Saturday, June 28, 2008

More Bike Thoughts

Wednesday night on the ride home, my bike seat partially detached itself. Not in a painful scrotal-injuring way, thankfully. My seat is held up by two springs in the back, and a bolt in front, and the bracket on the bolt tore loose. I don't think it's the sort of part you can easily buy a replacement for, so I found some scrap 14-gauge galvanized steel in the basement, broke out the tool collection, and machined a new one. The complex metalwork took about two hours, but the piece I made is much more solid than the piece I replaced. No problems at all since then; it was a solid repair.

This started me wondering -- what kind of tools should I take with on a long ride? I couldn't possibly prepare for this kind of problem in advance, unless I towed an entire spare bicycle behind me. In Lennard Zinn's book on road bikes, he lists the tools and spare parts you should bring on rides of varying lengths. For a day ride, the collection looks awfully bulky and heavy. I suspect I'd have to buy saddlebags (or "panniers", as cyclists call them) just to carry my emergency kit. I'm already traveling with a tire pump and a set of hex wrenches; for the Kokomo trip I think I'll add a pretty basic assortment of bike-specific tools, plus some zip ties, duct tape, a spare tire tube, and some wire. If I have any problems more major than this can handle, I've always got my phone and a credit card.

I'm also wondering if my bike is right for a long trip. It's not a road bike, but I don't really know how much road-bike features will make a difference. I think skinny, high-pressure tires probably pedal easier, but I don't know how much easier. And the hunched posture enforced by road-bike handlebars: does it make pedaling easier or reduce back strain? Or is it just useful for cutting wind resistance? Do pedals with clips really simplify pedaling? I have no idea about any of this stuff. It's somewhat academic, since I won't be getting a new bike in any case. One thing that's in the realm of pre-trip possibility: saddlebags. Do they make the bike harder to ride, either by adding weight or drag, or by affecting handling? I'd probably like a pair if I'm going to make Kokomo an overnight trip, since a backpack's less comfortable (and pretty sweaty) for longer trips.

I mentioned earlier that I really liked Zinn's book. One thing I learned in the book, that I hadn't realized until I read it: my bike is the wrong size for me. He's got a chapter about selecting the right frame size, and mine's a bit too small. I don't know how much difference it really makes, but it's good to know. Also, since reading his book, I've spent a lot of time fiddling with adjusting my bike's fit -- the tilt of the handlebars, seat height and tilt, things like that. I'm assuming when I get everything properly adjusted, I'll fly on the bike. Or at least be more comfortable on long rides.

Laura and I bought our bikes off the rack. It was a nice rack, but still, we didn't do any comparison shopping. Someone recommended the bike shop, and we picked our cycles from the selection they had in stock, without really doing much research. We didn't particularly pay attention to things like frame size or gear ratios. I don't know which bike I would've chosen if I had it to do over again; the Navigators are nice bikes, we're happy with them, but we really didn't know much about bikes or cycling at the time. I also wasn't expecting that, five years later, it'd be my primary means of transportation....

Friday, June 27, 2008

My wife: funny! And, a glimpse of how the other half thinks.

Laura and I had breakfast this morning at a restaurant on the east side. We shared the place with a few dozen members of the Fraternal Organization of Eagles. Our conversation, in part:

Jeff: I'm noticing that the average Eagle's age is probably 75, and the youngest Eagle's probably 60. I wonder if there's a similar organization with a radically younger membership.
Laura: Crips, maybe. Or Bloods.

Thought that was funny, had to share.

And, speaking of gangs, at the table next to us were two older couples talking politics. It was instructive, hearing them talk. The women were saying, in part, that they could never vote for Obama because of his wife. They wouldn't want a black first lady, because they were nervous about how she'd decorate the White House, possibly in gang colors of some kind, because you know how black people are with the gangs and the drugs. You might think I'm exaggerating, but I'm really not. This is one of the big reasons Obama might have trouble in the election -- you really can't talk to people whose heads are full of this crap....

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Exxon Valdez: still pending

The Supreme Court ruled today on the punitive damages award for the Exxon Valdez oil spill, after over 19 years of litigation. A brief recap: the Exxon Valdez disaster happened in March 1989. In 1994, a jury awarded $5 billion in punitive damages to those directly damaged by the accident. Later that year, an appeals court ruled the award to be excessive. In 2002, the judge reduced the award to $4 billion. Exxon appealed again, and the judge raised the award to $4.5 billion. In 2006 another appeals court reduced the damages to $2.5 billion. Exxon appealed again, all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, who today ruled that their punitive damages should roughly equal the actual damages, or $500 million -- 10% of the original jury award.

I think the supreme court has forgotten what punitive damages actually are. Punitive damages are a proxy for corporate ethics. Corporations exist for one reason: to maximize shareholder profit. A corporation is inherently amoral and non-ethical. This is different from being immoral, or unethical; corporations aren't inherently evil. Ethics and morals are concepts that simply don't apply to a corporation. A corporation can no more be ethical than it can be tall or purple. It's a concept that doesn't apply. Decisions are governed by what maximizes profit. Period. For corporations, "right" is defined entirely in terms of monetary gain -- not in terms of strictly human concepts like being nice, or not taking advantage of the less fortunate, or trying to minimize the pain and suffering of others. People need to exist cooperatively, and our rules reflect this; corporations exist competitively. And their competition is all about making more money and being the last company standing.

I'll invent a hypothetical illustration. Say a car company can save a pile of cash by sourcing their brake pads more cheaply, but the cheap pads fail catastrophically more often than the expensive ones. The corporate math will consider whether the cheap pads are likely to fail enough to force a recall; if they're not, they'll look at the potential cost of legal settlements with people injured by the faulty brake pads, and the potential public-relations and sales hits they may take if the flaws become common knowledge. If the pads still save money, they'll use them; if they don't, they won't. This is all about money; at no point in the decision does it matter that the cheap brake pads will kill people when they fail. Corporations can't be tried for negligent homicide. The body count is only a factor because the injuries and deaths can result in lawsuits with dollar values attached.

And this is what punitive damages are: an attempt to introduce a dollar value to corporate actions that maim, injure, and kill. Safety costs money; without the potential for lawsuits, corporations would have little direct incentive to behave responsibly. This is what the Exxon Valdez damages were about: Exxon decided to save money by understaffing their ships and dangerously overworking the crew, and to keep a drunk on crew, rather than go through the trouble and expense of replacing him. A large punitive damage award doesn't make the accident un-happen, but it gives the company -- all companies -- incentive to factor safety into their decisions, even if it costs money. Punitive damages give corporations incentive to imitate ethical behavior. And limiting these damages reduces corporate incentives to take actions which businesses call "expensive", and people call "responsible".

The lofty cycling goal

I'm still having fun cycling everywhere this summer. My commute is short enough that I can treat it as exercise, rather than solely as transportation. I've been doing a cycling version of interval training in the mornings, and on the ride home I'm trying to get a workout by pedaling in a higher gear than I normally would. I'm trying to get in shape for a big ride later this summer: I want to bike to Kokomo for the John Scalzi/Tobias Buckell book signing at Don's Books. The bike-safe (or safer, at least) route is around 62 miles each way, which is quite a ride.

I'm planning on a few test rides between now and then. I'm planning to head to the Monon Trail on my next free day and riding until I can't ride anymore, to see what my current endurance limit is. I also need to hit the Monon to see how long I can maintain speed. Pick a fast pace, maybe 17 or 18mph, and see how long I can keep the pace. I recently read Lennard Zinn's Cycling Primer, and it's packed with good advice for increasing pace, handling hills, and increasing endurance. Now I need to transition from the easy part (reading the good advice) to the hard part (actually following the good advice). With luck, I'll be in shape for a trip to Kokomo.

I'm considering making the trip a micro-vacation: ride up for the signing, get a hotel room in Kokomo and read the books that evening, and bike back to Indy the next day. Not only will it be nice to have quiet reading time and restaurant dinner, breaking the ride into two days might be a much better idea in terms of safety and trauma-reduction.

I should also mention that neither Scalzi, Buckell, or Don's Books have yet made any mention of a signing. I'm just working on faith. Worst-case scenario, if there's no signing, I'll just be in good cycling shape by the end of the summer.

Trashy romance covers

Laura reads more than I do, and much more broadly. She's recently added paranormal romance to her genre collection, and she quite enjoys some of them. I've been noticing that a lot of them have traditional romance-novel covers: either a well-built guy with a hairless chest, or a period-clad beautiful woman in the arms of a taller, muscular man (generally not looking at each other). But there have been a few recently which instead show a sexily-dressed woman alone on the cover. I'm wondering what this says, if anything, about the content of the books. I suspect it might be more a matter of the fantasy -- do you want to have the guy, or do you want to be the girl? I haven't read the books, but from a perusal of the back cover, I get the impression that the babe-cover books tend to be about strong, powerful women (witches, commandos, sword-wielding warriors, etc). Maybe these books are more about putting yourself in the place of the heroine, and less about the guy....

Friday, June 20, 2008

And, the big question:

"Can I play your piano?"

I'm at the Artsgarden's info desk again, and this is my favorite question anyone ever asks. The official answer is "No!", but unofficially we're a little more flexible. I'll generally ask what they were planning on playing; if the answer's "Chopsticks" or "Heart and Soul", then no -- you can't play "Chopsticks" on our Steinway concert grand. But on rare occasions, if someone sounds interesting enough, we'll unlock the piano for them.

My favorite was the guy a few months ago, with whom I had a conversation something like this:

"Would you mind terribly if I tried your Steinway?"
I glanced over and saw the piano was still covered. "You can tell it's a Steinway by looking at the bottom of the legs?"
He nodded. "Of course. The legs, and the pedals."
"That's a good sign. What were you planning on playing?"
"I was thinking of Rachmaninoff's Corelli variations. I'm still working on it, but it's quite an intricate..."
"Sure. I'll unlock it now."

And he was excellent. He played for almost half an hour, after which he apologized for making so many mistakes -- none of which did I notice. I told him what Fred Astaire said: "the better you get at any profession, the more mistakes you're allowed. At the very top, if you make enough of them, it's considered your style."

A year or so ago, we were setting up for a performance by the Jack Gilfoy Trio when a passerby asked if he could play the piano. I asked what he was planning on playing, and he said, "Heart and Soul". I explained that we didn't let people play "Heart and Soul" on the Steinway. Marvin Chandler, Jack Gilfoy's pianist, was extremely amused by this. So he opened their show with "Heart and Soul", starting playing with one finger, and slowly building to something masterful. It made my day.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Informative Guy

I'm temporarily the only staff person at the Artsgarden. So today I'm pulling double duty: sound guy and information desk guy. I have fun at the info desk. It's a lot more people-oriented than my usual, and it's fun talking to visitors. Plus, I get some weird questions. So far today:
  • "Kit?" (this was an Asian tourist who spoke no English, who then handed me a picture cut from a magazine. She wanted to know where to buy a nice quilt, it turns out -- so I printed GoogleMaps directions and sent her to my Aunt Terri's quilting shop on the south side.)
  • "Where's the steam clock?" (behind the State Museum!)
  • "Are there any restaurants around here?" (where the person was standing, they could turn their head and see marquees for about two dozen restaurants)
  • "How many pieces of glass are in this building?" (2168, according to the architect)
  • "Isn't there a museum that shows movies?" (yes -- the IMA shows movies on the terrace on Fridays, and this week it's This Is Spinal Tap)
  • "What's the best-kept secret in Indianapolis?" (my initial answer: "I can't tell you -- it's a secret!" What they really wanted was a restaurant off the beaten path, so I sent them to Mama Carolla's.)
I should mention, I knew all these without having to look anything up. I felt a bit like the information-desk guy in Airplane!: "What's the fastest land animal?" --"The cheetah."

Surprisingly, today I haven't heard many of the Big Two Questions: "where's the closest bathroom?", and "where's TJ Maxx?". We get these so often, we're considering keeping an arrow on a stick behind the desk. When someone asks the Big Two, we'd just hold up the arrow, pointing in the correct direction.

Do hybrids really save money?

This mornings Indy Star featured an article about hybrids, questioning their true economy. The writer did some math to find how long you need to own the car before the increased fuel efficiency balances out the increased purchase price. For example, the hybrid Nissan Altima is only $1900 more than the standard Altima, and you'll make up this difference in 3.8 years of fuel savings. But the hybrid Lexus LS600h costs almost $19k more than the standard model and doesn't get much better mileage; he figures you'll have to own the car for 99.6 years to see a net savings. It's an interesting look at hybrids, and worth a quick read.

One oddity: he lists a savings number for a Toyota Prius, which (as far as I knew) doesn't come in a non-hybrid model for comparison. So I did a Google search, and found an announcement at stating that Toyota was releasing a non-hybrid Prius to meet the needs of status-conscious car buyers who wanted the cachet of a hybrid but the performance of a standard automobile. It's a sign of the times that I didn't question this at all until I noticed that it was written on April Fool's Day....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Another Vista peeve

I'm noticing yet another interface irritation with Windows Vista: you can't globally change your keyboard language. I'm using Dvorak for all my typing (and can't touch-type on a qwerty keyboard anymore), and my laptop only has Dvorak installed. We've got both layouts installed on Laura's laptop, and a keyboard shortcut to switch between layouts. But when you switch apps, or even locations within an app, the keyboard settings can change. I'll open Notepad, switch to Dvorak, and type a bit. Then I'll open a web browser, switch layouts to Dvorak and type a web address. Then when I enter my user name, I'll have to switch layouts again to turn the data field to Dvorak. When I type text in Gmail, I need to switch to Dvorak again. And when I open a Google window, I need to change layouts again to enter text in the search box. Short of temporarily deleting the standard layout, there's no way to switch the keyboard layout to Dvorak across the entire OS; it's one app at a time, and even one field at a time. This is irritating. More so, because I can't change everything back easily when I'm done. Laura has Dvorak sneak up on her occasionally after I've been using her computer. It's surreal when you start typing and the words appearing on screen don't match what you think you typed. While I'm not opposed to adding a little of the surreal to Laura's day, I suspect it gets irritating pretty quickly. And it's never wise to needlessly irritate one's spouse....

No Mac games

I'm becoming more and more of a Mac convert as I spend more time using their computers. They're easy to use, less crash-prone than PCs, and their OSs tend to be intuitive, well engineered, and elegantly designed. They're not perfect: they're about twice as expensive as comparable PC hardware, they still crash, and their software and peripherals can be prohibitively expensive. But given that MacOS's chief competition these days is Vista, a Mac seems like a godsend by comparison.

Except for games. Nobody releases games for Mac on any kind of reasonable schedule, and very few games are available at all. Mac packs their computers with otherwise state-of-the-art hardware, but they're still using video cards that are obsolete before they ship. Given how much of Apple's marketing is oriented towards Mac being the "fun" computer platform (and Windows the "work" computer), it's shocking how little effort they put into gaming. Still, I'm trying to game less and write more, so going Mac might be a good thing to keep me from wasting too much time gaming. Instead, I can waste time watching old music videos on YouTube!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Something to read: Cory Doctorow interview

I just found an interview with Cory Doctorow at the Onion's AV Club. Long-ish, but interesting because it's Cory, and he's one of the world's most interesting guys. He talks about a lot of stuff: managing his connection to the world, his new book, what defines YA fiction, and his desire to travel in four dimensions, amongst others. Check it out, if you're interested.

The laundry basket: a makeshift personality test

I've noticed that I'm pretty unaware of my own frame of mind. It's hard to be self-aware; we're in a uniquely poor position to see what's going on in our own heads. I've noticed that I can use external cues to gauge what's going on in my head, though. My observation for the week: I didn't notice until I was sorting laundry a few minutes ago that I've apparently worn all black clothes for the last ten days or so. I haven't done this since I worked backstage full time. I'm not sure what it means, either, but it's something for me to think about.

iPhone: cheaper and faster, still AT&T

The recent price drop/feature increase Apple announced for the new iPhone had us looking at them again. Faster internet is nice, and they're now comparably priced with other high-end smart phones. While we could never seriously justify $500 for a phone, $200 seems more reasonable. I can't justify the monthly cost, but an iPhone would simplify my life a bit by eliminating a lot of the crap I carry with me all the time. Plus, it's got serious toy value.

On the down side, it's still AT&T only. Which is a problem; I'm on AT&T now, and I'm extremely not impressed with their service. I'm impressed with how often it won't ring when I've got a call; I probably miss two or three calls a week when I've got my phone with, and it just doesn't ring. And the missed call and message-waiting notifications don't appear until between 5 minutes and three hours after the call. If I were more dependent on my phone, this would suck worse; as is, it's merely inconvenient. But it's inconvenience you shouldn't have if you're paying $100 a month for service on your iPhone.

Just want to say, it's awfully nice of Apple to actually give some warning about this particular upgrade. It's their traditonal practice to surprise people with their new models; three days after I got my iPod Nano, they came out with the new one -- smaller, cheaper, and able to show video. It's long been Apple's practice to screw their early adapters. Any time you buy an Apple product, it's a gamble that they won't come out with a better, cooler, cheaper model the next day. But they have been getting better. Remember the $100 price drop with the first iPhone? People who bought one on a Monday saw the price drop 20% the next day, and Apple appeased them with gift certificates. Now they're being even better, and apparently stopped selling the old iPhones a few weeks before they announced the new ones. I hope this trend continues with their product releases....

Also of note: a 16GB iPhone is now $100 cheaper than the same size iPod Touch, which I suspect they'll be fixing soon. They've already rolled out the 32gb Touch, and I'm expecting a price drop on their current models. Still out of my price range, but less so than they were.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Not to brag, but...

I set a new best time for the bike ride to work this morning: 16:10. My previous record was over 18 minutes. Not only did I fly on the bike, I also got lucky with a few stoplights. I'm happy with my new record -- I even had a headwind! I'll let you know if I beat this time. Or, when I beat this time. I've got all summer to try.

For reference, the path I usually ride to work is 4.3 miles; this means I averaged almost 16mph, even including stops.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Grr, Jeep.

One of the little problems with the Jeep is that you can't lock it. A Jeep Wrangler an inherently insecure vehicle; even if you lock the doors, you can unzip the windows. So, when extremely stupid thieves (apparently unable to fathom the complex mechanical workings of the zippers) broke both door locks a few years ago, we never replaced them. It's a reminder that there is no actual security in a Wrangler; by having no locks, we can't even pretend that we're locking it, so we're reminded to not leave anything important inside.

I had to drive up to Castleton after work today to pick up parts and cool new microphones for work. I rarely make it up to Castleton, and when I do I like to spend some time -- visit bookstores, hit a coffee shop, maybe hit Fry's and window-shop for geek toys. But I didn't have the option today, because I had to pick up my microphones before IRC closed. I didn't want to walk around Fry's with an armload of microphones, mic stands, and cables (it's possible they wouldn't let me anyway), so my trip was business-only. If we had a vehicle with an actual trunk, or even doors you could lock and windows you can't unzip, I probably would've spent a few hours having a miniature vacation. But the Jeep made it all about work. And, on the bright side, the unlockable Jeep kept me from possibly spending unnecessary money on tech toys or books or a cafe mocha. So I suppose it's a good thing. This knowledge in no way reduces my low-grade grouchiness, though....

And, busy. Of course.

Thought I should mention that I've got an event in the morning, followed immediately by a performance. I don't think I'll be free for strawberries until around 2pm; hopefully all the ice cream hasn't melted by then!

My best Strawberry Fest year was, I think, six years ago; I had strawberries for breakfast, then I stood in line with the work gang and had strawberries for lunch, then I grabbed another pile around 5 and had strawberries for dinner. I think it was only $4.50 for The Works, back then. $6 isn't that much more, but it crosses some mental line for me. I can't really justify more than one $6 dessert....

Strawberry Festival time!

Downtown on the Circle tomorrow (Thursday, June 12): Strawberry Festival! Woo hoo!

The name makes it sound like some sort of feast day in honor of strawberries. It's not. But it's a chance to eat a yummy $6 dessert outside with a horde of like-minded dessert enthusiasts. You get a pile of strawberries for $3, and for $1 each you get your strawberries topped with whipped cream and ice cream, and served on shortcake. They start serving in the basement at 8am, and they start serving outside at 9. The line starts getting serious around 11am; if you show up at noon, expect to wait in line for as long as half an hour. The normal rules of line mechanics don't apply, so the lines just keep getting longer. Eventually, everyone gets served. Around 3, they'll start running out of stuff -- maybe ice cream first, but eventually they'll be out of strawberries, and then it's over. They say they serve 'til 6pm, but in my experience they've never actually lasted this long. So plan on going early, and plan on waiting in line.

And, your six bucks goes to a good cause. So head downtown and dig in! See you there.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Hoaglin's: good. Spaghetti Factory: bad.

Laura and I tried a new restaurant (new to us, at least) for breakfast this morning: Hoaglin's Cafe on Mass Ave downtown. We were highly impressed -- the room was welcoming and cheery, the staff was friendly, and the food was excellent. I had the vanilla challah French toast, and Laura had the heaping bagel sandwich with bacon and cheese, and both were yummy. Hers came with a pile of au gratin potatoes, which were also good. Everything's apparently made in house, with none of their menu coming prepackaged or pre-prepared, and their recipes are great. It was a bit pricey for breakfast, but I suspect that Hoaglin's will be a nice occasional treat for us when we feel like spoiling ourselves with a nice breakfast out. In almost every respect, Hoaglin's is a lot like our other fancy breakfast haunt: Cafe Patachou. Hoaglin's has better coffee, I think. But they don't have Patachou's granola-encrusted croissant French toast, which might be the perfect breakfast food.

And, the Old Spaghetti Factory has been crossed off our list of restaurants. I've always liked it; it's a cheap, good meal, and you really can't go wrong with pasta. You could get a complete meal at OSF for about what you'd pay for a comparable food-court pasta dinner at the mall, and the quality and ambience was much better. But I found out Friday that they've re-done their menu. They did it for the traditional restaurant reason: they wanted to raise their prices. And they really raised their prices. The $6.75 Manager's Favorite plate (spaghetti with two sauces of your choice, bread, salad, and spumoni) is now $9.75, and you've got to pay extra for the salad. It's more than a 50% price increase. And it's officially pushed the price for a dinner for two from $20-ish, to $35+, before beverages. For the money, there are a lot of other restaurants with better food and better service. Because really, OSF doesn't have a lot to recommend it over the other restaurants downtown, once you remove "inexpensive" from the equation.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Snap judgments

I read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink when it was still new in hardback. The basic premise -- which I'll poorly paraphrase as, "people can make surprisingly accurate snap judgments on a nearly subconscious level, based on hard information which their conscious mind doesn't necessarily have access to" -- seems pretty sound, though he does go out of his way to point out lots of ways in which quick, instinctive judgments can be appallingly wrong. But since I've read the book, I've been more aware of making instinctive snap judgments, and I've been trying to gauge their accuracy.

One situation in which I make a lot of snap judgments is on the bike. I'll glance over my shoulder at approaching traffic and instantly decide that this might be a good time to hop up on the sidewalk for a block or two, or I'll notice a car pulling out of a side street and assume that this driver doesn't see me. I really have no way of knowing if any of these are accurate assessments, since I always follow the assumed path of safety. But when I guess the other way (assuming that a car sees me, or that it's safe to stay on the road), I've always been right. So far, at least.

I noticed myself making instant judgments again today, during a show. I had a large collection of soloists during a choir show, and I tweaked the equalizer settings for each new singer. I'd glance at who was heading to the mic, make a snap judgment about their voice (range, tone, volume), and adjust the mixer appropriately -- all before they actually started singing. I was only appreciably wrong once. I have no idea what subconscious cues I was looking at to judge someone's voice from their physical appearance, but they were apparently pretty accurate. Have any of you read the book, and had similar experiences?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Clean Closet!

I spent a large chunk of last evening reorganizing my closet. I was previously using an organizational system consisting of huge piles of random clothes crammed together, which is even less efficient than it sounds. It was taking longer to get dressed than it should, because I wouldn't know until I started digging whether or not I had any clean socks or underwear or which of my work pants were still appropriate for work, and which had holes in them. So yesterday, while trying to think of an organized way to add clean laundry to the wads of clothes stuffed in my closet, I got disgusted with the mess, pulled all the clothes out of the closet, and piled everything on the bed. I started sorting and folding and stacking, and quickly figured out that I didn't have enough shelf space for neat piles. So I grabbed the power tool collection and made more shelves. Then I stacked neatly-folded clothes in well-organized stacks, putting the cold-weather stuff on the top shelf in the back, and the clothes I wear all the time in the most accessible places. I also tossed a pile of clothes I know I won't ever wear again -- things too torn to wear in public, too paint-stained to wear for painting, shirts with the outdated logos of my employer (which I'm neither allowed to wear, or to donate to Goodwill), old work pants that don't look clean even fresh out of the wash.

It might sound silly, but having a clean, organized closet full of clothes I actually wear, with drawers that actually close, is very liberating. It makes me a little happy, just knowing in the back of my head that I've got this little segment of my life organized the way I want it. And it felt good throwing away a lot of the baggage I've been carrying around in my closet. Paul Graham posits that clutter saps your energy; I think this is experimentally true, based on the quick job of cleaning my closet. It's making me wonder where else I'm expending too much energy thinking about my unnecessary stuff....

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Of the funny

Something that's been amusing me recently: the PulpBard Project. It's the screenplay from Pulp Fiction, as it would've been written by William Shakespeare. I quote:
Vincent: And know'st thou what the French name cottage pie?
Julius: Say they not cottage pie, in their own tongue?
Vincent: But nay, their tongues, for speech and taste alike
Are strange to ours, with their own history:
Gaul knoweth not a cottage from a house.
Julius: What say they then, pray?
Vincent: Hachis Parmentier.
Julius: Hachis Parmentier! What name they cream?
Vincent: Cream is but cream, only they say la crème.
Julius: What do they name black pudding?
Vincent: I know not;
I visited no inn where't could be bought.
It's possible I'm easily amused, but I thought this was funny in concept, and clever in execution. Visit and enjoy!

Monday, June 02, 2008

At a funeral

Today I went to the funeral home for Andy Rettig, the first of my Warren students to die. He was killed Friday in a motorcycle accident, and he was only 23. The services were at the huge Flanner & Buchannan funeral complex on the far east side, but his was easy to find; I drove around until I saw a large crowd of people who looked too young to be at a mortuary. He was a genuinely good kid, and he had a lot of friends at the funeral home. I liked him, and the world is a slightly less interesting place without him in it.

I last talked to him a few months ago. He was almost done saving money to take a cross-country motorcycle trip this summer, and he was going to be leaving shortly. I was a tiny bit envious of his trip plans, and the 23-year-old freedom to make them. He and his sister are two of my favorite students I ever had at Warren, and they're both wildly interesting people as they turn into adults. I saw his sister Terri today, along with a lot of the old Warren crowd; she flew back from Arizona for the funeral. I can't imagine what this has been like for her. I'm thinking her supportive thoughts.