We watched Groundhog Day tonight, because the kids hadn't seen it, and then went out into a sparkly fall of fresh snow to walk the dog. Buck said to me: "You know you're my Andie McDowell."
"I'm really not anything like Andie McDowell."
"I guess not. You're kind of like Bill Murray, though."
[Insert Caulk Joke]
I did a Habitat build today. It was great, and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a volunteering gig where you'll be put to work right away.
I must say, however: my knees hurt. I think it's from kneeling on scaffolding for much of the day. And I'm left to conclude that this is just a thing that's going to happen now that I'm getting old: my knees will hurt if I kneel on them too much.
Book Review: A Misplaced Massacre
A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over The Memory Of Sand Creek (Ari Kelman's latest book)(author''s blog), was surprisingly engaging, given that Western history generally isn't something that interests me a great deal†. It's an account of the process leading up to the opening of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site* in 2007, and largely focuses on the problem of figuring out exactly where the massacre happened so as to place the site (with a side note of people arguing that calling it a massacre is politically correct revisionism and the victims had it coming, but that's not a major focus.)
The problem of placing the site comes down to an argument about different ways of knowing what happened, given that there weren't any immovable landmarks to work from (a streamcourse, but that appears to have wandered in the last 150 years). There was an old marker placed in 1950 on private land, that local Cheyenne leaders believed was accurately placed, on the combined basis of tradition, two maps produced about forty years after the massacre by a Cheyenne survivor, and a spiritual sense (poor phrasing on my part, but my difficulty phrasing it properly is related to the topic of the book) of the presence of the massacre at the site of the marker. On the other hand, people looking for remains of the massacre with metal detectors found nothing near the marker, but substantial remains a mile or so away on a different piece of private property, at a site which agrees with an 1868 military map of the site. (One thing that bemused me was that anyone cared about a mile or so difference - on a flat piece of land, for an event the size of a battle, doesn't that count as "right around here someplace"? But apparently I was wrong about that.)
I was strongly reminded of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, another book about conflicts between a 'rational'? academic? way of perceiving a set of events and alternate ways of looking at the same thing. In Henrietta Lacks, of course, while Ms. Lacks' family is strongly troubled by the use of their mother's/grandmother's tissue for research, they have no effective way of communicating their concerns to the researchers, and no leverage at all with which to make their concerns effective, so there's no reconciliation attempted or achieved between the rival approaches. Here, the Cheyenne leaders are a necessary part of the process of siting the memorial, and so their perspective absolutely has to be addressed and reconciled with other kinds of evidence.
It's a fascinating problem - my prejudices are all lined up with the most 'rational', evidence-based way of assessing anything, and it's hard for me to think of how to relate respectfully to other perspectives other than by explaining as politely as possible that anyone who disagrees is simply wrong. Practically, though, that's not always going to work, and morally it's not going to always be the right thing to do - looking at a situation where my kind of people are forced to work with and around incompatible ways of evaluating information is compellingly frustrating.
This isn't the only issue addressed in the book: the story of the acquisition of the site from the landowner, who's a bit of a con man, is independently interesting, as are the side notes of people fussing about the political correctness of identifying the site as that of a massacre, rather than a battle. But unless you're a general Western history geek, which I'm not, I'd read it for the negotiation of the clashing worldviews more than anything else.
* Uneducated clod who has never heard of the Sand Creek Massacre? Me too. November 29, 1864, the 3d Colorado Regiment, led by Colonel John Chivington, attacked a settlement of Cheyenne and Arapaho at Sand Creek, and killed somewhere around
five or six hundred a hundred and fifty (the larger number was an inflated claim by Chivington) of them. Chivington claimed the people at Sand Creek were gathering for some hostile purpose and his attack on the settlement was an ordinary military operation. Other contemporary witnesses including survivors of the massacre such as George Bent (a Cheyenne source who wrote an account of the events), as well another army officer, Capt. Silas Soule, who refused to participate or allow the troops he led to participate in the attack, described it as an unprovoked attack on a peaceful settlement made up largely of women and children who were killed without regard to any expressed hostile capabilities or intentions. Surprisingly, at least to me, the story came out in a Congressional investigation almost immediately. The massacre was an important part of inflaming the Indian Wars, as helping to convince Native American leaders that there wasn't much point in remaining peaceful if they were going to be slaughtered anyway.
† This really isn't a topic I've read much about; any historical facts mentioned in this post are from the book if they're correct, or misremembered from the book if they're wrong.
Did you go to Disney growing up? We did, but we lived about two hours away. We never took a vacation there, but again we lived close. (Actually: my parents took my brothers once or twice when I was a baby, and got sick of it, and didn't go again until I begged to go for my 10th birthday. For my 10th birthday, I went with a few friends. It was cold and rainy and empty and perfect, and we had the run of the place. I haven't been back since.)
Are you going to take your kids to Disney? Our friends are starting to take Disney vacations with their kids (and some of them spiral down the massive rabbit hole of websites dedicated to planning such a trip. Although they do so with pleasure, not pain.) I don't think we'll ever do such a thing. (On the other hand, the kids' grandparents live kind of close.)
It's easy to be all FUCK DISNEY! but there are more important things to hate.
This sounds like a highly miserable way to spend an hour.
About 30 teen- to middle-aged women packed into a second-floor dance studio near Beverly Hills, dressed to sweat. One by one, the women removed the flats or tennis shoes they had arrived in, slipped into high heels and teetered back to their feet.
Some strappy, others colorful, sophisticated, chunky, or wedge-style, the heels are required footwear for this class.
Just about the time I feel like I can relate easily to other people, something like this comes along and reminds me that it's a weird, weird world out there.
TOO MUCH NEWS.
There are so many things I ought to post about, and I went with Bruno Mars?!
1. Applebee's fired the waittress who posted the bit about the asshole non-tipping pastor.
2. 30 Rock ends tonight?! Why doesn't it run through the spring like a normal season? This is awful.
3. Iconic songs loathed by people who created them is funny.
4. I think I'm checking out of the gun debate. I just can't function and simultaneously hear the news. But the line about how much more peace of mind a mother would have, holding a gun while seven murderous men break into her house aiming to kill, kill, kill...see, I'm just checking out of the gun debate.
I like shittier music than you do:
No really, I can't quite explain why I like this song so much.
Royce White is an interesting guy.
As with the coverage of any cult of personality, there's a handful of biographical factoids that appear in virtually all of these profiles: One is that White led his college team, the Iowa State Cyclones, in all five major statistical categories as a sophomore (the only Division I player in the country to do so). Another is that he's terrified of air travel. Another is that he's a self-styled 21-year-old eccentric who plays the piano and writes screenplays about windmills. But the main thing everyone knows about Royce White is that he's locked in a contractual, philosophical dispute with the Houston Rockets, based around a mental illness that everyone accepts to be real.
The interview is worth reading.
Weird Moments In Sanitized Memorials
I was in North Carolina over Christmas, and saw an odd war memorial; the book I'm reading just reminded me of it. The memorial was a maybe 2'x4' slab of granite listing locals who died in World War II and the Korean War, with a matching slab next to it for Vietnam and the first Gulf War.
On the first slab, there was a heading: "World War II", and then a list of names below. And then another heading: "World War II" again, and a shorter list of names. Same pattern with the Korean War: heading, long list, same heading, shorter list. Next to the second heading, in each case, there was an indentation in the stone about the length of a word, as if something had been chiseled out of the stone. The matching slab for Vietnam and the Gulf War had single headings, and only one list per war.
You're probably all quicker than I am. I had to stare at it for a couple of minutes before I figured out the missing word had to have been "Negro" ("Colored"? I'm not sure what usage would have been on a war memorial.) It struck me as an oddly tactless fix -- either leave the memorial alone, as a historical document, or buy a new slab and unify the lists. But maybe I'm wrong, and erasing the word but leaving the traces was the right thing to do.
The same town had a Confederate memorial with "Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die" on it, which struck me funny as well. If you're going to memorialize Confederate soldiers, I suppose it is best to point out that the whole thing wasn't their fault in any individualized way.
Is rice easy?
So I went to a Soup Swap* on National Soup Swap day, and conversation diverged into how many of the participants find it impossible to make rice. "It's too gummy or I burn it!" they cried. "Even with my rice cooker!"
One other person and I were like "Huh? You just follow the instructions and don't peek and it turns out fine." The rest of the people had these elaborate secret products that had to be purchased exactly, and only with that one product could they ever get decent rice.
I'm right, right? Rice is easy. On the weekends I do normal rice, on the weekdays I make instant rice. Either way it's easy. (The other possibility is that I'm such a philistine that I can't detect gummy rice. I'm pretty sure I can tell when it's burnt.)
* Great fun! Consider hosting one!
Guest Post - Plagiarism Without Copyright Violation
Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) writes: Glee has a lot of pop songs in every episode, but it turns out that coming up with good arrangements for those songs is a bit of a pain and requires time and money. So it's easier and cheaper to just find other people's arrangements and use them without pay or attribution. Apparently (see comments) this is all legal because when you cover a song the license agreement says that the owners of the copyright on the original song also get the copyright on whatever arrangement you've done. So using anyone's arrangement is legal so long as you've paid for the rights to the original. (The lawyers can correct me if I got this wrong.) My understanding, from friends in a cappella circles, is that Glee has been doing this frequently all along, but it's recently hit the big time when they used Jonathan Coulton's original melody and arrangement for Baby Got Back. This has attracted more attention because Coulton is a nerd icon who can get a lot of free internet press, and because this arrangement includes a new melody.
This situation raises all sorts of interesting copyright issues, but perhaps the most interesting to me is the distinction between copyright violation and plagiarism. Using other people's work without attribution is clearly plagiarism and most people would think it was wildly unethical. But the traditional copyright system is built around restricting use without requiring attribution, while the basic most common creative commons licenses are built around allowing use but requiring attribution.
Heebie's take: Attribution is free. Why wouldn't they just throw a little love towards the author of the arrangement in the credits?
More Daughter-Blogging, From The Onion
The Onion has a grim little piece on female adolescence.
ARLINGTON, TX--Calling the transformation both delightful and stunning, friends and family members confirmed Tuesday that 17-year-old Ashley Parker was blossoming into an absolutely gorgeous object.
According to Parker's relatives, in the span of 14 months, the high school junior underwent a staggering metamorphosis from a young girl with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations into a truly stunning commodity....
Edmund Powell, Parker's history teacher, echoed the sentiment of many pupils, claiming that he was impressed by the junior's transformation from an honor roll student and sentient human being into a lovely piece of meat.
"Ashley used to be one of the brightest and best students in my class," said Powell, recalling the former girl who once consisted of more than a single, surface-deep dimension. "But, wow, now you'd have to say that she's something very special. Something very special indeed."
I remember being so angry and disoriented by this sort of reaction when I was a teenager; feeling as if I couldn't present myself appealingly at all without putting myself in that category of not really being a person any more. I have a number of very vivid recollections of dressing up for one thing or another, and being upset and outraged by the kind of positive reactions I got when I didn't look like a pile of laundry with a bird's nest on top. (I'm still harboring hostility over the father of a friend telling me warmly and intensely that I was, in fact, a very special person, and I didn't have to be a comedian all the time. I wasn't being funny to compensate for thinking I wasn't pretty, I was being funny because I like being funny.)
I don't know why this was so intense for me -- I really wasn't being treated badly at all in any unusual way. The reactions that were outraging me were people being friendlier and more attentive when I was looking appropriately femmy, not egregious sexual harassment. And at the same time, I was a horny teenager who was really hoping for some sexual/romantic attention; just not like that.
Anyway, Sally wandering around looking exactly like what I remember seeing in the mirror from 13 through 20 or so is setting off all these memories. She doesn't seem to be having the same sorts of stress, at least not yet, but I do worry about her.
My elder daughter is still in the "I hate boys" phase of life. She doesn't absolutely hate them hate them the way she did last year. She showed empathy just the other day for Zhonghan, when visiting Chinese school-kids gave out chalk-ware figurines to the class, and Zhonghan ended up with a girl in pink playing the zither. Girl X had a cool Shaolin monk in a gonfu pose (and they charmingly painted the top of his bald head blue, to indicate where it had been shaved, but not yesterday.) So she walked up to Zhonghan and offered to trade. Virtue was rewarded, however, when she saw Grace (a native Chinese-speaker but with an English name, like most) moping over her Shaolin monk. Also, a three-way trade thing happened that is required for some theories of barter economics but is stipulated never to occur. Slight warming towards boys aside, Girl X still hates bullying and rightly won't tolerate it. She is the only primary-schooler with two (here they glint meaningfully in a panel that is thin and cuts across the width of the manga page) badges on her uniform: "prefect", and "president" (of lower school student body, but that wouldn't fit on there.) She is the most prefect-y person that would ever be a prefect ever.
I must digress here briefly and say that it might seem from my relative focuses on them that I love Girl X more than Girl Y. It's rather that Girl Y is an unusual person: she is happy. Really, just, happy. She is full of love, and love of others. She is kind, and thoughtful. She is deliriously silly all the time, and makes everyone laugh until we collapse and try to remember how to breathe, but not usually in a way that would amuse someone on an eclectic webmagazine. Because you really did have to be there. Because it is life that she loves, and you, and she has long golden curls like springs and a mole just to the upper left of her lip, and the biggest, shiniest brown eyes you ever thought someone drew, and soft round arms to drape on your neck all the time. She hangs on my neck. She is not sarcastic, and I remember when I said something a little cutting to her once (in jest, but) her older sister rushed to defend her and to yell at me "you're turning my little sister mean!"
Girl X knows that she is sarcastic, and suspicious, and negative, but that her sister is none of these things. Girl X also knows that my entire family is like this and that we are indeed--mean to each other? We're not, are we? We do all love one another. We are sarcastic. OK, brutally so. In any case, Girl X won't allow Girl Y to be dragged into this schema. When Girl X has "bad thoughts" she is afraid something will happen to the baby. After all that work I went to, that nothing would happen to the baby not ever! Why is she still afraid! It's not fair!! Rrrrrr. It's fair. My "nothing will happen to the baby" plans might easily have foundered on the rock of my madness, and she's been intuitive enough to fear it for no reason before, and is intelligent enough to fear it for the correct reasons now.
In any case, this wasn't what I came here to say. I came here to relate the most awesome anti-bullying technique of all time, and I encourage you to use this as a sort of PSA, and talk to other kids about it. It's obviously way more useful if you live in the South, but there are pet stores everywhere, and I hear that Obama is giving money away to layabout degenerates, so perhaps the children could get some of that. One reason Girl X decided to stay at her Chinese school even though she was hating it for a while is that she has some friends, well, one best friend at the moment, an Indonesian girl. (Her Welsh/Chinese friend in the neighborhood is always at ballet or Kumon or something, and we can never arrange to see her.) She always carries box cutters around--I mean, pen-knives! All the boys fear her because she threatens to cut them with her...ah...really quite sturdy pen-knives. (It's moments like these that make one glad one's child is going to school overseas.) Also they fear Girl X because they think, even if she doesn't kick me very hard in 'the area' right now, and she probably will, she is also going to think up some scheme to make my life a living hell, and I will be totally unable to unravel it.
Her Indonesian friend was being bullied when she was in K1 (like US Pre-K, but the first of 2 years of Pre-K). Some P1 (Primary 1=1st Grade) kids were stealing her and her friends' snacks at snack time. So one day she bought a packet of caramel popcorn on her way to school. Then she went to the bathroom just before snack time, and dumped the popcorn in the lap of her uniform, and deposited the 9 little old grass snakes she had spent all the previous afternoon catching, down at the bottom of the cardboard container. Then she put all the popcorn back in and went off to be bullied. As they were screaming and running away she said "do it again and I will come to your house and put one under your pillow!" And no one at that school ever bullied Girl X's friend again. Heartwarming, innit?
A few questions:
1. Who would like to stay on site? The house has three bedrooms, and there is another apartment below (from the same owner) which "sleeps 4", so I assume it has two more bedrooms. If there's interest, I'll contact the owner and reserve that apartment, too.
2. Anyone need a babysitter? There are a couple possibilities:
- if we rented the apartment below, we could stick a babysitter(s) there with kids.
- if parents stayed at the same hotel off-site, we could arrange baby-sitters to hang out in one of the rooms.
- I'd be asking local parents to rummage up baby-sitters, so you'd have to be comfortable trusting Turgid Jacobian and Bonsaisue's babysitters, or whoever.
- (For the record, I'm not bringing the existing kids or Jammies. The travelling is just expensive and tiring.)
3. Re-linking this handy planning site: http://piratepad.net/HRti1GXRGB
4. I'll be setting up a Paypal site and accepting donations. Donations will be used for:
- commenters who are short on $$ and need some assistance to be able to attend
- party/food/drink/common costs
5. So hey, #4 relies on cash-strapped commenters being willing to speak up to me in email, which is possibly embarrassing or uncomfortable for you introverts. Please do! Knowing this crowd, there will be plenty of cash in the hopper, and we're collectively happy to kick in to your plane or housing costs, and no one will know. Besides me. You have to out yourself to me. Use heebie dot geebie at gmail.
Oopsies are sacred.
This cracked me up. Most lame-brained opposition to gay marriage, ever?
Marriage should be limited to unions of a man and a woman because they alone can "produce unplanned and unintended offspring," opponents of gay marriage have told the Supreme Court.
By contrast, when same-sex couples decide to have children, "substantial advance planning is required," said Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for House Republicans.
Similarly, the only people allowed to go to business school are those comfortable gambling away large sums of other people's money.
Happy anniversary to Flippanter and the woman we reprobates call Lunchy!
<3 <3 <3
I Finally Gave Up And Watched The First Episode of Downton Abbey
Does it get less terrible? I don't think I can take much more of one housemaid explaining to another that no, the Earl's eldest daughter isn't eligible to inherit the title, given that female earls aren't so much a thing, or by people being surprised that when an estate is entailed, it is, actually, entailed.
Maybe after a few episodes the labored exposition dies down a bit, after they assume that watchers have gotten more comfortable with the era?
Anyway, people should recommend different TV shows for me to watch, so long as they're available on Netflix or Hulu. Because another episode of this thing and I'm going to hurling the iPad across the room, and Buck would hate that, given that it's his iPad.
STEM to citizenship
I'm sort of fascinated by the concept of a STEM-based path to citizenship, which showed up again in the latest immigration reform proposals.
Congress has attempted multiple times to reform the legal immigration system for high-skilled workers, most recently with the STEM Jobs Act in the House last year, which sought to give green cards to foreign graduates with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
(I assume that "foreign" includes "undocumented" students, or else I don't see why this is a major component of immigration reform.)
On the one hand, I like the idea of having additional resources, support and infrastructure around STEM education. This is not quite that. But (hopefully) if the number of students studying STEM subjects rose, the resources would follow.
On the other hand, algebra is really impossible for a lot of people, and it makes an odd bar to clear for an easy path to citizenship.
How to give your child all positive outcomes
Dear Baby-splosion parents,
Remember, the urge to put your baby in the crib and walk away from the wailing makes you a moral monster.
The brain grows on average three times as large by the end of the first year (and head size growth in the first year is a sign of intelligence, e.g., Gale et al., 2006). Who knows what neurons are not being connected or being wiped out during times of extreme stress? What deficits might show up years later from such regular distressful experience?...
Caregiver responsiveness to the needs of the baby is related to most if not all positive child outcomes.
Try not to break your baby so easily, you reprehensible asshole.
Love, Psychology Today
They link to tips to soothe your baby which is crying for no good reason, which sensibly includes tip #10.
All Manner of Things
What kinda things do they sell in that thar fancy shop Al set up out Narnia way, anyhoo? And is it true, like I heard tell, you can't even get any real BBQ* on the whole island, less'uns Alameida makes it her own self?
Well, we sell beautiful Narnian furniture from the 1950s and 1960s, some of which we restore, and some of which we re-make; we import some newly-made pieces in the vintage industrial-style; we also import some European vintage to spice things up. Asian buyers on the whole like things clean, and like their mid-century modern to be perfect. They are very, very not on board with the shabby chic thing. That's fine, but people are still just throwing perfectly good teak furniture away! Like, give a sister a call! Sometimes that means we need to convince people on the price point--they come in expecting a junk shop. Dude. No. Others come to us about a table on which we have sanded the teak top down to the grain and lightly oiled it and ask, "are you going to refinish that one?" Facepalm.
I have partly come to the realization that people are nostalgic inversely to the degree they were poor in the past. So, older women in Singapore aren't nostalgic about furniture that reminds them of the Japanese occupation if they were making soap out of rendered animal fat to survive. (I don't know, whatever kind they could catch?) This yields the general rule that if the young couple comes in with the mother-in-law, they will not buy. "I threw that one away in 1980 already lah, how you can pay so much ah? Like that one, is it?" Sometimes they say this in Hokkien and I will astound them briefly with my translating powers. No rule is universal: there is a really lovely family where the grownup, gay son lives with the mom, and she came to help him pick out, and then buy for him a big 1950s vanity with an asymmetric beveled mirror. I don't know if he's officially out or she just knows he's "special" or what, but they clearly loved each other a lot.
This latter sad fact is true (we're pretending stuff about SC BBQ for the sake of non-argument with our hypothetical interlocutor). Luckily, there are many types of BBQ all over the world, and satay is delicious, as is Balinese babi guling, which is very near to pulled pork.
UPDATE: Commenter Narnian objects to the Narnglish in the post, and who are we to argue? Specifically "like that one, is it?" This is a Narnian turn of phrase which means "oh, it's that sort of thing" "is that how it turned out? [He got sent to jail?!]". Like, I'm expressing a bit of (perhaps only rhetorical) surprise that this is the type of thing it is, or that you say it is. People say this in our store A LOT. That is why it is a clever pune or play upon words, such as Stanley would approve of. Sometimes it's like this: me "these used to be the guards for the lights on a container ship, so they're incredibly heavy wrought iron, but we had these grey velvet tops made for them, and now they are the coolest stools ever"; customer "like that one, is it?!" I.E. "I never would have expected you do to that/that these stools would have come from a container ship/"etc. Or it is used negatively, as here. Someone looks at a 1960s coffee table they did, in actual fact, throw away in 1980, which we have stripped to the grain and oiled, and topped with dead stock vintage laminate, and are now charging $650 Narnian for (because in actual fact our prices are incredibly low!). They say "like that one, is it?" in tones of the greatest indignation. They mean "so that's the kind of scam they're running out here! They take us for fools! That is really what they are trying to do!" Finally, as the words have the ordinary English meaning they are often used by expats and others in their original sense. But Narnian, I promise you, though I compressed the above discussion to the point of ungrammaticality, Narnians complain "like that one, is it?!" about our store/merchandise/particular items at least once a week, and usually more.
FURTHER UPDATE: In comments you may look at pretty pictures.
No word on what to do with your bucket that has recently housed a dead bat
Friend of the blog Susan on apartment decoration.
The Lemon asks: what is the most embarrassing crime to be arrested for?
I'd think a DUI would be humiliating, but some people get multiple ones of those, so maybe they don't think it's too bad. Low on the embarrassment scale would be, say, getting arrested at a protest, unless you were protesting naked or for PETA or something. (Like my sister says, I think PETA is really just elaborate performance art.) But a good, civilly disobedient protest? No biggie...
Some doofus in Florida (of course) got arrested a week or so ago for giving people wedgies outside a movie theater. Wouldn't you be ashamed to be in jail, next to real criminals, having to say, "I got arrested for giving wedgies"? The biggest problem the police had there was that people were too embarrassed to press charges...
I hate to admit it, but I might be more likely to judge a person on a DUI than on a murder charge. Hell, you might have had a reason to kill somebody, but there's just no excuse for not calling a damn taxi.
Obviously Gswift will break the thread whenever he shows up.
(Also please keep in mind that Lemon Says is a civillian writing a personal blog, and not a pretentious NYT editorial writer. So feel free to read the whole post and have opinions, but let's not rip unduly into this nice person.)
I always felt acutely embarrassed for Michael Hutchence from INXS. Not that he was arrested.