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Surprisingly plausible

Posted by Ben
on 07.24.10

I mean, given the popular conception of him as a great moralizing sourpuss: Kant on dinner parties.


 

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And are people still calling them "shades"?

Posted by Stanley
on 07.23.10

It is a matter of established fact that, by the time that I notice something is trendy with the youth of today, it has likely already peaked and now finds itself in a steady decline. I'm just not very fashionable. (For instance, it's unlikely that on any given day the patterns of my socks will match. When someone says, "Your socks don't match," my standard response is, "Sure, they do; they're both socks." True story.)

In any event, when did Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses make a comeback? And what's coming next in hipster eyewear? Will there be an ironic run for Oakleys? That would be…odd.


 

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A missed opportunity

Posted by Ben
on 07.23.10

According to Google, no one has used, in connection with the clean coal boondoggle, the phrase "gild refined coal" (or "gilding refined coal").


 

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That sea anemone is really too much.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.22.10

Let's all enjoy having the sense of humor of a 15 year old. Kind of NSFW?


 

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Qualifying Exams

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.22.10

In my graduate school program, there were qualifying exams in four subjects, of which you were required to pass three. There were year long courses to teach you the material, and exams were offered twice a year, in August and January.

Conventional wisdom held that passing all three exams was the longest and hardest route, and there were shorter options available for students who performed the best in the courses*. I didn't qualify for those, so I sat for all the exams. It took me 2 1/2 years. Passing the analysis exam remains the single accomplishment that I most doubted I was capable of achieving. Why thank you, I am proud of myself.

Since then, they've weakened the requirements to help students move through that stage of the program faster. I've stayed irrationally pleased that I did it the hardest way possible.

Recently, though, they broke each exam in half, according to the material taught each semester. Part of the new design states that students must pass one half by January of their first semester. This is the first modification that I wouldn't have been able to pass. I couldn't keep up with the courses very well, and definitely needed a full summer to re-work all the material on my own. I'm a bit bummed that I can no longer rest assured I could still get my own degree.

(Grad school being run by actual human beings, I could have probably talked to an advisor and appealed for an extension, or something. Still, their expectations would have been out of reach.)

*In anticipation of their talent, these stronger students often had fellowships while the weaker students had rather large teaching assistantships. I think everyone agreed that the resulting gap in available time to study was a happy and humorous consequence.


 

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Is There Any Possible Justification For Not Giving Shirley Sherrod's Job Back?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.21.10

As usual, I'm behind on this story, but everyone's heard about the latest Andrew Breitbart hoax? Shirley Sherrod, a USDA employee, gave a speech at an NAACP event earlier this year where she told a story from twenty years back, where she had a job helping farmers at risk of losing their farms, and on one occasion, she felt reluctant to do everything she could to help a white family when there were so many black families losing their land. And then she got over it, and realized that the important issue wasn't what color people were, but who was in trouble, and helped the family out; they still gratefully remember her saving their farm. Breitbart released an edited version of the speech, describing her initial reluctance to help a white family, and leaving out the denouement. And Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, idiotically demanded that she resign without waiting to look at the unedited speech.

So, is there any possible excuse for Vilsack doing anything but asking Sherrod to please come back to work at the USDA, and apologizing abjectly for having acted hastily and ignorantly? And is there any possible excuse for anyone taking anything released by Andrew Breitbart seriously ever again?

Afterthought: Come to think, people should probably email or call Vilsack and the White House over this -- it's the kind of issue where I'd expect public pressure to have an effect.


 

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Bare Minimum

Posted by Stanley
on 07.20.10

Recently, the question was put to me: What would you expect, bare minimum, at a sandwich station in a workplace-cafeteria environment? I answered: white and wheat bread, basic meats (say, turkey, roast beef, ham, maybe salami), at least three cheeses (say, American, Swiss, Provolone or Cheddar), lettuce, tomato, onion (I specified red, but I think this is pushing past the "bare minimum" criterion), mayo, mustard, and oil and vinegar.

The interlocutor, you see, was outraged—outraged, I tell you— that he had encountered a would-be sandwich station missing the most obvious basic item, which item I hadn't listed. Curious, I began to speculate. Green peppers? Mushroom? Pickles? Some type of wrap instead of bread? Ranch?

My friends, it was none of these. No. It was alfalfa sprouts. Of course! The ol' sandwich standby we all know and love.


 

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As long as she doesn't think that I'm worried that she'll think I'm racist

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.20.10

I went to the gym with my dad. They've got single-use lockers there. When I was done with my workout and returned to my locker, a teenage black girl was trying to get it open. So I said, "This isn't because you're black. I don't think you're trying to steal anything. But you're at my locker. But not because you're black!"

(Just kidding. I just said "I think you're at my locker by mistake." But the verbal background noise above is what makes the whole thing funny to me.)

We then did an overly solicitous conversational dance, where she was clearly frazzled and fearing exactly this would come to pass, as she couldn't remember which locker was hers, and I was all "Oh, me too! I was worried I'd forget which one was mine...they all look the same." Which is why I'd picked a locker with a little blue Chiquita banana sticker on it.

The only thing that could have made it more awkward is if it had been her locker after all, and I'd been mistaken about which one I'd had, the subtext then being that I was opportunistically looking to accuse her. I double-checked several times in my head to make sure the little banana sticker really was on the locker before gently telling her that she was black she was at my locker.

(Somehow I doubt this story is going to come across as funny. I was a champion over-thinker of racial interactions when I was in high school and college, so maybe the story is only so funny to me because it would have sent me into a major tizzy a decade ago.)


 

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Yes, iPod. I promise you I'm keeping the car running.

Posted by Stanley
on 07.19.10

I've been making an attempt in recent weeks at running outside, having previously only dared to stumble around on a treadmill. (Have I given proper credit to Sifu Tweety? I should. He made some remark awhile back about getting over the fact that everyone looks ridiculous while running and thus pretty much no one looks that ridiculous while running.)

It's also helped to think of it as half an hour of music listening during which I just happen to be trotting (okay, trudging) along. And my preferred method of playlist making is to shuffle all songs until I hit a good one, then make a genius playlist based on that track, then repeat the whole process whenever I get bored with the songs.

Over the weekend, I commented to a friend that whenever I did this genius-playlist thing, I'd always get an Arcade Fire song as my second or third track, leading me to conclude that the distilled version of [Song That I Want to Hear] is always an Arcade Fire song, even though I may not actually want to hear Arcade Fire. The friend laughed, because he had noticed the same thing, but his distilled song was always a Neutral Milk Hotel song (which is actually a close second for me), to the extent that he'd grown quite sick of hearing In the Aeroplane over the Sea, previously a favorite of his.

Anyone else noticed this phenomenon? What's your distilled song?


 

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Seasonal Report

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.18.10

First Jersey tomatoes of the summer were really good. I forget how much I like tomatoes the other ten months of the year.

Still doesn't make up for the heat. It's bad enough that I'm taking cold baths. If it stays this hot, I may simply stop emerging from the bathtub.


 

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