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Speaking of Juan Williams

Posted by Ben
on 01.30.09

In various political conversations I've had with some of my peers in the last few months, even—actually now that I think of it, only—with those who seem to all indications liberalish, or at least Democratic, one or another party to the conversation has felt the need to observe that, of course, the media is horribly biased in favor of either liberals or Democrats. One example of this was supposed to be that prior to his election Obama's possible nefarious ties to Blagojevich had gone completely uninvestigated. Only once has a specific medium (NPR) been singled out as biased.

I have tended not to know how to respond to this, since I get the impression that these asseverations are not founded in evidence but constant exposure, and since I don't exactly have a corpus of counterexamples with which to reduce the claims to rubble. So mostly I just think to myself how odd it is that in the milieu in which most political conversation to which I'm privy takes place (that is, here, The Weblog, E of the W, &c), you couldn't take that position with a straight face.

I have no larger point here. I'm just musing.


 

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Ask The Mineshaft: Doobie Newbie Edition

Posted by Becks
on 01.30.09

Here's an interesting one:

I am in my 40's and am considering starting to smoke pot. I have never really done it before, but I am pretty stressed now and would like to switch things up from drinking alcohol so much during the week. The goal is to smoke it with my wife who is pretty much in the same boat as me. I am aiming for a 1-2 times a week habit.
My question has two parts. First, how do you get pot? I live in san francisco so I imagine it wouldn't be that hard but I really am clueless about how to go about it. Is trying to buy it off the street a bad option?
Second, is it a bad idea to start smoking pot at my age? Factors include the fact that I have grade school age kids.

 

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Cornu-cope-ia

Posted by Stanley
on 01.29.09

So, I want to expand our garden. It's currently a 10' x 10' plot of "good soil" (purchased soil and vermiculite) braced by a couple of 4" x 4" wood beams on top of Virginia clay.

Are there any tips? We'd like to stretch it across the back fence (which gets afternoon sun), ending up with a (roughly) 50'x 10' strip.

I've read that we should cover the ground with plastic to kill weeds and evil terrorist bugs and that later we should lay down newspaper or cardboard as a base for our planting soil. Beyond that, I need help.

It should be noted that I don't really know what I'm doing here.


 

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Ask the Mineshaft: Heebie's Shoes edition

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.29.09

All right, I've got this paper that I'm desperately trying to wrap up and send out. The problem is that it is very common to have the following experience: "Hey, that line seems innocently misphrased." ...an hour later..."Oh shit, that really is a gigantic error." ...and then a few days later... "Well, I think I've got that figured out, but it really means I have to re-write the entire section." And then I write it up incoherently, and then a few revisions later, it is somewhat coherent. Mistakes like this generally set me back about 5-7 days, I estimate. And I had 2-3 on this most recent revision.

I estimated to the editor that I'd have it done by mid-January. Which clearly didn't happen, (because of these errors, which I foolishly didn't anticipate.) So now I'm on this intense schedule of squeezing it into evenings and weekends. And for the past few weeks, I've been postponing all social activities in preference of this paper. Which is unsustainable, unless I'm about to wrap it up, which is impossible to predict.

So, temperamentally, how much longer would you continue to postpone all activities? Or when would you resign yourself to a longer duration, and integrate your social life with paper with regular work? This option means sending a dreaded e-mail to the editor explaining to him that I've let him down once again. Or at least pointing him to this thread.


 

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Perhaps I need to unmisremember.

Posted by Stanley
on 01.28.09

Has Juan Williams always sucked?

I have a vague inclination towards a partial recollection of him as not sucking. But I have not any source for that inclination nor for the recollection.

Via EOTAW, a rather good blog.


 

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Teen Sex And Inventions

Posted by LizardBreath
on 01.28.09

Well, not really an invention, but a new product. I just flipped past some show on the CW with pretty twenty-somethings pretending to be teenagers, and some supposed-to-be-virginal character making out with another character lamented that he'd been carrying the same condom around for four years, and on the night when it finally looked like he was going to have sex, he'd given the condom to his sister. And my instant reaction was "You gave your sister a four year old condom that you'd been carrying around all that time? Isn't it past its expiration date, let alone being all beat up from being in your wallet?"

Then it hit me -- the virgin teen hopefully carrying around a condom for years is a familiar character. Surely there's a market for Virgin Condoms: extra durable, designed for a ten-year expiration date and with stronger packaging so they can stand up to years of wallet wear. The downside, of course, is that you only ever sell one box to a customer.


 

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Revenue stream

Posted by Ben
on 01.28.09

Advertising is probably not going to be able to support Facebook forever, especially in an economic downturn. However, they have tons and tons of personal information about their users, including embarrassing photographs, possibly incriminating updates and wall posts, and the identities of their uncouth associates. As a further consequence of the downturn, we can perhaps expect more job-seeking than usual, which the web-savvy FB usership will no doubt mediate through LinkedIn, whose analysts (they must have analysts—if not they can probably pick up some quants, cheap) will be able to detect increased activity among their users and identify people probably in the midst of attempting a job change.

Thus, I propose that Facebook and LinkedIn partner to blackmail their overlapping users.

Unrelated update: Facebook discovers these tips to me.


 

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Dudes. I'm totally blagging right now.

Posted by Stanley
on 01.28.09

Is there a term for the liminal space between being delusional and being a dick? Today's case study follows:

I propose "blagging".


 

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But, Unfortunately, It Was Written By A Woman So Scorn Will Have To Do

Posted by Becks
on 01.27.09

This made me want the author to experience a cockpunch:

A 2002 report from the Department of Health and Human Services found that 30 percent of 15- to 17-year-old girls had experienced sex, down from 38 percent in 1995. During the same period, the percentage of sexually experienced boys in that age group dropped to 31 percent from 43 percent.

 

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Contrarian opinions, March of the Penguins edition

Posted by Standpipe Bridgeplate
on 01.27.09

It's too bad they went to so much trouble to make a movie about dead penguins.

Update: When life has got you down, you know what song you don't want stuck in your head? Cold Missouri Waters, that's what song. (Cf.)


 

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On the other hand, "Patches" might be a good nickname.

Posted by Stanley
on 01.26.09

The thing about having sixty-some common allergens affixed to one's back for two days is, at least one of them is likely to cause a reaction.

I'm unhappy to report that, in fact, many do! And they're itchy!

Also: I've been advised not to shower until after visiting the doctor again on Wednesday, so if some of my comments get a bit stinkier than normal, you know, sorry and all that.


 

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Ask The Mineshaft: Suitable Suitables Edition

Posted by Becks
on 01.26.09

A reader asks:

The discussion of Sasha and Malia and J. Crew sparked my desire to ask. After all, many of the Unfoggetariat are actual practicing professionals!
I'll be leaving school soon, and I never really learned to dress myself properly. Since the next step is in a considerably more status-oriented building and city (epaulets and marble are common), I think it'll be important to elevate things a bit. While I can recognize nice things, I can't really figure out what will look good in advance, or what things are really necessary in a professional wardrobe. I place a high premium personally on comfort and utilitarian considerations w/r/t clothing, and I'm just not a terribly snappy dresser. Where to look? What to emphasize? Are all dress shirts blousy?



 

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The Invention Intervention

Posted by Stanley
on 01.25.09

I have conceived of a thing! More specifically, it is a brassiere that fastens in three locations: the front or back, the left strap, and the right strap. This fastening system allows the user (or, scandalously, someone else!) to remove it without removing the outergarments. It would be particularly useful when one is bundled and ready for bed but wishes not to de-bundle for the simple removal of one's upper undergarment.

My former roommate was always coming up with zany invention ideas, ideas which she herself was never likely to act upon with any real seriousness, but which, nonetheless, seemed viable. (One such invention idea we did act upon had us in the backyard with a CO2 tank, trying to carbonate wine; that was probably unwise, but I wore safety glasses, so it's totally okay.)

In this tough economic climate, it's clear that such good, old-fashioned Usian ingenuity can be part of a solution to our woes. So, what are you going to conceive of but then not make? Hmm?


 

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More Than You Care To Hear About Government IT

Posted by Becks
on 01.25.09

Somebody who shall remain nameless has been writing a series of posts on why government IT is terrible, prompted by the whitehouse.gov redesign and the debate over whether Obama could keep his BlackBerry. Someone and her readers seem to have concluded that a large part of the blame for why government websites suck is due to Section 508 compliance requirements, which dictate certain standards that have to be followed so that users with disabilities can access web pages.

As someone who has developed websites for both state and federal agencies, I think pointing the finger at 508 is misguided. All the talk about "you can't have a button on your web page!" is a misinterpretation of the guidelines -- I've created fairly complex web pages, with interactive features and all that, and it has been very rare that we haven't been able to do something we've wanted to do or have been forced to create an uglier page because of 508.

I'll admit that I thought the regulations were a pain in the beginning but I've come to believe in them and think they're right, and not only for the small minority of people using our websites who are blind and have to use a screen reader. Section 508 compliance is above all about ensuring pages can transform gracefully, which makes them much more usable for everyone, from Boomers like my parents who might need to increase the font size to folks like me who want to access them on mobile devices with smaller screens.

A bigger reason we have bad government websites is because IT for many departments is stovepiped, with each department having their own funding and staff. Each group reinvents the wheel when it comes to data standards, which makes sharing data between groups difficult, and designs their own user interfaces, which sucks up a lot of funding that could be going towards actual functionality and means a lot of them are crap. It also creates funding nightmares -- there are a lot of great mashups of data between 2 or more departments that could provide a lot of value to the taxpayer that aren't being done because nobody can agree on which department should pay for them.

So like a good liberal, I of course believe that government IT would be greatly improved by more government regulations and standardizations, not fewer. But along with that, I think there should be a big push to make as much data public as possible in easily-consumable formats so that people can create their own visualizations or mashups or whatever. If a private sector company or even a lone programmer like W-lfs-n can do better than the official government IT agency, let 'em.


 

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