Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A lonely man driving a taxi

For some time, I have been trying to find out who sings the song wherein a man bemoans the fact that "The nights are still so long." There is also a reference to seeing something or someone "in the crowd." It was unclear to me exactly what, but the singer definitely appeared to state "Sometimes I think..."

Typically, when I hear a song that I want to identify, I run whatever phrases I can decipher and remember through Google to find a match. That, however, did not work the first few times around for this one. I asked the person behind the counter at the Yoshinoya Bowl if he knew the title of the song when I recently heard it there while having my trademark spicy combo. He did not.

Fortunately, I did hear the song last week-end, and I finally learned that the song featured Train. The title was "Cab." Apparently, the driver sometimes thought that he was "the only cab on the road." I ordered the CD from Amazon. It arrived yesterday. While I took a bit of a break from grading final papers, I played the song over numerous times.

This reminds of of the old days when I was a freshperson or sophomore in college and got into the habit of playing Genesis' song "Man on the Corner" over and over again. This story is in the third person, but otherwise, there are certain similarities. This was back in the old days of cassette tapes (or turntables which I rarely ever used). There was no automatic repeat feature, so I would manually rewind the song each time. This really frustrated my sister who did not have the same fondness for hearing the same song over and over again.

To some extent--and with some variations--there appears to have been at least a partial repetition of history.

Old habits die hard, especially for old eccentrics.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A little good news...

Buried among all the negative economic projections is a story in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/06/technology/business-computing/06blue.html) reporting that IBM Chief Executive s Samuel J. Palmisano will suggest in a speech "technology-fueled economic recovery plan that calls for public and private investment in more efficient systems for utility grids, traffic management, food distribution, water conservation and health care." Economics, commenting on the idea, cite New Deal programs such as rural electrification, bringing about lasting economic growth. Sounds like a way to go!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

33% of survey respondents "hate" Michelle Obama's dress?

A Los Angeles Times blog today discusses Michelle Obama's fashion tastes and, in particular, her election night dress. In a survey--clearly not a representative one--47.9% of respondents indicated that they "loved" the dress. Considering the fact that Michelle Obama will probably the cutest First Lady in history, that is undertandable. I can also understand the 18.1% who indicated indifference and the 1.1% who did not see it--despite the prominent photo in the blog. What I don't understand, however, is the 33.0% who "hated" it. The dress is in perfectly decent taste. Do these respondents reflect individuals so caught up in partisanship that they can't recognize elegance when they see it? Does it make them, perhaps, uncomfortable that the spots are too similar in color to their own necks?


Friday, October 31, 2008

Whoa! Are sunscreen sales increasing in Arizona?

There is talk in the Obama camp that Arizona's electoral votes may now be within striking distance on Tuesday. This assessment may be a bit on the over-confident side (although it would be rather hypocritical for the McCain camp to suggest that). Still, I wonder if an increasing number of Arizonans are becoming conscientious about using sunscreen on their necks.

"Trigger" treating

Nowadays, spoiled brats in Denmark reportedly get to celebrate not just Halloween but also a rather similar event named Fastelavn which happens sometime around February. When I lived back in the old country, there was only the traditional Danish event--but that was bad enough. Children get to dress up in obnoxious costumes. Historically, this day was apparently related to the onset of the fasting period,but you would not know it from the words coming out of the bratty mouths that day. Children get a collection of special branches--albeit not quite in the league of Singaporean canes--with which they are allowed to "whip" their poor parents out of bed. In an impudent jingle, they sing out "If I don't get any biscuits, I am going to wreak havoc!" The biscuits, here, refer to special biscuits similar to American raisin rolls. Despite these misdeeds, the children are not sent to bed without dessert or even denied television privileges. They weren't even in the old days. Well, at least they do not need to come knocking on people's doors, disturbing poor innocent neighbors. They are given candy on their canes.

Anyway, when I first came to the United States, I heard of children's Halloween extortion techniques before I saw the term written, so at first I thought the practice was known as "trigger" treating. After all, a lot of children's costumes included toy guns and other intimidating devices, so the idea sounded logical.

If you prefer not be to be disturbed in the future--or if you believe that limited exposure to candy will help build character--you may want to hand out homework assignments rather than candy this year. Children may not remember to do their chores or homework on a daily basis, but the experience of being assigned additional work may be traumatizing enough for the brats to drill into their not particularly pure minds the importance of skipping your home next year.

Well, at least my nephew Thomas--who is really into costumes--will enjoy Halloween. He apparently added a number of new costumes to his already abundant stash several months ago in anticipation of today's event. He may deserve the treat since he is rarely, if ever, sent to the Principal's office. In fact, my sister and brother-in-law don't usually do not have to struggle with the question of whether to chew him out since he reportedly rarely, if ever, misbehaves. Apparently, he actually does his homework without having to be threatened with loss of computer time. Actually, Thomas probably won't be all that aggressive in extorting candy since his grandmother will almost certainly give him all the candy he wants anyway, so he probably won't be that much of a pest to the neighborhood. I wish I could say the same of other children.

Friday, October 17, 2008


CNN today reported that a man had put dog excrement on his neighbor's truck. I realize that this may be sensational, but is it really news?

Suppose that, around the world, 200,000,000 live in such surroundings that, realistically, they might have a neighbor who could have a truck. Then assume that one out of every thousand of these people might be a whacko who might do something--if not the exact same thing--of equal disgustitude once in their lifetime. If these whackos each live an average of 70 years, they will live an average of 27,920.5 days (including the added days provided by leap years).

Now, dividing the 200,000,000 population by the whacko factor of 1,000, we get 200,000 "critical" whackos. Dividing that number by their average lifespan in days, we get an estimae that 200,000/27920.5 = 73.01 events like this would happen every day.

My assumptions might be a little off, but even if I am off by a factor of 10, would something that happens 7.3 times per day be "news?"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us ... NOTHING?

The very rotten psychopaths who want to de-planetize Pluto are really sending our school children a very demoralizing message! As I have remarked before, with Pluto being by far the most eccentric of the nine original planets--original since 1930 anyway--this is really a thinly veiled sligh at eccentrics.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Brain washing poor school children

My sister related how my poor nephew, Thomas (who recently turned five) came home and insisted indignantly that Pluto is no longer a planet. How can the schools feed the poor children such garbage? It is grossly unjust that today's school children have become the unwilling pawns in the battle between the rotten psychopaths who wanted to demote Pluto and the forces of good fighting this injustice. Why should a pathetic body like Mercury--which has no moons--be considered a planet and without granting at least the same status to Pluto which has at least three moons?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Surfing the friendly skies becomes expensive

Apparently, many airlines have begun to charge surfers who bring along their boards $300 each way for each board. Apparently, some surfers bring as many as four boards, for a total of $2,400 for the trip. Despite a protest petition signed by 14,000 surfers, British Airways has banned surfboards entirely. I wonder how long it will be before we see T-shirts with the indignant message that "Surfing is not a crime!"

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Intriguiging word choice

A Time Magazine review states: "[T]he Tumi people did their best to make the Frequent Traveler look good — it's covered in the company's signature 'ballistic nylon,' which at least sounds cool—what makes this the damn-near-perfect carry-on is it's aggressive practicality." I love the anthropomorphism!

The downside is that the MSRP for this highly touted product is $549.00.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


My mother asked my five year old nephew today if he wanted to go to Jack-in-the-Box for lunch. He said that he would rather have candy. His grandmother pointed out that candy contains sugar. My nephew was not impressed. After all, we have dentists to deal with that problem!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Toilet seat covers

Many of you may already know this, but those of you who do not may find the following information helpful in avoiding the tremendous burden that I just went through in returning a non-fitting toilet seat cover to the retailer. Apparently, there are both round and elongated toilet seats. It looks like the "elongated" version--the one that I needed--is something like two inches longer than the "round" one.

Although I would probably still classify myself as a novice in this area, I am by no means inexperienced in shopping for toilet seat covers. I have lost count--perhaps because I never thought to make one--of how many times I have bought this product before. This, however, was the first time I ended up with a misfit.

"You're a good flamingo!"

A woman in Trader Joe's gave her son standing on one leg this unusual compliment after he let me pass by.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New advertising encroachment

There is tremendous competition for the consumer's attention these days. Any opportunity to grab his or her awareness--even for a moment--is precious. The other day, I noticed that advertising has now crept onto the fold-down trays on U.S. Airlines' seats. On busy flights, the crew will sometimes ask passengers to have their trays opened before the beverage station reaches the the passenger, prolonging the exposure to the advertising message. Hopefully, with clear plastic glasses, the beverage will not cover the advertising message.

This is one of the more devious tactics I have seen recently. It will be interesting to see if passengers--used to nice, neat, clean trays--will object to what may seem like aesthetic revulsion.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


The GREEN Channel features an intriguing new series entitled Wasted. Two very zealous hosts expose and attempt to convert serious "eco-criminals" whose lifestyles are hard on the environment. In one recent episode, a family was receiving some 1,400 pounds of catalogs in the mail every year along with stuff ordered online packaged with 800 pounds of material. One member was spending some $90 per week in gasoline. The household also discarded a large number of cigarette buds every day.

The family got a stern lecture but got the message and reduced its "carbon footprint" by 39%.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Planetary gravity: There I go again!

A little more than a year ago, in my blog entry entitled "How Could I Have Been So Wrong?" I reflected on my misperception of the actual distances of those stars closest to our solar system. It turns out that star closest to us is "only" 4.12 light years away--not the 26 I had expected. Vega, at 26 light years, is not the one closest to us.

Recently, I made another discovery that really stunned me. I had always imagined that, in addition to the challenges of dealing with a cold, non-definitive surface, the "giant" planets in our solar system--Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune--would have a crushing level of gravity. It turns out that I greatly over-estimated the gravity levels on these planets. According to figures at
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/astronomy/planets/, Jupiter does have a gravity force 2.5 times that of Earth--but still not the tens, if not hundreds, of times I had expected. I really don't know whether 2.5 Gs would actually "crushing," but at the risk of coming across as somewhat Eartnocentric, I would rather not find out from personal experience--call me a "fuddy duddy" if you have to. There would be certain other unpleasantries--quite aside from gravity--in attempting to stand on the surface of Jupiter. (Those interested might like to consult my blog entry "Song Facts" for a discussion of some of the nasty aspects of solar system travel). Saturn and Neptune have gravities a little above that of earth--something like 1.1 times--and Uranus' gravity level is actually a tiny bit less than that of Earth--maybe about 95%, as best I can judge from the graph.

In case you are wondering, Venus has a gravity level slightly less than that of the Earth, and Mercury and Mars seem to come in at about 80%. It looks like Pluto is only about 15% that of Earth, but that still does not seem a legitimate reason for the unconsciounable act of some to try to demote Pluto from its rightful status as a planet.

How can this be? It turns out that a body's surface level gravity is proportional to the body's actual mass and inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the surface to the center. Because the "gas giants" are much less dense than "rocky" planets like Earth, these distances are quite long.

It has been a long time since my high school physics days. My intuition had been more the other way around--that the mass would be squared and the distance left to itself. Again, I was wrong.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Strategic refueling mission accomplished!

That sounds so much more impressive than saying that I stopped for gas the other day.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Alternative vacation plans

Those concerned about rising prices of gasoline and air fares this year might consider an ego-trip rather than a traditional vacation. Believe me, such trips are highly gratifying!

Geeky fathers

An e-mail notice from Roxio suggests that one's "Dad will love his gift [of Roxio Easy Media Creator 10]."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Logistically implausible claim in spam e-mail

Today, a spam e-mail arrived with the following subject heading: "[W]holesale shoes accept [P]aypal."

Monday, March 31, 2008

A disturbing dream

This one really has me puzzled--and embarrassed.

I dreamed that a service department employee at a Ford dealership insisted on bringing in an obnoxious salesperson who wanted me to sign up for a life long e-mail account on which I could store important information. It would work fifty or even hundred years from now.

What really doesn't jive with my self image as a kind and compassionate individual is that, as the salesperson made a long and rambling introduction, I kept hitting the salesperson's knuckles on one hand with my keys--not just car keys, but a large keyring with other keys. The salesperson apparently never tried to pull his hand away.

Just for the record, I have never actually engaged in this behavior while awake. I did once yell at a crooked car salesman, even in this case of a rotten psychopath who lied with impunity, I did not resort to physical violence. And I did not even succeed in getting him fired. Also for the record, that bozo was not with Ford.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Rain in Spain, Southern California, and Tokyo

Two days after making my last blog entry, I did receive conformation that it does rain in Central Japan, at least some of the time. Smaller stores usually feature umbrella racks outside the stores. Larger stores, where too many umbrellas would accumulate outside the store, have umbrella wrapping machines that wrap the umbrella in plastic covers.

Ironically, it turns out that the song "It Never Rains in Southern California" was actually written before the two co-authors ever came here. Unlike the two writers of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" (which was written in Maryland), the co-authors of the rain song were anticipating their trip to Los Angeles. The story is based on the experiences of Albert Hammond of severe cash flow problems in Spain. Some interesting details are at http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=3137 . Somehow, no allusions to snails made it into the song's lyrics.

By the way, if any of you are looking for Julio Iglesias' version, there is actually independent song. It is part of the song "Moonlight Lady."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Got onboard an eastbound 747...

So far, I have not seen any evidence that it ever does rain in Central Japan, but I am told it does.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Seven habits of highly ineffective F-students

  1. Ditch or arrive late for class
  2. Engage in personal conversations during class
  3. Fail to follow instructions and pay attention
  4. Use the term “etc.” in their assignments and exam answers
  5. Study insufficiently for exams and put inadequate effort into assignments
  6. Fail to think logically and/or make their reasoning clear
  7. Overestimate their own performance, insight, and competence

Monday, February 18, 2008

Marketing Fundamentals (BUAD 307) course podcasts now online!

The audio from my Marketing Fundamentals (BUAD 307) course lecture sessions is now available as podcasts at http://buad307cast.com/audio/ .

Friday, February 15, 2008

My River

In Birkerod, Denmark--the town in which I was born--there was a river that passed through. It wasn't a big river, and the water level certainly would not have high enough to sustain a yellow submarine, but I was not at all too proud to call it "my river."

My memories of this are very vague, but back when I was something like 2-3 years old, my mother, my little sister, and I would, almost every day, walk down to the road to my great grandparents who lived on a farm, most of which had been converted into leased factory space and, later, a kindergarten. When we arrived, my great grandmother would usually boil an egg for me. On the way, we could see the river. Somewhere--whether it was at home or at the homes of relatives--I was apparently exposed frequently to the classical piece The Moldau, composed by the Czech composer Bedrich Smetana. When this song was played, I am told, I would say that it was about "my river." The piece, by the way, is about the Czech river Vlatana (Moldau is the German word), and the composer intended to incorporate the sounds of the river into the composition.

To this day, I always have a special feeling when I hear the composition about my river. I have fond memories of listening to this piece frequently when I woke up to the morning program of Dennis Owen at WGMS in Washington, D.C. during my years at the University of Maryland and The George Washington University.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It may not be a duck

Yesterday, I came across a bird on a car in a parking lot. The food it had in its beak made it look, from the front, like a duck. I am not sure, however, whether ducks have spots, so I can't determine if it looks like a duck. I am not sure how ducks are supposed to walk--nor, for that sake, how other birds walk--so I cannot use that criterion. The bird did not quack, but one cannot infer non-duck status based on the converse. Another practical problem is that I am not sure if there are any "non-duck-like" ways of quacking (other than in offering bogus medical services), so I am not sure what the standard of comparison would be.

Ultimately, of course, the question is whether I could make more profit on this bird than I could on a duck. Unfortunately, I did not see any commercial value here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Grass is Greener at USC

It is clearly evident that the grass on campus is now both literally and figuratively greener. Normally, I am rather suspicious of change, but, with green being my favorite color and with the environmental benefits of not having to irrigate artificial grass, this seems like a good one.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Valentine's Gift for Geeky Girlfriends

Costco features a deal at http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?whse=BC&topnav=&prodid=11188565&ec=BC-EC877-CatHome&pos=6&lang=en-US where a $59.99 discount is given when a Magellan Maestro 3250 auto GPS system is bought along with three dozen roses.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Juicy gossip in the LA Times

The online version of the Los Angeles Times today features an article whose link from the front page features a title one might expect more to read in the National Enquirer: "Text messages point to affair in Detroit."

On second thought, maybe the Enquirer would use words less restrained than "point to."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A bad dream--in two stages

The other night, I first dreamed that I was on my way to guest speak to a colleague's class at a nearby institution. I had budgeted plenty of time, but suddenly realized that I had only twelve minutes until the talk was scheduled to talk--but would definitely not be able to make it to the location--which I wasn't entirely clear on where to find. To make matters worse, as I was sitting in a parking lot to call my colleague, my cell phone was stolen. A woman approached me, asking, of all things, for an aspirin (which I must somehow had had with me), and while I was distracted, her partner in crime stole my cell phone. I woke up and wondered if it was really safe to keep my cell phone on my belt, or whether I was too vulnerable to get it stolen that way in real life.