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Let's make it the question of the week

Posted by Ben
on 10.21.06

Now, I wasn't present at the ASSCAB-hosted discussion of that all-important question, "would you fuck your own clone?", so it's possible that the kind of concerns I wish to raise in that post were, in fact, already given vivam vocem. However, judging from the discrepancies between catherine's presentation (see link above) and Saiselgy's, I'm willing to bet that there are still a few important distinctions (that stock in trade of "analytic" philosophy) to be made. We've got to get clear on the question before we can provide an answer, after all.

I can think of at least two issues. First, we note that catherine gives the question as "would you fuck your clone", while Saiselgy asks "would you have sex with your clone". This perhaps not exactly corresponds to the point I tried to raise about how one understands the act involved here. We post-Farberians are aware that sex admits not of simple definitions, but I think that Saiselgy's phrasing seems more middle-voiced while catherine's tends towards the agent/patient side of the spectrum—in brief, the way catherine asks the question makes it seem as if one might give different answers to the questions "would you fuck your own clone" and "would you [let yourself] be fucked by your own clone"; indeed, makes it seem as if there are actually two questions being asked at all (in the passive phrasing, in fact, I am, as I indicated typographically, inclined to include "let yourself" to make explicit that it's something to which the patient of the verb submits; merely writing "would you be fucked by your clone" makes it seem out of the subject's hands: "well, sure,", we might answer, "if I had a clone, that might happen, but I don't see what I have to do with it.".), whereas Saiselgy's phrasing denies this possibility, presenting sex as the action of two people together, each with the other.

Second, rj3 raises a possibly even more fundamental question: "A same-sex (mirror image) clone of yourself, or an opposite-sex "you" cloned from your DNA?" For an illustration of the latter example, consider the episode of Red Dwarf (I think from season 2) in which Lister has sex with his alternate-reality female clone. We tend to recoil much less from this, I think, than the idea of Lister having sex with an identical clone of himself—though this might be because that possibility is too reminiscent of incestuous twins, thus bringing in all sorts of cultural taboos that may not be appropriate to the clone case.

Now, I personally find it implausible that the second of rj3's suggestions is really what the symposiasts had in mind. However, I view the purpose of this post not as pointing toward a definite answer to the question, either in my case or in general, nor even as decisively setting the frame in which the question can be posed. I merely wish to clear some ground and show what some of the options are, so that when (in comments) we pursue a positive account of clone sex, we can be more sure that we know whereof we speak.


 

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Election Supervision Done Right.

Posted by LizardBreath
on 10.21.06

The Nation has a profile on Ion Sancho, the supervisor of elections in Leon County, Florida. From the article, he's everything that could be desired in an election supervisor: very, very engaged in making sure that elections in his county run smoothly and securely. Back in 2000, the error rate for ballots in Leon County was 0.18%, as compared to 12% in a neighboring county. Recently he's been working on exposing insecurities in the HAVA-compliant voting machines he's been required to use, and trying to find secure machines that comply with the law.

The whole article is worth reading, but what really jumps out at me is the force of the resistance he gets when raising security issues:

Recently Sancho threw his support behind a citizens' initiative in Sarasota County, which uses only touch screens, to impose a voter-verifiable paper ballot and a regime of independent random audits. The activists in Sarasota--the jurisdiction represented by Katherine Harris in Congress--appreciated his intervention, but he also sent the local election supervisor, Kathy Dent, into a blind fury. In a voice-mail message he happily played back for me, Dent told him she didn't appreciate his interference and suggested: "You stay in your little corner of the world and I'll stay in mine."
Earlier this year the state and the big three voting-machine companies--Diebold, Sequoia and ES&S--went further in expressing their displeasure: They made a concerted effort to have Sancho removed from office, and very nearly succeeded. Here's what happened: Sancho had invited a Finnish computer security expert called Harri Hursti to use Leon County's voting machinery, made by Diebold, to test his contention that the tabulation software that keeps count of the optically scanned votes was vulnerable to manipulation. Several times in the summer and fall of 2005 Hursti managed to compromise the memory card, which controls the tabulation process, with what he said was a commercially available agricultural scanning device. Last December, in the last of his tests, Hursti conducted a mock election in which eight county workers were invited to pronounce on the ballot question: "Can the votes of this Diebold system be hacked using the memory card?" Six voted no and two voted yes. But when the results spat out of the tabulator they read seven yes and one no.
The obvious conclusion was that the machines were vulnerable to hacking by a corrupt county insider, or anyone else with access to the tabulation device. Worse still, the machines betrayed no evidence of tampering or malfunction, meaning that the hack was well-nigh undetectable barring a manual recount of the paper ballots. Sancho approached Diebold and asked the company to address this gaping security flaw. But Diebold's response was to send a series of threatening letters in which the company accused Sancho himself of compromising the security of the machines, describing his actions as "reckless...foolish and irresponsible." Sancho's countermove was to sever ties with the company and start looking for an alternative voting system.
That was when things started getting tricky. Sancho initially hoped to turn to ES&S, which not only had an optical-scan system on the market but was also bringing out a new system called AutoMARK, which made it possible for disabled citizens to vote independently--a requirement for the 2006 voting cycle laid down by the Help America Vote Act, passed by Congress four years ago. At the end of December, however, ES&S made the abrupt decision not to do business with him. It was the same story with Sequoia, which initially offered a hugely expensive all-touch-screen system that Sancho didn't want but then backed out at the last moment. Sancho still had his old optical-scan machines, so he reluctantly went back to Diebold and asked the company if it would provide the extra equipment he needed to keep Leon County in compliance with HAVA. Diebold turned him down cold.
Sancho became convinced he had been blacklisted because, as he told me, he was "a walking and talking contradiction of what [the voting-machine companies] have been attempting to spin about the integrity of their systems." Then the state and county authorities moved in on him. Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb wrote in February to say that if he did not have a HAVA-compliant system in place by May 1 the state would remove him from office. She also ordered him to return a half-million-dollar HAVA federal grant. That, in turn, triggered the ire of Leon County's commission chairman, Bill Proctor, who fired off memos painting Sancho as a troublemaker whose "ideological pursuits"--an interesting way to describe the desire for fair elections--had enmeshed the county in deep legal and financial difficulties.

What makes me paranoid about voting security issues is exactly this sort of pushback. There is no reason I can understand for state officials or voting machine manufacturers not to be concerned and cooperative about security issues. Even commercial self-interest doesn't make sense: people have been talking about these issues since 2001, and there still only seem to be a very few companies in the market -- if one of those companies had focussed on producing HAVA compliant machines with a voter-verifiable paper trail, rather than trying to get election supervisors who complain about the security of their products fired, they could own the market. I can't see any reason for anyone to oppose more secure voting procedures other than ill-intent. So I'm paranoid, but what other explanation is there?


 

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"Yeah? Well, Get Off My Lawn."

Posted by LizardBreath
on 10.21.06

I was hanging out with Sally (and Newt, who tagged along this week) at a playground after soccer practice this morning, and thought, in a moment of exuberance, that I'd see if the weightlifting I've been doing had gotten me to a point at which I could swing myself hand-over-hand from one end of the monkey bars to the other.

I made it, and was feeling fairly good about myself in a silly way, until a seven-year-old boy watching from another piece of equipment said (in a very polite and friendly fashion, clearly not intending to be a smartass) "Hey, that was pretty good for an older woman!"

Punk.

The only consolation was that, as I left ten minutes later with Sally and Newt, I saw that the kid had harassed his mother into giving the monkey bars a shot.


 

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Beyond Doonesbury

Posted by LizardBreath
on 10.21.06

Gary Trudeau has a blog, The Sandbox, made up of posts sent in by servicemembers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. I'd heard about it, but hadn't read it until this weekend. This post by an anonymous 'EOD Officer', struck me particularly:

I should have had enough practice by now, but I'm still not sure how to respond. I just got off the plane a week ago, finally home again. It was my third trip to the Middle East since 9/11, and my second to Iraq. I know by now how to reunite with my wife and kids. I know not to argue with my wife about chores or bills, and to take my place as the outsider in the home for a while. I know how to play with my kids so they become used to me again, and I don't push myself on them too quickly. I know how to have a couple beers without having too many, and I know how to quit smoking again, a habit I always seem to pick up deployed. Having gotten good at all those things, the thing I still don't know how to do is to respond when a stranger says, "Welcome home. Thank you for serving your country."
I did not have a good tour in Iraq. I did not come home confident in the rightness of our cause. That may be because I have no personal stories of building schools, handing out candy to children, or watching a fledging democracy take shape. As the commander of a small Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit (the military bomb squad) trying to cover an entire province in northern Iraq, my men and I only saw the worst humanity had to offer. We disarm fewer and fewer roadside bombs. We save fewer and fewer lives. Instead, we do more and more "post blast analysis", where we conduct a crime scene investigation after an attack and try to reconstruct what the bomb was made of, and how it was used. That took us daily to car bombings of Iraqi clinics or police stations, and attacks on American convoys. We saw far too many Iraqi victims of the indiscriminate violence destroying what's left of the country's infrastructure. And we saw that every day, with seemingly no ability to stop it....
...So when I get off the plane in Baltimore, and am suddenly surrounded by America again, in all of its glittering excessive glory, what do you say when a complete stranger walks up to you and says thank you? I usually mumbled an inadequate "Thank you for the support", or "I appreciate it", wishing that I had come up with a more sincere or meaningful response. I always think that I should be happy. During Vietnam, soldiers were blamed for the policy decisions of elected officials. Our country learned from that mistake, and I believe most Americans, no matter their feelings on the war, now make it a point to support the average soldier. But instead of warming my heart, when someone says "Welcome Home" and "Thank You", I feel embarrassed and guilty. Embarrassed because my service was no greater than others, and only I know our mission was more about survival than success. And guilty because I am coming home to my wife and children, and so many other soldiers are either still there, or not coming home at all.

 

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Annals of shamelessness

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 10.21.06

Instapundit on his decision to vote for Corker in the TN Senate race:

I liked Harold Ford, Jr. when we interviewed him, and I wouldn't shed any tears if he were elected; he'd raise the caliber of the Democrats in the Senate. But when push came to shove, I voted for Corker. I liked him, too, and ultimately the combination of Ford's "F" rating on gun rights and the sleazy "outing" behavior of the Democrats was such that I just felt I had to vote Republican in this race. (In our interview, Corker said he'd look favorably on federal legislation to require states to recognize each others' gun-carry permits.)
As I mentioned before, the Republicans don't really deserve my vote -- though as Bob Corker hasn't been in Washington that's not really his fault -- but nonetheless the Democrats have blown it again. Not long ago I was thinking that a Democratic majority in Congress wouldn't be so bad; but the sexual McCarthyism from the pro-outing crowd, coupled with the Dems' steadfast refusal to offer anything useful on national security, has convinced me that they just don't deserve a victory with those tactics. That's not Ford's fault, either, really. But I just don't think the Democrats are ready for a majority right now. We'll see how many other voters agree.

Wait, say that again?

sleazy "outing" behavior of the Democrats...the sexual McCarthyism from the pro-outing crowd...

You cannot be serious. Balko ("It's hard to know where to begin with that") , Lemieux ("it would be considerably more embarrassing if he were telling the truth than if he [were] lying"), and Greenwald ("On Wednesday night, Sean Hannity put Cunningham on Fox's Hannity & Colmes in order to disseminate the innuendo that Strickland is gay, the 'proof' being that he took a trip to Italy with his 26-year-old "boy toy" Congressional aide") say what needs to be said. Good posts all.


 

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Megan v Unfogged

Posted by Ben
on 10.21.06

In a nutshell. Er, sort of.


 

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Excellent Service

Posted by Ogged
on 10.20.06

At long last, the mighty Unfogged bloggers have managed to put up links to the site's feeds. They're at the top of the left column. There's the mobile version of the front page, which is just posts and links to comments, and feeds for full posts, full posts and comments, and just comments. If you have other requests, write them down on a sheet of paper, put them under your pillow, and keep hope alive.


 

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Pat's birthday

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 10.20.06

Kevin Tillman is pissed off.


 

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Today's edition of Hating on John McCain...

Posted by Apostropher
on 10.20.06

...is brought to you by Glenn Greenwald.

So, to recap McCain's position: (1) in order to win in Iraq, we need to expand our military by 100,000 more troops; (2) we don't have anywhere near 100,000 troops to send to Iraq, and nobody suggests that we do; (3) a draft is absolutely unnecessary.

I don't think McCain even knows what to say about Iraq at this point -- the Straight Talker refuses to admit that it was wrong because he was one of the loudest cheerleaders for it, but there are also plainly no viable options to change what is occurring -- so all he does is babble incoherently about it. As best I can tell, his position is that we need 100,000 more troops to win, and that young Americans one day are going to realize this and there will be a spontaneous and massive wave of volunteers eager to go to Iraq and fight in combat there because they will realize -- like McCain and the President do -- just how Very Important it is that we win.

So we'll just wait until that happens.

And then those 100,000 troops will charge across Anbar province on their magical armored ponies.


 

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Some odds and ends I found on the internet

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 10.20.06

Finally, Rate Your Students printed one of my anecdotes. Success!

Also, posts like this and this make me think I should stop with the Playstation. Nothing good ever comes of it-- the pleasures lack what Bentham would call purity and fecundity, and at the end of the day I end up feeling disgusted with myself, a sensation I can replicate with cruder technology in less time.


 

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Rapid response

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 10.20.06

Via that smelly hippie Atrios, this Post article assuages my fears about the detainee act:

In a notice dated Wednesday, the Justice Department listed 196 pending habeas cases, some of which cover groups of detainees. The new Military Commissions Act (MCA), it said, provides that "no court, justice, or judge" can consider those petitions or other actions related to treatment or imprisonment filed by anyone designated as an enemy combatant, now or in the future.


 

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Roy's rapid descent into madness

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 10.20.06

If, like me, you're upset about the Mets, you might find some consolation in alicublog's play-by-play. We have all been there, have we not?


 

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Higher education.

Posted by Apostropher
on 10.19.06

Ah, I miss college.

Jay Bundy won a plurality of votes in last week’s campus election and was poised to take over leadership of the University Park Undergraduate Association, recognized by university administrators as being the official voice of students. [...] Later in the week, Bundy was quoted in Penn State’s student newspaper, The Daily Collegian, as saying that “if the students are stupid enough to vote for someone as inappropriate and retarded as I am, then they deserve a president who is going to give the worst performance to the best of his ability.” He later added in the interview that “you voted for me, bitches. That was a bad idea.”

The school now says that Bundy has been disqualified due to "alleged rules violations, including exceeding campaign spending limits and illegal canvassing." The runner-up as been named president.

Meanwhile, Bundy was arrested Monday, charged with theft and multiple counts of disorderly conduct. [His running mate] Brink said after Bundy met with administrators that morning, he drove to a gas station, walked out with candy and an energy drink and was confronted by a convenience store clerk. Bundy fought with the clerk, and later with a courtroom judge, before pleading not guilty to all counts and being released on bail, Brink said.

“He crumpled under the stress,” Brink added. “He’s going through some tough times.” Bundy could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and Brink said he didn’t know Bundy’s whereabouts.

According to Brink, his campaign partner told him that he meant every word of what he said in the student newspaper and had planned the outbreak since the election began.

“That’s an elaborate deception,” Brink said. “He’s a real intense person, and that comes out from time to time. I don’t think he was his normal self [when he made the comments]. It’s not right for anyone to say that. I don’t condone his actions. He definitely took advantage of me.”

Oh, did I mention that Bundy is also president of the Penn State chapter of NORML?


 

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It Was Nice Knowing You, John.

Posted by LizardBreath
on 10.19.06
Arizona Sen. John McCain, a likely Republican presidential contender in 2008, joked on Wednesday he would "commit suicide" if Democrats win the Senate in November.
McCain, on a visit to Iowa to campaign for Republican congressional candidates, was asked his reaction to a potential Democratic takeover of the Senate in the November 7 elections.
"I think I'd just commit suicide," McCain told reporters, to accompanying laughter from Republicans standing with him.

 

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Money For Nuthin'

Posted by Ogged
on 10.19.06

I recently spent the night in a fancy hotel room ($1,000/night & up is still fancy, right?) (that I wasn't paying for) (yeah, it's the gigolo thing). Now, keep in mind that I am Iranian, so even my intense self-loathing can't fully kill the materialistic entitled-like-a-prince demon in me; which is to say that I'm not one to reflexively find wealth and its trapping alienating. And there was a lot to like in the room: a great view of the city I was in, a decadent shower, a very comfortable bed that even had (!) comfortable pillows, fast and easy internet, etc. (There was other fancy stuff that I don't much care about: a flat-screen TV, real wood furniture, non-ugly art....)

But I was bothered by the feeling that part of "being wealthy" (or being treated as if you were, in my case) is that you don't have to do anything. I wanted to iron a shirt. But of course they don't expect you to iron a shirt, they expect you to ask to have it pressed, so there's no iron in the room. Just send up an iron, thanks. Then I wanted to lower the shades. God forbid I have to touch the shades. For that, there's a button on the touch-screen room control panel. Except it didn't work. So at 2am, I had tech support in the room to lower the shades. The examples are trivial, but that's also the point: "service" encroaches into even the smallest tasks.

After enough of this treatment, you start to feel, as the Iranians say, as if you're "without arms and legs." Not only are you not expected to do things for yourself, you can't do them for yourself. What's really strange about all this is that, in America, there's absolutely no shame in working, and in fact people "love" to "work hard," and lots of rich people keep working long past the time that they could comfortably stop. I guess the answer is that "work" is effort expended in the pursuit of making money, and any other effort had either find another goal to justify itself, or be thrown in the heap of "what the help is for."

This is all kinda sad, first for social and utilitarian reasons. The gulf between the person who thinks ironing is beneath him, and the person who irons to support his family, is pretty big and pretty angry. Structures that make it more difficult to remember each other's humanity (and the need to remember runs in both directions in these relationships) make all cooperative endeavors (like, you know, government) more difficult and less effective.

But it's also sad for inchoate, personal reasons. Managing the small tasks of daily life, and putting your personal space in order attunes you to things, and to your own body, in infinite small ways. And learning to find a little stillness or pleasure in something like ironing a shirt, or making a bed, is part of what you might call learning to enjoy things that don't have a name--part of being fully in the world.

How's that for earnest, bitches?


 

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Schooled

Posted by Becks
on 10.19.06

Going through a backlog of articles yesterday, I saw the WSJ has a subscribers-only article on the trend among colleges to reduce the amount of merit-based aid they are awarding students, partly on the basis that it siphons resources away from lower-income students with greater financial need. I feel conflicted about this -- on the one hand, I understand how limited access to higher-education prevents class mobility and makes it harder for children to be more successful than their parents. Yet, on the other, I'm sympathetic to the middle-class students who have worked hard through high school in the attempt to win a merit-based scholarship because that's how I paid for my own college education.

I was lucky enough that my scholarship didn't mean the difference between attending college or not, but it did mean the difference between attending the not-so-great public college in my hometown versus a top 50 school with a lot more resources and opportunities that my parents never could have afforded. Merit aid does seem unfair if it's taking away opportunities from people who require need-based aid but I do think it makes sense to reward high achievers with more opportunities. I surely wouldn't have tried as hard in high school had I known I was going to Local U no matter what I did. But I also know that the difference in my life between going to a mediocre college vs. a better one is much less profound than the difference in someone else's life between attending college and not going at all.

Excerpts below:

Colleges offer merit aid, which is typically awarded on the basis of grades, class rank and test scores, to students who ordinarily wouldn't qualify for financial help. Because merit aid can be a deciding factor in these students' choice of schools, it has become a major weapon in the bidding wars among colleges for high achievers who can help boost their national rankings.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators says merit awards accounted for $7.3 billion, or 16%, of all college financial-aid grants in the U.S. for the 2003-2004 academic year, the latest for which data are available. That's up sharply from $1.2 billion, or 6% of the total, in 1993-1994.
But the cost of such programs has mounted as their use has expanded and tuition has risen. Meanwhile, criticism has grown that they disproportionately benefit students from wealthier communities with better school systems, siphoning resources away from lower-income students with greater financial need. In some cases, students who qualify for neither need- nor merit-based aid end up paying even more to cover a college's costs. As a result, a small but growing number of schools and university systems are trying to reduce their merit offerings.
The University of Florida recently slashed the value of its four-year scholarships for in-state scholars who qualified under the National Merit program by 79% to a total of $5,000.
Last year, Illinois eliminated funding for a statewide merit program. Since 2004, the state of Maryland has been phasing out one merit program and flat-funding another while nearly doubling need-based college aid, to about $83.3 million a year.
Many highly selective private schools like Harvard and Stanford universities don't offer merit aid, but some colleges that do are paring back sharply.
Allegheny College, in Meadville, Pa., where annual tuition and fees total about $28,300, gave its $15,000-a-year merit scholarships to 15% of this year's freshmen, down from about 33% three years ago. To free up funding for more need-based aid, Rhode Island's Providence College scuttled its smaller merit scholarships and raised the eligibility requirements for its larger ones: A grade-point average of about 3.7 on a 4.0 scale used to be good enough; now it takes around a 3.83. Providence's merit scholarships can run as high as full tuition, which is $26,780 this year.
Private-college associations in Pennsylvania and Minnesota are also taking early steps that could lead to broader cutbacks. They have been gathering data and weighing whether to ask the Justice Department for an antitrust exemption so their members can discuss joint action to reduce merit aid. With many colleges fearful that unilateral cuts will drive talented applicants into the hands of competitors, "it's going to take a group effort," says David Laird, president of the Minnesota Private College Council.
...
Efforts to cut back on merit aid also risk setting off a backlash from middle- and upper-income families who don't qualify for need-based aid but are finding the rising cost of a college to be a daunting stretch. "Family income isn't keeping pace with the things driving higher-education costs," says Jim Scannell, a partner at Scannell & Kurz Inc., a Pittsford, N.Y., consulting firm that works with colleges on enrollment issues.
...
Colleges that have whittled down their merit offerings have generally not raised income caps for need-based aid eligibility or otherwise altered their formulas for determining who qualifies for financial aid. With most schools unable to meet the existing demand for such aid, "they are not looking for ways to generate new measures of need," says Sandy Baum, an economist at Skidmore College.
Although families with earnings of $100,000 or more might qualify for need-based aid, depending on factors such as how many college-aged children they have, college administrators say many such families usually don't bother to apply for need-based aid because they presume they won't get it.
Several studies have shown that merit aid benefits a disproportionate number of more-affluent students. During the 2003-2004 academic year, colleges gave about 30% of their merit aid to students from families with incomes above $92,400; about 20% went to families with incomes of $33,350 or less, according to a recent study by Donald Heller, an education professor at Penn State.


 

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Pantload pirouettes, proposes plebiscite.

Posted by Apostropher
on 10.19.06

Jonah Goldberg:

The Iraq war was a mistake.

I know, I know. But I've never said it before. And I don't enjoy saying it now. I'm sure that to the antiwar crowd this is too little, too late, and that's fine because I'm not joining their ranks anyway. [...] I must confess that one of the things that made me reluctant to conclude that the Iraq war was a mistake was my general distaste for the shabbiness of the arguments on the antiwar side.

But that's no excuse. Truth is truth. And the Iraq war was a mistake by the most obvious criteria: If we had known then what we know now, we would never have gone to war with Iraq in 2003. I do think that Congress (including Democrats Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Jay Rockefeller and John Murtha) was right to vote for the war given what was known — or what was believed to have been known — in 2003. And the claims from Democrats who voted for the war that they were lied to strikes me as nothing more than cowardly buck-passing.

You're not joining our ranks? Here's a newsflash: we wouldn't have your sorry ass, bitch. Or, maybe we would, but only because it might give some of us a chance to pee in your coffee. I love the argument here: okay, I was wrong, but I was wrong for the right reasons and all those dirty hippies I hate were right, but for the wrong reasons. Therefore, I'm not really wrong and dirty hippies still suck. Also, if I'd known then what I know now, I never would have made the mistake, but given that what we knew then was only whatever the Bush administration told us, then Democrats who claim...who, uh...that say they, umm. What I'm trying to say is that mistakes were made and the Democrats are lame.

Moreover, upon his weak-ass accusation of cowardly buck-passing, followed by an explanation of how, now that we're in it, succeeding in Iraq is central to our mission in the world, Goldberg says:

I think we should ask the Iraqis to vote on whether U.S. troops should stay.

This is the sort of sophisticated thinking that gets you prime time real estate on the LA Times op-ed page.


 

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A Place Called Home

Posted by Ogged
on 10.18.06

Tangentially related to the discussion of fun: you do all understand that Becks, Saiselgy, Armsmasher, Catherine, and Spenc/r Ackerm/n are all living together, right?

What upsets me is that they haven't settled on a name for the place. Catherine calls it The Florida Flophouse. Ackerm/n calls it The Heart of DuPont. I'm told that Smasher calls it The Awesome House of Bloggers. All of these are clever, in their way, but the place needs to have a name that people can actually use. "I'll be at...what?" They need something like "The Pit" in 90210, or Melrose, or whichever one it was that had "The Pit."

I'll get us started. First, come along with me as we re-imagine the word "blog." Say it with a long "o," as in "home" and finish it with a soft "g," as in "beige." Got that? Now tell me that the place shouldn't be called Chez Blog. They could say "I'll be Chez Blog," and not only would that be awesome in-itself, but it would be extra awesome anytime people were around. "You'll what?" Never you mind, uncool Hill staffer.


 

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It's All His Fault If The Democrats Don't Gain Control Of Congress

Posted by Becks
on 10.18.06

My brother turned 18 last summer and was all excited about voting in his first election next month. Looks like he's going to have to wait until next time. He thought that registering for Selective Service was the same thing as registering to vote because, like, it has the word "register" in it and everything, and found out the hard way that it's not. Now he's missed the voter registration deadline and is SOL.

So here's my question -- we've got the Motor Voter Bill that allows you to register to vote when you apply for or renew your driver's license but why aren't they required to give you the chance to register to vote when you register for Selective Service? I mean, I think there would be no better time to get a kid interested in politics and voting than when he's thinking about the draft. Since most teens get their license when they're 16 or 17, the Motor Voter Bill is of no help to them and I swear they almost actively make it as hard as possible for teens to register to vote in my hometown by having you register for Selective Service at the post office but register to vote at the library.


 

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A Few Simple Rules

Posted by Ogged
on 10.18.06

Let's talk about parties. Megan attended the big mid-October bash that all your favorite bloggers blogged a few days ago, and she reports,

I liked meeting and talking to people at the nighttime party, but I kept close watch until I was sure of what I was seeing. Then I went home and confirmed with the friend I was staying with. “Good party, neat people” I said, “But…” I paused and he filled in: “Not fun.” I asked how he knew and he said “That’s how parties are here.” Naturally, I have always pitied people who don’t live in California. But now that I’m worried that East Coast people don’t know what a party should be, my heart just breaks for them.

Because nothing says "good times" like schoolmarmish condescension. She goes on.

I want people dancing and lively groups talking, and maybe a project about to be finished that everyone will cheer for. There should be a lot of intermingling, with hugs getting passed along; since men can’t do that, they’ll be roughhousing, manly style. Maybe the group will jump in the pool or make an impromptu bonfire or throw things off the roof; I want everyone giddy enough that they will do something outrageous just for the fun. People should be cheering, chanting or howling at the moon.

Megan calls this a party; I think of it as people unschooled in the fine art of conversation, acting like monkeys. There will be no throwing things off the roof. There will be no howling. Millions have died to safeguard civilization from barbarism, and you will honor them with your elegant wit.

She gives advice.

First, the party should have a theme.

No. You know what a party shouldn't have? A theme. I will not go to your be-themed party. I am not six years old. A party should have smart people, a little dressed up--with just enough liquor in them to relax a bit--engaged in witty, flirty banter. It should have space enough and privacy for people to form small groups of the like-minded, in case they want to have slightly more serious conversation, or make plans to see each other again, or to be friends.

There will be no howling.


 

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Sen. Larry Craig (R-Mineshaft)

Posted by Apostropher
on 10.18.06

Oh, so now they're scandalized and outraged.

Scads of right-wing bloggers are scandalized and outraged today because it has been reported that GOP social conservative Senator Larry Craig routinely engages in anonymous sex with men. Why, they are just furious that anyone would introduce issues of someone's private sexual affairs into the public arena, and particularly can't believe that someone would try to use a person's homosexuality as a political weapon. Most movingly, they lament that exploiting private sexual behavior this way will drive good people out of political life.

I really hadn't intended to write about this Larry Craig story when I read about it this morning (I was and am working on a post on the President's very inspiring signing ceremony yesterday), but then I became exposed to this disgustingly pious concern being paraded about by all sorts of right-wing pundits over dragging sexual innuendo into the public arena and subjecting political officials to unpleasant personal attacks that would drive good people from office, and how can anyone let that raging, violent hypocrisy just go uncommented upon? Their entire political movement over the last 20 years has been fueled by sleazy sexual innuendo; dragging private sexual behavior into the public arena for fun, profit and political gain; and exploiting the gay issue to drive people to vote for them.

Live by the sword, die by the sword. Cry me a river, guys.


 

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Question About The Lancet Study

Posted by LizardBreath
on 10.18.06

One of the sources of skepticism about the Lancet study of post-war death rates in Iraq is that while 80% of those answering the survey and reporting a death were able to produce a death certificate, the central reporting authority (the Ministry of Health?) isn't giving out numbers for total death certificates issued that corresponds to the study's findings. The response by people who argue that the study is credible is that while death certificates are issued on on a decentralized basis, the statistical apparatus for retaining and compiling them for statistical purposes is in disarray -- no one knows reliably how many death certificates have been issued.

What I'm wondering, (and could probably find out with a little googling -- I'll look after this goes up) is what kind of numbers of death certificates the central authorities are reporting having issued? If a credible baseline prewar death rate for Iraq is X deaths per 100,000, and the central authorities are in such disarray that they're reporting the issuance of X/4 death certificates per 100,000, we know that their numbers are way off, and are of no relevance to any valid criticism of the study. The critique only works if the central authorities are coming up with a death rate that's plausible in itself. Of course, even if the centrally reported death rate is plausible, that doesn't mean that it's correct -- at that point we're trying to figure out whether error or fraud in the study is more or less likely than error or fraud in the Iraqi government.

So does anyone know if the Iraqi authorities are reporting a death rate that makes sense in light of pre-war death rates plus, say the Iraqi Body Count numbers? Or are they way off?


 

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Embarrassment of riches

Posted by Ben
on 10.17.06

All of the following concerts are transpiring on either Thursday or Friday of the present week:

12 Galaxies, Oct19
Crime in Choir CD release / Tussle / Upsilon Acrux
$8
9PM

Decemberists ($25!!!)
10-19 San Francisco, CA - Warfield Theater
10-20 San Francisco, CA - Warfield Theater

Fri 10/20 8:00 PM Mama Buzz Cafe [2318 Telegraph Ave @23rd Oakland]
Jacob Lindsay - Ab, Bb, Bass and Contrabass Clarinets
Aram Shelton - Alto Saxophone, Eb and Bass Clarinets
Ava Mendoza - Guitar
Benjamin Bracken - Tabletop Guitar

Join Bay Area local improvisers in this premier double arrangement of reeds and guitars, as they explore and expand the continuum following the U.S. free jazz movement spawned in the 60's, moving through European non-idiomatic free-impovisation, and globally into its current incarnations.

10/20 Great American Music Hall S.F.
Beirut, A Hawk And A Hacksaw, Animal Hospital (helpfully sold out—unless there are free tickets at KZSU, which is possible.)

Fri 10/20 9:00 PM 21 Grand [416 25th St @Broadway Near 19th Street BART Oakland] Aggressive jazz and prog-like rock: Upsilon Acrux (SoCal) + MiRthkon + No Doctors + Weasel Walter Group of Variable or Indeterminate Size

Obviously more going on on Friday than on Thursday, but still, people, you've gotta spread this shit out. I think that if I had my druthers I'd see Upsilon Acrux and Beirut & A Hawk and a Hacksaw, but I don't really care about Crime in Choir, though I wouldn't mind seeing The Weasel Walter Group of Variable but Honestly Probably Some Determinate Size or Sizes. And if the Decemberists had Alasdair Roberts opening for them, I'd definitely want to go to one of those, but they're probably sold out anyway and $25 is kinda steep just to witness the reflected glory of a band that used to include Emerson's kid. And that reeds/guitars concert looks interesting too… In the end I'll doubtless decide I have too much work or some shit. Y'all are free to Help Me Choose, though.


 

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Sharing

Posted by Ogged
on 10.17.06

There's nothing wrong with all this YouTube blogging, is there? This one's for the guys.


 

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F. Kersten is not impressing me

Posted by Ben
on 10.17.06

As last week, you are all invited to hate along with me. Here's something I hate that I couldn't have hated in that post, since I hadn't yet confirmed it: in the Ideas (or perhaps I should say Ideen), Husserl uses terms derived from "setzen" (eg "Setzung", "Satz", "Ursetzung", "setzen" itself, and the rest) and terms derived from "Thesis" (eg "thetisch", "Thesis" itself, and the rest). Kersten translates terms of both sort the exact same way, with variants of "posit" ("positing", "positum", "positional" (also used to translate the German adjective "positional"), and the rest). Not only does he use the same English word for two different words in the original (especially bizarre since "thetic" is no less an English word than "thetisch" is a German), but he doesn't even bother, anywhere, to point that out. Not in the introduction, not with footnotes to individual occurrences, not with bracketed inclusions within the text, nowhere. Bad practice!


 

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Man, I Hate These People

Posted by LizardBreath
on 10.17.06

Someone thought it would be clever to send a letter out to Latinos in California saying:

You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time.

That'd be a surprise to my immigrant grandfather, who voted legally in the US for about fifty years. What kind of twisted sicko thinks it's okay to try to frighten legal voters away from the polls because they weren't born here? (via Ezra at TAPPED.)

Update: Whoda thunk it? Investigation links this charming little prank to "the campaign of Tan D. Nguyen, a Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez." Nice.


 

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Keeping It Real

Posted by Ogged
on 10.17.06

Yes, we all know that advertising images aren't "real" in a lot of ways, but it's still startling to see how they become what they are. This video is part of Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty."

via iggles (With whom I disagree a bit about this:

no matter how well-aware I am that commercial images are heavily manipulated, they still appear authentic to me unless the manipulation is actually sloppily executed. The mere knowledge that manipulation is omnipresent in these contexts has very little impact on how I see them

A lot depends on what he means by "appear authentic," but the situation seems analagous to "based on a true story" tales. They can still affect how you think and feel, but most of us are able to understand that what's portrayed isn't what happened, and that knowledge in turn affects how we're influenced by what we've seen. Just to note, I think most of us can do this, but it is a discipline, and I don't know how many people practice it.)


 

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Details

Posted by Ogged
on 10.16.06

If you have any tears left, this would be a good time.

I asked Willie Hulon, chief of the bureau’s new national security branch ... Which one is Iran — Sunni or Shiite? He thought for a second. “Iran and Hezbollah,” I prompted. “Which are they?”

He took a stab: “Sunni.”
Wrong.
Al Qaeda? “Sunni.”
Right.

He's actually the smart one.

Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.

“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.
Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: “One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.”
To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”

 

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The General Will

Posted by Ogged
on 10.16.06

Are we hoping that the mighty Bears defense decapitates graceless frat boy Matt Leinart, or that they merely tear him limb from limb?


 

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Codpiece Gets It

Posted by Ogged
on 10.16.06

I think this definition actually works. It excludes golf, anyway.


 

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If True, This Is Really Spooky

Posted by LizardBreath
on 10.16.06

My instinct is not to believe it, but Greg Easterbrook links to a paper suggesting that autism may be caused by watching TV. The researchers looked at the increase in autism in recent decades, which has occurred broadly across society, and speculated that TV watching among very young children might be a cause. They then looked at weather patterns, assuming that TV watching was correlated with inclement weather, and found that autism rates were higher in locations and times when the weather had been bad enough to keep kids indoors.

As I said, I suspect this isn't going to turn out to be true -- it's such a perfectly pleasing cause for such an awful syndrome: "Your kid is autistic because you abandoned him in front of the idiot box. It's ALL YOUR FAULT." But it should be easy to do followup research on: there must be large datasets out there that include questions about whether people have TVs, and the rate of autism among children in such households will either match or not match the rest of the population. Or if the data hasn't already been collected, it certainly can be. You also have to wonder (if there does turn out to be a link) if there's a connection between TV watching at the critical developmental ages and sub-clinical levels of autism, or just being a weird kid.

I find myself wondering how people are likely to react if this turns out to be true. Are parents going to stop having their babies and toddlers watch TV? If I were going to guess, I'd speculate that even if this does turn out to be the case, it won't affect TV watching levels at all.


 

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This Is Temporarily The Underwater Sex Blog

Posted by Becks
on 10.16.06

I've been debating whether to post this link [NSFW] all weekend. I mean, I want to share it because it's probably one of my favorite things I've ever read on the Internet ever* but the guy is so sweet and earnest about the sex he has with dolphins that I'd feel really bad if we ganged up and made fun of him. Yes, readers, I'm going soft on you. So instead, let's see if there are any lessons we can learn from our animial-lovin' friend. I mean, fellas -- this guy makes sure his dolphin has an orgasm before he does and surely you wouldn't want your wife or girlfriend to think she's got a lesser lover than Flipper.

* totally intentional, bitches


 

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I Don't Want To Watch The Wire

Posted by LizardBreath
on 10.16.06

I find myself getting more and more surly and resistant about watching anything that's been recommended as artistically meaningful TV. I watched a couple of episodes of Battlestar Galactica (while the guy who played Face on the A-Team is cute, I don't see what all the fuss is about), and I've managed to completely avoid the Sopranos, the Wire, Deadwood) and all the rest of the gritty, realistic, death-and-mayhem TV that people rave about.

It's funny, I'll read books whether or not they're artistically meaningful or difficult but serious TV just sounds like too much work. As a medium, TV doesn't hold my attention at all, and so anything that demands focus loses me. I look away, or start talking to someone, or start reading something for a bit, and by the time I look up I have no idea at all what's going on, and I can't talk myself into caring.

You know what TV is good for? Formulaic sitcoms. Not that they don't all suck too, these days, but back in the glory days of the formulaic sitcom, that was good TV.


 

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RSS Readers, 2006

Posted by Ogged
on 10.16.06

[Update: The new and improved Google Reader is sweet. And free.]
[Second Update: If you don't mind the Google Overmind, just use Google Reader. It's as fast as any of the services I tried, and seems to update more frequently, it will very likely keep improving, and it isn't likely to disappear anytime soon. Friggin' Google.]

I assume that just about all of you use an RSS reader to keep up with blogs and such. If you don't, you should. I'm on a PC and I use Great News, which I love. If you're on a Mac, I'm sure someone in the comments will pipe up with a recommendation for you.

But recently I decided that I wanted a web-based reader, because it was becoming a hassle to keep my home and work computers in sync. But who has time to try every single one of the 50 or so web-based rss services? I do, baby.

Mostly, they suck. I'll spare you the details. Here's what I picked.

1. I'm using FeedLounge. The interface is crazy slick, it has all the basic features I want, and it's truly just as fast and easy as using a desktop reader. One drawback of any web-based service is that you can't refresh feeds every five minutes like a crack monkey, but FeedLounge seems to update pretty frequently (I'll have a better idea when I've been using for a while). I also had a few problems importing my feed list, but since that was sorted out, it's been working well. The main issue with FeedLounge is that it isn't free. $5/month. Since I live in my RSS reader, that's worthwhile to me, at least to try for a few months. And you can try it for free; just sign up for the demo, which lets you use the full service for a day. But if you don't want to pay, you still have some options.

2. Good old Bloglines. A lot of people use this, and it gets the job done. It's not very slick, and when I was using it, back in the day, it didn't update feeds as frequently as I'd like, but I think it might be better now. Solid, basic functionality, and totally free.

3. NewsAlloy. This was my second choice, after FeedLounge. The interface is fast, and it has a ton of features. Ultimately, I preferred the cleaner interface of FeedLounge, but if you like to click things, NewsAlloy might be for you. And it's free.

There were a couple other free services that were pretty good and might be worth keeping an eye on, if you're that kind of person.

--FeedShow is very nice; just bit slower than NewsAlloy and FeedLounge, and lacking some interface features that I want.

--I tried Rezzibo for a while, even though their site is mostly in Spanish, because the interface is damn beautiful. Unfortunately, it seems to be unacceptably slow in updating feeds.


 

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The Wire, No Spoilers...Or...So Much For The Death Of The Novel

Posted by Ogged
on 10.15.06

If you check the bittorrent sites and read the comments there, you can track down the entire fourth season of The Wire. So I did, and just finished it. I didn't think the first season could be topped, and I certainly didn't think this season would do it, given how slowly it started. But it did. Amazing.

The more or less naturalistic feel of the show can obscure just how much skill and artistry is behind it. And I know I have a reflexive prejudice that anything on television can only be good "for TV;" as if the higher realms of art are reserved for other media. But the fact is that The Wire, taken as a whole, is now one of the great works of art of which I'm aware. Only the great novels can compare to it for scope, insight, ear for dialogue, the importance of its themes and the subtlety with which it treats them, and plain old entertainingness.


 

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Shook

Posted by Ogged
on 10.15.06

So the first thing Hawaii-living commenter DaveL would do after an earthquake is check Unfogged, right? How bad is it, Dave?


 

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The Kind of Wire Blogging You Won't Get Anywhere Else

Posted by Ogged
on 10.15.06

You know that Dodge "Mega Cab" ad where Paul Bunyan steals the truck? I'm almost positive that Cutty is in it.


 

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Candyhack

Posted by Alameida
on 10.15.06

Twix are my very favorite candy bars. (I don't think I've ever tried peanut butter Twix, but I feel resistant to the notion.) For an entire school year when I went to a shitty Christian school in South Carolina my mom would give me money to buy lunch. I ate two Twixes, washed down by a glass bottle of Coke, for lunch almost every day. Unfortunately, the humidity in Singapore often renders even apparently perfectly sealed candy bars faintly damp, stale, and unappetizing. And it's true that the poor quality chocolate used to cover American candy bars takes away from their potential deliciousness. But despair no more, Twix-loving Unfoggedtariat! You can make them your very own selves. And since they're slightly salty, you'll be all trendy and stuff.

For the Shortbread:
1 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c confectioner's sugar
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (100g more or less)
1 t vanilla extract

For the Caramel Layer:
2 t instant espresso powder
1 t hot water
2 t vanilla extract
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (400g)
2 T corn syrup
2 T unsalted butter (30g)
1/2 t fleur du sel or a lesser amount ordinary salt (say a generous 1/4)

For the Chocolate Topping
4 1/2 oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa) (120g), chopped
4 1/2 T unsalted butter (60g), cut into cubes

1. Line 9x9-inch square baking pan with baking paper, extending over the sides for easy removal. I find this is easier to do if you spray some Pam on the bottom of the pan first, as the paper sticks nicely. Might as well go whole hog and spray the bottom of the lined pan as well.
2. Mix together flour, confectioner's sugar and butter just till it forms a dough. Lightly pat it over the bottom of the prepared pan, pushing it up slightly at the sides. With a fork, prick holes all over (this is called docking.) Refrigerate for 1 hour, till firm. (You can skip this step if you're in a hurry to eat homemade candy bars.)
3. Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Bake shortbread for 15 minutes, till lightly tanned and set.
4. While the shortbread is baking, make the caramel layer: mix the water, vanilla and espresso powder together. Put mixture into heavy saucepan with condensed milk, corn syrup, and butter. Stir over meduim heat till the mixture boils. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for another 5 minutes. (Now that I read this I feel maybe all the vanilla is being cooked off, in which case it would be better to stir it in at the end, keeping in mind that the caramel will sputter and might burn you.)
5. Pour caramel over still-warm shortbread and return to oven for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool on a rack.
6. Melt the butter and chocolate together, either in a double-boiler over simmering water or in the microwave set on medium power and stopping frequently to check its progress. In either case, when the butter is oily and the pieces of chocolate are still visible but slumping, remove from heat and stir until smooth. Keep in mind that it will seize if a drop of water falls on it.
7. Spread the chocolate over the still-warm caramel layer and smooth with an offset spatula. Refrigerate until chocolate is set. Cut into squares or bars, and lift carefully from the tin, removing a corner slice first.

Now, this isn't really a homemade Twix bar so much as it is a "Twix bar slice" as the Aussies say. It would be possible to make quite a bit more of the chocolate stuff, cut the cooled shortbread-and-caramel thing into long thin bars, and then dip them in chocolate using two forks...no, crumbs would get in the chocolate. OK, there would be a fair bit of wastage, but you could cut out long thin bars, set them on a mesh rack, and the spoon somewhat-cooled but still-liquid chocolate stuff along each one, letting it ooze down the sides. Likely to be some breakage as well, but people would eat short ones too. It would be pretty great to serve perfect-looking homemade Twix bars as a dinner party dessert. Now I just need to reverse engineer Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, speaking of the most obvious and low-brow sweet/salty treat out there.


 

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Nonpantsed

Posted by Ogged
on 10.15.06

Bizarro world intersected with real world just long enough for me, Ben W-lfs-n, and Bitchphd to have dinner together tonight. W-lfs-n, little bitch that he is, ordered the same appetizer and entree that I did, but otherwise, it was a lovely time. The dirty little secret of real-life B is that she's kinda low-key and agreeable. The one small disagreement that we had (about whether it makes sense to shield people from real-world repercussions to online behavior) was amicably resolved when I utterly and eloquently shredded whatever scraps of argument she managed to offer. We should totally do it again sometime.


 

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