A Tax on People Who Are Bad at Math

Here is what is annoying about the lottery. If the two people who won yesterday had played the Powerball Simulator twice a week for the equivalent of 7,000 years (like I did yesterday), they would not have won (like I did not win). Then they would have said to themselves, “Self, them is some bad odds. I’m gonna go watch some TV.”

Arr. Probability, I hate you.

Little Apple Tree on the Prairie

On this trip I’m reading The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan. I’m just at the beginning, where he is talking about apples and John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed).

Historical books have always interested me (as do historical novels with a wee bit of fiction in them) and so I find this part especially fascinating.

Much of his information seems to come from the writings of people who met Chapman on his travels, homesteaders who took him under their roof in exchange for stories and, naturally, apple trees.

There must be a huge wealth of these writings, diaries, stories, back-of-the-Bible scribblings. But I can’t help but wonder if there were any actual writers he met. Imagine, if you will, an encounter between John Chapman and Laura Ingalls Wilder. What colorful, wonderful, engrossing narrative might have resulted?

Did they even live at the same time? Was there anyone else alive at this juncture who could have served? Would Pa have even let this “frontier Dionysus” in? (Pollan’s words)

Perhaps it is time for some historical fiction. Anyone?

Wheaton the new Niven?

One of my favorite books growing up was Bring on the Empty Horses by David Niven, an autobiography of his life in Hollywood, full of amusing stories about Hollywood greats and their lives off camera. My mother had it on her bookshelf. Niven was an accomplished but not overly famous actor in his day, but he knew a lot of people and had a long career, and thus had a lot of stories. I have a theory, having read this piece by Wil Wheaton, that he might be this era’s David Niven. He might have to meet more famous(er) people. Any other candidates?

The intricacies of Crystal Light

Crystal Light bit

As a result of the South Beach diet we’re not really on, I have been drinking a lot of Crystal Light lately (yay, Aspartame!).  I flirted with Crystal Light a number of years ago, mostly with the “Natural Lemonade” flavor (which is far from natural, but pleasantly sour and cloyingly sweet, btw), but we’re drinking the whole Kool-Aid, as it were, this time.  There are a number of Crystal Light flavors available, as well as the pseudo-healthy vitamins/energy/herbal tropes that seem to be squeezing water off the $2.00-a-bottle shelf.  So we’ve been doing this for about four or five months now, and a thing I noticed right at the beginning has only now crystalized (if you’ll allow me that pun) in my mind.

While each individual Crystal Light package is the same size (a little foilish tube) they are filled with different amounts of powder for different flavors.  That is, I would have expected a fake flavoring change to involve just changing the “flavor crystals,” but it appears that they have to change other stuff, too, enough that the Blueberry White Tea tubes are packed to the gills, and the White Grape seems to have just a puff of dust in it.

There are intricacies to the making of Crystal Light that I had not previously suspected.

To wit, from the boxen:

Flavor oz. per packet
Natural Lemonade Flavor 0.14
Natural Blueberry Flavor White Tea 0.12
Berry Splash Artificial Flavor Hydration 0.09
Peach Iced Tea Artificial Flavor 0.07
White Grape Artificial Flavor 0.05

So, the Natural Lemonade has almost three times the powder of the White Grape.  I leave it to you to ruminate on the implications of this for world peace, party unity, and/or the future of the packaging industry.

Speaking of the packaging industry.

Soft Play Forms

So, we’re sitting around Saturday morning, one kid is watching TV (yes, we know) while the other is playing happily with the big, vinyl-covered foam blocks we keep telling you are the most awesome toy ever.

Gazing in admiration at them, we decide that maybe we should buy another set, as these are five years old and constant, almost daily play has started to wear them out just a smidge. It would be nice to have some back up pieces, since we anticipate at least three to five more years of play with them.

So I go to my trusty old link, and there they are at Constructive Playthings, now for $140. Not bad, but we have a gift certificate to Amazon, so, on a whim, I decide to check and see if I can get them through Amazon. Not sure what to search for (the manufacturer is unclear) I go with their title/description on the Constructive Playthings web site, “Soft Play Forms.”

Sure enough, they are listed at Amazon, though only from a third-party individual, and for a $100 premium… but I was much more interested in the second item Amazon suggested for the search: Soft Play Forms.

Screenshot

Over is Right, Under is Wrong

OMG, I am so pleased to finally have some empirical evidence to point to. For the longest time I thought my wife understood, and was consciously putting the rolls on the right way. Then one day she put one on wrong, and when I asked her, she had no idea what I was talking about. There’s a right way? That’s right, there is. Read up.

The floods in Iowa

Our hearts go out to the people, including friends, in Iowa this week. We lived in Iowa City for seven years, and still consider it home. Seeing the pictures, reading the stories, it has been wrenching. While nobody we know has been displaced, everyone we know has been affected. We wish them the best of good fortune and goodwill in the coming recovery.

Below is a picture of the Danforth Chapel, on the University of Iowa campus, where we got married. Hundred of volunteers worked tirelessly to keep it (and surrounding buildings) in as good a shape as it is in. Thank you.

(Here is the original link)

Danforth Chapel

Is Steve Jobs really sick?

Okay, so compare these two photos. The first one is from Macworld, in January 2007. The second is from yesterday, at WWDC. It would appear that Steve Jobs is wasting away. Tell me it doesn’t strike fear into you. I mean, aside from the personal issues that Steve and his family must be experiencing with his health…

Steve Jobs at Macworld 2007Steve Jobs at WWDC 2008

I have always known that I would live to see Apple without Steve Jobs at the helm (actually, I did live through the Gil Amelio days, just barely), but the thought of it actually happening frightens the bejeezus out of me.

Anyone else find these pictures striking and worrisome? Anyone know any details?