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The Democrat Class

Posted by Ogged
on 10.20.07

It's worth reminding myself that I and the people I know aren't "the Democrats." The Democrats are a group of politicians and operatives who have their own needs and motives, and they don't "speak for me;" they're merely more likely to speak in ways to which I'm sympathetic than the Republicans are. This is all obvious, of course--it's part of representative democracy in an enormous country, but I'm reminding myself of it so that I'm not driven mad by stories like the following.

I hinted once that my discussion of Shailagh Murray with someone caused me to begin referring to her as "The Devil." Let me elaborate a bit.
The scene: a bar, having drinks.
The conversation (about blogs and journalists):

Person who is not me: For example, Shailagh Murray of the Washington Post is an excellent reporter and a very good friend.

Me: (jaw on floor, in almost hysterical voice) but...but...but.. Shailagh Murray is the devil!

The punchline: Person who is not me is a not insignificant Democratic campaign manager type person.
Joke's on all of us.

And this.

Stark's comment came as the House failed Thursday to override President Bush's veto of legislation to expand the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program.
"You don't have money to fund the war or children," Stark accused Republicans. "But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."
After numerous Republicans called on him to apologize, Stark said it was they who should be apologizing, for failing to provide the votes to override Bush's veto.

Which led to this:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rebuked a fellow San Francisco Bay-area liberal Friday for what she said were "inappropriate" comments about Iraq during a congressional debate.


 

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Scratch

Posted by Becks
on 10.20.07

I recently made some cornbread from scratch. It was quite good but I don't know if it was so much better than the usual Jiffy box mix I use that I'd bother making it from scratch again. For the amount of time it took, it just wasn't that much better. The difference was nothing like, say, the difference between KFC and homemade fried chicken.

It got me thinking - when it comes to cooking, what foods to you find the convenience/packaged/frozen version perfectly equal to or superior to the version you'd make from scratch? Or at least close that the marginal utility isn't worth ever bothering with given plenty of time, money, etc. to choose either? (Meaning you aren't just choosing the easier option because you just got home from work and need dinner on the table in 40 minutes.)


 

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All Boys, Of Course!

Posted by Ogged
on 10.19.07

On the one hand, this is totally awesome.

In front of a full house of hardcore Potter fans at Carnegie Hall in New York, Rowling, sitting on the stage on a red velvet and carved wood throne, read from her seventh and final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," then took questions. One fan asked whether Albus Dumbledore, the head of the famed Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, had ever loved anyone. Rowling smiled. "Dumbledore is gay, actually," replied Rowling as the audience erupted in surprise. She added that, in her mind, Dumbledore had an unrequited love affair with Gellert Grindelwald, Voldemort's predecessor who appears in the seventh book. After several minutes of prolonged shouting and clapping from astonished fans, Rowling added. "I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy."

On the other hand, it would have been more awesome if there had been a revelation in the books themselves (since she didn't just make this up after the fact).

On the third hand, oh, the hue and cry there would have been in America--maybe this way was for the best.


 

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Bittersweet

Posted by Ogged
on 10.19.07

You'll all be happy to learn that I've found a new swimming coach-type person. Instead of a hot young Swedish swimmer, this time I've opted for a forty-year-old guy. Odds are that you won't hear another word about him, since he'll never say to me, "look at my butt."


 

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America's Pasttime

Posted by Ogged
on 10.19.07

Via Katherine in the comments, a device which tracks where and how long people look at the parts of an image reveals that men are natural scientists, more curious than women about all parts of the world.

And indeed,

They got the same results when they repeated the experiment with pictures on the American Kennel Club site.

I wonder if the subjects knew that their eye movements were being tracked.


 

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Curving II

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 10.19.07

I missed the grading thread, so I thought I'd repeat my grading practices and you can tell me how I'm oppressive and unfair.

My fundamental principles are:

(a) Grades don't "mean" anything outside of context, so it's pointless to say things like "C is for average work" or "A is for truly outstanding work." I'm tired of curmudgeons who think that C is a median grade, in the same way that I'm tired of curmudgeons who insist on archaic uses of particular words or phrases against popular practice.
(b) It's good to stay out of trouble with the deans. I get good evaluations but all of that ass-busting can be invalidated by someone on the P&T committee saying, "hmm, grades seem a little high."

So I take the institutional practice as a guideline. I try to make my course grade distributions pretty close to the grade distribution for courses of that level across the college. That means figuring out that in a class of such-and-such size, the top N papers should get As, and so on, all other things being equal. Deviations permitted when, say, I happen to have better-than-usual students, but usually the numbers work out pretty well.

On the plus side, I can rest assured that I'm neither more strict nor more lenient than the institution generally. And I get the satisfaction of responding to certain grade complaints by saying, more or less, sorry, but other people are better at this. The down side is that I'm a bit of a free-rider, since I'm not doing the work of figuring out "what an A means" or where those lines should be drawn. I'm also hostage to grade inflation, but so are we all, if (a) is right.

(Grade inflation is a hard problem because there's individual incentive to inflate-- it changes evaluations and saves time, since no one complains about a high grade-- but if everyone does it we're screwed. I say let those with tenure make the bold stands.)

And I endorse this thought of Rob's:

Most undergraduate teachers in the hard sciences are in love with the screening function of their courses. As far as they are concerned, they belong to an elite club, and supervising the hazing rituals is one of the advantages of membership.

This is so annoying. Some of the natural sciences have a captive market of would-be doctors and so have no need to worry about enrollments, so they can do whatever they like in the classroom without repercussions. Meanwhile humanities types have to make sure students are reasonably happy, or we're screwed.


 

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Home

Posted by Becks
on 10.19.07

One of my favorite works of art is Ed Ruscha's "The Act Of Letting A Person Into Your Home". Besides being far more beautiful in person than what you can see at the link, I find the phrase really powerful. Letting someone into your home, either for a party or for dinner or hosting them for a weekend, is allowing yourself to be vulnerable in front of them. When you only see someone at bars or at work or out and about, it's far easier to choose the image you want to present to them. Letting someone see where you live lays your cards on the table: so much is revealed about your personality, your history, and your hidden values by the little things in your environment. What you chose to surround yourself with, the things that are important to you, how you've chosen to organize things (or not), etc. all tell a story.


 

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Black tongues are nothing

Posted by Ben
on 10.18.07

Kangaroos are some freaky creatures, people:

  1. Females have two vaginas, but give birth through neither of them.
  2. Males have bifurcated dicks (sometimes).
  3. Males have balls on top of penis.
  4. MAYBE MORE.
I learned this at lunch today.


 

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Adam

Posted by Ogged
on 10.18.07

Kotsko tries to define "maleness."

* The wandering eye -- constantly scanning one's range of vision in the hopes of finding someone sexually attractive

* Outbursts of rage -- especially rage directed against inanimate objects (lawnmowers that won't start, computers, etc.)
* Fascination with the size of one's shit -- this was inspired by a recent episode of South Park

Obviously, the list is a complete failure. Women share traits 1 and 2, and none among us speaks of 3 in polite company.

The male is characterized first and foremost by a constant background awareness of whether he can beat up the people around him, or, later in life, whether he can fuck them over more than they can fuck him over. Usually these considerations are made in tandem, and the one most favorable to the person doing the considering is emphasized.

Second...no, there is no second; that's what it means to be male.


 

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Curves

Posted by Becks
on 10.18.07

I recently read a post on another blog (which I won't link because you'll get all pissy) about grading curves. I think they're useful in some cases but in most I don't think they accurately reflect the knowledge gained by the students. I think it's far more important to reflect how well a student masters a subject than their relative knowledge compared to other members in the class. I can't tell if the over-reliance on curves at many universities is due to the fact that testing methods and how to develop an exam that accurately reflects achievement and has a good distribution of scores isn't taught to faculty or just the result of laziness/lack of priority/time pressures. Maybe this won't resonate as much with you humanities folks but it's pretty egregious in the sciences, where it's common to have classes where no student ever scores higher than 40%.


 

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Good Sport

Posted by Becks
on 10.18.07

Cala's question about what sport to take up in her late 20s reminded me of a rule that my parents had: we were only allowed to participate in activities that were "life sports" and were team-based. Any other sports were strongly discouraged. None of the sports I played fell under this umbrella (Gymnastics? Not a "life sport". Diving? Not a "life sport". Field hockey? Not a "life sport". Swimming? Not a team sport. Cross-country? Not a team sport. [This, I took strong exception to. Running is very social.] Dance? Not a "life activity".) so they were not supported and some actively discouraged.

I can see the benefit of taking up a sport that you will be able to continue to enjoy when you're creaky and old like Cala and me but I think a better approach is to encourage kids to do whatever activities they want, even if they're only something they can do when they're young. Instead of prompting me to replace my discouraged activities for something that passed my parents' criteria, our family rules turned me off of most sports entirely.

Oddly, all of these rules seemed totally normal when I was growing up and it wasn't until a couple of years ago when I was telling them to a friend that I realized how bizarre and out of the mainstream they were.


 

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Hall of Nose Flutes

Posted by Ben
on 10.18.07

It's not really the case that Titus Groan, the band, made odd music; they made pretty straightfoward music in the mode of the early Jethro Tull, sort of a prelude to progressive rock coming out of a british blues–based model (most easily seen in the song "It Wasn't For You"). What's odd is that they did this while calling themselves "Titus Groan" and giving some of their songs names based on Peake.

But what I really want to know is, is there a name for the sort of figure seen in the cover to their first album, and on the cover to the FFWD album? This one dude, holding another dude's head and playing his nose like a wind instrument—what's the deal?


 

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I am the food pornoisseur.

Posted by Apostropher
on 10.18.07

In the interest of science, I stopped at Hardee's on the way to work (after my dentist appointment) and picked up one of their new 920-calorie Country Breakfast Burritos.

The Clogger

Verdict: friggin' delicious. Gravy on a burrito is much better than you might expect but you'll want to eat it right away, before the gravy uncrispifies the hash browns (if, indeed, it's the sort of thing you'd want to eat at all). If you're getting it to go, you'll probably want to get the Value Meal that includes the hash browns on the side as well, just to be safe. I'll let you know if any weird symptoms emerge during the day.

Bonus: I washed it all down with a Diet Mountain Dew.


 

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Don't Stop!

Posted by Ogged
on 10.17.07

Come on, doesn't this look like fun? (And he's a damn good swimmer.)


 

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900-foot Jesus wants you to have a 16-year-old boyfriend.

Posted by Apostropher
on 10.17.07

Having previously told Richard Roberts to stand firm and fight the charges against him, God has apparently changed his mind and told Roberts to take an indefinite leave of absence instead. The last post on this situation had some folks wondering exactly to what the oblique references to "underaged males" and Mrs. Roberts referred. Well, here's the filed complaint, and the explanations start on page 14.

Delicious.


 

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I'll Ask The Mineshaft Myself

Posted by Ogged
on 10.17.07

It's a dark day when I think that you guys will be the most sympathetic audience for an issue, but life is like that sometimes. The problem is this: people are regularly, if not often, trying to set me up with their friends and acquaintances. In almost every single instance, there's the same problem: she's not smart enough. You all know what I'm talking about. It's very hard to relax around someone who's not in the same rough range of mental whateverness as oneself, and that goes in both directions. I'm sure some people can have happy relationships with people outside that range, but I've been around long enough to know that I'm not one of them. Sadly, except for my dear exbeforelast, none of the matchmakers seem to even be aware of this as a potential problem, let alone an issue in any given instance. So I've adopted a blanket "no setting me up" policy (this was before I adopted my "no dating at all, thanks" policy). Otherwise you wind up having to explain why you don't want to pursue things with the pretty, sweet woman you were set up with and there's only so much "just didn't click" "not really my type" dodging you can do. I guess I don't really have a question, or a point, but you feel my pain, right homies?


 

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Ask The Mineshaft: Don't Go, Don't Stay Edition

Posted by Ogged
on 10.17.07

A short query to the group from an anonymous correspondent.

Is it possible for a serious relationship to continue without the implied or acknowledged potential for evolving into a more serious relationship? Put more bluntly, can one or both partners say "This is it" without a breakup inevitably following shortly after?


 

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Legal aid

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 10.17.07

I need input from some lawyers. I've got a student considering law school who (smartly!) wants to take a closer look at what it's like to live as a lawyer before committing. She'd like some sort of internship or stint as a paralegal, I think, and I'm wondering (a) what's the best way to make the relevant sorts of observations, and (b) how to find openings for the positions identified in (a)?

Bonus if the work/internship is related in some way to bioethics or reproductive law.


 

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Implausible stance

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 10.17.07

Did anyone see the Larry Craig interview last night? (That I watched it says something about how bad network TV is. God, that cavemen show sucked.) I kept amusing myself by pretending that his explanation (I accidentally bumped the officer's foot; I was removing a piece of toilet paper with my hand...) is true and that he'd been caught up in a terrible coincidence. One of the least likely explanations, sure, but funny to think about.


 

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The streak continues.

Posted by Apostropher
on 10.17.07

The Bush administration continues its nearly unblemished record of appointing the worst possible person for a given position.

President Bush's choice for heading family planning programming within the Department of Health and Human Services is a critic of birth control. [...] Orr was quoted in a 2001 article in the Post as supporting a Bush proposal to end a requirement that health insurance plans for federal employees contain coverage for birth control. "We're quite pleased," she said about the plan at the time, "because fertility is not a disease."

"It's not a medical necessity that you have it," Orr said of contraception. She is also a former senior director with the Family Research Council, a conservative organization promoting abstinence education programs and standing against federal funding for contraception.

Eric Keroack, who previously held the post before his resignation in March, similarly opposed contraceptive options, calling them "demeaning to women." He was the head of A Woman's Concern, a Christian pregnancy-counseling group which also favors abstinence as a primary birth control method.

Orr's appointment does not require approval by the Senate.


 

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A Blowhard In The Windy City

Posted by Becks
on 10.17.07

I'm going to Chicago! What should I do?


 

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Zzzzzzzz

Posted by Becks
on 10.17.07

Pack it up. All of the political writers can go home. It's official: the most inane color/trend piece for the 2008 election has been written:

No candidate whose last name begins with a letter in the second half of the alphabet, N to Z, has been elected mayor since Robert F. Wagner won a third term in 1961. Each of the 11 mayoral elections since then has gone to someone with a family name beginning in the alphabet's first half, A to M....Of the 14 presidential elections held since the Truman administration's waning days in 1952, first-half-of-the-alphabet candidates won 10 times....First-half types were even better represented among the major-party losers in those elections -- who, after all, had something going for them just to be nominated. Eleven of those 14 had last names beginning in the A-to-M range.

 

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Brainy Chicks Through The Ages

Posted by Ogged
on 10.16.07

A very cool collection of paintings of women reading from the 15th century through the present day.

via bohemiology


 

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Precarious

Posted by Ogged
on 10.16.07

Here's a little doomsday for ya.

For the first time in more than 100 years, much of the Southeast has reached the most severe category of drought, climatologists said Monday, creating an emergency so serious that some cities are just months away from running out of water.

...

Officials in the central North Carolina town of Siler City estimate that without rain, they are 80 days from draining the Lower Rocky River Reservoir, which supplies water for the town's 8,200 people.

In the Atlanta metropolitan area, which has more than four million people, worst-case analyses show that the city's main source of water, Lake Lanier, could be drained dry in 90 to 121 days.

And,

More than 90,000 Americans get potentially deadly infections each year from a drug-resistant staph "superbug," the government reported Tuesday in its first overall estimate of invasive disease caused by the germ.

Deaths tied to these infections may exceed those caused by AIDS, said one public health expert commenting on the new study.

 

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Arse and the Real Girl

Posted by Becks
on 10.16.07

I'd poke more fun at this guy but, to be fair, I wrote the exact same letter to Ogged after the first meetup.


 

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More Pictures

Posted by Ogged
on 10.16.07

Along the lines of the photographic height/weight grid (which sadly seems to have stalled), there's this photoset on flickr with pictures of women, their height/weight, and their BMI category. via stumptuous


 

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I See A Pattern

Posted by Ogged
on 10.16.07

So a 6'4" ex-cop likes to beat up women on the commuter rail, but passes it off as a crusade for good etiquette (which the Post seems to abet; check out the "discussion board" comments to the story)? What the hell?


 

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Nicely Done

Posted by Ogged
on 10.16.07

There are a bajillion weight-lifting websites, usually poorly written, confusing, contradictory, and smugly obfuscatory. But last night I came across a site put together by some random dude that is the single best source of weightlifting explanation and advice that I've ever seen. He covers basic and advanced concepts very clearly, models the exercises properly, and even has great advice about how to eat and what to do to avoid and recover from injuries. Better yet, all the workouts he recommends are things that can be done at home with very little special equipment. It's ostensibly pitched to bodybuilders, but a great resources for anyone. I'm kind of shocked at how good it is.


 

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Spahhh...OW! OW! OW! OW!

Posted by Becks
on 10.15.07

Clicking around the website of this spa gives me the creeps. I suppose this makes sense as their claim to fame is being the pioneer of bringing anal bleaching to NYC.

Also, they seem to have their customer service priorities backwards -- they have a helpful link explaining the difference between waxing and sugaring, which anyone could find on Google, but no explanation for the crucial difference the waxes they offer for men: South of the Border, Marble Sac with Shaft, Backdoor Treatment, Crackdown, and Full Moon Rising.

And, as bad as the above sound, I haven't even gotten to the most cringeworthy thing they offer yet: nostril waxing.


 

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Course Correction

Posted by Ogged
on 10.15.07

Maybe those dickheads had a point. I don't have a gut, I'm fit and reasonably strong (for a scrawny guy) and I can't even zip up my old pants, let alone wear them comfortably. How damn skinny was I, anyway? (Yes, it's self-assessment day in Oggedville.) I'm starting to think that trying to fit back into those old pants isn't anything but symbolic, and not necessarily healthy. Sadly, this leaves me in that Levis wasteland (kekeke) between a 32 and 34 inch waist. And what now? There's always the swimming, but I need a new goal. I think I'll learn to crush human skulls with my bare hands. I bet that'll be a handy skill, come UnfoggeDCon the revolution.

Somewhat embarrassing update: It turns out that I was using an unusually snug pair of 32" pants as my reference pair. I can get into some of the others. They're snug, but almost wearable. Hell, it turns out I can even get into a pair of low-rise 30" waisted jeans. No wonder I thought I was skinny enough. I was right all along!


 

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Is The Drug

Posted by Ogged
on 10.15.07

Having grown weary of sniffling and snuffling whenever I chopped onions, I hit upon putting a fan behind me (at about 4 o'clock, as we might say in the air force) and directing the air between the onions and my precious face. Works like a goddamn charm. But as I was describing this setup to a friend, it occurred to me that I'd become the old, crazy bachelor who does everything just so, and dreams up ingenious solutions to non-problems because he's got nothing but time and nothing to take care of but his own space and body. In light of this realization, I've come to see a mis-heard lyric from my youth as more portentous than amusing. Journey sings "Someday, love will find you / Break those chains that bind you." I heard "Someday love will find you / Break bones, chain and bind you." Close, but subtly different. I've also noticed that the Zantac I take for my stomach pain works on me almost like an anti-anxiety drug, with the attendant diminution of my already diminutive libido. I find myself watching some hot scene in a movie and thinking "I wonder if Engadget has anything about that new phone." But in this, as in so many things, the Gayatollah was first to wisdom.


 

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l8r

Posted by Becks
on 10.15.07

Question: Does the spread of T9 and other autocomplete features mean that it is now acceptable to shun and mock someone who still tlks 2 u on txt msg lik u r a 16yo grl on im or is this just the tyranny of someone who has a full keyboard on her phone talking?

Update: To expand (I posted hastily)...I guess my real question is: how much of a dealbreaker is stuff like this for you? Do you easily gloss over differences in communication styles and technology usage or is it hard for you to get past? I've found that I've become increasingly curmudgeonly about this stuff and that (without an intentional bias) I also keep up much better ties with people who have the same email/IM/texting conventions as me than friends I like equally well who have different styles when it comes to using technology than I do.


 

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Not Quite

Posted by Ogged
on 10.15.07

It can't be a good sign when the local paper's new real estate feature is to track foreclosures. It makes sense that the lower-priced zips have the most foreclosures since people take more risks to buy the only home they can afford than they do to buy a nicer home than they can afford. So zip codes with homes in the bottom price range, which is $6-700k around here, see many more foreclosures than zips where homes go for $1m and above. Despite all this, I don't see prices coming down at all, so this isn't even the bounty for the fiscally righteous that one might have hoped.


 

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Sleepy

Posted by Becks
on 10.15.07

Despite some sentences that set off my trend piece hyperbole detector like "Sleep disorders can impair children's I.Q.'s as much as lead exposure", this article on how sleep deprivation affects kids (and adults) does make some interesting points. And I totally agree with the idea that schools should push back start times - I'm an adult and I could never function if my day started at 7:30. Expecting that from kids too young for coffee is just cruel. And stats like this make you wonder:

[In] Edina, Minnesota, an affluent suburb of Minneapolis,...the high school start time was changed from 7:25 a.m. to 8:30. The results were startling. In the year preceding the time change, math and verbal SAT scores for the top 10 percent of Edina's students averaged 1288. A year later, the top 10 percent averaged 1500, an increase that couldn't be attributed to any other variable.
Another trailblazing school district is Lexington, Kentucky's, which also moved its start time an hour later. After the time change, teenage car accidents in Lexington were down 16 percent. The rest of the state showed a 9 percent rise.

 

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Jihadi Joe

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.07

Fascinating article about the proprietor of an English-language jihadi website, who turns out to be a 21-year old guy who lives with his parents in North Carolina.

(The Times seems to have some weird policy of not linking to the sites they talk about, although they give enough hints that one can track them down. Here's the site.)

Update: Looks the site is already down/gone.


 

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Heights

Posted by Becks
on 10.14.07

It surprises me that New York Magazine would be recommending these shoes. They're geekily practical, which makes me think that nobody fashionable would ever want to wear them. Maybe the $300 price tag redeems them.


 

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Make Or Break

Posted by Ogged
on 10.14.07

A lazy, post-less Sunday afternoon. Sounds like just the time for some musing about sports around the world. Does it seem to you that American team sports, much more than international team sports like soccer, rugby, and cricket, derive their drama from decisive moments which can be recognized beforehand even within the game? The fourth-and-one, the two strike pitch in the ninth, the free throws with a few seconds on the clock. If so, I wonder if this tells us anything about America. Maybe that it's a mythmaking culture, and that it likes to find out whether people will break or not. Or maybe Americans, as a nation, are feeble-minded and need their drama conveniently demarcated. Muse with me, O citizens of earth.


 

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