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Today, at last, I start the Vignettes. These come to me once in a while and I want to write them down, but for some reason it's never seemed like the right time, or I get busy, or I feel like it would be a luxury with so much else to do. Very well, then. I give it to myself as a reward for hard work this week.
date 2001-04-10:18:46
now in bloom on my patio It won't bloom for a month or two, but the dwarf Meyer Lemon I cut down in February to kill the citrus bud mites has sproutly leaves, and they look good.

I don't like the trellis for the pink jasmine. That jasmine just wants to be floppy anyway. When I cut it back, I'm going to repot it in a hanging basket, and give the trellis to the distictus.
fallacies Why do people say irrelevant things? Examples:

  1. I asked the Credit Union new accounts advisor if they handle on-profit charitable trusts. She laboriously explained what I summarize here, where I attempt to capture the feel of the cotton wool without expending the same amount of time: She said, when people become members of the Credit Union, it's understood that they have to keep a minimum balance in their account in order not to be charged any fees. All members have to pay fees on an interest-bearing account, and it's only if it falls below a certain balance that they have to pay a fee.

    So, the Credit Union doesn't handle charitable trusts?

    No, because [repeat explanation].

    The answer, as far as I could see, was "No." Why didn't she say "No.," or "No, we don't have the personnel to handle that"? What was the deal about the fees and the minimum balance doing in there? I swear, so much of my time is frittered away in minutes here and there, by people making excuses like this.

  2. I called B&N because their web site wouldn't let me combine all my gift certificates and spend them all on one order, but instead wanted me to spend one certificate per order. I thought this was outrageous, so I called. The assistant said explained at length some irrelevant point, sandwiched between statements of "That's just our policy." I argued briefly with him, noting that it would be sad if someone told all her relatives to give her child B&N certificates for her birthday, only to find that she had to pay $100 to ship all those orders separately. He rejoined sympathetically, "That's just our policy."

  3. I called the company that distributes Fresh Start detergent to ask them if they had discontinued the item. They said they hadn't, and gave me the names of local supermarkets that carry it. Just to be sure they were stocked before I drove over there, I called Ralph's Supermarket, and I asked if they had Fresh Start detergent. Instead of checking the database, the guy ran and checked the shelf. Nope, he didn't see any. Well, did you check the database? Database? What do you mean, check the database?

    I asked to speak to the manager. I said that the boy had checked the shelf, but wasn't it possible that they were just out? The manager said she would check the database, and I didn't even have to tell her what a database was! This was progress, I thought.

    She said she'd talked to her manager, and found that the product was not in the database. Ah, Ok. I'd ordered products at all sorts of stores, including Ralph's, in the past, that they now stock. Socrates always had it easy, because Plato had his interlocutors give sensible answers to his questions. Real dialogs go like this:

    Can you special order Fresh Start for me?

    [pleasantly] No, we can only order products that are in our system.

    Well, if you don't carry it, it wouldn't be in your system, right?

    That's right, all of our products are in our system.

    So if you were to order Fresh Start, you'd be ordering a new product?

    No, we can only order products that are in our system.

    [speechless pause on my part] Oh. Well, can you order it for me?

    [getting perturbed] That product is not in our system. We can only order products that are in our system!

    Right, but you can order new products, can't you?

    Oh, yes! What would you like to order?

    Fresh Start detergent.

    [now talking very slowly and enunciating very carefully]
    As I've been trying to explain to you, we can only order products that are in our system. That product is not in our system.

    So you never order any new products? Surely, new products that were just developed, are not in your system.

    [pausing between words so that the Moron Customer can understand] We. Order. New products. ALL. The time.

    Can you see why this isn't making sense to me?

    [brightly] Oh, yes! I can see why it doesn't make sense!

    [sure that she didn't see at all] Ok, thank you. Good bye.


    How can we eradicate this kind of conversation from the universe? Somehow I feel like it is new. I don't remember people saying things like this to me a few years ago. It's like they were given a list of Answers during their job training, and if your questions doesn't fit one of the Answers, well, too bad! Is the List of Answers to Questions the substitute for logic classes that people have come up with? Is this something that more Objectivist academics could fix by teaching Objectivist method to college students?
on being a woman On the one hand, intellectually-inclined men complain that "there aren't any women" who can argue with them at their level. On the other, they are devastated by a woman's making a decisive argument against them. Is it because they aren't used to it, that it hurts so badly when it happens? Or is it because that wasn't really what they wanted, and have tended to choose female companions according to how sweetly compliant and error-blind they would be?

Women are supposed to be nice no matter what. We're not only supposed to turn a blind eye to errors; we're also supposed to listen sympathetically, empathically, self-involvedly, to stories and complaints and hardships that a man would never be told. We are also supposed to listen to evolutionary arguments about why we are not only born sympathetic, but why we are unable to argue at a man's level. Failure to agree is proof that we are stupid.
Just back from a bike ride to the bank. Do some people enjoy have horns blown at them? I have to wonder every time I see some guy hanging out the window of his car to look at me after he's just scared the crap out of me with a blast from the horn. If I weren't a steady rider I'd be startled off my bike and under the wheels of the man expressing his admiration. Today, it was a truck. Do men not have any idea what it's like to have a truck horn blown in their naked ear while riding in traffic on a bike? For me, it would only take one time to learn how unpleasant that is, and to never do it to anyone else. I would never blow the horn at someone on a bike, no matter what. It's just too dangerous. Which makes me wonder, are these men really expressing their approval, or erection, or whatever people interpret it to be? Or do they hate women, with our upstart ways and our pretentions to be as good as they are? Do they want us to fall off our bikes and into traffic so that the only women left alive are the ones who stay off the streets? At least the second one today merely whistled. Whistles I can interpret as more friendly and less deadly than an air horn. But still, it's distracting when you're trying to balance on a bike in traffic.

I want someone to explain this to me. In fact, I want lots and lots and lots of men to provide explanations of this, in their own words. Then, after they've explained that all these multitudes of men simply cannot control themselves even when they are behind the wheel, I would like it explained how anyone ever managed to put forth the notion that men are more rational than women.
  • added two features to the journal code: multiple picture capability and sort-on-demand
  • wrote to disgruntled Enlightenment beneficiary explaining why I won't lower my standards
  • put a personal ad on
  • argued with people on freeradical about the tendencies of women
  • paid the bills
  • launched the membership packages
  • wrote to three new Enlightenment users
  • almost rid of the aphids
  • got an assistant editor for Objectivity
  • got a new Enlightenment Scout
  • pornography Let's play "Tease the Libertarian Parent"!

    How old do your kids have to be before you think it's OK for them to view porn on the web? On tv? At the movies? Would you want to be with them while they viewed it, or would it be ok for them to do that by themselves at least some of the time? Would you want to be the first to introduce them to it, so that they'd be ready for their friends' editorial commentary?

    One libertarian parent I spoke to this week said that his 9-year-old doesn't have the physiological capacity to understand sex, so he wouldn't want him looking at it. Is that really important? It seems to me that a child's whole day is full of things he cannot understand yet, things that just fade into the background as The Uninteresting. Gradual exposure to confusing things is what determines when they are ready to understand written language, music, billboards that employ puns, The Constitution, and computers.

    A child of nine may not be able to have adult-like sex; but why does that mean that they can't understand something useful and interesting about it? Children at that age can't drive, either, but no one is hesitant to show them cars or let them watch a driver in action. What is the difference?

    And why are parents usually about 3 years too late to be the first to tell them anything? (Maybe Being Late with Information is strongly selected-for in the evolutionary process. :-)
    LaJolla The weather has been so changeable the last few days! Yesterday, it rained for half an hour; then the sky was completely blue and the sun was bright for an hour. Then it rained for half an hour. Then the sun came out and the wind blew hard for a couple of hours. Then the wind died and it rained. And it just kept doing that all day. The ground was dry when I went to bed, and wet when I woke this morning.

    It's like being back in Bloomington, Indiana, where the weather does this most of the time. There, the humidity stays pretty constantly unpleasant, though, except in spring. Here, as soon as the rain stops, it's just gone from the air.

    Flour seems to be a lot drier here, too. I find I have to add as much as 50% more moisture to baked goods than I have anywhere else. But there's no such thing as keeping potatoes "in a cool place"; they have to go in the fridge.
    vignette No one had ever asked to be allowed to read her mail before. Well, her mother had never asked, but she had no problems reading it. Oddly, once she went away to college, when it would have been handy to have someone read her mail, her mother suddenly developed scruples and refused to open anything no matter how official and tax-return-like it looked.

    So when he just outright said, "I assume it alright for me to open your mail. And of course, you can open mine too." it came as something as a shock. In stated principle, he was a devout Objectivist, a libertarian, and a "deeply private man." That it would even occur to a deeply private man to open someone else's mail was, to her, an absurd notion. But there it was.

    At the time, it just seemed like a small error on his part--something he'd not quite thought through, and that, being an Objectivist, he could be easily persuaded by the use of reason. Looking back on it, the tone of his voice had been odd, the same tone that he would always take subsequently, when he believed that she would be irrational and was trying to approach her quietly like an animal of prey who might jump at the slightest sound.

    "Well, I don't know about that. I mean, I guess that's Ok, but I don't think I'm comfortable with it."

    He didn't answer, verbally, right away. His mouth opened wide--not wide, exactly, but more like a fish, his jaw jutting out and down while his lips formed a long "O" which worked in and out a bit as he stared at her.

    She never knew what to do when people gave her meaningful looks. Did he want her to take it back? Did he want her to apologize? Was he really speechless? What was she to do? Unable to guess, she waited impassively, impassivity being the refuge she'd always taken in the face of the incomprehensible.

    Noises began to emerge from the mouth, a sort of strangled grunting half-word, as though he would say something. The grunting turn to stammering. Uh, oh. He really was serious. He really did want to open her mail!

    "You act surprised."

    With a loud breathy sound that sounded like something between a sigh and a cough, he began, "I am surprised! Ah--ah'm in love with you! We're going to be married!" He paused for a bit and looked pensive, eyes narrowed, mouth finally shut. "You really have a problem with me opening your mail," he said, with a kind of wonder.

    "Well, it is generally considered a private thing. I mean, what if I get a letter from a friend? Do you need to read that before I do?"

    "You don't trust me to read your mail from your friends?"

    "It doesn't have anything to do with trust. It's just weird to have someone write you a letter thinking that you're going to read it, and then someone else opens it and reads it. Like, what if one of my girlfriends decides she doesn't like you and writes something mean about you in it?"

    "You're incredible!"

    Well, that was an incomprehensible remark. So she fell into impassivity again. Face like a brick wall, her sister had always said. She could feel the wall go up, but that was better than the mix of confusion and anger that was beginning to build.

    After another pause, he began with his characteristically preemptory, "Uh-K!" a leopard cough of a statement. "Uh-K! So! No personal letters. What about the VISA bill?"

    "Well, I guess that would be OK, but I have my own accounts, so I can't really see why. And what if I use my card to buy your Christmas present in October and I want it to be a surprise? And what if I don't want you to see how much I spent on it?"

    She felt a little silly. It was difficult to explain exactly why she felt she had the right to privacy, and since he was only offering his horror as the reason why she shouldn't have it, there was very little to push against. She couldn't call to mind exact circumstances under which she'd been glad in the past that no one else had read her mail, but she knew there were cases. So her excuses sounded lame to her. Once she had exhausted the appeal to privacy and he, inexplicably, didn't think it was a good reason, there was little more to say than that it was none of his business. But that seemed like the sort of thing that was too rude to say to someone who only meant to immerse himself in the togetherness of marriage, and it was an expression she generally detested anyway. Maybe he was just unaware that someone other than him had private conversations with people that didn't concern him.

    "Ah don't undahstand this," he said, falling into Newyorkese, proving that he was really getting upset. "Man. The woman ah'm gahnna mahry. Man."

    "I don't understand it either. Why is this so important? Don't you have any thoughts or feelings that are private?" she asked rhetorically, knowing that he was probably one of the most repressed men she'd ever met (but of course she was going to Fix That). "How would this even occur to you?"

    Again, he looked astonished by the question, made a few more leopard-coughing sounds. "Things happen. What if you're in the hospital?"

    Oh, that's all! Oh, she knew he couldn't have been talking about reading her mail! Yes, that was it. It was for emergencies. Whew. "Well, of course you can read my mail if I'm in the hospital! I don't want my VISA bill to be overdue!"

    He glowered at her from under his eyebrows, mouth open again, gave one slow, prompting nod, as though she was supposed to say more. She waited for a verbal prompt, since she didn't know what more he wanted.

    Still glowering, head sinking lower as he spoke: "'s OH KAY for me to read your mail," head coming up and sort of lurching toward her, to say it was her turn.

    "Yes, I just said it was OK. Of course, in an emergency, I would want you to open my mail. You made it sound like you wanted to read just because it came in the door."

    "Well, no, not just in emergencies! What emergencies? This is something that people share! What are these conditions you're putting on it?"

    "You just said it would important to read my mail if I were in the hospital. But now you're saying..."

    "Ahdow undahstan' nis. Ahdow undahstan' nis." He began swinging his head slowly from side to side, a deeply sad smile-like expression on his face. "mmmMMMAAaan!"

    Her memory faded at that point. She knew the argument didn't end there. They never ended in less than three hours, and they always ended with her in tears, agreeing to whatever conditions he set just to calm him down, and him insisting that they make love to prove that she didn't have a bad sense of life. She didn't even know why she remembered the details, it being one of the lesser battles in that war, except that he liked to use it as evidence for how nervous, how untrusting, how unlike him she was, what a bad sense of life she had.

    But after that argument, though she had agreed that he could read all her mail and burn it besides, whenever he got the mail, he made a prodigious and resentful show of handing her her mail with a great ceremonious flourish, unopened, the pain of the huge concession written all over his face. It was one of his favorite axes to hold over her head, that breach of intra-pre-marital trust, long after he had snuffed out the spirit that had allowed her to care about much of anything at all.
    in progress
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  • design Sometimes I'd just like to smash this damned Sony Vaio F430. I don't think I've ever experienced a more aggravatingly noisy machine. If the fan would just stay on, it wouldn't be so bad. It's the ppssswwhhhirRRRRRRR of the fan turning on, and the PJSHrrnnngg of the fan turning off. Amazingly, the fan comes on [just timed it] every seven seconds, whirrs for about 10 seconds in the normal case, then cuts off, only to come back on seven seconds later. It is like Spanish water torture. And the sound of the whirr changes irregularly, to make sure that I can never get used to it. Once in a while, it makes a sudden jump in pitch (just when I thought it was going to cut off), whining for 20 seconds instead of 10. I could deal with constant whining, if it were constant; my air cleaner whirrs loudly all night--at one pitch and without pause. But the Vaio fan is like an annoying person who I'm trying to ignore but who insists on my paying attention, tapping me on the forehead and occasionally hitting me with a brick.

    Heat seems to have nothing to do with whether the fan comes on. It is not the presence of heat but rather the prediction that heat will be present, that makes the fan start up. I could work in the sun with 20 programs open, doing resource-intensive things, for hours, and it wouldn't make a sound other than the occasionaly squelching sound from the harddisk. But the very second (no exaggeration) I connect to the internet, suddenly it's "hot" and needs to start sporadically fanning itself. And the second I disconnect, the fan goes off and never comes on again. Either there simply isn't a thermostat in the machine, or else the thermostat is not linked up to the fan.

    It's not connected to power-saving devices either. It does this in every power profile, on AC or battery. THERE'S NO WAY TO STOP IT!

    Maybe the constantly-changing frequency is an attempt to protect the machine from destruction by constantly-adapting Borg weaponry.

    Sometimes, late at night, when everything is quiet except for the shrill on-off on-off of the Vaio fan, I fantasize about meeting the people who thought that this would be a good design idea--or who, more likely, thought it would be too much trouble to do it properly and figured they could get away with doing it wrong. I'd lock them in a very quiet room with the Vaio going wwwwwWWWWWWooooOOOOOooooOOOooooo wwwwWWWOOOooooOOOOoooOOoooOOOOO00000OOOoooo and every once in a while, when they least expect it, yelling over a loud speaker, "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!!???"

    I wish I'd bought a Dell.

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