30 April 2003

I think that's explained by living with Haiwen.
Somehow I ended up on the seventh circle...which suggests that I've got some emotional issues that I'm somehow not acknowledging.
Why am I not surprised by this result:

b>The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

One of the better tests like this I've run accross in a while.
Still a touch too drunk to go to sleep. All in all a succesful birthday. Lots to drink, great food, many people showing for a mini-party. Great fun had by all. Sadly no contact from any ex or future girlfriends, but I did get an unexpected phone call from my brother in Japan, which was really sweet of him. Must sleep soon, silly alcohol...

29 April 2003

Incidentally, if you're interested in buying some gold (which I think I am, if only because it would really piss Haiwen off) this seems like a good place to start.
By the way, I figured out how to calculate how much gold is mined worldwide in one year: ask a director of the World Gold Council. According to George Milling-Stanley, whom I saw speak this morning at the NYMEX's annual derivatives symposium, the worldwide government holdings of gold total about 33,000 metric tons, which is equivalent to thirteen years' total production. Even a non-quant like me can do the math.

George, the director of the American official sector of the gold council, recommends that we buy gold, and lots of it. He also committed the Freudian slip of saying "God" for "gold" at least once.

While at the symposium, I also got to peek down at the main trading floor of the NYMEX. It's an interesting place. It's always good to be reminded that this whole country's financial system, however complex and elegant it may otherwise be, also depends upon several thousand guys in a big room shouting at the top of their lungs.
This is kind of odd: I did a web search for my office's address, out of curiosity as to what other businesses were in the building. (There's no central directory where this can be easily checked.) Anyway, it turns out that Marisa Tomei's New York mailing address is on the 36th floor. It's probably just an agent's office, of course...but the odd thing is that I have seen Marisa Tomei within a block of where I work. (It was at a theater after a showing of this play.)
Ah, the crazy world of intelligence.
Could the SARS fiasco be the beginning of the end for the Chinese Communist government?
I downloaded the software for the iTunes music store last night, and it's exactly what I've always wanted in a music service (good interface, reliable content, flexible usage rights) except for one thing: it refused to take my credit card information, not even giving me an error message, so I couldn't download any songs. If it weren't for that one snag, I'd be tempted to say that this is how I'm going to be buying most of my music from now on. As it stands, however, Apple seems curiously averse to taking my money.

28 April 2003

So apple has a new music downloading service coming out, and I'll be interested to see if it catches on. It seems that it is a buck a song, and you're allowed to have a copy of it up to 3 computers at once, but I think you're not allowed to burn them... This still doesn't sound like it will work. In order for me to switch from Kazaa to a pay service the pay service needs to offer me more than the free service. This shouldn't be difficult, if the record labels follow along with it, then one should be able to get a wider range of songs more dependably from the pay service than from Kazaa where you're at the whim of who happens to have the music (for example, it took me a month before "you're nothing without me" from the musical City of Angels had enough sources online to download it), however, the service needs to also let me do all of the things with that file that I can do with an mp3, most importantly I need to be able to make mix cds to send to friends. Without that I think any pay service is going to fail. I would like to pay for music, I really would. And a dollar a song is not unreasonable. I would pay for that, if there were good selection and no copy control. As it is I think I'll still be forced to stEAl.

[Steal: to take without permission. Steel: an alloy of iron and carbon (n); to strengthen (v.t.). --Ed.]

UPDATE: This article suggests that the service does allow burning... If this is the case then I might use this service when it hits PCs.

UPDATE: This article has better info: "Songs from the iTunes store can be transferred freely to iPod players, burned on unlimited numbers of CDs and accessed on up to a maximum of three Macintosh computers. Each song in Apple's store can be previewed for 30 seconds at no charge. It is currently available only in the United States." Looks pretty reasonable. A dollar is a tad steep, but I'm making real money these days, so I think I will probably start using this when it comes out for PC.
So I saw this play yesterday which was a bunch of scenes taking place in different families around the dining room table. Loosely they were supposed to all represent the decline of WASP civilisation or something like that. At any rate, in one of the scenes a grown daughter is explaining to her father why she wants to move back in to his house (along with her kids) because she's leaving her husband. He doesn't want her to give up on her marriage, and she's trying to tell him why its all such a mess. She explains how he's now living with someone else, and she was involved with someone else, and no it wasn't a man, and she's just very confused, etc. At some point the father says: "Let's review the bidding." I lost it... So i'm a nerd who plays bridge, I think this phrase fits perfectly into a very confusing personal conversation.

Speaking of weird card playing analogies... My euphemism of the week (what people it's refering to or who's saying it or any of the details i'm not posting on the web, but several of you can probably guess): "I was dealt a losing hand, but I played it as well as I could, and at least I managed to split the pot."
Another profound realisation: Switching from correct to incorrect capitalisation in e-mails signifies an important turning point in a relationship.
I've decided that my goal for the next n years is to explain my thesis topic to my non-math girlfriend, for then I will have both an interesting problem to work on and a non-math girlfriend.

[NJS: Best... Post... Ever...]
Haiwen (to me, yesterday): "You really have no excuse."

This is the nicest thing he's ever said to me.
Great quote:

"You can't blame KG," one Eastern Conference coach countered Sunday night. "I don't see how you can blame him if they lose this series. He's stepping up and taking big shots -- and making big shots.

"Actually," the coach added, "go ahead and blame him. Then trade him to us."
Great day in baseball yesterday: Kevin Millwood throws a no-hitter for the Phillies, and the Cardinals and Marlins play 20 innings. St. Louis had no right to win after blowing a 5-run lead in the 9th, but they managed to hold Philadelphia scoreless for the next 11 innings.

By the way, how did the Twins get to be 8 games behind Kansas City? Kansas City???

27 April 2003

Dave, your post about the ducks reminded me of Talk to Her.
It doesn't compare to being in the index of a Serge Lang book, but today my salary was announced in the front section of the largest newspaper in the state. Mercifully I was not mentioned by name. The article is only accessible to paid subscribers, though. It's definitely a weird feeling that how much money I make is somehow news...
Calpundit has a summary of, and a link to, some rather bizarre poll results concerning homosexuality. What explanation would you all give for only 52% of people saying that homosexuality should be legal, while "86% think gays should have equal employment opportunities. 72% think they should be eligible for the military. 63% think they are OK as high school teachers." Somewhat baffling.
Someone (Noah?) pointed me to an article on the Big Mac Index a few days ago, and I was about to post on how the concept is fundamentally flawed, but I couldn't find the link, so I Googlesearched and found the original article, which basically makes my argument for me.

But anyway, what I was going to say was even if you make the simplifying assumption that the capital cost to produce a Big Mac is the same everywhere, the different price of labour in different places means that the Big Mac should vary in price. It costs far less to hire a Chinese worker than a Swiss one, so the Chinese Big Mac should be cheaper.

A more useful statistic might be how many Big Macs an average McDonalds worker could buy with his/her hourly wage. But then again, wages might be so low as to lead to the conclusion that the Yuan is overvalued, which it seems none of the experts would agree with. The best would probably be a CPI-type basket, but that's complicated.
Also, the other day I saw an Emmanuel duck get gang-raped by four other ducks. The ducks have since lost a little bit of their charm. But the ducklings are sooooooooo cute.
Tonight at dinner I was reminded how uncomfortable it can be to be an introvert. I got dinner and didn't see anyone I knew in the dining hall, so I sat down sort of near a group of people one of whom I thought looked familiar (but wasn't). They carried on their conversation, about wounds and rounders and whatever, and every once in a while the (cute) girl on the end would look at me and sort of smile, and I would sort of smile back, but I never really said anything. As I left I thought of saying, "It was nice not talking to you."
There's something really amusing about imagining the three time defending world champions spending a practice learning how to break a press.

26 April 2003

Bessie responds by saying that it was more the general voice and demeanor of that article, rather than any physical resemblance, that reminded her of Haiwen. She denies that she thinks that all "stocky" Asian people look alike. (Haiwen, of course, is not so much stocky as scrappy and belligerent.)
I don't see the haiwen resemblance at all...
Bessie apparently thinks that Mandy Hu in drag looks an awful lot like Haiwen. I guess I can see it.

25 April 2003

One quick thing to add, the Timberwolves vs. Lakers game was the best evidence for NBA consipiracy theorists that I've ever seen. Its even hitting the press how bad the calls were.
Having seen Identity, I'm left with mixed feelings about it, in the following proportions: I was cold towards the first half hour, enjoyed the next half hour, loved the next twenty minutes, and hated the last thirty seconds. I'm not sure what that averages out to, but it's probably a recommendation, especially if you manage to leave the theater before the final minute. (Tough to manage, I know, but here's a hint: head for the door at the first glimpse of orange groves.) If it weren't for one unnecessary twist, I'd be a lot more enthusastic; I especially liked the way that the movie reaches one revelation that would provide the fadeout for a less skillful film, only to plunge back into the story and allow the characters one final bloodsoaked workout.
I also can't wait to see X-Men 2, especially after reading Ian McKellen's latest comment on this movie: "It's basically about being gay."
The paragraph on how men behave on subways in this article is one of these times where i realize that that spark test was right and i'm clearly not a man.
I'm going to see Identity tonight, which looks like it might have the mother of all John-Cusack-standing-in-the-rain scenes. I'll let you know how it is.

24 April 2003

There are times in life when the forces of good are arrayed against the overwhelming strength of the forces of evil and doom seems all around and it is as if God himself has joined the side of evil and is reaching down to thwart the tiny hope that good might have. The Giant has scared off the entire army with only a boy to face, the karate kid is without a knee, the forces of Sauron are overwhelming the last resistance of the free world, and the only thing between a madman and world domination seems to be one pudgy man with a cigar... But then, the light breaks, the stone leaves the sling, the kid finds his crane stance, a small hobbit stands on the cracks of doom and all you can say is... Damn, I love this game.
Speaking of being published, there's a new printing of Lang's graduate Algebra textbook out, and not only am I mentioned, but I'm in the index! Right between "Snake lemma" and "solvable."
This is 15 minutes away from my home.

23 April 2003

I highly recommend "Have You Fed the Fish," I'm likely to be posting quotes from it all week. For the moment I should actually be catching up on last weeks homework instead of posting.
Bought some music today for the first time in a while: Badly Drawn Boy (Have you fed the fish?) and The Beta Band (The Three EPs). I'll let you know what I think. I've been meaning to get a Badly Drawn Boy cd for a long time since my friend Jeremy leant one of their albums to my brother Jesse a while ago, and I was reminded of them after hearing them on a couple car rides with Lisa recently. The Three EPs, of course, I've been meaning to get ever since I saw Hi-Fi, and well "be" is near to "ba" in the alphabet. I'll let you know what I think after I've internalized them.
Waking days that go on for 24 hours are interesting... Not nearly so interesting as days that go on for 50 hours though... At any rate I've gotten back safely, and this is the first time that i've stepped out of BART and had a little tinge of "yay, i'm home." It might just be the finally stopping travelling, but still it was nice to know that one starts feeling at home again eventually. Had a great visit, must sleep.

21 April 2003

The Ring is also one of several recent movies that forego opening credits altogether, not even revealing the name of the movie itself until the very end of the film. Apocalypse Now famously did the same thing, but this seems to have become a common practice; I first noticed it with Vanilla Sky, but Gangs of New York, Punch-Drunk Love and The Pianist also lack an opening title. (I especially like Punch-Drunk Love's approach, which opens in medias res, and then teases you for almost half a minute with music and an empty screen before cutting back to the movie itself.)
I finally caught The Ring this weekend, on DVD, late at night, which is arguably the best way of seeing it. It's the sort of horror film I've dreamed about finding for years; it has the requisite shocks and heart-in-mouth moments, and a good double handful of images that are almost as scary as this, but more impressively, it manages to sustain a feeling of dread for almost two hours, and it gets into your dreams. Like the book House of Leaves, it's one of those works whose very existence is somehow unsettling. I don't know how much of this achievement should be credited to the Japanese original, which I haven't seen, but The Ring is one of the few recent movies that seem to have been conceived from the retina outwards; the look and feel seem to have come before the story, and as a result, it's full of spooky, unnerving images, not abrupt, craftless shocks of the Scream variety. It's a bit empty, sure, and it probably wouldn't stand up to repeat viewings, but it's definitely worth checking out.

I'd also like to make an off-the-wall prediction that I expect, eventually, will come true: Gore Verbinski, the director of The Ring and the Budwiser frog commercials, will someday win an Oscar for Best Director. Not because he's necessarily very good or very visionary; The Ring is an impressive piece of work, but something of an anomaly for a director whose past movies include Mouse Hunt, part of The Time Machine, The Mexican, and the upcoming Pirates of the Carribean (whose trailer looks great, by the way, if only because of Johnny Depp's smile near the end). No, Verbinski seems like one of those stolid, dependable directors who can be entrusted by the studio with big-budget, marketable properties, and who has enough skill to make the product look good, if nothing else. Faint praise, sure, but these are the sorts of directors who tend to win Oscars if they stick around long enough and are assigned the right property: guys like Ron Howard and William Wyler come to mind, or even Michael Curtiz, who directed Casablanca. Mark my words; if he doesn't drop out of the game too soon, Verbinski will have an Oscar by 2020.
So here are the details, in brief. This is a story that I originally wrote back around Thanksgiving 2000, revised considerably last autumn, and sent to Analog at the beginning of December. I finally heard back from them in February, to the effect that they liked the story and thought that it might be publishable with some revisions. These revisions, which mostly involved making the pseudoscience a little less specific, I duly made, and sent the story back. Last week, the editor wrote back to suggest that I change just one sentence (which included some less-than-plausible "handwaving" about electromagnetic radition and the power grid and such), and said that once he's laid out the next issue, he'll send me a contract. According to a friend of mine who knows quite a lot about the industry, I can expect to see my story in print within five to fifteen months. So maybe it will appear this year. Needless to say, I'll keep you all posted as to further developments....

20 April 2003

Breaking news: I've sold a novelette to this magazine. Details to follow.
In case you were confused, that last post was from Noah, who is having a wee bit of trouble getting out of bed this, er, afternoon.

19 April 2003

In england, its 4:30am and i'm still kind of drunk from an easter service party ("hey, after communion come drink tons of champagne!"), everyone is tipsy here all of the time. Dave and Bessie didn't used to be able to drink me under the table. Not having a real night's sleep between weds morning and friday night probably didn't help...
I know I make fun of my local newspaper more than I should. And now, they're running a series of quarter-page ads about freedom of speech with pictures and quotes from famous figures. I thought it was a splendid idea. They've managed to keep running the ads for several weeks now. The problem? They seem to be, er, scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Today's quote:

"Let other people speak out. The heavens will not fall and you will not be thrown out. If you do not let others speak, then the day will surely come when you will be thrown out." Spoken by this guy.

He wouldn't have made my list of free speech champions, and I'm sure the people he killed and persecuted weren't too fond of him either, but I guess in this day and age you have to take heroes where you can find them.
I've always liked Terry Gilliam's take on Darth Vader: "I remember, years ago, talking to George Lucas about evil. He thought Darth Vader was evil. And I said, 'No, he's not evil. He's just the bad guy. You can see him coming a mile awayƑhe wears black. Evil is Mike Palin in Brazil, your best friend, the father of three, a good man, who just does what he does.'"

18 April 2003

Absolutely, the best movie hero of all time is Anakin Skywalker in Episode II.

Interestingly, and more seriously, he might actually make my list of top ten villians for Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back. If there were a list of worst heroes, I think Anakin would be on mine.

17 April 2003

It's a shame that Noah's in England this weekend, because I'm actually back in the Bay Area for a surprise visit. I just got back from seeing my dad's parents, and my two wonderful cousins, Hannah and Brittany. Brittany's about thirteen years old, and she reminds me a lot of me at that age: studious, serious, always reading, but she's also a real beauty. She's a big fan of author Lurlene McDaniel, a young adult novelist whose books strike me as being rather...Well, here's a representative list of titles:

To Live Again; Six Months to Live; I Want to Live; So Much to Live For; No Time to Cry; One Last Wish; Mourning Song; A Time to Die; Mother, Help Me Live; Someone Dies, Someone Lives; Sixteen and Dying; Let Him Live; Please Don't Die; She Died Too Young; A Season for Goodbye; Telling Christina Goodbye; The Girl Death Left Behind; Lifted Up By Angels; Till Death Do Us Part; Don't Die, My Love; Too Young to Die; Goodbye Doesn't Mean Forever; Somewhere Between Life and Death; Time to Let Go; When Happily Ever After Ends; and the subtle Baby Alicia is Dying.

I mean, one good book about a teenager learning to cope with grief and death might well be a very worthy and valuable thing to write; but fifty? I probably shouldn't judge one book, much less fifty books, by their titles...but I've long since learned never to trust anyone whose books take up an entire shelf in the Young Adult section. Maybe I should send Brittany a copy of The Catcher in the Rye instead...
There's not really much point in posting this, since I will see in less than 12 hours the only person who would care, but it appears that someone has proven the Poincaré conjecture.

16 April 2003

I also like the AFI's helpfully annotated entry for The Exorcist: "Regan MacNeil (Satan)."
The American Film Institute is doing yet another movie poll, this time of the hundred greatest heroes and villains in movie history. Results will be announced in June, but you can find a list of all the nominated characters at the link above. I actually find the idea behind this list less annoying than some of AFI's past efforts, if only because a great hero doesn't necessarily need to occupy a great movie, so there's no danger of mistaking this list for some kind of authoritative aesthetic ranking. It's a joy to browse the list, actually; almost every name brings back some startling images and emotions that run as deep as my earliest memories of the movies. Some strange omissions (where's Roger Thornhill from North by Northwest?), and I guess it was too late to include Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York, but based upon the list that AFI provides, my own rankings would look something like this:

Heroes:

1. T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia
2. Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark
3. Rick Blaine in Casablanca
4. James Bond in Dr. No
5. Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs

Villains:

1. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs
2. HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey
3. Frank Booth in Blue Velvet
4. Jack Torrance in The Shining
5. Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver

It's also interesting to note how many great villains Kubrick provides; in addition to HAL and Jack Torrance, there's Dr. Strangelove, General Ripper, and Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange, each of whom ended up on my short list at one point or another. I guess the nice thing about Kubrick is that he combines a deep pessimism about human nature with an arch, icy obsessiveness that makes everything seem larger than life, which is the perfect combination for a memorable villain, who needn't be recognizably human. This also explains why Kubrick wasn't too good with heroes.
Tommorow the NBA regular season ends and I will be crowned winner of my fantasy basketball league. Not bad for my first try.

Figuring out tiebreakers is always fun. The crazy situation this year being between minnesota/portland/LA for the 4/5/6 in the west. Minnesota and Portland are tied and up one game on the lakers. The lakers have split their season series with both minnesota and portland, while minnesota has won the series with portland 3-1. On the other hand, in conference records the lakers and minnesota are currently tied and are better than portland. So... Here's the deal... If Minnesota wins and Portland wins, or minnesota and portland and LA all lose, M and P tie for 4th and minnesota wins the tiebreaker on head to head. If one of those two teams win and the other loses and the lakers lose, then there are no ties and life is simple. If one of those two teams win and the other loses, and the lakers win, then there is a 2-way tie between the lakers and the losers, the first tiebreaker is even, but the lakers have a better conference record, so it would go winner/lakers/loser. Lastly, if both M and P lose and LA wins, then there is a 3-way tie. The first tiebreaker here is total head-to-head which minnesota wins. Then the lakers beat out portland for the next one on conference record, resulting in M/L/P.

Everyone follow that?

15 April 2003

If Cindy Adams doesn't read the blog, I don't think Metallica does, either.
Also, it's probably not the wisest idea to post the details of your illegal activities on a page anyone can read.
One thing about England I will not miss is the plumbing. For months and months, our shower dripped out in the corner so you couldn't even get your whole body under it. After we complained repeatedly, the plumbers came, and now it comes out in the middle (though not at anything resembling a decent pressure), but the warmest it gets is medium-cool. At least in the corner you could make it as hot as you liked. I can't decide which is worse.

Another thing I will not miss is hauling two huge bags of laundry a mile to the college, spending three-plus hours, and hauling much heavier bags back because there are no working driers.

In case you couldn't tell, I'm in a pretty foul mood today. I finally got to do a solid three hours of work and was feeling better, and then I had dinner and checked e-mail and [received a disheartening report about the state of WHRB], and now I'm ornery again.
Apparently Michael Moore's upcoming documentary Farenheit 911 will be financed by Mel Gibson's production company, which is surprising, to say the least, given Gibson's fairly conservative political background. Meanwhile, Gibson is touting The Passion, his upcoming Aramaic-language version of the last days of Christ, as the ultimate action movie: "God becoming man and men killing God. If that's not action, nothing is."

("When God kills a man, that's not news. When man kills God, now that's news.")
Here are some details on the upcoming billion-dollar game show. Apparently Pepsi drinkers will have a chance to win a billion dollars from Coke's largest shareholder if an unusually dextrous monkey picks their number from a jar. Got it?

14 April 2003

In other news, my social life is suddenly great. Not only did i have great weekend plans, tommorow i have plans to meet a friend outside the dept. for lunch, then everyone is coming over at night for the usual tuesday nice dinner (which we're hosting: cornbread, spinach pie, and crepes for dessert), and then wednsday night i'm doing something yet to be determined with Lisa, and thursday I leave for England to spend all weekend with Dave and Bessie. Life is good.
Sarah Hatter has a great quote which she found at this site:

"Have you had any dates recently?"
"No, not for a while, I suppose. Although there is one girl I do have an unhealthy relationship with."

Incidentally, scott raymond's site is really good.
I crossed several lines in internet theivery this weekend... Firstly, I used filesharing for somehting other than an mp3 for the first time: the losing my religion video. Sadly the audio and video are a tiny bit off, which drives me nuts. Secondly, for the first time i downloaded a rap song... After Office Space I desperately needed "Damn, its good to be a gangster." It was on our wonderful frisbee mix from my junior year.
Having upgraded to Mac OS X, I've finally been able to download Acquisition 0.82, which is apparently the best post-Napster option for stealing music with the Mac. One nice consequence is that I'm finally able to download some of the songs from Songbook that aren't included in the accompanying CD (and yes, I know I've been blogging about Songbook way too much, but Noah, I promise I'll make you a copy, complete with some of the songs that aren't included). One of these songs is Nelly Furtado's "I'm Like a Bird." I've only played it once (well, all right, twice), but it's already earned the highest praise I can give, which is that, after hearing it, I immediately thought: "God, I wish I had a girl to recklessly associate with this song."
I actually forgot to mention the best part of that conversation:

Me: So I'm looking for a girl who knows ancient Greek and/or Hittite...
Girl (not hearing): What's that? Hitchhiker?
Haiwen: No, not Hitchhiker!
That conversation is priceless...
I don't there's anything I can add to that vibrator discussion. Except that (post deleted for the sake of decency)
This isn't as bad as the crusade comment, and POWs don't have speech writers, but still... What are we teaching in history classes?
Actual conversation from Saturday:

Girl (to me): So do you have a girlfriend?
Haiwen: (stifles a laugh)
Girl (still to me): Oh, are you gay?
Me: No! (more calmly) No, I don't have a girlfriend. Haiwen thinks that my standards are just too high.
Haiwen (muttering): Yeah, you need to lower them to girls you don't already know.
Girl: Well, it's always good to tell a girl that you have high standards, even if you don't. Otherwise, she might wonder what you're doing with her. So what are you looking for in a girl, anyway?
Me: Well, all that I want from a girl is...
Girl: And you should never say "All that I want from a girl is...." Unless it's something sort of sweet, that'll make her say, "Awww."
Me: All right. So I'm looking for someone I can see movies with. And who knows ancient Greek and/or Hittite. And who's on the shy side of 150.
Girl (after a long pause): One hundred fifty what? Pounds? Do you realize how big that is?
What do you all think of the vibrator theories over at the Volokh Conspiracy?
My list is pretty short, although it will likely get longer as each of the things that are on it now are reactions to various girls in my life. Anyway, the short list is: clever, sweet, and sincere.

For a longer one... Hmmm... I've realized that playing board games is something i consider essential to the meaning of "a family" and i find it hard to imagine marrying a woman who didn't like taboo and encore. Being generally well read/knowledgable is also a must in the sense that people just need to be able to pick up enough references for me to be funny. For her to actually put up with me for years, she'd have to not mind hearing the same stories many times. Probably some others... This is kind of a fun game, except to the extent it makes on realize how few people fit these criterion, what portion of them are female, and what portion of those i'm still friends with.
You know, if I were making a similar list, and were being completely honest, it would probably begin: The woman I marry will be almost exactly as smart as I am, but not quite...
I went to the post office today to mail a package. It took me a while to figure out why the line seemed unusually long.

(Kent Brockman: "Sir, why did you wait until the last minute to pay your taxes?" Krusty: "Because I'm an idiot! Happy?")
Just got back from Sarah Brown's blog. I guessed wrong.
Oh no... when is this going to end? Can we please get a new president soon? Stupid Ralph Nader.
Now, I really like Sarah Brown's blog, I really do, however, her post today has me kind of annoyed. She's making a list of "the man i marry will be ______" which she says, "This is not some fucked up, impossible-expectation Ally McBeal game where I say, oh, he'll drive this kind of car and always bring me flowers, or some sort of physical attraction tally where I say, man, I love brown eyes and English accents." Yet, when you get to her list, there is exactly one physical attribute, exactly one. I bet you can guess what it is.
Question of the day:

Following Michael Moore's acceptance speech at the Oscars (after which he claimed that his supporters were actually booing the other booers, which is just silly) and the recent report that Bill Clinton was booed at a Willie Nelson concert, I've started to wonder: would you ever actually boo somebody? I'm talking about a situation where you've gone to a concert or a commencement or some other formal ceremony, and some plausible speaker or guest is brought out whose politics or personal conduct you find objectionable. (Not an opposing sports team, in other words, or, say, Qaddafi.)

Upon reflection, I think that I might boo if the speaker said something really offensive, but I don't think I'd ever boo anyone on sight; I'd clap for President Bush, for example, even if only because the office deserves respect, and I'd probably clap for someone like Kissinger, although having just seen The Trials of Henry Kissinger at the Thalia, I'm not sure I'd be too enthusiastic about it. And I might refrain from clapping altogether if I felt that clapping at all might be taken as a real political signifier, as it was at the Oscars a few years ago when Elia Kazan received his lifetime achievement award. In most cases, though, polite applause is just a lubricant to ease the transition between speakers, so I don't have any strong opinions about applauding or not. (I do, however, refuse to give a standing ovation unless someone really, really deserves it.)
I've never had a buddy icon, but this website makes me tempted...

13 April 2003

Great quote from Matt Yglesias:

"This isn’t because I’m prejudiced against white men. Some of my best friends — me, for example — are white men."
A few months ago, I was speculating about what would be a better, more dramatic vehicle for a Russian Ark-type movie shot in a single take. This morning, I suddenly realized the obvious answer: Phone Booth.
Thanks for that link to stupid security awards, Dave. I didn't know that Australians called duct tape "gaffa tape."
I suppose I should keep up the tradition and post observations on Rome. I was very ill for the first day and a half so we didn't do much, but...

  • The Sistine Chapel is as amazing as everyone says.
  • There are cute cats in all the old ruins. (I probably have more pictures of them than of actual stuff.)
  • Trying to communicate in Italian without knowing any verbs can be difficult. But we usually managed; for example, "Dov'è biglietti per autobus" was met with "una tabbache." Of course. Doesn't everyone buy bus tickets at a newsstand?
  • Hanging out with Sarah M. is a quasi-surreal, and aften amusing, combination of the hyper-intellectual and the hyper-flaky.
  • I like travelling with people better than travelling alone.

I was also stumped by why all these old ruins have just sat there for nearly two thousand years when the city is so crowded elsewhere.
My friend Sam in Chicago sends these stupid security awards. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. (Forcing a woman to drink three bottles of her own breast milk?)
In our defense, two people weren't drinking. And we had to be at a concert in an hour and a half from when we arrived.
Bessie points out that two bottles of wine for eight people is "just SO not an English ratio..." the standard here is somewhere between one to two and two to three. You're allowed a bit less if you're paying jacked-up restaurant prices...
We were trying to come up with math toasts at dinner last night, and i got a very good reaction to:
"To 26! May it be the only number between two perfect powers."
Saw office space last night at the midnight showing at acts one and two. It was wonderful, packed theater in the middle of the night where they smash a real printer on stage before hand, and people cheer at all the best parts... And they showed the trailer for Hi-Fi. It was great.

Also saw Brahms's requiem, or rather, I hears all but the first movement. We met up for dinner before hand which went too long. Dinner was great though, Thai with about 8 people from the dept., two bottles of wine, which were quite good. But at any rate we were late, and so only the two of us who had gotten tickets early got to get in, but they'd oversold seats so we had to sit in the vestibule where they wait to sit you. We could still hear ok, but couldn't see. Anyway, it was good, and its great fun trying to follow along the words in the program, cause they jump around and repeat things and its all in German so I was mostly totally lost and then occasionally you hear them say "gehabt" and you can find where you are and stay with it for a minute or so, great fun.
I hate breaking news like this but, Leslie Cheung died tuesday. News via Cloe and Pete. His film credits include Farewell my Concubine, Happy Together, and A Better Tommorow parts 1 and 2.
Yes, older sister.

12 April 2003

That's funny... Older sister i presume? What's she doing in new york. I don't think I ever met her.
I also met a girl tonight, apparently single, undeniably cute, who might have lunch with me someday. Which is undeniably a good thing, even if I only met her because her brother knows Haiwen from math camp.
So I saw Better Luck Tomorrow, which is definitely not about the MIT blackjack team. Rather, it's about my high school. Or, at least, it might as well be. It's funny; I've seen my share of teenage movies, but this is the first one that actually reminded me, forcibly, with almost every shot, of my own high school experience. The locations are almost unbearably evocative of my hometown: it might as well have been shot in Castro Valley, up near the gated communities with cacti in the front lawns and Acuras in the driveways where most of my friends seemed to live. Maybe for this reason, it feels to me like the slickest and most expensive Video Production project of all time; I can imagine me and my friends making this movie in our backyards and at Castro Valley High School as a sort of a wish fulfillment exercise where we got to be badassed thugs for the camera. Which is to say: it's a bit lame, it never manages to work up much of a rhythm, and despite a nice Wong Kar-Wai type inconclusive ending (complete with a cut to black), the director is no Wong Kar-Wai...but it's always amazing to recognize yourself, or the world you came from, on a movie screen, and Better Luck Tomorrow comes closer to capturing the feel of three or four years of my life than any other movie I've seen.
I believe that the belowmentioned "design flaw" is intended to prevent widespread sharing of MP3s. Which, in a way, makes sense: the reason I wasn't able to update my iPod for months is because I hooked it up to my brother's computer with the intention of giving him a bunch of songs, instead accidentally updating my iPod's software to a version of iTunes that was incompatible with my own laptop.
I don't understand why they would make such a stupid design flaw in an otherwise well designed piece of work, there seems to be no good reason to not be able to copy the iTunes format back to your hard drive.
You can't transfer MP3s back from your iPod to your computer when they're in iTunes format (that is, in a format that you can play from your iPod when using it as a portable music player). However, you can transfer regular data files (including MP3s) back from your iPod to your computer if you originally just dragged and dropped them into the iPod's hard drive. Unfortunately, you can't play MP3s from the iPod if you've added them this way.

This leads to an ingenious solution to the space-saving problem that I mentioned below: buy a 30 GB iPod, put 15 GB of MP3s on it in iTunes format, and then store the same 15 GB of MP3s on the iPod's hard drive as regular data files. That way, you've freed up your computer's hard drive, you can easily transfer MP3s in either direction, and you've still got 15 GB of playable music on your iPod (which translates to something like 3,000 songs, which should be enough for anyone). Wish I'd thought of that earlier.
More Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf obsession, this time in the Guardian.
Why on earth can't you move your mp3's back to your hard drive? Dave seemed to imply this was possible when he said that the iPod could be useful for transfering data, cause it is always nice to have an extra portable hard drive.
The amount of gold mined in a year is a real toughy.
So... I went to dinner with Lisa and a few of her friends and then went to listen to blues music at her boyfriends frat. Anyway the music starts up and she signs (to herself? to me?) "loud J-A-Z-Z." And my jaw sort of drops to the floor and i respond (in sign) "you know sign?" It was really remarkable. We proceeded to have a sign language conversation for the next couple minutes while still listening to good music. Hearing and knowing sign really is the best of both worlds, you can enjoy loud music and a conversation at the same time. It was really a rediculous moment.

11 April 2003

Rumsfeld on the chaos in Baghdad: "It's untidy. And freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes."

(Bart Simpson voice: "Why am I just learning this now?")
I have a Fermi problem for anyone who might be interested: estimate the amount of gold mined in the world in one year. I've seen this suggested as a sample thought problem for consulting interviews, and I have no idea how I'd go about attacking it.
The new iPod design strikes me as being kind of dumb; I'm not sure why they'd move the buttons away from the scroll wheel, since this would make it significantly harder to use one-handed (especially in your pocket). The original iPod strikes me as being just about perfect, and I don't know why they've decided to mess with it.

Note that a 30 GB model seems like complete overkill, unless a) you have a 30+ GB hard drive on your computer, or b) you're willing to store most of your MP3s on your iPod, which I've found is annoying because you can't move MP3s back to your hard drive, and you can't burn CDs from an iPod.
What do you think of the new iPod design? Or should I get the old one?
Nat should be the one commenting on this, but it is sad that the baseball hall of fame can be this stupid.
Just got an email saying only: "Damn it's good to be a gangster"

That's almost as unlikely as this fall when Dave said to me on the phone "yeah, we'll be in the bright red BMW convertable"
That does sound like a good song... If you ever want to email me mp3's I will definitely listen to them (ooops, that's illegal isn't it... maybe I should get this Songbook thing anyway).

What do you all think of the internet cult of personality surrounding Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saaeed Al-Sahhaf? He's really become a celebrity of late.

As for the causally saying "my boyfriend" (or "my girlfriend"), a couple points. Firstly, not-so-subtle hints that someone isn't interested in dating you are important, its one of the best ways to tell the difference between someone who thinks you're fun to talk to and someone who wants to date you. There are definitely different rules of interaction between single people and non-single people, and its important to get on the right page quickly. Another way of saying this... Its like when you're on the phone and you say "i need to go soon," and well of course you could just go whenever you want to, but you're not really wanting to, but this gets you on the same page and the person is supposed to help you wind down the conversation. In the same way letting someone know you aren't single can say "look, even if i kinda like you [read don't really want to hang up the phone], now you know my situation and can help me handle this right." Grrr... This example would make more sense if I were talking to Laura, but its the only analogous situation I can think of. As for calling people by their given name, I also like that, but at least the first time you mention someone they need a tag that explains in what way they're important. As for "ex-girlfriend" i use it once and a while, mostly for things that don't have to do with the person in particular (such as the above comment that this comment would make more sense if said to Laura, because she's Laura not because she's my ex) whereas "my ex-girlfriend" is more appropriate for just sort of general bitter remarks that aren't as person specific. (I'm reminded of the line from Hi-Fi: "Believe me, I could make a list of things which drove me nuts about Laura, but they're just your usual woman/schizo stuff.")
By the way, Noah, I think you'd really like the last song on Nick Hornby's Songbook. I mean, it'd kill you, but you'd like it anyway: it's a lovely breakup song by Ani DiFranco that pretends to record the process of its own composition; that is, she begins with a few minutes of aimless piano noodling until she discovers a hook she likes, and then figures out something for her left hand to do, and then picks up her guitar and starts to sing. It's a soft, lovely female vocal, and it has one of the best, most heartbreaking titles for a breakup song I can imagine: "You Had Time."
I'm always slightly weirded out when a girl casually says "my boyfriend." This is either because a) I suspect that she's giving me a not-so-subtle hint to back off, or b) I'm not a big fan of calling people by anything other than their given names. In my entire life, I think I've said the phrase "my girlfriend" twice, and I remember both times, just because it seemed so strange. "My ex-girlfriend" is even stranger, if only because there isn't anyone in my life whose defining characteristic, to me, is that she's my ex-girlfriend.
While telling the story of my wonderful last night in Cambridge and how it was the perfect last page of the Cambridge/Harvard/Dating Laura chapter of my life, I said that "Singing The End of the World as We Know It at a Karoake bar was the coolest I have ever been in my entire life." To which David replied "The coolest you've ever been was in a karaoke bar? I think from that we can establish some upper bounds..."

10 April 2003

Every once in a while I start thinking about a character and it suddenly becomes clear to me something i didn't understand about a lot of people. Reading the Catcher in the Rye was like this because I suddenly realized many people i knew were largely unable to distinguish between the particular and the universal. On one page Holden says "I always [such and such]" and the next page "I always [the complete opposite]," and I'd just never realized before the way so many people think that way.

Anyway I think a line from the last 5 years may have a similar affect. I've always been a big fan of honesty and openness and intimacy, and always had the image of a great relationship being something where you share everything, but there's this moment in "Nobody Needs to Know" which really well captures the heart of the opposite view, which I'd never thought of before:

"All that I ask for
Is one little corner-
One private room at the back of my heart.
Tell her I found one,
She sends out battalions
To claim it and blow it apart"
Here's a good one from News of the Weird:

According to a January Los Angeles Times profile, biologist Gerry Kuzyk recently came upon, in a remote area of the Yukon, an 8-foot-high, half-mile swath of what he learned was caribou droppings; since no caribou had been sighted in the area for over 100 years, Kuzyk concluded that it was a massive, centuries-old accumulation that had been frozen but recently melted.
Why am I the only one posting?
Played frisbee for the first time in months, which was nice. We got clobbered though, which was not so nice. Then I went to see the Kings game at a local pizza/sports bar place, and the Kings lost horribly, so it wasn't such a great evening. On the other hand I remembered how much more of an affect two pints of Guiness have when you've just played frisbee.

Interesting observations from the Kings game: The Kings just couldn't hit shots in the second half, this was a law of averages loss, once and a while you just don't make open shots. Shaq is no longer the best player on the Lakers. Webber was guarding Shaq man to man almost the whole game (with Divac on the power forward) which should make for an interesting matchup should they meet in the playoffs.
Is this movie supposed to be about the MIT blackjack team or not? Someone said a movie about them was in the works, and it seems likely that its this one, although it doesn't quite seem to fit. Ah well, good title at least.
Its odd... I often take doing badly at solataire as a good sign and doing well as a bad sign. Despite being a mathematician once and a while its fun to fall into the preservation of luck/common misunderstanding of the law of averages view of the world, and if you can get good luck karma by doing badly at solataire, that's a pretty good deal.
In other news I'm suddenly on fire in solataire, I've won over half of my last 10 or so games... Guess that's where my luck got to.
So i got through to girl from party... Several observations: 1) i'm no longer any good at phone conversations, they're really tough, cause you don't know if the other person is about to talk and so you always end up talking at the same time or having pauses. its no so bad when you know people, but its still difficult. 2) She mentioned her boyfriend within a couple minutes into the call, and so now everything is much simpler, we obviously thought each other were pretty cool and now i'm a friend. Its weird though it shows how easy it was to slip it in when she decided she wanted to, and i still don't quite see why she didn't just do that before, but i suppose you're much less likely to get a phone call and thus a new friend if you mention the boyfriend before they call rather than after. 3) She's busy for the concert on saturday, but i'll be joining her and some of her friends (some of whom i know, and one of whom is her boyfriend, hence the mention) at a party on friday. So at least i have some social plans for the weekend out of it, didn't turn out terribly badly. And that's the end of the story. It at least added a little excitement to my otherwise bland social life.
I bet this guy is pretty popular once work starts up again...
Darn it, just when i thought the war was maybe going well... How long till Turkey and Iran invade?

Update: Apparently the Kurds are under the command of some U.S. Special Forces, so hopefully Turkey won't do something stupid.

Another Update: Unsurprisingly, the situation is complicated.
I only owe $112 in taxes (almost all from the stupid regressive self-employment (i.e. social security) tax), so it looks as though an iPod may very well be in my near future. No euphamism here though.
Apparently today was national day of silence, and i didn't know until i read about it online tonite. There was no one handing out info on it on campus today. No one mentioned it. It seems very strange, since i figured Berkeley was generally to the left of Harvard, and this is the bay area... But there was nothing. Very strange.

09 April 2003

Isaiah predicts today's events... And we all thought Bush wasn't following God's calling, who knew...
Best unintentional euphemism for sex: "It's been a long time since I've updated my iPod."
Random top five list, inspired by my Songbook post below:

Top five rewindable moments (that is, moments in songs that I'm tempted to rewind midway through, just so I can savor them for a second time):

1. The cold, mechanical drum machine riff at the beginning of "Blue Monday" by New Order (da-da-dadadadadadadada-da-da-da-da, maybe the best opening of a song ever)
2. The first five descending notes of "Everything in Its Right Place" by Radiohead
3. The moment in "Survive" when David Bowie sings "And I'll survive your naked eyes, I'll survive," after which Reeves Gabrels launches into the saddest guitar solo imaginable
4. The joyful one-finger piano solo from Paul Westerberg's "Born for Me," mentioned below
5. The beginning of the four-minute fadeout in "Hey Jude," when Paul sings something along the lines of "better better better better better better aaaHHH"
Gossip columnist Cindy Adams claims in yesterday's Post that Roman Polanski has vowed never to work with Adrien Brody again, because Brody failed to thank him in his Best Actor acceptance speech. Polanski has since denied this report, and for good reason: clearly Cindy Adams doesn't read Deadly Mantis, which helpfully provided a complete transcript of Brody's speech for the sole purpose of clearing up disputes like this.
Good Slate article on the ubiquity of disapointment. Highlight:

"The same holds true for everything else in life. You might be very good, on average, at estimating the quality of potential mates. But the rare one whose quality you've way overestimated is precisely the one you're most likely to marry."
It's nice to have my iPod updated again. These days, I only really get to know an album by listening to it on the subway for a few days running, which I haven't been able to do for months. As a result, I've finally begun to get acquainted with albums I bought months ago, notably Nick Hornby's Songbook. I know I've quoted from the book itself quite often on this blog, but I haven't said much about the accompanying CD. It's great. The highlight is Paul Westerberg's "Born for Me," which, as Hornby notes, has one of the loveliest piano solos ever, and has already found its way onto two of my own mix CDs. Another high point is Rufus Wainwright's "One Man Guy." Noah isn't the only one who can quote sad bastard lyrics on this blog:

I'm gonna bathe and shave
And dress myself and eat solo every night
Unplug the phone and sleep alone
Stay away out of sight
Sure it's kind of lonely
Yeah it's sort of sick
Being your own one and only
Is a dirty selfish trick


Looks depressing on the page, I know, but I wish we were all still living together, so I could play it for you: Hornby says that the second verse of this song is what makes even a hard-headed agnostic like himself suspect that God exists, and having listened to it three or four times this morning, I know what he means...

08 April 2003

I was going to say that it might be relatively easy to write a computer program that could impersonate a 14-year-old girl (sort of like Eliza or Parry), but decided against it. We get enough Google hits for "underage sex" as it is.

07 April 2003

I really like that idea of a twisted Turing Test. Of all the possible "prove you're an element of the set X of people satisfying property P" which do you think is the most interesting? The turing test is just for the set of all people, and the one in that article is the set of pre-teen girls.
I talked to Tamara today, which was fun, as always, and there was this rather amusing part of the conversation where she was talking about auditions and I was translating it into analogous statements about meeting girls. Things like "Sometimes you think you've done really well and they're interested, and you get your hopes up, but then they don't call back." "But that could be because you misread their signals, or it could just be they liked you but you took second, or that they liked you but just not for this role, or that they wanted to keep you in mind in case something opens up in the future." I was highly amused.

For those of you only reading this who haven't talked to me recently, I would like to add that you need only look back a week to see that if someone mentions they have a boyfriend I'll leave things well enough alone, its just that when someone never mentions that and you find out through other chanels its just not as clear. Don't want you all to think my high moral standards are slipping, as i descend into cynical bitterness when it comes to relationships. Anyway, I called, and left a message, and that's how things stand, so whatever.
These days, when I'm bored at work, I'll often waste time by browsing the public mail folders in Microsoft Outlook. The bulletin board for our New York office is pretty boring (offers for baseball tickets, apartments for rent, that sort of thing) but the bulletin board for our systems development office in India is rather wonderful. It's an amazing mishmash of World Cup predictions, cricket jokes, and the usual netlore, except with a combined IT and Indian slant that can set your head spinning. Ever wonder what a forwarded joke list would look like in an Indian systems office? Now you know:

Subject: This is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face :-)


Brahma: Systems Installation 

Vishnu: Systems Support
Lakshmi: Finance and Accounts consultant (SAP)
Shiva: DBA (crash specialist)
Ganesh: Documentation specialist
Hanuman: RS6000
Vali: Windows 98
Sugreeva: Win 95
Angadh: Win 3.1
Jambhuvan: DOS
Shakuni: Bill Gates
Karna: Contract Programmer
Shikandi: Steve Jobbs
100 Kauravas: Microsoft Service Packs and Patches


This is just a small sample of the full list, which runs for about thirty entries. Having read some of the Mahabharata, I can get maybe a third of these jokes...but I still have no idea why Sugreeva is Windows 95.
Interesting article in the Times on the detectives who pose as 14-year-olds in Internet chat rooms. As the article points out, it isn't easy for a grizzled cop to impersonate an Amanda Bynes-loving preteen:

Detective Smith keeps his antennas aligned toward teenagers and their culture, although, he acknowledged, it is sometimes a torturous duty. "The other day, he made me watch `American Idol,' " he groused about Detective Rapp.

They know, for example, that "Britney is finished," and that Avril Lavigne has become too popular to be used as a favorite music star. "You can't say your favorite artist is Eminem," Detective Smith said. "You can't say the obvious one."

Then there are the times, he said, when they have to forget who they are entirely. "What if someone asks, `Who's your favorite Beatle?' and I say, `Paul McCartney'? Why would an 11-year-old know who Paul McCartney is?"

"One of the hardest questions I got was how many tampons in a box," Detective Smith said. "I didn't know. Nobody knew."


Those questions ("Who's your favorite Beatle?" and "How many tampons are in a box?") suggest that some pedophiles actively try to ask trick questions to make sure that their chart room buddies aren't really vice cops in disguise. I find this amusingly reminiscent of the Turing Test.
Oh, and Nat sends his regards and says he'd post if he weren't working 14-hour days (including weekends) reading legal minutiae and extraditing people to New Mexico.
The good ones are always taken. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't go for it anyway.

Not that anyone should necessarily heed my advice on the matter, considering my track record...

And I hope it's excusable to not remember a post from three months ago during a weekend when I was out of town and returned to find pages and pages of posts...
Clever Noah saying of the evening (one of my common hobbies is thinking about some subject until i get some snappy explanation of it):

Significant others should be treated at least as well as jobs, its not unreasonable to keep your eyes open for other opportunities, but before switching you should give at least your 2 weeks notice.

06 April 2003

Bookends Theme, Simon and Garfunkel. One minute and twenty six seconds of absolute perfection in the genre of sad bastard music. I'd also say REM's "I'm not over you," but that's clearly a fragment of a song that was meant to be longer.
Okay, now that we're all good and cheerful, how about a non-depressing music question: what's the shortest pop song you can think of that seems like a complete song, and not a fragment of one? I got to thinking about this by accidentally sorting the MP3s on my iPod by length, which revealed some interesting patterns. The obvious place to look is the suite on side B of Abbey Road, but most of those songs seem pretty fragmentary to me. My current nominee: "The Wind," by Cat Stevens, which clocks in at a modest 1:39, and is about as complete a pop song as you could want.
Of course, I have no business weighing in against "sad bastard" music; I've been guilty of more than my share of wallowing. My favorite song for the past half year, as you may remember, has been David Bowie's "Survive." I was listening to it the other day when I realized why I love it so much; the chorus isn't a defiant "I will survive," but rather a resigned "I'll survive," as if at the realization that one is perfectly capable of enduring for an entire lifetime without (insert name here). Or, as I once said to a girl at the end of an melancholy evening: "Well, off to live the rest of my life!"

Where did I put the 8 Mile soundtrack again?
Alec, I have to sadly inform you that it isn't always the case that the other guy gets there first, but that isn't always a good thing.
Lyrics for The Last Five Years
Alec I love your comment on "sad bastard" music, i need you around to make these remarks more often.
Sweetest new love song I've heard in a long time... The song in the middle where they meet and sing together:
[He takes a ring out of his jeans pocket.]

Will you share your life with me
For the next ten minutes?
For the next ten minutes:
We can handle that.
We could watch the waves,
We could watch the sky,
Or just sit and wait
As the time ticks by,
And if we make it 'til then,
Can I ask you again
For another ten?
Noah, one of my hard-earned insights about life is that most attractive girls already have boyfriends, and somehow the other guy always gets there first. My other insight is that all attractive girls eventually break up with their boyfriends.* Call her tomorrow.

* I hope.
Noah, I think you need to stop listening to what Barry in High Fidelity aptly describes as "sad bastard" music, all of which is written just to break Noah's heart. As a public service, here's a list of readily available songs guaranteed not to depress anyone:

1. "Kate" by Ben Folds Five (well, unless you were in love with a girl named Kate...)
2. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" by the Beatles
3. "Fitter Happier" by Radiohead (not at all depressing, unless you actually are a pig, in a cage, on antibiotics)
4. Any of Radiohead's post-Kid A stuff, come to think of it, since being depressed by a song usually involves having some idea of what the fuck is happening
5. Anything by Eminem (trust me on this)

If I think of anything else, I'll let you know.

I think my favorite line of this musical is "go ahead jamie and run away... like it's simple... like it's right..."
We were playing soccer the other day, and it was nice out, so there were a couple homeless men in sleeping bags at one end of the park. At one point the ball rolls up and hits one of them (pretty softly) and he picks it up and i go over to get it and he starts talking about how now taht he has the ball we need to talk and although its a public park its not for everyone and we should move down somewhere else and have you heard of the mexican mafia? i'll have you all killed tommorow. It was weird. He eventually gave the ball back.
For one of the books for the 20th century novel class i took senior year (with Natalie Portman) the teacher kept talking about how there was this strange "and" structure that appeared everywhere. I'm pretty sure it was Dreiser's Sister Carrie, Bessie, please correct me if I'm misremembering. But the idea was that rather than putting ideas together with a judgement or explanation (a "but" or a "hence") he'd simply juxtupose them with no judgement or explanation implied. And the prof. gave all these long examples of two things where you weren't sure what the relation between them was liked with an and. Anyway, I was going to take down my post from friday night but i decided instead i'd just say: "she was definitely pretty interested in me and she has a boyfriend," and "i'm annoyed and i'm going to call her tommorow." If you want more details you can ask me.
Oh right, Russian Ark. I'm not surprised you hadn't heard of it, Dave; I mean, it hadn't been very well publicized or anything.
Someone in the cast made a copy of The Last Five Years for me. Its the most recent musical by Jason Robert Brown, the writer/composer of Songs for a New World. Its the story of a relationship where the guy starts at the beginning and the girl at the end and they meet in the middle and sing a song together and then end up where he's at the end and she's at the beginning. Its quite good. Listen to it if you get a chance. Here's a lyric excerpt from the end of the first song:

"Jamie is over and where can I turn?
Covered with scars I did nothing to earn?
Maybe there's somewhere a lesson to learn,
But that wouldn't change the fact,
That wouldn't speed the time,
Once the foundation's cracked
And I'm
Still hurting."

Incidentally there's a song in the middle called "A Summer in Ohio" about her on tour with some show while he's back in New York and ends up cheeting on her (well the song is just about her in Ohio going to libraries and finding his book getting more and more famous), but fortunately it isn't very good, I would have been really annoyed if it had been one of these songs written just to break Noah's heart.
I saw a movie the other day, Russian Ark. I had no idea what it was about when I signed up; I just desperately needed some human interaction after almost a week alone. Basically, it fits my stereotype of an "artsy" movie: no plot to speak of, but extremely beautiful. The costumes are stunning. (And all in one take!)

05 April 2003

Oh, and I saw Phone Booth on Friday. Highly recommended, not because it's necessarily a great picture, but because it's just the sort of ingenious, overwrought, high-concept B-movie that I keep saying I'm going to write and film someday, but haven't yet. It's clever and nerve-wracking, and despite its surface gloss, it's got a shrewd, nuts-and-bolts, exploitation feel that only a screenwriter used to working on a shoestring (the legendary Larry Cohen) could have managed.
Just got back from seeing Breaking the Waves and most of Dancer in the Dark at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia theater in Manhattan. I decided to go solo, mostly because neither feature seemed like much of a date movie. However, I do wish I'd managed to have the following exchange with someone:

Hypothetical prospect: So what's Breaking the Waves about?
Me: Well, it's a movie by Lars von Trier about the sweetest, most generous, most selfless woman in the world, and how everything horrible that can possibly happen to a person happens to her.
H.P.: I see. And Dancer in the Dark?
Me: Same thing.
Noah, given my recent track record, I'm not sure that I should be the one giving you advice about when to call a girl...except to note that, as they say, two days is the industry standard.

But you should definitely call her. One of the more characteristic insights I've had into my life recently is that I've never regretted calling a girl on the phone, regardless of the denouement.
I'm sure you all terribly miss hearing the songs that i listen to over and over again, so just for a sampler, so you don't miss me too much, the playlist i just cued up is:

1. Why Not Smile (REM) [you already know this one darn well]
2. Midnight Train to Georgia (Indigo Girls) [my favorite song of the past month or so]
3. Find the River (REM) [another old old favorite]
4. Hawkmoon 269 (U2) [a great song i'm sure you know, the chorus is bessie's old away message: "when the night has no end, and the day yet to begin, as the moon spins around" "i need your love"]
5. Love Will Come to You (Indigo Girls) [most listened to song this fall]
6. Mercy St. [an a cappella version of the Peter Gabriel song which was Ben's favorite song when he was in, i dunno probably 10th grade]
The flags halfway down this page are pretty priceless.
So how long am i supposed to wait before calling? Any suggestions?
Incidentally, today during my walk home I practiced singing "The End of the World as We Know It," and then thought about realizing the outer automorphism of S_6 by using the isomorphism between S_6 and P \Gamma L_2(F_9) and then using the frobenius field automorphism of F_9, and succeeded in having a happy walk home from school.
I should probably be careful in what I post when I'm happy, tired, and pleasantly tipsy, but, I just wanted to say that I went to a party where I had a lot of fun and met this really fun cute girl who like Douglas Hofstadter and Hitchhiker's guide and tells great stories about people in this pacific island who have taken the bizarre british ritual of cricket and turned it into an even more bizarre weeklong warlike ritual, and, anyway I had a great time and I'll keep you posted not online where anyone can google me about what happens after I call said girl. And doing a play has been wonderful and I really like all the people I met, and there have been lots of great parties, I highly recommend running lights for fun plays.

04 April 2003

I wish there were a concise way to express via text extreme mirth brought about by an exceedingly clever pun. I miss you guys.

The other advantage to the iPod that no one seems to notice is that it's a fully functional hard drive. Need to bring a file to the department to print? Throw it onto the iPod. Digital camera full? Dump the extras onto the ipod. Leftover Chinese food? iPod will take care of it. It's almost miraculous.
Noah, I'm all in favor of your buying an iPod. I think that every kid in America should have one; it'd turn us into a nation of headphone-wearing introverts...but c'mon, it's the iPod! I've long toyed with making a list of my top five favorite inanimate objects, which would look something like this:

1) The Apple iPod
2) The Apple iPod box
3) The Leatherman Pocket Tool
4) The Pilot ballpoint pen (the old-school kind with the businesslike cylindrical cap, not the effete new version)
5) The Chrome Tangle Toy that I picked up at MOMA half a year ago, and which is currently sitting on my desk, gathering dust, but remains very cool.

I was actually able to update my iPod for the first time in months last night. For various dumb reasons, the version of iTunes on my iPod was different from the version of iTunes on my iBook, which meant that I had to upgrade. This caused me no lack of grief from my roommate, iWen.
Ever wanted to buy your very own Klein bottle?
Incidentally, J-P Serre, to whom the ping-pong table at harvard is dedicated (I wish I remember the dedication... something like: to J-P Serre for his contributions to the study of mathematics and the playing of table tennis at harvard, except in french) won the first Abel prize (meant to be the mathematical version of the Nobel) today.
Suburban parents baffle me... When they aren't suing their schools over grades (anyone want to look up a link?) they're going into depression over what schools their kids got rejected from...

Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't take Haiwen's remarks on classes more seriously, I don't know if I'll ever really understand the Bourgeois... I just don't get the strange competitiveness with strangers (about things other than sports) and the rat race ambitiousness.
Having people to call once and a while is also key, since you don't want to go a week without having a real conversation. I guess your journal must have fulfilled that role. It also means you get to find all sorts of sketchy payphones, and if you're calling the states (or worse yet, the west coast), you get to use sketchy payphones in the middle of the night, which is doubly amusing.

Travelling alone in Europe is also nicer when, although you've recently turned 21 you've spent the summer not touching alcohol (for perfectly good reasons) and then have the nice change of pace of suddenly being surrounded by cheep good wine served outdoors in beautiful places.

Sigh, that trip was really great.
Just read through Dave's posts on travelling alone, and having spent 2.5 weeks in Europe completely by myself I must say that the best time to travel alone is when you've just had a couple months where you had a lot of time around people you very much enjoyed being around, but where there was absolutely nothing whatsoever interesting to do. Then the tradeoff of amazingly fascinating things to do by yourself, although still a little lonely, is at least a nice change of pace.

That was a fine summer.

03 April 2003

Just to clarify, I do know that there are some people who go to Indigo Girl's concerts who do date men, it was a dream, I can't be held responsible for its accuracy.
This article is really weird. Apparently researchers showed that men estimate women's weight as 12 pounds lower when they're wearing perfume. What makes this not implausible is that I really have absolutely no clue how much people weigh and if I guessed it'd probably be wildly off all the time, so its less surprising that something could throw it off. Still its strange. Hrmmm... There are probably no women who I know how much they weigh.
If you haven't seen, Matt Yglesias got a job, go congratulate him.
Song association game of the day. Think of songs with a first person narator (mr. jones, not everybody hurts) where you identify yourself with not the singer of the song, but the "you" that the song is to.
Its amazing how little we know about the deep oceans... One of these days we're going to find something really really remarkably, but this week they found something pretty cool: An extra huge squid.
So at least one really good April Fools prank was played at the dept. here. So some time in November there was this mini-party at this grad students house (I wasn't there but I've heard stories) which involved several substances being consumed too quickly and two people passing out very very quickly and having no idea whatsoever what had happened. Anyway this girl who was one of those two people called the guy who was the other one on April Fool's day to tell him that she'd discovered that she's 4 months pregnant and can't think of anything else it could have been, etc. Hijinks ensue. Pretty good prank I think.
For the past half a dozen years I have Ross dreams somewhat regularly (I don't know how regularly since I so rarely remember dreams after I wake up). Traditionally these involve showing up at some place that's supposed to be Ross (but never is, in any real way) and the first day happening and lots of people there, and I don't know what, they don't particularly make sense. Over the past year or so this recurring dream has morphed into a rather different one which I call "7th summer" dreams, in which the events of last summer and fall take place at Ross (at one point after waking up I had to physically count the summers on my hand to conclude that no those things didn't ever happen at Ross), needless to say they aren't terribly pleasant, and I hadn't had one in a while, which was nice. At any rate this week I've started having "8th summer" dreams, which are clearly meant to take place during the upcoming summer. They're weird as dreams are meant to be, for example todays involved Prof. Lenstra giving a lecture in a dorm room to a bunch of people (including me, and oddly enough, haiwen) and then people leaving and I forget what happened precisely then. And then later on it hit the main 8th summer theme, which is that Laura is at the program, but I'm clearly trying to avoid ever running into her or talking to her and then at some point in the dream I do, and its awkward and she acts like she wants me to be pleasant and I don't want to be pleasant or I'm confused as to whether I'm going to acknowledge her existence or not (I think this time I was pleasant and last week I wasn't) and then of course I wake up (and hence remember the dream). Its strange. But what's really strange is having Ross dreams for half a dozen years and having them change to reflect what's happened in the meantime. I wonder how long it'll be before I stop having dreams about Ross, I guess you spend 6 summers there and it takes a while to leave your system.

I also this morning had a long dream about being at this Indigo Girls concert, I don't remember the details at all beyond telling myself that no I shouldn't flirt with any of the girls in the audience because of course none of them date guys. Surely more happened in the dream, but that's all I remember.
Its odd the way I can be such a creature of habit. There are many things I only manage to do (like not lock myself out of the house) by establishing a rigid habit (in this case always transferring the entire contents of my pockets from one pair of pants to another at once, and always putting my left hand in my left pocket as I'm standing in a doorway). It makes me feel like I'm in memento sometimes, but it works. Anyway, sometimes it screws things up when you get into habits you don't want. I was just getting home and feeling really down again when I got home just like I did yesterday, despite feeling great when I was in the dept. And it hit me that this is because I spend the walk home thinking about basically the same depressing things every day and I have for most of the time I've been here... So what I need is some really good new habit to get into when I go home so that I won't keep making myself depressed at 5pm every day. Any suggestions? Perhaps I'll get an I-Pod for myself as a birthday present or something. It has to be something really engaging or else it won't be sufficiently distracting to break the bad habit.
Saw the Big Lebowski last night, and I have to say I can't quite figure out how they decided to start letting the Coen brother's make movies... I mean I really like them, but they're sooo weird, in a sort of stuff you talk about at 3am and never sees the light of day sort of way.
If you're interested in reading a (perhaps overly) detailed account of my trip (4000 words), you can click here. Since no one was with me, I feel like if I don't write it down then it didn't happen.
If you're interested in reading a (perhaps overly) detailed account of my trip (4000 words), you can No comments: Links to this post
Speaking of America vs. the world: one of the less enviable parts of my job involves searching my firm's database of current and prospective investors for the names of terrorists or other undesirables. These names are provided to me on a weekly basis in a fax from the Department of the Treasury. I duly search for the names, but don't feel too good about it, given that I have no idea what the criteria might be for inclusion on the DoT's list, and especially because most of the names are clearly of Arab origin....

Anyway, this is all part of the lovely USA PATRIOT act of more than a year and a half's duration, which I'm sure you've heard about. But did you know that USA PATRIOT is actually an acronym? You can't make this stuff up: it stands for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." This makes me nostalgic for some of my favorite absurd acronyms from more innocent contexts, like Calvin and Hobbes's Get Rid Of Slimy girlS club ("GROSS") and The Simpsons' Springfieldians for Non-violence, Understanding and Helping ("SNUH"). As usual, though, fiction is roundly trumped by reality.
Apparently the American entertainment industry is really, really terrified of seeming to endorse peace and/or love: in addition to the What a Girl Wants airbrushing embarrassment, it turns out that the American Idol producers have decided to scrap a planned charity single of the Idol contestants singing Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now is Love," replacing it with a double A-side of the red-blooded Bruce Greenwood favorites "I'm Proud to be an American" and "God Bless the USA."

So why does the world hate us, again?
In case you want a different perspective than mine on comparing the two Cambridges...
It was really nice being away from the deluge of Iraq information for a few days (though Geneva was full of anti-American graffiti), but it also meant, sadly, that I missed opening day. Go Twins!

Also, I was really lucky to get out of France last night, as all forms of public transit have virtually ceased today because of massive strikes. [Cf. articles from Le monde and the BBC.]
Last night my plane in Lyon was three hours late, so I poked around in the airport bookstore for a while and ended up buying a literary masterpiece entitled La reine des zoulous, by Jacques Almira. It's about a mild-mannered (and good-looking) housewife who tries to use a Paris public toilet one day but is instead transported to the realm of the Zulus, where the queen opens her, um, mind, to a whole new world. When she gets back to France and returns to the task of trying to help her husband keep his business from being taken over, she has one crazy adventure after another...I'll leave the rest up to your imagination. Let's just say I've learned a lot of new French words.

And the heroine's name is, of course, Laura.
The British-style date-ordering meme is spreading. <evil laugh...>

01 April 2003

Now this is just silly: Warner Bros. is airbrushing ads for the Amanda Bynes movie What a Girl Wants, which previously had featured Bynes flashing a peace sign while standing between two Buckingham Palace guards, out of concern that it might be interpreted as an "anti-war" message. This reminds me of the following exchange that I had with Bessie a few weeks ago, while passing a poster for this movie:

Bessie (looking at Amanda Bynes): Isn't she supposed to be the young Britney Spears?
Alec: Actually, I think she's supposed to be the old Hilary Duff.