Friday, December 30, 2005

The city that loves you back (2)

More sandwich-related violence in Philadelphia:
Latricia Logan was on her way to get a sandwich at a grocery when she heard gunfire near 17th and Huntingdon Streets, police said.


Yesterday's shooting was especially hard, Marcel Logan said, because after the shooting, employees in one store would not open the door when Latricia Logan asked for help, and in another store, no one called police for her.
Previously: Sandwich dispute turns deadly

Res ipsa loquitur

The very last file in my new backup scheme is this one:
    John/writing/dubious facts
I have no idea what it contains, but I can’t bring myself to look.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Perfect together

Our acting governor is choosing a new state slogan. The finalists are:
  • New Jersey, Expect the Unexpected

  • New Jersey, Love at First Sight

  • New Jersey, Come See For Yourself

  • New Jersey, The Real Deal

  • New Jersey, The Best Kept Secret
I prefer the last one. It makes me think of Jimmy Hoffa.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Why use filtered water?

My Powerbook drank about a cup of water yesterday morning and I am now blogging from it. I consider this a victory against the universe.

Other than blow-drying it for three and a half hours (!) yesterday afternoon, I haven’t made any repairs. Before the blow drying, it didn't start up at all, and first thing this morning it froze immediately after booting. But like a trusty old lawnmower, it started on the second try. It seems to be okay: my data is all there, the display is fine, it prints via USB, it does wireless networking, it writes CDs, it plays music, it charges the battery. The one thing I haven’t tried yet is to turn it off and back on again. I’m apprehensive about that.

The repair shop was not optimsitic about the combination of water and laptop. They said they have replaced logic boards ($800) on water-damaged machines, only to have other components fail soon after. They claim that water leaves a visible stain on the logic boards, although I haven’t looked for myself. (Perhaps my $8 investment in a Brita water filter has now paid off?)

I will do a daily remote backup of this machine for the rest of its life, whether that is days or (hopefully) years. It is my primary computer and I need my data. Previously, I backed up only monthly.

I'm fairly pleased with my reaction to the incident. I’ve sometimes gotten very angry about careless technological errors. There was the month I left my ATM card in the machine three times in a row. Soon after getting this computer I dropped it on the floor, giving it a “split lip” that I now pretend is adorable. I vented both those times.

Now, I’m actively trying to be calmer about my life. The universe is large and I am small. I have many reasons to feel frustrated, but more reasons to feel fortunate. So I didn’t get angry this time. It helps that the laptop is working again. It will help even more if it is working next week.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Should you write a letter to the editor?

I wrote one to USA Today, er, today. Here is an excerpt from the automated response to my email:
Your opinion is important to us. If your letter is one of those selected for publication, congratulations. The competition for space is keen.

Regretfully, although we would like to publish all of the 800 to 1,000 letters we receive weekly, we are unable to do so.
I applaud USA Today for stating its number of submissions. It proves that the competition is not all that keen.

Assume it’s only worthwhile to write a letter to the editor if it has a decent chance of being published. USA Today chooses from 160–200 letters per day. Assume (conservatively) that half of the letter writers are cranks, plagiarists or just poor writers. So they’re really selecting from only 80–100 publishable letters.

Today, USA Today printed 5 letters, which is probably about average. That means that they print 5 or 6 percent of the usable letters they receive. And this is the largest circulation newspaper in the country! The odds are still against your letter getting published, but if you have something to say and write reasonably well, you have a good chance of success.

Conclusion: There is no inherent reason not to write a letter to the editor. (It still might not be the best use of your time, but only you can decide that.)

Navel-gazing postscript: Before today, I’ve written just three letters to newspaper editors. My batting average is .500 at the New York Times and .000 at the Cornell Daily Sun. Go figure.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


You better believe I’ll be wearing my “Don't Mess With Texas” T-shirt on January 4. Unfortunately, since I’ll be in cold country (or at least not Pasadena), the shirt will have to stay under a sweater.