Angela Brett

Mathematician and linguist by training, programmer by trade, physicist by association, writer by neglecting everything else.

Homepage: http://angelastic.com

They Might Not Be Giants: now a song!


The other day I discovered that the ukuletrically charged Joey Marianer has once again set something I wrote to music! Truly, a Joey is an exciting kind of friend to have. (No, not a joey. Not everybody‘s got a baby kangaroo.) This time it’s They Might Not Be Giants.

On the subject of people who could conceivably be called Joey, and who make music, my friend Joseph will be singing a parody of a song I wrote on his patreon some time soon. I’m looking forward to it! If you support him on patreon you’ll see it as soon as it comes out — check out some of his recently-unlocked older posts to get an idea of what you’re in for. The patreon is his only source of income at the moment, so your contribution would mean a lot to him, as well as being good value for you.

On the subject of They Might Not Be Giants, I recited it at the MathsJam Annual Gathering last weekend. It was my first time at a MathsJam and it was great fun. At MathsJam, anyone can give a five-minute talk about anything mathematical, and newcomers were especially encouraged to, so I decided to present The Duel, a more mathematical poem than I would usually do at open mics. I even made some slides depicting what was going on. Eventually, though, I started to think The Duel wasn’t very good and I should do They Might Not Be Giants instead. After reciting both to a focus group of order two a few hours before my talk, I made the switch. With my remaining talk time, I showed some of the haiku I found in the Princeton Companion to Mathematics. It seemed to go down well. I had brought along a few of my posters in case people would be interested in them, and came back with none.

The rest of MathsJam was amazing, and I’m sure I’ll be back. There were all sorts of talks, including another mathematical poet, as well as magic, coin-floating, robotic cube-solving, juggling, puzzles, balloon animals, fancy yarn spinning, mathematical song parodies (I also sang Tom Lehrer’s Derivative Song for the people at the MathsJam Jam, since they hadn’t heard it), mathematical cakes, and a competition competition!

I won an origami double-stellated tetrahedron in a competition competition competition. It might not technically be a double-stellated tetrahedron, but the competition was to name it, and, inspired directly by the talk by the shape’s creator (Kathryn Taylor), that’s what I named it.

I was a bit worried that it was going to be a pain to get that home without damaging or losing it, since it would get crushed in my bag and I’m not used to carrying something in my hands constantly. At first it had a string or rubber band around it which had been used to tie it to the competition box, so I tied it to a belt hook. At some point it fell off and partly came apart, but I was having dinner with other MathsJam attendees at the time, and one of them knew enough modular origami to fix it (Kathryn had run a table devoted to modular origami on the Saturday night.) After that I held it by hand, until I realised that it could be suspended quite securely in the Acme Möbius scarf I was wearing.

I heard, repeatedly, that there’s a magazine called chalkdust which I should really be submitting some of my mathematical writing to, so I’ll do that. First, though, I will read the copies I picked up at MathsJam.

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Why I Perform at Open Mics (now a rap song!)


Open MicA few weeks ago Alfred Ladylike was a featured act at a special edition of Open Phil, an open mic I perform at regularly. She heard me perform my poem/rap ‘Why I Perform at Open Mics‘. Last week she performed in Vienna again, and we spent an evening at my place with a bottle of wine and a collection of fart noises (a combination I fartily recommend) producing this recording of it:

Feel free to download it! If there is interest, I could also put up a karaoke track so you can perform it at your own open mics. The backing track is Galaxy by Free Rap Beats | Hip-Hop Instrumentals. Sound effects are all from freesound.org, by IFartInUrGeneralDirection and others.

It will be featured on The FuMP Sideshow tomorrow. If you like funny songs, raps and occasional sketches, I recommend subscribing to The FuMP (a podcast which publishes a couple of free comedy songs every week) and The FuMP Sideshow (more of the same, but generally by more amateur-level comedy songwriters, like me. Given that this one was produced by an actual professional, perhaps I could have submitted it to the main FuMP, but I’m not that sure of my sh💩t yet.)

I thought about adding a donation button (mainly because WordPress told me I could) but I have some decent freelance work right now so I’d feel weird about asking for donations. Maybe buy something if you really want to encourage me. And if you really like this track’s production value, head to Alfred Ladylike’s or her band Donut Heart’s bandcamp, and throw a dollar in her general direction.

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I Love Your Body (now a song!)


My friend Joey Marianer used his brain to come up with a tune for I Love Your Body, and then he used the rest of his body to turn it into sounds! Isn’t this great?

I’ve been thinking this could be turned into a longer singalong by having the same thing repeated with ‘I love my body…’ etc., and then maybe ‘We love our bodies’. It would remove one of the few rhymes (‘brains need ATP/and there’s no ESP/that would show you to me’ would become something like ‘there’s no ESP to show myself to you’ or ‘there’s no ESP to show ourselves to each other’) but the cool thing about songs is they can sound good even when they don’t rhyme.

In any case, those lines should perhaps be changed. Mentioning ATP (a chemical that transports energy that cells can use) is a little too scientific for this song, and I’m no biologist so I’m not sure it’s the best chemical to mention anyway. (Edit: The obvious substitution, which I didn’t think of until far too late, is simply ‘energy’.) Most of what I know about ATP comes from songs. If you want a song that explains how ATP is made by mitochondria, try Come On Down (The Electron Transport Chain) by Science Groove:

Or Oxidative Phosphorylation, also by Science Groove:

Back to ‘I Love Your Body’, I’ve found that I’ve ended up with a completely different musical version of it in my head. I can’t transcribe the tune, but the words go something like this:

I love your body
The way it keeps you ali-i-ive
I love your body
The way it has a you inside
I love your body
How it allows communications
I love your body
The way it gives you sweet sensations

That’s all from me. Use your body to make somebody happy today!

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I Love Your Body


I love your body
The way it keeps you alive
The way it lets you touch me
The way it lets us communicate
The way it gives you pleasant sensations

I don’t love its flaws
The way it hurts you
The way it makes you sick
The way it makes you tired
The way it can’t do the things that you want it to

But I love
that you have it
so that I can have you,
because brains need ATP
and there’s no ESP
that would show you to me.

I love your body
I hope it takes care of you
and you of it
for a love-filled lifetime.

I wrote this in a couple of minutes a few nights ago because I was sick of how much of even ‘body positivity’ seems to be focused on embracing how unfashionably-shaped bodies look, thus lending credence to the central tenet of body negativity and body shaming: that a body’s appearance is its most important attribute.

On the other hand, perhaps it is sometimes a good idea to pay attention to appearance (as with race, gender, etc.) in order to actively counteract subconscious or institutionalised biases. I am not sure. It’s probably not my place to say, since it’s been a long time since I had any body image issues of my own or paid attention to other people’s issues with my body’s image.

I wasn’t sure whether to post this already, but some very powerful people have been making unsolicited comments about the appearances of people’s bodies lately, and also a friend who hadn’t read it encouraged me to post it. I’ve dusted it off a little but not as much as I usually would. Perhaps some day I’ll craft it into something fancier, choose some better words, some rhymes, or make it into a parody of some well-known ‘I love your body; it has comfortable places for me to put my genitals’-style pop song (any suggestions? I don’t know very many songs that aren’t already funny), but for now I’ve at least ticked off the recurring ‘write something’ item on my to-do list. Have a great time consensually touching the universe with your meat-suit!

Also, about an hour from the time I post this, there’s a live stream of CERN’s doo-wop band, and the first band on the web, Les Horribles Cernettes (LHC). If you read this in time to watch that, I recommend it! I’ve had the privilege of seeing several of their shows in person, as well as meeting them, and they’re nowhere near as horrible as they claim.

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In which Joey sings the last two parodies I wrote


Holy ukuleles, Batman! Joey Marianer has once again sung a thing I wrote. Two things, in fact! He’s like a word-singing machine! Only, I made a word-singing machine, and I think he’s better than it, or at least easier to input songs into. I shall endeavour to continue treating him like a human, though. Thanks, human Joey! You are a good human. Have a treat. Two treats. No, you’ll have to fetch them yourself; I’m too far away. Good boy.

Wait, I’m following a dog-care manual by mistake. I’ll have to do more research on how to treat humans. Meanwhile, listen to this. Joey is unfortunately only one human, so he did not sing the backing vocals in Runtime:

And now, Glasses. If your own eyesight is sharp, you’ll note that Joey got a new ukulele.

😍🤓

On the subject of humans who sing words sometimes, have I mentioned my friend Joseph, who sometimes sings and writes words that I ask him to on his Patreon? If you support him on there, you, too, could obtain some genuine human-created words and/or singing thereof. He also has some shiny art prints on sale.

Addendum: I’ve just realised I forgot to post that Joey also sang my Towel Day quotation creation! Here that is:

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Glasses (Jonathan Coulton parody lyrics)


This is a parody of Jonathan Coulton’s ‘Glasses’ from the album ‘Artificial Heart’. I started writing it some time ago and decided it was about time I finished it. Feel free to sing it if that’s a thing you can do!

Check the bedside stand
Check my own right hand
Check I’m not going blind to what’s hiding in plain sight

Shake the blankets out
Find some old self-doubt
Never finding the the clarity abandoned late last night

I had them then, don’t know where they are
I’ll check again, mountains and morasses
Without a lens, can’t see near or far
I can’t see
I can’t find my glasses.

Check atop my head,
The small-print book I read,
Check the corner where they never are and never ought to be.

I’m careful where I step
Watch the floor except
It’s all a blur, a crude moving blotch of who knows what to me

I had them then, don’t know where they are
I’ll check again, mountains and morasses
Without a lens, can’t see near or far
I can’t see…

No Lasik please
Don’t want my eyeballs cooking
Still can’t see
I guess I’ll just keep looking

Not their usual place
Not here on my face
I know they’re bound to be somewhere I’ve already looked three times.

Find my old car keys
The old futilities
A cat’s fresh leavings, a Lego brick, a quarter and three dimes.

I had them then, don’t know where they are
I’ll check again, mountains and morasses
Without a lens, can’t see near or far
I had them then, don’t know where they are
I’ll check again, mountains and morasses
Without a lens, can’t see near or far
I can’t see
I can’t find my glasses.

I don’t have anything else to say about this one, so instead I’ll show you the video of Joey’s musical recitation of my Towel Day quotation creation. I missed his comment about it so it took me a while to notice it, but when I did it made several of my days. So froody!

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Runtime (Jonathan Coulton ‘Sunshine’ parody lyrics)


The other day I was reading some developer documentation about nodes while I had Jonathan Coulton’s ‘Sunshine’ from the album ‘Solid State’ in my head. ‘The road we’re on’ became ‘the node we’re on’ and the next thing I know I’m writing a parody about the runtime, and errors that could have been detected by the compiler in other languages or with stricter compiler settings but instead aren’t detected until runtime. I didn’t end up using the ‘node’ line. The first verse barely needed changing, so for fun I tried to keep as many words from the original as I could in the rest of the parody as well. Whether that’s a good thing depends on your taste and how well you know the original. Feel free to sing it if that’s a thing you can do!

We were blind to every sign
That we should have seen
In a clearly broken line
Machine to machine
Our mistakes were the future
But no one could tell

Lots of errors to detect
The tests didn’t show
The things compilers could have checked
We just let it go
Walked away as assumptions
Crumbled and fell

We bust our arse
To find the errors the machine could parse
Catch it just-in-time
Here in the runtime

Cast the pointer to a type it’s not (runtime)
Walk the edge case of the code we’ve got (runtime)

Every bit was filed away
There’s memory to fill
There’s no message that could say
Receiver is nil
We don’t heed any warnings
Try it and bail

Cast from Any type to this
The object’s a tease
Reflect to find out what it is
A sudden unease
If the data’s corrupt
Then when did it fail?

We soldier on (just a flesh wound)
Heap space and registers are almost gone (memory use ballooned)
Watch the stack unwind (maybe we’re doomed)
Here in the runtime

Cast the pointer to a type it’s not (runtime)
Walk the edge case of the code we’ve got (runtime)

The caller of the method must not do this
Everything’s your fault, you have been remiss
Code is fine, the world has something amiss

All the tests have slipped away
Just garbage I/O
I won’t last another day
And neither will O
EOF of a stateless mutable thing

The data’s blitzed (blame the new hire)
There’s nothing left that can remember it (cut the red wire)
But this is fine (halt and catch fire)
Here in the runtime

Cast the pointer to a type it’s not (runtime)
Walk the edge case of the code we’ve got (runtime)

Cast the pointer to a type it’s not (runtime)
Walk the edge case of the code we’ve got (runtime)

I’m not so sure about ‘EOF of a stateless mutable thing’ and whether it would be better stateful or immutable. It doesn’t exactly make sense (does anything, when it’s that far gone?) but it sounds cool, and a lot like the original. I’ll release it like this and patch it in production if necessary. 😉

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Poem: Why I Perform at Open Mics (as performed at an open mic)


I’ve been performing at a lot of open mics in Vienna and wherever else I happen to be, so I wrote a poem about why I do it. Here’s a video of my performance of it at the open mic on JoCo Cruise 2017, with some special pandering to The Doubleclicks, who hosted the open mic, and some accidental offense to BatSteve, who was right in front of me, probably taking photos.

Check out the rest of my footage of the open mic too.

Here are the words:

If there’s one thing that’s lauded in the internet age,
it’s if I want to be applauded I don’t need to go on stage.
I could write shit in my bedroom, gathering tweets and shares and likes,
but despite it I still head to gatherings known as open mics.

Because fuck it, our creations need a community
and luck is preparation meeting opportunity,
so when The Doubleclicks or Weird Al Yankovic come to town
and every good opening act mysteriously comes down
with a synthetic disease to which I have immunity,
I’ll be ready to please, dropping rhymes with impunity.

‘Cause I’m a Master of Rhyme;
I’ve got a Masters degree
and my thesis was a rhyming dictionary,
so I’ll be rapping my rants
and you’ll be clapping your hands
and flapping your panties
that you happily planned
to throw at fabulous bands
and I’ll be nabbing their fans
while they are crapping their pants

In real life I’m a hacker and I’m super science knowledge-y:
linguistics and mathematics and some microbiology
but I admit that in the latter I have lax methodology,
and for that I say no matter; I present my apology:
if your bladder had a splatter, don’t be mad; I tried urology.

So back to the point — my plan is all about practice.
The knack to seem much better than any surviving opening act is.
And that may sound unfettered and conniving but the fact is
they lack my well-honed stagecraft and immunoglobulin factors.

Because I’m
perfecting my art
and projecting my heart
While collecting the hard-earned
affection that’s marred
by those correctly called “artists”
rejecting my protective injection,
electing collective infection — ejecting a shart.
And maybe I’m a chump who’s not much better than you,
but I’ll be number one while you’re going number two.

I digress; I’m an open mic nerd; I require us
to weary of hearing Free Bird, Miley Cyrus.
When merely a chord or a word can rewire us
and everyone’s here to be heard and inspire us
then I’ll engineer a deferred norovirus.

So now you understand why I’m facing my fears.
I’m bracing to be panned while embracing my peers
so I’ve no stage fright when the big stars are here.
There’ll be no cage fight, the choice will be clear,
because I write each night I can guarantee ya
that my shite’s not trite, or second tier,
and the light’s so bright I can barely see ya,
and I’ll be the only artist without diarrhoea.

Everything in my poem is true, except for the microbiology stuff. I really did make a rhyming dictionary for my Masters thesis. It’s already better than any other rhyming dictionary I’ve used, but I’m working on more improvements to it before promoting it more widely.

Ironically, and unrelated to any norovirus experiments I deny doing, I actually had a short bout of diarrhoea a week ago, and am now nursing an injured foot because I fainted and woke up on the toilet floor. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m no stranger to waking up injured on the toilet floor — I wrote a poem called A Skirmish [With My Least-Favourite Body Part] about the previous time that happened. And now, coincidentally, you can buy a pdf of a poster of that poem! It has the poem looking like it’s written in blood, and a schematic of the offending body part in the background. I originally made the poster a while ago as a goodbye present for a friend who likes that poem, but since it was better value to print more than one, I put one up on the wall of my toilet, and sold/swapped a few to other people, who seemed to really like it.

I decided it would be cool to put it up as a pay-what-you-like download for Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28, but after overshooting that deadline researching sites where you can do that sort of thing, I instead ended up opening an Etsy store.  There you can download the poster as two pdfs, one optimised for A4 and one for US Letter format, and print however many copies you like, just as long as you don’t make money from them or remove the credits (it’s BY-NC-SA). It’s not pay-as-you-like, because Etsy doesn’t do that sort of thing, but I think the price is fair — cheaper than many simpler downloadable posters on Etsy. It’s all vector-based so should print nicely in larger sizes as well. I’d love to see this on toilet walls all over the place.

If people are interested I’ll also add an option to buy printouts of it; the printouts themselves would be cheaper than the download but would probably work out more expensive with postage, and you’d only have however many you bought without the option of printing more.

I’ve been meaning to offer a way to buy They Might Be Giants posters directly from me, so I also added those to the store. The postage from Austria is really high for most parts of the world, so if you’re in, say, the USA, you’re probably better off getting a poster from Zazzle, but if you’re in Europe, you’ll get a better quality poster (I don’t recall the exact paper specifications but I think the ones I have are on 300gsm paper. It’s really nice) at a lower price from me through Etsy. I also make more profit that way. Most of the money you give Zazzle goes to Zazzle, while most of the money you pay via Etsy goes to me.

While you’re buying menstruation- and science-related poetry, check out my friend Chella’s Etsy shop, where you can get some zines about menstruation and space, one of which (not the space one) has a lot of cool menstrual poetry in it. Also, even more importantly, sign her petition to keep branding out of menstruation education. Or at least read it and do what you can to improve menstruation education in your part of the world; Chella put a lot of work into the petition and it’s quite interesting.

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A Towel Day quotation creation


May 25th is International Towel Day, in honour of Douglas Adams. The following contains 42 –ation rhymes, 41 of which are found in Adams’ book ‘Last Chance to See…‘:

Earth’s vegetation made slow transformation as each confrontation or new situation provoked adaptation in each generation for eons duration.

Until civilisation, and its acceleration of our population at high concentration with great exhortation and disinclination to make accommodations with administration of conservation.

Then Adams’ fascination and realisation that with elimination of echolocation no cetacean reincarnation will save our reputation; his bold exploration to spread information and fuel education and his determination to stop exploitation by identification and communication of each dislocation of species, his observation and growing frustration we reduce speciation to bone excavation with every temptation to favor our nation and not immigration of distant relations… was his speculation we’d reduce penetration mere hallucination?

This time last year I had just submitted my Masters thesis in Web Development for Linguistics, for which I wrote a macOS application to find rhymes in any text, gave it a lot of text to chew on, added some parameters for features of accent which affect rhymes, and made a website to make those rhymes searchable on the internet. I’m still working on some big improvements to it so I haven’t been publicising it much yet, but it’s the stress-sensitive, accent-aware, mosaic-rhyme-finding rhyming dictionary I always wanted.

That evening I was heading to an open mic night and wanted to do something Adams-related. I happen to have a plain text version of his book ‘Last Chance to See…’ somehow, so I fed it into my app, and noted down the largest group of rhymes. There were 52 distinct –ation rhymes, not counting -ations rhymes or similar derivations. I arranged them into this summary of ‘Last Chance to See…’ while on the way to the open mic. I later added the word ‘cetacean’, which was not in the book, because cetaceans (specifically, baiji, which have since been declared functionally extinct[cetacean needed]) are one of the topics. I was honestly surprised to notice today that I’d used 42 -ation rhymes in total, and I don’t recall whether it was intentional.

The way I went about writing this is summed up nicely by this quote from the book:

I have a well-deserved reputation for being something of a gadget freak, and am rarely happier than when spending an entire day programming my computer to perform automatically a task that it would otherwise take me a good ten seconds to do by hand. Ten seconds, I tell myself, is ten seconds. Time is valuable and ten seconds’ worth of it is well worth the investment of a day’s happy activity working out a way of saving it.

I highly recommend the book (preferably the actual book, with photos) for anyone who is a fan of Douglas Adams or of life on Earth. The -ation words in the book which are not included in the above are:

Association
classification
consternation
conversation
evaporation
imagination
operation
preparation
quotation
representation
sensation

If you like this blog and you also like Douglas Adams, you might also be interested in my misinterpretation of the phrase “so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea” or some haiku I found in Last Chance to See.

Have a great towel day, and don’t panic!

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Angela and Joey have conversations via poems and ukulele songs, parts n+2—n+m: m>2


I told you to tune in for the next exciting instalment of ‘Angela and Joey have conversations via poems and ukulele songs’, and the conversation sure took off in some exciting directions. Here is Joey Marianer singing the poem I wrote about Star Wars before I saw it (which I also recorded a not-so-musical video of.)

That one was a total surprise! Then when I commented asking him to follow me around and sing everything I said, he even sang the comment. I’m going to have to be careful what I say from now on.

The next few have to do with the countdown to JoCo Cruise 2018. Back when there were 300 days left until JoCo Cruise 2018, someone on facebook jokingly asked whether they were metric or imperial days, and I responded with some rhymes about that, mentioning Brian Young (whose poem written during the 2015 cruise was sung by both Cody Wymore and Joey, and whose poem performed at a shadow event on the 2017 cruise Joey also sang) for some reason, and then Brian chimed in with a continuation. I can’t find that thread any more so I’m not actually 100% sure where my words stopped and his started. Anyway, Joey sang that too!

Then in early May, Joey suggested that if I wrote a poem about there being nine months until the cruise, he would sing it. So I agonised over it for a few weeks and ended up going way overboard with puns relating to first of May activities and their euphemisms, and a common approximation of the human gestation period. Here’s that song:

Lyrics:
This first of May I went out walking with my cat
And no-one asked me, ‘do you want to see my rooster, ma’am?’
but even though I never got to celebrate like that
I’m still awaiting my berth on the Oosterdam

Some geek girl online said how full of gold this trip is
Mucked my boxers but I barely even sluiced ‘er, man
but even though we’ve never met I’m sure that you would ship us
we’re awaiting our berths on the Oosterdam

And there’s nine months to go until we break the waters
and the soon™ becomes today
it’s a little bit of all of us held together by our friend ship
and we’re in the family way

Well some of us don’t code or sing or craft or hug or prom
and some of us have never even reproduced a damn,
but even though we don’t have any single thing in common
we’re awaiting our berths on the Oosterdam

And there’s nine months to go until we break the waters
and the soon™ becomes today
it’s a little bite for all of us; the cake is not a lie
and we’re in the family way

Yes, there’s nine months to go until we break the waters
and the soon™ becomes today
it’s a little bit of all of us held together by our love
in the chosen family way
the chosen family way
Yes, we’re all in the family way

 

Come join the family if you can! Joey was a first-time sea monkey (that’s what JoCo cruisers call ourselves) this year and it looks to me like he felt pretty welcome.

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