October 28, 2004

The NY Times covers Friday catblogging.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 1:31 PM

No, seriously.

There is still some cat traffic passing by my apartment on occasion, but they all seem to be scared of me. Last Saturday I saw not only a cat but a skunk. I made no attempt to take a picture for Friday skunkblogging.

Richard K. Morgan speaks

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:06 PM

Via Sarah Weinman, an interview with Richard K. Morgan, one of my favorite sci-fi writers. He's been busy lately: two new novels are on the way, one of which is another Kovacs story, and he's been writing for the Marvel comic book Black Widow. (And he endorses John Kerry!)

New Comment Policy

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:00 PM

Due to a recent torrent of comment spam, I have finally started closing old threads. The policy will be that posts more than 10 days old will be closed to comments; this is also when a post disappears from the main page. If you want to comment on a closed post, please use the most recent open thread.

Congratulations to joe@aaa.com, who managed to post a diet pills ad to an old thread about ten seconds before I ran the mt-close script.

Since this should cut down hugely on the spam, I have re-enabled HTML in comments.

I should also remark on the recent lack of posts: I have been buried in work, and am about to go out of town for a few days, during which I may or may not have Internet access. Therefore this is likely to continue until Tuesday, when I will probably return for live coverage of the election returns in some form. I would like to post a detailed set of endorsements before the weekend, but I may not have time.

October 24, 2004

100% reliable [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:26 PM

Last week's quote (You shame science with your lies.) was from this Scary Go Round strip. I only discovered Scary Go Round a couple weeks ago but it's already one of my favorite webcomics. If you have a few hours, you will be well rewarded by reading through the archives. Also, J. D. Jackson's indispensible textbook Classical Electrodynamics should absolutely be retitled Electromagnetism: One Bad Mother.

New quote is difficulty: Formidable, 4 points.

Stereotypes

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:05 PM

Driving through Santa Cruz today, I spotted a bumper sticker with the logo of the American Physical Society and the words:

FLIRT HARDER
I'm a physicist.

Funny, but unfair; most physicists have normal social skills. It's the rest of us that give them a bad name.

October 21, 2004

Scientists: Slaves to the hormones

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:15 PM

Arcane Gazebo correspondent and pornomaster Mason sends along the following item:

Index Fingers Point the Way for Male Scientists

Male scientists are good at research because they have higher-than-average levels of the female hormone oestrogen which aids analytical skills, a study on Bath University academics today revealed.

The survey found that male scientists tended to have longer index fingers than other men, indicating high levels of oestrogen present in their bodies.

Men studied had levels of oestrogen as high as their testosterone levels, which caused the right side of their brains responsible for spatial and analytical skills, to develop more strongly.


This study raises many questions: Does this mean that scientists are girlie-men? To what degree should Arcane Gazebo attempt to compensate for this by engaging in traditionally manly activities (like, I don't know, watching football or belching or something) to boost his testosterone? Or should he artificially increase his estrogen instead, in the hopes of becoming better at physics and thereby graduating earlier? And why is he talking about himself in the third person?

Metaphorical Baseball Thread

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:58 PM

If the Red Sox win the World Series, I will consider it a sign of the apocalypse. If the Red Sox win the Series and Bush wins the election, I will repent my sins, because the rivers of blood and dead rising from the grave won't be far behind.

Speaking of the election, it is important that the Astros lose in order to avert the Boston vs. Houston series that will result in endless dumb comparisons to Bush and Kerry. Some may consider this a betrayal of my Houston roots, to which I say: of course it is! I betray my Houston roots all the time! I make up alternate histories for myself in which I was born in California and large portions of my extended family moved to Texas by chance!

The alternative is Boston vs. St. Louis, which is (if you're a Republican) a battle between the decadent, elitist coastal enclaves and the patriotic, traditional American heartland, or (if you're a Democrat) a battle between Boston and St. Louis. In any case, my dislike of the Red Sox borders on the irrational, so I will give my endorsement to the red state team and then probably not pay very much attention.

October 19, 2004

No, I'm not here. Hence the recorded message and the beep.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:41 PM

Lately I've been getting a lot of messages on my answering machine of the form "Hello, is Travis there? [long pause] [caller hangs up]" I have a hard time believing that there are people confused by the concept of answering machines, so my best guess is that these are telemarketers (or, given the season, phonebanks for political campaigns) using autodialers that have crude answering machine detection. My recording is somewhat brief so I am speculating that some software is getting fooled into thinking that a human has picked up the phone. Anyone else experiencing this?

October 18, 2004

Vampires are creeps. [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:33 PM

Last week's quote (I believe the subtext here is rapidly becoming text.) was from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, episode 2x11 ("Ted"). One of my favorite Giles quotes. New one is difficulty: Severe, 5 points.

I'm still recovering from my weekend, which was consumed in a Star Ocean binge. At least I made it to the bonus dungeon! But I should probably get out more.

Is there hope for Georgia?: Halloween edition

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:06 PM

Via Tbogg:

Sunday Halloween Irks Some in Bible Belt

NEWNAN, Ga. (AP) - Across the Bible Belt this Halloween, some little ghosts and goblins might get shooed away by the neighbors - and some youngsters will not be allowed to go trick-or-treating at all - because the holiday falls on a Sunday this year.


I just love this explanation:
"You just don't do it on Sunday," said Sandra Hulsey of Greenville, Ga. "That's Christ's day. You go to church on Sunday, you don't go out and celebrate the devil. That'll confuse a child."

So, it's ok to celebrate the devil as long as it's not on Sunday? I would think that if one accepts the premise that Halloween is equivalent to worship of Satan, the question of what day it falls on would be somewhat secondary. But then, theology has never been my strong point.

Anyway, I don't know why these anti-Halloween types would pass up the opportunity to hand out Chick tracts to impressionable young trick-or-treaters on a Sunday. [Disclaimer: the management of Arcane Gazebo is not responsible for brain injury incurred while reading this link.]

October 15, 2004

Recommendations from/for Amazon

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:46 PM

In recent days I have been amusing myself by attempting to optimize my recommendations page on Amazon. The biggest difficulty is that Amazon is offering a system to recommend creations [books, albums, films] but I want recommendations of creators [authors, bands, directors]. I don't need Amazon to tell me that if I liked Quicksilver and Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash I should read the rest of Neal Stephenson's bibliography. Unfortunately my ability to teach it not to do this is pretty limited. Here's what's on my recommendations page at the moment:

1. [Book] Assassin's Apprentice, Robin Hobb
2. [Book] The Golden Age, John C. Wright
3. [Album] Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand
4. [Film] Lost in Translation
5. [Book] Royal Assassin, Robin Hobb
6. [Graphic Novel] The Hedge Knight, George R. R. Martin and Ben Avery
7. [Book] Assassin's Quest, Robin Hobb
8. [Book] The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson
9. [Book] Fool's Errand, Robin Hobb
10. [Album] You Forgot It in People, Broken Social Scene
11. [Book] Pattern Recognition, William Gibson
12. [Book] Zodiac, Neal Stephenson
13. [Film] Underworld
14. [Book] Golden Fool, Robin Hobb
15. [Book] The Phoenix Exultant, John C. Wright

The first four items are actually pretty good suggestions: I haven't read either Hobb or Wright, and while I already knew about the Franz Ferdinand album and Lost in Translation, they are the sort of items I'd like to have recommended. (I've actually heard the album and liked it, though I don't own it. I haven't seen the film yet, but enough people have recommended it that I think I would probably like it as well.)

After that it goes downhill. Having decided I would like Robin Hobb, Amazon goes on to recommend four more of her books, along with another by Wright and four books by authors I'm familiar with. Can Amazon really only come up with two writers I might like? On the other hand, You Forgot It in People is an appropriate recommendation (although I haven't listened to it). Underworld is an interesting case: in terms of style and genre it's a good recommendation for me, but I've heard that it's terrible, and I'm inclined to say that Amazon shouldn't recommend bad movies. On the other hand, its customer rating is 3.5, so Amazon had no way of knowing that it's bad. (And maybe it's not. I should rent it because, hey, Kate Beckinsale.)

My recommendations list is heavily weighted towards books, away from music and films. This is because Amazon has information about many more books that I own than CDs or DVDs. The logical conclusion is that I buy more books than other media, and am therefore more interested in book recommendations. This isn't actually true: it's easy for me to find books that look interesting, but harder to find music that I think I'll like. Fortunately I can get a list of pure music recommendations. Amazon seems to be better at finding music for me than it is at finding books, in terms of suggesting new bands rather than the entire catalogs of artists I already own. But something mysterious is going on: the recommendations lists in particular departments aren't sublists of the main set of recommendations. For example, Franz Ferdinand disappears when I look at the music list by itself, new items appear, and others get reordered. Does it recalculate the list from a different set of preferences?

Anyway, I understand that getting a computer to make good media recommendations is an extraordinarily difficult problem. However, it doesn't seem like it would be so hard to include an option that would give a list of only the top results from each author, band, etc.

Publication: Entangling flux qubits with a bipolar dynamic inductance

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:43 AM

This one is a lot harder to explain than my previous article. I would have to do a series of posts explaining what qubits are, what entanglement is, and why you would want to do it before I could explain what's actually in this paper. Which, when I think about it, isn't such a bad idea anyway.

Physical Review B (Condensed Matter and Materials Physics -1(II))

Phys. Rev. B 70, 140501(R) (2004) (4 pages)

Entangling flux qubits with a bipolar dynamic inductance

B. L. T. Plourde,1 J. Zhang,2,3 K. B. Whaley,3 F. K. Wilhelm,4 T. L. Robertson,4 T. Hime, S. Linzen,1 P. A. Reichardt,1 C.-E. Wu,1 and John Clarke1
1Department of Physics, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
2Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
3Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
4Department Physik and CeNS, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Theresienstr. 37, 80333 München, Germany

(Received 4 May 2004; published 5 October 2004)

We propose a scheme to implement controllable coupling between two flux qubits using the screening current response of a dc superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID). The coupling strength is adjusted by the current bias applied to the SQUID and can be varied continuously from positive to negative values, allowing cancellation of the direct mutual inductance between the qubits. We show that this variable coupling scheme permits efficient realization of universal quantum logic. The same SQUID can be used to determine the flux states of the qubits. ©2004 The American Physical Society

URL: http://link.aps.org/abstract/PRB/v70/e140501
doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.70.140501
PACS: 85.25.Cp, 03.67.Lx, 85.25.Dq

October 14, 2004

Rumors on the internets

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:24 PM

Bush's suit is still bulging in all the wrong places. My theory: Bush died in a freak pretzel mishap, and top-secret military technology is being used to reanimate his corpse. All that scowling is because he really just wants to eat Kerry's brains.

October 13, 2004

Final Presidential Debate

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:36 PM

I may try the liveblogging thing, although it seems unlikely that people will be checking the site during the debate. If not, I'll just put my impressions here at the end.

I'm watching on a low-res C-SPAN web feed, so I'll be missing any signs of Bush's earpiece/mind control device. So if you see it, post a comment.

(All times PST)

5:51: While I wait for it to start, I realize that I never linked to this fascinating video examining George W. Bush's debate performance over the years. It seems that he was a very skillful and articulate debater back in 1994, but something has changed since then...

6:05: Kerry: "The measurement is not 'are we safer?', it's 'are we as safe as we ought to be?'" I like that.

6:07: "Comprehensive" is Bush's word of the evening, apparently.

6:12: The flu vaccine question was good for Bush: he got to hit his talking points on both drug importation and tort reform. Kerry's taking the opportunity to talk about health care.

6:14: Kerry was asked how he can keep his pledge not to raise taxes below the highest bracket. Seems like a softball question if no numbers are cited.

6:20: Education as a solution to outsourcing? IT and engineering jobs get outsourced, too.

6:25: I think the low resolution is making Bush look more scowly. He was smiling a moment ago.

6:26: He was definitely smiling when he said "Ted Kennedy is the conservative senator from Massachusetts."

6:26: Interesting question: "Is homosexuality a choice?" Bush says he doesn't know, and launches into a defense of the FMA.

6:27: Kerry goes out of his way to point out that Dick Cheney's daughter is gay. I'm not sure I approve of that.

6:30: I approve of Kerry's comments on faith: that it guides his politics but he doesn't want to impose it on others.

6:33: Bush tries out his evil chuckle.

6:35: I hope electronic medical records cut down on error better than electronic voting machines.

6:37: Lots of violent motion by Bush's right hand. I'm concerned he's turning into Dr. Strangelove.

6:40: I have a feeling Kerry's not going to say much about how he's going to pay for his health care plan. Too bad we don't still have that budget surplus... where'd that go, anyway?

6:41: "...ah, never mind"? Well, ok then.

6:42: "I think government funded health...
...
...
...will lead to lower quality health!" Hmm, maybe there's static over the earpiece. That might be why he stopped in the middle of that sentence a minute ago.

6:44: It's good that Bush was asked about the $1 trillion price tag on privatizing Social Security. I'm guessing neither candidate is going to explain how they are going to pay for things.

6:46: Kerry's pressing this issue and working on his fiscal responsibility cred. Bush seems to think this is very amusing.

6:48: The real answer to the Social Security problem (insofar as there is a problem) is to uncap the payroll tax, but I suppose that would violate Kerry's tax pledge.

6:49: Foam? Wonkette says there was foam. Sometimes I wish I had cable.

6:52: It really bugs me when they ignore the current question to go back and respond to a previous one. Maybe it's the rules lawyer in me; I'm sure they have good strategic reasons for doing it. Kerry seems to do this more often.

6:57: Sure was nice of Bob Schieffer to ask Kerry that minimum wage question. It basically made his argument for him.

7:03: How many times have we heard "Massachusetts"?

7:10: Getting sleepy.

7:16: I completely zoned out on the affirmative action question. Now Bush is talking about how he can feel that other people are praying for him. Hmm. At least he's improved on his father by acknowledging that atheists are equally Americans.

7:18: Bush: "Freedom is a gift from the Almighty." Kerry: "Everything is a gift from the Almighty." I think I like Kerry's statement even worse.

7:20: Another softball to Kerry: Will you work to bring America together? "I'm going to crush the Republicans, see them driven before me, and hear the lamentations of their women!"

7:29: Not much content in the last ten minutes. A question about "strong women", and then the closing statements. Bush talks about a painting for a while. He wants us not to look at the mess he's made in the past, but at the mess he's going to make in the future.

7:32: And it's over. I think it was pretty close; Kerry only seemed to score points when he attacked Bush's jobs record—something he did well, but only a couple times. Otherwise it was a lot of vague talk about policy that didn't score points one way or another. Bush has reined in his petulance and his anger that came through in the previous debates, although there were times when he seemed agitated, and some of his smirking/laughter seemed weird. Maybe the guy on the earpiece was telling jokes to keep him from getting mad?

October 12, 2004

Fun with Google

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:47 PM

This site is the 322nd hit on Google for "travis" and the 655th hit for "hime". My father's site is the 7th hit in the same search, and an Amazon ad for Scared Money is one of the sponsored links.

It is the 31st hit for "arcane" and the 49th for "gazebo". The most common referrals are search requests for information on gazebos.

It is the 2nd hit for "customer service crush" in an exact phrase search, the 2nd hit for "caffeine inflation" as separate words, and the 7th hit for the phrase "death burger".

Yes, I am bored.

October 11, 2004

Subtexts [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:27 PM

Last week's quote (We didn't lose Vietnam. It was a tie.) was from the film A Fish Called Wanda. New one is difficulty Moderate; 2 points.

October 10, 2004

I'm praying for better science policy.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:49 PM

Over the weekend, the NYTimes published a story on the Bush health care plan*:

Can Prayers Heal? Critics Say Studies Go Past Science's Reach
In 2001, two researchers and a Columbia University fertility expert published a startling finding in a respected medical journal: women undergoing fertility treatment who had been prayed for by Christian groups were twice as likely to have a successful pregnancy as those who had not.

Three years later, after one of the researchers pleaded guilty to conspiracy in an unrelated business fraud, Columbia is investigating the study and the journal reportedly pulled the paper from its Web site.

No evidence of manipulation has yet surfaced, and the study's authors stand behind their data.

But the doubts about the study have added to the debate over a deeply controversial area of research: whether prayer can heal illness.

Critics express outrage that the federal government, which has contributed $2.3 million in financing over the last four years for prayer research, would spend taxpayer money to study something they say has nothing to do with science.


So the US government is paying people $2.3 million to pray? I remember an episode of The West Wing where the Bartlett administration agonized over a $100k grant for intercessory prayer research in exchange for a conservative congressman's vote, and decided against it. But that's what makes it fiction, I guess.

Now, I'm not opposed to using science to investigate religious claims, but this sort of research has been done for over a century with no result, and at some point you just have to give up. On top of that, I don't really understand the reasoning. There's a god, and he has the power to heal, but he won't use it unless a bunch of people in a scientific study ask him to? Critics cited in the article complain about the lack of a physical mechanism, but I don't even see a theological mechanism for this. I can't imagine what the grant proposals look like.

*Yeah, cheap shot.

Don't say the Z word!

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:21 PM

I finally saw Shaun of the Dead last night, after reading good reviews and hearing multiple people recommend it. And indeed, it was terrific. One thing I liked is that it manages to be a comedy without being a parody of zombie movies; indeed, much of the comedy derives from the characters behaving perhaps more realistically than the typical zombie movie protagonist. It's funny, but it's also a good action/horror movie in its own right.

The influence of Peter Jackson's Dead Alive was evident, although Shaun relies much less heavily on the gross-out humor that defined Jackson's film. Of course, no film could hope to equal Dead Alive in that department.

October 9, 2004

The Physics of Death Burger

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 8:00 PM

If only my research were so easy to explain:

Some science with your fish and chips?

You’d think it was straightforward: the more you shake salt and vinegar over your chips, the more seasoned your chips become. But you’d be wrong.

Retired astrogeologist Dr Allan Mills, of the University of Leicester, was drawn to the subject while watching his assistant season his chips.

His inquiry into the physics of salt cellars has uncovered a surprising finding: shaking salt from a large chip shop-style dispenser actually slows down the flow and dispenses less salt.

Meanwhile, shaking the vinegar bottle does mean that more comes out and is evenly dispersed, but only because without shaking almost none would reach the chips at all.


One of the most valuable things I learned at Cambridge is that vinegar on chips French fries is really good, especially when the fries are hot. The place to go for this in Cambridge is one of the two trailers in Market Square that sell burgers &c. One of them bore the somewhat inscrutable slogan "This is the trailer of LIFE", and was therefore known as "Life Burger"; the other trailer was then naturally called "Death Burger". Interestingly, Life Burger seemed to have more vegetarian options while Death Burger was heavier on the meat and the grease.

Needless to say, my preference was for Death Burger.

October 7, 2004

Relationships and retrospective understanding

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:09 PM

Another dating post (they do seem to generate more comments) but in a more serious vein.

Found on Unfogged, a blogger has a Question for Men:

If a woman does not wish to date you anymore, how much information do you actually wish to know about why?

Right away, not much; I tend to be more concerned either with the immediate practical implications of the breakup or the fact that, emotionally speaking, I feel like I've just had a large hole punched through my torso. After some time goes by I start to get curious, but at that point I'm unwilling to ask.

It's not clear that being told the rationale on the spot is helpful, because whatever it is, it's likely to be an intellectual blindspot for me. For a long time I thought of myself as a "nice guy", or rather, I assumed axiomatically that I was a nice guy. A more accurate statement is that I am an accommodating guy, and although this has some properties of niceness, it's not the same. Not realizing this, I was unwilling even to consider the proposition that I might be mean or inconsiderate, and the answer to "what went wrong" completely eluded me. If one of my exes had tried to explain, I just wouldn't have understood.

Eventually I became more and more bothered by the things I didn't understand, and puzzling over them something clicked into place. I finally saw it, the thread of self-centeredness running through all of my past relationships. In retrospect it was completely obvious, but at the time I couldn't see it. I'm not sure someone else could have explained this to me, since I had to question my own assumptions about myself.

The new understanding did raise another question: there were times when I believed I was in love, but looking back I didn't act like it. So was I really in love, or just deceiving myself about that as well?

Inflation strikes the caffeine supply: A continuing series

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:39 PM

This blog can be relied upon to keep a hawk-like eye on the price of caffeinated beverages (except when it is eyeing the person selling these items). Today we turn our attention to a Slate article on Starbucks' impending price hike.

For many Americans—at least those of us addicted to the national drugs of petroleum, nicotine, and caffeine—life is increasingly unaffordable. Crude oil topped $50 per barrel. Cigarettes have become more expensive in many states thanks to new taxes. And this week, faced with sharp increases in the costs of sugar and coffee, Starbucks announced it would boost the price of its already-pricey espressos and macchiatos by an average of 11 cents.

This particular announcement is of little interest to this blog; while one or two Starbucks do operate in the vicinity of Arcane Gazebo World Headquarters, they pale in comparison to the many fine local establishments. (I also live one block away from the original Peet's.) Unfortunately, the increase in the cost of coffee cited by Slate does not affect Starbucks alone. Caffe Strada* has recently hiked all espresso drinks by 30 cents. This suggests a need for UCB to grant a cost-of-living increase in graduate student stipends, given the critical role of coffee in maintaining high research productivity. The other coffee shops I frequent have yet to impose their own markups, but I suspect it is only a matter of time.

An interesting side note in the Slate article may explain why Starbucks continues to draw customers, even in a place like Berkeley:

The Wall Street Journal earlier this year sent samples of coffee from Starbucks, 7-Eleven, and Dunkin' Donuts to Central Analytical Laboratories. The lab reported that a 16-ounce Starbucks house blend coffee contained 223 milligrams of caffeine, compared with 174 and 141 milligrams in comparable amounts of Dunkin' Donuts and 7-Eleven coffee, respectively. According to the Journal, the average Starbucks coffee drink contains 320 milligrams of caffeine. (This chart from the Center for Science in the Public Interest shows different measurement levels, including the scary finding that a 16-ounce Starbucks grande has nearly three times as much caffeine as a No-Doz.)

That'll keep 'em coming back...

*A southside cafe, in case you were wondering.

October 6, 2004

Love at first purchase

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:36 PM

Salon's hard-hitting journalists tackle one of the pressing problems of modern life: the "customer service crush". You have to watch an ad to read the article, but if you don't, here's a sample of the insights you're missing:

The customer service crush can spring into existence just about anywhere: restaurants, banks, video rental stores, even airplanes. My personal favorite is the over-the-phone computer-help-desk guy. As your hard drive melts down, you're so vulnerable and emotional, and he's so clinical and competent -- how can you not become smitten? The customer service crush is the girl at the dry cleaner's with the French accent, the guy at Kinko's whose dirty, shaggy hair is dirty and shaggy in a good way. These people are extra friendly to us (or maybe alluringly unfriendly), and their place of employment can provide an automatic common interest: You drink coffee? Oh my God, I drink coffee, too! Or, as 29-year-old Rich, a Web content manager living in Boston, puts it about the Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) store employee who struck his fancy, "I think a lot of it was that she could talk about tents with great ease. Had I met her under other circumstances, it might not have prompted me to go back three times and leave a note."

Ok, so it's cute filler. But who among us has not indulged in a service crush at one time or another? Certainly I have not been immune to the charms of the girl who works the counter at that northside cafe, despite the fact that she barely speaks to me or makes eye contact. On the other hand, it's the only way I ever meet women these days (if it can be considered "meeting" (which it can't)), so my options are limited.

Anyway, what surprised me about the article is that it failed to mention the basic statistical asymmetry that makes such crushes truly futile. The closest it comes is with the line, "The customer service crush often goes unrequited," which should be greeted with an earth-shattering "duh". The problem is this: in a typical day, I will interact with maybe five customer service workers. However, each of those workers in the same day interacts with dozens of customers, at least. The reality is that I won't be remembered five seconds after my order is filled. Sure, the staff will notice me if I become a regular customer, but only as far as recalling what I always order. Lunch special #5, on to the next table.

Another implication of these statistics is that any attractive female clerk/waitress gets hit on all the time by dumbass male patrons. Try to get her phone number and you become just one more annoyance she has to endure daily to get her paycheck. And if she is looking to date customers, odds are someone more attractive has already come along.

And so we come to Arcane Gazebo's official position on customer service crushes: They're unavoidable, but nevertheless one should keep one's mouth shut and just enjoy the damn coffee.

(Exception: if the employee is flirting with you, obviously there's no problem. There's a clerk at a Jamba Juice that I frequent who flirts shamelessly with every female customer who comes to the register. Most of the time these girls just want him to take their order, so I guess annoyances work both ways.)

*Yes, I'm one of those people who orders the same thing every time. Boring, I know.)

October 5, 2004

Berkeley blogs

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:52 PM

I don't know how they overlooked me. Note to self: bribe the judges next year.

Vice-Presidential Debate

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 8:50 PM

I once again watched the debate from lab. I haven't had a chance to read other blogs on this, so these are my pure, unadulterated impressions.

After seeing Cheney tonight, I can understand why Republicans like him. (Whereas why anyone likes Bush is still something of a mystery.) He appeared smart, serious, and well-informed. On the other hand, it's probably easier to appear well-informed when you just make shit up. I could barely see him through the roaring flames coming from his pants. Unlike Bush, it's hard to believe this guy lives in a bubble isolated from real facts; he seems sharp enough that I'm guessing he knows most of what he's saying is false. Though it was strange that he gave Edwards the same opening Bush gave Kerry, for the "Saddam did not attack us" line.

Edwards lived up to my expectations as a swift and eloquent debater, but it seemed like Cheney had him playing defense for most of the event (although he did get several good hits). The attacks on his Senate attendance really sounded bad, and it would be tough to explain the game-theoretic reasons why he doesn't actually need to be present for all those votes. Bringing up Cheney's own record was a good manuever, but doesn't refute the charges.

Interestingly, both candidates seemed least comfortable discussing same-sex marriage. Possibly because it's such a volatile issue, but I also wonder if they were troubled by the need to take politically expedient positions over what they really think. Cheney's already been pretty daring in deviating from the GOP line on this issue.

I thought a lot of questions were pretty stupid—clumsy attempts to bait one candidate or the other into taking cheap shots at his opponent. Both Cheney and Edwards rose above this, and took their cheap shots at less obvious times.

Sadly, there were no hilarious "You forgot Poland!" moments.

Load the photon torpedos

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:06 PM

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the U.S. Air Force is looking at antimatter: Air Force pursuing antimatter weapons

Put me down as skeptical. The storage technology would have to be perfect—after all, an antimatter bomb explodes if it comes into contact with any matter whatsoever. Right now the technology doesn't exist to trap this much antimatter in the lab, to say nothing of strapping such a trap onto a bomber or missile. That requires a pretty high level of vibration isolation, to put it mildly. And if the bomber gets shot down... well, at least there won't be much of a problem with unexploded antimatter bombs.

Also: Being a physics graduate student is stressful enough; I wouldn't want to imagine being the one working on high-capacity vibration-insensitive antimatter traps.

October 4, 2004

Nerd Corner: Obscure RPG Histories

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:40 PM

Gawker Media (home of Wonkette) has opened several new blogs, including one with a video game focus: Kotaku. Wonkette remarks on the additions:

They are all like Fleshbot, in that they are substitutes for sex. They are not like Fleshbot in that they are not very good substitutes for sex.

I really have no defense against this, except that one takes what one can get. (Note that the link to Fleshbot is not safe for work.)

While I'm on the subject of video games: Tycho is free to dislike Star Ocean, but his suggestion that it and Tales of Symphonia are somehow examples of "the modern manias that have latched on to recent role-playing games", with respect to their real-time action/RPG combat engines, is just historically inaccurate. Tales and Star Ocean aren't jumping on any bandwagons; they were originators of this style of play with their respective first incarnations on the SNES. If Star Ocean 3 had had turn-based combat it would have been a huge disappointment for me—it would have been as big a departure as (apparently) FFXII is. In short, these two series have been doing this for three generations of consoles, and some of us enjoy it.

In case you missed it

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:45 PM

Via Atrios, this helpful video provides a brief summary of the Republican National Convention.

Suction [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:43 PM

Previous quote (Not many people know this, but the turtle is nature's suction cup.) was from Weird Al Yankovic's cinematic masterpiece UHF.

New one is moderate difficulty; 2 points.

October 1, 2004

Friday Catblogging: Abandoment

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:43 PM

I haven't seen this cat in two weeks. I was obviously inadequate, and it has moved on to people who treat it better.

I have a few photos I haven't used yet, but it's too sad to keep posting them. So this may be the last catblogging entry.