August 2005 Archives

One of the peculiar joys of writing a thesis on Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (that's the Supreme Court Justice, not the doctor and fireside poet) was getting the chance to read through a lot of his personal papers and diaries. Among his collected Civil War writings is the following observation, which I relate verbatim:

Holmes was wounded thrice during the course of the Civil War. At the early skirmish at Ball's Bluff he was shot through the chest (the bullet penetrated his left breast and came out his right). At the battle of Antietam he was shot through the neck (the bullet came in the back and out the front; miraculously it did not sever any veins, his throat, or his spinal cord). Then in a skirmish shortly before the battle of Chancellorsville he sustained a wound to his foot from some artillery shrapnel.

The heel wound, while the least potentially deadly (though, of course, he risked having to have the foot amputated) was the wound which put him out of commission for the longest. During his lengthy convalescence he was allowed to return home, where he visited with old friends and family, before eventually returning to the front.

Upon his return to duty, he observed to a friend that he had developed a theory of the mechanical nature of the human mind. That is to say, that the individual human mind is not so unique or interesting as we would like to believe, but rather everyone thinks along pretty much the same lines and has largely the same thought process. His evidence for this was that, without fail, whenever he encountered someone and told them of his heel injury, they made some joke about Achilles, and each in his turn thought themself the cleverest person on Earth.

This brings me to the subject of Bar Review. Not the course that most students take at the end of their law school years, but rather the clubs that exist on every single Law School campus in the nation. Bar Review, the club, is a group of students that go out drinking every week to different bars. You see, it's a sort of pun, because they're law students, and bar review is an activity associated with law school, but here Bar is used in a different sense, to mean a drinking establishment. And every law school has one; each one has independently come up with the idea that they should deploy this lame pun to identify their drinking society, and each one doubtless thinks they are the cleverest folk on Earth for having come up with the idea.

Inappropriate Familial Relationships

As you know, Bob, I've been learning to play the banjo. I'm still very much an amateur, and have mostly been working through Jack Hatfield's "First Lessons Banjo" in what free time I can find.

One of the first songs the book teaches is "Go Tell Aunt Rhody." It is a relevant point that the lyrics to this song are "Go tell Aunt Rhody, go tell Aunt Rhody, go tell Aunt Rhody the old grey goose is dead." Shortly after learning the basic version of this song, the trainee is taught the Pinch, one of the most basic banjo player's tricks to make songs more complex and interesting. It consists of quickly striking the high-D and high-G strings, the outermost strings on a 5-string banjo, using the index finger and thumb respectively, in a pinching motion.

The trainee is then given a new version of Go Tell Aunt Rhody, this one deploying the pinch to make the song more dynamic, in order to practice the pinch in context. It should be pointed out here that the book has an accompanying CD, which the trainee can listen to and play along with, so as to get the appropriate timing and to hear what a song is supposed to sound like. It's quite useful.

Nonetheless, my training has now hit somewhat of a block because of this CD. The track containing the altered version of Go Tell Aunt Rhody is introduced by Jack Hatfield, the book's author, announcing in his southern drawl that we will now "Go Tell Aunt Rhody, with pinches." Whenever I hear this, I involuntarily chuckle and have to compose myself quickly before the actual song starts. I can't help but thinking of the sort of relationship one has with one's aunt that would lead one to use the mechanism of pinching to convey the death of a, presumably, beloved fowl. I think I'd better move onto Tom Dooley and the Forward Roll before I get stuck here.

Wir sollen ein Stadtbummel machen.


It's an oft-made point that the German language contains a lot of really handy words for which there is no ready English equivalent. Part of this comes from the fact that Germans are flexible about creating new compound words by ramming old words together. As a sidenote, my two favorite of those compound words are Krankenschwester (literally "Sick Sister," but actually the German word for nurse) and Bleistiftspitzer (pencil sharpener).

Most of the words English-speakers pine over come from the field of sociology, where the Germans did some pioneering work. Frequently mentioned favorites include Schadenfreude and Schmerzangst. I'd like to add the more commonplace but much more useful Stadtbummel.

Stadtbummel literally translates as "city walk." It's how I spend most of my weekends when I live in a city. The closest English colloquialism would be "walk around the block," but even that doesn't quite capture it. A Stadtbummel is a walking trip with no greater purpose than to be walking in the city. You might have a direction, or some goal, but your primary reason for going out is walking and experiencing the city itself.

I had a chance to make a Stadtbummel today (the grammar gets annoying when trying to plunk Stadtbummel in English sentences, which is why an English equivalent is needed). I had seen a neat advertisement down on East 60th street just off Lexington while wandering around yesterday, and I knew a friend would get a kick out of it. I had a three hour break between classes, so I grabbed my camera and hoofed my way down Broadway to Columbus Circle, then over to Lexington.

En route, I discovered a store that actually sells bulk grains at semi-reasonable prices. It's not Berkeley Bowl, but I'll settle, and they don't require a membership fee or work hours. I think I missed it in my previous gambols down Broadway because the name of the place is "Uptown Whole Foods." The national Whole Foods chain has begun to infiltrate New York, so I must have previously dismissed it as a branch of the upscale high-priced realtor. Uptown Whole Foods is a New York supermarket, which means it's small and somewhat expensive and the selection is poor, but it has quinoa and millet and kasha and organic fruit and it's an easy walk down and a subway ride back.

The whole trip took about 2 1/2 hours; An hour and a half to walk down, half an hour to get lunch and look around the area a bit, and then a half an hour to take the subway home. But the point of the trip was in getting there, not what I was actually doing. I spend a good chunk of my free time on these wanderings, and I wish I had an easy way of telling people how I spent my Sunday without prefacing my remarks with a lecture on the German language.

On the quality of being "Interesting"

I must preface my remarks by giving credit where due; this insight is not my own. I heard this discussed first by David Henkin, a history professor at Berkeley (whose father, coincidentally enough, teaches law here at Columbia)

It is a peculiar but incontrovertible fact that the word "Interesting," as used in historical writing, and indeed most academic writing, when practically applied means the exact opposite of what it means in regular parlance. That is to say, we use the word "interesting" to denote something unusual or worthy of comment. In most cases, however, to the layman reading or listening in, we can substitute the word "boring" and attain far more accuracy and precision. I offer the following example, from a thesis I submitted in the Legal Studies department:

"This contrast between the commonly accepted role of constitutional courts and Holmes's formulation of the Living Constitution raises an interesting question."

Now, the more accurate re-statement:

"This contrast between the commonly accepted role of constitutional courts and Holmes's formulation of the Living Constitution raises a boring question."

I have found almost no cases, in reading academic papers, when making the above substitution did not, if I am being truthful with myself, make the statement far more accurate and honest than it was originally.


A quick note: Quinoa is pronounced Keen-Wa. This is just to help prevent you from having your pronunciation corrected by jackasses like myself who interrupt you to correct your pronunciation.

Quibbling over Semantics


As a law student, there's nothing I love better than quibbling over semantics. In light of that, I present the following argument: Something's been bothering me ever since I moved here. Now, don't get me wrong, New York is great. It's great for selection and ready availability of goods. It has great public transportation, it has great nightlife. A bit expensive, but what're you going to do? That having been said, there's one thing that New York is profoundly not great at: Having a populace that knows the proper preposition to attach to queues. To put it bluntly: One does not stand on a line, one stands in a line.

Those who have not been to New York or met New Yorkers fresh out of their home environs may not be aware of this, but New Yorkers, when they refer to the act of being within a queue, refer to it as "Standing on line." As in, "I'm standing on line at the theater," or "I was standing on line at the check-out counter." That is, they use the phrase "on line" where everyone else uses the phrase "in line." Moreover, if you speak to born-and-bred New Yorkers, they don't even see what the problem is. That is, I've spoken to people who were as puzzled by the phrase "standing in line" as non-New Yorkers are by "standing on line." They think it is the natural and proper way to express the concept.

I would submit that the correct preposition in this case is "in," not "on." I won't make the mundane point that my position is backed up by the majority of the English speaking world; just because vast swaths of the country and certain presidents I could name pronounce it Nukeular doesn't make it correct. Rather, we must examine the two options carefully. Both tend to imply a state of being contained within a conveyance or other thing larger than the member who is entering it. However, On tends to imply a state of riding on top of, of being in some sense above the object. In implies being contained within that object. When speaking of lines, the line extends neither above nor below its members. They are contained within it. When they leave, they have gotten out of it; they are no longer subsumed to the line. If there were in fact a physical line upon the ground that formed the guidepoint for the queue, then I could accept standing on line, as you are physically on top of the line. But in common use there is no such line on the ground, and this rendering is made nonsensical. I may as well be standing under line, referring to an invisible strand suspended above the heads of those queued up.

That having been said, I'm trying to adapt to saying that I am "standing on line," both because it helps me to blend in better and integrate to my new home, and because "standing on line"is one of the last of the few charming regionalisms that have gradually vanished as our language has been rendered more and more uniform. Nonetheless, when not in New York City, I will proudly stand in line, and I wish it to be known, henceforth and forever, that while I may adopt the local vernacular, I do not by any means consider it correct.


This started out as a reply to Dianna's comment below, but it ended up long enough that I decided to make a post of it.

I should begin by saying that I'm not, based on past evidence, the world's greatest quinoa advocate. I think my heart's in the right place, but I haven't found the proper way to put into words why it's so good. On multiple occasions my advocacy has begun "I love quinoa! It tastes sorta like grass, or maybe corn husks!" To elaborate: Quinoa has a nice fluffy texture once cooked, with an interesting subtle crunchiness. It's tasty and fresh and moist, and it honestly does taste a lot like grass. But in a good way!

Quinoa also has the advantage that it cooks up notably faster than any other grain I've encountered. There's no need to roast or sauté it beforehand, and once you've boiled the water and reduced to a simmer it only takes about 15 minutes to cook. One note: Be sure to rinse your quinoa a couple or times before cooking. It has a natural insect repellant husk that doesn't cook and is really hard. They generally get all the husks off by the time it gets to market, but you're better off erring on the safe side and washing it. The way to cook it, basically, is just to combine 2 parts water or stock to 1 part quinoa, seasoning to taste, heat to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and allow to simmer. It also seems to have a much friendlier margin of error than other grains; I've screwed up millet, kasha, polenta and rice, but never quinoa. As a side note, I've never screwed up barley either, but that's because I've cooked barley on its own maybe twice. Fibrous though it may be, it's far too bland for my taste.

I'm afraid I don't have a lot of recommendations for integrating it into meals or more elaborate recipes; I tend toward very simple cooking with a minimum of ingredients (largely because my pinch-penny nature keeps me from buying embellishments for my meals. Just staples for me, thanks). I compensate for this by keeping a well-stocked spice cabinet. Quinoa is somewhat light and sweet in flavor, but I find pepper, both black and cayenne, can be combined with it safely. Garlic works fine with it, and if you lack stock, putting a bay leaf or two in the water initially can help. I could see curry powder and other combinations of Indian spices working with it, but I tend to prefer those on a denser grain, like Millet. I could also conceive of trying to make it a sweet dish with sugar and sweet spices, like cinnamon, though I make no warranty about this as I haven't tried it yet.

Also, according to Mark Bittman, you can make a sort of quinoa pilaf by using stock to cook it in and sautéing some onions with it. I haven't tried this myself as I don't really get along very well with onions, but it seems worth a short.

To conclude, quinoa has rapidly become my favorite grain, supplanting millet. It's tasty, nutritious, has a great texture, and I never get tired of it.

"Well shit" moments

Have you ever been in a situation where you were watching a catastrophe happen, and your brain just shut down? For example, you've left an open can of paint on a ladder, and something, say a cat, brushes it, and the ladder begins slowly falling over. You're across the room, and can't do anything about it, so all you can do is stand there and watch it slowly tip over and fall. Probably you're a bit stunned afterwards as you survey the disaster area, and your only thought is "Well, shit." Or words to that effect.

I couldn't help thinking about that when I read the case of Kellogg Bridge Co. v. Hamilton. Hamilton got a contract to build a bridge over a river in Ohio, they sub-contracted to Kellogg and turned the job over to them, along with what they'd already built. Half-way through building the bridge, an ice flow comes through, knocks out the fakework that had been done, and the entire bridge collapses and washes away.

Reading that, I wondered what it would be like to be the foreman on that job. You've been working for months building this bridge, you come in to work one morning and, perhaps while drinking coffee and poring over schematics, planning the day's work, you hear a crash and look over to see this giant bridge, your life's work for the last few months, collapse and wash down the river. I imagine, were I in his place, my reaction would basically be stunned silence, perhaps punctuated with a "Well, shit." Perhaps a nicely understated "I expect there'll be some trouble about this."

Hello, World!

I've now moved what little there is of my old blog here. I've copied over what posts I thought were of interest from the old site, and now I'm all set up here and getting comfortable. Feel free to say howdy in the comments!

Cheap Food


Originally posted 8/24/05:
I've been bitching to all who'll listen about the high price of food in New York. This isn't so much a comment on the restaurants as it is on grocery stores. Everything costs more than it should, even the discount grocery stores charge about what Safeway would charge for non-sale food. Although it's not universal, for some reason; I really enjoy soy milk/rice milk/etc., but, being, as I am, very cheap, I had a tough time justifying it in Berkeley because Soy Milk is more expensive by the ounce than skim milk. Here, however, regular milk is notably more expensive, while the various milk-likes are about the same price as elsewhere. This means that, if you buy the low-end soy milk, like WestSoy, it's actually cheaper to buy soy milk here than real milk. Which is why there are several boxes of soy milk in my fridge right now, but no regular milk.

But I digress: In Berkeley I got spoiled by Berkeley Bowl. For my first two years there I avoided it because I thought it was a bowling alley (I know others who thought the same; it really is an unfortunate choice of name). For the next year I avoided it because the crowds there are deadly and evil. Then I discovered that it is probably the best supermarket ever, barring the unpleasant experience of actually shopping there when it's crowded. The produce is fresh and delicious, in addition to being cheaper than anywhere else, they sell bulk grains, which are a fantastic way to eat well cheaply, and in general they offer a great selection at a low price. Now I can't understand why people shop at Safeway (Bad food at a low price) or Andronico's or Whole Foods (Good food at a high price). Of course, then I remember that I spent three years shopping there.

Here supermarkets are small and cramped and have no selection, the produce is meally and overpriced, and nobody's even heard of Quinoa. I'm lead to understand that what I'm looking for in order to get a Berkeley Bowl-like experience is a Food Co-Op. There's one on the Lower East Side and two in Brooklyn, all neccessitating subway rides there and back, and they all require you to be an actual member of the co-op, paying dues and working shifts. Nonetheless, I would submit that it's worth it. Hopefully I'll be able to get down to one or two of them this weekend and check them out.

Meat Scraps

Originally posted 8/24/05:
I have a sinking feeling that reading products liability cases may force me to go back to vegetarianism. Submitted for your perusal, the opening lines of Pine Grove Poultry Farm, Inc. v. Newton By-Products Mfg. Co., Inc.:

"O'Brien, J. Plaintiff operated an extensive duck farm on the south shore of Long Island. Defendant manufactures a brand of poultry feed known as meat scrap. It consists of scraps of meat procured from butcher shops, seasoned and ground and sifted through a screen, then packed in bags and sold to retail dealers. From such a dealer plaintif purchased large quantities and upon it fed its ducks. Several thousand died. This high mortality was traced to the presence in the feed of fine particles of steel wire which had been fastened by butchers to the meat, and, still attached to the scraps, was ground with them."

Not having finished reading the case yet, I kind of wish they'd both lose. Plaintiff, regardless of the whole raising ducks to eat issue, really shouldn't be feeding his ducks "meat scrap," and deserves whatever losses he gets. But it's hard to argue that therefore the meat scrap company (with the charming name "Newton By-Products Manufacturing Company Incorporated) ought to be allowed to get off.

And the worst part is that I know things have only gotten worse in this regard since 1928 when this was decided. I don't think I have any meat in the fridge right now; maybe I should keep it that way...

UPDATE: Ugh. I posted the afforesaid before Justice O'Brien entered into a discussion of whether "meat scrap" contained ground beef, and therefore fell under the aegis of the New York Farms and Markets Law. He concludes that there must have been some beef in there somewhere, and "even if the proportion of beef to the other meats were low, the material in the finished product, being meat, was of a similar nature to ground beef scrap."

In other news: Restaurants can be held liable for stones found in beans, but not for tacks found in pies.

Anthology of Interests

Originally Posted 8/24/05:
In the past month, in anticipation of law school, I made a series of purchases, each one individually justified on the theory that it would give me something to do in law school to take my mind off of work. This turns out to have been silly and stupid; I have free time to pursue maybe one interest half-heartedly, but certainly not all of the pursuits I've lined up.

Among other things: I've purchased tomes on New York history, bought a number of Dickens novels I've been meaning to read, bought about a dozen video games I want to play (each one justified as essential because "this'll be the one I play in Law School."), renewed my Netflix subscription at the three-movies-at-a-time rate, purchased drawing material and instructional books in the hopes of gaining some facility at sketching/drawing, in tandem with the aforesaid started laying down plotlines and gags for a theoretical webcomic that I'd like to start drawing (to blow off steam in law school), purchased a banjo and instructional books on the theory that I would learn to play said banjo and this would help me relax outside of class, and now, as you know, I've started a weblog, ostensibly with the purpose of venting about my law school/New York experiences.

So now I've overcommitted myself and am driving myself crazy. There's no time to do anything, let alone everything, and when there is time for something I can't decide, so I end up screwing around on the internet instead of accomplishing productive relaxation. Which is probably why it's good I started the blog; at least now I can chronicle my failure both to do my school work and to relax satisfactorily.

A few thoughts on New York

Originally posted 8/23/05:
It's a bit tricky adapting to life in The Big City, although it's made somewhat easier by the fact that the neighborhood I live in, Morningside Heights, is in some ways analagous to Berkeley. It's a community where the centerpiece of the neighborhood is a large university. This contrasts with, for instance, NYU down in the Village, where NYU is a big part of the community, but nobody would say it's the dominant feature. It's relatively quiet up here, and very neighborly. After living here for three weeks I've already talked to my postman and the UPS guy more than I talked to either of their counterparts living for 3 1/2 years in my Berkeley apartment. I live half-way between Broadway and Amsterdam, which is neat because the two streets are vastly different in character. Broadway by the University is very student oriented, as you'd imagine. As it goes north into Harlem and south into the Upper East Side it gets somewhat seedier, but still basically contains your standard commercial stores, restaurants, hardware shops, electronic shops, etc. It's sort of what you'd call a gentrified street. Amsterdam, on the other hand, has not yet gentrified. It's a lot of tiny, crowded bodegas. It's noisy and raucous and dirty, but also much more lively than Broadway.

Amsterdam is also home to the huge ediface I pass every day on my way to the law school, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I still haven't gone inside, but desperately want to. It's the largest gothic cathedral in the world, and it still isn't finished. It has an amazing and eclectic mix of statuary in its yard, and is constantly and slowly under construction, with scaffolding reaching up the side of its face. It's amazing and beautiful and I'm astounded every morning that I live half a block away from it.

The other thing that takes getting used to is the bigness of New York. My old building in Berkeley was four stories, and was the tallest building on my street. My current building is 8 stories and it's on the short side for my street. The tallest stretches, I believe, 18 stories. And Morningside Heights is kind of on the short side for Manhattan, compared to how tall things get in Midtown and Downtown.

I'll definitely have more to say later, but for now I should probably get back to work and stop posting.

Interesting side-note: It REALLY FREAKS ME OUT when I hear jets flying above. Don't they know there's a huge-ass city here? There are buildings that are, like, a thousand miles tall! They'll crash their planes!

Trial-and-error Peanut Brittle


Originally posted 8/23/05:
I have now tried to make peanut brittle twice. The last time I tried it was about 2 years ago; the horror of that experience is the reason behind the lengthy delay. In any case, I'm still not quite "there" with peanut brittle, but here are some lessons I've learned:

1. Don't get impatient waiting for the sugar to melt and turn the heat up to high. This causes the sugar to smoke and catch fire, forcing you to run around the apartment, arms flailing in panic, before finally disconnecting the smoke detector and turning down the heat.

2. But don't turn down the heat too low, or the temperature of the sugar won't be high enough and it'll get too solid before you have a chance to get it out of the pot and onto the baking sheet, leaving you with a pot full of fossilized peanuts in amber.

3. And, for the love of Pete, no matter how tasty the liquid sugar looks, don't taste it. First of all, it's hot and will instantly liquify your taste buds. More importantly, the relatively low temperature of your mouth will rapidly cool the liquid sugar, causing it to almost instantly harden into a cast mold of your teeth which you will be unable to dislodge short of slowly sucking it off, which is really embarrassing when your roommate walks in just then.

4. Keep the heat on the low side when melting the sugar. Too low, and the sugar just forms into crystals. But too hot, and the liquid sugar very rapidly goes from golden to brown, which is fine if you want Carbon Brittle (Now with peanuts!) but not so great if your goal is peanut brittle.

5. A more general lesson: Mark Bittman (of How to Cook Everything) always prescribes about 2/3 of the sugar you actually need for a sweet recipe, tells you to cook said recipe at about 1-2 steps lower heat than is actually needed to cook it, and estimates cooking time by picking a number that seems remotely plausible if you've never cooked it before and have no idea what's involved, but which will become a source of endless comedy when you return to the recipe later.

A Sheepish Return

Originally posted 8/22/05:
Well, once again I've lapsed in my blogging. Now, however, I've started Law School and probably won't have time for either video games or blogging, so this seems a stupid time to start things up again. Nonetheless, today something happened that I felt compelled to blog, causing a voice from the depths of my soul to scream "You must tell the world of this, and also how you feel about it, because it's kind of vaguely interesting, to the right sort of person!"

The precipitating event was my visit to Columbia's main library, the Butler Library. As you (perhaps?) know, I dedicated three years to working at the Main Stacks of Doe Library in Berkeley, one and a half of those years as a clerk responsible for database maintenance, problem solving, and general low-level scut work. So I tend to find libraries very welcoming and homey and, to an extent, Butler was no exception.

I am forced here to make comparisons between Butler and Doe, not all of them flattering to my old place of work. Butler has a nice coffee shop and lounge for the drinking of said coffee right by the main entrance, which I know many of my co-workers would consider a godsend. Further, Butler's food and drink policies are somewhat more sensible than Doe's (No food, but beverages are permitted in spill-proof cups, which are readily available for sale and can also be found all over the place free of charge during orientation). The architecture is quite nice in Butler, very similar to Doe's, and the interior decoration hinges more on stately murals, rather than display-of-the-month tchotchkes and rare books. There are a number of reading rooms that, while not quite as sumptuous as Morrison, make up for it by their larger size (the outer rim of three floors) and their more extensive hours.

So. Butler has very nice amenities, all the trappings of a great library, interesting architecture, aesthetically pleasing. But what, you are now asking, about the books themselves?

Here, I am afraid, Doe wins hands-down, which ultimately makes it the better library. To begin, and this is a rather esoteric point, Butler houses a mere 4 million volumes, while UC Berkeley's collection now approaches 10 million. This is not to say that Columbia's collection is paltry and insignificant in comparison, but... well, it sort of is.

More to the point, all of the elaborate reading rooms and coffee houses seem an elaborate facade designed to distract from a run-down stacks. The design of the library is such that there is a ring of peripheral stuff, reading rooms, computer labs, etc. with the books in the middle, behind somewhat obscure doors. The books are divided among, I believe, 15 small floors, each floor containing perhaps 30 ranges of 4 sections each. The stacks are poorly lit, claustrophobic, and somewhat dank. The ground is exposed concrete, the shelves metal, and there are metal link walls separating the patron from what (I believe) are the Butler-equivalent of 4RS, though I saw no SLEs scuttering about organizing books (On a related note, their trucks were all numbered. No cute names, no artwork. That's just sad). Large segments of the stacks have no lighting at all, necessitating either a flashlight or eyestrain.

And then something happened that set me off as a former clerk who has managed, by close and prolonged contact, to acquire some of the librarian's characteristic obsessive-compulsion: As I perused the books, suddenly and abruptly the call numbers changed. Initially I was in the CD section (I believe those are history-related science books, for example archeology). Then, suddenly, I encountered books that had call numbers that began with actual numbers. "This is curious," thought I to myself. "Are they Rowells?" but no, of course not, that's a Berkeley thing. I stared at the oddly numbered books and was suddenly struck by a revelation: These books are classified by the Dewey Decimal System! I ran to a directory and, sure enough, Columbia's books are divided between books with Library of Congress call numbers and books with Dewey Decimal call numbers (in about a 1:2 ratio), with Dewey Decimal books in the eastern half of the stacks and LoC books in the western half. Once home I looked up some books in the on-line catalog to see how this works in operation. Some books with multiple copies have both Dewey Decimal and LoC copies, others have just a Dewey Decimal copy, while still others have just an LoC copy.

I suppose I can understand how it works from the patron's point of view; you find your book, you get it's call number, you grab it. You don't care whether it uses one arbitrary organization system or another. But damnit! It's just not right! Having two separate call number systems in the same library goes against every principle of organization! I don't order half of my books by title, and the other half by author's last name! The whole process really cuts down on the ability to browse for books on the same subject, one of the most welcome and important features of an open stacks. Unless your book is one of the few with two copies, you need to research to find what the Dewey/LoC call number would be, and then browse that area after you finish looking in the other area.

I had been toying with the notion of applying for a job at the library, but now I'm not so sure; I don't think I could stand to be around so flagrant a disjunction in organization. Frankly, I'm not sure how Columbia's librarians allowed it to pass. Granted, it would be a lot of work switching to one or the other, but for Pete's sake, how can you justify living with such an abomination? I know I'll have a tough time sleeping tonight after what I've seen.


Originally posted 1/29/2005:

Yay! I've cleaned and organized my closet! I've been meaning to do it for a while, and the roommate's moving out provided a perfect opportunity.

Unfortunately, the light in our closet burned out early last week, which was a big problem. My apartment has high ceilings, which is great for bunkbeds, but means I have to stand on a chair with my arms straight up over my head to detach the light fixture. This process involves removing a series of three screws blind, leading me to stand on a chair and comically pirohette as I try to get my fingers around the next screw.

And of course, all of this is impossible if I can't actually get a chair into the closet in the first place because the floor is covered with a thick layer of kipple. Hence a chicken-and-egg problem: I couldn't clean the closet without light, and I couldn't change the lightbulb until the closet was clean.

A note to myself: the back of your closet under a mass of tangled wires is a poor place to store your emergency flashlight. I can't even begin to figure out how I'd have found it if there were a genuine power outage.

I have way too many wires, and junk in general. Cleaning out the closet I found a broken joystick, the box for the joystick that replaced it, a network card, an old video card, 5 seperate phone cords (stupid because I have one phone that lives right next to the jack) and a slew of AC adapters that I have no idea what they were intended to power.

I hate throwing things out, though. I have a strong packrat instinct. I've still got my notebooks from Freshman year of college, as well as all the three-prong to two-prong converters I bought for my first apartment. And receipts. My God, the receipts! I have saved every receipt since I came to college. EVERY SINGLE ONE! Going all the way back to my first Hot Link from Top Dog four years ago. Yes, I save receipts from 50 cent incidental purchases. But I won't throw anything out. Why? Because it might be useful someday! (That, incidentally, should be imagined as being in giant neon rainbow script written 20 miles high)

Other'n that, not much new. Things are falling into place nicely, except for my search for a second job. I snagged a copy of World of Warcraft, which is quite fun. And I'm generally hanging out and enjoying life. Thanks for asking.

Video Game Dream

Originally posted 8/17/2004:

Had an odd dream last night. You see, my roommate's been playing a lot of Freedom Fighters lately. Further, I periodically experience twinges of guilt at not playing through Morrowind, which I have plenty of fun with, but can never seem to really get into. Last night, these two factors combined in my subconscious mind to form a dream of a hybrid of the two games. Essentially, it was Morrowind with Freedom Fighter's charisma and squad commanding system. It seemed fairly interesting, though I'm hardly the most unbiased of judges.

The oddest part came right when I woke up. I was playing through some tutorial, and the game was explaining various status effect icons. One of them was a picture of a hip flask, and the game informed me that this indicated a taste for Kentucky bourbon, a taste which can only be satisfied by traveling to Kentucky and buying a bottle. Apparently the game is set in some post-apocalyptic future that has regressed to the Middle Ages, but still has the State/Nation/Duchy of Kentucky.

Curiouser and curioser: The next icon showed a goblin-like man chowing down on a drumstick. The game explained that this icon represented a craving for human flesh. Fortunately, it continued, this need can also be satisfied in Kentucky.

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