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End

Posted by Bob
on 11.15.03

Meet Ted: the end of United.


 

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I'll Give You a Scandal

Posted by Ogged
on 11.14.03

I just saw Shattered Glass, which I quite liked. I'll spare you a review, except to say that having seen Hayden Christensen in this, and also having seen him in Star Wars II, I demand that George Lucas either fire and sue himself for incompetence, or never cast another human in one of his movies. Just remember: George Lucas, the man who can make Samuel L. Jackson boring.


 

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So now you know

Posted by Bob
on 11.14.03

Where Legos come from. Next question? Babies, maybe?

Via Hanna.


 

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Yeah, what she said.

Posted by Bob
on 11.14.03

One of my high-priority tasks of the last couple months has been getting my friends to get digital cable and start watching The Office. When I first started this campaign, I was shocked at how smart and articulate talking about this TV show made me. Like those photographers whose work is beautiful just because they choose beautiful subjects, dissecting and rhapsodizing over The Office's supple, meta-meta-humor (or -humour) made me feel like something out of the Routledge Workplace-Comedy Reader.

Then two things happened. First, BBC America started to advertise -- and Heather Havrilevsky (of Rabbit Blog fame) nailed this problem exactly on the head in her Salon column:

OK, advertising morons, here's how to snuff out a word-of-mouth groundswell of appreciation for something that sneaks into the public consciousness on its own merits: Hold a big mirror up to those who think they've discovered it and make them feel really self-conscious and lame for not knowing that everyone else in the world has already discovered their little discovery. In fact, use the exact language they use, so much so that your advertising will serve as a funhouse mirror, a repugnant distortion of your supporters' most unabashed expressions of giddy enthusiasm.

Yeah! And I don't think I would've figured out just why I hated the (otherwise innocuous) ads so much.

The other thing that happened is that The Office itself started to analyze its own subtler points, thus making them more explicit. The entire first season claimed to be about office life, but really it was about humor -- how difficult it is, and how powerful. The second season is also about humor, but while in the first season the show dissected it by showing rather than by telling, in the second season the main character, David Brent, gives us endless theories and analyses of humor. His theories are of course hilariously misguided and self-contradictory. And as before they're a window into Brent's labyrinthine self-deception. But now that the show does half of our criticism for us, as much as 30% of this part of the show's fun is gone.

Or been replaced with another, darker fun. Now that we're seeing more explicit analysis of Brent's theories of humor, we're also seeing their collision with his incompetence as a manager. In season 1, Brent's managerial blundering seemed to have no actual consequences. It felt like a reasonable conceit of the show's internal logic. Now Brent is running into actual consequences -- in a no-nonsence HR kind of way -- and it's a different kind of complexity. It's very good, and I feel like it's been given to us in exchange for us having to give up the subtler take on humor.

It's like that joke in which the dog interrupts two racehorses' argument about who should let whom win the race. The dog implores them to settle their differences and see their disagreement in the larger context of their species's enslavement by humanity. To this one horse says to the other, "Hey look -- a talking dog!"


 

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Doxa

Posted by Ogged
on 11.14.03

Just in case you were feeling like you had a pretty good handle on this here "America." (subscriber only)

Indeed, tracking down actual Confederate flags requires some effort. While my hometown of Chapel Hill has plenty of dean for america bumper stickers, I can't find any cars with Confederate flags there. And even after I leave Chapel Hill's liberal oasis to go on my 200-mile drive along Interstate 40 to Black Mountain, where Lyons lives, I spot only three vehicles--two pickups and one horse-trailer--with Confederate-flag stickers or license plates. In and around Black Mountain, I cruise a couple of shopping-mall parking lots and a trailer park and find no flags at all. When I ask Lyons for places to find more flag-wavers, even he seems a bit stumped. He has to call a friend, Rick, who suggests I go to Smiley's Flea Market, located about 20 miles southwest in a small town called Fletcher. "You'll see some flags at Smiley's," Rick assures me.
Although Smiley's bills itself as "The South's Largest 'Yard Sale,'" it's not exactly crawling with emblems of the Confederacy: In my first half-hour there, I see more Mexican flags than Confederate ones. But I do eventually find a store that sells Confederate flags amid an assortment of glass pipes and Playboy back issues. A grizzled, tattooed man named Gilbert Johnson is working behind the counter--it's his sister-in-law's shop, he explains--and he has his own baseball cap with a Confederate-flag design. Johnson says he was born in Buffalo and that, even though he moved down South about 30 years ago, he's not that interested in Southern heritage. So why does he wear the hat? "I hang out in biker bars," he says. "It's a rebel thing." I ask Johnson if he has heard about Dean's Confederate-flag remarks, and he shakes his head. I ask him if he's heard of Dean. He says no. "I've got no use for politics," he tells me. "It's all a money game." He adds, "The best president we ever had was Nixon--and they impeached his ass."
A few stalls down from Johnson's sister-in-law's setup is a shop called "Southern Heritage," which sells Confederate flags and concrete lawn ornaments. It's empty save for a soft-spoken, slightly effeminate man named Robbie, who's minding the store for the owners. Robbie says that he doesn't really know much about the Confederate flags, other than that they don't seem to sell as well as the lawn ornaments. As for Howard Dean and politics in general, he pleads ignorance on that, too. "I'm countrified," he apologizes. "I do like President Bush," he says, "because he's a Christian."

 

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And What Do You Do All Day?

Posted by Ogged
on 11.14.03

Really interesting post by Mark Schmitt about what it means to be a member of congress today, and what a Democratic president might do to win over Congress.


 

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Defending Clark

Posted by Ogged
on 11.14.03
I mentioned this New Yorker story on Wesley Clark earlier (and expressed ambivalence about it). Fred Kaplan defends Clark and rips the story apart. UPDATE: And here's Matthew Yglesias (writing at the Prospect) with more on Peter Boyer, the author of the piece on Clark.

 

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Thank the Man

Posted by Ogged
on 11.14.03
Forget beer goggles, men and women of the working world are suffering from...what? Memo goggles?
Working with co-workers who are all of the opposite sex increases the divorce rate by a startling 70 percent, compared with an office filled with co-workers of the same sex. Whether the co-workers were single or married had no impact....
Divorced, married, who cares! this is the office, baby!
Divorce is contagious, too. A married person is 43 percent more likely to get divorced if one-third of his or her co-workers are recently divorced people of the opposite sex, than if none of the co-workers were recently divorced. The effect shrank over time, suggesting it's the act of divorce, rather than simply being divorced, that sways others most, says Dr. Aberg, who did her research at Stockholm University. The study was confined to co-workers of compatible age (five to 15 years younger or older, depending on sex).
And there's more!
Another powerful divorce incentive, the study found, is having a large number of single co-workers of the same sex. The risk of divorce rises 60 percent if all co-workers of the same sex are single, rather than married....
So, happily-married, same-sex co-workers are pretty much your only hope for a lasting marriage. I'm sure this is a failure of imagination, but I can't think of a single job where the workers fit this profile.

 

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Flat Today

Posted by Ogged
on 11.14.03
I was starting to think that there was just nothing interesting to blog about, then I found this article, in the Washington Post no less, about the presidential candidates' hair, which confirmed my suspicions ten times over.

 

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The Deaf Fetish

Posted by Ogged
on 11.13.03
I guess wildlife photography is out.
Alarmed at the use of camera phones to catch individuals in compromising situations, South Korea has ordered manufacturers to ensure that all new handsets emit a beep whenever a picture is taken.
In one notable case, a woman used her camera phone to snap naked women in one of the country's popular public sauna baths, and then sold the photographs to a website.
"New camera-equipped phones are required to make a sound with at least a 65-decibel level when a picture is taken and the function can't be switched off if users change their phone to a silent mode," the telecommunications ministry said in a statement.
I'm fascinated by the fact that one's "neighbors" can be so accessible (there they are, naked on the web), and so inaccessible that seeing them naked on the web would be interesting. The intimate knowledge of strangers. CLICK. Of course, I'm also wondering how frayed nerves will be at weddings with dozens of camera-phones going off. And also whether they've contemplated phone-video cameras, which must surely be near. Finally, can we just get down to the plucking out of eyes? CLICK.

 

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Der Kommisar's in Town

Posted by Ogged
on 11.13.03

Nifty! One more quiz. Do you know your 80's song lyrics?

My score: 65.

via the bandarlog


 

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Green

Posted by Ogged
on 11.13.03

Very cool maps showing financial support for presidential candidates by county, area code, or state.

via Andrew Sullivan


 

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Enough Already

Posted by Ogged
on 11.13.03

Geez, there's a whole bunch of great stuff up on Marginal Revolution today. I wanted to do a post on each of the first three things they have up at the moment, but I give up, just go check it out.


 

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The Kind I Can Hear

Posted by Ogged
on 11.13.03
The article is tongue-in-cheek, nevertheless, so true!
The ability to examine the music collections of co-workers, neighbors or fellow students is akin to peering into their souls: Someone who appears cool and interesting from the outside is revealed as a cultural nincompoop through the poor sap's terrible taste in music.
And now that iTunes is widely available for both Mac and PC users, it is becoming clear that there are social implications for sharing music.
On college campuses, for example, a new form of bigotry called "playlistism" is emerging.
I'm always taken aback when people ask me what kind of music I listen to. It's such a personal question.
Playlistism, Aubrey explained, is discrimination based not on race, sex or religion, but on someone's terrible taste in music, as revealed by their iTunes music library.
Aubrey said an iTunes music library tells a lot more about people than the clothes they wear or the books they carry.
"It's the T-shirt, plus the book, plus the haircut," Aubrey said. "It's everything."
And yet, that's not the whole story. Music is personal, but it's also shared and social in a way that puts its public meaning out of our control. You like Fugazi? So, does that make you a Fugazi fan? And what does that mean? What does it say about you? Remember these? Are you still you in a group of similars? When you say you like a piece of music, you also have to negotiate and define a whole set of implications. Maybe we need a new rule of etiquette: don't ask what kind of music someone likes, ask whether they're the kind of person who will discuss music preferences. via resurrectionsong

 

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One thinks with a watch in hand

Posted by Ogged
on 11.13.03

Brian Leiter has posted a great passage from Nietzsche. You've gotta read it. But here's a question: doesn't every generation feel the same way about what the world is becoming? Is there some way for us to distinguish the discomfort of the no-longer-young from something we'd call unhealthy?


 

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I've got your apparatus criticus right here

Posted by Ogged
on 11.13.03

If you've ever had to deal with the Loeb Classical Library (those little red and green Latin and Greek texts) you have to read this Belle Waring post and its comments.


 

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Infinite Numbers, Seriously

Posted by Ogged
on 11.13.03

One bit of advice: don't try to confirm anything you read in this article by counting, ok?

If you've ever thought much about numbers or talked with a preschooler learning to count, you've probably encountered some of the questions that led to Cantor's discovery a century ago. How many natural numbers are there? (Naturals are just the numbers we count with: 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on up forever.) And what about the even naturals: 2, 4, 6, 8 and so on? Infinitely many in both cases, right? OK, but are there more naturals than evens? Clearly every even natural number is a natural number, but there are plenty of naturals that aren't even -- namely the odds: 3, 5, 7, 9 and so on. Does that mean that the set of naturals is bigger than the set of even naturals?

If you're not a math fan, perhaps you'll be tempted by the fact that the article is a review of David Foster Wallace's latest.


 

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Zoomy?

Posted by Ogged
on 11.12.03

Are you a fast reader? I'm really curious about how fast people read, particularly the verbally adroit, well-practiced readers of blogdom. So I'm conducting a poll. First, you'll need to go to this page and take the test. Don't skim! Don't speed read! Read at your normal pace. I consciously slowed myself down a bit to make sure that I read every word, because I spend most of the day skimming. (And nevermind the reading comprehension bit, it's silly; just record your speed.) I'll go first: 433 words per minute. I don't know if that's fast or slow, so don't laugh at me, I'm blogging for you here, ok? Click here (just use the comments) to submit your result.

UPDATE: Just record scores in the comments if the poll is giving you trouble.


 

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No Amount of Explaining

Posted by Ogged
on 11.12.03

One more before I get sucked into a meeting where hostile people will try to claw each other's eyes out. Check out this exchange where White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan tries to explain why American vets tortured by Saddam won't be getting any money.


 

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Yes! Yes! Ignore Me!

Posted by Ogged
on 11.12.03

Sure, CNet is one big brilliant advertisement for gadgets, but this is just funny, even for them.

Are you a rich geek who will pay no attention to me?  Promise?


 

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Any job worth doing is worth doing well

Posted by Bob
on 11.12.03

A hilarious piece by a guy who once took a job writing headers for sex-site spam. His problem: perfectionism and an overly developed sense of esthetic subtlety.

(This one also via Jill.)


 

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Oh hi, Mrs. Ogged!

Posted by Bob
on 11.12.03

Ogged, I told you not to blog about Dean and healthcare!

(Via Jill, who can write about Dean and anything else she wants: she's an Aussie who can blog in Norwegian.)


 

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And The Fries Are Good

Posted by Ogged
on 11.12.03

I had to read this post a few times before I realized that, yes, Tyler really is saying something totally loopy. On the one hand, writes Tyler, the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines McJob as "a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement." But, on the other hand,

Right now 12 million people work in the restaurant industry, many of them in the fast food sector. So many people work for McDonald's because the company, adjusting for all relevant factors, offers them a higher wage than is available elsewhere.

Isn't this a simple category mistake? What does a dictionary definition have to do with the kinds of jobs McDonald's actually provides? M-W's only obligation is to accurately reflect usage; we wouldn't expect them to stop defining "Dutch treat" as splitting a bill if a study proves that the Dutch don't split bills.


 

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I see a breast! Make it stop!

Posted by Ogged
on 11.12.03
This is a serious question. What goes on in the mind of the person who complains?
According to Geary, she had done nothing more than discreetly nurse her 9-month-old daughter underneath her oversize sweater.
Due to a customer complaint, however, Geary said a Burger King employee asked her to refrain from breast-feeding in the children's play area or leave the restaurant.
Unfortunately for Burger King, and for people who cower before nursing mothers, Utah saw them coming.
According to Utah statute, Burger King came down on the wrong side of the law. A law passed in 1995 says a business "may not prohibit a woman's breast-feeding in any location where she otherwise may rightfully be, irrespective of whether the breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast-feeding."
And now, Burger King as has issued a smarmy non-apology.

 

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Just Stay Home

Posted by Ogged
on 11.12.03

It's not a burka!

via girl27


 

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Lordy

Posted by Ogged
on 11.12.03
Yes, and? Nick Kristof avers that
Since Americans are three times as likely to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus as in evolution, liberal derision for President Bush's religious beliefs risks marginalizing the left.
First, this is a strawman. Some people deride Bush's religious beliefs, but the vast majority of liberals are uncomfortable not with his beliefs as such, but his willingness to use them as guides, and, what's worse, public justifications, for his policies. And they're exactly right to be uncomfortable. Bush's Christian governance has no place in America, and if anyone think otherwise, they're wrong. It's one of the few simple questions in public life. And, really, how does Kristof go from "Since Americans are three times as likely to believe in the virgin birth of Jesus as in evolution" to anything about the faults of liberals? Isn't the proper second half of that sentence something like, "liberals should just move to Canada, or shoot themselves right now."? The vast, unceasing ignorance of our fellow citizens is an electoral fact, sure, but it's also a massive problem. And Kristof is making the same mistake Howard Dean made: taking the extremist part as a representative of the moderate whole. For Dean, it was the confusion of confederate flag flyers with southerners. For Kristof, it's those people who truly want a Christian nation with the ordinary, reasonably devout. In my experience, the latter far outnumber the former, and are the most effective allies against them. Without making that distinction, Kristof's call for civility is simple defeatism. The resurgence of religion in America is an interesting sociological phenomenon, but the rise of religion in politics is a threat to the foundations of the nation, and it has to be addressed.

 

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No Lights Here

Posted by Ogged
on 11.11.03

So I've seen the Paris Hilton sex-tape teaser (the three minute cut circulating on the net). If you're looking for a sexual thrill, watching your landlady rake leaves beats the tape, I'm sure. But if you want to see what you might have thought impossible, namely, someone having sex while simultaneously and utterly ignoring her partner, then Paris Hilton is your chick.


 

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Clark It Is

Posted by Ogged
on 11.11.03

I wrote a few days ago that I was trying to decide between Clark and Edwards for the Democratic nomination. I'm backing Clark. I'll try to get an answer to this, but even so, whatever I read about the man makes me like him more.

Clark can also be remarkably, almost unnervingly, candid, saying (off the record, of course) all sorts of things that a politician doesn't usually talk about outside his close circle of advisers. He is well aware of his own missteps since he announced his candidacy —particularly his apparent inconsistency about how he would have voted on the resolution authorizing Bush to go to war in Iraq—and he knows that neither the press nor many Democrats will be generous if he makes any further mistakes. (emphasis mine)

That assuages my greatest fear about Clark, namely, that he's politically clueless. And I like that he's had to make real decisions (or at least advocate for decisions to be made) and he's been right.

The argument over whether there should be even contingency planning for the use of NATO ground troops in Kosovo (at the time, it appeared that they would have to fight their way in) caused a serious clash between Clinton and Blair, particularly when they met in April 1999 at the White House residence on the eve of a NATO summit. Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel Berger, argued strongly against contingency planning for ground troops. It would, he said, be controversial domestically and might imply that the air war wasn't working. It was clear that Clinton, who remained largely silent, fully agreed with Berger. A close Clinton associate has told me that "to this day" Clinton regrets that he removed the option of ground troops.

Even more important to me is this,

Clark had also favored military action against the genocide in Rwanda.

Our failure to act in Rwanda is one of the black marks in American history. That Clark, supposedly the prissy, ambitious careerist was on the right side of that debate, and against his superiors, speak volumes about him.

There's also this debunking of a charge that you'll nevertheless hear a million times if Clark is nominated.

Michael Gordon, the Times's able military reporter...defended Clark's desire to try to prevent the Russians, who rushed a small troop unit to the Pristina airport after hostilities had supposedly ended, from establishing their own sector in Kosovo, completely independent of NATO. (In the end, the Russians backed down and accepted an arrangement that put them indirectly under NATO command.)
Much has been made of a single sentence in a long argument that Clark had with General Sir Michael Jackson, the British officer in command on the scene at Pristina airport, who said, "I'm not going to start World War III for you." Clark devoted an entire chapter to the airport incident in his first book, and his account has been confirmed by others. He explains that at first he had the support of the Clinton White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the secretary-general of NATO, Javier Solana. But when the British refused to support him, largely in response to Jackson's objections, Washington backed down. Clark himself reported Jackson's now-famous hyperbolic line to Shelton as an example of what he saw as an emotional overreaction. Berger says, "To say that Wes was reckless is to misunderstand the context; it's an absurd notion."

So, what happened to Edwards? He just hired Hugh Shelton, the retired general who cravenly smeared Clark earlier this year.

UPDATE: Of course, I won't agree with Clark when he takes some truly inane position.

MORE: There's a less complimentary piece on Clark in this week's New Yorker. It's a bit strange that the reporter obviously had access to Clark but didn't bother to ask him about most of the damning material that winds up in the story. Not sure what to think of this one.


 

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And The Horse You Rode in On

Posted by Ogged
on 11.11.03
I like John Kerry, but you can stick a fork in him.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's press secretary and deputy finance director quit Tuesday, adding to the turmoil on Kerry's political staff after the dismissal of his campaign manager.
Robert Gibbs, chief spokesman for the Massachusetts lawmaker, and Carl Chidlow quit to protest the firing of campaign manager Jim Jordan, let go by Kerry Sunday night. Both expressed dissatisfaction with the campaign, according to two officials.
It's not as if he had any momentum, so this is just more bad news. More than he can handle, I think. Kerry, much like Al Gore, is not a presidential campaigner. He's smart, experienced, capable, and has a great resume. But, if you'll pardon the expression, there's no "fuck you" to his campaign personality and I don't think you can win the presidency without it. We know that senators haven't been able to become president, and I think Kerry illustrates why. He's what you think of when you think of a politician: measuring every word, never letting the mask slip. That's great for the Senate. But people want something different in their presidents. They want the mask to slip occasionally, because someone totally scripted seems totally controlled, and that has implications beyond self-control and shades into being managed by handlers. It almost goes without saying that the front-runner, Howard Dean, has this quality in spades. As does George W. Bush. As did Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. I can't quite account for Carter, but then we may be far enough back in time with Carter that we have to start considering the public's different expectations and needs. If Wesley Clark could manage a bit of swagger, or more humor, he'd have the nomination sewn-up. (This much remarked upon campaign video is a great step: it's unexpected, it's risky.) But, for now, Dean actually looks like he's mouthing "fuck you" every time someone disagrees with him in a debate and he's running away with the nomination. UPON REFLECTION: "Fuck you" is too narrow. The Clark video, for example, is much more "fuck it" than "fuck you." And that's good too. It has the same sense of "nevermind x,y,z and d and j, let's do it." The presidency has to be treated with the proper respect, as an institution greater than any one person, but it also can't seem too much bigger than the man, or too much desired. Despite that fact that we are in the president's pants now, he still has the very real power of life and death over us, and we want to look up to him.

 

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Allies

Posted by Ogged
on 11.11.03
Maybe the British will have a revolution to throw off the yoke of American control.
White House security demands covering President George Bush's controversial state visit to Britain have provoked a serious row with Scotland Yard.
American officials want a virtual three-day shutdown of central London in a bid to foil disruption of the visit by anti-war protestors. They are demanding that police ban all marches and seal off the city centre.
But senior Yard officers say the powers requested by US security chiefs would be unprecedented on British soil. While the Met wants to prevent violence, it is sensitive to accusations of trying to curtail legitimate protest.

 

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Gross and Wrong

Posted by Ogged
on 11.11.03

Who the hell is this guy?



 

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This We Can Use

Posted by Ogged
on 11.11.03
George Soros really doesn't want George Bush to be reelected.
"It is the central focus of my life," Soros said, his blue eyes settled on an unseen target. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is "a matter of life and death."
Unlike you and me, however, Soros has $7 billion and intends to use it.
Asked whether he would trade his $7 billion fortune to unseat Bush, Soros opened his mouth. Then he closed it. The proposal hung in the air: Would he become poor to beat Bush?
He said, "If someone guaranteed it."
Read the whole (short) thing.

 

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Grab My Finger

Posted by Ogged
on 11.11.03

Time Magazine's list of the coolest inventions of 2003 is up. I'm looking into something like the No Contact jacket for my work-space.


 

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One Man's Opinion

Posted by Ogged
on 11.11.03

Must-read post of the day, by Phillip Greenspun (reproduced below, minus the bizarre geeky analogy).

I had dinner here in Mexico City with a reporter who was about to return to Iraq, where he has already been twice in 2003. The impression that I'd gotten from following the news in the U.S. is that the situation in Iraq is improving very gradually....
The reporter, who'd spent a couple of months on the ground in Baghdad already, was much more pessimistic: "Iraq isn't a country; it is three countries: a Kurdish north, a Sunni center, and a Shiite south. These people all hate each other and would like nothing more than a civil war so that they can all kill each other. The only thing that is stopping them right now is the fact that 95% hate Americans, maybe 10% enough to try to kill Americans personally."
He was not looking forward to returning. "I'm afraid, to tell you the truth. I've worked in Kabul and been in the middle of skirmishing warlords in Afghanistan but Iraq is a lot scarier."

 

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Set Em Up!

Posted by Ogged
on 11.11.03
This is an amusing article about an Iranian matchmaker, but I do have to clear up a little something.
This is all a far cry from traditional marriage — a complicated ordeal in which families first approve one another before the man proposes. Women do not go out looking for husbands.
But Iranian society is rapidly changing; both men and women are becoming more educated and familiar with the freer ways of the West. More than 62 percent of university students accepted this year were women; about half of graduate students are women. These women are increasingly articulate in demanding a more active role in society — and in their own lives.
This is all true, but it doesn't give a sense of two of the most important things to keep in mind about Iran. First, Iranian society is changing, but it's not changing from ancient to modern. It already was modern thirty years ago (with plenty of ancient customs and rituals, to be sure). Today's Iranian "ancient" is an artificial pall cast on the society by the mullahs and their regime of terror. Which brings us to the second point: it still is modern, in those places the regime's vision doesn't reach--in homes, of course--but also in the wilds and mountains, where young people congregate. In those free places, flirting and dating are alive and well. After all, there are plenty of arranged marriages in the States.

 

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Reminder

Posted by Ogged
on 11.11.03

If you link to an article that I link to from Unfogged, be sure that you strip the www.unfogged/mt-static/cache/ from the URL. Otherwise, it won't work and your readers will see this error page.


 

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I Like You, Smack!

Posted by Ogged
on 11.11.03
Slate's Will Saletan is sometimes very good, sometimes infuriating. Today, he picks infuriating.

The issue is Dean's comment a week ago that "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks." I've already argued that the complaints about this comment are bogus, since Dean has always made clear that he wants to appeal to these voters on the basis of issues such as health insurance and better schools, not race. Who's getting the most attention for attacking Dean on this issue? Edwards. His angle is that he's offended on behalf of his fellow Southerners.
In last week's Rock the Vote forum, Edwards made two points about the flag comment. "The people that I grew up with, the vast majority of them, they don't drive around with Confederate flags on pickup trucks," he said. Furthermore, he told Dean, "The last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do."
To this, Saletan says,
Edwards' attack on condescension sounds familiar to me because I grew up in a town of 15,000 people east of Houston. Most people in my town didn't sport Confederate flag decals, but some did. And of those who did, most didn't mean they condoned slavery or segregation. They meant something more like this: The last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do.
Then, Saletan jumps directly to his condemnation of Edwards.
In other words, Edwards is repeating out of one side of his mouth the sentiment whose expression, through flag decals, he's denying out of the other. When he seizes on Dean's flag comment to bash Yankees who think they "know what's best for you," Edwards is asking for the Confederate-flag vote on much creepier grounds than Dean did.
What just happened? First, Saletan read the minds of his neighbors: "they meant something more like this...." That's enough to send him back for a re-write, but I'll let it slide. The problem with Saletan's argument, quite apart from his just-about-invented premise, is that he doesn't even try to rule out what else Edwards might have intended. As long as it's possible that Edwards might have meant, simply, "Howard Dean, you don't understand the South and your appeal is offensive and condescending," then Saletan hasn't come close to justifying calling the statement "creepy." And whaddya know, that is what Edwards said.
To stereotype Southerners as pickup-truck, you know, Confederate-flag voters, I think, is also a mistake. But I think it's even bigger than that. … It's like saying to any group of voters, including voters in the South, "You know, you don't know what's best for you. We know what's best for you. Even though you don't understand that we're better for you, we're going to come and make sure you understand it. We'll explain it to you." There's an elitism and a condescension associated with that attitude that's enormously dangerous to us.
I suppose it does make a critic's job easier when he can just ignore what someone said and pretend he knows what it really means. So why is Will Saletan using Slate to publish his transparent attempt to pick up women who love twisted arguments?


 

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Oh, So This is Serious

Posted by Ogged
on 11.10.03
Dennis Kucinich, who is having way too much freaky fun running for president, says,
"As a bachelor, I get a chance to fantasize about my first lady. And you know maybe Fox will want to sponsor it as a national contest or something. But in any event I would want definitely want someone who would not just be there by my side, but be a working partner because I think we're in a day in age when partnerships are imperative to making anything happening in the world. And I certainly want a dynamic, out-spoken woman who was fearless in her desire for peace in the world and for universal single-payer health care and a full employment economy. If you are out there call me."
So a website is trying to find him a mate. (via Political Wire)
PoliticsNH.com is taking Congressman Kucinich up on his offer. We're running a national contest to help him find his perfect First Lady. We will post profiles of interested single women, and at some point we'll let our readers pick the best Kucinich running mate. If Congressman Kucinich agrees, PoliticsNH.com will fly the fortunate woman to New Hampshire and treat the two candidates to dinner.
I'm sure she'll love the Kucinich special. What I'm really curious about is who authorized putting this sentence on PoliticsNH.com.
We're looking for serious people only.

 

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Brrr, I'm Rich

Posted by Ogged
on 11.10.03

Having recently been on the phone exhorting an old-moneyed WASP friend to turn up the damn heat at least enough so that one didn't need to wear two (!) sweaters indoors, I'll file this one under "too true."

In the past such power rested in a liberally educated elite who prided themselves on taste, good-breeding, public service, and remaining low-key in their prerogatives, stressing instead their responsibilities....
Talked, for example today, with an old friend in the philanthropy biz. He inherited money, and has used much of it to help clean up Lake Champlain, in VT. He has dedicated himself to helping others with their giving. He sends his son to St Paul's to learn the obligations of wealth, and to prepare himself for a life of personal achievement, culture, and civic life. I asked my friend about "Born Rich"...the HBO special exhibiting for public display rich monster-children, many of whom went to St Paul's. My friend's response, "Couldn't see it, we have only rabbit ears on our tv, our one concession to modernity." That, my friends, is real East Coast old money.

I love my WASP friend, there's no group of people in this country that I find easier to socialize with than crusty WASPs, but, no I am most certainly not one of them: at my place, like that of every other immigrant who can even barely afford it, you will find 1) 17,000 television channels and 2) the heat cranked.


 

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Rooibos

Posted by Ogged
on 11.10.03

I have no idea how to do a post like this and I hope I don't get sued. I have occasional (once every few years) bouts of atrial fibrillation and at least a few noticeable odd heartbeats each day. Lately, I'd been having many more odd beats. Then, a few weeks ago, my fiancee, whose heart has always been healthy, started having irregularities in her heartbeat. I'm not a doctor, it's entirely possible other factors are at work, your mileage may vary, etc., but, the increase in irregular beats for both of us coincided with the time that we were drinking rooibos tea. Since we stopped drinking it, our hearts have been behaving. Seemed worth passing along.


 

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Anyone But Me!

Posted by Ogged
on 11.10.03
It's always better when you can blame a person.
Patrick Lynch, a field analyst, and Maureen Clark, an area manager, work for Navigation Technologies, an 18-year-old outfit in Chicago. Every month, they travel 1,000 miles in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, observing and recording data. When you request directions from MapQuest, the Internet mapping service, you're ultimately relying on Lynch, Clark, and about 400 other geographers on the road.
MapQuest uses state-of-the-art satellite images and computer algorithms, but it also relies on actual observations in the field. So it is that an army of modern-day explorers is continually remapping the nation. As Clark steers a Ford Taurus through Avalon Way's newest streets, she recites what she sees, starting with street names and building numbers at the beginning and end of a block. "Hemison-- H-e-m-i-s-o-n --Court. There's a gate . . . number four is on the right."
It's now my mission in life to make the screaming of "Lynch!" (said in the manner of Col. Klink's "Hogan!") standard American English, meaning, "I'm lost again and it can't possibly be my fault." I'm confident this will address an unmet need. via dispositive

 

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exploi-ta-tion

Posted by Ogged
on 11.10.03
Since I posted the Fleshbot link, it's only fair to inform you that you might have missed Protection from Pornography Week (I thought it was a joke too, but it's not) and you might want to set aside this week to, you know, protect yourself. via a nice post at Soundbitten

 

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Smooth Milky Skin

Posted by Ogged
on 11.10.03

I wish Matthew Yglesias did have the citation for this, because it's fascinating.

The authors were talking about a survey that was done asking members of different racial groups (white, black, Asian, Latino) which other groups they felt they had the most in common with. Asians said they had the most in common with whites, but whites said they had the least in common with Asians and the most in common with African-Americans. Blacks, in turn, said they had the least in common with whites and the most in common with Latinos. Latinos, however, felt that they had the least in common with blacks. It would have been a perfect circle if Latinos had said they had the most in common with Asians, but they said they had the most in common with whites.

Of course, this doesn't mean much without knowledge of what the respondents imagine when they think of the other groups. When the Asian-Americans said they had the most in common with whites, do you imagine they were thinking of these folks?


 

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Fleshbot

Posted by Ogged
on 11.10.03

Fleshbot, Nick Denton's sex/porn blog is up and it's actually pretty good; not the frat house I worried it would be. The front page is borderline work-safe, depending on your work, the links are definitely not.


 

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How to hoodwink perfectly smart people

Posted by Bob
on 11.09.03

The Dallas Morning News has a national reputation for good science reporting, and yet even they can be hoodwinked by creationists like The Discovery Institute, which the Morning News calls "a nonsectarian Seattle think tank that's the most prominent opponent of Darwinian orthodoxy" (note loaded word: orthodoxy), in this editorial.

So, how does one convince perfectly intelligent nonscientists that responsible skepticism means giving gequal time to creationism? For a start, you take the reasoned self-criticism of responsible scientists and make it sound like substantive scientific dissent:

What troubles us is the willingness of some textbook defenders to overlook how scientists in thrall to their own dogmas can prejudice the unbiased pursuit of scientific truth. Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin wrote in 1997 that scientists "have a prior commitment to naturalism [and] we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations."

Mr. Lewontin continued: "Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."

You can also take advantage of poor (or lazy) textbook editing and conflate inaccurate textbooks with inaccurate science:

To cite one example, three textbooks contain now-discredited 19th-century drawings by Ernst Haeckel, which show greater similarity among embryos of various species than actually exists. Publishers presumably agree with at least part of this, because last week they announced a series of proposed changes – two of the texts will abandon the Haeckel drawings in favor of photographs. Yet Discovery insists that disturbing errors and contradictions remain elsewhere in the books.

Appeal to the popular notion that science consists of facts, which are true or false. No decomposition of knowledge into smaller components -- if an experiment fails to prove something true, then it's either false or a hoax:

...science is supposed to deal solely in facts. But the teaching of evolution is so entangled with politics that warring factions can't even agree on the facts. (What did the flawed Miller-Urey "origin of life" experiment prove, if anything, for example?) This is an injustice to the people of the state, who have a right to expect their children's biology textbooks to be a straightforward presentation of the most up-to-date scientific information, facts not privileged from a religious or anti-religious perspective.

(The Miller-Urey experiment showed that amino acids can arise from abiotic precursors. However, because the environmental conditions used in the experiment are different from what we now believed was the condition on early prebiotic earth, the experiment cannot be applied directly to the origin of life.)

Finally, appeal to intelligent skeptics' intellectual fairness. Nonscientists who feel unqualified to make scientific judgments will not be comfortable dismissing unscientific claims as unscientific. Thus any claim from a "nonsectarian" source will appear to have standing as scientific dissent:

Science is not religion. It does not propose dogmas, only laws, which are not accepted as true until empirically proved. The scientific method invites challenge to theories, because only by doing so can we be sure of what we know, and what we merely suppose. When dissenting scientists produce reliable data challenging prevailing orthodoxy on scientific terms, then respectful attention should be paid, no matter whom it pleases or discomfits. Students need reasonably complete and accurate information. They don't need to be protected from dissenting scientific opinion.

I completely agree. And so I've come to the conclusion that everyone must become a scientist. If it all comes down to "dissenting scientists [producing] reliable data," then editorial boards, school-board members, and congresspersons all have to be able to judge what counts as "reliable." And what counts as "data." If the people who make the textbook decisions don't feel comfortable declaring some arguments bad, illogical, or unscientific, then of course the whole thing just seems like an argue-and-dissent tennis-match. Decisionmakers should be required to understand the issues for themselves. Maybe then the claims of the Discovery Institute will be subject to the criticism and skepticism that they claim to promote.


 

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I See Your Point

Posted by Ogged
on 11.09.03
Can't we put all the wacko people in the same country and get on with our lives?
As part of an effort to "improve morals" in the Russian capital, its government is working on an order that would prohibit kissing in subways and other public places
I love the specific apology from the reporter.
It's not uncommon for couples to kiss on the long, slow escalators leading down to Moscow's subway platforms -- the steps allow people of different heights to gaze directly into each other's faces, and it beats looking at advertisements during the ride.
Your honor, she's usually so short! In any case, Muscovites won't unpucker without a fight.
prominent human rights activist Valeriya Novodvorskaya...said a kissing ban would be "Orwellian" and vowed to violate it as often as possible if it is enacted.
Intriguing! So I googled Ms. Novodvorskaya. I'm afraid that "as often as possible" may be the least funny hedge in history.

 

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Energy efficiency begins at home

Posted by Bob
on 11.09.03

Social Design Notes notes that 48% of US energy consumption is in the construction and operation of buildings. And because "architects design 77 percent of all nonresidential buildings, along with 70 percent of all multifamily and 25 percent of all single-family construction," architects have the opportunity to make a big dent in reducing America's impact on the global environment:

...the architect is a perfectly legitimate new poster child for global warming: the leading part of the problem as well as, potentially, the solution. "Architects — and the government tends to forget this — specify every single material that goes into a building, from faucets to paint to carpet to wall materials to finishes to windows to roofing," he says. "Architects have the ability to change entire industries with the stroke of a pen. If we specify a material with low carbon dioxide emissions in its fabrication — say, floor tile, carpet, gypsum board — industry will respond. This is the American way. Architects are consumers; they're not always aware of the incredible power they have to change the way products are manufactured."...

Makes sense, but it seems to me that we can't forget siting. Architects may be consumers, but so are the actual consumers -- those people and companies flocking to the sunbelt, with its low urban density and the ever-present AC which makes it all possible. Me, I'm moving to a gypsum-board house in Vancouver today.


 

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No Rush

Posted by Ogged
on 11.09.03
It is against FedEx policy to ship body parts, said Howard Clabo, a spokesman for the Memphis-based company.
Glad we got that cleared up.

 

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