The Snoozeletter @

The book that took 40 years to write. 

Norman Maclean was born in 1902 and eventually became an English professor at the University of Chicago. He wrote very little - one book of military instruction and two scholarly articles - then retired in 1973. He finally published "A River Runs Through It and Other Stories" in 1976, at the age of 74.

A selection committee nominated the book to receive the Pulitzer Prize in 1977, but the full committee did not award a Pulitzer in that category for the year.

Robert Redford later bought the film rights, and directed the movie starring Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt and Tom Skerritt. In 1993, it was nominated for three Oscars, and won one.

Maclean died in 1990.
Good deeds never go unpunished. 

Someone left a shopping bag near one of our cacti this morning. It was folded over, and we couldn't see inside, so we became a little nervous. Maybe it was paranoia, but in the post-9/11 world, it's better to be safe than sorry. That's when we called the Security office for our development. A nice young man soon arrived, but neither one of us was brave enough to look inside the bag. Long story short, 9-1-1 was called, and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office sent a Deputy over. He said it was against protocol, but he held his breath, opened the bag...

...and found that it was full of tiny cacti. Someone had seen all the cacti my wife has been planting, and wanted to add to our collection. A really nice gesture... which nearly brought out the Bomb Squad.

So we wanted to express our thanks to the anonymous benefactor, for providing a bit of excitement in our otherwise humdrum lives. If there is a next time, please leave a note so we can thank you!

(Or have you arrested. Just kidding.)
The winnah of the 2015 Bulwer-Lytton Awards. 

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is a whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. Here is this year's winner:

"Seeing how the victim's body, or what remained of it, was wedged between the grill of the Peterbilt 389 and the bumper of the 2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT, officer "Dirk" Dirksen wondered why reporters always used the phrase "sandwiched" to describe such a scene since there was nothing appetizing about it, but still, he thought, they might have a point because some of this would probably end up on the front of his shirt."

Article in The New Republic about a Twitter discussion that sprang up last week:
"All Work and No Pay"
Writing is rarely considered a serious occupation. Why?

Some of the best tweets:

-So? Are you still writing or are you working now?
-You're a writer, so here's some stuff of mine to proofread!
-It must be so nice to have time to write. I'd love to give up work too.
-Yes, we pay our staff. No, we don't pay our writers.
-People always tell me my life story is a book. I thought maybe you'd want to write it.
-Just think of the exposure!
-Anything. Don't talk to writers. Don't feed writers. Do not make eye contact. Keep moving. You'll be safe.
The Guinness Surger. 

We ran into this device at several pubs during our recent trip to Scotland. The lights were very impressive (see video at 0:15), but nothing seemed to happen to the Guinness inside the glass, and the barkeeps couldn't explain how it was supposed to work. So when we returned home to the States, we did some research and found that the Surger device and the special "Surger" cans of Guinness are available in the UK... but not in America. They evidently help pub owners avoid the expense of installing nitrogenated taps.

About 30 years ago, Guinness introduced cans and bottles of "draught" stout, which included a plastic capsule of pressurized nitrogen. When the can or bottle is opened, the nitrogen is released and produces waves of bubbles that rise through the stout, which also releases nitrogen that was absorbed into the liquid during the pressurization process. The bubbles eventually settle on top, in a thick, creamy head.

The Surger is an an electrical device which sends ultrasonic pulses up through the stout, to release the nitrogen and create the creamy head we all know and love. It allegedly produces a pub-worthy head in seconds, but you have to use a special kind of canned Guinness that’s had more nitrogen forced into it.

The video shows how it's supposed to work. Again, we have never seen it operate successfully. But our Guinnesses were still pretty tasty. Especially after the second or third round.
Spelling Bee dirt. 

I've already told the story of how I sat next to Ben Bernanke (#18) at the 1965 National Spelling Bee. Ben became the Fed chairman about 40 years after the '65 Bee.

But I just heard the shocking story of Larry Fishman (#45), from Maryland, who sat two rows behind me (#19).

Larry murdered his father and shot his mother about 15 years after the '65 Bee, according to the FBI.

So I guess Larry wanted to get famous a lot sooner than Ben did...
[[this story is about Bill Pullman, not Bill Paxton]] 

In the newsroom, we sometimes insert warnings above the stories we send out on the newswire. Most of them are [[note nature]], which flags sex-related or excessively-gory stories, but we also have two or three other standard warnings. These three or four text flags are used in 999 out of 1,000 cases, but sometimes a story requires a unique warning.

So when I saw the warning above, I was intrigued. Why did the writer feel compelled to emphasize Pullman over Paxton? As I edited the story, I noticed that Pullman's name was mentioned three times, there was no reference to Paxton, and there was the obligatory link to Pullman's role as the President in "Independence Day," so I didn't see how any confusion could result. But I decided to check with my boss on the ol' IM (Instant Messenger), so our conversation wouldn't disturb anybody else in the newsroom. She agreed with my assessment, that the warning wasn't necessary, but then we started writing jokes, and the written conversation quickly spilled over into a verbal exchange.

In the newsroom, that's how we roll. If anybody happens across a funny story or joke, they throw it open to the peanut gallery. Other coworkers jump in with their own contributions, and all of us often end up laughing until the tears roll down our faces. It's fun, and it tickles the comedy-writing areas of our brains. We enjoy trying to verbally one-up each other.

But one of our co-workers (I'll call her Miss X) has recently experienced some severe control issues. Even though Miss X is in a position of authority, my boss and I don't report to her. Miss X affects our work only when there is some style or formatting issue that would affect the whole newsroom. Well, Miss X completely misunderstood our jokes about Pullman/Paxton, and immediately issued a command, in an extremely loud voice, about the formatting of Pullman/Paxton references from this day henceforth, forever and ever, now and at the hour of our death, amen.

There was a looooooooooooong silence. Her edict made no sense to us, and she was obviously confused about the context of our conversation. She hadn't waited long enough to fully comprehend our Pullman/Paxton riff, because lately she feels this odd compulsion to jump into the middle of every conversation. She cannot bear to think that she doesn't COMPLETELY DOMINATE EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS IN HER NEWSROOM.

After about ten seconds, I wrote an IM to my boss: "Well, that was helpful."

My boss wrote back, "I know, right?!"

And we didn't say anything out loud for the remaining six hours of our shift.
Pluto Heart... or Pup? 

The scientists say: Pluto is Dominated by the Feature Informally Named the “Heart”.

My friend Michael E Kerpan wrote: "Our family thinks the spot looks like Pluto Pup."

Pluto Pup
GoDaddy downtime. 

My website went down sometime in the last 3 days. So I just spent 48 minutes on the phone with GoDaddy - after 3 tweets, 2 previous calls and a posting on their Facebook page generated no results.

When the idiots finally fixed it, they tried to blame it on me. I said it was working 3 days ago, then it wasn't working, and I did nothing to change that status.

Then they said I didn't update the software that runs my hosting server. I said: that's why I pay you idiots, to provide me with a hosting server that actually works.

Then they quieted down, and thanked me for hosting my website with them for the last 16 years. I said: you'll be lucky if I make it to 17.
Green Serpentine Marble of Westfield, Massachusetts...

(Westfield green marble is in the Empire State Building, Lincoln's tomb in Springfield Illinois and the columns at Saks Fifth Avenue, N.Y.)
Shark Week... 

...supposedly begins on Sunday, but they jumped the gun in the Carolinas.

Or maybe they jumped the shark.
Facebook unpublishes pages without any warning. 

I received the following notification on one of my Facebook commercial pages this morning:

"The Page ____ isn't visible on Facebook since it hasn't been updated for more than a month. You can always visit and publish it again."

The message quoted above was more than a little worrisome, since I have created several dozen Facebook commercial pages that don't get updated very often. So I immediately visited all my other Facebook commercial pages, none of which were showing notification numbers on this list:

According to the banners at the top of the page Timelines, SEVEN of these pages had been unpublished by Facebook! And I had not received any warning at all!! HOLY CRAP!!!

So if you have Facebook commercial pages that are not updated regularly, I would recommend that you visit them. NOW!


Text above originally posted here:
Pet peeve: lightening. 

Some newswriters seem to think "lightening" refers to a sudden electrostatic discharge during an electrical storm.

Which reminds me of an old joke:

A priest and a nun are golfing on their day off... and on the first tee, the priest completely misses the ball. He says, "Oh sh*t, I missed."

The nun admonishes him, "Father!"

He misses again on the second tee and says, "Oh sh*t, I missed."

The nun says, "Father, stop with the gutter language!"

On the third tee, he misses yet again and says, "Oh sh*t, I missed."

The nun exclaims, "Father, you're a man of God. If you keep using this filthy language, the heavens are going to open up, and God will strike you dead with a lightning bolt, right where you stand!"

The priest says, "Sister, don't be silly. That'd never happen." So, to teach the nun a lesson, he deliberately misses his tee shot on the fourth hole, looks at the nun and says, "Oh sh*t, I missed."

At that moment, the skies open up and a lightning bolt strikes the nun dead where she stands.

As the priest looks on dumbstruck, a powerful voice comes from the heavens, saying, "Oh sh*t, I missed!"
Class of ´69 obituaries and gravesites. 

In Memoriam, Class of 1969, Westfield High School, Massachusetts.

In Memoriam, Class of 1969, Chelmsford High School, Massachusetts.
The Last Stronghold of the Pure Gospel: An-Diugh. 

So we're in a B&B on the Isle of Skye a few weeks ago, and I'm flipping through the TV channels, trying to find something that will trick my jet lag into letting me sleep. All of a sudden, this angelic music starts pouring out of the box. Now, I'm not a religious guy, but these spiritual songs were mesmerizing. The whole show was in Gaelic, with English subtitles, on a BBC channel called Alba, which is the Gaelic name for Scotland. This 50-minute documentary, an episode of a series called "Everyman," was entitled "The Last Stronghold of the Pure Gospel: An-Diugh" and was apparently shot in 1979 by Michael Radford, before he got famous and started winning awards. It profiles the Scottish islanders on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides who believe in the literal truth of the Bible. The episode now includes an update on what happened to some of those featured in the original program.

And the tunes knocked my socks off.


Later: if you're in the UK, I think you can watch it here.
Dan Foley's Pub. 

Summer of 1991, Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula: behold a typical scene in an ambitious campaign to infiltrate the secret pub culture of western Ireland (native rituals dictate inhaling vast quantities of a thick brownish health shake). In the Gaeltacht, we find our hero reeling from the doorway of a local establishment, out like a carp.

Short Story: Cathaoir Synge (Synge's Chair)

Dan Foley's Pub, Main Street, Anascaul, County Kerry: Google Map Street View ~ Sale ~ Postcard
Fernando Botero. 

Picnic"Picnic" (1999) by Fernando Botero (Colombian artist, 1932-), oil on canvas.

I was first exposed to the paintings of Botero when "The Kids" (now all grown up) took us to a lovely restaurant high in the hills overlooking the Danube. We were confronted by these strange-looking (and often nude) overweight people at every twist and turn in the stairways and hallways leading up to a beautiful dining room with a spectacular view of Budapest at dusk. The three strongest memories I have of Udvarház Étterem are: (1) wow, that gulyás leves was tasty, (2) why is this twisted Hungarian artist painting all these fat folks, and (3) I should probably go on a diet when we get back Stateside.

Well, it turned out that: (1) Anikó's gulyás leves was just as delicious, only different, (2) Botero was Colombian, not Hungarian, and (3) my diet, like the many eating regimens I've tried before and since, was a complete bust.
89-Year-Old Learns About Birds & Bees... 

‪#‎Hitchcock‬ ‪#‎TheBirds‬ ‪#‎BeeAttack‬
Self-publish a book in 14 countries for under 10 bucks... 

...using Amazon's! When I published a 108-page book in 2009, it cost $3.66 + $3.55 shipping to get a galley/proof copy. Then I ordered 10 copies for $36.60 + $5.08 shipping, to use at book signings. Prices are comparable today.

Paperback + e-book (Kindle/iPad):
1) US
2) UK
3) India
4) Germany
5) Austria
6) France
7) Italy
8) Spain

E-book (Kindle/iPad) only:
9) Canada
10) Australia
11) Mexico
12) Brazil
13) Japan
14) Netherlands

(It looks like Amazon's China site may soon offer CreateSpace books, too.)

I also published a 435-page book for a friend in 2011, which cost $6.08 + $3.59 shipping for a galley/proof copy. Then I ordered 28 copies for $170.24 + $17.00 shipping.

UPDATE: Amazon Author Pages and Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords.

So, people in my levels of access for systems administration or as an infrastructure analyst typically have higher accesses than an NSA employee would normally have. Normal NSA employees have a combination of clearances called TS, SI, TK and Gamma. That's Top Secret, Signals Intelligence, Talent Keyhole and Gamma. And they all relate to certain things that are sort of core to the NSA mission. As a systems administrator, you get a special clearance called PRIVAC, for Privileged Access, which allows you to be exposed to information of any classification, regardless of what your position actually needs.
In the end, if you publish the source material, I will likely be immediately implicated. This must not deter you from releasing the information I will provide.
My personal desire is that you paint the target directly on my back. No one, not even my most trusted confidant, is aware of my intentions and it would not be fair for them to fall under suspicion for my actions. You may be the only one who can prevent that, and that is by immediately nailing me to the cross rather than trying to protect me as a source.
My family doesn't know what's happening, they're unaware. I don't think I'll be able to keep the family ties that I've had for all my life because of the risk of associating them with this. And I'll leave what to publish and what not to publish to you guys, I trust you'll be responsible on this.
This is our country and the balance of power between the citizenry and the government is becoming that of the ruling and the ruled as opposed to actually, you know, the elected and the electorate.
So for me it all comes down to state power against the people's ability to meaningfully oppose that power. And I'm sitting there every day, getting paid to design methods to amplify that state power. And I'm realizing that if, you know, the policy switches, that they are the only things that restrain these states, were changed there, you couldn't meaningfully oppose these. I mean, you'd have to be the most incredibly sophisticated technical actor in existence.
And I'm more willing to risk imprisonment or any other negative outcome personally than I am willing to risk the curtailment of my intellectual freedom and that of those around me.
I appreciate your concern for my safety, but I already know how this will end for me, and I accept the risk. If I have luck, and you are careful, you will have everything you need. I ask only that you ensure this information makes it home to the American public.

--Edward Snowden, "Citizenfour" ~ schedule ~ website ~ IMDb ~ 6/6/2013 interview part 1, part 2

Some would say to him: "You're a traitor."
I'd just say: "Thank you for your service."
White-blooming trees. 

I asked my neighbors for the name of the trees that are currently putting out white flowers around Leisure World. I received several suggestions, including:

Orchid tree:
Desert willow:
Callery pear:

, but nobody knew for sure, so I finally decided to get serious, and take a photo, which I sent to Moon Valley Nurseries. They said it was a Pyrus kawakamii, or Evergreen pear. and That's when I found this article, which has some beautiful photos.
Freeway Birthday Triple-A. 

So there I was this morning, standing on a 12-lane freeway in the 6am darkness, watching the cars whiz by me, three feet away, at 75mph, and I'm singing, in my scared-sh*tless voice:

Happy birthday to you / Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday YOU MORON / Happy birthday to you.

You see, my car had run out of gas on the Superstition Freeway. Bonehead move, right? I knew the tank was getting empty, but based on the odometer reading, I calculated there were 10 or 20 miles left to go. The car had traveled at least that far before, without any problem. But I forgot to factor in the three mornings last week when the ice on the windshield was obscuring my view. Each of those times, I sat in the parking lot at work, running the heater/defroster/defogger for ten minutes, so I could see enough to drive home.

10 minutes x 3 = 30 minutes, or about 30 miles.

But I neglected to do that calculation until the power steering stopped working this morning, in the middle lane of the eastbound 60. As I struggled to get the car over into the breakdown lane, I was chanting my mantra of denial: "The gas tank can't be empty, it can't be, it CAN'T be!"

That's when the equation 10x3=30 flashed into my brain, and I began singing my very-special birthday song.

The Triple-A guy couldn't stop grinning. As he poured gas from his canister into my tank, he said, "Make sure you plan carefully. There are only two gallons in here."

Then he chuckled. Bastard.

"Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four?"

I'll find out the answer to this question today.

The Golden Screw (old joke). 

A couple has a baby with a strange birth defect – a golden screw stuck in his navel. Doctors assure them there's nothing to be done about it.

The boy grows up ashamed of his difference and blames it for the fact that he has no friends, can't get a date, has a crummy job, etc. Anyway, he goes to scientists and surgeons and witch doctors around the world, but he gets nowhere. He's told to just live with it.

Finally, the guy goes to a holy man in the desert, who says, "You can simply dream it away, but you probably won't like the results. Maybe you should just accept yourself as you are." But the guy insists, so the holy man instructs him on lucid dreaming.

The guy falls asleep, and in his dream, a golden archangel descends from on high, and inserts a golden screwdriver into his navel. After a few quick turns, the golden screw falls out.

When the guy wakes up, sure enough, the golden screw is gone. He's so happy, he jumps up to do a celebratory dance...

...and his a** falls off.
12 days=$116,273. 

Did you ever wonder how much it would cost to buy everything from "The 12 Days of Christmas" in today's dollars?

Well, wonder no more. It's $116,273.

(AP/AOL) The cost of six geese-a-laying spiked considerably this year, while most of the items in the carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas," saw little to no increase, according to the 31st annual PNC Wealth Management Christmas Price Index.

See also: Inexcusable liberties with the milkmaids and White Christmas: Berlin/McPhatter/Held and Rudolph's Revenge and Drive hammered, get nailed and Holiday Rum Cake and Christmas tree angel and A Festivus for the rest of us and Alice's Restaurant and 7,000 Macedonians in full battle array and Letter To Santa: The Ransom Note and An AZ Xmas and Christmas split.