January 2009 minutiae

  • From the time I was quite small, I always had trouble with my fingernails: the nails would split at the edges, and the skin would split around the corners of the nailbeds. I just now realized that this hasn't happened in years! When did it stop? More to the point, why did it stop? What am I now doing right?

  • I've noticed myself admiring women's hips a lot more than I used to. I wonder whether my brain is secretly seeking out childbearing potential.

  • When I watched the Season 3 finale of Heroes, I thought, "Oh, they're trying to be all sci-fi by casting a black guy as the president." Then I remembered.

  • It's kind of disconcerting when you look down and discover that the pants you are wearing are not the ones you thought you'd put on that morning.

  • ebparks.org: Legislation passed in the 1960s opened the lake for controlled recreational uses such as fishing and non-water-contact boating. Isn't water contact sort of the point of boating? Like, without water contact, aren't you just sitting in a weird little fort?

  • In Oakland I saw a bunch of people lined up under a sign saying MILK. I guess the recession's getting pretty bad.

    Later I came back to that intersection and saw that the sign had two parts, one on each side of the corner: MILK and DOUBT. I think those were also the settings on the less successful prototype of Psycho-Man's Control-Box.

  • You know, the ironic thing is that "Don't Fear the Reaper" actually does need more cowbell.

  • gatorade.com: What is the difference between Gatorade Thirst Quencher and Gatorade G? The scientifically-proven formula of Gatorade Thirst Quencher remains unchanged in Gatorade G. The difference is all about attitude. Apparently some people think the glass is half full, some think it's half empty, and some think it depends on the beverage's own epistemic outlook.

  • One thing that watching the Lord of the Rings movies confirmed for me once and for all is that I suck at audio processing. I have always been one of those annoying people who says "What?" after everything you say, so I didn't have a chance of catching more than a handful of the strange names flying around. (Like, I actually did get "Sam," but at the end of movie three I would have sworn that I'd never heard the word "Orthanc" once.) I would have done so much better if they'd at least put in some nice big captions after introducing new places... and new characters, for that matter, the way Heroes does.

    It also occurs to me that perhaps one of the reasons I've never really cared much about song lyrics is that I generally don't understand them until I look them up online or read the liner notes. I remember that when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" made it big people snarked that here you had a massive hit to which no one knew any of the words. To me that's pretty much every song!

  • Speaking of Lord of the Rings, Elizabeth says I forgot to mention how Girl Power feigns death in order to receive a sponge bath from Striker. Now I've mentioned it.

  • Saw a review of Revolutionary Road that suggested it begins with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio flirting. I thought, "That's kind of an odd pairing... are they even in the same age group?" Then I remembered.

  • I left my dome light on for four days but the car still started up fine. I wonder whether that's because 95% of the weight of my car is batteries or something.

  • Physics professor places a wooden block upright on a table to demonstrate what happened in the World Trade Center attacks. "So here's the airplane coming in," he says, tapping the block lightly with a hammer. The block starts to fall over; the professor catches it. "Whoops! No, it wasn't quite like that," he chuckles. Big laugh from the class. So, Gilbert Gottfried, it appears it's no longer too soon.

  • Elizabeth pointed me to this list ranking 185 Beatles songs. Very brief reaction:

    Way overrated: "I Am the Walrus," "She's Leaving Home," "Dear Prudence," "Here, There, and Everywhere," "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party," "The Fool on the Hill," "Octopus's Garden"

    Way underrated: "I Want You," "Old Brown Shoe," "And I Love Her," "Tell Me What You See," "Don't Bother Me," "If I Needed Someone," "I'll Be Back"

    Reading a few of the writeups, though, I see that whoever composed this list seems to be interested primarily in lyrics, which as I noted above I generally don't care about.

  • I was interested to read that, upon Obama's assumption of the presidency, the robots.txt file (which essentially hides information from search engines) for whitehouse.gov was cut from 2377 lines to two.

  • Stupid injury of the month: I picked up my keys so I could take out the trash without the risk of accidentally locking myself out, but I was losing my purchase on them so I tossed them into the air and grabbed them firmly. Problem: I had opened a box earlier, and the small blade in my pocketknife was still out. It was only a small cut but I must have hit a nerve or something because I wound up with a deep ache in my thumb.

  • Guilty pleasure: I loved Mike Deodato's work on Thunderbolts and am continuing to enjoy it on Dark Avengers.

  • No longer a pleasure: I used to love roller coasters. When I was in junior high I couldn't think of anything more fun than going to Magic Mountain (the local Six Flags park). Now it'd take some doing to get me on one and I'd likely spend the entire ride with my eyes closed in as close to a fetal position as the restraints would allow. I can't even watch a Youtube video of a roller coaster without shuddering a little.

  • I've never seen an episode of Doctor Who and don't have much interest in doing so, but my dad used to watch it when I was about four years old and I found the theme song hypnotic and thrilling. I still do! I will sometimes cue it up on Youtube and give it a listen. And yet, again, I don't even really know what the show's about. Something to do with time travel?

  • I've discovered that the majority of my prose composition — not the typing, but the mental construction of sentences — occurs as I'm falling asleep. As in, I will spend hours alternating between staring blankly at the word processor and poking at various web pages, then give up and go to bed having written nothing, then have complete paragraphs announce themselves to me as I'm drifting off, forcing me to boot the computer back up and type them up before I forget them. Maybe the secret to getting this book finished faster is to take a lot of naps.

  • It is weird to think that until about five thousand years ago no one had that distinctive feeling of having been cleaned by soap. Just getting wet and drying off isn't the same.

  • How does Paul Lukas make an income from critiquing sports uniforms when his aesthetic sense could hardly be worse?

  • So Obama's poll ratings jumped from something like 55% favorable / 35% unfavorable right before the election to 70/20 afterward. What's up with that 15%? Three possibilities spring to mind:

    • These people like to mentally associate themselves with winners. I've heard anecdotal data from the 1980 election suggesting that some undecided voters on the west coast watched the networks call the election for Reagan based on returns from the east coast, then went out and cast ballots for Reagan basically just to be able to say they voted for the winner.

    • These people are like the crowd in Julius Caesar and believe the last thing they heard. First the teevee said Obama was palling around with terrorists, so they went boo hiss. The the teevee said he was an American hero so they went yay hooray. Then the teevee said to go watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop so they did.

    • These people never actually bothered to check out Obama for themselves during the campaign and were surprised after election day to find that he wasn't wearing a turban and didn't have five inches of underwear showing above the waist of his pants. Supporting this idea is the fact that apparently there are still millions of adults who still have yet to check him out — you'll notice those numbers above only add up to 90%. In a Diageo/Hotline poll dated 1/24/09, 5% of respondents explicitly said that they had never heard of Barack Obama.

  • On Twitter I mentioned that I had spent a night trying to wrap my head around gas laws and how refrigeration works, and that the depressing part was that I remembered finding this stuff really easy when I was 13 (though see below). Which makes me wonder: how much math would I have forgotten by now if not for my tutoring job?

  • Liza Daly recently wrote about nerds making up astronomical IQ scores for themselves. "The fact is, most adults simply do not know their IQ," she wrote. "Bright children are rarely tested as a matter of course (although some private schools do it)." As it happens, I actually did have a battery of IQ tests administered to me by a psychologist in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, while I was going to private school out there. Liza's article prompted me to dig out the report. What's interesting to me about it right this second, in light of the previous item, is that it expressly stated that verbal reasoning was my strong point, which makes me wonder how it came to pass that I wound up in a magnet program for tech, thinking that I was going to be some kind of engineer. I did fine in my science classes where book larnin' was concerned, but I was never remotely mechanically inclined — I did abysmally on things like the egg drop and mousetrap racer, and even needed to have my little brother advise me on which way to bank the tracks in Spacewarp. I probably should have been doing foreign language immersion or something instead!

  • Here's one benefit to taking something of a sabbatical from my tutoring job in order to try to make progress on the book I'm working on: since I rarely leave the house, I rarely need to get dressed, and consequently managed to go the entire month of January without needing to do laundry even once.

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