June 2008 minutiae

  • I wonder whether Courtney Love told her plastic surgeon "I want to look like Joan Rivers" or whether that's just the inevitable outcome of the process.

  • I was at a laundromat and a hockey game between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins was on. It was sudden-death overtime, so I watched it while my machines were going. An hour and a half later, my laundry was done and it was still sudden-death overtime. Neither team was able to score even a single goal in that time! Lesson: sports with goalies are awful! The presence of the goalie erases the vast majority of what the team on offense accomplishes. It's like an art contest in which every painting has gallons of black paint splashed onto it and then gets judged on whatever fragments of colors happen to have made it through.

  • Of course, basketball has its own problems. There's been a big hullaballoo about a former referee declaring that Game 6 of the 2002 Lakers-Kings series was fixed... which anyone who saw that game already knew. The problem is that on any given play there are at least a few incidental fouls, so if the referee wants to call them all on one end and not on the other, he can. Some say that this means we need to ensure that the referees are fair. I say that any sport in which there are several fouls on every play needs to be completely rethought.

  • Much to Elizabeth's chagrin, I don't like dogs. But I do like almost all other canines: wolves, foxes, coyotes — one of my students has a vineyard in front of her house and this month I saw two coyote pups padding around in it. Adorable.

  • I drive a Honda Insight, a 60+ mpg hybrid with a somewhat unusual shape. I sometimes get questions about it. This month I was at a gas station filling it up when the guy on the other side of the pump asked, "Is that all electric?" Once again: I was at a gas station. I was standing there squeezing the handle of a nozzle that was stuck in my tank. What did he think was coming out? Bolts of lightning?

  • One afternoon after work I wanted to go to Gregoire for lunch. The shortest route would be to go up Shattuck to Cedar, but my car was pointed east and I thought there would be less traffic if I went up Gayley, so I tried it. Huge mistake. At first it seemed like there was just a lot of traffic. But then, hippies. Hippies everywhere. They swarmed out onto the street and blocked in the cars. They went around to all the cars telling the drivers to shut down their cars because "you're gonna be here for a while and you don't want to waste gas." (My car automatically shuts down the engine at idle, so I was unmoved by their concern trolling.) Fortunately, after about ten minutes we were able to reverse out of the hippie ambush and I was able to get my avocado sandwich before Gregoire switched to the dinner menu.

    It turns out that the hippie ambush was about supplying the protesters in the oak grove with food and water. For those who haven't been following the story, the university wants to cut down a few dozen oak trees near the football stadium in order to build a training center. For the past eighteen months hippies have been living in the trees to keep them from being cut down. Now, sure, I'd rather see oak trees on Gayley than a damn gym, but I have to question the moral calculus here. The prettiness of a city block is worth climbing a tree and spending month after unwashed month lounging around in the branches and shitting in a bucket? That isn't noble idealism, it's masochistic psychodrama.

  • More driving woes: I stupidly left for an appointment without checking the traffic map online. I can see the 880 as I head for the onramp, though, so if I don't see cars moving I pick a different freeway. Traffic seemed to be moving fine, so I got on... only to see that maybe a tenth of a mile ahead, traffic was stopped. It turned out that a truck had blown up a mile and a half ahead and that all lanes were closed — I later heard that they had to repave the whole area because the heat of the explosion had melted the asphalt. It took me well over an hour to make it to the next exit and get off the freeway. Now here's what I want to know. Why didn't I see more backup? It turned out that traffic was being directed off the freeway at 238, ie, one exit before my onramp, and at Marina, one exit after my onramp. Why didn't they just close the onramp?

  • And another car thing. I've seen and heard some ads for a show at the Exploratorium about psychological blocks: can you make yourself drink from a water fountain shaped like a toilet, that sort of thing. Well, I hate driving behind a tow truck that has a car hooked up to it. I know perfectly well that the car is going in the same direction as the tow truck, but still — that's the front of a car. Hard to beat back the instinct to swerve out of its path.

  • espn.com served me the following web ad for Nivea body wash:


    Sorry, Nivea, but I think it may be too late to corner the lucrative ancient Greek bathhouse market.

  • I got to a student's house in San Francisco town and a dog was heading up front walk. I thought at first that the dog must belong to the house, but then I saw a young woman at the end of the walk who seemed to own the dog. I figured that maybe she was a friend of my student who had dropped by at an inopportune time. Anyway, I walked up the walk and rang the bell. The dog inside started barking, which made the dog outside start barking. My student came to the door from inside the house just as the young woman on the sidewalk came up to it from the outside. "My dog wants to visit your dog," she said. "Okay, come in," said my student.

    The young woman introduced herself to my student as her neighbor from two doors down as her dog glanced indifferently at the student's dog and went off to go explore the house. Eventually the dog went upstairs and the neighbor loudly pretended that she was about to leave in hopes that this would coax the dog back downstairs. No luck. It took some wrangling to return the dog to the foyer. At this point the story sort of peters out but I do wonder what the likelihood would be that someone in a suburb would ask a total stranger "hey, can my dog come into your house" and receive an affirmative reply.

  • Another graduation season has come and gone, and I realized: if my high school diploma were a person, it would have a high school diploma. Aieee.

  • I am probably the bajillionth person to point this out, but I couldn't resist. The setup, from the Associated Press:

    A teenager was decapitated by a roller coaster after he hopped a pair of fences and entered a restricted area Saturday at Six Flags Over Georgia, authorities said.

    The followup, which I swear I am not making up:

    Authorities were investigating reports from witnesses who said the teenager jumped the fences to retrieve a hat he lost

  • I was looking at my Paypal account information and an innocuous line jumped out at me: the date my account was created. That date? September 10, 2001.

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