2010 October minutiae

  • I was reading a San Jose Mercury News article about a police chase that ended with the suspect jumping off the freeway onto a road 30 feet below. He was taken to the hospital. One of the comments: Bet he ain't running anytime soon. 30 ft is higher than my 18' ceiling. Why, yes. 30 feet is indeed more than 18 feet. Well observed.

  • I was working with a fairly high-scoring SAT student and decided to challenge him with a worksheet designed for kids who'd already mastered the stuff in the manual. We were about three problems in when blood started gushing out of his nose and he ran off to the bathroom to deal with it. Once he was back and I'd ascertained that everything was okay I was like, gee, I know these problems are pretty tough but I've never seen them make anyone's head literally explode before.

  • Another of my students was getting ready to take the SAT subject test in U.S. history. A question on one of her practice tests referred to the Know-Nothing Party, the nativist secret society that became a powerful force in American politics in the mid-1850s. The term wasn't ringing any bells for her, so I started my explanation by providing some context: at the end of the 1840s there was a famine in Ireland, leading to an influx of Irish Catholics into—

    "What are Catholics, anyway?" she asked. It turned out that she'd brought a whole list of terms she'd encountered in our lessons and in her reading that she needed a framework for: Puritans, Pilgrims, evangelicals, Calvinists. That's right — I get paid to explain Christianity to children.

  • Why is it considered good aesthetics to put a gigantic mat around a piece of art before framing it? I just don't understand why you'd want to put a 4x6 photo in a 16x20 frame.

  • Elizabeth is much neater than I am in most respects, so I was amused to see that when we split a piece of cheesecake I kept my side perfectly straight and smooth while hers was marked by wild fork gouges.

  • If results from my YYJ→SFO flight are representative, 100% of elderly Canadians are thunderstruck by the length of the San Mateo Bridge. I heard several of them remark upon it. "It's the size of Prince Edward Island!" one exclaimed.

  • Kids Say the Most Goddamned Things Department: declares the young niece of someone I went to high school with, "If there's one mans then you call them 'man,' if there are two mans you call them 'men,' if there are three mans then you have to call them 'dude' 'cause that's what mans call mans"

  • Right, Facebook, 32-by-32 squares containing indecipherable fragments of photos make it so much easier for me to see who's online than, y'know, a list of names. That's why instead of having people refer to me as "Adam" I insist that they hold up microscopic pictures of me.

  • One unfortunate side effect of having taught test prep for so many years is that when I'm watching a webcast of a college class and want to use the class quizzes to test whether I've actually learned anything, I can generally figure out the answers purely from the question design rather than due to any mastery I may have of the material.

  • Heard on the radio: "24 hours a day, seven days a week, for 365 years."

  • A guy in the New York gubernatorial debate dismissing concerns about the deficit: "It's like a cancer. It will heal itself." (Reminds me of Shaquille O'Neal: "My game is like the Pythagorean Theorem. There is no answer.")

  • A year or two ago I remarked to Lizzie about how expensive razor blades have become — over $20 for ten little cartridges? That's preposterous! And yet apparently those were the good old days. This month I went to buy a box of razor blades only to discover that each box was in its own bulky plastic anti-theft case that had to be unlocked at the register. Damn, man, it's not a fuckin' I-Phone.

  • This month the division alignment that will be used for Pac-12 football were announced. In an altogether typical exercise in athletic geography, among the results were:



  • One of the things that Meg Whitman has spent her $163-million-and-counting on was making an ad for her book pop up on my computer screen. There's the cover of the book there on the right. I wonder whose idea it was to go with the "I'm incredibly self-conscious about my forehead" crop.

  • Political ad playing on the radio: Every day, we seem to uncover more scandalous details about local city officials being paid outrageous salaries and benefits. And now we find out that the biggest local salary of all is right here in our own backyard! Why, yes. That would be the definition of "local," wouldn't it.

  • This is super great. Where were applicants like this when my band was looking for a drummer? (I guess the answer is "in primary school in Australia.")

  • I've been interested by the messaging on both sides of Prop 19. The Yes side, which would legalize pot in the state of California, is using the slogan "CONTROL & TAX CANNABIS," which sounds like they're asking for more restrictions, whereas the No side is saying "KEEP CANNABIS MEDICAL," which sounds like they're trying to protect it. I.e., it sounds like neither side is confident that it can win by relying on its own base and is therefore trying to appeal to the other side's constituency.

  • Jess writes: "Mildly bemused by the two restroom signs, respectively marked Men and an emphatic Women and Children ONLY! What, do they keep the lifeboats in there or something?"

  • Having stores right across the street is not as convenient as you might think, as it turns out that most of them require customers to be dressed.

  • I'm not really into baseball, but I spent the baseball season driving around Northern California going to and from tutoring appointments, and the Giants were on the radio a lot, and so I wound up getting to know the roster and the team's ups and downs just kind of by osmosis — even better than I knew those of the 2000 Mariners, the only other baseball team I've ever followed. So it is kind of crazy to me that the Giants are in the World Series.

  • It is strange to see people I know dating middle-aged men, and even stranger to discover that those men are younger than I am. I guess I'm going to end up looking like the elderly baby in Benjamin Button.

  • Back In My Day Department: back in my day, the unspoken rules of Halloween were different than they seem to be today... trick-or-treating was sort of a rite of passage, the year that you were finally old enough to be allowed to wander around the neighborhood on your own after dark, ringing the doorbells of houses whose residents you didn't know... and this was usually around age six or seven... now it seems that Halloween is a daylight activity for very young children whose parents escort them, not even from house to house, but from storefront to storefront. I saw a lot of them doing the Solano Stroll around 4:30. Four-thirty!

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