March 2021 archive
The recent brouhaha about reselling Nike shoes with various provocative modifications--and Nike's response with a lawsuit--reminded me of possible copyright violations my friends and I may have committed when we published a small (circulation around 4000) magazine in the 1990s. Legal precedent protected the right to create parody song lyrics but I'm not sure we were in the clear when our magazine's fifth issue included a (6" flexible sheet) phonograph recording of Pus, The Septic Dragon, sung to the tune of Puff, the Magic Dragon, a 1963 song by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Writing parody lyrics is one thing, but selling a phonograph record without paying royalties to the author of the music (nor even crediting him) may well be another. We were young and reckless.

My friend Wulf came up with the concept. Michael Botkin wrote the parody lyrics. I engineered the recording, my brother played the guitar part, and a friend of Wulf's performed the vocals.

I bring all this up to mention one of those coïncidences that you can't make up. A year or two after my brother played guitar for the record, he dated a woman who worked as personal assistant to Peter Yarrow, who had written Puff, the Magic Dragon. If memory serves (I could easily be wrong; this goes back almost 30 years), my brother let Peter know about playing on our record and he was cool about it.
When I was a teenager, I asked a friend when he thought it was appropriate to form a plural with an apostrophe before the s. He said, "Never!" That was pretty much in line with what I had learned in school and from reading, although style guides make exceptions for instances where a plural won't read right without an apostrophe, e.g. Mind your p's and q's.

The friend whose advice I sought back in the '70s is now a physics professor. In email nowadays, he sticks apostrophes in the plurals of some words whose singular form ends in a vowel. I thought about reminding him of what he said on the subject way back when but I let it pass.

Once when I was 21 I was hanging out with a different friend and I idly whistled a tune. He asked me to stop. He was a musician and told me he couldn't bear to hear off‑pitch whistling. I didn't think my pitch was that bad (relative pitch, anyway) but I stopped.

I recently checked the pitch of my whistling with a tuner app and wow it was a lot worse than I expected.
I have lucid dreams now and then but most of my dreams are the normal kind, where it doesn't occur to me that it's a dream no matter how implausible it is. This morning Joe Biden was in a dream, speaking at length quite forcefully and articulately. I thought, wow, he's got more vigor than you'd guess from his public appearances nowadays.
black to move Final position in a recent rapid game (Wesley So vs. Levon Aronian). I wish black had played a few more moves before resigning because what follows is pretty cool. It's black's move and he has to take white's rook at f8 with his bishop. To reveal what white could then do, click here.
White plays Qh7+, black has to take the queen with his king, white captures black's bishop with his pawn and promotes to a knight, forking black's king and queen.

This isn't the only way white could win but it would have been great to see.
This building houses a restaurant, a _________, and a climbing gym. Anyone wanna guess what the _________ is? photo lifted from a well-known web service
Astragalus coccineus We're not having a wildflower season to speak of this year, what with how dry it's been. But I saw a couple scarlet loco plants today, all the more striking given how nothing else is in bloom.
From a recent SEC filing:
Effective as of March 15, 2021, the titles of Elon Musk and Zach Kirkhorn have changed to Technoking of Tesla and Master of Coin, respectively. Elon and Zach will also maintain their respective positions as Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer.
Elon Musk is already a memorable name without an odd title, but whatever. Cute titles are not unprecedented in Silicon Valley; see a friend's card below (note the 1980s bang path email address). Another friend at Apple had the title Customer Therapist. I've heard of more colorful examples but these are the only two I can verify for now. The 'vark
The Alabama House of Representatives recently voted (73‑25) for a bill to allow yoga instruction in public schools, undoing a ban from 1993. WaPo:
The legislation's sponsor, Rep. Jeremy Gray (D‑Opelika), acknowledged that it does not rescind all parts of the ban, saying: "There's no such thing as a perfect bill."
Among other things, the bill says,
All poses, exercises, and stretching techniques shall have exclusively English descriptive names.
Meanwhile, a student at a private school in Manhattan says,
We don't call them Newton's laws anymore. We call them the three fundamental laws of physics. They say we need to "decenter whiteness" and we need to acknowledge that there's more than just Newton in physics.
My high school physics teacher, circa 1974:

John Odulak
this afternoon
The tail end of a storm leaving my area. We didn't get the heavy snowfall expected in Colorado and Wyoming.
siphon pump closer view
photos: Kira Od
When I was getting into rock climbing in the early 1990s, my buddy Carl Henderson continually reminded me that balance is more important than strength. I didn't want to believe this and started doing pull‑ups daily.

A guy I worked with at the time also climbed. We would do pull‑ups together in the afternoon hanging on to a limb of a tree outside our office. On days when he didn't want to join me I'd call him a pull‑up resister (geek pun).

Once when he and I went back inside after a session, the company's CFO told us he'd been watching us and said we weren't doing pull‑ups right. I asked him how many pull‑ups he could do. "I'd hire someone to do pull‑ups for me," he said.

I stopped doing pull‑ups around 15 years ago because they were hard on my shoulders. I hurt a biceps tendon a year ago, it's not fully recovered, and right now doing even one pull‑up feels like asking for trouble. I'm weaker than I was 30 years ago but I'm climbing no less than I did then. Carl was right about balance being more important.
how it looked years ago (newer, sharper pics are available on the web) When I lived in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, my best friend Howard often had work that only left him free time in the mornings. We'd meet for breakfast at Ed's Coffee Shop: a small, unassuming mom‑and‑pop operation that served good food and had a loyal clientele. You felt like family there.

Ed and Sybil Blumstein's restaurant was on Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood, in a neighborhood awash with interior design businesses. It was an island of unpretentiousness in a sea of flash and palm trees and nice cars.

Howard and I got to know other regulars who came to Ed's for breakfast. I can't remember any of their names but I remember that one patron had a Siberian Husky named Zia who chewed up his car's parking brake handle.

I haven't lived in Los Angeles since 1983 but I've eaten at Ed's from time to time when I've been in the area. After Ed died in 1995, his daughter Ada took the reins and maintained the character of the operation and the quality of the food.

My years in Los Angeles were good years. Nothing brought back memories of that time as much as eating at Ed's did. I say brought because, as I only recently learned, Ed's has closed. I'm not amazed that it's gone but rather that it lasted, intact, as long as it did.
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