Monday, August 29, 2005

I thought this was hilarious! (Blogging at work again. Oh well.)

Talk about correlations between race, literally a superficial characteristic, and other factors about a person that aren't, go back hundreds of years. The Bell Curve, and some book by its authors that just barely came out which makes similar suggestions about women, clarified the discussion at the same time it became more complicated. This post is the first one I've seen that suggests that the disadvantaged race is the white one, though. And coincidentally, it has the closest one to facts backing it up AND an explanation of the methods of it, by looking at albinism in animals and talking about the importance of melanin.

Clearly this page is a joke. Or at least, clearly it's not meant to have any wider implications than some anecdotes about albinism. All I ask of the people peddling pseudo-science in various fields these days is that they put as much time into their work as this person did into his. If nothing else, it would be a lot more entertaining and make for much better stories.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The discussion over Iraq has got a lot more complicated lately.

From mid-2003 to what seems like last week, it was pretty clear-cut. Either you agreed with the administration about the war or you didn't. On the anti-war side, followers of the Pottery Barn Doctrine (You break it, you buy it), the Pilate Doctrine (The least bad option is to wash our hands of it) and the Pinocchio Doctrine* (Of course invasion and occupation should be the first resort in a humanitarian effort, never mind the WMD fear-mongering, and the Iraqi body count is not growing!) could all get along just fine as long as they agreed that the war was being fundementally mismanaged at the top. Even in the presidential race, Kerry could afford to be very vague about what he would do, instead dwelling on what Bush had done wrong, and he still got the support of these groups.**

That worked because in practical terms, at that time, the differences didn't matter. The most important reason was simply that all of those groups were locked out of the government and they all agreed on the first step towards their goals - get back in the government. We could and would advance any argument and make most comprimises that we felt would get us to that first step. But now, not so much. The bad news from Iraq has got too big and too hard for the administration to explain as inevitable and/or acceptable, the anti-this-war movement has acquired spokespeople who are harder and harder to demonize, like grieving mothers of soldiers and Vietnam veteran Republican senators, and the public mood is definitively against Bush and the war he worked so hard to make his own.

So instead of discussing "Is the war good?" people are now discussing "How can we keep it from becoming more bad?" Which is, duh, a much more difficult question. And suddenly liberals who have been able to blame, second-guess and theorize without any real consequences will have to deal with whether or not their ideas are actually, you know, good.

Personally, I followed the Pottery Barn Doctrine until Abu Ghraib made the news, and ever since then I've suspected that we were wasting time, lives and a whole lot more trying to fix something that was simply unfixable. (Which boils down to the Pilate Doctrine.) It's like a saying I'm fond of about driving through Vermont: "You can't get there from here," "there" being an Iraq about as democratic and liberal as Turkey. But if President Feingold gets elected in 2008 and he openly and honestly follows the Pilate Doctrine, then thousands of Iraqis will die, he, Feingold, will personally get blamed for every single one, and the Democrats won't recover from the false "wimpy" reputation in my lifetime if ever. If he follows the Pottery Barn Doctrine, then thousands of both Iraqis and Americans will die (and it's anyone's best guess if the numbers will be higher this way than the other way) and the wimpy reputation just might be changed for an incompetent one.

If we're lucky, then Ezra Klein's strategy is right. If we're very lucky, then it won't be overtaken by events. If we're insanely, winning-the-lottery type lucky, leading Democratic politicians will follow it.

* I mean the liberal hawks who supported the war because it would be getting rid of Saddam. I realize dishonesty/hypocrisy is not a bigger problem for them than for anyone else in politics and this "Pinocchio Doctrine" description only applies literally to about three people. I was just stretching things to fit the alliteration.

** Too bad that wasn't enough.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Biked to work this morning. Took me 22 minutes to go what mapquest says is 3.9 miles. It wasn't a bad ride at all, but despite what I was saying at first I'll probably do it rarely. Two reasons: it takes longer than driving, and going out to get lunch would be a much bigger production so I'll be packing lunch... on a day when I want to be aerodynamic and will be hungrier than usual after exercise.

Heh, and as you can tell by what I've devoted so much thought and writing to, it's been sort of slow. :) I've spent most of the past few days putting labels in dividers for workshops coming up in September. I've spent quite a bit of time lately playing World of Warcraft - my dwarf finally hit level 40, w00t! But he can't afford a mount. And I got so sick of riding back and forth from one zone to another all the time that I started a new character - a mage, just because they have the spell teleport.

Still going to the Magic game nights in Burlington and having fun there. Other than that... no news, really.

Monday, August 15, 2005

I saw "The Wedding Crashers" the other night. It was pretty good. The interesting thing is, the quality is all in the execution, not one bit in the plot. The story is, two best friends (Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn) who make sixteen-year-olds look mature and sophisticated crash weddings serially to pick up women in the wonderfully romantic atmosphere. They go to one last wedding, get in way over their head, get caught in their ridiculous lies, fall head-over-heels for a girl in the bride's family, and finally learn A Valuable Life Lesson about love straight out of "Not Another Teen Movie". Oh, and how could I forget the absolutely perfect girl dating a good-looking guy who is secretly a pushy, violent asshole.

So, an overdone plot, and dumb to me. It seemed like every third episode of prime time sitcoms - "Frasier" was the worst I can remember about this, but they all did it sometimes - revolved around someone telling a story to cover their ass or impress someone, or else someone misinterpreting a completely innocent statement, and the rest of the story was nothing but awkward lies and supposedly comical misunderstandings until someone finally apologized. Oh, wait - "Meet the Parents," Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro, is probably the best example of all. Oh, ha ha ha, the septic tank overflowed and now Ben Stiller has to deny flushing the defective toilet. Ooo, he's so desperate to impress his girlfriend's dad that he tries to pass off a cat from the homeless shelter as the dad's missing pet. Just hilarious.

But "The Wedding Crashers" gets the formulaic plot right, in a lot of little ways. When Vince Vaughn lies desperately to cover his ass, it's hilarious because he actually deserves the trouble he's fleeing. And the blue-blooded family that sired the female leads is easily fucked up and vindictive enough to deserve Wilson and Vaughn. Owen Wilson's massive character growth doesn't happen overnight, it takes months, and you get hints from the very beginning that the potential is there. (That might sound like spoilers, but come on, it's still a Hollywood movie - of course the guy on the movie posters is going to get the girl.) His love interest is actually likeable for something more than a pretty face, a cute girlish giggle, and/or a tomboy-just-waiting-to-discover-her-feminine-side personality. You've got good actors - Christopher Walken, (and I really, really hope that site isn't a joke) Jane Seymour and a couple others - in relatively minor roles, and besides all the obvious positive effects of that, it makes it seem like the whole family and setting is actually important rather than just being a backdrop for the male leads with comedy backgrounds to bumble through.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Okay, so I just sent out an e-mail to 18 or so people - principals, teachers, guidance counselors - asking them for registration forms for some workshops that the foundation is holding in September. One of them bounced, and included in the long string of machine-generated technobabble explaining why and how it bounced was this:

X-Spam-Report: Spam detection software, running on the system "mf2-3", has
identified this incoming email as possible spam. The original message
has been attached to this so you can view it (if it isn't spam) or label
similar future email.

So apparently, my e-mail was mistaken for spam. Heh... whoops.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Best Dilbert Quote Ever:

"I believe in karma. That means I can do bad things to people all day long and I assume they deserve it."

Work's been going all right this past week. It's been slow, even to the point where I've felt guilty/self-conscious about how little I've been doing just because I couldn't find anything I could do, but I'm sure it will get busier, probably a lot busier, once the school year starts.

Today we went up to Ikea at Montreal. Got lost going in and coming back, in different ways and for different reasons, which must take some talent. How much French I've lost was a little embarrassing, though. Granted, some Canadians have pretty strong accents (last year I was saying they spoke French with a Southern accent), and the reading ability will take a lot longer to fade, but still. Soon I should go to a bookstore or to get some French-language books, and I'm wondering how many of my DVDs have dubbing. I've got to slow the loss somehow.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Blogging from my first day at work. (I don't plan to make a habit of this, but it looks like I could if I wanted. I have my own computer, and while in the future I'm sure I'll have a lot more to do than I do right now, I'd still be able to take a few minutes to type something of my own. Hell, at the moment there's only two other people in the office, one of whom is upstairs, so even if being caught was remotely worth worrying about it would be pretty unlikely.)

It looks pretty good. I'll be working closely with Andrea, who puts together the foundation's annual newsletter, and I'm one of the two people who answers most of the phone calls, and besides that I'll have a lot of little things to do in terms of corresponding with member schools, program directors and stuff.

It's funny how much of a family operation it is. A woman I thought was pretty good-looking when I interviewed turns out to be the boss's step-daughter (whoops...) and I just found out that another woman I met is her mother. My three-mile commute is apparently higher than the average.