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A World Cup Thread

Posted by Ogged
on 05.31.14

A typical American attempt to discredit soccer, this time with accusations of match-fixing. It's rather effective! I don't know soccer very well at all, so maybe it's well-known to real soccer fans that it's a dirty sport, but the American in me says, "Cut off that referee's hands!"

Speaking of betting, Iran is apparently at 2500-1 to win the whole thing. I sense an opportunity to get rich.


 

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Ask the Mineshaft: #Yesallwomen edition

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.30.14

The whole post is below the fold.

Dear Mineshaft:

I'm having some mildy but increasingly problematic PTSD regarding the all the #yesallwomen discussion. I'm realizing how much I try forget about how this kind of misogynistic-entitlement-based harassment pointing to assault has effected and effects me. In particular I live in a (currently) fairly static situation that I try to assume is just not going to a problem, and all the Rodgers coverage is making me wonder if that's stupid/wishful thinking. Maybe the Mineshaft can use its considerable tallents to either intelligently reassure me that I'm in fact correct to assume its okay and leave it alone, or come up with suggestions for actions I could take that might actually help/make me
feel better? Thanks!

Ile

In spring of 2010 my (white) boyfriend and I decided to move out together from the group house we met in and got together in, and we were pretty excited to find a submarket house rental in a fairly nice block of neighborhood. It's a historically African-American neighborhood that's rapidly gentrifying white but is still pretty mixed, and a lot of the African Americans and Arabs in the local neighborhood tend to be fairly successful middle class types. The larger neighborhood is definitely poorer and a bit sketchy but our little block never seems to have fallen on hard times. The group house had not really had friendly neighbors, and I was determined to make friends with my new neighbors.

Almost directly across the street is a split Victorian, and the 50--something single white male who lived in the downstairs apartment was watering his roses, let's call him Ed, when I had to park in front of his house one day, so I introduced myself, saying that me and my boyfriend had just moved in across the street. He smiled and introduced himself and said, somewhat surprisingly, "if you ever want any roses, just come across and get 'em, I have so many I can never pick them fast enough." "why thank you," I replied, that's kind of you---I think I might have the same problem myself however!" This was the extent of conversation.

A few days later a yellow rose was stuck in our gate, so I took it in and put in a vase, and later when I drove out I rolled down my window and waved at Ed "Thanks for the Rose!" The next month the gesture was repeated. The next month the gesture was repeated about 2x in the month. In August the roses were more like bouquet's and came almost once a week. My boyfriend started to get slightly wary. "Does he know you're unavailable?" "I think he does, maybe he just really doesn't like having roses inside the house?" Later in August I was coming home, very late (~2am) by myself, from a religious holiday. I pulled in the drive way, and realized that my boyfriend had forgotten to take the trash out, so I rolled it out myself. In that five minutes Ed came outside, clipped some roses, crossed the street and somewhat forcefully put them in my hand. I squeaked thank you and fled insight. I was finally creeped out and my boyfriend and I didn't know what to do. We discussed asking people for advice. But I was really busy and didn't get around to it.

A few weeks later I had another late night religious holiday, and when I turned my phone back on I had several frantic messages from boyfriend telling me to call him and to not come home without calling him. I called him and he said that when I came home, I was to stay in my car, call him, and he would come out, open the door, and escort me in. Apparently, when he came in, there was a bag tied to the gate (where the roses had previously been put), and inside the bag there were some roses, a stuffed teddy bear, and a paper bag. Inside the paper back was an orange prescription bottle with the label removed . . and what seemed to be a used condom inside. My boyfriend left the bag on the gate, went inside, and called the police, who said they couldn't do anything until I called them. He then waited inside and watched as Ed came across the street once, looked around, and then seemed to "check" on the bag, before going back. So we called the police, and this very exasperated and baffled looking black male cop came over and took down our story and said all he could do was talk to the guy in a couple of days when he was on day patrol and ask him to leave us alone. We asked him about the bag and he said he could take it away and destroy it, but that was about it. We asked him to take it away and destroy it. The next day my boyfriend left, carefully closing the gate behind him. A couple of hours later I opened the door to leave and promptly shut it and went back inside---the gate was open(any tall person can unlock it), and in front of the door was a box with roses, another stuffed animal, and a big note with a badly mispelled rendition of my name, "******, I really love you!!!!! -Ed" I called the police again, and a very intimidating white lady cop came and said she could go over and tell him to leave us alone. She took the box and knocked on his door repeatedly till he opened it, and apparently asked him if he'd been leaving this packages, he evaded but sort of admitted it, and she gave him some sort of talking-to about how they were inappropriate, and how he was not to give us anything or talk to us or approach us anymore. She told him that I have a boyfriend (whom he claimed he thought was merely my roommate) and that he should leave me alone. She also apparently told him that if he needed to find a woman to date, he should go online! She filed some sort of report and told me I should go on about my business. A few weeks later he put another stuffed animal on the steps. My boyfriend went over with it and knocked on his dooor. "Did you leave this on our door?" "Yeah . ." "You're not supposed to leave us presents, or communicate with us, Ed. Can you take it back?" "Oh sorry, right." And then Ed shook my boyfriend's hand. And he has never spoken to either of us or left anything at our door since then. So really, it seemed like all was well.

We didn't really see him outside much after that but in ~late 2011 the Black UPS driver, who had gotten to know my boyfriend well b/c of his online shopping, diffidently asked if he could please keep an eye on him as he got back in his truck, b/c "your neighbor across the street keeps yelling at me and calling me the N-word." My horrified boyfriend agreed to go outside and watch, and apparently this did the trick. Around the same time he began to work at home a lot, and noticed that Ed seemed to be sitting in his house a lot during the day, and shouting at the top of his lungs, perhaps saying "Fuck you!" a lot. Sometimes in the early evening we could hear him walking around, saying "fuck all of you!" At some point our white neighbor, a very young man named T, two doors down came over and introduced himself and asked us if we knew Ed, b/c many times when Ed drove by his house Ed would slow down and stick his head out and stare at T in a very mean mug way and mouth "fuck you!" Sometime in mid 2012 a black lady neighbor, M, from two doors down came over with a petition she wanted to send to his landlady, detailing how he was going out of his way to call her son the N-word and shout at people. Apparently, years ago, he had been a friendly attendant of a neighborhood black church, but now he was walking past the church sometimes and shouting, "Fuck y'all N-----s!" She wanted the landlady to contact his next of kin. When I ask M when the trouble started, she dates it to fall of 2010. I didn't want to sign it, in case he somehow saw it, but I gave the neighbor my phone number and told her she could tell the landlady my story and call me if the landlady wanted to hear from me. Then he seemed to not be around for about 6-8 months. Then he seemed to come back with a bunch of relatives who spent a few days cleaning out his house and fixing up his yard. At this point his hair was somehow noticably darker and he had a marked Hitler stache on. (My boyfriend has dark hair and a prominent mustache, very much not of the Hitler type.) I saw M and she told me the family had taken him somewhere for treatment for a while and then brought him back. For a few months after that he was fairly quiet, but all through 2013 and 2014 he still sits in his house or walks around in the early evening shouting. Never in my or my boyfriend's view or when we are outside.

So part of me is like, whatever, he's mentally ill and it's not my problem anymore, but part of me is acutely aware of the fact that he seems to have gone off the deep end when I called the police, and that if he decides to get violent, me and my boyfriend are somewhat easy targets whose house he sees every single day. At this point rents are crazy high and our landlords crazy lazy about reacting to the market, and we would either have to pay 30% more per month or take a huge cut in living space if we moved. Every time I read about the entitlement culture Rodgers was plugged into online, I envision all the other guys as looking like Ed and it makes me want to hide or move back in with my family. My boyfriend is a big fan of trying to be rational and probabilistic about fear, and I try to be, and am usually successful, but it's not working that well these days. Advice?

Dear Ile:

First, I'm really sorry you had to deal with that. Breaking down the situation into things that make it sound dangerous, and things that don't:

Things That Make It Sound Dangerous

Pretty much everything about the interactions you've had with this guy. Short of direct threats of violence, I can't think what would be more worrisome. Sexually inappropriate, apparently fixated on you, violently inappropriate in general? If the problem were still acute, I'd say screw the rent hike and move -- cheap rent isn't worth being scared of your neighbors.

Things That Make It Sound Not Dangerous

If I've got the story straight, while he still seems kind of crazy, he hasn't been inappropriate to you or aggressive to anyone as far as you know since 2012 or so. That seems reassuring, but I have no real sense of how much to rely on it. But seriously, if the situation seems to be heating up again, or he starts interacting with you at all in a way that worries you, I'd move. Safety is more important than money or a nice house.

Mineshaft -- am I overreacting? This is a genuinely disturbing story, right? Or is someone going to talk me off this ledge and tell Ile that they have good reason to think that everything will be fine?

LB


 

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Starting soon.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.30.14

We agreed to host a weekend of backyard camping, tubing, and grilling for about five families, operating out of our backyard and house. Starting in about an hour. Halfway through, a long-distance friend will also arrive, mostly for a conference but then to segue into a visit on Sunday and Monday.

I have the serious hives on having to turn on my public face for the next 72 hours. I know, academically, I'll have a good time and enjoy everyone's company, but my gut is telling me to grab my Veronica Mars novel Piketty and head for the hills.


 

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Body maintenance, gender issues, romantic duplicity or honesty, the toll of parenting and age

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.30.14

DQ writes: It's got it all.

Heebie fills in some details:

I am not especially bothered by men who desire thin women. They are just as susceptible to messages that these are the women that they should find most attractive as women are to messages that they should look like them. The more troubling kind of man has a caveat about a woman's thinness. She must not be "obsessed" or "overly concerned" with it. Or at least not visibly so. She mustn't always order salads or freak out when she doesn't make it to the gym. Watching her eat a cheeseburger--or better yet, a steak--even oddly enthralls him.

What it takes for a normal-weight woman to stay very thin, and why she chooses to do so.


 

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Peekatee Vindicated

Posted by Ogged
on 05.29.14

There's been some controversy about Piketty's interpretation of data on wealth in the UK. This seems like a fair analysis, and it almost wholly vindicates him.


 

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Services

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.29.14

Friends told us recently that they were drifting away from the Unitarian Fellowship because, in part, they weren't finding the services to be that meaningful - they didn't leave feeling more connected with humanity, or part of something larger than themselves, or intellectually stimulating. They were shopping around at other churches for the time being. (I joked that they were rushing churches.)

When I was growing up, we went to a Unitarian Fellowship, and if asked why, the only reason I ever got was 1) to give me something to answer, when the question "what are you?" arises, and 2) part of your nebulous general education. It was not about spirituality of any sort.

I was thinking a day or two later: if there actually existed services somewhere where I usually ended up feeling more connected with humanity and part of something larger than myself, or challenged to reflect on how I could be a better person, I might be inclined to make the effort. I'm just skeptical that anything can deliver, regularly.

(Also...I don't feel particularly empty or lacking, so I guess why bother.)


 

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The Burgoo That Is America

Posted by Ogged
on 05.29.14

Not all light-hearted poking fun is trolling. (He said.) Sometimes it's just light-hearted and fun, and this list of each state's signature food is very satisfyingly both.


 

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Everything Is Broken

Posted by Ogged
on 05.29.14

Long-form journalism, you're not bad to look at, but I'm not sure I'm all that into you. Here's a piece I haven't finished yet on the disaster that is computer security, and the overlapping cultures that make it so. Here's a somewhat overheated, pretty entertaining blog post called Programming Sucks, which comes at the same problem from the perspective of the individual coder.


 

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Child cruelty

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.28.14

I thought I could troll in defense of the father, but I don't think I can actually pull it off.

Police arrested a Douglasville father on child cruelty charges after the man punished his 16-year-old son by making him carry a 23-pound landscape stone for several miles.

Sorry, dad, that's pretty awful. I mean, there is something about it where I go, "This is somehow different than attacking your kid in a rage" in terms of instilling sheer fear and PTSD in your kid.

"This was done multiple times over a three-day period, sometimes as early as 3 o'clock in the morning," Police Sgt. Todd Garner told 11Alive on Tuesday. Garner said the boy, who is only 4'2" tall, was also punished in-between the 3-mile hikes.
"In between that time, he was at home having to move rocks and stuff from one side of the back yard to the other and then being taken right back out to the same location and dropped off and made to walk back again," Sgt. Garner added.

I suppose there's a distinction between child abuse and child cruelty, and this guy was charged with the appropriate crime.


 

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Creeper, no creeping!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.28.14

From J, Robot: Folks write in to to Captain Awkward about creepy guys in the circle of friends.

From elsewhere: how nerd culture promotes misogyny and entitlement. This article was surprisingly good at getting me to put the shoes on of a young guy trying to figure out the world and getting bombarded with nerd culture messages.


 

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0 for 20 so far.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.27.14

I love cats, but this is funny:

"What our research shows so far is that the relationship between a cat and an owner is not what would be described as a secure-attachment style relationship." Obviously my cat is the exception.

Via Jammies


 

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The Fermi Paradox

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.27.14

Where is everybody? Obviously, Group 2, possibility 9.

I should say, I know next to nothing about philosophy or physics.


 

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Piketty Reading Group: Chapter 2

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.27.14

[We're sticking with one chapter a week for now, so chapter 3 will be next Monday, and chapter 4 the week after that. This would be a good time to start thinking about which, if any, of chapters 5 though 8 you would like to volunteer for; I'll be soliciting volunteers soon. Same rules as before: keep it roughly on topic, but drop-ins and lurkers are welcome to participate, and if you have something relevant to say, don't worry about not having done the reading.

Minivet's notes on Chapter 2 under the fold. LB]

Prior reading group posts:

Piketty Reading Group Setup
Initial Scheduling Post
Introduction and Chapter One -- Robert Halford

A lot of Chapter 2 is, again, defining terms and setting out concepts for later, so I'm eager to press on, but duty calls. I'll describe some of what I see as the key points.

The basic mathematical education that given how exponentiation works, small differences in annual growth rates turn into huge differences in generational or centurial growth rates. I sort of knew this, but the illustration in Table 2.2 is still impressive.

The point that economic growth can be decomposed into population growth and per-capita growth: on the one hand, more people needing more stuff, and on the other, more stuff being made or done for each person. Looking at historical growth rates at a very high level - by continent-generation, more or less - it looks like both of these were very high over the past sixty years, and although it's unpredictable, population growth is quite likely to become low to negative over the next century, and per-capita growth (less predictably - assuming no huge technological breakthroughs of the kind that open up frenetic new activities) is also going to get lower than it was.

The assertion that higher growth on either or both fronts leads to less prominence of inherited wealth in the world. Also, although less assuredly, that more growth means more social mobility. I agree with these two assertions as matters of general observation, but am not convinced that the logic is inescapable, especially with the first one. More and different economic activity creates new wealth, sure, but does the distribution of the new wealth necessarily become more equitable? Especially if population growth is the main factor in overall growth, you could see the new wealth accrue to just as few people relative to the population, so that the only difference is that nouveaux riches come up alongside the old money.

But again, as a matter of observation, this matches what we've seen in the past: high growth being something that tends to mollify people, because there's money to be made all over, not just by sucking up close to them as has. (And when growth is goosed by population growth from illegal immigration, a lot of natives, especially wealthy natives, benefit more than the laborers themselves from underpriced labor, stolen wages, etc., but moving on.) With lower growth, there's less satiation all around and it's more profitable for powerful interests to combine and milk more out of the powerless. The golden age has ended.

A sneak preview of a theme we'll certainly come back to in the future. "With low growth, moreover, it is fairly plausible that the rate of return on capital will be substantially higher than the growth rate," i.e., r>g and we regress into a patrimonial society. This makes the most intuitive sense only if you assume that r and g are uncorrelated; but low growth is reflected to some extent in the return on capital, surely.

Some basic exploration of what all this per capita growth actually means; the increase of standard of living and the increase of purchasing power, mostly in food and manufactured goods rather than services.

The strange observation (which I have by way of Thomas Frank) that "in North America, there is no nostalgia for the postwar period."

Inflation as playing two possible roles besides just being something that needs to be adjusted for in statistics: disproportionately enriching owners of scarce resources, and redistributing wealth by inflating it away over time (much more on this in chapter 3). The point that there was little to no inflation in the West between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I, unlike the following century, and a digression on this being why amounts of money are used as fixed points by nineteenth-century writers, whereas we leave money out of literature today because it dates itself so quickly. (Or we have different attitudes towards money for other reasons?)


 

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Accountability

Posted by Ogged
on 05.26.14

Colleges are corrupt, school administrators are the worst people on earth, and rising tuition and college debt are real, life-altering problems for a lot of people. And yet, all the concerns raised about this White House proposal seem dead on.

The rating system, which the president called for in a speech last year and is under development, would compare schools on factors like how many of their students graduate, how much debt their students accumulate and how much money their students earn after graduating. Ultimately, Mr. Obama wants Congress to agree to use the ratings to allocate the billions in federal student loans and grants. Schools that earn a high rating on the government's list would be able to offer more student aid than schools at the bottom.

To which,

Many college presidents said a rating system like the one being considered at the White House would elevate financial concerns above academic ones and would punish schools with liberal arts programs and large numbers of students who major in programs like theater arts, social work or education, disciplines that do not typically lead to lucrative jobs.

They also predicted that institutions that serve minority and low-income students, many of whom come from underfunded schools and have had less college preparation, would rank lowest in a new rating system, hurting the very populations the president says he wants to help.

 

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These Echoes Keep Echoing

Posted by Ogged
on 05.26.14

There's a white Alabaman who is a part-time resident up here and attends my wife's church. He asked me what I thought of Alabama and I said I'd only ventured out of Birmingham twice, because being in the country down there gives me the willies. During another conversation, Mississippi came up, and he said, "You know how you feel when you're in Alabama? That's how I feel when I'm in Mississippi." Here you go.

In happier Mississippi linkage, these essays by Mississippi high-schoolers are worth a few minutes of your time.


 

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Forced Labor, I Just Can't Quit You

Posted by Ogged
on 05.26.14

I didn't know about this. The federal government holds tens of thousands of people in detention while their immigration status is being determined--about half are allowed to stay (some portion of those have broken no laws)--and while they're there, they're put to work ("voluntarily") and paid $1 per day for their labor. The federal government would like you to know that

"The program allows detainees to feel productive and contribute to the orderly operation of detention facilities," said Gillian M. Christensen, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency. Detainees in the program are not officially employees, she said, and their payments are stipends, not wages. No one is forced to participate, she added, and there are usually more volunteers than jobs.

As you might guess, and the article details, that is bullshit.


 

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Guest Post - Won't you come to the hanging with me?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.26.14

E. Messily writes: I am very interested (also appalled, but really my primary reaction is interest) in all the drama about lethal injections.

First I was interested (and surprised!) that the pharmaceutical companies are all refusing to sell to the states. I did not realize there was a low to which big pharm wouldn't stoop. Then, I was interested to see that various states are talking about electric chairs and firing squads. Oh, America. Oh, Americans.

Now I'm extremely interested to see what happens next. And also the hanging song from Cannibal the Musical is stuck in my head.

Unrelated, but possibly of interest to various posters and commenters: Fake memories.

Heebie's take: It's not really about false memories in a way that would provoke much of a fight, but since I've got the mike, let me reiterate that yes, I think false memories are very real and probably widespread, but that nobody yet has been able to provide a single example of a false memory of an event that was supposedly a daily recurrence, spanning years. That is the phenomenon that I do not believe exists.


 

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I'm Sorry, My Elders

Posted by Ogged
on 05.25.14

The iPhone messaging app opens to the conversation with the last person you sent to, not received from, so while the following message made perfect sense in context, I still think my mom must have been surprised to receive

oh sure, the english major is going to have me blowing neanderthals for world peace

This is similar to, though not exactly the same as, the time my father-in-law was seated next to my phone, glanced over at it when in dinged, and saw

My balls. Lick them.


 

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