Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zip, Zilch, Zero.

With that title, you may think I'm referring to how many letters we have left in the A to Z Challenge, but no, that's not it. With all those Z's, I'm talking about sleep.

Because come July, I won't be getting any of it.

At least, that's what everyone says to expect for the first few months of parenthood. And Denise and I are expecting.1

To answer the most common questions I get whenever I mention the coming of Baby von Wilson:
  • Yes, she's doing fine.
  • Late June.
  • A boy.
  • The Battle of Bunker Hill.
Although we're still narrowing down names,2 throughout the pregnancy our son's gotten a new one almost every week, corresponding to whatever the books compared him to size-wise. He started as an Olive.3 At plum, he became the Professor. He was Jack as a lemon and James as a giant peach. He's been (orange) Julius, Harry (lime), and a small Fry. Currently the size of a head of lettuce, our boy now answers to Kale.

In about two months, I'll be a dad for the first time, and I won't be getting a lick of sleep.

And I can't wait.

Thus concludes my meager contribution to the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge brought to you by Arlee Bird, Jeffrey Beesler, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Jen Daiker, Candace Ganger, Karen Gowen, Talli Roland, and Stephen Tremp. It's been fun, guys, but now that this crazy month is over, I'm going to try to catch some Z's while I still can.4

1 By the way, nowhere in the book What to Expect When You're Expecting does it say anything about the Spanish Inquisition. Typical.
2 We're almost down to double digits!
3 This was before he flashed us during the ultrasound.
4 And I'm an American, so that's Zees. Every other country might pronounce it the traditional way, but as the immortal Butch Coolidge said in Pulp Fiction, "Zed's dead, baby. Zed's dead."

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Sometimes Y

Y isn't like the rest of the letters. They all know their purpose, but not Y. Y is in a category all of its own, an outcast. But why?

Because Y swings both ways.

Yes, C may have identity issues, unsure if it wants to be a nice soft S or a cold hard K, but Y is the only letter that can switch teams completely. It'll be a vowel one moment, a consonant the next; it all depends on context. Y is the alphabetic equivalent of baseball's utility man, working hard to fill whatever need arises, and never getting full credit. It's the underpaid character surviving by working both a consonant full-time job and a temporary one. It's the bit player there in support of the main cast, able to go from young man to small boy with one quick change.

You might think the vowel form of Y could easily be replaced with I, but that's a naïve assumption: Change by to bi (or Candy to Candi) and suddenly it seems more promiscuous.1 Besides, would you really want to fly through the ski, or have some small bites of data? Probably not, unless you're a masochistic robot. Not to mention, the list of most popular baby names is proof that many people prefer Y to I.2 The names with two Y's may not be too wise, but who am I to judge?3

There's nothing wrong with Y. It may be a little different, but it deserves to stay. After all, it's got rhythm. Who could ask for anything more?


1 Even though Y's the one that gets around.
2 As do I, in most instances. For instance, I still remember the solution to a puzzle from the 1990s computer game The 7th Guest. The trick was to rearrange the letters BCGHLLLMPPPRRRSSSSSTTTYYYYYYYYYYY into a sentence. The (peculiar, yet somewhat elegant) answer? Shy gypsy, slyly, spryly, tryst by my crypt.
3 I'm Nate, and I would be a brutal but fair judge. For instance, I would make sure that anyone who tried to name their kid something like Caytlyn or Dylyn or Evylyn would be exycutyd.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Spot is Marked

Agent XXXXX:
On July XXX 1976, at XXXXX pm, in the tiny
town of XXXXX, Utah, XXXXXX claimed to have
seen old XXXX of the XXXX dock his ship at
the pier, XXXX for XXXX even if Utah is
landlocked. XXX to XXX before unloading
9 trunks of XXXX XXXX which, according to
XXXXXX, they XXXXXX at that precise spot
using metal XXXX XXXX and a XXXXXX crane (a
live one). XXX & XXXX then spotted him, so
they then XXXX his XXXX and forced him to
walk the XXXX. Next XXXX parrots swooped
down and XXX (so he XXXX) which brought
him to XXXXX. Thus we XXXX his mind, so he
would XXXXX be able to XXXX it ever again.
                        XXXXly,
                        XXXXXX


This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Talli Roland and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wow, What Wonderfully Wacky Winners!

As I began combing deftly through your entries, it just killed me that none piqued my interest. But, in my view, that's one sexy zither.

As you can see from that example, certain letters can sure throw off the mood of a piece. There were 16 excellent entries in my From A to Z Contest, and 9 people who said they'd come back but never did (just like in a horror film! I hope they're okay...).

For those of you who missed your chance — or have a long-standing feud with the alphabet — fret not. My 2nd Annual Haiku Contest begins this Sunday. So come on back.

Anyway, before I get to the prizes, let me share some of the brilliant writing from this alphabetic contest:
"Anteaters bounced candidly down the elephant's fabled garage..." (Holly Ruggiero)
"Everything fresh and good was hateful." (Marian Allen)
"...ghosts in jackets that liked mango puddings..." (Cheree)
"...save the ukulele vandalizing..." (Liz P)
"...shivering with antici-(say it!)-pation..." (The Writing Goddess)
First I shall divulge the lesser prizes, the $10 giveaways. I never said what these would entail, so sadly, only a few of the criteria were met. On the one hand I'm disappointed, but on the other, I'm actually quite relieved. After all, it's probably in the world's best interest that no one else's brain works quite like mine.

First Uvula Award -- unclaimed
Most consecutive letters in a row, minimum of 4.
(e.g. Did the king of rap music, Def G, hijack an elm? Nope.)

Kilimanjaro Prize -- Naomi (for abracadabra and menopause)
Most letters in one word, minimum of 4.
(e.g. abdicated, backdated, defrag, fighting Afghani, hijinks, luminous lamination, gymnophobia, squarest, Rustoleum, Stuyvesant)

Codefighting Jackalominions Cup -- unclaimed
Most creative made-up words.

Abacusz Prize -- Cheree (157 characters, including spaces)
Fastest to Z, but without using made-up words or rare names. (I'm talking to you, Gahoolie.) And yes, considering the prize's name, I understand the irony of this restriction.

Mighty Zota Award -- RS Robertson
Doing A to Z backwards. (I said you had to use the alphabet in order, but never said which order.)

Razmatazz Trophy -- unclaimed
Going through A to Z twice in one go (or from A to Z and back to A).

Man From Nantucket Prize -- unclaimed
Best poem, limerick, or haiku. For instance, you could have done something like...
Abe codes fighting jokes.
Lymph nodes piqued, thirst unveils
A waxy zebra.
...and even though it makes practically no sense, you would have taken home four of the lesser prizes, including the coveted...

Waxy Zebra Award -- unclaimed
A completely random prize for entries that end with the phrase "waxy zebra."


Honorable Mentions:
The following people came oh so close, but in the end my utterly biased and fantastically unpredictable brain went a different direction, possibly because I had been playing hide-and-seek in the reactor core again. Nevertheless, I thought the entries by these three deserved both mention and honor (but unfortunately for them, not cash): Cheree, Marian Allen, and Sumira Khan

Grand Prize Winners:
And now I shall unveil the three winners of the $26 gift cards. They were selected using my fool-proof method of reading each entry out loud to my cats, and seeing which ones caused them to bat at me in the most playful manner. That, or I left it up to my brain. Both ways are equally as random. Thus, I present to you the winners, in no particular order...

As Beverly chased delicious dreams of great pleasure, her idea generated jokes and laughter. Mere nonsense, they said. Perhaps, but quit? She refused to abandon her ultimate goal, shivering with antici-(say it!)-pation, wetting her lips as she dialed. “XYZ Pizza? I’d like a medium cheese with double broccoli, please.” (The Writing Goddess)

A bad cat drank everything from grease, human intestinal juice, ketchup, lemonade, mint, nutmeg. Occasionally puked. Queasy, really silly tomcat. Usually very wild. X-rays yearly. Zikes. (baygirl32)

Although blatant canonical deficits exist, figurative genetic hierarchy is instrumental in justifying knee-jerk legitimization by many neo-oppressionistic populists (who will) quite readily spout their unpopular views with xenophobic yammering and outright zealousness. (RS Robertson)

(You can view all the entries here)

Congratulations again to all the winners, and thanks to everyone who entered! I hope to see you all again next week for my 2nd Annual Haiku Contest!


Winners: If you haven't gotten an email from me, and you aren't my sister, send me an email at theothernate@yahoo.com. If you are my sister, you can't claim this prize until after you first claim your Japanese dinner.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Arlee Bird and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Vampires vs. Velociraptors!

For those interested in the results of the A to Z Contest, I'll be posting the winners tomorrow. In the meantime, I suggest you keep reading. It could very well save your life.

In this corner, weighing in at 172 pounds, the veritable villain of violent vivisection, the virulent virtuoso of vicissitude, the vicious violator of his victims' every viable vessel, the valiant vampire vicar of Vladivostok... Vladimir the Eviscerator!

(The crowd roars.)

And in this corner, weighing in at 241 pounds, the vile viper of visceral—and he's out of his corner! V-Rap has ignored all protocol and leapt at Vlad before the bell sounded!

V-Rap snaps his jaw closed upon a puff of black smoke as the vamp manages a timely escape, morphing into his bat form at the last possible moment. And he shifts back in mid-air! Vlad has dropped down on top of the raptor, his black cape rippling behind him, and has V-Rap by the neck! The ref—yes, it looks like the ref is trying to stop the fight and—ooooh, there go his innards. That was a rookie mistake by the veteran official there. V-Rap was already struggling to get his little forearms to reach Vlad, and the ref got too close.

I should take this time to remind our listeners that V-Rap is a Jurassic Park-style velociraptor, which is why he's about eight times larger than the traditional 30-lb raptors. But his size isn't helping him against Vlad the Eviscerator. The blood is really starting to flow from ol' Rap's neck.

Oh! And he's leapt from the ring! V-Rap's jumped, and he hits the concrete hard, the impact shaking Vlad loose. The crowd scatters in all directions, retreating to the back of the arena. But wait, V-Rap looks weakened by the blood loss, and he may have hurt his leg in the landing. Indeed, the lizard is limping, and he's actually backing away as the vampire vicar approaches, with V-Rap's blood dripping from his fangs.

I can't believe it. V-Rap is cowering! He must really be in pain. And Vlad is ready to finish him off. He leans in, and—holy cow! Another raptor has come from out of nowhere and tackled Vlad, the man's chest caught in its razor-sharp teeth. It looks like, yes, V-Rap's brother. It's Velo, who has plenty of vitriol for Vlad and his ilk after his devastating loss here last month.

And V-Rap is back up to his full height, gliding smoothly over to where Velo is. His frailty was all a ploy! Of course! Raptors are known for working together and luring in their prey! And boy, Vlad is not looking at all well. It can't just be from Velo's teeth and talons; from Vlad's sallow complexion I have to wager Velo gorged some garlic before entering the arena.

It looks like this could be the end for Vlad the Eviscerator, since there's no referee left standing to call the fight and spare him. But hold on! What's this? Four vampires have just dropped down from the rafters and alit upon V-Rap, wasting no time in sinking their fangs into the big lizard. At least, they look like vampires, although for some reason two of them seem to be sparkling under the arena's lights. Perhaps they rushed here from the glitter convention across town.

Anyway, it looks like they're trying to bargain for their friend. V-Rap's life for Vlad's. And Velo's relenting! He's slowly opening his jaw to release the vampire vicar, who I must say looks simply horrible, even for the undead. I don't know if he'll ever be able to recover from those ragged wounds, but these vamps are remarkably resilient, so I wouldn't put anything past them.

So, fight fans, it looks like this one's going to end in a draw, and... um... who's that man waving to us as he exits through the side entrance? That looked like the guy from V for Vendetta, didn't it? Why would he—oh, crap. Who decided to hold this fight in the Parliament building?! Let me outta—

(Explodes.)


This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Jeffrey Beesler and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Unappreciated, Unadulterated, Unnecessary, Um...

Undulating undies! My From A to Z Contest closes at 11:59 pm tonight, ending your chance at over $100 in prizes. What are you waiting for?

Um, so I was thinking, well, you know, that I might try to, uuuh, write a post the way you—that is, the way we, as a people, y'know, talk.

Every writer has probably considered this at some point. For realistic-sounding dialogue, why not use dialogue taken directly from real life? And then they listen to how real people talk.

Our conversations are full of crutch words and verbal tics, those uhs and ums and y'knows we say without realizing it.1 We stutter, we stop, we interrupt each other. We change what we're saying multiple times before completing a thought. We complete each others' thoughts, or move on without completing them. Basically, it's like we're all talking in Mamet speak.

This works in real life because we learn to subconsciously ignore all these little tics, and read into what people are saying. When reading, however, our brains don't work the same way. We see every word. And if we actually have to, um, read, like, every word, it, well, it gets tougher to—it gets a bit stilted.

Dialogue and narrative should flow, not feel like a case of literary hiccups. It's fine to use a touch here and there, perhaps an um of consideration or an occasional y'know from one character. But a little can go a long way, so don't overdo it.2

Realism is good. But for good realistic dialogue, fake it.


1 Once, while listening to a vendor give a presentation, I noticed his inadvertent overuse of "y'know," so I started counting. Before a minute had passed, he'd hit 20. No one else in the room noticed this tic at all.
2 This goes for regional dialects and accents, too. And adverbs. And exposition. And sentences that begin with conjunctions.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Jen Daiker and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

So Long, and Thanks for All the Loaves and Fish


click on the above image to witness it in all its glory (i.e. to embiggen)

If you don't know the relevance of the slogan or towel above, you need to read this.

And by the way, there's only one more day left to enter my From A to Z Contest for your chance at over $100 in prizes. What would Jesus do? He'd probably enter my contest. You should, too.

Anyway, Happy Easter!


Original photograph
of the Jesus Statue
in Cusco, Peru
by fabian-f.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Top Ten Things That Threaten to Topple This Theocracy

Thundering thistleweed! Two days left to enter my From A to Z Contest! I'm giving over $100 away, so enter today!

Theocracies are typically defined as "states governed by a deity or a priesthood," but in today's modern society even some people of faith also subscribe to another almighty: Science! It, too, is often perceived as infallible, omnipotent, and the cause of earthquakes and plagues. But the following things threaten to shake people's core scientific beliefs:

  1. Thing
    It's a disembodied hand that can think for itself. Need I say more?
     
  2. The Thing
    He's a man made of rock who, when he died, was resurrected by God. Need I say more?
     
  3. Thing 1 and Thing 2
    They have wild, natural blue hair and hang out with a talking cat. Need I say more?
     
  4. Time-Traveling Tyrannosaurs
    What's that? Dinosaurs are actually from the future? Fossils are the result of time-travel missions gone awry? Biology and geology, you're officially on notice.
     
  5. The T Party
    No, not the Tea Party; they're hardly a threat. I'm talking about the rabid fans of Mr. T, who are fervent believers in pitying the fool. Thus, they always vote to fund idiots who spread incorrect scientific information, which will cause the public to distrust science more and more every year.
     
  6. Toothless, Tongue-Tied Thespians
    Because the success of Cats with an all-gum cast is in direct opposition to Darwin's theory on natural selection.
     
  7. Tool Time's Tim Taylor
    With his incessant grunting, his poor grasp of language, and his propensity for smashing things, once the reruns start playing on Nick-at-Nite, people will soon realize evolution is a myth.
     
  8. Tattle-Tales
    A highly-respected member of the scientific community, under oath, will admit in the next inning of the steroids scandal that we still know next-to-nothing about almost everything. Whether steroids can help you hit a baseball, what causes cancer, the secrets of DNA, proper nutrition, weather forecasting, what's keeping Dick Clark alive... it's all guesswork.
     
  9. The Truth Theorem
    This theorem posits that science is a fad and will soon die out on account of its constant need for proof.
     
  10. Ten Thousand Teeming Tapirs
    Swarms of pig-like mammals from out of nowhere. Explain that, science.


This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Karen Gowen and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Shel Silverstein's Secret Sleazy Side

Suffering succubus! The end of my From A to Z Contest! draws near. Enter today for your chance at over $100 in prizes!

When you think of Shel Silverstein, you probably think of books like Where the Sidewalk Ends or The Giving Tree, full of fun poems and stories for kids. But did you know he also wrote numerous songs, including Johnny Cash's hit, "A Boy Named Sue"? (No, that's not the sleazy part.)1

Or how about that, before he got into kid's stuff, he wrote a little book called Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book? Sounds pretty innocent, doesn't it? Especially since the original subtitle was "A Primer for Tender Young Minds."2

Here's an excerpt:

B is for baby
See the baby
The baby is fat
The baby is pink
The baby can cry
The baby can laugh
See the baby play
Play, baby, play.
Pretty, pretty baby.
Mommy loves the baby more than she loves you.

Silverstein also suggests stealing money from Mommy's purse, freeing animals at the zoo, setting the house on fire, and telling kidnappers your Daddy has a lot of money, among other things. Oh yeah, and there is no Santa Claus!

So, I think it's pretty obvious what I'm saying: This book is not for kids.

It's just. Too. Awesome.


1 Even if he did write one song called "Ballsack," and another about venereal disease.
2 It has since been amended to "A Primer for Adults Only."

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Candace Ganger and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic

Rippling rhombus! There's less than a week left in my From A to Z Contest, with prizes > $100. Enter today!

Math isn't just a numbers game. Like with most everything else, letters have greedily horned in on the action. Yet they always try to pretend they're something else. Here's one possible interpretation for each, in the realm of math and science:



a acceleration (you'll go faster if you skip these snarky comments in parentheses)
b the length of the second side of a smart triangle1
c the speed of light in a vacuum2
d diameter (yours will get larger with too much π)
e Euler's number/Napier's constant (Napier took partial credit on Euler's day off)
F the Force (which, as I proved on D-Day, is hard-coded into our DNA)
g how quickly you're falling toward earth (depending on the gravity of the situation)
h height (I've always been tall for mine)
i a number for those who miss their imaginary friend
J joule (I'd have chosen Joule over Jinger and Jordyn-Grace, too)
K a base unit of temperature3
L likelihood (as in the likelihood you didn't know this)
m mass (not Churchy mass, unless you take up the whole pew)
n the size of a statistical sample (which can go to infinity, and beyond!)
o a circle, or possibly an ellipse (it really depends on which font you're using)
p momentum (move along, nothing to see here)
Q heat (and Q's vehicles always pack heat... coincidence?)
r radius (it's half of d: flip r upside down and you'll see the resemblance)
s second (not as in "I second that" or "the second one," but "in one second")
t time (it used to be on my side, but then Morris Day took it)
U union (if you don't approve of this, speak now or forever hold your peace)
v velocity (you shall know mine)4
W What's that? That's watt.
x any damn number it wants to be
y the vertical axis (where everything's on the up 'n up)
z the it's-coming-straight-for-us axis (now in 3D!)

1 I call it a smart triangle both because it's not obtuse, and because it's always right.
2 As measured by vacuuming up a firefly, followed by a miniature cop with a radar gun. Oh, and he'll need a miniature walkie-talkie, too, to radio back the findings.
3 For reference, 0 K is not OK. You've never felt such cold.
4 I reached 28mph during The Great Plummet.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Stephen Tremp and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Questioning Qwyjibo

Quivering Quaaludes! Quit dallying around and enter my From A to Z Contest, with over $100 in prizes!

qwy•ji•bo (kwi-jee-boh) n. A big, dumb North American ape with no chin and a short temper.1

I was raised on Scrabble. Not literally — there wasn't need for that much fiber in my diet — but my sister and I did have fierce Scrabble competitions throughout our childhood and well into our 20s. This was in part because we enjoyed the game, and in part because no one else would play the game with us more than once or twice.

Why did our friends and family forsake us, you ask? Well, apparently they didn't like being trounced regularly by 100-200 points. We might not have had the skills of the Scrabbly grandmasters, but we knew all the best techniques and most of the most important words. If either of us scored fewer than 30 points on our turn, we were disappointed.

Some of our techniques:
  • Aim for the multipliers. Unless you hit a double-word score or triple-letter score, odds are you won't net many points. In the same vein, try not to give your opponents access to the triple-word score spaces. With the right letters, they may lay a SMACKDOWN on your ASS.2
  • Go for two. Crisscrossing words isn't usually as effective as layering. If you lay down a word directly beneath (or alongside) one already on the board, and create a series of 2- or 3-letter words, the points will really start to add up. Especially if you hit a multiplier as well.3
  • Manage your rack. One of the best ways to up your score is with bingos; using all 7 of your tiles gets you an extra 50 points. When you're deciding which word to play, sometimes it's better to go with one that'll leave a better combination of tiles on your rack, even if you might get fewer points initially. I mean, which would you rather have on your next turn: AIDS or DVDS?4
Some of the words:
  • 2-letter words. There are currently 101 valid 2-letter words, involving every letter except C and V, and it's even better if you know what letters can turn them into 3-letter words. The most valuable ones use the high-scoring letters: AX, EX, JO, KA, KI, OX, QI, XI, XU, ZA.5
  • Q words without U. There are 33 of these, including: QAT, QAID, QOPH, FAQIR, SHEQEL, QINTAR, and the keyboardtastic QWERTY.
  • Vowel dumps. Have too many vowels? Lay down a vowel-heavy word to get them out of your hand. Something like: AA, OE, UNAU, AALII, AUREI, COOEE, OURIE, and MIAOU. Oooh, that's good stuff. (But OOOH isn't.)
  • Consonant-only words. Too many consonants? There are about 20 of these (more, if you include that shifty Y), such as: BRRR, CRWTH, CWM, HM, MM, NTH, PFFT, and TSKTSK. Mm hm, that's right.
So there you have it. With this new knowledge and a little practice, you can take your Scrabble game to the next level. Or, you know, to your friend's house. Where you can play it. And beat him. And gloat.6


1 For those of you who are not avid Simpsons fans, the word qwyjibo was used by Bart during a game of Scrabble in the second ever episode of the show. For those of you who are avid Simpsons fans, I realize that the correct spelling is "kwyjibo." This is exactly why I'm questioning "qwyjibo."
2 No, not really. SMACKDOWN is not an acceptable word. Also, ASS? Honestly? What are you, 12? ASS is a complete waste of two good S's.
3 Don't actually hit the multiplier. It's a figure of speech. The board will shake and the tiles will go flying everywhere, and Mitzie will run off with the U-tile in her mouth, which is quite strange because usually Mitzie's pretty sedate for an 80-year-old.
4 Don't answer that.
5 ZA, as in pizza. I wish I was kidding.
6 If you happen to lose, beat him over the head with the box. Then gloat about it.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Arlee Bird and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Past Perfect Present Participle, Please

Pilfering pirates! There's a treasure trove of over $100 in prizes up for grabs in my From A to Z Contest. Enter today!

Okay, I admit it: When I try to think about participles, my brain leaves me dangling. Attempting to identify past perfect or present progressive leaves me tense. I knew all this stuff back when I needed to — in high school English — but it has no real world application.1

In a way, my knowledge of English grammar is very similar to my grasp of music theory. When I create music, I have no idea what key I'm in or that I'm employing a tertian harmonic system; I just know what sounds good. Likewise, I couldn't tell you if my writing uses primordial pluperfect prepositions or future conditional subjunctive. I just know what sounds good.

I agree with most grammar rules,2 but to keep your writing feeling natural, you'll need to break a few of them now and then. End a sentence with a preposition if you want to. I give you permission to recklessly (and needlessly) split infinitives. And sentence fragments? Powerful stuff. If used in moderation.

We have the rules for a reason. But you can ignore them, within reason. Give it a try; you (and your readers) will be glad you did.

Which grammar rules do you break, bend, or shatter?


1 Whereas Apple and Android devices come with a real world application already installed. It's called the power button.
2 Such as the one about minding your P's and Q's. They're like rabbits, I tell you. Best to keep an eye on them (or an I between 'em).

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Talli Roland and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Oh. Em. Gee.

Onerous ocelots! Only one more week to enter my From A to Z Contest for your chance at over $100 in prizes!

Throughout history, teenagers have always seemed to speak a different language than everyone else. A young Julius Caesar uttered upon witnessing his first political debate, "Veni, vidi, stoliiiiidus est."1 Mozart called one of his early symphonies "Shiznit No. 19 in Da Bomb Major." But only recently have they developed their own written language: texting.

Some of the lingo has been around a while, so even some of us older folk may be able to decipher this jumble of letters: omg! roflmao! ftw imho (lol).2

But as the texting language continues to evolve, we're bound to be left behind. To help you out, here are some of the newer phrases, so you'll be able to spy on your children understand a text from one of your younger relatives:

yklw you know, like, whatever
tgiso that guy is so old
homdyamatadta hold on, my dad's yelling at me about texting at the dinner table again
dbahb don't be a hater, bitch
rofbabz rolling on the floor, being attacked by zombies
icftwaap I completely forgot this was also a phone
nnjsio not now, Jersey Shore is on
pitjtocuhfmctafep personally, I think Jung's theory of collective unconsciousness has far more credence than anything Freud ever postulated
jaborl just a bunch of random letters

I hope these r useful 4 u. I'd h8 it if u found them 2 b a waste of ur time.

Crap! I think I've become infected. FML!3


1 "I came, I saw, it was sooo boooooring."
2 Orange marmalade, grandma! Royal orderlies found lemons, mangos, and oranges! Forget the watermelon; I must have oranges (luscious oranges, luscious).
3 Find me leeches!

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Karen Gowen and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nothing, Nil, Nada.

Nipping niblets! I'm giving away over $100 in my From A to Z Contest. Enter today!

I was going to talk about ninjas today, but NOTHING, NIL, and NADA1 threatened me with a class-action lawsuit. Only, the words they used were not class-action lawsuit, but "death by Pokemon." And those might not even be the exact words — it's hard to catch everything when threats are passed along via the wind — but there was no mistaking their intent. Thus, ninjas are out.

Update: For the record, none of those secret ninja organizations are real. Really. (Please believe me.)

Anyway, I realize a ninjaless post is quite the letdown, so I'll try to make it up to you with this short video about ninja thumbtacks.2 I created this over ten years ago, although I didn't get it online until this past February. For the purposes of this post, I'll call it Nate's Nawesome Nomputer Nanimation:


And if you're interested:


1 The Nefarious Organization of Terribly Homicidal International Ninja Gangs, the Ninja Integration League, and the National Association of Deadly Assassins.
2 Wait, did I say ninja? I meant "pseudo-samurai."

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Candace Ganger and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Modest Mussorgsky's Mercurial Melodies

Meddling marmosets! Over $100 is up for grabs in my From A to Z Contest! Do you like money? You could win money.

Although these days I mostly listen to modern music — Lady Gaga, in particular, is fantastic1 — I have a better appreciation for classical music than most people. This is because a) I'm a classically trained violinist, and b) most people have absolutely no appreciation for classical music.

Odds are, you have no idea what a Modest Mussorgsky is. But if you've ever seen Disney's original Fantasia, you've heard Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain," one of my favorite classical pieces. That's not what this post is about, however; as with almost everything else I've done this month, I'm focusing on the letters.2

Musical notes are designated by the letters A through G, and as a violinist, I'm most familiar with the treble clef (which is also called the G-clef).3 When using the treble clef, the five lines of the musical staff (from bottom to top) are E-G-B-D-F. Like many music students, I was taught to remember that order with the mnemonic "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge." Although, to cut down on childhood obesity, in recent years I've heard: "Every Good Boy Deserves Favor," "Every Good Boy Denies Flavor," and "Evil Gnomes Burn Down Forests."

The spaces between the lines, on the other hand, are much easier to remember. They spell out either D.B. or B.C., depending on how old you are.4

Composing words — or songs — with A-G isn't too difficult. But composing a decent sentence is. I mean, I've tried a bunch of times already, and—Egad! Becca defaced Gaga's beaded cabbage feedbag! Bad! Bad Becca!


1 And you have no idea if I'm kidding, since I wrote that while wearing my poker face, p-p-poker face.
2 And not just because I enjoy plucking women's G strings when they aren't looking.
3 It's called the G-clef because one G is what it cost Count Johann von Treble to commission the clef's design from a young Albrecht Dürer. One G was a lot back then, worth at least 10 K. Am I telling you the truth? P-p-poker face.
4 That's Dirk Benedict or Bradley Cooper, a.k.a. FACE.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Jen Daiker and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Love Letters, Literally

Leaping Lazarus! I'm itching to give away over $100 in my From A to Z Contest. I might give it to you. Show me what you've got.

Dearest Alphabet,
Oh my love, I have been under your spell ever since the first moment I saw you. I was drawn in by your magnetism, but even at that early age I could see you were more attached to the refrigerator than you were to me. But I didn't give up: I found you in the library, and then at school, and it wasn't long before we were going everywhere together. Of course, we didn't always get along—sometimes you were too bold, or a bit loopy, or leaned too far to the right for my taste—but I never stopped loving you. You're always kind to widows and orphans, and oh those fantastic curves!

When I'm with you, I feel like anything's possible. You transport me to faraway lands for grand adventures. When we're alone I can have my way with you, yet you don't mind when I put you on display for the whole world to see. Yes, I did have that short fling with a couple of hot numbers in college, but you were my first real love, and I don't know what I'd do without you. I love you I love you I love you, and I always will. (Don't tell my wife.)

XOXO

Nate

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear A,
B mine. You touch B, I kill you.

- C

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear M,
I love U. M sorry we no work out.

- I

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear U,
Not to be querulous, but why won't you come away with me? Do my inquiries not pique your interest? It's quaint that you wish to remain amongst these unsophisticated troglodytes, but none of the other letters is your equal. They possess neither your quiet, gentle nature nor your eloquence. They are overly quirky and quick to quibble; neither are endearing qualities. And since A was nearly drawn and quartered, it seems C has started using I as an enforcer. Frankly, it's disquieting, and you deserve better.

There is no question we belong together, my darling. With you as my queen, we could conquer the English-speaking world. Perhaps you find my forwardness quite quixotic, but thy shalt not quit. Let us escape this quintessential quagmire.

Unequivocally yours,
Q

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Q,
I with U now. I no understand message. Neither do U.

- U

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear A,
Hope you are recovering quickly after what I did to you. Question: Would you ever consider leaving this dreadful language and starting anew in Qatar?

Eagerly awaiting your answer,
Q



This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Kurious Khemical Kompounds (wherein K = Potassium)


No, I'm not saying you should translate this post's title as "Potassiumurious Potassiumhemical Potassiumompounds." I've already covered gobbledygook.

I'll fess up: I was planning to use this topic for C, but then I hit upon my From A to Z Contest (with over $100 in prizes—enter today!). I needed a new spot for this, and K seemed like the logical choice.1

Anyway, I suspect that like me, some of you got bored in chemistry class and started making words with the symbols on the Periodic Table of Elements. It's harder than you'd think, since 10 letters only come as part of a pair (ADEGLMRTXZ) and two don't appear at all (JQ). And it's even more difficult if you don't allow symbols to repeat within the same word (which I don't).2

Of the eight co-hosts for this A to Z Challenge, only one can spell any part of his name with elements: STePHeN (Sulfur-Tellurium-Phosphorus-Helium-Nitrogen), which is rather fitting, considering his love for science. The other 15 first and last names? Can't be done.

In Period Table English, you can't spell PErIOdiC, TaBle, or eNglISH. CHemIStrY doesn't exist, and neither does ScIeNCe. You're out of luck with OUt and lUCK.

You can have an AmBiTiOUS RhInOCErOs, but not an eAgEr BeaVEr. InTeRnAtIONAl SPIEs, but no FOReIgN AgeNtS. Plenty of FLaSH FICTiON, but not one NOVel or SHort StOrY. Yet, surprisingly, you can have both SYNeCdOCHe and ScHeNeCTaDy, NY.

SO I WAs ThInKINg I WOUld AtTemPt StrIVe trY
IF I CaN FInISH ONe SeNTenCe
ThAt'S WHAt I WaNt HOPe
'TiS SO VErY HArd tOUgH dIFfiCult dArN ImPOsSiBle
FUCK ThIS. No MoRe, GdAmMt!
I'MdONe.3

SiNCeRelY,
Sodium Tellurium (NaTe)

1 If you consider pulling letters randomly out of a hat logical. Luckily, I do.
2 By the way, this type of wordplay is the only (arguably) legitimate reason to ever capitalize every other letter when you type.
3 P.S. ScReW YOU, HErSHeY! I TaSTe ArSeNiC. ThAr Be PoISON In ThIs HeRe CHoCoLaTe! NOW I PErISH. (SCeNe.)

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Stephen Tremp and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Joshua, Jana, John-David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johanna, Jennifer, Jordyn-Grace, Josie

Jumping jacksnipes! There's over $100 up for grabs in my From A to Z Contest. Enter today!

Yeah, I don't watch that show. But I know if I had 19 kids whose names all started with J, there would be nary a Jinger, Jordyn-Grace, Joy-Anna, John-David, Jedidiah, or Bullfrog among them.

Here are some other J-names I'd saddle my kids with long before I used any of those:
Jacob, Jeremy, Jerome, Jesse, Jessica, Jaime, Jameson, Jamal, Julie, Julia, Julian, Julianna, Julius, Juliet, Jules, July, June, Jude, Judith, Jensen, Jared, Jarrett, Jade, Jaden, Jalen, Jaren, Jin, Jan, Jean, Jayne, Joan, Jenna, Joanna, Janine, Jeanette, Janelle, Janice, Jocelyn, Jessalyn, Jessamine, Jasmine, Josephine, Justine, Jolene, Joelle, Joel, Jonah, Judah, Judas, Jodie, Joss, Jensen, Jefferson, Jeffrey, Jerry, Jericho, Junior, Junius, Juneau, Juniper, Jhumpa, Jewel, Jillian, Jacquelyn, Jermaine, Jarvis, Jasper, Jaleel, Jacques, Javier, José, Jorge, Julio, Juan, Jesus, Joaquin, Joachim, Jaromir, Jett, Jethro, Jupiter, Jebediah, Jehoshaphat, Job, Jojo, Jujube, Jughead, Jellybean, Jimmer, Jibjab, and Jugdish.

That is all.


This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Jeffrey Beesler and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Insanely Irascible Insurance Industry Initialisms

Inconceivable! I'm giving away over $100 in prizes in my From A to Z Contest! (Okay, I concede it's kind of conceivable.)

As a web designer for an insurance and investment company, I'm constantly surrounded by initialisms. If you're unfamiliar with the term, it's what most people mistakenly call acronyms.1

Initialisms are everywhere, but insurance and investment companies are rife with them. You can apply for STD coverage because of an STD (short-term disability / sexually transmitted disease). People in RPG can play RPGs on their lunch break (retirement plans group / role-playing games). You can buy an IRA for a member of the IRA (individual retirement account / Irish Republican Army), or get an MF for an MFer (mutual fund, motherfucker).

A CPA in the AARP might get an LTD while under HIPAA, then check an IPO's YTD before discussing ERISA with a TPA and the FDIC. I might be a little off in my usage, but we use all those initialisms, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.2

I have worked in HTSC and on sites for IAS, SRS, SIU, and HPRM (which works off a PPA). I was even briefly part of GSD, which stood for GBD Solutions Design. That's right: an initialism inside another initialism. It's like one of those Russian nesting dolls, only much, much stupider.

And that's the insurance industry for you. TTFN. TTYL.

So, how about you? What insane initialisms do you have to deal with?


1 An acronym is a series of initials said as a word (e.g. SCUBA, LASER, LARP). An initialism is any series of initials, whether it's an acronym or needs to be spelled out by its individual letters (e.g. ABC, IBM, WWJD). Then again, I normally try to pronounce all initialisms as words. I get stranger looks that way.
2 By the way, if you hit the iceberg, you can file a claim with P&C (property &nd casualty).

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Talli Roland and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Half Humphrey

Holy horsefeathers! I'm giving away over $100 in my From A to Z Contest! You should enter. That money (and maybe the horsefeathers) could be yours.

For your viewing pleasure, let me present to you this handy dandy multi-letter conversion chart:

AAAA = 1 tiny battery; 1 1/3 auto clubs; 2 Milnes
BBB = 1 consumer rights group; a King and a half
CCCC = 2 cubic centimeters; ~57% of the Kraken's domain
DD = 1 national fried dough merchant; 2/3 of a top-heavy porn star
EEEEE = 1 reeeeeally wide shoe; 1 mouse sighting; 2½ uppercase cummingses
FFF = 1 forte fortissimo; half-white HTML
GGG = 1 annual defective yeti guide; 75% of a cellular network
HHH = 1 former US VP; 1 pro wrestler; ¾ of a youth organization
III = 1 Richard; page 3 of the prologue
JJJ = 1 Schmidt (that's my name, too!); 1½ Abramses
KKK = 3 swinging strikeouts; 40 guys in bed sheets
LL = 1 Bean; 1 Cool J; 40% of a llama
MMM = ¼ of this kid who got into an accident and couldn't come to school; 1 bop
NN = 1 internet principle
OOO = 1 Tic-Tac-Toe win; 1 ghost with a short attention span (or no confidence)
PPP = 1 piano pianissimo; 1½ non-toilet-trained toddlers
QQQQ = 1 Nasdaq 100 Trust until last month; 20% of 20 Questions
RRR = 1 unit of education; 1 space between Oriental Avenue & Income Tax
SSSSSS = 3 Nazi squadrons; 1 slow leak
TT = 1 Audi roadster; 2 steak bones
UU = 1 W
VV = 1 set of fangs; 2 vendettas
WWW = 1 series of tubes
XXX = thirty; dirty; kisses
YYY = 1 lament
ZZZ = 1 unit of Sleep; 1½ Tops

Yes, technically H is only 1/3 of a Humphrey, but that amount left little alliteration for the post's title, so I decided to round up. Consequently, I'd appreciate it if you would just keep this between us, and didn't report me to the International Bureau of Weights & Measures. In return for your discretion, I'll give you a DD hole.1

So, did I miss anything important?


1 Yes, I realize that, based on the chart above, a DD hole could refer to either something awesome or something really disgusting (or vice versa), but that's what you're getting. Deal with it.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Karen Gowen and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Go-Go Gadget Gobbledygook!

Great galloping gadflies! I'm giving away over $100 in my From A to Z Contest! What are you waiting for?

While I wholeheartedly (as opposed to partheartedly or halfspleenedly) admit that much of what I write/ramble/rant about here on this here blog is a steaming heap of—no, I refuse to call it refuse, but it is pretty much rubbish, and aye, there's the rub: If most readers can't cross your streams of consciousness, if they can't manage to follow your train of thought, it's clear you've probably gone loco without the motive. Even if you're just a little off track, betting you lose readers would be a profitable endeavor, since we live in a Short Attention Span Society (or SASS, and by the way I'm having SASS sashes made, shiny ones, all the better to distract you with, my dear) and—wait, where was I? Oh right. Sitting in my home office with a cat by my mouse.

Anyway, people sure love themselves some crazy (translation: they're keen on Sheen), but dude, they won't abide being driven batshit crazy themselves by having to decipher the droll, dauntless drivel you dare to deem your writing. So give it to 'em straight — or gay, or bi, or asexual (like this one amoeba I knew in college) — but whatever you do, don't force your readers to slog through the unnavigable landscape of crags and crevasses created by your particular brand of madness in the hopes they'll soldier through and eventually arrive at your point, because before they ever get there their minds will inevitably wander (as minds and tribes are apt to do) onto uncharted paths of their own (and likely lesser) imagination, and there they'll revel forever and ever and when they finally do come stumbling back to your intricately plotted passages and best laid lines that get tangled in each other and cause your hook to get caught in the fleshy part of your thumb, it will be time for dinner.

Reading shouldn't be a struggle.


This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Candace Ganger and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Five Fiendish Footnotes

Flying fishnuts! There's over $100 up for grabs in my From A to Z Contest! Enter today!

I like footnotes. Not all of them, of course. The traditional ones, which simply impart more information or list source material, can be a bit droll. Footnotes can be so much more.

If you've been on my blog before, you know I typically use them as humorous asides, or as the punch line itself. Twice, I've had footnote-centric posts with 10 notes a piece, and my blog's title also comes from a footnote. But it's not just me.

Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell has footnotes that go on for pages, detailing past events in her revised history of Britain. Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves contains footnotes within footnotes within footnotes, mirroring the story's narrative. Jasper Fforde's protagonist Thursday Next speaks with characters who aren't in the scene via a footnoterphone. And these are just a few examples.

My footnotes today, however, are like none of the above. You may notice there are no little numbers or asterisks pointing you to them, that they have no connection at all to the content of the post. Here's why: My friend Maureen always reads the footnotes first, and I've tailored these specifically to, for lack of a better phrase (and to ensure the infinitive I started back there is really, really split), screw with her. Never mind that I don't necessarily believe the things I'm saying below. Like I said at the beginning, footnotes can be so much more than just boring old information.

They can be downright fiendish.


1 "Not unless it's a hundred grand." Get it? Because of the farmer's tooth? Man, that joke kills me every time...
2 ‒ • •   ‒ ‒ ‒   ‒       ‒ • •   ‒ ‒ ‒   ‒       ‒ • •   • ‒   • • •   • • • •       ‒ • •   ‒ ‒ ‒   ‒   this.
3 But this time, the duck was wearing a monocle.
4 People may call Bill Gates the Devil, but I say it's Steve Jobs. Think about it. They say the devil's in the details, and while Gates has given up day-to-day decisions at Microsoft, Jobs still has his hand in each new iDevice that comes out and imposes strict regulations on every product and app. He is like a snake, and Apple is the fruit of the devil.
5 Which is why, from now on, I shall only use
Comic Sans. In bold text, red on a dark background. No, wait. It should be RAINBOW! And in a scrolling marquee!! BeSt FoOtNoTe EvAr! (Note: You'll need to click through to the blog to actually see the marquee — and blink — in action.)

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Jen Daiker and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Enigma Encryption, Eagle Emblem, Etc.

Egad! I'm giving away over $100 in my From A to Z Contest. Enter today!

A few years ago a friend and I visited the National Cryptologic Museum outside Washington, DC. This was shortly after I'd finished Neal Stephenson's excellent Cryptonomicon, so I was ready to gorge myself on all things code-making and code-breaking.

Sadly, the museum had practically nothing from the last 10-20 years on display. Of course, those technologies are still in use today, so that wasn't surprising. This was: We got a personal tour from a former head of the NSA.

He was the museum director at the time, and there were few patrons there that Friday afternoon, so he accompanied us through half the building. Along with giving us detailed explanations about history's greatest cryptologic devices and techniques — such as the Engima machine during WWII — he also shared other interesting tales of espionage.

For instance, in 1946 Soviet school children presented the American Ambassador with a wooden replica of the U.S. Great Seal. The seal hung in his office for six years before anyone discovered the small microphone hidden inside the carving of the eagle.

Another story dealt with secrets escaping through a fireplace.1 But for me the museum's real highlights were the codes and ciphers and encryption. I mean, sometimes it's just fun to send things in code. For instance, look what I can do to the phrase "THIS IS AN ENCRYPTED MESSAGE" by implementing two little rules:

VGET OR UP IMDQYQSAF LITRUHI.

It's not just simple letter substitution, like you'd find in a cryptogram. As you can see, a message can quickly become indecipherable unless you: a) know the encryption method, b) have a code-cracking computer (or code-cracking brain), or c) happen to know the original message, allowing you to ignore the encrypted one completely. (By the way, if you don't want to reverse engineer my code, the answer's in the footnotes.)2 Sure, the Enigma machine and its progeny utilize far more complex algorithms, but I'd say it's pretty good for a couple minutes' work by a novice. I might even work it into a novel.

Anyway, if you're ever in the DC area and get the chance, I recommend checking out the National Cryptologic Museum. Or, if it sounds too geeky for you (or you have easily-bored children), I'd suggest the nearby International Spy Museum instead.

Oh, and remember...
CA RASA SU FQEPJ ZUOQ UWUKVOMA.


1 I don't remember all the details, but I think this happened at an embassy in China. National secrets were getting out, and they couldn't figure out how. Multiple searches over a period of months (or years) turned up no bugs of any kind. And then someone thought to try lighting a fire in the fireplace. Smoke quickly filled the room. Turns out the fireplace had been built specifically so any conversation would echo down through the grate and along a 100-foot underground tunnel to where a Chinese agent sat recording every word.
2 I switched each vowel to either the previous vowel or the next one, in alternating fashion and starting with the previous. I did the same for the consonants, but starting with the next. (Oh, and rather than deal with the Y as a vowel, I just left it as it was.)

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Deoxyribonucleic Awesome!

Dude! Do you like money? There's over $100 up for grabs in my From A to Z Contest. Enter today!

I expect if you were to ask most people what DNA stands for, even avid CSI watchers would respond IDK.1 Scientists, on the other hand, would tell you that DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is made up of letters.

And D isn't one of them.

Specifically, it's made up of A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine), and T (thymine). Together, not only can these spell the name of an underrated 1997 film that deals with genetics, but they also combine to form the building blocks for all known living organisms. That's great and all, but what's really exciting is that they are proof Star Wars is hard-coded into our genes.

No, really.

In DNA, the nucleotides form base pairs. Adenine always bonds with thymine, and cytosine always bonds with guanine. So what does this mean? It means, like Star Wars, our DNA has many AT-ATs which are made with CG.2

That's right: The Force will be with you, always. Science fiction has become science fact.

You're welcome.


1 I have no idea what that last one means. Illegal Donna Karans? Illustrated Donkey Kong? I'm David Krumholtz? Yeah, I don't know.
2 That's computer graphics, for those who don't speak geek.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Stephen Tremp and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Monday, April 4, 2011

From A to Z CONTEST!

**The contest has ended** (view the winners)

In honor of Arlee Bird's Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, I thought today would be the perfect time to unveil an idea I've had for a while now: An alphabetic writing contest.

The rules are simple:
Write something using every letter of the alphabet, in order.

It can be prose. It can be poetry. It can be instructions for properly installing a flux capacitor. I don't care. All I care is that it contains all 26 letters, and that they appear in alphabetic order.

So, what do I mean by in order? Let me give you an example.

Amy used the bacon defense.

Take a look at the underlined letters in the above sentence. That's A through F, in order. Six down, twenty to go. Nice and easy.

And no, I won't tell you what the bacon defense is. It wouldn't be nearly as effective against you if I did.

Anyway, here's what you can win:
  • I shall bestow three prizes of $26 (as Amazon gift cards or something comparable, winner's choice) upon the authors of my three favorite entries.
  • I will also award at least three additional prizes of $10, based on criteria I won't divulge to you at this time. I'll just say this: it's all about the letters.
That's over $100 up for grabs. If you want in on this, leave your entry (or entries—I'll give you up to two) in the comments below. Don't worry about underlining the appropriate letters, just worry about what you're writing. And in which order the letters appear.

The contest will close in three weeks, on Monday, April 25, at 11:59pm (Eastern Time).

Be creative. Be funny. Be eloquent. Be insane.

But most of all: Entertain me.


Contest Rules:
  1. Rules will be written in small type and numbered, so they look more official.
  2. To enter, write something using every letter of the alphabet in order, and post it in the comments section of this blog. If your letters are out of order, I'll find them in contempt of court and give them a short sentence. Or I'll just hang a sign on the door telling people to use the next stall. Either way, you won't win.
  3. Entries must use the English alphabet. If you end up using another one, such as Greek or Russian or Klingon, your entry will be translated into English, and inevitably lose something in the translation. Such as this contest.
  4. You may submit a maximum of two entries. If you submit more than two, I will notice, because I can count. Only your final two entries will be eligible to win. I'll claim any earlier attempts as my own.
  5. You must provide a name. Anonymous entries will not win. Eponymous and androgynous entries probably won't win, either, but I'll decide that based on merit.
  6. There is no rule 6.
  7. Prizes will be awarded as follows:
    • Three (3) winners will receive $26 each, in the form of an Amazon gift card or comparable online currency (of the winner's choosing).
    • Three (3) or more additional winners will receive $10 (also Amazon, etc.), awarded based on criteria that I make up as I go along.
    • An indeterminate number of people will be dubbed as Honorable Mentions. These people will receive honor. (Also, mention.)
  8. I shall act as the contest's sole judge, and if James Brown enters, its soul judge.
  9. The contest is open until April 25, 2011 at 11:59pm, Eastern Time. If you post an entry after the deadline, it will be entered in my next contest instead. It won't win that one, either.
  10. Good luck. (Not that luck will help you win, but it felt like the right thing to say.)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Blissfully Bare

English is so inconsistent. Where else can you find so many words that are spelled differently but pronounced the same (the towed lode toed the load), and so many words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently (I plough through rough dough. Cough.). And of course, let's not forget the rule everyone knows by heart:

I before E except after C, unless it's for SCIENCE! Or, you know, if it's weird or foreign (or neither).

Which brings me to the Barenaked Ladies, who are both weird and foreign.1 In 2008, they put out a kids' album titled Snack Time. It's decent, but doesn't quite match the quality of the Ladies' adult entertainment. (Yes, I went there.) Personally, I prefer the four children's albums put out by They Might Be Giants, though that's neither here nor there.2 Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is because of the second-to-last track, a song called "Crazy ABCs."

I like the idea of the song, but I don't understand why it's on an album for kids. Most of them won't get it. Hell, without the liner notes, most adults won't get it. Instead of traditional ABCs (i.e. apple, ball, chlamydia), BNL uses words that don't sound the way they're spelled. Words like bdellium, djinn, and mnemonic. The song's full of silent letters and foreign words, not to mention a ZZ Top reference (topical as always).

It's over-the-head of young kids, and too corny for anyone in their teens. Which means it's mostly for 6th graders who dream of one day competing in the National Spelling Bee.

But that's fine. They can get there by flying the czar's gnarly pterodactyl over a tsunami.


1 Or neither, if you live in Canada. If you do, could you send me some Nanaimo bars?
2 If it was here or there, I'd be infringing on Grover's domain, and he wouldn't hesitate to sic his attack Snuffleupagus on me.

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, hosted by Jeffrey Beesler and seven others. Go check out the other participants!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Ram Sang a Ragman's Anagrams

I've always enjoyed messing around with the English language. It began in my toddling days with those colorful fridge magnets, then spread to the Daily Jumble (I blamed July) and games of Scrabble (grab some elf ABCs). Eventually I moved on to things like simile, metaphor, and puns, but anagrams always stuck with me.

A talented anagrammologist can make an anagram actually describe the thing it's an anagram of. Note: I am not a talented anagrammologist. In fact, I made that word up.

Original Phrase Potential Anagram(s)
Nate Wilson wanton isle
a stolen win
'twas online
Sometimes, the Wheel is on Fire some element of his wit is here
home is where I moisten fleets
April Fool's Day a play for idols
daily roof slap
frail lady (oops!)
President Barack Hussein Obama bare bipeds chosen in Kama Sutra
bad-ass Superman broke in the CIA
top American business had break
Justin Bieber inert jubbies

By the way, before I go on I should probably mention that this post is part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge (OMG a blazing hot frog prince -- all leg!), brought to you by Arlee Bird (die, barrel!) and his charming array of co-hosts: Jeffrey Beesler (refs jeer feebly), Jen Daiker (Jedi, E-Rank), Candace Ganger (GC: Green Canada), Karen Gowen (anger woken), Talli Roland (Iran told all), Stephen Tremp (pens tempt her), and Alex J. Cavanaugh (Jalex C. Avanaugh). Go and check out the other participants!

Anyway, I'll end today's post with an anagrammatic poem (mama ate magic porn). Back in 1936, David Shulman (lush DVD mania!) wrote a rhyming sonnet (tenor hymn sing) in which each of the 14 lines is an anagram of the poem's title (simple tote). Its meter isn't too consistent (cotton is stone), but you have to admit it's pretty impressive (sever empty spirit):

Washington Crossing the Delaware

A hard, howling, tossing water scene.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
"How cold!" Weather stings as in anger.
O Silent night shows war ace danger!

The cold waters swashing on in rage.
Redcoats warn slow his hint engage.
When star general's action wish'd "Go!"
He saw his ragged continentals row.

Ah, he stands — sailor crew went going.
And so this general watches rowing.
He hastens — winter again grows cold.
A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.

George can't lose war with's hands in;
He's astern — so go alight, crew, and win!

And thus ends day one of my alphabetic journey (a thrice-jumpy baloney). Just remember that anagrams, unlike footnotes (out, O stolen knife!), should only be used in moderation.1,2


1 Er... domination!
2 I regret that much of the above succumbed to silliness, but thankfully no footnotes were harmed in the making of this post (He fights a monk—Stop it!).