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6th-May-2010 11:29 am - Great Ad
slanty, martha

Worth watching twice.
slanty, martha
We have an extra ticket for the BSO chamber players tomorrow (Sunday) at 3PM, Jordan Hall.

Summer Music for wind quintet

Serenata notturna, for oboe and strings

Septet in E-flat for winds and strings, Op. 20

Call or reply here if you're interested.
slanty, martha
The fact that you can buy gas by credit card as quickly as you can, with no human intervention, is pretty cool. And if you have one of those "speed pass" thingies, it's exactly like the way people buy things in the future in SF; "Joe waved his credit chit, and...".

But even though it's "fast enough", I still spend 30 seconds every time I get gas wondering what's going on in those 30 seconds. So now you can wonder with me.

I put the credit card in. It waits 10-15 seconds, evaluating billions of machine instructions, and then finally computes that it needs to ask me the question "Credit or Debit?". Ten or fifteen seconds later, after evaluating a few billion more instructions, authorization is complete and I can start pumping gas.

One of these delays can be explained by the time it takes to establish a network connection with some busy server somewhere, and wait while that server executes a slow database transaction. But what is the second wait for? Why can't it ask me "Debit or Credit" immediately, without doing any computation at all, and then initiate whatever network transaction is required afterwards?

A second wait after I'm finished pumping makes sense. Interaction with the remote transaction system is required twice, once to say "authorize charges of up to $40" and once to say "Charge this card $18.34". But I can't figure out why there are two long waits before I start to pump.
16th-Feb-2010 05:48 pm - Backhanded compliment of the year.
slanty, martha
A friend's comment, on seeing me dressed up in my ballroom competition outfit, with shorter and neater hair than usual:

"Wow! You look great! In fact, I didn't even recognize you!"

Speaking of different looks, I now think my decision to shave off my mustache was long overdue, and wince when I see my mustachioed LJ picture. If anyone takes a good picture of me without the mustache that I can use to replace the current icon, please let me know.
26th-Jan-2010 06:17 pm - Supreme court
slanty, martha
In honor of the recent supreme court opinion awarding first amendment rights to Corporations, I suggest that Google change its corporate motto from "Don't be Evil" to "Don't be Evil, except where doing Evil would increase shareholder value."

As far as I can tell, if a candidate promised a company a special tax break if elected, the corporation would have a fiduciary duty to its stockholders to contribute to his campaign, even if everyone in the company agreed that he would do a lousy job in office.

When deciding who to support with my money and my vote, I can selfishly choose the candidate who would do the most for me personally, or I can be altruistic, and support the candidate that I think would do the best job for everyone. But a corporation doesn't have that choice; now that it's legal for them to give campaign contributions, they are legally obligated to contribute to which ever candidate will do what's best for the corporation.

How can this be a way to run a democracy?
slanty, martha
Every time I vote, I wonder why no-one has made what seems to me to be an obvious improvement to voting machine technology.

With the current technology, if I haven't filled in the circle completely enough, my vote isn't counted. If a smudge in one of the other circles is too dark, it will be read as voting for two candidates for the same office, and again, my vote won't be counted. And in both cases, I get no feedback that this has happened.

My improvement is that for each office, in addition to having a circle (or chad to punch out, or line drawn, or whatever your voting technology includes) for each candidate, and a circle for write-ins, there is one additional circle, saying "I am not casting a vote for this office". When the machine reads my ballot, it can then check that exactly one circle is marked in each race (make the obvious adjustments for "vote for two" elections. Then if it reads zero or two circles as being filled, it can give a "bad ballot" signal. The poll officials can then shred the ballot and issue me a new one.

Suppose a misreading (through user error, or machine error) occurs one time in 100. Currently, my vote isn't getting counted one time in 100, and if I'm filling out the ballot in a way that causes more frequent misreadings, I have no way of knowing this. With my suggested enhancement, my vote would only fail to be counted one time in 10,000, and someone who filled in the ballot in a way that caused frequent misreading (checking the circle instead of filling it in, for example) would get feedback that they were doing something wrong.

Why isn't this done? I'm sure (or at least I hope) ballots are carefully inventoried, and it would require a slight complication to this inventory process to account for the shredded ballots. But it seems obviously worth it for the reduction in errors. Has no-one thought of this but me? Or do voting machine manufacturers and those who write election laws just not care about recording votes accurately?

PS If you live in Massachusetts, remember to vote today! All indications are that this will be a close race, so your vote matters.
31st-Dec-2009 11:16 am - Help me spend my money
slanty, martha
So it's time for my last-minute 2009 charitable donations.

What's the most effective charity to give my money to for the purpose "do something about global warming"? In the past, I've given money to the National Resources Defense Council, but I'm wondering whether anyone has any suggestions as to whether that's the best choice.
22nd-Dec-2009 12:50 am(no subject)
slanty, martha
Answers to the vocabulary quiz now posted in a comment. Apparently it's not just me who doesn't know these words.
15th-Dec-2009 01:03 am - Vocabulary quiz
slanty, martha
I just finished a novel that had an unusual number of words that were unfamiliar to me. So I thought I'd see if my friends knew these words. Comments are screened, so you can post definitions without it being a spoiler for others.

One of these is not found in the OED, and is a typo or error; a letter needs to be deleted to produce the intended word (which is used in the book in a sense not listed in the OED, though the intended meaning is clear from context).

For extra credit, can you name the book that contains all these words? It's a fantasy novel from 1981.

borborygmic (this one I had heard before, and remembered the meaning given the context, but it's a great word)

* These three are the only ones that Firefox's and LJ's spell checkers.
12th-Dec-2009 01:20 pm - Sleep No More actually on December 30
slanty, martha
So Sleep No More was sold out for Sunday; we have tickets for December 30. All shows seem to be selling out fast; if you're thinking of seeing this, get tickets now. If you get tickets for the 30th, let us know.
11th-Dec-2009 01:08 am - Sleep No More
slanty, martha
C & E and I are going to see Sleep No More (a reimagining of MacBeth as a haunted house) this Sunday at 7:40. Everyone I know who's seen it has raved about it. Anyone want to join us?

There's no need to to get tickets together; since you're not seated and watching, but walking around exploring the haunted house, we can just meet up at the event and explore together.

We're also planning to see The Donkey Show (A Midsummer Night's Dream set in a 70's disco) at some point. This is also immersive theater; you see the play, not seated on the other side of the proscenium, but from the point of view of someone going to the disco. Let us know if you'd be interested in joining us for this, too, especially if you like to dance!
slanty, martha
So I've been paying way too little attention to the senate race, and I'm going to have to figure out who to vote for soon. Anyone want to express any opinions on the candidates?

If you know of a good website that summarizes candidate opinions on various issues, that would be good, too.
28th-Nov-2009 12:47 pm - Want to wave?
slanty, martha
I have 20 Google Wave invites. Let me know if you want one.
slanty, martha
I'm returning to Boston tomorrow; my mother seems to be doing well enough that I think she can cope with being alone, and has a pretty good support structure; people keep dropping by, and the phone keeps ringing.

But C&E are out of town, and I think that being alone all weekend wouldn't be a good thing for me. So if anyone is interested in getting together Saturday or Sunday, afternoon, or evening, either to do something fun, or just to hang out and socialize, please let me know.

Sunday until 3 I'll be dancing; the rest of my time is open, and that feels like way more alone time than I want at the moment.
9th-Nov-2009 06:40 am - Sad
slanty, martha
My father died yesterday. While his health had deterioriated somewhat a couple of years ago, he had seemed to be in a stable state, even slightly improving, and he was feeling well enough to get out for his twice-weekly bridge game, visits to friends, and the theater. So this is quite a shock.

I feel I should write some long appreciation of what a wonderful person he is and what a great dad he was to me and my brothers. But words fail me. Maybe later I'll be less numb and can figure out what to say.

Flying down to DC to be with my mom and my brothers.
23rd-Oct-2009 03:06 pm - More dancing!
slanty, martha
In an apparent effort to use up even more free time than I have, I've joined
the Harvard Ballroom Dance Team.

This is a huge time sink; three hours of lessons a week, and 2 hours required and 2 recommended of group practice per week. And then there's individual practice with your partner before competitions.

This is enough time that I may burn out, but as long as I'm having a really good time, which I am so far, I'll stick with it.

If you want to come cheer me on, my first competition, the Harvard Beginners' Comp, is this Sunday, 12-7, at the Malkin Athletic Center in Harvard Square. The schedule is here; If you want to cheer me on, I'll be dancing sometime between 12 and 1, and again sometime between 2:30 and 4. There will be a performance by a professional couple at 5:45.

It's free to watch, watching the professional couple should be fun, and people claim that friends shouting out "Go 162!" (that's my number) will cause the judges tolook at me more, and be more likely to mark me to come back in the next round.

dancingdeer will also be competing; we're dancing together for Rumba and Cha Cha.

In my usual time conflict these days of "My dancing gets in the way of my dancing", I'm leaving tonight for a C4 square dance in the Berkshires, and missing the last day of it to dance in the Harvard Beginner's comp. So it's an entire weekend of dancing!
slanty, martha
When we drive in together, we can use the HOV lane on 93!
10th-Oct-2009 01:53 am(no subject)
slanty, martha
or if you like both JoCo and musicals, I have four words for you:

Code Monkey: the Musical

I saw it tonight. Recommended.
slanty, martha
I'm planning to do the HRFSA puzzle hunt this Saturday. Want to join me?

You can show up with a team, or you can show up alone and they will organize people into teams. So I thought I'd plan to show up with a team or part of a team, and if we only have part of a team, they can assign some unattached hunters to join us.

This hunt is for teams of about a dozen, and is expected to last about 6 hours. So it's a much smaller, easier event than the MIT mystery hunt. If you've stayed away from the mystery hunt because it's too big, or too long, or too hard, or if you've never done a mystery hunt and want to give it a try, this might be a fun thing to try.

If you want to be on a team with me, send me email or reply to this. If you want to hunt, but not on my team, show up at 1PM Saturday at the Harvard Science Center.
24th-Jul-2009 10:23 am - Want to play Settlers on Saturday?
slanty, martha
So I want to play a bunch of Settlers of Catan to practice for the upcoming tournament. I'm planning to play on Saturday afternoon, but need two more players; is anyone interested?

We'd be playing in the Davis Square area. Time is flexible, as long as we're done by 5:30 or so.

EDIT: We've gotten our third and fourth players. But if you're a Settlers fan (or a boardgaming fan in general) and I don't already know this, let me know, so I can let you know about future gaming sessions (I have a vague plan of having more frequent medium-sized gaming get-togethers, rather than only very rare huge parties).
22nd-Jul-2009 02:58 pm - Useful map software feature.
slanty, martha
After I tell mapquest or google maps "I'm traveling from A to B", and it tells me "that will take 10 hours", I'd like to be able to ask it "where will I be after 6 hours?" so I can figure out where to get a hotel room. I think I can probably do this with trial and error and waypoints on Google maps, but it would be nice to be able to do it directly.

Has anyone seen this feature?
17th-Jun-2009 02:05 am - Victory!
slanty, martha
I won the settlers tournament, winning two games out of the four we played. callyperry came in second. So I get a free trip to Gencon! Eureka Games, the games store in Coolidge Corner that ran the tournament, is paying my airfare, and Mayfair games is paying for hotel, Gencon admission, and entry in the Settlers of Catan US championship.

The finals were fun to play in. I would have thought that four consecutive games of Settlers, all played on the same board, would start to get monotonous, but the initial placements were all different, and the games took very different directions. And all my opponents were nice people and good players and fun to play with, which is the important thing.

I've never been to GenCon. Anyone who has gone, and has suggestions for fun things to do, should let me know. I know that crs, 42itous and majordomo are all going this year, which I'm sure will make the trip more fun. Is anyone else I know going?

I suppose I should try to practice before playing in the US championship, so anyone who wants to get together and play Settlers some evening should let me know.
10th-Jun-2009 01:46 am - Catan Settlers R us!
slanty, martha
callyperry and I played in a Settler's of Catan tournament tonight, run by Eureka Games, a games store in Coolidge corner. There were 40 people there, and we each played three games. I haven't played Settlers in quite a while, and should play it more: I had forgotten what a good game it is. And all of my opponents were pleasant people who were fun to play with.

callyperry was the only player to win all three games. I won two games, and got 9 points in the third game. So we both get to go back next week, when the four of us play 3 or 4 more games. The winner gets a free trip to Gencon to play in the US finals (and the winner there gets a free trip to the Essen Game Fair in Germany to play in the World Championship), so wish us luck!
25th-May-2009 01:13 am - Not an old dog yet!
slanty, martha
Today I hula-hooped for the first time!

This is something I've tried to do periodically since I was a kid, and never succeeded at.

Two possible theories as to why I succeeded this time when I had previously failed. One is that this was a larger and heavier hula-hoop than a standard one, which nosrednayduj says makes it easier. Ths other is that I'm more coordinated with the relevant muscles because of using them in Latin dancing. Or it could be a combination of these two. In any case, despite the completely uselessness of this skill, finally being able to do it makes me quite happy.
6th-May-2009 01:43 pm - I like my friends.
slanty, martha
From a discussion at lunch today.

"You know, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a surprisingly good actor, as long as he stays within his range. When he's either playing Terminator-style characters, or doing comedy, he's really very good. But when he does anything else, he's terrible."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. I saw him trying to play the Governer of California, and he was terrible; totally unconvincing in the role".

"Well, he has a narrow range; it's the casting that was bad, not the actor; blame the casting director".

"I guess that's what happens when the casting director's job is done by committee"
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