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The Greatest

Posted by Ogged
on 02.08.14

For millennia to come, humans will be finding awesome videos of Muhammad Ali on Youtube.

Duet with Liberace.

Talking a man off a ledge.


 

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We Can't Not

Posted by Ogged
on 02.07.14

Woody Allen's response.

And more...


 

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Assorted

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.07.14

1. Sifu says: this is like the gorilla thing, but different. also, people who refuse to watch even a two minute video on the internet will have to suffer, for which we can mock them:

Heebie says: In general I won't watch videos, but this one is short and painless, and I totally 100% failed to see the thing which is not a gorilla.

2. Text is prolific! and says: I have published a new novel, Vermont, available here and here.

Excerpt:
I went out there and found three desks lying each in different positions, spaced about four feet apart. There were shredded papers, a portrait with a hole where a lady's head should go, broken pencils, smashed saucers, and pieces of soft cheese on the walls. Three sat on the attendant, who was folded on the ground with his forehead tight against his knees. "Foreclosure!" said Three.
Five feet down the hall One sat on a broken chair, turned on its side, playing the recorder. "It's too early," I said to the man.
"Did you not like your room?" he said.
"There was no cause for this."
"Did you not sleep sweetly?"
"You're in default!" said Three. He heeled the attendant's ribs.
"This is not the job I accepted."

3. Have I mentioned I'm single-parenting this week? Today daycare was postponed in stages until it was closed altogether. So instead of planning a schedule for a day home with kids, every few hours I had to scramble and rearrange stuff at work, on the premise that I'd be there soon, and then scramble to find a baby-sitter, until it became clear that everything was falling through. However they are being medicated by a movie at the moment, and the baby is sleeping, so all's well.


 

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I'm Sure Ogged Knows When Girls Should Start Shaving Their Legs, So I'll Just Ask Here

Posted by Alameida
on 02.07.14

My older daughter is 12 and she's a baby teenager now. She is sarcastic and has boobs and everything! She's going to have more boobs than me. Well, not three or anything, but the final resulting boobs will be more substantial size-wise if things keep continuing on the same trajectory, given that at her age I had kind of no boobs. OK, size of walnuts, fine. Breast buds! Dudes, you won't know this, but it's weird when you develop breast buds. They're tiny hardnesses in there, near-spheres. After they grow a little more they are like discs that you can tip back and forth but that otherwise present flat surfaces to the front of your body. I mean, guys will kind of know this if, when they were 13, they were making out with other 13-year-olds, but it's obviously different when it happens inside you.

Fine, so, baby teenager, that's weird but OK. There's one thing that I realize I feel oddly about and that is--her shaving her legs or pubes or anything? She's got much darker body hair than I, and more. Mine on my arms has never been anything but almost non-existent and invisibly blond, ditto my upper thighs. I started shaving my legs and underarms when I was 13 or 14? No one told me to, I just felt obligated apparently. Nor would anyone buy me the supplies to do so, either, so I used my step-dad's razors and then continually got shit from him for dulling them. Every week. Every month. The same was true of sanitary products, sadly, that no one would buy them for me and I didn't have money. Until I worked up the courage to figure out how to use my mom's tampons I used wadded up toilet paper for about...a year and a half? (What, did I live in Sudan?) Awesomely, I even practiced free bleeding. Yes! I remember noticing that my mom stained her sheets all the time by mistake (that happens), and further that she always slept naked (me too), and my takeaway from that was that at the very end or whatever when my flow was light I'd just...y'know. I can remember walking downstairs at night after bedtime to ask my mom and my step-dad something when I was 13, naked, with a genuine ribbon of blood down my left leg, not a river or anything, but enough that I needed to clean the sticky horror house footprints from the wood floor outside my bedroom. They did advise me at that point to put on some...something, maybe? BOUNDARY ISSUES EVRYBODY! God my family what even. OK, this post was not supposed to be depressing and awkward, so, I failed, but I might as well finish.

I never plucked my eyebrows because they were always shaped perfectly anyway (as chance would have it. I didn't even know it was a thing until my aunt asked me how I did it so well.) I pluck the hairs out of my upper lip if I'm in the bathroom and it's noon and it's as bright as the surface of Mercury, but that is the WORST. Those little bitchy hairs in the very inward-curling edges of your upper lip hurt like hail when you pluck them out. The "bikini area" as it is so delicately known--I really didn't have any hair there for a long while, and then I did but didn't care, and then I went for the landing strip, and now here we all are.

I never want to tell my daughter, "hey start shaving your legs!" Because she doesn't need to at all if she doesn't want to. We've discussed the contingent nature of depilatory customs. But merely contingent customs are nonetheless real! I got her special face wash and pimple cream when she got pimples for a moment. (Barely.) I wouldn't ever want her to feel she lacked the supplies or knowledge to shave, but I feel like offering would be interpreted as, "hey start shaving." And this is not entirely false! Why do I look at my beautiful child and think, "we could get her upper lip waxed, it's not quiiiite as painful." Am I crazy? No, wait, we know that: I'm crazy. But I realize I have a lot invested in my daughters being beautiful. This is entirely setting aside my investment in their being super-smart and good, kind people and other things. But...it's advantageous to be beautiful! But, even given that, you don't need to be beautiful when you're fucking twelve! Indeed, perhaps it would be better not, all things considered? Ha, no, if you're not surrounded by moral monsters, in normal life it's still advantageous cuz 7th grade. On one end of this scale is you telling your teenaged child, "you need to use deodorant, yo." Like, this is a life-worsening smelling-bad situation and your kid just truly doesn't know; you owe it to him to say, "hit the showers, kid, seriously, and here you go," and then you toss him the Nivea. On the other is me plotting to pluck my daughters' eyebrows into the distinctly articulated shape of mine rather than the identical (but messy and wide) chapeaux chinois of their father. I do think I can make the case that I am more effective at silently conveying scorn and disdain, and can cause other people--even strangers--to have the instantaneous ice-water sensation fall over them that Severus Snape is not amused by their behavior. The eyebrows are a key part!

So, lady commenters, when did you start shaving/waxing, if that's a thing you do? Did your friends tell you to? Did everyone start at once? I feel like I don't remember. I mean, I was a little bit, um, purposely not eating food to stay small, so maybe I was excessively vigilant, and warding off teenagerdom? Because I know I shaved my legs for ages before I had any underarm hair at all. As more grown-upperer people, women often get kind of downy transparent hairs on their jawline; I can remember friends in whom this started in their 20s (just as there are people who begin to go gray in their 20s). Do people wax this also? I just saw someone online snarking about it, saying Kate Winslet looked like a "backlit hamster." MUST SUPRESS ALL TEH MAMMALIAN TRAITZ.


 

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Operation Freebleeding

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.07.14

E. Messily sends in this, with the commentary, "The internet is super weird."

How's 4chan's mission to dismantle modern-day feminism going? Terribly. That's to be expected when a group of teenage boys, with no understanding of the movement they're criticising, launch a couple silly hashtag trends.

(Except I doubt they're mostly teenage boys.)

Operation Freebleeding is kinda funny as, say, and April Fool's Day prank. But the kids seem to think that the ones who will be angriest by the faux-trend are the hairy-legged feminazis, and why would the hairy-legged feminazis be angry? The boys should be rubbing their palms and cackling that if freebleeding catches on, this will splinter the FINO off from the core of the group. I can't see how it would bother the hair-legged feminazis one bit if the trend were real. (Aside from endless internal debates about whether or not the trend is splintering solidarity with the flimsier sisters. Perhaps the prank is designed to spark endless internal ruminating. But you hardly need a prank to make that happen.) Boys will be boys amirite.


 

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No True American

Posted by Ogged
on 02.06.14

This business of assassinating American citizens is so clearly beyond the pale. Double G lays it all out, commenting on the recently leaked memo justifying the killing of Anwar Awlaki.


 

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Dylan Farrow: Hot Or Not?

Posted by Ogged
on 02.06.14

Kidding!

Some links:

--The incomparable Kenji Lopez-Alt tries to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I love the man, but this seems like a project of diminishing returns. Chocolate chip cookies are both very good and pretty simple. Nevertheless, if you want to completely geek out, here you go.

--A good, short interview with a translator of Hafez.

--Stealing this one from Atrios's Twitter feed, but...why does Twitter need 2300 employees? I get that the right number is not five, and maybe the flying Twitter car is around the corner, but 2300 just seems like a hell of a lot of people for what Twitter is.


 

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Skill Doesn't Matter (Much)

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.06.14

I just won a labor arbitration; didn't get quite the penalty we asked for, but we weren't expecting to, and all the charges were substantiated. While I've been a litigator for a very, very long time now, the way my practice has worked out, 98% of everything I've ever done has been motion practice: writing briefs, arguing law before a judge, but the next thing to no trial or hearing work.

This arbitration was literally the first time I've ever examined a witness at an evidentiary hearing -- I looked like a complete clown. The union lawyer was quite experienced and comfortable, and was running circles around me, objecting (mostly in a perfectly justified fashion) to every question I asked to the point that I was having a hell of a time figuring out how to get my examinations finished. I slogged through the damn thing, but it was really ugly. But in the end, it didn't matter.

Something that I have really come to believe about legal work is that dazzling skill doesn't count for much. If the facts and the law are on your side, and you can grind out an adequately competent way of getting them before the court, you usually win regardless of how much more skilled the opposition is. (There are always decision-makers who are going to do randomly bizarre things regardless, but that's more in the judge's head than because of skill from an advocate.) You can win a weak case if the opposition drops below adequate competence, and skill can be useful for baiting the opposition into screwing up, but an okay lawyer with a good case beats a genius with a bad case. (I don't know how this applies to juries, who may be more susceptible to wizardly advocacy than judges and arbitrators. I have literally never seen a juror in the process of acting as such.)

It's kind of depressing, sometimes, thinking how much effort and skill is mostly wasted -- good enough, generally, really is good enough, and brilliant isn't, in terms of results, much better.


 

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The Pot

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.06.14

Something I'm not really clear on: how did the legalization of pot resume its momentum again, after all these years? I remember my dad saying, when I was in high school, that he was sure pot was going to be legalized back in the 60s (probably an unfounded belief, but he held it), and yet here we were, nearly thirty years later, and zilch, nada.

But then, of course, a few states legalized medical marijuana. And then a few more states, and now it's become a recreational thing to vote on, and that's how things gain momentum - everyone will see that the world has not ended in these states (except for Texas, who will see that the world is in fact ending in these states.)

What shifted the tide, in the 90s? Is it just that Reagan's war on drugs was something of an anomaly, and so we just reverted to the regular old trajectory from the 70s? Is it that the geezers from the 60s were beginning to die off? It seemed like such a dead fight to be resurrected, and successfully.


 

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Dylan Farrow

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.05.14

There've been some worthwhile articles floating around about Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen.

I don't have an angle for us to argue about, but somehow we managed to eke out a war about Roman Polanski, so maybe there's a dispute hidden here, too. You can still like his movies, but you cannot pretend that they were made by someone who would never molest children.


 

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New Ways To Be Old

Posted by Ogged
on 02.05.14

I've been playing with Facebook's Paper app (Facebook is being a dick about the name; hard to believe Mark Zuckerberg would do something like that) and it brings up a couple of issues that have probably been endlessly and insightfully debated among UI designers for a long time, but...

There's a real tension, when designing a gesture-based app, between the elegance of the app, and the learning curve for the user. If it's too different from what the user expects, no matter how well-designed the interface, a lot of people will be frustrated. Paper is getting great reviews, but I wonder how many people will really use it instead of the standard Facebook app.

Second, I really fookin hate the interface, and the trend it's a part of, which is a picture-dominated, "magazine-style" layout (just today nbcnews.com switched to this kind of interface, and look at an app like Yummly for another example). These apps are prioritizing a certain kind of "experience" over conveying information most efficiently, which would require the use of fusty and boring text. But it seems to me that a four-inch screen can't really give you an immersive experience, and the ooh, pretty reaction can't compensate for the inability to see a lot of information at a glance. I'll always prefer something like reeder to Flipboard; I hope this doesn't make me a dinosaur, and that the photo interfaces are just a fad.


 

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Birth vs. choice vs. something else

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.04.14

Minivet sends in What's Wrong With Choosing to Be Gay? Which is basically: should the idea that you're born with your sexual orientation be updated?

Gabriel Arana, a writer whom I respect enormously, takes issue with Ambrosino by saying, "the idea that being gay is a choice is precisely the grounds on which conservatives seek to deny gays and lesbians civil rights." Sure, that's true. But that's no reason to agree to their terms. As Ambrosino notes, we've come a long way, baby, in a very few years--and it might be time to let our conversation get a little more sophisticated.

The author makes the point that there's a spectrum of leeway on sexual desire - some people have flexible appetites, while others have very little leeway in their desire.

Which means that in times and communities where the pressure against being gay is harsh--during the 1950s, say, or in certain religious communities--the few who "come out" and embrace being gay are often the ones with no leeway whatsoever, for whom denying or ignoring that overwhelming internal direction would be emotional suicide.... Those are the ones hating on Ambrosino's argument--because they had no choice, except the choice of whether to kill themselves or come out.

It is very tricky business to bring a conservative flogging point into conversation with sane people.


 

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Preemptively Furious About How He's Going To Have Disappointed Me

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.04.14

When people ask me what I think of de Blasio as the new mayor of NYC, that's what I've been saying: I voted for him, as the furthest left available candidate, but I'm poised to be enraged when he sells out everything I've ever believed in.

So far, this has not happened. I'm delighted by how he's been butting heads with Governor Cuomo over the proposal for a tax on high income NYC residents to provide an assured funding stream for universal pre-K. I'm also very pleased with his decision to settle the stop-and-frisk lawsuits along the lines ordered by Judge Scheindlin before the Second Circuit bizarrely took her off the case.

And while this next comes directly from Bratton, the new/old police commissioner, I'm giving de Blasio some credit for it. I'd heard of Operation Impact, where the NYPD deals with particularly high-crime spots by flooding them with cops -- there was a location not too far from where I live (although I think it calmed down and came off the list years ago). I had not realized that the police covering those impact zones were almost all rookies. The NYPD was training new cops, with no idea what they were doing, by throwing them into identified very very high crime spots, and telling them that their job was to disrupt whatever was happening on the street. And then we wonder why there are problems with the relations between police and the public. Anyway, while Operation Impact is going to continue, Bratton is going to stop staffing it with rookie cops.

Have I missed something that I should feel betrayed about? Because I'm having an unfamiliar feeling of being pleased with the performance in office of someone I voted for.


 

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The Other Place

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.03.14

I saw one of these perennial Facebook is about to die! articles, and didn't think much of it. I like the idea of modeling social platforms like diseases, like the folks at Princeton in the link did, but I don't entirely buy that Facebook must behave like MySpace and Friendster before it.

But somehow seeing the release of Paper, The App today - we're totally reinventing ourselves! we're all new all over again - does feel like a hail mary. Maybe Facebook is actually receding, and not just because the market is saturated but still loving it.

(Finally, obviously the return of Ogged is the final nail in the coffin. I actually had a reflective piece written about what it's like to Blog With Ogged, since we didn't overlap five years ago, because I like to reflect on the state of the blog on my birthday, and it is that! Basically all I came up with was "At last, the spectre of you're not Ogged that hangs over my head, is vanquished!" It's nice he's back.)


 

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Goodhart's Law

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.03.14

Grade inflation:

About 43 percent of college letter grades in 2011 were A's, up from 31 percent in 1988 and 15 percent in 1960, a 2011 study found. Over roughly the same span, the average amount of studying by people enrolled in college declined almost 50 percent, a 2011 study found, from 25 hours per week to 13 hours.

On a fundamental, gut level, I don't really care that grade inflation is through the roof. While it's inversely correlated with study time, I don't think there's any cause and effect that's not better explained by other factors - specifically, students working more hours at a job and many more non-traditional students attending college (who also tend to study much more efficiently).

The implication in the article is that grade inflation is mostly due to student evaluations. I think that's wrong. For one, students fill out evaluations before seeing their semester grade, so the mechanism is at lease a little muddy. Grade inflation is due to this:
1. it's slightly easier to bump someone up than hold the line firm. You'll enjoy your semester break slightly more and have everyone off your case.
2. IME, instructors in decades past were less attuned to how well their students were learning, and thus gave an inappropriately difficult class. If your class has a narrow distribution and your content is appropriate to them, it isn't strange for the median grade to be in the low-to-mid 80s.

To the extent that I care, it's this: See? See? There are repercussions to making everything measurable and reportable. Yes, it's important to have guidelines for evaluating how well a teacher is doing, but those guidelines affect the performance, as well.


 

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The Awesome Basin

Posted by Ogged
on 02.02.14

I'll root for Denver. And for Richard Sherman to get 6 picks while murdering Skip Bayless.


 

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Guest Post - A Bridge Too Far

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.02.14

JP Stormcrow writes: I was writing a guest post predicting that more shoes were about to drop in the Christie scandal(s) (which have multiplied), but then several shoes actually did drop on Friday, and the Christie team's response to one of them is comically over-the-top that it is hard to know where to even start, so I'll start there. It's clear that he's toast for a presidential run and probably for even finishing his term; and if that wasn't clear before Saturday's Nixon-in-the-bunker counterattack against one of his Port Authority appointees, it is crystal clear now.

The guy in question, David Wildstein, was appointed by Christie to a newly-created $150k/yr position on the Port Authority despite lacking any relevant transportation experience, and is at the center of what we know about the original bridge part of the scandal (he provided the redacted emails and texts, and he was the one who replied "Got it." to the infamous "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email).

Wildstein went to high school with Christie but apparently they were not close although he was statistician for the baseball team for which Christie was the catcher. He ran a prominent New Jersey politics blog under the name Wally Edge and is not viewed as a long-time Christie loyalist, but apparently is a classic ratfucker. (MSNBC's Steve Kornacki worked for Wildstein on that blog--apparently not knowing his real name the whole time--and has been quite thorough on covering developments on his show.) The Port Authority is refusing to pay his lawyer fees, and Wildstein has been signalling that he is willing to roll over for immunity. On Friday his lawyer (in a rather ambiguously-worded letter) indicated that Christie had told lies about Wildstein and that there was evidence that Christie knew about the lane closures at the time. After a relatively restrained response on Friday, the Christie team put out a full-blown attack sheet on Saturday, "5 Things You Should Know About The Bombshell That's Not A Bombshell." It includes, I kid you not, he was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior. It's worth a read to appreciate the self-defeating nature of the attack on the guy they appointed and were praising as late as December (he resigned and was not one of the folks Christie threw under the bus in his press conference--but Bridget Kelly was, and I believe she will be the one who might ultimately really stick the knife in, she just switched from a Repub-friendly political lawyer to a well-known criminal defense lawyer).

Anyway, with a bunch of subpoenaed material due in on Monday and the US Attorney involved (and apparently a Federal grand jury) this is about to go full Hindenburg.

And that was not even what I wanted to talk about but rather the broader aspects of "scandal" that have arisen. Basically, it involves two big pots of money, Sandy relief funds and Port Authority money (the latter made bigger by the cancellation of the tunnel project) that Christie & Co. have used as political reward and punishment funds. Wildstein and Kelly are small fry (of course), the real stuff revolves around people like David Samson, the lawyer who Christie appointed as Port Authority chairman. See the article and chart here on how his law firm has done since Christie took office. Politics as usual at some level, but there are so many delicious aspects to seeing Christie on the receiving end of this. Not the least of which is Christie's original claim to fame having been his tough-on-politicians reputation as US Attorney.


 

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Amanda Knox

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.02.14

Snarkout writes: As you probably saw, Amanda Knox's acquital-on-appeal was thrown out by the Italian courts and she's been re-convicted of murdering Meredith Kercher. From my point of view as an ugly American, this is an injustice up there with the Cameron Todd Willingham execution (only not with the death penalty hovering) and the prosecutor. But there seem to be a ton of British people out there absolutely convinced that Foxy Knoxy is guilty as sin. Can I can ask our Knifecrime Island correspondents why that is?

Heebie's take: I somehow thought that when she came home, it was a foregone conclusion that she'd be retried in Italy and found guilty. Or retried and retried until she was found guilty, and it would all be theatre. My only point is that Cameron Todd Willingham is in another category of horror altogether.


 

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