Happy Birthday, Niece!

Happy fourth birthday to my niece
Jun 122012

Happy Birthday, Niece!* Not that you will see this, because your are four years old and your laptop is pretend and plays “Old MacDonald” but does not connect to the Internet, and your smartphone is real but it’s deactivated, and your parents can’t show it to you because they never come here so they won’t know about it, either. But it’s the thought that counts, they say, so when I show up at your birthday party later today without a gift, just remember that I thought about you and that will be just as good.

Bill with Niece
Bill with Niece at age 12 days (Niece is 12 days, Bill is older)


Name withheld for privacy to prevent online stalking or whatever.

Report Disable Motorist

Do your duty, citizen: report disable motorist
Jun 062012
roadside message board reading "REPORT DISABLE MOTORIST"
Created at Atom Smasher

Driving along the highway today I saw one of those generator-powered roadside signs with this message:


That’s a fake version of the sign over there at the right because I wasn’t able to snap a picture of the real one as I went by at 65 55 mph. Though I did consider, more than briefly, getting off the road and looping back with camera at the ready so I could get a picture.

The real sign was narrower (or the type bigger) than the fake sign pictured here, so “DISABLE” wasn’t so much a typo as a running out of space. Clearly they meant: “REPORT DISABLED MOTORISTS.” Page 2 of the message told me to call #77 to make my report.

For a moment I considered calling to report the fellow in the next lane with the wheelchair symbol on his license plate, but then I realized they wanted me to report disabled vehicles, not motorists. If I were a slightly different person, I would have called anyway and recorded the conversation for your enjoyment.

Another plug for Mucca Pazza

Check out Mucca Pazza. You will like them.
Jun 012012

During a brief trip to Cleveland last Summer I caught part of a performance by the circus-punk marching band Mucca Pazza and loved them. I got to see them again last month when they came to Washington, DC, for two performances as part of a street arts event put on by the Kennedy Center (you can find video of one of their performances here), and I loved them all over again.

They have a new album coming out soon and recently released a video for one of their songs, which you will enjoy unless there is something wrong with you:

For those of you in the DC area, they’ll be back for a free performance as part of the Tour de Fat on June 16.

May 222012

I’ve discovered that I have quite a backlog of pictures on my phone of things that need to be made fun of commented on. Here’s the first one:

van with sign on side: "Psychic reading. Call for appomiment"

There’s an obvious and old joke–why would I need an appointment? Doesn’t the psychic know I’m coming? But mainly I can’t figure out where “appomiment” comes from. At first I thought it might be carried over untranslated from the psychic’s non-English native language, but I haven’t yet turned up a language where “appomiment” is legal. Most of the results from a Google search are Google Books results where the optical character recognition software misread a properly-spelled appointment. There were, however, a few human-generated occurrences of “appomiment.” It’s hard to tell, given that most people posting on the Web are only semi-literate, but they seem to come from native English speakers.

On Facebook, Becky Princess Butterworth shares her “eye brow waxin” appomiment needs with the whole world.

In a pain management discussion, a forum poster writes,

look when i am in a flair up with my back i get spacy with the pain more so than the meds i blow off appomiments and work and forget a lot of things … you need to set up a appomiment with your doctor … let him know how you feel tell him you want him to manage “ALL YOUR MEDS”….

In another forum we find

Hi i am 13 weeks and 3 days today and just wanted to know how long it is between your frist midwife appomiment and the secound one as they have sent me a date for januery and baby is due in april.

And then, bless his heart, there’s Sal, writing a blog called “My Day’s“:

welp this hetectic weekend is over thank god, i didn’t like it at all ahah well today i didn’t get to go to school..darn and i was lookin forward to it too, no but i went all the way to novato for a chiropracter appomiment for my back cuz it hurts alot and cuz the accident thingy just wanted to make sure speakin of the accident its all over and done with the guy fixed his car him self. the only bad thing is that sals car going to car heaven tomorrow! hahah it was blowin hela oil out the tail pipe today it was horrible, poor piston rings..haha wheee whoo im going to starbucks tomorrow morning! haah man i dont have a car now! that bites hela hard welp haha i dont really want to type this today like usual ahah i just typed hela shit so ya ima go get a bowl of honey nut cherrios and a bannana! YUMMY!

You don’t have to read around long on My Day’s to realize that a) bold white text on a black background makes your head hurt* and b) Sal is deficient in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and, most importantly, a sense of irony:

Shit man haven’t wrote in the for daaaaays!!! this is going to be humongo big like emilys balls! hahahahaha anyway umm this week was purtty chill. In english we got this book and it hurts my brain hella bad…its like from the south and its a black person point of view and the spelling is so fucked up! ahah its like impossible to read..i was lauhgin when i teacher was reading it out loud! so umm ya that’s about it nothing exciting went down …..oh on thrus me n chirs went to Starbucks..haha it was great then we went to get ross HA HAHAHA OMG HAHA it was great his car only has 2 seats so ross had to ride in the back were the spare tire was..ahaha and their is no carpet stuff back their just metal..ahah it was great then we turned the stearo up hella and let the 12″ bumb out ross ear..

Occasionally he does realize that he might be misspelling something:

so i stayed home…bored…went to walmart and got Co2 and pellets for my pellet gun, gonna shoot me sum possems!!(SP) haha ya we have them in our back yard! haha and man do i gottta PEEE! haha i just dont want to get up

I frequently see “(SP)” used in situations like this and I always wonder: Why does he care that he’s misspelling possum but doesn’t care that he’s also misspelling every third word that he writes? And, if he’s aware that he doesn’t know how to spell the word, why doesn’t he go look it up? A quick Web search wouldn’t take much more time than typing “(SP).”

Back at “appomiment,” I’m still stumped as to how people end up writing appointment that way. I’ve never heard it pronounced as “appomiment” or anything close.  When I went to search Bing, I noticed from the suggested searches that “appomient” and “appoiment” are popular mistakes:


“Appoiment” makes sense as a typo or misspelling based on mispronunciation, but “appomient” is just as baffling to me as “appomiment.” In this example the writer uses both “appoiment” and “appomient,” suggesting that maybe she thinks it’s spelled “appoiment” and “appomient” is a typo for “appoiment” (bonus: another use of “(sp)” for one misspelling in a sea of them):

i need serious answeres no answere like”ewww” or “go to the doctors” i have had this problem my hole life and have gone to doctor appoiment and doctor appomient and need some answeres i have had ultra sounds and upper gis and a colonoscapy(sp?) okso heres my prob i can go like a week and some times up to 2 weeks with out going to the bathroom and when i go to the bathroom i am in so much pain some times i would rather just die then have to go to the bathroom and i get naushies 90% of the time when i go to the bathroom i will almost puke my mouth will fill up with spit like some on eturned on a faucet and then i will have diariha and be sick as a dog for likr 3days

And I’ll end with that lovely image fresh in your mind. If any of you, dear readers, can shed some light on this “appomiment” thing, please pipe up.



Sal complains that he’s getting a D in his web design class at school. He blames it on the fact that he “missed 3 weeks from the flu” but I suspect there might be other factors.

Icelandic politician relocates home of elves who saved his life

Iceland's special twist on the zany, corrupt politician theme
May 172012

Posts at Iceland Review and Raving Ravens report that Árni Johnsen, a member of the Icelandic parliament, has had a 24-ton boulder moved to his home in the Westman Islands off the Southern coast of Iceland. Árni wanted to save the stone from destruction because it’s home to some elves who saved his life two years ago when he crashed his car nearby. The stone was subsequently in danger of being paved under as the highway was widened, so Árni had it moved out of the path of construction. Now he’s decided to move it to his house.

He called in Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir, an expert from Álfagarðurinn (the Elf Garden), who is able to see and communicate with the elves. Iceland Review quotes Árni:

“She said it was incredible, that she had never met three generations of elves in the same boulder before.”

“She said an elderly couple lives on the upper floor but a young couple with three children on the lower floor,” the MP described.

The specialist concluded that the boulder’s inhabitants were content with the move. “But they asked whether the boulder could stand on grass. I said that was no problem but asked why they wanted grass. ‘It’s because they want to have sheep,’ Ragnhildur replied,” Árni continued.

The specialist also said that the elves wish for the boulder’s “window side” to face the view. “I promised to do so,” Árni stated.

The boulder was trucked to its new location while the elves rode in a sheepskin-lined basket in Ragnhildur’s Peugeot, eating honey all the way. You can see pictures of all this at Visir and video at Morgunblaðið and RÚV.

This may not be the storybook happy ending it seems, though. In a followup article, Iceland Review reports that Magnús Skarphéðinsson, principal of the Icelandic Elf School, has doubts about whether the elves really consented to the move. Magnús warns that accidents are known to follow disruptions of elf settlements. Indeed, only last year some construction equipment breakdowns were blamed on angry elves, and such elf-related problems are common.

If it’s true that Árni has taken the elves’ home without their consent, it wouldn’t be the first time he has stolen property in the name of home improvement. As described in The Iceland Weather Report, Árni was convicted several years ago of corruption, fraud, and embezzlement for taking money from the National Theatre (which he oversaw) to pay for the construction and renovation of his homes.

What may surprise you most about all of this elf business is the fact that it’s being reported mostly with a straight face. That’s because belief in elves (more correctly, huldufólk, or “hidden people”)–or at least acceptance of the possibility of their existence–is fairly widespread in Iceland (see articles in Iceland Review and Slate).

While many Icelanders regard the elves mostly as something to avoid when building roads, others, like Hallgerdur Hallgrímsdóttir, enjoy having sex with them. Her blog, Sex with Humans is Boring, is no longer being updated, but you can watch a video of her discussing sex with elves (and her book about it) at VICE. Her elves apparently are much taller than the basket-sized ones that Árni kidnapped.

Music review: The Turpentine Ray; Book review: Prague

In which Bill posts two Prague-themed reviews to reassure you that Bill's Head is still in business
Feb 112012

An acquaintance of mine plays in a band in Prague called The Turpentine Ray, and they’ve just released their first album, “The First TV Dinner.” They describe their style as “turbine room folk music,” and I’d say that’s as good a description as any.

My review of the album: I like it. And I’m not just saying that because I know the guy. That’s not a particularly insightful review, I know, but you can just go listen for free and decide for yourself if you like it. Be sure to buy it if you do.

A picture from Prague 

While we’re on the subject of Prague: I recently read Arthur Phillips’s novel Prague, which is set in Budapest and hasn’t much to do with Prague at all. Or perhaps everything to do with Prague. I had read a later novel by Phillips, The Egyptologist, a few years ago, or tried to, anyway–I think I got bored and quit before the end. So I was a bit skeptical when I received Prague as a gift, but it sounded like something I should like, and in fact was. I quite liked it, and now perhaps will have to give The Egyptologist another try.

Prague follows five 20-something American and Canadian expats living in Budapest, all of them longing for other places and people. The related ideas of nostalgia, longing, and discontent recur throughout the book–one of the characters is even a scholar of nostalgia. I’ve never been to Budapest but I have been to (and enjoyed) Prague and have heard that the two cities are similar–river down the middle, famous bridge, castle on a hill, funicular, etc. As I read descriptions of Budapest in Prague the mental images I formed were all based on Prague, so the book might as well have been set there as far as I was concerned. Perhaps it was my nostalgia for Prague and my occasional fantasy of life as an expat that made me like Prague.

If you’ve read the book (or any of his others) let me know what you thought.

A cheaper alternative to spending $4.3 million for a dull photograph

A boring photograph just sold for $4.3 million. Here's a cheaper alternative.
Nov 162011

I don’t think I had ever heard of Andreas Gursky until I read yesterday that one of his photographs just sold for $4.3 million, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold. Christie’s auction house describes the photograph, Rhein II, as “a dramatic and profound reflection on human existence and our relationship to nature on the cusp of the 21st century.” OK. Whatever. Here’s the photograph:

Andreas Gursky's Rhein II
Andreas Gursky/Christie’s Images, Ltd., 2011

The Guardian reports that

The desolate featureless landscape shown in Rhine II is no accident: Gursky explained in an interview* that it is his favourite picture: “It says a lot using the most minimal means … for me it is an allegorical picture about the meaning of life and how things are.”

In fact the artist carefully digitally removed any intrusive features – dog walkers, cyclists, a factory building – until it was bleak enough to satisfy him.

That’s right: it’s not really even a photograph–it’s a Photoshop composition.

Well, I suppose the buyer will enjoy bragging about owning it.


But maybe your taste is different from mine, and you think that this “photograph” is interesting. Maybe you even hoped to purchase it, but got outbid. Well, here’s some good news. Shortly after I saw Rhein II, I happened to walk past a cactus that I have in my house, and noticed a similarity.

So I cropped a picture of it…

cactus detail

…and then spent 10 minutes in Photoshop until I was satisfied that it was conveying my intended message about the meaning of life and how things are:

Bill's Cactus II photograph, which is almost as good as Gursky's Rhein II
Cactus IICourtesy of Bill

It’s not my best Photoshop work, since I’m working without benefit of my dominant hand and also didn’t want to waste a lot of time on this, so I’m offering it for sale at the bargain price of $4,338.50, which is 0.1% of what Gursky’s photograph sold for. I’d say Cactus II is at least one tenth of one percent as interesting to look at as Rhein II is, so it seems like a fair price. Now, for this unbelievably low price, you’re getting an unframed print that’s about 30 inches long. I realize that part of the appeal of Gursky’s work is the large size of the prints. Therefore, I am also offering my photograph glass mounted at 80″ x 140″ (about the same size as Rhein II) for the still very reasonable price of $43,385.

Or, if you think that both Gursky’s photograph of the Rhein and mine of my cactus are actually quite dull, by all means take a look through my gallery and see if there’s something else you’d like instead.


I tried to watch the documentary that contains this interview, but got bored before Gursky made his appearance. I’m still not sure that Ben Lewis, with his breathless enthusiasm for Gursky, isn’t having us on.
For the record, I think some of Gursky’s other work is interesting.

Big Brother is stalking me

I recently did some Web searches involving the word "coin," and now suddenly I'm getting mail from the United States Mint. Coincidence?
Oct 262011

Bill's head on a gold coinI don’t collect coins. I’ve never been interested in the topic other than that I think numismatics is a cool word (though not as cool as numismatism, which sadly isn’t a “real” word, or numismatology, which is).* I’ve never bought anything from the United States Mint or had any other dealings with them. If I’ve ever received mail from them before I’ve forgotten it. But I did recently spend a lot of time doing Web searches that involved the word coin for my post on “to coin a phrase.”  I even stopped by the US Mint Web site when I was looking for pictures to illustrate the post. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that I opened my mailbox the other day and found this:

envelope from the US Mint

Inside was the 2011 Fall Catalog of collectible coins. I do a few Web searches and all of a sudden the United States government thinks I might want to buy some coins? Creepy.

Continue reading »

Oct 212011

According to nutjob Harold Camping, I should be dead now. Or soon, anyway. Sometime today. I’ve completely lost interest in this whole stupid Rapture thing but felt compelled to make mention of it here anyway, since you expect it of me. Actually I had completely forgotten about it, despite the fact that it’s on my calendar, until an alert reader sent me this commentary by a Jesuit with a sense of humor, which you can go read in lieu of anything witty from me: It’s October 21: What I’ll miss when the world ends.

You can find my previous coverage here.

How to coin a phrase

Bill looks at the origin, meaning, use, and misuse of "to coin a phrase." Ben Franklin stops by, too.
Oct 192011

Last year I coined the phrase “raining monkeys and banjos,” and I coined it correctly: I invented a phrase that didn’t exist before. Lately “to coin a phrase” has been jumping out at me when I hear it, because it seems like most people are using it incorrectly–they say “to coin a phrase” when really they’re quoting someone else’s phrase, at best. I had a specific example of incorrect usage (spouted recently by some politician or other) which was what got me thinking about it enough to write this post, but I’ve forgotten what it was. So here’s an example from The Daily Telegraph:

Given London’s importance as an global financial centre, this Commission and its aftermath could also influence the shape of the world economy. British banking reform, to coin a phrase, isn’t a matter of life and death. It’s far more important than that.

Who knows which phrase they even think they’re coining here, given the way those sentences are structured, but they certainly haven’t created anything new.

I set out to write a quick piece about rampant misuse of the phrase, but things got more complicated, as they’re wont to do.

Continue reading »