I have a bag of the most beautiful tart cherries I've ever seen in my life, fresh from the farm. Seriously -- they're right off the tree and they're glowing almost like a maraschino, but with a nice little bite. I'm not sure I have enough for a pie. What should I do with them? If I'm going to pit them all by hand, it needs to be incredible.
Which is creepier: liking a Hannah Montana song de dicto? Or de re?
While I love you all and you're generally helpful for blegs, I've learned not to ask your advice on books. Whenever I ask you for really trashy escapist beach reading or the like, you reply with something unhelpful like "Well, right now I'm re-reading all of Nabokov in the original Russian but when I want to relax with something light and breezy I break out some Proust."
I'm here to teach you what a trashy awesome beach read is: Young Adult Vampire Fiction. Specifically, Twilight. Now, if I asked my preteen cousin about these books, I'd surely get an eyeroll and a snarky comment asking if I'd only recently discovered Miley Cyrus, too, but whatever. But not many of the people my age I've told about this book series have heard of them so I figured I'd spread the word.
They're sooooo deliciously trashy. The author creates a good vampire mythology and there's some battling and questing going on but, really, 90% of each book is excruciating sexual frustration between a human girl and a vampire who has pledged to no longer drink human blood. It's "How Chastity Pledges Will Drive You Insane" 101.
The books, while a really quick read (I finished almost the entire 600 page second book last weekend) and generally pretty fluffy, do a surprisingly good job of showing the intensity of feeling in relationships, between lovers and among family, especially the extra intensity one feels as a teenager. Although they're full of awesome vampires, the ladies might like the books more than the gents, because they are a bit heavy on the romance vs. the action. (And I liked them even though I don't like traditional romance novels or chick-lit but YMMV.)
So do yourself a favor this summer and PUT DOWN THE PROUST and go read something ridiculous. If you start now, you can get all caught up before the fourth (and final!) book comes out in August. Go!
By Popular Request
I am nothing if not the people's blogger. Here, via comments and at the demand of the inimitable Witt, is a study: "Inequality in Emotional Involvement in Romantic Relationships".
No one get hurt, mkay?
Gotta Have Faith
It seems an exaggeration to say the US military "has become a Christian organization", but it's not as if the accusation is baseless. Three stories:
- From back in April, a story about the Bush administration relenting on the issue of Wiccan headstones at Arlington National Cemetary. As if dealing with the loss of a loved one weren't bad enough without a hearty dollop of bureaucratic claptrap.
- In June, the ACLU threatened to file suit against the Naval Academy, regarding a daily lunchtime prayer in which "some midshipmen have felt pressured to participate".
- And most recently, Army Spc. Jeremy Hall, who was raised Baptist but became an atheist after two tours of duty in Iraq, has filed suit against the DOD, citing unfair treatment:
His sudden lack of faith, he said, cost him his military career and put his life at risk. Hall said his life was threatened by other troops and the military assigned a full-time bodyguard to protect him out of fear for his safety.
Giving off the perception that our military is unduly influenced by Christianity is precisely the opposite of what we should be doing, especially given religious inclinations of the countries we're currently mucking around in. Really disheartening stuff.
Solve the real problems!
Did you know this was a group blog? Via LGM I see this much-linked story about the Detroit police cracking down on baggy pants. The graphic is priceless.
It's also a good excuse to read this bit of Holbo, also quoted in LGM:
Even if you are the sort of person who feels deeply offended by funny, ethnic clothes (we're off the deep end) - even if you think it is anything like your business to dictate fashion sense to everyone around you (we're so off the deep end) - how could you possibly think it was so important as all that? And yet immediately we are off and running about after the bourgeois virtues, all dying out: thrift, diligence, prudence, sobriety, fidelity, and orderliness. I won't bother to quote. Why can I not exhibit all these virtues beneath and/or behind a beard, kente cloth and/or keffiyeh? Frum seems to find it too obvious to bear arguing that the trick is impossible. (Yet he can't actually think that.) Does Frum seriously believe there are no shrewd, sober businessmen in those parts of the world where businessmen wear beards and keffiyehs and kente cloths? (Obviously he doesn't. That's crazy.) So what does he think? I think he just has a powerful feeling that: things ought to be a certain way. And if they are that way, everything will be all right.
But why make fun when you can be dour? In the spirit of Ogged I thought we might have a contest to see who can come up with the best rationalization this stupid sort of thing. Here's my attempt.
Let's start with Holbo's take on beards and kente cloth. Earlier in his post he quotes a bit of The Road to Wigan Pier:
Deliberately to revert to primitive methods, to use archaic tools, to put silly difficulties in your own way, would be a piece of dilettantism, of pretty-pretty arty and craftiness. It would be like solemnly sitting down to eat your dinner with stone implements. Revert to handwork in a machine age, and you are back in Ye Old Tea Shoppe or the Tudor villa with the sham beams tacked to the wall.
Seems right: stone implements back in the day, fine. Stone implements now, lame. The difference surely has to do with the significance of the choice in context. A similar point might be made about (say) beards. The choice of beard/shaved might-- or might not-- be a choice to conform to/reject various prevalent norms: aesthetic, religious, political, and so on. The point: the beard is sometimes a signal, whether you like it or not. What's the application to baggy pants? Here I pull from my ass this potted history of the meaning of buttocks in context: the baggy pants in Detroit are meant to send a message, to look vaguely dangerous, to show an affinity with a certain kind of street culture. And that's an affiliation with values that are genuinely harmful to the community, and thus merit an official show of disapprobation.
The failures of my effort are legion. I note two: first, unlike Ogged I can't feign sincerity when saying that the looser the waistband, the deeper the quicksand--into which our culture sinks. Second, everyone knows I don't swim, so I can't make a stand for the eternal verities then say, hey, laterz! Off to the pool!
Unfogged Solves The World's Problems
Your task for today: develop a change to the tax code that would actually have a chance of passing that preserves the charitable estate tax deduction but gets rid of abuses of the system like this. Try not to get so distracted by the fact that the example given represents such a minority of charitable giving that it's equivalent to chucking public assistance because of Cadillac-driving welfare queens. Show your work.
I was reading this article on the woman who invented the original chocolate chip cookie recipe in the NYTimes and it got me thinking. I've invented/improvised cooking recipes but never a baking recipe. Baking recipes involve all kinds of science and stuff -- you have to know about leaveners and chemical reactions and they're super easy to screw up. Who knows that much home ec these days?
So Iran announces they're test firing missile that can reach Israel? That can't be good. Wish someone who knew more about Iran blogged here and could give us his perspective.
Get A Blog!
I've found that the age of the internet has made me far less tolerant of certain types of annoying people: the person sending out "did you see what candidate X did???" emails to their entire address book, the coworker constantly interrupting you with the latest gossip about Britney Spears, the deliveryman whose packages are always accompanied by long-winded unoriginal conspiracy theories. I feel that type of noise shouldn't be directed towards me, forcing me to listen, when they could focus all of that energy on a blog I could ignore.
I know this is way late and has already been remarked upon in the comments but, given our long history of swimming coverage, I can't let the badassery of Dara Torres go unremarked. I mean, she didn't just qualify for the Olympic swim team at 41:
Fifteen minutes after nursing [her daughter] Tessa in the bathroom, she swam the first leg of the 50-meter freestyle relay in 25.98 seconds -- fast enough to qualify for this week's Olympic trials.
Also, I want her stretchy people.
I've never put a bumper sticker on my car, too concerned of the resale value and thinking that the sight of a faded political sticker the day after the election is a cringeworthy sight (let alone the sight of one months or years on). But today, I made a baby step with a Barack Obama car magnet.
It makes me feel socially inept to admit it but often I'll meet someone and I'll like them and they'll like me but, even so, I have a hard time figuring out how to transition that into a friendship. Girls are easy because you don't have to worry about mixed messages (well...often) and most people around my age aren't too hard because I can just invite them to a party. It's also easier if you know your paths will naturally cross again or have that click upon meeting them where you just know you're going to end up really close friends.
But things get a bit more confusing for me when those criteria aren't met because the person is at a different life stage than you, it's someone you expect to be a friend you only see occasionally, but it will take action to maintain the friendship, especially if it's a dude. I'm not quite sure how to transition my thoughts of "You are an interesting person and I would like to converse with you again socially on a not-too-frequent, yet enjoyable, basis. I hope we can spend some non-awkward time together that is not misinterpreted." into a plan.
Where the Men are Bishops, and the Women are also Bishops
No Anglican, I, but I admit to chuckling at the term "super-bishop" when I first read it:
The Church of England's ruling General Synod has voted to consecrate women as bishops and approved a code of practice aimed at reassuring opponents.
However, the code will fall short of safeguards demanded by traditionalists, such as allowing male "super-bishops" to cater for those against the reforms.
I think it's genuinely good news, but I also find resolutely odd the kind of arguments used against ordaining women:
Opponents of female bishops argue that Jesus, in choosing men for his 12 disciples, intended that men alone should have the responsibility of ministering to his followers.
Seems more than a bit weak, guys. But, hell, I was raised Catholic. And I'd probably keel over in delighted shock if the Vatican were even discussing having this sort of discussion.
In the spirit of late-night pretty things, really cool rice-field images:
Each year these guys make new images on their field by planting rice in different patterns making various images. They use different sorts of rice for color.
I should add that I'm aggressively trying to overcome my aversion to rice as a comestible. I just don't really like it that much. (I mean it's fine, but just that: okay.) Brown rice seems to be helping.
I'm sure you all have noticed that our Posts Per Day metric has dropped a bit since Ogged left. That's intentional -- when O said he was retiring, the site overlords all talked about where to go from there and, along with bringing some new blood on board, we decided not to pressure anyone into "feeding the blog" and if that meant fewer posts, so be it. In fact, it was only recently that we'd had so many posts per day and I blame it on Ogged trying to get all of his blogging out of his system in the months before retirement.
Not sure if I needed to write this or not but I feel like it has been an elephant in the room (albeit only a baby one) so I thought I'd put it out there.
The difference between red and blue.
My theory goes first by dividing the population into four groups according to two factors. First, do you generally make good decisions or bad decisions, on the whole? Second, do you have a financial safety net or not?
If you have a financial safety net, then no one is that worried about you. If you do not, but you generally make good decisions, then you are a very sympathetic character, and everyone agrees that you deserve opportunities.
The problem is with the fourth group: that there will always be people, with no financial safety net, who make terrible decisions. Conservatives are so galled by the terrible decisions, that they have no compassion for the fact that the stakes are really, really high. Liberals are so sympathetic to the disastrous consequences that they lose sight of the fact that terrible choices were made.
The problem is that you can't legislate personal decisions. Everyone gets to lead their own life. (This is also what makes relationships hard, while we're at it.)
And so we try to legislate personal decisions with crude tools like incentives and rewards, like the GI bill, and these are marvelous for the group that already makes good decisions, (and marvelous for the people that make some good, some bad decisions, but let's not muddle the picture.) Incentives and rewards are ineffective for people that make self-sabotaging bad decisions, consistently. Here, your only options are safety nets and consequences.
(I'm trying to be very even-handed and paint both perspectives as legitimate, but of course my heart bleeds blue and I believe that you ought to take the people who make bad decisions and provide structure and treatment programs and halfway houses.) (Of course, if you truly isolated the Bad Decision Makers, you'd have some AWFUL success rates.)
I find the problem of people who consistently make terrible choices, with no safety net, horribly vexing.
And the answer "We need to fund education better!", while it is a practical solution for reducing the size of the fourth group, does not actually address the existing members of the fourth group.
I just woke up and realized I never ate dinner tonight. I made a bee-line for eekbeat's kitchen. She came along suggesting helpful sandwich toppings. The final result: greens, pickle slices, brown mustard, and cheddar on multi-grain bread. Broiled for a few minutes. Goddamn delicious.
All right. Let's have it. Late-night ridiculous foods.
A Trend An Infestation
I was greeted home from my travels by a big ass two inch cockroach scurrying across the floor of my bedroom. This is the third one I've found in two weeks. (I know. You're probably shocked that the Flophouse has not, until now, had cockroaches, but we haven't.) I've been assured that this isn't a problem because they're black cockroaches and not brown cockroaches but I want all the motherfuckers dead. What's the best course of action here?
Before the long weekend, you might have read about journalist Brian Beutler being shot in Washington D.C. in an attempted mugging. Although down a spleen, he's expected to make a full recovery. Brian is a friend of mine and he's a total charmer, known for perfectly-timed wisecracks and easy conversation with anyone he meets, but his reporting on FISA and torture is anything but sugarcoated.
While Brian has a very healthy prognosis, and a new reputation for being invincible, he's going to come out of this with a lot debt for medical bills, lost wages, etc.. If you've been a reader of Brian's and want to help him get better soon and back on the government's case, or if you've never read Brian before but feel moved by the brotherhood of the blogosphere, Spencer has set up a fund for him where you can donate via PayPal.
Another way you can help out people like Brian is to donate blood in your local community. I know many blood banks run low in the summer and especially after holiday weekends. I also know it sometimes sounds cheesy for people to say "give blood" after something like this but I was both truly grateful that the blood bank had enough units on hand for this emergency and surprised by how few of us who wanted to donate made it past the screening process.
A thanks in advance to any of you who donate to Brian's recovery fund or to your local blood banks and for all of you for not turning this thread into a flamewar on gun control, health care policy, etc.