Archive for December, 2003

Rural states

December 28, 2003

I spent Christmas in Meridian, Mississippi, which is a city of 40,000 people surrounded by countryside for 60 miles in every direction. My brother and I talked a bit about how rural Mississippi is, which made me wonder whether it was the most rural state.

So I pulled out my 2004 World Almanac when I got home, and looked up the largest city in each American state. Here are the states with the smallest largest cities:



A Little Bit of Union Carbide

December 27, 2003

(The below was written in 1972, 12 years before the Bhopal disaster that it unintentionally and eerily prefigures.)

When ecology first crept into the scene, industry seized it as an advertising opportunity; not a filter was bought that the buyer didn’t take an ad about cleaning up the rivers and waters. In fact, at one point someone figured out that more was spent drumbeating about cleanup than on the equipment. Industry began to sense that the public belief that more was better was beginning to fall away. Union Carbide dropped its slogan, There’s a Little Bit of Union Carbide in Everybody’s Home. They wanted you to think of the plastics and the sandwich bags, and instead a Little Bit of Union Carbide meant: the wind’s shifted, here it comes again, shut the doors, close the windows, you know what it cost to have the curtains cleaned last time.

— “Adam Smith” [George J. W. Goodman], Supermoney, pg. 258

Two brief thoughts

December 18, 2003

One test of a friendship or a love affair: All other things being equal, are you happier because you know and see the person? More importantly, is he or she happier for knowing and seeing you?

The difference between infatuation and love: If you’re infatuated, you’re thinking about yourself; if you’re in love, you’re thinking about her.

Drunken abstracting

December 17, 2003

According to one of my library school professors, doctoral candidates could make money back in the day by writing article abstracts for the article-abstract databases that libraries subscribe to. She told us that students would often write these abstracts while hung over on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

I think I’ve found an example of one of these.


On productive political discussion

December 16, 2003

The signal-to-noise ratio of political blogs and Usenet political newsgroups would soar if their participants would remember this simple point:

The world is full to the gills with stupid people who say awful things on the Internet. Pointing this out doesn’t constitute a political argument.

One of the downsides of the multitude of social cliques that David Brooks enthuses about is that (as Brooks himself notes) we need know nothing about the people in the cliques we don’t belong to.

We make this problem even worse if, when we do choose to engage the people and ideas of another clique, we engage the worst people and the nonsensical arguments of that clique rather than its best people and its compelling arguments.

I speak from sad experience when I say: Self-respect gained so cheaply is worth little.

Cover songs

December 11, 2003

Cover songs can be fun, which is probably why everyone has been writing about them lately.

Three kinds of covers stand out for me:

Covers that re-make. Gifted musicians can take a song with a good basic structure and translate it seamlessly into a different style. Stevie Wonder’s version of the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” is a good example. Barely a trace of Paul McCartney remains after Wonder finishes with his song — it’s 99.9% Wonderized Motown, and better than the original. Sadly, these successes are rare.


Send a soldier to a bowl game

December 11, 2003

The University of Houston football team will play in the Hawai’i Bowl on Christmas Day, but few Cougar fans will make the trip.

As a result, the UH athletic department (apparently taking an idea from CoogFans) is allowing people to buy tickets to the game for soldiers and sailors on duty in Hawai’i.

I bought a ticket today. I hope you’ll buy one as well.

And kudos to UH AD Dave Maggard — this promotion is typical of the smart, agile leadership he is providing to Cougar athletics.
[Link courtesy of Kevin Whited.]

Tuesday afternoon at MFAH

December 9, 2003

Took the day off work to finally see The Heroic Century, the MOMA traveling exhibit which will be at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston through January 4.

Highlights for me were the two Seurats, Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night”, Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”, and Mondrian’s “Composition in White, Black, and Red”. Also memorable were Henri Rousseau’s “The Dream” and Otto Dix’s “Dr. Mayer-Hermann”.

My biggest disappointment was that there were not more Mondrian paintings in the exhibit (though you could argue that if you’ve seen one of his later paintings…).

Bottom line: If you enjoy 20th century art and live within driving distance of Houston, you will want to see this exhibit.

The New Main Street

December 7, 2003

After work yesterday, I walked down the new light rail line on Main Street from the UHD campus to Midtown. The difference between Main Street now and what it was three years ago is astonishing: The rail line and the stations, of course, but also the new sidewalks and pavement, the façade rehabs, and the new Marriott, not to mention all of the construction projects that have yet to be completed.

Main Street has become a considerably more attractive area than it was before, and will be even better when the work has been finished in a couple of years. Kevin Whited doesn’t like the overhead power lines (among many other things about the rail project), but I barely noticed them.

While I was walking down Main Street, I noticed crews putting up banners on the light poles announcing “The New Main Street”. I wish the city would do the right thing and invite The New Main Street Singers to play at the gala dedication, but that’s probably too much to hope for.