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June 15th, 2005
12:27 pm
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Another great post overtaken by events
You know ... I had something really clever to say here last night.

My car's engine seized up and died while taking my sister (writer of seguace_blog) to the Sacramento Airport. This could have involved all sorts of inconvenience and badness beyond just the car repair. If it had stopped on the way, we probably would have had to spring for a taxi, and she might have missed her flight. If it had stopped on the way back, I would have been stranded with no cell phone or AAA coverage. As it turns out, by some cosmic coincidence, it died as we were pulling into the parking garage at the airport; she went inside to get her boarding pass and check a piece of luggage, and then came back out to the parking lot, called for roadside service, and helped me get it towed back to Auburn before dashing back inside to board.

If the car had asked me to pick a time for it to die out on the road, there would have been no better golden, shining moment than the one it chose. It was probably going to go in the near future anyway, and if it had seized up during Kady's commute (we've been swapping cars since mine gets better gas mileage), she'd have been stuck in the same no-phone-no-service bind, possibly 10-15 miles from the nearest town along Highway 49.

By an odd coincidence, last night was also when I laid out a story in today's newspaper about a motorcyclist who had a truck fall on him and walked out of the accident. Between that, a few other near misses in my personal life, and some situations a few friends of mine are going through, I was going to make an observation about the age-old debate: Is the (ostensibly ancient Chinese) saying "May you live in interesting times" a blessing or a curse?

The answer is: No. It's a statement unto itself. It implies good luck and ill; it can't be contained by either. It might be more accurately characterized as "WTF?" luck (or some catchy variation thereof, such as "WTL"), I was thinking yesterday. After all, that motorcyclist who nearly got smeared into road pancake is obviously quite lucky he was able to walk away from having a truck fall on him -- but if he'd just left the house ten seconds earlier, he wouldn't have been in the accident at all.

Anyway. I was going to post all that last night. Didn't have time. And then I discovered this morning that the car doesn't need repair, it needs junking. Engine = very no. That's not a good prize.

So, um. Yeah.

"Living in interesting times" is kind of like dodging bullets. It means you're doing alright, except oh wait somebody's shooting at you. And, by definition, you're not exactly living in interesting times any more if you get shot. Then you're just some shmuck who got in a gunfight. Maybe if they liked you they can put the number of bullets you dodged on your tombstone.

Current Mood: frustratedfrustrated
Current Music: Gettin' ready to walk to work with my iPod
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(13 comments | Leave a comment)

Date:June 15th, 2005 09:31 pm (UTC)
Glad you are surviving your interesting times with a minimum of discomfort. Your car must love you very much. I also like the WTL invention. ;)
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Date:June 15th, 2005 10:24 pm (UTC)
It did, rest its metallic soul.

Thanks for the good thoughts. I'm not really as pissed off as the post makes me out to be, I'm just tired of everything hitting at once.
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Date:June 15th, 2005 09:34 pm (UTC)
Grrrrrrrrrr. Arrrrrrrgh. *mutant zombie lurches across screen of our life*

Yes, frustration levels are high at Chez BaxKat. And none of it is insurmountable by itself - it's just all piling up at once. This too shall pass.

(Could you please print this comment so I can stick it on the fridge?)

Date:June 15th, 2005 09:54 pm (UTC)
This too shall pass.

As sylvan used to add: "...like a bad burrito...." You know you'll eventually get beyond it, but damn if it ain't gonna be uncomfortable as hell in the meantime.
Date:June 16th, 2005 12:01 am (UTC)


I think the string of bad luck needs to stop. Like now.
Date:June 16th, 2005 02:28 am (UTC)

Let L\in \reals. Define "bad luck" as (L < 0), "good luck" as (L > 0). Then "interesting times" could correspond to (abs(L) >> 0), perhaps.

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Date:June 16th, 2005 07:20 am (UTC)
Clever formulation, although if we're going to quantify it I'd argue that "interesting" luck does have a minimum threshold. If we define luck as varying over the range -1 <= L <= 1 (which would allow us to map trigonometric functions to it -- luck biorhythms?), we could say "interesting" luck describes at least relatively improbable events; perhaps (abs(L) > 0.9)?
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Date:June 16th, 2005 08:08 pm (UTC)
I don't know -- I'd assume that interesting times would also require a massively oscillatory function in the time and space as well. Hm. Maybe chaos theory would be more applicable?
Date:June 17th, 2005 02:15 am (UTC)

Well... does "interesting times" mean a chain of improbable events, or does it mean a chain of events where the distribution of the probabilities approaches, say, white noise? In the latter case, I'm imagining some kind of discrete Fourier transform on a sample over time with a Hamming window or whatever...

Possibly dL(e) = {G(e)\over P(e)}, where G = goodness (negative for bad events) and P = probability, then integrate over—I'm not sure how to integrate over events... Clamping it to [-1, 1] also becomes problematic in that case.

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Date:June 17th, 2005 06:21 am (UTC)
How about a good ol' fashioned random walk? Just sum over all events, since events are (supposedly) independant coin flips (or die rolls, depending on your mood). There's plenty of ways of attacking this problem -- Fokker-Plank equations come to mind.

And brings us to the one thing I learned in nonequilibrium statistical mechanics: If you wait long enough, all simple models look gaussian.
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Date:June 16th, 2005 04:25 pm (UTC)
Warning: Pun ahead.
Interesting times: Raising your standard of deviation.
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Date:June 16th, 2005 06:02 pm (UTC)
likely overheating ---> meltdown
lacking instrumentation most cars, machine awareness uncommon
possible replacing engine, requires determining root cause to avoid repeat
various sources used engines, import perhaps? http://www.attarco.com/
requires tools/labor/some knowledge, perhaps JC/High-school shop might assist
Date:June 17th, 2005 05:54 am (UTC)


So sorry to hear about poor Wesley. It was pretty perfect timing, but that sucks nonetheless. I hope no other "luck" gets in the way of your next genius post. Love you!!!!
-your sis
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