The observations and opinions of a person who has no discernible insights or ideas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


First off, I want to wish a belated Happy Solstice to all of my readers. May your days grow progressively longer for months to come.

Second, I had a bad experience last night. I was on my way home, driving my wife’s car (mine hadn’t started all week, until that afternoon while I was at work) and decided to take advantage in a momentary hole in traffic and go shopping for a chocolate orange (actually a chocolate raspberry, but they’re essentially the same thing). I went to Wal-mart, where their aisle of Christmas candy looked heavily picked over. I then called my mom, who buys these things every year, and found out that they were likely to have them at our hometown grocery store, which was just a few miles down the road. I was on my way over there when I went onto a bridge and the road stopped providing traction for my car.

The car skidded into the opposing lane where it sideswiped a Ford Escort. That failed to redirect my car in any meaningful way, and so it hit the Saturn that was behind the Escort. This second impact was not a sideswipe. The front left fenders of the two cars met, and both cars came quickly to a stop. Both cars involved in this last impact have nearly identical injuries, although I think the other car got it a bit worse. My car has most of the front left fender missing in front of the tire, and some damage to the headlight and bumper area. The other car also had the hood bend a bit.

An Officer Yuen (pronounced like Ewen) came by and handled all of our paperwork, as well as the shutting down of the southbound lane over this bridge. He handled everything quite professionally, evaluating damage and calling a tow truck. No one was hurt, and everyone was very polite and even friendly in spite of the unpleasantness of the situation. After about an hour, we had all the forms filled out and my wife showed up with her sister (and her car, which was involved in a minor accident earlier in the day). They towed my car to a nearby parking lot where we cleaned it out and Officer Yuen gave me a citation for “Speed to[sic] fast for conditions”.

It looks like the immediate costs of this will be a $250 deductible and whatever fine comes with the ticket. The long term costs are that I’ll have to buy a new car (I don’t know if the current car is totaled, but we were planning on a new car anyway and this just moves things up) and my rates are going to increase by a lot, what with the new car and accident and all.

The important thing is that nobody was hurt. The cars crunched just like they’re supposed to, which is a testament to their engineering.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Christmas Party the First 

This week, I have 6 Christmas parties in 4 days, and a birthday party during it all. I'm sure that some of the parties (like the one with the molested snowmen) are of little interest to you, but one was quite interesting.

It was my wife's work party. She works in an office with a lot of accountants, and they decided that this would be a formal sort of party. We were to dress nicely, and so I wore what I had worn the previous Sunday to church, which was a green shirt with a red Christmas tie. I ended up being one of 4 men in the room not wearing a white shirt, and one of three who was not wearing a suit coat. We also ended up sitting at a table with the guests of honor. My wife sat next to Keith McMullen, and I sat across from Richard Scott. Bishop McMullen was quite the conversationalist, and it was fun to sing Frosty the Snowman with Elder Scott, who gave a few remarks after dinner about a Christmas spent in an impoverished town in Bolivia.

Then, the next morning I won a bottle of wine for a door prize at another party. They didn't even let me turn it down before offering it to someone else. I guess I'm too young to drink.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Some books 

A couple of years ago, I was given a $50 Borders gift card (Borders is a trendy bookstore, along the lines of Barnes and Noble, but with CDs and DVDs too). This week, I finally got around to matching the card up with my wish list, and got three books that somehow say “nerdy”. Actually, I went in looking for books on math, and almost picked up a collection by Martin Gardner (and the 3rd season of The Simpsons, but their DVDs are horribly overpriced), but instead got three books from other parts of the store that are about math anyway.

First, I got the number one book from my list: “Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid” by Douglas R. Hofstadter. It was in the section on Western Philosophy. It’s about the compelling patterns that appear in the work of these three individuals, as well as anywhere else in life, although from the introduction, it seems that it defies description by anybody but the author.

Next came “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” by Nobel laureate Richard P. Feynman, found in the Physics section (one shelf over from the math books). It’s a collection of anecdotes by one of the most compelling and interesting figures in theoretical physics in the last century. For the record, I already own “A History of π” by Petr Beckman and “Men of Mathematics” by Eric T. Bell, so technical biographies and history books aren’t a new thing.

Finally, I passed up on “The Prime Obsession” (about Reimann’s hypothesis) for “The Code Book” by Simon Singh (who you may remember from “Fermat’s Enigma” which told of Andrew Wiles and the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture). This book, best summed up by its subtitle, “The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography”, was found in the Espionage shelf of their Western History section.

I can’t say how excited I am about the Hofstadter book, and the others strike me as a fun read too. I’m looking forward to reading them, but I’ve got an overdue library book (“Time Travel and Other Mathematical Bewilderments” by Martin Gardner) to finish first.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Review: Dances With Wolves, the special DVD edition 

Last night, I watched Dances With Wolves. I used to watch this movie about once a month or so, but it had been years since the last time I saw it. The intervening years took me from a young teenager to a full-fledged adult in his mid to late twenties, with high school, college, and the internet under my belt (none of which I had then). With the changes in me, I was not surprised to note them bringing changes in the movie.

I paid a lot more attention to when Dances With Wolves and Stands With a Fist first get together. I didn’t have much awareness about cultural proprieties the last time I saw it, and I didn’t realize what a big deal it was for them to hook up when they did. I also didn’t register until this time that they first “got together” before their wedding. Busy bee indeed.

I had a better eye for cinematography this time. Many of the shots in the film were beautiful. I guess I saw that before, but I didn’t appreciate how rare a thing it was to have a movie look that good.

The movie is full of anachronistic attitudes. Dunbar seems to have a remarkably clear vision of what will happen to the plains, especially since the land he went to was completely empty when he got there. In reality, people still haven’t seen fit to stop in the Dakotas on their way west. The biggest loss from the way things were in the movie is that of the native cultures, rather than the environmental losses from white men taking over everything.

This version of the film included quite a few extended and deleted scenes, right in the regular flow of the film. Now, I’m all for including deleted scenes on DVDs, but I’m also quite the purist when it comes to theatrical content. Most of the time, the movie that hit the theaters is better than the movie that contains the deleted scenes, even when those scenes enhance the storyline (possible exceptions could include the Lord of the Rings movies, which are very impressive in their extended versions, although I contend that at least Fellowship was better in its shorter theatrical form). In this case, some of the scenes were just extra time that didn’t add to the film or story in any way (including a scene of Stands With a Fist first seeing her husband’s dead body), some didn’t make any sense at all (Kicking Bird taking Dances With Wolves on a trip with him, where they didn’t do anything), and some added material to the story (a new scene showed the previous soldiers at Fort Sedgwick and why they left). That last scene really bothered me because I felt it was better just never knowing why the fort was abandoned. Maybe it will grow on me eventually.

Anyway, it was good seeing this fantastic movie again. I always get a little choked up when Wind in His Hair calls out to Dances With Wolves at the end. "Dances With Wolves. I am Wind In His Hair. Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that you will always be my friend?"

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