The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13
Jay Hennig is trying to figure out what to do with his life, and in the meantime he is writing a book about a pool party. Follow him at

Advice columns revisited

Finally, an online advice column where all of your questions about life are answered by one of five cartoon columnists. I’m not a heavy tumblr user, but this is probably the best use of tumblr’s “Ask” Box I’ve seen.

Because, really, no one could answer a question about daydreaming better than Mulbert the cartoon moose. Fantasies are fascinating creatures, aren’t they?


“Liking” poems

It’s taken me some effort to learn how to appreciate poetry. I can make broad statements about liking books and music without having to like all books or all music, but with poetry–for whatever reason–it’s been more difficult.

However, as someone who would also say he likes math, opening a book of poems and seeing this has immediate appeal:


This is from R. D. Liang’s Knots, a book of poems about “the patterns of human bondage.” I like this. It gives me that “this looks crazy and I want to understand it” feeling.

That feeling is everywhere in math, though it has nothing to do with liking numbers or concepts: It’s a love for the notation itself, the joy of getting to move towards increasingly strange symbology as you understand more.

And reading Knots feels much the same — up to a point. My fascination thus far is wholly with its notation (e.g. the cryptic use of brackets, the strings of random numbers) and the structures in the book itself (e.g. its syntax — the “knots”). Try this one, for example:

Jack sees that
    Jill does not know
    Jack does not know what
    Jill thinks
    Jack knows.
But Jack can’t see
    why Jill does not know
    that Jack does not know
    what Jill thinks
    he knows.

I’ve been reading these poems for the last few nights and I’ve still yet to get much closer to appreciating the subtleties of what Liang has to say about human psychology. (To me, the poem fragment above is not so much about “knowing what others know” as it is about learning how to parse the sentence to read it.) In some sense, I’m hung up solely on the way it’s presented rather than on what it means.

So I’m curious: When is it okay to not want to understand? (Or is it always okay?) Is “understanding” a poem something different from understanding other things?