Monthly Archives: May 2005

Bay to Breakers: Overheard

Overheard on the course:
Some dude discoursing on number theory. It sounded like he was explaining the Euler phi function (although it may have been the Riemann zeta function; he was being somewhat imprecise).
Most races have people handing out cups of water; this one has in addition tables with cups of beer. One such table was at the foot of Hayes Street Hill, with a man enticing runners with, “The hill looks smaller when you’re drunk!” (Somehow I suspect the opposite is true.)
Naked man to naked woman, around mile 7: “I shouldn’t have smoked that bowl at the starting line.”
Proselytizing! There are some fundamentalist Christians who apparently show up every year and stand by the side of the course with signs and megaphones. Come on, at least run the race for Jesus. Lazy bastards. Anyway, I guess they figure this is a major gathering of the hellbound, which would only be reinforced by the amount of jeering they drew.

Bay to Breakers: Photos

I ended up with only a handful of photos, uploaded to Flickr here. I was hoping to get some photos of costumes, but the crowds were generally too thick for me to get close enough. Or I was running past them. What I do have are crowd shots, or structures visible above the crowd. This tiki hut, for example, which is mounted on wheels and rolls along the course while people inside dispense beverages.
bay to breakers: tiki hut
(These are more low-res cameraphone photos. I blame this for the truly abysmal quality of the Ocean Beach shot. That, and the fog.)

Bay to Breakers 2005

Technical difficulties have prevented me from getting the pictures up (which are mostly crowd shots; didn’t get close enough to the good costumes to get a picture, or was running when I passed them). However, I did finish—slightly faster than last year, which isn’t saying much. This year I arrived too late to get a good starting position, and for most of the race my speed was limited by how fast I could get around people. (It took 40 minutes to cover the first two miles this way, but I picked up a little speed after that.)
I’ll make another attempt at uploading photos after I take a shower.

m.i.a. in action

m.i.a. in action

It’s difficult to tell, but that blur in the center of the frame is M.I.A. herself. I noticed yesterday that she’d be playing Amoeba Music before her show at the Fillmore tonight, and since I was in the city anyway to pick up Bay To Breakers materials, I decided to drop by. (This post also constitutes a test of my phone-photoblogging procedure.)

Two New, One Missing [Open Thread]

Yeah, I didn’t post an open thread this week. So I’m posting one now that will cover this weekend and next week. Also, I will make up for the lack of posts by photoblogging Bay to Breakers on Sunday.
My schedule for June is solidifying:
June 4: Sleater-Kinney concert
June 8-11: Travel to Pasadena
June 16-19: Travel to Chicago
June 26-July 8: Travel to il Ciocco, Italy
So, that will be a pretty awesome month. (But maybe I should start recruiting guest bloggers…)
Double music post today:
M. I. A.: Arular: Did I first hear about M. I. A. on Boing Boing? Or was it one of the political blogs? She’s been getting a lot of attention for her distinctive international sound and her lyrics that touch on subjects like violent revolution. The music is a very interesting mixture of electronic and hip-hop with some exotic elements thrown in: try “Amazon” for example.
New Order: Waiting for the Sirens’ Call: As a fan of some of their musical descendants (Franz Ferdinand in particular) I was intrigued to learn that New Order themselves had a new album out. And it’s quite good! I’m not extremely familiar with their previous work (except for the most widely played stuff) so I can’t say anything authoritative on how it compares to that, but it certainly holds its own against the other recent new wave bands. Also, as someone with way-too-many Castlevania remixes on his hard drive, I have a certain appreciation for a song called “Dracula’s Castle”.
Ok, one more music item: The New Pornographers have released the title track from their upcoming album Twin Cinema; it can be found here.

San Francisco Sightseeing

I spent yesterday walking/driving around San Francisco with a friend who’s visiting from New York. Walked across the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time; the day was very clear and it was by far the best view of the city I’d ever seen. (The side you can see from the East Bay is somewhat less interesting.) In an unfortunate oversight I didn’t have my digital camera with me, but took the opportunity to break in the camera on my new phone. I’ve uploaded a couple of these low-res photos to Flickr; unfortunately they don’t really capture how good the view was.
golden gate

The Faint (also, Bright Eyes)

The concert was in an exhibition hall with the main dance floor in the center and bars set up on elevated levels to each side. I opted for the natural compromise of spending The Faint’s set on the floor and then watching Bright Eyes from the bar. (Due to a timing misjudgement I arrived too late to see much of the first opening act, Her Space Holiday; the bit I did hear sounded like what you’d expect from the name of their band.)
The Faint were awesome, playing most of Dance Macabre and Wet From Birth (and choosing the right songs to leave out, although “Symptom Finger” would have worked well, and I have a special affection for “Phone Call”). I especially liked that they had a violinist and a cellist on stage for the appropriate songs on the latter album, and one of the regular band members played the trumpet to open “Southern Belles”. It turned out that Bright Eyes would use all these instruments as well.
(I hadn’t seen the music video for “Agenda Suicide” before; it was projected behind the stage when they played the song, and it’s quite good. Turns out it can be downloaded here.)
Bright Eyes came on looking like an escaped mental patient, all twitchy and hunched over. Despite (because of?) this he gave a very good performance, his voice coming through as clear and intense as it is on the record. He played all but one song from Digital Ash, plus a couple I wasn’t familiar with. Happily, the squalling baby on “Ship in a Bottle” was replaced by a wailing guitar.
Caught the last train to the East Bay by five minutes. (Maybe I should consider driving next time.) In my mailbox when I got home was my ticket to the next concert: Sleater-Kinney on June 4. This was the band that hooked me on indie rock in the first place, so I’m pretty excited to see them live.

The College Board thinks this post should be longer.

PZ Myers is stunned by the stupidity of the new SAT writing test. An MIT professor studied the sample essays provided by the College Board, and determined that the length of an essay was the best predictor of its score, and that students were not penalized for incorrect facts.
I am not at all surprised by this; I expected something like this as soon as I heard they were adding a writing section to the test. Standardized writing tests suck, it’s almost a law of nature. I don’t think it’s possible to come up with a grading scheme for something as subjective as writing that could apply broadly enough to be used on the SAT. So the grade ends up being based on length. And unless the essay topic is totally generic, the grader won’t necessarily be an expert in it, so there’s no way to fact-check consistently. Hence, allowing students to make shit up. I had to take several standardized writing tests while in the public school system, and they all had these problems. The SAT should leave this for the college application essays. (This is also one of the reasons I object to the overemphasis on standardized testing in the No Child Left Behind Act.)