succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, May 27, 2006

It's officially summer - saw my first lightening bug of the year.

Completed - The Devil Wears Prada
Started - A Compact History of Everything and More, David Foster Wallace

I've actually been a little hestitant to mention that I've started this one, just in case I don't finish it. But maybe this will keep me committed. At first I worried that I'd already missed the window of opportunity - I'm certainly a big math dork, but nowadays I spend so much time thinking and reading about and doing math, I wasn't sure the idea of reading about it in my spare time, for fun and relaxation, would be all that appealing. But so far DFW's embrace of the sheer dorkiness of the subject matter has proven incredibly endearing. Even his persistent instistence that surely you remember this from some lower level math course in your past ("Let's explicitize at the outset that the 'you might recall's and 'it goes without saying's and so on are not tics but rhetorical gambits whose aim is to reduce the annoyance in those readers who are already familiar with whatever's being discussed") I'm willing to let slide, which is big for me, since that's specifically my single largest pet peeve about math books. I still contend that no textbook should ever contain the following words/phrases: clearly, obviously, it then becomes clear/obvious, or trivially. Though, in fairness, this is a lay person text, not a textbook. I used to think that textbooks should also be stripped of exclamation points and declarations of beauty, but in my increased dorkiness I have come to think of math and science this way and get kind of giddy when DFW says things like, "Put a little more sexily, the paradox is that a pedestrian cannot move from point A to point B without traversing all successive subintervals of AB, each subinterval equaling (AB)/(2^n) where n's values compose the sequence (1,2,3,4,5,6,...)." He also has a really lovely description of thinking abstractly and how math requires one to think abstractly (even when actual numbers are involved) and how this is the primary difficulty for many math students. I'm thinking of copying it and giving it out at the beginning of the semester to all my students. It seems a more eloquent way of saying, this is hard, really fucking hard, but don't get discouraged, and if you don't get it the first time around that doesn't make you stupid.

On Long-Haired Cats and Spring Plants

I will be so glad when whatever plant produces those little sticky green balls (we've always called them 'burrs') completes whatever part of its life cycle that is. Every time Cleo comes in from outside these days she's half black and furry and half green and sticky. Which means I have to pin her down in what must appear to be a combination of an ape grooming her young and a human parent brushing tangles out of some poor mop-haired child. Neither participant enjoys this particular ritual.

Unrelatedly, stoopid school of public health e-mail has gone poof for days now, so if you've sent something to that address, I'm not ignoring you, I just have no way of knowing what I'm missing.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Perhaps Dan Savage (and his friend Gomez) have the best reaction to this whole CDC/pre-pregnant thing (he's been closing his columns with excellent "Straight-Rights Updates"):

Oddly enough, Bush's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention don't urge straight men to regard themselves as existing in a perpetual state of "pre-fatherhood." Smoking, obesity, asthma, and diabetes could seriously hamper a man's ability to do the heavy lifting that comes with fatherhood. But Bush's CDC doesn't seem that interested in regulating the behavior of all those fat, smoking pre-fathers out there.

Gee. Isn't. That. Weird.

There is a bright side in the CDC's announcement: If we're going to regard all females as pre-pregnant, then we can, as my friend Gomez points out, regard all virgins as merely pre-fucked.

Monday, May 22, 2006

And now for something serious

According to my latest issue of Mother Jones, American CEOs make $475 for each $1 earned by the average worker. $475?! I'm willing to concede that CEOs (hopefully) bring more to a company than the average worker, but are they really that much more valuable? The next nearest country is the U.K. where CEOs earn $22 for the average worker's $1.

Also, Bush's tax cuts give a family with two kids earning $1 million an extra $86,722, as compared to a 2-child family earning $50,000 - they get $2,050 back.

And if the minimum wage had risen at the same rate as CEO pay since 1990 the current minimum would be $23.03.

As it stands, a minimum wage earner who works 40 hours a week for 51 weeks a year earns $10,506 before taxes.

And in the let's hear it for hypocrisy category - musicians who took part in the Live 8 concerts received gift bags worth up to $12,000. Let's hope most of them turned them down or otherwise found a way to donate the equivalent dollar amount to an organization actually working to 'make poverty history.'

The NYTimes has a nice story about WV in the Sunday edition. And see, I'm not just making this up, it happens to all of us from WV:

"It's like the rest of the country fell asleep during geography class," said Lionel Jordan, also known as 6'6 240, a popular rapper from Morgantown who now lives in Atlanta. West Virginian pride is one of his themes.

"I say I'm from West Virginia, and they all tell me they have a cousin in Richmond," Mr. Jordan said. "No disrespect to Richmond, but I'm trying to put my state back on the map."

Also, I hadn't heard this particular joke, but it's pretty cute:

But the joke they are most likely to tell is the one in which St. Peter is escorting a soul through heaven and is asked why there is a section that is walled-off. He replies: "Oh, that's where we put the West Virginians. Otherwise they try to go back home on the weekend."

Guess who I saw last night?

Yep, that's Flaming Lips frontman Wayne M. Coyne Posted by Picasa

And here he is crowd surfing Posted by Picasa

The show absolutely fucking rocked. I mean, I've always thought of the Flaming Lips as something of a gimmick band - enjoyable, talented, one hell of a live act, but a little too 'out there' (not that that's a bad thing; I like that they experiment with different sounds, I'm just saying that means I find them a little hit or miss) to just lay it down and rock. But that they did. Not to mention the obvious pure enjoyment they get from performing. It's hard not to have a good time when that's happening. And for an encore they did a cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs:

Politicians hide themselves away.
They only started the war.
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor, yeah.

While the giant screen behind them flashed images of injured people (too quickly to identify soldier vs. civilian) and Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld. Some people definitely shuffled their feet a bit in discomfort, but judging by the raucous cheering by the end I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they didn't lose much of this deep southern crowd.