Conversation topics as indicators of quality

I have been thinking about the following quote a fair bit recently:

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

—variously attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, Hyman G. Rickover, or anonymously

Since having come across the quote, I have found myself grouping social interactions by whether the discussions are primarily of ideas, events, or people. Near invariably, I have found the interactions involving discussions of ideas are stimulating, interesting, and enjoyable; whereas, similarly, discussions of people--in the absence of sociological/anthropological/psychological analysis, which blurs the line between people and ideas--tend to feel hollow and vapid.

At present, I have really only gotten to the point of noticing the connections, and frequently only so noticing in retrospect. I have not, as yet, found a practical application for this knowledge.

Practical, or not, I do feel that it is fantastically interesting to seek correlations between my enjoyment of interactions and the underlying class/topic of discussion.

So you're in a desert, but you're bones, and it grows.

I've been in Seattle the past few days for Penny-Arcade Expo (PAX) and, as usual, the "Pitch Your Game" panel carries a special degree of import for me. The premise of the panel is that audience members are given 15-45 seconds to pitch an idea for a video game and have it judged (harshly) by the panel. Those making it past this elevator pitch are admitted to the second round where they go into greater detail on their idea. Finally prizes are given to the best three ideas. It is important to note that the metric for determining the best game idea is a combination of hilarity and entertainment quality, having nothing to do with marketability or genuine quality. Hilarity, of course, ensues.

"Pitch Your Game" is not just one of my favorite parts of PAX; it is a favorite for much of the Fort-Awesome crowd. Having come to PAX a number of times, we've come to regard planning ridiculous game pitches as a time honored, evening, hotel room tradition. This year, in pitch planning we came up with a number of hilarious ideas, as well as a flood of horrible and/or unspeakable ideas. Additionally, we came to the realization that any crappy pitch can be made more amusing by appending "with JRPG elements; also, it's a rhythm game" (ex. Angry Badger is like Sonic: The Hedgehog but you can't run fast and the main characters a drunk; also it has JRPG elements and it's rhythm game) (the real hilarity comes after numerous repetitions).

Eventually, we narrowed ourselves down to a reasonable number of pitches: Mexican Gear Solid: Tactical Stealth Immigration, Underground Railroad Tycoon, and FEMA Presents Al Roker's Hurricane Alley 2011. Eventually, these pitches all went splendidly in the panel and made it to the second round. After calling Friday a night, heading to bed and falling asleep, Riad and I apparently kept pitching ideas (this is much like other instances of my sleep talking that I have been informed of). Amongst the ramblings of my sleep, Bigtime, who was awake at the time, overheard me say, "so you're in the desert, but you're bones, and it grows." This phrase so intrigued me that I decided that it must be my pitch.

My pitch went a little something like this:

Me: "I'm not entirely clear on some details since a lot of this was related to me by a friend who heard me rambling in my sleep. However to the best of my figuring, the prophets of old came to me in my dreams and bid me pitch a game, in exactly these words: So you're in the desert, but you're bones and it grows."

Entire room: [perplexed silence for a few moments]

Panelist: You should stop sleeping.

Me: There's more.

Panelist: Is that a threat?

Me: Maybe.

Panelist: No. Just no.

The end result, for me, was not the second round but to have confounded the panel and the entire room into stunned silence was absolutely priceless.

Dignity is for those that do not travel

Sitting, waiting to board my flight from San Francisco to Seattle for PAX Prime, I have already, once, forfeited my dignity to my overlord, Police State USA. Standing up to the man as much as might still allow me to fly, I opted-out of soaking up the X-rays that aren't backscattered and having my naked body put on display for the highly trained elite that is the TSA. Opting-out, of course, subjects me to a mandatory pat-down. During the pat-down, I am granted the dignified courtesy of having my special places be patted down by the back of the agent's hands; lucky me. Dignity sacrificed at the alter of homeland security, I was permitted to wait for my plane.

At least I sprung for the slightly more expensive, exit row and free booze seats: now I can drink until my dignity doesn't matter.

Mosquitoes are Maddening

Being in San Francisco for so long, I have become accustomed, mentally and physically, to a substantially less aggravating environment than I had previously known. Being in Massachusetts--hot, muggy Massachusetts--again, I am recalling some of the things that I had left behind--some bad, some good. One thing that I had all but forgotten was mosquitoes; we don't really get noticeable numbers of mosquitoes in South of Market, San Francisco. Being here, and it having been raining recently, the mosquitoes were out in full force, while I was working on my boat's trailer. As such, my sweet, delicious, George-blood has been consumed by a great many foul little beasts that have left behind their horrendous, anti-coagulating, inflammation-inducing, antigens of pain.

I'm not sure if my memory is soft and mosquitoes have always been this unpleasant, if I used to be more adept at avoiding their painful bites, or if I had once developed a tolerance to their venom that has since subsided. However it may be, I hate mosquitoes far more now than I recall hating them in the past.

I'm pretty sure that mosquitoes, like sand fleas, are something that I wouldn't mind sacrificing entire food chains to see go extinct.

A hole in the water into which you pour time and money

One of the things that I'm looking to do as a part of this trip east is bring Synchronicity, my Hobie 16, out to California. Given that I haven't sailed Synchronicity since 2007, the first orders of business were to free her and fix her up.

It took me about a week of on-and-off yard-work to excavate Synchronicity from the weeds that had overgrown her in my absence. Having excavated Synchronicity, it was damage assessment time.

Synchronicity's trailer was structurally altogether but one of the tires was flat and both of the wheels were pretty thoroughly rusted; additionally, all of the lights and wiring were shot. So I bought new wheels and a whole new set of lights and wires. I've got the wheels swapped out and I'll redo the wiring tomorrow, if it doesn't rain. All told, not a lot of effort in repairing the trailer but a decent bit of expense, especially when combined with the cost of buying a trailer hitch and getting it installed on my car.

Thankfully, Synchronicity, herself, seems to be holding up pretty well. I had to replace all of the ropes and one of the shrouds that I damaged while clearing away the weeds, which is some expense and little effort. The main halyard also needs replacing and, on a Hobie Cat, it's not just a simple rope, so that's another little expense. The mast, sails, trampoline, and hull structure are all in good shape but the gelcoat on the bottom of the hulls is pretty sad. I might fix the gelcoat now but odds are pretty good that I'll wait until I get back to San Francisco, as it may be a bit too time/effort intensive for my remaining week and a half

Between all of the repair costs and the expected decreases in fuel efficiency for the drive west, I expect that it'll probably cost me a good $500-$800 to get Synchronicity out on the waters of San Francisco Bay. Take that plus an estimated 30-50 hours of my time and ask me if it's worth it.

Heck yes it's worth it! There are few things in the world like sailing a catamaran.

Blessed be thee Saint Leibowitz

I have, just now, finished reading A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. and, I must say, it is a fantastic read. The occasional use of Latin and Hebrew caused the book, at times, to fly over my head but I believe that may well have been the point.

The book is a story in three parts of a Catholic abbey established in the wake of a nuclear holocaust. This particular abbey has been charged by its founder, one Brother I. E. Leibowitz, with accumulating and preserving human knowledge. Much as the Irish monks during our last dark ages, these monks are the shepherds of knowledge in the next dark age.

In spite of being in the future, the book constantly feels as though it is in the past, and it provides me with a sympathy and fondness for Catholicism that I have not felt before. While I still cannot abide the dogma of the great Catholic empire, I must admit that they do serve us all by preserving knowledge, at times.

One quote, from the latter portion of the novel, tickled my fancy a great deal:

They managed only to demonstrate that the mathematical limit of an infinite sequence of "doubting the certainty with which something doubted is known to be unknowable when the 'something doubted' is still a preceding statement of 'unknowability' of something doubted," that the limit of this process at infinity can only be equivalent to a statement of absolute certainty, even though phrased as an infinite series of negations of certainty

—A Canticle For Leibowitz (pp. 301-302)

The quote is not particularly representative but, to be honest, I feel that it would be hard to find any quote that would be properly representative of this book.

A Canticle For Leibowitz is a wonderful read; one of few, recently, that has succeeded in keeping my attention from start to finish, and I highly recommend it.

Is it wrong to make the same wish on two shooting stars?

One of the nice things about Woods Hole is that there are few enough lights that you can see the stars in the sky. It's really quite pleasant to be out on a moonless night and see so very many stars scattered across the skies.

Sometimes, being in San Francisco, I forget how nice it is to go for an evening walk through empty, dark streets, with trees to the sides and stars above.

To get back to the titular question, I've been seeing quite a few shooting stars--I think that I'm up to five since getting here--and I've always liked the tradition of wishing on shooting stars. Being as I am, I don't really put much merit in wishing, except insofar as planting things in one's own subconscious can be beneficial, but I also rather enjoy harmless, meaningless superstition from time to time. Of course, when things come down to superstition, etiquette really takes on a strong role but etiquettes of superstition tend to vary greatly. I find, that there are relatively few things that I would actually want to wish for and that number has already been overcome by the number of shooting stars that I have seen.

Is it poor form to reuse a wish on a new shooting star?

Fortune Cookie: 2010-07-03

Special touches have been
planned with you in mind.
Lucky Numbers 56, 20, 41, 9, 29, 37

Commentary: One should not always overlook the salad at a Chinese restaurant.

2010 Journey East: Some numbers

I'm rather fond of keeping meticulous data about various things and the list of such things certainly contains statistics about my car. Having finished the trip east, here are some numbers from the trip:

  • Odometer leaving San Francisco, CA: 1715
  • Odometer arriving Austin, TX: 3532
  • Odometer leaving Austin, TX: 3540
  • Odometer arriving Atlanta, GA: 4730
  • Odometer leaving Atlanta, GA: 4730
  • Odometer arriving Concord, MA: 5837
  • Odometer leaving Concord, MA: 5850
  • Odometer arriving Woods Hole, MA: 5947

The following numbers are a little off because I started and finished with partially full tanks of fuel:

Total diesel consumed: ~115 gallons Total cost of fuel: ~$340

The astute reader will notice that I have been getting fuel economy in the upper thirties of miles per gallon. This is correct and, when observed on a more granular level it does seem to be showing a trend upwards, though that trend is likely not statistically significant. As I intend to continue measuring my fuel consumption for the life of my car, I will be able to give better data later, when I am more than 6000 miles and 15 tanks of fuel in.