Sunday, April 30, 2006

It is in Fact a Bafflingly Small World After All

The most notable part of the first week of my new job happened on Tuesday afternoon: A middle-aged woman who works a couple of cubicles away from me comes over to my desk, looking sort of wound up, and asks me whether I'm from Pittsburgh. I say yes, wondering what kind of local connection would be worth getting excited about, or would attract the small party of her work-friends who I notice are observing us from a little ways away. (Steelers fandom, maybe? Later I learn she is the person who plastered Steelers stickers all around the office during the Super Bowl run, but it shouldn't warrant that much attention, especially during the offseason.)

It turns out that she was our uncle's first wife. She recognized my last name when it popped up in the company IM system. Mutual surprise. She tells me my parents will verify it if I don't believe her. I can recognize her in retrospect, though, from the very few pictures of her that went into our parents' photo albums prior to her departing the family record entirely in the early 80s. Surprise drifts into territory more like perplexed shock. News travels quickly over the tops of cubicle walls. Minor office hubbub ensues.

It settled down fast enough by the next day, with her just jokingly calling me "ex-nephew" now and then and tacking up a Steelers bumper sticker over my desk. But that's my new high-water mark for office oddities. The actual mathematical odds must be better than you would think, but still: Finding an inter-generational, family-related connection among roughly 100 employees in the one of Northern Virginia's myriad little tech companies that I happen to work for now? The mind reels.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Panamanian Quarters

At some point in Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett proposes a thought experiment involving the fact that Panama's quarters are identical in size and weight to American quarters - which I had always taken as a little necessary fiction for his intentionality narrative, but I found a Panamanian quarter at work the other day, and its actually basically identical to the US Quarter! Crazy! I guess it probably has something to do with the US secretly owning and operating Panama...

Work in Progress

This probably goes without saying, but if you want to redesign or un-design any changes to the style of the blog, go ahead & change them.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Go You Manticores!

Swarthmore College is holding a vote on whether to adopt a school mascot. This was last attempted sometime during the 90s, I think, with the vote tallying up to a No - the front runner was The Garnet Foxes, which does sound a bit snooty.

Anyway, that was before my time. Now the four choices are: Phoenix, Manticore, Gorilla, and Griffin. I wasn't convinced that any of these would be good mascots, but I cheered up when I saw the alumni vote webpage, with these totally adorable drawings illustrating each option:

Of course, the eventual mascot would look a lot different, but I like to pretend there'd be one of these on every jersey. I voted Phoenix, even though I don't know how you pluralize it. (Phoenixes? Phoenices?)

So that's the fun and whimsy my alma mater is up to. What fun and whimsy is your alma mater up to? Does it involve a six-and-a-half ton robotic military vehicle named "Crusher"?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Speaking of The Onion AV Club

It was nice to see that When the Wind Blows made it onto their 15 animated films list. If it existed on DVD (so far as I've found, it doesn't), every member of my family would own it by now (a quirky, sorrowful British animated film about Nuclear annihilation makes the perfect gift, in my world). Nate will still most certainly be receiving the original children's book version of this story from me for his birthday, once I get around to giving it to him.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


This Onion AV Club article about Simpsons quotes (so obvious! is that why they hadn't thought of it yet) doesn't include a single one of the quotes which have really made it into our general lexicon. Use a better sense of judgement, Sideshow Bob.

Gotta put a word in for my personal motto of the last several months, "I can't promise I'll try, but I'll try to try."

In other humor news, I just saw John Hodgman on The Daily Show for the first time, and he was pretty funny. Haven't watched these other bits yet but it's nice for them to swing geekwards rather than dip back into the annoying dumbass well.

Monday, April 24, 2006

File Under: Way Too Easily Amused

Having, for the first time now, owned and operated a vacuum cleaner with a headlight, I can say with certainty I am never going back. The headlight makes all the difference. Something about the headlight along with the humming noise it makes reminds me of being around model trains as a kid. Dirt Devil should make a vacuum cleaner that has a whistle.

Lakefulness and Placidity

Here and there are sure signs that the house I'm living in (at right, the gray one) is more of a summer house than a full-year house. First, it's badly insulated and gets freezing cold inside when it drops below about 50. Also, if it rains hard, like it did this weekend, the more-or-less permanent pothole-puddle in the road out front becomes a wide and placid lagoon. It's not very deep, but it's still a bit inconvenient to get around. Fortunately, the patio is raised up just enough to have a lip of curb to tiptoe around.

This will hopefully not be a consistent state of affairs before I move out in June. Two of my roommates were here over the winter; I don't know how they did it.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

First Evening

Okay, it's time to stop kicking this can down the road: group blog.

Soon, the smoldering tire fire of our combined intellect will be belching thick plumes of greasy black enlightenment for all the world to breathe in.

In the meantime, I spent most of my day driving around New Haven shopping for cheap furniture-like objects, food, and cleaning supplies, and I'm kind of bushed from that. Not my favorite activity, all things considered.

Just about to go back into town to hear the Yale Glee Club sing the Mozart Requiem, which should be somewhat better.