Thursday, August 30, 2007

Photos from Indiana

My wife Jen has a fellowship from the Eli Lilly corporation to help get her Master's degree, so she's been spending a lot of time in Indianapolis lately. I've been out there myself three times. It's pretty bland, but I got the impression that for some, that's a selling point.

Anyway, back in June I took some photos around Indiana. They have a very nice public circle in downtown Indy around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.Here is another view.Some police horses were taking a drink at one of the fountains.If you head south from Indianapolis the scenery gets a little more interesting, with some hills and trees instead of just flat farmland. This is a field in the hamlet of Pikes Peak, supposedly named because its founding family was heading west to Colorado, got tired, and just decided to stop in Indiana.This is a shot of about half of the town of Story.This is at the appropriately-named crossroads of Stone Head. Douglas Wissing's Scenic Driving Indiana says the marker was carved in lieu of paying a road tax.I have some more photos of Indiana taken last year, too (actually, a lot more, and they're more interesting photos, too), which I'll label and narrate later.


I'm glad I stayed up late... that was the first thunderstorm I'd experienced all year. It passed by fairly distant, but I could hear thunder and we got about 10 minutes of rain.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The new fad: Lifecasting!

Hey, it's just like reality TV, except there's just one person, they aren't given anything interesting to do, it's all captured in an annoying POV shot, and they don't have the boring 98% of the hours edited out! Also, apparently, it forces you to wear a stupid-looking hat.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Today's Hero: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

The whole Michael Vick dogfighting affair is pretty sickening any way you look at it, but today NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely without pay and wrote him a letter that included this nice quote:
"I hope that you will be able to learn from this difficult experience and emerge from it better prepared to act responsibly and to make the kinds of choices that are expected of a conscientious and law abiding citizen."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I'm not dead

Hey folks, I know, I haven't updated the site in more than a week, and now I'm going up to the Bay Area for a week, so I probably won't have anything more to add until late next week. Jen came home last week from Indiana, so I've been jostled out of the comfortable [UPDATE (see comments): also lonely and boring!] sitting- at- home- and- blogging lifestyle I'd been living all summer. Anyway, I'm still here and will probably put some more stuff up late next week.

Coming soon: Book reports! Here's what I've been reading since May:
So that's what I'll probably write about when I get back. I also intend to start on Marc Levinson's The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger when I finish A Brief History of Time.

For now, I'll just say that all of these books have been pretty fascinating.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Photos from Chicago

On my trip to visit Jen in Indianapolis back in June, we drove up to Chicago for the weekend, our first visit there. It was a real blast. Chicago is a genuine big city, with a downtown where the are like canyons between skyscrapers, some great public spaces along the lakeshore, ethnic neighborhoods, traffic, expensive parking, etc. You can see the complete set of photos here.
Some of the best views of the city are from the bridges crossing the Chicago River, which, weirdly enough, has been engineered to flow backwards from its natural direction. I thought it was interesting how downtown, just about every street that approached the river had a bridge across it, instead of only every half mile or so, which would be more typical.

We didn't take the famous architectural tour up the river, but we did admire a lot of the buildings downtown. This is the Chicago Tribune building:We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, which opened up a few years ago in what was once the Carbide and Carbon Building (on the right), a cool old 37-story office building that had been redone into a fairly swank hotel.Employees' name tags also listed their favorite recording artist, so the valet staff had Tego Calderon and The Game, the doorman had The Mars Volta, and the front desk guy represented for David Bowie. We were on the Elton John floor, where the hallway had one of Sir Elton's jackets and a big photo of him. Our room had a snakeskin chair (dunno if it was real), a comfy bed, a lot of mirrors, a complimentary copy of Rolling Stone, a picture of Gene Simmons on the wall, and a picture of John and Yoko in the bathroom. One floor had "the object" (actually, #803 of 1000) from the cover of Led Zeppelin's PRESENCE on display.

You know those scenes in The Blues Brothers where their hotel room is right up against the El? I had never fully appreciated that until walking underneath the El and hearing it... my God, that's the loudest thing on earth.

Sunday in Chicago we went to Navy Pier, which was touristy, but had good views of the city, especially from the Ferris Wheel. There was also an entertaining mirror maze/funhouse thing called "Amazing Chicago" that was fun. We also drove along Lake Shore Drive and past Wrigley Field, where a game was starting, and I resisted the urge to tell the Cubs fans what idiots they were.I already wrote about the food we ate a while ago here, so I present to you Mr. Beef and his "elegant dining room."
Monday we walked down to the Art Institute, which is humongous, and loaded with famous and wonderful paintings.On our way back we checked out "The Bean," A.K.A. the "Cloud Gate" sculpture at Millennium Park, which is really neat.If you check out the more close-up photos in the web album, you can play "Where's Waldo" trying to figure out where Jen's and my reflections are in each photo.

That was pretty much it; we only spent two nights in town. We deliberately only saw a few of the things we wanted to see, since we knew we'd be back sometime next year.

A note on photos

I've added photos from a lot of travel I've done over the last couple of years on my Picasa Web Albums site, including an exciting trip that involved a flight to Puerto Rico and a drive all the way back to California from Miami, though I haven't labeled those ones yet. I also plan to write up narratives for the trips similar to the one below on Cincinnati that show some of the highlights.

You may notice that there aren't very many people in my photos. Reason #1 is that usually I'm taking pictures of the scenery. Reason #2 is that on some of the trips, I'm by myself. Reason #3 is that even when I have taken pictures of people, I've removed a lot of photos of people when the people don't necessarily look their best or may be sensitive about appearing in public photos. If you see any pictures of you in the albums that you'd like taken down, please let me know.

Also, interspersed among the photos are a few short videos I took with my camera that are really low-resolution but might serve to better illustrate some areas. When you're looking at the thumbnails of the photos on Picasa Web Albums, the only difference you'll see for the video thumbnails is a little rectangle in the lower-left corner. So just note that the videos are kinda hard to pick out from the photos.

Political Affiliation and Opinions on the Designated Hitter Rule

David Pinto links to a paper studying the relationship between political affiliation and opinion of the designated hitter rule in Major League Baseball. It's an interesting paper, and the reasoning behind the findings (Democrats favor the DH more than Republicans do) seems sound.

But I think a big failing of the study is in its weak modeling of the effect of a fan's support of a particular team. The only data the researchers had available was the state of residency of each respondent. Dummy variables were then applied based on whether or not the respondent lived in a state with an NL or AL team. Unfortunately, that means that residents of California, Texas, Illinois, Missouri, Florida, Ohio, and New York* were assigned both dummy variables and we don't have anything more detailed on whether someone from Illinois is, say, a Cubs fan or a White Sox fan (much less a Cards fan, etc.)

Similarly, all of California is lumped into one catch-all category, so we can't see how the difference plays out between the NL Dodger fans from more liberal Los Angeles and the AL Angel fans from more conservative Orange County (or, for that matter, Padre fans from conservative San Diego).

Obviously, you can only work with the data you have, but even if all you know of a respondent is the state they live in, you can get a more thorough understanding of the relationship between that geography and fandom at this Common Census map of the results of a survey on geography and team affiliation. Based on this map, I would say that one could safely assign all of New England to the American League (due to the Red Sox and, to a lesser extent, the Yankees), and a wide swath of the South from Mississippi to the Carolinas can safely be considered Atlanta Braves territory.

Be careful not to make too much of the fact that the Yankees dominate most of New York State's area and that Illinois appears to be split between two National League teams, the Cubs and the Cardinals. The Mets and White Sox may only dominate very small areas, but the areas where they are popular are densely populated and thus their fans form a much more significant fraction of the overall fanbase within their home state than would appear just from looking at the colors on the map. Also note that the two teams that have the most number of "expatriate" fans away from their home city are both in the AL, the Yankees and Red Sox.

Incidentally, I'm a Democrat, a fan of a National League team (the Dodgers, of course), and am opposed to the Designated Hitter rule.

*The researchers don't mention Texas, but I assume this was an oversight in the writeup. Not coincidentally, these seven states with both AL and NL teams all have large populations, together accounting for 42.3% of the country's total.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Cincinnati Photos

I've now uploaded and captioned the photos from Jen's and my trip to Cincinnati a couple weeks ago. (CORRECTION: Initially I forgot to include the direct link.)

Through the magic of Priceline we managed to stay at the Hilton Netherlander Plaza downtown for just $77 a night. This hotel is an art deco classic from 1931 full of really cool decorative features. It's a National Historic Landmark, and the mixed-use "City within a city" hotel-office-shopping building was apparently an inspiration for Rockefeller Center, which opened a few years later.

We got 2-day passes to Kings Island amusement park, which was a lot of fun. I didn't take along my camera, though, since it would get in the way, although you can find a bunch of photos of the rides and details here at the rcdb. Saturday was a lot more crowded than Sunday; in retrospect a better option would probably have been to just get a one-day pass for Sunday and spend the whole day there then. Anyway, they have a bunch of great rollercoasters and other rides. I like the way The Beast, still the longest wooden coaster in the world since opening in 1979, goes way out into the woods, really enhancing the feeling of being on a runaway train.

Jen was born in Cincinnati (while Jerry Springer was a city councilman) and we were able to find the hospital where she was born and take a picture.
We also ate Skyline Chili, which is definitely different from regular chili, but which we liked.
Looking on the Skyline Chili website, there are apparently 84 (!) locations in the Greater Cincinnati area, and just a handful outside of it. Plus there are some other Cincinnati-style chili restaurants. This seems to be a great example of an extreme regionalism. On a sports talk radio show I heard, they were discussing how people would feel about Barry Bonds if he were on the Reds or were otherwise a local Cincinnatian, and at one point the host said, "Yeah, I mean, if he grew up eating Price Hill Chili, it'd be a different story." Eating their odd chili is thus essentially a shorthand for being a true Cincinnatian. Man, now I'm hungry for chili.

I also located the J & H Productions house at 3562 Vista Avenue and took a photo. What is J & H Productions? It is wondrous thing couched in mystery, but the best account of it can be found here. Listen to the mp3s for a delightful treat. "My shows will be the dynamic shows ever being gave."We had fun in the Queen City. It's about the same size as Indianapolis, but it's a bit grittier and has more character. The hills and views of the river help, too.

Picasa Web Albums

Yahoo Photos is vanishing sometime next month. For now, at least, I've decided not to get a paid Flickr account and instead try Google's Picasa Web Albums (for free) instead. I'm in the process of uploading a bunch of photos to it for public viewing. Here is my public photo site. Hat tip to my sister Dorothy for using this service first so I could see it.

The only thing so far that kinda irks me is that I already save my photos on my hard drive with filenames that give a brief description (and sequence order) of the photo in question, but the PWA interface doesn't seem to display the photo's filename anywhere except if you try to download the photo yourself. I can be more descriptive in the captions section, but it's a pain to have to essentially label each photo twice. You also can't even copy and paste captions from one photo to another, which seems like it would be an easy fix. (UPDATE: I think I was wrong. You can copy and paste.) Displaying the filename prominently would save me the hassle of captioning every single photo.

What I do like about PWA is that with the downloadable Picasa application, it's very easy to upload a whole bunch of photos. It also seems to be pretty smart about when to make a new album and what to title it and when to add to an existing album and such. So far bandwidth and storage space have not become an issue, though I think if I uploaded all of my photos I'd have to spring for the first upgrade of storage space. What would be extra keen would be if I could have multiple folder levels rather than just isolated albums. Overall, though, I like this site, though I would like to see a few improvements.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Gotta Love Them Italian Politicians

James Taranto directs us to this story of an Italian member of Parliament who was caught with two prostitutes and a lot of cocaine. His Marion Barry-worthy response:
"So politicians in the UDC do not make love? Of course, I recognize Christian values. But what has that got to do with going with a prostitute? It is a personal matter. This affair has nothing to do with family values. I cannot be branded a bad father and a bad husband simply because after five or six days away from home, an occasion presented itself."