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ThreeTidbits

Posted by Ogged
on 12.23.05

1. In the December 19th New Yorker profile of US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, there's a tantalizing nugget that suggests the US is preparing for the breakup of Iraq into three autonomous regions. It's just a quote from someone who'd like to see that happen, but stil.... Have any of the smart kids weighed in on this?

2. Just saw Syriana. I'm not sure what the "it's all so confusing" complaint is about. The problem, it seems to me, is that it's all utterly conventional, and not very dramatic. One good scene, however, took place in a madrassah, and showed, in a nicely understated way, how compelling the narrative of salvation via the Koran can be. Also, fingernails pulled out! Probably not torture!

3. My cabbie on the way to the airport had not only played college basketball, but had been one of the players, along with Connie Hawkins, who had been nailed for point-shaving. I think the prevailing story is that Hawkins was never "tied" to the point-shaving, and was somehow wronged. According to my cabbie (that needs to be a catchphrase), Hawkins was involved. Original reporting, baby!


 

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Another bit of filler

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.22.05

Light posting OR my charming from-the-airport/liveblogging-Christmas ramblings, depending on the wireless situation over the next few days.


 

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Great Moments In Packaging

Posted by Ogged
on 12.22.05

As the youngest guy in a small office, the traditionally "male" tasks (eg, moving shit) fall to me. I just pulled something that weighs about 120lbs. out of a box, and underneath there was a note from the manufacturer: "Warning: Heavy." Someone came into the room and said, "There's no one else in here, but I hear you laughing." At least the second one had the note on top.

In other news, busy day today, and I'm off to Chicago in a few hours, so maybe Unf will save you from yourselves.


 

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So cold

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.21.05

More furnace-based mockery: the thing stopped working. The pipes should survive until morning, and then some surly repair guy can (a) tell me it's a simple problem that I should have been able to intuit myself or (b) tell me that it's a complex problem requiring an expensive fix or a replacement.

Next up: I liveblog death by hypothermia. Someone hit W-lfs-n if he complains about typos.

ICY FINGERS OF DEATH UPDATE: People, it's not that cold. The house, normally in the high fifties, got down to the low fifties. The repair guy is going to stop by this afternoon. (Prediction: a fun anecdote about my interactions with someone from the skilled trades is in your future.) I have no idea how cold a house has to be for the pipes to freeze, so I left some taps dripping.

SWEET LIFE-GIVING WARMTH UPDATE: What luck! There was a genuine problem (a leaky seal between fuel line and pump) that required a (simple, but tool-involving) fix. Thanks, home warranty!


 

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Privacy

Posted by Ogged
on 12.21.05

It's likely that the administration broke the law or at least violated the public trust with the NSA's data-mining program. That'll be hashed out everywhere, but I'm more interested in the debate that we really ought to be having, which is nicely summed up by Kaus.

...the solution is to make it explicitly legal--lower the standard for search warrants, allow mass warrants for whole bundles of phone calls, while retaining some judicial supervision. ... Explicit legalization seems the obvious solution because the "privacy" interest involved--the danger that government has "listened in on some people who turned out not to pose a threat"--is, if not trivial, several orders of magnitude lower than the threat itself. Privacy interests have always been overblown in the American civil libertarian scheme of things, and they're becoming more overblown now that email communications are routinely introduced in court, while cell phone conversations get picked up by amateur scanners. "Reasonable expectations of privacy," as the lawyers put it, are simply lower in the age of blogs and Webcams and surveillance videos than in the age of dial telephones. ... I wouldn't be all that upset if the Feds ran every damn phone call through the Echelon-style NSA computers. Do you have a problem with that?

My answer to that, even a couple of years ago, might well have been, "not really." And if you use gmail, you're already consenting to have your messages scanned in the same way that we suspect the NSA is scanning communications. But the analogy is instructive, because google can't do anything to you, other than serve you a few ads. But the administration also claims the right to detain us without charge or access to counsel. I know I keep saying this, but we don't live in a nation of laws anymore. It's like what Yglesias keeps saying about whether someone has lied: it's not necessary that everything the person said be shown to be false, just part of it--and you don't have to lose the protection of all the laws to be essentially powerless against the state. So the issue of privacy, in this circumstance, isn't really about rights, or limning the legitimate power of the state, but about curbing the state's actual instrumental power--give them fewer ways to justify detaining you; fewer chances to think they should get you; fewer chances to mistakenly nab you.


 

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Back to what matters

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.21.05

In case you missed it, there's a fascinating discussion of opera dress codes here. For what it's worth, I used to have exactly the attitude expressed by W-lfs-n:

I deliberately don't dress up to go to symphonies and the rest, as I think doing so exclusionary, creating the false impression that such music is the preserve of the wealthy and well-educated, that it's above the heads of most folk and can't be enjoyed without extensive qualification &c, and other reasons besides.

(I note in passing that it's Ben friggin' W-lfs-n decrying elitism and exclusionary mores.) I've since changed my view for reasons like the ones BPhD is offering, among others.

Since we're on the subject, I'd be happy to relax the audience dress code if we could also relax the performer's. Here's one place where women are better off: a loose black dress is comfy; a tuxedo is not, especially if you have to move your shoulder a bit. Compare the relative comfort of the low strings here, for example. Hold your arm that way for an hour and you'll understand why it makes me cranky.


 

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Just for old times' sake

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.21.05

Kevin Drum has a good post up about the NSA spying question and the issue of "wartime." Repeating the general point I made here, and largely echoing Drum's view: the question is whether the state we're in is sufficient to justify the NSA program or other sorts of illegal-in-not-wartime actions. Either not all war-like scenarios are wars, or not all wars give the President extra legal powers. It's important to keep the eventual purpose of the classification in mind when deliberating about criteria for its application.


 

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The Zen Master--A Totally Earnest Basketball Post

Posted by Ogged
on 12.21.05

I used to be a huge, huge fan of Phil Jackson. Back in the day, he really was a breath of fresh air--the Zen/mental stuff was actually insightful, and it worked; he got Michael Jordan to believe in a system that won six championships; he wrote and acted in plays in the off-season, and he'll always have a special place in my heart for defending Dennis Rodman for saying something about "fucking Mormons" by claiming that Rodman just didn't know that the Mormons "were some kind of cult or sect." So sweet.

But he's been on a long and steady decline, and Kobe's stat line from last night is a new low: 62 points, 0 assists. Next highest scorer on the team: 9 points. Don't tell me that there's just no one else on that team. Lamar Odom is crazy talented; Chris Mihm is a perfectly serviceable center, and Kwame Brown is freakishly athletic. What was supposed to happen was that Jackson would work his magic, and Odom would be motivated, Brown wouldn't play scared, and with Kobe as the anchor, they could build a decent team. None of that is happening. I'm not on the Auerbach side of this debate yet, but I'm getting there.


 

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Defeat

Posted by Ogged
on 12.20.05

I admit it. The reading group is dead.

What went wrong?

That's a serious question. I had high hopes, and the comments throughout were fantastic, but we couldn't maintain any momentum. People are busy, the book is hard, I couldn't figure out a decent way to pace the reading...these things I know, but what else?

Sorry.


 

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Questions Recently Put To Me, Which I Cannot Answer Adequately

Posted by Ogged
on 12.20.05

First, one for the geeks, asked by a market analyst: are there any things you see coming down the pike in the world of technology that will require significant capital outlays? (Not quite on the order of what we saw with the buildout of broadband, for example, but of the same type.)

Second, one for the literati: apparently, there are competing translations of Kafka's works, with some being (naturally) favored by those in the know. What's what?


 

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Chairman Mao Would Like A Word

Posted by Ogged
on 12.20.05

Sherry follows up her fashion post.

They may be vain. They may be high maintenance. They may be fussy. They may be perfectionists. They may be shallow. These are the red flags I get from some well-dressed men. I find vanity and fussyness very unattractive. So I like some well-dressed men, but am put off by other well-dressed men.

I deny that she likes any well-dressed men. I submit that she thinks she likes them, but just doesn't know them very well.


 

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Last dispatch from the outer reaches

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.20.05

Have you ever read Hugh Hewitt? I check in with Instant Pundit and Powerline on a regular basis, but I never tried Hewitt, until now. I give it a B+-- sort of a working man's Hindrocket. It's breathtakingly weird. Probably everyone knew this, but I note my surprise so that you can laugh at my naivete.


 

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Excel

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.20.05

The only fun thing about grading is entering all the numbers into Excel and watching magic happen.


 

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Tasks and Responsibilities

Posted by Ogged
on 12.20.05

1. I'm working on the duplicate comments problem; I know it's out of control. [Solved!]

2. The boss just came to me and started by saying, "On the premise that you're responsible for everything here that moves, but is not alive..." [Of course, he wanted me to look at a malfunctioning clock.]


 

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I will die in the last ditch for my pleats

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.20.05

I'm proud to say I'm a Hickey Freeman man, and I won't take this 'no pleats' business lying down. Sherri:

2) The rules: No pleated pants.

I'm not saying pleats are mandatory but I am saying that they're perfectly acceptable. I agree and empathize with turboglacier when he replies

This pleats/no pleats business is totally out of control. I have, in my closet, somewhere around $1500 worth of pleated suits and pants. ALL were purchased within the past four years, and ALL under the direct supervision of women. Now, the women in my life are telling me that ALL of them must go to the Salvation Army.

There's nothing wrong with pleats. Have courage!

No white socks unless you're exercising. No sneakers or hiking boots unless you're running or hiking. You need leather shoes not only for dress up but also for wearing casually around town. No mock turtlenecks. (Friends tell me the occasional mock turtleneck is permissible, but I am skeptical.) No baggy sweaters. Belt and shoes need to be the same color. Dark socks only. Button down shirts shouldn't have pockets on them. No t-shirts with writing on them, unless you're running or at the gym. (Category 1 men can and do and should break this rule with hip T-shirts.) Outdoor gear is for outdoors, not for all the time. No dark shirts or shiny shirts with a suit. If you're in Category 3, shiny shirts are off limits to you entirely.

The 'no pockets' thing is dumb. If Brooks Brothers says it's ok, it's fine with me. But the belts & shoes thing-- crucial for success!


 

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What Not To Wear

Posted by Ogged
on 12.20.05

The typically sensible Sherry reveals the dark places of her soul.

In my experience, there are three general categories of men when it comes to dressing. Category 1: Well dressed men, with a clear sense of style. Category 2: Men who have learned the basics and are successfully avoiding the fashion "no's". Category 3: Men who don't have a clue how to dress, and basically wear the kinds of things their mothers used to pick out for them when they were kids, supplemented by gifts and things that seem to fit and feel comfortable ... In general, men in Category 1 are most attractive to me, men in Category 3 are second most attractive to me, and men in Category 2 are way in the back of the pack.

Here's all the fashion advice you need: men who have a clear sense of style are bad people, and you should avoid them at all times. (I should say that men who exercise a sense of style are bad people; knowing what looks good is ok, caring enough to do something about it: bad.) And it's ok to have one or two "ensembles" for special-ish occasions that you've put some thought into (respect the event, and all that), but on any given day, a guy should look no better than not-embarrassing. Partly, this is about certain principles (eg, vanity is bad), partly it's a simple empirical observation: guys I've known who care about looking stylish (whatever that means to them) have been fuckwits. Don't be a fuckwit.


 

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Not Bleak, Exactly

Posted by Ogged
on 12.19.05

Saw the Townes Van Zandt movie, Be Here To Love Me, and read Disgrace while I was in NY.

The movie is really well done, and tells a coherent story, and introduces just enough of the characters in Van Zandt's life, while still being full of his music and providing a pretty penetrating look at him personally. In some ways, his story is typical: slightly disturbed, very dark personality has the gift of turning his pain into art, and simultaneously gives up everything for his gift and goes about slowly killing himself. But it's always the art that makes these people compelling at all, and his music and life story complement each other and add up to an emotional wallop. Definitely check it out if it's playing near you.

Disgrace is just so very good I'm not sure what to say about it other than that you should read it if you haven't. That Coetzee manages a profound and true look at the relationships between parents and children, and teachers and students, and men and women, and people and animals, and the poor and the middle class, and blacks and whites, and people and the land, and people and aging, and literature and life--all in about 200 pages, in beautiful sentences, is...awesome. Just one question though: how credible do you find Lucy's decision to stay on the land? I thought it was believable, but strained--it requires a certain saintliness on her part, no?


 

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Being Good

Posted by Ogged
on 12.19.05

I like this Tim Burke post, and think this is nicely put.

Swarthmore's president, Alfred Bloom, talks a great deal about "ethical intelligence" as perhaps the central outcome he'd like to see produced by a Swarthmore education. I like the phrase and I like the concept and I agree with his view that this is a chief goal. The reason it's a nice phrase is that it implies (at least to me) that what we're looking for the underpinnings of a capacity for ethical judgement, one that students can freely exercise at their own discretion and in their own ways, like any other form of knowledge or intelligence.

But it also brings to mind the apparently insoluble problem of teaching people to be ethical: figuring out what's right is hard, but being motivated to do it is the real challenge. After all, nasty people often have the most exquisitely attuned sense of the boundaries of right action--and people with no schoolin' often have no trouble figuring out what's right. Also, drawing on my vast day camp and babysitting experience, I'll say that whether people are decent or not is pretty readily apparent even when they're three, and might be fixed even before that. A lot of y'all are teachers of one sort or another, so I'm reluctant to say that trying to teach this stuff is pointless, but....


 

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Quick Search

Posted by Ogged
on 12.19.05

It's come to my attention that even some people who've successfully been pretending to be smart don't know about Quick Searches in Firefox. People, people, how can you live without quick searches? Go here for instructions. After you've read that and you come back looking for a box to click in here, check the left sidebar for the "Google site search."


 

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Less Light!

Posted by Ogged
on 12.19.05

What does the Unfoggetariat know about fluorescent lights? The trip East was the longest I've been out from under them in about six years, and, not coincidentally, I think, the best my eyes and brain have felt in about that same length of time. I'm sure being away from the computer helped, but the fact that every time I stepped into a store with fluorescent lights I felt like crap again seems like an important piece of information. Any recommendations on alternate lighting, or other nifty tricks? (I don't have my own office, so the situation is somewhat complicated by shared lighting--but I could probably yank a few overhead bulbs without too much objection from other people.)


 

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Disturbing

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.19.05

I made the mistake of checking the NYT before getting back to grading-- the penalty is this story about webcam porn.

Weeks before, Justin had hooked up a Web camera to his computer, hoping to use it to meet other teenagers online. Instead, he heard only from men who chatted with him by instant message as they watched his image on the Internet. To Justin, they seemed just like friends, ready with compliments and always offering gifts.
Now, on an afternoon in 2000, one member of his audience sent a proposal: he would pay Justin $50 to sit bare-chested in front of his Webcam for three minutes. The man explained that Justin could receive the money instantly and helped him open an account on PayPal.com, an online payment system.
"I figured, I took off my shirt at the pool for nothing," he said recently. "So, I was kind of like, what's the difference?"

What a chilling rhetorical question!


 

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Making fun of Ogged is a well that never runs dry

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.19.05

Ogged:

I though[t] Kahlil Gibran was awesome.

Sweet. Initially, I wanted to put some super-deep image in this post, but instead I found this awesome page. I totally need to write one of these for myself....

UPDATE: link might not be safe for work-- it's got a picture of a mostly-nude pregnant woman walking on a beach. At sunset. Of course it does. I pretend this is a warning, while really it's an enticement.

The world insists on having your courses graded. Grades are stupid and oppressive, since they are used as judgments of your value as a person, not of a guide to a larger intellectual exchange with the professor. I would get rid of them if I could. Unfortunately, I will lose my job if I don't grade you, and I am the one who puts that grade on the grade sheet. Someone has to decide, and this time it's me. All I can say is that I try very, very hard to be both fair and tolerant in my judgments, recognizing that our differences of political philosophy and opinion don't automatically make you wrong. If you don't experience my grading that way, please let me know.

I've found my new Tom Hilde.


 

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Missing the joke

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.18.05

I'm happy to see that SoCalPundit has updated the post to which I linked earlier:

UPDATE Thu, 12/15/05 05:17 - The libs have been hounding me all day to update this post to reflect the fact that many blogs in the Leftosphere now have posts up about the Iraq elections. So let's look at one, shall we?
It's a post about THE IRAQI F***ING ELECTION

Posted by Fontana Labs

on 12.15.05

Yes! For what it's worth, I'm very sorry for having done anything that might have contributed to the appearance of liberal perfidy. Just to be clear-- though I can't imagine anyone being confused about this-- my post didn't say anything bad about the Iraqi election, contrary to what's implied by SoCalPundit's allusion to his grandmother. Instead, it suggested some bad things about people who make a fuss over what's omitted from other peoples' blogs.


 

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Christmas with Powerline

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.18.05

Can you imagine what the holidays are like chez Hindrocket? This will help. Next up: my eggnog recipe proves that Democrats hate America!


 

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Disco Hut!

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.18.05

Annie, in comments, suggests that the Bay City Rollers are more embarrassing than Asia. Not so. Exhibit A: album covers.

asia.jpg

Asia chooses a weird airbrushed look that says: "we are unbefuckinglievably lame."

baycityrollers.jpg

The Bay City Rollers choose a photograph that says: "we're not ghey, we just like plaid." (Pedants: fine, I'm not sure that this photo was an album cover. On the other hand, it's pretty awesome.)

Exhibit B: music.

(i) I choose "Heat of the moment" as one of the worst songs ever. Reason one: the guitar intro. Reason two: it totally sounds like he's saying disco hut and that really irritates me.

(ii) I choose "Saturday Night" as an honest infectiously almost-fun pop song. Best reason: it's also a spelling lesson.

For some reason I can't upload my edit of all the rhymes in "Heat of the moment" jammed together. Some other time, perhaps.


 

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Humiliate self for the approval of others

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.18.05

Fun thread at CT:

What is the most embarrassing book that CT readers idolized when they were teenagers or pre-teens? Painful confessions welcome.

My immediate thought: it'd be funny to say A Theory of Justice-- but I think this just indicates that the Unfogged waggishness is not entirely appropriate on CT. Some quasi-earnest responses:

(i) many people have mentioned Ayn Rand, but I was lucky enough to delay my first encounter with that stuff (in the form of The Fountainhead) until I was old enough to see pretty clearly that it's just terrible.

(ii) I really liked Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series, but this doesn't strike me as too embarrassing. On the other hand, I read a lot of Piers Anthony. Whether this is embarrassing depends on whether it's such a bad thing to have childish tastes as a child. (For example, I have a feeling that this would be pretty hard to stomach now, but at the time it seemed fun.)

(iii) This leaves me without a really horrible childhood favorite. Is it enough that I was really into the Hardy Boys? (Please, no porn jokes.)

(iv) On the other hand, I really rocked out to Asia, and it doesn't get much worse that that.

UPDATE: how could I forget Elric? Humiliation aplenty!


 

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Sunday round-up

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 12.18.05

In the recent past it was pragmatically necessary for me to believe that once I reached the end of finals week, everything would be ok. I suppose at some level I realized this was false, but I managed to believe it, if only for the sake of my mental health. At this point, however, I have to come to terms with the fact that in the next week I must (i) grade three sets of papers and two sets of exams; (ii) write an application for funding next year; (iii) read some job files; (iv) buy War-On-Christmas presents. This, my friends, is lame.

Some miscellany for you to ignore in the comments:

1. in the "worst idea ever" sweepstakes, should we restrict entries to those ideas that can be attributed to a single person or small group of people, or should we include ideas that evolved gradually over time, e.g., "the patriarchy" or "ethical monotheism, whatever that is"?

2. Seinfeld-- not really that funny. Quoting episodes or starting anecdotes with the phrase "there's this episode of Seinfeld": as bad as recreating Monty Python bits.

3. Would I think Seinfeld is funny if I thought that Seinfeld is funny?

4. In what sense is Seinfeld "a show about nothing"? This phrase comes up all the time, but I have no idea what it means. How is it true of Seinfeld and not of, say, Friends?

5. Is the intellectual cachet/obnoxiousness of saying "Of course, I can't say much about this, because I don't ever watch television" ruined/redeemed by noting that I have finally reached the national championship game of NCAA Football 05?

UPDATE: I thought "chachet" was spelled "cache" with an accent. Damn.


 

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