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Travel hijinks-- the xmas edition

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.25.04

The trip: minor delays, and yet again I'm seated between two large men, but never mind that. I take a cab to the brother's, only to realize, after the driver roars off, that this neighborhood doesn't look right at all. I find the house number, knock on the door, and confront a baffled old man who is not, as far as I can tell, related to me in any significant way. It turns out I'm a block over. Oh, so sorry, merry christmas, thanks for not shooting me.

Q: can I do anything right? A: no.


 

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The Reason For The Season

Posted by Ogged
on 12.25.04

A fabulous Oppressed Majority Day to you, every one!


 

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All Plastic, All the Time

Posted by Ogged
on 12.24.04

Profgrrrrl is having ironing woes, and so was I, until I finally got fed up and decided to jump into the 21st century. Pretty much every single day, to work, out to dinner, to parties, wherever, I wear this undershirt (white), this top (black), and a pair of jeans. Cotton socks are still unbeatable, but this underwear (yeah, like someone wouldn't have asked) is awesome. No more ironing; and if you keep two sets of underlayers, a quick handwashing replaces doing laundry. Stylish, gender-specific clothing is totally last century...

WELL: Even the Decembrist, if it's around long enough, will run this poll eventually. Our time has come.


 

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What to do when not at airports

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.23.04

One of my New Year's projects is to read all the books on this (admittedly silly) list, so I stopped at the local Giant Chain Bookstore on my way back from the airport fiasco to pick up a copy of The Magnificent Ambersons. On impulse, I also picked up Vanity Fair and The Secret History, thus ensuring that I look completely OCD at the checkout.

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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Travel Blogging: Staying Home in Other Ways

Posted by Ogged
on 12.23.04

I do love airports, but don't particularly like to fly, so it was a pretty perfect coincidence that I'm in Chicago and some good friends who live in different parts of the country both had flights out of O'Hare tonight. Hanging out in Terminal 3; it's how the cool kids party.

We actually ended up talking about Sarbanes-Oxley (did I mention that we're the cool kids?), and they confirmed what I heard at the Swedish party (cool kids are everywhere!). Namely, that it's generating tremendous business for accounting and consulting firms, but its value as a check on shenanigans is less clear.

They also told me that when my mom had had them over a while back, she'd expressed some unacceptable political opinion, so I'm going to go yell at her now...


 

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Travel: the blogging

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.23.04

The good news is that I have computer access. The bad news is that it's because I'm stuck at home. One leg of my flight was cancelled thanks to the midwestern snow. If I can ever get through to customer service, I might be able to work something out, but, if not, at least I've got a backup plan.


 

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Fraternity

Posted by Ogged
on 12.23.04

Bitchphd writes,

...after Xmas, I am off to visit the boyfriend for New Year's.
So I'll see ya when I see ya. Maybe I'll post salacious details from New Year's, if you're really lucky.

I guess this is the time to admit that Fontana and I are sharing a room at the Des Moines Hilton. We won't post any salacious details, if you're really lucky.


 

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Cold, I'm Told

Posted by Ogged
on 12.22.04

Off to Chicago in a few minutes, though I'll probably still blog this weekend; heck, I'm even taking my wireless router with me: some things a guy just can't live without in the 21st century. I'm going to try to meet this W-lfs-n character, and maybe find Unf, who I haven't heard from in several weeks (and I just realized still has a check coming to him from me; a check that's been sitting in my wallet for a couple of months...hmm....)


 

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An Experiment

Posted by Ogged
on 12.22.04

This is an old one, but memories of it have been cracking me up lately. A Slate writer tried wearing Kerry/Edward's gear in Bush country, and Bush/Cheney stuff in liberal places. For the most part, it's a boring article, because he lives in California, and doesn't even venture outside the greater Los Angeles area to find hardcore Bushies. But wearing his Bush/Cheney t-shirt on Sunset Boulevard is pretty damn funny.

Slinking away, I stroll down Irony Row; a two-block stretch of Sunset Blvd. filled with boutiques peddling vintage 1970s lunch boxes, summer-camp T-shirts, and baby-doll dresses for grown women. So steeped are its denizens in the culture of irony that almost everyone thinks my shirt is a hilarious joke. As I browse through the Vice magazine store, a pair of girls giggles at me. One of them comments, "I've never seen that one before." A 40ish man dressed in cargo shorts, flamboyant sunglasses, and a Lance Armstrong bracelet sees my shirt and bursts out laughing. "Way to go, man!" he says, giving me a thumbs up. Then, as I walk into a wacky gift shop, I hear a shriek. The woman behind the counter throws up her hands in mock horror, "Oh no! Bush-Cheney! In Silverlake!" she cackles, feigning horror at my hilarious costume, as if humoring a child on Halloween.

 

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Knee-Jerk

Posted by Ogged
on 12.22.04

I can't tell if Atrios is just keeping his readers happy, or if he's gone 'round the bend himself. B-U-R-P. We don't really want to become freepers, do we?


 

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Heist

Posted by Ogged
on 12.22.04

If you haven't heard about the bank robbery in Ireland (and I don't feel too guilty sensationalizing, since no one was hurt), it's quite a story.


 

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Be Thin, Be Very Thin

Posted by Ogged
on 12.22.04

It's easy (way too easy) to make fun, but seriously, this is important.

For weight-loss gurus, the Bible is definitely the Good Book.
There's "What Would Jesus Eat?" (and "The What Would Jesus Eat Cookbook"). And "Thin Within: A Grace-Oriented Approach to Lasting Weight Loss." And "Slim for Him" (as in Him, not him). And "First Place: The Original Bible-Based Weight Loss Plan." And "The Joy of Weight Loss."
Then there's "The Weigh Down Diet." And "Body by God." And "The Maker's Diet."
All claim to teach the faithful how to lose weight based on biblical principles.
And all have been best-sellers.

We're obviously not dealing with a phenomenon that's primarily religious (it's nearly blasphemous), and we're not dealing with that other handy category, the anti-modern. It looks much more like an identity-giving social affiliation, with roots in the Christian tradition. What I'd love to know is how much overlap exists between the folks who read books like this, and evangelicals, and how much of the latest "great revival" of religion in America is attributable to these folks.

I'd like to know because you can engage religious people on doctrinal grounds, and negotiate political solutions with them. And you can try to address the fears and circumstances of people who find comfort in anti-modernism. But one of the distinctive traits of people who have identity-giving affiliations (think of rock fans) is that any attempt to engage and integrate them causes a retreat into deeper wackiness, because they only gain an identity by keeping apart from the mainstream, and by keeping others out.


 

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Holiday Reading

Posted by Ogged
on 12.22.04

Well, hooray already. A couple of years ago, I bought the most common translation of the Koran and tried to slog through it, but it was just unreadable. There's a new translation, and it seems much better. I suppose none of us is going to read it over Christmas, but thought you might like to know.


 

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I strongly recommend this applicant

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.21.04

I'm at work on a stack of recommendation letters. I had thought I'd finished with prose forms that make their authors look like complete fools when I stopped writing personal statements, but I see now that my relief was premature. Is there a way of writing these letters without sounding like such a buffoon?

McX is a pretty good student, and I urge you to think about why you didn't admit me nine years ago, you stupid [redacteds] give careful consideration to my dinosauric american [redacted] his candidacy.

Maybe I should go through a few more drafts before sending this off.


 

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Project Honeypot

Posted by Ogged
on 12.21.04
Now that there are some anti-spam laws, and spammers are being ordered to pay massive fines, catching the bastards is more worthwhile. A lot of you enter a dummy email address in the comments because you know that a spam harvester will find it and spam it. (By the way, we allow totally anonymous posting, so you don't need to enter anything.) But the smart folks at Project Honeypot (disclosure: I know one of them) are using the robot's methods against them: a honeypot is a unique dummy address, embedded in the site, which can be traced back to the robot that grabbed it. That gives us one more piece of information with which to track down spammers. And, like all these distributed systems, the more people who use it, the more can be done with it. I just installed a honeypot on Unfogged, so here's hoping. Check them out. UPDATE: Further explanation in the comments from that guy I know.

 

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Enough For Some

Posted by Ogged
on 12.21.04

Busy today, though I'd like to be posting about the new torture revelations, and particularly about the poll that got headlined "44% of Americans support curtailing of Muslim's civil liberties." It's more complicated, though not better, than that. Check out the whole thing (PDF) here.

Meanwhile, even the Bush-backing Belgravia Dispatch has had enough.

But anyone with half a brain who continues to insist that the torture (sorry, "abuse") story is about a few bad apples taking a frat hazing a tad too much to heart at Abu Ghraib alone are full of it and doing the country a disservice through their intellectual dishonesty. It's clear that, while not some God-awful American gulag archipelago--torture has manifestly occurred in detention facilities from Afghanistan to Iraq to Cuba. Likewise, it's time to say loud and clear that the fact that those tortured are Arab and South Asian detainees is noteworthy. Why? Because it's reminiscent of the different treatment afforded the Japanese enemy as compared to the German during WWII. Recall that the Japanese during WWII, above and beyond Korematsu, were more viciously dehumanized in the popular culture than their less offensive Kraut partners in crime. Put differently, race matters. Can anyone imagine the tortures that have taken place in places like Bagram, Gitmo and Abu Ghraib having been inflicted against, say, Bosnian Serbs in Brcko or Banja Luka? Highly doubtful indeed.

Yes, too late for some, but more heartening than not. More later...


 

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Movable Type Upgrade

Posted by Ogged
on 12.20.04

A question for bloggers: if you've upgraded from Movable Type 2.6x to 3.x, how did it go? I'd like to upgrade, but I've been reading about problems and it's critical that the look of the site not change. (Then there are little things like the "latest comments" sidebar and comment permalinks that have to keep working.) I'm not interested in changing platforms, so no evangelizing, please. Anyone managed a smooth transition?

What the heck...: I'm upgrading...hold off on comments for just a bit...

Well:: That seemed to work. The MT console is completely weird, but that's not a major issue, and the blog is still here. Woohoo!

DONE: That really was pretty painless. The upgrade is done, the new version of MT-Blacklist is up and running, and everything looks and acts like it did before. Very nice. Tomorrow, maybe I'll activate comment notification.


 

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Institutionalized Idiocy

Posted by Ogged
on 12.20.04

I just committed, with full knowledge, an act of institutional idiocy, and only by the grace of a responsible co-worker was the company saved.

It became clear in the course of this meeting that there's a particular summary of information that's required for a document to be produced. For some reason, the president of the company thought I should produce it. It was clear to everyone, including me, that there's someone else in a better position to produce it, but, of course, I agreed to do it anyway. Why? Because when the president asks for something, one's first instinct is to say yes. Also because there's tremendous pressure not to say, "That's not my responsibility," even when it's not, in fact, one's responsibility. And because, by doing the thing asked, one gets credit, thanks, accolades, etc.

Such are the pressures that can lead to companies doing what seem, in hindsight, to be stupid things. Someone didn't want to say no, an extra channel of communication was opened, with the attendent possiblity of miscommunication; that spawned another procedure X, with its potential to go wrong, and etc., accruing over many days and years, until things are well and truly broken.

Luckily, the person who should be producing the thing was at the meeting, and spoke up. It's not clear to me in what possible world I would have said "That's best done by someone else," although I'm pretty sure (but only pretty sure) that that's what I should have said.


 

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My last abortion post ever

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.20.04

I'm so sorry to inflict this on you. I really am. But I need catharsis.

Hecate writes:

It doesn't matter if I have abortions because I enjoy them. It's MY FUCKING BODY and you don't get to decide what I do with MY FUCKING BODY.
Now, no one that I know enjoys abortions, but the reason for the aboriton is irrelevant. You don't get to control MY FUCKING BODY when I have unprotected sex but allow me to control MY FUCKING BODY if the condom breaks. That's because it's MY FUCKING BODY.

No. This won't do, for at least two reasons.

(a) the state gets to limit what you do with your (...) body in all sorts of cases. In particular, it gets to limit your use of your body in cases where that use adversely affects other entities of moral significance (nb: not "persons"). This is not to say that a fetus is such an entity; it is to say that asserting that your rights over your body determine the answer to the abortion questions is simply to beg the question against one of your main opponents, who thinks, after all, that the fetus is such an entity.

(b) it is not completely implausible to think that if you intentionally act in a way that you know might bring about dependent life then you are morally obligated to provide some degree of support to that life. (Note that denying this might leave room for 'paper abortion,' that is, a father's severance of any financial responsibility for a fetus or child.) If this thought is right (i.e., consensual sex brings something like contractual obligations in its wake)* there is of course a further legal question, but you see where this is going.

I'd have better pro-life arguments if I actually endorsed the position. I know these considerations are abortion 101, but I think that's why I get so upset about this-- it's as if the appearance of the a-word makes everyone a little bit crazy. Me too, apparently.

*along with tears, Ben.


 

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Fear of Christmas

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.19.04

James Wolcott has some easy fun at the expense of a deserving target, James Lileks, who, posing as a persecuted minority, writes,

Maybe it's just me. Perhaps I'm overly sensitive. But when I wish a store clerk "Merry Christmas!" they often appear stunned and flummoxed for a moment, as if I've just blabbed the plans for the underground's sabotage of the train tracks in front of the secret police...

I think the reason for this is pretty obvious to anyone who's worked retail during Christmas. You're stressed and annoyed out of your mind by crazed shoppers, you've got the greatest Xmas hits of Mannheim Steamroller seared in your memory, you're surrounded by faux Holiday Cheer(tm), and some little man with an enormous forehead chirps up with a reminder of just why you're suffering so very, very much. Do I look like I'm having a merry Christmas? I'm behind a goddamned cash register. It's like he's just wished you a happy auto-de-fe.


 

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"I'm not sorry"

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.19.04

It seems to me that the dispute between Amy Sullivan and Atrios over abortion rhetoric is deeply confused. More accurately, it seems to me that Atrios is confused.

Amy Sullivan thinks that people on the left should take pains to avoid being seen as pro-abortion rather than pro-right-to-have-an-abortion:

Democrats have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to their record of protecting life. But no one is going to listen to them if they're too busy chanting "I'm not sorry".

Atrios thinks that he needs a drink:

Yes, we should be apologizing for things we aren't ashamed of. Someone pour me a drink.

(And Digby has a Swiftian take on things that seems, at best, uncharitable.)

Sullivan's point is that the Democrats' (and affiliates') public stance should be political, not a moral-- that is, we should be committed to the right to have an abortion while remaining officially neutral on the moral status of having that abortion. Neither an apology nor a public refusal to apologize is mandatory. Whether you're ashamed of having abortions is your own damned business; moral commitments should take a rhetorical back seat here. It's a bit of pragmatic advice that in no way weakens the commitment to, say, Roe. Or have I missed the point of this?

For extra credit, if you dare, read Atrios' comment section. There is a well looming somewhere...


 

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Eli Manning: smarter than you?

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.19.04

This is a question from an intelligence test given to NFL prospects (as excerpted in today's NYT article on Manning):

In printing an article of 24,000 words, a printer decides to use two sizes of type. Using the larger type, a printed page contains 900 words. Using the smaller type, a page contains 1,200 words. The article is allotted 21 full pages in a magazine. How many pages must be in the smaller type?

A story about how I felt dumb on the other side of paradise...

I'm feeling academic, and I've got papers to grade, so I thought I'd do a little solvey-solvey to pass the time.

s= # of pages in small type

l= # of pages in large type

and we know that s+l=21

and that s(1200) + l(900)= 24,000

hence

12s+9l=240 and thus 4s+3l=80 and because l=21-s we get

4s+ 3(21-s)=80

Now the competent thing to do would be to proceed to

4s+63-3s=80

s+63=80

s=17, l=4

because, honestly,this is not hard. And we'd expect the numbers to work out neatly.

but I forget how to multiply and so end up with

4s+63-s=80

so 3s=17

s=5 2/3, l= 15 1/3

and then why won't these numbers come out right? I'm dumber than Eli Manning! What the... is wrong with me? I want to (as B-dub so eloquently and hilariously points out) cry.


 

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