Tom e-journal

Tommyjournal archive    August 2008

I am so glad I don't try to blog all the time about politics.

In particular, I'm glad I don't feel compelled to write about the Denver convention.

The stakes are high, it matters to me who gets elected (more precisely: it matters to me that McCain not be elected), but I loathe the horse-race-style coverage, the sheer volume of reporting (including reporting on who said what in their latest ad), the manufacture of mountains from molehills, and so on.

So I'll blog about something else instead. I've had a bunch of weird dreams lately, and I attribute this (at least partially) to having a canine guest around the house. The change of routine has roiled various agents in my brain that are associated with habits, leaving them in a talkative mode while I sleep. (Forgive me for offering so vague and crude a guess as to why dreams have been coming on so markedly.)

This morning, I dreamt I was on a commercial flight from Europe to Asia, in a small plane. Once airborne, the pilot steered a vaguely helical path that required dodging trees and other fixed obstacles, but ultimately settled into a level flight regime. He then joined other passengers in common areas of the plane that were outfitted for socializing. The flight had but a skeleton crew, and they switched back and forth between speaking in English and in German. Although the pilot anticipated my question of who was flying the plane when he wasn't in the cockpit, he didn't provide much of an answer--leaving me to infer that we were on autopilot.

It felt like watching a surreal movie--where you start by trying to make sense of what's going on, only to realize that it deliberately doesn't make sense and is to be enjoyed on its own terms. But how to maintain a devil-may-care attitude while believing you're on a plane that's being flown erotically?

I watched Lulu dream this afternoon--or should I say, I infer she dreams from how her limbs and face and eyes twitch and how she woofs in her sleep. I'll decline to speculate on whether her dreams are as off the wall as mine are. She doesn't blog or talk about her dreams.

not-so-smart quote Back when Joe Biden was seeking the presidency, his campaign used this graphic, which had a left single quote where an apostrophe belonged. No wonder his presidential bid went nowhere.

Seriously, though, I am OK with Obama's choice. Biden is imperfect (imagine that) but he can be direct. And he's not the running mate I asked Obama not to pick.

But getting back to punctuation--
Biden has gotten (and continues to get) a raw deal from being misquoted--specifically by quotations of a remark that are missing a comma. Even fairly transcribed, the remark in question was ill-considered--but it comes off notably worse without a comma. My favorite political blogger, Bill Montgomery, is back in action over at Daily Kos. His recent piece on Georgia gives some important background info on the USA's actions with respect to expanding NATO (which, although receiving little attention in US media at the time, were not ignored by Russia and others).

And (unrelatedly)--
in case what David Brooks writes matters to you, read this delightful piece to see how fast and loose Brooks plays with facts.

let's look over the edge let's look over the edge

on second thought, let's not on second thought, let's not

Lulu's visiting for a few weeks.
umbrage I remember once asking for what I thought were bolts, but which the seller made a point of telling me were machine screws. I felt chastened.

If you thought there was a simple difference between a bolt and a screw, or if you thought it wasn't a big deal one way or the other, consider that the US Department of Homeland Security publishes a 21-page* document on Distinguishing Bolts from Screws, that tells us
...  The primary criteria are easy enough to understand, but in applying the supplementary criteria a few things should be kept in mind.

FIRST, the supplementary criteria help you distinguish coarser (or loose tolerance) bolts from finer (or close tolerance) screws. When the supplementary criteria are applied, the coarser product usually turns out to be a bolt, the finer product usually turns out to be a screw. "Coarse" and "fine" are looked at from nine different aspects of the screw.  ...
* 2 of the 21 pages are intentionally blank. Another installment in an occasional series of pics of electrical apparatus--this time including a Joshua tree to look at, in case you find DC converter stations boring.

Some people find the Street View feature in Google Maps invasive. From a recent "Letter to the people at Google" from Osamu Higuchi:
でも、公開することを前提としていない生活空間の様子を勝手に公開されるのは、どうにも気持ちが悪い。 僕らの「ほっといてもらう権利」をないがしろにしていて、どうも“evil”だと思えてしようがないのです。
translated here as:
To have one's own living space exposed to the whole world without ever having been asked about it beforehand, this however really makes me uncomfortable. It ignores our "right [to demand that] you leave us alone", and comes off as nothing short of "evil".
It's easy to get into trouble by using a word like evil. To the extent that Google's "don't be evil" credo is seen as meaning "don't be what we deem to be evil", it comes off as presumptuous.
There is nothing inherently argumentative or prejudicial about transitive verbs, and the court is not willing to fashion a rule that would require the attorney general to engage in useless nominalization.

- Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley
(In case you had lingering doubts about whether transitive verbs could be benign.) I find it unfortunate that degrees of a musical scale are one-based. In light of the similarities between scales and modular arithmetic, the tonic would more logically be termed zero.

The awkwardness of one-based numbering shows in how notation for raising pitch by two octaves doesn't look like twice the notation for one octave:
ottava and quindicesima brackets (They'd be 7 and 14 in zero-based numbering.)

I admit my bias: I think seven is a cooler number than eight. A gimmick to encourage reader participation:

Guess what this facility (with airport, dirt roads, buildings, and a logo cleared in the landscape) is for.
  • it's in the USA
  • by request, the airport is not shown on aeronautical charts
  • its operators tried to persuade a television station from airing a report on the facility
Please guess rather than researching it on the web. My memory could be off, but I don't recall seeing a barrage of advertising or publicity when Google launched. I first heard about Google by word of mouth, and I thought it caught on because it worked better than anything else out there at the time.

Cuil, on the other hand, came on the scene with enough PR that I heard about it from several media outlets--but its performance is underwhelming. E.g., tommyjournal isn't on cuil's first page of results for "tommyjournal".

Yahoo and Google get it right--although Google, in its spell-checking wisdom, asks "Did you mean: commiejournal".

MSN is notably pathetic in that it directs you to Qnet's home page, and tommyjournal hasn't been hosted on Qnet since 2004. When I was about 13 years old, I went to an event in New York City that had been grossly overpromoted. More free tickets had been distributed than there were seats in the hall, and a mob scene ensued.

I remember standing on what I thought was the line to get in. It moved, slowly. We all funnelled through a narrow opening, and on the other side was... nothing. The line didn't lead to an entrance, but rather just to another area open to the street. I felt surprise, disappointment, and a touch of embarrassment for having gotten on a worthless line.

Now and then, something happens in life that reminds me of that moment, even if only obliquely.

It's a stretch to say this, but middle age in general reminds me of that moment. Don't worry--middle age is also many other things. I like seeing the moon returning to the evening sky. More than any other cyclic phenomenon, it evokes (for me) a feeling of renewal. Yes, even more than spring. There's just something wonderfully reassuring about that first glimpse of a crescent moon.

Lone Pine Peak, elevation 12944' moon and Lone Pine Peak, around 8 P.M. today

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