Friday, September 30, 2005

NYT on Judith Miller's unfortunate dog

Grabbed from the front page of the NYT's electronic edition:
Times Reporter Testifies in Leak Case After 85 Days in Jail
After testifying, Judith Miller headed home where, she said, she was eager to have a home-cooked meal and hug her dog.

Current lead paragraph:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 - Judith Miller, the reporter for The New York Times who had been jailed since July 6 for refusing to testify in the C.I.A. leak case, testified for more than three hours today before a federal grand jury investigating the case. Then she headed home to Long Island where, she said, she was eager to have a home-cooked meal and hug her dog.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The storied NY Yankees or frat boys

without the excuse of being drunken adolescents? From the NYTimes, on Chien-Ming Wang, who has gone 8-4 this season and shown remarkable composure and maturity in the process:
He is still subject to rookie hazing; after his start last Sunday, the veterans made him dress in a female cheerleader's outfit.
Wang is 25 years old. The veterans in question are in their 30s and 40s. Surely it's beneath Derek Jeter's dignity to make a man dress up like a cheerleader and parade him around to be laughed at. I hope Bernie Williams and Mariano Rivera managed to be absent if not to express their disapproval.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Honey, get me a rock, a chain, and a tawny eagle

Via Crooks and Liars, the LA Times reports on a liver-transplant team that cut a Saudi national to the front of the line. As a result the program has been suspended and 75 patients are in liver limbo.

See here and here for the title.

Andrew and Armando struggle on

arm in arm as the waters of entropy rise. How can smart people be so dumb?

Incidentally, The Editors make a hash of Sullivan here.

And the RS just tied the Yankees again. More evidence of unintelligent design. And lunch time's almost over.

Here's an actually insightful post about Frist by Mark Schmitt and another by JMM about what Abramoff actually does for the Republicans just to mix things up.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Brad DeLong and a conservative apostate

here, strikingly. Long story short: there are hardly any grownup Republicans left, and as a side effect the Democrats have no political cover to advocate responsible fiscal policies.

Problems at the Red Cross

I didn't give to the RC links one saw in the sphere, but to Mercy Corps, because I like diversity and because of lingering dislike for the RC's historic taint of antisemitism. Here are better reasons - inefficiency, cronyism, and lack of transparency.

Stupid Boston Market marketing

Last night Mrs. R and I were late for an evening concert and stopped at Boston Market for a quick chicken dinner on the way. On the wall was a bit of advertising: "Blah freshness blah everything we serve is fresh blah taste and nutrition. It's too bad people have to eat it so quickly". (Sorry, not entirely verbatim.) We both initially read the last sentence as reproaching customers for wolfing their food. But no doubt it meant, "It's too bad no one gets a chance to appreciate the beauty and wonder of our food since it gets eaten the moment it's made and doesn't sit out under heat lamps wilting". Hire a poet, people.

The concert, incidentally, was by a local orchestra that makes a nice sound and plays in an attractive space. They performed the Beethoven violin concerto with a soloist I hadn't heard of but who has played for big American orchestras. The piece starts with a fairly long instrumental section, during which tension builds (at least if you like LvB, which [in this case at least] I do) before the soloist comes in with a difficult octaves passage. Last night the soloist seemed to be raring to go, in fact playing a few chords along with the orchestra before her entrance, and I thought, wow, this is dramatic. But from the first few bars of the entrance I could tell the soloist was tight, hitting 99.95% of the notes but not doing so in a relaxed, commanding way, and on top of that breathing in microsecond bursts through a closed throat. Oh well. Still a nice evening.

ObRilkePoem: Der Nachbar in German and middling English translation.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Andrew Sullivan doesn't understand conservatism in America

He wonders why the administration wants to pay $16k/person to house Katrina victims in trailer parks instead of using $10k rental vouchers. Digby explains: who's going to make landlords accept poor blacks?

There's more than one blind trust in DC

As it turns out, some trusts are blinder than others. I wonder how many other rich government officials have, like Senator Frist, arranged for a little information sharing.

How not to oppose the Iraq War

I didn't march back in the day because of ANSWER. Maoism is actually worse than Bushism. Turns out they're still at it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Andrew Sullivan takes aim at his other foot


Armando hurts Daily Kos, Andrew Sullivan hurts himself

The other day I considered commenting on this front page post at Daily Kos. Armando, currently the most active front page poster there, has long had a bee in his bonnet about Larry Summers's remarks on gender disparities in math/science hires at Harvard - here's a comment at DK arguing with him, and see the thread for references to older squabbles on the subject. Of course there's plenty of room for arguing the science and sociology of gender differences, but Armando wants to frame the debate in an intellectually dishonest way. I didn't post because beyond actually doing better studies, no one is going to get at the truth of the matter, and because Armando is otherwise a valuable contributor to DK.

I'm posting now because Andrew Sullivan, who's at least equally stupid on the subject of _The Bell Curve_, has noticed the post in question (but not the corrective comments) and gets on his high-horse about "leftist blog credibility".

I doubt stupidity is structurally sound enough to make a mountain of it, otherwise I'd make a comment about piling Pelion on Ossa.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

How to identify Calvin Trillin

Not Calvin Trillin Posted by Picasa

Via Tbogg.

Actual Calvin Trillin Posted by Picasa

More actual Calvin Trillin (from 30 June 2003):

They pushed the CIA to say
That nukes could quickly come our way--
Saddam might, with a finger snap,
Remove Chicago from the map.
They took a lack of proof in stride.
They simply lied.

Intelligence? The Pentagon's
Came straight from dorkish neocons
Employed to find Iraq in back
Of every terrorist attack.
When plain facts failed to serve their side,
They simply lied.

The war's opponents they'd deride
As wimps who'd like to run and hide
From threats we simply can't abide.
The Gulf of Tonkin was their guide:
They simply lied, and lied, and lied.

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

For the morons among us

Josh Marshall on the firing of a woman who unknowingly criticized Karl Rove, who then called her boss, who then showed he thinks we're all stupid.

The buffoonery they had earlier

Tampa Bay Devil Rays DH Jonny Gomes is quoted as saying, "The buffoonery they had earlier, that was something else. But they're the Yankees and they're here now. They mean business. And they're not taking no for an answer."

I like "buffoonery" here. The background is that the Yankees were awful against the cellar-dwelling D-rays until last week's sweep, leaving NY 1.5/0.5 back in the division/wild-card races. Very exciting end of the season. See here for a pre-season prediction. Now one can find million-season simulations for the remaining sixteen or so games, but I'm opting to watch reality unfold.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Is the ground state of matter strange?

Ordinary stuff (i.e., everything you'll ever see unless you stick your head in a particle beam) is made of up and down quarks. But it's known that strange matter - stuff made out of up, down, and strange quarks - is more tightly bound, more stable. This came up the other day at lunch - I guessed that it's a consequence of the Pauli exclusion principle (spin 1/2 particles don't like to be in the same place, and having a third quark gives an extra degree of freedom), and apparently that's right. The link has a stronger statement which I didn't know - that the effect is stronger than the extra mass contributed by the strange quark (which is heavier than normal quarks). People are of course looking for this stuff (even if they don't understand their background noise). I think it's the case that a small stable black hole would take more or less forever to eat the entire earth, so presumably we're safe from any strange nuggets that wander by. Anyway, something to worry about if you feel so inclined.

More here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

More google null results on bloggy phrases

"Let them eat a pony"
"Let them eat ponies"

See here for another, plus "if wishes were readers" in comments.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Elizabeth Bishop, snark, and interplanetary travel

Bishop's mature work opens with "Arrival at Santos" from Questions of Travel. The poem begins:
Here is a coast; here is a harbor;
here, after a meager diet of horizon, is some scenery:
impractically shaped and--who knows?--self-pitying mountains,
sad and harsh beneath their frivolous greenery,

with a little church on top of one. And warehouses,
some of them painted a feeble pink, or blue,
and some tall, uncertain palms. Oh, tourist,
is this how this country is going to answer you

and your immodest demands for a different world,
and a better life, and complete comprehension
of both at last, and immediately,
after eighteen days of suspension?
Note the rhymes, overly simple or feminine (a typical feature of humorous verse in English) - scenery/greenery is even a dactylic rhyme, if that's the seldom-used phrase. Rhymes which are less noticeable because of the relaxed tone, the enjambed syntax, and the longish adjectivey lines. Rereading the poem the other day I thought, "Is she being snarky?" Certainly "wry" is a good word here, but I think there's a degree of involvement by the poet, a quality of imaginative participation in the scene, that is like what you'll find in a good Television Without Pity review of a Buffy episode. But "snark" won't do. Really one should say that "wry" or any other word in the dictionary won't do because "Elizabeth Bishop poem" is exact. This is a confessional poem in the sense that it's imbued with the essence of the poet's personality and cast of mind - you read it and, while not learning any details of the poet's life, you suddenly know her. (I should note that the wonderful ending of the poem recalls the beginning in its use of a dactylic rhyme and comments on the previous sentence.)

Another thing that jumped out at me in the above lines was the "eighteen days". A friend recently drove for fourteen hours. That's about how long a journey takes now - maybe a few days at most to get somewhere exotically inaccessible. I doubt anyone will have a real sense of what the quoted line means again until people travel to Mars.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Worst line I've read lately

In an annoyingly-written but interesting article about Lincoln's depression and the role it played in his greatness, I came across
Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue!
(Eugene O'Neill, The Great God Brown, 1926)

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad without the "!", but as the quote stands I want to ask, "Elmer's? Epoxy? Super?"

The quality of mercy is strained

Jim Henley links to a nightmare, and then to another, and then to another.

It droppeth as the casual spit of heaven upon those placed beneath. It is twice curst. It curseth him that giveth not, and him that must take what is given. 'Tis malignest in the mightiest. The throned monarch no better than his crony. Dread and fear, mercy in money's sway, mercy sans justice.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Morro Bay blogging

Last Labor Day we went to Morro Bay, a little tourist/fishing town near San Luis Obispo. We had a nice time in the area and ate some excellent sea food on the pier. The lyric below was written on the trip with the idea of being set by my brother - aiming at a "Boys of Summer"/"Hotel California" vibe - but since he didn't find a use for it, maybe you can try. Here's what the poem is going on about.

Morro Bay

In Morro Bay
There's one direction no one looks
It goes unmentioned in the tourists' books
A greater shock
Than the giant hemispheric rock
That cannot be
Is what you see
Before you learn to look away
In Morro Bay

In Morro Bay
The shops and houses face one way
They stare out at the blue
And keep just out of view
A sin God cannot pardon
In the garden
Behind the used bookstore's a chapel
Where someone might offer you Eve's apple
Ask you to stay
In Morro Bay

In Morro Bay
Where movie stars once came to play
A round of golf and dine
Just tourists drink the local wine
You don't need an illusionist
If you can make believe that bad things don't exist
There's much less altered flesh here on display
Than in LA

In Morro Bay
You feel ok
Once you have drowned your sorrow
The water tastes like sand
And isn't in demand
Here happiness is something you can borrow
Not keep for any pay
In Morro Bay

In Morro Bay
At end of day
Your heart turns cold
Your rear-view mirror turns to gold
But you'll be back someday
To Morro Bay


Friday, September 09, 2005

The worst person in America

According to Atrios, it may be Gretna, LA police chief Athur Lawson, who gave orders that people in NO not be allowed to evacuate on foot into his territory because, "If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Continuing with worsts: the Bush administration

If it's true that Bush used a bunch of firefighters as props (no doubt to evoke 9/11), taking them away from their task of relieving the exhausted NOFD, eternity being force-fed spam sushi for foie gras is too good for him.

Also, what Kos said.

A shackle loosened

The California assembly has voted to approve gay marriage. The senate voted for it last week. Ok, it'll likely get terminated, but still.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The real president of the US

The guy America voted for in 2000 doing alms in secret.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

On the looting in New Orleans

Anatole France: "La loi, dans un grand souci d'égalité, interdit aux riches comme aux pauvres de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain."

"The law, in its great concern for equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal bread".

(I think "great concern for equality" is more accurate than the usual translation of this sentence, "majestic equality", which is admittedly colder and stronger.)

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Against the stupidity of the Bush administration, the gods themselves contend in vain