30 May 2003

I recently got back from the National Association of Extradition Officials Conference in lovely Asheville, North Carolina. Unfortunately, my schmoozing with southern sheriffs prevented me from attending Almea's graduation. A cab driver suggested I get her a new car, or jewelry, or a monkey for her graduation. I must say he doesn't know us very well, but the monkey is a pretty good suggestion. Too bad they're dirty and disease-ridden and illegal.

Of course, when I break out of my math bubble and see what's going on in the world, it's just depressing, depressing, and more depressing. I'm not exactly eager to return to a country that needs to call itself the "homeland."

On the other hand, Pixar has a new movie!
I think it's quite judgmental to call some numbers "rational" and others "irrational." A number you can't write as a fraction is just "differently rational." In the same vein, so-called "imaginary" numbers are just as real as the "real" numbers...the square root of negative one merely lives in an alternative reality.

Oh my, I've been studying too much math.

29 May 2003

I've just found out that the Field Day concert, where I was going to see Radiohead, may have been canceled after Suffolk County turned down the promoter's application for a mass gathering permit. I'll be following developments closely.

Speaking of Radiohead, a friend from work has given me a bootleg copy of Hail to the Thief, their new album. It's the "early version," which may mean that I'll experience divided loyalties when the official album is released next month...but I might as well post some comments anyway. There are some amazing moments here (standout tracks include "A Punch-Up at a Wedding," a classic Radiohead title if there ever was one, "There There," and "I Will"), and moments of indescribable beauty. It's slightly more accessible than Kid A and Amnesiac, which is to say, it only takes two or three listens, rather than ten, for the darned thing to grow on you. There are guitars, too. Overall, I'm happy that this album exists. At the same time, though, I can't help finding myself nostalgic for the Radiohead that once made an album called The Bends, with a couple of songs called "High and Dry" and "Fake Plastic Trees" that still form the best emotional one-two punch I've ever heard on an album. Not that I'm saying anything about Radiohead that hasn't been said before, and better...but, as Noah once observed, eventually Radiohead is going to release their equivalent of All That You Can't Leave Behind, and that'll be a beautiful day. Not quite yet, though.
I'd forgotten that particular genre of haiwen joke, the blunt and boring as possible insulting joke, usually followed by a cackle and a refusal to realize that no one else was amused.
[Well, I was sort of amused. On second thought, though, I've removed it. -- Alec]
[I'm reminded of one of Haiwen's favorite non sequitur: "Is that because you have a metal plate in your wrist?" --Noah]
[I found it extremely amusing, as did Bessie. Perhaps we should ask the subject what she thinks of it? --Dave]

28 May 2003

My friend Sam sends this picture of himself.
If you've been on the New York subway recently, you've probably seen ads for Skin Cola, a flavorless, zero-calorie, non-carbonated beverage that "is exceptionally helpful in hydrating the skin." I think it's just water.
More craziness about the Baby Ivies.
Believe it or not, there are apparently hundreds of people in this country who have nothing better to do than call up phone numbers they see mentioned in movies. It all seems ludicrously dumb to me. Couldn't the makers of Bruce Almighty just have bought an unused number in the Buffalo area and set up a recording?

The only movie phone number I've ever been tempted to dial is the Seduce & Destroy hotline from Magnolia, where apparently, until recently, you could hear a recording of Tom Cruise delivering his commercial from the beginning of the movie. That would be a great fake number for girls to give out to annoying guys in bars...
I just found out that the current US women's chess champion works downstairs at my company.

27 May 2003

It really has been too long since i've been to a Red Sox game.

26 May 2003

In case you were wondering, our blockmate Albert is alive and well and still turns very pink when he's taken a bit of drink.

25 May 2003

Haiwen points out an amusing article in this week's issue of The Nation headlined ALEC Meets His Match. (ALEC, in case you don't know, stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing legislative group that The Nation plausibly claims is in the pocket of corporate lobbyists.) I'm tempted to quote the entire thing, but here are some choice exerpts:

"What really caused a lot of us to recognize the need for this kind of organizing was the recognition that we were going to have to build some networks of our own to block ALEC."

"ALEC was once a relatively sincere if extreme right-wing group....In the 1980s and '90s, however, ALEC was remolded by corporate lobbyists to implement their agenda."

"For all the good efforts of CPA and other groups, however, there is a general agreement that progressives still need more organizational muscle -- and better coalitions -- if they want to counter ALEC's multistate, multi-issue thrust."

And finally...

"We want ALICE to make ALEC's life miserable."
Wow, this is good news. I bet Alec never thought he'd live to see this day.
After somewhat more than a year online, at some point this weekend this blog passed the 10,000 hits mark. Even if you subtract the many thousands of hits that are probably due to me and Noah alone, that's pretty good! (I'd especially like to thank this blog's handful of loyal groupies. You know who you are....)

24 May 2003

Look who has a blog!
These answering machine messages are priceless... Not quite like our Serge Lang message or the wonderful "i'm sorry i seem to have misdialed," but still great fun. I miss our answering machine messages which built up over the year.

23 May 2003

Dave's No. 1 Rule for Drunken Cycling: If there's a car on the same road as you, pull over to the side and stop. That way there's less of a chance of your getting killed.

Safe and sound now. :-)
Looks right now like Annika Sorenstam is going to miss the cut at the colonial. Ironically, this is solely because of her poor putting, a part of the game which should have little to nothing to do with gender.

21 May 2003

Poor Canada. First SARS, now this.

20 May 2003

A moment ago they were advertising Noah Feldman's book on our banner ad. I wonder if this is coincidence? Or if its Google's famous closely targeted advertising.
Something funny has been happening that prevents my computer from reading the blogger page, so I'm going to attempt to mush all of my thoughts over the last two days into one long post.

Good grief indeed:
At the end of April, the United States sent a letter to health ministries around the world asking for a change that would allow countries to opt out of any provisions of the [tobacco-control] treaty with which they disagreed. (NY Times)

It appears that the current administration doesn't quite comprehend the concept of an "international treaty."

Noah, I would argue that your question is not a good estimation question. Estimation questions are not about computing exact answers but about giving educated guesses about orders of magnitude. So if you're trying to estimate a percentage, just guess 10% and you'll automatically be within an order of magnitude. (I bet everyone would agree that more than 1% of Victoria's Secret mail orders come from men.) Even if you're trying to get within a power of two, 40% gives you an awfully big spread.

Great image:
I want to be strapped horizontally into the retracted football seats beyond centerfield in the Metrodome, hanging there and facing the ground like a vampire bat, just waiting for that moment when Torii Hunter leaps into my view, reaches over the fence and steals a home run. After throwing the ball back to the infield, he will smile and shout, "How's your seat?'' And I will reply, "OK, except my beer keeps spilling out of the cup holder.'' (ESPN)

And finally, Go Twins!
Dan Savage makes a point i've tried to make several times, but far more eloquently:
[in response to a reader who heard her boyfriend date raped two of his friends by lowering their inhibitions with coke]
First off, DIDHE, coke is not a date-rape drug. Date-rape drugs, as commonly understood, are substances that render a girl practically comatose, obliterating her will and any ability to resist. If anything, DIDHE, cocaine would have to be considered the opposite of a date-rape drug.

Second, let's define the terms "rape" and "date rape" for all the college sophomores out there: Being pressured into having sex that you regret the next morning does not mean you were raped. Being seduced does not mean you were raped, nor does consenting to sex when you were drunk or high. If someone is pressuring you or seducing you or hitting on you when you're drunk or high, and you try to get up and leave or tell him to stop, and he physically prevents you from leaving and forces you to have sex with him against your will–that's rape. If it happens on a date, that's date rape.

Okay, DIDHE, if the ugly rumor you heard about your boyfriend is true, that means he's a jerk and an asshole and a shit, but not a rapist. (If I were cynical, I might suggest that you were inclined to believe the worst because it makes your decision to dump him a little bit easier.) Should you tell him what you heard? Yes, you should. At the very least, he needs to know that pressuring girls into having sex can earn a guy a reputation as a rapist, even if he never actually raped anyone.

Its all there... This is not rape, rape is worse, but it still makes him a jerk and someone who needs to learn how to communicate. By calling all such things rape you just make people defensive and inflate stats to the point of being unbelievable and don't address the underlying important communication issue.
The onion chips in on our ongoing "should you use the same songs in different mixes"-discussion:

Man Adds A Few Personalized Tracks To Standard New-Girlfriend Mix CD
SPRINGFIELD, MO—Wanting to add something special for new love Danielle Welter, Andy Mansfield, 24, burned three personalized tracks Monday onto his standard new-girlfriend mix CD. "Danielle loves that No Doubt song 'Running,' so I threw that on there just for her," Mansfield said. "And she doesn't really like rap, which [previous girlfriend] Erica [Hollings] loved, so I took off [Salt-N-Pepa's] 'Whatta Man' and replaced it with two Aretha Franklin songs, because Danielle loves the oldies." Mansfield said he expects Welter to love the mix "even more than Erica did, maybe even as much as Christine."
Life is good: Radiohead, Beck, and Liz Phair will be playing at the Field Day Festival in June, and I'm going to be there.

19 May 2003

Good estimation question:

What percentage of mail orders from Victoria's Secret are made by men?

18 May 2003


the American Academy of Pediatrics says "26% of adolescent couples trying to abstain from intercourse will become pregnant within 1 year"

More evidence for the pro-lifers should support better sex-ed position, since i bet a sizable portion of that 26% end up in abortions. Also makes me wonder about people's self control, i mean good grief, 26% ?? Also a good reminder that building fences doesn't stop people from going where they want to go.
The other e-mail waiting for me when I woke up: "Sorry, didn't pick up your message until this morning." Convenient excuse, but that's not what finger said...
Note from a high-school friend now in Uzbekistan (!) after experiencing his first earthquake:
So just in case you were worried the Indian sub-continent is still ramming itself into Asia. Mountain production will continue as normal.

For more on this and other wacky adventures, click here.

17 May 2003

My feedback on "opportunistic organicism" wasn't as strong as I'd suspected. I thought it conjured ideas of entrepreneurial health food freaks, but I guess that's not a moving image. (In case everyone is still baffled as to where I got the phrase, it's from Noah's link to his path through Berkeley).

16 May 2003

Cleaning out my inbox and found something i'd ment to blog earlier:

Noah, I found your blog when I was doing an ego search on Google and noticed your mention of my Snopes mouse page. I just checked and the page is alive and well at http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~gilman/mice.htm (I get to keep my account 'cause I'm working for Harvard now) I had no memory of creating that page until just now, but it was still sitting there on the server, small enough to escape my fortnightly haphazard deleting rampages to get under quota.

I still send out those form-letter responses to the Schmooze. I just sent one out 5 minutes ago about the Gay Marriage Ban Constitutional Amendment(http://www.snopes2.com/inboxer/petition/marriage.htm). People never learn. Those shuttle pictures are Hi-Larious. I hadn't seen those before.

Nat, your state done you proud:

When our governor, Rick "Goodhair" Perry (that's a head of hair every Texan can be proud of, regardless of party), asked New Mexico to arrest any escapees lurking there, the state's attorney general, Patricia Madrid, said, "I have put out an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the lookout for politicians in favor of health care and against tax cuts for the wealthy."
You gotta love Texas republicans:

"Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education? Free medical care? Free whatever? It comes from Moscow. From Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell."
--Rep. Joe Crabb (R-Atascocita) quoted in this article
Went to a theater party last night, got kissed on the cheek by more different women in one night than i ever have before, and had a touch too much to drink, but all was good.
This line is also pretty priceless:

"Neo is a guy who has gone in some relatively brief timespan from being a disaffected computer geek, awkward around other people, to a near-omnipotent superhero with a wicked-hot girlfriend who wears vinyl catsuits."
Saw X2 and The Matrix Reloaded back to back wednsday night. I must say the reviews of both were pretty dead on. X2 was excellent and in most ways even better than the original. The Matrix Reloaded was good eye candy but kinda fell into the Lucas trap, and the story seemed like it was cobbled together 10 minutes at a time.

Don't miss the Cornell West cameo though...

And this paragraph from a salon review is priceless:

In "The Matrix Reloaded," with its affectionate but faintly satirical portrait of the ruling council of Zion -- a collection of robe-wearing crones and stately older men and nattily attired people of color that reminded me of a school board meeting in Berkeley, Calif., where I grew up -- the Wachowskis come ever closer to outing themselves as lefties.
Writes political columnist (!) Joe Bob Briggs on the drafting of an Iraqi constitution:

"Fortunately we don't have to worry about whether the Sunnis [in Iraq] think it's a Shiite constitution, or the Shiites think there's too much Kurdish stuff in there, or that anyone thinks the other side is cheating or making it too religious or too Irreligious. That's because the principal constitutional advisor, sent from New York University's law school to propose various drafts of this historic document, is Noah Feldman -- an Orthodox Jew.

"This is gonna be fun."
The kings are dead, long live the Kings.

15 May 2003

Might "opportunistic organicism" have what it takes to supplant "compassionate conservatism?"
So here's the list of tearjerkers I've compiled, along with the source for each recommendation:

Dancer in the Dark (everyone I know)
Saving Private Ryan (me)
The Last Temptation of Christ (also me)
Beauty and the Beast (me at age 12)
The English Patient (Dave)
8 Seconds (Nat)
Prancer (Bessie)
Anne of Green Gables (Bessie)

and finally...

A Knight's Tale (Haiwen, who has an amazing pathetic story about this movie that he probably won't want to tell any of you)

Kind of a mixed bag, obviously. I've told my mom to just rent Love Story and call it a day.
Here's Jon Stewart's take on Democrats on the Lam.

13 May 2003

Here's a wonderful long post on a part of my walk to school. The math building is just out of the picture to the right on most of the bird's eye views. My walk to school. I come in along the top left corner, and usually continue straight along that path entering a door at the top right. However, occasionally I cut diagonally down to the bottom right to enter a door there. Apparently most people aren't walking in the same direction as I.
We come up 12th on a google search for Noah Feldman Harvard
Incidentally, I gleaned the list below from Box Office Mojo's chart for 1999. Among other things, this chart also reveals that Baby Geniuses made more money than Magnolia.
Quick: what do the following movies have in common?

The Matrix
Boys Don't Cry
The Sixth Sense
Toy Story 2
South Park
The Blair Witch Project
The Talented Mr. Ripley

They're all wonderful movies from 1999 that didn't make my top ten list for that year. Talk about an embarrassment of riches....
I remember when I first saw The Matrix. It was spring break of freshman year; I was at home, and saw it with a group of high school friends. I had just started working as a movie critic, and I remember wishing that I'd had a chance to review The Matrix for its opening weekend. After all, I thought, if I don't come out and support this movie, it might not do so well.

God, that was a good year for movies.
Weird question... Does anyone remember when I first saw the Matrix?
In the midst of an IM conversation with Sam:

Gvord: I have angered the SMB filesharing demons that lurk within OS X
Gvord: I must now reboot to atone for my failure

12 May 2003

Who's going to make you smile more: Him or Him [Who? --Ed.]?
What I'm worrying about is significantly worse than harboring mutinous representatives from our neighbor state. It's being constitutionally responsible for handing them over. One of my job duties (probably the most important one) is preparing Governor's warrants for interstate fugitives. I can just imagine the Texas state police locating some representative in New Mexico and Rick Perry sending over a warrant for him. I'd be in the fun position of having to prepare a warrant on behalf of our Governor, who could either deny the warrant (which Constitutionally puts us in a bad spot and harms our relationship with the Texas Governor) or issue it (in effect betraying those brave legislators who decided to turn their tails and flee the session).

Of course, this whole scenario is far-fetched; my understanding is that those legislators haven't committed any crime -- the state police are simply being used as glorified pages rounding up the errant legislators. I'm also not exactly sure how the whole Democratic caucus got convinced to do this. They're dead when they get back. Incidentally, my understanding is it's very legally tenuous to do congressional redistricting in a non-decennial year -- it looks a lot like gerrymandering to the courts. The Democrats in New Mexico tried to do it this year but eventually pulled back. So, the Texas Dems might have been able to block the redistricting through the courts. I'll certainly be interested in what happens.
I wonder if Nat is secretly harboring any of the missing Texas representatives who are making a run for New Mexico before the seargant at arms catches them...
Got my first wedding invitation in the mail today...
After a few weeks of trying far to hard, i've finally done it! I beat solataire without turning the deck over. That's right, just one pass through the deck and I won. Who's your hero? I knew my luck was changing...
The current controversy over Peter Jennings allegedly inserting a liberal bias into news coverage during the 1980's is especially strange if you've happened to read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, which argues, anecdotally but persuasively, that Jennings tended to unconsciously smile and project a more positive demeanor when talking about President Reagan than about Democratic politicians, which somehow caused ABC viewers, as a whole, to vote Republican. (This apparently runs against what you'd expect based on the demographic data of ABC viewers. Also, no other network anchorman under observation seemed to show a similar political bias.) The upshot, it seems, is that while Jennings was actively rewriting news scripts to seem more sympathetic to the Sandinistas, his subconscious was actually pulling for Reagan. Believing this scenario requires accepting some pretty questionable assumptions, but I do like the idea of an angel and a devil perched on Peter Jennings's shoulders, battling for the anchorman's soul.

11 May 2003

Holy shit. No, I wasn't aware of that.
I would say that 8 Seconds is indisputably one of the top ten tearjerkers. Especially for people who like country music and/or Luke Perry.
Was everyone else already aware of this?
I nominate The English Patient.
So I went to see the university orchestra and choir perform Beethoven's 9th, and the program has a little sticker by Beethoven's name saying "Ludwig van" and if you peel back the sticker you see that they accidentally printed in the program "Johannes Beethoven." How does that happen? He's #@^&*^&*@#* Beethoven!
Excellent! The Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing is finally going to be released on DVD. This is one of the final releases on my mental list of movies that have been tardy in making the jump from video to DVD: with Chungking Express and The Long Goodbye finally available in the new format, all that remain are Martin Scorsese's New York, New York and Francis Ford Coppola's One from the Heart. Is anybody at Columbia Tristar reading this blog?
My mom wants me to put together a list of my top ten tearjerkers of all time, and I'm having some trouble with the assignment. Dancer in the Dark should obviously head the list, but after that, my own idiosyncratic emotional problems start to get in the way. (I don't think Saving Private Ryan or The Last Temptation of Christ would quite do it for my mom.) Anyway, if you've got any suggestions, let me know.

10 May 2003

So, this is just strange: the Muslim rights group Project Islamic Hope is demanding an apology from X2 director Bryan Singer after noticing that General Stryker, the movie's villian, wears a ring inscribed with the Islamic symbol for Allah. (The most complete account of the controversy can be found here.) The ring is visible in one shot of the movie; otherwise, General Stryker doesn't come off as much of a Muslim. As a representative of Project Islamic Hope says, "We feel this is a subtle but obvious attack on Islam."

Yes, it's pretty subtle.
Occasionally I'll fall in love with a transition between two songs, and will use that pairing several times for several different mixes. For example, last year I made a series of substantially different mixes that had "Survive" by David Bowie and "Angels" by Robbie Williams as tracks number three and four, respectively, just because the transition seemed somehow perfect, and because those are two undeniably awesome songs that gave me some flexibility in choosing their surrounding tracks. (Maybe it's just me, but I feel that "Angels" is such a slamdunk of a song that it allows me to select something relatively obscure, weird, or downbeat as the followup. As Barry would say, it's very pussy of me.)
Ezra has a question for the table:
"As I mix, I often find myself trying not to use songs that I've used on previous mixes. Now, of course one tries not to send one song to the same person repeatedly, but do you or others worry about repeats in the basic mix-construction process?"

I dunno, part of the fun of making a mix is coming up with a mix that is substantially new. So I would say that a repeat is perfectly fine, so long as it is used in a different way. On the other hand, I think its acceptable to make several slight twists on the same mix to send to different people at the same time, cause there it isn't making several different mixes, just a personalized version of the same one. The mix I'm making now I don't want to have many repeats from earlier mixes i've made, because the goal of this mix is twofold: a) to show friends what sort of music they're missing by not being around me constantly, and b) to prove to myself that i've found a new world of music over the past year or so, and have enough songs from this incarnation of my life to make a cd. Both of these ideas lead to picking music that couldn't have been on earlier mixes. Now this isn't entirely true, since several songs that i've listened to previously i've listened to a lot recently, e.g. Losing My Religion and Under Pressure.
Right, that "top five track one side one" conversation. I'd forgotten all about that scene. ("Very pussy, Rob!")

And there's no question that the mix tape has to be conceived as a whole. You're talking to a guy who once explained to a befuddled classroom of hopeful Kaplan candidates how the ideal mix tape follows the schematic order of the Aristotelian plot pyramid.
Silly Dave.
Oh my. Reading my sent e-mails this morning was very amusing:
fuck fuck fuck...want to be sober!!!!!

she showed up but i'm too drunk

will someone stop the room spinning? i want to get off

need to be less sober

whose room was it i barfed in? i want to apologise to her. waah.

Luckily, all messages went to their intended recipients only.
The post about mix CDs describes exactly how I feel about radio programming. You don't pick obscure pieces solely because they're obscure, but because they're good. And the program has to be conceived as a whole, not just pieces thrown together in random order.

09 May 2003

Are saints allowed to live in sin?
And I think a re-look at the "top 5 track one side one" conversation will remind you that the sort of critic you are attacking is the Barry school much more than the Rob school.
Speaking of Slate and harsh critical judgements, check out this closing paragraph of their review of The Shape of Things:
[Director] LaBute often cites the Mike Nichols/Jules Feiffer movie Carnal Knowledge (1971)—in which a loutish Jack Nicholson attempts to teach Art Gurfunkel how to exploit a series of mostly dull-witted women—as a seminal influence. I can imagine him seeing it at an impressionable age and exclaiming, "That's it! That's what great art can do: show us the ugly truth about human relationships!" I can't help wondering, though, if this revelation had been preceded by any, um, hands-on experience. It seems more likely that LaBute spent a lot of time alone in his college dorm room listening to Elvis Costello sing things like, "He said, 'I'm so happy I could die'/ She said 'drop dead' then left with another guy!" and going, "Yeah! That's what women are made of!" I'd say he needs to meet a nice girl—but I'm not sure any nice girls need to meet him.

Must we really get that personal?

Oh, and one more thing: I just got a mix CD from a dear friend that closes with "So Far Away," by Carole King, which is one of the songs that Rob Walker casually dismisses in the excerpt below. And you know something? I love it.
Thanks to Bessie for submitting this article from Slate on the new celebrity mix CDs currently being sold in Starbucks. I've seen these mixes on coffee shop shelves, and I'll confess to being rather pleased by the concept, in which artists like Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, and the Rolling Stones put together a CD of songs that, well, matter to them. I have mixed feelings about this particular article, however. As a former critic of sorts, I'm very sensitive to accusations of critical "elitism"; after all, a critic's job is to become as competent as possible within his or her field of choice, which usually means caring passionately about movies, music, and books that most people might not recognize. But the Slate article crosses the line, I think, from an expert's knowledge of pop music into the sort of willful obscuritanism, even contempt for the mainstream, this is often mistakenly associated with High Fidelity. This paragraph strikes me as being especially cruel:

The most recent disc features songs picked by Sheryl Crow. A profoundly mainstream songwriter, she has profoundly mainstream taste. Carol King's "So Far Away," James Taylor, Elton John, the Crowded House ballad "Don't Dream It's Over," Rod Stewart's stalwart "Maggie May." It's the sort of stuff you might hear playing in the background at Walgreens—or maybe these are themes from several generations of eighth-grade dances. Scan the list of titles and artists, and you feel as if you'd heard it without even putting the disc on. Sort of like Crow's music.

Now, I've been guilty of far more sweeping critical judgments. (You're talking to a critic who once described Pokemon: The First Movie as "Fight Club for preschoolers.") But the difference, I think, is that I was attacking movies that cost millions of dollars to produce, and don't have much of a grassroots equivalent. Mix CDs or mix tapes, on the other hand, are a much more widespread phenomenon, and I think that by dismissing Crow's CD (which I haven't heard, by the way), Rob (yes, Rob) Walker is implicitly endorsing the mix tape mentality that says: the more obscure, the better. Believe me, I've been there. The result, usually, is a piss-poor mix tape. Frankly, you can't ask much more from a mix CD, even if it's been assembled by Sheryl Crow, than that it contain good songs, thoughtfully chosen, that really mean something to the person who compiled them...even if they're comfortably embedded in the mainstream. It took me a long time to figure this out, and I made some pretty bad mix tapes along the way, but I think I've learned my lesson. I just made a mix for a friend of mine that begins with "Thunder Road," of all things, and follows it up with "Dear Prudence." And you know what? The damn thing is still pretty good.
You know you've been TeXing too much when you're writing an e-mail about money and inadvertently put dollar signs on both sides of the numbers.
I love ultimate... I love the feel of the plastic in my hand, i love marking the man with the disk and getting in his head and making him throw it away, i love running deep, and laying out for the D. I love being on the west coast where my hammers go perfectly where I tell them to (3 or 4 completed hammers for scores tonite). I especially love matching up against someone who is good and short. There's nothing quite like the feeling of snagging a tough game winner at game point tied 5-5 game to 6. But most of all I love that moment when the other team when they're matching up off a turnover and shouting out who they have stop saying "i got the short guy" and start saying "i'll guard noah."

08 May 2003

According to the comments on this post over in Sarah Hatter-land, guys don't read into things that much, for example, "A fact about women versus men: women "read into" things MUCH more than men do. They rarely try to speak between the lines with subtle phrasings. While you're trying to figure out whether we just made some triple reference to our secret love for you, we're already down the street and around the corner, wondering if we should have a cheeseburger or a burrito. Metaphorically speaking, that is."

I must say, after having just reread an email for about the 10th time, and reread my reply for about the 5th, that this is one of those times when i'm thinking it'd be really nice to be a guy. But the Spark gender test never lies.
Too bad you can't make it to New York, Nat, because Haiwen thinks you're a saint.
Noah, I'd love to get a mix CD from you. You know my address. (I still owe you a Songbook megamix of some kind, so maybe we can trade.)

07 May 2003

We're more looking for a place in Santa Fe, so unless Haiwen wants to commute, it might be a difficult setup.
How can someone shoot .466 from 3-point land, and only .404 from the free throw line? That's baffling... Deeply baffling...

06 May 2003

Alec, I've just discovered a song which you need to hear, perhaps i'll make you a mix cd so i can send it. I finally have enough new music that I can make a mix cd of all music from this year, which you're less likely to have heard over and over again, and which doesn't depress me.
Today just got much better. Meeting nice people with shared interests is nice, regardless of whether they have boyfriends.
Yes, I really do have that sticker. I also have the microwaved CD that hung on our front door for most of Senior Year. They're right here, somewhere (gestures to enormous mountain of papers and trash on his desk).
Anyone have any opinions on the new World Series home field advantage system? I think it's rather silly. The All-Star game means nothing, and home-field advantage is enormous if the Series goes 6 or 7 games. For example, if you're Joe Torre managing the AL, you expect to get to the Series again and therefore will take it far more seriously than say Dusty Baker, who's now managing a team that hasn't gotten to the Series in 57 years.

05 May 2003

I thought I'd posted about my idea for a "Smart People Have Sex in July" bumper sticker, since I know so many April birthdays, I guess I hadn't. That's why my response to the Lisa question made no sense.
Lisa wants to know if you actually do have that sticker, Alec.
Nat, if you're looking for a place in New York, I hear that Haiwen is looking for a couple of roommates.
With regard to "nice guy syndrome," I should note that Dr. Jean Grey goes for the "nice guy" in X2, and look what happens to her....
It's always nice to go to the statistics page for this blog and discover that someone found it by searching for "alec N-L," even if it was probably just Tamara. (Hi, Tamara!)
And you won't ever get me to admit that Alec N-L's fax number (1-443-339-2432) is intended to scam people. I haven't received any unsolicited faxes yet. Which, of course, is good. I don't want unsolicited faxes being sent to 1-443-339-2432.

Speaking of Google hits haunting you for the rest of your life, I've just discovered that you can very easily delete Usenet postings from Google Groups, as well as remove your own web pages from Google's search results, just by going here. This is an extremely useful discovery for me right now, for reasons that I'd prefer not to explain.
I do love "Annie Waits." I had an interesting moment of rediscovery with that song, too; it had been on my iTunes list for months, mostly because Lisa had insisted that we include some songs from Rocking the Suburbs in the playlist for our first party at Senior House. (The sticker for that CD, you may remember, lived on the inside of our front door for months afterward. After graduation, I asked Bessie, who was occupying Senior House at the time, to paste that sticker on an index card and mail it to me. I'm so sickeningly sentimental.) Anyway, it wasn't until early last year that the song really got to me, possibly because I began to associate it with…well, a girl named Annie. But what I really like about it is how the point of view changes in the last verse; you think the song is being sung by an omniscent narrator describing Annie's situation, when in fact it's being sung by a very specific narrator who is watching Annie from a distance, presumably while sitting at the bar in the same depressing dive, and bemoaning the fact that Annie waits…but not for him.

Ben Folds is very, very good.

04 May 2003

Good grief... Who knew showers could be so hard to clean... Don't ever get a shower with built in "anti-slip" ridges all through it, because the dirt gets in between them and you need to clean it with a really hard brush by scrubbing for hours.
Dave, you drank on 3 consecutive nights when i visited you just a couple weeks ago: Two bars on friday, a ton of champagne on saturday, and two thirds of a bottle of wine/champagne on sunday. You're obviously using some strange definition of "drink" if that doesn't count.
Almea and I are looking for an apartment to rent. Would any of you like to sound warnings to potential future landlords/roommates? (e.g., "they are wont to laugh very loudly and knock over furniture, but at least the female can cook" or something to that effect.)

I also learned from Bessie's godparents that Catron County, New Mexico, has cultural attractions to rival a city such as Prague. Its splendors include, but are not limited to, a county commissioner who cannot read (but apparently "he has a real good memory"); decaying roads; scorpions; no water; and no decent medical facilities for hundreds of miles. Just the place to retire to from Manhattan.
Prague is great. You should go there. There's interesting old historical stuff, pretty parks, great architecture, lots of good food, and cheap liquor. And so much music! Every little hole-in-the-wall church has a daily concert of Vivaldi, Mozart, and Dvorak, but there's a lot of respectable stuff too. We saw, appropriately enough, La Bohème. It was really well done, but would perhaps have been slightly more compelling had it not been in Italian with Czech subtitles. Other highlights included:

  • The Communist Museum: Very one-sided presentation, but really moving footage on the 1989 protests.
  • The Dvorak Musem
  • The oldest synagogue in Europe: not much to look at, but really impressive in concept. Also moving since there are only about 1500 Jews left in Prague from a population of many thousands before the war. Hitler preserved the old Jewish Quarter because he wanted it to become a museum, and that's exactly what has happened.
  • Sitting up on a hill overlooking the city right where the 30m statue of Stalin used to be, reading, admiring the view, and chatting with a Swiss cameraman filming a documentary on last summer's floods. (I got to use my French a surprising amount -- it seems all the tourists were wither French or American.)
  • "Hellish goulash" and bread dumplings at a local pub.

I was staying with my step-sister Lyndsay, who's doing a semester abroad there. (She goes to UW-Madison.) She and I are very different -- she's in a sorority, extroverted, drinks a fair amount, though still somewhat studious (and pre-med). Immediately after my arrival, while I was still trying to calm my racing heart after a perilous cab ride in which the average speed was at least three times the posted limit, I met her suitemates and was thrown into American College Girl culture shock: "Oh, for sure!" was the most frequent response to any statement; then someone came in and announced, "Wouldn't it be great if, like, after our exams were done we, like, got some wine and sat up on Petrin Hill and got wasted?" (You'll have to imagine the singsong tone.) Lyndsay seems a bit more down-to-earth than the rest of them, and we had a good time together and even bonded a bit (as you might have guessed from last night's post, which requires a fair amount of background knowledge). And I drank on three consecutive nights for the first time ever. (Now four; I'm definitely taking tonight off.)

On the way out, I discovered a great way to get rid of unwanted foreign currency: airport duty-free shopping. It actually is cheaper than buying stuff here.
Nice Guy Syndrome strikes again. This appeared in my inbox this morning:
I'm willing to put money on you finding some lovely British girl now that your time here is drawing to a close. You're so delightful that it should happen anyway!!

No prizes for guessing the gender and nationality of the sender.
Incidentally, the doctorate degree that catholic schools award is called a "doctorate in sacred theology" and is abreviated STD. You think I'm joking, but I'm not.
So I just went to this party which was doubling as my friend Claire's birthday party (as well as several other occasions for a party). And it was all people from the various divinity schools on the hill here (she's in the Jesuit school). And so there were real monks (at a party?!), as in you get introduced to: "this is brother so-and-so, he's a Dominican." I got a lot of milage out of the line: "All I know about Dominicans I learned from reading 'The Name of the Rose,' so I'm about 600 years out of date." But the really odd thing is that it wasn't like being around the Christians I grew up with, everyone was drinking a good deal (I had about 3 glasses of wine (two white, one red) and about 2 shots worth of Scotch), there were people smoking, everyone swore occasionally, there were gay couples there, etc. On the other hand, there was a lot of talking shop, which was religion shop, which I can fortunately kinda follow from my childhood days... It was just an odd party, great fun though. It was also fun to be in a group of people whose ages ranged drastically and guessing who was what ages. You learn why you should hold your drink in your left hand, that way you know who is married. Although I guess that doesn't tell you who is sworn to celibacy...

03 May 2003

Argh, tall women...
Last night at some very late and drunken hour my step-sister made the following very astute observation, which has led me to question whether I have been making the right decisions:

Just put in the mix Alec made me for christmas for the first time in a while. I'd totally forgotten "Annie Waits" and wow, it is darn good, never noticed it that way. I love discovering music I already have but never really got before. Anyway, I was reminded of after watching Vanilla Sky hoping that someone someday makes the movie that the trailer seemed to be advertising... By this I mean, I really want to listen to different song whose chorus is "So Annie waits, Annie waits, for a call from a friend... Annie waits, Annie waits, for the last time!" Having just this week waited for a call from a friend for the last of many many times, I want a song with that truimphant chorus, but that's not quite the song it is. Still a great song though.
Alec, is your latest post part of a moneymaking scheme? If not, it should be. Contact Ben for details. [Ed. Not sure this is the best link to have show up on his google for the rest of his life, so I've removed the last name.]

I lay claim to no such theory. I merely stated a personal preference.

Notes on Prague to follow after I sleep (I've been up since 4.30 UK time, after going to bed after 2), but here's a note on England: the country looks a lot different from the air these days. Usually the landscape is a patchwork of various shades of green, but now one out of every 5 or so patches is bright yellow, due to the flowering of some crop or other.

02 May 2003

Great quote from ampersand:

"(although if you read it I do recommend following "Ampersand's rule," which is to skim right past any paragraph that mentions "Foucault")."
So the other day in the pizza/beer/basketball place (I was watching the Lakers/T-Wolves game, and good grief, when they're on Shaq and Kobe are quite quite good. Shaq nearly got a triple double, and Kobe put up 14 points in the first 4 minutes of the 4th right after the T-Wolves had gotten close for the first time in a while. I'd much rather see them win like that then in a close game where the refs win it.) the really cute venezualan post-doc in the dept. showed up with a bunch of her friends (including her boyfriend). And, since last semester when she taught one of my classes for a week, her hair has gone from short to about top of the shoulder length, and I must say that Dave and my theory that however cute a girl is she'd be twice as cute with normal hair for a girl was completely confirmed.
New Mexico Update:

Everyone's favorite Vice Chancellor is returning to Connecticut tomorrow. And Bessie's godparents who live in Godforsakenville still haven't had their windows shot out. Bessie's dad and sister found the quirkiest businesses ever during their stay in Albuquerque, including a barber shop that has expanded to also offer Cuban sandwiches, billiards, and cigars.

If you have no clue what I'm talking about, and are wondering why Bessie is in New Mexico, let me know and I will fill you in by email.

01 May 2003

By the way, if you ever need to send a fax to Alec N-L, Alec N-L's fax number, courtesy of efax, is 1-443-339-2432. Oh, and some good sites for reading about fax machines are here, here, and here.

No unsolicited faxes, please!
Here are the technical details of the copy protection in music gotten through the iTunes store.