Re: This Is Not A Swimming Post ≈ jedi mind rays ≈

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I'm going to use this video to berate my kids into faster swimming.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:08 PM
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That is very fast. It's too bad they don't pan back when that girl finished and show you exactly how fast everyone else was going, for contrast.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:10 PM
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They do pan back, but none of the other kids is even in the frame.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:15 PM
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Does that really work for little kids? I mean, she's a great swimmer for her age, but what she's got is a really advanced skill. She's not going to be that much faster than her peers in a couple of years, because now the difference between her and them is that she knows how to swim well and they don't; give them a few years and they'll all swim well, the question will just be who swims best. I'm not sure that getting it early has all that much to do with where you peak.

(Not sure that it doesn't, either, of course.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:15 PM
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That's where the hard work comes in, right? But something is coming to her naturally that everyone else has to work at. (There are other videos of her up to about age 12, which is what I think she is now, and she's winning, but by less, of course.)


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:20 PM
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My first experience of this cruel truth happened upon my arrival at Big Ten U. I had played high school basketball, pretty well, and had been recruited by some small schools. Big Ten U., though, had a really good basketball team, and was the sort of program that launched its fair share of players into the various professional leagues -- both domestically and internationally.

Anyway, I talked to the coach and scored a chance to walk on to the team. At the first tryout/practice, which amounted to little more than a series of scrimmages, the coach kept arranging and rearranging the teams to look at different matchups. Periodically he'd excuse people who didn't hold his interest. And I was having a really good day shooting the ball, so I ended up staying on the floor until the penultimate scrimmage.

In that game, the third-string point guard from the varsity was my opposite. And there's no way to put this other than to say that we were playing a different game. I hadn't always been the best player on the court throughout high school. But I had never faced someone who appeared to have been born to basketball greatness before. Remember, this was the third stringer. Regardless, it was unsettling and beautiful in equal measure. And I realized that my basketball career was over. Just like that.

I thanked the coach and joined the crew team, where there were a few people whose VO2 made them truly great. But I could work hard enough to keep up.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:20 PM
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LB don't harsh on the ubermensch fantasies.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:21 PM
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Gimme a break. She's juiced. (The amazed laughter is great, though.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:24 PM
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Isn't there a crazy muscular 7-year-old too, maybe in Germany or something? Like a prodigy weight-lifter kid?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:25 PM
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Oh, I have a friend whose motto (which she's also instilling in her children) is that if you try hard enough you can do anything. I've argued with her about it before.

But sometimes I do wonder whether I could have TigerWoods-ed my kids ...


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:26 PM
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But sometimes I do wonder whether I could have TigerWoods-ed my kids ...

Always remember the lesson of Todd Marinovich. Woods is the exception.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:27 PM
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In that game, the third-string point guard from the varsity was my opposite. And there's no way to put this other than to say that we were playing a different game.

A guy I worked with at my old job played some college ball, and that's how he described playing against Iverson .


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:27 PM
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Oh, I have a friend whose motto (which she's also instilling in her children) is that if you try hard enough you can do anything.

I believe this, to a degree. I stand by the statement that everyone is capable of understanding calculus, (but not necessarily at the pace of a standard semester-long course.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:28 PM
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But I had never faced someone who appeared to have been born to basketball greatness before. Remember, this was the third stringer. Regardless, it was unsettling and beautiful in equal measure. And I realized that my basketball career was over. Just like that.

I had the exact same experience with basketball and it sound like I wasn't even as good as you were. But you play someone who is d-one or even has a chance of going pro, and suddenly you feel like you've been assigned entirely different kinds of bodies; the merely human, and the athletic.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:28 PM
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Yeah, I'm not trying to minimize crazy talent -- that's real. I'm just wondering about how tightly it's linked to early development of mature skills.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:29 PM
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And there's no way to put this other than to say that we were playing a different game.

I sometimes amuse myself by trying to figure out how many steps there are between novice and professional such that for each step you could say that playing someone one step above them isn't even a contest?

5? 6? 12?

Less than 12, I think, but more than 5.

Novice
Slow pick-up game
Fast pick-up game
Adult Rec League
Small College
??
Big College
??
NBDL
NBA


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:30 PM
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Isn't there a crazy muscular 7-year-old too, maybe in Germany or something? Like a prodigy weight-lifter kid?

You might be thinking of that German kid who's a genetic freak. His body doesn't produce myostatin.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:30 PM
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suddenly you feel like you've been assigned entirely different kinds of bodies; the merely human, and the athletic.

I'm worse than both of you combined, and gawd is that true. It's a qualitative difference from being beaten by a normal person who is better than you. That's why players who are special at a pro level are so extraordinary.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:32 PM
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12, 14: This guy was no Iverson. Big Ten U. guy never even started. And I'm pretty sure he hit the ceiling playing pro ball in Israel (when last I checked) for a few years. His lack of Iversonian greatness, I think, only underscores the basic difference between those with gifts and those without.

Which did carry over into my crew experience. One member of the team ended up rowing in the Olympics. And again, it was because of VO2, his ability to process oxygen more efficiently than anyone else on the team (or maybe the world). No matter how much anyone else practiced, he was always going to have an easier time being great. Had he been a lazy sack of crap, it might have been possible to make up the stagger. But he wasn't. So, on to greatness for him. And on to graduate school for the rest of the us.

And Ogged, I really wasn't that great. I just worked very, very hard and maximized my few skills: shooting, ballhandling, sucking up to the coach.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:36 PM
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re: 6

I used to work with a guy who'd been a professional soccer player. He'd been in a good Scottish 1st division team, so not outstanding, but solid professional standard. Anyway, he blew out a knee or something aged about 19 or 20. Went to University and got an IT degree.

He still played for fun and had recovered from his knee problem and joined our 5-a-side team for the company league. Seriously, it was like watching someone playing a different sport. This was a guy 5 years out of the professional game, but our tactic was, quite literally, 'give Davey the ball' and he'd just annihilate the other team. Seriously absurd scorelines would get run up and the team basically consisted of him and 4 other out of shape guys who couldn't really play that well.

Ditto a University boxing club I was in for a few months [I was crap so didn't stick at it]. We had guys there who were national student champions, seriously good fighters. The coach brought in some low ranked pros to spar. It was like watching people from another world. The (good) amateur guys couldn't lay a hand on them.

It's frightening how good the really good are.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:36 PM
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16: I think it's different for different games. My dad was a semi-serious baseball player as a kid. Nothing exciting, but he played with people who went on to be minor leaguers, and he doesn't talk as if he percieved himself as being wildly outclassed by them. From the way he talked, baseball would be, maybe, four steps, and not huge ones -- ordinary pickup ball, good amateur (my father), minors, big leagues -- with people at each step not really out of sight from the step above and below.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:37 PM
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I like that game, NickS, but I'm not sure your list works according to your own rules. A lot of fast pickup guys could play adult rec, and a lot of big college guys could compete with NBDL. And obviously, some NBDL guys can play pro ball.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:38 PM
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15: Our older boy talked at 9 months. And not babble. Full sentences. His pediatrician didn't believe us -- fawning parents, and all that -- until he said to her: "Hi Doctor xxxx, I've got a cough."

She was impressed and then gathered herself enough to say: "He'll no more grow up to be a great orator than the kid who walks early will be an olympic athlete." We still changed his name to Daniel Webster.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:39 PM
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Amazing. I'd make my daughters watch it, but they're too busy looking at each other's naked butts through binoculars.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:39 PM
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23: Yeah, I'd expect that to mean that he's almost certainly going to be very very bright, but not that you'd expect him to be anywhere near as far from the mean for intelligence as he was for how early he spoke in sentences.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:41 PM
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Sounds like the pediatrician was just adopting a fall-back position, her original position having been proven completely wrong.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:43 PM
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I was a highly precocious tot, speaking and reading very early. Alas, I am neither a great orator nor a superscholar.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:43 PM
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25: Are you calling little Dan dumb?


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:43 PM
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re 6 -- Similar story, second hand: When I was a sophomore at Major Independent Jock School, one of the frosh in my section went to an open basketball tryout with the varsity (Big East) running through its drills. He had been all-county? somewhere on Long Island and had a healthy bb self-regard. I saw him after the tryout and he just shook his head. Thereafter he basically gave up the game.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:43 PM
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Oops, 27 was me. I'm no savant of commenting, either.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:44 PM
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Of course, we're running a bunch of things together here. Athleticism, early development, extraordinary coordination, and then the fruit of all that plus hard work. Still, some people get a great package of those things.

And it's just fun to think about extraordinary performers. There was a kid swimming sprints in the lane next to me the other night, and I've never been in the pool with someone that good going who is going all out. It was honestly a little physically frightening to have something that close generating that kind of power and coming up on you so much faster than you thought possible.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:44 PM
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I'm not sure your list works according to your own rules.

It was a first draft, and I intentionally erred on the side of putting in too many steps, because I figured it was easier to spot if the categories were too close together than if they were too far apart.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:44 PM
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I was merely 27 and began commenting profusely on blogs. Very advanced for my kind.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:45 PM
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Oh, man. I had a good one like that with high school soccer. Spring of my sophomore year, after having started at fullback in the fall, our whole team played in a select league. We had a match against some random team with a guy who was just passing the time until fall when he'd go on to a D1 team.

He nutmegged me for a goal from 25 yards out. Bastard. His other two goals didn't sting as much.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:45 PM
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28: As a bunny.

That must have been so weird when you realized he was talking. Did you have a denial period, where you thought "Man, that sounded as if he just asked for more milk, but he's not even ten months old yet"?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:45 PM
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Ditto a University boxing club I was in for a few months [I was crap so didn't stick at it]. We had guys there who were national student champions, seriously good fighters. The coach brought in some low ranked pros to spar. It was like watching people from another world. The (good) amateur guys couldn't lay a hand on them.

My mother knows a guy who once boxed against Sugar Ray Leonard in Golden Gloves. That must have been a hell of an experience.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:46 PM
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And then you have guys like Randy Moss, who make other professionals look like Anmik.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:47 PM
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This is the long tails thing. I've changed my opinion. I used to think that talent was a bell curve, and that the champs were champs because someone has to win. But at every level of anything you have people who completely outclass everyone else.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:48 PM
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35: We're actually quite dumb ourselves, so it didn't occur to us that it was odd. Seriously, we had given up on parenting books, which had nearly destroyed our marriage, so we had few benchmarks. But when a friend came over and began muttering about witchcraft, we got the message.

Then, instead of the very reasonable reaction you suggest, we congratulated ourselves on our extraordinary parenting skillz. But that lasted only until we really screwed him up at eleven months by pimping him to a traveling carnival.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:49 PM
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And obviously, some NBDL guys can play pro ball.

So, here's a question, when you have a token rookie or two on the olympic basketball team do you think they have that feeling.

When Nick Collison, for example, was on the olympic squad before his rookie season (leading AI to say that he would be the rookie of the year, which ended up being kind of laughable), do you think he felt outclassed, or like he could be competative with (say) Elton Brand, given a little work.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:50 PM
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39: No, not realizing it was weird seems perfectly reasonable. I like the carnival idea -- you'd want to give him a cigar like the baby in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:50 PM
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41: We did. Give him a cigar, that is. Of course he'd already started smoking -- at six months -- so it wasn't a stretch.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:51 PM
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At a college meet, my "Div III" ass ended up in the lane next to a swimmer from a (now Div II, then the combined "small College Division" *) school who really "should have" been at a bigger program.

After the race, my coaches comment was simply "You're never going to swim as fast as that guy." It was one of the top 10 moments of fundamental, inescapable truth in my life. (If there had been any malice in the comment, I guess this could have been in the Mean Coaches thread.)

* not that this dates me too badly or anything... Jesus.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 4:55 PM
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At some point, I realized that I could work harder than a lot of people and swim faster than them, but that a lot of other people were going to kick my ass no matter how hard I trained.

It can be very frustrating to train with someone and know that you are working a lot harder than they are, but somehow they just move through the water faster than you do.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:11 PM
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I believe this, to a degree. I stand by the statement that everyone is capable of understanding calculus, (but not necessarily at the pace of a standard semester-long course.)

That would be an interesting experiment. Obviously the younger you started, the better. But my dad's been known to explain imaginary numbers to people at parties (not much of a one for small talk), who were surprised that they could understand because "they were always rubbish at maths".

But is everyone capable of going on to be Andrew Wylie, or similar? I don't think so. I think starting early and practising can make you good at pretty much anything, but there has to be an extra *something* to make you really great at it. Whatever I did, there's no way I'd have made it as a ballerina, or become a composer, to name just a couple.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:11 PM
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Re: comment 4 and preternatural talent and early signs thereof.

I can think of a number of examples from my age group days of kids who dominated the competition from an early age. By this I mean that they were national record holders or very close at the 8 and under or 9-10 year old age groups. They were also known as hard workers, and ended up being very good division I swimmers (i.e., placing high or even winning an event or two at NCAA DI championships) with no real shot at the Olympics or world records.

I know of none who were that good (or anywhere close to that good) at that age who kept with it and ended up not being good enough swimmers to secure a DI scholarship.

That, however, says nothing about the kid in the vid. Maybe she's just competent and the other kids suck. Do we know if the vid kid is a real outlier--is she nationally ranked?


Posted by: phred | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:17 PM
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Hasn't research shown that in order to be a top swimmer you have to be slightly retarded or have some degree of mental illness, since swimming laps is unendurably boring for normal, healthy people?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:20 PM
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46: At a slightly older age, 11-12 or even 13-14, I did see some who were literally "boys against men" who plateaued and did not get to the levels you describe. But I think that is a slightly different dynamic.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:25 PM
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The kid in the vid is a girl? Then, well before puberty, she will almost certainly have been taught that she may be able to swim much faster than any other kid her age - but she had better not, because that's "showing off", because the other kids won't like her, because the adults in her life will tell her that she ought to let the other kids win once in a while, and because - last and first - the boys she knows will hate her being able to out-swim them.

It might not happen. But odds are it will.

anmik (23) A kid who can talk whole sentences, coherently and sensibly, at nine months, is hellishly intelligent. Do not let pessimistic adults convince you otherwise. Adults do not (speaking from experience) appreciate a little kid who is decidedly smarter than they are, and hasn't yet acquired the social skills to hide this. (I used to proofread my school textbooks. It bugged me when I found questions with grammatical or logical mistakes.)


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:35 PM
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I'd second what Jesurgislac said to Anmik. Maybe the kid will revert to the mean, but if he doesn't, great.

Super-bright kids have special problems, but also a lot of wonderful opportunities. Dealing specifically with the special problems (peer envy, boredom, conflict with teachers, loneliness) is a necessary goal, but if he doesn't revert to the mean, make the best of it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:40 PM
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You sound angry about something, Jesurgislac.

This isn't exactly the sort of place that discourages smart-assness, and I assume that goes for the commenters' kids as well.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:41 PM
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51: I think that Jesurgislac was responding quite appropriately to the pediatrician's statements.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:42 PM
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I agree with phred in 46.

Hasn't research shown that in order to be a top swimmer you have to be slightly retarded or have some degree of mental illness, since swimming laps is unendurably boring for normal, healthy people?

I find the use of the word "retarded" in this context to be offensive.

Jesurgislac :

You are certainly correct that there can be pressure for girls not to be good at sports, but I sure knew a lot of girls who were more than happy to work their butts off to try to beat the boys in the pool. Sometimes they even did.

I swam with some studette women who ceded to no man. In a long practice, they could be very pesky and annoying, making me work hard so that they didnt kick my ass.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:45 PM
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since swimming laps is unendurably boring for normal, healthy people

I think I've told this story here before. My Dad's grad school roommate was an Olympic swimmer, trained hours every day. Dad asked him what he thought about all those hours in the pool, and he answered "Nothing." After college he went on to be a Buddhist monk.

My former roommate, college swimmer, said that she counted every stroke she ever swam.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:50 PM
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the team my kids swim on has two talented swimmers, a sixteen year old girl and thirteen year old boy. They had a head to head (100 medley) in a boys vs. girls thing, and she won by a whisker. He just qualified for Junior Olympics.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:50 PM
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54:

Swimmers are weird creatures. It cannot be denied.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:57 PM
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56: and breaststrokers are weirdest of all. not sure what or why, but no one who swam for any length of time will contest it.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:58 PM
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I think figuring out what we mean by "natural talent" (and whether there are different aspects/varieties of it) is really interesting. Is it that her brain forms the whole mind/body connection synapses faster? Maybe she had baby swimming lessons! Maybe her body is built slightly differently in the hips or arms? Fascinating stuff.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 5:59 PM
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I like you water moccasin.

There once was an organization dedicated to removing breaststroke from IM. I'll have to find that link.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:05 PM
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49, 50: It's his parents that actually resent his intelligence. But we've taken steps to insure that he'll fit in around the house: intellect binding, and the like.

Seriously, he seems to be a bright kid, but there's no evidence, other than ongoing verbal acuity, to suggest that he'll be anything special. And where we live, all of the children are gifted: something like 30% of the population tests into the GAIT program. So whatever. Paraphrasing Dash: "If everybody is special, then nobody is." And we'd hate to have him think he's special and then find himself guarding Iverson (metaphorically speaking). On the other hand, we'll try not to limit his options.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:05 PM
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but in any given activity, some people will be, through nothing but chance, much better at it than everyone else.

Does that include picking youtube videos that are going to be around for a few hours?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:06 PM
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And we'd hate to have him think he's special and then find himself guarding Iverson (metaphorically speaking).

I don't know. You might get a Buddhist monk out of it.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:08 PM
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One of the most by turns fascinating and depressing facts about.... well, anything, but sport is perhaps the best example... is how much can turn just on genetics. An athlete could have excellent technique and form and work ethic, but she grows too tall or too fast or too weirdly during puberty, and that's it.

It's more noticeable in sports because the difference between being first and second matters more than every where else (don't believe me? you must remember the silver medalists), but it's profoundly strange how much I want to believe it's all just hard work.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:08 PM
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In honor of this not-swimming post I am watching basketball.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:10 PM
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Seriously, he seems to be a bright kid, but there's no evidence, other than ongoing verbal acuity, to suggest that he'll be anything special.

It's cool, we all ate leaves when we were that age. Little toilet water drinking never proved anything either.

Seriously though, sounds like you guys are keeping the right attitude. Hopefully the kid will be super-smart in an achieving kind of way, because it's always nice to have a retirement plan.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:13 PM
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is how much can turn just on genetics

Yes and no. I think an awful lot of it is genetics (in sports, certainly), but a lot of it, I suspect, is a happy concatenation of events. Coaches, temperament, family life, etc. It's no more amenable to hard work or foresight than genetics, though, so it might as well be genetics.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:13 PM
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re: 58.
Now that you mention it, the one particularly acute example of what I'm talking about in 46 may have been an example of "natural" limitation as much as "natural" talent. The dude was short and stocky, yet still damn fast in college (like, sub-3:50 400IM territory many years ago). Maybe he would've been in Mic/hael Ph/el/ps territory if he'd been 6'-something with monkey arms and a 28" waist.


Posted by: phred | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:15 PM
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It is really hard to get the right combination of early promise, shocking defeat, redoubling of effort, right song for the training montage, important competition and uncertainty in the final round. Every piece is crucial, but how often does it all fall into place for someone?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:15 PM
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At the elite levels, though, a lot of the training and coaching drops out. But I'm thinking more of the 13-year-old star that doesn't get into the Royal Ballet, despite winning competitions at his age, because the wise old teachers realize that his knees aren't right and he'll burn out by 25. Or the middle school kid who's amazing at basketball, and then you look at his 5'0' mom and his 5'6'' dad and realize it's unlikely it'll work out.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:18 PM
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68:

If you aint first, you are last.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:18 PM
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is how much can turn just on genetics

this is why i am not incredibly opposed to performance enhancing drugs, or at least don't feel like they are heinous crimes against sport and fairness.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:19 PM
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Re: Cala's point:

A good friend was an excellent breaststroker until she developed really large breasts. She was never the same in the pool.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:20 PM
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I think the hard work v. genetics thing really depends on what it is you want people to accomplish. Okay, maybe so-and-so is too hippy to dance with the NY ballet, but that doesn't mean she can't be a fabulous dancer or dance locally or whatever. Maybe Ogged is too old to be on the US swim team, but he can train and compete in master's meets. It doesn't seem to me to be *that* different from brains, except that it's easier to literally see some of the factors that matter.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:22 PM
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69: Rebuttal: Spud Webb, Mugsy Bogues, Earl Boykins. But of course you're right. In many (all?) sports, there are constraints of the body that can't/shouldn't be ignored. That's part of talent, I guess. As they say: you can't coach height. Apply this aphorism at your discretion.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:22 PM
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That and if you get only 1400 on your SAT, even if you're beat out by thousands you'll still go somewhere. There's not as much fallback for someone who just fails to make the gymnastics team, in terms of what is recognized and lauded.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:24 PM
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74: I was thinking of Mugsy as the exception that proves the rule. The rule wins.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:25 PM
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At the elite levels, though, a lot of the training and coaching drops out.

It's not quite what I was getting at, which I described badly. Phil Jackson once acknowledged that pro teams have needs that supersede the needs of the individual players to get better, and that, depending on the circumstances, an individual player's improvement might be limited by the team for whom he played. Does Jordan turn into Jordan if he goes to the Trailblazers (a good team which had a similar player already)? Don't know, but I doubt it.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:25 PM
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Isn't 1400 a really bad score, now?


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:27 PM
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Oh, that's a good point. And that's heartbreaking, too. Like imagining if Jerome Bettis' mom had really put her foot down and said 'only bowling for you, son.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:27 PM
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73: I completely agree with your basic premise and considered making a similar point (in which case I would have been pwned). But there is something to the talented-beyond-the-realm-of-mortals thing. Returning to Allen Iverson, for a moment. He's under six feet, weighs maybe 175, and somehow dominates NBA games. In part, this is because he's worked hard and is insanely competitive. But it also matters that he's a jet, can jump to the moon, and is cat-quick. Those things can't be taught. And I'll never have those attributes, no matter how hard I try or practice.

So, had I stuck with basketball, I might have been a good JCC Wednesday night gamer. People might have wanted me on their team. But I could never, never, not ever, have played at Big Ten U. And it didn't take Iverson to show me that; all I needed was third-string guy who ended up playing ball in Israel.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:28 PM
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78: According to my undergrads 'no one really cares about the writing score anyway' but that's probably changing. Mutatis mutandis.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:29 PM
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Iverson's only 5'11" or so.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:29 PM
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He'd been in a good Scottish 1st division team, so not outstanding, but solid professional standard.

you can get away with this because of all the Americans around, but a Scottish 1st division team is a long way below "solid professional standard". There are quite a few semi-pro teams in the Scottish first division, aren't there?

I also understand from small amounts of interaction that the difference between bad professional and good amateur boxers is much more to do with training than talent.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:31 PM
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'no one really cares about the writing score anyway'

It matters to the schools that cared about the SAT II Writing test before the change; the rest don't really know what to do with it, at least for now.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:31 PM
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And that's heartbreaking, too.

Indeed.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:32 PM
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But I could never, never, not ever, have played at Big Ten U. And it didn't take Iverson to show me that; all I needed was third-string guy who ended up playing ball in Israel.

We still love you. And you have that SuperBaby.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:32 PM
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75: Well, right (except that SAT scores don't measure much). But that's only because we're thinking in terms of doing whatever-it-is professionally. But like, compare academia: let's say there are hundreds of thousands of kids who are brilliant at math. Only a few of those will go on to earn PhDs, and only some of those will go on to get jobs, and only a few of *those* will end up doing research in math. And maybe half a dozen, max, will actually do something mind-blowingly original.

Okay, let's say there are hundreds of thousands of kids who are brilliant at swimming. Only a few of those will go on to swim on college teams (or even h.s. teams), and only some of them will go on to teach swimming in some capacity, and only a very few will go on to compete beyond that level. And maybe half a dozen will actually be amazing and end up with name recognition among people who follow the sport.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:33 PM
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OT: A friend writes from Morocco that he can purchase saffron there for pennies on the US/European price. If anyone knows anything about the international saffron market, please drop me an email. He is trying to figure out if there's anything he doesn't know that should prevent him from buying.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:35 PM
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Re. the link in 85: I think that having a kid is all about realizing that at every turn, you're potentially cutting off amazing options. It's sort of freaky.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:36 PM
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85: There's a reason Valentino Rossi's autobiography is called What If I'd Never Tried It?.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:36 PM
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88: Mr. B. bought saffron in Saudi Arabia for shockingly cheap. Tell him to buy a bunch and enjoy.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:37 PM
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My 61 is based on conditions that no longer exist. Please excuse.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:37 PM
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87: Right but the difference between spending years of your life and losing out on the academy job to someone just a bit better, and spending years of your life only to just miss the Olympic team seem different, in that you're slightly more likely to have a fall back that still respectable and in the profession or area you've trained for.

It's like when the Olympics does the misty-eyed story of the young gymnast or whatever that has struggled through pain and injuries, and then she goes on to win the gold, and NBC has its manufactured moment, and you realize how many other women have destroyed their bodies in the same way as this girl, except, she won, and they're waitressing somewhere.

I'm a little drunk, but that's depressing even when I'm sober.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:38 PM
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47: That boredom is possibly the main reason I quit swimming. And also why I ran cross country but not track.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:40 PM
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79, 85: I just recently read this, which is one type of example of what I was talking about. (I don't follow baseball, so I have no sense if the description of the player's ability is accurate.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:41 PM
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87 - But there aren't hundreds of thousands of kids who are brilliant at math in a way that seems destined to lead to groundbreaking original research. There are hundreds, full stop. I was in the group of "really bright at math" -- I got a 600-something on the math SATs at 12 when I participated in the Hopkins CTY summer program, I was in accelerated math classes (my senior year, I was in a county-wide advanced math program that met after school with a recognized math pedagogy expert who taught at a different high school), I was chowing down on Gardner's Mathematical Games books in junior high -- but I don't think anyone would look have looked at me and seen a future Westinghouse Science Fair champion or Fields medalist. I hope not; I was capable of doing advanced math in college, what you might have gotten in the first two years of a postgraduate program, but lacked the spark of genius that makes a genius, and I think it would have showed. I met one or two people who struck me as that good, but I think they're fewer on the ground than you think, or else you're using a more expansive definition of "brilliant".


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:42 PM
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Tell him to get the saffron. It's crazy expensive here; we get a batch whenever a relative comes to visit.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:44 PM
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Actually, I think the correct response to my 78 is: "Wasn't it always?"


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:45 PM
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Following on 95: Also, ogged, that's why I'll always have a little love for Kwame. Your boy fucked him pretty good.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:47 PM
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Thanks, B + Ogged. I think he's trying to figure out some export scheme. He's a schemer. I'll pass on your buy rec.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:48 PM
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96 is right. I was always excellent at math; since age 5 or 6 teachers were identifying me as quite advanced. I was way ahead all the way through, and did great in college; I was probably even one of the 5 best in the department undergrads (unless my profs were lying to me). But it was a mediocre school, and even though I was the best student some of the profs had seen in a few years, I still was never going to do anything groundbreaking, because I just didn't have it, although I was very, very good.

When I realized that, I decided not to get a phD, and became a lawyer instead. Nice to be in a profession where even if you aren't a genius, you can still do amazing things.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:49 PM
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that's why I'll always have a little love for Kwame

I hear you; circumstances do make a lot of difference. I can't hear the rest of your comment.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:51 PM
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leblanc and I are starting the Math Burnouts Club. We'll sit in our clubhouse drinking mojitos, talking about how cool fractals are, and throwing darts at a picture of Andrew Wiles.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:52 PM
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102: You're part of the problem. Be the solution.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:53 PM
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103: can I join? Can I? I'll bring the gravity bong and a hat full of Erdös numbers for people to pick out.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:53 PM
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93 - I almost can't watch the Olympics at all because of that. I know three people who dropped out of school (one high school, two college) to shoot for the Olympics, and none made it. I cringe for their lives, and that's before I think about what they've done to their bodies.

(One woman, who dieted from 104lbs down to 92lbs twice a year, made the Olympic team but the US decided not to send people in all eight weight ranges. Hers got cut, so she didn't get to go. She decided to keep training and try again in four years, of course.)


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:53 PM
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95 - Oh man, it had to be the Phillies.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:54 PM
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103: can hbgb and I join?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:56 PM
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103: I'm probably qualified to carry your towels. I was skipped up a grade for a while, but they decided to keep me out of AP Calculus, and I didn't object. I was a Mathlete in 8th grade though, and made a lifelong friendship with a guy who is now a very young tenured astrophysicist.

Ah, math. I hardly knew ye.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:57 PM
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Mathlete.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 6:59 PM
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to shoot for the Olympics, and none made it. I cringe for their lives, and that's before I think about what they've done to their bodies.

Yeah, through my brother and his wife I know a lot of near-elite and true elite track athletes. As with the other examples, it's quite frightening to see what they can do.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:01 PM
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to shoot for the Olympics, and none made it. I cringe for their lives, and that's before I think about what they've done to their bodies.

More to the point, and what I meant to say in 111, is that many of them were prepared to pay damn near any price for a shot at something like an Olympic medal, or even just a place at the games.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:03 PM
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I did some math competition stuff - they might have called it the "math olympiad" - in 6th grade and did better than everyone else in my class and then in 8th grade failed to advance in something or other that involved kids from different area schools. Another student who I tied with on the written test, but who was much better on the one to one competition than I was represented our school. I was pretty embarrassed by how poorly I did, but since I don't remember doing much in the way of preparation, I probably didn't have much idea of what I'd signed up for. It was a teacher's suggestion. In high school I took some summer stuff to accelerate my coursework, but did no non-coursework math.

This is a long way of saying I don't think, even with math being my favorite subject up to high school, that I was ever into it enough to burn out. I remember doing well on the math SAT when I was 13 or 14 (probably 14), but the real concern was the fact that my verbal score was nearly 200 points lower.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:07 PM
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the difference between spending years of your life and losing out on the academy job to someone just a bit better, and spending years of your life only to just miss the Olympic team seem different

But I think this is the wrong comparison. For most sports, being on the olympic team is like getting a research I job, and winning is like writing the groundbreaking book or getting the Nobel or something. Most academic jobs are *teaching* jobs, and most good athletes can (if they wish) become coaches.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:08 PM
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That all seems so entirely alien to me. Screwing up the rest of your life for a very small chance at success in something you can do maybe until you're thirty, maybe thirty-five? I can see doing it for the money -- pro athletes make some sense to me. But the idea of picking yourself up at twenty eight, having sacrificed your education, your health, and the beginnings of your career, and saying "That didn't work out, I guess. Let's figure out Plan B," sounds unspeakably awful.

This probably just proves that I'm soulless; I just can't get inside the head of someone who thinks that's a good idea.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:08 PM
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many of them were prepared to pay damn near any price for a shot at something like an Olympic medal

I think the difference between this and "a shot at teaching at Harvard" is simply that the Olympics are a lot more visible to kids, and that we tell kids that this is a semi-reasonable goal way more often than we tell them they can end up being the next Cornel West (or whatever).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:09 PM
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116: The other difference is that it isn't a whole life -- it's so incredibly time-limited.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:11 PM
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112: Weirdly, rfts and I know a medalist (a silver medal winner, the sister of a friend of a friend of ours) who seemed to have largely backed into her sport. She took it up while studying at one of the Oxbridge colleges because she's athletic and someone discovered that she fenced. It's not much practiced in the U.S., so there wasn't a great deal of competition during the Olympic tryouts.

I don't think this is the normal path to success.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:12 PM
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But that's only because we're thinking in terms of doing whatever-it-is professionally.

Right. Which is becoming a little bit crazy, I think, when it comes to kids and sport. On the one hand, I can see that this 6-year old swimmer has an amazing talent, and I can understand why people would want to nurture that and encourage her to "go for the gold" or whatever. On the other hand, she's 6 years old, for god's sake, and whatever happened to childhood (an admittedly new and historically contingent concept, in the sense that we generally mean when we refer to childhood)? The pre-professionalization of children's sports is something that troubles me. In some cases, I would go so far as to argue that it's akin to child labour, given the hours worked by the children. Child athletes should be unionized, dammit! Or, uh, something like that.

I do believe in natural talent, or natural propensities. But there's an awful lot (most of which goes unnoticed and unremarked upon) that has to come between the possession of a natural talent and the acquisition of a gold medal. No doubt there are people from all over the globe who have what it takes to be NHL-level hockey players, but most NHL players come from northern countries where there's lots of interest and investment in the development of hockey talent. And even within those northern countries, there are serious class considerations: it's expensive to play hockey at a competitive level, and at every age level, too, and the days of Rocket Richard are long since over.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:14 PM
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118: There was someone on my age group swimming team who later went on to become either an Olympian or near Olympian by competing for a different country through dual citizenship.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:19 PM
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Also, did any other parents try to raise their kids like John Stuart Mill?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:20 PM
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I met one or two people who struck me as that good, but I think they're fewer on the ground than you think, or else you're using a more expansive definition of "brilliant".

This is very true. Math is the particular area where I'm familiar with the difference between "good" and "holy shit". My natural talent was enough to let me coast even in national level competitions and get respectable rankings by my final year. But from my time with the kids who were actually coming in top at those competitions, even if I'd worked my ass off I almost certainly wouldn't have made the USA Math Olympiad team (top 6, plus 6 alternates).

And even those kids lived in awe of the occasional geniuses like Reid Barton who won gold medals at the international math olympiad all four years he competed, including a perfect score his final year, and earned two gold medals in the international computer programming olympiad, including winning the final year with a score of 580 out of 600 points while second place in the world had 525. He then went on to place in the top 5 in the US in the Putnam math competition all four years of college (the top 5 aren't ranked) and the most prestigious prize for undergraduate math research. Oh yeah, and he speaks something like 6-7 languages.

People like that just remind you of how crappy even supposedly good people really are, at everything.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:21 PM
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I don't think this is the normal path to success.

On this end of the scale, a woman I knew in college, and who certainly wasn't an athlete, went touring around Thailand after graduating, ran into some guys (Australians I think) interested in Thai Kick Boxing, went along to a gym to see what it was all about, discovered she was preternaturally good at it, and shortly afterward became a leading fighter in Thailand.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:22 PM
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The two groups most surprisingly overrepresented here are lady mathematicians and Mayflower descendants. The question I want to ask is, are any of out lady mathemativcans also Mayflower descendants? Because if one of them were, she could be crowned Queen of Unfogged.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:22 PM
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Rocket Richard

Another person about whom I only know one thing, courtesy of a song.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:23 PM
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Math has especially long tails.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:23 PM
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LB, that's because it's work to you. To people who enjoy training and competing, it's the thing they love doing. The rewards are--ok, not for everyone--secondary.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:24 PM
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Holy smokes. It is such a delight to see a child do a thing so well, so evidently without effort.

Too bad the likes of ogged's Coach will ruin her life.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:25 PM
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To expand, you have Math Aptitude SAT, Math Acievement I SAT, and Math Achievement II SAT. 10% IIRC of the Math II testers get 800s.

It was explained that Math II still isn't advanced math. But you could thin out the group a couple more times with more tests, and my guess is that there's still be individual standouts.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:26 PM
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To people who enjoy training and competing, it's the thing they love doing.

Mmmmmaybe. I'll agree that success is what they want most. But for a lot of people going for it, I don't think each day of working out, injured, until you make yourself sick, is a pleasure in itself.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:26 PM
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A friend writes from Morocco that he can purchase saffron there for pennies on the US/European price.

Interestingly, the same is true of Moroccan hashish.

In seriousness, your friend should thoroughly research the import regulations before attempting to bring any plant product into the country. They can be pretty arcane, and if he shows up at the airport customs inspection with a suitcase full, the best case outcome is that it gets confiscated and he is out the money.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:27 PM
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To people who enjoy training and competing, it's the thing they love doing.

I.E., as I've explained, people with mental defects.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:27 PM
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What's 129 about?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:27 PM
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For the record, I had an odd path to math. I considered myself so-so at math, never was moved up or singled out, and did not take calculus in high school. (My junior year teacher and I mutually agreed that it would be too hard.)

I kept taking math classes in college, believing that the next one would be the one that was too hard, and then I'd stop. I was ostensibly an anthropology major. Finally I admitted to myself that I hated my anthropology classes and decided to tentatively try math.

I swear, I got a pathetic amount of encouragement ever. I even had a professor tell me that analysis would probably be too hard. I said, "But I've gotten A's in these other upper level classes." And he said, "analysis is different." It was not, I was fine.

In grad school I came to the conclusion that I just think mathematically differently than most other mathematicians. I think I'm an humanities-brain that's good at math and not a physics/sciences-brain that's good at math.

Ultimately I found the communication aspect too discouraging. It's too frustrating to read terribly written math, and it's too frustrating to explain yourself to other mathematicians. I vainly think I was kind of sparky at seeing new/different connections, though.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:28 PM
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To people who enjoy ... competing ... I.E., as I've explained, people with mental defects.

John, you adore competing. Maybe not physically. But you're a champion one-upsmaner.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:29 PM
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133: Refers to 122. Long tails. People or events far from the mean are more common than expected.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:29 PM
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10% IIRC of the Math II testers get 800s.

I don't know if it's still true, but at one point it was possible to skip a question or two and still get an 800.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:31 PM
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I don't compete in swimming, though. A bridge far too far.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:31 PM
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I don't mean to suggest that this is the normal course of things, but it is possible for someone to be a world class athlete without sacrificing every other aspect of personal development. In the course of my career, I have worked with two olympic athletes (one of them a gold medalist) and a world cup skiier. They had enough brains and foresight not to neglect their academic pursuits, and their athletic training imbued them with work habits I can only envy.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:33 PM
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134: I don't think there's such a thing as a science versus humanities brain, largely because I want to break people down into people for whom bio and chem are easy, and people for whom math and physics are easy. But there's certainly good and poor communicators -- the furthest out there brain I ever met was a friend in my physics classes at MIT. I was reasonably average, top half of the class but nothing exciting, until I dropped out. He was weirdly smart, and not just smarter than me, but generally curve-busting. He couldn't communicate his thought process at all to someone who wasn't moving at his speed, though. I occasionally tried studying with him, and gave up--there just wasn't any useful information transfer happening.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:34 PM
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134 is really interesting. More on being "a humanities brain that's good at math" please.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:35 PM
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I don't think each day of working out, injured, until you make yourself sick, is a pleasure in itself.

Many days suck, I'm sure, but the feeling of being really fit, and really good at something, is pretty great. And there's the basic pleasure of moving in complicated ways.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:35 PM
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but the feeling of being really fit, and really good at something

Commenter's high!


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:36 PM
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it's profoundly strange how much I want to believe it's all just hard work.

This just makes me feel old. Brilliance is good, hard work is good, and one or both of those plus a large dose of randomness can get you anywhere. Or not.

I was a very good student in an unfocused, undisciplined, undirected sort of way. Getting some direction or learning some focus and discipline would have done more for my professional success than my academic performance did, but I'm used to myself and kind of like being who I am.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:38 PM
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142: Oh, I don't mean to say that there's no pleasure in being an athlete, but your experience of being an athlete is doing it for fun, and pushing yourself as hard as you want to. Once you get into the serious levels of competition, as much as you may enjoy your sport, it's work, and work with what seems to me to be a pathetically small payoff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:39 PM
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A professor I know who taught at both an elite private university and a couple of good but not great public universities said that the athletes in the big revenue college sports were better at the private school than at the public ones, while the few Olympic sport athletes he taught tended to be the same or worse.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:39 PM
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You gotta really put in hours every day if you want to excel at commenting.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:39 PM
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Added to 146: Better at academics, that is.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:40 PM
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I don't think each day of working out, injured, until you make yourself sick, is a pleasure in itself.

That was the good part. I didn't like the competing part. The pattern is very compulsive, but the actual doing something interesting and hard is great.

And the part about picking up your life after you don't make it to the pinnacle of your sport is really, really difficult. That is one of my favorite conversations to have with former collegiate athletes, and they all say they were lost for a couple years after they quit their sport.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:40 PM
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there's the basic pleasure of moving in complicated ways

I've only learned this in the last few years, but it's so very true.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:41 PM
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Any time you want to stop copying me, Ogged...


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:42 PM
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It took you five minutes to compose 151?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:47 PM
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Guess it did, 'cause I wouldn't have repeated what you already said. But you do that a lot anyway, and since I'm older, you're the copier.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:49 PM
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Also, to attempt a rambled and disjointed response to Ogged's:

There's a lot of inspirational "if you just set your mind to it" talk,

Frankly, I think a good deal of that inspirational "little engine that could" talk is just so much nonsense. And it probably makes a whole lot of people feel a whole lot worse rather than better. When it comes to talents and propensities and proficiencies and etc, we are not all of us equal. But I also think that anything less than 'we are all of us equal' in legal, civic, and political terms is a gross affront to something that I still (and somewhat atavistically) want to call natural justice.

I think we (we as a society, I mean) have a hard time coming to terms with the gap between not-equal and equal because we have detached the "equality of all souls" concept, which concept gave rise to the "all men are equal" concept, from its original and fundamentally theological basis. Our modern notions of equal rights, equality under the law, and etc., derive from a Protestant natural law tradition (e.g., John Locke), which in turn derived from a Catholic natural law tradition (e.g., Aquinas), where all souls are equal, not because of some purportedly objective method of measuring and calibrating the true worth of all souls, but just because God wants them to be equal. Because God, as a parent/parental figure, and in his or her infinite wisdom, has decided to love all of his children equally, regardless of how well they swim or do calculus or play hockey. Like any good parent should.

It's really hard to come up with a secular, non-providentially-grounded defense of basic equality in the face of obvious inequalities (I mean, leaving aside issues of opportunity and such, which is admittedly a huge thing to leave aside: not all of us are capable of achieving the same levels of proficiency/excellence in swimming or calculus or hockey, no, no matter how much money our parents have). But not impossible, I have to believe (though, personally, I still cling to the theological basis).


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:50 PM
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M-copying is O-fun.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:56 PM
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149:

And the part about picking up your life after you don't make it to the pinnacle of your sport discipline is really, really difficult.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:57 PM
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It's really hard to come up with a secular, non-providentially-grounded defense of basic equality in the face of obvious inequalities

Actually, it's pretty easy, but various defenses exclude various groups that we'd like to include, or include groups that we'd like to exclude. Which is to say, it's not the death of God keeping us from grounding equality non-providentially, but residual theological commitments.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 7:59 PM
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M-copying is O-fun.

Is this the first attested instance of that?


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:00 PM
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134 is really interesting. More on being "a humanities brain that's good at math" please.

I probably can't really defend it. The one piece of evidence that springs to mind is that I am terrible at physics. I just couldn't make heads or tails as to why they chose some simplifying assumptions and not others. You'd have a model of a chain sliding off the end of a table, and I'd be totally lost because I kept picturing links clicking as they slid off the end and wondering about the jostling, etc.

The flip side is that I rock at explaining math to other people. But that's mostly because I work at it really hard, trying to remember what it's like when you don't yet understand it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:01 PM
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Oh Jesus. M-copying offers some pretty mild thrills. I am sure you can do better.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:01 PM
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If you'd been paying attention to m-copying, slol, you'd have seen that neither it nor o-fun actually exist.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:02 PM
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. Once you get into the serious levels of competition, as much as you may enjoy your sport, it's work, and work with what seems to me to be a pathetically small payoff.

While I'm sure it varies an enormous amount, I think this connects back to something similar to ogged's post on "The Work Habits of Highly Annoying People." They just think differently than you or I do. I don't doubt that many regret their choices. But some of them just re-train, and it turns out to be that simple. (This may be truer in women's sports, where the attention may not be enough to be life-distending. That might be just a function of who I happened to know, though.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:03 PM
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160 decries the M-fun content of O-fun M-copying? T-boggling!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:03 PM
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If you'd been paying attention ... slol

I was playing attention. I was just being lightsome and cheerful, like the little ray of sunshine I just for this moment am, and alluding to, rather than explicitly pointing out, your devotion to gloom.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:06 PM
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I do believe slol has a little whim on the lintel this evening.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:08 PM
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Which is to say, it's not the death of God keeping us from grounding equality non-providentially, but residual theological commitments.

Oh my, you all do stop kidding once in a while.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:09 PM
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I am, for objectively objective reasons, just now, in a *good mood*. I have sung my song and supped my meat and if I were in a position to do so would be gratifying other appetites, too. I know, I know, something is lurking out there on the periphery to darken my humors, but I am prepared for the moment to ignore this inevitability and keep on the sunny side of the street.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:10 PM
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For most sports, being on the olympic team is like getting a research I job, and winning is like writing the groundbreaking book or getting the Nobel or something.

When you add in the longevity of the career, it makes just being on the team like winning the Nobel, except that losing out doesn't make you the distinguished runner-up, it makes you the former contender bagging groceries.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:12 PM
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Feliciations on whatever has objectively gratified you, then.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:13 PM
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your devotion to gloom

You wound me, sir. I am devoted only to the gloom of others.

And now to the elliptical, to think about nothing. Not to worry, I'll blog it later.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:15 PM
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if I were in a position to do so would be gratifying other appetites, too

So ribald! I am clutching my pearls!


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:15 PM
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Ribbons!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:15 PM
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So ribald! I am clutching my pearls!

Admittedly, I did indulge in a little insinuation.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:17 PM
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I am devoted only to the gloom of others.

I am imperviously bonhomous. Go and enjoy your ellipses.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:18 PM
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And now to the elliptical, to think about nothing. Not to worry, I'll blog it later.

Whimsically syncretic!

Hey, has anybody who was at the Brock-up been heard from today? Is that the dark cloud slol was talking about?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:21 PM
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Actually, it's pretty easy

Seems to me that grounding equality without appealing to something transcendent brings up serious fact/value problems.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:23 PM
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There is no fact/value dichotomy, Vanderwheel, not to worry.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:27 PM
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Oh, I have a friend whose motto (which she's also instilling in her children) is that if you try hard enough you can do anything. I've argued with her about it before.

I had roughly this discussion with Rory the other day -- she maintained that nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it, I tried to set her straight. "For example," I told her, "a person can't just jump jump off a cliff and start flying without an airplane or anything." She insisted it was a problem that could be solved with human ingenuity, even if we haven't gotten there yet. I smiled condescendingly and praised her optimism. Then Will posted that YouTube link of the people in the flying squirrel suits jumping off cliffs and flying and I quietly but decisively crossed the threshhold from "mom who knows everything" to "mom who doesn't know shit."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:51 PM
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Wait, you showed her the video?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:53 PM
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178 warms my heart. Fly, little squirrel child. Fly!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 8:53 PM
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How many flat flying squirrels do you suppose it took before they evolved those flaps of skin between the legs?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:01 PM
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I didn't know how to read until significantly later than my sister, who knew how before she entered kindergarten. Also people involved in this conversation should read The Last Samurai, maybe.

I was like an extremely shoddy knockoff of snarkout in terms of math, too.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:03 PM
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The falling squirrel has, sadly, now gone entirely extinct.

Actually I wonder if squirrels are small enough that they don't get hurt by falls?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:04 PM
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Oh, I don't mean to say that there's no pleasure in being an athlete, but your experience of being an athlete is doing it for fun, and pushing yourself as hard as you want to. Once you get into the serious levels of competition, as much as you may enjoy your sport, it's work, and work with what seems to me to be a pathetically small payoff.

One of the things that comes through in a lot of interviews with at least some championship motorsports guys (not that they're special, just that they're what I'm familiar with) is that they really, really, hate to lose. Hate it so much that they'd rather spend 10 hours a day training than suffer the indignity of defeat at the hands of some obviously inferior jackass. Which is another way of saying utility is subjective, I guess.

(see also: test pilots. Q: What does Bob think when Dave is trying to fly something and crashes and dies, and his boss comes in the next day and says "Go do what Dave tried to do, but don't crash"? A: "If you'd have asked me to do it first, Dave would still be alive.")


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:09 PM
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See also: how God weeds crazy out of the gene pool.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:10 PM
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179: Absolutely -- she thought it looked fun, but didn't see why I thought it looked scary. The guy sitting on the edge of the overpass, though, him she considered a risk taker!

You want to know what's really scary though? You know how at the end of one of those videos it pops up a selection of similar videos you can click on? Well, somehow a few clicks past that was the snake eating an entire hippo and a click after that was random porn and a few desparate clicks of the back button popped up some cute animal videos with spanish titles that I said she could check out after she brushed her teeth until I slowly pieced together the blurred image and the Latin roots of the Spanish title and realized it was video of some other animal fucking a dog. My computer conveniently "crashed" before she finished flossing. Damned if I'm going from "nothing's impossible" to interspecies copulation videos!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:13 PM
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Damned if I'm going from "nothing's impossible" to interspecies copulation videos!

I think of this as the internet's six degrees of molestation problem.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:15 PM
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A good friend was an excellent breaststroker until she developed really large breasts. She was never the same in the pool.

Amusingly, every woman who swam breaststroke on my highschool swim team was generously stacked. It was a bit of a running joke. I swam freestyle.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:16 PM
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Actually I wonder if squirrels are small enough that they don't get hurt by falls?

The flying squirrels of North America, at least, are quite a lot smaller than your gray or fox squirrel, so this seems possible.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:17 PM
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Red squirrels are spontaneous ovulators (Layne 1954, Millar 1970). Females enter estrus for only one day, but venture from their territory prior to ovulation and these exploratory forays may serve to advertise their upcoming estrus. On the day of estrus, females are chased by several males in an extended mating chase.

I hope that makes the interminable rest of the year worthwhile.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:19 PM
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I hope that makes the interminable rest of the year worthwhile.

American Airlines has ruined my evening, so I have plenty of time on my hands. On the terminal velocity of squirrels and such like, the best book evar is Life's Devices by Steven Vogel. Great stuff. Teaches you about dimensional analysis, too.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:24 PM
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snake eating an entire hippo

If it was the same video, it was a capybara, the world's largest rodent.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:35 PM
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A capybara is the size of a fat dog! It's a fuck of a lot smaller than a hippo. Next you'll be telling me the snake was a woodchipper or something.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:38 PM
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The video was technically titled "snake vomits hippo," but it was obviously just a reverse play of a snake eating the hippo. They could have been lying about whether it was a hippo, too.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:42 PM
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Is nothing sacred?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:43 PM
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170 lb. is the reported max weight for capybaras. That sure didn't look like a hippo to me, except maybe a cute little baby hippo, and that would be just to sad to think about. Awwwww.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:45 PM
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193: heh heh fat dogs. Heh. Fat!

195: no, but why specifically?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:45 PM
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One of the things that comes through in a lot of interviews with at least some championship motorsports guys (not that they're special, just that they're what I'm familiar with) is that they really, really, hate to lose. Hate it so much that they'd rather spend 10 hours a day training than suffer the indignity of defeat at the hands of some obviously inferior jackass.

That reminds me... you going to the motorcycle show this weekend?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:48 PM
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no, but why specifically?

That was to the possibility that the people labeling the video would lie about whether it was a hippo.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:48 PM
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Okay, found it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dd7S6fRv224

According to the comments, the portuguese voice over identifies the animal as a tapir. Awwww. Tapirs were weirdly Rory's favorit animal at age 2.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 9:52 PM
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the Math Burnouts Club

That's basically what my last two years of college were like. Me and my one math-y friend (he was really great, and together we were despised by our fellow students for being both awesome and kind of arrogant) would sit around in my office and try to figure out crazy shit on the whiteboard, and take excessive smoke breaks. On the weekends, we would hang out in his garage, where he had installed a chalkboard, and get drunk and stoned and think we'd come up with the next great mathematical discovery.

Ah, college.

Then, our second-to-last semester, there were two high school sophomores in our Analysis II class, and we realized we would never amount to anything.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:00 PM
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Amusingly, every woman who swam breaststroke on my highschool swim team was generously stacked.

Hydrodynamics?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:02 PM
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So was it a hippo fucking a dog, or what? Bla/blajoou, are you there?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:28 PM
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203: delicious googleproofing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:30 PM
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That reminds me... you going to the motorcycle show this weekend?

ordinarily i'd be all over that, but i've got a 10 day india trip. spent the last two days figuring out how to make my ds last the entire flight over, spent this morning trying to get vaccinations. priorities, you know.

somehow a few clicks past that was the snake eating an entire hippo and a click after that was random porn

this is a real problem for collaboratively filtering video. the one common element is porn, so if you average over everyone's viewing habits, that's where you end up.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:35 PM
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my ds

What is this?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:39 PM
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nintendo ds lite. gameboy but more so.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:41 PM
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It is a "system" for playing "video games", old dude.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:41 PM
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Thank you, water moccasin.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:43 PM
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I was puzzled too, ogged. You're not alone.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:43 PM
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this is a real problem for collaboratively filtering video. the one common element is porn, so if you average over everyone's viewing habits, that's where you end up.

Relatedly, a presentation at Sunbelt (the academic social networks conference) was showing some visualizations of the IMDB, using some clustering algorithms. The IMDB includes porn movies and of course a) there are thousands of porn movies, b) porn performers are in way more movies than average, and c) they're all in the same group of movies. So the center of the visualization was this core of porn performers connected through their films. "We call this the hard core" says the presenter.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:43 PM
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i thought about capitalizing it. but that would violate the style that i'm working so hard to cultivate.

Ah, the hell with it.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:44 PM
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I have an imdb page! No porn movies, though. I guess that's not a surprise.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:44 PM
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Old dudes know what a ds is because their kids have them. I'm not sure what that makes Ogged--too old to be young and too young to be old.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:44 PM
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Hey, you're only as old as the crushing loneliness you feel. No wait, that's not it.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:46 PM
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Too old to rock 'n roll, too young to DS.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:46 PM
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Too old to rock and roll...

"my DS" would have been even more confusing, given Doctor Slack's presence here.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:46 PM
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but that would violate the style that i'm working so hard to cultivate.

Primarily lowercase styles can include occasional capitalization. Observe.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:47 PM
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203: I believe it was whatever animal's name is something like "Theo" in Spanish.

And no, Bla/blajoou is not a regular reader just yet. But she did decide the funniest joke from that thread was the knock knock joke with the puncline something like BANANAHEAD BANANAHEAD SILLY BANANAHEAD.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:47 PM
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I knew ds meant downstream. It always does.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:48 PM
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I wouldn't bring one of those things to India. That shit gets stolen.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:49 PM
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220 is m-endearing, where "m" means "nerd".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:49 PM
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200: The once-precocious-but-now-rather-ordinary boy also used to revere tapirs, which we visited often in the (underrated) Denver zoological gardens. I think the boy's affinity for this odd animal came from Eric Carle's great work, Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Said the Sloth, which kicks the ass of Vogel's Life's Devices.


Posted by: anmik | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:51 PM
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218: the proper conclusion is that that's not the style water moccasin is trying to cultivate, then.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:53 PM
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224: So it would seem, yes, but the last line of 212 suggests that he sees the choice as all-or-nothing, and I was just pointing out that it isn't.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 10:55 PM
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I wouldn't bring one of those things to India. That shit gets stolen.

as an overcompensated and fidgety tech worker facing nearly 24 hours in an airplane and assorted airports, that's a risk i'm willing to take. i think +14 hours is nearly the worst case for jet lag. any tips on coping?


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 11:02 PM
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226: ambien; sequins.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 11:04 PM
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hmm... ambien scares me, in an "i'm kinda square" kinda way. but it'll really help?

sequins? like the little round sparkly things? am i supposed to eat them or something?


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 11:06 PM
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Crooked Timber had a long flight tip thread a while back.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 11:06 PM
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226: Whenever I've gone to Asia it's taken me a couple of weeks to get used to the time change. And I didn't have anything to do when I got there, so it wasn't a problem waiting around until I had some energy. I wish I had some pointers for you.

Come to think of it, if you're just going for ten days on a business trip, you probably won't be risking your valuables in some third-class train compartment anyway.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 11:13 PM
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AM-BI-EN!

Really, it's a godsend for this kind of travel.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 11:15 PM
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I don't remember being horribly tired when I went to Iran a few years ago. Just try to get on a regular schedule and figure you'll be sluggish the first couple of days.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 11:16 PM
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The result in 211, or a related one, comes up in that social networks book by that physicist that seems to have been the subject of some contentious remarks by people who've been studying social networks for longer. I think the book was called Linked?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 11:21 PM
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BO-OK-STORE.

Pick an author you haven't read but should. I got on my Pynchon kick on a Logan-Melbourne flight many years ago.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-14-07 11:32 PM
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re: 83

No, he played for a full professional team and a good one whose name you would know. I think you are thinking of a couple of divisions below that. You'd need to get into the third division in Scotland to find teams that aren't fully professional.

The team he played for are currently in the Scottish Premier League and sitting just below mid-table. The standard of play being a fuck of a lot higher than semi-pro. They were a 1st division team at the time he played for them, though. Nevertheless, very much not semi-pro.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:15 AM
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They were a 1st division team

I believe you mean an Irn-Bru Scottish Football League First Division Championship team. It's unpatriotic to deny the sponsors their rightful right that they have purchased.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:20 AM
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Also, what happened to the League of Wales team called "Total Network Solutions"? Don't tell me that some interlopers bought them up and wrenched them from the heart of TotalNetworkSolutionsshire, in which they had been nestled for 120 years!


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:24 AM
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re: 236

Heh.

re: different levels of abilities.

As LB says way way above in 21, some sports seem more prone to this than others. Also, the number of people participating makes a big difference, I think. For obvious reasons. The gulf between the good and the great in 'obscure sport that only about 200 people do in the entire country' isn't that huge, generally, I'd imagine.

Further, re: maths, at high school level I effortlessly posted up the highest or second highest scores in our year at school with minimal, or no effort. For the equivalent of A levels maths I was in the top couple of % in the country. Then I went to University and found the gulf sufficiently large that I'd have had to work pretty hard just to keep up with the best people in the class and had basically no chance of anything more than 'competent'. That was quite humbling, also, being naturally quite lazy at the time, I decided that I couldn't be bothered.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:33 AM
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I am up commenting at this ungodly hour, because I fell asleep at 5:30 PM listening to NPR and woke up just after 10:20.

Is competing at an elite-level and not quite making it really such a waste of time. Does it really destroy one's career prospects? I know of quite a few people who put real effort into rowing at semi-elite levels and even took a couple of years off after college to do it. They didn't seem to have any trouble getting jobs as investment bankers or getting through medical school. In fact, I envy them tremendously, because they have a lot more stamina than I do and have such a tremendous work ethic. My work ethic was better when I was younger in that I was able to continuing working through tremendous unhappiness, but I've never been able to stay up all night and do productive work.

I am cursed with the unfoggedy disease of being smart enough to know that I'm not smart enough to do things that I'd like to do.

I also am stcuk with a weirdly creative/ intuitive sort of brain which might work very well if I were really brilliant. Being only of slightly above average intelligence, it just tends to get me into trouble, since my thinking isn't naturally linear a good chunk of the time. My brain is weirdly unreliable. Sometimes it works much better than most, though at those times I have the sort of problems that LB described with communicating what I'm thinking. Other times I'm really dull and stupid. Rarely do I find myself in a position to do high quality work in a sustained fashion.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:46 AM
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Didn't "Total Network Solutions" compete in the UEFA cup last year?

only of slightly above average intelligence

What a shit spot we are in. You coast through public school, and then you meet actual smart people, but don't have the work ethic your dumber peers have built up. I demand a refund.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:03 AM
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On the subject of math and humanities brains: a math grad student at my former grad institution once laid out a pretty good case for math being more like the humanities than the sciences. I don't quite remember his reasons, but some of it had to do with abstraction and concepts and the lack of things like perfect regular shapes - triangles, spheres, etc. - in the natural world.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:02 AM
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Actually, it's pretty easy, but various defenses exclude various groups that we'd like to include, or include groups that we'd like to exclude. Which is to say, it's not the death of God keeping us from grounding equality non-providentially, but residual theological commitments.

It's easy enough, until you encounter a serious challenge to the very concept of the thing you're claiming is/should be natural and universal. A cross-cultural challenge, for example.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 6:19 AM
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On the subject of math and humanities brains: a math grad student at my former grad institution once laid out a pretty good case for math being more like the humanities than the sciences.

This was my dad's opinion; there must have been a trend of thought along these lines for a long time.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 6:35 AM
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As a card carrying graduate degree holding mathematician I have to agree with the statement that math is more like the humanities. Just get past freshman calculus and diff eq and it is all just a beautiful exercise in thinking about structure and the effects thereof.

It is the filthy engineers and people with real world applications that sully the field. If you can't guess there is no money in pure mathematics (just like the humanities) so I now work as a professional sullier.


Posted by: ukko | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:02 AM
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242: Or if you want to establish human rights in a way that excludes animals, or the unborn. It's not impossible, but it's tricky.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:06 AM
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241, 244: I was thinking about that when Heebie said she had trouble with physics because figuring out why some abstractions are necessary and others aren't threw her. And of course in math, it's all perfectly abstracted already.

I'm another one for 'enough sharper than the average bear that I never needed to develop work habits, and yet nothing particuarly remarkable.' I'm mathy enough that doing quite reasonably well in classes up through DiffEq was no great effort, but once you get into real math I've got nothing. Still, for a lawyer, being able to add and do percentages fluently puts me well ahead of the pack.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:34 AM
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Still no answer on the Queen of Unfogged question. None of our lady mathematicians are Mayflower descendants? Damn.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:36 AM
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It's easy enough, until you encounter a serious challenge to the very concept of the thing you're claiming is/should be natural and universal. A cross-cultural challenge, for example.

Right. But there will not be a universally transparent justification available for culturally and historically conditioned values, ever. Looking for one seems wrong-headed.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:38 AM
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Also, re: 175

If lunch yesterday counts as the Brock meetup, I've been heard from. Very pleasant, aside from his inexplicable failure to carry baby pictures around with him.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:40 AM
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Oh man, I missed the math discussion. I have opinions that would probably keep me from getting an academic job if anyone found out who I was.

Oh well. I'll just have to wait until I get tenure (and, er... a PhD).


Posted by: feldspar | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:46 AM
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So go presidential.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:47 AM
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Oh man, I missed the math discussion. I have opinions that would probably keep me from getting an academic job if anyone found out who I was.

Do share!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:49 AM
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What Megan said way upthread about having difficulty watching the Olympics anymore is definitely true for me the last several cycles. Races with tactics in them, like some of the cycling events or some of the speed skating I won't deny myself, I love that. But not the rest.

I read a book by John Hoberman, Mortal Engines: the Science of Performance and the Dehumanization of Sport, that brought a lot of this together for me and showed how long it's been building. Also there was a good Gladwell piece a few years ago—I should make that last phrase into a macro— contrasting how an Olympian lives and trains today with how Roger Bannister prepared for his assault on the four-minute-mile, training on lunch breaks while a medical student or resident or something.

The roots go back into the 19th C, as Holberman shows, but the change from Bannister, in my lifetime, is startling.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:49 AM
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Very pleasant

Well, of course. But the question we all want answered is whether Brock is teh sexxxy?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:50 AM
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Sorry! Gotta go teach!

We're doing series, which is the only interesting topic in calc II (aside from integration by parts, of course)!


Posted by: feldspar | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:52 AM
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a math grad student at my former grad institution once laid out a pretty good case for math being more like the humanities than the sciences

Don't know about the lack of triangular shapes and such, but certainly math (and physics) have seemed to me to call for the same kinds of thinking ability as philosophy: a predilection for grasping systems, with distinct types of internal logic, a language all their own, such that you can learn the system and project from it to new cases.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:53 AM
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None of our lady mathematicians are Mayflower descendants? Damn.

What I took from that discussion about Mayflowerity, a point both CharleyC and Will were making, is that the people who know they are usually do because of social factors in their families in the late 19th C that caused somebody to research it. There are lots more M descendants than know it.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:59 AM
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254: Clearly, all Unfogged commenters are teh hottt. Brock's appeal might be best focused toward someone with Jackmormon's tastes, skinnyness-wise -- the dude is way, way slim.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 7:59 AM
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the dude is way, way slim.

Hmm. If he's losing a lot of weight, he should have that checked out.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:00 AM
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And the comments cycle back into an endless circle of noodging. At some point, we could probably spontaneously generate an Italian grandmother from the comments section: "You're too skinny! Eat, eat!"


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:02 AM
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260: Shit. That just reminded me that I had leftover chicken parmesan that I meant to bring for lunch.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:06 AM
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I can't believe I'm being spoken of here without my knowledge or consent. Sifu, other than the LB lunch there was no meetup. I tried, but no one could make it.

Yes, I've become frighteningly slim. I eat a lot, it just doesn't help. I was starving yesterday afternoon because LB wouldn't let me order anything but thin soup for lunch.

And LB was also very pleasant. And more intimidating than I expected, mostly because she didn't smile at all. I tried a few times, but she wouldn't break. Which I took to mean that she thought everything I said was either trivial or stupid. Which, okay, granted, but at a friendly lunch I'm not used to receiving a deadpan glare after every sentence in confirmation of that fact. I would hate to be depositioned by her, that's for sure.

Does anyone carry baby pictures these days? I've never carried any pictures in my wallet, ever.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:27 AM
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Does anyone carry baby pictures these days? I've never carried any pictures in my wallet, ever

I used to, a dozen years ago when my children were small, and a few years ago realized that the pictures I was carrying were very out-of-date. I still get asked but not very often.

I think today if I had small children I'd have their pictures on my cellphone. Does that seem risky to anyone?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:32 AM
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I like to see if I can make lunch companions nervous enough to actually flee the room.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:33 AM
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And here's the threadjack for the day: a (non-academic) friend just published a book. It is on the most boring of all possible subjects. Obviously I have to buy a copy, but do I have to read it?

Some additional facts: it's not terribly long. Also, I have good reason to believe it's not well-written.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:33 AM
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I've never carried any pictures in my wallet, ever.

Me either.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:33 AM
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Buy it, read the chapter titles, the first chapter, and the last chapter.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:34 AM
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it's not terribly long.

But it's still girthy, right?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:34 AM
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264: very nearly.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:35 AM
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Reasonably close friend? Then, yes, you have to buy the book. You should read enough of it to fake having read it.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:35 AM
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What's the topic?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:36 AM
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I like to see if I can make lunch companions nervous enough to actually flee the room.

LB the Serious?

Staring Brock down to get clarity?

DC Unfogged: Who can make LB smile?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:38 AM
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Yes. You have to buy it and spend a little time skimming it. At the very least, read the first and last chapter.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:39 AM
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(I am actually uncertain as to whether I'm being teased randomly, or in a directed fashion. I have no idea whether or not I was actually smiling. Brock, on the other hand, really is hella skinny.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:40 AM
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271: I'm worried that's giving away too much information, since it's not exactly a crowded genre. But it's a "popular" (rather than specialist) book on the legal and tax structuring of investments in oil and gas wells.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:41 AM
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I have no idea whether or not I was actually smiling.

Were your eyes narrowed and brow furrowed?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:41 AM
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But it's a "popular" (rather than specialist) book on the legal and tax structuring of investments in oil and gas wells.

I'm okay with stopping here. Does sound boring.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:43 AM
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Open question - What would be the deadliest topic for your good friend to write on, that you had to feign enjoyment of? (Politically controversial != deadly, because then you can agree to disagree.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:45 AM
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If you are in this field, then you should read it. If you are not in this field, buy it if it costs less than $25.00 and skim it.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:46 AM
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But it's a "popular" (rather than specialist) book on the legal and tax structuring of investments in oil and gas wells.

That's pretty snoozy, all right. Skimmy skim skim.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:47 AM
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278: Harry Potter.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:48 AM
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278: I was just about to answer, but then some jedi mind rays hit me and now I can't remember.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:49 AM
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Also to follow up on the evil that is physics. I was a physics major for like a semester, until I had my newtonian motion class. First, it is way dull since it is just calculus word problems and I did have some attendance issues, although it was taught in an auditorium so who knew if I was not there? Did I mention it was dull as hell. That said I got all my homework done and went to all the tests.

I still remember the evil test question. It was a version of the "you are spinning a weight on a string when will the string snap" question. The initial conditions were not specified and so I gave a detailed answer specifying the angle where it would break as a function of the initial position and velocity. I got zero points, the answer was "at the bottom." I got an audience with the professor (this can be hard when there are 500 other students in the class) and pled my case.

Once I talked to him he agreed that my answer was actually "more correct" that the one he wanted, but he only gave me back half the points I was docked. His reasoning was that I obviously had not been paying attention in class because if I had I would have known that he wanted me to answer "at the bottom" and not derive the actual angle where the goofy string would break.

Lets see it is 2007, that means this happened 17 yeas ago and am I still bitter? Yep. Even though it was a blessing in disguise and showed me that I did not really want to be a physics major.


Posted by: ukko | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:49 AM
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What would be the deadliest topic for your good friend to write on, that you had to feign enjoyment of?

I've contemplated writing a book on an abortion topic. Unfogged will buy copies, right??


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:50 AM
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274: I'm teasing, sort of, but I really did come away wondering whether all the "nice meeting you"s were just niceties, and that deep down you were mostly miffed about my wasting 90 minutes of your day. I sort of hopefully assume that's wasn't the case.

(And you probably did smile once or twice, but they seemed mostly to be in self-directed "why am I sitting here with this idiot" bemusement.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:52 AM
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285:

Alternative interpretation:

LB was thinking "Brock is so hot that I have to suppress my giddy excitement."


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:54 AM
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(None of the above comments should be read to imply that it was anything less than wonderful to meet you. Just unexpectedly intense.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:55 AM
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275: leg/al an/d ta/x str/ucturing of in/vestments i/n o/il a/nd ga/s we/lls.


There.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:57 AM
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Brock is a sensitive, easily wounded soul. His wife must be very sweet and accommodating, and I'm not just noting that because Brock will be dead soon.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 8:59 AM
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275: That changes everything. Unless the author is your spouse , parent or child, you do not have to buy it. Even then, you only have to fake reading it for a spouse.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:02 AM
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I should have noted that he seems to want me to read it.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:04 AM
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This is where you use flattery -- "I'm just not smart enough to follow... " (Of course, if he prides himself on having made the topic accessible to the commoners, that won't work.)

Alternatively, distract him by bursting into a discussion of unexplained weight loss and bloody stools.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:07 AM
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I blame my eyebrows. And 286, of course, sums up the situation perfectly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:07 AM
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I have opinions that would probably keep me from getting an academic job if anyone found out who I was.

Hasn't stopped some of us.

On the math-as-science vs. math-as-humanites stuff; it's a funny discipline. Parts of (particularly pure) math are motivated more like art than science, in that they are done for aesthetic reasons, and judged that way. There is a creative aspect that is less constrained than the creativity needed to do science well, because you don't have to match up to any physical truth. What takes over is aesthetics judgements. On the other hand, it both allows and requires a sense of rigour not possible in most disciplines.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:07 AM
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Didn't someone French just write a book on how to talk about books you haven't read? You could read that instead of your friends' book.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:08 AM
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Now I'm feeling bad because I feel like 287 won't be given enough emphasis, and LB may be thinking I didn't enjoy lunch, or she may otherwise feel insulted. That's not what I meant at all. She really was very friendly and pleasant and interesting. I was just taken back by her intensity. And she wasn't even that intense. Just more intense than I expected for a casual lunch.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:08 AM
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Just unexpectedly intense.

Do you get this a lot LB? I do, and I don't really know why.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:09 AM
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295: I think Frenchy's book only applies to books that are part of the general cultural canon, which my friend's is, so far, not.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:10 AM
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278 -- A close friend is a sportswriter. He's a very talented and entertaining writer, but I can't even fake caring about professional sports. I will sometimes skim for the witty one-liners, and will read the personal interest pieces, but by and large he knows that as much as I love him, I am never, never reading 90% of his work.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:10 AM
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I was kidding about my eyebrows, but on my face that's part of it. In repose, I kind of look furrowed-brow concentrating. Idly musing produces a facial expression that makes people ask me what's wrong, why are you so sad?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:10 AM
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Elbee made Brocky cry.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:12 AM
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283: If it makes you feel better (spread the pain), I had a 4th year hons. class where exactly 0 points were awarded for correct answers. You had to get them correct to get any marks, but you also had to write them up in a (somewhat idiosyncratic) style the prof expected, which wasnt' entirely consistent. I really hated that class.

Classical mechanics is much more interesting when you can use Hamilton and Lagrange's methods, etc. Not that you probably care at this point, but it is pretty stuff.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:13 AM
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I was just taken back by her intensity. And she wasn't even that intense. Just more intense than I expected for a casual lunch.

Mineshaft vote:

1. Brock, sensitive, easily wounded soul

2. LB, highly intense interrogator during casual lunch

3. Both 1 & 2 are correct.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:14 AM
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301: well, it's noteworthy that she hasn't denied any part of 262 or 285.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:14 AM
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300: this reminds me of a friend of mine who has to actively work to not appear scary. I didn't realize he was doing this until I saw him with his defenses down (he was on drugs) and even though he was having a great time he looked like a giant, angry psycho.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:24 AM
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300 - I frown when I think. Even about easy things. So someone will ask me "Do you want to do X today/" and I'll start thinking about whether I want to, whether I can, how we'll get there etc, and they'll suddenly say, "Fine! I can see you don't want to! Forget about it!" and go off in a huff whilst I'm left htere going, "No, no - come back - I just look like this!"


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:29 AM
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I am currently editing a document by a co-worker who is fantastically competent, but a terrifically bad writer. Perhaps (per LB's junior associntern stories) this will give me the same intensely interrogatory visage Brock describes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:29 AM
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307:

It is not uncommon for me to represent other lawyers in divorces or custody battles. Often, they want to try to save money by giving me a first draft of a brief or a motion.

I've had to learn how to delicately say "this was crap and I need to redo the entire thing. But thanks!!"

I usually tell them it is because they do not have any perspective on it.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:32 AM
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I myself am a far smilier person that I would like to be.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:32 AM
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I myself am a far smilier person that I would like to be.

In my humble experience, fair-skinned gingers have a hard time repressing smiles.

In other news, dark haired people frown easily.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:34 AM
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OK, another Unfogged demographic: scary ladies. Is Heebie scary?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:36 AM
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I am dark-haired, I admit it. I'm frowning in my Facebook picture - I was probably just thinking about what to have for dinner.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:36 AM
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Oh Emerson, I'm a lady mathematician too, for your tally.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:37 AM
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I myself am a far smilier person that I would like to be.

Try getting two lip rings.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:37 AM
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No, B isn't. B is wholesome looking. Frowner isn't very scary either.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:38 AM
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Perhaps we should go out and recruit a scary-looking lady mathematician with ancestors on the Mayflower and just give the whole site to her. We don't seem to have one here.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:39 AM
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I've suspected there was a prevalence of lawyers here --- I'm beginning to wonder if it's mathies though. I wonder how many there are, particularly if we use a loose definition (e.g. has an undergrad degree).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:43 AM
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312: We've already got a couple (at least) of lip-ringed mathematicians. Dunno what effect that has on smiles. Or were you suggesting connecting them ?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:44 AM
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I also apparently make hideous faces while listening to presentations. What a winning combination!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:45 AM
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So someone will ask me "Do you want to do X today/" and I'll start thinking about whether I want to, whether I can, how we'll get there etc

Ha. You know, this might not just be an affect thing. Some of us just prefer to think about things a little more.

I have a friend who constantly, maddeningly, comes out with "There's x happening in, like, an hour, wanna go?"

And I'm all like, uh. An hour, so we have to leave in 30 minutes? And you've known about it for 3 days and just thought to mention it now? I have to think, I haven't washed my hair! Then comes the response: Oh, I can see you never want to do things!

Maddening, really. It's possible I'm exaggerating just a tad on the time frame.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:45 AM
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I've suspected there was a prevalence of lawyers here --- I'm beginning to wonder if it's mathies though

There's enough of both that any math types will know where to turn when they run afoul of mathematical laws.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:46 AM
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fair-skinned gingers have a hard time repressing smiles

I smile all the time, but I'm stoned a lot.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:46 AM
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I was shocked last year when somebody said "you never smile!" Completely orthogonal to my self-image. Turns out I was just really grumpy. Now, I smile all the time!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:47 AM
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I can see a scary-looking lady mathematician superhero team. Only one ("Posh) would have to be a Mayflower descendant. You could do the usual media ethnic balancing for the rest of them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 9:50 AM
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Look folks, I shouldn't have brought this up in the first place, but I don't think LB's intensity was reflective of her general personality, especially not in some way that implies grumpiness or other unsociability. She just despised me. And not without cause. I just sort of expected her to make more effort to hide it.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:07 AM
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So have you seen a doctor about your ravenous, cancerous tapeworm yet, Brock?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:09 AM
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He answered that recently, Millsy, although I can't find it right now.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:15 AM
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Geez, Brock, keep digging. Surely there's nothing wrong with intensity, nor anything wrong with uncertainty. Nobody knows what you look like on the internets, so everybody is new up front and personal. Give yourself a break.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:17 AM
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327: Well paraphrase it for me then, whydontcha?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:17 AM
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Give yourself a break.

Don't listen to her, Brock!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:18 AM
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Well paraphrase it for me then, whydontcha?

Because I'm punishing you for not reading and remembering every single comment?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:19 AM
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Because I'm punishing you for not reading and remembering every single comment?

Meanie.

What are you, like, my coach?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:21 AM
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Ogged, just as, um, that guy 80 years ago (Francis Bacon?) was the last man alive to plausibly claim that he knew all of science, the day will soon come when there is no living person who truly knows all of Unfogged.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:22 AM
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Actually, it was that I couldn't remember the details. Here's Brock's comment.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:24 AM
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Maria Callas lost 65 pounds, allegedly by deliberately ingesting a tapeworm. Opera lore neglects to mention whether she experienced anal bleeding.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:24 AM
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325: Busted. I was entirely offput by your personality, and was saved from utter boredom only by bemusement at your decision to order a lunch made up of two versions of tomato/seafood soup.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:24 AM
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(But you are, of course, like all Unfogged commenters, teh smokin' hott. If that's any consolation.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:25 AM
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M/tch, the most recent update is that my doctor has no fucking idea what's going on with the weight loss and is more or less running out of tests to give me. Which obviously means that I have some sort of rare new disease and will likely be dead within months.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:28 AM
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335: They used to sell `sanatized tape worms' as a diet regime.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:28 AM
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Which obviously means that I have some sort of rare new disease and will likely be dead within months.

On the bright side, you might achieve immortality by creating a unique entry in the annals of medical history.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:31 AM
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Thanks, ogged.

333: We just need to start specializing our Unfogged scholarship into periods (e.g. Medieval, Pre-Civil War, Early Modern, etc.).


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:31 AM
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342

333: JS Mill. Who, like Bacon, died more than 80 years ago.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:33 AM
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343

We could call it "Lander's FollyPalsy"!

Anyway, hope you feel better soon (but onlyso you'll have enough energy to really engage in an affair. It'd be a shame for your wife to have done all that worrying for nothing!)


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:34 AM
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Sorry to hear that Brock. I've been in a similar position, and it is very frustrating/worrying to get that `fucked if I know' look from physicians. Hope they sort it out soon!


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:36 AM
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345

80 years ago isn't what it used to be.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:37 AM
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Hm, I heard that about some guy who died in this century. Linus Pauling? But it was obviously not true.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:39 AM
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347

I can't wait until Brock is on House.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:39 AM
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344: Actually I've been in a similar position myself too, and it is indeed incredibly frustrating. So in all seriousness, best of luck Brock.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:39 AM
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But on the bright side, colonoscopy & associated procedures seem to have cleared everything up on the other end. So we can all happily never mention that again.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:39 AM
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on the bright side

Haha.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:41 AM
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347: I was thinking more along the lines of Cold Case, where in the future they discover a means of detecting the incredibly minute amounts of the powerful poison someone's been slipping in his soup.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:41 AM
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344: Yeah, that must be maddening. I suppose taking it as an excuse to wallow in food to a seriously gluttonous extent can only be a small consolation. (If you're not doing that, why not? The is clearly the moment to develop a real taste for foie gras.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:41 AM
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I can't wait until Brock is on House

House would end up using us, the blog, to find the clue he needed. Which means he would comment. Wonder what pseud. he might choose?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:43 AM
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Brock, Count yourself lucky.

A friend of mine who is Indian went home a took a trip jaunt to Cambodia. She came back with bad pneumonia. Because Indians get vaccinated for tuberculosis, she had a positive TB test.

She went to the doctor when she was having trouble breathing and walking up stairs.

Since her lungs looked bad, they put her in quarantine. Then they put her on a lot of antibiotics and antiviral medications, but it turned out that she had a rare fungal form of pneumonia which didn't respond to anything. The culture took 21 days.

At one point the fungus got to her heart, and she went into heart failure. They did a bronchiopsy, and she responded very badly to the anesthetic. They couldn't wake her up for 5 hours, so she was back in the ER and they pumped her with fluid to flush it out, but of course she needed to get a catheter at that point. Somewhere along the way she got a central line (I'm guessing that it was when she went into heart failure.) Then she got one of these horrid multi-drug resistant infections. The upshot was that she was in the hospital for more than a month. Her family all flew over from India. They were doctors, and they were sure that she didn't have TB and kept pushing the medical personnel to try new tests.

In the end, there's no real treatment, and she just has to fight it off on her own. Slowly she's getting better.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:44 AM
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355

Whatever it is, it's not lupus.


Posted by: Cottage | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:44 AM
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I broached the possibility that his wife is poisoning him in the original thread, M/lls. This is getting sad.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:45 AM
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They said that about Leibnitz, not Bacon (or Pauling).


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:45 AM
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Which obviously means that I have some sort of rare new disease and will likely be dead within months.

Perhaps tapeworms are obsolete. You have a discworm.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:46 AM
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BG: good encouragement story.

Brock, dude, maybe see another, a second doctor.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:48 AM
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Do I have to figure everything out for you people? Did you miss the day they taught diagnosis in medical school?


Posted by: Pied Aterre | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:49 AM
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354: geez, that's terrible. And yes, I'm definitely not trying to count myself among the unfortunate. I'm obviosuly relatively lucky, and I expect things will continue going well for me right up until I die next month.


Posted by: Brock landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:50 AM
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You have a discworm

Discworms are already obsolete. Transmission of intestinal parasites these days is primarily by digital download.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:53 AM
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Bacillus bluetoothi.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:56 AM
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by digital download.

I understand that use of finger cots can prevent that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:57 AM
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Math is hard


Posted by: Barbie | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 10:58 AM
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I broached the possibility that his wife is poisoning him in the original thread, M/lls. This is getting sad.

Well I never claimed to be a specialist in that period of Unfogged.

And anyway, geez, way to ruin the ending for everyone, spoiler!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 11:17 AM
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342: Piffle, he died in 1992 and was later portrayed by Derek Jacobi.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 11:31 AM
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Brock:

Have you tried eating?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 11:33 AM
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In my humble experience, fair-skinned gingers have a hard time repressing smiles.

Not in my case, my natural expression is downbeat and when concentrating I look positively gloomy. My actual smile, I'm told, is a nice one.

Unfogged-demographics-wise, I'm another lawyer but was good at maths in school (A in Honours Maths won't mean anything to ye unless Gonerill is still reading) which came in handy for tax law.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 11:37 AM
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355 made me grin.

You can imagine the conversation, Wilson making a little aside about how House should just start a myspace page if he wants to rant, and then House pauses thoughtfully shows up on Unfogged and diagnoses....[commercial break, rock solo.]


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 11:48 AM
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370: my friend the boom mike guy played the boom mike guy in the episode mentioned in 355.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 11:50 AM
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leblanc and I are starting the Math Burnouts Club.

Count me in (though it sounds like PMP was the most serious of any of us).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:10 PM
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352/368: heh. I think my doctor's actually on the verge of putting me on a special high-calorie, high-fat diet. So far her advice has just been "eat a lot!", but I think she may send me to a nutritionist to try and formalize idea.

But I really do eat a lot. People comment routinely. I was just stopped in the elevator a few minutes ago by someone asking "are all those sandwiches for you?" Yes, in fact they are.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:10 PM
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373: Well have you tried not purging afterwards?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:13 PM
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Brock "Beefcake" Landers


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:15 PM
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Brock, it's hard to ignore this. Something seems clearly wrong. Were I you, I'd ask my doctor next time I saw her: Do you think we should think about referring me to someone else who may have a fresh perspective?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:20 PM
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All this talk of body image makes me think that there's a photo of me, that I like, from a party a couple of months ago, that I've been tempted to upload.

It is now here. Someone please tell me if I've exposed personal details in the process of setting up my Flickr account.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:26 PM
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IANADiagnostician, but Brock, have you been tested for diabetes?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:28 PM
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373: In undergrad I new a girl who had some weird metabolic thing where she was rail-thin, say (5'10" and 110 or 115 at a guess ) and ate enough to keep the average 250lb person happy. Seriously. She used to have breakfast, first lunch, second lunch, supper, dinner and snacks every day...

she told me she'd always been like that though, except it accelarated at puberty.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:31 PM
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378: that was a big worry of mine, actually (since it's all over my family), but I tested clean.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:34 PM
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379: funny, I knew a girl in law school that matched that exact same description. Turns out her "weird metobolic thing" was thyroid cancer (or, more likely, a thyroid disorder of some sort that eventually developed into cancer).


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:36 PM
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I've heard of particular conditions where the body, for some reason, just stops processing something, along the lines of diabetes, except with a certain starch, protein, or fat instead of sugar.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:38 PM
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381: might have been the same problem (same girl? that woudl be odd). I have the sense that they had classified whatever it was, and she wasn't concerned about it. I didn't know her that well though.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:39 PM
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True fact: The character of House is actually based on John Emerson, who was the head writer's college roommate.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:39 PM
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378: I'd read about diabulimia before, but that article made me feel eye-rollingly fainty.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:47 PM
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379: A high school friend of mine has a less severe version of that. In her case, apparently it's a faulty digestive enzyme that just can't metabolize her food as efficiently as everyone else can. Her dad has the same thing, which apparently led to very interesting conversations during the Cultural Revolution:

"Yes, well, I know you're starving, I am too! This sucks! Oh, those triple portions that I'm eating... umm... how much bio do you know?"


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:52 PM
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My mind instantly goes to celiac disease, since I know it tends to be underdiagnosed, and I have a friend who has it, but if you feel perfectly lively and healthy aside from being spectacularly thin, probably not.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 12:59 PM
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You people are just trying to make the man paranoid, aren't you?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:00 PM
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I definitely do not feel perfectly lively and healthy aside from being spectacularly thin.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:03 PM
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Well, if it did turn out to be celiac disease, while the dietary changes (eliminating all scraps of gluten) can be a pain in the ass, they do totally fix the problem in a kind of miraculous way. I think I mentioned my celiac-having friend here once before -- I always wondered guiltily if she had an eating disorder, because she was thin in a very unhealthy and exhausted seeming way. After her diagnosis she became as fit as a fiddle, positively blooming and full of energy.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:10 PM
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I would also like to join the Lazy Math club. My best friend is an astrophysics major who explains neat equations to me, but she finds it odd that I am rather obsessed with Georg Cantor. If it is any help to membership, I also have multiple lip piercings (which also, to unite as many sub-threads as possible, may make me more intimidating--I get a lot of the "I was terrified of you for so long, omg.").


Posted by: caldwellian | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:44 PM
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I would definitely get a facial piercing or two if I wanted to look terrifying. Don't know what other reason there would be for getting one.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:46 PM
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If I got facial piercings, I'd look like a sweet softie who was tired of being taken for a sweet softie and who, unfortunately, looks even less hardcore for her attempts.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:51 PM
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393: You and me both, sister.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 1:53 PM
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I need no puny facial piercings to terrify people. (Apparently. Myself, I always thought I was a harmless pussycat, but public opinion differs.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:36 PM
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392: fun to play with. Also, oral fixation.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:39 PM
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IME, lip and tongue rings have a 30% chance of making the person talk funny (at least initially). And there is a 60% chance they will be in denial about this consequence.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:41 PM
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That's exactly what I thought you looked like, NickS.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 2:42 PM
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396 gets it right. Also, Cryptic Ned, do you have any idea how many more people want to make out with you when you have lip rings? No, I suppose you wouldn't. But chicks dig it, or so I've heard.

397: definitely w/r/t tongue piercings, which I personally find generally off-putting anyway. As for lip piercings, I've never noticed it from myself or others (unless they've some of those 12-g rings, which seem too large to deal with comfortably). But during those first few days, yes: nothing like going to a grad seminar looking like you've just been punched in the mouth.


Posted by: caldwellian | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 3:19 PM
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That's exactly what I thought you looked like, NickS.

I don't try to pretend otherwise.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-15-07 5:34 PM
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