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Bonum est multiplex

Posted by Ben
on 04.24.10

University Press Books is a fantastic bookstore, and the cafe-cum-record store adjacent it at least rises to the level of being decent (at least as a cafe, I'm told that in its evening manifestation as a restaurant it's quite good), but still, I can hardly imagine:

Join us around UPB's great table, where we will eat and talk about reading in the slow lane. We will enjoy wine and edibles prepared by the Musical Offering's genius chef Erick Balbuena, featuring many ingredients gathered from the Berkeley Hills. We ask everyone to bring a paragraph or a few words you love that must be read carefully, and savored slowly.

"Must be read carefully" here I take it does not refer to the passage's difficult interpretation. As for slow savoring, very many things admit of it! Think of the succulent description of the wound in "A Country Doctor", or a random passage from Springer's Progress (the prose zips by what with all those short sentences, but that's because of the poetic compression: it must be read slower than it reads, if you follow). (This might be a little long but it's worth pointing out for reasons of virtuosity.) I'm sure The Melancholy of Resistance is ripe with passages suitable in a similar way for such a symposium but I'm not about to go paging through it for the sake of a post—instead I solicit suggestions from you.


 

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Such sadsacks.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.24.10

This doesn't seem like it should be that funny, but this montage of all the hapless shmucks from beginning of commercials cracks me up. Boy do they need saving.

We own one of those products.


 

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Let's have a song, shall we?

Posted by Stanley
on 04.23.10

I grew up on a Paddy Reilly version of it, funnily enough. This version is close enough for blogging work, I suppose:

You can read about the original here.


 

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Ask The Mineshaft: Eviction Edition

Posted by LizardBreath
on 04.23.10

Dear Lizardbreath,

We're being evicted!

I wonder if it'd make an interesting (anonymous) mineshaft problem? Then again, the rights and wrongs and what to dos may seem obvious, but I thought I'd put it to you anyway.

We've been given three weeks notice by email; the landlord wants to sell the property and take advantage of the spring upturn in property interest. Under UK law, a landlord is required to give two months notice, in writing, and is also required to have placed the tenant's deposit in a protected scheme before giving notice or the notice isn't valid; something s/he hasn't done. There is also a fine for that, as it happens: 3x the deposit.

Using our best endeavours, we've managed to find a decent-ish new place and negotiate a moving date which falls almost exactly a week later than the landlord wants. We've politely asked to extend the lease by this amount of time, but have been refused; the landlord has already made plans to move 'show furniture' into the flat on a certain day and won't consider changing those plans since it might affect his/her upcoming holiday.

Legally, we seem to be fairly well protected; not having been given proper notice, we can sit here for as long as we pay rent. But given that our landlord has communicated a want that we simply cannot satisfy, how should we go about discussions? We've been polite and cooperative so far. At what point do we tell s/he what we know about our rights? And how do we do that? Should we hire a lawyer to write them a letter? Should we play dumb and say nothing until s/he comes knocking?

Best,

Homeless in Hampstead

Dear Homeless-

As usual, this isn't legal advice, particularly because I know nothing about UK law other than that it involves (involved in the recent past?) wigs. That said, you sound as if you're in fairly good shape, despite your ghastly landlord. I wouldn't bother with a lawyer at this point; a letter from you saying "Under [statute or regulation whatever], you are required to give us two months notice, starting from some date after you put our deposit in escrow. As you have not yet put our deposit in escrow, that two month period has not yet started to run, and you are not entitled to demand that we move out by [date]. We currently plan to move out on [date +7 days], and you will therefore be able to take possession of the apartment no earlier than [date + 8 days]. Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions about our moving plans." should cover you, unless he's really out of control.

Glad you've got a new place and it's not a severe problem. Anyone else know anything about the UK legalities of it all, or have any better tactical ideas?

LB


 

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Caterpillars are the most loquacious of all the creatures.

Posted by Stanley
on 04.23.10

I was just listening to this segment on Science Friday*, in which the host interviews an ant expert. At one point, the expert said something like, "Ants are the most warlike of all the creatures."

I love this sentence! It makes me want to keep rattling off ascriptions of human behavior to various plants and animals at random. "Tomatoes are the most avaricious of all the vegetables." Etc.

He also panned male ants as pretty useless and called them something like "flying sperm missiles", which, hey, sounds pretty fun to me.

*Doesn't some science-y person here hate Science Friday? I'm pretty sure the Chemistry Ph.D. candidate I know has railed against it vehemently for oversimplification of scientific topics.


 

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There's a reason Grandpa can't get on the donor list

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.23.10

A student just update me on her dying grandfather. Now he needs a kidney transplant, but he can't get on the transplant list because he's an alcoholic. So her mother and aunts got tested, but none of them are donor matches, so next week my student is getting a biopsy to see if she's a donor match.

I murmured supportive stuff and asked her to keep me updated, and we'd figure it out, assignments-wise. But in my head I was thinking, Oh sweetie, do not give this guy one of your kidneys!

I wonder, if I were her mom, if I would forbid her from being tested. I wonder who exactly is for and who is against it. She's over 18, so she can try to save Grandpa against everyone else's wishes, or maybe everyone wants to pull out all the stops for Grandpa. Not knowing Grandpa whatsoever, I privately judge this to be a terrible idea.


 

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Hazards Of The Review Process

Posted by LizardBreath
on 04.23.10

Female Science Professor has a horrifying story of having a paper get stalled in the review process, and ultimately get rejected because one of the reviewers thought "the questions [FSP] addressed were not of interest, and the methods we used were flawed." Shortly after FSP's paper was rejected, that same reviewer (she was aware of his identity) published a paper arriving at the same results by the same methods. She's apparently senior enough that while this is enraging, it's not particularly career damaging for her, but wonders how she should handle it.

I'm actually surprised there aren't clear social norms for handling abuses of the review process like this -- it seems like an obvious possibility, and one that there would have to be some method of preventing. Anyone know what the normal thing to do would be? (And check out FSP's blog generally -- it's very good for a quotidian sense of what science-professoring is like.)


 

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When I was all id

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.22.10

My parents told the following story this past weekend. When I was a wee toddler, my older brothers took piano lessons from a woman named Adelle. In Adelle's presence, I had to be forcibly restrained.

I remember Adelle, although I don't remember needing to be restrained. Adelle was petite from the waist up, and had an unusually disproportionate rear end. It was twice as wide as another's might have been, and very round. I remember that she wore those colored, tight, polyester pants, of the kind that was standard fare around 1980. I can picture her sitting on a piano bench.

Apparently, if my mom eased up on her death grip of me, I would bolt across the room and grab handfuls and handfuls of ass until they got ahold of me. On one occasion, I'm told, I was the first to spot Adelle at the grocery store. I casually slipped down and ran over to plunge my hands into those cheeks. They were exactly my height.

When my Dad tells the story, he stumbles while laughing because he wants to say "You were just doing what everyone was dying to do," but he can't quite bring himself to implicate himself. So he sort of starts that sentence a few times and says "...you know."


 

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No regrets

Posted by Ben
on 04.22.10

Perhaps annoyance when persons at a table adjacent to one at a cafe hold what to all auditory and even visual (ID badges, etc.) appearances is a business meeting, and a loud one, at that, is unjust, given that after all it is a quasi-public space and the idea that persons might meet and converse in a cafe is not, on its face, beyond the pale; nevertheless, there it is (being what it is, too—the cheek of it!).

Uh, I experienced this annoyance the other day; maybe mentioning that is important. The conversation seemed to concern how a trio of persons (two of whom were the "team" of the third) might better work together despite trying material (shared offices and the like) and personal (I presume) circumstances. The person whose team the others were had one of those voices one associates with HR types, anything said by means of which comes off simultaneously condescending, conciliatory, insulting, and horrifically rage-inducing. At one point they were discussing how it's difficult for one person to focus if another is e.g. making a phone call and each is in the same space as the other. By this time I had already been trying to get them to leave by staring pointedly at the one who came closest to having his head pointed in my direction. Unfortunately, even if I had caught his eye, he gave the impression of being the most gormless of them all, so I doubt anything would have come of it. So finally I approached the table and asked them if they found anything ironic about the conjunction of topic and place & manner of discussion, to which the team leader responded that she was so sorry for any disruption and how about if they left?

And then I found an economist.


 

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NBD?

Posted by Stanley
on 04.22.10

On today's Diane Rehm Show, Diane got particularly—I'll even go so far as to say uncharacteristically for her—upset about the recent Supreme Court decision on "crush" videos.

I'll cop to being a bit confused as to the outrage on this one. It seems the gist of the decision was, look, the law was written too broadly; go re-write it more narrowly so it actually does what you want. Then you almost immediately get bipartisan support for H.R. 5092, which seems to fix the problem.

I'm not a lawyer, so what am I missing here? Also, Alito?! Alito as the sole dissenting vote? I don't know why I find that surprising, but I do.


 

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Happy Earth Day

Posted by LizardBreath
on 04.22.10

Buck and I had dinner last night with a young couple who lives in our building who we don't know well. The conversation repeatedly turned to peak oil, and how fairly soon suburban living was going to become absolutely economically and environmentally unworkable; normally, we'd be the ones bringing that sort of thing up, but it was all them. I suppose this sort of thinking is becoming mainstream, or at least more mainstream than it has been.


 

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Bringing the Lame Sauce to the Party.

Posted by Stanley
on 04.21.10

Sorry, folks. I'm a bit light on content.

The funny/interesting stuff I've seen today includes this video from The Daily Show, which is region-blocked, so sorry, non-US commenters (and lurkers!), who can't figure out a work-around. I generally avoid these sorts of things out of consideration for you. Because I'm a, uh, Wilsonian?

This Colbert Report bit, also blocked, because, hey, take it up with them already.

And this loyal squirrel, which I don't think is region-blocked. May we all have friends this loyal, even to the point of futility.

I hope to return to slightly less frivolous posting soon and invite my cob-loggers to punt me down the page whenever.


 

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It does look delicious, though

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.21.10

Are these photos off, or is my sense of portions unbelievably americanized? I've never heard of the restaurant Claim Jumper. I'm ready to believe that their dishes range from 1800-4500 calories, but what they're serving can't possibly be what's photographed over at that link.

If I were ballparking the calories in the photographed dishes, I would have considered the first three to each have 3-5 servings, so they'd be 1000-1500 calories. The last three, I would have said they've 2-3 servings, maybe 800 calories each.

Anyone ever eaten there? Are those pictures what you're served?


 

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Cui bono

Posted by Stanley
on 04.20.10

I've been trying to catch up on the financial-reform story (here and here, for example). I must say, I really don't understand the GOP's strategy in being so oppositional on this issue.

Is it that they think it's just so dry an issue that most people tune it out? And what do they stand to gain, aside from successfully blocking the bill, which would allow them to accuse the Democrats of "failing to regulate Wall Street" or something? Even that seems a bit risky, since they'd be the ones to have blocked the thing.

I really don't get it.


 

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"It hasn't reached enough of a crisis point yet"

Posted by Ben
on 04.19.10

I look forward to being 35 and 23K in debt. Actually I don't, which is why I keep a hand in other fields—by writing trivial utilities in Emacs lisp.

My most concentrated dissuasive efforts regarding graduate school this year have gone unheeded (or may have been paid some mind, I suppose, but were at any rate ineffective). I tried!


 

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Guilty.

Posted by Stanley
on 04.19.10

This is unsurprising to anyone who's ever muddled through learning a pop song on guitar, but it's cute and well-done. I'm sad they didn't manage to hit Pachelbel's "Canon in D", which, please, wedding-havers, have that song no more.

Kind of unrelated but: I'll also note that one of the groups that I play with has taken to rehearsing playing out, rather than playing in. That is, most groups I've played with practice with everyone facing in on everyone else but perform in the traditional everyone-face-the-audience configuration. We now practice always in "show configuration", which, I think is helpful, at least for nerves (a big problem for me, holy high hell—the waiting to play is the problem; get me on stage and I'm happy as a clam).

And I stole the idea from a trombone quintet I briefly played with. Imagine that! A quintet of trombones (with a rhythm section, obviously).


 

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Necessity and opportunity

Posted by Ben
on 04.19.10

Sausagely, on Chris Bertram's photography post of recent days: "Of course the flipside is that without digital photography and the Flickr Creative Commons pool, the budget I would need to put this blog together would be infeasible". Right. Or maybe he'd have to write posts about motherhood without the helpful visual aid of some guy jogging on a beach with a stroller.


 

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One doesn't quite know what to think

Posted by Ben
on 04.19.10

Rufus Wainwright, composer and vocalist.

It's not as if one can know a priori that Wainwright is not a canny writer for orchestra, though one has one's suspicions. After all, Greg Saunier managed to get himself onto this bill, and he's the drummer in a rock and roll band (his piece wasn't a patch on, say, Dambly's, though—and sounded weirdly Deerhoofy despite the instrumentation). And noted rock oboist K. Bruckmann writes and plays concert music. This absolutely insane speculative program aspires to commission a work for orchestra from Weasel Walter—can you imagine?

But still, it's hard not to look at this as some kind of publicity grab on the Symphony's part. Or legitimacy-grab on Wainwright's? Who knows what his motivations are. Or MTT's, really: he was involved in the Mahavishnu Orchestra's Apocalypse, too. Serj Tankian[1] has recorded with an orchestra recently. On the other hand, people seemed to enjoy Tyondai Braxton's and Sufjan Stevens' contributions to that Wordless Music deal. It's all very something.

[1] I confess a vague fondness for System of a Down.


 

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Funny, guys. Real funny.

Posted by Stanley
on 04.19.10

The mind reels regarding an:

[…] event held just outside town today at Ft. Hunt National Park in northern Virgina. According to the Washington Post, protesters at the "Restore The Constitution" rally will take advantage of new gun laws signed by President Obama allowing the carrying of firearms in national parks to make an armed stand for liberty today.

Rally organizer Daniel Almond put the event together "because he is upset about health-care reform, climate control, bank bailouts, drug laws and what he sees as President Obama's insistence on and the Democratic Congress's capitulation to a 'totalitarian socialism' that tramples individual rights," the Post reports.

[links from original]

So, you're using (1) your right to assemble and (2) your newly expanded right to carry a weapon to (3) visit a federally mandated natural area, in order to prove…what exactly? Please tell me someone's going to arrive at this event via public transportation, because then we can be sure this is all an elaborate put-on by Ashton Kutcher.


 

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Alternatively, maybe the whole UC system will go bankrupt, and then we won't have to decide. (Ha! I kid because I care.)

Posted by Stanley
on 04.19.10

My thinking on this case is clouded:

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a case with Bay Area roots and broad implications. The question is whether UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco can refuse to recognize and fund a Christian student group under an anti-discrimination policy.

The Christian Legal Society - by requiring voting members to commit to "orthodox" evangelical Protestant or Catholic beliefs - excludes gays, lesbians and non-Christians.

Lawyers for Hastings say the case is about whether public universities are obligated to subsidize discriminatory groups. But the Christian society argues it has been stripped of its freedoms of speech, religion and association.

I tend to lean towards the freedom-from-religion view on these things, but I can't seem to land on an answer that seems right for this one. Perhaps you smarter people talking about it will elucidate such an answer.


 

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Saying what with watts.

Posted by Stanley
on 04.18.10

I had the opportunity to play a super-fun rock show last night. At one point, our lead singer (to the extent this band has a lead singer) bemoaned the fact that someone in the crowd was listening to their iPod during an earlier opener's set. I kind of cringed when he started in, but I ended up liking the critique, in part because the singer used a lightly mocking tone calling the behavior "really freakin' lame".

I was reminded of being at a (I think?) The Anniversary show, way back when, and having them stop multiple times to admonish the crowd surfers to stop being so violent and kicky, eventually stopping the show entirely. The legend goes that, after playing, the band was beaten up out back by some straight-edge kids who were mad about the admonishment.

This has been Back-Porch Stories with Stanley, Who Was Never Very Punk Rock Anyhow.


 

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