slanty, martha

Extra BSO Chamber Players ticket for tomorrow.

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

BARBER
Summer Music for wind quintet

BOLCOM
Serenata notturna, for oboe and strings

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

Call or reply here if you're interested.
slanty, martha

Gas Station POS terminals (expand the acronym as you like)

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.
  • Current Mood
    thoughtful thoughtful
slanty, martha

Backhanded compliment of the year.

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.
  • Current Mood
    bemused
slanty, martha

Supreme court

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?
  • Current Mood
    annoyed annoyed
slanty, martha

An obvious improvement to voting machines.

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.
  • Current Mood
    puzzled
slanty, martha

Vocabulary quiz

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.

horripilated
medicus
percipience*
operose
cerement*
phthisical
orgulous
borborygmic (this one I had heard before, and remembered the meaning given the context, but it's a great word)
rachitic
parterre*

* These three are the only ones that Firefox's and LJ's spell checkers.
  • Current Mood
    puzzled