December 2004

More publicity for the OEDILF

Chris Strolin of the OEDILF can be heard on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition. It's had its effect. Over the last 24 hours we've had about 20 new members sign up and contribute a limerick or two or three.

I must get back to writing some definitional limericks. Lately I've just been throwing in the occasional limerick in the forum discussions--the ones that take only a few minutes to write, e.g.,

I dropped the old line, "Never trust a person who can count up to 1023 on their fingers," and drew a puzzled reply. I had to elaborate:

To count up to ten twenty-three
On ten digits requires no degree.
If you're baffled then you
Should try thinking "base two"
Then the pow'r of the geek-side you'll see.

For phalangeal efficiency, you
Call each finger a power of two.
Digit up denotes "1";
Point it down to show none;
Do I need to give more of a clue?

And this one was a late night entry (the rhythm could do with some work in lines 1 and 2):

He always knows when I've been sleeping
Or if late night hours I'm keeping.
If he knows when I'm bad,
I.e., partially clad,
Then Claus is that creep who's been peeping.

[Edit: Dec 29th. Make that sixty-eight new contributing authors and several hundred limericks since the NPR interview aired on Christmas day.]

Santa Cat

Lu-Tze likes to sit in the empty spa-bath. He loves to play with a dripping tap. When he tries to get close to where the drips burst on the base, those vexatious droplets hit the back of his head in a most provocative manner. Drips are exciting.

Lu-Tze is not familiar with large volumes of water, so I shall tell you of his Christmas Eve adventure.

After a long day of trying to make HouseOfVirge clean and safe for relatives, WifeOfVirge and DaughterOfVirge were luxuriating in the spa. We have no snow at Christmas here, but the spa-ing partners had added enough bubble-bath solution to create deep snowy landscapes with snowmen, bobsled runs, and even a possibility of a snowstorm should anyone sneeze. I opened the door to let Lu-Tze into the bathroom, to see the winter wonderland.

"Lift him up so he can see all the foam. We don't want him jumping in like he does when it's empty," said WifeOfVirge.

I lifted him and stood his paws on the tiled edge of the spa-bath. He stared at the foam and the talking heads that protruded from it. His eyes were wide. I could feel his heartbeat. I didn't want to stress him, so I lowered him to the floor and he walked away. Half way to the bathroom door, Lu-Tze turned--two bounds and a spring over the side of the spa into the foam--and vanished.

We fished him straight out--a bedraggled Santa Cat, complete with white beard. I washed his suds off in a basin then wrapped him in a towel.
Wet Cat
Not So Wet Cat

Apart from the shock, I don't think he minded the dunking at all. He didn't complain during his toweling off. Once he was dry, he curled up on my lap and went to sleep.

The bathroom door stays shut for future spas.

The Yule Cat

I've grown tired of hearing the same old Christmas stories from the westernised Christian tradition. Sure, they're comfortable and familiar, but they're geting old (okay, I know; it's me that's getting old). Maybe you're the type of person who gains enough of a nostalgia buzz to want the same tales every time. I doubt it. That's not the type of person who reads blogs headed with terms like vivisection.

This Christmas, I've found out about the Icelandic Yule tradition of Jólaköttur, the Yule Cat. You can read a little about him over at Yule in Iceland. There's a poem written about the Yule Cat by Jóhannes úr Kötlum and translated into English by Vignir Jónsson. After seeing his translation, I felt the urge to rewrite the translation in a structured form. (Apologies to my Icelandic readers. For them, this will be one of the same old Christmas stories they've heard year after year. I can only hope that hints of an irreverent Aussie voice showing through will add freshness.)

The Yule Cat: have you never heard?
A huge cat, yes indeed,
And no one's worked out where he hides
Or where his trail might lead.

He opens wide his glaring eyes,
Evil, cruel, intense.
(Are any game to meet his gaze?
More guts have they than sense.)

His whiskers bristle, bold & sharp,
His back an arching curve;
His hairy paws with hateful claws
Are horrors to observe.

His snaking tail, his sudden leaps,
His snarl you can't ignore,
Padding through the peaceful glens
Or prowling by the shore.

He wanders, ravenous and wild
Through winter's snow severe.
And even now inside at night
His name inspires fear.

A trembling mewl, a timid yowl
Should turn your blood to ice.
The wicked Yule Cat waits for us!
He wastes no time with mice.

The poor who score no proud new clothes,
Fall prey to this fell beast
At Yule; he targets those who toil,
The tragic, having least.

From such he steals the festive meal
Their sumptuous feast, complete.
Then munches it in greedy maws
(As much as he can eat).

And that is why so willingly
The women all devote
Their time to spinning coloured cloth
To craft a shirt or coat.

Because we can't allow the Cat
To catch those we hold dear,
Each child must get a clothing gift
From grown-ups every year.

On Yule Eve when the lights are lit
He looks in vain to dine
For all the children eagerly
Put on their garments fine.

And some get socks or gloves or pants,
A scarf, a tie, a hat,
A thick new vest, some thing to wear
To thwart the lurking cat.

For new things giv'n to wear, you know,
Deny him of his prey,
So hissing at the evening, he,
Still hungry, slinks away.

You wonder if this wild thing lives,
But we've no need to care
If every son and daughter should
Get something new to wear.

By now you'll think it's natural to
Ignore the Yule Cat's greed,
But look around; there's lots of kids
Whose lives are stalked by need.

If you can help the hapless folk
For whom this world is cruel,
You'll share a meal of memories on
Each Merry, Merry Yule.

(I'll have to edit this poem to iron out the unholy mix of modern and archaic idioms.)

Random limericks

A couple more from that non-OEDILF forum thread where each poster sets the topic for the next poster's limerick.

Topic: Plagiarism

I consider it cheap dirty plagiarism
When you copy my strange verbi-agerism.
It's my signature style
As neologismophile
And I don't need your tawdry upstagerism.

Topic: Toe jam

An innocent halfwit named Sam,
Who believed what he read in his spam,
To enhance his bed skillz
Wrote away for some pills
That were made of ear wax and toe jam.

Topic: Extra-large plants

The landscaper eyed her askance,
Asking, "How shall I fill your expanse?"
She said, "What? Beg your pardon?
Oh, my private garden.
You'll have to use extra-large plants."

Topic: Very small owls

In the trees I heard hoots and wild howls
From a parliament of very small owls.
Their spell drew me under
The trees rapt in wonder
Then gaily, they emptied their bowels.

Topic: Pagans

A young techno-pagan named John
Found enlightenment when he logged-on.
At night he was able
To commune with his cable
And worship the Goddess of Pr0n.


I ventured into the depths of the garden
Without a guide.
Entwined on the fence were ivy and blackberries
But I couldn't compose a carol.
The thorns weren't cusps of holly leaves,
And we'd had no snow, no snowmen, no reindeer,
Though the corpses of all Santa's team could be hidden under the brambly chaos.
Unbidden, a song memory fired:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground.
Another unfulfilled promise,
Or a dictate to support a work ethic?
Let nature sing and she does it with passion;
The timbers bore a crown of thorns,
Of briars thicker than a scourge.
My hands were pierced for my sins of omission.
Late in time behold him come
Risen with healing in his wings
To a garden that knew him not
Because he preferred his heavenly on-line home.

When it comes to gardens
I'll take Gardiner's line:
I like to watch.

Setting up a gag

How to set up a gag:

  1. Estimate the size of a kitten's stomach. This can be done by considering the external dimensions of the torso, allowing for the thickness of fur, skin, bones and muscles, then subtracting a proportion of the remaning space for lungs, bowel, and other organs.
  2. Double it, i.e., exaggerate your volume estimate by enough that you can't envisage it would properly fit inside the kitten.
  3. Clean up that much recently deposited, partially digested cat food from the carpet in the hallway.

This is, of course, the way to set up an involuntary gag. Some of you may be able to do it without gagging. I couldn't.

Apart from that uncomfortable start, it's been a perfectly normal day. A spectrometry-Gideon has just dropped a thick brick of scripture on my desk for my spectral enlightenment; I'm hearing more proposals for noise reduction techniques that sound like they'll end up as "take away the number you first started with"; I'm still employed; and the people I work with are intelligent and humorous. I can't complain.


It's time for some paws.

Edit: Rats' comment on spiders reminded me. There is more to be said about paws.

These are the paws of a sleeping kitten. *pauses for collective sigh*
They are also the rapid-assault paws that burst out from under the bed to accost unsuspecting socks (on too many occasions).
They are small enough to fit under closed pantry doors to reach carelessly placed plastic bags.
Last night the paws used their in-built crampons to scale a security door (and have in the past been used to scale unprotected legs).
This morning those same paws terrorized a small spider in the bedroom.
At times they seem to be harrier paws for vertical take off and landing.

They're fun to play with.


A discussion on Wordcraft pointed me to, "What ten things would a stylish man have in his wallet?" According to Elaine Szewczyk, he'd have matches, a toothpick, a safety pin, a business card from a local florist, a library card, a $100 bill, restaurant recommendations, a mint, a driver's license, and a picture of parents.

I tried to read Elaine's reasons as though they were intended to be humorous, but there are enough sensible lines in there to suggest that she's really trying to give good advice to guys. Once you've read her notes on the library card and $100 bill, you'll understand why her list demanded my parody.

Here are the same 10 items, but with a more realistic assessment of why they're necessary.

Guys, keep these ten items in your wallet. You never know when you'll need them:

  • Matches. Channel your inner Guy Fawks. Even if you don't plan to wreak havoc with national monuments, matches are a great item to keep on your person. You'll be grateful at the next party when someone calls for the big blue flame.
  • Toothpick. Of course no one's asking that you pick your teeth in public, but you have enough je ne sais quoi to do so without being asked. The toothpick is an emergency item, the kind of thing that will prove useful when performing emergency eye-surgery.
  • Safety pin. Like the toothpick, this is for emergency use only. If a friend has set you up with an "interesting lady" and neglected to tell you she's into body piercing, a stylish man will be ready to adjust his appearance at a moment's notice.
  • Business card from a local florist. Let's face it. With as much style and as little substance as you have, you're going to need to apologize pretty often.
  • Library card. Why bother reading a lot of books and being an entertaining conversationalist when you can flash a free card and pretend you're the "still waters" type.
  • $100 bill. A $100 bill is a reminder that you're always going to be offering what you can't deliver. Your attitude is bigger than a street kid with a new handgun. Pulling out the occasional hundred is an image-maker's secret weapon. It shrugs and says, "I haven't got any small change. Can you pick this one up?"
  • Restaurant recommendations. A stylish man knows his way around town. He's been there and done that. A date may twig to your lack of restaurant knowledge on the third visit to the same Hooters, but it's rare you'll ever get to a third date with anyone that smart.
  • Mint. Well, actually the key to your own private mint. That's how much money you'll need to keep them coming back for more. If you don't have it, you have nothing.
  • Driver's license. No matter how you look at it, the ability to consume your planet's non-renewable resources is what distinguishes you from dumb animals. Driving your SUV when walking would have sufficed is all a matter of style. Show your confident disregard.
  • A picture of parents. Most girls realize that one day you're going to end up looking like your father. Of course you're stylish. You can't choose your relatives but you can fake their identities. (Faking identities only works if you never have to reveal your actual family. If you're looking for a long term relationship, you've already read far too much of this style guide.)

Random bits

Some people derive comfort from the significance they assign to statistical extremes. I can't.

Literature isn't good because it's been in libraries for centuries. It's been in libraries for centuries because it's good.

See, I told you I was right...
Well, I was right at the time...
Given what we knew then...
Okay, given what I knew then....
Why didn't you explain?

Have you ever thought that the US may have reached such a size that no reputable person can possibly win the office of president.

Falling in love is like being a toon character who runs off the edge of a cliff. You stay aloft for a while, supported only by ignorance of your predicament. There is no going back. Just shrug and plummet.

Modern democracy:
Integrity applauded;
Dishonesty rewarded.

Religion is not always a destructive force. When its proponents focus on building inclusive communities rather than selective enforcement of archaic beliefs, they can have a positive influence in society.

My pathetic fallacy is crying out to be heard.

Passion for a subject is not an excuse for failing to understand your audience.

Consumer of time

Today, Sunday, was a day of religious observance. I started the day with a visit to a place of worship. I was lucky to find a parking spot close to the town hall. The faithful had converged on the hall, drawn by a deep, inner need.

Inside the hall it was hard to move. Bodies moved to and fro, laminar at the entrance, turbulent once inside. Much of what was said sounded foreign to me, but the nature of what was discussed was clear.  I saw many people leave with joy and fulfillment. I left feeling empty. 

I did, however, have a plan. Since the computer swap meet had proved unrewarding, I dropped into my local computer parts store (priced within a couple of dollars of any of the prices at the swap meet, and more likely to be there if I have to take any purchases back) and bought a new hard disc. This was my self-imposed penance task for the rest of today -- a complete reinstall of everything. Of course I had to work out how to transfer mail folders to the new installation and had to track down where some of the installation discs had been hidden, and search through old files and piles of stuff.

The upgrade is done now.  All the major programs are reinstalled. Anything else can be installed when I need to use it.

Now I must get to bed. The cold I came down with at the end of last week is turning into a congested chest with an intermittent cough.

[Edit: The above is an example of why one shouldn't post blog entries while falling asleep. I've corrected the obvious spelling errors, but the entrenched tedium will remain.]