'I FEEL SO OLD' MOMENT OF THE WEEK: This year's freshman class thinks that Bryn Mawr is like Hogwarts, not that Hogwarts is like Bryn Mawr. When the first Harry Potter book came out, they were about 13 years old.
VEGAN FOOD THAT'S ACTUALLY GOOD: If you've never tried hominy, you've got to check it out. I had my first experience with it this evening. Hominy is whole corn kernels, cooked in some way or other, and it comes in a can.
For dinner tonight I made "Red Bell Peppers Stuffed with Green Chile, Corn, and Hominy". The recipe came from one of my new cookbooks, The Passionate Vegetarian by (I am not making this up) Crescent Dragonwagon. Hominy, fresh corn, sauteed onion, and jalapenos in a beautifully sweet red pepper shell. Roasting the red pepper did fill my apartment with smoke, though, so next time I'll try a lower temperature.
It was absolutely fantastic. Just the right combination of flavors. I'll definitely make it again. And it was good to find something nice in this book after messing up the first thing I tried (no, I don't want to talk about it).
BACK TO SCHOOL: Today is awfully lonely. Sasha left yesterday morning for Boston, since his internship has finished and the school year is beginning. My sister called the other day, full of excitement at all her school year activities. My Bryn Mawr friends are all busily moving in to their dorms this weekend, so I can't even call to say hello.
I know that if I were going back to school this year, I would hate it. But a part of me really misses the excitement that goes along with the beginning of the new school year. There's really nothing like it in the year-round grownup world of work, as far as I can tell.
WAS IT THAT BAD? So I was sitting on the couch, reading the newspaper and singing to myself (I think it was Mozart, but I have the habit of starting to sing without noticing). Maggie jumped up onto the back of the couch, walked over to me, and bit me on the cheek.
To their knowledge, Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham are the only people on the planet who keep tabs on the world's flotsam, which at the moment also includes more than 30,000 Nike running shoes, 34,000 hockey gloves, 5 million lost Legos, and a number of onions.
You'd think the onions would biodegrade or get eaten, wouldn't you?
TIME TRAVELER SPAM: A few weeks ago I wrote about a weird piece of spam asking me to provide a dimensional warp generator to a stranded time traveler. Wired News has tracked the guy down. Go read, it's pretty interesting.
SCRAPPLEFACE STRIKES AGAIN: I missed this post yesterday.
(2003-08-27) -- Both houses of the U.S. Congress today passed a law establishing an official religion for the nation.
The new religion suggests that adherents acknowledge a generic deity during certain public ceremonies like political speeches and ball games. Worship will consist of moments of silence, singing of an Irving Berlin show tune and pronouncing blessings upon people who sneeze.
THAT'S QUITE A CHANGE! According to this article, the Pope is about to change his stance on genetically modified foods:
"In his soon to be released statement, the Pontiff will retract views he expressed in 2000, when he denounced GMOs as a threat to nature that would eventually turn on the planet in a nightmare of biblical proportions. Now he will portray them more as a savior of the poor and starving."
How could such a drastic change happen in just three years? GMOs have gone from being Satan's spawn to a gift from God! Perhaps they converted to Catholicism.
THE NERD JACKET: It's got 2,312.75 square inches of pocket space, and a system of holes to run wires between the pockets without exposing any. Extremely cool. But if I had one of these, I'd just want more gadgets to go with it.
WRITING SHORTCUTS: Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein has an interesting short post on the custom of writing without vowels in Hebrew. When I first read the title of the post, "Lck f vwls n hbrw", I thought he was writing in L33T until I figured out what it meant. (For those not in the know: L33T (pronounced "leet", sometimes also spelled 1337) is the name for that semi-incomprehensible shortcut writing used in text messaging and by many kids and teens on the Internet. Check here for a more thorough explanation. Or you can see Google in l33t.)
So I started wondering whether there have been any serious comparisons between Hebrew (or other non-vowel-written languages) and L33T. Please drop me a line if you've seen any!
WHERE CAN I BUY TICKETS? Many theaters are planning to show a 12-hour movie marathon of the Lord of the Rings movies, finishing with the first showings of Return of the King. For this, I will definitely stay up until 3 AM. (Link via GeekPress)
RADIO GIRL: The live radio spot last night went really well. Much better than I expected, really. I was terrified beforehand - literally shaking and dizzy and overall completely losing it in a way that is completely unlike me. But once I got on the air, I was perfectly fine. My mother listened through the Internet, and in her objective opinion, I was fantastic.
Earlier in the day, I did a taped interview with a reporter from Northeast Public Radio (no, it's not the same as NPR). I'll let you know if and when parts of it will be on the air.
ME, ON THE RADIO! I'm going to be on the radio tonight! This is my first live show, and it will last an entire hour including call-in questions from the audience. It's the Jerry Lewis show in Minnesota on AM1500 KSTP at 7 PM Central time. If you don't happen to live in Minnesota, you can listen live on their website, but you'll have to download a player called ChainCast first. Wish me luck, I'm terrified.
MATRIX PHILOSOPHY ESSAY: Here's an analysis of the conversation between Neo and the Architect at the end of Reloaded. It focuses a lot on refucting the idea that Zion is part of the Matrix (which I decided was not the case a long time ago, so it seems like overkill to me). But there's other interesting stuff in it, on choice, hope, and Neo's powers. (Link via GeekPress)
GOOD IRAQI BLOG: Through Winds of Change, I found Baghdad Burning, a blog written by an Iraqi woman. As she explains in the most recent post, she used to be a computer programmer, but now she is unemployed along with 65% of Iraqis, and is facing growing restrictions on the ability of women to go out in public and dress as they choose.
ONE MORE CAT STORY: I forgot to put this amusing incident in the post below.
I keep the bathroom wastebasket on the counter above the toilet, because when I leave it on the floor Ethelwolf likes to knock it over and play with its contents. (Yay! A used razor blade! That's a great toy!) He jumps onto the counter pretty often, but usually leaves the wastebasket alone when it's up there. But I came home from work on Friday and found the wastebasket sitting, right-side-up, in the toilet bowl. It was really funny looking. I would have taken a picture, but my digital camera was out of batteries.
My first reaction upon seeing it was to cringe at the dirty, wet mess that should have accumulated at the bottom (it's a woven basket, not plastic). But I discovered that it was perfectly dry - the wastebasket was exactly the right width such that the toilet seat kept it suspended about an inch above the water. No mess at all, not even any trash scattered on the floor!
ETHELWOLF, PROBLEM-SOLVER: The good news is that my younger cat is turning out to be a very intelligent young man. The bad news is that just about no location in my apartment is safe for breakables and non-toys.
The fun started when Ethelwolf managed to leap to the top of my dresser last week, a place that had previously been accessible only to Maggie. Ethelwolf likes knocking things off of high places much more than Maggie does, so my jewelry, deoderant, and nail polish all had to find new homes.
Next, he made it to the top of the hutch over the computer desk, forcing me to relocate my important papers. From there, it was an easy jump to the top of the bookshelf, where I used to keep boxes for later use. Cats love playing in boxes, so Ethelwolf jumped right in. Fortunately the box tipped over only to the top of the desk (about an 18 inch fall) instead of in the other direction to the floor (seven and a half feet). The boxes live on the floor now, and have become cat toys.
But I didn't get really angry until last night, when I set up the drying rack for all my office clothes which scream out "Don't put me in the dryer!!!" Ethelwolf had always liked to play with the dangling clothes, frequently pulling them to the floor, so I placed everything on the highest bars of the rack. A few minutes later, Ethelwolf was on top of the rack, even though that requires a five-foot jump from the floor onto a series of half-inch-thick bars spaced four inches apart which you cannot see the precise locations of from the floor, and all of which is balanced on a very rickety, shaky platform. I screamed at him very loudly, and he seems to have left it alone for the night, but this morning he jumped up again, knocking the rack to the floor.
When I get a real house, I will have a room that the cats are not allowed into. At least, not without supervision.
COOKING WEEKEND: I wrote a post yesterday about cake, but blogger ate it (the post, not the cake). So I've decided to do an expanded version instead.
Since Sasha is going back to Boston at the end of the week, I let him choose this week's dessert item - limited, of course, to the selections in my excellent Chocolate Cake cookbook. He chose an odd one: Tea-Infused White Chocolate Cake. It's a very weird recipe, but the cake is excellent! The main flavorings are lemon zest, and four teabags (your choice of flavor). The teabags are cut open, and the tea is steeped for half an hour or more in a very small quantity of hot water. The water and tea leaves are then poured into the cake batter. The leaves make cute little spots throughout the cake, much like poppy seeds. The downside is that there's a ton of butter and eggs in the cake, so it's very fattening.
I highly recommend this cookbook for any chocolate lover! I've made five cakes out of it so far, plus one icing, and I've loved every one. It's really amazing how many different varieties of chocolate cake there are. And the author throws in a few "cheats" as well, such as white chocolate cakes, vanilla cake layers (for putting chocolate frosting on), and a chocolate pudding made with cut-up pieces of leftover chocolate cake.
I spent practically the whole weekend cooking and reading about cooking. It was wonderful! I could go on for days and days like this, I'm sure of it, and not get bored at all. In addition to the cake, I made:
Sweet & Sour Pork, which I've made once before. I used the recipe from The Perfect Recipe by Pam Anderson, but I forgot to marinate the meat beforehand. It was very good anyway. I like this cookbook because before each recipe or group of recipes, the author goes into great detail about the experiments she performed to find the best-tasting version of the recipe. On the other hand, there aren't many recipes in it at all.
Chicken Enchiladas, from a recipe in Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. It was okay, but had too much tomato flavor and not enough spice. Part of this could have been my fault, since I used "finely diced" tomatoes instead of pureed ones. I bought a year's subscription to this magazine before I started my cookbook buying spree and cooking obsession. It's somewhat useful, but if I was starting now, I would skip it.
Fried Rice, using an amalgam of ethnic recipes from Seductions of Rice by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I have a lot to say about this cookbook, so I'll end the bullet points.
Seductions of Rice is a fascinating combination of cookbook and travelogue. The authors are a married couple who travelled around the world with their children (in most of the stories they are ages 6 and 3!) to all the different places where rice is the staple food. The book is arranged by country, and each chapter begins wih the method of cooking rice used in that culture (sometimes this varies just by taste preference, but sometimes a different cooking method is necessary for the different type of rice available in that climate). It then goes on to give recipes for dishes which include rice and dishes to be eaten with rice, generously interspersed with tales about their travels, rice-growing, rice-eating, and cultural phenomena. I sat down and read the first two chapters (China and Thailand) this weekend, as if it was a novel. There are also many beautiful pictures (though almost all are black-and-white) of people, fields, harvests, markets, etc. Just an incredible book. In case you're curious, the sections I have not read yet are on Japan, India, Central Asia & Persia, the Mediterranean, Senegal, and North America.
A few points of caution, however, before you rush out and buy it. First, I have not yet made any recipes from it, so I'm not certain they'll turn out well. (The fried rice yesterday used their proportions and cooking times, but just the ingredients I had on hand.) Second, many of the recipes require exotic ingredients that you can only get at ethnic markets, so you'll have to shop around a bit if you want to be true to the recipe. In some cases, they suggest easier-to-find substitutes. Third, the recipes from different cultures call for many different varieties of rice, so you can't just buy a lot of one kind of rice and expect to be able to make whatever dishes you want. But if you read thoroughly, you can get a good idea of which kinds of rice are similar and which shouldn't be substituted for which others.
LOCALIZED AUTUMN: I noticed yesterday morning that, despite the fact that it's still 93 degrees outside, the trees in front of my apartment building are starting to lose their leaves. However, none of the other trees in the entire city, as far as I've seen, are losing their leaves. Does this mean my apartment building has its own climate zone?
VOLOKH GREATNESS: It runs in their family, I think. My dearest Sasha has just accepted a clerkship with Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit. It starts in summer 2004, and we're all very happy for him despite the fact that California is aaaallllll the way over on the other side of the continent.
PHONE ISSUES SOLVED, FOR NOW: I waited in the excruciatingly long line at the Sprint store after work today, and purchased a refurbished cell phone for $20. It's actually more modern than my broken phone, and includes such exciting features as screen savers and Tetris. The signal is strong from all the places I need it to be, so I'm happy. The phone has a six month warranty, and my one-year contract will run out at about the same time. So if it breaks, or I have any other problems, I'll be able to switch providers at that time. I've heard some really good things about Verizon wireless.
HOME AGAIN: I'm back from Aspen. I had a very good time, despite the lack of oxygen in the entire town. I discovered that yes, I can last five days with only ten minutes total Internet access, and at the end of it, I can still know what's happened in the world though not what's buzzing on the blogs.
Sprint PCS is now on my "companies I'm annoyed at" list. My cell phone broke about a week ago, such that it usually refuses to make outgoing calls despite claiming to have a strong signal. And when it does manage to make a call, or someone calls me, the other person can't hear me even though I can hear them perfectly well. When I called tech support about this (the day after it happened, since I was giving it time to just be a bad signal-day), they advised me to "reboot" the phone by removing the battery and giving it a minute to rest. That didn't work, so they told me to keep trying it for three days before calling them back.
Keep in mind that this is my only phone. I don't have a land line from home, so I am currently relying on my office phone and Sasha's cell.
While I was waiting for my three days to run out, I went to Aspen. I didn't feel so bad about leaving my phone behind (though it was a traumatic experience to not have a way to call home from the road), since the Sprint website shows that they do not have coverage in Aspen in any case. But at the conference, people were using Verizon, AT&T, and other cell phones with no trouble whatsoever.
Back home, my Sprint phone still isn't working. I went to one of their local Sprint stores this morning to see about getting a replacement phone. But I gave up because first of all, I stood in line for over ten minutes without having the line move forward at all, and second, my phone worked fine from the store (of course!) so I was worried that after waiting an indeterminately long time, they wouldn't believe me and would refuse to fix or replace my phone anyway.
I'm about ready to drop my Sprint service altogether and go to Verizon wireless. But I expect a fight over that as well, because even though I've been a Sprint customer for 4 (!) years, they made me sign a new one-year contract when I changed my phone number a few months ago.
ON VACATION: I'm going to be at Progress & Freedom Foundation's Aspen Summit on Cyberspace and the American Dream from tomorrow through Wednesday. There's Wi-Fi access at the building where it's held, but I'm not bringing my laptop. I may get Internet access one way or another, but in all probability there will be no blogging until Thursday.
I know how awfully boring August is for policy wonks and news junkies (like me), so I apologize if I'm making anyone's week a little less interesting. See you when I get back!
FAMOUS FAMILY MEMBERS: My father wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the Houston Chronicle today! It begins with his trademark sense of humor:
Brent Himes' Aug. 11 Viewpoints letter, "Use your common sense," was nonsense. He claimed that cyclists "are not subject to the same laws of physics that motorized vehicles are." There is only one set of physical laws and it applies to cyclists, motorized vehicles, pedestrians, space shuttles, planets and atoms.
As a cyclist, I am particularly concerned with Newton's laws of motion, the conservation of momentum and energy, and inelastic collisions with large objects. That's why I'm careful to stay out of the way of vehicles as much as possible when riding my bicycle on our streets and roads.
To read the whole thing, scroll down to the third letter on this page, titled New Biking Trails, New Attitudes.
SPONTANEOUS SELF-ORGANIZATION: All the news stories yesterday afternoon and today are highlighting the extreme lack of chaos, looting, anarchy, and mass death associated with the widespread power outages in New York and elsewhere. An InstaPundit reader writes about well-moving traffic and lots of politeness. My friend Gaudior, as I linked below, had several instant-friendly, community-related experiences on her way home from work yesterday. And so forth.
We see this happening again and again in America. After 9/11, for example, with all the stories of people helping each other. After hurricanes and earthquakes, when people share water and voluntarily direct traffic. And I think a similar phenomenon happens with exceptionally major news events. For instance, the day after the 2000 presidential election, I found that I could join conversations with strangers that I overheard in passing, because everyone's mind was on the same thing and the norm of "I will pretend I can't hear the people at the table next to me" was all-around recognized as silly under the circumstances.
I think the major reason we can cope with these disruptions so well is that they are rare and don't last for a long time. New York City can last a day or two without power. But it could not last for a couple of weeks without power. Even if food and water were brought in, shelters with air conditioning were opened, and medical care was widely available, people would start getting annoyed and angry at the constant interaction with strangers and the inability for self-reliance. The same thing would happen if New York lost power for one random day every month.
Fortunately, we don't have to deal with these things very often, since we live in (yay!) a modern, capitalist, well-functioning society.
THINK CHECKED BAGGAGE SCREENING KEEPS YOU SAFE? Think again. This article, which goes into the attitudes and practices of the people who go through luggage by hand when it's flagged by the machine, is pretty scary. And it has its funny bits:
The problem is that the CTX flags a whole lot of other things with the same volume and density as some explosives. These include peanut butter, toothpaste, chocolate, golf balls, shoe heels, Blow Pops, and, believe it or not, live crabs. The device also alerts screeners to any item it can't see through: laptop computers, camera equipment, cell phones, oxygen tanks, golf club heads, and physics textbooks.
LITTLE-KNOWN USES OF GOOGLE: Everyone knows about the Google cache, which allows you to view pages that have been taken offline since Google indexed them. And most of us have encountered the "did you mean ..." feature, when Google thinks you've misspelled your search request (I admit to even using this to find the correct spelling of words once or twice). But there's more! Paul at GeekPress alerts me to the fact that Google can be used as a calculator. Also, have you ever noticed that on the search results page, sometimes the word you searched for is underlined at the top, in the phrase "Searched the web for word"? When it is, you can click on it for a dictionary definition. And you can enter an address to get a map of that location!
Details like this are why Google will almost certainly never be surpassed by another search engine. I love Google.
PUH-LEASE: Popular Science / CNN has published a story whining about how people use 'Internet' and 'World Wide Web' interchangeably, when the web is actually a subset of the Internet. But really, people - why bother nitpicking like this? An appeal for this kind of linguistic accuracy might have carried some weight back in 1996, when most people were either unwired or very new to the technologies. But now, the semi-interchangeability of these words is firmly rooted in modern English.
To top it off, the category distinctions are actually getting fuzzier. For instance, E-mail used to be a distinctly non-web activity, but now web-based and web-accessible e-mail accounts are quite standard. Some stand-alone products, which don't require Internet access, use a web browser as their user-interface platform anyway. The language we use is perfectly understandable in the situations we need it for.
I think that these days, even tech-clueless people understand the distinction between the web and the Internet. For instance, if Grandma asks for the website to download all those songs off the Internet that people are talking about these days, she'd probably understand this answer: "It's on the Internet, but it's not on the web because you can't get it through a browser. You need a special program to do it. Here's the website where you can get the program."
FROM 'FUCK THE DRAFT' TO 'FUCK ME': Words written on clothing have changed. The latest teen trend (I'm sure you've noticed it) is clothing with words like "Gorgeous" or "Juicy" written across the breast or bottom (for girls only). FoxNews has the story, accompanied by a grotesque picture of Brittney Spears. Honestly, I've never understood why people find her sexy.
Nor do I understand why teens and young women find this new clothing trend attractive. Can't we go back to last year's "peasant girl" look? That one was cute.
CAT UPDATE: Ethelwolf has survived the neutering process, despite being diagnosed this morning with a heart murmur. The vet said that to find the cause and see if any treatment is necessary, we'd have to see a veterinary cardiologist (who knew there was such a thing!). That would cost more money than I can conveniently part with, but it's not out of reach if I cut back on new kitchen gadgets and fancy spices and fall clothes. And maybe name-brand cat food.
On the other hand, it's very likely that the cardiologist would say either (a) it's nothing to worry about, or (b) it's something very serious that will cut his life short in a few years and there's nothing you can do about it. There is an option (c) he'll be fine with some type of medication, but I think that's pretty rare. So this vast amount of money is unlikely to have much effect in helping Ethelwolf's health, and would mainly be for peace of mind.
I'm going to do a bit more research. If anyone knows anything about cat medicine, I'd appreciate advice or pointers to literature.
IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE BLOGOSPHERE ECOSYSTEM? This site suddenly shot up from rank 654 (flappy bird) on Saturday to 277 (large mammal) on Sunday, while simultaneously dropping from having 41 inbound links to 8. What's going on here?
UPDATE: Ah, the front page references a 'mysterious problem'. Oh, well. At least I get my couple days of fame.
BEEN WONDERING WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THOSE 'HUMAN SHIELDS' WHO WENT TO IRAQ? At least one is facing a $10,000 fine for "violating U.S. sanctions," but she's refusing to pay. She could go to jail for up to 12 years unless she caughs up the money.
You are Eliza Bennett from Pride and Prejudice! Yay, you! Perhaps the brightest and best character in all of English literature, you are intelligent, lively, lovely-- in short, you are the best of company. Your only foibles are that you stick with your first impressions... and your family is quite intolerable.
THE END OF KITTENDOM IS NEAR: Ethelwolf has been acting so cute lately! Last night, Sasha was folding the laundry. The not-yet-folded laundry was on the couch in a drawstring laundry bag, the kind with a plastic thing on the end of the string that you can adjust to make the bag stay closed. Ethelwolf decided that this looked like a toy, so he grabbed it in his teeth and tried to jump off the couch - only to be jerked back in midair because the laundry was too heavy for him to pull!
He's getting neutered today. Poor little baby kitty.
OKAY, NOW I BELIEVE IT'S HOT IN LONDON: Over 100 degrees today - a new all-time record. This has prompted Catholics to do rain dances. I guess the theory is that God doesn't notice it's too hot unless a bunch of ground-dwellers tell him.
MORE HOT TEEN SEX: Washington Times reports on a study intended to increase knowledge about the dynamics of teen relationships in order to help them make more responsible decisions. But it sounds to me like they're making pretty responsible decisions already: 85% of sexually active teens, according to the study, view their first sexual encounter as "romantic" rather than "casual" (and thus, presumably, a good decision in retrospect). Sounds like a healthy practice of today's more free sexual culture.
HOW TO MATCH FRESHMAN ROOMMATES? Some colleges give out Meyers-Briggs personality tests, others let students choose their own roommates through a computer matching system.
I got along reasonably well with my Freshman roommates (I was in a triple), but neither of them became really good friends with each other. I have no idea what Ayako is up to now, and I think I remember Kristin moving back to Ohio with her boyfriend. I haven't talked to either of them in years.
CONCEALED WEAPONS FOR THE HOLY WARRIOR AND OTHERS: GeekPress links to a fascinating document (warning: large PDF file) with pictures and x-ray scan pictures of various concealed weapons. Check out especially the crucifix knife (page 17), sword umbrella (page 29), throwing cards (page 72), and the can-safes (pages 84-5).
TIME TRAVELER SPAM: I got a second copy of the Dimensional Warp Generator spam today, from a different sender. A school friend of mine also received one. I now have a better theory for what it's all about. I think it's trying to be funny enough that people respond to the e-mail address listed, and they'll then be flooded with other spam or something like that. It's a draw-in mechanism, I think. I'm going to test this out by setting up a fresh e-mail address and writing back.
A quick Internet search tells me that the domain in question is registered to a company that has been cited in online spam-tracking forums several times.
JAMES LILEKS HAS MADE UP FOR HIS TWO-DAY ABSENCE with a brilliant column. The part on Arnold's run for governor is great and the bit about the "Shelbyville Target" was very funny, but the real food for thought is about Rev. Robinson, the newly elected (gay) Anglican bishop. I hadn't been following the story closely and didn't know anything about the guy's personal history. Lileks explains that Rev. Robinson left his wife and two young daughters in order to date men. Lileks:
This story has irritated me from the start, and it has nothing to do with Rev. Robinson’s sexual orientation. The guy left his wife and kids to go do the hokey-pokey with someone else: that’s what it’s all about, at least for me. Marriages founder for a variety of reasons, and ofttimes they’re valid reasons, sad and inescapable. But "I want to have sex with other people" is not a valid reason for depriving two little girls of a daddy who lives with them, gets up at night when they're sick, kisses them in the morning when they wake. There's a word for people who leave their children because they don't want to have sex with Mommy anymore: selfish.
If he’d cast off his family to cavort with a woman from the choir, I’m not sure he’d be elevated to the level of moral avatar – but by some peculiar twist the fact that he left mom for a man insulates him from criticism. It’s as if he had to do it. To stay in the marriage would have been (crack of thunder, horses neighing) living a lie, and nowadays we’re told that’s the worst thing anyone can do. Better to bedevil other lives with the truth than inconvenience your own with a lie. Right? If others are harmed in the short run, eventually they will be happy because you’re happier. Right?
I've been struggling lately with issues of duty and commitment versus freedom and the pursuit of personal happiness. I used to think individual, personal happiness was the only thing worth seeking out. Make yourself the best you can be, and if there are other people nearby, they can come along for the ride or fall away. If they're useful to me and interesting, I try to keep near them. When they're no longer useful and interesting, or convenient, I discard them without another thought. I used to throw the entirety of my personal life up onto a website, because I thought that the more that was publicly known about me, the better other people could decide whether they wanted to be around me or not. I guess this was what we called the Post-Objectivist world. Always striving to make yourself better and happier; not caring who was left behind and who was found in the future.
That way of living is far behind me now, but the mindset of it still lingers. I don't care nearly enough about the happiness of the people I care about. I'm unwilling to make short-term sacrifices for the long-term happiness of myself and others both. I know what I want in the long run, but I haven't yet made the choice to deal with the day-to-day ups and downs of it.
At the same time, I'm in full reactionary retraction mode with regards to publicizing my feelings. I used to publish them on the Internet for anyone with a modem to read. Now I keep them bottled inside, showing my pleasure or displeasure, but keeping the reasons for it hidden from even those closest to me, those who have a right to know.
MY TWO NEMISES: I have two personal nemises (not counting my cats, who yesterday managed to knock the bathroom wastebasket off the counter, causing several items to fall in the toilet). These are: coupons for Linens 'N Things and dirty dishes in the morning. Let me take them in reverse order, just to be aggrivating.
Just about every evening, I glance at the dirty dishes in the sink and see that they are at a reasonable level. I shouldn't have to run the dishwasher until after dinner tomorrow, I think. Then I wake up in the morning, get ready for work, and go into the kitchen to make myself a sandwich to take for lunch. And I realize there are no knives with which to spread peanut butter. And then I realize that the dirty dishes in the sink have multiplied overnight and need to be washed right now lest I not have enough clean things with which to make dinner. So I empty and reload the dishwasher, wearing my office clothes, causing myself to be 10 minutes late to work.
The Linens 'N Things coupons are another matter entirely. I cut them out every time I see them, since there is a Linens 'N Things just two blocks from my apartment and I buy something there very nearly once a week. They're general coupons - 10% off any one item, $5 off a purchase, etc. So I happily clip them, but I have never once managed to use one. Sometimes I realize on my way home from work that I need a new kitchen item for dinner that night, and yet I don't have the coupon with me. Other times, for instance last night, I purposely set out to buy something at Linens 'N Things, proudly bring the coupon with me, and then forget all about it and leave it in my purse. Other times, the coupon disappears before its expiration date and before I have a chance to use it. I cannot count the number of times I have failed to use Linens 'N Things coupons. I've been living here for six months now. If I'd used all the coupons I've clipped, I'm sure I would have saved at least $50 by now. That's enough for several really nice kitchen gadgets. Like maybe a garlic press, or a strainer, or one of those high-sloping stir-fry pans. Ooh, or one of those neat springform pans that comes apart so your cake doesn't tear when you remove it from the pan. Or a corkscrew that doesn't require me to rig extra leverage with a pencil. Or a really nice saucepan. Or...
I THINK 'TIME LORDS' SHOULD REFER TO SOMETHING A LITTLE COOLER THAN THIS: GeekPress points out this fascinating article about time. The earth's rotation, you see, is slowing down, though, it's slowing less than usual in the past few years:
Experts are unsure exactly why this has happened -a number of factors can have short-term influences on its rotation, including earthquakes and even wind blowing on mountains - but they agree that the constant drag of the moon means the slowing will soon pick up again, and within a few decades we could be forced to add two or even three leap seconds a year.
But the real problem is that this earth-slowing puts atomic clocks out of synch with GPS time. This could be disastrous for air traffic control systems, and other things which rely on precision timing. On the other hand, if we don't add leap seconds now and then, night will eventually become day, at the rate of about one hour every 700 years.
COMPLETELY BIZARRE SPAM: I received this e-mail yesterday, and I can't decide whether it's from a spammer who thought it would be a good joke, or a delusional person who hired a spammer. The subject was Dimensional Warp Generator Needed qxbyhkheqylklxaka, and the From name was blank.
I'm a time traveler stuck here in 2003. Upon arriving here my dimensional warp generator stopped working. I trusted a company here by the name of LLC Lasers to repair my Generation 3 52 4350A watch unit, and they fled on me. I am going to need a new DWG unit, prefereably the rechargeable AMD wrist watch model with the GRC79 induction motor, four I80200 warp stabilizers, 512GB of SRAM and the menu driven GUI with front panel XID display.
I will take whatever model you have in stock, as long as its received certification for being safe on carbon based life forms.
In terms of payment:
I dont have any Galactic Credits left. Payment can be made in platinum gold or 2003 currency upon safe delivery of unit.
Please transport unit in either a brown paper bag or box to below coordinates on Monday August 4th at (exactly 3:00pm) Eastern Standard Time on the dot. A few minutes prior will be ok, but it cannot be after. If you miss this timeframe please email me.
Latitude N 42.47935 & Longitude W 071.17355 and the Elevation is 119.
WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TRANSPORT ITEM BY REGULAR MEANS OF TELEPORTATION. THEY ARE MONITORING AND WILL REDIRECT THE SIGNAL!!
I DO NOT CARE HOW YOU HAVE TO GET IT HERE, JUST DO IT IN A WAY THAT NO SPYING EYES WILL POSSIBLY BE ABLE TO REDIRECT THE TRANSFERENCE. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU BE ABLE TO MONITOR THE TRANSFER.
Although those coordinates are a secure guarded area, these channels through email are never secure. Unfortunately it is the only form of communication I have right now.
After unit has been sent please email me at: [e-mail address removed] with payment instructions. Do not reply directly back to this email.
presumptionbs lon qesvlxjaov
I actually looked up those coordinates. They're in Kyrjistan, right near the border with Kazakhstan.
UPDATE FROM GEOGRAPHY 101: Alert reader Will Quale noticed that I accidentally looked up East longitude instead of West. The actual coordinates are in Boston.
WHO NEEDS A LAND LINE? I'm one of the millions of people Wired News is writing about, who only have a cell phone, not a land line. I've been wire-free (mostly) since late 1999. While I was in college, the school forced me to pay for a land line connection to my dorm room, but I don't think I ever picked it up to make a call (though occasionally someone would look me up in the directory and call me at that number). Now out of school, I have nothing but the cell again.
I do have a DSL connection through Verizon. But my six-month reduced price period just ran out, and I'm thinking of switching to a cable modem. My TV gets zero reception, and is currently only good for watching DVD's. The allure of CNN, FoxNews, and the Food Network is definitely a force.
DAMMIT, I MISS POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY. I've been reading this interview with Michael Walzer (linked by Jacob Levy at the Volokhs), and it's reminding me just how much more interesting political philosophy is than all other subjects. Can I go back to school yet?
THIS IS DISCRIMINATION? Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Eugene Volokh notes, is upset that hurricanes are given "white", "Spanish", and "French" names, but not black ones. But does she really want to hear reports such as, "Jamal nearly destroyed the city of Galveston last night, causing $500 million in property damage, killing 7 people, and injuring several dozen others."?