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.

Google v. DuckDuckGo

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Over the last few months I’ve been making changes — some big, some trivial — to my life. (I bought a new dining room table, for instance.) Part of it is that, after five years of retirement, five years of goofing off, I’m finding myself a little restless, so I’ve applied myself to making some changes.

One of those changes was finally getting a new laptop. The old Sony Vaio (running Windows Vista!) I’ve had since 2011 worked well enough (even with the squished bug) that I never pursued getting something else, although I always meant to. As I’ve said before, sometimes “well enough” works well enough for me.

This fall I bought a new (Dell XPS 15; Windows 10) laptop, and as part of the whole “changes” thing I’ve been trying DuckDuckGo for my searches rather than good ol’ Google

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Story Completeness

Last week I did a little jazz riff on the idea of “story space” — where all the stories live — and how the interesting stories we want to hear are all improbable to the point of having zero chance of actually happening (unless, gasp, statistics can lie).

I thought I’d return to that basic story space idea and, in the process, finally deal with a note that’s been on my idea board for years. My problem has been that, while the idea the note expresses seemed interesting enough, I’ve never quite seen how to turn it into a post. I’m not even sure the idea makes any real sense, let alone is worth trying to write about.

However that’s never stopped me before, and it’s (almost) Chillaxmus, so cue the music, it’s riff time again…

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Sun Dragon News!

Good news, everyone! The star dragon that’s been munching on our local star has finally gotten tired of chasing its food across the sky and will be moving on at last.

(We’re apparently in a migration path, because we seem to get one nearly every year. Every year I can remember, anyway. Good thing they only feed during the day, so the sun as a little time to recover.)

I’m glad it finally left; I was a little worried it might see Parker as a tasty hors d’oeuvre. Or a toothpick. You never can tell with dragons.

And now our star can start to heal and grow back to its lovely warm summer fullness. (Only problem with that is, it attracts hungry star dragons!)


Story Probability

Yesterday I was re-watching Arachnids in the UK, the fourth episode of the latest season of Doctor Who, and a somewhat goofy idea popped into my head about how to respond to the charge that sometimes stories are just ‘too improbable’ to enjoy — or to have happened at all.

That certainly is an accusation that seems to apply in many cases. In order for some story to have happened at all, certain events had to happen just so and in the right order. It’s easy to shake your head and think, “Yeah, right. As if that could actually ever happen.”

For many years I’ve had a generic response to that accusation, but yesterday I realized it can be justified mathematically!

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Idiot Clowns

Nope. Never liked’m.

Watching the Thanksgiving episode of the rebooted Murphy Brown on CBS, where Murphy decides to cook dinner with easily anticipated and well-worn results, it struck me exactly why I don’t find the show very funny. And why I really don’t find any of the CBS comedies since the 1990s very funny: Idiot Clowns.

In general, it’s why I don’t find a lot of comedy very funny. Idiot Clown comedy requires an idiot clown — someone so stupid they are unaware of basic reality, a blindness forced on them to enable a (typically) lame joke. I find it cheap and easy and without much value.

More to the point, I just don’t like idiots or clowns in my entertainment.

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Fans: Not A Fan

Star Trek wasn’t hugely popular right off the bat, or even for a long time. The first series, after all, lasted only three years and had to fight for survival for most of that time. But it did catch on hugely with us fans; many of us fell in love right away.

From an early point even within the fan community, let alone to mundanes, some of us were careful to identify as Trekkers rather than Trekkies. As I used to put it, “Trekkers are grown ups who love science fiction. Trekkies own a pair of Spock ears.”

Then, because of a little movie, named Star Wars, science fiction went mainstream. And so did the divide between two rather different kinds of fans…

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I’m Offended!

I am offended by people who are offended! It’s like how I am intolerant of people who are intolerant. It’s a challenge. Somehow I have to ignore the self-referential self loathing, but life is paradoxical and ironical, and I’ve always embraced both (and chaos) as personal philosophies.

Irony and paradox aside the whole idea of being offended has become an aspect of society today. We’ve turned it into a cottage industry, and both sides of politics have heavy weaponized it into a WMD.

The problem is often the legitimacy of being offended. When is it right to take offense, and when might the real issue be our own perceptions (and we should just STFU).

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Actors Ain’t All That

As someone whose high school and college education focused on writing and storytelling (through stage, film, and video), I’ve long been askance at how much culture reveres actors while not paying as much attention to the writers who provide their words or the directors who control much of what they do.

I do not at all mean to suggest actors aren’t also artists who bring important skills to the table. In college, I had to find people willing to act (for free!) in my productions — I couldn’t tell my stories without them — so I’m well acquainted with their importance and skills.

My point is only that the stories we love owe as much, if not more, to the writers and directors who create them in the first place.

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Sam’s Song

Father’s Day, 1994
(It really was June 19!)

Back in 1994, when Samantha and I first began living with each other, during our long walks together, I composed this little bit of “doggerel” (to the obvious tune of)…

This little dog, she’s a pup.
She’s got big paws and a tail.
With an arf, arf, sniff, sniff,
chew a rawhide bone.
This little dog came running home.
This little pup, she’s a black lab.
She likes running in the park.
With an arf, arf, sniff, sniff,
chase a tennis ball.
This little dog came running home.
This little lab, her name’s Sam.
She’s getting bigger every day.
With an arf, arf, sniff, sniff,
run around the yard.
This little dog came running home.

(I got a new laptop, so I’ve been going through a lot of old data deciding what to archive and what to transfer to the new machine. Among all those files I found the little dog ditty I wrote 24 years ago. (And I still miss that dog! One of the best I’ve ever known!))

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Texting Subtext

Recent politics makes us, perhaps, overly aware of just how differently from us people can see the world. Recent politics also makes us very aware of how fraught it can be interacting with people who see the world differently. (Although it isn’t the differences that divide us so much as our tribalism.)

Setting politics aside for a moment, I recently stumbled over a difference that I found both bemusing and enlightening. It explains something that’s puzzled me (and caused a degree of head-shaking) for quite a while. What’s cool is how it switches my worldview, because now I understand it’s not a mistake or laziness, but a valid choice.

I’m talking about periods and lower case in text messages!

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