Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Real food?

Yesterday, I saw a television ad for Hellman's Mayonnaise, insisting that this was "real food" in contrast to many other food products on the market that feature artificial ingredients. (The ad did not mention anything about the fat content of the featured product). The ad encouraged the viewer to search with the words "real food" on Yahoo! [No exclamation was intended, but the point is part of the search engine name].

When I searched as instructed, the first item that came up was a "Yahoo! shortcut." The following explanation was given: "A Yahoo! Shortcut is a quick way to get to the information you want. A Yahoo! Shortcut automatically appears when it is relevant to your search and can contain links to useful content from Yahoo!, its partners, or across the web. Some of the content may come from partners who pay to be included in Yahoo! or have another financial relationship with Yahoo!" [Emphasis added]

On Google, in contrast, a vegetarian restaurant with that domain name comes up when a search is done on "real food."

On Google, when one searches for "virtual food," the first site listed is a "virtual gift store."

New web site address for the Autism Society of Los Angeles

The Autism Society of Los Angeles now has a new web site address at http://www.asa-la.org .

Saturday, July 21, 2007


My youngest nephew, Thomas, has been learning an expression from his older brother.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What's supposed to happen on August 11?

No, I am not talking about some doomsday event, but please help an absent-minded professor straighten out his schedule! At the ASA conference, I wrote down the date August 11 on a small label. This was apparently the only thing I had available to write on, so I did not write down what was happening that day and where this would take place. Did any of you notify me of an event on August 11 or otherwise know of one where I ought to be present?

Geeking out with Google

PC Magazine suggests this as an activity. This almost certainly sounds geeky enough to make many of us squeal with delight!

Brake pads

Back many years ago, a friend in graduate school asked to come along as an adviser when he went car shopping. I mentioned that I did not know much about cars, but he thought I might be useful anyway until I mentioned that it was not until shortly before this that I had learned that a car cannot have both a carburetor and fuel injection.

Coming back from Arizona the other day, one of my tires hit a nail. The tow truck driver attempted to fix the tire, indicating that I would not need to take the tire in for repair. Unfortunately, the fix did not last, and it turned out that the tire would have to be replaced. While I waited to have the tire fixed, I was watching another car being serviced. This is the first time I remember actually seeing a brake pad. I had envisioned something much bigger and clumsier. In fact, even though this was actually a pickup truck, it was a much smaller and handier item than I had ever imagined.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

New preferred bottled water brand for Adrian Monk

This season's premiere episode of Monk reveals that Adrian Monk has apparently changed his favorite brand of bottled water from Sierra Springs to Summit Creek. When Adrian was in Mexico in a previous episode, he went without water for several days because Sierra Springs was sold out. He refused to go for another brand made by the same manufacturer.

I really dislike change!

The Big House

For those of you who may be familiar with British English expressions, no, I am not talking about jail. I am talking about Casa Grande, Arizona. I also want to make it clear that my motivations for heading into South Arizona were very different from those of JoJo--although the trip happened immediately after the Autism Society of America conference in Phoenix.

Back when I was in the MBA program, I was working with a professor on estimating the amount of traffic that would pass through various truck stops as a means of estimating the value of advertising exposure. Many truck stops did not have counters to enumerate the traffic coming in, so we were trying to correlate the traffic going into those stops that did have counters with the closest counter found on interstate freeways.

Anyway, it wasn't always easy to find a counter close to a stop of interest, and this process involved pouring over maps for long periods of time. That invariably meant imagining the various locations in the U.S. and Canada. Although I no longer remember most of the locations in question, I suspect that I, like James Taylor, probably went to Carolina in my mind--and to a lot of other places. One of the points of counting was near Casa Grande. The next year, while scouting out Arizona State University and the University of Arizona as possible places for doctoral work, I actually saw the exits for Case Grande but did not stop. This time, I did get to stop for lunch at a factory outlet mall. That probably wasn't the experience I had imagined, but then again, I no longer have a clear memory of what I had expected--but I had probably envisioned something a bit more exotic.

One day when I had my atlas and computer printouts spread out over the dining room table, the girl friend of one of my apartment mates asked me what I was doing. I no longer remember exactly what I said, but I imagine that it was not something like "Isn't that obvious? I'm matching truck stops!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How many windows should an old hotel have?

Many years ago, around 1980, when I was still in high school, I was watering the lawn. I no longer remember if I actually heard or just imagined hearing the the song lyrics suggesting that "there [are] too many windows in this old hotel." (Apparently, to make matters worse, some of the rooms were "filled with reckless pride.") At first, I was not sure why this song reminded me of my friend Dan Chase, but then it occurred to me that the singer was Dan Fogelberg. (A previous blog entry discusses the associative network of knowledge, which explains this triggering of the "Dan" node).

Anyway, how many rooms should an old hotel, optimally, have? Does this figure differ from a that of a new hotel?

It seems rather sad that nobody lives in the hotel. Was it the excessive number of windows, the irresponsible pride, some other factor, or a combination of factors that caused the hotel's demise? The fact that the "walls [had] grown sturdy" seems an advantage rather than a disadvantage, though I have difficulty understanding why the walls would become sturdier rather than experiencing decay.

Well, at least the song provides some nice inspiration: "Seek inspiration in daily affairs/Now you soul is in trouble and requires repairs/And the voices you hear at the top of the stairs/Are only echoes of unanswered prayers/Echoes of unanswered prayers."

Arizona: One giant construction site?

Returning from Arizona, I could not help noticing just how much construction seems to be going on around the places I visited--mostly from Scottsdale through Cochise County by way of Tucson. If Paradise is anywhere in the neighborhood, I suspect that Joni Mitchell's premonition is in serious danger of coming true.

At least they probably won't pave the Grand Canyon. Filling it up would be way too expensive. The Puny Canyon and the Pathetic Canyon--if these entities exist--might not be so lucky.

Should Congress repeal the law of gravity?

Absolutely not!

Not being a physicist, I cannot say what kinds of "cascading" effects might affect other laws of nature if gravity were removed, but I suspect that the Earth would lose its atmosphere and probably drift farther and farther away from the Sun.

The constitutionality of repealing this kind of law are not clear to me. Generally, I would imagine that Congress could repeal whatever laws it passed, but I am not sure that Congress actually ever passed the law of gravity. The U.S. Constitution says something to the effect that those aspects of the British common law that were in existence at the time of the passage of the Constitution, to the extent that these are not in conflict with the Constitution, remain in force. I am not sure if a constitutional amendment would be required to remove such a common law component, but it is likely--in fact, almost certain--that the law of gravity preceded the British common law.

There might also be some implications of various treaties that the U.S. has signed. In any event, it hardly seems fair that a decision of this magnitude would be made entirely by the government of a country that represents some five percent of the world's population.

Walking up the Great Wall of China, gravity is a burden, but the solution of doing away with it is worse than the problem.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Good news!

As I explained in my un-holiday letter late last month, I usually do not get the time to send out an annual holiday letter since early to mid-December is one of the busier times of the year with the end of the semester coming up. Therefore, I have decided to start writing on an actual holiday letter this summer before the Fall semester starts. This letter is scheduled to be released in November. Having caught up a great deal with the un-holiday letter, the holiday letter is expected to be much shorter this time--not much more than ten pages.

Someone told me the other day that the "norm" for holiday letters is about one page--two at most. The question is: Who cares?

A succinct dismissal

SunRocket, Inc., an Internet phone service whose market share is (or at least was) reported to be second only to that of Vonage, apparently ceased operations. A succinct message greeted callers: "We are no longer taking customer service or sales calls. Goodbye." Customers who had paid $199 for a year of unlimited calling within the U.S. and Canada are probably disappointed.

Monday, July 16, 2007

B but no B at the B&B

A flier for a bed and breakfast offers the following statement: "Sorry, we no longer provide breakfast."

Fiction tourism--in reality

These days, I rarely buy any novels. There is a very large supply at my mother's house now that she has retired from the horse breeding business. Sometime ago, she recommended to me books by the author J. A. Jance. This author features several different individuals--mostly from law enforcement--as her books' main characters. One of these is Sheriff Joanna Brady on Cochise County, Arizona. Having reinstated my "tradition" of travel in the region immediately after the end of each national Autism Society of America conference, I am traveling around in Arizona at the moment. (This year's conference was in Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix).

Today, I visited--and am staying over at the Best Value Inn & Suites--in Bisbee, the location of the sheriff's office (fictionally, at least). Joanna is supposed to have a ranch some two miles outside town.

Bisbee is very different from what I had expected. It is an amazingly beautiful place, especially coming down Highway 80. It turns out that there is an "old" town Bisbee. I never realized that the town was really an old town accompanied by some newer developments.

Here, by the way, we have an interesting series of events. It was only about three months since I first heard of J.A. Jance. If I had not heard of her, I probably would never have ventured to this place.

Now we will have to see what--if anything--happens "by the time I get (back) to Phoenix."

A professor's nightmare

Recently, the USA Network has been running a promo for the series Monk in which Adrian walks around in a near perfect world full of symmetry. There are even maintenance workers cleaning the glass on the parking meters. The dream, however, turns into a nightmare when he steps on a piece of chewing gum. The complains to his psychologist that this nightmare happened again.

The other day, I, too, had a dream that started out well. A colleague had asked me to give my exam to her class. (I love giving exams!) However, as I was about to pass out the exam, I realized that the exams I had brought had already been filled out, presumably by my students.

Seems it sometimes rains in Southern Arizona

At least it did in Tucson last night.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Arizona? Not Arkansas?

Going down Interstate 10 on my way to Scottsdale, I have been passing an amazing number of Wal-Mart stores. Maybe Arizona is friendlier to the chain than California is.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A broken modem

A broken modem is probably not as painful as a broken hard drive, but it can certainly put a damper on the Fourth of July holiday. A colleague told me the other--on July 3--that his modem had broken down and that a new one might arrive in the mail that afternoon.