Friday, June 29, 2007

Final Day

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 5

Rudely awakened at 6:30, I was again able to pass out in the passenger seat as we flew towards beautiful Crater Lake National Park. At almost 2,000 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in these United States. All pictures are safely on Friedman's camera, so you will have to wait for those. We had a delicious breakfast at the Crater Lake Inn, a surprisingly snooty place in which the lowest servants are African American, the mid-level people are foreign, and those in charge are white. I had two scrambled eggs, ham, potatoes, and a biscuit, along with 3 cups of weak but delicious coffee and a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Knowing that California's gas taxes are the highest this side of France, we wanted to gassify in Oregon. But, like New Jersey, Oregon seems to have a law requiring that all gas stations are full service, and, also like New Jersey, for reasons I do not fully understand, this makes all gas stations in Oregon sketchy and crowded. Pay at the pump does not seem to have penetrated this final frontier. Perhaps our Oregonian friend, Mr. Nosko, can fill us in on this. Just over the border into CA, we found an un-manned pay-at-the-pump station, where we poured gallon upon gallon of plus-grade fuel into the unusually thirsty B M Trouble-U. We managed to drive 500 miles in the state of Oregon without a single refueling.

We drove past the Mount Shasta Trinity, easily the equal of Mount Rainier in drama and almost the equal in height, over two bridges that span man-made Lake Shasta (home of summer house boating trips), and we even managed to find the famous "Auto Mall Parkway" shortcut. Last time I took this route I made the mistake of following signs to the Dumbarton Bridge (the very bridge we wanted to take), which take you on a road neither fast nor scenic that winds forever through the hills.

We got to Palo Alto in time to make the 8pm showing of LIVE FREE, OR DIE HARD. See the movie. Unless you're Rick Townsend, you'll find it enjoyable.

And with that, like all things good and bad, the trip had to come to an end. Friedman was off to Berkeley, and I was off to a good night's sleep. I'm showered and shaved, the clothes are in the washing machine, the poodles are sated with milkbones, and I am ready to move on to whatever next adventure the Good Lord has in store for me. Thank y'all for reading. I'm not sayin' goodnight...just sayin'.

Day 15

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 4

I was not pleased when Friedman woke me up after 5 hours of sleep. In fact, face in pillow, I demanded to be reminded why waking up so early was entirely necessary, and I did not find his explanation satisfactory (the roads are "slow"). I thusly fell instantly asleep in the car, and napped peacefully until we arrived at the Hoh Rain Forest National Park. We took a wheelchair accessible stroll through the forest, pausing to photograph this naked shaft of a tree:

as well as this more representative offering:

The park gets more than 500 inches of rain per year. Ca c'est beaucoup. Then we puttered down 101 for a while, Friedman getting more and more frustrated with the route, until we busted over to I-5 and made haste for Eugene. Eugene is, apparently, the running capital of the US, and so naturally we stayed the night at an apartment being temporarily occupied by a former National Champion of the 1500m. This former champ, Andy, joined us for the Eugene Emeralds game (won, like all the minor league games we went to, by the visiting team, in this case the 0-8 team from Boise). then we shot some pool in a nearby bar with Andy and another former national champion of some race or other, Nicole.

Alas, the apartment's wireless Internet was no match for Super 8's, and I was unable to blog. My deepest and most humble apologies to those who have grown accustomed to the entertainment that I so generously provide.

Day 14

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 4

Friedman's measure might be neutral were it not for his insistence on saying "Or-a-GONE," and, even worse in my book, "NevAHHHHda."

As usual we got up suboptimally early, this time to get a close-up of Mount Rainier. The mountain stands a good 8,000 feet above any other mountain even remotely close by, so it's easy to pick out. A kindly veteran offered to take a picture of the two of us in the mountain's shadow, a picture which he guaranteed would be "frame-worthy."

We hiked over slick snow to a vista point. Friedman unwisely chose to wear his boat shoes, which not only make him look like the pretentious New England Jewish WASP some have accused him of being, but also have the unfortunate property of being approximately frictionless on the bottom. My "sherpa" shoes fared better and helped me blend in with the locals.

Having ventured 60 miles south of Seattle, our next destination was the Boeing assembly plant, 20 miles north of the city. The Boeing people told as at least 5 times that this building is the largest building in the world, by volume. Which leads me to wonder what the largest building by area is. My best guess, inspired by "Uncommon Carriers," is the UPS sorting facility in Kentucky. Each door at the end of an assembly line is the size of a football field. We got to see, but not photograph, the assembly lines for the 777 and 787 (the first 787 rolled off the line the day before we got there). Our tour guide claimed that the 777's engine is as wide around as the 737 fuselage.

It was at the Boeing factory that Friedman's most outrageous blunder occurred. We were required to put our cell phones and other electronics in a locker before the tour, and he managed to lock the slip with our combination on it in the locker. We had to sheepishly beg the nice woman behind the information desk for help when the tour concluded.

The long day had hardly begun at this point, as we headed to the Red Sox at Mariners game. Gabbard began the bottom of the first with 4 walks, a hit, and a HBP, so that was pretty much the end of that. We did, however, see Javier Lopez break the MLB pitch-speed record by a solid 5 mph:

After the game ended on three straight K's by J J Putz, we headed for the ferry that would take us to the Olympic Peninsula. Finally, and I must say I waited many days for this, Friedman got nailed with a speeding violation (68 in a 55, which was really more like 78 in a 55 before he slammed on the breaks).

The policeman, who looked exactly like Jonathan "The Gynecologist" Papelbon (incidentally, this was about as close to Jonathan Papelbon as we got since the Red Sox are so bad at life), was very nice.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Day 13

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 5

I'll be the first to admit that today was not eventful in the blogging sense. You might want to amuse yourself instead by watching the infamous exploding whale video.

We woke up in Boise. We drove west. For a long time. We saw the Scablands. We crested the Cascades. We arrived in Seattle. We watched the Mariners fall on the Red Sox like Oprah on a baked ham. We drove to Super 8.

Tomorrow promises to be more eventful...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Day 12

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 5

Friedman, having won the previously mentioned battle of wits, woke up in this space at 7am:

I slept in the more humble servants' quarters. We took advantage of our early start to hike to Surprise Lake in the morning, a 9.2 mile, 2,500 vertical feet hike in the Tetons. My knees are killing me as a result. Here is yours truly just before we turned around:

We then returned to the house for a shower and to pet the two resident poodles. This one, which was very timid because of prior abuse (the house owners got her through "poodle rescue"), won over my heart:

Our drive was to Boise, but we stopped to see the Idaho Falls Chukars play an afternoon game (the astute reader will note that we already saw the Chukars - they were the visiting team in Casper), and we stopped again at the small but interesting Craters of the Moon National Monument.

The Super 8 in Boise is no "Pride of Super 8." The first room they gave us had a bunch of someone else's stuff in it. The exasperated, flamboyant desk guy had to deal with several other customers with similar problems before assigning us a new room. We took receipt of it around midnight.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Day 11

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 7

I am beginning to associate whatever song it is Friedman's phone plays as its alarm with pain and suffering. Today we woke at 5:45am in order to have as much time at Yellowstone as possible. We entered from the north, which is an unusual route, up and over an almost 11,000 foot pass. The temperature dropped such that I needed to bust out my UCSC hoodie for the first time (usually I use it as a nap pillow). Our first stop was Mammoth, home of the "Liberty Cap."

This should put to rest any fears that our trip is no longer centered around natural and man-made phalloi. The structure is surrounded by signs that reassure the skeptical that the phenomenon is indeed entirely natural.

Yellowstone is an amazing place, and I'm glad to have finally seen it. The geothermal stuff is cool, if odoriferous. There are nice grasslands, mountains, and waterfalls as well. Perhaps most interestingly, the park also functions as an enormous zoo. The buffalo and elk are everywhere, and there are also bears, coyotes, and lots of friendly rodents to be seen from the air-conditioned comfort of the car. We got stuck for 40 minutes on our way to Old Faithful in a traffic jam involving both automobiles and fauna:

Out of principle, I refrained from photographing Old Faithful's plume, which coincided perfectly with our finishing a delightful lunch at the local Inn.

Exiting Yellowstone to the congested south, we headed for our lodging, the ski chalet of a friend of Professor Ben Friedman's. The son of this friend, Ted, greeted us at the (fantastic) house and held a barbecue for some locals and us. And then, before the sun went down, the house was left to just Mr. Friedman and myself. We cracked open a few PBR's, watched Braveheart, and are preparing for a night of delicious sleep. In a rare moment of weakness, I lost a best-of-three rock-paper-scissors contest, so I get the inferior room. But you gotta roll with the punches.

Day 10

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 5

We awoke at a reasonable time and headed for Teddy Roosevelt National Park, where we set off from an empty trailhead on our most ambitious hike yet (no other hike had exceeded 1 mile). The park looks consistently like the picture below. About 2 miles in, we came across a herd of buffalo, which at first seemed scared of us. After they regrouped, the leader of the herd made what I would describe as a mildly threatening gesture towards us. Remarkably, at that exact moment, we realized that we had seen exactly the right amount of the trail, and we turned around to take another fork and explore its many nooks and crannies. The picture shows Friedman in front of the aforementioned herd after they ran away, before we got close again.

After showering at the motel (we needed to get an extra-special 15-minute extension from check-out time), we pointed our general nose towards Little Bighorn. I would like to take this opportunity to express my long-held, if weakly supported, belief that visiting battlefields is a hopelessly and overwhelmingly boring American responsibility. Battlefields are the only tourist attractions that can get away with having nothing visually appealing to offer. The hill that Custer died on is quite literally indistinguishable from 20 other hills within plain view. But whatever, Friedman seemed to enjoy it.

From Little Big Horn, it was on to Billings, where we caught the home opener of the Billings Mustangs. The 'stangs were cruising through 7, having allowed only 1 hit, but the floodgates opened in the 8th and Missoula ended up the victor. Billings came across as remarkably cosmopolitan compared to Casper. Cosmopolitan is not an adjective Billings is paired with often. Oh, and you're allowed to buy 4 beers at a time in Billings - a constraint that, while weaker than any other stadium I have ever been to, still managed to bind to several fans' displeasure.

In closing, an observation. Plus grade gas costs less than Regular in the Dakotas. What's up with that?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Nice Picture of Dewbs and Me

I just sucked the pictures off Friedman's camera, and I liked this one. You might not guess it just from the image, but the reason I'm sitting is that I felt so feverish that I was worried that I might pass out if I stood up.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Day 9

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 6

A young hooligan had left our motel alarm clock on for 6am, so we were rudely jolted from sweet Lady Sleep's embrace 2 hours early. I fell instantly back asleep. Breakfast was spent at Wall Drug, where the Cafe was indeed open. Coffee is $0.05, and, ex post, my realized valuation for the so-called coffee is $0.00. The orange juice was from concentrate. However, the French toast was adequately cinnamony.

Wall Drug is a drugstore only in name. Most of its many acres are filled with kitschy souvenirs, including a room full of teeshirts, and a room full of crap I can't even describe. Jackalope heads were available for $69.99. I had never heard of the jackalope, and Friedman didn't seem to have a great grasp of it. I kept asking him whether the jackalope was real or imaginary, and he kept saying things like "I don't know." Then today he said "it's very rare, like the yeti." But I didn't know what the yeti was, so I didn't really take the hint.

Speaking of jackalopes, here is a picture of Dr. Friedman riding the 6-foot jackalope that inhabits Wall Drug's spacious back yard:

He's a big boy now.

Next we saw a decomissioned Minuteman II nuclear missile command center and silo. The command center is generally only open to 2 small tours per day, and these tours fill up very quickly. Lucky for us June 21, 2007 was one of 2 open houses of the year. The rangers giving the tours had worked as missiliers during the cold war, and they had folksy accents and humorous anecdotes to boot. To this day, they can neither confirm nor deny the existence of nuclear payloads on their particular missiles.

After a brief stop at the nearby Ellsworth Airforce Base Museum, we stopped by the Badlands National Park, which is pretty impressive. A picture says more than my words would.

Then we drove several hours to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where we encountered a very talkative truck driver at the visitor station. He was with his "wife," whom Friedman and I both initially assumed to be some sort of highway woman, who spoke nary a word. One of the more interesting things we learned from this Mississipian was that trucks are easier to slow down when they are heavily laden (John Mcphee makes no mention of this in "Uncommon Carriers"...). He also said that he had recently gotten a German Shepherd, because he could easily take 1 attacker on, and probably 2, but 3 or 4 would be a challenge. When Friedman finally extricated us from the conversation, the trucker urged us to embrace our Lourd and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We assured him we would.

Finally, in case anyone was worried that Friedman and I are not actually on this trip together, here is visual proof:

From Medora, ND, good luck, and good night.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Day 8

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 3

The day began at 8:45am, when Kelly, quite accidentally, woke us up with a phone call. Friedman, mistaking the call for his 9:30am alarm, stumbled into the bathroom. He next committed the ultimate morning motel room faux pas: he left the room, leaving the bathroom light on while I was still trying to sleep. His excuse, not worth mentioning, was that he was "still tired." Needless to say I made an immediate mental note to take him down a peg or two.

We breakfasted at IHOP, where I downed several glasses of orange juice, several cups of coffee, and many thick slices of french toast. We set off for Devil's Tower, in the northeastern corner of Wyoming, one of the state's most prominent natural landmarks.

One must wonder what the native term for this shaft is.

We crossed the border into South Dakota and drove around for a while in the vicinity of the Black Hills. The terrain is a beautiful mix of forest and prairie. Our tour concluded with Mt. Rushmore, which is basically the biggest piece of crap ever. We were loath to pay the $8 parking lot fee just to see the thing up close, so we turned around and high tailed it outta there.

We're staying in Wall, SD, whose claim to fame is Wall Drug, the most famous drugstore in the world. They put up ads in random places, including the London Tube and a bridge in Amsterdam. And yet their restaurant is not open for dinner, so we were stuck with the "Cactus Lounge." The Cactus Lounge redeemed itself by offering 24 ounce glasses of Moose Drool, which lubricated my mind nicely for the evening.

Day 7

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 5

After the delicious breakfast that qualified our Lincoln, NE Super 8 as a "Prime Super 8," we left on the road to Casper, Wyoming. On this day we would enter Rocky Mountain time. But before then, we had resolved to stop at the famous "Ole's Big Game Steakhouse," which features, among other things, the heads of a giraffe and elephant, and a fully grown, stuffed Polar Bear with its paw on a baby seal. My "buffalo steak" turned out to be ground buffalo smooshed roughly into the shape of a steak, but the decor beat McDonald's.

Our route took us past renowned Chimney Rock. After spotting it from a distance, I remarked that it didn't really look like a chimney.

The best description I could come up with was that it looked like a Prussian soldier's helmet half-buried in the ground. Luckily, the local autochtons had a more satisfying name:
Elk Penis - "Chimeny Rock's" Original Name:
According to early fur traders, Native Americans named the rock after the penis of the adult male elk
The museum went on to document the ginger steps writers took when addressing the rock in question:
We are now in sight of E.P., or Chimney Rock, a solitary shaft...

One of the cliffs is very peculiar in its appearance, and is known amongst the whites as "Chimney Cliff," and among the natives as "Elk Peak"
Next we stopped at Agate Fossil Bed, which hosts a skeleton reenactment of a scene in which "a large entelodont scavenges the bloated carcasse of a chalicothere." The same museum had some Indian artifacts, including a bow and arrows, accompanied by the following reassuring caption:
Rather than wantonly shooting at passersby, in reality some Lakota bowmen put on exhibitions of shooting skill for the emigrants!
We then continued along the old Oregon Trail, choosing to take bridges as opposed to hiring an Indian Guide or caulking the wagon. Our final stop was Wyoming. With a population of 51,000, Casper is easily Wyoming's second biggest city, and not far behind Cheyenne for top dog. It's so big it has TWO Super 8's. We naturally stayed at the cheaper one. As a special treat, today was the opening day of the Advanced Rookie League, so we got to watch the Casper Rockies come back from down 3 in the 9th only to lose 7-6 in the 11th to the hated Idaho Falls Chuckers. We were treated to a fireworks extravaganza afterward.

The Rockies play at "Mike Lansing field." Early on, I made a sarcastic quip about the infamously overpaid and underperforming Mike Lansing who spent a small amount of time on the Red Sox. Later on, the nice, elderly, female Casper resident sitting right behind me told me, rather beamingly, that a former star MLB player had donated the money for the field. A player who, in fact, had spent most of his career on the Rockies and then had left for the Red Sox. She seemed very happy that two out-of-towners would stop in Casper to catch a game. Friedman was very nice to her, and I did my best.

Before the game, I predicted that, since this was the Rookie League, after all, there would be 8 errors in the game. Here is the final scoreboard:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Day 6

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 7

First off, I'd like to note that I do not enjoy giving Friedman high ratings any more than my readers like reading them. But my illness (sorry for any confusion, I only went to the hospital to get a prescription - I am not a patient at a hospital) has subjected the good man to unfortunate hardship, and you don't hit a man when he's trying to help you up even though he's on his way to a very important meeting that he's late for.

We left our motel in lovely Dixon, IA late in the morning (having gotten in at 3am the night before). Dixon is not only the childhood home of the late, great Ronald Reagan, but it also has an arch:

We then made haste for Omaha. Of course, we had wont of gas in western Iowa, so we pulled in for a quickie at the Kum & Go:

It was a close call between the Kum & Go, and the Thrust & Pump.

We got to the College Baseball World Series at 4:30, instantly scalped tickets at $9 face value, and went to stand in line for the 6pm game between Oregon State and Arizona State.

Long story short, we were present for the longest game in College Baseball World Series history. Only we were standing on the grass pictured above, waiting for the next game to start. Such unbelievable giznank.

We did finally see some baseball. Oregon State, which lost to AZ State 3 times in the season, pwned like a pwnz0r in a pwnstore. They scored in each of the first 6 frames. Occasionally, even though beer was not available, there were reminders that this was indeed a collegiate event:

Now we're in Lincoln, at a Super 8, my new favourite Motel (it has free high-speed wireless, whereas Motel 6 has a "data port," for which you must "subscribe" to "AOL" or some shizzle). Wikipedia claims that people from Omaha were responsible for the city's name change in a desperate attempt to stop its becoming the state capital - many Illinois residents were pro-south at the time, and the hope was that they would recoil in horror with the idea of Lincoln being their capital.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Day 5

Friedman Acceptability Rating: 8

The day began promptly at 9am. Ian and Becca and I wanted to go bowling, and we found some weak evidence that a certain alley opened at 11:30. The evidence was quite wrong. We amused ourself at Starbucks and on the stoop of a local palm-reader's office until 12:00, and then sat around waiting for the pin-monkey to arrive until 1. But we did get 2 games in.

Then we headed to the Chicago Art Institute, where we planned to meet Friedman. The institute is an impressive place - lots of artists I've vaguely heard of. Here's the painting that caught my eye, a none-too-flattering portrait:

It is Ludwig Meidner's "Max Herrmann-Neisse."

Friedman's high rating for the day demands explanation. Over the course of the day, I developed a more and more severe fever and sickness. I realized that it might be caused by a secondary infection where my wisdom teeth were recently extracted. So I spent 2 and a half hours in the emergency room in Naperville waiting to see a doctor. Friedman was a trooper. Incidentally, the Naperville hospital was really nice, and included TV and internet in my hospital room.

Day 4

Friedman Acceptability Measure: N/A

With Friedman out of the way, I was able to kick up my heels and celebrate. I woke up at 11, and spent the next few hours trying to find the car, which held my change of clothes among other things. Then I spent an hour trying to find Michigan Ave, a difficult task which I ultimately bested. I ducked into a mall to avoid getting soaked during a sun-shower, and ended up staying in their guest lounge with free internet for some time. Ian and Becca and I ate dinner at a Cuban BYOB restaurant.

Really the only notable thing that happened all day was the tour of Millennium Park. Here is a picture I took at night, with a 5-second exposure time (it was quite dark out), of "The Bean," an aptly nicknamed sculpture in the park. Apparently the artist claims any pictures of the reflection as his own property...

After the park, we enjoyed drinks at my favourite hotel, the Monaco. I stayed there a few years ago when I went on a trip with my mom and brother.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Day 3

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 6

Day 3 was, as expected, a minor letdown from the epicosity of Day 2. After a free continental breakfast at Comfort Inn, we crossed into Indiana and burned rubber for Chicago. Indiana is notable for how bad Gary smells, and for the fact that it's so subservient to Chicago that the slice of land nearest Chicago is in the central time zone, while the rest of the state is in the eastern. Aided by that beautiful time change, we managed to meet friend Ian Dew-Becker in Chicago by noon.

Friedman, who kindly handled all of the driving, only rarely grabbed the GPS and futzed with it. His eyes stayed commendably glued to the road. He lugged his backpack and computer bag into Wrigley with him so that he could leave the game early and hit the airport - he'll be debauching in Vegas until Sunday afternoon.

After the game, I hung out in "Boy's Town" and then Evanston with Ian and his graduating friends. I had a delicious, free dinner with open bar at a graduation party, and then spent the late night at Bill's Blues, a great little blues bar with live music until 2am. Then Dewbs and I grabbed a cab back to his friend's, and I crashed on the couch. I woke up at 4am shivering uncontrollably, and only then did I find that some angel had laid out two fleece blankets for me. I assumed the fetal position such that only my mouth was exposed, and, in time, my body regained homeostasis. Ian deserves a special shout-out for leaving me 3 advils before he left early in the morning - without them, my mouth was feeling like a rusty steel trap.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Day 2

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 4

As always, i woke up 5 minutes before the alarm went off, at 6am. Last night, when we realized that the US Open of golf was being played 20 minutes from Pittsburgh at the famous Oakmont course, we decided to check it out. I was worried about getting tickets, but the minute we pulled into the complementary parking lot, our car was mobbed by scalpers desperate to sell us tickets at face value.

The US Open was a pretty special experience. We spent a lot of time at the infamous 10th hole, possibly the hardest Par 4 in the history of golf. The green might as well be paved over and covered with an inch of ice. The hardness and tilt combine to make even the light brush of the ball a recipe for disaster - if a putt doesn't land in the hole, it stops rolling just as it reaches the 6-inch rough. The following two players, Ian Poulter and Shingo Katayama, were part of one epic pairing:

Mr. Friedman insists on ambulating from location to location not only at breakneck speed, but also with reckless disregard for social etiquette. I was unwilling to follow him as he whizzed past elderly couples, inches from causing a cane to come out from under some recent hip transplant. But Mr. Friedman had more bad behaviour to come.

The original plan for today was to hit Cincinnati to see the Reds play, so after we got tired of golf, we headed in that general direction. We knew we'd be late, but we wanted to buy $5 tickets and tour the park. Here's a picture of Friedman trying to get in around the time we expected the 6th inning to be underway:

Yes, he was responsible for scheduling this game. We ate at the local cult-favourite "Skyline Chile," and came to Comfort Inn, of the free wireless Internet.

Day 1

Friedman Acceptability Measure: 5

We set out from 20 Ellery at 7:08am. Of course, Friedman was supposed to pick
me up at 7 sharp, but I'm a reasonable man, so I wasn't angry. I was surprised
to learn that we will be accompanied by a third travel partner, "brown bear."
I didn't ask, and I suggest that you do likewise.

The drive from Boston to Pittsburgh is nothing to speak of. We made a detour to
Johnstown, home of the great 1889 Johnstown Flood. 2200 people died when
a poorly kept dam above the town burst during a rain storm. A 40 foot high
wall of water carried away buildings, bridges, and trains at 40mph. The picture
I took overlooks the valley that the wave rushed through. Ominous clouds appear overhead.

The Pirates won easily at PNC park, which is one of my favourite parks in all of
baseball. It's the Apple product of parks - it has everything you want,
and nothing you don't.

Friedman and I got along splendidly. I would have given him a higher rating but
for his what can only be described as "endless futzing" with his GPS navigation
system. The thing kept telling us to turn around - only halfway through
Pennsylvania did I realize that it was giving us directions not to Pittsburgh,
but to the Friedman residence.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Friedman Acceptability Meter: A Primer

Tomorrow morning I embark with Mr. John N Friedman on our cross-country road trip. As some of you have pointed out, this is a long trip to be spending with one other person, and, in order to stay sane and keep Friedman in his place, I will be posting daily on the acceptability of his behaviour. I will use a simple 10-point scale. A 5 will represent a neutral acceptability - Friedman has neither done anything particularly horrifying, nor particularly endearing. If Friedman saves my life (assuming an exogenous life-threatening shock), he'll receive a 10 for the day. If he purposefully thrusts me in harm's way, for example to shield himself from a well-struck foul ball or a rabid buffalo, then he will receive a 1.

I may change the scale to a continuous, logarithmic scale, which would allow the assigning of 0 to Friedman's behaviour - a 0 would indicate that the acceptability of his actions admits no lower bound.

The numerical scoring will of course be glossed extensively. I may post a few pictures as well. Comments will be appreciated to indicate that at least one warm body is reading this self-promoting windbaggery.

Sunday, June 10, 2007 ad is the world's first dating website that uses "biochemistry" to create the perfect match. Or so they claim. However, their ad says that, unlike eHarmony, which has rejected over a million potential clients, they accept anyone. Sign me up for eHarmony...

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Fancy Real Estate Brokers

My mom and step-dad are beginning the process of selling their house. The first step seems to be interviewing an endless stream of identical real estate brokers. Not only do they use the same phrases - "supply and demand," "pent up demand," "fair market value," "oh my, what a beautiful home," and so on, but they're all women. Every single one. To be fair, one showed up with her husband, who was appropriately reserved and only spoke when spoken to.

My experience in hunting for mid-range apartments in Cambridge was that at least half of the real estate people were male - why is the sex ratio so strikingly out of balance in the Palo Alto multi-million dollar home market?

Friday, June 8, 2007

I have survived

I was first given laughing gas, which made me feel incredibly on edge and sick. Then the oral surgeon was like
OS: "Have you ever had enough alcohol to feel buzzed?"

Me: "Yes, yes I have."

OS: "What do you usually start out with?"

Me: "Oh, I don't know, usually some sort of pretentious microbrew"

OS: "How about hard liquor?"

Me: "Well, if it has to be hard liquor, then I'm goin' straight to my friend Jack"

OS: "Nice. Well, what I'm about to give you in your arm here is gonna feel like 10 shots o' Jack. All at once."

Me: "Excellent."
It was something of a rush, though I'm not sure it felt quite like 10 shots of Jack. I either fell asleep while he was taking my upper teeth out, or he didn't take them out...and my mouth doesn't feel up to an inspection yet. I woke up in time to observe the use of a bone saw to cut the lower teeth into pieces. At one point, I recall the same kind of pain you get when you're having a cavity drilled and they haven't given you enough Novocaine. The oral surgeon was like "Jesus, I've never seen anything like this, where the hell's the nerve?" Then he carpet bombed my mouth with Novocaine and all was well. I even got to keep the teeth.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Last Post Before Potentially Deadly Surgery

Tomorrow I go in for wisdom tooth extraction. It's probably as dangerous as getting on a plane, what with the drug cocktail they're going to pump into me. For most of today I thought I was going to be able to say "at least I saw a no hitter," but no, Schilling gave it up with two outs in the ninth on a well-struck ball by an incredibly mediocre player. It's the second time this year I've come within one unit of baseball history, the first being when John N. Friedman and I almost saw the Red Sox score in every frame in their home opener (a less well-known but more rare baseball event than even a perfect game).

In case I don't return, I have the following observations to make (reiterate, really), in closing, about the world:
  • Baseball is the king of sports, and basketball and soccer have no redeeming qualities
  • Economics is mental masturbation, and I don't mean just theory
  • The Drive-By Truckers achieved musical perfection with the album "Pizza Deliverance"
  • Women are crazy, but men, with the notable exception of me, are assholes
The movies I plan on watching during my hopefully short and vicadin-intensive recovery period are: Sin City, The Painted Veil, and The Remains of the Day.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Most Expensive Beer Ever Bought By Me

At the A's-Red Sox game last I night bought 4 (2 for me, one for pizpwn, and one for Xris) $10 "Big Coronas." They are aptly named in the sense that they're much bigger than any other beer on sale - in fact, I think the beer per dollar ratio may be higher on the Big Corona than on the other beers. However, the line at the Big Corona place was consistently shorter than the line at the place next to it, which sold regular sized beers. I've always wanted to run the experiment at a baseball game where two places, right next to each other, sell the same thing and charge different prices (I'd get in the high-price line, which would be shorter), but the A's solution might be even better - the people willing to pay $10 for a bigger beer get the shorter line without sacrificing any value at all.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Epic Baseball Manager Meltdown

Can be seen here.

Speaking of baseball, I just got back from Red Sox at A's. Exhausting game. The A's squandered a bases loaded with no outs situation in the bottom of the ninth, then almost won on an accidental drag bunt (diving play by the pitcher, Kyle Snyder, saved it), and then finally succeeded in winning on a boring homerun. Dustin Pedroia was giznanked at home on a David Ortiz double, which would have put the sox up in the 10th...

Saturday, June 2, 2007

This is a Direct Quote That Requires No Gloss

Pitcher-for-hire Roger Clemens was scratched from Monday's start against Chicago because of groin fatigue

Ridiculous Lobster

This is, apparently, a natural phenomenon.

Pornography Puzzle

I was reading the NYTimes article on pricing and competition in the adult film industry, which reminded me of a question I came up with a few years ago and never answered. Al Franken, in his book (which I did not read) of a few years ago made the claim that the average hotel guest who orders a full-length adult movie only watches 8 minutes of the movie before turning it off. It seems to me that everyone would be better off if the hotel cut such a movie into a bunch of scenes, and charged an amount less than or equal to the amount it currently charges for a whole movie, for just one scene. Perhaps this is related to the "why can't you get a truly small coffee at Dunkin' Donuts" problem?

Today's NYTimes article is interesting in and of itself. It claims
...unlike consumers looking for music and other media, viewers of pornography do not seem to mind giving up brand-name producers and performers for anonymous ones, or a well-lighted movie set for a ratty couch at an amateur videographer’s house.
In light of this fact about demand, high-class producers of pornography are responding with "well-lighted movie sets":

“We use good-quality lighting and very good sound,” said David Joseph, president of Red Light District, a production company in Los Angeles that has made films like “Obscene Behavior.”

Mr. Joseph said his company did not waste its time, or that of the viewers, on unnecessary plot lines.

“There’s not a whole lot of story — it’s basically right to the sex, but we’re consistent with the quality,” he said, noting that the company is also careful to pick interesting backdrops. “We use different locations, rooms and couches.”

I don't know about you, but when I'm watching pornography, I try to avoid plotlines, but I do take a time out to look at the furniture, and the way the room is laid out.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Google Maps Streetview

So apparently Google has been sending vans around different towns and taking pictures of everything. Google maps allows you to see pictures of addresses, if those pictures are available. My mom's house looks like: