I have a little ritual I observe whenever I enter my new hotel room for the first time. I look around and say “I have stayed in many places both better and worse.” This is almost always literally true.
So far, the best hotel room has been the Tokyo Westin and the worst has been the Pico Rivera Truck Stop.
I have stayed in some strange places, including the unnamed flophouse in Taichung that the travel guide described as “the cheapest place in town”. I would stay in the flophouse again, but not in the Pico Rivera Truck Stop. The flophouse was bare, its sheets worn and dingy but clean. The Pico Rivera Truck Stop's carpet and bed spread were sticky.
The flophouse had a shared shower, and I showered with the others. The Pico Rivera Truck Stop had a private shower, but when I saw it I opted not to shower at all.
I dread the day when some crowdsourced spelling dictionary auto-“corrects” my text to include a grocer's apostrophe. It's coming, you mark my word's.
The Wawa sells this unwholesome-looking comestible, and it pisses me off every time I notice it. Peddlers are canonically itinerant, and therefore do not have pantries.
By the way, the only word for “buttocks” mentioned in Zoëga's Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic is þjó-hnappr.
Þjó is the thigh, or maybe the upper part of the thigh. And hnappr seems to be akin to “knob”. So it's the thigh-knob.
This information could save your life!
Last year sometime I got my ear cartilage pierced and I resolved to be a responsible adult and take care of it so that it would heal properly. I asked the piercer for recommendations and followed them, washing the wound daily with foaming antibacterial soap. It never healed properly and I eventually took out the stud and let it close up.
A couple of months ago I went back to try again. This time I did nothing, washing it not ever and ignoring it entirely. It healed completely and immediately.
There's a lesson in there I think.
There has never been a professional major-league baseball player whose surname began with the letter 'X'.
However, I was pleased to learn last week that one of the judges on the U.S. Federal Court for the District of Maryland is named Paula Xinis.
That “all parts of pig” story reminds me of something a little bit similar that happened when I was visiting Gabór Szabó in Haifa. (Thanks, Gabór! I had a great time!) I was unexpectedly hungry one evening, and we popped into a small restaurant. After speaking briefly with the staff, Gabór translated for me: although they were just about to close, they would feed me if I was willing to order one of two sufficiently easy dishes and take it to go. “You can get a sandwich, made with chicken…” Here Gabor paused, not sure how to translate. “Uh, just, you know, meat. The other one is made with… all different parts.”
That was clear enough. Ever heedful of my souvlaki mistake, I ordered the all different parts of chicken sandwich. It came stuffed into pita with lettuce and tomato and I think some kind of dressing, probably yogurt. It was pretty good, I would order it again.
The recent article about dinuguan reminded me of my first encounter with zhū zá tāng, a Cantonese noodle soup.
Many, many years ago in Philadelphia's Chinatown, there was a beloved restaurant called Nice Noodle House, where I was accustomed to eat lunch every Wednesday, because I hate deciding where to eat. I also hate deciding what to eat, so to save myself trouble, I just started working my way through the menu from upper left to lower right.
Early on in this project, I ordered the “Cantonese-style noodle soup”. The waitress frowned at me. “You eat this before? This is pig soup.”
“Okay,” I said. “I like pig.”
She was still doubtful. “It made with all parts of pig. You sure you like?”
This situation comes up more in certain types of restaurants than in others. I was a bit surprised this time, because usually in Chinese restaurants, the attitude seems to be that they will bring you what you ordered and if you don't like it that is your problem. Koreans, on the other hand, are more sensitive, and they often seem to be concerned that when the dish arrives you are going to disparage Korean food and insult Korean culture. Koreans often take it very personally if you don't like their cooking; the Cantonese, in my experience, will usually just write you off as an idiot.
Anyway, this time it turned out well enough for everyone. I said “I might not like it, but I promise I will pay for it.” That satisifed the waitress and I got my soup. I did not love it, but was okay, and I ate it and paid for it.
Nice Noodle House closed before I could get all the way through the menu, and was replaced with a less superb noodle restaurant, and later still with an outstandingly mediocre Asian fusion restaurant.
The coffee shop near my house has started selling soup. Today they had “classic black bean’, which they claimed was “vegan and spicy!”, and “roasted pepper with smoked gouda”, described as “the opposite of vegan and very hearty”.
I take issue with this. It is not what “opposite” means. I thought I had discussed this before, but it seems that my article about it has been unfinished and unpublished since 2007. Here's a relevant excerpt:
The claim here is that roasted pepper with smoked gouda soup is the opposite of vegan. I agree that it is not vegan soup, but is this really sufficient for it to be the opposite of vegan soup? I think not. Wouldn't the opposite of vegan soup be something more like, I don't know, dinuguan, which Wikipedia describes as
I didn't want to hassle the hapless coffee shop people, so you folks get to hear about it instead.
Also, there is a picture of what appears to be a green bell pepper giving me the finger. I don't even know what that is supposed to be about.
Noted chemist and sometimes poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning had a varied career. In addition to her discovery of the Browning reaction, she was also the inventor of the Browning machine gun.
However, you sometimes hear that the Cleveland Browns football club was also named in her honor. This is untrue; they are actually named for James Brown.
This morning while I was groggily making breakfast for the kids, my brain informed me that the browning reaction that was taking place in the toaster was named for chemists Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Kenneth Cole Reaction.
It also claimed that as the Wankel engine is named for Felix Wankel, and the diesel engine is named for Rudolf Diesel, the gasoline engine is named for Wilhelm Gasoline.
I have to put up with this kind of bullshit every morning.
And in their alphabetical list, the departments of the Interior and the Treasury are alphabetized under “the”.
Often when I am in the Wawa store I think about how the people who work there should be called the Wavians.
That Exene Cervenka was married to Viggo Mortensen.
Over the last few years I periodically considered whether I should set up a Patreon account and ask people to give me money if they like my blog.
I was never very happy with the idea, for several reasons:
Also, it seemed kind of tacky.
Happily, the decision was taken out of my hands. For about a year I had been signed up as a Patreon donor, regularly giving small donations to a couple of worthy projects. Another worthy project appeared, but when I signed up for it, I immediately received the following notice:
Hello there,This is a note to alert you that your Patreon account has been suspended and is pending removal for suspected fraud. If you believe this action was taken in error, please reach out to us…
This was mysterious. Who is defrauding whom? If I'm being defrauded, why remove my account? And how could I be defrauding anyone? They have been successfully charging my credit card for months.
So I opened a support ticket, asking:
To which they replied, but without answering the question:
Unfortunately, there appears to have been fraudulent activity linked to your account. For this reason the account has been removed.
A few more exchanges followed, during which we repeatedly talked past one another:
We appreciate your concerns about sharing personal information, but in order to look into your account and possibly reinstate it, we will need the following information: …
Thank you for the clarification. Fraudulent activity can be triggered by a variety of reasons.
At that point it seemed useless to continue, so, with peaceful aplomb I didn't. In due course they cancelled my account and refunded all the money I had ever paid out of it.
I still don't know what the hell was going on.
The earliest memory I have that can be dated with accuracy is from the late spring of 1973. I had been accustomed to watch Sesame Street every day. But without warning, Sesame Street was pre-empted. It was replaced by the most boring show imaginable, and for weeks all the adults in my house were utterly transfixed by it for hours at a time.
I didn't understand what it was about, but it was called “Watergate”.
A nice question turned up on Math SE last week:
This is either very easy, or a pain in the butt, depending on whether you go about it the right way. (OP tried the hard way, and got an utterly wrong answer.)
I think it's a nice question because it is highly instructive for people who don't know much about probability: you can get the answer to this one without knowing much about probability. I asked Katara, who does not know very much about probability, to see if she would try the easy way.
She didn't. She decided to do it the hard way, and then correctly recognized that she didn't know enough technique to actually do the calculation. (I told her that I wouldn't have asked if that had been the only way to do it, but that didn't help.) She seemed pleased when I showed her the easy way. Here's how I explained it:
I think this is a very neat way to put it. Of course it's quite possible that this explanation might not work — nothing works for everyone — but this time it did.
I also told her that her idea would have worked, and that if done correctly it would have produced the same answer at the end. At some point maybe she'll learn to do probabilistic calculations and I'll show her. (“Hey, remember that problem about the bird eating the fruits?”)
The Korean word for charcoal is 숯, pronounced approximately /soot/. This is a coincidence.
For many similar examples, see the Wikipedia article on “false cognates”.
This appears to be an abbreviation for параграф. (Literally “paragraph” but apparently the Russian meaning is not so particular.)
The file does not define an analogous Cyrillic-script sequence for entering the ¶ symbol.