364 down, 1 to go

364:365 A ridiculous still life, with everything but the kitchen sink.

Unbelievably, I have just about made it through Project 365. 364 days in, I have managed to take (at least) a photo a day to share online. Admittedly, there were 2 or 3 times when I didn’t quite manage to take a photo before midnight, plus some other times when time zone mismatches made it look like I’d missed a day, but I always remembered to take some sort of photo by the time I went to bed. In this year of chaos and of feeling stuck, this project has felt like an accomplishment.

For my penultimate shot of the project, I decided to get all wacky and revisit some props and repeat subjects from my year of photos. (It’s sort of a pictographic summary.) In this photo can be found at least 20 things that have either been the subjects of my photos more than once, or that represent things (or categories of things) that have recurred in my project photos. (I’m sorry to say that even though it appeared in at least 4 of my photos, the kitchen sink is not included in this still life.)

How many can you find?

If you are curious, but haven’t looked at many of my photos, you can peek the thumbnails in batches on my flickr account:

And here’s another game for you, if you want to play. Each month, I chose a theme (or some sort of visual motif) to work with. Can you identify them? (Okay, it was not actually all 12 months.)

If you want to play, leave a comment with:

    1) one thing from the still life photo above that has either appeared in some of my Project 365 photos, or that might represent things from those photos
                    ~ or ~
    2) a theme identified from one of my monthly sets
                    ~ or ~
    3) the number of things from the photo you have been able to identify
                    ~ or ~
    4) any months for which you have been unable to identify a theme

If you don’t want to play, leave a comment telling me:

    1) how cool I am for doing this project and for achieving awesome levels of awesomeness
                    ~ or ~
    2) what a dork I am for making up this game and for achieving dorky levels of dorkiness
                    ~ or ~
    3) the number of times you rolled your eyes while reading this post
                    ~ or ~
    4) any moths for which you have been unable to identify a thorax

If you don’t want to play or leave a comment, click here.

hee-haw, hee-haw

It’s Thursday again, and that means I’m due for a ThThTh list. What with my having the upcoming election on the brain, it seemed a good time to bring out the donkeys.

Some donkeys

  • The Democratic donkey: the donkey is an unofficial symbol of the U.S. Democratic Party. The jackass was first associated with Andrew Jackson in his 1828 campaign, according to the official Democratic Party’s website page on the history of the democratic donkey.
  • Pin the tail on the donkey: A party game in which blindfolded participants attempt to attach a representation of a tail to a drawing of a donkey. The one who gets the tail closest to the tail end of the donkey wins.
  • Donkey pronoun: a term in linguistics for a certain type of pronoun in which the syntax does not map straightforwardly to the semantics. Named after this example, in which “it” is the donkey pronoun:

    Every farmer who owns a donkey beats it. — Peter Geach, Reference and Generality

  • Hee Haw: a country-themed (in the sense of “rural” and “Western”) sketch comedy show with a donkey mascot. It was mostly on in the 70s. (The show’s title is the English onomatopoeic word for the sound of a donkey’s bray. For the record, my post titile makes reference to the sound, not the show. I find the show, or the memory of watching the show as a child, somewhat painful.)
  • Eeyore: the gloomey donkey from Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.
  • The Golden Ass: Another name for the Metamorphoses of Lucius Apuleius, an ancient Roman novel in which the protagonist turns himself into an ass.
  • Nick Bottom: a character in the Shakespeare play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bottom’s head is turned into an ass head.
  • Benjamin: the donkey in Orwell’s Animal Farm.
  • Donkey: the animated donkey, voiced by Eddie Murphy, from the Shrek movies (2001, 2004, 2007).
  • Dapple: Sancho Panza’s donkey in Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

Eight 8 things for 08/08/08

Today is August 8th, 2008. As in 08/08/08. Which is a very cool date. I decided to forego my usual Themed Things Thursday list in favor a special 8-themed Friday list. (Actually, I wanted to do 8 lists of 8 8 things⁸, but I came down with an attack of temporary sanity, and decided I should get some sleep instead.)

8 8-related things

  1. octave: the musical interval between a note and one of half (or twice) its frequency in hertz. It’s divided into 8 tones to make a scale.
  2. octagon: a polyhedron with 8 sides. A red octagon is iconic as the stop sign.
  3. spiders: eight-legged arthropods. (You can visit my spider ThThTh list for lots of spiders.)
  4. the 8 ball: The black ball from the set of pool or billiards balls, emblazend with the number 8. There’s also the Magic 8 ball, a toy used to tell fortunes.
  5. crazy 8s: a card game (played with at least one other person) where the goal is to discard all your cards. 8s are “wild.”
  6. octopus. An 8-legged cephalopod. (I came so close to making an octopus list…)
  7. 8 Days a Week: a song by the Beatles. (What should the 8th day be named? Maybe Pantsday?)
  8. Figure 8“. The School House Rock song about the number 8:

⁸ Here are 8 scraps from the various 8 lists I envisioned: 1) section 8 (a former military discharge for psychiatric reasons) , 2) The Eight (a book by Katharine Neville), 3) Eight Men Out (a 1988 directed by John Sayles), 4) Eight is Enough (a 1970s TV show), 5) 8-track tapes, 6) 2³=8, 7) V8 (a juice) and 8) After Eight (a candy).

Image sources:
octopus: Chandler B. Beach, The New Student’s Reference Work for Teachers Students and Families (Chicago: F. E. Compton and Company, 1909), from etc.usf.edu.
music scale/piano keys: Kantner Book of Objects from etc.usf.edu.
cards, spider, stop sign: public domain images from wpclipart.com.
Magic 8 Ball: wikipedia

bucket list

Late last year, a movie came out called Bucket List, which then inspired a bunch of people to write their own “bucket lists”. Somehow I missed all of it. However, having seen the movie poster hanging in a video store window a few days ago, I’ve had that title running through my head. Running through my head and collecting things in a little bucket, as it were. Things about buckets as it turns out. So I present to you a ThThTh list of buckets.

A Bucket List

  1. kick the bucket: an expression meaning “keel over”, “bite the dust”, or “buy the farm”.
  2. bucket list: a list of things one hopes to accomplish before one’s death. (As in before one kicks the bucket.) The term may have originated with the screenplay from the movie (below).
  3. Bucket List (2007): a movie directed by Rob Reiner and starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. About 2 men who write a bucket list and work on accomplishing the items on the list. Said to be a tear-jerker. You can watch the trailer (YouTube).
  4. “There’s a hole in my bucket”: a folksong, possibly with German origins.
  5. mercy buckets: an English distortion of the French merci beaucoup, meaning “thank you much.”
  6. a drop in the bucket: an expression meaning “an inconsequential amount in relation to a larger quantity”.
  7. sweat buckets: an expression meaning “perspire copiously”
  8. Mr. Bucket: a game/toy (by Milton Bradley) from the early 90s. The commercial, (which you can watch on YouTube, if you like) had lyrics which apparently raised a few eyebrows:

    I’m Mr. Bucket put your balls in my top.
    I’m Mr. Bucket, out of my mouth they will pop…

  9. Buckethead: a musician noteworthy for performing with a bucket on his head.
  10. bucket drummers: percussionists, typically street performers, who use upended buckets (usually plastic paint buckets) as drums. Buckets are often supplemented with pots, pans, and other improvised instruments. There’s a blog on bucket drummers. You can also find a bunch of short clips on YouTube of some very impressive bucket drummers, like these guys:

  11. lolrus: A pinniped, usually a walrus, featured in a lolcat-style image. The captions of these typically feature commentary about buckets, especially the loss of buckets and the seeking of buckets. (Or, in the language of lol, buckits or bukkets.) To explore lolruses and their buckets (and to see the original), i can has cheezburger has the tag “bucket” for your convenience.

    funny pictures

The picture at the top of the page is Phoebe with her bucket. Well, it’s small for a bucket. Really more of a pail, by comparison. (I’m sorry. I had to say it.)

list gone wild

What with all the travelling I’ve been doing, it’s been a while since I managed to put together a ThThTh list. But this week, inspired by our recent visit to the zoo, I’ve managed to round up some zoo-themed items. You are welcome to feed the list, but please keep your fingers outside the cages.

A Zoo List

  1. the zoo in metaphors: The term zoo is used idiomatically to evoke chaos, wildness and other general craziness in places or situations. Cf: “This place looks like a zoo!” or “It was like feeding time at the zoo.” (Of course, I have to say that the zoos I’ve been to are not so much like the crazy situations that are likened to them: they tend to be well-organized and orderly. At least the animals. The people buying snacks and such can get out of hand.)
  2. animal crackers: Cookies shaped like animals. Though often packaged/marketed in ways evocative of circuses, the animals featured are much more zoo-like than circus-like overall. (See, for example, a picture of animal cookies from the Barnum’s Animal Crackers. Have you seen a giraffe or a rhinoceros at the circus? I rest my case.)
  3. zoo keeper: a computer/arcade game where you need to line up animals in rows. You can play a flash version online.
  4. A Zed & Two Noughts (1985) A movie directed by Peter Greenaway. I’m not quite sure what to say about it. A zoo (or the animals from the zoo)(or some rotting carcasses of animals from the zoo) is involved. And also referenced in the title.
  5. 12 Monkeys (1995) One of my favorite movies, directed by Terry Gilliam. Zoo animals appear at various times during the film, and a zoo is featured in a significant scene at the end.
  6. Madagascar (2005) A Dreamworks animated feature about animals escaping from a zoo.
  7. Creature Comforts (1989) Nick Park’s brilliant claymation short with interviews of zoo animals. The soundtrack was taken from interviews with real people, describing their own living situations, and attributed to animated zoo animals. (I also discovered that there was later a related TV series that was supposed to be pretty good.
  8. Zoos are a pretty popular setting for children’s stories, such as If I Ran the Zoo, Dr. Seuss, Good Night, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathman and Animal Strike at the Zoo. It’s True!, by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Margaret Spengler, and a gazillion others.
  9. “At the Zoo” poem by A. A. Milne. Here’s a bit:

    There are lions and roaring tigers,
    and enormous camels and things,
    There are biffalo-buffalo-bisons,
    and a great big bear with wings.
    There’s a sort of a tiny potamus,
    and a tiny nosserus too –
    But I gave buns to the elephant
    when I went down to the Zoo!

  10. “At the Zoo,” a song by Simon and Garfunkel

    Zebras are reactionaries,
    Antelopes are missionaries,
    Pigeons plot in secrecy,
    And hamsters turn on frequently.
    What a gas! you gotta come and see
    At the zoo.

  11. “Christmas at the Zoo,” by the Flaming Lips. A song about letting animals out at the zoo on Christmas Eve. The animals show no interest in escaping.¹

  12. ¹I was rather disturbingly reminded of this song this past Christmas when hearing the news of a tiger escaped from a San Francisco zoo on Christmas day, killing one zoo visitor and injuring 2 others.

    Images from wpclipart.

how to talk like a pirate

jolly_roger.jpgWell, it’s finally arrrived. Today, September 19th, is Talk Like a Pirate Day. You’ve gotten yourself a pirate name, and brushed up on your pirate job skills. But are you still unclear on how best to talk like a pirate? Have no fearrrr.

There arrre many avenues to explore in learrrning how to talk like a pirate. An important resource is the “how to” page of the official Talk Like a Pirate Day website. There you can learrrn the basics (the 5 “A”s), more advanced pirate terminology (don’t confuse your hornpipe with your bunghole), and even advance all the way up to pick-up lines like this one:

How’d you like to scrape the barnacles off of me rudder?

In case you don’t have time for such intensive language study, you may find one of several translators handy, like this one or this other one. This one acts as more of a phrase book, and allows you to produce such eloquent discourses as this:

Ahoy, me proud beauty! Be that th’ market? I’ve a fierce fire in m belly t’ have a bit of a lie-down’

Of course, it’s also important to work on your arrr, long considered to be one of the hallmarrrks of pirate speech. (If you’d like to learn the history of this phenomenon, The Language Log discussed this a couple of yearrrs ago.)

Here’s what you do to say “arr”:

  1. Step one: Say “ah”. (Your vowel may vary by dialect; [ɒ], [a] and [ɑ] are probably all legitimate.) You’ll probably want to put in a glottal stop at the start [ʔ].
  2. Step two: Quickly lower your third formant to produce the [ɹ] sound. This can be accomplished by curling the tongue back (retroflex “r”) or by bunching your tongue up (bunched-tongue “r”)

Now, if you want to say “arrr” like a pirate, the instructions above are just a starting point. To produce the piratical “arrr” tha we’ve come to expect. (Cf. Geoffrey Rush saying “arrr” in Pirates of the Caribbean), you really need to growl it. And for me, at least, this seems to possibly involve some pharyngeal frication, and possibly also some additional voice quality modifications. I’m not sure what I’m doing (not really just creakiness or breathiness), but it sure as hell isn’t modal phonation. A really effective arrr will also be quite loud: push the air strongly through those vocal folds, dammit. On top of all of this, you’ve got to really drag it out, especially the [ɹ] part. (Keep that 3rd formant down.) Arrrrr!!!!!

In an experimental study, subjects (N=2) produced both “normal” and piratical arrrs. Piratical arrrs were between 2 and 3 times the duration of “normal” arrrrs. See figures 1 and 2, below.

Figure 1: Arrrr! vs. ar, speaker A (male)

Figure 2: Arrrr! vs. ar, speaker B (female)

And in case you don’t have occasion to speak out loud today, you might try some pirate-style typing.


Shiver me timbers! Give me a job! Arrrr.

Dirty John Rackham


To contribute to your organization’s success through the use of exceptional customer service, managerial, and plundering skills. Or to find a position as a nanny. Arrrr.


  • Hard-working, tough-skinned swash-buckling individual with questionable personal hygiene
  • Exceptional versatility, adaptability and swaggering
  • Solid managerial, administrative and looting experience
  • Ability to manage multiple tasks in a pressured environment.

Interpersonal and Managerial skills

  • Interacted with and kidnapped a wide variety of personalities while pillaging, plundering, and wreaking havoc.
  • Delivered excellent customer service and conducted in-house plundering promotions
  • Proved multi-tasking abilities by scheduling and supervising crew of scurvy dogs, bilge rats and lily livered scalliwags
  • Served as right hand to notorious Bloody Captain Roberts (whose original right hand was lost to gangrene)

Administrative skills

  • Completed, submitted and burned edges of invoices and maps for buried treasure.
  • Fondled large sums of loot and booty.
  • Maintained rum inventory control.
  • Looted petty cash, payroll, inventory, accounts receivable and payable.
  • Said “Arrrrr!” a lot. (Mayhaps that be an interpersonal skill.)


  • Sailin’ the seas since I were a young lad and had all me teeth.


  • I learnt things th’ hard way. I got th’ scars t’ prove it, ye landlubber. Arrrr.


This post can be blamed on a confluence of unrelated events: the Monday Mission, which asks this week for a post in the form of a resume, and the approach of Talk Like a Pirate Day (which is coming up on Wednesday, September 19.) This resume is very loosely based on a sample resume. Actually, quite a lot of lines from the resume worked pretty well from that verbatim. Arrrr.

finding pants in unexpected places

From the pantheons of pants I bring to you the the ultimate excercise in pants procrastination¹. Upon my recent realization that the word procrastination contains the letters of the word pants, my mind has suffered an onslaught of other words which contain pants. You see, pants are that pervasive. So I offer to you the following bit of complete nonsense, just for the sake of using all these pants-containing words.

I recently read an article about a distinguished pantologist, who is being recognized for her life’s work.

She is best known for her prediction of an alignment of planets, for which she used computations based on her observations of a species of bee that pollenates resupinate plants. She also recently received international attention for her study on the mating habits of the spantangus, large percentages of which were highly unexpected by the scientific community. She has hundreds of publications in dozens of fields, on topics ranging from pantheism and theories of pantisocracy, to histories of Pakistan and Palestine, to the cultivation of eggplants. She holds patents for many inventions, including a method for stapling using only dental floss, and various contraptions, such as one for plasticizing antipasto displays for restaurant windows, or another for separating vast quantities of egg whites from the yolks. It is hard to say which of her many achievements is most representative of her work.

She is a passionately creative spirit as well, and one of her favorite leisure pastimes is spattering colorful paints on paper, and pasting on patterns of pastina. She is also a talented pianist, and tapdances whenever she has the opportunity.

The pantologist attributes much of her early explorations into vast areas of knowledge to the eccentricities of her parents, with whom she has a strong relationship, and whose intellectual partnership was an inspiration to her. Her father was once a pantomimist, known for a routine of silent stamping of feet (clad in his signature pantoffles) and for his impersonations of 17th century philosophers and contemporaneous politicians. He left the entertainment industry after a complaints from a reviewer suggesting that his acts catered only to the whims of his sycophants. He then became quite reclusive, and dedicated his efforts to designing closets and pantries for small apartments. Her mother once had aspirations to become a paleontologist before becoming a veterinarian, with a specialization in elephants (which are known to be disproportionately challenging patients). Upon retiring, her parents devoted their time to running the family’s plantations, which primarily grow plantains and peanuts.

The distinguished pantologist’s record is not untarnished, however. There were some phantoms of rumors of misappropriation of funds, as well as some speculation about the ethics of some of her experimentations. There was the well-publicized scandal of 1983, during which she received some criticism for a study on the benefits of regular naptimes, in which participants were misled about the compensation they would receive. Her interpretations of data have also sometimes been called into question, and her explanations have not always been transparent. Her fan base, however, anticipates that these minor problems will soon be forgotten, and that she will be remembered for her accomplishments.

An award ceremony, an event with all the trappings for which elaborate preparations were made, was held last week. The article contained a brief transcript of the highlights of the award presentation, during which the distinguished pantologist surprised the audience with a spontaneous anecdote about an embarrassing incident from her youth involving the mispronunciation of the word cephalopod. The article was also accompanied by a few images, some with rather cryptic captions.

Okay, there it is. Anyone want to count how many words in this post contain the letters p-a-n-t-s? (I actually haven’t counted yet myself. I have work to do, you know.)
¹ An expression for which I now have (thanks to azahar, and the anagram generator to which she referred me) a veritable abundance of anagrams:

How about A Catnap Torsion Sprint? Or A Transact Pinion Sport? Or maybe A Tsarina Popcorn Stint?