Monday, May 28, 2007

Dracula Fiction

My first piece of fiction in ages: The Dark Of the Moon

Yes, it's a short-short, one joke piece. I know.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Virginia Smith has written a book called Clean:A History of Personal Hygene, yet for some reason Dr. ignaz Semmelweis gets only one line in the book.  ONE! LINE!  In her book review, Daily Telegraph writer Jemmy McCartney comments on this:

Dr Ignaz Semmelweis, the 19th-century Hungarian father of antiseptic, rates no more than a line, yet his is one of the great personal and public tragedies of medical history. Although his pioneering insistence on hand-washing virtually eliminated instances of labouring women dying from puerperal fever in his obstetrics ward, he was opposed and ridiculed by the Viennese medical establishment, and died in a madhouse.

Sing it, sister! More people should know about Ignaz Semmelweis.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What "Obvious" Attitudes Are Going to Die by 2050?

I'd like to ask everyone reading this to leave a comment, even if you're not the type to usually leave a comment. Spread the word to other people, too.

There's a scene in Woody Allen's movie Sleeper in which Woody, having come out of cryosuspension in 2173, asks for a health food breakfast of wheat germ, organic yogurt, and mashed yeast. The doctor recoils -- this is health food? What about hot fudge, red meat and cigarettes? She's told that in 1973 those foods had been thought of as unhealthy -- exactly the opposite of what they now know to be true.

For our purposes, let's pretend it's 2050. Your grandchildren are visiting you in the Post-Geriatric Life Extension Community in which you live, and you're torturing them by talking about "the old days". You mention some attitude, some way of thinking that everyone took for granted in the first few years of the 21st Century. The children recoil in horror! "Ewww, you old turtle-faced grand-unit," they say. "How could you people have believed that was true? No one thinks that way anymore!" You shrug your recalcified shoulders and say "We all believed it was true back then." They roll their eyes.

What do we "know" to be true in 2007 that will turn out to be completely false by 2050?

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What's inside What's Inside

High praise for my What's Inside series of articles for Wired.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell, Leading Religious Conservative, Dies at 73

Jerry Falwell, the fundamentalist preacher who founded the Moral Majority and helped bring the language and passions of religious conservatives into American politics, died today shortly after he was found unconscious in his office at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.. He was 73 years old.

The line to piss/ dance/ spit on his grave starts at the left.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Ignaz Semmelweis was mentioned in a Houston Chronicle article about Texas Senate Bill 288, which would make the nosocomial infection rates of every hospital in the state available to the public.

The relevant section:

It's been a long struggle. About 1840, Hungarian obstetrician Ignaz Semmelweis acted on a hunch and ordered his medical students to wash their hands with chlorinated lime before examining mothers-to-be.

The maternal death rate dropped from 12 percent to 1 percent within two years. His findings triggered such a backlash from colleagues that he resigned and eventually died, of a hospital-acquired infection, in a mental hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Whip It

Crack that whip!

Give the past the slip!

Step on a crack!

Break your momma's back!

When a problem comes along.

You must whip it.

Before the cream sits out too long.

You must whip it.

When something's going wrong.

You must whip it.

Now whip it.

Into shape.

Shape it up.

Get straight.

Go forward.

Move ahead

Try to detect it.

It's not too late.

To whip it.

Whip it good.

When a good time turns around.

You must whip it.

You will never live it down.

Unless you whip it.

No one gets their way.

Until they whip it.

I say whip it.

Whip it good.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

And it is mine!

What is my number??
What is my number that it is? Yes. Well, you may well ask what is my number.
And well you may. Yes, my word, you may well ask what it is, this number of mine. Well, this number, that I have, that is to say, which is
mine,... is mine.
My number, that I have, follows the lines that I am about to relate.
This number, which belongs to me, is as follows...
This is how it goes...
The next thing that I am about to say is my number.
My number is along the following lines...

51 D1 58 F6 8A 4A AF D3 14 E3 2A 90 2D 7F EB 70

And it's mine.
It's been a lot of fun, saying what my number is. And whose it is.
I have another number.
My number #2, which is the second number that I have.
This number is what I am about to say.
Which, with what I have said, are the two numbers that are mine and which belong to me.
My other number, which I posses the ownership of, which belongs to me:

6F 55 96 B3 50 82 11 20 5A 43 2E 24 CA AA 97 64

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Thoughts on the Republican debate, Part 2

Giuliani = Weasel. Not that we didn't know that, especially those of use who live in New York and remember him as Mayor from 1993 to 2001. But geez, what a weasel.

Why are the Republicans talking under a replica of Air Force One? Are they hallucinating that the spirit of Ronald Reagan now inhabits the airplane, and they are all under his wing?

Thoughts on the Republican debate, Part 1

Republicans are the Adjectival Party. Democrats say "We shouldn't have listened to the civilians; we should have listened to the generals." Repubicans say "We shouldn't have listened to the civilians wearing fancy suits and silk ties; we should have listened to the generals with mud and blood on their boots."

All the Republican candidates are Vietnam-aged -- that is, they all were of the right age to have served in the Vietnam war. So how come, when speaking of Iraq, they use terms like "battlefield"? Did they learn NOTHING from Vietnam?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The T-Mobile Ballade

My Sprint cellular contract was up, and I wanted a newer, fancier phone. After doing some research, on April 12 I ordered a new phone and service from T-mobile. I got a Samsung T619 camera phone, with video, bluetooth, and (I very specifically demanded) no text messaging. The T-Mobile representative said they'd ship my new phone right away.

A T-Mobile box arrived on April 16. I signed for it, brought it upstairs, opened the box and found -- no phone! Either T-Mobile had made a mistake and shipped an empty box to me (which was not very likely, and I didn't believe it), or, somewhere between the operator who took my order and the delivery person who gave me the box, someone stole the phone (a possibility I found much more plausible). The shipping box and the phone box appeared to be factory sealed, so my guess is that the phone never made it into the box.

Within three minutes of discovering that the box was empty, I was on the phone with T-Mobile. T-Mobile does not have a customer service department. It has a customer care department. Caring sounds so much nicer than servicing. The T-Mobile customer care representative sympathized with my plight, and assured me they'd overnight a replacement phone to me.

On April 18, when I called to see where the replacement phone was, the T-Mobile customer care representative assured me they'd overnight the replacement phone to me. Subsequent T-Mobile customer care representatives assured me the same thing on April 19, on April 20, on April 21, and on April 23 (I didn't expect a delivery on Sunday, April 22).

On April 24, when I paid my daily obeisance at the T-Mobile Shrine of Missing Phones, the T-Mobile customer care representative said that their records showed that I had accepted the phone back on April 16. I explained that I accepted a box, but that the phone that was supposed to be inside was not. The T-Mobile customer care representative all but accused me of stealing the phone they had sent the week before. Much shouting ensued. I asked how they "knew" I had stolen the phone. The T-Mobile customer care representative said they had indications that the phone was in use. I asked them why they hadn't disabled the phone as soon as I reported it AWOL on April 16. The T-Mobile customer care representative had no answer, but reminded me that they were conducting a FULL investigation into the whereabouts of the phone and that they would prosecute whoever had it, hint, hint. I told him the hell with it: if they couldn't get a phone to me nearly two weeks after I ordered one, I didn't want to do business with T-Mobile. I told the T-Mobile customer care representative to cancel my T-Mobile account entirely. He said he would.

On April 25, a T-Mobile customer care representative called to tell me that I was in the clear; they no longer regarded me as a suspect in the disappearance of my phone, and they had shipped a replacement phone to me that very afternoon. I told him I had canceled my T-Mobile account. The T-Mobile customer care representative said he had no record of that. He said that if I truly wanted to cancel my account, when the phone arrived I should tell the delivery person I refused to accept it.

On April 27, my neighbor called: she had accepted my new cell phone from the delivery person for me! As a favor. A neighborly gesture. I thanked her. I played with the new phone for a day without activating it. On Saturday the 28th (more than two weeks after I ordered the phone), I took the plunge and activated T-Mobile service on the replacement Samsung T619 phone. I transferred my old Sprint telephone number to my new phone, so that all my friends need never know my phone had changed.

On May 2, the new phone got flooded with text message spams. Hmmm, I thought I specified no text messaging? I called T-Mobile, and asked them to shut off text messaging to my phone. The first T-Mobile customer care representative said shutting off text messaging was a technological impossibility (it isn't). He suggested there was nothing I could do. The second T-Mobile customer care representative said shutting off text messaging was a technological impossibility (it isn't). She suggested I contact the spammers and tell them to stop spamming me (!!!). The third T-Mobile customer care representative said shutting off text messaging was a technological impossibility (it isn't). She suggested I change my phone number (!!!). The fourth T-Mobile customer care representative said shutting off text messaging was a technological impossibility (it isn't). He offered to give me 50 free text messages, which would expire in 90 days.

Insanity is popularly defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get different results. But I was not insane, because though I was calling the T-Mobile customer care number with near-obsessive intensity, I was getting different results each time. The fifth time I called a T-Mobile customer care representative, she told me that shutting off text messaging was a technological impossibility (it isn't), but so what -- her records showed that I used my phone to send a text message this morning.

I insisted that I hadn't sent any text messages -- I didn't even have text services on my phone. She said that didn't matter: her system showed a text message sent from my phone at 5:45 this morning. I told her that I haven't been awake at 5:45 AM in months, so I couldn't have sent a text message. She said her system report didn't lie. She could prove that the text message came from my phone number, and even my handset's serial number.

On a hunch, I asked her to read off the serial number of the phone that sent the text message. She did. I told her that was not the serial number of my cell phone. I read the serial number of my phone. She got flustered. She transferred me to tech support.

After an hour on the phone with the tech support guy, we figured out what must have happened. When I called to activate the second phone they sent, T-Mobile activated the first phone. With my phone number. Which someone used. When I called back later that day to complain that the phone in my hand hadn't been activated after 12 hours, the customer service rep then activated the second phone. With my phone number. Now they had a situation which is officially impossible: two cell phones with different serial numbers, sharing the same phone number. So, whoever had stolen my phone was making text messages on my number, and I was getting his responses on my phone.

The tech support guy cleared it all up. I hope.