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PotD 20180208


PotD 20180207


PotD 20180206


PotD 20180205


PotD 20180204



I tend to think that the lack of parking for the n-thousand employees where I work, even after recently spending tens-of-millions on a (too-small-even-when-planned [1]) parking garage, was just general bureaucratic ineptitude.

But since the general result is that you have to come in early to get parking, and you can’t leave to take an off-site lunch, one wonders if the powers-that-be [2] are working to some different goal. Like the goal of ending the usual scientist thing of wandering in late and working late. And taking a long lunch. By which I mean, an hour.

Doesn’t matter to me. I bike in most days; there’s rarely a lack of rack space [3]. I bring my gluten/legume/grain/dairy-free paleo FODMAP lunch.

But I can’t schedule a doctor appointment for the morning and expect to drive straight on from the appointment, then work late, which is a PITA. So I schedule everything for 3 pm and leave early. Counterproductive, I’d say.

Still, Hanlon’s Razor. Though that razor is getting pretty dull nowadays, when there really are just bad intentions.

[1] Seriously, even the planning documents show that the new garage would have fewer spaces than the lot that it was replacing, and that’s before the hiring freeze was lifted. Apparently no one in admin noticed, or cared.

[2] The same ones that think that open-plan is a good idea for a bunch of anti-social Ph.Ds working on wildly different projects mixed in with BA folks who spend the day yelling on the phone.

[3] Except for the aspirational lunchtime mountain bikers. There’s always a couple of them in circulation who bring their MBs into work and lock them to the racks, on the theory that they’ll go up the Brown Mt trail at lunchtime, until the bike is dusty, rusty, and flat, and someone leaves a note asking them to move their once-nice, now-POS spacetaker. Then it’ll eventually leave, only to be replaced shortly thereafter by someone else who also will make it up exactly one lunchtime ride before their bike slowly degenerates into a rustbucket while taking up hardcore commuter space. Not unlike the people who get lockers, then use them exactly twice.

Late night radio

I think I discovered Joe Frank driving down from Idyllwild late one night. Exhausted, dehydrated, trying to pass all the RVs ignoring the pullouts and signs that say “Slow Traffic Pull Over”, so I could get back in time to get a shower and collapse into bed before work for a few hours, before going to work beaten and bruised and scraped by the offwidth of the day. The fingernail moon was hanging in the sky, changing position with every curve.

The stories sounded like a dream I’d had but didn’t remember. If I had been Jewish and grown up in LA in the seventies amidst EST and therapy and drugs and money. I’m not, and I didn’t, but I was hanging out with people who did, and it felt like an alternate life. Many of us transplanted natives feel that way, since we grew up living a dream life watching LA in the movies and TV. Listening to LA bands singing about LA on FM radio. Joe Frank felt like what I imagined my life would have been like if I had grown up in the right place, at the right time.

I could never afford to give him money. I’d love to have his collected works, but not for close to two grand, especially not as a broke postdoc. I set up a program to record WBAI and KCRW Saturday nights at 11, in that short magical time before podcasting, but after radio stations started streaming online. Roughly Napster-era.

I spent a lot of nights listening to Joe Frank, driving back late at night from the mountains, desert, LA, ocean, fighting to stay awake, that voice somewhere between a dream and someone else’s reality.

The map is not the territory

I want smarter maps. Maps that work like I use them. Surely these use cases must be true for techbros too, even if they are taking the Apple bus [1].

  • Directions only if there’s traffic: I know where I’m going. I don’t need directions. Just tell me if I should change my route because of traffic. Otherwise, shut up!
  • Directions at end: I’m leaving from home/work/etc. I know where I am. Only give me directions when I get close to my destination. I know how to get to the freeway, and which exit to take. And traffic. Shut up otherwise.
  • Directions at beginning: I’m headed home. I just need to know how to get to the freeway. And if traffic should alter that plan. Shut up otherwise.
  • Categorically rule out an option: Every entrance to the 405 (5/110/whatever) is closed for construction/streetfair/ciclavia. Stop trying to route me to the next exit/entrance ramp. It’s not gonna work.

The first three are easy, I think. Almost automatic, I should think. Siri has my home address, and the list of places I’ve been. It shouldn’t be too difficult for her to figure out that I know how to get to the 110 and should be left alone unless I shouldn’t be taking the 110 at all.

The last one is more difficult, but “Find a route that doesn’t take the 405 as all the ramps are closed” shouldn’t be that hard. Jesus I’ve even resorted to pulling out the Thomas Guide one night at 2 AM trying to figure out how to get out of Westwood after a late night and both Apple and Google only giving me entrance after closed entrance to the closed 405 to get home.


[1] Maybe G**gl* or W*z* has these now. I’m not willing to divulge my location at all times for advertising purposes in order to find out.


I spent so much time trying to get my hi-hat to sound like this. And it was an eight measure loop with a phasor.

Molly’s Game movie review

First, 140 minutes. Two hours 20 minutes. Tighten it up, Aaron. Sheesh. Thirty-eight minutes longer than Casablanca. Twenty-one minutes longer than Citizen Kane. A long time to sit even in a relatively comfortable seat.

I like Sorkin [1]. Sue me. I like Mamet. I have no problem with their respective distinctive dialogs. Like Shakespeare [2], once your ear adjusts, it’s okay. It’s smart. The contrived dialogue makes you think. Everyone talks the same way, with the same patterns. So what are they saying?

I was okay with the movie when I was watching it. I enjoyed it, sitting there, even though my butt got numb [3]. Lots of the sort of actors I like, smart actors saying smart things [4]. But the dumbness of the movie! I’m supposed to believe that this woman was smart enough to run a multi-million dollar legal game, and not know that the guys from the Brighton Beach game with no-visible-means-of-support she invited to her game didn’t have ties to the Russian mob? That her hostesses might not be paragons of virtue with all that money and celebrity strutting around? That her clients weren’t calling their moms to talk about the spread on the Mets games? To not think about what happens when some big talker can’t pay up? To be smart enough to put in cameras, but not wonder if someone was listening to her?

To go to a lawyer to pay for very good advice – “Don’t do something illegal when you are doing something illegal”, then not follow it?

To not know that eventually the Mob would show up, and not understand that it wasn’t a request?

To not understand that someone could take the game away from her as easily as she took it from the guy she stole it from, and in the same manner, and not take measures to prevent it?

You don’t get to have the main character claim to be smart enough to run rings around the rich guys and the made guys and the lawyers, then be stupid enough to get taken by the mob, the feds, and an actor.

She basically got off because she’s a pretty white woman. Or that’s the story I’m left with. Not because she’s smart, or has integrity, but because she’s got privilege out the wazoo, as her dad points out explicitly in his last contrived scene.

Is it too much to ask for smart people to be smart? See Sicario. Or is this just another mirror to reality, and most people are smart about some things, dumb about others? Maybe movies don’t get made about the truly smart people who don’t get caught, who see all the angles. Those movies just aren’t interesting.

In both Sicario and Molly’s Game, someone tells the protagonist exactly the right thing, and in both, the protagonist has to learn the hard way.

Maybe we all have to learn the hard way.

They got the poker right, which was nice. Mostly [5]. Except for her just starting to take a rake without telling anyone. Since that skews the betting, I’m pretty sure there would be at least a comment or two among the players once the pot started getting smaller. Nope, she just starts wetting her beak without telling anyone, and all the sharp guys are just okay with that. It doesn’t even really help – she takes two percent out of a two million dollar pot, which won’t even begin to cover her should one of the guys in that pot walk away. They make it like it’s a big deal, she’s okay, when the rake is the long game, and it’ll take her a couple of years at that rate to cover her losses. Works for casinos, but not for her. That’s also what got her busted.


TL;DR: Good actors in a fast movie that works as long as you don’t think about it too much. Which is a problem for a movie that wants you to think it’s smart.


[1] mostly – see Newsroom for a counter example, or Redbelt.

[2] Not to compare either of these guys to Shakespeare.

[3] And I had to ask the guy in front of me to stop texting two hours in. Who can blame him.

[4] It’s when they get too smart…

[5] Though I’ve spent more time in the $1/$2 Commerce Casino game than in the high-stakes games. Which is to say, none.

PotD 20171226


PotD 20171225


PotD 20171224



Hertz (German and American division) have weird ideas about what constitutes an “upgrade.”

To them, an “upgrade” is bigger. To me, in that context, an upgrade is a bigger pain in the ass to park, less fun to drive, and sucks down more petrol.

To me, and Hertz Zurich (mostly), an “upgrade” is nicer, or more fun. Sometimes smaller.

I try to turn down upgrades in the US and Germany.

QotD 20171223

Dickens’s attitude is easily intelligible to an Englishman, because it is part of the English puritan tradition, which is not dead even at this day. The class Dickens belonged to, at least by adoption, was growing suddenly rich after a couple of centuries of obscurity. It had grown up mainly in the big towns, out of contact with agriculture, and politically impotent; government, in its experience, was something which either interfered or persecuted. Consequently it was a class with no tradition of public service and not much tradition of usefulness. What now strikes us as remarkable about the new moneyed class of the nineteenth century is their complete irresponsibility; they see everything in terms of individual success, with hardly any consciousness that the community exists.

–George Orwell, Charles Dickens 1939