Areas of Unrest
22 October 2000 - From the Front
QOTD: "If this screen looks blurred, or otherwise out of focus, get a life." - Darryl Dean DuPriest
Reading: Carolyn Hart, White Elephant Dead
Listening to: the original cast album of Little Shop of Horrors
From the surprising trivia front: I finished reading Susan Strasser's Waste and Want and was thoroughly surprised by one thing she mentioned almost in passing. Namely, that the first garage sale was in 1963. Now, I'm not sure how one would actually identify the date of the first garage sale, but I've always assumed that they existed forever. I suppose there had to be a certain level of suburbanization for garage sales to make sense, as well as a decline in both home sewing (to sell rather than make over garments that were out of style or didn't fit) and in charity (to justify selling household discards instead of giving them to the salvage charities).
From the celebrity death front: Gwen Verdon will be sorely missed. I've ranted before on the subject of the decline of dancing in the Broadway musical, though that is more the fault of choreographers than dancers. Still, we're not likely to see many more stars of Verdon's caliber unless there is a major reassessment of priorities in the musical theatre.
From the weird math front: I read an interesting article the other day about Benford's Law. This is the phenomenon that certain digits show up more often than others in a set of random numbers. For example, the first non-zero digit will be one 30% of the time and will be two 18% of the time. Zero is the most likely second digit, at 12%. This is counterintuitive, but was proved by Ted Hill at Georgia Tech in 1996. It only works for large sets of numbers that are derived somehow from other numbers. The article went on to talk about applications, but the simple oddity is what I found interesting.
From the battle for privacy front: There's a court case in Denver right now involving how private the records from a bookstore are. The Tattered Cover Book Store is one of the largest in the U.S. and is at the center of the case. Apparently, books about making methamphetamine were found at a house and the local drug task force wants to examine records from Tattered Cover to figure out who in the house bought the books. Tattered Cover is fighting on the grounds that allowing the search would infringe on the First Amendment rights of its customers. I'd also point out that the records seem useless as evidence since the purchaser of a book is not necessarily the person who reads it. I can see other potential problems, such as insurance companies denying coverage to people who buy books about certain diseases. Of course, you could avoid privacy problems by buying only at local bookstores and paying cash, but that assumes you live in a large enough city for that to be feasible. I hope that the Denver district court judge who is going to rule on the enforceability of the subpoena of the store's records thinks about the broader implications.
From the vivid mental images I wish I didn't have front: The L.A. Times reported on an attempt to create a new migratory flight of whooping cranes. The flight involved 13 cranes from Wisconsin who "flew after a bright yellow ultralight piloted by a man in a crane costume." Apparently, there will be several stops along the way to Florida. I am trying to imagine the ultralight pilot pulling into a local airport for lunch along the way.
From the comic book front: Marvel has come up with Ultimate Spider-man, in which Peter Parker is the webmaster for an online newspaper and the spider that bites him is genetically engineered, not radioactive. I am skeptical at best. Stan Lee, who created Spider-Man was quoted as saying, "It's like taking Sherlock Holmes and saying 'I don't like him to be a detective anymore. Let's make him a dentist.'" Oh, well, I was always more of a DC gal anyway.
From the annoying political ads front: I've gotten a couple of annoying bits of mail from the Yes on Proposition 39 front. This has to do with bonds for school construction, which seems to be a good thing on the surface. What annoyed me is the claim that this will solve the problems with our public schools. For example, I'll grant that enrollment growth is a real problem - but is it classroom space that is the problem or availability of teachers? Similarly, the ads argue we need to upgrade the electrical systems at schools to support increased computer use, but the bonds finance construction and it isn't clear the bond money could be used to buy computers. (I'd also argue that computers are overrated as instructional tools, but that's a subject for another rant.) Finally, there are several mentions of how the measure prevents bonds from being used for administration and bureacracy without presenting any evidence that this has actually been a problem with existing school bond issues. I'll need to do more reading to decide how to vote on this measure, but the fuzzy thinking in the ads biases me against something I'd normally support.
From the food pornography front: I had dinner with Marcia and Jim at Mayfield's in Colorado Springs on Tuesday night. It was reasonably good but Marigold's has more creative food and better service. I got up to Boulder early enough on Wednesday evening to have a nice meal at Redfish, with the particular treat of a plate of fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries and blackberries) for dessert. I've never had a less than spectacular meal there. Alas, Thursday night I had a disappointing meal at a place I've eaten well at in the past. I don't expect much of the service at Panasia, but other dishes I've eaten there have been better conceived than the coffee-crusted seared ahi. There's no good reason to coat sushi-grade ahi in ground coffee, beyond deceiving people like me who think "gee, that sounds interesting".
From the beverage front: Fortunately, Arrowhead Sparking Mineral Water with Orange Essence is back on the shelves at Ralphs. (Though not at the other local stores.) Even better news is a newish drink from the Clearly Canadian folks. Tre Limone is labeled as a lemon drink with ginger and is nicely tangy, about as close to bitter lemon as one can get without actual qunine in it. It's a bit pricy and I've only found it at Ralphs so far, so I'm not about to drink lots of it. But it is nice to find something I like.
From the travel front: Lots more business travel coming up, alas, including Boulder this week and (probably) next week. I've also got a conference trip to Washington, D.C. in early December. (And my excursion to Churchill is in between, of course.) But I also managed to call up United and redeem some frequent flyer miles to go to Malta in May, with a few days in England on the way back.
Ever wonder about the music I say I'm listening to? Can't hear Snakefarm or Old Blind Dogs or Pierre Bensusan on your local radio station? Well, here's your chance. In the spirit of musical evangelism I've made a mix tape of music I referred to in my margin notes over the past year. I also happen to have another mix tape handy, mostly of World Beat stuff, that I'd made for another purpose. All you have to do is send me email with your address, telling me if you want the AOU41 tape or the Worlds of Unrest tape (or both) before the end of October 2000. (The links are to playlists.) Nothing is required in return, beyond your willingness to listen. If I decide this was a successful experiment, I'll make it an annual event.
Copyright 2000 Miriam H. Nadel
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