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Friday, November 28, 2003

THAT 70's SHOW 

Way back in 1972, feminist scholar Jessie Bernard argued that marriage is bad for women (but she thought it was a pretty good deal for men) in her hugely influential book The Future of Marriage. The idea took hold, eventually finding its way into college textbooks and our popular culture. Despite the fact that most of what she wrote has since been discredited, Volokh Conspiracy contributor Jacob Levy recently cited this marriage myth as fact in his post about the constitutionality of a ban on nonprocreative marriage:

as I understand the social science on this topic, marriage is an almost unmitigated good for men in terms of things like life expectancy and reported satisfaction with life but is mixed at best for women, with married women's life expectancy actually falling below that of single women-- even, as I recall, controlling for death during childbirth.

Matthew Yglesias also picks up on this point and runs with it: "if you're a woman, getting married increases your chances of being murdered pretty significantly."

To the contrary, a recent Department of Justice report notes "[d]uring 2002 persons who had never married were victims of violent crime overall, rape/sexual assault, total assault, and simple assault at rates higher than those for married, widowed, or divorced/separated persons. Persons who had never married and those who were divorced/separated were victims of robbery and of aggravated assault at similar rates."

Lesson: It's not a good idea to rely on your memory or, god forbid, popular culture.

There's more. Three years ago, self-described "liberal democrat" and coauthor of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially (Doubleday, 2000) refuted this myth citing among other sources, a 1990 study which showed that unmarried women have a 50 percent higher mortality rate than married women. (I guess Levy, who blogs from the University of Chicago, doesn't read his own employer's magazine).

Furthermore, The Case for Marriage showed that married women have better mental health than singles. The same results were found in a 1997 Australian study of more than 10,000 people for the Australian Institute of Family Studies, by sociologist David De Vaus.

Bell bottoms and blue eyeshadow may be back in fashion, but discredited truisms do not, and should not, experience similar revivals.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

YOU ONLY SNARK THE ONES YOU LOVE 

Lileks hits into an unprecedented quadruple play today: sci-fi geekdom to Gnatecdote to grocery shopping to Joni frickin' Mitchell. Is he trying to atone for last week's F-bomb? Or is he just trying to make us think we won't be missing anything during his December hiatus (announced at the end of the Bleat)?

No atonement needed in these parts; we like cuss words. (Joni fucking Mitchell. There!) And today's Bleat notwithstanding, the Lileks-sized hole in our mornings will take some getting used to.

Happy holidays, James, and enjoy your well-deserved break. We'll be counting the days.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

WHO DROPPED THE F-BOMB? 

Lileks did first. Then Dan Drezner got in on the act. All sorts of other people had opinions (summarized at Instapundit, among other web water coolers). Which caused Lileks to apologize.

Andrea Harris thought this was silly: "I guess it's some Midwestern thing, to get embarassed over a cuss word."

Too true. Too true.

We Midwesterners do avoid the "f-bomb" at all costs. The problem is, we just look dorky when we use it. We're simply too well-scrubbed to be able to carry it off. We also don't hold cigarettes the right way and we sort of choke on the smoke. Speaking of choking, why do they make scotch whiskey so it burns so much? Wine coolers are so much smoother. Now there's a drink!

Come to think of it, I believe they teach our kids to use the term "Uff da!" to express strong emotion at school, but I guess James must have forgotten temporarily. But we'll forgive him. After all, he did apologize so nicely. Now Dan, it's your turn. Chicago is technically in the Midwest after all. Let's keep the discussion civilized!

But Harris, who lives in Florida, thinks no apology was necessary, "Besides, I had grown bored with the little Baghdad pantywaist ages ago." Maybe she does have a point...

Monday, November 24, 2003

WEEKEND UPDATE 

Had dinner Saturday night at Cafe Barbette. Strangely enough for a French place, they have Guinness on tap, and it's not too cold. Price: $4.75.

And the damnedest thing--I saw Eloise there! Once the shock of recognition passed we began talking, and I gently chided her for misrepresenting me as "frighteningly well-read." I have indeed read Ulysses, and it's one of the small handful of books that I've read and she hasn't. But what's really frightening is the set of books that she has read and I haven't. It will take me the rest of my years to catch up.

You see, while I spent my life up to about age 20 watching television, she spent hers devouring books, and that creates a nearly insurmountable advantage. The easiest way to become well read is to start young, when you have limitless leisure for such things. Once you have a job and a mortgage and a family and a blog, it's like you're on your own ten-yard line down seven points with two minutes to go and no time-outs left. So get outta bounds already, ya bum!

Sunday, November 23, 2003

THIS BLOG SAVES LIVES 

The Warrior Monk, despite his moniker, is a pretty mild mannered guy (and frighteningly well-read too). Like all generalized statements though, there are glaring exceptions to this assessment and they are:

1. Driving
2. Squirrels

Number 1 is of no note; it seems nearly every American male is, at best, cranky behind the wheel. But number 2?

I don't pay much attention to squirrels myself. I remember my Italian cousins being fascinated by their antics when they visited my family (don't they have squirrels in Italy? I forgot to look into this when I visited...). Although I didn't appreciate the way my dog would go postal at the site of one, yanking me sideways and then disappearing into the park, despite choke collar, I felt that was really the dog's fault and did not hold the squirrels accountable. I have a hard time demonizing anything furry with big eyes. And I have it on good authority that their antics are motivated entirely by nuts:

"Do you want to make good with me? Then you'd better bust out the nuts. That's the way to this squirrel's heart. Don't worry. You won't offend me if you assume that I eat nuts, because it's true. I do. So do all of my squirrel friends."

-Danny The Squirrel

Seems pretty harmless to me.

But not to The Warrior Monk. Last fall, The Warrior Monk operated on the principle that squirrels are planning for world domination and only he could stop them. It all started when some squirrels chewed through the soffit on the Monk's home and set up house on his back porch. His response: Squirrel Armageddon. Their act of trespass set off some long-dormant anti-squirrel pathway in his brain. He got a trap and spent untold hours experimenting with bait (I believe he concluded that peanut butter worked best). While talking with him, you might notice that his attention seemed to have wandered. Then he would suddenly dart out the front door and slowly creep around to the back of the house to check the trap. He spent hours staring out his back window at the squirrels who would nose around inside the trap tantalizinngly ... then they would take off with the bait. Yes, squirrels were a real Warrior Monk obsession.

Trying to be a good supportive coblogger, this fall I looked into the squirrel issue further and discovered that they aren't quite the harmless furballs I thought them. Turns out they may add $10 million to the cost of building a road in Washington State, knock out power and shut down the Internet and even have been known to attack drivers.

I was shocked--and ready to join the Monk Crusade. But this fall I find the squirrels have been allowed to multiply unmolested. What's changed? Papa's got a brand new blog.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

IN THE HEART OF THE HIBERNIAN METROPOLIS 

This Mr. Darcy business got me thinking of Ulysses, another novel in which money figures prominently, though in a more quotidian way. (Of course, there’s very little in Ulysses which could not be characterized as prominently quotidian.)

According to Jorn Barger’s exhaustive list of prices and monetary values in Ulysses, a 1904 pound would be worth roughly $100 today, making a shilling (at twenty to the pound) worth $5. This means that the monthly wage of £3 12s. which Mr. Deasy pays Stephen Dedalus for his services as a teacher at the Dalkey school is the equivalent of $360. Hardly Darcy territory, but consider this: the yearly rent of £12 on the Martello tower which Stephen has been sharing with Buck Mulligan would be only $1,200 today. If Stephen split this rent every month with Mulligan (Haines is only a temporary guest), he’d be spending just one-seventh of his income on lodging. Factor in that Stephen’s job appears to be essentially a quarter-time position, and it would seem that his circumstances should allow him to live rather comfortably–should, that is, if he wasn’t already in debt to the tune of £25 17s. 6d. and prone to such profligacies as blowing most of his month’s wages on a bender within 12 hours of receiving them.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, given the prices he faced, it’s hard to blame him. We know from Mulligan’s cadging in Episode 1 and Bloom’s musings in Episode 5 that a pint of porter cost twopence; this jibes with the penny price which the loutish Farrington pays when he sneaks out of work for a quick half-pint glass of porter (chased by a breath-cleansing caraway seed) in the Dubliners story “Counterparts.” If a shilling is worth $5, then twopence is worth 83 cents. I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but a pint of draught Guinness costs at least five times that amount around here (and it will almost always be too cold; but that’s another story).

There’s more. The old milkwoman’s visit to the Martello tower during breakfast ends this way:
Haines said to her:
---Have you your bill? We had better pay her, Mulligan, hadn't we?
Stephen filled again the three cups.
---Bill, sir? she said, halting. Well, it's seven mornings a pint at twopence is seven twos is a shilling and twopence over and these three mornings a quart at fourpence is three quarts is a shilling. That's a shilling and one and two is two and two, sir.
Buck Mulligan sighed and, having filled his mouth with a crust thickly buttered on both sides, stretched forth his legs and began to search his trouser pockets.
---Pay up and look pleasant, Haines said to him smiling.
Stephen filled a third cup, a spoonful of tea colouring faintly the thick rich milk. Buck Mulligan brought up a florin, twisted it round in his fingers and cried:
---A miracle!
He passed it along the table towards the old woman, saying:

---Ask nothing more of me, sweet.
    All I can give you I give.
Stephen laid the coin in her uneager hand.
---We'll owe twopence, he said.
---Time enough, sir, she said, taking the coin. Time enough. Good morning, sir.
If you didn’t follow that, a pint of milk cost the same twopence that a pint of porter did. I never buy milk by the pint, but the last time I picked up a gallon of milk at the corner store it cost $3.30, and one-eighth of that is 41 cents. So, reckoned in milk, Guinness costs at least ten times as much in 2003 Minneapolis as it did in 1904 Dublin.

At those prices I could get a whole hell of a lot of utility out of $360 a month.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

INTERSTITIAL COW 

We're running a bit low on material for our interstitial entertainment duties so we're going to our dopey roots and bringing you the only joke we can remember the punchline to:

Jokester: knock knock

Jokee: who's there?

Jokester: interrupting cow

Jokee: interupt.... ?

Jokester: Moo!

[please laugh at this point]

We understand that our friends and family, who make up most of this site's visitors, will have already heard this but we hope they love us and will return nonetheless (some of them inexplicably love the joke too -- we hear it's all the rage at the Department of Justice now). The 5 or 6 of you who don't fall into this category: please bear with us. The Warrior Monk is up next to elevate the level of discussion.

Monday, November 17, 2003

THE PRECISE MAGNITUDE OF A WIFE-WANTING GOOD FORTUNE 

How rich is Fitzwilliam Darcy, the villain-turned-hero of Pride and Prejudice? Brad DeLong asks and answers that question--twice--in a recent post in his Semi-Daily Journal.

First the question. We know from Mrs. Bennet's ecstasies upon learning of Elizabeth's engagement that Mr. Darcy is worth "Ten thousand a year!" So what's a yearly income of 10,000 early-19th-century British pounds worth in early-21st-century American dollars?

Well, says DeLong, $6,000,000 if you look at the problem in relative income terms--that is, "relative to the average of disposable incomes in [Darcy's] society." But if you focus instead on relative utility--that is, what someone today would need to spend to get and enjoy what Mr. Darcy could get and enjoy with his glorious "Ten thousand a year!"--the answer shrinks to $300,000. Why? The world of the Bennets and Darcys (and Austens) was "desperately poor" compared to ours. "There are lots of things we take for granted--and that are for us trivially cheap--that Fitzwilliam Darcy could not get at any price." DeLong gives as an example the fact that Nathan Meyer Rothschild, the Bill Gates of the day, died from . . . an infected abscess.

A fair point, but surely the $6,000,000 relative-income answer is better than the $300,000 relative-utility answer if we want to know how rich the characters in the novel felt Mr. Darcy to be, especially in a novel in which the anxieties attendant to insecure wealth are the coiled spring at the center of the workings. While an infected abscess would have done in rich and poor alike in Mr. Darcy's world, so too would (say) inoperable cancer in ours. There's always something that money can't buy; in fact, there's always an infinite number of things that money can't buy, even if the infinity of Mr. Darcy's world was of a greater magnitude (per Georg Cantor) than that of ours. To continue with the mathematical metaphors, the unobtainable is a constant that appears in both the numerator and the denominator, so the sensible thing is to cancel it out and ignore it.

What's more, we can run the comparison of relative utilities in the opposite temporal direction. The Bennets' pecuniary (and thus social) orbit may be lower than those of the Darcys and Bingleys and de Bourghs, but consider this: the Bennets are a family of seven living with servants in a comfortable country house presided over by a patriarch who spends almost the entire novel at leisure in his library. How much would it take in today's dollars to pull off that trick--without working? Let's start with the $300,000 per year figure, just to use a number close at hand, and let's assume you'd need $500,000 in pre-tax income (to keep things round) to net $300,000 in disposable income. At the 3-5% annual rate of return befitting the cautious investment strategy of a country squire, you'd need somewhere between $10 million and $16.7 million in wealth to clear that much income every year without invading your corpus.

And that's just to keep up with the (relatively) lowly Bennets.

In other words, while we 21st-century folk may have the edge if wealth is measured in terms of infected abscesses, we may lag if extended leisure is the yardstick. Which world yields more utility would seem to be a matter more of taste than of calculation.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

GRANDPA BELL 

Many years ago my grandfather got in a fight with AT&T. He had been born in a small Croatian town several decades after the invention of the telephone but before the first U.S. President got one on his desk. So when, wonder of wonders!, he finally had the opportunity to have one on HIS desk, and used it to call ME perhaps it wasn't too surprising that he should have a different opinion of how it should work than did AT&T. You see, AT&T had the audacity to charge my grandfather for one minute of airtime when he reached my answering machine rather than me. This made no sense to my Otata--he hadn't actually gotten the benefit of his bargain--so why should he have to pay?

Sadly for AT&T, my grandfather was retired and seemed to rather enjoy writing letters and having long conversations at AT&T's expense to explain his point of view. Oh how I wish he were here to help me now.

My problem is that AT&T has been stalking me. Three phone calls in three days. This morning I finally stayed on long enough to figure out what was going on: my (alleged) $172 bill!

That got my attention.

So ensued a Kafaka-esque (what ever did we call it back before 1913?) series of recorded messages taunting me with illusory wait time figures culminating in a ringing phone with no answer (remember, this is the phone company we're talking about). When I finally (I'm nothing if not dogged, especially if the purpose is idiotic) got a real person I was told she could do nothing because my bill had not yet been mailed out.

Defeated.

Oh, and my grandfather? Well, that was back when AT&T was more rational. They evidently weighed the cost of 4 or 5 fifteen cent phone calls against the cost of dealing with a dogged retired senior citizen with a charming but inscrutable accent and came to the only reasonable conclusion: "Why of course sir you're right! We'll take it off your bill right away."

Saturday, November 15, 2003

AND NO, I DON'T KNOW WHY I KEEP BLOGGING ABOUT WESLEY CLARK, EITHER 

The November 17 issue of the New Yorker has a chilly portrait of Wesley Clark by Peter J. Boyer. It details Clark’s flip-flopping on the Iraq War, his near-disastrous misjudgments about how to handle the Kosovo conflict (for one example of many, here’s a defense expert’s evaluation of Clark’s plan for an invasion of Kosovo: “Gallipoli springs to mind”), and his knack for turning friends into enemies (former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, for instance, is said “to regard Clark’s hiring as one of the worst mistakes of his tenure”).

There is also this interesting irony:
After leaving the Army, in 2000, Clark . . . still had much to say about Kosovo, and, when he became a commentator on CNN and joined the lecture tour, that war was often the lens through which Clark viewed the contemporary world. He spoke of the “lessons of Kosovo,” and when he became a Presidential candidate his criticism of the Iraq war was framed by his Kosovo experience.

The Kosovo experience was also partly how George W. Bush defined himself when he was creating a national political profile in 2000. At the time, Bush scorned the use of America’s military in the cause of such adventures as the overturning of tyrants, and warned against the hubris of attempting to nation-build in places like Kosovo. In a way, Clark’s candidacy is an extension of that argument, with a stark reversal of roles. Now Bush is defending the untidy aftermath of the Iraq invasion, and, because no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found, Bush supporters increasingly justify the war as a humanitarian intervention. Clark, who led a war against a tyrant who brutalized his people, now finds himself opposing the war that overturned Saddam Hussein.
I happen to think that the case for nation-building as a main focus of U.S. foreign policy is stronger now, in the post-September 11 age, than it was during the Clinton years. Still, the ease and rapidity with which people like Clark on the one hand and the Bush camp on the other have exchanged their rhetorical clothes ought to give both sides pause.

“Ought to,” not “will,” of course.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

BLOGGING: THE NEW WOUNDING APP? 

I haven't even been blogging, well coblogging, for a week yet I'm ready to go out on a limb and make a bold prediction. A prediction about the very future of Internet Explorer and the blogging phenomenon, no less! (I guess I have less built up blogging goodwill to lose than The W. Monk who never makes predictions, although he does go out on limbs. All the time).

Grand prediction (drumroll please): Internet Explorer will soon contain an integrated blogging feature.

After all, Microsoft just announced that the next version of IE will squish popup ads like bugs. Since Google has bought blogger.com and offers a nice popup killer too adding blogging to IE seems like a natural progression to me. The computer industry has been looking for a new killer app for years now with no luck. This is probably the best they will be able to come up with. The only remaining question is whether Microsoft will need to buy Movable Type to complete its plans to rule the world?

You heard it here first. (And you thought The Monk was the nerdy one here at Spitbull. Think again.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

WEDNESDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK 

Watched the first half of Monday night’s Eagles-Packers game with the usual suspects at Al's Bar and Cheddarwurst Emporium. (I can report no mob of torch-wielding female dwarves, but I left at halftime.)

The popcorn was fresh, which happens on occasion at Al's. By some principle of karmic necessity, the two bags of salted-in-the-shell peanuts we bought were stale. We ate them anyway. (We always eat the popcorn, too.)

Sideline reporter Lisa Guerrero, wrapped in innumerable layers and sporting some red thing on her head that looked like a stocking-cap pom-pom had dined on the rest of the cap and was eyeing her forehead for dessert, helpfully told us that it was raining. She looked far colder than she had any right to look, considering that the game-time temp at Lambeau was a balmy (for a November night in northern Wisconsin) 39 degrees and that a not insignificant percentage of the cheddar-helmeted, turpentine-belching crowd was shirtless.

Brett Favre, his broken right thumb gamely gripping the damp ball, threw the thing backwards so many times that I thought he was auditioning for Alan Alda’s role in a remake of Paper Lion. Meanwhile his counterpart Donovan McNabb appeared to be actively trying to prove Rush Limbaugh correct. This made for a less than compelling half of football.

The Packers somehow managed to score just before halftime, and as I left I figured that, given the way the two teams were playing, this was an effectively insurmountable lead. So I was a bit surprised to pick up the paper Tuesday morning and see that the Packers had squandered their edge and lost, 17-14, thus preserving the Vikings’ undeserved two-game lead in the stumblebum NFC North.

No one ought to win this division, least of all a team that can give up 42 points to the San Di-frickin'-ego Chargers; Colby Cosh’s grudging paean to Doug Flutie aptly described the Chargers’ un-manning of the Vikes as “humiliation, like a grade-seven nerd getting a snowbank facewash from a wolfpack of grade nines.” Looks like a three-legged sack race to 9-7 and an ignominious first-round playoff loss.

When does spring training start?

Sunday, November 09, 2003

GUARDA LA LUNA 

They interviewed a local astronomer on the radio yesterday about the lunar eclipse but I had really forgotten all about it when my companion told me that the sight of it was sure to cause a few traffic accidents. He was driving us to dinner as he said this and was looking up at the sky rather than down at the road. I'd rather you pull over if you want to guarda la luna (this being the first Italian phrase I ever learned. Torta and gelato, cake and ice cream, were my first two words. Guess how old I was) I said. He did.

I must admit, it was an impressive sight. Instinctively, it looks wrong, and importantly so. The radio astronomer had talked for a while about how people used to think eclipses were very bad omens . I could see their point. Even though we've apparently now mapped out the lunar schedule ad infinitum, an eclipse, when you can see it, is arresting. It looks for a while like a new moon, but backwards. For a split second before I remembered how it worked I did think "something's not right." It's not unlike the feeling I get when I walk outside in the subzero sunshine of a Minnesota February day and think "this could kill me." Then my rational self steps in and replaces the thought with "and what dope thought it was a good idea to build a city here?"

During dinner, I was able to use what I had learned about eclipses from the radio show to act like I knew what I was talking about but when I had exhausted this (and this happened pretty quickly), I lost interest in the subject. My dining companion, on the other hand, kept staring at the eclipse and trying to work out the mechanics of the event. This is not something I think you can figure out without some training in the subject. Plus, it's kind of boring to watch someone try (this was not one of those restaurants with crayons and white tablepaper; he was trying to do it with hand gestures). To get him to stop, I promised to look it up later. For him, and those of you who still care, here's how lunar eclipses work.

Now, guarda la donna.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

ME NO NEED ECONOMICS. ME WRITE EDITORIALS! 

Thursday’s St. Paul Pioneer Press featured an editorial by Deborah Locke about the latest round in the seemingly endless battle over Minnesota’s social studies standards. The editorial is so full of inanities that a head-to-toe fisking is in order, but I’m going to focus on Locke’s appalling inability to grasp basic economics.

First there’s this:
More than 800 comments were submitted to the state education Web site; nearly all were critical. Many of the opponents who identified themselves on the education Web site as teachers complained that the standards were age-inappropriate. For example, first-graders as miniature free-market advocates will be expected to "define scarcity as the condition of not being able to have all of the goods and services that you want." Additionally, the 6-year-olds "will recognize that because of scarcity they need to make choices."
I happen to be the father of a six-year-old child, and I don’t think the proposition that you can’t have everything you want is too sophisticated for her. I wish I could say the same for Locke. She apparently believes that teaching the law of scarcity can be nothing but propaganda designed to trick students into becoming “free-market advocates.” But that’s absurd. Does she think that the law of gravity is just propaganda designed to trick students into becoming advocates of physics? Or that scarcity is something that collective or command economies don’t have to face?

The imbecility continues. After noting that “[t]he history standards received sharp criticism for ignoring the 1970s altogether, with little or no mention of anti-war demonstrations, the War on Poverty or Watergate,” she throws off this little parenthetical:
(On the other hand, perhaps the standard's authors did deftly cover their interpretation on the War on Poverty with this sneaky standard: "Students will understand that a government policy to correct a market imperfection is not justified economically if its expected costs exceed its expected benefits.")
Put aside the fact that this critic of history standards is placing anti-war demonstrations and the War on Poverty in the decade of the 1970s rather than the 1960s, and ask yourself this: What exactly is so “sneaky” about the proposition that the economic justification for a policy depends on its costs and benefits? Shouldn’t this be self-evident to any sentient person? Nowhere does the standard say that an economic justification is the only possible justification for a government policy, so why does Locke imply that it does?

The only sneaky author here is Locke. She is so busy looking for “free-market advocates” under every bed that she seems to deny two of the most fundamental and inarguable principles of economics. I say keep the proposed standards and send Locke back to first grade until she masters them.

Friday, November 07, 2003

DETAILED LEADING ECONOMIC INDICATORS TELL THE REAL STORY 

My very first post and I got a warm welcome from the Eldest of the Fraters! According to today's Science Journal (WSJ sec. B1 for those who, like I, only have access to the hard copy), such high expectations could turn me into a female Easterblogg! (Maybe this is a bad example) (Or maybe the expectations thingy only works for rats and schoolkids. I kinda skimmed the column...)

Anyway, after basking in the welcome, I noticed a later post that proves the economy MUST be looking up. The Fraters leading indicator, also known as JB Doubtless, has landed a job! Such economic prognosticators appeal to me, having mapped out my posting territory as details, bloggy or otherwise.

In his post, Doubtless outed apparently still unemployed Mitch Berg, as a sometime poet. As the minister of all things small, I offer him a new outlet for his creativity: collaborative poetry courtesy of smalltime.com. (Get it? SMALLtime.com? I amaze myself sometimes--or maybe it's that rat-expectations-altering research at work.)

So, the question to ponder is: if Mitch gets a job, will that mean the economy has reached a bubble state again?

Thursday, November 06, 2003

SOME MIGHT CALL ME SMALL-MINDED... 

As the new blog guest, I'm starting out (and possibly staying) with very small matters.

1. While I have no interest in the dustup over the recently yanked Reagan mini series (neither the show, nor the reasons for its demise) I do love the new descriptor it spawned: "Gippergate"

2. I like the word "blog" despite, or because of, the fact it sounds like a bodily function. Unfortunately, not enough to entirely discourage pretention, but maybe it does help out at the margin.

Is that small enough for you? I hope The W. Monk will now get back in the saddle and think big.

TOMORROW I THINK SHE'LL POUR A PITCHER OF WATER DOWN THE MAIL CHUTE 

Operating as a sole proprietorship is very much in my nature. So too is an inclination toward distraction, procrastination, and all-around laziness. I have weighed the advantages of the former against the pitfalls of the latter and find the scales tipping precipitously toward finding a blogmate.

So, meet Eloise. She has graciously agreed to be a guest here, and maybe a permanent one. She is less interested in politics than I am (no mean feat) but is better at keeping up with the blogosphere (a meaner feat), and she always beats me in backgammon. A former lifeguard, she has babysat for Gwyneth Paltrow (once; a very ugly baby, she reports) and served as a math tutor for the Shah of Iran's daughter (many times; it did very little good, she reports). And she spent her 16th birthday in the Plaza Hotel (yes, that Eloise).

In short, she has ideal credentials for blogging. That's what I keep telling her, at any rate.