Long and tiring day today, mostly spent couch-shopping.
The saleswoman at Ethan Allen continued to be clever; for example, as I was leaving she asked about the Prius, and I told her I was renting while considering buying, and we chatted about that for a minute, and then she asked how much it cost, and I told her, and she said, "Oh, that's a lot of money," and I thought Oh, right, she has a vested interest in knowing how much I can afford. Perhaps that thought was uncharitable of me; she may well just have been being friendly. But in all of my interactions with her, there are little moments here and there when I'm reminded that she's a salesperson and I'm a customer and no matter how friendly she is, she may not have my best interests at heart. But she's still pretty friendly, and pretty charming, and seems to know what she's talking about wrt their furniture (she's been there for nine years), so I can forgive a lot; most salespeople I meet don't have my interests at heart and they're obnoxious, which makes me a lot less happy about buying from them.
I continue to have the same pluses and minuses while driving the Prius. I like it in general, but visibility remains an issue. (Thanks, David L, for pointing out that that may be true of other new cars too; a good point.) One minor visibility issue: there's a single rear-window windshield wiper, and it sits right at the edge of the lowest-visibility part of the car (straight back from the driver's seat); combined with the headrest and the various door posts and such, that contributes to visibility being particularly poor in the left-hand blind-spot area. There've been several times already when I thought there was nobody to my left but there turned out to be. Visibility backward to the right is much better (than to the left); largely unimpeded. Visibility ahead is fine, except that the rear-view mirror exactly blocks my forward view when I'm going around cloverleafs of a certain curvature; I imagine I'll get used to leaning slightly left when that happens.
My other minor peeve about the car is that it kind of shudders sometimes when I'm sitting still and the engine stops (or starts); I gather that's supposed to be an unnoticeable transition (and it is when it happens while I'm moving), but apparently it isn't always. And it's kinda disconcerting. But I imagine it'd be easy to get used to.
What else? I learned that Neiman Marcus, Macy's, Nordstrom's, and Bloomingdale's don't carry couches, while Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, and Jennifer Convertibles do (but not ones I want). I also learned that Jennifer Convertibles is a lot lower-end than I always assumed; I figured leather + downtown Palo Alto address added up to upscale, but apparently not.
I also learned that even when muscat grapes look exactly like "red flame" seedless grapes, they don't taste the same, nor are they seedless.
In unrelated news, I heard Thomas Friedman speak the other day. He didn't say much that I hadn't already gathered from a brief glance at various articles, except for one thing: he apparently doesn't see the "flattening" of the world as an undiluted good thing. He pointed out some of the drawbacks and disadvantages, which gave me a little more respect for him. I gotta say, though, he mixes metaphors as much while speaking as in his writing. (While I'm here, I may as well point to a couple articles about globalization: "Axle of Evil," from Slate a week and a half ago, discusses the possibility of an Iranian company purchasing the UK's MG Rover auto company; and I roundaboutly ended up looking again at a Wired article from early 2004 about programming jobs moving to India, which I pointed to at the time but had forgotten about since then.)
Oh, and after him came a brief high-energy free-association session from Robin Williams. Fun, and mostly very funny. First time I've seen him live. I was a little bothered by the casual cultural stereotyping he engaged in, but I guess it's part of his job to offend people.
I have a feeling there was something else I was going to mention here, but I can't think what. Except that today would've been Alex's 37th birthday. Coming up on five years he's been gone now. I still miss him.
Also Sally C's birthday (yay!), as well as Lyman Frank Baum's. I have his year of birth as 1865, but Wikipedia says 1866. Some day I'll have to go through my list of famous people's birthdays and reconcile it with online sources. Anyway, so it's either the 139th or the 140th anniversary of his birth. What with his birthday today, and Barrie's earlier in the week, I recommend going and reading a kids' book to celebrate.