Author Archives: Wyrd Smythe

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts.

The Playfair Cipher

Code master Wheatstone

Among my second tier interests are murder mysteries, detective stories, and cryptography. The first typically includes the second, but there are many detective stories that don’t involve murder. Two of my favorite detectives, Spenser (by Robert B. Parker) and V.I. Warshawski (by Sara Paretsky), often have cases not involving murder.

The third interest I listed, cryptography, doesn’t usually coincide with the first two, but it did play a role in a recent locked-room murder mystery involving the delightful amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey (by Dorothy L. Sayers). While I’ve always enjoyed secret codes, I’d never heard of the cipher Sayers used — the Playfair cipher.

It dates back to 1854, and is kind of cool, so I thought I’d share it.

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NCIS: On Very Thin Ice

Maybe it’s expecting too much that a TV series remain in your heart for 17 seasons. I still enjoy The Simpsons (starting its 31st season) and South Park (starting its 23rd season), but both the cartoon format and the nature of those shows gives them a lot of latitude in exploring new ideas while remaining true to the show.

A drama, like NCIS, which I’ve rated as my favorite TV show for well over a decade, is more restricted. It’s harder for a drama to find new ground while remaining true to its nature. That can lead to stagnation, viewer fatigue, or, in some cases, “jumping the shark.”

Which is all to say I’m very disappointed in NCIS, season 17.

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MN Twins in Postseason!

For the first time since I became a dedicated fan in 2010, my Minnesota Twins are in postseason! They did win a Wildcard spot in 2017, and then lost to the Yankees in the single Wildcard game (damn Yankees). That was after having their worst season in franchise history in 2016. (They lost 103 games and finished last in the MLB.)

But now, as in 2010, they’re going to first official postseason round, the ALDS. And, also as in 2010, they’ll face their arch nemesis, those damned Yankees. Nine years ago the “Bronx Bummers” took us out 1-2-3. Those bummers also took us out of postseason in 2003, 2004, & 2009.

So I’m thinking it’s high time we turn that around!

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Scalzi: Redshirts

I just finished reading Redshirts, by John Scalzi, and it’s just about the best, most entertaining, brilliant story I’ve read in a good long time. It’s so good that I have to place it with other best-of-kind laugh out loud science fiction delights such as Galaxy Quest and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It has a lot in common with Galaxy Quest in being a multi-level utterly ingenious send up and hysterical deconstruction of Star Trek (The Original Series). Scalzi has captured and lampshaded so many of the things fans have discussed over the years. And, as with Galaxy Quest, it’s a pretty good story all on its own.

But it is an absolute must-read for any fan of the original Star Trek.

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Whadda Week!

The culprit!

Well, it’s been quite a week! As mentioned in the last post, the coming of fall (which is always bittersweet for me), a bout of miserably muggy weather, and then electrical problems in my home, have all conspired to batter the shores of my equilibrium. But there have been some raisins in the poo pile. This week, stressful though it was, has turned out a good one.

For one, my Minnesota Twins won the AL Central Division last Wednesday! They are going to postseason for the first time since 2010. (The bad news is that it looks like they’ll face the Yankees — who ended the Twins’ postseason in 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2017.)

And my electrical power problems are fixed. (I think.)

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Scenes From a Walk

Enjoying a nice morning!

I’ve definitely been feeling the wear and tear of my age lately. This past few weeks, especially, a variety of things has conspired to do considerable pounding on my emotional balance. Simply put, it’s been a shitty transition into fall with the looming dark and cold of winter (the Autumnal Equinox was this past Monday).

And since I have an electrician coming tomorrow to try to solve the power outages that have affected half the circuits in my home, it ain’t over yet. On the other hand, counting blessings, the weather is finally fall-like (we had a bout of hot muggy misery last week); I’ve been really enjoying my morning walks; and I read one of the most delightful and brilliant science fiction books.

I’ll tell you about the book this coming Sci-Fi Saturday. Today I thought I’d show you why I love my morning walks!

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It’s About Our Kids

This will rip your heart out (if you have one):

Pass it on to everyone you know, especially your Congress Critters.

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Predictive Art

Do you think this is art? (Or just something your kid could do?)

“Coffee Thyme” by Sam Gilliam, 1980, crayon

Your opinion on this turns out to be highly correlated with your opinion about our current (miserable excuse for a) President.

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Bummer in the Dell

If I went with longer titles, I might have called this post Why I’ll Never Buy Another Dell Computer! Or I could have gone for the much shorter Dell Sucks! But I can’t resist a good pun or play on wyrds, so Bummer it is.

About a year ago I replaced my aging Sony Vaio laptop with a Dell XPS 15. The Sony taught me some hard lessons about buying a laptop online, one of them being “you’ll be sorry if you buy a Sony” — it had many annoyances, not the least of which was the wireless never worked. And it had a literal bug in it! The Dell is better in many ways, but,… well,…

Dell you disappoint me. Let me count the ways…

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Round Numbers

10000002
10004
1008
4016
1064
@char