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A sound principle

Posted by Standpipe Bridgeplate
on 06.26.10

To wit:

With his party having won 6 of the City Council's 15 seats, Mr. Gnarr needed a coalition partner, but ruled out any party whose members had not seen all five seasons of "The Wire."

Then he ripped off his mask and cried, "You dupes. It is I, the formerly-cherubic Matthew Yglesias."


 

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For ari.

Posted by Stanley
on 06.26.10

It's no kitten, but Muppets certainly must help assuage any recent Gulf spill news, right? I love Zach Galifianakis trying not to lose his shit in the background.


 

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Out of lux.

Posted by Stanley
on 06.26.10

As a bit of an inconvenience (which nonetheless felt intensely annoying while it was happening), we lost power for about a day this week after a big storm tore through town.

While pretty much the whole of our little burg was plunged into darkness, a local watering hole fired up a generator and hosted a couple of bands, so I and the housemates wandered out into the night to drink it all in. (After all, there was fuck all to do at home besides write silly songs on the ukulele, and we'd pretty much reached the end of that rope. However, I should advise, just as a general rule: have a ukulele around; it helps.)

It seems almost too-obvious to point out, but, boy howdy, is it uncomfortable to walk around an urban landscape at night without lighting. I learned the word "anomie" in a foreign-language setting, and I've never had a firm grip on the concept. But for some reason that was the word that kept coming to mind as we ambled about the shadowy quiet of the streets and sidewalks normally ablaze in ugly yellow (I call it sulphur-lamp-yellow, but I'm not sure they're actually sulphur lamps).

Disconnection is what it was. And then, as quickly as it started, they got all the tree limbs off the lines, and Bob was our uncle finding five dollars once again. All sulphur-lamp-yellow happy again.


 

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Fun with Shame & Blame

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.25.10

This article profiles three people who gained a lot of weight as a side effect of illnesses or treatment. It highlights an aspect of the war on fat people that I find particularly interesting: hand-wringing over "How can we tell the good fat people from the bad fat people? They all just look like fat people!"

I just find it fascinating that we're consumed with the How Will We Know? question of how to distinguish good fat people from bad fat people. We're very ready to believe there are skinny people with terribly unhealthy lifestyles, but the existence of fat people with healthy lifestyles! That's very challenging to our stereotypes, because how will we know who to shame & blame? This article doesn't address fat people with healthy lifestyles, but it does target the shame and blame question. (For the record, no one should be shamed and blamed. Even fat people who live out every possible stereotype of Cheetos and couches.)

Semi-relatedly, I recently read NurtureShock, (which I found to be hit and miss, overall. It's in the same ballpark as Freakonomics, except they're upending conventional wisdom about parenting.) One part I did find convincing was the section on childhood obesity.

First, they debunk the idea that TV, computers, and video games lead to a sedentary lifestyle. Apparently children will trade sedentary activities for sedentary activities. So asking them to turn off the TV does not actually result in kids running around outside.

However! They claim there are a bunch of studies which all show a correlation between reduced sleep hours and obesity, and that this correlation is much stronger in children than adults. "Among middle schoolers and high schoolers, the odds of obesity went up 80% for each hour of lost sleep."

(Correlation or causation? It's not obvious to me if reduced sleep hours would track with SES status, because I've got conflicting stereotypes about the overworked poor family and the over-extra-curricular-activitied rich family. They also discuss some of the scientific hypotheses about slow-wave sleep and insulin sensitivity and ghrelin which would point towards a causal relationship. So who knows.)

But standard reference manuals, the USDA, and the CDC, all have ignored this link, and focused on standard obesity arguments.

To bring this around to shame & blame:
Making healthy food available and exercise are absolutely important, by all means. I don't want to trivialize that. But I wonder if the sleep link is being ignored because it doesn't fit into the virtuous lifestyle model as easily. (Early bedtimes are still considered somewhat virtuous, but it's not hugely emphasized, IMO.)

Maybe not. Maybe I just need coffee.

(Besides childhood obesity, they present a rather staggering array of consequences - academic, emotional - from the hour of sleep which has been lost since the 1970s. It all made me want to go back to bed for another hour.)


 

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I can haz newses?

Posted by Stanley
on 06.24.10

Already a luddite who's deeply suspicious of the idea that Twitter has any redeeming purpose, I'm vaguely unconfortable with the fact that all these world leaders are tweeting. Not that any of them is saying anything particularly interesting let alone controversial. It just seems…unserious? I guess.

That, and exclamation points just make me feel woozy.


 

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"Spin" is not the sound that a bicycle makes.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.24.10

Some of these children's books are so insipid that it makes me irate. The worst offenders are the Baby Einstein brand books, and books lacking an author and illustrator. What's galling is that there are so many fantastic, struggling artists and authors out there, and this shlock is taking up real estate.

The world is made of so many things,
all different shapes and sizes.
Let's explore this world of big and small,
and we may find some surprises!

... - from What's Bigger Than Me?

You should envision clip-art grade illustrations accompanying these verses.

At the store, Baby Galileo is a helpful fellow
When shopping for items that are yellow.
"Look, I found the sunflowers and the cheese!
Can you help me with the rest of my list, pretty please?"

... - See and Spy Colors

Cows: We cows are clever, don't you think?
We turn green grass into milk to drink.

Lion: A zebra for breakfast goes down very well,
but for lunch I prefer a tasty gazelle.

Cat: This cat has such a carefree day -
he sits, he eats, he sleeps, he plays.

... - From Who lives in the wild? Who lives on the farm? Who lives in your house?

But the worst - Worst, I say! - are the Scanimotion series that are ever popular, because of the neat scanimotion. Every one of these books has the same format: it rhymes nonsense action words.

From Swing!:

Can you swing a baseball bat? whoom! whoosh! whack!
Can you kick a soccer ball? froom! boom! smack!
Can you ride a bicycle? spin! vrim! vroom!
Can you run a relay race? zip! zoop! zoom!
Can you cartwheel through the air? hop! loop! whirl!
Can you spin around on ice? slide! glide! twirl!
Etc.

Please hate on these with me.


 

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I Have Become Tom Friedman

Posted by LizardBreath
on 06.24.10

Working late the other night, I took a cab home. I got into conversation with the cabbie (pleasant guy from Ghana with a chemistry degree), and was shortly listening to him explain that the problem with the state government's response to the recession was that it was contractionary -- during a recession, you need to spend more, rather than cut spending, even if you're borrowing to do it.

I have to admit, the guy had a point.


 

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Saying Nope.

Posted by Stanley
on 06.22.10

I, today, declined two wedding invitations.

It was liberating.

Just a reminder to everyone: you can say, "No, thank you."

I have no idea why I let those two things hang over my head for so long while trying to figure out logistics that just weren't going to happen.


 

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Denver, sure. But what was the penultimate dinosaur named?

Posted by Stanley
on 06.22.10

I had a fleeting dinosaur stage in my 0s. (Specifically, around eight, I'd guess.)

So, I have no idea if this guy's got his dino facts straight. But I'm amused that he bothered to prepare a bunch of (intentionally) overly cocky, jocular retorts to possible responses to the question, "What's the best dinosaur?"


 

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A Bunch of BLL

Posted by Stanley
on 06.22.10

Without a doubt, the most shocking thing mentioned in this article (and it's stirring up no shortage of controversy) is this bit:

Dressed in off-the-rack civilian casual - blue tie, button-down shirt, dress slacks - McChrystal is way out of his comfort zone. Paris, as one of his advisers says, is the "most anti-McChrystal city you can imagine." The general hates fancy restaurants, rejecting any place with candles on the tables as too "Gucci." He prefers Bud Light Lime (his favorite beer) to Bordeaux [...]. [my emphasis]

Seriously? BLL? That shit is vile.


 

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Good morning

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.22.10

On NPR they keep harping on Faisal Shahzad's lack of regret about the Time Square bombing attempt. They also keep quoting a statement of his about how, since tons of women and children are being killed by drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he wasn't troubled by the possibility of killing women and children in Time Square.

It's a special kind of single-visioned sadism for us to bomb the hell out of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and then demand regret from the guy tilting at the windmill.


 

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Maybe dads love it when they're called it.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.21.10

Has "Papa" become California SWPL for "Daddy"? Or is my sample size too small?


 

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Do it in the daytime with the D-O-Double G.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.21.10

I for one find it really funny that Snoop Dogg wrote a love song to Sookie Stackhouse. That's the fictional hero of the True Blood vampire series, straight from the capital S, N, double O, P, D, O, double G, Y, D, O, double G, you see.

Snoop Dogg - "Oh Sookie"

Maybe this doesn't have widespread appeal, though. Hard to say.


 

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Skynet Watch

Posted by LizardBreath
on 06.21.10

IBM's developing a system that can answer Jeopardy! questions well enough to beat good human players. I'd heard about it vaguely before this weekend's article (an IT journalist of my acquaintance covered it for The Register back in April) but had assumed that we were talking about some kind of mechanical turk -- that the process would involve people interpreting the questions into a form the system could accept. Apparently not.

I know nothing about AI beyond the sort of thing contained in such seminal works in the field as "Dial 'F' For Frankenstein", but this seems, to use a technical term, really really hard. And really really useful -- at a minimum, this is going to be a killer search engine, and particularly awesome for legal research. I wonder whether it's going to have an effect on law firm staffing.


 

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Some of you may find this amusing

Posted by Ben
on 06.20.10

My writing was recently assessed, by one who had had to read about 55 pages of it, as "efficient".


 

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Consumer reporting

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.20.10

I'm debating buying a Kindle. I mostly like the idea that I wouldn't be accumulating books that I don't really want to house or take when I travel. (I know, libraries exist. But I'm in a book club and you can't always acquire the stated book instantly. (I know, not all books are available on Kindle, either. Quit hassling me.))

I'm curious about the fact that it's not backlit: I'm told this is so that it's easy on the eyes. On the other hand, that means I still need a nightlight to read in bed. Thoughts?

I know we discussed them when they first came out, but me me me. I'm debating one now, not then. Plus perhaps more of you all have developed opinions, now that they've been out longer.


 

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