31 July 2003

I think the subject of Baloo came up on the blog a while ago...
This is hilarious.
As I said before I was a little ambiguous as to whether I thought the terror futures were a good idea or a terrible one. But either way, this is great idea.
Admiral Poindexter just never seems to get a break, does he?
I've just learned that the luscious Keira Knightley, star of Pirates of the Caribbean and my occasional dream girl, is actually younger than my younger brother. I find this vaguely troubling.

After seeing Pirates, Haiwen and I commented that Keira looked an awful lot like a certain famous Harvard alumna. Turns out that this is no accident: this may be common knowledge to Keira Knightley fans, but I was surprised to realize that she played Natalie Portman's "double" in The Phantom Menace. Thankfully, she's since moved on to better roles.
If it were real money, I'd be doing it for a living.
It isn't real money, but, Alec, if you want to bet on the successes of movies there's the Hollywood Stock Exchange (found via Slate).

Ed. Noah is an idiot with no memory.

30 July 2003

A couple of good tidbits from Roger Ebert's movie answer man column:

1. There was an amazing brouhaha, which I apparently missed, over a quote of Ebert's that was used in the ads for the movie Whale Rider: "Take the kids, and they'll see a movie that will touch their hearts and minds." Ebert writes: The MPAA informed the distributor that it had to remove the line from the ads, because a film with a PG-13 rating can't be marketed to children. This raises several problems. (1) I said "take the kids," not "send them in alone." (2) Kids can in any event attend PG-13 movies by themselves. They need the parent or adult only for an R movie. (3) It is my right and duty as a critic to make such judgments, and surely the distributor has a right to quote them. (4) This is a sad example of a system that has lost all reason and now categorizes an inspiring family film (yes, family!) like "Whale Rider" in the same category with "Charlie's Angels Full Throttle" and "2 Fast 2 Furious." Agreed. But you all know how I feel about the MPAA.

2. Johnny Depp's performance in Pirates of the Caribbean was apparently intended as an homage to Keith Richards. This makes me want to see the movie again.

I love that monument.

29 July 2003

Ah, I'm back in the U.S., hanging out at home alone while I wait for my mother and brother to return. Nothing like the United States, where we set up futures markets on whether other countries will suffer massive upheaval and suffering. In France, I'm happy to report that we weren't treated as evil Americans, despite Jon wearing U.S. Army shirts everywhere. The one exception was in a small town named Gentioux with this (rather unusual) monument to the war dead. (Every town in France has a monument to the war dead. This was the only one we saw with a little kid shaking his fist at it.) We were passing through town and stopped for lunch. We were denied service at the only cafe in town, being told that they were out of food. I am sure it was because of the Army shirt. I suspected there was something funny about the town, and sure enough, my mom's friends said that the town was known for being especially pacifistic. According to them, residents of Gentioux didn't even salute or wave when the French Army marched through the streets in 1945. That characterization was further supported by this article I found online. I have no idea why Gentioux, which looks identical to the several dozen villages scattered throughout the region, should be so bold and unique in its politics. Maybe everyone who walks by that monument every day has internalized its message, and they pass the message to their children. Whatever the explanation, this spunky little stick-in-the-mud village with a flair for peace was one of the most interesting places I visited.
Doesn't the Times employ fact-checkers anymore? I don't even have an Internet connection these days, and even I know that it's spelled "Jenna Jameson".
I'm not sure what I think of the terror futures market. Part of me agrees with everyone's reaction that it is sick and twisted. However, there's another part that thinks "finally someone trying something new that might help rather than just coming up with a new color of alert." Apparently the undground betting market on where the next suicide bomber would hit in Israel was a better predictor of where the next one would happen than any individual experts were. It's a different way to look at the problem, with a hive mind instead of a person's mind, and sometimes that works better.

As for the thing Alec quotes as a "good point." The futures market as it was described in the Times article explained that this was invite only and they weren't inviting terrorists. That wasn't an issue at all.

Incidentally if you would like to buy futures in weird future events, here's a good site to do so.
Well, that was fast.
On the subject of terror futures, a colleague astutely remarks: "The advocates of this program cite the uncanny accuracy of campaign 'futures' in predicting election outcomes. There seems to be an inability on their part to appreciate the distinction between an election, where one futures market participant can do no more than cast one among many millions of votes (at least unless he/she is a Supreme Court justice or the Florida Secretary of State) and a terrorist event, where one futures market participant can with a cast of a grenade determine single-handedly the value of his futures contract."

Good point.
Drew Hu answers the question that all of America is buzzing about: Is there such a thing as gay math?
I think the terror futures market is a fascinating idea, and I wish I'd thought of it first. Wait a minute: I did. A few months ago, Haiwen and I were talking about how you can establish a futures contract on literally anything, and we came up with the idea of Korean mass grave futures. As usual, we were just ahead of the Times.

That said, I'm not sure this idea will work. An open market can be an incredible way of aggregating information and making it visible in the form of prices, but because people in the securities markets are usually based in finance, it's usually most useful at predicting financial information. When it comes to other areas where the traders don't have any particular expertise, the results are less useful. Just as an obvious example, the Hollywood Stock Exchange isn't very effective at predicting the weekend box office, which makes me doubt that this site will have any particular edge at predicting events that are months, years, or decades in the future.

Another problem is that the markets are much better at pricing securities that are backed by an asset that can be (at least theoretically) valued. Stock prices, again in theory, are based on future expected dividends; option prices, on a number of factors, most importantly the price and volatility of an underlying stock; commodities futures prices, on the spot price of the commodity and other factors like carrying costs and interest rates. These are all factors to which you can assign a dollar value without too much trouble. But to my knowledge, there's no good way of valuing a single future on a political event. If there were a valuation method, it would take a lot of time and money to develop, which seems unlikely given the penny-ante nature of the futures prices involved.

Still, you never know what those pesky hedge funds will do next.

28 July 2003

Please tell me this is some kind of hoax....
Slate has an article today headlined "Summer Jobs that Help you Score." Oddly enough math grad student wasn't on the list...

On the other hand "Sleepaway-camp counselor" is on the list and it says the best way to get the job is: "to go to a summer camp until you're old enough to be a counselor (which also involves kissing up to/making nice with the powers-that-be)" and that

Hook-up factor: Very high. Up to 10 weeks with no parental oversight, other teenagers (and young adults) living in close quarters, the occasional night off, and there's always skinny-dipping in the lake. Note to parents: This is the case even at camps that are religiously stringent. If the camp is not co-ed, it merely means that any inter-camp mixing will be quite … intense, or there will be a certain amount of what people like to call "homo-social bonding."

The funny thing is i wrote the first paragraph of this before reading the article and then read it and felt the need to repost.
My fortune cookie yesterday: "Next month shall be hectic, yet delightful."
It's nice to see that both Emma and Pembroke are powers in the Cambridge diplomacy vairant. :) I also think that the creator is someone from my program about whom I was asked numerous times, "Do you know that kid?" (Answer: no.)
As you probably know by now, Bob Hope died today, only a few months after turning 100. Hope's longevity was a heartless running joke for a long time, of course: only yesterday, I was watching a commentary track on The Simpsons DVD collection where Matt Groening notes that the Simpsons writing staff has been avoiding Bob Hope jokes for ten years, out of fear that he would die between the writing of the episode and the actual airdate.

But here's the most stunning indication of how long the media has been waiting for Hope's passing: Hope's obituary in the New York Times today is credited to Vincent Canby, the famed former Times film critic. Vincent Canby has been dead for almost three years. In other words, the Times kept this obituary on the shelf for so long that the author of the obituary died long before its subject did. I'll bet that doesn't happen very often....
Of late I've gotten rather obsessed with Diplomacy. Anyway I just ran accross a Cambridge variant that Dave and Bessie might appreciate. The map of the board is here. The fact that students walking can't cross streets for fear of crazy bikers in this game is definitely its high point.
From an article on HP3.

Yes, “Azkaban” is the puberty movie in the Potter franchise—the one, says Emma Watson, who plays Hermione, in which “all those lovely, lovely hormones start coming out.” How will the movie reflect the changes afoot? “Lots of sex,” says Alfonso Cuaron, the Mexican director who’s taken over the reins of the series from Chris Columbus. “Lots of nudity. And lots of sex.”

This is even funnier if you know that this guy directed "y tu mama tambien"

27 July 2003

Oooh, Palumbi is in the news. Perhaps I should buy a hawaiian shirt in tribute to his great friday is hawaiian shirt day classes.
Here's why it pays to always be honest on your resume: A few days ago, I interviewed a girl for a position at my company. She'd put down "reading competence in ancient Greek" as one of her language skills, so, sadist that I am, I brought along the Greek text of Iliad IX.401-416 for her to translate. (This is the high point of Achilles' famous speech to Odysseus, Ajax, and Phoenix. If you've ever taken one of Gregory Nagy's courses at Harvard, you'll probably know what I'm talking about.) Anyway, she didn't do very well, so I was reminded that it's always best to be honest in these matters.

On a related note, if you've ever visted Angela's blog, you're aware that she's been preparing an elaborate dance theater project to premiere in August. Auditions were today, so I dropped by, despite the fact that the ad specifies "social dance skills" as one of the prerequisites. Masochist that I am, when asked to list my dance skills, I put down "Waltz, on a good day." And, of course, when it was time for me to audition, Angela put on "Greensleeves," and asked me to waltz to it. I'll leave the results to your imagination. Again, a reminder that you shouldn't lie on your resume.

But actually, the real reason I'm mentioning Angela's theater piece is because the second half is entitled "Seasons of Love After the Blog," which I think is just great.

26 July 2003

I was just reminded of a story from a party several weeks ago that was pretty funny.

So this girl is handing everyone vagina stickers (i don't know why) and i choose one that says "VAGINA" (Lisa's said "Vaginas are magic"). Anyway, I try to pull off the back from the corner but can't get it to unstick.

me: I don't know if there's any good way to say this but, I can't get my vagina sticker off.

her (laughing): Ah well, I have lots of experience with this, let me show you... See you take the flaps and fold them back [the backing splits in the middle] and then reach your finger in... Now you try.

(i remove sticker)

her: Now we've bonded.

25 July 2003

So the song "Summer in Ohio" has this line in the beginning:
"but it wouldn't be as nice as a summer in ohio with a gay midget named Carl"

I always find this terribly amusing since i've spent several summers in ohio with someone named Carl and it seems like a bit of humor that Haiwen might appreciate.
This Onion article hits just a little too close to home...my new home, that is.
This article on intern dating habits is pretty priceless... Best moment:

"Democrat interns are five times more likely than Republican interns to categorize the "hook-up" as the most common type of dating at college."
Great first paragraph of a movie review:

She's got the same impeccable grooming, the same stylish but subdued wardrobe. She's got the same posh upper-crust accent, the same habit of bouncing from one exotic locale to the next, and of never settling down with just one lover. All that's missing, in fact, is the shaken-not-stirred vodka martini and those shushed Scottish S's. The evidence is clear: Angelina Jolie is the best Bond since Sean Connery
Oh right, I'd forgotten that you knew Kendrick Kay. You'd be amazed at how often he comes up in my conversations with Haiwen, for reasons that I'd prefer not to blog. If you ever see him, you might want to mention that he's inadvertently added a term to Haiwen's polemical lexicon (not that I'm going to tell you what that is). Or perhaps you should maintain a discreet silence....
I also find it interesting when people move folders but not retroactively... E.g. David Speyer is in "Math people" until last year and now he's in "Berkeley math" and if I'd have ever gotten an email from him that was sent to erin as well it'd likely have ended up in "Harvard people" instead. Similarly, Flora is moving now, and Kendrick Kay just moved from "ultimate" to "Berkeley other."
The 3rd unstated goal of the mix was to get you hooked on Badly Drawn Boy. I'm thrilled to see it working.

As I said in my description it sounds like Sad Bastard Music, but is actually uplifting.
Dave, why must you make my life so complicated? I'm cleaning out my email for the first time in a while and realize I need some new folders...

I've renamed "roomates" to "weld 38." I split "Berkeley people" into "Berkeley Math" and "Berkeley other" (confusing because there's also a "math people" folder). Furthermore, I added a "Hillside house" folder for my new roomates (Hillside house being an obscure Haffertee Hamster Diamond reference that no one but me will ever get, but when has that stopped me before?).

The difficulty, of course, is what to do with Dave? I suppose I could just give him his own folder, but then I'd have to give all 3 of you your own folder, which would take forever to go back through, and would make it so I had guys with their own folders, which somehow doesn't seem appropriate... I think the current plan is to put Dave emails in "Weld 38" unless they are obviously housing related (then "Hillside house") or math related (then "Berkeley math").

Its funny the way these sorts of filing systems get bizarre little quirks... Somehow Tina ends up in the family folder because she lives with my family so much, while anna g. didn't end up in the laura folder despite living with her, but is in the math folder, however emails from her parents are in the Laura folder. Almea emails are in the Weld 38 folder, but Lisa P. emails are in "Math people." Even more bizarrely Catherine is in the "Math people" folder. And somehow no one in Berkeley got their own folder, for no apparent reason.

I'm sure none of you find this as interesting as i do...
Angela, I'm pleased to see that you're still out there....

We've talked about emotionally overwhelming songs on this blog before. There's a certain affection on this blog for, among many other songs, "Get the Message" by Electronic, "Find the River" and "Why Not Smile" by R.E.M., "Bookends" by Simon and Garfunkel," "Free Fallin'" by Tom Petty, "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi, "Bad" and "One" by U2, "The River" by Bruce Springsteen, "It Happens Every Day" by Dar Williams, and of course, "It Must Have Been Love" by Roxette. For a while, I was toying with the idea of putting together a Deadly Mantis mix that would include some or all of the above. Maybe I still will.

The other song that has been haunting my dreams recently is "Hey Self Defeater" by Mark Mulcahy, courtesy, as usual, of Nick Hornby, which includes the amazing bit:

Just get a new place
And put a thousand miles
Between you and your wrong impressions...

...which is basically what brought me to New York.
I can't believe what just happened...I was sitting at my desk, just working on a spreadsheet, listening to the mix that Noah made for me recently, when I found myself completely derailed by the song "You Were Right," by Badly Drawn Boy. I'd listened to it last night without paying too much attention, and liked it, but for some reason, when it came on a minute ago, I had to stop working and stare into space for a while. Then I played it again, this time on headphones, and actually wept tears at the part that goes:

An' I
Was busy finding answers while
You just got on with real life
Always hoped you'd be my wife
But I never found the time
For the question to arrive
I just disguised it in a song

I don't think any song has ever done that to me before. The worst part is that I don't know for whom, or what, those tears were meant. I don't think it's anyone in particular these days....

Anyway, I'm glad that everyone else in the office was out for lunch just now. This might have been hard to explain.

24 July 2003

Reading this guy's jazzed-up blog (really more a collection of self-aggrandizing essays by a pop personality in the making), I had to ask myself, Why isn't my life more like this? Then I remembered: Oh, right, I'm an introvert.

23 July 2003

It is amazing the way addiction industry's work. First you're just a social smoker and before you know it you've passed a pack a day and are spending a thousand dollars per year.

Why do I raise this? Well I just checked up on my cell phone minutes... It seems that between Aug 7 and Aug 22 (inclusive) i've managed to spend 592 minutes on my cell phone! That's 37 minutes per day. I've only had it since the middle of June. To be fair that's "cell phone time" which means it rounds up each call. Furthermore it includes 153 minutes of weekend minutes and 151 minutes of calls to Verizon customers both of which don't count towards my limit, but still, it's ridiculous.

Oddly enough it somehow includes 0 night minutes, which i find somewhat bizarre. I mean weekends nights count as weekends, and perhaps night verzion minutes get put under verizon (though that seems weird), but I'm sure I made a phone call after 9pm last weds night for example.

However, it is impossible for me to check on what phone calls they say I made until after the month is over. This is exactly the sort of thing that renting for a year made me change my mind on. There should be a law requiring cell phone providers to have bill summaries available online.
Why are they standing on a steak?

22 July 2003

Boy on a stick and slither has a comic today which seemed very appropriate to Dave's baseball story.
It's funny how various things can be just "understood." Today I was chatting about cynicism and long distance relationships and the question came up: "so, did you bite or were you bitten?" It was of course blatantly clear to both of us what was meant.

The rest of the night involved getting very drunk and then watching american pie projected onto a wall. Brought back memories of our freshman year projector evenings.

20 July 2003

By the way, I'm home in Minnesota now, until 9 August. Tomorrow I will embark on my Great Plan of Self-Improvement, which consists of studying math in the morning (preparing for prelims) and music in the afternoon (preparing for the music placement exam). Or perhaps I will start Tuesday.
On the plane yesterday I was reading Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd (thanks Bessie!) and came across the following phrase:
Indeed, he seemed to approach the grave as a hyperbolic curve approaches a straight line -- less directly as he got nearer, till it was doubtful if he would ever reach it at all.

What proportion of readers in 1874 would know what a "hyperbolic curve" looks like? How about readers today? This would be a good Fermi problem...

In another passage Hardy refers to "the accuracy of pure mathematics." It appears he had a fondness for the subject. :)
Today I went to see the Twins play the A's at the Metrodome (and beat them 6-4 on homers by Hunter and Mientkewitzcz (or however you spell it)). I love the Dome and all, but it was a bit of a letdown after Pac Bell park. However, the biggest shock came during the seventh inning stretch, when instead of hearing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," we were told to remove our hats, stand, and listen to "God Bless America." I had watched the same thing happen at the All-Star game and written it off as a silly TV ploy, but I have real problems with it happening at an ordinary regular-season game. First, why should "God Bless America" be accorded the same level of respect as the national anthem? Second, and more importantly, what place does "God Bless America" have in the seventh inning stretch? It's a baseball game, not a political rally. What would have happened if they had been playing the Blue Jays?

Following the song, the players took the field and there was in fact an actual seventh inning stretch which included "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," which the scoreboard operator followed up by showing random fans over an American flag backdrop while blasting Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American." I was not.

16 July 2003

Somehow this Onion News-In-Brief seemed eminently bloggable:

Elaborate Sentence Construction Facilitates Omission Of Word 'Boyfriend'
BAKERSFIELD, CA—Local Target cashier Lori Spelmann, 23, told coworker Marsha Kimball about her weekend Monday using a winding sentence to facilitate omission of the word "boyfriend." "I didn't get home until late because my friend who is the guy I've been hanging out with a lot for the last five or so weeks locked his keys in his car," Spelmann told Kimball in the Target breakroom. Other words and phrases Spelmann managed to avoid during the run-on sentence included "went on a date," "relationship," and "had sex."
G'Day, I'm blogging from France, where I'm doing the old "visiting the ancestral homelands" thing. When I have more time I'll go into greater detail about where I'm at, which might be described as the West Virginia of France (in a good way). Lest I be left out of the nostalgic I'm moving-here's-what-I'll-miss thing, I will probably moving someplace next month, so there.

é"&ৠfrench keyboards!
My friend Drew Hu has a new blog, located at feralpanda.blogspot.com, for some reason. In it, he poses the question, "Do feral pandas eat deadly mantises for breakfast?"

14 July 2003

Alec has a new career... Movie share trading... Just don't write reviews to artificially boost your stocks.
Here's a fascinating article from CNN about Billy Dead, a crime thriller starring Ethan Hawke that will be the first movie to be financed through an IPO, that is, through common stock traded over the counter. This means that it will be possible for an investor to buy (and presumably also short) shares of an individual movie, which obviously opens up an entirely new playing field for independent filmmaking. Not a very promising one, unfortunately: given Hawke's shaky box office record and the uncertain prospects for any independent movie, I'd sell that bad boy short without a second thought. Interesting idea, though.
Or vaguely unsettling.
We are currently the number one hit for a google search for "marla genoni". I really like the idea that one day she could do an ego search and suddenly find out someone she doesn't remember thinks she's one of the most beautiful women in the world, it'd be kinda sweet.

13 July 2003

I don't want to be accused of only being attracted to models and movie stars, so here are some of my favorite intellectual pin-ups:

Harvard professor Svetlana Boym, circa 1990 (?). One of Haiwen's favorites.

The quintessential intellectual sex symbol: Susan Sontag in the late 1960's.

Finally, a guilty pleasure: photographer Cindy Sherman in sex-kitten mode.
I found that picture of Virginie. Poor girl; she doesn't even have a yoga mat.

Needless to say, nothing that nice has ever been on my floor.

12 July 2003

Here are some more of my personal nominations for the Most Beautiful Girl in the World. (The reason I didn't post more extensively earlier is that my only Internet access these days is at work, and somehow it seemed, well, sketchy to be scrolling through picture after picture of these beautiful girls at my desk when I was supposed to be assisting in the flow of revenue....)

There's Virginie Ledoyen, of course. I only wish that I could find the picture of her I had posted on my wall senior year....It was a photo of her lying on a wooden floor, which seemed like the most unabashedly carnal, and impractical, pose imaginable. (I liked Nat's reading of it: "She's just looking for cracks in the ceiling.")

Years ago I decided that I'd rather spend my time looking at Kate Winslet than just about any other actress in the world. That's still pretty true. A possible second contender with a similar look is Madchen Amick, who used to star on Twin Peaks and was easily the most beautiful woman in that cast (no small feat, given the competition). I don't know if any of you see the resemblance, but she reminds me of a certain friend of mine from Harvard...

Back in Wong Kar-Wai territory, there's Michelle Reis, who wore her hair over her eyes in Fallen Angels (which I don't think I ever watched with any of you). And while browsing online, I was suddenly reminded of Xun Zhou, who played the mermaid in Souzhou River. She had that wonderful scene where she gets dressed in the morning before going to work.

Oh, and there's also Naomi Watts, who's just great, even when she isn't appearing in unexpected lesbian scenes.
It's funny: I'm home at the moment, and I was just going through a box of stuff when I found my old facebook from sophomore year.

Yeah, I remember that girl.

10 July 2003

This just in from the "truth is stranger than fiction" department. Who bops a giant sausage?
Hate to be predictable, but it was probably inevitable that my choice for the most beautiful girl in the world would also be the star of the best movie ever made.

09 July 2003

Well, my two biggest movie crushes of the past few years are:

Lauren Ambrose in Swimming (You have to see the trailer for the full affect. Most notably, her smiling on the beach and the change in her face when the van door opens.)

and Rachel Leigh Cook in Josie and the Pussycats, again, watch the trailer for the full affect, but this picture is alright.

If any of you still have the adams photo gallery from our sophomore year, there was this senior named Marla Genoni who I met in the laundry room who was one of the two most beautiful women I've ever met (the other being Julie our french teacher, of course).

I'll leave Virginie Ledoyen for Alec to post about.
I don't have any specific nominations for most beautiful girl in the world, but after walking around campus for an hour this afternoon I've come to the conclusion that she must go to UC Berkeley, as pretty much every girl I passed was extremely attractive.

Also, Noah and I (and 3 others) now have a beautiful house with a spectacular view in the Berkeley hills. You must all come visit. He's sitting 3 feet to my left now and presumably posting on the same topic, so I'll leave the description to him.

All in all, I think I could be convinced to like California. :)
One of the reasons posting has been slow is that Dave, Flora, and I have been house hunting. But we found a place today... It has 5 bedrooms, a huge living room with a fireplace and two story ceilings, three bathrooms and two kitchens, a backyard, a deck, a garage with a pool table, a hot tub, and a spectacular bay view, all within in short walk of campus (15 minutes down, probably 30 up). Here's where it is: yay Mapquest
I'm bored at work, and it's been kind of quiet on this blog recently, so I thought I'd toss out a surefire discussion topic:

Who's the most beautiful girl in the world?

Links to pictures a must. Idiosyncratic or underappreciated nominees welcomed. I'll post my choice(s) sometime tomorrow.
I finally subscribed to Netflix, and now that I'm a member and the DVDs are rolling in, I'm astonished that I never tried this earlier. I think I know why I waited so long, however: I just moved into a new apartment where I'm living on my own, and Netflix is much better geared towards solitary viewing than watching movies with friends. Usually when you make plans to watch a movie at home, it involves coordinating times and preferences, and you need to have the movie ready at a certain time. With Netflix, by contrast, the nature of the DVD-by-mail service (although it's very reliable and fast) means that you're never quite sure when your movie will arrive. Hence it's much better geared towards a solitary, casual movie at the end of the day, which is precisely the sort of thing I'm doing all the time now. (No Internet, no cable…there isn't much else to do at the moment.)

In case you're curious, my first three selections from Netflix were three classic movies that I've always been embarrassed to say I'd never seen: Bonnie and Clyde, Sunset Boulevard, and Grand Illusion. Next week, unless I'm mistaken, will be Double Indemnity, On the Waterfront, and The Conversation. The only recent movie currently in my rental queue is American History X, which suddenly seems to have become essential viewing. Any futher suggestions, as always, would be much appreciated.

05 July 2003

This is my last day in my apartment here... Surprisingly enough, looking back it's been a pretty good year, somehow the spring has almost overshadowed the fall, and 2003 is shaping up to be an excellent year. I'll miss being here, I don't want to leave my view of the park, and I'll miss living in the social center of my set. And it is very disappointing to realize that I got through the entire year without kissing any girls in this apartment... On the other hand I'm so glad to be nearly rid of our landlords. Anyway I should run, we're cleaning up and I'm blogging from a laptop on our kitchen counter.

[We apologise for the 'p' errors. They have been rectified. -Ed]
Today is my last day in England. This afternoon I packed in all of the things that everyone has to do in Cambridge but I never got around to doing: see the Botanic Garden (stunning!), view Cambridge from the top of Great St. Mary's Church (thus indulging my predilection for high places), have tea and a scone with jam and clotted cream (ok, I'd done that one before). Earlier in the week, still repenting for never having gone to either the Fogg or the MFA (except for the one time Lisa took me to the Guston exhibition), I went to the Fitzwilliam museum, which has a small but impressive collection in a large and even more impressive building. Now I have to try to cram all of my remaining stuff (I've spent £300 on shipping in the last two days) into three suitcases, after which I'll be cooking risotto with Lucy and trying to convince her to help me finish my remaining alcohol (of which there is much).

It hasn't been the greatest year ever, but England, Cambridge, and Emmanuel have been good to me, and I'll miss them. Over the last week I've been trying to think of specific things I'll miss and not miss, and here's what I've come up with. (These lists are subject to modification, so check back later!)

Things I'll miss about England (in no particular order):
  • Trains.
  • McVitie's digestive biscuits.
  • The Emma bar.
  • Tax included in the prices.
  • Ubiquitous text messaging. (I'm going to try to bring this one back with me.)
  • The Emma ducks (and oh-so-cute ducklings!).
  • 10.30 pm sunset in summer.
  • Scones with jam and clotted cream.
  • Laundry service.
  • Pre-dinner champagne and post-dinner port.
  • No open-bottle laws.
  • Stansted Airport.
  • The accents (especially the Scottish ones).
  • Drinking because it happens to be a Tuesday.
  • Indian food everywhere.
  • Being able to ring anyone at 2 am without worrying about waking them up.
  • Scottish nationalism.
  • Classical music on WHRB from 6 pm to 3 am.
  • Not bringing the bill until you ask for it.
  • Good cheddars.
  • No stress.

Things I won't miss about England:
  • British plumbing.
  • Rain.
  • Pubs closing at 11 pm.
  • Tiny fridges and no freezer.
  • 17.5% VAT.
  • 3.30 pm sunset in winter.
  • Slooooow internet connection (not entirely English in nature, but frustrating nonetheless).
  • Bad Chinese food.
  • Pennying.
  • Buses wider than the streets.
  • Everything closing at 5 pm.
  • Did I mention the plumbing?
I'm beginning to question whether I really want my welfare for the next five years to be in the hands of the state of California.

However, it is slightly comforting to know that California doesn't have a monopoly on government incompetence.

03 July 2003

Gave a talk at UC Davis on wednsday, which went well. Davis is an interesting town. I'd heard before that there were a lot of bicycles there, but i wasn't quite prepared for the reality. There are bikes parked everywhere, and it isn't even during the school year. There must be thousands and thousands of them. There are many of them on the street and the streets are all generous and wide. Furthermore bikes are a popular topic of conversation... When we asked for directions the person we asked couldn't stop raving about how cool peter's bike was, and when i waited for a train coming back there were people discussing what sort of things joining the handlebars to the frame Schwinn was making in the 60's when they made this one particular model...

Speaking of waiting for the train, on the way back it took several hours because of an accident on the track. The girl next to me complained the the trains were better when she lived in Siberia a decade ago...

02 July 2003

How in the world could anyone describe Sean Connery's performance in The Untouchables as "much-mocked"? "Do you know what a blood oath is, Mr. Ness?" "Yes...yes I do." "Good, 'cause you just took one."

I'm also not sure why Pete Postlewaite appears on that list. Yes, his accent was a little stilted, but bear in mind that in The Usual Suspects he's an Irish actor playing a Pakistani lawyer with a Japanese last name who doesn't exist.

01 July 2003

Turns out Strom was a miscegenator... Probably a sodomite too.
Here's an interesting top 10 list.

("Top ten whats?" you ask... Does it really matter, you're going to read it anyway.
In the last 6 months his only non-unanimous majority opinions are: Chavez v Martinez and Woodford v Garceau. The former was one of the more important decisions this year which said that the government does not break the 5th ammendment by compelling testimony so long as this testimony is not used against the person. It's a rather complicated decision because there are different majorities for different parts of the decision, but Thomas wrote the most important part and announced the decision.

The links are to findlaw which is a really good reference for all things legal.
According to a Lexis-Nexis search for "OPINIONBY(Thomas) and dissent," Thomas has written 50 non-unanimous majority opinions in his time on the court. For comparison, in the same time Souter, a judge of similar seniority has written 63 non-unanimous majority opinions.

Since the year 2000 the number of non-unanimous majority opinions by each justice is (in order of seniority):
Rehnquist: 25
Stevens: 25
O'Connor: 27
Scalia: 16
Kennedy: 24
Thomas: 18
Souter: 15
Ginsburg: 15
Breyer: 15

There has been a lot of stuff over at the Volokh Conspiracy trying to debunk the "Thomas is a stupid lazy idiot" myth which is how I figured out how to do this sort of search, see this post, for example.
Roger Ebert has an amusing review of T3: Rise of the Machines where he compares it, unfavorably, to the sort of cerebral science fiction favored by Analog magazine:

In the dawning days of science fiction, there was a chasm between the concept-oriented authors and those who churned out space opera. John W. Campbell Jr.'s Astounding Science Fiction, later renamed Analog to make the point clear, was the home of the brainy stuff. Bug-eyed monsters chased heroines in aluminum brassieres on the covers of Amazing, Imagination and Thrilling Wonder Stories.

The first two Terminator movies, especially the second, belonged to Campbell's tradition of S-F ideas. They played elegantly with the paradoxes of time travel, in films where the action scenes were necessary to the convoluted plot. There was actual poignancy in the dilemma of John Connor, responsible for a world that did not even yet exist. The robot Terminator, reprogrammed by Connor, provided an opportunity to exploit Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.

But that was an age ago, in 1991...

What can I say? Ebert's the best.
I probably shouldn't admit to this in such a public forum, but I've become embarrassingly fond of Kelly Clarkson's new single, the Christina Aguilera-penned "Miss Independent." It's a Neptunes ripoff, but a good one, and it's the sort of perfectly packaged pop confection that I miss hearing in my friends' cars in high school, or even at the occasional college party with the girls upstairs. I'm not sure I could ever put it onto a mix CD with a straight face, though. Maybe for Haiwen....
Reading this article got me wondering: have they ever let Clarence Thomas write an opinion for a non-unanimous decision? (I don't have the time and/or the internet connection to answer this right now. The Supreme Court site has all the decisions listed with authors but you have to download the whole thing to get the votes, and Google can't seem to find a summarising list.)