Monthly Archives: April 2007

‘We land on an Island, just not the island we planned on…’ C.Columbo

Pick a number from one to ten.”
The guy was obviously being paid to be cheerful.
“Cause I told you to..” His patience was wearing thin already, like the bushings in a $29.99 K-Mart drill..
I was at the Third Annual Integers Convention. “Numbers from all over the world!” Our theme. A dark-haired beauty, her tag saying “Hi, I’m 18!” stood in the corner of the lobby, searching through her bags. I saw the El Al tag on the one with the tiny wheels.
And I’m supposed to say ‘Chai‘, right?”
Thought that was a great line. Mighta worked better if she’d actually been 18… or 12, even better. As it was, she just scowled and turned long enough to say, “Not really..” and returned to her search. Maybe for a better number, I know?
“Ok..ok..!” The ‘greeter‘ had followed me, like the boom mike on a sit-com set. I picked ‘8‘, quietly, with a conspiratorial grin.
“Good, now multiply it by itself.”
Hey, the brochure didn’t mention ‘multiplication‘.. ‘course I’d already let myself think about…’fruitful‘ with Miss Tel Aviv over there.. Al, my gap-toothed pal in this last-minute escapade whispered in my ear..
“Eighty-four..” I gave him a quick ‘we’re a crack team‘ nod and returned to face the Grand Interrogator…
“Now subtract your original number.. what’dya got left?”
“Well it’s brown and green and wouldn’t you just like to know?”.
I wasn’t gonna get conned out of my allowance the first day here, no siree, bob.
“You have to tell me.. it’s the rules.”
“Ok… fifty…… five”
I was gonna play just a hair dumb.. see what it would net me.. but even before I let slip the ‘five’, ‘Bob the Barker’d already hit me with the punch line..
“Your number was eight!” Look of triumph on his face. Who am I to spoil it. Probably gets like, five bucks an hour… or maybe per day plus a plastic insignia ring..
Al had seemingly lost interest when the math got into second-order derivatives. He was struggling to look out the door, where outside a thunderstorm had blown in suddenly.
Tell you the truth, I wasn’t fully-engaged either. I accepted my ‘color it in yourself’ stick-on name/number tag from the guy, like I was finally receiving a coveted Olympic Gold medal after years of grueling training. The transaction was complete. Bob was stage-happy, and me, well yes, looks like there’s enough room on it to magic-marker in “1729“.
“Neuman, Al!!” The front desk had a brand-new Mister Microphone ™, and of course it was turned up to a number from one to ten… Your guess? Yeah, ‘ten‘, why the hell not? I mean, we got twenty feet of distance to bridge here, amplification-wise.
Al grabbed his bags like a good puppy, and I too, but more like a ‘seen it all before’ canine Bogart clone. I’d been to Key Largo before, a couple times actually. Back before ‘Anything goes’ turned into “Everything went’. I’d braved a few thunderstorms bigger than this one, there on the beach in my VW van.. or was it the beach in the van.. maybe both inside my expanding head? Not really sure anymore. As if I’d been ‘sure’ then…
    Where did that flash come from? No, not the lightning. Ahh, ‘Johnny‘, that’d be me, the ‘van‘, and ‘Neuman‘, who was pushing the Pavlov elevator-button as it all became clear. I was here mainly for the Key-note Speaker, John von Neuman.. how they’d corraled him into coming I don’t wanna find out, but it was right there in the program. He’ll be talking about… um… “Quantum Commuting“. I looked at the little glossy schedule. Shit, that’s what happens when you farm out a print job to an ESL dropout.
“You need a ‘P’, asshole!” I muttered, to nobody in particular. Al looked at me like maybe his Mom’d given me last-minute instructions how to ‘care’ for him..
“Not you, piss-ant, these Poissons!” I reassured him, pointing at the blooper in the flyer.
“Yeah, you’re right, man.. no respect. That guy’s a ‘Ph.D’.. what, they couldn’t spell it?”
I loved it, forgiving him for letting my own ‘math-joke’ sail over his fly-away head.
“Hey, just thought a something.. we don’t got clothes for this weather, do we?” that from Al, ever the practical one.
“Probably be something under the bed.. what room’d we get?”
“Seventeen twenty nine!” Al laughed, then corrected it downward by an order of magnitude; “No really, One twenty eight. That’s digital, at least.”
“Red and Yellow, Black and White, They’re all precious in His sight..” I sang, leaving out the un-needed punch line. Easy to remember a number that perfectly colored, like a butterfly.. like an.. ok, like a cheap hotel room. Al opened the door with a squeak. A “G” slides up to a “C”, and then dies against the rubber door-stop.
“Bingo!” He pounced on an oversized blue-and-something plastic belt, lying on the counter beside the mini-soaps.. He stretched it out like a guy with his first confirmed live snake kill. I was ready.
Ask not  for whom the belt-holes…um… are for..!” I intoned, my phony accent closer to JFK than to the Poet.
     Al was always my best friend. No question. Best ‘guy’ friend, that is.. Little smaller pool there, with the qualifier thrown in. Not that I ‘used‘ him as the perfect straight man. He was ‘the perfect straight man’, We knew that, and it worked. I’m pretty sure it was working a few seconds later when he set up my next line.

“Where in this stinking peninsula do they find belts like this!… or guys that fit ’em?”
I cleared my throat, and this time did a lot better on the Richard Burton voice:
Neuman, it’s an Island!”
Al rolled his eyes for effect, added the obligatory “Duh!” and had the last word.. for now.
“You Donne now, Johnny?”

*(mucho thanks to elgan for proof-reading and fixing some embarassing gaffes… well, actually, I might have found them all by myself.. maybe.. with enough time…)

Sonoluminescence, synesthesia, and the Ft.Collins Loons

Sonoluminescence, synesthesia, and the Ft.Collins Loons   

     There may be some hard-words in here, (just got back from Hardy’s Hard-word Store) but  you’re in good hands; remember, I got that ‘money-back garantee’ to honor: “Return the un-read portion of this post, within twenty-four(24) hours, and I’ll cheerfully refund the unspent portion of your money.” Worked for ANeuman, whom I resemble, as luck would have it.
     And speaking of luck, I was steered recently, by an exquisite colleague to the west, towards a marginal phenomenon, the emission of visible-light photons by collapsing bubbles within a liquid being bombarded by ultrasonic energy. Why is this important? Well, as luck would have it, I have suffered all my life from
synesthesia, that ‘mixing‘ of senses whereby musical notes ‘shine‘ their colors, numbers are adamantly pigmented, and letters are actually ‘louder’ for their color than their shape. ‘Suffered’, did I say? Everyone should ‘suffer‘ so, but let’s move on. I ‘feel’, I could say, that  if the letter “A” and the number “2” are not ‘really’ cardinal red, then my whole life up til now has been a deluded sham. Of course any scientist knows that there is no intrinsic connection. Unless.. Unless there were some unknown mechanism which mathematically ‘pushes’ these colors onto the numbers, for example. Forget about letters, for now, they’re so arbitrary. But for sonoluminescence to be responsible, there would have to be a strict correlation between the ultra-sonic audio frequency and the color of the light emitted. This has not been observed. Or even hoped-for, I assume. The color is most likely related to the specific gas, noble or common, in the bubbles, just like in all kinds of other inert-gas emissions set-ups. Oh, and one more problem. I see the colors in my brain, on the visual cortex, and since the instantaneous temperature inside the collapsing bubbles has been estimated between a thousand and a million degrees Kelvin, I’m kinda glad to let go of this explanation.   *add* sorry, yet another problem: Since I am basically ‘quantizing’ colors, to use the term rather roughly, that is: one=grey, two=red, three=light green.. etc. it would certainly be expected that the integers would be represented by colors of light of ever-increasing frequency, like being mapped onto the rainbow; they are not, though, at least in my silly brain.
one of which seems to bother my Ft. Collins Loons much, however. See, every night here in the holy land, starting about sun-down, in the spring, I hear outside my windows the mating call of the ‘time-standard’ loons. Always between a “C” and a “C#” above middle C, back and forth, call and response, each bird in turn sings one single ‘beep’. Between 19 and 20 times per minute, each bird. The two lovers together alternate, therefore in 1.5 second shifts. If one bird starts rising in frequency, the second follows him (her?) in pitch for four or five ‘beeps’, and then lovingly ‘guides’ his partner back down to the agreed-upon starting pitch. So why ‘Ft. Collins’? Well WWV, one of the International Time Stations, broadcasts, on short wave, beeps, every second, from, among other locations, Ft.Collins, Colorado. Maybe they use loons there, I’ll have to check. Actually my favorite time station when I was smaller and even weirder was CHU, the Canadian version, whose recorded english announcement once a minute: “At the tone, Eastern Standard Time; ‘nine hours, twenty five minutes” was always followed by the weirdest French tape-recorded zombie you ever heard. Neuf heures, vingt cinq min-uuute!!!”, he literally  shouted,  as if correcting the stupidity of the illiterate Anglo preceeding him. I listened to this station, on 7335 kilohertz, for hours, just to get off on the guy’s attitude. It always sounded like he was yelling “Never!!”, at least at nine o’clock. Now I’ve got my Ft.Collins Loons as a replacement, and like CHU, I’ve never actually met them in person. I of course, assume that they’re ‘white’ on “C” nights, and a ‘dirty’ white, though excitingly precious, somehow on “C#” outings. I’d like to believe that the mechanism which gave us both our pitch sense could be my ‘entre‘ into their bird-world. Hey, we could rotate as a three-some every once in a while; less taxing on the voice-box. Like ‘Dancing with Wolves’… ok, Beeping with Loons I feel a kinship drawing me out there…


   As I’ve hinted all along with my references to timepieces, ‘orders’ from the stars, etc. my main ‘problem‘ with this awesome group-bloom is it’s precision timing. I watched these flowers open, in a slow-motion ballet, starting at 8:30 last night, moving like that beautiful (but not classically Olympian in the ‘sweat and tears’ department) event, synchronized swimming.  They waited for the News to be over.. for the forecast, I suppose. No, seriously, I tried to get the check-out girls at the corner store to understand how amazing it is. “Just nature“, they said, in tandem. Well I’m sorry, but men in caves already knew that; somehow I find this summation strangely… incomplete. Like, what is the mechanism? The book’ll probably say, length of day/night. Ok, today was 100 seconds longer than yesterday.. I mean the sun-up to sun-down part, of course. That 100 seconds is what fraction of 1440 minutes in a day? One tenth of one percent. Anyone out there besides Richard Feynman who can call out exactly one minute, without a watch, and not to the nearest second, but to an accuracy of six hundreths of a second… and do it 2000 times, day after day, waiting for that magic day which is exactly 13 hours 21 minutes and 14.7 seconds long? I think we forget that cactuses don’t have eyes… or ears.. or noses.. or… what’d I leave out, tongues? Ok, skin, yes. They feel the spring breeze, the sun on their cellulose shoulders,, ok, and all the while they’re counting: “ah, one.. two… three.. hmm, what come after three, you know, in like, counting?
   I used to, back before we poisoned all our ‘competition’, collect the cocoons of Polyphemus Moths, giant muti-hued monsters as big as your hand. The caterpillars spun their impregnable kevlar ‘sleeping-bags’ under lilac trees, and I’d keep them all winter in a cool place, in a box with dry leaves, some branches for that homey feel, earth-tones, you know. On June 21st, at 9:30 in the morning they would all emerge, crawl up the side of the box, spread their wings, and pause just long enough to congratulate each other on the precision timing. And they couldn’t have felt the sun, or seen bupkes from inside their little crypts. Seriously, what the deal here?
    Well, enough playing ‘hard to get it’. Plants use a chemical, phytochrome, which has two relatively stable forms, depending on the amount of red or infra-red light it is exposed to. The length of the night is the critical period. (I learned not to open the door to the growing room during the ‘artificial night’ used to simulate the fall blooming period of certain plants. What plants?) Reasearch is very much in flux in this field, both in the pure area of trying to understand the mechanism by which the phytochrome actively influences events, such as blooming, and also in the development, of course, of ‘new, improved’ varieties: Peas which can be worn on the wrist as handy watches/ organizers. Ok, just kidding. But I missed my chance this time to contribute to the knowlege-bank by ‘nightening’ half of my cactii. Oh well, who want’s to watch a dark web-cam of dormant vegetation! Mazal tov, cactii!

29 flowers

29 close-up

*add* I wuz gonna wait till I got the Ministry of Agriculture approval, but hey, it’s on-topic: here’s what I’ve been doing nights… they’re for export only, to Cherbourg and ??? (below)



New (temporary) feature!.. CACTOCAM! (scroll down for latest, daily)

   Gotta watch these cactuses, or ‘cacti’ (hey, we call ’em ‘cactus’im‘.. still got a grudge against the Romans, I guess). I’ll keep this post at the top of the page, as I add ‘progress’ photos until the Big Day, when they’ll explode in a symphony of cactaphonic madness. And somebody tell me how plants with less brain than a doorknob, (which they resemble), and with no eyes, no ears, not even a ‘My Organizer’ function on their cell-phones, can manage to do what fewer and fewer humans seem to be capable of lately: Be on time. Just watch and you’ll see…

apr 25 header

apr 25 low angle shot

apr 26 post

One of the Secrets of a sucessful Web-Cam is aiming it at a place where, like, ‘stuff happens’. (I check the one at the Gettysburg Battlefield at least once a year.. to learn that 1)the dead, rest their souls, my ancestors on both sides, do not rise, at least not on the physical plane, and 2) ‘Yup,it’s winter’, for example. Here it’s decidedly spring, and as we turn to the latest update, we see flower buds being deployed on the ends of the ‘arms’. All in tune with the signals from Alpha Centauri. Should be an explosion tomorrow. If not, go check on Grant’s Tomb while you’re waiting. Who’s buried there anyway? … don’t tell me.. we learned this in school.. maybe I was sick that day?

27-3 posted

27-2 posted

Saturday, April 28, 13:00 hours…

28-1 group

28-2 closeup

If you write it, they will come..

    Sooo… I’ve been granted ‘unlimited use of up to two (2) languages, between 2:00 and 4:00 AM, weekdays’. Till I pay my bill. Haha, I’d already figured how to get around the ‘Letters for Debtors’ © limitation: Simply write in MsPaint‘s text-box, save as a .jpg, and attach it to a blank cover letter. Bezeq Schmezeq! Anyway, here’s my Debut Announcement Flyer.  I hung ’em up all around town… but even if only one groupie shows up, she(/he?)’ll be ‘A world unto herself’… ‘multi-tasking’ is an over-rated fantasy, and unworkable in reality. But that ain’t what the Total Bash is about, of course. I don’t know what it’s about, which should be de-moralizing, but it’s not. Or was that ‘demure-alizing? One thing is certain.. It’s very much in the Key of “D”.

my debut flyer

“ERASERS ARE RARE in SEARS’ REAR AREA..” that’s all I can say..

Anyone who hasn’t heard from me on e-mail for a while should understand why after reading this exchange with my service-provider:    

To: Bezeq Ben-Leumi Ltd. Accounts Receivable Dep’t
     cc: all of freaking Xanga! Now you’ll be sorry..

    I hAvEe hAd Enough! ‘Die’, AS wE SAy. While I certainly do not dispute the factS of my past-due account, I none-the-less feel justified in voicing my objection to your less-than-glatt-kosher, indeed,‘ham-handed‘ collection tactics. I refer specifically, of course, to the ‘Letters for Debtors Program’. Let me tell you that, while the pedagological poignancy of alotting us ‘past-dues’ “Four letters and these four only:…” for use in our e-mail correspondence is admittedly not lost on those of us trying to learn to ‘live within our means’, the psychological cost to the victims may have escaped you, sitting there in Tel Aviv atop the spoils and luxury of alphabetical excess. I must, in all honesty, admit that my randomly selected “Allowable Four”, ‘A’, ‘R’, ‘S’, and ‘E’ do give me somewhat more latitude for expression than, for example, my friend down in Ofakim, who has for six months now been trying to say ‘Hi’ to his poor sickly mom, using the ‘X-J-Q and P’ he received. I myself have ordered ‘ERASERS’ from ‘SEARS’, and been told sarcastically that they ‘ARE RARE AS the SEA in the ice ERA’, and further scolded for my odd wording by their mail-order clerk, to quote: “You know not your ARSE from your REAR!” As I said EARliER, I ASk you to RE-ASESS your ARREARS program at once. ThERE ARE, AS you wEll know, othER optionS foR high-SpEEd AdSl SERvicE in thiS countRy, And Should I bE dRivEn AwAy by youR ExcESS, wEll QuE SERA SERA….
P.S Maybe you could just give me like, a ‘P’, also… till the end of the month.. I’ll try to be SPARSE with it, really I will.

 Dear Valued Customer {name=j&solberg&acctbal=(-)112.58NIS}:
     Your correspondence was read on {22/4/07:08:43) by {agd-12}. Thank you for your inquiry regarding our {4Letters4Debtors} program. We are proud of our industry-leading role in adopting this novel incentive plan, which has proven sucessful, in Wisconsin, the USO, and several EU countries in promoting sound fiscal customer responsibility. With regard to your specific request: {reletter/Q=’P’}, you have been granted a one-time [UPDATE-SET}, consistent with Rule 8 par.14(b) which states: “Customer may, within thirty(30) days of receipt of Allowance Notification, request one(1) alphanumeric character of his/her own choosing. This character, along with a second one, randomly chosen, will replace two existing characters chosen at random, in the original Allotment Group. This proceedure is designed to prevent vanity/stacking/profanity activity, and is for your protection.  

     Valued Customer {name=j&solberg&acctbal=(-)112.58NIS}. Your previous Allotment Group, {A R S E} is changed, as of the date of this Notification, to (UPDATE SET =A R P T}. We would like to point out that the entire character-set is always at your service, at the per-use rates specified in the original Allowance Notification. Bear in mind however, that the goal of full financial solvency would normally dictate using them sparingly to avoid deepening arrearage. As always, we wish you only success as our partner in payment.  Sincerely,

Helen Grimm, Office of Customer Correspondence, Bezeq BenLeumi, 1 Bezeq Plaza, Tel Aviv, Israel

    To: Ms. Helen Grimm, Bezeq Internationale:
! There ya go lady, that’s what I’m reduced to. ‘Polyphemus in a gag, and the language that he used’, to confuse senses for the purpose of illustration. My occupation as an e-mail poet has come to a blinding halt,/ it’s all your fault,/ and I’m out of salt,/ (not to mention the funds with which to pay my Internet bill). There is simply no marketable poem of any substance, wit, or charm create-able from my allowable word-list. Believe me, I’ve tried.
What, a “PAR 300 golf course with TAR-pits instead of sand”? A “RAT called PAT, a TAP-dancing RAPPeR; watch him PRAT on, to a RAPT audience, spinning tales of PART of a TARP, stuck in a TRAP”?    Shirley, this can’t be your intention, Helen. I therefore request a job-related variance, a working-hours PART-time license, as it were. As PAT the RAT APTly put it, ‘Take this TARP off my RAP, so I can pursue my ART’. There must be some sub-section in there dealing with guys like me; if not, create one, and quickly, or else add me to the ‘deceased debtors’ column. (Oh, and I didn’t mean the first line here, like, not personally). Thanks in advance for the gift-of-life I am about to receive, coutesy of your exemplary wisdom and kindness.
Sincerely, JS

Well, the ball’s in Helen’s courtyard now; we shall see….


Hebrew lesson number nine: ‘Ate meat’ or ‘Meat eight’?

   Ok, the Book says clearly: “When shopping, remain in your vehicle a few minutes, after securing a safe parking spot, while you prioritize your purchases and evaluate any special sales available.” Yes, the Book says.. We arrive at the POS, (point of sale)

general store

   Quickly scan the bulletin board (who died?.. food poisoning?.. hmm, no cause listed),


    Check out the villa: probably buy it later today:


    Get the mail while we’re there:


    Throw yesterday’s empty bottles in the bin, for the mafia to collect, dump on the side of the road somewhere and pocket the government subsidy,


….and then, as instructed, analyze the sales of the day: Don’t be alarmed if you have a few questions at this point. All will shortly be explained. First of all, let’s translate that pesky sign into ‘merkin: Now everything’s clear, no? Well, that’s why we remain in our vehicle, while I make it clear.
A ‘mivtsah’ is an ‘operation’, like Entebbe, or the Great Lebanon War of ’82. (That was before the Second Lebanon War, equally un-great, turned the Great One into the First One. There are historical parallels. And I still have my Tee-shirt from ‘Mivtsat Shalom Ha-Galil’, as the ’82 operation was known, among other names. The one from Vietnam, ‘ Together, against the dominos!’, self-destructed along with the Pentagon Papers.) Anyway, in hebrew, these are not ‘sale items’, no, these are full-fledged (as opposed to ‘partially-fledged’) ‘operations’. You know, “Moshe, we got 50 kilo’s of meat here.. looks like, actually it ‘smells’, like Zoglevitch’s gone back to their ‘updated expiration date’ shenanigans. Anyway, Baruch, you take the front door, Hezi, you’ll cover him at ‘station aleph’, I’ll be in command in my office HQ. We’ll lead off with 19.99 a kilo.. see where that goes for 24 hours. Synchronize your watches, Heverei!”


meat 8

Pleasant shopping, bon appetite, and yeah, count your change!