Saturday, May 31, 2008

Indy 4

Is it that hard to have a movie make sense? Who reset the obelisk and refilled the sand after the conquistadors came? If you needed the skull to open the door to the inner chamber, how did the thieves steal the skull in the first place? What sort of "gift" is incinerating someone's head? Etc.

Book Collectors

If I had been one of the friends helping this fellow move, I think I might have told him to schlep his own 100 boxes of external hard drive. Reading them isn't the point? Sir, we can settle this outside.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Hot Stuff

The staff at my favorite Chinese restaurant apparently knows me from previous visits and calls me "Spicy Girl," after my taste in dishes. I take my fame where I can get it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Success in Law Firms

A former BIGLAW associate ponders the mysteries of law firm success. It is uncomfortable to think about how much can turn on a first assignment, first impression, or whether someone clicks with your personality. Lots of lawyers pop up in the comments to add their thoughts.


Are you neurotic? (via asg)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Knitting Puzzler

How does one manage to end up knitting a sock inside-out?

Does Not Follow

Perhaps I expect too much, but these two paragraphs of the NYT article on MEPA just do not make sense:
But it found that social workers and state agencies fear litigation and stiff penalties under the law for even discussing race with adopting couples. As a result, families often do not get the counseling they need. It also found that states have ignored an aspect of the law that requires diligent recruitment of black parents.

The report recommends that the law — the Multiethnic Placement Act, which covers agencies receiving federal dollars and promotes a color-blind approach — be amended to permit agencies to consider race and culture as one of many factors when selecting parents for children from foster care.
Shouldn't the second paragraph read "be amended to permit social workers and state agencies to recommend resources to help raise a black child in a white home and to strengthen recruiting measures for black parents"? What the recommendation is actually asking for is race matching. Race matching is the reason why MEPA was passed: social workers were letting black children stagnate in unstable and unsafe foster homes rather than place them with qualified and eager white couples. Part of the reason that progress has been slow is that even after MEPA was passed, many social workers flouted the law and refused to place black children with white parents.

Even with increased recruitment, there are not enough black adoptiers to take in all the black children in foster care. Identity issues and a loving home, or repeated ricocheting between an abusive or neglectful home and an only marginally-better foster home: those are the choices.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Comedy Gold

I hate to keep flogging this Telfeyan/Harvard Law Review Note thing, but this is just too good to pass up:
A commentator, not unreasonably, asks: "Why should any of the people you photographed have helped the woman [photographed by Telfeyan as she slept in Harvard Square] when you didn't." My answer: (1) I've never suggested any of them had a duty to help this particular woman; and (2) I did help the woman, and others similarly situated, by publishing my Note, and by starting this blog.
And after laughter, tears:
A commentator complains that my essay "has nothing whatsoever to do with law." Obviously it has something to do with law: otherwise I could not have gotten it published in the Harvard Law Review and received coursework credit for it.
I am very curious about the identity of the professor who signed off on this little project and what grade s/he gave.

UPDATE: A Cantabrigian who knows the homeless woman Telfeyan used in his recent preachy post informs him that:
If she wanted, she could have received mental health care and had a warm place to sleep, but she chose not to. ... [S]he has mental health issues and is homeless for a myriad of complex reasons, and ... is going about her daily life just as everyone else is. You may believe that she should be forced to receive help and be given a place to live, but that's a different argument altogether. To [intervene] would be unwanted and condescending to this woman.
UPDATE 2: According to ATL, some sources report that Phil Telfeyan sent emails to HLR editors disclaiming responsibility for blog comments and postings made in his name. However, Telfeyan would neither confirm nor deny responsibility publicly.

As ATL notes, "the blog contains no written content that could not be derived from the piece itself," and with that in mind I find the issue of whether Telfeyan actually authored the blog almost beside the point. If a blog consisting entirely of your ideas is universally condemned as patronizing, callow, unoriginal, and wrong, culpability flows back to you.

Because throwing out the first pitch is one of the sacred presidential duties.

Flag pins? Unnecessary. Being a sports fan? Absolutely required in a president.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Wacko Outed

The author of the Harvard Law Review Note I previously blogged about has been identified as Phil Telfeyan. He has created a blog in support of his Note. He's spent a lot of time so far making excuses for the fact that the statue from which the title of his Note was taken represents the exact opposite of what he argued that it portrayed--as Telfeyan would have seen had he looked at the inscription on the other side of the statue.

Comments on his blog are open.

UPDATE: Welcome, ATL trolls!

UPDATE 2: According to ATL, some sources report that Phil Telfeyan sent emails to HLR editors disclaiming responsibility for blog comments and postings made in his name. However, Telfeyan would neither confirm nor deny responsibility publicly.

As ATL notes, "the blog contains no written content that could not be derived from the piece itself," and with that in mind I find the issue of whether Telfeyan actually authored the blog almost beside the point. If a blog consisting entirely of your ideas is universally condemned as patronizing, callow, unoriginal, and wrong, culpability flows back to you.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Carrying and Berrying

It's too bad that it would be utterly unprofessional to knit myself a Blackberry case. I could make one with little sleeves on either side to hold my building pass and Metro pass. There are some you can buy online with card sleeves but they all have magnets, which don't play well with Metro cards.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tiny People Demand Discount Airfare!

Airlines charging for the first checked bag? Given the draconian and unnecessary 3-1-1 rule, this has dramatically increased the expense and inconvenience of air travel. I'm waiting for them to start charging for total poundage, as in passenger + bags. At least then I might come out ahead.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Out this wacko.

Via ATL, a Note from the Harvard Law Review on lawyers and career choices. If you ever wanted to see someone use half-digested Peter Singer to argue that BIGLAW attorneys are baby killers, check it out. I'm really curious about the identity of the author. Any tipsters?

By the way, how would you like to see my new bag?


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

50 Book Challenge #30 & 31: Before They Are Hanged & Last Argument of Kings

Somehow I forgot to write a review of Book 2 of The First Law trilogy, so it's getting combined with my post for Book 3. I liked Book 2 a bit less than Book 1; road-trip narratives tend to bore me. They may bore Abercrombie too, since he spends literally no time on the return voyage from the ends of the earth and begins Book 3 back in the familiar environs of the Union. In the tradition of most modern dark fantasy, there are few happy endings and blood runs in the streets. By the close of the trilogy, when a puppet king and his despised vizier must attempt to rebuild the capital after a Hiroshima-like disaster behind the back of the power-mad wizard triumphant, we grasp for whatever satisfaction we can get. Abercrombie's project of tweaking genre stereotypes is ultimately successful. Only a relative lack of complex female characters (itself a genre stereotype) mars what is otherwise a GRRM-level effort. Recommended for genre and non-genre readers.

Spencer + Dworkin

Via asg, an interesting article on libertarianism and feminism that I hadn't seen before.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Reading about what you already know (sort of).

Recently I was trying to defend my practice of reading the classics by arguing that there is significant value in actually reading works which are a fundamental part of our culture and which are often referenced, even if we are already roughly aware of what's being referred to. Is this just a rationalization for pretentious reading material or do we need to immerse ourselves in Beowulf to fully grasp what someone means when he throws out an allusion to Grendel's mother? Would one be better off reading some new masterworks that haven't yet percolated through the collective subconscious?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

50 Book Challenge #29: The Arabian Nights

I took this to Egypt, along with Tristam Shandy, in what was intended to be a tales-within-tales double shot of literary love. Unfortunately, lazing on the pool deck of our riverboat in the oppressive heat was not conducive to reading Sterne. I needed something lighter, and this fit the bill.

The introduction, which discusses the previous translations of the tales, is perhaps the most engrossing part of the entire book. The excerpts from the overwrought European translations, some of which were filtered through one in a bizarre game of telephone, are cringeworthy in the extreme. The prose in this version is often flowery but never painful. There are less than 300 actual "nights" of tales, and though many of them took on a nightmarishly repetitive MadLibs-like quality* after a while, they really are the perfect thing to read while floating down the Nile. Recommended, with the caveat that you need to read the second volume to find the famous tales about Aladdin and Sinbad.

* For example: There once was a young man with a face like a [noun] who met a girl with a [noun, body part] like the moon). He saw her and was unable to [verb] for days. Finally he had to see her and disguised himself as a [noun] to get closer to her. When their eyes met they both fainted and had to be revived with [noun, fragrant liquid]. Etc.

Self Defense

This seems like a risky rape-resistance tactic but in this instance it was effective.

50 Book Challenge #28: Heart-Shaped Box

Not the Nirvana song, the book. It's a horror novel, and the author is Stephen King's son, who tried a little to conceal his identity, but without much effect. The book ended up being a bestseller, which is deserved considering how well it fulfills the requirements of the genre.

The premise is simple: guy buys a ghost on Ebay, ghost turns out to be bent on revenge. The scares are effective, and the choice to have a death or two near the beginning of the book lets us know that's Hill is in earnest. The ending could have been silly but is instead fairly disturbing, although (sort of spoiler) the drawing a doorway to another dimension bit seemed a little cliched and I'm pretty sure we've seen that in one of his father's novels. The prose is nothing exceptional, but even that is saying something, considering the painfully bad writing prevalent in many genre works.

Characterization is less consistently good. The protagonist, an aging, broody death-metal guitarist, manages to be a relatively likable despite his commission of several deplorable acts. The flavor-of-the-month groupie who happens to be living with him when this all goes down remains pretty flat. The female character with the most depth is the groupie's predecessor, who is unfortunately dead and therefore MIA for most of the novel. Overall, though, this is a decent piece of popular fiction and well above the average for horror novels. Recommended for people who value plot and chills.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

50 Book Challenge #27: Inside Straight

Much to the dismay of fans of his A Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin also writes other things. His participation in the Wild Cards shared universe has always been an interesting sideline. It looks like that series will be enlivened by new authors and characters, with the first new volume of short stories being Inside Straight (two more collections are to follow).

What can I say? If you're a fan of the older Wild Cards collections, you'll like this one. The overall arc consists of a bunch of Aces participating in a reality show, "American Hero" and then deciding to intervene in a thinly veiled Darfur analogue. What their narrow victory says about our actual abilities to resolve foreign conflicts is an exercise left for the reader. Recommended for those familiar with the series.

Masochist's Delight

Want to spend an afternoon cringing? Why not revisit some of your old college and high school writing? A sampling of titles, for your amusement:

  • Vital Tedium: Homer's Catalog of Ships
  • Faithful Five-Fold: Gawain Deserves the Pentangle
  • Crying for the Moon (on Plato's Symposium)
  • Faces of the Ivory Virgin: Tracing the Pygmalion Narrative in Drama
  • Then there's my thesis "Privatizing the Police: Historical Perspectives and Future Projections for Market Solutions in Policing," submitted just after DHS nationalized airport security.
Unfortunately lost to the ages: my Lit 10 sonnet, also Pygmalion themed and with an unfortunate and unintended allusion to a demeaning sexual practice, and my college admissions essay, which was about, no joke, jelly shoes and conformity.

Actual first lines from a high school poem, which I think was published in our literary magazine:
The shell of your translucent face
lighted from within
the moonglow lanterns of your eyes
reflected on your skin.
Moonglow, people! This is horrifying.

Friday, May 16, 2008

50 Book Challenge #26: The Serpent's Tale

Here's one from my backlog of read books. The Serpent's Tale is a sequel to the unexciting but well-executed Mistress of the Art of Death, which is essential Crusaders'-era England plus C.S.I. The sequel piles on more Gumpification* and makes the protagonist a single mother, which merits only an eye roll from this quarter. I hope the series stops here, although the market for Diana Gabaldon and Sue Grafton means that the author is probably sitting on a gold mine. Not recommended.

* The phenomenon of having the protagonist interact with a inordinate number of prominent personages in a piece of historical fiction.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

This thread is useless without pics.

I'm still working on labeling and tagging my photos from Egypt, but for now you can see them here.

On the "no photos for you!" front, I bought a great new bathing suit.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Herzog lovers will like this.

This is unquestionably one of the most engrossing things I've seen in a long time. Don't be put off by the title; it's a documentary on philosophy and film. Part Nine is a must see (possibly nsfw).


50 Book Challenge #25: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Is there anything more pathetic than a stupid nerd? Even our largely anti-intellectual society grudgingly makes room for the geeky genius. His awkwardness is offset by his keen intelligence. He has role models in the sciences, letters, and film. His academic triumphs balance out those of the jocks on the sports field. But the outcast of outcasts is the stupid nerd. A failure at the very things that are emblematic of his adolescent tribe, the dumb nerd is every man's goat.

Oscar Wao is a painfully drawn example of just such a figure. I generally enjoy any novel with footnotes, especially one that trades on knowledge of geek pursuits, but this was less pleasurable of a read than it might have been. The point of view is at first indistinct, then varied, then disappointing. Relatedly, the style is slangy and informal in a way that some may find grating. The narrator's characterization seemed inconsistent, but perhaps I underestimate the likelihood that an empty-headed youth with no evidence of intelligence or drive could become a college instructor. All this is separate from the oddly-formed central character of Oscar, whose personality is achingly real but whose final actions are melodramatic in the extreme. Recommended with reservations (check it out from a library).

UPDATE: Phoebe had this to say:
Growing up, I remember that the strange or funny-looking kid in class was always commonly assumed to be brilliant, even if no one had any evidence of this, even if the kid got bad grades and never said anything sharp in or out of class. It's hard to accept that beauty and brains are not distributed equally by a fair-minded higher power ... [b]ut parents and teachers want children to respect their classmates, and so they imply that there's always an inside balancing out whatever is not going so great on the outside. This would all be well and good, except that it causes the attractive and intelligent (or moderately well-put-together and intelligent) not to be taken seriously.
I've never been particularly pedantic about the terminology, but one might argue that a stupid nerd is a contradiction in terms. Is Oscar a geek? Maybe a dork?

UPDATE 2: A somewhat baffling and meandering rejection of the entire idea of "stupid nerds." Gratuitous and vague insults toward this blog are also included.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Shopping in Muslim Countries

Will Wilkinson's holiday shopping experience was quite a bit like mine:
I hate [haggling]. I am terrible at it. As a consequence, I bought nothing in Turkey other than tickets to various things, room, food, and a poster of Ataturk. And I overpaid for all of these things, I’m sure, which has left me a bit bitter about the place. Surely this is inefficient overall, no? I understand the price discrimination argument for haggling, especially in a country with a lot of poverty and tourism. But probably hundreds of my dollars stayed in my pocket because I didn’t have good information about the quality of products and I knew the retailer is better at bargaining over the surplus than I am, so… there was no transaction and no surplus.
In Egypt, I bought a dress, a shirt, a couple of papyrus paintings, some perfume, and a necklace. I would have spent about ten times that amount I did had it not been for the incredible hassle posed by purchasing anything. If you walked through a market area (required to exit all historical sites: very clever), you were immediately swarmed by touts. If you glanced at any of a shop's wares, it was worse. Everything is "in the back" or "upstairs." You are pawed at, your hands are shaken, and you're blatantly lied to. All that is aside from the actual haggling process, which almost inevitably starts at a figure at least 200% more than you would pay for a similar object in the States. I figured by the end that I had paid about the same for my purchases as I would have for equivalent items in America (which is of course overpayment in Egypt), but consoled myself with the idea that at least I had only bought from the least aggressive vendors. Hopefully rewarding the more Westernized way of doing business will place a little pressure on the market.

Monday, May 12, 2008

50 Book Challenge #24: No One Belongs Here More Than You

Even someone with a black, withered heart like mine can appreciate Miranda July. The subject matter is a little repetitive, but the prose is light and lovely. Highly recommended for short story lovers, fans of Me and You and Everyone We Know, and people who secretly are less cynical than they appear.

Because assaulting women is so rational.

The education system in Saudi Arabia must really suck:
“One of the most important Arab traditions is honor,” Enad said. “If my sister goes in the street and someone assaults her, she won’t be able to protect herself. The nature of men is that men are more rational. Women are not rational."
You could fit a waist or shoulder holster under an abaya quite easily. I'd be extremely surprised if women were permitted to carry weapons, though, even given permission from their male guardians and the nation's relatively lax gun laws.

UPDATE: From the comments, even more horrible stuff that didn't make it to the article:
At the edge of the city, I sat with the friend and a female Egyptian journalist I was traveling with to talk to six Saudi men, ages 19 to 26. They all worked for the Saudi military. ... “You’re reckless,'’ one of the young men said to me.

He said that it was dangerous to drive into the desert with a group of Saudi men we did not know well. He said we were lucky to have been invited by someone who was honest and trustworthy. Otherwise he said, we might have been attacked.

“The way a Saudi would think is ‘What is this girl doing here alone?’ If you are with a man, you better be his sister or his wife.”

That was Fahd’s explanation. He was 26 years old. ... The Egyptian woman asked how he would treat us if we had not been introduced by our friend.

“What would you do if we were with someone else?'’ she asked.

“I would get rid of him and try something with you,'’ he replied. “Not rape, I would try to do something, to get you to do something.”

“And if I said no?” she asked.

“Then I would rape you.”

That was it. None of the other young men seemed surprised, or sounded an objection. Would he really do it? Probably not. And neither would the other young men there, the ones who quietly nodded. But no one said “just kidding.” What they said was that this was a serious possibility we needed to be aware of. They acknowledged that rape was against their religion, but as a sin, they put it in the same category as a woman working with a man in the desert trying to understand young Saudi men.

‘Ninety percent of Saudis would think it is not right,'’ Fahd said. “An Egyptian girl with an American man, or a girl alone, what is she doing here?”

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Couch potatoing

I'm back, having spent the last 24 hours catching up on sleep and blogs, reading a fantasy novel, and trying to fix my computer's Blue Screen of Death problem.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Egypt Ends

After a whirlwind tour (not a holiday!) I am about to return to the U.S. Many photos to come.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Still in Aswan, preparing to begin our cruise. Got my feet wet in the Nile and am now convinced I will get a horrible disease. Today was pretty cool, though.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Things are going well so far. I've seen many of the standard tourist sights (the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the royal mummies). There are photos of me on a camel. I have one foot that has been entirely devoured by camel fleas, giant mosquitos, or some unknown creature. We are currently at Aswan waiting for our Nile River cruise to begin. I've bought souvenirs that already make me shake my head (what am I going to do with this much perfume or this many papyrus scrolls?) and will no doubt buy more during tonight's scheduled trip to the market. However, my shopping may be impeded by extreme irritation, as we are to be assigned "husbands" to accompany us. Apparently women should not be without male companionship at any time. I am currently alone in the internet cafe across the street from our boat, so if this is the last thing I ever write, track down Farhaad (sp?). If nothing terrible happens, I will be waking up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to fly to Abu Simbel.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Good Cake Recipes?

Patrick asked that I do some more foodblogging, but I'm bored with the stuff I usually make. Does anyone have a good recipe for cake that does not require icing? I will probably turn whatever it is into a bundt cake. Bonus points for cakes that don't require lots of special ingredients.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

How to get divorced by 30.

This is painful, but worth a read. One of my best friends from middle school was divorced by 18, but we start early in Texas.

Sandcastles in the Sand

In Egypt. So far:

1. I have not been permitted to carry my backpack (my only piece of luggage). Male travelers are left to their own devices. I am indifferent to this so far.

2. The hotel did not know that I existed, but a room was nonetheless found after much perusing of my vouchers and receipts.

3. I was shepherded out of the airport before I could hit the ATM. Unfortunately, the ATM at the hotel (a very nice tourist hotel near the Pyramids, filled with what appear to be satisfyingly immodest Europeans) is broken. The stretch of sidewalk-free and fast-moving highway on which the hotel sits has a gift shop (no good with no money) and the shuttered husk of a branch of the National Bank of Egypt. It taunts me, not least because the captain who helped me with my luggage (see 1) was quite nonplussed to not receive a tip. Hopefully this will be addressed soon.

4. It's a little reminiscent of L.A., what with the hazy skies and palm trees. I feel strangely at home. Everything is sand-colored. There is a lot of stuff named after 6 October, too. Steve would probably find this a vindication of his decision not to go to Egypt. I am morbidly curious about the museum and panorama. The exhibits in the Serbian War Museum on their capture of American soldiers (complete with stolen flight suits!) were oddly revealing.

More when I can. I brought my camera cable, so perhaps there will be photos.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The precipitous downhill slide

I actually watch stuff like this a lot, in part because Lily's dash over to the laptop and sniffing of the speakers (how did that other cat get in there?) never fails to amuse me.

Steve's reaction this morning: "You haven't been unemployed for twelve hours and you're already watching cat videos?"

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Thinking about going to law school?

Think twice.

Contact Info Update

If anyone is using my current work address and phone number to contact me, please erase them from your little black books. I am moving to a different firm (still in D.C.) and will provide updated information if you email me.