plagued the 98-piece traversal.

Because Google Play (like every sensible digital music vendor) sells everything in MP3, I couldn’t use my own tagging tool (naklo, which I unwisely and unportably tied to metaflac) to fix the problem. In fact, I have never before encountered such a huge set of MP3s to be batchwise tagged. Ex Falso could do the job, but the per-song overhead (because I’m inept and can’t navigate simple GUIs at all) was far, far too high. I needed some way to see all the titles (at the least, the per-sonata titles two/three/four at a time) at once, like the model I follow to use naklo.


mid3v2 came to my rescue. As of Fedora 23 it comes bundled with Mutagen – so it had been living quietly and anonymously on my system (Quod Libet and Ex Falso both pull in Mutagen) for a few years now. First things first – less a few modifications (including a typo and a really serious numbering anomaly), I exported the virgin tags straight into backup files.

for f in *.mp3; do mid3v2 -l “$f” > “$f”.tags; done

So each MP3 file yields up its ID3 tags into a file of the same name, plus a “.tags” extension I tack on. Then I collected all the titles in one single file to streamline the fascist homogenization process. “-h” suppresses the filename prepended to the match, and “TIT2” is the ID3 tag for “title.”

grep -h “TIT2” ./*.tags > itles

(It is my convention to call the control file “ontrol” and the titles file “itles” so I can run “naklo -c ontrol -t itles…” it’s a cute way of making the typing fall under my fingers.)

The dark descent

So all the titles now lived in the single file “itles.” I inhaled gently.

vi ./itles

My inner librarian withered. I was diminished by the incontinence of this imbecile – I’ll call him “Hal” from now on – and how badly he had ruined the tagging on this box set.

The first in the cycle, the “Hammerklavier,” was given as “No.29 in Bb Opus 106.” (The first half of the box set roughly followed in this vein.) The last in the cycle, the jazzy no. 32, was tagged “No. 32 in C Minor, Op.111.” The space between “No.” and the number mysteriously slid over to separate the “Opus” from its number, the comma evaporated entirely, and “Opus” truncated itself to “Op.”

The strangest thing was watching Hal try to decide whether to use “Bb” or “B flat.” In fact, the “Moonlight” sonata suffered from this bizarre splinching:

TIT2=Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, Op.27 No.2 ‘Moonlight’: I. Adagio sostenuto
TIT2=Sonata No.14 in C# minor Opus 27 No.2 “Moonlight”: II. Allegretto
TIT2=Sonata No.14 in C# minor Opus 27 No.2 “Moonlight”: III. Presto agitato

and the remaining actually followed in the explicit “flat / sharp” manner.

The “Moonlight” editorial actually floats up another breakage: I consider single quotes sacred, so I avoid their use unless I want something written verbatim for bash. The split between double-quoted subtitles (“Hammerklavier”) and single-quoted ones (‘Pathetique’) was again roughly split half-and-half, former and latter halves.

Hal induced a rather special seizure in the “Waldstein:”

TIT2=Sonata No.21 in C Opus 53 “Waldstein”: I. Allegro con brio
TIT2=Sonata No.21 in C Opus 53 “Waldstein”: II. Introduzione: Adagio molto
TIT2=Piano Sonata No.21 in C Major, Op. 53 ‘Waldstein’: III. Rondo: Allegretto moderato – Prestissimo

The third movement was alone in the 98 pieces to have the “major” modifier stated explicitly, while the other 97 followed the “C [full stop] <-> A minor” convention.

“Jelly babies to manual”

The corner cases of the “Moonlight” and “Waldstein” were tweaked manually – there was no sense in writing generalized procedures to fix these singleton problems. The rest was justifiably automated.

All solutions provided in vim.

“Bb -> B flat” was easy:

:%s/ \([A-G]\)b / \1 Flat /g

Spacing issues are hardly worth mentioning:

:%s/ No. / No./

:%s/ Opus / Op./

Commas out:


Single-to-double quotes was a little tricky. Single-quoted subtitles should be changed to double-quoted ones, but single quotes afterward (“L’absence”) should be left alone:

:%s/ ‘\([^’]\+\)’/ “\1″/

As it turns out this consideration was stupid on my part – I should have gone straight for


and manually rolled back exceptions, because “Les Adieux” was the only title to actually feature a dangling single quote outside of its subtitle.

Tagging it all together

The single non-baby step was actually writing the tags back to the files. I tore all the current ID3 tags out and cobbled up a bash script, titled “” It should mostly be self-explanatory, save the lonely sed usage (to trim some trailing whitespace on the track numbers). The disc subtitles were lifted from thumbing through the individual album (HJ also released all the sonatas across four double-decker sets) covers on AllMusic.

I’m happy to say that I didn’t go the way of Hal on a bash script this elementary – with very few tweaks the whole thing ran fairly beautifully and produced the results I desired. Notice I entirely left out album, artist, and composer tags – I assumed the per-file overhead was not so high to dominate the operation, so I thought it prudent to restrict the script’s operation to only the things that I couldn’t do immediately through Ex Falso (and it does just fine in applying a single constant tag to a lot of files).

The final result is a far cry from Hal’s horrible hodgepodge that I can listen to without much guilt.


138: Rigging running homework makes

“vi hw1.tex” is 10 keypresses; you can shave 1 off if you tab-complete after the “t” in “.tex.” “pdflatex hw1.tex” is 4 + 1 + 3 + 1 (“pdfl” + tab + “hw1” + tab) = 9 keypresses.

Suppose you substituted “make edit” for “vi hw1.tex” and “make compile” for “pdflatex hw1.tex.” You don’t save substantially on keystrokes, even with tab completion in play. However, in automating things, I prize mindlessness over brevity. If my brain poops out and I forgot that I’m working on homework 2, the irritation overhead invoked in having to watch vim pour the source file across the screen and having to quite and then vim homework 1 is substantial.

I’m a clumsy person. With leftovers in my right hand and garbage in my left, I have to think very carefully when I walk up to the bin to avoid strolling home with garbage in hand. Therefore, as a general rule, I prefer automated mindlessness over potential brevity. Chances are, I can script any actions I would take on this week’s homework better than I could expend idle brainpower making sure I act on the correct set of files.

The methodology is so simple that it’s laughable – I’m amazed I didn’t think of this in past years. In my homework folder I have a template file in LaTeX with all the boilerplate already in place. When I want to start on a new assignment – let’s say it’s homework no. 13 – I do:

cp -nv ./template.tex ./hw13.tex

and as a handy side effect, that file is now the most recently modified LaTeX file in the directory.

The magic follows – if I want to edit it, I can

make edit

and if I want to compile it, I can

make compile

… for which “compile” is actually the default target.

The top of the makefile makes everything clear:

TARGET_SRC=$(shell ls -t *.tex | head -n 1)
TARGET_PDF=$(shell ls -t *.pdf | head -n 1)

This is evil; I’m sure of it. However, my files are (almost) never named with anything but alphanumerics, underscores, and dashes – so this hack works just fine for me.

I have previously dabbled in writing external (Perl) scripts for the make process to call. I was halfway through writing a new one for this term’s assignments when I realized I could make shell calls in Make. This setup is overall quite compact and extraordinarily easy to use.

A note: “pview” is a convenience script that backgrounds my PDF viewer (zathura as of today) so that Make can return without waiting for me to close the viewer:

zathura "$@" > /dev/null 2>&1 &

It’s enormously useful shorthand for launching my PDF reader straight out of the terminal.


134: What If “The Lion King” Sourced More Heavily From “Hamlet?”

MUFASA: I am thy father’s spirit … if thou didst ever thy dear father love –

SIMBA: Oh God!

MUFASA: Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

SIMBA: Murder!

MUFASA: Let not the royal cave of Pride Rock be a couch for luxury and damned incest … Adieu, adieu! Simba, remember me.

SIMBA: So be it!

TIMON: Hillo, ho, ho, Simba!

SIMBA: I loved you not.

NALA: I was the more deceived.

SIMBA: Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? …

SARABI: What wilt thou do? thou wilt not murder me? Help, help, ho!

ZAZU: What, ho! help, help, help!

SIMBA: How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!

[SIMBA pounces behind the rocks where ZAZU is concealed. Muffled screams from ZAZU. A spray of feathers. Silence. Beat.]

ZAZU: Oh, I am slain!

SARABI: Oh me, what hast thou done?

SIMBA: Nay, I know not: is it Scar?