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What he ched

Posted by Ben
on 12.13.08

I haven't seen the movie or read AO Scott's review of it, but I like Kotsko's take on the latter anyway, enough, perhaps, to forgive him his persistent misspelling of Soderbergh's name.


 

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Choose Your Outrage

Posted by Becks
on 12.13.08

I'm starting to wonder if the Style sections of major newspapers are turning into a plot by journalists to encourage people to storm the barricades because I'm pretty close after reading these articles.

Number 1

Jodi Hamilton began her senior year of high school in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., this fall on the usual prosperous footing. Her parents were providing a weekly allowance of $100 and paying for private Pilates classes, as well as a physics tutor who reported once a week to their 4,000-square-foot home.

Number 2

WITH the price of airfare, gasoline and, well, just about everything else these days, there's plenty to worry about. Needlessly high energy bills at your second home -- your vacation home, where there should be no worries at all -- should not be on that list.

Aaaand Number 3

On a recent morning, it was standing room only in the waiting room at DDL Domestic Agency in Los Angeles. Nannies, houseboys and cleaning ladies hungered for work. But "business is dead," says agency owner Doris Dorenbaum...
Applicant Alba Monterrosa, 31, showed up with a reference letter depicting the El Salvadoran immigrant as "honest, hard-working, loving, responsible and a pleasure to be around," as well as exceptional with children.
The family that hired her on a full-time basis in 2004 is now using her only sporadically, when Addie, 5, and Alexa, 3, are sick or when their mother, Suzanne Sirof, is under the weather.
Ms. Monterrosa, a single mother of two who earned $600 a week, says she is desperate for work because she is falling behind on her car insurance and rent payments. Her mother, a housekeeper, has also seen her work days curtailed.
"I can't afford to buy my own children shoes," Ms. Monterrosa says, wringing her hands. Weekend excursions to Denny's and Chuck E. Cheese's with the two teenagers are a thing of the past, she adds.
A stay-at-home mother whose husband is a litigation attorney, Mrs. Sirof says that Ms. Monterrosa was a "second mom to my kids." Ms. Monterrosa was there when she suffered a bout of depression and when she went on spa trips or outings to get Botox and Juvéderm injections, says Mrs. Sirof.
But a few months ago, the family decided they couldn't afford Ms. Monterrosa anymore and let her go.
Mrs. Sirof's daughters took the separation badly. They inquired incessantly about "Vita," as they called her. Normally a lively child, daughter Addie became sad and withdrawn. A doctor Mrs. Sirof consulted suggested renewed contact with Ms. Monterrosa.
"I try to have Alba come once a week," says Mrs. Sirof. She says she feels "horrible" about laying off Ms. Monterrosa. But there are some perks she isn't willing to give up. "Nothing deters me from my Botox treatments."


 

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Obama and The Glass Cliff

Posted by LizardBreath
on 12.13.08

A couple of British social psychologists (Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam) have done research which appears to show that women are more likely to be promoted to positions of power under circumstances where a bad outcome is likely for pre-existing reasons -- they call such promotions a "glass cliff". They got started with this analysis after seeing an article in the London Times reporting research purporting to show that appointing women to corporate boards resulted in poorer performance; Ryan and Haslam reanalyzed the data and noted that companies appointing women to their boards had generally exhibited poor performance in the months preceding the appointment. They're now working on extending the research to other situations and seeing if the same dynamics apply to minority groups, disabled people, and so on.

I read about this earlier in the year (actually, I'm surprised I didn't post on it, but a quick google isn't showing anything) but didn't connect it to the election. But when you think of it, it is interesting that the year we had a black man and a woman contending for the Democratic presidential nomination, and for the first time the President will be someone other than a white man, was a year clearly marked with impending disaster. The Onion may have been on to something serious. (Come to think of it, David Dinkins, the first black mayor of NYC, got the job when the city was arguably hitting bottom, and the white guy who succeeded him got all the credit for a turnaround that started in the Dinkins years.)

Not much to do about it; better Obama should have been elected now than not at all. But I do hope people judging his performance in later years remember the flaming mass of wreckage he's facing right now.

(I should be giving someone a link for this post -- I read the argument of it this morning (maybe in the NYT, but I can't find it again) and instantly forgot where. If someone tells me where I read it, I'll edit the link in.)


 

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From the mailbag

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.12.08

Sir Kraab e-mails me with excellent posts. She says:

Having an actual scientist heading the Dept. of Energy -- especially one who's been incredibly active in climate change work -- seems like a fanastic idea, and Chu also has extensive management experience. It looks like a homerun. Have there been scientist secretaries before? (My 15-second Google search didn't turn up any.) Are there any downsides to having a scientist instead of a traditional policy maker? The only one I can think of is that a scientist could get really attached to a pet theory on which s/he has spent years of research. Not that non-scientists don't have pet theories, and a good scientist would be open to challenge, but people are people. (That's my pet theory.)

This is an awesome quote: "Following on the heels of the anti-science Bush administration, it's like going to Mensa after spending eight years in the flat earth society."

and then she says:

I'd also be interested in talking about Gitmo and the guilty plea that 5 prisoners want to enter -- if they're sure they'll be martyred. I don't know if [our commenters on the Inside] can give us any perspective -- from an anonymous, hypothetical point of view if need be. Should the defendants be allowed to plead guilty when they're refusing counsel? Largely because, if I understand correctly, it's that they don't see why they should trust their military lawyers because they're part of the U.S. government. I don't know if they distinguish military from civilian lawyers.

If this isn't resolved by January, what are Obama's choices? Assume that they revoke their guilty pleas. Obama could let them be tried and/or sentenced by the military court, where, the way I understand things, they're far more likely to be convicted. Does his pledge to close Gitmo include moving all cases to civilian court? Imagine that a civilian judge throws out their "confessions" that were obtained under torture, and they were therefore found not guilty. Realistically, Obama would have to continue to call them "enemy combatants" or have some other way to keep them in jail. You can't just let Khalid Sheikh Mohammed walk and remain president. This is also a pretty extreme test of my due process principles. Regardless of Gitmo and torture and secret CIA prisons, the guy planned 9/11 and I would be horrified if he were released.

Is there a way out for Obama that doesn't violate his (or my? our?) principles? Or do we just figure they'll be found guilty and we won't be put to the test?

Yeah, that is really a delicate issue. There's no way we haven't violated so many boatloads of due process over the last five years as to force any regular court to throw the whole case out. I think he has to proceed with the military courts, but somehow create an atmosphere of integrity around the trials. Good luck with that.


 

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If I Could See Me Now

Posted by Becks
on 12.12.08

This post by Joel Spolsky about life as a manager spoke to me more than I want to admit:

In short, I'm turning into one of those crazy bosses that approves things, and then gets upset when you do them. This keeps happening. I must be driving people crazy.
In my defense, usually what happens is that the thing is described to me in general, vague terms and it sounds great, and I say, "sounds great!" and then I see the thing a little bit closer, and it's awful, and by this time, I've forgotten about the time I said it sounds great. Just assume I have amnesia or something.

This used to drive me nuts when I was first starting out and now I find myself doing it and sigh. I also agree with his advice:

The solution, of course, is what I've been saying all along. STOP FRIGGIN' LISTENING TO ME. I don't know what I'm talking about. If you work for me, you're welcome to get my advice, but you have to make your own decision because chances are you've thought MUCH MORE about the issue than I have and in fact we probably hired you because you're smarter than I am.

More and more, I've found myself doing the same things that used to annoy me when my managers did them but now I understand why they did it and want to go back and apologize to them for rolling my eyes behind their backs.


 

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Sumptuous!

Posted by Ben
on 12.12.08

Isn't Yglesias in Finland or some shit? I believe that to be the case. Listen: everyone's always talking about how Finland rocks our socks when it comes to knowing math or being musical and whatnot, but you know where they really have us beat? Sumptuary laws!

I refer, of course, to the Finnish practice of setting the amount of fines for driving-related infractions in proportion to the income of the infringer. Anything punishable by a fine can, after all, be viewed as a luxury in which those who have more to spare are freer to indulge (as I'm sure any halfway competent law and economicsist would acknowledge!!!!!) and so the fines themselves can be viewed as sumptuary laws of some sort. And since everyone thinks Finland's system here is the bees' knees, whereas we here in the US of A take an approach on which many violations have basically no importance to the wealthy and, presumably, much more to those with less.

Beaten again by Scandinavians, if you class Finland as part of Scandinavia, which not everyone does!

BUT! We have an opportunity to do them one better, and Yglesias is just the man to fill in the details of the following sketch (I of course will receive sole credit for the whole endeavor). For what else is a both a god-damn luxury and a scarcity? Nothing but the latest bonnet in Matt's butt, to wit, ``downtown'' parking. Matt supports upping the prices for parking and laughs off concern that doing so might price out those with fewer resources. Obviously the thing to do is to make the price of parking proportional to one's annual income. (It can be a field on your national ID card, citizen. Since that card will also be the canonical method of payment, you'll just be able to swipe it at any parking meter. Problem solved!)


 

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Kind Eyes

Posted by Becks
on 12.11.08

RUSH OUT AND BUY ONE RIGHT NOW! ONLY 65 FIRING DAYS!!


 

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Return to Sender

Posted by Becks
on 12.11.08

My friend Amanda just apologetically announced on her blog that she's not sending out Christmas cards this year. I can relate. Last year was the first year I didn't send out cards and I felt terribly guilty about it. I'm not sending them out this year either but I'm more reconciled to the fact that I'm just too busy.

I told someone this they other day and they were shocked that I had ever even sent out Christmas cards at all, thinking it weird that I used to do so and asking why I did. I said that part of it was wanting to make sure I kept in touch with people and part was just thinking that's what people did. Oh, and another part of feeling really guilty when I got Christmas cards from someone and realizing it was too late to send them one in return before the holiday.

I never reached the level of the Christmas letter, though. That's way too far.


 

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America's most arousing holiday customs

Posted by Ben
on 12.11.08

Here we see a family gathered around the hearth, baking cookies, which is in itself not so arousing. Until the oven door is opened to reveal … cock! cock! cock!

Tasteless contestant: Now that's a cock of a different color.*

The results of this year's Penny Arcade Dickerdoodles contest. Of last year's.

* I hasten to make plain that I draw your attention to that photo this manner only out of conformity to the script. In propria persona I would never, etc. M/lls, step away from animated gif.


 

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The evolution of The Onion

Posted by Ben
on 12.10.08

Whimsical; funny (also the first Onion article I recall ever reading, at a computer at UCI because we didn't have internet access at home—or running water!); neither of those. Note also that in the former case the reader is actually rewarded for reading the article as well as the headline.

I anticipate that after Obama replaces a few inconvenient justices, they will decide to rehear Bush v. Gore of their own volition, just as Arar was reheard sua sponte, and decide in Gore's favor, thereby causing a hell of a lot of confusion.


 

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Headlines

Posted by Becks
on 12.10.08

Who on earth is going to want to watch Jay Leno five nights a week at 10 PM? (Or, worse, 9 PM in the Midwest.) I can't imagine it being a huge hit -- it's like NBC has decided to give up on stocks and just stick with a money market, settling for predictable meh returns over taking a risk.

I worry this will further the death of the adult-oriented hour-long drama, unless we're lucky and cable networks jump on the opportunity to fill the void with more Mad Men and Damages or if NBC decides to follow the model of FX/A&E/HBO and focus on fewer, better shows. But given a move like this, I doubt it.


 

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But I like meatballs!

Posted by Ben
on 12.10.08

Walt Someguy: The 50s in America was a deliberate synthetic creation, and people had the same complaints about inauthenticity then that they do now.

Yup! The real question is whether there are superficially tonier and more philosophical complaints about inauthenticity that aren't, at heart, a dressed-up ode to the Night People as aesthetically preferable.


 

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Liebestod

Posted by Ben
on 12.09.08

Caitlin Flanagan on Twilight. I dunno, I thought it was interesting when I skimmed it.


 

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Observed II: Sociological Images

Posted by Ben
on 12.09.08

Even when I was an undergraduate, at a different institution, the subtleties of social interactions between my fellow/ins often evaded me; all I was certain of was that they had a strange obsession with grout. Now that I'm a graduate student, and my intercourse with undergrads is limited to chance encounters with those I used to TA, the situation is correspondingly worse. How shall I ever learn of class relations among the youth? As ever, a trip to the library is a source of enlightenment:

Note that Stanford appears to have gone coëducational only in 2007.

This same section of the library features several data-gathering efforts in progress, among them surveys asking "are you secretly gay?" and "does your GF swallow?". There is also a graph of SAT score vs. cock size on which respondents are asked to place themselves. These questions are undoubtedly important, but I fear poor survey design means the data are next to useless; the respondents are, after all, self-selected and can see previous responses.


 

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Quid Pro

Posted by Becks
on 12.09.08

You think I'm giving you a Blago thread for nothing except appreciation? Fuck you. For nothing? Fuck you. I'll give that post to Standpipe's blog before I just give fucking Unfogged a fucking Blago post and don't get anything.


 

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How to implement a shitty public school system

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.09.08

One colleague told me yesterday that when she taught 8th grade, if you were going to fail a student you had to provide documentation for each time you had contacted their parents and each time you offered them extra help after school. Which seems superficially reasonable, but creates (intentionally?) an incentive not to fail anyone.

Another colleague countered that the high school where her friend teaches has a rule that homework cannot be worth more than 10% of the grade, and you must accept late work. For those of you who haven't been around teenagers in a while, trust me when I say this will completely unravel the work ethic in your classroom. For this one I can't even speculate on the original intention.


 

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And they sold them at Sears and Roebuck!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.08.08

On the topic of stimulus packages...NSFW with the sound on, with headphones I think it's okay. Good vibrations!

According to Videogum, the documentary "also investigates that insane thing where doctors used to give ladies happy endings when they were acting crazy."

Via Jammies


 

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Obama's Stimulus Package: Anything For Social Services?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 12.08.08

So, Obama's planning to spend a great deal of money on job creation. I'm all for it, and the specifics he's identified all sound useful:

Obama laid out his priorities for a "green" stimulus plan Saturday: making public buildings and schools more energy efficient, modernizing health care with technology and electronic records, expanding broadband connections, and making the biggest investment in infrastructure since the 1950s.

While the announced priorities are good, they're a little bricks-and-mortar heavy (and I don't see public transportation in there. Second Avenue Subway, please!). If I were trying to (a) deliberately throw money around so as to get it into workers' hands, and (b) actually help people beyond just the ones drawing salaries, I'd be thinking about a lot of social services issues. Couldn't he loosen Medicare/Medicaid standards, and raise reimbursement rates, specifically for the kind of home nursing care that would make it easier for elderly and disabled people to stay in their own homes, and take the nursing burden off their families? What about gold-plated early childhood intervention, along the Harlem Children's Zone pattern, in poor areas, or, what the hell, all over the place? Post-natal nursing visits to low income mothers? Federally funded public school arts programs?

Possibly there's some reason that splurging on labor-intensive social services isn't a good way of creating jobs and stimulating the economy, and if so, I don't know it. But if there isn't, this seems like a great opportunity to make people's lives easier, while working on the recession.


 

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The war of all against all

Posted by Ben
on 12.07.08

I admit it: Wrongshore's characterization of certain parts of SF culture is, to a certain extent, accurate. However, I just ate a bunch of free cupcakes, so.

One of them was advertised as "bacon (gluten-free, vegan)". I hypothesize that veganism is to be regarded as an add-on to vegetarianism, but independent of it; the vegan shuns those foods derived from the sweat of the animal's brow, the vegetarian, those from its flesh. Thus steak is vegan but not vegetarian, butter vegetarian but not vegan.


 

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Like you could shake its hand and introduce yourself.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.07.08

In the past week, a good friend of Jammies' lost his job, and I found out a good friend from college lost her job about a month ago. Yesterday at a party, I chatted with an aquaintance who lost her job about a month ago, and off the top of my head I know a fourth person who lost her job in the past month or so as well. The recession is feeling very real and up close.


 

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