Showing posts from September, 2004

Talkin' shit about a pretty sunset

For those who care about such things, there's been a lot going back and forth about matters meta in the comments for this post.

Fact check: global terrorist network not "group of folks"

For your amusement, Fox News's debate fact check. Insert fair and balanced joke here.

I should probably create a Politics section

From CBS news, via Daily Kos, is a list of Bush's top ten flip-flops. The thing is, a number of them are more likely outright lies rather than flip-flops; I'd think you'd have to legitimately hold a certain opinion as a prerequisite of flip-flopping, rather than just initially (or eventually) lying in the name of political expedience.

Late night gradual shakeups

I guess I am happy about Conan taking over for Leno in 2009. Leno being someone who needs a punch in the face even more than the Wilson brothers.
I've been watching late night talk shows since I was twoish. Living in the Central time zone, Carson came on at 10:34pm and Letterman at 11:34pm, so it wasn't entirely unreasonable for me to stay up watching both. Watching years and years of Letterman has probably influenced me more than anything else, which might be something I'm proud of. I wonder if Letterman'll stick around to 2009 and go up against Conan.


My new nerd-phone arrived today. I'm happy with the colour screen and the seemingly-improved battery life, but I'm finding it difficult to adjust to the extra force necessary to flip the screen and the new button/keyboard layout. If much of what I IM as El LePhone comes out as gibberish for a while, you know why.

Late night metaphysics

My mom has recently remembered that she is Jewish--reminded, no doubt, by the faculty at the yeshiva she's teaching at again this year. This is cute for a variety of reasons, only some of them sacrilicious (mmmm... sacrilicious!): she wears hats and long black skirts to work, she feels the need to duck down whilst riding in the car (not driving; we don't have one of those [American] robot cars) on Shabbos if she thinks anyone she knows might see her, and she put mini-yamulkes on each of her fake dogs, including Puddin', which is her female fake dog. And cetera.
We went to Yom Kippur services on Friday night and came back and had a nice theological family discussion. I enjoy my family's discussions a lot more now that they're either about theology or how much we hate the Bush administration. The topic of free will necessarily came up, specifically in relation to the holiday and the theme of repentance. It's tough to wrap your head around repentance if you don…

Concert going

I'm fairly bummed that I'm not going to get to see Wilco this tour. There were some tickets for the Radio City show that I was offered, but I've got to do recruiting stuff that night, so no dice.
I am going to see R.E.M. and then Interpol a week apart in November, so there's that. Interpol's new album is more of the same, which is a good thing.


I'm starting up Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. I still haven't read Fortress of Solitude, but I hopefully will before I get priced out of Brooklyn Heights and into Boerum Hill, so that I have some idea as to what I should expect.
I also bought Super/System, the definitive poker strategy book by Doyle Brunson and a bunch of et al's. So ya'lls better watch out for the big Jeff'y takedown next game.

I atoned the fuck out of my inability to work in a team setting

It's Performance Evaluation time of year at work. Last year was the first time I had to fill them out, and it mostly was a bunch of rank this or that on a scale of 1-10. But about 50 of those rankings per person. Everyone got fed up with that, so this year it's more or less just writing three or four paragraphs about each person.
I have 10 to do. I am not sure about the timing of them though, right after Yom Kippur and all. I think any criticisms I level against anyone would have to be asterisked, noting that G-d doesn't care about those flaws anymore, so why should Human Resources?

Because you are so fancy

It was the Stlye & Fancy Ass Stuff Issue of the New Yorker this past week, so I didn't pay too much attention. I read the piece on the Chinese restaurant in Paris that the fashionistas flock to, and about the Presidential tailor. They were both pieces. The Zadie Smith story was good, though.

Blog segue revisited

After sitting at home for a while (atoning!) and getting rather frustrated by the fact that, much of the time, you really can't access
the server on
which 34 was previously running, I've moved it back to one of the servers in the Spectator office. When I was in the
the other day I saw it sitting under Tom's desk, so I do have confirmation that it still has a physical presence.
I'd really hope that everyone who's complained about not being able to view 34 will now, like, be able to view 34.

Did you never call?

I read about Skype somewhere or other a few months ago, and was interested, owing partly to my segue away from all things faxing to multimedia and collaboration engineering. But also because it's a cool idea. They released a MacOS X client a few weeks ago, so I was finally able to give it a try.
Magically, there's a microphone embedded somewhere in my TiBook that I never knew existed, so I've been able to place calls to a couple of people whom I've already convinced to download the software. They say that the sound quality is very good. No one I've spoken to has a real microphone, though Josh took headphones and plugged them into the microphone port on his laptop, which magically turns them into a ghetto microphone. But even talking into that the sound was more than passable.
So I'd very much recommend you go and download Skype. It's free for Skype-to-Skype calls, and you can buy credits (in €, no less) to call actual phones for something like 2 cents a minut…

News about other sites' news

Rich has a new blog. You should all go and read it, or else what's the point?

From McSweeney's

This is funny, but it's made so much funnier by the fact that David Brooks is a huge tool.

Does this bother anyone else?

Fresh from the 4 train: more examples of MTA house adverts that lack the basest of grammatical structure. Again, varying font colour (and size, this time) is used to convey... well, something. I don't have the patience to recreate the styles, especially not on my cell phone.
A polite reminder to refill your MetroCard before the turnstile impolitely stops you in your tracks.


I'm giving up on Ada and/or Ardor. I made it through 181 pages and nothing at all has happened other than a lot of barely-pubescent sibling/cousin sex. I am pretty sure that's what the whole book is about, except that it's also about an alternate universe somehow. It's well-written in the typical Nabokovian fashion, with clever puns and wordplay, but it's hard to get into all that incest stuff.
I gave it a shot. (The book, not incest.)

Hoo-ray for goodness

Not having watched the Emmy Awards (because why on earth would I?), it's still gratifying to see that Arrested Development won for best comedy series and comedy series writing, and The Daily Show won for best variety series and variety series writing. And to think that we all doubted touch screen voting technology.

Double dip

Because what else am I going to do whilst home for the holiday (read Ada?), here's the interesting stuff I read in the September
13th and 20th issues of the New Yorker:
From the 13th, "Bushspeak" and "The Wilderness Campaign" are both interesting. If Al Gore really does launch into 10 minute digressions on the history of everything while carrying on a conversation with an interviewer, then yeah, maybe the media didn't make fun of him enough during the 2000 election. The Shouts & Murmurs was kind of funny, too.
From the 20th, the piece on personality tests didn't reveal anything unobvious; personality tests are good at judging certain broad characteristics, but not good at judging how people will actually behave under set circumstances. Jeffrey Toobin's Poll Position is about changes to the national policies protecting voting rights and sounds really important, but I kind of spaced out while reading a lot of it. You should probably read it, though. …

If and only if I could...

There's an article about the filming of I (Heart) Huckabees (I've given up on the Unicode) in the Times today (or tomorrow, looking at the date). David. O. Russell. seems to be insane, and has based the movie on a paper he wrote as an undergrad in Prof. Thurman's Buddhism class at Columbia. There's no mention as to whether Uma Thurman was originally supposed to be in the Naomi Watts role (Gwyneth Paltrow, however, was), which would have been up there in terms of meta-ness.
I am still looking forward to it, though when I write and direct my movie, it's going to be based on ideas from Symbolic Logic.

Security through obfuscation

Ill Illumination

I saw this Opion piece on the Times website this morning and started reading it, then was prepared to stop after the first page because I didn't really care for it. Then I saw that Jonathan Safran Foer wrote it (a day after they ran something by Larry David), so I figured I had to read the rest.
I've heard him read excerpts from his new novel and they were good (and about 9/11), but I think the whole lamenting-the-loss-of-a-mythical village-(borough)-thing was played out to the full extent in Everything is Illuminated. I'm not sure why we have to read more of it on the Opinion page of the Times.
Though the Larry David piece and now the J.S.F. piece does illuminate one aspect of the Times editorial policy: they'll run just about anything written by a Jew on Rosh Hashannah. Something to keep in mind for next year, I guess.

Looking down

Some things you find on the ground in Brooklyn Heights:

New Yorker subscription inserts
poop (presumably dog, though there are a lot of babies around as well)

Am I leaving anything out?

Food Issue

Sure, it's not September 6th now, but who knows what tomorrow might bring? In the spirit of the Simpsons, here's TWitNY for the Food Issue:
The article on the Tax Code is, logically, the higlight of the Food Issue. It contains nothing new, really, but it's a good refresher up on how screwed up this nation will be if the far Right gets its way.
The Really Big Lunch piece was okay. I liked the article on Futurist food, and the Pasta Station thingy was very informative, both about pasta and about working in a restaurant. The ketchup article didn't mention my rare Not Green blend, but was otherwise interesting. The Fiction was by a Japanese author who was not Murakami, but who managed to write a story that was three quarters of a Murakami story, until it stopped being weird and sort of just ended pleasantly.
Uh, now to read this week's, before next week's comes tomorrow. This was a lot easier when I wasn't really busy.

The wonders of Unicode

I saw Garden State, which was funny and good-looking and only sparingly maudlin. Going into it I was under the impression that Zach Braff just decided to write, direct, and star in a movie so that he could make out with Natalie Portman (which, yes, that's a wonderful idea), but it's more than that.
Anyway, what got me more excited was the preview for I
♥ Huckabees
, by David O. Russell. I was going to say that I've liked all of his previous films, only remembering Flirting with Disaster and Three Kings, but then I IMDb-ed him and saw that he directed Spanking the Monkey as well, which I did not like. But that's still a good record. It's an existential comedy (so says the tagline), and apparently that is to say that Naomi Watts dances around in her underwear a lot. And that's why I got into philosophy.

Engineering a meal

Cooking for Engineers (via Slashdot) doesn't have any amazing recipes that I can see, but does have the cleverest way of presenting the ingredients and cooking procedure all as one tidy little HTML table. Perhaps you need to be an engineer to appreciate that.

When a vast image out of John Mondi...

Riding home on the 4 train last night after YAPV at the Form's last night, I saw a new Poetry in Motion of W. B. Yeats's (Yeets? No, Ryan) The Second Coming (the first half at least). Which, this is a poem I like, having memorized it for whatever reason they make you memorize poems in high school (and subsequently helped my then-girlfriend memorize it in college for whatever reason they make you memorize poems in Ivy League English classes), but is it really the best poem to put up in New York subways? As if eschatology isn't on our minds enough whilst riding the subways these days?
Perhaps it was put up to appeal to naïve Evangelical Christians who slouched towards Gotham for the R.N.C. (look, honey, it's the End of Days!); in fact, given that only the first half was printed, it does kind of apply to the R.N.C.

Google Mail

I've got six or so Google Mail invitations (it's invitation-only while it's still beta) to give out--post a comment if you're interested.


Best lede graf, ever:
DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah, Sept. 8 — A NASA capsule bearing precious atomic specimens that Hollywood stunt pilots were prepared to catch as it came into earth's atmosphere crashed into the desert this morning after a parachute that was to slow its fall failed to deploy.
And a gem from the middle:
"It turns out, that because this being one of the most possible, but of course remote, outcomes, it does have procedures to recover the science so we can learn from this mission and feed that information back into future scientists," Mr. Jones said.

Three meditations on air travel

It's quite probable that we are not meant to fly; the clouds are above us, full stop, and any other arrangement amounts to grasping at perversities, which I am loathe to do. Moving quite rapidly above a blanket of cloud violates something fundamental (thankfully, not Bernoulli's principle) about nature. The vantage point lends itself to forbidden knowledge; the bowtie arrangement of cul-de-sacs in suburban Pennsylvania, the really remarkable number of ball fields in New Jersey: by what right am I observing this? Order isn't even restored upon landing, as you rocket on the ground at several hundred miles per hour, with the whooshing out your window whipping by like so many.
Aviation provides a thorough fucking; no other form of travel does you, but good, in all the dimensions. The two forming a tangent plane to the ground, yes, we're used to jumping through them in trains or fast cars (it's not the same in a slowly moving car or bike, as you [likely] participate more…

And economics, too

This is from an email I wrote to Banana some four years ago, and I've always liked it, and hence I'm blogging it to inaugurate the new Business section.
I have decided that if I go on to grad school for Economics, I'm going to write my dissertation on the supermarkets in Brooklyn. They are an animal all to themselves. We went out to stock up on some staples before the inevitable blizzard, and met half of Brooklyn in the Key Food trying to do the same. This was the old Jewish female half of Brooklyn (I admit that old Jewish ladies account for more than half of Brooklyn's population, but pardon my percentages) and what went on there was truly unique. Food stores in Brooklyn are probably the only open market in the known world where the prices are determined not by supply and demand, but based solely on rumor. Exotic produce such as avocados are held up by ignorant cashiers, and random people on line will shout out what they believe the price to be. If you are able to make…

It's about time

I figured that, despite the fact I really should get some sleep in anticipation of work tomorrow, I needed to catch up a bit on my New Yorker reading. Because they don't have the New Yorker Down South. And it's the food issue, which should be great, so I started reading a bit of the Talk of the Town, which I assume everyone reads anyway so I normally wouldn't bother mentioning in TWitNY. But given my commitment to blogging all things time-related as well as almost fatalistic obsession with determinism, I thought I needed to excerpt the following:
For us believing physicists, the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one. … On top of that, Einstein was a determinist--the outcome of everything is already knowable."
Then it goes on to briefly mention quantum theory, which does throw a monkey wrench in things, but not in a way that's remotely useful to proponents of free will. But anyway.

Et tu, etouffée?

Back in New York, I still haven't written about the food Down South, which I wanted to do mainly so I could use the clever title (see clever title above).
So yes, there was etouffée. Both shrimp and crawfish were etoufféed for my pleasure (sic). This chiefly involves taking otherwise lovely shellfish (or shellbugs, in the case of the craws) and bathing them in fat and salt and browness. That all's then served over rice.
There was also a lot of pork products, which normally I'm all about, but they use parts of the pork-animal that aren't strictly edible. By people. The pulled pork, and the barbecue in general, is very good down there. As are the hush puppies, which if you've never had, you really should have. My favourite barbecue spot in the city is Virgil's in Times Square, which has both good barbecue and ridiculously good hish puppies (with maple butter dipping sauce), but that's pretty expensive. The barbecue down there is cheap, as is everything else--it…

News about things that apparently aren't news

Just in case you're not following the latest scandal involving classified information leaked by the Pentagon (perhaps because no one on the networks deems it important enough to cover any more, or perhaps because you've confused it with the leakage scandals plaguing the office of the Vice President), here's a good summary as to where things currently stand, and the importance of this particular leak. The motivation behind leaking top-secret U.S. policy documents to Israel was apparently to give Israel an inside track towards understanding what options the U.S. was considering, at which point it would encourage the U.S. through traditional diplomatic channels to undertake the courses of action it found favourable. Like, uh, fomenting war in Iran, which would just be super at this point.
My favourite paragraph: The FBI probe is more than two years old. The lobby group said suggestions of disloyalty were refuted by the fact that, during that period, Bush addressed the group…


Rock, paper, scissors is fascinating, though in my social circle, the manual game of choice is thumb wrestling. The algorithms used by the top programs in computer tournaments are good examples of practical game theory and applied statistics, as well as digital psychology, which is something I just made up. It takes some time to wrap your head around how you can come up with a successful algorithm for playing rock, paper, scissors, considering that an algorithm that (pseudo-)randomly chooses between rock, paper, or scissors is guaranteed a 33% win, 33% tie rate. If your opponent isn't playing completely randomly all the time, it's possible to profile him/it and come up with effective counters.
There are apparently human tournaments as well, and they're in vogue, so instead of poker we'll be playing that from now on. If the the last paragraph of the article is to be believed, playing in tournaments in bars is a good way to get girls' phone numbers, which I'm fran…

Not for the squeamish

An update on the animal life in West Monroe, Louisiana? Okay, if you insist.
My relatives like Jack Ruslan Terriers, which are really fantastic dogs (if slightly radioactive), and my aunt had a bitch and one of her bitchettes. There's a not-terribly-big backyard on my aunt's house, with a fence arouund it and woods and a stream (read: drainage ditch) beyond the confines of the fence. Both dogs went out last night to run around a bit, and at around 9pm we heard quite a bit of barking. As Bush was just coming on television and my aunt's is one of the few Democratic households in Oauchita Parish, we figured the dogs were just voicing their disapproval of inept leadership. Sassy (the mother) kept barking though, and we eventually went to inestigate, and weren't able to locate Lulu (the daughter). Searches that night turned up nothing, and Sassy was plenty sad, barking and barking at the sliding door leading to the backyard once inside. When it was light out this morning, so…

He needs a dose of Xavier

At the risk of beating an undead horse, here's the advice that Columbia professor and Nobel Prize for Economics winner Joseph Stigliz has for Bush:
Before the speech, I would like to give him a little Econ 101 lesson so that he understands how enlarged fiscal deficits, large household debt and a job deficit are not actually sources of economic strength. Otherwise, he could turn into a textbook example of bad economic management.
The fact that anyone with the smallish shred of economic knowledge could give Bush a pass on the economy is inexcusable. Economics isn't black magic; it's a (social) science, and just like any other science, there are objective truths. Bush's assault on scientic fact (yes, obviously that site's a joke) and the nation's inability to call him on it is disgraceful.

Domestic disturbance

I haven't been watching much of the convention, especially not with access to regional Fox (ugh) Sports Network coverage of the Texas Rangers (who blew their chance to pick up some group in the West tonight, but it was good to see Chan Ho throwing well after three years).
From what I hear, Bush is going to speak tomorrow night. This is just a guess, but he'll probably talk about his domestic policy plans for the next four years. And a lot about the war on terror and the war in Iraq (the conjunction of which is the empty set). Putting foreign policy aside, I just don't understand how anyone in his position could, with a straight face, pretend that he'll accomplish something positive domestically over the next four years without having done anything positive for the citizens of this nation in the first four. Off the top of my head, this is what Bush's domestic policy has amounted to so far:

tax cuts that overwhelmingly favoured the rich (especially the dividends tax re…