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Things up to which I have been (a poem)

(Note: there is no grammatical reason not to end a sentence with a preposition. I just wrote the title this way for comic effect.)

I’ve been busy in so many ways
and my blog’s gone from quiet to worse
so for poetry month, I’ll be terse
with my news in prosodic arrays.

Here’s a list of my works and my plays —
check the links if you want to immerse.
I’ll explain it all further in verse
in new posts in the upcoming days.

I’ve performed and I’ve published and coded,
got a job, got a fan page, and masters
in linguistics and web dev and showed it
with a site to find safer rhymes faster,
took a cruise, got some footage uploaded,
and wrote poems when I could be arsed to.

That was some kind of Petrarchan sonnet in anapaestic trimeter; what in the bard’s name am I doing? I’ve been wanting to update my blog for some time now, but I keep doing more things that I want to blog about and it seemed like any blog post doing them all justice would be too long. I also still want to make improvements on, or upload footage of, many of the things I want to blog about before blogging about them. I have been posting a bit more often on the fan page, though, so like that if you want to stay informed.

The only way to clear this blog backlog (ack, blog backlog!) is to blog, and it’s Global Poetry Writing Month (also known as National Poetry Writing Month, though a nation is rarely specified) so if I blog something, it should be a poem. I’ll be blogging poems, perhaps daily, until I have poem-blogged about all the things from the last 11 months that I wanted to blog about. Consider this poem the table of contents, or the tl;dr version of blog posts to come.

If you’re also participating in GloPoWriMo, and need some inspiration, try my random rhyme generator. Someone suggested that feature when I told him about the accent-aware rhyming dictionary I made, and I promptly spent my free time on that instead of making the other improvements I had been planning, such as clarifying when ‘faster’ rhymes with ‘arsed to’ (hint: it happens in most accents where ‘can’t be arsed‘ or indeed ‘arse’ is used) and when it rhymes with ‘amassed a’. But more on that in a later blog poem.

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A Poetry Video for Star Wars Day

On Star Wars Day in 2012, all I had seen of Star Wars while fully awake was The Phantom Menace and The Star Wars Holiday Special. I finally had what seemed like the perfect opportunity to lose my Star Wars virginity, with a screening of the original three movies by the CERN CinéClub, and yet, I had doubts. Not many people reached my age without having seen Star Wars. Surely I should do something artistic with my unusual lack of knowledge. Which is not to say that art is the realm of unknowledgeable people, but humour can be, as long as one doesn’t mind being the target of the laughter.

I asked Twitter whether I should watch the movies, or instead write a poem about everything I knew about the movies from songs and internet memes. Twitter said to write poetry, so I did.

I have since recited the poem to an audience of nerds on JoCo Cruise 3, and to my surprise, they did not throw me overboard. One of them has even read my poem at an event at a library. I made a mistake on the cruise, though, so I never had a good video of the poem to share… until now. I have actually seen all seven Star Wars movies in the last year, so made a video with not only the poem, but a run-down of how it differs from the actual movies:

I quote Marian Call’s song, ‘I’ll Still be a Geek After Nobody Thinks it’s Chic (the Nerd Anthem)’ and The Doubleclicks’ song ‘Nothing To Prove‘ at the beginning.

The poem references OSV word orderWil Wheaton’s story, ‘The Trade’, from which I learnt the existence of land speeders, to some extent the sleeping bag from which I learnt about tauntaunsThe Tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo, and the ‘Do not want‘ meme from Star War The Third Gathers: Backstroke of the West.

I used six seconds of Jonathan Coulton’s song ‘Screwed’ in the credits. I’m wearing this shirt; there are two versions of the shirt widely available online, but I got the only one which ships to Europe.

Star Wars is not the only thing I learn about mainly from songs and internet memes. Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire is another, and so, inspired by a song by Paul and Storm about George R. R. Martin’s slow writing, I contributed a picture to a music video for another song by Paul and Storm about the series:

I hope you enjoyed these videos. May the fourth be with you! 🖖😉

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Logan Awards Finalists (with links)

Recently I had the honour of being a fan juror for the Logan Whitehurst Memorial Awards for Excellence in Comedy Music (Logan Awards for short.) It was great to finally have an important reason to listen to comedy music for several full days, and a response to the eye-rolling of my friends when I mentioned yet another funny song, although deciding which songs to vote for was pretty tough. As a juror I had to listen to or watch all the songs and music videos nominated by the general public, and choose my favourite five nominees in each category. I can’t tell you which ones I voted for, but the finalists (chosen based on the votes of all the jurors, with ties broken by Dr. Demento) have been announced. Since the page on the Logan Awards site doesn’t link to the songs in question, I thought I’d link to them here. In alphabetical order:

Outstanding Parody Song

Out­stand­ing Orig­i­nal Com­edy Song

Out­stand­ing Com­edy Music Video

Here’s a YouTube playlist of the music video finalists:

The winners will be announced at FuMPFest on 5—7 June in Wheeling, Illinois. If you like funny music and are anywhere near there, I recommend going; it sounds like great fun. Many comedy musicians will be there, including guests of honour The Arrogant Worms. I saw some of the same performers and fans at the MarsCon 2014 dementia track, and it was a blast.

I’d like to give the other nominees a bit of publicity, but it’s difficult to do that without people making inferences about my votes, so here is a YouTube playlist of all the videos nominated in open nominations for the ‘Outstanding Comedy Music Video’ category, sorted in ascending order of views because the ones with the fewest views need the publicity more.

If you’re a Paul and Storm fan, you might be wondering why no songs from their 2014 album Ball Pit are in the finals. Some of their songs were nominated in the open nominations, but they became ineligible for the award when Paul Sabourin joined the jury. In honour of Paul’s noble sacrifice, I present to you a nominated video of this song of theirs which would have made the judging harder for me, if only because of all the freeze-framing to see the details:

If you’d like to hear more comedy music, consider subscribing to The FuMP podcasts, where you can get several comedy songs a week for free. You can find even more funny music on the Mad Music Archive, the Dr. Demento Show, or Songs About Science & Math. Also, check out the Logan Whitehurst website to find out about the awards’ namesake and buy his music.

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They Might Not Be Giants Posters, now touched by my own hands

Note: I am back in Europe now, and due to postage costs I will only send the remaining posters within Europe. Anyone else can get them from Zazzle.

At the Presidential Variety Show, and later the Open Mic Night, on JoCo Cruise Crazy 5, I recited my poem ‘They might not be giants.‘ Here’s a video from the Open Mic; pretend I said that ‘I was waiting for the shaking to stop’ was the name of my Taylor Swift cover band.

I brought along some locally-printed copies of this Len-Peralta-drawn poster of the poem, since I figured people would like them, and if they bought the ones on Zazzle they’d have to give a lot of extra money to Zazzle and the postal service.

The posters I printed are 11×17 inches (approximately A3) on 300gsm silk-coated stock, which is really quite fancy and sturdy. Quite a few people wanted them, which meant (since we’re not supposed to sell things while onboard, and I was mostly able to resist the urge to give them away) I had more fruity drinks and other items than I otherwise would have, plus some cash from sea monkeys I saw on land. But some people who wanted posters didn’t manage to catch me at the right time to get one. I have some posters left, which you can order using the button below. Note, now that I am back in Austria, if you are outside Europe please contact me first to find out what the postage cost will be; you may have to pay extra.

Buy They Might Not Be GiantsI discovered how right I was to bring some with me on the ship; posting them from here (I’m in New Zealand at the moment) costs slightly more than what I planned to ask for the poster itself. I’m going to absorb some of that and charge $10 for postage and $10 per poster, which leaves the combined price slightly lower than from Zazzle while still giving me a bigger cut. It is of course better value for both of us if you order more than one at a time, since the postage costs the same amount for multiple posters unless you’re ordering a ridiculous number of them. I’m not a warehouse full of elves, nor am I on my home turf at the moment, so I can’t make any promises about how soon I will post posters after you order, but I’ll do my best. Feel free to order from Zazzle if you prefer elven reliability.

If you want me to sign it or write some kind of message or doodle in the small area or empty space, say so in the message to the vendor when you check out. Please note that I have not settled on an official famous-person-style autograph yet, so results may vary. Also, my doodles are the doodles of a poet, not those of Len Peralta, so don’t expect them to match the quality of the rest of the poster.

If I gave you a poster on the ship and you didn’t have anything to give in return, you can donate something:

Contribute to the They Might Not Be Giants Appreciation FundOr you could lend some money on Kiva and join the Sea Monkey team I created yesterday. I don’t have a day job at the moment, so I am no longer promising to lend poster proceeds on Kiva before using them, but I probably will anyway as long as I have enough savings to live on.

Many other things also happened on JoCo Cruise Crazy, which I might summarise when I have time. I have a lot of video to upload when I eventually get home. For now, here’s The Future Soon a cappella and Jim Boggia’s cover of Paul McCartney’s ‘Junk’.

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Comet Landing (a Rubber Duckie filk by Chella Quint)

Earlier today Chella Quint mused that she’d like someone to write a filk of ‘Rubber Duckie’ about the Philae lander’s arrival on the rubber-ducky-shaped comet,  67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko:

But soon enough, she wrote her own, and tweeted it in multiple tweets. I wanted it to be preserved somewhere where it could be read more easily than on Twitter, but since she doesn’t have a blog, she said I could blog it instead. So here it is, Comet Landing by Chella Quint (with help from Sarah on the chorus) to the tune of Sesame Street’s ‘Rubber Duckie‘:

#Cometlanding Number 1
Philae lander’s having fun!
Nice one, ESA we’re awfully fond of you

(woh woh, bee doh!)

#Cometlanding joy of joys
Using ESA’s high tech toys
They’re not working but we’ve got some harpoons it’s true

(doo doo doo doooo, doo doo)

For a decade we
Waited patiently for you
Comet Sixty Seven P Slash C-G We Adore You
(and Churyumov and Gerasimenko)

Rosetta mission you’re so fine
love the selfies you post online
#Cometlanding we’re awfully fond of you

(repeat chorus)

For a decade we
Waited patiently for you
Comet Sixty Seven P Slash C-G We Adore You
(and Churyumov and Gerasimenko)

Philae Lander lots of luck
Touching down on that rubber duck
Hope Agilkia is awfully fond of
you and that the harpoons form a bond cos
#Cometlanding is awfully hard to do

(doo doo, be doo.)

I wrote my own filk about Philae (Philk?) which I will post soon. Meanwhile, you can find out more about Philae and Rosetta at the ESA livestream site, where there will be a press conference at 2p.m. European time, or how about Phil Plait’s post about it. You could also follow the events of the landing through xkcd 1446. which followed the events of the landing. Or just Google Philae; you don’t even have to search for anything, just click on the doodle.

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Creative Output Posters and Postcards

Almost five years ago, I took a photo of the audio input and output ports of my then-new MacBook Pro, and edited it to have various things I’ve written and drawn streaming out of the output port, as a pun on the idea of ‘creative output’. I then renamed the blog to go with it, since the old title no longer encompassed everything I was doing. I said I might make posters of it some day, but all I did was use it on my contact cards. However, I recently decided to set up a Zazzle store so I can sell another thing I have in the works, so I’ve just made that picture available as a poster and postcards. The postcards are eligible for a 20% discount for a Father’s Day promotion Zazzle has going on, which I think ends some time today. [Edit: It turns out they pretty much always have some kind of discount that applies to certain things.]

Before putting it up for sale, I updated it. I added the Wordles from everything I’ve written since then, as well as various images from the Cantor Ternary Set Cantor Ternary Set, the arrow poems, and the Post-It decorations in my temporary apartment. I’ve added things to almost the entire output stream, but you might need help from Myopic Person to make some of them out amongst the general mess of output. Apart from that, I made a few cosmetic improvements using new features in a much more recent version of Acorn (which I’ve just noticed still isn’t the latest), which no longer crashes when dealing with a file that size. I also made use of the graphics tablet and fonts I’ve acquired in the mean time. I added the words ‘Creative Output’ and the URL of the blog, since the whole picture was based on that pun and may not have any artistic merit without it.

This is what the poster looks like:

Poster preview

The postcards show a bit more of the Mac at the top, due to the different aspect ratio.

For the poster I chose the ‘standard’ size with the closest aspect ratio to the original picture, since a standard size will make it cheaper for anyone who wants to order a framed version. The poster is 19″x13″, and at that size it should be about 210ppi; I can’t do much better than that since it was based on a 12 megapixel photo. This is higher than Zazzle recommends for a good-quality print, and it should be fine for a poster, but if you’re a real print aficionado who prefers higher ppi, you can choose the ‘extra small’ option in the Size menu.

I don’t need extra money at the moment, since I still have a day job (though I will be looking for a new one next year; does anybody need a programmer who knows some things about accelerating particles and also occasionally writes, studies linguistics, and doodles on photos?) and since the payments from Zazzle will go into my PayPal account anyway, I will lend them on Kiva until such time as I need them.

Read the rest of this entry »

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May the Fourth be with you (even if you haven’t seen Star Wars)

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s Star Wars day, so it seems like a good time to repost. Remember last Star Wars Day, when I snubbed the CERN CinéClub’s showing of the original three Star Wars movies in order to write a poem about Star Wars, from my perspective as someone who has only seen The Phantom Menace, several hours of The Star Wars Holiday Special (with Rifftrax), the start of the original trilogy, under duress, while tired, from 2a.m. until I fell asleep, and a lot of Star-Wars-related songs and Internet memes? Well, I still haven’t seen the movies, and it doesn’t look like the CERN CinéClub is showing them today. But I did recite the poem in front of a crowd of nerds and geeks at the open mic night on JoCo Cruise Crazy 3, and they didn’t lynch me as an infidel, or throw me in the hot tub and force me to drink mudslides and watch Star Wars on the on-deck movie screen. Some of them even said they liked the poem! Even several people who I know write great things themselves! Here is my video of it. Having a decent microphone and no need to use up all my breath to speak loudly eliminated most causes and symptoms of nervousness, but oh boy, is my high-rising terminal showing at the beginning.

If you’re wondering, my first comment referred to Mike Phirman saying earlier that when you go on stage your body shuts down its vital functions and ‘you can really, really, really have to pee before you go on, and then you walk on stage and your body goes into like war mode, where it’s like, ‘There’s no time for that! We are at war!” I don’t think anyone laughed at the reference to the story Wil Wheaton read on the first cruise, so there goes my best chance at any audience noticing that. I missed out the following lines, at the start of the second stanza:

There were Chewie, and Yoda (the OSV talker)

Han Solo, and Leia, of course, Luke Skywalker.

I excused that in advance by saying I’d spent more time memorising Chicken Monkey Duck than this poem. That was not a joke, although I also made one mistake in Chicken Monkey Duck, so I guess I’m just imperfect. That means I’m not a replicant; hooray! (For what it’s worth, I saw all of Blade Runner for the first time this year, while outside in the rain, no less, so I finally know what that means. And I’m still using it wrong, because it seems like replicants aren’t perfect either. But passing the Voight-Kampff test just seems like it would give a higher-level qualification than passing the Turing test.)

To anyone else out there who still hasn’t seen Star Wars and feels like they should have: remember it’s entertainment. It should not be on your to-do list. Put it on your ‘things that might be fun to do when I need a break from the to-do list’ list if it seems interesting to you. Or, like me, use it to quickly dispatch anyone’s insistence that you see, read or listen to every other piece of culture that they deem important. Once you tell them you haven’t even seen Star Wars yet, they dismiss you as a lost cause and stop trying to add things to your to-do list. And if you’re a geek and they tell you this makes you a fake one, just tell them that, as Marian Call says, you have been a nerd since your first five syllable word, and no TV series or movie changes that:

In other news, I’ve signed up to read something at the Leman Poetry Workshop open mic night (warning: gratuitously-Flash-only website; don’t bother clicking if you have special needs that this won’t cater for) on May 31. I haven’t decided what to read yet, but it’s on my birthday, so probably something about birth, or death, or cake.

Also, I’m working on several different things at the moment, including the long-planned but little-implemented six of hearts, so hopefully I’ll finish those and post them here soon.

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It turns out I can read fake plqaD.

21 hours and already two posts ago, I linked to my post about the program I wrote for exploring grapheme colour synaesthesia. So I happened to look at that post again, and realised that despite the fact I learnt the words to Chicken Monkey Duck without any reference to the personally-coloured lyrics (Mac users: download the file and open it in TextEdit to see the text with coloured outlines matching the initial letters, which the preview doesn’t show. Windows users: sorry, I’ve noticed Windows rtf viewers don’t show outlines) I made, I could still start to answer some of the questions. I asked, among other things:

  • Could grapheme-colour synaesthetes learn to look at a sequence of colours that correspond to letters in their synaesthesia, and read a word?
  • Could colours be used to help grapheme-colour synaesthetes learn to read a new alphabet, either one constructed for the purposes of secret communication, or a real script they will be able to use for something?

And I included this picture of some text in a supposedly-Klingon font (though it does not seem to be quite the same as plqaD; I am not sure why I didn’t find this font at the time) with the letters coloured according to my own grapheme-colour synaesthesia for the corresponding letters in the latin alphabet:


Looking at it today, I realised I couldn’t remember what the text was; I wrote that post ten months ago. It definitely wasn’t ‘How razorback-jumping frogs can level six piqued gymnasts!’ So I decided to see if I could figure it out based on the colours.

The first and second words I figured out in seconds: Swimming is. S, W and I are pretty distinctive colours, and the Ms even look like Ms. Then… teemncgc? No, that’s not a g. I can imagine a capital G in that sort of colour, but I’m using small-g colour for the ‘g’s, and anyway the letter is a different shape. It’s an H! And that’s not an n but a u; they’re fairly similar. Actually I’d say u is closer to a c-yellow than to n-yellow, so maybe I put that one in wrong. So Swimming is tee? much like (‘like’ is easy to read once I figure out it’s an l rather than a c; I love the colour of the letter K) mathing? No, bathing! M and B are pretty similar colours. So that’s not tee… it’s slightly grayer… logically it must be too. I guess I don’t think too much about the colour of the letter O, but that’s about right. Swimming is too much like… bathing. Okay, I’m googling that; I assume I took a Klingon quote from the internet. Yep, it’s Worf.

So yes, at least one grapheme-colour synaesthete can look at a sequence of colours that correspond to letters in their synaesthesia, and read a word. As for the second question, I haven’t really learnt much of the Klingon ‘alphabet’ from this, because I’ve been reading the colours and only paying attention to the shapes of the letters when two letters are of similar colour. The colours mean I can cheat and not even look at the shapes, so they might actually make it harder for me to learn the shapes in the short term. On the other hand, I can read more, more quickly, since I’ll never have to refer to a chart to look up which letters the shapes correspond to. I suspect that practice reading the colours (perhaps gradually fading to black) would help me learn the shapes in the long run.

I haven’t touched the Synaesthetist app since I wrote it; maybe I should go back and implement some of the features I was thinking about.

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What Jane Knew: The Improv Exercise

As I mentioned, last week’s story was mostly improvised in short bursts, with very little planning. It occurred to me that this ‘X knew that…’ ‘That’s why…’ structure might be a useful exercise for improvisational theatre. The ‘X knew that…’ provides new information about the situation (which is always important in improv) and the ‘That’s why…’ keeps the story moving, which is also always important.

As an improv exercise, this would probably work best in pairs. One person starts with a sentence beginning with ‘[Name] knew that…’ or ‘[Name] did not know that…’ and the other continues the story with a sentence beginning with ‘That’s why…’ This continues until they finish the story and/or reach a predetermined time limit or number of exchanges, or one of the players makes a mistake. After that, they either switch roles or replace one or both players to start a new story.

Note that the ‘that’ after the ‘X knew/did not know’ is important. This allows statements such as ‘X did not know that Y was his father’ or ‘X knew that the ice-cream salesman wanted to kill him’ but not general ‘X did/did not know…’ statements such as ‘X did not know where/what/who s/he was’ or ‘X knew why the ice-cream salesman wanted to kill him’. The latter kind of statement just delays the story; it doesn’t provide any new information, and pushes that responsibility onto the next player. Since I was able to edit what I’d written, and plan ahead a bit, I did not always follow this rule for What Jane Knew, but I think it would be important in improv.

I haven’t tried this, since I only just made it up and the CERN improv group dissolved a while ago. I’m also not an expert at improv by any means, so I can’t claim that any exercise I invent will be perfect. If you are in an improv group, or you’re looking for something fun to do at a party, feel free to try this and let me know how it goes. To practise the acting side of things, you could also try pausing after each ‘that’s why…’ to allow other people to act out the story, much like Typewriter.

I imagine that in an improv troupe made up of logicians, this would quickly degenerate into solutions to hat puzzles, but this would still entertain an audience of logicians. If you have an improv troupe made up of logicians, please record some of your performances and put them online, because I’d love to see that. I would probably give it a single golf clap.

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Three’s a jolly good fallow

Do you remember last February 29, when I decided to get back into creative writing by writing something each week for a year, inspired by souvenir playing cards and letters of the alphabet? Probably not; I didn’t publicise it much. But it worked; I did, in fact, get back into writing, and although some of the things were hurried and disastrous and a lot of them were not very good, a lot of them were passable and some were very good. One was published in Offshoots and another in a Valentine’s Day chapbook. I’ve made videos of a few of the shorter ones I liked. Some were such surprising ideas that I’d never have thought of them without the playing card prompts, and would never have done anything with those thoughts without the deadline. In most cases, I’m glad I did. I also unexpectedly ended up with a MIDI keyboard, a hastily-coded program that will make rhyming parody ‘lyrics’ given a rhyme scheme, syllable counts, and a list of words, and a hastily-coded add-on to that which would get my Mac to sing. All in all, it was a huge success.

Anyway, my writing side has lain fallow for nearly three years. I’ve accumulated more playing cards, and more ideas. This weekend is another Geneva Writer’s Conference, and another February 29th is coming up. So I’m going to do it again. I’ll start by posting a ‘joker’ on February 29th, and then do a playing card each weekend, perhaps skipping the weekend immediately after the joker. I will make the deadline Sunday noon rather than midnight this time, so I don’t end up tired at work on Monday morning, and I have Sunday afternoon free. I also won’t limit myself to writing; if I happen to be able to finish a video or some software or an interesting diagram one week, I’ll publish that instead. This will probably happen less often, since these things take longer to do, but I’ll leave it as an option.

I have an idea for something to write about other than playing cards, so I’m not certain the cards will always be relevant. Perhaps I’ll do the other thing on the side, or perhaps I’ll use the cards and letters as additional inspiration, or a way of selecting which part of the other idea to tackle on a given week.

The post on the 29th will be a Joker Game like the two I did during the last series, involving sticking together 52 unrelated sentences into a coherent story. It will be not long after I get back from the second JoCo Cruise Crazy, so I’m going to have to think about it a bit while I’m on board. Luckily, I’ve come up with a way to carry the sentences around with me. I already have the sentences, so there’s no need to tweet any at me.

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