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Prison visits

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.08.14

At a nearby prison, all visits are now by video. You can't visit your loved one in person.

At its best, it's good that it facilitates long-distance visits. But they've ended the option of seeing the inmate in person altogether, which seems inhumane. And it's not free - they charge $.50-$1 per minute. Also it freed up space in what used to be the visitation building. Mostly it seems kind of dehumanizing.


 

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Friday Puzzler!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.07.14

Stormcrow sends in: Deck of playing cards. Two confederates. One picks five cards out of the deck. Looks at them and turns over four of them one at a time. The other person then correctly deduces what the fifth card is purely from the sequence of the cards turned over (no tricks with timing or whatnot).

Not really a card "trick" but a logic puzzle of the "doesn't seem to be enough information" kind. In fact it probably does not work very well as a card trick since everyone assumes those kinds of tricks involve palmed cards or the like.


 

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Guest Post: Moretberg!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.07.14

K-sky writes:

The internet, with its distractions and its slang, is often seen as precipitating the collapse of serious literary engagement. What Ortberg seems to have realized is that, to the extent that seriousness is coded male, the internet's informal mode is less a problem than a feminist opportunity.
For the reader, the pleasure across the board here is basically one of revenge [...] on a system that has made particular responses to reading seem untenable, or necessarily unserious. There's so little room to roll your eyes at these fantastic men; to say that they suck. And there's a tremendous catharsis that comes from a whole book that encourages you to do so.

This review of Mallory Ortberg's book (and her M.O. in general) at the Los Angeles Review of Books is delightfully precise, in my serious manly opinion, about why Ortberg's voice and critique is so vital. Is it possible that there are enough specifics herein to make a thread about Ortberg something other than a love-fest (punctuated with a few dudely "Meh"s)? Probably not, but there are worse wastes of internet.


 

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Voter Turnout

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.06.14

I'm seeing a ton of depressing articles berating young Democrats and anyone else for not showing up to vote. A different narrative would be that the voter suppression methods of the Voter ID laws actually had a measurable impact. Let's use that narrative, instead, hmm?


 

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Panic Attacks

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.06.14

Do you all get panic attacks? I don't think I've ever had a proper one, although I'm open to new experiences. (Actually, it sounds enough like what it's like to be mid-nightmare that I'm not especially curious.) What's the biological mechanism of a panic attack, anyway? It seems sort of like a waking dream sequence, somehow.


 

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Regroup

Posted by Ogged
on 11.06.14

Looking at the exit poll data, one thought was inescapable: someone should make an interracial gangbang called The Coming Democratic Majority.


 

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Somewhat Creepy!

Posted by Ogged
on 11.05.14

This woman's dad was a serial killer. This guy's grandmother loved to poison people.


 

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Things That Cheered Me Up Yesterday

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.05.14

Finding out that the Mexican Spanish word for popcorn is 'palomitas de maiz' -- little doves of corn.

That was it, really. Other than that, and Barry's job, the day was pretty much a total downer. Anyone else happy about anything? Or aware of any particularly charming foreign language idioms?


 

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Elections

Posted by Ogged
on 11.04.14

A thread.


 

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Lightning strikes

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.04.14

I kind of loved this article on survivors of lightning strikes.

An average lightning bolt carries 500 megajoules of energy--enough to instantly boil 250 gallons of water. It heats the air it zips through to five times the surface temperature of the sun. Still, around 90 percent of lightning-strike victims survive. Over the past three decades, lightning has killed an average of 51 people per year in the U.S. but left more than 500 injured and alive....[M]ost of the electricity in a lightning bolt does not pass through the body. Rather, it dissipates over the skin in what's known as a flashover. Vernon Cooray, a lightning scientist at Uppsala University in Sweden, explains the phenomenon by contrasting the ways a human body and a tree react when struck. Both trees and people are filled with a soup of water and minerals that conduct electricity pretty well. But because trees are covered in dry, inelastic bark, lightning traveling through the trunk has no escape route. It must stay its course. In the process, it superheats the water and sap inside the tree into explosive steam, which can rip apart the trunk and branches.
Compared with tree bark, human skin is much more pliant and moist. Sweat and rainwater make it extra conductive, providing an alternate external path for voltage. Most of the electricity can pass over strike victims rather than coursing through them...A flashover can still do damage indirectly. The electricity crackling over the surface of the human body singes clothing, vaporizes sweat and moisture into scalding steam, and renders metal objects like belt buckles, keys, and jewelry so hot that they burn the skin. Occasionally, all that steam even blows victims' shoes and socks off.

...

Listening to other, similarly curious accounts, it became clear that some lightning-strike survivors fabricate or exaggerate parts of their stories--whether intentionally or not. A few claimed to have suddenly developed bizarre powers after the strike. I have spoken with survivors who are adamant that they give off energy that somehow shortens the lives of electronic devices or makes streetlights go dark when they walk beneath them, that they can sense an approaching thunderstorm, or that lightning is more attracted to them than to people who have not been hit.
To some survivors, these more outlandish claims only serve to reinforce the idea that their very real issues are suspect, too. "I have met people who say they have been struck three times and say the can see the future, play the piano, fuck all night long," says Utley. "It's all bullshit."

 

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Entertainment

Posted by Ogged
on 11.04.14

I don't even have a TV cable, but I've seen enough linked clips to venture: Jimmy Fallon is not a very funny guy, but he is a fun guy, with just enough entertainment chops to play along with his guests, but not so much that he ever upstages them. Impressions with Kevin Spacey; duet with Billy Joel. Good stuff, as the king of late night might have said.


 

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Mean Mommy

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.04.14

The Difficult Empathy of Parenthood. It really is the very worst part: how at your worst, you are ruder and meaner to your kid than you ever dreamt you'd be.

I semi-excuse it as natural: when your kid hits the button-pushing stage - at maybe 3 years? - they are going to drive you until they elicit that side of you, and it's part of them learning how these interactions go, and that people are okay on the other side of them, and so on.

Nevertheless, it's incredibly awful as a parent to find yourself in that headspace, and obviously too much of it is not good for the kid, either.


 

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NMM

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.03.14

Tom Magliozzi, of Car Talk, has gone to the impound lot in the sky. Sad! I actually can't tell the brothers' personalities apart, but they've got the kind of humor that, while I find it super dumb, the fact that they're laughing really hard makes me laugh as well.


 

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Plea bargains

Posted by Ben
on 11.03.14

It's hard not to read this without coming away with the impression that plea bargains are basically a corrupt mechanism to deal with understaffing. ISTR a proposal a few years ago for what would have been an odd form of work-to-rule strike, in the form of everyone insisting on a trial, thereby crippling the system, but (unsurprisingly) it apparently did not happen.

The proposed reform strikes me as kind of weird.


 

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Guest Post - Voter ID racism

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.03.14

Witt writes: A new study shows that legislators who supported voter ID are less likely to respond to a generic constituent e-mail from someone with a Hispanic name as opposed to an Anglo one.

In contrast to the debacle in Montana that we discussed last week, this study doesn't raise any ethical flags for me.

More to the point, it is a (disheartening) affirmation of something that I witnessed firsthand last year. Three young colleagues of mine were calling legislators to set up constituent meetings.

The one who had an Anglo, male name got more responses, faster responses, and more positive responses than the two with female, non-Anglo names. All of the names were equally easy to to say (phonetic, one-syllable) and all three were native English speakers.

Heebie's take: this seems like a no-brainer, but boy it is depressing.

Also, I'm sort of amazed at the lack of traction here of political discussions about tomorrow's election. It's like we're all so braced for the painful reality of the outcome that there is nothing to discuss. (Because I am eternally optimistic, I like to frame the Republican takeover as setting the stage for them to wreck themselves in 2016. For example, Ted Cruz vs. Mitch McConnell, no holds barred. Two years is plenty of rope for them to hang themselves with.)


 

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Trans Men At Wellesley

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.03.14

So the article on them is a couple of weeks old already. This is not the blog to come to for breaking news.

If you haven't read the article, it is, as the title of the post would suggest, about the experiences of trans men (who were admitted to Wellesley as women, and then transitioned while enrolled there) and the reaction of the community to them. Largely, it focuses on the efforts of some men to have men publicly and officially recognized as part of the Wellesley community. While no one asked me, this seems like either kind of an asshole thing to do, or kind of unserious about one's own gender identity: if you're a student at a women's college who's looking for more recognition of your status as a man, you're either saying that it's wrong of the college to continue to be a women's college (which is a possible argument, but one that should be made straightforwardly, and the end result of which is the admission of cis men), or you're saying that while you're a man, you're the kind of man who is entitled to be treated as a woman when it suits him (that is, that you are the category of person that a women's college should be recognizing and whose specific needs a women's college should be attending to), which again seems unserious. It makes perfect sense to me that Wellesley should allow transitioning and transitioned men to remain enrolled -- it's a hard enough time in anyone's life that they shouldn't have to transfer colleges during it -- but expecting a whole lot more than that in terms of recognition seems unreasonable to me.

But backing up a step, if there's a time in anyone's life when being unreasonable is forgivable, it's when you're very young and under a lot of stress. It's a shame that it's so hard to convincingly communicate sympathy for someone's larger goals, such as acceptance for trans people in society generally, in the context of focused disagreement about the particular hill they're choosing to die on at the moment.

(In completely unconnected links, Arthur Chu had a piece about how Gamergate is making him sad that I liked, but don't have anything much to say about.)


 

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