October 2008 minutiae
- Several weeks ago I estimated that there was a 56% chance Barack
Obama would be assassinated before Election Day. He's made it this
far, so I guess I'll reduce that to 53%.
- I know that loss aversion is a big part of game theory, but it's
still weird to watch yourself acting it out. Like, at work I frequently
get asked to go give a talk somewhere for maybe $75 or thereabouts, and
usually I don't feel like giving up a chunk of my evening so I say no
thanks. But it occurs to me: if I were booked to go give a talk, and
I could get out of it by paying $75, it is highly unlikely that
I would do so!
- Vanilla beans are like $5/bean most places, so when I moved back to
California I was very pleased to find that Berkeley Bowl sold them in
packets of two for $1.79 total. Then I went a long while without making
any desserts. Recently I went back to Berkeley Bowl for vanilla beans
and found that the price was now $3.99 per packet. Oh well, I thought,
it's still a better deal than I'm likely to find elsewhere —
especially if you still get two beans. So I bought a packet, brought it
home, and unwrapped it. There were not two beans. There were
five! Berkeley Bowl = win.
- talkingpointsmemo.com: Flyers Aim To Scare Black Philadelphians
Away From Polls. ...having already scared white Philadelphians away
from the Wachovia Center with an 0-6 start.
- I was tutoring at the Fairfield library, which has a bank of windows
looking out onto a park: just an expanse of grass dotted with trees. It
was very pleasant! To me, one of the most important patterns in
A Pattern Language is the idea of "city/country
fingers," that you should never be more than a few blocks from wilderness;
I would go so far as to say that no matter where you go, you should always
be able to see some sort of park or undeveloped expanse of nature.
- Now if you want an example of how not to design a city,
consider Atherton. Atherton sucks. At least, the part where I have to go
sucks. First of all, no street signs. You get the occasional post that
has some street names on it, which allows you to see what street you just
missed if you're willing to risk an accident by taking your eye off the
road. And that accident could be ugly, because Atherton residents love
to head out and about — walking dogs, jogging, meandering aimlessly
— and their city has no sidewalks. The street just ends abruptly
at the property line: asphalt asphalt asphalt grass, as if this
were Mississippi or someplace. So the people just wander around in the
middle of the street and always look inexplicably startled to see a car
heading in their direction.
- I've noticed that for some reason there are a few Shell stations
scattered around the Bay Area whose prices are fifty cents to a dollar
higher than other stations'. What's up with that? I thought maybe
they were full-service-only, but no.
- I go to Sketch Ice Cream
a lot, often enough that the proprietors (married pastry chefs named
Ruthie and Eric) know me by name and have learned a little bit about
my life just in the course of chatting about stuff while serving up
my chocolate cardamom swirl or whatever. I go there mainly because
the ice cream is awesome but partly because it seems to me that this
is the way that society should work: everyone picks up some sort of
useful skill and contributes to the world, and you get to know the
artisans in your community whose work you avail yourself of.
- Chevron had a radio commercial on a while back that said that to
improve your gas mileage you should keep your tires inflated to
the proper pressure (though Republicans might make fun of you) and
you should turn off your air conditioner, roll down your windows,
and "enjoy the fresh air." This made me go "buh?" because in my
car, at least, rolling down the windows would make the mileage
plummet — it's shaped like a little spaceship for a
reason, after all. So I was amused to hear the commercial come on
again a while later with the avuncular announcer trotting out a
new line: "Air conditioning decreases the performance of your engine,
so while at highway speeds you should keep your air conditioner on,
due to the aerodynamics, in city traffic, below forty miles per hour,
roll down the windows and enjoy the fresh air." Convoluted!
- In September the McCain campaign released a commercial with a
female announcer huffing, "How disrespectful!" at the way Sarah
Palin was being treated. This month the McCain team rolled out
another one with the same matronly huffiness: "How dishonorable!"
"How dangerous!" What's with all the hows? Is Primo Varicella
writing scripts for the Republicans now? "Barack Obama has a plan
to increase taxes on moustache wax. How unseemly!"
- I pay for this web site in British pounds, and every year
the dollar sinks against the pound and makes my renewal fees
more expensive. This year I finally gave up waiting for the
dollar to strengthen and paid for five years' worth of service.
The very next day the dollar rose 9.8% against the pound!
- I've wondered whether I have some sort of problem because my
legs are covered with bruises that I don't remember picking up.
Turns out that if I do, the problem is with my memory: when I
started keeping track I discovered that, yes, I bump into things
all the time. Dang.
- One thing about having gone on a diet that required me to
ignore feelings of hunger is that, now that I'm off it, it's
hard to get those signals functioning properly again. I never
really feel full anymore and have to rely on my intellectual
sense of portion size to determine when I should stop eating.
- There is very little that pisses me off more than a stupid
electoral system, and man oh man, does Canada ever have a stupid
electoral system. Every district (or "riding") has four or five
major-party candidates running, and Canada doesn't have
runoffs of any kind (?!?), so you regularly see people "win"
seats in Parliament when over sixty percent of the electorate
voted against them. Infuriating. How can anyone support this?
- Some guy on the radio was going on about how it was a shame
that such-and-such a catcher couldn't hit well anymore because he
was so great at managing the game, and it occurred to me —
if the AL is willing to let pitchers off the hook, why not catchers?
Hell, just have nine defensive specialists and nine designated
- "Scentless Apprentice" sounds even more awesome when you
throw it into Audacity and increase the tempo by about fifteen
- I listen to a lot of webcast university lectures (mostly
here). I have been
interested to discover that, presented with equally funny
professors, psychology students laugh a lot more than economics
- NPR recently played what is apparently the only recording
of Virginia Woolf speaking. She sounded like John Cleese in the
parrot sketch, only Cleese's accent was subtler.
- As noted, if McCain wins the election I will most likely
move to Canada. This would be primarily for relationship reasons
rather than political ones, but yeah, as bad as Bush and Cheney
have been, I really don't think I could take living for four years
under Angry Johnny and Bible Spice. However, the polls suggest
that McCain will probably lose. Which raises the question: where
would a right-winger who couldn't stomach the idea of an Obama
Administration go? In 2004 I read some Freepers muttering about
going to Australia if Kerry won, but now that Kevin Rudd's running
the show down there, that option is presumably out. Really, what
developed countries are to the right of the United States? I
guess they could go to Israel after they bring Netanyahu back.
- scholastic.com: SN: Ice cream or pie? Obama: Pie. No
wonder Obama's Internet fundraising has been going so well. He
certainly has the memes down. Still, it was a little excessive
to shell out $3 million and book air time on seven networks
just to put on that Rick Astley video.
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