A Russian Statistician at a Baseball Game

N calls from the game.

“So who’s winning?” I ask.

“I have no idea. It all looks pretty random,” he says. “If nothing changes by 10 pm, I’ll just go.”

“Go Cardinals!” I say.

Corporate Woes

N. calls and says, in a voice of a person condemned to intolerable suffering:

“I will be late because I’m going to a baseball game with the guys.”

Coming from him, this sentence sounds the same as if I said, “I will be at a knitting bee with the housewives.” Or if I said, “I will be at a party with chit-chatting networkers.” Or if Sarah Palin said, “I will be at the library with academics.” Or if Rick Santorum said, “I will be at an orgy with the hippies.” Or if Obama said, “I will be bowling with truck drivers.”

N. has never been to a baseball game and would never go of his own free will. I know because I suggested we go on Saturday, just to see his reaction. He had a very haunted look. But his company has clients visiting from overseas, and they need to be shown a good time. Good time in this geographic area translates into baseball.

Those high corporate salaries come at a price. In the meanwhile, I will be laughing every time I imagine N. “at the game with the guys.” It’s the most incongruous picture ever. Do they sell beer, at least, at those games? I hope they do because, otherwise, he might not be able to deal with the experience.

Birthday Programming

I have insanely busy three weeks ahead of me, so I will be writing an avalanche of posts. It helps me to be more productive to switch my brain over to blogging every few hours. People who are subscribing by email, beware.

I have to spend all day tomorrow, my 36th Birthday, redoing the syllabus for my summer course. This kind of sucks, which is why I want to make myself feel better by listing everything I’m planning to do when my actual Birthday celebrations begin.

Friday, 20th.

N. will drive me to St. Louis and go to work. I will head over to my favorite coffee-shop (I now have a favorite coffee-shop in St.Louis, how’s that for growing into the city?) for a raspberry cappuccino and some Kindle time. Then, I will go to the Left Bank Books, a St. Louis landmark.

Three hours later, I will continue my exploration of St. Louis’s Macy’s. That store is magic because it has absolutely everything in my size. For years, I lived first in Montreal, where wearing size 10 makes you hopelessly fat, to the point where shop assistants make fun of you. And I left size 10 far behind. Then, I moved to New Haven, CT that was filled with model clothes. My best friend, who was size 4 (four), could never find anything “big enough” for her, so you can imagine how I felt. That’s is why this Clarissa-friendly Macy’s makes me happy. Even if I don’t buy anything, just trying on clothes and feeling like a valued member of the human race for whom clothes are made is very pleasing.

Then I will go to our hotel, blog about my wonderful day, and spend time in bed with a book.

In the evening, N. and I will go to a Turkish restaurant. We haven’t been to a good Turkish restaurant since New Haven. I’d rather go to a Greek  place but, outside of Montreal, nobody offers a convincing Greek cuisine in North America. (Please, convince me otherwise. I’m talking about both restaurants and pita places. Both are bad in the US compared to their Montreal counterparts.)

Saturday, 21th.

In the morning (or what counts for such in the life of two very late sleepers), we will go to St. Louis Botanical Gardens that we never manage to visit. Then, we will go to St. Louis Galleria to shower me with Birthday gifts. In the evening, we will really celebrate in a tapas restaurant.

Sunday, 22nd.

Sunday is still wide open. I think we will go to the Union Station, the place where we spent our honeymoon, for some oysters, but I’m not sure yet.

And I promise you that not once, not a single time will I think of anything work-related. The grading can stay there all alone, for all I will care about it this weekend.

The Origins of Remedial Learning

Forty to fifty percent of children nationwide are underprepared for kindergarten, lacking the basic vocabulary and sensitivities that the work demands. These same students are pushed through the system, and in third and fourth grade cannot comprehend early math and English instruction. By the time they reach college – if they make it that far – they are saddled with remedial coursework that costs taxpayers money and whittles away at the students’ financial aid.

These are undoubtedly the same 40% who are kept at home as playthings of bored housewives until they are old enough to go to school. The kids who aren’t in daycare are so visibly behind the kids who are in every single skill that it’s scary.

People Who Dump on Amazon Annoy Me

I really hate it when useless screechers who haven’t made anything of value dump on people who provide an invaluable service. Look at this idiot who can’t write a normal sentence, yet thinks it’s OK to condescend to Amazon:

Ironically, Amazon itself realizes that its recommendation algorithms – formulaically predictive! – aren’t actually up to the task of promoting a vital reading/listening culture. Its solution was to attempt to cannibalize the serendipity offered by traditional retailers by offering people discounts to browse in shops and then scan in barcodes to buy the items online. It’s almost like their vision is to destroy book culture to make a buck off it – or, charitably, that they don’t realize that many of the costs and inefficiencies they’re stripping out are necessary parts of the system.

If one truly wishes to participate in Amazon’s vibrant reading culture, one could skip the recommendation carousel and go to the reviews written by actual readers. As one of the top reviewers at Amazon, I can guarantee that my reviews are neither formulaic nor predictive. They are the same reviews that you read here on my blog, so you tell me. Formulaic or not? And as you travel from one review to another, you can have all the serendipity that you can possibly wish for. The personal reviews that Amazon has been accumulating by the thousand are the greatest asset of this company (which is why it rewards its best reviewers with expensive gifts even if every review one writes is completely negative.) I hardly make any book purchase any more without consulting Amazon’s reviews.

For people like me, who live in the boondocks and whose neighborhood only has a bookstore that peddles endless Bibles and very little else, Amazon is incredibly helpful. I use it all the time and my Homepage even used to be Amazon’s page because I visited it so often. Thanks to Amazon, people read a lot more and discover new books a lot more easily. If it weren’t for Amazon, I’d be excluded from the book culture because I don’t have a way to take myself to St. Louis every time I want a new book.

As for the serendipity of regular bookstores, the only one I have in town is beyond predictable. Bibles, fancy leather bags to hold the Bibles, accessories for the Bibles, then more Bibles, and books in Spanish peddling the weirdest branches of American fundamentalism to Hispanics. Of course, there is also a Harlequin section and the “cheesy bestseller of the month” section. Yes, this kind of a store must definitely promote the book culture.

More on The Hunger Games: Where Is Sex?

Another thing I find bizarre in The Hunger Games is that neither of the 16-year-old protagonists has even started their sexual awakening. At first, I attributed their delayed puberty to malnutrition. In book 2, however, they’ve been eating well for a while, yet physiologically, they are stuck at age 5.

The entire situation where they sleep in the same bed every night, yet all that happens is a lot of conversation, is extremely weird. Remember yourself at that age and imagine that a boy / girl you liked had been stuck in your bed. What would happen?

Based on a long and boring description of Katniss’s thick and curly leg hair, I’m guessing that puberty must have happened already in her case. Then why are she and Peeta behaving like total eunuchs? Seriously, only in America can teenagers be described as obsessed with sacrificing themselves for their families and with getting married (Katniss has been obsessing about marriage since the beginning of the trilogy) and not caring (or knowing?) that sex exists.

Volga, Volga

There are just three weeks left in the academic year. This means that all I do is work. Finally, after working from 9 am to 11 pm,  I decided to take a bath and play my Kindle game. That didn’t go too well because I was so tired that I finished the sentence “Volga flows into the…” with “Bering Sea.”

Russian speakers will know that the funniest part of this has nothing to do with geography.