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Asking For It

Posted by Ogged
on 12.10.04

I don't know if this party on Saturday will be more of an Antiquarius, Aqua, or Paris kind of bash.

Only slightly more seriously, if asked to bring "something to nibble on," what would you take?


 

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TV

Posted by Ogged
on 12.10.04

A while back, John Holbo asked what was so great about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've never been able to get into the show, and I read the comments there, and still wasn't won over. So I asked the ex, who's a big fan, and her answer was in a different category than the others: the show's about all different kinds of love, and they're all really well done.

Well shit, she's right, eh?

Then, as long as she was giving spot-on answers, I asked her why I liked Law & Order so much, since I really love the show and all the reasons I tried on: detective work, the characters, the legal games, didn't seem right. She said, because it's voyeuristic, and you get to peek into people's lives.

Good thing she won't be around anymore.


 

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Google Suggest

Posted by Ogged
on 12.10.04

I'm not yet sure what it's good for, but it sure is very cool: the Google "Suggest" beta, which will anticipate your search terms and show you the number of results you'll get.

via ben hammersley


 

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Getting It

Posted by Ogged
on 12.09.04

Jim Henley is one of the few bloggers who can regularly make me feel like I've been blind. Like in this post about going to war "with the army you have."


 

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My Music

Posted by Ogged
on 12.09.04

Oh, this makes me happy. iTunes has the best interface of any music store or music management program, but, of course, once you buy a song from iTunes, the only designed way to get it into anything other than an iPod is to burn it to a CD, then rip it back to your computer as an unprotected file. A pain, a waste of time, and a waste of CDs.

But comes iOpener, which will unprotect the files (that you've already bought, for crying out loud) and let you either use them on a player that supports unlocked AAC files, or convert them to mp3s, which just about everything can play. I'm running Windows XP and iOpener is working beautifully.

And, there's this very nifty website (or download, if you prefer), that will convert your iTunes playlists into a format usable in most other players. One of the wonderful things about iTunes is how easy it makes creating playlists; so much so that I pretty much gave up making them in my clunky, horrible, Rio Music Manager. Now, I can make them in iTunes, and just copy them over.


 

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A Hunch

Posted by Ogged
on 12.09.04

The latest steroid brouhaha has been a pretty good temperament sorter: yes, it's very difficult to articulate a principled, or factual, distinction between legal and illegal drugs, or between a healthy diet and illegal drugs, for that matter. What's interesting is that some people respond to the difficulty by saying, "There is no distinction, steroids should be allowed."

That might be right, but you can't be a conservative and say that, can you? Or, at least, oughtn't you try very hard to see if you can articulate a distinction before you dismiss the difference?

I've been thinking about it, but haven't come up with anything satisfactory; do you know of, or do you have, in your own little brain, a convincing distinction between steroids and legal methods of enhancing performance in sports?


 

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Not Here, No Sir

Posted by Ogged
on 12.09.04

I don't blog them so much anymore, but these things are still going on.

On June 15, 2002[2003], Sgt. Frank "Greg" Ford, a counterintelligence agent in the California National Guard's 223rd Military Intelligence (M.I.) Battalion stationed in Samarra, Iraq, told his commanding officer, Capt. Victor Artiga, that he had witnessed five incidents of torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees at his base, and requested a formal investigation. Thirty-six hours later, Ford, a 49-year-old with over 30 years of military service in the Coast Guard, Army and Navy, was ordered by U.S. Army medical personnel to lie down on a gurney, was then strapped down, loaded onto a military plane and medevac'd to a military medical center outside the country.

via michael froomkin

UPDATE: Interesting points from military man John in the comments. Check them out.


 

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I, On the Other Hand, Let My Massive Schlong Do All The Talking

Posted by Ogged
on 12.09.04

I just want you to read it...

an alarming moment in gender relations here in New York: the rampant spread of the emo man (or perhaps more appropriately, emo boy). Originally referring to a floppy-limbed, "sincere" indie-rock movement, emo gathered speed during the Clinton feel-your-pain era.

...

When the banker called Ms. Hackemann after their ill-fated third date, he said, "You know, I'm a communicator, and I bring things up."

...

Victoria, a spangly-topped bartender at the Village Idiot, rolled her eyes as she recalled her last date with an emo boy: "Before we even went out he said to me, ‘I'm really great in relationships, but I have a small penis.'"

...

"Another thing that falls under ‘too much information,'" said Lorrie, "and yet, tragically, has been said to me by more than one person post-sex is, ‘Sorry that took so long—I just masturbated a lot when I was a kid.'"

via baa


 

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Imperium! Hope the Food's Good!

Posted by Ogged
on 12.09.04

You do read Jim Henley, right? He's on our very exclusive blogroll, after all.

Along the lines of "the skies won't darken" when we become a repressive society, Jim writes about empire:

Yglesias and Drum are doing some tracking of Iraq's electricity production. Time was we did a little of that here. And Matt points me to yet another resource (PDF) for Iraqi production metrics.

...

Couple things: 1. You know that passage from Garet Garrett about crossing the boundary between Republic and Empire and there being "no painted sign to say" when you are "entering Imperium?" Guys sitting around their homes in Washington, Maryland and California looking at electricity production data for a rathole 8,000 miles away is a sign. 2. We've now been in Iraq long enough to be able to compare annualized electricity production numbers. This too is a sign.

 

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I'm Sure WiFi Doesn't Help

Posted by Ogged
on 12.08.04
Fitting, really.


 

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Not A Bleg, An Adventure

Posted by Ogged
on 12.08.04

You figured you'd just read a few blogs today; you didn't know I'd give you an assignment: the Swede has graciously invited me to a party this Saturday--you have to make me go. Don't let me skip it, because skipping it is exactly the kind of stupid, antisocial thing I'd do. "Just go, Ogged, you big dummy," you should say. "Don't be such a nincompoop about being social. Do you realize that you've lived in the same damn place for over five years and you haven't made one single, solitary friend? You skinny-assed computer tapping geek." "But..." "Shut Up! Go to the god damn party, or so help me, I'll sneak naked pictures of you and post them on this very blog." "But..." "Shut up!"

Like that. Ok?


 

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Books

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.08.04

Reading Ogged's post about great books we can't stand reminded me of this old thing, the Random House list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.

(I take some pride in being partly responsible for the momentary appearance of Quine's The Roots of Reference on the Reader's Poll.)


 

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Vent

Posted by Ogged
on 12.08.04

John Holbo's latest post reminds me of something: I can't stand Dickens. I read Tale of Two Cities in high school, and then was forced to read Hard Times and Bleak House in college, and damn, Dickens is just a bitter, bitter man. And I think I'm allergic to caricature of any sort. But nevermind that; what I'm curious about are other "great" authors that people just can't stand. Not popular authors with big reputations, so forget folks like David Foster Wallace, but the real heavyweights, like Tolstoy, Austen...you get the idea (I guess contemporary Nobel winners count, too).


 

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Left2TheirOwnDevices

Posted by Ogged
on 12.08.04

I'm sure you've all seen Left2Right, the new blog of high-powered academics. You also might have noticed that it sucks.

It's not hopeless; some of the posts are good, if not punchy. The main problem so far is that damn mission statment, which reads like what it is: the minutes of an academic strategizing session:

...the Left must learn how to speak more effectively to ears attuned to the Right. How can we better express our values? Can we learn from conservative critiques of those values? Are there conservative values that we should be more forthright about sharing? "Left2Right" will be a discussion of these and related questions.

Imagine yourself as the target of this kind of strategy, particularly if you already know that what's going on is part of a strategy. You'll resist, because however reasonable the goals sound, you've already been placed outside the group, and are the subject of its endeavor. How much better (and more accurate, in fact) would it have been if the mission statement said something like, "We Americans find ourselves divided by superficial and artificial political categories. Can we articulate our positions, and respond to criticism, in a way that takes us beyond the usual talking points?"

And this sentiment, while nice and reasonable, doesn't belong on a blog:

...our view is that the way to get through to people is to listen to them and be willing to learn from them.

I'm not just being snarky when I say, blogs aren't for listening. When a blog tries to listen, you get posts like this one from Don Herzog, where he just poses some questions and waits for comments. First important point: there isn't a blog in all blogdom where the commenters are uniformly restrained, intelligent, and informed enough to make slogging through a substantive comment thread worthwhile (there are a few exceptions for blogs that serve a narrow audience; so Leiter gets decent input about the state of academia, and the Invisible Adjunct used to get good stuff too). Second point: people don't read blogs for the commenters, but for the bloggers; just write, people will comment anyway.

It doesn't help that the site seems to have drawn an initial lot of particularly bad commenters, folks who remind me of a freshman philosophy seminar in which everyone really really needs to explain their half-baked pet theory. One hopes that will improve.

In any case, it seems like David Velleman, whose posts have been good, is getting the picture.

Maybe we should have called the thing "Dull-witted academics blathering on about liberal ideas."

That's exactly what they should have called it. It would have been a funny, self-deprecating, inviting way to start. I hope it's not too late; they have some smart folks on that list of contributors, and it would be good to have them around.


 

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Abu There Must Be a Few

Posted by Ogged
on 12.07.04

The minds of humans, they confuse me. Someone came here searching for "abu think of any high school in america that doesn't have cheerleaders forming a pyramid"


 

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Duty, Honor, the NBA

Posted by Ogged
on 12.07.04
In one little article, we learn that in the last month, NBA player Latrell Sprewell, who will make over $14 million dollars this year,
responded to the female heckler with a sexually vulgar term
...
received a misdemeanor citation after arguing with a police officer during a traffic stop
And, best of all,
demanded that the Timberwolves either extend his contract or trade him, saying, "I've got my family to feed."

 

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Calling Prof. DeLong

Posted by Unf
on 12.07.04

Sitting at my desk, waiting for a deal to die or get done. While I had the free time, I thought I'd write out something that's always bothered me. All thoughts and comments appreciated.

Consider a firm in the following situation. It is currently generating cash, though not spectacularly so. It has a defined benefit pension plan which is substantially underfunded, and which is only likely to become more so in the future. It could substantially increase its pension contributions, but that would effectively eliminate all of its cash flow. So it hits upon the following strategy. It deposits all of its free cash flow into its pension plan every year. However, it then borrows that same amount from the pension plan. The pension plan gets some kind of debt security in return. So, problem solved. The cash generated in the business remains in the business (and is available for whatever purposes its owners intend) and the pension plan has more assets and no longer needs to be considered underfunded.

Needless to say, any company that tried such a strategy would be violating about a hundred thousand different laws, and its executives would get, at a minimum, the death penalty. But what I don't understand is how this situation is any different than our current social security system. People will tell you that Social Security is not in dire straits at all - because even after payroll taxes cease to be sufficient to cover benefits, the Social Security trust fund has plenty of assets (in the form of US Treasury obligations) to cover the shortfall. Only when those assets run out (way in the future, when the baby boomers have finally been culled from the herd) is there going to be a problem, and its not nearly so serious a problem as portrayed by those advocating privatization.

As I see it, its all well and good to say the trust fund has assets to back up expected future obligations. But it has to turn those assets into cash. And since the assets are claims against the government, the only way to turn them into cash is to 1) have the government borrow (effectively refinancing the debt), 2) increase taxes, or 3) cut spending. 1) seems the most likely result, and the government already borrows too much as it is. So how it this system sustainbal? I.e., isn't the social security crisis much closer than we think?

I have no brief to argue in the privatization debate - that seems to me to be a separate issue. And when I say that people will tell you there's no social security crisis coming, some of those people are a lot smarter than me. So what am I missing?


 

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And What Else?

Posted by Ogged
on 12.07.04

I could be wrong; I might be scarred by years of cereal-for-dinner, but I'm not feeling the vibe.

Cereality® is more than a place to get cereal. It's a new way of thinking about cereal. A new choice in fast food. And an idea whose time has come. In fact Cereality is so unique, we have a patent pending.
At Cereality, customers choose from their favorite brands and toppings. Pajama-clad Cereologists™ fill the orders. And customers choose and add their own milk, just the way they like it.

Can I see a show of hands among the non-college crowd of people who would go out for cereal? Is there a less social food than cereal? Slurp slurp, spill, dribble.

Maybe there will be enough college students desperate for something to eat (they'd better stay open until 2am, and dim the lights) to keep the place in business, but I really doubt it.

via dan drezner (whose comparison with Krispy Kreme is madness...)


 

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Glitter

Posted by Ogged
on 12.06.04

This is how I want to feel after I buy pants.


 

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What Else Can You Show Me?

Posted by Ogged
on 12.06.04

It really is a bad dream.

Washington, D.C., November 23, 2004 - President Gerald R. Ford wanted to sign the Freedom of Information Act strengthening amendments passed by Congress 30 years ago, but concern about leaks (shared by his chief of staff Donald Rumsfeld and deputy Richard Cheney) and legal arguments that the bill was unconstitutional (marshaled by government lawyer Antonin Scalia, among others) persuaded Ford to veto the bill, according to declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive to mark the 30th anniversary of the veto override.

The problem, of course, isn't that Rumsfeld, Cheney and Scalia are evil (though I won't take much convincing), but that people in an institution tend to see things in terms of the institution's benefit, and insofar as it's believed that institutions benefit from extending their control, transparency will be sacrificed. The further problem with systems of government is that there can't be any part of the government devoted to checking the government's power: the tendency toward control only runs in one direction. Insofar as various branches "check" each other, it's only so that they, and not another branch, can exercise control.

Every so often, people get fed up, and more or less violently roll back the government's control over their lives; but outside of those periods of reform, it's always just a slide toward tyranny.

via eric umansky


 

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Better and More

Posted by Ogged
on 12.06.04

Two completely unrelated tidbits.

I've long been looking for a cell phone database that would let me choose the features I want, and tell me which phones match them. Phonescoop's phone finder is great.

And, in case anyone checks it, or cares, I've updated my OPML file. (Feel free to ask in comments if you don't know what that's for. And, if you spend any time clicking refresh or checking sites for new content, you should ask.)


 

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Maybe Later

Posted by Ogged
on 12.06.04

Procrastination has to be the least analyzed, most debilitating bad habit in the world. There's no shortage of reasons that people come up with to explain their, and others', procrastination, but the sheer number of reasons itself seems like an argument against any of them being right. These blocks tend to go away when you hit upon the real reason for them.

In any event, though it sounds like the guy deserves the treatment, how would you like to have your procrastination written up in the NY Times?

But there is one unchallenged king of delayed decisions: Judge George B. Daniels of Federal District Court in Manhattan, who, the latest statistics show, had 289 motions in civil cases pending for more than six months, by far the highest total of any federal judge in the nation ... Judge Daniels...cites reasons for some delays, like "complexity of case," "heavy criminal and civil caseload" and "voluminous brief/transcripts to be read." But in other cases, including several that led to petitions to the Court of Appeals, the list says, "no comment on status."

I sure as hell hope that "No comment on status" isn't my epitaph.

Hmm: Possible mitigating factor.


 

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Shopping

Posted by Ogged
on 12.05.04

This weekend, I tried to shop for myself.

I'm six feet tall, around 150 pounds. That's what I was from about the age of thirteen, through college. Then I went off to grad school, where I had: 1) no cooking skills 2) no car 3) no easy access to decent food 4) no understanding that I was capable of putting on weight.

Then, when I did start to put on weight, that perverse part of my character that says "when in a hole, keep digging to see where it leads," took over, and specifically, I started to wonder what it would be like to be fat, and then, to think that I was duty bound to get fat, because who can understand America without spending some time overweight?

That perversity, and an illness that had me dizzy for months, and my incipient heart arrythmia, and the attendant depression, all added up to about 50 extra pounds. Of course, I needed new clothes, so most of my "adult" clothes are from that period, and now, they don't just not fit, they don't even stay on my body. I tried to be smart, and took some pants to the tailor, but he just laughed, and said they were too big to fix. (I still have enough of a hang-up about my weight that when he asked me if I'd lost a lot of weight, I felt the need to explain that no, I had put on a lot of weight, and that I'm back to my normal weight. Pathetic.)

Yesterday, I tried the outlet malls, but found nothing. Today, I caved and went to the local ritzy mall. I haven't shopped for clothes, other than my suit, in years, and I felt like Rip Van Winkle. Two pairs of pants at two different stores looked good to me. The cheaper pair was $295. WTF? Is that normal now?

I bought a pair of socks ($6.50), and came home, pantless.


 

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