2013.01 minutiae

  • I forgot to mention this last time: What did I do on Christmas?  Why, I spent it playing Civilization, i.e., the original, from 1991, in hopes of reaching the point that I could get a screen capture of Queen Elizabeth with a full Renaissance background for my then-upcoming article on movies about her.  Only after about six hours did I think to find out whether there were any utilities that could just pull the graphics from the original files.  (There were.)

  • My life has been substantially improved by the discovery that while good ice cream is difficult to make, good sorbet is easy.

  • I was half-listening to the pre-boarding announcement prior to my flight — only half-listening because I don't fall into any of the usual pre-boarding categories.  I don't need to be helped out of a wheelchair, I don't have to wrangle a grubby two-year-old, etc.  But then the guy announced pre-boarding for those who weren't going to be using the overhead bins.  I never use those fuckers!  They let me right on.  If this is going to be a new standard policy, hot diggity.

  • Of course, since I was flying Alaska Airlines, the flight was still an hour late.  This time it was because the count of people in the plane didn't match the count of people who had gone into the jetway, so after doing multiple recounts on the tarmac, we had to go back to the gate for the level-boss counter to see whose number was correct.

  • Elite Cryptography Department:  Elizabeth's landlords wrecked her apartment by installing a faulty dishwasher directly above it, so while they had repairs done, they stuck her for much of the month in a condo across town.  The condo had no Internet access, and one night Elizabeth found that she needed to get online and look something up.  She found a local coffee shop that claimed to have wifi, but it was closed, an understandable enough state of affairs at 4 a.m.  So while she was able to get a connection, there was no one to ask for the password when the verification page popped up.  The sign over the coffee shop said that it was called "Mokahouse".  Elizabeth typed "Mokahouse" into the password field.  It turned out to be correct.

  • There are technologies that sound obsolete (VHS, cassettes) and then there are technologies that sound hilariously obsolete (Betamax, 8-tracks).  DVDs seem destined for the former category, but I bet that in a few years the phrase "Blu-Ray" is going to be a laugh riot.

  • Speaking of obsolete tech, there are lots of articles on the web chuckling about and/or raging against "skeuomorphs."  Skeuomorphs are designs that incorporate obsolete elements from earlier iterations of a piece of technology, either due to inertia or for the sake of familiarity.  An example would be the wood-grain decals on my old Intellivision (because earlier AV equipment like radios and televisions used to house electronic components in wooden cabinets), or a note-taking program that mimics the look of a yellow legal pad (because earlier note-taking equipment included yellow legal pads).  Icons are particularly prone to skeuomorphism.  To save this sentence in the text editor I am typing it into, I have to click on an image of a 3½" floppy disk.  In 1990, that may have been an intuitive choice of icon: "Aha! If I click this, it must save the file onto the very similar-looking blue diskette in my A: drive!"  But that was long before this text editor was programmed, and now there's a whole generation for whom that icon means "save" because, well, when you click it the file gets saved.  My pal Zoe the Squirrel is legally an adult and has never used a 3½" floppy disk in her life.

    Anyway, one of these articles presents the icon to the right and chortles: "The world's most advanced phones include an icon that looks like a phone handset that you haven't touched in 20 years, unless you've used a pay phone recently. (What's that?)"  Ah, the second person: always dangerous!  See, I own a telephone, which I use every day, and it looks like this:

    I got that phone in, I think, 1989, and I still have it.  Why?  Because most people don't replace every damn thing the second something new comes along.  This phone works fine.  Why would I get a new one?  Especially when this one has the advantage of offering, yes, a receiver that fits the human face better than a rectangular slab?  A while back I read a piece (which I don't have a link to anymore, sadly) that pointed out that movies and TV shows set in, say, 1967, often make the mistake of making everything in the show an artifact from 1967, when in reality a house in 1967 would be full of stuff from the early '60s, the '50s, the '40s, and possibly before.  So, yes, it may be 2013, but when I get out of my 2001 car and go inside and take off the jacket I bought in 1998 and use the toaster I got in 1994 to make a snack before using the phone I got in 1989, it's not because I'm a luddite and it's not because I'm trying to be retro.  I'm just, y'know, not throwing out stuff that doesn't need to be replaced.

  • All that said: a fair-sized chunk of my brain is devoted to remembering nursery rhymes and fairy tales and things that date back centuries.  Which is strange!  How is it that I can recite "Jack Sprat would eat no fat" and other such relics?  Was there still so little children's media in the late '70s that people had to go back to 1639 in order to come up with enough material to keep kids busy?  Do childlings still learn about cows jumping over moons and whatnot now that they can spend the whole day watching Pixar movies on their phones?

  • Why is it that previously attentive restaurant wait staff will suddenly vanish into the land of wind and ghosts immediately after dropping off the check?  I can't count the number of times I've changed my mind about the size of a tip after grimly sitting for twenty minutes waiting for someone to please please just come pick up my credit card.

  • I got to wondering about what Weird Al Yankovic's version of "Gangnam Style" will be like.  I guess it'll probably be about kimchi.  Also, it'd be hilarious if it were also in Korean.

  • It occurred to me that, back when I watched sitcoms, it was not uncommon that a character would arrive late for an appointment, only for the other party to immediately leave, saying a few huffy things on the way out the door about having been kept waiting.  Now, I see why this happens — it's more dramatic than finding that the person has already left and less anticlimactic than having the meeting proceed.  It also allows screenwriters to keep scenes very short, in a medium where every second of airtime is a precious commodity.  But I still wonder: does this ever happen in real life?  Say the meeting is at two o'clock.  If you really do have another appointment that necessitates leaving at, say, three, are you actually going to stick around until 2:58?  Or if the slacker shows up at 2:15, are you really going to leave at 2:16 and go read a magazine in the car for 44 minutes just to be pissy?

  • I was up in Seattle riding the Link light rail from the airport to Pioneer Square when, up ahead, I saw some flashing red lights.  "Feh, we're going to have to wait for a train," I thought.  Then I saw a line of stopped traffic drift by and realized we were the train the lights were for.

  • "Said" Is Usually Sufficient Department:  espn.com creates an interesting mental image in characterizing an utterance of the defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons: "These young guys, they are athletic and they can run," Nolan moaned.

  • I don't see a lot of cold-weather nightlife, since I rarely leave my apartment and when I do I'm in California.  But this month I spent a week in Canada and, dang, everywhere Lizzie and I went at night there were club girls standing around wearing scarves and these wool coats that fell to about miniskirt length… and then, between their coat hems and their boots, nothing but nylons.  Victoria may not be Winnipeg weather-wise but, still, in January that's commitment.

  • Speaking of weather: I was in Trader Joe's and the song "Bus Stop" came on — I'd heard the song a few times before, but only knew a few of the words.  So when I heard this:

    Bus stop, wet day, she's there, I say
    Please share my umbrella
    Bus stop, bus goes, she stays, love grows
    Under my umbrella
    All that summer we enjoyed it

    …I was genuinely perplexed.  "Summer"?  I thought he just said it was raining!  It seriously took me upwards of 30 seconds to remember that, yes, there are climates where precipitation doesn't automatically mean that it's winter.

  • I grew up only seeing white eggs, so when I moved to New England where brown eggs are ubiquitous, it took me some time to adjust.  Yes, I knew that everyone said that they were the same except for the color, but I still felt kind of dubious the first couple of times I bought them.  But by the end of three and a half years in New England I was so accustomed to brown eggs that now the white ones seemed suspect to me, like they were pale imitations of actual eggs.  For quite a while after I moved back to California I got the brown eggs at Trader Joe's.  But those always had blood flecks in them, and fishing them out eventually grossed me out enough that I just started getting white eggs at Berkeley Bowl.  Now brown eggs seem weird to me again.

  • Someone — I think it may have been Sarah Morayati — suggested a while back that I post these things in real time on Tumblr so that people can share them individually.  I'm dubious about that idea; while back in 2000 I intended for the posts on my brand-new Calendar page to range anywhere from a couple of sentences to a couple of paragraphs, by the time the minutiae posts started in 2006 my usual article ran for the equivalent of a magazine page or two, and I kind of like how, bundled together, these trivial observations add up to a similar length.  Still, now that I am posting announcement links with previews on Tumblr, if anyone really wants me to break out an item or two for reblogging purposes, shoot me an email or something and I'll see what I can do.

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