Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

18 Jul 2011, 11:31 a.m.

An (NCSA) Mosaic Of Colorful Little Bits

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2011 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I looked at my past, like, eight blog entries and saw that they were pretty thinky pieces. When did my blog turn into Crooked Timber? So, a little miscellany.

Saturday I went to the beach! And now I am parti-colored. I got to see Gus, whose "How We Know What We Know: A personal explication" is riveting, and I wish every interesting thinker would write a similar intellectual memoir. I learned how to play the card game Guillotine, and led a couple of games of Once Upon A Time. When I'm the first player, I like to set up a named pair of characters, in a particular city or setting, with a clear problem. This seems to help when I'm playing with novices, as it gives them something to build on.

Yesterday I had a three-minute dispute with Leonard over whether his three-Sundays-in-a-row habit of ordering the chicken and waffles at the local brunch place meant that was now "his thing."

Leonard bought us a September 1945 issue of The American, a monthly general interest magazine, and we're reading it with Wikipedia or Wolfram Alpha at the ready. Reference material helps contextualize, say, propaganda about how well people can eat despite wartime rationing. "Wait, how does the population density of France in 1945 compare to that of the US?" (Way higher. Thank you, Wolfram Alpha!)

Another bit of reading: Ben Franklin discovering one General Loudoun's astonishing indecision. Loudoun's procrastination slows down the entire economy of the Colonies and keeps mail boats from carrying urgent information back to England. Franklin later writes in his autobiography:

On the whole I then wondered much how such a man came to be entrusted with so important a business as the conduct of a great army, but having since seen more of the great world, and its means of obtaining and motives for giving places, my wonder is diminished.

Punchline: "The Governor General Loudon was a mail steamer and excursion vessel..." Not sure about the namesake, especially because of the orthographical variance, but still mouth-twitchingly funny.


Avram Grumer
19 Jul 2011, 20:03 p.m.

I haven't played Once Upon a Time in years. The game I remember best was the time the story started out "Once upon a time, there was a hermaphrodite...". Later developments established that the hermaphrodite's mother was the Queen, so when the "Prince/Princess" card got played, it seemed especially appropriate.