I know it's a little late for the holiday season, but maybe you didn't really want to give this as a gift anyway.
UPDATE: As pointed out over at Throwing Things, the media are surprisingly short on reportage about this potentially huge news, but here's some in-depth commentary on some of the issues that this discovery brings up.
What non-wackjob commentary there is mainly focuses on the fact that the drug is an old one that's already gone generic, and thus pharmaceutical companies have no profit motive to help fund research, and so the drug may never see its full potential, etc. Personally, I think there are enough excruciatingly wealthy people in the world who would prefer to not die of cancer that finding donors shouldn't be an insurmountable problem.
I suppose it's possible this is a good idea, but it's hard for me to decide when it has such a Mr. Burns air about it.
In case you saw me on the street this week and were wondering what I was wearing under that enormous ski jacket, here's the answer.
Day 47. One of those outfits that's more of a conceptual pairing on the pattern level, with colors that are complementary instead of matchy.
Day 48. Another shirt that was a gift from our beloved Erin, which I have up until now only ever worn over my bunny T-shirt. But I just realized that it goes with one of the ties that Rose bought me for Christmas.
Day 49. Kind of a boring shirt, really...I bought it on mega-clearance at the Gap, which is not one of my usual haunts. I think what happened is that there were shirts I liked better that didn't fit me, and so I ended up buying the one that fit me that I sorta liked. It's not bad, though, and I like the way the tie picks up the thin blue stripes in the shirt (which are a little hard to see in this picture).
Day 50. Hard to decide whether this or day 48 is my favorite combo of this batch. Shirt and tie are from two different visits to Daffy's over the past year or so, just put together this week. I like the way the whole outfit looks sort of luminescent.
Day 51. An old standby. There's a more recently acquired tie that I wear more frequently with this shirt nowadays, but this is the original pairing. And, more importantly, it was the one I could find when I was getting dressed.
As many of you know, I was on the team that ran the MIT Mystery Hunt this year. All the puzzles are now online, so this is an opportune moment for me to point you to puzzles I wrote or cowrote, and recommend some other puzzles that are well suited to home solo solving.
The Hunt this year had a sort of Faustian theme, except that Faust knew what he was doing, and we tricked teams into selling their souls to the devil by persuading them to "take the easy way" of finding the coin. Teams did indeed find the coin after solving five puzzles, but they didn't get to keep it -- the devil pocketed it and sent them on their way to learn more about being evil. In the course of learning how to be evil, teams eventually discover how to defeat the devil and regain their souls (and the coin, if they were the first ones to do it).
I wrote two puzzles from the main part of the hunt, both in round 8:
Both are pretty difficult. Recounting Former Glories is more time-consuming than punishingly hard, but the final "aha" in UN-Speakable thwarted most teams for quite some time. Overall Hunt winners Dr. Awkward cracked the puzzle in about an hour and forty-five minutes, but most teams that solved it took over eight hours to do so.
There were also seven "Sin Events", where teams were told to send some number of people to solve a live puzzle. Recaps of these are online, and the puzzle content of some is solvable at home. I cowrote two of these: Lust (my originally-rather-vague idea, refined in group discussion with the team, and cowritten with Dan Katz) and Wrath (Mark Gottlieb's idea; he came up with the puzzle structure and provided rough sketches of most of the cartoons, and I drew all the cartoons and designed six of them, adding some cheap gags in the process). The Wrath cartoons show up rather pixellated in their resized form on the web page, so you may prefer to view them as individual links (read the web page first, though):
Teams got notches on their "Evilometer" for completing sin rounds and solving rounds; once they were sufficiently evil, they were given the opportunity to enter Hell by solving a campus runaround. At the end of the runaround, they were given a packet of puzzles. It turned out to be completely impossible to derive a final answer from any of these puzzles, although some are "solvable". For some recreation of the full effect, I suggest working on each puzzle as long as you can before opening the link to Part Two (which teams earned for getting sufficient notches on the corresponding Sin Meter, achieved by solving puzzles associated with each sin). I wrote two of these:
Other puzzles from the Hunt that I recommend:
Clash of the Titans, a brilliant variation on Skyscraper puzzles
One, Two, Three, Shoot!, based on "Rock, Paper, Anything", a game some college friends and I invented a long time ago, which I introduced to the NPL at some point. Original write-up is here, after a set of suggestions for groups of three things that could defeat each other in a Rock, Paper, Scissors stylee.
The Case of Southeast Jerome's Trip to the End Zone, a reasonably straightforward, if challenging, logic puzzle
Thinking Outside the Box
Pyramid Scheme, a 3-D cryptic
The Usual Suspects
A Midterm Progress Report to the Enron Board of Directors, July 2000, which I actually don't have any recollection as to how easy or hard it is to solve, it's just funny.
Captain Red Herring's Buried Pirate Booty, a brand-new, very cool Minesweeper-like type of logic puzzle. Particularly highly recommended.
The Joy of Accountancy, a very cool Kakuro variation
Negative Ad Campaign, which takes a lot of prep work to solve, but is quite funny
Embezzler's Quest -- more comedy. This was a pretty funny hunt, I thought.
Hang 'Em High
Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
1 - 1 = 1
Feel free to poke around the archives as well -- you might be interested in different puzzles than I am, and there are a hell of a lot of puzzles in there (har har).
I just stumbled across a humor piece I wrote three years ago, sent to one or two places (where it failed to sell), and forgot about. Fortunately, it is, like almost all of my work, entirely lacking in topicality. Here it is.
LET'S TALK ABOUT MICS
by Francis Heaney
Francis Heaney: Hello, and welcome to “Let’s Talk About Mics.” I have with me tonight many of the finest rappers in hip-hop today--as well as some old favorites--to join me in a round table discussion about their relationship to that most important piece of stage equipment, the mic. Adrock, of the Beastie Boys?
Adrock: I use the microphone like Picasso used clay.
FH: That’s interesting, because clay was not really Picasso’s primary medium, although he was of course a master of it as well. What about you, MCA?
MCA: I rock on the mic from here to Bombay.
FH: Which is on the same continent as Tibet, I believe. Let’s hear from some other people.
Maestro Fresh Wes: I grab the mic just like a Magnum.
FH: I assume you mean the weapon, and not, like, a magnum of champagne. (laughs)
Maestro Fresh Wes: (no response)
FH: Okay! Does anyone else have a similarly violent reaction to the act of holding a mic?
Coolio: I blow up the spot everytime I grab the mic and hit it, hit it.
Cormega: When I recite I hold the mic like a nine.
FH: And a nine is...a gun?
Cormega: (no response)
FH: From context, I’m going to assume that’s a gun. Yes, Kool Moe Dee?
Kool Moe Dee: When I’m on the mic, it’s something like World War II.
FH: That sounds traumatic.
Kool Moe Dee: I get on the mic with tunnel vision.
FH: Well, if focusing helps you get through it, that’s great. Anyone else?
Lakim Shabazz: Call me an undertaker, I use my mic like a guillotine.
FH: Oh, I like that you’re not bound to the visual similarity of a microphone to a gun. That’s very creative.
Lakim Shabazz: (blushes)
Esham: (interrupting) Every time I grab the mic, I leave blood stains.
FH: That’s...sort of disturbing. Maybe you shouldn’t grab the mic so hard. What are some ways one could relate more gently to a mic?
Magic: I treat the mic like a blunt.
FH: For those of you who don’t know, a blunt is a large marijuana cigarette, almost more of a cigar. Definitely a peaceful, reflective vibe there.
Marky Mark: I smokes mics like a Phillie Blunt.
FH: See, that’s why we’re having this round table, so we can find out that we have these things in common.
Q Strange: I’m blessin’ the mic like it was sneezin’ and shit.
FH: Now that is a very positive method of interaction.
Buddah Bless: I melt the mic like it’s plastic.
FH: Okay. I guess that’s more passive than violent.
B Real: I hold my mic like my dick.
FH: Well, that doesn’t sound violent...but doesn’t that depend on how you hold your dick?
B Real: (no response)
FH: So, I expect this is an eye-opener for anyone who thinks that there’s no variety in rap music, because I’m hearing a lot of different approaches to the problem of rocking the mic.
Vanilla Ice: I rock the mic like a vandal.
FH: Oh! I didn’t know you were here. Thank you for your...um...input.
Vanilla Ice: I rock the mic like I’m a fanatic.
FH: I’m sure you do.
Sandy “Pepa” Denton: I rock the mic like Anita freak a love song.
FH: I assume you mean Anita Baker--
Ice-T: Every time I rock the mic I leave you wishin’ for more.
Parrish Smith: I rock the mic like a wild beast savage.
FH: Okay, but now we’re getting--
Kid Rock: I’m rockin’ up on the mic with no consideration.
Kenzie: When I rock the mic, I ride the mic raw.
Brother Marquis: I rock on the mic like no other on the mic.
FH: Yes, you’re all unique, but--
Kool Moe Dee: I’m the only real micaroni, playin’ the mic like it’s supposed to be played.
FH: Hey, let’s not belittle each other.
LL Cool J: I rock the mic, unlike some brothers I know.
MCA: When I’m on the mic, the suckers run.
FH: Please, please, everyone! You all rock the mic. Let’s try not to take this so seriously.
T-3: I’m the motherfucker gripping the mic like it’s a joke.
FH: You certainly are, T-3. Thank you. (pause) Good. Does anyone have anything they’d like to say before we go?
Big Daddy Kane: When I grab the mic, believe you’re gonna hear a fascinating rhyme.
FH: Well, now, that is refreshingly literal. I think that’s all the time we--
T-Bone: (quietly) When I grab the mic I start to panic.
FH: Oh, my God, T-Bone, I had no idea. Please, stick around after we’re done so we can talk some more. This has been “Let’s Talk About Mics.” Thank you for listening.
Someone asked me if I'd run out of outfits yet. Oh my goodness no.
Day 42. Old shirt, recent tie (bought on my last trip to the Garment District in Boston). From day 1 of the Mystery Hunt, taken in the bridge/hallway between buildings 12 and 24. Can I tell you how much I love it when two buildings are connected by a midair hallway? It's like the buildings like each other so much they have to hold hands.
Day 43. A combo I've had for a long time; tie is a Rooster. Would be better if the tie were a little darker, but oh well.
Day 44. It may have been only one day after looking in my closet and saying "That's it, no more shirts -- I have absolutely no room in here," that my friend Charles sent me an e-mail saying, "Hey, they're having a clearance sale at Filene's Basement, and I saw a lot of shirts that looked like your sort of thing." So I bought more shirts. I am weak. The tie is one I've had for a while; it's been biding its time.
Day 45. Another shirt from Filene's. It was honestly kind of expensive even on clearance, but it was too gorgeous not to buy. Also, it played on my recent weakness for corduroy.
Day 46. This outfit's been in rotation for a few years. My geekiness is betrayed my the fact that the tie always makes me think of the pins that Peter Davison wore on Doctor Who.
Lately I've been seeing a lot of newly tagged articles on Wikipedia being cited for a lack of neutrality, or a need for more research citations, or questions of notability (sigh). In this case, at least, I agree that they may have a point.
In case you didn't see it in the comments -- turns out that Grand Canyon story is more "truthy" than actually true.
(Thanks to Jon for the link.)
Lorinne alerted me to a particularly choice bit of "remember when people used to actually behave like the separation of church and state was a good idea?" craziness: apparently, if you're visiting the Grand Canyon, and ask, "So, how old is the Grand Canyon, anyway?", they're not allowed to tell you. Why? Because telling you would upset creationists who think the world is only a few thousand years old, and that the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood. On the bright side, the Noah's Ark walking tours apparently did a less-than-brisk business.
Rose, knowing my predilections as she does, points me to this fashion shoot featuring nothing but saucy librarians. Be shushed my beating heart.
There will be no tie updates this weekend. But I'll try to document my outfits while I'm at the Mystery Hunt, since there's a way-nonzero chance I'll be frequently crashing in my clothes in a sleeping bag in the corner of my team's headquarters at MIT all weekend, making my shirts less likely to be fit for reuse. Anyway, here are the outfits for the last three days:
Day 39. This is one of those street fair shirts. It shrank a little in the wash at some point, but not enough to render it unwearable.
Day 40. I'm honestly kind of amazed it took me this long to wear this outfit, since I feel like I wear it all the time. The tie is a Rooster, and a little atypical in that it's a bit wide for a square-bottom tie.
Day 41. Another outfit I've owned for probably a decade.
A rejected piece from the book of humor about dogs:
Grr because you shouldnt do a thing like that as act like you might walk into my yard with some pieces of mail God help us all if a stranger should come all dartingeyes and softankles I wouldnt have to look at them twice I know what people like that have on their mind wanting to do us dirt grr or wanting to take my bones and Ill grr by God get their greedy hands mangled make them bleed for their jealousy my nose is itching me always when I think of birds I feel I want to I feel a flame in me a slobbering hunger all through my head back belly and sides a murderous urge oh if theyd just shut up grr there they are again tweeeeeeet oh they gripe me remember the boy who walked by with a dog if you please oh youd think noone had ever bitten off a chihuahuas ear before and what if I tore a hole in his brand new trousers thats what you get keeping chocolate in your pocket grr I know well who is the fiercest dog in the universe better than the others howling down the alley they cant touch me so there ever since the day I got trained to kill on command grr but I held the biscuit on top of my nose grr that was 6 years ago my God and he said I was a growler of the mountain so we are all growlers all the pitbulls everywhere grr and I liked him because I saw he was unfriendly and would bite the world himself and I knew I could trust in his malice and he taught me to say grr and I wouldnt growl at first only barked out over the hedge and the fence I was angry at so many things he couldnt see or even smell but he taught me about the neighbor dogs barking in their yards with their thousands of fears grr and O I felt the deepdown anger O and the calm the calm that smolders like fire grr and I left the thin little yaps to the dogs in the pink and blue and yellow houses for I am a Growler of the mountain grr when I bury bones in my yard like a gravedigger would unless I broke his neck grr and how I stop you in your tracks at the gate as you think well I guess there are other houses as I tell you with my eyes to back away grr because he taught me grr to say grr my mountain growler and first I wrapped my teeth around his arm grr and pulled him down to me grr so he could feel my breath all dogfood grr and his pulse felt quick on my tongue and grr I said grr no you dont Grr.
This has been a crazy few weeks. I am suddenly bursting at the seams with stuff to do, and lacking sufficient threads of time with which to sew the seams back up. So let's see -- well, there's the Mystery Hunt this weekend, and while I wasn't nearly as involved with this Hunt as I was with the Matrix hunt, I still managed to find myself spending hours and hours and hours working on a bunch of different puzzles for it, which wouldn't have been a problem except that I'm also writing a puzzle book this month, Trivial Pursuit Crosswords, which will be out in the fall. This is a very very fast turnaround indeed, and so the manuscript needs to be done by the beginning of February. So, from the time I started working on it, that would be 50 crosswords in about 5 weeks.
And then I'm also contributing some short pieces to a collection of humor about dogs (which is slightly odd, given how much more of a cat person I am, but maybe they wanted an outsider viewpoint), about which more later, and I'm helping out with various things for my friend Tarl's new science fiction website, On the Premises. And these katamaris don't roll themselves up, you know. All of which is to say, I'm a little frazzled this month.
But I did take a break on Monday night to go see a press screening of my former Millionaire coworker Michael Nigro's documentary, American Cannibal, which I recommend to anyone who wishes to be horrified at reality TV's search for the lowest common denominator (and at the entertainment industry in general). Michael and his codirector Perry Grebin kind of lucked out, plot-development-wise -- what began as a documentary about a sitcom pilot turned into the story of the two writers behind it, who decide to give reality TV a shot. It's painfully fascinating to watch these two likeable, decent guys somehow end up working on an utterly skeevy, pretty-reprehensible-when-you-get-right-down-to-it Survivor variant. (Basically, it's Survivor without the food. Oh, and the contestants are told -- falsely -- that they'll have to eat human flesh if they don't want to starve.)
Watching the machinations of wealthy sleazeball producers is, naturally, entertaining, but what really makes the movie are the changes that the two writers undergo -- becoming steadily more hardened and cynical about reality TV, or slowly but surely buying into the culture completely. They say that the entertainment industry changes people; it's unsettling to watch it happen.
And then there's the plot point to which the whole film leads up (although I'm not giving much away by revealing it, because it's shown in the first couple minutes of the movie): one of the contestants on the reality show has a medical incident and collapses, seriously injuring herself in the process. She's quickly airlifted to a hospital, but the cast and crew of the show never get any details about her condition or her progress.
This brings us to the only part of the movie I objected to. At the end of the film, we're shown some clips in which the filmmakers ask various people about what happened to this contestant, and whether she's all right. No one knows. Some people seem to actively be giving them the runaround. Naturally this leaves the audience with the impression that something awful happened to the girl and it's being covered up. Now, the press kit includes an interview in which Michael says, "The girl...appeared to be badly injured and we looked into that further than is shown in the film. One of our producers spoke to her not long ago, and apparently she's okay." This leaves it unclear as to whether they didn't find out until the movie was completed whether or not she was okay, but still -- give us a caption or something about it.
Perry says, continuing from Michael's comment, "This question comes up a lot and although the movie is about the human cost of reality entertainment, it's not about a contestant or her injury and we're not interested in exploiting it." But it seems to me that having the last scenes of your documentary all be about the girl and trying -- and, in particular, failing -- to find out what happened to her makes the movie much more about the contestant's injury than it otherwise would be. It seems more exploitive (although, to be fair, still rather low on the exploitiveness scale) to play it for ambiguity than to say what happened. I still highly recommend the movie, though -- it's a remarkable example of the right filmmakers making a documentary about the right people at the right time.
Truer words were never writ:
I think I like the format of posting the tie pictures in an aggregate, wrapup-of-the-week sort of fashion. At least it consolidates my time-frittering. Anyway.
This week featured a lot of outfits I've worn many times over the years and thus don't have to think about except insofar as needing to find the damn tie on the damn hangers. Like day 33:
Day 34 features two new (used) items, both Missoni bought for cheap! The sweater I bought along with the sweater in day 28 (which I found because I was searching for Missoni things to link to when I wore my Missoni shirt), and the tie was spotted by Rose at the same thrift store where day 20's tie came from.
Here's day 35. I particularly like the way the X shapes in the tie echo the X shapes in the shirt.
Day 36. I guess this is, in a way, an example of how I disagree with the conventional wisdom that plaids and plaids can never go together.
Day's 37's tie is another one acquired from the Cargo giveaway table. The shirt was a recent purchase, from the same shopping trip that day 34's tie came from. I saw this pairing and thought, well, I'll have to save that outfit for the spring, when it gets a little warmer (since the shirt is short-sleeved) -- but then the temperature broke 70 degrees, so I figured, what the heck.
Day 38 is actually an outfit I think I'm retiring -- I've had it for probably over a decade now, and I still like it, but there's a sizeable rip in the back of the shirt, and the interfacing of the tie is ridiculously twisted. So I'm probably bidding this combination goodbye, but I wanted to make sure it got documented:
An update featuring the past few days' worth of ties is on the way, but until then, I realized that I'd meant to talk a little bit about one of the tie knots from the previous Tie Project entry. It's from day 29's outfit, but you can't see the knot very well in the picture I used, so here's a close-up from another shot:
The thing about this shirt is, the collar is incredibly huge, so my usual four-in-hand knot looks ridiculous with it. This knot is much fatter and more pronouncedly triangular. It's not any of the standard knots -- it's actually one I learned when I worked at Cargo, when someone wrote to the magazine asking how to make a fatter tie knot. The knot was devised by the magazine's fashion director, Bruce Pask, and I liked the fact that it was a slip knot. That is, it comes untied when you pull the tie off. (A Windsor knot has to be manually untied after you remove the tie.) So anyway, it's become the knot I use when I need a bigger knot for some reason. What's that you say? You'd like me to teach you how to tie it? Why I thought you'd never ask.
I'm not going to show you a series of photos indicating the various steps, because (a) I don't have the time and (b) I've never been able to follow those things anyway. What I will do is give you the notation for it, as explained in the article linked from this entry (which includes many interesting alternative knots, although not this one):
L(x) C(.) L(x) R(.) C(x) R(.) L(x) C(.) T
Let me know if any of you try it! (Leave yourself lots of tie in the front if you do.)
Amazon used to be a very convenient and useful website before it collapsed into an infinite loop.
As is probably obvious, I did not stop wearing ties over Christmas week. Here's a wrap-up of last week's outfits, after the jump.
First up is a "bonus track" for day 27. Lorinne noticed that the outfit had a sort of Garden State effect when I was sitting on my futon couch, so I asked her to document it for me:
Day 28 is a repeat outfit, but it got photographed again because I added a sweater, freshly bought from eBay:
Day 29 features two gifts -- the shirt was a Christmas gift from Rose, and the tie was found by my friend Charles (someone had left it as a giveaway in the hallway of his apartment building). It's not a perfect combo, but the highly saturated blues in the shirt are sort of underrepresented in my wardrobe, so this was the closest I could get. Still pretty happy with it:
I actually have a shirt that's a better match for this tie -- it's a homemade shirt that isn't quite finished. Basically, it needs buttons. And I started sewing the buttons on a few months ago, but then I discovered I had accidentally bought buttons that were too big for a standard buttonhole size. So the need to go get more buttons kind of slowed all that down. It'll get finished before too long.
Day 30 is one of my standbys:
I think the shirt and tie are from two different trips to Daffy's. I also have a sweater (which I knit myself!) which goes very well with this outfit:
Day 31 features another gift -- a gorgeous shirt from Erin. Here I'm wearing it with a tie I've owned since high school:
I have another tie which I like even better with the shirt, but I'm a little scared to wear it, because it's on its last legs...it was vintage when I bought it, and it's getting very, very frayed. But I'll definitely break it out at some point, probably for a party, so it can be seen live by as many people as possible before it disintegrates into its component molecules.
Day 32 was my New Year's party outfit. Here's the basic version:
And here it is with the vest:
Incidentally, I've also been archiving all these photos at Flickr (at Rose's suggestion). I think the thumbnails look pretty cool, all collected in one small space. Check it out here, if you are so inclined.
Rose and I have an irrational fondness for this meme. So, while passing through the East Broadway subway station on our way to eat at Happy Shabu Shabu, I was pleased to spot an opportunity for me to make my own contribution:
I think it makes a positive statement about how there are more socially acceptable ways to treat doodz than to kill them in their base.