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Quixote in Kabul

Posted by Apostropher
on 07.18.09

Passing along two excellent posts by Eric Martin about our Sisyphean boulder-rolling in Afghanistan.

We Chiseled and We Switched

Even the Afghan optimists (the COIN experts that think that we must "succeed," and that we have a shot at succeeding) think that our only hope is to commit tens of thousands more troops for at least the next decade at a price tag (when combined with non-military outlays) in the neighborhood of several trillions of dollars. Oh, and even then we'll only succeed if we also eradicate the poppy crop and reorder Pakistan's society while we're creating a stable Afghanistan.

As unrealistic an allocation of resources (and set of goals) as that may seem, it actually gets worse.

Start Another Fire and Watch It Slowly Die

So, in a nutshell, everything that we are trying to achieve is dependent on Pakistan getting its house in order. In order to do so, it must tackle a series of long-standing, fundamental, interwoven and fraught problems that call into question the nature of Pakistani society/government structure, that have withstood myriad prior efforts to address, that have proven resistant to outside pressure from the US (its chief benefactor) and that threaten to plummet the nation into civil war. What could possibly go wrong?


 

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Superfan

Posted by Becks
on 07.18.09

Can you take a band that you hate that others love and find a way to appreciate them (or even become a fan?) Carrie Brownstein has been trying this experiment with Phish for the last week. (Here's the first of about 11 posts unfolding her experiment.)

What bands are hard for you to understand the attraction? Have you truly given them a shot? Is there any way you could see yourself coming around?


 

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While We're Talking About Motherhood

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.17.09

Here's an odd story from Judith Warner's NYT blog. A professor in Montana was having a bad day, and dropped her 12 year old, another 12 year old friend, and their three younger siblings -- seven, eight, and three -- off at the mall, while she stayed home and took a nap. Now, the older girls had both taken babysitting classes and were used to watching their younger siblings, and the kids had asked to be allowed to go and have lunch at the mall and hang out there for a couple of hours, and they had cell phones to call home with if anything went wrong.

And of course something went wrong. The older girls went to try on some shirts, and left the seven and eight year old watching the three year old while they were changing. When they got back, mall security had spotted the younger kids unattended, and took all five kids to a security office while they called the police. The mother was prosecuted for child endangerment.

Warner's take on the story was that the mother was prosecuted because the city attorney in control of the prosecution disapproved of professors. I don't know that I believe that -- it's hard to tell without having been there. But whatever the motivation, what hit me about it is how little space there is in modern American parenting between what's perfectly okay and normal, and what's prosecutable.

Leaving three little kids in a public place in the care of two twelve-year-olds sounds like a bad idea to me. But not an insanely bad idea -- I was babysitting when I was twelve, and a mall is a reasonably safe location. I'd almost think of it as out of line because I'd worry about the kids annoying people rather than because I'd realistically worry about their safety. To the Bozeman police, OTOH, it's something you arrest the mother for. There's something very weird about a standard where anything you do with your kids that's a bad idea is enough to trigger law enforcement. To put it another way, if the older kids were, say, fourteen, this wouldn't have been an issue at all; there's not an intermediate stage, I don't think, where people would reasonably look askance at the situation, but calling the police about it would be obviously too much.

I don't have a conclusion about what this all means, but the intersection of parenting and law enforcement is a strange place these days. (Hat tip for the story to Laura at 11D.


 

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My mom doesn't even wear jeans!

Posted by Stanley
on 07.16.09

I've never even heard of "Mom Jeans". Clearly, I'm a better person than these shallow fashionistas. Clearly, I tell you. It's, like, really clear.

(Also, if this already got discussed in that really long thread that I haven't finished reading yet, well, crap. You busted me.)


 

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North By Northwest

Posted by Becks
on 07.16.09

I've never been to the Pacific Northwest before and will have the occasion to in a couple of months. I'm thinking of extending my trip by a few days to add on a mini-vacation and am not sure where to spend them: Portland or Seattle. Ideally, I'd like to go to Portland, but I only have three to three-and-a-half days I can spend doing fun stuff and getting to/from Portland from my other destinations is faaaar more difficult than the logistics for Seattle. I'd likely lose a half a day of vacationing, or more, if I went the Portland route.

But! I know two people in Portland that I could visit! And I could get a cheesy picture of myself with the Sleater-Kinney sign! But the trip is already going to be long and exhausting and I feel like I should really go the easy route (Seattle) to get more time for relaxation and exploration and less time spent navigating stressful airports/train stations/etc.

So, internet, what are the merits of each? I haven't begun my usual research so I don't know the strengths or each city. What would you do if you were to visit each? Do you have any preferences?


 

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Fitness Is Weird

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.16.09

Biking thirteen miles to work? Timeconsuming, but not a major effort. The few tiny little hills on that ride -- other than the one big hill I've been walking up, we're talking maybe a twenty foot change in elevation a couple of times on the trail? Kick my ass instantly and leave me huffing and red faced, laboring to push the pedals around in low gear.

Hopefully this will change.


 

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Me? Artistic?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.15.09

PGD requested that I post my songs here on Unfogged, which was totally exhilirating that someone actually wants to hear me! being musical! with my musicky self! I went through this whole bashful song and dance in my head about whether or not I should burden this site with my stinkin' songs, (as they are available already at my place), and then finally concluded that it's not that complicated.

Here they are! (Links to a player; you don't have to download anything.)

I composed these on a synthesizer with a wimpy collection of preset drum beats, which definitely cramps my style. The first eight were recorded on a good old four-track tape recorder, but the last two have been on a new-fangled digital recorder. In my mind, these are sort of proto-songs that would sound a lot better if I had a band and a decent singing voice. And yet I like them.


 

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Hilzoy's Quitting Blogging

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.14.09

No major life changes or anything, she's just done. First, I'm going to miss her terribly: she's been so reasonable and intelligent and kind, so consistently, for as long as I've been reading her. Her reasons are interesting -- they've got a lot to do with why I've slowed down so much posting about politics as well:

The main reason I started blogging, besides the fact that I thought it would be fun, was that starting sometime in 2002, I thought that my country had gone insane. It wasn't just the insane policies, although that was part of it. It was the sheer level of invective: the way that people who held what seemed to me to be perfectly reasonable views, e.g. that invading Iraq might not be such a smart move, were routinely being described as al Qaeda sympathizers who hated America and all it stood for and wanted us all to die.

I thought: we've gone mad. And I have to do something -- not because I thought that I personally could have any appreciable effect on this, but because it felt like what Katherine called an all hands on deck moment. I had heard about times like this in the past -- the McCarthy era, for instance -- though I had never expected to live through one. Nonetheless, I was. And I had to try to do something, however insignificant. . . .

That said, it seems to me that the madness is over. There are lots of people I disagree with, and lots of things I really care about, and even some people who seem to me to have misplaced their sanity, but the country as a whole does not seem to me to be crazy any more. Also, it has been nearly five years since I started. And so it seems to me that it's time for me to turn back into a pumpkin and twelve white mice.

My political blogging has always been more random and goofy than Hilzoy's, but I had the same sense under the Bush administration -- that the country was doing self-evidently insane things. Policy analysis was pretty easy: you could do a lot with "Hey! Quit killing people for no reason! Stop locking people up who you have no reliable reason to believe have done anything wrong! Put the waterboard down." So much that was happening was so bad that yelling "Stop it stop it stop it!" was a sensible addition to the public discourse.

Now, while things aren't good, they're better. Which means they're much more complicated. I want the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over. But given the status quo, I'm not sure what's politically and logistically practical along those lines: I can be unhappy about what's going on, but I don't have a concrete alternative plan that I'm confident is better than what's happening. Same with the economy, same with everything, pretty much.

This doesn't mean I'm quitting more than I have already, but blogging's a lot harder now that the political situation isn't so black and white.


 

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Megan Asked.

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.14.09

Because everyone was dying for pictures of my adorable new bike -- they're out-of-focus cell phone pictures, but here they are.

Here it is ready to ride:
Unfolded%20bike.jpeg

And with the back wheel tucked under to park compactly:
Parked%20Bike.jpeg

And all folded up:
Folded%20Bike.jpeg

So far I've made the round trip to work and home again once -- went in Monday morning, and came back tonight. It's an awfully nice ride -- I'm hurting my face grinning at people.

I do have to remember to carry an Allen wrench with me: one of my brake pads came loose just as I was leaving for home, and I spent an hour trying to find someone to borrow one from. I finally got it tight enough with a pliers. But other than that, everything's great.


 

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Do

Posted by Becks
on 07.14.09

I think all of the panic over going gray for women is misguided. I think the association of gray hair making you look like one of the Golden Girls or a grandmother is misplaced or screwed up from confounding variables. What made people of that generation look old wasn't gray hair, but the old lady hairstyle. You know which one I mean -- where they cut it short and went to the salon once a week to have it put in curlers and teased out. That's what makes someone look old, not the gray hair.


 

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Mates of State

Posted by Becks
on 07.13.09

Via Tom, these maps breaking down cultural beliefs by state are far more interesting than the usual red/blue divide.


 

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Listen to meeeee

Posted by Ben
on 07.13.09

I know what you're wondering, this Monday evening: "what will I hear if I listen to KZSU between 3 and 6 Pacific tomorrow?". Well, I can answer that question for you—in part, at least. Not only will you hear the viola/bassoon/bass drum trio Civil War, but also the like-instrumented Third Ear Band; not only Terje Rypdal, Miroslav Vitous, and Jack DeJohnette, but also Nick Didkovsky, Hugh Hopper, and John Roulat (and another band with the recently deceased Hopper). And: The Dead Science; Patrick Watson; Brian Eno; Kyle Gann; Träd, Gräs och Stenar; Magma; Janet Bean, Höyry-Kone, and someone with a hard-to-pronounce name. (The page title is "It's pronounced TAX (KOCH if you're Polish)". Huh? Does this mean that Polish people pronounce "Koch" like "tax", or what?)


 

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I've got q's in spades.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.13.09

Do you all really mind your p's? I say 'Thank you' all the time, but I can't deliver 'please' without being playfully saccharine, or wondering if I sound sarcastic, or at least like my mother is chiding me to go back and say please this time. I don't have a non-self-conscious straight please to use at, say, the workplace.

How important is please? Doesn't a pleasant tone-of-voice and cheery thanks accomplish the same thing when you're asked a favor?

My favorite substitute for 'thank you' is "Thanks! You're the best!", said real chipper, like I'm manning the carwash fundraiser for the Bad News Bears or something.


 

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Two questions

Posted by Ben
on 07.12.09

First: what's the origin of "who's this 'we', kemosabe?"? Google claims that it occurs ~6,000 times on the web, and lord knows I have occasionally felt the impulse to come out with it (repressed, of course).

Second: this guy doesn't get paid for this shit, right? I mean, what is, for instance, this?

You wanted an invisible hand -- it became a digital hand. Today's markets are those where the majority of trades are done literally robotically. We want a visible handshake: to trust and to be trusted.

Robotically!!!


 

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The Pits

Posted by Becks
on 07.12.09

Remember last summer when I had that awesome bag of fresh sour cherries? And I made them into an awesome cherry cobbler? I have another awesome bag of fresh sour cherries and was going to make that recipe again when I realized I've lost the recipe! I don't know which one I made! So frustrating! It was so simple and didn't require making biscuits and wasn't too heavy on the dough! If anyone can guess the recipe from the picture, you'd be my savior.

Have you ever lost a favorite recipe? Did you ever get it back?


 

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