July 2008 minutiae
- The doors of the South San Francisco Public Library bear signs
saying PUSH TO OPERATE. Can you really operate a door? When
I walk around, am I operating my shoes?
- I have noticed that just over the past couple of months, drivers
around here have lost any semblance of a reaction time when sitting
at traffic lights. I am no drag racer, but there have been several
occasions recently that I've been at the front of the line when the
light turned green and wound up at the next intersection before the
other cars even moved. And if I'm not first in line, I have had to
get in the habit of going around the car or cars in front of me when
the light turns green, because they're not going anywhere. What's
- Normally things like repugnant politics (eg, working for the Bush
Administration) and ignorance (eg, "What's the Cuban Missile Crisis?")
keep me from finding someone attractive, but I gotta say, White House
Press Secretary Dana Perino is pretty easy on the eyes.
- I randomly came across this story and boggled:
June Nalls died instantly when a man who had been drinking drove
head-on into her pickup on a Kaufman County road one night in March.
Now, true, people are killed by drunk drivers all the time, so while
it might be sad, at first glance this seems unremarkable. But there's
more to the story:
The 41-year-old would not have been on the road had her frightened
neighbor not shot her son's friend as the boys cut across his yard. The
pediatric nurse made a quick decision not to call 911 and to instead
drive her son and his friend to the hospital.
Criminy. But wait, why is this in the newspaper in July?
But Ms. Nalls' autopsy further complicates the stunning series of
events. She was legally intoxicated and had methamphetamines in her
system when she died, according to the report, obtained through an
open-records request by The Dallas Morning News.
So some kids run through a neighbor's yard; the neighbor fricking
shoots one of them; they go to Mom, who's cranked up on meth;
she tries to drive them to the hospital, at which point a drunk
driver plows into her.
Mr Cameron said that in the past two years he has taken the
Conservative Party to the second stage in its modernisation agenda,
likening the process to moving beyond level one in the computer
game Tomb Raider.
He said level one had required him to prove
that he was a "reasonable, decent, non-discriminating, sensible,
practical person who understands the world as it is lived today,
who wants to live in the modern world and who accepts what that
Dang, is that really what you have to do in level one of Tomb
Raider? I thought you just had to shoot bats.
- Even more morbid news, this time from the AP:
Police: N.M. suicide was similar to 'CSI' episode
In both cases a revolver was found tied to balloons in an
apparent effort to make the weapon float away.
For some reason that sentence — not just the idea of it, but
the actual sentence — makes my head spin. I think it's the
juxtaposition between "weapon" and "float". Those words just don't
- I was training some new teachers and demonstrating the way I
teach medians. I always say the same thing when going over medians:
"Why do medians exist? What are they good for?" And then we discuss
outliers for a bit. Now, the question that might quite reasonably
spring to mind here is: what does this have to do with standardized
tests? Do they ever ask why you'd use a median? Don't they
just tell you to calculate it?
And it occurred to me that the answer is: I, at least, need to know
why anyone would ever care about the median, because otherwise my
brain is just going to reject any information I learn about it. Take
matrices. I went to high school long enough ago that matrices were
explicitly set aside as a topic that would be covered in college. I
never got far enough along in college math to encounter them. Then
one day years later I was subbing in a middle school math class and
the kids were doing matrices and I was like "Buhhh? This is part of
the curriculum now?"
So over the years I have attempted to learn about matrices. But I
keep encountering the same problem. Every introduction to matrices I
have ever encountered goes something like this: "A matrix is defined
as blah blah blah. The following operations can be performed upon
blah blah blah..." Never do these introductions say why I should care.
And so I don't.
When I've mentioned this to math people in the past, they say things
like, "Oh, but matrices are so useful! You can use them to do this
and that and this other thing." But that's still backwards! At least
to me. I need to be presented with the problem first — a problem
I would actually care about solving — and then be shown how
matrices are the best tool for that problem. Don't show me the tool
first and then cast about for problems on which it could conceivably
- I saw a promotional shot for 300 that shows the main guy
shouting loudly, as he was wont to do. His back teeth are full of
amalgam fillings. I didn't realize Sparta had such advanced dentistry!
- Here's my new thing this month. I bought an MP3 player shaped
like a cassette. Now every couple of days I go to
load it with podcasts of lectures. Then whenever I have to drive
somewhere I pop it into my tape deck. I may never listen to music
- Or maybe I will! I discovered that Julie Christmas is coming out
with a solo album — she put up a clip and it sounds like it will
be amazing with a capital zing. Eeeee!
- Elton John's name came up in conversation, and it occurred to me
— isn't "Candle in the Wind" basically a musical version of the
"LEAVE BRITNEY ALOOOOONE" Youtube clip?
- I went for lunch in San Mateo along a slightly grotty stretch of
El Camino Real, but finding a parking spot was tough and I ended up
passing the restaurant. Then I saw a sign that said ADULT VIDEO
and I thought "I'm not parking directly in front of a porn shop" and
kept on driving. About a block farther along I found a spot.
I passed the sign again on the way back to the restaurant. Turns out
that it actually said AUDIO VIDEO. Oops.
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