January 2005

1 Jan 2005[link to here]

2005??? Where's my flying car?

3 Jan 2005[link to here]

I think the best thing on the net is the Wikipedia. I'm frequently off the data grid, so I keep a copy of the Wikipedia on my laptop. Easily distracted info-junkie that I am, this hyperlinked compendium of knowledge provides endless entertainment and education.

Yesterday I learned about the history of gunpowder, dynamite, and nitroglycerin, and the Battle of the Crater. Today, while shopping for a USB-to-serial adapter, I stumbled across a reference to The Hunley, the first submarine to sink a ship in battle, built for and in service in the Confederate States navy. The Wikipedia has much to say about the history of submarines; it's no wonder I never get any shopping done.

8 Jan 2005[link to here]

'Twas the season for travel, and I found American Airlines doing something potentially interesting. When I arrived at the airport, I checked in at the kiosk, and it asked me if I wanted to upgrade to a marginally better seat (10cm more leg room) for $34. Shuffling people around to get a few extra bucks is obviously good for them, and getting people to try a little luxury could increase demand for it, but what I really find interesting is the potential for optimal pricing.

I don't know how they chose the $34 price, but they have a wealth of data they could draw on. They know my history of accepting upgrades at various prices (though it's a shallow history so far), they know my billing address, which gives them rough demographics, and they know these things about each of the other passengers who have yet to check in. They're probably doing something simple at first, but they'll eventually get good at filling the better seats at maximum price.

13 Jan 2005[link to here]

I've been to three shows in San Francisco in the past week, and I'm taking classes up there again. Right now I'm halfway through being in the city six or seven days in a row. One might think it would make sense to live up there, but I keep needing to be down here every weekday. Sigh. The good news is that there's no traffic at 1am, so getting home after a show is pretty easy.

18 Jan 2005[link to here]

Onion quote: I've got a bootleg copy of an opinion that Rehnquist wrote for U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez that would blow your mind.

29 Jan 2005[link to here]

I have a superior olivary complex. So do you. The superior olive continues to be my favoritely named body part, getting many bonus points for being part of our audio processing system.

As soon as I learned of the superior olive (from Acoustic Phonetics, a fantastic book by Kenneth N. Stevens), I immediately recognized it as the perfect band name. Alas, two actual bands beat me to it, which is just as well, since I don't have a band.

30 Jan 2005[link to here]

I'm a big fan of peanut butter, by which I mean mashed up peanuts and salt, not the sugary industrial paste you find next to it in the supermarket.

One of the fun things about actual peanut butter is that if you let it sit for a long time, like, say, in a jar on the shelf in a supermarket, that is, if you're not lucky enough to have somewhere you can buy it fresh out of the peanut butter extruder. Those things are fun to watch though. ... Where was I? ... Oh, right. If you let it sit for a long time, the oil separates and rises to the top. This means that the first thing you need to do when you open it is to stir in the oil. What's marvelous about this is that it means you get to decide how much oil your peanut butter should have.

I'll be the first to say that wild peanuts, roaming free on the plains of Nebraska, or wherever it is peanuts frolic, can have however much oil they want. Once they're mashed up in a jar on my shelf though, I figure I might as well make a few adjustments. If I were to stir back in all the oil the peanut butter so considerately expressed, it would be far too goopy, so when I open a new jar of peanut butter, the first thing I do is pour off some of that oil. It's a sad waste, and I should probably be using it to fuel my car, but there it goes. Then I stir in the rest and have just the right mix.

Except it's not really quite the right mix. It seems that way when I scoop some out and smear it on whatever's handy, but the truth is that such happiness is fleeting, and when I near the end of the jar, what's left is more peanut than butter, and not so well suited to the tasks I set before it.

In the past, I resigned myself to this hardship, recognizing it as one of those major trials of life that old people like to go on about. "Life isn't all perfectly oiled peanut butter.", I'm sure they must have said at least one of those times I wasn't really paying attention.

Today, however, thanks to unusual forethought and some well-timed insight, I have solved the problem of insufficiently oiled peanut butter. Try to control the maniacal joy you surely must be feeling, at least long enough to focus on these words, and I'll explain the whole thing.

Today I went grocery shopping (unusual enough in its own right), and, even though I was merely low on peanut butter and had not actually exhausted my supply, I bought another jar. Then, when fixing myself a snack (which, of course, involved peanut butter), I noticed that I'd reached the previously described insufficiently oiled portion. Then, (here's the clever part, but you probably can see what's coming, since I've explained all the relevant elements without all the normal distractions of life, like the laundry I'd just moved from the washer to the dryer, or the celery I'd washed and cut up) I opened the new jar, poured some of the excess oil into the old jar, and stirred it to perfection.

I feel an upwelling of relief and euphoria, even just from the retelling of this pivotal moment. The circle of peanut butter has been joined. All other obstacles to true happiness will crumble away like really dry peanut butter, intimidated by a seemingly eternal quandary having been vanquished.

Now I just need to figure out what I'm going to fuel my car with.

31 Jan 2005[link to here]

My personal to-do list is over ten pages long.