Posts Tagged poems

GloPoWriMo 2019


Last November, instead of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) I created NanoRhymo, where I wrote a tiny poem every day inspired by a random rhyme from my rhyming dictionary, rhyme.science. April was GloPoWriMo (Global Poetry Writing Month — NaPoWriMo/National Poetry Writing Month to people from unknown nations who think ‘national’ gives their invented holidays a more realistic sheen) so I decided to do the same thing. Here are the poems I wrote.

Day 1, inspired by the rhyme propounds and zounds:

I see the news, and holler ‘Zounds!
That’s downright nuts! That is not cool!’
To see the thoughts that he propounds
I *hope* it’s all an April fool.

Day 2, inspired by the rhyme shenanigan and Flanagan:

There once was a rascal named Flanagan
who magnified ev’ry shenanigan
and when they were caught
repented, quite fraught,
then made their escape and and began again.

Day 3, inspired by the rhyme excavations and replication’s, and also a line from Jurassic Park:

After careful excavations,
came some reckless replications,
running rife, now run away!
Cunning life, uh, finds a way.

Day 4, inspired by the rhyme mutuality’s and theatricality’s, and the idea that the then-imminent Brexit needs to be summarised as a comic opera:

As now we face with Brexit
an end of mutuality,
I need theatricality
to show what’s going on.

It’s really quite complex, it
must be faced with joviality;
I can’t take the formality
or show-stopping fatality…

Before my poor brain wrecks it
by facing the reality
I need some musicality —
the show’s still going on!

Day 5, inspired by the rhyme asylum and subphylum:

This spineless chipolata
brings disgrace to Vertebrata!
I wish to seek asylum
in a different subphylum.

Day 6, inspired by the rhyme while I and styli:

Some scoff at using styli.
I’m not so highfalutin’,
so please excuse me while I
tweet from my Apple Newton.

Day 7, inspired by the rhyme lawmen and for men:

There’s no need to call the lawmen
and exclaim “Oh no! Us poor men!”
when things aren’t tailored for men.
Cast aside “misandrist” strawmen.
Watch how much you hold the floor, men.

Day 8, inspired by the rhyme airway’s and their ways:

I don’t agree with their ways!
Why can’t they learn new skills?
Their ‘breathing’ thing is hokum!
I won’t pay for their airways!
Why can’t they just use gills?
They’ll learn to if I choke ‘em!

Day 9, inspired by the rhymes ineffectually and intellectually, deficiency and inefficiency, and ineffaceable and untraceable:

If you’re ineffectual, although you’re intellectual,
then your inefficiency might stem from some deficiency —
memories ineffaceable which should be made untraceable,
ineffable reverberations crowding useful thought.

Day 10 (a day late), inspired by the rhyme detectable and connectible, and of course the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration’s announcement of the first image of a black hole:

Eight radio telescopes, made connectible,
made a black hole’s light detectable.

Day 11, inspired by the rhyme mending’s and endings, and of course the Beresheet lunar landing:

One small stop, and mission’s ending.
One giant lapse, no lunar mending.
Look at what you learn and hail your
huge success you earn through failure.

Day 12, inspired by the rhyme unlabelled and disabled:

While some propound that we transcend
ignore the boundaries to end
discrimination: life unlabelled
as woman, Asian, bi, disabled,
how you see me, and I myself,
still have myths attached we fell for,
still affect what we expect
to be, or see, and left unchecked
this blinding to the groups we see just
lets those stealthy fictions lead us.

Day 13, inspired by the rhyme reupholstering and bolstering and definitely referring to gunshot rather than immunisations:

If the shot in your arms is a killer,
you’ll find yourself bolstering the holster,
but if what’s in your arms is a pillow
you’d best be reupholstering the bolster.

Day 14, inspired by the rhyme planetesimals and hexadecimals (best read in a non-rhotic accent):

Previous dates say you’re lesser? Miladies,
we all start out infinitesimal.
Growing from dust we become planetesimals;
now you’re sixteen out of ten, hexadecimal.

Day 15, inspired by the rhyme deSitter and bitter:

I’m just very old; I’m not bitter.
I don’t care I can no more transmit a
request that will pass the de Sitter
horizon and get to your Twitter.

Day 16, inspired by the rhyme cassava’s and guavas, and a true story involving Joey Marianer and I hearing Beth Kinderman’s ‘Stop Covering “Hallelujah”‘ at MarsCon, visiting a ball of twine but not a furniture shop, noticing many other phrases that could scan to Hallelujah, and later writing a song to that tune about the ‘purple guava’ meme on JoCo Cruise. This poem is, of course, to be sung to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah:

At MarsCon just before the cruise,
we heard some Hallelujah blues,
saw Minnesotan places, but not Marva’s.
Beth Kinderman was in our head,
but thanks to Paul we wrote instead
A song like Hallelujah about guavas.
Purple guavas, not cassavas, purple guavas, not cassavas.

We ended up writing and rewriting many songs to that tune, and Joey has been going through our growing list of Hallelujah parodies and singing them on YouTube.

Day 17, inspired by the fact that it was National Haiku Day in some nation or other, and I indeed wrote a Haiku Detector app for macOS a while ago:

Haiku detector
is an app that finds haiku.
I wrote it myself.

Day 18, in reply to a friend who was surprised to have missed that I wrote a haiku detector:

And a robot choir,
a rhyming dictionary,
and an insult app.

Day 19, inspired by the rhyme surviving and depriving:

Let us watch the rich contriving
ways they can continue thriving,
cunning tricks to keep deriving
profits from their deeds depriving
others of the means of striving
for a life above surviving.

On day 20, I considered my post on unintentional haiku in the Mueller report to be my poem for the day.

Day 21, inspired by the rhyme nonvital and recital:

Some may say that art’s nonvital —
mere indulgence for the idle.
But while we breathe with no recital,
without reprieve, we’re suicidal.

Day 22, inspired by the rhymes (in non-rhotic accents) Larousse’snooses, and seducer’s, and some of the dictionary brands in my language bookcase:

In my bookcase of seducers:
Collins, Van Dales, and Larousses.
Some who judge not right from wrong,
Some who tighten grammar’s nooses.
Come to my Chambers, Roberts, Pons,
and I will Reed you all night long.

Day 23, inspired by the non-rhotic rhyme PDA to and cater:

Avoiding PDA to
abstemiously cater
to those who’d subjugate a
self you’ve not revealed
may further make the straighter
subconsciously equate a
same-sex love display to
a sin that’s best concealed.

Day 24, inspired by the rhyme dipterocarpaceous and veracious, to be sung to the tune of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious:

My dictionary says some plants are dipterocarpaceous,
even though it sounds like that is doubtfully veracious.
Lots of plant clades sound like this; it’s really not fallacious!
Caryophyll- amaryllid- hamamelidaceous!

I then got distracted by life for a while and wrote more poems in May, but let’s pretend they correspond to days in April.

Day 25, inspired by the non-rhotic rhymes intersectedunexpected, and sectored:

In a culture split and sectored
sometimes came the unexpected
when two groups who both were hectored
saw their interests intersected.

Day 26, inspired by the rhyme anaphylactic and intergalactic:

In an immune system intergalactic
dark energy swells in repulsive analogy
for self-versus-self, a matter of allergy,
and the Big Rip apocalypse anaphylactic.

Day 27, inspired by the rhyme subsistence and coexistence:

Species risk extinction and your
stocks deplete if you seek grandeur.
If instead you seek subsistence,
you might sustain that coexistence.

Day 28, inspired by hearing about someone being asked this question, to be sung to the tune of Tom Lehrer’s song L-Y:

You love with your minds and hearts
but also have matching parts.
“How do you two have sex?” acquaintances pry.
Consensually, consensually, consensual-L-Y.

Day 29, inspired by the fact that May 12 was both Mother’s Day in America and the first Women in Mathematics Day:

Today’s the day we stand beside
the women who have multiplied,
divided, added, and subtracted,
extrapolated, and abstracted
such that all of us were raised
to heights and powers that amazed.

Day 30, written as I was compiling this post, inspired by the rhyme mallets and ballots:

Some pound pavement swaying ballots,
Some pound foes, build walls with mallets
Some pound notes are worth less… well it’s
some pound of flesh to buy and sell us.

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My Performances on JoCo Cruise 2019


I’ve been going to JoCo Cruise since it started in 2011, and this year I finally had the nerve and organisation (okay, so actually Phil organised it) to take part in running a shadow event. What with this and MarsCon, apparently 2019 is my year for getting on stage at events I’ve long frequented.

There are many official celebrity guests on JoCo Cruise, but anyone can request a space and time to host their own events, whether concerts, crafting workshops, jam sessions, locksports seminars, hydrating face mask parties, PGP signing parties, space dog slideshows, scotch or foreign snack tastings, meetups of people who are various flavours of non-heteronormative, religious, merfolk, impaired, purple-haired, or scientists, or just a session of yelling at the moon. All of these things are real events that happened this year. This ‘shadow’ cruise, as it’s called, took up 292 of the 605 hours of programming.

My little corner of that was Angela Brett & Phil Conrad with Friends, later referred to as the ‘Hastily Assembled Entertainment Taco’, after the official event ‘Hastily Assembled Entertainment Burrito‘. The friends involved included Randy Parcel on vocals, Ryan Nathan on drums, Joey Marianer on vocals and ukulele, and Jeff Kahan on oboe. You can see the full show in the YouTube playlist below, or read on as I self-indulgently embed the specific parts I had a hand in, along with a few others from the open mic night.

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My Performances at MarsCon 2019


I’ve been going to MarsCon, mainly for the Dementia Track of comedy music concerts,  whenever it’s convenient for me to get there before or after the JoCo Cruise. I’m a fan of most of the acts from The FuMP and other sites, and have contributed some of my own creations to The FuMP Sideshow.

This year, I finally had the nerve and the organisation to ask to perform at MarsCon in the two concerts where people not doing a main stage set can perform. In the FuMP Jukebox concert, where artists can each perform one of their original songs, I sang ‘Why I Perform at Open Mics‘, slightly censored as it was a daytime show:

I didn’t have the best breath control, as is often the case (and I was cold, which didn’t help) but I didn’t make any major mistakes, and Devo Spice complimented my rhymes later, so I’m going to count that as a huge success.

Then, during the Dementia Smackdown concert, where each artist covers another artist’s song, I sang the only cover song I know how to do — Chicken Monkey Duck, by Mike Phirman. Mike had kindly provided me with the accompanying video without his vocals, the same one he uses for his performances, so that I could perform it at open mics, so I used that at MarsCon as well.

Perhaps I should work on not staying at the back of the stage next to the exit, but otherwise, I did okay. Since this made me officially a performer in the Dementia Track, I was included in the Dementia Smackdown Wrestling. This is a simulated wrestling match between Dementia Track artists put together by JP Tuesday — my only input was providing a picture to model my avatar after. I won’t reveal how I did — watch it and see!

I also got a snazzy certificate for participating in the Dementia Track, which is currently tucked away safely in my luggage. All in all, it was a great experience.

After that I visited The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, Kennedy Space Center, and of course, the JoCo Cruise, where the real Mike Phirman was a performer, for the third time — and if you think my performance of Chicken Monkey Duck was impressive, just wait till you see his sets on the cruise! I’ll upload my footage of it, and perhaps recount my other adventures, some time after I get home; I’m currently visiting the San Francisco Bay Area for a few more days.

In unrelated news, taking a job at a too-small-to-not-fail company has once again bitten me in the duck, so I’m looking for work again. If you’re at a reasonably stable company that needs a programmer with mathematics and linguistics training who can also sometimes write and perform weird things, let me know!

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NanoRhymo


November was National Novel Writing Month, which is a global event (‘National’ in this context means ‘More Official Than Other Made-Up Events, I Swear! Also, I Forgot There’s More Than One Nation’) in which people attempt to write 50000 words in a month. This is often abbreviated NaNoWriMo. I decided to go for an easier homophone, NanoRhymo.

Every day, I tweeted a short poem inspired by a rhyme I’d found using the ‘Random‘ button on the rhyming dictionary I made, rhyme.science. I’ve been tweeting interesting rhymes from this for a while, so some days I generated a new random rhyme, other days I looked through the @RhymeScience Twitter feed to find one that inspired me. Try it yourself! You might need to click a few times to get an accurate, interesting rhyme; I’m working on a new version that has fewer incorrect words or pronunciations in it, but don’t have enough spare time right now to get that up and running.

Some of them were fun little ditties, others were more inspired by current events or politics than my writing usually is. I’m not informed enough on most such issues to write on them, but that’s where the rhymes led me, and I have just enough of an informed opinion for a rhyming tweet. There are a few references to sexual assault and one to the Holocaust, so proceed with caution if reading such things is likely to be traumatic for you.

You can see all the NanoRhymos by clicking on the tweet above and reading the whole thread. But for those who prefer reading a blog, here they are. I’m considering continuing to write a NanoRhymo every day until I get bored of it, or until I have enough to publish a poem-a-day calendar. What do you think?

Day 1, inspired by the rhyme cloned and unowned:

It didn’t seem so wrong —
you wanted to prolong
the perfection of their hearts.
A collection of spare parts
was made when they were cloned.
They’re fêted and unowned,
but I’m a pair, impaired them-prime;
what’s mine is theirs, and theirs to mine.

Day 2, inspired by the rhyme no sin and close in:

A Jewish saviour way back
was questioned about payback,
and bade that those with no sin
grab stones and gather close in
to pelt a sinful other,
but then, the saviour’s mother
(whose immaculate conception
had made her an exception)
came forward — oh, Lord!

I would have ended that with ‘came forward, and Lord guffawed’, but I wanted to keep it in one tweet. The short version is probably better.

Day 3, inspired by the rhyme disguise and FBI’s:

This guy’s disguise will fool your eyes, but not the FBI’s.
They prize the wise who recognise through lies, despise the spies.

Day 4, inspired by the rhyme DVD on and neon:

Noise and darkness, stink and heat
Senses strained to find a beat
Shout to strangers lit by neon

Go home, put a DVD on.

Day 5, inspired by the rhyme young can and drunken:

Drunken groping long ago
Young can learn it’s wrong, and grow
Admit mistakes and make amends
Ensure the waking nightmare ends

Day 6, inspired by the rhyme enlighten’d and bite and, the election in the USA happening that day, and apparently also dogs:

Frantic voters running frightened,
Heavy hearts, but heads enlightened,
Two years on, they’ve seen his bite and
barking mad demeanour heightened.
Doggedly, they’ll put things right and
chase a future slowly brightened.

Day 7 (actually posted on November 10, because I missed a few days and made up for them by posting a few rhymes in quick succession) inspired by the rhyme promise’s and Thomas’s:

Don’t believe every Tom, Dick, and Harry;
Thomas’s promises won’t hold true;
Richard’s switch’d leave you hanging;
Trust Henry? Then regret that too.

Day 8, inspired by the rhymes rushes, crushes, and (in non-rhotic accents) ushers:

The wise one rushes,
Telling all their crushes,
Finding out the answers: yes or no?
No, they’ll only blush, or
Yes, follow the usher,
Make some more advances in the back row.

Day 9, inspired by the rhyme cynically and clinically:

After loving declarations,
you should not yet have relations,
but evaluate the information cynically.
Ask for terms and motivations,
and when provided with citations,
then concur, and place your arms around them clinically.

Day 10, inspired by the rhyme flattery and battery:

Some fake care to prime their victim:
soften and enlarge with flattery,
and while most juries don’t convict ‘em,
often they are charged with battery.

Day 11, inspired by the rhyme aghast and gassed:

See the harrowed and harrassed
Seething horrors of the past
Browse and mull, and be aghast
Thousands, millions, people gassed

This one has a different rhyme scheme in different accents: ABBA with the trap-bath split or AAAA without. It’s probably about the worst way I could have demonstrated the trap-bath split.

Day 12, inspired by the rhyme borders and marauder’s:

Halt, ye marauders,
attacking our borders!
Just following orders —
you can’t come in here!
If we don’t mistreat you,
we’re worried that we, too,
will soon have to flee to
another frontier.
(But they’d give us shelter;
they’d surely do well to!
We’re good folk, just dealt a
harsh blow; we’re sincere!)

Day 13, inspired by the rhymes (in non-rhotic accents) built a, kilter, and still to:

We’re all a bit off-kilter now;
we’ve lost a then and built a now,
but later’s what we’ve still to know,
and do we have the will to? No.

Day 14, inspired by the rhyme mathematician and proposition, and also Rudyard Kipling’s poem If—:

If⟹

If you see a proposition,
apply to it your intuition,
at length, exerting full cognition,
come to trivial fruition,
and restart with a new suspicion,
then you’ll be a mathematician.

Day 15 (actually posted on November 17, because I missed a few days), inspired by the rhyme compiling and unsmiling:

Robotic faces, cold, unsmiling,
hypnotic glaze of code compiling,
illuminating status lights
as humans wait for access rights.
Once it’s done, they wake anew —
the robots and their coders too.

Day 16, inspired by the rhymes amnesia and anesthesia, and whiskey and frisky:

Dull the pain with anaesthesia,
hoping for a brief amnesia
of harm sustained while he was frisky
(lapses blamed on too much whiskey)
Clear dark thoughts to fit some leisure:
dull clear thought with too much whiskey.

Day 17 (actually posted on November 18, because when catching up the missed days on November 17, I missed a day, so everything after this is a day late), inspired by the rhyme predestined and unstressed and:

If your plans have not progressed, and
stasis leaves you quite depressed, ind-
eed, you must stick out your chest, and
pray that you’ll be always blessed, and
loaf around, remain unstressed and
wait for that which comes predestined.

Day 18, inspired by the rhyme prick’d and afflict:

If Santa wanted Christmas cheer
to fill the Northern Hemisphere,
he’d send the elves to spread the word
to save yourselves and save the herd:
Inoculate yourselves; get prick’d!
Be those the flu will not afflict!

Day 19, inspired by the rhyme trustee can and deacon, although I ended up using 15 other rhymes for deacon and not trustee can:

Sea can weaken a Puerto Rican deacon.
We can be concerned, and we can sneak unspeakin’
or be concertedly connected shriekin’
so s/he can see kin be a freakin’ beacon.

Day 20, inspired by the rhyme Wozniak and Bosniak:

Once upon a time I met Steve Wozniak,
Who bought me a replacement when I lost me Mac
My life got weirder still; I saw a tokamak 🤷🏻‍♀️
And now I code for iOS to clothe me back
While Android code is handled by a Bosniak

It’s a pretty silly poem, but it is also 100% true (you can read the Wozniak story in even cheesier rhymes, if you like), and how could I ignore it when my random rhyme generator comes up with ‘Wozniak’?

Day 21, inspired by the rhyme xylem’s and asylums:

I’m committed to squeezing out a daily poem —
soon committed to a poetry asylum?
But pull enough good water up a xylem
and some day something sweet comes down the phloem.

Day 22, inspired by the rhyme Dulles’s and portcullises, and that time when I had about three hours to change planes in Washington Dulles airport but still only just made it, with an airport staff member running while pushing me in a wheelchair:

A change of planes is always an adventure
and no ride is as perilous as Dulles’s —
with far-off gates and queues there to prevent’ya
you’re sliding under plummeting portcullises.

This one is best read with low rhoticity and yod coalescence, to make adventure rhyme with prevent’ya.

Day 23, inspired by the rhymes routeddisputed, and (in non-rhotic accents) untutored:

In the untutored,
the pronunciation of ‘routed’
can be disputed,
so if you doubted
the pronunciation of ‘routed’
you’ve been outed.
(It depends on where you’re rooted,
so feud no more about it.)

Day 24, inspired by the rhyme fantoccini and Jeannie:

Jeannie, Jeannie, fantoccini
pulled the strings of her bikini,
made a pervy man look up it,
then she moved him like a puppet.

Day 25, inspired by the rhyme unstudied and ruddied, and the first image sent back from Mars by NASA’s InSight lander:

Freckled surface, still and ruddied,
sweeping spaces still unstudied,
far in space is InSight near;
insight can begin right here.

The freckles were actually dust on the lens, though.

Day 26, inspired by the rhyme Bernard would and hardwood:

A tree would never leave you;
it’s your steadfast, loyal bud.
A tree would never leave you;
it will root for you, come hail or flood.
A tree would never leave you;
it’s as solid as hardwood.
A tree would never leave you,
but Bernard would.

Day 27, inspired by the rhymes ultimata, weight a, and (in non-rhotic accents) eliminator:

The real eliminator
is bearing all the weight a
gazillion ultimata
can have on the enforcer.
Can they just divorce a
person they adore so
much because they made a
gaffe they said would force it?

Day 28, inspired by the rhyme conceal’d and kneeled:

They saw the violence, and they kneeled,
did not kowtow, and did not yield.
A shout of silence that conceal’d
the loudest power they could wield.

Day 29, inspired by the rhymes miss a, Alissa, and (in non-rhotic accents) kisser:

🙂: “Why would you miss a
girl named Alissa?”
🙃: “She’s a good kisser;
don’t you dismiss her!”
🙂: “But so is Melissa,
also Clarissa,
even Idrissa,
why just one Miss, huh?”
🙃: “Not gonna diss ya,
just not down with this, yeah.
I’ll follow my bliss, you
kiss them and I’ll miss ‘lissa.”

Day 30, inspired by the rhymes becharmed, unharmed, in non-rhotic accents calm’d, and in non-rhotic accents with the father-bother merger, glommed:

Onto magic guild they glommed,
vibes they quivered, nerves they calm’d.
Vicariously thus becharmed,
they came through escapades unharmed.

NaNoWriMo is over, but tune in on Twitter to see if NanoRhymo continues!

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In which I appear content with content in which I appear


I’ve been having a pretty relaxed month, but my life is ridiculous, therefore so far in September I have appeared in a music video, a radio broadcast, and a podcast.

The music video is Molly Lewis’s ‘Pantsuit Sasquatch‘, for which I recorded my feet walking up to a tortoise sculpture on a playground:

This joins the six other official music videos I have contributed to, and five unofficial music videos I’ve made. I guess I just like being in music videos.

The radio broadcast (which you can also listen to online) was episode #9 of the Open Phil Broadcast on Radio Orange. The broadcast mostly features regulars at the Open Phil open mic in Vienna. Each episode features an interview with and performance by two acts; I shared this one with Adrian Lüssing, also known as The Cliff.

It was an honour to be invited to participate in the broadcast, and it was made extra awesome by the fact that it happened while Joey Marianer, who has been setting a lot of my poetry to music, was visiting Vienna, so he participated too. I recited They Might Not Be Giants, then he sang his version of it, then we sang I Love Your Body, with Joey singing the first part and me singing the second part. Yes, me singing. This is about the first time I’ve sung for an audience, and the third time Joey and I had sung that song together, and it went on the radio. I think it went pretty well, though! We performed it again a few days later on the Open Phil stage, and I’ll post video of that once I’ve uploaded it.

The podcast was episode #60 of Wrong, but Useful, a recreational mathematics podcast by @icecolbeveridge (Colin in real life) and @reflectivemaths (Dave in real life). I was invited to be a special guest cohost. I’m not sure I contributed very much, but I once again recited They Might Not Be Giants, because the hosts had heard me perform that at the MathsJam Annual Gathering last year. I have to admit, I had not actually listened to the podcast until I was invited to be on it — podcast listening is something I usually do while commuting, and lately I’ve been noncommutative. However, before episode #60 was recorded, Joey and I listened to episode #59 together, and I’m happy to report that the answer we came up with for the coin-flipping puzzle was correct.

In hindsight, I wish I’d mentioned my linguistics degree while we were chatting about English and poetry and such. I also wish I’d said something about the fact that nobody on episode #59 noticed that the diameter of the Fields medal in millimetres happened to round up to the number of the podcast (that is, 64, not 59. You don’t expect mathematicians to give each podcast episode only a single number do you?)

This reminds me, I need to register for the MathsJam Annual Gathering soon. You should too, if you can get to it. It’s a lot of fun! And who knows? Maybe if you go, you’ll end up co-hosting a podcast.

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Negative Return (a poem about a Space Shuttle launch and/or a breakup)


Well, it’s Global Poetry Writing Month again. I can’t promise to blog a poem every day, but I have a few I prepared earlier. Here’s one called Negative Return, which I wrote in 2015 in order to have an excuse to wear my flight suit on stage. It’s about a Space Shuttle launch, or a breakup, or a breakup in which the person breaking up with you is leaving in a Space Shuttle (my preferred way of breaking up with someone.) It was inspired by something a tour guide at Kennedy Space Center said, which I happened to record audio of.

This particular performance is from the open mic on the 2018 JoCo Cruise, even though on the JoCo Cruise, no excuse is needed to wear a flight suit at any time.

I’ve performed it a few times in Vienna, with slightly different wording, though I’d never actually posted about it here before. Here’s a playlist of the recorded versions of it.

Immediately before me at the open mic, Joey Marianer, who follows me around singing everything I say, sang my parody of Jonathan Coulton’s ‘Glasses’:

As I’ve previously mentioned, he’d sung it before on YouTube, but I think this live performance was even better.

I’m still processing, uploading, and getting the performers’ permission to post my video from the rest of the open mic.

I recommend watching the video if you can rather than just reading, as there are some added sound effects, but here are the words to Negative Return:

Read the rest of this entry »

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I made a bookmark!


photoI’ve been meaning to put a revised version of the poem The Bookshop on a bookmark for a while, but put it aside as I didn’t have the tools to do it the way I wanted. Motivated by the recent Christmas shopping edition of the Open Phil open mic, I finally bought the app I needed, finished the design, and had some printed, so now you can buy them on my Etsy shop. They may be a little late for Jólabókaflóðið, but you were going to read all year anyway, right? These are considerably cheaper to post worldwide than my posters (fun falsehood: posters are call that because they’re more post), and while the postage still costs more than the thing itself in most cases, you can save on postage by ordering more than one at once.

If you’ve ever started casually reading something in a bookshop and then looked up and realised the sun has gone down, you’ll understand the generally timey-wimey nature of books and bookshops shown in this poem. Admittedly, when this happened to me shortly before I wrote the poem, I was in Stockholm on the shortest day of the year, but it can happen on longer days too. The background shows a sky slowly darkening and becoming a sunset as you read through the poem. The reverse of the bookmark has the name of the poem and author, on the same sky as seen facing away from the Sun.

It occurs to me that a customised version of this poem bookmark might be useful to promote an actual bookshop, so if you’d be interested in that, let me know.

Much thanks to my friend Grace Bridges for her advice on the design of the bookmarks; I would recommend her books to use the bookmark on, but they’re mostly on Kindle, so I’ll just recommend them whether you still use physical bookmarks or not. She also has some posters and T-shirts available on Teechip. I am now considering putting some things up on Teechip myself, since it would be better value than either Zazzle or Etsy for getting posters and T-shirts to people around the world. I’ll also publish a book some day. I’m also working on a few videos and apps and version two of the rhyming dictionary I’m not officially publicising (don’t tell anyone I just linked to it! It’s our secret) until I’ve finished version two. But one thing at a time.

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I did a poetry show, and you can watch it!


IMG_2370April 28 is Great Poetry Reading Day, so I’m going to share some videos of myself reciting my poetry for an audience. It isn’t reading, but it is poetry! Back in February, Johanna Van Tan asked me if I’d like to recite some poetry at her Sing, Talk, Feel event, along with Matylda Q and Stephanie Ora. The performance was two days before I flew off to JoCo Cruise, so I had a lot of other things to do, but, as you’ll hear in the second poem, this sort of opportunity is exactly what I’ve been preparing for. So I said yes, wrote a script to randomly generate a coherent setlist, ran the script enough times to get a setlist I wanted, and in whatever time was left after that, practised.

I recorded it, because it’s my first show and that’s quite a milestone. Besides, I record everything. I hope that some day I will be good enough that I’ll look back on this and cringe, but for now I’m pleasantly surprised by how well it went and how easily I can watch it without being self-conscious. Johanna improvised piano music behind my poems, which added a lot.

I think I did really well on my segues during this performance, and I love that Johanna played music through them, but that made it hard to find good points to split the recording without leaving comments that pertain to the wrong poem. I would recommend watching the whole playlist to get the full effect. There are links in the individual video descriptions with more information about each poem. Thanks to Thomas for pressing the button on my camera at the right time.

I wore an astronaut flight suit (bought from Kennedy Space Center, with patches from ESOC and a cosmonaut exhibition at London Science Museum added), because they say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. In future I plan to have all my props in various pockets of the suit, so I don’t have to bend down and get things out of bags and so on.

A week or so later, I performed a couple of poems as part of the ‘A Bunch of Monkeys Read Some Stuff’ event on JoCo Cruise. Here’s a playlist of the whole event, and here’s my part:

I also performed at the open mic on the cruise, but I haven’t uploaded my video of that yet; I record all of the shows I am allowed to on the cruise, and for the most part, upload them in order. I’m currently up to the afternoon of the fifth day. Subscribe to my YouTube channel if you want to keep up with my latest JoCo Cruise, poetry, or other videos. Once I’m done with the cruise videos and have checked with the other performers, I’ll also upload the video I have of the rest of the Sing, Talk, Feel event.

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Unintentional Haiku in New Scientist’s Medical Frontiers: The Movie


How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?I’ve made a new version of Haiku Detector. The main changes are:

  • Performance improvements
  • Tweaks to which haiku are identified when punctuation is pronounced differently depending on line breaks and other factors (this includes a workaround for the ‘all numbers pronounced as zero’ bug I found in the speech synthesiser.) In my test data the list of haiku identified is better now.
  • Bug fixes.

To celebrate the new release, I fed in the text from the latest New Scientist ‘Collection’ issue, on medical frontiers. The funniest haiku arose when the last sentence of one article joined up with the headline and byline of the next. For example, this looks like the tagline of a movie about an underappreciated superhero, fighting to save anti-vaxxers from diseases of yore:

They will not thank you.
Dan Jones FIGHTING INFECTION
Small shot, big impact

After the opening credits, we see our hero Dan Jones in his lab, and the subtitle announcing his first challenge.

DRUG: Chlorotoxin
SOURCE: Deathstalker scorpion
CONDITION: Cancer

His superpowers come, of course, from vaccines:

Some vaccines seem to
provide us with a host of
extra benefits

But not everybody is happy with that:

Several groups have been
trying to develop drugs
that block these signals.

These groups spread propaganda:

Half an hour or
so later, you’ll feel a lot
better. Or will you?

They work around rules:

“Because we use cells,
not field-grown plants, we don’t come
under the same rules.”

And they target humanity by zapping the very microorganisms they’re made up of. Here’s a quote from the evil mastermind:

There are more cells in
your body than there are stars
in the galaxy.

These cells can then be
killed using a laser that
penetrates the skin.

And just when Dan thought he had the solution, the problems compounded to the point of suspension of disbelief, precipitating a crisis. The mastermind had cooked up her own microbial minions:

Those microbes can be
in the environment or
a vaccine syringe.

To make matters worse,
there is a shortage of new
antibiotics.

The sequel, which may or may not be a Doctor Who crossover, features a heroine who will live forever:

“Just endless.” Helen
Thomson REGENERATION
Let’s get physical

Yep, it’s definitely a Doctor Who crossover. Here’s a quote from that movie:

“I’m the doctor. I’m
going to tell you what your
feelings really mean.”

She discovered that time, and specifically time travel, is the best cure for a broken heart:

If we can’t fix hearts
with stem cells there might be an
even better way

As the animal
was slowly warmed, it began
to return to life.

But however clever the TARDIS is, there’s one thing Helen Thomson isn’t sure she can do:

But can we ever
turn the clock back to a world
without HIV?

It turned out, weirdly enough, that the answer was in making sure there was enough shelf space for one’s awards. So she went home to Britain to save the Officers of the British Empire:

On her return home,
she applied those lessons in
British hospitals.

So far, two patients
have had OBEs, but neither in
a room with a shelf…

While we’re making sequels, let’s revive an old favourite, which never had any sequels:

The matrix holds a
dazzling array of future
possibilities.

But what is the matrix?

Normally, matrix
is harvested from human
or pig cadavers.

I guess you have to see it for yourself.

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Another Haiku Detector Update, and Some Observations on Mac Speech Synthesis


Screenshot of Haiku Detector

I subjected Haiku Detector to some serious stress-testing with a 29MB text file (that’s 671481 sentences, containing 16810 haiku, of which some are intentional) a few days ago, and kept finding more things that needed fixing or could do with improvement. A few days in a nerdsniped daze later, I have a new version, and some interesting tidbits about the way Mac speech synthesis pronounces things. Here’s some of what I did:

  • Tweaked the user interface a bit, partly to improve responsiveness after 10000 or so haiku have been found.
  • Made the list of haiku stay scrolled to the bottom so you can see the new ones as they’re found.
  • Added a progress bar instead of the spinner that was there before.
  • Fixed a memory issue.
  • Changed a setting so it should work in Mac OS X 10.6, as I said here it would, but I didn’t have a 10.6 system to test it on, and it turns out it does not run on one. I think 10.7 (Lion) is the lowest version it will run on.
  • Added some example text on startup so that it’s easier to know what to do.
  • Made it a Developer ID signed application, because now that I have a bit more time to do Mac development (since I don’t have a day job; would you like to hire me?), it was worth signing up to the paid Mac Developer Program again. Once I get an icon for Haiku Detector, I’ll put it on the app store.
  • Fixed a few bugs and made a few other changes relating to how syllables are counted, which lines certain punctuation goes on, and which things are counted as haiku.

That last item is more difficult than you’d think, because the Mac speech synthesis engine (which I use to count syllables for Haiku Detector) is very clever, and pronounces words differently depending on context and punctuation. Going through words until the right number of syllables for a given line of the haiku are reached can produce different results depending on which punctuation you keep, and a sentence or group of sentences which is pronounced with 17 syllables as a whole might not have words in it which add up to 17 syllables, or it might, but only if you keep a given punctuation mark at the start of one line or the end of the previous. There are therefore many cases where the speech synthesis says the syllable count of each line is wrong but the sum of the words is correct, or vice versa, and I had to make some decisions on which of those to keep. I’ve made better decisions in this version than the last one, but I may well change things in the next version if it gives better results.

Here are some interesting examples of words which are pronounced differently depending on punctuation or context:

ooohh Pronounced with one syllable, as you would expect
ooohh. Pronounced with one syllable, as you would expect
ooohh.. Spelled out (Oh oh oh aitch aitch)
ooohh… Pronounced with one syllable, as you would expect
H H Pronounced aitch aitch
H H H Pronounced aitch aitch aitch
H H H H H H H H Pronounced aitch aitch aitch
Da-da-de-de-da Pronounced with five syllables, roughly as you would expect
Da-da-de-de-da- Pronounced dee-ay-dash-di-dash-di-dash-di-dash-di-dash. The dashes are pronounced for anything with hyphens in it that also ends in a hyphen, despite the fact that when splitting Da-da-de-de-da-de-da-de-da-de-da-de-da-da-de-da-da into a haiku, it’s correct punctuation to leave the hyphen at the end of the line:

Da-da-de-de-da-
de-da-de-da-de-da-de-
da-da-de-da-da

Though in a different context, where – is a minus sign, and meant to be pronounced, it might need to go at the start of the next line. Greater-than and less-than signs have the same ambiguity, as they are not pronounced when they surround a single word as in an html tag, but are if they are unmatched or surround multiple words separated by spaces. Incidentally, surrounding da-da in angle brackets causes the dash to be pronounced where it otherwise wouldn’t be.

U.S or u.s Pronounced you dot es (this way, domain names such as angelastic.com are pronounced correctly.)
U.S. or u.s. Pronounced you es
US Pronounced you es, unless in a capitalised sentence such as ‘TAKE US AWAY’, where it’s pronounced ‘us’

I also discovered what I’m pretty sure is a bug, and I’ve reported it to Apple. If two carriage returns (not newlines) are followed by any integer, then a dot, then a space, the number is pronounced ‘zero’ no matter what it is. You can try it with this file; download the file, open it in TextEdit, select the entire text of the file, then go to the Edit menu, Speech submenu, and choose ‘Start Speaking’. Quite a few haiku were missed or spuriously found due to that bug, but I happened to find it when trimming out harmless whitespace.

Apart from that bug, it’s all very clever. Note how even without the correct punctuation, it pronounces the ‘dr’s and ‘st’s in this sentence correctly:

the dr who lives on rodeo dr who is better than the dr I met on the st john’s st turnpike

However, it pronounces the second ‘st’ as ‘saint’ in the following:

the dr who lives on rodeo dr who is better than the dr I met in the st john’s st john

This is not just because it knows there is a saint called John; strangely enough, it also gets this one wrong:

the dr who lives on rodeo dr who is better than the dr I met in the st john’s st park

I could play with this all day, or all night, and indeed I have for the last couple of days, but now it’s your turn. Download the new Haiku Detector and paste your favourite novels, theses, holy texts or discussion threads into it.

If you don’t have a Mac, you’ll have to make do with a few more haiku from the New Scientist special issue on the brain which I mentioned in the last post:

Being a baby
is like paying attention
with most of our brain.

But that doesn’t mean
there isn’t a sex difference
in the brain,” he says.

They may even be
a different kind of cell that
just looks similar.

It is easy to
see how the mind and the brain
became equated.

We like to think of
ourselves as rational and
logical creatures.

It didn’t seem to
matter that the content of
these dreams was obtuse.

I’d like to thank the people of the xkcd Time discussion thread for writing so much in so many strange ways, and especially Sciscitor for exporting the entire thread as text. It was the test data set that kept on giving.

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