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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Teach the children

Here's a picture Davin took of me at Thanksgiving. I am showing our cousins how to bounce really high on the trampoline while lying on your back.

Monday, November 26, 2007

True Crime

Browsing the Washington Post's Google-mash-up crime map
for my neighborhood, this crime catches my eye:
10:50 p.m. June 17
Two males approached a male pedestrian. One showed a handgun and took the pedestrian's cellphone, then made a call and returned it. The robbers fled. Two men, ages 40 and 37, were arrested.

Well, there are fewer pay phones these days...

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I'm back in DC after a very enjoyable Thanksgiving with my family in Connecticut. (Between the earlier-than-usual Thanksgiving and a warmer-than-average fall, there was also still a good bit of fall foliage, which I've not really been in CT to see since 1998.)

I was rummaging in the basement a bit while I was down there playing ping pong with Davin, and came across a few rather outdated items (I think all of them originally came from other basements, like my great-grandmother's). Marketing has definitely changed over the years -- check out this old tic-tac-toe game:
According to the package, it's a game of "skill and concentration." I also like how it says the game is "fun to win" -- well, yeah...though if you manage to win at tic-tac-toe, it probably means you're playing a 5-year-old.

This is not as old, but this baby is psyched about his Pee Dee Dose.

Aside from the very period-specific illustration on the game Trouble, note that its tagline is the "new frustrating chase game." Who wrote that ad copy? "Hey kids, let's play the new frustrating chase game!"

Friday, November 23, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Safety Dance

If you should find yourself in the medieval English countryside accompanied by a colorfully-dressed midget and doing The Safety Dance, make sure your facial expression is super-serious so that nobody tries to mess with you.

(Andrew Sullivan is holding a best-worst 80's video contest.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Really Good Hummus

In a very exciting development, Giant now sells the best hummus there is (readymade, at least) -- Sabra hummus. I picked up some this evening, and the following exchange took place at the register:

Grocery Bagger Dude: [quizzical] Hummus? What's hummus?
Cashier Lady: [perking up, after sullenly ignoring my "Hi, how are you?" a few moments before] Yeah, what is that? Everybody's been buying it.
Me: Well, it's made with chick peas, olive oil...and other stuff...it's really good. It's Middle-Eastern.* Everybody's buying it because this particular hummus is really, really good.
Grocery Bagger Dude: What do you eat it with?
Me: People eat it with pita bread, or you could put it on a sandwich, or you can dip vegetables in it.
Cashier Lady: Huh, crazy, I never heard of that.
Grocery Bagger Dude: You learn something new every day.

Now, if only Giant would stock my favorite Sabra variety, Hummus with Roasted Pine Nuts...

*Although my geoculinary description is more accurate, Sabra has apparently done some market research and found that "Go Mediterranean!" makes a better slogan than "Go Middle-Eastern!", which, at this particular political moment might be taken by some to mean "Go Terrorist!" (Also, real hummus is made with tahini, not olive oil.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Turning over a new leaf

...a new mutant leaf, that is! I went out for a bike ride late this afternoon and found this:

I'm not sure what kind of tree this is, but the leaves are huuuge. I was on a bike trail that's a branch off of Rock Creek; it's not very heavily used, and it was covered with fall leaves, so I had to be careful. But these ones are trouble, you could practically get your front and back wheel on one at the same time...here's where I found it in case you want to get one of your own.

Personal footprint goals

I had calculated my environmental footprint as part of an assignment for Global Change Biology back at Carleton, but I can't remember how it came out. There are a number of tools available online for calculating your environmental footprint, so I tried out ZeroFootprint.

All of these calculations are quite approximate (and many of my estimates of transportation, food, electricity, etc. are also approximate), but my carbon footprint comes out to 16.2 tons of carbon annually. My "ecological" footprint is 3.8 hectares/year. (How this second one is calculated is less clear to me, and I'm not sure if they interact.) For reference, the average American's carbon footprint is 13.1 tons, and the average ecological footprint is 6.3 hectares. So, despite the fact that I prefer to think of myself as environmentally aware, my carbon footprint is above average; I think a big part of my ecological footprint being low is that I don't eat a lot of meat, and generate relatively low amounts of garbage.

On my carbon footprint, the thing that really hurts me is air travel, which has huge carbon emissions. I flew a lot last year (Peru, Europe, Minnesota), and flying accounted for 6 tons out of my total 16. Other big sources were, not surprisingly, food and home energy use.

Since I'm already biking to work, one of the easier reductions is already factored in. But I've set the following modest goals for reducing my footprint:
  • Fly 50% less. This should actually be pretty easy, since I already wasn't planning to travel as much in the next year as I did in the past year.

  • Grow some of my own food. This will be pretty miniscule in the scheme of things, but we've already got garden beds, and it's satisfying, too.

  • Compost organic waste. Madeleine left a compost bin in the back yard, so this isn't too hard, either. I just have to make the effort to collect and take out the compost. Plus, synergy with growing my own food.

  • Put electronics with transformers/without "hard" power switches on power strips so they don't suck energy while they're not being used.

I post this in the hopes that having told other people, it will make me more likely to actually follow through. According to ZeroFootprint, these reductions come out to about a drop of about 3.5 tons (everything besides the flying is a pretty small change). Not that great, but enough to put me just under the average American.

EDIT: Some motivation for reducing your individual environmental impact from No Impact Man, who has some good thoughts about the false choice between individual and political change:
"Actually, in my optimism, I believe wholeheartedly that both how I vote and how I live influences how other people vote and how they live, at least if I'm willing to talk about it. Also, calling a politician up to tell them that I already try not to make waste is more powerful than opining that society shouldn't make waste. It all mingles and merges."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bike comparison

Last night I rode my new bike home from work, and then went out for groceries on my old bike (which, at this point, is the only one with a basket). It felt like it was broken or something -- as if someone had bent the frame all out of shape. I guess it's kind of like trying to jump after getting off a trampoline and feeling like you're tethered to the ground. Part of it is just that it's different, but it also drove home how much more I like the way my new bike rides...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This picture from outside Bhutto's house in Lahore has it all -- a sulky man, a high-stepping police officer, and a tasty sandwich.

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Tom Tancredo achieves a mash-up of two kinds of xenophobia:

Excellent parody of immigration and national security politics, Tom. Oh...you're not kidding? Okay.

Monday, November 12, 2007

New Bike!

I bought a new bike! See:

It's a Surly Cross-Check. I plunked my money down yesterday, and picked it up this afternoon with all my accessories installed (I got a duplicate pair of brake levers installed on the upper bar). I spent a long time deciding whether to buy it, but I definitely felt like I had made the right decision while riding it home today. It's so light and nimble, yet solid-feeling, compared to my old bike (which I'm holding onto for situations where it's called for). It'll be great to ride it to work, but it's a three-day weekend for us government workers, so I'm going to take it out for a big ride tomorrow (after the scheduled game of Risk with Zach and Adam).

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bike bits

Seems like I've been spending a lot of time thinking about bikes and biking recently:

  • Somehow I managed to break the rear axle on my year-old bike. For a few weeks I had been noticing that there was more play in the rear hub than there usually is, to the point where when I really pumped the pedals starting from an intersection, the tire would sometimes rub the frame a little. Wasn't sure what to make of that, but last week I got a flat, and after I fixed it, the back wheel was seriously goofy, visibly wobbling as I pedaled. I may not know enough to have noticed it while I had the wheel off, but the dudes at the bike shop figured it out right away. Anyway, that set me back $50...

  • Although having just invested money in my current bike makes it harder to justify, I am seriously pining after a Surly Cross-Check. Andrew was nice enough to let me use his when I visited Minneapolis last summer, and I really liked it, more than the other bikes I've tried. City Bikes has one left...it's white, it fits me, and I've test-ridden it three times now. And they're sold out wholesale, so once this one is gone, I can't put my hands on another for a while. It's so much better to ride than my Tiburon (which may as well be a Hyundai by comparison), but it's a $1,000 investment. Sigh...I can feel myself breaking down.

  • I only make two left turns on my ride to work, but they're definitely the trickiest part of the ride. In both places the road is four-lane, so I have to move through two lanes of traffic going in the same direction as me before I actually turn. The traffic usually isn't going much faster than me, so it's not terrible, but it definitely requires care. This morning, I signaled and moved into an opening in traffic large enough to fit a car, and paused a moment to make sure there was space to move into the next lane. As I was glancing back, I saw that the lady in the Honda behind me was positively fuming, yelling at me through her windshield and gesturing wildly with her hands. I didn't react or anything, just moved into the next lane, but seriously...I signaled, gave more space than a car would have, and was only keeping her from the traffic at the red light up ahead. I see this sort of anger from time to time, and I really don't know where it's coming from -- pardon me for turning left.

  • I am trying to convince myself that I do not need to buy one of these shirts.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


A man visiting from Japan gets hauled off an Amtrak train in New Haven by the police for...taking pictures out the window (which, it turns out, is not against the rules). I'm guessing he looked a little too Arab for the conductor -- who should really read James Fallows' Declaring Victory. Terrorists cannot destroy our country -- only we can.

Convenience store mirrors

From We Are Real by the Silver Jews:

my ski vest has buttons like convenience store mirrors
and they help me see
that everything in this room right now
is a part of me

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

That Would Be a Big Splat

Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav makes an excellent human-size mosquito in this PSA for an NGO that provides mosquito nets in Africa to prevent malaria:

Monday, November 05, 2007


Your perspective on the world is different when you're a biologist's kid:

"Dr. Kunkel once encountered a roach at a restaurant, and his 4-year-old son blurted 'Daddy, there is a Blatella germanica!' The other diners didn’t make the connection, he recalled, and he finished his meal."

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fashion Flashback

In 1977, it was totally hip for guys to hang out with their friends in sundress-length "stretch terry" polo shirts.

A blogger has a field day with the 1977 JC Penney Catalog. "All-Purpose Jumpsuit" and all.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Renaissance Man

Sufjan Stevens:
> Songwriter extraordinaire.
> Analyzer of Brooklyn-Queens Expressway detritus.
> Philosopher of highways and hula hoops.