Posts in Category: General

Long shadows of colonialism

First: an brief, animated guided tour of health and wealth statistics over the past 200 years, from Hans Rosling (this is far more interesting then it sounds at first blush).  If you haven’t seen this video already, you may still know Rosling from his talks, also excellent and worth looking up.

Creative procrastination

I was taking Mrs. Bang for a walk last night, at 2am or so, and mulling over my ideas for a dauntingly large new feature I want to add to my music theory site. One idea spun from another, and I started thinking about mad libs — you know, the game where you fill in the blanks in a pre-written story with input from your friends (“adjective about a person”, “action ending with -ing”, “unusual animal”), then read the resulting silliness aloud.

Well, an online mad-lib engine would be pretty trivial to write — just collect the words from the user first, and plug them into the text of the story in the right places. You could play madlibs at a party without anyone knowing beforehand what the final result would be, or even play alone.

I jumped from there to erotic madlibs, which seemed at the time to be an amazingly good idea (it would have to be real erotica at heart, but somehow incredibly enriched by the carefully-placed randomness of the contributed words; sometimes silly, but still sexy). I could register “” or something else slyly racy (or just and put up a few good stories for free access, plus a library for subscribers only, and wait, wait, subscribers could also contribute their own stories — there would have to be rules on content, because I don’t want the site to fill up with sexist shite, of course — and….

By this time I was back home. Wow, the domain names I had thought up were ALL available! No one was doing this already! I was already thinking about how to structure the site (should I build on one of the PHP CMSes? Or play with GWT, maybe?). For a user entering a new story, after each paragraph was entered I could pull the text from the textarea in JavaScript, format it to make each word a separate link… hover to highlight, click to show an overlay for replacing it with a “blank” plus description.

I dug around in my pocket for my credit card to register the domain.

The “now you are spending money” alarm went off in my head, so I paused for a second, then a few more seconds.

This all took place in maybe 20 minutes. And here I was, about to launch into an entirely new project at two something AM, Thursday night, because —

Because it was such an amazing idea, right? Hah, no.  It was losing the halo fast now (er, who exactly would subscribe to this site, now?).

No, this was just my brain saying “huh, this looks like a lot of work you have to do here, some complicated stuff that’ll probably take a lot of — holy crap, look over there!”

Nice.  I put the credit card away.

And tonight, I’m writing it up at 3am to share this valuable and entertaining… ah.

Eye surgery

Thank you to all of the friends, and friends of friends, and contacts of friends of friends (!) who shared their advice, thoughts, warm wishes and professional opinions with me when I was deciding how to proceed with the slipped IOL (artificial lens) in my right eye.

I’m documenting discussions I had with my ophthalmologist and his colleagues, the decisions I made, the operation and ongoing status here.

Truly moving… unforgettable.

So.. I have some lyrics that popped into my head while I was driving. Best performed a capella, with deep feeling.

I’d make a video to go with this but wait what the hell am I thinking I have no spare time. One day I’ll be independently wealthy and I will do silly things all day! (And donate a lot to charity)

Amazing grease…
How sweet the sound
That fries two eggs like these!

Melt on some cheese
And lay them down
On toast, with hot sauce, please…

(to the tune of Amazing Grace, of course)

Schlump around

Ever open your eyes in the morning and just know, for certain, that no good will come out of the day? That you have things to do, but you are going to muddle through your standard procrastinations and find yourself still schlumping around when you notice with confused horror that the sun has already set again?

It can happen. It can even happen when you have the kind of life/job/etc. where you have to go somewhere and interact with people, but if you don’t, it can be even worse.

Well, we’ve discussed the phenomenon in depth, and developed a response. It’s not a solution, mind you — just a thing you can do if you find yourself in this situation.

Curing hiccups

I was googling the word “intractable”, just to make sure I wasn’t misusing it too egregiously in the post I just put up… and right there, the fifth result on the very first page, was a hiccup cure.

Doesn’t everyone who’s ever had the hiccups want to know a cure? And this is not just “my grandma always said breathing into a paper bag would do it, and it seemed to work sometimes”, but an abstract of a paper on the website.

The data (u|dys)topia

Take one simple conversation with a neighbor, add a few late night walks in the dark, and it develops into a complete utopian/dystopian vision of the not-so-distant future.

First, the conversation: we were talking about everyday marital strife, and she mentioned how her husband wants to redo the roof himself — it’s a relatively straightforward project, he’s retired and has the time, and they’d save a lot of money. Her response is that his life cannot possibly be worth the money saved. Result: intractable argument. How can either side prevail? She spoke about couples taking turns “winning” arguments as a way out.

My thought is that it’s actually a question of data. What’s the actual risk that he’d injure or kill himself? If he takes the proper precautions (like a safety line, ladder spotter, etc.), can he make working on the roof safer than driving the car to the store? If yes, her argument goes away. If not — particularly if amateur roof work is dangerous even if the homeowner believes they’re taking precautions — then she wins.

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