Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Just something kind of funny...

Near Trolley Square in downtown Salt Lake City, there used to be an ice cream place called Squirrel Brothers. The building was painted to look like sky, and it had a giant revolving? ice cream cone in front. I think it's been vacant since I moved up here this summer.

Apparently someone bought it.

I'm sure they're going to remove the ice cream statue, but I guess they decided to paint first. I took the picture on my phone a couple weeks ago.



I just thought it looked kind of funny to see a black ice cream cone. (And at a steakhouse.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

My stickers came today!!!

Remember how I blogged about free Gmail stickers?

Mine came today!

I love Gmail. And I love that I didn't have to wait 6-8 weeks to get them, like you do for most send a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope things. Or cereal box things.

And they sent me the girl sticker and not the boy sticker.

Now I just need a laptop to stick them on.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dogs as Art

I just found this when I was grabbing an article for someone from volume 50 of Art and AsiaPacific. It's from an article called "Soi Sabai's Temporary Art Connnections." It talks about other artists too, like this Norwegian guy, Mette Tronvoll, who takes pictures of "Mongolian nomads and their statuesque portable dwellings", and Tomoko Yoneda who did "a series shot through the spectacle lenses of famous deceased people."

Look closely at this picture, though. They're dogs dressed up as other breeds of dogs. Random!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

How to Commit Fraud

Tomorrow morning I'm taking my Accounting final. Early. We're allowed to use a 3x5 card with whatever we want on it, as long as it is in our own handwriting. I am, of course, writing as much as I possibly can on my card. (I'm using pigma micron 005 pens, which write .20 mm line width = tiny.) To keep things nice and legible, I'm writing four lines between each line on the index card.

I just came across a kind of fun slide that I thought I would mention. It's a page of "Recent Financial Reporting Misstatements" and it was basically our class conversation about how to commit fraud. I guess a bunch of accounting professors won't really talk about fraud in classes, but mine does! He tells us he's teaching us how to commit fraud so that we know not to do it. "If you do it, you'll get away with it for awhile," he says. "But eventually you'll get caught."

So the deal is this: every year public companies have to issue financial statements. People who buy stocks use these financial statements to know how the company is doing, and how it will probably continue to operate, etc. The financial statements don't come out right right after the period that they represent, so even if anything serious changes between when the statements are from and when they're released (like a few months), they're even supposed to mention that. Because as someone buying part of the company, like, you deserve to know.

That's the whole point of this stuff. If you choose to invest in a risky company, that's totally your choice, and maybe you'll make a lot of money or maybe you'll lose a lot of money. BUT, you have to know accurate numbers so that you know which companies are risky or less risky so that you can make that informed decision about where to put your moneys.

But companies can do some shady stuff to make it look like everything is fine or good when it actually is not fine.

Like these things:

Recording revenue too soon. OH NO! The financial year is ending tomorrow and everyone is expecting us to make THIS much money and instead we only made this much money. Well, Joe has paid us for the big order of stuff we're delivering to him next week, so let's just go ahead and count it now instead of next week, since we already know we're going to have it for him next week anyway. And if we count it now then we'll be closer to what people are expecting. [In accounting, this is not okay.]

Boosting income with one time sales. Everyone expected us to make $$$, but we actually sold Suzie that big order, so this year we made $$$$$$. All of us here at the company know that Suzie just needed stuff once, and that our company is not really growing that much or doing any better than we usually do. Next year we'll be back to making $$ or $$$ or mayyyybe $$$$ if we're lucky. Definitely not $$$$$$ like this year. But we just won't really say anything about Suzie's order, or draw any attention to it, and everyone will think we had a great year, and that next year will probably be even better. And they'll buy our stock like it's crack cocaine. Or candy. [Also not fine. They have a fatty notes section at the end of the financial statements where you can say "welllll, we had a great year, but it was mostly business as usual except for Suzie's big one time order" and that way everyone knows that you actually are still the company that they think you are. Or that you're doing worse if you are. Or whatever. But you're not misleading people into thinking that you're making more money if it's actually a one shot deal.]

Shifting current revenue to a later period.
People were expecting us to make $15 and we actually made $35, but next year is going to be rough. So instead of saying we made $35, let's only say we made $20. And then we can count the other $15 next year, because our main product is our chocolate chip cookie, and we know that chocolate chips are on back order everywhere for the next 6 months, so times are going to be rough, but if we just save that $15 and count it later, then it will look like we did fine next year too, no matter how things actually go. [Also misleads people. Like maybe your stock stays the same because you did what everyone expected, so you can buy up lots of stock and then declare your other revenue next time and you'll be way ahead, and the stock will go up, and that would be shady. So, you can't shift current revenue to a later period.]

Recording bogus revenue. Hey look, our contractor sent us a refund because he was able to get the part cheaper! Great! Let's just pretend we sold more of something! [Obviously not fine to pretend you made money when you didn't.]

Shifting current expenses to a later or earlier period. "Well, everyone expected us to make $50, but after we pay Bill for the paper clips we ordered, we'll only have made $40. Blast. Oh, I know! Let's just pretend I didn't actually mail the check to Bill and we'll count it tomorrow so that it's part of our next financial statements. That way we'll have made our $50, and we can just plan to make a little more to cover the paper clips next time." [Just pay for the paper clips now. Let your numbers be a little lower this time, and people may be unhappy, but then you won't have to worry about jail time. For shifting current expenses, anyway.]

Failure to record or improperly reducing liabilities. Liabilities are the things you owe other people. So this is like saying, "Look! We have $25!" and everyone thinks you sold $25 of whatever, but you don't tell them that you also owe the bank $25, and you maybe didn't sell anything at all. Or maybe you sold stuff but you didn't charge enough to make a profit. You could be saying, "Look at our great company! We have $25!" and actually you have a loan that you still have to pay off that's $50, and you're losing money. [Don't do this.] [Lose money OR commit fraud.]

Shifting future expenses to the current period as a special charge. Well, if we have more expenses, it will make sense that we have less money than people expected. So, let's just pretend we paid all of our electric bills for the rest of the year. We'll put it on our statements as "Electricity Fee" (or, you know, whatever) and then when we have to pay them later we'll just know that we already counted them. Or we'll count them again under their normal utility category. Similar to shifting revenue; it makes it look like you're making more or less than you actually are. [Bad idea.]

Interesting, huh. The magician clip art I actually copy/pasted from the slide because I thought that was kinda funny.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Things I Have Done

Whenever I go back and read my old blog from a long time ago, I roll my eyes because half of my posts are about how I really need to blog more, and I will soon. The other half are things like this.

I really never do these anymore, but this one looked like fun. I thought it looked fun when LJ did it back in November, I thought it looked fun when Cicada did it a couple days ago, and then when Kelly did today, I decided that everybody's doing it. Just once won't hurt. No one will know. I can stop whenever I want.

Mmkay, I've bolded everything I've done on this list.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (Not the cool kind, but I did do the middle school kind)
4. Visited Hawaii (Maui.)
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (Lots of times.)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (When I went during spring break this year, you could pay extra to go to the top of the base, but they weren't letting people go to the real top. We thought it was weak sauce, so we just walked around the bottom instead.)
18. Grown your own vegetables (Soorrrrt of. I had a garden during the summer.)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train (London to Edinburgh)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked (in Italy)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon (but I'm doing the SLC 1/2 marathon in April 2009, and then hopefully a full one in October 2009)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (been to Venice, but no g$o$n$d$o$l$a ride)
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community (Charm.)
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelos David (We were in Florence on a Monday. Everything is closed on Mondays, so we saw the outside of the museum but not David.)
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (All three.)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (CandyCane, my stuffed goldfish.)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person (but I am planning on hiking it May 2009!)
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible (entire NT, yes, plus most of the OT.)
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (lots of them, actually)
92. Joined a book club (Hm. I don't think I have. Book club, anyone?)
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee (wasp. Close enough.)
100. Read an entire book in one day

Also, interestingly, I notice that a couple things are different between the version LJ did and the version that Cicada and Kelly did. On LJ's version, 100 is reading a book, on Cicada's version it's having one cavity or less. Also, the gondola question in LJ's version is about Venice (which makes sense to me), and it's about Switzerland in the other version. Huh? Gondolas in Switzerland? And a couple other little things.

Anyway. I should get back to studying...

Becoming cultured, part 2.5.

Okay, this is the last part of the book that I want to share. It's also from Chapter 4 of Discover Your Inner Economist by Tyler Cowen. This part isn't a list of ways to become cultured, though, it's just an interesting list of things that make paintings more valuable. Which sounds boring now that I've typed it, but I actually thought it was interesting.

"For better or worse, most people prefer art that makes them happy, or that they think will make them more relaxed. Look at market prices. Paintings with light colors sell better than paintings with dark colors. Happy portrait subjects sell better than widows. Horizontal pictures are easier to hang over fireplaces and sofas. Here are a few other market regularities:

1. Landscapes can as much as triple in value when there are horses or figures in the foreground. Evidence of industry usually lowers a picture’s value.
2. A still life with flowers is worth more than one with fruit. Roses stand at the top of the flower hierarchy. Chrysanthemums and lupines (seen as working class) stand at the bottom.
3. There is a price hierarchy for animals. Purebred dogs help a picture more than mongrels do. Spaniels are worth more than collies. Racehorses are worth more than cart-horses. When it comes to game birds, the following rule of thumb holds: the more expensive it is to shoot the bird, the more it adds to the value of a painting. A grouse is worth more than a mallard, and the painter should show the animal from the front, not the back.
4. Water adds value to a picture, but only if it is calm. Shipwrecks are a no-no.
5. Round and oval works are extremely unpopular with buyers.
6. An eighteenth-century Francois Boucher nude sketch of a woman can be worth ten times more than a comparable sketch of a man."

Hm. Neat.

Becoming cultured, part 2.

This is another of my favorite excerpts from Discover Your Inner Economist (which is still by Tyler Cowen). It is also from Chapter 4.

"The art critic tries to make the viewer a better person. This sounds good--after all, who is opposed to “better people,” or people who are better informed? But it is not necessarily the way to solve the problem which is fundamentally one of attention and interest. In contrast to the art critic, our Inner Economist starts with the recognition that our attention is scarce and works with that constraint. I therefore recommend the following.

1. In every room ask yourself which picture you would take home--if you could take just one--and why.

This forces us to keep thinking critically about the displays. If the alarm system was shut down and the guards went away, should I carry home the Cezanne, the Manet, or the Renoir? In a room of Egyptian antiquities, which one caught my eye? And why? We should discuss the question with our companion.

To put it crudely, we must force ourselves to keep on paying attention. Ranking the pictures focuses our attention on our favorites. It also focuses our attention on ourselves, which is in fact our favorite topic. Me, me, me. It sounds crude, doesn’t it? But if the “Me Factor,” as I will call it, is operating against the art rather than working with it, our love affair with museums won’t last very long.

Finally, it is fun to imagine ourselves as thieves. Theft is exciting, and we value objects more highly when we can think of ourselves as owning them. That is also part of the Me Factor.

Of course, we must ignore the carping of the sophisticates. Well-educated critics may claim that pictures cannot be ranked, value is multidimensional or subjective, or that such talk represents a totalizing, colonizing, possessive, post capitalist, hegemonic Western imperialist approach. All of those missives are beside the point. When it comes to the arts, dealing with the scarcity of our attention is more important than anything, including respecting the artists.

2. Pretend we are shopping for pictures on a budget.

We are probably better trained at shopping than looking at pictures. So we might do some basic research on the prices (e.g., surf the Internet or visit an auction house). How might $20 million be spent at the Met?

Or how about $500,000? The smaller budget forces us out of the market for major paintings and into niche areas. This exercise will again focus our attention, force us to clarify our intuitions, and improve the quality of our viewing. The shopping question puts the Me Factor, albeit unobtrusively, back at the center of the experience.

Viewing art at an auction house is useful for learning about prices. In New York City, November and May are usually the best times for advance viewings of auction material. But local auction houses hold viewings throughout the year. Typically the quality of the selection is worse than at a pre-culled art museum. Nonetheless it often makes for a superior viewing experience, if only because of the prices and the shopping and browsing mentality that the setting induces.

3. When visiting a blockbuster exhibit, skip room number one altogether.

There is too much human traffic, because people have not yet admitted to themselves that they don’t care about what is on the wall. Maybe you don’t care much either, but you will care more by relaxing the pretense.

[This tip reminded me of the big Monet to Picasso exhibit that I went to earlier this year. The museum girl who was letting us in told us about this! The reason we all had to wait was because the first room takes awhile to clear out. In the first room, people still think they want to read every sign by every piece. After the first room, most people stop doing that, and then the flow is much better.]

4. At the end of the visit, ask which paintings stuck with you.

Did you find yourself thinking back on the Munch, the Pollock, or the medieval tapestries? A week later ask the same question. Then go read about those artists or that period. That is a more useful procedure than reading about the art in advance.

These recommendations flow from the general principles from above. Our time and attention are scarce. Art is not that important to us, no matter what we might like to believe. So we should stop self-deceiving and admit to ourselves that we don’t just love “art for art’s sake.” Our love of art is often quite temporary, dependent upon our moods, and our love of art is subservient to our demand for a positive self-image. How we look at art should account for those imperfections and work around them."

Friday, December 12, 2008

1 c. Western Family everything. Mix well.

I noticed this a couple days ago and I thought it was kind of funny. Usually recipes on generic food call for the generic item that it's on, but the other ingredients don't have specific brands listed.

This recipe calls for:
1/2 c. Western Family butter. (I only have Kroger.)
1/2 c. Western Family brown sugar. (Darn, I have C&H.)
1/2 c. Western Family sugar. (!!! It's on the WF sugar package, so I've got this.)
1 Western Family egg. (My eggs are Smith's eggs.)
1/3 c. Western Family peanut butter. (I have crunch and smooth, but both are Kroger.)
1/2 tsp. Western Family baking soda. (I have Arm & Hammer.)
1/2 tsp. Western Family salt. (I have Morton.)
1 c. Western Family flour. (Kroger again.)
1 c. Western Family old fashioned oatmeal. (I have this!!!)
1 c. Western Family semi sweet chocolate chips. (Hershey's.)
1/2 c. Western Family powdered sugar. (C&H again.)
2 Tbsp. Western Family peanut butter. (See above.)
2 Tbsp. Western Family milk. (I have Winder Farms.)

This is funny to me for three reasons:
1. Darn, guess I can't make it since I only have two of the right ingredients and I would have to substitute for everything else.
2. Isn't it kind of interesting that one brand makes sugars, flour and oatmeal, dairy stuff like eggs, butter, and milk, and also salt and baking soda and peanut butter? That would be like if Campbell's soup also made ice cream and rice. And I know that Nestle makes everything, etc, but still.
3. *Sigh* Guess I'll never know what Scott's Soccer Practice Bars taste like. Except, oh wait, they're actually the same thing as Peanut Butter Fingers. Who is Scott, why did he think he could change the name of such a common dessert, and what does any of this have to do with soccer practice?

I also have a package of Kroger sugar, and the only Kroger ingredient required for the sugar cookies recipe on back is sugar.

Becoming cultured, part 1.

I'm reading a couple books right now. One is about renovating my apartment, and the other is called Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist (by Tyler Cowen).

The apartment book is interesting, and I'm getting a lot of ideas, which I hope to do something with when I someday have money. I'll someday post pictures, and I'm sure I'll tell about the book then also.

The Inner Economist book is clever, and I like it a lot. I already have a few parts that I want to share. Since I should probably go to work soon, I'll post one, and then I'll share more later.

This is from Chapter 4, which has kind of a "becoming cultured" theme, since that's something people want. (Or think they want.) I'll share part of the museums and art stuff later, but after he writes about that, he continues...

"Art museums are just one part of our culture and just one medium for becoming a cultural billionaire. Reading is no less a source of depth and inspiration; indeed it seems that more modern lives have been transformed by novels than by paintings or sculptures.

But how should we "attack" classic novels that seem boring on first inspection? One Amazon.com reviewer noted that William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury "...is like an ungrateful girlfriend. You do your best to understand her and get nothing back in return." Many other readers, perhaps less figuratively, feel the same way.

Keeping in mind our fundamental principles--the scarcity of time, attention, and giving a damn about art--here are a few tips for reading. The key is to keep ourselves involved, rather than to mimic the behavior of a literature professor at Yale. If people stay interested in a product--like their favorite computer game--they will put in the extra time to understand it better.

That said, try some combination of the following:

1. Read some middle or end chapters first. They may pique your interest. Don't obsess over sequence.

2. Read through the novel the first time, following each voice or character, skipping passages as you need to. Get interested in at least one character, even if the rest is a cipher. Then reread the book as a whole in order. This works especially well for multi-voice works such as Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.

3. Read the first fifty pages three times in a row before proceeding. Make sure you understand at least one part of the book.

4. Don't be afraid to skip over material and return to it later. This is necessary for the first fifty pages of Joseph Conrad's Nostromo. Material that destroys our interest in a book is negative, no matter how important its contribution to plot or character development. Since you're not oging to remember all of a book anyway, don't feel so guilty about skipping over some key parts. Laugh and cackle while you skip, if you wish.

5. Read through the book for the first time without stopping, but do not try to understand what is going on. Treat it as investment in the book, akin to driving to the bookstore, rather than as a forum for judgment. Then try the book again, but with some idea where matters are headed.

6. Start by reading some of the secondary literature on the tough book. Again the goal is to get ourselves interested. I don't like CliffsNotes, if only because they are boring and they deaden the works they summarize. But don't be afraid to "go low" when looking for help. Do not start with exalted literary critics unless you are persuaded they will be either involving or entertaining.

7. Take notes on the names and most important features of the major characters. Write these notes on the front leaf of the book or somewhere else accessible.

8. Give up. Recall the words of Samuel Johnson: "A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good."

Some combination of these tricks almost always works. Most generally, we enjoy reading most when we feel we are in control (there's that word again). Harold Bloom tells us, correctly, that we should read: "to strengthen the self, and to learn its authentic interests." It is hard to meet those ends if we go through the book feeling like hopeless idiots."

(That's from pages 62-63.) It's a good book. Tyler Cowen's blog looks good, too.

A couple days ago he posted this sentence about time management:

All people are equally good at time management, but some people are more willing than others to admit that they are doing what they want to do, while others maintain the illusion they wish they were doing something else.

And that's something to think about. Also, Tyler Cowen has an Ethnic Dining Guide blog, but it looks like it's all stuff in the DC area. Interesting guy.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Chocolate Mice!

Yesterday I made chocolate mice to take to my ward Christmas party. My coworker told me about them a few days ago, and I'd never heard of them. The people at the Christmas party knew what they were, though.

They were quick and easy to make, they looked cute, and they were delicious.

Here's how you make them.


-Maraschino cherries (with stems!)

-Hershey's kisses

-candy chocolate (brown)

-candy chocolate (white)

- probably sliced almonds

How you make them:

Dry the cherries. (Otherwise they leak cherry juice.)

Dip a cherry in melted chocolate. Attach the bottom of the cherry to the bottom of a Hershey's kiss.

Set on wax paper. Or, I just used paper plates, and they came right off.

Now, I knew that they probably needed ears, but my coworker didn't mention them, so I didn't do them. What you're actually supposed to do is pop a couple almond slices between the kiss and the cherry so that they look like ears. (I'm okay with my mice having been deaf, though, because I don't like almonds that much, and maybe they actually had ears that were brown and they just blended in.) [PS, if you want to see a picture of how to do the almonds, click here.]

Then you use white melted candy to give the mice eyes and noses.

Ta da! Chocolate mice.

Correlation v. Causation

Remember how a few days ago I posted about interesting articles in the NYT?

One of the articles that I noticed was "Strangers May Cheer You Up, Study Says,"which was a new study which had results showing that like, friends of friends could cause you to be happy. I mentioned a bit about it, and said that it was interesting.

On the Freakonomics blog (which, incidentally, is a NYT blog...), today there's an article saying the study is bunk. The Freakonomics article is more interesting than the first article that I mentioned, actually.

It says that the study was performed sloppily. The study proves correlation but not causation. This article says that there are actually three reasons that you may be happy when strangers near you are happy-- the first is that happiness actually is contagious. The second is that "people with similar dispositions are more likely to be friends," and the third (and Justin Wolfers says this is most likely) is that people who are friends are more likely to be under similar influences. The example he gives is, if our mutual friend dies, we'll both be sad about it.

Wolfers also mentions another article in the same issue of BMJ which proved that people can too easily draw conclusions about contagion.

"They use Fowler and Christakis’s approach on another dataset, and show that it leads to the unlikely conclusion that height, headaches, and acne are also contagious. The more likely explanation, of course, is that all are subject to similar environmental influences. For instance, the same jackhammer causing your headache is likely causing mine."

I remember when we talked about correlations in my psychology class. Our teacher said, "Ice cream sales are strongly correlated with crime rates. Therefore, ice cream causes crime." And then we talked about it, and of course that isn't actually true; when it's hot, people buy ice cream. And there is also more crime when it is hot, probably because people are more irritable.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Finished Project!

This weekend I finished a project I've been working on for awhile. See, when I started attending the University of Utah I also started attending football games. Which are often in the evenings, which are often cold.

Every time I'd go to a game, I would have the great idea that I should make a blanket to bring to football games.

The only game of the season is our BCS game, which I won't be attending, so the blanket doesn't really do me any good now. But it will be great for next year. Or other sports games. Or, you know, whenever I'm feeling especially proud of my school, and cold.

The top is flannel, the bottom is fake fur. I bound the edges with flannel. I tied the blanket at the corners of the squares, but I didn't do tassels; instead I just did surgeon knots. I cut close to the knots (on the fur side) so that the fur covers the knots. That was the idea, anyway. It actually came out looking like the belly of a female cat. Hopefully as I use the blanket more, the fur will do a better job of covering the knots.

Go Utes!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Free Gmail Stickers!

In case you haven't seen this yet...

The other day, Gmail announced free stickers on their blog. Gmail stickers are the kind of thing that I never knew I wanted, but now that I know they exist, I can see they've been missing from my life and I must have them.

If you want some, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

Send me some Gmail stickers already
P.O. Box 391420
Mountain View, CA 94039-1420

The official post about it is here. And I recommend checking it out, because I'm at the gym and can't post pictures from here.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Interesting NYT today...

I had some time in between class and work today, and I decided I would read the New York Times, which I sometimes do.

The New York Times is my favorite newspaper, because I think it covers a great range of news; there are always stories about what's going on, but there are also often stories about just random, interesting things. One time I read this story about these immigrants who would call this phone number and listen to a preacher in their like, obscure language, and it made it so that they could hang in there for the rest of the week. It kept them going. It was a pretty amazing story. Or another time, there was that story about the berries that made everything taste sweet. NYT, baby.

Anyway, today's paper was a real winner, I thought. Not that there was anything amazing amazing, but there was a lot of great stuff. I read a bunch of it, and skimmed some of it, and I clipped 3 little stories to share on here.

1. From the front page of the NYT, "H.M., Whose Loss of Memory Made Him Unforgettable, Dies". Anyone who has ever taken a psychology class has heard of this guy. He was always called H.M. for privacy, but his name was Henry Gustav Molaison. Basically, he was hit by a bicycle and had been having awful seizures. So he had this experimental surgery which would hopefully fix that, and like, it did. Exceeeppppt, he totally ended up losing the ability to make new memories. So for the next 55 years, everything he did it was like he was doing for the first time. The NYT says, "And for those five decades, he was recognized as the most important patient in the history of brain science." The article says he was patient and always willing to try stuff they had him do, "And yet every time [Dr. Milner] walked in the room, it was like [they had] never met." It was a neat article. They arranged to do final MRI scans hours after he died, and they're having his brain preserved, like Einstein's. Neat article.

2. The next article that I really liked was, "Strangers May Cheer You Up, Study Says," by Pam Belluck. This article was about a study that will be published in BMJ, which is a British journal. (Aha! I found it.) The article included a quote from Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis from Harvard Medical School, who was one of the authors of the study. He said, "Your happiness depends not just on your choices and actions, but also on the choices and actions of people you don't even know who are one, two and three degrees removed from you." The study shows that people who live close to you have a huge influence on your happiness, even without you being aware of it. Like through body language and stuff. "A next-door neighbor's joy increased one's chance of being happy by 34 percent, but a neighbor down the block had no effect. A friend living half a mile away was good for a 42 percent bounce, but the effect was almost half that for a friend two miles away. A friend in a different community altogether can win an Oscar without making you feel better."

The article also mentioned another study, "In a separate study of 1,700 Facebook profiles, they found that people smiling in their photographs had more Facebook friends and that more of those friends were smiling." Interesting.

3. The last article isn't really an article. It's just one of those little blips where they briefly mention what is happening in places around the world. The title was "Zimbabwe: Cholera Emergency" and I thought it was interesting too, mostly because I had no idea about it. The only thing I know about Cholera is that there is a book called Love in the Time of Cholera. Which I haven't even read. I sort of didn't realize it was still a big deal. It is to Zimbabwe, though. They've had 560 people die since August. They desperately need food, drugs, and equipment, and Dr. David Parirenyatwa (whoever that is) said, "Our central hospitals are literally not functioning." Sad! The International Red Cross sent 13 tons of medical supplies, like rehydration fluids, antibiotics, and clothes to protect the medical workers.

I looked up Cholera to see what it actually even is, and basically it's where you consume food or water that is infected with cholera vibrios bacteria, and it messes up your small intestine and you start having exhaustive diarrhea. It's one of the most "rapidly fatal illnesses known" according to Wikipedia. Without medical treatment people can die within 3 hours but typically they make it 18 hours to several days. The only way to survive is to have oral rehydration therapy.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I'm Glad I'm a Boy! I'm Glad I'm a Girl!

I have something so amazing to share, you're not even going to believe it.

Like a week ago some other library returned this book that they'd borrowed. We have a copy of it, and not too many libraries do, so apparently people request it pretty regularly. One of my coworkers took a look at it and all of us read it, shocked. It's a kids book that would never, never, never get published these days. I love gender roles. I really do. But I just know that this would be like, a lawsuit on every page.

It is very much out of print, but if you want your own copy, you can purchase a used copy on Amazon for $300. It's kind of funny because half of the reviews there like "THIS DESERVES ZERO STARS!!!! WORST BOOK EVER!!!!" and half are like "5 stars. We've come so far..."

Anyhow, I'm posting the whole thing. Fair use? And maybe it's like money where you can reproduce it as long as it isn't the right size? Otherwise, you would just be in suspense forever, because you'd never know how it ended.

UPDATE 5/12/09:
- Apparently this book was actually published as satire. A few people have mentioned this in the comments. It was published in 1970, which is late for this stuff, so that makes sense. I guess what happened is, Darrow published this as a joke and reviewers took it seriously. His obituary is here. It sounds like he was a pretty funny guy.
- A couple people leaving comments have been rude to me for not knowing that it was satire when I posted this. This is my personal blog, guys. I thought it was neat, so I posted it for my friends. I didn't expect hundreds of thousands of people to be reading my blog. Similarly: when I said it would be a lawsuit on every page, I was exaggerating. I do that sometimes. No more comments about that, please.
- If you wish to comment, please note: my mom reads my blog. I welcome your comments and discussion about this post and book (whether or not I agree with you!) but I like to keep my blog family-friendly. Please be respectful towards each other. I will delete even clever comments if they contain profanity or are vulgar. This was not initially a problem, but over the past few days it has become an issue. Thanks.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Auto Bailouts

This week in my accounting class we've just been researching and discussing the auto bailouts. We broke into groups and looked at the financial statements for Ford and GM (Chrysler is a privately owned company, so their statements are not public), and we did a bunch of calculations for their numbers from the past five years, and looked at trends. We also researched what Ford and GM have told the government they're going to do. Today we just had a big discussion about it.

Here are some of the more interesting things:

1. The only reason Ford even exists anymore is because of debt. They have negative owners equity. Which pretty much means, they don't have any of their own money that they've put into the company.

2. Ford has like $165 BILLION in debt. They're asking for like $9 billion total from us taxpayers. Which is nothing compared to what they owe. Sooooo, what are they going to do with the money that is going to make the difference? They're not saying.

3. This is my favorite fact, which I didn't know, and I think most people don't know. The CEOs of all three companies have said that they would take $1 salary. Now, when people hear that, they think that these guys are going to take only $1 for the whole year. I thought that too. That's not what it is at all though. These guys take a salary and compensation. So for example, for Ford, the CEO is Alan Mulally. His salary is normally $2 million dollars, and then he gets $18.5 million in other compensation. So him taking $1 salary means that next year he would be willing, out of the goodness of his heart, when his company is failing, to only make $18.5 million instead of $20.5 million. They're not offering to work basically for free. At all. It's a drop in the bucket, and it should be insulting to us that they would offer that. I totally thought it meant he would take $1 for the year. Not so.

4. The companies offer a lot of fluff, and some things that are real. Saying they'll make smaller cars, which are supposed to be more profitable (how profitable? says who? why are we only realizing this now?) is fluff. Saying they're selling their private jets (for how much? compared to how much debt?) is fluff. Selling Volvo (for how much? this year it wasn't profitable...) is fluff. GM selling Saturn and cutting Pontiac is fluff. Merging with Chrysler is fluff. None of those things have any numbers along with them, none of them indicate any real change to the business model, and none of the plan indicates how using our tax money will make any difference.

The things that are real are the innocent people. Ford and GM will be shutting down dealerships and plants. Most of the plants are in the Midwest. The plants are in cities where everyone works at the plant. And people don't really have bachelors degrees, because they work at the plant and their parents, and maybe their grandparents did. So when these places close, it's going to completely change life for the people in those cities. And that sucks for them. Because it isn't their fault the CEOs have been managing the companies very irresponsibly for the past 10 or 20 years. [But it doesn't cost money to shut down dealerships and plants and to lay people off, so where is our tax money going?]

Anyhow. They'll get their money, but I guarantee they'll be back in 3 months asking for more.

Really, though, I just wanted to share the part about the $1 salaries. Because I thought that was super shady.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Breakfast Adventure!

I have all kinds of weird stuff in my kitchen.

I used to live with Jess, and she had kitchen stuff. And then I had roommates, and they had kitchen stuff. So now that I have my own apartment, my kitchen is a little interesting.

Instead of having really basic kitchen stuff, I only have unusual [for student housing] stuff. For example, a couple days ago I bought a 9 x 13 pan because I didn't have one. But I did have a bundt pan and a spring form pan. Or, I don't have any pans for on the stove at all. But I do have a dutch oven. I don't have any wooden spoons, but I do have a candy thermometer and a rolling pin.
The thing I definitely miss/need the most is a frying pan. I have one pot that I inherited when Jess got married, and I use it for everything I make on the stove. Last week I made scrambled eggs with green pepper and cheese--in the pot. It was kind of awkward, but it tasted fine.

This morning I wanted to make french toast. And I thought about making french toast in my pot, but then I thought of something way more awesome.

I decided to try cooking french toast in my George Foreman grill. Why not?
I bought a small George Foreman grill when I moved into my apartment, because the fridge was way too dirty to use, and so were the stove and oven. I didn't have a microwave, and I didn't have time to deep clean everything, so I was having to eat out all the time. George changed my life. I started eating a lot of grilled chicken and veggies. It was good. My favorite thing to grill is fresh pineapple, with a little bit of marinade drizzled overtop. SO GOOD.
Anyway, I bought a microwave, cleaned my fridge, stove, and oven, and now I don't really use the grill as much.

It worked perfect for the french toast, though. I think I'll always use it. It's great because:
1. It cooks both sides at once.
2. It cooks it perfectly so that it isn't eggy or dry.
3. It leaves sweet grill marks on it, which makes breakfast seem like an adventure.

[NB: In the picture it looks like it's kind of discolored, but really it's just the lighting and the syrup.]

Monday, December 01, 2008

Other Strategies for Adding Humor to Your Life

I was looking at the same article I just posted the quiz from, and the page before the quiz is a list of ways to add humor to your life. This may also be of interest to someone.

Innovations in Clinical Practice: A Source Book (Vol. 5)
Waleed Salameh "The effective use of humor in psychotherapy." (p. 169)

Other Strategies for Adding Humor to Your Life. Draw cartoons (without worrying about their artistic value) about situations, persons, or events which you find to be particularly humorous. Create humorous collages. Take an art or photography catalog (or even your own family album) and make up humorous captions for each picture. When you come home every evening, try to remember at least one funny event that happened during the day. Write it down and share it with friends and family. Practice "International Dyslexia" by creating new words or onomatopoeias that cannot be found in dictionaries. Ask your friends to tell you their favorite jokes and tell them yours.

Find some time to be alone, sitting in your most comfortable position, relaxed, and breathing soundly. Close your eyes and bring up a humorous experience. Visualize the event as concretely as possible, and allow yourself to fully relive and enjoy it in all its details and with all the feelings you experienced at that moment. Make a date with yourself to repeat this experience on a regular basis by bringing up the same event, constructing a cassette tape of the experience, or picturing other humorous events you have been involved in. Keep in mind that all of us have had happy, humorous experiences, even if we are sometimes more prone to remember negative happenings.

List five facts or life situations you frequently experience and which you find to be absurdly humorous. For example, why can't public telephones return change, or why do some envelopes have a caption on the top right corner saying, "Place stamp here"?

Make written notes of humorous car stickers you notice as you drive. Some examples are "Plumbers do it with a flush," "Teachers do it with class," "Fishermen have all the angles," "Quilters do it warmly," "Chemists get better reactions," "Chess players are better at mating." Start your own "...do it with..." sequence.

Think of a problem that has been bothering you. Think of one sentence which you could use to define your problem in a humorous vein and write it down.

Don't be afraid to share with others the spontaneous humorous associations or scenarios that cross the freeways of your mind. Of course, some of what you find humorous may not be humorous to others because different individuals have predilections for different humorous genres. It is okay for some people to feel that some other people's humor is not okay.

With your co-workers, friends, or colleagues, start a humor support group. Your group can share jokes and success stories on the constructive applications of nondestructive humor used with oneself or others. Each group member can also share with the group an embarrassing episode that he or she has lived, simply relating what happened with out censuring the event in any way. The sharing of embarrassing episodes promotes group cohesiveness, encourages members to be less self-conscious, and brings home the message that we are all imperfect human beings living in an imperfect world. Additionally, the group may enjoy experimenting with improvisational comedy sketches, miming, or other humorous performances.

Start the day with a zing. As soon as you get up in the morning, make a habit of calling up a good friend and exchanging humorous repartee with him or her. This will get you perked up and humorously ready for the day. You can also call any of your friends during the day (especially those who are unhappy and need to laugh) and leave humorous messages on their answering machines. Examples include imitating various dialects or funny advertisements, remembering private jokes, sharing new jokes, and so on.

Make funny lists to exaggerate, stretch, and spoof some of your own problems, fears, and behaviors. You may find that writing such comical lists is not only a lot of fun but can also help you deflate and gain perspective on hitherto insurmountable or disquieting concerns. And, who knows, you may find out about things you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask. Examples include "ten things I must remember to do to fail my exams," "twelve recommendations that would virtually squelch my chances of ever getting a promotion," "five things I must remember to do to spoil my relationships with others," "ten favorite anxieties I can't live without," "twelve worries I want to indulge in from now until death do us part," "five myths I want to keep believing about myself so I can enjoy depression," "seven myths and seven realities about my fear of success," and "three reasons why undue guilt is good for me."

You can also take the Humorous Sentence Completion Blank test which I have included on the next two pages. [NOTE: the Humorous Sentence Completion Blank test was my last blog post, found here]

Although I abhor swimming in wet cement...

Today I scanned an article that I thought was kind of interesting, called "The Effective Use of Humor in Psychotherapy". I didn't read the whole thing because obviously I was working, but there was a funny part that caught my attention.

Here is the quiz for your enjoyment. (PS, it's from 1986, so this is sort of like an old school meme!)

Innovations in Clinical Practice: A Source Book (Vol. 5, p. 170-171)


INSTRUCTIONS: Please complete the sentences below with the first spontaneous response that occurs to you. Since this is not a scholastic performance test, there are no right or wrong responses. The only requirement is that you make complete sentences and that your responses reflect your spontaneous reaction to each item below. Please wait for the signal to begin. [Actually, don't, because my blog will not emit any signal.]

1. Although I realize roosters cannot lay eggs, I _________________________
2. While I know I cannot count all the raindrops, I _________________________
3. Although it is vain to build castles in Spain, I _________________________
4. Given that winter follows fall and summer follows spring, I still _________________________
5. Squirrels store their nuts, and I _________________________
6. When the lights are on but nobody is home, I _________________________
7. While it is apparent that chickens do not have lips, I _________________________
8. It is widely known that tickling provokes pleasant vibrations, yet I _________________________
9. Bankers do it with interest, and I do it _________________________
10. Martial artists do it for kicks, and I _________________________
11. Although others make hay while the sun shines, I still _________________________
12. Ever dog has his or her day, and every frog _________________________
13. When I am happy as a lark, I _________________________
14. While research has proven that real men or women don't eat quiche, I _________________________
15. Athletes go for the gold, and I _________________________
16. Due to the fact that I remember some people's names, I _________________________
17. The early bird gets the worm, and I _________________________
18. When I wake up in the morning, I insist _________________________
19. Although I acknowledge that a stitch in time saves nine, I _________________________
20. Some dress for success, yet I _________________________
21. When all else fails, my saving grace _________________________
22. If misery is optional, then joy _________________________
23. Since I stopped going to the circus as often as I used to, I _________________________
24. If Virginia is for lovers, New York for muggers, and Los Angeles for uncertains, then _________________________
25. If I could be either John Wayne, Mae West, Elvis Presley, Tarzan, or Lily Tomlin, I _________________________
26. When I'm singing in the rain, I _________________________
27. The most important difference between pirates and buccaneers is _________________________
28. When m y mother calls to inquire about my last visit to the zoo, I _________________________
29. When I think about counting all the hairs in some people's beards, I _________________________
30. Although I abhor swimming in wet cement, I _________________________
31. All good things must come to an end, yet at this moment my heart _________________________