• I notice, from the previews, that the new movie, “The Tourist” (starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Joli), features the following conversation (approximately):

    DEPP’S CHARACTER: You look ravenous.

    JOLI’S CHARACTER: You mean “ravishing”?

    DEPP’S CHARACTER (confidently): I do.

    Hee, hee, very funny, but I call accidental inverted plagiarism! That is, my brother has been mixing up those two words in the reverse manner for years…

    BROTHER: Man, I haven’t eaten all day. I am so ravishing!

    SETH: I think you might mean, “ravenous”.

    BROTHER: Yeah, that’s what I said.

    SETHBLOGS: Yes, I’m sure it was: I just hope you’ve been telling people all day about your “ravenous” self-analysis.

    ===================================================================

    SETHBLOGS NOTE: As a result of comments from my readership, I have discovered that my claim that the tourist engaged in “accidental, inverted plagiarism” may be inaccurate. Please read the below comments for details.

  • So, many years ago, my second favourite sister (featured in the background of JamColouredGlasses) and I were wandering through a bookstore, whereupon we spotted an autobiography by a famous hockey player (who shall remain anonymous, but may be featured in my “Howe to” post). The interesting thing about this autobiography, unlike any other that we’d ever seen before, was that it was an “Authorized Autobiography”.

    “Hmm,” I said to my sister (she’ll claim it was the other way around, so don’t be alarmed), “so, if this is the authorized autobiography, there must be at least one unauthorized autobiography out there too.”

    “Yeah,” the sister quickly caught on, “and how exactly did that work that he wrote and published his own story without his permission?”

    “Maybe he wrote it in his sleep,” I suggested.

    “Yes,” the sister concurred, “and then he must have accidentally published it thinking it was his novel. Oops! But it was too late: the unauthorized autobiography was already out there.”

    Yup, it all made sense. I hope I never write an unauthorized autobiography. I know a lot of my secrets and could definitely portray myself in a negative light.

  • So I recently took in a bit of surgery to repair an old nasal injury. I spent the recovery time under the generous care of my parents. Along with mocking my inability to wrestle with him, my dad entertained me with introductory Economics lectures on video. (I’m embarrassingly ignorant of economics, and so was delighted by the opportunity.)

    The instructor-on-DVD has lots of personality, almost to the point of condescension in the first couple lectures as he explains fairly basis concepts, such as the division of labour (the notion that 100 workers can get more done if they each take on a specialized task within a project, instead of each of them trying to build an entire car on their own). I was happy to have this straight-forward concept reviewed, but once it was emphasized with a tenth example, it started to become tedious.

    Nevertheless, we proceeded to the lecture on “Supply and Demand”, where once again I was ready to boast that the concept was too simple to be continually reiterated. To my headache provoking surprise, though, it is not as simple a concept as I had imagined.

    In fact, I found it so confusing that I was forced to research it post-lecture. I enlisted the help of both internet and book (“Economics Explained”), but was baffled to discover that the particular part that was confusing me seemed to be only vaguely illuminated by each of my sources.

    Eventually, after much mind-searching, the collected instruction of my resources overlapped to make sense to me (at least I think I’ve got it). And, I must admit, it’s actually a pretty neat model. So, for my fellow economic newbies (if there are any out there), I offer you the results of my study without the cost of research:

    DEMAND:

    “Demand”, it turns out, is not simply “How many do people want?”: it is a relationship between price and quantity demanded. That is, given a certain price, how many do people want to buy? Today, then, we can graph the quantities demanded of autographed pictures of Seth at various prices. That demand graph, then, is the current demand which will arc upwards as prices goes down (since more people want commodities when they’re cheaper).

    But, tomorrow, if a rival Seth-paraphernalia seller comes along and offers autographed “with love” photos of Seth, the quantity demanded at every price for the original “non-loving” photos goes down, and so overall “Demand” for them will have gone down.

    SUPPLY:

    “Supply”, in turn, is not simply how many the sellers have of a certain item, but it is a relationship between the price and the quantity supplied. That is, given a certain price, how many Seth photos are supplied to the market by the makers of Seth photos? In this case, the higher the price, the more the sellers tend to want to supply (since that’ll make them more money), and so the “Supply” curve tends to arc upwards with price.

    But if, Blog forbid, Seth’s nasal surgery went badly and harmed his looks, there may be fewer quality Seth photos available, and so the quantity supplied may go down at every price, meaning that overall “Supply” goes down.

    THE FUN PART:

    Now here’s the fun part: the Supply and Demand curves seem to work together to set a price in the market. If, that is, there are more people wanting an item at a certain price than there are items available, then the price of that item will go up.

    For instance, let’s say that the price of Seth’s autobiography is set at only $100. The quantity demanded for that item at that price would likely then be around one billion. If, though, the quantity of books supplied is only 500 million, then the sellers can raise the price until the number of people still willing to buy matches the supply available.

    In contrast, if there are fewer people wanting an item than there are supplied (at a particular price), price will go down.

    For instance, the world’s worst movie, “The Matrix”, may supply 50 copies of itself at 25 cents each. But if only 10 people are willing to buy at that price then the price will start to drop until the number of copies available matches the number of confused people willing to buy them.

    In both of the above cases, once the price of an item leads the quantity supplied to match the quantity demanded then we are in equilibrium. And the interesting aspect to an economic novice like myself is there is apparently a tendency of all products towards this equilibrium. The equilibrium will often be disrupted by outside factors (suddenly, let’s say, there is an interest in giving The Matrix as gag gifts), but the price will always then head back towards equilibrium given the new Demand.

    CONCLUSION:

    I like it: the Market, it seems, will naturally figure out its own disagreements until it agrees with itself again.

  • I gathered recently with some friends and siblings for what I thought would be some wholesome family fun.  Unfortunately, someone challenged us all to a weird word game wherein you’re each given letters from which to try create a full crossword faster than your opponents.  Quickly, it was noticed by me that I was slower than my rivals (generally I was just finishing sorting the letters into alphabetical order when the others were completing the grueling task).  Thus, I suggested that I be given some sort of handicap to make things more fair.

    “How about,” a creative participant suggested, “everyone but Seth has to get at least one dirty word in their crossword.”

    This was accepted and the group set to the lewd chore.

    Several moments into the noble endeavour, one of my sisters – for no apparent reason – announced, “I have sex!”

    “Okay, then,” I replied, “thanks for letting us know, but for now, can we concentrate on the game?”

    My sister tried to cover up her inappropriate announcement by explaining she’d found the word “sex” in her letters, but we knew she was just embarrassed, so, to make her feel better, we spent the rest of the evening sharing made-up sins of our own. Some announced that they read dirty magazines; others were voyeurs; and most of us liked S&M.

  • While jogging out of work the other day, I realized—just before I got to my bus stop—that I was without my phone, so I re-ran back my steps to see if I’d dropped it.  I arrived at my work intersection to see my phone in the crosswalk I’d just hurried across.  A monster of a car was galloping towards it.  In slow-motion I yelled, “Nooooooooo!”, but before my phone could realize what was happening to it, it was devoured by the wheels of the beast—and phone crumbs soared in all directions!

    Okay, then.

    Luckily, my 3-year phone contract with Bell was recently expired, so I was in a good position to get a good deal on a new phone.  Indeed, I was a free agent, so I set out to play Bell against Rogers in a battle for my customering.  First, Bell was rung, and after 2 hours of negotiation (okay 1.75 hours of that was with their hold music), I’d acquired an excellent deal.

    Onto Rogers to see what they could do.

    “So,” I said, “Bell offered me this—what can you do for me?”

    “Oh,” Roger Rogers said (approximately), “that is a very good deal—probably because you’ve been with them for so long—no way we can beat that.”

    So I phoned Bell back and told them that they didn’t actually need to give me such a good rate, because their competition wasn’t close to stealing me away.

    Kidding!  (I just took the deal that Bell offered me.)

  • So a friend of mine sent out a group email requesting participants for a survey that a friend of hers was conducting. She concluded her call for assistance with the phrase, “Feel free to pass on.”

    Wow! Reminding people of their right to die seems a bit harsh—especially when you’ve just asked them for a favour!

    When I confronted the impertinent e-mailer, she explained that she just wanted to make sure people knew their options.

  • If you’re not a hockey fan, but want to impress a friend or enemy who is, try this sentence on for sizable reaction: “Did you know that Gordie Howe had only one ‘Gordie Howe hat trick’ in his 26 year NHL career?”

    (In case you’re guessing for the obvious, a Gordie Howe hat trick is not simply a hat trick – three goals in a game—by Gordie Howe. Instead, Gordie’s trick is a bundle of three hockey behaviours, but not all goals, and like the standard trick, it can also be completed by anyone. However, it was named after Mr. Hockey because he seemed the most likely to achieve it, which is why it should seem odd to a hockey fan such as your friend or rival that he managed only one in his lengthy tenure.)

    It’s true and most hockey fans should find the news intriguing—especially if they didn’t think you were an aficionado of their favourite game. So try the above sentence out and let SethBlog know how it goes.

    Worry not if my parenthetical vagueness has still left you with no idea what a “Gordie Howe hat trick” is, you shouldn’t need the definition in your conversation with your hockey friend or foe because they’ll most likely assume that anyone capable of the expression must know its meaning.

    Instead, then, I think most fun will be had if you play expression roulette with the phrase (so no googling the answer in advance, or your participation in this fun experiment will be revoked). If you do have any trouble with responders to the “Howe Trick,” I’ll be happy to define it for you retroactively.

    P.S. For a look at Mr. Howe in action, consider this footage from a 1979 contest between Moscow Dynamo and the WHA all-stars, which included 50 year-old Gordie, his son Marty and a 17 year-old apprentice to Gordie’s scoring records.

  • In opposition to my recent rants (“SPACE ON BUS; SPACE ON BRAIN” & “MY FIRST LINEUP“) regarding bus passenger selfishness, I challenge me to consider this incident…

    After finishing work in the late evening on Sunday, I landed outside on the street with my usual walk-and-look-for-the-bus plan. The walk would be a simple 15 minute trek to the nearest Skytrain that would take me home, but if, on this walk, I happened to pass a bus stop at the same time as bus, I would happily hop aboard to save myself up to 10 minutes of commute.

    When, then, I spotted a bus dropping off a passenger at a stop that was just 50 yards ahead of me, I decided to make a run for the oversized van (in case it was slowed down by more exiting passengers), but my sprint was not a desperate one since I was content with my leg-powered transporation.

    As I ran, the passenger that was just jettisoned from the vehicle spotted my approach, and so pointed at the bus to ask if I was aiming for it. I nodded, and so, with no thought of why she should care about a stranger’s goals, she knocked on the outside of the bus to indicate a passenger was coming. To honour her effort, I sped up my pace, but the bus pressed forward just as I arrived.

    I was not wounded by the loss since (A) I didn’t feel the driver was obligated to the knocking-instructions of a former passenger and (B) I was still content walking. But I was touched by the efforts and concern of the stranger, who, in turn, shook her head with disgust at the departing bus.

    I assured her I was content walking, but I thanked her for her kindness – not many would look out for a stranger like that. This did not cheer her up, but it did me.

  • Given my previous rant (see “SPACE ON BUS: SPACE ON BRAIN“) about the need for a bus passenger training school, it seems only fair that I give a sample of what our consideration-challenged friends could learn there.

    I suggest we start the training with a lecture on how to correctly enter a transit vehicle: students of Bus School will discover that, before boarding any such bus or train, one lets the exiting passengers go first. (“It’s like they have a green light, while yours is red.”) This, bussing professors will explain, allows us to avoid a passenger clog of people going in two directions. To facilitate this complicated maneuver, learners will be taught to line up slightly to the side of the entry doors until their opposites have completed their exodus.

    Special emphasis will then be impressed upon the students that, “When you see passengers waiting efficiently by the side of the doorway in this manner, they are not meaning to move out of your way so that you can jump the queue and board the bus first for the best seat. (When you do that, it angers and destroys your fellow travelers’ faith in the system and reduces their own compliance with passenger protocol.)”

    If such training stops just one one anarchist transit-user from queue-jumping to collect the last good seat on the bus, it will easily pay for itself in gaskets not blown by the rest of us.

  • This is a classic rant that probably needs no repetition, but I can’t help myself. On the bus once again last night, when a large crowd began to fill it, patrons at the front of the entering group did not go all the way to the back. The result was the standard passenger-dam at the front and middle of the vehicle.

    I can appreciate, in such circumstances, that the back of the bus will naturally be less packed than the front. Passengers fill the back first, after all, and so it feels awkward to get up close and cozy with strangers for an as-of-yet only theoretical need for room. Instead standard stranger-spacing etiquette feels like it should apply.

    But when the crowd begins to run out of room at the front of the corridor, there is an understanding between new friends there that near-hugging is allowed because otherwise one of you would not fit on the coach.

    However, as I surveyed from the well-packed middle section of the vehicular hallway, I noticed – as I always do – that the back of the bus was not simply spaced reasonably according to stranger-convention; instead, there was a walk-in closet’s worth of room – and even an empty seat! You see, somewhere along the aisle to the back, a traveller or two simply stopped (like a pair of escalator-standers) and blocked the following masse. This was no simple etiquette of spacing: it was emptiness of awareness. The travelers preferred the centre of the carriage (perhaps because it was closer to the exit doors), which is all swell and good (if, that is, you don’t enjoy the bus’s hind quarters, then that is your right as a bus-goer to avoid them), but, for passengers’ sake!, make room in the aisle for those who would move into the glorious space behind you.

    And yet, on every crowded bus, there are always those who are profoundly unobservant of (or simply unconcerned with) the needs of their fellow bus-goers. It is time they be taught a lesson: I propose remedial transit-traveller finishing school for these breachers of consideration. They must be taught that with great transit comes comes great responsibility.

    Of course, it is to be expected that most such selfish travelers will fail to gain any class from these classes, but, sadly, their failure to graduate should not cost them their bussing passport (we certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from continuing to choose the more environmental option for travel); instead, I suggest we simply charge the greediest of passengers extra to ride. If they feel the need to reserve large sections of bus behind them for no one (so that they can stand cozily in the way in the middle of the bus), they should be given the responsibility to pay the lost fees of the passengers that otherwise would have fit on the ride.

    Perfect. Problem solved. I feel better.

    P.S. See “MY FIRST LINEUP” for a proposed first lesson at Bus Passenger Training School.

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