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29 November 2009

Eid Mubarak! It's Eid al-Adha! / Vleeptron is filching other people's images again, but it's really for your own good / Hajj / H1N1

Click image, bigger.

Vleeptron has backslid into its flagrant filching, thieving ways, but we believe there are valid reasons. This poster was just Google image searched and I liked it.

If I steal the poster (internetally) from a real mosque, it's much less likely that I'm going to get things all wrong, or screw up the spirit and flavor of the greeting, than if I try to cook up my own original Vleeptronese Eid Mubarak image.

This real mosque is the Hamilton Downtown Mosque in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Its website message is clearly aimed at an English-speaking crowd, so they are certainly going to communicate the important Eid information better, and in a more trustworthy way, than I will.

When I cross into Canada at Buffalo or nearby Niagara, I pass the substantive city of Hamilton, Ontario almost no matter where I want to go. Toronto's maybe another hour around The Lake, or Stratford is a few hours west after the Hamilton exits.

I might have off-ramped at Hamilton once or twice to gas up or find a Tim Horton's, but beyond that I have far more experience with the summer resort town of Simcoe (though in the winter) than I do with the metropolis of Hamilton, on the far western shore of Lake Ontario.

Worse: First I stole the poster, and then I changed it. Because I stole the 2007 poster, which was still lingering on the Mosque's website, and so I had to change the Gregorian calendar date. Islamic Lunar Calendar, Western Solar Calendar, they don't get along very smoothly.

But other than that bit of counterfeiting, this was the way a very talented and colorful artist said Eid Mubarak for Eid al-Adha عيد الأضحى‎ to an English-speaking Ontario-dwelling bunch.

Needless to say, all the info about the prayers was how things were in 2007, but could be totally wrong this year. Contact the Mosque if you want to know what's shaking right now.

But this is Eid al-Adha, which celebrates Ibrahim's willingness to obey God's command and sacrifice his son. The story of the sacrifice, of course, is revered by all the great Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam.

It's also the season for Hajj حج‎ , the pilgrimage to Mecca every Muslim hopes and tries to make. So at this moment there are about 3,000,000 Muslims in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Mecca is never lonely or ignored, but this is its Big Week.

So big that, desperately trying not to notice or care that it is a holy gathering, the public health experts of Earth are looking very carefully at this year's Hajj. Earth is in the midst of a pandemic of H1N1 influenza, a.k.a. Swine Flu, and the Hajj (and last week's USA holiday of Thanksgiving) is the perfect set of circumstances for accelerating the rate of infection and widespread global travel for new human cases.

At the arrival airports in Saudi Arabia, every pilgrim is scanned with a little point-and-shoot thermometer, and if his/her body temperature is above normal, the pilgrim is taken out of line and sent for more medical examination.

On a modern jetliner, you can have all the fresh air you want in the passenger compartment -- but it's cheaper for the airline not to suck in fresh air from outside the airplane, but to recirculate the same old passenger compartment air.

So a long trip in an airliner is the perfect machine for breathing in some other passenger's respiratory-transmitted disease. H1N1 has been waiting eagerly for USA Thanksgiving and for the Hajj.

There is an odd calculus equation for tracking the spread -- the increase, with time, of the number of infected people of a contageous disease -- and it is an odd equation because it's also the equation for tracking the spread of a Real Good Rumor through a population with time.

This is one reason why Meme Theory has received a lot of attention. The leap of ideas from human brain to human brain, via TV, radio or books or preaching or chatting, is mathematically very much like the leap of cooties from one human body to another via sneezing or coughing or shaking hands but not washing them thoroughly very often.

The Real Good Rumor has to be good enough to make people very much want to tell it to others.

It can't be a rumor you instinctively want to keep to yourself -- like, that the nuclear power plant has just released a dangerous volume of ionizing radiation, but so far it's a secret. If you know the secret and tell every Tom, Dick and Mary, by the time you toss your family in the Volvo and hit the highway, the highway will be solid gridlock and you all get to sit there taking a radiation bath.

But if you hear the secret and keep your mouth shut, you just might get out of town while traffic still moves.

Likewise the contageous disease. It has to be reasonably mild, or begin with a few days of mild symptoms -- so you'll keep going to work, where the workplace puts you into close physical contact with dozens or hundreds of people, where a sneeze or cough really gives the flying virus or bacterium a good chance to infect another person.

If the disease is so severe that it knocks you flat and makes you stay home, it may kill you, but it won't spread very rapidly through the population.

So ideas (memes) are like cooties (virus), at least they behave alike mathematically. A great idea that just never gets to travel or be chatted up a lot or broadcast a lot -- well, the idea may be great, but its rate of taking up permanent residence in new brains will be so slow that the idea may just never take off and become popular. Ideas are born, and go extinct, just plain die, all the time, and the fault may not at all be the idea itself at the center of the meme, but rather how well the meme's outer "protein jacket" helps it jump from brain to brain.

Viruses rely likewise on their outer protein jackets -- which have nothing to do with how sick the core RNA will make you -- to effectively spread through a population.

Having a great idea, but only being able to express it in Latvian, makes a real crappy outer protein jacket. Only Latvian speakers have any chance to hear or appreciate your idea (and give it a permanent new home in their brains). This is why so much world meme-tossing takes place in English; right now it's the Earth language that numerically kicks the most ass and can get noticed by the most people.

Well anyway, Eid Mubarak -- a Blessed Eid -- and (I am told) have fun wearing your very best clothes during this festival, and take pleasure and satisfaction in your very serious charitable responsibilities. Eid traditionally involves sacrificing a goat, sheep, cow or camel (as Ibrahim did instead of his beloved son), and the needy of the community share in the feast.

Next big festival or holy day i may work up the nerve to make another original greeting, which I will inevitably get wrong in some way.

Stealing old posters is better for everyone.

24 November 2009

The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice / burning books since 1873 / party's over

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only insignia for any organization on Earth which proudly displays one of its central activities: burning books.

I dunno what the Society is proudly throwing a man into the can for. I suspect they caught him having some kind of Fun.

They lost bigtime when they tried to ban "Jurgen" by James Branch Cabell, but (Wikipedia:)

In 1920 after the magazine The Little Review serialized a passage of the book Ulysses [by James Joyce] dealing with the main character masturbating, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, who objected to the book's content, took action to attempt to keep the book out of the United States. At a trial in 1921 the magazine was declared obscene and as a result Ulysses was banned in the United States.

I think it's legal to buy it in the USA now, but don't take my word for it.

Glenn Gould vs. Vladimir Nabokov / Seattle Peter is dumb as rocks / pounding stakes through the hearts of Puritans since 1798

Click for a larger butterfly.

A butterfly of unknown (incognita) type dedicated to Nabokov's wife Vera.

Nabokov didn't drive, so his wife Vera chauffeured him on his summer trips around the USA collecting butterflies. On a summer butterfly hunt in the Pacific Northwest, Nabokov wrote the draft of the novel "Lolita," and then tried to burn it.

Vera stopped him from burning it.


----- Original Message -----
From: mary***** j*****
Sent: Saturday, November 21, 2009 7:20 PM
Subject: [F_minor] I simply cannot resist

In 'Wondrous Strange', Kevin Bazzana writes that Gould "was disapproving of books in which ideas were sacrificed to aesthetics or ironic detachment. Among the Russians, for instance, he did not like Chekhov, or the dazzling Nabokov, whom he thought immoral."

A bit of Vladimir Nabokov chosen by me for Glenn Gould:

“I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip. And the highest enjoyment of timelessness -- in a landscape selected at random -- is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern -- to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.”

“I witness with pleasure the supreme achievement of memory, which is the masterly use it makes of innate harmonies when gathering to its fold the suspended and wandering tonalities of the past.”

“I do not know if it has ever been noted before that one of the main characteristics of life is discreteness. Unless a film of flesh envelopes us we die. Man exists only insofar as he is separated from his surroundings.

The cranium is a space-traveler’s helmet. Stay inside or you perish.

Death is divestment, death is communion. It may be wonderful to mix with the landscape, but to do so is the end of the tender ego.”

Gould fibbed; he obviously hadn't read Nabokov at all.

M*** J*****



Of course Glenn has not read Nabokov!

And it's amazing that you have chose the same text as
Richard Rorty (one of my best loved philosofers) to ilustrate
his admiration for Nabokov in a famous interview with
Wim Kaiser in "Of Beauty and Consolation".

Jose A****** S*****


----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, November 22, 2009 6:15 PM
Subject: [F_minor] On the other hand Gould was right.

On the other hand.
Gould was right about Nabokov.
There is nothing more immoral than a high mentality combined with low morality.

By the way, when is someone finally going to do some work on Gould's religious life and beliefs? They are usually left unmentioned in most works about him or what seems more likely guessed at by authors. His families view are almost always ignored.

But thanks for a new thread of thought.

Peter in Seattle


I love that "high mentality combined with a low morality."

The more you think about it, the more it makes sense. At least to me.

Thanks, Peter.

A*** in Santa Barbara

Bob speaketh:

oh for christ's sake, the guy wrote about 8 of the 20th century's most important novels, and was a world-class amateur lepidopterist, I think with butterflies named after him. He taught Russian literature at Cornell. (The years make it possible he may have had Thomas Pynchon as a student, even though Pynchon was an engineering major.)

I'm sorry you're still all upset about Lolita. Nabokov (said it rhymes with "your block off") was actually writing a love saga to his amazing new adoptive country. He wrote what he saw. That was his job, to write about what he saw.

You really need to ratchet up your entire understanding of what literature
is, why people write it, why people read and need it, and why the Final Score is:

Censors & Dangerous Puritans 0

Nabokov 100000000000000000

btw the estate recently announced that against Nabokov's wishes, they are preparing the posthumous publication of his last novel ms. I cannot wait. I'm gonna sleep outside Barnes and Noble all night if I have to. This is extremely wonderful news, and the author himself is in no position to complain or thwart it.


YES YES YES my hero!

Thanks for making this day more sparkling and grand.. ...




You tell 'em Bob.

Best regards,

F*** H**** Toronto

to F*** H****

god that jerk makes me so mad, and I refuse to waste valuable couch time to figure out why. here i am trying to be Sweetness & Light and celebrate Truth & Beauty, and then that schmuck opines, and I go all Donald Duck postal.

it is a very fine thing for both of us that he lives a large continent away.

N. sent the ms. of "Lolita" to his editor, and the editor sent him back a telegram: "If I publish this, we'll both go to jail."

Isn't it odd that nobody -- not cops and prosecutors, not our Great Moralists -- ever notices truly filthy, soulless, empty and dehumanizing porn, but it's the great authors, the explorers of the deepest parts of our souls, who wake up to find lynch mobs with torches on the lawn.

A few years ago, the DA in Oklahoma City raided a Blockbuster and forced the Todd at the counter to surrender the customer list, and then went around arresting every customer who had rented "The Tin Drum," accusing them of trafficking in kiddie porn. Unfortunately one of the customers he busted was a lawyer with the Oklahoma American Civil Liberties Union. (Academy Award 1980, Best Foreign Language Film.)

And what talentless scum scrambled to turn [Lolita] into a movie? Kubrick, James Mason, Shelly Winters, and Peter Sellers' first serious dramatic role. Nabokov wrote the screenplay.

The Legion of Decency put its foot down on just one scene, and said this one simply could not reach any theater audience in Christendom. Mason is banging Shelly Winters -- but out of the corner of his eye is looking at, and getting his inspiration from a little framed photograph of Winters' daughter Lolita.

I guess I love Nabokov because he simply rewrote and reinvented popular culture, the vocabulary of every language on Earth, the Meme Pool, calypso songs, the titles of porno websites and chatrooms. Swiss butterfly collector gave strokes to 2 gazillion puritans and turned the world upside-down, so thoroughly that we are all still standing on our heads. I could possibly have his daring, but alas it is unlikely I will ever be accused of having his talent.

Bob speaketh to Seattle Peter:
Align Right

Oh yes, and it's also been proven that all the Grimm Brothers fairy tales are about sexual abuse of children. All modern people know that.

Peter, I really don't know what to say to you about anything. You're humorless, know little about music and seem not to be thrilled by much of it, and you know clearly Zero about literature.

Where on Earth were you schooled? By whom?

Perhaps my Swiss buddy was right -- it's the nasty weather in Seattle, it has turned your soul and imagination into a wrinkled prune.

I only wish your comments did not from time to time trigger a hot button with me. You SHOULD be so effortless to ignore.

I wish no one so gray, shallow, ignorant and colorless a world, so in the most charity I can muster: Start reading. Now. A lot. Anything and everything.

Everything you learned in Sunday School as a trusting but uncritical child -- now, as an adult, you have a responsibility to let the creators of literature and ideas speak directly to you and show you their dimensions of the world.

I have almost never posted words in the least critical of Our Master, but it has always been clear and obvious to me that, away from the keyboard, Gould had a deep lifelong problem with the worst elements and beliefs of the nastiest and most mean-spirited of Calvinism.

I find it odd he should have been so shackled and contaminated in Canada, particularly in Toronto and Ontario; you and he reflect a rigid stridency more common in, and recently far more dangerous to all, in the United States -- or, as the novelist Margaret Atwood calls us, the Republic of Gilead.

Sadly, going back to Colonial times, the Puritanical toxin has permeated and often seized political control of our country, always with disastrous and shameful results, and every cycle begins with an attack on literature and attempts to use the power of government to censor and ban it, and, if possible, imprison or exile those who create it.

Charles Brockden Brown's novel "Wieland" (1798) actually begins with a sad, almost pathetic preface begging the American reader not to condemn him to Hell for the act of writing fiction, and promising that if they will overlook his Sin of making up stories, the reader will find important Moral Lessons consistent with a (puritanical) Christian ethos inside.

Nothing in our clash of visions of the world can or should be settled by a poll, but I have received several private e-mails that were merry and grateful. To the best of my knowledge, neither the woman nor the man are registered sex offenders. Neither am I, feel free to check my town's police department website.



Which proves his high mentality.

Lolita is a male sexual fantasy about child abuse. Ask any abuser.

Was this the book that bothered TS Eliot?

But good to get a response.



----- Original Message -----
From: "José S*****"
To: <>
Sent: Monday, November 23, 2009 12:00 PM
Subject: [F_minor] On the other hand Gould was right

Pursewarden, a character created by Lawrence Durrell in "Alexandria
Quartet" wrote that all of his books shoud carry a label saying "Forbidden to old women of both sexes".

I am starting to believe that Nabokov books must carry that label.

Jose A****** S*****


Hola José,

(Diacriticals often don't successfully make the trip via e-mail, so you know what I mean with your final e, even if it looks like a Cyrillic Q to you.)

Thanks for the Big Laugh of the Day. I'm a huge admirer of Durrell, his work and his life. (My wife loves his brother Gerald the zoologist. She thinks all English literature written after 899, when Alfred the Great died, is nasty and inferior. I am more appreciative of and comfortable with things written between the 11th and 21st centuries.)

I have a hot temper in the style of Donald Duck, and there is something about that jerk Peter in Seattle that just makes me start quacking incoherently and going postal/schoolyard. The Buddha, and I think the Sufis, promise techniques in which such jerks, and the dangerous and ignorant things they say and do, would simply vanish from my Universe, but I have not yet mastered these disciplines.

If you are a Durrell fan, there is a vanished treasure of American literature I would bring to your attention, the work of James Branch Cabell (1879 - 1958). In his day, his novel "Jurgen" was as shocking and villified as "Lolita," and was the target of a huge, noisy obscenity trial filed by (I love the name of this bunch) the New York Society for the Prevention of Vice.

The two-year trial and publicity rocketed "Jurgen" to the top of the charts, though this beautiful, funny novel and Cabell's others about the fictional medieval kingdom of Poictesme are great treasures of literature that did not need the assistance of the Society for the Prevention of Vice (although he thanked them in a preface to subsequent editions).

Cabell ("Tell the rabble / it rhymes with Cabell") was one of the most widely read Enlish-language novelists of the first decades of the 20th century; Twain was reading a Cabell book when he died in 1910.

If I were a competent dirweesh, I would have been oblivious to the brouhaha on F_Minor re Gould and Nabokov. But I write novels, well and just successfully enough to buy me a ticket to (North) America's miserable history of puritanism, and the contamination of and assault on literature and all the arts by the worst elements of Calvinism -- who, like the Undead, refuse to die, and have thrived in the New World for centuries. It is my job, when fools like Seattle Peter (and, sadly, GG) do their puritanical thing, to try to pound a stake in their hearts and make them stop bothering the world of beauty and ideas.

Thanks for a Huge Laugh, which even my wife (the English perfesser) shared.


Bob Merkin

Massachusetts USA

read the innermost soul of the next president of the United StaEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKK!!!!!

21 November 2009

Santa Baby there's just 1 little thing that I need / the Deed / to a Platinum Mine / Santa Baby so hurry down my chimney tonight

Click image to enlarge & marvel.
Polaris Dust Nebula
Image Credit & Copyright: Steve Mandel (Hidden Valley Observatory)
Research Collaboration: Adolf Witt (University of Toledo) et al.

My Dearest Wife,

We have left the City and, for better or worse, now dwell deep in the Great Boreal Deciduous Forest.

City life certainly had its challenges -- a Superintendent of Public Schools, for example, who went about packing large-caliber automatic pistols which he waved in his live-in female partner's face before he was led away in handcuffs -- but we have exchanged these for a New Set of Different Challenges, such as owls swooping noiselessly down from the sky to devour our housecats, and where water comes from (a well pumped by an electric motor) and where the contents of the Chamber Pot go (a septic tank and leach field).

Thank you, by the way, for tacking the


signs to the trees by the road. I do not fear Death, but I have a great dread of being pierced through the neck by an arrow or blasted by a 30-30 bullet because an armed drunk in green camo mistook me for a quadruped, which is why I scrupulously roam the new property wearing a ridiculous safety orange tuque during hunting season. Out here, one must prove one is a sentient biped, or suffer dire or fatal consequences.

Safety must be our overwhelming concern in our new surroundings, and this is why I brought to your attention the necessity of the Generac emergency propane-fueled electric generator, so we can sit out the next 8-day winter power outage and still get satellite TV and the Hi-Speed Internet. Thanks! It is One Nifty Gizmo, and I am already developing an unhealthy bonding relationship with this remarkable machine which watches over our electricity needs waking and sleeping.

In this Safety and Emergency Preparedness vane, I wish to bring another Important Machine to your attention, and discuss the necessary details for immediately purchasing and installing it.

The first fucking thing we must always know with Great Precision here in the GBDF is Which Way Is Up -- or, rather, Where is True North? (From this, it is a fairly simple matter to extrapolate to the east, west and south; three extra Machines are not necessary for this task, but a Theodolite would certainly be useful to have around the house.)

I have attached an image of The Machine we so desperately need installed and Ready to Rip before dread Winter descends upon us, our beloved cats, and our cozy cabin.

The Celestron NexStar 8SE Computerized Telescope -- well, this is simply the most dependable and inexpensive device on the market today for pointing to Polaris, the North Star, on a clear night, of which we now, for the first time in decades, have so many.

I believe it will be possible to purchase and install a housing to allow us to control and see the telescope images from the comfort of our indoor computers, rather than have to stick my eye up some rude eyepiece at 3 am on a night in mid-January. From what I have gathered from Sky & Telescope, nobody has to be outside any more to marvel at the night skies -- outdoor telescopy is so 1998.

I am convinced we are in Great Peril, particularly during the winter, until we promptly entrust our Land Navigation needs to the Celestron NexStar 8SE Computerized Telescope, and a few inexpensive accessories to make its use convenient, comfortable and up-to-date.

Concerned ever for the Safety and Comfort of our new household, I remain
Your Beloved Husband,


20 November 2009

How will I know in thicket ahead is danger or treasure when Body my good bright dog is dead

by May Swenson (1913 - 1989)
Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen
Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt
Where can I go
without my mount
all eager and quick
How will I know
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure
when Body my good
bright dog is dead
How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door
and wind for an eye
With cloud for shift
how will I hide?
May Swenson, “Question” from Nature: Poems Old and New
Copyright © 1994 by May Swenson, All rights reserved.

18 November 2009

Santa Baby there's just 1 little thing that I need / the Deed / to a Platinum Mine / Santa Baby so hurry down my chimney tonight

----- Original Message -----
From: "N L L"
Sent: Monday, November 16, 2009 5:02 PM
Subject: ***£1,500,000,00 GBP AWARD WINNER***

You have just been awarded £1,500,000.00 GBP, in the National Liverwood Promotion.Send us your details as below;


Meanwhile, I am faced with an interesting mathematical puzzle:

A Trunk Box weighs approximately 50 kilograms. It is scanned, and revealed to be jammed full of paper currency of unknown nationality and denomination.

How much moolah will I get?

Also, where the fuck is .vn ?

----- Original Message -----
From: "Bryan Sanchez." {}
Sent: Friday, November 06, 2009 4:25 PM


I was consulted by my associate in the UN Indonesia about an abandoned shipment from Iraq to Indonesia that was supposed to be delivered to you as a personal consignment. Your consignment is presently stored with the UN Indonesia. It was scanned and it revealed an undisclosed sum of money in a Trunk Box weighing approximately 50kg. This is a deal between us. All communication must be held extremely confidential.

I have tried to reach your beneficiary regarding your delivery and confirmed from our contacts in Iraq that him and his family was involved in previous Bomb blast in Dohuk Iraq. I am sorry about that. Now I am contacting you because you are the real recipient of the fund. The fund cannot be delivered to any other person but you. If not it would be confiscated.

I am in charge for all delivery here in London, Iraq and all over Asia. Presently, I reside in London with my family. With my supremacy, I am willing to instruct my associate in Indonesia to deliver the consignment to you without difficulties if you agree to give me Ten Percent (10%) of the total sum at the end of the task.

This three following information are what I need from you to enable me reconfirm with my records and deliver your consignment.

Your full name?
Your valid telephone number?
Your valid address for delivery?

On receipt of the above data I will commence the delivery and you will definitely be updated with further details.

Bryan Sanchez.

American export

Click image, maybe Bill and statue of Bill get taller.

Photo: Reuters

Former USA President Bill Clinton speaks at the dedication of an 11 foot = 3.35 meter statue of himself on (newly re-named) Bill Clinton Boulevard in Pristina, in the newly-independent nation of Kosovo on Sunday 1 November 2009.

Kosovars of Albanian ethnicity date Kosovo's independence to Clinton's 1999 NATO bombing campaign to halt Serbia's genocidal "ethnic cleansing" of Albanian Kosovars.

The real Bill Clinton is 74 inches = 188 cm tall.

17 November 2009

the stars come out for new audio Bible, from Genesis to Revelation

Michael York (above), Richard Dreyfuss, Jason Alexander and hundreds of others lent their voices to quite a creation: a 79-CD, elaborate audio portrayal of the Old and New Testaments.

The Los Angeles Times (California USA)
Monday 16 November 2009

Stars lined up for new audio Bible

by Martha Groves

Once Jesus signed on, it was easy to enlist King Solomon and Moses.

Jim Caviezel (Jesus), Malcolm McDowell (King Solomon) and Richard Dreyfuss (Moses) were among hundreds of actors who lined up to create "The Word of Promise Audio Bible," all 98 hours and 79 CDs of it.

The nearly four-year project, released last month,was the inspiration of Carl Amari, a Chicago-area producer behind "Twilight Zone Radio Dramas," "Mystery Theater" and other radio programs.

"I always thought it would be cool to do a radio drama of the Bible," said Amari, who grew up "not real religious" in the Catholic Church. "You're dramatizing the greatest story ever told. It's God's word. How can you make God's word lift off the page? With great actors, great sound effects and music."

Amari pitched the concept in early 2006 to Thomas Nelson Inc., a Nashville-based publisher of Christian books, software and videos. He was an admirer of the company's 1982 modern translation of the King James Bible.

When Amari projected that the venture would cost $4,000,000 , the entire Thomas Nelson board of directors "looked at me," he recalled. It would be a leap of faith, given that the company's previous audio Bibles had cost at most $17,000 to produce. Then again, just 20,000 copies constituted a bestseller.

Amari assured the directors they could sell millions of his audio Bibles if he had the resources to hire household-name actors and back them up with an original score and feature-film quality sound effects.

(Plague of frogs? Just imagine the sound of raw chicken breasts being smacked on the ground.)

Performing the Bible verbatim from Genesis to Revelation was a huge undertaking, involving more than 1,000 actors, technicians and musicians.

JoBe Cerny, a voice-over and character actor perhaps best known as the voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy, directed 175,000 takes over four years, Amari said. Stefano Mainetti, an Italian film and TV composer, wrote the music and conducted a 150-piece orchestra.

Stars included Max von Sydow (Noah), who portrayed Jesus in the 1965 epic "The Greatest Story Ever Told"; Gary Sinise (David), Louis Gossett Jr. (John), Marisa Tomei (Mary Magdalene), Jason Alexander (Joseph), Luke Perry (Judas) and Marcia Gay Harden (Esther).

And what can Martin Jarvis, a British voice-over actor, possibly do for an encore after playing God?

As narrator of testaments old and new, stage and screen veteran Michael York logged more than 500 hours of recording time -- much of it in Hollywood's Margarita Mix studio.

Although York had never studied the Bible, he said anyone who has performed Shakespeare, as he has, knows that the Bard's work is rife with biblical references.

"In his day, everyone knew" the Bible, York said. "We live in less faithful times. So it was wonderful to come across these stories that underpin so much of Western literature and thought."

The first portion of the project, the New Testament, was released in 2007 and honored as the Christian Book of the Year for 2008 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Assn. It was the first audio Bible to receive the award and has sold more than 700,000 copies. Producing the Old Testament proved far more arduous.

With its vivid language and dramatic happenings -- rocks splitting, tremors quaking, weeping and gnashing of teeth -- the Good Book lends itself to audio treatment, which allows listeners to use their imaginations.

"It's verbal Cinerama," York said.

That was something Caviezel, who had worked with Amari on a film years ago, understood when he agreed to reprise the role of Jesus he had played in Mel Gibson's 2004 film "The Passion of the Christ."

Stacy Keach straddled both texts, reading the parts of Job in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament. As Job, he said, "I was constantly wrestling with the notion of how a merciful God could give Satan license to do these terrible things to Job. He was left with absolutely nothing." Job's enduring devotion was a lesson, Keach said. He added that he had long been fascinated by the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who became a missionary after experiencing a vision of Jesus while on his way to Damascus to stamp out budding Christians.

John Heard (Matthew) had the tongue-twisting task of reciting the "begots," the genealogy of Jesus Christ. An excerpt: "Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor."

"Zerubbabel" was a bugbear, said co-producer Brenda Noel, who spent hours on the telephone each day coaching actors and foley artists on pronunciation, theology and customs. ("What does a sacrifice sound like?" one asked. "Have you ever been to a slaughterhouse?" she replied.) Noel coached York by speaking into his ear as he read. "I think he heard me in his sleep for a while," she said.

At one point, York quipped that he was having "troubleble with Zerubbabel." "Philistines" was another issue. While recording the New Testament, Noel said, York and others pronounced the word as it is typically heard, with the accent on the first syllable.

For the Old Testament recordings, Noel used "That's Easy for You to Say," a popular guide that emphasized the second syllable, as in Phil-IS-tines. So the word is pronounced one way in the New Testament and another in the Old, she said.

In the beginning, York said, he fretted over whether he and the other performers could do justice to the Bible. "For some people," he said, "this is the word of God, not metaphorically but literally."

The audio Bible, sold in a box about the size of a child's jack-in-the-box toy, is available at Christian bookstores and online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other outlets. Information is available at

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

- 30 -

16 November 2009

Leonid Meteor Shower / 17 and 18 November 2009

Sky & Telescope Magazine


The 2009 Leonids Are Coming!

Most meteor showers vary from year to year, but the Leonids are particularly capricious. Many years they chug along producing just 5 or 10 meteors visible per hour. But at the Leonids' historical greatest, in 1833, meteors were seen to fall "like snowflakes in a blizzard," with estimated rates of several dozen per second!

This year is expected to be better than average. The "traditional," most reliable part of the shower should peak around

4 a.m. EST (1 a.m. PST)
on the morning of
Tuesday 17 November.

You might see 20 or 30 meteors per hour under ideal dark-sky conditions. (Remember, if you want to stay up late instead of getting up early, you'll be staying up Monday night. It's easy to get the date wrong for events that happen after midnight!)

A second, briefer, but very intense outburst is expected about 12 hours later — during the early-morning hours of 18 November in Asia. (See "Will the Leonids Roar Again?".) There's only an off-chance that some activity from that burst will still be going on by the time the Earth turns halfway around and the Leonids become visible in the Americas on the morning of the 18th.

But if the sky is clear, why not go out again that morning — and also before the predicted peak, on the morning of the 16th? The Leonids have surprised the theorists before, and they surely will again.

Wherever you are, no Leonids will be visible before the shower's radiant point (in Leo) rises around local midnight. And peaks and bursts aside, the number of visible meteors increases steadily from radiant-rise until Leo is highest, just as the sky is starting to get light.

Be sure to bundle up warmly; meteor-watching is always colder than you expect. Ideal meteor-watching equipment is a comfortable lounge chair, a warm sleeping bag, and a pillow. If you live in a city or suburb, consider traveling to a dark location far from city skyglow. In any case, find a spot where no lights glare directly into your eyes.

The direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest. Notice the meteors' flight paths; only those streaking away from the direction to the constellation Leo are Leonids.

Another, less-known meteor shower is going on simultaneously — the Taurids. They're sparse but tend to be very bright. If you see a slow, bright meteor heading away from the direction to Taurus, that's a Taurid.

And you're bound to see a few sporadics that aren't associated with any major shower.

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12 November 2009

Call for Papers / Bring Sunscreen SPF 50+ / wtf / all females certified on Natal beach

Click image, robots get larger.

SBMF 2010

Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil November 8-12, 2010

SBMF 2010 is the thirteenth of a series of events devoted to the dissemination of the development and use of formal methods for the construction of high quality computational systems. It is now a well-established event, with a very good national and international reputation. SBMF is the main event on formal methods in Brazil, qualified as one of the high quality national events by Brazilian research agencies. Besides technical sessions, the symposium presents invited speakers from the international community. Publication of the proceedings in LNCS series of Springer is under definition.

The symposium also includes a workshop on theses and dissertations (WTD) in formal methods. The WTD is a student forum for bringing together graduate students that research on topics related to formal methods. The aim of this meeting is to present and discuss the proposed contribution, preliminary results and possible directions for their research.

In 2010, the SBMF will be held in the touristic town of Natal, in Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil. The event will be organized by the Informatics and Applied Mathematics Department of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN).

Topics of interest
The aim of this event is to provide an opportunity for researchers with a broad range of interests in formal methods to discuss recent developments in this field. The topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

" Well-founded specification and design languages;
" Formal aspects of popular languages and methodologies;
" Logics and semantics of programming and specification languages;
" Reusable domain theories;
" Type systems and category theory in computer science;
" Computational complexity of methods and models;
" Computational models;
" Rewriting systems;
" Formal methods integration;
" Formal methods for software/hardware development;
" Formal methods applied to model-driven engineering;
" Code generation;
" Formal design methods;
" Specification and modeling;
" Abstraction, modularization and refinement techniques;
" Program and test synthesis;
" Techniques for correctness by construction;
" Formal methods and models for objects, aspects and component systems;
" Formal methods and models for real-time, hybrid and critical systems;
" Formal methods and models for service-oriented systems;
" Models of concurrency, security and mobility;
" Model checking;
" Theorem proving;
" Static analysis;
" Formal techniques for software testing;
" Software certification;
" Formal techniques for software inspection.
" Teaching of, for and with formal methods;
" Experience reports on the use of formal methods;
" Industrial case studies;
" Tools supporting the formal development of computational systems;
" Development methodologies with formal foundations;
" Software evolution based on formal methods.

Papers with a strong emphasis on Formal Methods, whether practical or theoretical, are invited for submission.

Relevant Dates
10/06/2010: Paper submission deadline
07/08/2010: Acceptance notification
21/08/2010: Camera-ready version due
Instructions to prospective authors

The following types of submissions are expected:

Technical papers: Unpublished and original work that have clear contributions to the state of the art on the theory and practice of formal methods. Papers will be judged on the basis of originality, relevance, technical soundness and presentation quality. Papers must be written in English and not exceed 16 pages in the LNCS format (see ).

WTD papers: Master and PhD students are invited to submit papers that give a report on the research they are developing. The papers must correspond to individual work but may be co-authored by the advisor. Papers must be no longer than 8 pages, including all figures, tables and references.

Every accepted paper MUST have at least one author registered to the symposium by the time the camera-ready paper is submitted; the author is also expected to attend the symposium and present the paper. Papers originally submitted in English MUST be presented in English. Papers can be submitted via the following link:

Bug reports:

photo proof that I was once young / Veterans Day letter from your old Army buddy Joe Shloblowdowski / intense fucking & better music during wartime

Click image to travel back in Time 40 Years.

Proof that I was once young. That's moi when I was a draftee in the U.S. Army during some Asian war whose name I seem to have forgotten, maybe a reader knows the name of the old war and can Leave a Comment and remind me. The war took 58,000 young American lives, they all came back to the USA in flag-draped coffins, and it just went on and on and on and on and on. We lost.

The faux poster behind me refers to an MOS -- Military Occupation Specialty, a code for your Army job. 11B ("Eleven Bravo") was the MOS you most did not want to end up with (unless you're suicidally insane): 11B = Light Weapons Infantryman.

I was a 71Q (Seventy-one Quebec), an MOS so rare and obscure that when I got my orders, my officers had to go back to headquarters to look it up in The Great Book of All MOSes. They had never seen one of me before.

HINT: Al Gore and I had the same MOS.

Letter to my old Army Pal in the USA state shaped like the palm of the mitten of the right hand.

My Old Army Buddy Name (OABN) is Joe Schloblodowski. Once a year the phone rings and a confused wife answers and some guy says, "Hey, Mrs. Plodkin, this is Art's old Army Buddy Joe Schloblodowski! It's Veterans Day! Is Art there?"


Horrible horrible day -- and wrapping it in a gorgeous Indian Summer day in my beautiful new house in the middle of the Great Boreal Deciduous Forest, with my new polydactyl pussycat Stuart Wallace Darnley (Cynthia actually had an uncle Wally with all those names), isn't doing a damn thing to make it any less horrible.

Girls and women struggle through life accumulating evidence that their only reason for existence is to reproduce, and that surely must be an unpleasant and confusing lifelong pain in the ass; they have always had my sympathy, and my cooperative efforts to help them with their aspirations beyond reproduction. I like to tutor them in calculus so they can become engineers.

They should try our gender, and our magic Prom Night -- we seem to exist to be put on ships or airplanes and sent to the far side of the world to try to murder strangers while the strangers are trying to murder us.

Yesterday in front of the supermarket Cynthia encountered an Old Vet -- he had all the proper identification, he was the McCoy -- and the only thing she could find in her pocket was a $5 bill. She gave it to him, he was quite startled, and he took her hand and kissed it. (I think she would have preferred a simple "Thank you, Ma'am.")

I actually went to a small-town Veterans Day parade during the Clinton years, I was shacked up with a woman who had a 4-year-old son, and we thought he might like to see/hear the cannon and the bugles and the blank rifle fire. (The cannon terrified him.)

For myself I thought a VD in which I did not cower and cringe in the basement might have some magical power to heal me and bring me some closure and all that kind of theraupeutic Mumbo-Crappo. Clinton was pretty good about not starting Big Wars, and the Little Wars he bumbled into were short, he clearly had a Vision that was allergic to American wars that just went on and on and on and on. So it seemed I might be able to survive a small-town simple VD during peacetime.

It was okay. There was a lot of genuine sincerity. And they wheeled out a gentleman I knew, funny old geezer who'd flown Spads or Fokkers or Whatevers in World War One, he must have been in his 90s, and he loved to wear his leather flying cap and goggles and scarf and the whole outfit. My buddy at the church shelter was a deacon and said the geezer used to regale him with stories about being shot down behind enemy lines in France and spending a month hiding in farmhouse basements drinking beaujolaise and having lots of sex with French farm girls. War Is Hell, and if you're lucky, Fun.

But I'm cowering in the basement again. It's not peacetime. And these are just going on and on and on and on. I don't think Obama will have the balls to just look at the folks and say, "Okay, we're out of here now, I'm bringing everybody home, let the Asians work it out amongst themselves, we'll send a check every Ramadan and wish everybody good things."

If I hear one more American citizen say, "Well, it's different for these guys, there's no draft, they all knew what they were getting themselves into," watch for my photo on Page One as the State Police lead me away.

I wouldn't have minded if we'd learned something. Outside of the dread, terror and fear, it was a spectacularly interesting experience.

And in wartime, Death is so close, that young people want to fuck a lot more, they want to cling to each other ferociously much more, to try to conquer or dispel or forget about Death with fucking and Life and unplanned pregnancies. Everything they were taught in church and Scouts and Hygiene Class, they just stop caring about while the war rages.

And the music was so much better. (Apologies to Rap Boy, who still owes me some music and graphic novels. Please also tell him that if I ever catch him with a recruiter's business card in his pocket, I am driving to Ann Arbor to beat the living shit out of him, and I can do it, too, I just found my aluminum baseball bat.)

It is possible I hold the US Army record for wearing my uniform less than any other soldier in American history. My Top [First Sergeant] at Fort Benning ordered me never again to try to sew anything on my uniform by myself, and he also told me that if the entire United States Army were assembled in one huge formation, and he could stand on a hill and see every soldier, he could spot me in an instant.

I don't know what's wrong with me, that I think young lives are valuable, and worth protecting, that I think young men and young women have a right to try to get older and find love and become what they dream of becoming. I'll never be a Good American thinking this way. I'm a disgrace. This should have been obvious to you and everyone in Corpus Christi even then.

Sometimes Cynthia warns me of anniversaries, like her dad's passing, and tells me she may be very sad that day. I started to tell her that this might be a rough day for me, and she said she knew what day it was, and was way ahead of me. I do so hate this holiday and the anger and fury it cooks up in my addled personality.

I see the television images, and except that color and Hi-Def have replaced B&W, I see myself again, and you, and B******, I see us all again, wondering what condition we'll be in when our Time in Service ends, if we'll still have our genitalia, if we'll still have some semblence of emotional and psychological stability, if we can go Home and re-shuffle ourselves into our interrupted lives, if our old friends will embrace us or cringe as if we were lepers.

On hand today I have Valium -- I'll start with half a yellow and hope that suffices -- and in January Massachusetts voters decriminalized 1 oz. or less of marijuana, just like Ann Arbor, and I have some very nice stuff. If by mischance I should get popped with it, I'll pay my $100 fine and frame the ticket and hang it on my office wall. No jail anymore, no criminal record.

A few years ago I read that marijuana was becoming popular with the troops again -- so they could flunk their drug tests and be dishonorably discharged [and get the fuck out of Iraq or Afghanistan, or avoid being sent there]. I'll bet that when push comes to shove, a lot of the flunkees get a stern lecture from the sergeant major, an Article 15, and are ordered to return to the barracks and not do it again.

If these wars ever end, can we get together and throw some sort of raucous party? Your kids, my cats, our wives, B******, B******'s lovely son R***** -- he's at U-Mass down the road, blossoming into a very talented classical woodwind player -- and I just treated him and a pal to a real swell Korean dinner, it was a treat to spend a few hours with him. He has better things to do at his age than be bored for hours by Joe Schloblodowski, but I think he was curious about me, and I was certainly curious to see what kind of creature B****** produced. He's a very nice, very interesting, talented creature, like your creatures. Long rich lives to them all.

Well, this maudlin letter is Your Fault, I was planning to hide in the basement all day, but I checked my e-mail first. Thanks for saving all those remarkable negatives. Send me any of them you like -- I can use them as documentary evidence that I once was young, and frightened, and miserable, and had lots of young, frightened, miserable, worried friends.

As the beautiful old Irish fiddle air sings:

SP5 Joe Schloblodowski
[U.S. Army, 1969 - 1971]

11 November 2009

More Lèse-majesté bullshit in Thailand

The Times of London (UK)
Wednesday 11 November 2009

Richard Lloyd Parry
and Thaksin Shinawatra
accused of lèse-majesté

by Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent

A group of Thai politicians and generals have accused a Times journalist of insulting the country’s monarchy by reporting comments by Thaksin Shinawatra — an offence that carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

The complaint against Richard Lloyd Parry, the Asia editor of The Times, derives from an interview with Thaksin that was published in Monday’s newspaper and on Times Online the day before.

According to the Bangkok Post, members of a group of Thai monarchists called Siam Samakkhi (United Siam) have made an allegation of lèse-majesté against Thaksin and Mr Lloyd Parry. The Government blocked parts of Times Online from being accessed within the country.

Kasit Piromya, the Foreign Minister, said: “Thaksin’s interview is a violation of the monarchy, which is the country’s core pillar and a highly respected institution. It is unacceptable and should have never taken place.”

It is not clear which parts of the interview led to the complaint by four members of Siam Samakkhi. They include Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn, a critic of Thaksin, and General Somchet Boonthanom, the former head of the Thai Council for National Security.

In a letter published in The Times today, Thaksin says: “Accusations that I am against the monarchy have been used by my political enemies in Thailand many times in attempts to discredit me. They will not succeed for I am and always will be a faithful and loyal servant to the King.”

Lèse-majesté was enacted in the 1950s but has never been invoked by members of the Royal Family. Thai citizens are empowered to bring charges against others — although it is up to police and prosecutors to decide whether to act on them.

The BBC’s former South-East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, was investigated, although never charged, for the crime. One complaint was that a photograph of the King appeared below that of a Thai politician on a page on the BBC website.

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10 November 2009

11th hour of 11th day of 11th month / Veterans Day / When you see millions of the mouthless dead

Click image for larger.

The first systematic use of the perfected modern machine gun in war. Battle of the Somme, France, 1916. Note the gas masks.

To say that the poem at the bottom of this post is my favorite war poem is like saying that prostate cancer is my favorite kind of cancer. I wish it had never been written, I wish there had not been a reason why a young Scot wrote it or felt he had to write it, and then was shot through the head and died instantly in France during the Battle of Loos, on Wednesday 13 October 1915.

His body was lost, but his kit bag was found and sent home to his
family in Aberdeen. They found this poem inside it.

The modern, effective, reliable machine gun
made its appearance during
World War One. Hiram Stevens Maxim, the American-English inventor who finally perfected the military combat machine gun, believed the weapon was so deadly and horrible that no sane national leaders would ever wage a war that employed such weapons. Maxim believed his machine gun had ended war.

I have had the interesting experience of crawling through dirt and mud
at night while machine gun bullets whizzed about 2 feet = 0.6 meters above my head. It was a training exercise, of course, and I was guaranteed to live through it if I did not panic and stand up -- which a few trainees do every year. (This is, after all, a young man's very first experience crawling under machine gun fire, and some simply don't react to it very well.)
The training machine gun uses low-caliber low-energy ammunition, .25 caliber, so there is a good chance if you do panic and stand up, you'll just be perforated a lot, but might live through the experience. When you get out of the hospital, you might even get to return to training to learn to be a combat soldier, and so get another chance to crawl under machine gun fire.

Real war machine guns since Maxim's -- no chance. And when it was
regularly employed in France during World War One, the standard infantry attack tactic was to climb ladders out of trenches, and then march toward the enemy, which was firing modern high-caliber machine guns at the attacking soldiers. So this was a tactic already known in advance to result in casualties of one half or three quarters of all the attacking soldiers. When the whistle blew and you were ordered to climb the ladder, go "over the top," run or march through "No Man's Land" straight into withering machine-gun fire, you were, statistically, a dead man.

If you lived through one or more of these charges, you got a new
nickname: Lucky.

What do you think you are worth? Are you valuable?
Or are you
worthless, disposable? During peacetime, you are allowed and encouraged to indulge the fantasy that you are a valuable human being, that all society, and its leaders, consider you a valuable part of society worth protecting and saving and encouraged to live as long and as healthy a life as possible.

Well, that's total crap, which you quickly learn when your luckless ass gets caught up in uniform during wartime. What happens next is based entirely on the Reality that you and tens or hundreds of thousands of luckless dicks just like you are totally worthless, have no value whatseover, and can and will die, and that will further the cause of your side. By World War II, the branch of mathematics called Operations Research was able to analyze warfare very closely, and thus chart success or failure based on numbers of dead or wounded soldiers. If, for example, your side had 1200 young men killed during a battle, but the enemy side had 2700 young men killed, Your Side Wins The Battle, and your general is praised and promoted.

A particularly important moment for the new Operations Research was
the World War II battle for the island of Guadalcanal, in the South Pacific. Neither the Americans trying to invade and capture the island, nor the Japanese defenders, could get reinforcements or new shipments of weapons and ammunition, so the day-by-day numbers of how the long battle progressed, measured in dead soldiers per day, became a textbook, with differential equations, for the mathematical way ferocious combat actually works. Since then they can put a number on what a soldier is worth.

Already war in the sky is getting rid of its human beings, and instead
reconnaissance and ground attack functions are being given to a new generation of robot drone planes, without human pilots. The drones have pilots, but the pilots sit in trailers a thousand miles from the battlefield, and watch television pictures which the flying drone broadcasts.

Human fighter jet pilots also can no longer safely sustain the
increasing g (gravity) forces which cutting-edge fighter jet airplanes subject the pilots to. As the technology gets better, faster, more maneuverable, the technology forces air combat to stop using human beings in combat airplanes.

Military weapons research is also trying to develop machines and
robots for land combat which also will end the use of human beings on the battlefield. Soon our wars will be robots slugging it out with other robots, and supercomputers providing the leadership, tactics and strategy.

One of the problems is that the human nervous system is simply not
robust and strong enough to withstand very much modern high-explosive machine gun and assault weapon combat. If we survive our combats physically, we are not so lucky psychologically and neurologically. We are real fucked up in the head for the rest of our lives.

An interesting depiction of the sequelae to the combat experience is
the film "Gods and Monsters," about the Hollywood movie director James Whale ("Frankenstein," "The Bride of Frankenstein"). Whale was a British soldier in France during World War One.

The guns of World War One, on the Western Front, by agreement of both sides, fell silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Since then it is common to observe a holiday every year on 11 November dedicated to military veterans. In the UK and Commonwealth it is called Remembrance Day, in the USA it is called Veterans Day.

The United States, and an assortment of allies, is currently waging two wars in Asia, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Click here to see, in precise numerical detail, how many soldiers and military of all branches and allied forces, have been killed so far in these wars.

US war deaths are (if possible) flown home to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, which also houses the US military's central mortuary.
Click here to see photographs of the ceremonies attendant to the return of our flag-draped coffins. See what we have done to our own children.

What we have done to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan -- these numbers are startling, staggering, beyond the capacity of human beings to comprehend.
~ ~ ~
When You See Millions
of the Mouthless Dead

Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915)

When you see millions of the mouthless dead

Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you'll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, "They are dead." Then add thereto,
"Yet many a better one has died before."
Then, scanning all the o'ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.

Original text: Charles Hamilton Sorley. Marlborough and other Poems. 4th edition. Cambridge: University Press, 1919: 78 (no. XXXIV). First publication date: 1916. Composition date: 1915. Form: sonnet. Rhyme: ababbabacdcdcd