Friday, July 18, 2008


I stumbled upon the Wordle, stubbing a toe on some rough textual elements!

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The
clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the
source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color
schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like.
You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your

La Belle Bianca and I chose the "Au lecteur" of Baudelaire, his ostensible welcome to readers of Les fleurs du mal. "We" made the word cloud you see above, a reduction of which will remain in the blog marginalia at left.

For those wanting the more sensical [cough] version, here it is as Charles wanted you to see it:

Au lecteur

La sottise, l'erreur, le péché, la lésine,
Occupent nos esprits et travaillent nos corps,
Et nous alimentons nos aimables remords,
Comme les mendiants nourrissent leur vermine.

Nos péchés sont têtus, nos repentirs sont lâches ;
Nous nous faisons payer grassement nos aveux,
Et nous rentrons gaiement dans le chemin bourbeux,
Croyant par de vils pleurs laver toutes nos taches.

Sur l'oreiller du mal c'est Satan Trismégiste
Qui berce longuement notre esprit enchanté,
Et le riche métal de notre volonté
Est tout vaporisé par ce savant chimiste.

C'est le Diable qui tient les fils qui nous remuent !
Aux objets répugnants nous trouvons des appas ;
Chaque jour vers l'Enfer nous descendons d'un pas,
Sans horreur, à travers des ténèbres qui puent.

Ainsi qu'un débauché pauvre qui baise et mange
Le sein martyrisé d'une antique catin,
Nous volons au passage un plaisir clandestin
Que nous pressons bien fort comme une vieille orange.

Serré, fourmillant, comme un million d'helminthes,
Dans nos cerveaux ribote un peuple de Démons,
Et, quand nous respirons, la Mort dans nos poumons
Descend, fleuve invisible, avec de sourdes plaintes.

Si le viol, le poison, le poignard, l'incendie,
N'ont pas encor brodé de leurs plaisants dessins
Le canevas banal de nos piteux destins,
C'est que notre âme, hélas ! n'est pas assez hardie.

Mais parmi les chacals, les panthères, les lices,
Les singes, les scorpions, les vautours, les serpents,
Les monstres glapissants, hurlants, grognants, rampants,
Dans la ménagerie infâme de nos vices,

Il en est un plus laid, plus méchant, plus immonde !
Quoiqu'il ne pousse ni grands gestes ni grands cris,
Il ferait volontiers de la terre un débris
Et dans un bâillement avalerait le monde ;

C'est l'Ennui ! - l'oeil chargé d'un pleur involontaire,
Il rêve d'échafauds en fumant son houka.
Tu le connais, lecteur, ce monstre délicat,
- Hypocrite lecteur, - mon semblable, - mon frère !

Go here for excellent translation choices -- I heartily recommend the one by Robert Lowell. It has the right... feel.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tour de France 2008

Incroyable! Google has created a virtual Tour de France 2008, using Google Maps Street View feature, the first use of that imaging in Europe. All 21 stages of the race are available, covering > 3500 kilometers.

As of today, July 17, the race is at stage 12: Lavelanet à Narbonne.

Mark Cavendish won the sprint finish at Narbonne, garnering him his third stage win. Cadel Evans keeps the maillot jaune.

Stage 12 results;

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Columbia
2 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française des Jeux
3 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Ste
4 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
5 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
6 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas
7 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
8 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis
9 Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin Chipotle - H30
10 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner

General classification after stage 12:

1 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto 50.23.05
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC - Saxo Bank 0.01
3 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30 0.38
4 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner 0.46
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0.57
6 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC - Saxo Bank 1.28
7 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Columbia 1.56
8 Juan José Cobo (Spa) Saunier Duval-Scott 2.10
9 Riccardo Riccò (Ita) Saunier Duval-Scott 2.29
10 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale 2.32

And, in a Tour de France newsflash:

Italian rider Riccardo Riccò of Saunier Duval has tested positive for blood
booster Erythropoietin (EPO), French sports daily L'Equipe reported on its
website on Thursday. According to the paper's Damien Ressiot, one of the
climber's urine samples collected by the French Anti-Doping Agency AFLD showed
traces of a third generation EPO called CERA (Continuous Erythropoietin Receptor

The team's buses and cars were reportedly stopped by gendarmes and
searched, and the police were seen taking bags of items away.

The Saunier Duval team has voluntarily withdrawn itself from the Tour
de France, and said it would not compete in any races until further notice.
Directeur sportif Joxean Fernandez Matxin said he was as surprised as anybody.
"We only found out ten minutes ago. The entire team will stop racing, not only
in the Tour de France. We suspend the activities of the team until we understand
what has happened."

Riccò, who won two stages in the Tour de France (the sixth and ninth),
was ninth on general classification before the news broke on Thursday morning.

The Italian's impressive performances have in
the past been explained by his naturally high hematocrit
hacking cough hacking cough . (bolded and
italicized hacking cough, mine.)

At the official Tour de France website, tucked in near the bottom is the Code of Ethics, which contains some great words, like unswerving, values, the test of time, and -- always my favorite -- intrinsic moral virtues. Also mentioned:

Illicitly favouring anyone runs counter to the sporting ethic. It is in this sense that doping, too often present at an ordinary social level, is inadmissible in sport.

La Belle Bianca Castafiore, decked out in fitted bicycle shorts (not quite long enough to cover her voluptuous quadriceps) snorts and sings:

"Ah, je ris de me voir si belle dans ce miroir..."
erythropoietin that, bay-bee

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pensées or How-the-Mind-Works-First-Thing-in-the-Morning

The cowardly writer's way out: Potpourri! Follow the bouncing thoughts, see if they will cohere.

It is 8:17 am and the temperature inside my mouth is 99.7. I've already had Tylenol, but hardly any vodka.

I woke to find Sam-I-Am neatly curled above my head on a spare pillow, gently snoring, Marmy Girl neatly tucked into the bend of my left arm -- but did not wake fast enough to catch Dobby dozing. He is so quick to peer into my eyes, paws planted on my chest, vocalizing his many plaintes. He has a lot to say, and Fred and I allow him all the time in the world to say it.

In lieu of a lilting "bonjour, t'as passé une bonne nuit?" La Belle Bianca fairly intoned that she had dreamt all night of dead philosophers: Barthes, Derrida, Foucault. Just those three. Of the three, she had met two, and felt she had actually *known* one. She had been in the living presence of them all.

Maybe that is why she did not dream of Abélard, Aquinas, or d'Alembert.

This brought to my mind, unbidden, a poem. I am suddenly terrified, because I do not know if this is a poem written by someone else, or that I wrote myself. It feels very much like me, like mine. This is it:

Il y avait un certain Blaise Pascal.

Yes, I will "google" it, of course. But I am telling you -- even if this is not mine, it is mine. I have never felt so close to a group of words before.

Ah, yes, well. I am glad La Belle Bianca is out ferreting a new supplier of confiture de cerise (We have recently undergone a crisis of confidence in our former source. Yes, I wrote crisis of confidence. No, the reference to Jimmy Carter's fabled 1979 diagnosis of the American soul is hardly oblique. Restoration of faith and confidence -- why, this blog is about nothing less. We will, once more, have superlative confiture de cerise.)

Were she here, Bianca, Ms. Thang, would be hooting in my ear, "Ah, je ris de me voir si belle dans ce miroir..." And she'd be right on every score, for it was Prévert, no less, who wrote:

Les paris stupides:

un certain Blaise Pascal

etc… etc...

Born of Bianca's dream, my desired authorship ends as a pari stupide (a stupid bet). So long as we can escape Pascal's insipid wager, right? I have always thought it the most disheartening of proposals, the kind of thing that only brings a gleam to a clever person's eye.

"You must wager; it is not optional... Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God exists... If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists."

All the Christian apologists whom I have known have been blatant, flaming dyspeptics. Imagine if you were dedicated to defending "The Faith" by alleging it to be in happy accord with evidence that is, somewhere, on hand for examination. You'd be burping all over creation, too.

I don't know if anyone made it with me from onset to demise -- I hate to die alone -- but this actually played out quite well. It is an awesome organ, the brain, so supple.

Et la confiture de cerise? Un bon vieux classique dont on ne se lasse jamais...

In mathematics, computing, linguistics and related disciplines, an algorithm is a sequence of instructions, often used for calculation and data processing. It is formally a type of effective method in which a list of well-defined instructions for completing a task will, when given an initial state, proceed through a well-defined series of successive states, eventually terminating in an end-state. The transition from one state to the next is not necessarily deterministic; some algorithms, known as probabilistic algorithms, incorporate randomness.
-- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia