November 2008 minutiae

  • I was eating some pistachios and when I took off the shell of one, I found that the nut inside had another, smaller, rounder, thinner shell around it. I guess it's a less gross version of those eggs you sometimes hear about that have smaller eggs inside.

  • In the closing days of the election season the ad servers noticed that I was logged in from California and fed me a constant stream of ads supporting Prop 8, the Mormon-backed measure that revoked the right of same-sex couples to marry. (The Bay Area voted overwhelmingly against it, but the Central Valley lived up to its rep as Oklahoma with smog.) All day Monday this particular ad followed me from site to site:

    Um, what exactly are they suggesting here? Is this why McCain wouldn't release his medical records?

  • AP: Obama had another sports encounter Monday when he recognized a familiar face while stopping by a local campaign office in Charlotte, N.C. "It's M.L. Carr!" Obama exclaimed, clearly excited to spot the former Boston Celtics' star. For some reason I can't stop laughing at the idea of the president-elect of the United States lighting up about an M.L. Carr sighting.

  • I got the answer to my question of where conservatives will threaten to move in the event of an Obama victory. The right-wing political sites on the morning of November 5th were full of threats to pack up for Patagonia. I guess I should have realized that fleeing to Argentina was the standard practice for those in their situation.

  • I bet that in fifty years kids won't realize that "Barack" was once an uncommon name.

  • Speaking of names: I couldn't help but notice that all three males on the two major tickets had the exact same names as their fathers. The candidates were Barack Hussein Obama II, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., and John Sidney McCain III. (Update courtesy Daniel Koning: Sarah Palin (née Heath)'s mother is also named Sarah Heath!)

  • When I was a kid I had a very Aspie aversion to profanity — I would actually interrupt people to say "don't cuss." I guess that was from about age seven to age ten. What's interesting is that even after that, I didn't actually curse aloud for quite some time, and it's still very rare that I do — even as my writing voice has become pretty fucking foul-mouthed. What the fuck do you make of that?

  • And speaking of "fuck," fuck American exceptionalism. After being elected, Obama trotted out his "only in America is my story even possible" routine, and the media obligingly parroted the line that nowhere else has a member of an ethnic minority group ever been elected leader of the country. Ahem:

    Argentina: Carlos Menem (Syrian)
    Belize: Said Musa (Palestinian)
    Bolivia: Evo Morales (Aymara)
    Colombia: Julio Turbay Ayala (Lebanese)
    Ecuador: Abdala Bucaram (Lebanese); Jamil Mahuad Witt (Lebanese/German)
    France: Nicolas Sarkozy (Hungarian)
    Jamaica: Edward Seaga (Lebanese/Scottish)
    Peru: Alberto Fujimori (Japanese)

    ...and Sonia Maino (Italian) was in line to become prime minister of India following the 2004 elections until she deferred in favor of Manmohan Singh. Obama's story is possible in a whole lotta places.

  • Apparently people were dancing in the streets on Election Night. I didn't participate, partly because I'm antisocial, partly because I expect to be thoroughly disappointed once again by the Democratic Party, but also partly because I sort of mentally transformed the fireworks from the Killola show I went to in July into a celebration of the end of Republican rule. Heck, the song they were playing even sounds a little bit like "Doc Barack."

  • The New Hampshire state senate is now 54% female. This seems to me like the sort of progress that's more important than a single person here or there making it to a powerful post. The right-wingers arguing that Obama's election proves racism is over are no more correct than someone arguing that British sexism ended in 1558. And as for American sexism... I couldn't help but notice that in Obama's first press conference as president-elect, there were a hell of a lot of dudes in suits behind him. Until those sorts of panels are 50% female, until Congress is, until all powerful instutitions are — not as an artificial requirement, but as a natural outgrowth of a meritocracy  — we still have a hell of a long way to go.

  • AP: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called her critics cowards and jerks Friday [...] as she returned to the governor's office from her two-month odyssey as the GOP vice presidential nominee. ...IT WAS ONLY TWO MONTHS?!?

  • Random Youtube sighting: this was my favorite candy bar back in high school. Naturally, it's seemingly the only candy bar Hershey has ever discontinued. Though I imagine I'd find them pretty gross today.

  • I love reading reviews of my stuff written under duress by undergraduates who only took a new media course because a class about videogames sounded easy. Here are some classic lines about Photopia, courtesy of Worcester Polytechnic:

    What starts out as the stories of two drunks, an astronaut female with martial arts knowledge and wings, Alley's family, and Wendy's family soon is squished together by science.

    Lyttle Lytton entrants, the bar has been set. Though perhaps this later excerpt is a better synopsis:

    Overall, Photopia is a basic text game that requires key phrases to be used in an appropriate manner. In reality it is found to be an astrophysical study of a story with distinct commands needed to continue the story.

    It's not all summary, though; this writeup goes on to supply an important tip:

    The trick to finishing the game is to use the command help often.

  • From a New Yorker profile of Ben Bernanke: One of his first tasks was to deliver a monthly economics briefing to the President and the Vice President. After he and Hubbard sat down in the Oval Office, President Bush noticed that Bernanke was wearing light-tan socks under his dark suit. "Where did you get those socks, Ben?" he asked. "They don't match." Bernanke didn't falter. "I bought them at the Gap — three pairs for seven dollars," he replied. During the briefing, which lasted about forty-five minutes, the President mentioned the socks several times.

  • I was playing around with face transformation software — it's great! It took a little bit of tooling around to get the hang of it, but I think I've mastered all the capabilities now: I've figured out how to build algorithms to generate fairly convincing pictures of what a couple's children might look like (ie, considerably more convincing than just a simple average of the two faces). I ran it on myself and Elizabeth, of course, and I also opened up a whole psychological Pandora's box by summoning up an eerily plausible picture of my sister. Anyway, the reason I mention this is that it turns out that when you average Crango and Ditko with humans the results look alarmingly like Thundercats.

  • Children aside, I sometimes imagine how people in a room would pair off if everyone in it had to have sex.

  • Los Angeles Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy on player Cuttino Mobley's heart condition: "All I know is that if Cuttino has anything, he's been asymptotic." I don't know if you can trust what Dunleavy says, though. He's known to lapse into hyperbola.

  • Bush, who is a born-again Christian, spoke about the role his faith has played in his presidency. "I've been in the Bible every day since I've been the president." The hell? Does he think the burning bush is a reference to him?

  • I was amused to learn that the Icelandic word for "money" is the same as the word for "sheep." But after a moment's thought it occurred to me that it's not hugely different from talking about owing someone twenty bucks.

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