Now 15% funnier

The world’s funniest joke, now with added Sarah Palin:

Sarah Palin takes John McCain hunting in Alaska. McCain collapses. Palin places an emergency call on her cell phone.

Operator: May I help you?

Palin: This is Sarah Palin. John McCain isn’t breathing and his eyes are all glassy. He might be dead. What should I do?

Operator: Calm down. We can handle this. First thing, let’s make sure he’s dead.

(Pause, then gunshot)

Palin: Okay, now what?

Or, no, wait, hang on:

McCain’s campaign advisor gets a call from McCain in the middle of the night:

McCain: My campaign’s dead, what should we do:

Advisor: Hang on, first we need to make sure it’s dead.

(Palin’s voice: I’m on it, John. (Pause, gunshot))

McCain: Sigh.

Hang on, no, wait:

McCain and Palin get on the Straight Talk Express. The driver berates McCain for choosing Palin as a running mate. McCain makes his way to the back of the bus/jet and sits down beside a new intern.

Bad day? the intern asks.

Bad day? I’ll say, McCain says. It’s spread from the liberal media. Now even the driver is giving me a bad time.

Don’t take it sitting down, the intern says. Go back up there and give him a piece of your mind, John. Here, I’ll hold your monkey for you.

Or, wait:

McCain goes in for a check up. Doc, I feel like hell, he says. My campaign is in tatters ever since I chickened out and tried to weasel out of the debate, and then looked like a jerk with Obama. What’s wrong with me?

The doctor looks at McCain for a minute, then says, well, your assessment of your situation is fine, John.

What book(s)

have changed your life?

PS: The article about reading mentioned in the comments is located here.

From Lydia Kavina to crackling in a single weekend

Left five minutes earlier this morning because Beta had to get to work, and traffic was so much lighter we got into town fifteen minutes earlier. I’m generally happy to have the chance to drive her places, because since she’s moved out and only comes home for visits such drives are the only chance we get to hang out.

Which is fine. I hear it’s good for kids to have their own life.

I’ll see her again on the weekend, she’s coming home to visit our new kittens. Our old cats are very huffy at the moment, but they’ll get over it eventually – the kittens are identical to them, only smaller and cuter.

Gamma and I had a very interesting weekend. On Saturday, we drove to Hainburg, near the Slovak border, to visit an exhibition on historical electronic instruments at the Kulturfabrik Hainburg and a concert featuring several interesting instruments, and musicians, including Lydia Kavina (I got to shake her hand, but neglected to have my picture taken, alas – she’s Lev Theremin’s grand-niece) on theremin, and even a string quartet. It is a very nice venue – a remodeled tobacco factory, the exhibition was great and included hands-on exhibits. It was organized by the Institute of Media Archeology, an interesting group who however might want to update their main page, I see.

The main thing I learned from our trip was to always chew your schnitzel well. Gamma had kind of a near-death experience in the restaurant at dinner. We were talking, and then we’re playing charades, with me going, “Necklace? Neck? What?” and her going, “hrck hrg ptooey!”. After a few seconds that felt longer to both of us, I figured out what was going on and was going to grab her and pat her on the back or do the Heimlich maneuver, but she managed to herk the meat back out.

She later said she could have herked it out sooner, but was a nice restaurant so she was a little shy about herking out meat.

As far as the exhibition and concert go, it was nice to be introduced to the concept of media archeology, for one thing – the idea of reviving, or documenting, technology related ideas from the past. They had a trautonium there, for example, and a video about it. The soundtrack to Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was played on a trautonium, after Hitchcock decided regular bird noises weren’t scary enough. It’s a beautiful instrument in the proper hands.

I took a few pictures, including of a vintage theremin, and will eventually upload them if I remember.

There was a very good what… video and music selection available from two monitors. Gamma and I listened to “Switched on Bach” for example, which came out around 1968, when I was younger than she is now. It holds up pretty well.

Gamma was pretty tired by the time the concert started, but I enjoyed it greatly. It’s one thing to read about the instruments, or just to look at them, and another to hear them playing music actually composed for them. Russisan composer Iraida Yusupova was present for the debut performance of her “Beautiful Theremins in Beautiful Ambients” for two theremins, piano, oboe and string quartet.

My biggest disappointment was that I could not attend a theremin workshop presented the following day due to social obligations that involved eating a large dumpling filled with Grammeln, which apparently translates as crackling, meaning the crisp browned skin of roast pork or the residue that remains after animal fat has been rendered, and is one of the most delicious dishes in the world. On sauerkraut.

We were with my in-laws, visiting some friends of theirs. It was a pretty boring Sunday for Gamma, sitting around all these old people; she was probably wishing she was back looking at gramophones and Moog synthesizers, but the older I get, and the older everyone else gets, the easier it is to forgive their shortcomings and so on, because you never know. And it was a lot of fun to hear everyone bicker, and contradict each other while they tried to give my wife, who was driving, directions to the place.

Our host was a retired helicopter pilot, and at one point he showed us an old picture of his group in the military, a graduation picture or something similar, and asked us if we could pick him out of the group and was surprised it was so easy for me, because he had been younger and more slender forty or so years ago. And they reminisced about the other men in the picture, saying things like, “he crashed, and he crashed. And he crashed, and so did he.”

The value of inconvenience

I am watching this talk by Clay Shirky in which, among other things, he points out that inconvenience can have value, an idea I have been talking about for over ten years now, the differences being I talk about the evils of efficiency, and no one pays me to do it.

Who would think that efficiency could be bad, or inconvenience good? Yet, this is how all security measures (among other things) function, by increasing inconvenience, slowing things down, reducing efficiency. Locks, fences, passwords, democracy, brakes, parachutes.

Just ask Wall St. what happens when things get too convenient.

Brilliant, right? Up there with my solar slot car idea, and solar roofs. And stuff.

Another old idea I’ve been thinking about this week is my formula for the Chaos Coefficient: C=(f+p)f

There’s an online calculator on my old blog, up at the top. I just tried it out, it still works. With four people in my household, and two cats and a turtle, my chaos coefficient is 2401. It will increase to 6561 when my wife picks up the two kittens on Wednesday. This means that, roughly, life will become 2.5 times more inconvenient, starting then.

But inconvenient turns out to be good, so that’s okay.

100 random things about Mig

  1. Mig is wearing Dr. Martens.
  2. Mig has a headache.
  3. Mig may need new glasses.
  4. Mig lives in Austria.
  5. Mig is married.
  6. Mig spent his lunchbreak eating sushi and plotting a prank with one of his daughters.
  7. Mig likes grapefruit juice, so it is a good thing he’s not on any medication at the moment.
  8. Mig is sometimes depressed, but not as often as before, and not right now. Ideally, he would not be depressed at all, and he is working on that, but he wouldn’t want to give up melancholy.
  9. Mig is easily seduced by an optimistic belief in the transforming power of gadgets, and therefore owns several musical instruments he plays badly, or not at all.
  10. These include a nice cello.
  11. And a Zeta electric cello.
  12. And a musical saw, with a surprisingly beautiful tone.
  13. And a Moog theremin.
  14. The theremin sounds like crap through the headphones, and Mig hopes it’s something to do with the headphones, and not the theremin sounding like crap all the time, or even, perhaps, being faulty, because he opened it up and looked inside and, whoo, he doesn’t want to have to try to fix that mess; so he’s hoping if he figures out which amp to get for it, then it’ll sound better.
  15. Mig discussed laziness with his other daughter this morning, including how lazy people can still get things done.
  16. Because, it must be possible.
  17. As he has stated before, Mig lacks the strength of conviction to be a decent atheist. He currently finds the concept of nontheism, as described by Pema Chödrön, appealing.
  18. It is cloudy outside Mig’s office, and tomorrow is supposed to get cold.
  19. Mig dreams of turning stories he has told his daughters into children’s books. Like the one about the girl who clones Lev Theremin.
  20. Mig dreams of a lot of things.
  21. Mig’s favorite Rumi quote is, Sell your certainty and buy bewilderment.
  22. More people should do that, in his opinion.
  23. Mig has several scars; none are very big.
  24. Mig usually buys a lottery ticket.
  25. Because, you never know.
  26. Although interesting while it lasted, Mig has had enough back pain for one life and is now working harder to prevent it.
  27. Mig is quite boring in person. This is because once? He read this quote? About being square on the outside and saving your weirdness for your art? And went overboard?
  28. Too many quotes are not good either.
  29. Mig is trying really hard to not get mad while driving, ever since a guy honked at him at a red light, and he shocked himself by getting out of his car and going back to the guy and asking him why, exactly, he was honking, and the guy said, nothing, nothing at all; even if a guy is a prick driving a gold Mercedes, it is not good to get so mad, Mig thinks.
  30. Mig turns out to be bigger than he thought he was for a long time, but there’s always someone bigger, you know?
  31. Mig remembers ether.
  32. And laughing gas.
  33. Life is a polished bar, and it is the drinks sliding along the top of the bar, and it is the people drinking the drinks, and it is the other people walking past outside, in the cold.
  34. Jesus, did I say a hundred?
  35. Mig just trimmed a hedge and a bunch of other junk in the yard.
  36. Mig will post this now and keep adding to it later, so check back. He has to help Gamma with some homework.
  37. Mig once killed a man in a gold Mercedes.
  38. Just to watch him die.
  39. Mig went to a sort of rockabilly concert in a wine cellar with a friend last night, but left early although the lead guitar was good, because the singer wasn’t and it was getting late.
  40. When watching a dorky movie on DVD, Mig can’t keep himself from telling everyone else what the actors are going to do next, even though it’s obvious.
  41. When trimming hedges and stuff yesterday, Mig’s main thought was, ticks live in these hedges.
  42. Mig is working on not thinking out loud so much, because he thinks stuff like, “if we took two, they wouldn’t be so lonely” when visiting friends with kittens, which Gamma then hears, and seizes on.
  43. It’s getting cold out, so Mig dug around in the helianthus in front of the house until he found the tortoise (in her house, duh) and brought her inside, where she’ll wreak her mischief until she decides to hibernate in like a month. She’s exploring an instrument – maybe the piano – in the other room right now.
  44. Helping Beta carry her concert harp into the music school today (Sunday, for a rehearsal), Mig laughed when she said, No wonder we’re so good at moving furniture.
  45. Something something kittens, something something. Oh, right, today Alpha was wondering if it would be a problem having the tortoise around if they got two more kittens, which they might. Mig said he doubted kittens would be a threat for a tortoise, but you never know. He’ll have to watch the kittens closely.
  46. Alpha left on a business trip an hour ago, Beta’s still at her rehearsal, Gamma has finished her shower and dried her hair, and wants to go rent a DVD.
  47. Red cat woke Mig at 3 AM, and he tried to fall back asleep until around 4.30, when he gave up and fed red cat, as well as grey cat.
  48. A tortoise is clonking on something somewhere in Mig’s living room.
  49. It is cold and rainy outside Mig’s office window.
  50. Red cat let Mig sleep tonight, but something ringing, or a dream of something ringing, woke him up at about 4.30, and he was debating with himself whether to go back to sleep or get up and thought maybe his alarm clock is what rang, even though it sounds different than the alarm, and if it rang it’s broken so if he goes back to sleep maybe it won’t ring anymore and he’ll be late getting up, making Gamma late for school too and Alpha, who he was to give a wake-up call to at her hotel at 6, also late for her day, so he got up and fed red cat.
  51. Grey cat left a rat on the doorstep today, a really nice one.
  52. Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine arrived in the mail yesterday. Mig lost a copy he’d been reading in the United States this summer and wanted to finish it. The first half was pretty good, but Mig doesn’t want to rave about it until he finishes it. Have you read it?
  53. Mig’s cello teacher tried out Mig’s Zeta electric cello last night and seemed thrilled. Mig himself, though, strongly prefers the sound of a real cello now, having gained a new appreciation for it since playing the electric, although it could be a lot of fun once he gets an amp and some effects.
  54. Speaking of the Church of Metamorphosism, Mig is an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, and has officiated at a wedding.
  55. If Mig had more money, he would collect art buy more paintings. Currently, he collects only Julian Merrow-Smith, from whom he has several lovely paintings and a t-shirt Mr. Merrow-Smith loaned him when Mig and his family paid a visit and Mig spilled wine on himself (the t-shirt is practically in the mail, Julian!).
  56. Mig just read someone else’s (a stranger’s) list of 100. He gets it now.
  57. Twilight Zone, The Blob (original), The Wolfman.
  58. See? Easy.
  59. Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury.
  60. The Illustrated Man. The Martian Chronicles. Slaughterhouse 5. Harrison Bergeron.
  61. This is a piece of cake.
  62. Late-night radio, turned way low so as not to wake anyone else. In high school. Alan Watts, especially.
  63. Sex is okay, except for all the begging and lying.
  64. Two kittens, did Mig say two kittens?
  65. Mig hates to travel. That’s why he lives in Europe – saved that trip back home, and Europe’s much closer now.
  66. Mig is not photogenic, and is embarrassed by being photographed, which explains why his modeling career was so short. Way back when. In Japan. Movie extra was more fun, and the bentos were tasty.
  67. Favorite season: rainy. When everything gets moldy, and you drink Kirin Dry and eat yakitori. Or something.
  68. By now, we should all commute with jetpacks, have 16-hour workweeks and communicate via wrist-radios.
  69. Favorite composers: Bach, Ustvolskaya.
  70. Solar roads. Mig’s idea. Powering electric cars via a slot in the road. Also: pass a law requiring all new construction to have solar roofs.
  71. Willow construction fascinates Mig: houses, etc., built with growing willows. He wishes he had a yard big enough to try that out.
  72. He also thinks nude poetry would be great fun to write. Why should painters have all the fun.
  73. Mig’s spirit guide is a Hobo spider. Come out to the woodpile.
  74. Nothing like the sound of a cello.
  75. Still really cold out, but the rain has stopped, and the woods were a little hazy – not foggy yet, but hazy – on Mig’s drive into work today.
  76. Mig was a little disappointed when his wife called and said why not cancel the yoga class tonight, and this year, in fact, because how many hobbies do we have time for, and if ballroom dance classes are still on then yoga is overdoing it a little; but then, when he ate a whole thing of egg/onion spread for lunch (on two olive bread things) he was relieved (for himself and others) to know yoga class was off.
  77. As much as Mig enjoys watching libertarians and deregulators yell for government assistance and regulations, these toppling banks have a certain apocaplectic air to them, don’t they?
  78. Seventy-eight. Getting there.
  79. Gamma and Mig are going to a concert tomorrow (20 September 2008) evening, the opening of an electronic music exhibition in Hainburg, Austria. People will be there from the Theremin Institute in Moscow. Instruments performed at the concert will include theremin, ondes martenot and, of course, cello. Mig is going to bring his theremin, just in case he runs into someone who can tell him if the reason it sounds crappy is 1)the theremin, 2)the headphones or 3)Mig. Hopefully, Gamma and Mig will be able to get there early enough to take in the exhibition as well, but there is also a Noh performance somewhere else the same day that would be cool to see.
  80. On the pursuit of happiness: Mig suspects that a common misunderstanding of the “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” phrase, the inalienable rights of man mentioned in the American Declaration of Independence, is responsible for a great deal of misery; namely, the word “pursuit” has three meanings: chasing or pursuing, the act of striving, and an activity engaged in regularly. Don’t most of us commonly suppose that happiness is something pursued, because of this famous phrase? And isn’t it, instead, something practiced?
  81. Thinking about dieting makes Mig eat. After deciding to cut out the sugars, he ate a large bag of peanut M&Ms.
  82. In the car.
  83. On his way to work in the morning.
  84. Mig is into Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.
  85. Mig has shoveled a lot of dirt in his lifetime. He worked on a landscaping crew in highschool and college, in summers. The hardest work he ever did, physically, was building fences for a fence building company. He thought his dirt-digging days were over when he moved to Austria, but they were only just beginning. He leveled the lot of his house by hand, spreading 4 dumptruck loads of dirt with a shovel and a wheelbarrow. Then, comically, it turned out he had ordered one dumptruck load too much dirt, so he had to load that back onto a trailer by hand. It was raining, as Mig recalls, and the board leading into the trailer was slippery, and at one point he fell off, and landed in the mud, in the rain, and a full wheelbarrowload of dirt fell upon him, just as a pretty woman walked past on the sidewalk, and Mig thought, I ought to write one of those Craigslist “Missed Connection” things, and lay there for the longest time, trapped and laughing. He also dug a spot for a pool, and the next year he dug a spot for a new pool because his wife wasn’t crazy about the first pool. Also, he dug the cellar a meter deeper, which sucked because that was rocky soil. He got a lot of help from his father-in-law on that job. Every time he gets stuck digging something, he wonders whether it has anything to do with some sort of ancestral Irish curse, since that part of the family originally worked on the railroad when they first came over.
  86. The first instrument Mig ever played was the piano, and he was too lazy to practice so he was never any good, although, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” made his grandmother (a Swede who had married an Irishman) cry, and when Mig asked her if he was, like, ruining the song, she said, no, it’s fine. Then he tried cello in school, for a couple weeks until his father made fun of him, whereupon he quit, although the fun-making wasn’t the whole reason (he was also too lazy to practice, and cello was harder than it looked), then he tried acoustic guitar in his teens, and made little progress (didn’t practice enough, and by this time was beginning to figure out that the whole music-theory, note-reading thing was sort of a blind spot for him). In general, with instruments, Mig did this: started with a strict, classical teacher, moved to a lax, popular music teacher when he got sick of it, then quit. In college he took electric bass lessons. Black Fender bass. He got a good deal on his amp, which you had to switch on with a piece of wood, because if you touched the switch it gave you a shock. Bass was a lot of fun, but he didn’t practice enough. Then, when he turned 41or so, he started taking cello lessons again. He has not given up, and has achieved a lot more than he ever dreamed he would, now playing in an amateur orchestra, even. He doesn’t practice enough, but is getting better about it and not stressing himself so much about it. He has also taught himself rudimentary tin whistle, and is now looking into theremin and musical saw. That is, he owns one of each, and is trying them out. He has composed a couple things, and thinks it is a fun thing to do, if one has the time.
  87. One of Mig’s favorite English expressions (at the present time) is “pew-pew-pew”.
  88. Mig’s compost heap is getting pretty big. On the one hand, this is good for the catalpa tree around whose base it is piled, keeping it from drying out. On the other hand, it would be nice to spread natural fertilizer around the flower beds; but Mig is afraid hedgehogs might live inside the compost pile, and he hates to disturb them. A few days ago he got out the shredder, or whatever that’s called, though, and reduced the pile somewhat and piled the shreddings back onto the pile. He quit when he dug up his first hedgehog. Mig was happy to have reduced the size of his compost heap a little, and to know that hedgehogs really do live in the heap. Also, there’s a nest under the rose bush out front. The hedgehog hotels he built a few years ago, however, appear vacant. Except for large spiders.
  89. Mig is a Taurus and does not believe in astrology, except that it generally seems to pan out. Not the day-to-day stuff in the newspapers, but the Your Character Is Like This stuff. But that could possibly be because he is suggestible. Gamma is totally into it, too, which is okay with Mig, because she’s also a Taurus, and they sort of team up sometimes, which is necessary, because everyone else around is either a Leo or an Aries. Or a pet.
  90. Mig quit drinking coffee a couple weeks ago. Now that the headaches have subsided, he decided to brew a pot this morning, then forgot to drink it. Typing this reminded him, he’s going to go pour a cup right now.
  91. Mig watched “No Country for Old Men” last night, which combines some of his favorite directors, actors, authors, etc. He wasn’t disappointed. Tommy Lee Jones is great.
  92. Mig was never into MMPORGs or stuff like that. Besides solitaire, and stuff like that, his thing is getting sucked into online tower defense games.
  93. Among the things Mig would not have done if he knew then what he knows now is write some of the love letters he wrote, and most of the poems. He cringes when he imagines they could still be out there, someplace.
  94. Mig’s favorite physical activity is lying around, reading. When he’s not digging. Or napping. He used to like rowing, but has been avoiding the sun lately. He used to run a little, and work out with weights, and he imagines he would still enjoy this, were he not so busy and lazy. His wife takes him on a lot of walks. Also, he likes riding his bicycle, at least until his package falls asleep, which he enjoys less.
  95. Wait! Swimming! Especially underwater. Mig loves swimming underwater, that is his favorite physical activity, although he has not gone swimming in ages. Gamma is also a big underwater swimmer. Must be a Taurean thing.
  96. Mig used to take a lot of online quizzes. Maybe we all did. He doesn’t take them anymore. Except for this one a minute ago, which said he was a Generous Creator.
  97. If he were throwing a dinner party and could invite anyone, living or dead, Mig would probably invite the living. Seriously, Mig doesn’t throw… the idea of throwing a dinner party… One could think about this for a long time. Mig might invite his grandparents, only one of whom was alive by the time he was born. He might invite Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet, to cook, because Mig enjoyed his show when he was a boy. Or Mig might invite Kurt Vonnegut for some writing tips, or Mark Twain. Of course, the dinner party would be held in the Playboy mansion, and Vincent van Gogh would be there, and Mig would ask him, Was it because of the despair, Vincent, or was it the absinthe? And van Gogh would answer, What? What? Also Jacques Cousteau would be there, and he would also narrate, along with Marlin Perkins. And there would be a ventriloquist’s dummy, and magicians’ assistants.
  98. One word: tentacles.
  99. Mig just got back from watching Lev Theremin’s great-niece play the theremin. He was introduced to her, and she shook his hand, gracious person. Then he had dinner with Gamma, who nearly choked on a schnitzel, scaring him badly and making him, at least temporarily, a more serious and earnest person.
  100. There is so much more, Mig hates to stop at 100.


I will be changing hosts shortly. After many years of satisfying service and prompt and competent support, my current host is sort of going out of business, at least the business of hosting this site, and all the related sites. I have already made new hosting arrangements, and am in the process of moving. If all goes well, the most that regular readers might notice is a day or two of wonkiness as the new numbers resolve. There are, like, seven or more years of archives here, and I am trying to get them moved intact, but that turns out to be a hell of a job with moveable type. If all goes wrong, I guess, the worst that could happen is that everything would suddenly dissap


Sigur Ros is having a contest. The details are here. It sounds like fun.