Saturday, October 31, 2009

31-October: That time of year

Happy Reformation Day!

You were expecting another holiday? Perhaps you think it is Christmas already, since 31_oct = 25_dec?

I'm not quite sure how to celebrate. Maybe we should dress up as characters from Foxe's Book of Martyrs and threaten to nail posters to people's doors if they don't give us candy. That's muddled enough to be a truly American celebration, no?

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Lasting Joy"

Baptist missionaries to Liberia had a reunion this past July, and Phil made a DVD of images from it which my mother sent me. I guess I'd known a third of those present, and most of that third I didn't recognize anymore. I wasn't the most gregarious sort back then (still not), and the missionaries and MKs had somewhat different priorities and orbits--and we've gone very separate ways since I left Liberia.

The pictures of the speakers and the legends reminded me of "How Things Were Done In Church" when I was young. I was bored to tears with a lot of it. Some I've since learned the worth of.


I've been racing hard to get some alignment results before the processing deadline. I made it, but in one of my presentations I included this as backup material

"I've been working for five days without any sleep to finish this report. At first I had a mental block. But on the fourth day I was visited by an Incan Monkey God who told me what to write. Now I just have to find somebody who can translate his simple but beautiful language."

I had a taste for lunch

And Coreana is no more.

About seven years ago I was at the bank branch on University Square and saw a new restaurant—a Korean one. One of their advertised menu items was “rice salad,” which sounded pretty strange and not quite what I had in mind. But a few months later I, in a (for once flush) adventurous fit went in and tried bibimbap. I guess I've been there almost a couple of dozen times in the past six years (not a big spender), and only had something else twice. "Rice salad" was a little misleading.

Yesterday at lunch their new location bore a sign saying “Business is closed. We will not reopen.”

I was curious why, and perhaps their website has a clue—it explains that they don't do catering because it was so hard to train and keep good chefs.

Too bad. Have to figure something else out

I stopped by the ICU deli on the way back, and found they were finally open after remodeling all summer. Instead of the old sloppy joe they offered a “vegetarian sloppy joe.” (with a salad, better for me than the usual chips). It was OK, but was missing something. Besides meat, that is.

Funny how expectations are. After a couple of months with no Korean meal (and no terrible urge to find one), a sign on a door makes me hungry for one.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Hockey Stick

I am not a climate physicist, but some years of experience in another field have given me a little intuition about when something is amiss. I may not have the expertise to say "You made thus and such an error" but I can say that something doesn't look right. The famous global warming hockey stick graph set off my glitch alarm.

It looks like I was right to be suspicious--the scientist has been cagey about releasing data, and apparently his tree core sample was hand-picked from a larger set of cores with no explanation of why the rest were excluded. (When all are included, the graph shows no spike.)

You always have to clearly explain why data sets are omitted, and demonstrate that omitting them doesn't bias the results. It seems that half the time we spend estimating the uncertainties in our measurements and half the rest of the time trying to understand the biases.

Not the Onion

To say they've awarded the prize to even less appropriate candidates is very faint praise.

the list of laureates makes interesting reading. Some of the awards are obviously reasonable, some were for causes that evaporated, some are generic ("We want to award something to this person, and a peace prize is the closest thing we have.") and some are nonsense. You have to admire Le Duc Tho's response.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Unreality shows

I've never watched any "reality shows," partly because they never seemed interesting enough to get involved with and partly because I didn't think it would be particularly good for my soul to spend time enjoying cruelty. Also I haven't found much time to watch anything the past few years.

When I heard about the Survivor (ed: Big Brother) shows, and the "viewers voting them off" theme, I immediately thought of a simple way to make the shows more dramatic and viler(*): let the contestants have access to poll results. If one saw his numbers drop, he'd be more likely to indulge in dramatic stunts to get attention, especially if viewer suggestions were also available to them. The simplest ways to get attention are the old faithfuls sex and aggressiveness; and I'd guess those would become even more pronounced with such a model. And each week the sex and aggression would have to ratchet further to keep getting the required attention.

It is no part of my charge to increase the villainy of television, so I didn't advertise the idea. Sooner or later the producers would come up with it themselves.

Yesterday it occurred to me that we already have such an environment in the entertainment industries. The famous actors and singers have publicists who know fame is the key to raking in money; and who probably suggested some of the stunts that made the news. As I predicted, the result is ugly, and steadily getting worse. They're even interrupting (by collusion?) their own holy award ceremonies in order to get attention.

The point of diminishing returns is a moving target, because the culture gets more jaded. Even Polanski finds supporters. It can't go on forever, though--the personal price gets too high.

(*) I automatically try to solve problems, even when they aren't good problems to try to solve.

Image is everything

Is the Telegraph report about the Brown/Obama/Sarksozy meeting true? Did Obama really postpone the Iran announcement to not '"spoil the image of success" of his disarmament session?'

The effect was to dilute the impact of the announcement and postpone the Security Council dealing with any real hard choices--settling instead for meaningless platitudes.

Who is to be dazzled by this "image of success?" Not the French or British or Iranians, nor the Security Council. Nor a lot of the rest of us who worry about the mullahs getting the bomb. Images don't seem to buy the US any particular goodwill or favors.

I wonder how large the audience for this image of success is meant to be. Perhaps it is only an audience of one.

Clashing maxims

For home maintenance we use two:

A place for everythingEvery place with a thing
and everything in its placeand everything in some place

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Who can resist...

Youngest Son's middle name is David, which is Welshified as Dafydd. He enjoys making pickles (cucumber and bean), so shall we call his product Dafydd-dills?

End of the year

The Cubs lost, and the Brewers won, and that's the end of the season. There isn't any more. Right?

Who can resist...

Cerebus had three heads. I think the Hydra started with 7. There are stories of two-headed giants. But I can't think of anything with five.

Which means there's no traditional cinco-pate-ion.

improv wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson

Don't Prepare, Just Show Up

The author has taught improv theater at Stanford for over 28 years. She looks at life as improv, and offers some rules. The rules assume a few things, though—such as a genuine commitment and willingness to work hard; otherwise they are worse than useless, as she indicates herself.

  1. Say yes
  2. Don't prepare
  3. Just show up
  4. Start anywhere
  5. Be average
  6. Pay attention
  7. Face the facts
  8. Stay on course
  9. Wake up to the gifts
  10. Make mistakes, please
  11. Act now
  12. Take care of each other
  13. Enjoy the ride

Some of these may seem excessively obscure, but she elaborates. For example, item 9 is about counting your blessings. Think about the ways you are supported in your everyday life, and the chain of people working for you from the men fixing the potholes in the road to the lad who delivers your newspaper and the engineer managing the distillation stack that created the gasoline for your car. In improv theater everybody has to support everybody else, and it is important to get a feel for that quickly, and not be greedy for the spotlight.

This is a small short book, and I fear that a summary is likely to be close in length to the original.

I'll be trying to see if I can apply some of this with our kids. Some of the rules: “Just show up” and “Act now” are the sort of thing that aren't always obvious when you have trouble reading emotions. One thing we'll try tonight is the “Parable Game” where the participants create (quickly!) a new “wise” saying, each offering one word at a time. When done, everyone solemnly intones “Yes, yes, yes” to show how wise it was. An example: “Try … not … to … laugh … when … you … look … at … your … waistline.”

Read it.

Friday, October 02, 2009


I hope Brasil is able to fund the infrastructure associated with the Olympics: it is a huge expense, and re-purposing the facilities afterwards is difficult. I seem to recall several countries where many buildings never served any fitting purpose again--too large or inconvenient for other uses. It'll cost a huge fraction less than trying to build in Chicago with its astronomical land costs and corruption overhead.

I wonder if Chicago's poor showing had anything to do with the President showing up to try to twist arms. A more experienced politician would have known better.

Update: There's no shortage of well-deserved snark.