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 1989! Criminy.

  • 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 the way.

    "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 absolutely insane.

  • 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 just driven.

  • 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 like this.

  • 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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