30 December 2002

Didn't see Bond, but saw Catch me if you can, which was very good. Tom Hanks is brilliant, and the music is quite good. I'm not a big Leo fan, but he did ok, though he spent too much of the movie as an unpleasant person for me to actually like him. There are also a lot of very memorable lines, and some nice Harvard references.

29 December 2002

Yeah, the main page is finally working!

Yes i've seen the Two Towers, my favorite line: "That doesn't make any sense to me, but then again, you are very small." Anyway i liked it, but not as much as the first one. The level of acting in this one wasn't nearly as high, probably because Boromir is dead, and Gandalf isn't around much. Gollum was surprisingly good, thought they nailed the whole frodo-sam-gollum-ring dynamic. Eowyn has some great dresses... Well those are my random observations. Oooo, my favorite crazy special affects observation: in helm's deep the valley is surrounded on three sides by mountains, two sides are real, and one side is not. I didn't notice this the first time i saw it.

Gotta run, more later
Yup. I'm going to try to persuade Robby to see Bond tonight. (He's seen it and I haven't.)
Haven't seen any Two Towers discussion here yet. Have we all seen it?

Speaking of Tolkein, we rented Fellowship on DVD a few weeks ago, and while watching it, I was struck by the most unintentionally hilarious line in the entire series thus far: the description of the Ringwraiths as roaming the countryside "disguised as riders in black."

Because those riders in black don't look the slightest bit suspicious....

27 December 2002

Saw The Godfather for the first time tonight, with my Dad and his wife. The running commentary kind of got on my nerves: "This is a famous scene." "Who's that actor?" "The car's going to explode." I managed to remain silent.

26 December 2002

My theory is our cutting-edge social and political commentary threatens the traditional media establishment and so they brought us down. Are other blogs working?

23 December 2002

Anyone more tech savvy than I have any idea why this hasn't been publishing for the past week or so?
My brother AJ, the hot one who is 14, has the Sims on his computer so i decided to try it out. My first shocking discovery is that it isn't heteronormative. I'm also told you can marry multiple people. The best story though is that my friend Ben (from high school) founded a Sims orphanage by inviting families over and then locking in the parents with furniture until they died and then raising the kids, so he had two dozen orphaned kids. Sick and twisted, yes... But also brilliant.

21 December 2002

Terrific article from the Globe and Mail about Daniel Day-Lewis, who gives what is easily the performance of the year as Bill "the Butcher" Cutting in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York. The highlight of the article, for me, is the scoop that Day-Lewis prepared for the role by listening to loads of Eminem...which, if you've seen the movie, rings absolutely true. The bit about his apprenticeship to a Florentine shoemaker is interesting, too.

As for the movie itself...on an emotional level, admittedly, it never quite connects, and DiCaprio doesn't provide much of a heroic center...but if you just sort of sit back and let those ripe images of decay and bloodshed wash across you, after an hour or so you may find Gangs slowly exploding and expanding inside your head like a mushrooming bullet. I was vaguely disappointed throughout much of it, but after it was over, I couldn't wait to see it again (and I probably will, before the weekend is up). At the heart of it all is Daniel Day-Lewis's amazing performance, which seems to have sprung full-formed from some twisted Zeus's brain: part Thomas Nast cartoon, part Dickensian silent villain, but weirdly human and affecting. For all its problems, Gangs of New York is more of a movie than anything else I've seen all year, even if it's easier to admire than to love.

20 December 2002

Everyone, please let me know when you've seen the Two Towers so I can start talking about my likes and dislikes.

Regarding Yao, it's too early to tell. He could snap his knee next week.

Now, as for the article in the Weekly Standard saying that this Lott thing actually helped conservatives, I have to say I'm very suspicious. Yes, it was the conservatives who fanned the flames to get him out of there, and some of that was probably righteous outrage at his comments. But they still don't have a clue about minority identity politics. If black people still think they're being discriminated against in this country, which they do, there's no reason to expect them to flock to the Republican party, especially the neoconservative wing, which is basically telling them: "there's no discrimination in this country, we've created a level playing field, if you don't succeed then it must be because of some problem on your part, so stop whining." I think that the Lott thing gives Democrats a tremendous opportunity to shore up their black base if they get out the message that they are actually in touch with the problems that black Americans face today.

Incidentally, I think a big part of Bush's (and Reagan's) edge with white voters is his ability to play identity politics with them -- they don't agree with (or really understand, for the most part) many of his policies, but they identify with him as an honest, patriotic guy and he gives them a sense of pride with his bold stance on terror, so they support him.

18 December 2002

I'm going to have some courage and step out and say i was wrong: the rockets were right to take Yao over J Williams.
So, I hope this doesn't sound disrespectful or anything, but...is Strom Thurmond completely senile yet, or what? I'm honestly curious as to whether his silence on the whole Lott issue (now in its second week) is the result of political prudence, or of genuine mental enfeeblement. (He certainly didn't look too well in the recent Onion infographic that preceeded the controversy.) If there's been a sound bite or statement by Thurmond that I've missed, by the way, please let me know.

For those interested, The Smoking Gun has a copy of the actual Dixiecrat plaform on which Thurmond ran in 1948. It's basically what you'd expect.
An Onion-caliber article on the situation.
Here's a great post of Matt Yglesias on balistic missile defense. Of course you all already read him every day, so there really wasn't a point to my posting this.
Here's an interesting article in the Daily Standard (link from instapundit) on why this Lott situation was such a good one for conservatives, and why the right wing jumped on him so quickly.
Oh dear...only four months, and already California has become synonymous with America in Noah's mind. I'm pretty sure that most states do not have laws prohibiting smoking indoors.
"The happy, flexible clique with an undertone of sexual tension." A totally foreign concept...
One funny story from the concert... Right after the Counting Crows came on i saw this huge puff of smoke a few rows in front of me and thought "they're smoking indoors? How rude... This is america, you can't do that!" and then a few seconds later as the smoke wafted about I realized they were smoking pot and my first reaction was "oh, that's not nearly so rude"...

The odd thing is I think this reaction is relatively common, it is also somewhat strange.
Matt Yglesias posts on this article from the Weekly Standard on the sociology and dating ethics of Ivy League students. This article does have a lot of astute observations and is roughly correct. Having read the Two Towers today, this article really gets me thinking about whether there's some epic battle going on between good and evil as to whether love really matters or if we should just all devolve into selfish transactions... And I find that there are fewer and fewer willing to fight and be hurt for love. And I find myself wondering whether the wounds are really worth it or whether I'm about to turn traitor to the enemy...
I saw the counting crows with toad the wet sprocket tonite in san francisco. Toad was not quite as good as I'd have hoped, however, any show that ends with the line "we don't even have pictures, just memories to hold, that grow sweeter each season, as we slowly grow old" has my stamp of approval. The Counting Crows were great as always. The first half of the show they did acoustic which was great fun. Adam was in a great mood, and they were clearly glad to be back "home" in northern california. I wonder whether Adam Duritz being happier than I is something i should worry about, but at any rate tonite was a great time.

16 December 2002

The New York Times Magazine has come out with its annual Year in Ideas issue. For the first time, I read through all of the ideas, and there was a lot of cool stuff, and a lot of scary stuff. One idea of note is Cup Holder Cuisine, which announces that Kellogg's is marketing cereal containers designed to fit in cupholders. They have not, however, discovered a good way to let someone eat the cereal without a spoon. Alec, does D.E. Shaw do inventions?

On the scary side, Climate Jumping, Material Support, Remote Controlled Rats, Robotic Warfare, and Total Information Awareness all sent shivers down my spine.
If i were an investigative reporter right now, the story i'd be trying to track down is a good recent pete rose betting story. something like, yeah he bet on baseball: last month.

15 December 2002

Another one for the "wait, you mean that isn't an Onion headline" books:

Demi Dating Bill Clinton

(thank you fark)

Here's a piece of bizarre Sept. 11 news.

It seems as though this woman, who was reported missing in the Trade Center attacks, is actually alive and well. The problem is, she hasn't bothered to notify her mother. So, you get this weird article where they tell you where the woman is living and then quote the mother as saying that she should still be considered missing.

Even though the woman's relationship with her mother is "strained," it still might behoove her to call her mother, at least this once. Then again, one might wonder why she would want her mother to think she's dead...

I met an older couple on the campaign in Florida when they came in and volunteered. They did so because the Congresswoman was helping them find their missing daughter. The problem: she was eighteen when she went missing. And she's been missing for 20 years. And, as our congressional staff had learned when they tried to help these people get their daughter entered into the missing persons database, the couple could get very nasty and abusive. Now, they might not have been abusive before they lost their daughter, i.e. they could have become embittered by her loss, but they could also have been that way when the daughter was growing up, and then the daughter could have just taken off one day and never looked back. Again, something to wonder about...
I would say that this country is still enormously segregated. Wasn't self-segregation the reason for housing randomization at Harvard? Of course, in most places, we can say that it's self-segregation and people could move to a different neighborhood if they wanted to. I would venture to say that that is not the case in Mississippi, at least not in Trent Lott's hometown. From my brief experiences in rural Florida (which was not, by the way, the deep South), racism was just sort of expected. There were areas where black people knew not to go, and there were areas where white people never went. (We sent a bunch of white Washington staffers into some of the black areas to get out the vote, and they were probably some of the only white people who've been to these places in a long time.) Race wasn't talked about too much, but when it was, there were a lot of off-the-cuff comments that I would call racist. One of my co-workers had been invited to a Klan meeting by a girlfriend's father. So I'm sure things are much better now than they were in the 50s, but that doesn't mean they're gone.

14 December 2002

So in recent years i seem to have developed this habit, sometimes purposeful, sometimes not, of reading books in appropriate locations... The Name of the Rose in front of the pope's palace in Avignon, the hunchback of notre dame in said belltower, the chapter on the wreck of the medusa of the history of the world in 10.5 chapters in the louvre, AHBWOSG in berkeley, etc. Today I added another, on my way to pick up counting crows tickets from this guy in emeryville (the guys from SF but we were meeting halfway) i was reading some James Baldwin short stories on the emeryville bus...

I must say with all the hoopla about Trent Lott and all the self-congratulation in the blogosphere about how so few conservatives are still pro-segregation, we may have forgotten the fact that, even in the liberal fantasy world of the bay area we're still pretty much segregated. Even for someone like me, with a black younger brother, who went to a black church every other month, who rode the city busses accross town all the time in highschool, it still feels like visiting a foreign country to take a bus to emeryville. Not like visiting china or something, but like say England. Everythings a little different, people talk a little different, I constantly stick out like a sore thumb, etc. People are friendly, and I'm friendly, but in the way you're friendly to a foreigner... Its sad to think it, but segregation is still pretty alive and well in america, and if its like this here, i can't imagine what its like in mississippi.

13 December 2002

Here's a post by someone other than Noah.
Here's a good apology:

Correction: Because of inexcusable misreading and poor note-taking, in Wednesday's column I took a sentence out of context from Eugene Volokh's article on the Second Amendment in the National Review. When Volokh wrote "Shouldn't courts read the Second Amendment as part of an evolving Constitution?" he was posing a question someone had asked him. He did not endorse the evolutionist perspective, but argued against it.

I apologize.
So this afternoon I was reading the diary critic'sold entries and finding interesting online journals... The two best so far are Soap which is really quite a fascinating read and makes me nostalgic for the college life i never had. Somewhat soap opera-ish, but fun to read in a very guilty pleasure sort of way, exactly the sort of way reading someone else's very private diary should feel. The other one is Soliloquy, which is written by a surprisingly intellegent and literate 14 year old, but with at least the usual amount of 14-year old screwedupedness, and reminds me of the highschool life i did have (as in the friends i had, not as in me). I'm a sucker for using "innocence" and "regret" to mean back and forward respectively. This recent entry on cutting was really powerful and made me squirm (nohting bothers me as much as slow violence... well nothing except the last half an hour of vertigo) and makes me more and more worried about how on earth i'm going to manage to be a passable parent to a 14 year old girl. Sometimes I wonder if this can possibly be a real 14 year old, or if its just someone writing a fiction to keep in practice for novel writing, but its too real, and looking back i remember people who were smart and articulate then and whose diary's just might have looked like this.
So while away at a party tonite I had an away message saying i was at a party, which prompted the following message from a friend:

Maybe I can assume that the fact that it is now 4 in the morning and you have not come back from the party means that you have found the girl of your dreams and are having a wonderful discussion curled up on her sofa....
Or that you are roaring drunk and having an animated arguement about Rush and appologies to a cat skeleton somewhere.
Or that you are asleep under the desk of the host of your party and that you will wake up, have no idea where you are, stand up and bump your head and have the most prodigious headache when you get up.
Or that you suddenly decided that you *must* go to New Zealand and hopped a midnight flight there. I should be getting a post card in a matter of weeks.

Two questions:
1. do i ever do anything interesting enough to warrant that sort of speculation?
2. is converting time zones that difficult?

12 December 2002

I wish someday after I die I could go back and read all the letters written to me which were never sent.
Prudie reveals a real-life example of Bunburrying.
Clarence Thomas speaks in oral arguments!! A shocking development. He apparently gave a long impassioned speach on why cross burning should not be considered protected speach. As usual How Appealing is all over the matter. As usual Dahlia Lithwick is funny and brilliant.
The onion is wonderful...

11 December 2002

Wow, you know you're in trouble when... Rush Limbaugh says:

"What Lott said is utterly indefensible and stupid. I don't even want to attempt to explain or defend it. Yes, there's a double standard on this stuff, but you have to take this into account before you open your stupid mouth."
Good post on what makes for a real apology.
Apparently 10 year olds nowadays want cell phones... This is the first time i've begun to realistically worry that my children will think of me as a backwards technophobe since although I will have highspeed internet I just don't agree with this whole mobile communications thing... and who knows what the next craze will be..
Unlike some sites who actually get lots of readers, we publish all letters to the editors, whether critical or not:

First off, since "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," I mean to
flatter you sincerely, not surely. Surely this is so.

Second (off or on or wherever), the title of my blog is "EDF's Eatery
(half-baked words)." What you quoted was the blog description. Will I
always be misunderstood? (sigh)

Sincerely (I swear),

10 December 2002

Imitation is the surest form of flattery... Our dear friend Ezra has started a blog. Its titled "New words learned, written, read, and argued over" which is very aptly Ezra-ish, as is the rest of the blog, as well it should since it is Ezra's. Have a surf on over.

09 December 2002

The Paper of Record has this article on a study claiming that people are more likely in a video game to think that a black person is carrying a weapon than a white person (as opposed to objects like cell-phones). Since the difference is so small, i wonder whether anyone's thought of chalking it up to how much more visual contrast there is with a white hand holding a gun than a black one... It'd be simple to test, just have them put gloves on. (please no OJ jokes.)
I can't believe this... its the Belief-O-Matic
Great wine quote from cooped up:

This is a wine to scare neophytes and small children—its flavors are unusual and vaguely savage, not at all like the pure fruit flavors that frequently emerge from California. But it's really fantastic stuff, and it complemented the chicken's flavors perfectly.
Not sure how i missed this the first time around, but this PA supreme court decision in rhyme is priceless... The ending is a classic:

Love, not suspicion, is the underlying foundation
of parties entering the marital relation;
mistrust is not required, and should not be made a priority.
Accordingly, I must depart from the reasoning of the majority.
What am I doing these days? Reading about Hurwitz groups...
I'm sure i've said this a million times (the wonderful thing about the weblog is i can call alec for the first time in half a year and still repeat stories...), but if you ever want to have a pop song that lasts attach it to a part of the year. This year like most of the past half dozen years i find myself walking through a cold drizzle singing "i drove up to hillside manor sometime after two am and talked a little while about the year... i guess the winter makes you laught a little slower, makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her and its been a long december and there's reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last, i can't remember all the times i tried to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they last..."

but for the first time "if you think you might come to california, i think you should..." actually refers to a place i not only know but am actually living in.
Its always amazing when things that can't be true nonetheless are true...
Speaking of that newsweek article, look who gets quoted:

“Google is a fabulously important central resource, and bears something of a unique responsibility,” says Ben Edelman,
Google the verb makes newsweek.
I'd forgotten how good white russians are.

08 December 2002

Salon's advice columnist is talking about making amends today, which i think is a dying art and we could all use a read.

Not quite as forceful as his wonderful quote on apologies to the cheater last week, but more generally applicable. But that one was still a doozy, i couldn't link to it because it required a subscription but here was the key quote:

"You must suffer that grievous shock of self-recognition where you say,
Holy shit, that was me that did that, wasn't it? It wasn't my hormones,
it wasn't the alcohol or the man's attractiveness -- that was me, just
deciding on my own to go have an affair! Wow.

"Once you see that you simply did these things because you felt like it,
perhaps you will be a little humbled and you will see why one might be a
little outraged that you are asking how you can "end this and still feel
some sense of power and control."

07 December 2002

So for some reason the quote, "She loved me. She loved me. She loved me. Or at least I think she did." was bouncing around my head and i decided to try googling it and see what would come up... Turns out there was only one link, here it is. Are you surprised?

06 December 2002

"Proceeding eighty miles into the northwest wind, you reach the city of Euphemia, where the merchants of seven nations gather at every solstice and equinox. The boat that lands there with a cargo of ginger and cotton will set sail again, its hold filled with pistachio nuts and poppy seeds, and the caravan that has just unloaded sacks of nutmegs and raisins is already cramming its saddlebags with bolts of golden muslin for the return journey. But what drives men to travel up rivers and cross deserts to come here is not only the exchange of wares, which you could find, everywhere the same, in all the bazaars inside and outside the Great Khan's empire, scattered at your feet on the same yellow mats, in the shade of the same awnings protecting them from the flies, offered with the same lying reduction in prices. You do not come to Euphemia only to buy and sell, but also because at night, by the fires all around the market, seated on sacks or barrels or stretched out on piles of carpets, at each word that one man says--such as "wolf," "sister," "hidden treasure," "battle," "scabies," "lovers"--the others tell, each one, his tale of wlves, sisters, treasures, scabies, lovers, battles. And you know that in the long journey ahead of you, when to keep awake against the camel's swaying or the junk's rocking, you start summoning up your memories one by one, your wolf will have become another wolf, your sister a different sister, you battle other battles, on your return from Euphemia, the city where memory is traded at every solstice and at every equinox."
--Trading Cities 1, italo calvino, Invisible Cities

The thing that struck me about invisible cities is that for just about everyone i bet there are a few pages in that book that you'll like enough to like the whole book, but probably not the same stories for everyone. For me they were Euphemia and Zobeide.

"you lie on the ground in somebody's arms, you probably swallow some of their history."

05 December 2002

Noah, you sicko. And thinking those thoughts in my own home, of all places! Shame on you.

Incidentally, if you are like me, and have no earthly clue what marmite is, this website is wonderful. "Spread on toast or sandwiches..drug-like qualities...addictive...'sludge' with a more or less meaty flavor...in some neighborhoods it is common for nursing mothers to dabble a little on their nipples before feeding their infants... " Sounds charming, eh?
So Nat's mom said something about how she hadn't done such and such in 20 years, and I said that i didn't think there was anything i'd done ever which i could say that about. And Nat said, there's gotta be something, like drinking from a bottle for example. And i said immediately, but i haven't done that recently, it has to be a 20 year gap between the times you've done that. At which point i began to chuckle and nat managed to keep a straight face despite both of us thinking of the example of something you go a long time in your life without doing, which is exactly what all of you are thinking right now.
So i spent thanksgiving in the natural habitat of the Nat (aka Santa Fe) visiting him and Meg. Its quite an interesting little city, i've never before seen so many BMW's on dirt roads, for example. For some reason, not only are all the buildings brown (and one story), all the yards brown, all the plants brown, for some reason the roads need to be brown too. The cool thing though is that all the browns and reds have this dramatic change of color when the sun is setting and its quite stunningly beautiful in a shades of red and brown sort of way. The raging Santa Fe river is also quite a sight (i'm told that 4 or 5 years ago it had some water in it). Nat and I went up a mountain to 9,000+ feet. It was also winter there! It was nice to leave this weird perpetual september, even though it is nice not to be freezing. Also, one of the fun things about not drinking in highschool is the chance to see old friends of a decade under the influence for the first time (errr... that's parsing funny... i mean first time seeing not first time under influence, if i were a better writer i'd make that clear in the first place instead of explaining it). It was, all in all, a splendid break.
Time to kill two birds with "One Stone," as this fulfills dave's request for soemthing to be posted, and meg's request that i post this quote:

"So, if those years were the Arkansas of your life, would that make David Fetterman your Bill Clinton?"
As Noah will attest, much of my Thanksgiving was spent ranting about whether yams and sweet potatoes are, in fact, the same thing. I contended that they are interchangeable, but no one seemed to know for sure, and this cookbook says that they are different. Thankfully, however, some researchers in North Carolina have settled the question. Now we can be authoritative next year!
I leave for France this afternoon...I hope that when I get back there'll be a post that's not about Bessie's mom.

04 December 2002

Very cute article, courtesy of Bessie. And it's very true that both daughters love Marmite, or at least one. (I was treated to a vintage jar in Connecticut a few months ago.)
It's official.

And even more official.

28 November 2002

A nice article. Something about lemurs and "two daughters."

27 November 2002

Haiwen's response to the 138-times-a-year statistic was: "Well, I suppose it all depends on what you mean by 'sex.'"
The ad at the top of this page is currently oscillating between "Find a beautiful guy in Minneapolis for love" and "Find a beautiful girl in California for sex."

California looks awfully good at the moment...
Some noteworthy news in today's Guardian and Financial Times.

26 November 2002

Why would anyone having sex that much bother counting?

25 November 2002

This must be a median... I'm sure there are enough of us out there to bring down the mean frequency of sex per year to below 138 times.

Its really annoying to read old media because they don't have links to the source article. It makes it really hard to figure out what the methodology was.
Here's one from the history books...

In 1831 a volcanic island appeared off the coast of Sicily, causing "months of international wrangling with four nations making territorial claims including Britain, Spain and the Bourbon court of Sicily." After 6 months it sunk back into the sea...

24 November 2002

And now, for a post I really wanted to make while I was in Florida...

I learned during my stay down there that fake wrestling is more widespread than just the pro wrestling we see on TV. In Tampa there was a semi-pro wrestling league, full of guys who were working hard to make it to the bigtime. And then there was this... Noah was right; there really is a christian analogue to everything in mainstream pop culture.

I found out about semi-pro and christian wrestling in a newspaper article in the St. Pete Times. I've been digging around some christian wrestling websites to figure out what on earth it is and who on earth thought to combine evangelical christianity with fake wrestling, and I came across this group's message explaining what they were trying to accomplish by wrestling. This page also has an interesting explanation of why the violence in wrestling and football is ok.

One more funny thing about christian wrestling: at one site, the wrestler profiles (it's amusing to see the names that the wrestlers take, by the way) include when they became Christians. Here's the weirdest: "Became a Christian in September of 1999 at the age of 18, in a dorm room at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor." I guess that's what they're calling it nowadays. (To be fair, UMHB is a Baptist-affiliated school, but still.)

21 November 2002

Sign posted in computer lab at Brown University: "Do not move computers. Doing so will really trigger the alarm system!"
If I recall correctly, the Alabama court system is one of our wackiest, probably in the top five with California (of course) and Louisiana (silly Napoleonic Code). I think Alabama is where the trial lawyers and the, er, anti-trial lawyer people fought repeated multimillion dollar death matches in the 1980s over judicial candidates. It's also where a jury rewarded someone the full value of their BMW because it had come out of the factory scratched, if I'm not mistaken. Of course I could research this stuff but I'm lazy so I won't.

Have people seen the excerpts from Bob Woodward's new book, Bush at War? I'd like to be walking around with $3 million worth of non-sequential $100 bills to give out to people with guns to do my bidding.

I apologize if you guys have already seen the fallout from the book, though I excuse myself because I was out of the country when it hit the news. The book's actually pretty flattering to Bush, though I can see why all those other people are mad at Colin Powell. I love the quote: "The reason why he (Woodward) isn't as rich as Tom Clancy is that while both he and Clancy make stuff up, Clancy does his research first."

20 November 2002

Wow, Ben Wallace just got a triple double: 19 boards, 12 points, 10 blocked shots. The man is a monster.
So i was just looking back through my old credit card statements to try to track down some payments i thought i had made. Its really quite fascinating to see your life go buy in purchases...

I see FOOD LION #0425 S4C BLACKSBURG VA and remember that this is the bill for wine which i bought to give one of my best friends from home as a hospitality gift. He and i mostly polished off one of the bottles, which was actually the first time he and i had ever drank together.

I see AMTRAK 1488960074710 EUGENE OR and remember that as the last 5 minutes my ex-girlfriend and i were in the same place and together, train pulls off at 5am and wave out the window, almost cinematic.

I see GREYHOUND LINES #0406 BOSTON and remember walking around New York City at 1am talking with a friend.

I love corporate america taking care of my being an emotional packrat for me.
I really hate the phrase "Homeland Security."

19 November 2002

One of my friends' current away message is the following toast given by a mathematician:

"To number theory. May it never be of use to anyone."
The South strikes again.

There's a girl in my program from Alabama. Lived there her whole life (I think), and went to Tulane. She must be incredibly brilliant to have gotten here, because her outward appearance is, shall we say, to the contrary. In fact, my Category Theory lecturer told her the other day, in front of the whole class, "You're just confirming everybody's stereotypes of Americans." (She had laughed really loudly at something the person next to her had said.)

The Category Theory lecturer, on the other hand, is a young Chinese woman with a gorgeous English accent who gives very funny lectures (which I didn't know was possible in math) and writes classical music reviews for the Cambridge student newspaper.......

Too bad her subject sucks.
With 86% confidence they say I'm a woman. Why do men prefer white bedrooms?

18 November 2002

According to Spark, I'm 50% male. I blame Canada.

Was Noah bored last night, or what?

17 November 2002

Technology has finally invented a cure for loneliness.
Subcultures are very amusing... It doesn't quite beat the Christian Counter, but i think Raves for Jesus is pretty close...
According to Ben's who does China block project we're inaccessable in China, as is Instapundit and the Volokh Conspiracy. On the other hand it doesn't block Free Tibet and China Sucks. Weird.

(I'd link to Matt Yglesias for this, but i'm protesting his decision to not link to my Social Security screed, and you all read him daily anyway, right?)
The bad proposed Pennsylvania Homeschool law was defeated in comittee this week!! This is an excellent development. Here's a report on what happened.
Since this blog is the closest thing we have to dinner table conversation and since a dinner table conversation which lasts long enough always reaches the "meta-conversation" level, i bring you this article from the NYTimes magazine.
According to spark i am a woman. Why am i not surprised?
How on earth do you play a full football game and go 20/25 and 255 yards passing and 4 touchdowns on a broken ankle?? (and no it wasn't Brett Favre, it was the next Brett Favre.)
Inspired by Lileks' thursday bleat i'm counting my blessings and thinking of turning "5 things that make me happy" lists into a regular feature.

5 more things that make me happy:
1. tea kettles whistling
2. the familiarity of shared language in conversations with old friends
3. the outer automorphism of S_6
4. the phrase "despite recent evidence, i'm not totally evil."
5. hot soup

16 November 2002

I don't understand why people give me grief about my multiple majors:

"I usually tell people I'm doing three [majors], because if I say I'm doing four majors, they call me a psycho and think I'm this big overachiever trying to make myself look better," says UW-Madison student Dustin Harber.

And I thought I was just confused...

15 November 2002

Since Matt Yglesias is talking about the payroll tax a lot, I think its time to talk about my government pet peave: The Social Security Tax.

Facts about the Social Security Tax:
It is 12.5% of your income (half of which is hidden unless you're self-employed)
But only on the first $85,000 of your income!

So let's do a few little calculations... Suppose the amount you're a median family making (not including deductable, but including the amount your employer pays for social security) about $48,000. Then the social security tax is (12.5 is nicely 1/8) $6,000. This is of course %12.5 of your income.

Now suppose you're slightly more rich (or as we say at harvard "middle class") and making $200,000. Now 1/8th of $85,000 is about $11,000 so you're paying just over %5 of your income.

Now suppose you're a CEO making $2 million a year. Then you're still paying $11,000, which is roughly .5% of your income.

This is what is known as a regressive tax. A very very regressive tax. And, according to this goverment pie graph 34% of our federal government's income comes from this extremely regressive tax!

Why is no one talking about this? Why isn't this the new democratic rallying cry? Stop the regressive tax! Raise money for social security the same way you raise money for everything else, with a progressive tax, or at least a flat one.
Googlism of the day:

allen is hot and stop laughing.
I can't believe I almost forgot to mention this: This past week, Enimem became only the fourth musical artist in history (after Elvis, the Beatles, and Prince) to have a movie, an album, and a single simultaneously at #1 in America. (I love factoids like this.)

14 November 2002

How do people say things like this?
I love suddenly learning things that should have been obvious. here's a great example.

13 November 2002

''I know one of these years [Alex Rodriguez] is going to win three, four MVPs in a row,'' Tejada said.

Last I checked you could only win one MVP in a season...
Forget stopping terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, I want some politicians willing to face the even bigger threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria before we're forced to look back on the latter half of the 20th century as the one golden era where we had deseases beaten. We feed this stuff to our chickens so they'll get bigger, and no one has the guts to do anything about it, and in 50 years if we're dying from pneumonia again, don't say Palumbi didn't tell you so.

11 November 2002

Top 5 things that make me happy:

1. David Bowie's "Survive" on my headphones in Times Square.
2. Singin' In the Rain.
3. Cate Blanchett as Galadriel.
4. Art school dropouts.
5. The following Googlism: "Alec is back in her life."
So last night after our party i seem to have written on the whiteboard:
a) the diagram for S_3 acting on a curve of genus 0.
b) the quote "and learn to pretend there's more than love that matters"

When i woke up I found that lionel had written on the board:

"So there's love, and there's S_3. But nothing else matters."
Lilek's has an amusing bit on homeschooling today:

and she mentioned “Home schoolers, the religious right. They drive me nuts.”
The home-schooling part I didn’t quite get. There seems to be some who believe that this is a typical day in a home-schooling classroom:
“Alright, Ezekial, Rebecca, Simon, Mary, put away your snakes and come over here for natcheral science. Ezekial, how old is the earth?”
“It’s six thousand years old!”
“That’s right. Rebecca, did the dinosaurs come afore man, or at the same time?”
“Uhh . . . at the same time?”
“No, Rebecca, there were no dinosaurs. You’re going to have to get a paddlin’ for that, and remember: God wants it to hurt.”

Silly Lileks, of course there were dinosaurs! Didn't you ever read Job? What do you think the Behemoth was? Liberal revisionist...

Speaking of homeschooling, this week the proposed new homeschool law in Pennsylvania is coming up for a vote in comittee... Here's the text of the bill (the first 10 pages are the old law and the rest are the proposed new law). Here's a pro-new law website and an anti-new law website. For those of you who haven't heard me talk about this yet, i'm strongly against the new law, for reasons which i hope to write up in a letter today, if i do get the time to finish it i'll post it here. The short version is that the new law gets rid of all the safety nets and although almost all homeschoolers are very responsible, i don't think we want to have a law with no checks and balances because it will abused by non-homeschoolers hiding behind this law. There are a bunch of other problems i have with the law, but that's the biggy.
I was under the impression that there was more than one Indigo Girl.

10 November 2002

Top 5 things that make me happy:

1. The Indigo Girl's "Love Will Come to You" on repeat.
2. Emily Watson.
3. A friend showing up at my door with a bottle of wine.
4. The Riemann-Hurwitz formula.
5. Large Russian novels.
It's now official: for the first time since 1997, nothing interesting happened with a girl on November 10th.
Holy Grail of the Day:

Find a finite group which is:
a) generated by 3 elements of very small order
b) generated by 2 elements of very large order
c) NOT generated by any 2 elements of very small order

[Who cares? --Ed.]
I haven't posted my review of Punch-Drunk Love yet, by the way, because I'm not sure how I feel about it, even though I saw it almost a month ago. I spent a few frantic days trying to find a friend to see it with, and finally ended up going alone, which was probably a good thing: I can't imagine a movie I'd less want to discuss afterwards. It's the Mulholland Drive of romantic comedies, I suppose. It doesn't seem to have much to do with P.T. Anderson's previous work, and I missed what I love about his earlier movies: the emotional generosity, I guess, and the willingness to be messy and flawed for the sake of characters he loved. Maybe I should check out Adam Sandler's previous work to get some perspective. I do love Shelly Duvall's rendition of "He Needs Me," though, as well as that wonderful line: "You're so beautiful, I want to smash your face with a sledgehammer."
I was just about to post a link to that BBC movie list, too. I'm satisfied, needless to say, that my two favorite movies (Blue Velvet and Chungking Express) made the top ten.

I actually haven't seen many movies recently, although I have a long list in mind. 8 Mile is a wonderful movie, by the way: loose, likeable, fairly mainstream and conventional in broad outline but comfortably aimless and inventive in the details. Curtis Hanson is probably the best wholly impersonal director in the world these days, meaning that he makes beautiful studio films that reveal next to nothing about the director himself: he can make one of the most tightly structured movies of all time (L.A. Confidential) and follow it up with Wonder Boys, which was wonderful simply because seemed like a relaxed trip to nowhere in particular. 8 Mile falls somewhere in between; it's one of the most satisfying studio pictures I've seen all year.
By the way, the best Googlism of all is "Haiwen is my umbilical cord, or maybe my placenta." Because, of course, this is actually about Haiwen...and guess who wrote it?
I saw Emily Watson as Viola in Twelfth Night in London a couple weeks ago, and she made me extremely happy.

09 November 2002

08 November 2002

Just saw P.T. Anderson's "Punch Drunk Love" and although i can't say it was a great movie, i can say i came out of it very very happy, and that a romantic comedy could do that for me right now is really quite amazing. I definitely recommend it despite its weirdness. Emily Watson simply makes me happy.
Listening to Tori Amos's "Pretty Good Year" which was the song i remember really liking from my first year at Ross when Meghana and Jared listened to her all the time. Anyway a line really struck me as a great example of the way language changes over time, even over brief periods of time:

"and Greggy writes letters and burns his cds"

Does not mean that he's sending his friends letters with mix cds.
Well you all know about Alec and my list fetish and Alec's movie obsession, so its our duty to post any top n movies lists that come around. So here's today's.

Speaking of Alec and movies, now that you have a large cash flow are you seeing lots of movies? You're supposed to pass along your recommendations! I never see movies because you're not around. (I think i'm seeing "8 Mile" this weekend.)

07 November 2002

I'm sorry I haven't been communicating on the Nov. 5th disaster -- I had an inside view, and it was amazing how surgical they were and how complacent we were, but I haven't had time to talk about all that stuff because I have been packing up at a breakneck pace to get to Washington for my Participation 2000 retreat.

Unfortunately my hiatus from Deadly Mantis will most likely continue for the next two weeks, because I'm going to Greece. It's going to be a nice opportunity to step back and re-evaluate everything. I have no idea what I'm going to be doing from now on. I want to turn around and work on a campaign again, and do it right this time, but I guess I'll have to wait awhile to do that, and I need to find something to do in the meantime. I might also look for work on Capitol Hill, though it won't be the nicest environment for the next two years.

Sorry for getting trounced. You guys will have to pay for our blunders, I guess.
I don't think the joy at the sight of rain is so universal in England. Especially when you go running on a nice sunny day and 20 minutes later find yourself in a downpour with at least a 20 mph headwind, you can't look forward because the rain stings too much, and your arms and legs are going numb from the cold.

Oh, and 20 minutes after that it's sunny again.
Lead article in today's Times:

"Republicans began setting plans yesterday to push forward a domestic agenda of tax cuts, a national energy policy, creation of a vast homeland security department and the confirmation of conservative judges..."

I feel so helpless.

06 November 2002

The rains have finally begun. I never would have imagined how much i missed rain and how happy i'd be when my roomate came bursting in with a huge smile on his face saying "it's raining!"

The bizarre thing is this sudden joy at the appearance of rain is probably one of the most universally shared human experiences accross all of time, and only now in rich modernized countries have we lost this ancient joy and the rain dance rituals.

I was going to post about my first time voting, but i found the whole thing far too depressing. There were too many things i really didn't have good opinions on and i made several votes for really bad reasons (i voted for a guy for Lt. Governor just because his job is "ferret legalization activist" and i couldn't pass up that once in a life time opportunity). Several things i had good reasons for and strong opinions... I strongly opposed the limit on heights of new buildings in berkeley for example. Also i finally figured out how and why to vote in the representative race, Barbara Lee is the incumbent and I don't really agree with her strong opinions on Iraq, however I decided that we have a republican president and I didn't want more republicans in congress so I bit the bullet. However despite these few things, the whole thing really felt like a game, especially with the touch screen voting machines, and i just had this sudden realization that millions of people are making these random decisions that i was making for often not good reasons and that the bizarre amalgamation of all these accidental decisions will result in lives and deaths of people all over the world and the direction of our country. It was really kind of depressing.

I saw "Bowling for Columbine" afterwards. I recommend it, it was quite good. I definitely don't buy most of his points, but for those of you who enjoy documentaries about nutty guys on crusades (which i think most of us do), this is a very good example of the genre. I figured that since the filmmaker was also the nut he was following that the movie would lose some sense of touch, but it was surprisingly well done and hysterical. Although i disagree with many of his answers he raises great questions, and the movie is guaranteed to make you laugh a lot and i don't mind being preached at when i'm laughing.

04 November 2002

Good luck with the big election day Nat! We're rooting for you!

Speaking of election day, the UC system is forcing me to vote in order to get residency (they're really pushy about voting here, people all over campus registering you, a dean emailing the whole school telling them to vote, etc.), so i'll be sure to give you all a report on the great noah voting adventure. I suppose it's too late to auction of my votes to the highest bidder. I'll get to vote on the great Coffee initiative (forcing all coffee shops and resteraunts in Berkeley to exclusively sell organic shade grown fair trade coffee. I think i'll vote against that one. If it were just fair trade i'd consider it maybe, but as it is that's just rediculous.

For those of you who don't know me, my previous rationale for not voting was the stance that the very minor difference my vote made wasn't worth the hour or two it'd take to think about who to vote for, go to the voting place, fill things out, wait in line, etc. all for one tiny vote which is statistically insignificant. My stance being that if i cared enough about some political issue i'd do something real, like give money, or campaign, or something that made a difference. However, since i need to submit a ballot and that'll take a while anyway, the time commitment has been lowered enough taht it is no longer irrational to vote.

03 November 2002

Today it finally happened... I played a game of solataire in which there were no legal plays for the whole game... Immediately over. I've been waiting for this for years. My first estimate suggests this happens once in about every 1000 games.

02 November 2002

first name googlisms are fun:

dave is offended by an inadvertent "t"
alec is still rambling about the woman and max says shut up and push the button
alec is the eponymous narrator
nat is most often used to convert rfc 1918 private addresses into routable public addresses
meg is sure to make you laugh
laura is like playing with fire
bessie is still an inspiration to many
ezra is extremely quick on the draw with his wit as well his guns
heather is the bestest
tamara is also trying to avoid a team of federal agents following her
dory is totally unique
ben is a rock band
blake is a primary focus of the investigation now
jeremy is the best known male porn star of all time

and this one makes you wonder:
alec is on daves tummy
History is doomed to repeat itself over and over again.
Why am i such a sucker for scenes in confessionals? I'm not even catholic...
Quote of the night for last night:

"I can't imagine keeping a story going for that long. What would [Tolstoi] be like at family gatherings?"
--Sarah Hatter

Last night i hung out over coffee with Sarah and went to this huge party, which is supposedly annually on Playboy's top 10 parties of the year, I think it may make it again this year, if only for the extremely passionate lesbian couple in the room with the band. There are few things more amusing than watching a room full of guys pretending not to be staring at two girls virtually having sex on the dance floor. Anyway the party was somewhat amusing, more like things one sees in movies than things i actually go to, and meeting new people is always fun (especially when you already know that they like "say anything", REM, "High Fidelity", etc. and can make clever refrences).

Speaking of Sarah Hatter, I've been meaning for a while to link to her post on overhauling the greating card industry (you may need to scroll down, the permalink seems to be slightly broken). She says:

What I'm looking for is an I Feel Abandoned card, but I guess I'll Miss You will just have to do. I'd like to buy a I Can't Believe This Is Happening, This Changes Everything card, but I guess I can settle for Belated Birthday or Romantic Birthday or Birthday Seven and Under. All I need is a This Sucks And I Hate It card, not Apology or Retirement or Sympathy.

Some of the comments suggest cards like:

"if you don't dump the bitch, how can we ever work this out?"
"it's okay that you freaked out, you're going into combat and i know you're scared (but can't admit it), and i want to be here for you, but it's hard to do that when you and i aren't speaking, and i'd just kind of like to know if you think it's over or not, because i'd really like to know either way so that i can get on with my life, but if it is over, i don't know how in the hell i'm supposed to go about getting over you"
"I'm sorry I broke your heart, my heart is broken too, this hurts like hell and I just wish everything could feel ok again"

So for the past few days i've been thinking up cards that are overly honest like the above and still snappy and cardlike. Some are cards I want to send, some cards I want to receive and some which just happened to cross my mind:

Cards Expressing Nostalgia or Regret:
[outside] We both know that 6 years ago we should have been each other's first kiss, and i'm terribly sorry that I was screwed up and was so dishonest with you and myself.

[outside completely blank]
[inside] If I could send this card backwards in time I would send you a million words, instead I send you this.

[outside] Maybe someday I can change my name and we can meet again without recognizing each other and pretend that none of this ever happened.

[outside] Thanks for being there.
[inside] I could put this card in a time capsule for 30 years and know that it'd still be true, and how can I thank you for that?

Bitter Cards:
[outside] There's no such thing as a bad person, only people who choose to do bad things.
[inside] Like you.

[outside] One last question...
[inside] How do you say, "I hope you burn in hell for this" in athiest?

Quotes (bonus points if you recognize them)
[outside] Is there a line which I could write, sad enough to make you cry?

[outside] I just came to say...
[inside] Goodbye love. Goodbye.

So do any of you have good card ideas?
Today in Lie Algebras I sat behind the French girl who's in all my classes. She is extremely hot. Too bad I don't know her name.

31 October 2002

Speaking of British ignorance of US geography, everyone here thinks the US has 52 states. Probably ten to twelve people I've asked have given that number, and no one has given any other. They even make jokes about how the Americans don't even know how many states their country has.
I saw a BBC news report on the Wellstone service last night. They didn't bother showing where Minnesota is, which is rather a shame, since no one here knows. But the thing that struck me was that when they showed Clinton, I thought to myself, "That's our president."

29 October 2002

This is the first Googlism return for good old bubba, i kid you not:

bill clinton is no anna nicole smith

And for the current occupant of the oval office:

george w bush is the antichrist
Heh heh, we've warped Noah. After spending some time in Florida, I have a question to ask about liberalism and the pursuit of happiness. What might this Dan Savage fellow say about someone who collects welfare checks so they can spend all day hunting? (Actually I don't think this is possible anymore because of welfare reform, but the redneck stereotype of people who don't care about working and just spend their time fishing, hunting, and drinking beer persists.) Just the first thing that popped into my head when I read the words "liberal" and "pursuit of happiness."
Good Googlisms:

Ben Webster is no longer our breeding male.
Dennis Clark is 7 pages long and availiable on request.
Bessie Dewar is a ball of positive energy

28 October 2002

So someone pointed out to me Googlism, which magically extracts from the web one sentence about any person you'd like. For "Noah Snyder" there are 4 returns about 4 different people, the one that refers to me:

"Noah Snyder is still right about this."

Thank you Matt Yglesias.
Oh, and saturday we drafted for a fantasy basketball league that my brother jesse is running. I had the first pick, which meant that i had to pick last in one round and first in the next and you only have 1.5 minutes per pick, and when someone takes the person you want right before you, sometimes you screw up. So i picked okay, but not very well, until halfway through the 9th round (you can only have 8 players active at a time) I suddenly realized that no one had taken Grant Hill because he very far towards the bottom of their player rankings and every one had forgotten him. I had to wait all the way till the end of the 10th round for my next pick, and it was rather nervous, but i ended up with Grant Hill as my 10th team and a pretty darn good lineup:

C Juwan Howard
PF Tim Duncan
SF Glenn Robinson
F Karl Malone
SG Michael Finley
PG Gary Payton
G Bobby Jackson/Chris Whitney/Emmanuel Genobili (I'll start Jackson until Bibby returns and then switch to Whitney and then when Genobili breaks into the starting lineup and is on his way to rookie of the year I'll switch to him)
U(tility) Grant Hill

I also have on the bench:
Richard Jefferson
Derek Fisher
Corliss Williamson

I'm thinking of trying to make a trade to upgrade my third guard.
Pet Shop Boys/Blogosphere news for Alec.
I went to a book reading tonite for Dan Savage's new book: Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America. He was really amazingly funny and a great speaker and question answerer, i think he's actually much better in person than he is in writing. Furthermore he managed to restore my faith in liberalism.

I suppose that comment takes a bit of explaining. Basically, although my politics nowadays are more liberal than conservative I am still more often annoyed by liberals than i am by conservatives. Things like wearing little ribons on ones lapel for some cause, or camping out in tents for a living wage, just rub me the wrong way. I often find liberalism so childish, and so obsessed with symbolism over outcomes. I think being un-PC is a good thing, and i often find liberals sadly lacking in humor when it comes to politics. Dan Savage on the other hand makes jokes to a liberal audience in berkeley about how his book not being nominated for Lambda book award is like going to the special olympics and not getting a medal. More importantly he made it very clear why his politics were worth fighting for and actually made a difference other than just making one feel good that you're trying to do good for other people. (I guess that's what annoys me about liberalism the whole "well we're trying to do our best and if it doesn't actually accomplish anything you can't blame us" thing.) But Dan Savage very eloquently and humorously showed that the pursuit of happiness is a pretty damn important thing, and that its worth fighting for, and that we're winning that war. And he didn't pull punches. His anger towards Bill Bennet was also directed towards those in the Gay community who tried to stop him from being able to adopt because he strayed too far from the "rainbow reservation", when someone asked about decriminalizing marijuana he pointed out with genuine outrage the hypocrasy of decriminalizing possesion but not dealing: "[loosely quoted] these people are risking their necks for your happiness and when they get caught we run the other way. If smoking pot isn't so bad, than why is it bad to sell it? There should be an organization out there of people who smoke pot who pay the legal fees of their dealers if they get caught, we shouldn't just leave them out to dry."

If there were more people out there like him then I could proudly say I was a liberal.
Great Salon article on manhood, fatherhood, and a way in which Barry Bonds is a role model.
Real headline: Nations Urge North Korea to Drop Nukes.
Bessie complains that we haven't been posting enough, so i'll try to do a little more in the near future... Why haven't I been posting:

1. two words: "war" and "peace" (i'm nearly done, and i now know that if i'm ever depressed i can just find a very large book and give my life direction)

2. a very long frisbee game yesterday (harvard beat waterloo (this canadian university) 13-2, and then the algebraists beat the geometers 15-13, i was on the winning side both times)

3. a haloween party where I went as james bond, with a tux and a small gun i made from a whiteboard marker, cardboard, a safety pin, and a lot of black duct tape. (there's a picture floating around somewhere of the hostess who stole a russian hat from someone so she could pose as my bond girl)

4. Sarah Hatter is moving to south carolina which means i won't be able to take meg's advice and marry Sarah Hatter, and blogging reminds me of this intense disapointment.

5. None of you guys give me anything to respond to.

23 October 2002

How dare my fine state by calumnied?! At least one professional observer has questioned these rankings. I've got to say that I don't think we can possibly be worse than the deep south; How we beat Florida escapes me. In one of the counties in our district, the starting salary for teachers is $18,000 a year. I don't think our teachers are in as dire straits as that. I'll also plead testing bias against hispanics for our low test scores. (That sounds convincing, doesn't it?) Alright, I'm going back to work. Florida is either going to get stupider or smarter after the next election, and we have to work to make sure that it gets smarter.
How come everything written in German looks like it's expressing a great deal of angst?
So we're finally learning the past tense in German, and its oddly similar to french in that there's a compound past tense used for speaking and a simple one for writing, and that the compound uses to be or to have according to the same weird rules... However, in German there is no wonderful little poem which every class uses to teach this tense... So, I got to translating...

--Früstück vom Morgen

Er hat Kaffee
In die Schale gesetzt
Er hat die Milch
In die Schale Kaffee gesetzt
Er hat der Zucker
In die Kaffee mit Milch gesetzt
Mit der Kleine Löffel
Er hat ihr gerührt
Er hat die Kaffee mit milch getrunken
Und er hat die Schale aufgezeichnet
Ohne mit mir zu sprechen

Er hat
Eine Zigarette beleuchtet
Er hat Kreise
Mit geraucht gebildet
Er hat die Asche
In Aschenbecher gesetzt
Ohne mit mir zu sprechen
Ohne mich zu betracten

Er ist gestanden
Er hat sein Hut
Auf seinem Kopft gesetzt
Er hat sein Regenmantel angesetzt
Weil es regnete
Und er ist gelassen
Unter dem Regen
Ohne ein Wort
Ohne mich zu betrachten

Und mich habe ich
Mein Kopf in meiner Hand gesetzt
Und ich habe geweint

Corrections of my german are more than welcome.

"Ich brauche ein Regenmantel..."
"J'ai besoin d'un manteau de pluie..."
"I need a raincoat..."

22 October 2002

This weekend an epic milestone was reached, for the first time in 622 games, the New York Times predicted a correct score of a football game: Detroit 23, Chicago 20. (See TMQ for more)
Further proof that every field has its own nerdy inside jokes:

Yesterday a colleague at the investment firm where I work was telling me about how she'd set up one our co-workers with a friend of hers, and how they were going to have their first date that night. We then had the following exchange:

She: I'd say I did a pretty good job of brokering that trade.
Me: Yeah, well, these days I'm still trading as a principal for my own account.

We both found this quite amusing.
So mathematics is (are?) not exactly a glamorous trade, but I bet a decent number of educated people (though not a majority) have heard of Andrew Wiles, and I bet most can name at least one great mathematician of the past. But can any of you name a single musicologist, living or dead? (Current Harvard faculty don't count. Nor do Google searches.)
I didn't vote for him. And though he persists in making a fool of himself in the press, he's been a competent governor. But today I get to vote for his replacement. I hope they don't throw out my ballot -- the package they sent me got wet and now the "secrecy envelope" is stuck shut, so it's going to look kind of suspicious.

Twelfth is not bad, but being behind Iowa is inexcusable.

I don't know about books, but my kids are going to start violin at age two. And piano. Then they'll spend their whole adult lives in therapy.

21 October 2002

Great commercial idea from Salon.
Ouch, dave, what do you have to say in defense of your state?
Ouch, nat what do you have to say in defense of your state?
So i guess the reason i asked the question was because of the following two observations:

1. I wish i'd known "Into the Woods" as a child. I think every child should have the opportunity to watch that with their parents many times, and i hope my kids will. It just says so much about being parents and kids and growing up and moving on into the world and all these sorts of things... Anyway i can't really describe what i mean because i'm not very eloquent, but somehow the point of having kids listen to these things is that you can't say it as well yourself.

2. Its very weird to me that not everyone knows "Treasures of the Snow" from their childhood. Its this novel by Patricia St. John about three children living in the swiss alps. To me its like Cinderella or the Hobbit or something that everyone just grows up knowing. Its the best treatment of forgiveness ever written. I sometimes wonder how one raises moral kids without christianity (not because i abstractly think its difficult, but just because i have no experience with it) and the more i think about it the more reading this book might just have everything i'd want to take from christianity.

Also i've been realizing how important it is to me that if i have kids that i read them "the Lord of the Rings" before they get a chance to see the movie (despite the movie being good).

Hard to disagree with Roald Dahl and Deep thoughts... I'd have music suggestions but i'm not sure to what extent i'd want to curse my children with my music ("do i listen to pop music because i'm unhappy, or am i unhappy because i listen to pop music").

I'll also throw "Toy Story 2" and "Shrek" into the mix.

20 October 2002

This may sound strange coming from someone who took the Western canon so seriously for so long, but at this point, I don't really believe that works of literature can teach any virtues beyond a love of ideas and language, and a certain amount of compassion for human life outside one's own experience. Which is more than enough, of course. But any other attempt to teach morals or virtues through stories is bound to fail, I think, because a moral or philosophical concept, no matter how beautifully presented, is a dead thing until you relearn it through your own life experience. The only thing art or literature can do in the meantime is prepare you for that moment of recognition. Which, again, is more than enough.

In other words, the books I'll choose for my kids are the ones that charged my imagination the most when I was young, which usually means books where a moral compass is notably absent. I guess my five-foot shelf of children's books would include: D'Aulaires' Greek Myths; The Annotated Sherlock Holmes; Through the Looking-Glass; The Chronicles of Narnia; a representative selection of Peanuts comic strips; World Tales; the complete works of Roald Dahl and Lloyd Alexander; the Mahabharata; and the Bible, more for its literary qualities than anything else. But if I had to choose one work of art to provide something of a moral compass for my kids, it would be Antigone, or maybe "Hey Jude."
The stories I'd raise my kids with... I would say that Uncle Shelby's A to Z book and Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts are books that every impressionable child should read. Seriously, I like The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (and everything else by him, though that book is arguably the most valuable). The Little Engine That Could is of course a necessity. And children's biographies of Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King are on my list too. When my kid got a little older, I'd give him Wooden by John Wooden (not to be confused with Cash by Johnnie Cash). I'd also like a good story about gender discrimination, but I can't think of one.
In response to Noah's point about the split on the left between those who think american liberalism is superior and those who are moral relativists, I think that split will continue to exist 25 years from now. There are a lot of people out there on the left who just don't like what they see in America today and I don't see that changing. Incidentally, I think that our society is better than Islamic fundamentalism, but I'd like to think that we don't need a war in Iraq to destroy fundamentalism.

18 October 2002

Apparently the new Katie Holmes movie is based on the book Adam's Fall, which if i remember correctly is set in our harvard dorm (this according to a cnn review).
The nice thing about everything closing early here is that you have time to sleep and not much of a hangover during your 9 am Saturday lecture.

17 October 2002

So i had this weird moment a couple minutes ago, where, as is often the case, i was having an imaginary conversation with someone in my head. I was trying to form some sentence about how you don't regret this yet, but i know soon you will, and i remembered there's a quote i always use to express that and thought to myself "you'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tommorow, but soon, and for the rest of your life." A moment later it hit me that that actually is the line. I had completely forgotten that regret was what that quote was refering to.
I guess my question of the day can be rephrased a little bit. I dunno if any of you are at all familiar with Bennet's infamous book of virtues or whatever its called. The idea is that these are a hundred or so short stories which will teach children to be virtuous. Well i don't want my kids growing up like Bennet's, and i don't want 100 stories, and i don't want them all to be necessarily short stories, however the question is what say 10 stories or similar things would you want your kids to know to learn the virtues you want them to know.

And Alec, even if you plan on teaching your kids Greek, everything on the list must have be available in english translation.
Dan Savage argues for war in Iraq... Thinking about Pym Fotrune has made me really start to wonder whather there is a split coming in the left between those who believe modern liberal culture to be superior and those who stick to the claim that we shouldn't impose our ideas on anyone else. Dan Savage in this article makes it very clear that he thinks that Islamo-Fascism (his phrasing) is something that needs to be stamped out, and why shouldn't he think that? he's very clear that he thinks the freedom to have fun and do whatever you want in private between concenting adults is crucially important, the radical islamics don't. Pym Fortune didn't want more muslim immigrants because he didn't want to lose the modern tolerance for homosexuality, the dutch liberal drug laws, and a zillion other progressive changes in culture. So what do you guys think? 25 years from now will liberals have generally decided that modern liberalism is superior? Will they stick to "anti-imperialism"? Or will there be a split?
Question of the Day:

What stories/books/films/etc. do you think kids most need to know growing up. You know, the stories that are just completely engrained into you. This can either be things you grew up knowing, or things you wish you had, or things you're making your kids know about, etc.

15 October 2002

So Sports Illustrated has an article on whether NBA teams should take problem players or not... The person arguing that they shouldn't is guilty of about as rediculous a blindspot ever:

Teams that win NBA championships -- the Lakers of today and the 1980s, the Bulls of the '90s, the Celtics of the '60s and the '80s -- are almost invariably peopled with players who act like professionals. Yet no sport keeps its bad boys, head cases and out-and-out reprobates in play as persistently as pro hoops.

HELLO, Dennis Rodman anyone?? The nuttiest nut of them all? I mean, one can certainly argue that Dennis Rodman was a goofball off the court but played hard on it and that's what matters, but that isn't the argument this guy makes. Furthermore, he never mentions Rodman anywhere. Arguing by conveniently ignoring obvious things is not generally a convincing strategy.
With Jerry Rice as a raider, Hakeen retiring in toronto and Ewing in Orlando, you being to wonder when this stuff is going to stop... All i have to say is Green Bay better make darn sure Brett Favre retires as a Packer. I trust they will...
Those of you who took Mark Kishlansky's class on the English Revolution may recall that according to baptismal records from the 17th and 18th century, people in British countries stopped naming their sons "Oliver" after the Restoration...until around the time of the American Revolution, anyway, when "Oliver" became one of the most popular names in the American colonies. Trends in naming newborns can serve as an interesting index of popular sentiment, it seems.

Why do I bring this up? Well, according to Nicholas D. Kristof's latest column in the New York Times, guess what's the most popular name for newborns in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province?
I was trying to figure out how to get a transcript mailed out, when i found that the harvard site has changed...

13 October 2002

Ten Years ago this week, Peter Gabriel's album Us debuted at number 2 on the charts. I was blissfully unaware of it at the time, but over the years it has become an album i need. Especially "Secret World." Its fun to check the ten years ago charts, because you really never know when something like this suddenly pops up. It can't be too much longer before "Automatic for the People" hits the charts.
Poor Dave...
Forbes Fictional Fifteen (link via Fark).
Going back to the very early days of the blog, you may remember Alec's dating advice for non-autistics, where he said that when you break up with someone make a list of why because in a few months you will have broken up. (See the original post for Alec's much better prose.) Anyway I thought i'd chip in on my similar relationship advice which also involves making a list.

When you're beginning a relationship, make a list of deal breakers, things which would mean the relationship would have to end. Make sure a few of them aren't too painful. Write it down. Accidentally leave it out. Stick to it.
Paul Pollack's away message tonite is "if its worth doing, its worth doing badly." I think that's the quote that has the most different variants. I've heard just about every way of putting "not"s and "badly"s and "well"s into that sentence. I think if i were making a personality test it would include a question like:

Which of the following do you most agree with:
a) if its worth doing, its worth doing badly
b) if its not worth doing well, its not worth doing
c) if its worth doing, its worth doing well
d) there is no well, only do or not do

12 October 2002

I love living in a country where we write 80-page decisions on the consitutionality of sex toys, discussing for dozens of pages the social and legal history of sex toys. Its wonderful. Here's the decision. I think the best part i've found is:
"In effect, doctors inherited the task of producing orgasms in women because it was a job nobody else wanted."
--p. 43

11 October 2002

Matt Yglesias' expresses bafflement on how "that depends what the definition of is is" came to be a definitive moment of Clinton slipperiness. Although he makes a very good point, if my memory serves me right there's another point he missed. The statement "there is no sexual relation" wasn't even said by Clinton, it was said by one of his lawyers. The reason i remember this is that Clinton's next sentence after "that depends what the definition of is is" was the much more brilliant "usually lawyers are asked to explain their clients statements and not vice-versa" (roughly, i haven't tracked down the original quotes). So the slipperiness of the original claim wasn't directly Clinton's fault.
Some more weird google hits:

6th hit for fun sex snowball missionary
9th hit (yahoo) for buy an appartment in new york
11th hit (yahoo) for aaron carter armpit hair
184th(!!??!!) hit for Kansas City Call Girls Prostitutes photo

184th means looking through 19 full pages of links...

More importantly, someone from alltel.net googled me. This site is now the first hit, beating out the surfer guy. Anyway, to any young women in berkeley who's secretly in love with me and e-stalking me, i'm single and my email address is on the left of the page.

10 October 2002

Classes started today. 9 am six days a week through Dec. 8. Ugh.

I've only been here a week, and already I'm sneaking over to a girl's room late at night. Granted, it was Bessie's room, and I went there to watch the Twins game on her computer Tuesday night (she has ethernet and I don't). I think they lost last night because I wasn't watching. (My dad called me at 5 am to tell me the score.)

Despite giving a purported advantage, the Metrodome is still a terrible place to watch baseball. I think baseball would be a good deal more popular in Minnesota if we had a real stadium to go to, so on a gorgeous July night you could say to the kids, "Let's go to the ballgame" and it would feel like real baseball. And I think the Twins would give up a win or two to have more fans in the stands on a regular basis. The advantage in the playoffs comes from having 56,000 screaming hanky-waving fans in that enclosed space. If they got to the playoffs in a new stadium, there would be just as many fans waving hankies. And for a game in Minnesota in October, the roof would certainly be closed, so the noise would probably be just as bad. The white roof and the lights and the turf would be gone, but the Twins would give up these October advantages to gain more revenue so they could make it to more Octobers.

That said, I don't think the public should have to pay more than a small amount for a new stadium. The one we have now, though out of date, is perfectly serviceable, and there are much better things to do with public money. What they really need is a new owner who was willing to spend more money (easier under the new agreement) to make the franchise a perennial winner, which would increase both popular and corporate interest in a new stadium.

08 October 2002

Since when did Browns fans start acting like Philly fans? In Cleveland we throw batteries at the opposing team, threaten to kill a coach for cutting Kosar, and litterally kill Modell if we got the chance, we do NOT chear when our starting quarterback whose having a bad day gets injured. That's just rediculous. I'm embarassed to be a Browns fan.
TMQ is brilliant as usual this week. Nat, I highly recomend the first half of the article which he spends poking fun at psychologists. But what really caught my eye is the following remarkable factoid:

Stats of the week No. 5: It has been 12 years since the Bengals won a road game against a team with a winning record.
Although this trailer leaves me with absolutely no wish to see the movie it advertises, it has completely convinced me that i need to buy the new peter gabriel album.
Dave, congrats on yet another Twins victory, but i have a question for you Twins fans... If the Metrodome is such an amazing homefield advantage and one of the best playoff venues ever, why do you want to get rid of it so badly?
Matt Yglesias (have i mentioned, we're the 15th google hit for "Matt Yglesias"?) thinks that people usually do bad things believing them to be right. Although he may have a point for his dictator examples, i completely disagree with this claim when it comes to ordinary people. I think that most people do bad things knowing deep down that they're bad, but refusing to think about it enough to realize this. This includes simple rationalizations, complete denial, and a million other dodges.
So here's my first "We're not in Kansas anymore" observation: this morning I met the woman who cleans our house (she even vacuums our rooms...what am I going to with all the extra time?). I had a perfectly ordinary conversation with her, but something seemed amiss. And then I realized: in the US, it seems that almost everyone in low-wage jobs (janitors, security guards, cab drivers, etc.) speaks English as a second language. I didn't even realize I'd formed this sterotype, but every time one of those people over here opens his or her mouth and starts speaking the Queen's English, I find myself a little bit surprised. I guess we really are a nation of immigrants.

On the other hand, people here seem to hate Blair as much as people at Harvard hate Bush. So we can bond over that.

07 October 2002

Speaking of trying to describe the indescribable:If you haven't seen Spirited Away, the new movie by Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki, you must. I tried to explain it to a friend recently. There are movies that I saw when I was very young, that I haven't seen since and barely remember, but the few images and scenes that I still recall are charged with an almost terrible beauty and power, because they're my earliest memories of art. Spirited Away is filled with moments like that, except they're even more mysterious because you're seeing them for the first time. (Only one other film has ever stirred those earliest memories of movies in me like that, and that's Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter. Even there, it's only one scene, and it lasts for less than a minute.) Spirited Away is like a movie glimpsed in a dream that you wish you could return to. The amazing thing is, you can.
I'd call it recognition. But that isn't quite the right word. Maybe the movie affects us the way it does because there isn't a word for that moment, for one man's realization of his own folly and loss.

For me, the ultimate cinematic example of an emotional moment beyond words is still the last shot of The Third Man.
So i've decided i disagree with the old saying "history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce", but i can't manage to come up with a good replacement saying. So, my question for all of you is, how would you describe in one word the mood of the end of vertigo? In that movie history repeats itself, the first time is tragedy, what is the second?
Things you shouldn't say to a crowd of Brits:

1. "I was planning on not eating beef over here."
2. "I have a friend studying at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, or as I like to call it, the London School of Cleansing the Dirty Peoples of the World."

I don't think I'm helping people's image of Americans.

06 October 2002

Who needs U.S. News's college ranking when you could just ask google.
Twins win!!! Twins win!!! Twins win!!!

A.J. Pierzynski is my hero!!!!!

I watched via espn.com and cnnsi.com from the third inning on. It was a real nailbiter. I'm going to try to find a TV for the next series; if that fails I'll at least be able to listen on internet in my room, which should be working by then. I just hope that none of the games start at 7:30 Pacific Time...
Friedman has a real zinger to open his op-ed in todays times:

Ever since President Bush took office I've had this feeling that the only serious opposition party in America, at least in foreign policy, was made up of three people, and none of them were Democrats. The only three people Mr. Bush really worries about — the only three people who could take big constituencies with them if they openly parted company with the president on an issue like Iraq — are Colin Powell, Tony Blair and John McCain.
So the other week i overheard the first conversation which could have been on in passing. Today i participated in my first conversation weird enough to be quoted on in passing.

So Lionel and i are on are way to german class, after not having had breakfast because there was no milk. I say:

"Wow, we're so on time its rediculous. There are actually people here. You know, its just because we had no milk."
"By losing, the four-time defending AL champions were the first team eliminated from the playoffs this October."

You gotta love it!

05 October 2002

Auwww. We missed the 2002 Ig® Nobel Prizes. The award that has received the most attention by the media, by the way, is "the comprehensive survey of human belly button lint," presumably because editors wanted to use the phrase "navel-gazing" in their headlines.

(See, I do know something about journalism.)

04 October 2002

By the way, Red Dragon is a surprisingly good movie, not especially scary but intelligent and considerably satisfying nonetheless. In retrospect, Brett (Rush Hour) Ratner seems like an ideal choice to direct. Unlike Ridley Scott, who is a much more singular director, Ratner has no visible style of his own to interfere with the story, which makes him all the more qualified to deliver what we really want: a decent pastiche of The Silence of the Lambs, rather than Hannibal, which was off in its own inexplicable universe. Red Dragon won't haunt anyone the way The Silence of the Lambs does, but as a well-crafted revisit to that famous underground cell, it's well worth seeing.

03 October 2002

Maybe someone who knows more about journalism can answer a question for me:

Why to journalists (or their editors) feel the need to change the actual phrasing of pop phrases?

This comes up a lot in blogging, for example, see my "blog-o-sphere" post. However i just ran accross another egregious one. In this NYTimes article on campus sex advice columns someone at the "paper of record" decided that "sexile" needed to be changed to "sexual exile". However, rather than quoting the students actual words and explaining the origin of the term or something honest like that, the article says:

Mr. Stromquist was telling Ms. Krinsky about his life as a sexual exile, with his roommate banishing him from his dorm room whenever his girlfriend spends the night.

"That's rude," said Ms. Krinsky, adding that sexual exiles would make a good column.

Come on people, if you want to present some new hip trend you should actually use their lingo instead of manipulating it and somehow trying to show you're better than the people you're writing on...
Hello from England. I haven't slept yet and I have no idea what's going on with this university. I live in the quad and there's no ethernet. I'll keep you posted.

02 October 2002

Haven't bought the new Beck yet, but I probably will; Dale loves it, and the song "Beautiful Way" from Midnite Vultures has been living on my iPod just about nonstop for the past month or so.

Incidentally, my most recent CD purchases include: The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds, which is as amazing as its reputation suggests; The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack, for that wonderful Mutato Muzika Orchestra cover of "Hey Jude"; Jeff Buckley, Grace; Closer to Heaven, the new musical by the Pet Shop Boys; and finally, by far the best album I've heard all year, I kid you not: The Eminem Show. I know I'm a bit late on this particular bandwagon, but trust me: this is one hell of an album, confessional, angry, dense, inventive, funny, finally awe-inspiring. Do these suburban kids even know what they're buying here?