Saturday, December 6, 2008

In Search of the Word For Attributing Familiarity to the Unfamiliar

I read an article recently that made the case for the Internet as an extension of our social lives -- as opposed to, as has been long argued by skeptics and other old-fashioned-ists, a replacement or substitute for it.

As with most issues of this uncertain sort, there are arguments to be readily made for both sides.

For example, your Fearless Leader is certainly sympathetic to Kurt Vonnegut's accusation that we modern people have lost respect for the Art of Conversation.

And, I'll be the first to admit that I could have spent the last hour talking to my friends in person rather than sitting here alone in my office.

But, to argue that during this past hour I have been untouched by my fellow human would be to err. Indeed, if it weren't for the Internet, Yours Truly wouldn't be sad:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Contrariwise

I just read something on THE INTERNET where someone argued that the fact that people in the Middle East are happy about Obama's victory is reason to be suspicious of Obama.  Now, your Fearless Leader is no conspiracy theorist, but aren't there millions of books about the connection between the Bush family and Saudi Arabia?  The evidence that we only see what we want to see never stops piling up.  

(Ten points to anyone who can find the mirror-facing-mirror in the previous sentence.)

Aside: Boy, are we lucky the Internet was named something cool!  Imagine if we were constantly referencing the Pancake instead.

Back to the point: It is troubling and interesting (in that order) that many Americans take issue with the fact that our so-called enemies have congratulated our new President.  Sure, if others were happy about a tragedy here, that's one thing.  But right now, for the first time in as long as I've been a voter, people are agreeing with the choice Americans have made.  Now, the following is not WORLD POLITICS CONFIRMED, but come now: isn't a good way to not fight with other people to ... not fight with other people?

Aside: Splitting infinitives; beginning sentences with conjunctions; overusing the semicolon; underusing conjunctions in lists ... are all apparently acceptable if you believe in Emergent Grammar.  (!!)  

(The fact that Noam Chomsky is as influential a thinker as he is and is a linguistics scholar is evidence that either (a) linguistics is a more important focus of study than we realize, or (b) it doesn't matter what we study, as long as we study something at all.

Finally, dear readers, I leave you with the following:
  1. If you can't handle wondering what affects what gets elected to your consciousness (oh, bless you, Nick Ellis), wonder about this: Why Is Everything Still Pasteurized in This g.d. Country?
  2. Jennifer Miller + Abbreviations = A Guaranteed Good Time.
  3. What if there were a way to use hyperlinks in speech?
  4. )

Monday, October 20, 2008

parade of fools

The profession of doctoral student is among the very few for which self-contempt is a virtue.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Neither confirmable nor disconfirmable

Think about this, dear readers: If I were a fortune teller on the side, there would be no way for anyone to know.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Perfect Storm of Human Excellence

It's a collision of Olympics and Del Close and Your Fearless Leader is wildly overwhelmed by these things in which she is already unhealthily interested.  Among all the fanfare, I am  currently most obsessed with Becky Kim, and you should be, too.

But think about it!  Improv is thrilling because it's among the most raw and truthful human behavior one can observe.  As for synchro, as Steven Strogatz, another person with whom everyone ought to be obsessed, puts it: "in its most refined form, persistent synchronization can be spectacular" (SYNC, p. 2).  Thus, in one weekend we celebrate two intensely impressive feats of people in groups.

Thus, the intersection of one of the biggest weeks in synchronized swimming and one of the biggest weeks in Improv calls for something special.  Something REALLY special.  And that is ... the one and only Truly Reminiscent moment that will ever appear on this blog (we operate in a spirit of presentism over here, friends.  For more on that subject, read this book.  Incidentally, it was written by my undergraduate dance teacher's mother.  It's also set in China, so there's some Olympic Spirit for you).

On to the Truly Reminiscent:

Once in a synchronized swimming workshop at Michigan a prominent coach came and for an exercise had us do 15 minutes of Improvised Synchronized Swimming.  She played music and told us to do whatever "moved us". We all scattered around the pool and did random things until she turned off the music.  Most of us felt ridiculous, but trusted that she knew what she was doing.  I remember spending a lot of time underwater (they can't see you there).  Finally it ended.  She looked at us blankly, paused, then started talking about something else.  No one ever mentioned it again.

This means worlds shouldn't collide.  That's why Olympics and DCM are stressful.  That's also why I'm intensely grateful the Zebra F-301 Enthusiasts' Summer Spectacular was mercifully scheduled for the week after next.




Friday, August 1, 2008

Always!

Apparently people aren't terribly into serenity and happiness.

I think I am less impressed by the iPhone the more impressive it gets. Insert appropriate chart of decreasing returns, exacerbated by irrational intolerance for everyone having the same thing.

That said, I still can't decide how I feel about gmail. I'll talk it over with my therapist tonight.

Before I go, some new experiences:
1. Riding a camel
2. Getting scolded by a Moroccan woman for riding a vespa on a sidewalk and losing my shoe
3. Riding a vespa on a sidewalk and losing my shoe
4. Having a snake around my neck
5. Having a snake in my eye
6. Buying a cappuccino instead of a latte at Oren's by Columbia. (It was delicious. Taking risks pays off, friends!)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Otherwise uninteresting

What is more sad: Setting an alarm clock for noon, or knowing that if one doesn't set an alarm clock for noon, one will sleep far beyond that?

Monday, July 14, 2008

More mirrors facing mirrors

I just read this NYTimes article about staying overnight in airport terminals while I amRIGHTTHISVERYMINUTE staying overnight in an airport terminal!  Will the vortextual rabbit hole of mirrors facing other mirrors never end?!

Today we are in Madrid, dear readers, as a result of a series of ill-planned flights that have also been delayed; however, the reason for being stuck in Madrid-Barrrrajas is actually entirely due to the poor planning, not the delays, though they are real (rule 1: never lie about delays).  Here are some fun facts, in direct order of level of fun:
  • The past 6 flights in a row I have taken have all been delayed.
  • These past 6 flights have all been international*
  • The article I cite above about terminals is not particularly useful or interesting**
*incorrect: this fact is not fun.
**This fact is also not fun, but it is useful and interesting.  Hopefully you read it before you clicked on that link I provided.  Or at least if you clicked the link first, hopefully you tabbed on back to this before reading that article in its entirety.***

***If you did read that link in its entirety, you probably also saw this link, which is still not useful or interesting enough to really be called useful or interesting, but I will allow that it's worth a moment's perusing.****

****But then again, if you didn't read the first link all the way through (as well you shouldn't have), you wouldn't have gotten to that link.  Thus, dear reader, I pasted it here (above) for you.*****

*****Then again, had you read the first link in its entirety, you would have gotten to the second link on your own, which you would still be reading RIGHTTHISVERYMINUTE, and, by that account, you would not be reading this.******

******But if you did read the first link and now you are reading this, then that means that RIGHTTHISVERYMINUTE you are reading about yourself reading about yourself.*******

*******Relatedly, there are announcements in this terminal announcing that there will be no announcements.


Can you even handle it?!?!



Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Internet"ional Relations

Yet another reason why the Internet is fun: Find out what spacecraft you can see from where you live by going here!

I'm sure we could figure that out without the Internet, but I feel like you would have to know to look for it.  Maybe.  Or, I suppose, you could just see it on the news.  Then again, on the news you can see mostly inane things that matter to no one.  An exception that is very not inane (ane?), of course, is any televised news story explaining discovered links between cell phones and brain cancer.  I think that that speculated (and in my scientific opinion, very very likely!) connection is a perfectly solid reason to stop answering my phone altogether. 

If you would like to talk about my low opinion of televised news, call me!  

ZING!


Friday, May 23, 2008

Do this, actually

I just read about a website called FutureMe on my fine friend Daniel Leary's blog. It's a site where you can compose an email to yourself and then designate its delivery for a time in the future. (Interesting in itself, though I feel like regular old email has that function?)

BUT: I invite and encourage you, dear readers, to go this very instant directly to FutureMe and click on "view public entries". There, you can all experience for yourselves the stunning discovery that at the core everybody's problems are exactly the same. More evidence that our contexts are our only differences?

Deal with that!

You may also feel free to wonder (1) why people elect to send themselves messages about bad things and not good ones, and (2) why people don't email themselves "big" questions. We wonder what colleges we'll get into, not why we all devised the institution of education in the first place. A survival mechanism, presumably. Questioning the status quo is difficult (and for a few good, solid reasons, at least in the short run).

As for not going back even further and wondering why we're all here in the first place to think about life -- much less eduation, much less what college we're going to go to, much less why we are bothering to email ourselves about it ... well ....

Once you're done with that, do this.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Firmly Resolving the Debate Once and For All

The fundamental flaw with all Cirque du Soleil music, for all who are interested, is that it is all too very "ta da" in nature.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Your attention please

First, a review of the headlines for your fancy:
  1. This article is important for obvious reasons: The US Government is, unsurprisingly, but still terrifyingly, a propaganda machine.
  2. This article is important for less obvious but far more fundamental and far-reaching reasons: Some languages don't have different words for the color blue and the color green!
Second, two acts of self-indulgence: the first, a Miserable Observation; the second, a Triumphant Announcement:
  1. Today is day 22 of the 30-day Hot Yoga Challenge and Andrea is verrry sick of it.
  2. Daystallion will be competing in Cage Match at UCB on Thursday, May 29!
Third, one complaint:
  1. I had the misfortune of watching "The View" for several minutes on a television in a lobby today. The subject for the day was "hot topics". They spent 1 minute on the election, where, in addition to announcing to everyone that, yes, the war in Iraq is still going on, they made clear the general fact that the economy is bad. As quickly as the subject came up, it was abandoned. The rest of the conversation was dedicated to the issue of Kristi Yamaguchi as a cast member in "Dancing with the Stars." I do not know what the point of "The View" is actually supposed to be, so my reaction may be wholly misguided, but I essentially found the experience entirely disheartening.
Fourth, one truth:
  1. Selectively and sparingly used, the placement of an exclamation point instead of a question mark at the end of a statement that is undeniably interrogative can be masterful.
Fifth, a first installment of our new series, dear readers, of An Eye For An Eye*:
  1. Today I watched someone who normally puts people on hold get put on hold.
Sixth, a review, in order, of all the numbers used in this entry:
  1. 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 1, 22, 30, 2, 29, 3, 1, 1, 4, 1, 5, 1, 6, 1
*working title.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

t9, revisited

Despite the fact that my phone knows the word "Vinyasa" (see below), it does not know the word "tacos".

mucho

Two things that, when they work beautifully, are evidence that civilization actually might be good for people, but that, when they don't work, make you pretty much question the worth of your entire existence, are: (1) Public transportation and (2) auto-formatting.

Today Domestic Andrea tried to make her own raw hummus. Turns out, Domestic Andrea makes terrible raw hummus. But Domestic Andrea is the Master of Espresso. And of Frozen Raspberries out of a Glass with a Fork.

Relatedly, a study from the University of Michigan (hooray for the home team) found that in the US single women in their 20s spend an average of 12 hours per week on housework. (What are they doing? Does showering and checking e-mail count?) Apparently when they get married, this number goes up to 5 million. That is why I support outsourcing in the home.

Monday, April 7, 2008

MOKA

Dear readers, do I have a new experience-and-a-half for you! And this isn't any new experience; in fact, it's an experience I have been long *against* doing, for fear I would ruin the magic of the actual outcome.

You guessed it: Andrea made espresso.

I'll allow that to sink in. Yes, making one's own coffee is one thing, but that's only because drip coffee is not a miracle. Drip coffee is the running of hot water through things that taste like coffee so that the water then tastes like coffee. Espresso and all espresso-based drinks, however, are the result of a combination of giant silver machines, levers left over from the 1930s, the banging of spoons on other spoons, and lots (and Lots) of steam. Crank it all around and, voilĂ , magical cups of glory are produced a la Willy Wonka-meets-the dark side of the moon.

Naturally, my making it at my current home (#10 in the past 12 months, for those counting) did destroy the magic, but -- and here is the crux -- the magic was destroyed only somewhat. The device I discovered in my kitchen and subsequently used to create this drink was at the start very mysterious, and, happily, still remains so, even though I did manage eventually to use it properly:
Have you ever seen anything more mysterious?

Next order of business:
New experience within a new experience: This blog just became multi-media!
New experience within a new experience within a new experience: Nested new experiences!
I won't keep going.

I will leave you, friends, with some new truths to take home to your loved ones:
  1. The fact that it actually rains in April is very cliché on the part of the Weather.
  2. Having to actually ask someone whether he/she remembers you is one of the saddest acts through which one can put oneself. (Advice-for-free: I recommend avoiding this at all costs.)
  3. You will feel better in the last hour of 6 hours of hot yoga than you felt during the middle.
  4. Raw ice cream doesn't melt.
  5. Payphones in subways will come in handy someday.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Formative!

Every paper I've ever read -- or even so much as looked at the title of -- by Brian Arthur is one that I wish I had written.

New Experience 1: Running into an old friend on the street and up and going for a drink right then and there. That shit only happens in movies.

New Experience 2: Running a giant q-tip around my mouth alongside 2 other people doing the same, while a perfect stranger counted us on. Then doing it again.

New Experience 3: The Deconstruction form in longform improv. Beautiful, hilarious, insightful. What more could you want?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Annual Christmas Card

Things are changing around here, friends! This week we take the intensity up a notch with the following guarantee: A new and excellent version of my prospectus will be in the hands of my advisors by Friday afternoon. The following week I will attempt to write an entire journal article from start to finish in one week just to see if I can do it.

More news: I will take German lessons! Hast du gut geshlaffen, dear readers? I will especially learn how to spell that!

Even more news: The fabulous Jennifer Miller is trying raw!

Even more news than that: I will also register to become a bone marrow donor. It's something I've thought about for a good while but never got around to doing. Today while I was nominally working (partly motivating goal for the week, above), I came across this blog, which was all I needed to see to sign up. Tuesday I will go, and so should you, friends!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Self-Organized Criticality

8.5 of the keys on my laptop no longer have the letters on them. For now I can still carry on more or less normally with my typing, but if this trend continues, the fact that I never properly learned how to type without looking at the keys will take its toll. How many more letters need to disappear before I lose complete functionality? I know, I know, there's no end to the thought-provoking questions presented here.

No, seriously: I'll put it at 10 more. Given that it's taken 3 years for these 8.5 to hit the road, I'm somewhat confident that I will have a new computer before that happens. Then again, I promised myself a new computer when I finish the old 'tation, so you never know.

Here's what else you never know: What you're going to feel like doing tomorrow, much less the day after that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Star of morning, shining hope

My phone's t9Word knows the word "Vinyasa".

Rental car records make excellent coasters.

Invention we can't improve upon no matter how much we try: Regular old keys.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stand by

Here comes the grammar monster:

I notice with increasing frequency that people are using the phrase "waiting on line" instead of "in line" to describe the act of queuing (god bless the British) for something. I even saw it in print once.

Am I insane? There's no way that can be correct. Right? Or am I behind the times and this is some new fancy analogy that abstractly links the concept of the Internet to standing idly and making chit chat with the people behind you? Either way, I reject it. End of discussion.

Superlative for the day: Unexpectedly, the best mangoes in Astoria can be found at C TOWN TOWN TOWN TOWN grocery store on Broadway. If I am a self-appointed authority on any issue, it is this one.

Truth for the day #1: If weather.com tells you that the temperature it "feels like" is at all lower -- even by one degree -- than the actual temperature -- no matter how high that may be -- you will freeze to death.

Truth for the day #2: If you rent the "rating not shown in theaters" version of any movie, it will be worse than the theater version. There's a reason they don't show people getting stabbed up close on the big screen, everyone, and Ang Lee's Lust, Caution is it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Back on my high horse

Writing a dissertation is like going to the gym ---- Just kidding, dear readers! This blog entry is decidedly not about my dissertation (whew). Instead, it is about this article. But you are busy people, so instead of expecting you all to read the article, I will present the main points for your convenience, information, and discussion. First, here is the background:
  1. The cost of food is on the rise around the world.
  2. This is mostly because demand is skyrocketing as people in developing countries get wealthier.
  3. The world's stockpiles of grain are the lowest since world stockpiles of grain made sense as a concept.
  4. High prices of food are contributing to inflation in the US
  5. High prices of food are contributing to social unrest and violence in many countries
Now, to be sure, farmers all over the place are responding to the demand by growing as much as they can. But it's all mostly wheat and grains. (Fun fact: there was a one-day pasta strike in Italy last year!) Apparently demand for bread is huge in a lot of places that don't traditionally include it in their diets:

"Between 1995 and 2005, per capita wheat consumption in Nigeria more than tripled, to 44 pounds a year. Bread has been displacing traditional foods like eba, dumplings made from cassava root." It's even gotten to the point where, if you think about it in terms of a substance, people are basically addicted to it. (On this subject, read this book.)

Add to this that demand for other American-style foods is also increasing -- In addition to bread, people all over the place now want things like pork, dairy, and beef. (I've belabored the point elsewhere about how eating all of these things basically makes our healthcare costs ridiculously high and probably is what gives us all degenerative diseases.)

It used to be that the Standard American Diet was the sort of thing that was bad for our health, sure, and, ok, also terrible for the environment. But at least the environmental impact was somewhat mitigated by the fact that it was mostly just Americans eating this way. Then our harmful and unsustainable habits spread to parts of Western Europe. Then they caught on in China. Now they're really ramping up everywhere.

Thus, in the midst of global concerns about overpopulation and global warming, the very lifestyle that contributes most to healthcare costs, costs of living, and environmental damage is spreading like wildfire. Or like a disease!

As if all of this isn't bad enough, the US Government is actively limiting the ability of local farmers in the US to (a) increase how much they grow, and (b) grow things that are not corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, and cotton -- which are the five federally subsidized commodity crops. For more on this terrifying story, go here.

How is it possible, you ask, that in the face of what looks to be a flat-out global economic, health, and food crisis, the US Government isn't changing its policies drastically to try to prevent it, or at least strongly minimize its effects? Alas, my friends, THAT is the subject of my dissertation.

Damn! But before I go, a piece of advice: Even if they tell you you can't have more than one Blockbuster account, you actually can.
Piece of advice #2: Don't incorporate in Nevada.
Piece of advice that I never follow: Brevity, friends, brevity!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

High Society

I recently got invited to a luncheon. I do not get invited to many luncheons. I will not attend this one.

New Experience of the day: Hot Yoga!
Reactions: Hot shit! It was really quite good, and very difficult. I am a longtime yoga skeptic (and longtime way too tense for anything that encourages lying still and clearing one's mind), but this was hardcore. I almost fainted exactly three times.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ever so idle!

Analogy that is useful only to me: Writing a dissertation is like driving really, really far. At the end of each day you feel exhausted, but you basically have just been sitting very still all day and have absolutely no feeling of accomplishment whatsoever. Also in both cases you drink more coffee than you should, even though you know better. And you listen to/read a ton of crap that is not only not informative in the slightest, but probably is actively making you dumber. And you chew gum even though you don't want to.

I could go on.

I swear this fine blog will have fewer dissertation complaints in the future. It's no fun for anyone, I know. In the spirit of levitas, I invite you to click on this link. It's hilarious, and I don't use that term lightly. Also in the spirit of the continued scientific endeavor, I will add proper citations: I lifted that link straight from Will Hines' fantastic blog. No spirit of creativity from me today, friends.

For those avidly keeping track, you will be pleased to learn that I attempted wheatgrass shot #2 a few days ago in Ann Arbor. All told, it was a much better experience than the first. I suspect this is because either wheatgrass in Michigan is superior to that in Manhattan, or my expectations got involved and screwed with the experience, as they tend to do. Also the one in Ann Arbor came in a tiny, tiny mug. We are now accepting votes on which reason it actually is. Write-ins are acceptable, within reason of course.

I leave you, fine readers, with a new superlative:
Number 1 Unsung Hero of the Lettuce Community Award: Arugula.

Yes, dissertations and variations on greens, followed by apologies for both. That is what I will rename my blog.

P.S. New Experience for the day: Looked "arugula" up in the dictionary because the powers that be in this blog site are telling me I'm spelling it wrong. All it says for the definition is "the rocket plant, used for cooking". That is even less helpful than definitions for adverbs that give you the adjective + "behaving as though" or "tending to".

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Miscellanea

Truth of the day: Just because the technology exists doesn't mean you have to use it.

Superlative of the day: The most elegant subway connection in NYC: the one between the FV and the ACE at West 4th. Look it up on a map. It's the ballroom dance of subway transfers.

Revisited memory of the day: Gimme! Coffee cafe on Lorimer in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

No way to know!

Our perspective controls everything, even things that happen as -- what we at least thought were -- seemingly straightforward chemical reactions in the body! Before you dismiss that sentence as making no sense, fine readers, let me explain: there's an article in the NYTimes today on drinking and why people do it and how people in different cultures react to excessive consumption of alcohol. Now, not only do people in different cultures act differently when they're drunk (Americans get aggressive, Japanese sing, Brazilians in some areas get really reserved. Are you surprised by any of this?), but also how our body responds to alcohol can depend on whether we think we're drinking it! Apparently in the 80s a series of studies were conducted where study participants were either given alcoholic drinks or a placebo. The ones who thought they were getting alcohol but weren't acted just as ridiculous as the ones who actually were. And vice-versa, those who only thought they were not drinking acted the same as who actually were not drinking. Most amazing of all:

"One participant insisted that she could not have been drinking because alcohol always made her flush.

“We told her that, yes, in fact she was drinking it,” Dr. Marlatt said. “She immediately flushed.”

Incredible, right?! I'm telling you, 90% of what we do has everything to do with what we think is going on, not what's actually going on. Well, maybe not 90%, but I bet it's high. I'll say it: maybe even higher! I suppose there's no way to ever know, unless humans start getting tested by aliens. Otherwise we're trapped in our own perception nightmare.

Oh, and not only that, but people in different cultures drink for different reasons. Apparently Western cultures are more prone to excuse drinking as a needed "mental vacation" than other cultures. Just more evidence that the Western political/social/economic model is not the cure-all some purport it to be.

Finally, if nothing else, this article has one of the most aesthetically pleasing sentences I've read in a long time: "the disconnect between the conventional wisdom and the available evidence is even now so scandalous as to exceed the limits of reasonable toleration.”

I love that shit. If you still want to read the actual article even though I've spoiled all the highlights for you, you can find it here. In the meantime, I'll work on spoiler alerts.

Monorific

Truth for the Day: There is no way to explain to someone else how boring someone is without also being completely boring yourself.

New Experience for the Day: Issued a money order.

Falsehood for the day: There's no such thing as the metaphorical dragon. Old experience for the day: Was painfully ambivalent at one point.

I think that's a fine way to ring in March. Carry cash, kids.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

wings and wheat

New Experience 1: "Trivia Night" (TM) at a Hooter's in New Jersey. I went with my improv team last night. Verdict? Excellent. Daystallion came in a proud third place! (against a crowd of 99% frat boys on their home "turf", mind you.) Most common categories of questions? "Sports", "Comics", "Music", "TV", and "Entertainment". What is "entertainment" if not "sports, comics, music, or TV", you ask? I don't know, either.

(For you raw enthusiasts, take note, you can get an entire plate of celery at Hooter's for 69 cents!)

Lest I leave you, dear readers, out of the fun: What were the first four flavors of absolut vodka? Where do the Mets go for Spring Training? What city is hosting the Final Four next year? I am now the proud owner of answers to all of those questions. Test yourselves!

New Experience 2: Wheatgrass shot. Verdict? Completely vile. Even though I expected it to be not that great, it was still a shock how vicious it was. I'll probably have another tomorrow. (Self-challenges are the secret to my success!)

Truth For The Day: Standing in a shower where the drain is blocked so the tub fills up a little feels a lot more disgusting than it really rationally should.

Finally, I ended up watching When Dinosaurs Roamed America the other night. It was disappointing at best, and pretty much portrayed evolution as magic.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Measure this.

Measuring essay lengths in terms of numbers of words is about as helpful to me as measuring plane cruising altitudes in feet. How long is 7,000 words? How high is 35,000 feet? I know the answer to neither of those questions.

Choices

Walking with Dinosaurs vs. When Dinosaurs Roamed America?
BBC vs. Discovery Channel
UK vs. US

What will I pick? I even rotten tomato-ed them both. Walking has three "fresh" reviews, one of which accuses the whole thing of being fake. I often fail to understand quite where the line gets drawn between fresh and rotten on that thing.

RT has never even heard of Roamed.

Now that I think about it, what is with the dinosaurs - as - unhurried - pedestrians attitude in both of these documentaries? Why not Running For Your Life with Dinosaurs or Get The Hell Out Of My Way I'm Chasing A Dinosaur? I'd watch either of those before these two I've got here. (Or, I guess I just described Jurassic Park.)

maladroit

New Experience of the Day 1: I'm in a syllabus!! Page 7, friends.

Granted, it is an unpublished manuscript. Hell if I know how those unlucky undergraduates will get ahold of that. Short of using Google, that is.

I went to see one of my favorite improvisers do stand-up today. I had every intention of standing anonymously in the back and disappearing right away afterward so that I wouldn't look like a groupie. Alas, as luck would have it I was one of approximately four others in the audience. Needless to say, a 1-to-1 comedian-to-audience member ratio means no standing in the back and no anonymity. That's all well and good, and it ended up being lovely, but the trick of it is that the only way I could have known about the stand-up event at all was by reading his blog. That day.

In my defense, your Honor, I am a graduate student. My job is to read things on the internet.

Later I went to Harold Night at UCB for the first time since October, thus making this the first Tuesday I have been in New York for 4 months. That is perhaps the least impressive statistic in the world right now.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

There's (always) more to it

Recently I posted suggesting we improve the foods available in poorer neighborhoods. Apparently, there's more involved than just making it available. In fact, the introduction of produce stands in a bunch of neighborhoods with obesity problems has been met with lots of (understandable) uproar.

I am endlessly fascinated by how the complexity of our societies makes change difficult -- or even just makes things difficult to undo.

Besting

Top news: I've had more disappointing oranges in a row recently than I care to count. First new experience award for the day: Man on subway standing directly below the sign that said "6 Uptown" asked me if this was the place to wait for the 6 Uptown. Second new experience award for the day: Quinoa Gold. Verdict? (1) An acquired taste. (1a) If you grit your teeth. (2) In retrospect, probably not raw. Those tricky liquids get me every time.

Fascinating slice of real truth 1: "There's a Doctor" = Best song on the Tommy album.
Fascinating slice of real truth 2: The Dashboard, first introduced on OSX Tiger two years ago, by all accounts should have revolutionized modern computing.

It's either completely deterministic or a flat out free-for-all. Today I lean toward the latter. Regardless, I think we can all agree that the frequentists are in denial.

Monday, February 25, 2008

In sum

Here is the summary of my life for pretty much the past 500 days:

I have a bunch of shit to do that I don't want to do, and no real deadline by which I need to do it. I should stop wondering why I never get anything done, even though I spend 15 hours a day in front of my filthy laptop.

In brighter news, I am happy to report installment 1 of ... Andrea's New Experience of The Day:

Inca Golden Berries.

Verdict? Highly recommended. Go forth, friends!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Precious little time

Here is what happens when I read the news:

Step 1: Open the news online

Step 2: Read a few of the headlines, mentally dividing them into "should read" (Fidel Castro steps down!) and "actually will probably read at some point" (midlife suicide rates have gone up?), and then click on some article in neither of those categories (the Carpetbagger's "why we watch the Oscars").

Step 3: While the new page loads, open a new tab to something else I decide I have to look up that very second, such as the weather or my credit card statement or how many different kinds of Larabar flavors there actually are

Step 4: While those are loading, in another tab, google how many laundromats are nearby.

Step 5: While that's loading, go back to the news tab. Read half the article, at which point do one of the following:
  • Get distracted by a movie review/ad/piece of small business advice in the columns. Follow those links until it's already almost dark outside.* Realize, alas, life has not been reinvented despite the promises that American Express makes everything easier, that free-shipping shoes are only a click away, and that all one needs to know to be healthy is one's BMI.
  • Decide the article is crap and go back to the front page, which takes awhile to load, so open additional separate tabs to compare airfares to New York and to look up synonyms for "abundance". While those load, reread an email recently sent to someone important, then re-watch "Susan and Her Instruments" on YouTube.
  • Decide the article is extremely excellent, save it before I even finish reading it, at which point the Times will tell me that people who saved this article also saved the following three unspeakably fascinating articles. Embark on a quest to save all articles saved by people who saved those articles.
  • Actually read the article in its entirety (AND the graphics in a separate window) and make it my new manifesto for the day. Google everything I can related to it. Bother people I know by sending it to them with an annoying personal message that says something like "See?" or "What have I been saying!?"
Step 6: Realize I know nothing of what's going on. Go back to the news front page. Click on something about urban policy and open that in one tab. In another tab open health tips for gentlemen.

Step 7: While those load, write blog entry. Idly consider showering and/or once and for all sitting down and figuring out how I'm going to finish grad school.

Step 8: Get up to slice a cantaloupe. Read half an issue of Esquire.

*In my defense, this is winter news reading. Please!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Subcritical Hopf Bifurcation

I just now randomly ended up watching a music video on YouTube.  It's not important how I got there -- and even less important (read: more embarrassing) what music video it was (so I won't confess it) -- but what is important was how startling the entire experience was.

I can't remember the last time I watched a music video!

Granted, I don't have a TV.  However, I like to think that I am, as the kids say, "in touch" with what's going on.  I'm up on Season 4 of LOST.  I rented all of Heroes once.  Hell, I've even tried to get into Grey's Anatomy (which I directly blame for missing my noon meeting today, for the record.  In my defense, it was the one where she first meets her half-sister!).

All of that said, it was surprising to me what a different world it felt like just sitting there watching this random girl walk around among expensive shoes and sing about self respect, if you can call it that.  (Ok, now I'm giving too much away).  Anyway, I'm not sure if it's more that I haven't thought about the kinds of issues about which this girl was singing in awhile, or if I more just haven't appreciated that sometimes you can actually just sit there and be entertained by something completely lame.  Regardless, it was semi troubling that it was a foreign experience to me.  I'm officially losing all touch with reality out here in Ann Arbor.

In related news, it occurred to me last night (during Grey's -- it was the part where she saves the deer.  La-ame!) that this semester in Ann Arbor I almost never speak to anyone except the cashiers at Whole Foods, where I go almost every day (The Ride makes me feel civilized).  Each time I go through the registers I end up making the lamest jokes in the world.  Today it was about how I already had a plastic bag with me.  Yesterday it was about how the cashier didn't know that the spelling of her name is common in Japan.

Losing touch, friends!! 



Friday, February 15, 2008

Feeding the Fires of Our Own Destruction

The more I read about it, the more it seems to me that food and water will be the more important issues facing humanity in coming decades.  Certainly the environment is up there, too, and in fact is naturally intricately linked with the nutrition problem, as what we eat and how we grow it have everything to do with how we treat the earth.

Just today this article in the Health Section of the NYTimes writes about findings that being overweight is associated with increased cancer risks.  To that I'll add what I've read in The China Study about high consumption of animal proteins also being linked with cancer and heart disease.  Finally, our general high consumption in the west of processed, refined foods means that we're overall getting tons of fat, protein, and simple carbohydrates, and few vitamins and minerals that we need, which come largely from plants.

Now contrast that with malnourished and starving people around the world -- where in many places they depend on food aid from the US and other countries, which, at least from the US, is all more of the highly processed, corn and potato based foods that aren't even feeding Americans properly.  Couple that with the fact that farmers in other countries who grow cash crops can't even independently feed themselves if they wanted to, and there you have a double-edged sword where all the food going in is barely better than the foods/crops going out.  

So, in rich countries we're not taking care of ourselves so we are getting degenerative diseases, while people in poor countries are starving and trying to live off of measly donations from the rich countries in the form of the same nutritionally-poor foods with which we are stuffing our faces.  We get tons of calories, they get none.  We get cancer and heart disease.  They are weak for life.

All of this is so far related just to physical health.  Now, consider that proper nutrition is also linked to mental development, alertness, brainpower, and mood.  How we feel and think has everything to do with what we eat.  When we're hungry we're in a bad mood.  Even when we're full but are deprived nutritionally we can be in bad moods.  Admittedly, my comments in this paragraph really need to be held off until I look some more stuff up, but I think my intuitions are at least reasonable.  Think about it -- the poorest neighborhoods in the US tend also to be the ones with the highest crime rates.  Certainly desperation for resources, lack of education, having young adults with no job or school to go to all contribute greatly to that violence.  

But, consider also that these are the communities who are the worst fed in the country (if you don't believe me, go to a grocery store in Manhattan and then go to one just over the river in Brooklyn, where everything is suddenly bright white and packaged and what little fruit there is is waxy and unappealing).  Maybe, just maybe, the poor nutrition has something to do with the tensions and quick tempers that spur on violent behavior.  Again, so far it's just a suspicion I have, but I bet that if we tweaked the diets of Americans, especially in our poorest communities, we'd see better behaved kids in school, more patient parents, and fewer angry teens.  I suppose the problem is that changes in diet have subtle background effects on people's lives (hell, that's why dieting is hard for people -- no immediate results!!), so it would be hard to convince, say, the Government to sponsor such a program.  And it would be hard, even if they did sponsor it, to keep it going, because the results might take a long time coming in -- which would only increase opportunities for the interference of other variables.

(For the record, I have read here and there about the effects of food on mood and cognition -- that part's less speculative -- it's more that I have no idea what kinds of effects community-wide dietary tweaking might have on our many society-wide challenges.)

Finally, the environment.  Ah, the environment, how we destroy you with our factories and terrible land-destroying farming practices.  Grow more fruits and vegetables properly (without genetic modification, without pesticides, and with a focus on keeping our soil rich), and watch a lot of our environmental problems go away.  Oh, and, I suppose, stop flying all these planes, driving cars everywhere, and pumping out crazy chemicals from non-food factories ... uh, ok ... baby steps!  

Well, that's enough of my tirade for today.  Sorry to dampen the mood.  Just don't say I didn't warn you.

P.S. No, I did not make it to my noon appointment today.  I have another one at 3 that I, frankly, have no choice but to go to.  Also there's the added advantage that I'm already awake, so all signs point to actually making one commitment this week.  Stay tuned, friends!

On Repetition

Tomorrow I once again am supposed to be somewhere at noon.  Will I make it this time????  Dear readers, hold your suspense, only time will tell!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Detrimentus

Today I set my alarm clock for 8:00 AM.  Then I snoozed until 8:45 AM, at which point the alarm clock must have reset itself, because the next thing I knew it was 11:56 AM.  I was supposed to be somewhere at noon and decided I didn't feel like rushing around, so, naturally, I did not go.  Now it is almost 4:30 PM.  I'm not entirely sure what happened during the past 4 hours.  I know I took a shower and bought some coffee.  Then I glared at some loud people here in the computer lab.  Now I'm doing this.  I think I'm supposed to be writing something, somewhere.  Certainly not this, here.  Adios!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Good and the Bad

Good coffee can be nothing short of divine. Less than good coffee can pretty much ruin an otherwise fine day. Take note!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

With Respect to the Former

Lesson of the day: Overuse of the expression given in the title of this post has two consequences: (1) the author will sound like a pompous jerk, and (2) the author will sound like a moron. Those things are bad alone, but combined they are almost as bad as being boring and annoying (author's note: I thank Dejan for pointing out those two unsavory characteristics a person might have). I'm allowed to say all of this because I am the guilty party! About the overuse of "latter". Not about being boring or annoying. Obviously! Jeez.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

That Which is Taken for Granted

As a newly proven expert in blogging (see below), I feel like there is a tacit rule in the blogging community that one doesn't post more than once in one's own blog in the span of a single day. Or, if one must, one sees to it that the second posting is substantially shorter than the first. This post certainly breaks the former rule, but not yet the latter. And it won't because, at last, I am le tired.

Answers You Never Wanted

I swore up and down I'd never do it. I puzzled over why other people would ever bother to do it. But now I know there are two types of people who create (and actively update) blogs: people who really want to avoid what they have to do in real life, and people who are really interested in themselves. I'm afraid I might be both of those types of people. Perhaps I should have two blogs?
Blog v.1: Andrea Hates Her Real Life:
I'm so sick of my dissertation I could shoot myself sometimes. You wouldn't believe the things I've done (and regularly do) to avoid working on it.
Blog v.2: Andrea Is Intensely Interested in Herself:
Had a show today for my improv class. It was rough! Now am in a hotel in Queens that I explicitly chose because its website offered a complimentary shuttle to JFK. Then I got here and the receptionist had no idea what I was talking about. Like I'm the crazy one! Whatever?!

Well. Now I feel bad. Actually, the real reason I finally decided to start a blog was because I realized that there are actually some excellent blogs out there. I guess it just took me awhile to get truly sick enough of my work to the point where I spend days in front of my computer without so much as touching said work so that I could find them. And then read them all. And their backlogs. Anyway, now I really like them, so I'm obviously starting this blog so I can be JUST LIKE THEM. Ah, inspiration, you magical and elusive thing.

Anyway, I believe in the scientific enterprise, so that means I also believe in citations. And, if nothing else, your reward for getting this far is that now you know which blogs you should actually be reading:
  • Satisfy your curiosity for everything raw (try not to let the naked man sleeping on a bed of grass put you off): http://welikeitraw.com
  • Here is where you can read about things you actually already have wondered about before. And you can take surveys about procrastination! That's amazing the way looking into a mirror that faces a mirror is amazing: http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com
  • If you count the amount I like this page, it may not belong here. If you count the frequency with which I read it, however, it definitely belongs here (plus the title of a recent post is "Child or Caveman?" You can't beat that): http://well.blogs.nytimes.com
  • This is a blog I discovered just now by the author of my favorite book but haven't actually read yet, but am sure is very, very good. The fact that now I'm searching for blogs to post on here means I've pretty much run out. Frankly, for all my talk about discovering all these excellent blogs, I'd say my list here is pretty pathetically short. One big hypocrite, that's me (file this last comment under Blog v.2): http://areasofmyexpertise.blogspot.com
Also, I am intensely thirsty. Thus, we wrap up full circle. Not bad!