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And then he found five, er, six million dollars.

Posted by Stanley
on 01.22.11

I kept scratching my head over the "Baby Doc" story, until I read this:

But about $6 million still sits frozen in an account in Switzerland, and Mr. Duvalier has publicly vowed to make every effort to get it. Haitian officials, human rights advocates and political analysts believe that Mr. Duvalier came back to the country last weekend for the sole purpose of making an end run around a new law that will make it harder for him to do that.

[...]

Swiss officials, eager to clean up the country's image as a depository for dictators, responded to the uproar by quickly passing what is known as the Duvalier Law, giving them more discretion to return ill-gotten gains to the countries they were stolen from.

But the new law does not go into effect until Feb. 1, which may explain the timing of Mr. Duvalier's bold move. Under the current rules, states making claims to money in Switzerland must show that they have begun a criminal investigation against the suspected offender before any funds can be returned.

So if Mr. Duvalier had been able to slip into the country and then quietly leave without incident, as he was originally scheduled to do on Thursday, he may have been able to argue that Haiti was no longer interested in prosecuting him -- and that the money should be his.

"This was probably a calculation on Duvalier's part, that the state was so weak that he could return to Haiti and leave without being charged with anything," said Reed Brody, a lawyer and spokesman for Human Rights Watch. "Then he could go back to Swiss authorities and argue that he should get his money because Haiti's not after him anymore."

If that's what was really going on with Duvalier's return to Haiti, that's incredibly brazen. But, hey, let's not rush to judgment or anything.


 

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I Should Know Better Than To Believe Something Just Because It's In The Times, But...

Posted by LizardBreath
on 01.21.11

Ali Larayedh, the leader of the Tunisian Islamist movement sounds very reasonable:

"We are Muslim, but we are not against modernism," he said. And he cited his party's strong embrace of women's rights, even to the point of advocating a quota to ensure a minimum representation of women in Parliament, "until they get their voices." He added, "We are not going to exclude women like some other extremists."

I know literally nothing about the political situation in Tunisia, but that certainly sounds like the sort of Islamist movement I have no significant objections to. Here's hoping the Times is having one of its momentary contacts with reality.


 

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Sure, why not.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.20.11
To Monkey Room Parents:
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has issued a new Minimum Standard requirement that states we must "ensure a supply of drinking water is always available to each child and is served at every snack, mealtime, and after active play". For us to be able to do this, we are asking that each child bring a sippy cup that will stay in the room just for their water cup. You will need to continue to bring 2 cups daily. One for snacks, and one filled for lunch.
Thank you,
Hawaiian Punch's Daycare

This is why each kid has three cups of their very own, at daycare. It's certainly not hard to comply, but it does seem a tad silly.


 

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Let it never be said that I'm not responsive to thread requests.

Posted by Stanley
on 01.20.11

Sir Kraab requests a thread about the unfolding developments in Tunisia. Woefully unqualified to comment intelligently on the matter, I'll start things off by listing off the few things I know about Tunisia, much of it through news reports in the last several days:

  1. Lots of news organizations like to refer to Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali as a "benevolent dictator", a curious phrasing to be sure.
  2. The new ruling coalition looks a bit shaky but is doing seemingly good things like allowing previously outlawed political parties to, uh, do something (?).
  3. Tunisia's in a part of Africa known as the Maghreb.
  4. "A Night is a in Tunisia" is a song I'm pretty sure I've heard, but I don't have the ability to look it up right now.

There. Having put on display my stunning ignorance about the subject, maybe someone well-informed can come along and offer real value.


 

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On the other hand, plunging into the ocean in January was nice.

Posted by Stanley
on 01.19.11

For reasons bewildering yet profitable, I found myself at one of those fancy-shmancy resort hotels for the last couple days—the type of place where people just stay within the perimeters of the hotel compound. Why on Earth does anyone stay at such places? I'm prepared to declare them worse than cruises as far as vacation spots go, and I've never even been on a cruise.


 

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Filed under: Uncomfortable Conversations with Long Pauses

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.19.11

Earlier, my colleague asked if I was free to meet, and I'd said that my day today was actually booked tight - was he free Friday? Just now we found ourselves walking the same route together, and he said conversationally, "So, how'd your day get so booked up?"

I stuttered and stalled and made the situation completely awkward, because I wasn't expecting the question. Finally, I said "Uh, because I'm pumping...And I have to go to the bank at the end of the day."

He said "...Well, I asked." And we parted ways.


 

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Artsy Art Art

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.18.11

The links in this post are making me want to buy all sorts of artwork. Like this. The limiting factor isn't cost ($20) so much as wall space.

Let's say that by the end of this thread I'll pick out just one piece that I truly love, to buy. Anyone else want to play?


 

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Their novel sensation of freedom was perhaps too much to bear.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.17.11

This guy does this:

I rarely offer my students extra-credit assignments, because I don't typically like to create more work for myself than necessary. Inspired, however, by Henry David Thoreau's calls for simplicity and solitude, I have, for the past few years, conducted a classroom experiment: On our final day of discussing Walden in my literature course for sophomores, I ask students to get out their BlackBerries and smartphones and lay them on their desks. I then offer the extra credit they've been begging for since day one: They'll get it if they let me keep their phones for five days.

His students do this:

Their most common response? Fear. Initially, most of them worried that they would miss something: a family emergency, a party, a job offer, a friend who "really needed" them. Many were anxious they would be stuck somewhere on the road, having had an accident. Some surmised that they wouldn't be able to call someone if they were robbed or, worse, raped. In short, most of them thought little good could come of an experiment meant to liberate them from the incessant presence of other people.

I was intrigued at first. Then I wasn't, because the teacher is super obnoxious:

It did no good for me to explain that there was a time, not long ago, when none of us had cellphones, yet we still traveled hither and yon, we missed friends at parties, and our cars broke down--a lot more frequently than they do now. And when our cars broke down, we figured things out as we went along--you know, practiced a little self-reliance.

Yeah, but, you twerp: life was set up with the expectation that no one had phones. You had a sense of how long it would take you to find a pay phone. Your friends had expectations that you might not call them back for awhile, and it didn't mean anything.

In a burst of honesty, a student wrote: "My expectation as well as fear about giving up my phone was that I would not have anyone to talk to. I had imagined myself just being all alone for the entire weekend. I was basically afraid of being alone." She experienced a "feeling of emptiness. I felt like I lost a friend."
I don't know whether it occurred to her that such emptiness might be a good thing, that she would have many more such feelings during her life, with or without her phone, and that she might want to get used to them, or at least find a way to use them.

I don't identify with these students whatsoever, but I also just don't believe that something fundamental about the human experience has been altered. There's always been plenty of escapism in college, and plenty of inescapism later on in life. But maybe I'm wrong.

Anyway, the author is so condescending that I want to dispel everything little thing he says:

When I began the experiment, I explained that I, too, had close friends, and that we remained close, in part, because we didn't make a habit of talking with or seeing each other frequently. I see two of my closest friends for only a few days every two years. My students were stunned. I made clear that my friends don't need me in constant contact. At least, they don't need to know what I do every day. Neither do I require frequent updates from my friends, who are secure in the knowledge that, to use the common parlance, I would "be there for them" if necessary.

He talks some more about fear. Here's the obnoxious ending:

Even the students who mentioned feeling liberated said their behavior wouldn't change. Their novel sensation of freedom was perhaps too much to bear. But Thoreau had hope. He knew that "it is never too late to give up our prejudices." I, too, have prejudices. I, too, have a smartphone. I will endeavor to give up both.


 

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Practical questions

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.17.11

What's the minimum frequency you'd need to exercise, if you were willing to go all out when you did exercise, in order to get in better shape? What's the shortest exercise length? I remember reading at one point about rats that exercised insanely for ten minutes a week, and got in better shape than rats on tiny treadmills who exercised regularly. I'd like to know exactly how much I can pare things down and still acquire, and then maintain, soccer fitness.


 

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I think someone likes me!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.17.11

I rather like this spam comment I got on my blog:

I am not a person who is easily delighted but I have to say your work blew me away. So much ideas and relevant details that you put into it made me see your point of view. Thanks for communicating your reasonable inputs.

Why, you're quite welcome. Thank you!


 

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You'll Be Fluored

Posted by Stanley
on 01.16.11

Earlier today I caught a radio snippet of someone from the Fluoride Action Network sounding more reasonable than I'd have expected. The fluoride issue is one where I hadn't really formed an opinion, but I had mentally grouped the anti-fluoride crowd somewhere vaguely over in tinfoil-hat land. Do I need to devote a more serious level of attention to this one?


 

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