Statistics Saturday: Morse Code … codes


Letter Morse Code … code
A dot dash
B dot dash dot dot
C dash dot dash dot
D dash … dot … dot?
E dot
F dot dash dash?
G dash dash … dash?
H dot dot
I no, this is dot dot
J dash dash dash something
K dash dot dash
L dot dash dot dot
M dash dash
N dot dot
O dash dash dash
P dot dash dot dot
Q dash dash dot dash
R dash dot dash
S dot dot dot
T dash
U [ is not represented ]
V dash dash dash doooooot
W dot dash dash(?)
X dot dash dot dot
Y dot dash dot dot
Z [ user’s choice]
zero [ transmit nothing ]
one dot
two dot dot
three dot dot dot
four dot dot dot dot
five dot dot dot dot dot
six dot dot dot dot dot dot
seven dot dot dot dot dot dot dot
eight dot dot dot dot dot dot dot dot
nine dot dot dot dot dot dot dot dot dot
period dot!
question mark dot?
exclamation point dash!
apostrophe d’ash
quote ironic dot
colon dot dot [ transmitted sideways ]
semicolon why are you doing this, seriously, just stop

Reference: The Birth of Neurosis: Myth, Malady, and the Victorians, George Frederick Drinka.

How The Pinball Machines Broke Down


This is, to the best of my ability to reconstruct, how the various pinball machines broke down during what proved to be Demolition Derby Night at the league.

  1. TOTAN. I would like to begin my defense by saying that I was acting properly with respect to normal operational use of this pinball machine. To wit, I was aiming at stuff and hitting the flippers and all that, while the machine wasn’t giving the correct response of very many points. One may speculate that the machine was just coming off a bad night, perhaps after quarreling with an old friend or getting bad news about its car’s brakes. But we must dismiss that hypothesis because it was certainly giving plenty of points to the other people playing in the group with me. Anyway when the left flipper stopped flipping, up, down, or sideways, that was that for Tales of the Arabian Nights.
  2. IJ. While it is true that I was not doing a lot better on Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure, I can’t take any blame for this machine going down because it was the league’s champion player, a kind of supernatural entity manifested whenever sufficiently many machines are brought together in the spirit of fair competition and $2.00 Pabst Blue Ribbon Night, who broke this one. During the “Well of Souls” mode, a portion of the game in which an estimated eighty balls are launched simultaneously on the playing field and you’re left to deal with that, at least one ball showed a previously unsuspected ability to stop being so-called “solid” matter and become some kind of Bose-Einstein Condensate, passing through the thick rubber bands and getting stuck inside that little triangular kicker that’s right above the flippers. I don’t want to seem ungrateful because seeing a ball stuck in such a freak position is a kind of privilege, but this does mean he’s taken the league’s crown for “balls stuck in freak positions”, which I had previously held by getting a ball stuck on the parapets of the castle on Medieval Madness.
  3. G: HS II. I’m completely innocent and uninvolved in this one because we were upstairs glaring at, oh, I’m going to guess The Simpsons Pinball Party, which was only broken in that it’s kind of a lousy game. But while we were there, Getaway: High Speed II‘s ball plunger suffered from a sudden onset of “impostor syndrome”, my age cohort’s great neurosis, and felt so ridiculous at the idea that it was expected to launch pinballs out onto the playing field that it couldn’t do that anymore and just hummed nervously. The curious side-effect of this was making its impostor syndrome no longer a syndrome, because it was right to believe it wasn’t up to the job it was doing.
  4. CQD. Old British telegraphic and wireless Morse Code distress signal, superseded in 1906 by SOS. Not in fact a pinball machine, although the way things were going that night, it was the best game of the lot and I came in eleventh. Passengers were unloaded onto the Aquitania and the ship ultimately towed to Halifax.
  5. FT. So I had this terrible first ball that drained instantly, which at least brought up the “fed up with briiIIIiick!” sound clip from the Father Ted pinball machine, and the second ball was no good either, and when I heard the “what do you say to an extra ball?” sound clip I was ready to swallow my pride at take the pity-award extra ball, and then someone who wasn’t even in the league came over and pointed out nobody ever made a Father Ted pinball machine and we had to scrap all the scores for that too, which is a shame because I’m almost positive I could have got Rabbit Rock Festival Multiball and that would have changed everything.
  6. WtCJ. My continuing insistance that there was too a pinball named Welcome to Cactus Jack’s, about an Old West saloon where cactuses polka dance, drains my credibility every time I bring the subject up and encourages speculation that my time in grad school was one of hallucinogens and eigenfunctions. I insist this is only partially true.

All things considered it was a pretty rough night.

I’m No Good At Music


There are a number of things that any of us should be grateful for. I estimate the number of things to be at least fourteen. But I think the biggest thing any of us can be grateful for is that I’m not singing for you right now. Very likely I’ll never sing for you. You probably won’t believe just how very good this is for you. Fundamentally, I’ve got a deep incompetence about music.

I used to play the violin in elementary school. They trained us in the classic sequence: “Jingle Bells”, and then “Memory” from Cats, and then the Theme to Masterpiece Theater, and I was all right on the notes where you don’t have to put your fingers on the strings, which are like one-eighth of the notes any song expects. For the rest, again, there’s this wondrous sequence of approximate notes that nobody even knew violins could produce, and certainly not that they’d produce on purpose. The violin teacher was nice, though, and often interrupted class to ask whether the song was “Memory” or “Memories”, which could take the whole day to not resolve, while she walked down to the far end of the hallway. I gave up the violin in middle school, where the hallways were shorter.

Heck, I’m even shaky at listening to music. Like, I’ve seen other people turn on the radio and they get all kinds of songs and musicians and musical styles and such. I try it and it’s pretty near always playing “Friday I’m In Love”. It’s a fine song, sure, but there must be something I’m getting wrong if that’s always on. If I try the Internet radio then they’ve got Dennis Day singing “Clancy Lowered The Boom”, which is a less fine song, the kind that makes me want to walk to the far end of the hallway.

I’m not talking about my voice just being untrained, although it is, because the last music teacher who listened to me singing looked sadly at me and walked to the far end of the hallway, and that was elementary school, when they had a good thing to say about your skills in coloring because you managed to stay mostly within the bounds of the school building.

There’s this part of singing, though, where your voice is expected to hit some note. Most songs are kind of fussy, you’re supposed to get this one particular note that the songwriter expected and was planning around. Maybe you can go into a different octave and find some compatible note, but, that’s not me. I have a hard enough time hitting any note, whether or not it’s in the song and whether or not it’s any note that any human agency has ever been capable of. The correct response to stop paying attention to me and hope I’ll stop, and since I’m not paying attention to me, I keep going. I know, but it makes sense in the middle of the tune.

Worse, most songs require whole dozens of notes, some of them not the same one you started with, and there’s just no hoping I’ll get to any of those either. My chance of getting back to the note I started on are pretty much nothing either. This is why I’m better off sticking to my skill in turning songs into Morse code and a string of humming. Nobody cares about what note you’re humming, because if you’re humming people either don’t pay attention or else they’re looking for things to complain about what you’re doing, and either way it doesn’t matter what you’re doing.

You’d think some practice could train me out of this, but, no. I’ve tried playing Beatles Rock Band, for example, and that gives this little indicator about whether the pitch is too low or too high, and I find, like, in the midst of “Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” that Ringo gets out from behind his drums and slugs my avatar and George just walks sadly down to the far end of the hallway. Paul and John just bury their heads in their hands.

Overall, I like music, and think it’s a fine concept. I’d like to be on better terms with it, but I just haven’t got the knack. I’ve got the Cure, but see where that’s gotten me.

CW Music


Almost none of you have heard me sing, and that’s a good thing. While I’m tolerably able to follow along most of the generally accepted words of a song if they’re written out for me ahead of time and can begin and end such words at approximately the right times, I have pretty much the same control over my pitch that a coal-fired locomotive engine has over its position. My voice will pick a note that’s the designated note for the song, even if it doesn’t appear anywhere in the actual song or possibly in all of recorded Western Civilization-informed music including those horrible atonal experiments made by pressing Moog synthesizers under piles of stones until they confessed to witchcraft. It might vary a little around that note as the song moves through its normal melody, but it won’t get more than maybe two-thirds of the way to the flat version of whatever note I started from.

So what I do instead is to hum along to a song, which besides meaning I don’t have to actually get the words right, means I don’t have to go to the trouble of opening my mouth any. But I have the same thing where I have one designated note for each song, and stick to that. What comes out is a tolerably timed “Hmm HMMM hm HMM Hmmm, Hmm HMMM hm HMMMMM, Hmmm Hm-mmm-MMM-MMMMM hmm HMMMMM-hmm-HMMMMmmmMMMM” [*]. It’s quite the monotone spectacle.

Anyway, all this is a way of saying I was stunned to get a special musical achievement award from the American Radio Relay League, the people who bring you ham radio, for my work in translating music into Morse Code. I’m flattered and I’d like to thank everyone who had a part in letting me achieve this, as soon as I think who that could really be.

[*] Original lyrics by Sparks, 1975.