Monday, June 30, 2008

Making Your Kids Read

Via Bitch, PhD, a graphical essay by Alison Bechdel on compulsory reading. I sort of have to dispute her conclusion: kids who read a lot on their own are indeed put off anything that's made compulsory (or such was my experience, anyway). But parents who "want [their] children to read something" are by definition not talking about kids who read a lot on their own.

I think some kids just won't read unless you make them, so in that case, if you think reading is important for its own sake, you don't have much choice but to "put it on a list." Or alternatively, rethink the importance of reading except as a means to an end.

Late in the Game to be Making Adjustments

I didn't watch the game, but the recap of yesterday's win over the hated Yankees mentions that Oliver Perez had been trying a new delivery:
In his second week as the pitching coach, Warthen had allowed Perez to change his position on the rubber -- he moved from the third-base end to the middle -- and he also had adjusted Perez's delivery, so he would use his legs more and move from the rubber to the plate with greater force.
Doesn't that seem crazy, that a starting pitcher in the big leagues would still be tweaking things that fundamental at this point? But I guess it worked, so what do I know.

Anyway, I of course would suggest that Perez widen his stance on the rubber.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Scientifically Illiterate Lolcat

Everyone has their own "grabity" field.

Good Comic

ding at Bitch, PhD did a link post that included one to an interview with Kate Beaton, of whom I had not heard, and who is awesome. And who apparently works in the oil industry, despite her aforementioned awesomeness. Which gives me hope.

CFL Update

Since my first foray into CFLs, the two "special" incandescent bulbs in my room (in a floor lamp with a dimmer switch and light sensor and a 3-way desk lamp) have burned out, and I've replaced them with CFLs.

The dimmable one is a little disappointing: it doesn't light up at all until the switch is at about the 60% position, and then it's at almost full brightness, so there's really very little variation as you turn it up all the way. But it doesn't flash, and the adjustment is nice and smooth, which I'm sure is an impressive technical feat even if it's not very useful. So I've mostly just been turning that switch all the way on, which is what I used to do most of the time anyway when it had an incandescent bulb. The light sensor, which is supposed to dim the light to maintain the amount of light in the lamp's vicinity as other natural and artificial light sources change, adds a further complication, as turning on another lamp can cause the light sensor to drop the dimmer setting below that 60% mark and make the lamp completely dark.

The three-way CFL works great, though it doesn't quite fit with the lampshade. The incandescent bulb was 30/70/100W, while the CFL is 50/100/150W equivalent, so maybe it's just not supposed to go in a desk lamp. Maybe when it burns out in ten years I'll look for a 30/70/100W equivalent one. There's a slight delay when turning it on initially, but switching modes is instantaneous. It's pretty cool.

So I think that's pretty much it. When my other floor lamp's bulb burns out I'll see if I can find a CFL with a longer "stem" that will fit in it. And they do make CFLs that fit in my track lights (PAR20), but I imagine I'll have moved by the time they need replacing.

Mariners @ Mets

Following such a brutal first three innings on Wednesday, I didn't realize how good the Mariners defense actually was for the rest of the game. Batista gets the biggest share of the blame, but Beltre's throwing error in the third led to a four-run inning. 0-8 looks a lot more insurmountable going into the fourth. And so it was.

The silver lining is that the Mets go into their series against the hated Yankees coming off a win. I wish I'd had it together enough to get tickets to both games today. How cool would it have been to bike to Yankee Stadium at 2, come home, and then bike to Shea at 8, for the last regular-season subway series in the old stadia? But alas! I shall instead have to be on the ball (on the baseball!) next season for a double-header in the New Yankee and Citi parks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Just Like Bill Clinton

Kathy G. is disappointed but not surprised by Obama's response to the FISA bill (among other recent compromises). Meanwhile, via Glenn Greenwald, my man Chris Dodd is mixing it up again.

As usual, to me this seems like a no-brainer, politically. Telecom immunity is not an issue of conflicting political principles: the pro-immunity side is based on no principle whatsoever (or at least not one anyone is going to be willing to support in well does "might makes right" poll?). But what do I know!

Ah, Jeez

Dickey pitched a great game last night, shutting out the Mets for seven innings. But tonight should still be exciting as the M's try to complete the sweep.

Also, I just learned that the Mariners fired their manager two days after Willie Randolph was fired. So competing managers Jim Riggleman and Jerry Manuel have two weeks of experience between them at their present positions.

They have both managed before though, including two years of overlap at the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, respectively. In 1998, the Cubs went 3-0 hosting the White Sox in interleague play, and each Chicago team finished second in its division. In 1999, the Cubs went 0-3 against the White Sox at Wrigley but then 2-1 at Comiskey. Weird.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Willie's Demise

I wasn't really following the minute-to-minute of Willie Randolph's departure as the events unfolded, though I did know about it as my lover and I bought a newspaper in a vain attempt to find a movie theater near the storm-threatened campground showing anything besides Kung-Fu Panda. But Sunday someone on WFAN said something about Willie's comments regarding SNY and racism, which I hadn't heard about, so I went looking for info on that.

It happened a whole month ago, and his actual comments weren't that bad (or very coherent, actually) and were more about the hate he gets from the fans than about SNY. And even just glancing at the comments beneath the Daily News story on Randolph's apology, it's hard to deny that he has a point: the only question in the minds of some fans seems to be the extent to which Randolph's status as a lazy Negro blaming his personal failures on nonexistent racism might be mitigated by his being given the hopeless task of leading a team of lazy Mexicans to victory with his scheming Mexican boss undermining his authority at every turn.

Anyway, I don't know what to say about the firing itself. I do think that the phenomenon of players going over Randolph's head to Omar Minaya (in any language) was symptomatic of problems rather than causal, which is also to say that who knows what the root issues even were, let alone whether they were resolvable. But in any case it's not like the owners or GM could have just ordered unhappy players to listen to Willie and have things work out, so it's at least not a terrible decision.

And at the same time, Omar and the ownership did give Randolph the opportunity for redemption rather than (as some predicted) axing him after last year's collapse, which demonstrates faith in the organization. So I think they handled it about as well as could have been hoped for.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Oh Nice

The timing's not perfect, just coming back from vacation and everything, but I got tickets to the interleague game against the Mariners on Wednesday and I'm pretty excited. Right now it looks like R.A. Dickey is going to pitch for the M's, which should be fun to watch. Last time I'll be rooting against the Mets at Shea (in the regular season, anyway)!

Update: Looks like Miguel Batista will be pitching for the Mariners instead, with Dickey starting tonight. Ah well.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Please No

I don't think "traffic" ranks very high on the list of valid concerns regarding development, but any sort of gas giveaway is disturbing.

Ultimately, it's also not a big threat in the context of Atlantic Yards either, since Atlantic Ave is basically already at capacity during regular game times and there's no space nor plan to provide any other streets to the neighborhood. If the Nets want more people to drive into Brooklyn from Jersey or Long Island then they'll need to bribe people who live and work in Brooklyn not to drive.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Thoughts Are With Weird Idioms

The passing of a celebrity reminds me of the odd secular alternative to "my prayers are with [newly dead person's] family." "Prayers" makes sense...if you believe, then you want people to pray for you, especially in trying times. But "thoughts"?

I guess it's nice to know people are worried about you. But it still sounds jarring to my ears. Not that saying "prayers" to/as a non-believer would be at all preferable, but I think I'd stick with a simple "I'm sorry."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Deep Thought

Carlos Delgado has a very gray beard.

I Believe a Quote From "The Usual Suspects" Would Be Apropos

Bol mongers some conspiracy, and when you cut through his usual misogyny and antisemitism, he accurately points out that a lot of influential people do seem to hang out with one another. Harry had linked me to a Rad Geek post on spontaneous order a little while back, and how harmful social orders can precipitate as a result of uncoordinated individual actions, and I think it's relevant here.

The political and economic orders that prevail in today's world are such that influence accrues to a disproportionate few. It's not all that surprising that they would hang out together, no more than Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan being friends suggests an athletical Illuminati.

Literal conspiracy is gratuitous under such circumstances.

I am posting this for next Monday on Friday the 13th! Conspiracy?!?

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Favorite Sport

Kite buggying seems to hold some promise in terms of spectacular wipeouts. It would seem you could either pay attention to your kite lines to avoid getting them tangled in trees, or keep a lookout ahead of you so you don't plow into anything or tumble off a pier; not both.

The form factor is similar to that of a recumbent bicycle, so it's got that going for it as well.


Tandem buggy being pushed up a hill

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

An Internet First?

Dave Neiwert uses the phrase "real ultimate power" with a straight face.

Matters of Life and Death

I forgot, in that post about lunatics who are afraid that Obama will wear saggy trousers to the UN, the whole point I was going to make.

Which is, what is behind the perennial crop of culture warriors who are positive that this time, we really are on the verge of societal collapse if The Right of Spring, or cubism, or Elvis, or Soulja Boy enjoy mainstream popularity? Doesn't the long, varied history of at-the-time controversial pop cultural artifacts that did not, in retrospect, trigger the collapse of society, give these people pause? Well, we can see that it plainly does not,1 but why not?

The fear of new forms of pop culture is transparently rooted in the fear of mortality: when society ratifies the cultural significance of something I just do not understand, my demise must surely be at hand, and I have little alternative but to rage, rage against the dying of the light jazz FM station.

There is a thread in common with apocalyptic worldviews, in the elevation of the importance of one's own personal lifespan to universal importance (from a dispassionate rational point of view, one would hardly expect the "end" to even come in the form of an event that would fit into a human lifespan, rather than, say, a thousands-year-long decline into lifelessness; let alone that it would occur during one's own personal time on Earth).

But more interesting to me, I think there is a general aspect of this fear of change in all reactionary political views. The glorification of the (recent) past, the paranoia, the knee-jerk traditionalism, the fear of the unknown, even the opposition to taxes (the more tangible and therefore vulnerable of life's two unavoidable certainties) all scream out fear of the grave.

Atrios, among others, frequently complains of the media establishment's unwillingness to let go of the 60's, and this interpretation gives us the means to understand why he will have plenty to complain about as time moves on. To abandon the battles of one's youth is to admit that that youth has passed and consequently to resign oneself to death.

Anyway, look for my new monograph, "Hating on Lil' Wayne and the Human Condition," CUNY Press, 2009.

1 With some exceptions. I believe Ayn Rand's adherents will still rail against the evils of impressionism, for example, and I did one time stumble across a hate group website that traced the decline of the white race to the commercial success of The White Album.


Not that I Can Has Cheezburger isn't often brilliant, but this one is genius.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Lincoln Memorial Will Wear a "Grill"!!!!

Sadly Leonard rounds up a nice set of hysterical racists reacting to the Obamas' celebratory fist bump. Hilarious.

It's interesting how many of them obsess over hip-hop, pop music being such a resonant cultural indicator. I suppose their intellectual forbears were hyperventilating about how if you elect John O'FITZGERALD Kennedy then there'll be Elvis-dancing on the White House lawn.

Put them on a plane

It's weird, I remember arguing about this with people during primary season 2004: Iraq was a mistake, the line went, but since we'd fucked it up we now had an obligation to stick around and make sure things didn't go completely to hell. We couldn't just up and leave!

Matt Yglesias (I think I link to him so often because he posts as much as half my other blog subscriptions combined) reminds us that we actually can just up and leave. My impression is that neither of the major party presidential candidates wants to actually do this. The politics would seem to support it: Iraq is insufficiently covered as is, and following a total US withdrawal it could only get more so. Maybe Obama's just being subtle about it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Nice Work

Robert is famous. For actually designing the award-winning user interface that Andrew and I always joked about. Very impressed.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Pun Stores


Just to Note

I did read James Wood's Book Against God, and then enjoyed the entirety of the review I had put off reading. I see what Wyatt Mason means about how it might be more valuable to draw attention to less visible good fiction than to knock down well-publicized but less good fiction. But on the other hand, you have to give Wood credit for leading by example, and doing it (and doing it) well.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Scootering Accident

Dude on Streetsblog hit a crack in the sidewalk and took a spill. Probably for the best, as he was in all likelihood a matter of minutes away from having his ass kicked:
I had been scootering along with my Taylor mini travel guitar strapped around my back, open air, troubadour style...Wanting to ride my new Xootr there, but not wanting to carry the case, I thought at the last minute to carry the guitar by itself, solely by its strap.
Next time take your Segway and panpipes.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Governor of Arkansas?

Matt Yglesias should be clear, in his post on the different political approaches of Obama and Clinton, that he's talking about Bill Clinton throughout, not Hillary. I think readers would be forgiven for assuming otherwise given the timing.


Kevin Carson excerpts an article of his, comparing corporate bureaucracy to that of a socialist state. Not at all news to anybody who has worked for a company.

As always, I do not comprehend the paradox whereby, on the one hand, widespread corporate dysfunction and mismanagement are part of the Zeitgeist to such an extent that works like Dilbert and Office Space are considered clichéed; while on the other hand multinational corporations represent the pinnacle expression of unfettered free enterprise.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Labor in the South

Ezra has a good post on labor's historical difficulty in the South. I would also add that the central cultural conflict in the Reconstruction South between former Confederate planters and Northern capitalist carpetbaggers was not one divided on the issue of organized labor.

The carpetbaggers were laissez-faire economic liberals who expected the invisible hand of the market to lift the freedmen out of poverty. When this turned out not to be the case, the disillusioned capitalists mostly gave up rather than rethinking their ideas, and the only potentially labor-sympathetic allies of abolition, white yeomen farmers, saw their wages plummet as they were stranded in competition with sharecroppers.

And thus did folks like Andrew Johnson, who started out squarely opposed to the Confederacy and the evils of slavery, likewise become enemies of Reconstruction. And any nascent support for labor was swallowed up in the conflict over race.

New Traffic Pattern at Brooklyn Bridge

Via mole333, the DOT is introducing new rules for the crash-heavy intersection of Adams and Tillary next week. My preferred route to the Manhattan Bridge, which is almost always how I get to the city by bicycle, goes across Adams and then left alongside the Brooklyn Bridge approach, and then a right on Sands to the Manhattan Bridge bike path.

The new pattern will mean I won't have to wait as long to cross Adams (and when I do, I will only have to follow one crosswalk signal instead of two). But on the other hand, all of the Brooklyn Bridge traffic that would cross my path at Adams I will now encounter either at Cadman West or at Jay and Sands, both intersections that are already difficult spots for asserting one's right-of-way over turning car traffic. (I do not know what crash statistics are like for those two places, but I suspect that there are fewer serious crashes there due almost entirely to there being less traffic overall.)

We shall see. As mole333 suggests, it's good that they are building a trial period into this change. As admittedly dangerous as the intersection is, there's no obvious quick fix that will make it better, so empirical experimentation like this is necessary.