Print Story The white death, it falls from above
By lm (Fri Dec 18, 2009 at 09:19:51 PM EST) (all tags)
And completely unrelated adventures.

One of the results of the big tobacco settlement in the US is the airing of various Public Service Announcements (PSAs, sadly, without guitars) about the dangers of spoking or how the world becomes peachy keen if one quits smoking. There is a new series that is the product of this sequence.

The first commercial I've seen in the series begins with a woman making a margarita or some other drink involving being blended with ice and a salted rim. When she's finished making the drink, she goes out to take a smoke break with the beverage. The tagline is ``you don't drink every time you smoke so why should you smoke every time you drink?''

Then I started seeing a second commercial in the series. In this one, a small business owner leaves his store and starts checking cars along the street to find one unlocked. Finally, he comes across a delivery truck and drives off. The tagline is ``you don't drive every time you smoke so why should you smoke every time you drive.''

Which leads to the obvious question. You don't crap every time you wash your hands so why should you wash your hands every time you crap?

:: :: :: :: ::

I took my last two finals on Friday. They were a bit easier than I expected. Of course, I don't have the grades back on them so perhaps my optimism is premature. I do have the grade back on the course that I was the most worried about. It came back as a B+. (And that with the term paper being turned in late.) I'm not certain that I really deserve that grade in that course. But I'm not going to complain. The exam in question was probably the most bizarre final I've ever taken. The first question was along the lines of pick a passage from this particular book that wasn't discussed by any of the secondary literature we discussed in class and which you did not treat in your term paper and comment on it and discuss its relevance to the whole of the work in which it is found. The second question wasn't much less open ended.

In another class, it occurred to me this morning how I answered one of the questions wrong, and not a little bit wrong, entirely wrong. (The exam in question having taken place this past Wednesday.) But it was one question out of 10. So it isn't fatally wrong.

I'm almost put out that I didn't have any finals scheduled for Saturday. With the impending weather emergency for a good deal of the Atlantic seaboard, the university is closing for tomorrow and exams rescheduled for the following Monday. But most professors are allowing students to take an incomplete and take the final the first week of next semester. What a sweet deal. But it isn't one that I can make. And I'm done. I. am. done.

And now I need to devote my energy to a general outline for my MA thesis.

:: :: :: ::

For as long as I've been riding public transportation, I've never missed my stop because I've fallen asleep. It's not that I haven't missed my stop plenty of times. I have. I've missed my stop before because I've been busy reading or doing work on a laptop and haven't noticed the stop go by. I've missed stops because I've been busy talking to someone or because it was dark or the whether changed and I didn't recognize my stop. I've even missed stops while staring vacantly out into space and not noticing it pass by. But as often as I've fallen asleep on the bus or train, I've always woken up before my stop.

Until last night that is. I caught the 5pm train to go campus to take my final on Hobbes' Leviathan. I had intended to use the time on the train to study a bit. I blinked and when I opened my eyes, the train was five stops past the stop I get off to go to the university and ten minutes past the start time of the final. So I hopped off, took the train back the other way, got off at the right stop, ran to the classroom and ended up being forty minutes late to the exam.

My professor, being kind of heart, gave me an extra half hour to take the test. So I was only out 10 minutes of time to answer 10 questions on Hobbes' political philosophy. So things worked out alright in the end. But that was a close one.

Then the next day, I left my lunch behind on the bus. Doh!

:: :: ::

I heard a really interesting bit on this week's This State We're In while picking up my youngest daughter from her weekly volunteer activities. Hans Rosling was giving an interview over looking at life through a statistical lens. I found his points very impressive. All too often when someone suggests looking at the world through statistics, the point being made is that statistics is the only lens through which one should look at the world. Rosling was emphatic that the numbers were only part of the equation, albeit a necessary part of the equation.

Rosling made another point that I think is pretty profound. When asked to identify the single person he would most like to give a presentation to, he identified four: the leaders in China, India, Brazil and one other country I didn't catch the name of. But then he continued that the really important question was whether or not giving a presentation to those figures is the single most important presentation he could give. He then argued that it is less the leaders of various countries that need speaking to but the general citizenry of the countries that need speaking to. Leaders, he argued, are generally sensible with regards to analysis but usually have available options severely constrained by the outlook of the citizenry. So to change the world, it is first necessary to change the way that everyday ordinary people look at numbers.

I haven't thought things all the way through, but Rosling's argument certainly feels correct to me. You could do an interesting thought experiment with the idea. Would George W. Bush have had to invade Iraq even if he hadn't wanted to? I don't think the answer is obvious. It is unquestionable that the Bush '43 administration helped tilt public opinion in a certain direction. But even if it hadn't, there still would have been a sizable movement to go to war with Iraq and not taking the US into Iraq may have been the end of the administration in 2004.

I'm not certain how that thought experiment would work out, but I think it's interesting. What Rosling's idea is pointing out is that if one is going to reject the `great man' theory of history, then one has to take into serious consideration what it means for the hands of various leaders to be tied by the opinions of their citizenry. In some cases, it leads to some pretty uncomfortable conclusions.

(Rosling also had a funny anecdote about receiving a personal email from Bill Gates and initially thinking that it was spam.)

:: ::

Sunday school was a giggle a minute with 12 year olds reading the Christmas story from the Gospels.

``and he ASS-certained. heh. heh. heh.''

``and, LOL, heh. heh. heh.''

``King Harold? Hey, did he have a purple crayon? Why didn't he just draw an airplane for the wise men and go with them?''

``He didn't know her? He was engaged to her. How does that work?'' <Insert answer about what it means to know someone in the Biblical sense> ``Oh! heh. heh. heh.''

And then an argument broke out over whether Augustus was the most awesome Roman emperor ever or the lamest.


On Saturday, I ran four miles for the heck of it. I think adding one more day of running to my routine will do me good. If nothing else, it should help moderate the typical weight increase over the weekend.

I started the work week off at 167. By Tuesday, I was down to 165 and I hit 163 on Wednesday. After the company Christmas party on Wednesday afternoon, I was back up to 164 on Thursday. It's hard to turn down shrimp and stuffed mushroom caps and an open bar. And Friday wasn't any better. I blame the peanut brittle, toffee, and chocolates sent via postal service by various friends and family. That and a lack of self control.

The Monday morning mile was a lackluster 7:56. It was cold out but not cold enough to be uncomfortable. Patches of the sidewalk were frozen where puddles from yesterday's rain had not completely dried up. Tuesday, it was four miles in 34:24, not a great time. Upon reflection, I am beginning to suspect that when I first found my missing wristwatch, I was motivated to run faster to get a good time and as the novelty wore off, so did my motivation. Hence, my times are not as good as they were that first week.

Weights were rather uninteresting. The poundage I'm present lifting is boring, but still challenging.


Here is Step 1 towards fixing the financial crisis.  ``Where once he milked the money markets, Mr Mishkov now wakes at dawn to attend to a herd of cheese-producing buffalo ... he retained just one luxury – a mobile phone'' He's got a point that haunts me. No small number of jobs these days don't actually produce anything.

No prices is mentioned, but Google is supposedly going to market phones direct to consumers. I, for one, might be interested. It could upend the market. OTOH, it's hard to compete with "free" where "free" equals re-upping for a two year contract. Let's say that it does drive plan prices down because the carriers no longer have to subsidize the cost of the phone. The question is whether it will drive the plan prices down by an amount equal to or greater than the retail price of unencumbered phones from third parties like Google. I suspect not. For example, the marginal price per handset on my family plan is $10 per month. I don't see the marginal price changing. So the base price for the plan would have to drop by forty bucks or more to subsidize retail cost of a decent phone for each of the four lines on the plan. I don't see that happening.

My God! It's full of stars! ``In ancient times, people with exceptional vision discovered that one of the brightest stars in the Big Dipper was, in fact, two stars so close together that most people cannot distinguish them. The two stars, Alcor and Mizar, were the first binary stars -- a pair of stars that orbit each other -- ever known. Modern telescopes have since found that Mizar is itself a pair of binaries, revealing what was once thought of as a single star to be four stars orbiting each other. Alcor has been sometimes considered a fifth member of the system, orbiting far away from the Mizar quadruplet. Now, an astronomer at the University of Rochester and his colleagues have made the surprise discovery that Alcor is also actually two stars.'' That's just plain neat.

Typical evolutionary psychology bit with no mention of how the evolutionary bit of it works out. Perhaps the problem is simply the reporters description rather than the actual theory but it sounds all too Lamarkian to me.

Flash! Sea level rises two millimeters! Doomed. We're all doomed!

Leave it to the Tea Bag Partyists to write to an elected official to say: Your choice of office space infringes on my rights!.

It takes a certain quantity and quality of Chutzpah to compare the Macabbees brothers to Al Quaida, but welcome to David Brook's war on Hanukah. Good gravy, that's harsh.

Out West exhibit at the Autry Center is in the fundraising stage. It's aim is to tell the story of gay, transgendered, and bisexual people in the world of the American Cowboy.

The Onion scores again, ``Members of the earth's earliest known civilization, the Sumerians, looked on in shock and confusion some 6,000 years ago as God, the Lord Almighty, created Heaven and Earth.

A local coffee shop is closing. I've been meaning to go to it ever since we moved here. You can see the sign from the train as you pull up to the Metro station. It looks warm and inviting. But it took me a year to figure out how to get to it and, well, it's a pain. That section of downtown Silver Spring is incredibly hostile to foot traffic.

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The white death, it falls from above | 11 comments (11 topical, 0 hidden)
China, India, Brazil and... by clover kicker (2.00 / 0) #1 Fri Dec 18, 2009 at 09:40:32 PM EST

1. It is clear to me that by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 02:08:43 AM EST
the writer of those ad spots has never brought tobacco to his lips.

2. Regarding Iraq, what GWB wanted to do or did not want to do is wholly irrelevant because he was a fucking puppet on strings.

3. Government officials need to be accessible for the public, not holed up in a suburban strip mall.

4. Why didn't anyone on this site give me a heads-up about Tila Tequila's hour long, nude, tampon-flinging, crazed rant about Rihanna's herpes on UStream last month? You people disappoint me.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

On 1 and 3 by lm (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 07:13:31 AM EST
I might be willing to take up smoking again if it meant I could drink every time I smoked.

And, yeah, I think the presidential bubble is a bad thing all around.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
Fourth country by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #3 Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 02:27:01 AM EST
May have been Russia if he was talking about the BRIC countries.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
Various and Sundry by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #5 Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 05:06:55 PM EST
If Bush had not invaded Iraq, I think any public desire to go to war would have been satisfied by efforts in Afghanistan.  At "worst", he'd have had to commit more troops there, which might have done a lot of good.

Too much evolutionary psychology is as scientific as Larry Nivon's "breeding for luck" in the Ringworld books.  The difference is that Nivon probably knew it was crap.

I am fortunate that on both ways on my commute, there is a significant tunnel near the end.  It makes it easier to notice the end approaching. (I've still missed once or twice though.)
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

I will be spending christmas break in columbia, MD by garlic (2.00 / 0) #6 Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 10:04:44 AM EST

woah, that's just a hop and skip away by lm (2.00 / 0) #7 Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 12:45:58 PM EST
Unfortunately, I'll be in Ohio (or driving to and from) from the 24th through the 27th.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
christmas break is from 12/24 to 1/3 by garlic (2.00 / 0) #8 Mon Dec 21, 2009 at 12:17:49 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Groovy by lm (2.00 / 0) #10 Mon Dec 21, 2009 at 07:27:24 PM EST
If you're up for it, we should do dinner. Or something. It's been months since I've made sweet and sour pork and that would be fun to make for company.

Or we could just meet somewhere for coffee, beer, dinner, etc.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
indeed. by garlic (2.00 / 0) #11 Tue Dec 22, 2009 at 02:05:28 PM EST
the trip is to visit my gf's family so she's running the schedule. I'll try to let you know what day works out.

[ Parent ]
Your choice of office space by duxup (2.00 / 0) #9 Mon Dec 21, 2009 at 04:32:53 PM EST

Sounds like he picked the right space.

The white death, it falls from above | 11 comments (11 topical, 0 hidden)