Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pretty Darn Good: Reaper

Hey, here's a new TV show that's actually worth checking out: Reaper. It's from Kevin Smith and stars Leland Palmer from "Twin Peaks" as the Devil. The show is about a slacker who finds out that his parents sold his soul to the Devil before he was born. Such an obvious premise; amazing no one has done this show before.

On the radio, Smith called it "derivative in all the right ways," which is true. There was DNA from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Ghostbusters, plus a Seth-Rogin-type character and a "Forty-Year-Old Virgin" workplace milieu. Plus, it's on the C-Dub!

Once again, I must emphasize: LELAND PALMER FROM TWIN PEAKS IS THE DEVIL in this show.

Ah, College Radio

Long day of scraping and priming on the east side of the house, during which I enjoyed listening to the eclectic musical offerings of our local college radio station, WERS, broadcasting from Emerson College.

Then came the half-hourly news break, when I was brought up-to-date on the military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in..."Miramar."

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hub on Wheels

Ideal day for this ~45 mile bike ride through the neighborhoods of Boston. Started at about 8:15 on a car-free Storrow Drive, finished four hours later. Met up with Loan Shark right fielder Karla G. at Arnold Arboretum; we rode together until Carson Beach.

I was on the Zipcar team; earned a free day of driving credit, then spun the mystery wheel at their booth on City Hall Plaza and won an additional free day in one of their BMWs. Plus other assorted swag, including a water bottle, T-shirt, face cleanser (?), space-age energy drink, and so forth. Whole thing a benefit for the Boston Digital Bridge Foundation.

Mayor Menino is promising better bike facilities in Boston, but we've heard that before.

Interactive map from Bikely:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bike Ride: Hub on Wheels Preview

Checked out the last segment of the Hub on Wheels ride scheduled for this Sunday. Looked at the segment starting at Cummins Highway in Mattapan, through Forest Hills Cemetery and Franklin Park, and then to Codman Square and down to the Neponset River Bike Path, which I'd ridden before.

Came home via Morrissey Blvd and finally stopped to check out the white Victorian tower on Fort Hill in Roxbury that I had seen from the Orange Line trains for years but had never seen up close. The tower is a water standpipe that stands at the site of one of the fortifications that were used during the Revolutionary War in the Siege of Boston, which ultimately lead to the departure of the British from Boston.

Distance: 24 miles. Interactive map:

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Bike Ride: Soldiers Field

A quick errand at Harvard today. Does this even count as a "bike ride?" Anyway, here it is.

Distance: 13.9 miles. Interactive map:

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bike Ride: Hemlock Gorge

Rode up to Newton today. After a stop at International Bicycle Centers to pick up a crank puller, checked out Hemlock Gorge, site of 130-year-old Echo Bridge, which supports an aqueduct that once carried the bulk of Boston's fresh water. More shopping stops on the way home at Home Depot and Village Market in Roslindale.

20.8 miles. Interactive map:

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Bike Ride: Great Blue Hill

After climbing up Washington Street to the summit of the Stony Brook Reservation, I zoomed down through the Reservation on the paved path, winding up eventually at Mother Brook. Circled through Dedham and then went over to the Blue Hills Reservation to climb Great Blue Hill (all of 635', but supposedly the highest point within 10 miles of the Atlantic Coast in the U.S. south of central Maine). Checked out the Blue Hill Weather Observatory (oldest in the U.S.) at the summit before heading back home.

20.7 miles. Interactive map:

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Mr. November

My alter-ego, Arby Trajj, is featured in the Billionaires for Bush 2008 calendar for the month of November.

Scraping By

The past few days I have been preparing the east side of our house for repainting. That means scraping. The process has turned out to be one of near constant economic calculation and forecasting.

Certainly the large flaps of loose paint must be removed, and they detach easily and float to the ground. Places where the paint film is still intact but has bubbled up must be lanced like a boil and scraped out, which is a bit more laborious but still clearly worthwhile because bubbly paint film is not a suitable substrate. In both cases, the investment of time and effort will undoubtedly pay off with a paint job that lasts much longer than it would if I didn't do this preparation.

But then there are the marginal areas. Draw a good tungsten scraper across a painted clapboard and some paint will come off. Does that mean that that paint definitely had to come off? Just because I can remove paint doesn't mean that I ought to. Before scraping this marginal paint, I must consider: To what extent does removing this marginal paint lengthen the life of the overall paint job, and by how much?

It's sort of like drilling for oil. At some point, it becomes uneconomic to continue lifting the oil out of a given well. There still might be oil down there, but the cost of lifting it outweighs the return. Obviously that point changes with the price of oil and the costs of production.

So what are the relevant factors in my case? The analog to the cost of oil is the economic value added to the house by having it freshly painted. Given our sideways housing market in Boston, this is probably pretty stable at the moment, but I don't know what the dollar figure would be. I guess I'd need before-and-after-paint-job appraisals. And anyway, I wouldn't be realizing this gain right away. I have no plans to sell the house now. So this factor would diminish over time, requiring some sort of depreciation calculation. On the other hand, I could possibly capture the enhanced value immediately by borrowing against the increased value of the home and investing the money elsewhere in search of a higher return.

The analog to oil production costs is the value I assign to my time. I guess this would be the amount I could get paid doing something else. With a bit of effort I would probably be able to wangle some sort of writing, editing, or graphic design work that would pay $X per hour, so $X per hour is the value of my time. I estimate I can move the scraper back and forth 500 times per hour, so each scrape-stroke costs $X/500 in foregone income.

For a given scrape-stroke, if the present value of the increased future cash flows due to enhanced exterior appearance and maintenance exceeds $X/500, I proceed with the scrape. If not, I move on. During scraping I am constantly calculating and re-calculating, deciding on a scrape-by-scrape basis whether or not to execute the scrape. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


I don't know the first thing about opera and I have no idea what Puccini's "Turandot" is even about, but they've been playing this aria on the radio all day and I really do like it. In the words of Nigel Tufnel speaking about the key of D sharp minor, "It makes me weep instantly."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Proposal to Restrict Names in Venezuela

For some reason the Venezuelan electoral ministry is proposing to limit first names of newborn children to a list of 100 government-approved names. From the New York Times:
Goodbye, Tutankamen del Sol.

So long, Hengelberth, Maolenin, Kerbert Krishnamerk, Githanjaly, Yornaichel, Nixon and Yurbiladyberth. The prolifically inventive world of Venezuelan baby names may be coming to an end.

If electoral officials here get their way, a bill introduced last week would prohibit Venezuelan parents from bestowing those names — and many, many others — on their children.

The measure would not be retroactive. But it would limit parents of newborns to a list of 100 names established by the government, with exemptions for Indians and foreigners, and it is already facing skepticism in the halls of the National Assembly...

Whimsical names can also be found in other Latin American countries. Honduras has first names like Ronald Reagan, Transfiguración and Compañía Holandesa (Dutch Company), according to the newspaper El Heraldo. In Panama, local news media this year reported name-change efforts by an Esthewoldo, a Kairovan and a Max Donald.

But Venezuela’s naming tradition rivals or exceeds that of its neighbors, many people here say. Some first names in Venezuela include Haynhect, Olmelibey, Yan Karll and Udemixon, according to a list compiled by the novelist Roberto Echeto...

Software searches of the voter registry find more than 60 people of voting age with the first name Hitler, including Hitler Adonys Rodríguez Crespo; eight Hochiminhs, among them Hochiminh Jesús Delgado Sierra; and six Eisenhowers, including Dwight Eisenhower Rojas Barboza.

Unusual names in Venezuela are often grist for awe or humor, but the issue is also politicized, given President Chávez’s gusto for renaming things, with critics of the bill claiming it would enhance his government’s naming authority in a realm where the fancy of parents still holds sway...

The authorities may yet bend to public will. Germán Yépez, an official with the National Electoral Council, said the measure originated after children were given names like Superman and Batman. Still, he said in comments broadcast on radio, he welcomed “this type of positive reaction and suggestions.”

I believe that Chávez is the subject of a lot of unjustified scaremongering from the U.S. foreign policy elite (including the New York Times) but this 100 names proposal is just loony.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bike Ride: Cutler Park

Halfway through last week's Boston Logistics and Industry Ride, I decided to see if I could follow the Charles River all the way around to West Roxbury. But I only got as far as Charles River Canoe and Kayak on Commonwealth Ave. in Newton before having to head straight back home.

Today I picked up a bit more Charles River shoreline, negotiating the surprisingly rugged glacial drumlins and then gliding over the marsh boardwalks of the DCR's Cutler Park in Needham and Dedham. After a quick zip through West Roxbury's Millennium Park, I didn't have enough time to fully explore the neighboring Brook Farm site, an 1840s Transcendentalist experiment in communal living that only (or maybe that should be "actually") lasted seven years, but I'll be back.

Interactive Map:

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Boat Trip: Georges and Spectacle Islands

Finally took the ferry ($12) out to the Boston Harbor Islands on a warm and dry Labor Day. Explored Fort Warren, a Civil War era star fort on Georges Island, sharing the parade ground with a swarm of ultimate-frisbee-playing Boston University freshman winding up their orientation week.

Then to Spectacle Island, a former Boston city dump newly capped with clay excavated during the Big Dig and now re-seeded with grass and trees. The artificially enhanced island is now the highest point in Boston Harbor. Here and there are vertical pipes topped with spinning wind vents. Stand in just the right place downwind from one of these vents, and the faint aroma of the garbage decaying below reaches your nose. But don't let that scare you off -- you have to stand in just the right spot, and really concentrate, to smell anything. The expansive 360 degree views of the harbor, shipping lanes, departing and arriving Logan traffic, birds, insects, and waving grasses makes Spectacle Island a fascinating place to visit.

Interactive map:

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Hike: Middlesex Fells Reservation

Made our first trip ever to Oak Grove, the northern terminus of our own Orange Line. From the station, Middlesex Fells Reservation is a half-mile walk up Washington Street -- and a left turn on Goodyear (named for Woburn native and tire-vulcanizer Charles Goodyear).

Views to the south and southeast from White Rock, on the Circuit Rock Trail.

Interactive Map:

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bike Ride: Wollaston Beach

Distance: 21 miles. Interactive Map:

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UPDATE: In response to Eve's Apple's comment about getting thirsty at Wollaston Beach: The DCR is renovating the beachfront with new sidewalks, stairs, and pavilions, but so far there is still an appalling lack of drinking fountains ("bubblers" in local parlance). Not sure what's going on here -- all of the other DCR land I've biked through lately has had ample drinking water. Like Eve's, I ended up having to pay to quaff, buying bottled water from a vending machine at a restaurant.
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