The Laboratorium
August 2005

Royal Page


Noted with sad amusement: In the week that I’ve had my new cordless phone, I’ve had to use the “page” feature twice to find where I put the darn handset.

Supershirt


As far as I’m concerned, the greatest development ever in post-space-age fabrics may be the 95%/5% cotton/spandex blend. It feels a lot like cotton, only more comfortably stretchy and cooler. Good stuff, and it makes for a very comfortable undershirt.

My stepfather and I discovered one particularly nice instantiation of the cotton/spandex undershirt a year or two ago and started buying them regularly. Now that I’m working an office job and need more T-shirts that can go under a dress shirt, I decided it was a good time to go looking for more of them. The hunt was strangely difficult. (I tried on a similar blend from another maker, but the fit was awful—it was a bodybuilder shirt, cut large in the torso to accomodate rippling pecs and slender below to show off washboard abs. It was also made for someone six-foot-six, despite being a “medium.”)

Some futher hunting turned up a few of them in a sale bin at about half price. Of course, we snapped them up immediately. A friendly salesman told us that there were no more in stock, but he helpfully went into the computer system and found for us all the extant shirts of that make in every store in the department chain. They were all at the same absurdly deep 70% discount.

Our best guess is that the line is being discontinued and the department stores are pushing the remaining inventory out the door. We’re going to call up a few more stores to snap up bargain-priced shirts if that really is the case, because we might not ever get another shot at more. From then on out, we’d need to ration the shirts.

We could wind up like Elaine. Is today shirt-worthy?

Old Computer Smell


I pulled my computer from college out of the basement. Computers were bigger in those days; it’s larger than my stove.

When I plugged it in and fired it up, I was a bit surprised to discover that the air being blown out by the fan smelled like … a Nalgene bottle.

Urban Shoutfitters


Leaving aside the courthouse itself and the restaurants and bail bondsmen caught up in its gravitational field, the main two industries near where I work appear to be parking lots and shouting.

Well Thank You, New Yorker


I just read Umberto Eco’s new novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, and boy am I ticked at the editors of The New Yorker. “The Gorge,” which they published as a short story in March, turned out to be an excerpt from the book.

That by itself would have been fine; this is how they do things there. Everything is Illuminated had maybe the first third of one of its two narrative threads turned into a New Yorker story and that worked pretty well, to the point of getting me to read the book. I think they ran two separate excerpts from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but they were both stories-within-the-story and stood reasonably well on their own without giving even mild hints about the rest of the book.

But did they do that here? Nooooo, they had to go and ruin maybe half the suspense of the novel. The plot of The Mysterious Flame involves an amnesiac trying to remember his past, especially his childhood. About a hundred pages into the book, I started thinking that hey, that town sounds familiar. But once I realized that, I also realized that I already knew what the big secret in Yambo’s past was, because it had been quite nicely presented to me in the pages of The New Yorker.

Thanks a whole lot.

Talk About Your Nightmares


Last night, I dreamed that I had to hand in three law school final papers in four days—and had to accompany each with a pile of my packed moving boxes.

Generation Shift


Been doing some computer tinkering with my remaining bits of summer vacation. (I don’t expect to get the kind of substantial chunk of free time that some of this stuff takes again for a while.) It’s been a while since I’ve been through this kind of process, and I’ve been struck by how a few things have changed in the last few years.

  • A number of consumer broadband providers are now openly advertising fiber to the home. I myself can’t get it, but it is cheering to see it finally being rolled out.
  • Although I still deeply love the technology itself, computer stores are becoming increasingly unpleasant places to shop. I suppose the downside of the commoditization of computer and network technologies is that a lot of this stuff is now sold like other commodities. Or perhaps the tech sector seems to be experiencing in some ways the opposite of the trend I associate with my typical retail experience, which has been getting generally better over the last few years.
  • My DSL provider now bundles a wireless router with the DSL modem. In fact, it’s a kickass 802.11g router, with a beautiful web administration interface and what looks like a well-designed set of firewall features. (Network-attached, web-administered devices are doing well in general. I’m starting to see what look like realistic network-attached storage boxes for the unsophisticated home user.)
  • The Windows 95/98/Me line has basically become unusuable tech. It’s not just that the alternatives have better resistance to malware in the first place. It’s also that once you have a problem of any sort with your system, it’s a lot easier to start fixing things from the Archimedean fixed point that more industrial-strength operating systems provide.
  • Some of the deals out there are just shocking. Aislinn thinks that it’s a sign that the vendors are trying to unload inventory before the bottom drops out of particular hardware categories. That makes sense for some of the wireless tech (see above), but I thought that hard drive prices were already cutting into the bone. Apparently not.
  • These low prices are dangerous. Stop me before I splurge again.
  • Computers got really easy to open up and fiddle with right about the time when the various high-speed local bus and network technologies started providing good noninvasive options for most common tasks.
  • Screen tech is amazing. Drool. I’m holding off buying a new monitor for as long as possible, because the price and size trends have both been relentless.
  • I went the fancy-pants phone route. Stay tuned for new entries in my ongoing series of photos of buggy LED signs on public transportation.

Contact Killing


Your attention, please.

Any contact information you have for me is incorrect. My phone number, cell phone number, postal address, email address, and home page URL have changed. You should mark your address books accordingly.

My new home page, such as it is, is at james.grimmelmann.net (although the blog will remain here at laboratorium.net). My email address is james >>at<< grimmelmann >>dot<< net. I hope for these to remain the same for quite some time.

Compare and Contrast


The difference between TRUCK RENTAL COMPANY A and TRUCK RENTAL COMPANY B is that when TRUCK RENTAL COMPANY B screws up your reservation and doesn’t have a truck, they’re apologetic and courteous about it.

Even Loster Maxims of Equity


(With thanks to Eugene Volokh. Or should that be “with apologies?”)

  • Equity abideth.
  • Equity abhors a vacuum.
  • Equity is as equity does.
  • Equity has a long memory.
  • Equity knows something you don’t.
  • Equity is going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.
  • Those who cannot remember equity are doomed to repeat it.
  • Someday, and that day may never come, equity will call upon you to do a favor for it.