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Mother Of All Storms

Posted by Becks
on 08.30.08

Gustav is looking pretty bad. I'm glad to see that FEMA et al. appear to have a much better plan in place than with Katrina but I do worry what a direct hit from a Category 5 will mean for New Orleans.


 

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The Next Al Gore

Posted by Becks
on 08.29.08

Sarah Palin as VP might have a lot of drawbacks: her political inexperience, the fact she doesn't believe in global warming, no knowledge of foreign policy, etc. but there is one area where she can bring some life to the ticket. Technology! Unlike McCain who doesn't use email or know how to get on the internet, Sarah Palin even has her own blog.


 

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Overtaken by events

Posted by Standpipe Bridgeplate
on 08.29.08

It struck me that my current political commitments render the continued use of this old chestnut problematic. Alas.

CHANGEGOOD?


 

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Peeve

Posted by Ben
on 08.29.08

Saiselgy:

One of the strangest spectacles in American politics is the press coverage of a major speech or debate. You get a bunch of media personalities who, by definition, follow politics far more closely than the average American speculating about how they think the speech would play with a typical undecided voter. Compounding the irony, there's often a description of a nominal swing demographic -- the white working class, the heartland, whatever -- that couldn't be further from the experience of a wealthy television celebrity. And even crazier, many of these events aren't actually watched by that many people; their most important consequence is as a driver of media coverage.

He goes on to discuss a proposal that sounds kind of silly to me, made by Ryan Avent, who I'm sure is a swell guy and everything, but look: the problem here isn't that press coverage inaccurately gauges the likely response of Joe Sixpack, and that therefore it would be better if the networks just got eight or nine Joes Sixpack and stuck them on the air. The problem is that disseminating the likely or actual reaction of Joe Sixpack is not what news or analysis should be for.

Knowing how something has played or will play in Peoria is of interest to those people who want to produce conviction in Peorians and others, that is, to the politicians themselves. If I care about how something played in Peoria, I do so only insofar as I've already thrown in with whatever that thing represents or is supposed to further, and I'm following news of its fortunes abroad the way I might keep up with spring training or something like that. But the essential thing here is that I already know where I stand. What I get out of knowing the likely popular reaction isn't a reassessment of the issues or their proponents, it's the pleasures or pains of sympathetic success or failure. And naturally campaign managers or publicists or whatever are in the position to create where they stand; they only want to know how certain things will play so that they can accomplish whatever end they're after. And that's totally fine, only there's no reason that what are ostensibly news organizations need to report on that sort of stuff. (I don't even think that there's much reason for such organizations to conduct polls regarding who's favored to win or the like, though I'm willing to be convinced on that score; at any rate, it hardly takes much time to mention the outcome of them and get down to Serious Stuff.)

Given the omnipresence of media coverage of just about everything, it's ridiculous to think that claims about what the likely reaction will be, repeated often enough, won't become true at least to the extent that many people, no matter what they think personally, also think that the conventional wisdom, and therefore what one can say, who the interlocutor is, how to position oneself, etc., is just what was initially claimed the regular-dude (or dudette!) reactions were. I encountered a really annoying instance of this when I was home last, and my mom and I were listening to some soi-disant political analysis program on the radio (I can't remember what it was); someone had the really marvellous ability to point out that something someone (you see how detailed my memory of this incident is) had said wasn't really true, or didn't jibe with his previous positions, or something which was both not obvious from the content of the claim alone, and worth knowing in order to evaluate the claim, and to follow up pointing this out by talking solely about how it would be taken. Here's a radical suggestion: it would be taken a lot differently if, instead of just talking about how it would be taken, it were pointed out that it was a lie (or whatever it was).

To the extent that the media can shape the discourse in this fashion, and to the extent that one of the functions of a responsible media ought to be the informing of the "typical undecided voter" of things that might help him or her decide, there seems to be a fundamental bit of self-deception on the part of the talking heads who do perform the sorts of post-mortem effectiveness analyses that one might think would be mostly of interest to the campaigners themselves: they participate in a fantasy that they aren't part of the political discourse, but are free to comment on it third-personally, as it were, without their comments having anything to do with the unfolding spectacle. This isn't an attitude that anyone actually engaged with civic life (or deliberation of any sort) can maintain permanently, if for no other reason than because at some point you'll have to make up your mind about what lever to pull*; to the extent that the press is (nominally) not part of a campaign trying to pull you in some particular direction, and interested in knowing the efficacy of some event for that reason, but at the same time only does talk about things in those terms, it can be, as far as I can see, at best a distorting interloper in civic life, and not a full-fledged participant, and, moreover, a participant in some flavor of bad faith.

Having a bunch of Joes Sixpack replace the current talking heads might be useful for some people, but it wouldn't be a better situation for the public at large, at least not with regard to discussion or analysis of national or international affairs. I will allow that, as far as having some idea of what goes on in states and cities not one's own (and surely having some accurate such idea is good), it would be better to have, for example, people from an actual medium-sized exurb give their opinions, instead of David Brooks, who isn't even himself. But that is something rather different, I think, and wouldn't be a replacement for actual informed commentary.

*Obviously you actually can adopt a "wait and see" attitude towards even your own actions, including voting, some of the time; I don't think, though, you could do this all of the time (Moran has an argument to this effect, sorta [hedged because I don't want to mischaracterize it, not because I think it's sorta an argument or anything like that] in ch4 of Authority and Estrangement; I halfway think there's a stronger analogy to be made with some of the theses in that book to the situation at hand, but it's obviously delicate when you're talking about multiple people). Actually now that I think of it Moran's argument might not apply to this particular case; it was geared more directly towards third-personal self-ascriptions of belief.


 

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Teriyucky

Posted by Stanley
on 08.29.08

The Pioneer Woman is probably my favorite food blogger, if for no other reason than her willingness to just sorta wing it, which usually works out great (but sometimes doesn't, and I appreciate her honesty).

My own approach is basically to wing it, and I'd say I'm generally successful (if, at times, unable to re-create recipes with exactitude). But the failures, when they happen, are almost always epic.

Most recently: I was trying to do a variation on this stir-fry/teriyaki dish my mom makes, which is basically a bunch of sautéed veggies and garlic, with some of that bottled teriyaki sauce tossed in near the end. It's nothing special, but relatively quick and delicious. This time around, I picked up a bottle of Schezuan Sichuan sauce, thinking that would spice it up a bit.

In went all the sauce, and twenty minutes later, my face wrinkled with disgust as I sampled the veggies. Turns out the bottle was sixty servings. Meaning, just add a bit! Or you'll die! From all the salt!

Which led to eekbeat and me feverishly trying to salvage the meal, rinsing the vegetables in a colander over the sink. But it was too late. I had ruined dinner. And I felt awful. (eekbeat did her best to make me laugh about the whole thing, especially considering it was entirely my fault due to decisions made against her advice; thanks, eekbeat!)

Upon reflection, this recent food catastrophe is probably my current lifetime worst case of kitchen botchery. I mean, I've ruined meals before, but this was just stupidity. And having said that, I'm still quite sure I'll outdo myself one day.


 

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Number Two

Posted by Becks
on 08.29.08

Palin? Romney? Lieberman?

Place your bets.


 

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Metathread

Posted by Apostropher
on 08.28.08

For discussion of the social dynamics in these here threads here, as continued from the end of the Thread of Drama. I'm leaving this purposefully opaque to exclude the nerds and losers, of course. Actually, I don't care what you talk about. The other thread was just getting too long.

Also, my main observation from the 2008 Democratic National Convention is that people who attend national political conventions are awkward dancers.


 

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At Last

Posted by Becks
on 08.28.08

Off the top of my head, I can't recall another time when I've sat down to watch something and known it was history in the making to this extent. It's one thing when a news event is unexpected but monumentous or takes on greater meaning later but to know in advance you're about to see a key milestone for your country, well, it's pretty amazing.


 

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If you resist, I hear they crush you with a mashie niblick

Posted by Stanley
on 08.28.08

ari (who secretly longs to be a sports blogger if that dang history stuff ever gets out of the way) sends along this story:

The LPGA will require players to speak English starting in 2009, with players who have been LPGA members for two years facing suspension if they can't pass an oral evaluation of English skills. The rule is effective immediately for new players.

My drive-by reaction is that it's not a bad idea for a large organization to decide upon a lingua franca for official communication and the like. But this just seems goofy. It's not as if there are so many languages involved that supplying translators and interpreters is an undue burden.

What's worse is the way the LPGA is handling it:

The tour held a mandatory meeting with South Koreans last Wednesday at the Safeway Classic to inform them of the new policy, which was first reported by Golfweek magazine.

[...]

The South Koreans were informed of the rule, however LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens has not given them - or anyone - a written explanation, Galloway said.

That's just bad management, and it reminded me of the IOC's decision to drop softball from the Olympics "for no good reason".

Decision makers of the world: strive not to look dickish.


 

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Adventures in Profiling

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.28.08

At the doctor's office last week, the nurse was asking me family history and lifestyle questions. Do I drink? "Not anymore," I said. Then she asked, "Do you use illegal drugs?" and before I could answer, she made a hand gesture like she was batting down the question and said, "You're not the type." And we continued.

Boy is someone bad at profiling. I apologize to those who look the type, for stealing the goodwill due you.

Also, this is funny:

Via Problem Girl


 

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Morning Glory

Posted by Becks
on 08.27.08

I was going through some old stuff in my RSS reader the other day that I'd bookmarked but not read and came across this piece about morning television that really spoke to me. Yes, it's by Caitlin Flanagan and, yes, she's usually really obnoxious but I really liked how her article on the Today show and morning television captured how something like a TV show can take on extra meaning by filling a void at a vulnerable time in our lives.


 

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The Other, Lesser Clinton and That Biden Guy

Posted by Becks
on 08.27.08

A new thread for Day 3.


 

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Hillary

Posted by Becks
on 08.26.08

I've written this post about ten times but figure I should just keep my mouth shut until she gives her speech.


 

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On The Margin

Posted by Becks
on 08.26.08

Why am I seeing a sudden resurgence of people indenting paragraphs in email and business writing? Don't do it. It's completely unprofessional. That will make me chuck your cover letter faster than a typo.


 

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Death by tempting fate.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.26.08

"100 Things To Do Before You Die" Author Dies At 47, leaving millions making the same joke "What number did he get to?" in unison.

"He didn't have enough days, but he lived them like he should have," Teplica said.

I choose to believe that the full quote is, "He didn't have enough days, but he lived them like he should have had enough days." Don't we all, son. Don't we all.


 

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Conventional

Posted by Becks
on 08.25.08

I know how you are. You'll say that conventions are meaningless scripted theatrics but when it all comes down to the wire, you're totally going to watch it and want to talk about it. So here's a thread.


 

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PSA regarding 4WD

Posted by Stanley
on 08.25.08

When manœuvering a four-wheel-drive vehicle, especially on sand or other loose substrate that may require the traction of four powered wheels, it is sometimes necessary (depending on the year, make, and model of the automobile) to lock the differentials, commonly done by turning knobs located on the front wheels.

I submit this information for inclusion among other tidbits of general cultural literacy. Because if you aren't aware of it, you could be in for a really shitty afternoon.


 

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The National Park Service says, "WMYBSALB? Banned!"

Posted by Apostropher
on 08.25.08

This is how our debased nation treats its heroes.

Two self-anointed "grammar vigilantes" who toured the nation removing typos from public signs have been banned from national parks after vandalizing a historic marker at the Grand Canyon. Jeff Michael Deck, 28, of Somerville, Mass., and Benjamin Douglas Herson, 28, of Virginia Beach, Va., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Flagstaff after damaging a rare, hand-painted sign in Grand Canyon National Park. They were sentenced to a year's probation, during which they cannot enter any national park, and were ordered to pay restitution.

According to court records, Deck and Herson toured the United States from March to May, wiping out errors on government and private signs. On March 28, while at Desert View Watchtower on the South Rim, they used a white-out product and a permanent marker to deface a sign painted more than 60 years ago by artist Mary Colter. The sign, a National Historic Landmark, was considered unique and irreplaceable, according to Sandy Raynor, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix.

In all seriousness, that is obviously high dickishness, even given such an elevated and noble cause. However, it does give me a chance to link to this picture recently sent to me by my brother-in-law, who works in the park and got to remove the paint.


 

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Ask The Mineshaft - Avoiding the Assholes Edition

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.24.08

A reader writes in, taking a break from getting bounced around the pinball table of love:

The premise: There can be little question that, in the realm of dating, I am among the frontrunners in the worldwide competition for "Bad Judge of Character" and "Most Oblivious to Obvious Warning Signs." Really, it's quite clear, I'm not good at this.
The "Experts": Dr. Neil Clark Warren (Yeah, so? Wanna make something of it?) tells me this: "Watch out for someone who asks for money, uses vulgar language, asks inappropriate questions, or suggests sexual fantasies. Be careful of those who want to speed up the pace, tell you how to run your life, tell stories with inconsistencies, give vague answers to specific questions, urge you to compromise your principles, blame others for their troubles or are always speaking romantically. These are just a few of the signs you may want to think twice about before continuing."
Like 6 of those apply to the most recently ended relationship. An overlapping but not identical 6 to the ex-husband. So perhaps this is useful advice. At the same time, I don't know that I want to be ruling out fellas who have interesting sexual fantasies to suggest. And the vulgar language will fucking wind up getting me nixed.
The Question: I have to think the Mineshaft has some helpful and/or entertaining thoughts on Warning Signs...

We've had a deal-breaker thread, but this is slightly different - deal-breakers are individual, whereas this is advice that you'd like your teenager to hear from someone they'd actually listen to.

My thoughts after the jump.

My thoughts: You have to like and respect yourself deeply, so that you develop a genuine outrage for someone stepping on your provenance. If the outrage isn't genuine, you'll know intellectually that many people would feel offended at the given slight, but you'll also see it from the perpetrator's point of view, where it seems reasonable to insult you, and get muddled. (Once you're with a great person, seeing things from their point of view is necessary. But a great person won't generally do things that compromise your dignity.)

I think a lot of it amounts to developing the internal thermometer, and taking time in the moment to check it and respond accordingly. Taking time in the moment to say, "Hang on, I need a few minutes to figure out how I feel," and then taking the time, and then maybe saying, "Oh well, I'll have to get back to you in the next day or so, because I'm still not sure how I feel," because at every move, you're still making your internal thermometer the ultimate arbiter in each exchange.

But this seems like very vague advice. The nice thing about Ol' Dr. Warren is how concrete those warning signs are.


 

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