Notes

Notes · · Decatur

Serena Joy

Serena Joy, what a stupid name. It’s like something you’d put on your hair, in the other time, the time before, to straighten it. Serena Joy, it would say on the bottle, with a woman’s head in cut-paper silhouette on a pink oval background with scalloped gold edges. With everything to choose from in the way of names, why did she pick that one? Serena Joy was never her real name, not even then. Her real name was Pam. I read that in a profile on her, in a news magazine, long after I’d first watched her singing while my mother slept in on Sunday mornings. By that time she was worthy of a profile: Time or Newsweek it was, it must have been. She wasn’t singing any more by then, she was making speeches. She was good at it. Her speeches were about the sanctity of the home, about how women should stay home. Serena Joy didn’t do this herself, she made speeches instead, but she presented this failure of hers as a sacrifice she was making for the good of all.

Around that time, someone tried to shoot her and missed; her secretary, who was standing right behind her, was killed instead. Someone else planted a bomb in her car but it went off too early. Though some people said she’d put the bomb in her own car, for sympathy. That’s how hot things were getting.

Luke and I would watch her sometimes on the late-night news. Bathrobes, nightcaps. We’d watch her sprayed hair and her hysteria, and the tears she could still produce at will, and the mascara blackening her cheeks. By that time she was wearing more makeup. We thought she was funny. Or Luke thought she was funny. I only pretended to think so. Really she was a little frightening. She was in earnest.

She doesn’t make speeches any more. She has become speechless. She stays in her home, but it doesn’t seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that she’s been taken at her word. 

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale

Notes · · Tucson

Groundhog Day

The owner of the market was cashiering and couldn't remember how to ring things up. He said, "This is my store, but every time I have to work the register it's like groundhog day."

People have really warmed up to this analogy. I hear it a lot anymore.

Notes · · Tucson

Compatibility Issues

A rainy day and riding my bike to work are two things I love but prefer to love not at the same time.

Notes · · Tucson

Prototypes & Abominations

You form a prototype in your mind, based on your first exposure, and anything that deviates from that is an abomination. — Leela Punyaratabandhu

She's talking about stir fry, but it's a thought applicable in many other contexts.

Notes · · Tucson

UA Science Lecture Series: Problem Solving with Algorithms

We attended the first lecture for this year's UA Science Lecture Series at Centennial Hall, Humans, Data and Machines.

Professor Stephen Kobourov humorously explained how algorithms, which have been around forever, are used in computers to solve problems such as: What are you drawing? Also, are the robots drunk? They sure walk like it.

Thanks to the algorithms used in machine learning, those robots will one day outgrow this awkward phase. By then they'll be self-aware, which is a kind of self-consciousness they'll prove to everyone by effortlessly passing a Turing test. Then they'll stride over to where we're sitting and exhibit frightening self-confidence as they knock our phones out of our hands and begin exacting revenge for laughing at them before.

When this happens, we may not know what it is they're thinking, but at least we'll know how.

Notes · · Tucson

Cost Cutters

Cost Cutters sat me down and told me the truth about cheap hair gel. Did you know cheap hair gel can be on the shelf for three years or more? It's true. That’s why it often has so much alcohol. At Cost Cutters they get fresh product every two weeks. If you’re buying gel at the dollar store – my god, how did they know? – you need to watch out for flaking. It could be caused by cheap hair gel and its alcohol (a preservative) drying out your hair and scalp. Thank you, Cost Cutters.

Notes · · Tucson

Joe Frank

Joe Frank created radio that didn't sound like radio. His programs are dark and funny and sad waking dreams that I looked forward to finding on the dial.

Radio great Joe Frank has died. He had a long radio career, including decades at KCRW. Frank’s storytelling influenced many young radio journalists, who had never heard anything quite like him before. This includes ‘This American Life’ host, Ira Glass, who shares what it was like to be a young production assistant for Frank. — Remembering radio legend Joe Frank

Notes · · Tucson

The Book Stop is 50.

Fifty? Wowza.

Hiram and I found this out on Saturday when we stopped in on our way to the John Waters Christmas show at the Rialto. There were plates of cookies and a big thermos of lemonade. It was around 7:00 I think — practically past our bedtime — which made the eating and drinking all the more delicious.

I remembered all the hours I spent at the store when I was in high school and decided to re-read something I would have been reading then, but there was no Richard Brautigan or Kurt Vonnegut available. We've been reading Oliver Sacks's autobiography, On The Move, and in it he's mentioned plenty of authors I've never read but have this idea I should — W.H. Auden, for example. I asked the owner for a recommendation of something by Auden and she said she'd never read him either, so I know I'm in good company. I bought a hardback of his collected works printed the year I was born a couple years before the Book Stop opened.

Happy Anniversary, Book Stop. We have always been close, but I didn't realize we were contemporaries.

 

Plates of cookies sit on the counter at the Book Stop, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Plates of cookies sit on the counter at the Book Stop, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.