Archive for April, 2014

Dear Internet

Dear Internet,
My prescriptions have been filled,
and I really do not want my blood pressure killed
if it means my blood’s not flowing ’cause my beating heart was stilled.

Dear Internet,
I’m a person like me;
I am not a Doctor Who, or a colour or a tree,
and regurgitated multi-choice is not psychology.

Dear Internet,
Radium was discovered by a mum,
but it isn’t the parenthood that proves it’s not dumb,
It’s this one weird trick called a Nobel Prize, and repeatable experiments on what to do with some.

Dear Internet,
As long as finite life’s a haz-
ard, doing fifty things that you say everyone has
(or must before they die) is nuts, to justify the thing that I identify as.

Dear Internet,
Your trick will not burn fat,
and the reason the doctors will hate you for that
is it’s useless at best, deadly at worst, but the dough that you make would cheer up grumpy cat.

Dear Internet,
I like Tim Berners-Lee too,
but that ‘vague, but exciting’ wasn’t ‘OMG you
MUST see this, and simply will not BELIEVE
the AMAZING pile of who-knows-what this headline links to!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!’

Dear Internet,
my penis is fine;
to be honest, I don’t even think that it’s mine.
In any case, I won’t call you if ever my vaginal mesh can’t keep it in line.

Dear User,
I swear it isn’t me;
I follow your instructions and I do it perfectly.
I serve your spam and lists and ads and awful poetry.
So think before you link to things you did not want to see.

I still haven’t written so much as a full draft of the short story I need to write, so I may as well get back on the NaPoWriMo horse momentarily. This probably won’t age well, as it’s based on ads and spam and web pages I see a lot of now, which will hopefully not last. The ‘vague, but exciting’ refers to the response to Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal that led to the worldwide web.

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Why didn’t GlaDOS tell lies?

Where did your life go so wrong?
Why was that test not surveilled?
Why not preserve your cube long?

Who wants a slice of this cake?
Why should enriching tests end?
Why must you go the wrong way?

What is that useless eyed head?
Why kill a harmless AI?
Why don’t you have any friends?

How are they all still alive?

I haven’t been feeling inspired enough to sculpt many poems from scratch, but with enough constraints, all I have to do is inject word goo into the mould and make sure it gets into all the corners. So the other day I looked up the last three optional prompts on the NaPoWriMo blog, and followed them all: ten lines of lies, all questions, in terza rima. The mould was a little too narrow to get goo through in places, so I relaxed the last constraint to some pretty loose terza assonanza.

Of course, the first thing I thought of when I saw the lying prompt was GlaDOS (and the promised cake) from the game Portal. Most of these questions are based on things GlaDOS said during the original Portal game, approximately in order. If you haven’t played Portal, or at least heard the song ‘Still Alive‘ which Jonathan Coulton wrote for the end credits (which, by the way, my old Mac once covered), it might not make a lot of sense. Show it to a friend who has played and see how they react to it.

An alternate ending, which doesn’t end with the phrase ‘still alive’, is:

What is that useless eyed head?
Why would you kill harmless me?
Why don’t you have any friends?

What will you do now you’re free?

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Unintentional Haiku from New Scientist, on Self, Sleep, and Death

Following on from the posts on reality, existence, and God and consciousness, life, and time, here are the unintentional haiku that Haiku Detector found in the last three sections of New Scientist’s special issue with the ‘big questions’: the self, sleep, and death. The ‘self’ section has a haiku in an image caption:

The self may be a
necessary illusion
(Image: Darren Hopes)

I suppose it could make sense if somebody named Darren hopes that the self is an image:

The self may be a
necessary illusion
(image, Darren hopes)

The others are from the main text:

But we surely still
have the same self today that
we had yesterday.

For most people, most
of the time, the sense of self
is seamless and whole.

These ones are about sleep, perchance about dreaming:

Our emotional
undercurrents seem to be
the guiding force here.

This one requires ‘2008’ to be pronouned ‘two thousand eight’, not ‘two thousand and eight’:

In 2008,
hints emerged that these might be
the deeper stages.

The fountain of youth
may have been as close as our
bedrooms all along.

So it’s puzzling that
we still don’t really know why
it is that we sleep.

And finally, one on the final sleep, death:

When the risk is slight,
mild concern may be all that
is appropriate.

That’s all from that special issue of New Scientist, though the latest issue is dedicated to Shakespeare, so I hope to find some poetry in it. If there’s anything else you’d like me to mine for haiku, let me know!

While I was writing a poem a day, there would be times when I’d just feel like writing prose, for a break. I was hoping that this prose pressure would build up and I’d write something amazing when NaPoWriMo ended. Now that I’m trying to prioritise writing a short story for a competition, poems are trying to force their way out. So I still could manage 30 poems in 30 days, but I’m not going to pressure myself to post them by each midnight, and I won’t feel bad about posting found haiku when I don’t have a poem ready.

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Unintentional Haiku in Time Cube

I’m not sure if I’ll keep up the daily poems for NaPoWriMo for the rest of the month, because I remembered that the deadline for a short story contest I plan to enter is also at the end of the month, so I’ll need time to write something for that. But today’s What If reminded me of the hilariously incoherent ‘Time Cube‘ website, and I wondered if there were any unintentional haiku in it. I ran Haiku Detector on it, and I found these ones on the first page:

I have so much to
teach you, but you ignore me
you evil asses.

Humans ignore their
4 corner stages of life

All 4/24
hour days occur within
1 Earth rotation.

I have created
simultaneous 4 day
rotation of Earth.

Your God claimed to have
created a single day
rotation of Earth.

educated humans are
not intelligent.

I like the first one best. I hadn’t read this far before, but it turns out the second page has some weird statements supporting racial segregation on it, so if you’re likely to be bothered by ridiculous-sounding racist statements by a crackpot, read no further.

Read the rest of this entry »

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When my friend Hugo read Love/Sick, he said it was wonderful.

I’m not very good at taking compliments, so I responded that I’d write a parody of it called Wonder/Fool. He seemed enthusiastic about the idea:

so here it is.

When you first read my blog,
you thought it sounded really smart.
You said you had good taste, and it was yummy.
It gave a beating to your brain
and matched the beating of your heart.
Is it good?
Or are you just a dummy?

My poems were a gateway
to a state of simple bliss.
You said you read and re-read every line.
You couldn’t think of any work
that measured up to this.
Is it good?
Or is it cognitive decline?

When you read my forceful prose,
you cracked right up and had a fit,
abruptly laughed and cried yourself to pieces.
It had you rolling on the floor;
you may have peed yourself a bit.
Is it good?
Or do you get gelastic seizures?

When you first read this stanza,
you were quite beside yourself.
You found this weird recursion really hoopy,
said it put Hofstadter to shame,
and took his books all of your shelf.
Is it good?
Or are you strangely loopy?

To celebrate my work,
you drove a circus through my home.
You said my zeepding fluvacque was meticulous.
You gave me crowns and laurels
made of chopsticks and pink foam.
Is it good?
Or are you just ridiculous?

My œuvre gave you visions;
you heard a choir of angels sing.
You laughed so hard your aura’s glow became unclear.
Your quantum-astral psychics
said I’d be the next big thing.
Is it good?
Of course! The author’s the only sane one here.

I usually look up the nonsense phrases I invent to make sure they don’t mean anything I don’t want them to. I’m not surprised that people are already peddling quantum-astral things, though I kept that particular combination of quackery buzzwords because both look like words that would go before ‘physics’ rather than ‘psychics’.

What surprised me is that zeepding apparently means something in Dutch, which is commonly associated with snot. My Dutch dictionaries only have zeep (soap) and ding (thing) separately, but I’m going to guess that zeepding is a way of saying ‘bubble’ when referring to snot bubbles. I think I’ll keep that word in there.

In case you’re wondering, strange loops are something Douglas Hofstadter talks about in his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which I recommend, along with his later books Le Ton beau de Marot and I Am a Strange Loop.

I’m quite happy to have worked the word ‘gelastic‘ into a poem, since it’s where part of the name ‘Angelastic’ came from.

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Love by the River

« Je rêve de toi », said the banner
held up proudly by a bridge.
I’d understand a man, or
woman, lapdog at a smidge,
but how could I be dreamed of by a bridge?

I went to look, heart a-patter,
unaccustomed to such dates.
‘Twas fun to stand upon it,
sole to sol, perhaps soul mates,
but where can bridges even go on dates?

We met again, in our manner
and I too began to dream:
sleep under, and perhaps we’d
someday bridge our own wee stream.
But were there troubled waters in this dream?

« Je rêve de toi », said the banner,
until one day it was gone.
I understand I crossed it,
and I’d best be moving on.
But can I burn my bridges when I’m gone?

Last time I was in Geneva, I saw a bridge with a banner on it saying « Je rêve de toi » (“I dream of you”) I started thinking about what would happen if somebody simply accepted that the bridge indeed dreamed of them, and I jotted down the first few lines. I found them this evening when I realised I hadn’t started writing a poem for NaPoWriMo yet. The poem doesn’t exactly make sense, but I think it’s sort of pretty and sweet anyway, if I’m allowed to say that about something that I forced out of my own head. Sol in French means ground or floor; I tried to find an English word of similar meaning derived from it, but the best I could do was ‘soleplate’, which does have the advantage of rhyming with ‘soul mate’, but is further from being accurate.

I’m looking for a more punny title in French or English involving bridges or rivers and love, but I haven’t found one I like yet.

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See Their Fuss, Memorising: A Mnemonic for German Articles, With Gender and Case

In German the nouns have three categories,
referred to as ‘genders’ but that’s just linguistics.
While often sex tells a word’s gender with ease,
to learn all the rest, I present some heuristics.

Each gender has articles (like ‘a’ or ‘the’.)
Each ‘a’ starts with ein and each ‘the’ starts with d.
Each stanza gives one, but they’ll sometimes entwine;
you’ll note that the ‘the’ word will rhyme with each line.
First let’s consider the nominative,
when the noun does an action: ‘that is’, and ‘I live’.

For neutral nouns, ‘a’ is just ein, and ‘the”s das.
The line through the middle, not minus or plus.
So anything ending in -mittel is thus,
and anything ending in -lein, too, you suss?
And metals, and other -um words ride this bus,
Colours and -at words are in this noun class,
and one more wee suffix we’ll shortly discuss.

For ‘feminine’ nouns you use eine or die.
Most female people are -in this group, see?
Though young girls are neutral, that won’t confuse us;
It’s Mädchen, and all of the -chen nouns are das.
But -ions aren’t neutral; that’s plain chemistry,
and neither are flowers or fruit or a tree
(though apples and peaches and -Ents don’t fit there;
for those we will need the more ‘masculine’ der.)
‘Feminine’ endings are -schaft, -ung and -ie;
Their meanings are sort of like ‘-ness’, ‘-ing’ and ‘-y’.
Remember that ‘-ness’ and get -heit and -keit free!

For masculine nouns, once more ein, and ‘the”s der.
All male folk are this, you were surely aware,
and that’s a trait French-like -eur suffixes share.
And -ist is there too; let’s hope sex-ists are rare,
for -ant man will get them, and that could quite scare
the wussiest -us words whose gender they share.
Remember all this? Have some brain-boosting fare,
or drinks made with alcohol, if you don’t care.
Points on the compass should indicate where,
and weekdays and seasons say when to be there.

One more thing, by the way: any plural is die.
Forgot something’s gender? Just talk about three.

All right, now were done with the nominative,
but what about when it’s a thing that you give?
When we use direct objects, what happens then?
Well, most stay the same, except der becomes den.
But what if you want to give something to it,
or use aus, außer, bei, nach, zeit, von, zu, or mit?
Oh, hear them, see their fuss, memorising…
Go “derdem, dieder, dasdem”, surprising!
But that isn’t all: just like ‘man’ goes to ‘men’,
the die for the plural (not feminine)’s den.

Okay, now there’s just one more case to go through.
It’s mostly when ‘of the’ in English would do:
in spite of, inside of, because of, possession.
You’ll figure them out in the course of the session.
Außerhalb, innerhalb, trotz, wegen, während,
diesseits, jenseits, statt… ask a parent.
For these ones, again, see their fuss, guess their stress,
and simply repeat, “dieder, dasdes, derdes”.
The die for the plural is one of a pair;
it’s just like the feminine: die becomes der.

But now you might wonder what happens to ‘ein‘s
in the cases described in the previous lines.
It’s really quite simple; if the d-word’s amended
you take the new letter with which that is ended,
mix in an ein, and an ‘e’, and combine ‘em
for einer and eines, einen and einem.

Since I live in Austria now, of course I’m learning German, so I needed something to keep this all straight in my own head. I recall coming up with this idea while riding on a train through Switzerland a on a visit to Geneva few months ago; I’d brought along one of my German books in the hope of studying on the train, and it had a list of rules for figuring out the likely gender of a word. I wanted a more interesting way to memorise them. I didn’t write much of it at the time, but I came up with the main principles of it.

I didn’t expect to remember the entire poem by heart, so I wanted to make sure that even if I only remember one line, most of the time it will still contain some useful information. It’s no good remembering that flowers and fruit and trees are all the same gender if I don’t know which one it is. So I made each line that had a gender hint rhyme with the appropriate word for ‘the’; if I remember ‘neither or flowers or fruit or a tree’ then I know the definite article for flowers, fruit, and trees is ‘die’ because it rhymes with ‘tree’. This kind of thing gets complicated when I get to the stanzas about accusative, dative and genitive case; I glossed over those topics a bit, and didn’t even mention what the cases are called. But now all I have to remember is ‘hear them, see their fuss, mem…’ and through rhymes I can remember der dem, die der, das dem. I’d have liked to have that same line allude to which case it is, so I’d remember exactly when der should change to dem. I could also do with some kind of nice outro, and an introductory stanza that doesn’t have an alternating rhyme scheme completely unlike the rest of the poem. When I have more time, I’ll work on that. I’m already one poem down for the weekend, despite having taken a found-haiku break Friday.

After much deliberation, I decided to put German words and word parts (even the one that does double duty as the English ‘in’) in italics without any sort of quotes unless they need to be clearly separated from some English morpheme (e.g. ‘ein‘s is not the German word eins), mentioned English words (and that one language-neutral single letter) in inverted commas without italics (which makes things weird when I also need an apostrophe) and emphasised words in bold. I am not at all sure I made the right decisions.

For those who were confused, this poem references Ents and ions.

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Unintentional Haiku from New Scientist, on Consciousness, Life, and Time

I’m going out tonight and won’t have time to finish writing a poem for NaPoWriMo, so here are the haiku that Haiku Detector detected in the next three topics of New Scientist’s special issue with the ‘big questions’. I posted the unintentional haiku on reality, existence, and God last week.  This seemed like a good place to find interesting unintentional haiku, so I ran Haiku Detector over the first three sections. Perhaps I’ll do the rest on later Saturdays, to give myself a weekly break during poetry writing month.

There’s only one unintentional haiku on the subject of consciousness, but it’s a good one:

You may think you know
the reasons, but they could be
a work of fiction.

Two about life:

These discoveries are
bringing an old paradox
back into focus.

There is a simple
way to get huge amounts of
energy this way.

One of these days I’ll add in some linguistics-based heuristics or a learning algorithm to rank the haiku; haiku lines ending in prepositions are often not as good, for example, and splitting the adjective from the following noun is a little weird too.

The section on time has the most and best haiku. This pleases me, because the largest text I tested Haiku Detector on when I first wrote it was the forum thread about the xkcd Time comic. There were a lot of haiku in there, and pointing them out encouraged people to write more.

So clocks tell us that
time is inextricably
linked somehow to change.

Now, more than ever,
we have to face up to our
ignorance of time.

If time’s arrow is
not in the laws of physics,
where does it come from?

Why do human brains
only remember the past
and not the future?

WE ALL, regardless
of our cultural background,
experience time.

Traditionally they
have lived by small-scale farming,
hunting and fishing.

Nonetheless, we could
do some interesting things with
our own time machine.

On the subject of time, I’d better hurry up and go out. Tune in next week for New Scientist’s unintentional haiku on the self, sleep, and death.


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Heartbleed (the love poem)

Let’s synchronise our beating hearts and I’ll
lay open just for you my very soul,
secure that you would never take control.
So, [End Of File]

Well thank you for your frankness; I’ll compile
some poems of my own uncensored whole,
that you may take a key companion role,
and take this key to tour my domicile.

My dear, do you not see that you’ve been played?
My heart’s not big; I sent but lies to you,
and used you for your private information;
I felt inside your sockets and got laid.
I understood what hearts are meant to do
is bleed with force to drive the circulation.

For those who have been out in the real world for the last few days instead of living in an internet-enabled cave like the rest of us, there’s a serious bug in OpenSSL which allows private information to be leaked to malicious users in much the same way as illustrated in this poem. It means that you should probably change your passwords on any site that had the buggy version of OpenSSL installed, provided it has been fixed; if the site hasn’t been fixed yet, there’s no point changing your password since the new one could still be hacked. Here is one list of servers and their status with regards to this bug; there are probably others. The bug is called Heartbleed, because it happens when a client sends a ‘heartbeat’ (to keep the connection alive) and pretends that it is sending more data than it actually is, and the server doesn’t check this, so when it tries to respond with the same data, it sends a random assortment of its own data the size of what the client said it had sent.

The ‘SSL’ in OpenSSL stands for ‘Secure Sockets Layer‘, which is supposed to be what keeps secret information safe on the internet, but this bug made it more open than secure. I made sure to include the words (or derivatives thereof) ‘Open’, ‘secure’, ‘sockets’ and ‘layer’ in order (with an additional ‘lay’ for luck) in the poem, so that the lying no-good user is in fact an open, secure, sockets layer.

If you have been living in the right kind of cave, you might be interested in seeing the code change which caused the bug.

I’ve never understood what ‘bleeding heart’ was supposed to mean. Bleeding, forcefully and rhythmically, is the heart’s primary function. Maybe its only function, but you never can tell with biology. If there isn’t blood coming out of your heart, you’re in very bad shape. You should get that looked at even before changing your passwords.

Addendum: I should perhaps point out that the heartbeat has nothing to do with synchronising anything; that’s just a sappy thing lovers sometimes talk about which seemed like a good way to get heartbeats into the poem. Don’t expect anything in the first quatrain to be accurate; it’s a malicious SSL client talking. Also, here‘s an article someone I know from JoCo Cruise Crazy wrote about Heartbleed, which seems like it has some useful links and information; I haven’t read it thoroughly yet, though, so for all I know it has a nice introduction and then an end of file marker.

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The War of the World Series of All Your Baseball

When the alien invaders came,
they ordered us to play this game,
to see how we stacked up against the galaxy.
Like Calvinball hang-gliding aimed
at ice-canoe inside a flame,
there really is no adequate analogy.

Our first team turned to gelatin while fighting Newton’s laws;
they gave us exoskeletons to compensate for flaws.
The next team’s lungs were frozen when their oxygen congealed;
they gave us warmer clothing for an even playing field.
Our next team’s sorely missed inside a super-sized black hole;
but failure of existence isn’t counted as a goal.
They grounded our space-shuttlecock for throttling at max-Q,
and laughed at our rebuttal, mocking weakness of the crew.
Then sudden cell-erasure put our skull bones out of joint.
The next game we lost Asia, but we almost scored a point.
They gave us many chances, then they told us where we stood:
despite all their enhancements, our whole species was no good.
A tackle left us mute or slurred, and just like Stephen Hawking
we had to get computer nerds to synthesise our talking,

and we said:

Maybe we will watch, but we won’t play sport.
We just want to be judged on our own Merritt Island spaceport.
So maybe we could talk before we die out.
We didn’t build antennas to make contact sports team tryouts.

The umpire slapped our station with its integrated truss,
Said, ‘humans, all your baseball inning are belong to us!
You can’t defeat the shogunate of sports tycooniverse;
you’d barely beat the Vogons with your weak and puny verse.
We helped to make you stronger but you never even tried;
you won’t survive much longer if you shun what we provide.
You think that we’re subhuman since our sport is pretty rough,
but we’re far better than you, man, we are strong and we are tough.
We earned our football scholarships with sweat and not a tear
and you think you can stall it with your brains, but it is clear
that only abs like rocks and bulging arms will give you worth
and soon enough the jocks will multiply and rule the Earth.’
And at the Earth’s last launch pad, the last geeks around to man it
imagined that these staunch lads really came from other planets.

They said:

Maybe we will watch, but we won’t play sport.
We just want to be judged on our own Merritt Island spaceport.
So maybe we should talk before we die out.
We didn’t build antennas to make contact sports team tryouts.

We only want acceptance and it’s clear we won’t achieve it;
but we can stop objectin’ since we have a way to leave it.

Maybe we will watch, but we won’t play sport.
We just want to be judged on our own Merritt Island spaceport.
I wish that we could talk before we blast off;
we didn’t build this ship to reach this guy’s idea of cast-off.

I admit, I wrote this purely to make a merit/Merritt Island pun, which I thought of on the way home last night, and started writing about this morning. Merritt Island is the site of Kennedy Space Center, where all NASA manned space missions since 1968 launched from.

This is the first poem of NaPoWriMo that I have written entirely in one day, though perhaps I should have given it a bit more time. The umpire stanza was a bit rushed since I was trying (unsuccessfully) to finish it before midnight, but at that point I could hardly have finished anything else. The title is also hastily slapped together from the first three things that came to mind. This is another one that has a tune in my head, hence the repeating chorus (which I might add a few more times, if I can get the two big stanzas to have an even number of couplets.) Some day I’ll stop writing mediocre songs and get back to writing good poetry, but today is not that day, although I don’t think the tune interfered too much with this one. I added a reference to speech synthesis so that it will make sense if I get my robot choir to sing this.

Be glad I didn’t write another King of Spain parody; according to wikipedia, Merritt Island was the King of Spain’s before he gave it to a nobleman named Merritt.

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