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Religious obversation of the day
If the Story of Creation were not the first chapter of the Bible, then there would be no creationism. But, there would be whatever-is-the-first-chapter-of-the-Bible-ism.
Noam Chomsky: a brief biography in one act
LINGUISTICS COMMUNITY: We iz sad because we have no comprehensive theory of langauge.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Hai guys, I have this really cool theory that explains 90% of language structure using simple rules.
LINGUISTICS COMMUNITY: Wow that iz really cool, you are our new God. [Spends next 50 years turning Chomsky's simple system into a complex, intricate system to account for other 10% of cases]
NOAM CHOMSKY: My work here iz finished. Now I will rage against successful human establishments and support dictators.
Why you should swap CDs every once in awhile
During my late teenage years, one of the most annoying and soul-crushing things I had to experience was the CDs my family would play in the cars. It wasn't that the music was bad, quite the contrary. It was that generally they would leave in the same CD and play it over and over and over again.
There was a short period of time where we ended up going on several relatively long road trips. The CD during all of these road trips was a single Moody Blues album. For maybe 1500 miles total over several trips, nothing but Moody Blues. So now, every time I hear a Moody Blues song, it brings me back to those long monotonous road trips, where I was trapped in a car with no choice but to listen to the Moody Blues non-stop over and over again.
Here's what sucks about that: the Moody Blues are good. I can tell they are. But I can never enjoy the music, because the sound of it brings me back to those neverending road trips.
So, the moral of the story is, change your goddamn CD every once in a while.
A new Power Bar
Ever since I started working out (again) I've been noticing a lot of workout foods like Power Bars and their kin that I never really noticed before .
Power Bars are supposed to be a convenient, and non-perishable, source of protein that one can eat to get a quick protein boost in the system . But there are problems with these bars. First, they're expensive: a bar with 30 grams of protein might cost three dollars. Second, they taste like crap and usually have to contain quite a bit of sugar just to make them palatable. Finally, they're just not natural.
I was wondering if there could be a cheaper, healthier, more natural, but just as convenient protein source to use in place of Power Bars. And, after considering it for a while, I realized that there is.
I present to you: Sardines.
Sardines retain most of the benefits of power bars, improve on the problems with power bars, and have their own benefits as well. They're cheap (a tin of sardines will cost a dollar or less). They're tasty (just be sure to get them in mustard or some kind of sauce; they're messy in oil and a litte too bland in water ). They're natural. They're high in omega-3 fatty acids. A tin of sardines contains 20-25 grams of protein. They're non-perishable and almost as convenient (obtaining a fork might be a problem in some situations). In other words, sardines are healthy, tasty, cheap muscle food. So next time you're tempted by a Power Bar, consider sardines instead.
Another possibility you may have thought of is good old tuna. It's just as convenient and higher in protein than sardines, but I'd recommend eating tuna less often. Tuna has a few drawbacks. First, it's high in mercury. Sardines are (much) lower on the food chain and so don't contain as much mercury. I doubt a healthy, non-child-bearing person would get mercury poisoning from a few tins of tuna a week, but it's still best to eat it in moderation. Second, the canning process for tuna destroys much of the omega-3 fatty acid. High-end canned tuna, and tuna in plastic sleeves might retain those fatty acids, but they're also more expensive.
On Friday, for the first time, I participated in jury service. It was a strange experience. Here is my rambling commentary on it.
In California, when you get a jury summons you have to call in every day for a certain week to see if you have to serve that day. My service was not requested on Monday through Thursday, but on Friday they called me in. (This was irritating because I had off work on Friday.)
I seriously considered not showing up and letting them reschedule me, so I could get a day off work next time I was called. But in the end I decided to go and get it over with. Also, I figured that it was possible I'd be selected for a trial and I'd get to miss some days the following week. (Things are slow-going at work right now; it'd be a good time to serve.)
The courthouse was located in Compton. Yes, the same Compton that has a reputation for being a gang-infested ghetto. I was a little nervous to drive there, and I was surprised that it was quite a nice looking city from the ground (even by LA standards), and there wasn't even much tagging. (Except for the courthouse itself; even though all the graffiti was painted over when I went, you could see that it had been heavily tagged. That's probably because it's a prime target for rebellious youths.)
The Compton Courthouse, surprisingly, had a reputation for being the best place in LA to serve as a juror, since the waiting room is large, clean, and comfortable, and I'd have to agree. I got there and got some work done on my laptop, before being called up to my first jury selection.
Then the strangest thing of all happened: the judge straightaway sent us home, telling us to come back on Monday. This was actually quite a good thing for three reasons. First, we got to go home at 10:30. Second, we don't have to participate in any other jury selections; if we aren't selected for this trial we are done. Finally, even if we are selected, it's going to be a relatively short trial.
And, no matter what happens, I will get at least one day off work.
After being sent away, I took advantage of the location to stop by the Ikea that was in nearby Carson, and got a bunch of needed housewares. So all in all, I'd have to say my first jury experience was pretty good.
Update, July 29:
The trial is over, finally.
I was selected as the alternate juror. The trial only took four days, as the judge said, but it could have been three if the jury didn't need extra time to deliberate, before the judge declared a hung jury. Driving or taking the train from Santa Monica to Compton every morning (20 miles) got on my nerves: and that was a trip with almost no traffic. People in LA who do that every working day (let alone those who do it in traffic) are nuts.
I won't share my opinion on the case (apart from agreement that it was close and I can totally understand the hung jury) but it was an interesting trial in that one of the jurors had a son who was a reserve in the NFL, one of the witnesses was a retired NBA player, and incident happened in the soccer stadium.
Recently built a new desktop. Take a look:
My previous desktop was a bargain HP Compaq (a gift from my family, I would never have bought a Compaq for myself) which performed all right but was made of low-quality parts. The thing finally died a few weeks ago, so I went out and put together this computer out of high quality parts for about $750, and without being forced to buy Windows.
The best part is probably the case. I have never had a computer before where I had so much room to wire stuff around. The second best is the SSD; I have all my programs installed there and the system is flying. It runs Ubuntu 64-bit Server. (Not that I'm running it as a server; I installed the regular desktop kernel and I can use Ubuntu's superior repositories, but I'm not forced to run GNOME or KDE, or, most thankfully, PulseAudio.)
I am very happy.
As for the old desktop, I threw in an inexpensive, low-end (but again higher quality) motherboard and CPU, and it's working well again and ready to begin its life as my DVR.
Many people often say about certain situations, "You can't imagine what it's like until you've experienced it". Situation that invoke this claim include raising a child, marriage, work, and war. My first reaction to this claim is, "You people lack imagination". However I can't deny there is some truth to it.
I was raised in the suburbs. My mother has spent her whole life retreating further and further from the city, and when I came along she was already in full flight. Consequently, as a child and on into my teenage years, whenever we did something—anything—we piled into a car (later an SUV) and drove there. Even at college this trend continued. For some reason I chose universities out in the middle of nowhere (Penn State and Virginia Tech); the universities themselves were great but the towns left a little to be desired.
As I began my career I chose more urban areas but they were still neighborhoodish. I could walk to many more places than I could ever before, and it was nice. But even then walking distance often meant at least two miles one way, and many places to go still required a drive. (One interesting thing within walking distance one place I lived was a wholesale electronic parts store; many people don't even have one of those in their state.)
At last I moved to Santa Monica.
I realized, of course, that Santa Monica was a real city with lots of commerce, and was more than just a tourist destination. (In fact, it only feels touristy in the block closest to the ocean; the next few blocks in are more like trendy downtownish; the rest of it is a real city.) So I knew I would be able to walk a lot more often than I ever could. However, what I never could imagine the sheer breadth of the freedom it gave me.
This came to me when I bought a refrigerator soon after moving in. (I had to because my apartment didn't come with one.) Instinctively I got in the car and headed off to places like Best Buy, Sears, and so on. Even though I was aware that I was in Santa Monica precisely so I didn't have to drive so much, I couldn't even imagine buying something like a refrigerator on foot. But after looking at and not buying the fridges at those places, I was walking through town about five blocks from my house and popped into an appliances store, one that was right on the sidewalk, without a four-acre parking lot, and walked out not only with an order for my fridge, but also an appointment with an actual independent plumber to hook up the water line.
This was so different from my childhood experiences buying things like that. My parents would yell at us kids in the middle of a beautiful, sunny day to pile into the car, promising that it wouldn't take long. We'd drive half an hour on lonely roads to an appliance or hardware store, they'd spend four hours trying to decide what color they wanted, another hour waiting for the supply boys to figure out how to pull it out of inventory and load it into the back of the truck, and then we'd drive home in the dark, with my brothers already asleep.
Now I can pop into a store a few blocks away and buy a refrigerator, and I never could have imagined that.
Amazon and Mailing Lists
Back in the old days of the Internet (the 90s) one of the things that made me want to slap the snot out of certain people was email mailing lists. People would sign up for a mailing list, and when they realized they really didn't want 500 emails per day, they would post a message to the list asking someone to take them off. This is even though every message typically contained a few lines of instructions at the bottom (something like "to unsubscribe, reply to this mail with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line"), but apparently there are whole loads of people out there too stupid, too lazy, or (most likely) too self-entitled to follow these simple instructions to take themselves off the mailing list.
The lesson to be learned here is that mailing lists are simply not compatible with the human race. There is always going to be a percentage of people that are not fit to handle the responsibility of removing themselves from a mailing list, and they end up ruining it for everyone. That's why mailing lists have mostly been replaced by web forums.
Well the reason I bring it up is that, apparently, Amazon didn't learn the lesson.
Today I got an email saying they had corrections available for a book I had bought for my Kindle, and that if I wanted it I should reply with Yes in the first line of the message. Here is what I did in response to that message.
It finally worked and I got my update.
If a simple Yes reply to Amazon caused me this much trouble, imagine what trouble it will cause the people who can't remove themselves from a mailing list. There is no way they'll be able to manage it. I don't know if it's the first time Amazon ever attempted something like this, but I suspect it is, because if they ever did it before I don't think they'd ever do it again.
Things I will never do however long I live in LA
I've lived in Los Angeles for two years and as time passes it looks like I'll be living here for a long time. However, even if I live in LA for fifty years, there are two things I will never do.
My Watch Story
In a prior post, I mentioned how my parents, wanting me to be a Nice Young Man™, bought me a relatively expensive gold watch one Christmas, which I never wore except to try on once or twice, then some years later hawked off.
But the reality is, my aversion to wristwatches goes back further than parental manipulation. Well, it probably goes back to my very conception, since the genes I was issued predisposed me to a life of indifference to social conventions, especially silly arbitrary ones like, "A Nice Young Man™ should wear an expensive gold watch".
But still, the small chance I had of ever getting into the habit of wearing a watch was not fully snuffed out until one day in the eighth grade. I had a cheap 10-year-old-boy-style watch, probably something I got in a grab bag, that I never wore, but did use as an alarm clock (it was freaky how loud it was). One day I thought, "Maybe I'll wear it today." So I clumsily strapped it to my left wrist, and got used to the awkward fingering of the controls. Then, the most important thing: I checked the alarm no less than three times to make sure it was set for 7:00 AM.
You see, in one of my morning classes we had a teacher who would bark at people when their watch alarms went off. This happened surprisingly often in the beginning of the school year (there were evidently a lot of Nice Young Men and Women™ in the class) and after awhile, everyone made sure their watch alarms were set properly. That is why I checked my alarm three times, to make sure it was set at my wake-up time, well before his class.
Well, it's probably not hard to guess what happened. That damn watch's freakily loud alarm went off right in the middle of his class. I had checked it three freaking times and it still went off.
Surprisingly, the teacher didn't go apeshit on me like he did with other students earlier in the school year. Perhaps he sensed my embarrassment and figured it was punishment enough, or maybe he knew from experience that people who start wearing watches middle of the school year aren't likely to continue, so it wouldn't be a long-term problem. I don't know, but my light treatment probably made it even more embarrassing.
Needless to say, it pretty much nipped any chance I had of ever wearing a wristwatch in the bud. I was an awkward teenager and had lots of embarrassing moments in school, but this incident ranks up there as one of the most poignant.
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