2006 minutiae digest

  • A display at Doe Library pointed out something I hadn't thought of before.  I have known for years that, at least in the Bay Area, the earthquake of 1906 was known as "the Great Fire."  I had never thought very long about why.  I just figured, "Okay, sure, if the quake lasted a minute and they spent a week putting out fires, then yeah, maybe they call it the Great Fire."  But it turns out that the reason is more subtle. The reason San Franciscans made a big deal about how fire was the real cause of all the destruction… is that they had fire insurance.

  • AP: "Paris Hilton's diaries […] have found their way into the hands of a broker aiming to sell them. David Hans Schmidt, known for handling deals involving celebrity porn, […] declined to describe the diaries' contents, but said they include '[…] relationships, personal feelings, sex, love, breakups, sexual experiences — all those little things that make up a little girl's life.'"  Sure, if the little girl is from Pitcairn.

  • Cal played Washington State in both men's and women's basketball on February 23rd.  The San Francisco Chronicle's headlines for the two games were, for the men, "Bears conquer Cougars," and for the women, "Cal women take care of Cougars."  You know, because females are more nurturing.

  • At the Athenian School in Danville, I saw an art piece in the courtyard.  It was an upright triangular prism with writing on each of its three vertical faces.  One face had a bunch of quotes about intolerance.  Another said "Perpetrators of Intolerance" with a bunch of students' names signed underneath.  The third said "Victims of Intolerance" with the same students' names signed underneath.  The solemnity was undermined somewhat by the fact that the students signed their names with hearts over the i's and smiley faces at the end.

  • Weird phobia of mine: whenever I leave cash for a tip or to pay for a meal at a restaurant and walk out, I'm always afraid that one of the other customers will quickly steal the money and the waitress will think I've stiffed her.

  • Another one: every time I sell a CD to a used record store, I am afraid that I have hidden something valuable in the liner notes and now it's too late to retrieve it.  I don't normally make a practice of slipping $100 bills and/or old love letters into compact disc pamphlets, but what if I did and forgot?

  • I am teaching a class in, of all places, the back room of a CompUSA.  One day as I walked past the notebook computer section, I saw a sign asking, "Want incredible entertainment experiences in your lap?"  I think it was that very question that derailed the Clinton Administration.

  • Every time I look at search results on Youtube I am thankful anew that there was no World Wide Web when I was twelve.  The last thing I need is archived video of my twelve-year-old self playing air guitar to Phil Collins songs or whatever.

  • There's a radio commercial on the air here in which various people talk about what a great gift San Francisco Giants tickets are.  In one clip, a grown man says, "Mom, Dad, I wanna take you to the Giants game, it'll be the most awesome experience you ever had in your life."  Whose life could possibly so dismal that the most awesome experience he or she ever had was a Wednesday matinee against the Milwaukee Brewers?

  • I went to a house with a thin cardboard dartboard taped to the wall.  Underneath it was another piece of cardboard taped to the wall, heavily cratered with the scars of darts that succumbed too quickly to gravity.  Underneath that was an electrical outlet.

  • On the way home one night I passed a place called GENTLE HAIR CUTS.  That's a pretty good name.  I hate those places where they just rip your hair out by the roots.

  • I was listening to the radio and a commercial came on for a teddy bear company.  It said that teddy bears make a wonderful gift for Mothers' Day, and that if you send one to the office on Friday, the recipient "will spend the whole day bragging about her son-slash-husband."  Yeah, if she's Jocasta.

  • cnn.com headline: "Switches put in backward doomed NASA probe."  I guess at this point we're just a step away from "$30 billion spacecraft destroyed on re-entry; accidentally made out of chocolate".

  • I was drinking some limeade when I noticed that the deposit information on the bottle said: HI, ME 5¢.  That sounds like the pickup line of the world's saddest prostitute.

  • My best dreams happen after I start hitting the snooze bar.  Unfortunately, that means they're all nine minutes long.

  • Steve Hargreaves, cnnmoney.com: "nearly over 9 percent".  So in other words, under 9 percent.

  • I have been idly looking at house ads on Craigslist since it appears that I will be able to afford somewhat nicer digs soon.  One ad said: "One Bedroom, Two Full Bathrooms."  Who's that for?  A married couple who absolutely must use the toilet at the same time?

  • Overheard: "I tried to watch Spanish soap operas so I wouldn't forget Spanish, but they're all about plastic surgery"

  • I will never cease being appalled by the way cnn.com illustrates every story about a presidential radio address by taking a picture of George Bush and photoshopping a cartoon microphone in front of him.

  • espn.com: "He's eccentric, in a sense. He reads a lot of books. He's very well-educated. Very health-conscious. He's very witty."  I love living in a culture where being well-educated, health-conscious and witty makes you "eccentric."

  • On the 80 heading up to Davis I saw a motorcycle.  Its license plate was 3W M078.  The license plate was upside-down.

  • I heard a story on NPR about a court case involving the seizure of a large sum of money.  It turns out that in such cases, the property is considered the defendant, so the official name of the case was United States of America v. $124,700.  I thought this was hilarious.  But then it occurred to me — I already knew that the US allowed property to be named in court cases.  I'd learned about such a case in history class.  It was called Dred Scott v. Sandford.

  • Overheard at the Portland airport: "Have you ever heard of The Odyssey? No? Oh, it's a masterpiece. It's a story of travel… suspense… good… bad."

  • It now seems bizarre that for nearly twenty years of my life I went around with a big machine strapped to my wrist just so I could find out what time it was.

  • Heard on the radio: "There was a strong amount of people."  The guy probably went on but I couldn't hear him because my ears started to bleed.

  • cnn.com headline: "High price for back-door beauty."  I didn't read the article for fear it would be about anal bleaching.

  • espn.com headline: "espn.com: T.O. taken to Dallas ER to induce vomiting."  Because if there's one thing that's sure to induce vomiting, it's being around Terrell Owens.

  • So Close and Yet Dept.:  In a touristy shop I saw a postcard with a cartoon map of California on it.  It showed grapes for Napa, a movie camera for Hollywood, and so forth.  For Anaheim it showed the Disneyland castle, and on either side of it, Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny.

  • Mark Foley, Republican congressman from Florida, resigned when it was revealed that he had engaged in sexually explicit instant messaging with teenage boys.  I read some of the transcripts and I was outraged.  Here is a 52-year-old man, a member of Congress no less… typing "lol".  Inexcusable.

  • When I check to see where my traffic is coming from, astonishingly frequently I will find a link that says something along the lines of, "Here's something I found on a site called adamcadre.ac — I don't know who wrote it."  Er?  I mean, based on what you just wrote, you kind of have to figure that the author is either Adam Cadre or Ada McAdre, don't you?

  • Heard on the radio: "One word — I mean, two words: 'Super Mario Brothers.'"

  • cnn.com headline: "NASCAR racer reveals his passion for dogs."  Watch out, buddy — Santorum isn't out of office yet.

  • "UNSUBSCRIBE" would be a good suicide note.

  • One of the wonderful things in life is when you buy an album, and at the end there's a little songlet, just a nifty little riff and maybe a verse or something, to cap things off… and then two years later you get the band's next album, and in the middle of a sea of unfamiliar music, there's that song again, only now it's been fleshed out into a magnum opus.

  • I usually run out of the house without any food and then have Must Eat emergencies later in the day, so when I saw a slab of coffee cake at Trader Joe's I figured I would buy it to avoid this problem.  But then every time I ate some I could literally feel my body complaining, "No Nutritive Value. Choose Again."

  • I was reading an essay by George Orwell about P.G. Wodehouse and encountered this sentence: "He was well known in the United States, and he was — or so the Germans calculated — popular with the Anglophobe public as a caricaturist who made fun of the silly-ass Englishman with his spats and his monocle."  It took me a long moment to realize that Orwell didn't mean "silly-ass" in the modern sense.

  • espn.com: "The Boston Celtics will wear a black clover leaf on their uniforms for the upcoming season as a tribute to former coach and general manager Red Auerbach, who died Saturday of a heart attack at age 89. The clover will appear on the right side of the jersey and will be inscribed with the word 'Red' in green lettering."  This will also help to confuse opponents by taking advantage of the Stroop effect.

  • I've lost count of how many articles I've run across about holiday tips for dog walkers and nannies.  Note to the media: those of us outside your ten-block stretch of Park Avenue do not live in a world where we're worried about what to tip the servants.  Please stop wringing your hands about noblesse oblige in public.

  • cnn.com: "UPS hopes drivers make the least amount of left turns possible."  And apparently cnn.com hires the least amount of copyeditors possible.

  • bbc.co.uk: "Iraq's former leader Saddam Hussein has been executed by hanging at an unspecified location."  I guess Cheney didn't want to travel.

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