Spiriferously: David Foster Wallace vs. Google

Spiriferously results
Spiriferously results
Originally uploaded by ktheory.

Scene: I was knocking off my RSS items for the week at my parents' house in Binghamton. My father was reading David Foster Wallace's new collection of essays, Consider the Lobster.

Dad: "Aaron, can you look up a word for me? S-p-i-r-i-f-e-r-o-u-s-l-y."
Me: "Uh, there's one google hit, and it's a chapter excerpt from that book."

Anyone know what 'spiriferously' means? It describes the way a porn star's hair may be styled, as in:

"The closest thing to any kind of Insider table near ours is #182, which according to its black table-tent is reserved for Anabolic Video (not an industry force) and is currently occupied by a spiriferously coiffed and sullenly chewing Dina Jewel (who declines to return Harold Hecuba’s blown kiss) and her escort, a young fellow whom one can easily envision head-butting somebody in a mosh pit. D. Filth confides that this Anabolic guy is a close friend of woodman Vince Vouyer (again, sic), who himself is not up for many ’98 Awards because he spent a good part of the past year in court and/or detention for helping operate an escort service which authorities alleged was not a bona fide escort service at all."

Update: The adjective 'spiriferous' means "having a spiral structure or spiral parts". So in the description above, Ms. Dina Jewel had curly hair. (Thanks Graham and Leah!)

The Shield takes a page from 24

It seems like 24 can't kill off main characters quickly enough (3 people in 2 episodes).


Tuesday's season finale of The Shield borrowed a page from 24's screenwriters and killed Lem, the loyal, sensitive guy. That leaves the task force with Shane (the cowboy), Macky (the godfather), and what's-his-face (the silent, organized, level-headed guy).

Honestly, I wish (and was expecting) that instead of Shane killing Lem that IAD bugged Shane's truck (note he was the only member not tailed when they left the station). Then Shane's whole confession to Lem would be recorded, and the task force would have to kill Forest Whitaker's character to destroy the tape. I'm not a fan of Whitaker's character.

Macky's ex-wife, on the other hand, gained some depth this season. Her tension between living in good conscience while also loving her dirty-cop ex (and being dependent on his illegal income) was convincingly played. It was a welcome counterpoint to Whitaker's character's boiling contempt for Macky.

But The Shield still edges out Lost and 24 as my favorite drama. (Remember kids, Steven says TV makes you smarter.)

Crashed Linux

Linux crashed on a plane
Crashed Linux
Originally uploaded by milliped.

Apparently some of those airline screnes run linux. And sometimes the hard disk flakes out.

I like how white this photo is...like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. Except for the flight attendant.

Mathematical literacy

Jacques Distler has a great rant about mathematical literacy, rebutting algebra-flunker-empathizer Richard Cohen. Quoting Cohen's WaPo column:

"Gabriela, sooner or later someone's going to tell you that algebra teaches reasoning. This is a lie propagated by, among others, algebra teachers. Writing is the highest form of reasoning. This is a fact. Algebra is not. The proof of this, Gabriela, is all the people in my high school who were whizzes at math but did not know a thing about history and could not write a readable English sentence. I can cite Shelly, whose last name will not be mentioned, who aced algebra but when called to the board in geography class, located the Sahara Desert right where the Gobi usually is. She was off by a whole continent."

So a bunch of people from your high school constitute "proof" of your claim that writing is the highest form of logic? You blowhard, that's inductive reasoning, not proof! That's circumstantial evidence, not proof.

And I am failing to conceive of what the bald assertion "writing is the highest form of reasoning" even means. Reasoning, by virtually any definition, is process that occurs entirely within one's consciousness; whereas writing represents an idea in another medium.

Let's look at that one more time:

Writing is the highest form of reasoning. This is a fact. Algebra is not.

Dangling modifier alert! So, algebra is not a fact? I challenge you to find me one revisionist mathematician out to disprove 'algebra'. Nice writing, Mr. Cohen.

Mathematics is practical and creative. I hope to one day live in a culture that values mathematics as much as writing.

You Passed 8th Grade Math
Passed 8th grade math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Could You Pass 8th Grade Math?

Ruthie tests out her new iSight

Ruthie's iSight screenshot
Ruthie tests out her new iSight
Originally uploaded by ktheory.

Awesome! And I get to text out the "Blog this" feature in Flickr.

Coffee mugs with water in TV interviews

Ever wonder why celebrities and other interviewees on TV talk shows drink water out of coffee mugs? I've tried drinking water out of coffee mugs (when I really need to do the dishes) and it kind of weirds me out.

Anyhow! Margaret points out that the reason is probably that regular glasses are reflective. They would pose a lighting problem. And people are talking a lot, and probably nervous, so it's important to have water available.

Also, when people drink out of clear glasses you can sometimes see down their throat, and that's a little gross.

In other news, Kathie and Nick are in town for the weekend. Yay!

My awesome coffee recipe

Everyone in Ithaca knows Gimme Coffee for their social consciousness, trendy baristas, and tasty coffee. (I like their packaging and branding, even though it's very similar to illy's. The modern silver and red packaging gets my attention in the morning the way less shiny objects would after I've had some coffee.)

Ooh, they even have a blog!

Marketing aside, I've stumbled upon a rather fantastic blend of coffee that I've started drinking every morning, and my unprompted roommate and his girlfriend agree is "very good coffee".

It's half Gimme Coffee's "Deep Disco", the medium dark 'levitation blend', and half "Asobagri", the medium unflavored blend with a 'rosy vanilla' aroma and 'truffle Pirellis' body. (Who writes these descriptions?).

Assuming you have the same Cuisineart coffee bean grinder I have, the proper amounts are one grinder full each Deep Disco beans and Asobagri beans, and ten cups of water. This makes enough for three large mugs (for, perhaps, me, my roommate, and his girlfriend), and a little left over for whoever drinks the fastest.

The Deep Disco, being the sturdy workhorse brew, goes on the bottom, which means the soft and eccentric Asobagri goes on top. As the water drips through the grinded beans, it is first infused with the delicate traits of Asobagri before being fortified to full flavor by Deep Disco.

Honestly, the order of the beans probably doesn't matter one bit, except insofar as the morning ritual brings me comfort. What's more, the problem of which bag of coffee beans do I grab first, is a confidence booster to solve, even if the solution is arbitrary.

Okay, I need a refill.

A joke I made up myself

Q: What did the cow say as he was led into the abattoir?
A: Moo.

Bush nominate Miers

There are so many things that seem wrong with Bush nominating Miers. I don't think Bush gets out enough.

Treating the symptons

Brilliant technologist Nicholas Negroponte unveiled the designs for a sub-$100 laptop aimed at bridging the 'digital divide' between developed and developing countries. However, I don't share Negroponte's passion for this idea. People in developing countries have more dire worries than access to the information these laptops could provide. They lack food, health care, and clean water.

I agree with this Economist article that cell phones are a far more apt ICT for aiding poor countries:

Fewer people in poor countries than in rich ones own computers and have access to the internet simply because they are too poor, are illiterate, or have other more pressing concerns, such as food, health care and security. So even if it were possible to wave a magic wand and cause a computer to appear in every household on earth, it would not achieve very much: a computer is not useful if you have no food or electricity and cannot read.

See "Canyon or Mirage?" for more general thoughts on the digital divide.


Outside the Cornell Store:
Guy: "I think Friday we should just stay in and watch a movie."
Girl: "Do you mean 'watch a movie', or actually watch a movie?"


For the next two months, I'll be guestblogging (a gratuitous neoligism) over at Kathie's Politech. Hopefully with more regularity than here.

WTF is future-discounted present value?

Okay, so this isn’t so much a blog post as a gin and tonic-fueled stream of consciousness. Blame it on Kathie.

First, I’d like to say, “What is up with people doing crossword puzzles in class?” And not so much, “What is up with that?” as, “I did crossword puzzles in class last year you lame-ass fools.” I am so the fucking trendsetter. Way ahead of the curve. Especially when it comes to Tuesday’s theme, you cow-coworkers and ant-anthologists. Dog-do-gooders. Bring it, LA Times! (NY Times, lay off, anything after Tuesday is too hard.)

Right, so I was originally thinking about the class that I’m taking. It’s called “Mathematical Methods for Operations Research”. But it could just as aptly be called “Solving Systems of Linear Equations (Don’t Even Think About Using Calculus!)”. Math nerds such as myself have no problem with this stuff because we do it in our sleep. But Applied Econ majors, I think it’s a requirement for them. Anyway, I was sitting in class smugly doing my crossword puzzle when the prof asked a question about a company with a variable of “future-discounted present value”. Sirens went of in my head like, “WTF does that mean?” But everything else in the class was like, “I took a bajillion credits of finance classes, so of course I understand the term ‘future-discounted present value’.” Oh well, I got skooled.

Oh, certain phrases are no longer cool since they’ve been used on The O.C.. Such phrases include “ginormeous”, and the verb “to Netflix”. “So best” (wink to Margaret) is still cool.

Coming and Going

Moacir drops semiotics on the Anheuser-Busch “Applause” ad that ran during the Super Bowl (available from their web site). One assumes that the troops are returning from Iraq, though the ad leaves open the possibility that they’re leaving. The ambiguity gives the ad a more messy and nuanced message that Moacir describes well.

The Web: slightly less useful, but funnier

Congratulations to Tim, whose “Mathworld” page for the Dennis Miller Ratio is now the first Google result the phrase.

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