eclectic_boy: (Default)
Back when the Borough of Swarthmore put in the small road by the Co-op, Lincoln Avenue, they put a little supertitle on the street sign that read, "Named in Honor of Lincoln University", because apparently they wanted to make it blatantly obvious that they were adding a street named after a historically-African-American college, and not just named after the President. I rolled my eyes at the ostentation and moved on.

But recently I've noticed that several more streets in the ville have acquired supertitles. Just now I saw that above "Park Ave" at its intersection with Rutgers there's now a sign saying, "Honoring Small Parks Only". This can't possibly be real, can it? It must be a detailed practical joke, like what "The Mgt." would do in Illuminatus... right? Please??
eclectic_boy: (Default)
[that's a transit PSA, not an announcement about Public Transit]

Peter Pan and Greyhound now have significantly lower fares for the NYC<-->Phila route: with 7-day advance purchase it's $6 each way on MTWT, $8 on FSS. With 4-day advance purchase add $2 to each of those amounts.
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I just finished doing something I've been meaning to do for weeks (well, I'd also meant to do it before, but this most recent instance has been for weeks): watching the documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America. It's the story of The Pentagon Papers, the 7000 pages of classified information about US involvement in Vietnam from the Truman administration through the '60s which military analyst Daniel Ellsberg leaked in the early 70s. Besides being an exciting suspense story, it makes a lot of ethical points about how someone comes to believe that the work they're involved in is terribly wrong -- and how what they do next can be viewed by (and spun in) the media.

Plus the bonus features include sections of President Nixon's secret tapes in which he talks with advisers about the matter. It's pretty astonishing to hear the President of the United States actually say, "I'd line the bastards up against the wall, and I myself would pull the trigger" -- talking about the editors of The New York Times.
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I'm going to the Rally to Restore Sanity on October 30th in Washington DC. And I plan to make a big sign for it... but what should its message be? Suggestions?

My current idea is: "I'M TOLERANT AND I VOTE"
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More changes while I was at Tanglewood (it was only six days, honest!): Swarthmore Music has closed its shop in the ville, moving to 35 E. Baltimore Pike in Springfield. And Swarthmore Cycles is gone, with nothing in the storefront but an eviction notice. Did some sort of plague that only attacks things named "Swarthmore" strike? The apartment building next to mine (SwatApts) is still there... and so (I think) is the College...
eclectic_boy: (Default)
Not long ago someone (Noda?) conjectured that the R1...R8 system of organizing SEPTA's trains would likely have a ghostly presence for a couple of years, even though they've now switched to destination-naming, in the form of the banks of monitors at the Center City stations, which show the status of the next few trains on each line... and are lined up in R-numerical order. At the speed SEPTA operates, this person figured, it'd be a year or two before they rejiggered them into alphabetical order, the only one that now makes sense.

Well, I just was in 30th St, and they've got them in alphabetical order already. No idea about Market East or Suburban... anyone know?
eclectic_boy: (Default)
(Not that I expect any of you would be in danger of believing this b.s., but just to forewarn you...)

Caller: Is this Jim Moskowitz?
Me: Yes
Caller: I'm calling about your subscription to Cruise Travel World [a magazine I was given a free one-year subscription to by Norwegian Cruise Lines when I took a cruise in 2006]. First, are you receiving your issues all right?
Me: I don't think I've been subscribed to that magazine for several years now.
C: Oh, I apologize sir, sometimes our database makes mistakes. But we publish a large number of magazines. It's possible this was supposed to be regarding another one of our magazines. What other magazines do you subscribe to?
Me: What??
C: For instance, do you subscribe to TV Guide, Reader's Digest, or National Geographic? [hmm, what a coincidence; he just named three of the most-subscribed-to magazines in the country]
Me: No, I don't
C: But you do subscribe to other magazines, right?
Me: Yes, I subscribe to The Atlantic, to Harper's, to Games...
C: Okay, I see that now; this was supposed to be a call about The Atlantic; that's one of ours. I see what happened. The code was entered wrong. You know how it is, a lot of times the data entry is being done by a teenager, and they get so busy talking about or thinking about their girlfriend or boyfriend that they just enter things wrong. I've corrected their mistake. Now, are you receiving your issues of The Atlantic all right?
Me: .....yes.
C: Good. Well, your subscription is about to expire, and I'm able to offer you a discounted renewal. Instead of $39, you'll pay only $25.
Me: Wait, I'm looking at the magazine right now, and it says my subscription doesn't expire until May 2011!
C: That's not what it says, sir. Are you looking at your magazine label? Do you see the top line of information above your name? On the right side it will say the month and then a two-digit number.
Me: Right, it says May 2011!
C: No, the two digit number is the day of the month. That magazine subscription ended on May 11th of this year. I'll tell you what happened, though. Often a couple of issues are still in the pipeline when you reach your end of subscription date, so you'll receive them even though your subscription has expired. That's what happened in this case.
Me: Wait, I'm looking at a couple of my other magazines' labels here. This magazine's label says Mar11, this one Nov10. Are you telling me all the magazines I subscribe to just happen to have end dates on the tenth or eleventh of the month?? That's a pretty weird coincidence.
C: Sir, that's what those two digits mean. I'm calling as a courtesy because a year ago when you subscribed to The Atlantic, we agreed to extend to you a discounted rate of $25 per year, and that when your subscription was up we would call you again to give you that special offer again. This is that phone call.
Me: Well your memory must be either a lot better or a lot worse than mine, because I remember subscribing to The Atlantic just this Spring, at a rate of $12/year. So
C: [click]
Me: ...so you're going to hang up on me now, aren't you. What a scambag.
eclectic_boy: (Default)
Only a half day, so I left wanting more. Remind me again why I go so long between cons? Actually, I left feeling unconcluded -- there was no big farewell, no one to say goodbye to (and because R&G and M&L didn't go today, no one to leave with). I just walked out the door when the last event I was interested in was over, into the sunshiny reality, not looking back because maybe it wouldn't've been there if I had, just an impossible illusion. If you see me at the end of a con some year, bid me bon voyage or auf wiedersehen. It'll give me some sense of closure.

Highlights from today included hearing James Morrow read a chapter from his novel-in-progress, a historical fiction about a woman who works for Darwin and decides to take his ideas public when he won't. Even better, I went to the kaffeklatsch with Morrow immediately afterward, which was fast-paced and idea-filled. He posed a problem for us: suggest ways he could write a Victorian ghost story that was steampunk (something he unwittingly agreed to do for an anthology). In 50 minutes we talked about the life and death of genres, slavery, Stanislaw Lem, the Titanic, teleology, the year 1848, overly optimistic faith in science, cognitive dissonance, people's need for secret truths, and much more that sadly I can't remember.
Also Charlie Stross read his new story "Bit Rot", an indulgent zombie-robots-in-space story that was fun but in need of editing, repeating several explanatory bits. I hope they're gone in the published version, else I have my answer to a question I'd asked him at Friday's kaffeklatsch: will your widening fame make you become uneditable?
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Another good-if-not-great day, one with more-enjoyable panels. Some highlights:

• A "crypto-aviation" talk by Elizabeth Hand, about her time in the 1980s working at the National Air and Space Museum, specifically the many bizarre 19th-century proposals for flying machines (and 20th-century "folk-engineering"). She promised to send me copies of this detailed handwritten proposal by one Nicholas Margolis (sp?) for a "plane/planet/plan" that would fly-and-then-rocket to Uranus in 40 years, carrying all of humanity. The vehicle would be over a thousand miles long.

• Having dinner with Andrew Plotkin (who's friends with Ruth & Gavin), and being inspired by his later talk on interactive fiction. I now have a couple of ideas of things I want to create, and possibly the drive to actually work on them.

• The Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition, which is Poem Fictionary only with dreck SF/F, and causes more laughter per hour than just about anything else in the world. "Her buttocks were like lovers. They were Romeo and Juliet. They were Tristan and Isolde. They were Abelard and Heloise. They were King Arthur and Guinevere and Lancelot."
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Today was actually day two of Readercon, the literaturecentric SF convention in Boston, because there was a Thursday night "free preview" consisting of about four panels and a few readings, but I didn't go to that, so today was day one for me. Oh, in case I didn't mention, I'm in Boston now, to go to Readercon and visit people.

Ruth and I went there today, and I had a good though not great time. Highlights were:

• Hearing Ben Rosenbaum read a couple of stories in progress -- one a Pinkwateresque romp about a man who finds small Jewish men swimming in his soup, the other a delicious take on Red Riding Hood full of intricate phrasing and Joyce-like word association, which was written with the express goal of being difficult to translate.

• A kaffeklatsch with Charlie Stross where he regaled us with stories of how he writes, what visual media he might soon be working on (anyone know an old BBC series called Doom Watch?), and what one of his editors feels is beyond the pale (although another one of them weighed in on the same material with, "in my opinion, the baby-eating is in the best possible taste").

• A person I don't know introduced herself to me after the panel on How Will Authors Get Paid In The Internet Future/Present, saying she was really interested in the mention I'd made of my Dimestory idea, and was going to talk with her boss at a small press about it, since they're planning to branch out into stories.

• Introducing myself to John Kessel as a friend of Chris's, and having him say we should get together sometime so he can learn more of what Chris is up to (which hasn't managed to happen so far).

F for Fake

Jun. 19th, 2010 02:10 am
eclectic_boy: (nielsen)
First post in over a month, and of all things it's a movie review?

Yeah, well it's not a typical movie. F for Fake is a documentary about forgery, by Orson Welles. Except it's not really a documentary. It's a figure-it-out-as-you-go-along mystery of interlocking forgers -- an artist who finds he can either starve painting his own works or prosper painting others', biographed (why isn't that a word?) by an author who immediately afterwards writes another book that turns out to be a cause celebre forgery -- an as-told-to "autobiography" of recluse Howard Hughes -- which casts his forger-profile into such doubt that now the forger's crimes are no longer believed, and an even greater forger who creates an entire new period for a famous, living, painter. It's told in interlocking flashforward/flashback, in a way I thought was a generation newer than its 1974 date, with a lot of philosophical musings thrown in, about subjects like how 'experts' have changed the nature of art.

It's not without its bumps and low points, but overall I was engrossed and entertained. I just returned it to Netflix (who for all I know have only one copy; it's hardly a chartbusting film), so now you can sign it out!

Wow

May. 14th, 2010 05:12 pm
eclectic_boy: (nielsen)
Al Bloom, 2008! It says so right there!
eclectic_boy: (Default)
Last night I went to a Chinese restaurant and asked the fortune cookie, "Will I actually be able to fly home tomorrow?"

The fortune read: "You will be rewarded for your efforts within the month."

Happy second snownami of the week, y'all... I'm sorry to miss it!
eclectic_boy: (Default)
I went to the PsiPhi meeting tonight. (Since there've been a bunch of people with Saturday lunchtime conflicts, they're experimenting with alternative meeting times; this week they tried Saturday dinner)

It was great -- funny, friendly, moderately productive with people other than the Presidents helping plan things. Discussions over who gets to be a Thugtron, or what theme to use for the rootbeer kegger never seem to change :^)
I was mainly there to help advertise tomorrow's Hitchhiker's Guide script-reading at my apartment, so Orion, Books, and I did a 90-second sample which went over really well. The best part was that I won the Lottery prize, and it was an awesome little puzzle Orion made from a bunch of playing cards. You're welcome to come over and try it sometime!

When I was leaving somebody (Lucas?) specifically thanked me for coming. The warm feeling was proof against the 20-degree temperatures walking home.
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I just got a cause-telemarketing call about getting Congress to pass Clean Energy Jobs legislation that went differently from how I was expecting. Rather than asking me for a donation, they asked if I was willing to be connected with "your Senator's office" to personally tell them the issue was important to me. That turned out to mean Sen. Specter. I agreed, and a few seconds later his office's voicemail message was on the phone. When it said "press 1 to leave a message" I heard the noise of someone pressing 1, then a beep for me to leave a message. Which I did.

Before agreeing, I asked the caller if this was something brand new; he said they'd been doing it every since he started at the job five months ago. So maybe you've all had such calls before... have you?
eclectic_boy: (Default)
I just got back from walking around lower campus (roughly Pittinger through Sharples) taking depth measurements. Swat's about four miles from PHL airport, but even though the airport is reporting 22.9", I'm reporting 11.0". Did something go wrong?

I don't think so, on my end anyway. I took a dozen measurements, in places reasonably wind-shaded but not near buildings (or right next to paths or trees). I got:
10.5, 12, 9, 10, 9.5, 12, 13, 12, 11, 11, 10, 12.
So, some variation but nothing near what the airport says. I did the same thing in 1996, when the airport officially reported 30", and I got 15". Maybe Swarthmore is a mysterious low-snow pocket? Maybe the airport gets mysteriously high readings?

Anyway, I'm cold and it's beautiful outside. And earlier today I got to go sledding on a large piece of cardboard I've been saving for over a year for just that purpose. What more can you ask for? Happy snowstorm of 2009, everyone!
eclectic_boy: (Default)
A heads-up for anyone in the Philly area: the Apple Store is coming!

sez who?

Jul. 27th, 2009 11:56 pm
eclectic_boy: (Default)
Who says you can't buy a SEPTA regional rail ticket from a machine anymore?




It's just not a SEPTA ticket machine. I got this last night in Trenton Station, from a NJTransit machine. The screen was pretty confusing, though. I decided (correctly) that what they called a "tunnel ticket" meant it was good for any destination past Center City... such as Swarthmore.

As for why I was in Trenton in the first place... that, friend, is a tale of a difficult ending to a relaxing weekend in upstate New York -- a tale that includes the words "please step away from the vehicle; I can hear a fire under the hood." Full story next SWAPA!
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My friend Penny's six-year-old daughter has apparently told her, "we need to make a rule that Jim's only allowed to make so many jokes when he visits." I'm not quite sure how to react to being told to not be funny...

Also, hey! I'm on Dreamwidth!
eclectic_boy: (Default)
PhillyCarShare just sent out emails stating that they'll be eliminating their "Basic Freedom" Plan, which had no monthly fee but higher car-rental rates. Now everybody will pay a $15/month fee, and pay the lower rates (costing about $2/hr less). But since I only typically use PhillyCarShare for two hours or so a month, that's a big increase in my cost per hour.

I have until Wednesday before the switch goes into effect. I'm pretty sure I'll leave (the email even included a link for canceling membership, so they clearly know some people are going to be unhappy). I just can't figure out if this is purely an attempt to increase their revenue (and the number of hours per month their cars get used), or if they have some other reason to want to get rid of their occasional users...
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