eirias: (Default)
The United States... of Awesome

Every year, Sarah Bunting of Tomato Nation holds a fall contest in which she asks readers to donate to one or more projects at Donors Choose. Donors Choose is this awesome charity-giving-clearinghouse where classroom teachers get to propose small-dollar projects and individual donors can page through and donate money to fund anything they think is important, or practical, or just cool. They ask you to contribute money to the Donors Choose overhead as well, though I believe this is optional. Some time after you donate you get a little thank-you packet from the teacher with pictures and letters from the students. It's really cute.

Anyway, this year's fall contest is on. Vote with your wallet!
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Pursuant to a conversation elsewhere, a poll!

NOTE! For the purpose of this poll, "foreigner" refers to someone who is foreign in several ways:

1. he has no familial claim to the culture (no relation by blood or marriage);
2. he does not and has not lived in the culture;
3. he has no deep knowledge or understanding of the culture, and/or does not speak the language.

Use the comments to clarify anything you like.

(Note: I submitted blank answers but that's only so I can easily see poll results without changing them; one should not infer from that that I think all the options are inappropriate.)

[Poll #1267976]
eirias: (Default)
Strangest wiring I have encountered: My bedroom in my (very new) apartment has one light switch that triggers two outlet panels, each of them on a wall fairly distant from the switch. What's weirder is that it only triggers the top outlet from each of these outlet panels. The bottom outlet from each is not linked to the switch.

Anyone ever encounter this before?

From comments I see this is actually common in places that are younger than I am, in which, you may infer, I have never actually lived before now. It is totally logical -- it's just not what I'd been used to doing, which was "figure out which outlet is the switched outlet; use that one for big lamps; do not use that one for anything else." Consequently, when I found one that did "the lamp thing," I assumed the other outlet set would be happy if I plugged the laptop into one slot and the hard drive into the other. And then I would turn the light switch off, hear the downwhirring of the HD, and get very confused.
eirias: (Default)
Happy anniversary, Andrew. :)

Prize quote:
Ours was not, we realized, a different institution, after all, and we were not different kinds of people. In the doing of it, it was the same as my sister’s wedding and we were the same as my sister and brother-in-law. The strange, bewildering emotions of the moment, the cake and reception, the distracted children and weeping mothers, the morning’s butterflies and the night’s drunkenness: this was not a gay marriage; it was a marriage.
eirias: (Default)
I have read some very good books this summer, and as if to prove to myself that other sorts of books exist, I just finished an awful one: Eleanor Rigby, by Douglas Coupland. It had every kind of misguided drama in the book, and then some: Teen pregnancy! Mysterious visions! A dead transvestite! Life-altering illnesses! The import of heavenly events! Love at first sight, with an international man of mystery! I sort of expected better from Douglas Coupland; his brand of whimsy worked well in Microserfs (geeks can actually be pretty whimsical people), but when trying to write a fat, lonely middle-aged accountant, he just got stuck in a wall of stereotypes with which the whimsy clashed horribly. Don't read it!
eirias: (Default)
Hey Madison friends -- anybody got running shoes to loan me in either a size 9.5/10 womens or a size 8.5 mens?? I put my running shoes on the truck and realize now that I don't have any for frisbee tonight. Will travel to borrow...
eirias: (Default)
After a heated discussion last night about tipping points and the choice/need of women to work for pay, I decided to look at data on inflation. One person had asked whether there was an uptick in inflation during the years that women began to enter the workforce en masse (I'm talking middle-class women here; I know that poor women in cities have never actually had much choice).

Anyway. That's just backstory; the point is, I found a site that lets you graph a bunch of different US economic indices back to the earliest days of the republic. I figured the consumer price index would show me what I wanted to see, so I generated this graph (1800-2007).

The graph shows a few things I expected -- war related upticks, relatively higher growth in the fifties and sixties compared to what preceded it; and then it also shows this inflection point circa 1970, where you start seeing massive inflation that is never reversed. (You can see it in charts of yearly inflation, too; before 1970 there were years with positive and negative inflation; afterward, it's always been positive.) Yes, yes, the stagflation of the seventies is legendary, but why has the CPI continued to increase substantially every single year since then, when it didn't before? Did the rules of the economy change in some fundamental way? What's going on and what am I missing?
eirias: (Default)
So I'm listening to this Belle & Sebastian song about vampires, and I'm thinking about vampire mythology, about drinking their blood and rising in three days to life eternal, and I'm wondering, how did the evolution of the mythologies surrounding vampirism and Christianity dovetail?
eirias: (Default)
There is a pigeon horntail crawling around our kitchen window in confusion. It's outside, but somehow got to the inside of the screen (our windows are effed up; don't ask). It's a pretty scary looking bug, but as with the last scary bug to grace our yard, the long poky bit is an ovipositor; these guys don't sting.

Even knowing that, I find myself a little creeped by the idea of letting it crawl on my hand, like the guy in the photo. If it were some color combination other than "dark with yellow stripes," however, I don't think I would feel as strongly about it. Is this evidence for biologically-prepared fear triggers, or just a learned response to that color scheme? Either way I think it's kind of neat -- this gut reaction that I can examine, but not easily change.
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One of my favorite series of Language Log posts has to do with bad machine translations from Chinese to English. Click the links below to see how certain Chinese meanings were mistranslated:

Loose dried fruit
Dry seasonings section
Canada Dry
Dry foods price counter

The folks at LL explain the origin of the problem, and its pervasiveness.

Today there was a new post containing a gold mine of like mistranslations, but also a more novel one. Also, [livejournal.com profile] ukelele pointed me to this amusing image, presumably the fault of someone who translated the wrong text in the first place.

FISA, again

Jul. 9th, 2008 08:09 am
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Important political message of the day, via [livejournal.com profile] cos:

"If the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."
When Richard Nixon said that, it was an impeached ex-president who resigned in disgrace speaking.

But now, Congress is intending to pass a bill that effectively declares Nixon's statement true (while pretending disingenuously to do otherwise).

Nixon said it to justify his spying & wiretapping without warrants. FISA was the law Congress passed in response to the Nixon / Watergate scandal. It established a secret court that could issue warrants for for surveillance related to "foreign intelligence" in the USA, and made clear that any domestic surveillance without a warrant was illegal - something that should've been obvious to begin with. It made it illegal not only for the government to do it, but also explicitly made it illegal for phone companies to cooperate with illegal surveillance requests from the government.

The Bush administration broke the law. Major telecom companies in the US cooperated with this illegal surveillance. AT&T built a special secret room to collect all the data passing through their data centers and siphon it to the National Security Agency. Because the White House asked them to.

When the president asks companies to do something and the law says it is illegal for them to do so, and they do it anyway...

... it's time for Congress to pass a law declaring that the companies who colluded in the illegal spying conspiracy should be excused, that the cases against them in court should be cancelled. Even after some cases have gone far enough that we know the courts have ruled that this stuff was in fact illegal.

If this law passes, it is a declaration from Congress that if you break the law at the request of the president, you have legal immunity; you will be excused. In other words, "If the President asks you to do it, that means that it is not illegal."

"FISA" sounds like some obscure thing you don't need to care about, but this bill is a precedent set by Congress favoring a government by king, instead of rule of law. It also attacks the concept of checks and balances by allowing surveillance without court warrants, but that's a minor problem in comparison. If we don't have rule of law, checks and balances can't hold anyway.

It CAN be stopped. This winter, a similar law passed the Senate and was considered nearly sure to pass the House, but the House declined to pass it because of the volume of phone calls they received against it. Now, we have a supposed "compromise" that still gives everything away, and the House passed it. The Senate plans to vote today (though they may delay it). It has enough votes to pass. Can we generate enough phone calls to block it? Call your Senators (numbers are here).

* Barack Obama is in a good position to help block it. He opposes telecom amnesty but recently said he'd vote for this bill even if they don't remove the amnesty portion. Join the "Get FISA Right" group on his web site, and/or the Facebook group, and call his campaign office: 866-675-2008.

* Get someone else you know to call both of their Senators. Repost this information this morning.
eirias: (Default)
Candidate for strangest contextually-appropriate utterance ever:
"If you don't hear from me in a few days, I've either been eaten by a bear walking the poodles on the mountain or killed in a freak art accident on my way to the bathroom."
eirias: (Default)
From The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America:
"Observers should beware of using jizz as a substitute for careful study and thought."

Well, there's a sentiment for the ages.
eirias: (brain liposuction)
Fascinating op-ed about bananas. I am dying to know what the Gros Michel variety tasted like. Stupid extinction.

I believe in buying locally-produced stuff when it's reasonable (read: available and not grossly more expensive). But I can't say no to bananas, even at a stupid price. Especially when I hear that they may be gone in a decade or two.
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So my plan while in Boston has generally been "be a tourist while normal people work, then hang out with folks in the evening." This worked well yesterday (the Arboretum is very pretty; and then I learned to play mah jongg!) and I figured it would work pretty well today, too, since usually when I come to Boston I am not primarily doing touristy things, so clearly there should be plenty of things to see. But, er, looking at the "things to do in Boston" page, it turns out I have seen rather more of them than I realized! At various points in the last ten years, I have visited the ISG art museum, the science museum, the public garden and Boston Common, the markets at Faneuil Hall, and the shops on Newbury Street. It'd be nice to walk the Freedom Trail, but it looks sort of wet today. What else should I see? (If anyone wants to come along, bonus!)
eirias: (clover)
People who know me in real life, which I presume is most of you reading this, have probably asked me why I'm not on Facebook, and have probably heard my stock answer about how the real-name thing creeps me out and I'm not sure I want random people from my past being able to find me. About six weeks ago, I decided to try an experiment: I'd sign up, but not tell anybody, and see how quickly I was found. This is what I learned:

  1. My best friend from elementary school found me within four hours;
  2. Then one person from Case found me, a few weeks later;
  3. Then came a couple people from high school;
  4. Then a cousin, which led to a bunch more cousins.

Notably, all of these were people in one of two categories: I keep in touch, but irregularly; or I haven't talked to them in years. Not one person from my Madison life, for instance, found me. Also no DaPper types.

So my conclusion is that the only people people search for are the ones for whom they wonder, once in a very long while, gee, whatever happened to X?

Anyway, this is my way of saying, hello, I have joined the cult. If you know my real name, which, again, should be most of you, you can find me if you wish. I still do not really know what to make of the service*, but someone I met on this roadtrip, who is nifty and worth keeping track of, started a game of Scrabble with me; and there have been rather a lot of nifty people worth keeping track of on this trip; so it can't be all bad.

* Evidence accumulates that I am an Old Fart.
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I have a new best friend! [livejournal.com profile] ukelele introduced us. We share the same values, and she just knows so much! Plus she's really into maps... I dig those people.

Meet my new best friend. Maybe you'll love her too.
eirias: (gay)
Andrew Sullivan on why marriage matters to him.

Saturday marked the fourth wedding anniversary for a number of gay couples out in Massachusetts. If any of them should find this: I hope your love has only grown stronger over the last four years.

And of course -- now California! I have been smiling all weekend, and it hasn't just been the graduation festivities.
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Catching the NYT Most Emailed list out of the corner of my eye, I blended #5 and #6 to wind up with "Trees Block Solar Panels, and a Feud Ends in Orgy."

OTOH now that I actually read the real #6 title I'm not sure it's less bizarre. It even brings in the Nazis.
eirias: (gay)
Overheard in my coffee shop:
Woman 1: "Napa Valley is the widest place I've ever been... it's also the whitest place I've ever been, and wealthy -- really wealthy. No normal people, you know, like us."
Woman 2: "No Hispanics?"
Woman 1: "Well, yeah, there were Hispanics, but they were all in the fields... and you know I always think of Hispanics as white."

Later, on further thought, Woman 1 noted "and you know now that I say that, I look around in here and everyone here is white, too." Well, you know, try Wisconsin some time and see how that compares.

In other news: Obama speaks on race
It's beautiful, not perfect, but beautiful; and it reminds me why I fell in love with his mind when I read his memoir. Of course, the converted aren't the people he's preaching to. I hope it does what he needs it to do.
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We saw the Magnetic Fields in Chicago last night. The experience was just about perfect (and you just see how long it is till I say that about another show that starts at 10:30). They played at the Old Town School of Folk Music, which is my favorite place in the world to see music: a small, intimate theater with beautiful sound, where one of the school's students gets on stage before each show to introduce the act. The audience was so hushed you could hear a few people quietly chuckling at some of the lyrics. (If you're not familiar with the Magnetic Fields -- well, first of all, you should change that -- but second, chuckling is totally the right response. Stephin Merritt, the leader and lyricist, has been aptly described as the heir to Cole Porter.) They did surprisingly few songs from my favorite of their albums, 69 Love Songs, but basically every song was beautifully done. Merritt sings in this otherworldly bass that's captivating enough when you hear it on a record, but to see him live is surreal, because it's hard to believe the voice comes from that man -- this small, unassuming fellow in a baseball cap. The female vocalists were incredible, too.

Some good Magnetic Fields, for those who haven't heard them before -- pardon any crappy visuals:
Papa Was a Rodeo -- nicely shows off Merritt's voice
California Girls -- features Shirley Simms singing -- I love her voice too.
All My Little Words -- from 69 Love Songs, this is the best YouTube example I could find of their lyrical style.
Reno Dakota -- this is Claudia Gonson singing; I totally have a crush on her now. Please ignore the hideous fan video.

At concerts I make it a habit to check out the audience beforehand, to see whether I fit in or not. I'd say the audience here was a little hard to classify; everyone looked modestly hip but pretty ordinary, really. Very few people had personal styles that looked like an affectation. The same went for the band, too.
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You know, when Graham and I went to vote this morning, I thought, huh, it's a little brisk today. Just checked the weather: turns out it's -3. Yes, in Fahrenheit. With a windchill of -15.

I voted for Obama. People keep asking me my reasons and they're hard to verbalize. Here are a few.

  • Of the two remaining Democrats, I think he's got the best chance of respecting the rule of law and executive restraint. My reasons for this belief:
    • One of his key victories in the Illinois Senate was passing a bill requiring videotaping of police interrogations. This is important because it strongly limits police ability to coerce confessions out of people (which I hear is a distressingly common practice otherwise). This is a hard type of legislation to pass, but not only did he get it passed, he got it passed unanimously.
    • Many of the lawyers for the Guantanamo detainees support Obama.
    • On the flip side, I don't think Clinton can afford to do anything that puts White House power under further scrutiny, because she's beholden to protecting her husband.
    • I also think Clinton's campaign strategies are suggestive of a desire for power that is not particularly restrained by respect for rules. I say this because of the controversy she's courting regarding the party-invalidated primaries in Michigan and Florida. I want to emphasize: the desire for power is not a problem for me, but her apparent willingness to fight dirty to get it is, because I think it's indicative of what she'll do with the expanded powers now available to the White House: keep them, because it's more convenient.
  • Obama is a good communicator. I've addressed this before, but I think that's a major part of leadership at this level.
  • He's really smart. Okay, this does not particularly distinguish him from Clinton ;). But gosh it's nice to have the chance to vote for someone I respect intellectually. In particular I respect him because when he tells a story about his own thought process, he's willing to show off the messy bits where he changed his mind: see his memoir for a good example (written in 1995, so no, it's not a political hack job -- and dear God I just noticed that first printings of this book are collectors items going for hundreds of dollars on Amazon). This trait is a differentiator between the two leading Democrats: as far as I can tell, when Clinton changes her mind she sort of pretends she hasn't really ("we have always been at war with Eurasia"). This is still better than Bush's refusal to change his mind at all, but it's not intellectually honest and I don't like it as much.
  • Above all, his message actually strikes me as really practical. This will probably surprise those of you who are turned off by his words about hope. I think the point of his rhetoric is to try to melt the cynicism out of people, liberals in particular, because cynicism is not useful. Oh sure, it's a good painkiller when you're trying to stanch a wound to the Constitution, but it won't actually repair a damn thing. For repair, you need a message that's a little more motivating than "Bush is an asshole and this country blows goats!" Obama gets that, and while I don't think he's the only one at this point, I think he's done the best job crafting a good replacement. The best idealists are also practical people, and my gut tells me he's one of them.
eirias: (Default)
People who think Obama is all style and no substance should read this, and look at this comparison of the legislation-proposal records of the three leading candidates over the most recent two US Senate terms (the ones during which all three major candidates can be compared). The argument I'd make is not that he's more substantial than Clinton or McCain, but that they probably don't differ significantly in that regard.

Where does the perception of Clinton's greater substance come from? I have two suspicions.

1. Many people have an unstated and unrecognized assumption that oratory and managerial skills are in a trading relation to one another, where in order to have high marks on one, you must have low marks on the other -- as if rhetoric and competence were a zero-sum game. (Maybe this is related to the strongly negative connotation the word "rhetoric" has in America?) But in fact, good communication skills are part of competence for a major leadership role like the Presidency. Perhaps you can be a decent president despite being a poor communicator -- recent history shows that such a person can at the very least get reelected -- but other things being equal, better communication skills will make you a better president.

2. Ah, you say, but other things are not equal in this case, because Clinton has more experience. I've been puzzling over the "Clinton is more experienced" meme (which I believed myself until I gave it some thought) -- it is not true, or at least not decisively true given Obama's eleven years of legislative experience to her seven, and in point of fact the two of them are two of the *least* experienced politiciansa who ran for the Democratic slot this year, which tells us something about what political experience will buy you! I think I've found the answer: the recognition heuristic. Clinton seems more experienced, because her name has been in the national news for sixteen years to Obama's four (and I'm betting most people didn't notice his name until much more recently). But her eight years of being, bluntly, a President's wife either should not count, if she was not substantially involved in the President's duties (since when does being married to a CEO count as a relevant qualification for becoming one?), or should count against her, if she was (see my earlier post about dynasties).

(a) Major political experience of failed Democratic contenders, according to Wikipedia:
    Joe Biden: 36 years (US Senate: 36)
    Chris Dodd: 34 years (US House: 6, US Senate: 28)
    John Edwards: 10 years (US Senate: 10)
    Mike Gravel: 16 years (AK House: 4, US House: 12)
    Dennis Kucinich: 15 years (CLE mayor: 3, US House: 12)
    Bill Richardson: 24 years (US House: 14, UN ambassador: 1, US Sec'y of Energy: 3, NM governor: 6)
eirias: (Default)
Your favorite candidate sucks.

"What on earth could possibly the danger in placing all of our eggs of hopes and dreams for a better life for ourselves and our kids in the basket of a single American Politician? Whenever has one of those people failed us? My favorite candidate, clearly, may be safely trusted to carry that basket into a Better Tomorrow. Your favorite candidate, who sucks, will likely drop the basket, break the eggs, and then fuck the shells."


Feb. 12th, 2008 09:19 am
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From a schmaltzy fan video to a totally hilarious attack ad. I gotta say, I kinda love what YouTube is doing for politics.

On the use of "like".

ETA (11:34): Another good political link: Chris Dodd's stirring FISA rant. Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] trygve, for passing it on. Also, a related rant from Glenn Greenwald.
eirias: (Default)
For the puerile among us: Fox news states the obvious

Courtesy of Language Log.
eirias: (Default)
The FISA bill is being debated in Congress again today. My first political crush, Russ Feingold, has proposed a bunch of amendments to this bill that really ought to be passed.

Please call your Senators today about this. It seriously takes thirty seconds per call, and it very well might make a difference (more than not calling will, at least). You can say something like "I'm calling to register my support for the Feingold amendments, and my opposition to telecom immunity." For the phone-phobic: they are taking calls like this all day, they have the drill down, and there is literally zero awkwardness. They probably won't even ask for your information unless you volunteer it. Please, call.

More information behind the cut.
[Reposted from [livejournal.com profile] cos]
Read more... )
eirias: (Default)
I have been asking people recently who they're supporting for president and why. It's been fodder for some good conversations. Most of the rationales have been fine ones, even if they're not mine, and have given me stuff to think about. When discussing the two Democratic front-runners, the issue of experience always comes up, which is sensible. (The contrarian in me likes to note that Obama actually has more legislative experience than Clinton, though it's true that state and federal experience are not equivalent training for the presidency -- to the extent that legislation can ever train one for executive responsibility...) But there's a subspecies of this argument that I've found I really detest: the argument from prior White House experience. From my perspective, this is actually a major liability for Clinton.

I fear dynasties; I dislike the human tendency to let power bleed freely along family lines. And Clinton's previous position in the White House featured this sort of power: she did not have an official role in the Cabinet, and yet she was a profoundly powerful First Lady. From that, I think we can infer that a similar unofficial Cabinet role would be afforded to her husband. (He certainly has not had a hands-off approach to the campaign, a choice for which I kind of despise him, despite being generally well-disposed toward his prior service as president.) In my opinion, this active role is not one that befits a former president, not in the least. It reeks of double-dipping. I like term limits; I like firm expiration dates for the political power that one president can amass.

If H. Clinton had served as Vice President, or some other Cabinet official in the line of succession, perhaps it would be different. If she had never been the wife of the President, but had instead only been the wife of the Governor, it would be different. It would even be different if she divorced her husband now (bonus points to an ugly divorce that gives me confidence the backscratching is really over). In all of these cases, I would be encouraged by her prior executive exposure, while being much less worried about inappropriate, tit-for-tat redistribution of power to someone who's already had his chance. But as it stands, I do not feel good about the exposure she's had. This is not to say I absolutely won't vote for her: I think she's a capable leader and a good debater and if she's the Democratic nominee, I'll think about it. But if I do vote for her, it will be in spite of her White House years, not because of them.

(I know, I know, my principles suck for her: they rule her unqualified for office based on stuff her husband's done. Not Fair! But she's the one who chose to use marriage as a tool to pursue power, not by marrying into it, per se, but by selecting a partner who seemed competent enough to acquire it, and then helping him get there first. Maybe talented women in our generation will be able to find their way to political power without this crippling step of first enabling others.)
eirias: (bread)
So, I don't usually like the taste of super-whole-wheat breads, but G loves them and I know they're better for you by some measures; so I figured I'd give sourdough whole wheat a try. The only white flour was in the 1.5 cups of starter: everything else was wheat. Didn't change the recipe much, just added a touch of extra water, and used honey instead of white sugar.

I just made myself some toast with that loaf, and -- MY GOD, that is the best damn bread I've made yet. It's really wheaty at first, but then the sour notes kick in and, BAM! I am totally hooked. The shaping worked out well too: I finally just broke down and read what BH&G cookbook says about shaping a loaf, and suddenly all my problems with Explody Loaf went away.

Next, I think I'll add some stuff to the bread: flaxseed, or maybe husked sunflower seeds. I have a real weakness for seeds in bread.

The English muffins, OTOH, were a very mixed success -- I think I need to follow the directions much more closely next time, because I wound up with stuff that was far too wet to cut, so I increased the flour and as a result the muffins are pretty dense and wheaty. Not bad with cream cheese, but a bit stark if you just use butter.

In other making-stuff news, this morning we got to spend a few hours knitting at [personal profile] dancingwaves ' pad, which was totally awesome. I am nowhere near as good at knitting as I am at making bread, but you can frog bad knitting, and you can't frog bread. :)
eirias: (Default)
Different types of doughs really are different to work with.

1. Whole wheat? Feels totally different from white. That one is going through first-rise in the oven; we'll see how it works out. Exciting!

2. Rye? Feels totally different from bread. As in, actually feels more like Play-Doh. It isn't springy at all. Apparently, Graham tells me, one is not supposed to make dough out of 100% rye. Oops.

3. English muffins? I'll tell you when I'm no longer tired and demoralized, and have the oomph to start on those ;P
eirias: (Default)
My host, Andy, has a cat. This cat has a thing about water. If you spill some on the floor, he will stare at it very, very intently for a while, and then bat at it, or maybe, if you are lucky, he will pounce on it. What on earth could be going through his little cat brain?
eirias: (Default)
I get to come to Boston this weekend! Whee!

Anyone up for dinner in Davis Square on Sunday evening (1/20) and bowling at Sacco's to follow? I'm thinking dinner at 6 so the working folk aren't out too late ;). I know, some of you have tiny people and this timing may still be unrealistic for you, for which I do apologize...


Jan. 16th, 2008 10:38 am
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Question for physicists and astronomers, and maybe mathematicians!

My super hip postdoc friend and I were talking about research ethics the other day, and lamenting the lack of a good way for psychologists to deal with null results -- we can't publish them, so we're stuck either making revisions to the study until it "works" (which is kind of sketchy), or abandoning the research question, presumably leaving that juicy plum to whichever lab is lucky enough to get a false positive result. ;P We thought it'd be nice to have a database where people could post Stuff that Didn't Work. But [livejournal.com profile] littlepurple counters that nobody would contribute to it, because nobody wants to "tip their hand" on the questions they're working on and the methods they're using to get there, not before stuff is published. Hmm.

Now, I know that astrophysicists and such post their work in arXiv, sometimes before formal publication elsewhere (right?). How does intellectual property work here? -- that's what we're really talking about, after all: being able to prove that the cool idea was yours first. Do people ever publish stuff with holes on arXiv, and then get scooped in print by someone who figured out how to fill the holes? Or is that not a sensible question in your field? I'm very curious about this -- a good chunk of my irritation with my current career track has to do with this problem and I'd love to figure out a good fix.
eirias: (Default)
Last night at a party there was a discussion about politics, which got me to wondering who y'all favor for president.

In 2000 I held forth that one should always support the candidate whose platform best matches one's own opinions regardless of how obscure that person is (...like every other 20 year old out there) because otherwise you'll never see the changes you want. In 2001 I reconsidered this.

In 2004 the guy I liked never made it, so I just toed the party line with sad resignation.

This year, I have such distrust of parties and platforms having any meaning at all that I'm currently leaning toward voting with my gut. (People keep talking about racism and sexism, but looking cynically at my preference, I'd say it's about ageism.) But I'm curious whether there's another strategy I should be using. Who do you support and why? What do you think the best strategy is? [livejournal.com profile] nonnihil, I am particularly interested in your answer. Also [livejournal.com profile] tiurin.

[livejournal.com profile] cos, I read your post about the candidates with interest, so you don't have to repeat yourself here, unless you want to :)
eirias: (Default)
Last night, G and I went with our favorite Former Neighbors of Various Queernesses to hear some spoken word at A Room of One's Own. I'd heard Alix Olson perform before, but the other artist, Andrea Gibson, was new to me, and wow, she was incredible. At [livejournal.com profile] dancingwaves' suggestion I looked her up on YouTube and found this piece on marriage. It's lovely.

There were also two younger local artists who performed -- one of them was this absolutely phenomenal high school student. I wish I had caught her name so I could find out when she's going to perform next.


Nov. 6th, 2007 09:06 pm
eirias: (Default)
on the sanctity of life

EDIT: Fixed bad link.
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A lot of good stuff happened to my friends today. I love me a happy friendslist page.

To steal a line from [livejournal.com profile] dancingwaves, what was the best thing to happen to you today? Yes, you!
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An unexpected guest in the lab today: Eastern boxelder bug

Also, the experiment setup seems to be perfect. FINALLY. Just one more day of RA training and then I'll only have one late night and two early mornings per week.
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IT details which are probably boring, but perhaps instructive if you are responsible for any of your own IT )

The moral of this story, for me: Don't infer that simultaneously-appearing problems actually stem from the same root cause. They may, but it's not a given. (At least Dell makes it easy to return parts you realize you probably don't need!)

Now, here's hoping this next round of data collection is pure success!
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For a long time it's seemed to me that Ann Coulter is best understood as performance art. She reminds me of a high school student, the kind who likes to think he's bravely standing for Truth, Justice, Et Cetera, but who, deep down, is just in it for the attention you get for being loud: the laughs and cheers from people who are on your side or who just like big drama; the excitable disapproval from the people who aren't on your side and are too dumb to know your shtick for what it is. So after I got this picture I pretty much stopped paying attention to her: if she's just in it for the attention, the stuff she says stops being outrageous or surprising at all. A person yelling "PENIS"1 stops being surprising once you know the game.

This interview, on the other hand, makes me a lot less sure that Coulter is really about performance art. It just isn't funny, from any perspective -- her tone is quite serious -- and she actually tries to back off in a weird, half-mealymouthed way when she realizes how much she's offended her interviewer.

Hat tip to [livejournal.com profile] jpfed.

1or, if you prefer, "SEMINIFEROUS TUBULES"
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The air smelled like shit as I left Brogden. This is maybe the fifth time this has happened in the last few weeks. I'm not sure whether this is manure season, so I start to wonder idly if maybe I'm having an aura of some kind. I've never really considered the possibility, never had the headaches or weakness or other events that accompany weird neurological conditions, but then again, what about those headaches, and do I really know the extent of the weird neurological shit that's out there, what if there's some kind of epilepsy that confines itself to your olfactory bulb? The weirdest thing is how these thoughts affect my conscious experience of walking -- suddenly I begin to notice the motion of the world around my head as I move, and everything feels unsteady. How strange to be the one behind a face, indeed!

A young college girl is walking in front of me: short, pleasantly round, wearing butt-hugging jeans and flip-flops. As we pass the new wing of Grainger a long strand of sticky construction tape wanders in front of her feet. I see it, but don't warn her. She gets tangled; stops in surprise; exclaims something, indignant and unsure how to extricate herself. I feel somehow guilty as I speed past her.

In the bookstore, a young male clerk is trying to balance several small stuffed animals on his body, and failing miserably. I can't help but laugh at him, but I don't think he sees. I am in the store for maybe seven minutes and at the end of it he is still trying. The young, pretty female clerk at my register is laughing too and I think, Ah, friend, it's working.

Heading back I catch a glimpse of the flag over Bascom Hall. The evening light has burnished the white stripes to a tawny gold and fused them with the red, and the resulting impression is one of a small blue square on fire in the sky.

As I head west -- there's that smell again. I guess I'm not having a seizure. Must just be one of those land grant things.
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This post is worth reading -- LJ is willing to donate $30 to DonorsChoose for every user who sends email to donorschoose@sixapart.com requesting it; basically they'll send you an electronic gift certificate to spend on any of the DonorsChoose projects, which are basically small grants written by teachers in poor communities looking for funding for classroom supplies. (It may be no substitute for adequate funding, but it's a hell of a lot better than teachers taking out loans...) I've donated to DonorsChoose before; it's pretty rewarding, 'cause you eventually get a packet of handwritten thank you letters from the kiddos.

Go! Now! Request your $30 gift certificate! It costs you nothing but a few minutes of project-surfing to figure out where you want to put the money. You have to email the above address by 5 pm, Monday, October 5 or the money goes poof.
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If you're an academic you have probably seen a person meeting this description: a man of indeterminate age, with a long scruffy beard, who builds things -- whether mechanical, electrical, or digital. You give him the specs and, some time later, probably sooner than you think, the desired device shows up and it is perfect. You may never have any idea how he did it -- he may not be able to explain it to you -- but there it is. Ta-da!

We have a couple of great basement guys in my department, but my current basement angel is at a university a thousand miles away, and yet he helps me troubleshoot his completely inscrutable programming language for no fee, always within a few hours. I've yet to send him a problem he couldn't solve with it.

Have you thanked your local bearded basement guy lately?
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Nice punchline.

Yesterday was good and work things are moving along. One highlight was seeing the very tiny person that J and B added to their family a couple of weeks ago. B informed us that newborns look basically animatronic when they move, and low-tech animatronic for that matter. He compared T's early motor control to Chuck E. Cheese.

Two days till Anchorage!
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New favorite phrase: "On further reflection." It lets you change your mind and not sound like an idiot. I have been way overusing this one lately.

Readers, what word/phrase have you been overusing?
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H0: Atheists have no values.

We can dispense with this straightaway, because everyone (within a reasonable margin of error*) values chocolate ice cream.

H1: Atheists have no absolute values.

This is seductive, because justifying absolute morality is really very difficult, and anybody who has argued about it with a theist will have noted that the core of that argument is "God says so." But as this is a proposition whose truth value cannot be determined, it does not actually add much to the argument -- pointing to God does not solve the problem.

H2: Atheists may have absolute values, but they are unjustified.

I think I like this hypothesis best. If theists don't have to justify their values, why should atheists have that burden? Put another way, the mere fact that a philosophy is illogical does not automatically make it theistic.

On the other hand, it does make an interesting metaphor: god as the set of unjustified propositions about the universe that a person believes in. Not god the creator, necessarily -- god the glue. A depersonate god, a sterile god. An anencephalic god.

*(Hi, [livejournal.com profile] leora.)