The elements: a smiling deception

So I have my usual smorgasbord of comments for you to slog through. This is the price you pay for reading a journal that never veers too sharply towards the personal. Sorry…

I’ve been travelling all over the place: from Seattle to Boston to Connecticut to Montreal and back to Berkeley. Then at the end of this week I’m going to Chicago. Should be fun. Somehow in all that travelling I managed to watch a ton of Olympics. Good stuff. The best part is watching the awesome middle distance runners and trying to figure out exactly how much they’d cream me by if we raced head-to-head.

Something I marvel at, though, is just how incredibly consistent these world-class athletes are. For instance, if some dude posted the best time this year by .02 seconds, he’s “the favorite” to win. Now, you’d think that .02 seconds is really nothing considering how many factors are at play: the athlete’s mental state, how well he’s feeling (I’ve definitely had off-days, athletically), even how quickly he reacts to the starting gun. And yet so many of these people come through and win in the end, as expected. Not only can they do incredible things, they can do them incredibly consistently as well. That’s crazy.

You could imagine an athlete who just has a couple of freak performances: a guy who can run a 1:40 half-mile but usually comes in at 1:44. In track and cross country in high school, I came across a lot of runners who were wildly inconsistent (and occasionally whose best times were infuriatingly faster than mine, even though I could beat them most of the time). But these people don’t seem to exist at the highest level, or are at least very rare. I guess it must be in the training.


The most impressive country by far at this year’s Olympics was Australia. Those guys seemed practically super-human. You’d think that the U.S. would have pretty much the best feeder and training programs in the country (as well as an incredibly diverse range of people from which to select Olympians), but somehow Australia manages to beat the pants off of us (and everyone else) in terms of medals per capita.

Country Medals Won Population Medals per million
USA 103 288m .36
Russia 92 143m .64
China 63 1.3b .05
Australia 49 19.6m 2.5
Germany 48 81.8m .57
Japan 37 128m .29

Rather than trying to discover a good explanation, I’m going to conclude that Australians are roughly seven times more athletic than we are. Ouch.


The day after my two-year Verizon cell phone contract ran out, I switched to AT&T, because it’s cheaper. The service probably isn’t as good, which led to an interesting evaluation of how valuable my frustration is to me. That is, if I had some estimate of how much more often AT&T would drop my calls or give me bad reception than Verizon would, exactly how much of a price drop does there need to be to justify this? I’m used to making blunt evaluations of my time vs. money, but frustration is a trickier matter.

My parents are probably going to drop Sprint in favor of AT&T as soon as their contract is up, too, thus making family communication much cheaper. Also, Sprint has horrible service: “Sprint has the best reception, bar none”, jokes my dad. I like that joke :).


I’ve been toying around with making NewsDog open for registration by anyone. Would this really induce more people to register? It’s hard to say.


My sisters have complained that I don’t have many good (e.g. non-dorky) pictures of myself on here. There are two good reasons for that: 1. Most of the pictures are taken with my camera, and usually I’m the one taking the pictures, so the selection of shots of myself is small. 2. Let’s face it, I probably look like a dork most of the time.

Anyway, here’s a shot (har har) at remedying that, taken outside the cool new public library in Seattle. You’re lucky I didn’t post a picture of myself shirtless :). Notice the careful juxtaposition of ratty 6 year old Bob’s jeans with a nice shirt. It’s what I like to call “having no fashion sense”.


One last bit about the electoral college. Here’s a table of how much your vote counts — what fraction of a representative in the electoral college that you control — in California and Massachusetts (the two states in which I’ve lived for most of the last decade), as well as Wyoming.

State Population EC Votes Votes/Million People
California 35.5m 55 1.55
Massachusetts 6.43m 12 1.87
Wyoming 500k 3 6

Right, so this means that if you’re in California, your vote will literally count 1/4 as much in the upcoming election as the vote of a person in Wyoming. I’m feeling a bit disenfranchised.

Man, making these tables is so tedious. I’m definitely sticking to a lazier form of blogging from now on…

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5 Responses to The elements: a smiling deception

  1. yayu says:

    when are you coming back to Berkeley? I haven’t seen you in too long! Come back soon!

    • aj says:


      I’m back! And just getting back into the swing of things. Yeah, we need to meet up! (If you can brave the sub-ten-dollar meals and general scruffiness of non-Palo Alto, that is :)

  2. awu says:

    Aren’t you “supposed” to mix formal and informal wear to be fashionable? *shrug* :)

  3. wasabisabi says:


    AJ, when did you get so damn handsome?

  4. Anonymous says:



    I miss you so much!! you freaking rock my world.

    talk soon…