June 28, 2007

I think most of us here foresaw this problem

So, Bush is ignoring subpoenas from Congress and the conflict may end up in federal court? Awesome. I wonder how that will work out.

Posted by Francis at 10:46 AM | Comments (4)

June 27, 2007

Wednesday, day of humps and medium-difficulty crosswords

Has it been a whole week since I've had a puzzle published somewhere? That's ridiculous. How are you expected to live in that kind of a world? Thank goodness today's New York Sun crossword is one of mine. Whew! Download it here, and get Across Lite here if you don't got it already.

Posted by Francis at 09:14 AM | Comments (2)

June 26, 2007

At the Automat

The man behind the counter at the pizza place I frequent for my weekday lunch breaks is kind of forgetful. Every time I'm there, he asks me if I want my pizza for there or to go. I always say I want it to go, and then a little time passes -- he takes someone else's order, he puts a few other slices in the oven, takes some out -- and then, invariably, he grabs a tray and puts my pizza on it, and I remind him, "To go, please," and he puts it in a bag.

This is not a big deal, of course, but I have always assumed he just loses track of who in line has asked for what because of juggling a few orders at once. Well, today, the pizza I wanted was already warm and didn't need to go in the oven. He put two slices on a paper plate and asked, "For here or to go?" I said, "To go." He nodded and immediately picked up a tray and put the slices on it, and I realized, oh, he's not forgetful, he's just so on autopilot that he doesn't actually listen to the answer to his automatic question. For him, it's apparently become the equivalent of a phatic "How are you?" "Fine, and you?" exchange that precedes the part of the conversation where actual information is exchanged. Interesting.

Posted by Francis at 03:56 PM | Comments (2)

The Tie Project, days 145 to 150

And now, as promised, the most shocking Tie Project installment ever!!

All solid shirts!

And no, I didn't do this to appease any of my critics (and note that that fellow hasn't posted a single thing since his entry ragging on my ties -- apparently I broke him, which puts the whole incident in the plus column as far as I'm concerned). The thing that started it all was simply that there was a particular tie I wanted to wear on...

...Day 145. This was the tie that Cindy gave me for my birthday. (She can be seen wearing it here.) Partly I wanted to wear it because, you know, new tie, but partly I wanted the opportunity to point out that it is yet another Beatles tie. (This one is "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".)


Day 146. Today I saw another newish tie that I hadn't worn yet, which only matched one of my solid shirts, and so I decided to make it a theme. Boy, the spots I miss with the iron really show up clearly on solid fabric, don't they?


Day 147. A beloved tie that's fraying a bit in the knot area (so I have to be delicate with it), with a comfy comfy blue linen shirt from Daffy's. For this outfit's full effect, though, you have to see it with the neon green shorts, which I think fully counteract any lingering sense of restraint that might be provided by the solid shirt.


Day 148. Another linen shirt, bought the same day as the last one. The tie is from ISP (Indian Sari Palace, in Jackson Heights). I didn't intend to wear two outfits in a row that matched my neon green shorts, but it just worked out that way. You can see the full outfit in action (with serendipitously matching margarita) here.


Day 149. I went back to the blue linen shirt to help another rarely worn tie get out into the sunshine.


Day 150. I was starting to go through pattern withdrawal, but I had to go one more day so I could wear this tie, which had been patiently biding its time in the closet for many months until I saw fit to wear this shirt. I love the weave of the tie.


Next time: The universe is restored to its rightful order.

Posted by Francis at 12:07 PM in Ties | Comments (2)

June 24, 2007

For fin fans

I was going to write a post about the superfun time that Rose, Lorinne, and I had at the Mermaid Parade today, but then I realized that I'd kind of already said most of what I really wanted to say in the captions to my Flickr set. So you should go over there and check it out.

(Note: many photos NSFW, unless you work somewhere awesome.)

Posted by Francis at 11:12 AM | Comments (1)

June 22, 2007

Bonus tracks are for dicks

I remember a time when bonus tracks were a wonderful thing, a way of saying, "Hey, you know how you're pissed off about having to buy that album a second time now that you don't play your LPs and cassettes anymore and you're repopulating your collection with CDs? Well, here are some extra tracks for you to make up for it." Then the second wave of Elvis Costello reissues came along, and I started getting irritated. "Hey," I thought, "I already bought these twice. Now you want me to buy them a third time?" But the packaging was better (all the bonus tracks on a second CD), and I did want the even-more-expanded versions, so I ponied up.

Then bands started releasing special editions of CDs mere months after the original release. I am familiar with Whateverth Anniversary Editions, where a classic album gets treated all fancy-like with bonus material and new liner notes and all manner of fanboy fripperies, but does every frickin' band need a 2-CD-plus-DVD expansion of their debut album? I'd like to see a massive wave of people returning CDs to the manufacturer the next time that happens. "Yes, this CD is defective -- for some reason it has HALF AS MANY SONGS ON IT as the CD you're selling now that costs the same amount."

The new Paul McCartney album (which I don't own, but I've heard, and like very much) released its special edition right out of the gate, which is an approach I generally approve of, since it lets you decide which version you want. My frustration with the McCartney CD is that although I want want want the extra tracks, I absolutely hate the packaging of the special edition: a DVD-size box (so it won't fit properly on a CD shelf) with a shmillion enormous fold-out flaps (so you need three hands to hold it or more available flat surface than ever exists in our apartment) and CDs that sit on top of each other (so you can't get the bottom one out without taking the top one out first -- fourth hand needed now), and a "commentary track" that follows the last song on the bonus CD (which ensures that I would never listen to the actual CD itself anyway, so I might as well just buy the regular CD and rip the bonus CD from Lorinne).

So, vexations all. And yet we have perhaps come to the pinnacle of annoying bonus track behavior, and that is: multiple simultaneous versions of a CD with different, but only slightly different track listings. Sort of like when a band releases an album with one bonus track in the UK, and a different one in Japan (or entirely different bonus discs, gaaaaah) -- except how irritated can you get for spending $10 on an album and then finding out you could've had it with an extra track if you'd spent, oh, an extra $20 to buy the import version? Most people would probably just buy the domestic version anyway. But how annoying is it to buy The Crane Wife and then find out the Starbucks version had more songs on it? And then how annoyed would you be if you then bought the Starbucks version and found out there was one more frickin' song on the Tower Record version? It's enough to make people just, oh, I don't know, download the songs from the Internet.

And, as Pitchfork points out vis-a-vis the Smashing Pumpkins doing the same damn thing, these extra tracks are just one more incentive for music buyers to ignore small retailers. Awesome.

Now I am only going to say this once (what a lie): Dear Bands. Stop It.

Posted by Francis at 02:25 PM | Comments (5)

A pome

To His LOL Mistress

I has a mortality
Oh noes you is being all coy

Posted by Francis at 08:57 AM | Comments (5)

June 21, 2007

Usually "time out" means to stop playing

Sorry this blog has temporarily turned into the place where I tell you where my latest puzzle has been published, but anyway, I have a logic puzzle (in honor of Gay Pride week) in the current issue of Time Out New York. It's on page 18, but you can solve it online here. A bunch of other people I know (including my pals John Chaneski, Brendan Quigley, and David Dickerson) contributed as well; check out the whole puzzle array here.

As for other magazines: I've been passing this ad for Alternative Press on the way to work every day for a while now, and it irritates me with its pretentiousness every time:


For some reason, I can only hear the sentence "Our heads are so full of madness!" in a thick Mike Myers-style Scottish accent. I mean, seriously, dudes, you are just a bunch of guys in a band. You are not prophets from the dark core of the human psyche or whatever the heck you think you are. (I allow for the possibility that the quote was taken out of context by the magazine and made to seem more pretentious than it actually was. But this seems unlikely.)

Finally, I hope you didn't miss this cover article in the New York Post (not strictly a magazine, but shaped like one). "Piece in the Mideast"! Classy! Thank goodness we have conservative venues like this to provide a counterpoint to the oversexed liberal media that control our airwaves.

Posted by Francis at 12:54 AM | Comments (3)

June 18, 2007

Stuff I don't understand, volume eighty-jillion

Congress passes a bill that would set a timetable to end the war. The president vetoes it. Congress gets blamed.

The thing I'd like polls about "satisfaction with Congress" to show is what exactly people don't like about Congress. For instance, I myself am pretty dissatisfied with Congress -- but the thing I'm dissatisfied about is that Republicans would rather support a president even many of them disagree with than GOD FORBID vote with the Democrats to override a veto.

Posted by Francis at 02:38 PM | Comments (2)

June 14, 2007

Another one

There is an overabundance of crossword puzzles by me this week -- today I'm in the New York Sun. You can grab it here (right-click on June 14 to save). It was described by test-solvers as "really hard", apparently.

Posted by Francis at 12:41 AM | Comments (5)

June 12, 2007


Tomorrow's Onion puzzle is by me -- if you don't want to wait until then for the print edition, here's an Across Lite version for you.

UPDATE -- Some comments on this puzzle from the NY Times forum:

"This theme of hate brings crossword puzzling to a new low."
"It's not 'cute' and totally uncalled for."
"The crossword puzzle as an art form has always had the unstated goal of being upbeat and fun. [This] doesn't serve that lofty ideal."
"I think Francis should be ashamed of herself."

(Some people liked it.) Anyway, it's true this puzzle is bound to alienate some people, but (a) I figure most of those people don't read the Onion, and (b) I don't like them anyway.

Posted by Francis at 06:35 PM | Comments (8)


So as you may have heard, Bush's wristwatch was either stolen, or lost, or taken off and put in his pocket, or dropped on the ground and retrieved by a bodyguard this weekend. Tony Snow claims Bush put it in his pocket. The Albanians claim he dropped it and one of his bodyguards retrieved it. Reuters says Bush put his hands behind his back so one of his bodyguards could take it off for him. And both Reuters and the Albanian authorities claim they have documentation for their version of events (video and photo, respectively).

You can watch the footage of when the watch disappeared here. There is a split second when his hands aren't visible, at which point he could be undoing his watch and sticking it in his pocket -- but he would have to be acting very expeditiously; I could barely get my own watch off in that amount of time, which lends credence to the Albanian version of events. Also note that Bush looks at the ground twice before the watch is observed to be missing. He looks down...and at his feet. Down...and at his feet. Is he looking at his own dropped watch? Or maybe it really was stolen and this is all a huge cover-up to prevent anti-Albanian violence? (Sadly, the hurtful stereotype of the "timepiece-thieving Albanian" has still not been eradicated after decades of work on the part of the Albanian Anti-Defamation League.)

Anyway, my question is, why do the accounts of the White House and the Albanians and Reuters differ at all? Someone must clearly be fudging something, and what's the point of concealing anything about so utterly trifling a matter? My theory is that the White House is so used to lying about everything and never giving the press a straight answer, that they can't stop doing it even when the matter at hand is trivial.

Posted by Francis at 04:14 PM | Comments (4)

June 10, 2007

The Tie Project, days 136 to 144

Time to catch up on what's been happening in the world of ties worn by me, and the shirts underneath those ties. I know you have been on the edges of your seats with anticipation.

Day 136. This is the tie I was trying to find on day 118. I like the combination of the abstract geometrical patterns.


Day 137. I don't really wear pictorial ties anymore, so this outfit has been all but retired, basically, but I felt obliged to include it in the project because I'm a completist.


Day 138. After an outfit I was underenthused about, I pulled out one of my favorites, with black line art over a blue, pink, and gray background on both shirt and tie.


Day 139. Another decade-old (at least) outfit. I believe this tie, and the tie from day 137 above, and the tie from day 142 below, are all from the "Kenny acquisition" (as previously mentioned on day 53).


Day 140. First time for this combination. I thiiiiink Rose bought me this tie, but neither of us can remember now. I thought the designs on the tie looked like leaves or feathers, but the moment Lorinne saw me wearing it, she said, "Kitties!" The white one in particular, without the diamond shape above it, does kinda look like a cat sitting down, seen from behind.


Day 141. Another lovely tie in the Rooster vein, made for me by the lovely Rose.


Day 142. I adore this tie. Blue and periwinkle cave paintings, sort of looking like a school filmstrip? It fills me with love. I think this was the tie that really drove the "Kenny acquisition". The shirt may look familiar, because I've worn the same pattern in a different color scheme (on day 109). I bought both shirts at the Garment District in Boston, although months apart, oddly enough. Longtime readers will know how much it entertains me to have the same article of clothing in two different colorways.


Day 143. I just wore this shirt in the last Tie Project post (day 135), but I spotted this new combination and was feeling too impatient to wait longer to wear it.


Day 144. Shirt from Daffy's, tie from somewhere. It's not all that similar, really, but this outfit reminds me of Boccioni's "Development of a Bottle in Space" for some reason.


Next time: the most shocking installment of the Tie Project ever!!!

Posted by Francis at 02:27 PM in Ties | Comments (6)

June 07, 2007

Squares off

I've been guest-editing the Onion crossword for the past three weeks while regular editor Ben Tausig is on vacation, and just found out the Onion printed the wrong grid with the crossword this week (that's the June 6 puzzle by Matt Gaffney, I should say so that this erratum is more easily Googleable). Irritating that it happened on my watch, even if it wasn't my error. Here's an Across Lite version instead, in case you don't to wait for next week's correction.

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

June 06, 2007

Roots, roots, roots for the home team

Hello, readers who I swear I have not abandoned. Recently I was contacted by author Murray Suid with an interesting proposal: he's doing a "virtual book tour" for the recently published Words of a Feather, which is to say, he's guest-blogging at various sites, and he asked if I'd like to be one of the hosts. I agreed, and I fortuitously scheduled him for a day smack in the middle of a massive blog lull on my own part, which I must say was very inadvertently savvy of me. Anyway, it's a pleasure to have him here. Ladies and gentlemen, Murray Suid.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Thanks, Francis, for inviting me to Heaneyland, which is filled with as many surprises as Alice's Wonderland. [Except with much, much more profanity. -- Ed.] After surveying your past posts -- on topics ranging from Pringles to Indonesian hiphop -- I get the idea that almost anything goes here. So why not etymology?

Last year I wrote Words of a Feather, which explores the surprising -- but true -- links between word pairs such as "anger" and "angina," "message" and "missile," "erudite" and "rude," and "flatulence" and "inflation." Excerpts can be found at www.wordsofafeather.net, along with an interactive quiz. [I got 8 out of 10, which leaves room for some of you to one-up me, or even two-up me, if you're especially savvy. -- Ed.]

Originally, I believed that etymological pairs, which linguists call "doublets," were a rare breed. But now I know that they're common and can be found everywhere.

For example, look at the title Holy Tango of Literature. Did you know that "holy" relates etymologically to "whole"? Both go back to an Old English word "hal," meaning "health." This suggests that your book would make a fine gift for people in the hospital. After reading a few of your poems, patients should be on the way to recovery. (A note from my lawyer: Always consult a physician before swallowing any etymological health tips.)

Back to your title: For a moment I thought -- hoped -- that "tango" was a doublet of "tangible." After all, both words start with the same four letters; and "tangible" comes from the Latin "tangere" (to touch). There's a lot of touching in tangoing, right? And literature often makes the intangible tangible. But sadly, "tango" and "tangible" come from different sources. Although the etymology of "tango" is not certain, the Online Etymology Dictionary traces it to an African word "tamgu" meaning "to dance." The point? Word study can break your heart.

On solider etymological ground: "anthology," which you cleverly anagrammed into "holy tango," is a doublet of "pyracanthus." Both words are based on the Greek word "anthos" (flower). What do flowers have to do with literature? The "logy" part of "anthology" goes back to the Greek "logia" (collecting). Thus, "anthology" literally means "a collection of flowers," but by the 17th century the word had acquired the metaphorical meaning of a collection of poetry. Eventually the meaning expanded to mean a collection of all sorts of writing.

The etymology of the last word in your title -- "literature" -- takes us to the Latin "littera" (letter). An interesting doublet of "literature" is "obliterate." I like the connection because I believe -- perhaps too optimistically -- that good literature destroys ignorance. Or maybe, as an aspiring screenwriter, I simply like explosions. But that's another story.

For now, if anyone wants to ask a question about etymology -- or anything else in the universe -- go ahead. But know this: I'm easy to stump.

Posted by Francis at 01:36 PM | Comments (19)