28 November 2002

A nice article. Something about lemurs and "two daughters."

27 November 2002

Haiwen's response to the 138-times-a-year statistic was: "Well, I suppose it all depends on what you mean by 'sex.'"
The ad at the top of this page is currently oscillating between "Find a beautiful guy in Minneapolis for love" and "Find a beautiful girl in California for sex."

California looks awfully good at the moment...
Some noteworthy news in today's Guardian and Financial Times.

26 November 2002

Why would anyone having sex that much bother counting?

25 November 2002

This must be a median... I'm sure there are enough of us out there to bring down the mean frequency of sex per year to below 138 times.

Its really annoying to read old media because they don't have links to the source article. It makes it really hard to figure out what the methodology was.
Here's one from the history books...

In 1831 a volcanic island appeared off the coast of Sicily, causing "months of international wrangling with four nations making territorial claims including Britain, Spain and the Bourbon court of Sicily." After 6 months it sunk back into the sea...

24 November 2002

And now, for a post I really wanted to make while I was in Florida...

I learned during my stay down there that fake wrestling is more widespread than just the pro wrestling we see on TV. In Tampa there was a semi-pro wrestling league, full of guys who were working hard to make it to the bigtime. And then there was this... Noah was right; there really is a christian analogue to everything in mainstream pop culture.

I found out about semi-pro and christian wrestling in a newspaper article in the St. Pete Times. I've been digging around some christian wrestling websites to figure out what on earth it is and who on earth thought to combine evangelical christianity with fake wrestling, and I came across this group's message explaining what they were trying to accomplish by wrestling. This page also has an interesting explanation of why the violence in wrestling and football is ok.

One more funny thing about christian wrestling: at one site, the wrestler profiles (it's amusing to see the names that the wrestlers take, by the way) include when they became Christians. Here's the weirdest: "Became a Christian in September of 1999 at the age of 18, in a dorm room at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor." I guess that's what they're calling it nowadays. (To be fair, UMHB is a Baptist-affiliated school, but still.)

21 November 2002

Sign posted in computer lab at Brown University: "Do not move computers. Doing so will really trigger the alarm system!"
If I recall correctly, the Alabama court system is one of our wackiest, probably in the top five with California (of course) and Louisiana (silly Napoleonic Code). I think Alabama is where the trial lawyers and the, er, anti-trial lawyer people fought repeated multimillion dollar death matches in the 1980s over judicial candidates. It's also where a jury rewarded someone the full value of their BMW because it had come out of the factory scratched, if I'm not mistaken. Of course I could research this stuff but I'm lazy so I won't.

Have people seen the excerpts from Bob Woodward's new book, Bush at War? I'd like to be walking around with $3 million worth of non-sequential $100 bills to give out to people with guns to do my bidding.

I apologize if you guys have already seen the fallout from the book, though I excuse myself because I was out of the country when it hit the news. The book's actually pretty flattering to Bush, though I can see why all those other people are mad at Colin Powell. I love the quote: "The reason why he (Woodward) isn't as rich as Tom Clancy is that while both he and Clancy make stuff up, Clancy does his research first."

20 November 2002

Wow, Ben Wallace just got a triple double: 19 boards, 12 points, 10 blocked shots. The man is a monster.
So i was just looking back through my old credit card statements to try to track down some payments i thought i had made. Its really quite fascinating to see your life go buy in purchases...

I see FOOD LION #0425 S4C BLACKSBURG VA and remember that this is the bill for wine which i bought to give one of my best friends from home as a hospitality gift. He and i mostly polished off one of the bottles, which was actually the first time he and i had ever drank together.

I see AMTRAK 1488960074710 EUGENE OR and remember that as the last 5 minutes my ex-girlfriend and i were in the same place and together, train pulls off at 5am and wave out the window, almost cinematic.

I see GREYHOUND LINES #0406 BOSTON and remember walking around New York City at 1am talking with a friend.

I love corporate america taking care of my being an emotional packrat for me.
I really hate the phrase "Homeland Security."

19 November 2002

One of my friends' current away message is the following toast given by a mathematician:

"To number theory. May it never be of use to anyone."
The South strikes again.

There's a girl in my program from Alabama. Lived there her whole life (I think), and went to Tulane. She must be incredibly brilliant to have gotten here, because her outward appearance is, shall we say, to the contrary. In fact, my Category Theory lecturer told her the other day, in front of the whole class, "You're just confirming everybody's stereotypes of Americans." (She had laughed really loudly at something the person next to her had said.)

The Category Theory lecturer, on the other hand, is a young Chinese woman with a gorgeous English accent who gives very funny lectures (which I didn't know was possible in math) and writes classical music reviews for the Cambridge student newspaper.......

Too bad her subject sucks.
With 86% confidence they say I'm a woman. Why do men prefer white bedrooms?

18 November 2002

According to Spark, I'm 50% male. I blame Canada.

Was Noah bored last night, or what?

17 November 2002

Technology has finally invented a cure for loneliness.
Subcultures are very amusing... It doesn't quite beat the Christian Counter, but i think Raves for Jesus is pretty close...
According to Ben's who does China block project we're inaccessable in China, as is Instapundit and the Volokh Conspiracy. On the other hand it doesn't block Free Tibet and China Sucks. Weird.

(I'd link to Matt Yglesias for this, but i'm protesting his decision to not link to my Social Security screed, and you all read him daily anyway, right?)
The bad proposed Pennsylvania Homeschool law was defeated in comittee this week!! This is an excellent development. Here's a report on what happened.
Since this blog is the closest thing we have to dinner table conversation and since a dinner table conversation which lasts long enough always reaches the "meta-conversation" level, i bring you this article from the NYTimes magazine.
According to spark i am a woman. Why am i not surprised?
How on earth do you play a full football game and go 20/25 and 255 yards passing and 4 touchdowns on a broken ankle?? (and no it wasn't Brett Favre, it was the next Brett Favre.)
Inspired by Lileks' thursday bleat i'm counting my blessings and thinking of turning "5 things that make me happy" lists into a regular feature.

5 more things that make me happy:
1. tea kettles whistling
2. the familiarity of shared language in conversations with old friends
3. the outer automorphism of S_6
4. the phrase "despite recent evidence, i'm not totally evil."
5. hot soup

16 November 2002

I don't understand why people give me grief about my multiple majors:

"I usually tell people I'm doing three [majors], because if I say I'm doing four majors, they call me a psycho and think I'm this big overachiever trying to make myself look better," says UW-Madison student Dustin Harber.

And I thought I was just confused...

15 November 2002

Since Matt Yglesias is talking about the payroll tax a lot, I think its time to talk about my government pet peave: The Social Security Tax.

Facts about the Social Security Tax:
It is 12.5% of your income (half of which is hidden unless you're self-employed)
But only on the first $85,000 of your income!

So let's do a few little calculations... Suppose the amount you're a median family making (not including deductable, but including the amount your employer pays for social security) about $48,000. Then the social security tax is (12.5 is nicely 1/8) $6,000. This is of course %12.5 of your income.

Now suppose you're slightly more rich (or as we say at harvard "middle class") and making $200,000. Now 1/8th of $85,000 is about $11,000 so you're paying just over %5 of your income.

Now suppose you're a CEO making $2 million a year. Then you're still paying $11,000, which is roughly .5% of your income.

This is what is known as a regressive tax. A very very regressive tax. And, according to this goverment pie graph 34% of our federal government's income comes from this extremely regressive tax!

Why is no one talking about this? Why isn't this the new democratic rallying cry? Stop the regressive tax! Raise money for social security the same way you raise money for everything else, with a progressive tax, or at least a flat one.
Googlism of the day:

allen is hot and stop laughing.
I can't believe I almost forgot to mention this: This past week, Enimem became only the fourth musical artist in history (after Elvis, the Beatles, and Prince) to have a movie, an album, and a single simultaneously at #1 in America. (I love factoids like this.)

14 November 2002

How do people say things like this?
I love suddenly learning things that should have been obvious. here's a great example.

13 November 2002

''I know one of these years [Alex Rodriguez] is going to win three, four MVPs in a row,'' Tejada said.

Last I checked you could only win one MVP in a season...
Forget stopping terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, I want some politicians willing to face the even bigger threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria before we're forced to look back on the latter half of the 20th century as the one golden era where we had deseases beaten. We feed this stuff to our chickens so they'll get bigger, and no one has the guts to do anything about it, and in 50 years if we're dying from pneumonia again, don't say Palumbi didn't tell you so.

11 November 2002

Top 5 things that make me happy:

1. David Bowie's "Survive" on my headphones in Times Square.
2. Singin' In the Rain.
3. Cate Blanchett as Galadriel.
4. Art school dropouts.
5. The following Googlism: "Alec is back in her life."
So last night after our party i seem to have written on the whiteboard:
a) the diagram for S_3 acting on a curve of genus 0.
b) the quote "and learn to pretend there's more than love that matters"

When i woke up I found that lionel had written on the board:

"So there's love, and there's S_3. But nothing else matters."
Lilek's has an amusing bit on homeschooling today:

and she mentioned “Home schoolers, the religious right. They drive me nuts.”
The home-schooling part I didn’t quite get. There seems to be some who believe that this is a typical day in a home-schooling classroom:
“Alright, Ezekial, Rebecca, Simon, Mary, put away your snakes and come over here for natcheral science. Ezekial, how old is the earth?”
“It’s six thousand years old!”
“That’s right. Rebecca, did the dinosaurs come afore man, or at the same time?”
“Uhh . . . at the same time?”
“No, Rebecca, there were no dinosaurs. You’re going to have to get a paddlin’ for that, and remember: God wants it to hurt.”

Silly Lileks, of course there were dinosaurs! Didn't you ever read Job? What do you think the Behemoth was? Liberal revisionist...

Speaking of homeschooling, this week the proposed new homeschool law in Pennsylvania is coming up for a vote in comittee... Here's the text of the bill (the first 10 pages are the old law and the rest are the proposed new law). Here's a pro-new law website and an anti-new law website. For those of you who haven't heard me talk about this yet, i'm strongly against the new law, for reasons which i hope to write up in a letter today, if i do get the time to finish it i'll post it here. The short version is that the new law gets rid of all the safety nets and although almost all homeschoolers are very responsible, i don't think we want to have a law with no checks and balances because it will abused by non-homeschoolers hiding behind this law. There are a bunch of other problems i have with the law, but that's the biggy.
I was under the impression that there was more than one Indigo Girl.

10 November 2002

Top 5 things that make me happy:

1. The Indigo Girl's "Love Will Come to You" on repeat.
2. Emily Watson.
3. A friend showing up at my door with a bottle of wine.
4. The Riemann-Hurwitz formula.
5. Large Russian novels.
It's now official: for the first time since 1997, nothing interesting happened with a girl on November 10th.
Holy Grail of the Day:

Find a finite group which is:
a) generated by 3 elements of very small order
b) generated by 2 elements of very large order
c) NOT generated by any 2 elements of very small order

[Who cares? --Ed.]
I haven't posted my review of Punch-Drunk Love yet, by the way, because I'm not sure how I feel about it, even though I saw it almost a month ago. I spent a few frantic days trying to find a friend to see it with, and finally ended up going alone, which was probably a good thing: I can't imagine a movie I'd less want to discuss afterwards. It's the Mulholland Drive of romantic comedies, I suppose. It doesn't seem to have much to do with P.T. Anderson's previous work, and I missed what I love about his earlier movies: the emotional generosity, I guess, and the willingness to be messy and flawed for the sake of characters he loved. Maybe I should check out Adam Sandler's previous work to get some perspective. I do love Shelly Duvall's rendition of "He Needs Me," though, as well as that wonderful line: "You're so beautiful, I want to smash your face with a sledgehammer."
I was just about to post a link to that BBC movie list, too. I'm satisfied, needless to say, that my two favorite movies (Blue Velvet and Chungking Express) made the top ten.

I actually haven't seen many movies recently, although I have a long list in mind. 8 Mile is a wonderful movie, by the way: loose, likeable, fairly mainstream and conventional in broad outline but comfortably aimless and inventive in the details. Curtis Hanson is probably the best wholly impersonal director in the world these days, meaning that he makes beautiful studio films that reveal next to nothing about the director himself: he can make one of the most tightly structured movies of all time (L.A. Confidential) and follow it up with Wonder Boys, which was wonderful simply because seemed like a relaxed trip to nowhere in particular. 8 Mile falls somewhere in between; it's one of the most satisfying studio pictures I've seen all year.
By the way, the best Googlism of all is "Haiwen is my umbilical cord, or maybe my placenta." Because, of course, this is actually about Haiwen...and guess who wrote it?
I saw Emily Watson as Viola in Twelfth Night in London a couple weeks ago, and she made me extremely happy.

09 November 2002

08 November 2002

Just saw P.T. Anderson's "Punch Drunk Love" and although i can't say it was a great movie, i can say i came out of it very very happy, and that a romantic comedy could do that for me right now is really quite amazing. I definitely recommend it despite its weirdness. Emily Watson simply makes me happy.
Listening to Tori Amos's "Pretty Good Year" which was the song i remember really liking from my first year at Ross when Meghana and Jared listened to her all the time. Anyway a line really struck me as a great example of the way language changes over time, even over brief periods of time:

"and Greggy writes letters and burns his cds"

Does not mean that he's sending his friends letters with mix cds.
Well you all know about Alec and my list fetish and Alec's movie obsession, so its our duty to post any top n movies lists that come around. So here's today's.

Speaking of Alec and movies, now that you have a large cash flow are you seeing lots of movies? You're supposed to pass along your recommendations! I never see movies because you're not around. (I think i'm seeing "8 Mile" this weekend.)

07 November 2002

I'm sorry I haven't been communicating on the Nov. 5th disaster -- I had an inside view, and it was amazing how surgical they were and how complacent we were, but I haven't had time to talk about all that stuff because I have been packing up at a breakneck pace to get to Washington for my Participation 2000 retreat.

Unfortunately my hiatus from Deadly Mantis will most likely continue for the next two weeks, because I'm going to Greece. It's going to be a nice opportunity to step back and re-evaluate everything. I have no idea what I'm going to be doing from now on. I want to turn around and work on a campaign again, and do it right this time, but I guess I'll have to wait awhile to do that, and I need to find something to do in the meantime. I might also look for work on Capitol Hill, though it won't be the nicest environment for the next two years.

Sorry for getting trounced. You guys will have to pay for our blunders, I guess.
I don't think the joy at the sight of rain is so universal in England. Especially when you go running on a nice sunny day and 20 minutes later find yourself in a downpour with at least a 20 mph headwind, you can't look forward because the rain stings too much, and your arms and legs are going numb from the cold.

Oh, and 20 minutes after that it's sunny again.
Lead article in today's Times:

"Republicans began setting plans yesterday to push forward a domestic agenda of tax cuts, a national energy policy, creation of a vast homeland security department and the confirmation of conservative judges..."

I feel so helpless.

06 November 2002

The rains have finally begun. I never would have imagined how much i missed rain and how happy i'd be when my roomate came bursting in with a huge smile on his face saying "it's raining!"

The bizarre thing is this sudden joy at the appearance of rain is probably one of the most universally shared human experiences accross all of time, and only now in rich modernized countries have we lost this ancient joy and the rain dance rituals.

I was going to post about my first time voting, but i found the whole thing far too depressing. There were too many things i really didn't have good opinions on and i made several votes for really bad reasons (i voted for a guy for Lt. Governor just because his job is "ferret legalization activist" and i couldn't pass up that once in a life time opportunity). Several things i had good reasons for and strong opinions... I strongly opposed the limit on heights of new buildings in berkeley for example. Also i finally figured out how and why to vote in the representative race, Barbara Lee is the incumbent and I don't really agree with her strong opinions on Iraq, however I decided that we have a republican president and I didn't want more republicans in congress so I bit the bullet. However despite these few things, the whole thing really felt like a game, especially with the touch screen voting machines, and i just had this sudden realization that millions of people are making these random decisions that i was making for often not good reasons and that the bizarre amalgamation of all these accidental decisions will result in lives and deaths of people all over the world and the direction of our country. It was really kind of depressing.

I saw "Bowling for Columbine" afterwards. I recommend it, it was quite good. I definitely don't buy most of his points, but for those of you who enjoy documentaries about nutty guys on crusades (which i think most of us do), this is a very good example of the genre. I figured that since the filmmaker was also the nut he was following that the movie would lose some sense of touch, but it was surprisingly well done and hysterical. Although i disagree with many of his answers he raises great questions, and the movie is guaranteed to make you laugh a lot and i don't mind being preached at when i'm laughing.

04 November 2002

Good luck with the big election day Nat! We're rooting for you!

Speaking of election day, the UC system is forcing me to vote in order to get residency (they're really pushy about voting here, people all over campus registering you, a dean emailing the whole school telling them to vote, etc.), so i'll be sure to give you all a report on the great noah voting adventure. I suppose it's too late to auction of my votes to the highest bidder. I'll get to vote on the great Coffee initiative (forcing all coffee shops and resteraunts in Berkeley to exclusively sell organic shade grown fair trade coffee. I think i'll vote against that one. If it were just fair trade i'd consider it maybe, but as it is that's just rediculous.

For those of you who don't know me, my previous rationale for not voting was the stance that the very minor difference my vote made wasn't worth the hour or two it'd take to think about who to vote for, go to the voting place, fill things out, wait in line, etc. all for one tiny vote which is statistically insignificant. My stance being that if i cared enough about some political issue i'd do something real, like give money, or campaign, or something that made a difference. However, since i need to submit a ballot and that'll take a while anyway, the time commitment has been lowered enough taht it is no longer irrational to vote.

03 November 2002

Today it finally happened... I played a game of solataire in which there were no legal plays for the whole game... Immediately over. I've been waiting for this for years. My first estimate suggests this happens once in about every 1000 games.

02 November 2002

first name googlisms are fun:

dave is offended by an inadvertent "t"
alec is still rambling about the woman and max says shut up and push the button
alec is the eponymous narrator
nat is most often used to convert rfc 1918 private addresses into routable public addresses
meg is sure to make you laugh
laura is like playing with fire
bessie is still an inspiration to many
ezra is extremely quick on the draw with his wit as well his guns
heather is the bestest
tamara is also trying to avoid a team of federal agents following her
dory is totally unique
ben is a rock band
blake is a primary focus of the investigation now
jeremy is the best known male porn star of all time

and this one makes you wonder:
alec is on daves tummy
History is doomed to repeat itself over and over again.
Why am i such a sucker for scenes in confessionals? I'm not even catholic...
Quote of the night for last night:

"I can't imagine keeping a story going for that long. What would [Tolstoi] be like at family gatherings?"
--Sarah Hatter

Last night i hung out over coffee with Sarah and went to this huge party, which is supposedly annually on Playboy's top 10 parties of the year, I think it may make it again this year, if only for the extremely passionate lesbian couple in the room with the band. There are few things more amusing than watching a room full of guys pretending not to be staring at two girls virtually having sex on the dance floor. Anyway the party was somewhat amusing, more like things one sees in movies than things i actually go to, and meeting new people is always fun (especially when you already know that they like "say anything", REM, "High Fidelity", etc. and can make clever refrences).

Speaking of Sarah Hatter, I've been meaning for a while to link to her post on overhauling the greating card industry (you may need to scroll down, the permalink seems to be slightly broken). She says:

What I'm looking for is an I Feel Abandoned card, but I guess I'll Miss You will just have to do. I'd like to buy a I Can't Believe This Is Happening, This Changes Everything card, but I guess I can settle for Belated Birthday or Romantic Birthday or Birthday Seven and Under. All I need is a This Sucks And I Hate It card, not Apology or Retirement or Sympathy.

Some of the comments suggest cards like:

"if you don't dump the bitch, how can we ever work this out?"
"it's okay that you freaked out, you're going into combat and i know you're scared (but can't admit it), and i want to be here for you, but it's hard to do that when you and i aren't speaking, and i'd just kind of like to know if you think it's over or not, because i'd really like to know either way so that i can get on with my life, but if it is over, i don't know how in the hell i'm supposed to go about getting over you"
"I'm sorry I broke your heart, my heart is broken too, this hurts like hell and I just wish everything could feel ok again"

So for the past few days i've been thinking up cards that are overly honest like the above and still snappy and cardlike. Some are cards I want to send, some cards I want to receive and some which just happened to cross my mind:

Cards Expressing Nostalgia or Regret:
[outside] We both know that 6 years ago we should have been each other's first kiss, and i'm terribly sorry that I was screwed up and was so dishonest with you and myself.

[outside completely blank]
[inside] If I could send this card backwards in time I would send you a million words, instead I send you this.

[outside] Maybe someday I can change my name and we can meet again without recognizing each other and pretend that none of this ever happened.

[outside] Thanks for being there.
[inside] I could put this card in a time capsule for 30 years and know that it'd still be true, and how can I thank you for that?

Bitter Cards:
[outside] There's no such thing as a bad person, only people who choose to do bad things.
[inside] Like you.

[outside] One last question...
[inside] How do you say, "I hope you burn in hell for this" in athiest?

Quotes (bonus points if you recognize them)
[outside] Is there a line which I could write, sad enough to make you cry?

[outside] I just came to say...
[inside] Goodbye love. Goodbye.

So do any of you have good card ideas?
Today in Lie Algebras I sat behind the French girl who's in all my classes. She is extremely hot. Too bad I don't know her name.