A useless post

This post contains useless information unless you need it and then omg it will change your life.

First, as all right-thinking people know, the Blackwing 602 pencil is the nonpareil of writing instruments.  All the best people use them.  When they went out of production in 1998, a nation grieved, but a couple of years ago Palomino revived them and we can all once again write with the same pencil as Stephen Sondheim.

One of the nifty design elements of the pencil is its eraser.

It is held in the ferrule by a little aluminum clip, and the idea is that as you wear the eraser down you can pull it out, move the eraser up, and pop it back in. The clip will hold the extended eraser in its new position.

You can see the theory here:

However, the two little indentations in the clip do not actually hold the eraser in place.  Any attempt to erase your mistakes pushes the eraser back down into the ferrule.

So here’s your life-changing tip of the day: take a small nail and dunch those indentations in a wee bit.

Now your clip has actual teeth and will hold the eraser in place as you write the lyrics for the next Follies.

You’re welcome.

A missing blog post

I swear I thought I had blogged about this two years ago, but either my MySQL database is borked or I am delusional—none of the key words I’m about to write show up in a search of this blog.

This is a ceramic piece sitting in our living room.  Yesterday an old friend who was visiting noticed it and asked me about it, and since I can never remember the artist’s name, I came to the blog to search for it.  As I’ve said, no such blog post exists despite my bestest memory, so I’ll now tell you the story behind the piece.

Two years ago, my Lovely First Wife and I were in Asheville, soaking in the ambience.  We went into Blue Spiral 1 Gallery downtown, looked at all the nice art, went downstairs, looked at more nice art, and that’s when we saw this piece.

I should say at this point that the photo here is not mine; I pulled it from a Pinterest page in the UK, of all places.  But it is my piece, although it is secured not with twine but with airplane cable.  Bolted.  Hold that thought.

The name of the piece is Cremains Vessel No. 5.  We really liked it.  We kept coming back to it.  It was within our price range, and besides, it was an investment.

We went upstairs and asked the young men working behind the front desk if the piece were actually a cremains vessel.  They seemed a little nonplussed, finally stammering out that there weren’t anyone’s ashes in it.

We laughed, which probably seemed odd to them, and I told them that what we were asking was whether the vessel was actually built to hold cremains or was it just, you know, art?  They pretty sure it was an actual vessel.

So we went back to the condo where we were staying and I did some googling and calculating: if we both shriveled a bit in our declining years, plus reserved a cup or so of ashes for scattering/rituals, then we should both fit in there.

We went back the next day and bought it.  I tell people that my LFW finally figured out a way to screw over that whole “till death do us part” thing.

One thing that gave me a frisson was that it was more or less locked shut.  At least one of us would never know what the inside looked like.  Then, on a subsequent visit to Blue Spiral, there was a similar piece by the same artist, and my LFW opened it.  It may be that our piece looks different inside, but I’m thinking the suspense is ruined.

So who is the artist?  We were given a little card with his name and not much more: Don Penny.

I went looking, of course, and was stunned to find that I already knew the man’s work. He was the ceramics professor at Valdosta State University until 1990, and I had seen his work in the faculty display case every summer since 1984.

And then I had an inkling that I knew exactly who he was.   After I called a friend in Valdosta’s music department to go down the hall and read a plaque for me, my suspicions were confirmed: Don Penny was the artist who created the mural in the lobby of Whitehead Auditorium:

2013 GHP Jazz majors playing at the Art majors’ exhibit opening. Don Penny’s clay mural is behind them.

I saw this piece nearly every day of every summer for 30 years.

And in an astounding wallop of synchronicity, I bought a cremains vessel by that very same man, to stick my ashes in.

The story in a nutshell

From a Production Information Sheet I found in a bunch of papers I’m “touching once.”


Show: A Christmas Carol

Decscription: Man likes money; man wakes up; the cripple does not die.


That is all.  I just felt I needed to share that before tossing the paper and never touching it again.

Adventures in spam commenting

I’ve had some lovely spam comments recently.


Never would have thunk I would find this so inaelpensdbsi.

Smart thkinnig – a clever way of looking at it.

Good to find an expert who knows what he’s tanlikg about!

Seriously to all you Libs: EAT A FUCKING DICK.Fuck you all.You will always be pussy pieces of shit not worth the sacrifices many good men and women have made for you.I hope you idiots get hit by a bus.There will never be any renolciciation with you scum of the earth. Never. ——(Note: this was an attempted comment on Five Easier Pieces #4: a start.  I mean to say, wot?)

Put money into brazier as well as panties. If you desire to hide an important dimension amount, you will need to begin from the most important core. A good breast support definitely will carry and help your bust line and draw the interest nearly your greatest real estate. A well-fitted bra may also create the phantasm belonging to the more shapely middle. When you are large-chested, go ahead and reveal your current cleavage with a great push-up and even support brassiere. A new weight losing panty might help minimize progresses in addition to protrudes and help a person’s clothes healthy significantly better. Given that Prada is often a top rated developer model, celebrities have the money to purchase plus show it’s design. Megastars including Nicole Kidman, Nicole kidman, Scarlet Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow and also Jennifer Aniston all have recently been spotted donning Prada with InStye Magazine. All the developer signifies The movies fashion. Prada also may promote his or her clothing giving specific concepts so that you can super stars to make use of and turn into noticed in it all ——(In response to I don’t even know, which at least was recent.)

Gosh, I wish I would have had that intromafion earlier!

Your cranium must be prietctong some very valuable brains.

Back in school, I’m doing so much lenniarg.


I… I really don’t get it.

The intertubes was not much help:

screen capture from Google books, Hacking: Hacking For Beginners and Basic Security: How To Hack

I understand why you would scramble a word to get past the spam filter—that’s where we got the neologism pron, after all.  But the words being scrambled in the simple sentences above are not going to be on anyone’s watchlist, so there was no need to scramble them.  Plus, as I’ve discussed before, these things don’t even appear to have a link in them, i.e., there’s no trap for you to fall into.  So what gives?

Even more puzzlingly, there must be something embedded in these comments, because otherwise why would the spam filter have gotten most (but not all!) of them?  (The “brazier” one was snagged because the paragraph of gibberish was followed by a torrent of links, always a tip-off.)

Can anyone enlighten me?


Great moments in package design

The other night, while dining at home ‘neath the candle-light — as one does — my eye fell on the matchbox:

Did you see it?  No, not the ludicrous “Fueled by the Diamond™ Ignition System” thing.  The other thing.  The “NEW LOOK!” thing.

I mean to say, wot?

I have a few questions.  Number one, WHO DESIGNS SUCH A THING?  Number two, WHO ASKS FOR SUCH A THING TO BE DESIGNED?

I mean, here’s the old one:

The old one is actually a cleaner design!  I am reminded of the classic “Microsoft Designs the iPod Packaging” video, which if you haven’t seen, you really should.

So I guess the embedded question is WHY?  Why would someone do this?  Sometimes the NEW LOOK! thing is an indicator that the package now contains less Windex or fewer Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but that is clearly not the case here. The back of the new box gives us a clue:

There it is: The match tip in this product contains perchlorate materials.  Special handling may apply in California.  With a link. We had to redesign the box to include a hazardous waste warning so that we could continue selling the product in the world’s sixth largest economy.

That’s fine, but the fact remains that the NEW LOOK! blurb is stupendously ridiculous.  I know for a fact — because I know these kinds of things — that not a single soul on this planet of 7 billion people has ever walked down the aisle of a store and stopped, lured in by the promise of a NEW LOOK! on a box of Diamond™ matches, and said, “Hey, honey, come over here!  These matches have a NEW LOOK!  Imma buy me some of them.”  NOT ONE, KENNETH.

This is why the aliens won’t talk to us.

A quick side note:

“Flavor Protect™ Wrapper”?  Really, Land O’Lakes?  Really?  It’s just a wax paper wrapper.  You have to name it?  Market it?  Trademark it?

Now the aliens are just laughing at us.


Margin release, redux

Well, this is embarrassing.

You may recall that I recently wrote a poignant little piece about the charm bracelet charm made from a typewriter key, the MARGIN RELEASE key, to be exact.

It was precipitated by my having spent the day vacuuming up the leaves in my back yard.  Yes, you can do that if your leaf blower has an attachment to turn it into a leaf sucker/mulcher.  Still noisy, but it gives you mulch and it doesn’t give you piles of leaves that you still have to rake up.

But it’s dusty: at the end of the session, both I and my kilt were filthy, in ways and places that I’m sure certain corners of the internet would pay money to see on a regular basis.  It was time to shower and to wash my yard kilt.

Yes, my yard kilt.  It’s the Survival model from Utilikilts, and I’m not linking to it because it’s embarrassingly expensive.  I use it when I work in the yard and when I go Camping with the Hippies™ at burns, so it’s well and truly broken in.

Here’s what it looks like:

It has a little gizmo hanging from a belt loop that lets you hook all kinds of things on it, and so when I wash it I have to be careful to take them off.  Like this little talisman:

Clay, “man in the maze” pattern, bought in Jerome, AZ, in 2015.  Went straight onto my hippie kilt.  It was when I removed this from the little clip in order to wash the kilt that I realized that my MARGIN RELEASE talisman was gone.


If you go back and read the blog post where I lament its going, there’s one sentence—A SENTENCE I WROTE, KENNETH—that kind of jumps out at me.

I bought it to be a talisman on the new Utilikilt I purchased there in Seattle at the flagship store, and I wore it on a little chain attached to a belt loop…

That new Utilikilt that I purchased there in Seattle at the flagship store?  Yeah, about that:

There I am, in Seattle.  At the flagship Utilikilt store.  In the new kilt.  Which is not my yard/hippie kilt.  It is the basic Spartan model.

We’re not even going into the reasons why I own more than one of these expensive masculine unbifurcated garments.  I just do, OK?  The point is that all my annoyance/sadness at losing that little charm turned into squirm-inducing embarrassment when I realized that the MARGIN RELEASE talisman was not on the yard kilt; it was never on the yard kilt; it was always on the Spartan kilt, which I was wearing when I bought the talisman.

Which makes the rest of the sentence just inexplicable:

… along with a little clay talisman of the Man-in-the-Maze design that I got in Jerome, AZ.

Oy.  The first unravelings of a magnificent mind.

The good news is that now I have two MARGIN RELEASE talismans, and I can wear one on my hippie kilt.

Maybe I should get a third one, to wear on my Mockers model kilt:

Dale’s what??

So in my dream, the phrase DALE’S CLEATS flashed upon the screen.

I mean to say, what?

I felt vaguely that it might have something to do with the Backstreet Writers group that I am struggling to get off the ground down at Backstreet Arts, but how?  I’ve never owned a pair of cleats in my life, nor have I ever done anything remotely requiring cleats, even for a moment.

So… digging in?  Running fast?  Pivoting sharply?[1]

It didn’t end there.

A few moments later—in dreamtime, anyway—the phrase Christian auction salmon appeared.  (Both phrases seemed to be printed on the screen.  You know, the screen.)

Well OK then.  Now you’re just messing with me.  I’ll leave the guessing to the Lacanians in our midst and move on to what this phrase reminded me of: placement at a burn.

No, really, and it has nothing to do with Christians, auctions, or salmon. I already told you it was about a burn, remember?

Last fall when I was trying to wrangle a new piece of property into a proper burn, one of the banes of my existence was measuring the land accurately.  I bought a laser rangefinder and that helped, but things like exactly where the Effigy and Temple would go were driving me to distraction.

I had a couple of apps on my phone that claimed to help me pin down the latitude and longitude of wherever I was standing, and you might think that would be all I needed.  Hold that thought.

Anyway, after the burn was over, I discovered a new app: What3Words.  In theory it’s a cool concept: chop up the world into 3×3 meter squares, and assign three random English words to each square.  Why three and not two or even one?  Why not?

But here’s the thing: I already had apps that could pinpoint latitude and longitude down to four or five decimal places.  Why would What3Words be any more accurate?   It wasn’t, but hope springs eternal.

The problem, of course, is the technology I’m using: my phone.  It relies on cell towers and such to locate itself, and that system isn’t accurate enough.  At Alchemy, in Bowdon, GA, for example, we were so close to the Alabama border that some hippies’ cell phones kept switching to Central Daylight Savings time and back.  Consequently, the coordinates on my phone would change every time I went to the property.

The apps weren’t lying to me: they would tell me their accuracy was “within 14 m.,” for example.  Right now, I have one telling me that my location is 0.0005 miles from home while I am sitting in my study.  Not only that, a moment ago I was o.0002 miles from home, in another direction.  I haven’t moved.  You see the problem.

When I downloaded What3Words, I decided to test it out on the center of my labyrinth.  As usual, the results were disappointingly shapeshifty.  Just now, I got the four following combinations:[2]

  • sever.fits.amenity
  • endpoints.fade.bowling
  • relished.crucially.foraged
  • brisk.blackened.design

Not only that, but I don’t recognize any of those combinations as being any that I got on my first use a couple of months ago.

The actual location of the center of the labyrinth is 33.3760 N and -84.8035 W, and I know that because the satellite photo in Maps finally was taken in the winter and you can barely make out the labyrinth from space.  The what3words for that coordinate is perches.mermaid.pelting, which I do recognize as one of the options I got before.  The apps for latitude and longitude do not match those numbers.

So the phone and its attempts at geopositioning are the weak link in any system trying to map a space.  Of course, that’s usually not a problem. If I tell you that my labyrinth is at perches.mermaid.pelting, you’ll land close enough to find it.  (Or maybe not: see footnote 2.) But accurate?  No.

And here’s one pretty hysterical example: as I drove into Alchemy last October for early entry, I noticed that a bank of portapotties were in the middle of a camp’s marked area.  Hm, I thought, and then I rounded the bend and there was another set of portapotties smack dab in the middle of Camp Shameless.  They’re not that shameless, I thought.

When I tracked down the hippie in charge of portapotties, he said that when the portapottie company arrived earlier in the week, he used the latitude/longitude from the online map to show them where to place the banks of facilities.  Ah, I said, the map was visually accurate: if the portapotties were at the intersection of Boulevard One and Boulevard Four on the map, then that’s where they went.  But the coordinates, he kept insisting.  I finally got him to understand that while the coordinates might have been accurate, his phone was not.  He had to move every single bank of potties.

By the way, christian.auction.salmon is not on this planet.  However, curtain.auction.salmon is near Watson Lake, Yukon; chieftain.auction.salmon is near Contramaestre, Santiago de Cuba; and friction.auction.salmon is near Fermont, Quebec.


[1] Marc will no doubt have plenty to contribute on the subject.

[2] Those locations are, respectively, the Dancing Faun in the northwest corner of the labyrinth; near Thompson Falls, Montana (!); on the other side of the fence from the Dancing Faun; near Mount Isa, Queensland (!!)

A fun coincidence

My life has been full of neat-o coincidences, like the time I used my favorite book from my childhood (The Color Kittens) as the palette for the set design for Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and discovered when it arrived in the mail that it was illustrated by the illustrators of William Blake’s Inn, Alice and Martin Provensen.

Another: recently, I whiled away my time in the lighting booth of Christmas Carol by doing crossword puzzles from an old daily calendar I had on my desk, and ended up at the December 10 puzzle… on December 10.  Not only that, but the next day’s puzzle, December 11, was the final performance of CC, AND the puzzle was originally published on May 12, 2005… my birthday.

So this morning I received two children’s picture books I had ordered after encountering them at Brain Pickings (a highly recommended read).   The first, Du Iz Tak?, by Carson Ellis, is a total delight:

In it, a variety of little bugs encounter a plant.  None of them knows exactly what it might be (Ma nazoot, one says) and as the seedling continues to grow, so does the activity around it along with our understanding of their bug language.  The climax is scrivadelly indeed.

The second is What Can I Be?, by Ann Rand and Ingrid Fiksdahl King, and it is also a delight:

Shapes and colors for the young nonreader, and imaginative use of red circles, blue squares, etc., is the point of the book.  Looking, seeing, creating.

Here’s the coincidence: the back flap of the dust jacket tells me that

Ingrid Fiksdahl King is a painter and professor emeritus of architecture at NTNU Norway.  She is a coauthor, with Christopher Alexander, of A Pattern Language, one of the most influential books on architecture and planning.

You mean this A Pattern LanguageThis one, right here?  The one I used to do this?  “Influential” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Fantastic Beasts? Eh.

[Here be Spoiler Alerts.]

We went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, because Harry Potter.  It’s a dazzling movie, to be sure, and the performances are all spot-on, with the four main characters especially charming and adorable.


We left feeling very unsatisfied.  The plotting is haphazard and whatever suspense there might be in figuring out what’s going on is dissipated by the most telegraphing since the Titanic went down.  It relied a lot on fan service, i.e., our prior knowledge of the Potterverse,  to keep us on board, and the middle third especially just dragged.

We were appalled at the loose threads in the plot.  What exactly did the newspaper publisher/senator story have to do with anything?  Was it simply for the Citizen Kane shot being destroyed by the Obscurus?  Not enough.  I got the feeling there was a lot left on the cutting room floor, because the paltry conflict within that plotline was never integrated at all with the main plot.  J. Jonah Jameson, Jon Voight was not.

The conflict that seemed to be driving the American wizards (remaining hidden from Non-Maj society, etc.) was never fleshed out, and the “villainous” Mary Lou who rants on the steps of the bank about the danger of witches among us never seemed more than your usual NYC crackpot.  The idea that she posed a credible threat to the magical community was dumb—her headquarters was a rundown hellhole, while MACUSA occupied a luxurious Art Deco skyscraper.

And what was the deal with Scamander’s relationship with the Lestrange girl back at Hogwarts?  We may never know.  We certainly don’t know what it had to do with the current movie, other than to allow Scamander to display some empathy with poor Credence Barebone, whose relationship with Tina Goldstein is likewise never fully explained.  (There is an explanation, kind of, but like everything else in the movie it’s compressed and rushed.)

The final reveal, that Graves is actually Grindlewald, raises more questions than it solves: Graves is head of the Aurors at MACUSA—how long has Grindlewald been disguised in order to ascend to that position??  I don’t think it’s justifiable that eventually the good Potterian will think, “Ah, it must have been Polyjuice Potion,” even though we never see any evidence of that.

(I just went to the Wikipedia article on the film in order to remember the term “Obscurus,” and was shocked to find in the synopsis details that were not at all clear in the movie.  There are also details which apparently the author of the Wikipedia article got from the film which I think are wrong. Sloppy, and I’m talking about the filmmakers.)

The fantastic beasts were fantastic, but again, they felt glued onto the plot.  They were mostly deployed for slapstick interludes, and we never got to be familiar with any of them except for the Niffler and the Bowtruckle (who smacked of Baby Groot, alas).

After we got home, we kept gnawing on the sources of our discontent, as one does, when it finally dawned on us: the problem was not so much with the movie itself as it was that it shouldn’t have been the first Newt Scamander movie.  This was the second Fantastic Beasts film.  The first film introduced us to Newt Scamander as he scours the earth for these creatures, along with flashbacks to his problems at Hogwarts leading to his expulsion, culminating in the rescue of the… whatever the big bird thing was in the second movie… a Thunderbird, maybe?… in Egypt.  This propels us into the second film, as Scamander comes to America to release the Thunderbird into its native habitat in Arizona (mentioned briefly in the film), and gives more breathing space for actual plot.

Somebody really should be paying me big bucks to do this thinking for them.  Jo?