August 2008 minutiae
- The Olympics inspired me to watch some women's fencing on Youtube.
They scream a lot! I didn't realize there would be screaming.
- So this month a bunch of pundits declared Michael Phelps the
Greatest Athlete Ever on the basis of dominating the Olympic swimming
events. Amount anyone cares about swimming between Olympics: zero.
The same appellation was frequently bestowed on Lance Armstrong back
when he was winning the Tour de France every year. Amount anyone cares
about cycling between Tours: zero. And there's a reason: these sports,
such as they are, basically require you to do one thing. How is that
interesting to watch? Hey, look, there's Michael Phelps, swimming in
a straight line! And now he's... swimming in a straight line some
more! And... still swimming! It seems to me that most of the sports
that have achieved more than a small cult following require a combination
of speed, strength, marksmanship, and decision making. Shouldn't the
Greatest Athlete Ever show some versatility? How are these highly
specialized physical specimens, succeeding because of "VO2 max" and
lactic acid production and torso-limb ratios and whatnot, any different
from Takeru Kobayashi the hot-dog eater?
- espn.go.com: Soni wins 200 breasts. I guess a backup pair
couldn't hurt in case she needs a mastectomy someday, but what's she
going to do with the other 198?
- Here is an old
Sesame Street video I had never seen before! It is awesome! It's
about the subway, but instead of uncritically boosting mass transit, it
spends most of its running time bashing the subway and urban living in
general. I was floored. I think there is more cynicism in these two
minutes than in the subsequent four decades of children's television.
- Elizabeth was watching a show called "Gossip Girl" and I looked it
up to see what it was about. It appeared to be an adaptation of a series
of novels about teenagers on the Upper East Side, but I had to roll my
eyes at the names. Seriously, "Blake Lively"? "Leighton Meester"?
"Penn Badgely"? "Chace Crawford?" "Taylor Momsen"? Yeesh, overwrite
much? Those are practically Harry Potter names! Then I realized those
were the actors. Oy.
- I've been driving for nearly twenty years now and it seems that
just in the past couple I have seen a marked increase in the amount of
debris I encounter flying at me on the road. There's nothing you can
really do, at least when you have traffic on both sides of your lane
— you just have to hope your car can survive the collision with
the garbage or the boxes or the boards or whatever. Recently I was
driving down the 880 when an entire shredded tire came careening down
my lane and right at my car. It made a distinct thunk on impact,
different from the usual tink! of stuff ricocheting off the
old Aluminum Lung. But my car kept driving fine — there wasn't
even a bump or anything — so I figured I had escaped unscathed.
Several days passed and I drove to various destinations — always
after dark. This is important because the first time I saw my car again
during daylight, I discovered that the entire tire was wedged in the
grill and that I had been cruising the streets of the East Bay with
the remains of a steel-belted radial flapping from the front of my car.
- I finally got Beyond the Sword (the expansion pack for
Civilization IV) and have been spending
too much time playing it — I guess my usual distractions (eg,
Peggle) have finally grown
boring. I've mentioned in the past that games like this and
Europa Universalis II have done more for my acquaintance with
classical music than any other method; what I've discovered recently is
that they also seem to greatly enhance my appreciation of it.
As in, when playing Beyond the Sword, I often find myself thinking,
"Wow, this is a great piece!" — so much so that I then track down
a recording, only to discover that when I just sit there like a lump
and listen to it, it doesn't do nearly as much for me. Why can I
only get into the Eroica while trying to trade Civil Service for
Military Tradition? Why is Nixon in China so much more stirring
to me as I order my worker units to build uranium mines?
- Incidentally, the reason I've been playing Beyond the Sword
much more than the original Civilization IV is that you can have
eighteen civilizations on the map at once. For some reason eighteen is
much more interesting than eight. (Though I guess Humbert Humbert might
disagree. Ba-dum-bum! Thanks, I'll be here all night! Try the veal!
Humbert Humbert certainly will! Ba-dum-bum!)
- I go to farmers' markets a couple of times a week, and I have
discovered that produce looks so much better when it's smaller.
The booths are full of tiny vegetables — heads of cauliflower the
size of baseballs, eggplants and peppers no bigger than the palm of
your hand — and they're so much more appealing than the ungainly
monsters in supermarkets.
- Elizabeth found the following — note the last line:
I think I'm beginning to understand how Asian countries skirt child
- I have remarked in the past upon the fact that people in lecture halls
seem to have no compunction about surfing the web, instant messaging,
playing video poker, etc., in the middle of class, despite the fact
that their screens are fully visible to hundreds of people behind them.
So perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised to go to the Santa Clara
City Library to tutor a GMAT student only to find that directly in my
line of sight was a dude on a library computer looking at gay porn.
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