Eric Rauchway pointed me to this week's This American Life. It's entertainingly enraging: the theme is the current administration's lawyerly intransigence as applied to smaller issues than torture or wiretapping. I found the first section, on the Justice Department's decision to mess with the International Boundary Commission, a (until now) independent international commission devoted to maintaining (literally. Like, trimming brush.) the Canada/US border, particularly bizarre. Apparently respecting our treaty obligation to keep a ten-foot span on our side of the border clear of obstructions was giving property-rights lunatics hives, and the Justice Department had to swing into action to make sure the treaty wasn't enforced as it has been for the last century.
(The second segment was just sort of sad and awful -- apparently immigration officials have a policy of automatically denying a green card to any spouse of an American citizen who dies while the application is still being processed. It's ghastly, but I'm not clear what makes it the Bush administration's fault particularly, given that the practice appears to have predated 2001. Still, they could stop.)
National Geographic magazine falls into the category of things that I have no personal interest in, but I'm glad exists. Do any young people subscribe, though? I think of it as that magazine that dads and grandpas have in their bathrooms.
I'm going to be offline for the weekend. Good thing this is a group blog.
This is a good, short review of Martin Luther King's radicalism (via ct), which is not the same as the conventional view of him as the peaceful marcher with a good voice. If you're so inclined, take a look at his Vietnam speech, which is fabulous. (Audio here.)
Somewhere today I saw a headline that read, "What If He Had Lived?" and my first thought was "They would have killed him."
And: A great post and linked audio about RFK breaking the news of King's assassination to a mostly African-American crowd. Powerful stuff.
I got an email from a commenter who was wondering what the bereavement policies were like where people worked. The writer hadn't qualified for leave for his S.O.'s relative's funeral because they weren't married and had to take vacation to attend. The writer figures that's the norm but was wondering what policies are like from place to place.
The company I used to work for actually had a matrix outlining the number of days based on the type of relation. While I can see why standardization like that might be necessary when dealing with thousands of employees, I think discretion between the manager and employee is more humane, if possible. Who is to say that a person wasn't closer to their sibling (2 days) than a parent (5 days)?
We've had this discussion before, but Yglesias starts it from a place that leaves room for comity.
I sometimes get the sense that people think the urbanist agenda is all about trying to turn the entire United States into Manhattan, or else that there's no appreciation of the fact that there's a middle ground between never driving a car and driving many dozens of miles every day.
I think that's right. Between people who are all "cars are evil" and people who are all "Don't even think about touching my car," a lot gets lost. I love my car and hate Manhattan, but I picked the place I live in large part because I can walk to the grocery store, to restaurants, the train station, a gym, and a movie theater. And when I visit my mom in her Chicago suburb, which isn't built for walking at all, I get horribly depressed at all the useless driving that we have to do.
But this is America, and if you're going to sell people on smart planning, you have to drop the moral scolding about car use and stop making public transit seem like the duty of virtuous people, and talk up how much better it is to live somewhere with smart planning; in fact, you should probably emphasize that rich people live in walkable neighborhoods, even if it isn't true. People will walk if walking is a luxury good.
I half-jokingly suggested this in comments yesterday, but maybe it's not a bad idea: when trying to decide whether a given word has gendered connotations, do a google image search on it and see what turns up. It's not dispositive for any given word, but when the results are overwhelming (you get more pictures of breasts if you search for "perky" than if you search for "breasts"), it gives you a good idea of the salient mainstream connotations.
I'm so sick of those ads that are currently blanketing New York and always on TV that feature Gene Simmons bragging about having slept with over 4600 women. That's fucking gross. That's not an accomplishment to be celebrated; that's disturbed.
Two stories via Atrios, and maybe y'all can make sense of them. First, one about children (including pre-schoolers) who are being labeled sexual harassers, and second, a major freakout about letting a nine-year-old kid ride the NY subway by himself. There's probably no coherent principle that explains both of these phenomena, except maybe that everything is seen as a threat to one's autonomy and physical integrity, and that children--who are the "field" where these anxieties are played out--are either mini-threats or the most threatened.
I enjoy playing chess (correction, winning at chess) , traveling, reading - my new favorite book "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman - he's a brilliant writer.
Take that, smarties.
From tonight's play:
It's weird when you wake up one morning and realize that your entire adult life was based on the decisions of a teenager.
1. I ignore news I'd rather just go away as well, but it's still funny that there's not a single mention of John Yoo either on Insty, or Powerline, or Hewitt.
A couple of days ago (look, I've completely fallen behind on my internet reading), Judith Shulevitz at Slate's XX Factor had an excellent post on billable hours.
But, my friend said, law firms are never going to be able to keep their promises not to discriminate against lawyers who turn into caregivers, are never going make their workplaces truly family-friendly, unless they change the way they do business. The billable hour, he said: That's the problem. As long as the measure of productivity is the billable hour, lawyers fighting to get home to their children will always look less productive than lawyers who can work all night. Said my friend the managing partner: We all know lawyers who can get twice as much done in the same time as other lawyers, but those lawyers are not rewarded for their efficiency, or, at least, they're not rewarded enough--because they're not bringing in money. And we all know women who become twice as productive in the same time after they've had children, because they know they've got no slack at the end of the day. They're not rewarded, either. To take an obvious example of how status is allotted to the lawyer with the most available hours, he said, imagine you're a partner who has to pick someone to head up an important case. You are never going to chose someone who goes home at 5 p.m. Your team leader will to be a person who can put in as many hours as it takes, both to keep the client happy and to keep the firm's bill as high as it can be.
In other words, he said, in the through-the-looking-glass economy of the law firm, efficiency is a lesser criterion than availability. The irony of this upside-down ethos, my friend observed, is that it costs clients quite a lot of money. Imagine, he said, that law firms billed by the project, rather than by the hour, and that they bid against each other for projects. And now imagine how much lower a bid a firm could make if it rewarded its lawyers for working quickly rather than giving them incentives to work slowly. Clients would save money, law firms would be more competitive, and efficient lawyers would advance to the heads of their firms. All this is quite obvious to everyone involved in managing a law firm, he said. But for reasons too complicated to get into here--though the word "inertia" appears in each of them--no one wants to change the way things are done. Or maybe they don't want to be the first to do so. And yet until they do, he said, the needs of law firms and the needs of families will always be at odds with each another.
I've had exactly that thought before, and it's one of the things I find maddening about law firms.
I keep on vaguely thinking of writing something up about private practice, and why I got along so badly with law firms. Working too many hours wasn't really the problem, although I did hate it -- I'm really liking getting home for dinner with Buck and the kids since I've started my new job. But I think I still need some more time and distance to figure out what I think.
In the regular press, it's being summarized as "3-13 minutes is the optimal amount of time that intercourse should last." There's more detail available here, where you find out that 34 therapists responded to a survey like so:
The average therapists' responses defined the ranges of intercourse activity times: "adequate," from 3-7 minutes; "desirable," from 7-13 minutes; "too short" from 1-2 minutes; and "too long" from 10-30 minutes.
No word on how old or sexually active these people were. Threads like this often include a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle boasting, particularly by guys, about how long they last. Maybe we can avoid that. The question of how long is desirable is one that I'm not sure a lot of guys have considered, since they tend to peg their "performance" to their partners (apparent) pleasure. I'm actually sort of at a loss to even begin answering it. Uhhh, until she's gotten off enough to not start looking for something better? Women seem to have more of a sense of time, because they can get sore or overstimulated if intercourse lasts too long, or fail to have an orgasm (which isn't necessarily the point, no, but come on) if doesn't last long enough.
Good swimming is totally sensual and sexy. You've got rhythm, feel, power, and wet, nearly-naked bodies. But it's not marketed that way in the US. Here it's just beefcake, if it's anything at all. Which reminds me that I saw a billboard advertisement for tires the other day with the tagline "Punish The Pavement." Please join me for a moment of hating America.
Ha. Here's a new Powerbar ad with Michael Phelps.
Two funny things about John Yoo's Rate My Professors page:
(a) the way he gives new meaning to the term "criminal law"
(b) this comment:
those cannot do.... teach... law professor are a fraud.. not till the class was over did i realize profesor has "ivory tower" mentality to law. never spent a day outside of academia. whole life..from one school to another school. those cannot do... teach... here's an true example
As another poster says, the one thing you can't say about Yoo is that he never had an impact on the "real world."
I don't remember where I saw this 1982 interview of Miles Davis linked, but it's fantastic. Bryant Gumbel is so not up to interviewing Davis that it should be a total botch, but Gumbel, with his tired categories, winds up as a foil for Davis, who isn't just incredibly cool, but has clearly thought a lot about what music is and means and subverts one thoughtless question after another.
I just skimmed the newly released Yoo torture memos (Part 1, Part 2.) On a quick reading, the argument is "No civilian laws bar us from torturing prisoners because this is a war; the law of war doesn't apply to bar us from torturing prisoners because this isn't the kind of war where the law of war applies." (h/t Zuzu for the link.)
I'm not sure how I feel about academic freedom as it applies to firing Yoo from his Berkeley job for moral turpitude, but I'd certainly like to see some full-scale shunning going on.
Wall text for Gustave Courbet's Sleep:
The implied lesbianism must be considered in relation to the intended male audience.
I'm sitting in my mechanic's waiting room. Free wifi is great, but an extra two hours and $300 is not. So I'll tell you about trying out various video sharing services yesterday. I bought this glorified ziploc bag in order to use my camera underwater at the pool, and shockingly, it works. I then uploaded the video (since taken down, stalkers) to Viddyou, Vimeo, Motionbox and YouTube. By far the easiest to use, with lots of feedback about what was happening, and clear options for privacy settings and the like, was Vimeo. YouTube was pretty easy to use, but the quality of the uploaded video basically sucked. Viddyou was crappy from start to finish [Upon review, this is a bit overstated. I still much prefer Vimeo's interface and process, but the video quality at Viddyou is actually just as good as Vimeo]. And Motionbox was medium-easy to use, but their "full screen" viewing option had the best video quality of all the services (slightly better than Vimeo, which was second best). Now you can upload homemade porn for us all to enjoy, or tell me that Vimeo kills African children.
Now with readable text.
Our best shot at answering the "how many five-year-olds could you beat in a fight?" spoiled by a rat.
Eleven [third grade] students got together and plotted to kill their teacher, even going so far as to bring handcuffs and a knife to school, Waycross police said.
One of the teacher's relatives said each child at Center Elementary School in Waycross had a job to do, including one assigned to wipe up the blood.
The plot unraveled over the weekend when a student tipped off police, Local 6 reported.
Frankly, it sounds like the teacher deserved it.
The police chief in Waycross said that he believes the plan may have been developed because one of the students was punished with some sort of time out.
Bad parenting. It's real.
In other exciting swimming technology developments, it turns out that the new Speedo suit will make a cock look a stepped-on tube of toothpaste and eliminate boobies entirely.
From an article on how many American Muslims are turning to home schooling, this line jumped out for me:
Robina Asghar, a Muslim who does social work in Stockton, Calif., says the fact that her son was repeatedly branded a "terrorist" in school hallways sharpened his interest in civil rights and inspired a dream to become a lawyer. He now attends a Catholic high school.
That was very much the case for the Catholic high school I went to -- about 5-10% of the students each year were Hindu or Muslim, a higher percentage than at the public schools. Some were from families that wanted their kids to be taught in a "moral" environment and figured a religious school, even if of a different religion, was more likely to fit the bill and others were there because they found it more tolerant than the public schools. I'm sure that's not the case at all Catholic schools and that a handful of you will jump in with stories showing just the opposite but I was always proud that the Catholic schools that I knew went out of their way to be inclusive and welcome others without proselytizing, when they easily could have been an insular community.
I've been staying in the hospital with my girl, which is stressful and doesn't involve a lot of good eats*, plus I've had this stupid virus too. Only a little puking on my part, but lots of feeling queasy etc. So you know what's sad? I'm really happy I'm losing weight. 3 kilos! Only a couple more and I'll be back to my pre-first-pregnancy weight. I just have to make sure I don't start eating a normal amount of food when I feel better. That's not even totally, true, actually; if I can get to a given set point I often stay there without much trouble. I just can't eat lots of Toblerone every day. In related news, the anorexic/bulimic chick in my multi-addictions women's meeting looks great. Nothing like positive body image!
*The truth is, the food court here has better food than 98% of US Chinese restaurants. Teochew dumpling noodle soup, really good desserts like bubor hitam and tang yuan in longan syrup, and lots of delicious fresh fruit. I come here sometimes when no one is sick. It's just I've been staying in the room with her round the clock.
I was watching this week's Pot Psychology (don't bother, this ep's not that great) and the first question asked why some guys make heavy breathing "what are you wearing" masturbation calls to random girls. I can tell you: because on rare occasions, it works.
The question flashed me back to an incident in college when I accidentally had phone sex. My roommate at the time had a best friend from high school who was always calling and playing elaborate pranks. One night, I was home by myself and got a call from a guy asking bizarre sexual questions. This wasn't too far from other stunts her friend had pulled in the past so I thought it was him and played along with what I thought was the joke, all the time waiting for the punchline. Our conversation didn't end with a punchline, but with another kind of climax, at which point I realized it wasn't her HS BFF and was horrified and slammed the phone down. I spent the next week completely embarrassed, wondering who it was that I'd talked to (god forbid if it was one of the students I was TAing) and whether they'd told all of their friends about me. I still have no idea who that was.
Ezra Klein has an op-ed in the LA Times on prison rape, primarily on the fact that:
Prison rape occupies a fairly odd space in our culture. It is, all at once, a cherished source of humor, a tacitly accepted form of punishment and a broadly understood human rights abuse. We pass legislation called the Prison Rape Elimination Act at the same time that we produce films meant to explore the funny side of inmate sexual brutality.
And I agree with it completely.
Sadly, though, it instantly reminded me of a really funny prison rape joke ("You're not going to like Thursdays," for anyone who's heard it). Which I still think is funny.
What is that? Why is it that some things that I recognize as tragic and horrible really aren't funny for me, while others, like prison rape, are? Just cultural consensus -- no one I don't despise tells straightforwardly racist jokes, so I don't think they're funny, while people I get along with do tell prison rape jokes?
I make a half-assed effort to buy mostly local, seasonal produce. (Very half-assed. But it's something I think about some.) And out of season strawberries annoy me particularly, partially because they seem so wasteful and decadent (shipping something that soft and perishable from Mexico to NY?), and they're also pretty lousy considered as strawberries -- they're all crisp and tasteless. If you want a fresh strawberry, eat them when they taste good, which is when they're ripe wherever you are. (The same argument applies to tomatoes, of course.)
On the other hand, we buy frozen berries all the time, and this seems perfectly reasonable to me. Pick it when it's ripe, and freeze it -- it won't be fresh, but at least it'll have some flavor. It recently occurred to me, though, that I have no idea what the energy usage or environmental impact of keeping a pound of strawberries frozen for a year, as compared to shipping them fresh from Mexico in February, is. It seems perfectly possible that I'm pluming myself on eating low-impact, while actually doing more environmental damage. Anyone have any idea how the math works out on this one?