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Summer List

Posted by Becks
on 04.12.08

Each major change of the seasons I make a list of things I want to do before it's up. (Examples: last summer - a picnic by the river [accomplished!] and last winter - snow tubing [not accomplished!])

This summer, I'm drawing a blank. It could just be exhaustion from a busy week so help me out: What's your list for the summer?


 

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Lacunae

Posted by Ogged
on 04.12.08

There's a lesbian personal trainer who is flipping hot straight women on her own TV show and I haven't heard about this? I, no, we need to watch a lot more TV.


 

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If Anyone Else Is Learning Spanish

Posted by LizardBreath
on 04.12.08

Back in February, I posted about being surprised by an educational Spanish podcast populated by Scots. Dr. B pointed me at SpanishPod, which has a daily 15-minute-ish podcast Spanish lesson, and I'm liking it*.

It's set at varying difficulty levels, from 'Donde esta el baño?' with a lot of framing English explanation, to an all-Spanish discussion of fine points of grammar and idiom, and you can subscribe to whichever's appropriate for you, which would give you about one lesson a week at any given level. I end up listening to them all -- what I really need is the one-step-up from 'Donde esta el baño?' lessons, but I figure fifteen minutes of incomprehensible Spanish is probably sinking in on some level, and I'm starting to pick words out of even the stuff I couldn't understand at all a couple of months ago.

This Spanish thing, boy, though... I'm making a fair amount of progress, using the Rosetta Stone software and listening to SpanishPod on my commute. I'm hitting that point I always hit in language learning, though, where I think "Okay, I'm adding words to my vocabulary, a couple every day. At this rate, in fourteen thousand years I'll be fluent." Languages are just so damn big. But I'm going to keep plugging -- if I can get to the point where I'm literate enough to read dumb fiction with any understanding, that should help a great deal.

*As a bonus, one of the people running it, and the co-host of the lessons, is JP Villanueva, a friend of Dr. B's.


 

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Localism

Posted by Ogged
on 04.12.08

Bay Area chocolate lovers just might want to take themselves to the Bittersweet Cafe, which has not only dozens of kinds of chocolate bars, each with a precious wine-review-style blurb, but some incredibly good hot chocolate. I had the "The Bittersweet," which is just chocolate (not powder) melted with a bit of water, and chickie had the "Spicy!" which is " Hot and spicy, a kick of pepper and a hint of cinnamon and rose." So yummy, the both of them.

Note: Ben W-lfs-n desperately wants you to know that he's the one who told me about this place.


 

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You Can't Say That Here

Posted by Ogged
on 04.12.08

As Atrios said about a different incident, "Our political discourse is so stupid."

It really is. Almost unimaginably so. Obama said,

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," he said.

"And it's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations," he added.

Clinton responded.

"Sen. Obama's remarks are elitist, and they're out of touch. They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans. Certainly not the Americans I know, not the Americas I grew up with, not the Americans I lived with in Arkansas or represent in New York,"

During her speech, Clinton went even further than she did on Friday, attacking Obama for his comments about people clinging to guns and religion.
She said, "You know, Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it's a matter of constitutional right. Americans who believe in God believe it's a matter of personal faith. Americans who believe in protecting good American jobs believe it's a matter of the American dream."

And McCain's camp.

Clinton's comments echo sentiments expressed by Sen. John McCain adviser Steve Schmidt on Friday. He called Obama's thoughts on small-town Pennsylvanians a "remarkable statement and extremely revealing ... It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking. It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."

Of course, Obama is correct. But our political discourse isn't bound by rules of truth, but different rules about which truths are allowable and which truths are "gaffes." After saying that he didn't express himself as well as he might have, I'm glad to see Obama acting more like himself.

"No, I'm in touch," Mr. Obama said. "I know exactly what's going on. I know what's going on in Pennsylvania, I know what's going on in Indiana, I know what's going on in Illinois. People are fed up, they're angry, they're frustrated, they're bitter and they want to see a change in Washington. That's why I'm running for president of the United States of America."

Good luck, man. You're going to need it.


 

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Doggy Style

Posted by Becks
on 04.11.08

It seems like when the people I know have dogs, they have an affinity for one kind of breed. Often it's the same kind of breed as their childhood dog or one that a family member had when they were growing up. Everyone in my family has Springer Spaniels; when my parents adopted two dogs, getting another kind didn't even cross their mind.

A friend of mine is now considering getting a dog but is going in with a blank slate. That sounds exciting but, at the same time, kind of overwhelming. How would you choose?


 

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A Thought And A Question

Posted by Ogged
on 04.11.08

1) Contemplating how alternatively maudlin and quick to anger I am when I don't sleep well, I thought about the evil electric lightbulb, and the havoc it's wrought on humanity's sleep and considered too that the generations of the early twentieth century were the first to deal with its disruptions and, yes, I believe I've just proven that the Thomas Edison is responsible for the first and second World Wars.

2) Someone in another thread today mentioned "cuddle parties" and I started to think about how touch-deprived so many people in America must be. After you move away from home, if you're single, you can go literally months (years?) without touching another person, even casually or accidentally. That seems both true and hard to believe. It also seems very fucked up. So how long has it been since you touched someone? How long have you ever gone without touching someone? I've certainly gone months without, and it nearly turned me to participating in a prostitution ring as a client.


 

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New-seums

Posted by Becks
on 04.11.08

I went to the (re)opening of the Newseum today and it was meh. I had the same feeling about it as I did the Constitution Center in Philadelphia -- that there was more focus on "interactivity" and whiz bang technology than on content, and that there was too much focus on recent events rather than approaching the museum's topic from a historical perspective.

Has anyone been to a non-art, non-science/nature museum that managed to pull this off well? Is it technology dooming these museums? Or are non-art, non-science/nature museums just troublesome from the conception?


 

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Disillusioned, At Last

Posted by Ogged
on 04.11.08

I have a feeling that only American guys between the ages of 32 and 38 will have any idea what I mean, but seeing Joanie acting like a crazed trollop ground the last bits of my wistful nostalgia into dust.

Via the Superficial, who also tells me that Spitzer's wife knew about the hookers.


 

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Clarification, please

Posted by Ben
on 04.10.08

I just, finally, saw, for the first time, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (or rather, most of it; one scene was deleted for fear, I imagine, that the Dauphin might have been in the audience), in the park, while freezing half to death. Quick question: we are supposed to find Mr. Hand a sympathetic and admirable character, right?


 

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Soft Eyes, Hard Right

Posted by Ogged
on 04.10.08

Baltimore Schools, just as dangerous as they seem on The Wire.

That the principal is talking about "trigger words" is pretty chilling. It makes it sound like the administrators seem themselves as wardens, or, maybe more accurately, as zookeepers surrounded by scary animals. I think I've already made the point about ongoing racism in the US, so consider it referenced. (In this case, the racism is in abandoning the "inner cities," not anything an individual in this story did.)


 

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Publish or perish (and be cast into the Lake of Fire).

Posted by Apostropher
on 04.10.08

Well, my peers said it was okay.

Presently lacking within creationism is a justification and explanation of peer review from a Christian standpoint. What are the aims of peer review? Is peer review biblical? How should it be done given Christian morals, values, and ethics? Creationists value peer review (at least six English-language creationist publications claim to engage in peer review, Table 1), but we do so without a clear understanding of why.

[...]

Christians have two primary commands to follow in all activities: to love God and to love others. We believe that peer review helps to fulfill both of these commands. Peer review aids us in loving God by reflecting His character in this world. Likewise, peer review helps us love our neighbors by putting only the best published materials into their hands. Ultimately, we believe that these two divine commands can be fulfilled in the peer review process.

Via.


 

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Bits vs. Brains

Posted by Becks
on 04.10.08

Julian Sanchez discusses an interesting paradox: why are we pleased when salespeople at high-end stores (or the local coffee shop) remember our preferences and greet us by name but creeped out by the loss of privacy when computers do the same? I think he accurately pegs it as the potential for aggregation but I think there's also the accountability factor -- if that salesman at Nordstrom tells others about your personal details, you have a pretty good idea who did it because the information held by each person is more discrete and you can find him and kick his ass. If data you don't want people knowing about your purchases starts floating around the internet, it's hard to track down the original source of the data. And you can't find someone's ass to kick.


 

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Go Do It

Posted by Ogged
on 04.10.08

Big ABC News story today that Rice, Powell, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Cheney and Ashcroft personally met to discuss in detail and approve torture methods, and not just once globally, but in each case. Once again, Ashcroft comes off as the only one with a conscience (although even then he seems more concerned about being involved than in what's being done). And stipulating that these people have done a horrible wrong, I think it's still worth thinking about what you would have done in their place, if you had limited information, a belief that we'd be attacked again, and personal responsibility for the lives of your fellow citizens.


 

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High Quality

Posted by Becks
on 04.10.08

Look who's back!


 

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Feng Shwing

Posted by Ogged
on 04.09.08

I really like Labs' design sense.


 

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I Continue To Love Camille Paglia

Posted by Ogged
on 04.09.08

She writes,

You have succinctly expressed one of the most unsettling aspects of Hillary Clinton's character and modus operandi. There is a strangely static and claustrophobic quality to the fiercely loyal cult she has gathered around her since her first lady years. Postmortem analysts of this presidential campaign will have a field day ferreting out all the cringe-making blunders made by her clique of tired, aging courtiers who couldn't adjust to changing political realities. Hillary's forces have acted like the heavy, pompous galleons of the imperial Spanish Armada, outmaneuvered by the quick, bold, entrepreneurial ships of the English fleet.

I agree that the male staff who Hillary attracts are slick, geeky weasels or rancid, asexual cream puffs. (One of the latter, the insufferable Mark Penn, just got the heave-ho after he played Hillary for a patsy with the Colombian government.) If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say Hillary is reconstituting the toxic hierarchy of her childhood household, with her on top instead of her drill-sergeant father. All those seething beta males (as you so aptly describe them) are versions of her sad-sack brothers, who got the short end of the Rodham DNA stick.

Is it true? Who knows. Who cares. After you've cast your lot with the Democrats or the Republicans, the only thing left to think about is that the country (and often the whole world) invariably ends up playing out the American president's psychodrama, and Paglia is the only person in anything near the mainstream press who takes that seriously and tries to address it with actual insight, instead of "analyzing" "character" in the pre-packaged concepts of the rest of the media ("bold" "tough" "flip-flopper" "fibber" etc.) Which is to say that she tries to articulate (overheatedly and intemperately, to be sure) real people's real emotional reactions to the candidates.

You may now bore me with your Paglia hatred.


 

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Shortage

Posted by Ogged
on 04.09.08

If you read The Arabist, you know that Egypt is in turmoil over food shortages, and Tony Karon says it's possible that the Egyptian government could be overthrown, and that the problem of unaffordable food isn't confined to Egypt. Very much worth reading, and there's this great bit.

(Think post-Katrina New Orleans -- "looting" is far too loaded a word to describe people defying the property relations that stand between them and starvation. What, for example, would Jesus have done? Come on, you know the answer!)

Indeed.


 

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Torched

Posted by Becks
on 04.09.08

All of the protests leading up to the Beijing Olympics got me wondering: I wonder if there would be more or fewer protests if the U.S. was hosting this year.


 

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Grr

Posted by Ogged
on 04.09.08

Draw your own conclusions about John McCain based on this story. What struck me was the last line from Lewis: "The politics were never all that important." To whom? To the chummy members of the club? Do we even know that? Or to journalists like Lewis? They're certainly important to the people who don't know from McCain or Udall, but are affected by their policies. It's not that "politics" aren't important, but that treating other people like human beings is a better way to practice politics.


 

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Success

Posted by Ogged
on 04.09.08

The Lizardbreath sways DeLong.

(LB's comment is here.)


 

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I sincerely doubt he ate an entire tuna

Posted by Ben
on 04.09.08

If you were wondering what liquid or solid foodstuffs Georges Perec may have consumed in 1974, wonder no more. Except when you get to the part that google doesn't include in its preview, not long after he moves into the liquid portion of the catalogue (dude drank a lot of wine, not even bothering to enumerate the "n miscellaneous wines" not worth being named); then you can start wondering again.


 

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I Can Resist Everything But Trolling

Posted by Ogged
on 04.08.08

Semi-fascinating, semi-bizarre little article about willpower. via explananda

Interestingly, restraining our consumer spending, in the short term, may cause us to actually loosen the belts around our waists. What's the connection? The brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others.

...

The brain's store of willpower is depleted when people control their thoughts, feelings or impulses, or when they modify their behavior in pursuit of goals. Psychologist Roy Baumeister and others have found that people who successfully accomplish one task requiring self-control are less persistent on a second, seemingly unrelated task.

What's interesting is the suggestive evidence of a physical explanation.

What limits willpower? Some have suggested that it is blood sugar, which brain cells use as their main energy source and cannot do without for even a few minutes. ... Exerting self-control lowers blood sugar, which reduces the capacity for further self-control. People who drink a glass of lemonade between completing one task requiring self-control and beginning a second one perform equally well on both tasks, while people who drink sugarless diet lemonade make more errors on the second task than on the first. Foods that persistently elevate blood sugar, like those containing protein or complex carbohydrates, might enhance willpower for longer periods.

As we found out during the smoking discussion, I'm living on a different planet from youse contemporary Americans when it comes to discussions of willpower, but maybe it's that I'm a protein-eating machine, and that I keep getting better, while you all languish, like pigs in mud:

Focusing on success is important because willpower can grow in the long term. Like a muscle, willpower seems to become stronger with use....

In psychological studies, even something as simple as using your nondominant hand to brush your teeth for two weeks can increase willpower capacity. People who stick to an exercise program for two months report reducing their impulsive spending, junk food intake, alcohol use and smoking. They also study more, watch less television and do more housework. Other forms of willpower training, like money-management classes, work as well.

Although that's not quite so convincing, and this (emphasis added) even less so.

No one knows why willpower can grow with practice but it must reflect some biological change in the brain.

It must? Anyway, interesting stuff, for the rest of you.


 

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Idol!

Posted by Ogged
on 04.08.08

I've been a bad blogger and haven't watched this season of American Idol, despite my love for the show. Luckily, Joe Drymala has been watching and makes the official endorsement over at his brand new blog.


 

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Screw It

Posted by Becks
on 04.08.08

Power tools get all the glory. Ratcheting tools are underrated.


 

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Commuter Games

Posted by Becks
on 04.08.08

For the first time in my life, I'm going to be commuting to work by car. I'm going to have about 45 minutes in my car each morning and on the way home. For those of you who do that, any tips? Any gadgets that will make my life easier? And, of course, I don't like the idea of that being dead time. Any suggestions for podcasts or other forms of entertainment to pass the time?


 

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The Traffic Circle Of Hell

Posted by Becks
on 04.07.08

I spent the day at the DMV getting my car inspected and then rented a Zipcar and picked up some stuff from IKEA. On the way to the store, it hit me: there must be some poor schmo whose entire job is taking a different Zipcar each day to get inspected. At least I think so - there were taxis in line with me so I don't think there's a special process for fleet vehicles. How much would that suck.

And I'll warn you that this is about the level of insight to expect from me for the next week.


 

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Talk To The Pitchfork, Professor

Posted by Ogged
on 04.07.08

I disagree with Rauchway's cautionary note about sacking John Yoo. You should read his whole argument in full, because he's just going to tell you haven't read it if you start arguing with him.

So, first there's this.

Again, I do not think the University of California is a fit agency to determine even a prima facie case as to who might be a criminal. That job belongs to a grand jury or similar institution.

I think people are being misled by the term "war criminal." You don't, as far as I know, have to establish that Yoo is a war criminal to go about depriving him of his tenured position. "Horrible human being who facilitated horrible things," seems quite sufficient. It's not a matter of criminal law.

But, say Rauchway and the academics,

Start adjudicating "moral turpitude" and it's not long before freethinkers and homosexuals are for the chop, too.

Maybe, maybe not. All slippery slopes aren't the same, and you can't just assert that we can't move to fire Yoo for moral turpitude because then academic freedom will be irrevocably compromised. Academic freedom is always under pressure, and you'd have to show how Yoo's firing would significantly alter things, and you'd have to take into account the university's compromised moral position and its ongoing support from liberals (surely they exist) when you made that calculation.

What Rauchway wants to do--and it certainly makes sense for an academic to want this--is to deal with Yoo while effectively insulating faculty from extra-academic pressure. Obviously there are good reasons to want this, but that it should be an inviolable principle isn't self-evident; given how reluctant academics are going to be to establish any effective methods for their own removal, I think the rest of us should push pretty hard when there's a clear case of the university shielding a horrible person who facilitated horrible things.

And just to try to preempt talk about "proceduralism:" what I'm proposing isn't anti-proceduralism, it's just taking issue with where the power behind the procedure is to be located.


 

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A Weekend Travelogue, With Product Placement

Posted by Ogged
on 04.07.08

No kayaking, too windy. Horseback riding: my ass hurts, but the views were great. Stayed at Olema Cottages, just down the road from Point Reyes Station, yuppie rustic central, with a Zagat-rated restaurant, the Cowgirl Creamery (with Bellweather Farms yogurt; mmmm), and fancy knick knack shops. Said one customer, "Do you have anything with a crow on it? I have a friend who's transitioning soon and the crow is her power animal." "Transitioning" means "dying."

Went to Drake's Beach, learned that Drake the English hero is invoked to scare children in Spanish-speaking countries. Then to Kule Loklo, replica of a Native America village. No Native Americans in sight.

There you have it. Pictures here. 45 minutes north of the Golden Gate: middle of nowhere physically, smack in the middle of the Bay Area spiritually, if you will.


 

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The Invisible Hand

Posted by Ogged
on 04.07.08

Via Drum, an article on party rules that no political geek will be able to resist.

For almost four decades I have been inflicting on friends, family, airplane seatmates, straphangers on the subway and other random acquaintances my stupefying knowledge of party rules. To me this is a subject so enthralling that I cannot understand anyone's being indifferent to it.

I have written scholarly articles and op-ed pieces, testified, lobbied and litigated, presented maps, tables and charts, consulted, advised and given interviews on the topic. About twenty-five years ago I directed a project analyzing party rules in all the fifty states. My young assistant in this task later foreswore politics and entered a monastic order.

As it happens, this time around, minor party rule changes had (and have) huge effects on both nomination contests. Good stuff.


 

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This just in

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 04.07.08

Big news in Milford: Frank Bolle has apparently been replaced by Rod Whigham. I like the new look a lot: crisp, high contrast, strong chin. Hot. Whigham has a strange tendency to draw Mimi with a dark upper lip (see also here) which makes her look like she's got one of those thin Prince mustaches. If only the haircut matched, we could have a much, much butcher strip.


 

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Decisions of a Teenager, Cont.

Posted by Becks
on 04.06.08

Following on this, a corollary: Be very careful when selecting the color of that first Billy bookcase you buy from IKEA. You will buy a second bookcase of the same color, then a table matching the bookcase, and then next thing you know, all of your furniture purchases for the rest of your adult life will be driven by that one $59 bookcase.


 

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Meet The Parents

Posted by Becks
on 04.06.08

Introducing a parent to someone you're dating is always fraught but it seems like same gender introductions (a boy to a girl's father, a girl to a boy's mother) tend to cause the most anxiety. Is the explanation merely Freudian or that one sees the other as replacing them or is something else at play?


 

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Not sure what to make of this

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 04.06.08

A blog friend sends along this catalog of goods from Persians for McCain.

238299796v2_240x240_Front.jpg

Oh yes.


 

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