February 2007 minutiae

  • I was at the Berkeley Bowl in line behind a sullen white kid who looked about seventeen. He placed several bags' worth of groceries, ranging from leafy greens to packaged goods, on the conveyor belt. Then he laid down one of those plastic bars to separate all of that food from his last item, which he apparently didn't want to go on the same receipt. What was the contraband he didn't want to have to justify? Gorditas.

  • espn.com instructions on its "Send a story to a friend" page: Sean multiple addresses with commas. What the hell is that? Prank? Regexp mistake? Bizarre think-o?

  • My memory is deteriorating. My memories from the 20th century are all pretty much intact, but all too often I get into conversations like, "Wait, how do you know about that?" "You told me!" "When?" "Last month!" "I did?" Also, I used to be able to instantly absorb everything I learned in a class, and now I go over my notes from last semester and remember like 25% of the material. Also my frend the mowse dont run the amaze too good no more.

  • I passed a restaurant that was advertising Brain Masala.

  • I always think that I need 45 minutes to eat lunch and then am shocked when it only takes fifteen. Similarly, I always think that I need to budget half an hour to get showered and dressed and such, and then am pleasantly surprised when I have eighteen minutes to spare or whatever.

  • Is there an all-Oprah channel? It seems like no matter what day and no matter what time I go to the laundromat, Oprah is on.

  • I wonder whether I have an actual Internet addiction. One day my connection went down for several hours and I became extremely irritable. When it came back I surfed around various sites doing nothing important and it felt inappropriately soothing.

  • The parking meters in San Rafael say in big angry letters:

    $0.80 PER HOUR
    Welcome to San Rafael

    I guess that last part is just a stopgap until they can put in the new signs that say "WELCOME TO THE S.R., BITCH!"

  • Prices at a local supermarket for Tropicana Pure Premium No Pulp Orange Juice:
    64 fluid ounces $4.18
    96 fluid ounces $4.99
    128 fluid ounces $4.28

    Unfortunately, there was no 179 fluid ounce size, because using this supermarket's parabolic pricing, that'd be free!

  • cnn.com: Shark attacks rarer than you may think. I love the implications of this headline. No one thinks shark attacks are common unless they've bought into the media hype about them from sources such as cnn.com. This headline essentially boils down to We made you stupider.

  • I took a trip to Orange County and photographed the schools I went to when I lived there. The elementary schools looked pretty much exactly the way they did 25 years ago, with one exception: there is now a tight cage around each of them. I should probably explain to the non-Californians out there that schools in California are not single structures, but rather campuses of small buildings divided up into classrooms. Classrooms open not out to a hallway but to the great outdoors. When I was attending Anaheim Hills Elementary, for instance, I could have walked in a straight line out of Room 15, across the parking lot, into the street and up into the hills. Now if I tried that same route I would walk out of the classroom and four feet later crash into a metal fence ten feet high. And these fences are so close to the buildings! I have to think that even little kids have trouble squeezing past each other.

  • Troy High used to have six-foot gates with widely-spaced bars; they were easy to hop over, as I proved many a time when I went there. Now the entrances have two sets of arched gates twelve feet high, with spiked ironwork you can barely see through. If the elementary schools looked like cages, the high school looked like a magnificent 19th-century prison. A few years earlier I'd handed out copies of Ready, Okay! to the teachers and administrators there; I wondered whether that had led to the gates.

  • Since it was the weekend, the schools were closed. Yet despite all the crazy gates and fences, at all four schools I was able to find a way to walk right in.

  • After photographing Troy High, I was walking out when, ahead of me, I saw a crouching man aiming a rifle. I did a hasty 180 and beat it for an alternate exit.

  • I was about to leave, but conscience overcame me — if the following day there were a Columbine-style incident, how would I justify not having notified the police about this guy? So I drove around to the faculty parking lot, just in time to see the guy leaving the school grounds with his rifle — and a JROTC flag. Mystery solved!

  • While in Southern California, I achieved one of my childhood dreams. Behind my first elementary school, at the top of Nohl Ranch Road, is a hill with a stone outcropping on top — the tallest hill in the area. It's called Robbers' Peak, I later learned, because Joaquin Murietta and his gang apparently used to hang out there. When I was very small I used to worry that it was an active volcano. Then later I vowed that someday I would climb to the top of it. I thought this would be a major expedition. It turns out that there's a short trail and from the parking lot of the elementary school you can get to the top in about fifteen minutes. Still, it was more exhilarating to me than it would have been climbing Everest.

  • Another of my childhood dreams was to walk from one end of Nohl Ranch Road to the other. I assumed this would take many months. It turns out that the road is five miles long.

  • At the table next to me at La Super-Rica in Santa Barbara was an old man, about 75 or so, with a Southern accent; a woman who appeared to be about 50, also with a Southern accent; and a man, also in his 50s, with a California accent. I gathered that the latter two were the old man's daughter and son-in-law. Here is what I overheard:

    Old man: "No! Ah don' b'lieve in that cre-mation."
    Son-in-law: "Then what do you want to happen to your body after you die?"
    Old man: "Ah wan' it buried propally! How'm Ah s'posta git by in th' afterlahf without mah bones?"
    Son-in-law: "Ha ha ha!"
    Old man: "Ah'm a Suthun Baptist! That's whut Ah b'lieve!"
    Son-in-law: "You think your bones need to be intact to get into heaven?"
    Old man: "Yes! Ah'm a Suthun Baptist!"
    Son-in-law: "So you think God can give you a new body if your bones are okay, but if you're just ashes then God's going to say, 'What, you expect me to work with this? I'm not God, I'm just, y'know, God!'"
    Old man: "Ah'm a Suthun Baptist! That's whut Ah b'lieve!"
    Son-in-law: "Hmm, then maybe I should get myself taxidermied! You know, just in case even the bones aren't enough! Man, I sure hope I don't die in an accident!"
    Old man: "AH'M A SUTHUN BAPTIST!"

  • The Monterey Bay Aquarium was about a quarter the size I expected.

  • I've seen a lot of billboards for cell phone companies promising "reliability" and "fewer dropped calls." It's interesting how we've accepted a huge step backward in phone service in exchange for portability. Back in the days of land lines, if you had told me that people would not only accept phone service that frequently crapped out on you, but would accept it for over ten years, I wouldn't have believed you.

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