April 2008 minutiae
- Elizabeth and I play a lot of geography games — I load a few
hundred cities into a randomizer and as they pop out we decide how much
we'd like to live there. Recently, as Elizabeth has neared the halfway
point in her PhD program, we've switched to universities. Even after we
threw out the religious schools, most of what has come up has been pretty
unappealing — we're talking University of Arkansas at Fort Smith,
Ohio State Lima, that sort of thing. But recently Swarthmore came up,
and I was astonished to discover that the townhouse I lived in from ages
three to five was within walking distance!
- I was also amused to look at the aerial views of the area and see
just how much the real place differs from my childhood perceptions of
it. I thought of us as living nestled in a deep in the woods... turns
out that once you get past that fourth row of trees, less than a hundred
yards from my old front door, bang! Interstate freeway. I also remember
many an evening that my fellow four-year-olds and I were allowed to run
around in the streets unaccompanied, exploring the neighborhood until
the last wisp of dusk had turned to night and it was time to come in.
I have often thought of this as a key data point in contrasting the
freedom kids had in the 70s to the hysterical parental paranoia of today.
Turns out these "streets" were all part of the same apartment complex
— we were just rambling from one parking lot to the next!
- I have mentioned in the past that when I first moved to my current
apartment I was horrified to find that trains blared their horns at
all hours of the night... and then horrified to find that after a week
or so I ceased to hear them unless I paid conscious attention to them.
Recently I was up at 3:30 am when I heard a particularly loud and
long blast of a train whistle, and it occurred to me — why
are trains making such a racket in the wee hours of the morning? Are
they afraid of running over unconscious drunks on the tracks or something?
- I went to an Asian grocery to get some noodles for a soup and found
a package labeled ALIMENTARY PASTE. Ew. I assumed that this was
just an unfortunate but not uncommon piece of
Engrish, but then I did a bit of research
and discovered that apparently this was the official FDA classification of
Asian noodles until relatively recently!
- After fourteen years visiting teenagers' homes as a tutor I've seen
a fair amount of intrafamily conflict, and I've found that the thing most
likely to make teenagers fly into a rage — jumping out of their
chairs, storming across the room, eyes flashing, fists clenched, shouting
— is when their parents weigh in with their pet theories on things
about which they are not as well-informed as their kids (in my presence,
this is usually standardized tests). I have seen these arguments reach
the "SHUT UP! SHUT UP! YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT! YOU'RE SO
IGNORANT!" phase. Why so sensitive?
My guess is that since little kids turn to their parents as the ultimate
authority on just about everything — and that, compared to a little
kid, any adult is an authority on just about everything —
those parents get used to thinking of themselves as authorities on
just about everything, at least in the presence of their kids... even
after those kids get to be old enough to know more about some things
than their parents do. Now, it's bad enough to have to listen to people
go on about a topic when you know for a fact they're wrong. It's even
worse when they're smug about it. But when they're wrong, smug, and
in a position of power over you? White - hot - fury.
- If you have never eaten sunchokes (also known as "Jerusalem artichokes")
before, then you're in luck, because this message has found you in time.
That message: do not. Sunchokes are evil. Run fast, run far.
If this message is too late, I'm so sorry.
- Alex "Phoenixy" Hoffer brought my attention to the following gem in
the New York Times: While noise is never cited as a reason for
the spasms of violence, it is a silent enemy that makes the pressures of
life that much harder to cope with, people on the streets here said.
Now I feel lucky to have grown up in a place where the biggest problem
was smog, the invisible enemy.
- I came across an online poll that asked:
Best reply: "I voted 'pro only.' I walked onto the Dallas Cowboys with no
football experience at all. Played middle linebacker, 1988-93."
I have participated in competitive sport:|
high school only|
- forachange.net: When the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev died in 1971, he
asked for his tombstone to be carved by Ernst Neizvestny. Uh, I think there
might be a bit of a flaw in the chronology here.
- At the Berkeley Bowl I overheard a mother tell her little daughter that
she could get a seaweed snack. The daughter asked, "Can I get two?" and
the mother said, no, just one. The little girl replied, sadly, "But I love
dem." I don't think a day has gone by since that I have not ended up using
that phrase in one context or another. It's all in the delivery.
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