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Jesus saves; Gretzky scores.

Posted by Stanley
on 11.21.09

It's officially Christmastime, at least according to my neighbors who spent the day putting up lights and decorations.


 

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I've backed away from this post a hundred times.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.21.09

We do leave it mellow if it's yellow, but the accumulation totally grosses me out. (Especially the one time we forgot to flush before going out of town.)


 

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Confessional

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.20.09

Often times I would prefer to run, when I have to go across campus or across a big parking lot. It's so much faster. Especially if it's a little chilly outside. But I don't, because my superego tells me I'd look silly.


 

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Mammograms! Hooray!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.20.09

What do you all think of this revised mammogram schedule proposed by that task force?* On the one hand, they keep bandying about the number that 1 in 1900 women screened for ten years would have her outcome altered by recieving regular mammograms. I don't know how this compares to filtration rates of other tests, and how cut-offs are determined for, say, prostate exams and whatever else. But if this is out of whack, it makes sense to bring it in line.

The two counterarguments are:
1. Really? 1 in 1900? Then how do I know so many women who were diagnosed in their 40s? And not just me, but anecdotally, everybody seems to have lots of these stories.
   1a. Countercounterargument: That's how anecdata works. Plus, women with risk factors would still be tested.
   1b. Plus, it specifically says that 1 in 1900 would have her life saved. In particular, it seems they are implying that there are more women in the 1900 who are diagnosed with breast cancer in their 40s, but whose mortality wouldn't change if it had been caught when they turn 50. This seems plausible: perhaps breast cancer comes either aggressive and resistant to treatment, or slow-growing and easily treatable. I know, to a degree, that these types exist.
      1bi. If this is the case, they are doing a terrible job explaining it. See point 2.

2. The task force seems to put a lot of emphasis on the needless anxiety of false positives, ie those occasions that require a follow-up biopsy. This seems awfully patronizing, if it actually affected their decision as to where to place the cutoff.

*The recommendation being that women should not get yearly mammograms after age 40 anymore, but instead wait until they're 50, unless there is additional risk factors.


 

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And all the kids are off their lawn.

Posted by Stanley
on 11.19.09

I happened to visit my parents today. It amuses me that they're entering this sort of empty-nest period where their relationship is very re-focused on just each other for the most part, rather than having us kids around to worry about. It's really quite endearing.

For instance, my dad absolutely had to show me the new ceiling lamp they installed in the living room. "It was your mother's idea. I hated it, but you know, she really wanted it, and I don't really care, it's just a light. And anyway, look how the guy ran the wire, isn't that neat? Anyway, new lamp."

Typing that out, it may not be clear that you can just hear in his voice that they really are in love and in a sort of new and different way. Both of them tend to confide in me with a sort of "you know how your mother/father is," sort of tone. Again, I'm not sure the endearing quality is really coming through, but trust me it's very much there.

Basically, they're becoming endearingly kooky people, is my point. And it makes me smile.


 

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Plain language

Posted by Ben
on 11.19.09

Heebie and Jammies: still living in sin. In fact, given that the statute says "create or recognize", it's not only Texans who got (or seemed to get) married after 2005 who aren't actually married in Texas, but also Texans who got married before then and people from other states as well.

Unrelatedly, a local commercial radio station played the selfsame song ("New Divide", Linkin Park) twice within a fifteen-minute period this morning.


 

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North to the future

Posted by Stanley
on 11.18.09

I would have thought that it was easier to google, but my google-fu is weak right now. Here's a string that will (seemingly, at the moment) let you watch all of the Oprah-Palin interview. It might be easily located elsewhere, and right now I'm still watching, so I have no opinions yet to offer. But I suspect there will be opinions.


 

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More On Life On Mars

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.18.09

Something odd struck me about the show -- one of the elements is the contrast between the modern cop with all sorts of newfangled ideas about forensics and evidence and not beating up suspects and the anarchic mess of a 1970s police force. Specifically, the 70s cops are kind of corrupt -- they take bribes -- and Tyler, from the present, is shocked and appalled by this.

While Life On Mars is set in England, I'd expect the same thing in an American TV show -- that it would show a fairly high level of corruption as normal in a 70's police force (that is, a certain amount of bribe-taking from otherwise functional cops), and very little in a present day police force. All kinds of other bad behavior, but not literally taking money from criminals in return for favors.

I don't actually know anything at all about levels of corruption among American police for real, rather than as presented in entertainment. Does anyone know if they really have dropped a lot in the last thirty/forty years? And if so, why? I've been mulling over this all afternoon, and I can't come up with a reason for police culture to have changed like that, if it has.


 

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Distinctly Copshow

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.18.09

Because I rely on the history faculty of UC Davis for all my cultural criticism, I've been watching Life On Mars (the BBC version. I haven't seen the US remake.) and it's worth a try, if you're looking for TV to watch.  The premise is goofy: Sam Tyler, a Manchester cop in 2006 gets hit by a car, wakes up in 1973, and has to function as a cop in 1973 while trying to get back to the present, but they do good things with it.

It took me an episode or so to figure out the structure of what's going on --it's not a mashup of a copshow and a time travel plot, so much as a mashup of a copshow and a nightmare. Getting logical about the timetravelly bit doesn't work, but not because the writers have done it badly: they've written the protagonist's reactions, and the messages he gets from the future (where he seems to be in a coma), and the reactions of people in 1973 to Tyler (largely failing to notice how very strangely he's acting) in a very effectively spooky, literally dreamlike, way.

And the copshow half is great. It's not The Wire, and it's not trying to be: it has the feel of one of those fun old copshows from the 70s, with a lot of skidding around corners in a Ford Cortina and punching people in the face to make a comic point. The guy who plays Tyler's boss does him as an incredibly appealing maniac - I could sit and watch him chew up the scenery forever.

And of course it's got the things that make British tv generally appealing - the way they're actually willing to cast ordinarily funny-looking actors in major roles for one, and the Manchester accents. (I realized, watching this, that I've seen Manchester accents written out a fair amount, but hardly ever heard them. There was a bit of "So that's what 'summat' sounds like when used in a sentence," in my reaction.  No need for subtitles, though.)

Give it a shot if you're looking for something to watch.


 

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And, no, odd people who keep asking, I did not "get any good pain meds" out of it.

Posted by Stanley
on 11.17.09

This feels overly whiny to write, but it's been on my mind all day.

I had my last wisdom tooth removed yesterday, after a week of distracting low-level headaches waiting to see the dentist. I'd had my only other wisdom tooth (hypodontia!) out previously, not because it was hurting me. Rather, it was predicted to be in the way of another tooth. They left the other one in place, because it didn't seem likely to be a problem.

Anyway, on the dentist's advice, I went ahead and worked yesterday, and the pain just got worse and worse all day long, such that by the end of the day, I had a raging headache and pain in my mouth. I seriously suspected the dentist had accidentally left some bit of tooth or something up there. I felt awful.

Today, I woke up feeling much, much better—except I've barely made it out of bed all day. I'm just completely zapped, and this is a surprising feeling because I've had teeth out before without this energy drain.

I attribute the drain to a few factors: (1) this tooth was actively painful, so it's not surprising that the recovery would take more time, though I don't understand the science behind it; (2) I'm getting older and probably don't bounce back as easily when someone cuts into my face and takes out some bone; (3) working yesterday probably made things worse, especially having to talk a lot.

It's been nagging my thoughts all day. Any other ideas?


 

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Pedagogy, shmedanotteachinganythingverywell, apparently.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.17.09

The grade distribution for the test I just finished grading is: 6 As, 2 Bs, 2Cs, 2Ds, and 5 Fs. The frustrating thing is that except for one person, all the rest of the Cs, Ds, and Fs are showing up, participating, answering questions, and generally giving the appearance of following the material. Sheesh.

My new experiment that I want to try is called the Confidoscale. I want to teach them to test themselves with testlike problems under testlike conditions, because I don't believe they do this. First they have to pick out ten sample problems, and they get a completion grade for doing so. Then, halfway through their studying, they should put everything away, and do five of the problems, and rank their confidence on a scale of 1 to 5. Then, when they think they are done studing, they will put everything away and do the rest of the problems, and rank their confidence on a scale of 1 to 5. Maybe this will help them tune in to the effectiveness of their studying. (For those who scored badly, anyway.)

Things like this work great if you do it partway through the semester, to interject some novelty into the routine. They stop working if you try to get them to do it before every test. I used to do a survey where they had to predict their grade, say what they were aiming for, and what the lowest acceptable grade for them was ahead of time. After they took the test, they had to estimate their performance. When they actually got their test back, they had to write a little bit, analyzing their situation.

When I stopped and looked at the surveys, I found that A students were excellent at estimating their grades, and F students were terrible, and C students were in the middle. Nobody gained the skill of being more tuned into their performance. I stopped doing the surveys.


 

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You should try wearing pants!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.16.09

So, basically all my pants that I wear to work are these:

pants.jpg

in various colors. (Picture from J. Crew but they are very easy to find at Goodwill, in whatever brand.) Are they starting to look dated? I like them. I'm just curious, not particualrly stressed out over it or anything.


 

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And two is for the sound, hootie hoo, that I make

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.16.09

My mom picked up the expression "X is a hoot!" a few years ago, and I was amused, because I've never known her to pick up any new (to her) slang, and so this stood out. I think I know where she got it, too. And then lately I've been hearing it more and more. Is this phrase the next big thing? Are we all supposed to deliver it in that big, overemphasized way that my mom does?


 

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Seduction cuisine

Posted by Ben
on 11.15.09

Perhaps the scattershot comments in one of the thread belows (you know which) could benefit from reading an account of same from days gone by, which appeared in An Alphabet for Gourmets under the title "B is for Bachelors"

…And the wonderful dinners they pull out of their cupboards with such dining-room aplomb and kitchen chaos.

Their approach to gastronomy is basically sexual, since few of them under seventy-nine will bother to produce a good meal unless it is for a pretty woman. Few of them at any age will consciously ponder on the aphrodisiac qualities of the dishes they serve forth, but subconsciously they use what tricks they have to make their little banquets, whether intimate or merely convivial, lead as subtly as possible to the hoped-for bedding down.

Soft lights, plenty of tipples (from champagne to straight rye), and if possible a little music, are the timeworn props in any such entertainment, on no matter what financial level the host is operating. Some men head for the back booth at the corner pub and play the juke-box, with overtones of medium-rare steak and French-fried potatoes. Others are forced to fall back on the soft-footed alcoholic ministrations of a Filipino houseboy [sic], muted Stan Kenton on the super-Capeheart, and a little supper beginning with caviar malossol on ice and ending with a soufflé au kirschwasser d'Alsace.

The bachelors I'm considering at this moment are at neither end of the gastronomical scale. They are the men between twenty-five and fifty who if they have been married are temporarily out of it and are therefore triply conscious of both their heaven-sent freedom and their domestic clumsiness. They are in the middle brackets, financially if not emotionally. They have been around and know the niceties or amenities or whatever they choose to call the tricks of a well-set table and a well-poured glass, and yet they have neither the tastes nor the pocketbooks to indulge in signing endless chits at Mike Romanoff's or "21".

In other words, they like to give a little dinner now and again in the far from circumspect intimacy of their apartments, which more often than not consist of a studio-living-room with either a disguised let-down bed or a tiny bedroom, a bath, and stuffy closet called the kitchen.

I have eaten many meals prepared and served in such surroundings. I am perhaps fortunate to be able to say that I have always enjoyed them—and perhaps even more fortunate to be able to say that I enjoyed them because of my acquired knowledge of the basic rules of seduction. I assumed that I had been invited for either a direct or an indirect approach. I judged as best I could which one was being contemplated, let my host know of my own foreknowledge, and then sat back to have as much pleasure as possible.

I almost always found that since my host knew I was aware of the situation, he was more relaxed and philosophical about its very improbable outcome and could listen to the phonograph records and savor his cautiously concocted Martini with more inner calm. And I almost always ate and drank well, finding that any man who knows that a woman will behave in her cups, whether of consommé double or of double Scotch, is resigned happily to a good dinner; in fact, given the choice between it and a rousing tumble in the hay, he will inevitably choose the first, being convinced that the latter can perforce be found elsewhere.

The drinks offered to me were easy ones, dictated by my statements made early in the game (I never bothered to hint but always said plainly, in self-protection, that I liked very dry Gibsons with good ale to follow, or dry sherry with good wine: safe but happy, that was my motto.) I was given some beautiful liquids: really old Scotch, Swiss Dézelay light as mountain water, proud vintage Burgundies, countless bottles of champagne, all good too, and what fine cognacs! Only once did a professional bachelor ever offer me a glass of sweet liqueur. I never saw him again, feeling that his perceptions were too dull for me to exhaust myself, if after even the short time needed to win my acceptance of his dinner invitation he had not guessed my tastes that far.

The dishes I have eaten at such tables-for-two range from home-grown snails in home-made butter to pompano flown in from the Gulf of Mexico with slivered macadamias from Maui—or is it Oahu? I have found that most bachelors like the exotic, at least culinarily speaking: they would rather fuss around with a complex recipe for Le Hochepot de Queue de Boeuf than with a simple one called Stewed Ox-tail, even if both come from André Simon's Concise Encyclopædia of Gastronomy.

They are snobs in that the prefer to keep Escoffier on the front of the shelf and hide Mrs. Kander's Settlement Cook Book.

They are experts at the casual: they may quit the office early and make a murderous sacrifice of pay, but when you arrive the apartment is pleasantly odorous, glasses and a perfectly frosted shaker or a bottle await you. Your host looks not even faintly harried or stove-bound. His upper lip is unbedewed and his eye is flatteringly wolfish.

Tact and honest common sense forbid any woman's penetrating with mistaken kindliness into the kitchen: motherliness is unthinkable in such a situation, and romance would wither on the culinary threshold and be buried forever beneath its confusion of used pots and spoons.

Instead the time has come for ancient and always interesting blandishments, of course in proper proportions. The Bachelor Spirit unfolds like a hungry sea anemone. The possible object of his affections feels cozily desired. The drink is good. He pops discreetly in and out of his gastronomical workshop, where he brews his sly receipts, his digestive attacks upon the fortress of her virtue. She represses her natural curiosity, and if she is at all experienced in such wars she knows fairly well that she will have a patterned meal which has already been indicated by his ordering in restaurants. More often than not it will be some kind of chicken, elaborately disguised with everything from Australian pine-nuts to herbs grown by the landlady's daughter.

One highly expert bachelor-cook in my immediate circle swears by a recipe for breasts of young chicken, poached that morning or the night before, and covered with a dramatic and very lemony sauce made at the last minute in a chafing dish. This combines all the tricks of seeming nonchalance, carefully casual presentation, and attention-getting.

With it he serves chilled asparagus tips in his own version of a vinaigrette sauce and little hot rolls. For dessert he has what is also his own version of riz à l'Impératrice, which he is convinced all women love because he himself secretly dotes on it—and it can be made the day before, though not too successfully.

This meal lends itself almost treacherously to the wiles of alcohol: anything from a light lager to a Moët et Chandon of a great year is beautiful with it, and can be well bolstered with the preprandial drinks which any bachelor doles out with at least one ear on the Shakespearean dictum that they may double desire and halve the pursuit thereof.

The most succesful bachelor dinner I was ever plied with, or perhaps it would be more genteel to say served, was also thoroughly horrible.

Everything was carried out, as well as in, by a real expert, a man then married for the fifth time who had interspersed his connubial adventures with rich periods of technical celibacy. The cocktails were delicately suited to my own tastes rather than his, and I sipped a glass of Tio Pepe, properly chilled. The table, set in a candle-lit patio, was laid in the best sense of the word "nicely," with silver and china and Swedish glass which I had long admired. The wine was a last bottle of Chianti, "''stra vecchio".

We ate thin strips of veal that had been dipped in an artful mixture of grated parmigiano and crumbs, with one of the bachelor's favorite tricks to accompany it, buttered thin noodles gratinés with extra-thin and almond-brown toasted noodles on top. There was a green salad.

The night was full of stars, and se seemed my eager host's brown eyes, and the whole thing was ghastly for two reasons: he had forgotten to take the weather into his menu planning, so that we were faced with a rich, hot, basically heavy meal on one of the worst summer nights in local history, and I was at the queasiest possible moment of pregnancy.

Of course the main mistake was in his trying to entertain a woman in that condition as if she were still seduceable and/or he still a bachelor: we had already been married several months.


 

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Thank You, William Saletan.

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.15.09

I can't help thinking of the Stupak amendment, prohibiting abortion coverage in any health insurance plan that's paid for in part by federal subsidies under the House health reform bill, as the payoff from all that talk about how pro-choice voters should be more respectful of pro-lifers' beliefs. If we just acknowledged that abortion was always tragic, and always kind of wrong somehow, and that prolifers' total opposition to anyone being able to get an abortion ever was a deeply held moral belief that pro-choice voters shouldn't hold against them, then they'd respect us more in return and abortion would stop being such a hotly contested political issue.

Turns out, no. What happens when you treat pro-life views with solicitous respect and make sure pro-life politicians feel completely welcomed in your big tent party is that sixty-four House Democrats vote for poor women to be unable to get abortions or, most likely, to in at least some cases get late-term rather than early abortions because they can't get the money together in time. Solicitious respect isn't just interpersonal decency that will make political conflict over abortion less intense, it's unilateral political disarmament, and it has real policy consequences.

I'm perfectly happy to concede that there are many otherwise personally decent people out there who want abortion to be illegal, and I can respect that belief just as much as I respect any other religious belief I don't share. But if someone's going to legislate on that basis, I don't want them in Congress as a Democrat.


 

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Or caught.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.15.09

I think I would have a nervous breakdown if I were an undocumented worker. Jammies and I muse about this from time to time. The fatigue from the low-level perpetual anxiety of knowing that your future is at the mercy of someone else's whims, at any given moment, should you draw any attention to yourself...must just wear you down. I just feel awful for the tons and tons of people who are basically conducting moral lives under that stress.

I don't even like games like laser tag or paintball. I don't like the feeling of being hunted.


 

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