Remind me to put a title on this

There are times when I think that anything worth doing is worth doing later. Then again, I hate like hell to have tasks stacking up on my plate, especially if everything has to be Just So. The link between procrastination and perfectionism has often been been explored, though this is the first explanation I’ve seen based on construal level theory:

When you picture getting started straight away the close temporal distance puts you in near mode, where you see all the detailed impediments to doing a perfect job. When you think of doing the task in the future some time, trade-offs and barriers vanish and the glorious final goal becomes more vivid. So it always seems like you will do a great job in the future, whereas right now progress is depressingly slow and complicated. This makes doing it in the future seem all the more of a good option if you are obsessed with perfection.

Unfortunately, I can’t figure out a good way to exploit this phenomenon in my own life. If the target date is T, I can’t persuade myself to focus on, say, T plus 2, when all this, thank God, will be behind me; I tend to think in terms of “How can I do this in half the time with half the sweat?” and spend roughly 50 percent of the allotted time trying to figure out a way to save 50 percent of the allotted time. This works about as well as you think it does.

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Quote of the week

Marko, on the discovery of a possible Class M planet merely twenty or so light-years away:

On the galactic scale, it’s in our cosmic driveway, so to speak. If we already have an Earth-like planet orbiting in the Goldilocks zone of a star so close by, then the statistical chances for our little blue pebble being the only life-supporting planet in the universe are about as great as the statistical chances of Kate Beckinsale coming up our driveway in the next ten minutes, wearing her skin-tight Underworld leather outfit, piloting a Ferrari with the suitcase compartment full of $100 bills, and bearing a note from my wife saying “Have A Fun Vacation, Honey.”


Kate Beckinsale in Underworld

That’s one scary-looking driveway there.

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Or it twought to be

So apparently it’s “tweet,” “twet,” “twutten.”

(Not to be confused with “hic, haec, hoc”: that’s a pronoun, dammit.)

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Andrew Ian Dodge lets us know in the title to the 393rd Carnival of the Vanities that autumn has arrived in earnest.

To a number of people I know, including my son and his wife, this fall has meant, means, among other things, writing a check for earnest money as part of the complicated process of buying a house. Had they been in the state of Oregon, so doing would have been governed by Chapter 393 of that state’s laws.

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Partially sage

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Its own pun-ishment

Despite Mr. Porretto’s suggestion that I have too much time on my hands, I continue to work long hours and strive to get something resembling an adequate quantity of sleep.

Besides, the ultimate goal of the punster is to come up with something as sick and twisted as this:

There was a boy of Italian parentage named Carbaggio, born in Germany. Feeling himself a misfit, with his dark curly hair among all those blond Nordic types, he tries to be even more German than the Germans. In late adolescence he flees to Paris, where he steals one of those brass miniatures of the Eiffel Tower. Arrested by the police, he is given a choice of going to jail or leaving the country. He boards the first outbound ship and arrives in New York. Thinking he would like a career in communications, he goes to the RCA building in Rockefeller Plaza, takes an elevator and walks into the office of General Sarnoff. Sarnoff tells him that the only job available is as a strikebreaker. The boy takes it. When the strike ends, he finds himself on a union blacklist. He goes to work making sonar equipment for a company owned by a man named Harris. After several years, his English has improved to the point where he gets a job as a disk jockey. His show is called Rock Time. He has fulfilled his destiny: he’s a routine Teuton, Eiffel-lootin’, Sarnoff goon from Harris Sonar, Rock Time Carbaggio.

Paul Desmond, who was twenty-nine the day I was born, came up with this classic bit of Parthenonsense shortly thereafter. Until such time as I can top this, I keep on keeping on.

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Only in my dreams

It appears, judging by her Web site, that Deborah Gibson is once again embracing her Debbie-ness.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but she looks awfully Deborah-esque here:

Deborah Gibson

Then again, she’s 40 now.

Oh, and the dress is by Alice and Olivia, the shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti, the occasion was a pre-screening reception for 3 Billion and Counting. [Warning: brief embedded audio.]

(Previous Debitude here.)

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Spacing it out

City Council voted this week to phase in a hike in water rates over the next four years, which, says the Oklahoman, will result in the present-day average bill of $42.63 rising to $47.52 by 2013, which I calculate is an increase of just under 11.5 percent.

Mayor Cornett is quoted as saying:

“We made the policy decision that people seemed to prefer to have a smaller increase each year rather than a large increase every three or four years.”

Especially, you know, after the 5-percent increase last year.

What’s going to perplex some people is where that “average” number came from. Who’s got a water bill for a mere $42.63? Not me. And I use very little water for a person who takes eight (sometimes nine) showers a week. The difference, of course, is that what we think of as the “water” bill also covers sewer and trash service, plus a “Drainage Fee … Due To Unfunded EPA Mandate” and, if opted in, a few bucks for the ambulance service. The last bill I got from the city was for $50.84, but only $14.15 of that was clearly for water service. Under the new schedule, this will presumably rise to $16 or so.

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I’m sure it’s around somewhere

I have yet to dig into Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, and I may not, simply because if he can’t identify the Midwest, I’d hate to see what else he might have messed up.

I mentioned this last summer, in fact:

I think it begins around Columbus, Ohio — Thurberville — and stretches west. Anything below I-70 is basically southern. And that’s true right across Missouri. My Midwest is bounded on the south by I-70. It stretches all the way to about an hour east of Denver and includes pretty much all of the Great Plains states north of I-70 … You can take all of Kansas, some of Oklahoma, too.

This is not the description you’d get from anyone who’s ever actually driven on I-70, which incidentally doesn’t get within a hundred miles of Oklahoma.

But I suppose we could give Franzen the benefit of the doubt. D. G. Myers, after critiquing the same passage, made this observation in comments:

Franzen names Fitzgerald as a Midwestern writer, which reminds me of perhaps my favorite scene in The Great Gatsby. On their first drive together, Jay tells Nick that he is “the son of some wealthy people in the Middle West — all dead now.”

“What part of the Middle West?” I inquired casually.

“San Francisco.”

And if you can’t believe Fitzgerald, try Bo Diddley, who in “Say Man” (previously referenced here) claimed to be from South America, by which he meant Texas.

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Born to howl

Let’s see if I have this right. You can tune a piano, you can’t tuna fish, but look what you can do with a pack of wolves:

And no, this isn’t Auto-Tune, but an iPhone (and other iGadget) app called LaDiDa, which generates the background music for you and which costs a mere $2.99.

It might even work on blue whales, though they’re already renowned for staying in key.

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The wrath of Pythagoras

Okay, he’s dead, and even if he wasn’t dead he probably wouldn’t read Sportsday in the Dallas Morning News. But I can’t imagine him being pleased with this:

Remember your old geometry lesson about the long side of a triangle being equal to the two shorter sides. That means a dove 40 yards out and 10 yards high is 50 yards from the gun and clearly out of range.

My old geometry teacher, who was about five foot nineteen and clearly out of range, would frown, assuming he didn’t immediately go for his sidearm.

Now if you do the math correctly, you’ll find that the bird in question is 41.2 yards away. It’s still probably out of range — and you don’t want to go shooting things out of range, just on general principle — but I’m perplexed by that “old geometry lesson.” I mean, is the shot going to go 40 yards out, turn 90 degrees, and then go 10 yards straight up? And if it is going to do that, can I watch?

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Fark blurb of the week

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Justified left

This is Sonic Charmer’s description of “the leftist problem in general”:

[H]ow does one support a system characterized largely by credentialed, centralized bureaucratic privilege and unconstrained power, while continuing to always posture as an egalitarian populist on the side of the masses?

This would seem like an invitation to cognitive dissonance. Then again, we can rationalize our way out of anything if we work at it a bit:

The answer seems to be to continually harness your brainpower to come up with elaborate theories about this and that (why things are so bad for others, etc.), and in particular to extrapolate whatever conflicted personal hang-ups and obsessions you happen to have into a social theory. Hence, “I didn’t keep my kid out of that school cuz it was mostly Hispanic, I kept my kid out of that school because, um, the teachers are so bad. Which raises a troubling social question, why are Our Society’s Teachers so bad? We need to fix that, and you should put me in charge of fixing that!”

“Fixing that,” in general, means throwing more and more money at it under the assumption that — well, actually, you can’t tell what they’re assuming, unless it’s the standard government-as-tumor dynamic: grow or die. One of the few departures from this mindset came via Oklahoma City’s MAPS for Kids, which put half a billion dollars into eliminating “inadequate facilities” as an excuse for crummy schools. Indeed this qualified as throwing money at it, but I admire its approach: isolate a variable and see if it makes a difference. What’s more, voters approved the temporary tax that financed the program, which makes it a lot easier to bear than the usual top-down spending decrees, especially the ones relying on so-called “Federal funds” glommed from the population at large; no one from Bangor or Bakersfield paid for any of this, unless he happened to be around here and bought something during the period the tax was in effect. (If he stopped at Mickey D’s and spent $5.99 on a combo meal, six cents went into the MAPS for Kids kitty.)

This particular program was low on grandiosity, which is why it’s not being shouted from the housetops in Washington or New York, where people don’t want to know from minor improvements in the hinterlands: they want to Save The World, dammit, and they want to make sure you know it. If Walmart, presumably via China, started selling a reliable, low cost Conscience Salve (use only as directed), they’d buy it in ton lots. Or more likely, they’d send the staff to buy it in ton lots, lest they themselves be seen in Walmart.

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Can’t we all just get along?

A bumper sticker we can get behind, so to speak:

Variations on the Coexist theme

This is apparently actually available; my attention was drawn to it here. (Source updates would be appreciated.)

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Wisdom of the ages

I can find no fault whatever with this declaration:

“Do not cheap out on the specially designed adhesive for merkins!”

Just thinking about the consequences of using inferior fastening techniques is making me squirm.

(See also “People for the Merkin Way.” Better yet, don’t.)

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Sometimes things just take a while

For instance: World War I will end this weekend.

Wait, what?

The First World War will officially end on Sunday, 92 years after the guns fell silent, when Germany pays off the last chunk of reparations imposed on it by the Allies.

The final payment of £59.5 million writes off the crippling debt that was the price for one world war and laid the foundations for another.

And who’s getting paid, exactly?

Most of the money goes to private individuals, pension funds and corporations holding debenture bonds as agreed under the Treaty of Versailles, where Germany was made to sign the ‘war guilt’ clause, accepting blame for the war.

By coincidence — or maybe not — Sunday, 3 October 2010, is the 20th anniversary of the reunification of Germany, following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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