NYC, December 14, someplace convenient for Brooklyn Heights. (I did like Dive Bar the other week, but that's probably forty-five minutes on the train home for Thorn and Lee, which seems like a lot.) Details to be hammered out in comments.
[Bumped] This is today, people. We're all counting on you. Old Town, around 6:30pm. --Stanley
In fact, I didn't catch most of these.
Via J, Robot elsewhere.
Last weekend I was in the company of about ten women, all married mothers, and most working outside of the home. The question of "how do you express your wild side?" came up (phrased that way by the therapist, unsurprisingly) after someone shared a story of a friend of theirs who swings. People mentioned drugs, alcohol, Bonnaroo, Burning Man, etc.
One thing I was struck by is how much this is not a topic I've heard on Unfogged. My theory why has two parts: 1. Bunch of introverts, and 2. very straightforward, logical people who would just say "If you used to do it, and you miss it, then do it. I don't get why this is something hard to express."
(I kind of get it, though. Sometimes I muse that I don't do anything that fills me with adrenaline anymore. I've outgrown the things that used to fill me with adrenaline, because they hinged on this idea that there was a big world out there that I was getting increasing access to, and each bit of access was exhilarating. I've kind of run out of things that I have any interest in gaining access to.)
"Mom? It's funny, ever since I've started playing rugby? I keep on nearly running into people on the street."
"I'm expecting them to get out of my way."
God knows if this is going to make her life easier or harder.
Lw writes: Professional fart sniffing, maybe the US is not doomed to lose to China.
Heebie's take: Why does that word gross me out way more than the actual act? So far I've got the kids saying "toot" instead, which makes the whole thing more merry and musical.
I had never noticed exactly that, under certain angles, writing in the mirror is reversed up/down:
It's not just that the knobs are in a half-turned state, it's specific to which axis you are half-turned along. The faucets above are half-rotated (towards the mirror) like a roll of toilet paper, whereas the deoderant below is half-rotated like a revolving door:
I always thought that the mirror-writing conundrum is an artifact of our biology, and not physics. I thought it was a result of the fact that our heads swivel like a revolving door and not like a roll of toilet paper.
Now it seems like it's both physics and biology:
From the physics side, there are two paths something might take to get from fully-facing me to fully-facing the mirror. If it turns like a revolving door, it will appear reversed left-right, like the deoderant. If it turns like a roll of toilet paper, it will appear reversed top-bottom, like the faucets.
If it's an object which doesn't have writing on it, and didn't exactly arrive at the mirror by swiveling, like your face, then your brain will infer an orientation and assume whichever of those two paths makes more sense. If it truly were an object without orientation, like a Rubik's cube, then I think your brain would err on the side of seeing it reversed left-right, and not top-down.
Also this Dove deoderant is totally disgusting, and I bought it on Sunday and spent Monday thinking that someone had doused my office with heavy air fresheners.
I went to a reading tonight, because I am, or would like to seem to be, or at least am valiantly fighting off becoming, that kind of sophisticated literary young pu^Herson, and I wish to tell you, the last person to read read (an excerpt of) a story that was so boringly conventional in its narration I almost felt sympathy with the anecdote related of Valéry, that "the Marquise went out at five" was a phrase he would always avoid; it (this story, I mean) wasn't flat the way deliberately affectless prose is, it was just boring the way that the prose of someone to whom (one speculates) it has never occurred that writing could be turned to some purpose other than relating that first this state of affairs, about which so-and-so felt thus, and then that, in which what's-her-face felt so, obtained; that, in fact, it is not just a transparent window that is and must be indifferent as to what we see through it. The previous speculation in fact cannot be quite right, because the author of the story gave to his protagonist and deuteragonist the same name, which he might not have done, and switches perspectives between them within the space of a paragraph or so—so he must be aware that in addition to telling a potentially confusing story, he can tell a story in a potentially confusing way (assuming, that is, that there isn't a part of the story he didn't read in which the identity of names is a plot point; is it possible to make an alpha conversion joke here? I'm not sure). In fact he does not tell the story in a confusing way; even when he read it aloud (something that because of its strict forward progression makes confusion about such matters easier) it was always perfectly obvious to whom the shared name, when it came up, referred, and whose perspective was the focal perspective. The only unclear thing was why the author had bothered to engage in this not-very-tricky trick, which only made the boring conventionality of his blecchy prose more apparent.
There was an attractive woman who also did not seem to love that story at the reading, but don't worry; I realized very quickly that I couldn't possibly ask her what she thought of the reading because, if she reciprocally posed the same question to me, I would have nothing but the above highly negative opinion to offer (I got there late and the only other thing I heard in full struck me as ok but I'd have had nothing further to say about it), and to offer it would certainly cast me in a bad light, so I was much better off not letting any light be cast at all—another bullet dodged!
From Sir Kraab: A Hunger for Tales of Life in the American Cul-de-Sac. I love hearing what generalizations people from elsewhere make about the U.S. and which differences they find striking. From America: What a Life! by a Russian political analyst:
- "the American practice of interrogating complete strangers about the details of their pregnancies"
- "Though Americans are slovenly in their outward appearance . . . it is 'completely unacceptable' to show up at work in the same outfit two days in a row."
- "An average Russian mother would no sooner entrust her children's upbringing to a local teenager than to a pack of wild dogs."
From Heebie: I love this sort of thing. Also I love it when people from other countries imitate American accents. I had a friend who would do this big-mouthed horse-chewing-gum impression while saying "Aaaahyuh liiiiike bay-yas-bawl. Ayand summ-merr-taaam."
Nick S writes: Various smart people have been linking to this essay by Clay Shirky with good reason.
It's a good long-form piece which puts together a couple of different pieces into a complete argument. I don't know if I agree with his conclusions but it's complete enough that I can mull over the argument and think about where it matches or diverges from my beliefs and intuitions.
For example, he says, "Open systems are open. For people used to dealing with institutions that go out of their way to hide their flaws, this makes these systems look terrible at first. But anyone who has watched a piece of open source software improve, or remembers the Britannica people throwing tantrums about Wikipedia, has seen how blistering public criticism makes open systems better. And once you imagine educating a thousand people in a single class, it becomes clear that open courses, even in their nascent state, will be able to raise quality and improve certification faster than traditional institutions can lower cost or increase enrollment." That sounds plausible, but I'm not at all convinced that it's inevitable. But if I saw that sentence by itself I would probably shrug and think, "I don't have a prediction of my own; I guess I'll just wait to see what happens" but reading it in this context gives me a different reason to think about why it's such an important question.
Heebie's take: I do basically want to see higher education shaken up - teaching improved, increased transparency, etc. If there were a model where students at Big State School watched fantastic lectures from a different university, and then attended discussion sections where they worked on assignments in small groups, with a roaming TA to help keep everyone moving forward, I think you'd often have a good scalable model for improving learning in the classroom.
On the other hand, I personally don't enjoy being a roaming TA as much as I enjoy running my own classroom and designing the whole experience myself. So this article makes me quite defensive.
If you email me your address, I'll send you an Unfogged Specialty Edition Geebie Family Fuck You Clown card. Use my gmail address: heebie dot geebie at gmail.
(It's not that my unfogged address doesn't work but there's all these permutations for dealing with the hyphen and I can never remember which one is right.)
Lw writes: I've nearly finished two really interesting books about the economy of the Roman empire. Partly an interesting subject for its own sake, and partly I was curious why there wasn't a more widespread and lasting technological revolution. Basically, there was no social or institutional support for a self-sustaining profitable enterprise. From wikipedia:
Land for the Ancient Greeks and Romans was not seen as a capital investment where profits could be obtained from the growing and selling of crops, but used as showpieces to enhance one's status as well as something that was inherently desirable from a traditional stand-point where economics played no part. To illustrate this, Finley turns to one of Pliny's letters where he writes that he will have to borrow money to buy more land. In the letter, Pliny does not discuss if this new purchase is an economically wise one in terms of the profits that can be derived from it.
The other book is The Archeology of the Roman Economy. No concise summary, but a bunch of great details, including the chart on p. 15 showing how important N africa was as a source of grain. Tunisia doesn't export much grain to Italy now. The section about climate, which Google doesn't show, was also interesting. Warm spell during Roman expansion.
I would really love to read something comparable for either China, anytime Han to Sung, or for Gupta India. Jared Diamond, the importance of institutions and capitalism. Discuss.
A cow-orker said this morning, "I just have such an urge to touch your belly! It must be an evolutionary thing, or something." She didn't, however, because you're firmly not supposed to. (It doesn't actually bother me when people touch my belly, but I get why it would bother someone. Your body has become public domain. I'm totally uncomfortable with weird hugs, so it's not like I'm some self-actualized paragon of touching. More that I'm kind of disassociated from the big belly.)
There's an interesting interplay between the very real and reasonable desire to not cede your body to the public, and class/cultural trickle down forces. The only people who come up to me and touch my belly are friendly women that I know because they're custodians at Heebie U, ie lower class Mexican-American women.
Is it an uptight upper-class Western woman thing to be bothered by people putting their hands on your body? I'm trolling you, here, but partially because I don't know a more diplomatic way to phrase what I'm asking. Is it like wanting to sleep alone, in that it's a symptom of how we're pathologically isolated from each other compared with other countries?
Lw writes: Proof that the rich are different in this Mike Tyson divorce anecdote, about Brad Pitt:
"One day, I'm going to her house to bone her again and no one's home, and I'm leaving and she's pulling up with Brad Pitt, and I'm sad," he said. At the time, Tyson did not recognize the superstar actor. "He wasn't Brad Pitt back then. He was just some little beach-bum-looking dude. 'Hey dude' kind of guy. He was probably selling his body for money or something, I don't know. He was very pretty."
"I wasn't thinking about attacking him," Tyson told Global Grind. "I was just depressed I couldn't bone her no more."
For the first time ever, I'm trying to send out Season's Greetings cards. Mostly because I feel guilty about the asymmetry of those that we receive. Anyway the task is filling me with complete and total self-loathing.