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Hank Shteamer's blog is great

Posted by Ben
on 02.26.11

Dark Forces Swing Blind Punches, kids. No doubt part of the appeal for me is that he's writing about the kind of music I like, but it has the effect, admirable in music writing, of making me want to listen again to the music I've heard and to listen for the first time to stuff I don't know yet. (It also makes me wish I lived in NYC, or at least that more of the shows that I want to go to in the Bay Area weren't out in Albany or the further reaches of Berkeley.) He's also doing some interviews about jazz and metal at the awesomely named metal blog Invisible Oranges. (Dig the use of the Black Flag logo in the graphic for the header, which works so well it briefly had me convinced that the logo was originally designed with Blue Note in mind.)


 

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Taxes!

Posted by Ben
on 02.25.11

This is a good article about WI workers' compensations, the request that they contribute more to their pensions, and related matters, the gist of which can be stated (even excerpted) briefly:

Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to "contribute more" to their pension and health insurance plans.

Accepting Gov. Walker' s assertions as fact, and failing to check, created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.

Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin' s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

How can that be? Because the "contributions" consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages - as pensions when they retire - rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.

But the whole thing is good.

(This press release about the cops lying down with the protesters, via Harry at CT, probably deserves a link here as well.)


 

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Daylight Savings Time Approaches

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.25.11

Which means I can start bike commuting again. I am tapping my feet impatiently, and I've oiled my chain and made a desultory effort to clean all the gunk out of my various sprockets.

To celebrate the season, Sifu pointed me to this article in Outside Magazine on conflicts between bikes and cars, starting out by describing someone with a really lunatic commute:

It's not clear, then, how the Census would categorize Joe Simonetti, a 57-year-old psychotherapist who lives with his wife in Pound Ridge, New York. His commute takes him from the northern reaches of exurban Westchester County to his office just south of Central Park.

It's about three and a half hours each way.

By bike.

When I heard about Simonetti's commute--some 50-odd road miles as Google Maps flies--I was vaguely stupefied. It may or may not be the longest bike commute in America, but it's certainly the most improbable. In my mind's eye, there was the dense clamor of New York City, then a netherland of train yards and traffic-clogged overpasses, then an outer belt of big-box retail, and then you were suddenly in the land of golf courses and five-acre zoning--where middle managers crowd the bar car on Metro-North and hedge-fund analysts cruise in 7 Series BMWs down I-95.

.

I don't spend much time on the streets during my commute -- about a mile each way, maybe? But I haven't had a bad experience with a car yet, or at least not one that I blamed on the car; I suppose I've just been lucky.


 

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One of these things is sorta, kinda like the other.

Posted by Stanley
on 02.24.11

This and this (the second one has an ad; hang tough). The earworm I've had for two whole days mashes up the two choruses like so:

Meet me tonight in Atlantic City.
TELL ME WHY-EE!

It's so terrible. I thought I should share the pain.


 

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Things I've heard about your mother

Posted by Ben
on 02.24.11
  1. Fully reentrant
  2. Can be accessed by multiple clients simultaneously
  3. Extremely high availability (but goes down gracefully)
  4. Accepts incoming connections on multiple ports
  5. Never spawns children

 

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Ask The Mineshaft: Merchants of Death

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.24.11

Dear Mineshaft:

I'm going to a job interview on Friday. It seems like a fairly nice employer as they go, largeish but not predatory, and it would probably be a decent use of my skills with room for advancement.

Main problem: at least 50% of their work is under various DOD contracts, and the person who gave me that figure was probably lowballing. The rest is for other government agencies, with work I'd be interested in doing, but I have no confidence that I could confine myself to non-military work. So I'm feeling moral qualms: would this count as active participation in the imperialist project? Or are we all so complicit anyway that it doesn't make a real difference, as some have suggested to me? (It's not research or something at a similar remove.)

It's possible my political convictions make this job a bad idea for practical reasons, since on top of the work being done, it's a place that employs a lot of veterans. Some suggestions on how to feel that out while I'm there would be welcome as well.

I don't have any other job offers at the moment; I'm more or less confident there will be decent enough alternatives, but I feel justified in wanting to be open-minded about the opportunities that arise.

- Job-Seeker

Dear Seeker:

Huh. Interesting question, and one I have some experience with given that I used to represent Big Tobacco. Where I came down on that, obviously, was that I was willing to do it, and I still don't think that the work I did harmed anyone. But I was certainly embarrassed about it, and took a certain amount of shit for it in social settings.

For you -- part of it, of course, depends on what you'll be doing. When you say DOD contracts, do you think you're going to be doing anything at all that you think of as wrong in a different way than just making the existence of the military possible? That is, doing some sort of analysis of fuel supplies for artillery units in combat, for example, is helping to make war possible, and to the extent you think of that as wrong, that's a problem, but there's nothing particularly worse about it than anything else you might be doing for the military. Helping to design cluster munitions to be particularly appealing to children in the hopes that they'll do more damage that way, or something of the sort, would be a different matter. Have you got a sense of how questions like that are likely to work out?

Mostly, I don't think it's wrong for people to work for the military. It's going to exist, and if decent people refuse to be involved with it, then it ends up being monopolized by non-decent people, which can't be good. The fact that it's bothering you like this, though, may make it a bad idea for you psychologically: your bringing up all the veterans that this place employs as a practical problem indicates that you really don't think you'll be comfortable around them. And there's always an issue with being co-opted: I'm still more sympathetic to Big Tobacco on a lot of issues than I was before I worked for them. I'd guess that if you take this job, you'll either be miserable and burn out quickly, or if you're successful at all, you'll be much more pro-military in a couple of years.If that's a prospect that revolts you, I wouldn't take the job.

Good luck figuring it out.

LB


 

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I don't have a smartphone

Posted by Ben
on 02.23.11

The third panel of this XKCD1 has made me realize something: I would put on clothes to make a phone call. This realization also gives me an excuse to link to this post about nudity, something I intended to do a while ago (I didn't because I intended to use the title "The naked and the nude", thinking it all clever, and then when I went to collect the URL for to make the link I realized that Amber already used that title). The last time I lived by myself, in Chicago, it was a great luxury (especially in summer) to disrobe entirely as soon as I got home, and don't think I didn't take advantage of it. However, I don't recommend sharpening knives in such a state.

[1] Yeah, yeah; hang it in your ear.


 

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Race to the bottom

Posted by Ben
on 02.23.11

Providence has issued layoff notices[1] to all of its teachers. All of them!

[1] Is this different from firing them? Someone, educate me.


 

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Lateral thinking

Posted by Ben
on 02.23.11

An exercise in providing straight answers, with bonus Feynman-as-folk-hero.


 

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Some kind of sized step forward

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.23.11

Obama tells the department of Justice to stop defending DOMA in court:

After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President's determination.
Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit.

The person whose FB feed I'm getting this from claimed "It's a huge step!" I don't really know whether this is a big step or not, compared to, say, actually trying to repeal DOMA. But it's something.


 

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I'm pretty sure Dr Pepper is trolling me

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.23.11

There is no reason to do anything other than roll your eyes at Dr Pepper's new stupid product. And yet I can't help it - the slogan "It's not for women!" gets a rise out of me. And yes, I also get irked by the Axe commercials and general life on this planet.

(Also I'm much more interested in the protests, domestic and worldwide, than I am in Dr Pepper's Penisade. I just don't feel like anything I have to say that contributes to the discourse that's already going on. So I'm throwing this weaksauce up instead.)


 

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#A4C639

Posted by Stanley
on 02.23.11

I confess I find the Android robot unbearably cute. This could be an unhealthy aesthetic preference, but I try not to let it distract me too much. I mean, just look at that mug.


 

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Times to Workers: Solidarity Is Impossible, So Quit It!

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.22.11

Anyone notice the story in the NYT this morning, titled "Union Bonds Begin To Fray" suggesting that private sector union workers didn't support the Wisconsin public sector unions? Fascinatingly, the evidence it offered for this was quotes from five individuals, only one of whom was a union member -- nothing from any labor organization, nothing giving any statistical evidence of public opinion. The byline is interesting too: A. G. Sulzberger, the youngest of the Sulzberger family at the Times, which probably helped poorly-sourced nonsense like this to get placed on the front page.

It's hard not to read this as straightforward anti-labor propaganda: "Everyone hates greedy unions, even other unionized workers. You should hate them too." I doubt this sort of thing specifically is very effective, but it certainly is relentless.


 

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Mmm. Sacrilicious.

Posted by Stanley
on 02.21.11

I can't believe I just learned something by watching a Robot Chicken clip. Sundaes came from Jesus?


 

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Allow me to be the first to break the analogy ban.

Posted by Stanley
on 02.20.11

It would be folly to suggest the goings on in Wisconsin (in Wisconsin!) are somehow similar to what's been happening in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and other countries that I'm currently forgetting.

But whatever. In Wisconsin? Messing with collective-bargaining rights?

Wisconsin: your governor's being an asshole.


 

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Maybe it was a clutch of miniature fluffy yellow chicks.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.20.11

Jammies was rooting around in the attic just now, on the side we never go in, and found six or seven little egg shells, about the size of his pinkie fingernail, tucked in the insulation. This is giving me, well, the heebie-geebies.


 

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Sitting it out.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.20.11

Sometimes when I click the little "Skip this Ad" or little x, I feel bad for my mom and her kind, because I know she may vaguely know that such things exist, but generally can't find them or remember to look for them, or if she sees them, she wouldn't trust that it will close the ad and not also perform some action that will throw her off. But she generally doesn't have an eye to notice the "Skip this Ad" text in general.


 

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