Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Public Nudity and the Law

Via Overlawyered: Topless woman in city park used as bait for public indecency sting.


I should go to more parties.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Taking a break

Belle wrote something that you might like about the current glut of pregnancy movies.

Update: One aspect of this comment's discussion of Hollywood films about pregnancy and abortion is perhaps astute:
[A] woman is not the hero of her own abortion. Interestingly, in the only movies I know the plot of (Cider House Rules and Vera Drake) where there is abortion and heroism, it's the abortionist who is the hero, and the pregnant women are merely victims and secondary characters, rather than heroes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why I hate musicals

1. Inability to suspend disbelief. If you saw someone burst into song and dance down the street, you'd react. Bystanders in musicals almost never do. If they do, it's often to join in and take part in a choreographed routine. I can read about dragons and wizards and all manner of nonsense as long as it's internally consistent nonsense. These bizarre reactions, however, are more than I can bear.

2. The characters are usually caricatures. This is probably in part because finding people who can both sing and act is very hard. It doesn't explain why a huge percentage of musicals involve some sort of ethnic cliché or stereotype.

3. The action stops so the lead can show off his voice. I don't mind musicals in which the songs are funny (Avenue Q, South Park), move the plot along (some songs in Moulin Rouge!), or reveal new insights about the character. Most of the time, though, the songs just reinforce what we already know. For example: what the point of "Beautiful Pretty Women" in Sweeney Todd? Not only does it tell us nothing about Todd or Turpin, it embodies the classic villain error of monologuing. If it weren't for this song, the movie would be an hour shorter and a lot fewer people would have died. And it's not even a good song!

4. You can't understand what they're saying anyway. If a song does contribute to the narrative or characterization in a meaningful way, it's uncertain whether that will come through, since the singers often are too wrapped up in showing off (good voices) or are unable to combine enunciation and volume (bad voices).

5. Songs are often jammed into a perfectly good story. This happens a lot with musical adaptations. It throws off the pacing.

6. The sort of person who loves musicals makes me want to die. You know who I'm talking about. That girl with the Les Misérables t-shirt in 9th grade. That guy in college who looked down on people who didn't appreciate Zero Mostel's hilarious songs. The person who always manages to drop the name and price of the show s/he saw in NYC last weekend. If you watch musicals you're around these people. Ugh.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The worst movie ever?

With a release date in January, the studio must have realized that this film has no redeeming features whatsoever. Will a single person under age 40 buy a ticket to this movie? Are Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson really pressed for money? Why would anyone inflict this upon the world?

UPDATE: Another contender? Poor Luke Wilson.

2008: Another Challenge Year

I had planned on posting on this today, but my dear Belle beat me to it. I will again be taking part in the 50 Book Challenge. The rules here will be the same as before. I have previously expressed many intentions of posting on book-related themes on this blog but since they lacked the systematizing elements of the 50 Book Challenge or the monthly book club they typically fell by the wayside. To the extent possible I will announce books to be read for the challenge in advance so we can discuss them. One of my goals for the year is to read more nonfiction.

Please feel free to join the challenge!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Totals

Bowls of green sauce consumed: 2.
Movies involving singing viewed: 2.
Number of musicals I have ever enjoyed: 2.
Percentage of overlap between two previous line items: 0.
Inches of scarf knitted: 24.
Inches of scarf subsequently unraveled: 16.
Cool bloggers met: 1.
Glasses of wine drunk with said blogger: 3.
Words of article written: 0.
Silly thrillers about serial killers read: 3.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Movie Review: Walk Hard

Between outings with various individuals this weekend we managed to fit in a viewing of Walk Hard. This is a completely unnecessary yet fairly entertaining spoof of the musician-biopic genre. Apparently you don't even have to have seen these movies to be amused (Steve has not seen Ray or Walk the Line but still laughed). I am, however, getting a bit tired of seeing the same dozen actors in every movie connected with Judd Apatow, and of the accompanying trend of aggressively ugly protagonists. Hiding David Krumholz and Jason Schwartzman behind massively quantities of fake facial hair only reinforces the problem. There is male frontal nudity in this picture, but it's neither sexy nor aesthetically appealing, which is, I'm sure, how it managed to get past the ratings board.

I had been psyched for Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but the trailer made it look . . . not so great. Steve pointed out that 1) we have no evidence that Jason Segel can write, and 2) it's probably partially autobiographical, and we all know how much that can suck. I'll still see it, but not on opening weekend.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I could have sworn I put this link up, but I guess I just emailed it around. Anyway, here's the makeover from Washingtonian I was talking about.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pimp My Schnoz

I have a lot of sympathy for Ashley Tisdale. Steve is cramping my Hollywood style, though. "Blah blah I like you just the way you are blah . . . ."

Pimp My Schnoz
Originally uploaded by ataylor02

Also, waking up at four o'clock bites.

In Houston, sporadic internet, knitting going poorly.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Alpaca Allergy Blues. Etc.

At some point I decided to teach myself to knit. This would have gone much more smoothly had I not realized partway through my scarf project that I am allergic to the yarn.

Kids: not subject to lemon laws.

I always wondered why this grotesque building near my office hadn't been torn down. Turns out the owners aren't allowed to because it's "historic." Shades of the Gropius complex.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Not the top of the Ivies

What is it about the Anscombe Society at Princeton? First they came out against rape kits and then one of their members faked a hate crime.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Silver and Gold

Megan's friend inventory is pretty depressing, and would be more so if I could ever figure out what people mean when they say "friend." Someone you'd invite to a wedding or whose wedding you'd attend? Someone you talk to for hours on the phone? Someone you would call if you needed a ride to the hospital or a place to crash? Someone who comes to your parties and hangs out? No matter how you define it, I don't have that many friends. Grade school: zip. High school: zip. College: a handful, most of whom I keep in touch with solely through email and Google Chat. Law school: I occasionally email or see a few people. Most of my friends and acquaintances are from blogging at this point. When I was growing up I usually had one best friend, a couple of decent friends, and that was it. It's hard to make friends these days.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Folk Law

In the comments to Orin Kerr's recent post on the origins of the folk belief that undercover cops must identify themselves, this squib caught my eye:
There is a folk belief, certainly related, that the owner or occupier of property may post a sign requiring law-enforcement personnel to identify themselves upon entry, and they must comply even if undercover. I've seen professional-looking signs to this effect at fraternity houses.
At the risk of sounding silly (it's been a while since crim pro): what's wrong with this? If I post a sign on my land that states that hikers may enter but hunters must obtain permission before doing so, wouldn't any hunter who snuck in be a trespasser? An undercover cop seeking to enter a home is presumably looking for evidence of criminal activity that could not be seen from outside the home. If the evidence is not in plain view and circumstances do not justify a warrantless search, wouldn't his unannounced entry similarly be unlawful trespassing, justifying exclusion of any fruits of the search?

Making access to your property conditional seems fairly fundamental.

Small World, Big Money

This is really pretty impressive. Our place is right up the road from Ron Paul campaign headquarters. I have heard that workers are packed in like sailors on a submarine above the dry cleaners over there. Maybe now they can afford some extra space.

One of my exes is a big Ron Paul fan and sends me all the online notifications about these moneybombs and blimp launches and whatnot. At a party attended by some fellow libertarians, I mentioned that a friend of mine sent a new Ron Paul Facebook message almost every day. The other three people I was talking with immediately named the guy. I would have been surprised but am fairly jaded about the idea that there are only 100 D.C. libertarians and we all know each other.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Forcing Shelfworthiness Calculations

Why do books cost so much in France? This explains a bit.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Republican Tulku?

Via Matt Yglesias, Noah Millman on the Republican field:
[T]here is no ideological fighting going on, except between Ron Paul and the rest of the field. Instead, the GOP is engaged in an identity-politics-driven contest. The GOP is not debating what it stands for, nor is it a party that knows what it stands for and is looking for the best candidate to win a general election and/or to effectively carry out the party’s program. The GOP is not trying to find a leader for the party. It is looking for a candidate who is the incarnation of the party. No wonder they’re having a tough time.
They have another eight election cycles to wait.

Pharma Bashing in Film

Once again, Hollywood takes a perfectly good plot involving a pandemic and inserts a Big Pharma villain.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Leaky quiche is the tastiest quiche. The egg gets all over the crust and makes it extra savory. I think the crust bakes better in a metal pan than in a glass pan, too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Save the cheerleader, save the world?

Interesting issues emerge from this case in Texas. A junior high school cheerleader was shoved out of the shower at a sleepover and photographed (by some accounts, only her blurry back was visible in the picture). The photo was forwarded to classmates and some of them looked at it in school. The school suspended several students, including the girl who took the photo, even though the incident took place off school grounds.

- What remedy, if any, should the cheerleader have? Has she actually been injured? Does it matter that there was a photo and that she was undressed? Wouldn't it have been as bad or worse if they had gone all Carrie on her and then recounted the tale of their tampon bombardment to all their classmates? What if they had taken a photo of her like this instead or passed around a note in which she admitted to an embarrassing crush or secret?

- What should be done to the offenders, if anything? Distribution of nude images of minors, even by other minors, tends to bring down the long arm of the law.

- Is it appropriate for the school to punish students for conduct that occurs off-campus? If yes, where's the logical stopping point? What can't a school punish minors for?

Taking the picture and passing it around was a horrible thing to do, but if principals start suspending middle schoolers for acting like little bitches they won't have any students left.

Fantasy & the Law

Dave Hoffman interviews Patrick Rothfuss, author of the excellent new novel The Name of the Wind, on the role of law in fantasy fiction.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Megan has a question.

Help her out:
According to my friend, animals and human babies have an organ in their stomach that holds ... something toxic. If they want something and they don't get it, this organ will explode, killing them. This is well-known fact; major newspapers often report on tragic cases of babies who were denied a sip of their mother's coffee and their resulting death of organ rupture. Everyone in Argentina knows this, which is why babies (and dogs, I guess) can have tastes of whatever they reach for on the table. Babies grow out of this; the organ shrinks and is aborbed into the body? as they grow up.

I quizzed her and quizzed her about this organ. I asked her to point to it. I asked her the name. It is the splena, which is NOT the spleen. NOT the appendix. We talked about this organ for days. I've since asked other people from South America and Mexico about this and never gotten a good explanation. Do any of you know about this? Is this a widely spread theory of childraising? How far? What the hell organ does she mean?
I am also interested in whether people actually believe this. It sounds a lot like reports from villages about possession and witchcraft.


Gang rape victim's only legal avenue is mandatory arbitration. No criminal prosecutions for the rapists.

Is anyone familiar with the legal loophole referenced in the article that explains why the rapists have not been prosecuted under U.S. law? If we can throw Americans in prison for sleeping with kids in Southeast Asia, why can't these guys be put away?

Update: This post has been edited, because I can.

Monday, December 10, 2007

When God Gives You Lemons

Just watch (slightly nsfw).

Weekend Bake: Oreos

This weekend I made homemade Oreos per this recipe. The filling pictured is made from 8 oz. of mascarpone cheese and 1/4 cup sugar, not what the recipe calls for. I think some people might call this a "Whoopie pie," but I don't like naming food after sex.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

The online and real-life shaming of the Drew family continues, with prank calls, hacks, and insults common. A commenter on Concurring Opinions notes:
[I]t just goes to show what happens when legal remedies aren't really available. Given the courts' insensitivity to racial and gender claims, I wonder what minorities and women secretly do to retaliate against those who discriminated against and/or raped them. I know one person who secretly mailed tax forms incriminating his boss to the IRS after one Michael Scott-esque comment too many, and a woman who got her rapist's family deported. I don't know if this type of non-vigilante retaliation is widespread or not, but frankly, I'd much rather have someone sue me than have virtually all of my relatives sent back to China.
These stories make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, although since practically everyone is a criminal, we're probably each one offended ex away from prosecution.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

One of these things is not like the others . . .

I don't understand Hollywood.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A theory of SF/F

Brian and Ginger Yellow theorize:
People who can actually get it up for fantasy and SF are . . .

(a) [those who] see the unrealistic world created by the author as merely a means to the end of producing character-driven stories, or

(b) [those who] see the characters and their actions as a means to the end of telling a story about the cool fantasy world they've created.

[(c] the main constituency of (literary) sci-fi, people who see the unrealistic world created by the author as merely a means to the end of addressing present day social/philosophical issues.

All three explain why I like SF/F. Who doesn't love rich characterization, lavishly created worlds, and fiction that addresses the great questions of human life? And thus why would you prefer reading stuff set in drab contemporary times and peopled with the sorts of folks you already know, if you could get all three, to varying degrees, in a single genre?

Here's a rousing defense of SF from across the pond, where fantasy is respectable but science fiction seems "irredeemably adolescent":
“In a fantasy story,” Aldiss says, “there’s a big evil abroad, but, in the end, everything goes back to normal and everybody goes home to drink ale in the shires. In a science-fiction story, there may be a terrible evil abroad, and it may get sorted out, but the world is f***ed up for ever. This is realism. It’s certainly not beach reading, unless you can find a really nasty, shingly beach.”
. . .
SF is, in fact, the necessary literary companion to science. How could fiction avoid considering possible futures in a world of perpetual innovation? And how could science begin to believe in itself as wisdom, rather than just truth, without writers scouting out the territory ahead? Which is why this widely despised genre should be read now more than ever.
. . .
But if new hard, logical, shingly-beach SF is now a rarity, at least there’s a lot of old stuff to read. The literary snobs will say it’s badly written, which most of it is. So is most “literary” fiction. Badly written literary fiction is, however, wholly unnecessary. There’s a lot of badly written SF that is driven by an urgent journalistic desire to communicate. That is necessary.
I disagree with this characterization of fantasy, and authors like Miéville and Martin probably would as well.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Internet Shaming Redux

The Megan Meier case takes a weird new turn.

The linked blog is almost certainly a hoax (any competent attorney would have put the kibosh on it), but does it matter? Regardless of authenticity, it acts as a lightning rod for outrage, and the reputation of the purported author is already shredded.

I did find the discussion in some of the comments intriguing. If Megan had shot up the school instead of killing herself, how would our reactions differ?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Book Review: The Secret History

It's somehow unseemly to read a novel that came highly recommended by a particular individual, only to realize that the recommender's enthusiasm was almost certainly a function of his identification with one of the more loathsome characters. Such unwelcome and uncomfortable intimacies are almost enough to keep you from reading otherwise superior novels.


I hate campus novels, but this kept me engrossed because of, not despite, the collegiate setting. It's psychologically astute, but the last hundred pages are a bit heavy on the melodrama. I appreciated the author's restraint with respect to some of the other characters, so the gratuitous elements were especially obvious. For example, after teasing us with (mostly) unconsummated attractions between the narrator and two of his friends and establishing realistic yet opaque characters, we get sexual sensationalism on a V. C. Andrews level and crudely inserted dialogue establishing psychopathology. The writing is, however, marvelous, and the aforementioned minor irritants should not discourage you from reading this book. Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

For my past and present grad-student friends

I found this post on fighting neoliberalism in the academy quite entertaining. Some of its recommendations:
* Reject the implementation of "benchmarks" or any other form of "standards" for merit raises or promotions that are predicated on quantified output.

* Reject merit raises all together and rather spread the total raises due the entire faculty of a department evenly to all faculty.

* Refuse to sell ourselves as "stars" to highest bidding institutions. This reproduces the neoliberal self-made "man," reinforcing gender and class hierarchies within the academy.

* Identify and monitor the behavior all 'frumps' (formerly radical upwardly mobile professors).

* Avoid grade inflation. In a context of grade inflation, instructors that seek to honestly assess performance find themselves at a disadvantage, especially if they are adjunct staff.

* Quit giving standardized tests and grades. Pass/Fail. Get rid of students who don't want to be there. Tell them to come back when they know what they are there for. If we stop treating students like cash cows, maybe they will actually appreciate learning.

* Make your students do the work - have them explain concepts to each other. Have them create materials they think are useful. Grade them for effort rather than results - they are there to learn.
Update: I suppose I should note that the recommendations are not by the post's author, but reproduced from another source.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I should know better.

Anyone who reflected for more than a minute would realize that this makes no sense:
There is logic to the veil scheme: Men will be satisfied with their wives as long as they have no other women to compare them to, and women should accept the suppression so that each one can maintain her grip on her husband. It requires everyone to live a life of visual deprivation, so that no one sees anything that might make him want what he does not have. You are never challenged to resist temptations, and to make it easy to avoid sexual pleasures, you have to give up all the visual pleasures that could easily be yours.
And that's not what Tertullian's arguing in the first place.

Relatedly, I was not previously aware that part of the justification for Christian women wearing the veil was because they might tempt not just men, but angels. Helen of Troy, eat your heart out. Here's an essay by some guy arguing that Catholic women still have to be veiled in church.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fashion Bleg

What color tights/hose/stockings can you wear with silver or pewter shoes? I bought the shoes to go with this dress but am wondering if I will have to consign that outfit to warm-weather evenings only and if the shoes will go with anything else this winter.

I love deciding what to wear to holiday parties.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

4'11", 105 lbs

This chick is my new idol.

I worked out and lifted weights with a trainer for 6-8 months when I first moved here, but maybe something like this would be fun. My doctor is always telling me to take yoga classes, but in my experience, stress is best relieved through punching things, not by sitting in contorted poses.

Opinions on Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu jitsu, and MMA welcome.

For your amusement

- What people think of your name (via)

- A cat dressed as a sandworm

- Robot servants: coming sometime, if not soon.

Recipe: More Pasta

By request, my favorite pasta recipes for the hungry and time-pressed.

Spinach Penne with Ricotta

This is from the De Cecco pasta box, but I like it anyway.

Cook whatever amount of pasta seems appropriate for one person. After cooking, drain and then add the pasta to a bowl with 2 large forkfuls of part-skim ricotta, 1 tbsp butter, 1/2 tsp -ish of fleur de sel, and a generous shaking of crushed red pepper. Mix until coated.
You can use whole-milk ricotta if you keep the pasta a bit wet when you drain it (or save a spoonful of pasta water) and leave out the butter.

Simple Pasta with Sausage & Cheese

Cook Italian sausage in a non-stick pan until browned, adding spices as desired. I generally add more fennel, oregano, basil, black pepper, and salt. Once sausage is mostly cooked, boil water and cook some pasta (I like farfalle). Grate copious amounts of hard Italian cheese. Drain pasta well and add to pan with sausage. Toss until delicious sausage fat has coated the pasta. Turn off heat and add cheese. Toss. Eat.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Recipe: Pasta with Sausage, Spinach, & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

My standby simple pasta dinners are spinach penne with ricotta cheese and crushed red pepper and farfalle with sausage and parmesan. This has a few more ingredients, but is just as tasty and actually contains vegetables.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic , pressed
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes , rinsed and chopped fine
1/2 pound penne pasta (2 1/2 cups) (farfalle also works)
2 cups chicken broth (I use Better Than Bouillon for convenience, but it's very salty)
1 cup milk
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup)
6 ounces baby spinach
ground black pepper and salt
1. Heat the oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, sausage, and tomatoes and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.
2. Sprinkle the pasta evenly over the sausage. Pour the broth and milk over the pasta. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Stir in the spinach a handful at a time, and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Economic Darwin Awards

Sending racist email from your work account: always a bad idea.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

L’arbre de la liberté croît lorsqu’il est arrosé du sang de toute espèce de tyrans.

Today the D.C. gun ban case was on my mind.

If you are interested in the filings in the case, they can be found here. Here is a profile of one of the plaintiffs. Here is a post making the liberal case for gun ownership (read the whole thing). Here is some historical context for the Second Amendment.

Oh, and Godwin.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Take that, other Amber Taylor!

If you can get a copy of Washingtonian Magazine, I am in the makeovers section of the December issue.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm curious, too.

At what age, if ever, is a person old enough to have sex without the National Review declaring this evidence of a social ill?

There aren't a lot of married undergraduates, but in graduate and professional schools married students are fairly common.

True fiscal conservatives would see the benefits of providing young women with contraception, especially during a crucial period of their educational development.

Book Review: The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

Imagine Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell crossed with Perdido Street Station and you'll get The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, an over-long but largely entertaining novel with elements of steampunk, Gothic mystery, science fiction, and erotica.

We begin with Miss Temple, a ferocious young lady of means recently arrived from her island plantation home. The fair Miss Temple has been jilted by her fiancé, Roger, a up-and-comer at the Foreign Ministry. She refuses to take this lying down and shadows Roger's movements, hoping to determine the cause of her broken engagement. By bluff and bravado, she follows Roger to a masked ball in a remote country estate, but the party is marred by murder and she barely escapes with her life.

An assassin nicknamed Cardinal Chang also crashed the party that night, but discovered that the man he'd come to kill was already dead. The party's guest of honor, Prince Karl-Horst of Macklenberg, is subsequently abducted and only rescued by the offices of his personal physician, Doctor Svenson. All three become entangled in the schemes of the shadowy cabal behind the events of that evening, and only by working together will they be able to escape death.

There are a lot of narrow escapes in this book. The villains, a group of mysterious alchemists, have developed a "Process" of mechanical and alchemical brainwashing, which temporarily brands its victims with a loop of livid scars around the eyes, and a method of downloading and storing human memories in books of deadly blue glass. Their determination is otherworldly and their moral qualms nonexistent, yet they have a regrettable tendency to knock people on the head or drug them when they should be shot or poisoned.

The philosophical issues posed by the Process and the nature of stored and stolen memories are barely touched. Fully half the subplots and side trips could be cut, and by page 500 or so we are a bit bored by the constant cliffhanger endings to each POV chapter. The finale is also a bit of a letdown, but that's because it was set up to frame the coming sequel. All in all, though, it's an entertaining read, and worth checking out from the library.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Back me up here.

The author of this book looks exactly like Herbert Kornfeld.

Friday, November 23, 2007


That butternut squash is neither buttery nor nutty, but is instead a chalky and deceitful fruit straight from the devil's garden.

Cheese for Amber

Interesting article on cheese competitions and the relative non-scalability of artisanal cheese manufacture.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Deadweight Loss

Last week I ordered a nice white leather bag and had it shipped to me. Not two days after receiving the bag, I got an email from the company I'd bought it from advertising their new sale; the front page of the site prominently displays a discount code for 25% off. Now the bag was not cheap, so I had one of two options:

1. Return the bag I just bought and reorder the bag using the coupon code (causing the vendor to have to pay for another round of free shipping, processing a return, and processing a new order, as well as imposing return shipping costs on me), OR

2. Call them up, explain how this is stupid, and get them to credit the difference to my account.

Can you guess which option the vendor chose?

Catch me if you—*click*

Proof that HLS doesn't teach you anything?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Blogs you love to hate

Steve always used to ask why I spent so much time reading blogs that made me really angry. "You've got a limited amount of leisure time. Why spend it on that?" I reluctantly agreed and pared down my Bloglines subscriptions.

But who has suffered from this rational choice? You, Constant Reader! This blog runs on bile and schadenfreude, and without daily doses of infuriating nonsense, I lack inspiration to give you the posts that you deserve. So what should I be reading? Give me something mostly literate but infuriatingly stupid. Previous hits in this genre include Pandagon, Althouse, and The Corner.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Banned in Boston Paris

Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls will not be released in France due to that country's laws against the depiction of minors in pornography.

Anyone with French language skills care to compare their law to ours (discussed previously)?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Book Review: The Future of Reputation

Daniel Solove was kind enough to send me a review copy of his new book, The Future of Reputation. That he did this in spite of knowing that I have previously disagreed vehemently with the notions of privacy and internet conduct that he champions makes this especially generous. If the reader does not accept certain first principles (and I do not), Solove’s analysis will not be persuasive nor his recommendations appealing. This book does, however, provide an excellent summary of the internet’s effect on personal information distribution and reputations.

I provide this brief excerpt in the hope that you will be inspired to read both Professor Solove's book and a full review, should it ever see the light of day. (UPDATE: Julian Sanchez hits many of the issues I would have covered in my full review.)

There is a simple rule of thumb for predicting Solove’s positions and proposals. Ask yourself: Would this rule allow Anthony Ciolli and the pseudonymous defendants in the litigation to be nailed to the wall? If the answer is yes, then Solove is for it. Traceable anonymity? Yes. Stricter limits on disclosures of facts about private persons? Yes. Anonymity for plaintiffs? Yes. This is a handy metric, but it doesn’t really do justice to the book.

Solove's fundamental contention is that the law can and should intervene to protect privacy in the face of challenges posed by the internet. The libertarian approach, he says, “does little to protect privacy.” If you are not concerned by this failure (and I am not), the entire project lacks a certain urgency. But, setting this aside for the moment, let’s explore some of what Solove finds threatening about the anarchic aspects of internet speech.

One of the most serious problems with “internet shaming” is that it creates a permanent record of transgression, compiled by vigilantes instead of professionals, and without input or rebuttal from the subject. Although Solove acknowledges that in some cases the web can shore up collapsing social norms, he give far more weight to the idea that the internet may contribute to the decline of certain social norms: namely, norms about privacy.

Very well, what should we do about this? Being a law professor, Solove recommends using tort law. (Solove’s embrace of privacy torts is based in part on the idea that “tort law remedies . . . aren’t authoritarian”—this despite their enforcement at the barrel of a gun.) He further proposes that the law be structured to avoid immediate recourse to the courts. In particular, this entails requiring that parties exhaust informal resolution mechanisms; “if the defendant agrees to remove the harmful information from the website, then this should be the end . . . unless the victim can demonstrate that [this] won’t sufficiently patch up the harm.”

Given the abuses of the DMCA takedown notice process, I would think that instantiating a similar set of procedures for any speech about an individual that could arguable violate his or her privacy would be extremely unappealing. While Solove is extremely concerned about over-enforcement in the context of private parties punishing norm violations, he does not recognize that his own proposal would result in over-enforcement of privacy norms, since the threat of litigation is often enough for webmasters to take down protected speech. Solove’s concern about protecting the identities of plaintiffs would also seem to be in tension with the need for a webmaster to be able to investigate and verify whether a takedown request is valid. Solove also argues for abolition of Section 230’s blanket immunity provision, but this too would result in over-enforcement; given the massive exposure and lower standards for liability imposed by a regime that punishes website operators aware of “problematic material,” the rational response to any given request would probably be to take down the material. And penalties for takedown-notice abusers are only useful if these same operators (who cannot afford even minor legal battles) or the likely-anonymous speakers (most of whom are similarly impoverished) would be willing to take the would-be censor to court, which would occur only rarely.

Perhaps the most troubling part of Solove’s argument is his discussion of how free speech rights conflict with the preservation of online privacy. “Disclosures made for spite,” he says, “or to shame others, or simply to entertain, should not be treated the same as disclosures made to educate or inform.” In fact, Solove takes the Supreme Court’s statements placing political speech at the core of the First Amendment to mean that non-political speech can be restricted with greater ease. This rank-ordering is not Solove’s invention, but although it is comparatively simple to divide speech into commercial and non-commercial, how do we decide what is informative and what is entertaining? What classification would the Drudge Report get? The National Enquirer? The New York Review of Books? How does the test for “entertaining” versus “informative” compare to the test we currently apply to pornography (which looks for social, literary, scientific, artistic value)? Likewise, Solove’s argument for the privacy of non-newsworthy information, such as the identity of subjects in a book or article, involves courts in normative and editorial judgments about the “proper interest” of the public and how to present a story. Courts are not equipped to make these determinations: they are not equipped to bowdlerize, censor, or recut media. And in an era of media fragmentation and non-credentialed citizen journalism, verifiability is even more vital; attempts to reduce the amount of information in stories are now more likely to make it difficult for the true picture to be discerned.

Solove asserts that the fall of privacy subjects us to judgment from many other people, which “can lead to an oppressive amount of social control.” But only pages before he argues that it might be difficult for us to judge others at all if we knew everything about them. In a society with much less privacy than our own, is it likely that oppressive social norms could be upheld once the popularity of deviance became evident? Wouldn’t we be likely to judge people using our new baselines for expected behavior, which would include much of what we currently choose to deny?

The experience of living online will only become more universalized, giving people more of a basis for judging people and information they encounter there. Privacy will recede from the heights it achieved during our brief period of wealth and atomization. Present notions of reputation will no longer apply; as multiple personas become more difficult to maintain. All this will result in a more accurate and humanized representation: we are who we are, warts and all, and the exposure of actions and beliefs that we now keep under wraps will result in changes in social norms. We need not fear the future, and despite Solove’s concerns, the temporary dislocation of the present is no great danger either.

Life, the Universe, and Everything: Surf's Up! Edition

I can't tell if this is inspirational or depressing.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I am not Rob Schneider.

I'm pretty sure that most buyers would not be keeping oregano in here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quiche of Death

Note to quiche-makers: if you use the coarse side of the cheese grater, all the Gruyère sinks to the bottom and bonds with the crust. Ew.

I since made a second quiche, which overflowed the crust a bit. Fortunately, this just left delightful browned eggy bits all over the underside of the crust.

Risk-Averse Liberal Arts Majors, Take Note

Are you thinking of going to law school? Paul Gowder says you should think again.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Take That, Westlaw

Information wants to be free. (via)

Unrelatedly: Rap music, as interpreted through Microsoft Excel. (via)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Not nearly as bad as it could have been. (h/t Karl)

Burger King versus Britney Spears

Which type of individual would you think less highly of:
  • someone whose palate is essentially dead, eats only to fuel his body, and has no interest or appreciation for culinary skill or creativity, OR
  • someone who views music as occasionally pleasant background noise, is basically tone deaf, and can't tell Mozart from Mendelssohn?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Curing Huntington's is just the beginning.

A debate on genetic engineering at ScienceBlogs inspires a science fiction author to meditate on the genre of the "warning story" and other uses of the trope.

I'll get you, my pretty.

Doesn't this remind you of the famous dress Kate Winslet wore to the Oscars? So cute. And these tops are darling. Not sure if I have the neck to pull them off, though.

Just what I need: a giraffe-print coat.

Relatedly: how would you wear a black version of this jacket? I thought it would be very versatile, but the bulkiness and brocade are making it harder to wear than anticipated.

Monday, November 12, 2007


A proponent of "man's reason" visits the Creation Museum.

About as meritorious as that other modest proposal

DC Readers: Defend the right of college women to sleep around! Confront proponents of chastity! Attend this November 13 panel on modesty!

The panelists:
You must register to attend. To do so, send your name and affiliation to


Saturday, November 10, 2007

You gotta fight for your right to key parties

The Duncanville, Texas city council, in response to complaints from neighbors about well-attended meetings of a local, non-commercial swingers' club, have banned the following from residences in the town:
"any premises, person or organization that is presented, advertised, held out or styled as, or which provides notification to the public that it is a swinger's club; an adult encounter group or center; a sexual encounter group or center; party house or home; wife, spouse or partner-swapping club; or that it provides permission, an opportunity or an invitation to engage in or to view sexual activity, stimulation or gratification, whether for consideration or not."
Despite the Supreme Court's openness to consideration of secondary effects, this seems like a clear First Amendment violation.


Indecent Exposure Loophole

The Supreme Court of South Dakota overturned a teenager's conviction for indecent exposure because the defendant didn't exhibit his genitals in public for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification from the act of exposure. He merely sought gratification from sex with a mannequin which happened to be in a public building. South Dakota Real Doll owners, rejoice.

I don't buy the court's interpretation of the statute. Do you?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Aging Ungracefully

Me: Ew, Pauly Shore is old.
Steve: Awww? You think I'm old.
Me: Are you as old as Pauly Shore? (looks it up in Google)
Steve: You're going to think I'm old in ten months.
Me: You're already old.
Steve: You're old.
Me: I am. I'm in my late twenties. That's why I can't break up with you. Who would have me? I'm all used up.

Book Review: The Red and the Black

I'm enjoying this book immensely, but I think I identify too strongly with the protagonist.

I'll repost this when I'm done.

UPDATE: The decision to shoot Mme de Renal was utterly unbelievable and completely ruined the book for me.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Enough about the magazine already.

Woodstock : Boomer hippies : : Sassy Magazine : Women slightly older than me.


On learning to accept contextual mediocrity.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

This post has no title.

GW student commits copycat hate crime by drawing swastikas on her own door.

Trans woman arrested for indecent exposure for dropping trou to prove she's a woman. Meanwhile, 70% of gay and lesbian Americans are willing to throw the transgendered under the bus in order to get federal employment protections.

My mom never bought me toys like this.

Are monks hotter than lawyers?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Spit Take

In the AP coverage of Ron Paul's recent fundraising successes, this passage stood out:
Paul advocates limited government and low taxes like other Republicans, but he stands alone as the only GOP presidential candidate opposed to the Iraq war.
Advocates limited government "like other Republicans"? Which would those be, prithee?

Blade Runner IS Terrible.

This is so, so right. When Blockbuster Video was still running its "Blockbuster Favorites" program (if you rented a "Favorite" and didn't like it, you could get your money back), Blade Runner was the only movie that I and my then-boyfriend hated so much that we were willing to demand a refund.

Diplomats Don't Want to Go to Iraq. Would You?

An insider view of the town-hall meeting held to discuss the drafting of diplomats for Iraq.
FSOs are not a rallying kind of people. As I've detailed elsewhere, they are a careerist kind of people. In a situation such as described by Pastor Niemoeller's famous poem, FSOs are likely to sit down and mentally go through their personal affiliations to try to work out exactly how long they might optimally be able to stay silent before someone comes after them and they need to get the hell out. I mean, let's just establish that from the start, especially as it helps to understand how astonishing the ending of this tale is.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Pasta Sauce With Tomatoes and Mushrooms

I made some pretty decent pasta sauce this weekend. Here's the recipe:

3/4 oz. dried morels
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 splash white wine
2 shallots, diced
2 tbsp butter

Soak the morels in about 1-1 1/2 cups hot water for five minutes. Remove mushrooms and slice them. Strain the soaking liquid and set aside.
Saute the shallots in the butter until soft, then add the mushrooms. After about three minutes, add the wine, then the soaking liquid. Allow this to cook down to about 1/3 its original volume, then add the tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about twenty minutes or until the tomatoes start to break down a little. You can put this in the blender to make a smooth sauce or leave it if you don't mind chunkiness. If you don't want a very strong mushroom flavor, add less of the soaking liquid.

This is magic.

Because everything should taste like bacon.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Streisand Effect: British Royal Family Edition

I never would have posted on this at all if they hadn't made such a fuss.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Love Found

For a while I thought I had imagined this purse, but I am not crazy.

I'm not sure if I want to keep it . . . the color is sort of hard to coordinate.

april hates u, makes lilacs, u no can has.

T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, translated to lolcat.

There's been an attempt at Prufrock as well (thanks, P).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Big Gay Dumbledore

Interesting discussion on the significance of J.K. Rowling's statement on Dumbledore's sexual orientation can be found here and here.
  • Heteronormative assumptions: equivalent to assuming a character's whiteness?
  • When does something become canon? Was the Silmarillion canon before publication? Are Rowling's notes? What of the oft-alluded Potter encyclopedia she claims to be planning?
  • This was not exactly a bolt from the blue.
Unrelatedly, this book subverting the telepathic-animal subgenre is either going to be appalling or terrific.

We Love Stuff

If I allowed my shopping-dominated id to rule this blog, it would look something like this.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hating on Harvard (and those other schools)

Everyone hates the Ivy League—even Ivy Leaguers. Why?

Megan McArdle is right that Ivy League snobbery is rampant in D.C. I have friends who feel undeservedly inferior, despite their many stellar achievements and non-Ivy degrees.

It seems reasonable at this point to recall the research on outcomes for Ivy attenders and Ivy-admitted non-attenders. If you could have gotten into an Ivy but didn't [go], congrats! Your life is just as great as it would have been with an Ivy degree.

(Last sentence edited for clarity).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bitch, J.D.

Should Elizabeth Wurtzel (plagiarist, drug smuggler, and addict par excellence) be admitted to the practice of law?

TSA versus Thai dentists?

I'm pretty sure that this was an outtake in Conspiracy Theory:
If large enough numbers of Americans start flying to South America to look for cheap health care, that’ll reduce the demand for health insurance. The health insurance industry will pull some strings, and air travel will become more difficult for people traveling for medical purposes.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Weekend Bake: Quiche Lorraine

Almost every ingredient in quiche is fat . . . which is why it's so delicious.

8 ounces bacon (about 8 slices) cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 pinch fresh grated nutmeg
4 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
1 9-inch partially baked pie shell (warm), baked until light golden brown

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Fry bacon in skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to paper towel–lined plate. Meanwhile, whisk all remaining ingredients except cheese in medium bowl.

2. Spread cheese and bacon evenly over bottom of warm pie shell and set shell on oven rack. Pour in custard mixture to 1/2-inch below crust rim. Bake until lightly golden brown and a knife blade inserted about one inch from the edge comes out clean, and center feels set but soft like gelatin, 32 to 35 minutes. Transfer quiche to rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Next time, I will omit or reduce the salt and roll the dough between sheets of plastic wrap. It is still very tasty, though.

Free the Montclair Pair

Once we lose our right to eat delicious cheese, what do we have left?

Friday, October 26, 2007


How could anyone think this wasn't cute?

Efficient Breach

Megan McArdle reserved a hotel room at the Comfort Inn in Jamaica, Queens. When she arrived, her hotel room had been given to someone else--probably someone who bribed the desk clerk. Giving away a blogger's room was a mistake. Upon reflection, McArdle notes
it had never occurred to me that when you bribe a hotel clerk for a room, this is what you are bribing them to do to someone. Thankfully, I've never bribed anyone--I lack the chutzpah--but I'd feel pretty awful if I had, and I'll never laugh at it when someone else tells such a story again.
Nearly everyone agrees that the desk clerk (who gave away McArdle's room and then lied about it) was in the wrong. But is it wrong to bribe desk clerks in this way?* If you say it isn't, do you also believe that attempting to seduce someone in a committed relationship is morally neutral? What if both victims were compensated (a room found at another hotel, a setup with someone compatible, money)?

* Presumably there are less problematic bribes; you might want to switch rooms in a hotel that does not assign them at the time of reservation or to upgrade to a better class of room if there is one unreserved. Neither of these would cheat another guest out of something they were entitled to under the benefits of their bargain and thus they seem less unjust.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Links "R" Us

Suing for sex? Service of process is not good foreplay.

This paper arguing for a "cultural theory of Mary Sue fiction as fair use" would be good if the authors actually knew what a Mary Sue is. Haven't they heard of Marty Stus? For every person writing fanfic who is consciously or unconsciously responding to cultural subjugation of women and minorities, there are five hundred unrepentant narcissists and slavering lustbunnies whose only motivation is to gratify themselves in the simplest and most uncomplicated of ways.

If they boot Amber the cutthroat bitch from House I am going to be so ticked. (NO SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS.)

Vote for your favorite student blogger to get $10,000.

I like sexy children's costumes, if only because the women's "one-size" costumes swallow me but the girls' XL fits just fine.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My house

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The horror.

This explains a lot about some of the comments I get.

Due Process Takes It On The Chin Again

Oh, rats.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Villains You Love

Which fictional villains do you sympathize or identify with? Situations in which one or more of the following is true do not count:
I. The supposed villain turns out not to be villainous at all.

II. [You] sympathize with the villain because [you] disagree with the story's ideological message.

III. The villain isn't really responsible for his actions.

IV. The villain turns out to be the lesser of two evils.
Magneto is a popular choice, and Ilya Somin makes a good case for Gordon Gekko. I never understood what people had against Captain Ahab, but I'm an odd duck. I recently rewatched The Piano and found myself sympathizing, against my will, with the cuckold.

Most modern horror movies expect the audience to identify with the homicidal maniac, not with the hapless victims. Witness the evolution of Hannibal Lecter. The author and filmmakers introduced some elements of IV, but only after witnessing the massive positive reaction to the unsoftened Lecter character.

With respect to cinema villains, it's hard to divorce the actor from the role. Would Harry Lime be appealing in the least without Orson Welles's charismatic and jaunty portrayal? Would I so dearly love Richard III with anyone but Ian McKellen as the lead? (I refuse to watch any other version.) I often root for the villain in films but admit that it is nearly always because the villain is played by someone attractive. Casting directors seem to think that British accents convey evil, but sex trumps morality in the fictional realm.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


This weekend I've seen newlyweds, being-weds (congrats!), former colleagues, former classmates, and bloggers galore. I should also have another article published soon. Huzzah.

Incidentally, why is Villette so little read?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Some links

What shape are you?

"Drunk" women can't be raped?

Fantasy baseball fans can thank Judge Morris Arnold for saving their version of America's pastime from the clutches of MLB.

Best shopping search engine ever.

UPDATED: Resolved: The opposite of rape is not consent. The opposite of rape is enthusiasm.
Todd Solondz's Storytelling illustrated this dynamic in an interesting way.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sports Make American Children Stupider

Starting school later allows kids to sleep more. Research indicates that "“[a] loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development." With high school kids, the correlation between additional sleep and higher grades is even more pronounced. But schools continue to start high school classes before eight in the morning. Why? One popular answer seems to be extracurriculars: earlier start times allow more after-school practice hours.

A kid who doesn't sleep properly is functionally equivalent to a kid with lead poisoning. But who cares as long as the football team goes all the way?

Then again, what do I know? I'm just a bitter, unsporty former high schooler who had to get up at 5:30 (5:00 on ROTC days) to catch a 6:15 bus to my first class at 7:30.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Legal != Moral

This is worth quoting:
People have a legal right to mutter "bitch" as I walk past, blog extensively about how fat and unattractive I am, or ignore my ideas on the grounds that Irish Catholics are naturally stupid. Businesses have a legal right to provide sullen and unhelpful salespeople, filthy premises, and cheaply made products that fall apart one day after the warranty expires. All Americans have the legal right to say nasty things to their spouses, watch football instead of talking to their kids, stop bathing, and drop dear old friends in favor of richer, more attractive ones.

I would not dream of making any of these things against the law. But I can still be appalled when people do them. Being a libertarian means recognizing the limits of the formal legal system to regulate human behavior--not recognizing the formal legal system as the only limitation on human behavior.

Monday, October 15, 2007

When Blogcrushes Go Bad

Check this out. I'm glad this never happened to me. Kudos to the recipient for the internet-based public shaming.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What's Montague?

Interesting story on the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn in the NYT Magazine. The gist is that not only is intermarriage forbidden, but so is marriage with a convert, the descendant of a convert, or anyone who cannot produce
proof, going back at least three generations and attested to by an Orthodox rabbi, of the candidates’ kosher bona fides. This disqualifies the vast majority of American Jews, who have no such proof. “We won’t take them — not even if we go back three or four generations — if someone in their line was married by a Reform or Conservative rabbi, because they don’t perform marriages according to Orthodox law,” [the chief rabbi] said.
Boys also appear to follow their fathers into family businesses, to the detriment of continued secular education. Women's status and autonomy seem low.* The article has provoked negative reactions from Muslims and Harry-Potter-loving J-dubs and inspired Ms. Maltz to quip that the article's subjects are "soon to be the most-despised community in America."

Anyway, it reminded me of this issue, as well as U.S. Const. art. III, § 3. It also provoked a heated discussion with Steve on the relative objectionability of the aforementioned practices, however they are actually followed and regardless of which group practices them. Nothing highlights the universality of patriarchy like a rousing comparative religious debate.

* The article has several internal inconsistencies and some claim that the intermarriage barrier is slightly more permeable than the article makes out. I'm sure this will be clarified in days to come.

Lost Love

Although I am not allowed to buy any handbags until 2016, I saw the most striking bag the other day. It was (I think) at a Nordstrom, and (maybe?) a D&G. It was a patent leather hobo in "petroleum," which was a rich teal. I wanted to stare at it longingly online this evening and can't find it anywhere.

UPDATE: Still no sign. If you go to hip nightclubs, though, this might be right up your alley.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

California Love

So if you work for UCLA, can you hang this on your wall (just to thumb your nose at the Russian cultural minister, of course)?

This is very important.

Which way is she spinning? And is she always on the same leg? Which one?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Janna St. James, meet Kenny Wayne Lockwood.

Anyone who meets people online should read this. It involves Harlan Ellison, dead dogs, internet romance, and the weirdest intervention ever. This related blog is worth reading once you are done with the article. (via)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hate Crimes

Another Kerri Dunn at Columbia? We'll see.

Fine Dining

Note to self: If you ask a Kinko's employee for a nice place to get dinner in the area, you will be directed to an establishment which has as its claim to fame "the world's largest selection of draft beers."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I am very excited! About fashion!

Purple! Gray! And more! Blue! Black! Black and white! Boots that remind me of my old blog design!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


In Wes Anderson's movies, white people often start relationships with people of color after a failed relationship with another white person. Apparently this is deeply offensive. After all, said one commenter:
"Why must women of color be a second choice for white men?"
If it Anderson's white men were initially in relationships with women of color but somehow always ended up with white chicks in the end, wouldn't that be offensive also? "Why must women of color be pushed aside for white women?" etc.

There's also criticism of Anderson's use of Kumar Pallana, the actor who plays Pagoda and Mr. Littlejeans. I would think that his limited roles and characterizations are a function of the fact that he is the owner of a coffee shop where Anderson used to hang out, not a trained actor. Plenty of directors put friends and family in their movies. Anderson has the good judgment to not ask more from his friend than Pallana can provide as an actor (take note, David Mamet!). For this he is to be condemned? Pah.

P.S. The pirates in The Life Aquatic are not Filipino because "Anderson is saying, 'The pirates are Filipino! How hilarious is that?'" They are Filipino because right now there are actual Filipino pirates. Swashbuckling white guys a la Blackbeard? Not so much these days.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

College-age guys with guns

I can't help but compare this to the Virginia Tech incident and wonder cynically whether we'll see calls to disarm police.

Doesn't "transhumanism" sound much nicer anyway?

Economics professor Random person on right-wing website supports eugenics; teeth-gnashing ensues. The "executing at childbirth" and abortion angles are red herrings; there was nothing in the original post's argument that required either. The idea of a government-sponsored eugenics program is scary enough even without those aspects, of course. But doesn't this seem desirable? Random mutations aren't going to get us there.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Can't-Miss Movies

I also have a sick weakness for The Fifth Element.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The past is another country

All this discussion of multifamily living reminds me of one of the things that struck me most strongly about reading fiction set in the early part of the twentieth century: the commonness of having boarders (usually single men) renting rooms in family homes. This seemed most typical for older women to use for income in lieu of outside jobs, but there's no reason it would have to be this way.

Renting rooms in what would otherwise be single-family homes is foreign to our modern sensibilities (and probably now violates many zoning ordinances), but how many McMansion owners could have swung their ARM payments by doubling up the kids and renting spare bedrooms to young students or professionals?

Men Are Strong

This is why I like guns.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Obligatory Legal Post

Which of the posters in this thread has the best sexual harassment claim?

Out and Proud

Other than Dr. House, how many openly atheistic characters are there on television?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Wacky Sizing

Some of the comments in this thread alluded to "vanity sizing," which I've posted on before. The EU has established an interesting new clothing standard based on body measurements, but the effective deployment of sizing standards depends upon the measurements actually being accurate.


Sort of. The case is interesting, anyway, if you like school prayer litigation.

Thanks, Karl.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Yes, you are.

Isn't this collection of photos documenting the appearance of given weight/height combinations just a copy of this project? And isn't it obvious that, despite the protests, in most cases the BMI indicator is accurate?

UPDATE: The subject of one of the photos is incensed about this "bullshit blog and its commenters." Here is her response:

My picture on Kate’s blog was identified as an anomaly — in the readers’ opinions, I’m the only one who didn’t meet the BMI category of overweight. I was also described as bangin‘ and hot.

Yeah, I know, it’s so flattering to read comments about my body and how it relates to the BMI scale. I also love how strange people feel inclined to comment upon my appearance and suggest that I dress well for my weight. Another reader suggests that the picture is somehow strategically chosen to represent my body at its best.

The only thing strategic about the picture is the fact that my hair looks somewhat decent. The rest is me - 100%, unedited Laurie Ruettimann. I do look fabulous, of course, but I looked fabulous when I weighed 170 lbs. I didn’t lose weight to lose weight. I lost weight to reclaim my right to own my moods and my depression. (emphasis added)

There is of course a (slim?) distinction the words between "pretty" and "beautiful," which Kate Harding, the creator of the project, used to describe the women pictured, and the terms connoting sexual appeal which commenters used here. Now that it has become apparent that sexualized comments are unwelcome, future offense may be avoided. But it seems a bit much to submit a photo for a project about bodies and how they relate to the BMI scale and then complain that readers are discussing your body and how it relates to the BMI scale.

Like Ms. Ruettimann, I am five feet tall. I envy her bone structure and musculature; if I weighed 130 pounds, I would certainly not look "fabulous," and at 170 pounds I would be even less so.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Bookshelves in the Oval Office

Does anyone really believe that the President reads 87 books per year? I might have read that many in 2005 (I didn't count re-reads for purposes of the challenge), but during that year I was a student, an unemployed wastrel studying for the bar exam, and a government employee in a small city with little in the way of other entertainments. Reading that many books takes time! Presidents should not have time-consuming hobbies. It's not as bad as being obsessed with sports, but still.

How many books do you actually read? Skimming and reading only the good parts doesn't count (sorry, Tyler).


Is "hot" not a compliment? Or is heat power?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Lunch: Risotto With Herbs

I make a lot of risotto lately, especially mushroom; it's something you can make without fresh ingredients that is nonetheless tasty. Today we had fresh basil & parsley and I made this variation:

Basil & Parsley Risotto

1/2 medium onion, minced
3/4 cup Arborio rice (I get mine from Trader Joe's, which has it for a good price)
splash white wine
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (Better Than Bouillon, because I never use a whole carton of broth before it goes bad. If you use this, add no extra salt.)
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook onion in a little olive oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Add rice and stir until rice is oily. Add wine; stir and let bubble away. Then add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and allow it to almost get dry in between additions, stirring every minute or so. Cook 20-30 minutes or until rice is not quite tender. Add herbs, butter, and cheese.

More pix

Whole bunch of photos from the Switzerland trip on Flickr. I still need to tag them, but they go roughly Geneva - Zermatt/Matterhorn - Zurich - Interlaken.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bad Sales Tactics

Steve and I are walking around the farmers' market. I beeline toward the mushroom table, where they are still setting up. We watch as a woman opens a box of commercially packaged mushrooms (the same brand you can buy at the grocery store) and transfers them to little baskets. She then pulls out a five-gallon plastic bag of another variety and starts doing the same with these.

"How much are these chanterelles?" I ask.

"Ten dollars. They're wild."

"Hmm. No thanks."

Also: the store with the hot mod shift dress? Closed itself for a private event just when I came back to show Steve the garment and order my size. Guess who lost a sale and guess who bought a sweater dress instead? I am very particular about giving commissions to the people who helped me find an item when I come back to purchase it later. Your loss, Andrea!

Friday, September 28, 2007


Maybe it's silly that I don't know the answer to these questions, but there it is.

- In last night's episode of The Office, a joke revolved around Andy's problem with nipple chafing from running. I have only ever heard guys complain about this. Why?

- What makes chicken and waffles a good pairing? Do you wrap the waffles around the chicken? Do you mop up syrup with the chicken?

Unconstitutional? Ya think?

Go Judge Lawson.
U.S. District Court Judge David M. Lawson struck down [Michigan's] Minor in Possession (MIP) law because it “authorizes police officers to perform a search of minors without a warrant or legal excuse for not obtaining one” in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. The decision does not apply to drivers of a motor vehicle and allows police officers to administer breath tests without warrants in emergencies.

Michigan is among a handful of states nationwide with an MIP law that makes it illegal for young adults and minors who are pedestrians to refuse a Breathalyzer test even though police do not have a search warrant. Those who refuse to take tests in Michigan are guilty of a civil infraction and must pay a $100 fine. In addition, police in some places — including Michigan State University — tell students that if they refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer upon demand that they could spend up to a dozen hours in jail.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Shopping Thoughts

  1. I always forget to dress up to go to the mall, and then I get the cold shoulder from some of the staff. One of them directed me to the cheap section on the first floor and another tried to warn me off of a pair of "expensive" pants. Bleh. Maybe this is why women buy tacky, loud logo bags. The understated designer bag doesn't scream, "she has money to buy your stuff and spends it stupidly!" I got the pants and am having them tailored because of the problem in (2).
  2. The money spent on the trainer last year was a good investment, considering the number of things I try on and then don't buy because the smallest size is still too big.
  3. The difference between what's available at the store and what's available online is really infuriating. I'd prefer to get my Lucky Rewards discount, apply some random coupons from Google, and avoid sales tax, but neither the hot pointy-toed boots I liked from Nordstrom nor the mod shift dress* I found at Cusp were available online. This sweater, which was a dress on me, is, but I'm hesitant to buy something than you have to wear layers under (and to buy the XS, which they didn't have in-store but which is probably better fitting).
* Like this, but black. It has pockets! And a pink silk lining!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Children, Nudity, and Britney Spears

Commenters on my previous posts about public sex and nudity asked, "what about the children?" Slate made a half-hearted effort to determine the effects of kids seeing their parents naked. Two thoughts:
  1. I have trouble taking seriously any article that unironically uses the words "Oedipal anxiety."
  2. Children whose parents defy cultural norms may become uncomfortable once the dissonance between parental action and those norms becomes apparent? Who knew?

Dorothy No More

I really want to dress up for Halloween this year, but I need 1) a costume and 2) a costume party. The last time I went all-out was 1L year, and that is much too long ago. I thought about going as Margot Tenenbaum, but I might have to bleach my hair to get the right look. Ideas? Keep in mind I am trying not to be lame.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bits and Pieces

Hating on Roth.

The proper response to fashion police.

Someone in Norway likes my paragliding post.

Against the feminization of cupcakes.

Best bowling tournament ever.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Literary Criticism

Hating on Brooklyn Books of Wonder.

Hating on Pynchon.

Hating on Harry Potter 7.

I read The Last Colony over the weekend. Verdict: meh. I won't hate on it, though.

(h/t Bookslut times two)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fear of Flying

According to the pilot, I was more relaxed about my first paragliding experience than most people are. I told her that once you jumped off the hill into the air, it didn't seem like it would do much good to get upset about it.

I highly recommend this particular form of recreation.


Pot Effective in Treating Mad Cow Disease?

I love venison, but eating anything but imported stuff makes me nervous because American deer have freaky mad-cow-like prion diseases. Maybe we should give avid hunters medical marijuana.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

On another note

Interesting post on kissing technique. The video that sparked the conversation (fast-forward to the 2:00 mark) is worth checking out for tips on what not to do. One should not kiss like a snake strikes, but I disagree that one should just be still and let the tongue do the work all the time. For one thing, darting in and pulling away allows for surprising excursions to the ear or neck, nibbling, etc.

I hate D.C.

I lost my card case and am full of impotent rage. The cute silk case with the bunny pattern from Japan? Gone. SmartCard with $20? Gone. Collection of various business cards? Gone. Customer service for SmartCard and Metro? Useless.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Recent Comments Widget

Via Belle, a mechanism for monitoring recent comments on this site. I replaced the Recent Posts section with this. Let me know if anyone is upset by its removal.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Death doesn't make the incessant references to hair-pulling any more tolerable.

I am more than a little appalled at some of the reactions to Robert Jordan's death. He sounds like he was a very nice man, but some of the encomiums to the quality of his writing are a bit rich even by the standards of commentary about the recently deceased. But maybe I'm just bitter about the days of my high school life that I'll never get back that were wasted on books 1-7. The first spirited argument I had at college was with a guy in my honors history seminar on why The Eye of the World was derivative, sexist tripe. People here know that I will read practically anything in the fantasy genre, but even I could not slog my way through all 7,000+ pages of Jordan's opus.

Epic fantasy with entertwining plotlines and a huge cast of characters is great, but I do ask that said characters, even the women, have personalities, and that there be a plot that goes somewhere. If I wanted to read meandering wankage I could pick up Proust (kidding. sort of.).

Is this how lit fic readers generally feel when they hear genre fans talking about their favorite books?

Relatedly: the best, nerdiest post this week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Book Review: Lies of Locke Lamora & Red Seas Under Red Skies

"Has it got any sports in it?"

"Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles."
I've been talking up these books for a while now, but I wanted to write a double review and that had to wait for my completion of the second volume. So:

Here we have two installments of Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards sequence. You really must read The Lies of Locke Lamora first. It contains essential backstory, although even with plentiful use of flashback the reader is still left with tantalizing gaps in the characters' history. Without some grounding in Lynch's world, you will be lost, because the cast is large and the plots entwined.

Imagine if George R.R. Martin had written an entire series based on the criminal underworld of King's Landing. Picture as a protagonist a cross between MacGyver, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Parker. Imagine that every time Baldrick had a cunning plan it actually could work. These are books about scheming, lying, cheating thieves, and their schemes incidentally produce a certain amount of high adventure.

Settings range from convincingly filthy slums to soaring towers that may be the relic of a culture from the deep past or the far future (is this more Star Wars than Book of the New Sun? uncertain.). Characterizations are broad when appropriate but generally reflect a more nuanced psychology. In Locke Lamora we could have a generic Prince of Thieves, but Lynch imbues him with personality, history, and flair. He also avoids the general trap of permitting readers to grow too comfortable. Death, mayhem, unexpected reverses, and hollow victories abound.

The first book could exist as a stand-alone feature; most of the main plot threads are resolved by the novel's end, and we get some significant closure while preserving some uncertainty for the future. Red Seas Under Red Skies, by contrast, ends on something of a cliffhanger, and my emotional attachment to the characters is at war with my admiration for Lynch's nerve with respect to how I hope things shake out.

The only quibbles: sometimes the dialogue is pedestrian, although it's occasionally hilarious (who can argue, through a mouthful of broken teeth, with lines like "one plus one equals don't fuck with me"?) and there is NO MORE of this for a long time, since Red Seas was just released. Also, while one can entertain one's self with casting games* and imagining how some of the more dramatic scenes would play on screen, these books, I fear, are basically unfilmable; too much depends on intricate plots that would require substantial narration to explain or, as is perhaps more likely, a more intelligent audience than the average pack of adolescent boys which makes up the target audience for action-adventure movies.

Highly recommended for fantasy and adventure fans and for others who enjoy a good yarn.

* Locke really requires a young Clive Owen type, and perhaps Vincent Cassel might do as as the villain in Lies and Terrence Stamp would for Red Seas. Or maybe not. Thoughts?