Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Reverse, Reverse, Reverse that Trend!

The Belles, once again, apply logic to lunacy. And logic, again, wins.

Clara, author of that post, is very impressive. There really is hope for the world, if we can produce young people like this.

Check these very nice book reviews:
Chomping Chomsky
Women Who Make the World Worse

Doing Good on Someone Else's Dime

Two of my favorite people have interesting things to say about "the left". More like, "what's left?" after 40 years of "the movement."

Arnold Kling: Most people who were liberals in 1968 still are. Liberals. In 1968.

The Conventional Wisdom
The Conventional Wisdom among well-educated liberals in 1968 included the following:
o Anti-Communism was a greater menace than Communism.
o The planet could not possibly support the population increases that would take place by
the end of the twentieth century.
o Conservatives stood in the way of progress for minorities.
o Government programs were the best way to lift people out of poverty.
o What underdeveloped countries needed were large capital investments, financed by foreign aid from the rich countries.
o Inflation was a cost-push phenomenon, requiring government intervention in wage and price setting.

The degree of confidence in these beliefs was so strong that liberals in 1968 came to the overriding conclusion that: Anyone who is not a liberal must be incorrigibly stupid

and, Craig Newmark (no, not the one with the list, fercrineoutloud):

Kling asserts that liberals think that anyone who is not a liberal must be "incorrigibly stupid". Not quite. As we know from A Conflict of Visions, imperfect intelligence is what conservatives tend to attribute to liberals. Most conservatives would quickly note, however, that they, too, are imperfectly intelligent: social and economic institutions are not easy for any single person to understand.

Liberals, on the other hand, believe that institutions and their workings are usually quite easy to understand. So easy, that even non-liberals must understand them, too. Liberals thus tend to believe that non-liberals are not merely stupid, they are evil. Liberals do refer to conservatives as stupid, of course, but especially these days, angry allegations of bad faith--of evil character--dominate.

And I'd add this brief review of 60's liberals. They were right--to their great and everlasting glory--on civil rights. They were right to oppose the draft. Some parts of their safety and environmental programs were reasonable. (Taking the lead out of gasoline and car seatbelts, for examples.)

But IMHO two generations of experience shows they were wrong about almost everything else. From education to crime, from welfare to tax rates, and on each and every aspect of our foreign policy. The Liberal worldview is perhaps well-intentioned, but everyone knows what the road to Hell is paved with.
(edited slightly by The End)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sorry I'm Late

No, you're not. If you were actually sorry, you wouldn't be late next time. And you will be.

I hate that phrase, "sorry I'm late." I have to go to so many meetings. And I can tell you in advance who is going to be late.

So, as part of the service offered here at The End, five (as they say) "True Facts" about people and time:

Five True Facts About People and Time

1. The busier the person, the less likely they are to be late. Busy people are more likely to be good time managers. This may be because they have to manage a scarce resource, and so develop institutional rules for governing their day. For example, when I was junior. I never kept a calendar, and just relied on "memory" for meetings. What that means is that I was usually late, and often just missed stuff completely. By comparison, now I am almost always on time. But I have an assistant and an electronic calendar, and I live by her rules and its dictates. There is a more sinister interpretation, however. Competent people adjust; if you are capable of getting better at your job, you will be given progressively more and more responsibility. And that includes managing your own time and respecting that of others. Incompetent people like to BELIEVE they are busy, because it gives them an excuse for sucking. And, they are always late. (A caveat: TRULY busy people, like Presidents or Provosts, are often late, usually because their previous meeting started late, probably because some shmoe came in and said, "Oh, sorry I'm late." GRRRRRR.)

2. The closer the person's office is to the meeting room, the more likely they are to be late to the meeting. To be fair, this is understandable, and perhaps unavoidable. But pay attention, and you'll see it's true. If someone is coming from another city, the importance of the meeting is elevated in their mind. For someone who has to drive, likewise. Even if you just have to walk to another building, you are more likely to be on time. But for the person in the building, and especially for someone right across the hall...well, they are usually late. They may check in once, notice that several people aren't there yet, and then go make a phone call. Then, when in fact they are the last one to come in, five minutes late, they say (you guessed it), "Oh, sorry I'm late. I was just making a phone call." As if that mattered.

3. Small meetings can have convergence problems, just like maximum likelihood estimations. Someone shows up, puts down their briefcase and papers, sees no one else in the room, and goes to get some coffee. Because they are three minutes early, they stop to chat to a colleague or a staff person. They end up being five minutes late, but their briefcase sits there in mute proxy, evidence they were in fact early but the meeting failed to converge. I have seen meetings start fifteen minutes late, when one at a time person after person says, "Oh, Smith isn't here yet. I'm going to get a soda. Anyone else want something?" and off they go. Smith comes back, and Jones decides to run get a book she left in her office. "We can't start 'til Mbuto gets back; I'll just be gone a minute." (Honestly, I am guilty of this, all the time. Mea culpa).

4. If you are always late, it is not an accident. Random things happen. Being late, if it were random, would probably be negatively autocorrelated, an (AR[-1]) process. That is, if I am late once because I got caught behind a school bus, I will be early next time because I found it embarrassing to be late. But late people are ALWAYS late, so it is more like an idiosyncratic autoregressive time series, (AR_i[1]). If you find you are always late, there is a feasible solution: LEAVE EARLIER. If you choose not to do this, you are deciding to insult your colleagues in a show of passive-aggressive vanity. "Oh, sorry I'm late. You wouldn't BELIEVE what happened this time." Actually, that's right. I DON'T believe it. You are just a pinhead. Chronically late people always time it so that if they catch every light and find a parking space in front of the door of building, they would be 30 seconds late. But "something goes wrong" (surprise), and it is the fault of the thing, not the person's own egregious solipsism.

5. Lateness is ingrained, as a social convention. When first I got to Duke, and became Department Chair, I tried to start our meetings on time. There had evolved a convention that meetings and talks started seven minutes late. It was a translation of origin problem: 1:07 was actually the origin, 1:00, for a talk advertised to start at 1 pm. I pointed out that this was arbitrary, and therefore could be changed. Just move the intercept 0, instead of 7 minutes, and we'll start on time. For a while, I would introduce the speaker at 1 pm, to an empty room, and people would come in late, whispering "Oh, sorry I'm late!" Then, a few people would show up on time, but I would wait until more showed up so that we didn't (1) embarrass the speaker by introducing her to an empty room, or (2) interrupt her with late-arriving "sorry"-whisperers. I gave up, within a month. Now, people come in at X:07 for an X o'clock talk, and there are always several who come in late. "Oh, I'm sorry..." AAAARGGGGHHHHH.

BONUS: There is an easy test for finding out if someone is chronically late. You don't need experience to find out, don't need meetings. Just look at their watch. If they set their watch more than five minutes "fast" (i.e., ahead), they are a late-nik. I find it remarkable that someone would set their watch, ON PURPOSE, to a time different than the correct time. (I set mine according to the NIST Clock, to the nearest second, once a week). As "Doc Potter" says:

Well, first off, set your clock to the CORRECT time - always. Setting it ahead is a trap. It actually encourages you to be late because you look at the time and then tell yourself that your really have more time, so you slow down and procrastinate even more.

The "set watch ahead" trick would only work if it were done WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE. Just be on time....

UPDATE: An astute reader (anonymous by choice; probably some late-ster) points to this piece on the claim that "Punctuality is Inefficient." Well, that's obviously wrong. He wants to argue that punctuality is, in fact, Pareto optimal. But then he wants to claim that being late / being late (for two people) is the Nash Equilibrium. Then, he bails on that, admitting that in fact the game has no equilibrium. Nonetheless, the good Andrew Chamberlain does make a good point: at its base, the problem is that I dislike MY waiting much more than I feel bad about YOUR waiting. You feel the same, only in reverse. But, of course, manners and conventions are ABOUT solving this sort of problem.

UPDATE II: MR's Alex Tabarrok summarizes some interesting research. An interesting Nash Equilibrium argument. But hard to buy, since it can just unravel. If I expect you to arrive 10 minutes late, I show up 12 minutes late, and so on. Not at all clear that there are just two strategies, show up on time or show up 10 minutes late. But if there are just two strategies, then it is true that there are two equilibria (though only one is subgame perfect).


"Urban Dictionary", an otherwise useful resource, has no definition for "dudespeak." There is this, but frankly it's not that helpful.

In fact, I have not found any good entries anywhere on definitions.

This one cartoon is quite useful, but it is simply an introduction. (on the other hand, it does contain the second law of thermodudenamics, so it is a delight: "In all isolated cultural exchanges, irony increases.")

It appears to have a specific meaning. World of Warcraft, for example, specifically bars character or pet names that contain "Leet" or "Dudespeak." (No, don't ask how I know that.) Now, leet is well defined. And Wikipedia has this on "dude". But...not good. And, there is this, too. And this meditation on dudity, from an outside perspective.

Clearly, the language is important. There is already a "Dude to English" lexicon.

What is "dudespeak", and how would one know if a sentence or expression were an example?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Frozen Review

Review of "FROZEN"
(For The State of Things, NPR Station, WUNC Chapel Hill)
Playmakers Repertory Company, Center for Dramatic Art, UNC-Chapel Hill
January 18 – February 12

Some people think of Carl Jung as a psychologist.

But he thought himself a doctor of the soul. Jung claimed that

The sight of evil kindles evil [ in the soul ]. There is no getting away from this. The victim is not the only sufferer, for the murderer and the whole human environment of the crime have been injured. A piece of the abysmal darkness of this world has broken in, poisoning the very air we breathe and imparting a stale, nauseating taste of blood to the clear water. It is true that we are innocent, we are even the victims, robbed, cheated, outraged; and yet for all that--or precisely for that very reason--the flame of evil flares up in our moral indignation.”

The new play at Playmakers, in Chapel Hill, raises the problem of evil, and of guilt. But it also raises questions of redemption, and the transcendent power of the human spirit. The title, FROZEN, is literally reflected in the austere, strikingly designed set. The psychiatrist-heroine, played with wrenching honesty by Deborah Hazlett, is descended from Icelandic ancestors. And the anguished mother Nancy, bereft from the loss of her raped and murdered daughter, is left with only a cold, empty vista as far as she can see. The mother is hauntingly played by Julie Fishell, at once the simplest and yet the most complex of the three speaking characters in the play.

James Kennedy is the murderous pedophile Ralph. The play’s finest aspect is the balance with which this character is portrayed. Not Lavery’s script, not the actor, and not the director, Drew Barr, ever give the Ralph character a break. We never sympathize with him. Yet in the end, he is no longer an object of our hatred. He is transformed, becoming capable of accepting, with some glimmer of understanding, the forgiveness that his victim’s mother must offer. But, for her to live, he has to see. She can’t forgive an animal; Ralph has to understand the burden that her forgiveness carries with it, for that act of charity to have any value. And he does, and it does.

At one point, Ralph describes one of his tattoos, visual trophies of his secret paroxysms of revenge against his own psychic agony. “Angels fighting devils, with a leafy green background.” That’s as good a description of Ralph himself as any I can think of. At that point in the play, Ralph is no more human than that leafy green background. Alive, yes; but he is just a canvas for the playing out of monstrous forces he can’t even comprehend, much less control.

The ultimate redemption of evil where we see it, and questions about real moral responsibility where we don’t, left me thinking about this play for hours. I often squirmed in my seat while the play was being performed. After it ended, I wanted to go see it again. It is as challenging a piece of theater as you are likely to encounter. Whether you prefer philosophy or psychology, the questions raised here will give you a lot to think over. The performances are so well done, and the focus of the language so sharp, that you’ll want to see it twice, also.

The payoff is in the last ten minutes. I sat in my seat for several minutes after the show’s end, and I was well on the way home before I started to understand the way that all those loose ends came together. The craftsmanship of the script is revealed in that ending: the threads come together in a tangle, not a neat knot. Gordius would just shake his head and go for a walk.

The problem of evil is eternal; our own complicity … inescapable. I ended up thinking of another show in Durham, from last summer. I think Mick Jagger agreed with Carl Jung, about that kindling of evil. As Mick put it: “I shouted out, Who killed the kennedys? When after all It was you and me…Let me please introduce myself."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Book Buy Combo

This bit reveals something about how the A.I. on Amazon's search routine matches things up.

Nod to the hot chick at FH

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

North and South: Yall Ahn't from 'round here, are You?

I have to answer lots of questions from my yankee friends. Here at Duke, a suburb a Newark, it is often the same questions over and over.

So, here is a partial reprint of a little newspaper piece I did years ago. Try to get this right, now.....

Why is it that...
• Natives dress by thermometer, northerners dress by calendar. As in, “It’s hot; why are you wearing a sweater?” “It’s January!”
• All drivers use five second rules on green lights if the car ahead doesn’t move. Southerners wait five seconds, and then they usually wait five more seconds. Northerners immediately blow their horn for five seconds.
• So many people from up north say, “I know how to drive in snow.” We generally hear this phrase as the tow truck driver pulls the car out of the ditch.
• R’s can’t be destroyed. Sure, northerners take R’s off of some words: cah. pahk. But they add them to others: idea(r). And it always turns out right: “I have an idea(r): Let’s take the cah and pahk it over at Donna(r)’s house.”
• When a southerner says, “hey!” people stop, and say, “what? WHAT?”

Now, some advice. Southerners never say...
• “Bring that salad dressing on the side”
• “I don’t have a favorite college team; I just like to watch”
• “Unsweetened tea just tastes better to me”
• “No, you can’t feed that to the dog”
• “We’re vegetarians”

If you venture outside the narrow confines of our cities, you will need to know three things.
• Country people rarely use turn signals, since there are no other cars around, and livestock respond better to hand signals. If you see a car with its turn signal on, it was left on at the factory.
• When several vehicles approach a four-way stop, the one with the largest tires gets the right of way.
• If you leave your car, you will likely have a conversation. In that conversation, you will be called “honey” or “darlin’.” Don’t go nuts about this; we already know you’re not from here.

Next, you have to come to grips with the second person plural. The standard “you” is ambiguous. Regions solve this problem in their own way.
• Southerners say “y’all.” But it is plural, not singular. If you say, “how are y’all doin’?” to one southerner to make fun of her accent, you sound like an idiot. Correct usage: “Hey, y’all, watch this!” If you hear this, take cover and dial 911.
• Northern common folk say “youse.” No problem...that’s logical: one you and another you = 2 yous.
• Classy sorority women: “You guys”. As in, “You guys think I have an accent?” (Then she makes this amazing parrot-sat-on-a-cactus noise).

Most important: Barbeque. Now, y’all think barbeque is a verb, but it’s a noun: we grill steaks, we eat barbeque. Barbeque is a well-defined set of things: smoked, pulled, chopped pork, with slaw, hush puppies, French fries, and sweet tea. These things constitute an organic whole. You can no more have barbecue without these than you would order, “Cheese steak, with swiss” in Philadelphia.

Vinegar or tomato sauce? Don’t discuss it. Marriages, even friendships, have ended over this. Side with the host, and keep your mouth too full to respond to appeals from either faction. You can take a stand on mustard-based sauce, however: no. If you accidentally ask for mustard, use it for hair gel and say, “Look at me! I’m Cameron Diaz!”

As for me: I don’t know how to drive in snow, I have a very fat dog, and I never blow my car horn at all.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Controlling Legal Authority, Deux

So, we get an answer from the Supreme Court, right? I earlier argued that no one knows what the heck the law is, and that all by itself is really bad for potential and current candidates. You can't CAMPAIGN without (maybe) breaking the law.

According to the NYTimes, here is what happened today:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 - The Supreme Court signaled a willingness today to revisit its landmark 2003 decision on the use of money in political campaigns, directing a lower court to reconsider a ruling against a Wisconsin anti-abortion group.

In a unanimous, unsigned opinion only three pages long, the justices told a three-judge federal court panel in Washington to take another look at the suit brought by the group, the Wisconsin Right to Life organization. The justices said that the 2003 decision "did not purport to resolve" all future challenges to the legislation.

The justices' decision, coming only a week after they heard the case, could indicate that the issue of campaign finance will soon be back before them as the Supreme Court goes through a period of transition.

At issue is a section of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, more familiarly known as the McCain-Feingold law, after its main sponsors, Senators John S. McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin.

The law was a reaction to at least three decades worth of heated debate over how money, sometimes called "the mother's milk of politics," should be raised and spent during political campaigns. Underlying the debate were charges that money has often been a corrupting influence in the political process - and counter-arguments that restrictions on campaign spending and advertising violated First Amendment rights of free speech and association.

On Dec. 11, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, that the core of the McCain-Feingold law was constitutional. Part of the law established a new category of "electioneering communications," or television ads that refer to specific candidates for federal office and that are broadcast in the relevant market within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election.


Sigh. Here we don't go again. The current situation is unworkable. When Alito is on the court, the whole thing may come crashing down, and we'll be back at Buckley v. Valeo.

I'm From the Government, and I'm Here to Help You!

Story by Toby Coleman in this morning's News and Observer (the primary paper of the Triangle Area)

If everything goes as planned, Morrisville's commissioners will put their final stamp of approval on a plan to give Chinese computer maker Lenovo $1,050,000 in tax breaks at their public meeting tonight.

Really, though, they OK'd the deal in secret last August, months before they told a single taxpayer.

Morrisville's secrecy is allowed; North Carolina lawmakers have not given the public the right to participate in discussions on how much, if any, taxpayer money their government should offer companies in the form of economic incentives.

Although the town's commissioners had to hold a public hearing in December before they could set the deal in stone, the town staff considered it more of a "formality" than anything else, according to commission documents.

Town officials kept the deal secret for 59 days, until Gov. Mike Easley announced on Oct. 27 that Lenovo would move to Morrisville and get $14 million in incentives from the state, Wake County and the town.

It was not easy to keep the deal under wraps. At one point Town Manager John Whitson even felt compelled to suggest in an Oct. 5 e-mail message that town employees could sidestep questions about the offer by saying that they were "not aware" of any plans "that may or may not be related to this or any other potential economic development incentives proposal."

So why did the town go to such verbose extremes? Well, Lenovo wanted it that way, according to Whitson. And besides, "we certainly would not reveal our hands to our competitors who are also courting the company to their towns," he said.

Critics, meanwhile, say the practice hurts the public's confidence in government.

"It's really troubling from a public policy standpoint to have business conducted this way," said former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr, one of the lawyers suing to stop governments from wooing companies with tax breaks. "It gives government and government officials a black eye."


Successful public officials need only two qualifications--
1. A complete absence of self doubt
2. An absolute incapacity for shame

So, for government officials, at any level, to ask us to depend on forebearance to curb corruption is not just foolish, but outrageous.

Here is the scorecard for the kind of corporate welfare that passes as "incentives":

1. Local businesses: Have paid taxes, and employed citizens, for years. Yet their tax dollars are taken to be used to subsidize land, and reduce costs, for competitors. Sorry, suckers, we only care about the NEW girl in town.

2. Taxpayers: Net loss, sometimes a huge net loss. In the case of sports teams, or "public" arenas, it's like taking local taxpayers by the heels and shaking them until even the lint falls out of their pockets.

3. Workers: a wash. This kind of economic prostitution focuses on outside companies, instead of building a comprehensive infrastructure of low cost, high productivity work force, roads, and communications. So, a few workers (many imported from other states) get high paying jobs. Some local workers get temporary construction jobs, and maybe even permanent jobs. But the long term effects are negligible.

4. Politicians: the only real winners here. They get to claim credit for bringing in big new businesses. Shining, happy people holding hands. Get reelected.

Maybe time for a Steve Miller riff: the politician knows exactly what the facts is. He ain't gonna let those companies escape locating here. He makes his living off of the people's taxes. (sure, the rhyme and meter don't work, but consider the original)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Funniest Thing I've Heard, Too!

Clara, over at Liberty Belles describes a comment in class. Tickled her, and tickled me, too.

I had two profs in grad school, early 1980s, who were big liberals. Every time the unemployment figures came out (1981 was not a good year for workers), Mr. and Mrs. "We Love the People!" would squeal like tenured pigs hip deep in grants.

"Another half percent increase in unemployment! Yippee!"

I was naive; I tried to point out that each 0.5% increase in unemployment was (at that time) about an additional 900 thousand people out of work.

They looked at me as if I didn't understand (they were right). "The sooner unemployment rates go sky high, the quicker we will have "THE REVOLUTION."" (They made quote marks with their fingers; don't blame me).

This belief in the eschaton had become by that time, as for many religions, the focus of the faith. (On the Marxist eschaton, check here; scroll down to p. 159)

We don't need no minority rights; come the revolution, you will all be eating milk and honey.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The (New) World's Shortest Political Quiz

There are many political quizzes, even if one just sticks to the libertarian sort.

There is the Politopia Quiz....where I live somewhere between Drew Carey and Ayn Rand.

There is the (previously) World's Smallest Political Quiz. (I got an 80% on social/personal, and 90% on economic)

There is the Bryan Caplan libertarian quiz (where I got a 54).

Now, it is time for the NEW world's shortest political quiz. It only works for faculty. But it has a very high classification power.

Here is the quiz:

1. When you finish lecturing, do your erase the marks you made off of the blackboard?

a. No, they should hire some poor person to do that. The little people need something to amuse them.
b. No, the state should do that. I'm too busy working on behalf of the people.
c. No, that might put a union janitor out of a job. And it might make me sweat. I only sweat in the gym.
d. Yes, of course, I marked up the blackboard, I should return it to its previous pristine state. We are all in this together. (Do a half-assed job, kind of run the eraser over the board in a desultory way, and then go share more feelings over coffee)
e. Yes, of course, that is the implied contract. And I honor my promises.

and....the results? If you answered
a: You are a conservative
b: You are a social democrat
c. You are a liberal
d. You are a communitarian
e. You are a libertarian

The only error in this test is that Objectivists, who think they are libertarians, secretly all think they are ubermenschen, and answer "a", if they are honest. Nietzsche didn't think real men, like Ayn Rand, should erase blackboards.

Otherwise, it always works.

And, let me say, there are apparently not many other communitarians or libertarians in the world. Why doesn't anyone erase the freakin' blackboard?

Reprise: On the First MLK Day, at Dartmouth

From the past....a piece I wrote about my first MLK day, at the Green.

And then, Monday, January 20, 1986 was MLK day. This was pretty great, because it was the first MLK day. (I differ with a lot of conservatives, I guess, because I favor MLK day, perhaps from growing up in an apartheid system myself, in rural central Florida in the 1950s and 1960s). On this first celebration of that holiday there was a lot of excitement. Lots of us got little candles, and carried them in a long procession across the Green, in front of Baker Library, and then around Webster Hall (yes, THAT Webster. A lot of the fake cutesy stuff at Dartmouth isn’t fake).

I walked back past the Green about midnight, after having cocktails with friends. It was impossibly cold. The shanties stood out on the snow, and the air felt like solid crystal, as if the brittle starlight would break if you walked out of the shadows. Okay, I had had a LOT of cocktails, scotch mixed with a big glass. Feeling like a rake, I made my stumbling progress home.

And woke up in bedlam. On the morning of Tuesday, January 21, 1986, the sunny Green looked like a kicked hornets’ nest, if hornets could fly at five below zero. I was approached, breathlessly, by a wormy student I knew from class. This guy’s boxers were in a permanent clove hitch about the virtues of free speech, at least for everyone he agreed with. But on this Tuesday, worm-boy couldn’t have been happier if his dad had replaced his new Volvo with a Ferrari. He bleated joyfully that there had been an “attack” by “conservatives.” I tried to find another student friend who worked on the Dartmouth Review, the conservative newspaper that spawned the “Review” movement on college campuses.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Letter from Oaxaca

This note is from an ex-student and friend of mine. She works for an election consulting/polling firm. The letter was sent home to their parents, but was also forwarded to me, as an ex-teacher. A nice story of innocents abroad, recovering nicely through the application twenty-something ironic detachment. Thanks to Taren Stinebrickner for permission to use the letter.....

We haven´t had as much time as we´d like to share our adventures with our dear friends and families, but we couldn´t resist sharing one recent episode. Where by recent, we mean in the last two hours. Enjoy!

Almost since beginning to explore Oaxaca on the 23rd, we have been seeing large, professional-looking posters all around town for a choral Christmas concert. The posters read:

"Navidad en Oaxaca
El Insituto Cultural de Oaxaca presenta sus tradicionales

Pastorales de Navidad

Tuna de Antequera
y el
Coral Aleluya

80 pesos"

with multiple performances daily for over a week.

So we thought, 80 pesos! That´s eight whole dollars! That must really be something special, considering that people have been trying to sell us scarves, tableclothes, their children, for less than THIRTY pesos! And the Hallelujah Chorus! performed by the Cultural Institute of Oaxaca! Must be a venerated Christmas tradition! And besides the cultural value, it will really feel like we´re back home, Taren at her family´s Christmas party, Emily listening to Kevin´s precious sound system... We know, we´ll go on Christmas Day! It´ll be GREAT!

So we looked forward to it all week long, getting more excited every time we saw a new giant poster. When we wondered to ourselves, what will we do on Christmas Day? Will anything be open? What if we run out of food and money? Will we die of thirst in the streets? We don´t know, but at least we can count on the Hallelujah Chorus!

This morning, as we wandered the streets trying to fill our time, our bellies, and our hearts until 8 p.m... OK, Taren´s lying, we were on our way to the Museum of Oaxacan Culture... we happened upon a free concert on the Zocalo (town square). It was a beautiful concert by the experienced, high-quality Music Band of the State of Oaxaca, who played such numbers as Prokofieff´s Peter and the Wolf and Gershwin´s Rhapsody in Blue with great aplomb. Wow, we said to ourselves, if this good of a concert is FREE in Oaxaca, imagine what you can get for 80 pesos!

We while away the day with growing anticipation (OK, Emily says I´m "exaggerating" again, but hey, poetic license and all...), even to the point of rushing through our five-star Christmas dinner (fried grasshoppers, mezcal martinis, and all!) in Oaxaca´s snazziest restaurant, Los Danzantes, to pacify Taren´s fears: "We should get there at 7:30--what if the church fills up?"

Our first clue was the guys in the maroon and gold jester outfits. Literally. Tunics, capes, pantaloons, and all. All they were missing were the hats. Our next was the median age of the non-jester-outfitted portion of the choir -- best estimate, 12 years old. But we courageously masked our growing anxiety. The whitewashed domes of the church, the cracks painted over with plaster, the fluorescent lighting, the metal folding chairs, and the creepy dead guys (presumably saints, but in retrospect I´m not quite as sure) notwithstanding, we were going to enjoy our Hallelujah Chorus, dammit!

The lights dimmed. And flickered. And changed color at random. The tambourine was struck. On every body part. With only a passing relationship to the tempo. The children danced and swayed (almost) in unison, though not always in the same direction. The choir´s voices rose to the heavens in perfect cacophany (though there were almost never clear attempts at harmonizing). They only repeated a song (by accident? intentionally? we may never know) once. Needless to say, the song that was repeated was NOT the Hallelujah Chorus. In fact, no Hallelujah chorus was sung this night.

Our favorite girl was in the front row on the right side. She was always swaying opposite everyone else, and never once moved her mouth. Our favorite boy was probably 4 years old, and so short we couldn´t see him until the time he ventured out into the aisle with our favorite tambourine player, who seemed to be possessed, writhing on the floor in a near-nauseating tambourine breakdance extravaganza, while the little boy marched up and down the aisle clapping. The little boy was in rhythm. The tambourine, not so much. (The audience, perhaps in desparation for SOMEONE to keep time, rose to its feet and clapped to the beat as well.)

Speaking of which, the audience. We should have been tipped off by the audience, which was predominantly... no, 90%... clueless old white people with hearing aids. Honestly. We sat next to an 80-year-old woman from Dallas who asked us where we were from, how much we had paid to make sure she hadn´t been ripped off (little did any of us know, at the point, the extent to which we had indeed been ripped off), and then asked us where we were from again.

Needless to say, we did not restrain ourselves from making snide comments throughout the performance. Luckily, due to the tambourines, the screechy whistles, and the median hearing ability of the audience, no one seemed to notice. We stayed until the bitter end, largely to fantasize about our plan to exit poll the audience:

"Would you say that you were very surprised, somewhat surprised, not too surprised, or not at all surprised that the Hallelujah Chorus was not sung?"

"Would you say this concert makes you much more likely, somewhat more likely, somewhat less likely, or much less likely to ever pay 80 pesos for a concert in Oaxaca again?"

"Which of the following comes closest to your point of view? (ROTATE STATEMENTS) Statement A: "$8! I could eat for a week on that much here!" Statement B: "$8! Hey, it´s less than the cover at the Black Cat." Statement C: "What´s that you say? Speak up! I can´t abide these soft-spoken young folk."

We forewent the opportunity to conduct this exit poll in favor of coming back to report to you, dear readers.

This, we have concluded, is the best church scam ever. They didn´t even lie, it turns out -- they merely misled. They may not have performed the Hallelujah Chorus, but it certainly isn´t lying to put the name of your choir -- El Coral "Aleluya" -- on your posters!

Much love,
Taren & Emily

Polygamy Unbound

In Canada, some professors once again prove how easy it is say amazingly dumb things if all you ever do is talk to other professors. As Keynes said, "It is astonishing what foolish things one can temporarily believe if one thinks too long alone."

The British Columbia government has long been considering whether to lay charges under Section 293. (RESTRICTIONS ON POLYGAMY)

But the project was also intended to provide the Liberal government with ammunition to help defend its same-sex marriage bill last spring.

Opponents claimed the bill, now law, was a slippery slope that would open the door to polygamy and even beastiality.

Another report for the project, also led by two Queen's University professors, dismisses the slippery-slope argument, saying that allowing same-sex marriages promotes equality while polygamous marriages are generally harmful to women's interests and would therefore promote inequality.

Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler said he has seen only a summary of the research reports, but already rejects lifting the criminal ban on polygamy.

``At this point, the practice of polygamy, bigamy and incest are criminal offences in Canada and will continue to be,'' he said from Montreal.

``These reports will become part of the knowledge base on this issue and will be taken into account.''

The Bailey report, consistent with other research for the project, also concludes the courts might well rule that Canada's law banning polygamy is a violation of Canada's constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.

But Section 293 would survive such a challenge because the harm to women and children in many polygamous marriages is well documented abuse, poverty, coercion, health problems and the limit to religious freedom would be considered ``reasonable,'' as allowed under Section 1 of the charter.


Here's the thing: I have exactly one wife. I feel that that current portfolio of wives goes back and forth between just enough (usually), and slightly too many. Having one, or more, additional, wives? Wow, that is a truly bad idea.

Cedric the Entertainer shows why this is true.

(Nod to GH, who bears no fault for this)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

All Roads Alito Roe v. Wade

There is an odd disconnect in the discussion of Judge Alito in general, and his views about abortion rights in particular.

I have seen it many places, but most recently in Aria Branch's January 12 column in the Duke Chronicle, "An Assessment of Alito." Specifically, she said: "The bottom line is that the majority of Americans embrace the fact that it is the decision of a woman to choose whether or not she wants to have an abortion. Judge Alito's views'are out of line with mainstream America." (A question: Then why do a majority favor confirmation?)

Roe v. Wade was a decision that blocked majoritarian restrictions on access to abortions, passed either through the U.S. Congress or the state legislatures. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, all that would happen is that democracy would break out. That is, the state legislatures would pass, or not pass abortion restrictions, depending on the views of majorities of citizens.

If Ms. Branch is right, and most Americans favor abortion rights, overturning Roe v. Wade would have no consequence whatever. The only circumstance where anyone could worry about Judge Alito, on abortion rights grounds, is if a majority opposes abortion rights. In her article, she says that if Alito is confirmed, "the government could have the power to take away what many would consider the most intimate decision some women make in their lives."

Well, no. The "government" can't take it away. That would be your fellow citizens, passing repressive laws by majority rule. We have met the government, and it is us.

On that, three observations:

(1) It is not clear a majority of Americans favor abortion rights. It depends how you ask the question. It is clear that most Americans favor at least SOME privacy rights in this area.
(2) Why is it that so many people who believe they favor democracy also favor Roe v. Wade, which prevents majorities from working their will? I am fine with this; as the hot chick over at Flying Hedgehogs says, "down with democracy."
(3) On the merits, I agree entirely with Ms. Branch: privacy rights, along with the fundamental rights spelled out in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, are all important. But it is precisely because they thwart the rule of the mob that those rights are important.

Unrestricted democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what's for lunch. We can't rely on democracy to protect privacy rights, almost by definition. The problem with Alito is not that a majority of Americans disagree with him. The problem is that they might.

UPDATE: Bush's position on R v. W is more ambivalent than many people think. He didn't care HOW people got out of New Orleans.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

BCRA is not working as well as it should

From my piece over on EconLib (with thanks to Russ Roberts, for letting me use his proprietary Bulls**t-to-English dictionary)

The American system of elections has long tilted toward incumbents. As public choice research has shown for decades, any "equal" limit on spending hurts challengers. Incumbents have so many nonmonetary advantages: franking privileges, free media access, committee powers, and so on. Hard money contributors are notoriously unwilling to contribute to a candidate unless that candidate is already very likely to win.

But BCRA makes it even harder for challengers to make headway against incumbents. Rather than merely regulating the source of contributions, BCRA goes much further, asserting in effect that there is too much unregulated speech. According to the BCRA, the most important time for speech to be regulated, and incredibly even outlawed entirely, is in the period 60 days before an election. Columnist George Will ("Litigating Freedom of Speech," Dec. 2, 2002, Washington Post) quotes a number of politicians who found the heat of a competitive campaign unpleasant. But rather than fight (or get out of the kitchen), incumbents preferred the BCRA solution of simply getting rid of annoying negative ads financed by soft money:

Sen. Cantwell, D-Wash.: BCRA "is about slowing political advertising and making sure the flow of negative ads by outside interest groups does not continue to permeate the airwaves."

Sen. Jeffords, I-Vt.: Issue ads "are obviously pointed at positions that are taken by you saying how horrible they are."

Sen. Daschle, D-S.D.: "Negative advertising is the crack cocaine of politics."

Sen. McCain, R-Ariz.: Negative ads "do little to further beneficial debate and a healthy political dialogue" and BCRA will "raise the tenor" of elections.

Will points out that "BCRA is government's—the political class'—assertion of a right to fine tune the 'tenor' of political speech, to make it 'healthy' and 'beneficial' by suppressing speech by 'outside interest groups.' "

What exactly is a "beneficial" debate? Any incumbent can give a simple answer: one the incumbent can win, or at least can dominate with superior spending power. Consider Ford, or IBM, or U.S. Steel. They would all love to have government make it harder for competitors to enter markets and challenge them to raise the quality of their products. In fact, firms make these kinds of requests all the time. Why should we be surprised that political incumbents have the same desires to be sheltered from competition?

The difference, and the problem, is that Ford doesn't get to decide what anti-trust laws it operates under. Congress does. BCRA is the evisceration of political anti-trust law, written to ensure that incumbent monopoly power over office-holding is protected. The "electioneering" BCRA outlaws within two months of an election is simply the cold, scolding wind of competition.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

The cool tile floor was just lying there...

One vodka martini....and the cool tile floor was just lying there.

A very fine story, introducing HDG. My wife has on occasion played HDG. It happens to everyone, now and again. At least women usually only act really dumb if they are drunk. Guys do it just out of habit.

From the Eels: Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor

Laying on the bathroom floor
Kitty licks my cheek once more
And i could try
But waking up is harder when you wanna die

Friday, January 06, 2006

Chubby Chaser

So, my friend and I drive down to the Southern meetings, in ColdLanta.

Arrive about 11:30 pm, pretty quiet, go into the lobby at the Buckhead Intercontinental. Nice hotel, nice part of town, all that.

Desk clerk, calls up the reservation (it's in my friend's name; I am bunking with him, as I didn't think I was going to these meetings, until I realized that my colleague Paula McClain was giving her Prez address, and I really wanted to be here for that).

Desk clerk, looking at reservation, glances up at friend and me (we were laughing and talking). Desk clerk, increasingly agitated, looking down, looking up at us.

Desk clerk: "I'm so sorry. We are almost full, and don't have many rooms. The only room we have has two beds!"

1. What does it mean to "look gay"? I have never noticed any correlation between looks and sexual orientation. I mean, sure, there is the stereotype, but I have never found that to be very accurate as a classification model. Type I and Type II error.
2. What things have to be true, in the clerk's mind, for his default assumption to be that two guys traveling together are gay?
3. I told my friend (I won't give his name, but his initials are Scott de Marchi) that he must look like a chubby chaser. (I am not thin, and he is). He had not heard the term. Is it that rare? Is it offensive? (I do not consider it to be offensive, but I may just be misinformed) (See example in context)

Neither Scott nor I were in the least offended or upset at the assumptions of the desk clerk, but I did find it surprising....

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Controlling Legal Authority

There is no controlling legal authority that says this was in violation of law."
-- Al Gore, seven times (in one form or another),
White House news conference, March 3, 1997

That has been called, with intentional irony, “Al Gore’s money quote.” Mr. Gore was answering questions about using phones in the White House to solicit campaign contributions. People laughed at the obvious attempt to confect Clintonian word-pretzels to defend something we all know is wrong. And it must be wrong, because it’s against the law. And it was against the law, right?

Maybe. And maybe not. It’s hard to tell, even for candidates. American election law is ruled by a building code mentality: you can’t tell if you have violated the law until the inspector visits. The McCain-Feingold reform, or Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA; for information on the Act, click here ), is only the most recent incarnation of the building code approach. But it is also the most dangerous, because it damages both the competitiveness and the openness of our political system. After BCRA, our campaign finance scheme does two things, both bad: (1) It maximizes the impact of narrow, often one-issue, interests, and (2) It raises a nearly impenetrable financial force field of protection around incumbents

Here is what the controlling legal authority does tell us: there are two kinds of money (even though it’s all dollars, in the end). Soft money is unregulated money, the kind that people might contribute to parties, local organizations, or private groups. Almost any institution that might advocate for broad political agendas and responsible, accountable political discourse depends on soft money contributions. Hard money is donations allowed under the Campaign Finance Act of 1971, as amended repeatedly (in 1974 in response to Watergate, 1976 in response to the Supreme Court decision in Buckley v. Valeo, in 1979, and so on) by the U.S. Congress. (For more on campaign finance law and background)

The most recent set of amendments, contained in the BCRA and passed in 2002, focused on stamping out those nasty unregulated soft money contributions and doubling the allowance on hard money contributions. Now BCRA supporters claimed (and, presumably if inexplicably, genuinely believed) that these amendment made special interests more accountable. But BCRA left a hole in the wall of protection: according to 116 Stat. 82, Sec. 203(c)2, organizations defined in section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code 0f 1986 are exempt from the provisions of BCRA.

And through this hole have poured in a growing flood of uncontrolled contributions. Now, organizations referred to as “527s” have come to dominate the headlines, with groups like “Moveon.org” or “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” having a greater impact on the 2004 presidential campaign than any other independent groups in U.S. history. Total spending by 527s in the 2004 election cycle totaled nearly $400 million; the money was used to buy attack ads in hundreds of television markets, with no clear accountability or even ability to identify the source of the spending.
The irony is that candidates and party representatives, hamstrung by the law and desperate to understand its Byzantine provisions and requirements, have to spend more time than ever before meeting disclosure and reporting requirements, and figuring out whether there any “controlling legal authority.” They have no idea if they are breaking the law or not. They have to wait for the building inspector.

How did this mess happen?
Surprisingly, the answer is fairly simple. McCain-Feingold / BCRA is based on a dodgy, Progressive-era assumption. That assumption is this: the key to good democratic government is the total exclusion of all taints of interest, or money. So average citizens, local party organizations, and private groups of all kinds that have an identifiable affiliation or interest are squeezed out. Yet organized 527s with vague, untraceable names like “America Coming Together,” “Safer Together 04,” or “Americans for Better Government” can cry havoc, and let slip the weasels of war.

Truthfully, there is little Constitutional basis for barring self-interested political activity. The First Amendment could have read like this: "Congress shall make no law...restricting freedom of speech, unless the speech is self-interested, in which case Congress can do what it wants, especially if it protects incumbents."
But that is not what the First Amendment says, because we cannot hope to outlaw self-interest. Trouble arises when privately funded and supported organizations, or even just wealthy individuals are denied their crucial role as the antidote to narrow, particular organized interests.

As James Madison pointed out,
It could never be more truly said [that the] remedy…was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

Madison's celebrated solution is to control the effects of faction, or specialized interests, through a system where debate is enlarged and refined. Enlargement was to be achieved in a federal republic, in which regional factions could be checked by others, and no one faction is likely to be encompassing enough to dominate the nation unless it also represents the interests of the nation. Refinement of the desires of the public was to be achieved by "passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country."

Smith and Jones: A Parable of Protected Power
Consider a mythical example. Ms. Jones dislikes the policies of Representative Smith, the incumbent from her Congressional district. Jones challenges Rep. Smith, but needs some source of contributions to have a chance. When powerful local interests hear she might be running, they begin to court her.
But local interests have narrow aims: one wants new defense contracts, another wants to develop a "brown fields" site, and a third wants to build a museum honoring retired local baseball hero George “Razor” Lynch, the famed bean ball pitcher. The groups ask Ms. Jones if she supports these "initiatives," but of course she doesn’t. She has national goals, and believes that Rep. Smith is not representing the district well in Washington. But when she answers no, the local groups go back to contributing to Rep. Smith, since Ms. Jones has no chance to win. They don't try to bribe her, but they quite reasonably (from their perspective) don't want to make contributions to someone that doesn't share their narrow (from a national perspective) interests.
Ms. Jones goes to her local party organization, and to other organizations that in the past have been able to use soft money at least for get-out-the-vote activities. But they are broke, hamstrung by campaign finance designed to limit the influence of special interests. What should our candidate do? What must she do? There are only two alternatives: (1) give up, and accept the legally protected invulnerability of the incumbent, Mr. Smith; or (2) go back to those special interests that want to contribute hard money, and collect enough funds from all these different interests that she can cobble together a campaign.

Unintended Consequences
In short, the desire to limit the power of special interests by regulating "soft" money has had the opposite effect. No other system of private financing could have more room for domination by organized interests, because narrow interests have moved in to occupy the vacuum created by BCRA. A narrow building code mentality, forgetting that only more competition, not less freedom, can control factions, has crippled the competitiveness of our political system. We need to look to private organizations with encompassing, enlarging visions of governance; instead, we have allowed, and even encouraged, each Senator and member of Congress to build a secure private fiefdom based on corrupt local interests.
The very idea that a controlling legal authority can restrict and direct the activities of faction violates the principles of institutional architecture described in the Federalist Papers and embodied in the Constitution.

We need to rebuild the architecture of democracy by eliminating the hundreds of complex regulations that stifle debate and confuse participants themselves about what the law is. We, the people, need to control our own impulses to use legal authority like the BCRA to control competition. The fact is that competition among strong and financially independent private sources of influence is our only hope for a vibrant and responsive democracy.

Greg Mankiw's List

I have been looking for this since I read it in the WSJ. They don't put things up unless you subscribe to the eJournal, and I hate "subscription" entries in blogs. My subscription doesn't help you....

Anyway, former CEA honcho Greg Mankiw has a list of resolutions for politicians. Very nicely done.

#7: This year I will be modest about what government can do. I know that economic prosperity comes not from government programs but from entrepreneurial inspiration. Adam Smith was right when he said, "Little else is required to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice." As a government official, I am not going to promise more than I can deliver. I am going to focus my attention on these three goals--peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice--and I am going to trust the creativity of the American people to do the rest.


(and a nod to JC at JLI)

Dangerous Minds

Not a bad way to preoccupy your mind on a run through the woods....Or maybe in the shower, or sitting in traffic.

The Edge Annual Question — 2006


The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?

The coolest suggestion I have seen is "race." Social construct, sure. Yet....something more. And we all use it. Check this Times of London story.

(Nod to JM, with thanks)


I had not checked on my attempt at innovation in a while.

It's going okay, but not exactly taking off.

ATSRTWT, by which I meant "As They Say, Read The Whole Thing", was a suggestion I made for bloggers some time ago.

And some people do use it.

Seems handy to me. We often excerpt something, then link to the longer article or post if the reader wants to go there. Useful to have a universal signifier.

Google shows that there are close to 200 instances in current web pages.

An alternative would be "Read The Whole Thing", of course. And it does appear that RTWT is winning, both on formal and numerical grounds. Sigh.

My argument for ATSRTWT is that you can pronounce it: AtSirTwit. 3 syllables. RTWT has 5 syllables, even if you pronounce the third letter "dubya". But of course it does have seven letters to type, and who cares how you pronounce RTWT?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Mungowit's Law: Everyone's Unpublished Work is Brilliant

Let me recommend, either for academic newbies or for those who mentor them, the (relatively) new IHS on-line publication "Scaling the Ivory Tower" (to go straight to the PDF just click here)

Dave Schmidtz was the main (re)writer, but I wrote three sections also. It turned out well, overall, and has some entertaining parts. David S is really a master at thinking about this stuff.

My favorite part is #10 in the section, "Ten Truths About Scholarly Writing." That's where I state what I (modestly) hope will come to be referred to as "Munger's Law" for all eternity. Here's the law: everyone's unwritten work is brilliant.

The full statement goes like this:

Everyone's unwritten work is brilliant
Everyone's written but unfinished work is excellent
Everyone's finished but unpublished work is good, but they won't show it to you
Everyone's published work is...well, most people don't HAVE published work. They are too busy talking about how brilliant their unwritten work is.

Here is my reasoning, from p. 23 in SCALING THE IVORY TOWER (sorry, there are no internal bookmarks in the PDF):

Everyone’s unwritten work is brilliant. And the more unwritten it is, the more
brilliant it is. You will meet a lot of very glib, intimidating people in graduate
school. They are at their most dangerous holding a beer in one hand and a
cigarette in the other, in some bar or at the table in some apartment. They have all
the answers. They can tell you just what they will write about and how great it
will be. Years pass, and they still have the same pat, 200 word answer to “What
are you working on?” It never changes, because they are not actually working on
anything. You, on the other hand, actually are working on something, and it
keeps evolving. You aren’t sure you like the section you just finished, and you
are not sure what will happen next. When someone asks you the dreaded, “What
are you working on?” you stumble a bit, because it is hard to explain. The smug
guy with the beer and the cigarette? Because he is a poseur, and never actually
writes anything, he can practice his pat little answer endlessly, through hundreds
of beers and thousands of cigarettes. Don’t be fooled: you are the winner here.
Michael Munger, "Ten Truths About Scholarly Writing", p. 23 in IHS, SCALING THE IVORY TOWER, David Schmidz, et al, 2005.

100 things

I hate to link this, because it's so trite.

But there is some excellent trivia here. Excellent.

Bizarre PC, and an Equal Time Challenge from The End

List of "America’s Most Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses"

Here are the top five:

Princeton University’s The Cultural Production of Early Modern Women examines “prostitutes,” “cross-dressing,” and “same-sex eroticism” in 16th - and 17th - century England, France, Italy and Spain (emphasis added).

The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie: Race and Popular Culture in the United States at Occidental College in California explores ways “which scientific racism has been put to use in the making of Barbie [and] to an interpretation of the film The Matrix as a Marxist critique of capitalism.”

At The Johns Hopkins University, students in the Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ancient Egypt class view slideshows of women in ancient Egypt “vomiting on each other,” “having intercourse,” and “fixing their hair.”

Like something out of a Hugh Hefner film, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania offers the class Lesbian Novels Since World War II.

Alfred University’s Nip, Tuck, Perm, Pierce, and Tattoo: Adventures with Embodied Culture, mostly made up of women, encourages students to think about the meaning behind “teeth whitening, tanning, shaving, and hair dyeing.” Special projects include visiting a tattoo-and-piercing studio and watching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding film, Pumping Iron.


Here's my question/challenge: I am happy to give equal time, for what it's worth. Can anyone suggest an analogous "Dirty Dozen," or for that matter "Top Three" for a "Most Bizarre and Conservatively Slanted College Courses?" I won't moderate or edit; just suggest them in comments and I'll list them in a future post. You can take credit, or do it anonymously. We are all about equal time here at The End.

(nod to Betsy, who linked Dr. Sanity, who had this great list)

Quirky, and I like quirky

A blog I hadn't seen before.

Very quirky. You are only likely to enjoy it if you are an academic, as it is pretty focused on academia.

But pissed-off yet self-aware academics do make for some great reading.

For example: this is one of the most disturbing videos, at a superficial level, that I can imagine. Setting is that the people talking, in funny voices, have awful diseases of the larnyx. Host appears not to have prepared self for this, and cannot control himself. A cross between Monty Python and a reality show about cancer. You can't help laughing a little at the host's discomfiture, but....well, it's disturbing. Vegreville just passes it along, then does a little more background poking. Ick.

Then there's this. I bet Scott de Marchi, my colleague, does the same thing.

And that is what I mean by quirky. Long live Vegreville.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The "You Couldn't Make This Up" Article of 2005

I thought long and hard about it.

And read a lot.

But the "You Couldn't Make This Up" article of 2005 was this one.

It's "Woman of Mass Destruction," By Maureen Dowd, in the New York Times, Saturday 22 October.

A absolutely savage butt-whuppin', delivered by one complete nutjob news diva to another. Giant egos in news and politics have been around since...well, forever, since men were involved, and giant egos are pretty much our specialty.

But it is really quite special when the high heels, long nails and voices-of-higher-pitch take over. Perhaps women are finally achieving equality, if one woman can just haul off and cold cock another woman like this on the editorial page of the Grey Lady. Fantastic.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

My Favorite Posts on M.E.

At the start of the new year, and re-starting as a (moderately) frequent blogger, I thought back to my favorite posts. I haven't blogged since May 2005, of course, so some of these are old. But here they are, my own top five faves.

1. Bumped by still photos, and a guy with no mike
2. Not a dime's worth of difference
3. U.S. Cellular Field, and the White Sox
4. Your man in St. Louis
5. Performance art saga (yes, this is cheating. i really mean the other three linked posts...)

Dick Clark: The End

Yikes. As my DoL pal LW notes, Dick Clark has finally gotten old. "New Year's Stroke Victim Eve" was not rockin' on ABC last night.

I tried to watch for a few minutes, but it was horrible. This is perhaps a little harsh, but not entirely wrong. (UPDATE: okay, not just harsh, but outrageous. "Retarded" is just wrong)

Dick C. sounded like Diane Rehm. And, yes, I fully realize what an insult that is. (Check the picture; had to be taken 30 years ago, easy, even it says 2004).

UPDATE: Chris L notes, in comments below, that Dick Clark on ABC was not nearly as painful as Stuart Scott on ESPN. I'm not sure I agree. Sure, straight up, Stu was much worse, like fingernails on a blackboard. But watching Dick made me think of his miraculous career, and longevity. (A satirical view) I'm old, but I have been watching/not watching Dick Clark on NY'sE for as long as I can remember. To see the mighty laid low was what made this painful for me. Stu, on ESPN, came across as a clown. But clown is what he is, what he does. BOO-yeh.

A counter-argument, from the NYT story on NY'sE coverage:

"A lot of stroke survivors, particularly celebrities, are very cautious about making their returns," said James Baranski, the executive director of the National Stroke Association, a nonprofit health-care organization. "For any stroke survivor to be able to see the progress that Dick Clark has made over the past year was remarkable. He did a marvelous job representing stroke survivors and their hope for recovery."

Well...okay. The main thing that having Dick Clark represent stroke survivors accomplished was having lots of viewers turn the channel. My dad had a stroke. He was brave, too, made a lot of progress coming back. Watching Dick Clark reminded me of how my dad was in the last six months of his life, not the first 84.5 years. I would rather remember the good part.