...in which I abet societal ills
- In my article on The Social Network
I mentioned the practice of putting a really expensive item on a restaurant
menu in order to make other pricy dishes look relatively cheap. I later
remembered a particularly egregious perpetrator of this sort of thing:
in New York City. $23 for French toast? $28 for a salad? Those selections
look like steals when they're on the menu next to a lobster frittata with
caviar for a cool one thousand dollars.
- Most people misuse the phrase "begs the question," thinking that it's
just a fancy way to say "raises the question." I apparently mislearned
it as well, but not that way. From what I've read, "begging the question"
really just means "assuming the conclusion." E.g., "The banana is the
world's most delicious fruit. We know this because no fruit on Earth is
tastier than a banana." But I learned "begging the question" as
"giving a response that does indeed answer the question, yet cries out for
the original question to be re-asked." For instance, say your three-year-old
has just taken her trusty purple crayon and written her name on the wall.
"Why did you write your name on the wall?" "Because it's the only word I
know how to spell!" Okay, but...!
I think that's a very useful concept and is what "begging the question"
should mean. But no one would understand me if I used it that way,
so I guess I'm stuck with awkwardly saying "begging for the original
question to be re-asked" or something like that. Dagnabbit.
- I was interested to read
this Boston Globe article about how restaurants routinely lie
about what types of fish they're serving you — order the red
snapper, for instance, and in the vast majority of instances you're likely
to get tilapia instead. That's one nice thing about being a vegetarian:
rarely does a waiter serve me a turnip and swear that it's actually an
- Lots of arts institutions offer reduced prices for kids, who might be
defined as "12 and under" at a movie theater, or "under 18" at a museum.
I guess it says something about the demographics of live theater that,
when I passed the Berkeley Rep, I saw a notice that tickets were always
half price for anyone under 30.
- Elizabeth found
article about a development in Japanese culture that really needs to
migrate over to North America: cat cafés! They're just
regular cafés that happen to have a dozen or so cats to look at
and/or play with while you consume your snack and/or beverage. Given
that I love cats but don't really have enough space here to have one of
my own, I'm sure that if there were a cat café on Solano I would
go all the time. My favorite part of the article was this:
Vice: What's your impression of the place?|
Satoko: It's great, there are a lot more types of cats than I
I love the suggestion that she'd been thinking, "I was considering going
to that cat café, but I dunno... they probably only have a few
- I think I've figured out what one of my main problems with writing is.
Say you have a bunch of ideas related to a theme, and you're trying to
organize them. It might be the case that the natural transitions are not
one-dimensional! There might be a perfect segue between idea A and
idea B, and between A and C, and between A and D, but not between B
and C, or between C and D. And if D naturally leads to E, cool, but then
if E naturally leads back to A... agh! I end up sitting there for ages
trying to figure out which idea should be paragraph 5 and which
should be paragraph 6 when I want them both to be
- Another problem is that I find it very hard not to include an idea
that seems to me in any way related to what I'm talking about. An
article that's supposed to be "here is one problem with Alan Cranston's
1984 presidential bid" mushrooms into "here is every problem with Alan
Cranston's 1984 presidential bid" and finally into "here is every problem
with Alan Cranston's 1984 presidential bid and also with the United States
- So last month, right around the time I finally paid off
the IMA battery — i.e, the thing that makes the car a
hybrid — failed. My dashboard lit up like a candelabra, the
display indicating energy transfer between the battery and the engine went
dead, and my mileage dropped from 70 miles per gallon highway / 50
city to 40/30. When I took it into the shop and the guy informed me that
it would cost
to fix, I decided I could live with the lower mileage.
Cut to four weeks later, when my car conks out on San Pablo Avenue (while
I am in the left turn lane, no less). I get it towed back to the shop.
This time they replace the twelve-volt battery, at a cost of $105. And
it turns out that the new 12V recharges the IMA battery, clearing
the warning lights and the associated computer codes, and fixing the
entire problem for 3½% of the original estimate!
- Stalling out on a major thoroughfare is bad news. I had just been
running out to get some dinner, so I didn't have my phone with me. I
figured that I'd therefore be stuck there with traffic piling up behind me
until the police finally arrived to give me a ticket and probably pepper
spray me in the face. (Seems to be their thing these days.) I got out to
wave people away from getting into the left turn lane and a couple of guys
who were hanging out in front of the Popeye's Chicken started shouting
at me to ask what the hell I was doing. They seemed to think that a
140-pound man should have no trouble maneuvering an 1880-pound hunk of
inert metal through a left turn at a busy intersection. Eventually they
came over to help me push and steer the car onto the quieter street and
into the bike lane; one even lent me his phone so I could call AAA.
(The call took a while because at first the dispatcher at AAA insisted
that she couldn't send me a tow truck unless I knew the street address of
the garage I wanted my car towed to. Who memorizes the addresses of auto
Once the call was finally over I gave the guy his phone back, and he
wished me luck and started to head off, but I chased him down and asked
if I could pay him anything, as he'd helped me out of a real scrape. In
the past I've generally been turned down in such situations —
once a guy dug my car out of a snowdrift on the side of I-40 and refused
to accept anything in return — but times are tough these days,
particularly in the sort of neighborhood where I was stranded. I had a
$10 and a $5 in my wallet, so I gave him the $10. He took it, said thank
you, and went directly into the liquor store. Now, the reason I hadn't
given him the $5 as well is that the other guy who had helped out had
wandered off somewhere but I wanted to be able to give him something too
in case he showed up again before the tow truck came. Which he did. I
gave him the $5. He took it, said thank you, and also went directly into
the liquor store.
It took the tow truck about an hour and a half to arrive; fortunately, I
had the book I'd been planning to read while I
ate dinner, so at least I had something to do. While I was standing by my
car reading, an obvious prostitute came up and engaged me in conversation
about what I was doing on that corner and then, when I explained about
the car, peppered me with questions about it. (Did it run entirely on
electricity? Had I tried restarting it? Were the hazard lights always
that dim? Etc.) The thing is, as downtrodden as that neighborhood was,
I suspect that if my car had to break down it may have actually been a
pretty good place for it. If I'd been in a more affluent area, would
anyone have helped me?
- One great thing about Berkeley: when the mechanic who was working on
my car was telling me what was wrong with it, his explanation included
both the word "sans" and a reference to Occam's Razor.
- "small but perfect breasts"
About 104,000 results (0.35 seconds)
"large but perfect breasts"
12 results (0.26 seconds)
- Every year I get a half-baked stuffed spinach and mushroom pizza from
and eat it the next day for Thanksgiving. I can do this because I have an
oven. In college I didn't have an oven, and so one time when I had some
leftover Zachary's I tried to microwave it. The result was limp and
gross, but I ate it anyway, and got sick a few hours later. Consequently,
over twenty years later, I can look at a slice of Zachary's and find it
immensely appetizing, but all I have to do is think to myself
"that is microwaved" and I am instantly overcome with nausea.
- Ah, Youtube comments. Here's one in which the poster happily reports
that the erudite dialogue in the video "has improved my vocabularly."
- Elizabeth once expressed some surprise to me that the U.S. didn't have
an official logo, at least for tourism; Canada has a logo that it uses on
everything, and it looks like this:
Mexico has one as well:
So I heard on NPR that the U.S. had finally adopted one of its own, but as
radio is not a great medium for conveying what it looked like, I had to
hit Google Images for a looksee. I braced myself as I pulled it up...
That's way better than I was expecting! In fact, that's fainter praise
than it deserves — I think this is really good. Canada, you
gotta step up your game.
- Speaking of games, it looks like we're headed for a BCS championship
game of LSU vs. Alabama, which is unfair to LSU. LSU already beat
Alabama. Why should it have to do so twice in order to win the mythical
national championship, while Alabama need only go 1-1? Yes, Alabama is
probably the second-best team in the country, but so what? Why should #2
get multiple shots at #1? It seems to me that, even if you're not going
to have a playoff system, rankings should only come into play in two
scenarios: one, when there are no unbeaten teams, and two, when there are
three or more unbeaten teams. If there are two unbeaten teams, as will be
the case if LSU beats Georgia and Houston beats Southern Mississippi, then
they should play for the title. And if there is only one unbeaten team,
there should be no national championship game. Just give the title
to that team, because there's no controversy over which team is the best.
- I've been going to a three-hour block of classes on Tuesdays and
Thursdays, but every street around campus is in a two-hour parking zone.
Thus, I initially drove a mile to the El Cerrito BART station and took
the train to downtown Berkeley. Then I discovered that there's a bus
stop a block away from my house that goes to the same intersection, so I
started taking the bus instead. The bus kind of sucks. Buses virtually
never arrive more than once every fifteen minutes, and often arrive only
once every half hour or hour... and their arrival times rarely bear any
resemblance to the printed schedule. Inside the bus it's hard to breathe
(especially anywhere near the engine); add the motion sickness and reading
on the bus is basically impossible.
All that said, there is something to taking a morning-commute route and
seeing the same faces day after day. Makes me feel at least 0.01% more
like I'm part of a community.
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