December 30, 2005

Last-minute geek alert

You've got one day left to pick your favorite games of the year for the top 10 list at Jay Is Games. My picks were:

Игра прачка
Babycal Throw
Grow RPG
Guess the Google
Kingdom of Loathing
The ESP Game

...and there are lots of other goodies on the list. (Like, now I think I should have maybe voted for Tork instead of Kingdom of Loathing. Oh well.)

Posted by Francis at 06:10 PM | Comments (1)

Where's your sense of adventure?

About a year ago, I started playing Myst IV: Revelation. I got through the opening area and one world and started on the next -- and got bored. The area I was wandering around in was sprawling, and I found it a pain in the neck to map. All the curving paths were impossible to draw out correctly on the first try, and by the time I had drawn most of a map only to discover that two points at opposite ends of the map were actually adjacent, I couldn't get excited about starting to draw it from scratch. I put the game aside for a while. Well, for a year, actually.

Two nights ago, I caught a stomach virus and thought, well, what better way to convalesce than by playing some adventure games? I restarted Myst IV, skipped the world I'd left off from and started on the other one I could get to (a process which itself took, like, a half hour) -- and soon enough found myself in the middle of a forest with the same problem as the previous world: lots of winding paths, lots of scenery, lots of "Have I been here before? I can't tell from this angle, I'd better turn around...huh, now which one of these two paths is the one I just came down? Crap." Eventually I realized what the problem had all started seeming padded. Like most of the locations I was spending time in were just places with nice scenery between the actually important spots. Like, I just want to solve puzzles; I don't want to walk around for ten minutes between them. I finally admitted I just didn't have the patience and uninstalled the game.

It might be time for me to break out the old Infocom emulator and play some text games. No waiting around for images to load! No cheesy voice acting! It sounds almost revolutionary, doesn't it?

Posted by Francis at 10:57 AM | Comments (9)

December 29, 2005

Heart-stoppingly delicious

Scroll down to the bottom of this page for one of the most amazingly unhealthy desserts ever conceptualized: the Krispy Kreme Chocolate Icebox Bombe. (Step 1: Line a bowl with doughnuts.) Behold the nutritional info:

Per serving: 921 calories, 13 g protein, 80 g carbohydrates, 66 g fat, 161 mg cholesterol, 34 g saturated fat, 251 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber

(Thanks to Debby for the link.)

Posted by Francis at 06:55 PM | Comments (5)

December 28, 2005

Jumping through loops

Hope all you folks are enjoying the holiday season; Rose and I both have the week off, and may I say, it's amazing how easy it is to be just as unproductive when one doesn't have to go to work in the morning as when one does.

But I have finished one thing that I'd been working on for ages: a new song. The original impetus behind writing it was a desire to try building a song in an Andrew Bird-ish way, with multiple parts that come together to form an underlying groove. The basic structure for the verses and choruses came together very quickly; the instrumental bridge and the lyrics took longer; and finalizing the arrangement, with its bazillions of interlocking guitar parts, took quite a while indeed. Anyway, I'm very pleased with the result. Hope you are too.

Download "So What About It".

Posted by Francis at 01:48 PM | Comments (4)

December 25, 2005

Let it grow! Let it grow! Let it grow!

For those of you dreaming of an Eyezmaze Christmas, it's a holiday edition of Grow.

Posted by Francis at 11:53 PM | Comments (1)

December 23, 2005

Everybody comes, everybody goes, it's awful

Well, I think we're all pretty happy that the transit strike is over -- but did this event really warrant the online publication by the New York Times of the most boring slideshow in history? (It's in the lefthand column; registration required, of course.)

Also worth noting is this Beckett-esque quote from an existentially conflicted commuter: "Now that the trains are back, I guess I'm happy."

Posted by Francis at 12:38 PM

December 22, 2005

Cut out the middleman

A couple people have e-mailed me to ask if I know of any bookstores in the city that have Holy Tango in stock, in hopes of landing a copy for gifting purposes. Unfortunately, I don't -- Borders and B&N can order it from their warehouses, but neither one is stocking it on shelves, nor is either one likely to start keeping copies in stock again, given the ways of large bookstores. But I now have some copies (freshly shipped from Emmis), so if anyone is either (a) sufficently motivated to buy the book or (b) close enough to places where I will be that the lack of any sort of subway service isn't a problem, you can come buy a copy from me. Or, heck, maybe you own a car. Today and tomorrow afternoon I am in the vicinity of 28th Street and Park; tonight, tomorrow night, and Saturday I will be at home in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn -- though god knows how long it will take me to get home tonight and tomorrow night. E-mail me (the address is in the left-hand column of the main page of the blog) and we can work out details.

Posted by Francis at 11:08 AM | Comments (5)

December 21, 2005

Where have all the subway rants gone?

How strange, you are all surely thinking, that Francis has not let loose with a full-tilt subway rant, when there is truly one heck of a reason to be ranting about the subways right now. And it's true that my first reaction to hearing about the strike was "What the fuck do these fucking motherfuckers think they're fucking doing, for fuck's sake?" (where "fucking motherfuckers" could refer to transit workers or the MTA, depending on my mood) -- but, you know, what's the point in ranting about the same thing that everyone else is ranting about? We've all got basically the same thing to say: Christ almighty, this sucks.

But still. Some tales from my own personal commuter hell:

On Tuesday, I was dropped off by car at my therapy appointment (fortunately located near the Park Slope Co-op); afterwards, I considered trying to hitch a ride with someone but ended up taking the LIRR to Jamaica and then to Penn Station, and walking to work from there. Getting from Park Slope to work took about 2 hours, and I only managed to do it that quickly because I was lucky enough to be in line with someone a little savvier about the LIRR who found a conductor selling tickets on the platform to anyone with cash, which saved having to wait in line for god knows how long. The trip was also made more pleasant by the sudden camaraderie that crops up between strangers in New York when circumstances get weird (it happens in blizzards as well); I ended up in one of those we're-probably-never-going-to-see-each-other-again-so-why-don't-we-tell-each-other-all-about-our-personal-life conversations, which are always fascinating. Nara, if you're out there (and if I'm remembering your name correctly), I hope things work out well for you.

Coming back to Brooklyn last night was hell. Rose and I met up and attempted to hail a taxi; when one finally stopped for us, he asked us where we were going before we got in. We said Brooklyn and he was all like, "Sorry, I'm off duty." I tried to open the back door anyway (since cabbies aren't allowed to refuse a fare just because they don't like the destination), but it was locked! Cabbies never lock their back doors! (Or at least, not unless there's a frickin' TRANSIT STRIKE with a zillion people who need to get to Brooklyn and a zillion cabbies who don't want to take them.) I tried reaching through the front window to unlock the door, and he rolled up the window. Then I lost my temper and pounded on the window and kicked the door and called him several species of name. I worried briefly that he was going to get out of the taxi and kick my ass, but he drove off. Future cabs mostly had the same problem; finally we found a not-really-a-taxi station wagon willing to take us to Park Slope for $45, so we ponied up and hoped one of our companies would reimburse us for it. It was a long, traffic-filled ride, and thank goodness there was goulash at the end of it.

This morning Rose and I both rode in with our friend Gina and her twins. There's not much to say about the drive except that it was long; it took a little over two hours to get to her parking garage near the UN. Fortunately the twins were in a good mood for the whole trip, and thus nothing was interfering with the fact that they are killingly cute and endearing.

Tonight we're giving up on trying to get back into Brooklyn and staying at a friend's place in New Jersey, easily reached via NJ Transit. And maybe on Thursday we'll just walk back to Brooklyn.

Tangentially: towards the end of our trip to Manhattan this morning, we passed some Trump building or other and it occurred to me that Trump's buildings all remind me of those cheesy gold-frame green-tinted sunglasses that mustachioed men wore in the 1970s. Anyone with me on this one?

Posted by Francis at 03:03 PM | Comments (1)

December 20, 2005

How about a little more warning for the next one?

I will be performing (reading, not singing) at the next Ritalin Reading, on Tuesday, January 10th, at Mo Pitkin's. The fun starts at 8:30, the bitter self-recrimination soon after. Also reading will be my former Cargo coworker Mike Albo; find us afterward to watch us reminisce about our best scores from the freebie table.

Soon, I promise, I will post something entertaining and non-self-promotional. And cartoons may return soon. Not very soon, but...soonish.

Posted by Francis at 05:16 PM | Comments (2)

December 19, 2005

Oh, is that tonight? Maybe I should have rehearsed

Hey! I'm playing a short concert set tonight! Yes, I know it is short notice, but I only just now found out in which part of the evening I'll be on (somewhere between 7:40 and 8:20, I'm told). It's free, it's and features many people besides me who are worth your entertainment no-dollars; see the poster below for details. (Obligatory Holy Tango tie-in: I will be performing "Up on Islam".)


Posted by Francis at 12:05 AM | Comments (5)

December 15, 2005

New Holy Tango song

All the bloggy love that my free eBook version of Holy Tango has been getting has energized me to get back to work on the Holy Tango Basement Tapes, which takes the same basic concept and applies it to music: What if songwriters wrote songs whose titles were anagrams of their names? Here's the latest installment.

"Presbyterians" by Britney Spears (featuring Tate Evans of Dirty Lenin on vocals)

In other book-related matters, apparently enough people decided to buy analog versions of my book that Amazon is temporarily sold out; if you're looking for a copy, you might try BooksXYZ instead; they're selling it for a mere $8.96, and the profits go to benefit public schools.

(Two updates: I've remixed the song slightly; it sounded fine on my computer speakers, but when I listened with headphones later, the EQ and balance on the vocals were way off. Part of the problem turned out to be that iPod headphones are crap, but the mix did need improving, so that's been fixed. Also, a commenter at Old Hag -- thanks for the glowing write-up, Ms. Hag! -- points out that Holy Tango is available from Daedalus Books for cheap, at least until their supply runs out.)

Posted by Francis at 04:24 AM | Comments (4)

December 12, 2005

Subject to change if something really fantastic comes out in the next two weeks

I'm busily working on an update to the Holy Tango Basement Tapes, so watch this space for that. But for now, I have another music-related item -- my yearly list of my favorite CDs.

Normally, I make a top 20 list, but this has been such a fucking awesome year for music, I expanded it to a top 25.

1) Andrew Bird -- The Mysterious Production of Eggs
2) The New Pornographers -- Twin Cinema
3) The Go! Team -- Thunder, Lightning, Strike!
4) Sufjan Stevens -- Illinois
5) Paul McCartney -- Chaos and Creation in the Backyard
6) Iron and Wine -- Woman King EP
7) John Doe -- Forever Hasn't Happened Yet
8) Amy Rigby -- Little Fugitive
9) Of Montreal -- The Sunlandic Twins
10) Architecture in Helsinki -- In Case We Die
11) Dungen -- Ta Det Lungt
12) The Posies -- Every Kind of Light
13) Stephen Malkmus -- Face the Truth
14) Jens Lekman -- Oh You're So Silent Jens
15) The Decemberists -- Picaresque
16) The Boy Least Likely To -- The Best Party Ever
17) Kate Bush -- Aerial
18) Kaiser Chiefs -- Employment
19) Bettye Lavette -- I've Got My Own Hell to Raise
20) Devendra Banhart -- Cripple Crow
21) Susumu Yokota -- Symbol
22) Mia Doi Todd -- Manzanita
23) Animal Collective -- Feels
24) Vashti Bunyan -- Lookaftering
25) Wolf Parade -- Apologies to the Queen Mary

And some comments on those:

1) The man is an amazing violinist, composer, lyricist, arranger, and whistler. I was already sold on him when The Swimming Hour came out, but on that albums the songs tended to remind me of other people ("Two-Way Action" sounded very Beck-ish, for instance). Somewhere over the past few years, he assimilated all his influences and came out the other side sounding like nobody but himself. If you have never seen him live, you should remedy that as soon as possible, since, whenever you see him, you will be kicking yourself for all the times you could have seen him but didn't.

2) The Electric Version was weak and samey. The Slow Wonder was an improvement but didn't beat Mass Romantic. This kicks the ass of them all.

3) Bliss. Note: It is possible to swing dance to "Huddle Formation".

4) The first example of a trend I couldn't be happier about: the return of prog. Except this time, it's not bloated and pretentious; instead, it's exuberant and playful (and rarely involves sidelong suites). Admittedly, I haven't really listened to the Mars Volta or Coheed and Cambria, so there could very well be bloated, pretentious neoprog bands out there -- but what I've heard, I like. Also see Architecture in Helsinki, Dungen, Animal Collective, Head of Femur, and Broken Social Scene.

5) Paul McCartney is like the songwriter who cried "comeback". Basically every ho-hum McCartney record for the past decade has been declared Paul's return to form; one could be forgiven for thinking that it's just hype again. But it turns out Nigel Godrich really whipped Paul into shape. Let's hope they keep working together.

7) I've never really listened to John Doe, either solo or as a member of X. But I did recognize his name when this CD turned up on the Cargo giveaway table, so I gave it a listen, and I was blown away. It's fiery country-influenced rock in a Neko Case vein (she guests on one song; many other guests also appear, although Kirstin Hersh's song stands out), and I knew as soon as I heard it that it would be high on this list.

8) Such a great lyricist. (For example, in one song she compares her romantic resilience to Rasputin's ability to survive assassination attempt after assassination attempt.) Why isn't she massively famous?

9) I've always wanted to love Of Montreal. Their album covers are gorgeous, and their songs have titles like "Lecithin's Tale of a DNA Experiment That Went Horribly Awry". But somehow I never found them more than a pleasant thing to play every once in a while when I was in a Beach Boys-y mood but tired of listening to the High Llamas. Then someone put one of the songs from this album on a mix CD for me and my ears perked up. Time to start backtracking through their recent catalog, I suppose.

10) This CD features musical saw, theremin, tuba, bassoon, and power tools. Yay for twee prog! [Note: I misinterpreted the what-instruments-play-on-which-songs graph included with the CD when I first posted this. I think Tufte would back me up when I say that given a pale color and a dark color on a chart, it's easier to interpret the pale color as background than foreground.]

14) Really a compilation and not a proper album, but you wouldn't be able to tell just from listening to it. He loves samples and puts them to excellent use; maybe he's the chamber-pop version of the Go! Team.

17) I was on tenterhooks about this one. It had been so long, and I so wanted to love it -- but the last thing she had done was The Red Shoes, which I had really disliked. Thankfully, this is far better than The Red Shoes. It doesn't beat Hounds of Love or The Dreaming, but I think it ties The Sensual World, and that's not shabby.

19) I won this CD from a Knitting Factory contest. It was an easy contest -- they had a bunch of promotional CDs, and the first person to write in asking for each one got the one they asked for. The album is all cover songs; my favorites are "Joy" (Lucinda Williams) and "Sleep to Dream" (Fiona Apple).

20) Devendra Banhart doesn't like being labeled a "freak-folk" artist, but too bad, because that's such a good description. "I Feel Just Like a Child" was one of my favorite songs this year, and I might have ranked this album higher if he hadn't written that song twice; "Chinese Children" has basically the same melody and structure. And I'm not sure how I feel about the "Little Boys" song. So, docked a few spots for ambivalence.

21) Ambient electronic music composed of classical music samples (including John Cage and Meredith Monk). Dreamy and disorientingly familiar.

Honorable Mention:
Iain Ballamy –- Mirrormask soundtrack
Sigur Ros -- Takk
Broken Social Scene (self-titled)
Gang of Four -- Return the Gift
LCD Soundsystem (self-titled)
The Bees -- Free the Bees
The Sugarplastic -- Will
Head of Femur -- Hysterical Stars
The Fall -- Fall Heads Roll
The Go-Betweens -- Oceans Apart
Bill Frisell -- East/West
Tracy Bonham – Blink the Brightest
Caribou -- The Milk of Human Kindness
Brad Mehldau Trio -- Day Is Done

Brian Eno -- Another Day On Earth
Liz Phair -- Somebody's Miracle

Best reissues:
The Toms (self-titled)
Bruce Springsteen -- Born to Run

Best compilations:
Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans (actually from 2004, but big whoop)
The bonus disc of the aforementioned LCD Soundsystem CD
Kirsty MacColl -- From Croydon to Cuba
Belle and Sebastian -- Push Barman to Open Old Wounds (I didn't actually buy this, because I own all the CDs that it compiles...but those EPs are fantastic)
The Sugarplastic -- 7x7x7
Fountains of Wayne -- Out-of-State Plates

Best albums from a while ago that I finally got around to buying this year:
Billy Nicholls -- Would You Believe
Rolling Stones -- Beggars Banquet (I know, isn't it embarrassing?)
The Balancing Act -- Three Squares and a Roof
The Balancing Act -- Curtains (I've been trying to replace the tapes, which were on their last legs, for years; it took me this long to find reasonably priced used copies)
Paul McCartney -- Ram (And I want McCartney II, but it's out of print)
Sugar -- Copper Blue (I decided my crappy duped cassette wasn't doing the trick anymore)

Best mix-CD-ready tracks from albums that didn't make the list:
Paul Weller -- From the Floorboards Up (from As Is Now)
Ted Leo -- I'm Looking Through You (from the This Bird Has Flown compilation)

Best song I wrote this year:
"Dear John". What, you didn't download it?

What was I thinking? Last year's list reconsidered:
I actually did a pretty good job of picking the top 20; there's nothing I'd remove in retrospect in favor of anything on the honorable mention list. I might drop Mission of Burma down to #3, though -- I think I ranked it a little too high based on the fact that I liked it so much more than I was expecting. But over the course of 2005, I've still been playing the hell out of the Futureheads and Ted Leo, while I haven't gotten the Mission of Burma CD out nearly as often.

Most of the CDs above are available from Amazon; I've provided links to other sites if a CD's not available at Amazon, or if Amazon's price is stupidly high.

Finally, go here and see how I compare.

Posted by Francis at 01:44 AM | Comments (3)

December 11, 2005


I get spoofed PayPal e-mails all the time, which I usually forward to; I copy the fake URLs to the clipboard and paste them in, since the links don't show up properly in the forwarded e-mail.

Today, not only did the link not show up properly, but the entire e-mail (which was the usual "We recently noticed one or more attempts to log in to your PayPal account from a foreign IP address" sort of thing) vanished and was replaced by this:

Now and then, .A few , and ) to arrive at a state of , , and are what made America great!

Crazy. This was also the first such e-mail I've received that was addressed to four people at once. What a coincidence, that f_loversh, f_m_hasas, and f_m_nejad also had attempts made on their PayPal accounts!

Posted by Francis at 12:16 PM | Comments (3)

If they had only shown a bit more restraint, he could be alive right now, being tortured by government agents in an undisclosed overseas location

I'm sure you're all aware that the government is busy keeping us safe from airline passengers who haven't taken their medication (by the simple expedient of killing them with guns). But did you know you should find this fact reassuring?

David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, said he thinks the shooting may prove more “reassuring than disturbing” to the traveling public his organization represents. “This is a reminder they are there and are protecting the passengers and that it is a seriously deadly business,” he said.

Great! I'm glad that there are people with guns on planes who have the right to kill anyone they think is acting odd! And I bet the other passengers on the plane, who were all physically searched and herded off the plane with their hands on their heads by gun-brandishing police -- and heard the gunshots that killed an innocent man! -- were very reassured and comforted.

You know, the air marshals made a mistake and they probably feel pretty bad about it (or, at least, I would be appalled if they didn't), but I'm pretty annoyed about the official response being "well, it's too bad someone got killed, but they acted correctly." Would it be so wrong to say, "This is a tragedy, and although the air marshals made a terrible misjudgment, we're going to work to make sure mistakes like this never happen again"? Because mostly I'm seeing this sort of comment (quoted from the same article):

“The person was screaming, saying he would blow up the plane, reaching into his bag — they had to react,” [John Amat, national operations vice president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association] said.

And is that really what he was even saying? Surely there must be an airport security video that could clear this up -- and that would be good, since passengers on the plane who were there when he ran off have said they didn't hear him say anything about having a bomb.

Posted by Francis at 09:27 AM | Comments (11)

December 09, 2005

Land of Linkin'

We didn't evolve from monkeys, although we're not so sure about the brown people. Welcome to Kansas. (Thanks to Jon.)

Sandwiches, sandwiches, the musical food; the more you eat, the more you say "Dude, Western culture makes me sad." (Thanks to Debby.)

I'd kill for a nice piece of cheese right now. No, seriously. (Via Cleolinda, another Holy Tango linker)

Can't get enough of Daniel's Anti-Caption Contest? Here's another inappropriate New Yorker caption. (Thanks to Jon again. The rest of the blog is worth reading as well.)

More open-source capitalism! Jane Siberry sent out a newsletter recently pointing out that her store (from which she sells MP3s) now works on the honor system: you can choose how much you want to pay. So you can, for instance, listen to an album before you decide you like it enough to keep it -- but her albums are excellent and worth paying for. My favorites are her self-titled debut album (out-of-print as a physical CD for ages; I bought it the last time she offered it as a download), "Bound by the Beauty", and "Maria", but really I like 'em all.

Posted by Francis at 08:19 AM | Comments (7)

December 07, 2005

This is the way the song ends -- not with a bang, but a five-minute-long keyboard solo by Rick Wakeman

I've been getting lots and lots of links with complimentary comments from people who found Holy Tango on Boing Boing and Metafilter, and that's been great -- but I was especially psyched to see that one of my linkers posted a poetry parody of his own with the killer title "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prog-Rock". Since I am a Yes/Rush/Genesis/Jethro Tull/you-name-the-band-that-writes-songs-in-7/4 fan from way back, I had high hopes for this, and I was not disappointed.

Do I dare
Steal beer money from my mother’s purse?
After school there will be time
For guitar licks and cool rock kicks that I promised to rehearse.

Turn on the blacklight and read the whole thing.

(Related: More Prufrock-themed laffs here.)

Posted by Francis at 09:40 PM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2005

Good night, and good grief

Rose and I went to see Good Night, and Good Luck this evening (excellent movie, by the way), and right in the middle of one of the more intense Edward R. Murrow speeches, two guys wearing little lights on their hats came in the theatre, kneeled in the aisle, and made a noise like someone pouring out a jar of coins on the floor. We couldn't see what they were doing, but that just made it more distracting somehow. A few minutes later, they left.

At the end of the movie, one of the workers reappeared near the exit of the theatre, resting his clipboard on a railing and looking at blueprinty-type layouts, still wearing a cliplight on his head. Since my curiosity about what the heck had been going on had not abated, I asked him, "So what was that, when the two guys with the lights on their head were doing something in the aisle in the middle of the movie?"

"Oh, that was me," he confirmed. "We were taking measurements. We're going to be putting some new seats in here."

"Okay," I said. " the middle of a movie?"

He seemed very blithe about the whole thing, answering, "Well, why not?"

"Um...because it was incredibly noisy and distracting?"

"That's why we left," he replied, reasonably enough. Since how could anyone know that two contractors would be unable to do their work during the screening of a movie without being distracting unless they had empirical evidence to that effect?

At least the usher who told me that we couldn't bring food into the theater let us pass once we explained that we were not carrying an extremely poorly concealed secret stash of Jujyfruits and popcorn, but rather a styrofoam container of leftovers.

[Endnotes: Given that the two men were taking measurements, Rose theorizes that the coin-spilling noise was probably the sound of a metal tape measure unrolling and retracting. Also, it belatedly occurs to me that they must have been planning all along to do their work during movie showings, given that they had planned ahead enough to have little flashlights on their heads with which to see in the dark. Crazy.]

Posted by Francis at 11:02 PM | Comments (6)

December 05, 2005

Tango Hotel Foxtrot

With my publisher's blessing, I am happy to announce that my humor collection, Holy Tango of Literature (which answers the question "What if poets and playwrights wrote works whose titles were anagrams of their names?"), is now available as a free eBook. I know, I know, PDAs are so last year, but here the book is nonetheless, in Palm-readable format (if you have a PDA that uses a reader other than PalmReader or MobiPocket, point me to a file converter and I'll generate the book in an alternate file format) and browser-readable HTML:

Holy Tango of Literature eBook
Web-readable version

There's more about why I'm doing this in the introduction to the book, but the short version is -- if the book is ever going to sell more copies than it has, more people need to find out about it. I know from personal experience that when people get to flip through a copy of the book, they generally love it, and often they don't just buy a copy for themselves, but buy a second copy as a gift. The book's been publicized in a few places (Nancy Pearl's NPR book review segment, Neil Gaiman's blog, The Next Big Thing), but those were a while ago, and most media outlets don't want to help promote a year-old book. So, I thought, how can I get more people to see the book? Having become a fan of Cory Doctorow's writing because I downloaded his free eBooks, the answer seemed obvious: by giving it away. (Although if you want to pay for an edition made of molecules instead of only electrons, please do -- your usual online retailers will have it, or you can check Booksense to find out what independent bookstores near you have it in stock.)

And all you folks out there can help! If you want to be part of the Holy Tango ad hoc promotional army, please feel free to link back here, copy the file and post it to your own blog, e-mail it to friends, post about it on Metafilter, or simply write a long and prominently placed article about it in the New York Times. The eBook is licensed through Creative Commons, so don't worry about file sharing issues -- share away.

Additionally, for people without PDAs or who don't want to read a whole eBook without some idea of what's in it, I'll be serializing excerpts from the book here for the next few weeks. Starting now!


      The Mathletes.
      Seven in the Computer Lab.

We long bony dorks. We
Real big on quarks. We

Quote Python lines. We
Know arcs and sines. We

Not good at sports. We
Black socks with shorts. We

Beat up at noon. We
Out-earn you soon.

Posted by Francis at 12:25 PM | Comments (22)

December 04, 2005

Are you a good tipper?

Ever since Lance gave me the tip, I've been periodically going through the archives at Jay Is Games, and today I ran across a particularly good puzzle game: Warehouse, which is sort of a cross between a rolling-block maze and a packing problem. There are 23 levels, and they get very tricky indeed toward the end. Lots of fun.

The site also features a gazillion other games; I've been there before and played a few of them (Colorsok, Tilt Maze), but clearly not all the games there are as compelling as others. Anyone else have any recommendations?

Posted by Francis at 11:33 PM | Comments (2)

Stop the press

Well, this is just delightful. The author of the Daftman NM-156 Reciprocating Emu Press manual (which, longtime readers will recall, came prepackaged with every Qwert Iggle) has just e-mailed me with a link to a livejournal entry in which he reveals how that product manual came to be.

Posted by Francis at 10:27 AM | Comments (12)

December 02, 2005

The pissed and the pendulous

Rose alerted me to something amusing-slash-appalling on Andrew Sullivan's blog in which he quotes John Derbyshire of National Review Online daringly calling for fewer naked 36-year-old female torsos and more 15-year-old ones (apropos of Jennifer Aniston's recent GQ cover, on which she appears "topless", where "topless" means, as it does on most nonporn magazines, "not technically wearing a shirt, but still covering most of the bits you were interested in seeing"):

While I have no doubt that Ms. Aniston is a paragon of charm, wit, and intelligence, she is also 36 years old. Even with the strenuous body-hardening exercise routines now compulsory for movie stars, at age 36 the forces of nature have won out over the view-worthiness of the unsupported female bust.

It is, in fact, a sad truth about human life that beyond our salad days, very few of us are interesting to look at in the buff. Added to that sadness is the very unfair truth that a woman's salad days are shorter than a man's — really, in this precise context, only from about 15 to 20. The Nautilus and the treadmill can add a half decade or so, but by 36 the bloom is definitely off the rose. Very few of us, however, can face up to this fact honestly, and I am sure this diary item will generate more angry e-mails of protest than everything else I have written this month.

Emphasis added, because YES, of course this diary item will generate angry e-mails of protest, because it's an ass-stupid thing to say, you fucking moron. Maybe I am the anomaly and you are the representative of the rest of malekind, but most of the women whose shirts I would care to see removed are well into their 30s or beyond. (Confidential to Kate Bush: the new album is great! Call me.)

Posted by Francis at 08:41 AM | Comments (15)

December 01, 2005

Finally, an honest contractor


Posted by Francis at 03:33 AM | Comments (1)