flattering faux-bobs of fascism
Thursday, July 10 2003
Ah, this website is so much more responsive and satisfying since I implemented the new backend changes. It's become (not exactly a joy but) definitely less of a hassle to update. That was the point. The drudgery and neglect of the old scheme was a strong anti-motivator. The next step is to create more dynamic quips on the front page, smearing out existing content to create a more compelling lead-in. I have lots of ideas.
Sally and I went on a big recycling mission today, but the damn recycling center was closed, so we ended up at the 9W Hannaford, where I waited in line until I had my chance at the bottle crushing machine. I found myself forming prejudices about people based on the beer bottle brands they were recycling. This one couple had the grossly-engorged bodies and sallow complexions of people who spent their lives on their couches watching teevee and eating McDonalds (something that wouldn't have bothered me nearly as much had I not just read Fast Food Nation). But then I saw the eclectic nature of the bottles they were recycling, many of them local microbrews: Brooklyn Lager, Saranac, etc., and my opinion of them immediately improved. It would have improved even more had they fed that machine a little faster.
Another guy, dressed in immaculately-pressed semi-casual clothes and almost buzzing from his type-A personality, held a neatly-arranged cardboard tray of 30 or 40 bottles. They were all the same: Becks. Seeing the rag-tag, poorly-enforced queue, he decided I was the one most likely to have a pithy explanation. He asked me, "What exactly is the situation here?" I said, "Well, that machine is broken there, the other is occupied, and there appears to be a little line at the counter." I found myself thinking, "I'm glad he doesn't live next door."
The bottles I was recycling were comprised of approximately 75% Molson Ice, 5% Guinness (the kind with the plastic nitrogen "Rocket"), 5% Becks Dark, 3% Brooklyn Lager, 3% Mike's Hard Lemonade, 2% Saranac, 2% Woodchuck Hard Cider, 2% Bud Ice, 1% Starr Hill (the machine refused them because they come from Charlottesville), and 2% other. Nearly all of the non-Molson bottles were leftover from the wedding (May 9th-10th).
I went to Target afterward to buy a cheap cordless phone for the laboratory, since the old one appears to have stopped working. I hadn't expected to be impressed by things in the store, but I was by two things. The first was a young store employee whose face was shot full of silver metal piercings. "Wow, " I thought, "Target is serious about being the hip alternative to Walmart." The second was that Target stocked a store-brand "non-drowsy generic cold & congestion relief" gel cap containing only Dextromethorphan, Guaifenesin, and Pseudoephedrine. It's the first generic recreational-grade dextromethorphan gel cap I've seen in New York State outside of the City.
Back home, I decided to give my new 2.4 GHz cordless phone a range test to see how it compared to one of our existing 900 MHz phones. So I set off with both of them down the long driveway to our uphill neighbor's farmhouse. Both phones lost their signal at about the same spot some 200-300 feet from the house, but this might have been because I was losing line-of-sight through the trees. The new 2.4 MHz phone's performance could be construed to have been superior because its base station was at the most-distant end of the house, some 60 feet and two walls further north than the 900 MHz phone's station.
While I was out working on the Stick Trail with Sally, I found myself thinking about something once said by Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon's disgraced first Vice President. Back in the 1970s the press actually had teeth and investigative journalists who looked into things more important than what Tom Cruise might be getting for Christmas. For a man of Agnew's level of corruption, this was a bad thing, and he accused the press of being "nattering nabobs of negativism." Would that we could be so lucky as to have some of those nabobs today! Instead, I realized, we have flattering faux-bobs of fascism.
I don't often prepare dinner unless Gretchen gives me the idea, since I don't usually notice either the first symptoms of hunger or the imminence of dinnertime. In this respect I am more like my mother than my father; my Dad has always been the major food preparer in my family. But today I did notice, so I threw together a dinner of buccatini and chick-pea red sauce. Gretchen also wants a salad with her meals, so I attempted to make her one. Much of the lettuce in the refrigerator was slimy and wilted, however, so I went out in the yard to gather fresh herbs: mint, garlic-mustard seeds, and miniature strawberries. It was a little too weird, even for Gretchen.
Slashdot.org directed me to a fascinating interview of database guru Jim Gray over at acmqueue.org. It starts out with him describing how he's managed to achieve massive "bandwidth" through the mailing of hard drives as well as complete computers from one place to another. Even with advance fiber-optic connectivity, the most massive file tranfers are still best done using the sneakernet. But that issue was covered in just the first part of the interview. The second part dealt with the origin of relational databases - and that story is even more interesting.
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