Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

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.

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.


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.”


May 27, 2010

This past Sunday, after a rushed but wonderful tour of the Maker Faire, I enjoyed an afternoon picnic in Golden Gate Park with a college buddy and his family, and some friends.  And their small children.  That last bit is important, because the sign nailed to the tree shading us read “No Adults Without Accompanying Children.”  Or, to put it more bluntly:  “The City of San Francisco Assumes All Single Men Are Pedophiles.”

That is a pretty sad reflection on the state of our society.

Kill Your Television

May 27, 2010

I just returned from a blind date.  Ok, not “just” – I got back home at a decently platonic hour.  She was, as I’d surmised from her okCupid profile, a Googler.  Proud of that bit of deduction.

She doesn’t cook, it turns out.  Why cook, when you can eat breakfast, lunch, AND dinner at work, every day?  Wow.  Can boyfriends get in on that plan?  I will say that she had great skin – daily oyster shooters must have a moisturizing quality.  And apparently Google has replaced M&Ms with cherries – on the occasion last month of their first ever employee 40th birthday, they’ve begun to take a look at food choices for longer-term health.

Despite the skin, it was not a match made in heaven.  I think it’s true what they’ve been telling me all these years:  “you’ll become set in your ways.”  I came home and updated my profile to specify a non-TV owner.  My four randomly assigned immediate neighbors are non-TV owning marathon runners.  Is it too much to ask the same from the love of my life?  Besides, with Law & Order coming to a close, there’d be nothing to watch on her TV anyway.

Not a melting pot

May 6, 2010

Yesterday I watched the exquisite The Portuguese Nun, showing at the UC Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archives as part of the SF International Film Festival.  To beat traffic, I got to campus early, and had more than an hour to hang out and reminisce on the south side of campus.

Walking around, I was struck by the proportion of Asian American students – noticeably higher than I remember from my undergrad years.  Then I realized that almost all the little groups of students sitting or walking around were racially homogeneous.  Three young Indian men.  Four East Asian men.  Three white women.  Three Indian women.  Two white guys.  Two more East Asians, then two more, and two more.   Six Koreans at the table next to us at dinner.  How much effort it must have been to get six Korean Americans all together with nary a single non-Korean!

The rare exceptions to the rule were mostly white guy-Asian woman couples – apparently that preference begins early.

I’m not sure what to make of it.