Sunday, October 31, 2004

Where’s Africa?

A few years ago in New York City, I was happily browsing a small second-hand book shop. It was a delicious musty warren of nooks with tall stuffed bookshelves sorted by subject. There were perhaps three other people browsing as well.
A young man hurried in, turned to the clerk and asked excitedly, “Where’s Africa?”
We turned to look. The clerk laughed nervously, then pointed across the store to a shelf near me. “Over there,” he said, “below the books on Asia.”
“No, “said the young man. “I mean the continent!”
“Uh, I think it’s south of the Mediterranean,” offered the clerk.
“Thanks!” said the young man, and he hurried away.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Parsley Rules!

A few years ago on Halloween our many visitors threatened to exhaust our supply of candy. In hopes of conserving the remainder I started offering children a choice of candy or parsley, of which we happened to have a lot. I was amazed at how many kids went for the parsley. Perhaps it was the novelty of the thing. One teenager grabbed a sprig and ran off hollering “Parsley Rules!”

Thursday, October 28, 2004

We visited a cemetery a recently.

Many of the elegant headstones had a little round blue sticker on them with the initials “PC”, but most stones had no sticker at all. It appears that the majority of the deceased were Mac users.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

It was the Coach’s Fault!

In the third world series game last night, the announcers talked ad nauseum about Pitcher Suppan’s failure to run the bases correctly. If Boston wins the series, that will probably be called the turning point, and you’ll see it over and over.

Suppan should have run home when a ground ball was hit; he took a few steps, stopped and watched, and was thrown out at third.

When you see the replays, watch the third base coach behind him. At first , the coach waves and shouts, encouraging Suppan to run home. When Suppan stops, he throws up his hands in despair, turns and walks away. Here’s what the announcers failed to mention: that’s a baaad mistake! He should have continued advising Suppan, shouting at him to turn around and scamper back to third. Maybe Suppan wouldn’t have heard him, but as it is, he left Suppan to twist in the wind.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

A nice contrast:

On October 21, 2004, Slashdot pointed to two stories: Steve Ballmer, president of Microsoft, said that people in other countries copy software because computer hardware is too expensive. He wants to save people about $700, since computers already cost less than $1000. Meanwhile, an article at says this: “In a country where the average monthly salary is about $240, buying the latest album for $15 is a grotesque luxury, let alone spending $600 on Adobe Photoshop or a similar computer program.“

Monday, October 25, 2004

Look up!

Some neck exercises were prescribed for me. Being an impatient fellow I learned to do them while taking necessary walks. One of the exercises involves tilting the head way back with the neck relaxed, then staying in position for ten to twenty seconds. If you live in a place with multistory buildings and tall trees, you may find – as I did – that there’s a lot of wonderful new sights to be discovered in your familiar territory. Things really look different with your head at that steep angle. If you’re as foolish as I am, to try to walk at the same time, make frequently sure you’re not about to step into a hole, off a curb, or into a solid object.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Don’t Delegate Up!

My boss Rich pulled me aside one day and said, “Never Delegate Up!” I looked at him blankly. “You asked MY boss to do some work for you,” he said. “Delegate down, not up.”

“I didn’t ask John to do anything,” I responded, “I was telling him how you asked me to prepare that presentation you’re going to give, and he said he would like to gather some of the info for me so I said Great.”

“You know how John gathered that information?” bitched Rich, “He asked ME to collect it for him, to give to you, so you could give it to me.”

Friday, October 22, 2004

The way the ball bounces:

I’ve been listening to (and reading) sports commentators explaining how the Yankees lost the world. According to them the Yankees are doing everything wrong. Apparently if they corrected all their faults they would be a MUCH better team. Enough silliness! Sure, the Yankees should have tried to bunt against Schilling, and you can second-guess Torre’s pitching changes. But the facts are these:

There is luck in baseball. The Yankees do not own all the luck.

They came close to winning anyway.

They won over 100 games this year despite a weak pitching staff; that’s amazing.

They had to beat the only team that knows how to hit Mariano Rivera.

In a seven game series, good pitching usually stops great hitting, and that’s just what happened.

So why did the Red Sox have to make it look so difficult?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Unneeded Clones:

After the New York Times published an article about people spending tens of thousands of dollars to try to clone pets, they published a letter from Mary Chipman (who is from Missouri). She gets right to the heart of the matter (reprinted with her permission):

"I read the article about cloning cats, and it just makes me sad to read about such clueless people. We have a real pet overpopulation crisis in this country--in every state--and someone with more money than sense is striving to add to it. Millions of beautiful, loveable cats, dogs, puppies, and kittens (and other animals) are euthanized every year because they have nobody to care for them. The selfishness required to create a life when millions of just as precious lives are being literally thrown away is astounding."

Oh, and by the way: Boston, congratulations!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A time-limmited spelling error:

I found a spelling error in a computer manual. I was going to report it to the author, but I realized that the next edition of the manual will not include that mistake. Can you infer what sort of error I found? (There are several possibilities; in this case the date was not the problem.) I quote the actual error below:

Quote: ”At last I have released the eigth version of this manual!”

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

National Identity Card?

Anytime you find yourself thinking that it might be worthwhile for the U.S. of A. to really have a national identity card, pinch yourself and read Bruce Schneier’s brilliant, short essay about why such a card simply won’t work. Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

“Currently about 20 percent of all identity documents are lost per year. An entirely separate security system would have to be developed for people who lost their card, a system that itself is capable of abuse.”

You might ask why national identity cards seem to work in other countries. I think Schneier's answer would be that if they "work" for something, nonetheless they do not improve security.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Ice Cubes wrapped in a Bag are Food!

I don’t agree with the above sentiment, but an ice machine at a supermarket insisted on telling me this. I wouldn’t be surprised if that claim is simply not true.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

If you can't hear me or read me ...

"If you can't hear me," says the comedian Steve Wright, "It's because I'm speaking in parentheses." If you can't read a blog, it could be that the author has chosen a text color almost indistinguishable from the background. Try highlighting the text with your mouse. The highlighted color scheme is often more readable.

Friday, October 15, 2004

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

I got it!

This is not own my story, but I recall it fondly. My cousin played in an orchestra that gave a concert on risers. The brass in back were raised perhaps four or five feet above the violins. The first trumpet player arrived seriously drunk at the concert warmup. He wobbled up the risers to his place and dropped his mouthpiece. He then wobbled down and crawled under the risers to find it. There matters stayed as the concert began. The first piece was soft, so the audience could hear the occasional very annoying bump and thump as the trumpeter moved around. Suddenly there was a cry of “I got it!”, an enormous WHACK, and silence. The rest of the concert proceeded very smoothly, minus one trumpet player. Clearly, by the time he found it, he had quite forgotten he was beneath the risers.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Impolite Noises:

Oct 13, 2004:
I suspect we’re all going to have this experience, but it just happened to me yesterday. Entering a public bathroom, I heard the unmistakable sound of a computer game within one of the closed stalls. Biddle-biddle-dibble-deep!