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What A Tool

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.24.08

Shopping at the farmers' market this morning, I walked past a man wearing a white, ring-necked t-shirt with the words "New York City" on it, with shaggy longish hair, and little round sunglasses. The whole thing ended up looking rather like this:

John-Lennon-New-York-1974-Posters.jpg

Who gets up in the morning and thinks "I'm going to dress up as John Lennon and go wander around an Upper Manhattan farmers' market"? I suppose the effect could have been unintentional, but it was hard to believe.


 

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The Visitor

Posted by Ogged
on 05.24.08

Went to see The Visitor last night, and although it's not very subtle, nor rings quite true, nor escapes viewing immigrants as a means, its heart is in the right place and Richard Jenkins' lead performance is very good, and Haaz Sleiman absolutely embodies a certain kind of winning immigrant personality that I know pretty well, and so I wasn't disappointed, all told.

And it's written and directed by Tom McCarthy, who also did The Station Agent, which I haven't seen, and who played Templeton, the ambitious young reporter in the fifth season of the The Wire. Yes, that guy.


 

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At Four, They Invented High Speed Cameras

Posted by Ogged
on 05.24.08

Through the miracle of technology, a brief clip of Eli Lake speaking in the last bloggingheads.


 

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I Don't Get This

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.24.08

The Times has a peculiar story today, in the "look how pressured high-school students are these days" genre. Apparently students are scheduling so many classes in their day that their schedules don't have time for lunch, the schools are trying to force them to schedule a lunch period, and the students are rebelling, because they feel like they're missing opportunities by not being able to take classes scheduled during their lunch periods.

This makes literally no sense to me. If this is a problem at all, what are the schools thinking? Why isn't there a, you know, lunch period, when classes aren't scheduled and the kids don't have to make a tradeoff between eating a reasonable lunch and taking the classes they need? If there's a story for real here, it's a story about whatever budgetary constraints and misplaced priorities are making high school administrations overschedule the day, rather than about how those wacky kids are just so driven these days, the little rascals. I hate stories that psychologize systematic problems.

Update: From SCMT, in comments, on why "look at how driven high school kids are these days!" is an evergreen story:

I think they accomplish several things: (a) they encourage people to work as hard as possible for fear of falling behind, (b) they explain to people who haven't had the success they wanted that they failed for not working hard enough, (c) they give people who have had unexpected success a pat on the back for being so awesome, and (d) they read out of the success algorithm all sorts of factors with which we're uncomfortable, and so allow us to believe strongly in the existence of a strict meritocracy.

 

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Slug Bug

Posted by Becks
on 05.23.08

I'm packing tonight for tomorrow's long drive down to the beach, which got me thinking about games we used to play to kill time in the car when I was a kid. My family's favorite was "end to end", where a person would say a word and then the next person would have to say a word with a first letter that matched the last letter of the previous word, usually ending only when one of us ran out of words beginning with the letter "e". It could easily get us across two or three large Midwestern states.


 

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Luttwak b/w wedding party thoughts

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.23.08

First:

I was having lunch with a friend who's an Islamic studies scholar, and I asked about the "who counts as Muslim" question that's behind that Luttwak article we kicked around a bit recently. Her view was basically this: there are two sorts of questions you might be asking when you ask who is a Muslim. The first is a religious/spiritual
question; the second is a legal question.

The first question doesn't really have any application in the case of children below the age of reason. Spiritual or religious status is not passed down genetically, any more than apostasy is.

Aside: It's hard to see a need to answer the religious question with respect to pre-rational children because these children are not accountable for their actions, and because intentional action seems to be the basis of judgment on the Last Day. Islam doesn't recognize original sin, for example, so young children don't need to be brought back into a proper relationship with God.

The second question matters for things like inheritance, since different rules govern property for Muslims and non-Muslims. In this sense Obama might count as a Muslim because of his father-- that is, he was, in some sense, born into the community, and so his inheritance might be governed by one set of rules rather than another. But this sense doesn't carry with it the condemnation for apostasy.

Final thought on this: what's annoying about this, as Ogged points out, is that Luttwak's column presumes that Muslims are cartoons rather than actual people. This stuff comes up all the time. Of course there are cases of orphans, children of parents who convert, and so on, and these cases get resolved in various ways. Shorter: he should have asked.

Anyway, I'm just reporting on a quick conversation. Allahu alam.

Second:

You can tell a lot about a man by the rental tux he makes his groomsmen wear. Just saying.


 

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Off The Top Of My Head

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.08

This strikes me as extremely ill-spoken, rather than calculatedly malicious, but I'm guessing it will be the thing that turns the most people off.

"My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand [the calls to drop out].


 

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Let's Game This Out

Posted by Ogged
on 05.23.08

On the one hand, I read things like Digby's description of the Obama is a Muslim/is an apostate/is un-American campaign, and despair for America. On the other hand, this.

So I wonder: if we re-fought the Civil War today, which states would be on what side, and who would win? I defer to your expertise, O Unfoggetariat.


 

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The Title Of This Post Is Orange

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.23.08

Witt sent in the following volunteer opportunity, which seems to be completely up the alley of our Washington commenters:

Help Upwardly Global reach your network in Washington D.C. On June 8th and 9th, Upwardly Global will be hosting a Career Summit for Iraqi professionals who have arrived in the U.S. after risking their lives working for the Americans in Iraq. In order for this seminar to be successful, we need an army of volunteers for resume writing and mock interviewing workshops.

Please pass this registration link to your friends and family in the D.C. Metro area. Click here to learn more about these Iraqis' experiences, as covered by ABC7 news in San Francisco.


 

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Reality Distortion Field

Posted by Ogged
on 05.22.08

Last month, Bill Simmons got it exactly right.

...Kima's lesbian ex-girlfriend on "The Wire" who now plays a housewife in those commercials for the new Viera televisions. Am I the only one who feels like nobody from "The Wire" should ever be allowed to work again? I feel like all of the "Wire" characters were real people -- I can't handle seeing Kima's ex or Murray the lawyer or Clay Davis in 30-second ads. I just can't.

I was willing to laugh this off until just tonight I saw Omar co-starring with R. Kelly in some horrible movie on IFC and found out that Michael is going to be on the new 90210. I am not making this up.

We need to lobby congress for subsidies for anyone who ever worked on The Wire, to ensure that they live in luxury and never, ever appear on our televisions again.


 

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The Right: Objectively Anti-Three-Year-Old

Posted by Ogged
on 05.22.08

Heh.


 

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Purchase

Posted by Becks
on 05.22.08

After my most recent move, I decided I need to cut down on the amount of crap I own. I decided that before I make any purchase, I should ask myself "Do you want this so badly that you're willing to pack and move it three times?" It seems to work -- I successfully managed to avoid buying a bunch of crap at Target last night by asking that. I wonder if this will continue to work over time or if my resistance will fade with my memory of how terrible moving is.

I'm also not buying any clothing unless I already know an occasion or situation when I would wear it. I'm doing well with that resolution, too, as long as Ogged asks BPL to marry him sometime this summer.


 

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Nutpicking The American Populace

Posted by Ogged
on 05.22.08

It's not going to be hard to find overt racism being spouted by random people for the next several months, and I'll try not to wallow in that. But this line seemed interesting to me.

"His father was a Muslim and you can't take that out of him," said Ms. Chotiner, 51, who said she would still vote for Mr. Obama, out of Democratic loyalty. "Do I have very strong reservations? Yes, I do," she said.

On the one hand, that's plain tainted-blood racism. On the other hand, depending on how it's meant, it's true. As some people are fond of pointing out, I am exceedingly white culturally, but it's also the case that despite even my parents being anti-religious, I consider myself a Muslim in some sense, and Muslims seem like real people to me, rather than just weird foreign types, like, say, Norwegians. Presumably, this woman, who is voting for Obama, means something like that: Muslims are real people to him and there will be some tug of sympathy when he thinks of them. To her, and to lots of Americans, that's one of Obama's weaknesses, although of course many people see it as the asset that it is. What's perverse is that in the political arena, this latter point--yes, he has a connection, but that's a good thing--is a losing argument, so even liberals who understand it have to read her comment as straight racism, and denounce it, which leads to people saying that they're naive idealists...and around we go.


 

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Speaking Of Technology

Posted by Ogged
on 05.22.08

I wanted these barefoot-like shoes

but they're all gone, although I could still get these

except that I'm not a hobbit, so maybe the Nike Free

but the bpl thinks those are "fruity" and recommends these

except that I'm not a world-famous outdoorsman.


 

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One Laptop To Rule Them All

Posted by Becks
on 05.21.08

WANT. I think it's great that kids in the developing world are going to be getting something leaps and bounds more awesome than I have.


 

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Ask The Mineshaft: The Greening Of America Edition

Posted by Ogged
on 05.21.08

The question.

On the topic of being a wasteful American, I've been asked to research "greening" a second home. The house gets relatively little (but some!) use in the winter, and heavy use in the summer. It's in a pretty temperate part of the country, so whatever solution I went with would have to be weather tolerant and would, ideally, work with at least partial efficiency in the winter; the house is heated with electric baseboard heat and a wood stove, and the biggest seemingly avoidable costs right now come from paying to heat the house to keep the pipes from freezing. The summer costs are comparatively low: although the house has two through-wall air conditioners, it's got really good air flow and almost never gets hot enough to make them worthwhile. The house sits on a relatively large piece of land, which made me think geothermal might be a workable solution, and it also has a large south-facing angled roof that could be used for photovoltaics. I'm hoping somebody here has ideas for some products and companies, or has experience doing this kind of retrofit themselves.

-- Glenn Beck

 

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The Kids Are Alright

Posted by Ogged
on 05.21.08

This is just great.

Unable to afford a proper camera crew and equipment, The Get Out Clause, an unsigned band from the city, decided to make use of the cameras seen all over British streets. With an estimated 13 million CCTV cameras in Britain, suitable locations were not hard to come by. They set up their equipment, drum kit and all, in eighty locations around Manchester - including on a bus - and proceeded to play to the cameras. Afterwards they wrote to the companies or organisations involved and asked for the footage under the Freedom of Information Act.

thanks to nicks for the link


 

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Oh, They Still Haven't Fixed This?

Posted by Ogged
on 05.21.08

And now, if you want to talk election politics, you're going to have to know the electoral college map. Howard Dean's pollster, Paul Maslin, breaks it down, state by state, and concludes like this.

VI. Victory, by the numbers
So which of these 17 states do I think Obama really is going to win? How does he reach 270? Taking all these demographics and long-term trends into account, and then whipping out the dartboard, yields the following assessment:
States that strongly favor Obama ("strongly" in the context of close states, that is): Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington. That's 43 electoral votes. Add that to the safe blue 157 votes in 11 states and D.C. and Obama is at 200.
States that slightly favor Obama: Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. Another 55 votes. He's now at 255
States that strongly favor McCain: Florida, North Carolina. Their 42 electoral votes are probably going to the Republicans.
States that slightly favor McCain: Colorado, 9 votes; Missouri, 11 votes; and Virginia, 13 votes. Obama's chances are better here.
Pure toss-ups: Nevada, 5 votes; New Hampshire, 4 votes; New Mexico, 5 votes; and Ohio, 20 votes.
Clearly, and I'm being cautious, I think it's going to be a close race. If Obama wins the 255 votes in the states where he's favored, then to get to 270 he needs to choose from the following menu: 1) Win Ohio, which takes him to 275; 2) win in the West -- Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, for 274; 3) win the three N's (Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire) for 269, plus one other state; or 4) win two of the three N's and either Colorado or Virginia.
The bottom line is that 270 is achievable, provided the Democratic ticket keeps all of these 17 states in play as long as possible. And it looks like it can. Obama has the money to fight in the truly purple states and force his opponent to defend some of the redder ones. For the moment, McCain doesn't have the money to respond in kind. Obama can stretch McCain's scarcer resources. He can also improve the Democratic Party's odds of breaking through and winning its first Electoral College majority in a dozen years.

 

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Early Childhood Interventions

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.21.08

Kathy G., who's been liberal-econ-blogging up a storm lately, has a useful post summarizing some of the research on the beneficial effects of early childhood interventions like Head Start. The quick and dirty summary is that beneficial IQ effects, while real, don't seem to persist to adulthood, but other non-cognitive effects, like reductions in crime and teen pregnancy and increases in earnings among people who received those services as children are significant and persistent, and are of a large enough magnitude to make such interventions cost-effective.

The non-persistence of the IQ effect makes perfect sense to me, and not as evidence that IQ is fundamentally immutable. If you assume that IQ scores derive from some function of 'innate' ability and environment, programs like Head Start raise IQs by putting low SES kids in an environment that favors the expression of higher IQ scores, bringing test scores closer to those of middle class kids that have such a favorable environment at home or through purchased enrichment services. When the lower SES kids are no longer in the enriched environment, but the middle class kids remain in it, the gap reopens over time.

I would love to see second-generation IQ research, although getting the data would probably be somewhere between miserably difficult and impossible. Still, all the non-cognitive benefits of early childhood interventions seem like the sort of thing that would make it much more possible for people who received those interventions as children to provide enriched environments for their children - it'd be neat to find out if there were an effect.


 

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Majority

Posted by Becks
on 05.20.08

Yet another primary night thread.


 

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Ripped Off

Posted by Becks
on 05.20.08

I'm going to the beach this weekend so I decided to go with a friend to do some pre-beach beautifying: a pedicure and some waxing. I'd never done any serious waxing but after a bunch of endorsements from friends, I signed up for the whole deal: underarms, bikini line, and full leg.

How lucky for me: it was the waxer's first time, too! This, of course, was not something I knew at the point when I went back in the little room with her. I started to wonder what was up when she didn't manage to actually get any hair off with her first three strips. I became seriously suspicious when the owner of the salon started popping her head in every couple of minutes to see if everything was OK. When I started bleeding, I asked what the hell was going on. Thank god I had her start with my underarms -- despite doing at least 10 strips, she managed to get barely any hair off (yes, my hair was plenty long. That wasn't the problem. The owner fully acknowledged this girl had fucked up) and decided to just tweeze them. She tweezed the hell out of them slowly and painfully (and yep! still bleeding) for an eternity and then finally announced she was done. I took a look and my underarms were still totally hairy!

I just told her to stop, not wanting to go through any of that anymore, especially with more sensitive areas. I tried to get dressed, grateful I'd picked the red shirt over the white one I almost wore, but couldn't put my arms down. The owner came in, saw the hamburger this woman had turned my pits into, and had me lie down with my hands over my head while she stopped the bleeding and put on a bunch of cooling gel.

The owner comped me a pedicure (and the wax, of course) but I'm far more pissed off about having my skin ripped off than my pocketbook. And I'm wondering what I'm going to do because I still need to shave but don't know if I can because my underarms are going to be covered with scabs. Awesome!


 

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Wasted On The Young

Posted by Ogged
on 05.20.08

Ok, this is hilarious. Fergie does a raunchy stage act...for a bunch of grade schoolers. :30 in is priceless, with her crawling around in front of kids who look to be around six.



 

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We've Been Memed!

Posted by Ogged
on 05.20.08

Five years in and I think this might be a first. Pharyngula tags us (he does say "Unfogged") with this.

Tell the story of a (non-surgical) scar you have somewhere on your body. Answer and tag three other bloggers.

I think we might have had a scar thread, but whatevs. [Yes, we did.] I have a bunch of scars from childhood recklessness and bad luck. A three-inch long, quarter-inch wide scar on my right forearm (I'm never going to elude Interpol this way) that I got when I put my hand through a plate-glass door in a fit of pique when I was four or five. You can blame my childhood temper, but I blame shoddy Iranian door building. I have an inch-long scar on my chin from tumbling backwards into an open stairwell when I was three and managing to peg my chin on the doorknob at the bottom. Then a couple of smaller scars: one across the bridge of my nose from when another piece of glass shattered when my cousin put his hand on it, sending one piece at my face, apparently, and a pretty, J-shaped scar from when my left index finger got caught in the middle of an unfolding ping-pong table. I used to have a great scar on my calf from when, as a three-year old, I decided to iron my pajamas while I was still wearing them, but that has long since faded.

So meme it up in the comments. I'm not going to tag anyone; I'll leave that up to y'all.


 

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A Reminder: Don't Get Old

Posted by Ogged
on 05.20.08

Seventy-something-guy, who has a disease that's slowly robbing him of his coordination, has gone from walking with a cane, to with a walker, to with a walker with someone helping him. But his attendant doesn't come into the locker room with him, so he has to take unsteady steps from one hand-hold to the next on his way to the shower, and with all the people and obstacles to navigate, it's scary to watch. I walked behind him yesterday as he did it, vaguely thinking that I'd catch him if he fell, and sure enough he stumbled but caught himself just as I put a hand on him. "Are you alright, seventy-something-guy?" "I'm as alright as I can be. It's still not good."

It seems to me that there's just no old-person role in America. You can be more or less lucky in how long you can cling to the one role we do have, that of independent, productive worker, but there's no point at which you just become the old person who sits around grumping and telling stories, being waited on by your descendants--that role is now an activity, just a break before everyone gets back to "normal" life, in which they take care of themselves by themselves. That's not to say that lots of Americans don't wind up taking care of elderly relatives--we're still answerable to biology, after all--but they know better than anyone that it's mostly a hardship, with smaller, more scattered families and everyone working longer hours.


 

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The Miracle Of Compound Interest; Or, "Mom, This Money Tastes Funny"

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.20.08

I had another gloomy thought about our recent discussion of environmental disaster that I thought I'd share with you all. Something that comes up fairly often from sensible conservative types (I believe baa was taking that role in our comments section, but the argument is a common one) in discussions of global warming is "Look, taking drastic action to reduce carbon emissions will slow economic growth. Compounding is an incredibly powerful force - if we can make the economy continue to grow more quickly, we'll be much richer in the future, and our future riches will make it easy for us to deal with ecological damage in that future time when it becomes a real emergency."

Maybe there's more to this argument than I'm understanding, but it appears to me to ignore some fundamental things. Wealth isn't a matter of how much money you have, it's a measure of how much directly valuable stuff you have - money is just how you keep track of your stuff. And the sort of ecological disasters we're worried about; droughts, loss of fertile cropland, changes in ocean levels, and so on, are disasters specifically because they destroy valuable stuff, or reduce its value. Same with peak oil: if gasoline becomes too expensive for Americans to drive routinely, there are a whole lot of valuable cars out there that will lose most of their value (scrap metal is always worth something, but not much); and there's a whole lot of previously valuable exurban housing that will be pretty much uninhabitable and valueless. Counting on our future wealth, resulting from the compounded growth of our economy, to pull us out of the ecological hole we're digging, doesn't account for the fact that the ecological effects we're worried about will, if they materialize as feared, make us poor at the time we have to deal with them. Maybe global climate change won't be that bad, but if it is, we're not going to be able to solve it casually with our immense future wealth.

I find myself thinking of a Roman family in AD 0 with some money to invest in real estate in Rome. Assuming the family keeps on reinvesting their money, after a couple of hundred years a reasonable initial investment would probably have grown to something very considerable; by AD 400, they're quite wealthy. By AD 450, on the other hand, the value of real estate in Rome had dropped considerably. Talking about how the compounding of economic growth is going to save us from the consequences of the ecological damage we're doing doesn't account at all for what happens to all that growth when the Huns come.


 

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One Commericalized Prepackaged Step For Women

Posted by Becks
on 05.19.08

So I was watching American Gladiators at the gym (which really is one of the best gym TV shows in existence, with the combination of being easy to follow when you're only half paying attention, being bright and shiny and fast paced, and making you want to kick your ass ever so slightly harder) and I was impressed that the men and women did the same SUPER DUPER ELIMINATOR CHALLENGE thingie at the end. There was no dumbed down, wussified obstacle course for the laydeez; it was the exact same one.

I was surprised and impressed because it was a clear boost for women, by acknowledging that they can be held to the same standards as men, and because it didn't give the men any ego-proofing by being able to say that the women had an easier course when they COMPLETELY WHIP THEIR ASSES and beat their times by more than 50%, as happened tonight.


 

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He Breaks Shame Like Plywood

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.08

The problem with all snark, all the time is that it can blind you to the fact that the dude looks incredible for 47. But I've been partial to Van Damme ever since he popped a boner on live TV and managed to ham it up endearingly.


 

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This'll Be Fun To Watch

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.08

So they're thinking of remaking Red Dawn. (via atrios) If they want it to be totally awesome, a bunch of mulatto kids will band together to repel the internal invasion headed by a cabal of ignorant Southerners and scheming Jews. What's more likely is that Iranian actors in LA are having a party to celebrate the coming employment boom. You might think that makes me smile, but all those Iranians are monarchist motherfuckers who are perfectly happy to make Iran look like a crazed nation desperately in need of invasion. Nobody wins here, except for ignorant Southerners and scheming Jews. Where are the mulattoes we've been waiting for?


 

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A Blog

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.08

Rottin' In Denmark: totally gay, pretty entertaining.


 

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Son Of Andre

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.08

I predict that not everyone will find this photograph amusing.


 

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Ask The Mineshaft: Alertness Drugs And The Honor Code Edition

Posted by Ogged
on 05.18.08

An undergraduate writes,

Coincidentally--or not; I'm pretty sure the previous thread put it on the brain--I tried Focalin (similar to Ritalin) today. It did little to help me focus, but it certainly kept me going much longer through the day, and, when combined with some cigarettes and caffeine on a study break, was pretty pleasurable (though not at all in a way conducive to work).

I imagine it's very useful in a test environment, though, where distractions are impossible. Which leads me to realize: Unfogged discussed prescription drug use for productivity without addressing the college environment and the "fairness" question. It's been a slow-boiling debate at my college, with a rather serious proposal to include its prohibition in the honor code in the works but no extended dialogue on the matter. (The 'it' is purposely vague here, as it's not really clear how they would word the change.) I was surprised at just how negatively some friends of mine reacted to my taking some--and at the fact that I probably ended up pressuring another party, through whom I acquired the drug but who had not herself taken it, into using.
If I had to ask a specific question, rather than just a general invitation to discuss, it'd be: Is there any basis for the intuition I encountered among friends, that it is somehow worse to use Adderall, et al. during rather than to prepare for an examination?

 

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Celtics-Cavs

Posted by Ogged
on 05.18.08

The most important things is to have a good offensive system.


 

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Modern Love: So Close To Awesome Edition

Posted by Becks
on 05.18.08

I found it hard to appreciate this week's Modern Love, about how a serviceman's elaborate fantasy life and dreams of Natalie Portman helped him make it through his tours of duty, because I kept skimming ahead with eager anticipation for the part where he had a vision of her naked and trembling holding a bowl of hot grits. Alas, my dreams of Modern Love getting elaborately trolled were not meant to be but I can see how his helped him get through a difficult time.


 

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Timing

Posted by Becks
on 05.18.08

Related to what LB said earlier this week, I've been thinking for a while that we're lucky that global warming came along when it did. I imagine what could have happened had the initial industrial revolution been enough to tilt things past a point of no return without them even realizing what they'd done. Humans have been lucky so far in that all of the problems we've encountered or created have come when we've had the technology to fix (or at least contain) them. But it also worries me -- as we push the limits of what we can do, will we eventually try for something that exceeds our capacities to realize the consequences?


 

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