Thursday, May 29, 2008

What we expect is climate; what we get is weather

The title of this post is a statement allegedly made by Mark Twain, according to the Daedalus Books catalog that arrived yesterday. His most famous comment on the weather -- at least it's famous here in San Francisco -- is "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Today it's considered spurious, but it certainly reflects the summer weather in the San Francisco microclimate where my library is located.

Maybe because I had both those quotes in mind, I found today's "Pinpoint Forecast" of the weather in the San Francisco Chronicle to be entertaining: "Today, decreasing clouds. Friday, decreasing clouds. Saturday, partly cloudy. Sunday, partly cloudy. Monday, mostly cloudy." There's something humorous in clouds that decrease, but never disappear, and then, unheralded, increase (into mostly cloudy.)

Or maybe riding on Muni just makes almost anything funny, meaning ha-ha, not odd. The oddity today on Muni was an apparent bag lady who, when I tuned into her angry mutterings to herself, was going on about "swashbucklers." The streetcar was about to arrive at my stop; I was sorry I hadn't tuned into her earlier.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Sometimes you don't even need to try to keep up with the latest online trends: they come to you.

My email account at work was recently backscattered, with about 200 messages arriving in an hour. This kept me busy for a while, as I can only delete 20 at a time, first from the inbox, then from the deleted message files.

A colleague in our Tech department provided the link above to an article explaining backscatter, plus a link to an article about another use of the term: x-raying passengers at airports. That particular article is, OF COURSE, coming from the Office of Privacy Policy and Compliance, part of the Transportation Security Administration. Whoever chose the name for the office has read 1984 too often.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Subversive Visions

I'm rereading Bellwether by Connie Willis. Her characters work for a tech firm keen on creating (yet another) vision/mission/goals statement; at the meeting the staff break into small groups to come up with suggested wording. The characters spend the session talking about something else. When it's announced time is up, one of them quickly writes down what she always uses in these (or similar) situations: "Optimize potential; facilitate empowerment; implement visioning; augment core structures. " Sound familiar?

The main character in the book is trying to work out what causes something to become a fad. Because of various factoids about real fads at the start of each chapter, plus general comments on how fads might start, Bellwether complements Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, which was published four years after Bellwether.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stimulus Rebate: Beware of what it reminds you of

I've been thinking that the stimulus rebate sounds like money back from the sort of enterprise that used to be called a cat house. Unforunately, the very fine feline that resides at my house either read my mind, or listened (for the only time) when I mentioned it to her, and then misinterpreted cat house, because she chose Tuesday to show some symptoms that required a visit to the vet yesterday, Wednesday. Today she has minor surgery, and there goes most of my rebate, on the house cat.