Saturday, June 30, 2007

Random Roundup, now with extra randomness

Should you vote for Fred Thompson because he's "sexy"? No.

On the perceived dangers of women's physicality.

More hazards of having a female body.

Time to make the snow cones!

What not to read: Overrated novels.

What to watch: Movies with this guy.

My government professor gave away his kidney.

Tim Wu is down on the iPhone. People are grumbling that the AT&T network takes a whole minute to load the New York Times webpage. My Blackberry is on what's considered the best network in the D.C. area and it still takes 1.25 minutes to load The Volokh Conspiracy, which is mostly text. If I am going to have poky load times, I'd rather have a shiny iPhone to assuage my anger.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Fiction for the non-fiction reader

What are some novels that you'd recommend to someone who can't get through a novel and thus only reads non-fiction? I thought the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or something by Max Barry might be just the thing, but perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hate Mail for CVS

Dear CVS pharmacy,

If you close at 6pm, perhaps you shouldn't allow customers to select 6pm as a pick-up time for a prescription.



Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Paging Karl

Thoughts while listening to Nuthin' But a G-Thang: what was the last major hit to prominently mention contraception? Salt-N-Pepa's Let's Talk About Sex was also in 1992, and the more explicit verses often did not get airplay.

Who needs the next generation?

Human labor will be replaced by robots. I've been saying it for ages.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Is this the way it's really going down?

Don't want to think about it
Don't want to talk about it
I'm just so sick about it
Can't believe it's ending this way . . . .

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I blame Children of Men

Via a friend with connections to the book biz, a new young adult novel about a society of immortal, childfree humans. Sounds like a dream life, eh? But alas, it's supposed to be a dystopia. My friend sent me this marketing blurb with commentary:
"In Anna's world, every adult must make the chilling choice: live forever and never have children, or abandon your role in society to have a family. Which would you choose? Which would your parents have chosen? THINK ABOUT IT."
Chilling! Yes, Amber, make that hard decision: you can do exactly what you want to do, but you also get to live forever. "You can eat all the chocolate you want, but you can NEVER gain weight. What will you choose?"
The actual plot seems even stupider than the marketing would suggest. Wouldn't any society in which one had to forbear reproduction in exchange for immortality condition acceptance of the immortality-causing process or substances on sterilization? The Man can stop aging, but somehow tubal ligation and vasectomies are beyond his skill? Pah.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Deracination: Complete

Upon learning that I grew up in Texas:
"But I see you and I think—New York!"

Oldest = Smartest?

Eldest siblings have significantly higher IQs. (via)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The devaluation of conversational currency

I don't understand the incessant focus on the necessity of knowing about tawdry celebrities and interchangeable sports stars for conversation. Any mental real estate taken up by these ephemeral and essentially worthless persons will rapidly become dated when they die of overdoses or blow out their knees and are replaced by a new generation of idiots to gossip about. If you need to make small talk with someone (and this is itself questionable; any "social lubricant" function performed by chit-chat can also be achieved by discussing other topics), why not talk to people about themselves? That's everyone's favorite topic, and it has the bonus of allowing you to actually get to know the person instead of just what s/he thinks about Paris Hilton.

Then again, it's established that I just don't get sports.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I'll have this to say, they do protect their own.

Random Yale women bashed; threads stay up, despite nationwide publicity and a lawsuit.

Long-time female poster outed; threads deleted within a matter of hours.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cowboys, pudding, etc.

I can't believe that I never heard of this movie before.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Eyeball Update

For those of you who were concerned about my vision issues, the resolution:

I recently got more powerful glasses and contacts. I also have an eye that tends to be focused inward. Apparently when one's vision is less than completely corrected, your eyes tend to point outward (therefore, my doctor explained, people who have eyes that drift outward are sometimes given overly-strong prescriptions to force their eyes in). My old prescription provided less than complete correction and thus pushed my inward-focusing eye outward. My new prescription pushed it further inward, making everything wonky and horrible. So, theoretically, things should return to normal after I go back to my old prescription .

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Jake Gyllenhaal = not that attractive. But maybe we just haven't seen the most sensual side of him.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Mmm, Max Barry.

The cover of this book is making me so hungry.

(The inside is good, too. Very fluffy, very readable: like Terry Pratchett and Office Space combined.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My double vision gets the best of me*

I have been seeing double for most of this week. At present nobody knows what is wrong with me. All I know is that I wore my new glasses all weekend, switched back to my contacts on Monday, and have had increasingly worse double vision since that time. Apparently I need to find a strabismus specialist or something.

UPDATE: This sort of thing is what I have been seeing. I can see normally if I close my bad eye. (Of course, this is the opposite of what you want to do, as it just weakens the already-weak muscle.) Double vision is not new for me, but in the past I have only seen this when I deliberately unfocus my eyes and I could re-focus them easily. Now I am having a lot of trouble focusing at all.

* Rejected post title: It's not a tumor!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

They can buy anything, but they can't buy backbone.

I don't want to link because that might come off as criticism of a person who very generously provided information about her job at a university to a discussion on college financial aid, but this really rubs me the wrong way:
Universities produce a huge amount of this country's scientific research; they bring top scholars together and give them resources to work on society's intractable problems; and yes, they educate students, both first-generation college students and extremely privileged students who, we hope, will benefit from an education that brings them into close contact with less-privileged peers, emphasizes diverse perspectives, and challenges their comfort zones. (emphasis added)

Underprivileged college students are not zoo animals. They are not objects to be used to teach privileged students about how the other half lives and pop their bubbles of ignorant entitlement. They should be at elite colleges because those experiences will benefit them more than other educational or vocational opportunities, not because they can be examples of diversity who give the rich students additional perspective.

If anything, we should send poor students to elite schools so they can learn how to take advantage of the rich kids. They should figure out what persona they can adopt to ingratiate themselves with the wealthy and then work the connections they make with the rich kids paying full tuition to their benefit. Room with some blueblood and start a business out of the dorm together with his capital! Marry rich! Meet parents who could give you a job! Find out about careers and sectors of the economy that you never dreamed existed! If the perspective of rich students is narrow, circumstances often make those of poor students even narrower. How can you know if you'd want to be a lawyer or a CPA or a banker if you've never even met one?

I hate the idea that scholarship donations should only go to community colleges and public schools instead of more elite private schools as well. One of my best friends was the first in his family to get a college degree. Without the extremely generous financial aid provided by my college, that might not have been possible for him (not all colleges do their students the disservice of making them fund their educations with all or even mostly loans). And I highly doubt that he would ever have heard that you can make wads of cash as a redistricting consultant if it were not for the opportunities afforded by our small private college and its institutes, which offer undergraduates the chance to do research and are funded by and named for the very self-aggrandizing rich donors that some deplore.

Small private colleges that have more of a focus on teaching are probably a better environment for an underprepared product of a middling-to-awful public school than a some huge university where your class is a giant lecture hall with a teaching assistant who never learns your name. No professor at UCLA is going to call you on the phone if you miss a class. A CMC professor would. (It helps that there are only a couple of dozen students per class in small colleges, so your absence is notable and noted.)

Also, "awesome."

It is very pleasant being around someone else who likes to say "dude."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Four Eyes Rides Again

New glasses!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Cheese Racket

I am convinced that cheese stores fail to label your pieces of cheese so you aren't able to write down the specific varieties you like and must return and buy any cheeses that look like your favorite.

Book Reviews: Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone, Books 1-3

Imagine George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, but with the sex, blood, and despair turned down 50%. That's what Gregory Keyes's Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone books are like. If you're jonesing for some ASOIAF but can't wait for A Dance with Dragons, these are your methadone.

Keyes sets up a politically complex, medieval parallel world on the verge of dynastic war that is thrown into total chaos by the sudden reemergence of ancient evils and strange magics. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?) The ruling family of Crotheny happen to be direct descendants of the sorceress who freed the world from magical enslavement, and only the scion of this line can hope to avert a new apocalypse. But forces with mysterious motives murder most of the royal family and it's not clear whether the creatures of legend that have reemerged are friends or foes. Can Princess Anne, many-times-granddaughter of Virginia Dare (yes, that one), save her world? You won't find out until book 4 comes out in January 2008.

The characters are less multidimensional than Martin's, but Princess Anne makes a believable transition from bratty royal to born-queen-in-the-making. Keyes's experience with fencing and linguistics is well-used to make battle scenes with a vaguely Mediterranean itinerant duelist more interesting than your average fantasy novel sword fight and the character of what would otherwise be a generically nerdy monk more complex. He does leave several threads hanging (what we are told about a shadow order of nun-assassins doesn't make much sense, a belle dame avec merci is something of a deus ex machina, and the big reveal in book three is somewhat unbelievable), but the books are rather addictive regardless. Recommended for fantasy enthusiasts.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Saturday, June 09, 2007

This bow-chika-bow brought to you by Trojan?

Great question from Hockey Jones:
[W]hy don't condom manufacturers make their own porn and use these films as advertising (i.e. use the condom in the porn/ad)?
Unrelatedly, my Un Lun Dun review is below.

Green Blood

Migraine medication turns you into a Vulcan. (h/t Karl)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Gender Apartheid

If you haven't already seen this article about an American woman's experience living in Saudi Arabia, it's worth a read. The issues she raises are not new. Matt Yglesias has thoughts as well.

English Majors, Math, and the Billable Hour

Is this more work than a New York City BIGLAW associate has to do? If associates bill 200-300 hours per month and don't die, I have trouble believing that younger and more resilient undergraduates would crumble under the load of three classes.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Shadow Curricula

These all sound like HLS to me.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Reading Material

A list of books recommended by famous authors. Some of them even sound readable. You can guess which one I bought for Steve.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Blog Book Club: Whatever Edition

I know I owe you all a review of Un Lun Dun. Consider this a placeholder.

Bottom line: recommended. A bit dark for younger children, but would be okay for 10 and up.

UPDATE: Here are my thoughts on China Mieville's latest book [SPOILERS AHOY] .

Mieville completists (in which category I include myself) should be aware that this is a children's book. In the light of some recent discussion on children's literature, a few things stand out:
  • The protagonist is female
  • She is a person of color (British Asian)
  • She is not conventionally pretty, wealthy, or high-status
  • "Performance of gender" is not used as a proxy for character traits (or really at all)
  • The government is viewed as corrupt and evil and no retrograde hierarchy is put forth as a replacement
A world is in danger and a savior must come, but when prophesies about the identity of the chosen one fail, a new hope rises. Mieville turns meta and gets in some digs at the cliches typically associated with the hero's journey, in particular the role of the sidekick.

In the grand children's book tradition, the child hero succeeds despite, not because of, the adults around her. Deeba, the heroine no one expected, acts on her own feelings of loyalty to friends and family and solidarity. No stand-in for God intervenes in the story to tell her what to do (I hate Aslan). Figures who do attempt to shoehorn her into a conventional quest narrative are viewed as fallible and untrustworthy. Only by subverting convention and remaining skeptical can she defeat the villains.

There are some scary parts in the book, and Mieville's trademark obsessions with filthy cityscapes and repulsive organic forms do manifest themselves in small ways, but this is far from New Crobuzon. Recommended for readers 10-100.

What goes around

Conventional porn producers undercut by new technology? Wasn't this dynamic part of the plot of Boogie Nights (only then it was film versus video)?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A dissenting opinion on AuH2O

In my (admittedly outsider) opinion, fashion, like food, is typically ingredients-intensive or composition-intensive. A loose, unstructured style may give the texture or quality of fabric a chance to shine, whereas a more complex, structured piece puts the focus on how it comes together and less on what it's made of.

That's why I don't see how people are surprised that stuff like this didn't get the approval of the fashion establishment. Most of it is relatively unstructured, with few crisp seams and lots of raw edges. It's not tailored to fit and support the curves of a female body or to accentuate the angles of a male one. And a lot of it looks less like original pieces and more like "found object" assembly.

It's not composition-intensive in that it doesn't look like a lot went into the design, beyond "hey! let's sew a t-shirt onto a skirt!" And it's not ingredient-intensive in that the fabrics themselves are "salvaged" (read: already partially worn out) and look to be unremarkable materials (t-shirts? what appears to be a synthetic slip/petticoat? ugh). Almost all of the interesting pieces, like the MetroCard dress, are utterly impractical and can't be dialed down from couture to RTW without losing what makes them good.

Sure, it's could be that they would feel shamed by the designer's environmentally conscious ethos, but isn't it also possible that this stuff just isn't that great?

UPDATE: Apparently the MetroCard dress itself isn't an original idea. That picture's from 1994, people.

I'm not too impressed with the designer's smarts, either. She can afford her own shop in the East Village but not a dress form? I don't even sew anymore, but I know that making a dress form on the cheap is not hard.

UPDATE II: The crude, didactic menstrual blood paintings displayed in an online gallery . . . not good either. These are better, if that's the right word.

I'm sure the designer is a nice and well-meaning person, but maybe design school or toiling a couple of years in the trenches would be a good choice after all?

Friday, June 01, 2007

You can guess what my favorite swear word is.

You know, I'd feel less annoyed about people attacking bloggers for swearing if those people's favorite politicians didn't use the same language.

Relatedly: this, which I've linked to before.

It would be better than the current state of affairs.

Me: I would trust Tyler Cowen to be our philosopher-king.
Steve: He would tell us what to eat and where to eat it.
Me: "I have just spent the NEA's yearly budget on the works of obscure Haitian folk artists."
Steve: And Mexican painters.
Me: And he would appoint at least two attractive, economics-oriented women named Megan as Secretaries of something and then advise us to listen to them.