October 2003

Where art thou, Virge?

There won't be much of Virge round here for the next couple of days. Being netless at home while the floors dry has been limiting my net-connectedness. Tomorrow the Virge family heads off to a jazz and blues festival for the weekend. It will be Monday before life returns to normal.


I didn't make it to the gym last night. I think I had enough of a workout at home. The exercise circuit included carrying trays of crockery and ornaments up a flight of stairs; lifting half a piano; manouvering half a wall of video/hifi cabinet; table juggling; sofa porting; then we ran out of time and had to head out to a cabaret comedy act in the Spiegeltent. My cheek to cheek dance with the refrigerator had to wait till we got home some time after 1am. At 7am this morning the heartless alarm started the final round of exercises: the buffet shuffle then the broom and vacuum extension stretches. My triceps feel very stretched, as do my hamstrings and a few back muscles who haven't been introduced to me by name (if pressed I would probably call them lower hackle muscles or baby back rib muscles).

All the hardwood floors in our house are now clear of furniture. The garage, rumpus room, laundry and master bedroom are crowded. DaughterOfVirge migrates to ParentsInLawOfVirge. CatOfVirge will take a holiday with VetOfVirge boarding kennels. The remnant will converge on the bedroom and en suite bathroom complex at the back of Virge Mansion.

At 8:30am this morning the floorists (that's my term for them, not their own) came with big nasty sanding machines give our floors a jolly good dressing down. There may be a little dusting to do when they've finished. Once they've started slapping coats of estapol on the floors (some time this afternoon) we can survive in our little complex and get to the laundry by leaping across the hallway. The rest of the house is out of bounds.

Human behaviour

At my work there is a 20km/h speed limit in the carpark. It is clearly signed and very clearly ignored. The speed humps do little to slow down the larger cars and four wheel drives, but if they make the humps bigger then they scrape the guts of the low clearance sports cars.

Yesterday morning as I drove up the driveway towards the gates of Mordor and waited for them to complete their ponderous arc, I noticed a speed measurement station had been parked some 20-30 meters in from the gates. The station has a gigantic illuminated display to show the passing driver how fast he/she was travelling. No doubt it keeps a log of all speed measurements so that our facilites supervisor can tell how naughty we've all been.

Well, humans will be humans. Last night as I left work I heard that an unofficial competition had been established to see who could clock the highest speed on the measurement station. The best from a standing start at the gate was 39km/h. This morning a colleague claimed he'd got to 41km/h and still had time to brake before the speed hump.

Cat Control

"Cats aren't so damn superior.  Heck, you can easily hypnotize one by dangling a shiny object in front of its eyes and giving it tuna... giving it tuna... must give the cat some tuna...."

- Lil Owens


Believe it or not, I've managed to use an assortment of instant messager programs over the past few years without ever being propositioned for cyber. That changed this afternoon. My privacy was invaded by a solicitous cyber-seeker.

A lot of my on-line time has been protected by keeping my status invisible (except to friends) and avoiding having any public profile. A few months ago I decided I wanted to raise my visibility on the web and draw a little more traffic to my site. I bought a domain name, tarted up the general appearance of the pages and I broke my profile-less habit. I thought my profile was boring enough not to attract the asinine attentions of the immature.


It seems I was wrong. Or perhaps the contents of the profile were not even considered apart from "Gender: Male". Here is how my IM innocence was lost (with the assailant's name changed to PurilePropositioner - not to protect his/her innocence but because his/her actual id was exceedingly boring):

Session Start (Yahoo! - virgilanti:PurilePropositioner): Sun Oct 26 17:54:43 2003
PurilePropositioner: hi... anyone  there?

(Virge closes window expecting random caller to go away.)
Session Close (PurilePropositioner): Sun Oct 26 17:54:53 2003

Session Start (Yahoo! - virgilanti:PurilePropositioner): Sun Oct 26 17:56:16 2003
PurilePropositioner: well anyway, guess yoour not there?

(Virge regrets his rudeness in closing the window and wonders if it is actually someone from EK trying to make contact - evidence of his sheltered IM past.)
virgilanti: please tell me who you are
PurilePropositioner: oh your there :) hhi...
PurilePropositioner: a/s/l (qge sex location)?
PurilePropositioner: im 227/f/USA. was lookin at your profile. thought you might like to chat. 
PurilePropositioner: so what have you been up to virrgilanti?

(Virge realises his mistake. The number of key-bounces here suggest the propositioner is either hyperactive or suffering from Parkinson's disease. Virge tries a very polite brush off.)
virgilanti: sorry, I'm not really "there" for making new contacts at the moment.
PurilePropositioner: cool. i was just hangin out watching tv. i was getting kinda horny ::) (*blushes) 

(Virge detects the tiniest hint of ulterior motive. That "horny" word does give it away, doesn't it? Virge decides to be firm, but not how Blushing Horny hoped.)
virgilanti: ok, I'm definitely out
virgilanti: bye
PurilePropositioner: feel like a little cyber fun with me ?  please pleasee...

(Virge foolishly expects the firm rejection and the session-close to have made his point. How net-naive!)
Session Close (PurilePropositioner): Sun Oct 26 18:00:13 2003

Session Start (Yahoo! - virgilanti:PurilePropositioner): Sun Oct 26 18:00:24 2003
PurilePropositioner: alright :) how bout i get down on my knees in  front of you and help you out of your pants?

(Virge does what he should have done much earlier, but was too polite.)
*** PurilePropositioner has been ignored.
Session Close (PurilePropositioner): Sun Oct 26 18:00:41 2003


I, demon, take thee, dull flesh, to abuse to death.

You are my expressive carnal puppet -
my completion in a sensual world;
a tactile vehicle to explore humanity.

You hide me from myself -
drowning me with narrative and doggerel;
meaning and noise.

Your hints of elusive communion are cruel -
bliss just beyond impenetrable frailty;
a prison perfected by inadequacy.

Frustration is unavoidable.
You are all I have.


I tried to decapitate myself today. It wasn't a suicide attempt. It was completely unrelated to my work or family situation. It was just one of those things, you know... holding a razor sharp blade; feeling it on my skin; head feeling a bit rough; SLASH - there we go - the back of my head feels wet; my fingers are red; looks like I'm leaking at a fair rate; hmmm, this could get messy; I wonder how to stop the flow...

Ok, it was a bit of a lame attempt at decapitation, but it was fairly dramatic as shaving cuts go. I had to walk around with a tissue stuck to the back of my head to stop the bleeding. Then, of course, once the bleeding has stopped, one simply can't just leave the tissue in place. Removal of the tissue is when it starts bleeding again. Fortunately WifeOfVirge managed to remove the make-shift bandage delicately enough to avoid a new deluge - just a few bulging beads that dried fairly quickly.

When I'd thought about it for a bit, I realised it would be quite irresponsible to cut off my head. I'm used to being bald but I'd probably look pretty silly without a head. What kind of message would it send to my imitative fans? How would they continue to look up to me if I was 20cm shorter? Would they see my unconventional action and mimic it without thought for the damage it would do to their body mass indices? Would it signal the start of a new mutilation fashion movement? Without clear answers to these questions it would be prudent for me to remain fully headed.

So here I sit, still in roughly the same shape I was yesterday - boring but functional.


So far, today has been hectic at work. The announcement was made this morning. As of Monday I stop being software engineering manager and become a principal engineer. (This is the result of a chain of events I set in motion a couple of weeks back when I finally decided I'd had enough of being a manager.) I went out at lunch time to buy cake for a mid afternoon team gathering to celebrate my liberation - chocolate mud cake, caramel mud cake and coffee cheesecake.

The announcement of my successor took everyone by surprise and has left quite a few people feeling confused and some angry. The delivery of the announcement in a very succinct email, devoid of supporting reasoning, has almost ensured confusion and rumour-mongering. It's hard to distance myself from that problem. I still feel responsible for the way my boss announced the change. I shouldn't, but I do. I guess that's just part of my mental make-up.

Crocodile Street

I submitted several poems to Crocodile Street last night. This will be a "magazine of literature and art collaboration". The submission guidelines seemed to include the sort of material I am happy to write - "light fantasy, dark speculative fiction, magic realism, fairy tales, the mythic, the absurd, the Kafkaesque, and general attempts to puncture the skin of reality." It allows a fair bit of scope.

I was obviously not paying too much attention when submitting. I've ended up sending my poems to the wrong email address. The correct email address is specified in the description text, rendered as a .gif file so I can't copy & paste it. The editor's mailto-address link (wrong address) at the bottom of the page must have been just too attractive to my not-fully-focused brain. I suppose the editor will forward my submissions to the correct mailbox. If they're so pedantic that they automatically reject submissions sent to the editor instead of to submissions then I'm probably better off not being involved.

I'll have to think about submitting a short story or two. They want immersive stories that lend themselves to illustrative interpretation. I have until the end of the month.


György Ligeti seems to have consistently slipped past me without being noticed - for half a lifetime. How could I have missed out on knowing about a guy like György? I feel so unobservant, or perhaps so unkulchered. Picture, if you will, Virge ook-ing around a black monolithic artifact in desperate need of an uplift.

This Hungarian seems to have a very quirky history. Let me summarise the mysterious side of György:
* He was born in Transylvania in Discöszentmáton (which sounds to me like a goth nightclub).
* One of his works was banned by Hungarian authorities for being decadent -  liberal use of minor second intervals (I wouldn't want this composer corrupting my children with his sensual semitones).
* He wrote an opera, Le Grande Macabre, a work of absurd theatre.
* He wrote one of the largest cluster chords ever written - every note in the chromatic scale over a range of five octaves played at once.
* One of his piano pieces uses only one note (played in different octaves).
(facts drawn from Wikipedia.org)

Furthermore, I find that this sneaky bugger has had me listen to his music without realising. His music is featured in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (alongside Khachaturian and a couple of unrelated Strausses).

I suppose it's better that I find out now, under controlled conditions - my immediate embarrassment only shared with a friend (who had just purchased a couple of Ligeti CD's) and with you people who are prepared to read my scribbles. It could have been much, much worse. I could have made some outrageous public faux pas like: "And what famous composer ever came from Transylvania, eh? Ho, ho, ho!" Then I'd really look stupid.

Warped Quotes

His next evil plot involves a burlap sack full of squirrels and 700 kazoos.
- Rachel Blubaugh (on the topic: Signs Osama bin Laden Is Nuttier Than a Fruitcake)

If you're singing Christmas songs on your neighbor's lawn at night with your church group, it's called "caroling." But if you're doing it alone with no pants on, it's called "drunk and disorderly."
- McClain

I would think that when God needs a break from the pressure of running the universe, He takes a couple of Almightiagra tablets to temporarily relieve His omnipotence.
- Unknown

And so Phillip learned two lessons that day: piranhas don't like donuts, and even if they did, you'd be better off putting them on a stick of some sort so you can still father children afterward.
- Donald J. Hunter


I was sitting down, reading a book, on a warm Saturday morning, in a tennis clubhouse. I was the "duty parent" - a responsible adult (don't laugh). Most of the boys (including SonOfVirge) were engaged in a match, apart from a chattering of lads who were in-between sets.

"... I learnt that negative bee plus or minus square root of bee squared minus four ay cee all over two ay..." blathered an in-betweeny.

Of course it wasn't hard to work out what he was talking about. His high-school maths classes were climbing the giddying heights of quadratic equations. The blather-recipient was obviously impressed by this feat of memory and a discussion ensued on the relevance of mathematics to life. Neither of them had the faintest clue how the abstract equations they were learning at school could possibly be attached to any real life concept. They discussed, with some considerable wit, the ways such a formula could have been discovered - again displaying complete cluelessness as to the physical relevance of the subject and why anyone would ever have wanted to study it. I can only hope that some time in what remains of their schooling years a teacher has the skills to explain how intimately those equations are linked with important real world concepts like first-person shooter game mechanics, street drag racing and football kicking.

Maybe I'm stretching a long bow here, but I see this "teaching without vision" as another aspect of the practice of deskilling. It's dumbing down life to the point where nobody needs to try to understand what they are doing. Just follow the simple step-by-step rules and the system will work smoothly. Unfortunately it's not true. It's anything but smooth. The people in the system are not machines.

If you remove the need to understand a process you remove any need for taking responsibility. Nobody cares. People break rules when it suits them. Oh dear! What shall we do? We'll introduce another set of simple rules to make sure people are following the rules. People are all different. What shall we do when someone doesn't fit the simple rule system? Since we don't understand the system we'll just have to force them to fit. It may be completely ridiculous but it's not our responsibility. We're just obeying the rules because if we don't, that other set of rules will come down like a ton of bricks.

Once you build up companies of people all following simple rules, an amazing thing happens. On a macroscopic scale you start to see emergent behaviour. You get to see a chaotic system that is inefficient and inequitable for the majority of the company's people and its customers.

Where was I heading with this discussion? It looks like turning into another anti-authoritarian rant. Yeah, it's turned. Follow orders blindly at your own peril. I'll shut up now.