2011.04 minutiae

  • The month kicked off with a report that Americans think that funding for public broadcasting makes up 5% of the budget, which would be roughly $175 billion. The actual figure is somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million out of a budget of about $3.5 trillion, i.e., 0.01%. The political journalists writing up this story demonstrated a depressing inability to do simple math. TPM called it "0.01%, or one tenth of one percent," then fixed this flub by removing the correct figure and just going with "one tenth of one percent." CNN also called it "one-tenth of one percent." Politico went with ".00014 percent," forgetting to multiply by 100. Hey, how about upping the budget for math education?

  • An anonymous commenter responded to last month's Pac-Man item by noting that "in Japan they think it is hilarious if a man eats cake." I did some poking around, and sure enough, anthropologist Laura Spielvogel of Western Michigan University agrees:

    In Japan, enjoying sugary snacks and cakes is viewed as a decidedly feminine trait. Women, like children, are expected and encouraged to relish sweets, and those who do are constructed as cute and childishly attractive. [...] The consumption of sweets, or what Kinsella terms "cute food," is particularly characteristic of the burikko (pretend child), the grown women who act naïve, coquettish, and innocent to appear attractive and rebel against adult responsibilities. [...] the man who passes up a beer in favor of dessert may be characterized as sexually suspect, wimpy, or feminine."

  • So a while back I got an email from someone I went to high school with wondering how, of all the people in our class, I wound up with a Wikipedia page. But it turns out that I'm not the only one in my high school class with an entry on Wikipedia.

    (I actually knew her, too — she was the only one besides me and Greg West who rode the OCTD bus to school. We were never pals or anything but we had a few friendly conversations.)

  • Frances Cobain, asked what her mother Courtney Love thinks about her artwork: "What does your mom think about your interview questions?"

  • Last year I suggested a new system for scoring NCAA tournament brackets; here are the points that would have been awarded this year for selected teams under this system:

    Round: of 64of 32S16 E8F4final
    (3) Connecticut 1.042.36 6.7734.6 172681
    (8) Butler 1.6941.7 2111330 80000
    (11) VCU 6.2183.3 10008000 00
    (4) Kentucky 1.052.68 25.0100 00
    (5) Arizona 1.267.63 100000
    (1) Kansas 1.012.08 5.01000
    (12) Richmond 2.6430.3 0000
    (1) Ohio State 1.012.11 0000
    (13) Morehead State 22.200 000
    (1) Pittsburgh 1.0100 000
    (4) Louisville 000 000

    So someone who picked Butler to go to the championship game again would earn 9580 points; the only way to catch such a person without making that pick would be to put VCU in the Final Four for 9090 points and hope that your other picks made up the difference (say, by picking Connecticut to win the tournament and thereby get you 898 points). Compare these lines to those of the 2009 tournament, in which picking Michigan State to go to the championship game would have won you a cumulative total of 343 points and correctly tabbing North Carolina as the champion would be worth a total of 178 points over six games.

  • Nearly half a year has gone by since I stopped tutoring, but I agreed to help the office through the transition to the new GRE and thus got sent to Irvine for a weekend to meet with some of the R&D folks. I was told that there would be some kind of carpooling system, but since I wasn't given any contact information for anyone, and the guy who answered the phone at the Irvine office didn't really know anything about anything, I wound up just walking the 2.7 miles it took to get there from John Wayne Airport. Finding the one door that would let me walk from the airport onto a city street was an adventure in itself, but then I ran into a recurring problem: in Orange County, sidewalks have a habit of just... stopping. Irvine welcomes you! So long as you're not trying to get anywhere on foot! And since there was basically only one viable path to the office, I wound up having a lovely miles-long trudge through the mud. (Though to be honest walking alongside some undeveloped land actually was kind of nice.)

    I had the vague notion that my father might be back in town, and since I hadn't seen him in 6+ years I figured I'd give him a call and see whether he wanted to meet up. I told him that I got off work at six. In a perfect encapsulation of my childhood, he showed up at 11:20. Sigh.

  • A while back I wrote about mentally misfiling things in the wrong era, and here's a pretty extreme case. I learned from a Sporcle quiz that some consider 1972 to be the year techno first cracked the top ten, with the 100% electronic track "Popcorn":

    When I first heard this, I thought, oh, a primitive synth version of that classical piece by, uh... who was that by again? Mozart or somebody? So I tried to find out, and everything I read suggested that the composition dated all the way back to... 1969. Buh? I had totally filed this tune in with "The Hall of the Mountain King" and "The 1812 Overture"... even thought I'd heard orchestral versions. I guess that what actually happened is that, like almost every piece of classical music I know, I first encountered it in the form of video game music — in this case, Pengo:

    ...and thus assumed they were all from roughly the same era.

  • Speaking of Super Sounds of the Seventies, apparently an Australian nun made it into the top five in 1974 with a disco version of "The Lord's Prayer." Here's the video:

    This is serious trippy to me because the film stock and the quality of the light in the outdoor scenes is what early childhood feels like to me on a deep, pre-verbal level. The disco and the haircuts and things help too, but really, it's the level of blur and speckliness of the footage plus the sun that does it.

  • More Youtube showcase: the winsome Briana Galbraith somehow manages to redeem "Friday":

  • Hat tip to Alex Hoffer for catching this gem on nytimes.com from Gedalye Szegedin, village administrator of Kiryas Joel, NY: "I wouldn't call it a poor community [...] I would call it a community with a lot of income-related challenges."

  • Found this purely by accident: Google Street View doesn't splice its photos together exactly right, with amusing results.

  • The people at the Cheese Board always give you a little extra, but apparently they take this to extremes when it's near closing time and they're trying to offload inventory. I showed up at 7:50 and ordered two slices. They gave me six.

  • So the first draft of the script I've been working on for the better part of a year is off to the studio. First thing I did to kick off the next chapter of my life: disconnected the phone and shoved it back into the closet from which I'd excavated it seven months before.

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