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[Comments] (6) It's A Race Condition: Lately Sumana has been obsessed with the theme songs to sitcoms. I heard some of these songs when I was a kid but they all merged into one. Understandably so, now that I hear them again from the next room. One thing I didn't pick up on back then was that the lyrics of many of the songs are made of mortared-together cliches. Now, I've written songs out of cliches, but I try to put my own spin on them or juxtapose them in interesting ways, and more importantly my songs don't become cultural touchstones.

A corollary of this is that the theme song to Star Trek: Enterprise would make a good sitcom theme song. I lack the raw materials and skill, but you could get some mileage out of playing the Enterprise theme song over the opening sequence to Perfect Strangers.

Another thing I didn't pick up on until now was that sitcom theme songs never mention the name of the sitcom, [Update: not true, see comments] probably because they were commissioned long before the name of the sitcom was finalized, and probably because they were written long before that and shopped out to multiple sitcoms. Also, a common trope in these songs is to talk about how the world has gone to pot and how the relationship formed by the sitcom's main characters (family/friendship/bar) is the last outpost of civilization. So you could switch a lot of theme songs and it would work fine.

As a test I improvised the worst imaginable theme song, for a sitcom called "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise". It was terrible.

: So this year I remembered the Nethack tournament before the last minute, and over the weekend I made my third ascension. I say that pretty casually but I got really lucky in that game and at the end what did I have to show for it? I'm up against players who can ascend multiple games in a row, such that a single ascension only gets me to the midpoint on the scale of trophies. So let this be a lesson to you! Somehow.

[Comments] (5) Bed, Math, and Beyond: When I was a kid there was an awesome math exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. Most of the other exhibits were chintzy early-80s interactive things where you'd pretend to run a McDonalds, or answer questions about acid rain to be rewarded with 30 seconds of Frogger. The math exhibit was not interactive; it just showed you awesome things that you would just mess up if you could touch them, like a demonstration of probability using balls that clattered through a pachinko machine to form a bell curve. Man, I loved that exhibit. There was lots of text I didn't read, and a huge timeline that I didn't really pay attention to, but it was comforting to know it was there. Surely, people who had put that much work into a math timeline were competent to model the normal distribution.

I've mentioned this exhibit before, in the context of the second time I saw it: in the Exploratorium in 2002. The exhibit is called "Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond", and it was on tour! I figured it would go back to Los Angeles afterward.

One of our corporate trips when we went to Boston was to the Boston Science Museum. This is an old-school wunderkammer museum that believes in showing off everything it's got with minimal overarching theme. A section of the bottom floor is full of cool model ships in glass cases, each donated by the widow of the guy who built the ship.

There's also a special self-justifying exhibit on collecting and classifying. And the Tinkertoy computer, a huge van de Graaff generator, a little Massachusetts state flag that was taken on Apollo 11, casts of hands with different developmental problems, stuffed animals in simulated biomes, glitzy biotech exhibit bought and paid for by Massachusett's biotech industry, diorama of people building a pyramid, etc. And the Mathematica exhibit!

Still on tour? I doubted the Boston Museum of Science would let any exhibit leave its premises once it had been set up. What was going on here? In a fit of brilliance, Ray and Charles Eames mass-produced the museum exhibit itself and gave it out to hungry museums across the land! "Two identical copies of the exhibition were made by the Eames Office in the sixties and they currently reside in Boston and Atlanta." The main one is right next door to me, having moved from LA to the New York Hall of Science.


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