31 August 2007

It's always disorienting to find a ticket stub for a movie that you don't have the slightest memory of seeing. Did I really pay ten dollars to watch Bulletproof Monk?

28 August 2007

It's something of a hassle to register to view the R-rated trailer for No Country for Old Men, the new film by the Coen Brothers, but it's worth it. Wow. Javier Bardem is the ultimate badass.
In my current break between drafts, I'm reading The Gold Bug Variations by Richard Powers, a novel that I've been intending to read since I was sixteen years old. It's essentially the work of fiction that Doug Hofstadter might have written in his Metamagical Themas days, if he were a little less dilettantish and a lot more literary. I have mixed feelings about it so far (it's very cute, overripe, and excessively amused by its own cleverness and wordplay, much like Hofstadter), and I've also been slightly sidetracked by its dedication, which reads as follows:
According to a rather old quote from Powers, the dedication remains undeciphered. I was going to ask some of the cryptographers on this blog to have a crack at it, but I have a hunch that this "code" isn't precisely what it seems. For one thing, there are exactly thirty-two triplets, which seems a bit too neat in a book obsessed with Glenn Gould, and the big tipoff is at the very end. Look closely at the last two triplets (or search for them on Google). Clever, huh?

24 August 2007

You find out interesting things when you look at peoples' bios online. For example, I just found out that our new university president has a mouse named after him.
I learn from the pages of the New York Times that the demolition company hired to oversee the dismantling of the doomed Deutsche Bank building at Ground Zero is named, inexplicably, the John Galt Corporation. I guess we can be glad that they didn't hire the Howard Roark Corporation, right? Or has that joke already been made?

17 August 2007

The undercover reporter who was outed by a mob of angry nerds at DefCon turns out to be one of Wailin's friends from journalism school. She was there on assignment, and I don't think she deserved the treatment that she received from a bunch of heckling hackers (hacklers?). I hope that she can take some consolation from the widespread consensus, in the comments, that she was too hot to blend in.

15 August 2007

I just spent some time in Southern California hanging out on the beach and in traffic jams. I also went to my first Dodgers game in about fifteen years. One of the reasons I went to the game was to experience firsthand their "all-you-can-eat pavilion," a special section of the stadium where your ticket gets you unlimited food.

It was everything I was hoping for, and more.

Right when you walk through the turnstile, you're greeted with a distinctly atypical concession stand; they don't have any prices, or lines (because you don't have to wait for the person in front of you to fumble around for a credit card). You just walk up and order food and they give it to you instantly, with a smile. (Non-alcoholic drinks are free as well.) The one downside was that the all-you-can-eat pavilion is basically caged off from the rest of the stadium; that way, no one else could come and take our food. You got the feeling that you were in a dog pound. The food selections were a bit limited; we didn't get Panda Express like the rest of the stadium, just Dodger Dogs, Nachos, Popcorn, and Peanuts.

I was expecting the other fans in this section to all be very large people, but there were lots of families and normal-looking fans who weren't too interested in eating until they were sick. That didn't make much sense to me, but whatever. The brilliance of the all-you-can-eat section, though, is that while the large people do tend to eat a lot, they tend to drink a lot too, and beers were 8 bucks. I think the Dodgers are probably doing very well with the promotion, and I hope it's still around the next time I get to Southern California.

03 August 2007

After my post about basketball shoes I read this article on Slate that details how Chinese shoe companies are picking up some high-profile athletes for endorsements, including Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes, and the North Korean table tennis team. The article notes that these Chinese brands are "often made in the same towns and the same factories as [Adidas and Nike]." I'm sure Wal-Mart is salivating at the prospect of importing these shoes. (Not that this would alleviate the problems outlined in my earlier post. You can get cheap shoes at Wal-Mart already. The problem is that they fall apart. I'd try out Chinese shoes if I had some indication that Chinese companies cared about quality more than the cheap U.S. brands do, but the point of this article is that those companies are following Nike and Adidas in focusing more on marketing than design. Ah, consumer capitalism.)

02 August 2007

In what may be the single best use of the Internet in history (and I'm not entirely exaggerating here), every episode of Siskel and Ebert, as well as its more recent incarnation, has been uploaded to a gorgeous, searchable online archive. I plan to explore this site for years to come, but there's probably no better place to start than with Siskel and Ebert's divided (and heated) review of my favorite American movie. (Ebert is wrong here, but he makes some good points. I've always felt a little sorry for Isabella Rossellini...)

01 August 2007

I'm one of the most anti-consumer curmudgeons I know, and I only buy things when I absolutely have to. Today I went out to buy new basketball shoes, which was without a doubt one of the lowpoints of the week. I had the following criteria when I set out:

1. Don't spend over $100.
2. Buy from a reputable company (in the hopes that the shoe won't fall apart).
3. Get a shoe that fits.

In the end, I had to sacrifice on #2 after going to four different stores and becoming progressively embittered in the process. The first problem in the basketball shoe market is that Foot Locker has effectively become a Nike fashion boutique. They have almost no other shoes besides top-end Nikes, and the walls are filled with rows of the same models in different colors. This would be ok if someone else were stepping into the void of selling shoes to people who care about quality/performance instead of looks, but at least in Albuquerque no one is doing that. I would also be able to bear the current state of affairs if Nikes were wide enough for my feet. Alternatively, if I had arches, I could probably get away with buying crummy shoes without my feet hating me. Instead, I have to go to general sporting goods stores and department stores (where they sell low end models and sketchy brands) and hope I luck out with quality and fit.

This is in marked contrast to the running shoe market, where shoes are priced and marketed based upon performance/quality. Companies sell shoes in various widths. Top end models are expensive, but non-elite consumers without specialized needs can find servicable shoes for a bit less. Also, decent running shoe stores abound where they have a variety of shoes to fit different kinds of feet.

My second curmudgeonish consumer lesson of the day is that rental car prices go up like airline prices as you approach the date of rental. I had assumed that they stay stable, more like hotel prices. (I'm going to a wedding in San Diego in ten days and just now bothered to rent the car.) On the plus side, Hotwire gives discounts on rentals with none of the downsides you experience with their plane fares (i.e. not knowing when your departure/arrival times will be and not knowing what kind of layover you'll have).