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Star Trek

Posted by Becks
on 05.09.09

I don't know if it's the best action movie of the summer, but it's certainly the most dissected (at least among the people I know). (And, yes, the summer's early but I really don't see how anything can top it, fanboy-wise, especially with the disaster that was Wolverine.)

What did you think? Spoilers allowed in this thread.


 

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Another thread for the feeding of your iPod's gaping maw.

Posted by Apostropher
on 05.09.09

By request. Mix 'em up, post 'em up, snatch 'em up, yum. I'll get things started.


 

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Tangled webs woven.

Posted by Apostropher
on 05.08.09

Uh oh.

If everything had gone according to plan, John Gechter would have been studying yesterday for a final exam -- one of his last obligations before graduating from Grove City College with a degree in molecular biology. Instead, he was preparing for an underwear modeling contest last night in New York City.

It's been a tough couple of weeks for Mr. Gechter, who has learned the hard way what happens when you try to use a gay porn career to finance your education at one of America's most conservative Christian colleges.

The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that "Grove City's student handbook lays out possible penalties for specific infractions, including a suspension of at least one week for 'possessing pornographic material' or 'premarital sex (heterosexual or homosexual),' as well as 'throwing soap' or 'water battles'."

Now wait a minute, Chronicle of Higher Education. I think I understand "water battles," but "throwing soap"? Is that some obscure fetish euphemism that had managed to escape my attention?


 

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I'll buy some indulgences for you.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.08.09

My mom and I had a debate about the implications of the phrase "You're in my prayers." I would never, ever use that phrase because I don't pray, and not being religious is sufficiently part of my identity that I would not want to give the false impression that I do pray. Furthermore, I maintain, around here it implies that you're Christian. I stick with "You're in my thoughts" or "Ouch. Sucks."

Mom says that she prefers to "comfort someone in their own language." That the person will derive more comfort if to hear the phrase "You're in my prayers" if they themselves are religious, and it doesn't actually matter that to Mom, the phrase means "I wish you goodwill." In a sense, she's right - it doesn't really matter. The issue is whether or not it chafes you to project the notion that you pray. It chafes me a lot; it chafes Mom not at all, who for the record neither prays nor is Christian. (This is part of a larger argument Mom and I have, where I accuse her of being assimilationist, and she accuses me of not liking perfectly good Christmas carols.)

There's no right or wrong here, of course, just personal preferences. Region definitely plays a role - these parts are very religious, as is where Mom lives and where I grew up. (This conversation was sparked when I mentioned how many people told me they'd pray for me when Hawaiian Punch's due date was getting close. Not even "you're in my prayers" but "The wife and I will pray for you.")

(To get off-track, there's a certain kind of prayer that I'm totally non-judgemental about, but then there's this vein of prayers as buying influence or swaying the course of events that I find very offensive. I have had explicit conversations with people who believe in this transactional prayer model, and who consequently feel sorry for people who have fewer or no prayees depositing into their account. ("And you don't get a refund, if you overpray.")

I don't think "You're in my prayers" necessarily implies you're using the transactional model of praying, mostly because I think most people play too fast and loose with words to think about it very hard. "You're in my prayers" a nice, polite thing to say. But the transactional model is somewhere buried in there.)


 

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Disappointed By Someone New

Posted by Becks
on 05.07.09

I figured Obama had a grand strategy for how to handle gay issues and they would all be addressed in due time but firing gay linguists who speak Arabic? After he specifically campaigned against that? Cowardly.


 

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I Know What They Say About Doing The Same Thing And Expecting Different Results

Posted by Becks
on 05.07.09

However, I'm also a big fan of traditions. So! With summer soon upon us, please give me your recommendations for beach reads. Trashy, trashy beach reads.


 

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Butterflies Are Pretty

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.07.09

Kittens, on the other hand, adorable and cuddly. You know what else is nice? Flowers.

Speaking of flowers, I've been wondering. I have a geranium in my office that I love -- it's tough enough that I haven't been able to kill it, and reliably puts out pretty flowers. Are there any other flowering houseplants in that very low needs, high year round volume of blossom category? Everything else I can think of blooms once a year and then either dies or at least stops blooming and gets all fussy before it will bloom again the next year.

(As may be apparent from the post, I'm both feeling guilty about not having forestalled that blowup somehow, and really pissed off at about a dozen people on all sides of it. But I'll get over it -- while I can think of a number of ways in which I could have acted better, this one's not really about me.)


 

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Careful with that complement, Eugene

Posted by Ben
on 05.06.09

I find the reasoning in §II of this opinion shockingly poor!

Obviously, everything depends on what it might mean for Shell to have arranged for the disposal of something; the interesting thing about Stevens' reasoning is that while he acknowledges the existence of the governments' arguments, he seems not to recognize their force (I say this because he seems not to address them as such at all). Everything in his argument concerns the phrase "arrange for", which he interprets to mean something like "intentionally bring about", but the argument the governments bring concern the definition of "disposal"; if they're right about it, then Stevens' arguments about intentionality are strictly irrelevant. The definition of disposal is this:

The term "disposal" means the discharge, deposit, injection, dumping, spilling, leaking, or placing of any solid waste or hazardous waste into or on any land or water so that such solid waste or hazardous waste or any constituent thereof may enter the environment or be emitted into the air or discharged into any waters, including ground waters.


And the argument is that "spilling" and "leaking" show that "disposal" does not necessarily denote an intentional act—it would be disposal if in transit (say) hazardous waste spilled out, even if the spilling were not intentionally brought about. Aside from this, and not mentioned, we can observe that there are two construals of the "so that", one reasonable and one unreasonable, and the former supports the governments' arguments. The unreasonable interpretation is that on which we have a (to drop into latin-grammatical jargon) relative clause of purpose, that is, the discharge, etc., of the waste is done in order that it might enter the environment in some undesirable way. The reasonable one is that one which we have a relative clause of result, that is, the discharge, etc., of the waste happens and the result of this is that it is now capable of entering the environment—on this understanding, obviously, we needn't characterize the course of events whereby the waste gets into this situation as anyone's doing, because that is no longer really the point.

The unreasonable interpretation is unreasonable because it would mean that only persons who were intentionally polluting were liable. But hardly anyone intentionally pollutes (if one is willing to grant the doctrine of double effect). I mean: how many polluters acted so that hazardous waste would enter the environment? If we exclude supervillains and those who wish to taste every form of human wrongdoing, presumably not many. Stevens thinks that it is "plain from the language of the statute that CERCLA liability would attach under §9607(a)(3) if an entity were to enter into a transaction for the sole purpose of discarding a no longer useful hazardous substance", but, were the unreasonable interpretation correct, that would not be the case, because by hypothesis the entity's sole purpose is discarding the stuff. (Thus Stevens observes that there is no valid inference to the conclusion that "Shell intended such spills to occur". Well, of course. Why would Shell intend that? What possible purpose of theirs would it serve? And concomitantly, isn't the fact that the supposition at play here, that only those who intend the pollution qua pollution are liable, show how ridiculous it is?)

The odd thing is that Stevens doesn't seem to think he needs to rebut the proffered interpretation of the definition of "disposal"; he seems quite willing to accept it and move on, saying that "in some instances an entity's knowledge that its produce will beleaked, spilled, dumped, or otherwise discarded may provide evidence of the entity's intent to dispose of its hazardous wastes, knowledge alone is insufficient to prove than an entity 'planned for' the disposal …". But the argument was just that one needn't have planned for the (to speak circumlocutiously) event that was disposal under the description under which it was a disposal, and the support, which Stevens does not challenge as such, for that argument was the inclusion as a kind of disposal something which is paradigmatically not planned for as such. One can still say that "arranged for" means in some way "planned for" (though how this is supposed to be enlightening I don't know). The issue is one of intension, not intention. Shell may not have arranged for something qua disposal, but they did arrange for something which was a disposal.


 

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She Likes Me? She Really Likes Me?

Posted by Becks
on 05.06.09

Yes, this post of Ezra's reviewing I Love You Man is really old, but there's a lot of truth in it:

What [I Love You Man] gets right, I think, is the way in which making friends as an adult is not merely similar to dating, but actually worse. The absence of sex renders the process more uncertain: Unlike with dating, there are few discrete waypoints available to help you judge the relationship's progression. Unlike with dating, the acceptable behaviors aren't rigidly defined and so the appropriate moves are not always as obvious. Even the expectations are more uncertain: Two single people at least have a certain symmetry in their dating lives. That's not true for two potential friends, one who might have lots of friends and a busy social calendar and the other who might be searching out a best friend or a whole new group.

 

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The Edwards Thing

Posted by Stanley
on 05.05.09

Headed to swim bed, but this probably wants its own thread. Oh, my.


 

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Ask The Mineshaft: Alphabet Soup Edition

Posted by Becks
on 05.05.09

A question of career vs. conscience:

About a year ago I returned home in Third World Country X after completing a master's degree in Europe. Shortly after I accepted a job at a government agency (GA1) that, on paper, seemed extremely relevant to my degree although it paid a pittance.
A couple of months into the job I was bored out of my mind and was ready to leave as soon as another opportunity came up. I received an offer at an international organization (IO) to work on a new, seemingly exciting project that I promtly accepted, turning down a counter offer (at a different department within GA1) that would have paid more and would have involved actual work with a team I respected.
Fast forward six months to now. The project at IO turned out to be dull, and I find myself feeling stuck and thinking I should have accepted the counteroffer at GA1. I have recently received an offer from another government agency (GA2), which would increase my salary and benefits by at least 50 percent, involves frequent travel (a plus), and is without doubt very much up my alley professionally.
The catch is that the government of which GA2 is part is very much a conservative one, so much so that it has recently introduced an article in the constitution that makes it illegal for women to abort even when their lives are in danger. The head of such government is taking all the neccesary steps to perpetuate himself in power (the abortion thing being part of securing the support of the catholic church), and is a demagogue of the worst kind. I belong to various left-leaning movements, including the women right's movement, and regularly take part in demonstrations.
Professionaly, I'm inclined to take the job at GA2. Morally, I'm inclined not to. Personally, I have close relationships with people at IO (including my immediate supervisor and college professor) which I feel could be harmed by my jumping ship so early in the project. What would the unfoggedtariat do?

 

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Even More Harry.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.04.09

A couple in London is suing because they believe the sonographer incompetently missed signs that their son had a brain defect, and cost them the opportunity to abort. In the article, it sounds like the point of contention is whether or not the sonographer actually missed detecting the defect or not - the sonographer claims that the scan didn't show anything wrong.

But let's assume the sonographer definitively screwed up, because the case isn't very interesting otherwise.

||

Okay, I'm having much trouble writing this post, because I want everybody to like me and as soon as I write any reaction, I imagine people blasting it. Just sharing.

|>

My gut comes down hard against the parents, (blast away), and their sense of entitlement to a problem-free life. That suing is a way of taking their anger out on someone else.

But then I think, "Suppose there was a preventable birth defect, ie the mother needs unusually high levels of vitamin X to keep baby from having this brain defect, and the sonographer misread the scan which would have detected that she falls into this category. As a result, the easily preventable brain defect occurs." Then my gut reaction is that the parents ought to sue.

So perhaps my problem is with selective abortions. And yet, even though I was memorably shocked to find out these are common, I really don't have a problem with them. (I don't think there is any abortion that I would consider frivolous. Use 'em as party favors, I don't care.)

(Finally, had this been an American couple, then the ethical harriness simplifies, because of our jacked-up health care system. They're quite likely going to be saddled with bankrupting amounts of bills for rest of their child's life, and suing becomes a way of bringing in some extra income, to offset the bills. In this case, I don't feel judgemental at all. Collateral damage of a terrible health care system.)

In conclusion, I have inconsistent gut reactions. Please don't rip me to shreds. Turn your talons on each other, beasts.

Via Cecily, although by e-mail, not at her blog. That link is just for kicks.


 

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What if she cries all day?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.04.09

Today Jammies goes back to work and so it is my first day home alone with Hawaiian Punch. This is a thread so that I can chart my progress/anxiety.


 

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I Still Can't Hear The Killers Without Thinking Of Working For Kerry's Failed Campaign In 2004

Posted by Becks
on 05.03.09

A little old but I forgot to blog it: Carrie Brownstein has a solid rundown of crimes committed by some of our favorite bands, such as the "That's Five Years Of My Life I'll Never Get Back" (when your favorite band starts to suck) and the "When I Took My Shirt Off It Merely Meant That I Wanted To Wrestle" (gay musicians pretending to be straight in order to woo female fans) and the self-explanatory "I Played Your Song At My Wedding And Now I'm Divorced".

What grudges do you hold against your favorite bands, past or present?


 

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Sometimes You've Got A Really Ugly Bird In Your Hand

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.03.09

Ta-nehisi Coates has had a series of good posts on Byron York's fascinating claim that Obama's "sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are." (You know, being popular with black people isn't like really being popular.)

I wanted to react to this one particularly, in which Coates says that:

The Democrats monopoly on the black vote is almost wholly based on the perception of the Republican party as racist, and the brand Kennedy built, but LBJ really enacted, in the 60s.
Now, because of the black community's demography, it's likely that Democrats would still get a majority of black votes, even if this weren't the case.

But the GOP could probably peel off a 20-30 percent or so, and here is why they should be trying: Unlike evangelicals, black voters of this era, don't have a list of polarizing demands. Obama doesn't have to fear a Terri Schiavo incident, for instance.

I think Coates is missing something that makes peeling off that 20-30% a real problem for Republicans -- to put it crassly, so long as Democrats have the black vote locked up, Republicans, even when the party isn't doing anything politically overtly racist*, have the racist vote locked up. Anyone whose voting is strongly influenced by a belief that the political interests of black and white people in the US are in opposition, and who wants to favor the political interests of whites over blacks, is going to vote for not-the-Democrats, and in a two party system, that's the Republicans. If public perception changed, so that both parties were perceived as equally concerned with the interests of African Americans, the hard-core racist vote would redistribute right along with the African American vote, and it's hard to tell (given that polling for the racist vote is tricky to do) if that would be a net gain for the GOP.

The lousy thing about this, from the Republican point of view, is that it's not entirely their fault. Once the Democrats were identified in the public mind (whether they deserve to be or not) as the party that cares about the interests of black people, the Republicans would have been handed the racist vote whether or not they did anything active to attract it (and there's certainly room for a lot of argument about how much they did to attract it.)

Nonetheless, the GOP is in the uncomfortable position of having a really ugly, unpleasant bird in the hand, and to make matters worse, they can't really tell how big it is. All they know is that if the GOP successfully breaks the identification of the Democrats as the only party for African Americans, it will lose a segment of its base that's now voting GOP for racial reasons. That's got to make it more difficult to work on attracting African-American votes, and I think worry about losing that part of the base explains at least part of the ineffectualness of GOP outreach.

This dynamic can't last forever -- at some point the racist vote will have to be small enough not to worry about losing it. I hope, possibly unrealistically, that the Obama administration will make a big difference there -- not that it's going to bring an end to racism, but that it might reduce, by a great deal, the number of people voting on the basis of racism.

Afterthought: AWB suggests in comments that the Republicans may be in the process of now losing the hard-core racist segment of their base, partially in response to Michael Steele's chairmanship of the RNC. That seems possible, and certainly the GOP deserves kudos for choosing him, whether or not they suffer for it electorally.

* 'Racist' throughout this post, is limited to anti-black racism.


 

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