May 2009 minutiae

  • The new U.S. passports look completely ridiculous. Like they were designed by someone who didn't realize that "The Colbert Report" is satire.

  • And while we're on the subject of graphic design, here's some ace Photoshop work by San Leandro Honda. Think about it: someone looked at that banner and said, "Looks good — let's get that live."

  • I went to to check out the news. The big story was that Jack Kemp had died. One of the subheadlines was "Jack Kemp bio." It was a link to Wikipedia!

  • I'm pretty sure that this is going to receive prominent billing in my suicide note.

  • Reuters: Afghanistan's only pig quarantined in flu fear. The article notes that the pig, normally on display at the Kabul Zoo, is one of the few animals at the zoo that the mujahedin didn't eat.

  • It occurred to me that it had been a long time since I'd listened to music on the radio, so I started putting Live 105 on from time to time to see whether there were any new songs I liked. Not only were there no new songs I liked, there were also no new songs I disliked. Live 105 never played anything I hadn't heard before. Has it switched formats to 100% Gen-X nostalgia or something?

  • Coincidentally, after writing that, this showed up in my Twitter feed: mamster Enjoying music has become unspeakably easy and awesome. Obtaining, maybe. Enjoying? In the 90s, enjoying music meant turning on 120 Minutes or even, like, KROQ. Now it's a matter of waiting months for Pandora to find something good that I don't already own.

  • Two consecutive tweets:
    adamcadre Calabrian peppers make everything better.
    adamcadre Correction: Calabrian peppers do not make corneas better.

  • Product label: Metromint is mintwater, pure and simple. The fact that "mintwater" isn't actually a word suggests that it may not really be as simple as all that.

  • I was reading an article about a woman who had swallowed several X-Acto blades prior to her arrest for the rape and murder of a neighbor girl, and came across the following sentence: In a text message Huckaby sent to CBS 5 on the night of her arrest, she had denied trying to take her own life: "And no I was not in the hospital for suicide attempt. LOL." And I wondered... of the countless SF writers who have attempted to forecast the future, which came closest to predicting "LOL"? Is Nadsat the closest equivalent?

  • Neutron Star Crust Is Stronger than Steel. That didn't sound like a very bold claim to me, so I looked to see what the article really said. 10 billion times stronger than steel, it clarified. So, yeah, way to sell your story, headline writers! Note that this is equivalent to saying, "Fixing the California budget deficit will cost more than a candy bar."

  • Every so often the media trots out a story about how humankind is on the verge of subdividing into two separate species, much like the Eloi and Morlocks of H.G. Wells. Bloggers with a grounding in evolutionary biology dismiss these stories as pseudoscience. But... man, click on one of the "Trending Topics" on Twitter sometime. It's already happened.

  • Someone on forthrightly declares, Leaving one question blank shaves 3 percentage pt off your score. For example, if your score was 40 without skipping any questions. Leaving one question will reduce it to 37. Let's ignore the sentence fragments for the nonce and examine this claim. First of all, the subscores the poster refers to are not "percentage points"! In the middle of the GMAT scoring range, more than three percentile points separate one score from the next: according to the chart this person is referring to, a subscore of 27 represents the 46th percentile, a 28 the 51st, and a 29 the 56th. Second, let's look at the basis of this claim. It turns out to be a misreading of the following: Failing to answer five verbal items, for example, could reduce a person's score from the 91st percentile to the 77th. Well, hey, it just so happens that the 91st percentile on the relevant chart is a 40, while the 77th is a 35. In short, each missed answer has dropped the test taker's subscore by one point, not three.

    The fact that these are the sort of quantitative skills demonstrated by the people who go to business school says a lot about why the economy has tanked.

  • Here's a FAQ for you... am I really the only person who pronounces it "fack"?

  • I love the fact that on these "Young Mad Scientist's Alphabet Blocks" the letter K stands for "potassium."

  • I started keeping track of what I had eaten prior to the onset of a migraine. I expected this to be a useless exercise, but lo and behold:

    04-10-09: artichoke, bell pepper, chickpea, and olive tagine
    05-05-09: pizza margherita, marinated bell peppers
    05-17-09: bell pepper pizza
    05-22-09: penne puttanesca with roasted bell peppers
    05-25-09: penne with tomato-cream sauce and roasted bell peppers

    I guess this means I should try eliminating bell peppers from my diet and see whether that reduces my number of incapacitating headaches!

          ...but I love dem

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