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Finals liveblogging

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.18.04

Everybody blogged the election. But who blogs the post-finals grading mayhem? Me, that's who.

1:15: roll out of bed. Curse clock, self. Think about blue books and cry.

1:45: starting to grade. No one has any clue about the doctrine of double effect. Aquinas is rolling in his grave.

2:00: a bad sign that the median score on the first section of the exam is about 35%. Begin to think about curving strategies.

2:01: Recall that evaluations are already in. Forget curving strategies.

2:01:30: feel shame at being so lousy; rethinking the curve idea.

2:15: Kant, too, rolls in his tomb; the second formulation's commitment to mutual aid is being butchered right and left.

3:00: finish the first section of the exam. How to procrastinate? Ah, the blog...

4:20: done with the euthyphro responses...much better...[intemperate remark redacted]? Hard to say. All the (herbal) tea in the world cannot change the fact that it's damned cold in my office. Saving grace: Tannhauser is on the Met broadcast. I listen to what used to be the "Texaco Opera Quiz." Nostalgia for the not-so-good old days, listening to "Live from the Met" on WQXR-- "the radio station of the New York Times." The broadcast sounds great on the little yacht boy in my office.

5:00: the essays on relativism are not so good. It's a priori that everything is my fault, of course, but if it weren't, I would be a little bit annoyed, because this stuff is not hard . Fortunately, I become fascinated by the patterns of wear on my keyboard, and this distracts me from the thought that either (a) my students are lazy or mediocre or (b) I am pedagogically useless.

5:40: losing grip, slowly but surely. Finished the hedonism & utilitarianism essays...amused to see the phrase "monkey [redacted]" appear in a response on the Competent Judges Test...I now have the Revolting Cocks' song "killing machine" aka "in the neck" in my head, only with the lyrics "I'm a pleasure machine! wwwha-ha! wha-ha!" Shower now, or use as a reward for grading the next question?

9:45: Damn. After dinner I decide I can't possibly grade without an inexhaustible supply of Pelligrino. Supermarket lets me down, but I've got a 40 of apollinaris and I'm ready to go. It's 106 miles to the kingdom of ends, it's dark, and I'm wearing sunglasses.

10:40: raw scores done. The median is just over 60% but since I'm a big softie I'm curving like gumby.

Aside: my method of going from raw scores to letter grades is extraordinarily lame: I set the median at B or B- [this is the institutional norm, so don't give me the inflation flack, mmk?] then work out from there, ending up with an A or two at the top and some D action at the bottom in most cases. Anyone got a better way or an argument that I'm being unfair?

Now a quick trip to the office to excel these [redacteds], and I'll call it a day.

12:30: Ok, the numbers are crunched, but there's a gap, as there so often is, between the descriptive and the normative. I don't know just where to draw lines. In a class of 15, how many As should there be? Hell. What? you were hoping for a principled decision? Wise up, sucka.

Has anyone died of mineral-water-induced hyponatremia?

Time to sleep.


 

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What Is, And Isn't, True

Posted by Ogged
on 12.18.04

A little while ago, I linked to a story about an officer who had complained about torture and, apparently as a result, had been shipped out of Iraq due to his "mental instability." In the comments, a military man named John told us that the story is bunk, and the guy really is unstable. I asked John what he thought about the problem of torture more generally, and I encourage you to read the whole exchange, but this part of John's response was excellent. I thank him (on behalf of all of us, I would guess), for his service and his honorableness. I hope we hear more from him.

Regarding torture.
I truly think is all about who you are as a person. Me? I thought I would be the one doing the abusing. I am in my mid-thirties, and took my job in the desert seriously. Getting the information from the prisoner/detainee will eventually save lives on your side, and kill and/or deny the enemy, thus making the coalition work much easier. I thought that maybe I would be the one who would do the "bad thing", extract information by use of cohersion or by intimidation or even by pain.
But luckily, I was raised differently. I think I owe it to my grandfather, who taught me to think for myself and gave me the choice to do the right things.
My code of conduct was a very simple one:
"treat the prisoners/detainees as you would like your family and friends to be treated in a similar situation". I know it sounds kind of corny, but it worked for me, and I held my team to that simple standard.
So honesly, I don't know why they are doing these things. Statistically, you do not get information that is accurate by torture or abuse. You get the prisoner talking, but that is it. The person being tortured, will say anything and everything to make you stop.
We train our people properly. Every person who deals with detainees has a rudimentary understanding of the Geneva Conventions. Shoot, even if you were asleep during the class, you still have common decency and ethics that guide you through life.
These torturers are just inmature little pieces of sh*t that will continue to demoralize the country and make it so that nobody will turst a soldier anymore.
As who is responsible for the deeds?
Simple. Everybody fries. From the little a**hole who did the torture, to the ones who witnessed it and did nothing about it, to the leaders who are supposed to know what their troops are doing, but turn the other way, to the leaders' leaders who are ultimately responsible for their subordinates.
Torture is no excuse. I think that maybe there is only one time in collection of information were torture is semi-admissible: the ticking bomb scenario. And even then, there is no guarantee of success.

 

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Happy Friggin' Holidays

Posted by Ogged
on 12.17.04

Oh damn. Dental insurance ain't so hot, apparently. $1000 coverage per calendar year, and the dentist told me yesterday that I need to have all my wisdom teeth taken out. So, unless I want to pay for most the thing myself, that means two this year, and two next year. Available time this year? Today, of course.

Have fun. Back in a couple days, I hope.

IT LIVES: Not too bad so far. The pain is yet to come, since I'm still numb, and still bleeding a bit, but overall, the worst of it was not being able to eat all day before the extraction. Hooray for soy milk!

AH: There's the pain. Numbness finally wore off. Don't like the woozy from the Vicodin though; let's see if this is manageable with Tylenol.

FINAL: Even the drama queen can't milk this one. No pain, no swelling, feeling fine. I think they just did a very good job (and I have the strength of ten men.) Props to the docs and a shout out to the ex, who's been taking care of me.

OH: I forgot: I do have to do this again for the other side in a few weeks, so a little sympathy is still in order!


 

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Sisters, Cousins, and Other People We Repudiate

Posted by Ogged
on 12.16.04

Am I still allowed to post about politics?

David Velleman has a good post up about "Sister Souljah Moments," arguing that the glib phrase itself lets pundits keep pretending that things are neatly polarized by dismissing rifts and real differences as political posturing.

I think that's right, but Velleman's gloss on what a Sister Souljah moment is--"a public repudiation of extremist members of one's own political coalition"--doesn't quite get at why it's effective.

A few days ago, Kevin Drum wrote,

Ronald Reagan was a Republican. Fred Thompson is a Republican. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Republican. Sonny Bono was a Republican.
I don't get it. Hollywood is a Democratic town. Actors and artists are nearly all liberals. So how come the Democrats can't find any cool Hollywood stars to run for office? What's up with that?

And commenter Best Trousers gave exactly the right answer,

Only Nixon could go to China.
Same logic. A democrat running would be one of those liberal actors trying to tell us what to do. A republican is some one whi is in touch with American values, unlike the coastal elite.

Folks seemed to grasp the importance of expectations in the debates, but I've waited in vain for a good analysis that recognizes that a lot of our politics isn't about issues (or any other factor) judged on an absolute scale, but rather about how candidates are perceived as they position themselves relative to what's expected of them given their party affiliation, personal history, etc.

Successful politicians understand and respond to what voters already think of them. Clinton wasn't just repudiating extremism, he was, with Sister Souljah, but even more, with the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, responding to the perception that he was cozy with blacks, and the consequent worry among some whites that he'd be soft on crime, culturally deferential to scary urbanites, etc.

It's not so much a candidate's position, as his position-ing relative to expectations that fixes the perception of the candidate in the public's mind. If you start looking for it, you can see every candidate doing it. GW in '00: compassionate conservatism, contra Republicans as callous; Kerry in '04: a stronger America, contra Democrats as wimps...there's much more that can be said about this, particularly about how this follows from and exacerbates polarization, by making "credibility" something to be won by re-affirming facile groupings in order to repudiate them. But I've totally used up my political blogging allotment...


 

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Overheard during finals week

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.15.04

(a) veal of ignorance

(b) "Rawls-- he had that theory about how to run a city, right?"

I tried to add something funny to these, but I realized they glitter like a jewel in their own light.


 

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Gym queen meets the germ theory of illness

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.15.04

What's the correct rule for deciding whether or not to work out with a cold? I'm torn between wanting to take it easy, in response to the cold, and wanting to work out, in response to the fear that thinking about the cold might be a rationalization to get out of going to the gym. Of course, I've spent so much time thinking about sofas that it's really too late anyway.

But here's the recliner I want:

archer_small.jpg

In black, though.


 

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Sofa: an object of such-and-such construction, meant for sitting

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.15.04

Look at the difference in the frame, and in the structure of the arms. It's really hard to choose.

avanti_small.jpg

The Avanti was my initial preference.

metropolitan_small.jpg

But the Metropolitan is coming on strong. I love the Avanti's clean lines, and I like the horizontal wood piece at the base, but I'm not so keen on the t-cushions. I think that might look a little too [redacted].

As for material, I first wanted a leather sofa, but I think I'm going to get a leather recliner, and I've been warned off having two leather pieces in a small space. (Yeah, I got your second leather piece right here, pal.) So I'm thinking about a darker neutral fabric. Suggestions?

update: [redacted] We're halfway there! Whoa-ooh! Livin' on a prayer! Sit on my couch, we'll make it-- I swear!

Note: has any blog entry ever alluded both to Tyler Burge and Bon Jovi? I think not. I think not.


 

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Stretch, Pop

Posted by Ogged
on 12.15.04

Look at the flat upper arm, and the angle of the elbow. It's really really hard to do this.

Grant Hackett.

Ian Thorpe.

I'd be blogging more, but this is driving me nuts.


 

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GPS

Posted by Ogged
on 12.14.04

[OK: I'm tired of having the site broken, and the votes are slowing down, so let's call it a representative sample. Final tally pictured below.

Color me shocked. Almost a fifth of the readers live around San Francisco?? I was sure we were big in Chicago and the East Coast, but I was just about exactly wrong. And what's up with "Other?" Are that many of you really outside the U.S. and Canada, or were there more "identity politics" votes like mike d's "South but not Texas, so Other"?

And now the poster's dilemma: cater to the base--meet me at Ashkenaz for Balkan music and veggie pizza!--or reach out to the disaffected--meet me at Dali, and check out all the hot lesbians on the red line!--?]

I'm curious--and so are you, probably--about where people live. (The poll is totally anonymous; I don't even see the IP address when you click.) And yes, I know it breaks the color on the site. Oh well.


 

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Maybe Not

Posted by Ogged
on 12.14.04

The Poor Man, who, aside from not being funny anymore, also has a doctorate [Master's] in this science stuff [something more scientific than Comp. Lit.], considers whether North Korea actually has nukes, and what it would take for it to get them.


 

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So Put Upon

Posted by Ogged
on 12.14.04

See, it's that language thing again. I am now in possession of the Grad Student's email address. But, you'll recall, I didn't want to be in possession of her email address, I wanted her to have mine. So I'll have to craft some careful "let's be friends" email.

Now, a couple of things, but no saying "See, you should date her!" in response.

The Swede informs me that GS was on Sweden's national ping-pong team. That's awesome. It's even better that GS herself told me that she plays ping-pong, but didn't say anything about being on the national team; in fact, she told me in the context of liking racquet sports, which she illustrated with a story about having just taken up squash, and consistently losing to her playing partner, who plays collegiately. Now that's good character.

And the best moment at the party was when GS told me about playing ping-pong. We were sitting on the couch between three other women, and hipster dude. GS and I had been talking about sports or exercise, and that was taken up by the group, and the women started talking about what other women wear to the gym. That went on, then petered out, and in the silence that followed, GS merrily and totally unselfconsciously jumped back to where she and I had left off, and announced that she liked racquet sports: tennis, table tennis, and squash. Oh, the look on the faces of the other women: they had on frozen little smiles and you could see them thinking, "Oh my god, she is so uncool."

You take dating advice from me at your peril, but here's one piece that I'll stand by: Always date women who are true and dear friends with at least a few other women, and can be gracious to women they're not friends with. The ones whose first instinct is to size-up and compete will just bring you grief.

Neurotic?: I have an email window open where I'm trying to write to the GS, and I just had to send an email for work to someone who's trying to sell me something. After I typed it, I realized I'd begun my email to him,

Frank,
I don't want to lead you on, but

I so need a therapist.

OK: Email sent.


 

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The Local Cuisine, However...

Posted by Ogged
on 12.14.04

Via B-dub in comments, the I Can Eat Glass Project.

The Project is based on the idea that people in a foreign country have an irresistable urge to try to say something in the indigenous tongue. In most cases, however, the best a person can do is "Where is the bathroom?" a phrase that marks them as a tourist. But, if one says "I can eat glass, it doesn't hurt me," you will be viewed as an insane native, and treated with dignity and respect.

I love it. And the Farsi sentence is solid; I think these people can be trusted. Try it next time you're abroad!


 

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Another Way To Party

Posted by Ogged
on 12.14.04

I like this party recap.

Seeds of possible new romance planted: 2 known, ?? unknown (but 1 suspected)
Seeds of breakups planted: None known. 1 suspected.
Seeds of new friendships: 8 known (1 friendly coffee date, 2 friendly dinner invitations, 1 lunch date, 2 sailing invitations, 1 baseball plan, 1 chess game). ?? unknown (but more suspected) (tally does not include invitations made to hostesses, although we're hoping to be included as additional guests in the dinner invites)
Overt hostilities: 1 small instance
Covert hostilities (people leaving shortly after others arrived, or making quiet snarky remarks to me about other attendees): five or six.

But it seems strange that we use the same term,"party," for this and also for this. (Confirming, again, that partying is a skill that must needs be practiced to be mastered. And that dude Grant is the guy who writes Nerve's I Did It For Science column.)


 

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Books

Posted by Ogged
on 12.13.04

Wow wow wow.

Google, the operator of the world's most popular Internet search service, plans to announce an agreement today with some of the nation's leading research libraries and Oxford University to begin converting their holdings into digital files that would be freely searchable over the Web.

It sounds like books whose copyrights have already expired will be available in toto and free online (another reason not to let copyright be extended indefinitely). But just having digital copies of all those books available will change everything.


 

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When Do We Get to Work on Floating?

Posted by Ogged
on 12.13.04

I don't think the Swede had read my email before I saw her tonight. Still, there are swim-things you don't want to hear from her:

"It's ok to get your heart rate up on this one."

And, new for tonight, "We'll do this until you're shaking."

Right-o. Afterwards, I had to sit in the car for a while before I could even hold the steering wheel. This elite athlete thing is amazing. She's not competing or even swimming regularly, but does most of the drills that I do, and I'm dying, and she's fine. When I was playing basketball, I was reasonably athletic--I mean, a six-foot tall white guy who can dunk, give it up y'all--but sometimes I'd play against people who were Division I players and I might as well have been wearing combat boots. Incredible. So strong, so quick. And even from there, it's quite a leap to the professional, or Olympic, level where all the physical gifts are married to neurotically hard-working and competitive personalities. Those folks aren't even playing the same games.


 

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Housekeeping

Posted by Ogged
on 12.13.04

Blogroll additions:

Profgrrrrl. Hooray for yummy dinners; honest and true posts, and, of course, hot outfits.

Bitch PhD. What they don't tell you in grad school. The advantages of being a femme feminist. Her open marriage.

And I've removed two of the smartest bloggers around, Charles Murtaugh, and jhp of My Ro-bot Life, as they seem to have hung up their blogging duds.


 

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McCain

Posted by Ogged
on 12.13.04
Oh, he's running alright. (If his health holds up.)


 

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Capitulation

Posted by Ogged
on 12.13.04

The thing about Mr. Drummond that really made him a different-from-you-and-me rich guy were those eye shades he wore to bed. They were like some antiquated anglicism passed over commoners' heads from one penthouse to another, down through the ages.

And I have a co-worker, unmarried, around forty, who told me he wears earplugs to bed. And now that's come to symbolize for me the creeping do-not-disturbism that makes a guy a lifelong bachelor.

So imagine my surprise: For the past few months, I've been wearing earplugs and eyeshades to bed, and I'm not about to stop. Sometimes, I even sleep through the night. I realized this morning that I'm thrilled to be awakened by my alarm clock, because that means I wasn't already up and waiting for it.

Admittedly, it doesn't do much for my self-image (or my visage), and I feel like a sixty year-old wimp, but a guy will trade a lot for a shot at a decent night's sleep.


 

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Denouement

Posted by Ogged
on 12.13.04

Great bejiminy, I'm convinced: I sent an email to the Swede about her friend. I present the relevant portion of the Great Group Effort here:

And it was lots of fun to talk to your friend, whose name, I think, was [fiendishly difficult Swedish name] (the philosophy grad student). If you want to pass along my email address to her (just in a friendly way; I'd like to hear more about her work), that would be great.

Heavy-handed, yes, but we're also dealing with a bit of a language barrier here, and I think you gathered that I don't want any misunderstandings. That oughta do the trick, right?


 

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Overheard

Posted by Ogged
on 12.12.04

Atrios writes,

...it's perfectly consistent to criticize the failure of this administration to properly supply the troops for an unnecessary war, and to also criticize them for the cost of this unnecessary, and increasingly catastrophic, war.

One of the people at the party the other night (the Bush voter, in fact) is an accountant and had participated in an audit of Halliburton. He said their practices with equipment in Iraq were, to use his word, "ridiculous," with things just being abandoned instead of repaired. If I recall correctly, he said that the audit showed that Halliburton was only still using one-quarter of the equipment (meaning trucks and such) that it had originally had. (This was party chatter, so don't cite it in your brief to the DOD, but you get the idea....)


 

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New York minute

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.12.04

I was in New York for the weekend, partly to see an old friend who's in the city* for the term and partly just to get out of town before finals week. Over a few hours in SoHo, I twice ran into other friends who just happened to be in the area that night. The odds against this must be staggering.

*You'd never guess, from my urbane, cosmopolitan blogging style and love of [redacted], that I'm from Long Island, where people refer to NY as "the city." When I've lived near other cities, locals refer to the cities by their names, never as "the city."

**Update: yeah, fine, other cities are often called "the city." Careful readers will note that I did not claim that NY is the only city commonly referred to just as "the city" rather than by its proper name; I claimed that cities near my residences...etc. Some people, drunk on their social success, reveal their hubris, while I, dateless, sniff in the background.


 

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The Party

Posted by Ogged
on 12.12.04

Damn, but there are a lot of Swedes in this town, and every single one was at this party. I quickly realized that the question was rude only if the answer was going to be no, so I asked with impunity: "So, you know the Swede because you're Swedish?" Yup.

I had a good time; the cookies were a hit; there were, in fact, a bunch of Swedish hotties there, so I spent the better part of the evening on the couch chatting with the Swedish...wait for it...philosophy grad student! Of course! Also the Swedish investment banker; the Swedish wife of the accountant; the Swedish-Iranian, and etc.

The nice thing about a guest list drawn by ethnicity (and networks arising therefrom), is that you get folks together with a broad range of interests (and the Swede's husband is a musician, so you get the hipsters too). So, yes, investment bankers and accountants; but also the woman who showed and told us about the tattoo that went from her knee to her ankle, and the rock-climbing art professor who chimed in about her tattoos, and the hipster dude at the end of the couch who said, "I'm never getting a tattoo."

So, the grad student: I've always known that I'm not attracted by looks so much as that smart sparkle in smart people's eyes. The grad student, who looks endearingly goofy, like a philosophy grad student should, was standing talking to two other Swedish women who were both almost comically stereotypically hot blondes. And I, at the time, was pinned, somehow, in the middle of a conversation between the kind of liberal that makes people a little embarrassed to be liberals, and probably the only guy within miles who voted for Bush. Of course, I was thinking, "I need to get the fuck out of this conversation, and into that one." But it wasn't so that I could talk to the hotties, but so that I could talk to the grad student, who just looked smart. This is the kind of thing that makes some of my friends think I'm nuts; but the people of blogdom know what I mean, right?

Now, the question. The grad student is sweet, and unobjectionably earnest, and I'd like to hear more about her work, and I think it'd be nice to hang out, but it's not like I want to date her. So, wise women, is that doable? I tend to think not: if I get her email from the Swede and contact her, whatever we do next is a Date. I think I'm going to say it was a nice chat and call it a relationship.


 

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