31 May, 2007


perse and i are off to sint maarten for a week for some much needed r&r. so, sadly, you'll be bereft of my wit, wisdom, stubborn refusal to properly employ the shift-key and consistent spelling errors.

enjoy your time working while we're lounging on the beach!

unintentional advertisement messages

this may or may not become a semi-regular feature. depends on my mood. anyway, onwards.

there seems to be a bunch of commericals out there, sending unintentional and somewhat negative messages about the product in question. i don't have a link to today's subject, but you very well may have seen it. it's a visa check card commerical, and features a kindly, yet ill zookeeper. since he is stricken by what seems to be a common cold, the zoo's elephant takes his card and picks up medicine, chicken soup and a blanket for him. then the elephant and a monkey nurse their beridden master back to health.

what's wrong here?

intended message: look how quick and convienent this card is! you don't even have to swipe it, cause of the smart chip!

unintended message: holy shit! anyone can use my card, since there is absolutely no ID verification! look how easy it'd be for someone to rob me blind!

now, it could be that i'm cynical, but the unintended message is the one that sticks in my head.

29 May, 2007

tonight's dinner menu

since i'm waiting for the potatoes to cook some, before i begin on the rest of the meal, i've decided to share what i'm making for dinner:

  • roasted baby yukon gold potatoes
  • fiddleheads, morels and chanterelles sauteed in butter w/shallots and sage
  • ny strip w/welsh oak smoked sea salt
perse is in charge of dessert, which is fresh berries, shortcake and marscapone whipped cream.

this is beautiful

25 May, 2007

stop the abuse!

a new entry has been made into my personal lexicon of brutally abused words: organic. yes, organic. the entry was made official after reading another potter's quote (in the 500 Bowls book), who seemed to think that stone was "organic". newsflash to the world! organic is not a synonym for "natural". rock, for instance, cannot be organic. why? because it's not fucking carbon-based life, that's why. this word abuse irritates me, nearly as much as modification of "unique" does.

i blame organic farming for this. hippy bastards.

24 May, 2007

the news is on

and once again, on the subject of iraq 7 terrorism, the statement that "we fight them over there, so we don't have to fight them here" has been tossed out by our prez. i'm sure this has been mentioned before, but doesn't that just translate, directly, to "we don't care about iraqis, and would rather they die than any americans".

and people wonder why we're not universally loved.

the artist and the artisan

looking for a bit of inspiration, i've been, on and off, flipping through a book called 500 Bowls, to get ideas. the book consists mostly of photographs, with some technical details, as well as the potter's name. a few quotes from potters are scattered throughout. they range from the technical to the amusing (one guy's quote regarding a piece labeled "soup bowl" states it was "inspired by my love of soup". nice! i like the bowl too) through the overly autobiographical and into the absurdly pretentious (such as the quote accompanying a hideous bowl with a dirt brown interior and what looks like a mushroom plunked in the center: "Working with the theme of premature death, this work presents the golden egg of birth, death, and the gift of the near-death experience." er, no. it's just rather ugly).

however, i've noticed something interesting and, likely, telling about me. that is a very strong aversion to the non-functional pieces. very few of them are appealing to me. now, i know that taste is a matter of taste. yet, what i find most unappealing in them is the very lack of functionality. to me, much of the beauty of a ceramic piece, such as a bowl, stems from how well it is suited to performing its function. the lines of the bowl, the curve, the shape; all are more important than how it is glazed, or what sculptural bits have been stuck to it. it is, after all, a bowl; thus is should work like one.

these pieces that i'm turned off by also tend to be made by those who identify, not as potters or ever ceramicists, but as "ceramic artists". this, also, irks me. it harkens back to the old argument between the artist and the artisan. for whatever reason, people still seem to subscribe to the myth that something must be non-functional to be art. furthermore, that pure "art" is somehow of greater value. well, i think that's bullshit. art is not seperate from craft. it is an inherent part of it. it is what drives the craftsman to create works that are beautiful and useful. to remove that element of usefulness is to pull the heart out of the medium. form does not merely follow function. form is born of function. without it, form is twisted, ugly and dead.

i have no desire to be an artist. i do aspire to be an artisan, to be a good craftsman. i'd much rather my work be displayed on someone's table, than in any gallery.

as for the book, despite the minor irksome bits, there are some great bowls in it.


curious...both games that the sox dropped to the yankees just happened to be the ones aired on espn...

23 May, 2007


The old trees open their leaves
palms up, to cup the sunlight
and cast a noon time twilight
round children at their rooted knees.

um, what the hell?

i'm not even sure how to respond to this. so i'll refer you first to firejoemorgan.com for the factual rebuttal.

it's a very, very odd article. seems like this guy is pissed that the yankees won? i don't know. pretty much everything he says is factually wrong. and, well, why the wakefield hate? just makes no sense. no sense at all.

22 May, 2007

richard schickel firmly believes you are stupid

this opinion piece is, i believe, a reaction to the current battle being waged (somewhere, out there) between professional book reviewers and blogging book reviewers. personally, i don't care about it. i don't generally review books on my page, though i read a fair amount. mostly, i haven't the time to bother. additionally, i know most people who read this blog. there is an understanding that, if i say such and such book is worth reading, then that is enough to warrant picking it up. but i wouldn't consider that a review. it's a recommendation. however, i digress.

what i take issue to is not even the statement that elitism is a good thing. i agree, to an exent. no, what i take issue with is this statement, tossed out there after listing orwell, edmund wilson and some 19th century frenchman as the pinacles of literary criticsm:

[...]all three wrote for intelligent readers who emerged from their reviews grateful to know more than they did when they started to read, grateful for their encounter with a serious and, indeed, superior, mind. We do not — maybe I ought to make that "should not" — read to confirm our own prejudices and stupidity.

I don't think it's impossible for bloggers to write intelligent reviews. I do think, however, that a simple "love" of reading (or movie-going or whatever) is an insufficient qualification for the job. That way often leads to cultishness (see the currently inflated reputations of Philip K. Dick or Cornell Woolrich, both easy reads for lazy, word-addicted minds).
yes folks, you have an inferior mind. even you "intelligent readers". mr. schickel thinks you cannot possibly read and understand and criticize literary works on your own. regardless of your intelligence. why? i'm guessing it's because you are not a writer. and even if you are, you're still alive. to be a proper critic you must first and foremost be dead. otherwise, you cannot possibly be taken seriously.

as for being "word-addicted", i'm sorry richard, but that is part of the craft of writing. if we are to take the words of writers more seriously, then philip k. dick's reputation is still under inflated. but, you know, he wrote sci-fi and took drugs. i've no idea who cornell woolrich is. so i'm guessing his reputation is not as overinflated as mr. schickel thinks. doesn't matter. schickel strikes me as the sort of pretentious git who equates inpenetrability with intelligence, and "serious" works as being all that is worthy of reading. but, mind you, you must be told what is worthy of your time by a "superior mind". such as, i'm guessing, mr. schickel. who writes for "time".

you'll all forgive me if i stick to trusting my own abilities and the recommendations of those whom i find trustworthy (such as keifus). being a pleb, i'd likely not even be able to understand cricism anyway

EDIT 5/24: in the interest of fairness, i do agree that not everyone's opinion or criticism is of equal value. what i dislike is the idea that being paid to do something instantly means one is better at it than others. for a prime example, read firejoemorgan.com. it's also a prime example of why those who have done some thing (such as played pro baseball) does not mean they are more capable of analysing or criticising that same thing. also, i think mr. schickel does not quite understand how sites that, say review books, come about. they are not written by people who set out to get a job as a reviewer and failed. they are written by people who started reviewing books for friends and acquaintences and then attracted a wider readership. it is not true that if someone is good enough to review a book, they'd have a job. for they may never have sought one. mostly, though, the suggestion that people who write online, as a hobby or diversion, are somehow less intelligent or capable simply because they are writing for free, is extraordinarily insulting. yes, there are a great many morons babbling away online (some may consider me to be one of them). however, there are also a great many highly intelligent people out there, sharing their thoughts as well.

mathematicians are idiots

i haven't read through this whole article yet. i probably won't, because i find the premise ridiculous and, frankly, irritating. however, it is useful (in the opening paragraphs) as an illustration of how brilliant people can be remarkably stupid. particularly game theorists.

here's the setup:

Lucy and Pete, returning from a remote Pacific island, find that the airline has damaged the identical antiques that each had purchased. An airline manager says that he is happy to compensate them but is handicapped by being clueless about the value of these strange objects. Simply asking the travelers for the price is hopeless, he figures, for they will inflate it.

Instead he devises a more complicated scheme. He asks each of them to write down the price of the antique as any dollar integer between 2 and 100 without conferring together. If both write the same number, he will take that to be the true price, and he will pay each of them that amount. But if they write different numbers, he will assume that the lower one is the actual price and that the person writing the higher number is cheating. In that case, he will pay both of them the lower number along with a bonus and a penalty--the person who wrote the lower number will get $2 more as a reward for honesty and the one who wrote the higher number will get $2 less as a punishment. For instance, if Lucy writes 46 and Pete writes 100, Lucy will get $48 and Pete will get $44.

What numbers will Lucy and Pete write? What number would you write?
if you've any sense, you're choosing $100. in know i am.

now, the startling conclusion!
Scenarios of this kind, in which one or more individuals have choices to make and will be rewarded according to those choices, are known as games by the people who study them (game theorists). I crafted this game, "Traveler's Dilemma, in 1994 with several objectives in mind: to contest the narrow view of rational behavior and cognitive processes taken by economists and many political scientists, to challenge the libertarian presumptions of traditional economics and to highlight a logical paradox of rationality.

Traveler's Dilemma (TD) achieves those goals because the game's logic dictates that 2 is the best option, yet most people pick 100 or a number close to 100--both those who have not thought through the logic and those who fully understand that they are deviating markedly from the "rational choice. Furthermore, players reap a greater reward by not adhering to reason in this way. Thus, there is something rational about choosing not to be rational when playing Traveler's Dilemma.
amazing! irrationality wins! er, not really. see, what these guys don't realize is they are basing their logic on the assumption that people are machines. they aren't. sure, mathematically, it may be logical to pick 2, because then you can't lose. but the most you are going to get is $4. yippie fuckin' skippy. a formula, or super math geek, might think in these terms, but generally, humans don't. hell, i don't even think vulcans would. it is far more rational to assume the other person is going to try to maximize their reward, not their odds of winning. sure, if you pick 100, instead of 2, you get nothing. but the other person only gets 4 bucks. you aren't out a hundred dollars. you're out four. in terms of risk, that's pretty damn low. so why bother to low ball it? i'd venture to guess that no statistically significant portion of people choose less than 50. why? it's in the premise for choosing this reward/punishment scenerio: people are going to inflate the value. if you are setting up a problem because you think the subjects are going to try to reap a higher monetary reward, what possible reason would you have to believe someone would choose 2 as an answer to the problem? well, that's covered:
To see why 2 is the logical choice, consider a plausible line of thought that Lucy might pursue: her first idea is that she should write the largest possible number, 100, which will earn her $100 if Pete is similarly greedy. (If the antique actually cost her much less than $100, she would now be happily thinking about the foolishness of the airline manager's scheme.)

Soon, however, it strikes her that if she wrote 99 instead, she would make a little more money, because in that case she would get $101. But surely this insight will also occur to Pete, and if both wrote 99, Lucy would get $99. If Pete wrote 99, then she could do better by writing 98, in which case she would get $100. Yet the same logic would lead Pete to choose 98 as well. In that case, she could deviate to 97 and earn $99. And so on. Continuing with this line of reasoning would take the travelers spiraling down to the smallest permissible number, namely, 2. It may seem highly implausible that Lucy would really go all the way down to 2 in this fashion. That does not matter (and is, in fact, the whole point)--this is where the logic leads us.

Game theorists commonly use this style of analysis, called backward induction. Backward induction predicts that each player will write 2 and that they will end up getting $2 each (a result that might explain why the airline manager has done so well in his corporate career). Virtually all models used by game theorists predict this outcome for TD--the two players earn $98 less than they would if they each naively chose 100 without thinking through the advantages of picking a smaller number.
read that last sentence again. now, think about what this man is saying. the logical conclusion leads to you netting $2, $98 less than naively choosing $100. this is most decidedly not an advantage. and yes, it seems highly implausible that someone would choose 2 because it is highly implausible. the disadvantages of low reward more than outweigh any advantage of choosing low.

anyway, i couldn't really read past that point. the model is flawed, because it is based upon the least important variable in the equation. you don't need a game like this to realize that human decision making is not guided by strict logic. what this says to me is not that it is irrational to defy strict logic, but that it is irrational to stick to it.

hey claude...

you know this guy?

New York Mets baseball fan Frank Martinez, 40, was ejected and then arrested at Shea Stadium in April after he allegedly shone a high-beam flashlight into the eyes of Atlanta Braves player Edgar Renteria during a game. A former neighbor, interviewed by the New York Post, said Martinez was once evicted from his apartment because he would commandeer the hallway after a Mets victory, and into the middle of the night, screaming "M! E! T! S!" as he paraded from one end to the other. [New York Post, 4-22-07] (swiped from news of the weird)
god bless baseball fans.

21 May, 2007

live by the knuckleball

die by the knuckleball.


EDIT 5/22: upon further review, those 12 LOB didn't help matters.

tea: now better than water

at least according to the brits. but you know, they would claim that, wouldn't they? i wonder if the east india company sponsored this report...

17 May, 2007

dear quadriceps

i'd like to apologize to you for what happened today. i know we've been walking that 3 mile loop for a few weeks now, and you haven't seemed to mind at all. in fact, you seemed to enjoy it. so, surely you can understand why i thought you'd agree it was time to see if we could run for one of those miles. yes, i know we haven't actually done any running, well, since we were on the track team in high school. but still, it seemed like the next logical step.

i was wrong. i see that now.

please forgive me. and, uh, let me stand up, too? please? i have to pee, and i don't want to wheel this chair to the bathroom...

falling victim to guilt week

well, they got me. the folks at WETA are in the midst of their spring pledge drive and, after listening to them beg for days, they got me. mind you, i don't mind donating money to public radio. let alone a station that i listen to for approximately 9-10 hours a day. also, they picked up the slack when WGMS switched formats from all classical to yet-another-classic-rock-station; themselves changing from talk radio to all classical. i greatly appreciate that and respect the risk. plus, i'm getting a nifty bag out of it (for whatever reason, i am constantly in search of the perfect bag. or backpack. luggage too.).

still, i feel manipulated and used. okay, not so much. mostly, i feel like complaining about it. especially because they'll get me again, next pledge drive.


UPDATE: i quote, i say i quote, the guy on the radio. just now. "we're not trying to make you feel guilty. although that would help." caught!

16 May, 2007

thunder! lightning!

and just in time to coincide with my walk to the metro for pottery class! thanks weather gods!

15 May, 2007

i should have paid more attention in chemistry class

of late (that is, since i purchased it) i've been reading and re-reading john britt's The Complete Guide to High Fire Glazes: Glazing & Firing at Cone 10. truly a fascinating book. glazing has been one of the areas where i've not quite had a firm grasp of what was going on. part of this ignorance may stem from my status as a student: i have no control over what glazes are available to me for use, nor over the firing cycle. still, knowing more about glazing and firing is only going to help me improve my own work. hence the study.

probably the most important lesson i've gleaned from it so far is just how damned important glaze application is. again, it does depend on the glaze. however, it's very useful to know that i may not have gotten the results i expected because the glaze coat was too thin. or that my glaze may have crawled because i applied it a bit too thickly. additionally, knowing how the colorants, for instance, affect each other is going to help me gauge what glaze combinations may yield interesting results.

the downside is that, not having my own studio and kiln, i cannot try out some of the really fascinating glazes and techniques in the book. for example, since i cannot request a slow cooling to the glaze firing, i won't be able to get any macrocrystaline effects. at least, untill i'm at a point where i do have my own kiln. then i can really play.

anyway, even if you aren't actually making pottery, i'd recommend looking through this book. provided the craft itself interests you. at the very least, it will help you appreciate it all the more.

11 May, 2007

dear daveto


okay, not really. but you have my sympathy.

07 May, 2007

and in further baseball news...

an idea whose time should not have come. yes folks, the baseball draft will finally be televised. aren't you excited? i'm not.

there is a reason why people care about the nfl and nba drafts, but not the mlb draft. that is, those fans will see the players drafted the next year (specially the high picks). whereas where one is drafted by an mlb club has little to no meaning, beyond signing bonuses. still not a guarantee of making the club, ever. and still means at least 2-3 years in the minors. even for high picks. that goes quadruple for pitchers.

baseball is arguably the most skill dependant of all the major american pro sports. talent, athleticism...both important. but one needs skill and needs to develop that skill. this is why there is rookie ball, a ball, aa ball and aaa ball. if you don't go through the instructional leagues, chances are slim you'll make it in the big leagues.

for example, if you can shoot a basketball well in high school and college, chances are high you'll still be able to shoot just as well in the nba (specially considering the emphasis they place on defense). whereas, say a pitcher can blow through high school and college with good heat. but if you never develop another pitch and just rely on the ablility to throw a 100 mph fastball, you will get shelled in the majors. and so on.

anyway, i'm certainly not going to watch it. i'm expecting not many others will either. likely i'm wrong, but you never know.

clemens signs with the darkside. again.

so, clemens decided to sign with the yanks. i find myself agreeing with the official line here: eh, oh well. would have been nice to have him back with the sox. no doubt. i don't think he'll be quite as effective in the AL as he was last year in the NL. but he'll likely get more wins. i'm thinking he's good for 10-12 wins and a era somewhere in the 3.50 to 4.25 range. based on his comments, i think he'd also got a "gentleman's agreement", if not an actual offer, of a non-pitching job once he actually calls it quits on the mound. whether as a coach or a special pitching consultant/advisor. the yanks still need more pitching though.

meanwhile, the sox still look damn good. the plus is that they even when they make mistakes, or remind us they are still human (such as okijima giving up his first inherited run), they are still winning. at least, more often than not. sweeps are nice. streaks are nice. but it's the consistent 2 out of 3's that will get you to october.

note to self

this is a reminder: refrain from taking new books to bed. stick with the old, famaliar friends. at least if you want to actually sleep.

p.s: also, that cappuchino probably didn't help matters.

04 May, 2007

disney is evil. and other thoughts

great. so, my internal work IM seems to have lost connectivity. we'll add that to list of today's frustrations. along with the fact that WID never deployed the latest version of our service to the INT box. oh, it went to QA and was released in production last week. but it's still not in INT. what the fuck? we'll tack on to that the request i just got for documentation on this service, so the people who took over maintainence of it (last fucking year) actually have some clue as to what it does.

this is on top of the frustration of not being able to test my own work. seems to be working in lower environments, using the same code. and it doesn't seem to be data driven, as, well, transactions that should hit well established error processing code (ie: none existant policies) aren't going through. i have no information at all as to what is going arwy. which is leading me to believe the transaction just isn't being run at all. bugger.

but what i really want to say is that disney is evil. not just in the usual "disney is evil" sense. they've gone beyond that. today, i saw a commercial for some show called "my friends tigger and pooh". apparently, this is a cgi cartoon about a little red-headed girl who solves crimes with tigger and winnie the pooh. seriously. what in the name of all that is holy is this crap? who thought this would be a good idea? i'm not even a big fan of pooh. but shit like this is just wrong.

disney: dedicating to rooting timeless classics in a very specific time! woo hoo!

i think it's time for a drink.