October 26, 2006

The news in black and white

Tomorrow's crossword in the New York Sun is by me. Download it in Across Lite format here, if you are so inclined.

Posted by Francis at 07:28 PM | Comments (4)

October 24, 2006

I've had my Philly

So Lorinne and I recently spent a weekend in Philadelphia ("the city that loves you back"), going to museums, hanging out with my friend Laurie and her crew, deciding the line at the Liberty Bell was way too long, and so forth. Here are some photos from the trip.

We stayed in a very quaint little B&B (and we were very lucky to find a place to stay at all, since apparently there was a huge convention of hardware salesmen in town -- seriously). We had to switch rooms after the first night, and I preferred our first room, partly for its private bathroom, and partly for the way it didn't share a super-unsoundproofed wall with a room occupied by loud people who got back from a night of drinking at 3:00 in the morning. I also (pattern geek that I am) liked the way the comforter matched the carpet:


There was a (tiny) TV that we did not avail ourselves of, on top of a little TV stand with a book inside:


I assumed it was the Bible, but I was delighted to see that I was wrong:


Our B&B may have been secular, but the town was not. Apparently in Philadelphia they still adhere to a more Puritan brand of religion:


And some people are still apt to make the odd prophecy now and then:


I think a piano bar has to already exist for it to even be in contention for the title of "premier piano bar", even if the font abuse didn't disqualify it right off the bat.

After visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art, we walked along the river, where there were benches engraved with quotations. Naturally I ignored the quotations and focused on the punctuation:


Straight quotes are bad enough, but a six-dot ellipsis? That's a little too much Philadelphia Freedom for me.

Also along the river were some signs commemorating historic businesses, like this one, which shows that patriotic symbols being used to advertise inappropriate products is by no means a recent problem:


And then there was this:


...and using this logo since the mid-1970s.

On the way back into town, we stumbled across this business, which couldn't quite settle on exactly what fashion in which to present itself as historic:


In addition to Ye Olde Cleanery and Ye Olde Clean'ry, you'll note that the awnings say Ye Olde Cleaners.

On our last morning before returning to New York, we wandered through Old Town; my favorite part was the graveyard in which Benjamin Franklin was buried (mostly because I just like graveyards). But it was interesting to see that, apparently, people consider Benjamin Franklin's grave a landmark that can grant good luck in much the same way that a fountain in a shopping mall can, or at least I assume that's the reason it was covered with coins:


There were also a lot of raised horizontal gravestones, which seemed like they might be used as card tables for when mourners got bored. Does anyone happen to know what the design was actually meant to accomplish?


Lorinne spotted this memorable gravestone:


Let's take a closer look at that third image:


Cool. This cryptic marker was my favorite, though:


And I shall leave you with an example (spotted en route to the bus station) of that old reliable standby of photographic jocularity: the misprinted sign.


Posted by Francis at 10:58 PM | Comments (4)

October 19, 2006

Support the friends of Heaneyland

My pal Tom Bartos is one of eight, um, finalists, I guess? for the Arrid Extra Dry "Wetness Protection Program". The winner gets to be in a whole bunch of commercials and get real paid. Go here to vote for him and help him win. Also among the finalists is Bruce "They Misspelled My Name" Sabath, who (along with Tom) was a cast member in my musical, "We're All Dead". Since I know him, I'm also pulling for him a little bit, but I know he doesn't need the money as much as Tom does, because Bruce is in a Broadway show right now. Which I (and you!) should go get tickets for, come to think of it.

Posted by Francis at 12:01 AM | Comments (4)

October 18, 2006

Inspector Francis and the Case of the Occasionally Beepy Thing

For months now, Rose and I have been beset with a strange beeping noise that comes without warning in the night. One or the other of us would be sitting on the couch reading, say, and then, suddenly -- blurble-de-BOOP! And then as quickly as it came...it would be gone. [Sound of wind whistling.] We could never quite tell where it was coming from, since it happened so quickly. And because (we assumed) of the vagaries of acoustics, sometimes it would sound like it was coming from over by the DVD player, and other times it would sound like it was coming from the hallway, and so forth. And many nights, there wouldn't be any noise at all.

But we did notice one thing. When there was beeping, it always seemed to happen at the same time: midnight. For all the good that knowing this fact did us.

It seemed like we were doomed to be forever mystified by this blippy manifestation. But then, one night, it happened again, and I instantly realized what had been going on. What was different this time, that helped me have the insight? Well, mostly it was that I wasn't at home. I was in Philadelphia, at a bed and breakfast. Apparently I had brought the noise with me.

The culprit? My iPod mini! Somehow the alarm had gotten set (probably from the iPod getting jostled around in my bag after I neglected to lock the controls one day); since I hadn't intended to set the alarm, it had stayed on the default time of 12:00 am. And thus the trap was set. Some nights my bag would be in the hall, other nights in the living room. And some nights the iPod would have run out of power, and the alarm wouldn't go off. Mystery solved.

(Mind you, I don't know why the designers of the iPod thought that a single second-long electronic chirp was sufficient for your average person's waking needs. Some mornings, I've managed to sleep through at least 10 minutes of clock radio.)

Posted by Francis at 01:34 AM | Comments (5)

October 17, 2006

Geez, how did all these tumbleweeds get in here?

Sorry about the blog lull there. I took a week off from work to finish up two puzzle books I'm writing, and even with my attempts to keep distractions at a minimum, I only finished one of them. Naturally, there are some matters of interest to catch up on.

Remember way back when I learned that one of the Holy Tango poems was going to be included in a literature textbook? Well, I finally received a copy of it, and it's pretty darn cool. Here's the poem:


It's irritating that the first stanza has those two extraneous blank lines in it, but oh well. Anyway -- even better -- here is the study question:


Hmmm...how indeed?

Also, I forgot to post the other entry I received for the fabulous Snakes on a Sudoku on a Plane contest (taken by Jennifer Turney, of her husband Harry):


Since I only received two photos, I think both entrants win a mix CD! Drop me an e-mail with the address you'd like it mailed to, and I'll try to send it out before too embarrassingly long an amount of time passes.

More soon. Don't want to overreach myself on my first day back.

Posted by Francis at 01:00 AM | Comments (4)

October 04, 2006

What's black and white and solved by hipsters?

The Onion's weekly crossword starts today with a puzzle by me (edited by Ben Tausig), although at the moment it's only available in the print edition (because...adding a link to Across Lite is a complicated web design issue? I don't know), so here's an electronic version for those of you not within walking distance of a kiosk.

Posted by Francis at 02:36 PM | Comments (12)

Aisle witness

Lorinne and I recently went to see Fame Becomes Me, the Martin Short revue currently on Broadway. The show was highly entertaining, but that's not why I'm writing this blog entry. I'm here to sing the praises of our usher.

When we arrived, our usher said (as he said to everyone, as far as we could tell), in a rapid monotone, "Welcome to the Martin Short show, Fame Becomes Him and Only Him, it's a short show, no intermission, here are your short seats." I couldn't imagine that saying this didn't get old, so I appreciated the choice (or direction) of adopting a put-upon tone so that the effect would be the same whether the usher was tired of saying it or not. He pointed us to our seats, which were off to house right, near the back -- obviously bought-at-TKTS, not-the-best-in-the-orchestra seats, but still with a good view of the stage.

And as it happens, our view of the stage was even better than it might have been, because the seat in front of me (slightly to Lorinne's left, between her and the stage) was still vacant just as the show was about to start. But then an opportunistic fellow presumably seated up in the balcony appeared and asked the woman sitting next to the empty seat, "Excuse me, is that seat taken?" I've seen people do this at intermission, but never before the show! I guess you have to make accommodations when there's no intermission. Anyway, she shrugged, and he started stepping over her and her date to get to the seat. I was silently cursing this change in our fortunes when suddenly, the usher, who had been way down at the front of the aisle, used his super audience radar powers to detect this man's presence and pounced! "Sir? Is that your seat? May I see your ticket?"

"Um...I don't have it on me. Let me go get it," he lamely responded. He never reappeared. I don't know if a laxer usher elsewhere let him slip in, but ours staunchly defended his territory! Well done, house right usher! You were our hero.

Martin Short also contributed to our enjoyment of the evening.

Posted by Francis at 08:25 AM | Comments (1)

October 01, 2006

Their logos: a stack of money that's so tall you can't see the end of it, and a hammer held together with duct tape

Two unfortunate business names I've run across recently:

Infinity Mortgage

Dollar Construction

Posted by Francis at 08:37 PM | Comments (1)