May 2004

The Trophy Room

In which Bush proudly displays Saddam Hussein's handgun in his trophy room:

In a trophy room interns should dread
George W gleefully said,
"This proves that I've won
'cause I got Saddam's gun.
Still, I'd rather have mounted his head."

View More Limericks

The Trolliest Troll in Trolldom

If you've never seen a Young Earth Creationist in the wild, you should read some of Susan's comments on P. Z. Myers' blog, Pharyngula. While she was hiding her unbelievable contortions of biblical literalism under the cover of hermeneutics she could use her "you haven't studied the bible well enough" weapon. Once the discussion veered off into fossil records and great floods she showed her complete disconnection with reality.

In another reality, in another leg of the trousers of time, in a universe not completely unlike ours, Susan is actually an autonomous agent running on a modest home computer. She is a Debate-Bot designed to play a role in on-line entertainment. This is the future of on-line gaming.

Where most of the computer games to date have pitted a player's intelligence against that of other players (or computer simulated players), this paradigm shift sets up truly formidable opponents -- human ignorance and self-deceit. The Debate-Bot is incredibly frustrating. It is resistant to the most elegant of rational arguments, all of which it shrugs off with glib chestnuts, appeals to non-existent authority, accusations of conspiracies and ad hominem exaggerations. The game is addictive. The bot will never concede, so you can only ever experience limited victory when the bot stops responding, and even then you can never be sure if it has given up or is merely collecting more facts to distort.

In this parallel universe, "'bating the bot" is understood by all to be a game. Even the most naive child knows not to take a Debate-Bot seriously. Science fiction writers construct frightening dystopian worlds where complete subcultures are gulled by entertainment bots and driven by self-supporting fantasies. They imagine what atrocities could arise if those game arguments were allowed to influence education policy, or even worse, international politics.

In our own universe, Susan is a real person with real delusions. If she was the avatar of a vexatious role-player (like the members of the Reclaiming Art crew) you'd have to give her an award for a stunning performance.

Where's the beef?

In which Richard B. Hoppe asks Paul Nelson to provide support for his Intelligent Design claims about Ontogenetic Depth:

Paul Nelson's "depth" tales sounded tall.
Richard Hoppe thought, "it's past time to call
Nelson's ontogenetic-
clad apologetic."
Quoth Richard, "So where's the beef, Paul?"

I doubt that he'll find satisfaction,
nor even a lucid reaction.
Behind the smoke screen
there's an ID machine
building weapons of media distraction.

A meal of Intelligent Design
when served with the fruit of divine
is lacking in beef,
which supports my belief
that it's tripe marinating in whine.

View More Limericks

Pirate Love Limericks

I get quite a few google hits from people searching for pirate limericks. Following on from the love limerick theme, I thought I'd try writing a couple of "sensitive love limericks of the poetic pirate". (Okay, it's really just an exuse to write silly piratey pickup lines.)

I've seen storms that'd rip off yer clothes
and hell's fire in the eyes o' me foes.
But avast! I declare,
lass, yer makin' me stare
'cause I've ne'er seen sails like those.

Me beauty, I've been lost at sea
all me life 'til I laid eyes on thee.
Get some grog in ya, lass,
as yer givin' me sass;
Aye, then come dance a hornpipe wi' me.

View More Limericks

The Practical Guy

I've been looking at the search strings that bring people to my journal. "Love limericks" and "Birthday limericks" are popular choices. It seems like there is still an unmet need for limericks.

Although the limerick form is most often associated with ribald humour, I think it should be possible to write amusing limericks that express emotions like love. I like a challenge, so I'll take as my topic:

The Practical Guy's Love Limericks

Listen now to my limerick of love,
with the moon as my witness above.
As a practical guy
I declare that I'll try
to be yours 'til you give me the shove.

You wanted a guy who's in touch
with emotions and feelings and such.
Let's sit down and share,
lay our deepest thoughts bare.
Is it all right if I don't say much?

Of course, babe, you know that I care.
I was paying attention, I swear.
Didn't I say before
how I really adore
that new thing you've done with your hair?

View More Limericks


I remained calm tonight.

I remained calm when SonOfVirge sifted through his vague memories and told us that the last time he recalled seeing his trumpet was in the train home from school on Friday night.

I remained calm when we found (as expected) that our home and contents insurance doesn't cover misplaced items.

It is an uneasy calmness.

I cling to the hope that some honest person has turned it in to the railway's lost property office, or that perhaps SonOfVirge's memory is wrong and he's left it in a corner at WifeOfVirge's office, or left it somewhere unexpected at school. We don't have the financial resources to replace it.

It's hard to feel completely at peace with the world.

Update: It is found! :) It was at WifeOfVirge's office. Relief floods FamilyOfVirge.

Prevaricating Plumbers

The new solar hot water system we ordered hadn't arrived, but the plumber and his sidekicks were there ready to install it. That wasn't why WifeOfVirge called me at work and asked me to come home. Something was wrong. Sometimes a story doesn't ring true, and the story being pushed by the plumber was tingling her spider senses.

We'd planned to have the new hot water service installed on a west-facing roof section. It's not as efficient as north-facing but on any of our north-facing roof area it would have stood out like a bubo on a barbie doll. In fact we'd already decided to order a three-panel instead of a two-panel unit to compensate for the sub-optimal placement.

When I arrived home I got the story straight from the plumber's mouth.

"It won't work in that spot. It's still in shade."

"What? Shaded by the front roof section?" I asked.


I climbed the ladder. I looked. "How tall did you say the solar panels are?" I called down.

"About 1 metre and a half," the plumber replied.

"And how low can the panels be mounted? How close to the gutter?"

"The bottom can go as low as that row of screws there," he pointed.

The proposed roof area wasn't in shadow. We would miss some of the pre-noon sun but I suspected that he may have had an ulterior motive. Then he mentioned that there was an extremely remote possibility of an inspection from the energy authority and a reduced rebate on the unit cost if the inspection found it wasn't installed in the best position. That's when I knew there was more than just our energy-efficient, hot showery bliss in his thoughts.

We wandered around the back of the house.

"It's going to be a bugger getting the pipes to it," he grumbled. "Can we get access to the roof-space?"

"I don't think so," I said.

"We don't usually run pipes up over a roof. It's usually just up a wall."

A couple of neurons high-fived each other in my head. These guys were probably on a fixed-price contract from the solar heating company. HouseOfVirge was not an easy job so they were looking for a way to make it easier.

I pointed to the sub-floor door. "There's plenty of space under the house. Why not go straight through underneath then straight up to the unit?" I said.

"That could work... apart from the extra distance" he said.

Tinglissimo. The bullshit detectors were firing again. I explained what the plumber must have already known. The pipe length needed to go across then up would be approximately the same as that required to go up then across. I left him to work it out.

I'm not too worried if he decides to take the hard route up over the roof. The salesman who signed up the contract was a senior estimator. He knew the distances when he quoted on the job and agreed to waive the installation cost. I will just have to hope our prevaricating plumbers are better at doing the work than they are at spinning a believable tale.

The Trials Of Motherhood

(for Mother's Day 2004)

It starts, as morning gilds the skies and springtime blooms unfurl,
With rushes to the littlest room to lift the lid and hurl.
Then after months of stretching gut, of heartburn and back strain,
You "come to term" with pure, protracted, pulsing, pelvic pain.

Just after labour's sapped your will of all its frail reserves,
Your parasitic creature's screaming shreds your sleepless nerves.
Your toddler learns to speak and finds the whining words "But why?"

Mum's Day

As I did last year, I've taken this opportunity to be uncompromisingly unmushy. One can recognise the devotion of one's mother and her pivotal role in one's nurture without resorting to gushing sentimentality. Instead of a Mother's Day message that canonizes any practitioner of motherhood, I've focused on the perils of the motherhood journey without reference to the presumed piety of the traveler.

Here it is. (In the printed card I attributed the poem to a fictional character -- Phyllis Steiner-Writes. Should you wish to reproduce this poem under my Attribution-NonCommercial license, it must be attributed to either Virge or Virgil Keys.)

The Trials Of Motherhood

It starts, as morning gilds the skies and springtime blooms unfurl,
With rushes to the littlest room to lift the lid and hurl.
Then after months of stretching gut, of heartburn and back strain,
You "come to term" with pure, protracted, pulsing, pelvic pain.

Just after labour's sapped your will of all its frail reserves,
Your parasitic creature's screaming shreds your sleepless nerves.
Your toddler learns to speak and finds the whining words "But why?"
Then schooling bites with books and bills to bleed your bank-book dry.

Your teen gawks down from gangling heights, regards you with disdain,
Then leaves the roost rejecting all the truth that you retain.
For all your years of sacrifice, the years your children scarred,
You might expect some sympathy--instead you get this card.

Update: I printed the text in a greeting card format on glossy photo paper using one of my flower photos (a different cropping of this one) for the front page. I gave the card and a gift to MotherOfVirge today. She chuckled at the verse, but gave no hint of having realised it was a home made card. FatherOfVirge picked up the card later, glanced at it outside and in, then put it down with a non-commital nod. He never reads the messages inside cards--and who can blame him given the usual glurge.

I suppose I should tell MotherOfVirge it was made for her, but it would feel like I was saying "Look what I did in school today!"

Nearly M-Day

It's nearly M-Day here. I think my Mother's Day verse is as refined as it's going to get (to be posted on the VirJournal tomorrow). It's time to go and get a replacement ink cartridge for the printer before I print out The Card.

Miscellaneous egoboo: I spy four reference hits on VirJournal from people searching Google and Aol for mother's day poems. I ranked higher than expected on the searches--in the top four matches on each of them. I wonder if this year's verse will generate traffic next year.

Shameless plug: Teresa honours me by posting one of my double-dactyls on her CafePress site. Go and get yourself an "LL YR VWLS R BLNG T S" t-shirt, or a large comment thread mug (which includes another of my DDs).

CafePress! CafePress!
Tangible Artifacts
Go on display;

Reified Sentiments'
Show off your geekiness;
Get yours today.

Other Double Dactyls