Unexpectedly in the money

March 9, 2011

A side benefit of the recent upheavals in Egypt has been to inform me that Alexandria is the second largest city there. And all this time I’d thought that Alexandria, along with its library, had been underwater for, I dunno, 20,000 years or so, pretty much like my stock options everywhere I’ve worked.

In my defense, Alexandria’s population of 4.1 million makes them barely a mid-sized town by Indian standards. It’s a lot to keep track of.

Probably very un-PC

March 8, 2011

In a small rebellion against my weight loss goals, I followed up my evening library run with the purchase of some Trader Joe’s spicy salami. “Calabrese Salame,” to be precise.

Hmmm, Calabrese, that has a familiar ring to it. Ahh, Guido Calabrese. Some re-firing of disused neuronal connections. Got it. He was the priest on Saturday Night Live! Pat self on back for remembering. Turmeric wins another round against Alzheimer’s.

Just to be on the safe side, but mostly to further procrastinate on dishwashing, I consult the Google Search Engine for confirmation.

Guido Calabresi … is senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit … a former Dean of Yale Law School … along with Ronald Coase and Richard Posner, a founder of the field of law and economics.


Money, priorities, …

October 2, 2010

I recently applied to the County of San Mateo for a new business name. You can only pay them by cheque (check), so I did.

Over a week later, my cheque was returned uncashed with a Post It informing me that they only accept “pre-printed” cheques, apparently meaning cheques printed not only with my name, but also my address.

My first reaction was that it would have been nice for them to specify this address requirement on their website, which only asks for a “check [sic] drawn on a US bank.”

During the day, I reflected that I’d never before had a cheque returned for lack of address.

And then it hit me, over dinner. Of course not. Most businesses are delighted to get their hands on the money. Only government employees can afford to return a perfectly good cheque because they dislike its aesthetics!

Way to go, California.

The news from Marin

September 1, 2010

My wonderful local Menlo Park library gives away books even faster than it lends them out. Almost daily they set out a smorgasbord of mostly paperbacks free to all takers. Dickens, Shakespeare, the 1973 Guide to Tuscany … it’s all there.

Walking by this treasure trove, my eye lighted upon Communicable Diseases in Marin.


Has free love got so out of hand? Are the 70s back? Where’s the nearest hot tub?!

Unfortunately a closer examination revealed the title to be Control of Communicable Diseases in Man, © 1960.

A representative excerpt:

Two diseases are included under the general term of rat-bite fever; one also known as Haverhill Fever, is caused by Streptobacillus moniliformis; the other, also known as Sodoku [sic], is caused by Spirillum minus.

Gripping. Just gripping.

You can never be too tall

August 17, 2010

While stocking up on leafy greens at Trader Joe’s, I noticed an attractive, blonde, and extremely tall woman. 6’3″, 6’4″, or maybe even more. I’m not used to measuring way up there in the ionosphere. And I thought to myself “Oh, the poor thing. She probably has a really hard time getting dates.”

Then I looked down and realized she was wearing heels.

The benefits of a shaved head

June 28, 2010

Did you know that Richmond, Virginia has a large gay community? I didn’t even know it was legal to be gay in Virginia. It is, apparently, and the corner of 3rd and Broad, where my blond neighbor Justin and I found ourselves at 2am Saturday, is apparently the epicenter of that (very) (black) gay club scene.

I’d like to think that the $1000 or so I’ve saved on haircuts over the past nine years helped me “pass,” and maybe even helped save Justin’s butt. (Pun intended.)

The pizza there was good too. It’s the same the world around. What matters is how hungry you are, and how improvised your circumstances. I.e. pizza tastes better when you have no access to plates, napkins, or the other accoutrements of quotidian society.

Yaay for new cultural experiences.

Getting so much better all the time

June 24, 2010

Ever since a freshman year surfeit of Xtrek led me to almost flunk out of Cal, I’ve gone cold turkey on video games – never touched an Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii.

Till iPhone. And the SightRead sight-reading app. The beautiful thing about educational games is that even while they keep you from doing the dishes or looking for work, you can indulge your obsession under the happy illusion of “usefully” spending time.

So I have been playing this game. For hours at a stretch. And my sight reading is improving, or at least, whatever it is that the app measures – a combination of reading accuracy and mini-keyboard “playing” speed – is improving.

Here’s how it works: each run through sight reading sixty notes is scored on a scale of 1-100, and my top five scores to date are recorded. The quite unexpected insight is that each new top score has been a step function jump – not just a single point over the previous best, but two or three, leaving a gap. And then over time I fill in that gap with other high scores, until the next jump. Improvement isn’t “gradual,” but a process of gradual consolidation … which suddenly gels in a quantum leap of improvement, followed by another period of consolidation. I’m sure there’s a theory about this somewhere, but it’s fascinating to observe first hand.

Are you serious?

June 21, 2010

Fairly often, I will go on a date with a woman who tells me, without any hint of shame, that she “doesn’t cook” or “doesn’t read.”

Is that crazy? Or am I the crazy one here? These people who “don’t read” … WTF do they do with their time? Suck on the glass teat for six hours a day? And what do the non-cookers eat? McD? How much canned or fast food can you eat before you wonder what would result from cracking an egg, or what purpose the shiny “kitchen” serves? Can they really stand to eat every meal in a restaurant? Can they afford it? (I guess that’s where I come in.)

I know I’m supposed to be practicing my non-judgment, but every one of these conversations ever so slightly rocks my understanding of reality. After the Brazil-Côte d’Ivoire game this morning, we watched a wonderful cross-cultural soccer documentary: The Great Match. I’d like to make a documentary on one of these non-reading non-cooks, just to see what 24 hours of such an alien life form would look like.


June 16, 2010

I own a middle aged toaster.  For a few years now, it has fallen short in its assigned task of toasting my morning toast, but I don’t complain.  When I am in a leisurely mood, I double toast, or if I’m a particular rush, I’ll just eat my toast half-toasted.  People have suffered worse.  I think of Sarah Palin, having to worry over her morning moose burger whether that blur in the distance is Russians massing for the attack, or just a smudge on her designer glasses.  Poor, selfless, Sarah.  Surely I can deal with underdone toast.

And yet, when my own retail therapy takes me down the bustling aisles of Ross or Tarzhay, newer, shinier toasters have tempted me with their charms.  I’ve struggled, maybe even palpated their shiny faux-European edges, but in the end, have always resisted.  And not merely from some bond of affection or loyalty.  Staying toaster-monogamous is my little bit to Save the World.  True, a newer toaster may not only be better looking and cleaner, it would likely be more efficient, saving on electricity while perfectly toasting toast at the first attempt.  But, I reason, the environmental impact of toaster production and shipment from China outweighs any incremental savings.  I could never eat enough toast to justify upgrading a functioning toaster.

I have, in fact, been rather proud of my sacrifice.  I give blood, I shave infrequently, I refuse to buy a new toaster.  To better the world and lower my personal carbon footprint, no sacrifice is too great.  Yes, it is a grand responsibility, but I accept it, I embrace it, I am up to the challenge.

And I just noticed that the “Toast” dial is turned all the way left to “Light.”

And then there was one

June 2, 2010

As long as my cutlery (American:  silverware) performs its intended function of transferring the bacon and eggs off my plate to my mouth, I don’t give it a whole lot of thought.  One set I vaguely recall buying at IKEA a few years ago, and the majority has been handed down to me from goodness knows where, or when.  I do know, or at least I can confidently assume, that my spoons, knives and forks were once purchased as part of a set.  In other words, at some historical moment in time, they matched up in a ratio of approximately 1:1:1.

So it is with surprise and increasing concern that during each weekly (so sue me) dishwashing ritual, I notice the ratio increasing – 1:2:2, then 1:3:3, 1:4:4 … my spoons and forks presenting themselves in roughly equal, and perfectly adequate, numbers, while the quantity of knives drops, and drops, till the present day, which finds me washing “the knife” before each meal, and guarding it jealously in between courses.

I don’t like to think of myself as the kind of person who would think that strangers are breaking in to his house to steal his tableware, but I see no other reasonable explanation.  I can only hope that the perps are gypsies  (PC:  Roma), their crystal ball predicting fame and fortune in my future, and planning therefore to pay for carriage maintenance by auctioning my used knives in the eBay Celebrities Auction.

Fame and fortune … mmm.  Dancing with the Stars, tossing unopened pistachios, dating Sharon Stone … here I come.