Friday, December 30, 2005

Stupid French

The Mona Lisa is perhaps the most famous painting in the world. It is truly a global treasure. So you would think it would be displayed such that the millions of people who come to see it can appreciate all the subtle details in this masterpiece. Nope.

I was in Paris last week and saw the painting. They've changed the display since I saw it last year; it's now behind a giant sheet of glass. That's good thinking, because you want to make sure it's protected. The problem is that the glass is very reflective. In a brightly lit room. On the opposite wall is one of those giant mural paintings, maybe 15 feet by 20 feet. So when you're looking at the Mona Lisa, the mural is superimposed on all the dark areas of her clothing. Here's a simulation:

Dim the lights in the room. Put a black panel opposite the display case. Whatever. Just do SOMETHING to improve the display. How can a world class museum such as the Louvre screw this up so badly?

Stupid French.


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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Five things that may surprise you about the way I fly

1. I prefer not to arrive early to airport
If I have time to kill in the airport, I will obsess over buying snacks, newspapers, and magazines to keep me occupied during the flight. I'm really OK getting to the airport 1 hour or even 45 minutes before the flight.

2. I feel safest under 5,000 feet
Take-off and landing are by far the most dangerous parts of a flight. Yet that's when I feel safest. My feeling is that's when the pilots are (or should be) paying most attention to safety. Also, if there is some sort of a problem with the plane, I prefer to be close to an airport rather than 500 miles out to sea.

3. Babies don't bother me
I don't care in the slightest if the baby behind me is wailing is widdle head off the entire flight. If I can hear him, that means we haven't crashed. If nothing else, it's a distraction from being 38,000 feet in the air.

4. I read
In-flight movie screens often flicker or the audio will keep dropping out. I often prefer to read a book. Again, it's a distraction.

5. I eat most of the meal
All of the flavors are touching eachother and it's often too spicy, but at least eating the meal is something to do.


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Sunday, December 18, 2005

It's a Wonderful Life (if you're rich)

Poor George Bailey needed $8,000 or he was going to jail. All the townspeople broke open their piggy banks to help him out. Awwww, how sweet. But what else happens in that scene? Sam Wainwright sends a telegram authorizing up to $25,000 to be wired to George. So basically none of the efforts of the peasants really mattered.

The true moral of the film is "it's good to have rich friends".


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Tuesday, December 13, 2005


We have plates of candy in our lobby at work. Yesterday they held LifeSavers individually wrapped in clear plastic. All of the colors were jumbled together, so I started separating them. (Yes, that's what I do. Shut up.) Unbeknownst to me, Lisa was around the corner, heard the rustling, and yelled out "You're not sorting the candy by color are you?!" "NO!...yes."

It's scary that by simply hearing the wrappers, she knew who I was and what I was doing.


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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I'm Just a Bill, Yes I'm only a Bill, and I'm sitting here unpaid

I got another "Final Shut Off Notice for non-payment" from the power company last week. It was sent to me about a month ago; I opened it 2 days after the shut-off deadline. Fortunately I was able to pay the bill before they dispatched the guy with the wire cutters. Several well-intentioned people told me I should use Online Bill Pay, and then I wouldn't have these problems. Actually, I DO pay my bills electronically. The problem is the Online systems are still not idiot-proof enough for me.

There are two ways I can pay my bills electronically. First, I can go to the website for each credit card or power company, log-in, and make a payment. I've already signed up with all of them so they have my bank account number for payments. The problem is that you have to go to a different website for every bill.

The second method is to make payments through my bank. I can log into Wells Fargo, see the list of all the standard bills I have, and make payments one at a time. The problem with that system is the bank has no idea what my outstanding balances or minimum payments are. So I still need to log onto the other sites to check current balances.

Automatic payments won't work, because I'm only going to wind up withdrawing cash and then forget that the bank needs that money to make a pre-scheduled payment.

Here is the service I want, so if anyone knows of such a thing please let me know: I want to log into a single website. It will give me one page listing all of my current bills for the month. It will access all of my credit card accounts real-time and give me my CURRENT balances, minimum payments, and due dates. I should be able to click on any of the bills and make a payment.

This is what the page should look like:

All of my bills listed, with current outstanding balances, and buttons to pay in full, minimum payment, or other amount.

Do not underestimate how disorganized I am. This is the level of hand-holding I need.


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Sunday, December 04, 2005

O Tannenbaum

Obviously there is a difference between a generic "real" tree and an "artificial" tree. But I believe there's no such thing as a "fake Christmas tree". Any object decorated with the innocent love of a child becomes, by definition, a "real" Christmas tree because isn't that what the magic of Christmas is all about? (Well, besides the Jesus stuff.)


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