Summer Weekend

Still not in the mood to sit here and do the Montreal update. Also, photos still out of control. I must stop taking them.

I always expect to lose the dinner plate dahlias over winter because I hate digging them up and they seem a bit more delicate than some of the others I have out there. I was so happy to see these blooming out there.

This is the neighbor cat following me around while I took pictures of dahlias.

This is a different pink one and just for fun, no Photoshop tweaking except for cropping.

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Seems So Long Ago, Montreal

I knew this was going to happen. When I finally have time to sit down, I don’t want to sit at the computer.

Have I fretted publicly about what a giant mess my digital photos are lately? You have no idea. I keep telling myself I’ll do one of those organizing tricks where I set a timer and work on one folder for 15 minutes each day. But I can’t even make myself do that right now.

Montreal may remain a story untold. OR, maybe I’ll tell you about it in December.

Meanwhile, we were trying to find some little gifts to bring home and we were in one of those shops with lots of interesting locally made stuff and some displays of the same maple stuff you see everywhere.

They had these maple leaf cookies in decorative boxes: 3 cookies for $2.50 CA. Bob put two packages in the basket and I had a fit: You can buy those at Trader Joes and get a whole box for $3. (I actually paid $3.29 for a box of 14 cookies.) I know this because these are my favorite work cookies. One is the perfect serving.

He put them back.

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Tonight was the Major League Soccer All Star Game v. Bayern Munich and it was just about as perfect a giant event that you’ve been looking forward to for months could be.

I don’t even know where to start.

And I have to work tomorrow so I have to go to bed.

My Major League soccer guys were great. There was a little bit of sloppiness that you’d expect from a group of guys who have never played together and are used to playing against each other. But they showed up and it was not for a friendly

There was a special moment to honor the guys who played for the US Mens national team in Brazil and it was amazing to see them playing together again.

A half dozen of my German rock stars from the World Cup team were there and I got to watch them play for 10 minutes (because they only came on at the end) and that was amazing. Oddly, as thrilled as I was to see them, I was 200% rooting for my MLS guys.

The weather was perfect. The atmosphere almost perfect. The game well played.

The story is that Thierry Henry is going to retire at the end of the season and he got a wonderful send off.

There were so many terrific moments it’s hard to list them all. Nick Rimando is a beast. It’s hard to believe he was #3 on the bench at World Cup.

It was such a fabulous night. We didn’t even have total weenies sitting behind us and talking the whole time.

And that isn’t even the only major event of the day. The other event is that my entire immediate family purchased plane tickets to visit Tante Hilla for her 90th birthday. More on that later.

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Hometown Waltz

We’re home!

We had a great trip. So many adventures. Montreal is a terrific city to visit. I very highly recommend.

I hope I can get my act together to put up better photos and talk more about the trip later.

I have no idea when that will happen because I have an insanely busy week. Regular work week. A couple of get-togethers. Three soccer games in 6 days including MLS All-Stars(!).

I may have been Team Germany during the World Cup but I am all MLS this week.

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The Birthday Problem: Or, We’re Terrible at Estimating Probability

While I’m away from the computer, here’s a guest post from one of my favorite people, Caren Gussoff ( writing about her new book. Caren was in my Clarion West class and is a terrific writer. I haven’t got my hands on the book yet but I do know: BOB is a character in the book.

Humans are naturally terrible at estimating the probability of something happening. There are many theories as to why: it’s a side effect of subjective consciousness, that we seek a “confirmation bias” to inject meaning into the random data that we move through on a daily basis; a trait somehow favored in our evolution that’s kept us safe and viable (fearful or emotional events leave a bigger imprint on us); or simply that few folks receive an adequate education in maths when we are young enough for it to carve into our thinking. It fascinates me that our intuition about how frequently (or infrequently) events can and do happen — for instance, thinking of a song right before hearing it on the radio — is wrong (we think it’s an “eerie coincidence,” while, in fact, the actual probability of such a thing happening is higher than we think). In fact, this skew is the theme of my latest novel, The Birthday Problem (Pink Narcissus Press, 2014).

We personalize everything … which makes sense, because, given our consciousness, everything happens to us (the individual) or in relationship to us (someone we know, don’t know, and not-me). I wanted to write a book that relied on coincidence; in The Birthday Problem, every character has a relationship to every other character in some way or another. They are a web of people all affected by the same tragedy — malfunctioning nanobots that cause symptoms of mental illness. But their interconnectivity was how I played with the phenomena of poor probability judgment and whether it felt possible that all of these very different characters could be so closely related.

The title refers to a classical paradox that, IMHO, nicely sums up our failings in understanding probability. The birthday problem asks how many people need to be in a room together for there to be a 50% (or greater) probability that two of them share the same birthday (month and date).

Unless you already know the answer, whatever you are thinking right now is wrong. Now, it feels like there need to be a LOT of people in a room for there to be a 50/50 probability two of them share the same birthday. You may even think, quite logically, that it would require at least 365 or more. But really, it just takes 23 people in one room to get a 50% probability that two of them will share the same birthday.

There’s great explanation of the math here: Understanding the Birthday Problem.

For less number-oriented thinkers, this explanation is quite tidy: The Birthday Paradox.

Interesting, right? Even when you see the math, it still feels wrong. And that unsettling feeling is what I tried to recreate in The Birthday Problem.

The Birthday Problem is available at Pink Narcissus Press, Amazon, B&N, and in stores everywhere.

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I didn’t want to leave that cranky pants post at the top while I was away.

Fan event tonight with the Portland Timbers!

Look, here I am with Norberto Paparato, Ben Zemanski, Jorge Villafaña, Michael Nanchoff and Darlington Nagbe (!). Aren’t I adorable clutching my Mom purse? That other guy is Billy.

And how about this one? squee!! Diego Chara #1 fouls in the league this season. Nagbe is the most fouled player. Our team is so balanced. And Steve Zakuani has never looked happier to be hanging out with the fans. (To be fair, this was at the end of the event.) And Billy again and home grown player Bryan Gallego.

Be good while I’m offline.

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One More Chance to Get it All Wrong

The past couple weeks have been ground zero for doing it wrong.

I wanted to put a travel alert on my bank account. I went to the branch and was told to wait for a banker. I talked to the banker and he seemed surprised like I was a fussy old lady and he was just indulging me. Then he thought I should open another bank account: just for travel. That way if something happens, I have an alternative.

I’m ahead of you pal, I have another account at a different bank. I also asked the banker specifically what the travel related fees would be and he agreed that there would be fees and that would be something to watch out for. Then he tried to sell me an American Express card to save on fees. I felt it was unlikely that travel related fees would be more than the annual fee for Am Ex.

Then after all that he told me I still had to call customer service.

Remember my rant about Verizon and how all they can do at the store is sell you stuff? Same at the bank. They can give you your very own cash that you earned yourself and they store for you or they can sell you stuff. They can’t do anything else. I called customer service and got into a phone tree where the only choices were to check my bank balance or get transferred to someone who could sell me something. I had to do that thing were you yell at the auto-attendant until she reluctantly transferred me to a person. I finally got that settled.

And speaking of Verizon, I needed to confer with them also about this travel. Phone tree that had no choices that I want. Yelling. Put into waiting queue and told they are experiencing extra long wait times. What does that mean? Unfortunately I didn’t have an extra long time right then. I decided to try the live chat (I know you’re shaking your head right now, desperate times … ). The interface was confusing but once I was connected it was kinda okay. At one point I was totally confused about what was going on and thought: I should call customer service so I can ask questions. Then I remembered that I was talking to customer service. I think this one is settled, too.

Finally, I ordered a specialty item from a store that only sells 2 things. In order to do this I was forced to create a user account, including a separate username other than my email address and it scolded my only moderately secure password. Like I need a really secure password for a place I’m never going to return to. I ordered both things. One magically arrived on my doorstep. Never got a shipping confirmation or anything. I figured the 2 items must have been separated in transit but several days later I still hadn’t received them so I went to the website and logged in. It didn’t need a username, just my email and moderately secure password. And next to my second item it said cancelled-back ordered. So I had to contact customer service which luckily was straight email and I also kindly suggested implementing a system to inform customers what the hell is going on with their order. I guess it’s not cancelled, just back ordered and they appreciated my suggestion. Just kidding! No one ever tells me they appreciate my suggestions.

I’m going to be offline for a couple of weeks. There will be tweets and photos.

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Brazil v. Netherlands

This game wasn’t pleasant to watch. I had my phone and looked at twitter and youtube clips of kittens playing the piano before I realized I could be doing something else and I moved on. Ending up 3rd or 4th in the World isn’t bad from a big picture perspective but neither team had anything to celebrate.

Germany v. Argentina

Yay! My team won. About an hour after the match I was up to my elbows in everyday life stuff and I looked up and thought: we won!

Great game. No major controversies. Both teams played their hearts out. Great goal from Götze. The only bad part was having to watch sad Argentines suffer through the second place ceremony. I don’t know a better way of doing it but it seems mean to make a losing team stand around and watch the celebrating people lose their minds.

Phew. My team won. I am not familiar with this feeling. They won in 1990 which I saw. And Euro Cup in 1996 which I did not see. Could you even watch Euro cup games in this country in 1996?

When I talked to my Dad he said, “Whew, it’s over. We can take a break from soccer.”

HA HA Because the Timbers are in Seattle tonight. I have another game to get through. I really loved hearing Ian Darke pimp the game during the WC broadcast. “If you’ve enjoyed World Cup, you will enjoy Major League Soccer.”

You know it!

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FIFA World Cup Games 61 and 62

Wow. Germany v. Brazil.

What can you say? After the 3rd goal I said, I don’t understand what’s happening. I thought I was watching a replay or some sort punked version of World Cup. Then the TV showed a lady in Brazil colors making a “I don’t understand what’s happening face.”

I wasn’t alone.

Having watched my team get humiliated on the pitch, I feel for Brazil. I was glad I was Team Germany.

Argentina v. Netherlands

Historically, I’ve been a Netherlands fan but I haven’t been enjoying them lately and I wasn’t sad to see them go out. I can’t even imagine what that 3rd place match is going to look like.

I’m still Team Germany but I wouldn’t be unhappy to see Argentina raising the trophy. Let’s hope for a good match and no PK final.

Remember the dramatic baby raccoon rescue in our backyard?

This morning I saw a mama and three fuzzy baby raccoons on the way to the park-n-ride. They were waddling across a busy street so I didn’t have high hopes for the family but hopefully I’m wrong. (Edited to add: every time I read a previous post I find a typo or bit that doesn’t make sense because I do everything in a hurry. I always think I should fix but rarely do. In this case I need to point out that the raccoons were not on their way to the park-n-ride. They were crossing the street. I was going to the park-n-ride.

And my final note, today I was answer lady at the bus stop. One lady came up to ask me a question and then argued with me when I answered her. I finally said: I don’t know what you’re asking me. And she told me she thought her bus was coming soon. Lady: an express bus comes about every 7 minutes until 6:30pm. That’s not a daring assumption you’re making. (I know I shouldn’t be mean. If you don’t normally take the bus, it’s easy to panic. But don’t argue with me.)

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What I Found Today

I’m successfully finding things I’m not looking for today.

I came across these when I was trying to find a greeting card. I did 15 seconds of research and am going to say they’re from 1998.

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