2015.01 minutiae

  • The panel above is from one of my favorite comics when I was a kid, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #20, scripted by James C. Owsley (now Christopher Priest).  It involves a version of Iron Man from the dystopian far future of 2015 time-traveling back to the present (1986) on an urgent mission that Spider-Man tragically interferes with.  I can't believe that Marvel's editors could read this issue and not give Owsley/Priest the regular Iron Man job.  (For one thing, he had something very much like the Jarvis operating system in the armor more than twenty years before the movie.)

  • I was thinking about how few protests there were when I was at Berkeley vs. how today's students have participated in both Occupy and this winter's police brutality protests.  Then it occurred to me: wait, only 1/4 of current students could have participated in both!  In college, three years is actually a significant length of time.  Whereas now the idea that three years is long enough to do more than maybe grab some lunch is ludicrous to me.

  • As I was driving southbound down MLK one afternoon I saw a woman walking a sheltie dog down the opposite sidewalk.  Just then, a motorcycle approached, heading north.  As it passed the woman, the dog attempted to leap at the motorcyclist's throat!  Only a firm grip on the leash prevented a gruesome outcome.  Yikes.

  • Maybe this sort of thing is old hat to you, but I was pretty gobsmacked by this video of Erik Satie's Gymnopédie No. 1 played on a bass guitar using harmonics.

  • More music:  I was watching a clip of Care Failure doing an acoustic version of "Sucker Punch" when I suddenly noticed — her guitar only has five strings!  I knew the Presidents of the United States of America played with five strings combined, but it wasn't until I did some more poking around that I learned that Keith Richards has spent the past half century playing with five.

  • During a power outage, PG&E called me with a recorded message.  The call went to voicemail.  I'm signed up for Google's service that automatically transcribes your voicemail messages and emails you transcripts along with a link to the recording.  Let's see how it did.

    "Para servicio en español, oprima nueve."

    Google transcript:
    "I see if you can just leave me alone, we'll be in the movie."

  • Recently I started corresponding with someone who uses a lot of those emojis.  I can't actually see the emojis: they show up in my chat window as rectangles, and when I paste them into a browser they are transformed into hex codes, and then I search on the hex codes to find out what the picture is supposed to be.  At first I thought emojis were just graphical emoticons — hence the name — but I soon found that there are emojis that don't seem to have any purpose except to replace words.  Like, here's a pineapple.  Here's a bikini.  Here's a cat.  What is the purpose of these?  It seems like the idea is to get speakers of phonographic languages writing logographically — to represent concepts with unique glyphs rather than with words composed of a limited set of letters.  In 1955, Why Johnny Can't Read argued that, in teaching sight recognition rather than phonics, schools were shortchanging students by treating easy-to-learn written English as if it were hard-to-learn written Chinese; sixty years later, the Chinese approach seems to be winning, as if the only problem with it were that the characters were too stylized.

  • Charlotte, age 10, to her mother, earnestly: "I heard that there is a suit you can wear that lets you experience the emotions of the characters in the book you're reading. So, like, you would know exactly how Katniss really feels when she is separated from Peeta, you can feel what she feels in the book. I want one for my birthday."

    Her sister Lucy, age 8: "That's a bad technology. The person who invented that suit did it for a bad purpose, I know it."

  • Lucy's right, you know.  I made the mistake of wearing that suit and then reading a cookbook.  Now every time I make a sandwich I have to call my therapist.

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