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Stop Right There

Posted by Ogged
on 05.21.16

This is one of those thoughts that--even if it's not misguided--you just contemplate in silence. Of course, even setting aside the point of "why should they have to?" which Drum acknowledges, it is misguided. I stand by my "put them in jail" recommendation, but more directly, the one "in the meantime" thing you can do to support women being abused online is to stand by them, both publicly and privately. The former to help maintain every space as available for women, and the latter because part of what sucks about getting abuse is feeling like you're alone with the abuser; it's nice to hear from someone who says, "this is shitty and you don't deserve it."

I do wonder how much Drum's post is motivated by actually reading Twitter and trying to take people seriously, because Twitter is just a pit of faux outrage, willful misreading, and Pearl Clutching 101 language policing. Everyone knows not to read the comments, but people still take Twitter, which is basically the comment section for the world, seriously. Here's a user guide for Twitter:

1) follow only people who link to interesting stuff
2) read the interesting stuff
3) don't read anything else.


 

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A Car Thread, Which Will Inevitably Become A Bike Thread

Posted by Ogged
on 05.20.16

Should I thank or curse Tigre for planting the Volvo V60 seed in my brain? I took the boys to the dealership this week to check out the seats and the size, and had to exercise some restraint to keep from driving three hours to get a deal on a lightly used one today. Maybe next year. (Not the Polestar though, man; not worth the premium over the V6 with 325hp (which is probably going away next year, but the new 4 should be even faster than this year's)).


 

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The Thing I Personally Don't Know About To That Extent At Least

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.20.16

For the record, this is not my experience. Of the interactions she describes, some of them I recognize, but the total cumulative experience is not oppressive the way she describes.

I'm absolutely not saying that she's overstating the dangers of being a woman - just that I personally have not internalized the fear the way she has, and her experience is not universal. Maybe I'm a total outlier.

(Also, I'm not saying I've been totally immune to sexism. I had some bogeymen. But they're boring.)


 

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Filters

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.16

Via AcademicLurker, this is an interesting tidbit about the automated filters at arXiv.org. The gist is that the site has automated categorization filters, with the surprise bonus that the inability to categorize something turns out to be a very reliable filter for crackpot papers. Of course, you run the risk of simply using familiarity with contemporary academic jargon (or discourse, if you like) as a proxy for quality, with a further question of how much people are doing this kind of filtering themselves, and missing interesting work. I'd guess: people do this a lot, but probably aren't missing much interesting stuff in the amateur physics world.


 

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Owning Your Whiteness

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.16

This is a great analysis of rhyme and rhythm in rap lyrics. I would love to see another version that compares these techniques to examples in traditional poetry.


 

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The Ultimate Carbon Offset

Posted by Ogged
on 05.19.16

I started to think the other day, collective action aside, what's the one thing each of us could do to lessen our carbon footprint? My first guess was: kill a rich American. But that might be merely the most satisfying; in fact, research indicates we should be killing Qataris.

Qatar's carbon emissions per capita are the highest in the world and three times as high as the United States'.

That difference is so large that you could even be excused the round-trip flight to do it.


 

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Guest Post - Secret Coders

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.19.16

J, Robot writes: This is like the baby version of Ogged's bootcamp. Maybe I'll pick up an issue.

Heebie's take: I kinda want to pick it up, too. I believe the children are our future coders.


 

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Well, it is an eclectic web magazine for the discriminating news consumer

Posted by Ben
on 05.18.16

Though possibly this post will damage the credibility of the below-pictured assertion-by-radio-button-and-text-field.


 

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Hospitality

Posted by Ogged
on 05.18.16

As with so many things these days, from politics to culture to tech, Google Home and Amazon Echo and their ilk make me feel like a dinosaur. Who would voluntarily put a third-party listening device in their home? About as many people as allow a third-party to see everything they type, I guess. But this is even creepier, come on.


 

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A Possibly True Alternate Reading Of American History

Posted by Ogged
on 05.18.16

Our politicians are more wise, prudent, and judicious than we are, and for two centuries now, they've managed, with varying, but remarkable, success, to express and channel our fears and desires just enough to make us a prosperous superpower.


 

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Guest Post: Translators

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.17.16

Dairy Queen writes: Delightful interview, all the way through:

PEVEAR: When we were translating Anna Karenina, Penguin had an in-house reader who said, I want my Tolstoy to read smoothly.

VOLOKHONSKY: To be smooth and reader friendly.

PEVEAR: And I said, Smooth translations slide smoothly into oblivion.

INTERVIEWER: I read you had trouble with the editing of the British Penguin edition of Anna Karenina.

VOLOKHONSKY: They hated what we did.

PEVEAR: It was quite something. For example, Kitty meets Levin at the skating rink. She asks him, "Did you come recently?" And the copy editor wrote a comment which said, I'm not sure if you're aware of it, but this word has now acquired different meanings. And there is a better example! Kitty is discussing the upcoming ball. Seventeen-year-old, completely innocent Kitty says, "I do like balls." Again the copy editor wrote, I'm not sure if you're aware . . . Then the editor had this other problem. I had written that Anna "got into the carriage." And the editor said, This is the American usage of the word got. We can't do this in a British edition. You should say Anna went into the carriage. I wrote back, I'm not sure if you're aware of it, but this word has now acquired different meanings . . .

And I loved the Bonnefoy anecdote - perfect.


Heebie's take:
I like reading specific phrases that had been translated very blandly in previous renderings, but where these guys give more pep:

For instance, in the very beginning, Prince Oblonsky is in disgrace, his wife threw him out. He is in his study, on his leather sofa. He wakes up, he's forgotten everything, and it all comes back to him. He puts on his dressing gown and throws a knot in it. Then he takes a deep breath, or inhales deeply. And that is how other translators have translated it. What Tolstoy actually says is, "Drawing a goodly amount of air into the broad box of his chest."



 

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A Many-Splendored Thing

Posted by Ogged
on 05.17.16

I had to re-lace some shoes today, and noticed that they had been laced in an interesting way ("shoe shop lacing," as it turned out). So I googled, and here you go: 46 ways to lace shoes, with the benefits and an animation for each. Incredible.


 

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The World is as Soft as Clay

Posted by Alameida
on 05.16.16

My insurance company here in Oregon told me on Friday that since they had received my information by Thursday then I would be eligible for coverage I could either backdate to May 1 or move forward to June 1 (I might do the former so that if I get in a wreck on the way to the airport I would be covered. We buy travel insurance in Narnia every year, which is a family plan for about $700 that covers everything barring "preëxisting conditions" for 90 days out of the country total, divided however you want. There has never been a single year that we did not use it. I have taken my children to hospitals in DC and NYC, and been admitted myself in MD etc. I am kind of surprised they keep allowing us to buy it.)

On Friday in the morning the nice representative also told me that my file would be reviewed and the decision made on either Friday or today. I called today hopefully and now they say 5-7 business days and that I would get a call this Friday soonest. Girl x will legit lose it if I leave her for this long. I'm going to talk to my brother-in-law about what he thinks the chances are that, if the company were to need more documentation, I would need to be physically present, and based on that I think I will cross fingers and bounce.


 

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A Very Boring Place To Die

Posted by Ogged
on 05.16.16

I feel like I should be out looking for Sinead. It'll be a bummer if they find her floating in the lake.


 

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Let's pretend I'm a career counselour

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.16.16

"Trivial tasks are deeply nauseating and stressful. Non-trivial tasks send me spiraling off in monomaniacal pursuit of some ideal. " - Eggie, yesterday.

I was musing on this pathology of commenters here, after that thread. I definitely recognize the phenomenon, mostly from graduate school, but it never got as much destructive momentum as it has for others. I remember posting here about the axes of urgency vs importance (I can't now find that link. Sometime circa 2008-9). Anyway, graduate school is all important but none urgent, and teaching is all urgent but no single little task is important. (Yes, the cumulative effect is important but shut up, you know what I mean.)

Anyway: big important tasks make the pathology worse. Little urgent tasks make the pathology less. I think. This is a situation where our/your* intelligence is interfering with our ability to listen to a career counselor. You all are smart enough that you feel like you ought to have cerebral, stable, secure, high-paying jobs. But maybe those are just too unpleasant and you really ought to do something more hands on and tiring. Have you ever thought about being a cop?

*it seems rude to say your but that's what I mean


 

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Deluge - Chapters 5 and 6

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.16.16

Ajay writes: Chapter Five - Brest-Litovsk; Chapter Six - Making a Brutal Peace.

These chapters cover the events of December 1917 to April 1918 in Russia and on the Eastern Front. At the start of this period, the newly installed Bolshevik rulers of Russia are sitting down at Brest-Litovsk on the Russian-German border for peace talks with the Central Powers, based on "self-determination, no annexations, no indemnities". Behind the German negotiators, the civilian politicians in the Reichstag are in general keen to secure a peace deal that will allow them respite on the eastern front and, for their Austrian allies in particular, restored access to the vast food production of Ukraine. Behind the Russians, an elected (if not yet convened) parliament, the Constituent Assembly, and a war-weary population and army are looking forward to a spring of peace.

Four months later the German army has gone back to war with Russia, and has broken the demoralised, poorly-led and underfed Russian army into fragments in an advance that isn't so much a victory as an induced disintegration. Advancing faster even than in 1941, it takes Ukraine, the Baltic states and much of western Russia; the coal, oil, grain and iron ore which Germany lacked in 1914 are now solidly under its control; German troops have scared the government out of Petrograd and are rolling east along every railway line they can find. Behind the lines, ethnic German refugees are being prepared to settle the new territories; in Germany itself, the Kaiser and the German supreme commander Ludendorff are preparing plans to expel millions of Poles and Jews to the east to create room for the colonists of the new Greater Germany, and Lenin is preparing to send a delegation west for what is a surrender ceremony in all but name; the first Russian leader in history to surrender.

Where did it all go wrong?


Tooze starts Chapter Five in good Oxford-essay style with a sweeping and controversial statement: the Treaty itself was not all that bad in principle. After all, self-determination is good, right? No one (except Vladimir Putin) thinks it's a bad thing that Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and so forth are independent countries. And, yes, the treaty would have put them "willy-nilly under the 'protection' of Imperial Germany". But look at them now, they're in NATO and a "German-dominated European Union", which is basically the same thing. It just came apart a bit in the implementation.

I was glad he didn't continue in that vein, because I think he bites off rather more than he can chew here. From the start, the Germans' view of self-determination was highly limited. Tooze hints at this by discussing Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, which do not actually use the phrase at all; instead, he notes, "in determining all questions of sovereignty...the interests of the population concerns must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined". Fifteen million Poles (let's say) don't really want to be ruled by the Kaiser. But then again, the Kaiser really wants to rule fifteen million Poles. It's a tricky one to call! And, he also notes, it's "interests" not "wishes"; the Poles might actually, whatever they may think, be better off under the paternalistic hand of Emperor Willi, in which case that's certainly where Wilson will want them to end up. Courland certainly didn't end up as a Baltic democracy, it was welded together into a neo-feudal German protectorate with a spare Hohenzollern Duke stuck on top.

This isn't exactly the Spirit of 1989 here. And, Tooze goes on to point out, Wilson also had a bit of a blind spot when it came to Russia; like FDR 26 years later, he seems to have regarded it as a unitary state "free from the stain of imperialism". (FDR used that description for both the USSR and the USA at Yalta; Stalin managed somehow to keep a straight face but it must have been a struggle.) In fact the Russian empire was only barely majority-Russian; and the Ukrainians, Poles, Finns and others were all starting to break away in search of self-rule.

That wasn't going to happen. Tooze agrees with other writers,such as Alexander Wilson in the excellent "Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at war 1914-1918", that Kuhlmann, the German foreign secretary and treaty negotiator, was too clever by half. In a declaration on Christmas Day he promised a German withdrawal from the Russian territories it had occupied earlier in the war; Hindenburg, Ludendorff and the right wing went completely nuts at this, because the way they saw it Russia was pretty much defeated and what you should do with a defeated enemy was GRAB AS MUCH STUFF OFF THEM AS YOU CAN.

German politics was split on this. On the left of the Reichstag they opposed annexations because adding millions of disgruntled Poles to the Reich didn't seem like a good idea, electorally speaking. On the right, the Prussian monarchists opposed democracy (and had just voted down manhood suffrage) for the same reason; because, when a war's going this well, you certainly don't want to let "Proles and Jews" get involved in running it. They might muck it up. (The Kaiser agreed. Never particularly fond of Jews, he had, Tooze points out, become positively exterminationist by 1916, gibbering to his ministers about Jewish subversion and the international Freemason conspiracy.) Ludendorff and Hindenburg were planning to square that particular circle by taking the land and expelling the Polish and Jewish inhabitants - Ludendorff thought vaguely that they might be "caused to emigrate" to the USA - to be replaced by ethnic German settlers.
Then a couple of days later, the military representative on the German delegation told the Bolsheviks that when they said withdrawal, they meant it in a strictly Pickwickian sense. Poland, Courland and Lithuania had already set up national councils under German supervision which had promptly invited German protection. That meant they were independent, and so Russia had no say over them. Even the precious Ukraine had set up its own (admittedly wobbly) assembly, the Rada, and was negotiating with Germany in a separate set of talks. In fact, from a Russian point of view, under the Christmas declaration they would lose most of their natural resources, much of their industry and about a quarter of their population before the talks even got under way (then as now, the fact that the population wasn't 'theirs' and didn't want to be did not really register).
The Bolsheviks in turn went somewhat nuts at this point, and Trotsky pulled a stunt which in the cold light of history looks like something you'd expect from Donald Trump; he announced a policy of 'no war, no peace'. The Brest-Litovsk talks would end (no peace) but Russia simply would unilaterally refuse to restart the war. The Germans were taken aback; no nation had ever done this before! (Some nitpicker in the German Foreign Office found a precedent in ancient Greece.)

Heaven knows what Trotsky was playing at. Tooze speculates that he might have been counting on the pro-peace votes in the Reichstag to kick the props out from under the Army. If so, he had badly misjudged where real power lay in Germany. And this is particularly odd because, in the weeks before the declaration on 18 February, the Bolsheviks themselves had made it very clear that they understood where power lay in Russia. They had abolished the Constituent Assembly by force, shooting down its supporters in the streets, and declared that power would rest with the (Bolshevik-dominated) local councils, or Soviets, rather than the elected assembly.

If you're going to try to rule by force alone - Tooze quotes Trotsky telling the German delegation that of course the Bolshevik government "rests on strength and will assert its domination through force" - you do sort of have to have some force of some kind to rule with. The Bolshevik militias could shoot down protestors in Petrograd, but against the German army they went to pieces, with the Germans advancing up to 150 miles a week - no one would move that fast on the offensive again until the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the Germans were doing it by steam train and horse-drawn transport!

Even Lenin came under threat from the votes in the Bolshevik Committee and the Petrograd Soviet; he won after making a near-Churchillian speech accepting the scale of the Russian defeat ("wade up to the knees in filth if need be, crawling on our bellies through dirt and dung to communism") but the other voters must have realised that they would face little mercy from the non-Bolshevik majority in Russia even if they ditched Lenin at this late date. It was also around this time that the Bolsheviks abandoned forever the title of Social Democrats and named themselves instead after the lunatic die-hards of the 1870 Paris Commune - another product of a devastating defeat by the German army, and one which had lasted only a few months before itself being utterly destroyed. In context, not the most uplifting name to give yourselves. It's tempting, in fact, to see this as a sign that the Bolshevik leadership was starting to develop a death wish.

The Red Army was raised in a Napoleonic conscription decree from Trotsky; it did little good. Eventually a Bolshevik delegation, this time without Trotsky (probably wise), returned to Brest-Litovsk, now hundreds of miles behind German lines, and signed what they were told to sign. Russia agreed to pay billions in reparations to Germany, and lost the Baltic states and Poland and, crucially, Ukraine; for the starving cities of Austria-Hungary this last was a key prize (and one which they were soon to find turning to dust in their hands). The German Empire, also, defeated itself through the scale of its own victory; the hundreds of thousands of troops it needed to garrison its vast new holdings in the East were all unavailable for the final offensive against Britain and France in the West, which began in late March 1918.


 

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There might be a fellowship

Posted by Standpipe Bridgeplate
on 05.15.16

I'm pleased that "Did you read all the [work product]s?" is gaining currency among my coworkers.

But I didn't start it.


 

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