Monthly Archives: July 2007

In which I am not up to speed with modern methods of music consumption

Right after I got a new laptop, They Might Be Giants released their new album, The Else, on iTunes, a few weeks in advance of the physical CD rollout. Well, this is what folks do these days, thought I, so I bought it. And I listened to it all the way through once, but then it fell into the big pile of songs on my iTunes, which I always play on shuffle, and as far as I know I haven’t heard a song from this album since. I have no strong impression of what it sounds like.

Whereas when I buy a new physical CD, I usually play it on the CD player 5 or 10 times, and then I more or less learn what’s on it and whether I want to keep hearing it.

Now the CD is out, and it comes with a bonus disc with 23 songs, which I don’t have, because I bought it on iTunes.

So am I just doing this wrong? When you buy an album on iTunes, how do you ensure that you actually listen to it? And is it normal for physical CDs to contain music that the downloadable release does not?

Since I don’t have anything to say about The Else, I’ll remark instead that nothing TMBG has recorded this decade is as good as the criminally underheard John Linnell solo album, State Songs. So underheard that I’m having trouble finding any good way to link to any of it. But here’s a little cartoon set to an instrumental from that record, “Illinois,” via YouTube:

Amanda Schaffer dot net

Who can keep up with the steady stream of biomedical exposition coming from the pen of Amanda Schaffer? Not me and probably not you. So good news: her pieces, from the NYTimes, Slate, and elsewhere, are now available on her new website. Some highlights: her five-part series in Slate, Why Do We Sleep? and a long appreciation from Bookforum of biophysicist/novelist Thomas McMahon.

No poems on her web page, so here’s one from Ploughshares.

Orioles 7, Yankees 5

Remember what I said about how much I like watching the Orioles beat Roger Clemens? Well, they did it again tonight. Now 6-2 against the Yankees this season.

Rookie Cory Doyne’s horrific five-batter, five-hit appearance in the 9th raised his career ERA to 23.14. I wonder what the highest non-infinite career ERA is?

Orioles roundup: Ripken, scoring runs but losing.

Cal Ripken, Jr. joins the Hall of Fame this weekend. When he came up, in 1982, it was understood that shortshop was a position for a midgety defensive specialist with a banjo bat. Ripken (together with Robin Yount and to some extent Alan Trammell) changed that forever. He was the Orioles’ best hitter for years and a lion in the field, setting an all-time record for shortstops with 583 assists in 1984. And he didn’t do it with diving stops and circus catches. He did it by standing in the right place and catching the ball when it arrived there.

Unfortunately, he’s not famous for reinventing the shortstop position, or the assists record, or his two MVPs — he’s famous for showing up to work every day. But the Hall of Fame is the Hall of Fame, and he deserves it, and congratulations to him.

Tom points out the great fact that the all-time career leaders in sacrifice flies are Eddie Murray with 128 and Ripken with 127.

Meanwhile, the 2007 Orioles have scored 456 runs and allowed only 447. But they’re 6 games under .500. This is nothing new for the O’s; they’ve suffered through nine straight losing seasons now, but in three of those (1998,1999,2004) they scored more runs than they gave up. And this year might be the fourth. What are we doing wrong?

This reminds me of the most awesomely dumb thing I ever heard a sportscaster say, about the 2006 Yankees: “They’re either going to outscore you, or they’re going to lose.”

My mom or dad can’t come to the phone right now

If you blog, do you reveal on your blog that you’re traveling? I spent most of last week in Palo Alto and most of the week before in Germany. But my parents impressed upon me when I was little that when you were home alone, and someone called and asked for your mom or dad, you weren’t supposed to say they weren’t home, but instead that they “couldn’t come to the phone.” Because if you revealed to unknown persons that the grown-ups weren’t around, they might come over and rob your house. So I don’t actually think it’s likely that blog readers will come rob my house (if you are planning to, please try to clear off some bookshelf space) but I’ve retained this superstition that you shouldn’t let it be publicly known that you’re away. Am I being weird here?

Inscribed squares

Here’s a conjecture that’s been open for more than a hundred years. Prove that every closed curve in the plane has an inscribed square. To unpack that for non-math readers: suppose I draw some loop on a piece of paper, which might be really complicated, cross over itself, zig-zag back and forth a lot, doesn’t matter — as long as it eventually returns to its starting point. Then the problem is to show that, no matter how crazy the loop, you can always find four points on the loop which form a perfect square.

It’s a fun exercise to try to convince yourself that this is even plausible! Also, the version of the problem with “square” replaced by “equilateral triangle” is much easier.

Everyone poops

If you don’t have a small kid, you might not know about the modern classic Everyone Poops. It’s one of Caleb’s favorite books at the moment and he likes to answer reading comprehension questions about it.

Q: Who makes a big poop?

A: Elephant!

Q: Who makes a tiny poop?

A: Mouse!

He’s a bit confused about the page in which a little boy drops trou and dashes into the bathroom. When I ask Caleb “Where’s the boy going to poop?” he says “Shower!” Should I be concerned about this?

And their aura called me a mean name!

Overheard at the farmer’s market on Capitol Square: a woman calling the police to report a group of evangelists preaching hellfire on the lawn. She was silent while, I assume, the officer asked her why the situation required attention from law enforcement. She thought it over a bit.

“Well,” she said, “their body language is really violent.”

A helpful tip for giving math talks

Suggested by an incident at the conference I attended last week: if you’re projecting your talk from your laptop, remember to turn off your IM, so that when your spouse sends you a chat message, their face doesn’t pop up in the middle of your slide.

Dane County Fair

I took Caleb to the fair today and we spent an enjoyable hour wandering among the livestock. Caleb thinks it’s uproariously funny when the animals behave in accordance with the stereotypes he’s learned from books; when the ducks quack, the sheep baa, and so on. I also learned that llamas cost only about $500 each, but they like companionship so they can’t live alone. They don’t mind if their companion is a horse or a goat, though.

Let me say again that runner ducks are cool. (YouTube link)

Discussion Question: do you think the people who had pigs named “Hillary” and “Obama” were Democrats or Republicans? I’m honestly not sure.

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