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.


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