Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Bizarre Graham Greene

I'm currently reading the Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene. So far so good. I picked this one up after reading Our Man in Havana which rivals Catch 22 for the title of best surreal spy novel (an admittedly narrow category).

I was reading up on Graham Greene online and came across a great NYTimes review of his biography. What a strange man. Here are some choice quotes.

Much of Volume 1 was given over to [Greene's] pursuit of a suitable wife, and when the young Greene had settled on Vivien Dayrell-Browning he wrote her 2,000 letters before finally persuading her to marry him. But not long after his wedding he resumed frequenting prostitutes.

Aware that he led a hidden life, Greene developed a habit of evasion, an almost pathological inability to come clean. His secretiveness led him at times to keep a parallel diary, in which he might chronicle two versions of his day, one rather sober and preoccupied, the other perhaps detailing a frolic with a prostitute. Betrayal was one of Greene's obsessive subjects.

Finally, this last quote is Greene's and seems to be depressingly accurate.
At the end of what is called 'the sexual life' the only love which has lasted is the love that has accepted everything, every disappointment, every failure and every betrayal, which has accepted even the sad fact that in the end there is no desire so deep as the simple desire for companionship.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Using Hostages to Rob

$39mm was stolen from Northern Bank in Northern Ireland by a team of organized robbers. They defeated the security on the main vault by taking the families of two (they had to get two because no one person knew all the relevant codes) bank officials hostage and then demanding bank access as ransom.

That's a pretty daring, well-planned robbery.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Single-serving coffee can heats itself

Wolfgang Puck, a famous chef, is going to help sell a single-serving coffee that heats itself. It will be available at grocery stores for $2.25 per latte. That's cheaper than Starbucks, and more convenient. If it tastes good, it could be a huge seller. I know I often want something better than the normal office coffee but I don't like paying Starbucks prices or making the trip (which is really pathetic since there's a Starbucks in my building).

Smart Government

Most of the DC Metro's Board members don't ride public transportation. One of them claims that she can't because she has to keep a tight schedule. Nice.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Proof that Targeted Marketing Has Room to Improve

Email received yesterday from Ticketmaster:

Hello Nicholas,
Welcome to your weekly ticketAlert! We've found popular events in your area that you may be interested in. Below is also a calendar that tells you what's happening now.

Don't miss Yanni!!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Airplane Flight Maps

Who decides which cities to display on airline flight maps? You know the maps that show your departure city, the little image of a plane, the arrival city, and then all sorts of useless information like the distance remaining in meters. There are always 3-5 other cities shown on the map and I can't understand how they determine which ones make the cut. Usually, the group will be something like: New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Toledo. Why did Toledo make the cut? Shouldn't they at least put one of the other (larger) Ohio cities up there? I don't get it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

When the Politically Correct Turn on Themselves

Too funny

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

How to Find Your Optimal Spouse, Mathematically Speaking

"You have to choose your life mate. The rules we adopt for this model are that you will be presented 100 choices one after another, you may date them, sleep with them, whatever. But, at the end, you must say yea or nay and if you say nay, you will never see them again."
What strategy should you adopt?

You can prove mathematically that the best strategy is to look at (approximately) the first 36.787944117144235 people (rounding it to, say, 37 people) and then you should choose the first person from that point on that is 'better' then the previous 37 people. This increases the odds of your finding the best match from 1% to about 37%- roughly a 37 times improvement.

Or, in another variation of the model ("twelve bonk rule"), there's a result that says that if you simply want to ensure that your choice is better than 90% of the other choices available, simply 'sample' the first 12 possibilities and pick the first person who is better after the first 12. This strategy gives you a 77% possibility of success.

There are glaring flaws with applying this in real life but it's interesting to consider. Read more on Slashdot.

Update: Due to the recent volume of comments that I have received, I want to emphasize that I am not espousing this theory as a relationship management tool. In fact, it's not even specifically a dating formula; it's a generic formula for making an optimal choice when presented with a number of consecutive options. But it is funnier to apply it to dating.

Two solid posts on Social Security



Baby Steps towards Eugenics

Couples have an increasing amount of control over the number and attributes of their children. Advances in science and technology have created these options which, since the pace of change has been fairly slow, the public has overlooked. Taken cumulatively, these changes are starting to comprise a much larger shift towards allowing parents total control over their offspring's characteristics. Consider that forty years ago, couples had little ability to control the timing or number of children. Now, couples are able to screen for genetic defects (and abort if they choose) and choose the sex of their child. I don't doubt that in a few more years, further choice will be possible but will it be advisable?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Freakishly Cool

Check out these images.

"This model shows what a man's body would look like if each part grew in proportion to the area of the cortex of the brain concerned with its sensory perception."

Cool Gadgets that Won't Stay on My Ear

I got a new phone, the Nokia 6230. It has a lot of cool features including an FM radio and an MP3 player. The coolest feature should be Bluetooth which allows for wireless headsets. I bought a headset that is super small, light, and the sound quality is good. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble keeping it on my ear. It's funny that a device with such advanced technology would be limited by simple ergonomic design (as all the current headsets on the market are). It's also funny that I'm complaining about a gadget's ability to stay on my ear.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Note to Self: Short in 3 Years

Cereality is a restaurant that serves cereal. Sure to be a success before it is a failure.

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