February 28, 2006

C is for cartoon; that's good enough for me

Six things.


Posted by Francis at 02:05 AM in Six Things | Comments (8)

February 23, 2006

I'm still ready to secede from the country with the rest of New York City at the first available moment

Yeesh -- I knew the South Dakota abortion law was bad, but I didn't realize how bad things in South Dakota were already.

Even without this latest ban, South Dakota was already one of the most difficult states in the country in which to get an abortion, those on both sides of the issue say. It is one of three states with only one abortion provider (Mississippi and North Dakota are the others), and its one clinic, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls, offers the procedure only once a week. Four doctors who fly in from Minnesota on a rotating basis perform the abortions, since no doctor in South Dakota will do so because of the heavy stigma attached.

This is all part of one of those cycles where a period of repression and scaling back of individual rights will eventually be followed by a period of social progress, right? Right?

Posted by Francis at 01:57 PM | Comments (6)

February 22, 2006

I swear to god, I am trying to work

Today is a very frustrating day. I have several books I need to start laying out: for one of them, I'm missing several of the fonts it uses and I'm waiting for someone to send them to me; for another, the file I'm editing takes, like, 10 minutes to load every time I open it in Quark and then the file behaves in a crazy fashion, not letting me edit text properly and randomly moving page elements around; for two more, I have to wait for art to approve the templates I created for the books before I can add the text, which would be fine, except I sent them to art two weeks ago and discovered yesterday that they didn't get forwarded to the person who actually needs to approve them. And so here I am...updating my blog instead.

Posted by Francis at 02:30 PM | Comments (4)

February 21, 2006

But can he do "Eruption"?

Debby sent me a link to some very impressive ukulele playing. Damn, now my perpetual background urge to buy myself a ukulele is rising to the surface again!

Posted by Francis at 05:58 PM | Comments (12)

To get what you wish

Dean has been working on a book about crosswords, and recently he interviewed Stephen Sondheim for it. Now, if you don't know why it makes sense to interview Sondheim for a book about crosswords, I shall explain -- you see, Sondheim used to construct cryptic crosswords for New York magazine, and I believe he was basically the guy who popularized British-style crosswords here in the U.S. His puzzles were collected in a book -- which is now out of print, but which I own. Dean wanted a copy of the book to refer to in the interview, so I lent him mine (after not being able to find it for ages, which caused me a certain amount of agita).

Anyway, I asked Dean if he'd mind trying to finagle me an autograph, if Sondheim was amenable to the idea. You can see the result for yourself:


Too fab. A nice capper to an already-good week.

Posted by Francis at 12:15 AM | Comments (21)

February 20, 2006

The dog ate my valentine

Six things.


Posted by Francis at 08:13 AM in Six Things | Comments (3)

February 17, 2006

Francis fixes the universe, part 17

Today I'm editing crossword clues at work, and one of the clues I had to change was the word "eBay", and while free-associating in an attempt to think of a new clue, my thoughts turned to the problem of sniping -- you know, that thing where you put in a reasonable bid on something, and you think you've got the auction won, and then suddenly some twit swoops in at the last possible second and outbids you by a dollar. Seriously, does anyone who's not a total jerk think it wouldn't be a good idea to do away with that somehow?

Well, anyway, here's my solution: don't tell people when the auction ends.

I mean, you'd give a general idea. You might say, "This auction will end sometime on Friday, February 17," for example. You just wouldn't say what time on that day. So anyone who was really interested in the item would be obliged to put in a bid by the 16th, and anyone who would otherwise have been sniped would almost certainly find themselves with plenty of time to rebid, should they want to do that. And at some point, the auction would end. A good idea? Yes?

Posted by Francis at 03:28 PM | Comments (9)

February 14, 2006

Sometimes algorithms work, sometimes not

A few people have written to tell me that Amazon has, based on their purchase of Holy Tango, written to point out that, as someone who has purchased books by Francis Heaney, they might like to
know that "The Physical Layer of Communications Systems (Artech House
Telecommunications Library)" by Richard A. Thompson will be released soon. Somehow I think this is not the same Richard Thompson who illustrated my book, but, you know, good try, Amazon! And to all my readers who purchased my book via Amazon: I hope you enjoy the work of the Richard Thompson who was formerly a member of Fairport Convention, because I expect you'll be kept up to date on all his new CD releases for quite some time.

Posted by Francis at 08:50 PM | Comments (5)

ADD it up

You may have noticed a distinct lack of substantive updates here lately. What can I say; I've been distracted for the past week or two. It's the good kind of distracted, but still -- I don't want my readers wandering off somewhere.

So, what have I been up to. Well, I finally started reading Myla Goldberg's new book, Wickett's Remedy. I've been enjoying it very much (and the fact that it's managing to fully hold my attention when my distractibility level is set to "stunning" is a testament to its narrative draw), although I do sometimes wonder if reading a book about a flu epidemic is the cleverest thing for someone with a tenacious cold to do.

Still, sniffles cannot dampen my swooniness on this fine Valentine's Day, and I hope all of you out there are feeling equally capable of causing people to notice you and your sweetie across a restaurant and roll their eyes at how fucking cute you're being. And can I get a round of applause for whoever invented the kiss?

And now if you'll excuse me, I think I just saw something shiny.

Posted by Francis at 03:12 PM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2006

Flight schedule

Six things.


Posted by Francis at 08:57 AM in Six Things | Comments (2)

February 10, 2006

Debut lampoon, then?

This is the London Tube map. This is the London Tube map anagrammed.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Posted by Francis at 12:50 PM | Comments (3)

February 09, 2006

4 fUnNy laffs yu klik HERE hotbabes

A couple people have sent me a link to this -- and it is pretty funny -- so here you go: The Elements of Spam.

Posted by Francis at 04:38 PM | Comments (4)

February 08, 2006

Adventures on or near Broadway

On Friday night, Rose and I decided to continue our effort to catch up on Oscar nominees and go see Capote (it ended up being sold out, so we actually saw Transamerica instead, which was very good). I met her at the Conde Nast building, we got some Chinese food, and went over to the hypermegaplex on 42nd Street, which has good and bad aspects. For instance, I like the thing where I can buy tickets from an electronic kiosk instead of having to wait in line -- but I don't love how much effort it takes to get to the theatres themselves, which are stacked to the sky and involve navigating copious amounts of escalators to reach.

Leaving the theatre involves negotiating a different set of escalators, which deposit you discreetly down the block in an antechamber in front of an Applebee's, for some reason. Now, the second floor of the building you end up passing through to leave the theater is currently under construction, and they have put up wooden barricades so you can't easily go meandering amidst the lumber and plastic sheeting and whatnot, and are rather herded along toward the next escalator.

Unfortunately, that next escalator was out of order on Friday, and as we descended on the escalator that fed onto the floor where construction was taking place, a worrisome scene came into view: a dense wad of people crammed into the barricaded off area, waiting their turn to walk down the one-person-wide broken escalator.

I must say I've never felt anything quite like what I felt as we were inexorably pulled down into the minimob; there was nowhere for us to go when we got to the bottom of the escalator. We pushed our way around and through people to try to get out of the way of the people behind us (with Rose barking her shin on the base of one of the barricades while doing so -- it was impossible to see through the crowd -- and nearly tripping and falling). In retrospect, the thing to do would have been to turn to the people behind us and tell them to pass word back up the escalator that people should stop getting on it for a little while, but alas, I was not thinking so quickly. We finally got downstairs and went to complain to the manager and tell them to fix their firetrap before someone got hurt, but it was sort of unsatisfying; I don't think the guy we spoke to (who said he'd just sent someone over to try to fix the problem) really understood that it was a crisis situation and not just an annoyance. Meh. I believe we have now downgraded that theatre to "emergency backup" status.

On Saturday night, I went with my new-but-already-good friend Lorinne to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (which was excellent on all counts -- music, lyrics, acting, the funny). Before the show we grabbed a prix fixe dinner at Les Sans-Culottes (or, as I prefer to think of it, the No Pants). As we were waiting to order, I noticed that another table seemed to have a awkwardly sized rack of meat on it. What an odd thing to order, I thought. And then, unbidden, the waiter brought us a rack of meat of our own (sausages, mainly), as well as a basket of vegetables and some bread and pate. Except for the bread and pate, this all seemed...difficult.

Like, so, the meat rack was this spinny, vaguely precarious-looking thing about 18 inches high with stuff hanging from it. Hard to approach. And were these racks recycled from table to table? We were a little mystified, although I did cut myself off a bit of sausage because, well, sausage, and only nearly knocked the rack over in the process, which I took as a victory.

The basket of veggies, theoretically less daunting, had its own barrier to easy eating, in that all the vegetables were raw and whole. Not so bad if you feel like cutting up a tomato and putting some dressing on it; kind of tricky if you're in the mood for a carrot.

The rest of the meal was normal and quite good, especially dessert (mmmm, clafoutis); all in all, I felt the meal had a pretty good ratio of good food to slightly surreal appetizers (an aspect of presentation which is frequently skimped on by restaurants).

Posted by Francis at 02:21 PM | Comments (10)

February 06, 2006

A simple way to determine both the level of my interest in sports and the number of other, better things I had to think about this weekend

Apparently the Super Bowl was yesterday? I had no idea.

Posted by Francis at 01:53 PM | Comments (5)

A cartoon drawn in a jif

Six things.


Posted by Francis at 03:16 AM in Six Things | Comments (15)

February 05, 2006

What we talk about when we talk about things that most people never talk about

Rose was telling me about a copyediting-related interaction she'd seen at work: an article had a dangler in it (you know, like "Having gone to the store, milk turned out to be on sale for half price"), which was pointed out to the editor, who suggested a change which made the dangler worse, and then suggested another change that also didn't fix it.

This made me wonder if people who are not attuned to grammar are just hearing gibberish when we copy editors are telling them about such things. And thus I present a short playlet.

(We see an office, in which a COPY EDITOR -- bearing a stack of page proofs -- approaches a REGULAR EDITOR at his desk.)

COPY EDITOR: This sentence is a floopy.


COPY EDITOR: You know, a floopy. We need to rewrite it.

REGULAR EDITOR: Ummmmmmm...sure. How about this? (He types something into his text editor and shows it to the COPY EDITOR.)

COPY EDITOR: No, that's still a floopy.

REGULAR EDITOR (changing a few words): Or this? I like this better, actually.

COPY EDITOR: Floopy. Sorry.

REGULAR EDITOR: And the other sentences in the article aren't floopies.


REGULAR EDITOR (pointing to his screen): But that one is.


REGULAR EDITOR (throwing up his hands): Okay, well, just...make it not be a floopy! Please.

COPY EDITOR: As you wish.

(The COPY EDITOR exits. The REGULAR EDITOR stares at his screen for a long time, a searching expression in his eyes. Finally he shakes his head and returns to what he was originally working on. Blackout.)

Posted by Francis at 07:40 AM | Comments (25)

February 03, 2006

Click click

Last night I took my first tap class in absolutely ages (six years, I think?) -- holy crap was that fun. Before I went to class, I mentioned it to an older coworker, who replied that as a child she'd always wanted to take tap and her parents made her take ballet instead, which she hated. I said, well, tap dancing is awesome, you could still take a class if you felt like it -- and was surprised to find her response to be kind of offended! Something like "Well, I have enough in my life," but phrased and with intonation such that the subtext sounded very much like "My life is not so empty that I have to chase my childhood tap dancing dreams, as you seem to think it is!" Well...okay. But really, it's fun.

Anyway, because I figured I'd be pretty rusty, I took a class that was a bit simpler than the ones I was taking when I drifted away from it, but for the most part, it all came back really easily, so next time I think I'll try the next level up. I guess all that idle half-assed tap dancing to MP3s while waiting on subway platforms was actually useful! Also nice: I got a compliment from the teacher on my tap skillz. Seriously, what is better than getting a compliment from a teacher in your first class after six years? (Note: rhetorical question. Yes, there are things that are better than that.)

Actually, the whole evening was great, but I've gone on long enough about my day -- I mean, really, what is this, a livejournal?

Posted by Francis at 10:22 AM | Comments (10)

February 02, 2006

A happy ending and a ball gag

Two juggling-related items from Jon. (Why so much juggling, exactly, Jon? Have you started dating someone from the circus?)

Firstly, an impressive display of juggling-as-choreography. (Click on "The Big Finale".)

Secondly, a cartoon.

Posted by Francis at 01:33 PM | Comments (3)