First, I'm starting this at 11:11 on 11-10-10, which is 943 in binary (except in Europe where it's 10-11-10 11:11, or 751 decimal). This bit of randomness was brought to you by the letter "geek" and the number "nerd."
Now, my real post. Just last night I finished, after two and a half years, the 38 novels in Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, with I Shall Wear Midnight. Sir Terry is still alive and writing, but sadly he has a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's called posterior cortical atrophy, and may not be able to continue writing. I hope he's able to complete the three or four books he has going right now; he's optimistic as well; but I Shall Wear Midnight may be the last of the series.
Sir Terry started the novels in 1983. They have a noticeable evolution as he explored new ideas, and picked up some threads and dropped others. I enjoyed every one (some more than others). I might just have to start over from the beginning. Still, I hope to read Snuff and Raising Taxes in the next couple of years.
For no reason I can describe, on Monday night I absently browsed through aa.com thinking about being somewhere else. I didn't really have any specific destination in mind, other than one that didn't require changing planes (which, living in Chicago, and flying American Airlines, encompasses a lot of them). It turned out, there were frequent-flier miles seats available for this weekend to my second-favorite city in the world. Amazing. So, I have now arrived, a little fuzzy on the date and time, but quite pleased that for only a few frequent-flier miles and a bit of tax, I managed to get to another continent. And my new passport has lost its virginity.
The city welcomed me with a low, gray overcast, drizzle, and fog, which is very comforting. Of course, this is why there were last-minute seats available for award tickets: no one really wants to go come here in November except for us die-hards. (Today is, however, the fifth of November, a fun day to be here.)
This part of living in the 21st century amazes me.
However, one part doesn't. For $125 per night (cf. $300 for the local equivalent of a Marriott—or the Marriott, for that matter), I have found a hotel room that would fit neatly in my kitchen, containing a bed older than my grandmother and a chair appropriate for a midget. It has Wi-Fi, as just about every hotel in the modern (read: outside the U.S.) world does, but I expect I'll have to go to a café tomorrow to attend classes as our learning platform puts a bit of a strain on the Internet connection. Quoting Henny Youngman, "the room is so small even the mice are hunchbacked."
Meanwhile, I'm going to stay on Chicago time (even though it changes Sunday morning), which means it's time for a shower and some coffee. Then I'll head to the nearest grocery to buy a can of Raid....
I'm two away from finishing the most entertaining series of books I've ever read, the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I mention this because the one I finished yesterday, Making Money, contained two of the funniest lines I've ever read:
There is a time in a thoughtless man's life when his six-pack becomes a keg....
"One of my predecessors used to have people torn apart by wild tortoises. It was not a quick death.
In context, they're even funnier.
Doonesbury turned 40 today. NPR reports:
Created in the throes of '60s and '70s counterculture, Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury comic strip blurred the lines between comics and the editorial pages, and produced some of the most memorable cartoon characters ever sketched.
Trudeau developed Doonesbury around three foundational characters — everyman Mike Doonesbury, football quarterback B.D. and campus radical Mark Slackmeyer. They represented the center, the right, and the left, Trudeau says.
Six weeks after Doonesbury was first published on campus, Trudeau was offered what he calls an "out of the blue" syndication deal. "It's a ridiculous story, and it nauseates my children," Trudeau says, "that I would find my life's work six weeks into it."
The NPR article has a bunch of the most memorable strips following the copy.
Via reader AS, this has to be my favorite jack-o-lantern ever:
This is one of my favorites, from a road trip through Wisconsin in October 2003:
Aaron Sorkin responded to his critics on comedy writer Ken Levine's blog:
[B]elieve me, I get it. It's not hard to understand how bright women could be appalled by what they saw in the movie but you have to understand that that was the very specific world I was writing about. Women are both prizes and equals.
More generally, I was writing about a very angry and deeply misogynistic group of people. These aren't the cuddly nerds we made movies about in the '80s. They're very angry that the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback instead of the men (boys) who are running the universe right now. The women they surround themselves with aren't women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them).
The whole thing is worth a read, including Levine's introduction, from which I took the headline to this post.
Via Snopes, a clip from Jamie Oliver as he demonstrates to schoolchildren in Huntington, W.Va., where their chicken nuggets come from:
For the record, I eat tofu nuggets that are probably even more disgusting to some people, being made from all the leftover bits of soybeans.
A classmate sent me what turned out to be a hoax story claiming an activity that I will describe simply as a fun activity shared between a man and one other person can actually prevent breast cancer. Sadly, it can't, but apparently a component can do lots of other good things:
[Psychologists Gordon] Gallup and [Rebecca] Burch reasoned that certain chemicals in human semen, through vaginal absorption, affect female biology in such a way that women who have condomless sex literally start to smell different from those women who do not—or at least, their bodies emit the pheromones that “entrain” menstrual cycles among cohabitating women. (Their hunch was indeed borne out by reviewing the existing literature on menstrual synchrony.) But this happenstance discovery of asynchronous lesbians was just the tip of the semen iceberg for Gallup and Burch, who quickly discovered that, although much was known among biologists about basic semen chemistry, virtually nothing was known about precisely how these chemicals might influence female biology, behavior and psychology.
... In fact, semen has a very complicated chemical profile, containing over 50 different compounds (including hormones, neurotransmitters, endorphins and immunosupressants) each with a special function and occurring in different concentrations within the seminal plasma. Perhaps the most striking of these compounds is the bundle of mood-enhancing chemicals in semen. There is good in this goo. Such anxiolytic chemicals include, but are by no means limited to, cortisol (known to increase affection), estrone (which elevates mood), prolactin (a natural antidepressant), oxytocin (also elevates mood), thyrotropin-releasing hormone (another antidepressant), melatonin (a sleep-inducing agent) and even serotonin (perhaps the most well-known antidepressant neurotransmitter).
It's always fascinating to me the sorts of things that pop up in random reading.