Sunday, October 19, 2008

wacky races in the bay area this month!

The Bay Area never disappoints me with its randomness. San Francisco, in particular, has more opportunities to dress up than any other city I have known. There's Halloween, of course, which in my neighborhood lasts at least a week. There is at least one formal opportunity a month to dress up around here, and that doesn't stop people inbetween... yesterday, I was walking to Walgreens, and this woman was covered entirely in blue face paint (head to foot), just standing there smoking a cigarette and chatting casually with her (regularly dressed) companions.


Last week, Escape from Berkeley race began on October 11th. Contestants had 3 days to reach Las Vegas in "a kind of mini Cannonball Run to Las Vegas for drivers of vehicles that run on anything but petroleum." According to the news reports, "mechanical difficulties delayed the three-day journey. Of the 10 teams that signed up, only seven made it to Berkeley able to actually race, and just five got off the starting line." One guy's car ran on wood chips. A few ran on vegetable oil. One ran on alcohol; another on steam. The youngest driver was just 16!

Next, and my favorite, was the Red Bull Soapbox Derby, held yesterday at Dolores Park. (One of my favorite places in SF.) The website has team bios and sketches of all the entries. Soon, the winners of this year's race will be posted as well.

My two favorite videos posted on YouTube so far:

Video #1 is the best so far. It includes interviews with the drivers, and great footage of the race. Also includes what I thought was the most spectacular crash of the craziest car (see 2:18).

Video #2 shows some of the 30 second skits up near the starting line. Some were weak, but others were side-splitting hilarious. (I'm still waiting to find video of the guys who danced to "Who let the dogs out?" and the Thick and Thin pizza skit...) Plus, this user captured most of the teams I missed.

Video #3 has some great still shots. My favorite, the mutant hamster one, is at 2:14! (As an interesting side note, this user has video embedding "disabled by request." I didn't even know you could do that!)

And of course, my video... I am working on a Garageband soundtrack. I'm trying to break the habit of using other people's music. :)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

$700 billion bailout

As you have heard, President Bush recently signed the bailout plan in hopes of bolstering the economy. I enjoyed the SF Chronicle "article" putting it all into perspective...

For $700 billion, you could...
  • hire approximately 9,226,551 San Francisco police officers (based on $75,868, the lowest entry-level salary listed on the city's Website)
  • hire approximately 16,062,414 U.S. teachers (based on $43,580, the lowest number in the range of median annual earnings of kindergarten, elementary, middle and secondary school teachers in May 2006, listed on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Website)
  • build approximately 1,434 new California Academy of Science buildings (based on the $488 million price tag listed in a Chronicle story)
  • buy approximately 3,467,063 homes based on $201,900, the median price of a single family home in the United States in August, according to the National Association of Realtors.
  • buy 70 Hubble-type space telescopes, or about 7 international space stations.
That's a lot of money. Seven hundred billion dollars is a lot of dollars.

In a great book by David M. Schwartz, How much is a million?, he says:

How big is a billion? If a billion kids made a human tower, they would stand up past the moon. If you sat down to count from one to one billion, you would be counting for 95 years. If you found a goldfish bowl large enough hold a billion goldfish, it would be as big as a stadium.
One website proclaims,

A billion seconds ago it was 1959.

A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age

A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate Washington spends.

Oh, yeah, and the U.S. already has a national debt of 10 TRILLION dollars. The site links to a number of news articles concerning the national debt, including one that claims the bailout will increase the national debt ceiling to $11.315 trillion to cover the $700 billion the Treasury Department needs in order to buy bad loans.

That's a lot of money. Eleven trillion dollars is a lot of dollars.

More statistics show just how big these numbers are:

A million seconds is 12 days.
A billion seconds is 31 years.
A trillion seconds is 31,688 years.