Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Stupidest Thing I've Read Today

From one of the Douthat's comment threads, this (I know, fish, barrel, etc.):
Transhumanism . . . is an abominable idea no matter how few its adherents or how unlikely the possibility of attaining it. The ultimate thing that's wrong about it is that it seeks to make us absolute masters of our own destiny. It seeks to create a world without pain, suffering, or death. I don't think that human beings can nor should seek to enjoy such a world; there is something to be said for acceptance of one's limitations and for what fate brings us, rather than trying to exert total control over life. Simone Weil said that the ultimate acts of submission to God, lie in the acceptance of hard labor, suffering and death. Modern society, through capitalist economics and 'transhumanist' ethics, seeks to do away with all three.
How about this: Hector Dauphin-Gloire and his ideological compatriots can have a society where pain, suffering, and death feature prominently, and the rest of us can pursue transhumanist ends to avoid these things. The problem is not that people have these bizarre ideas about the necessity of suffering for development of virtue, it's that they seek to make the rest of us "virtuous" by causing us to suffer and die.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Snape and Lily, Non-HP Version

This is Snape's expression almost all the time:

And this is Lily's best glassy-eyed stare, inspired by my hypnotic swaying of a Gryffindor tassel:

Question Time

Open thread for readers to suggest topics for me to blog about.

And a question for all of you: Am I correct to be rationally ignorant of this whole Beauchamp thing?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Single Woman's Apartment

A checklist.

Stupid Post of the Day

A discussion of a news story on children dying after being left in hot cars attributes blame in an innovative way:
[It's the heat of summer, w]hich means the tragic stories of kids left in their cars by forgetful/neglectful parents will start rolling in. . . . [W]hile I do think these people should still be punished, I feel for them a little more.

A few parts of this story seriously pissed me off, though. First, this.
A relatively small number of cases about 7 percent involved drugs or alcohol. In a few instances, the responsible parties had a history of abusing or neglecting children. Still others were single parents unable to find or afford day care.
My emphasis. How sad is that? If I were the employers of those parents, I would consider myself directly responsible for their children’s deaths.
Not just responsible, Constant Reader. Directly responsible.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

This guy really hates Ron Weasley.

I had to go out of town for a funeral, but I am back now.

If you haven't already seen this review/page-by-page breakdown of HP 7, you're missing something. The author's site was apparently suspended as a result of his Archie comics parodies.

(h/t Dylan)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Red Spock, Blue Spock

What is better than one Spock?

Two Spocks!

(h/t Karl)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Make Cheese Not War

I bought some tasty cheese in the Bay Area this weekend and packed it in my purse for our return flight. Apparently this was a bad idea. Cheese lovers, beware. You may be on the watch list.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


What I really need is for Alan Tudyk to tell me what to do.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I just finished HP7 and I am simultaneously thrilled to have been vindicated regarding one plotline and puzzled as to how the movie studio is going to portray said plotline, given the foreshadowing they cut from the Order of the Phoenix film.

Spoilers are okay in the comments to this post.

Friday, July 20, 2007


A brush with sexualized humiliation led Rod Dreher to identify with victims of abuse. This was certainly a formative experience for him, but I couldn't help but think as I read: Of course. Of course they stood aside and allowed you to be assaulted and humiliated. Why were you surprised? Had you never seen these blank faces before? Perhaps when those same boys (or even boys in Dreher's "popular" crowd in his grade) sexually humiliated some younger boy or girl?

My seventh-grade art teacher saw a group of boys grope me almost daily for the better part of a year. She couldn't help but see; I sat directly in front of her desk. Her face was always a controlled blank. Eventually terror recedes into resignation. If this sort of thing had happened to Dreher enough times, he wouldn't have to ask "[w]hat kind of broader culture allows the weak to live terrorized by the strong in this way?" It's our culture. His and mine.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Relationship Between Bloggers and Commenters

Megan makes an astute observation on the relationship between commenters and bloggers. I agree that commenters in some part reflect the persona of the blogger, if only because commenters often read and become invested in a particular website because it resonates with them or they identify with the blogger or the blogger's community. But Lizardbreath's remark that commenters not only reflect the blogger, but manifest more fanatical and concentrated versions of the blogger's views, is even more accurate.

I'd extend Lizardbreath's theory of commenter extremism to co-bloggers. Generally, a blog with a preexisting spin will become more radical as additional co-bloggers join and (especially) when original bloggers are replaced. I have noticed that this is often accompanied by a mysterious obsession with putting images in posts. Cases in point: Pandagon and Feministe. As time goes on and the original bloggers are supplemented or replaced, writing quality declines, the ideological or political content becomes less moderate, and people start using the image tag as a substitute for argument.

I think this has something to do with blogs being almost innately a niche medium. When you begin blogging, you try to appeal to a wide audience. But as the readership develops, the blog often finds its niche in the blogosphere: something is a feminist blog, or a progressive blog, or a techie blog. The most extreme, intentionally provocative posts gain the most links and the largest influxes of commenters, and the blog becomes part of what we used to call a webring based on the alignment of these frequently-linked posts. The new commenters, who were attracted by more radical posts, comment on other posts. The other blogs in the ring may continue to link, feeding more commenters who are already readers of these similarly-aligned sites.

Eventually the culture of the comments becomes aligned with the most extreme views held by the blogger. Radicalized commenters are typically the most enthusiastic participants in such a blog comment community (and the ones most likely to be asked to be co-bloggers due to their sizable contributions). The echo chamber continues to be constructed. Dialects and inside jokes develop, raising the entry costs for new commenters. Without fresh blood, intra-webring incest means that commenters eventually become twisted and horrible reflections of the original blogger.

Now what this says about me and my commenters, I can only speculate.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bloomin' Onion Notwithstanding

Confidential to small-town hotel employee: Outback Steakhouse is not a "four-star restaurant."

Random Roundup

Some things that caught my eye:

Thoughts on the difficulty of making friends as an adult:
In college, you get drunk and make out. In adult life, you get drunk and tell someone you secretly have wanted to be their friend for months.
A theory of why (some) people read novels:
Basically, people read novels either for style; for characterization; for subject matter; or for plot.

"Serious" contemporary novels tend to be confessional, and are all style and characterization. The plots are defective or predictable and the subject matter is always the same (i.e. 'me').

"Serious" modernist novels (like those by Joyce and Pynchon) are all style and subject matter. Nobody reads them for plot, and the characters aren't very interesting.

"Serious" 19th century novels (Austen to James, let's say) are mainly about characterization, and secondarily feature style and plot. The subject matter is always the same, i.e. getting some woman married.

"Popular" novels from every era are often careless about style but ramp up the focus on plot and subject matter, often creating or describing marvellous new worlds in which the heroes have interesting adventures.
and how to make butterbeer.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Do Not Want

Last night Steve and I went to buy fancy accessories for the wedding we're attending in the Bay Area this weekend and made a side trip to play with the iPhones at the Apple Store. Did you know that you can't type emails in the landscape orientation? Even my small, pointy fingers are too big for the portrait-oriented keyboard. Bleh. Call me when iPhone 2.0 comes out.

And yeah, today is my birthday. I am officially in my late twenties. Eek.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Book Review: The Serpent Bride

I originally went to the library to pick up some underrated science fiction novels, but it didn't have any of the books I was looking for and I was forced to scan the New Fiction section for possibilities. I picked up The Serpent Bride because it sounded like it might be trashy fun: something on the order of Jacqueline Carey, but less porny.

When you Google "The Serpent Bride," the first result is a Harry Potter fanfic in which the author misspells Ginny Weasley's name multiple times in the first paragraph. Despite this, and despite my not having read the fic in question, I would probably recommend the story over the novel.

Things in this book that are more awful than Ginny/Draco:

  • Schemes to save the world that require forced marriages and involuntary pregnancies, which of course turn to love.

  • A southern place called Isembaard with a magical ruler.

  • An evil sentient glass pyramid. (Steve's reaction: "You know what would be better? A talking pie! That solves crimes!")

  • Birdmen with names like "WolfStar," "StarDrifter" and "StarWeb," some of whom can work magic by tapping the power of the "Star Dance."

  • The mortal incarnations of Light and Water, who are allegedly attempting to avert Armageddon, making rookie mistakes like trusting birdmen crossbred with innately evil wraiths, not killing the crazy guy they know is obsessed with the evil pyramid, and breaking up the forced marriage they so carefully orchestrated (because hey, mortal incarnations of Water have needs, too).

  • A female character has her position ripped from her, her child murdered, and is brutally gang-raped as a result of the actions of one character. She then falls in love with him.

  • Repeated grandfather-granddaughter incest.

  • People who sleep with each other because "blood calls to blood," not out of any conceivable motivation, because that is what the nonsensical plot requires.
The goofy names and CamelCase alone (StarDrifter? I think that was the name of a My Little Pony) made me want to throw the book across the room, but for some sick reason I kept reading, expecting that surely things would start to make sense soon. At first I was cutting it some slack because I thought it was by a new author, but then I realized she had published six other books in the same world. Six times times before, some editor has read a manuscript with orange-haired, purple-eyed winged sorcerers who screw their relatives and thought: $$$! This is a sign of the coming apocalypse. In fact, that makes The Serpent Bride the seventh sign, so get under your desks, children, because the end is nigh.

As even an animated critic would understand, it's a lot less fun to write a positive review than a negative one. I also read The Lies of Locke Lamora recently and enjoyed it, but I haven't written a post yet because it's more difficult to explain why a book is good than why it's bad. I may do a joint review of it and its soon-to-be-released sequel. In the meantime, read it, or some of the books in the Volokh thread, or even fanfiction by ESL students. But please, do not read this book.

UPDATE: Aspiring authors: Check out this filleting of a recent YA fantasy novel. Take heart that if these books can get published, so can yours.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Pantheists Keep Out?

It seems like most people agree that the protesters who claim that the constitution supports exclusion of Hindu priests from providing legislative invocations are wrong. But the protesters have a respected voice on their side: Judge Wilkinson of the Fourth Circuit.

Updated to state that the protesters claim that exclusion of the Hindu priest is not just permitted but required, and also to remark that most people, in their discussion of this issue, seem to assume that enactment of the protesters' position into law would be unconstitutional. I posted merely to note that according to at least one federal judge, it is not.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Before you even ask: No.

Eugene Volokh posts data on the percentage of gays and lesbians in the general population. Hilarity ensues, with multiple male commenters refusing to believe that only 3.5% of women have had same-sex experiences, since women these days go to college and we all know what happens there. This is coupled with a total lack of realization that at least some of that girl-on-girl is performance for the benefit of men like them, not a representative manifestation of the women's sexuality.

The rampant homophobia in the comments section is, of course, not funny.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Defining Sex Crimes

Ezra Klein is puzzled by the difference between the legal definition of rape and how participants characterize their sexual interactions.

On a semi-related note: at least in Missouri, you can't be forcibly compelled while you're asleep, and the force of penetration is distinct from the force used to compel. For now, anyway.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Curiouser and curiouser

Today at work I got an unusual phone call. Someone identifying himself as _____, from the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police, called me up to ask for money. I usually put phone solicitors off by saying I prefer to donate by mail (who wants to give credit card info to strangers on the phone?), but he said that their procedure was to put you down for a pledge by phone and then send a officer to personally deliver your receipt for the donation.

Since I didn't want a cop to come to my office, I said no.

Nobody else that I talked to at my firm has received this kind of solicitation. And I've never heard of personally dispatching police officers to process donations to the FOP. My mother gave for years and they just sent her a receipt and decals in the mail.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Book Review: The Dream of Scipio

I mostly read for escapist reasons at this point in my life, so I sometimes don't get all the way through more low-key novels. In the summer of 2003, while I was living in New York, I had an Iain Pears-a-thon and checked out The Dream of Scipio, An Instance of the Fingerpost, and a handful of his art history mysteries. The latter fit the escapist-fun criteria to a tee, and Fingerpost is like The Name of the Rose, but in 17th c. England. Scipio, however, lacks a mystery plot and is instead more of an extended meditation on philosophy and ethical decision-making. I only now got around to finishing it.

The book is quiet, but eventually builds a fair amount of suspense; the worlds of each character are cruel, and deadly consequences loom as each character must decide how to act. Each ethical problem in some way involves the treatment of Europe's Jewish population, which I confess to finding a bit hackneyed. Need an easy moral dilemma? How about a Holocaust storyline? Lazy, that.

Of the three figures we follow (Manlius, the author of the Neoplatonic treatise from which the book takes its name; Olivier, a 14th c. Christian poet; and Julien, a French scholar in the early 20th c.), Manlius gets the shortest shrift, which is a pity, considering that the ideas he propagates and acts upon directly produce the events which complicate the lives of the other two characters.

The experience of reading Scipio was in some ways frustrating; Manlius is distant, Olivier somewhat dumb, and Julien almost always passive. The only unambiguously sympathetic characters are peripheral females who motivate the leads but who do not take center stage. These women are fully-fleshed out, which makes their sidelined status more irritating. Could we not have had a similarly symmetrical tripartite narrative with these figures placed centrally? Perhaps. Perhaps not. In its present form, Scipio is a worthwhile read, but not particularly pleasurable. Recommended for people who think Neoplatonism sounds like a good hook for a novel.

Monday, July 09, 2007

What goes around comes back around

I had this boyfriend in high school who loved to sing R&B songs by Boyz II Men and Jodeci. Who knew that sort of stuff would become popular again?

UPDATE: It came from the comments section: Tevin Campbell! And more Tevin Campbell! And some Color Me Badd! And a little All-4-One!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

D.C. Police Don't Care About Attempted Burglary

Yesterday, two men tried to break into my friend's home while she was inside. One man attempted to pry the door open and the other tried to get in the window. She called the police and, because the men were still milling around in a nearby alley, she was able to identify the perpetrators. One of them had just been released that morning; he had been either charged or convicted (not sure on details) for robbery.

The police told her that "D.C. doesn't have an attempted burglary statute" and so they could not arrest the men. They let them go, although now they know who my friend is, where she lives, and that she fingered them to the cops.

Somehow, I am having trouble believing that there was nothing the police could have done.

She lives in the Third District. I hope nobody reading this has the bad fortune to be "protected and served" by the cops there.


UPDATE: Hello, new readers. For what it's worth, the police in question were almost certainly aware that attempted burglary is a crime and chose to make the above untrue statement as rationalization for refusing to arrest the burglars.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I can has dressez?

Happy birthday to me from Steve!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Budgeting Tip

To keep track of your finances with ease, upload a budget spreadsheet to Google Documents and you can edit it from anywhere.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

"What languages were denied to you from fear?"

This doesn't strike me as the best way to discuss linguistic differences.


GN: Energy Spatula is blogging again.

BN: She's blogging about her MS diagnosis.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Things I shouldn't buy

I like dresses. They save you the trouble of matching a top and a bottom, are feminine but can also be comfortable, and are, with a nice cardigan or blazer, office-ready. This site was mentioned on Serafina as a good place to buy dresses in smaller sizes. Check these out!

This plaid or this green print would look great with a black shrug or short jacket.

Very classy.

For the weekend.

This cardigan
is also cute.

Semi-relatedly, I'll be so happy when all of these stupid shirts that look like maternity wear go out of style. Empire waist good, billowing stomach panel bad.

Two great tastes that taste great together.

Adrien Brody as Spock. (via)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


It sucks to be neither a Jackie nor a Marilyn.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Blast from the past

In the spirit of frivolity . . .

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Banning DTC Ads

Doctors want direct-to-consumer drug ads banned. A ban might work if everyone had an established relationship with and made regular visits to a provider who kept up-to-date on the latest developments in pharmaceutical research. We do not live in that world.

If you think that everyone has a certain problem, or that acquiring that problem is inevitable, why would you go to the doctor about it? If you tried a treatment years ago and it failed, how would you know that there are new drugs or formulations that might work for you? Is it realistic to expect patients to talk to their doctors about amorphous clusters of maybe-symptoms, given that they rarely have more than a few minutes with the doctor?