Love Is The Drug
Jesus Christ. The worst thing about this week's new low of a Modern Love column is that I know they'll top themselves with something even worse in a few weeks that will make this one look practically normal. They need to STOP ENCOURAGING THESE IDIOTS. (Yes, the same can probably be said of the bloggers who link to them.)
I think the Times should turn Modern Love into a sort of honeypot project: they can collect submissions and then turn the names of the authors over to a clandestine team that will go out and sterilize these people in the middle of the night to stop their spread into the gene pool.
At the start our "new romance high" was unlike any I had experienced. Matt was my knight in shining Mercedes, courageously wielding his credit card as we bushwhacked through the malls of northern Virginia. We danced barefoot in the grass at a Harry Connick Jr. concert, and he surprised me with gifts from Tiffany cunningly stashed in the glove compartment. In Atlantic City we stayed in the honeymoon suite at the Hilton and in Florida had an ocean view from the Ritz.
Yes, this was a romance built on the deepest of values.
We had crossed some boundary from passion to obsession, and we simply couldn't stand to be away from each other. Friends, family members, school and my job became threats, so I left them. And soon our tunnel of love grew so dark and isolating that I could no longer conceive of a life outside it.
I'm thinking "we" didn't cross any boundaries. I'm thinking "you" did.
Matt, soon after that and to his credit, decided he needed professional help and announced he was sending himself to an addiction treatment center all the way across the country in Arizona. Already familiar with the treatment world, Matt knew that what was happening between us was dire. He even gave me a book on love addiction to bring me up to speed.
"Already familiar with the treatment world" seems to be papering over something important but this reads like "Girl's gone crazy -- I've got to get away before she boils my bunny!"
On the heels of our recent "Gee, there sure seem to be a lot more twins these days" speculation, New York magazine comes through with some statistics. We were right:
The natural odds for twins, we learned, is one pair per 90 live births. But nature’s rules no longer apply. The twinning rate has doubled nationally over the past two decades, owing mostly to IUI and IVF, as well as the rising average age of pregnant women (the older you are, the more eggs you release). The city’s Department of Health found that the wealthier Manhattan neighborhoods have rates as high as 8 percent....For women who undergo successful fertility treatments, the rate of multiples is about one in three.
Dang, that's a lot of twins. I was hoping for an insightful look on the subject and some ideas on what this might hold for families and society but, like most New York articles, they managed to take an intriguing topic and just kind of wander around the page for a few hundred words without really coming up with a coherent thesis.
My friend unwisely scheduled her birthday party at Loreley last night, forgetting about the World Cup. It wasn't as crazy as it could have been, I suppose. I didn't understand the ordering beer was the thing to do, so I got a cocktail, which must have been really strong, and I was starving, so I felt uncomfortably drunk, and then the kitchen forgot my order, and I didn't get food for an hour, feeling drunker and hungrier as the night wore on. Finally I managed to corner my waitress and get her to bring me some bread, but somehow I could never quite sober up, even though my food eventually came, until I got home. Then, in my impaired state, I perhaps left the book I needed for my presentation on Monday in the restaurant. This is the second copy of the book I've checked out, since I also lost the first one. The university library system doesn't have any more copies, and the city library copy is checked out. I also not long ago lost a copy of Tristram Shandy that I was reading for pleasure. It had my metro card in it. And when I was trying to finish that paper from last semester, I lost the city library copy of the book I was writing about. I'm a little unsure of where my textbook is at the moment, too; I hope it's at work; I have a test on Monday, as well as my presentation, which I might have to do on a book I already read. I'm pretty sad about that; I was loving the book I was reading, The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition, and if I ever locate it and finish it, I'll do a post about it.
This is the soccer thread. Have at it, socialists.
I hate them. Oh, you find nice old ones in used bookstores occasionally, but new hardcovers:
- Are all too big. You can't reasonably carry a book that size around with you to read on the subway, or read it while holding it in one hand and doing something useful but dull with the other (doing dishes, brushing your hair... everyone does this, right?) What happened to small hardcover books: is 'octavo' the word for the size I'm thinking of? Those were great, but normal books don't seem to be published in that size these days.
- Are generally rottenly made. New hardcovers I've bought in the last 10-15 years drop pages like beat-up paperbacks -- you hear this nasty cracking sound when the glue breaks, and then the pages come out.
I strongly prefer paperbacks to hardcovers. The problem is that the hardcovers come out first, and first by a long, long time. I get all wrecked when a new book on current affairs comes out, because it's current, and I want to read it now, but I don't want to own the blasted hardcover -- everything I said above, and they take up too much space on my shelves. So I don't buy the books and then the reviews stop and I don't remember to buy them when they finally come out in paperback. It's worse for light reading -- an author I like who writes unimportant fluff, but unimportant fluff that I'm fond of, will come out with a new book, and I'll spend a year tapping my foot and checking my watch until the paperback comes out. And then I read the silly thing in an hour and a half and think "I waited a year for this?" It takes all the joy out of it.
I know why publishers schedule the long wait for the paperback (or I think I do); they want the impatient customer to buy at the higher price point. And that's fair: I'm willing to spend more money to satisfy my impatience. But I hate spending more money to buy the book in a physically significantly less desirable format. Couldn't they release the paperback simultaneously at a higher price, and drop the price a year out? I'd be happier.
Now is the time on Sprockets when we listen to music to which one cannot dance
Or, the return of my dunning for listeners. Yes. Last show of the academic year! Featuring a song with an oblique commentary on McTaggart, a Norwegian duo covering Dolly Parton, and two pieces by Ligeti differing only in tempo and instrumentation.
More Optical Illusions
More Reassuring Voting News
In an Iowa Republican Primary this Tuesday, the county auditor noticed that a challenger was unexpectedly doing much better than a popular incumbent. So she decided to hand count the ballots, rather than rely on the computer count. (Optical scan machines made by ES&S.) Turns out the computer count was way off -- no one's sure yet what went wrong.
Golly, good thing they had those paper ballots to check! They don't have them in big parts of California anymore, but I'm sure those voting machines are perfectly reliable.
What Is So Hard About "Walk On The Left, Stand On The Right?"
I cannot imagine what is going on in the mind of someone who looks at an escalator full of people standing in a neat file over to the right so that people in a hurry can walk up the escalator on the left, and plants himself on the left, blocking the path. I really can't imagine what's going on in his mind when he looks back over his shoulder and makes eye contact with someone walking quickly up the escalator toward him, and rather than moving over to the right he remains, motionless, blocking her way.
Is it cluelessness or some kind of perverse aggression? And whichever it is, can I maim the next person who does it? Not severely. Just so it sticks in their minds a little.
I'm casting my lot in with the antis on the Sopranos season finale. I don't mind, in principle, the repetitive quality of the characters' (non) development. When Carmella expressed some interest in investigating Adriana's disappearance, I was jolted into thinking someone might be changing or growing on the show, but then she was distracted by something shiny when Tony finally greased the wheels so she could work on her spec house. And that's realistic. People do continue wallowing in the same comfortable hypocrisy for years--their whole lives even--never being destroyed by it, but never climbing out. I appreciate a T.V. show that finds a way to consider things that lend themselves poorly to dramatic arcs, like boredom; it was interesting and true that Vito took a risk that cost him his life to escape the boredom of working a regular job; one of the great things about The Sopranos is the way it shows how the stressors these scumbags face are pretty much the same as all of ours; they're just picking the most pathological response. But at the same time, eventually I just think, okay, these characters have been established. I understand them now; I know what motivates them, and considering how vile they all are, there's a limit to how much of my life I want to give to them. I want a little change in my narrative, and if the moral of the story is that none of them can change, I'd like that established a little more quickly. Why hasn't this show ended yet?
(A.J. seemed to be growing in the season finale, but that was a little unprecipitated, and if this show follows its usual pattern, he'll just pedal back in the last eight episodes.)
I just wasted a valuable piece of my life reading this article, and I'm not sure why I should inflict it on you, but I found myself having an opinion, and opinions are the sort of thing you're supposed to blog about. The putative purpose of the article is to consider the legality of saying, "I would like to kill the President of the United States." And a shorter, more reasoned consideration of the legality of those words as contrasted with "I would like to kill [random citizen X]", and the history of laws about threats to the president might have been interesting, but Metcalf makes a point, over and over, to avoid saying anything measured or interesting, but instead to near pornographically describe the hypothetical murder, or to imply that Bush deserves to die, and then in the next paragraph to disclaim any sincerity whatsoever, although it's hard to tell when he's being insincere.
Now I understand, I guess, that the article was written like this as a deliberate provocation, but I can't discern to what end. Maybe the point is that it's an obscenity that the President's life is so sacrosanct, legally protected against even the implication that someone might like to end it, when the the rest of our lives are so expendable, and maybe it is, but the article seems to miss the fact that the legitimacy of our government depends on the peaceful transfer of power. Violence against government officials ought to be abhorrent for at least that reason, if no other, but this notion does not get even a sentence of play in this article. Fantasies about president-killing are fantasies about shimmying out of the requirements of the Constitution, something I imagine this author would reproach in Bush.
The entire article is just bilious and unilluminating. Why did Harper's publish this? It just makes liberals look bad.
You know, considering I'm taking cognitive psychology and we've already done perception I should know what enables that, but I don't.
Zarqawi Dead; Pressing Questions Remain Unanswered.
While apparently Zarqawi's body was identified by looking at his scars, the coverage does not appear to address the question on everyone's lips: how many legs did he have?
Anyway, one hopes his absence from the scene is, in some way, going to change things for the better. It seems unlikely, but one works on developing optimism with the news one has.
What say we all?
It depends on what the definitions of is are. As it were.
Who says the law is a crapshoot?
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA ORLANDO DIVISION
AVISTA MANAGEMENT, INC., d/b/a Avista Plex, Inc.,
WAUSAU UNDERWRITERS INSURANCE COMPANY,
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to designate location of a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition (Doc. 105). Upon consideration of the Motion - the latest in a series of Gordian knots that the parties have been unable to untangle without enlisting the assistance of the federal courts - it is
ORDERED that said Motion is DENIED. Instead, the Court will fashion a new form of alternative dispute resolution, to wit: at 4:00 P.M. on Friday, June 30, 2006, counsel shall convene at a neutral site agreeable to both parties. If counsel cannot agree on a neutral site, they shall meet on the front steps of the Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse, 801 North Florida Ave., Tampa, Florida 33602. Each lawyer shall be entitled to be accompanied by one paralegal who shall act as an attendant and witness. At that time and location, counsel shall engage in one (1) game of "rock, paper, scissors." The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the 30(b)(6) deposition to be held somewhere in Hillsborough County during the period July 11-12, 2006. If either party disputes the outcome of this engagement, an appeal may be filed and a hearing will be held at 8:30 A.M. on Friday, July 7, 2006 before the undersigned in Courtroom 3, George C. Young United States Courthouse and Federal Building, 80 North Hughey Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32801.
DONE and ORDERED in Chambers, Orlando, Florida on June 6, 2006.
There's an analysis piece in the Times on how worried some Republicans are by their party's current focus on red-meat conservative social issues like gay marriage. The article doesn't directly address this, but it left me thinking about how incredibly successful the Republicans have been in holding together their fairly unlikely coalition -- white, non-urban, working class voters who vote on social issues, and business interests: wealthy people voting on policies that advantage them economically.
Those two elements have very little to do with each other; being an urban elitist myself, the Republicans I know are more likely to fall into the second category than the first, and in my experience they're a bunch of godless gay-tolerating opera-listening (okay, not all of them, but you know what I mean) letting-their-wives-work-outside-the-home urbanites who are no more likely to find Republican positions on issues of social conservativism attractive than I am. (They are generally much less offended by those positions, but not really more attracted by them.) And while people talk about the Democratic party having a problem with its various special interests, those 'special interests' (you know, annoying little groups like women, minorities, labor...) don't generally have interests that are actually opposed to each other. On individual issues there may be conflicts, but overall, policies that benefit one Democratic 'special interest group' generally either help or don't much affect the others. The Republicans can't say the same -- economic policies that benefit business interests are actively against the economic interest of working-class and middle-class whites (well, working-class and middle-class anyone), and social issues that cater to religious conservatives and the like don't do a thing for business interests, and are going to be largely unappealing to the voters who vote for the Republicans on economic reasons. (You think Rudy Guiliani gets a hard time from his buddies about what the Republicans say about gays? I bet he does.)
I haven't got much to say about this; just musing that it's been an amazing job they've done holding this awkward coalition together for so long and making it look seamless, and wondering if maybe we're starting to see some cracks in it.
Frankly, I think this is kind of silly, but I bet people will like talking about it.
Tyler Cowen proposes The Symmetry Thesis:
The symmetry thesis: A given person likes (loves) you as much as you like (love) him or her.
I have encountered many apparent refutations of the symmetry thesis, but with time most have turned out to be spurious. I find the symmetry thesis a surprisingly strong predictor of human behavior and inclination.
Do I want to know how much you like me? It is simple. I imagine how much I like you. (If you do the same, are we circular? Or does some kind of fixed point theorem apply?)
Let me rule out or explain some obvious "counterexamples." If a guy stalks you, and you can't stand him, the reality is that he is probably more hostile to you than loving. The thesis fits.
Break-ups are tricky and they provide the best counterexamples. But who really left whom is not always obvious; it can take several years to figure out what was going on. Often the leaving party is the one who first develops a narrative of how things might be different; this is distinct from liking or loving the other person less. Other people leave pre-emptively.
Unilateral crushes are possible and indeed common, although with repeated contact they usually collapse into symmetry, one way or the other.
The problem is he's admitting qualifications in his extended description that he doesn't in the actual formulation of the thesis. Once you start considering the passage of time, sure, most relationships begin to collapse into symmetry, but that's not the same thing at all as saying a given person likes you as much as you like him or her. I imagine there are economic models to describe the process of attaining symmetry, but I don't know anything about economics, so I don't know what they are. I just think of it as some kind of equilibrium principle; in asymmetrical relationships, usually the effect of one person's hostility or relative indifference, or the other's affection, will exert a pull on the other's affection or indifference, eventually leading to a symmetrical situation. When I was living with my aunt and the crazy bulimic Texan, for a long time the CBT liked me a lot better than I liked her, because I, as the more grown-up, peacible person, put a lot of effort into maintaining a friendly relationship with her, but when she was about to move out, we had a big fight, and I'm sure by now we feel symmetrical indifference. But I think at the apex of our friendly relations, she would have privately said I was a kick, and I would have privately said she was a crazy motherfucker. It's a very weak claim to say relationships are symmetrical if you don't define the time horizon. On the other hand, as I write, it occurs to me that I think my aunt likes me and enjoys my company more than I like her and enjoy hers, because she is a much more difficult person than I am, and when I'm with her I try hard to suppress disagreement and not take offense at things I find rude. That's a stable situation.
What motivates someone to be the persistent troll of a blog whose political leanings are antithetical to her own? Remember back in the day, when there was Al at Kevin Drum's site? There's still an alleged Al, but frequent interventions by "Stalker Al" (thank you, the mysterious Zizka!) have left me totally unsure as to whether he's the "real" Al. (I am starting to read this as AI (Artificial Intelligence,)which is funny.) But take Jersey McJones, who spends all his time over at Reason's Hit and Run blog making comments in favor of the European-style welfare state. Where's his nickle in it? OK, frequent Hit and Run commenter joe, too; what's his deal? Why repeatedly intervene on some libertarian blog to explain to people about how eminent domain might be s33kritly awesome? Or be Captain "Special" Ed's one non-crazy commenter? What's up with that? I mean, damn, I'm wasting time, but in a comprehensible way.
The next reading group meeting will be next Tuesday, and we're reading "On Solitude". Does anyone want to volunteer to write discussion questions?
(I still have comments for the drunkenness thread, but they require thinking, and I don't always have the energy for that.)
Update: Per NickS' request, a link to the last reading group thread.
I have a theme song. I like the Chieftans, and I've only ever heard one Corrs song, "Runaway", but I was really into it for about an evening when my friend was visiting and had it on CD. I want to hear "I Know My Love". I imagine it must be charming, whimsical, lush, funny, sexy, dynamic, witty, and sharp all at once, for how else could it truly embody my spirt?
(Thanks to LB for tipping me off.)
How I Spent My College Reunion
In the end, I didn’t feel that inferior; no one seemed that accomplished yet.
Perhaps at the ten-year inferiority would set in. I managed the first alcohol and schmoozing event, even though it was loud and overwhelming, with fairly uncharacteristic aplomb, although it helped that I had a bedroom I could retreat to upstairs. There should always be upstairs bedrooms at parties. It was a little bit sad that a dorm single seemed luxurious to me in comparison with my present living circumstances; I loved how the floor and the walls and the sheets were all white; it made me feel like I was in a luxurious sanitarium, and I finally identified with Clementine’s old sentiment that my college was a fun vacation spot. That always felt inconceivable to me; the air fairly hummed with the throes of self-examination, incestuous romantic entanglements, and dread of seminar reading, but now it was like I was just a visitor to the asylum, and could gambol about on the lawn.
One of my classmates had gained so much weight I didn’t recognize her—fifty pounds maybe—I asked a mutual friend if she had health problems, and my friend said no, she just ate a lot. I had evil catty thoughts about the general attractiveness level of my college classmates. I met a friend of mine who I’d lost touch with, and when she found out we both lived in Brooklyn, she told me, in a very characteristically serious manner she has, almost like she’s talking to a little kid about the dangers of electrical outlets, “We should be friends again.” She stared at me to impress on me the gravity of the point. “I really need friends in New York.” The next day, when I ran into her again, it occurred to me to ask if she liked to go dancing, because ever since Clementine left, I am seriously bereft of dance partners. She put her hand on my forearm. “Jan [her husband] and I go out dancing all the time,” she said, sounding like she was telling me it was just fine if I was a lesbian. “We don’t dance pretty; we dance ugly,” she assured me. I’m excited about that. All I want is people to dance with who can be unselfconscious and, under the right circumstances, ecstatic, and who can help create that mood in a room. Is that so much to ask?
Saturday morning and early afternoon I wound up spending a lot of time by myself. I walked down into the forest to our campus creek, and though the entire trip down was uneventful, by the bank I stepped in a sinkhole created by the Friday rains and fell down backwards into the mud in the very same skirt that had recently suffered bloodstains and winedrops, and I almost lost my shoe entirely, and was afraid I was going to have to scramble all the way up the hill and spend the rest of the weekend wearing only one, but then I saw a little black rim of pleather poking out of the mud, so I washed it off in the creek and continued on to meadow. Continuing on the relaxing sanitarium theme, being in something approximating nature was one of the most memorable parts of this reunion. I remember looking up at the forest leaves when they were hit by a particular gray post-rain light, and there was some variation in value among them, but none of hue, so the entire canopy was just this single, part brilliant, part dusky green, and it was kind of peaceful and creepy at once. I don’t know why; maybe it’s the obliteration of human concern thing. In any case, I liked it, and it made me think maybe I should move to Jersey; do they have nature there?
I hung out some with a friend of mine who’s getting married in September, I found out, to her on-again, off-again beau. All through college she insisted she wasn’t having sex till marriage, and she was using an expansive definition of sex—I seem to recall horizontal kissing was too far by her lights—but I suspect her of breaking it. I watched her at a party a couple years ago and thought she had a different quality of movement from before, and at this point it’s been four years with the same guy. He’s Christian, like her, but still. Not even one little part of me wants to reproach her for implying I was sluttish because I had sex when I was 20, and comparing me negatively to her friends she thought were still virgins because they were lying to her; that’s what a magnanimous soul I am. Also, he is a Republican. She is decidedly not. I’m not quite sure how she came to terms with this, but she might be in New York in about a week, so maybe I’ll find out more about it.
At the class dinner I had the only moment that in any way approximated being back in college. I sat down on cafeteria tables with two people I would have eaten with then as we talked about our intellectual anxieties, and even though we were outside, I had a transporting sense of familiarity. Another kid from our class who now lives in Williamsburg sat with us; I got the feeling he might be attracted to me. At one point he said a story I was telling was getting progressively better and better, to the point that unicorns might burst out of the wall next; is that what boys say when they like you? In any case, he is too much of a hipster for me. He may have even been toning it down for the reunion; my opera singer friend made sure to blunt her urban edge; maybe he did too.
Even though none of the people I had the most compelling/fraught relationships in college were there, and none of the old stressful dynamics were reproduced, I was still impressed with myself that I was moving among at least some of the people who I used to be so concerned about defining myself in relation to—like the couple that intimidated me with tales of their sexual exploits and (truth be told, I still think this was obnoxious) for a period turned every damn party into a game of Spin the Bottle, which I never participated in and always forced me to leave) —but I was doing so with either affection or indifference, and no social anxiety. Until drunken kickball. I came to the kickball game late, but I really wanted to play, and I asked my friend (a good friend; one I’ve been in touch with), if I could, and she said, “I don’t know. Can you kick a ball?” She is such a bad facilitator. I think she believes in independence for herself and for others, and doesn’t really feel like making things easy for people. I’m one of those people who needs to be invited to things, and ushered in. Just asking if I could play represented a lot of emotional growth for me since my teenage years. That was my best effort, and if after that no one scooped me up and assigned me to a team I’d be too diffident to make another sally. So I hung back and watched forlornly as my classmates ran around with their beer cups, then went back to my room and cried because I missed Graham. Then I went to sleep.
The next morning I felt better, and I went to breakfast with my opera singer friend and a couple of her college buddies, chatted about my career plans with a fellow aspiring psychologist, joked about how the way we were lingering over breakfast made us feel like we were putting off going to the library and doing our seminar reading. I even had a school book with me, which enhanced the effect, though the cell phone detracted. And then I took the bus back to the city with my opera singer friend and my kickball non-facilitating friend, and we talked about sex and our families and ate trail mix.
That’s how I spent my college reunion.
Sequential Lineups: The Jury Is Still Out
A few months ago, I posted on reports of a new study purporting to show that sequential lineups, in which a witness is shown one possible suspect after another without knowing how many are coming, are not more accurate in the field than conventional simultaneous lineups (the kind we're all familiar with from movies and TV). This was a surprising result; studies of simulated lineups have consistently shown the reverse. And it was a useless result -- looking at the details of the study showed that the researchers had no way of determining the accuracy of the witness IDs, and that they were comparing blind sequential lineups to simultaneous lineups conducted by law officers who knew who the real suspects were. Under those circumstances, if there's any prompting at all, conscious or unconscious, by the police, witnesses are going to be more successful in identifying the actual suspects in the simultaneous lineups.
An op-ed in today's Times makes similar criticisms of the study -- if you're interested in this sort of thing, it's worth reading.
Every So Often I Despair For My Country
And then I realize that the whole world is full of self-important twerps. The BBC has a journalist spending a year living as 'Ethical Man,' reducing his environmental impact. That wouldn't necessarily be cripplingly idiotic, but the entry on his wife's going into labor, and the stress and worry of how to get her to the hospital now that they no longer have a private car was. I know we have some British readers, so let me check something with you. You do have taxis, right? I thought so.
What does it say about me that the clothes I really like -- that I look forward to wearing to work because in them I am both impeccably professional and really very, very fetching -- are almost exclusively from Brooks Brothers? And does the answer to the prior question involve taking away my right to have any opinions at all on anyone else's clothes?
(I'm going to be light on the blogging for a bit -- work is actually asking that I be productive, for once.)
Time Away From Home
It looks like I'm not going to get away with cancer just nibbling at my kidney (but I'll spoil the surprise and say that they still think I'll be just fine), therefore...cancer blogging!
I haven't quite caught up to the present day on that site, but that just means more new stuff for my darling readers. And no, there aren't any comments over there. I don't have the time or headspace for comments. If you want to say nice things to me, you should say them over at the Washington Monthly.
A hearty thanks to everyone who gave to the Unfogged Server Drive! The grand total donated came to around $1500, which should cover dedicated hosting for the next six months and give us a couple of hundred dollars to play around with for site improvements and/or put toward (hopefully not dedicated) hosting fees after that. I'm sure I speak for all of the Unfogged bloggers when I say that you all are an amazing bunch and we really appreciate your support.