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Behold a high horse

Posted by Ben
on 03.23.13

Allow me, if you will, to parade my unattractive snobbery before you. Or perhaps you should allow me, rather, to flaunt my snobbery. (An interesting question: is it worse to parade something bad than to flaunt same? Or is it perhaps worse to flaunt same than to parade something bad? Or do they perhaps lack a common measure, so that one cannot sing them to the tune of Emily Dickinson poems? And … when the flaunt has lost its favor, uh, by whom will it be … flaunted, or something?)

1. I attended a reading last night at a bookstore that placed on the set out for the audience to sit upon while the reader stood in front first reading and then taking questions seats folded flyers advertising, or perhaps merely listing, upcoming events at the very bookstore in which the reading first was to take, then was taking, and finally had taken place. I reproduce (with minor modifications which I'm sure you'll be able to detect) below the descriptions of two such events:

  1. BOOKSWAP: DOROTHY EDITION
    Bring a book about HOME. $25 for dinner, drinks, and 30 lit nerds just like you.
  2. WORD/PLAY: Games at [bookstore]!
    Featuring: [several persons]
    $15 for Open Bar, Giovanni's Pizza, & 2 hours of putting your BA in English to good use.

Like, vom. On the web page for the first event one is exhorted to "get lit". Like, double vom. Of a piece, I suppose, with the city that gave us the actually not all that literary at all "literature" "festival" "litquake". I would say that there aren't three, much less thirty, ugh, I just can't do it, I can't ingenuously write the sentence:

I would say that there aren't three, much less thirty, lit nerds just like me in this entire city.

thereby actually using the wlatsome phrase "lit nerd". Nor could I have written the just-quoted sentence but for wrapping "lit nerds" in quotation marks because it would be rhetorically inaccurate, in that context, to distance myself from the phrase in question; the whole point is, first I proclaim myself a special snowflake, then I inveigh against "lit nerd" as a descriptor no worthwhile person would self-apply or even, for that matter, use (except in contexts which are implicitly quotational, as when preceded by e.g. "so-called" "self-styled" "soi-disant" "sogenannt" etc.) It's not as if I've done better by taking this sub-metaleptic route, admittedly.

Let me be explicit: the phrase "lit nerd" brings to mind someone very taken with him or herself for the number of things s/he reads or has read, but who mostly reads and has read things that are not very interesting. That one's own to each one and all that but I dislike having my relation to the writings I enjoy (which is pure, bright, alert, sinewy, Arnoldian, modern, sensitive, and omnispectric) put alongside a relation that seems basically consumerist to me. Rightly or wrongly!Nothing can diminish my fervor on this topic.

I also am offended by the suggestion that the use of serious study of a literary tradition is playing silly games in a bookstore.

2. There was to have been a "2." in which I fulminated mightily on the subject of my disappointment in Many Subtle Channels, of which I have at present read only half. This section would have complained in the first instance that the book is light and—well—frothy; pretty memoiristic so far, I'd say (or rather I would have 'd say). I would have mentioned several small matters: I would have pointed out that the author incorrectly defines "artifice" as "the making of art" and that his habits regarding footnotes are highly annoying. The following examples would have served to illustrate the last point: (a) Describing a workshop on oulipian techniques, he mentions "a boot camp for those who don't even know what a haiku is". To this sentence is attached a footnote which reads, in its entirety, "The fools!". (In the next paragraph it is revealed that indeed, there are some people in the workshop who do not know what a haiku is.) This sort of thing struck me as fresh around the time of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. It is frankly surprising to see it still trotted out. (b) Rather than translate in a footnote the title Exercices de littérature potentielle: Patalégomène à toute poétique future qui voudra bien se présenter en tant que tel, we get a footnote reading "Whatever". (c) A footnote of all of four sentences explaining the origins of the names "Bourbaki" and "Poldavia" begins "[Deep breath.]", even though nothing remotely complicated, abstruse or difficult to convey follows. It now occurs to me that if I were going to actually write the "2." which I have, in fact, elected to skip, it might not be a bad idea to make (c) emblematic of what seems to me to be the surprising shallowness of the book (thus far). But I feel it would be uncharitable to engage in such fulminations when I haven't actually finished the book, so I won't. Instead, I will note that reading it has had the salutary (I think!) effect of causing me to reflect on the kibological practice of bilining.


 

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Gender Gap II, The Revenge

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.23.13

At least in NYC, boys are being admitted to the best public high schools at greater rates than girls. The high schools referenced in the article are the ones that admit based on a city-wide standardized test, the SHSAT.

I don't have a terribly strong opinion about this -- if I were thinking about a possible social explanation (and I have no evidence for this, it's completely invented), it'd be that particularly in the immigrant community, parents put an awful lot of effort into having their kids drilled for this test; after school and weekend classes and that sort of thing. If the grooming for the test is going disproportionately to boys, that'd explain it.

Afterthought: Also, the article is kind of useless in terms of breaking down the reasons for differential rates of admission -- are the same number of boys and girls taking the test but the boys are getting higher scores? Different numbers of boys and girls taking the test? Different choices among which schools they're requesting? Hard to tell.

Sally's at this spot right now -- she has the option of going to one of the specialized high schools or staying where she is, and they're both pretty good options. The tradeoff is best debate team in the country and a program that shepherds kids through the Intel talent search, versus her current school that has a relationship with a local college I will call Pigeon U that will let her take most of her junior and senior year classes as a Pigeon U student (that is, in their classrooms with their students, although she won't be matriculated there). She's kind of wrecked about the decision, but we're leaving it up to her because either choice seems arguably just fine, so letting her choose wherever she thinks she'll be happiest doesn't have a downside. (This paragraph has not all that much to do with the rest of the post, I'm just bragging.)


 

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Econ 101

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.23.13

I have a naive question. Okay, working from the following premise: the debt should be paid down counter-cyclically, and that's why Keynesian economists were calling for it to be paid down during the Bush years, and fretting about interest on the debt eating up an increasingly large part of the budget. But once unemployment is high, it's far more important to borrow money and get unemployment down again, and not worry about running a deficit until feast years, again. Furthermore, interest rates are so close to zero that money is practically free to borrow right now.

My super-naive question: if interest on the debt is rather burdensome, and interest rates are so close to zero right now, why don't we refinance our outstanding debt at current rates?


 

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Collegiality

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.22.13

Pulled from the comments, the word "whom" is dying, which isn't itself that interesting. The second line of this quote caught my eye, though:

The most immediate reason, though, is that whom simply costs language users more than it benefits them. Correctness is significantly less appealing when its price is the appearance of being--as an editor at The Guardian wrote--a "pompous twerp."
In a culture that values collegiality above so much else, the ability to communicate casually and convivially and non-twerpily is its own kind of capital.

I've never quite put my finger on it that collegiality is a cultural value here, and furthermore a hugely prized one, but I think it's exactly right. I certainly value it highly, I suppose.

(I have further thoughts, which I'll bury somewhat in the comments.)


 

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Guest Post: Music is trying to kill you.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.22.13

Sifu writes: Did you know about the brave battle waged by Lyndon LaRouche and the followers of Rudolf Steiner to keep Nazi propagandists -- and their lackeys in the International Standards Organization -- from spreading bad (even deadly) vibes by forcing orchestras to play at too high a pitch? N.B. the previous sentence is suprisingly close to containing 100% facts.

And look:

"A=440Hz tuned music can cause anti-social conditions in human beings, partly we believe, from the dissonance created as standing waves in the inner chambers of the ear which affects the water in the inner ear."

Science!

Now you know.

Heebie's take: The link is totally interesting and worth clicking through.


 

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The Gender Gap

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.21.13

I don't buy this: Why Men Don't Go to College. The claim is that men are rationally choosing not to go to college, because financially, the careers available to them aren't so starkly tied to a diploma as they are for women.

I'm sure that's a factor - if your uncle makes good money as a contractor, you see a path to financial independence that doesn't require a college degree, and that makes it more likely you'll choose to skip college.

But this is way too small a slice of a general underperformance of males. Women are outperforming men when they were in high school and once they're in college. There are tons of social expectations that make it easier for women to be disciplined, organized, and studious, and men have to buck a lot of notions of masculinity in order to do those things, especially around school. (Ie, a disciplined athlete is ok.) Any explanation that doesn't take socialization into account is silly, IME.

(via Emerson via FB)


 

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Guest Post - the sky is falling!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.21.13

Clew sends along: China is practicing eugenics to raise the national intelligence! We're doomed! They're doomed! WTF? one of the less panicked/envious writeups.


 

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ATM: Snake in the Grass Edition

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.21.13

Dear Mineshaft:

Background: I have labored in what was a relative scientific backwater for, lo, these many years. Along the way, I published a series of papers on a very obscure subset of said scientific backwater. Flash forward twenty years, and the relative scientific backwater has suddenly been thrust into the limelight, and my obscure subset has enjoyed a small but growing amount of attention. I am sort of the Grand Old Lady of the subset, and while I am not considered a star, by any means, I enjoy a reputation as being knowledgeable and the "go-to" person on the topic. Above all, I am considered to be honest and forthright, compared to the many charlatans that have recently infested the erstwhile scientific backwater (oy, the outrageous claims they make-but that's for a different ATM). I'm not a very aggressive person (did I mention that I was shy?) but I thought that people respected me and would abide by general standards of scientific conduct.

A few years ago, Scientific Journal with High Impact Factor asked me to write a brief review of obscure subset. Flattered, I set to work, only to find out that several other younger colleagues had also been asked to do the same thing (it's an obscure and small subset after all, and we mostly all talk to each other). One younger colleague, a European, turned it down because of her workload, but the second colleague, let's call him Snake-in-the-Grass, who is American but at a different institution than I am, agreed we should work on it and publish it together . We met and had a convivial lunch while he was in my town, and e-mailed outlines and papers and figures back and forth for a while. The academic workload being what it is, this took longer than I had planned, and before I knew it, I was asked to referee a manuscript for Scientific Journal with High Impact Factor. The subject of said manuscript was, you guessed it, a brief review of the obscure subset, written by a fourth, unsuspecting colleague, also European, who I knew slightly, but hadn't thought to poll on the subject of the review for SJwHIF. The manuscript was worthy of publication (I try above all to be a fair and discerning referee, which means I get asked to do it a lot) and the unsuspecting colleague had appropriately and admiringly referenced my old work. What could I do? I recommended publication with minor revision, and e-mailed Snake to let him know we'd been scooped. Snake replied that he would consider writing an even briefer review on a subset of the obscure subset by himself for SJwHIF, and I shelved the half-written manuscript, which consisted mostly, although not entirely, of my writing and figures I had constructed (I would say at least 75%). I figured I was older but wiser and chalked it up to experience. After all, what better way for a journal to achieve a high impact factor than to aggressively pursue reviews on hot topics and then pit the hapless authors against one another to see who would be the first to produce? But the cherry on the sundae was that SJwHIF contacted me some months later asking me "where is the review?" I had to tell them what happened-apparently, the associate editors don't talk to one another and they weren't even aware of the scoop or the fact that they had asked no less than four people to write exactly the same thing.

Skip forward to the present. I'm scanning the literature, and what do I find but a new review on obscure subset, published in a different SJwHIF. Upon downloading, I find that it is authored by Snake and his colleagues at his institution. The writing seems very familiar. In fact, it is almost all mine. The figures look familiar, too. They are the ones I constructed for the shelved review. Did Snake forget the provenance of said writing? I highly doubt it-Snake is not yet old enough to suffer from memory deficits, and has seen me give presentations using the same figures at conferences, most recently this October. It is also suspicious that I wasn't asked to review this manuscript-I would have been a logical choice. Even if he hadn't asked for me by name (which is common practice when submitting at journals these days), the journal would probably have contacted me considering my status as Grand Old Lady. That means he may have asked specifically that I be excluded as a reviewer (which is also common practice).

Needless to say, I am gobsmacked. I can't let Snake walk all over me like this. To make matters worse, Snake and I serve on several committees together, which means I have to be in contact with him frequently. After I calmed down from my murderous rage, I realized I really couldn't e-mail everyone in my address book to let them know what he had done, or threaten lawsuits or do anything that would besmirch my reputation as Grand Old Lady and jeopardize funding. But I can't think how to rectify matters satisfactorily. I should have been listed as a co-author on the paper, but it's done now and there's no going back. The only thing I can think of to do right now is to call up Snake and mention it casually-something like "nice review. The writing seems awfully familiar, though. Do you have an explanation for that?" to let him know that I know what happened (how he thinks I wouldn't notice is beyond me-that's actually a point in favor of early Alzheimer's, I guess). If he shows any sign of decency, I could then ask him how he thinks he can make it up to me-my idea being that he should contact the journal and at least mention that a co-author was "inadvertently" omitted. Maybe they could publish some sort of correction, I guess, but that's about the best I could hope for.

So, Mineshaft, what do I do? Sign me

Madame Curie

Madame:

This is probably a question that should have gone to Heebie, because academic norms in this regard confuse me completely. As far as I can tell what's going on, what Snake did was straighforward plagiarism of academic work that he published; I thought that was career-ending misconduct. This is the sort of thing you can probably unambiguously prove -- if you were collaborating on the initial review, you've got stuff as attachments to dated emails and so on.

So, I can't see why you wouldn't write to Snake and say "That's my work, I'll let you off for now with writing to the journal and saying 'somehow I forgot to credit Mme Curie, can you publish a correction putting her as co-author'. If that doesn't happen, I go to (whatever authority punishes plagiarism) with proof." But I get the impression from your letter (and I've gotten similar impressions from other academic kerfuffles before, it's not just you) that for some reason, serious as plagiarism is, that sort of reaction isn't the norm.

So, academics? What should she do?

LB


 

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ATM: Getting your employer to offer same-sex benefits

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.20.13

Hey Mineshaft,

I'm on the committee at my college that advises the advises the administration on health insurance issues, and I have just learned that we will soon be hearing a proposal from a staff member asking the employer to extend health insurance benefits to same-sex partners. Obviously, I want to do everything I can to get the committee to accept this proposal. It will be a couple weeks before we see the actual proposal, but I want to get my homework done in advance. I do not know the person bringing the proposal, and I don't know what she has planned. (I'm faculty; she's staff.)

What resources will I need to help make this case? When the committee decided to hear the issue, the financial Controller immediately expressed concern about cost, especially the possibility that someone would be brought on to the plan with major expenses. The college is self insured for expenses up to $250K and dealing with ballooning health care costs is a major financial issue. He also pointed out that we generally follow state policy on accounting issues. For instance, we changed our travel reimbursement policy to match theirs. Other people expressed concern about how to verify that people were really domestic partners, and whether this meant we would have to extend benefits to opposite sex domestic partners. We are in the great state of Ohio, which currently bans gay marriage.

The Human Rights Campaign has a page here, that contains some useful information, including sample policy language. What else can I use? Are there standard approaches employers use to issues like verifying domestic partner status? A friend from college told me she had to sign a form saying that she and her partner were monogamous, which struck her as intrusive and offensive. I certainly don't to put in any policy like that. Does anyone else have
experience making this kind of case?

Abraham Lincoln.


 

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Poor widdle white people.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.20.13

Whites Believe They Are Victims of Racism More Often Than Blacks.

White and black estimates of bias in the 1950s were similar. Both groups acknowledged little racism against whites at that time but substantial racism against blacks. Respondents also generally agreed that racism against blacks has decreased over time, although whites believed it has declined faster than blacks do.

However, whites believed that racism against whites has increased significantly as racism against blacks has decreased. On average, whites rated anti-white bias as more prevalent in the 2000s than anti-black bias by more than a full point on the 10-point scale. Moreover, some 11 percent of whites gave anti-white bias the maximum rating of 10 compared to only 2 percent of whites who rated anti-black bias a 10. Blacks, however, reported only a modest increase in their perceptions of "reverse racism."

Really, what the fuck are these white people talking about? What kind of incident registers as "reverse racism"? I have two guesses: first, small scale interactions, like "I could tell that group of black teenagers was sneering at me and they don't even know me!" and second, affirmative action based complaints, like "I didn't get into University of Texas despite my mediocre test scores because I'm so damn white!"

It's all so goddamn ridiculous, though. It's funny: the insult that "we're a nation of takers" and the insult that "we're a nation that thinks we're all victims" have a superficial similarity, but we really are a bunch of self-pitying victims, and we really aren't a bunch of entitled takers.


 

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Introspecty.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.19.13

I want to contrast two situations from the past month, where people delivered moderately bad news that I wasn't expecting. In the first, an administrator basically nickle-and-dimed a student organization at the last minute, for costs that they'd covered in the past. In the second, we rented a house for Geebie Family Day, in part because it had a pool, and when we arrived, the pool was "winterized", ie half-full of green moldy water from last summer.

In the former, the person was super defensive and accusatory, in the course of explaining things to me. In the latter, the rental person was sympathetic and apologetic, and said something like "I'm so sorry for the miscommunication! It didn't occur to me that you guys might want to swim." (Apologetic but I still put the fault with her - it was in the 80s, and it's pretty common to go swimming over spring break.)

My point is that wow, it means so much to me to be coddled, like the second person did. I just want sympathy and someone to say "Oh wow! I can see why you're upset!" even if they're not going to fix the situation. The first person got me super riled up with these strange accusations of how I should have known the details of their situation. I am a person who likes to be placated.


 

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MMA fighter

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.19.13

Eggplant sends along Fallon Fox, MMA Fighter, Comes Out As Transgender.

I can't figure out an angle for you all to argue about? Maybe who can construct a funny joke about how anything goes in MMA? But it's an impressive story, at least.


 

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Unfoggedydoggedycon

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.18.13

Logistics:

1. Flights are expensive! If you need some cash to make it happen, please email me. No one has yet.

2. If you want to donate money, your dollars will be used for:
- transportation/lodging for our strapped commenters
- party costs
- anything leftover will just go towards the monthly web-hosting costs.

I added my heebie gmail address to my Paypal account, so you should be able to donate money that way: send to heebie dot geebie at gmail.

3. I'll be booking my flight tomorrow. I haven't quite figured out if I should fly out on Sunday night or Monday morning. What are you doing?


 

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Steubenville

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.18.13

I don't have much to say besides general horror at the Steubenville case and disgust at the backlash to the verdicts. But it's dominating my FB feed so I figure it's something to be talking about. (Tedra linked to the blogger who screen-grabbed much of the twitter and youtube material documenting the rape, before it got taken down, which I found interesting.)


 

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DodecaIraqogon

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.18.13

It's been ten years since we invaded Iraq. All those vast numbers of people who died (and the ungodly expense) take some of the pleasure out of being right.


 

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More on forced c-sections

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.18.13

J, Robot sends along Why childbirth should be on the feminist agenda in Ireland.

Heebie's take: This story has a lot of similarities to Nick S's link about the South Florida woman. Here, the case actually went to the court about whether or not she should be ordered to have a c-section, but the woman consented to be induced before the judge had ruled.

My sympathies here are much more in favor of the woman (which maybe reflects the reporting style of the journalist and my lack of critical thinking skills.)

(I gotta say, as far as putting childbirth on the feminist agenda in Ireland, let's start with that woman who died of sepsis last year, because they wouldn't remove her dying fetus until it had died on its own. That story gives me shivers.)


 

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Ask the Mineshaft: Reproductive Panic Edition

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.17.13

Dear Mineshaft:

My husband and I recently did IVF and specifically asked our doctor to transfer one embryo. [Prior discussion of this incident here. LB] There was a miscommunication or a willful ignoring of instructions, and instead of one, two were transferred. Now I'm pregnant with twins--the exact situation we were trying to prevent in the first place. We're in the midst of trying to figure out if we should selectively reduce to one (which is sort of terrifying and heartbreaking and possibly ethically questionable) and if we should sue the doctor (also sort of terrifying).

Sally Hemings

Dear Sally:

I have no idea. That is, in your shoes, I wouldn't get the reduction, but I'm pretty sure that's me being superstitious about preferring inaction over action on a close call where the stakes are high; I'd probably get a selective reduction with triplets, but not twins. Are twins a particular problem for you for some specific reason, or is it about the higher chance of developmental disabilities? We've got some parents of twins here who may have useful input about what it's like, if that'd help.

On suing the doctor, if you've been a longtime lurker, as you said elsewhere, you can probably guess my advice. Don't. A court case will eat your wallet and your psyche, and while I can't (and shouldn't, given that I'm not your attorney and this isn't legal advice) evaluate the merits of any possible claim, your damages are hard to see. A lawyer's letter to the doctor threatening suit might be a good thing, because he sounds as if a good fright might have a salutory effect on him, but I don't think it's worth it to you to make yourselves miserable in order to make him a better doctor.

Anyone else with more help to offer? Parents of twins?

LB


 

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Nixon's treason

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.17.13

Chris Y posted this link in one of the threads recently, about how the newly released LBJ 1968 tapes prove that Nixon sabotaged Vietnam peace talks, by telling South Vietnam that if they withdrew from the process, they'd get a better deal once he was elected. Then we killed tons and tons of people for five years, instead.

My question is: Did people suspect this, and just now get confirmation? Or is this a mind-bogglingly ghastly new revelation? I'd never heard anything like this before, and it's appalling, but I'm not generally that well-informed.


 

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