Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Morning Link Dump!

Totally true Chuck Norris fact: He is an insane person. Literally. He's touting a telecast of thousands of right-wing cells (yes, he himself uses the same word used to describe terrorist groups) ominously titled "We Surround Them." At what point should the authorities start taking this stuff seriously?

The claim that Obama is doing too much too soon isn't only made by stupid people, but it's a claim that makes those who make it sound stupid. Like Jake Tapper.

I see that some of the comments have already covered it, but when Kevin Drum asked why the Wall Street quants were predominantly physicists and not mathematicians, the answer clearly lies in the difference between theoretical and applied mathematics. Mathematicians dig into the theory that underlies mathematics. Physicists, among others, apply that theory to the world. It's much more natural for someone who works in applied mathematics to transfer to another applied mathematics field. I speak only for myself, but I'm a mathematician, and I generally like math for math's sake and eschew applied math.

Cool optical illusion.

Weird fish, or weirdest fish?

War on drugs = FAIL. Incidentally, if you're not reading Radley Balko on a regular basis, you're losing out.


It became hard for me to maintain a blog during the heat of the Presidential campaign. Both the primaries and the general. This happened for two reasons. First, I was often too busy paying close attention to every up-to-the-second detail that came up. Second, every time I wanted to say anything, someone had already said it, by and large. I felt like I didn't have anything unique to contribute to the conversation, so I just didn't really feel like putting anything out there, and preferred to just take it all in.

At this point, however, I feel like I'd like to get back into contributing. Reading a lot of opinion is all well and good, but it's left me feeling more passive than I'd like. Ultimately, I'd like to make this blog something a bit different from what it was when it started. I'd like to favor quality over quantity of posts, for the most part, and then occasionally do a "link dump" type of post where I pass on interesting stuff that I've been reading, likely on a variety of topics.

I hate these navel-gazing posts, and I know that I've promised resumption of posting in the past and haven't kept up with it, but it really is something I'd like to get back to. I can't make any promises, but I'll make the effort at least. Look for a post later today.


Friday, September 05, 2008

A Confession

Sometimes in conversation, I instinctively nod at questions I don't know the answer to, or references I don't recognize.  When this happens, I'm stuck with a dilemma.  Do I ignore it and hope it has no more bearing on the conversation, running the risk of looking like I'm either not paying attention, or completely uninterested in the conversation?  Or do I reverse myself and inquire about the point at hand, making myself look like I'd only momentarily lapsed in concentration?

Usually it goes about 50-50.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Roller Derby

Last night Darren, Eli and I were enjoying a drink in the basement bar of the Grasshopper when "Hook" by Blues Traveler came on. I started singing along between sips of my beer, and I noticed a pretty blonde girl around the corner of the bar who was also singing along. Before long, we noticed each other, and at that point, she busted out with a challenge.

"I can beat any of you at drinking a car bomb," she said.

"No you can't," I said. "You just can't."

"If I lose, I buy the round," she said. "If you lose, you buy it. Okay?"

"Okay," I said. "You've got money on you, right? Because you're going to need it to buy the round." Understand, dear reader, that when it comes to contests of drinking things very fast, I've been nearly unmatched since college. Darren and Eli knew this and kept egging the whole situation on. Not that it really mattered.

"Pauly!" she yelled. "Three car bombs!" Darren was to be the timekeeper, and Eli, this girl and I were to partake of the Irish car bombs. Eventually the first round was poured, the time was counted, the drinks were drunk, and in the end, I beat her pretty handily. All observers agreed. It was at that point that she challenged me to another round. She implied that she'd somehow been holding back, like she was Inigo Montoya or something. I cheerfully agreed, and when the second round came, it was virtually identical to the first, though a bit splashier.

So it turned out, in talking to Pauly the bartender, that this girl was a player for the local roller derby. She was quite attractive, and she was wearing an outfit that left little to the imagination. She started to leave to use the bathroom, and as she walked by me, she started spanking me. Full-on spanking me. So I turned to her and said, "Oh, wait, I thought I was the one who spanked you." At that point, she turned around and presented, waiting for me to comply. I did, twice, confused throughout as to what was going on.

I don't have much more to say than that. It was weird, but it was also barely beyond the status quo for me and my friends.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Perils of Public Geekery

Today I went to the mall with my friend Darren for lunch. He went to Eddie Bauer to buy a shirt, and as we were standing up at the counter, I was talking to him about my last two blog entries, and about the quandary posed by the definition of Dr. Sam Beckett's lifetime. After about a minute, the clerk behind the register turned to me and spoke without preamble.

"Do you have a girlfriend?" she asked.

"Um...uh, no," I stammered, a little unnerved by how forthright her question was.

"I could tell," she said.

I stood there a little dumbfounded, not knowing whether to laugh or be insulted. After a pregnant pause, she followed up with, "I don't mean that as an insult, of course." Ever nonconfrontational, I replied with, "Oh, no, not at all." Without sarcasm, even, if you can believe it. She started going on about something inane, wherein a bunch of guys were paired with one girl tell you the truth, it didn't make a lot of sense, and I expect she was just trying to cover her ass.

It got me thinking. I understand the joke she was trying to make. I was speaking quite geekily (self-consciously, of course; as though there were any other way to refer to an aspect of Quantum Leap as "an existential quandary"), and she was trying to leverage the stereotype of geeks as socially inept. I get it. I'm not without a sense of humor. But the way that she felt comfortable berating a perfect stranger got under my skin a bit. Did she think it made it all right to say, "I don't mean that as an insult, of course"? What if I'd gone up to her and said, "People think you're ugly, right? I could tell." Would it be more acceptable if I assured her afterwards that I didn't mean it as an insult? Somehow I don't think so.

I also had a case of thinking of wonderful responses a couple of minutes after the fact, some blustery, some self-deprecating. Here's a sampling.

Clerk: Do you have a girlfriend?
Fargus: Yeah. She's in New York at the Hot Chicks Convention. She's the President.

Clerk: Do you have a girlfriend?
Fargus: Yeah. She's at a modeling show in Paris. She's running the lights.

Clerk: Do you have a girlfriend?
Fargus: It's none of your goddamn business. Give my friend his credit card back so we can get the hell out of here.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Random Thought #2.1

*Geek Alert*

In writing that last post, I recalled that Project Quantum Leap went live in 1999, according to the show's timeline. Ostensibly, Dr. Beckett can leap within his lifetime. It's an open question (so far as I know) whether the inception of Project Quantum Leap represents the end of the lifetime in which the good doctor can leap. If so, I guess the last post winds up being one level more hypothetical than otherwise.


Random Thought #2

If Dr. Sam Beckett's (de facto) mission through Project Quantum Leap is to leap "from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong," you'd think he could get a lot of mileage by leaping into Katherine Harris for the last quarter or so of the year 2000.


Friday, August 08, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Confession

The first step is admitting that you have a problem. Or maybe that's just the first half of the first step. As I have no intention of taking the other eleven (or maybe it's eleven and a half), I guess it doesn't really matter. Fact is, I have an addiction.

It's nothing illicit, this addiction. But there's a reason that people are called "news junkies" or "political junkies." I can't stop reading political blogs. In between "fixes," I either obsessively check for the next one, or I hit up the comments sections to see what everybody else thought of the last one. Sometimes I'll be so hopped up on politics that I'll let fly with some comments of my own.

This addiction seeps down into other aspects of my life. Conversations with my friends and family tend toward the political, usually guided there by my hand. My current television watching habits include Lost, Weeds, Dexter, and a whole lot of CNN. I watch presidential primary debates, for Pete's sake. Even the Republican ones. Time which years ago would have been devoted to reading books is now spent reading blogs and comments. I listen to NPR nearly exclusively when I'm driving. I've donated money to a political campaign (three guesses which one, and the first two don't count).

Thing is, I don't really see this addiction as a bad thing. I don't think my life is unmanageable because of it. I see no need to subscribe to some ridiculous notion of a higher power to cure myself of it. I may occasionally lament the time not spent doing other things than getting myself worked up over politics, and I may occasionally make the offhand wish that I'd never started venturing down this rabbit hole in the first place, but I'm generally content to be more engaged with world events. I spend plenty of time on this addiction, but I'd never say that I've wasted time on it.

So don't cry for me, Argentina. I'll be doing just fine.