January 2008 minutiae

  • Sign of the end times: Elizabeth went to the store and bought some juice. Wait, did I say "juice"? How old-fashioned and backward-looking of me! No, the carton was actually labeled "FRUIT SOLUTIONS".

  • I got my Green Party voter guide in the mail. Next to "Referenda on Amendment to Indian Gaming Compact" it says "No, with reservations." Um. Perhaps another phrasing could have been selected?

  • I don't really like football, but man, the 2007 Fiesta Bowl still blows my mind a year later. A huge underdog from frickin' Idaho, against football-factory Oklahoma on a huge stage, just does not pull off three crazy trick plays in you-fail-you-lose situations in real life. I am a Cal grad — Cal as in "won on The Play" Cal — and I have to say that the 2007 Fiesta Bowl was the best sporting event of all time. The Boise State plays were almost as unlikely, they were on purpose, and there were three of them!

  • Many years ago I happened across the following tip for reheating frozen bagels: put them in a toaster oven, set the darkness dial to 11 o'clock, and toast. Then let the bagel sit there for twenty minutes. At the end of the process you have a warm fresh bagel. More recently, I have tried this with bread. I don't eat nearly enough bread to go through more than half a baguette before it goes stale, so when I buy bread I automatically cut it into pieces and freeze them. And this toaster method reheats the frozen pieces with much better results than any other method I've tried.

    The problem is that I have now trained myself to ignore the ding of the toaster, so when I am actually making toast, it ends up sitting there for twenty minutes.

  • Either Pandora's formula has gotten better or else I have reached some sort of tipping point in supplying it data — all of a sudden it reliably feeds me long sequences of songs all of which I really, really like. And I only like about four bands.

  • Doing research on one of the Pandora bands led to the marvelous discovery that while my beloved frock-rock may be on the outs here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is doing significantly better in Australia. So in the first month of 2008 I have already purchased more CDs than I bought in all of 2006 and 2007 combined, many of them from Down Under (and one from Malta). I hope I can soon add to my "musical acts of note" page!

  • One of the CDs I bought is by a band called Krill, which is responsible for my favorite video at the moment, which starts at the 0:59 mark of this podcast. The first time I saw it I had trouble keeping track of who all was in the band, because there are lots of wardrobe changes and various blondes popping in and out who all look vaguely similar. "Okay, I'm pretty sure there's more than one blonde. Could be three or four. At least a couple of them look somewhat alike. I'm betting there is a pair of sisters in this band." Mais non! In fact, all five band members, including the boy, are siblings! They are Kim, Roy, Jan, Lee, and Lea Jackson of Yeppoon, Queensland, children of a professor at Central Queensland University, and all five of them decided to move to Sydney and try to make it as a rockin' new wave outfit. Could that possibly be any more charming? (Plus, Lee the bass player is just retina-meltingly hot.)

  • I was delighted to discover that Youtube now has up, in fifteen parts, The Pyramid of Darkness. What's that, you ask? Why, it's only the all-time classic mega-arc of the G.I. Joe cartoon series! It first aired in 1985 and was repeated regularly, so my brothers and I ended up seeing it... hmm... half a dozen times? Maybe more like ten. Watching it this time around, I discovered (a) that I still know a lot of it by heart and (b) that when I was eleven years old I didn't realize the extent to which it was so clearly an exercise in a bunch of dudes sitting around a table getting high — Footloose has pot leaves stuck to his helmet! — and wondering just how much eye-poppingly ridiculous stuff they could put into their script and still get it approved. Example: click to the 2:57 mark of Part 7 and watch until 6:26. Then tell me how the breakdancing ninja helps anything. Tell me how.

  • I'm not big on sports metaphors in politics, but I laughed to read a George Bush speech described as full of "oratorical own-goals."

  • I don't normally register the smell of roasted peppers when I am roasting them, but if I go outside and come back in, it is very noticeable. I didn't fully appreciate the pungency of roasted peppers, though, until I took a shower the morning after roasting some. When I threw the towel over my head to dry my hair it was like I'd stuck my head into the bowl where the peppers were cooling.

  • There's a lot of happy talk on the liberal blogs about how great all the Democratic candidates are. "The Republicans are trying to figure out which candidate they despise the least! But any of our candidates would be totally awesome!" Uh-huh. I did a quick count and it looks like there are 28 people in the Senate alone whom I'd prefer to either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. This is the sort of thing I was talking about in 2004 when I said I liked John Kerry not just in comparison to George Bush but in comparison to the likely Democratic candidates of the future.

  • I saw a bunch of ROTC types in those smog uniforms marching around chanting, "Killing's how we earn our pay!" Hmm. Maybe I should rethink my opposition to the occupation of Iraq. What's that Republican talking point? Better that the scary murderers be busy over there than over here?

  • I'm auditing a class on the history of the USSR. The professor (who grew up there) has this hilarious penchant for talking in generalities that gradually become less general. Example: he's talking about the state of the Russian aristocracy circa 1900...

    Slide of a manor with lots of greenery around it. "The country estates would invariably have overgrown gardens in front."

    Slide of a room full of portraits. "Inside, the walls would be covered with portraits of the family's ancestors, to show visitors the family's roots in the past."

    Slide of people drinking tea. "In this period, they would spend a lot of time drinking tea and listening to sad music."

    Slide of a painting of a teenage girl. "There would be a young girl. She would read French novels, then Russian ones. She would fall in love with her tutor. They would go out to the pond, also overgrown, and get into a boat. They would be discovered. The tutor would be kicked out. He would go to St. Petersburg."

  • I can now say that I have seen renowned philosopher John R. Searle drinking out of a Dora the Explorer dixie cup.

  • I lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle and so having to hoof it for any extended distance tends to come as something of a shock. But after getting blood drawn and proceeding to walk eight miles, going back out a couple of days later and walking five miles with my full complement of blood was a piece of cake. I guess I will do that more.

  • I write in spiral notebooks a lot. (Spiral on the side, not the top.) I always hate coming to the end of a page because it's hard to write on those last few lines — there's nothing to support your hand. And yet there's all this wasted space on the top! I thought, "They should make spiral notebooks with the empty space on the bottom." Then I realized I could just flip the notebooks upside-down.

    (What is that big top margin for, anyway? So you can write a headline for each page REALLY BIG?)

  • cnn.com: Racy text messages may spell trouble for mayor. Probably more likely that it spells "trubl". Har har. Actually, Matthew Amster-Burton found the funniest part of the article — funnier than the fact that the supposedly "racy" text messages included the line "And did you miss me, sexually?" — to wit: Kilpatrick took office as mayor in 2002, according to the biography on the mayor's Web site. So apparently the reporter here decided to go with the cover-your-ass qualifier in lieu of actually checking to see whether the claimed chronology was correct. Because if there's anything we've learned in the past eight years, it's that reporters don't think it's their job to verify things.

  • I like the Twitter error screen. The bird has an amusing expression. It's like, "Hunh, that doesn't look right. Wonder what's up. Oh well, none of my concern — I am a bird."

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