Thursday, January 28, 2010

All cats are grey.

Last night, several of the residents were sitting around watching old Pink Panther cartoons. One of them, an autistic kid with very thick glasses, was laughing so hysterically that he could barely catch his breath. When the cackling had subsided enough for him to catch his breath I said "So you like this, huh"

He sat and stared at me, scrunching his eyes, which is what he does when he's thinking very hard about how to explain something to someone else. He finally said "That long pink cat's a jerk!" and then turned his undivided attention back to the cartoons.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's Complicated

I've been rereading Brian Boyd's flat-out brilliant book on Pale Fire and planning a longish post on that, but haven't really been able to muster the slacker energy required to follow through.

Instead, let me just take this chance to mention that no one who values their time/sanity should see It's Complicated. I was warned off the movie, but didn't heed the advice. On some level, I think I thought "Hey, you put Jim Halpert and Alec Baldwin onscreen together and something funny is bound to happen."

The movie is off-the-charts bad. And I have a long, and distinguished history of being able to sit through, and even find some joy in, very bad films. So please please please believe me when I say this was just horrible.

To its credit, though, I found myself feeling so sorry for Alec Baldwin for having to be there at all. Up until about 30 minutes into It's Complicated I had always tacitly assumed that "sympathy for Alec Baldwin" was a feeling the chemistry set in my brain, no matter how hard it tried, would never be able to conjure up.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

McNulty: The classic barnacle.

While watching season one of The Wire again, it occurred to me that McNulty is essentially a gritty, heavily armed, badass version of Larry David, right down to the fat, slightly more competent, buddy. This is probably part of why I love the show so much--it's the first cop show I can think of that explores the schliemel/schlamazel archetype and applies it to a neo-noir protagonist. McNulty's last scene in season one, in particular, when he's on the boat, is crying out for the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme music.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

That Mersenne was a funny guy. Life of the party.

Last night, upon being asked to shut off his radio, a resident unleashed a Homeric torrent of obscenities. After he'd finally calmed down and complied, I remarked to another staff that "On that kid's home planet, there are 137 different words for 'fuck' ." It occurred to me that, when making a joke in which part of the humor is derived from using an exaggeratedly large number, I usually default to "137."

I'm pretty sure this is due, in part, to the fact that I think prime numbers are inherently funny. Someone said that once--Woody Allen, Larry David, Mel Brooks-- some sharp witted Jewish guy. It naturally follows that the largest prime number must be the funniest number. So I decided to see if Wikipedia had an entry about very big prime numbers, and, as it happens, there is exactly such an entry. I quote:

It was proven by Euclid that there are infinitely many prime numbers; thus, there is always a prime greater than the largest known prime. Many mathematicians and hobbyists search for large prime numbers. There are several prizes offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for record primes.[1]

The fast Fourier transform implementation of the Lucas–Lehmer primality test for Mersenne numbers is fast compared to other known primality tests for other kinds of numbers. Due in part to this and to the historical interest in Mersenne primes, many of the largest known primes are Mersenne primes. As of June 2009[update] the nine largest known primes were Mersenne primes.[2] The last 14 record primes were Mersenne primes. Before that was a single non-Mersenne (improving the record by merely 37 digits in 1989), and 17 more Mersenne primes going back to 1952.[3]


Clearly, 137 has a very very long way to go if it ever wants to be the funniest number. As it happens, though, there is also an entry for my own pet prime number, and as it turns out, 137 is no slouch:

One hundred [and] thirty-seven is the 33rd prime number; the next is 139, with which it comprises a twin prime, and thus 137 is a Chen prime. 137 is an Eisenstein prime with no imaginary part and a real part of the form 3n − 1. It is also the fourth Stern prime. 137 is a strong prime in the sense that it is more than the arithmetic mean of its two neighboring primes.

Using two radii to divide a circle according to the golden ratio yields sectors of approximately 137° (the golden angle) and 222°.

137 is a strictly non-palindromic number and a primeval number.


Not a bad pedigree eh? Eh? A Chen prime and an Eisenstein prime and did I mention also the 4th Stern prime? Plus it's a strong prime in the sense that it is more than the arithmetic mean of its two neighboring prime. 137 is the Cousin Jeffrey of prime numbers. Don't even get me started on its primevality.

So. Yeah. It's been a pretty spectacular year, and I'm looking forward to more of the same in the next decade. I need sleep.

Monday, December 21, 2009

These fragments I have shored

Found a recipe for what looks like a killer pineapple carrot cake.
The last time I was in Chicago with any kind of time to kill, I found
this place called Doc's Smoothies, which I enthusiastically recommend
if you're ever in or around Wicker Park. The smoothies were
excellent, but their pineapple carrot cake was heaven. The ambition
is to recreate that experience. Preparing food is sometimes an act of
piety to sentimental impulses.

Blundered around looking for Christmas cards too late--far, far too
late.* Bought a few, then got too tired and cranky and went home to
collapse. Dropped the cards off in a mailbox in front of the post
office on the way home from work this morning. So a few people are
getting cards that will arrive a little late. Everyone else is
getting awkward excuses the first time we talk after Christmas. And
that seems fair enough.

Bought books that I hope will be entertaining on winter days (some SJ
Perelman, some Thurber, Marion Meade's book about Dorothy Parker).
Also ordered, at long last, Left for Dead II.

It occurred to me this morning, while I was performing my traditional wintertime slapstick routine of trying to scrape the ice off of my windshield while trying to keep my footing in an icy parking lot that I actually really enjoy the first couple of times each year I have to scrape my windshield. Icy mornings are invariably calm and quiet and eerily pretty. It's the 44th time of the year, give or take, when I start to indignantly resent the obligation and curse the winter. Hell is repetition, as either Beckett or Stephen King once said. I think it was King, which is fitting, since I remember having exactly the same thought the fifth time he re-wrote the same protagonists with different names in a different book.

Waiting on English muffin. Then bed.

===========================

* I nearly put a comma after the second "far". What stopped me was that I suddenly recalled an old episode of News Radio in which Dave had just handed Lisa a letter of apology from which she looked and angrily said "There's no comma after the second 'very' in 'very, very sorry.' "

Saturday, December 19, 2009

On whom a world of ills came down like snow

(Written Thursday 12/17. Blogger was having issues so I'm just now posting this.)

It's been a hell of a year.

The first real snowfall fell tonight. It's very early in the morning and the sky is still eerily bright. I left work early, after finishing my paperwork, ostensibly to finally get some sleep, but instead ended up wandering around in the snow for an hour. It's beautiful at first, gray and white and glistening falling through the glare of streetlights. It's all a matter of set and setting though--in a week or so when the ice is packed on the roads and everything is a dull gray industrial sludge color and I'm trying to keep my car on the road while driving over it, the charm flies off in a hurry.

DC Berman said it best (as is so often the case):

Bad snow, bad roads, bad bridges
Could turn a once bad man, religious
If thy kingdom ever comes
You'd better run, run run run


Earlier today, before work, I gathered up five notebooks and a couple of legal pads I've used for writing fiction over the past year. I had to decide whether to keep them or throw them out. Finally, I tossed all of them into an old toy chest with pirates on it that I keep in my spare room, with the absurdly optimistic hope that someday I'll have balls enough to re-read and maybe try to fix some of the terrible things I've written.

It's been a bloodbath at work. We're losing people, and always the wrong people. The wrong people get the axe, and the wrong people get promoted. A surprising number of kids keep showing progress. More and more I attribute this to their own toughness and desire for redemption and less to any particular knack any of us have for therapeutic interactions.

Last week I ran into a clinical supervisor from the other building. We like each other, but rarely cross paths. We were walking together toward lunch (I was stuck covering an extra shift that day) and we spoke:

Him: You look uncomfortable in the sunlight.

Me: I think I may have become a vampire sometime in the last year.

Him: Or a big unusually ugly mole.

Him: Christ. You know, I never thought you'd still be here at the end of this year.

Me: Yeah. It was touch and go.

Him: Well, if you think last year sucked wait until this year gets moving. I've seen our budget, and I've seen our waiting list.

Me: Bad?

Him: Oy vey, kid. Oy vey.

Me: At least I don't have a personal life to worry about.

Him: That's the spirit. You'll do fine.

Now, after wondering through blunderland for an hour or so, I can sleep the sleep of the dead before going right back into it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thou art a stiff necked people.

We have a new person in charge of reading and approving therapeutic documentation. I had my writeup of an interaction returned "for corrections" because, apparently, he doesn't feel kvetching (as in "resident kvetched at length") is sufficiently standard English. It's the first piece of documentation I have ever had rejected, and even though I know even Dimaggio's streak came to an end, it still gets under my skin. After fuming for a few minutes, I simply crossed out "kvetched", replaced it with "vented his spleen" and resubmitted it. This could easily escalate into a full scale battle of wills, as I have no intention of resubmitting this particular documentation replacing the offending verb with anything but a colloquialism.

How is everything else going? Well, this was enough to make me kvetch my spleen out, so how do you think everything else is, smart guy?