2012.07 minutiae

  • So I go to the Phoenix Pastificio booth at the Albany Farmers' Market and ask the guy what cuts of egg pasta they have. He says they have linguine, fettuccine, and pappardelle, then — mistakenly gathering that I needed some help deciding — asks, "What are you making with it?"

    "Shahi paneer," I reply. He gives me the "are you a wizard" face. "I make Indian food with pasta all the time," I shrug.

    The guy quickly recovers from being knocked off stride. "I'd suggest you get the fettuccine," he says authoritatively. I know this anecdote doesn't translate well to text but it was amusing to hear him put on this self-assured tone of voice as he went from dumbstruck to an expert on pasta pairings for Punjabi cuisine in the space of about five seconds.

  • Here are two things my apartment doesn't have: (a) a doorbell, and (b) a peephole. Meaning that all too often I have people pounding on my door and no good way to find out who they are. In the vast majority of cases they are door-to-door spammers of various sorts so on those occasions that I do elect to answer the door I usually end up wishing I hadn't. However, I've discovered that many of these people give themselves away just by the way they knock. I hear shave-and-a-haircut and I know to pretend I'm not home.

  • It's interesting: a lot of links to news stories these days go to video clips, and if they took fifteen seconds to load, I'd usually be willing to wait. But if they instead start playing a fifteen-second preroll ad, I immediately click away. Even if I have my computer's audio on mute, I'm just not going to stand for the bait-and-switch.

  • Speaking of immediately clicking away: there is little that squicks me more than seeing people on Facebook referring to their spouses as "Mommy" and "Daddy" before an audience of adults. That's an auto-hide right there.

  • My neighbor's dead lawn is tangled up with these dead leaves that are light brown speckled with bright white. It has also been pretty frigid here this summer. So when I open the door I feel a blast of cold air and see the ground mottled with white, and every time I have this split second when I forget where I am and think I'm back in Massachusetts in January.

  • According to cdc.gov stats, twelve people fall victim to firearm homicide every nine hours. But not all in the same place, so no half staff for them I guess.

  • As for the NRA meme that the solution to maniacs shooting up movie theaters is to arm everyone in the audience, I think the best comment I saw wasn't in response to the Colorado incident at all. Here's UPI's version of the story:

    Dallas police […] arrested a man whose gun accidentally went off inside a Walmart store, injuring […] a woman and a 5-year-old child. […] Todd Canady, […] who has a concealed weapons permit, was reportedly reaching for his wallet in the checkout line but grabbed the pistol he was carrying instead. The gun went off, wounding Canady in the buttocks. The bullet then hit the floor and sent fragments into the other two victims.

    And the comment, from one "TR":

    If that five-year-old had a gun too, then no one would've been hurt, right?

  • It's weird how much better a go player I become after taking even just a few days off. Somehow playing go makes me steadily worse at playing go.

  • When I was a kid I obsessively played this game called President Elect. One of the things you could do was send your candidate on a foreign trip; if it went poorly, the game would report that your candidate went overseas "and received several rude rebuffs," adding that "Campaign officials here are shocked and disturbed at the outcome of the trip, and are scrambling to regroup in its aftermath." In light of Mitt Romney's disastrous trip to Britain, I thought it might be amusing to plug him into the game, generate that screen, and post it on Twitter. But as it turned out, the process of generating a President Elect sim of the current election was actually pretty interesting. Some observations:

    • While much of the initial questionnaire was obsolete (e.g., does the candidate support or oppose sanctions against South Africa?), it was interesting to discover that by 1980s standards Barack Obama rated as a moderate — not a moderate Democrat, but a moderate period — while Mitt Romney scored as "arch-capitalist, plutocratic." Note that the top marginal tax rate when the game was programmed was 69.13%. Obama is pushing for 39.6%, which by Fox News standards makes him a wild-eyed Marxist.

    • The game predicts an Obama landslide, with Romney able to win only Utah and maybe Oklahoma. The reasons? First of all, the economy. At the time the game was programmed, 8% unemployment seemed decent, while 2% inflation meant partying in the streets. Secondly, the game had no way to account for identity politics. It simply did not compute that a moderate from Illinois known for his communication skills, up against a gaffe-prone plutocrat from Massachusetts, might nevertheless lose white male Southerners by margins of 80% or more. For some reason.

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