2010 June minutiae
- I'm always astonished by how transparently deceptive the campaigns
for ballot initiatives are. This month we had Proposition 16, which
its sponsor PG&E billed as the "Taxpayers Right to Vote Act" in its
$46 million campaign. 16 would in fact have required an undemocratic
supermajority vote to overturn PG&E's monopoly. Then there's
Proposition 17, which its sponsor Mercury Insurance spent
$15 million trying to get passed with a series of ads about how the
proposal would unlock insurance rates, allowing insurance companies to
lower them! Not mentioned was that it also would have allowed those
companies to raise them, and you can guess which one they'd do. Sheesh.
Incidentally, these initiatives failed by a grand total of 5 and
4 points respectively. In Orange County and the Inland Empire they passed
by 20. I can't think of any reason why people who aren't employees or
stockholders of these companies would vote for them except that a win for
these corporations sure would piss off the liberals.
- (By the way, wouldn't it make for a more comfortable fit if we were
to donate Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial
Counties to Arizona?)
- Have you ever mentally filed something away in the wrong era entirely?
I thought the Alice Cooper song "Poison" was from 1975. Turns out it's
- There's a place in San Anselmo with the best macaroons I've ever had.
This month I stopped there to pick some up for my trip, since it was on
"Three chocolate chip macaroons to go, please," I tell the lady behind the
counter. She picks up a plate. "To go," I repeat. She puts down
the plate, picks up a bag, and starts filling it with cookies. "No,
macaroons," I say. She ignores me. "Macaroons, not cookies," I
repeat. She ignores me. She then tries to hand me the bag of cookies.
"Not cookies, macaroons," I say. "What?" she says. "Macaroons," I say.
She looks bewildered. "Wait, which do you want?" she asks. I point to the
macaroons. "These," I say. "Which?" she asks. "The macaroons,"
I say. "Chocolate chip macaroons. Right here." She starts putting more
cookies into the bag. At this point I'm about to leave. I give it one last
try. "No!" I say. "NOT cookies! Macaroons! Right here! These!"
She finally looks at the macaroons. "These?" she asks.
"Yes," I say.
Now she looks more confused than ever. "But... these have chocolate chips!"
- At least they were actually open. One of the recurring themes of my
trip was going to places to find out that they'd closed early. At Folie
Douce in Arcata they'd knocked off an hour early because it was a slow
night. At Ah-Beetz in Abbotsford they'd shut down two hours early because
it was Father's Day. And at Dolce Gelato in White Rock they'd never even
bothered to open because it wasn't a nice enough day. In all three cases
I had to basically beg them for food, explaining that I'd driven several
hundred miles to go to their establishments. At least in the latter two
cases there were no promised hours; the first case is the one that really
irks me, because I'd planned my trip around the hours posted on their web
site, trusting that it was more than a vague guess at when they'd feel like
being open. This kind of flakiness drives the Aspie part of my brain
- While I was waiting at the Peace Arch border crossing a crow swooped
from the U.S. side, down through the turnstile, and then up to a new life
in Canadian skies.
- After dinner in Vancouver, it was time to head to the hotel in Burnaby.
But I, uh, hadn't actually saved the address or printed out directions or
anything, so I drove around looking for an open wifi signal I could use to
pull up some maps on my netbook. I knew Burnaby was east of Vancouver so I
pointed the car east and then drove more or less at random, stopping to check
for signals, trying another street when they inevitably all turned out to be
encrypted. After maybe half an hour of this, I finally found an
unsecured network. It belonged to... my hotel, into whose parking lot I had
- It looked like our next stop after Vancouver would be Osoyoos, so I hopped
online to see what our lodging options were. I was surprised to find that, for
less than the cost of the motel room I was sitting in, I could book a suite
at a four-star lakefront resort. When we got there the next evening, we were
very impressed: nine rooms, full kitchen, marble furnishings, in-unit
washer/dryer... everything was great until Elizabeth drew a bath and it looked
- I saw that Bill Simmons had posted a bunch of links to videos of people
in bars shrieking with delight as the U.S. soccer team scored a... well, I
can't call it a last-minute goal, because one of the things about soccer is
that the officials don't tell anyone how much time is left. A 91st-minute
goal, if that means anything to you, to beat Algeria (now there's a
powerhouse) and advance in the World Cup.
Here's one of the
videos. And watching these, all I could think was: wow, that's basically
the Two Minutes Hate from Nineteen Eighty-Four.
You might protest that, wait, these people are happy, and the Two Minutes Hate
people are mad. But remember, the emotions the Party endorsed were not just
hatred, but also fear, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. Screaming
about Landon Donovan and screaming about Emmanuel Goldstein are two sides of
the same coin (or two sides of the same tetrahedral die, or whatever). I
think the reason I made the connection is that, while of course no sporting
event actually matters the way an election or a disaster matters,
this was soccer — Americans don't care about soccer! How
many people in the video linked above could have named three U.S. soccer
players in May? It sure looks like these folks, either explicitly or
unconsciously, decided to arbitrarily start caring in order to be
able to participate in a mass catharsis. And of course in Nineteen
Eighty-Four the objects of the Two Minutes Hate were similarly arbitrary.
Oceania has always played a silly game against Eastasia.
- If there's one thing that Who's Who in
2010 has taught me, it's that an awful lot of people have surnames that
start with the letter B.
- I watched some videos of 1980s PCs booting up and I swear that I could
smell them. I saw those IBM monitor knobs and heard those floppy
drives clicking and grinding and it brought back those crazy DOS days in
full sensurround. I always thought the smell-memory link was supposed to
work the other way around.
- espn.go.com: Colon tears Achilles. I guess that's better than
the part in the Iliad where Achilles tears his colon.
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