Archive for July, 2008

Muchos Livros Para Niños

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming end of my internship and heading back to school and the direction of my life and my upcoming marriage and my health and my meditation practice and after a bit I think I burned out the clutch on my brain.

Instead of the 800 important things I had on my plate for the evening, I spent the last five hours reformatting chunks of a 600 page compendium of interesting literature.

I’ve been attempting to thieve some background reading on sociology to get ready for the ASA meeting, but it turns out that the thieves have tens of thousands of books of which nines of thousands are science fiction.

After screwing around for a while, I happened upon a reading list on Scribd (which has about as many books as the IRC channel) that is a combination of book lists from Harvard, Oxfam and a couple other places. The rote cleaning and proofing turned out to be much more relaxing than actually dealing with stuff I needed to do.

My hours of cleaning got the XML to validate, but not much more. Of the couple sections I did finish, I thought my many fecund friends might enjoy the selection of children’s literature. (The adventurous might also be interested in the ALA‘s 100 most challenged books.)

There’s about 60 suggestions total, so I’ll just include a few as a sample:

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Wanted

Wayne, Jenni and I went to see Wanted this weekend. I absolutely loved it.

I really liked the amount of choice that the characters exhibited in the fight / chase scenes. Bullets are flying, cars are crashing and the characters are moving as though through a choreographed dance. It’s possible to simply dismiss their flipping cars and dodging bullets as mere Hollywood magic, but what if we lived in a world where this was actually possible.

The explanation given in the movie is the characters have hyperactive adrenal grands that kick their perceptions into high gear. Scientists are doing some interesting experiments on time perception that suggest that time perception is, in fact, malleable:

There’s two components to the film though. Not only are the characters capable of perceiving a large amount of information, they are also capable of acting on it reasonably. This is directly counter to the general effects of adrenaline which tends to be really bad for decision making.

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No Mas Límones

The week of 1,000 lemons will be drawing to a close in a mere hour and a half now. Jenni and I spent a good hour wandering the isles of the Whole Foods picking out epicurean delights to fill our tomorrow.

One would think that the cost of the extravagance of our foodstuffs would be offset by the Spartan nature of our diet for the last week, but that turns out to not be the case. One of the three ingredients in the master cleanse, maple syrup, ran $40 for the half gallon we consumed. Lemons, at 50¢ apiece, we consumed 50 of. So all in all, not eating was about $12 a day. Not too shabby for two people, but far pricier than Ramen and potatoes.

I asked Jenni if she had learned any important lessons and she feels she now has a much better sense of just what her hunger feels like. She says it peaked around the second day and hasn’t really gotten worse sense.

For my part, the way she deals with food boggles me. She laid around the house watching the Food Network for most of the day. In the way some people would discuss the subtlety of a good book or the bouquet of a fine wine, she lays about all day contemplating eating things.

Myself, I spend most of the day not thinking about food at all. After about a minute and a half of watching mozzarella folded into phyllo dough, I’m famished. Well, I definitely want to eat. I think if anything I have a far worse understanding of my hunger than when I began.

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Lemony Britches

There is nothing like the peaceful quiet of solitude: a time to center in one’s own mind an experience. A time when you can be yourself without the constant pressure to perform that is so much a part of modern life.

In those still moments when we can be ourselves, we can not only connect to our emotions but also to our bodies. Loosening the ties, kicking off the heels — taking a break from the rat race to just be comfortable in our own skins.

A word of warning to any of you who might seek to cleanse your innards with lots of lemons. Drinking nothing but liquids will have an affect on the composition of your gastrointestinal contents. Everything gets a bit more fluid.

This is important to bear in mind should you, while kicking back after a long day, find yourself experiencing the physical ramifications of relaxation. Tried and trusted bodily signals should perhaps not be interpreted in the same way they were previously.

You might end up shitting your britches. Just a heads up.

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Facebook Engaged Once Again

I wrote this a month ago during a brief period of romantic uncertainty. I am once again Facebook engaged, and so I thought I would post this now.


How I came to be de facto engaged, then Facebook engaged, then Facebook heartbroken and finally philosophically engaged with plans to go traditional.

It all began months ago in a little bar off Dupont Circle in our nation’s capitol. A towering goddess of a woman saw my amazing skills on the pool table and decided “there’s a man I need to make out with.” Who can blame her really? Sometimes after a particularly masterful game even I am affected and have to go home early to spend a private moment with myself.

She played coy at first with talk of books and grad schools and whatnot, but I could tell what was what. Under the clever pretext of sharing book recommendations, I got her e-mail address and a budding romance was born.

Well, it was almost born. My girlfriend of the previous year would likely have not appreciated that particular turn of phrase.

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Little Dutchboys

I wanted to post a little synthetic idea connecting something I observed watching Wanted this weekend with Tai Chi boxing and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink.

Since Jenni’s copy of Blink is in Baltimore, I figured I’d just go on Fictionwise and buy a copy so I could just cut and paste from the ebook. They’ve got it, but I can’t read it though. The DRM they use to keep people from sharing it isn’t supported on my Ubuntu desktop.

I probably wouldn’t buy the DRMed version anyway. So long as someone else controls my ability to control access to my media, I risk ending up like folks who bought from MSN Music. Once the service went belly-up they turned off the computers allowing people to access their music. Not a problem unless you do something crazy like get a new computer.

After I gave up on Fictionwise, I thought perhaps Amazon might be able to help me out, but you can only buy Kindle books if you have purchased a Kindle from Amazon.

I eventually got tired of screwing around with it, looked at a page on Amazon’s preview, entered a sufficiently long sentence to be unique into Google, and just pirated the book. I really did try to buy the book but, ironically, they were so busy trying to keep me from stealing it that they wouldn’t take my money. (I guess I could go ahead and pay for it now, but I really don’t want to give the businesses the impression that what they’re doing satisfies me as a customer.)

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Item:Item Artist Similarity

Item to item similarity is a method popularized by Amazon for computing the similarity of items in its catalog. The reasoning is that item similarities are more static than user similarities and so in situations where finding the similarity requires extensive computation they have an advantage in robustness to infrequent updates.

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INH Snak’ems

You know that you might be having trouble with the impulse to eat when you start eying your bottle of tuberculosis drugs and wondering what happens if you eat more than one in a day. After all, they’re not pepto or Gatorade.

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Food Chain

I’ve been watching TV with Jenni and as I hear her talking I realize that the experience for her is nothing but an endless string of food associations.

They were doing a piece on the air quality in China on the Daily Show, and as it’s going on, I hear her mumbling about crispy noodles.

She actually covers her eyes to hide from the pizza commercials.

She has decided that we will spend Saturday morning from 7-11am in an all you can eat breakfast buffet. I’ve warned her that stuffing yourself after a fast might cause some gastrointestinal distress, but she’s gone on record saying that she’s not going to let some puking keep her from scrambled cheese eggs, bacon, sausage, crispy home fries, hash browns, eggs benedict, waffles with peanut butter, and blueberry pancakes.

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Lemon Scented Delirium

Making it through the day fueled only by lemons wasn’t too trying. The Smooth Moves tea, did perhaps move me a bit more than I am accustomed to, but certainly with nothing near the violence that giardia loosed upon me in Mauritania.

I managed to power through the midafternoon slump with a minimum of sleeping to come home and find Jenni in a remarkably good mood. She may well have been delirious from hunger, but her mood was unmistakably positive.

Normally when a happy person and a grumpy person have to hang out in close quarters their moods tend to average out — one gets a bit happier and the other gets a bit more mellow. Her giddy confusion overpowered my grumpiness, so I guess the cleansing is working? Though I suppose the day she spent sunning herself by the pool and doing fuck all may well be working as well.

I still wouldn’t say that I’m distinctly hungry. I don’t really feel empty, the idea of eating just sounds more and more appealing. I get up and wander around as I’m writing, and if I don’t pay attention my feet carry me to stand in front of the fridge.

I’ve managed to not stick anything in my mouth just yet. That’ll be a tough decision, do I stick to my guns and spit the food out or do I just figure I’ve failed already and go ahead and swallow? Hopefully I don’t get to the point of having to make that call. ☺

(I had about six different things I intended to write here. About one and a half of them actually made it into the computer. Apparently food is a necessary part of the fixing ideas into my head. This perhaps does not bode well for my day at the office tomorrow.)

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